Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Joscelyn: A Tale of the Revolution >> Chapter XXXV: Before the Battle >> Page 295

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Page 295

Novel (Romance) | The Reprint Company | 1975, 1976
Transcription JOSCELYN295
board feel the weight of our arms. I have put my hand to the plow,
and I'm not for turning and looking back."
"But we have a right to speak in this matter, Colonel Browne."
"You have a right, have you? I don't see! What will you do?
Sir, let me tell you that when the ship's about to founder, the right
lies with the brave man who is ready to take the helm! The storm
is upon us, and the day of counsel and councils is quite gone by. I
have taken the helm simply because I do not see, whatever may be
your rights, that there is any bold seaman among you, who is pre-
pared to do so, and there you have my answer! Here's the King's
commission, and you have yours, you say, and yours dates some
months, perhaps, before mine. What of that? The commission don't
make the man! Well, I'm here, and I am prepared with the man-
hood as well as the commission. Show me your better titles. If, with
fifteen hundred men in hand, you will go forward against the thou-
sand that Richardson leads against you, and they have no more; if
you will lead to-morrow and make fight, why you shall command;
but if you temporize and treat, and call for councils of war, which
are generally pacific enough for a Quaker meeting, I tell you, I will
take the helm, and guide the vessel. Here you have it! I see enough
to know that we are all swamped unless somebody is prepared to
lead, and unless that lead means fight! Once for all, gentlemen, I
mean to fight, and in order that you should do so, I mean to lead.
You have my answer on this head, and my resolution! As for this
boy of Dunbar's, and your letters, let me say that the boy is a block-
head, of no use to us or to anybody else! I've seen him tried. He's
a milk-sop, who stops to weigh scruples with the storm upon his very
shoulders. If you could take the pluck of the old man, his father,
and drive it into his brain well, along with what he's got there,
we might do something with him. The letters were nothing of value;
but, even if they were, a commander takes leave to read all letters,
if he pleases, which fall into his hands. This is the law of war, and
while I am in command, no letters shall pass me, to any person in
this or any camp of mine, which I shall not examine if I please. It
may be that our security shall depend upon it. We are not so sure,
gentlemen" shaking his head significantly "that every man here
is sound of heart, within the beat of our enemy's drum! Here, you
have had an instance which you ought to remember. Where's Moses