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- Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker - 30/75 -
"Eat your breakfast," she said, "and get it over with your father."
I hurried through the meal, and went upstairs, to find my sleeve full of blood, although no harm had been done but what was easily set right by what Dr. Rush called a bit of diachylon plaster. (I think I spell it correctly.)
As I went by Darthea's home I cast a glance up at the open window, and saw my lady looking out. She was pale, and as she called to me I could not but go in, for, indeed, she ran herself to open the door.
"Come in! Oh, just a moment!" she cried. "Your aunt has written me a note, and it tells me almost nothing--nothing."
I was in no very kindly humour with Miss Darthea. Since our talk about my cousin she had been very high and mighty, and would have little to say to me except unpleasant things about the angry politics of the day. I said I was glad to have heard she had told no one of what my aunt's rash speech had let slip. I had better have held my own tongue. Darthea was in another mood to-day, and all at once became quiet and dignified.
"I gave my word, Mr. Wynne. When you know me better you will learn that I can keep it. Is--is Mr. Warder much hurt?"
"Yes," I said; "he is in great peril." I saw how anxious she was, and was vexed enough to want to hurt her.
"Oh, you men! you men!" she cried. "Will he die, do you think? Poor boy!" She sat down and began to cry. "He must not die; why did you lead him into such wicked trouble?"
It was vain to explain how little I had to do with the matter. Did she love Jack? I little knew in those days how tender was this gentle heart, how it went out, tendril-like, seeking it knew not what, and was for this reason ever liable to say too much, and to give rise to misapprehension.
"O Darthea!" I cried. "Dost thou love my Jack? I shall be the last to come in his way. I have said I love thee myself, and I can never change. But how can it be? how can it be? And my cousin? O Darthea!"
"I love no one, sir. I love everybody. I--I think you are impertinent, Mr. Wynne. Is it your business whom I love? My God! there is blood on your hand! Are you hurt?"
It was true; a little blood was trickling down my wrist. She was all tenderness again. I must not go; here was her handkerchief; and so on--till I longed to take her in my arms, she made me so sorry for her I said it was of no moment, and I must go.
"You will come soon again, and tell me about Jack."
I went away, not wondering that all the world should love her.
I hastened to Jack's home, and there found Dr. Rush and Dr. Glentworth, who was later to be the physician of Mr. Washington. My aunt, preceding me, had taken possession. Mr. Warder was reduced to a condition of abject obedience, and for a month and more my aunt hardly left her girl-boy's pillow. Indeed, it was long before I was let to see him, and then he was but a spectre of himself, with not enough blood to blush with. Our officers very promptly left for New York the day after our fight, and we heard no more of them.
It would have been of little use to tell this long story but for the consequences to me and to others. I should have done well to see my father at once; but I could not get away, and sat till noon, asking every now and then what I could do, and if Jack were better, despite the fact that I was told he was doing well.
Mr. Warder was one of those people who, once a crisis seems over, must still be doing something, and to be rid of him he was sent by my aunt to get certain articles the doctors did or did not need. It seemed wise to this gentleman, having completed his errands, to pay a visit of condolence to my father, and thus it was that greater mischief was made.
About two I got away, and set forth to see my parent. Already the news was out, and I was stopped over and over to explain what had happened. It was the hour of dinner; for Friends dined at two, but my aunt and the gayer set at four.
My father turned from his meal, and coldly looked me all over,--my arm was in a sling, on which Dr. Rush had insisted,--and last into my eyes. "Well," he said, "thou art come at last. Fortunately, Friend Warder has been here, and I know thy story and the mischief into which thou hast led his poor lad. It is time we had a settlement, thou and I. Hast thou fear neither of God nor of man? A rebellious son, and a defier of authority! It is well thy mother is dead before she saw thee come to this ruin of soul and body."
"My God! father," I cried; "how canst thou hurt me thus! I am in sorrow for Jack, and want help. To whom should I go but to thee? O mother, mother!" I looked around at the bare walls, and down at the sanded floor, and could only bury my face in my hands and weep like a baby. What with all the day had brought, and Darthea and Jack, and now this stern old man silent, impassive, unmoved by what was shaking me like a storm,--although I loved him still for all his hardness,--I had no refuge but in tears.
He rose, and I sat still, thinking what I should say. "When thou art ready to turn from thy sin and ask pardon of God and of me, who am brought to shame on thy account, I will talk with thee."
Upon this I set myself between him and the door. "We cannot part this way. It is too terrible."
"That was a matter thou hadst been wise to consider long ago, Hugh."
"No!" I cried. I was as resolved as he. "I must be heard. How have I offended? Have I neglected thy business? who can say so? I was insulted in Meeting, and I went where men do not trample on a penitent boy, and if I have gone the way of my aunt's world, is it my fault or thine? I have gone away from what, in thy opinion, is right as regards questions in which the best and purest side with me. Am I a child, that I may not use my own judgment?" It was the first time in my life that I had plainly asserted my freedom to think and to act.
To my surprise, he stood a moment in silence, looking down, I as quiet, regarding him with eager and attentive eyes. Then he said, seeking my gaze, "I am to blame; I have too much considered thy chances of worldly gain. I know not whence thou hast thy wilfulness." As I looked in the face of this strong, rock-like man, I wondered; for he went on, "Not from me, Hugh, not from me--"
"Stop!" I said. "Thou hast said enough." I feared lest again he should reproach her of whose sweetness I had naught but a gift of the blue eyes that must have met his with menace. I saw, as his hands shook, tapping the floor with his cane, how great were both his anger and his self-control.
"It were well, my son, that this ended. I hope thou wilt see thy way to better courses. Thy cousin was right. He, too, is a man not of my world, but he saw more clearly than I where thou wert going."
"What!" I cried, "and thou canst think this? Thou hast believed and trusted Arthur Wynne! What did he say of me?"
"I will not be questioned."
"The man lied to thee," I cried,--"why, I do not know,--and to others also. Why did he deceive us as to Wyncote? What reason had he? As he lied about that, so does he seem to have lied about me. By heaven! he shall answer me some day."
"I will hear no profanity in my house. Stand aside! Dost thou not hear me? Am I to be disobeyed in my own house?"
I but half took in his meaning, and stood still. The next moment he seized me by the lapels of my coat, and, spinning me round like a child, pushed me from him. I fell into the great Penn chair he had turned from the table when he rose. He threw open the door, and I saw him walk quickly down the hall and out into the orchard garden.
For a week he did no more than speak to me a word when business made it needful, and then the monotonous days went on as before in the gray, dismal home, out of which the light of life's gladness departed when those dear mother-eyes were closed in death.
While, throughout that sad summer, my Jack was slowly coming back to health, even the vast events of the war now under way moved me but little. My Aunt Gainor would think of no one but her young Quaker. Her house was no longer gay, nor would she go to the country, until Mr. Warder agreed that she should take Jack with us to the Hill Farmhouse, where, in the warm months, she moved among her cattle, and fed the hens, and helped and bullied every poor housewife far and near.
In a bright-tinted hammock I fetched from Madeira, Jack used to lie under the apple-trees that June and July, with my aunt for company; better could hardly have been. When I came from town in June, with news of what the farmers and their long rifles had done at Bunker Hill, it was a little too much for Jack's strength, and he burst into tears. But Dr. Rush declared that self-control was an affair of physical health, and that he who had too little blood--and Jack was lily-white--could be neither courageous, nor able to contain his emotions. I suppose it may be true.
I went in and out of town daily, my father being unwilling to go to Merion. At times I met James Wilson, who was steadily urging me to enter the army. Wetherill had scarce any other words for me. But my father, Jack's condition, and my aunt's depending on me, all stood in my way, and I did but content myself with an hour's daily drill in town with others, who were thus preparing themselves for active service.
We were taught, and well too, by an Irish sergeant--I fear a deserter from one of his Majesty's regiments. As Jack got better, he was eager to have me put him through his facings, but before he was fit the summer was nigh over.
It had been a time of great anxiety to all men. The Virginia colonel was commander-in-chief; a motley army held Sir William Howe penned up in Boston, and why he so quietly accepted this sheep-like fate no man of us could comprehend. My aunt, a great letter-writer, had many correspondents, and one or two in the camp at Cambridge.
"My Virginia fox-hunter," said my aunt, "is having evil days with the New England farmers. He is disposed to be despotic, says--well, no matter who. He likes the whipping-post too well, and thinks all should, like himself, serve without pay. A slow man it is, but intelligent," says my Aunt Gainor; "sure to get himself right, and patient too. You will see, Hugh; he will come slowly to understand these people."
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