« PreviousContinue »
“No; already I have waited too long. Bring it at once."
There have been so many stories told of the Charter Oak that the author here feels justified in stepping aside from the narrative to quote from the journal for June 15, 1687, the following entry:
Sundry of the court, desiring that the patent or charter might be brought into the court, the secretary sent for it, and informed the governor and court that he had the charter, and showed it to the court, and the governor bid him put it into the box again, and lay it on the table, and leave the key in the box, which he did, forthwith.'
Affairs had proceeded to this point, when Charles Stevens, who had crept quite close to the table, with a long stick, at one sweep, snuffed out every candle on the table.
“Treason! treason!” cried Andros, and at this moment the two remaining candles on the wall were extinguished.
“Lights! lights!” cried a voice, and at the same moment, Andros shouted:
“The boy did it! kill the boy and seize the box!” His hand was outstretched to take the box from the table, when the same stick which had extinguished the lights gave his knuckles such a rap that he uttered a yell of pain. Though the lights were extinguished, through the windows the faint starlight
dimly illuminated the scene. Charles Stevens saw the outline of his uncle, who seized the box and hurried with it from the meeting-house.
He followed him as rapidly as he could. A terrible uproar and confusion inside attracted the attention of everybody, so Captain Wadsworth escaped without being noticed, with the precious document under his arm. The youth was close behind him and, when they were outside, seized his arm.
“Unhand me!” cried Captain Wadsworth, snatching his sword from its sheath.
“Charles, it is you? Marry! boy, have a care how you approach me. Why! I was about to run you through.”
“Have you got it?”
“Whist! Charles, the governor's soldiers are near. They may hear you."
“They have enough to do in there," answered the boy, pointing toward the meeting house, in which pandemonium seemed to reign.
The voice of Governor Andros could be heard loud above the others calling to the troops to come to his aid. The soldiers began to crowd about the house, when, at a signal from Captain Wadsworth, the train-bands came on the scene and prepared to grapple with the soldiers. A bloody fight seemed inevitable; but Governor Andros, who was a cow
ard as well as tyrant, at sign of danger, begged peace.
“Lights! Light the candles!” he cried, “and we will have peace.'
When the candles were relighted, the members were seen seated about the table in perfect order; but the charter could nowhere be seen. For a few moments, the outwitted governor stood glaring at first one and then the other of the assembly. His passion choked him to silence at first; but as soon as he partially recovered his self-possession, he demanded:
" Where is the charter?” No one answered, and, with bosom swelling with indignation at being cheated by a device of the shrewd members of the assembly, he threatened to have them arrested.
“Governor Andros, we dispute your authority here, and have disputed it before,” said a member of the assembly. “You have your soldiers at the door and we have the train-bands of Connecticut ready to defend us against violence.”
“ “Who of you has the charter?"
“It was the boy,” cried the enraged governor. “I saw him; he struck my hand in the dark; yet I knew it was he. Where is he? Whose son is he?"
Every member of the assembly shook their heads.
“We do not know him. He does not live in Connecticut." “Where does he live?"
He is from Massachusetts and beyond even the claimed bounds of your jurisdiction."
“So this is another trick. You have imported one from a distant colony to steal the charter," the indignant governor cried.
“We resent your insult!” cried an officer of the assembly. “The imputation is false!”
A scene far more stormy than any which had preceded it followed.
The governor threatened the colony with the fury of his vengeance, and vowed he would report them to the king as in open rebellion against his authority. The colonists were shrewd and firm, and though some made very sarcastic answers to the governor's charges, they were, in the main, quite respectful.
Meanwhile, Captain Wadsworth and his wife's nephew, having the charter, hurried through the crowd, which opened for them to pass and closed behind them. Once in the street they hastened away at a rapid pace.
“What are you going to do with it?" Charles asked.
“Place it where it cannot be found by the tyrants," said the gallant captain. “There is a