It was new to me, working in a large
shop, with a number of men. In Boston I had come in contact with few. Now,
for the first time, I may say, I came to know the Americans. I admired
their steady application to work, their energy and resourcefulness. When a
difficulty arose they faced it until it
was overcome, and they were eager to adopt new
methods. They watched me at my bench to see if they had anything to learn
from Boston ways, but I had much more to learn from them, and studied
their quickness of hand and alertness in manner. Their talk was a
disappointment. They had two subjects of neverfailing interest—making
money and politics. When it was
not the cost of this and that, bargains and dickers, it was abuse of the
British government. Nothing it did was right, and I came to realize how
rife was discontent, and as I did not think as they did it was prudence
for me to hold my tongue. For the first time in my life I had more money
than needs and put away all I could, for I felt, if a chance came to do
anything for my People in Virginia, I must have money. I borrowed books
and read at nights, practising writing too, and keeping much by myself.
Time passed, and though I was doing well, I began to grow discontented.
There was a lack in my daily life that I could not name yet was sensible
of, a hunger for something undefinable. I yearned much for Scotland; when
I thought of my home across the Atlantic, poor as it had been, tears would
come. I yearned, also, for my Boston home—its mistress and her grandchild.
I dwelt on the past till I was sick at heart. My present was a round of
duty that did not satisfy; the talk of my comrades in the shop. grated on
me; the future had not a gleam of hope. I saw much I would like to do,
without the slightest prospect of ever having the means to make good. I
lived in dreams, accomplishing the impossible, until the dreams possessed
me and I grew angry at myself in finding it so difficult to get rid of
them. When the imagination rules the reason, the soul grows sick and feels
it is under the control of a power that is unhealthy and breeds
unhappiness. I never prayed more earnestly than I did for deliverance from
my own fancies and for control of my thoughts and feelings. It was long
before I came to see my possession was a form of selfishness; that whoever
takes an interest in those he associates with and tries to do them good
cannot be so afflicted.
Otherwise my days passed smoothly. I
sent and received messages from Donald by acquaintances visiting New York.
He had heard nothing of our People. My second winter in Albany . was
trying. When winter set in there were many failures and business became
bad. I was among those discharged from the shop and, in my idleness, came
to realize how much regular daily work goes to form happiness. After that
weary winter I never looked on work as something to be endured, but as a
means prescribed by God for our enjoyment of life; as a duty to be
performed contentedly if not gladly. The pleasantest hours of my life have
been spent in what some of my fellow-workers regarded as a daily grind,
which they shirked as much as they dared. The so-called gentleman of
leisure knows not the true flavor of life, which comes to him who puts his
heart in his toil and takes pleasure out of it. To the right-minded man or
woman, to earn a livelihood by the sweat of the face is no curse: . it is
a benevolent provision of our Maker. The enforced idleness of that winter
taught me more. I was never wasteful, but it came to me as never before,
the sin of him who has little in buying what he could do without. Present
gratification of even an innocent want, is not to be compared with the
satisfaction felt when, some trial overtaking you, the world is faced with
savings in your pocket. I had to pinch and live poorly, but had never to
ask credit or seek to borrow. I maintained my independence, and to a true
Scotchmau that means much. As spring came in matters improved somewhat,
and I jumped at the first job I could find. My ability to do something for
my People was farther away than ever.
That summer came the event of. my
life. I went with a companion one Sunday afternoon for a stroll along the
bank of the Hudson. We met two girls whom my friend knew. I was
introduced. My friend passed forward with one, I followed with the other.
Both were employed in a gentleman’s house, in the suburbs, that overlooked
the river and we parted at its gate. Walking homewards my companion
remarked, "That girl seemed to please you, Scotty, though she is neither
young nor pretty." He knew not that the light of those dark eyes had
revealed chambers in my soul I had never dreamt of in all my dreaming. I
walked as if treading on clouds, and was lifted into an atmosphere of
purity and peace through which life took on a new aspect and everything I
saw had a new meaning. Time and again my eyes had feasted on the same
scene, the noble expanse of water, the verdant banks, the treecrowned
slopes, the height clustered around by buildings, all bathed in the mellow
haze of the departing sun, but never before did they so impress me. The
prose of my life had been glorified into poetry. Next morning, on taking
up work, every nail I drove strengthened my resolve to win her.
I sought the company of those whom
she visited. Her mistress was strict in giving her only an evening a week
and Sunday afternoon, and where she went I tried to be. I saw that, no
matter how many were in company, she took the lead, and all courted her
approval. Her invariable good humor and kind words accounted for this in
part, but there was an elevation in her character in which I saw the true
explanation. The first time I could detect she showed a preference for
myself gave me a thrill of delight. I did not presume upon it, for I felt
I was unworthy, and continued to wait upon her, until gradually we passed
from being acquaintances to be friends, and from friends to love each
other. She was my superior intellectually. A farmer’s daughter she had
found her first place with a wealthy couple who were scions of the
aristocracy of England. Contact with them had insensibly given her mind a
finer tone, and, fond of reading, access to a large library enlarged her
mind. She lifted me to a higher plane and fixed my loose ideas on society,
politics, and religion. Opinions and convictions which I had sought, in
clumsy, stumbling fashion, she had reached, so it seemed to me, by
intuition. The pure in heart see truths to which the gross, however
learned, are blind. We were looking forward to the time when we should
have a home of our own when events happened that dashed the cup of
anticipated joy from our lips.
The feeling of discontent had grown
to that degree that separation from Britain was the absorbing topic of the
day. In Albany the people, by a great majority, were against the British
government, and they grew more bitter daily against the Tories, for so
they named those who clung to connection with the land of their fathers.
When fighting started, defeats were resented on the Tories and victories
made occasion of treating them with contumely. From social persecution,
refusing to buy from or to give work to those suspected of sympathizing
with Britain, the feeling rose to assaults on person and property—
stone-throwing and smashing windows. These outrages grew worse, until it
became common, when any exciting news was received, for mobs to gather at
dark, who entered the houses of suspects to tender the new oath of
allegiance, and, on refusal, to throw furniture into the street for a
bonfire, and threaten death if they did not leave the town. To save their
families and property many did take the oath. I was careful to give no
offence yet I knew I was being watched and would have gone to New York but
for Miriam. Her I would not leave and she scorned the idea of flight.
One day, in early spring, in passing
at noon to dinner, a boy at the door of a store on Broadway called me,
saying his master, Mr Sehuyler, desired speech with me. I knew the master
by sight, a leading merchant of the town, with a name for grasping and
cunning. Leading me to the backstore he asked me whether I knew a British
spy was at the house of Miriam’s master. I looked at him in surprise.
"Come, come," he went on, "do not hide anything. Nobody in Albany knows
where I stand. The Whigs are coaxing me to declare for them, but I have my
own opinions. Why should we leave Britain because she wants us to pay part
of the cost of the war she fought to save us from the French and the
He drew his bushy eyebrows down and
leered at me, as much as to say, You see I am with you. I frankly told him
I knew of no spy, that I had not been at the stonehouse for two nights.
When I had, with difficulty, convinced him I was speaking the truth, he
went on to tell me a gentleman had arrived at the house after dark the
past evening. He had come in a rowboat and had two bags of gold. Furtively
looking round to make sure no one was listening, he added. "The rebels
have wind of this, and have planned to mob and rob the house this night."
I could not help an exclamation of horror. He smiled
cunningly. "Ah, you realize what might happen. Now I have a plan to save
the gold and your girl. You go and prepare her. When it is dark I will
follow, you will give the gold into my care, and when the mob arrives they
will find nobody in the house and no gold."
I was astounded. "What about the master and mistress?"
"They are not there. They left on a visit yesterday
morning. There is only the stranger and your girl in the house," and he
leered again at me in a way that made me hate him.
"How do you know, there is gold?" I asked.
"British officers are fools—they trust anybody. The
boatman who brought him up the river is—ahem—a rebel. The officer took him
for a Tory, talked frankly with him, and handed him two bags to carry into
the house. The boatman knows where he laid them down—I heard him tell all
about it. Oh, my dear man, it is in the house sure enough and we can have
it. Two leather-bags full of gold guineas!" and he rubbed his hands
together and crackled his knuckles. Giving me a nudge, he added "You’ll
have a share of the stuff."
I turned to leave, when he said, "Stay, it must look as
if you had been in to buy something—everybody is a spy these days," and he
.. hurriedly made up a parcel which he thrust under my arm as I left the
I did not go back to the shop that afternoon. My duty
was to save Miriam and I set about preparing myself for leaving Albany. It
was my evening to visit Miriam and I ventured on going an hour before the
usual time. She was much surprised at my early coming, and more so as I
quickly told her It was all true, a stranger was in the house, and had
brought with him two bags of gold She asked me to follow her and led me to
the library, where I saw a man seated at a table making notes in a randum
book He was a noble looking fellow, with a bearing that betrayed his
profession, though his clothes were the homespun of a farmer. Miriam
explained the cause of our intrusion, and he grasped the situation at
once. He told us he was a major in the army and was on his way to see Sir
John Johnson to arrange with him as to the part he was to take in a
movement that was about to be made by an army from Canada. His
instructions were to stop at the house he was in, and get the advice of
its master. Unfortunately he found him from home or he would have resumed
his, journey that morning.
"Can I trust this merchant?" he asked.
I dared not answer for fear of misleading him, for I
had no faith in Schuyler.
The major was walking up and down the room in
perplexity. "Betrayed by a boatman whom I paid like a prince, and now have
to place my despatches and my life at the disposal of an unknown trader."
Halting before Miriam, he asked, "Young woman, what do you say? Shall I
trust this shopkeeper?"
"No," she replied without a pause. "I see through his
plan. If the mob gets the gold it will be divided. He has laid his plan to
forestall the mob and get it all for himself." , ‘
"What of me?" said the major.
"You and your despatches will be sent to Washington You
know how he uses carriers of des-patches."
"What is your advice?"
"To fly at once. There is a boat at the river bank.
Morven will row you and your gold to the landing that leads to the house
you were next to visit?"
"And you will go with us?"
"Never, I stay in the house my mistress left in my
"No, Miriam, I know the sort of men who lead these
mobs. Come with us," I cried.
Just then there was a long whistle. It was the signal
the storekeeper was to give me. "Leave me to deal with him," whispered
Miriam as she grasped my hand. I clasped her in my arms and again
entreated her to go with me. She was resolute in refusing—her duty was to
stay and try to save her master’s property. The major re-entered the room.
With the alertness of a soldier he was ready for the next move, and had a
bag of gold under each arm. When I turned to make a 1ast appeal to Miriam
I found she had silently left. I led the way out by the back door and down
the river bank to the boat. We stepped into it and I was speedily pulling
out into the stream. My heart was filled with sad forebodings. My resolve
was taken, on leaving the major at his destination, to hasten back to
Miriam. The row took much longer and. the mob gathered sooner than I
counted upon. I did not know the places on the river, and twice had to
stop make inquiries, and last of all had to accompany the .májor to his
destination, which was some distance from the river.
Once sure the boat was beyond reach, Miriam opened the
front door a little bit and putting out her arm waved a handkerchief. A
footstep was heard and presently Schuyler appeared. "You have managed
well, Morven," he said as he stepped in. He
went towards a lighted room at the end of the hall, and as he did so he
heard the door closed and bolted. He stood waiting in the room for Morven,
whom he supposed was securing the door. When Miriam came, he started and
grew white. "Where is Morven?" he gasped.
"He had to leave, but he told
me your errand. You want the British gold?"
"Hush, will we not be overheard?"
"No, speak out like a man and do not stand shaking as
if you had the ague."
"In these perilous times we do not know whom to trust."
"That is true."
"But I will trust you, my dear woman. You help me to
get the bags and I will carry them, and you will follow me for the house
is to be mobbed?’
"What about the gentleman who brought them?"
"Leave him in his room; I will see him afterwards."
"But, sir, the bags are his"
"This is no time for talk," and lifting one of the two
candlesticks, Schuyler walked to. the kitchen, with the remark, "I know
where the bags are." At one corner of the kitchen was a trap-door, which
he raised and went down the steps into the cellar. Miriam softly lowered
the trap-door, pulled the woodbox on top of it and waited. She could hear
the search among boxes and barrels beneath, then angry exclamations, and
finally a burst of rage when,
seeking to return to the kitchen, the searcher found
the trap-door shut. He pounded it and shouted in desperation. Miriam stood
by enjoying his discomfiture. "Let
me out," was
"You have got the bags?" she asked.
"No, you have done away with them."
"Oh, sir, look again: I will wait for you."
"They are gone, I tell you; I.found the place where the
boatman left them. Let me out at once or it will be worse for you, you
"Oh, well, if that is what you say, I will keep you in
The sound of fife and drum was now faintly heard.
Leaving the kitchen Miriam went upstairs and stepping out on the balcony
could. discern a dark mass of people coming, with a few lanterns and a
number of torches, headed by fifer and drummer. When the crowd, which was
strangely silent as if under discipline, reached, the house, a voice
shouted "Halt," and a man came forward to the front door and knocked.
Miriam waited. a while and then stepping out asked what
was wanted. The man who had cried Halt looked upwards and told her to come
down and opened the door.
"For what purpose?"
"We have certain information that a spy is concealed in
the house and as patriots, it is our duty to secure him."
"There is no spy here There is no one in the
house save one of your own patriots who is
searching for bags of gold in the
At this there was a shout, followed by a burst of
laughter as one of the crowd cried "Schuyler has tried to get ahead
"Open the door at once or we will burst it in."
"I dare not, sir. I was left in charge and will protect
my master’s property."
"No Tory can own property; your master’s estate has
been confiscated by the county committee. Will you open the door?"
The man stepped backward. "My lads, we have
got to break in."
Miriam did not stir. Leaning over the rail of the
balcony she cried, "Men, I am only a defenceless woman—have respect for me
in protecting the property entrusted to my care."
The answer came in a volley of stones, which rattled
against the building, smashing glass, and ex torting a cry of pain from
Miriam who moved inside. Axes were being wielded at the stout oaken door,
when the cry was heard that entrance had been
effected from behind. The door was thrown open by those who had got
in by the back entrance. The torches were piled in a heap and on top of
them such brushwood, seats, and railings as lay to hand, and the blaze lit
up the scene. It revealed several hundred men and boys, who swarmed into
the state- ly mansion to pick up whatever was portable and,
whose shouts and screams filled the air. In response
to his pounding, Schuyler was helped out of his
prison. He was in a towering rage of indignation and made straight for the
leader to denounce Miriam as having stolen and concealed the gold. The
result of the visits of the crowd to the wine-cellar speedily began to
show. Hilarious shouts with snatches of song were heard and bottles were
passed from hand to hand in drinking "Confusion to the Tories." A barrel
of beer was rolled out and tapped and with loosened tongues men began to
boast of what they had found and show their plunder. The holding of a silk
purse, with gold in one end and silver in the other, found in a bedroom,
excited jealousy, and the cry rose for their share of the gold in the
Spy’s bags. The assertion of one excited citizen, that the bags had been
found and were being concealed by the big men to share quietly among
themselves, was believed, and a score gathered round the leader, demanding
immediate payment of their share. His denials lost force
from Schuyler vehemently declaring he knew the bags were in the building
and his appeal to the boatman, who was one of the crowd, and who repeated
his story of carrying them into the cellar. He had looked in the place
where he had left them; they were gone, and somebody (with a nod at the
leader) knew who took them. The wrangling was hot when a shout from behind
the house was heard, and there appeared several men, two of them
supporting Miriam. "That is her," screamed Schuyler, "she knows where the
gold is." When Miriam fled from the upper balcony she passed through the
house with the intention of finding refuge in a clump of evergreens that
grew in the rear. One of the stones thrown had struck her ‘squarely on the
forehead. She was dazed as she fled, then came a feeling of giddiness, and
she fell in a swoon. Lads searching for plunder in the outbuildings saw
her prostrate, shook her, roughly assisted her to her feet, and hurried
her to the front. "Young woman,’ tell us where the gold is." Miriam looked
round on the strange scene as one waking from sleep. The demand was
repeated more sternly. "There are no bags of gold in .the house," she
"Yes there is," shouted the boatman and Schuyler, the
latter adding, "Make her tell." By this time all on the lawn had gathered
round the group.
"Patriots," said Schuyler, assuming the tone of a
stump-speaker, "the British spy came to that house last night with two
leather-bags as full of gold as they could hold. The .
boatman here will swear to their weight and :
where he left them. They never left this day, for I
had, at my own cost, a man hired to watch, so that you
would not be robbed of the spoil that is your right. I came myself in the
evening to help him, afraid that the spy might get away in the
dark, and when I forced my way into the house to arrest him this bold
woman fooled me, to give the British spy time to
escape with her leman, Morven, who deceived me by pretending he was for
public. But the bags are in the house yet, enough to
give every one of you a score of guineas apiece, maybe more. We must force
her to tell."
When he stopped in his harangue Schuyler was white with
Excited by drink and their greed for gold, the crowd
shouted approvingly and a voice cried, "Hang her, if she don’t tell."
The leader looked with some degree of compassion on her
as he said in persuasive tones, "You had better tell arid save yourself."
Miriam with an effort roused herself. "There is no
gold; it was taken by the officer when he left in the evening."
"It's a lie," shrieked Schuyler, and in his rage at
being baffled out of the fortune he had been counting upon all day, he
clutched the girl by her dress, tore it and shook her with all his might.
"Hands off," said the leader, "leave her to me and she
will tell." He made the crowd stand off in a circle. The fire, replenished
by the furniture which had been pitched out of the windows, blazed high.
"Now, my woman, I will not let anybody do you. harm.
You need to get away; you are faint from the bleeding of your wound which
should be dressed right away, and you shall go at once, guarded by myself
to the nearest neighbor, if you will only whisper in my ear where they
will find the gold. Rouse yourself and tell me."
Miriam shook her head.
"We are not to be fooled, remember. You shall not leave
this spot until you have told me. I am the chairman of inspection and
observation and must do my duty."
Wearily Miriam lifted her head, opened her dazed eyes
and gazed listlessly at the. infuriated faces around her. "I have told you
the truth," she said quietly yet distinctly. Curses and threats burst from
the lips of men who believed a
lot of gold to be within reach. "Give her a drink," said a fellow, who
staggered forward with a bottle, "that will liven her up." As he attempted
to push the bottle to her lips, the leader thrust him aside. He was
perplexed what to do. "Unless you tell me," he whispered in her ear, "I
cannot save you from these men." She made no reply. Her eyes. were closed,
and she. was evidently praying.
The crowd had been growing larger all the while with
recruits from the city. Miriam staggered : and would have fallen had the
leader not gripped her. With a curse on her soul, Schuyler yelled "She is
shamming, make her tell. His words "Make her tell," were repeated by the
crowd. A stout fellow, in his shirtsleeves, sprang into the circle. "I'm
the Boston walloper and know how to make Tories squeal," and before the
leader could stop him he the ox-lash he carried and brought . it down on
Miriam’s shoulders. The crowd shouted with glee. "That’ll fetch her,"
"Give it her again!" Once more, the fellow swung his lash. Involuntarily
lifted his arms to save her, when Miriam fell and lay
prostrate on the grass. The leader knelt beside her and felt her heart.
When he at last rose, he said "She’s dead."
The announcement sobered the half drunken crowd for a
minute or two, but the disposition of several to disperse was arrested by
the bursting out of flames from the house. The sight renewed the
excitement, and careless of the dead woman on the lawn, the shouting,
singing, and carousing were resumed, and continued until a voice was heard
that they go and smoke out another Tory. The fife and drum struck up and
the crowd straggled backward towards the town.
Half an hour later Morven appeared. He had seen the
smoke as he rowed down the river but was not prepared to find it rose
frorn the house he had so lately left. What struck him was the absence of
onlookers. The falling in of the tiled roof had smothered the flames,
leaving the ruins in a glow with dense smoke. Amazed, Morven carefully
stepped around, watchful of being attacked, for he surmised the deed was
that of the Tories. He saw no one. Walking more boldly he crossed in front
of the house, when he saw a heap that looked like the body of a woman on
the lawn. He turned it over, parted the mass of black hair that covered
the face, and with a piercing cry of "My God!" raised the limp body in his
arms. "She cannot be dead—there is warmth yet," and tenderly laying his
burden on the grass, he clasped her hands and called her name. A
flickering flame shone on her face. He could no longer deceive himself,
the stony impress of Death was on the features he had doted upon. Lost in
wonder as to how she had died, blaming himself for leaving her, he gave
way to his sense of loss—that she who had been the light of his life, his
inspiration and joy, whom he had left a few hours ago in the bloom of
life, was now the senseless clod he pressed to his heart. Kneeling on his
right knee he lifted the body against his left and clasping it gave way to
his agony of spirit.
"Please, sir," said a timid voice. Raising his head he
saw the little boy who helped in the kitchen. Eagerly Morven questioned
him, and he told how all had happened. He had been in the house when
Schuyler came, and, sitting in the darkness, had heard all that had
passed, seen the crowd approach, repeated what Miriam said while standing
on the balcony, and saw the stone strike her, her flight to the rear of
the house, the discovery of her lying insensible in the yard, her
treatment by the mob, her death. As, bit by bit, Morven got the facts out
of the boy, his indignation rose. A cheer in the distance made him start
to his feet, and he could make out the crowd massed round a burning house.
"Oh for a claymore and fifty clansmen at my back, and I would smite you as
murderers deserve. Cowards, to kill a woman!" He paused. In a moment the
consciousness of his loss returned, and sinking beside the body he stroked
her face. "Forgive me, Miriam, you were just and forgiving and loved not
hate and bloodshed," and again, with convulsive throbs that shook his huge
frame, gave way to his sorrow. It was Tim who roused him. "Please, sir, I
see men coming." The sound of fife and drum told the crowd were marching
back to the town, and the stragglers Tim saw were a few men seeking their
homes by the river. With an effort Morven recovered his self-possession.
He saw he could not remain to be discovered by those who had taken part in
the night’s work. He felt it would be folly to go back to Albany, for he
had done enough in aiding the major to escape to cause the forfeiture of
his liberty, if not of his life. Was he to leave the body to be buried by
her murderers? Never, he said to himself, shall a hand of theirs touch it.
Reverently lifting it he carried it to the thicket of evergreens behind
the house. The eastern sky was beginning to whiten and the crescent of the
dying moon shed a ghastly light. Tim knew where the tools were kept and
fetched a pick and shovel. Selecting the hollow of an old runlet he dug a
grave. The sun was high by the time it was completed. The pine needles Tim
had raked together were strewn over the bottom.
On Morven’s lifting the body to lay it in its rude bed
an agony of pain shot through his bosom that was like to choke him, and
the memory of which he ne’er forgot. When he had mastered his feelings he
laid the body in its last resting-place, folding the hands and closing the
eyes which had so often glanced upon him. Tim had brought a posey of
spring flowers from the garden and it was laid on her breast. Over all
pine-needles were showered. Morven grasped the shovel to fill the grave,
when the consciousness of something wanting swept on his memory. Was there
to be no word of prayer? Was not God the father of the spirit that had
gone to him; had Morven, in his grief, not been selfish and forgotten his
God? Awed by the feeling that he was in the presence not of Death alone
but of Him who is the resurrection and the life, Morven fell on his knees
at the head of the grave and in Gaelic poured out his soul, recalling all
the benefits he had received, his thanks for the love of the woman whose
body he was committing to the dust, his hope that they would be reunited
where there is no parting, his entreaties that consolation be bestowed on
her parents, her brothers and sisters, his cry for help to enable him to
do his duty in the years before him, and then there was an inward
struggle—would he pray for her murderers? What would she have done in my
place? he asked, and then slowly, weighing each word, he prayed that God
would bring those who had taken Miriam’s life to a sense of their sin and
forgive them as he strove to forgive them for her sweet sake. He stood up
a changed man, calm and resolute. The grave was filled, and forest litter
gathered to fill the hollow in the ground so that its existence could not
be detected. When Tim returned from bestowing the tools where they
belonged, Morven said he must be hungry and asked him where he meant to
go—he would give him money to find a new place. Tim entreated to go with
him. He was a waif picked up in New York, had no friends, had never
anybody to love him until he knew Miriam. Morven could not refuse. "Joey
too?" queried the boy.
"Who is Joey?"
The boy loosened his jacket and the white head of a
rabbit peeped out. Morven nodded assent, and seeking the river bank found
the boat. They got in and Morven pulled toward the other shore.