He turned with a cold smile to Colonel Butler. “I think my estates will not remain long in rebel hands,” he said.
“Do you not understand, Mr. Ormond?” cried Captain Campbell, twitching me by the sleeve, an impertinence I passed, considering him overflushed with wine. “Do you not comprehend how hopeless is this rebellion now?”
“How hopeless?” drawled Sir George, looking over my shoulder, and, as though by accident, drawing Campbell’s presumptuous hand through his own arm.
“How hopeless?” echoed Campbell. “Why, here are three armies of his Majesty’s troops concentrating on the heart of Tryon County. What can the rebels do?”
“The patroons are with us, or have withdrawn from the contest,” said Sir John; “the great folk, military men, and we of the landed gentry are for the King. What remains to defy his authority?”
“Of what kidney are these Tryon County men?” I asked, quietly. Sir John Johnson misunderstood me.
“Mr. Ormond,” said Sir John, “Tryon County is habited by four races. First, the Scotch-Irish, many of them rebels, I admit, but many also loyal. Balance these against my Highlanders, and cross quits. Second, the Palatines—those men whose ancestors came hither to escape the armies of Louis XIV. when they devastated the Palatinate. And again I admit these to be rebels. Third, those of Dutch blood, descended from brave ancestors, like our worthy patroon here. And once more I will admit that many of these also are tainted with rebel heresies. Fourth, the English, three-quarters of whom are Tories. And now I ask you, can these separate handfuls of mixed descent unite? And, if that were possible, can they stand for one day, one hour, against the trained troops of England?”
“God knows,” I said.
I had stepped from the dining-hall out to the gun-room. Clocks in the house were striking midnight. In the dining-room the company had now taken to drinking in earnest, cheering and singing loyal songs, and through the open door whirled gusts of women’s laughter, and I heard the thud of guitar-strings echo the song’s gay words.
All was cool and dark in the body of the house as I walked to the front door and opened it to bathe my face in the freshening night. I heard the whippoorwill in the thicket, and the drumming of the dew on the porch roof, and far away a sound like ocean stirring—the winds in the pines.
The Maker of all things has set in me a love for whatsoever He has fashioned in His handiwork, whether it be furry beast or pretty bird, or a spray of April willow, or the tiny insect-creature that pursues its dumb, blind way through this our common world. So come I by my love for the voices of the night, and the eyes of the stars, and the whisper of growing things, and the spice in the air where, unseen, a million tiny blossoms hold up white cups for dew, or for the misty-winged things that woo them for their honey.