[Frontispiece: "Almost silently, with his stick drew the wallet toward him."]
THE HERO OF TICONDEROGA
ETHAN ALLEN AND HIS GREEN MOUNTAIN BOYS
JOHN DE MORGAN
"Paul Revere," "The Young Ambassador," "The First Shot for Liberty." "The Young Guardsman," etc.
DAVID McKAY, PUBLISHER
610 SOUTH WASHINGTON SQUARE
By NORMAN L. MUNRO
The Hero of Ticonderoga
Table of Contents
I. At the Courthouse II. The Green Mountain Boys III. A Child of Nature IV. "The Rising of the Moon" V. Defiance VI. Before the Governor VII. An Ambuscade VIII. The Convention IX. Treachery X. Zeb's Double Dealing XI. The Tables Turned XII. The Opening of the War XIII. Benedict Arnold XIV. Arnold's Powers of Fascination XV. The Hero of Ticonderoga XVI. The Temptation XVII. Crown Point XVIII. "Who is Commander?" XIX. News from Boston XX. A Roadside Adventure XXI. The Continental Progress XXII. Eben's Adventures XXIII. Foraging XXIV. Secret Service XXV. Diplomacy XXVI. An Interesting Experiment XXVII. A Prisoner XXVIII. On the Gaspee XXIX. Arrival in England XXX. Irish Hospitality XXXI. A Daring Swim XXXII. How England Treated Prisoners of War XXXIII. Beverly Robinson's Offer
THE HERO OF TICONDEROGA.
AT THE COURTHOUSE.
It was a cold, bleak and freezing day, was that second day of the year 1764, in the good town of Bennington.
The first day of the year had been celebrated in a devout fashion by nearly all the inhabitants of the district. Truly, some stayed away from the meeting-house, and especially was the absence of one family noticed.
"It seems to me kind of strange and creepy-like that those Allen boys will never come to meeting," good old Elder Baker had said, and the people shook their heads, and were quite ready to believe that the Allen boys were uncanny.
But after meeting, when the social celebration was at its height, the absence from the meeting-house was not thought of, and Ethan Allen and his brothers were welcomed as among the best farmers of the district.
When the farmers separated on that New Year's Day they had no thought of trouble, and each and all were planning what crops they should plant that year, and how much land they should reserve for pasture.
The snow was falling fast, and the Green Mountains looked grandly glorious as they, capped with the white snow, reflected into the valleys the feeble rays of the sun which were struggling through the clouds.
The hour of noon had arrived, and the good farmers were sitting down to good boiled dinners, which were as seasonable as the weather, when the ringing of the crier's bell caused every man and woman and child to leave the hot dinner and hurry to the door to hear the news.
All public and important events were announced in that manner, and it would not do to miss an announcement.
"Wonder what is in the wind now, eh, master?"
"Cannot say, but it's likely to be important, for Faithful Quincy has on his best coat."
Faithful Quincy was the official crier, or announcer of events, and was a most important character.
He never spoke one word, though everyone asked him what he had to announce, but he stood as silent as a statue, and as rigid until he thought the people had time to assemble.
Then he rang his bell once more, and followed the last sound of the brass with a most solemn appeal for attention:
"Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!"
Three times the phrase had to be repeated. Faithful would not have done his duty if he had only repeated it twice.
"This is to give notice, in the name of his majesty and of his excellency, the governor, that all true and faithful residents of the Green Mountain district must assemble at the courthouse at two hours after noon, on this second day of January. So let it be!"
That was all, but it was enough to set all the people wondering what was to be heard at the courthouse.
They returned to their homes, and finished their dinners, scarcely noticing that the dumplings were cold or that the boiled carrots had got soggy through long standing.
At two a large crowd had assembled at the courthouse, and all were in great excitement.
It was just three minutes after the hour, as shown by the sundial, which stood in front of the courthouse, that the sheriff appeared.
Not a murmur was heard. Even the children were silent.
The sheriff was trembling.
He held in his hand a piece of parchment, bearing a big red seal at the bottom, and he tried to read it, but his voice failed him.
After several attempts he succeeded, and the people learned that he had received a proclamation from Gov. Tryon, of the Colony of New York, in which he claimed all the territory west of the Connecticut River, and ordering him to send a list of all persons holding land under grants from the Colony of New Hampshire.
The country west of the Connecticut, now known as Vermont, was then only known as "New Hampshire grants."
When the sheriff had finished he asked what he should do.
"Why did you receive it?" asked one of the oldest residents.
"It was sent to me as sheriff."
"Even so, but you are the sheriff of the district which holds its lands from the Colony of New Hampshire."
The sheriff trembled, fearing he had done some wrong.
"It is in the name of his majesty, the king," he muttered; "and I was bound to receive it."
Through the crowd a young man pushed his way. He reached the side of the sheriff, and in a mild but firm voice asked to be allowed to look at the proclamation.
It was no ordinary man who made the demand. He would have attracted attention anywhere, and among those who knew him best he was esteemed, though the devout believed there was something uncanny about him and his family.
He was Ethan Allen, the head of the Allen boys, who had stayed away from the meeting the day before.
"Men," he said, after glancing at the proclamation, "we hold our lands from the governor of the Colony of New Hampshire. Is it not so?"
"You are right, Ethan."
"We pay our quota to the expenses of that colony. Is it not so?"
"Then we have nothing to do with the Colony of New York."
"Nothing, and never want to have anything to do with that colony."
"You are right, Seth Warner; so I tell you what we will do with this piece of parchment."
The people looked at the speaker, and wondered what he was about to propose.
When they saw him take a knife from his pocket and slit the parchment through the middle, they dare not speak, they were so astonished.
In four pieces he cut the proclamation, and then handed it back to the sheriff, who dropped it as though it had been plague infected.
Ethan Allen picked up the four pieces.
"You did well not to receive it. I have a better use for it."
He took out his tinder box, and after a little effort, for the snow made the tinder damp, he got a light.
This he applied to the parchment, which sputtered and crinkled up in all sorts of strange shapes, until the great red seal, the token of authority, melted, and the wax ran on the ground.
"Now, let the sheriff acquaint the governor of New Hampshire with what I have done."
Ethan Allen stepped down, and walked through the crowd.
Not one person spoke to him, his act had so taken them by surprise.
It was a boldness that perhaps was criminal, they thought.
"What think you?" asked one.
"It was awful. I wonder the fire from Heaven did not consume him, for the king is the Lord's anointed, and it was in the king's name."
"I wonder if they will hang him?"
"Who, the king?"
"No, Ethan; most like they will."
"I guess he knew what he was doing."
"Ay, and he did right. We want men of pluck like him."
"Take care, Seth Warner; Ethan may get into trouble——"
"And I will stand by him."
"So will I," said Peleg Sunderland.
"And here is another," spoke up Remember Baker. "The lad hath the right spunk. I like him."
There was nothing done that day but talk over Ethan Allen's strange and daring conduct.
For days the people spoke of it in bated breath, for they had never heard of such opposition to authority in the district, and they were afraid of the consequences.
Gov. Wentworth, of New Hampshire, issued a counter proclamation, in which he said that King Charles had never given the land to New York.
The governor of New York appealed to King George, and he decided in favor of New York, and so, at the end of six years, the battle of titles stood just where it did when Ethan Allen tore up the proclamation.
THE GREEN MOUNTAIN BOYS.
"Welcome back, Ethan. Is it good news?"
"Ay, man, tell us; what say the men in Albany?"
Ethan Allen jumped from his horse, and stood among his countrymen, the most honored man among them.
He had been sent to Albany to represent the farmers who held the lands from the governor of New Hampshire.
New York had commenced a suit against New Hampshire, and the trial was in Albany.
"Men, I know not whether you call the news good or bad, but it is just as I tell you; New York has won."
"And all our titles are upset?"
"Ay, that is just what it means."
"What are we to do?"
"I know not what you will do; I know what I shall do."
"What will you do, Ethan?"
"When the sheriff comes to dispossess me I shall be there with my musket, and if I fall Ira will be there, and if he falls Ebenezer will have a musket, and if he, too, falls, then John will try what he can do. That is what I shall do."
"But the decision says that New York is in the right."
"Courts have made mistakes before, and the strong right arm of good mountaineers have set them right."
"What said they in Albany?"
Allen told them of the trial, and then, with a glow on his face, he added:
"They told me that the gods were against me, and I retorted that the gods of the valleys are not the gods of the hills."
"Bravo, Ethan! you are a brave chap."
"If I had a score of men I would tell the New Yorkers to stay at home, and, if they did not, I would send them home."
"A score, did you say?"
"Ay, a score would do."
"Count me one."
"Just as I expected, Seth Warner; you know no danger when homes are to be protected."
"I shall join you."
"Why, Peleg Sunderland! you know what you will risk?"
"My neck, I guess; but, as I have only one, the risk is not much."
This was said with such seriousness that the people could not help laughing.
"Don't forget me," said Remember Baker.
"I shall be sure to remember you, Remember."
"If my man won't join you, I will."
The people turned to look at the speaker, and as they encountered the firm face of Mistress Cochrane, they knew she meant it.
"But I will join, Ethan," her husband, Robert Cochrane, said.
"Of course you will, Robert; but I don't know but I'd prefer a score of women like Mistress Cochrane to twoscore men."
Mistress Cochrane was a big, well-formed woman, and as her sleeves were rolled up above her elbows, she showed a wealth of muscle which many a man might envy.
Twenty men gave in their names, and Ethan was delighted.
"I'm proud of my Green Mountain Boys," he said, "and I shall be prouder still when we have won the victory."
"Hurrah for our leader!" shouted Seth Warner.
The next day Allen called his men together, and put them through their drill.
He wanted them to be soldiers, and so the discipline was strict.
He was elected colonel of the regiment, and Seth Warner was made captain.
The fame of the Green Mountain Boys grew, and many of the men around wished to join, but Allen had no idea of forming a large army, for his object was defense, not defiance.
He was sitting by the great open fireplace, looking at the blazing logs and watching the curling smoke ascend the chimney, when his brother, Ira, came in, and threw himself on the settee in the chimney corner opposite Ethan.
Ira was thirteen years younger than Ethan, but as bold and daring as his brother.
At the date of the formation of the Green Mountain Boys, Ira was eighteen, and as bright a lad as ever shouldered musket or hunted a bear.
"Ethan, I saw Eben Pike to-night."
"He wants to join us."
"Won't you let him?"
"What to do? If we wanted a kitchenmaid he might apply."
"I told him I would speak to you."
"Well, you have done so."
"I wish you would admit him."
"Into the ranks?"
"My dear Ira, you forget that we may have to fight."
"What use would Eben be in a fight? He could run."
"That is just it; he might be serviceable when you wanted a message sent."
"I will see him."
Ira went to the door.
"Come in, Eben. The colonel will talk to you."
Ethan had no idea that the youth was outside, and he blushed like a girl as he thought the boy might have heard all he said.
Eben Pike was an orphan, and was not generally liked by the people of the district, simply because he was unlike the general run of boys.
He was very effeminate, and with his hair worn long, looked more like a girl than a boy of sixteen.
He was soft and gentle in his dealings with everyone. He had often shuddered as he saw a sheep killed by the butcher, and refused to hunt because it was cruel.
It was a strange freak for him to take, when he expressed his wish to join the mountain boys, and Ethan could not understand it.
"Well, Eben, I hear that you are ambitious."
"No, Master Allen, not ambitious, but I want only to be of some use."
"Can you fight?"
"I do not want to do so, but if we have to—well, I'd do my best."
"None of us could do more. Why do you wish to join the boys?"
Eben's face was scarlet; he hung his head, and looked very sheepish.
"Because, sir, the boys all say I am girlish, and I want to prove that I am no girl."
"But you might get hurt."
"I can stand that. When the bear attacked me last summer he tore pieces out of my thighs. Did I complain?"
"No, Eben, I will give you credit for pluck. As to joining us, why, I will think over that."
"Thank you. I am sure I could be of use to you."
A CHILD OF NATURE.
Several weeks had passed since Eben Pike had signified his wish to join the ranks of the Green Mountain Boys, and not once had he been summoned to take part in their drills.
"It is always the same," he murmured; "they think me too girlish for men's work. I will show them yet that I can be of use."
Every day he wandered through the country, and even crossed into New York Colony, hoping to find out if any attempt was to be made to carry out the decision of the courts.
One bright day in May he reached Eagle Bridge, as the point is still called, when he saw a number of men carrying muskets half concealed, and walking toward the mountains.
He kept up with them, eager to know where they were going and what was their errand.
They sat down under some trees to eat their mid-day meal, and Eben crept close to them.
"We'll bag the two to-day, just see if we don't," said one of the men. "Zounds! I'd give a crown to have Ethan Allen in a line with my musket."
"You are more likely to look down the barrel of his," retorted another, laughing.
"We'll surprise him. You see, the governor has waited until the Green Mountain Boys, as they call themselves, got tired, and then he sends us; 'cause why? There isn't another sheriff in the colony as could bag a fellow like that same Allen."
"Do you know the way to his farm?"
"Yes, every turn in the road. We shall reach there soon after sunset, and then I'll walk right up to him, and say: 'In the name of the king, surrender!' and he will be so surprised that he will almost drop dead with fright."
"But suppose he is not alone?"
"He will be; at least, there will only be the young boys, and they will not fight."
"He will not expect us."
"No; and, seeing so many, all armed, he will surrender at once. Then we go to Seth Warner's place, and he might show fight, for there are two others live with him, but we will silence him by keeping Allen in the front rank, so that, if he shoots, he has to kill the leader first. Ha, ha, ha! It will be as good as play-acting, and the fun will be something to talk about as long as we live."
"Aren't you afraid to leave this wallet on the grass?" asked one of the men.
"I shouldn't forget it, for in that wallet is the order to eject and capture one Ethan Allen, a rebel and traitor."
Every word was heard by Eben Pike.
"If I could get that wallet!" he thought; but it was kept pretty close to the sheriff.
Eben crawled a little nearer, sheltered by the thick undergrowth of the wood.
He cut a long stick and-held it ready to use if he should be discovered, for he fancied they would not be very lenient with him if he should be caught.
The sheriff and his posse sat talking, and telling of their deeds of daring. Each one seemed to try to out-bid the other for bravery.
The conversation became animated, and a strange idea entered the listener's head.
He crawled still nearer, taking care that he did not move far without resting, so that he might be sure he was not observed.
He pushed his stick a little closer to the wallet, and found that he only needed to be six inches nearer.
After a little more inaction he wriggled his body a few inches farther, and then, quickly and almost silently, with his stick drew the wallet toward him.
He secured it, and fastened it under his vest, the safest place he could think of.
Backward he crawled, as noiselessly as possible, until he reached a clump of sumach bushes. Then he rose to his feet and ran.
Eben was a child of nature, and, as Ira Allen had said, he would be useful in carrying a message quickly.
He had been in the possession of the wallet less than five minutes when the sheriff proposed that the journey should be continued.
He sprang to his feet, and looked for the wallet; he could not see it in the long grass.
He felt in his pockets, but it was not there.
"I say, men, that isn't a fair joke."
"Who has the wallet?"
"Now, that's a good one! Who should have it but the sheriff?"
"Come, a joke's a joke, but don't carry it too far."
"What do you mean?"
"One of you has got the wallet, and the writs of dispossess are in it."
"Neither have I."
"One of you must have got it."
"It's a lie!"
"Call me a liar?" asked the sheriff, of his deputies.
"If you say we have got the writs, yes."
The sheriff raised his musket club fashion, and would have brained the speaker had not Isaac Gerston, one of the posse, caught his arm.
"Father Abraham!" he ejaculated, "are you mad? What if the wallet is in the grass? Have you searched everywhere?"
The sheriff lowered his weapon, and all went on their hands and knees and felt among the grass, searching very diligently, but no wallet could be found.
A council of war was held. If the writs could not be found the sheriff would be punished. What excuse could be given?
"What shall we do?"
"Let us go to this man Allen's house, and surprise him. He will not resist, and we can take him prisoner, and in the meantime another writ can be obtained."
It was a risky thing to attempt, but there seemed no other course open, so the march was recommenced.
The loss of the wallet was a mystery. Not one of the posse believed it had been stolen, for they could not think a thief could have escaped detection.
The only surmise was that some squirrels had carried it up a tree. It was a ridiculous assumption, but the only one tenable.
When within a mile of Bennington Crossroads, where the Allens lived, one of the posse caught his foot in the root of a tree and fell flat on his face.
As he raised himself he felt something soft and slippery. He picked it up, and holding it above his head, cried out:
"The wallet! The wallet!"
The others, who had been a little behind, ran forward, and the sheriff at once accused him of having had the wallet all the time, and only when he fell and dropped it would admit its possession.
The man was indignant at the charge, but the suspicion was so strong that most of his companions believed the sheriff was right.
The latter opened the wallet and saw the great red seal. That was all he cared about it, and, placing it in his pocket securely, he very generously proposed that no more should be said about it.
"THE RISING OF THE MOON."
Eben Pike burst open the door of Ethan Allen's house without any ceremony.
Ethan and Seth Warner were sitting on the settee in the chimney, talking about the inaction of the governor of New York.
Off flew one of the bolts, and Ethan jumped to his feet and caught the lad by the shoulder, and was giving him a good shaking, when Eben cried out:
"Kill me if you like, colonel, but hear me first."
"Well, what is it?"
"The sheriff of Albany and a big lot of armed men are on their way here. I heard all their plans, and I have run all the way from Eagle's Bridge to tell you. You, colonel, are to be dispossessed first, and then Seth Warner, and if they can kill you, colonel, they will do so."
"Is this true?"
"Every word. I stole the wallet containing the writs, and here they are. I took them out of the wallet and threw that away, 'cause they might recognize it and find out how it was lost. Then I tore the governor's seal off the writs, 'cause that would be treason to steal them."
Eben handed the mutilated writs to Allen, and he saw that they were genuine enough.
"Will they come, now that they have lost the writs?" asked Warner.
"Yes, they will make believe they have got them."
"Then we must rally all the boys. Eben, you are a brave boy."
"Thank you, colonel. Do you want to shake me now?"
"No, my boy, and you can break off the bolts from every door in the house if you like."
"I'll go and fetch the boys."
"You are tired."
"No, Col. Allen, running never tired me yet. Let Ira go one way and I will go the other, for no time must be lost."
"You ought to be a general; you know just what should be done."
If Eben had been tired, those words of praise would have been enough to take away all feeling of fatigue.
Ethan made out a list of the men he wanted and gave each boy a copy.
"Keep as quiet as you can. Whisper your instructions. All you need say is, 'The moon will rise tonight,' and then the answer will be, 'At what time?' to which you will reply, 'As early as you are ready to see it.' That is all you need say."
"Will they come here then?"
"Yes, at once."
Warner hurried home to see that all was in readiness there to withstand an attack, and he left a speedy messenger to hurry to Allen's house in case the sheriff should go to Warner's first.
The first man met by Eben was Silvanus Brown.
"Silvanus, the moon will rise to-night."
Silvanus looked at the boy for a moment as though bewildered, but that feeling passed away, and he asked:
"At what time?"
"As early as you are ready to see it."
"Good! I am ready."
Silvanus stepped quite lively, and Eben, on looking back, saw him going toward the colonel's with his musket over his shoulder.
The next farm was occupied by John Smith.
"John Smith, are you there?" shouted Eben, as he opened the door and looked in.
"Ah, my boy! What brings you here now?"
"The moon will rise to-night."
"Is that so? That is great news. At what time?"
"As early as you are ready to see it."
"Good! I would leave the best boiled dinner or get up at any hour of the night to see the moon rise. What do you think? Will there be any bears about a night like this?"
"Then I will take my old musket; it may be handy to have."
A like reception Eben met with at Peleg Sunderland's and James Breakenridge's houses.
Within an hour thirty of the Green Mountain boys had gathered in the home of their colonel, Ethan Allen.
"Boys, we are in for it this night. Remember that it is your own kith and kin that will be opposed to you. They are brothers, all these Yorkers, and we do not want to be the first to shed blood; but if they fire, that will be our signal. By the great mountains! we will give two bullets for their one, and may victory be with the right!"
After giving instructions as to the mode of procedure, Allen told them how he had heard the news.
"Never let any of the boys call Eben Pike a sissy any more. He has won his spurs as a true knight."
Had Ethan not cautioned the boys against loud talking, there would have been a rousing cheer given for the youthful hero.
"Whenever we have to distinguish our hero," said Allen, "we will call him Eben Pike, the hero of Eagle's Bridge."
There is no doubt that Eben's face flushed when he heard the words of praise, but he could not speak a word, for his tongue seemed too large for his mouth, and his heart would beat so rapidly that it made him believe he was going to choke.
It was Allen's plan to hide all the boys and appear as though he was unarmed and unprepared when the sheriff came.
Seth Warner had returned to his colonel's house and reported that he had made all arrangements for a speedy message if the sheriff from Albany went to his house first.
Eben had slipped out and had gone to reconnoiter.
It was unknown to Allen, or he would not have allowed the brave boy to run any more risks.
"Where is Pike?" he asked, as soon as he missed him.
"He went out a moment ago," answered Ira.
And in another moment he returned, the perspiration running down his cheeks.
"They are coming!" he almost shouted, so excited had he become.
"Where are they?"
"Less than half a mile."
"Twenty, at least."
"You did not see so many before."
"No; they have another sheriff with them."
"To your quarters, boys; and remember, not a sound until the signal. When I say, 'The moon has risen,' be ready; and when I say, 'It is at the full,' fight like turkey cocks."
In another minute only Ethan and Ira were visible, and no one would have imagined, from the appearance of the house, that others were in hiding, well armed to resist the foe.
Sheriff Merrit was the first to reach the house, and he signaled to his men to come forward.
He rapped on the door, and Ethan opened it.
"Does one Ethan Allen reside here?" asked the sheriff.
"I am he."
"Then in the name of the king I am here."
"Pleased to see you, sir. But I cannot think of any business the king may have with me."
"I am a sheriff."
"Indeed! and I should fancy a credit to the shrievalty."
Merrit bowed. The reception was far different to what he had expected.
He glanced into the room, and saw only the younger man sitting in the chimney corner.
"You are a loyal man?" queried the officer.
"I am loyal to king and country," answered Allen, boldly.
"I am glad to hear that, for my business would be unpleasant were it not that you are loyal."
"Sheriff, tell your business without delay."
"I have a writ of dispossession, and I am to enforce it. It means that you are required to give up and surrender this farm, and afterward to make such terms with His Excellency Gov. Tryon as he may suggest."
Allen had allowed the sheriff to finish his speech. In fact, it really appeared to the Yorker that Allen was afraid.
"Let me see the writ."
"You do not doubt my word?"
"No, only as I am a loyal subject I have a right to see that the order is in a legal form."
"Oh, it is legal enough, and properly sealed as well."
"In that case there ought to be no difficulty. Let me see the writ."
Sheriff Merrit opened his wallet, never once doubting that he had the writs and warrants safe in his possession.
He drew forth the seal and was ready to drop with excitement, for the seal was all he had; the writ had been torn away.
"I have been robbed," he cried. "Gerston, I have been robbed!"
"That is a pretty tough thing to say. Do you mean to say that you have not the writ you spoke about?"
"I had. I have been robbed. See, that is the seal which was at the bottom of it. You see that seal?"
"Yes, but I am not going to surrender the farm unless you can produce the writ."
"Then, by thunder, I shall have to arrest you."
"Indeed, you are mistaken. The moon has risen."
"What has that to do with the matter? I tell you that you are my prisoner."
"And I say that the moon has risen and therefore I am not your prisoner."
"We will soon settle that. Men of New York, in the King's name I call on you to arrest Ethan Allen, rebel and traitor. Kill him if he will not submit."
The sheriff's posse rushed forward, and Ethan stood in the doorway, unarmed, and calmly said:
"The moon is at the full."
Instantly the Green Mountain Boys filled the room.
They came from all sorts of hiding places and all were armed.
The sheriff fell back, but only for a moment.
Advancing again, he asked:
"Do you intend to resist by force?"
"I do. I shall fight for my home against the governor of New York—ay, against the king himself. Stand back! You have no warrant for my arrest and no writ of dispossession."
"I had, but I have been robbed,"
"A likely story that. If it is as you say, then you are not a fit person to be a sheriff."
"I own I was careless, but that will not help you."
"I shall not surrender without a writ."
"But you will be a prisoner, anyway, for there is a warrant out for your arrest as a rebel and a traitor."
"Was that stolen, also?"
"Mine was but a duplicate; the original has been sent by the hand of Sheriff Alston."
"Where is he?"
A man stepped forward and announced himself as Alston, a sheriff duly appointed by Gov. Tryon, of the Colony of New York.
"It is enough."
"No, by heaven, no! The Yorkers have no power over me. I hold my farm from New Hampshire, and only to the governor of New Hampshire will I relinquish it."
"Then we shall use force."
"So shall we."
"It is treason."
"It is loyalty to my country. Boys, these men are crazy; they are so because the moon is at the full."
Instantly the Green Mountain Boys were ready to resist any attack.
The sheriff gave the order to fire.
Both sides obeyed the sheriff, and a blinding smoke rose from the old muskets.
No one was hurt, for neither side liked to be the first to shed blood.
Another volley was fired, and one of the defenders was wounded.
At the word they rushed out and threw themselves on the sheriff's posse, and, with muskets clubbed, they drove the Yorkers back, breaking many a head and inflicting more damage than they received.
The Yorkers rallied and loaded their muskets.
Sheriff Merrit, with a courage worthy of a better cause, addressed his men.
"Yorkers, we must have the body of Ethan Allen, dead or alive. We must quell this revolt against lawful authority. Will you follow me?"
"Ay, to the death!"
"The courts have decided that the land belongs to New York; the king, God bless him! has confirmed the decree, and opposition to it is treason. Ay, treason, which our king has called upon us to stamp out. Are you ready?"
"Ay, we will give our lives for the king."
Ethan Allen knew that the very name of the king was sufficient to strike awe into the minds of the people.
At that time the king was looked upon as the anointed of Heaven, and only the boldest would dare to say a word against him.
Allen was too democratic to look upon George as infallible, and to him he was only the head of the nation, and no better than any other man.
But the mass of the people had not shaken off their Old World ideas of royalty.
"Boys, it may be that his majesty has confirmed the decree," said Allen, "but he was misinformed, and when he hears from our own governor, the governor from whom we hold our lands, he will change his opinion and secure us in our titles. Until then shall we defend them ourselves?"
"Ay, to the death," answered Seth Warner.
"Then load your guns, and let us drive back these Yorkers into their own colony."
The Green Mountain Boys fell into line, Ethan Allen and Seth Warner in front, and in that order they marched against the sheriff's posse.
Volley after volley was fired, and several on each side fell wounded, some fatally.
Back fell the Yorkers, and still onward went the gallant boys under Allen's lead.
Allen thought the march too slow, and he gave the order to go at double quick.
The Yorkers had but little time to load their muskets, and they had not the quickness possessed by the mountaineers.
The unfortunate Sheriff Merrit many times tried to halt his men so that they might pour a volley into the ranks of the mountain boys, but they had become too demoralized to make any determined stand.
Merrit, with the courage which almost ennobled him, snatched a musket from the hands of one of his men and, standing in the middle of the road, took deliberate aim at Ethan Allen and fired.
The ball went wide of its mark, but the intrepid sheriff loaded quickly and again attempted to fire, but he spilled the powder from his pan, and the spark did not fire the musket.
Then he clubbed the weapon and rushed forward to meet the brave leader of the Mountain Boys, and was within a few feet of Allen when he tripped and fell.
His musket fell under him, and by some unaccountable chance was fired, blowing off the top of Merrit's head.
The Yorkers were thrown in a panic by the sight, and ran faster than they had ever thought possible until they were over the border and considered themselves safe from pursuit.
The victory was with the Mountain Boys, but Allen feared that it would prove dearly bought, for the laws were so strict at that time, and all his party might be held responsible for the death of the sheriff, who, being a king's officer, was sacred.
He gave the order to march back to their homes and see to the wounded.
Only one man died from the effects of his wounds, though others were in a bad way.
Save for the attendance upon the wounded, the farmers of Bennington might have thought the fight with and pursuit of the Yorkers only a dream, so readily did they settle down to their farm duties.
Several weeks passed and no sign of any move was made by the Yorkers.
Ethan Allen had sent a full account of the affair to the Governor of New Hampshire, by the hands of his brother Ira, but save for saying that the account should be read carefully, the governor had taken no further notice.
Seth Warner had a cousin in Albany, and he induced him to send regular reports of the doings in New York, in so far as they effected the New Hampshire grants.
And during all those weeks the news came that nothing was being done. Ethan believed in the old adage that a quiet always preceded a storm, and he held himself in readiness to meet it.
The Green Mountain Boys were drilled regularly, and the watchword was looked for whenever any met the chosen messengers of the colonel.
Eben had proved himself very useful, but for several days he had been away, and Ethan was getting uneasy about him.
July had come, with all its heat and unpleasantness, and still Eben was absent.
That something had happened to him all believed, for he had never been known to absent himself from his friends for so long a time before.
It was on the tenth of July that Eben craved entrance to the residence of Ethan Allen.
"Where have you been?" asked the colonel.
"Do not be cross with me. I have only been doing what I thought ought to be done. I have been in Concord."
"What have you been doing there?"
"Keeping my mouth shut and my ears open."
"And what have you heard?"
"Much that you ought to know, and I will tell you if you are not cross with me."
"I am never cross with you, Eben."
"Then you are to be sent for to Concord, and will be sent as a prisoner to Albany. Gov. Tryon says he will hang you as soon as you reach that city."
"How learned you this?"
"Nay, should I tell you I might never learn anything more."
"When am I to be sent for?"
"The messenger is on his way. If you do as we would like you would not go."
"Because the governor will purchase peace for himself by having you hanged."
"Hush! there is some one even now at the door."
"Welcome, most worthy Talbot!" exclaimed Allen, when Assistant District Attorney Talbot entered. "What brings you so far from Concord?"
"A message to you, Ethan Allen."
"Yes, from the governor."
"A message from Gov. Wentworth is always welcome."
"It may not be so in this case. I will explain. An application has been made for your extradition by the governor of New York."
"Indeed! And what have I done?"
"You are charged with killing a king's officer and robbing him of certain documents which bore the seal of the Colony of New York."
"Of both of which crimes I am innocent."
"And so the governor thinks, but he has commanded me to explain that it is necessary that you return with me to Concord, there to satisfy the court of your innocence."
Ethan looked at Eben, and the youth made a sign to convey that the information he had given was correct and that treachery was intended.
"And if I decline to go?"
"You will not decline."
"You must not."
"I may do so; what then?"
"Then I shall order you into arrest."
"And take me by force to Concord, and from thence to Albany?"
"If the governor so orders."
"Then go straight back to the governor and tell him that, with all due respect to him and his authority, I will not go until I am ready, and that if you attempt to arrest me I shall resist by force. I am a free man, and by the grant signed by the governor I am free from arrest unless the local tribunal so orders, and you cannot get any justice in all the Green Mountains to order me into arrest. So go back and learn that Ethan Allen can take care of himself."
"But that is treason."
"Call it what you like. I shall defend myself when the time comes, and will never submit to tyranny, even from the governor of New Hampshire, nor the king himself."
"But I must do as I am bade."
"Try to do so, you mean. Let me tell you that Ethan Allen is in the right, and the governor is in the wrong, and I defy you and all the power at your back."
BEFORE THE GOVERNOR.
Mr. Talbot knew not what to do.
Had he lived in the days of the electric telegraph he would have used the wire to obtain instructions. But in those days only a horse was at his disposal, and that was a slow means of travel.
He knew that he must act as he thought best.
If he offended the governor he might be removed from his position and disgraced.
If he offended the mountaineers they might make terms with New York, and New Hampshire might lose all the debatable land.
There was a degree of sturdy independence shown by the mountaineers which, while commendable, was slightly awkward at times.
It is in the mountains that freemen are born, and, as Ethan Allen often told the people of the valleys, the men of the hills were a race of free men, who could never be enslaved.
Talbot thought over the difficulty and resolved to try diplomacy.
"You hold your farm under a grant from Gov. Wentworth?"
"You owe allegiance to him?"
"You ought to obey his commands."
"Stay! I am a freeborn man. I willingly give service where service is needed, I willingly obey laws which are for the good of all, but I never yet agreed to obey any one man, whether he be governor or even king."
"And yet you have no right to the farm, save such as you received from the governor."
"You mistake the position. The original grant was for a tract of mountain land. That land is now mine because I have improved it, made it of value, and all I owe to the governor is the value of the unreclaimed lands.
"Will you not go to Concord and obey the governor's mandate?"
"Not until the governor himself asks me. When he invites me I will go; when he only commands I refuse to obey. Return and tell him so."
"I dare not."
"Then stay here and you will learn what freemen think, and see how they act."
"I dare not stay."
"What a sorry specimen of a man you are. You dare not, forsooth! is that the expression of a free man?"
"You taunt me."
"Taunt you? No, I only say that I dare do aught that does become a man."
Seth Warner entered the house and was welcomed by Ethan.
The colonel told the farmer of the order received.
"Will you go?"
"I should say not, indeed. Let the governor come here if he wants to talk with you."
Talbot could make no headway, so he left the house in disgust.
He went to Faithful Quincy, the town crier, and bade him summon the men to assemble at the courthouse at once.
Quincy looked at the attorney and waited until the order was given.
"In whose name am I to give the notice?"
"That of the governor."
"Then, please your honor, you must go to the sheriff and get his order."
"Is that necessary?"
"It is, if you want to have the people assemble."
Talbot wished himself back at Concord.
With Quincy he went to the house of the sheriff and obtained his permission to call the men together.
Every man, it seemed, was at the meeting.
Talbot told them that he was sent by the governor of New Hampshire with a message for Ethan Allen.
"Then why don't you give him the message?" asked Remember Baker.
"I have done so and he refuses to accede to the governor's request."
"Then you may be sure that the governor is in the wrong."
"What is the message?" asked Peleg Sunderland.
Talbot told them all he was instructed to do, and a loud laugh went up from every man as he heard.
"So Col. Allen refuses to go?"
"Then that is an end of the matter."
"No, it is not," answered Talbot, quickly; "you are all bound to give such military service as the governor may require."
"That is true."
"Then I call upon you to arrest and convey to Concord the body of Ethan Allen."
Seth Warner moved up to the judge's bench.
"Are you jesting?" he asked.
"You mean to insist that we shall do such service as you have outlined?"
"It is my order, acting in the name of the governor."
"Then tell the governor that there is not a man in all the grants that will lay a finger on Col. Ethan Allen."
"Thank you, my friends," Allen said, speaking for the first time; "I refuse to obey the order to go under arrest, but I will go voluntarily and tell the chief executive officer of the colony that free men are not going to be ordered about like lackeys."
"And quite right, too. We will go with you."
"No, Seth Warner, I will go alone."
"Excuse me, colonel, but we have something to say about that. We shall take a few days off and go to Concord."
And as Allen had refused to obey the governor, so the Green Mountain Boys declined to stay at home, even when their leader so requested.
On the next morning fifteen of the brave mountaineers accompanied their colonel to the seat of government of the colony.
It was not a formidable military force, but it was sufficient to show the governor that he had to deal with sturdy men.
Gov. Wentworth received the mountain heroes at ones [Transcriber's note: once?].
Talbot told his story of how he had been received by Ethan Allen, and he did not spare the young leader.
Then came Allen's turn.
"It hath been made known to me that the Colony of New York has asked that I be sent a prisoner to Albany, there to be tried for certain crimes. Is that so?"
"It hath been told me that I am charged with killing a king's officer, one Sheriff Merrit. Is that so?"
"You are rightly informed."
"Then hear me. Merrit died in New Hampshire, and, even if I had killed him, I claim I must be tried in my own colony and not in York."
"You admit killing him?"
"I did not kill him. His death was an accident. There are plenty of witnesses to prove that. Then I am told I am charged with stealing documents bearing the seal of New York. Is that so?"
"I can prove that when the sheriff did unlawfully enter my house at the Crossroads he had not the documents with him, but he had seals only. Now, your excellency, I am here to tell you that I hold my land from you, that I live in the Colony of New Hampshire, and that the sheriff of New York has no right to invade this colony, and if I had shot him as he entered my house I should have done right. What have you to say to that?"
Gov. Wentworth remained silent.
He knew that Allen was right.
"Do you relinquish all right to the grants?" asked Allen.
"Then tell the governor of York to mind his own business. I have not yet finished. I am a free man, a subject of his majesty, the King of England. And, as a free man, I ask you, his representative, whether you have made a promise that I shall be surrendered to Albany?"
"I decline to answer."
"You were to get me here by a trick, and then without trial send me to Albany, there to be hanged as a rebel and murderer. All I have done has been to protect the title you gave me, and my own labor, and I will protect that labor as long as my arm retains its strength."
"I am no traitor, Ethan Allen. I would have given you a fair trial."
"You promised to surrender me."
"I did not."
"Yes, you did; I heard you!"
Even Ethan was surprised and startled by the voice.
Young Eben Pike had stepped close up to the governor, and was shaking his fist in his face.
"Who are you?"
"I am Ebenezer Pike, and I heard you promise that Col. Ethan Allen should be given up to Albany, and your secretary added that he hoped to hear that the rebel was hanged quickly."
"It is false!"
"Eben speaks the truth!" hotly retorted Allen. "I would rather believe him than anyone I know. He is a child of nature and knows not how to be false. I am here to tell you, Gov. Wentworth, that we of the mountains are ready to give our lives in defense of the colony, but we will not sell our freedom!"
Wentworth knew not what to make of such men.
He admired their boldness.
He was afraid to lose their services, for he saw that troubles were brewing that would need the aid of men like Allen.
"I will see you again on the morrow. In the meantime you will all stay at my expense at the inn."
"No, sir. We ask no favors, neither do we accept any. We men of the mountains are independent."
"As you please. This young spy will remain with me."
"Eben Pike goes with us. He is of the mountains, also."
"But I must know more of his methods of spying."
"Ask him what you please; but he must be free. If he is imprisoned I will call upon the men of Concord to aid the men of the mountains to release him."
"You are bold, Sir Ethan."
"I am a free man, and I allow no one who serves me to be injured without calling the offender to account."
"But if he hath broken the laws?"
"Then let him be tried and punished."
"That is all we intend doing."
"What charge is there against him?"
"That we shall have to determine."
"Until then he will stay with us. I will be personally responsible for him."
Nothing more was said, and Allen and his Mountain Boys walked out of the governor's presence, taking Eben with them.
"Talbot, I would rather have that man as a friend than an enemy," said Wentworth when he was alone with the attorney-general.
"It will be better policy to please Ethan Allen and his mountaineers than Gov. Tryon of York."
"I am thinking you are right."
"If we do not placate Allen he will make terms with New York."
"But would Tryon agree to terms?"
"The Yorkers would make Allen deputy-governor, and Allen could take all the land west of the Connecticut over with him."
"What would you have me do?"
"Send for Allen; make him a deputy in the mountain district; give him more power than any other man in the district, and then tell Gov. Tryon to capture Allen if he can."
"Your advice may be good; I will think over it and will decide before I see these men on the morrow."
The energetic governor of New York had a spy present during the interview between the Green Mountain leader and the governor of New Hampshire.
Tryon had made up his mind to use his influence—and it was great—to have England amalgamate the two colonies and make him the ruler of the consolidated district.
In fact, he had already planned a scheme by which all of New England should be federated under his lead, thus creating a vice-gerency in the New World which should be all-powerful.
To carry out this plan he hoped to embroil the governor of New Hampshire with the mountaineers, and thus, by creating dissensions, show to England that a strong hand was needed.
When his trusted deputy heard from the spy the result of the interview between Allen and the governor, he called his aids together and asked their advice.
"Wentworth will give that fellow Allen all he asks," he said, "and our mission will be a failure."
"Cannot we capture this rebel and carry him over the border?"
"If we could we should be masters of the situation."
"Then we will do it."
"Leave that to me. You must not know anything about it or it will compromise you."
"But, Edwards, unless I know the details how can I advise the governor or prove to him that it was justifiable?"
"That is the very thing you must not do until Allen and perhaps his men are in New York Colony. Then you can boldly say: 'Here is the rebel; hang him!'"
That evening, when the mountaineers were smoking their pipes in front of the inn, a man strolled leisurely along the street and looked at Allen and Warner, who were talking together.
He retraced his steps and stared at the men, hoping that they would resent the impertinence; but Allen did not notice him and Warner only smiled to himself.
"Can you tell me where I shall find a man they call Ethan Allen?" asked the man, after passing and repassing several times.
"I have the right to bear that name," answered Allen.
"Why did you ask?"
"I wanted to see him."
"Well, you have seen him," Warner said, angrily.
"And who are you?"
"A better man than you."
"That I doubt."
"Very well; you are perfectly within your rights."
"I know that, but I would like to know your name."
"I am Jack Edwards, at your service."
"Very well, Mr. Jack Edwards, you can serve me by going about your business."
"So I will, now that I have seen you. Good-day."
Warner did not answer the valedictory, and the man stooped down, and, picking up a handful of gravel, threw it at Warner.
"That's for your bad manners."
Warner, quick-tempered, was about to seize Edwards, when Allen pulled him back. "Sit down, Seth; the fellow is only trying to embroil us, so that our enemies may get the better of us."
"You may be right, Ethan, but I have got that fellow's face printed on my mind, and when I meet him, as I shall, I will pay him with compound interest."
Edwards saw that he could not provoke a breach of the peace, so he walked down the street, wondering of what sort of stuff this mountain hero was made, when he would restrain his friend from avenging an insult.
Early in the morning Gov. Wentworth sent for Ethan Allen and told him that he should refuse to meddle with the application for extradition, and that Allen could go back to the mountains and defend his right and title to the lands in any way he chose.
"Go tell your men that I have created an office for you. You shall be called the high custodian of the grants, and whatever you think necessary to repel the claims of the Yorkers you can do in my name."
Thus we have seen that the man sent for as a prisoner, with a gallows staring him in the face, left Concord a victor.
The conflict between the two colonies was to assume a new phase, and in that conflict Ethan Allen was to bear a most prominent part.
The Mountain Boys did not believe in wasting time, so they rallied their forces and started back as soon as they had attended to their horses and provided themselves with provisions for the journey.
Allen rode first with Seth Warner.
"Seth, what was that man's object in provoking a quarrel?"
"I am at a loss to understand."
"He was a Yorker."
"Sure of it."
"Then it was mere curiosity to see you, and when he saw you he could not restrain his temper? He wanted to fight?"
"I don't think so."
"What is your idea then, colonel?"
"He wanted to embroil us in a quarrel so that the watch could be called out and we should be placed in the wrong."
"Perhaps you are right. Anyway, we are rid of him."
"Yes, of course."
"Do not be too sure. The Yorkers will be mad enough to follow us, and, if a chance offers, we shall have to fight."
"What do you think of the dispute with the king?"
"For my part, I think the colonies should have the right to make their own laws."
"The king will give that right."
"No. George has all the pig-headedness of his ancestors. If the colonies get the right they will have to fight for it."
"You do not think there will be war between England and the colonies?"
"I do not know, but if there should be I shall ask that our mountain lands shall be independent."
"With you as first governor."
"I care not for that. I only want to see the people get all they deserve. Look, Seth! What do you see over there?"
"It looks to me like a number of horsemen."
"Yes, and they are trying to head us off."
"Why, look! Baker, come here. What are those men doing over there?"
Remember Baker shaded his eyes with his hand and looked for several minutes before speaking.
"'Pears like as though they were trying to ambush by the side of the road and stop us."
"Just what I thought. Ask Sunderland to come here."
Peleg Sunderland was a good scout. He was a hunter from Wayback, and could find the trail of a deer or a bear quicker than any man in the Green Mountains.
"Colonel, we are in for it. Them fellows are waiting for us."
The order was obeyed, though many of the men wondered what could be the reason.
"We will have lunch——"
"But, colonel, I——"
"We will have lunch."
"Eben, get onto the trail, my boy. Find out who those men are about a mile ahead of us, and report quickly. Take care you are not seen."
The boy started off in a direction which was at right angles with the road by which the men were camped.
Ethan Allen bade the men appear to eat, whether they were hungry or not.
He told them that he feared a surprise.
The mountaineers rather liked the idea of a fight, though the odds were against them.
Every man had his musket ready for use and awaited the order to move.
Eben returned and reported that there were twenty-two men, well armed and apparently waiting for the Vermonters.
"They are led by that man who wanted to fight you, captain."
"Are you sure?"
"I took his measure when he was at the inn and I cannot be mistaken."
"Then they are Yorkers."
"That is just what they are. And, colonel, would it not be better to pass them on the road to the right, and then return and fight?"
"No, Eben. If we pass them we will not return. If we are attacked we shall give as good as we receive."
"Fight it will be."
"Yes, Seth, and we shall have tough work before we are through."
"We are ready to follow you."
"Boys, are you all ready?"
"I think they will let us reach them before they emerge, and they will fire at us from each side; so, Seth, you take half our men and I will look after the others. You give back good answers to the men on the right; we will take notice of those on the left."
"All right, sir."
The men swung themselves in the saddles as unconcerned as though they had been partaking of lunch and suspected no enemy to be on the lookout for them.
They rode forward, and were within a few yards of the enemy, when the Yorkers leaped from their ambush and massed themselves on the road.
"In the name of the king, surrender, Ethan Allen!"
"In the name of common sense, who are you? A lot of clowns from a country fair?"
"We are the king's good subjects, and command you to surrender yourself a prisoner."
"Stand out of the way, you fool, or I will have to teach you a lesson."
Allen had spoken sharply, for he was sick of the formality which prefaced the fight which was to come.
Both sides were well matched. All were on good horses, and every man possessed a heavy musket.
"Do you refuse to surrender?"
"A Green Mountain Boy only surrenders to superiors."
"Then we shall have to make you, unless you acknowledge us as your superiors."
"Men of the mountains!" shouted Allen, "ride through these fellows—ride over them if they will not get out of the way."
Edwards ordered his men to resist and to fire upon the mountaineers.
"So you want to play the part of highwaymen, do you? Boys, return the fire."
One volley was fired by each party, and then the two opposing bodies became mixed up in inextricable confusion.
Muskets were clubbed and heads were cracked as the heavy butts descended on them.
Horses reared, and plunged, and knocked down those men who had become unhorsed.
The fight was furious for a few minutes.
Ethan and his brother, Ira, were in the thick of the struggle all the time, while Seth Warner seemed a very Trojan in valor.
Both sides fought well, and had the contest been a short one it would have been impossible to say which would have been the victor, but it was prolonged, and the mountaineers had the physical stamina which the men of the valleys lacked, and the longer the fight lasted the greater was the victory of the brave followers of Ethan Allen.
Edwards was taken prisoner, and on the understanding that he would reveal all he knew of the plot against the men of the grants, Allen allowed all the others to go free.
Two Yorkers were killed, while Allen's ranks had lost only one, and he only wounded, though severely.
In triumph the boys returned to the green hills of Vermont, and were received with many congratulations.
Edwards was brought to trial on the charge of leading an armed invasion of New Hampshire.
He declared that he alone was responsible for the foray, and doubtless his statement was a true one, though Allen did not believe it.
The district court condemned Edwards to death by hanging, for his act was one of high treason, and the sentence was sure to be confirmed by the king, to whom it had to be sent.
When Gov. Tryon heard of the fight and the capture of Edwards, and his subsequent trial and sentence, he resolved on two things. He would bring all the pressure to bear on the king that he could to prevent the sentence being confirmed, and he would capture Allen and his friends, no matter what the consequences might be.
A proclamation was printed and sent through all the grants, in which the governor of New York offered a reward of one hundred and fifty pounds sterling for the capture of Ethan Allen, dead or alive, and a further sum of fifty pounds each for the bodies, dead or alive, of Seth Warner, Remember Baker, Sylvanus Brown, Robert Cochrane, Peleg Sunderland, James Breakenridge and John Smith.
When the proclamation had been well discussed the people got another sensation in a counter proclamation, signed by Ethan Allen on behalf of the mountaineers, offering two hundred pounds for the capture of the attorney-general of New York.
Both proclamations started out with a command to the parties named to surrender themselves within thirty days under pain of the forfeiture of all their property, of conviction of felony and sentence of death without benefit of clergy.
These proclamations placed the two sections on a war footing, and Ethan saw that it was necessary to organize on a larger scale than had been done.
He consulted his trusty friend, Seth Warner, and as a result a convention was called at Bennington.
"It is no use calling on New Hampshire to aid us. We must rely on ourselves," Allen told all with whom he came in contact.
A larger number gathered at the convention than he expected, and his heart was full of joy.
He was the more pleased that he had called the men together, when, on the very morning of the gathering, he received a notice from Concord that the king had forbidden the colony to take an active part against New York in the matter of the grants.
In other words it meant that the king would protect New York and oppose all claims of New Hampshire to the lands.
"Men of the mountains," Allen commenced, "we are met to form laws to protect ourselves and our property. We must rely on ourselves alone. I think that the time has come when we should declare ourselves independent of any colony, and apply to the king for a charter."
"That is talk of the right kind."
"Why cannot we have our own laws, our own governor and our own army?"
"You are rather previous, Sunderland."
"Not a bit of it. I say that the king has never done anything for us, and New Hampshire has betrayed us into the hands of the Yorkers."
"We will call ourselves the Green Mountain Colony."
"I think, if you will let me suggest, that if we are going to have a new name it should be a pretty one."
"Is not the Green Mountain Colony pretty?"
"Yes; but I have thought that Vermont—it means Green Mountains—would sound good."
"Nothing could be better," assented Allen, "so we will commence our deliberations with the declaration: 'We, the men of Vermont, in convention assembled'; that will place our name above controversy."
"I propose that Ethan Allen be our governor."
"Stay, that will never do. The king must appoint a governor, so we can only declare our desire to be independent of New Hampshire, and until the king accepts our independence we must nominally recognize Gov. Wentworth as our governor."
It is not our purpose to give the proceeding of that convention in extenso, but this much we have given, in order that the whole country may know that the sturdy mountain boys talked of independence and liberty with spirit even before the Revolution began.
Warner stood on a chair and waved his hand for attention.
"I have heard," he said, "that Gen. Gates is pressing the people of Boston so hard that the English are getting themselves disliked in that city, and I should not be surprised if a rebellion was talked of."
"The sooner the better, say I."
"Yes; why should England govern us?"
"We are too far away. The king——"
"Leave his name out of the question. We can be loyal to him, even if we become independent as a new nation."
"We want no kings——"
"Silence!" shouted Allen; "I will not listen to treason to the king."
"If the people of Boston talk of rebellion, so will the people of New Hampshire, and we Green—I beg pardon, Vermonters—we, too, can govern ourselves. Then, when two or three colonies show some spirit, New York will have to tackle us all, instead of a few mountaineers."
"That is for the future, Capt. Warner; what we have to think of is, are we going to protect our farms?"
"Ay, to the death!"
The sentiment was the occasion for such cheering as Bennington had never heard before.
"We will hold our lands, even if every man has to carry a musket when he plows the ground or sows the seed or reaps the harvest."
"Good for you, Warner! Now, then, let us have a good militia."
Every man present enrolled his name on the list, and a very excellent start was made to form an army to defend the farms.
The district was divided into two parts, the northern part of the New Hampshire grants being under the command of Allen, the southern under the guidance of Warner.
Rules were laid down for the guidance of the mountaineers, and as good a system of government was inaugurated as existed in New Hampshire itself.
The strongest contingent of militia was sent with Allen to the north, for it was thought that the next attempt of New York would come from the Champlain section instead of Albany.
Everywhere Ethan Allan was received with open arms.
The farmers had reclaimed the lands from the mountain sides, and made them fruitful, and it was extremely hard that they should be turned from their farms without receiving compensation.
Resistance was popular, and the men who had taken the lead in organizing the farmers were looked upon as heroes.
Allen had taken Eben with him, and the young lad was the most useful member of his staff.
Eben had all the faithfulness of a hound, with the sagacity of a trained scout.
He was invaluable.
In some of the districts it was necessary to conceal their identity, for until the sentiment of the people was known treachery might be expected.
The reward offered for Allen was a large one for those days, and was a great temptation to the poor, struggling farmers.
So the leader had to be on the alert all the time, and Eben proved his usefulness by finding out all about the men before Allen made himself known.
The Green Mountain Boys camped on the shore of Lake Dunmore, and made the place their headquarters for the district.
Eben was returning to the camp one night when he was accosted by a lad about his own age.
"You're a stranger about here, eh?" said the lad.
"Yes; just looking about."
"Oh, from New York?"
"No, I come from New Hampshire."
"So did I. I used to live in Concord. Ever in Concord?"
"Many times," answered Eben.
"Then we ought to be friends. Looking for work?"
"Partly. My folks want a good grant somewhere, and I'm looking about for one."
"There aren't many good places now; most have been taken. They do say that a man called Ethan Allen is round stirring up the people so that he may get them their lands free."
"So I have heard."
"But some say that he wants the lands for himself."
"How is that?" asked Eben, innocently.
"Why, I have heard a man say—he came from Fort Ticonderoga—that if Allen can get his way there will be a fight. Then he will surrender and will recognize York, and as a reward will get the best farms."
Eben was about to give the boy a piece of his mind, but checked himself in time.
"It's a what?" asked the lad.
"Very unlikely story, I was about to say, but thought that I would not."
"Because a man who would think such a thing about Col. Allen is not worth contradicting."
"Oh, that is it. So you believe in this man, Allen?"
"So does father. He says that he will stick by him as long as he has a hand to hold a gun."
"What is your father's name?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"Only he might help me to find a good piece of farm land which I could get by applying."
"So he might. Well, my father is Ezekiel Garvan—Old Zeke, they call him round about. Glad to see you when you are near. See, that is our house over yon, where the smoke is rising up from among the trees."
"And what is your name?" asked Eben.
"I am called Zeb; it is short for Zebedee. What is your name?"
Incautiously he answered, truthfully:
"Ebenezer Pike is my name."
The boys separated, and Eben returned to the camp, feeling pleased with himself to think he had found a good friend, as he never doubted old Zeke would be.
Zeb stood watching Eben for a time, and then he too returned home.
"My old dad used to blame me for listening, and used to say that little pitchers had big ears, when anyone was there, just to prevent them talking, but the big ears will be useful now, or I am not fit to be my father's son."
Zebedee was flushed and excited when he entered the paternal dwelling.
He had been away all day, and knew that he was likely to get a good thrashing for neglect of his work.
Ezekiel was waiting for him very patiently.
Zeb had taken all in at a glance. There was a thick beechen stick standing by the chimney corner, and old Zeke was not far from it.
One of his most favored passages of the Bible was the one in which the spoiling of the child is said to be caused by the small use of the rod.
Zeb knew what it meant.
He had often felt the strength of his father's muscles, and he fully realized that if he was spoiled it was not because the rod had been spared.
Only three mornings before Zeb had entered the kitchen, which served as dining room as well, and had partaken of his breakfast standing, and at the midday meal he still preferred an upright position instead of the one adopted by the other members of his family.
To be accurate and truthful, it was a rare thing for Zeb to be able to sit down with any comfort, for his interviews with his father were very frequent and generally of a very painful nature.
He entered the kitchen looking more defiant than his brothers or sister had ever seen him.
Zeke did not speak.
He took off his coat and rolled up his homespun linen shirt sleeves.
Then he reached out and got the beechen stick.
He knew that there was a certain formula to be gone through.
His father never thrashed him while angry; he always catechised him, then waited a few minutes before plying the stick or the whip.
"Zeb, did you sort those potatoes?"
"Did you learn that verse from the Bible the elder told you to commit to memory?"
"Playing all day?"
"Then I must use the rod, or my son will be ruined."
Everything had been calm up to that point.
The other members of the family had gone out.
Zeb was alone with his father.
"Come here, I say, and place yourself across my knee."
"Not this time, dad."
If Zebedee had drawn a pistol and shot at his father that worthy could not have been more astonished. He almost dropped the stick.
"What do you mean?"
"Just what I say. You are never going to beat me again."
"Just what I say, dad. I'm going to make a bargain with you. You swear that you will never hit me again and I'll make you a rich man."
Ezekiel dropped the stick.
He opened his ponderous jaws and looked at his eldest son much as he might at a wild beast.
"Just what I say, dad. Little pitchers have big ears. Well, the big ears have heard that you hate Ethan Allen."
"You would get the reward if you could."
"Swear that you will never hit me again——"
"I will not. Come here, you rapscalion, and I'll teach you to make a laughingstock of me."
Zeb saw his father pick up the stick again, and he got into the corner, and picking up a chair, held it so that his father could not strike him.
"See here, father," he said, very quietly, "you are stronger than I am. You have a right to whip me, and I perhaps deserve it; that isn't saying much, but it's enough. Now I want to tell you that if you strike me I'll leave you this very night, and either join the Green Mountain Boys, or I'll get the reward and go to York and never see you again."
"What has come over you?"
"Nothing, only I see a way to make some money for you, or myself, and I'll give it to you if you swear never to strike me again."
"It's a bargain."
"Yes, honor bright."
"All right, father. Pull down your sleeves and come with me where no one can hear what I have to say."
To the great surprise of the family, no sounds of crying or sobbing came from the kitchen, and when Zeb's mother—a little, frail woman, who had never had her own way since she had been married to Zeke, opened the door an hour later and peeped in, she screamed out:
"It's all over! I felt he would do it some day."
"Do what, mother?" asked a girl of twelve.
"Your father has killed Zeb. He said he would, and now he has done it, and he has gone to bury him."
Then there was a scene of shrieking and weeping and sobbing.
All the children joined in, and the mother was heart-broken.
In the midst of it all father and son walked in, radiant and smiling.
If Zeb had been really dead and made himself visible to his astonished family, they could not have been more alarmed.
"Mistress Garvan, stop your blubbering. We shall have visitors this night; sha'n't we, Zeb?"
"Friends of mine. Oh, it will be a great time. Mistress, I'll buy the childer new clothes, ay, that I will, and I'll have a new ox for the farm. It is good, I tell you, to have friends."
Mistress Garvan wondered what had come over her stern husband.
She knew he had not been drinking, for he would not allow even as much as a drop of dry cider to come into the house.
"What have you been doing, Zeke?" she asked him.
"Nothing; it's only a little surprise we have. Isn't it so, Zeb?"
But Zeb had disappeared, and so no answer was forthcoming from him.
Zeb had seen more than he had heard, and he knew of the encampment on Lake Dunmore.
He had watched the men, and found out that they drilled at night. He had become suspicious, but had no means of verifying his suspicions until that conversation with Eben.
When Eben had incautiously mentioned his name, Zeb remembered that he had heard a man tell his father that Allen was accompanied by a young scout whose name was Pike.
Zeke was getting very fidgety.
He kept looking at the tall clock, which his father had brought from England many years before, and wondered whether his plot had failed. But his face brightened when a knock at the door betokened the presence of visitors.
He opened the door himself, and Ethan Allen and Remember Baker stepped in.
"Welcome, most welcome! I would rather see you here than the king of England."
Allen placed his finger on his lip as a hint not to speak too loudly.
"I respect your caution; a day will come when your name will be shouted from the housetops."
"You are too flattering, farmer."
"Not so; but come to supper. My good wife knows how to tickle the palate of my friends, and you are my friends. Where's Zeb, mother?"
"He went out."
"He is a bad fellow; I am sure I shall never tame him. I would he were old enough to join the——"
"Yes; what age is he?"
"He is old enough if he has inclination——"
"A truce to such talk; let us get some supper. By my father's memory, I smell pig's head and cabbage. Good thing, even if it is late at night. Come, friends, and we will talk after."
Zeke led the way into the kitchen and bade his guest be seated.
Scarcely had they commenced eating when a knock at the back door caused the farmer to drop his knife.
The door opened and a man's voice was heard:
"In the king's name surrender, Ethan Allen, and you, Remember Baker!"
"Treason!" exclaimed Allen.
"Trapped!" added Baker.
"Yes, rebels, and the reward will be mine!" shouted the farmer in a joyous voice.
ZEB'S DOUBLE DEALING.
"Scoundrel!" shouted Baker.
Allen was dignified even under such trying circumstances. He calmly waited the pleasure of the soldiers, knowing that resistance was useless; but Remember Baker was impetuous, and would have fought even against such odds if he had not been overpowered.
"Have you any cords?" asked the young officer.
"Ay, faith I'll get the strongest cords that ye ever saw," exclaimed Zeb.
"You young imp, it was you who betrayed us," Baker said, bitterly.
"Yes, you are right. You see, I bear you no ill will," said the young scoundrel, "but money is useful, and they perhaps won't hang you, and if they do—well, you've got to die sometime, and you might as well make us comfortable by your death——"
Zeke was a little ashamed of his part in the transaction, though he had been ready enough to adopt his son's suggestion. But now that the deed was done, he would not allow the prisoners to be insulted by Zeb, and the boy's unfeeling remarks were cut short by a vigorous kick on his nether part which completely lifted him off the floor.
"You said you'd never—hit—me," he blubbered.
"I never said I'd never kick you, and I'll kick all I want to, you young rascal!"
"No, you won't," the young hopeful retorted.
"Yes, I will, and if you don't get those cords in a brace of shakes I'll make you so you won't sit down for a month."
Zeb knew enough of his father to be sure that he meant what he said, so he hurried to the barn, and soon returned with some strong rope, with which the two prisoners were securely bound.
The boy was a shrewd fellow, and as bad as any that lived in those parts. His father had not half the quick wit possessed by Zeb.
"Dad, get the reward," he whispered.
"Ay, who will pay me the reward?" he asked the officer.
"I will certify that you are entitled to it, and you can get it from Albany any time."
"Ay, so I must needs trudge to Albany. Must I go with the prisoners?"
"No, you have nothing to do with them now; they are in my care."
"So if they get away——"
"But they cannot get away."
"But if they did?" Zeb persisted.
"That would be my loss. You and your father have earned the reward."
"Where shall you keep them to-night?" asked Zeke.
"I shall take them to—— Well, never mind where; it will make no difference to you."
"No, I suppose not."
Zeb overheard this conversation and determined to profit by it.
He felt sore, both physically and mentally.
He felt that his father had not kept to the meaning of his oath, and had evaded it by kicking instead of striking, which to Zeb was just as bad.
"I might just as well have let him hit me," he soliloquized; "he laughs now; perhaps he will not when I am through."
He ran, and none could go faster when he liked to exert himself, and did not rest until he was in sight of the Mountain Boys' camp.
Then he halted.
He needed to be cool.
"Zebedee, my boy, now you can make or mar your life. Which are you going to do?"
He thought for a moment and chuckled to himself as he defined, mentally, his plan of action.
Peleg Sunderland was in command in the absence of the colonel and Capt. Baker, and to him Zeb asked to be conducted.
But the sentinel refused.
"You haven't got the word, and I will not let anyone pass; no, not even the colonel himself without it."
"But I have important news."
"Of course you have."
"You do not believe me?"
"Yes, I do. I know all you can tell me, so there!"
"Have you anyone here called Eben Pike?"
"Perhaps we have, perhaps we haven't."
"Do not be sassy or——"
"You'll march away from this or I'll shoot; them's my orders."
Zeb saw that the man would not allow him to pass, and he was at his wits' end to know what to do.
As good fortune would have it, who should pass but Eben.
"Eben, I want you."
"Is that you, Zeb?"
"What do you want?"
"Come here and I will tell you."
The sentry warned Eben not to pass out of the lines, but the young scout took no notice.
"Well, what is it?"
"Come a little farther away and I will tell you."
Eben knew not what fear was, though that was saying a great deal. One of the kings of Spain once sent for a man who was heard to say that he did not know the meaning of fear.
"My good man," said the king, "they tell me that you were never afraid."
"That is true, your majesty."
"And you do not know what fear is?"
"That also was true."
"Did you ever put your hand into a wasps' nest?"
"No, your majesty."
"Then never again say you do not know what fear is."
Eben might find something of which he would be afraid, but he had not done so up to that time.
When the two boys had got some distance away, Eben asked:
"Well, what have you to tell me?"
"Where is Col. Ethan Allen?"
"I do not know."
"Where is Capt. Baker?"
"I do not know."
"Well, what of that?"
"When I last saw them they had some good strong cords bound round their limbs, and a Yorker was holding a gun at their heads."
"It looked very like it."
"Where are they? Tell me all you know."
"Not much; the news is worth something."
"How much do you want?"
"How much what?"
"Did you not say you wanted to sell the news?"
"No; but, now you mention it, I might do so. Take me to the fellow who commands the boys."
"Will you tell him?"
"I came to do so, only that fellow with the gun would not let me pass."
"I will take you to Lieut. Sunderland."
"Lead on; I am ready."
Eben conducted the boy to Sunderland, and to him Zeb told a most wonderful yarn.
It was so plausible that he was complimented on his patriotism, and rewarded by the faithful lieutenant as well as his purse would permit.
Zeb trusted to the inspiration of the moment for most of his narrative. He told how his father was a loyal Vermonter, and in the fullness of his heart had invited Allen and Baker to a late supper, and in their honor had prepared boiled pig's head and cabbage, and that while they were eating supper some soldiers burst open the door and took all prisoners. Zeb said his father was released on condition that he would find ropes to bind Allen and Baker. Thinking that he could be of service to the colonel by remaining at liberty, he consented, and then sent Zeb to the Mountain Boys' camp.
Zeb embellished the story in many ways, but he was so good a story-teller that every word he uttered was believed.
THE TABLES TURNED.
Ethan Allen could see no possible chance of escape.
He was not afraid to meet the punishment, but he felt it galling to be trapped in such a way.
If he had not been a bitter opponent of New York before, that treachery would have made him one.
For greater security the two mountaineers had been bound together, so that they could be more easily guarded.
Nearly an hour passed before the officer determined to march.
He had sent out scouts to ascertain if the Mountain Boys were in the vicinity, and the men had returned to report all quiet.
Then the small company, with its valuable captives, set out to cross into York at the nearest point.
For about an hour the march was continued in silence, and the men were fatigued, for they had to carry the prisoners, both Allen and Baker refusing to walk one step.
A halt was called, and the soldiers were told they could rest for one hour.
They were delighted at the prospect, and laid themselves down on the grass.
So secure did they feel that they relaxed their watchfulness and allowed the prisoners to lie down by themselves a little distance away, yet not so far that they had any chance of escape.
Allen was singing a song of freedom; it was an old French ditty he had learned and often sung.
He sang, not because his spirits were light, but simply to prevent a feeling of melancholy overmastering him.
The singing satisfied his captors that he was resigned, and was not meditating any plan of escape.
In the midst of his song he heard a soft, low voice say:
"Do not speak, but listen."
Baker had fallen asleep, and Allen knew that it was Eben who spoke; but how the boy got there, or, in fact, where he was, Allen could not conjecture.
"Here is a knife," said Eben; "I am going to cut the cords which bind your hands; you can then liberate Baker. When you are both free, keep still until you hear the cry of the catbird, and then leap to your feet and run, taking a course direct to the left; the boys are there in ambush, and you will be safe."
While Eben was speaking he succeeded in cutting the cords, and Allen's hands were free.
Eben glided away as noiselessly as he came, and Allen woke Baker as quickly as possible.
"Heigho! Have we to continue our journey?"
"Hush! do not utter a word! We have a chance to escape, if you will listen and not speak."
Allen told him all that had been done, and then quietly cut the other's cords.
Both men were free.
They lay as still as though the cords still bound their bodies.
Allen sang another song in a low, tremulous voice.
Again it had the effect of disarming suspicion.
A bird warbled in a tree, rather strangely for so late at night, but as one of the men remarked that it was the bird's lookout and not his, no notice was taken of it.
And then the warbling ceased and the peculiar call of the catbird was heard.
Instantly the two prisoners were on their feet and making for the wood.
They had got some yards before their movement was noticed.
At once the soldiers seized their guns, and a volley was fired after the fugitives.
The shots did not reach the mark, and pursuit was commenced.
Allen heard the catbird again and again, and by its sound guided his footsteps.
The soldiers were close behind and were gaining every minute, but the Mountain Boys ran pluckily, for it was a race for life in reality.
They rushed into the dense wood and followed the narrow path, which was really a deer run.
Some of the soldiers fired again, and a ball struck a tree and ricochetted, injuring the leader of the little band of pursuers.
The accident made the men more furious, and they ran so fast that it seemed Allen and Baker must certainly fall into their hands.
Suddenly the scene changed.
From behind every tree there leaped out a Mountain Boy, and with one voice a shout went up:
It was no use resisting.
The Yorkers were outnumbered.
They were blown with the long run, while their enemies were fresh and their muskets loaded.
"To whom are we to surrender?" asked the officer.
"To Col. Allen and his Green Mountain Boys," was the answer.
"On what terms?"
"The same you gave us," answered Baker.
"Yes, you are invaders of another colony, and must be treated as marauders," added Allen.
"We are prisoners of war."
"Not any more than we were, but you bound us with cords, and you must submit to the same treatment."
"It is an outrage."
"Very likely you think so, but you should do to others as you would they should do to you. The example was set by you, not me."