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A Song of a Single Note

It was the fourth year of the captivity of New York, and the beleaguered city, in spite of military pomp and
display, could not hide the desolations incident to her warlike occupation. The beautiful trees and groves
which once shaded her streets and adorned her suburbs had been cut down by the army sappers; her gardens
and lawns upturned for entrenchments and indented by artillery wheels; and some of the best parts of the city
blackened and mutilated by fire. Her churches had been turned into prisons and hospitals, and were centres of
indescribable suffering and poisonous infection; while over the burnt district there had sprung up a town of
tents inhabited by criminals and by miserable wretches whom starvation and despair had turned into
But these conditions were the work of man. Nature still lavished upon the captive city a glory of sunshine and
blue skies, and winds, full of the freshness and sparkle of the great sea, blew through all her sickly streets.
Wherever the gardens had not been destroyed, there was the scent of mays and laburnums, and the
indescribable beauty of apple blossoms on the first day of their birth.
In front of one of these fortunate enclosures, belonging to a little house on Queen Street, an old gentleman
was standing, looking wistfully in at a trellis of small red roses. He turned away with a sigh as a man dressed
like a sailor touched him on the arm, saying, as he did so:
"Well, then, Elder, a good afternoon to you? I am just from Boston, and I have brought you a letter from your
"You, De Vries! I didna look for you just yet."
"You know how it is. I am a man of experience, and I had a good voyage both ways."
"And Robertson and Elliot and Ludlow will have a good percentage on your cargoes?"
"That is the way of business. It is as it ought to be. I do not defraud or condemn the Government. It is the
young--who have no knowledge or experience--who do such things."
"What do you bring in, Captain?"
"Some provisions of all kinds; and I shall take back some merchandise of all kinds--for them who can not get
it in any other way."
"To Boston again?"
"This time only to the Connecticut coast. The goods will easily go further. The trade is great. What then? I
must waste no time; I have to live by my business."
"And I have nae doubt you think the 'business' on the King's service."
"Every respectable man is of that way of thinking. We carry no military stores. I am very precise about that. It
is one of my principles. And what, then, would the merchants of New York do without this opening for trade?
They would be ruined; and there would also be starvation. They who say different are fools; we give help and
comfort to the royalists, and we distress the rebels, for we take from them all their ready money. If the trade
was not 'on the King's service,' the Governor would not be in it."