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Ladies' Home Journal
December, 1936, p. 14-

A WOMAN'S LOVE IS SOMETIMES COURAGE,
BRAVER EVEN THAN A MAN'S ACKNOWLEDGED BRAVERY

Stockade

BY HOWARD MELVIN FAST

IF THE summer was over, winter coming on now, it was still more of a time for thanksgiving than anything else; for our men were coming back. In that fall of 1782, they came; some had been gone for six years, and some for more than that.

I was married - do you understand? - and I had not seen my husband for six years. So what would he be like and who would he be? Was it any wonder that I was as excited as a girl of sixteen, and I was twenty-nine then?

The post rider, coming down the river, said they were marching in company, and it would be days yet. He said there were nine of them, and eighteen had gone away. Whose nine? Some of us laughed and some of us cried, but we were all hopeful; and some of us had had letters. The ones who had the letters were more hopeful than the rest, but few enough letters had come to the little stockade in backwoods Pennsylvania, where we were.

We knew about the time they would come. We decked out the stockade, wearing our best clothes; and if the frocks were not much to look at, they were all we had. I remember the day they came marching up the road from the river, nine of them, and what tattered, weary men they were. I remember how some of the women laughed and how some cried; but my husband wasn't there.

I looked. Perhaps I would not recognize him; for after all, it had been six years. I stared at all of the nine men, and some of them stared back at me. But he wasn't there. Oh, don't think that I wouldn't have known him, even after six years; yet I kept on staring. Then I went hack to my cabin, to be alone with my child, to cry. Women do cry - even when they have known all the misery of a stockade in backwoods Pennsylvania.

The boy was only six, and what could he understand when he had never seen his father? But I loved him. Do you know how you can love your man, when you haven't seen him for six years, not knowing whether he lived or was dead? Still, I couldn't cry. I think the stockade had cured me of crying. So I only sat, staring straight in front of me, holding the boy close to me. And presently the boy began to cry.

The war was over, and it meant nothing to me. That was in 1782, and we'd almost forgotten how many years we had been fighting by then. Now the war was over - but he wouldn't come back.

If nine women wept, still there were nine and more to be happy, and that night the fires burned bright. I heard them singing and laughing and dancing, while I sat alone. My boy was sleeping. I sat and stared and wondered. Then, later. Robert Wexly opened the door and stepped in.

I looked at him. Would my man have changed like that? Robert was thin, older, tired, and it seemed that he had suffered. He nodded, and then he leaned against the doorjamb, looking at me. He was a tall man, with good gray eyes, still wearing his torn and dirty blue-and-white uniform.

"Come in, Robert, and sit down," I said to him.

He took a chair, close to the boy, and now he looked at the boy instead of me. "You look well, Gerry." he told me.

BUT I didn't want that, and I didn't want to speak about the war, or the stockade either, or commonplaces. "Why don't you tell me that he's dead?" I asked him.

"David?" He threw another glance at the boy. "He's yours - I guess he came after we went. He looks like David. He's a fine boy, all right, a right big feller."

"Why don't you tell me that he's dead, and that he'll never come back?" I demanded.

Looking at the boy, Robert shook his head. I guess he had an idea that it was his duty to come in to me, but he was uncomfortable, ill at ease. He clenched and unclenched his large, lean hands, shifted his feet.

"Tell me."

"Well - I guess he won't come back."

I smiled a little, just to show him that he could speak to me, that I wouldn't throw a fit of tears." How was he - I mean when-"

"He ain't dead," Robert said.

Staring and staring - and I was singing inside. I didn't care about anything else. He wasn't dead. I saw by Robert's face that he wasn't dead, and if I saw something else in Robert's face, what did that matter? My man lived. I felt the tears begin to come, and I hadn't cried before, when I thought that he was dead. Well, I wouldn't cry now. But my lips were trembling. "Tell me." I whispered.

Robert worked his jaw. "Well, I reckon I'd better tell you all - before you hear it in a half-a-dozen ways. It ain't so terrible - don't you think that. You see, it was hard all along, and we never got no pay or much food, and then they made a prisoner of him about two years ago, and I guess that was hell. They took him to New York and put him in a stinking prison ship, and I guess he would have died if he hadn't sold out. So it ain't so terrible. And then he went with the British, and he's been with them since. I think they made him a captain or something, and it was better than rotting away in one of their prison ships-"

"Better?" I said. "Better-" But still I was thinking that he was alive, that my man was alive, and that I would see him again, only- I said: "How was he captured?"

"He deserted," Robert told me. "Then he sold them information, and they took him out of gaol an' paid him. I guess they paid him well."

I remember thinking that it was funny - that David should have gone over to the British, that Robert should sit there and tell me. Didn't he know what love was? But he hated David now.

"But the war is over," I said lamely. That was all I could think of saying.

"It don't make no difference. They'll shoot him.''

"Shoot him?"

"I had to tell you, Gerry - so you would make the best of things. An' it won't be so hard, now after six years. It won't make any difference to the little shaver, an' he don't have to know-"

"Won't know - won't know."

"I guess I'll be going, Gerry," Robert said then.

"Yes, yes, go now," I said.

Then he went out, leaving me alone with my baby, and from outside I still heard the sounds of them singing and talking around the big fires. But my baby wouldn't know my man would never come back - or why. All the years he had fought made no difference; but because he was too broken to suffer, they wouldn't let him come back now. Where he was, heaven above knew, but I would be alone - all the time, always alone. They would look at me and they would point at me, and who would I have?

Oh, I was sick and tired of the wilderness, the stockade and the endless flowing river. And it would go on and on, always. And I would be always alone - always.

You see, for me there would never be anyone but David; there could be no one else. That's to tell you how I waited and dreamed for six years. But he wouldn't come back; they wouldn't let him come back.

Then I cried, though I hadn't before. I sat in the dark, dreaming and dreaming about how he had loved me before the six years.

The fires burned down until they were beds of coals, and one by one the men and the women went to sleep. They left me alone with the boy and my dreams.

Through the window, I could see the faint line of the stockade. I would always be seeing that. I guess that hours passed while I sat there, listening to the baby breathing.

I don't know how long it was after that, that I heard the noise. But I couldn't sleep, and I was wide awake, wondering.

Then, as I watched, shivering, but not too greatly afraid of anything now, the door opened slowly and quietly, and someone stepped inside. My eyes were used to the dark, and next to the door I made out his tall, vague form. He was bent a little, and though our rifle was only a few steps from me, on the wall, I made no move. What difference did it make now? But I was afraid for my baby.

He must have stood there for only a minute or two, peering around, but it seemed like eternity to me. Then he whispered:

"Gerry."

You see, I knew the voice. It didn't take any time for me, and I didn't have to think. I knew it, and I was not afraid, only terribly happy, happy all over inside of me, so happy that I had to hold myself in my chair.

"Gerry."

"Here, David."

SOMEHOW, it happened that I was in his arms, and that we were both of us sitting on the floor, talking and laughing like children, only I was crying too, and he was trying to wipe my face with his hands. I could feel how thin and rough his hands were.

"I knew," I whispered. "I knew, I knew. He said no - that you wouldn't be back. But didn't I know, my David?"

"Yes - you knew." And then he seemed to be lost in his thought, holding me tighter in his arms. I wished it was light, so I could see him. But I had him. That was all that mattered. "They told you?" he said.

"Yes, they told me."

"And you - believe?"

"I don't know - I only know that I love you, David. I love you - and how can you do wrong?"

"You love me," he whispered. "But you believe them. Gerry, how you must love me!"

"That doesn't matter, Davy - only tell me they lied."

"No - but the war's not over. Some of us serve one way; some another."

"They lied, Dave!"

"You believe in me?"

"Yes."

"I came back of my own will. Believe in me, then."

All of him kissing me, and my man come to life, and he thought it mattered. To ask if I believe-

Then I felt him stiffen, draw away from me.

"What is it?"

"Who's here in the room?"

"Who? The baby, David. Oh, I wrote you about him. Didn't you know? Didn't you get my letters?"

"No - I didn't know."

He felt his way across to the bed in the darkness. I went after him, and we stood there, but he couldn't see the baby. I saw him bend to touch him. Then he turned back to me.

"Gerry" - he put his hands on the sides of my face, bent it up to his - "Gerry, lassie, you're brave. So understand. Maybe your husband is too - and the rest is a lie. So listen. There's a ring of guns around the stockade, red men and British. But easy, lassie-"

"Yes," I murmured.

"I climbed the wall to come in, and I'll be over it again and away. But you warn them. Warn that fat fool Murry, if he's still here and alive. Don't ask me how I know. Only believe in me. Believe in me, child, and throw the lie in their faces. Someday I'll be back-"

"You're going away?" My heart fell inside of me; it seemed that all in an instant a part of me that had lived was dead.

"Gerry, I have to. If I stay - they'll shoot me. They won't believe-"

"Dave, they'll believe."

"No - no. I'm a renegade - no better than Arnold. Gerry, trust me. I love you. I've loved you all these six years. Never believe them, Gerry. I shan't mention it again. When I go, warn Murry. Don't tell him about me. I'm dead until I live again - when the war's over, all over. Then I'll come back. Kiss the shaver for me, and believe with him. He'll believe. I'll leave you some money, so things won't be so hard. It's good gold, Gerry, enough to buy a few things for the shaver. I have plenty of money."

BUT it wasn't until he said that - it wasn't. I loved him. Oh, you must understand how I loved him, and how nothing at all had made any difference until he spoke of the money. Then I was hit. He must have known because he took my arm, asked me what was wrong.

"I don't know - nothing."

"You're not afraid?" he demanded. "The stockade's strong."

"No, no, I'm not afraid, Dave."

"You're blaming me. You'll always be blaming me!"

"No. You'll wake him up. No, I'm not blaming you, Davy."

We packed a few things there in the dark. He was almost ready to go, when the shot came. The shot came from the firing terrace of the stockade, where a sentry always stood. It sounded like a burst of thunder in the dark.

"What's that?" We stood waiting.

Then a flurry of shots came from under the stockade; I saw a burning arrow quiver into a house, and I heard men cursing and women screaming. Through the window, I saw dark forms running. and above the line of the stockade heads began to appear. The men fired at these heads as they ran. The baby woke, crying, and I ran to him, whispering for him to be quiet.

David stood by the door, which he had opened a little. With the baby in my arms, I went over to where he was standing, stiff and rigid as steel. Then he closed the door, turned back into the room, dropped into a chair with his head in his hands.

"It had to come now," he said.

AND outside the window it went on - men and women shouting and screaming, someone screaming above everyone else, rifles blasting and crackling like fire. I looked through the window. Now the firing terrace was filled with our own men. The heads were gone. While I watched, the firing died out, and the attack faded away. But I could still see the dim figures of our men crouching and waiting. We had always thought of an attack, but never as a reality; and now, when the war was over, it had to come.

I went back to the bed with the baby. He wasn't crying now. Then I looked at David. It was almost morning. Outside the sky was beginning to turn gray, and the gray light filtered into the cabin. Outside a woman still screamed.

David looked up at me. I was only beginning to see his face, and as the light increased his body took shape and form. He wore homespun and leather, and a stubble of beard crossed his chin; oh, he was older, and tired, like all the rest. But he was my David, no different. I went over, knelt down next to him, and stared into his hopeless eyes. His hands dropped down, and I smoothed them.

"What will you do?" I asked him.

"What?"

"Come back with us."

"So they can shoot me down?"

"They won't - the war's over."

HE POINTED toward the door. "That's war, isn't it? It won't ever be over in this wilderness, always like this. They'll shoot me-"

"Dave!"

I remember that we sat like that, hardly saying anything, while the sun rose. From the stockade, and from the forest beyond, an occasional shot sounded. The boy, lying awake, stared at David; but he was afraid and shy.

"You'll go out to them," I said to David at last.

He shook his head. Then I went over to him, and kissed him. I had to tell him someway. And when he smiled at me, I saw that he was the old David not much different.

I watched Captain Murry through the window as he came over to my cabin. He stopped once to look at the body of a man, laid out and covered; then he came on toward me. I suppose he wanted to see how things were going with me, being that I was a woman alone. I would have barred the door, but David motioned me away. He sat where he was. I had dressed the boy. and he had been hovering around David, curious. Now David drew him to him, put his arm around him, and the boy nestled comfortably against his shoulder.

"Easy, sonny," he whispered; "we won't know exactly what to do."

THEN Captain Murry came in, worried and strained. All the time he had been at the stockade there had never been an attack; and now that one had come, he didn't seem to know what to make of it. He was stockingless, his clothes pulled on haphazardly during the night. Across his face there was a smear of grime, his beard all tangled and wild. He saw me before he saw David, and he smiled at me. He had always liked me.

"Had you up with that mess of shooting, eh, lassie?" he rumbled. Then he saw David.

David grinned at him. I loved David then as I had never loved him before.

But Captain Murry stared. First he didn't recognize him. Then he knew, and he still stared, bewildered. He had to say something, and he turned to me, saying:

"We'll be a mite thirsty, lassie. There ain't much water in the well."

"Hello, captain," David said.

Staring, he shook his head, but his face began to harden. When he pointed a finger at David, I saw that it trembled a little. "What did ye come back for - to bring them?"

Who?"

"Ye know!"

"No - I didn't-"

"It would have been better if ye had died." Captain Murry said.

The court-martial that night was a mockery. What right had they to court-martial David? But there had never been an attack before, and they were insane with rage and hate. Still they wished to kill, when their own men were dying one by one, being picked off. The court-martial was held in Captain Murry's house. I sat there - and heard them condemn David to death. I pleaded with them.

"If he came alone," Miles Fickel said, "we'd 'a' let him go back - to where he came from. But he brought them with him."

"And I was fool enough to come in here - for you to kill me?" David smiled. Oh, he was calm, terribly calm.

"Yer plans went wrong a bit - an' ye wanted yer wife."

Yes, they were going to shoot him the next day; but the next day an attack came, and they put it off. There was other killing to do. Bound hand and foot, they locked him in the blockhouse

The attack came in the morning, lasted only a little while; but when it was over, more men lay still, without moving, and more women wept.

AND toward evening the water gave out. The stockade well had never been much good, never used, but they had not expected an attack. They had not expected anything. I remember that that evening only the wounded men and the children were given water. And it was hot - Indian summer. And all day long the firing had gone on, like a slow, crackling blaze. In the stockade it seemed incredibly hot, stifling, and the place was full of death. I sat with the boy alone in the cabin, tired and hating. He wanted to talk to me; by now his fear had gone, and he was full of excitement, but I told him to be quiet. I didn't want to talk - I didn't want to think. Maybe they would shoot David that night. I didn't want to think.

They had a meeting that evening, but I didn't go. That night, Martha Wexly told me. They had been treating with the Indians - there were whites leading them, Canadians and British - and they would open the gates the following afternoon. Otherwise, it would mean slow death from thirst. The Indians would let them return to Fort Pitt.

I remember her red face in the candlelight as she told me it, all excited, and not caring too much about anything, for her man was back. I remember, too, how they told me that they would kill David first.

"But ain't it funny," she said, "that they did not mention David? The men were saying that perhaps they would take him up an' demand him."

"Yes." But I didn't care much about anything, now.

"There's no trusting Indians."

"No." I wanted her to go. Why didn't she go, and leave me alone?

I'M THIRSTY. Ye know, old Abe Summer is dead an' his wife's taking on. My, how she is taking on!"

"Leave me alone now - please."

She seemed hurt at that, but she went away. And that was what I wanted, to be alone with my son. I went over to where he was sleeping, bent over him, and kissed him. So tomorrow we would be off to Fort Pitt, if the Indians kept their word; and if they didn't, what difference could it make to me? Only I wanted my son to live. You understand how I wanted my son to live.

I went to Captain Murry, and though it was late, he was still awake, pacing anxiously back and forth in his cabin. He looked at me, and he shook his head.

"Don't ask me, Gerry. He's going to die."

I knew that I hated him; I think my face showed it. I said, "What men you are! It's a big thing to kill him, but he went to the war. He had courage enough for that. Tomorrow - open the gates. You want water. So open the gates. Anyway, this wilderness is no place for you; you're not strong enough. And you're thirsty. So open the gates tomorrow, and walk back to Fort Pitt. Maybe it's better for him to die."

"For the kids, Gerry."

"Not for my child - he hasn't asked for water."

"Gerry, they say he brought them here."

"Go back," I sobbed. "You're not big enough."

"Gerry," he said, "we'll take him with us - to Fort Pitt."

That night I saw David. He smiled when I came in to him, and for a while we sat in the dark blockhouse, saying nothing at all. Finally I told him how they were going to open the gates the next day.

"They won't shoot you," I said, stroking his stubbled face with my hands. "They won't shoot you, Dave. They're taking you with them to Fort Pitt."

"They'll never see Fort Pitt," he muttered.

"Yes, Dave. We will; you too. There'll be a way out. The war's over. We've won. They can't hate you. Now there's work to do."

"If they open the gates, they'll never see Fort Pitt," he muttered.

I KISSED him, and then I went back to my cabin. He would live. What came later did not matter, but now he would live.

I bent over my son, laughing and whispering to him that his father would live. I remember that night - the boy sleeping, the candle, and the shadows that flickered all over the cabin. I remember how hot it was, and how I could not sleep at all. I remember how, after a little while, the joy gave way, and I knew that wherever we went David's crime would hang overhead. Wasn't there any atonement? Why did the county need his poor life, now that the war was won?

Would they never be tired of death, of killing, or would it always be this way?

Always, at the edge of the wilderness. Six years had been like this, and all I knew was that I wanted peace, that my heart cried out for peace.

I must have slept that night, brokenly. The sun rose in the morning in a blue cloudless sky. No more firing now. A rooster crowed, and from outside came the sound of spades in dirt. They were burying the men who had died.

My son asked for water. I wanted water, too, my mouth was so dry and parched. Then the boy began to cry, softly. When I looked at him, he stopped; there must have been something in my face.

THE day dragged on. Children sat with their hands in their mouths. Men and women walked from cabin to cabin, hardly speaking, but you could see that most of the women were near to tears. They spent the morning packing, and I packed the few things I had too. Eight years we had lived there, and now we were going away - and behind us, they would burn the stockade.

Once I went up to the firing terrace. Far off, by the river, I saw their camp, the tents and the red men walking near the fires. The river was broad and peaceful, the forest full of the colors of fall. And the fields were all yellow and brown, waving softly.

I know that when I went back to the cabin, I wanted to cry too.

Toward noon, we all gathered near the gates. The horses were nervous irritable, shying from the men who were loading them with packs. Great bundles of possessions lay all about, and I wondered how they would carry it all, for there were not many horses. There were cows, chickens. The children stood about, wondering. Some of them cried. My son stood next to me, looking up at me.

"Where are we going?" he asked me then.

I couldn't answer him; I only wanted to cry.

Then they brought David out. He wasn't bound now. They would take him this way, until they were on the way to Fort Pitt, and then they would bind him again. But I knew that they would shoot him before they would give him over to the British.

Everyone looked at him now; most with hate, but some with dull eves that saw nothing at all.

"Who is he?" my son asked me.

CAPTAIN MURRY walked over to David and they spoke rapidly, heatedly. I walked toward them. Then I saw David snatch something from Captain Murry's belt, leap toward the gate. My heart dropped, all the while a dozen thoughts racing through my mind. Were they right? Was David playing a deadly game with all of us? I ran toward him then I stopped. Captain Murry was staring.

David stood in front of the gate, and our men stood around him with their rifles. He had Captain Murry's pistol, and he faced them, deathly white, crouching. I saw him dart a glance at me.

"Go ahead," he cried. "Shoot me! Then open the gates! Only not while I'm here. I'm satisfied to take what you give me now, but my wife is with you. I won't see her slaughtered because there's not enough nerve in the lot of you to go a day without your water."

Captain Murry walked forward. "Put the gun up, David!" he shouted,

"Stay off from the gate!"

"He wants the lot of us to die like rats!" a man yelled.

Marge Hennesy screamed, "Kill the dirty swine!"

"He brought them here!"

"Filthy spy!"

THEN a rifle cracked - just one rifle. I saw how the bullet caught David in the front. swung him back; I saw him struggle to stay on his feet, to keep his balance. Now he was smiling, and he was trying to say something. Then he seemed to fall forward to the earth, very, very slowly. Indeed, it all appeared to happen with terrible slowness. All of a sudden he lay there, upon his face. The men only stood and stared at him; and the shot was still echoing back from the forest.

For just a moment everything went black, yet through it I heard the boy whimpering next to me. Then l ran to David, bent over him and turned his face up.

His eyes were open, and when he saw me he smiled. I wasn't crying. Isn't it strange that I wasn't crying then - but was terribly, terribly cool instead?

"I guess it's all done now," he murmured.

"Not all done, Dave."

"It's a long, hard way back. I'm tired." Then he closed his eyes, and I thought he was dead. In my heart I knew he was dead, when I turned around and faced them. Yet I didn't cry. I don't know why, but I was all cool and collected. I remember that when I spoke I hardly raised my voice.

"You've killed him," I said.

Captain Murry was walking toward me, but I motioned him away. He stopped. The others stopped too. They stood there with their rifles, their faces dull and white.

"Come away from him, Gerry," Captain Murry said.

"All right," I answered evenly. "Then I come away from him, and you open the gates. But I want to tell you first. You're men, aren't you? Pioneers. But look at the forest again. It wasn't for you - but for him. It's too strong for you, too big for you. Now you're beaten, and run away like whipped dogs. But I stay here with him - and my son."

"Gerry, get away from the gate!"

"Why not shoot me, too, before you open the gate? Make it clean. Shoot my son. Then open the gates and walk into their arms - watch them burn our homes. He's dead. He won't stop you now."

A WOMAN began to sob bitterly, and one of the men threw his rifle onto the ground.

Captain Murry turned around slowly, said quietly:

"Go back to your stations."

They hesitated. The man at the lookout bent down, and yelled, "Here they come!"

"Go back to your stations," Captain Murry said.

They ran onto the firing terrace slowly; glancing behind them, and the musketry broke out in a slow, ominous crackle. Two men picked up David and brought him into the cabin. The women crowded in, and the boy, too, and there we were, all packed like sand.

I watched them undress David, wash the blood away and bind his breast.

"He's alive," Helen Folk told me.

I nodded; I couldn't say anything. I could only stand there and look at him and listen to the firing and the shouting outside. You see, it didn't matter so much now whether David died or not. Oh, I loved him - more than I had ever loved him before. But now, he and I together had done something. No matter what happened, we would be together all the time.

When he opened his eves, toward evening, he smiled at me. All at once, without my telling him, he seemed to understand what had happened. I nodded, kissed him. I could see that he was listening to the firing outside.

"Maybe it's best to die here," he whispered, "like this. I would have liked to know the little shaver better. He's good and game."

"You won't die, Dave."

"No water?"

"No water, Dave. Try to bear it."

The boy stood next to me. All day he had had nothing to drink, and now he looked at David.

"You and me," David said to the boy.

The boy nodded. He was all choked up.

AND that night the relief came: Continentals, from Fort Pitt, five hundred of them in their blue and white. The Indians melted away like snow, and I remember the way our people poured down to the river for water. Then they came back, and they built fires. All night the stockade was filled with the light of the fires, with men and women who laughed and cried over the Continentals.

The boy stayed up late that night, with me, and we talked. David slept; no fever. no inflammation. We had bled him a little, and now he slept well. I talked with the boy.

"Yes," I said, "he's your father."

"He's brave," the boy said simply.

"I know - I love him."

"I do," the boy said.

And outside, the fires burned. I was happy. Do you understand how happy?

The next morning the Continentals prepared to move on. They were going to follow the Indians, if necessary, to the Canadian border. But their captain assured us that there would be no more attacks. "The war is over," he said. He seemed happy. We were all happy in that simple fact.

But that morning he came to me with Captain Murry. They stood at the door, made no attempt to enter the cabin. The officer said to me:

"Ma'am, if your husband, David Pearson, is here, as I've been told, I hold an order from Congress for him."

I looked at him evenly. I wasn't afraid any more.

"Of arrest?" Captain Murry asked. I don't think he hated David now.

"Arrest?" The officer was puzzled.

As if forced by something, Captain Murry said, "He was a deserter - a traitor."

THE officer smiled, and my heart sang. Maybe that officer had been through it all, like David, because when he spoke his voice was very gentle.

"Some," he said very slowly, "are spies. We all serve. I was in New York when they hung Hale, God rest him! Ma'am, may I kiss your hand?" He said it very simply and gently.

I gave him my hand. I didn't cry then; I don't know what kept me.

Captain Murry said, "I don't understand."

The officer went on: "I hold an order from Congress. You see, sir, a government doesn't own its spies. They fight their own battle - and it's not easy. You were going to shoot him. Shall I read the order to you?"

"Read it," I whispered.

"'That all men may know the Continental Congress call to the attention of all American officers this fact, that David Pearson, Captain, Fourth Pennsylvania, deserted to the enemy under orders of his superior officers, that his work as a spy has been eminently successful, that he has borne his burden gallantly, that he has earned the sincere gratitude of this Congress and his country. That he may be cleared of all suspicion, we tend him these highest honors, to suffice until he may be granted his regimental reward upon the formal declaration of peace. Undersigned- "'

I WAS crying; even frontier women cry; I heard no more. I looked at Captain Murry, who was crying too. It is terrible when a man cries.

The Continental officer said, simply, "The war is over."

I went back to David, sat there until he awoke. Then he looked at me. I think something told him that I knew. The boy took his father's hand.

"Soon you will be entirely well," I told him.

Oh, it seemed that we three understood one another - well enough.

I was saying, "With winter all things die - but not the strong. The wilderness is for the strong." Was I talking wildly?

"I'm tired," David said.

"I know. Rest."

We were three of us together and free, for the first time.

David said, "The land is for the brave - and the strong."

Even the boy understood.


RETURN