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The Rangers - [Subtitle: The Tory's Daughter]
by D. P. Thompson
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It was a dark and gloomy day in April, and the sleety storm was beating, in fitful gusts, against the broken and creaking casements, and the disjointed, loose, and leaky covering of an old, dilapidated log-house, standing by the road-side, in one of the thousand little dales, which, with their corresponding hills, so beautifully diversify the face of the town we have been describing. But as comfortless as this miserable hut was, and as poor and insufficient a protection from the elements as it afforded, even for the healthy and robust, it was now the only shelter of a sick and destitute woman, the widowed mother of Harry Woodburn. The hand of her son's persecutor, as it not unfrequently is seen to occur in the history of human oppression, was destined to fall even more heavily on her than on him for whom the blow was designed. The minion officer, selected by Peters for the purpose, had no sooner received his warrants, than, faithful to the cruel instructions of his employer, he had repaired post-haste to the residence of the absent Woodburn, of which he was authorized to take possession, and, with insults and abuse, rudely thrust the lone and unprotected occupant out of doors, in despite of all her entreaties for mercy, or delay till her son should return, or even for one day, to give her an opportunity to find some shelter for her now houseless head. He then, with the aid of the three or four ruffian assistants enlisted to accompany him, threw all the furniture out of the windows or doors into the mud and snow beneath where the whole, consisting of crockery and glasses, now half broken by the fall, and beds, linen, kettles, chairs, tables, and the like, soon lay piled promiscuously together. Having thus driven the terrified and distressed woman from the comfortable abode which had formerly cost her and her deceased husband so many years of toil to erect and furnish, and having, to add to the wrong, either injured or destroyed the greater part of her little stock of goods, by the wanton or careless manner in which they had been removed, this brutal officer next proceeded to the barn, and by virtue of his copias for costs, seized the cow and oxen, the last remaining property of the wronged and ruined young man, which, after intrusting the present keeping and defence of the premises to two of his band, he drove away to another part of the town, to be sold at the post, as soon as the forms of the law, respecting notice of the sale, could be complied with. The poor widow, half distracted at being thus suddenly bereft of house and home, spent the remainder of the day in vainly endeavoring to procure some tenement into which she could remove with her furniture, or with so much of it as might yet be saved. On the next day, however, as a last resort, she obtained and accepted the present use of the deserted cabin we have described, situated but a short distance from the house from which she had been ejected. And into this comfortless place, after several days of incessant toil and exposure, she succeeded in getting her damaged furniture, but not till her exertions, combined with her anxieties and grief, had given rise to a malady which, though not at first very threatening, became, each subsequent day, more and more alarmingly developed in her overtasked system. In this situation she was found by her son, who, being entirely ignorant that any judgment had passed against him, and, consequently, little dreaming what was taking place at home, had remained at Westminster nearly a week after the massacre, attending the public meetings, which, as we have before intimated, followed that event; when he returned to Guilford, and, with feelings bordering on desperation, learned the extent of his misfortunes. But the bitterness of his feelings, as great as it was, at being stripped of all his property through such a series of wrongs, soon became wholly merged in anxiety and grief for his sick and sorrow-stricken parent, and in the exasperating thought that her sickness and suffering proceeded from the same source with his other injuries. And close and unremitting had been his attentions to her, until the day previous to the one on which we have introduced her to the reader; when he had been induced to leave for Brattleborough, or other more distant towns, to try to obtain money to redeem his stock, which was now about to be sold, and which was worth more than double the amount, as he had recently ascertained, of the execution on which it had been seized. On the morning after his departure, she had become so much worse that she was compelled to take to her bed, and despatch her only attendant for a doctor. That attendant was Barty Burt, who had come down from Westminster with Woodburn, and had been engaged by the latter to remain with his mother during his absence. Having thus glanced over the events which had occurred previously to the opening of this new scene of our story, we will now return to the point we left to make the digression.

Slowly, to the suffering invalid, rolled the sad hours away, as with thick and labored breathing, she lay tossing upon her rude couch, standing behind a blanket-screen, in one corner of her cheerless abode. Occasionally she would raise her fevered head from the pillow, and seem to listen to catch the sounds of expected footsteps, and her languid eye would turn anxiously towards the door; when, after thus exerting her senses in vain a few moments, she would sink back upon her bed, with a long-drawn, sighing groan, which told alike of disappointment and bodily anguish. At length, however, footsteps were heard approaching, the door opened, and Barty Burt stilly glided into the apartment, and approached the bedside of the sufferer.

"You have come at last, then," said she, lifting her dim eyes to meet the face of the other. "It seemed as if you never would arrive. But where is the doctor?"

"He will be on afore long, mistress; but I've had a time on't in getting round, I tell ye!" replied Bart.

"I am very sorry, if you have had any unexpected trouble on my account," meekly observed the invalid; "but what has befallen you?"

"O, nothin," answered the former—"nothin, at least, but what I was willing to bear for Harry's sake, who invited me home here till I got business, or for yours, who let me be. Though to be stopped and bothered, when one is going for the doctor, is worse than I ever thought of humans before. But it shows their character—dum 'em!"

"Did they really stop you, knowing your errand?"

"Yes, that they did, mistress. As I was going by the tavern, a mile or two up the road yonder, three or four of them torified Yorkers came out, and told me I couldn't go for the doctor, nor nowhere else, without a pass from one of their committee. So I had to post back more than half way, to Squire Ashcrafts, and there had to be questioned a long while before he would give me any pass at all. And then again, when I got to the doctor's, he said he wanted a pass, too; for he darsent go to see a whig woman without one, which I must go and get him from Squire Evans, another committee man. Well, finding there was no other way to get him started, I went, feeling all the time just between crying and fighting. And as soon as I got the bit of paper into the doctor's hands, I put for home, leaving him fixing to come horseback, which is the reason of my getting here first."

"These are, indeed dreadful times," sighed the widow. "But they cannot always remain; for, though God may chastise us a while for our sins, yet the rods of the oppressors will surely be broken."

"I'd rather see their necks broken," responded Bart, dryly "When we left Westminster, I thought, as much as could be, the tories were all used up; but I find 'em down here thicker than ever now, and as sarcy and spiteful as a nest of yellow jackets that, like them, have been routed in one place and got fixed in another. Blast their picturs, how I hate 'em!"

"That is not right, Barty. You should love your enemies. Evil wishes, towards those who injure us, are both wicked and foolish."

"I don't understand, mistress."

"Why, Barty, to love is to be happy, as far as circumstances will permit; and to hate is but to feel disquieted and miserable. So when we keep the command to love our enemies, we obtain a reward which often outbalances the evil they inflict on us, or, at least, enables us the better to bear it; while, on the contrary, when we hate those who injure us, we receive a double evil—the wrong they inflict, and the unhappiness created by the exercise of our revengeful passions. Did you ever think of that, Barty?"

"No, mum; Harry talks kinder that way, sometimes; but I can't understand it, no how."

"With your means of moral instruction, perhaps it is not surprising that you should not; so I will drop the subject, and ask you if you heard any thing of Harry, while you were gone."

"No, mistress; didn't see nobody that knew he was gone."

"O, when will he return? He has now been gone two long, long days; but I must not repine."

"Why, mistress, I kinder guess he'll be along to-night, unless so be he's met with considerable bother to get the money, or somethin. He must be here afore to-morrow afternoon, when the sale is, you know."

"Yes, I knew the sale was delayed till town meeting day, which is to-morrow, I believe; though for what reason they put it off I never heard. Harry felt so bitter about the affair, that I thought I would not disturb his feelings by making any allusions to the subject. But there appeared to be something about it that I didn't understand. Why didn't the sale take place last week, as first appointed?"

"For as good a reason as ever a tory officer had for doing any thing—or not doing any thing, may be, I should say—in the world," replied Bart with a knowing look.

"What was it?"

"Why, when the day come, he couldn't find any cattle to sell."

"What had become of them?"

"Well, mistress, I don't know how much it is best to say about that, considering. But I shouldn't be surprised," continued the speaker, while a sly, roguish expression stole over his usually grave, impenetrable countenance, "that is, not much surprised, if it turned out that two or three of Harry's friends got the cattle out of the barn where they were keeping, one dark night, and driv 'em off into the woods, near the top of Governor's Mountain, and then backed up hay enough to keep 'em a spell; while the company took turns, for a few days, in going a hunting over the mountain, so as to come round, once in a while, to fodder and see to the creters, for which old Bug-Horn paid in milk, on the spot. Now, mind, I haven't said I knew this was so, but was only kinder guessing at it; for all that's really known about it—that is, out loud—is, that Fitch and his men found the cattle up there; and the way they found them was by following up the trail made by the hay straws that some one, after a while, grew careless enough to scatter from his back-load along the path."

"Did my son have any hand in this affair?" asked the widow, anxiously.

"No, mistress; Harry is so kinder notional about some things, that we thought—that is, I guess some thought—it wasn't best to say any thing to him about the plan till his cattle were fairly saved."

"I am glad to hear it. I should rather see him deprived of his last penny than do a questionable act. We should never do wrong because others have done wrong to us."

"There is a differ between your think and mine, I see, mistress. If they did wrong in getting away Harry's cattle so, as every body knows they did, then the tother of that—getting them back again—must be right. But you needn't tell any body what I've said, mistress; for they might, perhaps, have Bill Piper and me up, and try to make barglary out of it—or simony, I don't know but the law folks would call it—the breaking into a log-barn. But hush! Somebody's coming. It is the doctor."

Doctor Soper, who now entered, was a small, pug-nosed, chubby man, of ostentatious manners, and high pretensions to skill and knowledge in his profession; though, in fact, he was but a quack, and of that most dangerous class, too, who dip into books rather to acquire learned terms than to study principles, and who, consequently, as often as otherwise, are found "doctoring to a name," which chance has suggested, but which has little connection with the case which is engaging their attention.

"Ah, how do you find yourself, madam?" said the doctor, throwing off his dripping overcoat, and drawing up a chair towards the head of the patient's bed.

"Very ill, doctor," replied the other. "Not so much on account of the loss of strength, as yet, as the deeply-seated pain in the chest, which, for the last twenty-four hours, has caused me great suffering; though, for the last half hour, not so severe."

"Indeed, madam! Well, now for the diagnosis of your disease. I pride myself on diagnostics. Your wrist, madam, if you please," said the doctor, proceeding to feel the pulse of his patient, with an air intended for a very professional one. "Tense—frequent—this pulse of yours, madam; showing great irritability. Your tongue, now. Ay—rubric—dry and streaked; usual prognostics of neuralgy. Pretty much made up my mind about your complaint coming along, madam, having learned from your lad here something of your troubles and fright on losing your home. And I was right, I see. It is neuralgy—decidedly a neuralgy."

"What is that, doctor?"

"Always happy to explain, madam, so as to bring my meaning within the comprehension of common minds. Neuralgy madam, is a derangement of the nerves. Your disease, precisely."

"Why, I am not at all nervous, sir," responded the patient, looking up in surprise.

"You may not think so, madam. Few do, in your case."

"And then, doctor, I have an intense inward fever," persisted the other, "and my lungs seem much affected."

"Nervous fever, madam," returned the doctor, too wise to be instructed, "and lungs sympathetically affected—that's all. Quiet and strengthen the nerves, and all will be right in a short time. I shall prescribe Radix Rhei, in small doses, assafoetida, quinine, and brandy bitters of my own pieparing. These, with nourishing food, as soon as you can bear it, will speedily restore you, madam."

Having dealt out the prescribed medicines, calculated rather to increase than check the poor woman's malady, which was inflammation of the lungs, the self-satisfied doctor, swelling with his own importance, departed, leaving his patient now to contend with two evils, instead of one—a dangerous disease, and the more dangerous effects of a quack's prescription.

"What time is it now, Barty?" asked the invalid, with a deep sigh, as she awoke from a troubled slumber, into which she had fallen after the doctor's departure.

"Why, don't know exactly, mistress," answered Bart, rousing himself from the dreamy abstraction in which he had been indulging, as he sat looking into the decaying fire—"don't know, exactly; but it has got a considerable piece into the night. About nine o'clock, guess; may be more."

"Nine o'clock at night, and Harry not yet returned!" sighed the invalid. "Well, well, I will complain no more."

"Can I do any thing for you, mistress?" asked her untutored attendant, touched at the sad and despondent tone of the other.

"You may bring me in a pitcher of fresh, cold water, with some ice in it, if you will, Barty," replied the former. "It seems to me as if this inward heat was consuming my vitals, since I took the doctor's medicines."

The youth, with noiseless step, then disappeared with his pitcher, and, in a few moments, returned with it filled with water and several pieces of clear, pure ice, which were heard dashing against its sides.

"How grateful!" said the sick woman, as she took from her lips the wooden cup which had been filled and handed her by her attendant, and from which she had eagerly drained nearly a pint of the cooling beverage at a single draught. "There, now, set the pitcher on the table yonder, and raise the largest piece of ice up in sight, so, as I lie here, I can look at it. The mere sight of it seems to do me good."

Another dreary hour rolled away in silence, which was broken only by the restless motions and occasional suppressed groans of the invalid within, and the wailing of the winds and the pattering of the rain against the windows without, when a slow, heavy step was heard coming up to the house.

"That is he—that is his step!" faintly exclaimed the sick woman, partially raising herself in bed, and gazing eagerly towards the door; while her pain-contracted features were, for the moment, smoothed by the smile of affection and pleasure that now broke over them, like the faint electric illumining of a weeping cloud.

The quick ears of the afflicted mother had not deceived her. The next instant Harry Woodburn entered the room, and, with a gloomy, abstracted air, proceeded to divest himself of his wet coat and muddy boots, without uttering a word, or bestowing any thing more than a casual glance towards the bed, to which he supposed his mother had just retired, as was usual with her, about this hour, and not suspecting that she was more indisposed than when he left her. But as he now turned and approached the fire, his eyes fell, for the first time, on her haggard features when, stopping short, with a look of surprise and lively concern, he exclaimed,—

"Mother! are you worse, mother?"

"Yes, Harry, I am very, very sick; and O, how glad I am that you are come."

For several moments he said nothing, but stood gazing at her with the distressed and stupefied air of one struggling to shut out painful apprehensions. At length, however, he aroused himself, and made a few hasty inquiries relative to her disorder, and what had been done for her; and, having been informed of all that had occurred in his absence, and now appearing fully to comprehend the danger of her situation, he sat down by her bedside, when his lip soon began to quiver, and his strong bosom heave with tumultuous emotions, while bitter tears flowed down his manly cheeks, as this crowning blow to his misfortunes was brought home to his feelings.

"Had they been content," he said, struggling hard, but vainly, to master his feelings—"had they but been content with robbing me of my property, I could have borne it; but to be the means, also, of murdering my only parent, is more than I can endure. God help me, or I shall go mad!"

"Do not—do not be so distressed, my son," said the mother deeply touched at this exhibition of feeling, accompanied as it was with such a proof of filial affection in her idolized son, and anxious to soothe and divert his mind. "I shall recover, if God wills it. Let us, then, bow in resignation to his dispensations, and not disturb our feelings with unavailing regrets. Come, my dear son, cheer up, and tell me how you have succeeded in the object of your journey."

"No success," he replied, gloomily. "No; I have been running from town to town since yesterday morning, and have not been able to obtain a single dollar. So the cattle must go to satisfy the stolen judgment of that insatiable Peters."

At this moment the conversation was arrested by a low rap at the door, when, after the customary walk in had been pronounced by Woodburn, the door was gently opened, and a tall robust young man, with a frank, open countenance, hesitatingly entered.

"Good evening, folks," he said, in a suppressed tone. "I didn't exactly know what to do about calling to-night, on account of disturbing your mother, Harry; but wishing to know whether you had got home, and hear the news if you had, I thought I would venture to rap. What is going on up country?"

"Nothing very new, I believe, Mr. Piper."

"Well, what luck about the money, Harry?"

"None—none whatever."

"I am sorry for that. No, I won't lie, now; I am not sorry, Harry; and I will tell you why, hereafter. All I wanted to know to-night was, whether you had got the wherewith to redeem the cattle, to-morrow being the last chance for doing it, you know."

"Yes, I was aware of it, friend Piper; and many thanks for the interest you take in my misfortunes. But I cannot redeem the stock. It must go: nothing more can be done to save it."

"Well, I don't quite know about that, Harry. I don't know about standing by, and seeing a neighbor's property snatched away from him on such smuggled papers. But let that turn as it may, the subject brings to mind a certain circumstance, which I will name, after first asking a question; and that is, whether Peters has not been hung?"

"Peters hung? Why, no; the prisoners are not to be tried till the new court we have been appointing at Westminster holds its first session, some weeks hence. But why do you ask so strange a question?"

"Well, Harry, by way of answer, I will tell you the circumstance I alluded to, which was this: Last night, as I was crossing about town drumming up friends to attend the meeting tomorrow, seeing we are expecting a hard tussle, I met a man that I could have sworn was John Peters, if I had not known the fellow was close in Northampton jail; and as it was, I could swear it was his exact shape and appearance. Well, knowing it could not be him bodily, it soon struck me that they had been hanging off a parcel of them there, Peters among the rest, and that this was his ghost, kinder hovering about here to see if his affairs were fixed up to his liking."

"Your notion of a ghost, Piper, if you are serious about it, is a11 nonsense," said Woodburn, who had listened with lively interest to the singular story of the other. "Yes, that is nonsense; but it has brought to mind a rumor which reached Brattleborough yesterday, that all the prisoners at Northampton had been liberated by habeas corpus from the chief justice of New York, and were now at large. Although this was not credited, yet, if you saw Peters here last night, as I begin to fear, the story must have been true. And he appears here, at this time, for the double purpose of seeing, as you said, whether his orders have been carried into execution, and of being present to use his corrupting influence at town meeting to-morrow."

"Well, Harry, that's about what I meant; for I saw him sure enough, and knew, at once, that we had got to have him against us at town meeting, which makes our case rather doubtful. We felt quite sure, before this, of being able to carry a majority; and in that case, some of us counted on getting a vote to rescue your cattle, or, at least, putting them into the hands of our sheriff. [Footnote: During the period of anarchy, change, and discord, in this distracted town, each of the belligerent parties had their sheriff, or constable, and other town officers, and would yield obedience to the officers of their opponents only on compulsion, though the officers of the majority were not generally resisted, except, perhaps, in matters purely political.] And either of these ways would be the means, we thought, of saving your property, and, at the same time, be a plaguy sight more lawful than any authority they have for selling them. But now there's no saying how it will go. I expect hot work there to-morrow; and that minds me to ask if you heard whether help from the towns up the river is coming down to join us on the occasion?"

"Yes, Tom Dunning came down with me, and he informed me that several others were on the way."

"Good. Tom himself, in matter of managing, will be almost a match for Peters, whether ghost or no ghost. But where is he?"

"He stopped back at the Liberty Pole tavern."

"All happens right, then. I am bound there myself. We are going to hold a little meeting at the Pole, after folks are to bed, to make up our plans and arrangements for to-morrow. You can't go, I suppose."

"No, I must not think of it."

"But you will be at town meeting to-morrow?"

"Quite uncertain. In the first place, I ought not to leave my sick mother; and in the next, my feelings are in such a state of bitterness, that I dare hardly trust myself in such a scene, lest I should do that which would cost me months of painful regret. No, Piper, in mercy to a desperate man, let me keep away. But here is Bart to go, if he choose, both to-night and tomorrow."

"Bart is agreeable to that, if Harry and mistress don't want him," said the person just named, rousing up from the long-silent reverie in which he had been sitting before the fire apparently inattentive to the conversation of the others, which had been carried on in a low tone, at the opposite side of the room. "So here goes for the Pole to-night, and meeting to-morrow," he added, taking down his gun from the pegs on which it was suspended, near the ceiling above,

"What do you want to do with that, Bart?" asked Woodburn.

"I want it for lining to my coat," replied Bart. "If our coats had all been lined in that fashion, the first night there, at Westminster, we needn't have had to attend French's funeral, nor you been troubled about the papers they got out when you was in jail."

"Bravo, Bart. You see that my coat is not wanting of that kind of lining, don't you?" said Piper, throwing open his greatcoat and displaying a rifle, as the two now left the house together, on their way to the rendezvous of the liberty party.



CHAPTER X.

"Agreed in nothing, but t' abolish, Subvert, extirpate, and demolish."

"Hurrah for Vermont! hurrah for the new state of Vermont! The victory is won, and the town is redeemed! hurrah! hurrah!"

Such were the sounds that rose and rung among the rafters of the crowded old log Town House of Guilford, as, for the first time for several years, a New Statesman and whig moderator was declared elected by a majority of the suffrages of the freemen. The next moment, the door was seen vomiting forth its throng of excited victors, who, as they reached the open air, joined the crowd eagerly awaiting the result at the entrance, and, with them, renewed and reiterated the glad shout, till the distant hills responded in loud echoes to the roar of the stentorian voices of the triumphant party.

After a fortnight's active exertions on the part of each of the opposing parties, in mustering and drilling their respective forces, preparatory to the approaching contest, in which both were equally confident of victory, though too sensible of the danger of losing it to remit any effort, the voters had assembled at one o'clock in the afternoon. After spending several hours in a disorderly and wrangling debate, in relation to the qualification of voters, which at last resulted in rejecting the test required by the charter,—that of being a freeholder,-and in permitting every resident to vote, the ballots had been taken for moderator, or chairman of the meeting, when, as much to the dismay of the tories as the joy of their opponents, it was found that victory, in a majority of three, had declared for the latter, who thereupon testified their exultation in the uproarious manner we have described.

After a while, the noise and tumult within the house was suddenly hushed, and the clear, deliberate tones of some new speaker addressing the assembly, became audible to those without the building; while the attent and eager looks of those who stood listening in the crowded pass-way, plainly evinced that some important and exciting subject had been introduced. At length the voice ceased, and a new commotion ensued within.

"What new movement is that? what is going on in there now, Piper?" asked one standing near the door, as one young man came elbowing his way out of the house.

"Why, they are on Colonel Carpenter's resolution. Haven't none of you here been in there to hear it?" said Piper, turning to the querist and other political associates, standing near by.

"No; what is it about?" inquired several of the latter, with interest.

"The York Rule," answered Piper, with an animated air. "The colonel offered a resolve that we shake off the York government now, henceforth and forever. And this he backed with a speech which would have done you good to hear. He went into them, I tell you, like a thousand of brick; and not a single tory tongue of 'em all dare wag in trying to answer it. They are now beginning to vote on the resolution, which, if carried, the colonel intends to follow up by another, cutting up all British authority root and branch."

At this moment, they were joined by Tom Dunning, who came hurrying out of the house, and, taking Piper aside, said,—

"Do you ditter understand the plan of what's going on there, Piper, and the importance to you here, in Guilford, of carrying it?"

"Not fully, perhaps," answered Piper. "I didn't have a chance to talk with Carpenter and the other committee before this move was made, and don't understand why they did not urge on the election of the other town officers, as usual, after making a moderator, instead of getting up these resolutions."

"Der well, this is it; they are afraid to ditter try any of the town officers on so slim a majority, lest the tory candidates should have got some of our voters under their thumbs, by way of debts or other obligations, which they will der make use of to get their votes for them personally, but won't have 'em pledged for this."

"That is well thought of," responded Piper. "They have indeed got the screws on some I know of, and would so threaten 'em with prosecutions, that I'm fearful they would get 'em, sure enough. But what's the prospect about the resolutions?"

"Well, the colonel thinks, after what has ditter taken place at Westminster, that we can carry them; and if we can, it will pretty effectually tie 'em up, even if they got their officers. But we der don't mean to let 'em. For the plan is, that as soon as we've ditter carried the resolves, to dissolve the meeting without making any town officers at all, which we think can be carried by the same voters, and which if we can ditter do it, with the resolves, will kill Fitch and his papers as dead as a ditter dum smelt, and so save the property of Harry, and that of all others in the same der situation."

"Good!" exclaimed Piper, with animation; "I see through the move now; and we'll go at 'em, and whip 'em out on it; and then if Fitch don't give up the cattle, we'll make him, by the course we thought of taking, last night, in case we failed electing our officers to-day, or of getting any vote on Harry's affair."

"Yes; but we must be ditter lively in getting in the voters. You and Bart go in and vote; and I will beat about the bush, here, for more help, before I go in; for as they have just admitted some to vote on a twenty hours' residence,—as I can ditter swear they did,—I intend to vote myself, this time, and have all those from my way der do the same," said the hunter, bustling off to muster his forces.

Just as Dunning, who had collected a band of voters, without much regard to their qualifications, was pushing into the house at the head of his recruits, an outcry was raised within; and, the next moment, Bart Burt was seen hastily emerging from the crowd, followed by the kicks and cudgel-blows of the tories, through whom he had been compelled, to save himself from a rougher handling, to run the gauntlet to the door.

"What, in the name of der Tophet, is the meaning of that ditter treatment, ye shameless lubbers?" sternly demanded the hunter, shaking his stout beech cane over the heads of the fore most of his opponents.

"He deserves it! He is an impostor! He tried to get in his vote when he aint over eighteen years old!" shouted several tory voices in reply.

"They let me vote last time without a word," said Bart, facing round upon his foes, with a grin of spite and pain; "and so they did John Stubbs and Jo Snelling, then and now too; and they aint a day older than I be."

"Then we will der have you in, and vote too, if the ditter divil stands at the door!" fiercely exclaimed the hunter.

"Let them prove he aint one and twenty," said one of the same party. "He wasn't born in these parts, nor does he know himself, I understand, where he was born, or how old he is; and until they can prove him under age, I motion, blow high or blow low, that we make them receive his vote."

"Aye, he shall vote! he shall vote!" shouted a dozen others. "They have admitted others under age, and they shall him, whether or no! Let them live up to their own rules! Sauce for goose is sauce for gander, the world over; they shall take him, they shall take him!"

A hasty consultation was now held, and a plan of operations for compelling the opposite party to admit Bart to the polls was soon digested. And, in pursuance of this plan, Bart, who was short and light of weight, was mounted astride the brawny shoulders of Dunning, while Piper, with his burly frame, was placed in front, with a stiff cudgel in hand, to act as the battering-ram or entering wedge to the crowd of tories, who had closed up the way with their bodies, obviously to prevent Bart, or any other whig, indeed, from again entering till the ballot-box was turned. Eight or ten stout, resolute young men were then selected and formed in column to bring up the rear, and give such an impetus to those before them as to force them forward in spite of all opposing obstacles, till they reached the voters' stand in the house.

"Ditter ready, boys?" now cried Dunning, firmly grasping Bart's legs, and glancing over his shoulders to his lusty little band of backers. "All ready there, behind, boys? Then go ahead, as if ditter Belzebub kicked ye an end!"

At the word, Piper, gathering himself up like a ram for a butting match, made a lunge head foremost into the recoiling ranks of the tories, and, borne irresistibly forward by the force of the rushing phalanx behind, overthrew, prostrated, and shoved aside, all before him, till the whole column gained the interior, and came to a halt before the ballot-box.

"I protest against that fellow's voting!" exclaimed Peters, approaching the stand as Bart, from his lofty seat on Dunning's shoulders, was about to put in his vote, which was a simple yea written on a slip of paper, and handed up to him by some one stationed near the box to furnish the unsupplied. "I protest against such a glaring outrage! He is under age, and was very properly driven from the house."

"Prove it! prove it!" shouted several of Bart's friends.

"You can't do it," cried another, "and if you could, two of your party, who are under age, have voted already; 'tis a fact; deny it if you can!"

"In with it, Bart!" said Dunning, bending down to give the other a chance.

"Yes, in with it; for he shall vote!" responded the rest.

"He shall not vote!" vociferated Peters; "and if he attempts to do it; I'll blow his brains out!" he added, pulling out and levelling a pistol. Quick as thought, Bart threw open his over-coat, and, drawing from beneath it the light short gun there concealed, cocked, and brought it to his shoulder; while the threatening weapon of his foe was seen flying to a distant part of the room, from a sudden blow of Piper's cudgel, and its disarmed and nonplused owner slinking away out of the range of the suspicious-looking barrel still kept aimed at his head.

Amidst the loud cries of order, and the heated vociferations of both parties, now raised to condemn or defend the transaction, through the house, Bart, Dunning, and others of their company, who had not voted, now hastily deposited their votes, and retired unmolested.

Although the portion of the revolutionary party, whose movements we have been more particularly describing, acting on the supposed and probably actual frauds of their opponents, had thus secured Bart's vote, and the votes of two or three others, perhaps equally illegal, yet the event soon showed that their policy in so doing was a mistaken one, and calculated to defeat the very object they intended to promote; for, as will always be the result where one party attempts to adopt the wrongful measures of their opponents, the tories, now armed with the fact that they had detected the other party in a wrong more glaring, because more public, than any they had perpetrated, made use of the advantage with such effect as to bring over several, intending to support the resolutions, to change their intention, and go against them. And, in addition to this, by way of retaliating, and of making good at least all the ground lost by the questionable votes forced upon them, they brought forward every minor they could find approximating the size of a man, and boldly demanded their admittance to the polls. An opposition was, indeed, attempted to a measure so manifestly illegal, by the leaders of the other party; but they had become too much disarmed by the acts of their own partisans to produce any sensible effect; and their voices were soon drowned by the clamors of the tories, who now admitted the boys by acclamation. This, as will be anticipated, decided the contest. On counting the votes, the resolution was found to have been rejected by more than a dozen majority-a victory which the tories failed not to announce by shouts of exultation, which out-thundered those of their opponents in their late short-lived triumph. The friends of freedom, being thus caught in their own trap, or, at least, worsted by the indiscretion of their own friends, now pretty much yielded the contest: while the victorious Yorkers and tories had everything in their own way, electing their town officers, passing denunciatory and royal resolutions, and continuing their discussions unopposed till it was nearly dark, when the meeting broke up in noisy confusion.

"Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!" was now heard crying the well-known voice of Constable Fitch, as he mounted a stump in the yard; while near by stood a gang of his confederates, hedging in Woodburn's cow and oxen, which the former had found the means to have on the spot, in readiness for the sale, the moment the assembly broke up. "Oyez! A cow and oxen, taken on execution, now about to be sold to the highest bidder, gentlemen. We will take the oxen first; as fine a yoke as ever drew plough Who will give us the first bid? Shan't dwell three minutes. Who bids, I say? One pound bid, gentlemen; one pound ten! one pound ten! and on Mr. Peters. Who bids higher?"

But, as rapid as had been the constable's movements, he did not, as he intended, take the friends of Woodburn by surprise. They had withdrawn from the meeting a short time before it dissolved, and met for consultation in the rear of the house, where, having arranged their plan of operations, they stood awaiting for the proper time to carry it into execution.

"There!" exclaimed Dunning, as the constable began to cry the sale in the manner we have just described—"there, that is ditter Fitch; he is at it! All ready, boys? You, Piper and Bart, with your vials of oil of vitriol in your sleeves, ready to uncork on to their ditter tails?"

"Ay, ay!"

"And your ditter snuff to throw into their eyes?"

"Yes, that, too."

"And your guns ditter cocked, and safe under your coats you that are to fire?"

"Ay, all right and ready—lead on!"

"Der well, but remember we ditter separate here, so as to come up on different sides of the crowd; and mind, don't let off your guns till the creatures begin to ditter grow uneasy and der snort and blow."

While Fitch was repeating the bids he had received for the oxen, and was about to knock them off to the highest bidder, which still chanced to be Peters, he was suddenly told to hold on, by several persons who had just at that moment made their appearance in different parts of the crowd, and who expressed their wish to bid, as soon as they could get up to examine the cattle. Owing to the duskiness, the faces of the new comers did not seem to be recognized by the tories, who unsuspectingly opened and admitted them to the stand. Quickly availing themselves of the opportunity, the former, among the foremost of whom were Piper and Bart, now crowded eagerly round the cattle, and, after rapidly passing their hands over the cow and each of the oxen a moment, and then stepping back, began to banter and bid. Not much time, however, was allowed them to do either; for the cattle, all at once, became unaccountably restless, at first backing and wheeling about in their confined space, and then wildly tossing up their heads, snuffing, and assuming the startled and furious appearance generally exhibited by this class of animals when about to make a desperate effort to break away.

At this critical juncture, the fierce flashes and stunning reports of a half dozen muskets burst over the heads of the startled and astonished company from various points on the outer edge of the crowd; and the next instant the already maddened cattle, with loud snorts, leaping over or trampling down all in their way, broke through the living hedge of tories around them, and bounded off, with their tails thrown aloft, and bellowing in wild affright, in different directions, towards the woods, leaving the amazed and broken crowd jostling and pitching about with exclamations of surprise, groans of pain, volleys of oaths, and shouts of laughter, all mingled in Babel-like confusion.

"'Tis all the work of the cursed rebels!" exclaimed Peters, the first to rally and comprehend the affair. "Fitch!" he added, pointing after the runaway cattle, "where the devil are your wits, that you don't order a pursuit?"

"Yes, pursue and bring 'em back, instantly!" screamed the constable, awaking from the stupor and confusion of ideas into which he seemed to have been thrown by the strange and unexpected occurrence. "Yes,'tis an unlawful rescue—it's a conspiracy! bring back the cattle! seize the offenders, every one of 'em! in the king's name I command ye."

Obedient to the call, the obsequious tories instantly rallied for the pursuit, and, breaking off into three distinct bands, eagerly set forward in the different directions taken by the fugitive cattle, then just disappearing over the distant swells, or in the borders of the woods. Dunning, Piper and Bart, who, in the mean while, had, unknown and unsuspected in the darkness and confusion, stood in the throng, keenly watching the result of their plan, no sooner heard the expected order of pursuit given, than, separating, like their opponents, and each joining a different band of the pursuers, they sprang in before the rest, and, by their superior alacrity and speed, soon succeeded in taking the lead and finally in completely distancing all others in the promiscuous chase. The tories, now soon wholly losing sight of their fleet and, as they still supposed, trusty guides in the pursuit, became, in a short time, confused and at fault respecting the courses to be taken; and, after hallooing and running about the woods and pastures at random, nearly an hour, without discovering any traces either of the lost cattle or the missing pursuers, at length came straggling back to the Town House, and, by way of saving their own credit, reported to Fitch, Peters, and the small party remaining there, that their swiftest runners were last seen nearly up with the cattle, and would soon be in with them, or that the creatures had been headed, and were on their way back, in another direction. On this, the company waited another hour; when, neither the cattle nor the expected pursuers appearing, they began to suspect something amiss; and the inquiries and investigations then put afoot soon resulted in the mortifying conviction, that the cattle had been overtaken and driven off by the same persons who previously had caused them to break away. Prompted by the enraged Peters, Fitch then offered a reward for the recovery of the cattle and the detection of those who had abducted them; when the company separated, to resume the search the next day. But although this was done, and the country scoured in every direction for several days, yet the search proved wholly fruitless. Not one of the cattle was to be found. Nor were the actors in the transaction, with any certainty, identified, though the absence of Piper and Bart, for some days after the event, caused them to be suspected and marked for punishment, when they should again appear abroad.

CHAPTER XI.

"Vital spark of heavenly flame! Quit, O quit this mortal frame! Trembling, hoping, lingering, flying, O the pain, the bliss of dying! Cease, fond nature! cease thy strife, And let me languish into life."

Perhaps the nearest and dearest, as well as the most interesting tie of consanguity, is that existing between mother and son. Who has not witnessed the unfailing and unconquerable strength of a mother's love for the son of her heart and her vows, cleaving to its object through prosperity and through adversity, through honor and through shame, with a constancy which never wavers? And what son, especially after the thoughtlessness of youth has given place to the reflection of maturer years, and experience has taught him the insincerity and selfishness of the world—what son has not turned back and lingered, with the most grateful emotions, over the pleasing memories of a mother's care; pondered with the most heart-felt admiration over the deep, pure, and undying nature of a mother's love; realized more and more the priceless value of a sentiment so fraught with moral beauty, so exalted, so proof against all those considerations of self, those temptations of interest, before which all other ties are seen to give way, and, while thus realizing, found his yearning bosom oftener and oftener prompting him to exclaim with the poet,—

"Where'er I roam, whatever realms I see, My heart, untravelled, fondly turns to thee."

While the scenes of disorder and tumult we last described, and the similar ones that followed, were being enacted among the belligerent parties of this misgoverned town, the dutiful and sorrowing Woodburn was continuing his attendance on his sick mother, from whose bedside no call of business or of pleasure was suffered for a single hour to lure him. And well might he have done so, aside even from the dictates of filial duty; for she was a woman not only of unaffected piety, but of education and intellect; and to her he had been mainly indebted for all that was good and elevated in his character. She had emigrated with her husband to this town, at an early period of its settlement from the vicinity of Boston, where the latter had become so much straitened in his pecuniary circumstances, in consequence of being surety for an improvident and luckless brother, that he was induced, with the hope of bettering his fortunes, to gather up the poor remnant of his property, and, with it, remove to the New Hampshire Grant's, at that time the Eldorado most in vogue among those seeking new countries. Here, having purchased one of the best tracts of land in the place, he commenced the slow and laborious process of clearing up a new farm. And this Herculean task, which may well be considered the work of a man's life, he had, after years of incessant toil and privation, nearly succeeded in accomplishing, and begun to catch glimpses of easier and brighter days; when he was taken away by disease, leaving his property to his wife and son, an only child, then drawing towards manhood. And nobly had that son discharged the double duty which now devolved upon him,—that of becoming the stay and comforter of his widowed mother, and the sole manager of the farm, their only dependence. For, while discharging his filial duties in such a manner as to gain him the reputation of being a pattern of a son, he not only kept good, but, by his industry and enterprise, even improved, the property to which he had thus succeeded. And he was fast surmounting the difficulties of his situation, and making hopeful advances towards a competence, when, in an evil hour, his flourishing little establishment attracted the coveting eye of the unconscionable Peters, who, owning an adjoining farm, which would be rendered much more salable by being united with Woodburn's, undertook, at first, to wheedle the young man into a sale, or rather an exchange of his valuable farm for another, or wild lands, at false valuations and of doubtful titles. But, finding himself wholly mistaken in the character of the person whom he thus endeavored to overreach, and consequently failing in his attempt, he next began to think of the quibbles of the law, as the means of accomplishing his purpose. And having discovered some slight irregularity in Woodburn's deed, to begin upon, he then resorted to a trick quite fashionable among the corrupt speculators of those unsettled times—that of purchasing from some unprincipled person, ready, for a small sum, to enter into the fraud, a deed of prior date to that of the one to be defeated, with descriptions of premises and references to suit the purchaser the worthless assumed owner neither knowing nor caring what his deed might convey. Having secretly procured a prior deed of Woodburn's farm in this manner, Peters could see but one obstacle now in the way of his success, which was the town records, embracing that of Woodburn's deed. How was this to be disposed of? A bold measure, which could be executed by his minions under political pretences, occurred to him; and the result was, that part of the town record soon disappeared. Peters then commenced an action against Woodburn, to eject him from his farm, the course and consequences of which are already known to the reader.

Spring had now come; but its bland and balmy breath brought no relief to the suffering widow. From the hour she had been compelled to take to her bed, her disease, though sometimes lulled, or raging less fiercely than at other times, had never for a moment loosened its tenacious grasp. And although her cheerful words, and meek, uncomplaining looks, had often misled her anxious son, or, at least, prevented him from despairing of her recovery, yet the dry, parched, red tongue, the daily return of the bright hectic spot, and the tense, hurrying and unvarying beat of the strained pulses, might have told him how certainly and rapidly the work of destruction was going on at the citadel of life, and better prepared him for the agonizing scene which was now to follow.

It was a calm and pleasant evening towards the close of April, and the low descending sun was shedding the mellow light of his parting beams over the joyful face of reanimating nature. The invalid, during all the fore part of the day, had suffered greatly from pain—that general and undefinable distress which is so frequently found to be the precursor of approaching dissolution. To this had succeeded a sort of lethargic sleep, from which it was not easy to arouse her, so that she could be made to take any notice of what was passing around her. But now she awoke, clear and collected; and, glancing round the room, with a sort of pensive animation, met and answered the inquiring and solicitous look of her son with an affectionate smile. Presently her wandering eye rested on some objects of the landscape, glimpses of which she had caught through one of the small patched windows of the room, and she faintly observed,—

"How pleasant it appears without! Harry," she continued after a thoughtful pause, "could you take out that window before me? I feel a desire to look out once more on the green earth and breathe the sweet air of spring."

"Yes, mother," said the other, approaching the bed, with a surprised and hesitating air; "yes, I could easily do it, I presume; but would it be quite safe for you to be exposed to the evening air?"

"Yes, Harry; the time for the exercise of such cares is gone by. You need fear no more for me, now, my son," she replied in accents of tender sadness.

The son then, with a doubtful and troubled look, proceeded in silence to comply with the unexpected request; after which, he gently raised the head of the invalid, who, thereupon, gazed long and thoughtfully on the variegated landscape, which lay spread out in tranquil beauty beneath her dimly-kindling eye.

"How beautiful!" she at length feebly exclaimed, in a tone of melancholy rapture—"beautiful of itself, but more beautiful as the type of man's destiny after his body has mingled with the dust. The scene we here behold, my son, exhibits the resurrection of nature. In summer the foliage and blossom expands, in autumn the fruit is perfected, and in winter the visible part falls back to earth and perishes, leaving the hidden seed or germ to spring forth again into another life. So it has been, so it will be, with me. I have had my brief summer of life, my still briefer autumn, and now my winter of death is at hand, from which I trust to come forth into the more glorious spring of life eternal."

"Do not talk thus, mother," responded the son, greatly moved—"do not talk thus: you distress me. I trust you may yet recover. You certainly look brighter this evening; and I hope another day will find you still better."

"No, Harry, not better, as you mean. If I appear brighter, it is but the brightness of the last flashing up of the expiring taper. I feel that my time is come, and thanks to Him who has prepared my heart to hail the event as a relief and a blessing."

"O, my mother, my mother, how can I part with you?"

"My longer sojourn here, my son, would be of little benefit to others—even to you: my blessing is worth more than would be my further abiding: come and receive it."

The weeping son then knelt down at the bedside, and the mother laying her hand on his head, pronounced her blessing and a brief prayer for his earthly prosperity and eternal happiness.

For several minutes, the son, overcome by his emotions, remained kneeling, with his head, on which still languidly rested the emaciated hand of his dying mother, bowed upon the bed-clothes, while the latter, sinking back exhausted on her pillow, closed her eyes, and seemed to be silently communing with herself. She soon, however, aroused herself, and observed,—

"My work is not yet quite done. I have a little more to say before the scene closes."

"Say on, mother," said the other, making an effort to calm himself, as he now rose, and, taking a seat near, wistfully rivetted his gaze on her pallid face. "If you are, indeed, about to leave me forever, withhold nothing you feel inclined to communicate; for your dying counsels, my dear parent, will be received with pleasure and gratitude, and treasured up in heart and memory as the last, best lesson of one to whom I am under such countless obligations."

"You have ever acted the part of a dutiful son towards me, Harry; and that is always a mother's best reward for her care and affection for her offspring. And I know not that I have aught now to say to you, by way of counsel for your future guidance, being willing to leave you to practise upon the principles I have endeavored to inculcate, and be to others what you have been to me. But it was not of that I intended to speak. I was about to name some facts connected with our early reverses, which, it being always unpleasant to recur to those scenes of trial, I think I have never told you, but which, I thought, it might, perhaps, some day avail you something to know. You have heard us casually speak, I presume, of your uncle Charles Woodburn?"

"I have, mother."

"And you may also be aware that, through his misconduct, we were suddenly reduced from the easy competence we once enjoyed to poverty and distress."

"I have so understood it, but never knew what kind of misconduct it was that led to our misfortunes."

"It was imprudence in speculations, and profligacy in living, and not dishonesty, or any intentional wrong to us, as I ever believed; though your father, in his desperation when the blow came, would listen to no extenuation, but drove him from his presence with bitter reproaches and accusations. But your uncle, before leaving the country, as he soon after did, sought an interview with me; and, after deploring the misfortunes he had brought on my family as well as himself, solemnly pledged himself that he would, some day or other, more than compensate me or mine for all the losses he had occasioned us. And this is the circumstance I wished to tell you; for, though we never received any certain information of him, yet something tells me he still is alive, and has the means and disposition to fulfil his promise to you whenever you may find him, and he recognizes you as the representative of his brother's family, of whose location here he probably was never apprised. I would suggest to you therefore, the expediency of trying to trace him out, and, if you succeed in doing so, make yourself and your situation known to him; and, without preferring any claim, leave the result with Providence."

"Your suggestion, mother, shall not pass from me unheeded, nor shall I fail, in due time, to act upon it; but, at present, I know not if the last tie that binds me to this place should be severed—I know not but our down-trodden country may have the first claim on my services. Ever since the startling news of the massacre of Lexington reached us, a sense of the duty of devoting myself to her defence has pressed heavily and constantly on my mind. And but for the stronger claim which nature and my own feelings have given you, in your situation, to my presence and attention, I might, before this, have been with my shouldered musket on my way to the scene of action. But even in the event of your death, I should hesitate to obey the call if I knew I must do it without your sanction."

"I thank you, my son, for your affectionate deference; but you shall not go without my sanction. Having conjectured what might be your feelings at this dark hour of our country's peril, I was about to speak to you on the subject. Yes, Harry, if you think duty calls you to the field, in defence of a cause so just and righteous as ours, go. You will be under the care of the same Providence there as elsewhere. Go, and with a dying mother's blessing, and a prayer of faith for your safety and success, do battle manfully for the Heaven-favored side, till the oppressor be cast down, and the oppressed go free."

With a heart swelling with conflicting emotions, the young man looked up to reply, when his words were arrested on his lips, by the evident change that the countenance of the other had suddenly undergone. The unnatural animation, which she had exhibited during the conversation, had faded away. She lay listless and exhausted, with her eyes nearly closed, and her lips slightly moving in secret prayer.

"And now, Lord, what wait I for?" she at length audibly uttered. "But I am not to wait," she continued, in a firmer tone after a short pause. "The final moment is at hand! Farewell earth! farewell, my son! May Heaven's blessings rest on you—on all, and be the offences of all forgiven. Ah! the light of day is fading; but O, that brighter light which opens those angel forms, with smiling faces, which beckon me away! Ready! I come!—I come!"

And thus,—

"—blessing and blest, In death she went smiling away To the heavenly bosom of rest."



CHAPTER XII.

"Whene'er your case can be no worse, The desperate is the wiser course."

Late in the afternoon, several days subsequent to the melancholy event described in the preceding chapter, a mingled company, of some dozens of persons, including several town officials, were seen, assembling at the Tory Tavern, in Guilford; the object of which appearances seemed to indicate to be the holding of a magistrates' court, to try an offender who had that morning been arrested, and who now, in custody of Constable Fitch, was demurely sitting on a rude bench under an open window of the room in which the trial was to be had, and in which the two justices composing the court had already seated themselves at a table, in readiness, on their part, to commence proceedings. That offender was no other than our humble friend, Barty Burt, who had lucklessly fallen into one of the snares which had been set for him and his suspected companions, round the country, in consequence of the part they had acted in spiriting away, in so strange a manner, Woodburn's cattle, when about to be sold on town meeting day. He and Piper, during the night following that affair, after meeting Dunning at an appointed place, and giving him charge of the cattle, which had been successfully pursued and there collected, to be driven out of that part of the country by the hunter, left town in different directions, to avoid the arrest they anticipated, in case they remained; Piper going down the river in quest of some temporary employment till the storm blew over, and Bart setting off on a fishing excursion to Marlboro' Pond, situated in a then nearly unsettled section, about ten miles to the north. Here Bart had pursued his sport unmolested, many days, occasionally going out to Brattleborough to sell his fish and buy provisions, and considering himself in this secluded situation perfectly safe from any search which might be made for him by the officers of Guilford. But the reward offered by the constable for the apprehension of the offenders, who had been soon pretty well identified, had put all the tories in the town and vicinity on the watch and the result was, that Bart had been seen, traced to his retreat, seized and brought back for trial.

Although Bart's general demeanor seemed to show a perfect indifference to the fate that now threatened him, yet the quick keen glances with which, under that show of indifference, he noted every movement of those into whose power he had fallen and the restlesness he exhibited when their eyes were not upon him, gave token of no little inward perturbation. And it was not without reason that his apprehensions were excited; he knew the character and disposition of the two tory justices whom he saw taking their seats to try him, and he rightly judged that he need not expect either mercy or justice at their hands. He had also detected one of the constable's minions, who had been despatched to the woods for the purpose, stealing slyly round into the horse-shed, on his return, with a half dozen formidable looking green beech rods; and he was at no loss to decide for whose back they were intended, or by whose ruthless hand they were to be applied.

"You can't go that, Bart," he mentally exclaimed. "You must get away; so now put your best contrivances in motion, for I tell you it won't do for you to think of standing that pickle."

And as hopeless as, to all appearance, was any attempt to escape his captors, who stood round him with loaded pistols in their hands, Bart yet confidently counted on being able, in some way or other, to slip through their fingers, and avoid the fearful punishment which he knew was in store for him, if he remained many hours longer in their hands. To effect this, he looked for no aid from others; for experience had taught him the value of self-reliance. The whole life of this singular being, indeed, had been one which was peculiarly calculated to throw him on his own resources, sharpen his wits, and render him fertile in expedients. He had been a foundling, and knew no more of his parentage than a young ostrich, that springs from the deserted egg in the sand. He was left, when an infant, at the door of a poor mechanic, in Boston, by the name of Burt, and by him transferred to the almshouse, where he was called after the name of his finder, with the pet name of Barty, given him by his nurse. Here he was kept till he was four or five years old, when he was given to the Shakers, from whom he ran away at ten or twelve. From that time, the poor friendless boy became a wanderer through the interior country, generally remaining but a few months in a place, being driven from each successive home by misusage, or for want of profitable work for him to do, or, what was still oftener the case, perhaps, for playing off some trick to avenge the fancied or real insult he had received, till, after having been kicked about the world like a foot-ball, cheated, abused cowed in feeling, and become, in consequence, abject, uncouth and singular in manner and appearance, he at length reached the situation in the family of the haughty loyalist where we found him.

While Bart was thus uneasily revolving the matter of his present concern in his mind, and beginning to cast about him for some means of escape, the constable was called aside by those who had undertaken to manage the prosecution, for the purpose of holding with them a consultation, the purport of which, though carried on in a low tone, and at some distance, was soon gathered by the quick and practised ears of the prisoner. It appeared that the trial was being delayed in consequence of the absence of Peters, who was an important witness, and who unaccountably failed to make his appearance. And it being feared that he might have been waylaid, and detained on the road, by some band of the other party, to prevent him from testifying, as all knew he was anxious to do, it was settled that Fitch should start immediately in search of him to the house which he usually made his temporary quarters in another part of the town. Accordingly the constable, after putting the prisoner in charge of two stout fellows who were in his interest, with orders to guard him closely, and shoot him down the instant he should attempt to escape, set forth on his mission after Peters. Bart's countenance brightened when he saw the savage officer depart, for he believed the absence of the latter would greatly increase his chances of escape; and in spite of all the threats he had received of being shot, he resolved to improve that absence in making the attempt, though the manner of doing so yet remained to be decided, by the circumstances which might occur.

In the mean time a trotting-match had been got up in the road in front of the tavern, by a small party who had been boasting of the speed and other qualities of their horses; and it being now understood that the trial was to be delayed till the constable's return, the whole company left the house, and went out to the road to witness the performance. Bart's keepers not being able, where they stood, to see and hear what was going on very distinctly, and being equally desirous with the rest to get a favorable stand for that purpose, after renewing the threat of shooting him, if lie attempted to run away, took him along with them, and entered the line of spectators extended along the road. After a few trials among those who began the contest, several new competitors led on their horses and entered the lists. By this time most of the company began to take a lively interest in the performance, taking sides, and betting on the success of the different horses now put into the contest. The prisoner having, by this time, through dint of persevering in good humor and sociability, in return for the abusive epithets, by which all his attempts to converse were, for a while, received, succeeded, in a great measure, in disarming his keepers of the stern reserve and jealous distrust they at first exhibited towards him, he was soon permitted to talk freely, and offer, unrebuked, his opinions of the success of the various horses about to make a trial, which his previous observation and acquaintance with many of them, made during his residence in town the preceding year, enabled him to do with considerable sagacity. And his predictions being luckily fulfilled in several instances, and especially in one in which his most rigid keeper had been saved from losing, in a bet, which would have been made but for his timely cautions, Bart at length found himself on such a footing of confidence and good will with those whom he wished to conciliate, that he thought it would now do to commence operations for himself.

"I don't think much of such trotting, myself," said Bart, carelessly, as one of the contests afoot had just terminated; "but there is one animal I notice here to-day, I should like to bet on."

"What horse is that?" asked the keeper above designated,

"That dapple gray mare hitched over there in the corner of the cow-yard yonder," replied Bart, pointing to a small, long tailed pony, whose shabby coat of shedding and neglected hair greatly disguised the remarkable make of her limbs and other indications of strength and activity.

"That creature!" exclaimed the other, contemptuously; "why she aint bigger than a good-sized sheep. You may bet if you want to, and lose; for there's not a horse on the ground but would beat her."

"Well, for all that, Mr. Sturges," responded Bart, banteringly, "I'll not take back what I've said about the nag. And to prove my earnest, I'll make you an offer; I'll bet my gun, which you saw me hand the landlord for safe keeping when they brought me in—I'll bet my gun against your hat, I'll take that creature and out-trot you, with any hoss you may choose to bring on."

"Done!" exclaimed Sturges; "but you are contriving this up for a chance to get away, you scamp."

"What should I want to get away for?" I haint done nothin: and there's a witness here that will swear to a thing or two for me, when the trial comes on, guess you'll find; besides, aint you young to ride by my side, with a loaded pistol in your hand?"

"Yes, and that aint all; I'll put a bullet through you the instant you make the least move to be off."

"I'm agreed to that."

"Well, but will they let you take the colt for the march?"

"Guess so; I'll venture to take her. The boy that rode her here has cleared out down to the brook a fishing; but I know him, and think he wouldn't object."

"Who owns the colt?"

"Old Turner did, last year, when I lived with him; and the boy is from that way, and borrowed her, likely."

"Then you have rode her, have you?" asked Sturges, doubtfully.

"Never rid her with any other boss, but know she can trot faster than any thing you can find here; so you may as well back out at once," answered Bart, with apparent indifference.

"Not by a jug-full, sir; but I must look me up a horse, and fix matters a little first; and then, if it is thought safe for me to trust you to ride, I'll go it," returned the other, with some hesitation.

Sturges then stepped aside with the other keeper, and, after consulting with him a few moments, went forward and announced to the company the bet offered by the prisoner, and his own intention of accepting it, and indulging the fellow in a trial, if they thought best, and would assist in measures to prevent the possibility of his escape. The proposal was received with shouts of laughter by the tories; and eager for the fun they expected to see in so queer a contest, they agreed to be answerable for the prisoner's safety, and urged on the performance.

The two keepers, now calling in others to take charge of the prisoner, while they made their preparations, proceeded to arrange the company on both sides of the road, placing men at short intervals along the whole line of the course, commencing back about two hundred yards south of the tavern, and extending to the sign-post, which, standing on the edge of the beaten path in front of the house, had been agreed on as the goal. And not satisfied with this precaution, they then procured four long, heavy, spruce poles, and, extending them from fence to fence across the enclosed road leading from the tavern yard northward, formed a barricade five or six feet high, which, with the strong, high fences on each side of the whole course, except at the starting-point, where no danger was apprehended, seemed to cut off the prisoner, even without being guarded, from all possible chance to escape on horseback, as it was most feared he would do, after being allowed control of the reins.

"There, Bixby!" exclaimed Sturges, exultingly turning to his fellow-keeper, as they completed the barricade across the road beyond the goal—"there! I would defy the devil to jump over this barrier, or any of the fences on the way, as to that matter. So the little rebel will hardly escape us by running his horse from the ground, I fancy. But we must look out that he don't jump off at the end of the race, or before, and cut into the fields. You may therefore station yourself somewhere between this and the sign-post; and if he attempts to leap from his horse and run, as we fetch up here, shoot him down as you would a dog, and charge the blame to me or Fitch; either of us will bear it."

Having thus arranged every thing to his satisfaction, Sturges, ordering the pony we have described, and the horse he had selected for himself, to be brought on, then took charge of his prisoner and rival, and conducted him, with great show of mock dignity, and amidst a noisy and jeering troop of attendants, to the ground marked off for the place of starting, and now designated by the close line of men that had been stationed across the road to guard against the prisoner's escape in that direction. Bart, in the mean time, seemed perfectly indifferent to all these precautions of the tories, as well as the gibes and laughter which constantly greeted him on the way, and, on reaching the prescribed limit, quietly dropped down on the grass among the company, and awaited the coming of the horses with the greatest unconcern. The latter soon made their appearance on the ground, and were immediately led up and presented to their respective riders.

"Lightfoot!" exclaimed Bart, springing up to receive his chosen pony; "do you know me, Lightfoot?"

The animal instantly pricked up her ears, and responded by a sort of low, chuckling whinny, by rubbing her nose against his arm, and by other demonstrations of recognition and pleasure, which plainly showed the two to have been old acquaintances and friends. Bart then, stripping off the saddle and handing it to a boy to be carried back to the tavern, again went to the head of the pony, and, after patting her on her neck, repeated certain words in her ear, which seemed to produce the instant effect of arousing her spirit, and making her restless and impatient for a start. After going through these and other ceremonies of the kind, which seemed greatly to amuse the company, he mounted, reined up and announced himself ready for the signal.

After another delay, to indulge the company in the renewed shouts of laughter which were called forth by the ludicrous contrast now presented in the appearance of the oddly matched competitors, as the diminutive and shabby looking prisoner sat awkwardly mounted on his no less diminutive and shabby pony, by the side of the portly Sturges and his large and finely built horse, the signal was given, and the parties set forth amidst the encouraging hurrahs of the crowd. Their progress, for a while was nearly equal; and the pony, though very unskilfully managed by her seemingly raw and timid rider, continued to maintain her place by the side of the horse so fully, as to render the result of the contest extremely doubtful. But as they drew near the end of the coarse, and the horse, by the renewed incentives of his rider, began to gain on her, she suddenly flounced, broke into a gallop, shot by the horse, giving him a staggering kick in the chops as she passed, and, in spite of the apparent efforts of her rider, to bring her up at the goal, plunged on directly towards the fence that had been thrown across the road.

"Whoa! whoa!" cried Bart, in tones of distress and affright, still appearing to strain every nerve to hold in the ungovernable animal—"whoa! whoa! help, or I shall be thrown!"

"Help him there! stop her! seize her by the bits!" shouted Sturges, now riding up to the goal to claim the bet.

But the perverse pony, veering about among those approaching on either side to seize, or head her, with sundry monitory kicks thrown out sidewise towards them as she went, the next moment reached, and, with a tremendous leap, cleared the barricade, and landed safely with her rider in the open road on the other side. Here Bart hastily made another apparent attempt to rein her up; but rearing and spinning round on her heels, she again made a plunge forward, and set out in a keen run, making the ground smoke beneath her feet as she flew, with astonishing speed along the road; while her rider, grasping her mane with both hands, and swaying from side to side, as if hardly able to keep his seat at that, continued to bawl and screech, at every step, "Whoa! whoa! stop her! stop her!" with all his might.

The tories were so completely taken by surprise by these manoeuvres, and the unexpected feat of leaping the barricade that Bart and his fleet pony were nearly a quarter of a mile off, before they sufficiently rallied from their astonishment and confusion to realize what had passed; and when they did, hearing his piteous cries for help, and expecting every moment to see him hurled headlong from his horse, they stood doubtfully looking at him and each other, several seconds longer, before they thought of following him. Sturges, however, now took the alarm, and, ordering the barricade to be thrown down, started off, with those who, like himself, happened to be mounted, in pursuit. By this time, the fugitive had passed over an intervening swell, which hid him from the view of the pursuers; and though their progress was rapid, yet, when they gained the top of the swell, which commanded a view of the road till it entered the woods, almost a half mile beyond, he was nowhere to be seen. But believing he must have gained the woods, they pushed on, in the vain pursuit, about a mile farther; when, meeting some townsmen, they ascertained that he had not passed in that direction. They then retraced their steps, carefully examining every bypath and open spot by the road-side, where any ordinary horse could be made to go; but making no discoveries, they concluded to return to the tavern for consultation; for they grew more and more puzzled to know what to make of the prisoner, or how to account for his mysterious escape, some affirming "he must have been in league with the devil, as no horse, in a natural state, could have leaped that barricade, or have gone off so like a streak of lightning after he was over it; and his strange doings with the pony, when he first met her, and the bluish appearance that attended him along the road as he went off, with such unnatural swiftness," were cited in confirmation. But when they reached the tavern, the prisoner, and every thing attending his escape, were for the time forgotten in the excitement occasioned by the more startling tidings just received. The constable had just arrived in great haste announcing that Peters had been waylaid, and found murdered in the road, and calling on all to turn out to arrest the unknown but suspected perpetrators of the horrid deed.



CHAPTER XIII.

——"despair itself grew strong And vengeance fed its torch from wrong"

On the same day, and near the same hour, on which Bart so singularly and luckily effected his escape from his vindictive enemies, the bereft Woodburn left his lonely residence and walked to the graveyard, to shed another tear over the freshly-laid turf that covered the remains of his sainted mother. Here, as, standing over her grave, he reflected on the many excellences of her character, recalled the many acts of her kindness and love towards him, never before justly appreciated, and, at the same time, thought of the circumstances under which she had sickened and died, his tears flowed fast and bitterly. While he was still lingering near the sacred spot, immersed in these painful reflections, two ladies, from a neighboring cottage, came, unperceived by him, along the road leading by the graveyard; when the younger of the two, wholly unconscious that any one was within the enclosure, left the other to pass on to the next house, and entered the yard to amuse herself there till her companion returned. Now pausing to read an inscription, and now to pluck a wild violet, she slowly wandered towards that part of the yard where Woodburn, still screened from her view by a clump of intervening evergreens, was pensively reclining against a tomb stone in the vicinity of his mother's grave. And here, taking a turn round the shrubbery, she came suddenly upon him; and, stopping short in her course, she stood mute and confused before him, while her cheeks were mantled with a deep blush at the awkwardness of the position in which she unexpectedly found herself.

"Miss Haviland!" exclaimed Woodburn, looking up in equal surprise. "Excuse me if I am wrong, but, as little as I was expecting it, I think it is Miss Haviland whom I am addressing?"

"It is, sir," she replied, in a slightly tremulous voice; "but trust you will not think this an intentional intrusion."

"No intrusion, fair lady. You do not rightly interpret my expression, which was one of surprise at seeing you here, when I had supposed you to be in another part of the country. When I last saw you, I supposed you on your return to Bennington."

"I was so at that time. But having recently come over with my father, who was journeying to Connecticut, I am now tarrying with a sister in this neighborhood till he returns. Your allusion to our parting, however, cannot but bring to mind the circumstances connected with our meeting, nor fail to admonish me of my great obligations to you, sir, which I have never before found a suitable opportunity of personally acknowledging. But be assured, Mr. Woodburn, I shall never forget that fearful hour; yet sooner far the hour, than the hand that snatched me from my seemingly inevitable doom."

"We both may have cause to remember the incidents attendant on that journey to Westminster, Miss Haviland; and I, though I did but a common duty in assisting you, shall remember them, on more accounts than one, I fear but too long."

"If you allude to your difficulties on that journey, and subsequently with one with whom we were in company, I can only say, sir, that I have heard of them, and all your consequent misfortunes, with the deepest regret, scarcely less on account of the author than the victim."

"I could have submitted to my pecuniary losses with a good degree of resignation; but, when I think of the crowning act, and the consequences that followed it—when I look on that grave," continued the speaker, pointing to the fresh mound, with an effort to master his emotions, "it is hard to endure."

"Such misfortunes," responded Miss Haviland, visibly touched at his distress; "such misfortunes,—injuries, perhaps, I should call them,—I am sensible, are not easily forgotten; and I have sometimes feared that it too often might be my fate to be associated with them in your mind."

"O, no, lady, no," said Woodburn, promptly; "though it were better for my happiness, perhaps, if I could," he added, more gloomily; "for who will care what may be the feelings of one who is now an outcast, without property, family, or friends?"

"Think not thus of yourself, Mr. Woodburn," replied the other, while a scarcely perceptible tinge appeared on her fair cheek; "feel not thus. You do to yourself, and I doubt not to many others, great injustice; certainly to one who can only think of you with the warmest gratitude."

"O, if all were like you, Miss Haviland!" returned Woodburn, with much feeling; "so just, so generous, so pure, so beautiful! But I have already said too much," he continued checking himself. "I intended not to have intimated aught of the thoughts and feelings which have obtruded themselves upon me, even before I heard these kind expressions. And though what I have said cannot be recalled, yet I have no thought of pressing any questions upon you under the accidental advantage which your gratitude—other things being the same—might give me. I ask for no corresponding impressions—I expect none. Being aware of your position, as well as my own, I shall not drive you to the unpleasant task of repulsing me. I will repulse my self. I will conquer this new enemy, though planted in my own bosom, lest it prove more dangerous to my peace than the one with whom I have so vainly contended in another rivalry."

She raised her eyes with a look full of maidenly embarrassment, indeed, but with an expression more resembling that of sorrow than resentment, as she gently replied,—

"I feel additionally grateful to you, Mr. Woodburn, for your delicate and generous course under the circumstances in which, as you seem to be aware, I am placed. But as I now perceive my companion approaching in the road, you will excuse my departure."

"Certainly," said Woodburn; "and you will forgive what has been said by one who is so truly the prey of conflicting emotions?"

"O, yes, sir," she answered, looking up with a witching smile, as she bowed her adieu; "that is, I will when you do any thing worthy of my forgiveness."

Woodburn stood mutely gazing after his lovely visitor till her small and graceful figure, floating on in its devious course through the diversified grounds in almost fairy lightness, receded from his enraptured sight; when he turned away with a sigh to commune with himself, try to analyze his feelings, weigh consequences, give Reason her rightful sway, and follow her dictates. After a long and deep struggle with his feelings, he appeared to come to some determination, and, resolutely bringing down a foot on the ground, he exclaimed,—

"No, never! I will not give way to feelings which can only end in disappointment and mortification. Begone, enticing vision, begone! I will harbor you no longer." And under the impulse of his freshly-formed resolution, he abruptly left the spot, and hastened through the enclosure to take his way homeward. As he was about to pass out into the road, his attention was attracted by the barking of a small dog, that, having followed the ladies, and tarried behind on their return, seemed to be intent on dragging out something from under a broad, flat stone, lying in one corner of the graveyard. Feeling some inclination to know what discoveries the dog was making in a spot so unpromising of any game that would be likely to attract him, Woodbury walked to the spot; when he perceived the animal to be eagerly tugging away at some object, which presented the appearance of the corners of some old leather-bound book, buried beneath the stone. His curiosity being now excited, he stood by and patiently waited to see the result. In a few minutes the dog succeeded in dragging out the object in question, which proved to be an old record-book, or rather the remains of one, for a part of it had been converted by the mice into a nest, and the rest was mutilated and falling to pieces. Leaving the dog to pursue his object, which was now sufficiently explained, Woodburn gathered up the remains of the book and stepped aside to examine them. On beating off the dirt and opening the unmutilated parts, he soon, and to his great surprise, discovered it to be a volume of the town records; the very volume, the loss of which, as he believed, had caused his defeat in his lawsuit with Peters. And hurriedly running over the leaves, his eye, the next moment, fell on the record of his own deed, with the dates precisely as he had contended, and standing in a connection which would have proved the priority of his title, furnished him a complete defence, and saved him from ruin!

The previous suspicions of Woodburn, respecting the disappearance of these records through the agency of Peters, were now confirmed in the mind of the former, as certainly as if he had witnessed the act; and this aggravating discovery, coming as it did too late to be of any benefit to him, and at a moment, too, when his feelings, notwithstanding his recent declarations to Miss Haviland, and his subsequent resolves, were sore from the insidious workings of jealousy, and the revolting thought of the pretensions of his hated foe to her hand—this discovery, we say, wrought up his mind, already embittered to the last degree of endurance, to a state little short of absolute frenzy. And clinching the fragments of the book, which contained the proof of the black transaction, in one hand, and flourishing the heavy oak cane he had with him in the other, he rushed out of the enclosure, and, with a disturbed air and hurrying step, took his way towards his desolate home, resolved, that in case he found, as he feared, that all chance of legal redress had passed by, he would, at least, unsparingly make use of the means, now in his power, in trumpeting the villainy of Peters to the world.

In this state of exasperation, after proceeding a short distance he unexpectedly and unfortunately encountered the very object of his pent indignation, the haughty and hated Peters, who, on horseback, was coming up a cross-road on his way to the Tory Tavern, where, as the reader has been already apprised, his tools and partisans were anxiously awaiting his arrival.

"Ha! here? Then he shall be the first to hear it," muttered Woodburn, as with a flashing eye he suddenly turned and sternly confronted the other in his path.

"What now, sir?" said Peters, reigning up with a look of surprise not unmingled with uneasiness.

"I will tell you what, now, sir," replied Woodburn, in a voice quivering with suppressed passion; "your frauds are exposed! Here are the remains of those very records you or your tools purloined to enable you to accomplish your unhallowed triumph over me, and now just found buried in yonder graveyard!"

"Away, sir!" exclaimed Peters, recovering his usual assurance. "I know nothing of your crazy jargon: stand aside and let me pass."

"Not till you have looked at the proof of what I assert, or acknowledged its correctness," persisted the other, extending his cane before the horse with his right hand, and thrusting forward the open book with his left. "Here it is; here is the record of my deed—dates and all, as I and you, too, sir, well knew them to be. Look at it, sir, and restore me my property, or confess yourself a villain!"

At this juncture Peters, who had covertly reversed the loaded whip he carried in his hand that he might strike more effectually, suddenly rose in his stirrups, and aimed a furious blow at the head of his accuser. But as sudden and unexpected as was the dastardly movement, Woodburn threw up his cane in time to arrest and parry the descending implement, when, quick as thought, he paid back the intended blow with a force, of which, in the madness of the moment, he was little conscious, full on the exposed head of his antagonist, who, curling like a struck bullock beneath the fearful stroke, rolled heavily from his saddle to the ground. The exclamation of triumph that rose to the lips of the victor died in his throat, as he took a second glance at the motionless form and corpse-like aspect of the victim; and, recoiling a step, he stood aghast at the thought of what he had done. After standing a minute with his eyes rivetted on the face of his prostrate foe Woodburn, arousing himself, hurried forward, and, raising the head, chafed the temples and wrists a moment, and then felt for the pulse, when, finding no signs of life, he suddenly relinquished his hold, and with a look of horror and unutterable distress, hastily fled from the spot, muttering as he went, "A murderer!—to crown the host of misfortunes—a murderer!"

Soon striking off into a deep glade, diverging from the public way, he continued his course, with a rapid step and troubled brow, on through the woods and back pastures, till he gained, unobserved, the rear of his own cabin, when, entering, he threw himself into a chair, and, burying his face in his hands, sat many minutes motionless and silent, apparently engaged in deep and anxious thought, At length, he arose with a more composed look, and proceeded to make up a pack of his wardrobe, with such valuables as could be conveniently carried, including his mother's Bible. He then fitted his pack to his shoulders, took down his gun and ammunition, and, throwing a sorrowful farewell glance round the lonely apartment, left the house, and bent his course for the woods, in a northerly direction.

After travelling in the woods and unfrequented fields about two miles, he came in sight of the point of intersection between the road near which he had been holding his course, and a road coming into it from the central parts of the town. Here, concluding to pause till the approaching darkness should more perfectly screen him, before going out into the main thoroughfare leading up the Connecticut, he sat down on a log within the border of the woods, and again gave way to the remorseful feelings and moody reflections that still painfully oppressed him. His meditations, however, were soon disturbed by the quick, heavy tread of some animal, which seemed to be approaching in the woods, at no great distance behind him. Instantly peering out through the thicket in which he had ensconced himself, he soon, to his great surprise, descried a horseman descending a difficult ledge, leaping old windfalls, and making his way through all the opposing obstacles of the forest with wonderful facility, directly towards the spot where he stood concealed in the thicket. Knowing that whatever might be the object of the person approaching, it would be his wisest course to remain in his covert, from which he could not move unobserved, and his curiosity being excited by the appearance of a horseman in a spot that would have scarcely been deemed passable for a wild deer, he kept his stand; and continued to regard the advancing figure with the most lively interest. But owing to the thickness of the now full-leaved undergrowth, and the duskiness that by this time had gathered in the forest, he could only catch occasional glimpses of either horse or rider, which enabled him to ascertain nothing more than that they both were quite diminutive, and as it struck him, rather oddly accoutred. They continued to advance directly towards him till within fifty yards of his covert, when the horse, in emerging from a clump of bushes, which still enveloped the rider, stopped short, and, looking keenly into the thicket, gave a quick, significant snort.

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