Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 153

One day he was told off, with a handful of others, for transfer to a stockade on the Delaware, and how his heart beat when he learned that the new prison was within twenty miles of home! His flow of spirits returned, and his new jailers liked him for his frankness and laughed at his honest expletives against the king. He had the liberty of the enclosure, and was not long in finding where the wall was low, the ditch narrow, and the abatis decayed—knowledge that came useful to him sooner than he expected, for one day a captured horse was led in that made straight for him with a whinny and rubbed his nose against his breast.

"Why!" he cried,—"it's Cecil! My horse, gentlemen—or, was. Not a better hunter in Maryland!"

"Yes," answered one of the officers. "We've just taken him from your brother. He's been stirring trouble with his speeches and has got to be quieted. But we'll have him to-day, for he's to be married, and a scouting party is on the road to nab him at the altar."

"Married! My brother! What! Ernest, the lawyer, the orator? Ho, ho! Ah, but it's rather hard to break off a match in that style!"

"Hard for him, maybe; but they say the lady feels no great love for him. He made it seem like a duty to her, after her lover died."

"How's that? Her own—what's her name?"

"Helen—Helen Carmichael, or something like that."

Field and sky swam before De Courcy's eyes for a moment; then he resumed, in a calm voice, and with a pale, set face, "Well, you're making an unhappy wedding-day for him. If he had Cecil here he would outride you all. Ah, when I was in practice I could ride this horse and snatch a pebble from the ground without losing pace!"

"Could you do it now?"

"I'm afraid long lodging in your prison-ships has stiffened my joints, but I'd venture at a handkerchief."

"Then try," said the commandant.

De Courcy mounted into the saddle heavily, crossed the grounds at a canter, and dropped a handkerchief on the grass. Then, taking a few turns for practice, he started at a gallop and swept around like the wind. His seat was so firm, his air so noble, his mastery of the steed so complete, that a cheer of admiration went up. He seemed to fall headlong from the saddle, but was up again in a moment, waving the handkerchief gayly in farewell—for he kept straight on toward the weak place in the wall. A couple of musket-balls hummed by his ears: it was neck or nothing now! A tremendous leap! Then a ringing cry told the astonished soldiers that he had reached the road in safety. Through wood and thicket and field he dashed as if the fiend were after him, and never once did he cease to urge his steed till he reached the turnpike, and saw ahead the scouting party on its way to arrest his brother.