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- [Sub The Tory's Daughter] - 70/72 -
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
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