A Song of a Single Note by Amelia Edith Barr - HTML preview
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"I wish to speak to Agnes," she said, "will you permit me a moment?"
"Certainly," he answered with an air of offense. "I fear I am in the way of some one or something."
"Oh, no, no!" cried Maria, decisively. "I only want to make her come in. She says the night air is so unhealthy, and yet there she stands in it--bareheaded, too."
"It is an unusually warm evening."
"Yes, but you know there is the malaria. I shall bring her in a moment, you shall see how quickly I am obeyed."
In unison with these words, she rose in a hurry, and as she did so there came through the open window a little stone wrapped in white paper. If she had not moved, it would have fallen into her lap; as it was, it fell on the floor and almost at the feet of Macpherson. He lifted it, and went to the candle. It was a message, as he expected, and read thus:
"Keep that Scot amused for an hour, and meet me at Semple's landing at nine o'clock. Harry."
"Oh! Oh!" he said with an intense inward passion. "I am to be amused! I am to be cajoled! deceived! that Scot is to be used for some purpose, and by St. Andrew, I'll wager it is treason. This affair must be looked into--quick, too." With this thought he put the paper in his pocket, and followed Maria to the gate where she stood talking with Agnes.
"I will bid you good-night," he said with a purposed air of offense. "I am sure that I am an intruder on more welcome company."
He would listen to no explanations or requests. Maria became suddenly kind, and assumed the prettiest of her coaxing ways, but he knew she was only "amusing" him, and he would not respond to what he considered her base, alluring treachery.
"There, now, Maria! You have been very foolish," said Agnes. "Captain Macpherson is angry. You ought to have been particularly kind to him to-night--after Harry."
"You were so selfish, Agnes--so unreasonably selfish! You might have let me go to the gate with Harry. I never had a chance to say 'good-bye' to him; there you stood, watching for Uncle Neil, and I was on pins and needles of anxiety. Why didn't you stay with the man, and let me go to the gate?"
"If you must know why; I had some money to give Harry. Could I do that before Captain Macpherson?"
"I hate the man! I am glad he has gone! I hope he will never come again!"
"I do not think he will, Maria."
They went into the house thoroughly vexed with each other, and Maria said in a tone of pique or offense, "I wonder what delays my uncle! I wish he would come!"
In reality Neil was no later than usual, but Maria was quivering with disappointment and annoyance, and when he did arrive it was not possible for any one to escape the influence of an atmosphere charged with the miserable elements of frustrated happiness. Maria was not a girl to bear disagreeable things alone or in silence. She would talk only of Macpherson and his unwelcome visit; "but he always did come when he was not wanted," she said angrily. "Last Sunday when grandmother was sick, and I was writing a long letter to CHAPTER V.
father, and nobody cared to see him at all, enter Captain Macpherson with his satisfied smile, and his clattering sword, and his provoking air of conferring a favor on us by his company. I hate the creature! And I think it is a dreadful thing to make set days for people's visits; we have all got to dislike Sunday afternoons, just for his sake!" and so on, with constant variations.
Fortunately Mr. Bradley came home soon after eight o'clock, and Maria would not make any further delay.
She had many reasons for her hurry, but undoubtedly the chief one, was a feeling that Agnes ought not to have the pleasure of a conversation between her father and her lover, and probably a walk home with her, and then a walk back with Neil alone. She would go at once, and she would not ask Agnes to go with her. If she was disappointed, it was only a just retribution for her selfishness about Harry. And though she noticed Agnes was depressed and cast down, she was not appeased; "However, I will come in the morning and make all right,"
she thought; "to-night Agnes may suffer a little. I will come in the morning and make all right."
Yes, she would come in the morning, but little she dreamed on what errand she would come. Still, Maria is not to be blamed over much; there is some truth in every reproach that is made.
THE INTERCEPTED MESSAGE.
While this unhappy interlude was passing, a far greater sorrow was preparing. Captain Macpherson went at once to his colonel with the pebble-sent note. He told himself that his duty to his King and his colors demanded it, and that no harm could come to the two women except such as was reflected from the trouble that saucy young man might be entitled to. He had no objections to giving him trouble; he felt that he ought to be made to understand a little better what was due to an officer of the King. "That Scot!" He flung his plaid passionately over his shoulder and stamped his foot with the offended temper of centuries of Macphersons. As for Maria, he would not think of her. He could not know what the consequences of the interrupted tryst would be, but let her take them! A girl who could prefer quite a common-looking young man to himself needed a lesson. He said over and over that he had only done a duty he would have performed under any circumstances; and he kept reiterating the word "duty,"--still he knew right well that duty in this case had been powerfully seconded by jealousy and by his personal offense.
What action his colonel would take he knew not. He desired to be excused from any part in it, because of the Semple's hospitality to him. His request was granted; and then he went to his rooms hot with uncertain excitement. The colonel had no sentimental reasons for ignoring what might prove a valuable arrest. Nothing had provoked General Clinton more than the ubiquitous nature of Washington's spies. They were everywhere; they were untiring, unceasing and undaunted. The late reverses, which had mortified every English soldier, had been undoubtedly brought about by the false reports they spread,--no one knew by whose assistance,--and this night might be a turning-point in affairs.
He ordered ten picked men to wait for the boat at Semple's landing. The place was easily reached; they had but to walk to the bottom of the fence, climb over it, and secrete themselves in the little boathouse, or among the shrubbery, if it had yet foliage enough to screen them. He looked over his roll of suspects and found Madame Semple's name among them. Likely enough, her family sympathized with her. It would at least be prudent to secure the husband and son. If they were good royalists, they could easily prove it. Then he sat down to smoke and to drink brandy; he, too, had done his duty, and was not troubled at all about results. The Semples, to him, were only two or three out of sixty thousand reputed royalists in the city. If they were honest, they had little to fear; if they were traitors, they deserved all they would certainly get from Clinton in his present surly mood.
Quite unconscious of what was transpiring, John Bradley was eating a frugal supper of oatmeal and bread and cheese, and telling his daughter about a handsome saddle that was going up the river to "the man in all the world most worthy of it." Elder Semple was asleep, and Madame, lying in the darkness, was softly praying away her physical pain and her mental anxieties. Suddenly she heard an unusual stir and the prompt, harsh voices of men either quarreling or giving orders.
"It is on our ain place!" and a sick terror assailing her, she cried: "Wake up! Wake up, Alexander! There's men at the door, and angry men, and they're calling you!"
Neil, who was sitting dressed in his room, instantly answered the summons, and was instantly under arrest; and as no effort was made to prevent noise or confusion, the tumult and panic soon reached Maria. She was combing her hair to fretful thoughts, and a keen sense of disappointment; but when Madame entered the room wringing her hands and lamenting loudly, she let the comb fall and stood up trembling with apprehension.
"Maria! Maria! They are taking your grandfather and uncle to prison! Oh, God, my dear auld man! My dear auld man!"
"Grandmother! What are you saying? You must be mistaken--you must be!"
"Come, and see for yoursel';" and Madame flung open the window and with a shriek of futile distress cried,
"Alexander, look at me! Speak to me."
At these words the Elder, who was standing with a soldier, lifted his face to the distracted woman, in her white gown at the open window, and cried to her:
"Janet, my dearie, you'll get your death o' cold. It is a' a mistake. Go to your bed, dear woman. I'll be hame in the morning."
Neil repeated this advice, and then there was a sharp order and a small body of men marched forward, and in their midst Harry walked bareheaded and manacled. He tried to look up, for he had heard the colloquy between the Elder and his wife, and understood Maria might be also at the window; but as he turned his head a gigantic Highlander struck him with the flat of his sword, and as the blow fell rattling on the youth's shoulder Maria threw up her hands with a shriek and fell into a chair sobbing.
"Dinna cry that way, Maria, my dearie; they'll be hame in the morning."
"Yes, yes, grandmother! It was the blow on that last prisoner. Did you see it? Did you hear it? Oh, what a shame!"
"Poor lad! I know naething about him; but he is in a terrible sair strait."
"What is he doing here in our house? Surely you know, grandmother?"
"I know naething about him. He is doubtless one o' Washington's messengers--there's plenty o' them round.
Why he came near us is mair than I can say." Then a sudden fear made her look intently at Maria, and she asked, "Do you think your Uncle Neil has turned to the American cause?"
"Oh, grandmother, how can you?"
"He has been so much wi' that Agnes Bradley. My heart misgave me at the first about her. Neil is in love, and men in love do anything."
"Uncle Neil is as true a royalist as grandfather."
"See, then, what they have, baith o' them, got for standing by King George. It serves them right! It serves them right! O dear, dear me! What shall we do?"
Two weary hours were spent in such useless conversation; then Madame, being perfectly exhausted, was compelled to go to bed. "We can do naething till morning," she said; "and Neil will hae his plans laid by that time. They will be to bail, doubtless; and God knows where the friends and the money are to come from. But there's plenty o' time for grief to-morrow; go and sleep an hour or two now."
"And you, grandmother? What will you do?"
"He who never fails will strengthen me. When the morn comes I shall be able for all it can bring. This was such a sudden blow I lost my grip."
Alone in her room, Maria felt the full force of the sudden blow. Although Harry's note had missed her, she understood that he had been waiting for a few words with her. Twice before she had been in the garden when he passed up the river, and he had landed and spent a delicious half-hour with her. She was sure now that he had been as much disappointed as herself, and had hoped she would come and say good-bye as soon as she CHAPTER VI.
reached home. But who had betrayed him? And why was her grandfather and uncle included in his arrest?
For some time she could think of nothing but her lover walking so proudly in the midst of his enemies; reviled by them, struck by them, yet holding his head as authoritatively as if he was their captain, rather than their prisoner. Then she remembered Agnes, and at first it was with anger. "If she had not been so selfish, Harry would not have needed to take such a risk!" she cried. "It is dreadful! dreadful! And just as soon as it is light I must go and tell her. Her father must now know all; he ought to have been told long ago. I shall insist on her telling now, for Harry's life is first of all, and his father has power some way or other."
Thus through the long hours she wept and complained and blamed Agnes and even herself, and perhaps most of all was angry with the intrusive Macpherson, whose unwelcome presence had been the cause of the trouble.
And, oh! what arid torturing vigils are those where God is not! Madame lying on her bed with her hands folded over her breast and thoughts heavenward, was at peace compared with this tumultuous little heart in the midst of doubt, darkness, and the terror of dreadful death for one dear to her. She knew not what to abandon, nor what to defend; her brain seemed stupefied by calamity so inevitable. And yet, it was not inevitable; it had depended for many minutes on herself. A word, a look, and Agnes would have understood her desire; and half a dozen times before she had made the movement which was just too late; her heart had urged her to call her friend. But she had doubted, wavered, and delayed, and so given to Destiny the very weapons that were used against her.
As soon as the morning dawned she dressed herself. Before her grandmother came down stairs it was imperative on her to see Agnes and tell her what had happened. A dismal, anxious stillness had succeeded the storm of her terror and grief; a feeling of outrage, of resentment against events, and an agony of love and pity, as she remembered Harry smitten and helpless in the power of a merciless foe. She had now one driving thought and purpose--the release of her lover. She must save the life he had risked for her sake, though she gave her own for it.
As she went through the gray dawning she was sensitive to some antagonism, even in Nature. The unseasonable warmth of the previous evening had been followed by a frost. The faded grass snapped under her fleet steps, the last foliage had withered during the night, and was black and yellow as death, and everything seemed to shiver in the pale light. And though the waning moon yet hung low in the west, and all the mystery and majesty of earth was round her, Maria was only conscious of the chill terror in her heart, and of the chill, damp mist from the river which enfolded her like a cloak, and was the very atmosphere of sorrow.
When she reached the Bradley home all was shut and still; the very house seemed to be asleep, but why did its closed door affect her so painfully? She went round to the kitchen and found the slave woman Mosella bending over a few blazing chips, making herself a cup of tea. The woman looked at her wonderingly, and when Maria said, "Mosella, I must see Miss Agnes at once," she rose without a word and opened the garden door of the house. The shutters were all closed, the stairway dim, and the creaking of the steps under her feet made her quiver. It was an hour too early for light and life, and a noiseless noise around her seemed to protest against this premature invasion of the day.
She entered the room of her friend very softly. It was breathless, shadowy, and on the white bed Agnes was lying, asleep. For a moment Maria stood looking at the orderly place and the unconscious woman. The pure pallor of her cheeks had the flush of healthy sleep; her brown hair, braided, lay loose upon her pillow, her white hands upon the white coverlet. She was the image of deep, dreamless, peaceful oblivion. It seemed a kind of wrong to awaken her; but though the eyes of Agnes were closed, Maria's gaze called to the soul on guard behind them, and without one premonitory movement she opened them wide and saw Maria at her bedside. A quick fear leaped into her heart. She was momentarily speechless. She laid her hand on Maria's arm, and looked at her with apprehending inquiry.
"Harry!" said Maria, and then she sat down and covered her face and began to cry softly. There was no CHAPTER VI.
necessity to say more. Agnes understood. She rose and began to dress herself, and in a few minutes asked, though almost in a whisper:
"Is he taken?"
"At our landing."
"Why did you not send me word last night? Neil would have come."
"Neil was arrested, and also my dear old grandfather. It is shameful! shameful!"
"What was Harry doing at your landing?"
"I don't know. I was in my room. I was half-undressed, combing my hair out, when grandmother rushed to me with the news. It is not my fault, Agnes."
"Did you ever meet Harry at your landing, Maria?"
"Only twice, both times in the daylight. He was passing and happened to see me. There was no tryst between us; and I know nothing about last night, except----"
"That if you had given him a chance to say 'Good-bye' to me here, he would not have thought of stopping at our landing; but," she added in a weary voice, "you were watching for Uncle Neil, and so, of course, you forgot other people."
"Don't be cruel, Maria, as well as unjust."
"All the same, it is the truth."
"How was he discovered? You surely know that?"
"No, I do not. There were at least ten or twelve soldiers--Highlanders. One of them struck Harry."
"Oh, why do you tell me? Who could have betrayed him? Macpherson? You know you offended him."
"It could not be Macpherson. He never saw Harry before. He knew nothing about him. He thought his name was Deane. If it had been Macpherson, your landing, not ours, would have been watched."
"No; for he saw you and Harry coming through the garden hand-in-hand. I am sure he did. He went away in a fit of jealousy, and he would think of your landing as well as ours. But all that is nothing. We have but a few hours in which to try and save his life. I must awake father and tell him. It will break his heart."
"You ought to have told him----"
"What can I do?"
"Women can do nothing but suffer. I am sorry with all my soul for you, Maria, and I will let you know what father does. Go home to your poor grandmother; she will need all the comfort you can give her."
"I am sorry for you, Agnes; yes, I am! I will do anything I can. There is Lord Medway, he loves me; and General Clinton loves him, I know he does; I have seen them together."
"Father is first. I must awaken him. Leave me now, Maria, dear. None but God can stand by me in this hour."
Then Maria kissed her, and Agnes fell upon her knees, her arms spread out on her bed and her face buried in them. There were no words given her; she could not pray; but when the Gate of Prayer is closed the Gate of Tears is still open. She wept and was somewhat helped, though it was only by that intense longing after God which made her cry out, "O that I knew where to find Him, that I might come into His presence!"
When she went to her father's door he was already awake. She heard him moving about his room, washing and dressing, and humming to himself in strong snatches a favorite hymn tune; no words seemed to have come to him, for the melody was kept by a single syllable that served to connect the notes. Nevertheless, the tone was triumphant and the singer full of energy. It made Agnes shiver and sicken to listen to him. She sat down on the topmost stair and waited. It could not be many minutes, and nothing for or against Harry could be done till the world awoke and went to business. Very soon the hymn tune ceased, and there was a few minutes of a silence that could be felt, for it was threaded through by a low, solemn murmur easy to translate,--the man was praying. When he came out of his room he saw Agnes sitting on the stair, and as soon as she lifted her face to him he was frightened and asked sharply:
"What are you doing there, Agnes? What has happened?"
She spoke one word only, but that word went like a sword to the father's heart,-- "Harry!"
He repeated the word after her: "Harry! Is he ill? Let me see the letter, where is he? With Doctor Brudenel?
Can't you speak, girl?"
"Harry is here, in New York, in prison?"
The words fell shivering from her lips; she raised herself, watching her father's face the while, for she thought he was going to fall. He shook like a great tree in a storm, and then retreated to the door of his room and stood with his back against it. He could not speak, and Agnes was afraid.
"Father," she said in a low, passionate voice of entreaty, "we have the boy to save. Do not lose yourself. You have your Father to lean upon."
"I know! I feel! Go and make me a cup of coffee. I will be ready when you call me."
Then he went back into his room and shut the door, and Agnes, with a sick, heavy heart, prepared the necessary meal. For though danger, sorrow and death press on every side, the body must have sustenance; and every-day meals, that look so tragically common and out of place must go on as usual. But it was a little respite and she was grateful, because in it her father would talk the trouble over with God before she had to explain it to him. The interval was a short one, but during it John Bradley found Him who is "a very present CHAPTER VI.
help in every hour of need." He came down to his coffee in full possession of himself and ready for the fight before him. But he had also realized the disobedience which had brought on this sorrow, and the deception which had sanctioned the boy in his disobedience. Therefore Agnes was afraid when she saw his severe eyes, and shrank from them as from a blow, and large tears filled her own and rolled down her white cheeks unchecked.
"Agnes," he said, "tell me the whole truth. I must know everything, or you may add your brother's murder to the other wrongdoing. When did he come back to America?"
"Six months after you sent him to England. He said he could not, durst not, stay there. He thought that God might have some work that needed just him to do it. I think Harry found that work."
"Why did you not tell me at the time?"
"I was in Boston, at school, when Harry first came to me, and we talked together then about telling you. But at that time both of us supposed you to be a King's man, and the party feeling was then riotously cruel. Harry had been three months with Washington, and his peculiar fitness for the New York Secret Service had been found out. Still, Washington took no unfair advantage of his youth and enthusiasm. He told him he would be one of a band of young men who lived with their lives in their hands. And when Harry answered, 'General, if I can bring you information that will help Freedom forward one step, my life gladly for it,' Washington's eyes shone, and he gave Harry his hand and said, 'Brave boy! Your father must be a happy man.'"
She paused here and looked at the father, and saw that his face was lifted and that a noble pride strove with a noble pain for the mastery. So she continued: "Harry has helped Freedom forward. He found out, while pretending to fish for the garrison at Stony Point, the best way across the marsh and up the rocks. He helped to set afloat the reports that brought Tryon back from Connecticut, and the garrison from Rhode Island. He has prepared the way for many a brave deed, taken all the danger and the labor, getting no fame and wanting none, his only aim to serve his country and to be loved and trusted by Washington. If we erred in keeping these things from you, it has been an error of love. And when we knew you also were serving your country in your own way, Harry was sure you would do it better and safer if you were not always looking for him--fearing for him. Oh, father! surely you see how his presence would have embarrassed you and led to suspicion."
"I would like to have seen the boy," he said, softly, as if he were thinking the words to himself.
"He saw you often, never came to the city without passing the shop to see you; and it made both of us happy to believe that very soon now he would dare to speak to you and to say, 'Father, forgive me.'"
"I must go to him, Agnes. Harry's life must be saved, or I, John Bradley, will know the reason why. Yes, and if he has to die there are some big men here, playing double-face, that will die with him. I know them----"
"Oh, father! father! What are you saying? Vengeance is not ours. Would it bring Harry back to us?"
"It is more than I can bear. Who was the informer? Tell me that. And where was he taken?"
"I cannot tell who informed. He was taken with his little boat at Elder Semple's landing by a party of Scotch Highlanders."
"What on earth was he doing at Semple's? Do you think the Elder, or that fine gentleman Neil, gave information?"
"They were both arrested with Harry. They also are in prison."
"Am I losing my senses? The Semples! They are royalists, known royalists, bitter as gall. What was Harry doing at their place? Tell me."
"I do not certainly know, father. I think he may have gone there hoping that Maria would come down to the river to say a good-bye to him."
"Maria! That is it, of course. If a man is to be led to destruction and death, it is some woman who will do the business for him. I warned you about that Maria. My heart misgave me about the whole family. So Harry is in love with her! That is your doing, girl. What business had you to let them meet at all? If Harry perishes, I shall find it hard to forgive you; hard to ever see you again. All this sorrow for your sentimental nonsense about Maria. If she had been kept out of Harry's life, he would have gone safely and triumphantly on to victory with the rest of us. But you must have your friend and your friend's brother, and your own brother must pay the price of it."
"Oh, father, be just! Even if you cannot pity me, be just. I am suffering as much as I can bear."
Then he rose and put on his hat and coat. "Stay where you are," he said. "I will not have women meddling with what I have now to do. Don't leave the house for anyone or anything."
"You will send me some word, father. I shall be in an agony of suspense."
"If there is any word to send, I will send it." Then he went away without kissing her, without one of his ordinary tender words; he left her alone with her crushing sorrow, and the consciousness that upon her he would lay the blame of whatever disaster came to Harry. She had no heart for her household duties, and she left the unwashed china and went back to her room. She was yet in a state of pitiful bewilderment; her grief was so certain, its need was so urgent, and at that hour Heaven seemed so far off; and yet she questioned her soul so eagerly for the watchword that should give her that stress of spirit which would connect her with the Unseen World and permit her to claim its invincible help.
Agnes had told her father that it was Highlanders who arrested Harry, and Bradley went first to their quarters.
There he learned that the young man had disclaimed connection with any regiment whatever; and, being in citizen's clothes and wearing no arms, his claim had been allowed and his case turned over to the Military Court of Police. So far it was favorable; the cruel haste of a court martial shut the door of hope; but John Bradley knew the Court of Police was composed of men who put financial arguments before all others. He was, however, too early, an hour too early, to see any one; and the prisoner was under watch in one of the guard-houses and could not be approached.
He wandered back to his shop utterly miserable and restless and wrote a letter to Thomas Curtis, a clever lawyer, and a partner of Neil Semple, explaining the position of his son and begging him to be at the Court of Police when it opened. This letter he carried to the lawyer's office and paid the boy in attendance to deliver it immediately on the arrival of his master. Then he went back to his shop for money, and as he was slowly leaving the place Lord Medway spoke to him. He had his rifle over his shoulder and was going with a friend to Long Island to shoot birds. The sight of the man made John Bradley's heart leap and burn. He had been waiting for some leading as to the way he ought to take, and he felt that it had been given him.
"Good morning, Mr. Bradley," said the nobleman.
"My lord, turn back with me to my shop. I have something of the greatest importance to tell you."
Medway smiled: "My hunting is of the greatest importance at present, Mr. Bradley, for my friend, Colonel Pennington, is waiting for me; but if I can be of service----"
"I think you can; at least, listen to me."
Medway bent his head in acquiescence, and Bradley led the way to the small room behind his shop, which had been his sitting and dining room while his daughter was at school. He plunged at once into the subject of his anxieties.
"There was a prisoner taken last night."
"A young man in a boat; I heard of it. General Clinton thinks they may have made an important arrest."
"He is my son--my only son! I did not know until an hour ago that he was in America. I sent him to England at the beginning of the war--to a fine school there--and I thought he was safe; and he has been here, one of Washington's scouts, carrying messages from camp to camp, in and out of New York in all kinds of disguises, spreading reports and gathering reports, buying medicines, and clothing, and what not; doing, in short, duties which in every case were life and death matters. For three years or more he has done these things safely; last night he was discovered."
"And you thought he was in England, safe and comfortable, and learning his lessons?"
"I did, and thanked God for it."
"Now, I would offer thanks for the other things. If I were an American it would gladden my heart to have a son like that. The young man thinks he has been doing his duty; be a little proud of him. I'll be bound he deserves it. Who arrested him?"
"Some soldiers from the Highland regiment."
"How did they happen to know? Could Macpherson have informed? Oh, impossible! What am I saying?
Where was he taken?"
"At Elder Semple's landing."
"You confound me, Bradley. I will stake my honor on the Semples's loyalty--father and son both. What was he doing there?"
"He had the old reason for calamity--a woman. He is in love with the Elder's granddaughter, and Agnes thinks he must have landed hoping to see her."
"You mean, he had a tryst with her?"
"I only surmise. I can tell nothing surely."
"I will go with you to court, Bradley. Can you send a man with a message to Colonel Pennington?"
This done they went out together, and many looked curiously at the lord and the saddler walking the streets of New York in company. For in those days the lines of caste were severely drawn. When they entered the courtroom the case of the Semples was being heard; but Harry sat a little apart, on either side of him a soldier.
The father fixed his eyes upon him, and a proud flush warmed his white face at the sight of the lad's dauntless bearing and calm, almost cheerful, aspect.
Lord Medway looked first toward the Semples, and conspicuously bowed to both of them. The Elder was evidently sick, fretful, and suffering. Neil was wounded in every fiber of his proud nature. The loyalty, the CHAPTER VI.
honor, the good name of the Semples had been, he believed, irrevocably injured; for he was lawyer enough to know that it is nearly as bad to be suspected as to be guilty. And, small as the matter seemed in comparison, he was intensely mortified at the personal disarray of his father and himself. The men who arrested them had given them no time to arrange their clothing, and Neil knew they looked more suspiciously guilty for want of their clean laces and the renovating influences of water and brushes.
The assistant magistrate, Peter DuBois, was just questioning Elder Semple.
"Look at the prisoner taken on your premises, Mr. Semple. Do you know him?"
"I never saw him in a' my life before his arrest."
"Did you know he was using your landing?"
"Not I. I was fast asleep in my bed."
"Mr. Neil Semple, what have you to say?"
"I was sitting partially dressed, reading in my room. I have no knowledge whatever of the young man, nor can I give you any reason why our landing should have been used by him."
Mr. Curtis then spoke eloquently of the unstained loyalty of the Semples, and of their honorable life for half a century in the city of New York. But Peter DuBois held that they were not innocent, inasmuch as they had been so careless of His Majesty's interests as to permit their premises to be used for treasonable purposes.
"The Court must first prove the treasonable purposes," said Mr. Curtis.
"The Court proposes to do so," answered DuBois. "Henry Deane, stand up!" and as he did so Bradley uttered a sharp cry and rose to his feet also. In this hour Harry looked indeed a son to be proud of. He showed no fear, and was equally free from that bluster that often cloaks fear, but raised a face calm and cheerful--the face of a man who knows that he has done nothing worthy of blame.
"Henry Deane," said DuBois, "is there anyone in New York who knows you?"
"I do!" shouted John Bradley. "He is my son! My dear son, Henry Deane Bradley;" and with the words he marched to his son's side and threw his arms about his neck.
"Oh, father! father, forgive me!"
"Oh, Harry! Harry! I have nothing to forgive!" and he kissed him in the sight of the whole court, and wept over him like a mother.
The whole affair had been so sudden, so startling and affecting, that it was not at once interrupted. But in a few moments the examination proceeded, DuBois asking, "Do you know the Semples?"
"I have seen them often. I have never spoken to either of them in all my life."
"What took you to their landing, then?"
"I know it so well. When I was a little boy I used to borrow Elder Semple's boat if I wished to fish or row, because I knew they were busy in the city and would not miss it. So I got used to their landing years ago."
"Had you any special reason for going there last night?"
"Yes. It was a good place to wait until the moon rose."
"No other reason?"
"Nothing to get there?"
"Nothing at all."
"No one to see there?"
Lord Medway sighed heavily. The words were a tremendous relief. If the young man had named Maria it would have been shameful and unbearable. He began now to take more interest in him.
"You refused to tell last night," said DuBois, "to whom you were carrying the clothing and the saddle that was in your boat. Will you now name the person or persons?"
"No. I refuse to name them."
"From whom did you receive or purchase these articles?"
"I refuse to say."
"Perhaps from the Semples?"
"Certainly not. I never received and never bought a pin's worth from the Semples."
In fact, no evidence of complicity could either be found or manufactured against the Semples, and Mr. Curtis demanded their honorable acquittal. But they were good subjects for plunder, and DuBois had already intimated to Judge Matthews how their purses could be reached. In pursuance of this advice, Judge Matthews said:
"The loyalty of Alexander Semple and of his son, Neil Semple, cannot be questioned; but they have been unfortunately careless of His Majesty's rights in permitting their premises to be of aid and comfort to rebels; and therefore, as an acknowledgment of this fault, and as a preventative to its recurrence, Alexander Semple is fined two hundred pounds and Neil Semple one hundred pounds. The prisoners are free upon their own recognizances until the fifteenth day of November, when they must appear in this court and pay the fines as decided."
The Elder heard the decision in a kind of stupefaction. Neil, neither by himself or his lawyer, made any protest. What use was there in doing so? They had been sentenced by a court accountable to no tribunal whatever: a court arbitrary and illegal, that troubled itself neither with juries nor oaths, and from which there was no appeal. Lord Medway watched the proceedings with indignation, and the feeling in the room was full of sympathy for the two men. Neil's haughty manner and stern face betrayed nothing of the anger he felt, but the Elder was hardly prevented from speaking words which would have brought him still greater loss. As it was, it taxed Neil's strength and composure to the uttermost to get his father with dignity away from the scene.
He gave him his arm, and whispered authoritatively, "Do not give way, father! Do not open your lips!" So the CHAPTER VI.
old gentleman straightened himself, and, leaning heavily on his son, reached the lobby before he fell into a state bordering on collapse.
Neil placed him in a chair, got him water, and was wondering where he could most easily procure a carriage, when the sound of wheels coming at a furious rate arrested his attention. They stopped at the court house, and as Neil went to the door the lovely Madame Jacobus sprang out of the vehicle.
"Neil!" she cried. "Neil Semple! I only heard an hour ago, I came as soon as the horses were ready, it is disgraceful. Where is the Elder? Can I take him home?"
"Madame, it will be the greatest kindness. He is ready to faint."
The Elder looked at her with eyes full of tears.
"Madame," he said, "they have fined me in my auld age for a misdemeanor"--and then he laughed hysterically. "I hae lived fifty years in New York, and I am fined--I hae----"
She stopped the quavering voice with a kiss, and with Neil's help led him gently to her carriage; and as soon as he reached its friendly shelter he closed his eyes and looked like one dead. Madame was in a tempest of rage. "It is just like the ravening wolves," she said. "They saw an opportunity to rob you,--you need not tell me, I know Matthews! He has the winter's routs and dances for his luxurious wife and daughters to provide for, as well as what he calls his own 'damned good dinners.' How much did he mulct you in? Never mind telling me now, Neil, but come and lunch with me to-morrow; I shall have something to say to you then."
She had the Elder's hand in her's as she spoke, and she did not loosen her clasp until she saw him safely at his own home and in the care of his wife. She remained a few moments to comfort Madame Semple, then, divining they would be best alone with their sorrow, she went away with a reminder to Neil that she wished to speak to him privately on the following day.
"It is as if God sent her," said Madame gratefully.
"Get me to my bed, Janet, dearie," said the Elder. "I'll just awa' out o' this warld o' sorrows and wrongs and robbery."
"You'll just stop havering and talking nonsense, Alexander. Are you going to die and leave me my lane for a bit o' siller? I'm ashamed o' you. Twa or three hundred pounds! Is that what you count your life worth? Help your father to his bed, Neil, and I'll bring him some gude mutton broth. He's hungry and faint and out o' his sleep--it tak's little to make men talk o' dying. Parfect nonsense!"
"You don't know, Janet Semple----"
"Yes, I do know, Alexander. Quit whining, and put a stout heart to a steep hill. You hae a wife and sons and friends yet about you, and you talk o' dying! I'll not hear tell o' such things, not I!"
But when the Elder had taken a good meal and fallen asleep, Janet spoke with less spirit to her son. And Neil was in a still fury; he found it difficult to answer his mother's questions.
"The money is to be found, and that at once," he said. "Father will not rest until it is paid; and I have not the least idea where I can procure it."
"You must sell some o' that confiscated property you and your father wared all your ready money on," said Janet bitterly.
"At the present time it is worth nothing, mother; and houses and lands are not sold at an hour's notice. I suppose if I ask Batavius DeVries he will help father. I think Curtis can manage my share of the blackmail."
"That poor lad wha has made a' the mischief, what of him?"
"He is John Bradley's son." Then Neil described the scene in the courtroom, and Madame's eyes filled with tears as she said, "I never thought so well o' the Bradleys before. Poor Agnes!"
Yes, "poor Agnes!" Neil was feeling a consuming impatience to be with her, to comfort her and help her to bear whatever might be appointed.
"So the lad is to be tried in the Military Police Court. Is not that a good thing?"
"Yes. John Bradley has money. It is all the 'law' there is to satisfy in that court."
"Are they trying him to-day?"
"Yes. I heard his case called as we left the room. Where is Maria?"
"She has cried herself blind, deaf and dumb. She is asleep now. I went to tell her you were hame, and she was sobbing like a bairn that has been whipped ere it shut its eyes. I dinna waken her."
Then Neil went to his room to dress himself. He felt as if no care and no nicety of apparel could ever atone for the crumpled disorder of his toilet in the courtroom, which had added itself so keenly to his sense of disgrace.
Then he must go to Agnes; her brother was his brother, and, though he had brought such shame and loss on the Semples, still he must do all he could for him, for the sake of Agnes. And there was the money to find, and Madame Jacobus to see! A sense of necessary haste pressed him like a goad. Not a moment must be lost, for he felt through every sense of his mortal and spiritual being that Agnes was calling him.
THE PRICE OF HARRY'S LIFE.
He heard Agnes calling him, and he resolved to go at once to her. And never had he looked handsomer than at this hour, for he had clothed himself with that rich and rigid propriety he understood so well while the sense of injustice under which he so inwardly burned gave to him a haughty dignity, suiting his grave face and lofty stature to admiration. He went very softly along the upper corridor of his home, but Madame heard his step, and opening her door, said in a whisper:
"Your father has fallen asleep, Neil, and much he needed sleep. Where are you going?"
"I am going back to the court. I wish to know what has been done in Bradley's case."
"Why trouble yourself with other people's business? The lad has surely given us sorrow enough."
"He is her brother--I mean----"
"I know who you mean; weel, then, go your way; neither love nor wisdom will win a hearing from you on that road."
"There is money to be found somewhere, mother. Until his fine is paid, father will be miserable. I want to borrow the amount as soon as possible."
"Borrow! Has it come to that?"
"It has, for a short time. I think Captain DeVries will let me have it. He ought to."
"He'll do naething o' the kind. I would ask any other body but him."
"There are few to ask. I must get it where I can. Curtis will advance one hundred pounds for me."
"They who go borrowing go sorrowing. I'm vexed for you, my dear lad. It is the first time I ever heard tell o' a Semple seeking money not their ain."
"It is our own fault, mother. If father and I had taken your advice and let confiscated property alone we should have had money to lend to-day; certainly, we should have been able to help ourselves out of all difficulties without asking the assistance of strangers."
The confession pleased her. "What you say is the truth," she answered; "but everybody has a fool up their sleeve some time in their life. May God send you help, Neil, for I'm thinking it will hae to come by His hand; and somehow, I dinna believe He'll call on Batavius DeVries to gie you it."
With these words she retreated into her room, closing the door noiselessly, and Neil left the house. As soon as he was in the public road he saw Batavius standing at his garden gate, smoking and talking with Cornelius Haring and Adrian Rutgers. They were discussing Bradley's trouble and the Semples's connection with it, and Neil felt the spirit of their conversation. It was not kindly, and as he approached them Haring and Rutgers walked away. For a moment Batavius seemed inclined to do the same, but Neil was too near to be avoided without intentional offense, and he said to himself, "I will stand still. Out of my own way I will not move, because Neil Semple comes." So he stolidly continued to smoke, staring idly before him with a gaze fixed and ruminating.
"Good afternoon, Captain. Are you at liberty for a few minutes?" asked Neil.
"Yes. What then, Mr. Semple? I heard tell, from my friends, that you are in trouble."
"We have been fined because Mr. Bradley's son used our landing. It is a great injustice, for in this matter we were as innocent as yourself."
"That is not the truth, sir. If, like me, you had boarded in your house a few soldiers, then the care and the watch would have been their business, not yours. Those who don't act prudently must feel the chastisement of the government; but so! I will have nothing to do with the matter. It is a steady principle of mine never to interfere in other people's affairs."
"There is no necessity for interference. The case is settled. My father is fined two hundred pounds, a most outrageous wrong."
"Whoever is good and respectable is not fined by the government."
"In our case there was neither law nor justice. It was simple robbery."
"I know not what you mean. The government is the King, and I do not talk against either King or government.
The Van Emerlies, who are always sneering at the King, have had to take twenty-seven per cent. out of the estate of a bankrupt cousin; and the Remsens, who are discontented and always full of complaints, have spoiled their business. God directs things so that contentment leads to wealth."
"I was speaking of neither the King nor his government, but of the Military Police Court."
"Oh! Well, then, I think all the stories I hear about its greediness and tyranny are downright lies."
"I must, however, assert that this court has been unjust and tyrannical both to my father and myself."
"That is your business, not mine."
"I was in hopes that you would feel differently. My father has often helped you out of tight places. I thought at this time you would remember that. There was that cargo at Perth Amboy, but for my father, it had gone badly with you!"
"Yes, yes! I give good for good, but not to my own cost. People who go against the government and are in trouble are not my friends. I do not meddle with affairs that are against the government. It is dangerous, and I am a husband and a father, not a fool."
"To assist my father for a few days, till I can turn property into money, is not going against the government."
"You will not turn property into money these days; it is too late. I, who am noted for my prudence, got rid of all my property at the beginning of the war; you and your father bought other people's houses, while I sold mine. So! I was right, as I always am."
"Then you had no faith in the King's cause, even at the beginning; and I have heard it said you are not unfriendly now to the rebels."
"Ja! I give the Americans a little, quietly. One must sail as the wind serves; and who can tell which way it will blow to-morrow? I am a good sailor; never shall I row against wind and tide. Who am I, Batavius DeVries, to oppose the government? It is one of my most sacred principles to obey the government."
"Then if the Americans succeed, you will obey their government? Your principles are changeable, Captain."
"It is a bad principle not to be able to change your principles. The world is always changing. I change with it.
That is prudent, for I will not stand alone, or be left behind. That is my way; your ways do not suit me."
"This talk comes to nothing. To be plain with you, I want to borrow two hundred pounds for a month. I hope you will lend it. In the Perth Amboy matter my father stood for you in a thousand pounds."
"That is eaten bread, and your father knew I could secure the money. I wish I could help Elder Semple, but it would not be prudent."
"Good gracious, sir!"
"Oh, then, you must keep such words to yourself! I say it would not be prudent. He has swamped himself with other men's houses, his business is decayed, he is old; and you are also in a bad way and cannot help him, or why do you come to me?"
"I can give you good security, good land----"
"Land! What is good land to me? It will not be useful in my business. And there is another thing, you are not particular in your company. I have heard about your Methodist friends; there is Vestryman William Ustick, he was a Methodist servant, and he has become bankrupt; so, then----"
"You will not repay my father's frequent loans to you. If your father-in-law, Joris Van Heemskirk, was here----"
"I am not Joris Van Heemskirk. He is a rebel. I, who have always been loyal, have made twelve thousand dollars this last year. Is not that a hint for me to go on in the right way?"
Without waiting for the end of this self-complacent tirade, Neil went forward. Batavius was only a broken reed in his hand. Never before in all his life had he felt such humiliating anxiety. Even the slipping away of Haring and Rutgers, and the uncivil refusal of Batavius, were distinctly new and painful experiences. He felt, through Haring and Rutgers, the public withdrawal of sympathy and respect; and through Batavius, the coming bitterness of the want of ready money. The Semples had been fined; they were suspects; their names would now be on the roll of the doubtful, and it would be bad policy for the generality of citizens to be friendly with them. And the necessity for borrowing money revealed poverty, which otherwise they would have been able to conceal. He knew, also, that he would have to meet many such rebuffs, and he was well aware that his own proud temper would make them a pleasant payment to many whom he had offended by his exclusiveness.
As he approached the Bradley house he put all these bitter thoughts aside. What were they in comparison with the sorrow Agnes was compelled to endure? His whole soul went out to the suffering girl, and he blamed himself for allowing any hope of Batavius to delay him. The very house had taken on an air of loneliness and calamity. The door was closed, the blinds down, and the wintry frost that had blackened the garden seemed in some inscrutable way to have touched the dwelling also. He saw the slave woman belonging to the Bradleys talking to a group of negroes down the road, and he did not call her. If Agnes was within, he would see her; and if her father had returned, they would probably be together.
Thinking thus, he knocked loudly, and then entered the little hall. All was silent as the grave. "Agnes! Agnes!"
he cried; and the next moment she appeared at the head of the stairs. "Agnes!" he cried again, and the word was full of love and sorrow, as he stretched out his arms to the descending girl. She was whiter than snow, her eyes were heavy and dark with weeping, her hair had fallen down, and she still wore the plain, blue gingham CHAPTER VII.
dress she had put on while Maria was telling her tragical tale. Yet in spite of these tokens of mental disturbance, she was encompassed by the serene stillness of a spirit which had reached the height of "Thy will be done."
When her father left her, smitten afresh by his anger she had fled to her room, and locking the door of this sanctuary, she had sat for two hours astonished, stupefied by the inevitable, speechless and prayerless. Yet while she was musing the fire burned; she became conscious of that secret voice in her soul which is the spirit that helpeth our infirmities, and ere she was aware she began to pray. It was as if she stood alone in some great hall of the universe, with an infinite, invisible audience of spirits watching her. Then the miracle of the ladder between heaven and earth was renewed, and angels of help and blessing once more ascended and descended. An inward, deep, untroubled peace calmed the struggle of her soul; one by one the clouds departed and the light steadily grew until fears were slain, and doubts had become a sure confidence that Naught should prevail against her or disturb Her cheerful faith that all which looked so dark Was full of blessing.
She was sitting waiting when she heard Neil's call, and Oh! how sweet is the voice of love in the hour of anxious sorrow! She never thought of her appearance or her dress; she hasted to Neil, and he folded her to his heart and for the first time touched her white cheek with his lips. She made no resistance, it was not an hour for coy withdrawals, and they understood, amid their silent tears, far more than any future words could explain.
Then Neil told her all that had happened, and when he described John Bradley's open recognition of his son she smiled proudly and said, "That was like father. If I had been there I would have done the same. It is a long time," she said, looking anxiously at Neil. "Will father soon be home?"
"I expected to find him here. I will go to the court now; the trial ought to be over."
But complications had arisen in what at first seemed to be a case that proved itself. Harry was not easily managed. He admitted that he had been in America for more than three years, but declared that his father had been totally ignorant of his presence. When asked where he had dwelt and how he had employed himself during that time, he gave to every question the same answer, "I refuse to tell."
Then the saddle found in his boat was brought forward, and he was asked from whom he received it and to whom he was taking it. And to both these questions there was the same reply, "I refuse to tell."
"It is indisputably a Bradley saddle," said the assistant magistrate, DuBois. "Let John Bradley identify it."
Bradley came forward, looked at the saddle, and answered, "I made it; every stitch of it."
"For whom? Mr. Bradley?"
"I should have few saddles to make if I talked about my patrons in this place. I refuse to tell for whom I made it."
"The court can fine you, sir, for contempt of its requests."
"I would rather pay the fine than bring my patron's name in question and cause him annoyance."
There was considerable legal fencing on this subject, but nothing gained; a parcel also found in the boat was opened and its contents spread out for examination. They consisted of a piece of damasse for a lady's gown, some lace, two pairs of silk stockings, two pairs of gloves, some ribbon, and a fan that had been mended.
Everything in this parcel was obviously intended for a woman, but Harry was as obdurately noncommittal as he had been about the saddle. Nothing could be gained by continuing an examination so one-sided, and the next witness called was Captain Quentin Macpherson. He came forward with more than his usual haughty clangor, and was first asked if he had ever seen the prisoner before.
"Yes," he answered, "for about half an hour yesterday evening, say, between half-past seven and eight o'clock."
"Did you have any conversation with him?"
"Very little. When I began to question him about his residence he rose and went away."
"Who else was present?"
"Miss Bradley and Miss Semple."
"Tell the court what occurred when the prisoner left."
"Miss Bradley went to the gate with him, Miss Semple remained with me. I noticed that she was anxious, and found my company disagreeable; and suddenly she excused herself and left the room. As she did so a pebble was thrown through the window, it fell at my feet; a note was wrapped round it, and I read the note."
There was a low hiss-s-s-s! at these words, which pervaded the whole room. Macpherson waited until it had subsided, and then in a loud, defiant voice repeated his last sentence, "I read the note, and acted upon it."
The note was then handed to him, and he positively recognized it, and as it was not his note, nor intended for him, he was unable to protest against DuBois's reading it aloud. It made a pleasant impression. Men looked at the boy prisoner sympathetically, and a little scornful laugh pointed the epithet "that Scot!" which infuriated Macpherson.
In this favorable atmosphere Mr. Curtis rose, and sarcastically advised Judge Matthews that it was "evident the posse of Highland soldiers had been called out to prevent a lovers' tryst and satisfy the wounded vanity or jealousy of Captain Macpherson." The soldier glared at the lawyer, and the lawyer smiled and nodded at the audience, as if telling them a secret; and it really seemed possible for a minute or two that Harry might escape through the never-failing sympathy that lovers draw to themselves.
Unfortunately, at this moment a man entered with a shabby-looking little book, and Harry's face showed an unmistakable anxiety.