The colonel looked at the volunteer admiringly, and spoke some words in praise of his courage.
"No," said the man; "I have an idea, that is all. What I promise you is that I will not be taken alive. I shall give you a deal of trouble; because you will hear of me on the least alarm. If I am given this post, I propose to fire my piece if I hear the slightest noise. If a bird chatters or a leaf falls, my musket shall go off.
Of course you may be alarmed when nothing is the matter; but that's my condition, and you must take the chance."
"Take the chance!" said the colonel. "It's the very wisest thing you can do, You're a fellow of courage, and what's more, you're a fellow with a head."
He shook hands with him, as did the rest of the soldiers, with faces full of foreboding. "Come," said the man, "don't look so glum; cheer up, and I shall have a story to tell you when we meet again."
They left him and went back to the guard-room again. An hour passed away in suspense. It seemed as though every ear in the regiment were on the rack for the discharge of that musket. Hardly a man spoke, but as the minutes dragged along the conviction gained ground that already the brave man had followed the fate of the other three.
The colonel paced up and down in the guard-room, as anxious as any of the men. He looked at his watch for the twentieth time. An hour and twenty minutes had gone.
Suddenly, down in the woods, the report of a musket rang out.
Colonel, officers, and men poured out of the guard-room, almost without a word, and advanced at a double through the woods. The mystery was going to be solved at last. Until quite close to the spot, they were forced, by the thickness of the forest, to remain in ignorance of what had happened, and whether their comrade was dead or alive. But they shouted, and an answering "Halloa!" at last came back. As they turned into the glade where the sentinel had been posted, they beheld him advancing towards them and dragging another man along the ground by the hair of the head.
He flung the body down. It was an Indian, stone-dead, with a musket-wound in his side.
"How did it happen?" panted the colonel, beside himself with joy.
"Well," said the soldier, saluting, "I gave your honor notice that I should fire if I heard the least noise. That's what I did, and it saved my life; and it just happened in this way.
"I hadn't been long standing here, peering round till my eyes ached, when I heard a rustling about fifty yards away. I looked and saw an American hog, of the sort that are common enough in these parts, coming down the glade opposite, crawling along the ground and sniffing to right and left--just as if he'd no business in life but to sniff about for nuts under the fallen leaves and all about the roots of the trees. Boars are common enough, so I gave him a glance and didn't take much notice for some minutes.
"But after a while, thinks I to myself--'No doubt the others kept their eyes about them sharp enough, and was only took in by neglecting something that seemed of no account;' so being on the alarm and having no idea what was to be feared and what was not, I woke up after some minutes and determined to keep my eyes on it and watch how it passed in and out among the trees. For I thought, if it comes on an Indian skulking about yonder, I may be able to learn something from its movements. Indians are thick enough here and to spare: but they're not so thick as nuts, for all that.
"So I kept glancing at the hog, and then looking round and glancing again. Not another creature was in sight; not a leaf rustling. And then, all of a sudden--I can't tell why--it struck me as queer that the animal was snuffling around among the trees and making off to the right, seemingly for the thick coppice just behind my post. I didn't want anything behind me, you may be sure, not even a hog, and as it was now only a few yards from my coppice I kept my eye more constantly on it, and cast up in my mind whether I should fire or not.
"It seemed foolish enough to rouse you all up by shooting a pig!
I fingered my trigger, and couldn't for the life of me make up my mind what to do. I looked and looked, and the more I looked the bigger fool I thought myself for being alarmed at it. It would be a rare jest against me that I mistook a pig for an Indian; and this was a hog sure enough. You've all seen scores of them, and know how they move. Well, this one was for all the world like any other, and I was almost saying to myself that'twas more like the average hog than any hog I'd ever seen, when just as it got close to the thicket I fancied it gave an unusual spring.
"At any rate, fancy or no, I didn't hesitate. I took cool aim, and directly I did so, felt sure I was right. The beast stopped in a hesitating sort of way, and by that I knew it saw what I was about, though up to the moment it had never seemed to be noticing me. 'An Indian's trick, for a sovereign,' thought I, and pulled the trigger.
"It dropped over like a stone; and then, as I stood there, still doubting if it were a trap that I should fall into by running to look, I heard a groan--and the groan of a man, too. I loaded my musket and ran up to it. I had shot an Indian, sure enough, and that groan was his last.
"He had wrapped himself in the hog's skin so completely, and his hands and feet were so neatly hid, and he imitated the animal's walk and noise so cleverly, that I swear, if you saw the trick played again, here before you, your honor would doubt your honor's eyes.
And seeing him at a distance, in the shadow of the trees, no man who had not lost three comrades before him, as I had, would ever have guessed. Here's the knife and tomahawk the villain had about him. You see, once in the coppice he had only to watch his moment for throwing off the skin and jumping on me from behind; a dig in the back before a man had time to fire his piece was easy work enough. After that it's easier still to drag the body off and hide it under a heap of leaves. The rebels pay these devils by the scalp, and no doubt if your honor looks about, you'll find the collection our friend here has already made to-day."
THE MAN IN THE "AUGER HOLE."
By Frank R. Stockton
When we consider the American Revolution, we are apt to think of it as a great war which all the inhabitants of the Colonies rose up against Great Britain, determined, no matter what might be the hardships and privations, no matter what the cost in blood and money, to achieve their independence and the right to govern themselves.
But this was not the case. A great majority of the people of the Colonies were ardently in favor of independence; but there were also a great many people, and we have no right to say that some of them were not very good people, who were as well satisfied that their country should be a colony of Great Britain as the Canadians are now satisfied with that state of things, and who were earnestly and honestly opposed to any separation from the mother country.
This difference of opinion was the cause of great trouble and bloodshed among the colonists themselves, and the contests between the Tories and the Whigs were nowhere more bitter than in New Jersey. In some parts of the Colony, families were divided against themselves; and not only did this result in quarrels and separations, but fathers and sons, and brothers and brothers, fought against each other. At one time the Tories, or, as they came to be called, "refugees," were in such numbers that they took possession of the town of Freehold, and held it for more than a week; and when at last the town was retaken by the patriotic forces, most of them being neighbors and friends of the refugees, several prominent Tories were hanged, and many others sent to prison.
The feeling between the Americans of the two different parties was more violent than that between the patriots and the British troops, and before long it became entirely unsafe for any Tory to remain in his own home in New Jersey. Many of them went to New York, where the patriotic feeling was not so strong at that time, and there they formed themselves into a regular military company called the "Associated Loyalists"; and this company was commanded by William Temple Franklin, son of the great Benjamin Franklin, who had been appointed Governor of New Jersey by the British Crown. He was now regarded with great hatred by the patriots of New Jersey, because he was a strong Tory. This difference of opinion between William Franklin and his father was the most noted instance of this state of feeling which occurred in those days.
It will be interesting to look upon this great contest from a different point of view than that from which we are accustomed to regard it; and some extracts from the journal of a New Jersey lady who was a decided Tory, will give us an idea of the feeling and condition of the people who were opposed to the Revolution.
This lady was Mrs. Margaret Hill Morris, who lived in Burlington.
She was a Quaker lady, and must have been a person of considerable wealth; for she had purchased the house on Green Bank, one of the prettiest parts of Burlington, overlooking the river, in which Governor Franklin had formerly resided. This was a fine house and contained the room which afterwards became celebrated under the name of the "Auger Hole." This had been built, for what reason is not known, as a place of concealment. It was a small room, entirely dark, but said to be otherwise quite comfortable, which could be approached only through a linen closet. In order to get at it, the linen had to be taken from the shelves, the shelves drawn out, and a small door opened at the back of the closet, quite low down, so that the dark room could only be entered by stooping.
In this "Auger Hole," Mrs. Morris, who was a strong Tory, but a very good woman, had concealed a refugee who at the time was sought for by the adherents of the patriotic side, and who probably would have had a hard time of it if he had been caught, for he was a person of considerable importance.
The name of the refugee was Jonathan Odell, and he was rector of St. Mary's Church in Burlington. He was a learned man, being a doctor as well as a clergyman, and a very strong Tory. He had been of much service to the people of Burlington; for when the Hessians had attacked the town, he had come forward and interceded with their commander, and had done his work so well that the soldiers were forbidden to pillage the town. But when the Hessians left, the American authorities began a vigorous search for Tories; and Parson Odell was obliged to conceal himself in good Mrs. Morris's "Auger Hole."
Mrs. Morris was apparently a widow who lived alone with her two boys, and, having this refugee in her house, she was naturally very nervous about the movements of the American troops and the actions of her neighbors of the opposite party.
She kept a journal of the things that happened^ about her in those eventful days, and from this we will give some extracts. It must be understood that in writing her journal, the people designated as the "enemy" were the soldiers under Washington, and that "gondolas"
were American gunboats.
"From the 13th to the 16th we had various reports of the advancing and retiring of the enemy; parties of armed men rudely entered the town and diligent search was made for tories. Some of the gondola gentry broke into and pillaged Red Smith's house on the bank. About noon this day (16th) a very terrible account of thousands coming into the town, and now actually to be seen on Gallows Hill: my incautious son caught up the spyglass, and was running towards the hill to look at them. I told him it would be liable to misconstruction."
The journal states that the boy went out with the spyglass, but could get no good place from which he could see Gallows Hill, or any troops upon it, and so went down to the river, and thought he would take a view of the boats in which were the American troops.
He rested his spyglass on the low limb of a tree, and with a boyish curiosity inspected the various boats of the little fleet, not suspecting that any one would object to such a harmless proceeding.
But the people on the boats saw him, and did object very much; and the consequence was, that, not long after he reached his mother's house, a small boat from one of the vessels came to shore. A party of men went to the front door of the house in which they had seen the boy enter, and began loudly to knock upon it. Poor Mrs. Morris was half frightened to death, and she made as much delay as possible in order to compose her features and act as if she had never heard of a refugee who wished to hide himself from his pursuers. In the mild manner in which Quaker women are always supposed to speak, she asked them what they wanted. They quickly told her that they had heard that there was a refugee, to whom they applied some very strong language, who was hiding somewhere about here, and that they had seen him spying at them with a glass from behind a tree, and afterwards watched him as he entered this house.
Mrs. Morris declared that they were entirely mistaken; that the person they had seen was no one but her son, who had gone out to look at them as any boy might do, and who was perfectly innocent of any designs against them. The men may have been satisfied with this explanation with regard to her son; but they asserted that they knew that there was a refugee concealed somewhere in that neighborhood, and they believed that he was in an empty house near by, of which they were told she had the key. Mrs. Morris, who had given a signal, previously agreed upon, to the man in the "Auger Hole," to keep very quiet, wished to gain as much time as possible, and exclaimed:
"Bless me! I hope you are not Hessians."
"Do we look like Hessians?" asked one of them rudely.
"Indeed, I don't know."
"Did you ever see a Hessian?"
"No, never in my life; but they are men, and you are men, and may be Hessians, for anything I know. But I will go with you into Colonel Cox's house, though indeed it was my son at the mill; he is but a boy, and meant no harm; he wanted to see the troops."
So she took the key of the empty house referred to, and went in ahead of the men, who searched the place thoroughly, and, after finding no place where anybody could be, they searched one or two of the houses adjoining; but for some reason they did not think it worth while to go through Mrs. Morris's own house. Had they done so, it, is not probable that the good lady could have retained her composure, especially if they had entered the room in which was the linen closet; for, even had they been completely deceived by the piles of sheets and pillowcases, there is no knowing but that the unfortunate man in the "Auger Hole" might have been inclined to sneeze.
But although she was a brave woman and very humanely inclined, Mrs.
Morris felt she could not any longer take the risk of a refugee in her house. And so that night, after dark, she went up to the parson in the "Auger Hole," and made him come out; and she took him into the town, where he was concealed by some of the Tory citizens, who were better adapted to take care of the refugee than this lone Quaker woman with her two inquisitive boys. It is believed that soon after this he took refuge in New York, which was then in the hands of the British.
Further on in the journal Mrs. Morris indulges in some moral reflections in regard to the war in which her countrymen were engaged, and no one of right feeling will object to her sentiments.
"Jan. 14. I hear Gen. Howe sent a request to Washington desiring three days' cessation of arms to take care of the wounded and bury the dead, which was refused; what a woeful tendency war has to harden the human heart against the tender feelings of humanity. Well may it be called a horrid art thus to change the nature of man. I thought that even barbarous nations had a sort of religious regard for their dead."
After this the journal contains many references to warlike scenes on the river and warlike sounds from the country around. Numbers of gondolas filled with soldiers went up and down the river, at times cannon from distant points firing alarums. At other times the roaring of great guns from a distance, showing that a battle was going on, kept the people of Burlington in a continual excitement; and Mrs. Morris, who was entirely cut off from her relatives and friends, several of whom were living in Philadelphia, was naturally very anxious and disturbed in regard to events, of which she heard but little, and perhaps understood less.
One day she saw a number of gunboats, with flags flying and drums beating, that were going, she was told, to attend a court-martial at which a number of refugees, men of her party, were to be tried by General Putnam; and it was believed that if they were found guilty they would be executed.