Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Harvey Birch, a peddler, becomes a spy for the American side. Because of the extremely secret nature of Birch’s work, few Americans are aware of his true mission. As a matter of fact, they suspect that he is a British spy. At the time, Westchester County in New York is considered common ground for both the rebels and the Loyalists, and the inhabitants of the county pretend to possess a neutrality they do not feel. This is the case of Mr. Wharton, a British sympathizer, who at the outbreak of hostilities retires to his country estate with his two daughters, Sarah and Frances, and their aunt, Miss Jeanette Peyton.
One evening, as a storm approaches, a horseman rides up to the Wharton house, The Locusts. He is a tall man of powerful frame, military in his bearing but plain in his dress. After being let into the house by the Whartons’ servant, Caesar Thompson, the traveler introduces himself as Mr. Harper and asks for shelter from the storm. Mr. Wharton courteously grants the traveler’s request, and the two men are soon engaged in conversation concerning the progress of the war. Mr. Wharton expresses his views cautiously in order to determine Mr. Harper’s sentiments, but the stranger remains uncommunicative in his replies.
The conversation between the two men is interrupted by the arrival of Henry Wharton, Mr. Wharton’s son and a captain in the British army. The young man wears a disguise in...
(The entire section is 1570 words.)
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