Chapter XI. The Play

They were all arrayed in their very best clothes, even Master Jonathan having powdered his hair, and tied it in an uncommonly neat queue, while his buckled shoes, stockings and small clothes, though of somewhat ancient fashion, were of fine quality. Mr. Hardy gazed at him admiringly.

"Jonathan," he said, "you are usually somewhat sour of visage, but upon occasion you can ruffle it with the best macaroni of them all."

Master Jonathan pursed his lips, and smiled with satisfaction. All of them, in truth, presented a most gallant appearance, but by far the most noticeable figure was that of Tayoga. Indians often appeared in New York, but such Indians as the young Onondaga were rare anywhere. He rose half a head above the ordinary man, and he wore the costume of a chief of the mighty League of the Hondenosaunee, the feathers in his lofty headdress blowing back defiantly with the wind. He attracted universal, and at the same time respectful, attention.

They were preceded by a stout link boy who bore aloft a blazing torch, and as they walked toward the building in Nassau Street, owned by Rip Van Dam, in which the play was to be given, they overtook others who were upon the same errand. A carriage drawn by two large white horses conveyed Governor de Lancey and his wife, and another very much like it bore his brother-in-law, the conspicuous John Watts, and Mrs. Watts. All of them saw Mr. Hardy and his party and bowed to them with great politeness. Robert already understood enough of the world to know that it denoted much importance on the part of the merchant.

"A man of influence in our community," said Master Benjamin, speaking of Mr. Watts. "An uncommonly clear mind and much firmness and decision. He will leave a great name in New York."

As he spoke they overtook a tall youth about twenty-three years old, walking alone, and dressed in the very latest fashion out of England. Mr. Hardy hailed him with great satisfaction and asked him to join them.

"Master Edward Charteris,[A] who is soon to become a member of the Royal Americans," he said to the others. "He is a native of this town and belongs to one of our best families here. When he does become a Royal American he will probably have the finest uniform in his regiment, because Edward sets the styles in raiment for young men of his age here."

[Footnote A: The story of Edward Charteris, and his adventures at Ticonderoga and Quebec are told in the author's novel, "A Soldier of Manhattan."]

Charteris smiled. It was evident that he and the older man were on the most friendly footing. But he held himself with dignity and had pride, qualities which Robert liked in him. His manner was most excellent too, when Mr. Hardy introduced all of his party in turn, and he readily joined them, speaking of his pleasure in doing so.

"I shall be able to exchange my seat and obtain one with you," he said. "We shall be early, but I am glad of it. Mr. Hallam and his fine company have been performing in Philadelphia, and as we now welcome them back to New York, nearly all the notable people of our city will be present. Unless Mr. Hardy wishes to do so, it will give me pleasure to point them out to you."

"No, no!" exclaimed Master Benjamin. "The task is yours, Edward, my lad. You can put more savor and unction into it than I can."

"Then let it be understood that I'm the guide and expounder," laughed Charteris.

"He has a great pride in his city, and it won't suffer from his telling," said Master Benjamin.

They were now in Nassau Street near the improvised theater, and many other link boys, holding aloft their torches, were preceding their masters and mistresses. Heavy coaches were rolling up, and men and women in gorgeous costumes were emerging from them. The display of wealth was amazing for a town in the New World, but Mr. Hardy and his company quickly went inside and obtained their seats, from which they watched the fashion of New York enter. Charteris knew them all, and to many of them he was related.

The number of De Lanceys was surprising and there was also a profusion of Livingstons, the two families between them seeming to dominate the city, although they lived in bitter rivalry, as Charteris whispered to Robert. There were also Wattses and Morrises and Crugers and Waltons and Van Rensselaers, Van Cortlandts and Kennedys and Barclays and Nicolls and Alexanders, and numerous others that endured for generations in New York. The diverse origin of these names, English, Scotch, Dutch and Huguenot French, showed even at such an early date the cosmopolitan nature of New York that it was destined to maintain.

Robert was intensely interested. Charteris' fund of information was wonderful, and he flavored it with a salt of his own. He not only knew the people, but he knew all about them, their personal idiosyncrasies, their rivalries and jealousies. Robert soon gathered that New York was not only a seething city commercially, but socially as well. Family was of extreme importance, and the great landed proprietors who had received extensive grants along the Hudson in the earlier days from the Dutch Government, still had and exercised feudal rights, and were as full of pride and haughtiness as ducal families in Europe. Class distinctions were preserved to the utmost possible extent, and, while the original basis of the town had been Dutch, the fashion was now distinctly English. London set the style for everything.

When they were all seated, the display of fine dress and jewels was extraordinary, just as the wealth and splendor shown in some of the New York houses had already attracted the astonished attention of many of the British officers, to whom the finest places in their own country were familiar.

And while Robert was looking so eagerly, the party to which he belonged did not pass unnoticed by any means. Master Benjamin Hardy was well known. He was bold and successful and he was a man of great substance. He had qualities that commanded respect in colonial New York, and people were not averse to being seen receiving his friendly nod. And those who surrounded him and who were evidently his guests were worthy of notice too. There was Edward Charteris, as well born as any in the hall, and a pattern in manners and dress for the young men of New York, and there was the tall youth with the tanned face, and the wonderful, vivid eyes, who must surely, by his appearance, be the representative of some noble family, there was the young Indian chief, uncommon in height and with the dignity and majesty of the forest, an Indian whose like had never been seen in New York before, and there was the gigantic Willet, whose massive head and calm face were so redolent of strength. Beyond all question it was a most unusual and striking company that Master Benjamin Hardy had brought with him, and old and young whispered together as they looked at them, especially at Robert and Tayoga.

Mr. Hardy was conscious of the stir he had made, and he liked it, not for himself alone, but also for another. He glanced at Robert and saw how finely and clearly his features were cut, how clear was the blue of his eyes and the great width between them, and he drew a long breath of satisfaction.

"'Tis a good youth. Nature, lineage and Willet have done well," he said to himself.

More of the fashion of New York came in and then a group of British officers, several of whom nodded to Grosvenor.

"The tall man with the gray hair at the temples is my colonel, Brandon," he said. "Very strict, but just to his men, and we like him. He spent some years in the service of the East India Company, in one of the hottest parts of the peninsula. That's why he's so brown, and it made his blood thin, too. He can't endure cold. The officer with him is one of our majors, Apthorpe. He has had less experience than the colonel, but thinks he knows more. His opinion of the French is very poor. Believes we ought to brush 'em aside with ease."

"I hope you don't think that way, Grosvenor," said Robert. "We in this country know that the French is one of the most valiant races the world has produced."

"And so do most thinking Englishmen. The only victories we boast much about are those we have won over the French, which shows that we consider them foes worthy of anybody's steel. But the play is going to begin, I believe. The hall is well filled now, and I'm not trying to make an appeal to your local pride, Lennox, when I tell you 'tis an audience that will compare well with one at Drury Lane or Covent Garden for splendor, and for variety 'twill excel it."

Robert was pleased secretly. Although more identified with Albany than New York, he considered himself nevertheless one of the people who belonged to the city at the mouth of the Hudson, and he felt already its coming greatness.

"We call ourselves Englishmen," he said modestly, "and we hope to achieve as much as the older Englishmen, our brethren across the seas."

"Have you seen many plays, Lennox?"

"But few, and none by great actors like Mr. Hallam and Mrs. Douglas. I suppose, Grosvenor, you've seen so many that they're no novelty to you."

"I can scarcely lay claim to being such a man about town as that. I have seen plays, of course, and some by the great Master Will, and I do confess that the mock life I behold beyond the footlights often thrills me more than the real life I see this side of them. Once, I witnessed this play 'Richard III,' which we are now about to see, and it stirred me so I could scarce contain myself, though some do say that our Shakespeare has made the hunchback king blacker than he really was."

Presently a little bell rang, the curtain rolled up, and Robert passed into an enchanted land. To vivid and imaginative youth the great style and action of Shakespeare make an irresistible appeal. Robert had never seen one of the mighty bard's plays before, and now he was in another world of romance and tragedy, suffused with poetry and he was held completely by the spell. Shakespeare may have blackened the character of the hunchback, but Robert believed him absolutely. To him Richard was exactly what the play made him.

Although the stage was but a temporary one, built in the hall of Rip Van Dam, it was large, the seating capacity was great and Hallam and his wife were among the best actors of their day, destined to a long career as stars in the colonies, and also afterward, when they ceased to be colonies. They and an able support soon took the whole audience captive, and all, fashionable and unfashionable alike, hung with breathless attention upon the play. Robert forgot absolutely everything around him, Willet was carried back to days of his youth, and Master Benjamin Hardy, who at heart was a lover of adventure and romance, responded to the great speeches the author has written for his characters. Tayoga did not stir, his face of bronze was unmoved, but now and then his dark eyes gleamed.

In reality the influence of the tragedy upon Tayoga was as great as it was upon Robert. The Onondaga had an unusual mind and being sent at an early age to school at Albany he had learned that the difference between white man and red was due chiefly to environment. Their hopes and fears, their rivalries and ambitions were, in truth, about the same. He had seen in some chief a soul much like that of humpbacked Richard, but, as he looked and listened, he also had a certain feeling of superiority. As he saw it, the great League, the Hodenosaunee, was governed better than England when York and Lancaster were tearing it to pieces. The fifty old sachems in the vale of Onondaga would decide more wisely and more justly than the English nobles. Tayoga, in that moment, was prouder than ever that he was born a member of the Clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, and doubtless his patron saint, Tododaho, in his home on the great, shining star, agreed with him.

The first act closed amid great applause, several recalls of smiling and bowing actors followed, and then, during the wait, came a great buzz of talk. Robert shook himself and returned to the world.

"What do you like best about it, Lennox?" asked Grosvenor.

"The poetry. The things the people say. Things I've thought often myself, but which I haven't been able to put in a way that makes them strike upon you like a lightning flash."

"I think that describes Master Will. In truth, you've given me a description for my own feelings. Once more I repeat to you, Lennox, that 'tis a fine audience. I see here much British and Dutch wealth, and people whose lives have been a continuous drama."

"Truly it's so," said Robert, and, as his examining eye swept the crowd, he almost rose in his seat with astonishment, with difficulty suppressing a cry. Then he charged himself with being a fool. It could not be so! The thing was incredible! The man might look like him, but surely he would not be so reckless as to come to such a place.

Then he looked again, and he could no longer doubt. The stranger sat near the door and his dress was much like that of a prosperous seafaring man of the Dutch race. But Robert knew the blue eyes, lofty and questing like those of the eagle, and he was sure that the reddish beard had grown on a face other than the one it now adorned. It was St. Luc, whom he knew to be romantic, adventurous, and ready for any risk.

Robert moved his body forward a little, in order that it might be directly between Tayoga and the Frenchman, it being his first impulse to shelter St. Luc from the next person who was likely to recognize him. But the Onondaga was not looking in that direction. The young English officer, moved by his intense interest, had engaged him in conversation continually, surprised that Tayoga should know so much about the white race and history.

Robert looked so long at St. Luc, and with such a fixed and powerful gaze, that at last the chevalier turned and their eyes met. Robert's said:

"Why are you here? Your life is in danger every moment. If caught you will be executed as a spy."

"I'm not afraid," replied the eyes of St. Luc. "You alone have seen me as I am."

"But others will see you."

"I think not."

"How do you know that I will not proclaim at once who you are?"

"You will not because you do not wish to see me hanged or shot."

Then the eyes of St. Luc left Robert and wandered ever the audience, which was now deeply engrossed in talk, although the Livingstons and the De Lanceys kept zealously away from one another, and the families who were closely allied with them by blood, politics or business also, stayed near their chiefs. Robert began to fancy that he might have been mistaken, it was not really St. Luc, he had allowed an imaginary resemblance to impose upon him, but reflection told him that it was no error. He would have known the intense gaze of those burning blue eyes anywhere. He was still careful to keep his own body between Tayoga and the Frenchman.

The curtain rose and once more Robert fell under the great writer's spell. Vivid action and poetic speech claimed him anew, and for the moment he forgot St. Luc. When the second act was finished, and while the applause was still filling the hall, he cast a fearful glance toward the place where he had seen the chevalier. Then, in truth, he rubbed his eyes. No St. Luc was there. The chair in which he had sat was not empty, but was occupied by a stolid, stout Dutchman, who seemed not to have moved for hours.

It had been a vision, a figment of the fancy, after all! But it was merely an attempt of the will to persuade himself that it was so. He could not doubt that he had seen St. Luc, who, probably listening to some counsel of providence, had left the hall. Robert felt an immense relief, and now he was able to assume his best manner when Mr. Hardy began to present him and Tayoga to many of the notables. He met the governor, Mr. Watts, and more De Lanceys, Wilsons and Crugers than he could remember, and he received invitations to great houses, and made engagements which he intended to keep, if it were humanly possible. Willet and Hardy exchanged glances when they noticed how easily he adapted himself to the great world of his day. He responded here as he had responded in Quebec, although Quebec and New York, each a center in its own way, were totally unlike.

The play went on, and Robert was still absorbed in the majestic lines. At the next intermission there was much movement in the audience. People walked about, old acquaintances spoke and strangers were introduced to one another. Robert looked sharply for St. Luc, but there was no trace of him. Presently Mr. Hardy was introducing him to a heavy man, dressed very richly, and obviously full of pride.

"Mynheer Van Zoon," he said, "this is young Robert Lennox. He has been for years in the care of David Willet, whom you have met in other and different times. Robert, Mynheer Van Zoon is one of our greatest merchants, and one of my most active rivals."

Robert was about to extend his hand, but noticing that Mynheer Van Zoon did not offer his he withheld his own. The merchant's face, in truth, had turned to deeper red than usual, and his eyes lowered. He was a few years older than Hardy, somewhat stouter, and his heavy strong features showed a tinge of cruelty. The impression that he made upon Robert was distinctly unfavorable.

"Yes, I have met Mr. Willet before," said Van Zoon, "but so many years have passed that I did not know whether he was still living. I can say the same about young Mr. Lennox."

"Oh, they live hazardous lives, but when one is skilled in meeting peril life is not snuffed out so easily," rejoined Mr. Hardy who seemed to be speaking from some hidden motive. "They've returned to civilization, and I think and trust, Adrian, that we'll hear more of them than for some years past. They're especial friends of mine, and I shall do the best I can for them, even though my mercantile rivalry with you absorbs, of necessity, so much of my energy."

Van Zoon smiled sourly, and then Robert liked him less than ever.

"The times are full of danger," he said, "and one must watch to keep his own."

He bowed, and turned to other acquaintances, evidently relieved at parting with them.

"He does not improve with age," said Willet thoughtfully.

Robert was about to ask questions concerning this Adrian Van Zoon, who seemed uneasy in their presence, but once more he restrained himself, his intuition telling him as before that neither Willet nor Master Hardy would answer them.

The play moved on towards its dramatic close and Robert was back in the world of passion and tragedy, of fancy and poetry. Van Zoon was forgotten, St. Luc faded quite away, and he was not conscious of the presence of Tayoga, or of Grosvenor, or of any of his friends. Shakespeare's Richard was wholly the humpbacked villain to him, and when he met his fate on Bosworth Field he rejoiced greatly. As the curtain went down for the last time he saw that Tayoga, too, was moved.

"The English king was a wicked man," he said, "but he died like a great chief."

They all passed out now, the street was filled with carriages and the torches of the link boys and there was a great hum of conversation. St. Luc returned to Robert's mind, but he kept to himself the fact that he had been in the theater. It might be his duty to state to the military that he had seen in the city an important Frenchman who must have come as a spy, but he could not do so. Nor did he feel any pricklings of the conscience about it, because he believed, even if he gave warning of St. Luc's presence, the wary chevalier would escape.

They stood at the edge of the sidewalk, watching the carriages, great high-bodied vehicles, roll away. Mr. Hardy had a carriage of his own, but the distance between his house and the theater was so short that he had not thought it necessary to use it. The night was clear, very cold and the illusion of the play was still upon the younger members of his group.

"You liked it?" said Mr. Hardy, looking keenly at Robert.

"It was another and wonderful world to me," replied the youth.

"I thought it would make a great appeal to you," said Master Benjamin. "Your type of mind always responds quickly to the poetic drama. Ah, there goes Mynheer Adrian Van Zoon. He has entered his carriage without looking once in our direction."

He and Willet and Master Jonathan laughed together, softly but with evident zest. Whatever the feeling between them and whatever the cause might be, Robert felt that they had the advantage of Mynheer Van Zoon that night and were pushing it. They watched the crowd leave and the lights fade in the darkness, and then they walked back together to the solid red brick house of Mr. Hardy, where Grosvenor took leave of them, all promising that the acquaintance should be continued.

"A fine young man," said Mr. Hardy, thoughtfully. "I wish that more of his kind would come over. We can find great use for them in this country."

Charteris also said farewell to them, telling them that his own house was not far away, and offering them his services in any way they wished as long as they remained in the city.

"Another fine young man," said Master Benjamin, as the tall figure of Charteris melted away in the darkness. "A good representative of our city's best blood and manners, and yes, of morals, too."

Robert went alone the next morning to the new public library, founded the year before and known as the New York Society Library, a novelty then and a great evidence of municipal progress. The most eminent men of the city, appointed by Governor de Lancey, were its trustees, and, the collection already being large, Robert spent a happy hour or two glancing through the books. History and fiction appealed most to him, but he merely looked a little here and there, opening many volumes. He was proud that the intelligence and enterprise of New York had founded so noble an institution and he promised himself that if, in the time to come, he should be a permanent resident of the city, his visits there would be frequent.

When he left the library it was about noon, the day being cloudy and dark with flurries of snow, those who were in the streets shivering with the raw cold. Robert drew his own heavy cloak closely about him, and, bending his head a little, strolled toward the Battery, in order to look again at the ships that came from so many parts of the earth. A stranger, walking in slouching fashion, and with the collar of his coat pulled well up about his face, shambled directly in his way. When Robert turned the man turned also and said in a low tone:

"Mr. Lennox!"

"St. Luc!" exclaimed Robert. "Are you quite mad? Don't you know that your life is in danger every instant?"

"I am not mad, nor is the risk as great as you think. Walk on by my side, as if you knew me."

"I did not think, chevalier, that your favorite role was that of a spy."

"Nor is it. This New York of yours is a busy city, and a man, even a Frenchman, may come here for other reasons than to learn military secrets."

Robert stared at him, but St. Luc admonished him again to look in front of him, and walk on as if they were old acquaintances on some business errand.

"I don't think you want to betray me to the English," he said.

"No, I don't," said Robert, "though my duty, perhaps, should make me do so."

"But you won't. I felt assured of it, else I should not have spoken to you."

"What duty, other than that of a spy, can have brought you to New York?"

"Why make it a duty? It is true the times are troubled, and full of wars, but one, on occasion, may seek his pleasure, nevertheless. Let us say that I came to New York to see the play which both of us witnessed last night. 'Twas excellently done. I have seen plays presented in worse style at much more pretentious theaters in Paris. Moreover I, a Frenchman, love Shakespeare. I consider him the equal of our magnificent Moliere."

"Which means that if you were not a Frenchman you would think him better."

"A pleasant wit, Mr. Lennox. I am glad to see it in you. But you will admit that I have come a long distance and incurred a great risk to attend a play by a British author given in a British town, though it must be admitted that the British town has strong Dutch lineaments. Furthermore, I do bear witness that I enjoyed the play greatly. 'Twas worth the trouble and the danger."

"Since you insist, chevalier, that you came so great a distance and incurred so great a risk merely to worship at the shrine of our Shakespeare, as one gentleman to another I cannot say that I doubt your word. But when we sailed down the Hudson on a sloop, and were compelled to tie up in a cove to escape the wrath of a storm, I saw you on the slope above me."

"I saw you, too, then, Mr. Lennox, and I envied you your snug place on the sloop. That storm was one of the most unpleasant incidents in my long journey to New York to see Shakespeare's 'Richard III.' Still, when one wishes a thing very badly one must be willing to pay a high price for it. It was a good play by a good writer, the actors were most excellent, and I have had sufficient reward for my trouble and danger."

The collar of his cloak was drawn so high now that it formed almost a hood around his head and face, but he turned a little, and Robert saw the blue eyes, as blue as his own, twinkling with a humorous light. It was borne upon him with renewed force that here was a champion of romance and high adventure. St. Luc was a survival. He was one of those knights of the Middle Ages who rode forth with lance and sword to do battle, perhaps for a lady's favor, and perhaps to crush the infidel. His own spirit, which had in it a lightness, a gayety and a humor akin to St. Luc's, responded at once.

"Since you found the play most excellent, and I had the same delight, I presume that you will stay for all the others. Mr. Hallam and his fine company are in New York for two weeks, if not longer. Having come so far and at such uncommon risks, you will not content yourself with a single performance?"

"Alas! that is the poison in my cup. The leave of absence given me by the Governor General of Canada is but brief, and I can remain in this city and stronghold of my enemy but a single night."

They passed several men, but none took any notice of them. The day had increased in gloominess. Heavy clouds were coming up from the sea, enveloping the solid town in a thick and somber atmosphere. Snow began to fall and a sharp wind drove the flakes before it. Pedestrians bent forward, and drew their cloaks or coats about their faces to protect themselves from the storm.

"The weather favors us," said St. Luc. "The people of New York defending themselves from the wind and the flakes will have no time to be looking for an enemy among them."

"Where are we going, chevalier?"

"That I know not, but being young, healthy and strong, perhaps we walk in a circle for the sake of exercise."

"For which also you have come to New York--in order that you may walk about our Battery and Bowling Green."

"True! Quite true! You have a most penetrating mind, Mr. Lennox, and since we speak of the objects of my errand here I recall a third, but of course, a minor motive."

"I am interested in that third and minor motive, Chevalier de St. Luc."

"I noticed last night at the play that you were speaking to a merchant, one Adrian Van Zoon."

"'Tis true, but how do you know Van Zoon?"

"Let it suffice, lad, that I know him and know him well. I wish you to beware of him."

He spoke with a sudden softness of tone that touched Robert, and there could be no doubt that his meaning was good. They were still walking in the most casual manner, their faces bent to the driving snow, and almost hidden by the collars of their cloaks.

"What can Adrian Van Zoon and I have in common?" asked Robert.

"Lad, I bid thee again to beware of him! Look to it that you do not fall into his treacherous hands!"

His sudden use of the pronoun "thee," and his intense earnestness, stirred Robert deeply.

"Friends seem to rise around me, due to no merit of mine," he said. "Willet has always watched over me. Tayoga is my brother. Jacobus Huysman has treated me almost as his own son, and Master Benjamin Hardy has received me with great warmth of heart. And now you deliver to me a warning that I cannot but believe is given with the best intent. But again I ask you, why should I fear Adrian Van Zoon?"

"That, lad, I will not tell you, but once more I bid you beware of him. Think you, I'd have taken such a risk to prepare you for a danger, if it were not real?"

"I do not. I feel, Chevalier de St. Luc, that you are a friend in truth. Shall I speak of this to Mr. Willet? He will not blame me for hiding the knowledge of your presence here."

"No. Keep it to yourself, but once more I tell you beware of Adrian Van Zoon. Now you will not see me again for a long time, and perhaps it will be on the field of battle. Have no fears for my safety. I can leave this solid town of yours as easily as I entered it. Farewell!"

"Farewell!" said Robert, with a real wrench at the heart. St. Luc left him and walked swiftly in the direction of St. George's Chapel. The snow increased so much and was driving so hard that in forty or fifty paces he disappeared entirely and Robert, wishing shelter, went back to the house of Benjamin Hardy, moved by many and varied emotions.

He could not doubt that St. Luc's warning was earnest and important, but why should he have incurred such great risks to give it? What was he to Adrian Van Zoon? and what was Adrian Van Zoon to him? And what did the talk at night between Willet and Hardy mean? He, seemed to be the center of a singular circle of complications, of which other people might know much, but of which he knew nothing.

Mr. Hardy's house was very solid, very warm and very comfortable. He was still at the Royal Exchange, but Mr. Pillsbury had come home, and was standing with his back to a great fire, his coattails drawn under either arm in front of him. A gleam of warmth appeared in his solemn eyes at the sight of Robert.

"A fierce day, Master Robert," he said. "'Tis good at such a time to stand before a red fire like this, and have stout walls between one and the storm."

"Spoken truly, Master Jonathan," said Robert, as he joined him before the fire, and imitated his position.

"You have been to our new city library? We are quite proud of it."

"Yes, I was there, but I have also been thinking a little."

"Thought never hurts one. We should all be better if we took more thought upon ourselves."

"I was thinking of a man whom we saw at the play last night, the merchant, Adrian Van Zoon."

Master Jonathan let his coattails fall from under his arms, and then he deliberately gathered them up again.

"A wealthy and powerful merchant. He has ships on many seas."

"I have inferred that Mr. Hardy does not like him."

"Considering my words carefully, I should say that Mr. Hardy does not like Mr. Van Zoon and that Mr. Van Zoon does not like Mr. Hardy."

"I'm not seeking to be intrusive, but is it just business rivalry?"

"You are not intrusive, Master Robert. But my knowledge seldom extends beyond matters of business."

"Which means that you might be able to tell me, but you deem it wiser not to do so."

"The storm increases, Master Robert. The snow is almost blinding. I repeat that it is a most excellent fire before which we are standing. Mr. Hardy and your friends will be here presently and we shall have food."

"It seems to me, Master Jonathan, that the people of New York eat much and often."

"It sustains life and confers a harmless pleasure."

"To return a moment to Adrian Van Zoon. You say that his ships are upon every sea. In what trade are they engaged, mostly?"

"In almost everything, Master Robert. They say he does much smuggling--but I don't object to a decent bit of smuggling--and I fear that certain very fast vessels of his know more than a little about the slave trade."

"I trust that Mr. Hardy has never engaged in such a traffic."

"You may put your mind at rest upon that point, Master Robert. No amount of profit could induce Mr. Hardy to engage in such commerce."

Mr. Hardy, Tayoga and Willet came in presently, and the merchant remained a while after his dinner. The older men smoked pipes and talked together and Robert and Tayoga looked out at the driving snow. Tayoga had received a letter from Colonel William Johnson that morning, informing him that all was well at the vale of Onondaga, and the young Onondaga was pleased. They were speaking of their expected departure to join Braddock's army, but they had heard from Willet that they were to remain longer than they had intended in New York, as the call to march demanded no hurry.