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The Rangers - [Subtitle: The Tory's Daughter]
by D. P. Thompson
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The feast proceeded. With the constant bandying of compliment, joke, and repartee, among the merry and self-satisfied lordlings who assumed the right of engrossing the conversation, course after course came and passed in rapid succession, till a sufficient variety of viands and other substantial esculents had been served to warrant the introduction of the lighter delicacies of the dessert. But still there seemed to be a saving of appetite, a looking for some expected dish that had not yet made its appearance, on the part of several of the guests, and especially on that of the pompous votary of Mars, who had been installed master of the ceremonies, and who at length ventured to say,—

"I had looked, my lady hostess, to have seen, ere this, among your many other delectables, the fulfilment of your ladyship's promise gracing the table, in the shape of the blackbird pie, wherewith we were to be regaled, at your entertainment, if your polite note of invitation was rightly read and interpreted."

"O, the blackbird pie!" replied the countess, with a sprightly air and a charming touch of the German brogue. "I was waiting to be reminded of that; for there is a condition, which I wish to propose to your excellency, before the promised extra can make its appearance."

"Ah! What is that, my incomparable cateress?" asked the former.

"Why, only that you carve and serve the pie to the company yourself, mon general," archly replied the countess.

"A challenge to your chivalry, general, which no true knight can refuse to accept," cried Frazier and others.

"I yield me, and accede to the condition," said Burgoyne, gracefully waving his jewelled hand, and joining in the general laugh.

"It is well," said the countess, with a finely-assumed air of mock gravity, as she raised her exquisite little table bell, which now, under her rapidly-plied fingers, sent its sharp jingle through the house.

The next moment, a liveried servant, whose countenance seemed slyly gleaming with some suppressed merriment, was seen advancing with a broad, deep dish, tastefully crowned by the swelling crust of snow-white pastry, which tightly enclosed the supposed contents beneath.

At a motion of the indicating finger of the hostess, the tempting dish was brought forward, and carefully placed on the table before the many-titled carver, amid a shower of compliments to the distinguished artificer of so fine an edible structure, from him and many others of the admiring company. The general now rose, and, intent only on a dexterous performance of the duties of his new vocation, gave a preliminary flourish of knife and fork, and dashed into the middle of the pie; when lo! through the rent thus made in the imprisoning crust, out flew half a score of live blackbirds, which, fluttering up and scattering over the dodging heads of the astonished guests, made for the open windows, and escaped, with loud chirping cries, to their native meadows! At first, a slight exclamation from the gentlemen, a half shriek from the ladies, then a momentary pause, and then one universal burst of uproarious laughter, followed this strange denouement of the little plot of the playful countess. She, it appeared, had engaged a fowler to bring her a couple of dozens of blackbirds, which, by a net, he had taken, and brought to her alive; when, keeping part as they were, she contrived up the scheme to amuse and surprise her guests here described, and, slaying the rest, made of them a veritable pie, that was now brought forward, and partaken, with great gusto, by the delighted company.

At length the cloth was removed, and the table replenished with bottles and glasses. Then followed the usual round of toasts—"the health of the king,"—"the invincibility of British arms,"—"success to the present expedition,"—and, with many a deriding epithet, "confusion to the rebels and their ragged army."

"Fill, gentlemen," said Burgoyne, after the subjects above named had been sufficiently exhausted—"fill up your glasses once more; for, in descanting on the public responsibilities and glory of the soldier, let us not be unmindful of those private felicities which are to reward his prowess. I give you," he added, with a significant glance at our heroine—"I give you, ladies and gentlemen, the health and happiness of our two loyal American officers, Colonel Peters and Captain Jones, the prospective bridegrooms of the double wedding of to-morrow, extremely regretting that both of the fair participants of the happy occasion, instead of one, are not here to give the beautiful response of their blushes to the sentiment."

As the lively applause with which this toast was received and drank was subsiding, the ladies, to the great relief of the astonished and confused Miss Haviland, now rose and retired to another apartment. Here, pleading some excuse for an immediate departure, Sabrey hurried out through a back way, and escaped unperceived to her father's quarters, a small adjoining cottage, where she had lodged since his arrival in camp, and where she now secluded herself, to endeavour to fathom the plot which the unexpected and unwarranted announcement just indirectly made, together with some other circumstances of recent occurrence, plainly told was in progress to in snare her.

But it may here be necessary, for a clear understanding of some things which have preceded, and others which may follow, to revert briefly to the experience of the luckless maiden since placed in her present uncongenial and embarrassing position.

When Miss Haviland, on the termination of her compulsory journey, arrived at the outposts of the British army, she was conducted, by the order of some one evidently apprised of her coming immediately to her father's quarters. The old gentleman, at the somewhat awkward meeting that now took place between them, seemed both surprised and gratified at seeing her there; and though his manner betrayed a sort of guilty embarrassment arising, perhaps, from the consciousness of his former harshness to her, he yet at once, and pointedly, disclaimed having had any agency in her abduction, which he laid to the chances of war; to which, he contended, her perverse and unadvised conduct had been the means of exposing her. Peters, also, who soon made his appearance, joined in the disclaimer; and tendering some empty apologies for what had happened, which, he said, grew out of the mistake of a subordinate officer in construing an order in relation to taking hostages from the enemy, in certain cases, offered to convey her back, if she chose it, as soon as found consistent with her safety. The offer, however, was never repeated; and his own conduct very soon belied his assertions, and convinced her of the truth of her suspicions from the first, that he was the sole instigator of the outrage she had received, and that it was still his purpose to detain her and keep her in a position which would enable him the more effectually to prosecute his designs; for although in the few formal calls he continued to make at the house, he never pressed his suit, but seemed rather to avoid the subject, as if determined to afford her no opportunity to repeat her former refusals, she yet quickly perceived that he was busy at his intrigues to bring about, by the agency of others and by secret management, what by himself, or by any open and honorable means, he despaired of accomplishing. All this, from day to day, unfolded itself in the renewed importunities and reproaches of her father, the added entreaties of Jones, the lover of Miss McRea, then soon expected in the British camp to be married, in the reports which had been put in circulation to place her in a false light,—that of a perverse and coquettish girl,—in the efforts made to force her into social parties, where the opinions of all were obviously forestalled, and especially in the contrived introductions she was compelled to undergo to those who had evidently been enlisted as intercessors, among whom were some whose ambiguous conduct often greatly annoyed, and, at times, even filled her bosom with perplexity and alarm.

Such was the position of the unhappy girl at the time of her reluctant attendance as one of the guests of the merry party we have described. Although annoyed, sickened, and disgusted at what she had daily witnessed, and vexed and indignant at the contemptible artifices and intrigues of Peters, which, however intended, were beginning to be the means of exposing her to new trials, yet, till what took place at that party, she had entertained no serious apprehension that any attempt would be made to coerce her into a marriage which she had so decidedly repudiated.

But the announcement which had just been so strangely made coming as it did from so powerful a personage, and one, at the same time, whose equivocal behavior, when she had casually met him, had excited her deepest aversion, now gave her to understand that such an attempt was indeed about to be made by the assumed arbiters of her fate, and that her resistance to the contemplated scheme, should she be able to make one against the overawing influence that was about to be brought to bear upon her, and even her acquiescence, she feared, was to be followed by persecutions, from the thought of which she shrunk with dismay. She might have taken that announcement, perhaps, as a mere ruse, as in part it really was, got up to place her in a predicament in which most females would yield rather than become the principal actor in the scene that would follow further resistance; or she might have viewed the whole as a contemptible fabrication, but for a circumstance of that morning's occurrence. Captain Jones had called and apprised her that he was about sending an escort to Fort Edward for his betrothed, informed her that the next morning was appointed for his wedding, and concluded by making his last appeal to induce her to consent to be united to Peters at the same time.

And it was this occurrence, in connection with the former, that had so thoroughly alarmed her.

While pondering on the means and chances of escaping the threatened destiny, she perceived from her window that the company at Reidesel's had broken up, and were scattering to their respective quarters. And presently her father entered her room, and after announcing that he had been honored by the commander-in-chief with a mission to Skenesboro', from which he should not be able to return till late at night, presented her a sealed billet, and immediately departed. With a trembling hand she opened the suspected missive and read,—

"Miss Haviland will pardon the mistake involved in the sentiment delivered at Lady Reidesel's table. Its author, however, cannot but think that the full arrangement which he had supposed to have been already settled may still be effected in season. And he therefore proposes, if Miss H. will permit, a call for friendly intercession, at twilight this evening."

With a flushed and flashing countenance the offended maiden instantly sprang to her feet, and paced the room several minutes in silent agitation. Her naturally mild spirit was at length evidently aroused for some decided action; and the manner in which it was to be commenced appeared soon to be determined in her mind.

"Ay, and the step, as bold as it may be, shall first be taken," she said, as, preparing to leave the house, her burning thoughts began to press for utterance. "Ay, if it will not avail me, in bringing aid to escape from this den of iniquity, or protection to remain, it shall, at least, serve as a proclamation of villany, which shall yet be heard in every house and hamlet of the American people!"

The next moment she was in the street; and, with hurried step making her way to General Reidesel's quarters. Instantly seeking a private interview with the readily assenting countess, she frankly and without reserve told the whole story of her wrongs, and implored assistance in escaping the toils that had been spread for her, or, at least, the protecting shield of an influence which should enable her to withstand them. And the effect of her forceful recital soon showed her that she had not over-estimated the discernment and magnanimity of the noble lady she was addressing.

"Well, that is right, my bonny rebel, as they call you!" said the countess, encouragingly. "And it is the spirit in a woman which I like, and which I will have no hand in repressing. Yes, I see clearly, now, what I half suspected before—the man who had you brought here, where he could more surely noose you, is repugnant even to the misery; and some of those he has been fool enough to enlist as intercessors, are still more dreaded. Ah! wicked, wicked Briton! But, do you know, he is king here and that it is treason to talk, and worse treason to try to thwart him?"

"I have greatly feared so, my lady."

"What, then, do you propose to do, wherein I could befriend you?"

"Leave the army before night."

"Have you a carriage at command, and a protector?"

"I have, strictly speaking, neither, madam."

"Then how can you go?"

"On foot, and alone, unless I chance to engage one to attend me in the character of a servant."

"You are a brave one, my young lady. But they will be likely to detain you at the outposts."

"I had supposed so, and therefore came here with the hope that, after you had heard my story, you might be moved to prevail on your husband to give me a pass."

"O girl, girl! No, no, he would not dare to do it, after finding out the cause, which he must first know," exclaimed the lady, in a tone of kindly remonstrance. "He would dare do no such thing. But I would, in such a case; indeed I would! And, stay, let me see!" she continued, rising and opening the general's desk. "Here are several passes which he keeps for occasions of hurry, all signed off and ready, except inserting the name of the bearer. O, what shall I do? I am tempted to write your name in one, and trust to your honor and shrewdness to shield me, in case of your failure, from exposure and blame."

"Will your hand-writing be acknowledged, madam?"

"O, yes, I don't hesitate on that account; for I often fill up the general's passes under his direction."

"O, then, dear madam, as I know you would do by a daughter, do by me—trust to my discretion, and hesitate no longer."

The good-hearted countess soon yielded, and our heroine, with tears of gratitude, mutely imprinted a farewell kiss on her cheek, and departed with the coveted pass in her pocket.

When Miss Haviland reached her chamber, she seated herself by an open, but partially curtained window, where, unseen her self, she could easily note what was passing in the street below, to which her attention seemed somewhat anxiously directed. She had been but a few minutes at her post of observation, before she was apprised, by the hooting of boys, and the gibes and laughter of the idling soldiers, with whom the street, at this hour, was commonly thronged, that some unusual spectacle was approaching. And peering forward through the folds of the curtains, she beheld, amidst a slowly-advancing crowd, a meanly clad, simple looking country youth wearing a ragged broad-brim, and mounted on an unsightly, donkey-like beast, whose long tail and mane were stuck full of briers, and whose hair, lying in every direction, seemed besmeared with mange and dirt; all combining to give both horse and rider a most ungainly and poverty-struck appearance. The fellow was trying to peddle apples, which he carried in an old pair of panniers swung across his pony's back and which seemed to be bought mostly by the boys, who with them were pelting him and his cringing pony, to the great mirth of the bystanders. While the crowd, and the object of their attention, were thus engaged, at a little distance, an officer, who was passing, paused near the house, and, calling a couple of soldiers to his side, said to them,—

"Keep your eyes on that fellow with the scurvy pony yonder, and if you notice any thing suspicious in his movements, arrest him. It appears to me I have seen him in almost too many places to-day."

An expression of concern passed over Sabrey's countenance, as she heard these words, and she gave an involuntary glance to the object thus pointed out, who, as she thought from his appearance, had also heard the order himself, or at least guessed its import. But instead of making off, as she expected, he spurred up his pony, and, coming directly up to the officer, asked him, with an air of confiding simplicity, to buy some of his apples, which he said were "eny most ripe, and grand for pies."

"Who are you, fellow?" said the officer, without heeding the other's request.

"Who I be? I am Jo Wilkins. But aint you going to buy some of the apples?" persisted the former.

"Blast your apples!" impatiently replied the officer; "that is not what I want of you. Where do you live?"

"Up in the edge of Arlington, when I'm tu hum—next house to uncle Jake's great burnt piece there, you know," answered the other; "but these ap——"

"Whom are you for? King or Congress?" interrupted the officer.

"Who be Congus? I don't know him," said the former, with a doubtful stare.

"Well, then, whom do you fight for?" resumed the somewhat mollified officer.

"Don't fight for nobody tu our house,—cause dad's a Quaker—but then if you'd buy—"

"Yes, yes; but you must tell me honestly, what you came here for to-day, and who sent you, my lad?"

"Why, dad sent me to sell the apples, 'cause he wants the money to buy some rye with. But I've been all round, and aint sell'd half, they kept bothering me so. And now its time to go hum, and nobody won't buy 'em!" said the speaker, with a doleful tone, and evident signs of snivelling.

"Well, well, my honest lad," responded the commiserating and now satisfied officer; don't mind it—nobody wants to harm you. There is half a crown to pay you for my part of the bothering.

"Why, you going to buy 'em all?" eagerly asked the other, as, with a grin of delight, he clutched the precious metal.

"No, no," said the former, kindly. "I don't wish for any of your apples—they are too green, though they may do for cooking. You would be most likely to sell them in some of these houses."

"Well, now, I vown! I never thought of that! jest's likely's not I mought, you!" exclaimed the fellow, brightening up. "Good mind to go right straight into this ere house and try it—will, by golly!" he added, leaping nimbly from his pony, swinging his panniers on his arm, and hurrying off round for the back door.

"Don't molest the poor simpleton any more, but disperse to your quarters," said the officer, now waving his ratan to the scattering crowd, and resuming his walk up the street.

Waiting no longer than to hear this order, and see that it was about to be obeyed by the crowd, Sabrey hurried down to the kitchen, where she encountered the object of her solicitude standing within the door, holding up the half crown between the fingers of one hand, and snapping those of the other, with a look that needed no interpreting.

"Your disguise, Bart," said the maiden, looking at the other with a smile—"your disguise is so perfect, or rather, the new character, in which you this time appear, has been so well acted, that had it not been the afternoon you set for your third appearance, I should have never known you. I think you make a better Quaker boy than you did a crazy man last time, or buffoon and tumbler the first one. But what have you been able to gather, to-day?"

"Pretty much all that's afoot, guess. The movement on Bennington is begun. Peters's corps of tories and Indians have gone on to Cambridge; and he, who is off to the lake, to-day, to consult with Skene and others about the expedition, is to follow some time to-morrow, as is the German regiment picked out to the service. Got at it all, think?"

"Nearly. It is the plan, however, I understand, that when the stores are secured at Bennington, the troops are to proceed to Manchester, make prisoners of all the Council of Safety, and others of the principal men whom they can find, and return through Arlington."

"They've got to get there, first, guess, and then catch 'em afterwards. But have you fixed out a letter about that and other things, ready for me to take? I'm aching to be off with the news."

"No, Bart. I have just discovered plots to entrap me that have made me resolve to die before I will remain here any longer. My old persecutor, and others a thousand times more powerful, are in league against me."

"The girl that killed the wolf would stand the racket against big bugs and all, rather guess, if she tried it. Don't know, though, being about woman matters so."

"Ay, sir, to a woman there are human monsters more terrible than all the wolves of the forest. And I am determined on at tempting to escape from this place without another hour's delay with you, if you will permit."

"Yes, glad to go into it; and by Captain Harry's request, I was a going to propose the same thing myself, even without your new reasons. But this getting you off before dark, which you name, may be rather ticklish, miss. How did you think to manage it?"

"Look at this, sir!" said Sabrey, exhibiting her permit by way of reply. "Signed by a man whose authority, I think, will not be questioned, and allowing me, with my servant, to pass through the lines to my friends in the country. I engage you to act as that servant, Bart."

"I vags, now if that aint lucky!" exclaimed the former, with glistening eyes. "Yes, lucky enough, whether it come by ploughing with heifers or steers. But let's see a bit, though. How will my turning servant to a lady, all at once, tally with the stories I've been telling,—that is, till we get beyond all who heard 'em? Don't know about that. But look here, miss!" he added, beckoning the other to the window. "Do you see that tall old pine, standing alone, nearly in a line with the road, a mile or so off there, at the south?"

"Yes, very clearly."

"Well, that tree, which is beyond, and out of sight of the last pickets, stands near a house where a widow woman lives, who washes fine clothes for some of the officers, but wants to keep in with all sides, and so asks no questions and tells no stories. My saddle and fixings are hard by there, in the bushes. Now, suppose I go on there alone, and be scrubbing up Lightfoot, and feeding her with these apples, to pay her for playing Quaker so well. Can you get on to that place by the help of the pass, and tell straight stories, if questioned, about your servant being at the wash-woman's, fixing things?"

"If you think it wisest, as it may be, I will try, and be there within an hour, if not detained. If I am, do not desert me, Bart, but return to this kitchen at dusk."

"Agreed! But you'll go it without the ifs, I reckon," said Bart, swinging his panniers to his shoulder, and departing with full confidence in his ability to effect an escape perilous to them both, but made much more so to him by the new charge to had so cheerfully undertaken.



CHAPTER X.

"But a gloom fell o'er their way, A fearful wall went ey'"

Fortunately for Miss Haviland, all those who had been enlisted to act as spies upon her movements happened, that afternoon, to be absent, or busily engaged in a quarter of the encampment from which all view of her proposed path of escape was intercepted by intervening buildings. Much to her relief, therefore, on setting out on her perilous journey, she was permitted to pass forward through the street unquestioned, and without exciting any particular observation. And when she arrived at the outpost, the soldier on duty, with a bare glance at her offered pass, respectfully motioned her to proceed on her way. A short walk then brought her to the house to which she had been directed; and here, finding every thing in readiness, she immediately mounted the now strangely-improved pony, and, with her trusty attendant on foot, set forward, at a quick pace, in the main road leading from the lake to Fort Edward. Their way was now mostly through a deep forest, and over a road which every where exhibited evidence with what perseverance and skill the Americans had labored to destroy and block it up, and with what incredible exertions it had been reopened by their opponents, wholly untaught in the easiest modes of accomplishing the Herculean task. In some places, long causeys over miry morasses had been entirely torn up, and every log of which they were composed drawn off beyond the means of recovery; and, in others, streams had been dammed up, causing extensive overflows, or turned from their natural channels, and thus made to wash out impassable gulfs. Every bridge had disappeared, and all the surrounding timber rendered useless for constructing more; while, for mile after mile, one continued mass of gnarled and crooked trees, here pitched together in seemingly inextricable tangles, and there piled mountains high, had been felled into the road, which even now had scarcely been made passable by the toiling thousands who, for weeks, had been employed upon it. In consequence of this, and the time spent in making circuits round in the woods to avoid parties of the enemy, who were seasonably discovered by the wary guide to be still at work, in several places, in trying to improve some of the worst portions of the road, the progress of our heroine was slow and obscure. And it was not till after a dreary and fatiguing ride of several hours, that she and her attendant began to emerge into the more open country bordering the Hudson.

"Now, miss," said Bart, falling in by the side of the maiden, and speaking in a low, cautionary tone—"now we are coming out on to the river, and at a spot that I feel kinder shyish of."

"On what account, Bart?" asked the other, with a glance of concern.

"Well, it's for a reason I have, and then one or two more on top of that," replied the former, with his usual indirectness. "In the first place, it is a sort of a torified neighborhood about there which may hold those more likely to mistrust and snap us up than the regular-built enemy, who may, some of 'em, be there too, likely; as a regiment, or so, have already gone on, by this same road, to Fort Edward, which is not a great ways beyond."

"Is there no way to avoid going through the place?" asked Sabrey.

"That is what I'm thinking about," replied Bart, musing. "But one thing is certain, you must be got somewhere, and a little reconnoitring be done, before we try to go through or round the pesky place. Now, here on the left is a pine thicket, that reaches along, and comes to a point, very near this Sandy Hill place, as they call it; and by entering the woods, and keeping on in a line with the road, we both might gain a spot, in that point, where we could safely see enough of what is going on there to judge of the rest."

"I am unacquainted with the locality, and the character of the inhabitants, and shall, therefore, be wholly guided by you," responded Sabrey, reining up in compliance with the motions, rather than the words, of the other. "But what means have you had of ascertaining what you suggest respecting the place?"

"Why, I came this route the last spying trip I made," replied the former; "and being afoot—crazy folks don't ride, you know—I kinder naturally kept going back and forward and calling at places on the road to inquire for swamp angels, or blue dogs I had lost, or some sich-like whimseys, till I managed to fine out who and what lived in most every house, all the way to Bennington. It is a tory concern of a place, and a sort of rendezvous for those running away from our parts. One fellow, of the last sort, came plaguy nigh knowing me; and would, forzino if I hadn't suddenly gone into a fit, to screw my features out of his acquaintance. Yes, we may as well be turning in here, I am thinking."

In accordance with the plan just suggested, Miss Haviland now turned her willing steed, and plunged directly into the dark forest bordering the road on the left. Here following her guide, who kept some rods in advance to select and point out the places affording the most feasible route through the thick undergrowth, she slowly, and with no little personal inconvenience, made her way forward in the proposed direction, till she at length succeeded in reaching the desired station, which was the top of a low, woody bluff, commanding, from some portions of it, a near and distinct view of the hamlet, in the opening below, of which the intended reconnaissance was to be made. Bart, now assisting the maiden to dismount, and directing her attention to a mossy hillock at hand, as an eligible seat or bed for resting herself, turned the pony loose to crop the bushes, and disappeared to commence his observations. In a few minutes he returned, and, having reported the discovery of a safe and easy route for passing to the east of the public road, as far as it might be necessary to avoid it, proceeded to reconnoitre the houses below. And taking a well-screened seat on a log, lying on the verge of the bluff, he looked long and intently.

"Well, sir, what discoveries are you making there?" at length asked Sabrey, wondering at his prolonged silence.

"Why, nothing very alarming, be sure," replied the other. "The place looks as if it was deserted, except one house; but there's something going on about that which I don't somehow seem to understand. Suppose you throw a few of those evergreen vines near you over your head and shoulders, to prevent your dress from attracting notice, and come here to help me read out the puzzle."

In compliance with the unexpected suggestion, the maiden instantly rose, and, preparing herself, as directed, cautiously advanced and seated herself at his side. The road they had recently quitted was in plain view, a little distance to the right, and continued distinctly visible as it swept round towards the broad Hudson, whose tranquil surface was gleaming with the reflected brightness of the low-descending sun. On each side of the road, till it disappeared over a distant swell, were scattered, at irregular intervals, the dwellings to which allusion has been made. Among the nearest and most respectable of these, stood, in a retired situation considerably to the east of the highway, the house presenting the questionable appearances to which Hart's attention had been directed. On one side of the spacious yard or lawn, in front of this building, stood, tied to a post, and impatiently pawing the ground, a noble-looking horse, equipped with a richly-caparisoned side-saddle; while near by, under the fence, sat, patiently smoking their pipes, three Indians, one of whom, as was evident by their contrasted bearing and accoutrements, was a chief, and the other two his attendants. Near the principal entrance was drawn up a two-horse team, having the appearance of awaiting the reception of persons about to depart on some journey. At length the family, consisting evidently of father, mother, and their children, slowly, and in seeming mournful silence, issued from the door, and approached the wagon, when the former, lifting the latter into the seats, again turned an anxious look towards the house, and, with his companion whose handkerchief was frequently applied to her eyes, stood lingering and hesitating, as if reluctant to part with some object of their solicitude still remaining behind. Presently the agitated couple returned to the door, and, with gestures of grief and supplication, appeared to be making a last appeal to one standing just within the entrance, whose partially disclosed form, and white fluttering decorations, proclaimed her to be a gayly-dressed female.

"It acts some like a funeral there," observed Bart, doubtfully; "but then those Indians, that seem to be waiting for some one—and that horse with the lady's saddle on him, which they appear to have the care of, and which looks, by the trim, like a British army horse—and——"

"Bart, do you know who lives there?" interrupted Sabrey, with a sudden start.

"A tory," replied the other; "but not a fighting one, I gathered. That's him and his wife standing before the door, I take it. His name is Me—something."

"Merciful Heaven!" exclaimed Sabrey. "I understand it all now. That lady, in the door, is dressed for her wedding—those before her are her brother and sister-in-law, pleading with her to go with them, instead of taking the questionable step she is evidently meditating. O, that I dared rush down to the side of her well-judging friends, and join them in dissuading her from listening to the ill-timed summons of her lover, and especially from going with such, an escort as the infatuated man appears to have sent for her!"

Although Miss Haviland was wholly unprepared for here finding the residence of her friend, Jane McRea, which she had supposed to be in another and more distant locality, yet her quick perceptions, in combining the past and present circumstances, had not misled her. It was, indeed, that lovely and hapless girl, passing through the last trial she was destined ever to be conscious of undergoing,—that of the distracting conflict of emotions produced by being now finally compelled to decide between the behests of prudence and of love,—between the advice and entreaties of confessedly kind and judicious relatives, and the opposing counsels and impassioned importunities of an idolized lover. Deeply and anxiously, that afternoon, had the thought of her situation engrossed the mind of our heroine, who both expected and dreaded to meet her on the way—expected, because her coming had been announced; and dreaded, not only on account of the pain it would occasion to witness her disappointment, and resist her entreaties, but also on account of the danger of the unintentional betrayal which would be likely to attend a meeting with that guileless creature of the affections and her probable escort. And it was now with the mingled emotions naturally called up by the associations of former friendship, the contrast between the circumstances of the past and present, together with fears and anxieties for the future, that Sabrey, after a few brief explanations to her attendant, resumed her observations of the scene before her, which she hoped, might still result in the triumph of wisdom over the delusive pleadings of love.

At length, she who had now become the principal object of solicitude in the family group, to which the attention of our concealed spectators had been directed, followed, with slow and hesitating steps, her still importuning friends into the yard, where, in her bridal robes of vestal white, and with her rich profusion of bright and wavy tresses hanging like a golden cloud over her shoulders, she stood at once a vision of loveliness and an object of commiseration. Again and again did those friends appear to renew their entreaties, at which the agitated girl seemed sometimes to waver, and at others to reply only with her tears; till at length the former, evidently wearied with their fruitless attempts, and despairing of success, ascended their vehicle, and drove off at a rapid pace, along the road to the south, without turning their heads to look behind them. Once, as she stood, like one bound by some fatal spell to the spot, wistfully gazing after the receding wagon, a momentary relenting appeared to come over the wretched maiden. She irresolutely ran forward a few paces, and, imploringly stretching forth her white arms, uttered a faint, sobbing cry of, "Come back! O, come back!" But the late appeal, which would have so gladdened the hearts of those for whom it was intended, was destined to be unheeded. The cry was lost in the din of their rattling wheels, as they urged on their horses, as if anxious to escape from the painful scene. And the poor girl, dropping her arms, and turning hopelessly away to a small tree near by, leaned against the trunk for support, and, for a while, seemed to yield herself wholly a prey to the wild grief which now burst forth from the dreadful conflict of emotions that was rending her distracted bosom. At length she appeared to be slowly regaining her self-possession, and now soon fully arousing herself, she advanced towards the Indians, and, by signs, signified her readiness to attend them. With eager alacrity, the horse was led up for her to the door-step; when, lightly throwing herself into the saddle, she immediately set forth along the road to the north, preceded by the chief, and followed by his dusky assistants.

"Well, the poor thing has settled it at last," observed Bart, drawing a long breath. "But I aint so sure that those red characters, who appear to feel so crank at having got her started, will be allowed to get far with their prize, without seeing trouble."

"Why, sir?" asked Sabrey, wiping away the sympathetic tears that had started to her cheeks at what she had been witnessing—"why do you make such a remark?"

"Well, it may not amount to any thing, be sure," replied the other. "But having had one eye on the lookout, during this affair at the house, I noticed, a while ago, some five or six scores, slying along on the other bank of the river, over there, and crossing in a boat, and entering the woods on this side. By their appearance, I think they must be Continentals from our army below; and if it is these Indians they have been spying out, and are after, they will waylay them along here somewhere, likely."

"O, if they could but take her from these creatures, and send her to her friends!" said the former, with emotion.

"Yes, but I hope they won't attempt it," said Bart; "for if these Redskins, who are probably to have a smart price for getting her safe to camp, should find themselves about to be robbed of her, there's no telling what they would do."

At this juncture, their attention was arrested by the sounds of footsteps approaching in the road from the north; and, the next moment, a second party of Indians, headed by a tall, fierce looking chief, emerged into view, and advanced nearly to the edge of the woods; when the chief, beholding the other party coming on with their charge, suddenly halted, and stood awaiting their approach, with an air of doubt and disappointment, and with looks that plainly bespoke his jealous fears of losing the reward, which, it appeared, the short-sighted lover, in his impatience at the delay that had occurred, had offered him also to bring off his betrothed. The bold and arrogant air of the newly-arrived party, standing in the middle of the road, and seemingly intending to dispute the path, caused the others, as they now came up, to pause, as if for parley or explanation; when a fierce and angry debate arose between the rival chiefs, in which the new comer, with dark scowls and menacing gestures, demanded the exclusive possession of the lady, which the other, at first mildly, and then in a tone of defiance, persisted in refusing. At length the latter, under the pretence of wishing to obtain water, but with the real object, probably, of avoiding a collision till some compromise could be effected, approached the alarmed maiden, and led her horse out into a little opening in the bushes on the left, where a cool and inviting spring was seen bursting from beneath the wide-spreading roots of a stately pine-tree standing in the background; and here leaving her under the shade of the tree, still sitting on her horse, he and his attendants gathered round the spring for the purpose of quenching their thirst. At this instant, white streams of smoke, followed by the startling reports of muskets, suddenly burst from a neighboring thicket, and the band of concealed scouts, with challenging hurrahs, were seen springing from their coverts, and rapidly gliding from tree to tree towards the spot. The astonished and unprepared Indians, who had escaped death only by the distance from which the missiles of their assailants had been discharged upon them, all, with one accord, slunk instantly away into the surrounding bushes.

Scarcely had they disappeared, however, before the tall chief, whose ill-omened appearance and conduct we have noted, again darted out into the opening; when, with a quick, wild glance around him, and a yell of fiendish triumph, he rapidly whirled his arm aloft, and, the next instant, the glittering tomahawk was seen, like a shooting gleam of light, swiftly speeding its way on its death-doing errand.

One solitary, piercing shriek, suddenly cut short, and sinking into an appalling groan, rose from the fatal spot; while the white robes of the victim, like the ruffled pinions of some struck bird, came fluttering to the ground. The deed was done and the spirit of the beauteous and unfortunate Jane McRea had left its mangled tenement and fled forever! [Footnote: From the various published accounts of the massacre of Miss McRea, we have followed, in our illustrations of that melancholy tragedy, as far as our limits and plan permitted us to carry them, the one deemed by us the most probable. By way of finishing the details of the horrible scene, however, it may be proper here to state, that Captain Jones, the strangely infatuated lover, having despatched, for the reward of a barrel of rum, one party of Indians after her, and then a second one, for the same reward, had started to meet her, when, encountering the murderer with the scalp, which he recognized by the peculiar color and length of the hair, he hastened, in a state bordering on absolute distraction, to the fatal scene. A British officer, with a few attendants, had, in the mean time, removed the corpse to a wagon by the road side, and was guarding it, when the lover arrived to claim it. But his lamentations were so terrible, and his conduct so frantic, that it was deemed advisable to remove him, and bury the remains from his sight. From that hour, the bereaved lover was an altered and ruined man. And he died soon after, as there is every reason to believe, of a broken heart.]

A momentary pause ensued; when, amidst the intermingling shouts and cries of murder and vengeance, that now burst from both scouts and Indians, the fiend-like perpetrator of the foul deed, who had been seen to leap forward towards his fallen victim with his scalping-knife, bounded back into the road, and, there holding up and shaking the gory trophy at his rival, immediately plunged into the forest and disappeared. The next moment a detachment of British cavalry, who had been sent out to intercept the scouts, came thundering down the road, and put an end to the tumult. Turning away in horror from the spot, now made dangerous by the presence of the British, who, on seeing what was done, and learning the facts, soon began to scatter in all directions after the murderer, Miss Haviland and her guide hastily resumed their journey by the route which the latter had discovered for avoiding the road, and which they pursued till dark, when, arriving at the house of a family in the interest of the American cause, they found a comfortable shelter for the night, and the repose so much needed to counteract the effect of the agitating events of the day on our heroine, and fortify her for the trials yet in store for her.



CHAPTER XI.

"Still on? Have not the forest gloom, The taunt of foes, the threatened doom, Shaken thy courage yet?"

The indefatigable Bart, after seeing the object of his greatest solicitude in safety for the night, that of his next, his loved Lightfoot, well stabled and fed, and, lastly, his own wants supplied, determined, with his usual caution and forethought, on making a little tour of observation to Fort Edward, now some miles in the rear, for the purpose of gathering what new intelligence could be gained respecting the movements of the enemy, which might both enhance the value of his budget of news to carry home, and enable him to shape his course more understandingly and safely on the morrow. Accordingly, in the new disguise of a barefooted, bareheaded, coatless farmer's boy, with a basket of green corn to sell for roasting slung on his arm, he proceeded on foot to the recently-established rendezvous of the enemy at the place above named, and boldly entered their encampment. Here he soon made discoveries that filled him with uneasiness, and, finally, those which thoroughly alarmed him for his own and the safety of his charge. The whole camp was in a state of bustle and commotion. Colonel Baum, in anticipation of the time fixed for his march, had just arrived with his appointed force, and was intending, after allowing his troops a short respite, to press immediately forward that night on the contemplated expedition. Bands of painted Indians, who had also arrived from the main army since dark, were feasting and drinking in grim revelry, or enacting the frightful war-dance, on the outskirts of the encampment. Parties of tories were constantly coming in from the surrounding towns, receiving arms, and departing to their different allotted stations, to act as pickets to the force about to advance, or as scouts to scour the country along the road to the south. And at last, to crown all, Peters and Haviland, with a small number of attendants, all bearing, on their bespattered persons, evidence of hard and rapid travelling, rode hurriedly into camp, and announced that a dangerous spy had, that afternoon, been at the head-quarters of the main army audaciously abducted a young lady, and with her escaped in this direction, for the arrest of which a handsome reward should be paid.

"It is time you and I was jogging, Bart," muttered the unsuspected personage within hearing, who deemed himself not the least interested in this unexpected announcement, as he gradually edged himself out of the camp, and made his way, with unusual haste, back to his quarters for the night.

Scarcely had the first faint suffusions of morning light begun to be distinguishable in the chambers of the east, before the well-recruited Lightfoot stood pawing at the door, as if impatient to receive and bear off her precious burden from the scene of danger. In a few minutes, the fair fugitive, in answer to the summons of her vigilant attendant, came forth, evidently refreshed by her repose, and, in a good measure, recovered from the shock occasioned by the sad and fearful spectacles of yesterday. Without any allusions to the startling discoveries he had made since they parted for the night, other than the quiet remark that he had ascertained that it might not be wholly safe for them to proceed any longer in the main road, Bart assisted the lady to mount, and led the way on their now doubly difficult and hazardous flight. Striking off obliquely to the left, into a partially cleared pine plain, and then, after thus proceeding a while, again turning to the right, they directed their course forward in a line parallel to the great thoroughfare to the south, but at a sufficient distance from it to insure them against the observation of all who might be passing therein, or scouting along its borders. And on, on, now through open fields, and now through dense forests, now through splashy pools, or rapid rivers, and now over sharp pitches or deep ravines, now in cross-roads or cow-paths, and now in trackless thickets, now over fenny moors, and now along the rocky declivities of mountains,—on, on, did they pursue their toilsome and weary way through the seemingly interminable hours of all the first half of that eventful day.

At length, however, believing themselves many miles beyond the rendezvous of Peters's corps, who were understood to have been selected as the pioneers of the expedition, they emerged from the woods, and fell into the main road leading up the winding Walloomscoik to the village of Bennington. Greatly rejoiced that, at last, she could be permitted to travel in a smooth road with some assurance of safety, and encouraged by the prospect of soon reaching the friends and acquaintance of her old neighborhood, from whom she was confident of a cordial welcome, our heroine now rode on with lightened feelings and renewed spirits. But she soon perceived, by the manner of her guide, as he examined the appearances of the road, as he went on, and occasionally cast uneasy glances before and behind him, that he did not consider it yet time to rejoice. And soon he stopped short, and observed,—

"There are too many tracks in this road for my liking, and not of the right kind to read well, either."

"I hope you will indulge in no unnecessary alarms, Bart," said the other, reluctant to leave the road, as she supposed he was about to advise. "You, who yesterday manifested little uneasiness, to-day, when we are farther removed from danger, have appeared extremely cautious and apprehensive, I have thought. Why such a change, while the reverse would seem so much more rational?"

"Well, miss, the question is not so onnatural as it might be, I reckon," replied the former; "and I have been expecting you'd wonder some why I led you on such a jaunt as we've had. But the fact was, your chance of getting off has been a little scaly, to-day, to say nothing of the shadow of a rope that's been round my own neck in the mean time."

"I cannot comprehend you, Bart," said the maiden, with a look of surprise and concern.

"Spose so; for I have held in, cause I thought I wouldn't worry your mind till needful, which it may be now; so I'll tell you the whole kink," replied Bart, proceeding to relate his last night's discoveries, and then adding,—

"Now a party of the enemy—for I saw a moccason track just now, and none on our side would be in such company as that means—a party of 'em have gone on before us; and my notion is, that we strike off through this bushy pasture to the left."

"Let us do so, then, if such is our situation, and that without a moment's delay," cried Sabrey, in alarm at the unexpected disclosure.

"Well, perhaps it an't best to fret about it, jest at this minute," responded the imperturbable guide—"I kinder want to make an observation or two, before we start," he added, ascending an elevation near by, which commanded a view of the road both ways for a considerable distance.

After glancing along the road in front, a moment, he turned and bent his searching gaze in the other direction, where he soon appeared to discover something that both interested and disturbed him.

"It is, by Herod! it is the whole main body, Germans and all, at their rations, within a mile of us, and their pickets on the move in this direction!" he at length exclaimed, hastily quitting his post of observation.

Hurrying down to the side of the startled maiden, he sprang to the nearest length of the fence, here enclosing the road, and grappling, with main strength, the topmost of the heavy poles of which it was composed, soon effected a breach sufficiently low to allow the horse to leap over without endangering the seat of the rider.

"Here, go it, Lightfoot! gently! there you are! Now off with ye, as if the divil was at your heels!" cried Bart, as the horse, with her fair burden, dashed lightly through the breach, and cantered off in the direction indicated by the finger of her master.

Pausing to replace the fence, lest the opening should attract the notice of those coming on behind, Bart rapidly followed, and, in another minute, the fugitives were safely screened from observation by the thick foliage of the different clumps of bushes, which they managed to keep between them and the road they had just quitted.

"There is a house," said Bart, musingly, after they had proceeded a while in silence—"there is a house about half a mile ahead, and nearly the same distance from the great road, with woods between, which is a place I called at when I came down, and which I had been all along calculating to turn off to, for a short stop, as we might shape our course to do now, if not somewhat risky."

"A little rest and refreshment would certainly be very acceptable," said the other, "if it could be safely obtained. Who lives there?"

"Well, some folks."

"Loyalists?"

"Tories, d'ye mean? No, not by a jug full."

"Who are they, then, sir?"

"The man," said Bart, glancing up to his wondering companion, with an odd air of shyness, as he provokingly persisted in his evasions—"the man is one of Warner's sergeants, and a sort of relation to somebody that I thought likely would be visiting at his house by this time. And—and I guess we'll venture there, considering," he added, suddenly dashing some distance ahead, under pretence of pointing out the way After winding their course a while among the variously grouped little thickets that studded the old pasture, they at length entered a tall forest of maple, which the incisions in the trees, together with the marks of an old boiling-place, that they soon reached, proclaimed to be the sugar orchard, belonging, probably, to the establishment they were seeking. And, now falling into a beaten path, they soon perceived, by the glimpses of an opening which they occasionally caught through the trees, that they were drawing near to the object of their search. The serpentine course of the path, however, and the undergrowth, so thick as to be nearly impervious to the sight, prevented any direct view of the opening; and they passed on without any very exact notions of propinquity till a sudden turn of the path brought them unexpectedly to the edge of the wood, and in full view of the house, not a hundred yards distant; when, to their astonishment and dismay, they beheld the place in possession of a large party of the enemy. Bart instantly caught the bridle, and was turning the horse for the purpose of fleeing back into the forest, when five or six armed men sprang out from the bushes behind and around them, cutting off their retreat in every direction. And the next moment they were prisoners to the minions of the vindictive Peters.

Bart's quick eye had told him, at a glance, that there was no chance for him to escape; and, before his natural looks could be noted, he had become transformed into a lout of so stolid and inoffensive an appearance, that his captors seemed greatly disappointed, and evidently entertained doubts whether he could be the one they supposed they were about to secure. And it was not till his pale and trembling fellow-prisoner had been conducted off on her horse some rods, that they could make him seem to comprehend that he was a prisoner, and must go with them. He then burst out into a piteous fit of weeping, and, passively receiving the kicks and cuffs of his keepers to get him in motion, went bawling along, like a whipped schoolboy, towards the house.

"I thought 'twould be jes so!" he exclaimed, between his sobs and outcries. "I most knowed when that man hired father to have me go to show the woman the way—I most knowed she was running away, and would get me into some scrape. Then the man, like enough, had done something, so he darsent go any furder with her. And now they'll lay it at to me—boo-hoo! oo-oo-oo!"

"Conduct the lady into the house!" said the officer in command, as the prisoners were led into the yard—"conduct her into the house, and set a guard round it, till orders can be got from the colonel. And as to this bawling devil," he continued, turning with a scrutinizing, but somewhat staggered look, to the blubbering Bart, "take him to the barn, where I just noticed some good cords, bind him hand and foot, and guard him closely, he will make less noise within an hour from now, I fancy."

"But, your honor," began one of the scouts who had brought in the prisoners—

"Yes, yes," interrupted the other, "I have just been informed of his pretences; but there's an even chance that he is shamming, and the fellow we want, after all. Do as I have ordered."

Bart was now led into the open barn, which stood facing the yard, and projecting in the rear over a steep bank, making from the floor, on the back side, that was also open, a perpendicular fall of nearly a dozen feet. He was then ordered to sit down in the middle of the floor, when two of the half dozen keepers who had him in charge, with many a half taunting, half pitying joke at his doleful whimpering, carelessly proceeded to prepare the cords for binding him, while the rest laid aside their guns, and went searching about the barn for eggs, all, notwithstanding the caution of their commander, being evidently so much impressed with the idea of his innocence as to disarm them of the vigilance usually exercised on such occasions. At this juncture, just as the two men, one standing before and the other behind him, were in the act of stooping to take his legs and arms, Bart started to his feet with the suddenness of thought, and giving the one in his rear a paralyzing kick in the pit of his stomach, grappled round the legs of the other, and, bearing him, in spite of all his struggles, across the floor, leaped with him from the verge to the earth below. Managing to keep uppermost in the descent, Bart, as the man struck heavily on the ground, leaped unhurt from the senseless body, and, with the speed of a wild deer, made his way to the nearest point of woods, which he fortunately reached just in time to avoid the volley of bullets that was sent after him by the rallying guard from whom he had so strangely escaped. While the balked tories, in the general commotion that now ensued, were giving vent to their rage and mortification, in cursing one another and the more particular object of their wrath, whom they concluded it was useless to pursue, a long, shrill whistle was heard issuing from another point of the forest, to which it was thought the escaped prisoner could not have had time to pass round. Scarcely had the sound died away, when a movement, accompanied by a low snorting, was heard in the high-fenced cow-yard, into which Lightfoot had been turned for safe keeping. The whistle was soon repeated, and the next moment the sagacious animal was seen rearing herself nearly upright in the air, and then, with a prodigious leap, throwing herself over the fence into the field beyond. Although the tories, for a while, as little comprehended this movement of the pony, as they did, at first, that of her master, yet they raised the alarm that the horse had broken away; and a dozen men threw down their guns, and ran out into the field to head her, but, dashing at and through them, like a mad Fury, she bounded off at full speed, and soon disappeared in the woods in the direction in which the whistling had been heard, leaving the baffled pursuers and their associates now fully to perceive how completely they had all been outwitted and outdone by both horse and master.

Much of our happiness is the result of contrast. A slight alleviation, unexpectedly springing out of a disheartening misfortune, not unfrequently affords a comparative pleasure more keenly appreciated than unalloyed blessings arising out of the ordinary circumstances of life. The pleasure of Miss Haviland was equalled only by her surprise, when, on entering the house, she found her former fellow-prisoner, the sprightly and fearless Vine Howard, a transient but favored inmate, whose presence here now fully explained the enigmatical language of Bart, on the way, while it soon raised a shrewd suspicion of the cause of the awkward shyness he had exhibited in making his partial and roundabout revelations. Their mutual salutations, inquiries, and explanations, had scarcely been exchanged, before they were called to the window by an outcry and commotion among the tories without; when they had the unspeakable satisfaction of witnessing the escape of Bart, for whose situation and fate they had both, from different causes, felt the deepest commiseration and the most gloomy apprehensions.

"Now," said the animated Vine, as she turned exultingly away from the gratifying scene that had opened by the escape of Bart, and closed by that of his pony—"now, Sabrey, if they will let you remain here till dark, I will see what I can do towards effecting your escape, which, to be candid about it, I mainly came here to favor. But whether you escape, remain, or are dragged back to the British camp, I will not this time be separated from you."

The proffered assistance of the spirited girl, however, at least so far as related to the contemplated attempt to escape by night, was not destined to be called in requisition. In a short time, a messenger was seen to arrive; upon which the whole party of tories commenced preparations for an immediate departure. Presently a closely covered vehicle, drawn by one horse, appeared coming from the main road, and approaching the door. The next moment, the officer, whom we have already noted, entered the house, and told Miss Haviland she was required to depart.

"This young lady attends me, if I am compelled to go, sir," said Sabrey, firmly, pointing to Vine, who instantly advanced and locked her arm within that of the former, by way of confirming the assertion.

"Such are not my orders," responded the officer, with an air of slight perplexity.

"Then I go not with you alive, sir," said Miss Haviland, with calm determination.

"Nor will I be separated from her, by you, while I am living," added Vine, with no less spirit.

"Well, well, ladies, you must have your own way, I suppose. But be prompt; the carriage waits for you," replied the officer, stepping back to the door.

In a few minutes more, the ladies presented themselves at the door, and, without accepting the offered assistance of their summoner, entered the unoccupied vehicle, which was now immediately put in motion, and conducted on in the rear of the main column of the tories, who had already commenced their march towards the great road. As they emerged from the short piece of forest through which their way now led, the exciting spectacle of a large body of troops, moving in military array along the road, accompanied by the hum of mingling voices, the steady tramp of men and horses, the rattling of tumbrels, and the heavy rumbling of artillery, unexpectedly burst upon the senses of the startled maidens. Baum's select and finely-equipped regiment of Germans and British occupied the front, and Peter's motley corps of tories and Indians the rear of the long-extended column. As the head of the detachment in possession of the fair prisoners reached the road, they came to a halt, when, after waiting till the corps to which they belonged had mostly passed by, they, to the agreeable disappointment of the girls, turned in, and moved on with the rest towards that little anticipated scene of defeat and death from which so few of them were destined to return.

"By this time," observed Vine to her thoughtful companion after they had concluded the remarks which the novelty of their situation naturally elicited—"by this time, Bart, at the rate he will be likely to ride, has nearly reached Bennington, now less than ten miles distant; and in another hour after, if the news he carries has the effect on our army there that I anticipate from what I learned when I came down, these fellows will be met on the way by a force which they cannot be expecting to see. Can they, do you suppose?"

"I think not," replied Sabrey, "or we should have been sent back at once, to the British camp, as we expected; but, believing he shall meet with no serious opposition, and probably fearing I should find some means to escape, if sent back, my magnanimous persecutor concludes to drag me round with him and his minions, that I may be watched more closely, till, having completed his anticipated triumphs, he is ready to return."

"But where is Peters?" asked the other; "where is that remarkable gentleman now, that he don't present himself here, to pay his respects or make his apologies, or assure you of your safety, or frame some story by the way of accounting for his conduct, or at least, of smoothing the matter? One would suppose the fellow would want to say something on the occasion."

"Yes," replied the former; "but he wishes to see me as little as I do him, I presume. Should he find it impossible to avoid me, however, he would probably come up boldly, and say my detention was a mistake of his subaltern; or that he only directed it to afford me a safe escort to my friends in the Grants."

"There would be a deal of love in such doings."

"He entertains none; not one particle now, if he ever did, for me, Vine."

"What the deuse, then, does he want with you?"

"Indeed, I hardly know myself."

"Marry you?"

"If he does still aim at that, it is with no honorable motives, I have had some strange suspicions lately, and I feel but too thankful at this prospect of a battle, for I shall cheerfully meet all dangers I may encounter from the flying bullets of our people for my chance of a release."

"Chance, Sabrey? Why, I know our side will get the victory, when we shall be made prisoners to—well, to about the right sort of fellows, probably," added the girl, with a merry laugh.

The conversation was here interrupted by the scattering reports of musketry somewhere in front, which instantly threw the whole line into commotion. An immediate halt was commanded, and the troops hastily formed in order of battle, as well as the ground would permit. Glancing over the line in front, from the small elevation on which they chanced to have stopped, the girls perceived that the head of the column had reached the banks of the stream that here crossed the road, and were rapidly deploying into the fields, to the right and left, to be prepared to receive their yet invisible foe. The bridge over the stream had just been torn up, and its scattered wrecks were seen floating down the stream below. While Baum was hurrying forward his artillery to the front, a body of about two hundred Americans emerged from their coverts in the bushes, some distance from the opposite bank and, with an ominous shout of defiance, discharged their guns and disappeared over the hill beyond, before the slow Germans who alone were yet near enough to do any execution with muskets, were ready to return a single shot. A strong guard of pickets, consisting of tories and Indians, were now sent forward to ford the stream, and keep watch of their retreating assailants while the few wounded and dying wretches who had experienced the effects of American marksmanship were carried back in hastily-constructed litters to a house in the rear, affording the shocked maidens, as they were borne by groaning and writhing in their agony a sad and sickening foretaste of the fearful scene of blood and carnage they were destined soon to witness. As soon as the bridge was repaired by the engineers, who were occupied nearly two hours in rendering it passable, the column was put in motion, and again moved forward, but much slower and more cautiously than before; for there was something in the manner of this attack, as unimportant as it was, and even in the shouts of their assailants, that had disturbed the minds, and cast a visible shade of thoughtfulness over the countenances, of these hitherto self-confident and boastful invaders of the Green Mountains. For the next three or four miles, however, they moved on unmolested; when, coming to a hamlet of log-houses scattered along the highway on both sides of the stream, that, here again crossing the road, wound through a smooth meadow of considerable extent, the word Halt! halt! rang loudly, and from company to company, through the line, with an emphasis and significance that instantly apprised all that trouble was at hand. The next moment all were in commotion, hurry, and alarm. Amidst the furious beating of the rallying drums, and the mingling clamor of dictating voices, the cannon were detached from the horses, run forward, and unlimbered; the fences on each side of the road were levelled to the ground, and the whole force rapidly thrown into battle array, the tories taking position in the meadow on the right, and the regulars on the more elevated grounds to the left of the road, there to await the foe, understood to be approaching in unexpected strength just beyond the thick copse which terminated the opening on the east. While this was transpiring, the officer who had before taken charge of Miss Haviland and her friend came forward, and, summoning them from their carriage, hurried them to a large, strongly-built log-house, around which a company of tories had been posted, when, bidding them enter and take care of themselves, he hastened back to his post, to take part in repelling the menaced onset. Neither that day nor the next, however, was destined to be the one which was to cover the untrained freemen of New England with the deathless laurels of Bennington. Stark, after marching out into the open field, offering battle, and vainly manoeuvring to draw the enemy from their advantageous ground, retired about a mile, and encamped for the night, leaving Baum to intrench himself in his chosen position, and despatch expresses to Burgoyne to apprise him of his unexpectedly perilous situation, and ask for reenforcement.



CHAPTER XII.

"Sad was the year, by proud oppression driven, When transatlantic liberty arose, Not in the sunshine and the smile of Heaven, But wrapped in whirlwinds, and begirt with woes, Amidst the strife of fratricidal foes."—Campbell.

The house, into which our heroine and her attendant had been ushered for safe keeping during the expected conflict, was divided into two compartments, and separately occupied by a couple of young farmers, and their still more youthful and recently espoused wives, twin sisters, by the names of Mary and Martha. But as happy a social circle as these close and interesting ties should have continued to render the inmates, the fiend of discord, with the approach of the opposing armies, had just entered in among them. One of the young men was a whig, and the other a tory; and the wives had very naturally adopted the predilections of their respective husbands. The young men had, as yet, however, taken no active part in the public quarrel; and, while the war was at a distance, their difference of opinion had not been permitted very essentially to disturb their friendly intercourse. But now, as the war was brought to their door, the sight of the two hostile armies, coming together for deadly conflict on the great issue in which their hitherto repressed sympathies were oppositely enlisted, had aroused the demon of contention in their friendly bosoms. The boastful assumptions of the tory, uttered in his excitement at beholding the imposing display of the British forces around him, were promptly met by the counter predictions of the other. Retort, recrimination, and darkly-hinted menaces followed, till jealousy and rancor seemed completely to have usurped the place of all those fraternal feelings that lately blessed their peaceful abode.

Such was the painful and ill-omened scene which was passing in the apartment of the brother who had espoused the cause of his country, where both families were assembled to witness the anticipated battle, when the unexpected entrance of the girls put an end to the altercation; and it soon after being announced that the Americans had retreated, the tory, followed by his wife, retired with an exulting sneer, to his own room, leaving the fair strangers, as it happily chanced, to the care and more congenial companionship of the young patriot and his warmly sympathizing Martha, who now kindly supplied their wants, and then conducted them to their attic chamber, where, it being now nearly dark, they immediately betook themselves to their homely but grateful couch. And, overcome by the fatigues and harrowing anxieties of the day, they soon fell asleep, expecting to be roused in the morning by the din of the battle, which they felt confident was yet to take place before the invaders would be permitted to advance farther on their boasted mission of plunder and outrage.

But the next day was to be marked by the battle of the elements, rather than of men. The morning was ushered in by a storm of unusual violence. And as the day advanced, so seemed to increase the power of the tempest. The black, flying clouds, deeply enshrouding the mountain tops, and dragging the summits of the low, woody hills around, closer and closer begirt the darkened earth. Heavier and heavier dashed the deluging torrents against the smitten herbage of the field, and the trembling habitations of men; and louder and louder roared the wind, as it went howling and raging over the vexed wilderness, as if in mockery of the intended conflict of the feeble creatures of earth, who now stood shrinking and shivering in its rain-freighted blasts.

Miss Haviland and her friend, in the mean time, closely kept their little chamber; and as little enviable as were their sensations under the terrors which the tempest, as it roared around the rocked dwelling, naturally inspired, it was soon with feelings of thankfulness that they found themselves permitted to remain even there unmolested; for their ears were continually shocked, and their liveliest apprehensions often excited, by the profane vociferations, the noisy ribaldry, and lawless conduct of the tories, who, driven from their drenched tents, which afforded them but a feeble protection against the fury of the storm, had crowded into the lower rooms of the house, where, half stifled, and jostled for want of space, they filled up the stairway, and repeatedly attempted to force open the fastened door of the trembling inmates of the apartment above. But the latter were at length permitted to experience a temporary relief from this source of annoyance and apprehension. Towards night the tempest lulled, and the rain abated, when the tories left the house, and joined in the universal rejoicing of the troops of the encampment, that the discomforts and sufferings of the storm were over. It soon became manifest, however, that they had been relieved of one evil only to be disturbed by another. In a short time, the American scouting parties began to show themselves on the border of the field in various directions around the encampment. Presently, the sharp crack of the rifle, followed by the whistling of bullets, and the fall of one of their number, in the midst of the startled camp, apprised them of the danger of remaining longer inactive. And Baum, astonished at the temerity of his foes, and scarcely less so at their evident ability to do execution with small arms at such a distance, instantly issued orders to fit out parties of tories and Indians, to go and dislodge them. At this juncture, the girls received a visit from their friendly hostess, who, with a troubled look, entered their room, and, after telling them that she and her sister had been, like themselves, little else than prisoners in the other chamber, proceeded to inform them that her husband, impressed with a sense of duty to his country, had secretly stolen off, during the preceding night, to the American camp; and that his tory brother-in-law, from whom she had contrived to conceal her husband's absence through the morning, had just discovered the fact, and, with bitter imprecations, seized his gun and rushed out to join the parties fitting out to fight his countrymen. Scarcely waiting to finish her hurried communication, the agitated woman hurried down and joined her no less excited sister in the yard, to witness the expected encounter of the opposing skirmishers; while Sabrey and Vine, sharing with the sisters, though less keenly, perhaps, in the interest of the event, took post at their window, which commanded a clear view of the scene of action, and looked forth for the same purpose.

A company of tories were cautiously stealing along a low, bushy vale, towards the most westerly of the opposite woody points, from which the firing had proceeded. On the extreme right of the field, under a clump of tall evergreens, was seen the encampment of the Indians, who were in lively commotion, and evidently preparing to join in the meditated sally. One, whose stature, accoutrements, and bearing denoted him to be a chief, and principal leader of the band, appeared to be actively engaged in giving orders, and pointing out the course to be taken to reach some designated station in the woods. But just as the whole party were beginning to file away in their usual fashion, their steps were suddenly arrested by a rapid discharge of rifle-shots, that burst upon them from behind an old bush fence on the border of the forest, about a hundred yards to the east; when the tall chief, and three or four of his followers, in different parts of their line, were seen leaping wildly into the air, and then pitching headlong to the earth, to rise no more. The next instant, every dark form had vanished, and their places of refuge were only distinguishable by the occasional reports of their guns, as the protracted skirmish gradually receded within the depths of the forest.

Meanwhile, the tories had proceeded on their destination undiscovered, till they reached the termination of their screening ridge on the left, which brought them within fifty yards of the bushy point where the largest party of their opponents lay concealed, unsuspicious of any immediate attack. Here the former made a brief pause, when they rushed forward with a loud shout, and, after a rapid exchange of shots, and a brief hand to hand conflict, drove the others from their ground, and compelled them to flee across the intervening opening to the opposite jungle, for protection. A cry of exultation now burst from the lips of the wife of the tory, as she witnessed this successful onset of her husband's party, and, crowing over her disappointed sister, she began to treat the insignificant result as the certain precursor of the speedy flight of the whole rebel army. But her triumph was of short duration; for, almost the next moment, the discomfited party, in conjunction with the band of their associates, to whose covert they had retreated, sallied out, and, returning impetuously to the charge, sent a fatal shower of bullets into the huddled ranks of the unprepared tories, and soon routed them entirely from the woods, from which they were seen flying, in wild disorder, towards the encampment. The rallying wife of the whig now, in turn, broke out in retaliatory exclamations of joy and exultation. But her triumphs, also, were destined to be cut short as speedily as those of her equally thoughtless sister, but in a different, and far more sorrowful manner.

A man, bearing the lifeless body of one of the slain on his shoulders, now emerged into view, and came hurriedly staggering along over the field, directly towards the house. The instant the careless eye of the elated Martha fell on the approaching figure, it became fixed as if enchained by a spell. The half-uttered word she was speaking suddenly died on her faltering tongue. An instinctive shudder seemed to run over her; and, for nearly a minute, she stood gazing in motionless silence.

"What is that? O! what is that?" at length burst sharply from her blanched lips.

But no one answered; and she again relapsed into the same ominous silence, and continued gazing with the same burning intensity, till the man, with a look of conscience-smitten agony, came up, and laying down his burden on the grass, gently turned it over, and presented to her the face of her slain husband; when shriek after shriek broke, in quick and startling succession, from her convulsed bosom, and she was carried, in a state of wild and fearful frenzy, into the house. The homicide was the tory husband, who, having met his victim in the fight, and acting, as he averred, under an irresistible impulse, had singled out and slain one, whom, the next moment, he would have given worlds to have been able to bring to life. [Footnote: The scene here introduced is drawn from an incident belonging to the local history of the battle of Bennington, and is but one among the many sad and touching occurrences which tradition has preserved as connected with that memorable conflict.]

The scattered forces of the sky now again began to collect, the rain to descend, and the angry winds to roar through the surrounding forest, compelling both the assailed and assailants to retire from the fields and woods to their respective places of rendezvous for shelter. And soon night closed over the scene, and shrouded every object from view with its Egyptian darkness.

Widely different were the feelings and impressions which the events of that afternoon had imparted to the troops of the two opposing armies. The advantages gained, though not very important or decisive, had yet been almost wholly on the side of the Americans. Their different parties of scouts and skirmishers, who, with the first slackening of the storm, had filled the woods in every direction around the British encampment, had slain or disabled, in the various encounters of the day, more than thirty of their opponents, and, among them, two Indian chiefs, whose destruction caused a rejoicing proportioned to the exasperation which their presence here had occasioned. And the effect of the whole had been to banish the last remaining doubts of success from their bosoms, and make them long for the hour when they should be permitted to meet the foe in regular battle. The losses and defeats of the royal forces, on the other hand, had proportionally depressed their feelings, and filled them with dark forebodings of the fate which was in store for them. Nor did these feelings, in conjunction with the natural effect of the gloom and physical discomforts of their situation, long fail of a characteristic manifestation among the contrasted bands of that fated army. And strange and fearful were the sights and sounds which their encampment exhibited during the night of storm and darkness that followed. The sullen oaths and outlandish grumbling of the Germans, delving and splashing away at their unfinished intrenchments,—the noisy execrations of the exasperated tories moving restlessly about from tent to tent, and swearing revenge for the losses,—the sputtering of the Canadians,—the frightful whooping of the discontented savages, as their dark forms were seen darting about in the flickering light of their camp fires, and finally, the groans and blaspheming curses of the poor wretches who had been wounded in the skirmishes of the day, all mingling with the wailing of the wind, and the ceaseless pattering of the rain, combined to form a scene as wild and dismal as language could well paint, or even imagination conceive, and throw over this devoted spot of earth more of the air of the regions of the damned, than of the abodes of human beings.

But what, in the mean while, were the thoughts and sensations of the hapless maiden, whose fate and fortune seemed to have become so strangely involved in the movements and scenes we have been describing? To her the day had been but a varying scene of gloom and wretchedness—of maidenly terror and painful excitement. And night had come only to be made still more hideous by its accumulated horrors. Shuddering at the strange and appalling sounds, that constantly assailed her recoiling senses from without, and pained and distressed at the ceaseless wailing of the bereaved and heart-broken wife within—often startled and alarmed at the noisy intrusions of the heartless tories in the room below, and their frequent threats, and even occasional attempts to get into her apartment above, and tortured by the anxieties, suspense, and apprehension she felt respecting the fate for which she might be reserved, independent of the more immediately-menaced evils around her, she lay, hour after hour, during the first watches of that fearful night, tremblingly clinging to her less-troubled companion, and earnestly praying for death, or the approach of morning, to relieve her from some of the horrors of her situation. But at length her exhausted system yielded to the requirements of nature, and her senses became locked, and her cares lost, in the forgetfulness of slumber.

She and her attendant were awakened, the next morning, by the reveille of the clangorous brass drums of the Hessians, and the mingling hum of the stirring camp around them. Attiring themselves with that haste which, whether required or not, is usually consequent on a state of great anxiety, they ran to the window and glanced out over the landscape. But what a contrast with what it yesterday presented! The black storm-cloud, that had so closely brooded over the earth, had been rolled away, and the cerulean vault above was as calm and cloudless as if storm and tempest had never disfigured its beautiful expanse. The air was full of balmy sweetness; and soon the golden sun, slowly mounting over the eastern hills, poured down his floods of light upon the varigated landscape, transforming the still-weeping forest into a sea of glittering diamonds, converting the hitherto unnoticed openings on the surrounding hill-sides into bright spots of smiling verdure, and adding a brighter tint to the yellow fields of waving grain, that stood ripening in the valley, soon to be trod and trampled by other than peaceful reapers' feet:—

"For here, far other harvest here Than that which peasant's scythe demands, Was gathered in by sterner hands, With musket, blade, and spear."

Slowly rolled the bright hours of that calm and beautiful morning away, as Miss Haviland, with her attendant, sat by the window, often and anxiously glancing along the road to the east, to catch a glimpse of that army, in whose movements all her hopes were centred, making its expected advance. But it came not. No American—not even a scout or skirmisher—any where made his appearance; and no signs of a battle were visible in any quarter, unless they might be gathered from the busy labors of the British troops in putting their arms in order, or the unusual stillness and the air of anxious suspense that seemed to pervade their whole encampment. Noon came; and still all remained quiet as before. That hour, and the next, also, passed away with the same ominous stillness; and the desponding girl began seriously to fear, that the Americans had indeed retreated from the vicinity, and left her and the country alike at the mercy of the foe. But just as this depressing thought was taking possession of her mind, a sound reached her ears from afar, that caused her suddenly to start to her feet with a look of joy and animation that, for weeks, had been a stranger to her countenance.



CHAPTER XIII.

"Death to him who forges Fetters, fetters for the free!"—Eastman.

"Did you hear that?" exclaimed the maiden, with flushed cheek and kindling eye.

"Hear what?" asked her surprised and wondering companion, who had heard nothing to warrant so sudden a change in the other's demeanor.

"That sound from the forest yonder," answered Sabrey, pointing over to the wood bordering the opening to the south. "But hush! listen! it may be repeated. There—didn't you hear it then?"

"I heard nothing but the hooting of an old owl over there What do you make out of that?" responded Vine, still surprised and doubtful.

"I make much out of it: but let us listen further," answered the other.

They did so; and presently the same slow, solemn hoot of the bird just named rose more loud and distinct than before. And scarcely had the last sound died away in its peculiar melancholy cadence, when the solitary report of a musket sent its echoing peal over the valley from the forest in the opposite direction.

"There! the story is told," exclaimed Sabrey, exultingly. "Three hoots of the owl is the secret watchword of the Rangers. The admirable imitation we have just heard was doubtless given by him who communicated to me this fact, and gave me a specimen of his faculty of making the sound as we were coming through the woods in our recent flight. It here shows, unless I greatly err, that his regiment is passing round to the rear of the enemy; while the gun we have just heard must proceed, I think, from some other force going round through the woods on the opposite side,—these sounds being a concerted interchange of signals to apprise each other and General Stark of the progress they have made towards the appointed station. In fifteen minutes, this camp may discover itself surrounded and assailed on all sides by men who know what they are fighting for. Then Vine then comes the struggle we have been praying to witness. O, may Heaven prosper the defenders of their homes, and enable them to triumph over their haughty foes."

The conjectures of Miss Haviland respecting the plan of attack which the Americans had adopted were well founded. Colonel Herrick, with his brave and spirited regiment of Rangers, had been despatched through the woods to the rear of the enemy, where he was to be joined by nearly an equal force of militia, under the command of Colonel Nichols, coming through the forest, also, in an opposite direction; while the remaining and larger portion of the army was to advance in front, in time to commence with the former the general attack. And, in a short time, the long, deep roll of drums, swelling louder and louder on the breeze, announced that Stark, with the main body, was in motion, and rapidly approaching along the road from the east.

Quickly every part of the British camp was in lively commotion. And the hasty mounting of field-officers, the flying of the scattered troops to their respective standards, the furious beating of the drums to arms, and the deep, stern words of command, mingling with the rattling of steel, and other sounds of hostile preparation, all plainly told that they were at length aroused to the conviction that their opponents in front were coming down in full force upon their encampment; and that something more might now be required to insure their safety, than the empty vaunting, and the supposed intimidating display, of British uniforms and brass cannon, which had thus far marked the expedition, and constituted its only achievements. And scarcely had the different divisions of their motley army become arrayed and fixed in their line of battle, which consisted of the regulars within their strong field-works on the elevated plain on the left, and the Canadians and tories behind their more imperfect defences stretching from the former across the meadow on the right—scarcely had this been done, before their line of pickets, which had been placed among the trees at the eastern termination of the field, suddenly broke from their station, and came disorderly rushing back to the encampment. Presently a dark body of men in motion began to be perceptible through the openings of the wood along the line of the winding road; and, in a moment more, Stark's noble little brigade of sturdy and resolute peasant warriors came pouring into the field.

Wheeling in beautiful order into battle array, they came to a halt in the open plain near the border of the woods. Stark, then advancing, rode slowly along the front of the line, and, at length pausing, ran his practised eye collectedly over the firmly-standing ranks and dauntless faces before him; when, raising his massive form to its full length, he raised his glittering sword, and pointed to the hostile lines.

"Yonder, my men," he said, in a voice whose clear, deep, and ringing tones, in the stillness which at the moment prevailed, distinctly reached the attent organs of our fair listeners—"yonder, my brave men, stand the red-coats, your own and your country's foe—their army a mongrel crew of Hessian hirelings, fighting for eight-pence a day, or thereabouts; of tories, who come to ravage and enslave the land that gave them birth; and lastly, of Indians, dreaming of scalps and plunder! Are you not better men? Have you not nobler objects? Call you not yourselves freemen, with hearts to defend your homes and country? If so, then let your deeds this day prove it to the world! As for myself, my resolution is taken,—the field and foe is ours by set of sun, or Molly Stark this night will sleep a widow."

Three hearty cheers, bursting spontaneously from the listening ranks before him, told the gratified leader that he had not overrated the spirit and enthusiasm of the men to whom his brief but effective appeal had been addressed.

The British forces, in the mean time, awaited the approach of their opponents in silence. Baum even forebore to open upon them with his cannon, in the delusive hope that they would prove to be one of the large bodies of friendly inhabitants, who, he had been assured, would rise up in arms to join his standard as he advanced into the interior. His suspense, however, was soon ended. A scattering volley of musketry, followed by a distant shout, rose from the woods in rear of the station occupied by the Indians. And suddenly the whole body of the savages, contrary to their usual custom, quitted the woods, and came rushing into the camp of their allies with manifestations of the greatest surprise and dismay. The next moment, Herrick, at the head of his long files of Rangers, emerged into the open field, rapidly formed them into column, and advanced towards the rear of the enemy's intrenchments; while, at the same time, Nichols and his corps were seen approaching from the forest in an opposite direction, to form the contemplated junction, and move on with the former to the combined assault. The moment the Indians obtained a view of both these forces, and perceived they were converging together so as to form a continuous line of battle along the rear, they began to manifest the greatest uneasiness and alarm. And heir innate dread of being surrounded soon becoming too strong for the restraints of discipline, they broke from their position, and, like a flock of wild horses, commenced a tumultuous flight across the field towards the woods in open space between the two approaching forces of their opponents, who, quickly changing fronts, poured in upon them a rapid succession of destructive volleys. A fierce shout now burst from the ranks of the assailants; and, when the smoke rose, a line of dark, lifeless forms marked the green field nearly to the woods; others were seen crawling, like wounded reptiles, to the nearest coverts; while all the rest of the savage foe had disappeared forever from the field. Herrick and Nichols having now resumed their march, and Stark put his corps in motion, the three divisions, with two small flanking detachments, despatched along the woods to the right and left of the main body, all moved steadily on to the different points of attack. They were not permitted, however, to advance far unmolested; for suddenly every part of the royal lines became wrapped in clouds of mingling smoke and flame; while the heavens and earth seemed rent by the deafening crash of exploding muskets, and the jarring concussions of cannon, which instantly followed. Unmoved, however, by the tremendous outbreak, the American forces all moved steadily and rapidly forward till the forms of their opponents could be discerned beneath the lifting smoke, when they poured in a storm of fire and lead which told with dreadful effect on the shrinking lines before them. The general fire thus fatally delivered was speedily returned; and the battle now commencing in fearful earnest in every part of the field, both armies became so deeply concealed in the whirling clouds of smoke, which enveloped them, that the opposing forces could be distinguished only in the fierce gleams of musketry and the broader blaze of cannon that burst incessantly along the lines, filling, with the mingled uproar of a thousand thunders, the rocking valley and reverberating mountains around.

In the mean while, our heroine and her companion, who, at the first shock of this terrible onset, had shrunk back in consternation from view of the scene, sat listening on their humble couch to the fearful din that assailed their recoiling senses in every direction around them from without, with feelings which can be far more easily imagined than described. For more than an hour, while the battle continued to rage with increasing violence, and showers of bullets were heard every moment striking and burying themselves in the logs composing the walls of their seemingly devoted shelter, the amazed and trembling girls remained in the same position, dreading to look out upon the field, lest their eyes should be greeted with the sight of the death and carnage which they full well knew must there be going on to a fearful extent among both friends and foes. But Sabrey's increasing anxiety for the result, at length, mastering all other considerations, she arose, and, against the remonstrances of her companion, advanced towards the window.

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