The Shadow of the North by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter X. The Port
The three walked toward the Battery, and, while Tayoga attracted more attention in New York than in Quebec, it was not undue. The city was used to Indians, especially the Iroquois, and although comments were made upon Tayoga's height and noble appearance there was nothing annoying.
Meanwhile the two youths were using their excellent eyes to the full. Although the vivid imagination of Robert had foreseen a great future for New York he did not dream how vast it would be. Yet all things are relative, and the city even then looked large to him and full of life, both size and activity having increased visibly since his last visit. Some of the streets were paved, or at least in part, and the houses, usually of red brick, often several stories in height, were comfortable and strong. Many of them had lawns and gardens as at Albany, and the best were planted with rows of trees which would afford a fine shade in warm weather. Above the mercantile houses and dwellings rose the lofty spire of St. George's Chapel in Nassau Street, which had been completed less than three years before, and which secured Robert's admiration for its height and impressiveness.
The aspect of the whole town was a mixture of English and Dutch, but they saw many sailors who were of neither race. Some were brown men with rings in their ears, and they spoke languages that Robert did not understand. But he knew that they came from far southern seas and that they sailed among the tropic isles, looming large then in the world's fancy, bringing with them a whiff of romance and mystery.
The sidewalks in many places were covered with boxes and bales brought from all parts of the earth, and stalwart men were at work among them. The pulsing life and the air of prosperity pleased Robert. His nature responded to the town, as it had responded to the woods, and his imagination, leaping ahead, saw a city many times greater than the one before his eyes, though it still stopped far short of the gigantic reality that was to come to pass.
"It's not far now to Master Hardy's," said Willet cheerfully. "It's many a day since I've seen trusty old Ben, and right glad I'll be to feel the clasp of his hand again."
On his way Willet bought from a small boy in the street a copy each of the Weekly Post-Boy and of the Weekly Gazette and Mercury, folding them carefully and putting them in an inside pocket of his coat.
"I am one to value the news sheets," he said. "They don't tell everything, but they tell something and 'tis better to know something than nothing. Just a bit farther, my lads, and we'll be at the steps of honest Master Hardy. There, you can see where fortunes are made and lost, though we're a bit too late to see the dealers!"
He pointed to the Royal Exchange, a building used by the merchants at the foot of Broad Street, a structure very unique in its plan. It consisted of an upper story resting upon arches, the lower part, therefore, being entirely open. Beneath these arches the merchants met and transacted business, and also in a room on the upper floor, where there were, too, a coffee house and a great room used for banquets, and the meetings of societies, the Royal Exchange being in truth the beginning of many exchanges that now mark the financial center of the New World.
"Perhaps we'll see the merchants there tomorrow," said Willet. "You'll note the difference between New York and Quebec. The French capital was all military. You saw soldiers everywhere, but this is a town of merchants. Now which, think you, will prevail, the soldiers or the merchants?"
"I think that in the end the merchants will win," replied Robert.
"And so do I. Now we have come to the home of Master Hardy. See you the big brick house with high stone steps? Well, that is his, and I repeat that he is a good friend of mine, a good friend of old and of today. I heard that in Albany, which tells me we will find him here in his own place."
But the big brick house looked to Robert and Tayoga like a fortress, with its massive door and iron-barred windows, although friendly smoke rose from a high chimney and made a warm line against the frosty blue air.
Willet walked briskly up the high stone steps and thundered on the door with a heavy brass knocker. The summons was quickly answered and the door swung back, revealing a tall, thin, elderly man, neatly dressed in the fashion of the time. He had the manner of one who served, although he did not seem to be a servant. Robert judged at once that he was an upper clerk who lived in the house, after the custom of the day.
"Is Master Benjamin within, Jonathan?" asked Willet.
The tall man blinked and then stared at the hunter in astonishment.
"Is it in very truth you, Master Willet?" he exclaimed.
"None other. Come, Jonathan, you know my voice and my face and my figure very well. You could not fail to recognize me anywhere. So cease your doubting. My young friends here are Robert Lennox, of whom you know, and Tayoga, a coming chief of the Clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, known to you as the Six Nations. He's impatient of disposition and unless you answer my question speedily I'll have him tomahawk you. Come now, is Master Benjamin within?"
"He is, Mr. Willet. I had no intent to delay my answer, but you must allow something to surprise."
"I grant you pardon," said the hunter whimsically. "Robert and Tayoga, this is Master Jonathan Pillsbury, chief clerk and man of affairs for Master Benjamin Hardy. They are two old bachelors who live in the same house, and who get along well together, because they're so unlike. As for Master Jonathan, his heart is not as sour as his face, and you could come to a worse place than the shop of Benjamin and Jonathan. Master Jonathan, you will take particular notice of Mr. Lennox. He is well grown and he appears intelligent, does he not?"
The old clerk blinked again, and then his appraising eyes swept over Robert.
"'Twould be hard to find a nobler youth," he said.
"I thought you would say so, and now lead us, without further delay, to Master Hardy."
"Who is it who demands to be led to me?" thundered a voice from the rear of the house. "I seem to know that voice! Ah, it's Willet! Good old Willet! Honest Dave, who wields the sharpest sword in North America!"
A tall, heavy man lunged forward. "Lunged" was the word that described it to Robert, and his impetuous motion was due to the sight of Willet, whom he grasped by both hands, shaking them with a vigor that would have caused pain in one less powerful than the hunter, and as he shook them he uttered exclamations, many of them bordering upon oaths and all of them pertaining to the sea.
Robert's eyes had grown used to the half light of the hall, and he took particular notice of Master Benjamin Hardy who was destined to become an important figure in his life, although he did not then dream of it. He saw a tall man of middle age, built very powerfully, his face burnt almost the color of an Indian's by the winds and suns of many seas. But his hair was thick and long and the eyes shining in the face, made dark by the weather, were an intensely bright blue. Robert, upon whom impressions were so swift and vivid, reckoned that here was one capable of great and fierce actions, and also with a heart that contained a large measure of kindness and generosity.
"Dave," said the tall man, who carried with him the atmosphere of the sea, "I feared that you might be dead in those forests you love so well, killed and perhaps scalped by the Hurons or some other savage tribe. You've abundant hair, Dave, and you'd furnish an uncommonly fine scalp."
"And I feared, Benjamin, that you'd been caught in some smuggling cruise near the Spanish Main, and had been put out of the way by the Dons. You love gain too much, Ben, old friend, and you court risks too great for its sake."
Master Benjamin Hardy threw back his head and laughed deeply and heartily. The laugh seemed to Robert to roll up spontaneously from his throat. He felt anew that here was a man whom he liked.
"Perchance 'tis the danger that draws me on," said Master Hardy. "You and I are much alike, Dave. In the woods, if all that I hear be true, you dwell continually in the very shadow of danger, while I incur it only at times. Moreover, I am come to the age of fifty years, the head is still on my shoulders, the breath is still in my body, and Master Jonathan, to whom figures are Biblical, says the balance on my books is excellent."
"You talk o'er much, Ben, old friend, but since it's the way of seafaring men and 'tis cheerful it does not vex my ears. You behold with me, Tayoga, a youth of the best blood of the Onondaga nation, one to whom you will be polite if you wish to please me, Benjamin, and Master Robert Lennox, grown perhaps beyond your expectations."
Master Benjamin turned to Robert, and, as Master Jonathan had done, measured him from head to foot with those intensely bright blue eyes of his that missed nothing.
"Grown greatly and grown well," he said, "but not beyond my expectations. In truth, one could predict a noble bough upon such a stem. But you and I, Dave, having many years, grow garrulous and forget the impatience of youth. Come, lads, we'll go into the drawing-room and, as supper was to have been served in half an hour, I'll have the portions doubled."
"In Albany and New York alike," he said, "they welcome us to the table."
"Which is the utmost test of hospitality," said Master Benjamin.
They went into a great drawing-room, the barred windows of which looked out upon a busy street, warehouses and counting houses and passing sailors. Robert was conscious all the while that the brilliant blue eyes were examining him minutely. His old wonder about his parentage, lost for a while in the press of war and exciting events, returned. He felt intuitively that Master Hardy, like Willet, knew who and what he was, and he also felt with the same force that neither would reply to any question of his on the subject. So he kept his peace and by and by his curiosity, as it always did, disappeared before immediate affairs.
The drawing-room was a noble apartment, with dark oaken beams, a polished oaken floor, upon which eastern rugs were spread, and heavy tables of foreign woods. A small model of a sloop rested upon one table and a model of a schooner on another. Here and there were great curving shells with interiors of pink and white, and upon the walls were curious long, crooked knives of the Malay Islands. Everything savored of the sea. Again Robert's imagination leaped up. The blazing hues of distant tropic lands were in his eyes, and the odors of strange fruits and flowers were in his nostrils.
"Sit down, Dave," said Master Benjamin, "and you, too, Robert and Tayoga. I suppose you did not come to New Amsterdam--how the name clings!--merely to see me."
"That was one purpose, Benjamin," replied Willet, "but we had others in mind too."
"To join the war, I surmise, and to get yourselves killed?"
"The first part of your reckoning is true, Benjamin, but not the second. We would go to the war, in which we have had some part already, but not in order that we may be killed."
"You suffer from the common weakness. One entering war always thinks that it's the other man and not he who will be killed. You're too old for that, David."
"No, Benjamin," he said, "I'm not too old for it, and I never will be. It's the belief that carries us all through danger."
"Which way did you think of going in these warlike operations?"
"We shall join the force that comes out from England."
"The one that will march against Fort Duquesne?"
"I hear that it's to be commanded by a general named Braddock, Edward Braddock. What do you know of him?"
"But you do know, David, that regular army officers fare ill in the woods as a rule. You've told me often that the savages are a tricky lot, and, fighting in the forest in their own way, are hard to beat."
"You speak truth, Benjamin, and I'll not deny it, but there are many of our men in the woods who know the ways of the Indians and of the French foresters. They should be the eyes and ears of General Braddock's army."
"Well, maybe! maybe! David, but enough of war for the present. One cannot talk about it forever. There are other things under the sun. You will let these lads see New Amsterdam, will you not? Even Tayoga can find something worth his notice in the greatest port of the New World."
"Is any play being given here?" asked Robert.
"Aye, we're having plays almost nightly," replied Master Hardy, "and they're being presented by some very good actors, too. Lewis Hallam, who came several years ago from Goodman's Fields Theater in England, and his wife, known on the stage as Mrs. Douglas, are offering the best English plays in New York. Hallam is said to be extremely fine in Richard III, in which tragedy he first appeared here, and he gives it tomorrow night."
"Then we're going," said Robert eagerly. "I would not miss it for anything."
"I had some thought of going myself, and if Dave hasn't changed, he has a fine taste for the stage. I'll send for seats and we'll go together."
Willet's eyes sparkled.
"In truth I'll go, too, and right gladly," he said. "You and I, Benjamin, have seen the plays of Master Shakespeare together in London, and 'twill please me mightily to see one of them again with you in New York. Jonathan, here, will be of our company, too, will he not?"
Master Pillsbury pursed his lips and his expression became severe.
"'Tis a frivolous way of passing the time," he said, "but it would be well for one of serious mind to be present in order that he might impose a proper dignity upon those who lack it."
Benjamin Hardy burst into a roar of laughter. Robert had never known any one else to laugh so deeply and with such obvious spontaneity and enjoyment. His lips curled up at each end, his eyes rolled back and then fairly danced with mirth, and his cheeks shook. It was contagious. Not only did Master Benjamin laugh, but the others had to laugh, not excluding Master Jonathan, who emitted a dry cackle as became one of his habit and appearance.
"Do you know, Dave, old friend," said Hardy, "that our good Jonathan is really the most wicked of us all? I go upon the sea on these cruises, which you call smuggling, and what not, and of which he speaks censoriously, but if they do not show a large enough profit on his books he rates me most severely, and charges me with a lack of enterprise. And now he would fain go to the play to see that we observe the proper decorum there. My lads, you couldn't keep the sour-visaged old hypocrite from it."
Master Jonathan permitted himself a vinegary smile, but made no other reply, and, a Dutch serving girl announcing that supper was ready, Master Hardy led them into the dining-room, where a generous repast was spread. But the room itself continued and accentuated the likeness of a ship. The windows were great portholes, and two large swinging lamps furnished the light. Pictures of naval worthies and of sea actions lined the walls. Two or three of the battle scenes were quite spirited, and Robert regarded them with interest.
"Have you fought in any of those encounters, Mr. Hardy?" he asked.
Willet laid a reproving hand upon his shoulder.
"'Twas a natural question of yours, Robert," he said, "but 'tis the fashion here and 'tis courtesy, too, never to ask Benjamin about his past life. Then he has no embarrassing questions to answer."
Robert reddened and Hardy broke again into that deep, spontaneous laughter which, in time, compelled all the others to laugh too and with genuine enjoyment.
"Don't believe all that David tells you, Robert, my brave macaroni," he said. "I may not answer your questions, but faith they'll never prove embarrassing. Bear in mind, lad, that our trade being restricted by the mother country and English subjects in this land not having the same freedom as English subjects in England, we must resort to secrecy and stratagem to obtain what our fellow subjects on the other side of the ocean may obtain openly. And when you grow older, Master Robert, you will find that it's ever so in the world. Those to whom force bars the way will resort to wiles and stratagems to achieve their ends. The fox has the cunning that the bear lacks, because he hasn't the bear's strength. Lads, you two will sit together on this side of the table, Jonathan, you take the side next to the portholes, and David, you and I will preside at the ends. Benjamin, David and Jonathan, it has quite a Biblical sound, and at least the friendship among the three of us, despite the sourness of Master Pillsbury, with which I bear as best I can, is equal to that of David and Jonathan. Now, lads, fall on and see which of you can keep pace with me, for I am a mighty trencherman."
"Meanwhile tell us what is passing here," said Willet.
In the course of the supper Hardy talked freely of events in New York, where a great division of councils still prevailed. Shirley, the warlike and energetic governor of Massachusetts, had urged De Lancy, the governor of New York, to join in an expedition against the French in Canada, but there had been no agreement. Later, a number of the royal governors expected to meet at Williamsburg in Virginia with Dinwiddie, the governor of that province.
"At present there are plans for four enterprises, every one of an aspiring nature," he said. "One expedition is to reduce Nova Scotia entirely, another, under Governor Shirley of Massachusetts, is to attack the French at Fort Niagara, Sir William Johnson with militia and Mohawks is to head a third against Crown Point. The fourth, which I take to be the most important, is to be led by General Braddock against Fort Duquesne, its object being the recovery of the Ohio country. I cannot vouch for it, but such plans, I hear, will be presented at the conference of the governors at Williamsburg."
"As we mean to go to Williamsburg ourselves," said Willet, "we'll see what fortune General Braddock may have. But now, for the sake of the good lads, we'll speak of lighter subjects. Where is the play of Richard III to be given, Benjamin?"
"Mr. Hallam has obtained a great room in a house that is the property of Rip Van Dam in Nassau Street. He has fitted it up in the fashion of a stage, and his plays are always attended by a great concourse of ladies and gentlemen. Boston and Philadelphia say New York is light and frivolous, but I suspect that something of jealousy lies at the core of the charge. We of New Amsterdam--again the name leaps to my lips--have a certain freedom in our outlook upon life, a freedom which I think produces strength and not weakness. Manners are not morals, but I grow heavy and it does not become a seafaring man to be didactic. What is it, Piet?"
The door of the dining-room opened, admitting a serving man who produced a letter.
"It comes by the Boston post," he said, handing it to Master Hardy.
"Then it must have an importance which will not admit delay in the reading," said Master Hardy. "Your pardon, friends, while I peruse it."
He read it carefully, read it again with the same care, and then his resonant laughter boomed forth with such volume and in such continuity that he was compelled to take a huge red handkerchief and wipe the tears from his eyes.
"What is it, Benjamin, that amuses you so vastly?" asked Willet.
"A brave epistle from one of my captains, James Dunbar, a valiant man and a great mariner. In command of the schooner, Good Hope, he was sailing from the Barbados with a cargo of rum and sugar for Boston, which furnishes a most excellent market for both, when he was overhauled by the French privateer, Rocroi."
"What do you find to laugh at in the loss of a good ship and a fine cargo?"
"Did I say they were lost? Nay, David, I said nothing of the kind. You don't know Dunbar, and you don't know the Good Hope, which carries a brass twelve-pounder and fifteen men as valiant as Dunbar himself. He returned the attack of the Rocroi with such amazing skill and fierceness that he was able to board her and take her, with only three of his men wounded and they not badly. Moreover, they found on board the privateer a large store of gold, which becomes our prize of war. And Dunbar and his men shall have a fair share of it, too. How surprised the Frenchies must have been when Dunbar and his sailors swarmed aboard."
"'Tis almost our only victory," said Willet, "and I'm right glad, Benjamin, it has fallen to the lot of one of your ships to win it."
The long supper which was in truth a dinner was finished at last. Hardy made good his boast, proving that he was a mighty trencherman. Pillsbury pressed him closest, and the others, although they did well, lingered at some distance in the rear. Afterward they walked in the town, observing its varied life, and at a late hour returned to Hardy's house which he called a mansion.
Robert and Tayoga were assigned to a room on the second floor, and young Lennox again noted the numerous evidences of opulence. The furniture was mostly of carved mahogany, and every room contained articles of value from distant lands.
"Tayoga," said Robert, "what do you think of it all?"
"I think that the man Hardy is shrewd, Dagaeoga, shrewd like one of our sachems, and that he has an interest in you, greater than he would let you see. Do you remember him, Lennox?"
"No, I can't recall him, Tayoga. I've heard Dave speak of him many times, but whenever we were in New York before he was away, and we did not even come to his house. But he and Dave are friends of many years. I think that long ago they must have been much together."
"Truly there is some mystery here, but it can wait. In its proper time the unknown becomes the known."
"So it does, Tayoga, and I shall not vex my mind about the matter. Just now, what I wish most of all is sleep."
"I wish it too, Lennox."
But Robert did not sleep well, his nerves being attuned more highly than he had realized. Some of the talk that had passed between Willet and Hardy related obviously to himself, and in the quiet of the room it came back to him. He had not slept more than an hour when he awoke, and, being unable to go to sleep again, sat up in bed. Tayoga was deep in slumber, and Robert finally left the bed and went to the window, the shutter of which was not closed. It was a curious, round window, like a huge porthole, but the glass was clear and he had a good view of the street. He saw one or two sailors swaying rather more than the customary motion of a ship, pass by, and then a watchman carrying a club in one hand and a lantern in the other, and blowing his frosty breath upon his thick brown beard, indicating that the night although bright was very cold.
He looked through the glass at least a half hour, and then turned back to the bed, but found himself less inclined than ever to sleep. Throwing his coat over his shoulders, he opened the unlocked door and went into the hall, intending to walk back and forth a little, believing that the easy exercise would induce desire for sleep.
He was surprised to find a thread of light in the dusk of the hall, at a time when he was quite sure everybody in the house except himself was buried in slumber, and when he traced it he found it came from another room farther down. It was, upon the instant, his belief that robbers had entered. In a port like New York, where all nations come, there must be reckless and desperate men who would hesitate at no risk or crime.
He moved cautiously along the hall, until he reached the door from which the light shone. It was open about six inches, not allowing a look into the room except at the imminent risk of discovery, but by placing his ear at the sill he would be able to hear the footsteps of men if they were moving within. The sound of voices instead came to him, and as he listened he was able to note that it was two men talking in low tones. Undoubtedly they were robbers, who were common in all great towns in those days, and this must be a chamber in which Master Hardy kept many valuables. Doubtless they were assured that everybody was deep in slumber, or they would be more cautious.
Driven by an intense curiosity, Robert edged his head a little farther forward, and was able to look into the room, where, to his intense amazement, he saw no robbers at all, but Willet and Master Hardy seated at a small table opposite each other, with a candle, account books and papers between. Hardy had been reading a paper, and stopping at intervals to talk about it with the hunter.
"As you see, David," he said, "the list of the ships is three larger than it was five years ago. One was lost to the Barbary corsairs, another was wrecked on the coast of the Brazils, but we have five new ones."
"You have done well, Benjamin, but I knew you would," said the hunter.
"With the help of Jonathan. Don't forget him, David. In name he is my head clerk, and he pretends to serve me, but at times I think he is my master. A shrewd Massachusetts man, David, uncommonly shrewd, and loyal too."
"And the lands, Benjamin?"
"They're in abeyance, and are likely to be for some years, their title depending upon the course of events which are now in train."
"And they're uncertain, Benjamin, as uncertain as the winds. But give me your honest opinion of the lad, Benjamin. Have I done well with him?"
"None could have done better. He's an eagle, David. I marked him well. Spirit, imagination, force; youth and honesty looking out of his eyes. But have you no fears, David, that you will get him killed in the wars?"
"I could not keep him from going to them if I would, Benjamin. There my power stops. You old sailors have superstitions or beliefs, and I, a landsman, have a conviction, too. The invisible prophets tell me that he will not be killed."
"I don't laugh at such things, David. The greatness and loneliness of the sea does breed superstition in mariners. I know there is no such thing as the supernatural, and yet I am swayed at times by the unknown."
"At least I will watch over him as best I can, and he has uncommon skill in taking care of himself."
Robert's will triumphed over a curiosity that was intense and burning, and he turned away. He knew they were speaking of him, and he seemed to be connected with great affairs. It was enough to stir the most apathetic youth, and he was just the opposite. It required the utmost exertion of a very strong mind to pull himself from the door and then to drag his unwilling feet along the hall. Matter was in complete rebellion and mind was compelled to win its triumph, unaided, but win it did and kept the victory.
He reached his own room and softly closed the door behind him. Tayoga was still sleeping soundly. Robert went again to the window. His eyes were turned toward the street, but he did not see anything there, because he was looking inward. The talk of Willet and Hardy came back to him. He could say it over, every word, and none could deny that it was charged with significance. But he knew intuitively that neither of them would answer a single one of his questions, and he must wait for time and circumstance to disclose the truth. Nor could he bear to tell them that he had been listening at the door, despite the fact that it had been brought about by accident, and that he had come away, when he might have heard more.
Having resigned himself to necessity, he went back to bed and now, youth triumphing over excitement, he soon slept. The next morning, directly after breakfast, the three elders and the two lads went to the Royal Exchange, where there was soon a great concourse of merchants, clerks and seafaring men. Master Hardy was received with great respect, and many congratulations were given to him, when he told the story of the Good Hope and Captain Dunbar. In one of the rooms above the pillars he met another captain of his who had arrived the day before at New York itself.
This captain, a New England man, Eliphalet Simmons, had brought his schooner from the Mediterranean, and he told in a manner as brief and dry as his own log how he had outsailed one Barbary corsair by day, and by changing his course had tricked another in the night. But the voyage had been most profitable, and Master Jonathan duly entered the amount of gain in an account book, with a reward of ten pounds to Captain Simmons, five pounds to the first mate, three pounds to the second mate, and one pound to every member of the crew for their bravery and seamanship.
Captain Simmons' thanks were as brief and dry as his report, but Robert saw his eyes glisten, and knew that he was not lacking in gratitude. After the business was settled and the rewards adjusted they adjourned to a coffee house near Hanover Square where very good Madeira was brought and served to the men, Robert and Tayoga declining. Then Benjamin, David and Jonathan drank to the health of Eliphalet, while the two lads, the white and the red, devoted their attention to the others in the coffee house, of whom there were at least a dozen.
One who sat at a table very near was already examining Tayoga with the greatest curiosity. He wore the uniform of an English second lieutenant, very trim, and very red, he had an exceeding ruddiness of countenance, he was tall and well built, and he was only a year or two older than Robert. His curiosity obviously had been aroused by the appearance of Tayoga in the full costume of an Iroquois. It was equally evident to Robert that he was an Englishman, a member of the royal forces then in New York. Americans still called themselves Englishmen and Robert instantly had a feeling of kinship for the young officer who had a frank and good face.
The English youth's hat was lying upon the table beside him, and a gust of wind blowing it upon the floor, rolled it toward Robert, who picked it up and tendered it to its owner.
"Thanks," said the officer. "'Twas careless of me."
"By no means," said Robert. "The wind blows when it pleases, and you were taken by surprise."
The Englishman smiled, showing very white and even teeth.
"I haven't been very long in New York," he said, "but I find it a polite and vastly interesting town. My name is Grosvenor, Alfred Grosvenor, and I'm a second lieutenant in the regiment of Colonel Brandon, that arrived but recently from England."
Master Hardy looked up and passed an investigating eye over the young Englishman.
"You're related to one of the ducal families of England," he said, "but your own immediate branch of it has no overplus of wealth. Still, your blood is reckoned highly noble in England, and you have an excellent standing in your regiment, both as an officer and a man."
Young Grosvenor's ruddy face became ruddier.
"How do you happen to know so much about me?" he asked. But there was no offense in his tone.
Hardy smiled, and Pillsbury, pursing his thin lips, measured Grosvenor with his eyes.
"I make it my business," replied Hardy, "to discover who the people are who come to New York. I'm a seafaring man and a merchant and I find profit in it. It's true, in especial, since the war has begun, and New York begins to fill with the military. Many of these sprightly young officers will be wishing to borrow money from me before long, and it will be well for me to know their prospects of repayment."
The twinkle in his eye belied the irony of his words, and the lieutenant laughed.
"And since you're alone," continued the merchant, "we ask you to join us, and will be happy if you accept. This is Mr. Robert Lennox, of very good blood too, and this is Tayoga, of the Clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, who, among his own people has a rank corresponding to a prince of the blood among yours, and who, if you value such things, is entitled therefore to precedence over all of us, including yourself. Mr. David Willet, Mr. Jonathan Pillsbury and Mr. Benjamin Hardy, who is myself, complete the catalogue."
He spoke in a tone half whimsical, half earnest, but the young Englishman, who evidently had a friendly and inquiring mind, received it in the best spirit and gladly joined them. He was soon deep in the conversation, but his greatest interest was for Tayoga, from whom he could seldom take his eyes. It was evident to Robert that he had expected to find only a savage in an Indian, and the delicate manners and perfect English of the Onondaga filled him with surprise.
"I would fain confess," he said at length, "that America is not what I expected to find. I did not know that it contained princes who could put some of our own to shame."
He bowed to Tayoga, who smiled and replied:
"What small merit I may possess is due to the training of my people."
"Do you expect early service, Lieutenant Grosvenor?" Mr. Hardy asked.
"Not immediate--I think I may say so much," replied the Englishman, "but I understand that our regiment will be with the first force that takes the field, that of General Braddock. 'Tis well known that we intend to march against Fort Duquesne, an expedition that should be easy. A powerful army like General Braddock's can brush aside any number of forest rovers."
Robert and Willet exchanged glances, but the face of Tayoga remained a mask.
"It's not well to take the French and Indians too lightly," said Mr. Hardy with gravity.
"But wandering bands can't face cannon and the bayonet."
"They don't have to face 'em. They lie hid on your flank and cut you down, while your fire and steel waste themselves on the uncomplaining forest."
They were words which were destined to come back to Robert some day with extraordinary force, but for the present they were a mere generalization that did not stay long in his mind.
"Our leaders will take all the needful precautions," said young Grosvenor with confidence.
Mr. Hardy did not insist, but spoke of the play they expected to witness that evening, suggesting to Lieutenant Grosvenor if he had leave, that he go with them, an invitation that was accepted promptly and with warmth. The liking between him and Robert, while of sudden birth, was destined to be strong and permanent. There was much similarity of temperament. Grosvenor also was imaginative and curious. His mind invariably projected itself into the future, and he was eager to know. He had come to America, inquiring, without prejudices, wishing to find the good rather than the bad, and he esteemed it a great stroke of fortune that he should make so early the acquaintance of two such remarkable youths as Robert and Tayoga. The three men with them were scarcely less interesting, and he knew that in their company at the play they would talk to him of strange new things. He would be exploring a world hidden from him hitherto, and nothing could have appealed to him more.
"You landed a week ago," said Hardy.
"Truly, sir," laughed Grosvenor, "you seem to know not only who I am, but what I do."
"And then, as you've had a certain amount of military duty, although 'tis not excessive, you've had little chance to see this most important town of ours. Can you not join this company of mine at my house for supper, and then we'll all go together to the play? I'll obtain your seat for you."
"With great pleasure, sir," replied Grosvenor. "'Twill be easy for me to secure the needed leave, and I'll be at your house with promptness."
He departed presently for his quarters, and the three men also went away together on an errand of business, leaving Robert and Tayoga to go whithersoever they pleased and it pleased them to wander along the shores of the port. Young Lennox was impressed more than ever by the great quantity of shipping, and the extreme activity of the town. The war with France, so far from interfering with this activity, had but increased it.
Privateering was a great pursuit of the day, all nations deeming it legal and worthy in war, and bold and enterprising merchants like Mr. Hardy never failed to take advantage of it. The weekly news sheets that Willet had bought contained lists of vessels captured already, and Robert's hasty glances showed him that at least sixty or seventy had been taken by the privateers out of New York. Most of the prizes had been in the West India trade, although some had been captured far away near the coast of Africa, and nearly all had been loaded richly.
They saw several of the privateers in port, armed powerfully, and as they were usually built for speed, Robert admired their graceful lines. He felt anew the difference between military Quebec and commercial New York. Quebec was prepared to send forth forces for destruction, but, here, life-giving commerce flowed in and flowed out again through arteries continually increasing in number and power. Once again came to him the thought that the merchant more than the soldier was the builder of a great nation. The impression made upon him was all the more vivid because New York, even in the middle of the eighteenth century, when it was in its infancy, surprised even travelers from Europe with its manifold activities and intense energy.
After a day, long but of extraordinary interest, they returned to the house of Mr. Hardy, where Grosvenor joined them in half an hour, and then, after another abundant supper, they all went to the play.