Page images

disguise," said the other judge, with a slight movement of the muscles of his mouth.

“I am the son of this aged man before you,” continued Henry. “It was to visit him that I encountered the danger. Besides, the country below is seldom held by your troops, and its very name implies a right to either party to move at pleasure over its territory."

"Its name, as a neutral ground, is unauthorized by law; and is an appellation that originates with the condition of the country. But wherever an army goes, it carries its rights along; and the first is, the ability to protect itself.”

"I am no casuist, sir," returned the youth earnestly; "but I feel that my father is entitled to my affection, and would encounter greater risks to prove it to him in his old age.”

A very commendable spirit;" cried the veteran: come, gentlemen, this business brightens. I confess, at first, it was very bad : but no man can censure him for desiring to see his parent.”

And have you proof that such only was your intention?"

“Yes,—here,” said Henry, admitting a ray of hope ; "here is proof—my father, my sister, Major Dunwoodie-all know it.”

" Then, indeed," returned his immovable judge, we may

be able to save you. It would be well sir, to examine further into this business."

"Certainly,” said the president, with alacrity, " let the elder Mr. Wharton approach and take the oath."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The father made an effort at composure, and advancing with a feeble step, complied with the necessary forms of the court.

" You are the father of the prisoner ?" said Colonel Singleton, in a subdued voice, after pausing a moment in respect of the agitation of the witness.

"He is my only son."

“And what, sir, do you know of his visit to your house, on the 29th day of October last ?”

“He came, as he told you, sir, to see me and his sisters.”

"Was he in disguise ?” asked the other judge. “He did not wear the uniform of the both.”

"To see his sisters too!” said the president with great emotion. “ Have you daughters, sir ?"

“I have two—both are in this house."
"Had he a wig ?” interrupted the officer.

“ There was some such thing, I do believe, upon his head."

“And how long had you been separated ?" asked the president.

One year and two months.” “ Did he wear a loose great coat of coarse materials?" inquired the officer, referring to the paper that contained the charges.

There was an over-coat.” And you think it was to see you, only, that he came out.”

“And my daughters.”

“A boy of spirit,” whispered the president to his silent comrade. "I see but little harm in such a freak! 'twas imprudent, but then it was kind."

[ocr errors]

“Do you know that your son was entrusted with no commission from Sir Henry Clinton, and that the visit to you was not merely a cloak to other designs?"

“How can I know it?” said Mr. Wharton, in alarm; "would Sir Henry entrust me with such a business?"

“Know you anything of this pass?" exhibiting the paper that Dunwoodie had retained when Wharton was taken.

"Nothing-upon my honour, nothing," cried the father, shrinking from the paper as from contagion.

“ But on your oath ?” "Nothing."

"Have you other testimony ?—this does not avail you, Captain Wharton. You have been taken in a situation where your life is forfeited; the labour of proving your innocence rests with yourself. Take time to reflect, and be cool.”

There was a frightful calmness in the manner of this judge that appalled the prisoner. In the sympathy of Colonel Singleton, he could easily lose sight of his danger; but the obdurate and collected air of the others was ominous of his fate. He continued silent, casting expressive glances towards his friend. Dunwoodie understood the appeal, and offered himself as a witness. He was sworn, and desired to relate what he knew. His statement did not materially alter the case, and Dunwoodie felt that it could not. To him personally but little was known, and that little rather militated against the safety of Henry than other

[ocr errors]

wise. His account was listened to in silence, and the significant shake of the head that was made by the silent member spoke too plainly what effect it had produced.

“Still you think that the prisoner had no other object than what he has avowed ?" said the president, when he ended.

“None other, I will pledge my life," cried the Major with fervour.

“Will you swear it?" asked the immoveablejudge.

“How can I? God alone can tell the heart; but I have known this gentleman from a boy; deceit never formed part of his character. He is above it."

“You say that he escaped, and was retaken in open arms?” said the president.

“He was; nay, he received a wound in the combat. You see he yet moves his arm with difficulty. Would he, think you, sir, have trusted himself where he could fall again into our hands, unless conscious of his innocence ?"

“Would André have deserted a field of battle, Major Dunwoodie, had he encountered such an event near Tarrytown?" asked his deliberate examiner. “Is it not natural to youth to seek glory?"

“Do you call this glory?” exclaimed the Major, an ignominious death and a tarnished name."

“Major Dunwoodie," returned the other, still with inveterate gravity; "you have acted nobly; your duty has been arduous and severe, but it has been faithfully and honourably discharged; ours must not be less so."

During the examination, the most intense interest prevailed among the hearers. With that kind of feeling which could not separate the principal from the cause, most of the auditors thought that, if Dunwoodie failed to move the hearts of Henry's judges, no other possessed the power. Cæsar thrust his mis-shapen form forward ; and his features, so expressive of the concern he felt, and so different from the vacant curiosity pictured in the countenances of the other blacks, caught the attention of the silent judge. For the first time he spoke"Let that black be brought forward."

It was too late to retreat, and Cæsar found himself confronted with a row of the rebel officers, before he knew what was uppermost in his thoughts. The others yielded the examination to the one who suggested it, and using all due deliberation, he proceeded accordingly_“You know the prisoner?"

“I tink I ought," returned the black, in a manner as sententious as that of his examiner.

“Did he give you the wig when he threw it aside?”

“I don't want 'em,” grumbled Cæsar; "got a berry good hair he'self.”

“Were you employed in carrying any letters or messages while Captain Wharton was, in your master's house ?"

“I do what a tell me,” returned the black. “But what did they tell you to do ?”

Sometime a one ting—sometime anoder." “Enough,” said Colonel Singleton, with dignity; "you have the noble acknowledgment of a gentle

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »