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The Rangers - [Subtitle: The Tory's Daughter]
by D. P. Thompson
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"What's in the wind now, Lightfoot?" said the rider to his horse, as, parting the obstructing foliage with his hands, he thrust out his head, and disclosed to the surprised and gratified Woodburn the well-known visage of his trusty friend, Barty Burt.

"This is, indeed, unexpected, Bart," said Woodburn, stepping out into plain view.

"Harry!" exclaimed the other, agreeably surprised in turn; "but are you sure there are no more of you there in the bush?" he added, with a cautious glance at the thicket.

"Yes, I am alone here," answered the former.

"Well, I vags now!" resumed Bart, drawing a long breath, and riding forward—"I vags, if I didn't begin to feel rather ticklish when Lightfoot give me that hint to look out for snakes, just now. But the case aint quite what it might have been, considering."

"Considering what?"

"I know."

"Of course you do, as well as what brought you here with a horse, in so strange a place for a horseback excursion."

"Just so, Harry; same as you know what brought you here with a pack on your back, in so queer a route for a journey, when a smooth road is so near you."

Well knowing Bart's peculiarities, and that it would be useless to try to draw from him the secret of his appearance here until he chose to reveal it, Woodburn, while the other dismounted and told his pony to be cropping the bushes in the mean time, related all that had transpired between himself and the victim of his deeply regretted paroxysm of passion, adding, at the close of his gloomy and self-accusing recital,—

"I first thought, after reaching my house, that I would return and give myself up to the authorities; but knowing, whether Peters should live or die, that I should be a doomed man in this part of the country, I at length brought myself, perhaps wrongly, to try to get out of it undiscovered. And I have now set my course for Boston, to join those there gathering for the approaching struggle for liberty. And Heaven knows with what pleasure I shall now sacrifice my life in her battles."

"Good! that's grand!" warmly responded Bart, who had listened to the other with many a whew! of surprise at his accompanying expressions of self-condemnation for killing an antagonist who struck the first blow—"that's grand! Here is what goes with you, Harry; for, between us here, I and Lightfoot are clipping it from a predicament, as well as you."

"So I suspected. But what is it? Let us have your story now."

"Well, Harry, in the first place, do you know this critter I call Lightfoot?"

"No; at least I don't now remember to have noticed the animal before."

"Well, it is the colt old skin-flint Turner cheated me out of, last year."

"I think you told me something about it, but don't recollect the particulars; though I had then no doubt, I believe, but the old man wronged you, as I understood you worked very hard for him through the season."

"I did, like a niggar—cause he promised to give me this colt, then a little snubby three-year-old, for my summer's work, if I would stay and work well for him, which I did, as I said. Well, supposing the colt was to be mine, without any mistake, I made a sight of her, named her Lightfoot, fed her, got her as tame as a dog, then trained her to understand certain words and signs, which I at last got her to obey; and whether it was to trot, run, or jump fences, she would do it as no other critter could. But just as I had got her to mind and love me, as I did her, my time was out; and I went to settle off matters with the old man, and tell him I was going to take her off with me, when—rot his pictur!—he pretended he had forgot all about his promise to let me have her, and forbid my touching her, saying he had paid me all I earnt in the old clothes which he urged on to me, against my will, and which were not worth one week's work, as true as the book, Harry. Well, I couldn't help crying, to be cheated so, and, what was worse, to lose Lightfoot. But it did no good. I had to come away without her, or any other pay; and, from that time, I haven't seen her till to-day."

"But you have not now stole and run away with her, I trust Bart?"

"No; she run away with me," replied Bart, roguishly, as I can prove; for I hollered whoa all the time, as loud as I could yell."

"But how came you mounted upon her at all?"

"Well, Harry, that brings me to the worst and best part of my story, all in one; and here goes for it."

Bart, in his own peculiar manner, then related, with great accuracy, the particulars of his arrest and escape from the tories, as we have already described them in the preceding chapter, merely explaining, in addition, that Lightfoot well understood the game, and knew she was to obey the signs he secretly gave her with his feet and hands, however loud he, or others, might cry whoa or any of the terms usually addressed to horses. He then proceeded:—

"Well, you see, as soon as I got over the hill, out of sight, I looked out for a hard, stony place, where Lightfoot couldn't be tracked; and, soon finding one, I leaped her over the fence, and made full speed for the woods, which I luckily reached jest in time to wheel round in safety, and see them thundering along by, in the road, after me. I then took it leisurely off in this direction, contriving to keep mostly in the woods, where I had learnt Lightfoot, in riding after the cows, last summer, to be as much at home in as in the road."

"And what do you propose to do with this horse now?" asked Woodburn.

"Take her along with me, to be sure, Harry."

"And so make yourself, in law, a horse-thief, eh? Do you expect me to join company with such a character?"

"Well, now, Harry, I didn't expect the like of that from you, any how," observed Bart, evidently touched at the remark. "The creature is honestly mine; and I supposed I had a right to get what was mine away, if I could, without going to law, which would help me about as much as it has you, I reckon. But supposing that to be law which aint right and justice, and so make me out a thief, as you say, how much boot could I afford to give you, Harry, to swap predicaments with me? You have just called yourself a murderer, which you aint, and me a horse-thief, which I aint, any more than you the other. Now, how will you swap characters?"

"Bart, you have silenced me. Injustice and oppression have made us both outlaws, but not intentionally wrong-doers. Let us still abstain from all intentional wrong, however trifling. And that leads me to observe, that whatever justification you may have for taking away the horse, you probably have none for carrying off the bridle."

"There you are out again, Harry. That bridle, which queerly happened to be put on Lightfoot to-day, (as if it was kinder ordered I should get the beast,) is the very one I bought last fall, to take her off with; but being so worked up, when I left, I forgot to bring it away."

"Upon my word, Bart, you are successful to-day in making defences."

"Always mean to be able to do so, Harry. Nobody has any honest claims on me in Guilford, now, nor I any on them. I leave 'em with every thing squared, according to my religion.

"Except in the matter of your gun, which you leave—not exactly won by your opponent—behind you; do you not?"

"They are welcome to it; much good may it do 'em. It has gone pretty much where I calkerlated to get it off—among those who used me the worst; though I'd some rather it had gone to Fitch, who hunts some, and would be sure to try it."

"That is queer reasoning, Bart."

"Well, there is a head and tail to it, for all that, Harry."

"What are they?"

"Why, the head, or cause, is, that the last time I shot the piece, I overloaded it, being for black ducks, and the charge raised a seam, in a flaw underside the barrel, which I could blow through. And the tail, or consequence, is, that the next man who shoots it will wish he'd never seen it, I reckon."

"Ah, Bart, Bart, your religion, as you term it, is a strange one! But let us now dismiss the past, and think of the future. If you join me for the army, what do you propose to do with your horse—sell her?"

"Sell her? why, I'd as soon sell my daddy, if I had one. No, we'll keep her between us. You, and Tom Dunning, and Lightfoot are the only friends I have in the world, Harry; and I want we should kinder stick together. So I've been thinking up the plan, that we ride and tie, or keep along together and foot it by turns, to-night, till we get to Westminster, when we will beat up Dunning, and leave Lightfoot with him, who can take her to some of his sly places over the mountain, and have her kept for us. Then, if one of us gets killed, or any thing, so as never to come back, let the other take her; and if both fail to come, then let Tom have her for his own."

And Bart's plan being adopted, our two humble, friendless, and nearly penniless adventurers left the wood, and entering the northern road, set forth on their destination, Woodburn first mounting the pony and keeping some hundred yards in advance, and Bart forming the rear-guard, under the agreement that the latter, on hearing any bounds of pursuit, should utter the cry of the raccoon, when both were to plunge into the woods, and remain till the danger had passed by.

After travelling in this manner, and at a rapid rate, about two hours, without encountering any thing to excite their apprehension or delay their progress, they entered a long reach of unbroken forest, which neither of them remembered ever to have passed through. But not being able to conceive where they could have turned off from the river road, which was their intended route, they continued to move doubtingly onwards some miles farther, till the increasing obstructions and narrowness of the path, together with the absence of the settlements which they knew they must have found before this time on the road up the Connecticut, fully convinced Woodburn they had lost their way. And he was on the point of proposing to retrace their steps, when, descrying a light some distance ahead, emanating, as he supposed, from the hut of a new settler, he at once concluded to push on towards it, for the purpose of making inquiries of the occupants to ascertain their situation. In making for the light, of which, for a while, only feeble and occasional glimmerings could be obtained through the dense foliage that overhung the devious path, they at length came to an apparently well-cultivated opening, containing about a dozen acres, on one side of which stood a small, snug-looking stone house, built against or near a boldly projecting ledge of rocks. As they approached the house, their attention was arrested by the loud and earnest voice of a man within, engaged, evidently, in prayer. Concluding that the man was at his family evening devotions, which they had no thought of disturbing, they left the horse at a little distance from the house, and silently drawing near to the door, paused and reverently listened. A confused recollection of the supplicant's voice, together with his deep and fervid tones, his bold language, and especially the subject that seemed then mostly to engross his thoughts, at once awakened the interest and rivetted the attention of Woodburn. The great burden of his soul was, obviously, the political condition of his country. And, after vividly painting the many wrongs she had suffered from her haughty oppressors, and warmly setting forth her claims to divine assistance, he broke forth, in conclusion,—

"My country! O my injured, oppressed, and down-trodden country! shall the cry of thy wrongs go up in vain to Heaven? Will not the God of battles hear and help thee, in this the hour of thy peril and of thy need? O, wilt thou not, Lord, extend Thy mighty arm in her defence? O, teach the proud Britons, now thronging our shores—teach them, scoffing Goliahs as they are, that there are young Davids in our land! O, bring their counsels to nought! Scatter their fleets by thy tempests at sea, and destroy their armies on land! Sweep them off by bullet and plague! and—and"—suddenly checking himself, he meekly added, "and save their souls; and this, Lord, is all that in conscience I can ask for them. Amen."

Woodburn now gently rapped at the door, which, after a slight pause, was opened, and Herriot, the late prisoner of the royal court, stood before him.

"If this is Harry Woodburn," he said, after scrutinizing the other's features a moment, "he is very welcome to my hut. But you are not alone?" he added, glancing towards Bart, who stood several paces in the background.

"No," replied Woodburn; "I have in company a young man whom you may, perhaps, recollect as the messenger that appeared several times at the grate of our prison at Westminster, to bring us news of the progress of the rising."

"Ah, yes, well do I recollect that goodly youth, and have ever since taken a peculiar interest in him. Invite him in. All this is opportune, very—very," said Herriot, leading the way into the house.

After the recluse had ushered his guests into the principal room of his very simply furnished house, of which he and a servant boy, of perhaps fifteen, were the only inmates, he turned to Woodburn, and said,—

"As my retreat here in the woods, and the road that leads to it, are known to so few, I conclude that your young friend here, Mr. Woodburn, acted as your guide on the occasion."

"O, no," replied the other; "we had lost our way, having left the river road inadvertently, and were about to turn back, when, catching a glimpse of your light, we came on to make inquiries. We neither of us knew when we struck into the road leading hither."

"Do you agree to that statement, without any qualification, master Bart?" asked the recluse, with a doubting and slightly puzzled air.

"Well, some of it, I reckon," answered Bart, with a look of droll gravity.

"Why, you told me, sir," responded Woodburn, rather sharply "that you had never travelled this road before."

"No more I hadn't," replied Bart, composedly; "but I didn't say I didn't know where it turned off, for Tom Dunning told me that."

"Bart," said Woodburn, seriously, "though I am not sorry to have fallen in with father Herriot, yet, as between you and me, this needs explanation. It looks as if you purposely led me astray."

"Well now, Harry, no offence, I hope. The thing was kinder agreed on, somehow, that you should come this way, when you left Guilford, which was understood would happen soon. If I hadn't fell in with you as I did, it was my notion to take Lightfoot here, or at Dunning's, and then go back and skulk there somewheres till you was ready to come; but finding you and things all coming so handy like, when we got to where the road turned off, I thought I'd let you follow me into it, if you would, and say nothing till we got here."

"I am still perfectly at a loss how to understand all this, Bart and I still wish you would more fully explain it."

"I will take that task upon myself; for I suppose I am somewhat in the secret respecting the little plot of your friends," said Herriot, going to a chest, and bringing forward a small bag of money. "This has been deposited with me for your use and benefit. It is the price of your cow and oxen, sold by Dunning to a drover from Rhode Island. The sum is, I believe, about fifty dollars, which I now deliver you, as your own unquestionable property."

In the explanation that now ensued, it appeared that the cattle, which had been rescued by the friends of Woodburn, without his privity, lest the scruples it was feared he might entertain should lead him to interfere with the plan, were taken that night to the retreat of Herriot, who was made acquainted with the whole transaction; and that the next day, while Dunning went up the river in search of a purchaser, the other, who was not without his scruples, also, about sanctioning the procedure, repaired to lawyer Knights for his opinion on the subject. And the latter, having been confidentially let into the secret, and given it as his decided opinion that the judgment, to satisfy which the cattle had been seized, was an illegal and void one, and that the cattle so seized might rightfully be taken for the owner, without legal process if found out of the hands of the officer, the recluse returned and actively cooperated with the hunter; the result of which was, that a purchaser was soon found, who paid the money for the stock and immediately drove it from the country.

This, to Woodburn, was an unexpected development. And now, after hearing the explanation of Herriot, being satisfied of the propriety of the course so generously taken by his friends in his behalf, he gratefully received the money; and, in turn, while Bart and the servant were out caring for the pony, he confidentially disclosed to the recluse the painful occurrence of the afternoon which had led to his sudden flight from home, and his determination of immediately joining the army, concluding by giving the particulars of Bart's arrest and singular escape from the tories.

"You have acted wisely, Mr. Woodburn," observed Herriot after listening with deep interest to the recital. "Peters may yet recover; but should he not, I do not view the act in so criminal a light as that in which you yourself have placed it. And in the absence of all intention of killing the man, I feel very clear that it is not a deed meriting the punishment you would be likely to receive, if you had put your fate into the hands of the corrupted witnesses who would probably have been brought against you. Yes, you have acted wisely in leaving that wicked Babel of toryism, and nobly in devoting yourself to the cause of your bleeding country. My blessing and prayers will attend you and your young friend, to whom, I trust, you will act the friend and adviser he will doubtless need. But come, Harry," he added, taking up a light, and making a sign for the other to follow him, "some new notions have come into my head since I became acquainted with you and your young friend, at Westminster, and knowing of no two persons in whom I take greater interest, I have concluded to impart something to you in confidence."

So saying, he led the way into the cellar, the bottom of which was flagged over with stones of various shapes and sizes; when pointing to a broad, flat stone lying near the centre of the room, he asked Woodburn to raise it. Wondering what could be the object of so unexpected a request, the latter, with considerable effort, succeeded in raising the stone to an upright position, and in so doing brought to view two small iron-bound casks, standing in a cavity beneath, and labelled, in large inky letters, "Printers Type."

"Printing, then, was formerly your trade?" said Woodburn, inquiringly, perceiving the other not inclined to be the first to speak.

"Well, that is a respectable calling, is it not?" said the other, evasively.

"Certainly," replied Woodburn; "but I had not looked for any immediate use for such implements in this new settlement."

"The contents of those casks, nevertheless, are of more value than you may think them, Harry, and may soon be needed for the public, in the times now at hand. But what I wish to say to you is, in the first place, that you are not to divulge what you have seen to any one but your young friend, and not to him unless you are satisfied he can be trusted, or you are about to die. And, in the second place, if you hear of my death, both of you are to come here, take possession of these casks, and divide the contents equally between you as your own. I have now no relative that will appear to claim them. You will also find, enclosed in one of the casks, certain documents, which I have recently deposited there, explaining my wishes, as well as some secrets of my life connected with discoveries lately made by me, that interest others besides myself. This you, or the survivor of you two, if one should die, will do in case I am taken away. And even if I continue to live, my designs will probably not be altered and I shall wish to see you both again when you are permitted to return to your old homes. And still further, I would say, that should you be in want at any time, and will apply to me, I will dispose of enough of this property to supply your necessities. Now replace the stone, and let us return to the room above."

Woodburn knew not what to make of all this mystery, or affected mystery, as he believed it. But knowing the singularities of the man, he forebore to ask any questions, and they left the cellar in silence. Soon after they had returned, Bart and the servant came in; when a frugal meal was set before the travellers. And while the latter were occupied in partaking their repast, the recluse procured his writing materials, and penning a brief letter, presented it to Woodburn, saying, "There is a letter of introduction to a former friend of mine, who, I understand, is appointed to an important command in the army now mustering at Cambridge. It may be of service to you. And now," he added, as his guests rose to depart—"now, my young friends and fellow-sufferers from oppression, go—deserve well of your country, and desert her not till the British Dagons are all leveled to the dust, which may God speedily grant. Amen."

In a few minutes more, our adventurers were on their way. And being now invigorated, both in body and mind, by what had occurred during their call at the retreat of their mysterious friend they pressed on so rapidly, for the next three or four hours, that they arrived at Dunning's cabin, in Westminster, just as the first faint flush of daylight appeared in the east. Here luckily finding the hunter already astir, cooking his breakfast, preparatory to any early start on some new excursion, they joined him in his delicious meal, which consisted of the rich steaks of a salmon caught the preceding evening. And having finished their breakfast, and made the contemplated arrangement with Dunning, to take charge of Lightfoot, their now common favorite, the last-named person set them across the Connecticut in his log canoe; when, looking back from the woody shore of the New Hampshire side, they bade a long farewell to the Green Mountains, whose tall, blue peaks were then beginning to grow bright in the rays of the rising sun, and resolutely plunged into the dark recesses before them.



VOLUME II.



THE RANGERS;

OR,

THE TORY'S DAUGHTER.



CHAPTER I.

"We owe no allegiance, we bow to no throne; Our ruler is law, and the law is our own; Our leaders themselves are our own fellow-men, Who can handle the sword, the scythe, or the pen."

Vermont was ushered into political existence midst storm and tempest. We speak both metaphorically and literally; for it is a curious historical fact, that her constitution, the result of the first regular movement ever made by her people towards an independent civil government, was adopted during the darkest period of the revolution, at an hour of commotion and alarm, when the tempest of war was actually bursting over her borders and threatening her entire subversion. And, as if to make the event the more remarkable, the adoption took place amidst a memorable thunder-storm, but for the happening of which, at that particular juncture, as will soon appear, that important political measure must have been postponed to a future period, and a period, too, when the measure, probably, would have been defeated, and the blessings of an independent government forever lost, owing to the dissensions, which, as soon as the common danger was over, New York and New Hampshire combined to scatter among her people. The whole history of the settlement and organization of the state, indeed, exhibits a striking anomaly when viewed with that of any other state in the Union. She may emphatically be called the offspring of war and controversy. The long and fierce dispute for her territory between the colonies above named had sown her soil with dragon teeth, which at length sprang up in a crop of hardy, determined, and liberty-loving men, who, instead of joining either of the contending parties, soon resolved to take a stand for themselves against both. And that stand, when taken, they maintained with a spirit and success, to which, considering the discouragements, difficulties, and dangers they were constantly compelled to encounter, history furnishes but few parallels. But although every step of her progress, from the felling of the first tree in her dark wilderness to her final reception into the sisterhood of the states, was marked by the severest trials, yet the summer of 1777—the period to which the remainder of our tale refers—was, for her, far the most gloomy and portentous. And still it was a period in which she filled the brightest page of her history, and, at the same time, did more than in any other year towards insuring her subsequent happy destiny.

In the beginning of this eventful year, the people of Vermont, by their delegates in formal convention assembled, had declared themselves independent—

"Independent of all save the mercies of God,"

as the poet, who has furnished us the heading of this chapter, and who has so strikingly embodied the feelings of those he describes, has significantly expressed it. And having taken measures for publishing their declaration to the world, the convention closed their proceedings by appointing a committee, selected as combining the most happily an acquaintance with form and precedent with a knowledge of the ways and wants of the people, to draft a constitution to be submitted to a new convention, which the people were invited to call for that purpose. In response to that call, a new convention assembled at Windsor, in the month of July following, and proceeded, with that diligence and scrupulous regard to the employment of their time for which the early public bodies of this state were so noted, to take into consideration the important instrument now submitted to them as a proper basis on which to erect the superstructure of a civil government, suited to the genius and necessities of an industrious and frugal people—a people who, though keenly jealous of their individual rights, and exceedingly restive under all foreign authority, had yet declared their willingness, and even their wish, to receive and obey a system of legal restraints, if it could be one of their own imposing. For five days, from rising to setting sun, this convention employed the best energies of their practical and enlightened minds in discussing and amending the document before them. But their labors for the present, if not forever, had well nigh been lost, for, soon after they had assembled, on the sixth day of their session, and while they were intently listening to the reading of the instrument for the last time before taking a final vote on its adoption their proceedings were suddenly brought to a stand by the alarming news, loudly proclaimed by a herald, who appeared on his foam-covered horse before their open door, that Ticonderoga, the supposed impregnable barrier of frontier defence, had fallen, and our scattered troops were flying in every direction before a formidable British army, that was sweeping, unopposed, along the western border of the state, flanked by a horde of merciless savages, from whose fearful irruptions not a dwelling on that side of the mountains would probably be spared!

This intelligence, so unexpected and so startling, too nearly concerned the members of the convention, not only as patriots, but as men, to permit their entire exemption from the general consternation and dismay which were every where spreading around them; and many a staid heart among them secretly trembled for the fate of the near and dear ones left at homes in which the red tomahawk might, even at that very moment, be busy at its work of death; while the bosoms of all were burning to be freed from their present duties, that they might seize the sword or musket and fly to the relief of their endangered families, or mingle in the common defence against the haughty invaders of their soil. Any further proceedings with the subject on hand, at such a moment, were soon perceived to be utterly impossible; and a majority f the members began to press eagerly for an immediate adjournment. But while a few of their number, sharing less than the rest in the general agitation, or being more deeply impressed with the importance of accomplishing, at this time, an object now so nearly attained, were attempting to resist the current, and prevent any action on the motion to adjourn, till time was gained for reflection, an unwonted darkness, as if by the special interposition of Providence, suddenly fell upon the earth. The lightnings began to gleam through the dark and threatening masses of cloud that had enveloped the sky, and the long, deep roll of thunder was heard in different quarters of the heavens, giving warning of the severe and protracted tempest which soon burst over them with a fury that precluded all thought of venturing abroad, The prospect of being thus confined to the place for some hours, and perhaps the whole day, taking from those moving it all inducement for an immediate adjournment, they now began to take a cooler view of their situation; and soon, by common consent the business on hand was resumed. The reading of the constitution was finished; and, while the storm was still howling around, and the thunders breaking over them, that instrument was adopted, and became the supreme law of the land. [Footnote: Through inadvertence arising out of the unsettled state of the times, or design among the leaders who might have fears for the result, the constitution was never submitted to the people for their ratification or rejection; but, no questions ever being raised on account of this informality it was acquiesced in as valid and binding.]

One thing more remained to be done; and that was, to constitute a provisional government to act till the one pointed out by the constitution just adopted could be established. This was now effected by the appointment of that small body of men since known as the Old Council of Safety of Vermont, and noted alike for the remarkable powers with which they were clothed, and the remarkable manner in which those powers were exercised; for, from the nature of the case, and the emergency in which these men were called to act, they were almost necessarily invested with the extraordinary combination of legislative, judicial, and executive power. But this power, absolute and dictatorial as it was, they never abused or exercised but for the public good; and in this they were cheerfully sustained by the people, who felt that they were thus not only sustaining the cause of freedom, but the laws which were of their own providing, and which they were anxious should be obeyed.

To that unique assembly, of whose origin we have been speaking, we propose next to introduce the reader. In obedience to an order of the convention, issued at the moment of its hasty dissolution, near the close of the memorable day before described, the different members of this newly-appointed body, many of whom, it is believed, were also members of the one just dissolved, had promptly convened at Arlington. But finding themselves here endangered by the near vicinity of the enemy, they had adjourned into the more interior town of Manchester, within whose barricade of mountains they could proceed with their deliberations with little fear of interruption. And here, conscious that the eyes of all were turned anxiously upon them, in the expectation that they would provide for the safety of the infant state, whose destinies had been committed to their hands, they commenced the worse than Egyptian task devolving on them—that of making adequate provisions for the public defence, while the means were almost wholly wanting; for with scarcely the visible means in the whole settlements in its then exhausted and unsettled condition, of raising and supporting a single company of soldiers, they were expected to raise an army. Without the shadow of a public treasury, without any credit as a state, and without the power of taxing the people,—which, by the constitution just adopted, could only be done by the legislature not yet called,—they were required to do that for which half a million of money might be needed. Such were the difficulties by which they were met at the outset—difficulties which, to men of ordinary stamina and mental resources, would have been insurmountable. But these were not men of ordinary stamina, either moral or mental. They had been selected by the representatives of the people for the qualities which would fit them to guide the helm of state in this difficult and alarming crisis. And, unshrinkingly proceeding to the discharge of their high responsibilities, they soon evinced, by their conduct, that the confidence reposed in them had not been misplaced; for the glorious results of the field of Bennington, and the incessant and harassing warfare on the flanks of the enemy which both preceded and followed that event, and which drew forth from its despairing leader his best apology for his defeat and surrender, were, far more than is generally supposed, the fruits of the combined energy and talents of that unequalled little band of patriots and statesmen. [Footnote: A finer tribute of praise to the Green Mountain Boys could scarcely have been given, than the one involved in Burgoyne's letter to Lord Germain, written about the time of the battle of Bennington, in which he says, "The Hampshire Grants, a country unpeopled, and almost unknown, in the last war, now abounds in the most active and the most rebellious race of men on the continent, and hangs like a gathering storm on my left."] But the particular time we have chosen for lifting the curtain from their secret proceedings was at the darkest and most disheartening hour they were doomed to experience, and before the united mind of their body had been brought to bear on any measure which afforded a reasonable promise of auspicious results. The army of Burgoyne was then hovering on their borders in its most menacing attitude. Marauding parties were daily penetrating the interior, and plundering and capturing the defenceless inhabitants, while each day brought the unwelcome news of the defection of individuals who had openly gone off to swell the ranks of the victorious enemy to whose alarming progress scarcely a show of resistance had yet been interposed. Nor was this the end of the chapter of trials and discouragements that awaited the council. Another blow was to be added, more calculated than all to test their firmness and bring home to their bosoms a sense of the perils of the crisis, and the necessity of immediate action, unless they should conclude to yield at once to the current of destiny which seemed to be setting so strongly against them. But let us present the mortifying and disgraceful event, to which we last alluded, in another form, in which the historic pen, that thus far in this chapter has only been employed, may be legitimately aided by the pencil of fancy, while we bring the leading individuals of this body to view, and sketch the details of a scene as truthful in outline as it was important in result.

The long summer day was drawing to a close. It had been thus far spent by the council, as had been the several preceding days of their session, in discussing the subject of the ways and means of doing something to avert the doom that hung over their seemingly devoted state. But up to this hour their deliberations had been wholly fruitless. Project after project for the means of raising military forces had been brought forward and discussed; and each in turn had been thought to be impracticable, and had been consequently abandoned, till, wearied with their unavailing labors, and discouraged at the dubious prospect before them, they now began to think of giving up business for the day, when the door-keeper, with unwonted haste and an agitated manner, entered the room, and announced to the astonished members of the council the alarming tidings that one of their own body, and, until that day, an active participator in their discussions, had proved a Judas, and was now, with a band of his recreant neighbors, on his way to the British camp. The news fell like a thunder-clap on the council, producing, at first, a sensation not often witnessed in so grave an assemblage. But no formal comments were offered; and, after the commotion had subsided, all sunk into a thoughtful silence, which we will improve by our promised introduction to the reader of the leading members of the council.

Separated from the rest by a sort of enclosure composed of tables strung across one end of the apartment, which was a large upper room of an inn, hastily fitted up for the occasion, conspicuously sat the president of the council, the venerable Thomas Chittenden, the wise, the prudent, and the good, who was to Vermont what Washington was to the Union; and who, though not possessing dazzling greatness, had yet that rare combination of moral and intellectual qualities which was more fortunate for him—good sense, great discretion, firmness, honesty of purpose, benevolence, and unvarying equanimity of temper, united with a modest and pleasing address. And by the long and continued exercise of this golden mean of qualities, he was destined to leave behind him an honest, enduring fame—a memorial of good deeds and useful every-day examples, to be remembered and quoted, both in the domestic circle and in the public assembly, when the far superior brilliancy of many a contemporary had passed away and been forgotten. He was now something over fifty; but so fine were his physical endowments, and so temperate and regular had been his habits, that time had scarcely left a trace on his manly brow; and his fair and well-moulded features had almost the freshness of youth. And notwithstanding the unpretending simplicity of his deportment, and the extreme plainness of his dress, the large arm-chair, in which he now reclined, furnished probably by some considerate matron of the neighborhood for his special convenience, could not have found, in the broad land, an occupant who would have filled it with more native dignity, or one better fitted to restrain by courteous firmness, and by tact guide into safe and appropriate fields of action, the less disciplined and more fiery spirits of the body over which he presided.

Let us now take a glance at the more prominent members of this notable little band of public conservators. Here, immersed in thought, sat, side by side, like brothers, as they were, the two Fays, those intelligent, enterprising, and persevering friends of freedom and state independence. And there sat the two Robinsons, alike patriotic, and active, or able, according to the different spheres of action in which they were about to be distinguished—one in the tented field, and the other on the bench and in the national councils. In another place was seen the short, thick-set form of the uncompromising Matthew Lyon, the Irish refugee, who was willing to be sold to pay his passage to America, for the sake of getting out of the despotic moral atmosphere of the old world, into one where his broad chest, as he was wont to say, could expand freely, and where his bold spirit could soar unclogged by the trammels of legitimacy. In his eagle eye, in every lineament of his clear, ardent, and fearless countenance, indeed, might be read the promise of what he was to become—the stern democrat, and the well-known champion of the whole right and the largest liberty. In contrast to him, near by was seen the tall, commanding form, and the firm and thoughtful countenance, of Benjamin Carpenter, who had just arrived, with pack and cane, from Guilford, from which he had that day come on foot by a route designated by marked trees, through the mountain wilderness, nearly thirty miles in extent. Farther on, and seated before an open window, was Thomas Rowley, the first poet of the Green Mountains. He was here because he was a public favorite, a trusty patriot, and something of a statesman. But, like most other poets, he was not without his peculiarities of temperament, as might have been seen by his manner and movements even in this staid assembly; for, as if disgusted with a tedious and profitless debate, and determined also not long to be troubled by the disconcerting news just announced, he had now evidently cast these cares from his mind, to indulge in the more congenial employment of gazing out upon the landscape, over which his kindling eye might have been seen to wander, till it rested, in rapture, on the broad empurpled side and bright summit of the lofty Equinox Mountain, whose contrasted magnificence was growing every moment more striking and beautiful in the beams of the low-descending sun. On the opposite side of the room stood the mild and gentlemanly Nathan Clark, the future speaker of the first legislature of Vermont; and by his side, the dark and rough-featured Gideon Olin, an embryo member of Congress, was leaning against the wall, with a countenance of mingled sternness and gloom.

By the side of one of the tables, in front of the president, might also have been seen the stout, burly frame, and the matter-of-fact and business-like countenance, of Paul Spooner, engaged in writing a despatch. And as the last, though not as the least, among the strongly-contrasted characters of this assembly of whom we propose to take note, let us turn to the youthful secretary of the council, Ira Allen. So much the junior of his colleagues was he, indeed, that a spectator might well have wondered how he came to be selected as one of such a sage and elderly body of councillors. But those who procured his appointment knew full well why they had done so; and his history thenceforward was destined to prove a continued justification of their high opinion of him. He was of an active, mercurial turn, and, as might have been seen, was not inclined to remain long in one place or posture. He had now thrown aside his rapid pen, and, with a quick, light step and deeply-cogitating air, was traversing back and forth the open space between his table, in front of the president, and the closed door of the apartment. Both in form and feature, he was one of the handsomest men of his day; while a mind at once versatile, clear, and penetrating, with perceptions as quick as light, was stamped on his Grecian brow, or found a livelier expression in his lucid black eyes and other lineaments of his strikingly intellectual countenance. Such as he appeared for the first time on the stage of public action was the noted Ira Allen, whose true history, when written, will show him to have been, either secretly or openly, the originator, or successful prosecutor, of more important political measures, affecting the interests and independence of the state, and the issue of the war in the Northern Department, than any other individual in Vermont, making him, with the many peculiar traits of character he possessed, one of the most remarkable men of the times in which he so conspicuously figured.

"I have finished, Mr. President," said Spooner, now breaking the gloomy silence which had, for an unusual interval, pervaded the assembly—"I have finished the despatch, suggested by your honor, requiring the attendance of the absent member from the east side of the mountain—General Bayley. And having put it into the form of a familiar letter, I have ventured to enlarge somewhat on our perplexing situation, especially in the matter of the miserable Squire Spencer, whose treasonable desertion I little dreamed, when I commenced writing, I should have the mortification of announcing." [Footnote: The original letter from Paul Spooner to General Jacob Bayley, of Newbury, written in council, requiring the attendance of the latter, and informing him of Spencer's defection, and the gloomy situation of affairs, is still preserved, and affords, notwithstanding the disheartening news it communicates, a striking proof of the determination of that body to struggle on to the last against the mountain of difficulties which, at this dark crisis, seemed to lie before them.]

"That is well," responded the president; "and we must look up some suitable messenger to convey it to its destination. But I had hoped to forward, by the same hand, the despatch requesting the aid and co-operation of New Hampshire, which has been deferred till some definite action of our own should enable us to inform the council of that state what we of the Grants propose to do ourselves towards the object for which we invoke their assistance. This they will doubtless consider essential to be known, before listening to our call, as otherwise they will not know whether they will find among us more friends to assist than enemies to impede them. But what can we now tell them? I will submit to you, gentlemen of the council," he continued, in a kindly expostulating tone—"I will submit to your good sense and patriotism, whether it is not now time to adopt some decided course to be pursued. We must not be disheartened by a few untoward circumstances. Providence not unfrequently frowns on us for our own good. And who shall say, in the present instance, that our deliberations have not been wisely and kindly rendered of no effect till after Spencer's desertion, since, had we adopted a plan of operations while he was here, the whole of it, by this time, had been in the possession of the British general? But be that as it may, the event of this man's apostasy, of itself, instead of making us timid and irresolute in action, should but render us more prompt and decided. The people, as we all feel painfully conscious, I presume, expect much from us. Shall we disappoint them in every thing? Because we cannot consistently do all that may be expected, shall we resolve to do nothing? I have listened to your objections to levying a general tax upon the people, as the means of raising a military force; and, with you, I consider them valid; for to infringe the constitution, just adopted, by an arbitrary taxation, would be setting a dangerous precedent, and one which would come with a bad grace from those of us here who helped to adopt it. No; we must resort to other means. We can, if we will, borrow, pledging ourselves as individuals, with such others as we may find willing to stand sponsors with us, that the state shall hereafter pay the debt; or we may resort to voluntary contributions. I am aware the people are unable to contribute much. I am aware that a great portion of the inhabitants have been driven from their homes, and are now living on the hospitality of the rest. But for all this, the people can and will cheerfully contribute something—more, I think, than we should be willing to require of them. I have ten head of cattle, which can be spared for the emergency. But am I more patriotic than you, and hundreds of others in the settlement? My wife has a valuable gold necklace. Hint to her to-day that it is needed for the public service, and, my word for it, to-morrow you will find it in the treasury of freedom. But is my wife any more public-spirited than yours and many others among us? Gentlemen, I await your propositions."

During this moderate, but really well-timed and effective appeal of the president, drooping heads began to be raised, perplexed and desponding countenances grew brighter, and by the time he had closed, several speakers were on their feet, eager to respond.

"Mr. Carpenter has the floor, I think, gentlemen," said the president.

"I rose," said Carpenter, "but to give my hearty response to the sentiments of the chair. It is time, high time, for some definite and decided action. Less talking and more action shall henceforth be my motto. I have not now, it is true, any digested proposition to present to the council; but I soon will have one, unless others are offered; for, in this emergency, it is little short of a crime to dally any longer."

"Ay, action! action!" responded several voices.

"Action let it be, then," said Rowley, the next rising to speak. "If it be true, as has been urged, Mr. President, that we cannot raise money by general assessment without exceeding our power; and disaffecting the people, and that we must depend on voluntary contribution, which receivers, appointed for the purpose, may more appropriately gather in than ourselves, why are we needed here? I will, therefore, make a proposition, which, while it will be obnoxious to none of the objections brought against other plans of defence, will give gentlemen as much action as they want. I propose, Mr. President, that each of us here, before any more of us run away to the enemy, seize a standard, repair singly to the different hamlets among our mountains, cause the summoning drum to beat for volunteers, and lead them, when obtained, to do battle in person with this Jupiter Olympus of a British general, who has so nearly annihilated the country by proclamation."

"Tom Rowley all over! but a gallant push nevertheless," vivaciously exclaimed Samuel Robinson, in an under tone. "And yet, Mr. President," he continued, dropping the jocose, and now rising to speak in form—"and yet, if our colleague's spirited proposal could be carried into effect, and men be found to volunteer under such military leaders as most of us would make,—or if the different towns, as has been suggested by others, would order out the militia on our requisition,—even then, it appears to me, we should raise a permanent and regularly enlisted force, to serve a rallying point or nucleus for the militia, or our patriotic friend's army of volunteers. I therefore move, as I was about to do when others claimed the floor—I move the raising of a regular force, however small our means may compel us to make it; and as the smallest to be thought of, I will name one company of one hundred men, to be raised and supported by one of the methods suggested by the president."

"And I," said Clark, promptly rising—"and I, believing we may venture to go a little higher than that, I propose, we have to raise two companies of sixty men each."

"No, No!" cried several voices; "one company. Means can be found for no more than one."

"Yes, yes! the larger number first, Mr. President! I go for two companies," cried others.

"And I go for neither, Mr. President" said Ira Allen stopping short in his walk, and turning to the chair. "For I believe the council, on a little reflection, will conclude to do something more worthy of the character of the Green Mountain Boys, than the raising of the paltry force which even the bes' of these propositions involves. And I doubt not the means of so doing may be soon and abundantly supplied, without infringing the constitution or distressing the people. And I therefore move, sir, that this council resolve to raise a full regiment of men, forthwith appoint their officers, and take such prompt and speedy measures for their enlistment, that, within one week every glen in Vermont shall resound with the stir of military preparation."

"Chimerical!" said one, who, in common with the rest of the council, seemed to hear, with much surprise, a proposition of this magnitude so confidently offered, when the doubt appeared to be whether even the comparatively trifling one of Clark would be adopted.

"Impossible, utterly impossible to raise pay for half of them," responded several others.

"Don't let us say that till we are compelled to do so," said the patriotic Carpenter, in an encouraging tone. "This proposition jumps so well with my wishes, that I would not see it hastily abandoned. For, although I confess I do not pretend to see where the requisite means are to come from, yet some new light, in this respect, may break in upon us by another day. And could we but see our way clear to sustain this proposition, we should feel like men again."

"Amen to all that," responded Clark. And as the hour for adjournment has now arrived, I move that our young colleague, who offered this proposition with so much confidence in the discovery of a way to carry it into execution, and who is said to be very fertile in expedients, be appointed a committee to devise the ways and means of paying the bounties and wages of the regiment he proposes to raise; and that he make his report to the council by sunrise to-morrow morning."

"Second that motion, Mr. President" cried Lyon, in his usual full, determined tone of voice and strong Irish accent. "I go for the whole of Mr. Allen's proposition, means or no means. But the means can, must, and shall be found, sir! We will put the gentleman's brains under the screws to-night," he continued, jocosely turning to Allen; "and if he appears here in the morning empty-handed, he ought to be expelled from the council. Ay, and I'll move it, too, by the two bulls that redeemed me!" [Footnote: Matthew Lyon, who very soon became much noted as a leading partisan in the legislature of Vermont, and subsequently more so as member of congress from Kentucky, having, as before intimated, been sold to pay his passage from Ireland to Connecticut, where he landed, was afterwards redeemed by the payment of a pair of bulls to the purchaser, by a gentleman of that state, for whom he was permitted to labor, at liberal wages, till this novel kind of indebtedness was cancelled. And as this bold and singular man entered upon the scenes of life as a successful freeman, he was fond of boasting of the romantic manner in which he became one, while the expression, "By the two bulls that redeemed me," became his favorite oath on all occasions.]

"I accept the terms," replied Allen, bowing pleasantly to the former. "Give me a room by myself, pen, ink, paper, and a lamp, and I will abide the condition."

"For your lamp, Mr. Allen, as your task is to discover money where there is none, I advise you to borrow the wonderful lamp of Aladin," gayly added Rowley, as the question was put, and carried; and the council, in a half-serious, half-sportive mood, broke up, and separated for the night.

At sunrise, the next morning, as had been proposed, the council punctually assembled to receive the promised report of their committee. Most of them, from having lodged in the same house, were aware that Allen had spent the whole of the intervening time on the business which had been committed to his charge; for, hour after hour, during that important night, they had heard the sound of his footsteps, as he continued to walk his solitary chamber, intensely revolving in his teeming mind the vexed question, upon the decision of which he felt the last chance of making a successful stand against the invaders of the state would probably depend. And this and the expectation, which had somehow been generally raised, that he would present some feasible plan for carrying out his proposals, the character of which no one could conjecture, caused his appearance to be awaited with no little curiosity and solicitude. They were not left long in suspense; for scarcely had the president called the council to order, before Allen came in, holding in his hand an open sheet of paper, to which, as the yet undried ink showed, he had just committed the result of his night's labor.

"Is the committee, appointed at adjournment last evening prepared to make his report?" asked the president.

"Fully, your honor," promptly responded Allen, who accordingly then rose and said,—

"My report, Mr. President, consists of two parts. The first comprises the nomination of a list of officers, from colonel to subaltern, for a regiment, to be styled The Rangers. The second part involves the subject more particularly committed to me, and proposes the means of raising and supporting them. As the first will be useless unless the second is adopted, I will submit it without present reading, and proceed at once with the second and more important proposition, which, after a long and patient consideration of every argument for and against the measure, I have concluded to recommend to the council, as the best and most effectual means of securing the desired end. And that proposition, for the sake of convenience, as regards the action of the council on the principle involved, I have thrown into the form of the following resolution:—

"Resolved, That by specific decree of this council, and under regulations hereafter to be made, the estates, both real and personal, of all those who have been, or hereafter may be, identified as tories, aiders and abettors of the enemy, within this state, be confiscated for the military defence thereof; and that so much of said estates as may be needed for the payment of the bounties and wages of the regiment now proposed to be raised, be forthwith seized, and within ten days sold at the post, for that purpose, by the officers appointed by this council to execute its orders and decrees in that behalf."

The speaker, without offering any further remark in explanation or defence of the measure he had reported, resumed his seat, and calmly awaited the expression of the council. But they were taken by such complete surprise by a proposition at that time so entirely new in the colonies, so bold and so startling in its character, that, for many minutes, not a word or whisper was heard through the hushed assembly, whose bowed heads and working countenances showed how deeply their minds were engaged in trying to grapple with the momentous subject, upon which their action was thus unexpectedly required. At length, nowever, low murmurs of doubt or disapproval began to be heard; and soon the expressions, "unprecedented step!"—"doubtful policy!" and "injury to the cause" became distinguishable among the over-prudent in different parts of the room when Matthew Lyon sprang to his feet, and, bringing his broad palms together with a loud slap, exultingly exclaimed,—

"The child is born, Mr, President! My head has been in a continual fog, every hour since we convened, till the present moment; and I could see no way by which we could even begin to do all that the exigency required, without running against law, or distressing the people. But now, thank God, I can see my way out. I can now see, at a glance, how all can be speedily and righteously accomplished. I can already see a regiment of our brave mountaineers in arms before me, as the certain fruits of this bold, bright thought of our sagacious and intrepid young colleague. Unprecedented step is it? It may be so with us timid republicans but is it so with our enemies, who are this moment threatening to crush us, because we object to receive their law and precedent? How were they to obtain the lands of the half of Vermont, which, it is said, they recently offered the lion-hearted Ethan Allen, if he would join them, but by confiscating our estates? What has become of the estates of those in their own country, who, like ourselves, have rebelled against their government? From time immemorial they have been confiscated. Can they complain then, at our following a precedent of their own setting? Can they complain because we adopt a measure, which, in case we are vanquished, they will not be slow to visit on our estates, to say nothing of our necks? Can these recreant rascals themselves, who have left their property among us, and gone off to help fasten this very government upon us, complain at our doing what they will be the first to recommend to be done to us, if their side prevails? Where, then, is the doubtful policy of our anticipating them in this measure, any more than in seizing one of their loaded guns in battle, and turning it against them? Injury to the cause, will it be?—Will it injure our cause here, where men are daily deserting to the British, in belief that we shall not dare touch their property to strike a blow that will deter all the wavering, and most others of any property, from leaving us hereafter? Will it injure our cause here to have a regiment of regular troops, who will, perhaps, draw into the field four times their number, in volunteers? If this be an injury, Mr. President, I only wish we may have a few more of them; for, with a half dozen such injuries, by the two bulls, we would rout Burgoyne's whole army in a fortnight. Yes, Mr. President, this measure must go; for it promises every thing to cause, and threatens nothing that honest patriots need fear, and had I a hundred tongues, they should all wag a good stiff ay for its adoption."

"A bold measure, boldly advocated!" next spoke Carpenter. "But as bold as it is, Mr. President, I rise not to condemn it, but rather to say, that I am determined to meet it fairly, and without fear; and if, when I get cool enough to trust myself to make a decision, the objections to it appear no more formidable than they now do, I will give it my hearty support."

"If the public should call this a desperate remedy, they must recollect that it is almost our only one," remarked Olin, in his cool, quiet manner. "Nothing venture, nothing have;—let us go for it who dare!"

"Let us oppose it who dare!" warmly responded Lyon. "The measure will be a popular one; and let it once be known among the people, as I promise gentlemen it shall be, that this proposition was considerately recommended to us by a committee we appointed for the purpose—let this be known, and who among us has nerve enough to stem the storm of popular indignation that will burst on his head, for the timid and cowardly policy which led him to go against it?"

"Vermont," added Rowley—"Vermont was the first to show her sister states the way to take a British fort; let her also be the first to teach them the secret of making tories bear their proportion of the burdens of the war. I am already prepared to give the measure my support, Mr. President."

Almost every member, in turn, now threw in a few observations. The doubts and fears of the more cautious and wavering gradually gave way; and it soon became evident that the measure had found too much favor with the council to be resisted. Lyon, with his rough and pithy eloquence, had broken the ice of timidity at the right moment; and he and the originator of the measure, at first the only unhesitating members of the assembly, perceiving the gathering current in its favor, now warmly followed up their advantage; and, within two hours from its introduction, the resolution was adopted. This was immediately followed by the passage of the decree named in the resolution, specifying the names of those thus far fairly identified as openly espousing the British cause in Vermont, and declaring their estates forfeited to its use. Allen's proposal to raise a regiment of rangers was then, as a matter of course, unanimously carried, and the officers he had nominated were, with a few alterations, as unanimously appointed. All were now animated with a new spirit. Hope and confidence had taken the place of doubt and despondency in their bosoms and the remainder of the day was spent in carrying out the details of their plan, which all agreed should now be put into execution with the greatest possible promptitude and secrecy. In this, as soon as the different appointments, made necessary for the execution of the decree, were completed by the united action of the council, all the members, individually, took an active part. And for many hours, they might have been seen sitting round the tables, silently and intently engaged with their pens; some in drafting despatches to be sent to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, some in writing confidential letters, unfolding their plans and asking the co-operation of the leading men in the different parts of their own state, and some in making out commissions for the military officers, or the commissioners and other officers of confiscation, while others were out, scattering themselves about town, warily and cautiously inquiring out prompt and trusty messengers, to be despatched, as soon as it was dark, simultaneously and post-haste, to convey these important missives to their different destinations round the country. And all being accomplished,—the blow struck, and the machinery put in motion,—the council concluded to adjourn, to meet again in a few days at Bennington, the interim to be spent by them in repairing to their respective spheres of influence among the people, and there taking an active part in defending and explaining their measures, and assisting to carry them into operation.

Such was the origin of those temporary tribunals in Vermont, subsequently termed courts of confiscation, which formed a prominent feature in her early history, and which furnished, it is believed, the first example of the exercise of this extraordinary power ever known in the United Colonies during the revolutionary struggle. And whatever may have been the effects of this retributive policy in other states, its results here were salutary and important. It put an immediate stop to any further espousing of British interests, especially among men of property, while, within the astonishingly short space of fifteen days, it brought a regiment of men into the field, well armed and prepared for instant service,—thus securing those advantages to the defenders of liberty, in the peculiar posture of their affairs in which it was introduced, and giving that impetus to their military operations, without which the brilliant successes that marked the ensuing campaign in Vermont could never have been obtained. Of this there can scarcely be a doubt. And scarcely less doubt can there be, that the important measure in question would not have been brought forward and adopted at the crisis, in which alone the advantages it then secured could have been denied from us but for its sole projector, the sagacious, scheming, and fearless Ira Allen.

Speculative writers have often amused themselves in tracing great events to small causes. And in this they have oftentimes so wonderfully succeeded, as to show, beyond the power of man to refute, some of the most trivial circumstances of life, considered by themselves, to have caused the revolutions of empires. Were we to make out an instance of this character, to be added to the many other remarkable ones which have been noted by the curious, it should be done by tracing the independence of America to the measure which Allen so boldly projected, as he walked his lonely chamber, on the eventful night we have described. The independence of the colonies was, at that dark crisis, balancing, as on a pivot; and the success of Burgoyne must seemingly have turned the scale against us. The success of Burgoyne, at the same time, hung on a pivot also; and the victory of Bennington, with all its numberless direct and indirect consequences, as now seems generally conceded, turned the scale of his fortunes when his success, otherwise, could scarcely have been doubtful. But the victory of Bennington would never have been achieved but for the decided and energetic movement of Vermont, which alone secured the cooperation of New Hampshire, or, at least insured victory, when, otherwise, no battle would have been rewarded. And that essential movement of Vermont would never have been made but for the bold and characteristic project of Ira Allen.

All this, to be sure, is but supposition; but who can gainsay its truthfulness?



CHAPTER II.

"Say what is woman's heart?—a thing Where all the deepest feelings spring; And what its love?—a ceaseless stream, A changeless star—an endless dream— A smiling flower, that will not die— A beauty and a mystery!"

While the scenes last described were occurring at Manchester, in the Council of Safety, whose secret and unforeseen action was about to be felt in the remotest corners of the state, an athletic, well-formed, though plainly-dressed young man, whose fortunes, in common with those of hundreds around him, were suddenly and unexpectedly to be affected by the movements of that body, might have been seen, in the evening twilight, moving, with slow and apparently hesitating steps, across a new-mown field, towards a neat and commodious dwelling, situated on the main road leading from the town just named, to the south, and near where it entered the then fast increasing little village of Bennington. Though he wore no regular military uniform, or arms that were visible, yet there was that in his gait, manner, and general appearance, which indicated the recent occupation of a soldier, while the natural cast of his bold, manly features, and the clear, calm, and steady expression of his fine countenance, all combined to show him a man of coolness and courage; and that, consequently, the seeming timidity and indecision of his present movements were attributable to some passing doubts respecting the issue of the business on hand, or other causes of a similar character, rather than any general want of firmness and resolution. After advancing within a stone's throw of the house, he turned into a clump of small trees, which, extending along the outer border of an unenclosed garden to the north of the establishment, had concealed his approach; and here taking a position that commanded a view of the front and rear entrances of the house, he seemed to await some expected event, with manifestations of considerable uneasiness and solicitude. In a few moments, a slight stir, as of company taking leave, was heard in the front part of the house; and very soon a fashionably-dressed personage of a somewhat swaggering deportment, accompanied with many of those supercilious airs with which the colonial loyalists of the times often thought to dignify their carriage among despised republicans, made his appearance in the yard, where, equipped for riding, stood a stout, well-conditioned horse, which he approached and led out some distance into the road, preparatory to mounting. He then paused, and, with a hasty glance around him, covertly drew forth, from a concealed girdle apparently, a pair of good-sized pistols, and carefully examined their flints and priming; after which he replaced them, and, vaulting into his saddle, rode leisurely away along the road leading northward. In the mean time, the person first described retained his position within his leafy concealment, where, unseen himself, he had seen and watched from the first, with keen interest, all the movements of the other, whom, at length, he seemed to recognize, with recollections which caused him to recoil, and his whole countenance to contract and darken with angry and disquieting emotions. He was not allowed much time, however, for indulging his disturbed feelings; for scarcely had the object of his annoyance disappeared, before his attention was attracted by a slight rustling sound somewhere within the garden; when, turning his head, the frown that had gathered on his brow suddenly gave place to a look of joyful animation, as his eager eye caught a glimpse of the light, fluttering drapery of a female, who, with soft, rapid tread, was gliding along the outer edge of the screening shrubbery towards him. The next instant he was at her side, ardently grasping her half-proffered hand, and tenderly gazing into her sweetly-confused countenance.

"How grateful," he began, after a broken salutation—"how grateful I should be for this obliging attention to the note I sent you, soliciting a meeting which—"

"Which my gallant preserver of old will be pretty sure to misconstrue, I fear me," interrupted the maiden, with a half-murmured, sportive laugh.

"No, Miss Haviland," he replied, too intent on a serious demonstration of his feelings to respond in the same spirit—"no, I am not so presuming; nor do I wish to count on the former service, which you so magnify, and which has induced you, perhaps, to grant this interview."

"In part, I confess," was the answer to this implied question.

"I suspected—I feared so," he rejoined, despondingly. "Would to Heaven you could have acted entirely aside from that motive, and then I might have found cause to hope. But now," he added, with suppressed emotion—"now—But O, how can I harbor the chilling thought of being doomed to love without a return! Say, fairest and best, must this indeed be so?"

The downcast look and the quick-heaving bosom were the only reply; and the impassioned lover, gathering courage even from these uncertain indications, proceeded:—

"Years, eventful years, have passed away, my dear Miss Haviland, since your face, like some unexpected vision, first greeted my sight, and its image, at the same moment, as a thing not to be resisted, sunk deep into my heart. And there, from that hour to this, it has constantly remained—remained in spite of all my attempts to exclude it; for I struggled hard to banish it, as I had so much reason to do. You were the daughter of wealth and prosperity—I the son of poverty and misfortune; and, what was more revolting to my pride, you were found with my political opponents—my oppressors—nay, in the closest connection, apparently, with my bitterest foe. But with all the aid which these thoughts and associations were calculated to lend me, I struggled in vain. And when I was driven, poor, sorrowing, and desperate, from my home, by the wrongs and insults of this same man, of whose position towards you I was not left in doubt, I carried that image with me. It would not be eradicated; it would not even fade; but became more deeply impressed, and grew more and more vivid with time and change. In the stirring scenes of military life into which I then entered,—in the hour of battle, the exhausting march, the horrors of a prisonship, the perilous escape, and the lone wanderings through the wilderness, till I again reached the soil of freedom,—in all these, the impress remained unweakened, constantly presenting itself to my thoughts by day, and shaping my dreams by night. And it was this, when, on my return, I came into this quarter, where I had learned our scattered troops were rallying, and where I found myself near you—it was this that brought me to your father's dwelling—it was this, which, in spite of the coldness of my reception by all but yourself, urged me to the repeated visit, in which I was driven with insults from your house."

"Not by me, Mr. Woodburn," interposed the fair listener, in kindly and earnest tones—"not by me, nor by my consent or sanctioning. And it was mainly to show you this that I was induced to grant your request for this, on my part, I fear, imprudent meeting. No! O, no, sir, I have never forgotten—I can never forget—to whom I am indebted for my life; and gratitude as well as respect for his general character, will ever forbid aught but kind and courteous treatment at my hands. And I hope you will make some allowance for my father, who feels so strongly that the people, whose cause you espouse, are criminally wrong."

"I do make an allowance," responded Woodburn—"great allowance for his imbittered state of mind towards the defenders of the American cause; but does that fully account for the course he pursues towards me?"

"To be frank with you, sir, it does not," she replied, after some hesitation. "There are those often with my father, who are not backward in fanning his prejudices, and perhaps in instigating the undeserved treatment you have received. I may be unwise in saying this; but justice to all, it appears to me, requires that you should be apprised of it. You will not surely make use of this to embroil us?"

"Certainly not; but what you communicate is hardly news to me. I well understand that the principal one of those to whom you allude is no other than the person who just rode away from your house."

"You saw him, then? I am thankful you did not come in collision with him; for he is a man you must avoid. Yes, that was indeed Colonel Peters."

Colonel Peters! Colonel, did you call him? Has he, then, actually joined the British forces, and received a commission for such a post in their army?"

"Yes; but I had supposed this was known, else I might have hesitated to disclose it, lest his frequent visits here might implicate my father, who, I hope, may be induced to remain neutral in this unhappy contest."

"Fear not, fair friend. No advantage shall be taken of this, through my means, to the injury of your father. But, tell me, does that officious adviser of your father still urge a suit, and plead an engagement, of which, I have inferred, you would not be sorry to be relieved?"

"He does," answered the maiden, sadly—"he does urge a suit, and insist on an engagement, of which he knows I wish to be relieved."

"Why should he do this?"

"Perhaps he counts on the effect of events to reconcile me—events which he seems to expect will shortly happen—the complete triumph of his cause, the disgrace, banishment, or death of its cpposers, and his own elevation thereby to stations which, he thinks no woman will refuse to share with him. He counts much also, probably, on the aiding influence of my father, who feels warmly interested in his success, and believes with the other that he, who is so loyal, while so many of his standing are otherwise, cannot fail of reaping a brilliant harvest of rewards, which, with the connection they propose, will reflect lustre on our family."

"Then it does not occur to them," said Woodburn, with a smile at this specimen of that loyal air-castle building in which the tories of the revolution seemed to have so extravagantly indulged—"it does not occur to them that it is even possible these splendid schemes may fail, in the failure of their cause in this country, which has thus, in anticipation, been parcelled out into dukedoms and lordships, to reward its sanguine adherents?"

"One would think not, from their conversation on the subject," replied the other.

"And what thinks she, whom they would have so much interested in this great issue?" asked Woodburn, encouraged to the question by the manner and tone of her last remark. "Has it never occurred to her mind that their cause, as strong as they deem it, is destined to fail; that even this vaunting army, which hangs so menacingly on our borders, may be swept away by the vengeance of a wronged, an insulted, and now aroused people; and that this despised people have right and Heaven on their side; and by the blessings of that Heaven, while they do battle in the consciousness of that right, will yet triumph, and become an independent nation, to which even her present haughty foe will do reverence?"

"It has," replied the maiden, warmly and with emphasis—"it has, Mr. Woodburn; and—why should I attempt to conceal it?—and I have wished—for I could not help it, though against the feelings, and, perhaps, the best interests of a generally kind parent—I have long secretly wished, and even prayed, for your success; because I could not stifle the conviction of the truth of what you assert respecting the wrongs of the American people, and the justice of their cause."

"Sabrey Haviland," exclaimed the surprised and delighted lover, "as long as I have respected and loved you, I have never till this moment, known you—never half appreciated the worth of your character!"

"What you may appreciate highly, sir, others may as highly condemn," she meekly responded. "I have said more to you than I have ever expressed to human being; and I may be wrong—wrong in saying it to you—wrong in saying it or believing it at all." "Wrong? O, no, no, noble girl!" he rejoined, with increasing animation; "no, you are not wrong; you are right—right in your convictions, right in the wish, the prayer, and the declaration. Men will honor your honest independence, exercised against so much to bias and prejudice, so much to tempt and dazzle you; and Heaven will approve and bless you. But with such sentiments," he added, in tenderly expostulating accents—"with such sentiments, dear lady, will you doom me to plead my heart's cause in vain? Will you still adhere to a lover active in the work of oppression which you condemn, and reject his rival, equally active in the cause you approve and pray for?"

"I see my error, Mr. Woodburn," she replied, with an air of self-reproach and of slightly-offended pride, which, however, gave way to kindly tones, as she proceeded; "I have unintentionally helped you to an argument, while I am constrained to decide that no argument, so long as I stand in my present position, must prevail with me. Do not, then, O, do not press me with questions like these. You know not the extent of my perplexities, and I may not explain. Besides, are these the times to engage in such affairs, when the next hour may lead to an eternal separation, or place our respective destinies as wide as the poles asunder?"

"But will you not allow me even to hope for the future?" still persisted the lover.

"Why should I bid you tantalize yourself with hopes so likely to prove futile, when nobler thoughts should engross you? Look, Mr. Woodburn," she said, pointing, with charming enthusiasm, towards the distant summits of Manchester, then beginning to be dimly visible in the rays of the rising moon, "cast your eyes northward! Beneath yon blue mountains is gathered the council of your people. There also rolls the recruiting drum of your brave Warner, who needs men like you; or if, as you intimated, you are waiting to engage in a different corps, which your council is expected to raise, would not your attendance there be more worthily bestowed, than in adding to the perplexities of one already so thickly surrounded with difficulties, and one who, to your suit, cannot say yea, while she would be pained to say nay?"

"Cruel girl, but noble in your cruelty!" exclaimed Woodburn, with mingled disappointment and admiration. "I will forbear to press my suit for the present, but not forever. I will heed the lesson of patriotism you have given me, but only to remember my fair prompter with deeper devotion."

"Hark!" said the other, starting; "I hear my father's chiding voice in the house inquiring for me. I must go. Adieu, Mr. Woodburn. With this tendered hand of friendship and gratitude, adieu."

"If it must be so, my precious, my beautiful one, farewell to you, also."

Lips uttered no more, but the mute pause that followed, while eye met eye, and hand lingered in hand, was not meaningless. The fond lover was not permitted, however, to prolong the entrancing moment, which, as the slightly-returned pressure of the small white hand, closely imprisoned in his own, told him, had not been reluctantly vouchsafed him; for, quickly arousing herself, the maiden broke from his clinging grasp, and tripped silenty away, leaving him gazing after her retreating form, and listening to the soft and decreasing sounds of her light footsteps upon the grass, till the jar of the closing door, to which she had directed her devious course, made him feel that he was alone, and that the charm of the place was gone.

With a sigh, he turned from the spot, and soon gained the highway; when, taking the direction in which his rival and foe had departed, he walked musingly onward, heedless alike of the cool and balmly air of the evening, or the quietly reposing beauties which the light of a full moon, now beginning to peer over the eastern hills, was gradually unfolding around him, and intent only on the dreamy images with which love and his new-fledged hope seemed conspiring for a while to amuse his willing mind. At length, however, a quickened pace, a firmer tread, and a prouder bearing, showed that a different and less peaceful train of thought was springing up within.

"So this evil genius of mine, it seems," he muttered, "who forever appears in my path to snatch from me every prize I set my heart on, is secretly an officer in the British service, commissioned, probably, to head a regiment of tories, whom he is now by his false statements and delusive promises, attempting to gather from the weak and wavering of our overawed people. This must be instantly made known. Heavens! what effrontery!—to be playing the spy under the garb of pretended neutrality, and seducing away the deluded men under our very noses, to lead them back to fall with fire and sword on their kindred and neighbors! And I am to be the particular object of his vengeance, I presume, from the significant hint she gave me to avoid him. Avoid him! He shall be spared much trouble to find me if that is what he wants. He is now the country's foe, and lawful game with me. I would that I could meet him tonight—yes, this night; and if I thought I could overtake him—stay, why can't this be done?—only three miles start, probably, and on a moderate trot; while my horse is a fleet one, and—and—we will try it."

By this time he had reached a log house, and barn of the same materials, which formed a small opening on the left side of the road, and which was the residence of a recently-married and here settled friend, in whose care he had left his horse before proceeding, as on the lady's account he did, through the adjoining wood and Haviland's broad fields beyond, to the clandestine interview with her that we have described. And now turning in towards this rude establishment, he hastily proceeded, without calling at the house, directly to the barn, that was partially enclosed by one of those close-laid, high, pole fences which the settlers usually constructed round their barns to protect their flocks against the depredations of wild beasts. Within this strong enclosure, the owner's cattle, consisting of a pair of oxen, cow, and two or three young creatures of the same species, were now quietly chewing their cuds, with those occasional wheezing grunts, which with them seem so indicative of animal enjoyment; while in one corner stood the horse of which Woodburn was in quest—a little model of a creature, of a lively, attent appearance, as now particularly manifested by a low, earnest, recognizing whinny, and by instantly starting off, in a sort of half trot towards the bars of the enclosure, as her master came up on the other side.

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