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CHAPTER V. BOSTON AS A MISCHIEF-MAKER.
Theresa had met the young Englishman on an embassay to Manhattan, as Captain Van Zandt had said. Their love had been a plant of quick growth, and her father learned too late that her heart was given to Willie. She had been betrothed in youth to young Van Zandt, the son of an old comrade in[44] arms. Hence the knowledge made the fiery colonel particularly angry. In his rage, Van Curter had sent a messenger to Joseph, desiring his presence at Good Hope. Every thing being remarkably quiet in the Manhattan settlement, just then, the captain readily obtained leave of absence. While on his way to the House of Good Hope, by the river, he met the young lieutenant, who was evidently waiting for somebody, on the river’s bank. Retiring as the boat-load of Manhattaners approached, Barlow was followed into the forest by the captain. Not being a man to run from a Manhattaner, Barlow paused, and, as we have seen, closed in mortal combat.

It was the desire of Van Curter to hurry on the marriage by every means in his power. But, at present, his whole attention was turned to a project for driving the English from Windsor. He saw, with increasing fear, that the domineering Yankees were spreading more and more through the country, and that, unless checked by some means, they would soon possess the whole country. The transactions carried on by our English ancestors, of which the dealings of Boston Bainbridge was a fair type, were enough to drive that well-intentioned people stark mad. No wonder, therefore, that they concocted a plan for the possession of Windsor, on the river above Good Hope.

Captain Holmes had set up this post, as has been suggested, in direct opposition to the wishes of Van Curter. The dialogue which passed between them as the English sloop passed up the stream, was so characteristic of the two men, that we repeat it:

“Where would you go?” cried Van Curter.

“Up the river, to trade,” replied Holmes.

“Strike and stay!” shouted the commandant, “or I will fire into you.”

“Fire and be hanged,” returned Holmes. “The river is mine as much as your own.”

Van Curter thought better of it, and did not fire. The sloop passed up the stream, and founded the post which afterward awakened the Dutchman’s ire to such an extent.

It was night when Joseph Van Zandt arrived at Good Hope, and he went at once to the cabin of Van Curter. He had not retired, but sat alone at a table, by a flaring lamp,[45] writing a dispatch to the governor. He started up in great joy at the sight of the captain, and held out both hands to him.

“Sit thee down, lad. Thou art welcome. How go things in the Manhattoes?”

“Very fairly. Can you say as much of this colony?”

“No. The Yankees advance step by step, and the time is not far off when we shall be driven entirely away, unless we do something ourselves. But, I have a plan in my mind, Joseph—I have a plan; and, faith, it is a good one. How long have you been on the way?”

“Four days. I should have been here ere now, but my horse got his foot into a stocking on the road, and broke it. I was forced to shoot it and take to the sound and river.”

“That is bad; but I think we can supply you. Ten Eyck bragged to-day, in the council, that he had the best horse in the colony. It ought to be, if he paid the price he says he did, which is a hundred and fifty guilders. You ought to have seen Paul Swedlepipe’s face while Ten Eyck told about that horse.”

“What? Do they keep up the old feud yet?”

“Stronger than ever, my dear Joseph. But, what puzzled me most was, that Paul seemed to work hard to refrain from laughing, when he ought to have felt more like crying. It looked suspicious to me.”

“Has any one else seen the horse?”

“Yes—several of the council. And they all agree that it is a good beast. Most wonderful of all, he was sold by a Yankee. Swedlepipe bid as high as a hundred and forty guilders before he would give up. But that a Yankee should sell a good horse! Who ever heard of such a thing?”

Joseph laughed at this, but he was not so far from Good Hope as not to know that Yankees did not sell good wares.

“We will see this wonderful beast to-morrow, and if he is any thing like what he is reported, I shall want him. Whom think you I met in the forest?”

“I could not guess.”

“You will hardly believe it. A man whom I never saw but once in my life, and whom I hate, for all that, with all my soul.”

[46]

“Who may that be?”

“William Barlow.”

Colonel Van Curter leaped to his feet. “I swear by the bones of my father, that if Boston Bainbridge dares to show his face again in Good Hope, I will crop his ears off close to his head, and turn him off.”

“Boston Bainbridge!”

“Ay.”

“That is the very man who came between us. You must know, then, that I followed this man Barlow into the woods, and soon had him at bay, curse him! We were down upon the earth, tearing at each other’s throats, so closely grappled that we could not use our swords, when this man rushed in and parted us, swearing to strike the one who made another stroke—a daring, resolute fellow, I saw at a glance.”

“You astonish me. It can not be the man I mean. The Bainbridge I knew is a sneaking dog of a hawker, who has made more mischief in Good Hope than any ten men I know. But he is a pitiful wretch, who will do almost any thing for money.”

“This man was as determined-looking a fellow as I ever saw in my life, I am certain; and looked as if a fight was meat and drink to him. And what is more, your friend Barlow deferred to him as to a superior.”

“It can not be that there are two. The fellow showed some spirit to-day, and all the information I got out of him did not amount to much. You may be right; it may be the hawker—confound him! But I am at a loss. Did he have his pack?”

“No. He was armed, though, with musket, knife and pistols, and looked an ugly customer.”

“Let it pass. As to the Boston Bainbridge who is known to me, we shall have something to say to each other when we next meet. If it is the one who is known to you, we may have something else to say to him. You say you quarreled with Barlow.”

“Yes. The very name of the fellow aroused me to rage. I struck him with my open hand in the face—and we fought. This Bainbridge came between; but it is a quarrel to the death. In the first burst, he spoke quite angrily to Barlow,[47] as one who had a right to do it, and the young man appeared ashamed.”

“What can it mean?” said Van Curter, uneasily. “This fills me with doubts and fears which I can not fathom. Did you leave them together?”

“Yes, in the forest, a league or more from Good Hope.”

“It must be Bainbridge,” mused Van Curter. “He is the sworn friend of Barlow; and yet, the new character you give him is so utterly unlike the one he has borne, that I can’t understand it at all.”

“Let us speak of something else. Does Theresa know of my coming?”

“No; I thought it would be a pleasant surprise for her.”

Van Zandt set his teeth hard at the words, for he realized, only too painfully, that any thing like love for him was now foreign to the heart of Theresa. The old soldier knew that he was angry, and wisely allowed him his own time to answer. When the captain had controlled himself sufficiently to speak, he said:

“I have my fears upon the subject—I am afraid I shall never get my own. You have promised me the hand of Theresa; I have waited for it long years; but I have always feared that something would come between me and the promise. It has come.”

“Do you fear this Barlow?” asked the other, in some contempt. “Have you not an honored name—a name second to none in our own land? Have you not the most handsome face in the seven colonies? Bah!”

“You are old, Colonel Van Curter, and you do not know a woman’s heart, after all. I tell you that I have made woman a study; they claim to be influenced by personal beauty in man; but, put them to the test, and you will find that, after all, the most beautiful women make a choice of men who, though plain in person, are the only ones who can find the road to their hearts.”

“In truth, you may be right; but you may be the one who has the key to Theresa’s heart. You shall be, by heaven!”

“Would you force her to marry me against her inclination?”

[48]

“I would keep my word to your father, even if I had to use force.”

“I would not have her upon such terms,” said the young man. “She must be mine entirely, heart and hand; if it can not be so, I renounce her hand, and apply myself to the task of taking worthy vengeance upon the man who has dared to step in between me and the love of the woman I prize highest. I know him, I thank God. He can not escape me. Where is Theresa?”

“She has retired.”

“There will be a meeting, I am sure, between her and this Yankee. We must watch.”

“This is the work of Bainbridge; he has gone between them, carried letter after letter, and been the means of making her fancy stronger; he, too, has something which will draw him back to this place.”

“What is that?”

“Katrine.”

“Bah!”

“She is a beauty not to be despised, and her family is good—she is first cousin to Theresa.”

“Right, I forgot; but I have not seen her for years. Do you know that in coming up the river, I fancied I was followed by a canoe part of the way.”

“Indians?”

“I do not know.”

“Never mind; come nearer, and I will tell you my secret plans about Windsor and the English, whom I am determined to baffle and defeat.”

The men drew close together, and looked over the paper. As they did so a face rose slowly into view on the other side of the room, peering in at the open lattice. It was the face of Boston Bainbridge.

“You are sure no one listens?” asked Joseph.

“Ay; my men know better than to listen at the windows or doors of Jacob Van Curter; I would string them up to a swaying limb, or give them forty stripes, save one.”

“I thought I heard a sound, a moment since.”

“The girls, perhaps; open that door, and look into the kitchen.”

[49]

Joseph rose and opened the door; the kitchen was empty; the fire burned low upon the hearth, and the rays danced upon the dishes in the dresser.

“You heard the wind,” said Van Curter; “it is rising fast. It will rain to-night.”

“I am glad I got in safe before the storm. Hark to that.”

The wind was rising with a sullen and fast-increasing roar; in a few moments the rain begun to fall. Joseph stirred the fire with a feeling of enjoyment, and the two drew up to the table.

“You remember this Captain Holmes—my curse upon his head—who would not pause when I told him to strike and stay?” said Van Curter.

“I remember him well.”

“He commands this post at Windsor; if any thing would make me long to take the post more than another, it would be the fact that I hate him. To him we may trace the entrance of these Yankees into our midst.”

“Did you not invite them to settle?”

“Yes, fool that I was to do it; but I did not know them then as I do now. I would as soon have let in fiends from the pit.”

“Then they are not to blame for hanging on to their possessions. You should not have asked them here.”

“They have learned to despise us, because we are so easily taken in. They are right in that; a greater set of dunderheads than those under my command never congregated before. If it were not for two or three of my officers, my blockheads would have their teeth drawn in the night, and never know it.”

“What slander upon such men as the worthy Paul Swedlepipe and Mynheer Ten Eyck.”

“There you have a specimen. What can a man do who must be guided, in a manner, by the advice of such men as those? It is enough to make one give up in despair.”

“But they will fight, if it is necessary.”

“Yes; it is their only redeeming quality. They are too thick-headed to appreciate the danger. But to my plan. I shall march out with forty men in the night, and get near[50] enough to Windsor to attack them early in the morning. We will take the fellows prisoners and send them to the nearest English post.”

“Very good; how many men can the English muster?”

“Not over twenty, and those we will take by surprise.”

“Captain Holmes is there.”

“Yes. His brother is next in command, and Barlow next. I should not care to fight them if they are on their guard.”

“I never heard of this brother of Holmes’.”

“He has never been in Good Hope; I do not know that I have seen him. He is represented as a man under forty, active, vigilant and acute—a man formed by nature for a life in the woods.”

“You describe such a man as I take this very Bainbridge to be.”

“You are mistaken; I know the man well; he may have taken the attitude of a brave man because they were two to one; but, in reality, he is one of the most egregious cowards upon the face of the earth.”

“This is pleasant news to come to a man’s ears,” muttered the peddler, lying perdu beneath the shelter of the eaves. “They say listeners never hear any good of themselves, and I am not inclined to doubt it; but go on—go on, the time will come to settle yet, and I will give you back that coward in your teeth. Phew! how the rain comes down.”

“The Windsor people are not in a very strong stockade, and I think I may succeed. I shall march on the afternoon of to-morrow.”

“Who will you leave here?”

“I don’t know certainly. We shall not be long gone, and I think one of my blockheads may be trusted for a day. Come, taste this aqua vit?, which was sent to me from Manhattan by my worthy friend, Wilhelem Kieft, and then to bed, to be ready for the morning. ’Tis a wild night.”

They sat talking for some time over the liquor, and then went to their couches. Boston wrapped himself warmly in a wolf-skin robe which lay upon the porch, and lay down to rest; he slept two hours. When he arose, the storm was at its height, and he could move about the house with perfect[51] impunity. Walking quickly to a window-lattice on the south, he gave a single tap upon it, and waited. The tap was answered from within, and the lattice was raised to allow Katrine to thrust out her head. She looked so provokingly sweet that Boston solaced himself with a kiss before a word was said.

“Impudence!” whispered the girl. “I shall close the lattice.”

“No you won’t, my dear. Where is Theresa?”

“Like your impudence to ask. She is in bed, and you ought to be in yours, instead of tramping about on such a night as this.”

“We have no time to talk. Go in and wake Theresa, and tell her to open her lattice in half an hour, for one she wots of will come to her before that time.”

“You are crazy, both of you. It is death for you to be near Good Hope to-night. Do you not know that Captain Van Zandt is here, and that he spares none who stand in his way?”

“Little care we,” replied the other, snapping his fingers, “for Captain Joseph Van Zandt. We know more of his movements than you think, Katrine. But get you gone, and tell Theresa that Willie is here. When you have done that, come back to me.”

“You speak sometimes like one born to command” said Katrine, looking at him fixedly. “If it should be so—if you should deceive me!”

“Katrine, you mistrust me. Have I ever given you cause?”

She was back in a moment, with one soft arm about his neck. “I trust you,” was all she said.

“I have a secret from you, my darling,” he said, returning her embrace. “But, take this to your heart—whatever your station, whatever mine, I love you entirely. Now, go.”

She opened the door which led into the room of Theresa. She found her awake, with her head bowed upon a table. Katrine was not so much a servant as a dear friend to Theresa, and she passed her arm about her kindly, as she asked why she was sad.

“He is here,” was the answer.

[52]

“Who?”

“Van Zandt.”

“I know that; but why should you fear him? Your lover will never see you forced to be his wife. I will not. My lover will not.”

“Alas, what can they do? Willie is far away.”

“Not so far as you may imagine. I heard a tapping at my window just now. I opened it, and who do you suppose was there?”

“Hans Drinker,” said Theresa, with a smile, for she knew that the worthy Dutchman persecuted poor Katrine to the verge of distraction.

“If I served you rightly,” said Katrine,“I should go back to my room, and not tell you a single word.”

“But you won’t. Who was it? Carl Anselm?”

“Be careful! It was Bainbridge.”

“I knew he was here. Did he say any thing about Willie?”

“He told me to bid you rise, and be at your lattice in half an hour, for Willie Barlow would then be there.”

Theresa clasped her hands in fervent thanksgiving.

“You have brought glad tidings, dear Katrine,” she said. “Sit with me until he comes. Ah, what is he doing in this frightful storm?”

“It is enough that he is here. You should have seen poor Boston. Wet—oh, so wet! Like one drownded cat.”

The two sat with clasped hands until a tap came at the lattice. Theresa rose and opened it softly.

“Who is it?” she whispered.

“Willie,” he replied. Hands and lips met. That hour could not be forgotten, in any after pain.
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