Read Chapter VIII. of Wyandotte, free online book, by James Fenimore Cooper, on

  The village tower ­’tis joy to me! ­I cry, the Lord is here! 
  The village bells!  They fill the soul with ecstasy sincere. 
  And thus, I sing, the light hath shined to lands in darkness hurled,
  Their sound is now in all the earth, their words throughout the world.


Another night past in peace within the settlement of the Hutted Knoll.  The following morning was the Sabbath, and it came forth, balmy, genial, and mild; worthy of the great festival of the Christian world.  On the subject of religion, captain Willoughby was a little of a martinet; understanding by liberty of conscience, the right of improving by the instruction of those ministers who belonged to the church of England.  Several of his labourers had left him because he refused to allow of any other ministrations on his estate; his doctrine being that every man had a right to do as he pleased in such matters; and as he did not choose to allow of schism, within the sphere of his own influence, if others desired to be schismatics they were at liberty to go elsewhere, in order to indulge their tastes.  Joel Strides and Jamie Allen were both disaffected to this sort of orthodoxy, and they had frequent private discussions on its propriety; the former in his usual wily and jesuitical mode of sneering and insinuating, and the latter respectfully as related to his master, but earnestly as it concerned his conscience.  Others, too, were dissentients, but with less repining; though occasionally they would stay away from Mr. Wood’s services.  Mike, alone, took an open and manly stand in the matter, and he a little out-Heroded Herod; or, in other words, he exceeded the captain himself in strictness of construction.  On the very morning we have just described, he was present at a discussion between the Yankee overseer and the Scotch mason, in which these two dissenters, the first a congregationalist, and the last a seceder, were complaining of the hardships of a ten years’ abstinence, during which no spiritual provender had been fed out to them from a proper source.  The Irishman broke out upon the complainants in a way that will at once let the reader into the secret of the county Leitrim-man’s principles, if he has any desire to know them.

“Bad luck to all sorts of religion but the right one!” cried Mike, in a most tolerant spirit.  “Who d’ye think will be wishful of hearing mass and pr’aching that comes from any of your heretick parsons?  Ye’re as dape in the mire yerselves, as Mr. Woods is in the woods, and no one to lade ye out of either, but an evil spirit that would rather see all mankind br’iling in agony, than dancing at a fair.”

“Go to your confessional, Mike,” returned Joel, with a sneer ­“It’s a month, or more, sin’ you seen it, and the priest will think you have forgotten him, and go away offended.”

“Och!  It’s such a praist, as the likes of yees has no nade of throubling!  Yer conscience is aisy, Misther Straddle, so that yer belly is filled, and yer wages is paid.  Bad luck o sich religion!”

The allusion of Joel related to a practice of Michael’s that is deserving of notice.  It seems that the poor fellow, excluded by his insulated position from any communication with a priest of his own church, was in the habit of resorting to a particular rock in the forest, where he would kneel and acknowledge his sins, very much as he would have done had the rock been a confessional containing one authorized to grant him absolution.  Accident revealed the secret, and from that time Michael’s devotion was a standing jest among the dissenters of the valley.  The county Leitrim-man was certainly a little too much addicted to Santa Cruz, and he was accused of always visiting his romantic chapel after a debauch.  Of course, he was but little pleased with Joel’s remark on the present occasion; and being, like a modern newspaper, somewhat more vituperative than logical, he broke out as related.

“Jamie,” continued Joel, too much accustomed to Mike’s violence to heed it, “it does seem to me a hardship to be obliged to frequent a church of which a man’s conscience can’t approve.  Mr. Woods, though a native colonist, is an Old England parson, and he has so many popish ways about him, that I am under considerable concern of mind” ­ concern, of itself, was not sufficiently emphatic for one of Joel’s sensitive feelings ­“I am under considerable concern of mind about the children.  They sit under no other preaching; and, though Lyddy and I do all we can to gainsay the sermons, as soon as meetin’ is out, some of it will stick.  You may worry the best Christian into idolatry and unbelief, by parseverance and falsehood.  Now that things look so serious, too, in the colonies, we ought to be most careful.”

Jamie did not clearly understand the application of the present state of the colonies, nor had he quite made up his mind, touching the merits of the quarrel between parliament and the Americans.  As between the Stuarts and the House of Hanover, he was for the former, and that mainly because he thought them Scotch, and it was surely a good thing for a Scotchman to govern England; but, as between the Old countries and the New, he was rather inclined to think the rights of the first ought to predominate; there being something opposed to natural order, agreeably to his notions, in permitting the reverse of this doctrine to prevail.  As for presbyterianism, however, even in the mitigated form of New England church government, he deemed it to be so much better than episcopacy, that he would have taken up arms, old as he was, for the party that it could be made to appear was fighting to uphold the last.  We have no wish to mislead the reader.  Neither of the persons mentioned, Mike included, actually knew anything of the points in dispute between the different sects, or churches, mentioned; but only fancied themselves in possession of the doctrines, traditions, and authorities connected with the subject.  These fancies, however, served to keep alive a discussion that soon had many listeners; and never before, since his first ministration in the valley, did Mr. Woods meet as disaffected a congregation, as on this day.

The church of the Hutted Knoll, or, as the clergyman more modestly termed it, the chapel, stood in the centre of the meadows, on a very low swell of their surface, where a bit of solid dry ground had been discovered, fit for such a purpose.  The principal object had been to make it central; though some attention had been paid also to the picturesque.  It was well shaded with young elms, just then opening into leaf; and about a dozen graves, principally of very young children, were memorials of the mortality of the settlement.  The building was of stone, the work of Jamie Allen’s own hands, but small, square, with a pointed roof, and totally without tower, or belfry.  The interior was of unpainted cherry, and through a want of skill in the mechanics, had a cold and raw look, little suited to the objects of the structure.  Still, the small altar, the desk and the pulpit, and the large, square, curtained pew of the captain, the only one the house contained, were all well ornamented with hangings, or cloth, and gave the place somewhat of an air of clerical comfort and propriety.  The rest of the congregation sat on benches, with kneeling-boards before them.  The walls were plastered, and, a proof that parsimony had no connection with the simple character of the building, and a thing almost as unusual in America at that period as it is to-day in parts of Italy, the chapel was entirely finished.

It has been said that the morning of the particular Sabbath at which we have now arrived, was mild and balmy.  The sun of the forty-third degree of latitude poured out its genial rays upon the valley, gilding the tender leaves of the surrounding forest with such touches of light as are best known to the painters of Italy.  The fineness of the weather brought nearly all the working people of the settlement to the chapel quite an hour before the ringing of its little bell, enabling the men to compare opinions afresh, on the subject of the political troubles of the times, and the women to gossip about their children.

On all such occasions, Joel was a principal spokesman, nature having created him for a demagogue, in a small way; an office for which education had in no degree unfitted him.  As had been usual with him, of late, he turned the discourse on the importance of having correct information of what was going on, in the inhabited parts of the country, and of the expediency of sending some trustworthy person on such an errand.  He had frequently intimated his own readiness to go, if his neighbours wished it.

“We’re all in the dark here,” he remarked, “and might stay so to the end of time, without some one to be relied on, to tell us the news.  Major Willoughby is a fine man” ­Joel meant morally, not physically ­“but he’s a king’s officer, and nat’rally feels inclined to make the best of things for the rig’lars.  The captain, too, was once a soldier, himself, and his feelin’s turn, as it might be, unav’idably, to the side he has been most used to.  We are like people on a desart island, out here in the wilderness ­and if ships won’t arrive to tell us how matters come on, we must send one out to l’arn it for us.  I’m the last man at the Dam” ­so the oi polloi called the valley ­“to say anything hard of either the captain or his son; but one is English born, and the other is English bred; and each will make a difference in a man’s feelin’s.”

To this proposition the miller, in particular, assented; and, for the twentieth time, he made some suggestion about the propriety of Joel’s going himself, in order to ascertain how the land lay.

“You can be back by hoeing,” he added, “and have plenty of time to go as far as Boston, should you wish to.”

Now, while the great events were in progress, which led to the subversion of British power in America, an under-current of feeling, if not of incidents, was running in this valley, which threatened to wash away the foundations of the captain’s authority.  Joel and the miller, if not downright conspirators, had hopes, calculations, and even projects of their own, that never would have originated with men of the same class, in another state of society; or, it might almost be said, in another part of the world.  The sagacity of the overseer had long enabled him to foresee that the issue of the present troubles would be insurrection; and a sort of instinct which some men possess for the strongest side, had pointed out to him the importance of being a patriot.  The captain, he little doubted, would take part with the crown, and then no one knew what might be the consequences.  It is not probable that Joel’s instinct for the strongest side predicted the precise confiscations that subsequently ensued, some of which had all the grasping lawlessness of a gross abuse of power; but he could easily foresee that if the owner of the estate should be driven off, the property and its proceeds, probably for a series of years, would be very apt to fall under his own control and management.  Many a patriot has been made by anticipations less brilliant than these; and as Joel and the miller talked the matter over between them, they had calculated all the possible emolument of fattening beeves, and packing pork for hostile armies, or isolated frontier posts, with a strong gusto for the occupation.  Should open war but fairly commence, and could the captain only be induced to abandon the Knoll, and take refuge within a British camp, everything might be made to go smoothly, until settling day should follow a peace.  At that moment, non est inventus would be a sufficient answer to a demand for any balance.

“They tell me,” said Joel, in an aside to the miller, “that law is as good as done with in the Bay colony, already; and you know if the law has run out there, it will quickly come to an end, here.  York never had much character for law.”

“That’s true, Joel; then you know the captain himself is the only magistrate hereabout; and, when he is away, we shall have to be governed by a committee of safety, or something of that natur’.”

“A committee of safety will be the thing!”

“What is a committee of safety, Joel?” demanded the miller, who had made far less progress in the arts of the demagogue than his friend, and who, in fact, had much less native fitness for the vocation; “I have heer’n tell of them regulations, but do not rightly understand ’em, a’ter all.”

“You know what a committee is?” asked Joel, glancing inquiringly at his friend.

“I s’pose I do ­it means men’s takin’ on themselves the trouble and care of public business.”

“That’s it ­now a committee of safety means a few of us, for instance, having the charge of the affairs of this settlement, in order to see that no harm shall come to anything, especially to the people.”

“It would be a good thing to have one, here.  The carpenter, and you, and I might be members, Joel.”

“We’ll talk about it, another time.  The corn is just planted, you know; and it has got to be hoed twice, and topped, before it can be gathered.  Let us wait and see how things come on at Boston.”

While this incipient plot was thus slowly coming to a head, and the congregation was gradually collecting at the chapel, a very different scene was enacting in the Hut.  Breakfast was no sooner through, than Mrs. Willoughby retired to her own sitting-room, whither her son was shortly summoned to join her.  Expecting some of the inquiries which maternal affection might prompt, the major proceeded to the place named with alacrity; but, on entering the room, to his great surprise he found Maud with his mother.  The latter seemed grave and concerned, while the former was not entirely free from alarm.  The young man glanced inquiringly at the young lady, and he fancied he saw tears struggling to break out of her eyes.

“Come hither, Robert” ­said Mrs. Willoughby, pointing to a chair at her side ­with a gravity that struck her son as unusual ­“I have brought you here to listen to one of the old-fashioned lectures, of which you got so many when a boy.”

“Your advice, my dear mother ­or even your reproofs ­would be listened to with far more reverence and respect, now, than I fear they were then,” returned the major, seating himself by the side of Mrs. Willoughby, and taking one of her hands, affectionately, in both his own.  “It is only in after-life that we learn to appreciate the tenderness and care of such a parent as you have been; though what I have done lately, to bring me in danger of the guard-house, I cannot imagine.  Surely you cannot blame me for adhering to the crown, at a moment like this!”

“I shall not interfere with your conscience in this matter, Robert; and my own feelings, American as I am by birth and family, rather incline me to think as you think.  I have wished to see you, my son, on a different business.”

“Do not keep me in suspense, mother; I feel like a prisoner who is waiting to hear his charges read.  What have I done?”

“Nay, it is rather for you to tell me what you have done.  You cannot have forgotten, Robert, how very anxious I have been to awaken and keep alive family affection, among my children; how very important both your father and I have always deemed it; and how strongly we have endeavoured to impress this importance on all your minds.  The tie of family, and the love it ought to produce, is one of the sweetest of all our earthly duties.  Perhaps we old people see its value more than you young; but, to us, the weakening of it seems like a disaster only a little less to be deplored than death.”

“Dearest ­dearest mother!  What can you ­what do you mean? ­What can I ­what can Maud have to do with this?”

“Do not your consciences tell you, both?  Has there not been some misunderstanding ­perhaps a quarrel ­certainly a coldness between you?  A mother has a quick and a jealous eye; and I have seen, for some time, that there is not the old confidence, the free natural manner, in either of you, that there used to be, and which always gave your father and me so much genuine happiness.  Speak, then, and let me make peace between you.”

Robert Willoughby would not have looked at Maud, at that moment, to have been given a regiment; as for Maud, herself, she was utterly incapable of raising her eyes from the floor.  The former coloured to the temples, a proof of consciousness, his mother fancied; while the latter’s face resembled ivory, as much as flesh and blood.

“If you think, Robert,” continued Mrs. Willoughby, “that Maud has forgotten you, or shown pique for any little former misunderstanding, during your last absence, you do her injustice.  No one has done as much for you, in the way of memorial; that beautiful sash being all her own work, and made of materials purchased with her own pocket-money.  Maud loves you truly, too; for, whatever may be the airs she gives herself, while you are together, when absent, no one seems to care more for your wishes and happiness, than that very wilful and capricious girl.”

“Mother! ­mother!” murmured Maud, burying her face in both her hands.

Mrs. Willoughby was woman in all her feelings, habits and nature.  No one would have been more keenly alive to the peculiar sensibilities of her sex, under ordinary circumstances, than herself; but she was now acting and thinking altogether in her character of a mother; and so long and intimately had she regarded the two beings before her, in that common and sacred light, that it would have been like the dawn of a new existence for her, just then, to look upon them as not really akin to each other.

“I shall not, nor can I treat either of you as a child,” she continued, “and must therefore appeal only to your own good sense, to make a peace.  I know it can be nothing serious; but, it is painful to me to see even an affected coldness among my children.  Think, Maud, that we are on the point of a war, and how bitterly you would regret it, should any accident befall your brother, and your memory not be able to recall the time passed among us, in his last visit, with entire satisfaction.”

The mother’s voice trembled; but tears no longer struggled about the eyelids of Maud.  Her face was pale as death, and it seemed as if every ordinary fountain of sorrow were dried up.

“Dear Bob, this is too much!” she said eagerly, though in husky tones.  “Here is my hand ­nay, here are both.  Mother must not think this cruel charge is ­can be true.”

The major arose, approached his sister, and impressed a kiss on her cold cheek.  Mrs. Willoughby smiled at these tokens of amity, and the conversation continued in a less earnest manner.

“This is right, my children,” said the single-hearted Mrs. Willoughby, whose sensitive maternal love saw nothing but the dreaded consequences of weakened domestic affections; “and I shall be all the happier for having witnessed it.  Young soldiers, Maud, who are sent early from their homes, have too many inducements to forget them and those they contain; and we women are so dependent on the love of our male friends, that it is wisdom in us to keep alive all the earlier ties as long and as much as possible.”

“I am sure, dearest mother,” murmured Maud, though in a voice that was scarcely audible, “I shall be the last to wish to weaken this family tie.  No one can feel a warmer ­more proper ­a more sisterly affection for Robert, than I do ­he was always so kind to me when a child ­and so ready to assist me ­and so manly ­and so everything that he ought to be ­it is surprising you should have fancied there was any coldness between us!”

Major Willoughby even bent forward to listen, so intense was his curiosity to hear what Maud said; a circumstance which, had she seen it, would probably have closed her lips.  But her eyes were riveted on the floor, her cheeks were bloodless, and her voice so low, that nothing but the breathless stillness he observed, would have allowed the young man to hear it, where he sat.

“You forget, mother” ­rejoined the major, satisfied that the last murmur had died on his ears ­“that Maud will probably be transplanted into another family, one of these days, where we, who know her so well, and have reason to love her so much, can only foresee that she will form new, and even stronger ties than any that accident may have formed for her here.”

“Never ­never” ­exclaimed Maud, fervently ­“I can never love any as well as I love those who are in this house.”

The relief she wanted stopped her voice, and, bursting into tears, she threw-herself into Mrs. Willoughby’s arms, and sobbed like a child.  The mother now motioned to her son to quit the room, while she remained herself to soothe the weeping girl, as she so often had done before, when overcome by her infantile, or youthful griefs.  Throughout this interview, habit and single-heartedness so exercised their influence, that the excellent matron did not, in the most remote manner, recollect that her son and Maud were not natural relatives.  Accustomed herself to see the latter every day, and to think of her, as she had from the moment when she was placed in her arms, an infant of a few weeks old the effect that separation might produce on others, never presented itself to her mind.  Major Willoughby, a boy of eight when Maud was received in the family, had known from the first her precise position; and it was perhaps morally impossible that he should not recall the circumstance in their subsequent intercourse; more especially as school, college, and the army, had given him so much leisure to reflect on such things, apart from the influence of family habits; while it was to be expected that a consequence of his own peculiar mode of thinking on this subject, would be to produce something like a sympathetic sentiment in the bosom of Maud.  Until within the last few years, however, she had been so much of a child herself, and had been treated so much like a child by the young soldier, that it was only through a change in him, that was perceptible only to herself, and which occurred when he first met her grown into womanhood, that she alone admitted any feelings that were not strictly to be referred to sisterly regard.  All this, nevertheless, was a profound mystery to every member of the family, but the two who were its subjects; no other thoughts than the simplest and most obvious, ever suggesting themselves to the minds of the others.

In half an hour, Mrs. Willoughby had quieted all Maud’s present troubles, and the whole family left the house to repair to the chapel.  Michael, though he had no great reverence for Mr. Wood’s ministrations, had constituted himself sexton, an office which had devolved on him in consequence of his skill with the spade.  Once initiated into one branch of this duty, he had insisted on performing all the others; and it was sometimes a curious spectacle to see the honest fellow, busy about the interior of the building, during service, literally stopping one of his ears with a thumb, with a view, while he acquitted himself of what he conceived to be temporal obligations, to exclude as much heresy as possible.  One of his rules was to refuse to commence tolling the bell, until he saw Mrs. Willoughby and her daughter, within a reasonable distance of the place of worship; a rule that had brought about more than one lively discussion between himself and the levelling-minded, if not heavenly-minded Joel Strides.  On the present occasion, this simple process did not pass altogether without a dispute.

“Come, Mike; it’s half-past ten; the people have been waiting about the meetin’ ’us, some time; you should open the doors and toll the bell.  People can’t wait, for ever for anybody; not even for your church.”

“Then let ’em just go home, ag’in, and come when they’re called.  Because, the ould women, and the young women, and the childer, and the likes o’ them, wishes to scandalize their fellow cr’atures, Christians I will not call ’em, let ’em mate in the mill, or the school-house, and not come forenent a church on sich a business as that.  Is it toll the bell, will I, afore the Missus is in sight? ­No ­not for a whole gineration of ye, Joel; and every one o’ them, too, a much likelier man than ye bees yerself.”

“Religion is no respecter of persons” ­returned the philosophical Joel.  “Them that likes masters and mistresses may have them, for all me; but it riles me to meet with meanness.”

“It does!” cried Mike, looking up at his companion, with a very startling expression of wonder.  “If that be true, ye must be in a mighty throubled state, most of the live-long day, ye must!”

“I tell you, Michael O’Hearn, religion is no respecter of persons.  The Lord cares jist as much for me, as he does for captain Willoughby, or his wife, or his son, or his darters, or anything that is his.”

“Divil burn me, now, Joel, if I believe that!” again cried Mike, in his dogmatic manner.  “Them that understands knows the difference between mankind, and I’m sure it can be no great sacret to the Lord, when it is so well known to a poor fellow like myself.  There’s a plenthy of fellow-cr’atures that has a mighty good notion of their own excellence, but when it comes to r’ason and thruth, it’s no very great figure ye all make, in proving what ye say.  This chapel is the master’s, if chapel the heretical box can be called, and yonder bell was bought wid his money; and the rope is his; and the hands that mane to pull it, is his; and so there’s little use in talking ag’in rocks, and ag’in minds that’s made up even harder than rocks, and to spare.”

This settled the matter.  The bell was not tolled until Mrs. Willoughby, and her daughters, had got fairly through the still unprotected gateway of the stockade, although the recent discussion of political questions had so far substituted discontent for subordination in the settlement, that more than half of those who were of New England descent, had openly expressed their dissatisfaction at the delay.  Mike, however, was as unmoved as the little chapel itself, refusing to open the door until the proper moment had arrived, according to his own notion of the fitness of things.  He then proceeded to the elm, against which the little bell was hung, and commenced tolling it with as much seriousness as if the conveyer of sounds had been duly consecrated.

When the family from the Hut entered the chapel, all the rest of the congregation were in their customary seats.  This arrival, however, added materially to the audience, Great Smash and Little Smash, the two Plinys, and some five or six coloured children, between the ages of six and twelve, following in the train of their master.  For the blacks, a small gallery had been built, where they could sit apart, a proscribed, if not a persecuted race.  Little did the Plinys or the Smashes, notwithstanding, think of this.  Habit had rendered their situation more than tolerable, for it had created notions and usages that would have rendered them uncomfortable, in closer contact with the whites.  In that day, the two colours never ate together, by any accident; the eastern castes being scarcely more rigid in the observance of their rules, than the people of America were on this great point.  The men who would toil together, joke together, and pass their days in familiar intercourse, would not sit down at the same board.  There seemed to be a sort of contamination, according to the opinions of one of these castes, in breaking bread with the other.  This prejudice often gave rise to singular scenes, more especially in the households of those who habitually laboured in company with their slaves.  In such families, it not unfrequently happened that a black led the councils of the farm.  He might be seen seated by the fire, uttering his opinions dogmatically, reasoning warmly against his own master, and dealing out his wisdom ex cathedra, even while he waited, with patient humility, when he might approach, and satisfy his hunger, after all of the other colour had quitted the table.

Mr. Woods was not fortunate in the selection of his subject, on the occasion of which we are writing.  There had been so much personal activity, and so much political discussion during the past week, as to prevent him from writing a new sermon, and of course he was compelled to fail back on the other end of the barrel.  The recent arguments inclined him to maintain his own opinions, and he chose a discourse that he had delivered to the garrison of which he had last been chaplain.  To this choice he had been enticed by the text, which was, “Render unto Cæsar the things that are Caesar’s,” a mandate that would be far more palatable to an audience composed of royal troops, than to one which had become a good deal disaffected by the arts and arguments of Joel Strides and the miller.  Still, as the sermon contained a proper amount of theological truisms, and had a sufficiency of general orthodoxy to cover a portion of its political bearing, it gave far more dissatisfaction to a few of the knowing, than to the multitude.  To own the truth, the worthy priest was so much addicted to continuing his regimental and garrison course of religious instruction, that his ordinary listeners would scarcely observe this tendency to loyalty; though it was far different with those who were eagerly looking for causes of suspicion and denunciation, in the higher quarters.

“Well,” said Joel, as he and the miller, followed by their respective families, proceeded towards the mill, where the household of the Strides’ were to pass the remainder of the day, “well, this is a bold sermon for a minister to preach in times like these!  I kind o’ guess, if Mr. Woods was down in the Bay, ’render unto Cæsar the things that are Caesars,’ wouldn’t be doctrine to be so quietly received by every congregation.  What’s your notion about that, Miss Strides?”

Miss Strides thought exactly as her husband thought, and the miller and his wife were not long in chiming in with her, accordingly.  The sermon furnished material for conversation throughout the remainder of the day, at the mill, and divers conclusions were drawn from it, that were ominous to the preacher’s future comfort and security.

Nor did the well-meaning parson entirely escape comment in the higher quarters.

“I wish, Woods, you had made choice of some other subject,” observed the captain, as he and his friend walked the lawn together, in waiting for a summons to dinner.

“In times like these, one cannot be too careful of the political notions he throws out; and to own the truth to you, I am more than half inclined to think that Cæsar is exercising quite as much authority, in these colonies, as justly falls to his share.”

“Why, my dear captain, you have heard this very sermon three or four times already, and you have more than once mentioned it with commendation!”

“Ay, but that was in garrison, where one is obliged to teach subordination.  I remember the sermon quite well, and a very good one it was, twenty years since, when you first preached it; but ­”

“I apprehend, captain Willoughby, that ’témpora mutantur, et, nos mutamus in illis.’ That the mandates and maxims of the Saviour are far beyond the mutations and erring passions of mortality.  His sayings are intended for all times.”

“Certainly, as respects their general principles and governing truths.  But no text is to be interpreted without some reference to circumstances.  All I mean is, that the preaching which might be very suitable to a battalion of His Majesty’s Fortieth might be very unsuitable for the labourers of the Hutted Knoll; more especially so soon after what I find is called the Battle of Lexington.”

The summons to dinner cut short the discourse; and probably prevented a long, warm, but friendly argument.

That afternoon and evening, captain Willoughby and his son had a private and confidential discourse.  The former advised the major to rejoin his regiment without delay, unless he were prepared to throw up his commission and take sides with the colonists, altogether.  To this the young soldier would not listen, returning to the charge, in the hope of rekindling the dormant flame of his father’s loyalty.

The reader is not to suppose that captain Willoughby’s own mind was absolutely made up to fly into open rebellion.  Far from it.  He had his doubts and misgivings on the subjects of both principles and prudence, but he inclined strongly to the equity of the demands of the Americans.  Independence, or separation, if thought of at all in 1775 entered into the projects of but very few; the warmest wish of the most ardent of the whigs of the colonies being directed toward compromise, and a distinct recognition of their political franchises.  The events that followed so thickly were merely the consequences of causes which, once set in motion, soon attained an impetus that defied ordinary human control.  It was doubtless one of the leading incidents of the great and mysterious scheme of Divine Providence for the government of the future destinies of man, that political separation should commence, in this hemisphere, at that particular juncture, to be carried out, ere the end of a century, to its final and natural conclusion.

But the present interview was less to debate the merits of any disputed question, than to consult on the means of future intercourse, and to determine on what was best to be done at the present moment.  After discussing the matter, pro and con, it was decided that the major should quit the Knoll the next day, and return to Boston, avoiding Albany and those points of the country in which he would be most exposed to detection.  So many persons were joining the American forces that were collecting about the besieged town, that his journeying on the proper road would excite no suspicion; and once in the American camp, nothing would be easier than to find his way into the peninsula.  All this young Willoughby felt no difficulty in being able to accomplish, provided he could get into the settlements without being followed by information of his real character.  The period of spies, and of the severe exercise of martial-law, was not yet reached; and all that was apprehended was detention.  Of the last, however, there was great danger; positive certainty, indeed, in the event of discovery; and major Willoughby had gleaned enough during his visit, to feel some apprehensions of being betrayed.  He regretted having brought his servant with him; for the man was a European, and by his dulness and speech might easily get them both into difficulties.  So serious, indeed, was this last danger deemed by the father, that he insisted on Robert’s starting without the man, leaving the last to follow, on the first suitable occasion.

As soon as this point was settled, there arose the question of the proper guide.  Although he distrusted the Tuscarora, captain Willoughby, after much reflection, came to the opinion that it would be safer to make an ally of him, than to give him an opportunity of being employed by the other side.  Nick was sent for, and questioned.  He promised to take the major to the Hudson, at a point between Lunenburg and Kinderhook, where he would be likely to cross the river without awakening suspicion; his own reward to depend on his coming back to the Hutted Knoll with a letter from the major, authorizing the father to pay him for his services.  This plan, it was conceived, would keep Nick true to his faith, for the time being, at least.

Many other points were discussed between the father and son, the latter promising if anything of importance occurred, to find the means of communicating it to his friends at the Knoll, while Parrel was to follow his master, at the end of six weeks or two months, with letters from the family.  Many of the captain’s old army-friends were now in situations of authority and command, and he sent to them messages of prudence, and admonitions to be moderate in their views, which subsequent events proved were little regarded.  To general Gage he even wrote, using the precaution not to sign the letter, though its sentiments were so much in favour of the colonies, that had it been intercepted, it is most probable the Americans would have forwarded the missive to its direction.

These matters arranged, the father and son parted for the night, some time after the house-clock had struck the hour of twelve.