IT is one thing to help a much-abused and unhappy little member of a circus troupe to run away from his unhappy surroundings; it is quite another thing to provide for all his future, particularly if, like Flutters, he has not a penny to his name nor a stitch to his back, none more serviceable, that is, than the ring costume of a high and lofty tumbler. And so it was that Mrs. Boniface and Josephine and Harry sat up well into the night, laughing heartily now and then over the funny side of the children’s adventure, but talking gravely enough most of the time of its more serious side.
“As far as I can make out,” said Harry, “Starlight rather expected to bring Flutters over to the farm to-morrow and ask Aunt Frances to care for him, at least till he found somebody else who would. I imagine his heart rather failed him later, as it ought to. Aunt Frances has enough to bother her at present.”
“But you don’t blame the children for helping the poor little fellow, do you?” said Josephine, warmly; “I think almost anyone would have done the same thing under the same circumstances.”
“Very likely, Miss Josephine, but that doesn’t dispose of the troublesome question, What is now to be done with him?
“Unfortunately, there are questions to be met more troublesome than that,” said Captain Boniface, joining for the first time in the conversation, and he had only too good reason for speaking as he did. Early in the evening a letter had been brought him, to which no one had paid any attention. It was a daily occurrence for a messenger to turn in at the gate with a note for the Captain, since he had been for the last eight years the principal furnisher of supplies to the English soldiers stationed in the city, and had need both to write and receive many letters. Indeed, so loyal had he been to King George that, at the very commencement of the Revolution, he had joined the English army, but had had the misfortune to be very seriously wounded in the first battle that was fought. When at last, after weeks of constant suffering, he was able to be moved, General Gage, under whom he served, had contrived to send him home by easy stages along the Boston post-road, under protection of an English escort; and Captain Boniface always declared, and no doubt he was right about it, that nothing short of his wife’s careful nursing would ever have brought him through. But after that it was out of the question for him to rejoin the army, so he must needs stay quietly at home and aid the King’s cause as best he could by helping to feed the King’s soldiers. All this, of course, had made enemies of most of the Captain’s old friends Harry Avery was almost the only exception; and now that the Colonies had been successful, matters were looking pretty serious for him and for every American who had sided with the King. The note that had just been brought to him proved a very threatening one. It as much as ordered him to leave the country, saying “that there was but one safe course for him and his, and that was to be gone instantly; that New York had no further use for him; that the sooner her streets and coffee-houses were rid of him the better, and that he would simply be taking his life in his hands if he stayed.” It was truly a terribly alarming letter, but Captain Boniface, knowing that sooner or later his wife and Josephine would have to know about it, now broke in upon the conversation and read it to them.
“Who has dared to write you that?” asked Mrs. Boniface.
“Four old friends, Mary; that is the saddest part of it.”
Mrs. Boniface sat pale and silent, looking straight before her, and not hearing another word that was said. She knew her husband well enough to feel assured that no such letter would move him a step from his home. Not he! He would remain and live the bitter persecution down. But would he be allowed to live it down? There were cruel words in that letter. “By remaining you simply take your life in your hands,” it said, and the terrible threat sent all sorts of dread possibilities thronging through her mind.
With anxious faces, and quick-beating hearts, Josephine and her mother listened, as Harry Avery and the Captain talked late into the night. It was a great comfort to realize that although Harry was a Whig, and a strong one, too, he did not harbor any bitter feeling against them. “Perhaps,” thought Josephine gladly, “there are others like him.”
It seemed as though Harry must have seen the gratitude in her expressive eyes, as he continued again and again to reassure the Captain of his full sympathy, and his determination to be of assistance to him in every possible way.
“Well, what will you do about it, father? Josephine asked, as just at midnight, she leaned over his chair to say good-night.
“Do about it, child?” he said, taking her hands in both of his,
“Why, stay just where I am!”
Mrs. Boniface shook her head gravely, as she and Josephine left the room together. She had known so well beforehand that he would say exactly that.