Read PART THREE: CHAPTER I of The Loyalist A Story of the American Revolution , free online book, by James Francis Barrett, on


In one of those wide indentations along the eastern shore of the Schuylkill River, there opens out in tranquil seclusion a spacious cove. The waters wander here to rest, it seems, before resuming their voluminous descent to the Delaware and the sea. Trees and saplings wrapped about with close-clinging vines hang far over the water’s edge like so many silent sentinels on guard before the spot, their luxuriant foliage weighing their bending twigs almost to the surface. Green lily-pads and long ribboned water grass border the water’s curve, and toss gently in the wind ripples as they glide inwards with just murmur enough to lull one to quiet and repose.

Into this scene, placid, clear, though of a deep and dark green under the overhanging leaves, stole a small canoe with motion enough scarcely to ruffle the top of the water. A paddle noiselessly dipped into the undisturbed surface and as noiselessly emerged again, leaving behind only a series of miniature eddies where the waters had closed after their penetration. A small white hand, hanging lazily over the forward side of the tiny craft, played in the soft, limpid water, and made a furrow along the side of the boat that glistened like so many strings of sparkling jewels.

“So you are going away again tomorrow?” Marjorie was saying as she continued to dabble in the water.

She lay partly reclining in the bow of the canoe, her back supported by a pillow. A meditative silence enshrouded her as she lay listless, unconcerned to all appearances, as to her whereabouts or destination. The while she thought, the more steadily she gazed at the waters as she splashed them gently and playfully. Like a caress the silence of the place descended upon her, and brought home to her the full import of her loneliness.

“In view of what you have disclosed to me, I think it only my duty,” Stephen replied as he lazily stroked the paddle.

Again there was silence.

“I wish you weren’t going,” she finally murmured.

He looked straight at her, holding his arm motionless for the space of a moment.

“It is good of you to say that,” was the measured reply. “This has been a most delightful day, and I have enjoyed this glimpse of you very much.”

Raising her eyes she thanked him with a look.

“You must remember that it has been due to no fault of mine that I have seen so little of you,” he continued.

“Nor mine,” came back the whisper.

“True,” he said. “Events have moved so rapidly during the past month that I was enabled to keep abreast of them only with the greatest difficulty.”

“I daresay we all are proud of your achievement.”

“God has been good to us. I must thank you, too.”

“Me?” She grinned with contempt. “I am sure when the truth is known that I shall be found more an instrument of evil than of good.”

“I wish you would not say that.”

“I cannot say otherwise, for I know it to be true.”

“Do not depreciate your efforts. They have been invaluable to me. Remember, it was you who greatly confirmed my suspicions of Anderson. I did acquire some facts myself; but it was due to the information which you imparted to me that I was enabled to join together several ambiguous clews.”


“And you must remember that it was through your cooperation that my attention was first drawn to General Arnold.”

“You suspected him before our conversation. You, yourself, heard it from his own lips in the garden.”

“Yes, I did. But the note!”

“What note?”

“The note you gave me to read.”

“Peggy’s letter which I found at her house?”

“The same. Have I never told you?”

“Never!” was the slow response. “You know you returned it to me without comment.”

He was puzzled. For he wondered how he had failed to acquaint her with so important an item.

“When you allowed me to take that letter you furnished me with my first clew.”

She aroused herself and looked seriously at him.

“I?... Why.... I never read it. What did it contain? I had supposed it to be a personal letter.”

“And so it was, apparently. It proved to be a letter from one of Peggy’s New York friends.”

“A Mischienza friend, undoubtedly.”

“Yes, Captain Cathcart. But it contained more. There was a cipher message.”

“In cipher?” Then after a moment. “Did she know of it?”

“I am inclined to think that she did. Otherwise it would not have been directed to her.”

This was news indeed. No longer did she recline against the seat of the canoe, but raised herself upright.

“How did you ever discover it?”

“My first reading of the note filled me with suspicion. Its tone was too impersonal. When I asked for it, I was impelled by the sole desire to study it the more carefully at my own leisure. That night I found certain markings over some of the letters. These I jotted down and rearranged until I had found the hidden message.”

She gazed at him in wonder.

“It was directed to her, I presume, because of her friendship with the Military Governor; and carried the suggestion that His Excellency be interested in the proposed formation of the Regiment. From that moment my energies were directed to one sole end. I watched Arnold and those whom he was wont to entertain. Eventually the trail narrowed down to Peggy and Anderson.”

She drew a deep breath, but said nothing.

“The night I played the spy in the park my theory was confirmed.”

“Yes, you told me of that incident. It was not far from here.”

She turned to search the distance behind her.

“No. Just down the shore behind his great house.” He pointed with his finger in the direction of Mount Pleasant.

“And Peggy was a party to the conspiracy!” she exclaimed with an audible sigh.

“She exercised her influence over Arnold from the start. She and Anderson were in perfect accord.”

“I am sorry. She has disappointed me greatly.”

“She has a very pretty manner and a most winsome expression; but she is extremely subtle and fully accomplished in all manner of artifice. She was far too clever for your frank simplicity.”

“I never suspected her for an instant.”

“It was she who set the trap for Arnold; it was she who made it possible for Anderson to rise to the heights of favor and influence; it was she who encouraged her husband in his misuse of authority; and I venture to say, it was she who rendered effective the degree of friendship which began to exist between yourself and this gentleman.”

Marjorie blushed at the irony.

They were drifting above the cove in the slowest manner. Only occasionally did he dip the paddle into the water to change the course of the little craft, or to push it ahead a little into the more shaded places. Marjorie did not assist in this, for he desired her to sit in the bow facing him, while he, himself, essayed the task of paddler. There was little of exertion, however, for the two had no other object in view than the company of their own selves. And so they drifted aimlessly about the stream.

“Yes, I think that I ought to leave tomorrow for White Plains to confer with His Excellency.”

“I should be the last to hinder you in the performance of duty. By all means, go.”

“Of course it may be no more than a suspicion, but if you are sure of what Anderson said, then I think that the matter should be brought to the attention of the Commander-in-chief.”

“Of course, you understand that Mr. Anderson told me nothing definite. But he did hint that General Arnold should be placed in command of a more responsible post in the American army; and that steps should be taken to have him promoted to the Second in Command.”

Stephen thought for a minute.

“That sounds innocent enough. But you must remember that events have come to light in the past fortnight which for months had lain concealed in the minds of these two men. Who knows but what this was included in their nefarious scheme. I am uneasy about it all, and must see the chief.”

“But you will come back?”

“At once unless prevented by a detail to a new field. I am subject at all times to the will of my leader.”

Her face fell.


The solemn stillness, the almost noiseless motion of the boat, the livid shades surrounding the place, all contributed to the mood of pensiveness and meditation which was rapidly stealing upon them. The very silence of the cove was infectious. Marjorie felt it almost immediately, and relaxed without a murmur.

A stream of thoughts began to course in continuous procession through her mind, awakening there whatever latent images lay buried in her memory, and fashioning new ideas and seemingly possible situations from her experiences of the past year. Now she suddenly discovered her former interest quickened to a violent degree. She was living over again the memories of the happy hours of other days.

Certainly Stephen was as constant as ever. To her discerning eye his manner of action conveyed no other impression. But he was the same enigma, however, as far as the communication of thought was concerned, and she knew no more of his pleasures and desires than she did of the inspirations of his soul.

It was the first time in months she had seen and taken delight in his own old self. Never had he been so attentive quite as John Anderson, nor so profuse in his protestations, nor so ready with his apologies. And what was more she did not expect him to be. But he was more sincere when it came to a question of unfolding one’s own convictions, more engaging where will-power, propriety, performance of duty, were concerned. He alone possessed the rule to which all, in her own mind, were obliged to conform. And so she was compelled to admire him.

These fond memories suffered an interruption by a vision of the extreme disquietude produced upon Stephen by her unfortunate acquaintanceship with Mr. Anderson. And yet she had been profoundly sincere with herself. Never had she conveyed the impression to any man that she had given him a second sobering thought. Her home constituted for her a chief delight, her home, her devoted mother, her fond father. Peggy had been her sole companion previous to her marriage with the Governor; and whatever men she had met with were they who composed the gay assemblies at which her friend was the pretty hostess and she the invited guest. As far as Anderson was concerned, and Stephen, for that matter, she doubted if she had been in the company of either more than a dozen times in the course of her life. Certainly not enough to know either of them intimately.

Of the two men who had effected the most complete entree into her society, Stephen had, unquestionably, impressed her the more favorably. For a time he seemed too far removed from her; and she failed to experience that sense of proportion between them so necessary for mutual regard. Perhaps it was due to this negation, or perhaps it was owing to her modest reserve, or perhaps to both, that whatever familiar intercourse, sympathy or affinity ought to have existed was naturally excluded. True friendship requires a certain equality, or at least a feeling of proportion between those whom it would bind together. And this she felt had not prevailed.

She did not pause to consider the correctness or the incorrectness of her inference. It was quite enough for her to know that this spirit of inequality existed. In his presence, however, she felt at perfect ease, wholly oblivious of everything save her own happiness, as she could now bear witness to, but alone with her thoughts the horrible imagining forced itself upon her and served to widen perceptibly the gulf between them. Reflection disconcerted her.

Happily, her enterprise respecting Anderson and his nefarious scheme had terminated successfully. Happily, too, Stephen’s misconstruction of the affair had been corrected. No longer would he doubt her. Their fortunes had approached the crisis. It came. Anderson had fled town; Arnold and Peggy were removed from their lives perhaps for ever. Stephen was with her now and she experienced a sense of happiness beyond all human estimation. She would she could read his mind to learn there his own feelings. Was he, too, conscious of the same delights? A reciprocal feeling was alone necessary to complete the measure of her joy. But he was as non-communicative as ever, totally absorbed in this terrible business that obsessed him. Her riddle, she feared, would remain unanswered. Patriotism, it seemed, was more pressing than love.

The canoe had drifted nearer to the shore. At Stephen’s suggestion she aroused herself from her lethargy and alighted on the bank. He soon followed, drawing the canoe on to the shore a little to prevent its wandering away. Marjorie walked through the grass, stooping to pick here and there a little flower which lay smiling at her feet. Stephen stood to one side and looked after her.


“Stephen,” she asked, as she returned to him and stood for a moment smiling straight at him, “will you tell me something?”

“Anything you ask,” he assured her. “What do you wish to know?”

But she did not inquire further. Her eyes were fixed in earnest attention upon the flowers which she began to arrange into a little bouquet.

“Are you still vexed with me?”

There! It was out. She looked at him coquettishly.

“Marjorie!” he exclaimed. “What ever caused you to say that?”

“I scarce know,” she replied. “I suppose I just thought so, that was all.”

“Would I be here now?” He tried to assure her with a tone of sincerity. “One need not hear a man speak to learn his mind.”

“Yes. But I thought ”

He seized hold of her hand.

“Come,” he said. “Won’t you sit down while I tell you?”

She accepted his offer and allowed herself to be assisted.

“You thought that I was displeased with you on account of John
Anderson,” he remarked as he took his place by her side. “Am I correct?”

She did not answer.

“And you thought, perhaps, that I scorned you?”

“Oh, no! Not that! I did not think that ... I ... I....”

“Well, then, that I lost all interest in you?”

She thought for a second. Then she smiled as if she dared not say what was in her mind.

“Listen. I shall tell you. I did not reprove you with so much as a fault. I know well that it is next to impossible to be in the frequent presence of an individual without experiencing at some time some emotion. He becomes continually repugnant, or else exceedingly fascinating. The sentiments of the heart never stand still.”

“Yes, I know, but....”

“I did think that you had been fascinated. I concluded that you had been charmed by John Anderson’s manner. Because I had no desire of losing your good will, I did ask you to avoid him, but at the same time, I did not feel free enough to cast aspersions upon his character and so change your good opinion of him. The outcome I never doubted, much as I was disturbed over the whole affair. I felt that eventually you would learn for yourself.”

“But why did you not believe in me? I tried to give you every assurance that I was loyal....”

“The fault lay in my enforced absence from you, and in the nature of the circumstances which combined against you. I knew Anderson; but I was unaware of your own thought or purpose. My business led me on one occasion to your home where I found you ready to entertain him. The several other times in which I found you together caused me to think that you, too, had been impressed by him.”

Marjorie sat silent. She was pondering deeply the while he spoke and attempted to understand the emotions that had fought in his heart. She knew very well that he was sincere in his confession, and that she had been the victim of circumstances; still she thanked God that the truth had been revealed to him.

“Sometimes I feel as if I had been simply a tool in his hands, and that I had been worsted in the encounter.”

“You have had no reason to think that. You perhaps unconsciously gave him some information concerning the members of our faith, their number, their lot, their ambitions, but you must remember, too, that he had given some valuable information to you in return. The man may have been sincere with you from the beginning.”

“No! I think neither of us were sincere. The memory of it all is painful; and I regret exceedingly of having had to play the part of the coquette.”

A great silence stole upon them. He looked out over the river at the wavelets dancing gleefully in the sunlight, as they ran downstream with the current as if anxious to outstrip it to the sea. She grew tired of the little flowers and looked about to gather others. Presently she bethought herself and took from her bodice what appeared to be a golden locket. Stephen, attracted by her emotion, saw the trinket at once, its bright yellow frame glistening in the sun.

“Have you ever seen this?” she asked as she looked at it intently.

He extended his hand in anticipation. She gave it to him.

“Beautiful!” he exclaimed. “How long have you had this?”

“About a year,” she replied nonchalantly, and clasped her hands about her knees.

He leaned forward and continued to study it for the longest time. He held it near to him and then at arm’s length. Then he looked at her.

“It is beautiful,” he repeated. “It is a wonderful likeness, and yet I should say that it does not half express the winsomeness of your countenance.” He smiled generously at her blushes as he returned it to her.

“It was given me by John Anderson,” she declared.

“It is a treasure. And it is richly set.”

“He painted it himself and brought it to me after that night at Peggy’s.”

“I always said that he possessed extraordinary talents. I should keep that as a commemoration of your daring enterprise.”

“Never. I purpose to destroy all memory of him.”

“You have lost nothing, and have gained what books cannot unfold. Observation and experience are the prime educators.”

“But exceedingly severe.”

“Come,” said Stephen. “Let us not allude to him again. It grieves you. He has passed from your life forever.”

“Forever!” she repeated.

And as if by a mighty effort she drew back her arm and flung the miniature far from her in the direction of the river. On a sudden there was a splash, a gulp of the waters, and a little commotion as they hurriedly came together and folded over their prey.

“Marjorie!” he shouted making an attempt to restrain her. It was too late.

“What have you done?” he asked.

She displayed her empty hands and laughed.

“Forever!” she repeated, opening her arms with a telling gesture. “I never should have accepted it, but I was strangely fascinated by it, I suppose.”

For the moment neither spoke; he felt as if he could not speak; and she looked like a child, her cheeks aglow with the exertion, and her eyes alight with merriment. Stephen looked intently at her and as she perceived his look, a very curious change came across her face. He saw it at once, although he did not think of it until afterwards.

“Marjorie,” he said as he moved nearer to her and slipped his arm very gently about her. “You must have known for the longest time, from my actions, from my incessant attentions, from my words, the extent of my feeling for you. It were idle of me to attempt to give expression to it. It cannot be explained. It must be perceived; and you, undoubtedly, have perceived it.”

There was no response. She remained passive, her eyes on the ground, scarcely realizing what he was saying.

“I think you know what I am going to say. I am very fond of you. But you must have felt more; some hidden voice must have whispered often to you that I love you.”

He drew her to him and raised both her hands to his lips.

She remonstrated.

“Stephen!” she said.

He drew back sadly. She became silent, her head lowered, her eyes downcast, intent upon the hands in her lap. With her fingers she rubbed away the caress. She was thinking rapidly, yet her face betrayed no visible emotion, whether of joy, or surprise, or resentment. Only her cheek danced with a ray of sunshine, a stolen reflection from the joyous waves.

“Marjorie,” he said gently, “please forgive me. I meant no harm.”

She made a little movement as if to speak.

“I had to tell you,” he continued. “I thought you understood.”

She buried her face in her hands; her frame shook violently. Stephen was confused a little; for he thought that she had taken offense. He attempted to reassure her.

“Marjorie. Please.... I give you my word I shall never mention this subject again. I am sorry, very sorry.”

She dried her eyes and looked at her handkerchief. Then she stood up.

“Come, let us go,” he said after he had assisted her.

They walked together towards the boat.