FRIEND OR FOE
Betty Wolcott sat alone in her own room, thinking intently. The windows were all open, and the soft night air blew the dainty curls off her white forehead and disclosed the fact of her very recent tears. Never, in all her short, happy life, had Betty been so moved as now, for the twin passions of gratitude and loyalty were at war within her, and she realized, with a feeling akin to dismay, that she must meet the responsibility alone, that those of her household were all arrayed against her.
“If my father were but at home,” said Betty to herself, “he would know and understand, but Oliver will not listen, no, not even when I implored him to keep Captain Yorke close prisoner here for two days by which time my father is sure to arrive. Aunt Euphemia is too timid and Pamela is much the same; as Josiah happens to agree perfectly with Oliver, Pamela could never be induced to see how cruel it is to repay our debt in this way. Oliver is but a boy,”—and Betty’s lips curved in scorn over her brother’s four years’ seniority,—“and—and—oh! I am, indeed, astray. What, here I am, one of the loyal Wolcotts,—a family known all through the land as true to the cause of Freedom and the Declaration,—and here I sit planning how to let a British officer, foe to my country, escape from my father’s house. I wonder the walls do not open and fall on me,” and poor Betty gazed half fearfully overhead, as if she expected the rafters would descend upon the author of such treasonable sentiments. “But something must be done,” she thought rapidly. “I care not whether he be friend or foe, I take the consequences; be mine the blame,” and she lifted her pretty head with an air of determination, as a soft knock fell upon her chamber door; but before she could rise to open it, the latch was raised and a little figure, all in white, crept inside.
“I can’t sleep, Betty,” sobbed Moppet, as her sister gathered the child in her arms; “it’s too, too dreadful. Will General Putnam hang my dear, kind gentleman as the British hanged Captain Nathan Hale, and shall we never, never see him more?”
“Dear heart,” said Betty, smoothing the yellow hair, and tears springing again to her eyes as she thought of the brave, manly face of her country’s foe. “No, Moppet, Captain Yorke is not a spy, as, alas! was poor Nathan Hale, but”—
“Betty,” whispered Moppet, so low that she was evidently alarmed at her own daring, “why can’t we let him go free and never tell Oliver a word about it?”
“How did you come to think of that?” said Betty, astonished.
“I am afraid it is the devil prompting me,” said Moppet, with a sigh, partly over her own iniquity, and part in wonderment as to whether that overworked personage was somewhere soaring in the air near at hand; “but I always thought the British were big ogres, with fierce eyes and red whiskers, and I am sure my good, kind gentleman is very like ourselves.”