Lillian Roy.

The Little Washingtons' Travels



скачать книгу бесплатно

CHAPTER V
SOME OF WASHINGTON'S HEADQUARTERS

An automobile was hired for the day, and as early as was practical, the party started for Bronx Park. Here they took a quick survey of the horticultural gardens and stopped a short time at the zoo, then on to the historic points of Fordham and the Bronx. Then they visited the stately mansion of the old Morris family on the Harlem River, where Washington had made his headquarters during the time he was in New York with his army.

From this place, the party went to White Plains, and saw the places still remaining to mark the points of historic interest. Thence to Dobb's Ferry, where the fine old house used by Washington for his headquarters had been purchased by a rich American, and restored to its original state.

The visitors crossed the river at this place and went to Fort Lee, but nothing of interest could be found here.

"It is much like the man himself! General Lee ruined his character and honor when he permitted the British to capture him in dressing gown and slippers!" scorned Mrs. Parke, who had always felt the utmost contempt for this disobedient American.

"I wish we had time to cross from here and visit Morristown – it is not so far in distance, but have we time to-day?" ventured Mrs. Davis.

"I have an idea!" exclaimed Mr. Parke. "What do you say if we wire the garage in New York that we will not return till to-morrow? We can then go to Newburgh and West Point, and later on to Morristown, and remain there for the night at some first-class hotel. It will be a relief to get away from the din of the New York streets, and rest in the quiet peace of a suburban town."

"We would not reach Morristown till long after dinner," said Mrs. Parke, thinking of the tiresome ride for the children.

"Well, ask the chauffeurs about it – they ought to know the distance and time it would take to go from Newburgh to Morristown," said Mrs. Davis.

Both chauffeurs declared that it was too late to think of visiting West Point and Newburgh that day, and to cross-country to Morristown was a very poor road to travel. So it was decided to return to the city and start the next morning for West Point on the small steamer running between that point and New York. In this way, the children could see the grand old Hudson and its sights. If it were possible, and the day fair, they would drive to Morristown and the places in its vicinity made famous by Revolutionary tactics.

Mrs. Graham had arranged with her aunt that John and she would remain at home all of the following day to meet friends and distant relatives of the family. Thus John was disappointed in this trip up the Hudson, for he would have much preferred to be with his friends, than sit in a darkened old city mansion, listening to folks talk about their family.

Early on the following day, therefore, the Parkes and Davises sailed up the Hudson, passing the Sailors' Monument and Grant's Tomb on the way.

The Palisades attracted admiration, for the foliage of late fall glorified the steep cliffs of the river.

Past Yonkers, called "Younkers" in the old Dutch days, they sailed again, passing Dobb's Ferry, where they had visited the day before, and so on to Stony Point.

"Who can tell the story of Stony Point?" asked Mr. Parke.

The children looked at each other, but they seemed anxious not to venture information which might be incorrect, so Mrs. Parke decided to help them over the difficulty.

"Fortifications had been started at West Point, as it looked more defensible than positions lately occupied by Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery. But the works at West Point were far from completion, and Washington knew that communication must be kept open between the middle and eastern states. Detachments of his army occupied positions on both sides the river, commanding the ferry and protecting the incomplete works above. On the west bank, stationed on an elevated section of ground called Stony Point, defences had been started but were far from being completed. On the east bank, a small fort called Lafayette's on Verplanck's Point, projecting out into the river, was nearer completion than the works on the other side.

"Now, the intention of the British was to reduce both these works and capture West Point, along with Washington's division, and perhaps, that of the State of the Confederacy.

"The unfinished works at Stony Point, garrisoned by but forty men, was too weak to defend itself against Clinton's large division of the British army, landing on the eastern bank of the river, placed under command of Vaughan, so it was abandoned after setting fire to the block-house. The garrison took stores and ammunition with them, and Clinton took possession of it without opposition. During the night he had cannon and mortars brought up and planted on the brow of the hill, opposite the fort on the other side of the river.

"At five o'clock in the morning, a heavy fire was opened upon Fort Lafayette by the command at Stony Point, and two vessels in the river managed to pass the fort, thus cutting off all chance of escape by water. General Vaughan made a circuit by land, thus completely surrounding the little garrison of seventy men. Captain Armstrong, the commander of the fort, and his men, held out all day and then capitulated.

"Clinton ordered both forts completed at once, but Washington, having heard of the British general's advance up the river, had strengthened West Point and taken up a strong position at Smith's Cove, so that the English found it unwise to attack the American forces at that time. Besides Staten Island was threatened in his absence, so he left garrisons at the two posts captured, and retired to Phillipsburg, to be ready to assist in New York and its dependencies, or at either of the other captured forts if necessary.

"A garrison of 1000 men was left at Stony Point, and one of 5000 men at Fort Lafayette, but Clinton determined to draw the American army, so he sent Tryon with 2600 men into Connecticut. After pillaging New Haven and destroying property at Fairfield, Norwalk and Greenfield, laying the towns in ashes, and treating the people with the greatest brutality, he essayed to treat New London in the same manner, but the people were roused to such a degree, by the reports from their neighboring towns, that they opposed Tryon successfully. Hence he returned to New York to boast of his exploits.

"News of the invasion of Connecticut was late in reaching Washington, as he was visiting outposts in the vicinity of Stony Point. He understood the design of Clinton, however, so did not weaken his forces in the Highlands to assist the troops in Connecticut; on the contrary, he planned a counter-attack on Stony Point, which, if successful, would alarm Clinton and induce him to recall the detachment from Connecticut, to defend the outpost on the river.

"Secrecy was one of the essential things to the success of this plan. One brigade was ordered to march so as to reach the scene of the action about the time the troops engaged in the attack, and so render assistance should disaster befall them.

"As you can see from the boat here, Stony Point is a hill projecting far out into the river, with three sides washed by the Hudson, and the other side attached to the mainland by a deep marsh.

"Over this marsh there was but one crossing-place, but where it joins with the river there is a sandy beach. On the summit of the hill stood the fort. Besides the garrison there were some vessels stationed in the river to command the foot of the fort.

"At half-past eleven at night, two columns of Continentals marched with unloaded muskets, and bayonets fixed, preceded by a forlorn hope of twenty men. They crossed the marsh undiscovered, and at twenty minutes to twelve, commenced the assault.

"Surmounting every obstacle, they mounted and entered the works without discharging a single musket. They obtained possession of the fort, without the display of cruelty so prevalent in the British ranks, although sixty-three of the garrison were killed. The prisoners amounted to upward of five hundred, and the value of the military stores taken was considerable.

"An attempt was made on the opposite fort but failed. This failure, with the fifteen hundred men it would take to garrison Stony Point against the enemy's shipping, caused Washington to demolish and abandon the fort. But Clinton re-occupied and repaired it again immediately.

"Then Washington established his headquarters at West Point in July, and from that time to December, he gave his attention to the completion of the works at that post."

"Look on the right, children! There you will see the Verplanck's Point your aunt has just been describing to you as holding Fort Lafayette," called Mr. Davis, pointing out the spot to the eager children.

From that point on till the boat reached Newburgh, the elders entertained the children with various descriptions of places passed.

After visiting the headquarters at Newburgh, and going on to visit West Point, where the children were deeply interested in watching the cadets practice, they returned to the landing where they intended taking the boat back to New York. But they were too late. It had gone half an hour before they reached the dock.

"That means we must go back by train," said Mr. Parke.

"We'll get to New York much earlier than expected. We might accomplish some other visit," suggested Mrs. Davis.

"Oh, no. The return will mean that we will have time for rest before starting the trip to Morristown to-morrow," said Mrs. Parke.

So that evening was really the first quiet or restful one enjoyed since the travellers reached New York. And in the morning, all were eager to continue their historical visits.

Through the flats of Hackensack and across the Passaic, the party rode, the elders pointing out various places that might interest the children. At Newark nothing of moment was found to convey any picture of Washington's campaign to the youthful admirers, so they continued on to Morristown.

Here they visited the old Fort Nonsense on the ridge, back of the town, and then inspected the headquarters, where a fine collection of furniture and other relics was kept on exhibition by the Washington Association of New Jersey.

Later they drove through Baskingridge and cross-country to Pluckimin and thus on to Brunswick. Trenton was passed through on the homeward route, and then on to Jersey City, and across the ferry to New York. In going through Trenton the old hall and other historic buildings were pointed out to the children.

That night George had a suggestion to offer.

"We've done nothing but see, and see, and see places since we've landed here from home, and I say that we now do something different."

"But this trip was planned to show you children all we could to enlighten you on history," replied Mrs. Parke.

"I feel so light that it would take little to waft me up to the sky," said Martha, hoping so to create sympathy.

"Now that we have completed the round of places to be visited in the interests of Revolutionary history, suppose we continue on our way to Philadelphia. There is a mine of historical places to be visited in and about that city; besides we will be home and we won't have to bother like we do in a hotel," said Mrs. Davis.

"I second that motion!" cried Jack.

"But our week of vacation is not yet over in New York," argued Mr. Parke.

"Well, why not leave you two men behind to finish up your week, while we go on with the children to prepare the people of the Quaker City for the unexpected coming of the Little Washingtons?" laughed Mrs. Parke.

"Do say yes, father!" begged Martha.

"I see! My own daughter wants to get away from my company!" exclaimed Mr. Parke tragically.

"We wouldn't if you were finished with your business affairs, but we know right well what will happen if we tear you away now! It will mean a delay all 'round," said Mrs. Parke, from former experiences.

"Well, then Sam and I will say 'good riddance' and send you off on the morrow's train from the Pennsylvania Station," agreed Mr. Parke.

CHAPTER VI
GEORGE'S STRANGE BATTLE

That evening some city friends called at the hotel to see the Parkes and Davises, and wishing the children to get a good night's sleep, the parents decided to receive the callers in a parlor downstairs, and turn down the lights in their own parlor.

After they had gone down, George felt so restless he could not keep quiet, so he slipped out of bed and went out to the parlor to amuse himself. The lights were turned up again, and a souvenir book of the Woolworth building was found on the table. This book had been purchased when they were up in the tower, but so much had been crowded in the few days in the city, that no one had taken time to look at the pictures.

Now, however, George found the pictures and text very entertaining for want of company or something better to do. He pored over the illustration of the tower, wondering at the great height of the structure, and the manner in which it was built.

He sat in a corner of the comfortable couch, his bare feet sticking out from his new pajamas purchased that very day. As he read the book, his eyelids drooped several times, but George always fought off sleep to the very last moment, so he bravely refused to give in to it now.

Suddenly, as he turned a page of the book, he heard a stealthy step behind him, coming from the open window. He turned just in time to see a masked face lean over the couch, and then a great bony hand reached out and grabbed him under the arms and lifted him up.

George immediately essayed to scream for help, but a hand was placed over his mouth, while the man growled: "You help me gag him, then we'll tie this towel tight about his wrists and ankles."

This was done, while poor George was helpless to defend himself. He wondered if George Washington ever had such a cowardly game played on him.

"Now we'll sneak downstairs with him and watch our chance to get away," whispered the man to his accomplice.

George felt himself carried to the door, but in a sudden twist of his body he managed to slip out of the villain's grasp, and in rolling upon the floor, he upset a stand with a jardini?re of flowers on it. This crashed down and woke up the other children, which was just what George wanted.

The two rascals quickly caught up their victim again, and rushed out, leaving the door wide open. The three other children were heard running out and calling "George! George!" but he could not reply.

Just as the two men reached the head of the stairs, the three pajamaed children ran out in the hall and saw them carrying George away. He saw them follow and heard them scream for help, but he himself was helpless to move or utter a sound.

Down the many flights of stairs the two men now rushed with their burden, the three night-dressed children running after. On the main floor, they fled down the wide marble ornamental stairs and through the lobby, throwing people right and left as they rushed madly for the door. The three white-robed friends of George followed close at the heels of the villains.

A hue and cry then started, and as the men reached the curb to jump into a waiting taxicab, the people of the hotel and the crowds on the street joined in the chase. The Parkes and Davises, and the children as well, all ran screaming to the sidewalk, yelling to every one to stop the runaways. George could hear this until the cab turned the corner and tore down Broadway.

As the reckless driver flew downtown, George held his breath in constant fear of being smashed to atoms by colliding with a trolley or automobile crossing one of the many streets.

Down the densely-thronged thoroughfare flew the cab, the police whistling signals for it to stop, and shooting revolvers at the tires to cause a puncture, but, strange to say, the cab escaped without a single damage to windows or tires.

By the time the runaways reached Union Square, a long mob of people were tearing after them, all in hot pursuit of the villains. In the foremost ranks ran the parents and the bare-footed, night-robed children. George heard the men say so, as they watched from the window in the back.

Down Fifth Avenue went the cab until it reached Washington Square. Under the famous Washington Arch it flew, one wheel striking the base and causing the cab to swerve. As it righted itself again, one of the wheels came loose, and so on down, down they tore in constant danger of throwing the wheel and being flung into a stone building or a passing trolley.

That fearful shaking and fear almost made George sick, but he remembered how Washington must have felt when everything seemed against him and his country. "Did he give up and let Howe get away with him and his army? No, siree! He did not. Neither will I!" thought George.

Finally the cab reached City Hall Park, and around the park it flew, while the two men wondered where they could go with their captive.

"Can't cross the bridge without being arrested, you know. They have guards there," said one.

"Can't go across to Liberty Island at this time of night. Can't go anywhere except to the Woolworth Tower!" said the other.

"Just the place! If any one follows we will drop him off!" threatened the first man.

So the cab pulled up by the side entrance to the Woolworth building, and the two men hustled George on an elevator inside, and made the man send the elevator to the top where the room was that visitors had to pass through to reach the tower. Here they found the man asleep, as no visitors were expected that night.

They bundled George on the tiny elevator that ran to the very tip-top of the tower, and one of the rascals ran it up. Then they went out on the narrow balcony that circled the tower. As they walked around here, dragging George by the belt of his pajamas, they watched the mob tearing across City Hall Park in pursuit.

George could look over the parapet, and he was sure he saw his mother in front, calling to him, 'way up in that tower. He wanted to assure her that he was brave and would be all right, but one of the men thought he was signalling to his friends.

"What shall we do if some of them follow us up here and try to catch us?" wondered one of the men.

"We'll warn them – we'll throw him over if they try to come up!" said the other, shaking a fist at the crowds in the park.

Meantime, as many as could get on the elevators, did come up to the room, but the small elevator that ran to the tower would only hold five or six at a time, and there was no one to run it. The man who slept in the chair could not be roused, so Mr. Parke said he would run the lift to the top.

The two villains threatened in vain – George's father started for the balcony to save his son. Then the men lifted George upon the stone guard, and he could look down into the dizzy depths, where the people ran about like ants on the earth.

"If you step another inch, down he goes!" roared one of the men.

"What shall we do?" wailed Mrs. Parke, wringing her hands.

While one of the men stood guard at the door that opened on the balcony, the other carried George around to the other side of the balcony. The moment George found but one man to hold him, he squirmed and wriggled so that he soon got out of the fellow's hold, and then he managed in some way to free his two hands.

The man tried to hold him again, but with his hands free George also managed to free his feet. Then he jumped up and defied the rascal. As the man turned to call his partner, George saw that the mayor had ordered an aeroplane from Governor's Island to rise and save him. Determined to hold off the two villains long enough to give the aviators time to reach the tower, George ran around and around the tower – the door leading to the balcony having been bolted on the outside by the villain on guard to keep help and friends from reaching George. Then, as the aeroplane almost flew over George's head, the men saw it and realized that they would soon lose their prize unless they could catch him again. So one of them planned to go one way, and the other the other way, and so catch George before he could be carried off.

Fortunately for George, an experienced aviator flew the machine, and as he swooped down in a graceful loop, he dropped a tackle out and caught George in the back of his pajamas. Just as the two men met in a swift run around the balcony and bumped together, they saw their victim lifted out of their grasp, and they jumped to catch hold of him.

But the plane was swiftly skimming over the city on its way to the hangars on Governor's Island. George never dared to move or even breathe for fear that the great hook would rip the madras of his pajama coat and so let him drop.

The aeroplane reached the water, however, and was speeding over the bay to the island, when George heard an ominous r-r-rip at his back. He tried to call to his friend, the aviator, to haul him up, but the madras kept right on tearing once it started, and just as George could see the aviation field on the island, and could feel the aeroplane rapidly descending, the material in the coat gave way entirely and down plunged the luckless George into the deep water.



скачать книгу бесплатно

страницы: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7