The Hidden Children HTML version

Chapter 4. A Tryst
Above the White Plains the territory was supposed to be our own. Below, seventeen
thousand red-coats held the city of New York; and their partisans, irregulars, militia,
refugee-corps, and Legion-horsemen, harried the lines. Yet, except the enemy's cruisers
which sometimes strayed far up the Hudson, like impudent hawks circling within the very
home-yard, we saw nothing of red-rag or leather-cap north of our lines, save only once,
when Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe nearly caught us.
His Excellency's army lay in position all around us, now, from West Point down the
river; and our light-horsemen patrolled as far south as the unhappy country from which
we had retired through the smoke of Bedford's burning farms and the blaze of church and
manor at Poundridge. That hilly strip was then our southern frontier, bravely defended by
Thomas and Lockwood, shamefully neglected by Sheldon, as we had seen. For which he
was broke, poor devil, and a better man set there to watch the red fox Tarleton, to harry
Emmeriek, and to throw the fear o' God into that headlong blockhead, Simcoe, a brave
man, but so possessed by hatred for "Mr." Washington that every move he made was like
a goaded bull-- his halts merely the bewilderment of baffled fury, his charges blind and
I know how he conducted, not from hearsay alone, but because at sunrise on our second
day northward, before we struck the river-road, we had like to have had a brush with him,
his flankers running afoul of us not far beyond a fortified post heavily held by our
It was the glimpse of cannon and levelled bayonets that bewildered him; and his bawling
charge sheered wide o' the shabby Continental battle-line, through which we galloped
into safety, our Indian sticking to my crupper like a tree-cat with every claw. And I
remember still the grim laughter that greeted us from those unshaven, powder-blackened
ranks, and how they laughed, too, as they fired by platoons at the far glimmer of Simcoe's
helmets through the chestnut trees.
And in the meantime, all the while, even from the very first evening when we off-saddled
in the rocky Westchester woods and made our first flying-camp, I had become uneasy
concerning the Siwanois-- uncertain concerning his loyalty to the very verge of suspicion.
I said nothing of this to Lieutenant Boyd, having nothing definite to communicate. Nor
did I even hint my suspicions, because distrust in the mind of such a man as Boyd would
be very difficult to eradicate, and the slightest mishandling of our delicate situation might
alienate the Sagamore forever.
Yet, of one thing I had become almost convinced: the Siwanois, while we slept, met and
held communication with somebody outside our camp.