So OOD-BYE, Hazel,”
“Good-bye, Cousin Harry,”
“Good-bye, Flutters.” Quite a medley of good-byes, to be sure, but no more than were needed, for Harry and Starlight, once more aboard of the “Gretchen,” were fast gliding out on to the river, and Josephine and Hazel and Flutters were being left behind on the wharf. The little prison-ship party had had their supper, and now Harry and Starlight were off for Paulus Hook; it was high time, too, that they were, since they had already been absent a day longer than Harry had planned, and Aunt Frances would naturally begin to feel worried. Little Flutters cut a queer figure as he stood there on the boating dock in the moonlight. Hans Van Wyck’s clothes, done up in a snug bundle, were already on their way back to their lawful owner, so that he had need to resort once more to the spangles and tinsel of his circus costume. By way of making up for insufficient clothing, Mrs. Boniface had thrown a shawl about him, one end of which Flutters allowed to trail behind, pinning the other close about his throat, with one corner thrown over his left shoulder.
“We must do something about some clothes for you, Flutters, right away,” Hazel remarked, as they turned to walk up from the wharf, when, amid the darkening shadows of the river, the “Gretchen’s” sail was no longer visible. “Starlight and I hoped Mrs. Van Wyck would offer to give us that suit of Hans’s to keep when he stopped to see her this afternoon and told her about you, but she did not propose anything of the kind. She only said ‘it was very inconvenient for Hans not to have them, and she hoped we’d manage to get them back to-night.’”
“And you have managed, haven’t you, Miss Hazel?” Flutters answered, as if the managing were a matter to be proud of; and, mimicking a sort of stage stride such as he had often witnessed in tragical circus pantomimes, he apparently bestowed far more attention on the sweep of his majestic train than on what Hazel was saying.
“Yes, of course, I sent them back; what else could I do?”—this last rather impatiently, because of Flutters’s exasperating unconcern __”but how are you going to manage without them is what I’d like to know.”..
Flutters gave Hazel a comical little look. “With tights and shawls, I s’pose, Miss Hazel, unless the Captain felt like as he could buy some for me.”
“No,” said Hazel decidedly; “I am not going to bother father ‘bout things like that, ‘specially now when he’s so worried and his life’s in danger.” This remark brought Flutters to a stand. Is the Captain’s life in danger, really, Miss Hazel?
“Yes, it is. Josephine said he received a very angry letter the other night from some old friends of his. They as much as told him that he must go away, and that his life wasn’t safe here; and lots of people are going, Flutters; people who, like father, have sided with King George.”
“Where are they going, Miss Hazel?”
“To England, most of them.”
“And will the Captain go?”
“No, Josephine thinks not. You see he built this house, Flutters, and he loves it, and he loves this country, too. Josephine says she believes he’ll just stay, and try and live the angry feeling down.”
“Miss Hazel,”.said Flutters, stopping to gather the trailing shawl over one arm, for he was ready now to give his whole mind to the matter in hand, “it’s a very puzzling thing ‘bout me. When Mr. Harry was telling those sad things of the prison-ship, I thought I was a Whig, and now when you are talking ‘bout the Captain, it seems as though I was a—a what do you call it?”
“A Loyalist, Flutters?”
“Yes, a Loyalist; but I reckon folks what has friends on both sides, had better not be anything particular.”
“Perhaps that would be best,” Hazel replied, smiling in spite of herself.
“Miss Hazel,” Flutters said, after a little pause, stopping and looking round him somewhat cautiously, as though he feared his question might be overheard, “did Starlight hear of any ‘quiries for me, when he was in the city this afternoon?”
Hazel nodded “Yes” in a most mysterious manner.
“There’s no danger of their ‘quiring round here, do you think?” and Hazel saw the involuntary little tremble shoot through Flutters’s frame.
“No, indeed, Flutters, and we wouldn’t give you up if they did. Mrs. Van Wyck told Starlight that a forlorn old man, who belonged to the circus, stopped at her gate and asked if she’d seen anything of a little mulatto boy what had deserted from the troupe, or knowed anything about him, and Mrs. Van Wyck said, ‘Lor’, no!’ never dreaming that her very own little Hans’s clothes were on that same little boy that very moment.”
“That must have been good old Bobbin,” answered Flutters, fairly chuckling over the thought of the entire success of his escape.
“Miss Hazel,” he added, after a moment’s thoughtful meditation, “I’ve been thinking how I might earn the money for my clothes by doing a little tumbling for folks round here, only I’m so awfully afraid of being heard of by the circus people.”
The suggestion instantly flashed a new scheme through Hazel’s mind.
“Flutters,” she said, very slowly and seriously, “I’ve—thought—of something. Yes, it’s the very thing. I’m going to town tomorrow, to see Colonel Hamilton about an important matter, and I’ll make all the ‘rangements.”
“‘Rangements ‘bout the clothes, Miss Hazel?”
“Yes, ‘rangements ‘bout everything; but, hush! ‘cause nobody else must know about it.” They had reached the porch where Mrs. Boniface was sitting, and Josephine was close behind them, which was the occasion for Hazel’s “Hush” and so little Flutters tumbled into bed half an hour later, still in ignorance as to what the scheme of his “little Mistress” might be, but with perfect confidence in her ability to make any arrangements under the sun.
Joe Ainsworth found his little friend waiting in the sunshine the next morning, and, almost without intimation from him, the leaders came to a standstill, and Hazel mounted to her seat beside him. “Business in town?” ventured Joe.
“Colonel Hamilton’s, please,” all intent on getting comfortably seated.
“Oh!” exclaimed Joe, with elevated eyebrows, “haven’t fixed that matter up yet, eh?”
“Not yet. I haven’t had time to see to it until to-day.”
“Haven’t had time,” said Joe, with a significant smile.
“No, I haven’t, really. Yesterday I had to go on a sailing party and the day before to the circus.”
“My lands, Miss Hazel! I guess if you had to drive this Albany coach every day of your life, week in and week out, and was ever able to take so much as a day off for a circus or a sailing party, you would call that having lots of time. I would, I can tell ye.”
“Well, then, perhaps it was because I couldn’t do both things, Joe, so I chose the sailing party and the circus.”
“I don’t blame you, Miss Hazel. Besides, there can’t be anything very pleasant for such a loyal little Red-Coat as you to look forward to, in calling on our American Colonel.”
“I’m not afraid of any American Colonel,” with the air of a grand duchess.
“No, of course not, Miss Hazel, but I’d have a care to that little tongue of yours.”
Hazel did not answer. She would not have allowed many people to offer that unsolicited advice without some sort of a rejoinder, but she had always a most kindly side toward Joe Ainsworth, not entirely accounted for, either, by the fact of the free rides.
For some reason or other the coach horses kept up a good pace that morning, and it was not long before they came to a halt at Hazel’s destination.
Colonel Hamilton’s law office was in just such another wide-porched double house as the Starlight homestead; and, like it, had been vacated by its rightful owner during the progress of the war, and so had shared the similar fate of being immediately claimed by the English. They were most comfortable-looking dwellings, those old colonial homesteads, cheery and clean without, in their buff coats of paint lined off with generous bands of white, and most hospitable within, with their wide halls running from front to back straight through them. It seemed a shame that such a homelike place should ever be converted into a mere bevy of offices, but, after all, that is but one of many desecrations that follow closely in the train of wretched war. The very sight of the house, and the evident misuse to which it had been put, stirred Hazel’s indignation. She did not know who had lived there, but she felt very sorry for them all the same.
It chanced to be her good fortune to find Colonel Alexander Hamilton alone in his office, something that did not often happen in the experience of that great man, and it was also perhaps her good fortune to be altogether unconscious of how truly great he was, else she might not have marched so boldly into his presence and told her story in such a frank and fearless manner. Yet, who knows, there are big and little women the world over, who will stop at nothing, and know neither fear nor shrinking where a friend’s interests are concerned, especially such a brave, true friend as Starlight had always proved himself to be.
Colonel Hamilton allowed Hazel to make her statement without interruption, save to ask some lawyer-like question now and then, when, in her childish eagerness, she had failed to put the facts quite clearly; but, notwithstanding her eagerness and the importance of her errand, she took time to note that he was “a lovely-looking gentleman,” and to draw a little sigh of regret that so fine a man should not have been a Tory like herself. When at last she had cleared her mind of all she had to say, she folded her little hands together in her lap, and scanning his handsome face closely, waited for his answer.
But Colonel Hamilton did not answer. With his elbows resting on the arms of his office chair he sat for a few seconds gazing down at his hands, the fingers of which, with thumb pressing thumb, were clasped in meditative fashion before him. Hazel gazed at them too. She thought they were very nice hands, and noticed how fine were the linen frills falling over them from the circle of the tight-fitting, broadcloth sleeve. She was not at all concerned that he did not hasten to reply. She had heard that lawyers gave a great deal of thought to “things,” and she would not hurry him. Meanwhile she sought the arms of the chair in which she was sitting as a support for her own elbows, and endeavored to lock her own little hands together in imitation of his—so will the feminine mind occupy itself with veriest trifles even on the verge of most decisive transactions. But the chair-arms were too wide apart and the child-arms too short by far to successfully accomplish the imitation. Colonel Hamilton noted the attempt and smiled. “My little friend,” he said at last, “I’m thinking I am the very last man you should have come to about all this. How did you happen to appeal to me?”
“Because, sir (Hazel grew a little embarrassed)—because sir, as I told Joe Ainsworth, who drives the Albany coach, you were the gentleman who talked the court into deciding the case against Miss Avery and in favor of Captain Wadsworth.”
“And how did you learn that?”
“Oh, I have heard my father talk about it; I am his little daughter Hazel.”
“Naturally, but who may your father be?”
“Captain Hugh Boniface, of his Majesty’s service,” with no little dignity.
“Indeed!” exclaimed the Colonel, with surprise, “and what did your father say?”
“He did not think you were right about it, Colonel Hamilton, but he said you were smart enough and handsome enough to make a jury believe anything you wanted to.” Hazel did not know why the Colonel walked over to the window and looked out for a moment, but one might surmise that it was simply to conceal a very broad smile.
“That is rather doubtful praise, Miss Hazel,” he said, coming back again, “but I can tell you one thing, I certainly would not try to make a jury believe anything that I did not believe myself.”
“No, of course not,” Hazel answered warmly, “only I thought you could not have understood about things. That is the reason I have come to ask you to change your mind.”
“But, unfortunately, lawyers’ minds when once made up cannot be changed very easily, and I am sorry for that, for there is nothing I would rather do than be of service to you and your little friend with the pretty name—what do you call him? Starlight? You see, the bother is, I honestly think the English have a right to dispose of Miss Avery’s house, for they did not take it from her nor compel her to leave it She left it of her own accord, now more than two years ago, and entirely unprotected. Now I do not see why she should expect to come back to it and turn out its present occupant just when she chances to see fit, and the court agrees with me in this.
“But doesn’t it seem too bad for a lot of great, strong men to side against a lovely lady like Miss Frances Avery?” and Hazel gave a very deep sigh.
“Yes, in one way it does, Miss Hazel,” said Colonel Hamilton kindly, “and the great strong men felt very sorry for her. Unfortunately hers proved to be a sort of test case. There are scores of other people who want to come back and turn people out of the homes where they have been living, some of them for the last six or seven years—indeed ever since New York fell into the hands of the British, and now the court has decided that they ought not to be allowed to come, and that under these circumstances, ‘possession is not only nine points of the law,’ but ten.
“I do not quite understand what you mean about the points of the law,” said Hazel, frankly; “but I do not think about it as you do at all,” and, in fact, there were many people in those days, and many, too, in these, who could make Hazel’s words their own, never having been able to comprehend how it was that the great lawyer took the stand he did.
“Besides, it is queer,” Hazel added, after a moments cogitation, “that such a Whig as you are, Colonel Hamilton, should have sided with the Tories.”
“Not a whit more queer, it strikes me,” laughed the Colonel, “than that a stanch little Loyalist like yourself should be pleading so warmly for the Whigs.”
“But if your best friend was a Whig and you felt sorry for him?” pleaded Hazel, in extenuation.
“Well to be sure, that does put matters in a different light; but truly, I do not see what you are going to be able to do about it. If Miss Avery can fix matters up with Captain Wadsworth, all well and good, and—”
“No, she can never do that,” interrupted Hazel, decidedly. “I have seen Captain Wadsworth myself. He looks like a kind man, but he isn’t. He told me to come to you about it; but it seems there’s no use going to anybody, and I guess Miss Avery and Starlight will just have to live and die over at Paulus Hook, and never have a home of their own again—never!”
It must be confessed that Hazel’s efforts in behalf of the Starlight homestead had apparently met with no success whatever. But she had done what she could, all she could, indeed, and there was some comfort in that, at least so she thought, as she walked slowly away from Colonel Hamilton’s office. She paused in a meditative way as she reached the gate. “Poor little girl,” thought the Colonel, who sat watching her from his office window, “I fancy she had an idea I could go right up to Captain Wadsworth’s and turn them all out if I wished to, and half believed I would do it. As it is, I will speak to the Captain. Perhaps he might be able to make some sort of a compromise with Miss Avery.”
So after all Hazel had at least succeeded in making a friend of the Colonel, and of Captain Wadsworth, too, for that matter, and it was not altogether improbable that something might result from this state of affairs, though she herself little dreamed it. But Hazel had had a double purpose in coming into the city that morning, and did not stand there at the Colonel’s gate because, as the Colonel thought, she was the most sorrowful and hopeless of little suppliants, but because she was trying to decide just what she had better do next.
“Better do next?” was the question that always confronted that restless and active little woman whenever the completion of any one plan left her free to launch upon another. If the little plan had utterly failed, that did not matter. It was her life to be busy about something, though the something might be of no more importance than the making of a doll’s dress or the mending of a toy teacup. But now the something to be done was important, and having made up her mind what to do, she suddenly started off at a brisk little pace that would have surprised the sympathetic Colonel could he have seen behind the boxwood hedge that grew close up to the gate on either side.
So great indeed was the change in her bearing, he might with reason have suspected her of a little “old soldiering” while in his office.
Hazel’s destination was the Starlight homestead, and the man she wanted to see was Sergeant Bellows. She “Do you remember?” found him seated alone on a bench under a tree in the front garden, and this suited her exactly, for her interview had need to be a private one. The old Sergeant was cleaning some sword-handles, but was glad enough to have his work interrupted by the unexpected arrival of his little friend, and made room for her on the bench beside him.
“Do you remember?” Hazel at once began, without waiting to command sufficient breath, “that the last time—I was here—you asked—if there was anything—an old sergeant could do for me?”
“Yes, I remember, Miss Hazel.”
“And do you think the other men meant what they said when they asked if there was anything they could do for me?”
“Yes, I’ll wager they did.”
“Well, now, there is something, Sergeant Bellows, a real important something, and this is it,” and straightway Hazel’s voice subsided into such a confidential whisper, that even the Sergeant lost a word now and then, but he smiled and nodded assent all the while, to Hazel’s great delight.
As for us, it is needless to bother our heads with all she told him, particularly as we shall see what came of it in the very next chapter.