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- Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker - 50/75 -
I started as Darthea moved across the window-space on the arm of Andre, while following them were Montresor and my cousin. I felt the blood go to my face as I saw them, and drew back, letting the parted branches come together. With this storm of love and hate came again the sudden reflection that I had no right to be here, and that I was off the track of duty. I stood a moment; the night was dark; lights gleamed far out on the river from the battleships. The strains of their bands fell and rose, faintly heard in the distance.
I saw as it were before me with distinctness the camp on the windy hill, the half-starved, ragged men, the face of the great chief they loved. Once again I looked back on this contrasting scene of foolish luxury, and turned to go from where I felt I never should have been. Poor old Joseph Wharton! I smiled to think that, could he have known to what worldly use his quiet Quaker home had come, he would have rolled uneasy in his unnamed grave in the ground of the Arch Street Meeting.
Turning, I gave a few moments of thought to my plans. Suddenly the music ceased, and, with laughter and pretty cries of expectation, gay gown and fan and hoop and the many-coloured uniforms trooped out from the doors, as I learned later, to see the fireworks, over which were to be set off for final flattery in fiery letters, "_Tes Lauriers Sont Immortels_." I hope he liked them, those unfading laurels! The shrubbery was at once alive with joyous women and laughing men.
I had not counted on this, and despite my disguise I felt that any moment might put me in deadly peril. The speedy fate of a spy I knew too well.
They were all around me in a minute, moving to and fro, merry and chatting. I heard Andre say to Darthea, "It must please the general; a great success. I shall write it all to London. Ah, Miss Peniston! how to describe the ladies!"
"And their gowns!" cried Darthea, "their gowns!"
"I am reduced to desperation," said Andre. "I must ask the women to describe one another; hey, Wynne?" They were now standing apart from the rest, and I, hid by the bushes, was not five feet away.
"A dangerous resource," returned Wynne. "The list of wounded vanities would be large. How like a brown fairy is Miss Pranks! Who shall describe her? No woman will dare."
"You might ask Mr. Oliver de Laneey," said Miss Darthea. "She would be secure of a pretty picture."
"And you," said Wynne--"who is to be your painter?"
"I shall beg for the place," cried Andre.
"I think I shall take some rebel officer," said Darthea, saucily. "Think how fresh we should look to those love-starved gentlemen whom Sir William has brought to such abject submission."
Andre laughed, but not very heartily. As to Wynne, he was silent. The captain went on to say how sad it was that just as the general was ready to sweep those colonials out of existence--
"Why not say rebels, Andre?" Wynne broke in.
"Better not! better not! I never do. It only makes more bitter what is bad enough. But where are the fireworks?"
Meanwhile I was in dire perplexity, afraid to stir, hoping that they would move away.
"There is a seat hereabouts," said my cousin.
"You must be tired, Miss Peniston."
"I will look," said Wynne. "This way."
As I was in possession of the seat, I got down at once, but in two steps Arthur was beside me, and for an instant the full blaze from the window caught me square in the face. He was nearest, but Darthea was just behind him, and none other but Andre close at hand.
"By heavens!" I heard, and my cousin had me by the collar. "Here, Andre! A spy! a spy! Quick!"
I heard a cry from Darthea, and saw her reel against my cousin's shoulder.
"Help! help! I am--ill."
Arthur turned, exclaiming, "Darthea! My God!" and thus distracted between her and me, let slack his hold. I tore away and ran around the house, upsetting an old officer, and so through the shrubbery and the servants, whom I hustled one way and another. I heard shouts of "Spy!" "Stop thief!" and the rattle of arms all around me. Several waggons blocked the roadway. I felt that I must be caught, and darted under a waggon body. I was close to the lines as I rose from beneath the waggon.
At this instant cannonry thundered out to north, and a rocket rose in air. The grenadiers looked up in surprise. Seeing the momentary disorder of these men, who were standing at intervals of some six feet apart, I darted through them and into the crowd of spectators. I still heard shouts and orders, but pushed in among the people outside of the guard, hither and thither, using my legs and elbows to good purpose. Increasing rattle of musketry was heard in the distance, the ships beating to quarters, the cries and noises back of me louder and louder. I was now moving slowly in the crowd, and at last got clean away from it.
What had happened I knew not, but it was most fortunate for me. When a few yards from the people I began to run, stumbling over the fields, into and through ditches, and because of this alarm was at last, I concluded, reasonably safe.
[Illustration: "HERE ANDRE! A SPY"] Page 376 Hugh Wynne
[Transcriber's Note: Three men stand side by side, as a woman, her back to the viewer, appears to swoon or fall.]
I had run nearly a mile before I sat down to get my breath and cool off. Away to north a great flare of red fire lit up the sky. What it was I knew not, but sat awhile and gave myself leave to think. My cousin had instantly known me, but he had hesitated a moment. I knew the signs of indecision in his face too well to be misled. I had felt, as he seized me, that I was lost. I could not blame him; it was clearly his duty. But I do not think I should have willingly recognised him under like circumstances. My very hatred would have made me more than hesitate. Still, who can say what he would do in the haste of such a brief moral conflict? I could recall, as I sat still and reflected, the really savage joy in his face as he collared me. How deeply he must love her! He seemed, as it were, to go to pieces at her cry. Was she ill? Did her quick-coming sense of my danger make her faint? I had seen her unaccountably thus affected once before, as he who reads these pages may remember. Or was it a ready-witted ruse? Ah, my sweet Darthea! I wanted to think it that.
The blaze to northward was still growing brighter, and being now far out on the marshes south of the town, I made up my mind to use my pass at the nearer ferry, which we call Gray's, and this, too, as soon as possible, for fear that orders to stop a Quaker spy might cause me to regret delay.
When I came to Montresor's bridge my thought went back to my former escape, and, avoiding all appearance of haste, I stayed to ask the sergeant in charge of the guard what the blaze meant. He said it was an alert.
A few days after, McLane related to me with glee how with Clowe's dragoons and a hundred foot he had stolen up to the lines, every man having a pot of tar; how they had smeared the dry abatis and brush, and at a signal fired the whole mass of dried wood. He was followed into the fastnesses of the Wissahickon, and lost his ensign and a man or two near Barren Hill. The infantry scattered and hid in the woods, but McLane swam his horse across the Schuylkill, got the help of Morgan's rifles, and, returning, drove his pursuers up to their own intrenchments. He said it was the best fun he had ever had, and he hoped the Tory ladies liked his fireworks. At all events, it saved my neck.
As I walked through Gray's Lane I fell to reflecting upon Andre's behaviour, of which I have said nothing. I came to the conclusion that he could hardly have recognised me. This seemed likely enough, because we had not met often, and I too, apart from my disguise, had changed very greatly. And yet why had he not responded to an obvious call to duty? He certainly was not very quick to act on Arthur's cry for help. But Darthea was on his arm, and only let it go when she fell heavily against my cousin.
I had a fine story for Jack, and so, thinking with wonder of the whirl of adventure into which I had fallen ever since I left home, I hurried along. It is a singular fact, but true, that certain men never have unusual adventures. I am not one of these. Even in the most quiet times of peace I meet with odd incidents, and this has always been my lot. With this and other matters in my mind, resolving that never again would I permit any motive to lead me off the track of the hour's duty, I walked along. I had had a lesson.
I sought my old master's house, and reached it in an hour. Here I found food and ready help, and before evening next day, May 19, was at the camp. I spent an hour in carefully writing out my report, and Jack, under my directions, being clever with the pencil, made plans of the forts and the enemy's defences, which I took to headquarters, and a copy of which I have inserted in these memoirs. I had every reason to believe that my report was satisfactory. I then went back to discourse with Jack over my adventures. You may see hanging framed in my library, and below General von Knyphausen's sword, a letter which an orderly brought to me the next day:
"Sir: It would be an impropriety to mention in general orders a service such as you have rendered. To do so might subject you to greater peril, or to ill treatment were you to fall into the hands of the enemy. I needed no fresh proof of your merit to bear it in remembrance. No one can feel more sensibly the value of your gallant conduct, or more rejoice for your escape.
"I have the honour to be "Your obed(t) Hum(e) Serv(t), "G(e) Washington.
"To Lieut. Hugh Wynne, etc."
[Transcriber's Note: A hand-drawn map is placed at this point in the print copy. It depicts such locations as "Bartram's garden," "Mr. Hamilton," "The Wooodlands," "Schuylkill River," "Middle Ferry," "Blue Hills," "Wind Mill Island," "Delaware River," etc.]
This was writ in his own hand, as were many of his letters, even such as were of great length. The handwriting betrays no mark of haste, and seems
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