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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 106

"Make haste to cut it off, then," was the reply, "for the power of Sir William Howe and of the king, his master, is at an end. These shadows are mourners at his funeral. Look! The last of the governors."

Howe rushed with drawn sword on the figure of himself, when it turned and looked at him. The blade clanged to the floor and Howe fell back with a gasp of horror, for the face was his own. Hand nor voice was raised to stay the double-goer as it mournfully passed on. At the threshold it stamped its foot and shook its fists in air; then the door closed. Mingled with the strains of the funeral march, as it died along the empty streets, came the tolling of the bell on South Church steeple, striking the hour of midnight. The festivities were at an end and, oppressed by a nameless fear, the spectators of this strange pageant made ready for departure; but before they left the booming of cannon at the southward announced that Washington had advanced. The glories of Province House were over. When the last of the royal governors left it he paused on the threshold, beat his foot on the stone, and flung up his hands in an attitude of grief and rage.





OLD ESTHER DUDLEY

Boston had surrendered. Washington was advancing from the heights where he had trained his guns on the British works, and Sir William Howe lingered at the door of Province House,—last of the royal governors who would stand there,—and cursed and waved his hands and beat his heel on the step, as if he were crushing rebellion by that act. The sound brought an old woman to his side. "Esther Dudley!" he exclaimed. "Why are you not gone?"

"I shall never leave. As housekeeper for the governors and pensioner of the king, this has been my home; the only home I know. Go back, but send more troops. I will keep the house till you return."

"Grant that I may return," he cried. "Since you will stay, take this bag of guineas and keep this key until a governor shall demand it."

Then, with fierce and moody brow, the governor went forth, and the faded eyes of Esther Dudley saw him nevermore. When the soldiers of the republic cast about for quarters in Boston town, they spared the official mansion to this old woman. Her bridling toryism and assumption of old state amused them and did no harm; indeed, her loyalty was half admired; beside, nobody took the pride in the place that she did, or would keep it in better order. That she sometimes had a half-dozen of unrepentant codgers in to dinner, and that they were suspected of drinking healths to George III. in crusted port, was a fact to blink. Rumor had it that not all her guests were flesh and blood, but that she had an antique mirror across which ancient occupants of the house would pass in shadowy procession at her command, and that she was wont to have the Shirleys, Olivers, Hutchinsons, and Dudleys out of their graves to hold receptions there; so a touch of dread may have mingled in the feeling that kept the populace aloof.


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