Father And Son
Category: ON AND NEAR THE DELAWARE
Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land
It was three soldiers, escaping from the rout of Braddock's forces, who
caught the alleged betrayer of their general and put him to the death.
They threw his purse of ill-gotten louis d'or into the river, and sent
him swinging from the edge of a ravine, with a vine about his neck and a
placard on his breast. And so they left him.
Twenty years pass, and the war-fires burn more fiercely in the vales of
Pennsylvania, but, too old to fight, the schoolmaster sits at his door
near Chad's Ford and smokes and broods upon the past. He thinks of the
time when he marched with Washington, when with two wounded comrades he
returned along the lonely trail; then comes the vision of a blackening
face, and he rises and wipes his brow. It was right, he mutters. He
sent a thousand of his brothers to their deaths.
Gilbert Gates comes that evening to see the old man's daughter: a smooth,
polite young fellow, but Mayland cannot like him, and after some short
talk he leaves him, pleading years and rheumatism, and goes to bed. But
not to sleep; for toward ten o'clock his daughter goes to him and urges
him to fly, for men are gathering near the house--Tories, she is
sure,--and they mean no good. Laughing at her fears, but willing to
relieve her anxiety, the old man slips into his clothes, goes into the
cellar, and thence starts for the barn, while the girl remains for a few
minutes to hide the silver.
He does not go far before Gates is at his elbow with the whispered words,
Into the stack-quick. They are after you. Mayland hesitates with
distrust, but the appearance of men with torches leaves no time for talk.
With Gilbert's help he crawls deep into the straw and is covered up.
Presently a rough voice asks which way he has gone. Gilbert replies that
he has gone to the wood, but there is no need for getting into a passion,
and that on no account would it be advisable to fire the stack. Won't we
though? cries one of the party. We'll burn the rebel out of house and
home, and thrusting his torch into the straw it is ablaze in an instant.
The crowd hurries away toward the wood, and does not hear the stifled
groan that comes out of the middle of the fire. Gates takes a paper from
his pocket, and, after reading it for the last time, flings it upon the
flame. It bears the inscription, Isaac Gates, Traitor and Spy, hung by
three soldiers of his majesty's army. Isaac Mayland.
From his moody contemplation he rouses with a start, for Mayland's
daughter is there. Her eyes are bent on a distorted thing that lies among
the embers, and in the dying light of the flames it seems to move. She
studies it close, then with a cry of pain and terror she falls upon the
hot earth, and her senses go out, not to be regained in woful years. With
head low bowed, Gilbert Gates trudges away. In the fight at Brandywine
next day, Black Samson, a giant negro, armed with a scythe, sweeps his
way through the red ranks like a sable figure of Time. Mayland had taught
him; his daughter had given him food. It is to avenge them that he is
fighting. In the height of the conflict he enters the American ranks
leading a prisoner--Gilbert Gates. The young man is pale, stern, and
silent. His deed is known, he is a spy as well as a traitor, but he asks
no mercy. It is rumored that next day he alone, of the prisoners, was led
to a wood and lashed by arms and legs to a couple of hickory trees that
had been bent by a prodigious effort and tied together by their tops. The
lashing was cut by a rifle-ball, the trees regained their straight
position with a snap like whips, and that was the way Gilbert Gates came
to his end.
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