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The Bride of Fort Edward
by Delia Bacon
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I thought that scene would shift. It had a heavy, dream-like mistiness. This is reality again. These are the pine trees that I dreamed of. See! how beautiful! With the sharp outline and the vivid hue such as our childhood's unworn sense yields, they are waving now. Look, Andre, there she sits, the young and radiant stranger,—there, in the golden sunset she is sitting still, braiding those flowers,—see, how the rich life flashes in her eye, and yet, just now I dreamed that she was dead, and—and—Oh my God!

(A voice without.)

Let go, who stays me?—where's my sister?

(Captain Grey enters.)

Grey. Ha! Murderer! art satisfied?

Mait. Ay.

Grey. What, do you mock me, Sir?

Mait. Let her be. She is mine!—all mine! my love, my bride,—my bride?—Murderer?—Stay!—Don't glare at me! I know you, Sir. I can hurl off these mountain shadows yet.—They'll send some stronger devil ere they wrench this hold from me! I know you well. What make you here?

Grey. Madness!—there's little wonder!—It's the only good that Heaven has left for him! My lovely playfellow,—my sister, is it so indeed? Alas! all gently lies this hand in mine. There is no angry strength here now. Helen!—Ah! would to God our last words had not been in bitterness.

Mait. He weeps. I never thought to see tears there. List!—she should not lie there thus. Strange it should move you so!—Think it a picture now. 'Tis but a well-wrought painting after all, if one but thinks so. See,—'tis but a sleeping girl, with the red summer light upon her cheek, and the slight breeze stirring her golden hair. Mark you that shoulder's grace?—They come.

(Leslie, Elliston, and others enter.)

Leslie. Oh God, was there none other? My lovely cousin, and—were you the victim? In your bridal glory chosen,—nay, with your heart's holiest law lured to the bloody altar! Yet this day's history, and something in that calm, high mien, tells me, as freely you had moved unto it, though God had spoken by a higher voice, and with a martyr's garland beckoned you.

Elliston. Our cause is linked unto that ancient one, the cause of Love and Truth; in which Heaven moves with unrelenting hand, not sparing its own loveliest ones, but unto bloody death freely delivering them.

(Grey and Leslie converse apart.)

Leslie. Yes—we will bury her here. 'Tis a fitting spot; and unto distant days, this lonely grave, with its ever-verdant canopy, shall be even as Love's Shrine. Thither, in the calm and smiling summers of those bloodless times shall many a fair young pilgrim come, to wonder at such love; and living eyes shall weep, and living hearts shall heave over its cruel fate, when unto her the long-told tale, and all the anguish of this far-off day, shall be even as the dim passage of some troubled dream. A martyr's garland she hath won indeed; true Love's young Martyr there she lies.

Elliston. Yet was that love but the wreathed and glittering weapon of a higher doom. In that holy cause, whose martyrs strew a thousand fields, truth's, freedom's, God's, darkly, by Power Invisible hath this young life been offered here.

A thousand graves like this, over all this lovely land, in lanes and fields, on the lonely hill-side, by the laughing stream, and in the depths of many a silent wood, to distant days shall speak—of blood-sealed destinies; with voices that no tyrant's power can smother, they shall speak.—

Leslie. The light of that chamber window, through the soft summer evening will shine here; no mournful memory of all the lovely past will it waken. The autumn blaze will flicker within those distant walls, and gather its pleasant circle again; but she will lie calmly here. For ever at her feet the river of her childhood shall murmur on, and many a lovely spring-time, like the spring-times of her childhood, shall come and go, but no yearning hope shall it waken here; the winter shall sing through the desolate boughs, and rear its fairy temples around her, but nought shall break her dreamless rest.—

Mait. Graves! Is it graves they are talking of? Will they bury this gay young bride! 'Tis but the name; there's nothing sad in it. In the lovely summer twilight shall her burial be, and thus; in all her bridal array, with the glory of the crimson sunset shining through the trees;—see what a fearful glow is kindling on her cheek, and that faint breeze—or, is it life that stirs these curls? Stay!—whose young brow is this?—Ha!—whose smile is this? Who is this they would hurry away into the darkness of death? The grave! Could you fold the rosy and all-speading beauty of heaven in the narrow grave? Helen, is it thee?—my heaven, my long-lost heaven; and, even now, but for mine own deed—Oh God! was there no hand but mine?—but for me—They shall not utter it,—there, thus. There's but one cry that could unfold this grief, but that would circle the round universe and fill eternity. A sad sight this! Is't known who killed this lady, Sir?

Leslie. Of all the wrecks of beautiful humanity that strew these paths, we have found none so sad as this!

Elliston. Mark you those groups of soldiers loitering on the road-side there?

An Officer. Curiosity. The regiment that was dismissed to-day. They'll be here anon.

Leslie. Ay, let them come.

Off. Look,—who comes up that winding pathway through the trees, with such a swift and stately movement? A woman! See how the rude soldiers turn aside with awe. Ah, she comes hither.

(A voice without.)

Where is she?—stand aside!—What have you here in this dark ring?—Henry—nay, let me come.

(Mrs. Grey enters the glen.)

Grey. For God's sake, Madam, let me lead you hence. This is no place for you. Look at this group of men, officers, soldiers—

Mrs. G. Would you cheat me thus? Is it no place for me? What kind of place is't then for her, whose—Oh God!—think you I do not see that slippered foot, nor know whose it is,—and whose plumed bonnet is it that lies crushed there at their feet?—unhand me, Henry.

Leslie. Nay, let her come,—'tis best.

(She passes swiftly through the parting group.)

Mrs. G. My daughter!—Blood? My stricken child smile you? No pity was there then? Speak to me, speak! Your mother's tears are on your brow, and heed you not? Nay, tell me all, my smitten one. This day's dark history will you never pour into my ear, that hath treasured so often your lightest grief? Alone through that wild anguish have you passed, and smile you now? I bade her trust in God. Did God see this?

(Arnold, and a group of Soldiers, enter the glen.)

Arnold. Look there. Ay, ay, look there. You were right, Leslie;—this is better than a battle-field. They'll find that this day's work will cost them dear.

Mrs. G. Did God, who loves as mothers love their babes, see this I Had I been there, with my love, in the heavens, could I have given up this innocent and tender child a prey to the wild Indians? No!—and legions of pitying angels waiting but my word. No,—no.

Elliston. Had you been there,—from that far centre whence God's eye sees all, you had beheld what lies in darkness here. Forth from this fearful hour you might have seen Peace, like a river, flowing o'er the years to come; and smiles, ten thousand, thousand smiles, down the long ages brightening, sown in this day's tears. Had you been there with God's all-pitying eye, the pitying legions had waited your word in vain, for once, unto a sterner doom, for the world's sake he gave his Son.

Mrs. G. Words! Look there. That mother warned me yesterday. "Words, words! My own child's blood,"—I see it now.

(A group of Soldiers enter.)

A. Soldier. (Whispering.) Who would have thought to see tears on his face; look you, Jack Richards.

Another Sol. 'Twas his sister, hush!—

Arnold. Ay, ay, come hither. Look you there! Lay down your arms. Seek the royal mercy;—here it is. Your wives, your sisters, and your innocent children;—let them seek the royal shelter;—it is a safe one. See.

3d Sol. It was just so in Jersey last winter;—made no difference which side you were.

Arnold. Ask no reasons.—'Twas in sport may be. 'Tis but one, in many such. Shameless tyranny we have borne long, and now, for resistance, to red butchery we are given over. The sport of lawless soldiers, and savages more cruel than the fiends in hell, are we, and the gentle beings of our homes;—but, 'tis the Royal power. Lay down your arms.

Soldiers. (Shouting.) No.

Arnold. Nay, nay,—in its caprice some will be safe,—it may not light on you. See, here's the proclamation. (Throwing it among them.) Pardon for rebles.

Soldiers. No—no. (Shouting.) Away with pardon!—(Tearing the proclamation.) To the death! Freedom for ever!

THE END

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