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you the closing of all that is earthly; to think that in a few hours you are to be led from the gloom-which, as you dwell on what follows, becomes dear to youto the face of day, and there to meet all eyes upon you, as if you were a wild beast; and to lose sight of everything amidst the jeers and scoffs of your fellowcreatures ;—that, Captain Wharton, that indeed is to die.”
Henry listened in amazement, as his companion uttered this speech with a vehemence altogether new to him; both seemed to have forgotten their danger and their disguises, as he cried
“ What! were you ever so near death as that?"
“ Have I not been the hunted beast of these hills for three years past ?" resumed Harvey; "and once they even led me to the foot of the gallows itself, and I escaped only by an alarm from the royal troops. Had they been a quarter of an hour later, I must have died. There was I placed, in the midst of unfeeling men, and gaping women and children, as a monster to be cursed. When I would pray to God, my ears were insulted with the history of my crimes; and when, in all that multitude, I looked around for a single face that showed me any pity, I could find none-no, not even one-all cursed me as a wretch who would sell his country for gold. The sun was brighter to my eyes than common-but then it was the last time I should see it. The fields were gay and pleasant, and everything seemed as if this world was a kind of heaven. Oh! how sweet life was to me at that moment! 'T was a dreadful hour, Captain Wharton, and such as you have never known. You have friends to feel for you; but I had none but a father to mourn
my loss when he might hear of it; there was no pity, no consolation near to soothe my anguish. Everything seemed to have deserted me I even thought that He had forgotten that I lived.”
“What! did you feel that God had forsaken you, Harvey ?" cried the youth, with strong sympathy.
“God never forsakes his servants," returned Birch, with reverence, and exhibiting naturally a devotion that hitherto he had only assumed.
“ And who do you mean by He ?”
The pedler raised himself in his saddle to the stiff and upright posture that was suited to the outward appearance. The look of fire, that for a short time, glowed upon his countenance, disappeared in the solemn lines of unbending self-abasement, and speaking as if addressing a negro, he replied,
“In heaven, there is no distinction of colour, my brother; therefore you have a precious charge within you, that you must hereafter render an account of," — dropping his voice ; " this is the last sentinel near the road; look not back, as you value your life.”
Henry remembered his situation, and instantly assumed the humble demeanor of his adopted character. The unaccountable energy of the pedler's manner was soon forgotten in the sense of his own immediate danger; and with the recollection of his critical situation returned all the uneasiness that he had momentarily forgotten.
“ What see you, Harvey ?" he cried, observing the pedler to gaze toward the building they had left, with ominous interest : “ what see you at the house ?"
“ That which bodes no good to us,” returned the pretended priest. “ Throw aside the mask and wig
you will need all your senses without much delaythrow them in the road: there are none before us that I dread, but there are those behind us who will give us a fearful race.”
“Nay, then,” cried the captain, casting the implements of his disguise into the highway, “ let us improve our time to the utmost ; we want a full quarter to the turn; why not push for it at once ?"
“Be cool—they are in alarm, but they will not mount without an officer unless they see us fly-now he comes-he moves to the stables-trot briskly-a dozen are in their saddles, but the officer stops to tighten his girths—they hope to steal a march upon us
-he is mounted—now ride, Captain Wharton, for your life, and keep at my heels. If you quit me you will be lost.”
A second request was unnecessary. The instant that Harvey put his horse to his speed, Captain Wharton was at his heels, urging the miserable animal that he rode to the utmost. Birch had selected the beast on which he rode, and, although vastly inferior to the high-fed and blooded chargers of the dragoons, still it was much superior to the little pony that had been thought good enough to carry Cæsar Thompson on an errand. A very few jumps convinced the captain that his companion was fast leaving him, and a fearful glance, that he threw behind, informed the fugitive that his enemies were as speedily approaching. With that abandonment that makes misery doubly grievous, when it is to be supported alone, Henry called aloud to the pedler not to desert him. Harvey instantly drew up, and suffered his companion to run alongside of his own horse. The cocked hat and wig of the
pedler fell from his head the moment that his steed began to move briskly, and this development of their disguise, as it might be termed, was witnessed by the dragoons, who announced their observation by a boisterous shout, that seemed to be uttered in the very ears of the fugitives--so loud was the cry, and so short was the distance between them.
“ Had we not better leave our horses,” said Henry, " and make for the hills across the fields on our left ? -the fence will stop our pursuers."
“ That way lies the gallows,” returned the pedler ; " these fellows go three feet to our two, and would mind them fences no more than we do these ruts; but it is a short quarter to the turn, and there are two roads behind the wood. They may stand to choose until they can take the track, and we shall gain a little upon them there."
“ But this miserable horse is blown already,” cried Henry, urging his beast with the end of his bridle, at the same time that Harvey aided his efforts by apply. ing the lash of a heavy riding-whip that he carried ; “ he will never stand it for half a mile further.”
“A quarter will do—a quarter will do,” said the pedler, “ a single quarter will save us, if you follow my directions.”
Somewhat cheered by the cool and confident manner of his companion, Henry continued silently urging his horse forward. A few moments brought them to the desired turn, and, as they doubled round a point of low under-brush, the fugitives caught a glimpse of their pursuers scattered along the highway. Mason and the sergeant, being better mounted than
the rest of the party, were much nearer to their heels than even the pedler thought could be possible,
At the foot of the hills, and for some distance up the dark valley that wound among the mountains, a thick underwood of saplings had been suffered to shoot up, when the heavier growth was felled for the sake of fuel. At the sight of this cover, Henry again urged the pedler to dismount, and to plunge into the woods; but this request was promptly refused. The two roads before mentioned met a very sharp angle, at a short distance from the turn, and both were circuitous, so that but little of either could be seen at a time. The pedler took the one that led to the left, but held it only a moment, for, on reaching a partial opening in the thicket, he darted across the right hand path, and led the way up a steep ascent, which lay directly before them. This manœuvre saved them. On reaching the fork, the dragoons followed the track, and passed the spot where the fugitives had crossed to the other road, before they missed the marks of the footsteps.
Their loud cries were heard by Henry and the pedler, as their wearied and breathless animals toiled up the hill, ordering their companions in the rear to ride in the right direction. The captain again proposed to leave their horses and dash into the thicket.
“ Not yet, not yet,” said Birch, in a low voice; "the road falls from the top of this hill as steep as it rises
-first let us gain the top." While speaking, they reached the desired summit, and both threw themselves from their horses. Henry plunged into the thick underwood which covered the side of the mountain for some distance above them. Harvey stopped to give each of their beasts a few severe blows of his