Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- [Sub The Tory's Daughter] - 20/72 -
"Who? What? For God's sake, what is that?" exclaimed a dozen eager and trembling voices at once, as nearly the whole assembly started to their feet, and stood with amazed and perplexed countenances, inquiringly gazing at each other.
"Don't your consciences tell you that?" exclaimed the prisoner, Herriot, in a loud, fearless voice, running his stern, indignant eye over the court, its officers, and leading partisans around the bar. "Don't your consciences tell you what it was? Then I will! It was the death-screech of the poor murdered French, whose tortured spirit, now beyond the reach of your power, went out with that fearful cry which has just assailed your guilty ears!"
"Mr. Sheriff! Mr. Sheriff!" sputtered Sabin, boiling with wrath, and pointing menacingly to the prisoner.
"Silence, there, blabbing miscreant!" thundered Patterson.
"Ah! No wonder ye want silence, when that name is mentioned," returned Herriot, unflinchingly.
Struck dumb with astonishment at the unexpected audacity of the prisoner in thus throwing out, in open court, such bold and cutting intimations of their guilty conduct, the judges and officers seemed perfectly at a loss how to act, or give vent to their maddened feelings, for some moments. Soon, however, the most prompt and reckless among them found the use of their tongues.
"Shoot him down, Patterson!" exclaimed Brush, with an oath.
"Treason! I charge him with treason, and demand that he be ironed and gagged on the spot!" shouted Gale, bringing down his clinched fist heavily on the desk before him!
"Yes, high treason; let us re-arrest him, and see if we can hang him on that, should he escape on the other charge," chimed in Stearns.
"I have my doubts," began Chandler, who was growing every moment more wavering and uneasy.
"No doubts about it," interrupted Sabin, almost choking with rage. "I'll not sit here and see the king's authority insulted, and his court treated with such contempt and treasonable defiance; and I order him instantly in irons--chains--yes, chains, Mr. Sheriff!"
"You can chain the body, but shall not fetter the tongue," responded Herriot, in no way dismayed by the threats of his enraged persecutors, or their preparations to confine and torture his person; "for I _will_ speak, and you shall _hear_, ye tyrants! Listen then, ye red-handed assassins! The blood of your murdered victim has cried up to God for vengeance. The cry has been heard! the unseen hand has already traced your doom on the wall! and this day, ay, within this hour," he continued, glancing through the window to a dark mass of men, who might now be partially discerned drawn up behind the point of woods at the north--"ay, within this very hour, that doom shall be fulfilled! Hark!" he added, in startling tones, after a momentary pause--"hark! do ye hear those signal guns, echoing from post to post, round your beleaguered Babylon? Do you hear those shouts? The avengers of blood are even now at your doors. Hear, and tremble!"
As the speaker closed his bold denunciations, he descended from the bench which he had mounted for the purpose, and, advancing to the sheriff and his assistants, now standing mute and doubtful with their hastily procured fetters in their hands, he paused, and stood confronting them with an ironical smile, and with folded arms, in token of his readiness now to submit himself to their hands. But a wonderful change had suddenly come over the whole band of these tory dignitaries. The dark and angry scowls of mediated revenge, and the more fiery expressions of undisguised wrath, which were bent on the dauntless old man during the first part of his denunciations, had, by the time he made his closing announcement, all given way to looks of surprise and apprehension. No one offered to lay hands on him; for, as the truth of what he said was every moment more strongly confirmed by the increasing tumult without, no one had any thoughts to spare for any but himself. And soon the whole assembly broke from their places, and, in spite of the loud calls of the officers for silence and order, began to cry out in eager inquiries, and run about the room in the utmost confusion and alarm. At this juncture, David Redding, who had been thus far the most reckless and bloodthirsty tory of all, burst into the room, hurriedly exclaiming,--
"The people have risen in arms, and are pouring in upon us, by hundreds, from every direction! In five minutes this house will be surrounded, and we in their power. Let every man look to his own safety! I shall to mine," he added, rushing back down to the front door, where, instead of attempting to escape through the back way, as he might then have done, he began to shout, "Hurra for Congress!" and, "Down with the British court!" at the very top of his voice.
"I resign my commission," cried Chandler, jumping up in great trepidation. "Let it be distinctly understood," he repeated, raising his voice in his anxiety to be heard--"yes, let it be distinctly understood, that I have resigned my commission as judge of this court."
"D----n him! what does he mean by that?" muttered Gale, turning to Patterson.
"It means he is going to turn tail, as I always thought he would,--the cursed cowardly traitor!" replied the latter, gnashing his teeth. "But let him, and that pitiful poltroon of a Redding, go where they please. We will see to matters ourselves. I don't believe it is any thing more than a mere mob, who will scatter at the first fire. So follow me, Gale; and all the rest of ye, that aint afraid of your own shadows, follow me, and I'll soon know what can be done."
And, while lawyers and suitors were hastily snatching up their papers, and all were making a general rush for the door, in the universal panic which had seized them, the boastful sheriff, attended by his assistants and the tiger-tempered Gale, pushed his way down stairs, shaking his sword over his head, and shouting with all his might,--
"To arms! Every friend to the court and king, to arms! Stand to your guns there below, guards, and shoot down every rebel that attempts to enter!"
But, when he reached the front entrance, the spectacle which there greeted his eyes seemed to have an instant effect in cooling his military ardor. There, to his dismay, he beheld drawn up, within thirty paces of the door, an organized and well-armed body of more than three hundred men; while small detachments, constantly arriving, were falling in on the right and left, and extending the wings round the whole building. And as the discomfited loyalist ran his eye along the line of the broad-breasted and fierce-looking fellows before him, and recognized among them the Huntingtons, the Knights, the Stevenses, the Baileys, the Brighams, the Curtises, and other stanch and leading patriots, from nearly every town bordering on the Connecticut, and saw the determined look and the indignant flashing of their countenances, he at once read not only the entire overthrow of his party in this section of the country, but the individual peril in which he, and his abettors in the massacre, now stood before an outraged and excited populace.
"What ails your men, Squire Sheriff?" cried Barty Burt, now grown to a soldier in the ranks of the assailants, as he pointed tauntingly to the company of tory guards who had been stationed in the yard, but who now, sharing in the general panic, had thrown down their arms, and stood huddled together near the door; "why don't they pick up their shooting-irons, and blaze away at the _'d----d rebels,'_ as I think I heard you order, just now?"
"And if that won't ditter do," exclaimed the well-known voice of Tom Dunning from another part of the ranks, "suppose you ditter read another king's proclamation at us: no knowing but we might be ditter done for, entirely."
The sheriff waited to hear no more, but hastily retreated into the house, followed by a shout of derisive laughter; and his place was the next moment occupied by Chandler, who bustled forward to the steps, and, in a flustered, supplicatory manner, asked leave to address his "_respected fellow-citizens_."
"Short speeches, judge!" impatiently cried Colonel Carpenter, who seemed, from his position on horseback among the troops and other appearances, to be chief in command--"short speeches, if any. We have come here on a business which neither long speeches nor smooth ones will prevent us from executing."
The judge, however, could not afford to take this as a repulse; and, with this doubtful license, he went on to say, that on hearing, in the morning, as he did with astonishment and horror, of the unauthorized proceedings of last night, he had denounced the outrage, in an address at the opening of the court; and not finding himself supported, he had resigned, and left his seat on the bench.
"And now," he added in conclusion, "being freed from the trammels of my oath of office, which have lately become so painful to me, I feel myself again one of the people, and stand ready to cooperate with them in any measure required by the public welfare."
A very faint and scattering shout of applause, in two or three places, mingled with hisses and murmurs in others, was the only response with which this address was received. But even with this equivocal testimony of public feeling towards him, this despicable functionary felt gratified. "I _am safe_," said he to himself, with a long-drawn breath, as he descended the steps, to watch an opportunity to mingle with the party with whom he was now especially anxious to be seen, and to whom he was ready to say, in the words of the satirist,--
"I'm all submission, what you'd have me, make me; The only question is, sirs, will you take me?"
At this moment a sash was thrown up, and the prisoner, Herriot, appeared at a window of the court-room above.
"I have been brought up here this morning," he said, shaking back his gray locks, and raising his stern, solemn voice to a pitch clearly audible to all in the grounds below--"I have been brought here from my dungeon to answer to the charge of a foul crime; and both my accusers and triers, fleeing even before any one appeared to pursue, have left their places, having neither tried nor condemned me. But scorning to follow their example, I now appear, to submit myself for a verdict, to the rightful source of all power--the people."
"Neither will we condemn thee," cried Knowlton, pursuing the scriptural thought of the other; "if thy accusers and judges have left thee uncondemned, thou shalt not be condemned by us; at least not by me, who have long had my opinions of the character of this prosecution."
Previous Page Next Page
1 10 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 30 40 50 60 70 72
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything