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A Brave Little Quakeress
by [?]

A TRADITION OF THE REVOLUTION

Not very far from the Highlands of the Hudson, but at a considerable distance from the river, there stood, one hundred years ago, a farmhouse that evidently had been built as much for strength and defence as for comfort. The dwelling was one story and a half in height, and was constructed of hewn logs, fitted closely together, and made impervious to the weather by old- fashioned mortar, which seems to defy the action of time. Two entrances facing each other led to the main or living room, and they were so large that a horse could pass through them, dragging in immense back-logs. These, having been detached from a chain when in the proper position, were rolled into the huge fireplace that yawned like a sooty cavern at the farther end of the apartment. A modern housekeeper, who finds wood too dear an article for even the air-tight stove, would be appalled by this fireplace. Stalwart Mr. Reynolds, the master of the house, could easily walk under its stony arch without removing his broad- brimmed Quaker hat. From the left side, and at a convenient height from the hearth, a massive crane swung in and out; while high above the centre of the fire was an iron hook, or trammel, from which by chains were suspended the capacious iron pots used in those days for culinary or for stock-feeding purposes. This trammel, which hitherto had suggested only good cheer, was destined to have in coming years a terrible significance to the household.

When the blaze was moderate, or the bed of live coals not too ample, the children could sit on either side of the fireplace and watch the stars through its wide flue; and this was a favorite amusement of Phebe Reynolds, the eldest daughter of the house.

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.