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- The Old Stone House - 20/41 -
place; every now and then, also, the shrieks and groans of the wounded, were heard from the corn-patch, which added, of course, the pathetic element to the scene. At last, when all the ammunition was exhausted, peace was declared, and the American forces assembling around the monument, listened to General Stark, as he vehemently burst forth into "To be, or not to be," pointing aloft, at intervals, to the Banner of Freedom, and closing with,--
"The Flag of our Union! At Lexington first Through clouds of oppression its radiance burst; But at brave Bunker Hill rolled back the last crest, And, a bright constellation, it blazed in the West. Division! No, never! The Union forever! And cursed be the hand that our country would sever!"
as a highly appropriate termination, giving a local and military coloring to Hamlet's celebrated soliloquy.
The battle well over, and generous applause bestowed upon the army, the episode of the spy was introduced, and Gem retrieved her character by patiently holding up her end of the sheet while the tent was constructed out of some poles and colored blankets,--a real camp-fire along side being relied upon to give a life-like resemblance to "Valley Forge." The sheet removed, General Putnam was discovered seated within his tent, writing a letter. Enter, from the potato-patch, an orderly, who reported in a deep voice, "General Tryon demands Nathan Palmer."
"Ha! Doth he so! British miscreant! thus will I fell him!" exclaimed Putnam, brandishing his sword with so much ferocity that the whole tent fell to the ground, covering him with blankets and confusion. Rescued from the wreck by the orderly, the general stammered out his next sentence: "Behold what I have written to Tryon! Take the letter and read it to the army!" he said sternly, and retired--to what was once his tent. The enemy filed in from the chicken-yard, presented arms, and stood motionless while the orderly read as follows:--
"MARCH 8th, 1777.
"Nathan Palmer, a lieutenant in your king's service, was taken in my camp as a spy, He was tried as a spy; he was condemned as a spy; and he shall be hanged as a spy. PUTNAM.
"P. S.--Night. He is hanged."
This celebrated letter having been read, Putnam's part was over, and he retired backwards to the corn-patch to slow music from the orchestra hidden behind the currant-bushes, while the army marched away in the opposite direction,--the two effects having been contrived by Tom to imitate a dissolving view. This pantomime was received by the merry audience with great applause.
The next scene exhibited, after long preparation, the body of the unfortunate Palmer hanging from a tree, suspended by his hands, with a rope conspicuously coiled around his neck. The Classic Muse again appeared, and took his position near by, while the American army in masks, with dark-lanterns and muffled drums, filed in softly, and formed a circle around the tree. "Friends!" said one of the band stepping forward, "I am Ethan Allen, and I cannot leave this man, although a British subject, suspended to this tree. We will bury him, friends, 'darkly, at dead of night, by the struggling moonbeams' misty light, and our lanterns dimly burning.'"
The army agreed to these sentiments, and, deputing two of their number to act as bearers, marched away to the sound of the muffled drums. But the body, which had conveniently dropped to the ground in the meantime, proved too heavy for the bearers. John Chase, who had been thoughtlessly allowed to take the part of the Spy, was a particularly heavy boy, and the bearers pulled and tugged in vain. The army, absorbed in the muffled drums (each boy had one), was already at some distance, and the final tableau, in which the body took a part, was still to be enacted; the bearers made another effort, the perspiration rolled down their faces, but all in vain. There was nothing to be done but signal to the Classic Muse to come forward and help. He hastily tucked up his robes and took hold. With his aid the spy was hurried after the retreating army, reaching it just in time to spring to his feet under the flag-staff where floated the Star-Spangled Banner, Red, White, and Blue, and exclaim fervently, "Fellow-citizens, I am not dead! Behold me a changed man! From this moment I am a true and loyal patriot. Long live the Sword of Bunker Hill!" As the resuscitated spy uttered these words, the army formed an effective tableau around him, and the Classic Muse, still breathless from his late exertions, waved his laurel-wreath in the foreground, and struck up the "Star-Spangled Banner," in which the audience joined with enthusiasm.
The patriotic drama being over, great applause ensued, and then the army was invited in to lunch in Aunt Faith's cool dining-room; here ice-cream, cakes, and other camp-dishes were provided in great abundance, the soldiers stacked arms, and seemed to enjoy themselves as easily as private citizens. The numerous young sisters of the B. B.'s gradually forgot their shyness, and the afternoon was spent in games and merriment,--the Old Stone House being entirely given up to the young folks early in the evening, when the weary warriors departed.
"It's been a splendid Fourth!" said Tom, throwing himself into a chair when the last guests had taken their departure; "I wish we could have such fun every day!"
"If you had it every day you would soon be tired of it," said Aunt Faith smiling.
About midnight, when all was still, Aunt Faith, who had not been asleep, thought she heard a slight sound; she listened, and distinguished faint sobs coming from Gem's room, as though the child had her head buried in the pillows. Throwing on a wrapper, she hurried thither, and found her little niece with flushed cheeks and tearful eyes, tossing uneasily on her bed. "What is the matter, dear?" asked Aunt Faith, anxiously.
"Oh, is it you, Aunt Faith? I am so glad you have come!" said Gem. "There is nothing the matter, only I cannot sleep, and I feel so badly."
Do you feel ill? Are you in any pain?"
"No; only hot, and, and--a little frightened."
"Frightened? My dear child, what do you mean?"
"I don't know, auntie. I woke up, and kept thinking of dreadful things," sobbed Gem, burying her head in the pillows. Aunt Faith saw that the child was trembling violently, and, sitting down on the edge of the bed, she drew the little form into her motherly arms, and soothed her as she would have soothed a baby. "Come into my room, dear," she said; "you are tired and excited after this busy day. I have not slept, either, and I shall be glad to have you go with me."
So the two went, back across the hall, Gem clinging to her aunt, and glancing fearfully around, as though she expected to see some ghostly object in every well-known corner. When she had crept into her bed, however, she felt more safe, and nestled down with a deep sigh of relief. After some conversation on various subjects, Aunt Faith said: "And now, my little girl, you must tell me what frightened you. I have always thought you a brave child. What was it you fancied?"
"Oh, I don't know, auntie; all kinds of things. Ghosts, and everything."
"Gem, you know very well there are no such things as ghosts."
"Really and truly, Aunt Faith?" asked Gem, in a low tone.
"Certainly not. I am surprised that you have any such ideas. Where did you get them?"
"I have heard the girls talking about them, sometimes, in the kitchen. They believe in them, Aunt Faith."
"That is because they are ignorant, my dear. Ignorant people believe a great many things that are false. You know there _are_ no fairies, Gem? You know there is no such person as Santa Claus, don't you?"
"Of course, aunt. Only very little children believe in Santa Claus."
"Well, my dear, ignorant people are like little children; they will tell and believe stories about ghosts just as little children tell and believe stories about Santa Claus and his coming down the chimney. My dear little girl, never think of those silly ghost-stories again. People die, and the good Lord takes them into another life; where they go or what they are doing we do not know, but we need _never_ fear that they will trouble us. It is of far more consequence that we should think of ourselves, and whether we are prepared to enter into the presence of our Creator. Our summons will come and we know not how soon it may be. When I think of our family circle, six of us under the roof to-night, I know that it is possible, I may even say probable that among so many a parting will come before very long. And, my little Gem, if it should be you, the youngest, I pray that you may be ready. I do not want you to think of death as anything dreadful, dear. It is not dreadful, although those who are left behind feel lonely and sad. I look forward with a happy anticipation to meeting my brothers and sisters, my father and mother, and my husband; it will be like going home to me. But, although I am old, the summons does not always come to the oldest, first. Tell me, my child, are you trying to be good, to govern your temper, and to do what is right as far as you are able?"
"I try when I think of it, Aunt Faith," said Gem, "but half the time I don't think; I forget all about it."
"I do not expect you to think of it all the time, dear; but when you do think of it, will you promise me to try as hard as you can? Will you try to speak gently to Tom, to forgive him when he teases you, to give up your own way when your playmates desire something else, and, above all, to pray night and morning with your whole heart?"
"Yes, Aunt Faith," whispered Gem, "I will try as hard as I can."
"God bless you, my darling," said Aunt Faith, kissing her little niece affectionately. "And now, go to sleep; it is very late."
With the happy facility of youth, Gem was soon asleep, but Aunt Faith lay wakeful through several hours of the still summer night. Her heart, was disturbed by thoughts of Sibyl and her worldly ambition, of Hugh and his unsettled religious views, of Bessie and her lack of serious thoughts on any subject. Again the sore feeling of trouble
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