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Harper's Round Table, August 13, 1895   By:

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[Illustration: HARPER'S ROUND TABLE]

Copyright, 1895, by HARPER & BROTHERS. All Rights Reserved.






The summer of 1814 was a troubled one for the people living in northern New York. English troops were concentrating at points just across the Canadian border, and there were rumors that they would soon invade the territory of the States. The farmers were being hastily drilled into militia companies train bands, as they were called; the women were anxious and frightened; the boys shared the general excitement, and were busy drilling.

Early one warm July evening four persons were sitting in the little lattice covered portico of a cottage in the outskirts of one of the larger villages near the Canadian border. The most noticeable of the little group was Madam Marston, an old lady, tall and straight, one of the type that furnished the New England pioneers with wives as hardy and brave as themselves. On the bench on the other side of the portico sat her daughter; the Widow Duval, a slender, gentle woman, but with the same look of determination in her fine gray eyes. Close to her side was Noel Duval, a boy of about fifteen, whose dark skin and keen aquiline features came from his French Canadian father, but who had his mother's eyes. The sharpness of the boy's features was emphasized by the thinness of his face, which was pinched, as if by suffering. While a child he had met an accident that had brought on a long illness, and left one arm withered and almost helpless. His sister, little Ninette, nestled close to her stately grandmother.

"Mother," the boy was saying, "Abram Dodds made me very angry to day. He said I was not an American, because my father was not, and because I have always lived in Canada."

"I wouldn't mind what the boys say. When they know you better I'm sure they'll stop trying to tease you." She laid her hand on his shoulder as if to check his impatience.

"Nay, daughter," interposed the older woman, her eyes flashing, "let him stand up for himself if he can. Because you chose, against my wishes, to marry a Canadian is no reason why the boy should be sneered at. Was not his grandfather, Caleb Marston, as good a soldier as fought in the Revolution, and a captain, too? Let the boy stand up for himself, say I!"

His mother only stroked the boy's hair soothingly. "Bide your time, Noel," she whispered; "your chance will come, and in the mean time keep guard over that quick temper of yours. Remember you must be strong to take care of us all Ninette, and your grandmother, and me and a quick unruly temper ever means weakness."

"I'll not forget," said Noel. "But still, it angers me to be told I'm not an American. If my arm would only get stronger, I could be a soldier like grandfather, and prove that I'm an American. I am, really, am I not? for I was born in this country before my father took you back to his home in Canada."

Noel got up and walked off down the road toward the field where the boys held their drills. In spite of his weak arm he thought he could manage well enough in the drilling, and he was anxious to be asked to join a military company the boys had organized. This evening there had come together about twenty boys, all of whom lived on the neighboring farms. Their drill ground was a level piece of pasture land, bordered on one side by the forest, which in those times stretched far away to the north, even to the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

When they saw Noel coming toward them the boys had just finished one of their evolutions and were resting, leaning on the wooden staffs which served them instead of real muskets. Jacobus Boonter, who was captain, had a real sword one that his grandfather, Ensign Dirk Boonter, had carried in the war of the Revolution... Continue reading book >>

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