Part 21 (1/2)

”It would not astonish me,” continued the Dominie, playfully, ”if the young gentleman surprised us all to-night. Stranger things have happened.” These remarks excited a feeling of anxiety.

”I was on the other side of the river last night,” continued the Dominie, ”and the people there had a report from the city that the vessel he sailed in had been heard from.” Angeline quietly left the table, for the wells of her heart were overflowing.

”Tar shall come news as t' wessel mine t.i.te shails in comed pack, eh?”

enquired Hanz, fixing his eyes steadily on the Dominie.

”Not that she has arrived,” returned the Dominie, ”but that there is news of her--”

”Tar pees news,” muttered Hanz, his eyes glistening with anxiety. ”An nopody tells me t' news before, eh? Tar pees shum news of t'at wessel, eh? Tar don't pee no news of mine poor t.i.te, eh?” The old man extended his trembling hand and grasped the Dominie's arm nervously, his face became as pale as marble, and his whole system shook with excitement.

”Tar shall come news as t' wessel mine t.i.te shails in comes pack,” he e.j.a.c.u.l.a.t.ed, ”an tar pees no news of mine poor poy, eh?” And he threw up his arms, rested his head on the Dominie's shoulder and wept like a child. ”No, mine t.i.te he ton't comes home no more,” he sobbed.



While the scene just closed was being enacted, a glance across the river and down the road that skirts along the Hudson from Yonkers to Tarrytown, would have discovered a light country wagon, drawn by a single horse, and containing two men, advancing at a brisk pace. They had nearly reached Dobbs' Ferry as the sun disappeared in the west.

He who sat beside the driver, with his arms folded, and thoughtful, was a tall, well-formed young man, with light hair that curled into his neck, side whiskers, deep and intelligent blue eyes, a face that lighted up with a smile when he spoke, and which had been fair and handsome, but was now scorched and sun-burnt. His hands, too, were small, but hard and weather-burnt, indicating that he had been accustomed to use them at hard work. His dress was of blue petersham, looking neat and new, the short coat b.u.t.toning square across his breast; and a tall hat set oddly enough on a head evidently not accustomed to the fas.h.i.+on that dictated such a covering. A broad, white s.h.i.+rt collar, turned carelessly down, was tied with a black silk handkerchief, the long ends of which hung outside his coat.

There was something mature and thoughtful in his manner, even beyond his years. The driver, an inquisitive fellow, had several times tried to draw him into conversation, that he might find out something concerning him, for he seemed familiar with the names of places along the river, and yet kept up the disguise of a stranger. But on nothing, except the vessels pa.s.sing up and down the river, did he seem inclined to be communicative. On these he would make such remarks as showed familiarity with the sea. Indeed his mind seemed absorbed in something of deep and painful interest.

They drew up at the little inn with the swinging sign near Dobbs' Ferry, for the driver said his horse was jaded, and needed feed and rest before they proceeded further, and were met by the short, corpulent landlord, who, after ordering the animal cared for, invited them into the house, saying there was a good supper ready.

”It is sundown now,” said the pa.s.senger, in a tone of impatience, as he alighted from the wagon, and received the landlord's extended hand, ”and we are still six miles away. You have forfeited the inducement I offered to quicken your speed; but it is no offset to my disappointment.” This was addressed to the driver, who muttered something, about the heavy roads, in reply, tossed his hat into a chair on the porch, and with an independent and half-defiant air, walked into the house and took his seat at the supper table.

”'Tisn't the first time Sam's supped at my house,” said the landlord, bowing and inviting the stranger to walk in. ”You'll walk in, sir, won't you? There's always a good supper at this house--kept it when King George's troops were about--only four s.h.i.+llin', sir,” the landlord continued, bowing and motioning his hand. But the stranger shook his head negatively, drew a cigar from his pocket and politely requested the landlord to give him a light. And when he had lighted his cigar, he drew a Spanish dollar from his pocket, and slipped it into the man's hand, saying it would pay for both their suppers, and he would take his when they returned. He, at the same time, begged the landlord to give himself no concern about him, but to proceed to his supper, which he knew from his appearance he would enjoy.

”Seein' how you're a gentleman,” said the landlord, bowing obsequiously, ”there's three s.h.i.+llin' more for the horse--that squares it.”

”Certainly--I forgot the horse,” replied the stranger, drawing a half-dollar piece from his pocket and giving it to the landlord.

”There's a s.h.i.+llin' comin' to you,” returned the landlord, putting the money into one pocket, and feeling in the other, ”Never mind the s.h.i.+lling,” said the stranger, ”we will settle that another time.”

”Travellers always find a good bed at my house, and enough on the table.

That's more than the fellow who keeps the house further on can say,”

continued the landlord, again bowing and proceeding to his supper.

The stranger now paced quickly and impatiently up and down the little veranda, pausing every few minutes and looking out in the direction of the wagon, as if it contained something he was guarding with scrupulous care. In short, the object of his solicitude was a stout, leathern valise, in the wagon, and which was so heavy that it required the strength of two ordinary men to handle it easily.

Twenty minutes pa.s.sed and the driver again made his appearance, wiping his lips and b.u.t.toning up his coat unconcernedly. ”Sorry to have detained you,” he said, flapping his hat on. ”Landlord says you've settled the shot--won't be long getting there now.” In another minute they were in their seats and on the road to Tarrytown.

It was nearly eight o'clock when they reached the old ferry, and found it deserted for the night. The boatmen had ceased their regular crossings nearly an hour before, and were quietly smoking their pipes at home. The moon was up, stars shone brightly in the serene sky, and not a sail specked the unruffled surface of the Tappan Zee. Lights twinkled on the opposite sh.o.r.e, and the little old town of Nyack was dimly seen.

They waited a few minutes, and as no one appeared, the driver went in search of the boatmen, saying a few extra s.h.i.+llings would make it all right with them. And while he was gone the stranger paced nervously and with rapid steps up and down, every few seconds pausing at the pier-head and looking intently in the direction of Nyack. Was it joy he antic.i.p.ated, or disappointment he feared? Something was agitating his heart and filling his eyes with tears, for he several times turned his head and wiped them away. And yet the more he watched in the direction of Nyack, the more restless and impatient he became.

The driver returned after an absence of ten minutes, accompanied by two st.u.r.dy fellows, both of whom affected to be in bad humor at being called on to ferry a traveller at that hour. With their hands thrust deep into their nether pockets, they moved reluctantly about, scanning the stranger from head to foot. ”Couldn't stop this side till morning?”