A door opened from the living-room into the other apartments, furnished in the old massive style that outlasts many generations. All the windows were protected by stout oaken shutters which, when closed, almost transformed the dwelling into a fortress, giving security against any ordinary attack. There were no loopholes in the walls through which the muzzle of the deadly rifle could be thrust and fired from within. This feature, so common in the primitive abodes of the country, was not in accordance with John Reynolds’s Quaker principles. While indisposed to fight, it was evident that the good man intended to interpose between himself and his enemies all the passive resistance that his stout little domicile could offer.
And he knew that he had enemies of the bitterest and most unscrupulous character. He was a stanch Whig, loyal to the American cause, and, above all, resolute and active in the maintenance of law and order in those lawless times. He thus had made himself obnoxious to his Tory neighbors, and an object of hate and fear to a gang of marauders, who, under the pretence of acting with the British forces, plundered the country far and near. Claudius Smith, the Robin Hood of the Highlands and the terror of the pastoral low country, had formerly been their leader; and the sympathy shown by Mr. Reynolds with all the efforts to bring him to justice which finally resulted in his capture and execution, and awakened among his former associates an intense desire for revenge. This fact, well known to the farmer, kept him constantly on his guard, and filled his wife and daughter Phebe with deep apprehension.
At the time of our story, Phebe was only twelve years of age, but was mature beyond her years. There were several younger children, and she had become almost womanly in aiding her mother in their care. Her stout, plump little body had been developed rather than enfeebled by early toil, and a pair of resolute and often mirthful blue eyes bespoke a spirit not easily daunted. She was a native growth of the period, vitalized by pure air and out-of-door pursuits, and she abounded in the shrewd intelligence and demure refinement of her sect to a degree that led some of their neighbors to speak of her as “a little old woman.” When alone with the children, however, or in the woods and fields, she would doff her Quaker primness, and romp, climb trees, and frolic with the wildest.
But of late, the troublous times and her father’s peril had brought unwonted thoughtfulness into her blue eyes, and more than Quaker gravity to the fresh young face, which, in spite of exposure to sun and wind, maintained much of its inherited fairness of complexion. Of her own accord she was becoming a vigilant sentinel, for a rumor had reached Mr. Reynolds that sooner or later he would have a visit from the dreaded mountain gang of hard riders. Two roads leading to the hills converged on the main highway not far from his dwelling; and from an adjacent knoll Phebe often watched this place, while her father, with a lad in his employ, completed their work about the barn. When the shadows deepened, all was made as secure as possible without and within, and the sturdy farmer, after committing himself and his household to the Divine protection, slept as only brave men sleep who are clear in conscience and accustomed to danger.