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   Chapter 5 No.5

Wyandotte By James Fenimore Cooper Characters: 37117

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The soul, my lord, is fashioned--like the lyre.

Strike one chord suddenly, and others vibrate.

Your name abruptly mentioned, casual words

Of comment on your deeds, praise from your uncle,

News from the armies, talk of your return,

A word let fall touching your youthful passion,

Suffused her cheek, call'd to her drooping eye

A momentary lustre, made her pulse

Leap headlong, and her bosom palpitate.

Hillhouse.

The approach of night, at sea and in a wilderness, has always something more solemn in it, than on land in the centre of civilization. As the curtain is drawn before his eyes, the solitude of the mariner is increased, while even his sleepless vigilance seems, in a measure, baffled, by the manner in which he is cut off from the signs of the hour. Thus, too, in the forest, or in an isolated clearing, the mysteries of the woods are deepened, and danger is robbed of its forethought and customary guards. That evening, Major Willoughby stood at a window with an arm round the slender waist of Beulah, Maud standing a little aloof; and, as the twilight retired, leaving the shadows of evening to thicken on the forest that lay within a few hundred feet of that side of the Hut, and casting a gloom over the whole of the quiet solitude, he felt the force of the feeling just mentioned, in a degree he had never before experienced.

"This is a very retired abode, my sisters," he said, thoughtfully. "Do my father and mother never speak of bringing you out more into the world?"

"They take us to New York every winter, now father is in the Assembly," quietly answered Beulah. "We expected to meet you there, last season, and were greatly disappointed that you did not come."

"My regiment was sent to the eastward, as you know, and having just received my new rank of major, it would not do to be absent at the moment. Do you ever see any one here, besides those who belong to the manor?"

"Oh! yes"--exclaimed Maud eagerly--then she paused, as if sorry she had said anything; continuing, after a little pause, in a much more moderated vein--"I mean occasionally. No doubt the place is very retired."

"Of what characters are your visiters?--hunters, trappers, settlers--savages or travellers?"

Maud did not answer; but, Beulah, after waiting a moment for her sister to reply, took that office on herself.

"Some of all," she said, "though few certainly of the latter class. The hunters are often here; one or two a month, in the mild season; settlers rarely, as you may suppose, since my father will not sell, and there are not many about, I believe; the Indians come more frequently, though I think we have seen less of them, during Nick's absence than while he was more with us. Still we have as many as a hundred in a year, perhaps, counting the women. They come in parties, you know, and five or six of these will make that number. As for travellers, they are rare; being generally surveyors, land-hunters, or perhaps a proprietor who is looking up his estate. We had two of the last in the fall, before we went below."

"That is singular; and yet one might well look for an estate in a wilderness like this. Who were your proprietors?"

"An elderly man, and a young one. The first was a sort of partner of the late Sir William's, I believe, who has a grant somewhere near us, for which he was searching. His name was Fonda. The other was one of the Beekmans, who has lately succeeded his father in a property of considerable extent, somewhere at no great distance from us, and came to take a look at it. They say he has quite a hundred thousand acres, in one body."

"And did he find his land? Tracts of thousands and tens of thousands, are sometimes not to be discovered."

"We saw him twice, going and returning, and he was successful. The last time, he was detained by a snow-storm, and staid with us some days--so long, indeed, that he remained, and accompanied us out, when we went below. We saw much of him, too, last winter, in town."

"Maud, you wrote me nothing of all this! Are visiters of this sort so very common that you do not speak of them in your letters?"

"Did I not?--Beulah will scarce pardon me for that. She thinks Mr. Evert Beekman more worthy of a place in a letter, than I do, perhaps."

"I think him a very respectable and sensible young man," answered Beulah quietly though there was a deeper tint on her cheek than common, which it was too dark to see. "I am not certain, however, he need fill much space in the letters of either of your sisters.'

"Well, this is something gleaned!" said the major, laughing--"and now, Beulah, if you will only let out a secret of the same sort about Maud, I shall be au fait of all the family mysteries."

"All!" repeated Maud, quickly--"would there be nothing to tell of a certain major Willoughby, brother of mine?"

"Not a syllable. I am as heart-whole as a sound oak, and hope to remain so. At all events, all I love is in this house. To tell you the truth, girls, these are not times for a soldier to think of anything but his duty. The quarrel is getting to be serious between the mother country and her colonies."

"Not so serious, brother," observed Beulah, earnestly, "as to amount to that. Evert Beekman thinks there will be trouble, but he does not appear to fancy it will go as far as very serious violence."

"Evert Beekman!--most of that family are loyal, I believe; how is it with this Evert?"

"I dare say, you would call him a rebel," answered Maud, laughing, for now Beulah chose to be silent, leaving her sister to explain, "He is not fiery; but he calls himself an American, with emphasis; and that is saying a good deal, when it means he is not an Englishman. Pray what do you call yourself, Bob?"

"I!--Certainly an American in one sense, but an Englishman in another. An American, as my father was a Cumberland-man, and an Englishman as a subject, and as connected with the empire."

"As St. Paul was a Roman. Heigho!--Well, I fear I have but one character--or, if I have two, they are an American, and a New York girl. Did I dress in scarlet, as you do, I might feel English too, possibly."

"This is making a trifling misunderstanding too serious," observed Beulah. "Nothing can come of all the big words that have been used, than more big words. I know that is Evert Beekman's opinion."

"I hope you may prove a true prophet," answered the major, once more buried in thought. "This place does seem to be fearfully retired for a family like ours. I hope my father may be persuaded to pass more of his time in New York. Does he ever speak on the subject, girls, or appear to have any uneasiness?"

"Uneasiness about what? The place is health itself: all sorts of fevers, and agues, and those things being quite unknown. Mamma says the toothache, even, cannot be found in this healthful spot."

"That is lucky--and, yet, I wish captain Willoughby--Sir Hugh Willoughby could be induced to live more in New York. Girls of your time of life, ought to be in the way of seeing the world, too."

"In other words, of seeing admirers, major Bob," said Maud, laughing, and bending forward to steal a glance in her brother's face. "Good night. Sir Hugh wishes us to send you into his library when we can spare you, and my lady has sent us a hint that it is ten o'clock, at which hour it is usual for sober people to retire."

The major kissed both sisters with warm affection--Beulah fancied with a sobered tenderness, and Maud thought kindly--and then they retired to join their mother, while he went to seek his father.

The captain was smoking in the library, as a room of all-head-work was called, in company with the chaplain. The practice of using tobacco in this form, had grown to be so strong in both of these old inmates of garrisons, that they usually passed an hour, in the recreation, before they went to bed. Nor shall we mislead the reader with any notions of fine-flavoured Havana segars; pipes, with Virginia cut, being the materials employed in the indulgence. A little excellent Cogniac and water, in which however the spring was not as much neglected, as in the orgies related in the previous chapter, moistened their lips, from time to time, giving a certain zest and comfort to their enjoyments. Just as the door opened to admit the major, he was the subject of discourse, the proud parent and the partial friend finding almost an equal gratification in discussing his fine, manly appearance, good qualities, and future hopes. His presence was untimely, then, in one sense; though he was welcome, and, indeed, expected. The captain pushed a chair to his son, and invited him to take a seat near the table, which held a spare pipe or two, a box of tobacco, a decanter of excellent brandy, a pitcher of pure water, all pleasant companions to the elderly gentlemen, then in possession.

"I suppose you are too much of a maccaroni, Bob, to smoke," observed the smiling father. "I detested a pipe at your time of life; or may say, I was afraid of it; the only smoke that was in fashion among our scarlet coats being the smoke of gunpowder. Well, how comes on Gage, and your neighbours the Yankees?"

"Why, sir," answered the major, looking behind him, to make sure that the door was shut--"Why, sir, to own the truth, my visit, here, just at this moment, is connected with the present state of that quarrel."

Both the captain and the chaplain drew the pipes from their mouths, holding them suspended in surprise and attention.

"The deuce it is!" exclaimed the former. "I thought I owed this unexpected pleasure to your affectionate desire to let me know I had inherited the empty honours of a baronetcy!"

"That was one motive, sir, but the least. I beg you to remember the awkwardness of my position, as a king's officer, in the midst of enemies."

"The devil! I say, parson, this exceeds heresy and schism! Do you call lodging in your father's house, major Willoughby, being in the midst of enemies? This is rebellion against nature, and is worse than rebellion against the king."

"My dear father, no one feels more secure with you, than I do; or, even, with Mr. Woods, here. But, there are others besides you two, in this part of the world, and your very settlement may not be safe a week longer; probably would not be, if my presence in it were known."

Both the listeners, now, fairly laid down their pipes, and the smoke began gradually to dissipate, as it might have been rising from a field of battle. One looked at the other, in wonder, and, then, both looked at the major, in curiosity.

"What is the meaning of all this, my son?" asked the captain, gravely. "Has anything new occurred to complicate the old causes of quarrel?"

"Blood has, at length, been drawn, sir; open rebellion has commenced!"

"This is a serious matter, indeed, if it be really so. But do you not exaggerate the consequences of some fresh indiscretion of the soldiery, in firing on the people? Remember, in the other affair, even the colonial authorities justified the officers."

"This is a very different matter, sir. Blood has not been drawn in a riot, but in a battle."

"Battle! You amaze me, sir! That is indeed a serious matter, and may lead to most serious consequences!"

"The Lord preserve us from evil times," ejaculated the chaplain, "and lead us, poor, dependent creatures that we are, into the paths of peace and quietness! Without his grace, we are the blind leading the blind."

"Do you mean, major Willoughby, that armed and disciplined bodies have met in actual conflict?"

"Perhaps not literally so, my dear father; but the minute-men of Massachusetts, and His Majesty's forces, have met and fought. This I know, full well; for my own regiment was in the field, and, I hope it is unnecessary to add, that its second officer was not absent."

"Of course these minute-men--rabble would be the better word--could not stand before you?" said the captain, compressing his lips, under a strong impulse of military pride.

Major Willoughby coloured, and, to own the truth, at that moment he wished the Rev. Mr. Woods, if not literally at the devil, at least safe and sound in another room; anywhere, so it were out of ear-shot of the answer.

"Why, sir," he said, hesitating, not to say stammering, notwithstanding a prodigious effort to seem philosophical and calm--"To own the truth, these minute-fellows are not quite as contemptible as we soldiers would be apt to think. It was a stone-wall affair, and dodging work; and, so, you know, sir, drilled troops wouldn't have the usual chance. They pressed us pretty warmly on the retreat."

"Retreat! Major Willoughby!"

"I called it retreat, sure enough; but it was only a march in, again, after having done the business on which we went out. I shall admit, I say, sir, that we were hard pressed, until reinforced."

"Reinforced, my dear Bob! Your regiment, our regiment could not need a reinforcement against all the Yankees in New England."

The major could not abstain from laughing, a little, at this exhibition of his father's esprit de corps; but native frankness, and love of truth, compelled him to admit the contrary.

"It did, sir, notwithstanding," he answered; "and, not to mince the matter, it needed it confoundedly. Some of our officers who have seen the hardest service of the last war, declare, that taking the march, and the popping work, and the distance, altogether, it was the warmest day they remember. Our loss, too, was by no means insignificant, as I hope you will believe, when you know the troops engaged. We report something like three hundred casualties."

The captain did not answer for quite a minute. All this time he sat thoughtful, and even pale; for his mind was teeming with the pregnant consequences of such an outbreak. Then he desired his son to give a succinct, but connected history of the whole affair. The major complied, beginning his narrative with an account of the general state of the country, and concluding it, by giving, as far as it was possible for one whose professional pride and political feelings were too deeply involved to be entirely impartial, a reasonably just account of the particular occurrence already mentioned.

The events that led to, and the hot skirmish which it is the practice of the country to call the Battle of Lexington, and the incidents of the day itself, are too familiar to the ordinary reader, to require repetition here. The major explained all the military points very clearly, did full justice to the perseverance and daring of the provincials, as he called his enemies--for, an American himself, he would not term them Americans--and threw in as many explanatory remarks as he could think of, by way of vindicating the "march in, again." This he did, too, quite as much out of filial piety, as out of self-love; for, to own the truth, the captain's mortification, as a soldier, was so very evident as to give his son sensible pain.

"The effect of all this," continued the major, when his narrative of the military movements was ended, "has been to raise a tremendous feeling, throughout the country, and God knows what is to follow."

"And this you have come hither to tell me, Robert," said the father, kindly. "It is well done, and as I would have expected from you. We might have passed the summer, here, and not have heard a whisper of so important an event."

"Soon after the affair--or, as soon as we got some notion of its effect on the provinces, general Gage sent me, privately, with despatches to governor Tryon. He, governor Tryon, was aware of your position; and, as I had also to communicate the death of Sir Harry Willoughby, he directed me to come up the river, privately, have an interview with Sir John, if possible, and then push on, under a feigned name, and communicate with you. He thinks, now Sir William is dead, that with your estate, and new rank, and local influence, you might be very serviceable in sustaining the royal cause; for, it is not to be concealed that this affair is likely to take the character of an open and wide-spread revolt against the authority of the crown."

"General Tryon does me too much honour," answered the captain, coldly. "My estate is a small body of wild land; my influence extends little beyond this beaver meadow, and is confined to my own household, and some fifteen or twenty labourers; and as for the new rank of which you speak, it is not likely the colonists will care much for that, if they disregard the rights of the king. Still, you have acted like a son in running the risk you do, Bob; and I pray God you may get back to your regiment, in safety."

"This is a cordial to my hopes, sir; for nothing would pain me more than to believe you think it my duty, because I was born in the colonies, to throw up my commission, and take side with the rebels."

"I do not conceive that to be your duty, any more than I conceive it to be mine to take sides against them, because I happened to be born in England. It is a weak view of moral obligations, that confines them merely to the accidents of birth, and birth-place. Such a subsequent state of things may have grown up, as to change all our duties, and it is necessary that we discharge them as they are; not as they may have been, hitherto, or may be, hereafter. Those who clamour so much about mere birth-place, usually have no very clear sense of their higher obligations. Over our birth we can have no control; while we are rigidly responsible for the fulfilment of obligations voluntarily contracted."

"Do you reason thus, captain?" asked the chaplain, with strong interest--"Now, I confess, I feel, in this matter, not only very much like a native American, but very much like a native Yankee, in the bargain. You know I was born in the Bay, and--the major must excuse me--but, it ill-becomes my cloth to deceive--I hope the major will pardon me--I--I do hope--"

"Speak out, Mr. Woods," said Robert Willoughby, smiling--"You have nothing to fear from your old friend the major."

"So I thought--so I thought--well, then, I was glad--yes, really rejoiced at heart, to hear that my countrymen, down-east, there, had made the king's troops scamper,"

"I am not aware that I used any such terms, sir, in connection with the manner in which we marched in, after the duty we went out on was performed," returned the young soldier, a little stiffly. "I suppose it is natural for one Yankee to sympathize with another; but, my father, Mr

. Woods, is an Old England, and not a New-England-man; and he may be excused if he feel more for the servants of the crown."

"Certainly, my dear major--certainly, my dear Mr. Robert--my old pupil, and, I hope, my friend--all this is true enough, and very natural. I allow captain Willoughby to wish the best for the king's troops, while I wish the best for my own countrymen."

"This is natural, on both sides, out of all question, though it by no means follows that it is right. 'Our country, right or wrong,' is a high-sounding maxim, but it is scarcely the honest man's maxim. Our country, after all, cannot have nearer claims upon us, than our parents for instance; and who can claim a moral right to sustain even his own father, in error, injustice, or crime? No, no--I hate your pithy sayings; they commonly mean nothing that is substantially good, at bottom."

"But one's country, in a time of actual war, sir!" said the major, in a tone of as much remonstrance as habit would allow him to use to his own father.

"Quite true, Bob; but the difficulty here, is to know which is one's country. It is a family quarrel, at the best, and it will hardly do to talk about foreigners, at all. It is the same as if I should treat Maud unkindly, or harshly, because she is the child of only a friend, and not my own natural daughter. As God is my judge, Woods, I am unconscious of not loving Maud Meredith, at this moment, as tenderly as I love Beulah Willoughby. There was a period, in her childhood, when the playful little witch had most of my heart, I am afraid, if the truth were known. It is use, and duty, then, and not mere birth, that ought to tie our hearts."

The major thought it might very well be that one child should be loved more than another, though he did not understand how there could be a divided allegiance. The chaplain looked at the subject with views still more narrowed, and he took up the cudgels of argument in sober earnest, conceiving this to be as good an opportunity as another, for disposing of the matter.

"I am all for birth, and blood, and natural ties," he said, "always excepting the peculiar claims of Miss Maud, whose case is sui generis, and not to be confounded with any other case. A man can have but one country, any more than he can have but one nature; and, as he is forced to be true to that nature, so ought he morally to be true to that country. The captain says, that it is difficult to determine which is one's country, in a civil war; but I cannot admit the argument. If Massachusetts and England get to blows, Massachusetts is my country; if Suffolk and Worcester counties get into a quarrel, my duty calls me to Worcester, where I was born; and so I should carry out the principle from country to country, county to county, town to town, parish to parish; or, even household to household."

"This is an extraordinary view of one's duty, indeed, my dear Mr. Woods," cried the major, with a good deal of animation; "and if one-half the household quarrelled with the other, you would take sides with that in which you happened to find yourself, at the moment."

"It is an extraordinary view of one's duty, for a parson;" observed the captain. "Let us reason backward a little, and ascertain where we shall come out. You put the head of the household out of the question. Has he no claims? Is a father to be altogether overlooked in the struggle between the children? Are his laws to be broken--his rights invaded--or his person to be maltreated, perhaps, and his curse disregarded, because a set of unruly children get by the ears, on points connected with their own selfishness?"

"I give up the household," cried the chaplain, "for the bible settles that; and what the bible disposes of, is beyond dispute--'Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee'--are terrible words, and must not be disobeyed. But the decalogue has not another syllable which touches the question. 'Thou shalt not kill,' means murder only; common, vulgar murder--and 'thou shalt not steal,' 'thou shalt not commit adultery,' &c., don't bear on civil war, as I see. 'Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy'--'Thou shalt not covet the ox nor the ass'--'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain'--none of these, not one of them, bears, at all, on this question."

"What do you think of the words of the Saviour, where he tells us to 'render unto C?sar the things which are C?sar's? Has C?sar no rights here? Can Massachusetts and my Lord North settle their quarrels in such a manner as to put C?sar altogether out of view?"

The chaplain looked down a moment, pondered a little, and then he came up to the attack, again, with renewed ardour.

"C?sar is out of the question here. If His Majesty will come and take sides with us, we shall be ready to honour and obey him; but if he choose to remain alienated from us, it is his act, not ours."

"This is a new mode of settling allegiance! If C?sar will do as we wish, he shall still be C?sar; but, if he refuse to do as we wish, then down with C?sar. I am an old soldier, Woods, and while I feel that this question has two sides to it, my disposition to reverence and honour the king is still strong."

The major appeared delighted, and, finding matters going on so favourably, he pleaded fatigue and withdrew, feeling satisfied that, if his father fairly got into a warm discussion, taking the loyal side of the question, he would do more to confirm himself in the desired views, than could be effected by any other means. By this time, the disputants were so warm as scarcely to notice the disappearance of the young man, the argument proceeding.

The subject is too hackneyed, and, indeed, possesses too little interest, to induce us to give more than an outline of what passed. The captain and the chaplain belonged to that class of friends, which may be termed argumentative. Their constant discussions were a strong link in the chain of esteem; for they had a tendency to enliven their solitude, and to give a zest to lives that, without them, would have been exceedingly monotonous. Their ordinary subjects were theology and war; the chaplain having some practical knowledge of the last, and the captain a lively disposition to the first. In these discussions, the clergyman was good-natured and the soldier polite; circumstances that tended to render them far more agreeable to the listeners than they might otherwise have proved.

On the present occasion, the chaplain rang the changes diligently, on the natural feelings, while his friend spoke most of the higher duties. The ad captandum part of the argument, oddly enough, fell to the share of the minister of the church; while the intellectual, discriminating, and really logical portion of the subject, was handled by one trained in garrisons and camps, with a truth, both of ethics and reason, that would have done credit to a drilled casuist. The war of words continued till past midnight, both disputants soon getting back to their pipes, carrying on the conflict amid a smoke that did no dishonour to such a well-contested field. Leaving the captain and his friend thus intently engaged, we will take one or two glimpses into different parts of the house, before we cause all our characters to retire for the night.

About the time the battle in the library was at its height, Mrs. Willoughby was alone in her room, having disposed of all the cares, and most of the duties of the day. The mother's heart was filled with a calm delight that it would have been difficult for herself to describe. All she held most dear on earth, her husband, her kind-hearted, faithful, long-loved husband; her noble son, the pride and joy of her heart; Beulah, her own natural-born daughter, the mild, tractable, sincere, true-hearted child that so much resembled herself; and Maud, the adopted, one rendered dear by solicitude and tenderness, and now so fondly beloved on her own account, were all with her, beneath her own roof, almost within the circle of her arms. The Hutted Knoll was no longer a solitude; the manor was not a wilderness to her; for where her heart was, there truly was her treasure, also. After passing a few minutes in silent, but delightful thought, this excellent, guileless woman knelt and poured out her soul in thanksgivings to the Being, who had surrounded her lot with so many blessings. Alas! little did she suspect the extent, duration, and direful nature of the evils which, at that very moment, were pending over her native country, or the pains that her own affectionate hear? was to endure! The major had not suffered a whisper of the real nature of his errand to escape him, except to his father and the chaplain; and we will now follow him to his apartment, and pass a minute, tête-à-tête, with the young soldier, ere he too lays his head on his pillow.

A couple of neat rooms were prepared and furnished, that were held sacred to the uses of the heir. They were known to the whole household, black and white, as the "young captain's quarters;" and even Maud called them, in her laughing off-handedness, "Bob's Sanctum." Here, then, the major found everything as he left it on his last visit, a twelvemonth before; and some few things that were strangers to him, in the bargain. In that day, toilets covered with muslin, more or less worked and ornamented, were a regular appliance of every bed-room, of a better-class house, throughout America. The more modern "Duchesses," "Psyches," "dressing-tables," &c. &c., of our own extravagant and benefit-of-the-act-taking generation, were then unknown; a moderately-sized glass, surrounded by curved, gilded ornaments, hanging against the wall, above the said muslin-covered table, quite as a matter of law, if not of domestic faith.

As soon as the major had set down his candle, he looked about him, as one recognises old friends, pleased at renewing his acquaintance with so many dear and cherished objects. The very playthings of his childhood were there; and, even a beautiful and long-used hoop, was embellished with ribbons, by some hand unknown to himself. "Can this be my mother?" thought the young man, approaching to examine the well-remembered hoop, which he had never found so honoured before; "can my kind, tender-hearted mother, who never will forget that I am no longer a child, can she have really done this? I must laugh at her, to-morrow, about it, even while I kiss and bless her." Then he turned to the toilet, where stood a basket, filled with different articles, which, at once, he understood were offerings to himself. Never had he visited the Hut without finding such a basket in his room at night. It was a tender proof how truly and well he was remembered, in his absence.

"Ah!" thought the major, as he opened a bundle of knit lamb's-wool stockings, "here is my dear mother again, with her thoughts about damp feet, and the exposure of service. And a dozen shirts, too, with 'Beulah' pinned on one of them--how the deuce does the dear girl suppose I am to carry away such a stock of linen, without even a horse to ease me of a bundle? My kit would be like that of the commander-in-chief, were I to take away all that these dear relatives design for me. What's this?--a purse! a handsome silken purse, too, with Beulah's name on it. Has Maud nothing, here? Why has Maud forgotten me! Ruffles, handkerchiefs, garters--yes, here is a pair of my good mother's own knitting, but nothing of Maud's--Ha! what have we here? As I live, a beautiful silken scarf--netted in a way to make a whole regiment envious. Can this have been bought, or has it been the work of a twelvemonth? No name on it, either. Would my father have done this? Perhaps it is one of his old scarfs--if so, it is an old new one, for I do not think it has ever been worn. I must inquire into this, in the morning--I wonder there is nothing of Maud's!"

As the major laid aside his presents, he kissed the scarf, and then--I regret to say without saying his prayers--the young man went to bed.

The scene must now be transferred to the room where the sisters--in affection, if not in blood--were about to seek their pillows also. Maud, ever the quickest and most prompt in her movements, was already in her night-clothes; and, wrapping a shawl about herself, was seated waiting for Beulah to finish her nightly orisons. It was not long before the latter rose from her knees, and then our heroine spoke.

"The major must have examined the basket by this time," she cried, her cheek rivalling the tint of a riband it leaned against, on the back of the chair. "I heard his heavy tramp--tramp--tramp--as he went to his room--how differently these men walk from us girls, Beulah!"

"They do, indeed; and Bob has got to be so large and heavy, now, that he quite frightens me, sometimes. Do you not think he grows wonderfully like papa?"

"I do not see it. He wears his own hair, and it's a pity he should ever cut it off, it's so handsome and curling. Then he is taller, but lighter--has more colour--is so much younger--and everyway so different, I wonder you think so. I do not think him in the least like father."

"Well, that is odd, Maud. Both mother and myself were struck with the resemblance, this evening, and we were both delighted to see it. Papa is quite handsome, and so I think is Bob. Mother says he is not quite as handsome as father was, at his age, but so like him, it is surprising!"

"Men may be handsome and not alike. Father is certainly one of the handsomest elderly men of my acquaintance--and the major is so-so-ish--but, I wonder you can think a man of seven-and-twenty so very like one of sixty odd. Bob tells me he can play the flute quite readily now, Beulah."

"I dare say; he does everything he undertakes uncommonly well. Mr. Woods said, a few days since, he had never met with a boy who was quicker at his mathematics."

"Oh! All Mr. Wood's geese are swans. I dare say there have been other boys who were quite as clever. I do not believe in non-pareils, Beulah."

"You surprise me, Maud--you, whom I always supposed such a friend of Bob's! He thinks everything you do, too, so perfect! Now, this very evening, he was looking at the sketch you have made of the Knoll, and he protested he did not know a regular artist in England, even, that would have done it better."

Maud stole a glance at her sister, while the latter was speaking, from under her cap, and her cheeks now fairly put the riband to shame; but her smile was still saucy and wilful.

"Oh nonsense," she said--"Bob's no judge of drawings--He scarce knows a tree from a horse!"

"I'm surprised to hear you say so, Maud," said the generous-minded and affectionate Beulah, who could see no imperfection in Bob; "and that of your brother. When he taught you to draw, you thought him well skilled as an artist."

"Did I?--I dare say I'm a capricious creature--but, somehow, I don't regard Bob, just as I used to. He has been away from us so much, of late, you know--and the army makes men so formidable--and, they are not like us, you know--and, altogether, I think Bob excessively changed."

"Well, I'm glad mamma don't hear this, Maud. She looks upon her son, now he is a major, and twenty-seven, just as she used to look upon him, when he was in petticoats--nay, I think she considers us all exactly as so many little children."

"She is a dear, good mother, I know," said Maud, with emphasis, tears starting to her eyes, involuntarily, almost impetuously--"whatever she says, does, wishes, hopes, or thinks, is right."

"Oh! I knew you would come to, as soon as there was a question about mother! Well, for my part, I have no such horror of men, as not to feel just as much tenderness for father or brother, as I feel for mamma, herself."

"Not for Bob, Beulah. Tenderness for Bob! Why, my dear sister, that is feeling tenderness for a Major of Foot, a very different thing from feeling it for one's mother. As for papa--dear me, he is glorious, and I do so love him!"

"You ought to, Maud; for you were, and I am not certain that you are not, at this moment, his darling."

It was odd that this was said without the least thought, on the part of the speaker, that Maud was not her natural sister--that, in fact, she was not in the least degree related to her by blood. But so closely and judiciously had captain and Mrs. Willoughby managed the affair of their adopted child, that neither they themselves, Beulah, nor the inmates of the family or household, ever thought of her, but as of a real daughter of her nominal parents. As for Beulah, her feelings were so simple and sincere, that they were even beyond the ordinary considerations of delicacy, and she took precisely the same liberties with her titular, as she would have done with a natural sister. Maud alone, of all in the Hut, remembered her birth, and submitted to some of its most obvious consequences. As respects the captain, the idea never crossed her mind, that she was adopted by him; as respects her mother, she filled to her, in every sense, that sacred character; Beulah, too, was a sister, in thought and deed; but, Bob, he had so changed, had been so many years separated from her; had once actually called her Miss Meredith--somehow, she knew not how herself--it was fully six years since she had begun to remember that he was not her brother.

"As for my father," said Maud, rising with emotion, and speaking with startling emphasis--"I will not say I love him--I worship him!"

"Ah! I know that well enough, Maud; and to say the truth, you are a couple of idolaters, between you. Mamma says this, sometimes; though she owns she is not jealous. But it would pain her excessively to hear that you do not feel towards Bob, just as we all feel."

"But, ought I?--Beulah, I cannot!"

"Ought you!--Why not, Maud? Are you in your senses, child?"

"But--you know--I'm sure--you ought to remember--"

"What?" demanded Beulah, really frightened at the other's excessive agitation.

"That I am not his real--true--born sister!"

This was the first time in their lives, either had ever alluded to the fact, in the other's presence. Beulah turned pale; she trembled all over, as if in an ague; then she luckily burst into tears, else she might have fainted.

"Beulah--my sister--my own sister!" cried Maud, throwing herself into the arms of the distressed girl.

"Ah! Maud, you are, you shall for ever be, my only, only sister."

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