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- [Sub The Tory's Daughter] - 5/72 -


matter to bear; and though I am willing this, and all such outrages, should go in to swell the cup of our grievances, that it may the sooner overflow, yet you were right; and it was spoken, too, like a man. But let me suggest, whether you, and all present, had not better now disperse. The powers that be will soon have their eyes upon us, and I would rather not excite their jealousy, at this time, on account of certain measures we have in contemplation, which I will explain to you hereafter."

"Your advice is good," returned Woodburn, "and I will see that it is followed, as soon as I can find some one to dispose of the body of my luckless pony; for then I propose to throw the harness into some sleigh, and join such of the company here as are on foot on their way to court."

"Put your harness aboard my double sleigh standing in the tavern yard yonder, Harry. And I am sorry I have too much of a load to ask you to ride yourself. But where shall I leave the arness?"

"At Greenleaf's store, at the river, if you will; for I conclude you are bound to Westminster, as well as the rest of us."

"I am, and shall soon be along after you, as I wish to go through to-night, if possible, being suspicious of a flood, that may prevent me from getting there with a team, by to-morrow. Neither the rain nor thaw is over yet, if I can read prognostics. How strong and hot this south wind blows! And just cast your eye over on to West River mountain, yonder--how rapidly those long, ragged masses of fog are creeping up its sides towards the summit! That sign is never failing."

Woodburn's brief arrangements were soon completed; when he and his newly-encountered foot companions, each provided with a pair of rackets, or snow-shoes,--articles with which foot-travellers, when the snow was deep, often, in those times, went furnished,--took up their line of march down the road leading to the Connecticut, leaving Peters and his company, as well as all others who had teams, refresing themselves or their horses at the village inn.

But, before we close this chapter, in order that the reader not versed in the antiquarian lore of those times may more clearly understand some of the allusions of the preceding pages, and also that he may not question the probability that such a company as we have introduced should be thus brought together, and be thus on their way to a court so far into the interior of a new settlement, it may not be amiss here to observe, that the sale and purchase of lands in Vermont at this period constituted one of the principal matters of speculation among men of property, not only those residing here, but those residing in the neighboring colonies, and especially in that of New York; and that the frequent controversies, arising out of disputed titles, made up the chief business of the court, which, on the erection of a new county by the legislature of New York, embracing all the south-eastern part of the _Grants_, and known by the name of Cumberland, had here, several years before, been established. And it was business of this kind, and the personal, in addition to the political, interest they had in sustaining a court, the judges of which were themselves said to be engaged in these speculations, and therefore expected to favor, as far as might be decent, their brother speculators, that led to the journey of the present company of loyalists, consisting as before seen, of Haviland, a large landholder of Bennington; Peters, an unconscientious speculator in the same kind of property, belonging to a noted family of tories of that name, residing in Pownal, and an adjoining town in New York; and Jones, the agent of Fanning, from the vicinity of Fort Edward; the fated Miss McRea, of sad historical memory, from the same place, having been induced to come on with her lover, at the previous solicitation of her friend, Miss Haviland, to join her, her father, and Peters, to whom she was affianced in their proposed excursion over the mountains to court.

CHAPTER II.

"Now forced aloft, bright bounding through the air Moves the bleak ice, and sheds a dazzling glare; The torn foundations on the surface ride, And wrecks of winter load the downward tide."

After travelling a short distance in the road, Woodburn and his companions halted, put on their snow-shoes, and, turning out to the left into the woods, commenced, with the long, loping step peculiar to the racket-shod woodsman, their march over the surface of the untrodden snow. The road just named, which formed the usual route from the village they had quitted to their place of destination, led first directly to the Connecticut, in an easterly direction, and then, turning to the north, passed up the river near its western banks, thus describing in its course a right angle, at the point of which, resting on the river, stood the store of Stephen Greenleaf, the first, and, for a while, the only merchant in Vermont; whose buildings, with those perhaps of one or two dependants, constituted the then unpromising nucleus around which has since grown up the wealthy and populous village of East Brattleborough. Such being the course of the travelled route, it will readily be seen, that the main object of our foot company, in leaving it, was the saving of distance, to be effected by striking across this angle to some eligible point on the northern road. Arid they accordingly pitched their course so as to enter the road near its intersection with the Wantastiquet, or West River,--one of the larger tributaries of the Connecticut,--which here comes lolling down from the eastern side of the Green Mountains, and pours its rock-lashed and rapid waters into the comparatively quiet bosom of the ingulfing stream below.

After a walk of about half an hour, through alternating fields and forest, they arrived, as they had calculated, at the banks of the tributary above named, where it was crossed on the ice by the winter road, which, owing to the failure of the rude bridge near the mouth of the stream, and the difficulty of descending the bank in its immediate vicinity, had been broken out through the adjoining meadow and over the river at this point, which was consequently a considerable distance above the ordinary place of crossing.

On reaching this spot, it was found that the flood, which, on the high grounds, where we have last been taking the reader, was but little observable, had made, and was evidently still making, a most rapid progress. The rising waters had already forced themselves through the small but constantly widening outlets of their strong, imprisoning barriers, and were beginning to hurry along, in two dark, turbid streams, over the surface of the ice, beneath the opposite banks, where it was still too strongly confined to the roots and frozen earth to permit of its rising; while the uplifting mass, in the middle of the river, had nearly attained the level of the surrounding meadows. And, although the main body still remained unbroken, yet the deep, dull reports that rose in quick succession to the ear from the cracking mass in every direction around, and the sharp, hissing, gurgling sounds of the water, which was gushing violently upwards through the fast multiplying fissures, together with the visible, tremor-like agitation that pervaded the whole, plainly evinced that it could not long withstand the tremendous pressure of the laboring column of waters beneath.

The travellers, who were not to be turned back by a foot or two of water in their path over the ice, so long as the foundation remained firm, drew up a long spruce pole from a neighboring fence, and, shooting it forward through the first stream of water, passed over upon it to the uncovered ice; and then, drawing their spar-bridge to the water next the other bank, went through the same process, till they had all reached the opposite shore unwet and in safety.

Here they again paused to note the appearance of the disturbed elements; for, in addition to the threatening aspect which the river was here fast assuming, a slight trembling of the ground began occasionally to be perceptible; while unusual sounds seemed to come mingling from a distance, with the roaring of the wind and the noise of rushing waters, as if earth, air, and water were all joining their disturbed forces for some general commotion.

"The water and ice are strangely agitated, it appears to me," observed Woodburn to his companions, as they stood looking on the scene before them. "See how like a pot the water boils up through that crevice yonder! Then hear that swift, lumbering rush of the stream beneath! The whole river, indeed, seems fairly to groan, like some huge animal confined down by an insupportable burden, from which it is laboring to free itself. I have noticed such appearances, I think, when the ice was on the point of breaking up; but that can hardly be the case here, at present can it?"

"On the point of breaking up, now?" said one of the company in reply. "No, indeed! Why, the ice is more than three feet thick, and as sound and solid as a rock. Should it rain from this time till to-morrow noon, it won't start."

"Well, now, I don't know about that," remarked an observant old settler, who had been silently regarding the different portents to which we have alluded. "I don't know about the ice staying here twenty hours, or even one. This has been no common thaw, that we have had for the last six or eight hours, let me tell you."

"And still," observed Woodburn, "I should not think the water high enough as yet to cause a breaking up, should you?"

"With a slow rise, and in a still time, perhaps not, Harry. But when the water is rising rapidly, as now, and especially if there is a strong wind, like this, to increase the motion, as it does either by outward pressure, or by forcing the air through the chinks in under the ice, I have always noticed that the stream acts on the ice at a much less height, and much more powerfully, than when the rise is slow and the weather calm."

"Then you look upon the appearances I named as indications that such an event is soon to take place here, do you?"

"I do, Harry, much sooner than you are expecting; for the signs you name are not the only ones which tell that story, as I will soon convince you all, if you will be still and listen a moment."

This remark caused the company to pause and place themselves in a listening attitude.

"There," resumed the speaker, pointing up to the bold, shaggy steeps of the mountain, which we have before alluded to, and which, from the opposite side of the Connecticut, and within a few furlongs from the spot where they now stood, rose, half concealed in its "misty shroud," like some huge battlement, to the heavens--"there! do you hear that dull roar, with occasionally a crashing sound, away up there among those clouds of fog near the top peaks of the mountain?"

"Ay, ay, quite distinctly."

"Well, that is an echo, which, strangely enough, we can hear when we


[Sub The Tory's Daughter] - 5/72

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