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Title: A Loyal Little Red-Coat - A Story of Child-life in New York a Hundred Years Ago
Author: Ogden, Ruth
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A LOYAL LITTLE RED-COAT

A Story of Child-life in New York a Hundred Years Ago

By Ruth Ogden

Fourth Edition

Illustrated by H. A. Ogden

New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company

1890

[Illustration: 0001]

[Illustration: 0006]

[Illustration: 0007]



PREFACE.

In the introductory chapter of “The History of the People of the United
States,” Mr. McMaster announces as his subject, “The history of the
people from the close of the war for Independence down to the opening of
the war between the States.” It seems at first thought improbable that
a history excluding both the Revolution and the Civil War should prove
in any great degree interesting, but the first twelve pages suffice to
convince one to the contrary. With consummate skill in selection and
narration, Mr. McMaster has brought to light information of a singularly
novel character. Impressed with this unlooked-for quality, it occurred
to me that here was ground that had not been previously gone over--not,
at any rate, in a story for children. “A Loyal Little Red-Coat” has been
the outcome. Whether I have succeeded in transferring to these pages
aught of the peculiar interest of the history remains to be seen. This
much may be said, however, that every historical allusion is based
upon actual fact. The English Circus, the Captain’s letter, Harry’s
Prison-Ship experiences, Alexander Hamilton’s successful defence of a
Tory client, the treatment of the Bonifaces at the ball--all find their
counterpart in the realities of a century ago. For much of the minor
historical detail I am indebted to those rare and quaint old volumes,
carefully treasured by our historical societies, which make possible
the faithful recounting of the story of bygone days. In my attempt to
reproduce the child-life of a time so far removed, I have probably been
guilty of some anachronisms. If, however, I have woven a page of history
into a story that, by any chance, shall interest the children, for whom
it has been a delight to me to write it, I shall be sincerely grateful.

Ruth Ogden.

Brooklyn, N. Y.



A LOYAL LITTLE RED-COAT



CHAPTER I.--ON THE ALBANY COACH


[Illustration: 9013]

AZEL BONIFACE was a Loyalist, which means that she was a hearty little
champion of King George the Third of England, and this notwithstanding
she lived in America, and was born there. It had happened to be on a
crisp October morning of the year 1773 that Hazel’s gray eyes first saw
the light, and they no sooner saw the light than they saw a wonderful
red coat, and just as soon as she was able to understand it, she learned
that that red coat belonged to her papa, and that her papa belonged to
King George’s army. So, after all, you see it was but natural that she
should have been a little Loyalist from the start, and quite to have
been expected that she should, grow more and more staunch with every
year.

Now it chanced one midwinter afternoon, when Hazel was about six years
old, that she came into the city--that is, into New York--on an errand
with her father, and that she stood for a while watching a merry party
of boys, who were having the jolliest sort of a time coasting down
Powder House Hill, and skating on the clear, crystal ice of the Collect.
The Collect and Powder House Hill! You never heard of them, did you, and
yet may have lived in New York all your life; but you may believe the
little New Yorkers of those days knew them and loved them.

The Collect (though where it got its name no one knows) was a beautiful
sheet of water connected with the North River by a creek crossing
Broadway, where we now have Canal street, and the hill where the Powder
House stood was one of the pretty heights that bordered it. Wouldn’t
some of the little people who live in that crowded part of the city
to-day be surprised to know, that only a hundred years ago ponds and
hills took the place of the level city streets, and that a boy could
start way over east of Broadway, skate under the arch at Canal street,
and then strike out across the broad Lispenard meadows straight to the
North River? But those boys of the olden time, who were spending their
short afternoon holiday there on the ice, were exactly like the boys of
to-day, in that they were cutting up the very silliest sort of capers.
Hazel, however, thought it all very funny, and longing for the time when
she should have a pair of skates of her own, wondered if that boy with
the pretty name--that boy the other boys called Starlight--would teach
her how to use them. And so one time when he came gliding her way she
called out, quite to the surprise of her father, whose hand she stood
holding, “Will you teach me how to skate when I grow old enough,
Starlight?”

“Bless your heart, yes,” came the answer, as soon as the finest little
skater that ever buckled skates on the Collect could put the brakes to
his winged feet, “but you must tell me your name, so that I shall know
you when you grow up.”

“Hazel, Hazel Boniface,” she replied; “and is your name really
Starlight? It’s a beautiful name.”

“Yes, Starlight’s my last name; my other name is Job; that isn’t so
pretty, is it?”

“I should think not; I shall always call you just Starlight.”

And Hazel had been true to her word, and had always called Job just
Starlight, and Job had been true to his promise, and had long ago taught
Hazel to skate, for she was ten now and he fourteen, and they had been
the best of friends this long while, notwithstanding Job was as zealous
a Whig as was Hazel a Loyalist.

And now, for fear you should not happen to know just what is meant
by Whig and Loyalist, you must--there is no help for it if you are to
understand this story--put up with a solid little bit of history right
here and now. You see Hazel was born in 1773, and as she has just scored
a tenth birthday, that brings us to 1783, and 1783 found affairs in New
York in a decidedly topsy-turvy state. A great war had been going on for
eight long years called, as you know, the war of the Revolution, because
the colonies in America had _revolted_, declaring their determination
to be independent, and that King George of England should no longer be
their king. And all that while, that is, during those eight long years,
King George’s soldiers had been in possession of New York, and many of
the Whigs--and Whigs, remember, are the people who sided against King
George--had fled from their dwellings, and scores of Loyalists, pouring
into the city to be under the protection of the English soldiers,
had made their homes in the Whigs’ empty houses. But now matters were
beginning to look very differently. The great war was over, the colonies
had been successful, and although the English soldiers were still in
New York, they were soon to go, every one of them, and the Whigs were
returning in great numbers, and trying to turn out the Loyalists, whom
they found living in their homes. Most of these Loyalists, however, were
very loath to go, some of them, indeed, avowing that go they would not!
No wonder, then, that affairs in New York in 1783 were in a decidedly
topsy-turvy state; and this brings us to the real commencement of our
story, and to Hazel, sitting alone on the porch of her home at Kings
Bridge, and with a most woe-begone expression on her usually happy face.
Suddenly a new thought seemed to strike her, and she started on a brisk
little run for the gate; but it was simply that, hearing the sound of
wheels in the distance, she knew that the Albany coach was coming, and
the Albany coach was what she was waiting for. That was long before the
days of railroads, and when all the travelling must needs be done in
that “slow-coach” fashion.

The Albany stage was generally full inside, and, as Hazel expected, this
morning was no exception; but that did not make the least difference in
the world to her, for what she wanted was a seat beside Joe Ainsworth,
the driver. Indeed, it was not an unusual thing for Hazel to ask for a
ride into town, nor for Joe to grant it, so that the moment he spied her
standing in the road ahead of him, he knew what it meant, and reined up
his four dusty white horses.

Hazel looked very sweet and fresh, no doubt, in the eyes of the wearied
travellers, who had journeyed all night in the jouncing stage, and, in
fact, she would have looked sweet and fresh in the eyes of anybody
whose eyes were good for very much. She wore a quaint little gown and
kerchief, as yet without rumple or wrinkle, for it was but nine o’clock
in the morning, and breakfast and a quiet little “think” on the porch
had not proved in the least damaging to either skirt or kerchief. To
tell the truth, Hazel had an intense regard for a fresh and dainty
toilet, and somehow contrived to scale the side of the coach without in
any way begriming her pretty dress, although she was obliged to make use
of one great dusty wheel in ascending. First she planted both feet on
its hub, and then by aid of Joe’s hand fairly bounded to her seat beside
him with quite as much grace as a little deer of the forest, and a
“little dear” she was in point of fact, if you alter but one letter in
the spelling.

“Well, Miss Hazel,” said Joe, after he had started up his horses, “how
are you this warm morning?” for it was early September, and the sun was
already shining hotly down upon them.

“Oh, I’m very well then,” after a moment’s pause, “No, I don’t believe I
am very well, either, because, Joe, I feel very blue.”

“Blue!” exclaimed Joe; “you blue! Why, you ought not to learn even the
meaning of the word these twenty years yet.”

“Some children learn it very young, Joe,” with a real little sigh.

“But what in creation have you to be blue about, I’d like to know?
Perhaps you have gotten a spot on that pretty Sunday frock of yours,”
 for Joe knew Hazel’s little weakness in that direction.

“Joe!” said Hazel, indignantly, and with such a world of reproof in her
tone that Joe had to pretend to cough to keep from laughing. “If you
think a moment, Joe, I’m sure you will remember that I have reason to
feel very, very blue indeed.”

Hazel was so serious that Joe felt in duty bound to put his thinking-cap
on, and ransacked his brain for the possible occasion of her depression.
Hazel, with childish dignity, did not offer to help him in the matter,
and they drove for a few moments in a silence broken only by the creak
of the weather-beaten stage, and the regular, monotonous rattle of
the loose-fitting harness. Down through the dusty yellow leaves of the
roadside trees the sunlight filtered, to the dustier hedges below, and
there was little or no life in the air. Indeed, it was a morning when
one had need to be very much preoccupied _not_ to feel blue, as Hazel
called it, and a discriminating person might have deemed the weather
in a measure responsible for her down-heartedness. Meanwhile the horses
jogged along at the merest little pretence of a trot, and, missing the
customary, “Get-up, Jenny!” and “Whist there, Kate!” subsided into a
walk, varied more than once by a deliberate standstill, whenever the
“off-leader” saw fit to dislodge a persistent fly by the aid of a
hind hoof. “Look here, driver!” called one of the passengers at last,
“there’s a snail on the fence there, that will beat us into town if you
don’t look out.” The fact was, Joe had not only put his thinking-cap on,
but had pulled it so far down over his ears, that he had quite
forgotten all about his horses and Hazel, and his thoughts had gone
“wool-gathering,” as old people’s thoughts have a fashion of going. “Get
along with you,” he called to the tired team, thoroughly roused from
his reveries, and spurring them into greater activity with his long
whip-lash; then, turning to Hazel, he said--“Come to think of it, I
should not wonder if you are blue about that little Starlight matter.”

“Little Starlight matter! Do you think it’s a little matter, Mr.
Ainsworth, to be kept out of your house and have a lot of soldiers
living in it?”

“But they are King George’s soldiers; that ought to make it all right in
your eyes, Miss Hazel.”

“Oh, the men are not to blame; they have to do as the officers tell
them; but I hate that old Captain Wadsworth. Sometimes I think I’ll
write and tell King George what a dreadful man he is, for I don’t
believe he knows. But, after all, they say it’s an American, our own
Colonel Hamilton, that’s most to blame.”

“Alexander Hamilton! Why, how’s that?” exclaimed Joe, knowing well
enough, but wishing to hear Hazel grow eloquent on the subject.

[Illustration: 0018]

“Well, this is how it is, Mr. Ainsworth,” and Hazel folded her hands and
composed herself for what promised to be quite a long story. “You know
the Starlights. Well, they’ve lived right on that same piece of land
ever since Job’s great-great-grandfather, who was an Englishman, married
a Dutch wife and came to live in New York. Why, there weren’t more than
half-a-dozen houses here when they came, and if anybody has a right
to their land and their house, they have. They used to be a very big
family, the Starlights did, but now there’s only Job left and his Aunt
Frances. She’s the loveliest lady, Joe, and so very fond of Starlight
(that’s Job), and Starlight is just as good to her as a boy can be.
Well, one night, nearly two years ago, a party of English soldiers (some
of them were awful bad fellows, Joe, even if they were the King’s
men) went about the street doing just about as they pleased, and Miss
Avery--that is, Aunt Frances--was very much frightened, as well she
might be, and the next day she packed up and took the ferry to Paulus
Hook, to stay with some friends of hers, who live over there and own a
big farm.”

“You mean the Van Vleets, don’t you?” questioned Joe, now wisely
dividing his attention between Hazel’s narrative and his horses, who
were only too quick to detect any lack of vigilance on his part.

“Yes, do you know them, Joe?”

“Know ‘em like a book, Miss Hazel. Old Jacob Van Vleet has been over the
road with me scores of times.”

“Well, they’re very kind people, Joe, and Starlight and his aunt are
living there still, only now that the war is over they want to come
back.”

“And that’s not an easy thing to do, is it,” laughed Joe, “when your
house is full of English officers and their men?”

“But the soldiers have no right there, Joe, and the worst of it is,
Captain Wadsworth says he is going to resign his commission and stay
after his men go back to England, and make it his own home. He says it
belongs to him. It was given to him, after Miss Avery left it, by what
they call a military order. But, military order or no, Joe, that house
belongs to Aunt Frances.”

“Of course it would seem so, Miss Hazel--”

“And if it hadn’t been for Colonel Alexander Hamilton she’d be in it
to-day, Joe. You see she went to law about it, and they say Colonel
Hamilton, who took Captain Wadsworth’s side, is so smart and so handsome
that he just talked the court into deciding against her.”

“It certainly was mighty queer in Lawyer Hamilton,” said Joe,
meditatively, “to turn against his own side in that fashion; but, Miss
Hazel, why don’t you go and see him about it?”

Hazel looked up a moment with a questioning gaze to see if he Were quite
in earnest.

“That is just what I am going to do this very day,” she answered,
reassured, “and first I want to see Captain Wadsworth. Let me down at
the Starlights’ gate, please.”

So a few moments later the Albany coach reined up in front of the
Starlight homestead, and Hazel, jumping quickly down from the coach with
a “Thank you for the ride, Joe,” swung open the old Dutch gate with an
air well calculated to make the heart of Captain Wadsworth quake.



CHAPTER II.--HAZEL SPEAKS HER MIND.


[Illustration: 9021]

ORE than one pair of ears heard the creak of the clumsy Dutch gate as
it swung on its hinges for Hazel, for every door and window of Captain
Wadsworth’s quarters stood wide open to catch all there was of any
little cooling breeze which might bestir itself that close September
morning. And more than one pair of eyes glancing in the same direction
saw Hazel coming up the path and brightened at the sight of her. They
knew her well, all those English soldiers, for she had often accompanied
her father when he had come among them on business, and while he was
busy here and there, had chattered in her frank, fearless way with one
and another. Indeed, owing to her loyalist principles and a little red
coat which she was in the habit of wearing, she was familiarly known
among the rank and file of his Majesty’s service as “Little Red-Coat,”
 and often addressed by that name. But this was her first visit all by
herself, and, to tell the truth, Hazel had some misgiving as to its
propriety, and as to her own behavior in running off in this fashion,
for she had announced her departure to no one. Her sister Josephine,
however, had happened to see her taking her seat on the Albany stage,
and wondered what she was up to. But “runaway” or no, the eyes that saw
Hazel Boniface did nevertheless brighten at the sight of her, from those
of Captain Wadsworth’s old body-servant, who was brushing the Captain’s
clothes very vigorously from one of the dormer-windows in the steep
sloping roof, to those of the Captain himself, who sat tipped back in a
great arm-chair in a corner of the wide piazza.

“Good-morning, Hazel,” said the Captain, rising to meet her. “Have you
come on some errand for your papa, or simply to pay us a nice little
visit and cheer us up a bit? English soldiers need cheering nowadays,
you know.”

“Yes, I know,” said Hazel, sympathetically; for, true to her Loyalist
sentiments, she felt sorry enough that these same English soldiers had
not been successful in the war they had been waging; but her mind was
intent at present on her own private business.

“I have come just to make you a little visit, Captain Wadsworth,” she
continued, “and to talk to you a little, and I don’t believe I can cheer
you up at all, because I am pretty blue myself.”

The corners of Captain Wadsworth’s mouth twitched at the thought of
such a fair and youthful little specimen indulging in the blues; but he
succeeded in asking gravely, as he led the way indoors, “Why, how ever
can that be? Come right into the office here and tell me all about it.”

“This isn’t the office at all,” she said, emphatically, as she took her
seat on a little Dutch rocker that had been Aunt Frances’s sewing-chair.
“This is the sitting-room, and it’s dreadful, Captain Wadsworth, to see
it so dusty.”

Captain Wadsworth looked decidedly puzzled and astonished for a moment,
then he added, slowly, “Oh, I see! I suppose you knew the people who
used to own this house?”

“Yes, sir, and I know them now; they’re the very best friends I have;
and, if you please, this house belongs to them still, and they would
like to come back just as soon as you can move your men out, and,”
 noting a few unfamiliar objects in the room, “your furniture and other
things.”

It must be confessed that this was rather a bold speech for a little
maid to venture quite upon her own authority, but Hazel had made this
visit for no other reason than plainly to speak her mind, and speak
it she would, though she did have to screw her courage up to the very
highest pitch in order to accomplish it.

“Do _you_ mean to say, Miss Hazel, that you think we have no right
here?” questioned the Captain..

“Yes, sir,” Hazel answered warmly, feeling, somehow, that Captain
Wadsworth was open to conviction. “You see you really have no right here
at all, and I thought that as soon as you understood that you would not
stay another minute.”

“But the trouble is, I don’t understand it; the law says it belongs to
me, you know.”

“Then I guess the law does not tell the truth, Captain Wadsworth,
because even the law cannot make a thing so that isn’t so, can it?”

“Why, no, certainly not, and it isn’t supposed to even try to do that
sort of thing, I take it.”

“But that’s just what it does exactly,” said Hazel, and in her eagerness
she deserted the little rocker and came and leaned on the desk near to
the Captain. “You know,” she said, confidentially, “I’m just as true to
King George as true can be, and I am awful sorry his soldiers have been
beaten, and I don’t think a country without a King is any good at all.
Sometimes I’m almost ashamed that I was born here; but still, some very
nice people, like Miss Avery and Starlight, do not think just as I do,
and I think their rights ought to be respected.”

These were pretty big words, and the Captain looked as though he thought
so; but even a very little woman, when she is very much in earnest,
sometimes finds language at her command quite as astonishing to herself
as to her hearers. “Rights ought to be respected”--certainly that did
sound remarkable. Hazel herself wondered where she had picked up so fine
an expression, and one that suited so well.

“Who is Starlight?” asked the Captain, willing to digress a little from
the main point.

“The owner of this house,” said Hazel, not willing to digress at all.

“Why, I thought it used to belong to Miss Avery; the property certainly
stood in her name.” The Captain was careful to use only the past tense.
According to his way of thinking, that Starlight homestead was just as
rightfully his as though he had bought and paid for it.

And so Hazel said, “Good-by, Captain,” and the Captain bowed her out of
his office as gallantly as though she had been a little princess. Four
or five of the men had gathered on the porch outside, thinking to have a
chat with her when she should have finished her errand with the Captain,
but Hazel, absorbed in her own thoughts, was about to pass them by
without so much as a word.

“Look here, Miss Hazel, aren’t you going to speak to a fellow?” one
of the men called after her. “Yes, of course I am,” Hazel replied, as
though that had been her full intention, and, going back, held out her
hand to Sergeant Bellows, the man who had called to her, and then, as
it seemed to be expected of her, shook hands in a friendly way with the
other men, all of whom she knew by name. But it was easy enough for the
dullest among them to discover that her greeting lacked all its wonted
cheeriness. Indeed, Hazel had not yet learned the need of disguising
her real feelings, and always “carried her heart on her sleeve,” as
the saying goes, so that you were at perfect liberty to share all its
sentiments, whether of joy or sorrow. So it was not strange that for
the third time she was questioned as to the reason for her evident
depression. “Feeling a little down this morning, eh?” asked Sergeant
Bellows.

Hazel nodded her head in assent. “There’s nothing an old sergeant could
do for you, is there, Miss Hazel?”

“Nor a corporal?” asked one of the other men.

“Nor a high private?” asked another. Hazel took their offers of
assistance in perfect good faith, and would not have hesitated to call
upon any or all of them, but she really did not see how they could be of
any use to her, and shook her head hopelessly.

“No, I think not. The only man who can help me now is Colonel Hamilton,
and I don’t expect very much of him. What I came down for was to ask
Captain Wadsworth if he would not let the people who own this house come
back to it; but he does not think they own it at all any more, and I
don’t see what they are ever going to do. How would you feel, I’d like
to know,” she asked, eagerly, “if you were an aunt and a little boy, and
had to run away from your home, and, when you wanted to come back, found
an English Captain living in it, who said he was going to stay there?”
 Some of the men looked as though they could not possibly tell how they
would feel if they were “an aunt and a little boy,” but they were saved
the embarrassment of being obliged to answer such a difficult question
by Hazel’s abrupt departure? She had suddenly spied a familiar hat
lurking behind the shrubbery near the gate, and was off in a flash.
“Good-by,” she called back, “some one is waiting for me.” Some one was
waiting for her--some one had been waiting for her quite awhile and had
grown rather impatient in the waiting.

[Illustration: 8025]

“I thought you would never come, Hazel,” said the owner of the hat, as
soon as she swept down upon him in his retreat behind the bushes.

“Why, I did not see you till a moment ago. How long have you been here,
and when did you come?”

“I came over on the earliest ferry this morning. I pulled an oar and
worked my way over. You know, Hazel, I do not like to ask Aunt Frances
for money now if I can possibly help it.”

“Yes, I know,” she answered, sadly.

“I can’t tell you how it makes me feel, Hazel, to look up at the old
house there with all those soldiers in it,” said Job, rather savagely,
for, of course, the new-comer was none other than Starlight himself.
“I’d just like to rush right in and choke every one of ‘em.”

“And I’d like to help you,” Hazel replied warmly.

Starlight looked up astonished. It was something new for Hazel to side
against the Red-Coats, and he gave a low whistle of surprise.

“Yes, really, I would,” Hazel reiterated. “If King George’s men had
beaten you Americans, I suppose you wouldn’t have expected to get your
home back again; but to think that you have beaten, and yet that Captain
Wadsworth says he is going to stay in it, and that a great lawyer, and
one of your own officers like Colonel Hamilton, says he has a right
to--well, I can’t understand it.”

“Neither can I,” said Starlight, indignantly; and both children
seriously shook their heads from side to side, as there was no
gainsaying that great man. By mutual consent the children had turned
their backs on the homestead and their faces in the direction of Hazel’s
home.

To say that, side by side, they strolled up the Bowery, and that now and
then Hazel would pause a moment to pick a plumy spray of asters, growing
by the wayside, must sound funny enough in the ears of any one who
knows what the Bowery is to-day. Can it be possible that that great
busy thoroughfare, with its block after block of cheap shops, crowded
tenements, dime museums, and who knows what, less than a hundred years
ago was a country lane? and where to-day train after train goes whizzing
by on its mid-air track, birds sang in apple-tree boughs and children
gathered daisies in spring-time and golden rod in autumn? Yes, my dear,
it is possible; for who can measure the great transforming power of even
a single century, and Father Time has never wrought vaster or more
rapid changes than in the self-same hundred years which lie between the
childhood of Starlight and Hazel, in 1783, and yours of to-day.

So, true it was that our little friends strolled up Bowery Lane, for
that was the pleasantest way home, and true it was that the lane was
skirted with orchards and the gardens of old Dutch homesteads, where
almost every variety of autumn flower was blooming, in a blaze of color,
in the early September weather.

At the prospect of a visit from Starlight, Hazel had at once abandoned
all thought of an immediate call upon Lawyer Hamilton. Even that
important matter could be postponed for the delight of companionship
with this old friend, a companionship sadly interfered with by all the
untoward circumstances of the times in which they lived.

“And Colonel Hamilton says,” Starlight resumed, after five or ten
minutes, which had been devoted to a plying of eager questions regarding
each others general welfare, “that Captain Wadsworth can stay in our
house, does he?”

“I don’t know exactly what he says; something like that, I guess; but
I am going to find out for myself, and ask him the reasons, too. I was
going there this morning if you had not come.”

“You are awfully good, Hazel.”

“I’m glad you think so, Starlight, ’cause I know some people who don’t,”
 and Hazel indulged in a little sigh. “I suppose I shall have a scolding
when I get home, this very morning, for I sort of ran away. I saw the
Albany coach coming, and I had to hurry so in time to stop it, that I
did not think to ask Josephine’s leave or anybody’s.”

“But Josephine saw you go. That’s the way I found you. She saw Joe
Ainsworth help you on to the coach, and I thought perhaps you’d gone
down to the homestead, for that’s where you always used to come on the
Albany coach, you know.” It was Starlight’s turn for a sigh now, and he
drew such a heavy one that it seemed fairly to come from the bottom of
his boots.

“Say, Starlight,” said Hazel, suddenly, and, no doubt, with a desire to
brighten matters up a bit, “an English circus came to town to-day. They
open to-morrow. Can you stay over tomorrow?”

“Yes, till the day after. I heard about the circus. I’ve never been to a
circus in my life, and I’d give--why, I’d give anything I own to go,
and if that wouldn’t do, I half believe I’d almost hook something.” The
question of ways and means was ever present nowadays to poor Job with
his sadly depleted pocket-book.

“I don’t believe you’ll need to _hook_ anything, Starlight,” answered
Hazel, with an implied rebuke, which was, of course, quite proper, “I
have a little money of my own.”

“Of course, I don’t mean I really would, Hazel. I should think you’d know
that I’m rather above that sort of thing. If you don’t, you ought to, by
this time. I only meant that I should very much _like_ to go.”

“Then next time you had better be more careful to say just what you
mean, Job.” Whenever Hazel had any little reproof to administer she
thought it much more impressive to make use of Starlight’s solemn little
first name.



CHAPTER III.--THE CIRCUS, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.


[Illustration: 9031]

LOWLY out of the great ocean rose the sun the next morning, shooting his
long rays over level Long Island, spanning the East River and touching
with rosy light the hill on which Captain Boniface had built his
comfortable home. What a wonderful tale, provided his memory is good and
his eyesight strong, this same old sun could tell, particularly if he
had the moon to help him, for, whether shining brightly, or peering
through mists of heavy clouds, between them they have seen most of this
world’s doings. One thing is certain, however change, change, change
would be the theme of all their story. Old ocean alone remains always
the same; for even the “everlasting hills” may be pierced by boring
tunnels and disfigured by the shafts and engines of unsightly mines. And
this that is true of the whole world is true of every inhabited corner
of it, and doubly true of that particular corner where we find New York
mapped out to-day. Row upon row of dwellings--mansion and hut crowding
close upon one another; mile after mile of stores, warehouses, and every
conceivable sort of structure, and yet only a hundred years, and lo!
there was none of it.

Do you chance to know where St. Paul’s Church stands on Broadway, on the
block bounded by Fulton and Vesey streets? Then let me tell you that no
longer ago than 1784 St. Paul’s was on the very outskirts of the city.
Just above it were two fine dwellings, which now form part of the Astor
House, and a little farther on a highway leading to the right bore the
weather-beaten sign, “The Road to Boston,” and another turning to the
left, “The Road to Albany,” and Hazel’s home was a mile or more out on
this Albany road. Beyond were only open fields, with here and there a
farm-dwelling or country homestead, and an occasional “mead-house”
 or “tea-garden,” for the refreshment of jaded travellers, or
pleasure-seeking parties from the town. Nearly on the site of the
present City Hall stood the almshouse, and in close proximity the jail,
while sandwiched in between them were the gallows, not exactly affording
what might be called a cheery outlook to the poor unfortunates obliged
to seek such food and shelter as the almshouse offered. These gallows
were enclosed in a building shaped like a Chinese summer-house, and
painted in all the colors of the rainbow, as though trying thereby
to overcome any mournful associations which the place might otherwise
possess. A platform within this remarkable building supported various
contrivances for conveniently “dropping malefactors into eternity.”
 while a row of hooks and halters adorned the ceiling, so that at least
half a dozen offenders might be dispatched by the same method at one and
the same moment.

Wall Street, in 1783, was a street of residences. Here was the bachelor
homestead of Daniel McCormick, upon whose stoop, on a mild and pleasant
afternoon, you were likely to find a goodly little company of cronies
and toadies, each and all of whom made it a point never to refuse an
invitation to remain to dinner and enjoy his excellent pot-luck.

The court end of the town lay in the region extending from Pearl Street
around to the Battery, and up to Trinity Church, while the shops and
offices were confined to Maiden Lane. On Great Dock Street, now a part
of Pearl Street, lived the widow of John Lawrence, who, during his
lifetime, was widely known as “Handsome Johnnie.” There, as Dr. Duer
puts it, in his “Reminiscences of an Old Yorker,” the genial widow kept
open house for her relatives, or rather her relatives kept open
house for themselves, and were entertained in the roll of “transient,
constant, or perpetual” visitors. All this and far more could the sun
of to-day tell of the sights of the last century; but on the morning of
which we are writing, he looked down upon nothing of greater interest to
the average boy and girl of all time, than when he flashed suddenly upon
the preparations going forward for the circus that had lately arrived
from across the water, and because of whose arrival there was a flutter
in all the child-hearts throughout the length and breadth of the town.
Some were fluttering joyously with actual anticipation, and some with
grave doubts as to their gaining even a peep at the wonderful show.

As for Hazel Boniface, she was not only up with the sun, but up before
it; as for Starlight, he was dressed, and “trying to kill time” a full
hour before breakfast, for it had been settled the previous evening that
they were to be allowed to attend the performance, and Captain Boniface
had slipped the coins necessary for their admission into Starlight’s
safe keeping. Josephine, Hazel’s older sister, was also early astir,
stowing away the most inviting of luncheons within the snowy folds of
a napkin, which in turn was committed to the keeping of a little wicker
hamper.

Joyous and beaming the children set forth, Josephine accompanying them
as far as the gate. “I wish I were going with you,” she said, as she
held it open.

“I almost wish you were,” Hazel answered. “Almost, but not quite,”
 laughed Josephine; “for it would spoil the fun a little, now wouldn’t
it, Hazel, to have a grown-up sister in the party? But you need not
worry, dear, the big sister must stay at home to mind the baby sister;
it’s only the little middle-sized sister who can roam abroad, and go to
the circus, and do whatever she likes all day long.”.

The color came into Hazel’s cheeks. She knew she did do pretty much as
she wished from week’s end to week’s end, but that was not her fault. If
nobody told her to do “things,” it was hardly to be expected she should
do them. “Will you go in my place?” she asked, ruefully, of Josephine,
who stood leaning on the gate with a merry, teasing look in her gray
eyes.

[Illustration: 0034]

“No, of course I won’t, dearie, and you come straight back and give me
a kiss, and know that no one wishes you quite such a jolly time as your
own sister Josephine.”

And thus speeded on their way, the children’s figures grew smaller and
smaller in the maple-shaded distance of the roadside path, and with a
little sigh Josephine turned back to her duties within-doors. There
was a foreboding of coming evil in her heart, and in Hazel’s and
Starlight’s, too, for that matter. Children though they were, they were
still old enough to know, that, now that the war had ended in the defeat
of the English, those who had sided with them, as Captain Boniface
had done, would have to suffer for it; but for to-day every worry was
utterly forgotten. Hazel had no thought for the coming interview with
Colonel Hamilton--which, it must be confessed, she rather dreaded--nor
Starlight for the soldiers in the old homestead.

Right before them lay all the delights of a wonderful English circus,
and with the lightest of hearts they set forth upon their happy
expedition. Having strolled along in leisurely fashion, the old town
clock struck eleven as they pressed in through the clumsy turnstile
which barred the circus entrance, and the regular performance was not to
commence until one. But two hours were none too much for the inspection
of the wonderful sideshows, and wide-eyed they passed from one to
the other, instinctively turning quickly away from two or three human
monstrosities in a close, unsavory tent, to spend an hour of intense
merriment over the antics of a family of monkeys in a cage in the open
air. Indeed, they doled out most of their luncheon to the mischievous
little youngsters, actually forgetting that there was any likelihood of
their ever being hungry themselves and repenting of such liberality.

A great deal of fuss over a circus, you may be thinking, my little
friend, having yourself been so many times to see “The Greatest Show on
Earth” but if you had lived in the days of Hazel and Starlight, and never
seen a circus in your life, nor a show of any kind--either great or
small--then, perhaps, you would have been not a little excited too.

Long before it was at all necessary, and after much consultation and
numerous experiments at different angles, the children seated themselves
at the precise point which they had concluded, on the whole, offered
greatest advantages, and then they impatiently watched the uncomfortable
benches become gradually filled, and certain significant preparations
going forward on the part of the gayly-liveried lackeys.

At last the orchestra of three ill-tuned instruments struck up a
preliminary march, the low, red-topped gates of the ring swung open, and
the gorgeous company pranced in, dazzling and brilliant indeed, in the
eyes of the children. What did it matter if tinsel were tarnished, and
satins and velvets travel-stained and bedraggled. They saw it not.
It was all glitter and shimmer to them, and, oh, those beautiful,
long-tailed horses with their showy trappings! Hazel silently made up
her mind on the spot, that she would be a circus-rider herself as soon
as she was old enough, _if_ her father would let her. She changed her
mind later in the day, however, owing to certain unexpected experiences,
and was thankful enough that she had not openly expressed her resolution
of a few hours before.

Midway in the performance, as the clown had announced, for they did
not have printed programmes in those days, there was to be some lofty
tumbling by the Strauss brothers, and at the proper moment in they came
leaping and jumping. They were all attired in the regulation long hose,
short trousers, and sleeveless jackets of the professional tumbler, but
it was easy enough for any child to detect at a glance that it was quite
impossible that they should belong to the same family. They were of all
ages and sizes, but the youngest performer did not appear to be
more than twelve; he was a handsome little fellow, with a fine dark
complexion, and from the first both Hazel’s and Starlight’s attention
centred upon him. He proved himself the most agile of all the brothers,
eagerly watching for his turn every time, and apparently enjoying the
performance almost as keenly as the audience. But it happened after a
while, that when he had just accomplished the feat of turning a double
somersault from the top of a spring-board, he did not attempt to rejoin
the other leapers and tumblers, but crept from the place where he had
landed in the sawdust to the edge of the ring, seated himself, with his
little slippered feet straight out before him, and leaned comfortably
back against its rail. The spot he had chosen was directly underneath
where Hazel and Starlight were sitting, and being in the first row
they naturally leaned over to investigate matters. He sat there so
comfortably, and his older brothers seemed so indifferent to the fact
that he had dropped from their number, that the children came to the
conclusion that he was simply taking a little permitted rest.

At last Starlight made so bold as to ask, “Say, Straussie, you didn’t
hurt yourself any way, did you?”

At the sound of Starlight’s voice the little fellow looked up surprised.
“Yes, I did,” he replied, “I often slip my knee-cap, or something like
that when I take that double ‘sault.”

“Does it hurt you now,” asked Hazel, with real solicitude.

“Yes, a little. I can’t jump any more to-day. The men know what’s the
matter with me. I’ll be all right in a little while.”

“Do you like being in a circus?” continued Starlight, for it was even
more interesting to converse with a member of the troupe than to watch
the performance of the troupe itself.

“I like the jumping and tumbling; that’s all the part I like,” ending
with a sigh.

But it was not easy to carry on a conversation at the distance they
were from each other, particularly as the tumblers, as if to add to the
excitement, kept up an almost ceaseless hallooing and shouting. Now it
happened that the ring, with the exception of the gates of entrance, was
formed by a short canvas curtain suspended from a circular iron rail.
Observing this, a happy thought occurred to Starlight.

“Look here, Straussie,” he said, in a penetrating whisper, “I’d like to
talk with you. Couldn’t you creep under the curtain there, and I’ll drop
down between the seats.”

“Yes, I could,” answered the little tumbler, grasping the situation at
once, and suiting the action to the word.

“I wish I could drop too,” urged Hazel, longingly.

“No, you stay where you are. It wouldn’t do, Hazel; folks might notice,”
 and Hazel was sensible enough to see the wisdom of the remark. As it
was, every one was by far too much absorbed to take account of the fact
that a little fellow inside the ring and a little fellow outside of it
had disappeared at one and the same moment. And so it happened that
all unsuspected a very important conversation was carried on, and
a remarkable scheme planned under the crowded benches of that day’s
performance. Meanwhile Hazel “sat on pins and needles.” Even “the most
educated elephant in the world” failed to rouse much interest in a
little maiden who knew an absorbing conversation to be going on almost
within earshot and in which she longed to have a hand.

“What is your name?” asked Starlight, as soon as he had dropped safely
to the dry grass, and had stretched himself beside the little tumbler,
who sat with his knees gathered close to him and his hands clasped round
them.

“Flutters,” answered the boy.

“That’s not your real name?”

“That’s what they call me.”

“You mean the circus people?”

Flutters simply nodded “yes.” Somehow he did not seem at first inclined
to be quite as communicative as Starlight would have wished.

“It must be fun to wear clothes like those,” he said, after a pause,
eyeing his new friend from head to foot with evident admiration.

“Oh, it’s kind of fun for a while, but there isn’t much real fun.
Everything’s only kind of fun, and there isn’t any fun at all about most
things.”

Starlight couldn’t quite agree with these sage remarks, although he had
himself of late been seeing a great deal of the darker side of life.

“I guess you’re not very well, Flutters,” he said, seriously; “or
perhaps you’re tired.”

“Oh, I’m well enough, but I’m not over-happy,” answered the boy, who,
from little association with children and much with older people, had
formed rather a mature way of speaking.

“What makes you feel like that?” asked Starlight.

“Oh, lots of things. There’s no one who cares for me ‘cept to make money
out of me. That’s kind of hard on a fellow.

“Don’t you get some of the money yourself?”

“Not a penny. You see, I’m ‘prenticed to the manager till I’m eighteen.”

“Who apprenticed you?” said Starlight, taking care to speak correctly.

“The manager, I suppose; but I did not know anybody had to ‘prentice
you. I thought you just ‘prenticed yourself by promising to work for
your board.”

“Not a bit of it. You oughtn’t to have made such a promise. If you
were worth anything to the manager you were worth part of the money you
earned. Besides, I don’t think anybody can apprentice a boy except his
parents or his guardian, or some one who has charge of him.”

“Well, nobody’s had charge of me this long while.”

“Is that big man with the great black moustache the manager?” asked
Starlight.

“Yes, he is, and he’s a tough one,” and Flutters pressed his lips
tightly together and shook his head by way of emphasis.

“He doesn’t look kind.”

“Folks doesn’t look things what they never are.”

“Why don’t you cut the circus, Flutters?”

“Would you, really?”

“You mean run away?”

Starlight nodded yes.

“Where to?” was Flutters’s pointed question.

“Oh, anywhere,” somewhat vaguely.

“That’s all very well; but board, you know, and a blanket to roll
yourself in at night is a little better than nothing at all.”

“That’s so,” said Starlight, and then sat silent a few moments, drawing
his fingers, rake fashion, through the dry grass in front of him, and
evidently thinking hard.

“Flutters,” he said at last, “if you ran away I believe you’d find a
home and somebody to care for you--we’d look out for you ourselves, Aunt
Frances and I, till something turned up.”

[Illustration: 0039]

“Would you, really?” and Flutters leaned very close to Starlight in his
eagerness.

“Yes, I’m sure we would. Will you do it?”

“Yes, sir, I’ll do it now,” and Flutters got straightway on to “all
fours,” as if he deemed that the most silent and effective mode
of escape, although the benches were hardly so low as to render it
necessary for a boy of his size.

“But you’ll be caught in a minute in those--fixings.” Starlight did
not think there was enough of them to deserve the respectable name of
clothes.

Flutters sat down in despair. “Then there’s no use; I may as well give
it up if I have to go back for anything.” Flutters stood in such fear
of the manager that he felt sure he could read his very thoughts. He
honestly meant that he would abandon the whole scheme rather than face
Mr. Bradshaw with such a design in mind, and he looked down at his
spangled slippers and bedraggled tights in most woe-begone fashion.

“I have it,” said Starlight, after a moment’s serious cogitation; “wait
here a minute,” and taking hold of a board directly under the seat where
he had sat, he pulled himself up to his place beside Hazel. She was
ready with a host of eager questions, but Starlight, in the most
imperative of whispers, gave her quickly to understand that there was no
time for anything of that sort. “Just do as I tell you, Hazel,” some one
overheard him say, but more than that they fortunately did not hear.

A moment later Starlight disappeared, and a little red cloak, which
Josephine had made Hazel carry with her, had disappeared too.

Not long afterward, but it seemed a very long while to Hazel, the
entertainment came to a close with a wild sort of farce, which everybody
seemed to think pretty funny, but Hazel did not so much as smile. She
had neither seen nor heard what was going on; she had an important
little piece of business ahead of her, and could hardly wait to be off
and about it. If her seat had not been quite in the middle of the row,
so that she would have been obliged to crowd past a long line of people,
she simply could not have waited; and now that the performance was
actually over, she energetically pushed her way through one group after
another, lingering about as if loath to desert the charms of the circus,
and was clear of the great tent in almost less time than it takes to
tell it. Off she darted down the road--down Broadway one would say
today--for the gateway to the circus enclosure was exactly on the
spot where Niblo’s Theatre has for so many years set forth its varied
amusements.

There was only one farm-house in the immediate neighborhood, and thither
Hazel flew, bringing up at the threshold of its old Dutch kitchen in a
state of breathless excitement. “Mrs. V an Wyck,” she cried with what
little breath she had left, as she peered over the half door that barred
her entrance.

“In a moment, Hazel,” came a voice from the depths. “I am putting some
curd in the cheese press; I’ll be up in a minute.”

The minute afforded Hazel a much-needed breathing space, and when a
rosy-cheeked Dutch Frau emerged from the horizontal doorway of the cool,
clean-smelling cellar, Hazel was able to make known her request in quite
coherent fashion.

“Oh Mrs. Van Wyck, _will_ you let me have a pair ol Hanss trousers,’ and
some shoes and a coat, and please, please don’t ask me what I want them
for!” for she saw the question shaping itself on Frau Van Wyck’s lips;
“I’ll bring them home safe to-morrow, and tell you all about it.”

The little woman looked decidedly astonished, but the child was so
urgent, and withal such a little favorite of hers, that she could but
accede to her request, and in a trice Hazel was off again with the
coveted articles, in a snug bundle, swinging from one hand as she ran.



CHAPTER IV.--FLUTTERS.


[Illustration: 9042]

T may seem at first somewhat improbable that Flutters should have been
able.. to make his escape from the circus grounds without being noticed,
but escape he did under Starlight’s cautious guidance. Every one
was still intent on the performance itself; outside were only a few
straggling employees of the company, and they were too much preoccupied
with the special duties assigned to them to pay any heed to the fact
that a couple of boys were making their way through the grounds. Indeed,
it was decidedly too common an occurrence to excite any suspicion. To
be sure, Hazel’s cloak concealed neither the head nor feet of little
Flutters; but velvet cap and satin slippers were tucked safely away, and
the absence of hat and shoes was by no means unusual among the boyish
rabble that found their way into the circus. The most dangerous, because
the most conspicuous move in their plan of escape, would be the scaling
of the high board fence, so they naturally made their way to its most
remote corner. It needed but a moment for Flutters to scramble to its
top and drop on the other side. Starlight made more clumsy work of it.
It was not an easy thing to keep one’s hold on the slippery inside posts
of the fence, and when he was near the top he heard some one calling at
his back, which did not tend to help matters. Astride the fence at last,
however, he glanced down and saw a forlorn old man close at his heels,
one of the drudges of the circus, whose duty it was to keep things
cleared up about the grounds.

[Illustration: 8043]

Look you there, cried, in a cracked Flutters and Starlight were safe out
of sight now, and smiled at each other with supreme satisfaction.

“That’s Robbin’s voice,” chuckled Flutters, as they walked off through
the woods that grew close up to the circus; “he could get over a
mountain as easily as over that fence; he has the rheumatics awful bad,
and he’s very old besides, He’s the only one I mind about leaving.” Poor
old Bobbin stood gazing up at the fence, and seemed wisely to come to
the conclusion that there was no harm in a boy’s leaving the circus in
that manner if he chose. The harm would be if he attempted to come in
that way; and so hobbled off to his dreary, back-breaking task of
gathering up the papers and stray bits of rubbish constantly
accumulating on every side. It is possible, too, that even if he had
recognized Flutters, and guessed his motive, he would not have tried to
detain him. He had once been a tumbler himself, and knew enough of the
trials of circus life to be willing, perhaps, that a promising little
fellow should escape them.

The grove in which the boys found themselves was the only piece of old
forest land that remained in the near vicinity of the town, and was
fitted up with rude tables and benches for the use of picnic parties.

Starlight led the way to one of these tables, sat down, and comfortably
rested his folded arms upon it, as though they had reached their point
of destination. Here was where Hazel was to meet them and, while they
waited, the boys entertained each other with little scraps of their life
histories; but Starlight did not for a moment forget to keep eye and
ear on guard for any one approaching. There was a hollow tree just at
Flutters’s back, into which he could tumble in a flash and be securely
hid should it become necessary. But the sound of their own low voices
and the occasional fall of a pine cone or crackling of a branch was all
that broke the stillness. At last they heard a footfall in the distance,
but Starlight knew that quick, short little step, and there was no
need for Flutters to take refuge in the tree. Hazel had come with the
precious bundle, that was all, and Flutters was straightway arrayed in
Hans Van Wyck’s clothes, his dark little face not at all agreeing with
the Dutch-looking coat and trousers; but they answered the purpose of
complete disguise, and what more could be wished for? So the children
set out for home at a brisk pace, not by the way they had come, bur, so
far as possible, by cross cuts and quiet lanes, to avoid observation.
That their little tongues moved even faster than their feet was not at
all strange, for, of course, they wanted to know all about each other.

“Are you an Italian, Flutters?” asked Hazel, in the course of the
cross-questioning.

Flutters smiled, and shook his head in the negative.

“Then I guess you’re Spanish,” remarked Starlight.

“No, not Spanish.”

Hazel and Starlight looked mystified. He was certainly neither American
nor English with that dark skin of his.

[Illustration: 0045]

“What kind of people does that sort of hair grow on?” Flutters asked,
running his hand through his tight-curling hair.

“On--on darkeys,” answered Hazel, ruefully. “But it does not curl so
tight as--as some darkeys,” hoping there might be a mistake somewhere.

“So much the better for me,” Flutters answered, cheerily.

“Are--you--a regular--darkey--really?” questioned Starlight, with a
little pause between each word.

“Well, I’m what they call a mulatto; that’s not quite so bad as an
out-and-out darkey, perhaps.”

“Oh, Flutters, don’t you mind?” asked Hazel, who was disappointed enough
that the hero of this thrilling adventure should prove to be only a kind
of negro. Hazel had an idea as, sadly enough, many far older and wiser
than she had in those days--and, indeed, for long years afterward--that
negroes were little better than cattle, and that it was quite right to
buy and sell them in the same fashion.

“What would be the use of minding?” said Flutters, in response to her
sympathetic question; “minding would not make things any different, Miss
Hazel.”

It was the first time he had called her by name, and Hazel, born little
aristocrat that she was, was glad to discover that “he knew his place,”
 as the phrase goes--so far, at least, as to put the Miss before her
name.

After this the children trudged along for a while in silence, each busy
with their own thoughts. Starlight was beginning to have some misgivings
as to the course he had taken. It might, after all, become a serious
question what to do with Flutters. He began to wonder how Aunt Frances
would look when he should go back to the farm-house next day with his
little protégé in tow. She would be pretty sure to say, “What are you
thinking of, Job dear? It is not at all as though we were in our own
home, you know. We cannot allow the Van Vleets to take this strange
little boy into their home for our sakes; though no doubt they would be
willing to do it.”

Yes, the more he thought of it, the more he felt sure that would be
just what she would say; strange that all this had not occurred to
him before, and a little sickening sensation--half presentiment, half
regret--swept over him. So it was that Starlight trudged along in
silence, for, of course, such thoughts as those could not be spoken with
Flutters there to hear them.

As for Hazel, she was turning over a fine little scheme of her own in
her mind. She was a hopeful little body, and it did not take long for
her to recover from the despair into which the discovery of Flutters’s
nationality had thrown her. “Why, look here,” she thought to herself, “I
believe I’m glad he’s a darkey after all. It was awful cute to hear
him say ‘Miss Hazel;’ how nice it would be to have him for a sort of
body-servant, just as so many officers have body-servants! He could
brush my clothes, and groom the pony, and tend to my flower garden, and
just stand ‘round, ready to do whatever I should wish,” and so it was
that Hazel trudged along in silence, for she thought it wiser not to
announce, as yet, the exact nature of her thoughtful meditation.

And Flutters--well, it would have been hard to tell about what he was
thinking. He was a most sensitive little fellow, and strong and intense
were the emotions that often played through his lithe frame, so
strong and intense at times as to find no other expression than in a
perceptible little tremble from head to foot; it was this peculiarity
that had won for him the expressive name of “Flutters” among the circus
people. Now, of course, his state of mind was joyous and satisfied. Kind
friends and a home in this new land! What more could be desired, and the
happiest look played over his handsome face, for Flutters was handsome,
and the dark olive complexion was most to be thanked for it; but
the light went out of his face when, after a while, he glanced toward
Starlight and saw his troubled look.

Instantly he divined its cause. “Are you sorry you took me?” he asked,
coming to an abrupt standstill in the brier-hedged lane.

“No, not exactly;” Starlight was betrayed into a partial confession of
the truth by the suddenness of the question.

Oh, how that hurt poor little Flutters, with his sensitive temperament!

“It is not too kite,” he said, turning and looking in the direction they
had come; “I think I can find my way back. They’d never know I’d regular
runned away;” but there was a mistiness in the bright little darkey
eyes, and an actual ache in the poor little heart.

“Flutters, _I_ am not sorry then,” said Hazel, warmly; and laying a
firm hand on each shoulder, she turned him right about face again in the
direction of her own home. “Just you trust to me, Flutters, and you’ll
never be sorry you ran away from that miserable old circus--never.”

And now, so completely was all gloom dispelled by these kind words, that
back in a flash came the glad look into Flutters’s face, and from that
moment he was Hazel’s sworn servant. Starlight looked rather ashamed
of himself, but, after all, his fears had some foundation, and he was
thankful enough thus to have Hazel take matters into her own hands,
and more than share the responsibility The sun was already down as the
children neared the house, standing in clear-cut outline against the
September sky. There were no clouds, only a marvellous gradation of
color, shading imperceptibly from the dark, dark blue of the river and
the hills beyond, up into the red glow of the sunset, and then again
by some subtle transformation into a wonderful pale turquoise high
overhead.

It was indeed a beautiful fall evening, and Captain and Mrs. Boniface
and Josephine, seated on the wide, pillared porch, were waiting for
the coming of the children, and the exciting narrative that was sure to
follow. “Kate, the bonny-face baby,” as they used to call her, was there
too, a sunny, winsome little daughter, almost three years old, and Harry
Avery besides, Job Starlight’s cousin, a good-looking young fellow, and
who lately had managed to spend a good deal of time at the Bonifaces.
He had sailed over that morning from Paulus Hook (which, by the way, was
the old name for Jersey City) with a fine little plan in mind for the
day--a plan which he had already promised Hazel should some time be
carried out; but the absence of the children had made it necessary to
postpone it for at least twenty-four hours. This Harry Avery was the
oldest of a varied assortment of little brothers, and his home was
in New London, Connecticut. But two years before he had enlisted as a
volunteer on board a brig named “The Fair American,” and not one of the
little brothers had ever had a sight of the big brother since He had had
a sorry enough time of it, too, for eighteen months of the twenty-four
since he left home had been passed in the prison-ship “Jersey,” and he
had only been released within the last few weeks, when the success
of the American armies compelled the English to discharge all their
prisoners of war. The old ship where so many brave men had lost their
lives by privation and disease now lay a great deserted hulk in the
waters of Wallabout Bay, and what Harry had come over to propose was a
sail over to have a look at her. He knew it would interest the children
immensely, and he had proposed to Mrs. Boniface that Josephine should
go with them, and Josephine, only too glad to fall in with any plan that
involved being out on the water, had that morning concocted some very
delicious little iced cakes with a view to the luncheon they would take
with them on the morrow. Meanwhile, the children were almost at the
gate. “Why, there’s Cousin Harry!” exclaimed Starlight, whose eyes were
good at a long range.

“So it is,” said Hazel, excitedly; and when they had passed a few steps
farther on, she added, “Now, Flutters, this is the best place for you
to stop, and remember, when you hear me call, come quick as anything.”
 Flutters smiled assent, and stepped into the deeper shadow of one of the
maples that edged the road.

“Well, here you are at last,” called Captain Boniface a few moments
later from where he sat smoking in a great easy-chair on the porch.

“Yes, here we are,” answered Starlight, and they marched up the path and
took their seats on the porch, Hazel having first kissed the family all
round, not at all reluctantly including “Cousin Harry,” for his prison
experience made him a wonderful hero in her eyes.

Of course they right away began to give an account, interrupted by
a good many questions, of all they had seen and done. Mrs. Boniface
thought, and thought rightly, that she detected a little sense of
disappointment in their description, but did not know that that was
easily accounted for by the insight they had had into the inner workings
of a circus. They had indeed been greatly impressed with the velvet and
spangles, but only until they had learned through Flutters what heavy
hearts velvet and spangles could cover.

Finally, at the close of quite a vivid description on Hazel’s part of
the grand entrance march, which had proved to both the children the most
impressive feature, Harry Avery remarked, just by way of taking some
part in the conversation, “that they ought to have brought a bit of
the circus home with them for the benefit of people who had not been so
fortunate as to see it.” Could there have been a better opportunity for
the introduction of Flutters?

“We did bring a bit of it home,” cried Hazel; and then, stepping to the
edge of the porch, she called, “_Flutters, Flutters_,” at the top of
her strong little lungs. Of course the Bonifaces looked on astonished at
this performance, while Starlight, from suppressed excitement, bit his
lip till he almost made the blood come; but in a second, head over heels
in a series of somersaults up the path, bounded a remarkable little
creature in satin slippers, velvet cap and all, as real a bit of a
circus as Cousin Harry or any one else could have desired. The little
tumbler was, of course, acting under orders, and brought up at the step
of the porch with the most beaming smile imaginable, and a most gracious
little bow.

[Illustration: 0050]

“Come right up, Flutters,” was Hazel’s reassuring invitation, and
nothing abashed, but still beaming and smiling, so great was his
confidence in Hazel, Flutters mounted the steps, swung himself into the
hammock that was strung across the porch, and drew the netted meshes
close about him, as though conscious of the scarcity of his apparel.

There was a pause for a moment--that is, no word was spoken, but the
four pairs of eyes belonging to Captain and Mrs. Boniface and Josephine
and Harry were riveted upon Hazel, asking as plainly as words, “What
does this mean?” while Starlight’s eyes were urging her in an
imploring fashion to tell about it all right away. As for Flutters, the
complacent, trustful gaze with which he regarded his little benefactress
implied that he was sure she would proceed to explain matters to the
entire satisfaction of everybody. Meantime little Kate looked on in
admiring wonder, but fortunately her pretty head did not need to trouble
itself with “explanations of things.” She only knew that that little
fellow in the hammock was “awfully funny.” and extended her pretty hands
toward him as though she would very much like to touch him.

“Well,” Hazel began at last with much the same air as a veritable
showman, “this little boy is named Flutters, and he did belong to the
circus, but he does not belong to it any more. He has run away, and
we’ve helped him to do it. Somehow he’s quite alone in the world, and he
has to s’port himself, so he joined the circus ‘cause he found he could
do what the other tumblers did, and’cause he heard they were coming to
America. But he has not been at all happy in the circus,” and Hazel,
pausing a moment, looked toward Flutters for confirmation of this sad
statement, and Flutters bore witness to its truth by gravely shaking
his head from side to side. Indeed all through her narration it was most
amusing to watch his expression, so perfectly did it correspond with
every word she spoke. Little folk and old folk have a fashion of letting
each passing thought write itself legibly on the face. It is only the
strong “in-between” folk who take great care that no one shall ever know
what they chance to be thinking about.

By this time Starlight began to show a desire to take a share in the
telling of the story, but Hazel would none of it. She thought, perhaps
unjustly, that he had proved somewhat of a coward in the latter part of
the transaction; at any rate, he himself had pushed her to the front,
and there she meant to stay. “No, he has not been at all happy,” she
continued; “indeed, the manager has often been very cruel to him; but
I will tell you about that another time” (for her eyes were growing a
little tearful at the mere remembrance of some things Flutters had told
them); “and the way we came to know about it was this: sometimes when
Flutters takes a great jump from the spring-board and turns a somersault
two times in the air, he slips his knee-cap--that’s what you call it,
Flutters, isn’t it?” (Flutters nodded yes), “and then he has to slip it
back again himself, and it hurts a good deal, so that he can’t jump any
more for a while. Well, to-day he slipped it, and then he crawled over
underneath where we sat, and we talked with him a little; then Starlight
told him to creep under the benches when no one was looking, and
Starlight dropped down between the seats and talked with him some more.”

“And then we arranged,” Starlight now interrupted in such an
unmistakably determined manner that Hazel allowed him to continue, “how
he should run away, and he didn’t even go back for his clothes, because
he says that the manager can almost see what a fellow’s thinking about,
and he didn’t dare. So when we had fixed everything I climbed up to
Hazel and told her what she was to do, and then I dropped down again,
and Flutters put on Hazel’s cloak so as to cover him up a little, and
we scooted. We came near being found out once, but we got over the great
fence safe at last and into Beekman’s woods. There Hazel was to meet us
with some of Hans Van Wyck’s clothes, if she could get them.”

“And I did get them,” chimed in Hazel, for it was surely her turn once
more, “and--but, oh!” stopping suddenly, “the clothes! Starlight, do
hurry and get them, or some one coming along the road may run off
with them.” Starlight obeyed, frightened enough at the thought of the
possible loss of the borrowed articles, and quickly returning with them
to the great relief of both Hazel and himself.

Then the story went on again, turn and turn about, Flutters gaining
courage to join in now and then, till at last, when the twilight had
given place to the sort of half darkness of a starlight night, and the
fire-flies were flashing their little lanterns on every side, they had
told all there was to tell, and three foot-sore little people confessed
they were tired and sleepy and hungry, and glad enough to go indoors and
do justice to a most inviting little supper, which Josephine had slipped
away some time before to prepare.

“Bonny Kate” (as she was called more than half the time, after a certain
wilful but very charming young woman in one of Shakespeare’s great
plays) had long ago fallen asleep, and lay just where her mother,
running indoors for a moment, had stowed her away in a corner of the
great hair-cloth sofa in the dining-room. One pretty hand was folded
under her rosy cheek, and such a merry smile played over her sweet face!
She surely must have been dreaming of a remarkable little fellow, in
beautiful velvet and spangles, coming head over heels up a garden path.



CHAPTER V.--CAPTAIN BONIFACE RECEIVES AN ANGRY LETTER.


[Illustration: 9054]

T is one thing to help a much-abused and unhappy little member of a
circus troupe to run away from his unhappy surroundings; it is quite
another thing to provide for all his future, particularly if, like
Flutters, he has not a penny to his name nor a stitch to his back, none
more serviceable, that is, than the ring costume of a high and lofty
tumbler. And so it was that Mrs. Boniface and Josephine and Harry sat up
well into the night, laughing heartily now and then over the funny side
of the children’s adventure, but talking gravely enough most of the time
of its more serious side.

“As far as I can make out,” said Harry, “Starlight rather expected to
bring Flutters over to the farm to-morrow and ask Aunt Frances to care
for him, at least till he found somebody else who would. I imagine his
heart rather failed him later, as it ought to. Aunt Frances has enough
to bother her at present.”

“But you don’t blame the children for helping the poor little fellow, do
you?” said Josephine, warmly; “I think almost anyone would have done the
same thing under the same circumstances.”

“Very likely, Miss Josephine, but that doesn’t dispose of the
troublesome question, What is now to be done with him?

“Unfortunately, there are questions to be met more troublesome than
that,” said Captain Boniface, joining for the first time in the
conversation, and he had only too good reason for speaking as he did.
Early in the evening a letter had been brought him, to which no one had
paid any attention. It was a daily occurrence for a messenger to turn in
at the gate with a note for the Captain, since he had been for the last
eight years the principal furnisher of supplies to the English soldiers
stationed in the city, and had need both to write and receive many
letters. Indeed, so loyal had he been to King George that, at the very
commencement of the Revolution, he had joined the English army, but had
had the misfortune to be very seriously wounded in the first battle that
was fought. When at last, after weeks of constant suffering, he was able
to be moved, General Gage, under whom he served, had contrived to send
him home by easy stages along the Boston post-road, under protection of
an English escort; and Captain Boniface always declared, and no doubt
he was right about it, that nothing short of his wife’s careful nursing
would ever have brought him through. But after that it was out of the
question for him to rejoin the army, so he must needs stay quietly at
home and aid the King’s cause as best he could by helping to feed the
King’s soldiers. All this, of course, had made enemies of most of the
Captain’s old friends Harry Avery was almost the only exception; and
now that the Colonies had been successful, matters were looking pretty
serious for him and for every American who had sided with the King. The
note that had just been brought to him proved a very threatening one. It
as much as ordered him to leave the country, saying “that there was but
one safe course for him and his, and that was to be gone instantly; that
New York had no further use for him; that the sooner her streets and
coffee-houses were rid of him the better, and that he would simply be
taking his life in his hands if he stayed.” It was truly a terribly
alarming letter, but Captain Boniface, knowing that sooner or later his
wife and Josephine would have to know about it, now broke in upon the
conversation and read it to them.

“Who has dared to write you that?” asked Mrs. Boniface.

“Four old friends, Mary; that is the saddest part of it.”

Mrs. Boniface sat pale and silent, looking straight before her, and not
hearing another word that was said. She knew her husband well enough to
feel assured that no such letter would move him a step from his home.
Not he! He would remain and live the bitter persecution down. But would
he be allowed to live it down? There were cruel words in that letter.
“By remaining you simply take your life in your hands,” it said, and the
terrible threat sent all sorts of dread possibilities thronging through
her mind.

With anxious faces, and quick-beating hearts, Josephine and her mother
listened, as Harry Avery and the Captain talked late into the night.
It was a great comfort to realize that although Harry was a Whig, and
a strong one, too, he did not harbor any bitter feeling against them.
“Perhaps,” thought Josephine gladly, “there are others like him.”

It seemed as though Harry must have seen the gratitude in her expressive
eyes, as he continued again and again to reassure the Captain of his
full sympathy, and his determination to be of assistance to him in every
possible way.

“Well, what will you do about it, father? Josephine asked, as just at
midnight, she leaned over his chair to say good-night.

“Do about it, child?” he said, taking her hands in both of his,

“Why, stay just where I am!”

Mrs. Boniface shook her head gravely, as she and Josephine left the room
together. She had known so well beforehand that he would say exactly
that.



CHAPTER VI.--OFF FOR THE PRISON-SHIP.


[Illustration: 9057]

HAT a queer sort of thing it is, this regularly going to sleep and waking
up again once in every twenty-four hours; but people who have had a
little experience in not going to sleep regularly, and in waking up at
most unheard-of and irregular hours, will tell you that that experience
is a deal queerer, and not so pleasant by half Some of the little folk
who have need to be coaxed and urged to bed six nights out of the seven,
would hardly dare to fret, I imagine, if they only knew that to be
a sound sleeper is an accomplishment sorely envied by some of those
grown-up people who may sit up as late as they choose. And if one of
those wakeful, grown-up people should some day ask you, “What is the
secret of your sound sleeping, my little friend?” just tell them that
you think it is because you do not worry. Then if they say, “That’s all
very well; children have no need to worry, they have fathers and mothers
to lean upon tell them that they, too, have a Father, One far more kind
and loving than any earthly father, and that they could lie down at
night as free from worry as any child if they would;” and who knows but
they will learn a blessed lesson from you that will be well worth the
learning.

Now this little reverie has all beep suggested by the fact that the
Boniface household was waking up, all save old Dinah, the cook, for she
had been up for an hour or more. She had once been Hazel’s nurse, and,
since the beginning of the war, was the only servant the Bonifaces could
afford to keep. How comfortable she made them, that faithful old Dinah,
so that all one had to do was to waken and wash, and brush and dress,
and then sit down to steaming coffee, delicate rolls, and the most
savory little rasher of bacon, which Dinah always added as a “relisher,”
 as she called it, to the more substantial part of the breakfast. Yes,
they were waking, all of them, from anxious Captain Boniface to happy
little Flutters, for Dinah’s vigorous ringing of the rising bell had
thoroughly done its work.

Each busy brain was taking up again the manifold threads of thought
which had slipped from its hold when sleep had stolen across it so
gently the night before. Captain Boniface instantly remembered the angry
letter, as, of course, did Mrs. Boniface and Josephine, and so their
waking was rather heavy hearted. Harry instantly remembered it too,
but his second thought was of the pretty sail-boat moored down at the
Boniface wharf, and of the plan for the day, and he was glad to open
his eyes on blue skies and the sunshine that flooded his eastward room.
Flutters woke with a smile. Indeed, he doubted if he should ever do
anything but smile again, so sure was he that he had turned a very
happy corner in his life. Starlight roomed with Flutters, and his first
thought when he opened his eyes was how they were to manage to return
those clothes of Hans Van Wyck’s, that Flutters was getting into with
such an air of complacent ownership. Hazel’s little mind took its first
morning flight in the same direction as Harry Avery’s. The sail-boat,
the bay sparkling in the sunshine, the visit to the old prison-ship--it
all meant so much to her enthusiastic, pleasure-loving temperament. A
certain uncomfortable and premeditated call upon Colonel Hamilton
could easily be postponed to an indefinite future, with such delightful
anticipations in the definite present.

“It seems heartless to be going off for a day’s jaunt, when father has
so much to trouble him,” Josephine said, when, soon after breakfast, the
little party of five, basketed and equipped, were starting down to the
wharf.

“Not at all, Josephine,” answered her sweet-faced mother, holding bonny
Kate by the hand as she spoke. “We will try and keep dear old papa
cheery, won’t we, little daughter?” then, seeing that Josephine still
lingered, as though reluctant to go, she added, cheerily, “nothing would
be gained by your staying, Josephine. Your father has some office work
that will keep him in the house, so you can think of him as safe at home
all day, and we are both of us glad enough to have you enjoy a little
change.” So, somewhat relieved in her mind, Josephine hurried down and
joined the Others, and soon the “Gretchen,” with her white sail spread
to the crisp morning breeze, sped out on the river, fairly dancing along
the crests of the white caps that splashed against her prow with such a
continuous and merry little thump and splutter.

[Illustration: 0059]

Wind and tide favored them, and Harry was an excellent sailor, so that
in a comparatively short time they had left the waters of the Hudson
behind them, had rounded Fort George, the Battery of to-day, and were
headed up the East River, with New York on the one side, and the then
scattered town of Brooklyn on the other. Skilfully tacking in long
slants from shore to shore, the wharves and shipping were soon exchanged
for the sloping banks of Manhattan Island on the left, and of Long
Island on the right, and then suddenly the dismasted hulk of the old
“Jersey” loomed up before them.

She was a dreary enough looking object to any one, but if, like Harry,
you had been a prisoner aboard of her for eighteen long months, you
would, like him, no doubt, have shuddered at the sight of her. Josephine
shuddered too. “Oh, do not let us go any nearer!” she said.

“All right,” was Harry’s quick response, for, in point of fact, nothing
pleased him better than to comply with Josephine’s slightest wish, so
the “Gretchen” veered off again.

“Oh! can’t we go aboard?” cried Flutters, with a world of disappointment
in his tone, for in imagination he had already scaled the gangway ladder
that hung at her larboard side, and turned more than one somersault on
the wide sweep of her upper deck.

“Why, no, child!” answered Hazel, who was fast assuming a most
patronizing air toward her little protégé; “no one would think of going
_aboard_ of her, would they, Cousin Harry?”

“Why, why not?” Flutters asked, half-impatiently, for Harry, giving his
attention for the moment to the management of the boat, did not at once
reply.

“Because,” he said, finally, “there has been far too much sickness in
that old hulk for any one to safely venture aboard of her; she has
been responsible for the lives of eleven thousand men. I doubt if the
strongest and longest of north winds could ever blow her free from the
fever that must be lurking in her rotten timbers.”

That was a new phase of the matter to Flutters, and he subsided at once
into thoughtful silence.

“I think this would be a good place to anchor,” suggested Harry, but
waited a moment till Josephine had given her consent before letting
the anchor run the length of its rope and bury itself in the mud bottom
beneath them.

As soon as the “Gretchen” had settled into the position determined for
her by the tide, the little party of five ranged themselves about the
boat, so as to be as comfortable as possible, for there they meant to
stay for the next hour, or two, or three, as the case might be. It had
been for some time a thoroughly understood matter between Hazel and
Harry Avery, that whenever the day should come for this trip to the
“Jersey,” they were to anchor their boat in _full sight_ of her, and
_then_ and _there_ he was to tell them the “whole story”--from the day
he volunteered till the day of his release in the previous summer.

Flutters, who had been made acquainted with the object of the
expedition, waited, with a charming native sense of the “fitness of
things,” until the others had chosen their places; then he threw himself
at Harry’s feet, in one of the graceful positions so natural to him, and
which even Hans Van Wyck’s rough, homespun clothes did not altogether
succeed in hiding. It was wonderful to look into Flutters’s upturned
face--such complete satisfaction, such tranquil happiness shone out
of it. Even in those exciting moments when every nerve and tissue was
thrilling under Harry’s narration of the dark features of his prison
life, a smile still seemed to be lurking in the corners of his
expressive mouth. Yesterday, a lonely little tumbler in a dreary, tawdry
circus company; to-day, one of a blessed circle of warm-hearted friends.
Whatever fears others might have as to the disposal to be made of him,
Flutters had none for himself. Of course he was to be Hazel’s faithful
little servant from that day forward, and it was almost worth while, he
thought, to have “darkey blood” in one’s veins for the sake of rendering
such happy service. Farther than that he did not trouble himself,
literally taking no thought for the morrow, nor for what he should put
on when his present habiliments should have found their way back to
their rightful owner. The “Gretchens” little company made a pretty
picture against the blue gray of the bay, and when at last there was no
more arranging to be done, and all had repeatedly declared themselves
“perfectly comfortable,” there was a breathless, momentous little pause,
as in the moment at a play between the significant and abrupt cessation
of the orchestra and the rolling back of the curtain. “_Please_ begin,”
 said Hazel, with a great sigh, as though the intense anticipation of
that supreme moment was quite too heavy for child-nature to endure, and
Harry, looking sadly over to the old “Jersey,” commenced his story.



CHAPTER VII--HARRY’S STORY


[Illustration: 9062]

I am to begin, Hazel, and at the very beginning, too, if I keep my
promise. Well, this little chapter of my life began with a thought, as
happens with most everything that is done in this world, and the thought
was not one I had reason to be very proud of. I suppose all of you know,
even Flutters, that since the commencement of the Revolution American
vessels have been cruising about, hoping to capture English vessels.

“Now it chanced about two years ago that the ‘Hannah,’ a very rich
prize, was brought into New London. Some of the men who had taken part
in her capture had sailed out of New London as poor as could be, and
here they came sailing back again, with a prize in tow rich enough to
fill all their empty pockets. So it was not strange, perhaps, that the
capture of the ‘Hannah’ turned a good many young heads, nor that mine
turned with the rest, and that, as soon as possible, I joined the crew
of the ‘Venture,’ a privateer that was being rapidly fitted out for a
cruise. At length everything was in readiness, and away we sailed with
the highest hopes, and with our pretty brig so crowded with musketry
that when in action she looked like a great flame of fire. Well, we were
not long at sea before we gave chase to an English ship, in appearance
as large as ours. We exchanged a few shots, then we ran alongside
of her, and with one salute of all our fire put her to silence, and
fortunately, too, without losing a single life. I can tell you I was a
happy fellow, Hazel (Harry seemed to consider Hazel his chief listener),
when it fell to my lot to be one of the crew who were ordered to man
the prize and bring her into port; happy I was, and as proud as a
turkey-cock; but that state of things did not last very long. It was
our purpose not to attempt to make a landing until we should reach New
Bedford; but before we had even cleared the shores of Long Island an
English ship of war, the ‘Belisarius,’ of twenty-six guns, bore down
upon us, and in less than an hour from the time she had sighted us,
those of our number left on the ‘Venture,’ and those of us who had
manned the English brig were all prisoners together and in irons in her
hold.”

“Bless my stars! were you really?” exclaimed Flutters, quite unprepared
for this turn of affairs.

“Yes, Flutters, sixty-five of us, and on our way to the old prison-ship,
yonder.”

“How many did you say?” asked Hazel. She had been thinking she must
teach Flutters not to say “Bless my stars!” and things like that, and so
her attention had wandered for a moment.

“Sixty-five, and in less than five months we were reduced to
thirty-five.”

“Did thirty die?” she asked, incredulously.

“Yes, thirty did die,” interrupted Starlight, setting his lips firmly,
for he knew what he was talking about, “and you old English as good as
murdered them.”

“Starlight, don’t you dare to speak like that to me,” was Hazel’s quick
retort, while the blood flashed hotly into her face. Flutters gazed at
her with astonishment. Perhaps, thought he, it will not always be an
easy matter, after all, for even the most faithful of body-servants to
please such a spirited little mistress.

“Good for you, Hazel,” laughed Harry; “I would not stand such incivility
either, if I were you; but then I must tell you one thing, not all
English hearts are as kind as yours and Josephine’s. If they were, the
old ‘Jersey’ would not have so sorrowful a tale to tell.” Harry paused
a moment. Starlight and Hazel were feeling a trifle uncomfortable. They
could not resist the temptation to give each other a little home-thrust
now and then on the score of their political differences: The result, as
a rule, was a half-acknowledged admiration for each other’s patriotism,
and an extra touch of mutual consideration in word and manner for the
time being.

“Flutters,” said Hazel, solemnly, perhaps by way of disposing of the
pause that seemed to reflect somewhat upon the conduct of herself and
Starlight, “Flutters, _what_ are _you?_” Flutters looked down at his
queer little Dutch outfit, and then up at Hazel, with a smile, which
said as plainly as words, “I give it up.”

“I mean,” continued Hazel, “who do you side with? Are you a stanch
little Loyalist like me? That is, do you think, as I think, that it is
very wrong to take up arms against the King?”

Flutters was lying flat in the bottom of the boat now, his dark little
face propped between the palms of his hands, at a loss to know how
to answer. He was a trifle embarrassed by the directness of Hazel’s
question.

“I would rather side with you, Miss Hazel,” he replied, at last, “a
sight rather; but mulatto boys what has passed most of their time in a
circus don’t know much ‘bout those things. I’m going to hear Mr. Harry
out, and then I’ll make up my mind.”

“Very well,” Hazel replied, with chilling dignity; “please go on,” she
added, turning to Harry.

Harry hesitated a moment, evidently trying to recall just where he had
left off.

“You were in irons on the ‘Belisarius,”’ suggested Josephine, whose
thoughts, judging from the far-away look in her eyes, had been with the
poor prisoners all the while rather than with what had been going on
about her.

“Oh, yes, there we were! and fortunately with no idea of the suffering
in store for us. Early the next morning we were led on deck. The
‘Belisarius’ had dropped anchor over yonder (pointing to the New York
shore), and two boats were coming toward us, for she had signalled the
‘Jersey’ that she had prisoners to transfer. Oh, how our hearts sank
within us as the little boats that were to carry us came nearer and
nearer, and do you wonder, children, that we dreaded to board the old
craft? Did you ever see a drearier-looking object, with never so much
as a spar or a mast to remind you of the real use of a vessel? Even her
lion figure-head had been taken away, leaving nothing but an unsightly
old hulk, and yet I believe the Englishmen who were in charge of her
thought the place, wretched as it was, too good for us. It seemed we
were not even to be treated with the consideration due to prisoners of
a war with a foreign nation. Having risen against the Mother Country,
in their eyes we were simply traitors. Hopeless and despairing we were
rowed over to the old prison, marched up the gangway ladder, ordered
down the hatchway, and then, with the brutal exclamation,
‘There, rebels! there is the cage for you,’ we found ourselves prisoners
in the midst of a very wretched company.”

The story was growing pretty painful, and likely to grow still more so,
provided Harry told them _all_, as he had promised. Besides, it was
so terribly real, sitting there aboard of the “Gretchen” with the old
“Jersey” right before them.

By way of affording a little relief from what she felt was yet to be
told, Josephine asked: “What was that canvas-covered place there in the
stern used for?”

“Oh, that was a shelter put up for the guards on the quarterdeck. Just
below that, and reaching from the bulkhead of the quarter-deck to the
forecastle, was what they called the spar-deck, and it was there that
we were allowed to take such exercise as we could. We used to walk in
platoons facing the same way, and then all turn at once, so as to
make the most of the little space. The gun-room, right under the
quarter-deck, was where I was imprisoned, and it was a trifle more
comfortable there, if you can use that word in connection with anything
on the ‘Jersey,’ than the crowded place between decks where most of the
prisoners were herded together. I had fortunately been chosen second
mate on the English brig during the little while that we were masters of
it, and to that lucky fact I owed my assignment to the gun-room with the
other officers. But for that, I do not believe I should be here to-day
to tell the story. I do not see how I could have endured any more and
lived. As it was, you know, I was very ill.”

“Yes, I know,” said Hazel, laying her hand affectionately over one of
Harry’s and looking sympathetically into his face; “perhaps you had
better not say very much about that part. Josephine and I cry very easy;
don’t we, Josephine?”

“Then please don’t, Harry,” urged Starlight; “I’d rather have a good
thrashing any time than see a girl cry,” recalling one occasion in
particular, when his own misconduct had moved Hazel to tears, and
she had refused for the space of one long half hour to be in any-wise
comforted.

Flutters had not paid the least attention to this last interruption.
He was thinking that, after all, the life of a friendless little circus
performer, sorry and comfortless and forlorn as it was, might be less
full of hardship than a prisoner’s. It was a very grand thing to have
one’s freedom, and he had always had that--that is, he might at any time
have run away if he chose.

“What did they give you to eat, Mr. Harry?” he asked, by way of
comparing bills of fare.

“Little that was fit to eat, Flutters; but I can tell you exactly if
you would like to know,” and Harry drew from his pocket-book a scrap of
folded paper. “This was our list of supplies. I wrote it down the first
week on board, and knew it quite by heart all too soon. I think I could
repeat it now.”

“Suppose you try,” and Josephine taking the paper from his hand,
Harry at once began to recite, with the satisfied air of a child that
perfectly knows its lesson:

“On _Sunday_.--1 pound of biscuit, 1 pound of pork, and 1 pint of peas.

“On _Monday_.--1 pound of biscuit, 1 pint of oatmeal, 2 ounces butter.

“On _Tuesday_.--1 pound of biscuit, 2 pounds beef.

“On _Wednesday_.--1 1/2 pounds of flour and 2 ounces suet.

“On _Thursday_.--Same as Sunday.

“On _Friday_.--Same as Monday.

“On _Saturday_.--Same as Tuesday.

“There, how is that?” he asked, “any mistakes?”

“Not one,” answered Josephine; “but really, Harry, is that all you
received?”

“Why,” exclaimed Flutters, “seems to me that’s considerable. Circus
folks often don’t fare no better than that, and don’t get things so
reg’lar, either.”

“And yet, Flutters, that is only two-thirds of the allowance of an
English seaman. However, we would have managed well enough to exist if
the things had been good in themselves or decently cooked, but all
the provisions were of so wretched a quality that many a poor ‘Jersey’
prisoner died from starvation through sheer inability to eat them.”

“Who cooked the things for you?” asked Hazel.

“Whenever we could manage, Hazel, we cooked them ourselves. Do you see
that big derrick on the starboard side? Well, that was for taking in
water, and we each had a scanty allowance of so much and no more each
day. But, as a rule, we contrived to save a little of it with which to
do our own cooking, because only the toughest men on board could so much
as swallow the food prepared by the ship’s cook. Under the forecastle,
there in the bow, hangs a great copper divided in the middle and holding
two or three hogsheads of water. In one side they cooked the meat, in
the other the peas and oatmeal--sometimes, I believe, in salt water, but
always in water so stale as to be absolutely unfit for use. So five or
six of us would club together, each contributing our portion of water
to the cooking supply, and then, by begging a little wood from the cook,
now and then, and splitting it very carefully and economically with our
knives, we could manage to keep a fire going that would soon set our
little pots boiling. It was a great day for us, I remember, when a
tangle of driftwood came bumping against the ship’s side, and we were
allowed to haul it on board for our fires.”

“It must have been very hard only now and then to have had a little
butter for the biscuit,” remarked Hazel, to whom this particular feature
of Harry’s story appealed most pathetically, so very fond was her own
little ladyship of the variety and sufficiency of a well-appointed
table.

“But the butter was not forthcoming, Hazel; they gave us rancid
sweet-oil instead, which refused to pass muster with our Yankee
palates, so that we were able to bestow a double portion upon some poor
Frenchmen, who were very grateful for it.”

Flutters had changed his mind about the adequacy of the “Jersey’s” bill
of fare, and was growing not a little indignant over Harry’s narration.

“Miss Hazel,” he said, while the color flashed through his dark skin, “I
am siding with the Yankees very fast.”

“I do not blame you very much, Flutters; I never heard of anything like
it;” which was quite a concession for so loyal a little Red-Coat as
Hazel.

“But, Harry,” asked Josephine, who could scarcely bear to hear of such
barbarous treatment at the hands of her own kinsmen, “do you think King
George and the English nation, generally, knew about it?”

“No, I don’t, nor do I believe they know it now; but they will some day.
It was their business to know it, Josephine, and not to leave thousands
of human beings at the mercy of a few merciless British seamen. Your own
father would scarcely credit all I could tell him of our treatment, nor
many another English officer; but it was the clear duty of some of them
to have looked into the matter.”

“You don’t mean it was my papa’s duty, do you?” Hazel asked, bristling
up a little; she was not going to allow even “Cousin Harry” to utter a
word that would seem to reflect upon her father even for a moment.

“No, of course, I don’t mean anything of the kind. If I thought Captain
Boniface in any way responsible for those horrors, do you think I could
be on such friendly terms with him? No, Hazel, your father is a true,
brave man, and no one knows better than I how much he has given up in
King George’s service. It was not his duty to inspect the prison-ships.
Furnishing supplies for the English troops called for every moment of
his thought and time, and taxed all his strength and energy; but there
are some men--men whom your father knows--whose names we need not
mention, who _are_ very culpable in the matter, if you know what that
means?”

“I suppose it means very much to blame,” sighed Hazel.

“Oh, I wish you would just go on telling about things!” urged Flutters,
beseechingly, for to him the story itself was far more interesting than
any side remarks.

Harry remained silent a moment. Since Josephine and Hazel “cried very
easy,” he had need to be careful just where he began again. “I must not
forget to tell you,” he said, “something about ‘Dame Grant,’ as we
called her, for her visits to the old ‘Jersey’ constituted almost our
greatest blessing. She was a fat old woman, who dealt in sugar and tea,
pipes and combs, needles and pins, and a few other of the necessaries of
life. Every day or two her little boat would push out from the Brooklyn
shore, and, rowed by two boys, over she would come to the ship’s side.
Those of us who were fortunate enough to have any money were then
allowed to go to the foot of the ladder and make some little purchases,
obtaining everything--so she always assured us--‘at cost price.’ But
sometimes I was almost sorry that I had a cent to spend. It was so
terrible to see the longing in the faces of the poor fellows who had no
money. I will say this much in our favor, however; I think there was
hardly a man among us who did not share with some one else fully half of
whatever he had bought. But suddenly the visits came to an end. One
morning the little boat put out from the shore as usual, but with no one
in it save one of the boys who used to row it, and he brought us the sad
news that the old ‘Dame’ had caught the fever from the hulk of the
‘Jersey’ and died. After that no one else was ever willing to run the
risk of contagion for the sake of the profits of our little purchases.
But one of the happiest experiences that ever came to us in those long,
dreary days, was to be allowed to become a member of the ‘Working
Party.’ It was composed of twenty men, and all the prisoners who had any
strength left were always eager to join it. It was the duty of these men
to wash down the upper deck and gangway, to spread the awning, and to
hoist wood, water, and other supplies on board, from the boats that came
alongside. Then, in the case of any deaths--and there were often three
or four during a single night--some of the party would be assigned the
duty of burial, and sent to the shore for that purpose, but always
closely watched by two or three guards. Strange as it may seem, this sad
duty was considered the most desirable of all. It meant setting ones
foot on dear old Mother Earth again, for, at least, a little while, and
even the mournful work in hand could not quite offset that pleasure.
Only once was I so fortunate as to be chosen, and so keen was my delight
in treading the ground again, that I actually took off my shoes for the
sake of feeling the sand fall away from my feet as we pushed along with
our sad burden. Now and then it would happen that, notwithstanding the
watchfulness of the guards, a prisoner would succeed in making his
escape when sent ashore with one of these interment parties. Near the
spot where most of the ‘Jersey’s’ prisoners were buried was a
comfortable homestead belonging to a miller. The men used to call it the
‘Old Dutchmans, and always looked toward it with a sort of veneration as
they passed, particularly as they knew that the miller’s daughter was
deeply interested in us. She kept account of all the poor fellows who
were brought to the shore to be buried, and I think many of us cherished
a vain sort of hope that deliverance might possibly come through her
some day.”

“That was strange about caring to feel the sand against your feet,”
 remarked Starlight; “that is the last sort of thing you’d think a fellow
would ever really care for.”

“Very likely; but if you ever spend even a month on shipboard you’ll
find yourself longing for some of the things that you never so much as
gave a thought to while you had them. Why, when the men returned to the
‘Jersey’ from the shore they would take back with them as much common
turf as they could carry, and the little fragments would be greedily
sought for and inhaled with more pleasure than if they had had the
fragrance of a rose.

“Did they pay you in any way for the work? asked flutters, still anxious
to compare experiences.

“Not in money, of course, Flutters, but we had the privilege of going on
deck early in the morning, and were allowed to stay till sunset. All
the other prisoners were ordered down to the foul air between decks two
hours earlier, there to stay, come what would, for ten wretched hours,
with the iron gratings of the hatchways firmly fastening them in. Then
we were granted a full allowance of provisions, such as they were.”

“Tell about when all the ‘Venture’s crew were at last exchanged
excepting you and Tom Burnham,” suggested Starlight, in a pause that
offered.

“No, don’t, please,” Josephine exclaimed; “we all know about that, and
it was so very dreadful. Besides, it’s all right now.”

“What,” said Flutters, eagerly, sitting bolt upright “what’s that? _I_
don’t know about it.”

“I’ll tell you,” Hazel whispered, motioning him closer to her; meanwhile
Harry pointed out different parts of the ship in answer to certain
questions of Josephine’s.

“You see,” explained Hazel in a melodramatic whisper, “that Cousin Harry
was taken sick one day very suddenly, and then he had the fever so badly
that he was carried over to Blackwell’s Island to die. But he didn’t
die.”

“Didn’t he, really?” asked Flutters, mischievously.

“I wouldn’t joke about a thing like this, Flutters. No, he didn’t die;
but while he was getting well very slowly a cartel--that’s a kind of
boat--was sent from New London, with some English prisoners on board, to
exchange for the crew of the ‘Venture;’ but there were not quite as many
English prisoners as were needed for an exchange, so they decided they
would have to leave Cousin Harry and a friend of his, Tom Burnham, who
were sick over on the island, behind, and as soon afterward as those
two poor fellows were well enough, back they had to go again to that
dreadful old ‘Jersey.’ Wasn’t that pretty hard?”

“Gosh, yes,” exclaimed inelegant little Flutters, and Hazel excused the
word because the occasion seemed to demand something strong.

“And there they stayed, Flutters, one whole year longer, till last
August, when the English had to let all their prisoners go free; but
understand, Flutters, it was just those _few_ bad men in charge of
the ‘Jersey’ who were so cruel. In other places we did not treat our
prisoners badly at all. Besides, it was very wicked indeed to take arms
against the King, though, of course, men like Cousin Harry thought they
were doing right.” Hazel, as usual, wound up with a defence of her own
loyalist principles.

And so the story of Harry’s hard prison life was all told, or, rather,
as much of it as was suited to his audience or was not too heartrending,
and at once the little party agreed to weigh anchor and sail quite out
of sight of the dreary old ship before opening the well-filled luncheon
baskets stowed away in the “Gretchen’s” narrow hold.

And then, of course, every one kept on the lookout for the best point
to come to anchor again; but Flutters was the first to discover a most
attractive spot on the New York side of the river, where some fine old
trees grew close to its edge, and already cast their shadows far enough
out on the water to shade the “Gretchen” from bow to stern. Thither they
sailed, quickly dropped anchor, and soon sitting down to cold tongue and
biscuits, peach jam and sponge cake, endeavored to banish all thoughts
of prisoners and prison-ships. It was not hard work, for Flutters was
funny, and Starlight and Hazel actually silly. Indeed, all of them felt
a sort of reaction from the gloomy, depressing thoughts of the last
hour, and, to my thinking, a little silliness was perfectly allowable.
After a most leisurely luncheon, Hazel and Starlight moved to the stern
of the boat. There was one important matter they had need to discuss
confidentially--the return of Flans’s clothes. Hazel had not forgotten
her promise to surely bring them back to Mrs. Van Wyck the next day;
and now the next day had come, and with no better prospect of any other
equipment for Flutters. Entirely unconcerned, Flutters, growing drowsy
in the noontide stillness of the river, had stretched his lithe little
body along one of the boat cushions and fallen asleep. Josephine, after
stowing away the emptied baskets, had seated herself again with her back
against the mast. Harry had moved to a seat by her side, and they were
talking together of what filled both their hearts--their anxiety for
Captain Boniface; and Harry was doing his best to calm Josephine’s
fears. He spoke most cheerily and hopefully, for he honestly did not
believe the antagonism against her father would amount to so very much;
and watching her lovely face brighten at his encouraging words, no doubt
thought how very beautiful she was. You would have thought so too could
you have seen her, with her wide-brimmed hat pushed far back on her
head, and the airiest of little breezes playing with the pretty light
hair that lay in curling wisps about her forehead. Starlight happened to
glance toward Josephine just as he and Hazel had settled the matter
they had in hand, and seemed more impressed with her beauty, as she sat
there, than ever before.

“You don’t often find a girl like your sister Josephine,” he said;
“she’s lovely herself, and she’s lovely to look at. Those two things
don’t generally go together--in girls.”

“What do you mean?” asked Hazel, bristling a little, as usual.

“I mean that most lovely girls know that they’re lovely, and that spoils
it. The good-natured girls are most always homely.”

“No, of course, you’re not homely, Hazel, but then you’re not”--a long
pause--“so very good-natured either;” Starlight’s love of mischief
having gotten the better of his discretion.

Hazel gave him one look of indignant condemnation. Then, without a word,
she moved away, took her seat at Josephine’s feet, and for the remainder
of the afternoon treated Starlight with all the studied coolness
offended dignity could muster.

About four o’clock the “Gretchen” again weighed anchor and steered out
into the river, homeward bound. It had been arranged that she should
touch at the foot of Beekman Street, and that Starlight should leave them
there, so as to stop at Mrs. Van Wyck’s and see what could be done about
Flutters’s clothes, or rather Hans’s; and from there he would no doubt
be able to beg a ride out to the Bonifaces’. “Good-bye, Hazel,” he
called back, as he bounded on to the little wharf. Hazel vouchsafed no
answer. Josephine wondered what was up, and so did Harry, but were wise
enough not to ask any questions. Flutters was not so wise. “Miss Hazel,
did you hear Starlight call good-bye?” he queried.

“I’m not deaf, Flutters.”

“Then why didn’t you answer?” with innocent directness.

“I had my own good reasons. And, Flutters, _you_ must not ever ask _me
why_ I do things.”

“All right, Miss Hazel,” Flutters answered cheerily, for her word was
law to him; but Josephine and Harry found it difficult to conceal a
smile.

It proved rather a tedious sail homeward, for the wind that had blown
them so finely down river in the morning had not been so accommodating
as to change its direction, and only by dint of much “tacking” was any
headway to be made. At last, however, the Boniface homestead came in
sight, and in the stillness of the twilight the “Gretchen” was safely
moored to her own little dock.



CHAPTER VIII.--A CALL ON COLONEL HAMILTON.


[Illustration: 9075]

OOD-BYE, Hazel,”

“Good-bye, Starlight,”

“Good-bye, Josephine,”

“Good-bye, Cousin Harry,”

“Good-bye, Flutters.” Quite a medley of good-byes, to be sure, but no
more than were needed, for Harry and Starlight, once more aboard of the
“Gretchen,” were fast gliding out on to the river, and Josephine and
Hazel and Flutters were being left behind on the wharf. The little
prison-ship party had had their supper, and now Harry and Starlight were
off for Paulus Hook; it was high time, too, that they were, since they
had already been absent a day longer than Harry had planned, and Aunt
Frances would naturally begin to feel worried. Little Flutters cut a
queer figure as he stood there on the boating dock in the moonlight.
Hans Van Wyck’s clothes, done up in a snug bundle, were already on their
way back to their lawful owner, so that he had need to resort once more
to the spangles and tinsel of his circus costume. By way of making up
for insufficient clothing, Mrs. Boniface had thrown a shawl about him,
one end of which Flutters allowed to trail behind, pinning the other
close about his throat, with one corner thrown over his left shoulder.

“We must do something about some clothes for you, Flutters, right away,”
 Hazel remarked, as they turned to walk up from the wharf, when, amid
the darkening shadows of the river, the “Gretchen’s” sail was no longer
visible. “Starlight and I _hoped_ Mrs. Van Wyck would offer to _give_
us that suit of Hans’s to keep when he stopped to see her this afternoon
and told her about you, but she did not propose anything of the kind.
She only said ‘it was very inconvenient for Hans not to have them, and
she hoped we’d manage to get them back to-night.’”

“And you have managed, haven’t you, Miss Hazel?” Flutters answered, as
if the managing were a matter to be proud of; and, mimicking a sort
of stage stride such as he had often witnessed in tragical circus
pantomimes, he apparently bestowed far more attention on the sweep of
his majestic train than on what Hazel was saying.

“Yes, of course, I sent them back; what else could I do?”--this last
rather impatiently, because of Flutters’s exasperating unconcern __“but
how are you going to manage without them is what I’d like to know.”..

Flutters gave Hazel a comical little look. “With tights and shawls, I
s’pose, Miss Hazel, unless the Captain felt like as he could buy some
for me.”

“No,” said Hazel decidedly; “I am not going to bother father ‘bout
things like that, ‘specially now when he’s so worried and his life’s in
danger.” This remark brought Flutters to a stand. Is the Captain’s life
in danger, really, Miss Hazel?

“Yes, it is. Josephine said he received a very angry letter the other
night from some old friends of his. They as much as told him that he
must go away, and that his life wasn’t safe here; and lots of people are
going, Flutters; people who, like father, have sided with King George.”

“Where are they going, Miss Hazel?”

“To England, most of them.”

“And will the Captain go?”

“No, Josephine thinks not. You see he built this house, Flutters, and
he loves it, and he loves this country, too. Josephine says she believes
he’ll just stay, and try and live the angry feeling down.”

“Miss Hazel,”.said Flutters, stopping to gather the trailing shawl over
one arm, for he was ready now to give his whole mind to the matter in
hand, “it’s a very puzzling thing ‘bout me. When Mr. Harry was telling
those sad things of the prison-ship, I thought I was a Whig, and now
when you are talking ‘bout the Captain, it seems as though I was a--a
what do you call it?”

“A Loyalist, Flutters?”

“Yes, a Loyalist; but I reckon folks what has friends on both sides, had
better not be anything particular.”

“Perhaps that would be best,” Hazel replied, smiling in spite of
herself.

“Miss Hazel,” Flutters said, after a little pause, stopping and looking
round him somewhat cautiously, as though he feared his question might
be overheard, “did Starlight hear of any ‘quiries for me, when he was in
the city this afternoon?”

Hazel nodded “Yes” in a most mysterious manner.

“There’s no danger of their ‘quiring round here, do you think?” and
Hazel saw the involuntary little tremble shoot through Flutters’s frame.

“No, indeed, Flutters, and we wouldn’t give you up if they did. Mrs. Van
Wyck told Starlight that a forlorn old man, who belonged to the circus,
stopped at her gate and asked if she’d seen anything of a little mulatto
boy what had deserted from the troupe, or knowed anything about him, and
Mrs. Van Wyck said, ‘Lor’, no!’ never dreaming that her very own little
Hans’s clothes were on that same little boy that very moment.”

“That must have been good old Bobbin,” answered Flutters, fairly
chuckling over the thought of the entire success of his escape.

“Miss Hazel,” he added, after a moment’s thoughtful meditation, “I’ve
been thinking how I might earn the money for my clothes by doing a
little tumbling for folks round here, only I’m so awfully afraid of
being heard of by the circus people.”

The suggestion instantly flashed a new scheme through Hazel’s mind.

“Flutters,” she said, very slowly and seriously, “I’ve--thought--of
something. Yes, it’s the very thing. I’m going to town tomorrow, to see
Colonel Hamilton about an important matter, and I’ll make all the
‘rangements.”

“‘Rangements ‘bout the clothes, Miss Hazel?”

“Yes, ‘rangements ‘bout everything; but, hush! ‘cause nobody else must
know about it.” They had reached the porch where Mrs. Boniface was
sitting, and Josephine was close behind them, which was the occasion
for Hazel’s “Hush” and so little Flutters tumbled into bed half an hour
later, still in ignorance as to what the scheme of his “little Mistress”
 might be, but with perfect confidence in her ability to make any
arrangements under the sun.

*****

Joe Ainsworth found his little friend waiting in the sunshine the next
morning, and, almost without intimation from him, the leaders came to a
standstill, and Hazel mounted to her seat beside him. “Business in
town?” ventured Joe.

“Colonel Hamilton’s, please,” all intent on getting comfortably seated.

“Oh!” exclaimed Joe, with elevated eyebrows, “haven’t fixed that matter
up yet, eh?”

“Not yet. I haven’t had time to see to it until to-day.”

“Haven’t had time,” said Joe, with a significant smile.

“No, I haven’t, really. Yesterday I had to go on a sailing party and the
day before to the circus.”

“My lands, Miss Hazel! I guess if you had to drive this Albany coach
every day of your life, week in and week out, and was ever able to take
so much as a day off for a circus or a sailing party, you would call
that having lots of time. I would, I can tell ye.”

“Well, then, perhaps it was because I couldn’t do both things, Joe, so I
chose the sailing party and the circus.”

“I don’t blame you, Miss Hazel. Besides, there can’t be anything very
pleasant for such a loyal little Red-Coat as you to look forward to, in
calling on our American Colonel.”

“I’m not afraid of any American Colonel,” with the air of a grand
duchess.

“No, of course not, Miss Hazel, but I’d have a care to that little
tongue of yours.”

Hazel did not answer. She would not have allowed many people to offer
that unsolicited advice without some sort of a rejoinder, but she had
always a most kindly side toward Joe Ainsworth, not entirely accounted
for, either, by the fact of the free rides.

For some reason or other the coach horses kept up a good pace that
morning, and it was not long before they came to a halt at Hazel’s
destination.

Colonel Hamilton’s law office was in just such another wide-porched
double house as the Starlight homestead; and, like it, had been vacated
by its rightful owner during the progress of the war, and so had shared
the similar fate of being immediately claimed by the English. They
were most comfortable-looking dwellings, those old colonial homesteads,
cheery and clean without, in their buff coats of paint lined off with
generous bands of white, and most hospitable within, with their wide
halls running from front to back straight through them. It seemed a
shame that such a homelike place should ever be converted into a mere
bevy of offices, but, after all, that is but one of many desecrations
that follow closely in the train of wretched war. The very sight of the
house, and the evident misuse to which it had been put, stirred Hazel’s
indignation. She did not know who had lived there, but she felt very
sorry for them all the same.

It chanced to be her good fortune to find Colonel Alexander Hamilton
alone in his office, something that did not often happen in the
experience of that great man, and it was also perhaps her good fortune
to be altogether unconscious of how truly great he was, else she might
not have marched so boldly into his presence and told her story in such
a frank and fearless manner. Yet, who knows, there are big and little
women the world over, who will stop at nothing, and know neither fear
nor shrinking where a friend’s interests are concerned, especially such
a brave, true friend as Starlight had always proved himself to be.

Colonel Hamilton allowed Hazel to make her statement without
interruption, save to ask some lawyer-like question now and then, when,
in her childish eagerness, she had failed to put the facts quite clearly;
but, notwithstanding her eagerness and the importance of her errand,
she took time to note that he was “a lovely-looking gentleman,” and to
draw a little sigh of regret that so fine a man should not have been a
Tory like herself. When at last she had cleared her mind of all she had
to say, she folded her little hands together in her lap, and scanning
his handsome face closely, waited for his answer.

But Colonel Hamilton did not answer. With his elbows resting on the arms
of his office chair he sat for a few seconds gazing down at his hands,
the fingers of which, with thumb pressing thumb, were clasped in
meditative fashion before him. Hazel gazed at them too. She thought they
were very nice hands, and noticed how fine were the linen frills falling
over them from the circle of the tight-fitting, broadcloth sleeve. She
was not at all concerned that he did not hasten to reply. She had heard
that lawyers gave a great deal of thought to “things,” and she would not
hurry him. Meanwhile she sought the arms of the chair in which she was
sitting as a support for her own elbows, and endeavored to lock her own
little hands together in imitation of his--so will the feminine mind
occupy itself with veriest trifles even on the verge of most decisive
transactions. But the chair-arms were too wide apart and the child-arms
too short by far to successfully accomplish the imitation. Colonel
Hamilton noted the attempt and smiled. “My little friend,” he said at
last, “I’m thinking I am the very last man you should have come to about
all this. How did you happen to appeal to me?”

“Because, sir (Hazel grew a little embarrassed)--because sir, as I told
Joe Ainsworth, who drives the Albany coach, _you_ were the gentleman who
talked the court into deciding the case against Miss Avery and in favor
of Captain Wadsworth.”

“And how did you learn that?”

“Oh, I have heard my father talk about it; I am his little daughter
Hazel.”

“Naturally, but who may your father be?”

“Captain Hugh Boniface, of his Majesty’s service,” with no little
dignity.

“Indeed!” exclaimed the Colonel, with surprise, “and what did your
father say?”

“He did not think you were right about it, Colonel Hamilton, but he
said you were smart enough and handsome enough to make a jury believe
anything you wanted to.” Hazel did not know why the Colonel walked over
to the window and looked out for a moment, but one might surmise that it
was simply to conceal a very broad smile.

“That is rather doubtful praise, Miss Hazel,” he said, coming back
again, “but I can tell you one thing, I certainly would not try to make
a jury believe anything that I did not believe myself.”

“No, of course not,” Hazel answered warmly, “only I thought you could
not have understood about things. That is the reason I have come to ask
you to change your mind.”

“But, unfortunately, lawyers’ minds when once made up cannot be changed
very easily, and I am sorry for that, for there is nothing I would
rather do than be of service to you and your little friend with the
pretty name--what do you call him? Starlight? You see, the bother is,
I honestly think the English have a right to dispose of Miss Avery’s
house, for they did not take it from her nor compel her to leave it She
left it of her own accord, now more than two years ago, and entirely
unprotected. Now I do not see why she should expect to come back to it
and turn out its present occupant just when she chances to see fit, and
the court agrees with me in this.

“But doesn’t it seem too bad for a lot of great, strong men to side
against a lovely lady like Miss Frances Avery?” and Hazel gave a very
deep sigh.

“Yes, in one way it does, Miss Hazel,” said Colonel Hamilton kindly,
“and the great strong men felt very sorry for her. Unfortunately hers
proved to be a sort of test case. There are scores of other people who
want to come back and turn people out of the homes where they have been
living, some of them for the last six or seven years--indeed ever since
New York fell into the hands of the British, and now the court has
decided that they ought not to be allowed to come, and that under these
circumstances, ‘possession is not only nine points of the law,’ but ten.

“I do not quite understand what you mean about the points of the law,”
 said Hazel, frankly; “but I do not think about it as you do at all,”
 and, in fact, there were many people in those days, and many, too, in
these, who could make Hazel’s words their own, never having been able to
comprehend how it was that the great lawyer took the stand he did.

“Besides, it is queer,” Hazel added, after a moments cogitation,
“that such a Whig as you are, Colonel Hamilton, should have sided with
the Tories.”

“Not a whit more queer, it strikes me,” laughed the Colonel, “than that
a stanch little Loyalist like yourself should be pleading so warmly for
the Whigs.”

“But if your best friend _was_ a Whig and you felt sorry for him?”
 pleaded Hazel, in extenuation.

“Well to be sure, that does put matters in a different light; but truly,
I do not see what you are going to be able to do about it. If Miss Avery
can fix matters up with Captain Wadsworth, all well and good, and--”

“No, she can never do that,” interrupted Hazel, decidedly. “I have seen
Captain Wadsworth myself. He looks like a kind man, but he isn’t. He
told me to come to you about it; but it seems there’s no use going to
anybody, and I guess Miss Avery and Starlight will just have to live
and die over at Paulus Hook, and never have a home of their own
again--never!”

It must be confessed that Hazel’s efforts in behalf of the Starlight
homestead had apparently met with no success whatever. But she had done
what she could, _all_ she could, indeed, and there was some comfort in
that, at least so she thought, as she walked slowly away from Colonel
Hamilton’s office. She paused in a meditative way as she reached the
gate. “Poor little girl,” thought the Colonel, who sat watching her
from his office window, “I fancy she had an idea I could go right up
to Captain Wadsworth’s and turn them all out if I wished to, and half
believed I would do it. As it is, I will speak to the Captain. Perhaps
he might be able to make some sort of a compromise with Miss Avery.”

*****

So after all Hazel had at least succeeded in making a friend of the
Colonel, and of Captain Wadsworth, too, for that matter, and it was not
altogether improbable that something might result from this state of
affairs, though she herself little dreamed it. But Hazel had had a
double purpose in coming into the city that morning, and did not stand
there at the Colonel’s gate because, as the Colonel thought, she was the
most sorrowful and hopeless of little suppliants, but because she was
trying to decide just what she had better do next.

“Better do next?” was the question that always confronted that restless
and active little woman whenever the completion of any one plan left her
free to launch upon another. If the little plan had utterly failed, that
did not matter. It was her life to be busy about something, though the
something might be of no more importance than the making of a doll’s
dress or the mending of a toy teacup. But now the something to be done
was important, and having made up her mind what to do, she suddenly
started off at a brisk little pace that would have surprised the
sympathetic Colonel could he have seen behind the boxwood hedge that
grew close up to the gate on either side.

So great indeed was the change in her bearing, he might with reason have
suspected her of a little “old soldiering” while in his office.

Hazel’s destination was the Starlight homestead, and the man she wanted
to see was Sergeant Bellows. She “Do you remember?” found him seated
alone on a bench under a tree in the front garden, and this suited her
exactly, for her interview had need to be a private one. The old
Sergeant was cleaning some sword-handles, but was glad enough to have
his work interrupted by the unexpected arrival of his little friend, and
made room for her on the bench beside him.

[Illustration: 8083]

“Do you remember?” Hazel at once began, without waiting to command
sufficient breath, “that the last time--I was here--you asked--if there
was anything--an old sergeant could do for me?”

“Yes, I remember, Miss Hazel.”

“And do you think the other men meant what they said when they asked if
there was anything they could do for me?”

“Yes, I’ll wager they did.”

“Well, now, there is something, Sergeant Bellows, a real important
something, and this is it,” and straightway Hazel’s voice subsided into
such a confidential whisper, that even the Sergeant lost a word now and
then, but he smiled and nodded assent all the while, to Hazel’s great
delight.

As for us, it is needless to bother our heads with all she told him,
particularly as we shall see what came of it in the very next chapter.



CHAPTER IX.--FLUTTERS HAS A BENEFIT.


[Illustration: 9085]

HE warm and hazy September days were over. The first of October had come
in by the calendar, but although its sun had not yet peeped over the
horizon, there were unmistakable signs in the east which heralded its
coming. As for Hazel, she was up “with the lark,” as the saying goes,
and with good reason, too, for never did any mere little feathered
songstress have as much in hand as had she for that first day of
October, and it _all_ depended upon the weather.

What wonder, then, with so much on her mind, that the first ray of
daylight succeeded in shimmering in beneath the long lashes of her eyes,
first setting their lid a-tremble and then prying them open, so that
their little owner soon found herself wide awake, and that the eventful
day had dawned. But what sort of a day was it going to be, that was the
all-important question. Hazel threw open the shutters of her window. The
vine that crept along its sill was dripping wet--could it be raining?
She stretched out a little brown hand that was all of a tremble with
excitement, to test if rain were really falling. No, not a drop. It was
dew on the vines, of course; how foolish not to have thought of that!
But what made the sky so gray? Was it cloudy? Then she tripped over to
the clock. Why, so early as that! Then perhaps the sun was not up yet.
No, come to look again, of course it wasn’t, it was just daylight.

Having reached this conclusion, Hazel, wisely slipping into a flannel
wrapper and a pair of bedroom slippers, sat down to wait the rising of
that very lazy sun, and soon he came. She watched till he was full above
the horizon, then assuring herself that there were no threatening clouds
anywhere, crept back into bed, wrapper, slippers, and all, with a mind
quite at ease, and in just the sort of a mood for the most refreshing of
little morning naps.

One, two, one, two, Company F was marking time preparatory to marching
on again, and Sergeant Bellows was in command.

It was two o’clock now, and the sun, for whose dawning Hazel had watched
so eagerly, was well on his journey, and shining down on the burnished
flint-locks and scarlet coats of Company F, coats which looked bravely
in the morning sunlight, notwithstanding many a stain and mark of active
service. But not for any skirmishing with their enemies were those
English soldiers under marching orders, for never again were they to
wage battle with the colonists on American soil. It was now nearly two
years since the great battle of Yorktown, when the British soldiers had
laid down their arms, and Lord Cornwallis’s sword had been surrendered
to General Washington, and it would not be long before the whole army,
under command of Sir Guy Carleton, would go sailing homeward down the
harbor, and not a British roll-call, nor a soldier answering to
it, would be heard anywhere in the land. But, somehow or other,
notwithstanding all this, Company F, of His Majesty’s service, did not
look very crestfallen, as they stood there marking time, until a great
overhanging load of hay should leave the road clear ahead of them. They
had had plenty of time to get used to the thought of not having beaten
the Yankees; in fact, some of them went so far as to openly express
their honest admiration for the plucky, desperate fashion in which those
some poorly equipped Yankees had fought, and did not begrudge them their
hard-earned victory. Then in seven weeks more they were to turn their
faces toward home and England; toward England, which some of them had
not seen for eight long years; toward home, where little children had
outgrown their childhood, where dear wife faces had grown worn with
waiting, and where white-haired mothers, wearied with watching, had
perhaps been laid at rest in the little village churchyards. But, come
weal or woe, they were soon going home; you could see their faces daily
grow brighter with the thought, and happening this morning to have a
most novel entertainment in prospect, what wonder that almost every one
wore an amused smile, and that every eye twinkled merrily. The clumsy
hay-load slowly moved out of the way, and then came the order, “For’ard,
march!” from Sergeant Bellows, and off they went, with even swing up
Broadway, turning off at the Albany coach road, and then on out into the
country. “Halt!” called Sergeant Bellows at last, and Company F halted
right in front of Captain Boniface’s cottage. It could not have been
that they were not expected, for Hazel, with beaming smile, stood
holding the gate wide open, and the men filed in and took their seats in
chairs which had evidently been placed in rows in the garden for them.
The chairs fronted the porch, and were grouped in semicircular shape
about the wide steps leading up to it, at the top of which a curtain
(for which two blanket shawls had been made to do duty) hung suspended,
the cord that held it being fastened to the fluted column at either end.
That the shawls were of widely differing plaids, and at great variance
in the matter of color, only added to the generally fantastic effect.
Without doubt there was going to be some sort of a performance, and it
was easy now to guess that Hazel’s “‘rangements” had been in the line of
preparation for it, and easy now to understand why her little ladyship
had been up with the lark, to ascertain, if possible, what sort of a day
it was going to be. Somehow or other I should not in the least wonder if
the “Old Man of the Weather” loves to have a little child place implicit
trust in him now and then’; surely he does, if he is at all like some of
the rest of us whom you little folks call old. At any rate the weather
not only favored Hazel’s project, but seemed just to give itself up to
making everything comfortable for everybody. The sun saw to it that the
old house cast a broad square shadow in front of it that was more than
large enough to cover the space where the men were seated, and the wind
saw to it that a sufficiently strong little breeze was blowing to temper
the early afternoon sunshine, and everything conspired to make it a
perfect October day, a sort of good example, as it were, for the thirty
other October days that were to follow it.

At last it was time for that mysterious many-colored curtain to be
drawn aside, and certain vigorous jerkings of the shawls showed that an
attempt was being made in that direction. What did it matter to Company
F if it did not work with all the smoothness to be desired, since it
finally disclosed to them as fair a little specimen of humanity as the
eyes of most of them had ever rested upon. In the centre of the stage,
or rather of that portion of the porch which had been divided off for
it, sat Hazel’s little sister in an old-fashioned high-back chair, her
pretty slippered feet reaching but a little way over its edge, and her
little dimpled hands folded in her lap in most complacent fashion. She
wore a short-waisted, quaint little white dress, barely short enough to
show the prettily slippered feet.

Not at all dismayed was little Kate at the sight of so many soldiers
seated there in such formal array before her. What was every beautiful
Red Coat but another embodiment of her own dear papa; and not in the
least alarmed was she by the loud applause which the mere sight of her
elicited from admiring Company F. She turned her pretty head on one side
and then on the other, her little face wreathed in smiles, and seeming
to say in silent baby-fashion, “Thank you, gentlemen.” Not that she
could not talk. No, indeed, do not think that for a moment; her baby
tongue could move with all the insistent chatter of a little English
sparrow; but the right time had not come yet. As soon as the applause
had somewhat abated, Hazel herself appeared on the scene, arrayed in
a jaunty little riding-habit, and with cheeks aglow with excitement,
looking prettier, perhaps, than ever before in her life. As was to be
expected, her appearance was the cause for renewed applause; but finally
all was quiet, and she stepped forward to deliver a little speech which
had been carefully thought over. She had insisted upon wearing her
riding-habit, because, as she had told her mother, she was to be a sort
of showman. Of course she did not want to wear boys’ clothes, but the
riding-habit seemed sort of a go-between, “and more like the thing
a lady who managed a private circus would wear.” So Mrs. Boniface
consented, and Josephine, in helping Hazel to dress, had added an extra
touch or two. Her habit was made of gray cloth, with a long, full skirt
that came within a foot of the ground when Hazel was on her pony; but
in order that she should be able to move about the platform as freely as
was necessary, Josephine had caught the skirt up on one side, fastening
it with two or three brilliant red chrysanthemums, and pinning a bunch
of the same bright flowers against her waist. On her head she wore a
black velvet jockey cap which had been sent her by her grandpa from
England, and which completed the jauntiness of her costume.

[Illustration: 0090]

“Members of Company F,” Hazel began, holding her riding-whip in both
hands before her, “I wish to thank you for coming here this afternoon,
and to tell you that I hope you will feel repaid for your long march out
from the city.”

“No doubt about that, Miss Hazel,” Sergeant Bellows called out,
heartily..

“Thank you, Sergeant;” but Hazel’s manner was somewhat stiff, as though
she preferred that more formality should be observed. “But before
commencing our performance,” she continued, “I must ask you to bear
in mind that it is not an easy thing to get up a regular circus in a
private family, ‘specially at such very short notice. There was no time
to teach anything new, even to the baby, who learns very easily, and it
was just by good luck that Prince and Kate and Delta knew some little
tricks already. As for Flutters, it will not take you long to discover
that _his_ part of the performance needs no apology.”

Hazel concluded her little speech with a graceful bow, and, turning
toward Kate, who still sat smiling, announced: “I have now the pleasure,
gentlemen, of introducing to you Miss Kate Boniface, as fine a little
three-year-old as ever was reared in Westchester County. Miss Kate is
quite a favorite with the management, being, what we consider, a most
gifted little lady. She has an original little dance of her own, one
little song, and one little piece, which she speaks with dramatic
effect.”

“Which s’all I do first, Hazel?” asked Kate, in a most audible whisper,
when she saw that it was time for her to commence.

“Why, the dance of course, child,” Hazel answered, forgetting their
relations of manager and artiste.

“But where’s de music?”

Sure enough, where was the music? “Job,” called Hazel, blushing up to
the roots of her hair with embarrassment, “we are waiting for you.”

“Coming, Mrs. Manager,” came the answer, and a moment later Starlight
bounded through the green boughs, which had been arranged at the back of
the scene, violin in hand, and in a costume befitting the clown of
the performance. His resemblance to the real article was truly quite
remarkable, for Cousin Harry had taken a great deal of interest in his
“make-up,” and the result was a face as white, with cheeks as red and
eyebrows as high, black, and arching, as were ever attained by Mr. John
Dreyfus, the English clown of world-renowned reputation. Starlight was
able to play half-a-dozen tunes on an old violin which had belonged to
his grandfather, and this formed a most attractive and most important
feature of the Boniface circus. Otherwise Company F would have been
obliged to forego little Kate’s dancing, than which nothing was ever
daintier or prettier. But not an inch would her little ladyship move
from her chair till Starlight had gone through a series of scrapings
called “tuning up,” and a merry little dancing tune was well under way.
Then she jumped down, and running to the front of the platform made the
most bewitching of conventional little bows, pressing the fingers of
both hands to her lips, as if generously to throw the sweetest of kisses
broadcast. It was very evident, then, to the Red Coats--Miss Hazel to
the contrary that there had been time enough to teach little Kate one
new trick at any rate; but the glancing itself was a matter of Kate’s
own creation, and of a sort that baffles description.

[Illustration: 0092]

She had never seen any one dance, no one had taught her, but as
naturally as a little duck takes to the water, had her little feet
taken to dancing on that evening when, for the first time, Starlight
had brought his violin to the Bonifaces’. For fully ten minutes, to
the great delight of Company F, little Kate kept time in a variety of
intricate and pretty little motions to the rhythm of the old violin a
sort of dancing in which slow and graceful gestures of dimpled arms and
hands played almost as important part as the little feet themselves.
Indeed, the whole proceeding was a deliberate one, owing to an inability
on Starlight’s part to play any faster; but to my thinking “The dancing
was a matter of Kate’s own creation;” all the prettier for that, and far
more becoming to such a dignified little maiden.

As for Company F, it would have liked nothing better than a whole
half-hour of dancing; but “Mrs. Manager” wisely protested, and after
the little song had been rendered with “violin accompaniment,” and the
little piece spoken “with dramatic effect,” Miss Kate Boniface tripped
from the stage ‘midst hearty peals of applause, and Mrs. Manager, as
Starlight had called Hazel, came once more to the front.

“I shall now have the pleasure of acquainting you, gentlemen,” she said,
with all the superiority of a veritable showman, “with my own little
thoroughbred, one of the most knowing and accomplished of Shetland
ponies. Mr. Lightfoot, will you have the kindness to bring Miss Gladys
into the ring?” whereupon Starlight, otherwise Mr. Lightfoot, led
the pony on to the stage, or, I should say, “into the ring,” as Hazel
preferred to regard it from a strictly professional point of view.
Gladys had been groomed by Starlight and Flutters to within an inch
of her life, in preparation for the occasion, and, indeed, she sorely
needed it. The fact was that she had been turned out for the last two
months owing to an unfortunate gall on her back which had refused to
heal under the saddle; so, while her mistress had been dependent upon
Albany coaches for such excursions as she wished to take into the city,
Miss Gladys had been kicking up her heels and running races with herself
in the most inviting of clover fields. Only yesterday had she been
enjoying all this freedom, with burrs in her tail and burrs in her mane,
and with never so much as a halter, and here she was to-day tricked
out in blue ribbons, with her coat smoothed down to look as silky as
possible, and with her four pretty little hoofs oiled up to a state of
shiny blackness, but without the sign of shoe on any one of them. There
had been no time, indeed, to have Miss Gladys shod, nor was there any
need of it, as, after today’s performance, back she was to go again, for
at least another month more, to all the wild dissipation of pony life
in a clover field. Of course she was astonished at the sight of the
soldiers, but she had been rehearsing with Starlight and Hazel for a
whole hour that morning in that sort of “box stall” which formed the
scene of the circus, and so, being somewhat familiar with the place,
contented herself with an occasional pricking-up of her black-pointed
ears, which only gave her a more spirited look, and, on the whole, was
extremely becoming.

“Now, Miss Gladys,” said Hazel, when she had-succeeded in getting her
posed to her liking, “I would like you to answer a few questions, and
for each correct answer you shall have a beautiful lump of white sugar.
Mr. Lightfoot, have you the sugar ready?”

“Yes, Mrs. Manager,” answered Starlight, who, in his capacity of clown,
was endeavoring all the while to keep up a funny sort of byplay, and
sometimes succeeding; “yes, Mrs. Manager, the sugar is all ready. I have
placed, as you perceive, five lumps upon either extended palm, and would
like to make this arrangement, that when the pony makes a mistake I may
be allowed to eat the sugar.”

“Very well, Mr. Lightfoot, I am quite agreeable to the arrangement;
but, if I am not mistaken, the pony thinks you are likely to fare rather
poorly; how about that, Miss Gladys? Do you intend that Mr. Lightfoot
shall enjoy more than one of those lumps of sugar?” Hazel stood leaning
against the pony’s side, lightly swinging her riding-whip in apparently
aimless fashion in her left hand, but in answer to her question, Miss
Gladys shook her pretty head from side to side with as decided an
assertion in the negative as though she had been able to voice an
audible “No.”

“There! what did I tell you, Mr. Lightfoot?”

“Why! did Miss Gladys answer? I didn’t hear her.”

“Of course you did not hear her. She answered by shaking her head.
Ponies can’t talk.”

“What! can’t Miss Gladys say a word?”

“No, certainly not.”

“Not even neigh?”

“That’s a _very_ bad pun, Mr. Lightfoot. Don’t you think so, Miss
Gladys?” Up and down went the pony’s head in ready assent.

“Two questions answered with remarkable judgment. Now, two lumps of
sugar, if you please, Mr. Lightfoot.”

Gladys eagerly ate the sugar from Hazel’s gloved hand (for sugar was one
of the few creature delights a clover field failed to offer, that is,
in any form more concrete than the sweetness of a withered clover head),
and looked as though perfectly willing to continue the process for an
almost indefinite period. Indeed, for a long time Hazel continued to ply
her with questions of great moment to Company F, such as, “Is Sergeant
Bellows the best sergeant in his regiment?”

“Is ‘Company F’ the finest company?” and so on, to all of which Miss
Gladys gave only the most complimentary of answers. Just when this part
of the performance was coming to a close, Mr. Lightfoot stepped up to
the pony, and said, in beseeching fashion, “Look here, Miss Gladys,
on the whole, you think I’m a pretty good sort of a fellow, now, don’t
you?” The pony looked at Starlight a moment, and then shook her
head, “Yes,” in a most decided manner. “That’s a darling,” Starlight
exclaimed, swinging himself on to Gladys’s back, in compliance with an
order received from Hazel, and with his head resting on her mane and
his arms clasped round her prettily-arched neck, rode off the stage. The
soldiers, of course, were at first considerably astonished at the pony’s
intelligent answers, but it did not take most of them long to discover
that the shakings of Miss Gladys’s head were in every case controlled by
a touch of Hazel’s whip. A gentle application of the lash on the right
foreleg for yes and the same motion on the left one for no. Hazel
had tried to conceal this little motion as best she could, but it was
naturally not an easy matter, and when Miss Gladys had been kind enough
to answer “Yes” to Mr. Lightfoot’s question, it was only because Hazel’s
whip was in Starlight’s hand, and the pony, felt the same familiar
sensation upon her left foreleg.

Perhaps you wonder how it was that a little country pony was so
unusually accomplished. Well, to tell the truth, Captain Boniface
deserved all the credit of it, and Hazel none at all. When Hazel herself
was but a week old that pony had been bought for her, and, as soon as
she was able to take notice of anything, Gladys used to be trotted out
daily for her inspection. And so it happened that while Captain Boniface
was waiting for his little daughter to grow large enough to ride her,
he used to amuse himself, and Hazel as well, by endeavoring to teach the
pony a few knowing tricks. They had required a world of patience, and
with none of them had he been so successful as with what he called the
“pony shake,” and which just had been exhibited to so much advantage.

“That Miss Hazel’s a cute un,” said one of the soldiers, in the little
intermission that followed the exit of the pony.

“Cute’s no name for it,” answered Sergeant Bellows.

“She reminds me of my own little girl at home, whom I haven’t seen in a
five-year,” said the other, while a little mistiness betrayed itself in
his soldier eyes.

“She may mind ye of her,” answered the Sergeant, not unkindly, “but
there isn’t a child anywhere, I’m thinking, that can hold a candle to
Miss Hazel.” You see Sergeant Bellows was an old bachelor, and without a
relative in the world whom he cared for, and perhaps that accounted in
a measure for his adoration of Hazel, though, no doubt, the little
daughter of the red-haired soldier, who-was probably red-haired too, was
just as charming in the eyes of her father as Hazel in the eyes of the
lonely old Sergeant. But further discussion as to comparative merits
was brought to an end by the reappearance of Starlight on the stage,
accompanied by his dog, Lord Nelson, who, much against his will, had
been dragged aboard of the “Gretchen” that morning, and imported from
his kennel at Paulus Hook especially for the occasion. Lord Nelson
possessed quite a varied set of accomplishments, none of them very
remarkable, however, and after Lord Nelson came Flutters! Flutters
in velvet and spangles, Flutters of The Great English Circus, and who
straightway proceeded to make the eyes of Company F open wide with
astonishment at his truly wonderful tumbling and somersaults. There was
no slipping of the little knee-cap to-day. It seemed to Flutters quite
impossible in the happy life he was leading, that knee-caps or anything
else that concerned him should ever get much out of order again.

As may be easily imagined, the audience would not be satisfied
till Flutters had favored them with repeated encores, but when the
performance was at last concluded, there was a call for the entire
troupe, and, in response, out they came, hand-in-hand, Hazel and Kate,
Starlight and Flutters; Starlight leading Lord Nelson with the hand
that was free, and Flutters Miss Gladys. A low, smiling bow from them
all--for even Gladys and Lord Nelson were made to give a compulsory
nod--then the line retreated a foot or two, the shawl-curtain dropped
into place, and the entertainment was over. At least so thought
Company F, but it was mistaken, for no sooner had Hazel and Starlight
disappeared behind the curtain, than out they came in front of it, and
then down among the soldiers, Starlight carrying a tray full of glasses
filled with the most inviting lemonade, and Hazel following with an
old-fashioned silver cake-basket heaped high with delicious sponge cake
of Josephine’s best manufacture. Then for half-an-hour they had quite
a social time of it. Captain and Mrs. Boniface, who had watched the
performance from two comfortable chairs at the rear of Company F, were
talking with some of the men; Flutters, who, for very good reasons, was
still in costume, was the centre of another little group; while Kate,
from the safe vantage point of Josephine’s lap, chatted away, to the
great entertainment of old Sergeant Bellows. Suddenly the Sergeant
seemed to recall something important, for he jumped up, seized his hat,
and began passing it from one to another of the men, all of whom had,
apparently, come prepared for this feature of the entertainment.

Hazel was greatly relieved when she saw the hat in active circulation.
She had felt afraid that the Sergeant had forgotten this part of the
programme, and did not fancy the idea of having to remind him of it.
Indeed he had come pretty near forgetting it, so absorbed had he been in
the charms of little Kate, but as a result of the collection taken up
by the Sergeant, Hazel found herself in possession of a contribution
sufficiently generous to purchase a fine little outfit for Flutters.
And so it came about that Flutters had a “benefit” and Company F an
afternoon of what they termed “rare good fun.”



CHAPTER X.--DARLING OLD AUNT FRANCES.


[Illustration: 9098]

ERHAPS you think that is a queer title for a chapter. You would not
think it queer at all if you had known her, for that is exactly what she
was, and now and then it is just as well to call people by their right
names. She was not old, however, in the sense of being wrinkled and
white-haired and thin. Sometime, when somebody has been very kind to
you, and has done you a “good turn” in real reliable fashion, haven’t
you just rushed up to them and exclaimed, “You dear old thing,” as
if any mere young thing would be quite incapable of such a deed of
loving-kindness? Well, in just the sense of being very kind and very
reliable, Aunt Frances was old, and in no other. To be sure, she was
nearing her fiftieth birthday, and there was a generous sprinkling of
gray hair on her temples, but the gray hair only made her face softer
and sweeter, and her heart was no older than bonny Kate’s.

Well, Aunt Frances sat knitting in a high-backed rocker on the wide step
in front of the Van Vleet’s door, a step that was made from one great
unhewn stone, but whose roughnesses had been rounded down by the rains
and storms of a hundred summers and winters. On the edge of the step,
with his back against one of the large tubs of hydrangea which flanked
the wide door-step on either side, sat Harry Avery. He had been silent
for a long while. He was trying to get his courage up to say something
to Aunt Frances, something that he knew it would grieve her to hear, and
she had had so much to bear lately, he could not easily bring himself to
it. “Aunt Frances,” he said, at last, “I know you’ll be sorry about it,
but I think I shall have to go away to-morrow.”

“Why, Harry, what do you mean?” while the tears gathered as quickly in
her kind eyes as the clouds of an April shower darken an April sky, “and
besides, where will you go?”

“Home, I suppose,” and then it would have been an easy thing for Harry,
grown fellow that he was, to have mustered a few honest tears on his own
account.

“You see I am not willing to stay here any longer since you have to pay
my board. And then you have so little money coming in now.”

“But the Van Vleets only allow me to pay a very small sum, and, Harry,
you are such a comfort to me. Starlight’s a dear, good boy, but he is
not old enough for me to burden him with all my troubles as I do you.
Tell me this, do you want to go home?”

“No, I do not want to go home in the least. You know what I mean. I’d
give a great deal to see father and mother and the youngsters; but
there’s nothing for me to do in New London--that is, not the sort of
work that I think I am equal to, and, after leaving it the way I did, I
hate to go back empty-handed. Then, I’m sure, father would much rather
I’d find something to do in New York. He believes there is a good deal
more of a chance for a fellow here.”

[Illustration: 0100]

“And you have heard of nothing, Harry; nothing whatever?” Aunt Frances
let her knitting fall in her lap, and looked straight at Harry as she
spoke. There was something strange about this direct look from Aunt
Frances. It seemed to compel the exact truth from everybody, even from
Pat, the Van Vleets’ hired man, who did not ordinarily hesitate in
telling an untruth if it would make things more comfortable. And so
Harry did not even succeed in making an evasive reply, as he should like
to have done, but just answered, very simply and honestly: “Yes, Aunt
Frances, I did hear of something--a clerkship in a lawyer’s office--but
I decided not to take it.”

“Decided not to take it? Why, that is the very position you said you
would like above all others!”

“Did I say that? well, fellows are queer sometimes, aren’t they?”

“Harry Avery, there is something mysterious about all this. What was the
name of the lawyer?”

“Oh, no matter, Auntie! The whole matter’s decided. I made up my mind
not to take it, and that ends it.”

Aunt Frances was not to be silenced in this fashion. She had a right to
search this matter out, and search it she would. “Harry,” as if she were
speaking to some little child, “Harry, look me right in the eyes, and
tell me, was it Colonel Hamilton?”

Yes but Harry looked off at the river. He had not the sort of courage
to look Aunt Frances “right in the eyes,” as she bade him, for if there
was a man anywhere whom she had a right thoroughly to despise, surely
it was Colonel Hamilton--Colonel Hamilton, whose skilful reasoning had
deprived her of the home that was almost as dear to her as life itself.

“Is the position still open to you?” Aunt Frances was now gazing off to
the river, and with the mark of deep thinking on her face. “If it is,
you must take it. Colonel Hamilton is a great lawyer. It is as fine
an opening as you could possibly desire. I, for one, have no notion
of standing in your light, Harry, and you must not do yourself the
injustice of standing in your own.”

“But, Aunt Frances--”

“No, don’t interrupt me, Harry; only listen, like a good boy, and do
just as I tell you. Take the ‘Gretchen’ first thing in the morning, go
straight to Colonel Hamilton’s office, and apply for the place. Tell
him all about yourself, and answer every question he may ask in the most
straightforward manner, but do not volunteer the information that you
are a relative of mine. It would not do you any good and it might do
harm--that is, it might incline the Colonel less kindly toward you.
Unless some one has gotten ahead of you, you will secure the place, I
am sure of it, and no one will be more glad for you than just my very
self.”

“Aunt Frances,” said Harry, watching the needles that were again
flashing in the afternoon sunlight, “you are the dearest old trump that
ever knitted stockings for a fool of a fellow like me.”

“If I thought this stocking was really to grace a fool’s leg”--and Aunt
Frances feigned great seriousness--“not another stitch would I take;
but, begging your pardon, you would have been a fool indeed if you had
not told me about all this, although I perfectly understand that your
motives for not telling me were anything but foolish. No, Harry; somehow
I am sure it is only providential that you should have heard of this
place. Promise to try for it.”

“I promise,” and Harry’s lightened heart unconsciously betrayed itself
in voice and look. He had wanted the situation, oh! so much, more than
he would admit even to himself, but he had decided he must forego any
attempt to secure it. It would be, he thought, at too great a cost to
Aunt Frances’s feelings, and he simply must not ask it.

“Look, Harry,” she said, shading her eyes with one hand, “isn’t that the
Boniface boat about a mile to the left of the point?”

“Yes, it is,” Harry answered, merely glancing in that direction; “but
tell me one thing before I go down to the wharf: tell me, Aunt Frances,
do you think Colonel Hamilton an unprincipled man?”

“Unprincipled! Why, Harry, do you suppose for a single moment that I
would urge you to seek a situation under him if I thought that? No, I
believe that he honestly felt that the English ought to be allowed to
keep possession of the houses that we had abandoned, and so perhaps it
was only natural that when Captain Wadsworth took his case to him, he
should bring all his eloquence, which is very great, to bear on that
side of the question. Nevertheless I confess, as that eloquence cost me
my home, I cannot but feel pretty sore about it, and would go a long way
out of my way to avoid meeting him, brave officer and brilliant lawyer
as he is.”

Harry felt considerably relieved by this assertion, and strolled down
to the boat-landing with even more admiration for “darling old Aunt
Frances” than he had ever felt before. It was so unusual, he thought, to
find a woman who could reason fairly, independent of her heart.

But Aunt Frances was not quite so ‘independent of her heart,’
as Harry put it, as Harry and the rest of the world thought, and for the
very good reason that her heart was as big as herself. And so when Harry
had left her, what did she do but lay aside her knitting, go straight up
to her own little room in one of the gable ends of the house, shut the
door of it, and then, sitting down in a low little rocking-chair, bury
her face in her hands and cry. It had not been by any means an easy
thing for her to urge Harry to seek a position under a man who had
wrought her so much harm, but it had been her plain duty, at whatever
cost to herself, and she had done it. Now when Aunt Frances cried, it
was because that great heart of hers had had one little ache crowded
upon another little ache till it could bear no more, and then the hot
tears _must_ (there was no choice at all in the matter) be allowed
to flow for a while and ease it. But for all this, do not think for
a moment that Aunt Frances was an unhappy sort of person. Each little
experience of her life and of the lives of others had a very deep
significance for her, because she believed with all her heart that God
watches over every life and guides it, and no one who believes that
can ever be unhappy long at a time; life is to them too beautiful and
earnest. But this was the way of it with Aunt Frances: she had a great
capacity for loving, if you understand what that means, but she did not
have as much of a chance to spend that love as many another, who had not
half as much to spend. She would always be Miss Frances Avery, she felt
sure of that; yet what a tender, loving wife she could have made for
somebody! She should never have any one nearer to her than Harry and
Starlight (bless their hearts!) but oh, what a mother she might have
been with her great passionate love for little children! And so it was
that Aunt Frances trod the round of the life God had sent her, because
He had sent it, contentedly and happily, and yet it would happen now and
then that some thoughtless word or deed would almost unaccountably set
one little spot to aching, and something else would set another, till
her heart was all one great ache, and the pent-up tears must come. Aunt
Frances could always tell perfectly well when there was need to retreat
to the little room in the gable, the little room that had been hers now,
for the two years since she had fled from her own home across the river;
and while she sat there on the step with Harry she knew well enough what
she should do the moment he was gone. It was not that she did not mean
every word she said to him; it was only that somehow that little talk
had overcharged the brave heart.

Afterward, when the Boniface’s boat had touched at the dock and all the
Van Vleets were flocking out of doors to welcome them, Aunt Frances was
in their midst, with the sunshine of her presence all the brighter
for the storm of troubled feelings that had just swept over it, but
Josephine Boniface thought she saw just the faintest trace of recent
tears in Aunt Frances’s eyes as she stooped to kiss her. “Dear old Aunt
Frances,” she whispered, as she put her arm about her neck, “I would
give all the world ever to be such a blessed ministering angel as you
are to everybody.

“Why, Josephine, darling, what foolishness,” whispered Aunt Frances; but
it needed only those few sweet words to banish even the trace of tears,
and to make her thoroughly light-hearted once again.



CHAPTER XI.--THE VAN VLEETS GIVE A TEA-PARTY.


[Illustration: 9105]

HE Van Vleet family was composed of seven individuals. There were Father
and Mother Van Vleet, who had been married while both were in their
teens, and their five children, Gretchen, Heide, Francesca, Pauline, and
Hans Van Vleet, who had been born in the order named in the seven years
immediately succeeding their parents’ marriage. So, in point of fact,
now that they were grown, there was scarcely any perceptible difference
between this comfortable Dutch couple and their children, save that the
children were taller, which made it seem more of a joke that they
should actually belong to a father and mother who looked almost as
young themselves. All this combined to make them a united and congenial
family, and they lived in a comfortable old Dutch homestead and were
very well-to-do, owing to the well-tilled acres that stretched down to
the river in front of them and back to the ridge of the Jersey Flats
behind. But there was one minor chord in the otherwise cheery harmony
of the Van Vleet household. Pauline, the youngest sister, now about
twenty-two, was not “quite bright,” but she was serene and, as a rule,
perfectly happy, which is a deal more than can be said of many people,
be they ever so bright. There were two reasons for this serenity of
Pauline’s: her own naturally placid temperament and the tender care with
which all the others watched over her. But one thing must be confessed,
they were not a patriotic family, and the blood in their veins coursed
somewhat sluggishly. They had rather hoped that the colonists would win
in the war of the Revolution, thinking, no doubt, it would be more to
their interest, yet it had never once occurred to Hans or his father to
shoulder a flintlock in place of a hoe and go and help them. They were a
good, narrow, stay-at-home family, with their thoughts moving in one and
the same channel, and with interests bounded by their own acres, their
own experiences, and those of their nearest neighbors.

But there was one delightful feature about their neutrality: they could
be the best of friends alike with Whigs and Royalists, and were able
to invite the Bonifaces to a tea party just as cordially as they could
offer the shelter of their home to poor fugitive Aunt Frances. And a few
days before they had invited them. Kind old Mrs. Van Vleet, knowing
that these were very lonely days at best for Captain Boniface’s family,
determined to do all that lay in her power to brighten them, and so a
formal invitation, written by Heide in the stiffest of little cramped
hands, was sent them. Mrs. Boniface had accepted most gladly. It meant
so much to have this evidence of true friendship at a time when many old
friends were looking askance and turning a cold shoulder.

*****

And now Saturday afternoon had come, the first Saturday in October, and
the Boniface boat was tacking across the river in the teeth of a bracing
west wind. They were all there, the entire household, from Captain
Boniface, at the helm, to Flutters, in his well-fitting corduroys,
seated astride of the bow. Flutters loved to be in the “front of
things” generally, but in the present instance it frequently became
necessary for him to draw his knees quickly up to his chin, being quite
too newly shod to run the risk of contact with the salt water white caps
that now and then thumped plumply against the bow. Harry Avery was at
the wharf long before the little boat touched it, and stood whittling
a brier-wood stick as he waited, and dreaming the while the happiest
dreams about the future that might open up before him if he should
secure that position with Colonel Hamilton. Somehow or other Harry felt
almost certain he could get ahead in the world if it would only give him
any sort of a chance.

“Halloo there, Harry! a penny for your thoughts,” called Captain
Boniface, bringing his boat about and alongside of the wharf in true
sailor fashion.

Harry jumped to his feet and blushed like a school-girl, as if he
half feared the thought of his heart could be read by them all. “It is
fortunate that I am not bound to tell them,” he answered, catching the
rope which the Captain had thrown him, and securing it to a staple.

“No, not bound, of course, but thoughts ought to be of a pretty high
order that make you unmindful of the coming of the ‘Grayling’ and the
Bonifaces.”

Harry was glad to find the Captain in this lighter vein, for life had
been too serious and complicated a matter lately for him often to forget
its seriousness. As for Mrs. Boniface, she had been both surprised and
delighted when she found her husband willing to accept the Van Vleets’
invitation, for lately it had been quite impossible to get him to take
any interest in anything of the sort, and she feared a kind but absolute
refusal. But no sooner had the “Grayling” cleared her dock than the
Captain seemed to regain his wonted good spirits, and to leave all his
heavy-heartedness behind, and glad indeed was his little family to see
him in a cheery mood once more.

As soon as the Bonifaces commenced to ascend the beautiful grass-grown
meadow, which swept down to the water’s edge, out came all the Van
Vleets to meet them and escort them up to the house; and it was a
remarkable old dwelling, unlike anything one would see nowadays, if it
were not that two or three such homesteads have chanced to survive
the ravages of a century, by grace of having once been dignified as
“Washington’s Headquarters.”

[Illustration: 0108]

It was a double two-story house, or rather three-story, if you count the
little rooms in the gables. It was built of stone, coated with a rough
sort of plaster, and faced the river; its large square stoop, flanked
with its two benches, being protected by the overhanging eaves of the
roof itself. The front door, seldom opened, was ornamented with a huge
brass knocker in the shape of a lion’s head, and was daily burnished
with as much thoroughness as though in constant use. Indeed, it must
be confessed that in front everything was severe and prim and painfully
stiff, but fortunately at the side things were different. Indeed, the
house, in its two entirely different aspects, resembled an old army
officer, always stern and arbitrary with his men for the sake of
discipline, but ‘another fellow altogether’ when off duty and in the
company of his brother officers. At the side it was as though you
surprised it in undress uniform. In the first place, there was
always, in the season, a great profusion of flowers; not, however, in
conventional flower beds, but parading their blaze of color from painted
tubs, mounted here and there on the table-like tops of old tree stumps,
which had evidently survived the first clearing of the land. Fortunately
for general effectiveness, these tubs were not filled with a promiscuous
assortment of plants, but each held the luxurious growth of some single
variety--here a hydrangea, with its wealth of heavy-headed blooms,
fairly concealing its leaves; there a great cluster of peonies or
brilliant scarlet geraniums. As might be expected on the first Saturday
of October, many of these plants bore only a few tardy blossoms, and
some of them had evidently lost all heart with the first intimation
of frost; but in the centre of the old-fashioned grass plot was a
contrivance that from June well into November presented a remarkable
blaze of color, varying with every month, and always beautiful. This
contrivance, called by the Van Vleets “The flower fountain,” was
composed of a series of five circular shelves, each shelf a little
smaller in circumference than the one below it, and terminating, at the
height of about five feet from the ground, in a round flat top. These
shelves were constantly crowded with pots of plants in full bloom.
Indeed, Hans kept a sort of nursery for no other reason than to supply
the fountain, and the moment a plant took it into its head to bloom no
longer, or only in a spiritless way, back it was marched to the nursery,
and another took its place. What a fine thing it would be if some of the
little folk too, who are not blooming out into just the sort of grown
folk we could wish, might simply be remanded to the nursery, there to be
restarted, after the manner of Hans’s plants, and perhaps coaxed into a
more satisfying growth than they now, alas! give promise of! But if it
had not been for this flower fountain, who knows but Hans might have
gone to the war? You can see how it would not be an easy thing for a
placid, kind-hearted Dutchman, who loved the training and slipping
and potting of plants above everything else in the world, to turn his
pruning-knife into a sword.

On the afternoon of the tea-party this fountain was ablaze with
chrysanthemums, varying in color from the darkest red to the palest
pink, and from orange to pure white. The plants of one shelf hid the
pots of the shelf above it, and the lowest shelf of all was sunk so low
in the ground as to be concealed by the grass. But what gave this side
of the house the “homiest” look of all was the row of shining milk tins
ranged in a row on a low bench, and tilted against the wall. Then, just
beyond them, the kitchen door opened, and such a kitchen! with
tables and dresser and every wooden thing in it scoured to immaculate
whiteness, and with white sand daily sifted upon the floor in most
remarkable patterns. In this kitchen the Van Vleets not only ate,
but lived, and so it possessed that undefinable charm which sometimes
belongs to the living-room of a family, and never to any other. In
preparation for the Bonifaces’ coming, large, high-backed Dutch rockers
had been ranged round this kitchen door, and here the little party
seated themselves under the uncertain shade of a half-leafless oak-tree,
that allowed the warm sunshine to slant gratefully down upon them, and
where they could enjoy the flower fountain to the full. The Misses
Van Vleet were busy within doors attending to the preparations for
supper--that is, with the exception of Pauline, who was always at
liberty to do pretty much as she chose; and what she had chosen to do
this afternoon was this: After the Bonifaces had come up from their boat
she had noticed somebody still moving about in it, so down she went
to investigate. Then, when she reached a point near enough to be quite
satisfactory to her ladyship, she sat herself down on the low, straight
limb of a stunted apple-tree, and waited.



CHAPTER XII.--AN INTERRUPTION.


[Illustration: 9111]

HE somebody moving about in the “Grayling” was Flutters. He was
arranging boat cushions, folding up wraps and shawls, and putting things
generally to rights. Dear little fellow! No one had told him he ought to
do this; he did it quite by grace of his own thoughtful intuition, and
he found so many little things all the while to do, and did them all
so gladly, that he wondered a trifle proudly how the Bonifaces had ever
managed without him, and the Bonifaces wondered too.

Finally, when Flutters had gotten everything into literally ship-shape
condition, and quite to his mind, off he started up the bank, bending
far over, as one must when one attempts to scale a steep place rapidly.
So it chanced that he did not see Miss Pauline at all until she spoke
to him, and he was himself directly under the scant shadow of the
apple-tree.

“Not so fast, sir,” said Pauline, in an authoritative way, which brought
Flutters, surprised and breathless, to a standstill.

“Sit down,” she added in a moment, pointing to a rock covered with gray
moss, and confronting the limb where she was sitting.

Flutters mechanically obeyed. He knew she must be one of the family, and
as he had met many queer people in his day, did not marvel that here was
somebody, to all appearances, a little queerer than the rest. She
looked very pretty balanced there on the low limb of the tree, in her
full-skirted gray gown, and with the western sunlight shining on her
back and turning her curling yellow hair into a sort of halo about her
forehead. Flutters sat and stared at her.

“Do you like my looks?” she asked complacently.

“Yes,” replied Flutters, astonished; “you are a Miss Van Vleet, aren’t
you?”

“Yes, I’m Miss Pauline Van Vleet.”

“I thought so,” Flutters remarked, just by way of saying something.

“It is best _never_ to say what you think,” said Miss Pauline solemnly.
“Folks get themselves into trouble that way.”

Flutters felt inclined to suggest that people would be very stupid
and uninteresting if they did not sometimes say what they thought,
but wisely concluded it was better not to start an argument with this
peculiar young person.

“Are you a new Boniface?” asked Pauline, scanning him closely.

“No, not exactly,” laughed Flutters.

“I did not ask what you were exactly; are you a new Boniface at all?”

What a queer question, thought Flutters, and then went to work to answer
it to the best of his ability.

“No, I am not a Boniface at all, but I am new in this part of the
country. I used to live in England.”

“What is your name?”

“Flutters.”

Miss Pauline seemed very much amused at this, saying it over to herself
two or three times. “Did your father use to call you Flutters?” she
asked presently, looking at him searchingly.

“No,” he answered, the color rushing into his brown face, for no one had
asked him that direct question before.

“What did he call you?”

“He called me--he called me--but that is one of the things I do not tell
to anybody.”

“But, Flutters, child, you will tell me, just me,” and Pauline looked at
him with a look as pathetic as though she were pleading for her life.

“But I can’t, Miss Pauline, really I can’t;” whereupon Miss Pauline
buried her face in her two pretty hands, and began to cry like a child.

[Illustration: 0113]

“Why, you’re not crying for that, surely?” Flutters asked, never more
astonished in his life.

“Yes, just for that--just for that--and I’ll cry harder and harder until
you tell.”

The truth was, all the Van Vleets were so in the habit of humoring this
poor sister of theirs, and never crossing her will if it could possibly
be helped, that this refusal on Flutters’s part truly seemed to her most
preposterous, and she was shedding actual tears. Flutters saw one or
two of them find their way through her fingers, and, like other heroes,
relented at the sight; besides, what else was to be done?

“I will tell you, I will tell you,” he said softly; “my real name is
Arthur Wainwright;” and the mere sound of it, whispered though it was,
made him start. It was so long now since he had heard it on the lips of
any one! Indeed, it did not seem as though it belonged to him at all.

“That’s a pretty name,” replied Pauline, beginning to be comforted and
to dry her tears; “now tell me _all_ about you.”

“Oh, I can’t,” replied Flutters, pained at the need of refusing; “I
_must_ keep it a secret.”

“You can keep it a secret all the same,” said Pauline sadly, and with
that insight into her own deficiencies which sometimes flashes across a
distraught mind, “for, you see, I cannot remember it long enough to tell
it to anybody, so tell me, please--please tell me; nothing makes Pauline
so happy as a real true story.”

The entreaty in her voice was too much for Flutters, and he dreaded more
than he could express a fresh outburst of tears, therefore he decided to
run the risk, and try if he could to make Miss Pauline happy, especially
as he thought it highly probable that what she said was true, and that
she really would not remember anything long enough to repeat it.

“There is not much about me,” he began, “but I will tell you all there
is.” It did not occur to his honest little soul that any story he
might have chosen to concoct would have answered just as well for Miss
Pauline. He neither added to nor in any way digressed from the exact
truth.

“My father was an Englishman,” he continued, “and he lived for a while
in India, for he had some business there, and my mother was a colored
woman.”

“Oh, dear me!” said Pauline, “I would not like a father of one sort and
a mother of another; which kind did you like best?”

“I do not remember my mother at all, but my father said she was
beautiful and a good woman, but not just what people call a lady. She
died when I was two years old, and then my father took me to England,
and then after a while he married a real lady, a white English lady like
himself, and they had some lovely white children; but the English mother
never liked me. I think she couldn’t somehow, Miss Pauline”--he seemed
to reason as though he were afraid of blaming anybody--“and I thought I
was in the way--in the way even of my father; and so one day I ran off
and joined a circus that was coming to America. But I did not care for
the circus very much, and so Job Starlight and Miss Hazel helped me
to run away from that, and now I’m Miss Hazel’s body servant, and the
Bonifaces seem to like me, and I never was so happy in all my life
before.”

“That’s a very nice story, too nice for a secret. Why don’t you tell
it ‘round?”

“Oh, because I don’t want my father ever to hear of me, for then he
might send for me, and I want to stay with the Bonifaces always. You
won’t tell, will you, Miss Pauline?”

“I would if I could,” she answered, with a spirit of mischief, “but
you can’t tell things if your head’s like a sieve, and lets everything
through, can you? Now is there nothing more?”

“No, there isn’t,” Flutters answered, a little shortly, indignant at her
answer. It hardly paid, he thought, to be kind to a young lady who acted
like that. But fortunately Pauline did not notice the curtness of his
reply.

“Then give me your hand, Flutters, and we’ll go up to the house.”

“No, I thank you. Boys as big as I am don’t need to be helped along by
the hand.”

“Flutters,” she said solemnly, “give--me--your--hand or I’ll--I’ll cry
harder than before.”

“Oh dear, dear, dear,” thought Flutters, “is there no way out of this?”
 and he looked furtively down the bank toward the boat, as though he
seriously contemplated taking to his heels and launching out upon the
river as the only adequate means of escape. But suddenly Miss Pauline
put one hand to her ear, and Flutters, looking in the direction in
which she pointed with the other, saw that some one up at the house
was ringing a bell, and at the same time too heard its tinkling, which
Pauline’s keen hearing had been quick to detect.

“Flutters,” she said, gazing down at him with the most satisfied smile
imaginable, “that means supper. Come on up;” then away she flew
toward the house, leaving Flutters to follow at a reasonable gait, and
profoundly thankful to be relieved from the alternative of either being
led by the hand or taking refuge in ignominious flight.



CHAPTER XIII.--MORE ABOUT THE TEA-PARTY.


[Illustration: 9117]

O one had noticed the _tête-a-tête_ which Flutters and Miss Pauline had
been holding at a distance, only when Flutters came on the scene Hazel
asked what had kept him so long, and he made some evasive reply. He
hoped no one would ever know of the encounter. In the first place,
because he foolishly felt he had somehow been gotten the best of, and,
in the second place, because Miss Pauline had heard what he had fully
intended no one of his new friends ever should hear.

As a member of the Van Vleet household, Starlight naturally felt a share
in the responsibility of entertaining, and, taking Flutters under his
wing, presented him to one and another of the family as “Flutters, the
new boy over at the Bonifaces’.”

“No such thing,” said Miss Pauline when in turn Flutters was introduced
to her; “he’s not a new Boniface at all; I know better than that, don’t
I, dear?”

“Oh, what shall, what shall I say?” groaned Flutters inwardly; but
Starlight dragged him away with the explanation that the young lady was
not right in her mind, and so there was no necessity of saying anything.

[Illustration: 0118]

It proved a most inviting table that the Van Vleets had spread for their
Royalist friends. Two deep apple pies graced either end of it; a great
platter of doughnuts or “oly keoks,” as the Dutch has it, had been
placed in the centre, towered above, on one side, by a long-stemmed
glass dish of preserved peaches, and, on the other side, by a similar
dish of preserved pears. Frau Van Vleet presided over a large Delft
teapot ornamented, as Washington Irving describes a similar pot, “with
paintings of fat little Dutch shepherds and shepherdesses, tending pigs,
with boats sailing in the air and houses built in the clouds, and sundry
other ingenious Dutch fantasies.” As the kitchen table was not of the
extension variety, and so not capable of accommodating the entire party,
places had to be set for Hans, Harry Avery, and two of the Van Vleet
sisters at a separate table in one corner.

At the back of Frau Van Vleet’s customary seat at the larger table was
the great open fireplace, which was roomy enough to accommodate two
people on each of the benches lining either side of it. On a crane,
suspended over the crackling logs, hung a huge copper tea-kettle, from
which Harry, since he had been staying with the Van Vleets, had taken
upon himself the duty of refilling the Delft teapot whenever needed
during the progress of a meal, and indeed had completely won the
heart of the kind old Frau, as soon as he had come among them, by his
eagerness to serve her in every possible way. To-night he was kept busy,
for both Van Vleets and Bonifaces were famous tea-drinkers, only they
managed the matter differently in those days. The lump of sugar
was placed beside the cup, not in it, and people nibbled and sipped
alternately. The principal hot dish of the tea-party was broiled ham,
and, done to a turn and deliciously savory, was delicate enough to tempt
almost any appetite. Then there were two blue china plates heaped with
biscuits, every one of which, from very lightness, had risen and risen,
till top and bottom were a long way apart; but notwithstanding
these generous proportions, the two blue plates had been emptied and
replenished more than once before all were satisfied.

Miss Pauline’s seat at the table had been placed at quite a distance
from Flutters, but, without daring often to look in her direction,
Flutters felt with considerable nervousness that her gaze was riveted
almost constantly upon him. Finally, to his astonishment, and at a
time when there had been a pause of several seconds, she announced very
calmly, “Wainwright’s a nice little boy. I like his looks and he likes
mine; don’t you, Wainwright?”

Flutters kept his eyes on his plate, and in his embarrassment swallowed
two or three morsels of ham that were far too large in far too rapid
succession. “She’ll tell it all, if they only give her time,” he thought
savagely, but he did not intend to make any reply.

“She means you, Flutters,” whispered Miss Heide, who sat next to him.
“You had better answer her, ‘that you do like her looks.’ We never
differ with her. It is just a fancy of hers, this calling you
Wainwright; but where could she ever have heard the name?”

“If it only were a fancy,” thought Flutters, while Miss Pauline sat,
with her teacup poised in her pretty hand, waiting his reply.

“Yes, I like your looks,” said Flutters in a compulsory sort of way that
made every one smile, while the color surged over his brown face.

“That’s right,” she answered complacently, “and I wouldn’t mind at all
about your mother being colored, because that’s how you come by your
dark skin, and your dark skin is the beauty of you.”

Miss Pauline was growing rather personal, and it certainly did look
as though she knew what she was talking about; but fortunately no one
attached any weight to what she said, and as she seemed inclined to
follow up a line of thought which must at least be annoying to poor
little Flutters, the sister who sat nearest her tried quietly to divert
her, while another started a new topic of general conversation.

At last the meal was over, and Flutters was glad; nor was he the
only one that felt relieved. Captain Boniface had finished his supper
sometime before the others, and for the last ten minutes had been
nervously taking up his tumbler and setting it down, and shifting his
position in his chair, as though unable longer to keep his long legs
penned under the narrow table. Mrs. Boniface had noticed it and wondered
at it, and felt thankful when Frau Van Vleet pushed back her chair and
so gave the signal to the others.

“Oh, dear, what can the matter be?” screeched a great green parrot
hanging in its cage by the doorway, and who had apparently been roused
from deep reverie by the scraping of the chairs on the sanded floor.
Mrs. Boniface gave a start of surprise, for the parrot had given exact
expression to her own thoughts. She was watching her husband closely,
and knew by experience that something was troubling him, and yet he had
been so gay that very afternoon. “I believe it was all assumed,” she
thought to herself, and the more she thought, the more assured she felt
that she was right. Oh, how she longed to steal over to him and question
him; but no, that would not do. Frau Van Vleet had arranged two chairs
side by side for a neighborly chat, and there was no way out of it.

Now that the supper was over, the Misses Van Vleet’s domestic duties
were over too, the clearing of the table being left to “Rhuna,” an old
crone of a negro servant, who had been with them many years. Then, as
was their wont, the young ladies resorted each to her particular rush-
bottomed chair and the knitting of her own woollen stockings, while
Josephine, with little Kate upon her lap, endeavored to make her exhibit
some of her pretty accomplishments for their general amusement. Hazel,
Starlight, and Flutters had accompanied Hans Van Vleet and his father
off to the barn for the milking, while Captain Boniface and Harry, in
close conversation, walked off toward the river. Harry had joined the
Captain at a signal that he would like to speak to him, but he had not
noticed his altered manner, and under the impression that he was in the
best of spirits, was altogether unprepared for what lie was about to
hear.

[Illustration: 8121]

“Harry,” began the Captain seriously, “I have received the most
distressing news within the last twenty-four hours.”

“You don’t mean it, sir,” with evident surprise; “I thought matters were
looking brighter for you every day. I have reason to know that at least
two of the signers of that insulting note you received are heartily
ashamed of their behavior, and are actually on the look-out to atone for
it in some fashion.”

“So I hear, and I am very grateful; but all that good news is offset by
other news which has reached me this morning: some Tory friends of ours
in South Carolina have just been brutally murdered by the Whigs,” and
then the Captain excitedly narrated all the sad details of the tragedy
so far as he knew them.

Harry listened attentively. “It is certainly very dreadful,” he said at
last sadly; “but,” he added with characteristic honesty, “I have heard
of some of the doings of those South Carolina Tories, and many of
them, though possibly your friends were not among them, deserved harsh
treatment, Captain Boniface.”

“Harry,” said the Captain abruptly, as though too busy with his own
thoughts to have heard what was said, “tell me frankly, do you suppose
this community will ever again treat me as a decent member of society?”

“Yes, Captain Boniface, I do, and I have something with me this moment
that points that way,” and he handed him an unsealed envelope. It
was addressed to the Captain, and he found it to contain a card of
invitation, which read as follows: “The Executive Committee of the
Assembly respectfully informs the ladies and gentlemen of New York that
a dance will be given on Monday next at the City Assembly Rooms, to
begin precisely at five o’clock. Price of tickets, six shillings.”

“So they ask us to the Assembly, do they?” said the Captain, glancing
over it with evident surprise. “They have contrived to leave us very
little heart for dancing,” he added sadly.

“But you will go,” urged Harry; “that invitation means even more than
you suspect. It means, I think, that there is an organized effort on
foot to fully reinstate you, and some other Tories as well, whom they
have treated so uncivilly.”

“So you think it implies all that?” said the Captain, smiling
incredulously at his enthusiasm.

“Yes, I’m sure it does, and you will go and take Mrs. Boniface and Miss
Josephine; promise me, Captain.”

The Captain did not reply at once, and Harry had time to realize that in
his earnestness he was rather overstepping bounds.

“Of course I do not mean to ask you to promise me,” he stammered,
coloring up to the roots of his hair, “but you know what I mean. I am so
anxious you should meet them half way.”

“And you think we really ought to go? Why, a Dancing Assembly is the
last thing in the world we care to have a hand in. But Mrs. Boniface
will not stir a step when she hears about this wholesale murder of the
Bentons, so that settles it.”

“And you feel that you _must_ tell her?”

“No, of course there is no must about it. I will think it over,” and
then the Captain and Harry entered into a thorough discussion of the
events that had led up to the sad consummation in South Carolina, and
Harry had some facts at his command by which he succeeded in partially
convincing the Captain that, in many cases, the Tories had been treated
very much as they deserved.

“Well, Harry, you may be right, you may be right,” sighed the Captain,
“but that does not make the sacrifice of my old friends any easier to
bear.”

“Not a whit, sir, I can understand that,” and then they started toward
the house, for they could see that Mrs. Boniface and Frau Van Vleet were
taking formal leave of each other.

Twilight was settling down upon the river, and in those days, when it
was the custom for fashionable dancing parties to begin at five
o’clock, it was surely fitting that the same hour should conclude an
unfashionable Dutch tea-party. Indeed, by the time darkness had fairly
mastered the twilight, all the Van Vleets were snugly in bed, and only
one light could be seen in the whole farm-house; that was in the window
of Aunt Frances’s gable room. There she sat reading, by the light of a
plump little Dutch candle, certain familiar passages from some dearly
loved books. She knew most of them by heart, and yet to much pondering
of the noble, uplifting thoughts of these comforting little books was
due much of that cheerful courage which was such a help to everybody.

Meanwhile the “Grayling” sailed “up river” and “cross river,” and
reached her dock. She had one more name on her list of cabin passengers,
however, than when she had sailed that morning, for how could Aunt
Frances say “No” when Hazel had come to her and begged that she would
please be so very good as to let them have Starlight for over Sunday?



CHAPTER XIV.--HAZEL HAS A CONVICTION.


[Illustration: 9124]

TARLIGHT,” said Hazel, seriously, next morning, as they sat side by side
on the porch, “I’ve been thinking.”

“Yes,” said Starlight, dryly; “most people do.”

“I’ve been thinking, Starlight,” Hazel continued, “that perhaps I am not
doing quite right by Flutters.”

“You’re doing mighty kind by him, I’m sure, and he thinks so, too. You’ve
given him a home and clothes and plenty to eat, and all he has to do is
to wait on your ladyship and take charge of the pony. I shouldn’t call
that work, nor Flutters doesn’t, either. He says it is all just fun,
and if there’s a finer family anywhere than the Bonifaces he’d like to
see’em, only he knows he never shall see’em, because there isn’t such a
family.”

“Are you making that up, Job Starlight?”

“Well, I guess not. Flutters says something of that sort every
time we’re left alone together. It seems as though his heart was so
overflowing that he just had to ease it whenever he got a chance.”

“Well, it’s certainly very pleasant to have him feel like that.”

“Why, he just worships the ground--”

Starlight paused to shy a stone at a guinea hen that was encroaching on
one of the flower beds--“your _mother_ treads on.”

Starlight knew well enough that he ended this sentence quite differently
from what Hazel had expected; but Hazel was wise enough not to show her
surprise, and besides, if there was any worshipping to be done, she was
about as glad to have Flutters worship the ground her mother trod on as
that over which her little feet had travelled.

“No, but I’ve been thinking,” she said, resuming her own line of
thought, “that, for all we know, Flutters may be a regular little
heathen, for I have an idea that the mulattoes are a very savage tribe.
Did you ever hear him say a word about religion, or what he believed,
and things like that?”

Starlight scratched his head, by way of helping his memory. “Never a
word, come to think of it.”

“Well, now, Starlight, that is very strange, and I believe I’ll take him
to church this very morning, and see how he acts.”

“Yes, let’s,” said Starlight, taking most kindly to the project. “If
he’s never been in one, it will be awful fun to see how he takes it.”

“People don’t go to church to have awful fun. If that’s what you’re
going for, you had better stay home.”

Starlight clapped his hand over his mouth, as though to suppress a most
explosive giggle. “My gracious, Hazel! What has come over you?”

“Nothing has come over me, and you know it. I always love to go to
church, and I love everything they do there; and I think it’s beautiful
where they sing, ‘Lord, have mercy upon us,’ after the commandments, and
everybody keeps their head bowed.”

Starlight did not answer. It was evident Hazel was launching upon one
of what he called her “high-minded moods;” and, indeed, child though she
was, Hazel did have times when she thought very deeply--times when the
soul that was in her seemed to reach out after things eternal. It was
not at all an unusual experience. It does not always need even ten round
years to bring a child to a point of knowing for itself that there is a
longing that this world, all wonderful and beautiful though it be, does
not fully satisfy. Such a knowing does not make a child less a child,
or rob it of an iota of its joyousness, only sometimes lends a sweet and
earnest depth to the little God-given life. But to matter-of-fact
Job Starlight, it must be confessed that such a mood was not at all
satisfactory. He did not comprehend it, and standing in awe of Hazel’s
“high mindedness,” always endeavored to bring her down to his own level
as quickly as possible by means of some diverting subject. This time
he fortunately spied it in the shape of two prim little maidens,
Prayer-Book in hand, who came demurely walking, side by side, down the
path that skirted the roadway.

“Why, there come the Marberrys,” he remarked.

“Sure enough,” said Hazel, flying to the gate. “Are you going to church?”
 she called over it.

“Yes,” answered the little Marberrys simultaneously; indeed, they were
a pair of simultaneous children. In the first place, they were twins;
in the second place, they were as alike in appearance as peas in a
pod, and, in the third place, one little brain seemed to be the perfect
fac-simile of the other. It was no uncommon thing for them to utter the
same thought, in the same words, at the same time; and when this did not
happen, one would generally echo what the other had said. They had been
christened Mathilde and Clothilde; but Milly and Tilly had been the
outcome of that, and of course the similarity in the sound of the two
names led to much confusion, since the initial letter was all that
distinguished them.

Hazel had come to the wise conclusion “that, so far as possible, it was
best just to say things that would do for both, because, like as not, if
you meant to say something to Milly--it not being so understood--Tilly
would answer, and _vice-versa_.” But these two little Marberrys were
warm friends of hers, and in those days, when so many people were
estranged from the Bonifaces, she set a specially high value upon their
friendship. Not that the Marberrys were in any sense Tories; only, as
Dr. Marberry was rector of St. George’s, they felt it their duty, as a
family, to be kind to everybody in the church. Besides, it would have
caused the twins a real pang to have been parted from Hazel, for, as
they frequently asserted in the presence of less favored playmates,
“Hazel Boniface was the cutest and nicest girl they had ever known.”

Starlight’s announcement of “Here come the Marberrys” had suggested
to Hazel the idea of joining forces and all going along together. The
children were delighted with the plan, as with any plan of hers, and
sat down for a friendly chat with Starlight, while Hazel hurried away
to summon Flutters. She found him feeding some withered clover heads to
Gladys, as he sat comfortably on the top rail of the fence, enclosing
the meadow where Gladys was allowed to disport herself on high days and
holidays. She waited till she got close up to him, then she announced,
“Flutters, you are to go to church with me this morning.”

“To church!” he said, surprised, for he had not heard her coming.

“Yes, go put on the other suit, and meet me at the gate quickly.”

She did not say “your other suit,” feeling, naturally, a certain sense
of personal ownership, as far as Flutters’s outfit was concerned.

“All right, Miss Hazel,” he answered, moving off with the alacrity of a
well-trained little servant.

“Perhaps you will not care to go with me, girls,” Hazel remarked, as she
came down the path, some five minutes later, and looking very pretty in
her dark red Sunday dress. “You see I am going to take Flutters.”

“And why should we mind that?” chirped Milly Marberry in a high musical
little key, and Tilly remarked, “Yes, why should we mind that?”

“Because I have no idea how he will behave. When I told him just now
that he was to go to church with me, he said, ‘To church!’ as though he
was very much surprised and had never been in one in his life.”

“I suppose he’ll sit still, though, if you tell him to,” said Milly.

“Of course he will not speak if--” but Tilly’s sisterly echo was
interrupted by a significant hush from Hazel, and the next second
Flutters was with them. Then the little party set off, the boys ahead
together, and the girls behind.

“Where does Flutters come from, anyway?” asked Tilly.

“Yes, where from?” piped Milly.

“From England,” Hazel answered, softly, “but he’s a mulatto.”

“A what?” simultaneously.

“A mulatto. They’re a kind of negro tribe.’

“Goodness gracious!”

“Gracious goodness!”

“Are the mulattoes wild and dangerous?” asked Milly, tremulously.

“Yes, I believe so; but then, of course, Flutters isn’t so now.
Civilization has changed him.”

The Marberrys looked at Hazel with admiration; these occasional big
words of hers constituted one of her chief charms in their eyes.

“But the truth is,” Hazel continued, “I do not know very much about
Flutters. He does not seem to like to talk about his history, and mother
says I have no right to pry into it.”

“I shouldn’t think anybody who had been wild and savage could speak such
good English,” said Tilly, thoughtfully.

“Neither should I,” said Milly.

“Well, that is queer,” and Hazel looked puzzled. “I hadn’t thought of
that; but I’m certain his grandfather, if not his father, must have been
wild and savage. I’m very sure the mulattoes used to be very ferocious.”

“Where do the mulattoes live?” asked the Marberrys.

“I don’t know,” was Hazel’s truthful answer. The fact was, as you have
discovered, Hazel did not know what she was talking about. She had
a trick of mounting an impression, and then of giving rein to her
imagination and letting it run away with her, so that the first thing
she knew she was telling you something she really quite believed was
fact, but which was nothing of the sort. As a result she was sometimes
credited with fibbing, and got into many an unnecessary scrape, but, you
may be sure, Mrs. Boniface was doing all that she could to correct this
unfortunate tendency.

Meantime the boys walked ahead, conversing with no little earnestness
as to the comparative merits of two tiny sloop yachts, one of which was
taking shape under Starlight’s hand, and the other under Flutters’s,
and whose same comparative merits were to be put to the test, when
completed, by a race on the waters of the Collect. At this point in
their walk a turn of the road brought St. George’s into sight.

“Ever been to church, Flutters?” Starlight asked, quite casually.

“Oh, yes, often.”

“Episcopal?”

“Ye’ ep,” was Flutters’s unceremonious answer; “but how large are
you going to make your foresail?” not willing to be diverted from the
all-engrossing subject.

“I shall give her all the sail she can carry, you may be certain.”
 Starlight did not intend to furnish this rival yachtsman with any exact
measurements. And so they talked on till they reached the little stone
church, where service had already commenced. The Marberrys walked
straight up to their pew, the very front one, but before they reached it
each little face flushed crimson. At one and the same moment their two
pairs of blue eyes met their father’s, for he was leading the General
Confession, and did not need to have them upon his book. Judging from
the crimson on their faces, the look must have said, “There is no excuse
for this, my little daughters; I am ashamed that you should be so late.”

Hazel and Starlight and Flutters had the Boniface pew to themselves,
but Hazel allowed Starlight to precede them into it, while she detained
Flutters in the vestibule for a little seasonable advice. She had
intended to administer it slowly and forcibly by the way. Now she had
to compress it all into one hurried little moment. In her excitement
she seized hold of Flutters’s brown wrist, as she whispered, hurriedly,
“Flutters, this is a church, where people come to worship. You will have
to sit very still and not speak, only get up and sit down when I do,
because part of the time it’s wrong to sit down. So, Flutters, watch me
very closely. I will find you the place in the Prayer-Book, but you had
better not say the things that are written there, even if you can read
them, ‘cause they’re probably things you do not understand at all, and
don’t know anything about, so it would be best not to say you believed
them. You can sing the hymns, though; there won’t be any harm in that,
only sing very softly, for fear you don’t get the tune right. Now that
is all, I believe,” putting her finger to her lip in a meditative way,
and with an anxious frown on her face, as if fearing she had overlooked
some important instruction. “Yes, that is all; now follow me in;” and
Flutters following her, took his seat with a most decorous air, and
without staring about with such gaping astonishment, as might, perhaps,
be looked for in a boy of fourteen, who had never seen the interior of a
church before, so that Hazel at once felt much relieved. Her first duty,
of course, was to furnish him with the proper page in the Prayer-Book,
and her second to anticipate all irregularities in the order of service,
by taking the book from his hands in ample time to supply him with the
right place at the right moment. Now it must be confessed that all this
was accomplished by Hazel in rather an officious and patronizing manner,
but, unfortunately for her, there came a time when she herself was at a
loss.

She did not know which Sunday it was after Trinity. Flutters _did_, and
seeing her confusion anticipated Dr. Marberry by whispering, “_It’s the
eighteenth Sunday, I think._”

[Illustration: 0130]

Hazel thrust Flutters’s Prayer-Book back into his hand, giving him one
look, and such a look! It was dreadful to think that a thorough-going
little church-woman could _ever_ look like that, much less while the
service itself was actually in progress.

Flutters felt “queer.” He saw how much there was in that look of
Hazel’s, and wondered if he had been greatly to blame in the matter.
Starlight, of course, witnessed the whole proceeding, and heard
Flutters’s whisper (as did every one else in the neighborhood), which
betrayed his familiarity with the service, and Starlight himself
wondered how he managed to be quite so well up on the subject.

But it was an awfully good joke on Hazel. When they had been discussing
the matter, and he had said, “It would be awful fun to see how Flutters
would act in church, provided he had never been there,” Hazel had, of
course, been quite right in saying that “People did not go to church to
have awful fun,” but he could not help thinking that he had had a little
fun all the same, only at Hazel’s expense, and not Flutters’s.



CHAPTER XV.--FLUTTERS COMES TO THE FRONT.


[Illustration: 9132]

HERE were five of them abreast. The Marberrys, Hazel, Starlight,
and Flutters, but no one was saying a word. The Marberrys had twice
religiously tried to start up matters, but had failed utterly, and new
they were anxiously bothering their little minds with the same question,
so often reiterated by the Van Fleet parrot, of “Oh, dear, what can the
matter be?” Starlight was chuckling inwardly, like the inconsiderate
youngster that he was. Hazel was very angry, as she imagined with just
cause, and Flutters was inwardly fluttering, almost outwardly, in fact,
so sorry was he to have offended his adored little mistress. If she
would only say something. It was not his place to speak first, but he
feared he would have to, for to his sensitive nature the silence
was unbearable. Fortunately, however, just at this point, Hazel’s
indignation found vent; she came to a sudden stand-still, and although
naught save the one word “_Flutters_” escaped her, it doubled the
five-abreast parallel line into a circle in less than a second.

“What have I done, Miss Hazel?”

“Done!”--then impressively lowering her voice--“you have lied, Flutters”
 (the Marberrys winced). “Yes, I know it is a dreadful word, but there is
no other word for it.”

“What did I lie about?” Body-servant or no, Flutters knew when his
little mistress was overstepping all legitimate bounds.

“You told me you had never been to church, and let me find all the
places for you, when you knew all about it just as well as I did,” and
the little mistress was so greatly excited, that she felt very much
afraid she should break right down and cry, which would certainly prove
a most undignified proceeding.

“_Did_ I tell you, Miss Hazel, that I had never been to church?”
 Flutters was able to speak calmly and was astonished at his own
self-control, but then he knew he was in the right, and calmness comes
easier when you know that. Hazel grew uncomfortable under Flutters’s
direct gaze. She had hardly expected this courageous self-defence. Come
to think of it, _had_ he actually said he had never been to church.
Could it be, she wondered, that her imagination had led her off on
another wild chase in the wrong direction? Yes, it could, foolish little
Hazel, though you yourself are not yet ready to admit it.

“Perhaps you did not tell me so, Flutters,” Hazel answered, “but you
_let_ me think it, which was very wrong and mean of you.”

“Look out, Hazel,” chimed in Starlight, shaking his head significantly,
“ten to one you never gave him a chance to say a word about it. You have
an awful, rushing way, sometimes, of taking things for granted.”

So Starlight was siding against her too, and Hazel looked toward the
Marberrys for sympathy; but they were so ignorant of the facts of the
case, and always so kindly disposed toward that little waif, Flutters,
that both of them wore the most neutral expression possible.

Flutters’s face flushed gratefully under Starlight’s warm championship.

“No, Miss Hazel,” he said, slowly, “you never gave me a chance to tell
you, and until you caught hold of my wrist in the vestibule, and told me
what I must do and what I mustn’t, I did not know that you even thought
I had never been to church.”

“Didn’t you really? Well, that’s very queer,” for when an idea was
firmly implanted in Hazel’s mind, she felt as though every one ought,
somehow or other, to be intuitively aware of it. However, she was going
to try to be reasonable, and so she descended from a tone of evident
displeasure into one of grieved forbearance.

“But, Flutters, if what you say is true”--Flutters straightened up under
this insinuation, but unbent right away as Hazel wisely added, “and of
course it is, then why, when I found the first place in the Prayer-Book
for you, did you not whisper, ‘You need not bother, Miss Hazel, I know
about the Prayer-Book,’ or something like that, instead of letting me go
on and find place after place for you?”

For a moment Flutters seemed at a loss what to answer, then looking her
frankly in the face, he said, with charming simplicity, “I thought it
would be more respectful not to say anything; and better to let you,
being my little mistress, do just as you pleased without interfering.”

Hazel showed she was touched by this confession; but Starlight could not
resist the temptation to add, “besides, I warrant you, you told Flutters
not to speak, when you collared him there in the vestibule.”

“Yes, you did, Miss Hazel,” said Flutters, truthfully.

“That maybe,” Hazel admitted with much dignity, “but, Job Starlight, I
never _collared_ anybody, if you please.”

“Don’t be touchy, Hazel. You know what I mean.”

[Illustration: 0134]

All this while the children had stood in a little circle right in the
middle of the road, and more than one passer-by had looked on with
an amused smile, wondering what was the cause of so much evident
excitement. The Marberrys had noticed this, and now that matters were
cooling down a trifle, suggested that they should walk on, so as not to
attract so much attention. So they walked on, but of course they talked
on too, and although Hazel was fast relenting toward Flutters, she was
not quite ready to cease hostilities. One or two matters still required
explanation. “Look here, Flutters,” she said, “if you thought it was
more respectful not to say anything, why didn’t you keep quiet; and
there’s another thing I _should_ like to have you tell me, and that is,
how did _you_ know it was the eighteenth?”

“Miss Hazel, when I saw you did not know what Sunday it was, I thought
that as I happened to know, I _ought_ to tell you.”

“Oh, that was it; but, Flutters, people don’t just happen to know
things. They generally know _how_ they came to know them.”

Flutters looked troubled, and the Marberrys and Starlight felt very
sorry for him, and wished Hazel would stop. But Hazel wouldn’t. That’s
one of the troubles with strong and independent natures, no matter
whether they belong to big or little people. They feel everything so
deeply, and get so wrought up, that on they go in their impetuosity
hurting people’s feelings sometimes, and doing lots of mischief. To be
strong and independent and to know where “to stop,” that is fine; but
Hazel had not yet learned that happy combination. But Hazel’s heart was
all right; she wanted above everything else in the world to grow some
day to be a truly noble woman, and there is not much need for worry when
any little body really hopes and intends to be that sort of a big body.
But you need not think that while I have been saying this little word
behind Hazel’s back (which, by the way, is not meant at all unkindly),
that you have been missing any conversation on the part of our little
church-goers. There hasn’t been any conversation for ever so many
seconds. Hazel is waiting for Flutters to speak, and Flutters is getting
ready. At last he attacks the subject in hand, in short, quick little
sentences, as if it was not easy to say what must be said.

“Miss Hazel, when I was at home I used often to go to church. I had a
little Prayer-Book of my own. _Somebody_ gave it to me; somebody that
I loved. When I was in the circus I kept my Prayer-Book with me. Every
Sunday I read it, from love of the somebody. Once in a great while when
we would put up near a church I used to get leave to go to it. I went
the very Sunday before I left the circus. I went to that very church
where we have been to-day. I sat in the back seat, and I heard their
father preach (indicating Milly and Tilly). It was a lovely sermon ‘bout
bearing things. That was five weeks ago, and that was the thirteenth
Sunday after Trinity, so I calculated up to to-day, and, Miss Hazel,
when I ran away from the circus and dared not go back there were only
two things I minded about--the Prayer-Book and old Bobbin. To run away
from a dear little book that you loved, that’s been a real comfort to
you, when you hadn’t scarce anybody to turn to--why, it seems just like
running away from a dear old friend.”

So that was the explanation of it all. Even Starlight felt touched by
Flutters’s narration, while actual tears stood in the little Marberrys’
eyes. Hazel felt humiliated, an uncommon, but most beneficial sensation
for that hot-headed little woman.

“Who gave you that Prayer-Book, Flutters?” asked the Marberrys--being
blessed with less tact than sympathy.

“Flutters would have told us if he had wished us to know,” said Hazel.
And that considerate remark completely re-established the old friendly
relations between Flutters and herself, and then for a while the five
children trudged along in silence. Four out of the five were probably
pondering over all that Flutters had told them, and wishing that they
knew more about him. Flutters, feeling greatly relieved, was turning
over in his mind a perplexing question suggested by something the Rector
had said in his sermon that morning, for he was a thoughtful little
fellow, and when a matter bothered him was not content to dismiss it
without settling it to his own satisfaction.

“Do folks believe?” he said, after the manner of one who has slowly
thought himself up to the point of putting a question, “do folks believe
that God makes everything happen?”

“Of course they do,” said Milly Marberry. Tilly pressed her lips firmly
together and nodded “yes,” in a way that meant there was no doubt
whatever on the subject.

“Well, suppose a poor woman had just one little boy, and the little boy
took the scarlet fever and died, did God make that happen?”

“Yes, He did,” replied Milly and Tilly together, feeling, perhaps, that,
as daughters of the Rector, the answering of such a question belonged to
them. Starlight and Hazel willingly kept silent. They thought Flutters
was leading up to something, and preferred not to commit themselves.

“Well, then,” said Flutters, but not irreverently, “I’d like to know
what He did it for.”

Milly and Tilly showed their surprise at this question, but did not at
once reply, trying, perhaps, to decide what answer their good father
would make under similar circumstances.

“Perhaps God saw the little boy would not grow up to be a good man,”
 Milly ventured, feeling sure she had heard something like that said.

“Perhaps,” said Tilly, for occasionally the twins did launch out on
independent lines of thought, “perhaps she loved the little boy too
much, and so God took him to make her trust more just in Him.”

Flutters waited a moment, as though to consider matters; then he said,
seriously, “No, I do not believe what you say at all. I believe the
little boy caught the scarlet fever from somebody, and just died because
he wasn’t strong enough to get over it.”

“I don’t believe it’s right to think like that,” Hazel volunteered, for
the Marberrys looked very much shocked, “it’s not believing in God at
all.”

Now Flutters had not set out upon this discussion without first having
thought it out pretty clearly for himself, and so he was ready to
answer--“You are mistaken, I think, Miss Hazel,” with the same little
air of respect he always assumed in speaking to her, “because I believe
in God just as much as any boy could, and yet I think that. I think God
_lets_ things happen instead of making them. He lets sickness and
trouble come into the world, and so the sickness and trouble find the
people out, and sickness kills them if their bodies are weak, and
trouble kills them if their hearts and heads are, and--”

“But, Flutters,” interrupted Starlight, “don’t you believe God watches
over people and cares for ‘em?”

“Why of course I do, Starlight. If I hadn’t thought that I don’t know
what I would have done sometimes; but this is what I think--I think He
watches over us by helping us to bear things, and to get the best out
of ‘em, and although I’m not very old, I’m old enough to know that
sometimes there is more good in a trouble-some thing than in a thing
that isn’t troublesome at all. The people who are the kindest are often
the people who have had the most trouble.”

“Well,” said Tilly Marberry, with considerable censure in her tone, “I
never heard a little boy talk like this.”

“Neither did I,” sighed Milly, “and I should say such things ought to be
left to grown-up people.”

“Well, then,” Flutters replied, “thinking ‘bout things ought to be left
to grown-up people, too, but it isn’t. I may think _different_ when I’m
grown up, but I don’t believe I’ll ever think harder than I do now, and
I can’t help it either.”

Meanwhile Hazel had been ransacking her brain for a half-remembered
text, and now she had it. “What do you make out of that verse about the
Lord _chastening_ whom He loves?” she asked.

For the moment Flutters looked puzzled. The Marberrys signalled each
other by elevating their eyebrows as to the meaning of this last big
word of Hazel’s, and asked, simultaneously, “What’s chastening?” Then
for the moment Hazel looked puzzled, but Starlight came to her rescue.

“I think it’s taking away from a fellow lots of people whom he loves.
Having his mother die, and then his father, and then his little sister,
and things like that.”

This remark of Starlight’s flashed the light again in upon Flutters’s
mind, and he found to his glad surprise that he was thoroughly prepared
to answer Hazel after all; but he began by asking Starlight a question.

“But why, Starlight, does the Lord do that, do you think?”

“Why--so as to make a fellow resigned. I think that’s what they call it.
To make him just give up his own will.”

“Excuse me,” said Flutters, with the air of one whose convictions are
very strong, “but I don’t believe _that_ either. I don’t believe the
Lord would take my father and mother and sister out of the world just
because He loved me and wanted to make _me_ better. I don’t believe
I’m important enough for that, nor anybody else. If they all died close
together I should think it was because God’s time had come for them,
quite outside of me, and that then the thing for _me_ to do, the thing
that He meant, was just to bear it as bravely as I could.”

This was a long speech for Flutters, but the children were sufficiently
interested to follow every word of it, and Hazel asked, when Flutters
ceased, “But then what _does_ the chastening verse mean? It’s in the
Bible, and I suppose you believe the Bible?”

“Of course I believe it, but I know chastening doesn’t mean anything
like that. Perhaps it means letting all sorts of bothersome things come
so as to have you get the best of them. A person what had never had any
bother wouldn’t be much of a person, I suppose.”

“Well, we _have_ had a talk,” said Starlight, for at this point the
discussion seemed to come to a natural close; and besides, they had
almost reached the Boniface gate. A moment later the Marberrys took
an affectionate leave of Hazel, with a “Good-bye” to Starlight and
Flutters, and trudged on to the rectory, half a mile farther up the
road, wondering, perhaps, if what Flutters had said had been wrong, and
provided they could remember it, if they ought not to tell their father.

“Heigh-ho!” sighed Hazel, carefully putting away her Sunday cloak and
hat, “and to think that I thought the mulattoes were a savage tribe!
Why, really, I believe I never knew a boy who seemed to think so right
down into a thing as Flutters.”

[Illustration: 0140]



CHAPTER XVI.--COLONEL HAMILTON “TAKES TO” HARRY.


[Illustration: 9141]

RIGHT and early on the Monday succeeding the Van Vleet tea-party, Harry
Starlight set out for his call upon Colonel Hamilton. It proved to be a
clear, bracing morning, the kind of a morning to inspire hope in hearts
five times as old as Harry’s, only fortunately there are _some_ hearts
that never grow old at all, and to whom hope is just as true and
beautiful-at sixty as sixteen. The moment he closed the door of the
kitchen behind him, he drew one great, deep breath, as though longing
to take in, in a permanent way if possible, all the exhilaration of the
invigorating air, all the marvellous beauty of the wonderful out-of-door
world. There had been a heavy frost the night before, but almost the
first flash of sunrise had transformed it into an army of glistening
drops, save where here and there, under the protecting chill of sombre
shadows, the grass-blades still were cased in sheaths of crystal. The
river was gray and white-capped, for the west wind would not leave it
still enough to reflect the cloudless blue overhead, and the “Gretchen”
 tugged at her chain with various little creaks and groans, as though an
anchor and a furled sail were more than sail-boat nature could endure
when such a breeze was blowing. Indeed, as Harry freed her from her
moorings, she fairly seemed to bound out into the river with the keen
enjoyment of a creature alive in every part. It is hard to picture that
East River as it looked a hundred years ago, with wooded and grass-grown
banks in place of wharves and warehouses, and with only an occasional
sail, where to-day the great, unwieldy ferry-boats plow from shore to
shore, and an army of smaller craft steam noisily hither and thither.
Now and then Harry would pass a market-boat loaded to the water’s edge
with a tempting array of vegetables, and rowed by a marketwoman in her
close-fitting Dutch cap, who would either wish him a cheery good-morning
in matronly fashion, or bend lower over her oars, as became a young
maiden. Half reluctantly did Harry hear the “Gretchen’s” keel scrape the
pebbly shore, and exchange the breezy breadth of the river lor the
city street, notwithstanding that street led straight up to Colonel
Hamilton’s office. Then, somehow or other, he did not feel quite so
buoyant as at the start, for hope has a trick of wavering a little,
as she actually nears the verge of any decision. What if some one had
already secured the place? What if the Colonel should not take to him?
for Harry had great faith in and great respect for what may be called
“taking to people.”

It so happened that he found only a boy in the Colonel’s office, a very
dark little specimen of the negro race, who was brushing and dusting
away in a manner that said very plainly, “I’s behin’ time dis mornin’,”
 which, by the way, was the rule and not the exception in the life of
lazy little John Thomas.

“What time does Colonel Hamilton usually come in? asked Harry, when he
saw that the boy was by far too busy to pay any attention to him.

“‘Long any minit; dat’s how I’s so flustered,” he replied, breathlessly,
and with that sort of haste which invariably makes waste, he
succeeded in upsetting all the contents of a generous scrap-basket
exactly in the middle of the office floor. “Glory me!” was his one
inelegant exclamation, and, dropping on to his knees, he began punching
the accumulation of trash back into the basket, but with an energy that
landed half of it upon the floor again.

“Look here, I’ll tend to that,” laughed Harry. “You see to your other
work.” John Thomas looked up surprised, but seeing the offer was made
in good faith, took Harry at his word, and flew to the office washstand,
which was sadly in need of attention.

Just at this point there was a step in the hall, and glancing up from
his homely, self-appointed task, Harry’s eyes met those of Colonel
Hamilton, while the color flushed over his face.

“Well, my young friend,” said the Colonel, evidently much amused, “who
set you at that work?”

“I was waiting for you, sir,” said Harry, putting the basket at one
side, “and as your boy seemed to have been delayed, I was trying to lend
a hand.”

“Very kind of you, sir; and as John has a way of being delayed every
morning, he would no doubt like to make a permanent engagement with
you.”

“I had rather you would do that, sir,” was on Harry’s lips, but he
feared it might sound familiar; but Colonel Hamilton seemed to read his
thoughts.

“Possibly you came to see about making an engagement with me,” he said,
kindly, looking for the moment most intently at Harry in a way that
showed he was mentally taking his measure. Meanwhile he had hung up
his coat and hat, and dropped into a high-backed, uncomfortable and
unpainted wooden chair, very different from the upholstered, revolving
contrivances that we find in offices nowadays.

“Yes, sir,” said Harry, in answer to the Colonel’s question, and
still standing; “I heard that you wanted a clerk, and I should be very
grateful if you would let me see if I could fill the place.”

“What is your name?”

“Harry Starlight Avery, if you wish it in full, sir.”

“Will you be seated, Mr. Avery?” said the Colonel, with his habitual
kindly courtesy; whereupon John Thomas flourished a bedraggled feather
brush over a dusty chair--the same one upon which Hazel had sat during
her recent important interview--and placed it near the Colonel’s, with
all the importance of a drum-major on parade.

“I have heard the name of Starlight before,” Colonel Hamilton said
thoughtfully, “but where I cannot remember.” Then, and as though he had
no time to devote to mere rumination at that hour of the morning, he
asked, “Are you a native of New York, Mr. Avery?”

“No, sir; my home is in New London.”

“Then you are a long ways from it now” (for distances were distances in
those days); “how does that happen?”

“I enlisted on a privateer,” Harry answered, coloring slightly.

“So that is how,” and the Colonel gave him the benefit of another
scrutinizing look.

“Have you ever had a position in a lawyer’s office?”

“No, sir; I am sorry to say I haven’t; but it’s just the sort of
position I have always wanted. Of course you would have to tell me just
about everything at the start, but not more than once, I hope, sir.”

This is the right sort of spirit, thought the Colonel, beginning to run
through some papers on a letter-file, for, as usual, he had a very busy
day before him.

“How long ago did you enlist on the privateer?” making a little
memorandum of some other matters on a sheet of paper as he spoke.

“Nearly two years ago.”

“How long were you aboard of her?”

“Only a month, sir.”

“And where were you the remainder of the time?”

“On the ‘Jersey,’ sir.”

There was no dividing of attention now, and the Colonel laid aside the
quill pen he had just filled with ink.

“Do you mean to say you were a prisoner aboard of her?”

“Yes, sir.”

“For nearly two years?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That is enough for me. Any poor fellow that has braved the horrors of
that den for even a month ought to have the best sort of a chance. I
will engage you on the spot, Mr. Avery. If you have been a ‘Jersey’
prisoner, that is enough for me. I am willing to try a ‘green hand,’ who
has had to endure that experience.”

“You are very kind, Colonel Hamilton,” and Harry’s grateful appreciation
showed plainly in his face.

“Could you stay to-day,” asked the Colonel, “and let me set you right to
work at some copying? I think we can come to a satisfactory arrangement
about terms when I am not so hurried.”

Of course Harry stayed--stayed through one of the busiest and happiest
days of his life; and not until twilight had long settled down on the
river did he step aboard of the “Gretchen” and set sail for the old Van
Vleet Farm.

When the wind is right in your favor, and you have little to do but mind
your helm, you have a fine chance for a quiet think--that is, if you
are any sort of a sailor; and Harry improved the opportunity and thought
hard--thought of all that the day’s good fortune might mean to him: of
ability to pay his own way for the first time in his life; of a little
money to be sent off now and then to the younger brothers in New London,
and then, in a vague sort of a way, of a home of his own some day.
Meantime all the while there would be the constant daily companionship
with Colonel Hamilton himself, who seemed to him (as indeed to many
another, and in the face, too, of his extreme youthfulness) at once the
noblest, the kindest, and by far the greatest man he had ever met. What
a pity, he thought, that he should have sided against Aunt Frances!

But of one thing Harry felt sure, which was that he had certainly “taken
to” Colonel Alexander Hamilton; and there was another thing just as sure
which he did not know about, and that was that the Colonel had decidedly
“taken to” Harry.



CHAPTER XVII.--IN THE LITTLE GOLD GALLERY.


[Illustration: 9146]

HE night for the first Dancing Assembly had come, and old Peter, John
Thomas’s father and the janitor of the Assembly room, had done more
work in the last week than in all the whole five months between the two
seasons of social gayety. In an hour now it would be time for the guests
to arrive, and, arrayed in his best coat and knee-breeches, and with
nothing further to do, Peter sat on a three-legged stool at one end of
the hall, surveying his work with evident satisfaction.

Presently there was the sound of several pairs of feet on the flight of
stairs that led up to the Assembly rooms, and Peter, craning his neck,
tried to make out who it might be without taking the trouble to get up,
for his old knees were very stiff from the unwonted exertions of the
week.

Who it might be was quickly determined, for in a flash there stood
before him what seemed to him a veritable crowd of children, though in
point of fact there were only the two Marberrys, Hazel, Starlight, and
Flutters.

“What you chilluns doin’ heah? Dis heah ain’t no place fur chilluns. You
better go right ‘long home agin, I reckon.”

Peter tried to speak gruffly, but they were not in the least
intimidated, knowing that it was all assumed.

“Peter, we have a great favor to ask of you,”’ said Hazel, who seemed
to be the ringleader of the little party.

“‘Tain’t no sort o’ use, Miss Hazel; can’t ‘low it no how;” for Peter
knew well enough what the favor was; “if I let you chilluns into dat
gall’ry, you’ll keep up such a snickerin’ and gigglin’, you’ll ‘sturb
the whole Assembly. No, Miss Hazel; can’t t’ink of it; can’t ‘low it no
how.”

“Peter,” said Hazel, looking at him very searchingly, “are you going to
let anybody in there?”

“Not a soul, Miss Hazel--dat is, not a soul ‘ceptin’ my John Thomas.”

“Ah! I thought so,” said Hazel, exultingly; “and it isn’t fair, Peter,
to do for Thomas what you won’t do for us. We’ve come all the way into
town just to see the dancing, ‘cause mother said she was sure there
wouldn’t be any objection to our peeping through the gallery railing.”

“Did she say dat, sure ‘nuff, Miss Hazel?” And Peter put his head on one
side, and looked at Hazel in a very suspicious manner.

“Yes, she did,” said Tilly Marberry, coming to the rescue; “I heard her
myself; and, Peter, we’ll promise not to snicker.”

“Nor giggle, either,” said Tilly’s other self.

“Which of you is which?” said Peter, slowly looking at the twins with
knitted eyebrows.

“Oh, Peter, please don’t stop to bother ‘bout that now,” pleaded Hazel,
impatient of any digression from the main point; “but you _will_ let
us in, won’t you?” whereupon the other children chimed in with such
imploring entreaties that the old janitor relented, and, getting on
to his feet with an evident twinge in his rheumatic knees, felt in his
coat-tail pocket for the coveted gallery keys. The good deed had its
reward then and there, in the beaming and grateful faces of the troupe
of little beggars.

The gallery in question was a sort of balcony, projecting from the wall
at one end of the hall, midway between floor and ceiling, and to which
access was had by a steep little spiral stairway. This gallery was
intended for the musicians only; but between its gilded, bulging front
and the part of the platform on which they sat was a space where half a
dozen children might be comfortably accommodated. More than once,
when some reception or dance was in progress, Hazel, with a few chosen
friends in her train, had begged her way into this most desirable
retreat, and that was why Peter knew “what was up” the moment he saw
her.

When they entered the little gallery, they found John Thomas there
before them, complacently installed in the most desirable place; but
they were far too thankful to have gotten in at all to grudge him his
privileged position.

It was a funny sight to see the little company established in a row
behind the heavy gilded stucco work, which completely concealed them,
yet offered such convenient little loop-holes and crannies, from which
everything going on on the floor below could be plainly viewed. To be
sure, the arrangement of the platform obliged them all to sit tailor
fashion--rather a constrained position for those unaccustomed to it--but
what did it matter about one’s legs and back when one’s eyes were to be
feasted with lovely ladies and gallant gentlemen and the music they were
to dance to would be ringing in one’s ears.

“Doesn’t the hall look lovely?” said Hazel, when at last she had
adjusted her lower extremities as comfortably as circumstances would
admit.

“Lovely!” answered the Marberrys, each with a sigh of deep appreciation,
for it had not been an easy thing for them to gain permission to
accompany Hazel, and this was to be their first introduction to the
glories of a dancing assembly.

“How everything shines!” said Flutters, quite lost in admiration of the
glittering brass sconces, with their bevelled mirrors and beautiful red
candles, and wondering greatly how any floor could ever be brought to
such a high state of polish.

“‘Course it shines,” said John Thomas. “It ought to shine. My father
hasn’t been reachin’ and rubbin’, and kneelin’ and polishin’ fur free
weeks fur nuffin, I reckon.”

“Did you help him?” asked Flutters, with admiration.

[Illustration: 0149]

“No, sah, I did not. I hasn’t no time for polishin’. I assists in
Colonel Hamilton’s law office,” and John Thomas proudly drew himself
up till his woolly head grazed the ridge of the gallery rail above
him.

“What,” said Starlight’, “are you the boy in Colonel Hamilton’s office?”

“I assists Colonel Hamilton,” John Thomas repeated, not being willing to
bring himself down to Starlight’s offensive way of putting things.

“Yes, I’ve heard about _you_!’ said Starlight, with a mischievous
twinkle in his eye.

“W’at you heard, I’d like to know!”

“John Thomas,” came a voice from below, “don’t let me hear anoder word
from you dis ebenin’, else home you go to mammy right smart, I can tell
you, and de oder chiliuns long wid you too.” Old Peter had shambled out
to the middle of the floor to take one more satisfactory view of things
in general, and just in time to hear John Thomas’s excited tones. His
words had the desired effect; the little gallery instantly relapsed into
absolute silence, the six children fairly holding their breath for fear
of the threatened banishment. People were beginning to come now. A few
gentlemen were already on the floor, and the musicians, who had taken
their places on the gallery platform, were drawing instruments, which
would look funny enough to-day, from the depths of clumsy green baize
bags, and beginning to “tune up.”

“Tell me w’at you heard?” demanded John Thomas of Starlight, as soon as
he dared to speak again.

“Oh, John Thomas, please don’t!” begged Milly Marberry, putting her
little hand most beseechingly on his sleeve; “we’ve never been to an
Assembly before. We’d cry our eyes out if your father sent us home.”

John Thomas yielded to this entreaty, but sullenly, as though he meant
to have it out with Starlight some day or other. Any slur upon his
character was just one thing that that young gentleman was determined
not to endure, and the sooner Job Starlight and the rest of the world
came to that wise conclusion, why, so much the better for everybody
concerned--at least, so thought john Thomas.

It was a pity that at the commencement of the Assembly Hazel, Milly,
and Tilly could not have been in two places at once, for while only an
occasional couple strolled on to the dancing floor, the dressing-rooms
were crowded. There would have been a peculiar pleasure for those little
lovers of finery to see the pretty toilets gradually emerge from the
concealment of long cloaks and shawls, and to have studied the charming
vanities of peak-toed, high-heeled little slippers as the protecting
pattens were shaken off into the hands of maids, upon their knees before
their “ladies.” But at last the Assembly floor offered more attractions
than the dressing-room, and a long line of couples, constantly
reinforced by new arrivals, were promenading in stately fashion around
the hall.

“There come the Van Vleets,” exclaimed Starlight, as Miss Francesca and
Miss Heide entered, each on the arm of an escort.

“And if there isn’t Miss Pauline,” whispered Tilly Marberry; “does _she_
dance?”

“Dance!” said Starlight; “well, I guess you’ll think so when you see
her. She’s just as graceful as a fairy.”

“She’s just as queer as a fairy, too,” remarked Flutters. “I wouldn’t
care to be the one to dance with her; there’d be no telling what she
might fly off and do next.”

“It’s very distressing about Miss Pauline,” said Hazel, reprovingly;
“and, Flutters, you have no occasion to speak like that.” Hazel always
seemed to be specially successful in mustering large words when she felt
called upon to administer any reproof to this little servant of hers.

“No occasion!” said Flutters, significantly, for the recollection of an
apple-tree and a crying maiden was not so far removed as to lose any of
its poignancy.

“What do you mean?” questioned Hazel, with a puzzled frown.

“Oh, nothing particular,” Flutters said, quickly, seeing what an
explanation might lead up to, and then he succeeded in changing the
subject by announcing the arrival of Captain and Mrs. Boniface.

“Oh, doesn’t mamma look lovely!” and Hazel’s happy little face flushed
with pride.

“Yes; and just look at Josephine!” sighed the Marberrys, simultaneously,
for those little women were so overcharged with delight as scarce to
be able either to speak or breathe in quite regular and commonplace
fashion.

“Ah! _she’s_ the girl,” said Starlight, who, whether from honest
admiration or a spirit of mischief, never lost an opportunity for
extolling the virtues and attractions of Hazel’s older sister.

“And she’s drawn Harry Avery,” added Hazel, for once in her life adroit
enough not to betray any annoyance; “I don’t believe she minds, either.”

“Well, Harry doesn’t mind, I know that much. Shouldn’t wonder myself
if he managed to have it come that way.” Starlight evidently spoke from
knowledge of facts, for, like as not, Cousin Harry had foolishly taken
that small boy somewhat into his confidence.

This “drawing” that Hazel spoke of was a queer custom of the olden days.
Partners for the evening were chosen by lot; they danced, walked, and
chatted with no one else, and when the dancing was over partook together
of such modest refreshment as rusks and tea. This arrangement was most
advantageous for the young ladies who were not specially attractive, for
by means of it the fairest and the plainest were treated exactly alike.
Now, for all this information, and much more beside, as I told you in
the preface, we are indebted to that delightful first chapter of Mr.
McMasters’s History; but although you may not be old enough to care to
read that chapter for yourself, nor half old enough to be allowed to
attend a Dancing Assembly, nor fortunate enough to gain entrance to a
little mid-air gallery, where you could watch all the fine goings on
unobserved, yet I believe you are quite old enough to understand one
thing--and that is that the pleasure of those old-time assemblies must
have depended altogether upon the partner that fell to one’s lot. A
wretched sort of a time, or an indifferent sort of a time, or a very
good time indeed--all lay within the possibilities of that one little
chance. So do you wonder very much, or do you blame them very much,
if those old-fashioned beaux, with their powdered hair, velvet knee
breeches, and silver shoe-buckles, “sometimes managed things,” as
Starlight said? At any rate, Harry Avery was supremely happy to have
Josephine Boniface fall to his lot, and if he hadn’t been guilty of
“managing things” at all, why, all that remains to be said is that he
was a very lucky fellow. Miss Pauline formed the only exception to this
rigidly observed rule, as it was always an understood thing that her
brother Hans should be her partner, but being, as Starlight said, “as
graceful as a fairy,” and quite as light on her feet, it often happened
that some friend of the Van Fleets would beg a dance of Pauline, and
give the faithful brother a chance for “a turn” with his partner in
exchange.

“Why, there’s Aunt Frances,” exclaimed Starlight, suddenly spying her
seated in a chair at the farther corner of the room. “Did she come in
with the Van Vleets?”

“Yes, I think so; and doesn’t she look a picture!” said Hazel, fairly
feasting her eyes upon that much-loved lady. “And her dress, girls!
_isn’t_ it lovely!” and Hazel, in her eagerness, gave Tilly Mar-berry,
who sat next to her, a good hard hug. “When I am forty or fifty, or
whatever age Aunt Frances is, I shall wear black velvet and soft old
lace about my neck just like that. Now I shouldn’t wonder”--Hazel spoke
slowly, as if really giving the matter most thoughtful consideration--“I
shouldn’t wonder if Aunt Frances was as pretty as Josephine when she was
a real young lady.”

“I half believe I think she’s as pretty now,” answered Starlight,
notwithstanding his constant championship of Josephine’s superior
charms.

“Who’s she talking to, Starlight?”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Starlight.

“Why, dat’s Major Potter, a lawyer what practices down our way,”
 volunteered John Thomas, “and dere! dere comes _my_ Colonel and Lady
Hamilton. Isn’t she a booty? Where’s your Aunt Frances now, Mars
Starlight?”

“Just where she was before, John Thomas, the loveliest-looking lady in
the room. Lady Hamilton _is_ very handsome, though.”

“Handsome! well, you’d better believe it; and de Colonel! now jus’ look
at him, chilluns. Isn’t he just too elegant! He jus’ ought to be a king,
Colonel Hamilton ought ter, and he’s dat kind, he wouldn’t speak cross
to de laziest pickaninny in de land.”

“Then I suppose he never speaks cross to you, John Thomas,” said Hazel,
significantly.

“Dere ain’t neber no ‘casion, Miss Hazel,” and John Thomas looked as
though he considered her remark altogether uncalled for.

“Ain’t dere neber no _‘casion?_” asked Starlight, perfectly imitating
the darkey dialect. “How ‘bout dat mornin’ when you upset de trash
basket in de middle of de office flo’?”

“Dat mornin’ was a ‘ception, Mars Starlight, and it seems to me your
cousin, Mr. Avery, might fin’ somethin’ better to talk ‘bout dan to be
detailin’ de little events of de office.”

It was great fun to hear John Thomas go on in this fashion. He had the
reputation of being the most amusing little darkey in the city, and when
they were not completely absorbed in watching the dancing, Hazel and
Starlight managed between them to keep him “going,” to the delighted
amusement of the Marberrys.

Meantime the minute hand of the great white-faced clock at the end of
the hall was marking quarter to eight in no uncertain characters, and
Hazel had faithfully promised that at eight o’clock her little party
should turn their backs on the festivities, no matter how alluring and
absorbing they might happen to be at that particular moment. But it
sometimes happens that matters of considerable importance come to pass
within the limits of fifteen minutes--often, in fact, in much shorter
time than that, and this was true of the particular fifteen minutes in
question.

And now, as this is already a pretty long chapter, I propose that we
stop right where we are, make a new one, and call it----



CHAPTER XVIII.--MORE OF A RED-COAT THAN EVER.


[Illustration: 9155]

HILE Hazel and Starlight, Flutters, John Thomas, and the Marberrys were
so hugely enjoying watching the people down there on the floor of the
Assembly, it so happened that some of the people were not enjoying
themselves at all. Indeed, quite the contrary; for not a few were acting
unkindly, and others were being treated unkindly; and if there is any
enjoyment for anybody in that sort of a proceeding, one ought to be
thankful not yet to have discovered it.

You know how it came about that Colonel and Mrs. Boniface went to the
Assembly; it was simply because they felt they ought to. If the old
friends were truly sorry for having been so unfriendly, would it not be
ungracious for them to decline this invitation? Would it not look as if
they themselves were still harboring ill-feeling? And you also know that
Harry Avery had been consulted in the matter, and that his urgent advice
had been, “Go, by all means.” So the Colonel and his wife had decided
to accept quite in the face of all their preferences, and dreading the
ordeal far more than either was willing to confess to the other. But
alas! for the decision that cost them such a personal sacrifice, and
alas! for the hopefulness of Harry’s buoyant temperament; for if Colonel
and Mrs. Boniface ever had reason abundantly to regret any step they had
ever taken, it was going to this Dancing Assembly; and if ever two proud
and sensitive hearts were stung to the quick, theirs were that evening.
It seems that Harry was mistaken in thinking that the invitation had
been sent because of a general desire to make amends to the Bonifaces.
True it was that two members of the Assembly Committee had insisted upon
their being invited, hardly thinking, however, that they would come; but
alas! in case they did come some other members had resolved to make
it very uncomfortable for them. Somehow or other nothing seems so
completely to change a warm human heart into something as cold and hard
as a stone as what men call a strong party feeling, and party feeling
ran very high in those days in which our great-grandfathers lived a
hundred years ago. That is to say, men felt so sure that their own
opinions were the only right ones that they fairly hated those who did
not agree with them.

And so it happened that, with cheeks crimsoned from the insults they had
received, and with blood tingling to their very finger tips Colonel and
Mrs. Boniface left the room, sending word to Josephine (who had been
screened from any insult by Harry’s chivalrous devotion) to follow them.
Hazel suddenly missed them from the crowd below, and knew in a flash
what had happened. Indeed, the color had flushed into her own round
cheeks as she thought she saw a Mrs. Potter, whose husband was a leading
Whig, pretend not to see that Mrs. Boniface had made a move toward
shaking hands with her. But “No,” she thought, “I must be mistaken; no
lady would be so rude.” So it would seem, little Hazel; but it often
happens that things are not what they seem in this queer world of ours;
and as Hazel’s dear mother learned to her sorrow, several others who
called themselves ladies could be just as rude as Mrs. Potter, and some
of them yet more rude. Fortunately for the Mar-berrys and Starlight and
Flutters, the clock was just on the stroke of eight when Hazel made
her unhappy discovery, for she could not have borne to have sat there
another moment looking down on that brilliant company, many of whom,
looking so fine and attractive, were at heart so cruel.

“Time’s up,” said Hazel, starting to creep round to the little door at
the back of the gallery, and not trusting herself to say more than that
for fear a trembling voice should betray her suppressed excitement.

Hazel was the acknowledged commander-in-chief of that little party, and
difficult as it was to turn abruptly from the fascinating scene, the
children dropped obediently on to all fours, and followed in her train.
The Marberrys’ carriage was waiting at the door, and Flutters, after
helping the others in, climbed onto the box beside Jake, the driver. It
was wonderful the way in which he seemed always to know intuitively the
“proper thing” to do. He was constantly placed on such an equal footing
with the other children that it would have been only natural for him
to have frequently forgotten that, after all, he was only Miss Hazel’s
little servant; but somehow or other he never did forget it; perfectly
free in his manner, and never in any sense servile, yet always betraying
a little air of respectful deference that was simply charming. Indeed,
body-servant or no, all the Bonifaces had grown to actually loving
little Flutters, and Flutters knew it and was radiantly happy.

All the way home Hazel tried to be as merry as before. It would be such
a pity, she thought unselfishly, to spoil the Marberrys’ good time; but
she did not succeed very well.

“Are you tired, Hazel?” asked Milly, as they neared home.

“Yes, awfully tired,” and with this admission the tears sprang into her
eyes; but fortunately it was too dark in the carriage for any one to
see them. “It’s very uncomfortable,” she added, “to sit with your legs
curled under you so long as we had to there in the gallery.”

“Do you think so?” exclaimed Tilly; “why, I could have sat there till
morning, and never known I had a leg, it was all so lovely!”

“So lovely!” echoed Milly in a tone of evident regret that it was over.

“Here we are,” said Hazel, as Flutters leaped down and opened the door
for her; “good-night, Milly” (a kiss); “good-night, Tilly” (another
kiss); “much obliged for the ride.”

“Much obliged for the lovely time,” the Marberrys called back, for Jake,
impatient to get home and to bed, had immediately driven on.

“Why, it looks as though your father and mother were home,” Starlight
exclaimed as they walked up the path.

“Yes, they are home, I know that,” said Hazel, excitedly, “and Josephine
is home, and I know too that they’ve had a horrid time, and that
they’ll never go to anything in New York again--never; and if there is a
cowardly set of creatures in the world it’s the spiteful old Whigs.”

Starlight and Flutters stood aghast, while Hazel flew past them into
the house, slamming the front door after her, as much as to say that no
exasperating Whig should ever enter it again, not even if his name was
Job Avery Starlight.

The boys sat down on the step of the porch and conversed in dazed,
excited whispers as to what it could all mean.

Hazel flew up the stairs into her mother’s room and into her mother’s
arms with one great sob.

[Illustration: 0159]

“Why, Hazel, my little daughter, what is the matter?” and Mrs. Boniface,
whom Hazel had found sitting in a low rocker at the window, still in
the dress she had worn to the ball, drew Hazel’s brown head on to her
shoulder, and soothingly stroked the brown wavy hair; but the tears were
in her own eyes, and her heart was very heavy.

Hazel could not speak at first for crying, but the caressing touch of
that dear hand was wonderfully calming, and presently she was able to
say, “I know all about it, mother. I know they treated you shamefully. I
saw that horrid old Mrs. Potter when she--”

“Hazel! Hazel, dear, you must not talk like this.”

“But it’s true, every word of it is true, and tell me” (and Hazel
straightened herself up and looked through blinding tears into her
mother’s face), “didn’t they insult you? didn’t they treat you very
rudely, and didn’t you all come home on that account?”

“Well, they certainly were not very kind, Hazel, and it seemed best for
us to come home; but it is not worth caring too much about, you know.”

“And to think how friendly Mrs. Potter _used_ to be, and how much she
pretended to think of you, mother,” and Hazel becoming a little less
excited, thoughtfully turned the little turquoise ring on her finger
round and round, and shook her head sadly from side to side, as though
her faith in human nature was forever shaken, as indeed it had reason to
be.

It was a pretty picture, albeit a rather sad one, the mother and
daughter, in the graceful costumes of a hundred years ago, sitting there
in the low studded room, dimly lighted by the little rush-light on the
mantel--a high narrow mantel, with the glowing embers on the andirons
beneath it crackling loudly now and then, after the manner of a good
fire that is slowly dying out. An oblong mirror, hung at a wide angle
from the wall, surmounted the high mantel, and reflected the little
rocker with its double load, and the pretty old-fashioned drapery at the
window. It was not often that that little mirror, nor any other mirror
for that matter, had the chance to frame a picture for itself full as
lovely as ever artist dreamed of.

But while Hazel and her mother were talking, and Hazel herself was
growing calmer and Mrs. Boniface’s heart lighter with the effort
to cheer her, some other things were happening in which we have an
interest. Captain Boniface was striding along the road that led on to
the Marberrys, trying to walk off the angry feelings that threatened
to get the mastery over him. There is nothing like a good brisk walk in
bracing air to get a feverish, excited mind into normal condition, and
the Captain knew it; but when the force of the angry mood had spent
itself, there still was left to him a sense of sad hopelessness for
which he saw no remedy. To have a little family on one’s hands and no
money to care for them is enough to make the bravest heart heavy; but
to have reached that point, and at the same time to see every chance
of ever getting on one’s feet again absolutely taken away, is enough
to break a man’s spirit. And matters had come to just that pass that
evening with Captain Boniface. If the old friends had at last shown
themselves friendly, he would have felt there was a hope of his making
his services valuable to some of them, as indeed there would have been,
for every one acknowledged Captain Boniface to be a man of rare ability.
But it had now been shown him very plainly that there was no use
in longer trying to stem the tide of hate and prejudice that set so
strongly against him, and with the future a hopeless blank, he finally
turned his face homeward. But the other thing that was happening, and
in which we too have an interest, was of a cheerier sort, and was taking
place at the Assembly, which had only fairly gotten under way when the
Bonifaces left it.

That old-fashioned law of a partner for the evening, to be chosen by
lot, of course applied only to the young folks, and the more staid,
middle-aged, and elderly people were free to chat with each other, else
why should they have cared to go to the ball at all?

Now it happened that Aunt Frances, who was quite in ignorance of the
sad experiences of the Bonifaces, was having a most satisfactory
conversation with a Mrs. Rainsford, a near neighbor, whom she had
not seen since her flight from home nearly two years before, for Mrs.
Rainsford was able to answer a great many questions which Aunt Frances
had been longing to ask about her own home, and the care it was having.

“No, I should not think the place had been greatly abused,” said Mrs.
Rainsford, while Aunt Frances sat, an eager listener. “Captain Wadsworth
moved his men down to the barracks at Fort George a month ago, and since
then he has been giving the house a thorough overhauling. You know he
has resigned his commission, and intends to remain in this country.”

“Yes; and I know, too, that he intends to remain in my home,” sighed
Aunt Frances. “I wonder if he would sell it to me, though, for that
matter, it’s as much mine to-day as it ever was. But there’s no use to
talk about that either, for I have saved from the wreck barely money
enough to live upon.”

“But, Miss Avery,” said Mrs. Rainsford in a serious whisper, that was
scarcely audible above the music, “I’ll tell you one thing: I do not
believe Captain Wadsworth _will_ remain in your house very long.”

“Indeed! why not?” and Aunt Frances’s elevated eyebrows betrayed her
surprise.

“Why, because it is going to be so very uncomfortable for all Loyalists
here in the city.”

“I do not quite see what you mean, Mrs. Rainsford.”

“No, of course not, dear,” replied Mrs. Rainsford (seeming to regard
Aunt Frances in the light of an older daughter, though, in point of
fact, there was but little difference in their ages.) “No, of course not;
your kind heart would never dream of such things as are happening on
every side. The leading Whigs, now that the Revolution has been
successful, say that they’ll make this town too hot to hold a single
Tory, and, mark my words, they’ll do it, too. Perhaps you haven’t
noticed how the Bonifaces were treated tonight; they went home some time
ago.”

“Why, Mrs. Rainsford, can that be possible?” questioned Aunt Frances,
looking vainly about the room in search of her friends; “I call that
cruelty of the most unwarrantable sort.”

“Yes, it must be very humiliating to say the least; but then they have
brought it upon themselves, you must remember,” for Mrs. Rainsford was
herself a most ardent Whig, and thought the Loyalists, whether English
or American, should be made to pay very dearly for their behavior.

“You ought to have seen your garden this summer, Miss Avery,” continued
Mrs. Rainsford, reverting to their former subject. “Captain Wadsworth
must be very fond of flowers. He took the best of care of it.”

“I think I could not have borne to see it, Mrs. Rainsford.”

“No, perhaps not, dear child; and to think that you really have
Alexander Hamilton to thank for it all. You must hate him. He is here
to-night, you know, with his young wife. I don’t wonder she turned the
heads of the officers at Morristown. You know she went to visit her
aunt while Washington had his headquarters there, and Hamilton was his
aide-de-camp, and fell in--”

“Sh--” interrupted Aunt Frances, who saw that Colonel Hamilton was not
very far off, and might easily overhear what they were saying; and,
indeed, he was not far off, for the very good reason that, in the
company of his friend, Major Potter, every step was bringing him nearer.

Imagine, if you can, Aunt Frances’s surprise when Major Potter, whom she
knew quite well, paused before her, and bowing low, with old-time grace
and courtliness, said slowly, “May I take the liberty, Miss Avery, of
presenting my friend, Colonel Hamilton?”

[Illustration: 0163]

Aunt Frances was, of course, greatly confused, though too much of a lady
to betray it; but Mrs. Rainsford, astonished beyond measure, and not
always at her ease, was quite glad to slip away from an interview that
promised to be, to say the least, embarrassing.

Colonel Hamilton took the seat she left vacant. “I begged the favor of
an introduction, Miss Avery, and am very glad to meet you,” he said,
politely.

“I must not doubt your sincerity, Colonel Hamilton,” Aunt Frances
replied with no little dignity, “but perhaps you do not recognize in me
the Miss Avery whom you lately defeated in the courts.”

“On the contrary,” replied the Colonel with a deferential air, for Aunt
Frances was by many years his senior, “that is the very reason why I
wished to meet you. I feel myself to have been the cause--”

“Excuse me, Colonel Hamilton, but I desire neither apologies nor
sympathy.” For with all her sweetness, Aunt Frances was high spirited;
she thought the Colonel’s manner was a little patronizing.

But Colonel Hamilton was high spirited too, and was on his feet in a
moment. “It was not my intention to offer either sympathy or apologies.
I bid you good-evening, Miss Avery.”

But Aunt Frances said quickly, “In that case I should prefer you to
remain, Colonel Hamilton.”

“Thank you,” and the Colonel, with no little dignity, resumed his seat,
while Aunt Frances condescended to add:

“I did not mean to be rude, but I wished you to understand my position.”

“It was because I wished you to understand mine that I sought this
interview, Miss Avery; but I see I have need to be very careful as to my
choice of words.”

Aunt Frances smiled, as much as to say, “Quite right, Colonel Hamilton.”

“I hope you realize,” he said, “that my argument in Captain Wadsworth’s
case was founded on the most sincere convictions;” and the Colonel half
betrayed the admiration which Aunt Frances somehow inspired in him,
notwithstanding her high-spiritedness.

“I never questioned that, Colonel Hamilton.”

“So I felt I had reason to believe, when I found you had urged your
nephew to make application for the vacancy in my office.”

“Why, I told Harry it was hardly necessary to volunteer the fact of our
relationship,” said Aunt Frances, with unconcealed surprise.

“He evidently did not agree with you then, for he had been with me
scarce twenty-four hours before he told me he was your nephew. I suppose
you thought, if I knew it, that it might count against him; on the
contrary, let me assure you it has helped him. It is no light thing,
Miss Avery, to have done any one an injury, whether from conscientious
motives or not; and I shall welcome every chance to atone for it that
comes within my power. I can imagine, in part at least, what it
must mean to be banished from the home of a life-time under any
circumstances, and especially when you feel that you have still a
perfect right to be there.”

This looked a little like sympathy on the Colonel’s part, but it was too
kindly meant to be rejected. They were treading, however, dangerously
near the region of Aunt Frances’s proud sensitiveness, so she changed
the direction somewhat by asking, “But Harry is able to rise on his own
merits, is he not, Colonel Hamilton?”

“Abundantly; that was one thing I desired to tell you. He has unusual
capacity, and is remarkably efficient. I think his future assured.
As for me, it is a great satisfaction to know you do not question my
sincerity. And now, Miss Avery, I will not detain you longer, and will
say good-evening.”

“Good-evening, Colonel Hamilton.”

And so the Colonel went back to his pretty young wife in the farther
corner of the room, and Aunt Frances, with a tumult of thoughts in her
heart, rejoined the Van Vleets, and was glad to find them making ready
to go down to the clumsy barge, which, manned by two of the farm hands,
was waiting to carry them home across the moonlit river. How much she
had to think over; and what had Colonel Hamilton told her but that he
would lose no chance to atone for what his duty, as he understood it,
had compelled him to do. But one thing Colonel Hamilton had not told
her, but which was very true, nevertheless, and that was, that one of
the strongest impulses toward this same atoning had come to him in the
form of a call from a very earnest and winsome little maiden one sunny
September morning. “Yes, what may it not mean?” thought Aunt Frances,
and a hope that she had not dared to cherish for a long, long time
shaped itself once more before her. Perhaps it might come about that she
should have her home again some day; surely it was not impossible, since
Colonel Hamilton himself was enlisted in her favor. And _this_ was the
man whom she thought her worst enemy--whom she had said she would go a
long way to avoid meeting. Very thankful was she now that the Colonel
had given her no opportunity to carry out her intention. So there is
this comfort: if some sorry things happened at the Assembly, some other
things happened that were not sorry at all.

Meanwhile poor Starlight and Flutters sat shivering on the front porch.
Captain Boniface had come home, but had quietly entered the house at the
rear, and the children had not heard him.

“Really, I think we had better go in now,” said Flutters, as though he
had brought the same inducement to bear upon Starlight several times
before.

“You may go if you like,” answered Starlight. “It’s different with you,
you live here; but you don’t catch _me_ going in at a door that’s been
slammed in my face, unless the some-one who slammed it comes out and
gets me.”

So Flutters stretched and yawned and shivered a moment longer, and then
decided to quit the dreary scene.

“Now, don’t you tell Hazel that I’m out here, Flutters. Promise me.”

“Not if she asks me?”

“No, not if she asks you fifty times.” Starlight was angry, and not
without reason, but he did not believe impetuous Hazel would give
him another thought, and so he looked about to see how he could most
comfortably pass the night on the porch, for he knew nowhere to go at
that late hour. Perhaps it _was_ a pity for a fellow to be so proud, but
he could not help it. He wondered if other people’s pride made the blood
rush so hotly through their veins, and made their hearts thump like trip
hammers; there was one good thing about it, though: it helped to keep
him a little warmer out there in the chill November evening.

Flutters groped his way forlornly to bed, for all the lights were out
in the house. He longed to knock at Hazel’s door and tell her about
Starlight, and his hand actually doubled itself in a preparatory way
as he passed her door; but no, it would not do. Starlight would never
forgive him; besides, he had promised.

But fortunately it was not to be an out-all-night experience, after all,
for Starlight. Hazel’s room was directly under the roof of the high,
pillared porch, and as, just before getting into bed, she leaned out to
close the blinds, so that the morning sun should not wake such a tired
and sorrowful little body too early, she saw some dark thing lying under
the mat on the porch. At first she thought it was the Marberrys’ dog,
who occasionally made them a visit, so she called, “Bruno! Bruno!” in a
penetrating whisper, but the dark object showed no signs of life. Then
she said, “Who is it?” and the dark object moved a little and replied
sullenly, “Who do you suppose?”

“Why, Job Starlight, what are you doing out there; you’ll catch your
death of cold.”

“I know it,” said Starlight, for by this time even his pride had cooled
down a little, and his teeth were chattering, “and there’ll be no one to
blame for it but yourself, Hazel Boniface.”

“What do you mean?” asked Hazel; but as she spoke a conviction of just
exactly what he meant swept over her. “Haven’t you been in since I left
you on the porch?”

“No, I haven’t been in since you slammed the door in my face and said if
there was a cowardly set of spiteful old creatures in the world it was
the Whigs.”

“I did not call _you_ a----” and then Hazel realized that it was very
foolish, as well as very cold, to stand talking there in that way, so
she called down, “But wait a minute, and I’ll come and let you in.”
 Then she closed the shutters and hurriedly slipped into her wrapper and
slippers, and in a twinkling the hall lamp was lighted and the hall
door thrown open; but Starlight was in no hurry to enter--not he; he
was going to see this thing through in right dignified fashion,
notwithstanding, now that the prospect looked more cheerful, he could
himself see a funny side to the proceeding.

“I did not mean _you_ were cowardly or spiteful, Starlight,” Hazel said
again. “I meant all the other Whigs. Do, please, come in.”

“Then why did you slam the door in this Whig’s face, I’d like to
know,” and Starlight was so gracious as to advance as far as the broad,
old-fashioned door-sill; “besides, all the other Whigs are not spiteful
and cowardly. Aunt Frances isn’t, and----”

“Starlight,” interrupted Hazel, “this is very mean of you. If you knew
what we’d had to bear to-night you wouldn’t blame me for anything. I was
very angry, I know, but I am very sorry, and now--won’t you please come
in?”

Certainly this was as much as the most aggrieved of individuals
could desire, and Starlight walked in, and dignity and resentment and
everything else were forgotten as Hazel with tearful eyes told him of
the evenings experiences. “Yes,” she said at the close of her narration,
“I saw Mrs. Potter with my own eyes refuse to shake hands with mamma,
and if it hadn’t been time then to come home I do not know what I ever
should have done.”

Starlight drew a deep sigh, but Hazel had grown a full inch in his
estimation. It was real plucky in her to have kept her forlorn discovery
to herself all the way home; he could almost understand now how she had
slammed the door when she reached it. But what a shame it was that a
family like the Bonifaces should be so shamefully treated! “Well, it’s
too bad, Hazel, that’s all I can say,” he said; “but I suppose we may as
well go to bed. It must be very late.”

“Why, where is Flutters?” asked Hazel, for the first time recalling his
existence.

“Here,” answered a voice from the top of the hall stairway; “I was just
coming down to see if I could not make Starlight come in.”

“I don’t believe anybody could have _made_ him,” said Hazel; “the
Starlights must be a very proud family.”

“So must the Bonifaces,” answered Starlight, with the shadow of a smile;
“but, then, I like proud families.”

“And so do I,” said Hazel.

A few moments afterward the little trio separated, and with the thought
of “Better late than never,” Starlight crept gratefully into the bed
of the little hall room, whose blankets and coverlid had been carefully
folded back for him, full five hours before, by Dinah’s kind black
hands.



CHAPTER XIX--A SAD LITTLE CHAPTER


[Illustration: 9169]

OT a bright outlook certainly, but then, you see, it is to be only a
little chapter.

Some people think that children’s books ought to be cheery and bright
from cover to cover, and so they ought--that is, for the very little
children; but when they have gotten beyond the days of rhymes and
jingles and colored pictures, and have wit enough and appreciation
enough to enjoy a chaptered story, then I, for one, think the stories
should be true to life. To be sure, the charm of such delightful and
purely impossible tales as “Alice in Wonderland” and “Water Babies” lies
in the fact that they do not pretend to be true to anything in the world
save the enchanting-caprice of the people who write them; but when one
comes to place a story in a real time, and put real people in it, then
it is bound to be true to the real things.

Then one certainly does not need to be, say, more than seven years old
to get at least an inkling of the truth, that the real things of life
are not always bright things. But there is no use of dwelling at too
great length upon these same sorrowful experiences, and so for that
reason we are going to try to make this a short chapter. And now, to
tell you right away what the sad thing was, for fear your lively
imagination should be conjuring up something yet more sad than the
reality, though the reality was sad enough, since it was nothing more
nor less than that, when Captain Hugh Boniface woke on the morning after
the Assembly, he found that he could move neither hand nor foot. The
eager mind worked as actively as ever, but not a muscle would respond to
the great, strong will, and the Captain knew--knew beyond all
hoping--that he was completely paralyzed, and that in all probability,
as far as ever rendering any real service to that blessed little family
of his was concerned, he had better, from that time, be out of the world
than in it.

It is needless to tell you very particularly with what foreboding the
alarming news spread through the little household, nor how breathlessly
they all waited for old Dr. Melville’s verdict as he came from
the Captain’s room a few hours later. Nor of how, in spite of his
encouraging words, that bade them be hopeful, they read that in his kind
old eyes which plainly told them that he felt there was little enough to
ground any real hope upon.

“Yes,” said Dr. Melville, gravely, as Mrs. Boniface followed him to
the door, at the close of one of his professional visits, “I feared
something of this sort might be in store for the Captain. He has been
into my office several times complaining of certain wretched benumbing
feelings that we doctors dread to hear acknowledged. But it’s not
strange, Mrs. Boniface, not strange at all; he’s been through enough
to break down the strongest constitution. There was a sight of mischief
already done when they brought him home from Lexington in ‘75, and then
all these years of worry and excitement have not helped matters.”

“But, doctor,” said Mrs. Boniface, nerving herself to ask the question,
“do you think he will never be any better?”

“I doubt if he ever walks again, Mrs. Boniface.”

“Do you mean, Dr. Melville, that it is your opinion that he never _will_
walk again. You must be very frank with me, else I cannot tell how to
plan for the future.”

“Well, then, since you are a brave woman, and I know you mean what you
say, I will give you my honest opinion, which is this: that your good
Captain will probably, at least in a degree, regain the use of his hands
and arms, but never, I fear, of his lower limbs.”

It was not easy for Mrs. Boniface to hear her fears put thus plainly
into words, but it was best, she felt sure, that she should know the
worst.

Meantime the days dragged wearily along for Captain Boniface, and yet
brought with them one glorious revelation. Never before had he known
quite so fully what an all-powerful love there was in his heart for that
dear wife of his. It was a privilege simply to be able to watch her as
she moved so quietly about the room, and to listen to the sweet familiar
voice; and was it not abundant cause for thankfulness that he was still
in the same world with her, though no longer able to move about in it.
But what were they going to do? That, of course, was the thought that
gave him greatest anxiety. The sum of money in the bank had been growing
more and more slender with every year of diminished income, until now
there was scarce enough left to tide them over more than another twelve
months, and then only with the strictest economy. But the good Captain
did not have to meet this dread question alone, and in the twilight of
a November afternoon he had talked it all over with his wife, and as
the result of that long, quiet talk they had decided that Mrs. Boniface
should write for aid to her father, a clergyman, living alone in a
little ivy-grown rectory in the South of England. But it was not easy to
come to this decision. They hesitated to intrude their heavy anxieties
upon the good old man, whose own income was by no means ample. But there
was simply no one else to whom they could turn, and they knew he would
gladly give them any help within his power.

“And now, Hugh, there is nothing for us to do but to wait till the
answer to my letter comes, and do let us try not to worry,” said
Mrs. Boniface when the long talk was over, and they did try, and they
succeeded, and right in the face of the heaviest trial they had ever
known there was peace and even an added sweetness in the Boniface home
life. The new trouble knit all hearts closer together; they realized
more keenly than ever before how much it was just to have each other,
and they cared far less than such a little while ago they would have
thought possible for the insults of people who, after all, had been
friends only in name. But half the secret of the bravery of the little
household lay in the fact that the Captain himself was so brave; but
often, of course, his courage was strongly tested; seldom more strongly
than when little Kate would come running to the side of his bed, and he
felt himself powerless to lift her to a seat beside him or to romp with
her as he used to love to do.

One afternoon, when he was alone in the room, he heard the patter of her
little feet on the stairway. He could count each step, for, after the
necessarily slow fashion of very little walkers, she had need to plant
both feet on one step before attempting another. But at last the patient
little climber was where she wanted to be, and said, without stopping to
think, “Lift me up, papa, please.”

“Ah! Kate, you always forget papa can’t do that,” and the Captain’s eyes
grew misty.

“Oh, yes, I did fordet,” Kate answered, with a world of regret in her
tone; and then she laid her chubby head on her father’s arm and tenderly
stroked the great brown hand as though she loved him more than ever now,
and for the very reason that he was so helpless.

“Kate,” said her father, when he felt sure that he could speak and yet
keep his voice steady, “you are such a darling, Kate.”

“Mamma said that a little while ago,” answered her little ladyship
calmly, “and Josephine said it yesterday twice, and then Hazel said
something like it too. I _dess_ I was never quite so nice as lately.”

“I guess you were never quite such a comfort,” smiled the Captain. “But
then you must not grow too set up about it.”

Kate did not pay much attention to this last remark; she had decided on
a little plan, and was putting it into execution. She pushed a chair to
the side of the bed and mounted, by aid of its round, to its seat; from
there it was an easy climb to the bed; and then, shoving the chair away
with a push of her little foot, she turned to her father with a sigh of
honest satisfaction, such as no mere “lifting up” could possibly have
occasioned.

[Illustration: 0173]

Evidently she had come to stay, the blessed little sunbeam, and
straightway the Captain began to rack his brain for the story that he
knew well enough in a moment would be asked for, and for the sort that
would be likely to keep her attention longest. No one could tell so good
a story as the Captain, and no one could tell it as well--at least, that
was the verdict of Starlight and Flutters, of Hazel and the Marberrys,
and a few other little folk who now and then had the pleasure of hearing
him. Little Kate was delighted with the fact that she was to be favored
with “the first story since papa fell ill,” and, I fear, took a little
selfish delight in the fact that she was the only listener. As for the
story, it proved a fine one, with some very queer little people in
it, who did most outlandish things, and Kate sat entranced till it was
finished, and then, laying her head down on her father’s shoulder, “just
to think it over,” fell fast asleep instead, and did not waken, even
when the Captain, hearing Josephine’s step in the hall, called her in
to throw something over her. And then, after a while, what with Kate’s
regular breathing as she lay on his helpless arm, and what with the
light in the room growing dim and yet more dim as the glow faded out
of the sunset, the Captain fell asleep too, and all was so tranquil and
peaceful that it seems almost as though we had made a mistake in calling
this “A Sad Little Chapter.”



CHAPTER XX--FLUTTERS COMES TO A DECISION


[Illustration: 9175]

LUTTERS had something on his mind, and this in addition to all the cares
and anxieties of the Bonifaces, which he took upon himself every whit as
fully as though he actually belonged to the family. But the something
in question was a little private affair of his own, an affair, however,
that insisted upon filling most of his waking thoughts, and finally,
after looking at it in every possible light, he arrived at a decision.

When a person has been thinking about a matter and turning it over and
over in his mind, a decision is a glorious thing to come to. It is
such a relief, after standing helpless in a perfect maze of doubt and
hesitation, to find a straight path opening up before you. At any rate,
Flutters’s sensations were quite of that order, as late one afternoon he
went to Mrs. Boniface and asked if she could spare him to go into town
for a few hours.

“Certainly, Flutters,” if it is necessary for it was the first time
Flutters had made a request like that, and she wondered what the little
fellow was up to.

Flutters seemed to read her thoughts and answered, “It is necessary,
Mrs. Boniface, but I would rather not tell you what I want to go for, if
you are willing to trust me.”

“Certainly, I’ll trust you, Flutters,” was the answer that made his
heart glad; for it is such a fine thing to be thoroughly trusted, and
the haste with which he donned his coat and hurried from the house
showed that, at least in his estimation, the something to be done was as
important as necessary.

Along the frosty road, in the November twilight, the little fellow
trudged at a brisk pace, now and then breaking into a full run, as
though in his eagerness he could not brook the delay of sober walking.
White, fleecy clouds were scudding across the sky, as though making
way for the moon which shone out whenever they would let her, and whose
silvery beams were following so closely in the wake of the daylight as
to create one earth night in which, as in Heaven above, there was to be
no darkness at all.

But Flutters, like many another preoccupied fellow-mortal, saw naught
of its beauty, only noting his surroundings sufficiently to take the
straightest road to his destination.

Finally, he brought up at the barracks of Company F at Fort George,
which company, as you remember, we learned from Mrs. Rainsford, was no
longer quartered at the Avery homestead.

“Is Sergeant Bellows here?” Flutters asked, breathlessly, of one of the
first men he met.

“He be,” answered the man, with provoking slowness, “but I doubt if
he’ll see ye the night, he turned in early with a headache.” Flutters
looked crestfallen. “You sail for England day after to-morrow, don’t
you?” >

“We do that,” answered the man, “and it’s with pleasure we’ll be after
shaking the dust of the place off us.”

“But I must see Sergeant Bellows before he goes,” said Flutters,
pathetically. “Do you think he’d mind if I disturbed him just for a
minute?”

“Maybe not,” said the man, “the Sergeant’s that good-natured. You’ll
find him in bunk No. 6, in the front room above-stairs.”

So Flutters climbed the stairs and entered the great cheerless room,
with its row of uncomfortable-looking bunks lining the wall. A candle
was burning in a tin candlestick at one end of the room. Flutters went
on tip-toe and brought it so as to inspect the numbers of the bunks, and
make no mistake, for he could see that two or three other men had also
“turned in.”

“‘Who’s there?’ asked Sergeant Bellows.”

No. 6 was half-way down the room. “Sergeant Bellows,” said Flutters, in
a penetrating whisper, screening the candle flame with his hand, so that
it should not shine in the Sergeant’s face.

[Illustration: 0177]

“Who’s there?” asked Sergeant Bellows, raising himself on one elbow and
bewildered at the sight of his unexpected visitor.

“It’s only me, Flutters, and I hope your headache isn’t very bad, ‘cause
I wouldn’t have disturbed you for the world, only I almost had to.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” said the Sergeant, kindly, “but it’ll take me
a moment to get my wits to working, although I wasn’t rightly asleep
either. Here, set the candle on the shelf, and run get that stool yonder
for yourself.”

Flutters felt relieved thus to have the Sergeant take in the situation
at a glance, and realize that he had come with a purpose.

“I was coming up to Kings Bridge to-morrow to say good-bye,” the
Sergeant said, rather sadly, when Flutters had seated himself beside the
bed. “How are they up there?”

“Why, they’re not well at all--that is, you know, don’t you, about the
Captain’s being paralyzed all over?”

“No, by gracious! paralyzed! Do you mean he can’t move hand nor foot?”

Flutters sorrowfully shook his head yes, as though words failed him.

“You don’t mean it,” said the Sergeant, sorrowfully; “but tell me all
about it,” and then Flutters told him everything about the Bonifaces
that he thought could by any possibility be of any interest to him, till
at last he felt justified in introducing his own little matter.

“But what I came to see about was this--”

“Oh, to be sure,” said the Sergeant. “I had almost forgotten to wonder
what brought you here.”

“Well,” said Flutters, solemnly, “I have a great favor to ask of you,
Sergeant.”

“You’re not giving me much time to do it, then,” said the Sergeant,
“seeing as every British soldier quits the city day after to-morrow.”

“That’s the reason I came,” answered Flutters, excitedly, “it’s in
England that I want the favor done.”

“Why, what have you to do with England, I’d like to know?” with evident
astonishment.

“Why, England was my home,” Flutters answered, rather proudly; “don’t
you know I belonged to an English circus?”

“Why, so you did; I’d forgotten about that.” And then there was a little
pause, while the Sergeant waited for further developments, and while
Flutters was meditating how he had best put his case.

“I once heard you say, Sergeant, that your old home was somewhere in
Cheshire, and that’s where my father lives. His name is Wainright.”

“Then your name is Wainright, too,” said the Sergeant; “Flutters
Wainright, eh?”

“No, Arthur Wainright’s my name. Flutters is a name they gave me in the
circus, because I used to be so scared when I first began to have a hand
in the tumbling.”

“But look here,” said the Sergeant, in rather gruff, soldier-like
fashion, “if you’ve a father and he’s living, why aren’t you living with
him ‘stead of being away over here among strangers? Ye’re not a runaway,
are ye, Flutters?”

“Yes, I am,” said Flutters, scanning the Sergeant’s face closely to
watch the effect of his confession. “I had to do it, Sergeant. I was in
the way at home. My mother was a colored lady, but she died in India,
and then my father took me to England and married a white lady, and
there were some white children and I wasn’t wanted. They used to say I
was such a queer, dark little thing.”

“Blest if I blame you, then!” said the Sergeant, whose heart was touched;
“but does your father know you’re in good, kind hands. I suppose he
cared more for you than the rest of ‘em did?”

“Yes,” said Flutters, “and so I felt I ought to let him know, and I
thought perhaps if you didn’t mind, you’d hunt him up when you get over
there, and tell him ‘bout me, and how happy I am, and that I send my
love.”

“But then he might be sending for you to come back. Have you thought of
that, Flutters?”

“Yes, I’ve thought of it, but it isn’t likely, Sergeant. He knows I’m
not wanted there; but anyhow, it seems to me I ought to let him know now
that I’m so well cared for.”

“That’s so,” said the Sergeant, pausing a moment to give the matter due
consideration. “I think you’re right about it, and I’ll hunt your
father up just as soon as I can get my furlough and run down to see my
relatives in Cheshire.”

“Here’s my father’s name and address,” said Flutters, taking a slip of
paper from his pocket, “and when you write to me just direct ‘Flutters,’
care of Captain Boniface. I don’t want them to know about me up there.
I just want them to think of me as an ordinary little darkey, and not
above any sort of work.”

“That’s very good of you,” replied Sergeant Bellows, tucking the
precious little paper under his blue gingham-covered pillow; “not every
boy would be so considerate as to think of that, but then it’s a mighty
nice berth for you, too. I’d give a good deal myself to live with the
Bonifaces.”

“But you are glad to go home, aren’t you?” Flutters asked, with some
surprise.

“No doubt I shall be glad to see old England again, but once I’ve seen
it that’s all I care for. It’s different with most of the men. Some of
them can hardly speak for joy at the thought, and that makes some of
the rest of us who haven’t any homes to go to very wretched with--well
I guess you’ll have to call it not-any-home-sickness. It’s half what is
the matter with me to-day; and Andy there in the next bunk, who lost a
wife and baby years ago in England, he’d a sight rather keep his back
turned on everything that belongs to it. But there’s no help for it.
A soldier had best not have any will of his own, nor any preferences
either, if he knows what’s good for him.”

Flutters did not know what reply to make to all this, though feeling
very sorry for the old Sergeant, and so he began to button his coat
together, and said: “I guess I’d better go now. I hope I haven’t made
your headache any worse, Sergeant?”

“Never you fear. It’s done me good to talk with you, Flutters. It was
more of a heartache than a headache, you know. I had one of those blue
streaks, when a fellow feels he isn’t of any use in the world; but if I
can carry a message from you to your father ‘way across the great ocean,
I must be of a little use still, so I’ll turn over and go to sleep as
a sensible old codger should,” and, suiting the action to the word,
Sergeant Bellows rather unceremoniously “turned over” and pulled the
gray army blanket half over his head.

“Good-night, then,” said Flutters, rising and taking the candle from the
shelf.

“Good-night,” yawned the Sergeant, as though already half asleep. “I’ll
be up to the Captain’s in the morning.”

Flutters set the lighted candle back where he had found it, and then
made his way out as quietly as possible, and the moonbeams and the quiet
once more had the room to themselves; and, unless thoughts were too
active or hearts too heavy, there was no reason why Andy and the
Sergeant should not have dropped off into the soundest of naps, at any
rate, until the rest of the men should turn in an hour or two later,
when there would, no doubt, be noise enough to wake the best of
sleepers.



CHAPTER XXI--SOME OLD FRIENDS COME TO LIGHT


[Illustration: 9182]

T was a comfort to have that matter off his mind, and, whatever might
come of it, he had done the right thing. Such were Flutters’s thoughts,
as with hands plunged deep in his overcoat pockets, he started for home.
To be sure, there was no knowing what might happen. What if his father
should write to Captain Boniface and tell him that he (Flutters) was a
naughty little runaway, and advise him to have nothing more to do with
him? or suppose he should direct to have him sent right back to England,
what would he do? Why, then, he thought he’d simply run away again,
only that would not be an easy thing to do after having been treated so
kindly by the Bonifaces. But, as he had himself told the Sergeant, it
was not at all probable that this would happen; and so, like the logical
little philosopher he was, he decided to think no more about it, and, if
taking the advice of the old hymn, he “gave to the _winds_ his fears,”
 it was no time at all before they were blown far behind him. During the
half hour that he had spent with the Sergeant, a cold northwest blow had
set in, making it far more comfortable for him to bend his head downward
as he ran, and not take the wind full in his face. And this same
northwest wind was playing all sorts of pranks with every pliable thing
it could get hold of. The bare branches of the trees were swaying and
crackling, withered leaves were swirling round in eddies and rustling
loudly, gates were creaking on their rusty hinges, and, just as Flutters
had reached a point in the road where an old hut stood, the blustering
wind caught the only shutter remaining at one of its windows, and
slammed it to with a bang that fairly made him jump. Looking toward the
hut that had been deserted for years, Flutters saw a faint light shining
out through the half of the window that was not screened by the closed
shutter.

“That’s queer,” he thought; “who can be living there?” and then, instead
of running on without giving the matter another thought--as some boys, I
think, would have done--he walked softly in at the gateway that had long
lacked a gate, straight up to the window and peeped in; nor was it mere
curiosity that prompted him to do it either. Flutters knew that no one,
under ordinary circumstances, would be there; nothing short of utter
homelessness would make anybody seek shelter in that wretched place, and
so he felt the matter ought to be investigated, and he was not afraid to
be the one to do it. And what do you suppose he saw through the
broken pane? Something that would have made the tears come into almost
anybody’s eyes, but something that made Flutters’s heart fairly stand
still.

The only furniture of the room was a three-legged stool on which a bit
of candle was spluttering, fastened to the stool by the melting of its
own tallow, and there beside it, on a bundle of straw, lay an old man;
and it took but one glance from Flutters’s astonished eyes to see that
the man was Bobbin, the old circus drudge. In another second he had
pushed the door open and was kneeling at his friend’s side, and stroking
his cold, wrinkled hand.

“Why, who is it?” asked Bobbin, in a cracked, weak voice; “I can’t
rightly see, somehow, but it’s good to know some one has come.”

“Why, it’s me, Bobbin, don’t you know me?” said Flutters, scarcely able
to speak with emotion.

A bright smile lighted up the old man’s face. “Ah! I thought He’d send
somebody. He did send you, didn’t He?”

“No, nobody sent me, Bobbin. I was just going by, and I saw the light,
and I peeped in and then I saw you.”

The old man shook his head, as much as to say that he believed that the
good Father had sent him, nevertheless.

“I’m glad you were the one to come,” he said, presently; “there’s nobody
I’d rather have had than you, Flutters. You were always a kind little
chap to old Bobbin.”

Flutters did not say anything--he couldn’t. He just pressed the wrinkled
hand a little harder as it lay in his.

“You see, Flutters,” said Bobbin, presently, “I think I am going home
to-night, and it was kind of lonely not to have somebody to care for me.
Not that I mind going. I’m not a bit afraid, Flutters. I have done the
best I could with the poor chance I had, and God will forgive the rest;
don’t you think so, Flutters?”

Flutters nodded his head, and then he said in a moment, when he thought
he could control his voice: “But, Bobbin, I do not believe you are going
to die. You need food and fire and clothes to warm you, and I am going
right off to get them for you.”

“Oh, no, please don’t,” pleaded the old man, putting what little
strength he had into his hold on Flutters’s hand. “I don’t want food
nor anything. I just want to go, and it won’t be long. Promise me you’ll
stay till morning, Flutters.”

There was no gainsaying the entreaty in Bobbin’s voice, and so Flutters
said: “I promise you, Bobbin;” and, with a gratified sigh the old man
turned on his side and soon fell asleep. After a while, when Flutters
dared to move a little, he piled the loose straw that lay about him as
closely as possible over Bobbin, and finally decided to dispense with
his own warm coat, for the sake of stuffing it in the hole of the little
paneless window through which the wind was keenly blowing.

Then, after another hour of motionless watching, during which Bobbin
still lay sleeping as quietly as a child, it occurred to Flutters to try
and make a fire in the blackened fireplace. Some old bits of board were
lying in one corner of the room, and, piling them on the hearth, he
easily succeeded in kindling them with a bundle of straw lighted at
the candle. At first he was afraid that the crackling of the wood would
waken the old man; but, undisturbed, he slept quietly on as though his
mind was perfectly at rest, now that Flutters had come to care for him.

“I do not believe he is going to die,” thought Flutters, after he had
again sat motionless for a long time, and then he crept close on hands
and knees to look into his face, and to listen if he was breathing quite
regularly; and there, bending over him, what did he see but something
that made his heart bound for joy, though it was nothing but the corner
of a little book showing itself above the ragged edge of one of Bobbin’s
pockets. And no wonder he was glad, for he knew in a moment that it was
his own little Prayer-Book.

[Illustration: 0185]

At first he thought he ought not to touch it for fear of waking

Bobbin, but how could he help it, and so, as gently as possible, he drew
it out from its hiding-place, and crept back to the candle. I suppose
we can hardly imagine what the finding of this old friend meant to
Flutters. There was his own name on the fly-leaf, in his mother’s
writing, together with the date of his birth. Here was the proof, if he
ever cared to use it, that he had once known a mother’s love, and that
was a deal more than some of the world’s waifs could lay claim to, and
besides, he loved the book for its own sake, for the beautiful words and
thoughts that were in it. And to think Bobbin had kept it safe for him
all these weeks; Flutters began to think that perhaps the Lord had sent
him to Bobbin after all. And so he fell to wondering, as many an older
head full often wonders, as to how much mere chance has to do with the
happenings of this world, and how much the careful guiding of a Heavenly
Father; but that the Father above has a great deal to do therewith is no
longer a question in the minds of many of us.

Meantime it was growing very late, for the clock on the town-hall was
on the verge of striking twelve, and the moon was high over head. But
Bobbin still slept on, and Flutters dared not leave him. What would Mrs.
Boniface think, and how disappointed she would be to find that he was
not to be trusted; but there was his promise to Bobbin, and he could
not go, so he did the next best thing, he lay down by his side under
the protection of the friendly straw and himself fell asleep, while the
red-hot embers in the fireplace glowed and crackled as though anxious to
make the place as comfortable as possible.

Bobbin did not die that night; he woke with the first ray of sunlight
that reached the hovel, but he found his faithful little watcher awake
before him. Flutters thought he looked surprised, and perhaps a little
disappointed, to find his eyes opening again in this world; at any rate
he sighed a little wearily as he seemed slowly to realize where he was,
then he looked up to Flutters’s face and said, with a grateful smile, “I
knew you would keep your promise. I knew you would not leave me.”

“But you will let me go _now_, Bobbin, won’t you?” said Flutters, with a
world of entreaty in his voice, and wondering what he would do if Bobbin
still proved obdurate; “you see I haven’t lived so very long with the
Bonifaces, and they’ll think I’ve run away, and be sorry they ever
trusted me. I’ll make up the fire before I go, and I’ll be back soon
and bring you something to eat and something perhaps to make you more
comfortable.”

“Yes,” said the old man, after what seemed to Flutters a long pause,
“I’ll let you go, but not for long, mind that, Flutters; ‘cause now
that I can’t do a thing for myself, I believe the Lord says, ‘Flutters,
you’re to take care of old Bobbin till the time comes for me to take him
away and care for him myself.’”

“I believe so, too,” answered Flutters, pushing the thin, gray hair back
from the old man’s forehead, and trying to make him look a little less
unkempt and neglected, “and never you fear but I’ll do it, Bobbin.”

Then in a moment Flutters was gone, fairly flying home along the
road, and when he reached the house not stopping so much as to say
good-morning to old Dinah, who was opening the kitchen windows, and
started back as though she had seen a ghost; but straight past her, and
straight up to Captain Boniface’s room. Mrs. Boniface slept on a little
cot in the corner of the room nearest the door, and Flutters thought,
and, as it proved, thought rightly, that he could give a gentle knock,
and waken her without disturbing the Captain.

“Who is there?” asked a sweet, low voice, a voice whose every intonation
Flutters had grown to love.

“It’s only me--Flutters,” came the ungrammatical whisper, “but I wanted
you to know that I’m home all right. Nothing happened to me, but I came
across an old friend of mine, and I had to stop and take care of him.”

“Wait a moment, dear,” Mrs. Boniface answered, not caring in the least
that it was by no means customary to address little mulatto servant-boys
in that familiar fashion. Like dear old Janet, in McDonald’s beautiful
story, Mrs. Boniface was “one of _God’s_ mothers,” with a mother-love
broad enough and deep enough to shelter every little creature who, like
Flutters, needed and longed for the protection of a brooding wing.

Flutters sat down on the wood-box in the hall and waited, and in a
moment Mrs. Boniface in her soft, blue wrapper, was seated beside him
and he was outpouring with breathless eagerness the night’s experiences,
winding up, when all was told, with, “and I promised to go back as soon
as ever I could.”

And Flutters did go back as soon as he could, and Josephine and Hazel
went with him; and food and clothing, and blankets and towels went too,
and a dozen other things, such as any one would know would add greatly
to the comfort of a sick old man who had lain down, as he thought, to
die, in an empty and wretched dwelling. Later in the day, when some of
the nearer neighbors had heard Bobbin’s sad story, they were anxious,
too, to do something for him, and before nightfall you would hardly have
known the poor little shanty. One of them had sent a cot, and Bobbin had
been lifted on to it; another, two or three chairs, one of which was a
comfortable old rocker, and a third a table and some necessary cooking
utensils. Indeed, Bobbin’s story, as he narrated it to the little group
gathered around him that morning after Flutters had found him, was sad
enough to touch anybody’s heart.

“I kept on with the troupe,” he told them, “till we got almost to
Albany, but I was getting weaker almost every day, and I missed Flutters
dreadfully. I never knew till the boy was gone how much hard work he
had saved me in one way and another. So at last, and just as I knowed it
would be, the manager came to me one day and said, ‘We ain’t got no use
for you any more, Bobbin. Ye can stay behind when we move on to-night.’
An’ I just looked him the eye an’ said: ‘All right, sir; but I’m
wondering if you’ll not be left behind when the Lord’s own troupe moves
on to the many mansions.’ I knowed I ought not to have spoke like that,
but there isn’t a harder heart in the world than his, and that’s the
truth.”

“And what did you do then, Bobbin?” Josephine asked, as she sat beside
him with tears of indignation standing in her eyes.

“Why, right away I began to make my way back to Flutters; somehow I knew
I should find him, only when I crawled into this hut last night after
three weeks of being on the road, I thought it might not happen in this
world.”

And so it came about that Bobbin was made perfectly comfortable in
the old shanty, for in those days there were no well-ordered Homes and
Hospitals, for sick and homeless people, and Flutters, greatly to
his heart’s delight, was established as attendant-in-chief to his old
friend.



CHAPTER XXII--GOOD-BYE SIR GUY


[Illustration: 9189]

LEAR and cool dawned the twenty-fifth of November, and, joy to the heart
of every Whig, before nightfall not a member of the King’s army would
be left on American soil. Never, I ween, had the break of any day in New
York found so large a number of its inhabitants awake to greet it. Too
excited to sleep, with the thought of going home, were scores of English
soldiers, and too excited to sleep, at the thought that they were soon
to be rid of them, was well-nigh every loyal Whig throughout the length
and breadth of the city. So, at a remarkably early hour there was an
unwonted stir everywhere, and it seemed as though the very horses and
cattle in their stalls must have divined that something remarkable was
in the wind. But this great day of consummation had not arrived without
weeks and months of active preparation.

Affairs in New York had been sadly mismanaged, and the arrival of Sir
Guy Carleton, in the spring of 1782, had proved a precious boon, alike
to Whig and Tory, and during the seventeen months intervening between
his arrival and the evacuation, of the city, on this same twenty-fifth
day of November, 1783, Sir Guy had had his hands full. One of the
heaviest labors he had had to perform was the transporting of twelve
thousand Loyalists from all parts of the colonies, to Nova Scotia, the
Bahamas and Great Britain, for New York was not the only place where the
offending Tories were made to feel, and very pointedly, too, that their
room was considered vastly better than their company.

But finally all was ready, the “Royal Order” to evacuate had arrived
some two months before, and as soon as possible Sir Guy had named the
day for departure. Now at last the day itself had come, and there was
scarce a man, woman or child who had not planned to enter in some
way into its festivities. But up at the Boniface’s there was a strong
conflict of feeling in one little Tory breast. Hazel was naturally in
a “perfect state,” as girls say nowadays. It was most improper that
she, an indignant little Loyalist, should be a witness to all that day’s
jubilation, and _yet_ Starlight and Flutters and the Marberrys were
going over to Bowery Lane to see the American troops march in from
Harlem, and then into the city to see the English troops embark from
Fort George, and were going to make a fine long day of it, and, after
all, what good would it do anybody if she stayed at home? So it happened
that Hazel’s love of military bands and streamers and all sorts of
public demonstration got the better even of her Tory principles, and
after much urging on the part of the Marberrys (which she had felt from
the first could be relied upon), she yielded, and Mrs. Boniface prepared
a luncheon for _five_, instead of “just for four,” as Hazel had that
morning directed. But none of the little party setting forth looked
forward to the day’s pleasure with quite so keen a relish as Flutters.
He still remained quite neutral, not finding it easy, owing to his
peculiar circumstances, to side either with Whig or Tory. So it did not
matter much to him who were going or who were coming, the one dominant
thought in his boyish heart simply being, that he was off for a day’s
fun, of which he had not had a great deal lately. For the last week he
had been in constant attendance on old Bobbin, and before that there
had been such very sad hearts in the Boniface household, owing to the
Captain’s illness. But for to-day Josephine had volunteered to care for
Bobbin, and Bobbin himself had consented to spare Flutters, and so,
free in every sense to give himself up to whatever enjoyment offered,
Flutters was ready for “a lark.” And in just this very sort of thing,
you boys and girls, who are like Flutters, set us older hoys and girls
an example, for boys and girls we are, all of us, in a way, so long as
we keep a vestige of naturalness about us. Real sorrows may weigh down
a child’s spirit, and real trials beset him, but, give him the chance,
even for an hour, to forget the sorrow and the trial, and he forgets it;
and when God puts just such opportunities into all our lives, is it not
for this very purpose of helping us to forget for a while?

Mrs. Boniface watched the five little friends file down the pathway,
Flutters bringing up the rear with the capacious lunch-basket, and was
thankful that there were pleasures, even in such unfavorable times,
which children might enter into; and then, perhaps with thoughts akin to
those we have been writing, about forgetting trouble, she turned with a
bright smile to the Captain, and proposed that they should try and have
a happy day too, unmindful of what was going on down in the city, and
thankful for the serenity of their home, still left unmolested. And so
Dinah was directed to prepare a favorite dish of the Captain’s, and the
Captain’s favorite books were brought out, and Mrs. Boniface, resolutely
putting aside every household claim, read aloud for two hours at a
sitting, and then little Kate came in for a romp and had it, and at
one o’clock Dinah brought in luncheon for all three on a great japanned
tray, and they had a very cosey time eating it together. Who would have
thought, to have looked in upon them, that Evacuation Day was, in point
of fact, a very sorry day for the Boniface’s?

Meantime the children gained the Bowery Road, mounted a rail fence in
a row, like a flock of sparrows, and, with full as much chatter, waited
for the coming of the troops.

[Illustration: 0192]

It seemed strange enough to everybody to think that the entire British
Army, which had been scattered broadcast throughout the vicinity for so
many years, was now congregated down in the city, and that before
many hours there would not be a trace of it left. Hazel had certain
apprehensions that it was going to seem very lonely without them, and
when a small detachment of English soldiers marched past (the last of
a company that had been quartered at Kings Bridge) and cheerily called
out, “Good-bye, Whiggies,” to the children, as they sat on the fence,
her heart entirely misgave her. Was it really loyal for her to be abroad
on a day of such rejoicing, and how insulting to be called a “Whiggie,”
 when she was every whit as strong a Tory as the soldiers themselves. But
just then the inspiring strains of an approaching band reached her, and
the misgivings took to themselves wings. Nearer and nearer came the
music, and soon Starlight recognized General Knox in command of two
companies of American soldiers. They were marching into the city in
compliance with a request of Sir Guy Carleton’s, so as to be on hand in
case of any disorder among the Whigs while the English were embarking.
Now as soon as these American troops should have gotten out of the way,
the Marberrys had planned a little surprise for the rest of the party,
which they knew would prove a great addition to the day’s pleasure. So,
just as the children had begun to scramble down from the fence, with the
intention of getting into the city as best they could, up drove old
Jake, the Marberrys’ coachman, with a farm wagon piled high with straw.
“Whoa! whoa, da!” called Jake to the Rector’s old black horse, and then,
bowing and smiling, he said, importantly, “At your sarvice for
Evacuation Day, chilluns.”

Of course Hazel and Starlight and Flutters were delighted at this
undreamed-of luxury, of being driven about all day, from one point of
interest to another, and before they climbed into the wagon Hazel gave
vent to her appreciation by giving both Milly and Tilly such a hug as
sent the color flushing gratefully into the cheeks of those amiable
little sisters.

For once in his life old Jake was in a thoroughly good humor, but it is
extremely doubtful if anything short of all the pleasurable sensations
of Evacuation Day could have brought about that delightful state of
affairs. As for the children they were quite ready to do anything in the
world for Jake, out of sheer gratitude for his kindly mood, a state of
affairs, by the way, which should have made that old party feel very
much ashamed of himself. To think that it should be such an unusual
thing for a man to be kind, as to make even children open their eyes for
wonder.

It is impossible fully to describe all the varied enjoyment that that
day held for the little party, although from the nature of things it was
hardly to be expected that Hazel was able to get as much pleasure out
of it as the others. Down into the city they went in the wake of General
Knox’s men, who came to a halt at the Collect, and then passing them,
Jake took his stand at a point near Fort George, from which the children
could watch the English soldiers file down into the barges and push off
for the vessels lying at anchor in the Bay.

“There comes Company F,” Starlight at last exclaimed, and in a moment
the children tumbled out of the wagon, much to old Jake’s astonishment,
and in another moment were crowding round Sergeant Bellows, as he stood
waiting his turn to step into the boat.

The Sergeant had been up to the Boniface’s for a more formal
leave-taking the day before, but the children had promised to be on hand
at the moment of departure, if they could in any wise manage it, and
the Sergeant’s face showed his delight, when he spied them come bounding
toward him.

There were tears in Hazel’s eyes as the boat veered off from the dock,
and tears in the Marberrys’ eyes out of sympathy for Hazel, but of
course the boys pretended they saw nothing whatever to feel sorry about.
In the excitement, however, Flutters called out in a very significant
tone, “Don’t you forget, Sergeant,” and the Sergeant replied in rather a
husky voice, “Never you fear, my boy!”

“Forget what?” questioned Hazel, feeling somehow that a little
body-servant ought scarcely to have any private matters on hand. And
then Flutters, realizing how foolish he had been to make public his
affairs in that fashion, felt constrained to answer, “Oh, nothing,” to
Hazel’s question, which disrespect on his part offended the dignity of
his little mistress, and caused her to treat him with much coolness for
the space of the next two minutes, at the end of which, however, she
resumed her wonted manner, having forgotten by that time any reason for
acting otherwise.

Company F had come about mid-way in the order of embarking, and as
it neared one o’clock, the extreme rear guard began to file into the
barges, while the American troops moved silently forward and took
possession of the Fort, and then it was that General Knox, with a chosen
few, galloped back to meet and escort General Washington and Governor
Clinton into the city. For old Jake’s party this in-between time seemed
to offer the most favorable opportunity for luncheon, and with appetites
keenly whetted by their long morning in the open air, the children “fell
to,” and as soon as Jake had tied a bag of oats over black Jennie’s
head, he took his seat at the back of the wagon, and was himself regaled
with a much larger portion of the Boniface luncheon than he in any wise
deserved. If a body chances to be very hungry, and at the same time
so fortunate as to have the wherewithal to satisfy that hunger, it is
astonishing how absorbing the process of eating may become, and so
I doubt if, for a while, the thoughts of the little company in the
Rector’s wagon, rose above the level of the biscuits they were enjoying
or were otherwise occupied than with the great acceptableness of
cookies, apple jelly, and some other inviting edibles; and yet, only
think! this was the 25th of November, 1783. Out there beyond them on
the broad sunshine of the Bay, the last of the English Army were turning
their backs upon America, and above them toward Harlem, a large company
of loyal Americans were joyfully forming into rank and file to take
public possession of the city so dearly loved, and that had been for
years under English rule. Yes, American history was making very fast
during that eventful November noontide, and yet so imperative are the
demands of poor human nature, that even such a thorough-going little
Whig as Starlight became for the time being so deeply absorbed in bread
and cheese as to grow unmindful of exultant Whigs and departing Tories.

But after the luncheon was all disposed of, save a few crumbs thrown
over the wagon side to a stray dog, who had long been beseechingly
eying the children, their minds at once reverted to matters of general
importance, and it was decided to drive back to some point on Broadway
from which they could watch the procession, and Jennie was urged into a
clumsy canter by way of making up for lost time. As it was they had some
difficulty in gaining even a fair position on the line of march, and
secured that none too soon, for the sound of music in the distance was
growing more and more distinct, and in another second the head of the
procession came into view. And what a procession it proved! although
there was no show of military pomp or glory. That was quite impossible,
since the greater part of the American Army had already been disbanded,
and those that were left to participate in the day’s jubilation owned
nothing better than shabby uniforms which had seen hard service, and
in many cases even these poor remnants had need to be supplemented with
coats or trousers of most unmilitary aspect.

[Illustration: 0196]

But, notwithstanding all this, it was a grand procession. General
Washington and Governor Clinton on horseback, followed by their suites,
were at its head; then came the Lieutenant Governor and the members of
the Legislature; following them, the officers of the army, and a
large body of prominent citizens, and lastly the military, whose very
shabbiness, because of its significance, served but to add to the
interest they excited.

The sun was setting behind the New Jersey hills before the procession
was truly over, and then, as there was nothing more to be seen, and
they were thoroughly weary besides, the children assented to Jake’s
proposition to turn Jennie’s head homeward. When they neared the
vicinity of old Bobbin’s shanty, Flutters crept to the back of the wagon
prepared to drop at the right moment.

“Where’s Flutters going?” asked the Marberrys.

“Oh, he has to take care of old Bobbin, now,” Hazel explained with a
sigh; “but you ‘can’t imagine how inconvenient it is for me,” for her
ladyship had taken very kindly to this having a willing little servant
at her beck and call. Rather too kindly, Mrs. Boniface thought, and she
was not sorry to have Flutters’s time so fully-occupied as to leave none
of it at Hazel’s disposal. Soon after Flutters’s departure the little
party relaxed into silence, talked out and tired out, and as Jake showed
some signs, now that the excitement of the day was over, of resuming his
wonted surliness, Starlight and Hazel were not the least sorry when old
Jennie, in the perfect stillness of the early November twilight, came to
a standstill at the Boniface gate.



CHAPTER XXIII--FLUTTERS LOSES ONE OF THE OLD FRIENDS


[Illustration: 9198]

OSEPPIINE had stood in the doorway of the little cottage half a dozen
times within the last hour peering anxiously down the road in search of
Flutters, and now that she discovered him coming cross-cut through the
meadow near which he had left the wagon, no one could have told how
relieved she felt.

“Oh, Flutters, I’m so glad you’ve come!” she called softly, as soon as
he came within speaking distance, and then immediately turned back into
the room. Flutters followed her on tip-toe, for she had motioned him to
come in quietly. “What is the matter?” he asked, going close to Bobbin’s
cot.

“Oh, I don t know,” Josephine whispered, with tears of anxious sympathy
filling her gray eyes; “we had had a lovely talk together, and then he
asked me to read out of a book, your Prayer-Book, he said it was, and so
I read ever so many psalms from the Psalter, till suddenly looking up I
saw that he was in great pain, and when I spoke to him he seemed neither
to see nor hear me. In a little while the pain passed over, and ever
since he has lain there so still that I have had to put my ear down very
close to make sure that he was breathing.”

“Dear old Bobbin,” said Flutters, stroking the thin gray hair. The
well-known voice, or perhaps the gentle touch, seemed to rouse him, for
he slowly opened his eyes and seeing Flutters, smiled.

“You’ll not try to keep me this time,” he said slowly, looking up
at Flutters beseechingly, but in a voice too low and weak for even
Josephine to hear.

“He said not to try to keep him this time,” Flutters explained, “but
don’t you think I ought to go right away for a doctor?”

Bobbin moved his head entreatingly from side to side, so Josephine said:
“Well, perhaps not yet, Flutters, he seems so much more comfortable
now,” whereupon Bobbin looked the thanks he felt. After a while, when he
had once again mustered strength, he said: “Flutters, the little book.”

Flutters, knowing well enough what he meant, took the Prayer-Book which
had been soon restored to Bobbin after that night when he had
first joyfully discovered it, and turning to the selections for the
twenty-fifth day of the month began to read. Josephine drew a chair to
the fireplace and sat listening, with her hands folded in her lap, while
Bobbin never took his eyes from Flutters’s face, as he sat close beside
him so that he might hear distinctly.

The little hut looked very cheery and cosey, converted as it had been
into such a comfortable shelter, more comfortable indeed than Bobbin had
ever known, and at a time, too, when a warm room and a quiet one meant
more to him than it could have meant at anytime in all his life before.
But the light in the room was momentarily growing more and more dim, and
Flutters had to hold the book high in his hand toward the little window
in order to see at all. Gradually Bobbin’s tired eyes closed, and the
last words that fell on his ears were these: “My soul has longed for
Thy salvation and I have a good hope because of Thy Word. Mine eyes
long sore for Thy Word, saying, Oh, when wilt Thou comfort me?” Flutters
finished the selection and looked up. “Miss Josephine!” was all he
found words to say, but both of them knew in a moment that in very
truth “Evacuation Day” had come for Bobbin too, evacuation from all the
sorrows of a long, hard life.

“I am not sorry,” said Josephine, looking down on the calm face from
which all the care seemed at once to have vanished.

“Nor I,” said Flutters, “but he was such a good friend to me when no one
else cared,” and then, unable to keep the tears back, he laid his arm on
Bobbin’s bed, and burying his face upon it, cried bitterly.

There was something sacred about this deep sense of personal loss that
was finding vent in Flutters’s hot tears, and for a while Josephine
hesitated to intrude upon it. She moved quietly about the room setting
its few little articles to rights, and then when there was nothing else
to be done, and Flutters had gotten himself somewhat in hand, she sat
down by his side.

“What do you know about Bobbin’s history, Flutters?” she asked.

“Not much,” trying to master the emotion that made it difficult to speak;
“he never liked to talk about himself, but he told me once he had
always been sort of alone ever since he could remember, and that he
hadn’t a relative in the world.”

Two days afterward, Bobbin was laid away in a corner of the little
cemetery surrounding St. George’s Church, Mr. Marberry having gained the
consent of the Vestry to have him buried there. Mr. Marberry read the
service from Flutters’s own Prayer-Book, and about the grave of the old
man whose life had been so lonely, gathered at the last a little company
of loving friends. It seemed to Flutters as if, with Bobbin’s death,
the chapter of his life that had to do with the wretched circus had been
forever closed, but, oh, how thankful he was to have been able to make
so calm and peaceful the last days of the only friend it had ever given
him. Once again the road-side cottage was dismantled of everything
that made it homelike, and as the bleak wintry winds whistled round and
through it, who would have thought that such a little while ago an old
man had been comfortably housed there, and that it was only now left
tenantless, because its occupant no longer had need of any earthly
shelter.



CHAPTER XXIV--TWO IMPORTANT LETTERS


[Illustration: 9201]

VACUATION DAY, with all its excitement, was soon followed by that day
well nigh as eventful, when on the Fourth of December General Washington
took final leave of his officers “in the great historic room” at
Fraunces Tavern, a leavetaking that proved a very touching and trying
ordeal both for him and for them. Starlight and Flutters, who had
contrived to be in the forefront of the crowd that looked on, could have
told you how plainly strong emotion was betrayed on the brave General’s
face, as he passed out from the tavern, and down to the barge that was
waiting to convey him to Paulus Hook on his way to Congress.

But after that day, affairs settled down into much quieter channels than
they had known for some time--that is, at any rate as far as the people
with whom we have most to do are concerned. The Van Vleets had asked
Aunt Frances to make her home with them indefinitely, and though still
faintly cherishing the hope that she might have her own home back again
some day, she had accepted their invitation, and opened a little school
among the farmers’ children in the neighborhood. Starlight was one of
her most promising pupils, and so his visits to Kings Bridge were of
necessity less frequent than they used to be. In that matter, Cousin
Harry had a great advantage over him, for having moved to New York in
order to be near his office, what more natural, and, as Harry would
have said, “what more delightful,” than to spend all his evenings at
the Bonifaces? And what a blessing those visits were to them, only they
themselves could have told you. As soon as he arrived he would first
go upstairs and have a talk with the Captain, ransacking his mind for
everything that could by any possibility interest him; then when he had
told the little or much that he had to tell, or saw that he was tiring
him, down he would go to the sitting-room, have a romp with Bonny Kate,
if she had managed to stay up past her bed-time, or possibly a game of
some sort with Hazel and Flutters, but it generally happened that after
a while there was no one left to talk to save Josephine, and of course
you know better than to think that Harry minded that. Josephine had
generally some bit of work in hand, and could not afford to simply laugh
and chat the evening away, with her pretty hands lying idle in her lap,
as perhaps is the case with your older sister, when some friend comes to
call. No, indeed! it was necessary in those days for her to stitch, and
stitch industriously in every available moment, if the Boniface needs
were to be in any wise met; nor did these two young people laugh and
chat very much either--the times were rather too serious for that; not
that they did not have a happy time of it, and sometimes were actually
merry, but, as a rule, they seemed to have something of importance to
quietly talk over.

Meantime the winter came and went, and spring began to be felt in the
air, and an occasional early bird note, or a bunch of pussy willow by
the road-side, bore witness to the fact that it was slowly but surely
coming.

It had seemed a long, long winter to Mrs. Boniface. For many weeks she
had lived the most retired life possible. Few had come to see her, and
there were but one or two friends left whom she cared to go and see.
If it had not been for Harry Avery, they would scarce have had any
communication with the outside world.

There had been no further threats made against Captain Boniface. Even
the most bitter of his enemies would hardly have found it in his heart
to persecute a man who was so hopelessly paralyzed as never to be able
to walk again; but there was something very significant in the fact
that they simply left him alone. None of them in a relenting spirit had
called to inquire how he was, and if any of the old friends, who had
treated him so cruelly that night at the Assembly, ever felt ashamed
of their behavior, they never had the grace to own it. Indeed, it is
terrible to think how that great mastering passion, which we proudly
call patriotism, sometimes seems to smother every noble and natural
impulse.

Soon after the Assembly, in fact that very night, Captain Boniface had
told his wife of the murders in South Carolina, and it seemed to her
then as though every spark of sympathy with the colonies and colonial
interests had that moment died within her. She was by far too noble to
let actual hatred take its place; but she longed with all her heart for
old England, where she had been born, and to turn her back on this new
country which had treated her so harshly. So Mrs. Boniface waited,
with no little anxiety, for the arrival of the long-looked-for letter,
cherishing the fervent hope that her father would send for them all to
come to him, planning thoughtfully all the details of their journey, and
yet never once daring to put her hope into words. It might happen that,
although willing enough to help them, he would not propose to do it by
having her little family sweep down upon him and rob the old rectory of
the quiet it had known so long, and which must be very grateful to
him in his old age. But at last the letter came, and Mrs. Boniface
straightway carried it off to Flutters’s room, and closed the door and
locked it. Her hands trembled as she broke the seal. What were they to
do? that was the question that had anxiously confronted her for several
long, weary months; but always she had simply to postpone any attempt
to answer it, waiting for this letter; and now it was in her hand what
would it tell her?

It proved to be a long, long letter, and she read it slowly through,
word by word; then she buried her face in her hands and cried; but
sometimes people cry for joy and not for sorrow.

Late in the afternoon of the same day, Flutters was grooming

Gladys in the barn, accompanying the process with a queer, buzzing
noise, such as I believe is quite common to grooming the world over.

“Flutters, where are you?” called Hazel, coming into the barn in search
of him.

“Here with Gladys, Miss Hazel.”

“What do you think, Flutters?” and then Hazel climbed up and seated
herself on the edge of Gladys’s trough, before adding:

[Illustration: 0205]

“We are going to England to live with grandpa. Mother says he’s just the
dearest old man, and he’s sent for us all to come. He lives in a lovely
rectory in Cheshire.”

“You don’t mean it, Miss Hazel!” said Flutters, his breath quite taken
away.

“And of course you will go with me, Flutters. Mother says you may.”

“It’s very kind of you to be willing to take me,” Flutters managed to
reply, but at the same time realized that he would do almost anything
rather than go back to England, and to the very same county, too, from
which he had come; and he leaned down, apparently to brush some straw
from one of Gladys’s legs, but really to hide the tears of bitter
disappointment that had sprung unbidden into his eyes. Fortunately,
the ruse succeeded very well, Hazel never dreaming but what he was as
delighted with the news as she herself.

“I can’t tell you how glad I am to go, Flutters, although mother says
we probably never should have gone, if it had not been for father’s
illness. Things are getting so much quieter now that she thinks people
would have let us alone, and father could, perhaps, have found some way
to make a living, because, you see, we haven’t much money left since the
war; but you knew that, Flutters?”

Flutters sort of half nodded yes, seeing that something was expected of
him, but he was not paying close attention to what Hazel was saying.
How could he bear to have them go and leave him alone in America, and
whatever should he do? were the thoughts that were filling his mind. It
seemed as though every hair on Gladys’s back was bristling with the same
sad questions, and then the thought came to him that Gladys herself
would probably be left behind, too, and he laid his hand affectionately
on her prettily arched neck.

“I shall be glad to live in a King’s country,” Hazel resumed, after a
little pause, “and not where everybody’s as good as everybody else, and
where they don’t have princes and princesses, and lovely palaces for
them to live in. But there’s one thing I mean to do as soon as ever
I reach there, and that is, to get presented at Court, and tell King
George how the prisoners were treated on the ‘Jersey,’ He ought to
know about it, and when he does, I just guess those men will get the
punishment they deserve;” and her cheeks glowed with excitement at the
thought of the forthcoming interview. “Flutters, do you know anything
about the South of England--about Cheshire?”

“Yes, something,” answered Flutters, getting a little better command of
himself. “In what part of it does your grandfather live?”

“Feltstone, I think.”

Flutters gave a sigh of relief. Feltstone was several miles from
Burnham, his old home, but it wasn’t worth while to think of that; for
back to England he would not go. To be sure, there was a chance that if
Sergeant Bellows had found his father that he might be sent for; but he
could not bear to face that alternative, and would not till he had
to. And then, wondering if he ever would hear from the Sergeant, he
remembered that he had half-hoped and half-feared that the “Blue Bird,”
 which had brought Mrs. Boniface’s letter, would also bring one for him.

As was to be expected, Hazel chatted on with much volubility about the
numerous arrangements for the coming journey, and how they would all
have to try to make everything as comfortable as possible for her
father. Now and then she felt conscious of a lack of enthusiasm on
Flutters’s part, but the thought was only momentary, and her active
little mind at once travelled off in some new line of delightful
anticipation. All Flutters had to do was occasionally to answer a
question. He thought best not to say anything to Hazel about not going
with them until he should have talked with Mrs. Boniface. Meantime
Gladys’s grooming was completed, and as her pretty mane had been plaited
by Hazel, as she talked, into half a dozen tight braids, she looked
quite as prim and trig as a little old maid on a Sunday.

“Let’s go up to the house, now,” said Hazel; “or, no, I’ll tell you,
let’s go up to the Marberrys and tell them.”

“I can’t go, Miss Hazel; your mother said she had something for me to
do in the house.” Whereupon Hazel pouted a little, thinking it more
fitting, no doubt, that body-servants should obey their mistresses
rather than their mistresses’ mothers, but at the same time seeing that
it was useless for her to contend against the force of circumstances,
which in those days of much to do and few to do it, made Flutters a most
useful member of the household.

“There are the Marberrys, now,” she cried, discovering them coming in at
the gate in their usual two-abreast fashion.

“Flutters,” cried Milly, as they both broke into a little run, “here’s
a letter for you; it came up with our mail by mistake.” Flutters reached
for it eagerly. >

“It’s directed just ‘Flutters,’ care of Captain Boniface,” ventured
Tilly; “that’s queer, isn’t it? Haven’t you any other name, Flutters?”

“Not now,” was Flutters’s rather remarkable answer, and then he ran
back to the barn as if he had forgotten something important, but really,
because, like Mrs. Boniface, he did not want to have any one “round”
 when he read his letter. He chose, too, to take his seat just where
Hazel had been sitting, before he opened it. Gladys looked on with
wide-eyed pony astonishment at this unwonted appropriation of her own
individual stall, but seemed, notwithstanding, to regard the matter
good-naturedly.

If it were feasible to have schools for ponies, and Gladys had had the
benefit thereof, and at the same time no better manners than to have
looked over Flutters’s shoulder, this is what she might have read “just
as easy as anything,” as you children say:

The Bunch of Grapes,

Burnham, Cheshire, England,

February 23d, 1784.

My dear Flutters: As perceived by the heading of this letter, I write
from the inn in your father’s village, to which place I made haste to
journey so soon as I was favored with my furlough. And now, my dear
Flutters, I have sad news to break to you, and for which you must nerve
yourself, like the plucky little fellow that you are. Your good father
is no longer a sojourner in this sad world of ours. He died after a very
short illness, on the third of last September. I went to see his widow,
told her I had some knowledge of you, and that if your father had left
any message I would send it to you. She said she could not remember any,
save that he used sometimes to say that he would like to know if you
were well cared for. She does not seem to have as much heart as most
women, and blest if I blame you much for running off as you did. I think
your father left very little money, as folks say that your stepmother
will have to do something to support herself and her children. Wishing
I had better news to send you, Flutters, and with my dutiful respects to
the dear Bonifaces, I close this letter--the longest I ever wrote in my
life--and I hope never again to be obliged to write such another.

Yours dutifully,

R. A. Bellows.

“Oh, Gladys,” cried Flutters, when he had finished reading, and, leaning
his head against the pony’s head, he sobbed aloud. Such a whirl of
emotion as that letter awoke for Flutters could not be put into words,
and in his imagination he seemed to see his fathers grave and old
Bobbin’s side by side. The Bonifaces were all he had left now, and they,
they were going to leave him; but, no, and a new light seemed to flash
in on his mind--what was there now to hinder his going with them? His
stepmother would never claim him. Indeed, she need never know he was in
England, and so there was a bright side to Flutters’s sorrow, and after
a while he walked quietly out from the barn with the Sergeant’s letter
in his hand, and straight to Mrs. Boniface, whom he found in the
Captain’s room, and then and there he told them all his story, and after
the telling felt he was even nearer and dearer to his new friends than
ever he had been before.

Only Gladys ever knew how intense had been Flutters’s first sorrow on
reading the Sergeant’s letter, but she was such a harum-scarum pony that
probably the memory of it went out of her head full as quickly as the
hairs, wet by Flutters’s tears, dried on her forehead.



CHAPTER XXV.--A HAPPY DAY FOR AUNT FRANCES.


[Illustration: 9209]

OOD news or sorrowful news does not always come to one in the form of a
carefully worded letter, as with Mrs. Boniface and Flutters, nor when,
because a letter of some sort is expected, one is in a way prepared for
it. More often it comes when you are least on the lookout for it, and
when life is running on uneventfully in worn grooves, as though it must
so run on forever.

And in this same unanticipated fashion some very good news came to Aunt
Frances.

It was just at sunset, and she was out on the river in a little boat
with Starlight. It had been one of those days that sometimes come in
the latter part of May as harbingers of summer. The school-room had been
close and warm, and Aunt Frances had left it with a headache, so that
Starlight, with a loving thoughtfulness that always went straight to her
heart, had proposed a row in the cool, early-evening air of the river,
and Aunt Frances had accepted.

“Do not row hard, dear,” she said; “just paddle around leisurely not far
from the shore. I like it just as well;” and Starlight, who also felt a
little enervated by the languid day, was glad to take her at her word.
Indeed, none of the people of this little story were feeling very bright
and cheery just then. ‘Rather heavy-hearted,’ would have described them
all in greater or less degree, and the fact that the Bonifaces were
going away had much to do therewith. Even Hazel’s rosy anticipations
of life under Old England’s glorious monarchy, paled a little, as she
realized that such dear friends as Aunt Frances, Starlight, and the
Marberrys must be left behind, as well as everything else familiar to
her childhood. It had been decided that the Bonifaces should sail in the
“Blue Bird,” when she returned to England in the middle of June, and the
sight of her, as she lay at anchor in the harbor, was such a depressing
one to Starlight, that he contrived, as they rowed about on the river,
to keep his back turned toward her as much as possible.

“Then it is really settled, Starlight, that the Bonifaces are going?”
 said Aunt Frances, looking over toward the ship, and breaking a long
pause, during which they had both sat thoughtfully silent.

“Yes,” Starlight answered resting on his oars. “I feel awfully sorry for
them.”

“But they are not sorry for themselves, are they?” and Aunt Frances
drawing up her sleeve put her hand over the boat’s side that the cool
water might splash against it. “I imagined that Mrs. Boniface was glad
to go back to England and to her father, whom she has not seen since she
was married, twenty-five years ago.”

“Oh, yes, of course, she is glad on some accounts, but after all they go
because they must; and, besides, it’s hard to go back to the country you
came from without having made a success of things.

“But the war is entirely responsible for all the Captain’s
troubles--everybody knows that well enough, and if any one deserves a
pension from the Crown he certainly does. He has sacrificed health and
friends and property in the service of the King.”

“That’s so,” said Starlight, “and it’s a cruel shame that people like
the Bonifaces shouldn’t he treated decently, and that people like us,
Aunt Frances, shouldn’t be allowed to live in the houses that belong to
us.”

“Sh--, Starlight,” said Aunt Frances, “there are some things you know
that it is better not to talk about any more; it only stirs us up and
to no purpose;” whereupon Starlight obediently lapsed into silence, and
nothing more was said till Aunt Frances, discovering a row-boat in
the middle of the river, coming toward them, exclaimed, “Who’s that, I
wonder!” for boats were not so numerous in those days as to come and go
without notice. Starlight wondered too, but continued to row about in
an aimless fashion, till first thing they knew the approaching boat was
quite close upon them.

“Who can it be?” said Aunt Frances, softly, and Starlight had only time
to reply, “It looks a little like Captain Wadsworth,” and Aunt Frances
to see that he was right in his conjecture, before the boat came within
speaking distance, and the Captain, touching his hat, said politely,
“Miss Avery, I believe.”

“Yes, Captain Wadsworth;” for although Aunt Frances and the Captain had
never before exchanged words, their faces were well known to each other.
“Did you wish to see me?” she added, somewhat coldly.

The Captain was too much of a gentleman to show that he noticed her
chilling manner, and remarked quite casually, “I merely came over to
tell you that I have decided after all to give up the idea of making my
home in this country, and that your home is at your disposal.”

“What do you mean?” said Aunt Frances, unable to believe that she
heard aright. As for Starlight, he lost an oar overboard from sheer
excitement, which the man who was rowing Captain Wadsworth was kind
enough to fish out for him.

“I mean,” said the Captain, “that you are free to enter your own home at
once; I propose to sail for England very soon and have already vacated
it.”

“I do not understand you,” for Aunt Frances was more confused than she
had ever been in her life. “I can pay nothing for it. If you consider
that you have a right to live in it, you must consider that you also
have a right to sell it.”

The Captain bit his lip, at a loss what to say, and Aunt Frances
realized that she was acting unkindly and perhaps rudely.

“Do you mean,” she asked, “that there is nothing for me to do but simply
to walk into my old home?” and her face brightened unconsciously as she
spoke.

“That is exactly what I mean, Miss Avery.”

“You are very kind, Captain Wadsworth. You can hardly wonder, I am sure,
that I cannot find words in which to thank you.”

“Why should you thank me?” the Colonel replied half mischievously. “You
have felt all along that the place rightfully belonged to you.”

“But you had the law on your side, so what did it matter how I thought
or felt?”

“It mattered a great deal, Miss Avery; so much that, law on my side or
no, I confess to you that I have not felt very comfortable in your home,
particularly since I moved my men out, and have had the place to myself.
Indeed, I’ve never really felt at home in the country, and half regret
having resigned my commission.”

“You can imagine that all this is a great surprise to me,” said Aunt
Frances, never looking handsomer in her life, “though I acknowledge
having cherished just a faint little hope lately that it might come
about some day.”

“Why lately, if I may ask, Miss Avery?”.

“Because,” said Aunt Frances, blushing a little, “Colonel Hamilton told
me at the Assembly that he was sorry to have been the means of depriving
me of my home, and that he would endeavor to make any reparation
within his power. Will you think me rude in asking if he has in any way
influenced your decision?”

“Colonel Hamilton? No, not in the least; but I believe the arguments of
a certain little woman, who came to me several months ago, have had much
to do with it.”

“I know who it was,” exclaimed Starlight, eagerly, unable to keep silent
another moment; “I believe it was Hazel Boniface.”

“And I believe you are her friend, ‘Starlight,’” said the Captain,
having made up his mind to that fact much earlier in the conversation.

Starlight said “Yes, sir,” with a beaming look which plainly declared
that he was proud to have that honor.

All this while Peter, the Captain’s man, had sat an interested listener,
enjoying everything with much the same relish perhaps as you or I would
enjoy the happy ending of a rather harrowing play, only this was by so
much the better, because it was real and not “make believe.” To keep
the boats from drifting apart, Peter kept a firm hand upon the rail of
Starlight’s boat, and Starlight’s upon his. Indeed, I think there was a
tacit understanding between them that on no account were those two boats
to be allowed to diverge a hair’s-breadth until this whole delightful
matter should be unalterably settled.

Of course Starlight’s remark about Hazel had been another surprise to
Aunt Frances, and when Captain Wadsworth went on to tell her all about
Hazel’s call in the warm September weather of the preceding autumn, and
how deep a hold her childish earnestness had taken upon him, it seemed
to Aunt Frances as though she could not wait to give her successful
little champion such a hug as she had never had in her life before.

“She went to see Colonel Hamilton too,” said Starlight in the pause that
followed Captain Wadsworth’s narration.

“Then perhaps that partly accounts for Colonel Hamilton’s kind feeling,”
 said Aunt Frances slowly, as a new light seemed to shine in upon the
whole transaction.

“I think it highly probable, Miss Avery. The old prophecy that a little
child shall lead them is more often fulfilled, even in this world, I
think, than most of us have any idea of.”

Meantime the current of the river had carried the boats close into
shore, and Aunt Frances, with the charm of manner that was always
natural to her, asked the Captain to come up to the house, and he came
up, and accepted the Van Vleets’ cordial invitation to stay to supper,
and not until the moon was high over the river did he call to Peter to
row him back to New York; and if the Colonel’s body had grown as light
as his heart, old Peter’s load would have been scarce heavier than a
feather.



CHAPTER XXVI--THE “BLUE BIRD” WEIGHS ANCHOR


[Illustration: 9214]

O, Starlight, I’m sorry, but I do not see how you can possibly be of the
least use in the world.”

Captain Lewis tried to speak kindly, but, big boy or no, real
tears stood in Starlights eyes. “Why, do you feel as badly as that,
Starlight?”

Starlight gave a nod which meant that he did feel just as badly as that,
and at the same time succeeded in choking down what he feared might have
proved an audible little sob.

“Well, then, let me see,” and the Captain leaned forward on his rude
desk and thought a moment. They were in the cabin of the “Blue Bird,”
 whither Starlight had rowed over that morning, with such a favor to ask
of the “Blue Bird’s” Captain as he never yet had asked of anybody.

“And yet you _could_ do little odds and ends for me now, couldn’t you?”
 continued the Captain, after what seemed to Starlight a never-ending
pause.

“Yes, sir,” he answered frankly, brushing away his tears with his sleeve
in awkward boy fashion; “I’m sure I could save you ever so many steps.
You know I wouldn’t think of going unless I really felt I could work my
passage.”

“You are a proud little fellow, Job, but, then, I like your spirit, and
if you won’t take the voyage as a cabin passenger at my invitation, why,
then, you shall go as you propose. Of course your Aunt has given her
consent.”

“I have not asked her yet, sir. I thought it would be half the battle to
have your permission first.”

The Captain laughed heartily over Starlight’s diplomacy, and then they
talked on for a quarter of an hour longer, arranging the details of the
journey that was to be, if only Aunt Frances could be persuaded to
give her consent--a pretty big if, by the way. At the end of that time
Starlight, remembering that the Captain must have many things to attend
to, said good-afternoon, shaking his rough sailor hand with a world of
gratitude in his happy face. Then he clambered nimbly down the “Blue
Bird’s” ladder, and jumping into his boat, rowed off toward New York and
toward home, for, scarcely able to believe their senses, Aunt Frances
and Starlight were back in the old house, with everything so nearly
restored to what it had been before that those two years in the Van
Vleet homestead already seemed half a dream.

And now the 15th of June had dawned, and as the “Blue Bird” was to sail
that afternoon, everything was in readiness for the departure of the
Bonifaces, and everything was in readiness for something else, too,
which was nothing more nor less than a wedding at Aunt Frances’s.
And who do you suppose were going to be married? Who, to be sure, but
Josephine and Harry, and Josephine was to stay in America, and her
home was to be right there in the old house with Aunt Frances. Strange,
wasn’t it, that she should be willing to stay behind, when all the
family were going away across the ocean to live in England? But that is
one of the things that is often happening in this queer world of ours,
and the beauty of it is that it is all right and beautiful, and just as
the good Father Himself would have it. And so Josephine was married at
noon in Aunt Frances’s parlor, and even her father was there, for it had
been arranged that the ceremony should be performed when the Bonifaces
were on their way to the “Blue Bird,” and when it would be an easy
matter simply to carry the Captain in and lift him on to the broad
lounge in the sitting-room.

There was something sad in the fact that, so strong was party feeling
everywhere, that it had been difficult to find in the neighborhood the
four men needed to accomplish the moving of Captain Boniface into the
city and then out to the ship; four men, that is, who did not feel that
they had some sort of grudge against the English officer. But Jake, the
Marberrys’ man, had at last pressed into the service three others of his
race, who bore Captain Boniface no ill-will. It was touching to see with
what tender care the four strong fellows lifted their helpless burden,
for although the Captain had recovered, as Dr. Melville said he would,
partial use of his arms and hands, he was still powerless to take a
single step.

Mr. Marberry naturally officiated at the wedding, and the twins,
of course, were there, smiling and sweet, though possibly a little
self-conscious, in their new white dresses, with soft silk sashes, tied
in two exactly similar bows in the middle of their straight little
backs. And the Van Vleets were there, and Miss Pauline, who looked
rather mystified at the whole proceeding, and Captain Wadsworth besides,
and Colonel and Mrs. Hamilton, the two latter of whom were invited
because of Harry’s position in the Colonel’s office.

It was doubtless a real satisfaction to Captain Wadsworth and Colonel
Hamilton to be present, though, when you come to think of it, it was
rather a remarkable state of things.

Here they were attending a wedding in the very house that they had
lawfully succeeded in wresting from Miss Avery, and here she was
permanently established in her own home again, with the Captain out of
it, and of his own accord too. It was strange indeed how it had all come
about, and stranger still to think that a little girl of ten, mustering
up sufficient courage to call upon two strange gentlemen several months
before, had had much to do with bringing about this delightful change
in affairs; but, as we all hear so often that we do not half take in the
blessed truth of it, “God’s ways are not as our ways,” and the trifles,
as we think them, are likely to prove anything but trifles.

It was more than a delight to Harry to have Colonel Hamilton present
at his wedding, for although his employer was his senior by only a few
years, Harry looked up to him with an admiring veneration amounting
almost to worship. There was something about Alexander Hamilton that
inspired this sort of devotion, an air, some have said, of serious,
half-sad thoughtfulness, as though the cruel and unnecessary sacrifice
of his life, which he felt in honor bound to make in 1804, cast long
shadows of presentiment before it.

[Illustration: 0217]

When the ceremony was over, and Hazel had been the first to press the
lovingest sort of a kiss on Josephine’s lips, all the rest gathered
around to congratulate the young couple, trying for the moment to forget
the sorrowful parting so soon to follow. Then when they had eaten, or
pretended to eat, some of the good things Aunt Frances had prepared
in honor of the occasion, it was time to go down to the barge that
was waiting at Fort George to carry the “Blue Bird’s” passengers.
Josephine’s good-byes were all said at the house. She could not bear to
have any strangers near when she took that long farewell of her father
and mother, and Hazel and Bonny Kate, and then, going up to the room
that Aunt Frances had fitted up for her, and burying her face in the
pillows of the sofa, it seemed to her as though her heart would break.
Sad enough for a bride, you think--so different from all the joyous
cheer that ought to belong to a wedding; and yet many happy days were
in store for Josephine, many happy years in the old homestead, never so
homelike and attractive as since Aunt Frances had regained possession of
it. There was quite a little company of them walking down to the barge,
so much of a company, indeed, that some boys, who noticed them, wondered
“what was up,” and having nothing better to do, followed in their train.
Captain Boniface, of course, was driven down, and so was Mrs. Boniface
and Kate; but Hazel preferred to walk, and with a “teary” little
Marberry on either arm made her way along with the rest. There was but
one bright spot on the otherwise dark horizon of those little Marberrys,
and that was that Hazel’s pony, Gladys, had taken up her abode in the
Rector’s stable, and was to be theirs from that day forth; and they took
a sort of gloomy comfort in determining that as soon as they had said
goodbye to Hazel herself they would go straight home and into Gladys’s
stall, and ease their heavy little hearts by doing what they could for
the welfare of Hazel’s pony. There was no doubt about it, the Marberrys
were the most devoted of friends; but there was one thing that puzzled
Hazel: Starlight was not as downcast as the occasion seemed to demand.
On the contrary, he seemed more cheerful than for many days, and the
nearer came the hour for the departure, why the more light-hearted.
It was most inexplicable. Could it be, she thought, that she had been
mistaken in him all these years, and that, after all, he was a boy with
no more feeling than “other boys”?

It seems that Aunt Frances had finally given her consent to Starlight’s
scheme to make the round trip on the “Blue Bird,” and see the Bonifaces
safely landed on British soil, not, however, you may be sure, until she
had talked the plan well over with Captain Lewis; but it had all been
kept a carefully guarded secret from Hazel, and even Flutters did not
know of it. At Fort George final leave was taken of Milly and Tilly,
Aunt Frances and the Van Vleets; but we will not say very much about
that. There are quite too many good-byes in the world for most of us as
it is, and yet, where were the happy meetings were it not for these same
good-byes?

Harry Avery and Starlight went over in the barge to the vessel, and as
Starlight earlier in the day had stealthily stowed away his baggage,
consisting in greater part of an old violin, there was nothing to betray
that he had any thought other than to return in the barge with Harry
when the time came.

It was not an easy thing to get Captain Boniface aboard of the “Blue
Bird,” but finally it was safely accomplished to the great relief of
everybody, including even Bonny Kate, who had been very much afraid the
men would let him fall.

But no one watched the proceeding with greater evident anxiety than
Flutters, for Flutters had given himself over mind and body to the
Captain, anticipating his every wish, and trying to be both hands and
feet to him; and Hazel had been sufficiently gracious to resume without
demurring the brushing of her own clothes and sundry other little duties
which had of late been performed for her by Flutters.

As for Flutters, now that his father was dead, it mattered not to him
where home might be, if it were only with the Bonifaces; but he thought
he should like some day, when they could spare him from the Rectory over
there in Cheshire, to run down to Burnham, and without letting them know
who he was, perhaps have a chat with those little white children of his
father’s, that were babies when he left England, if he should happen to
find them playing in the garden of the house where he used to live.

It was a beautiful early-summer day, that 15th of June, and the bay lay
sparkling like silver in the sunshine. The “Blue Bird” was booked to
sail at three o’clock, and at the exact moment the sailors began pulling
hand over hand with their “Yo, heave O,” and the “Blue Bird’s” anchor was
weighed.

Harry Avery had kissed Mrs. Boniface good-bye, and once again promised,
with a tremble in his voice, “to take the best care of Josephine,” and
now he was climbing down the ship’s side, and the rowers of the barge,
bending to their oars, were simply waiting to “give way,” till he should
have stepped aboard.

Starlight, with hands in his trousers’ pockets, stood on the “Blue
Bird’s” deck, apparently unconcerned. Flutters, wondering what the
fellow could be thinking of, with an excited gesture gave him a shove in
the direction of the barge, while Hazel, with a strong accent on every
word, cried, “Another minute, Job Starlight, and you’ll be left.”

[Illustration: 0219]

“It can’t be helped, Hazel; I’m left now,” Starlight answered, and
indeed truthfully, for the barge was already yards away; then, seeing
how real was Hazel’s anxiety over what she deemed a most distressing
accident, he hastened to announce, his face wreathed in smiles, “But
it’s all right, Hazel; I am going to see you safe to England, and Aunt
Frances is in the secret.” Hazel, as weak as a kitten with delight and
astonishment, leaned against the ship’s rail, and could not find voice
to speak for two whole minutes; while Captain Lewis looked on, rubbing
his palms complacently together, and thinking what a grand thing it was
to have had a hand in a surprise like that.

[Illustration: 0221]





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