"How awful!" she exclaimed, as she glanced out on the terrific conflict.
"Too awful to witness, unless there were some use in so doing," responded Vine. "If we were permitted to mingle in the fight with our friends, I, for one, would be willing to brave all the horrors of the battle for the good I might do; but, as this cannot be, why should we expose ourselves to danger so uselessly? Now, I do entreat you, Sabrey, to venture no farther," she continued, as the former, reaching the window, leaned forward for a full view of the scene. "Step back from that dangerous spot; don't you hear the bullets rattling, like hail, round the building?"
"Yes, but there is no danger where I stand, I presume, but if there were, I could no longer forbear watching the issue of a contest in which my own fate, as well as that of friends, is so deeply involved," replied Sabrey, with desperate calmness, as she continued to rivet her gaze on the field below.
"If you will look, then," said the other, "tell me what you see going on."
"I will," answered the former, "as far as I can distinguish any movements. But, at present, both sides are so completely concealed in the smoke that enshrouds them, that I can only discern dark forms in active motion along the lines, as the blaze of their fire-arms reveals portions of their ranks. The struggle, however, is evidently a dreadful one! In that continued, deafening crash which you hear, flames and smoke seem to be vomited forth from the earth, as if from the mouth of a volcano."
"There seems to be less firing now," observed Vine, after listening in silence a few minutes. "Can you perceive any new movements afoot? Can't you distinguish any of the words of command, or any thing that is said among that uproar of voices, which, between the booming of the cannon, once in a while, plainly reaches my ears?"
"Ay," returned the other, intently bending her ear towards the scene of action—"ay, I think I can, now. Hark! I hear one voice in particular, rising loud over all others; but it is the voice of one in prayer, invoking the God of battles to strike with the free and aid in bringing down quick destruction on their foes. How mightily he cries to Heaven for succor and success!"
"Where is he? among the rest in the fight?"
"No, not directly in the battle, I should think, but a little aloof, in the rear of this end of the American lines. There! I can now distinguish his form coming obliquely out of the smoke in this direction."
"Who is he?"
"I know not; but he seems a venerable old man, and his long, white locks are streaming in the wind, as, with a grasped musket in his hands, and the cry of The sword of the Lord and Gideon on his lips, he rushes towards the foe."
"What! to encounter them alone?"
"Yes, alone, and in advance of all others. Now he takes his stand in front of a group of tories partially concealed by the bushes on the bank of the stream. There! he raises his gun, and crying, God have mercy on your soul, fires, and his victim pitches headlong to the ground. They return his fire, but harm him not; and he again raises his gun, and, with the same prayer for mercy on the soul of the foeman he has singled out, fires, and another tory falls heavily to the earth. Mercy! they are now rushing forward to slay the old man! But now they are met by a party of the Americans, running forward with shouts, For the rescue of Father Herriot! Both sides fire; and again all are enveloped in the cloud of smoke that rolls over them."
"Father Herriot—Father Herriot," said Vine, musingly. "I have heard a great deal said about one they call Father Herriot, lately; but can he be here fighting?"
"Why, who and what is he, that he should not be here?" asked the other.
"A sort of preacher, I believe," answered Vine, "but rich enough to have bought several large tory estates; though where he came from, or how he got so much hard money as he seems to have, nobody can tell."
A fresh and general outbreak between the opposing lines here interrupted the conversation, and turned Sabrey's attention again to the field. And for nearly another fearful hour did she keep her stand at the window, heedless of the danger from the bullets which were whistling round her head, and unable, in the agonizing anxiety she felt for the result, to withdraw her eyes from that dread field, where the continued thunders of the artillery and musketry, shaking the solid earth along the line of conflict proclaimed the battle to be still raging with unabated fury.
At length, a brisk breeze sprang up in the north-west, and the battle cloud rolled heavily away before it from the field, disclosing, not only the relative positions of the opposing forces, but the awful picture of carnage that every where strewed the blackened earth. Mutually anxious to avail themselves of this opportunity to ascertain each other's situation, both parties at once suspended operations, for the purpose of obtaining observations which should enable them to resume the battle with more deadly effect. The deafening roar of musketry which, for nearly two hours, had shaken the embattled plain like one continued peal of thunder, was now heard rolling away, in dying echoes, among the far-off hills, leaving only the monotonous din of the martial music, kept up to drown the cries of the wounded, and the heavy booming of Baum's artillery, that still maintained its regular fire on the hill, though only to send—as it now became evident it had done from the first—its iron missiles high and harmlessly over the heads of the Americans, into the tops of the crashing forest beyond.
"Is the battle over?" asked Vine, as the noise of fire-arms thus subsided.
"No—that is, I conclude not," hesitatingly answered the other, still more closely rivetting her anxious gaze on the unfolding scene before her. "No, I think not—I trust not; for the British yet remain unconquered."
"Can you see them now?"
"Yes; the wind is driving away the smoke, and both armies are now fast becoming visible."
"Do our men maintain their ground?"
"Ay, and more. They have advanced almost to the hostile intrenchments; and there they stand face to face with their foes; and with ranks less thinned, thank Heaven, than I should think possible after withstanding so long the dreadful fire to which they have been exposed; though I can distinguish the forms of many poor fellows stretched upon the earth."
"And have not the ranks of the enemy suffered also?"
"Severely, it is evident. The ground along their lines as far as I can see, and especially that part opposite to the station occupied by the Rangers, whom I can distinguish by their green uniform, is thickly strown with the bodies of the slain. And if our men could see the destruction they have caused behind those intrenchments to encourage them! But stay! what means that commotion? Can it be?" Heaven forbid! But it is so. They fly!"
"Who fly?" eagerly demanded Vine.
"The Americans—Stark's division—and all is lost, when one more effort might have given them the victory! If my feeble voice could but reach them, I would rush out and raise it, though I perished in the attempt!" rapidly exclaimed the heroic girl, agonized at the thought that her countrymen were actually retreating from a field she believed so nearly won. "Ay, and who knows but I might be heard, or, at least, understood?" she added, glancing hurriedly through the window to the grounds round the house, to see what might be there to prevent her from trying to put her half-formed resolution into execution.
In looking out, with this object, her eye fell on the rude portico running along that side of the house, the narrow, flat roof of which rose to within a few feet of her window. And, suddenly changing her purpose, she hastily tore out the fastenings of the window, removed the sashes, and leaped down upon the roof of the portico, and stood in open view of the greater partion of both armies. But still regardless of her exposure, she advanced to the verge of the roof, and, turning towards the Americans, waved high her kerchief, and essayed to lift her voice over the tumult in words which, she hoped, would catch their attention and arrest their supposed flight. But the Americans, who had only fallen back a short distance to avoid the now unobstructed aim of the enemy, and prepare for a fresh onset, had already come to a stand, but were at first too busily engaged in loading their guns, and watching the motions of their foes, to observe her. The tories, however, whose forces were posted in the more immediate vicinity, instantly noted her appearance, and pointed her out to their officers, who, at once, appeared to read her intentions. And the next moment Colonel Peters, now for the first time presenting himself to her sight since her recapture, rode up; and, with a countenance flushed with suppressed passion, commanded her to retire within the house. A look of ineffable scorn was the only reply the maiden vouchsafed to give him, while she redoubled her exertions to attract the attention of his opponents. Stung by this public exhibition of her disdain, and defiance of his commands, the tory chief hastily raised a pistol towards her, and, in a fierce and menacing tone, demanded an immediate compliance with his orders.
"God have mercy on your soul!" was at that instant heard issuing from a covert near the American lines, in the well-known voice of Father Herriot. With the exclamation came the report of a musket, and at the same time a bullet struck and shattered in his hand the raised pistol of the dastardly Peters, who, casting away the remnant of the weapon to which he had been indebted only for his life, hastily wheeled and galloped back to his post barely escaping the shower of balls that, as he had rightly anticipated, was sent after him from the nearest of his foes.
But although the maiden had failed at the onset to attract the attention of the Americans by her attempt, as she had designed, yet the incident, to which the bold step she had taken gave rise, more effectually subserved her purpose. The firing had at once drawn all eyes to the spot. Presently the low hum of questioning voices was heard running through the American lines, while many an uplifted hand was seen pointing to her conspicuous form, as, still undeterred from her purpose, she stood waving her signal kerchief towards them. And the next moment the loud and cheering cry, Forward, to the rescue of the Tory's Daughter! burst from the Rangers, and was speedily caught up and echoed in lively acclamations, from detachment to detachment, through the whole encircling lines of the assailing army, which, with one impulse, now threw itself forward towards the foe. And, unmoved by the tremendous but hasty and misdirected fire that every where met them on the way, they swept onward like an avalanche to the very foot of the tory intrenchments; when, pausing only to pour in their devouring volleys, they mounted the works, and raising their clubbed muskets, dashed down, with shouts of defiance, upon the recoiling ranks of the amazed and panic-stricken foe, who, unable to withstand the force and fury of the onset, instantly gave way and threw down their arms, or scattered and fled in every direction.
Astonished and alarmed at beholding all his outworks so suddenly and unexpectedly stormed and carried, Baum seemed immediately to have resolved on a desperate effort to retrieve the fortunes of the day. And in a few minutes he was seen at the head of a long column of his grenadiers, issuing from his intrenchments on the hill, and bearing down with hasty step on the assailing forces below. But the next moment, that imposing column, with its luckless leader, disappeared before the enfilading fire of the death-dealing Rangers, like frost-work before the breath of a furnace; while, nearly at the same time, an upleaping cloud of smoke and flame, followed by the shock of an exploding ammunition wagon within the principal works, completed the only signal of encouragement that was wanted by the already flushed assailants to decide them on an immediate attempt for the completion of their triumph. And before the dull roar of the explosion was lost among the echoing hills, the deep-toned voice of the intrepid Stark, ever eagle-eyed to see, and prompt to seize, an advantage, was heard rising over the tumult, in ordering the final assault, which, having leaped from his horse, and sprung forward to the head of a forming column, he was the next moment seen, with the air of a roused lion, leading on in person. In one minute more, all the various forces, not required to guard the prisoners already taken, were in motion, and, with flashing eyes, and rapid, determined tread, charging up the ascending grounds towards the different sides of the doomed redoubt; in another, they were furiously rushing over the embankments, and pouring their bristling columns in resistless streams down upon the weakened and dismayed forces of the Germans and British in the enclosure. Then succeeded the rapid, scattering reports of pistols and musketry, the sounds of fiercely-clashing steel, and the wild cries of those struggling hand to hand in deadly contest, and the wilder shrieks of the wounded, all rising in mingled uproar from the spot. Then all was hushed in a momentary stillness; and then rose the long, loud shout of a thousand uniting voices, pealing forth to the heavens the exulting acclamations of victory!
"The strife, that for a while did fail, Now trebly thundering, swelled the gale."—Scott.
Like the rapidly-flitting scenes of some dioramic exhibition passed the crowding events of the next half hour before the half-bewildered senses of our heroine. The sudden appearance of Woodburn in the now deserted yard of her prison-house, whither, the moment the battle was won, he had hastened, with the usual anxiety of the lover made intense by the distracting fear that she might have been carried off by the escaping tories,—his eager inquiries for her presence and safety,—her own involuntary but silent response to his calls, by rushing out to meet him, and placing herself under his coveted protection,—the hurried congratulations that passed between them,—the complimentary greetings of the gallant hero of the day, and other distinguished persons soon gathering around her and her fair companion, as they stood shrinking from the admiration and applause which the conduct of one, and the position of both, had called forth from the lips of all,—their welcome escape from the embarrassing scene, in a carriage, under the guidance of Bart, to whom they were given in charge by Woodburn, as he hastily departed, at the head of a chosen band of followers, in pursuit of Peters, and a body of tories that were discovered to have escaped,—the passage of the vehicle through the contested field, ploughed up by artillery, blackened by the fire and smoke of battle, and strewed with the dying and the dead, among whom the busy groups of the dismissed soldiery were every where scattered in pursuit of their different objects—here to collect plunder from their slain enemies, and there to minister to the wounded, or search among the fallen for missing comrades,—all these followed so rapidly upon a victory, the sudden announcement of which had nearly overpowered her with joyful surprise, that it was not till she and her companion had passed beyond the confines of the battle-field, and entered upon the comparatively solitary road leading towards the village of Bennington, to which they were now directing their course, that she could realize her happy deliverance. Then, for the first time during that terrible day, the woman in her prevailed, and she melted into tears. But they were the tears of joy and gratitude, that she and her native land, whose immediate fate had so singularly become interwoven with her own, had alike been permitted to triumph. We must, however, leave her and her friend to indulge their overflowing feelings, and listen to the recitals of the no less happy Bart, who had been in the hottest of the fight, while they pursue their unmolested way to their present destination—we must now leave them, and return once more to the field of battle, where the dismissed troops were still busily engaged in gathering up the trophies of war, preparing refreshments, and exulting over the glorious result of the conflict, little dreaming of any further appearance of the enemy after so signal a defeat.
But hark! What means that heavy firing which suddenly comes echoing over the forest from the west? Does it portend only some skirmish on the line of the retreat, where a portion of the foe have come to a stand to shield the rest, or favor their escape? No; it is the booming of the deep-mouthed cannon, and not those of the defeated forces; for they have left all theirs behind them. While every eye and ear, through the hushed field, were turned in anxious perplexity towards the ominous sounds, a horseman came dashing at full speed along the wood-begirt road from that direction, loudly proclaiming, as he drew near, the startling intelligence, that the broken and flying bands of the enemy had been met and rallied by a reenforcement of five hundred fresh veteran troops, well supplied with artillery; and the whole, making a more formidable army than the first, and evidently resolved to retrieve the lost credit of the day, and revenge themselves on the victors, were rapidly approaching, and within two miles of the place!
The next moment the loud and quickly repeated cry of "To arms! to arms!" rang far and wide over the field. Then followed the rapid roll of the alarm drums, the rattling of hastily-grasped muskets, the trampling of hurrying feet, and the confused clamor of voices; while the scattered and commingling bands of the surprised troops were seen throwing down their plunder, or leaving the half-partaken meal, and flying, in all directions, to their respective rallying points, to be ready to meet the menaced onset, and die, or keep the field they had so gloriously won. But notwithstanding the spirit and alacrity with which the troops responded to the call, so rapid was the advance of the enemy, that, before Stark, with all his energy, could collect much more than half his former forces, refit them with ammunition, and bring them into line, the British, led on by the cool and experienced Breyman, and driving before them the detachment of Americans sent in pursuit of the fugitives, came pouring onto the field; and, immediately throwing themselves into battle array, opened a tremendous fire, with cannon and small arms, upon the half-formed lines of their opponents, gathering to dispute their passage in front. The Americans returned the fire, which, though partial and irregular, was yet so well directed as to put a temporary check upon the advance of the foe. But the latter, seeing the unprepared condition of the former, and becoming confident of an easy victory, were soon again upon the advance; while Stark, destroying the breastworks that had sheltered the foe in the first action, as far as the time would permit, and dragging the captured cannon along with him, slowly fell back, continuing to make his dispositions, and pour, from time to time, as he went, his well-aimed volleys upon the thinning ranks of his pursuers. At length, however, he took his stand, resolved, in despite of all his disadvantages, to make a final and desperate effort to regain the lost mastery of the field. But closer and closer pressed the exulting and determined foe; and, although well and bravely did his weakened and exhausted men repel the fierce charges of their assailants, yet it soon became evident that they could not long withstand the repeated assaults of those heavy and disciplined columns upon their unequal lines. Both the men and their officers began to exchange doubtful and despairing glances; and even their bold and unyielding chief was seen to look uneasily around him. But at that critical juncture, when the fate of the free seemed trembling doubtfully in the balance, an inspiring shout rose from the copse-wood bordering the road in the rear. And the next moment, the far-famed regiment of Green Mountain Boys, whose earlier arrival had been prevented by the storm of the preceding day, emerged into view; and, led on by the chivalrous Warner on his fiery charger, that would know no other rider,[Footnote: It may be interesting, to the antiquarian at least, to learn that the splendid war-horse, which Warner was known to have rode in all his battles, could neither be mounted nor managed by any except the colonel and his son, then a lad of sixteen or seventeen, who attended his father in the service mainly on that account. This fact I have from the lips of Colonel W.'s second son, now living in Lower Canada.] advanced with rapid and resolute tread directly to the scene of action.
"Warm work, warm work here, Colonel Warner," said Stark, as the other dashed up to his side for his orders.
"Ay, general; but we will make it still warmer for the Red coats, at least, if you will give us a chance at them in front of your line," promptly responded the gallant officer.
"That chance you shall have, with the thanks of my exhausted troops, to whom, and myself, your presence, at this time, my brave friend, could scarcely be more welcome," said Stark, with a frankness and cordiality of manner which attested the pleasure he felt at the other's timely arrival.
"Thank you—thank you, general," replied Warner, galloping back to his regiment, and commanding their attention.
"Soldiers," he exclaimed, in his clear, trumpet tones throwing back his tall, superb form, and displaying his noble and beautifully-arched brow,—"my brave soldiers, shall this be our battle, and our victory?"
A deafening cheer was the affirmative response.
"In God's name, on, then!" he resumed, in a voice of thunder—"on, and avenge yourselves for country's wrongs, and for your flogging at Hubbardton."
In eager obedience to the welcome command of their idolized leader, who now led the way, with flashing eyes and waving sword, they all swept on through the opening ranks of their loudly-cheering companions in arms, rapidly deployed into line, and, the next instant, wrapped themselves in the flame and smoke of their own fire, which burst, with an almost single report, into the very faces of the astonished foe, whose ranks went down by scores before the leaden blast of that terrible volley. And, by the time they had recovered from the shock of the unexpected assault, the relieved and encouraged forces of Stark, now strengthened by the arrival of additional numbers of the scattered militia, and formed into new and more effective combinations, returned with, fresh ardor to the contest. And, as the different detachments, moving resolutely on, with flying colors and rattling drums, to the various points of attack assigned them in front and around the hostile squares, reached their allotted stations, they successively poured in their withering volleys till the rebounding plain trembled and shook beneath the tumult and thunders of a conflict, to which, in obstinacy and sanguinary fierceness, few engagements on record afford a parallel. On one side was discipline, with revenge, the hope of reward, and the fear of the disgrace attending defeat, to incite them, to action On the other side, the stake was home and liberty; and these as the trained officers of Europe soon found to their astonishment often more than compensated for the lack of discipline and military experience; for, in contending for a stake of such individual moment, every man in the ranks of freedom, though frequently wholly untrained, and in battle for the first time in his life, at once became a warrior, fighting as if the whole responsibility of the issue of the battle rested on his own shoulders. And, in every part of the field, deeds were performed by nameless peasants rivalling the most daring exploits of heroes. Here a company of raw militia might be seen rushing upon a detached column of British veterans, firing in their faces, and, for want of bayonets, knocking them down with clubbed muskets. There old men and boys, with others who, like them, had come unarmed and as spectators of the battle, would spring forward after some retreating band, seize the muskets of the slain, and engage, muzzle to muzzle, with the hated foe. The intrepid Stark, harboring no thought but of victory, and as regardless of exposure as the unconscious charger that bore him through the leaden storm, was every where to be seen; now heading an onset—now dashing off to rouse or rally a faltering column, and now leaping from his horse to show his inexperienced men how to load and fire the captured cannon; while Warner and Herrick, fit men to second the efforts of such a chief, were constantly storming, like raging lions, in the smoke and fire of the hottest of the fight; here breasting, with their brave and unflinching regiments, the desperate assault, and there, in turn, leading on the resistless charge.
Thus, with the tide of war alternately surging to and fro, like the wild waves of the ocean lashed by contending winds, continued to rage this fierce and sanguinary conflict, till the sun went down in the semblant blood with which the smoke of battle had enshrouded him.
But now, soon an unusual commotion, attended with new and rapid movements, was observable among the contending forces of the field. Presently an exulting shout rose from the American lines; and the enemy were seen at all points to be giving way. Their retreat, however, though rapid, was yet, for a while, conducted with order; and they repeatedly turned and made desperate efforts to resist the fiery tide that, with gathering impetus, was rolling after them. But vain and fruitless were all their attempts; for, while their whole rear was wasting with frightful rapidity, under the terrible volleys which were poured upon it, in one incessant blaze, by the hotly pursuing squadrons of Stark and Warner, a strong detachment of the heroic Rangers, under the daring lead of the now half-maddened Woodburn rushed forward and fell upon their flank with a fury that threw their pierced and staggering columns into such disorder and confusion as to destroy their last indulged hope of escaping in a body from their infuriated pursuers. And, the next moment, their whole force broke, and, abandoning their cannon and baggage, fled in a tumultuous rout from the field, some escaping along the road, some yielding themselves prisoners on the way, and others, to avoid their outstripping pursuers, seeking refuge in the surrounding forest. But neither road, nor field, nor forest, were this time permitted to afford many of them the means of escape, or shield them from the harassing pursuit of the exasperated Americans, who, in furiously-charging columns, overthrew, shot down, or captured, all their broken and flying bands within reach, in the road and open grounds, or in small parties, or singly, closely followed and boldly encountered them in the woods, whose dark recesses soon resounded with the scattering fire, the clashing steel, and the hurrying shout, of the pursued and pursuing combatants.
But of the scores of promiscuous conflicts and personal encounters which marked the finale of this memorable triumph and made so conspicuous the prowess of the heroic men by whom it was achieved, it were in vain for us, within our limits, to attempt a description. There was one of these encounters, however, which the approaching development of our story requires to be more particularly noted. And, for this purpose, we will now change the scene to a wild glen, far within the depths of the forest, where, hedged in by an impassable morass in front, and steep ledges of rocks on either side, a gang of a half dozen of the fugitive tories, headed by an officer in British uniform, had turned round with the desperate ferocity of wild beasts, to give battle to the indefatigable pursuers, who had followed them from the battle-field with a vigilance and speed from which there was no escape, and with such demonstrations of marksmanship as had already told fatally on nearly half their numbers on the way. But those pursuers, as wary as they were brave and untiring, with the double object of concealing the inequality of their numbers, which were but four, and securing the advantages that a choice of positions in all sylvan contests especially affords, had instantly fallen back to a line of hastily-selected coverts, stretching across the gorge, and had now become wholly invisible to their advancing foes, who soon paused in turn, and, shielding themselves behind the bodies of trees stood eagerly peering out to catch sight of the objects of their aim. Suddenly the sharp report of a rifle burst from a bush-covered cleft in the rocks nearly abreast of one of the exposed flanks of the tories; and the tallest of their number, with a wild start, and half-uttered oath, floundered into the bushes and fell. The next moment, our old acquaintance, Bart Burt, who, having conveyed the ladies to their destination, had sped back to the battle-field in time to participate in the last part of the final action, was seen stealthily creeping round the point of the ledge, from which the fatal shot had issued, and approaching the leader of the concealed assailants, who, as the reader may have already anticipated, was no other than Captain Woodburn.
"Bart," said the latter, "you have executed my order as no other man could. But whom have you slain? Not Peters?"
"No—couldn't get him in range; but did as well, though—may be better—fixed out the only one whose aim I was 'fraid of—the big, fierce-looking whelp that shot father Herriot, in our last sally in the field; the same that made that bullet-hole in your coat on the way here; and the same, too, who would have finished me, likely, but for the glancing of his bullet on a bush before me. But I have settled all the grudges at a blow, now."
"You have done bravely; but did you discover who they are—any of them besides the leader, Peters?"
"Yes, two of 'em, who are, as Dunning and Piper surmised, Dave Redding and Tiger Fitch, that beauty of a constable, who bothered us so in old times, at Guilford. He's now some kind of an officer among 'em, guess; and, dead or alive, I'm bound to have him; though, if you've any particular plan, captain, I'll follow it, instead of going round to 'tother ledge for another pick of the flock."
"I have one; and that is, to draw their fire, or most of it, and then rush upon them. You may creep on, then, to Dunning and Piper, and, with them, contrive and execute some plan to effect that object, and I will stand here ready to order, and lead the charge, at the favoring moment."
Bart now, with the noiseless tread of a cat, rapidly glided away into the bushes and disappeared on his errand. In a few minutes, the cracking of sticks, as if under the pressure of cautiously moving feet, was heard in a thicket of bushes within full range of the guns of the tories, who, now safely ensconced behind the new coverts, to which, in alarm at Bart's fatal shot, they had betaken themselves, instantly turned their attention in that direction, and, levelling their pieces, keenly watched for the expected exposure of the persons of some of their opponents. Soon the dim outlines of two or three apparently human forms could be traced in the thicket, rising up one after another, with the quick hesitating motions of men intent on a stealthy reconnaissance of the objects before them. And, the next moment, every tory, but one, sent the contents of his gun at these supposed forms of the lurking besiegers. But instead of beholding, as they had anticipated, the riddled bodies of the dreaded foe dropping to the earth, they soon discovered, to their astonishment and dismay, that the empty coats and caps, which the outwitting Rangers had raised on their ramrods over their prostrate persons, were the only sufferers.
"Der—der—der—ditter ready!" shouted Dunning, in a voice which at last went off like the terminating clap of a rattling thunder peal, as he and his two associates leaped, coatless, from the ground, to be prepared for the instant execution of the expected order.
"On, then, and suffer not a wretch of them to escape you alive!" exclaimed their impatient leader in reply, dashing forward himself, and leading in the headlong onset which they all now made on the foe.
Taken by complete surprise by this rapid and unexpected movement of the assailants, now bursting upon them with cocked and levelled rifles, the dismayed tories, at first, made no attempts at escape or resistance; while part of then threw down their half-loaded guns, and stepped out from their coverts.
"Surrender at discretion, or take the consequence!" sternly cried Woodburn, pausing within twenty yards of the tory leader.
"We are in your power, sir, I suppose," replied Peters evasively, and in a tone of affected submission, as, avoiding the burning gaze of the other, he threw a significant glance to the tory who had reserved his charge at the fruitless fire just made by the rest of his party.
In an instant, the gun of the latter, who still stood behind a tree shielding him, as he supposed, from the other Rangers, was levelled at Woodburn, whose attention was too intently fixed on his chief foe to notice the movement. But before the finger of the assassin was permitted to tighten on the trigger, a bullet from the unerring rifle of the watchful Dunning had pierced his brain, and his gun, as he fell over backwards, exploded harmlessly into the air. Three of the tories, however, taking advantage of the momentary confusion occasioned by the noise and smoke of the guns, made a desperate spring for the surrounding thickets and succeeded in breaking through the line of their assailants, three of whom instantly gave chase, leaving Woodburn to cope alone with the rival foe, whom he had vainly sought through the day to confront in battle. Peters threw a quick, furtive glance around him; and, for an instant, seemed hesitating whether he should attempt to follow the example of the rest of his band; but another glance at the watchful and menacing eye of his opponent gleaming at him over the barrel of the deadly rifle, taught the folly of any such attempt, and, throwing down his weapons, he said,—
"I yield myself a prisoner of war, sir."
"A prisoner of war!" exclaimed Woodburn, repeating the words of the other, in a tone of bitter scorn. "After signifying your submission, and then instigating an attempt to shoot me, you hope to be received as a prisoner of war, do you? Villain!" he added, advancing and presenting the muzzle of his piece within a yard of the other's breast—"villain, your last claim to mercy is forfeited!"
"You would not slay an unarmed man, and a prisoner, would you?" said Peters, recoiling, and casting an uneasy glance at his opponent.
"Yes," replied the former, with increasing sternness, "if, like you, in defiance of all the rules of war as well as honor, he would do the same to me the first moment he had it in his power. No submission shields the life of an outlaw from any one disposed to take it. But you shall have one minute for uttering your last request, if you have any such to make."
Being now thoroughly alarmed by the words, as well as the demeanor of his incensed captor, the once haughty loyalist fell on his knees, and humbly besought the other to spare his life.
"Live, then, wretch!" said Woodburn, at length moved to both pity and contempt by the entreaties and abject manner of the former—"live then, if you choose it, to be dealt with as a traitor and a spy, by men who will award you your deserts with more coolness, doubtless, than I should have done, but with no less certainty."
"O, spare me from that," pleaded the abased supplicant, with redoubled earnestness. "Kill me on the spot, if you will; but spare me from that fate. Allow me to be delivered up as a prisoner of war, and I will consent to any thing—yield any thing you wish. I will ensure you, by my influence at the British camp, any advantage in a future exchange of prisoners you may ask; and——"
"Peace! miserable craven!" interrupted Woodburn. "I could promise you no exemption, if I would, from a punishment which our exasperated people will justly say you have brought upon your own head."
"And I will also," resumed Peters, encouraged by the somewhat softened tone, and slightly hesitating manner of the other—"I will also relinquish all claims, and forego all interference, in matters that may have stood in the way of your private interests and wishes."
"I will make no pledges, nor grant, nor receive any terms, at your dictation, sir," said the former, haughtily.
"I will trust to your magnanimity to a fallen foe," then, rejoined Peters, rightly appreciating, for once, the character of his conqueror. "Here, take this," he continued, drawing a carefully-preserved document from his pocket, and extending it towards the other—"take it, and deliver it to the one whom it most concerns. Tell her it was voluntarily relinquished, and that I will trouble her no more."
As small as was the measure of credit which Woodburn's judgment told him should be accorded to the motives prompting this unexpected course in his old enemy, it nevertheless quickly banished every vindictive feeling from his generous bosom; and after a momentary hesitation, he took the proffered document, glanced at its contents, and silently deposited it among his other papers. But soon growing jealous of himself lest he should compromit the policy which his superiors might deem it just and wise, under the sanction of the stern rules of war, to enforce, he restrained himself from making any immediate reply. And, the next moment, he was relieved from what apparent necessity there might be for so doing, by the approach of the first of the returning Rangers.
"Where is your prisoner, Piper?" he asked, turning to the latter, now coming up.
"He would not be taken alive, sir; and the order was to let none escape in that condition," replied the broad-chested subaltern with a significant look.
"In order, then, that you go not home empty-handed," rejoined Woodburn, "I will give you charge of my prisoner, Colonel Peters here, whom you will conduct to Bennington Meeting-House, whither the prisoners of the day were ordered, and whence you will deliver him to the officer in command as a prisoner of war—at least for the present; for any doubt that may arise about his final disposal can be settled hereafter."
"Der well, captain," exclaimed Dunning, whose tall, gaunt form, in the rear of his prisoner, the infamous David Redding, whom it had been his lot to capture, was now seen emerging from a thicket near by—"here is one, about whom we shan't be bothered with der doubts, a great while, if his captor can have his say."
"Aha!—but what is your say about him, sergeant?" said Woodburn, smiling.
"Der well," replied the other, "I say, if the ditter devil don't take him from a traitor's gallows, then we may just as well have no devil."
"I shall not be the one to gainsay you in that, sergeant," responded Woodburn. "But hark! what is the uproar yonder?" he added, pointing out into the woods in a direction from whence the sound of an occasional stiff whack! followed by groans, curses, and calls for protection, were now heard to issue.
On turning their eyes towards the spot, the company beheld Bart, with his rifle in one hand, and a long beechen switch in the other, driving in before him the whilom constable, Fitch, who was chafing, like a chained bear, under the lash which his catechizing captor was administering every few yards on the way.
"Why are you so rough with him, Bart?" expostulated Woodburn, as they came up.
"Well, captain, I have a reasonable wherefore for it—may be," answered the former, gravely.
"What is it?" asked the other.
"Why," replied the imperturbable Bart, "perhaps I don't remember, and perhaps I do, how a chap of about my size sat sweating near two cool hours, at the sight of an ugly-looking bunch of beech rods, that a certain constable had ordered for his back. And as 'twas no fault of his that the matter wasn't carried out at the time, and, as I always thought there was a mistake made as to the one whose back ought to take it, I felt rather bound to have the order executed now, and in a manner to set all to rights between us."
"Well, well, boys," said Woodburn, with a good-humored smile, "you must all be indulged in your notions, I suppose, at such a glorious hour as this. But you may now be moving on with your prisoners to the field, and thence by the road to Bennington. Business calls me there by a nearer route, and at a quicker pace. You shall find good cheer awaiting your arrival."
So saying, he struck off rapidly from the rest, and soon disappeared in the forest.
"Sing it where forests wave,— From mountain to the sea, And o'er each hero's grave,— Sing, sing, the land is free."
It was evening; and all that met the eye was joy and animation in the little village of Bennington, in which, not only the great body of the opposing armies, either as conquerors or prisoners, but the best portion of the patriotism, wisdom, and beauty of young Vermont, were now congregated. There her statesmen and sages—many of whom had mingled in the strife of the day—were gathered to rejoice over a result which their own heads, and hearts, and hands, through the anxious days and nights of the preceding month, had been unceasingly engaged in securing for their country and their homes. There, too, the old men and striplings, drawn from all the neighboring settlements by the ominous sounds which had reached them from the distant battlefield, and there the maids and matrons, whose solicitude for the near and dear ones, supposed to be engaged in the conflict, would not permit them to stay behind, were all found mingling with the victors, and participating in their exultations. Bright lights were streaming from every window, or dancing in every direction in the streets; while the smiling faces and animated voices, everywhere seen and heard among the commingling throng, seemed to tell only of a scene of universal joy and triumph. But as joyous and lively as was the scene, in its predominating features, it was yet not without its painful contrasts. The broken sob, or the low wail of sorrow, was heard rising sadly on the night air, in every interval that occurred in the more boisterous but irrepressible manifestations which characterized the hour. And, even in the same dwellings, these two contrasted phases in war's exciting but melancholy picture were not unfrequently presented; for, while in one room might be heard the notes of joy and exultation, in another might be distinguished the stifled groan of some wounded soldier, or the lamentations of the bereaved over the body of a slain relative.
Among the most noted of the class last mentioned was the late residence of Esquire Haviland, situated in the outskirts of the village, and recently occupied as the quarters of the officers of the Rangers, on the invitation of the patriotic but singular and mysterious man, who, at its sale by the commissioners of confiscation, had purchased the establishment, among several others of a valuable description thus sold in this section of the country. To this residence, the scene of a former portion of our story, we will now once more, and for the last time, repair.
While in one part of the building the officers just named, with other distinguished persons, were engaged in discussing the incidents of the day, in another and more retired apartment, on a pillowed couch, lay the wounded Father Herriot, who, having been stricken down in the last moments of the battle, as before intimated, had been borne hither to complete the willing sacrifice he had made of his life to the cause of his country. On a small table, within his reach, lay several documents, which were fresh from the hand of that ready writer, the accomplished secretary of the Council of Safety, who had just left the apartment. And around his bedside stood those in whom all his private interests and sympathies had been for some time secretly concentrated, though to two of them personally unknown till a few hours before, when he had beer brought in wounded and committed to their care. Those persons were Henry Woodburn, Bart Burt, Sabrey Haviland, and Vine Howard, who, ignorant of his particular wishes or intentions, and wondering why the presence of all of them should be desired at the same time, had been summoned to his bedside to hear his last communication and receive his blessing.
"My prayer is answered," said Herriot, after looking round affectionately a while upon his expectant auditors, who, at his request, after the room was cleared of other company, had advanced to his bedside. "My last prayer has been to be permitted to see all of you, in whose personal welfare I have been led to take a peculiar interest, assembled before me while life and reason remained, so that I could commune with you; and the prayer has been graciously answered. Still, when, at the close of our first, and, as we all then supposed, final triumph to-day, Miss Haviland, with her friend, at my request, was conveyed here to her former home, of which I had become the purchaser, I then thought to have met you all here this evening under circumstances in which I could have actively shared with you in the rejoicings that our victory so naturally calls forth, as well as in the happiness, which, as far as regards you, I believed I could superadd by my own acts. But He who holds the fate of individuals, as well as that of armies, in his hands, has seen fit to deny me such participation; and He doeth all things well."
"Your wound is not necessarily a mortal one, Father Herriot and I trust you may yet live to enjoy the fruits of a victory you have contributed so much by your bravery to win," observed Woodburn, feelingly.
"That may not be. I feel the destroyer busily at work here, undermining the citadel," responded the other, placing his hand on that part of his chest where the bullet had entered. "But I regret not having made the poor sacrifice of my life for so righteous a cause. And though I shall not live to see the happiness I would be the means of imparting, yet the wish and the duty of doing what I proposed to that end remains to be fulfilled, and for this purpose I have requested your presence."
The speaker here paused, as if at a loss how he should open the subject which seemed to rest on his mind. But at length he resumed:—
"Miss Haviland, what you have done and suffered for the cause, in which you so nobly took your stand, is known to many. The part you have acted in the events of this day is known to still more; but have not those events had a bearing on your happiness beyond what would arise from the bare liberation of your person?"
"They have, sir," replied the maiden, frankly, but with an air of surprise at the unexpected question.
"And have I been correctly informed, by the person who has just left us, and who has long been my confidential friend and adviser, that, by the relinquishment of a certain contract, you are now left free to bestow your hand on one whose character and feelings may be more congenial with your own?"
"Why am I questioned in so unusual a manner, and by one so much a stranger?" asked the former, in a half-remonstrating, half-beseeching tone.
"I knew," rejoined the other, "that you, as well as the rest of those present, might, at first, wonder why and how I should have kept myself apprised, as I confess I have long done, of all that concerned the individual interests, and even inclinations, as far as could be conjectured, of each of you. And I know, also, that my ways are not like those of other men. But cannot you trust to the motives of a dying man, and let him proceed in his own manner?"
"I can—I will, Father Herriot," answered Sabrey, touched by the appeal. "And I will not affect to misunderstand you. I have been freed from fetters under which I have suffered—perhaps unnecessarily—both persecution and embarrassment of feeling. And I am thankful," she continued, throwing a grateful glance to Woodburn—"greatly thankful for that generous forbearance by which this was effected without bloodshed. Yes, I am free, doubly free; but whoever takes me," she added, slightly coloring, "must now receive a penniless bride."
"Perhaps not," said Herriot, musingly—"perhaps not. But I did not mean to be understood as imposing any conditions to the act I was about to perform, after ascertaining your entire deliverance from the power and supposed claims of one whom I deem a bad man, as well as a foe to his country. Here, deserving girl," he continued, taking up one of the documents from the table and extending it towards her, "here is a deed of gift, from me to you, of all this, which was your father's estate. Take it; it is freely given and worthily bestowed."
Surprise at an act as unexpected as it was munificent, kept all mute for some seconds; when Sabrey, whose sensibilities were too deeply moved to permit her to speak, threw upon the donor a look which her grateful emotions made more eloquent than any language she could have summoned for a reply; and then, turning, she silently extended her hand to Woodburn, with the deed still laying across the open palm.
"Which?—the hand or the paper?" asked the latter, in a low tone, and with a slightly apprehensive air.
"Either, or both," replied the maiden, as a blush stole over her conscious cheek.
"The hand, then," exclaimed the delighted lover, grasping the coveted prize, and bearing it in triumph to his lips.
"It is all right; but no words," said Herriot, making a motion for silence to Woodburn, who was about to address him—"no words. I have much to say—let me proceed. Bart," he continued, after a thoughtful pause, as he turned to the young man who had stood mutely noting the proceedings with a puzzled look—"Bart, do you remember the old Rose Homestead, which was confiscated, and also purchased by me?"
"Well, yes," replied Bart, looking up with an inquiring, doubtful expression—"yes, for as many as two several reasons, or more," he added, with one glance to Woodburn, and another, and more significant one, to Vine, who was standing demurely at his side.
"Would you like it for your own?" asked the former.
"My own!" exclaimed Bart, casting an incredulous but searching look at the other's countenance, in which, however, he read something that at once changed his demeanor; and, in a softened and respectful tone, he replied to the question, "Yes, Father Herriot, as soon as the smell of toryism got fairly out of it, I would like it grandly, that's a fact."
"It is yours, then, as this deed will show," said Herriot, handing to the surprised and hesitating young man the instrument in question; "it is yours; but have you no one to share it with you?"
"Well, don't know exactly, but may be the chap that helped me fix up my spy disguises, and gave me so many good hints for ferreting out the tories, won't object much to that, seeing we have had considerably the start of the captain and his lady here, in the way of finished bargains," replied Bart, turning, with an expression of droll gravity, to the blooming girl at his side, who, thereupon, with an arch and blushful smile, placed her hand in his, which had been extended to receive it.
"Who are you, Father Herriot?" exclaimed the now completely surprised Woodburn; "who are you, to take such an interest in us, and bestow on us gifts so valuable, with so little hope, as you can have, of any adequate return?"
"Listen, and you shall be answered," replied Herriot; "for the time has now arrived when you all should know the relation in which we stand to each other; and I know not but I have already delayed the disclosure of this fact too long. Perhaps I should have made it, as I had nearly done, when, at the breaking out of the war, you and Bart visited my hermit cabin in the vicinity of the Connecticut. But when I found you about to embark in the cause of liberty, for which I stood ready to make any sacrifice, I concluded to defer it, lest the discovery, which I had but then just made myself, should turn you from a service that I thought none were at liberty to withhold. I therefore, after communicating to you enough to lead you, in case of my death, to all the knowledge I wished you to obtain, encouraged you on your way. And it has all, doubtless, been for the best; for who knows but your individual exertions were needed to turn the scale which has been so long trembling at equipoise? But the events of this day," continued the patriot, kindling at the thought—"the events of this day, which will be memorable through all, time, have turned that scale in favor of American freedom. I read it with a prophetic eye, which is made for me too clear for error or misconception. Our avenging armies will henceforth go on conquering and to conquer, till the last vestige of British usurpation is swept from the land."
Here the speaker paused a while to recover from his exhaustion, and indulge his mental vision, apparently, with the enrapturing glimpses he was catching of the future destiny of his country. But soon arousing himself from his reverie, he resumed,—
"Harry Woodburn, you had once a paternal uncle?"
"I have been told so," was the reply.
"Who, by his folly and wickedness, disgraced himself and ruined your father," proceeded the former.
"I had such an uncle," responded Woodburn, with an expression of gathering interest and surprise; "or, rather, I had an uncle, who, though not a bad man, was, I have understood, at one time, a very indiscreet one; and, by his indiscretion, lost his own property, and deeply involved that of my father. But I do not feel to condemn him as much as your words imply you expect I should."
"Or as he has always condemned himself," rejoined Herriot, with an air of deep self-abasement. "But I thank God for giving me the means, and the will, for making ample restitution to such as remain of my injured brother's family, or of my own. Harry, I am that uncle. I am the erring Charles Woodburn."
"I am surprised, deeply surprised," said the other; "for, attributing the interest you have taken in me to other causes, I have, till within a few minutes, been totally unprepared for such a revelation. And now it seems as if it could not be. You could not have much resembled my father, and you bear another name."
"I did not strikingly resemble my more staid brother, in person or character," responded the former, meekly; "and my reasons for assuming another name are explained by the circumstances under which you first saw me, the accused of a revolting crime, of which, as I then declared, I was never guilty. And this the wicked men, who combined against me, and hunted me out, even in this new settlement, full well knew. But they knew, also, that I had somewhere at command the large amount of money that had been left me by a wealthy and heirless gentleman, whom I had previously rescued from death. Are you now satisfied that I am the man I claim to be, and, as such, willing to acknowledge me?"
"Fully, now—not only satisfied of the identity, but willing, nay, proud to acknowledge the relationship," said Woodburn, with warmth and rising emotion. "Nor is this all, my uncle, my friend! The acts you have just performed will ever—"
"Enough, enough!" interrupted the former; "but let me go on. I have still another and more humiliating duty to perform. Bart," he continued, turning, with an agitated countenance, to the young man, "as forsaken and guideless as you have been, many a parent has had a less deserving offspring. And had you not done more for yourself than he, who should have been your protector and guide, has done for you, you had been less than nothing among men. But listen; for the story of your origin, which, thus far, has been as a sealed book to you, must now be disclosed Your father contracted a private, but legal marriage, with a woman, who, as the world falsely esteemed it, was below him in station; and, in his pride, he refused to acknowledge her, and, having squandered the property that should have been applied to her support, absconded from the country. In after years, however, conscience drove him back, but only to find her dying of destitution and a broken heart, and to learn from her last words that the offspring of their connection, a male infant, had been thrown unacknowledged on the charity of the public. Aroused by a new sense of duty, he diligently sought for the child—followed it from its first lodgment to its next asylum in the city; from that to another in the country; and then, through various shifts and wanderings, till the trace was lost far in the interior; when he gave up the search, and again left the country. In the process of time, he once more returned to New England, in altered circumstances, and located himself in this settlement, where he soon met with a youth, whose countenance so strikingly resembled that of his deceased wife, as to put him instantly on inquiry and research, which, in a few weeks, resulted in supplying the broken chain of evidence, and in identifying the youth as his lost son. Bart, you were, and still are, that son. I was, and still am, that father. Do I die, my much injured son, acknowledged and forgiven?"
The young man was too deeply affected by his surprise and emotion to utter a word in reply; but tears, which all the wrongs and hardships he had endured had failed to wring from him, now stole out on his sunburnt cheeks, testifying, not only his gratification at the discovery, but that the slumbering fountain of a naturally generous nature was now effectually stirred within his bosom. And the speaker, seeming satisfied with the answer which this evidence implied, soon proceeded:—
"Little more now remains to be imparted. You remember, Harry, that at the visit at my cabin, to which I have already alluded, I showed you two small casks, labelled 'Printers Type,' concealed under a stone in the cellar?"
"I do; and the impression they caused of the absurdity of bringing that kind of property into our new settlement," replied the other.
"They were so marked for greater security," resumed the former; "for they contained silver coin, and, at that time, nearly all the property I possessed. Of these, one has been recently appropriated to the purchase of confiscated estates, whenever a lack of money in others was likely to prevent a sale at a fair value. The other remains in the same spot. And this, and the rest of my property, except what I have just conveyed, and except, also, bequests of small farms to Dunning and Piper, for their friendship to you, and faithfulness to the cause, you will find, by my will here on the table, to be equally divided between you, my son and nephew. And now," he added, in a faltering tone, and in accents of touching tenderness, "now, my children, having said all I wished to communicate, I will commend you to our common Parent above. Kneel and receive my blessing."
Hand in hand, and side by side, with the fair sharers of their gushing sympathies, the young men now reverently knelt around the dying patriot, and bowed their faces beneath his outspread hands to receive the proffered blessing, which was then pronounced with much fervor, but with the last words he was destined ever to utter; for after waiting a while after he had ceased to speak, the tearful group gently removed his hands from their heads, and arose to be greeted by a face pale in death.
On a summer afternoon, nearly a year after the occurrence of the events last described, there was an unusual gathering in the village of Bennington. As early as one o'clock, multitudes of people were seen pouring in by every road leading into the place from the surrounding country, and filling up the streets with a promiscuous crowd of all ages, sexes, and conditions. And as the hour of two approached, the commotion increased to a degree which plainly showed that some crisis was at hand; and soon the dense throng, gathered in the vicinity of the Green Mountain Tavern, then the principal place of public resort, broke away into groups and companies, and began to flock towards a newly-erected gallows, standing, at no great distance, on the neighboring common. Here arranging themselves, as they came up, in a circle round the ill-omened structure, they assumed the attitude of spectators awaiting the advent of some promised spectacle.
Presently a clamor rose from the outer part of the crowd, as, with the exclamations, "There comes the new Overseer of the Tories!" [Footnote: The Overseer of the Tories, an officer peculiar to the times, and perhaps to the locality, was one to whom was intrusted the general surveillance and control of that class of persons, to prevent them from communicating with the British, and see that they did not pass over the limits of the farms, or town lines, within which, under various penalties, they were doomed to remain, unless called out by such officer for some public service, such as clearing out the highways, &c., to which they were held subject.] "There comes Dunning and his gang of beauties!" They pointed to a column of some dozens of variously-clad, dejected-looking men, headed by a well-armed officer in the continental uniform, just coming round a corner into view, and advancing towards the spot.
"Der open there to the right and left!" cried the commander of this unique company, as he marched them up to the crowd. "Make way for Mother Britain's ditter darlings! The coming sight is as much for their der benefit as your ditter fun. There, halt!" he continued, bringing the submissive creatures into their allotted place. "Now, the first one of you that attempts to sneak away hem the sight, takes a der pistol bullet. So face the music without flinching. It will ditter do you good."
Scarcely had this transpired before the crowd, whose attention, for the moment, was too much engrossed to notice the approach of the principal procession, now close at hand, was again thrown into commotion by the sound of a muffled drum, followed by the loud cry of, "Clear the way for the prisoner and his escort!" in a voice whose well-known tones never fell unheeded on the ears of a Green Mountain assemblage. With magic quickness, a clear space opened through the ranks of the receding throng, in the direction of this fresh summons, when the first object that met the eye was the towering form of Ethan Allen, mounted on a large black horse; he having recently returned from his captivity, and been appointed, in the quaint language of his commission, "to conduct, in behalf of the state, the trial and execution of that inimical person, David Redding" [Footnote: David Redding, the only person ever executed in Vermont for political offences, was, after changing two or three times from the American to the British cause, and two trials, hanged July 17, 1777. at 2 o'clock, P. M.] Next to Allen came the prisoner, riding in an ox-cart, and sitting between two armed men, who were acting as his special guards. Then followed a company of soldiers, under the command of another of our old acquaintances Bill Piper, who had been promoted to a captaincy in a volunteer service then recently projected; while the president, secretary, and members of the Council of Safety, succeeded by a band of private citizens, brought up the rear of the procession. On reaching its destination, the team was brought to a stand immediately beneath the gallows, which was a naked cross-tree, set into the ground like a sign-post, and wholly unprovided with platform, or other of the usual adjuncts of such structures. The prisoner was then ordered to stand up in the cart, when the noose at the end of the rope, dangling from the arm above, was securely adjusted round his neck, and every thing made ready for the awful moment.
Ira Allen, having mounted some object at hand, then addressed the people in an eloquent exhortation on the duty and policy of a faithful and unwavering adherence to the cause of the country, which he enforced by giving a rapid sketch of the character and career of the wretched traitor before them, as contrasted with those who had been true to that cause, and especially those who had captured him.
"Of the four brave men," he said, in conclusion, "who, at such odds and risk, pursued and took the prisoner and his party, on that glorious occasion, two are present, and in positions which amply testify the high estimation that has been placed on their gallant conduct. The others, the two Woodburns, who remained in the city, are—as I learn from letters I have recently seen from them or their scarcely less heroic young wives, left to conduct the affairs of their respective homes—now in New Jersey, acting under the eye of their beloved Washington, whose confidence in them in their different spheres of action—one as the honored colonel of a regiment and the other as the most trusty and adroit manager in the secret service—they consider their sufficient reward, and one that was only wanting to crown that which, on the eve of our memorable battle here, they received in their wives, and the wealth obtained through the romantic disclosures of their dying relative, the lamented Father Herriot. And of the party taken alive by those gallant men, the tory leader, Peters, was exchanged for several of our imprisoned officers, and at a bargain which secured us advantages not to be obtained by stretching his worthless neck; and he has retired into Canada, to sink into insignificance, despised and hated by those whom his misrepresentations respecting the alleged easy conquest of our state so completely deceived. Fitch, after having ransomed himself by the payment of all he could raise, offered through his fear of a fate to which, after all, he probably would not have been condemned, sneaked back to his old haunts in Guilford, where he perished miserably by the hand of one whom former wrongs, committed in acts of official cruelty and extortion, had made desperate. And the other, and last of the infamous trio, now stands before us, to make atonement for his crimes by an ignominious death on the gallows."
When the speaker had concluded, the prisoner, after glancing around him, with that fitful, furtive, and restless expression, which at all times so strongly marked his countenance, turned to Ethan Allen, and meekly begged permission to address the multitude.
"Why—yes," hesitatingly replied the rough old hero, who had been sitting upon his horse, moodily looking at his watch lying in his broad palm, and occasionally exhibiting signs of impatience at the length of his more wordy young brother's remarks—"yes, it may be right enough, that you should have your say unless you want to preach some more of your damnable tory doctrines to the people. But be short, sir. Your hour is nearly up; and I do not intend that the earth shall be polluted by your living presence one moment beyond the time."
Immediately availing himself of this ungracious permission, the prisoner turned, shrinkingly, towards the crowd, and said,—
"All you who hear me, I hope, will take warning by my miserable end—an end to which I have been brought, in my opinion only by my inconstancy. In the first place, I adhered to my oath allegiance, and supported the king; but, finding myself in danger, I enrolled myself under the new state, and went for the authority of Congress. Conscience, however, quickly carried me lack to the royal cause, which I again supported a while; and then, being over-persuaded by my neighbors, I came out once more openly for the state, and went for it till the approach of Burgoyne emboldened me to risk another change, and go for my old master. But, being soon taken in arms, I must now untimely perish. It is, therefore, my advice to you all—never fluctuate as I have done; but you who are for the States, stick by the States; and you who are for the king, stick by the king, and prove—"
"And so," fiercely interrupted old Ethan—"so you would have an interminable war, would you? Take your treason along with you to Tophet, ye doubly-damned miscreant! I will have no more of it here. Teamster, drive on the cart!"
The teamster did so; and the next moment the traitor Redding was launched into eternity.