Page images
PDF
EPUB

Martin's eyes flashed with fury and, in a voice that was hoarse, he whispered:

“You aided him to escape; but it shall not avail. I have for years followed on his trail, and I will not let go my hold on him, until I have dragged him to the scaffold. No; the blood of my brother cries out for vengeance, and I will follow him day and night through the trackless forests, until I have brought the renegade to justice. He cannot conceal himself so deep in the forest, he cannot hide himself among the savage tribes, nor burrow so deep in the earth, but that I will find him.”

Charles Stevens turned away and was walking toward home, when the tall Virginian, by a few quick strides, overtook him and, laying his hand on his shoulder, said:

“You do not care to hear these threats; but I have not done with you yet. Listen; I want to say more. If you seek to thwart me, I will kill you.

Do
you

hear? “I have no fear of you, Mr. Martin,” cried Charles Stevens, turning on the tall, swarthy southerner a glance which made him quail. “Your profession is brutality. You are a stranger to mercy; yet I will defy you. I fear you not, and, if you seek my life, you had better take heed for

your own."

Charles boldly walked away, leaving the discomfited Virginian to fume and rage alone. The shades of night were falling fast over the village of Salem, as Charles hurried homeward, and he was amazed as he came in sight of the house, to see a great throng of people going away from the door. The young man quickened his pace, hardly knowing whether he was asleep or awake. A negro slave came running toward him crying:

“Massa! Massa! Massa!”
“What has happened ?” asked Charles.
“Um tuk um away! Dey tuk um off!”
“Who?"
«Yo mudder."

“My mother! Oh, God!" Charles Stevens ran swift as a roe buck toward the crowd, which had now almost reached the jail.

“What does this mean?” he demanded of John Bly, whom he met near the jail.

“Your mother is a witch,” Bly answered.

“You lie!” cried Charles, and with one swift, sure blow, he laid the slanderer senseless at his feet.

“Hold, Charles Stevens! Hold! Be not rash, or she may fare worse," whispered a kind voice at his side, and, turning, he saw the sad face of John Nurse. He had drunk the bitter cup to its dregs and could advise. The world seemed swimming

before the eyes of Charles Stevens. He tried to rush to that throng, whom he saw dragging both his mother and Cora Waters to the jail; but in vain. His feet refused to carry him. He strove to utter an outcry; but his voice failed, and all became darkness,

19

CHAPTER XVI.

ESCAPE AND FLIGHT.

Come, rest in this bosom, my own stricken deer,
Though the herd have fled from thee, thy home is still here:
Here is the smile that no cloud can o'ercast,
And a heart and a hand all thy own to the last.

-MOORE. WHEN Charles Stevens regained consciousness, he was lying on a bed, and kindly faces were bending over him. He was conscious from the first of an oppressive weight of trouble, but could not realize what had occurred. As one awakening from a troubled dream, he strove to gather up his scattered faculties and recall what had happened. Like a blast of doom, the awful truth burst upon him, and he leaped to his feet. He was at the home of Landlord Nurse, and the pale, sad, horrorstricken faces about him were the old gentleman and his sons and daughters. They caught Charles before he reached the door.

“My mother!” cried the young man.

"No; you can do her no good by an act of rashness!” John Nurse answered.

“ Tell me all about it. I will sit here and listen to it all,” said Charles, when he discovered that he could not break away from his friends.

“Your mother and Cora Waters have both been cried out upon as witches, warrants were issued, and they were arrested. Now collect your faculties and act on your coolest judgment. Think what you will do."

Charles Stevens bowed his head in his hands and reflected long and earnestly on the course to pursue.

He recalled the words of Oracus, the brave young chief, who could muster a hundred warriors.

He was cunning and might devise some plan of escape, and Charles was not long in resolving what to do. He would not act hurriedly. He would be desperate; but that desperation would have coolness and premeditation about it.

He promised his friends to be calm, assuring them he would be guarded in his speech, and then begun seeking an interview with his mother and Cora. It was three days before the interview was granted. He found them occupying loathsome cells, each chained to the wall. The interview was long, and just what such an interview could be, full of grief and despair. Charles tried to hope. He tried to see a ray of sunlight; but the effort only revealed the swaying forms of those hung on Witches' Hill.

« PreviousContinue »