Read CHAPTER VII - THE DEFIANCE OF THE TORY of The Tory Maid , free online book, by Herbert Baird Stimpson, on ReadCentral.com.

A few weeks later I was up and out, fast gaining strength and courage for the long ride to the northward to join the gallant fellows of the Maryland Line, who had taken up their line of march soon after the accident befell me. And though I was eager to be off, the surgeon would not let me go, and so, until I could gather strength for the long journey, I served as best I could my country and the commands of the Committee of Public Safety sitting at the Head of Elk. Thus it was I rode one day by the side of Edward Veasey, High Sheriff of the county of Cecil, carrying the writ and command of the Committee of Public Safety to Charles Gordon of the Braes, now a suspected Tory and a malcontent. And as I rode by the side of the High Sheriff on this most unpleasant task, I longed to turn back and let the Sheriff ride on alone; but duty held me as a point of honour. For as it was, I was carrying I knew not what ruin and destruction to the roof of the very house that once had received me as a guest and that sheltered the fairest eyes that had ever gazed in mine. And now I was to appear before that house as the bearer of ill-tidings. Ah, duty often wears a gruesome countenance; yet it is a sign of courage to face this duty down, and I sat more firmly in my saddle and rode nearer to the High Sheriff. He was a stern and determined man; he was short of stature, stout of frame, and sat his powerful horse like the fox-hunter that he was. But, though it was the height of summer, and the hills and the forests were green, the air laden with the odour of flowers, and the streams full and rushing, there was anything but a smile on the High Sheriff’s face. For though he was no friend to Gordon of the Braes, he liked not the errand on which he rode, and would gladly have turned his horse’s head with me.

“If they want to fight,” said he to me, “why don’t they join the Maryland Line and leave men alone who are disposed to be quiet? They will have enough to do in repulsing the redcoats, and should not stir up opposition in the rear of our armies, which this persecution of private individuals will certainly do. I wish some other carried this writ, and I was with the lads fighting in the North.”

“Aye, so do I, but it is the order of the committee,” said I grimly.

“True, and as such must be obeyed.”

We had come to where the ferry crosses the Elk, and hailing it we were soon on the south bank and taking up again the road that leads to the Braes. Over the hills and dales of Cecil, the forest, streams, and rivers, the soft warm sunlight played, and nature blessed with lavish hand the harvest of the year. Seldom had she been more pleasing, the earth bursting with flowers and the very trees welcoming with outstretched arms the soft breezes wafted from the bay. And then, after some hours’ travelling, we came to the Braes and I saw again the long rambling house amid the trees. I took a firmer grip upon my sense of duty and rode on. The clatter of our horses’ hoofs as we rode up to the door announced us. A moment later Charles Gordon came through the open doorway on to the porch. Though I had seen him before, it seemed to me, as I saw him standing there, with the memory of the old tale in my mind, that I saw not the Tory, but one of those figures of romance that stepped out from the mystery and the haze of the North, when Prince Charles raised his standard in the Highlands, one of those heroic men who drew swords with Wallace and with Bruce, rallied with Montrose, and went to death with a cheer behind Bonnie Dundee at Killiecrankie, of such gallant bearing and bold and open countenance was he.

“What brings you here, Mr. Sheriff, riding so fast?”

“I come, Charles Gordon of the Braes,” replied the Sheriff, “to serve on you the writ and summons of the Committee of Public Safety.” And here he unfolded the summons and read aloud, sitting on his horse as he was:

Whereas, Great complaints have this day been made against Charles Gordon of the Braes, for that he has infamously reflected on the membership of this Committee and the deputies of this county who lately attended the Provincial Convention,

“These are therefore requiring the said Charles Gordon of the Braes that he appear before this Committee, at the house of Thomas Savin at the Head of Elk, to-morrow at two o’clock P.M., to answer unto said complaints.

“Hereto fail not on your peril.

JamesRodolph, Chairman.

“To Charles Gordon of the Braes.”

Then spoke Charles Gordon:

“Go tell those who sent you, Mr. Sheriff, that if they wish to see Charles Gordon they will have to come to the Braes to do so; that I will give them a right warm welcome, as my plantation is large enough to hold them all; but that if any of their rascally crew dare to approach the house, there will be lives lost; for I say to you, Mr. Sheriff, as I have said before and will say again, that James Rodolph and his committee are a set of infamous scoundrels, who have usurped such power and authority in troublous times as the King himself would not dare to claim. Tell them that I am at their defiance, that I do not recognise their authority, and that I have as much contempt for them as I have for their dogs.”

The old gentleman, for he must have been nearly sixty, looked splendid in his wrath, as he denounced the Committee of Public Safety. The ring in his voice told that the ire of the Scot was rising.

For an instant the High Sheriff hesitated, as if he would turn and go, but then he said:

“Charles Gordon, I spoke to you a moment ago as an officer of the law. I speak to you now as one who does not wish you an injury. Obey the order of the committee, and I will see that you have fair speech before it. Refuse and you will be declared a traitor and an outlaw, and the edict will go forth through all the province that no man shall buy of you, that no man shall sell to you, and he that shows you kindness will become an outlaw like yourself.”

Charles Gordon laughed.

“Do you think I care a snap of a finger for their edict? There has not been a generation of my family that has not been at the Horn at Edinburgh for high treason. Do you think that I care when my neck has been on the block for the part I took at Preston Pans and Culloden? Go frighten the children with their edicts, but not an old Scot who has seen the claymores flash and led the charge for the King who is over the sea.”

“If you fought against the father, why not against the son?”

“A fair question deserves a fair answer. When my head was on the block my life was saved by the intercession of the Duchess of Gordon, but upon conditions, and those conditions are these: That I should nevermore bear arms against the King, that I should leave the realm of Scotland, sail across the sea to the province of Maryland, there remain and never return. So, though I love not the King nor his race, I will not draw sword against him, for never yet has a Gordon broken faith with friend or foe. Yet for all that I will not take up arms for the King’s cause unless I am forced to do so by such rascals as compose your Committee of Public Safety.”

“So be it, then, but I wish it were otherwise,” said the Sheriff; and, turning, we rode away, leaving him standing there. As I entered the woods I looked back again, my eyes searching every window in the old house, but never a sign of the Tory maid did I see.