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FLIGHT OF ARNOLD.
mands the narrow part of the Hudson, just below the Highlands, with orders to the commander to intercept Arnold should he not already have passed that post. This done, when dinner was announced, he invited the company to table. 66 Come, gentlemen; since Mrs. Arnold is unwell, and the general is absent, let us sit down without ceremony." The repast was a quiet one, for none but Lafayette and Knox, beside the general, knew the purport of the letters just received.
In the mean time, Arnold, panic-stricken, had sped his caitiff flight through the Highlands; infamy howling in his rear; arrest threatening him in the advance; a fugitive past the posts which he had recently commanded; shrinking at the sight of that flag which hitherto it had been his glory to defend! Alas! how changed from the Arnold, who, but two years previously, when repulsed, wounded and crippled, before the walls of Quebec, could yet write proudly from a shattered camp, "I am in the way of my duty, and I know no fear! "
He had passed through the Highlands in safety, but there were the batteries at Verplanck's Point yet to fear. Fortunately for him, Hamilton, with the order for his arrest, had not arrived there.
His barge was known by the garrison. A white handkerchief displayed gave it the sanction of a flag of truce: it was suffered to pass without question, and the traitor effected his escape to the Vulture sloop-of-war, anchored a few miles below. As if to consummate his degradation by a despicable act of treachery and meanness, he gave up to the commander his coxswain and six bargemen as prisoners of war. We are happy to add, that this perfidy excited the scorn of the British officers; and, when it was found that the men had supposed they were
acting under the protection of a flag, they were released by order.,
of Sir Henry Clinton.
Colonel Hamilton returned to the Robinson House and reported the escape of the traitor. He brought two letters also to Washington, which had been sent on shore from the Vulture, under a flag of truce. One was from Arnold, of which the following is a transcript:
"Sir,-The heart which is conscious of its own rectitude, cannot attempt to palliate a step which the world may censure as wrong; I have ever acted from a principle of love to my country, since the commencement of the present unhappy contest between Great Britain and the colonies; the same principle of love to my country actuates my present conduct, however it may appear inconsistent to the world, who seldom judge right of any man's actions.
"I ask no favor for myself. I have too often experienced the ingratitude of my country to attempt it; but, from the known humanity of your Excellency, I am induced to ask your protection for Mrs. Arnold from every insult and injury that a mistaken vengeance of my country may expose her to. It ought to fall only on me; she is as good and as innocent as an angel, and is incapable of doing wrong. I beg she may be permitted to return to her friends in Philadelphia, or to come to me as she may choose; from your Excellency I have no fears on her account, but she may suffer from the mistaken fury of the country."
The other letter was from Colonel Beverley Robinson, interceding for the release of André, on the plea that he was on shore under the sanction of a flag of truce, at the request of Arnold.
1780.] ARNOLD ON BOARD OF THE VULTURE.
Robinson had hoped to find favor with Washington on the score of their early intimacy.
Notwithstanding Washington's apparent tranquillity and real self-possession, it was a time of appalling distrust. How far the treason had extended; who else might be implicated in it, was unknown. Arnold had escaped, and was actually on board of the Vulture; he knew every thing about the condition of the posts: might he not persuade the enemy, in the present weak state of the garrisons, to attempt a coup de main? Washington instantly, therefore, despatched a letter to Colonel Wade, who was in temporary command at West Point. "General Arnold is gone to the enemy," writes he. "I have just now received a line from him enclosing one to Mrs. Arnold, dated on board of the Vulture. I request that you will be as vigilant as possible, and as the enemy may have it in contemplation to attempt some enterprise, even to-night, against these posts, I wish you to make, immediately after the receipt of this, the best disposition you can of your force, so as to have a proportion of men in each work on the west side of the river."
A regiment stationed in the Highlands was ordered to the same duty, as well as a body of the Massachusetts militia from Fishkill. At half-past seven in the evening, Washington wrote to General Greene, who, in his absence, commanded the army at Tappan; urging him to put the left division in motion as soon as possible, with orders to proceed to King's Ferry, where, or before they should arrive there, they would be met with further orders. "The division," writes he, "will come on light, leaving their heavy baggage to follow. You will also hold all the troops in readiness to move on the shortest notice. Transactions of a most
interesting nature, and such as will astonish you, have been just discovered."
His next thought was about André. He was not acquainted with him personally, and the intrigues in which he had been engaged, and the errand on which he had come, made him consider him an artful and resolute person. He had possessed himself of dangerous information, and in a manner had been arrested with the key of the citadel in his pocket. On the same evening, therefore, Washington wrote to Colonel Jameson, charging that every precaution should be taken to prevent Major André from making his escape. "He will no doubt effect it, if possible; and in order that he may not have it in his power, you will send him under the care of such a party and so many officers as to preclude him from the least opportunity of doing it. That he may be less liable to be recaptured by the enemy, who will no doubt make every effort to regain him, he had better be conducted to this place by some upper road, rather than by the route of Crompond. I would not wish Mr. André to be treated with insult; but he does not appear to stand upon the footing of a common prisoner of war, and therefore, he is not entitled to the usual indulgences which they receive, and is to be most closely and narrowly watched."
In the mean time, Mrs. Arnold remained in her room in a state bordering on frenzy. Arnold might well confide in the humanity and delicacy of Washington in respect to her. He regarded her with the sincerest commiseration, acquitting her of all previous knowledge of her husband's guilt. On remitting to her, by one of his aides-de-camp, the letter of her husband, written from on board of the Vulture, he informed her that he had done all that depended upon himself to have him arrested, but
DISTRESS OF MRS. ARNOLD.
not having succeeded, he experienced a pleasure in assuring her of his safety.*
A letter of Hamilton's written at the time, with all the sympathies of a young man, gives a touching picture of Washington's first interview with her. "She for a time entirely lost herself. The general went up to see her, and she upbraided him with being in a plot to murder her child. One moment she raved, another she melted into tears, sometimes she pressed her infant to her bosom, and lamented its fate occasioned by the imprudence of its father, in a manner that would have pierced insensibility itself. All the sweetness of beauty, all the loveliness of innocence, all the tenderness of a wife, and all the fondness of a mother, showed themselves in her appearance and conduct."
During the brief time she remained at the Robinson House, she was treated with the utmost deference and delicacy, but soon set off, under a passport of Washington, for her father's house in Philadelphia.
* Memoirs of Lafayette, i., p. 264.