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´╗┐Title: Ellen Walton - The Villain and His Victims
Author: Addison, Alvin
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ellen Walton - The Villain and His Victims" ***

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ELLEN WALTON;

OR, THE VILLAIN AND HIS VICTIMS.


BY ALVIN ADDISON,

AUTHOR OF THE RIVAL HUNTERS, ETC.

CINCINNATI:
H.M. RULISON, QUEEN CITY PUBLISHING HOUSE, 115-1/2 MAIN STREET.
PHILADELPHIA:
QUAKER CITY PUBLISHING HOUSE, 32 SOUTH THIRD STREET.
1855.

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by

H.M. RULISON,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court, for the Southern District of
Ohio.



THE VILLAIN AND HIS VICTIMS.



CHAPTER I.

FLEMING'S HOTEL.


In the year 1785, as, also, prior and subsequent to that time, there was a
hotel situated in one of the less frequented streets of Pittsburg, then the
largest town west of the mountains, and kept by one Fleming, whence it
derived the name of "Fleming's Hotel." This house, a small one, and
indifferently furnished, was a favorite resort of the Indians who visited
the town on trading expeditions. Fleming had two daughters, who possessed
considerable personal attractions, and that pride of a vain
woman--_beauty_. History does not, to the best of our knowledge, give us
the first names of the two girls; and we will distinguish them as Eliza and
Sarah. Unfortunately for these young females, they had ever been surrounded
by unfavorable circumstances, and exposed to the vices of bad associations;
and that nice discrimination between propriety and politeness, which is a
natural characteristic of the modest woman, had become somewhat
obliterated, and the hold which virtue ever has by nature in the heart of
the gentler sex, had been somewhat loosened. In short, the young Misses
Fleming failed at all times to observe that degree of propriety which
should ever characterize the pure in heart, and were, by many, accused of
immorality. How far this accusation was true, we shall not attempt to say,
but, doubtless, there were not wanting many tongues to spread slanderous
reports.

In early years of womanhood, Eliza had given her affections to one who
sought her love under the guise of a "gentleman of fortune." He proved to
be what such characters usually are--a libertine, whose only motive in
seeking to win her confidence and young affections was to gratify his
hellish passions in the ruin of virtue and a good name. Under the most
solemn assurances of deep, abiding, unalterable love for her, and the most
solemn promises of marriage at an early day, which if he failed to perform,
the direst maledictions of heaven, and the most awful curses, were called
down upon his own head, even to the eternal consuming of his soul in the
flames of perdition, he succeeded in his design. Virtue was overcome, and
the jewel of purity departed from the heart of another of earth's
daughters. Vain were the tears of the repentant girl to induce a
performance of the promises so solemnly made; false had been and still were
the vows of the profligate; but he continued to make them all the more
profusely; and hope, at first unwavering, then fainter and fainter, filled
the heart of his victim. Once conquered, and the victory was ever after
comparatively easy; and having taken something of a fancy to this lady, he
was for a long time attached to her, and, in his way, remained faithful.

Such were the mutual relations sustained by these two toward each other,
when, one day, the betrayer entered the presence of the betrayed, and, in
some agitation, said:

"Eliza, my dear, you have always been a kind, dear girl to me, and I have
resolved to repay your constancy and devotion by making you my bride in a
few days; but first I must demand of you a service, an important service.
Can I depend on you?"

"You know you can; let me know how I can aid you in such a manner as will
insure me your hand, and I will serve you unto death."

"Bravely spoken! Just what I expected of your devoted love! But the service
I shall require will sorely try that love!"

"Then let me prove its strength."

"Eliza, do you doubt my truth? my sincerity?"

"Have I not given you stronger proof than a thousand asseverations, or the
strongest oaths, that my confidence is unbounded? Without this trust, I
should be wretched beyond endurance!"

"I am glad to hear you talk so. Still I fear you will not consent to serve
me as I shall wish."

"Try me and see."

"Are you of a _jealous_ disposition, my love?"

"Jealous? What a question for _you_ to ask!"

"It may appear strange, yet I would be pleased to have you answer me truly,
and without reserve. Tell me your real sentiments without reserve or
disguise. Much depends thereon."

"Truly, I cannot say, never having been tried; but I can verily believe
that intense hatred would arise in my heart toward one of my sex who would
attempt to supplant me in your affections."

"Suppose I should disregard their efforts, what then?"

"Nothing. If sure of your attachment, I would care for nothing beside."

"'Tis well! But suppose that I should tell you that I once loved another
than you?"

"As you love me?"

"No; with a boyish affection, soon forgotten."

"Then I would care nothing for it."

"Not if it left an incurable wound?"

"Did it?"

"It did!"

"My God! How have I been deceived."

"Don't be alarmed, my dear, the wound was not in the heart--it was in
pride."

"How?"

"I was not troubled at heart, but the girl I fancied gave me mortal
offense, and I would be revenged!"

"How so? What is this? Don't love, and wish revenge! Revenge for what? And
that dark frown--what means all this?"

"Be calm; you are excited; you fear my truth; and where there is no
confidence, love soon departs. I can soon explain all. In my young days I
fell in love with a beautiful girl of my own age; but soon learned that she
was not virtuous, and with this knowledge my love changed into desire. As
the least return for my love, to gain which she had recourse to all the
wiles and blandishments of a coquette, I wished to possess her for a time;
but she spurned me from her presence as she would a dog! From that hour I
have sworn to have my revenge and gain my point. My hour has now come, and
I can accomplish my oath, provided I am secure of one thing."

"And what is that?"

"Your co-operation."

"Me aid in such a scheme!"

"Why not?"

"_Why not?_ Shall I turn the enemy of my own sex, and aid in the
destruction of one who has never injured me?"

"She _has_ injured you."

"In what way?"

"By destroying, in a good degree, my confidence in the sex. Had that
confidence been unshaken, you would, long ere this time, have been my wife;
but how could I trust my happiness with woman when woman had proved
treacherous? I had been once deceived, and distrust had taken the place of
faith, when I met you. You know the result. Now tell me, has not this girl
injured you deeply?"

"It may be so; but why not let her go? What good can it do to pursue her
with vengeance? Perhaps she has repented. How wicked, then, to destroy her
peace of mind."

"Dream not that such as she will ever repent. But to satisfy you on this
point, I can say, _I know she has not changed from what she was_; and it is
this knowledge that, above all things, urges me on in my plans."

"Well, what do you wish me to do?"

"Listen. I have just learned that this girl, in company with her family,
will be in town to-day, on their way to Ohio or Kentucky, and will put up
at this house. Now I wish you to so place the young lady, that I can have
access to her sleeping apartment; this is all."

"I cannot do it."

"You can; I will take number eighteen for the night; put her in seventeen,
and it is all I ask. I am sure this is easily done."

"And thus bring about my own shame and her dishonor?"

"I tell you she is already dishonored; and instead of bringing shame upon
yourself, you take it away forever."

"Do not tempt me to do wrong! Alas, I have done too much evil already! I
pray God I may be forgiven!"

"Come, now, be a good girl, and do me this _one_ favor; it is the last I
shall require of you until I give you my name."

"I cannot. Such conduct would disgrace our house."

"It need not be known."

"It is hard to prevent such things being spread abroad."

"I will take care of that point. Your house shall not be injured one
particle by the occurrence, I give you my word for it. Now do you consent?"

"Perhaps you still love this girl, and are trying to deceive me."

"I swear that I do not, that I love only you."

"Why, then, seek the society of this other?"

"I have sworn it, as I have already told you; and this oath _must_ be
performed. Will you aid me or not?"

"I cannot. I pray you again, do not tempt me!"

"But you _must_ help me. I cannot do without you."

"For God's sake say no more! Every feeling of my heart revolts at the
thought! Just think, for a moment, what it is you ask of me! Think what
would be my feelings! Love is incompatible with your request. How can I see
you debase yourself and me by such an act?"

"I only desire you to decide between this and a worse debasement. Which
will you choose?"

"What mean you?"

"That I will only marry you on condition you will accede to my present
proposition."

"Have you not told me, time and again, that you looked upon me as your wife
by the highest of all laws, the laws of nature and of God? How, then, can
you talk of not making me legally yours, in the sight of men?"

"I will, I tell you, if you will do as I wish in the present instance.
Come, be kind, be gentle and loving, as you ever have been, and we will
soon be completely happy by acknowledging our love before men, at the
altar."

"This again! Oh, tempter, betray me not!"

"You have your choice. I will _never_ marry you if you refuse my present
offer, NEVER! Whose, then, will be the shame? Which will you be, an
honorable wife, or a despised offcast? Your destiny is in your own hands,
make your election."

"Oh, God! I am in your power!"

"Then you consent?"

"What assurance have I that this promise will make me your wife? Have you
not promised the same thing scores of times?"

"Require any form of obligation, and I will give it; as I mean what I say,
make your own conditions."

"Give me a written promise."

He gave it as she dictated it:

"I hereby promise to marry Eliza Fleming within one month from this 12th
day of April, 1786. This promise I most solemnly give, calling on heaven to
witness it, and if I fail in its performance, may the curses of God rest
upon my soul in this world and in the world to come.

"LOUIS DURANT."

"That will do," she said.

"And I may depend on you?"

"Yes; I am no longer free. But mind, all must be done quietly and kept a
profound secret."

"Leave that to me; I will be responsible for the result."

Thus was a net woven for an unsuspecting victim. Who was she, and what the
cause for this unrelenting and revengeful feeling on the part of Durant?
Time must show.



CHAPTER II.

A VILLAIN UNMASKED.


In a beautiful district of the "Old Dominion," bordering on the
Rappahannock, there lived, just previous to the time of the opening of our
story, a planter, who had once been wealthy, but whose princely fortune had
become much reduced by indiscriminate kindness. Possessed of a noble heart,
a generous disposition, and the finest sympathies, he could never find it
in his heart to say "no" to an application for assistance. Thousands had
thus gone to pay debts of security; and, at last, he resolved to move to
the West, as a means of retrieving his affairs, as well as to cut loose
from the associations which were rapidly diminishing the remains of his
wealth.

This planter, whom we shall call General Walton, (the last name assumed,
the title one given him by common consent,) had one son, and an only
daughter, the former twenty-one, the latter eighteen, at the time we wish
to introduce them to the reader's notice. Both were worthy, the one as a
man, the other as a woman. He was noble, intellectual, manly; she was
beautiful, accomplished, intelligent; both possessed those higher and
nobler qualities of mind and heart which dignify and ally it to divinity.

Ellen Walton, an heiress, jointly with her brother, in prospective, and
reputed the wealthiest fair one in all the district, (the world don't
always know the true situation of a man's affairs,) was not left to pine
away in solitude with the dismal prospect in view of becoming that dreaded
personage--_an old maid_. No, she was _beset_ with admirers; some loving
_her_, some her _wealth_, and some _both_. To all but one she turned a deaf
ear; that one, though the least presuming of the many, and too diffident to
urge his claim until impelled by the irresistable violence of his love,
possessed, unknown to himself, a magnetic power over the heart of the fair
being. Many were the doubts and fears of both--natural accompaniments of
true, sincere, devoted, but unacknowledged, love--but all were dispelled
by the mutual exchange of thoughts, and the mutual plighting of faith. Vows
once made by the pure in heart, are seldom, if ever, broken, and then by
some higher duty or demand.

For a time the youthful lovers were happy--happy in themselves, and the
joys of the new existence opened up to them by the magic wand of LOVE. But
love has its trials, as all can testify who have tasted its potency in the
heart; and so these two learned. Their engagement was a family secret, not
yet to be developed. Hence, many of her admirers still offered their
attentions, in the vain hope of ultimate success. Particularly was this the
case with those who had an eye to the fortune rather than the heiress,
taking the latter as the only means of obtaining the former; and first
among this number was Louis Durant, a man of corrupt principles, and deeply
depraved feelings. A sprig of a noble family of small pretensions, whose
pride far exceeded their means, he was desirous of obtaining wealth; and
being too indolent to enter a profession, too poor to become a merchant,
and too proud to work, as a last resort, he wished to _marry_ a fortune.
Like most of his class, he was unscrupulous as to _means_ so the _end_ was
attained. It was, therefore, an easy matter to conform, in outward
appearance, to the society he was in. This he never failed to do. When with
the Waltons, he was a pattern of generosity, and a pitying angel. When with
the gambler, or the _roue_, he was equally at home--a debauchee, or a
handler of cards.

With the intuitive perception of woman, Ellen saw through his character at
once; and, though she treated him with civility, never gave him any
encouragement. Blinded by her fortune, and construing her reserve into the
bashfulness of a first passion, being too vain to acknowledge the inability
of his powers of fascination to carry all before them, he gave himself up
to hope, and already counted on the half of the Walton estate as his own,
and spent many a shilling of his small funds on the strength of the
anticipation.

When he saw that the bottom of his purse would soon be reached, he sought
an opportunity, declared himself in love, and asked the hand of Miss
Walton. The General to whom he had always appeared a "fine fellow," would
leave his daughter to decide the matter. Thus referred, he lost no time in
making Ellen the recipient of his "tale of love." All his theatrical powers
were called in action; his eloquence commanded; but the impressions made
were far different from those intended. Though the outward semblance was
complete, Ellen saw that the passion was feigned, and a still deeper
dislike took possession of her feelings. But with gentle delicacy, she told
him his passion was not returned.

"Then," said he, "let me win your love. I am sure your heart will yield
when you are convinced of the depth of the devotedness of my affection."

"Do not flatter yourself with a vain hope. I feel that I shall never be
able to love you; and it is in kindness that I tell you so at once."

"Ah, adorable, angelic being! One so kind, so considerate, so good, is too
pure, too near akin to heaven, for man to possess. I only ask to be your
friend."

"As such, you shall ever be welcome."

"Thanks! thanks! May I but prove worthy of your friendship!"

Thus terminated his first attempt to win Ellen. His fall from the lover to
a friend was the first step in a plot already matured. As a friend, he
could ever have access to the heiress, and be received more familiarly than
in any other capacity, save as an acknowledged lover. This familiarity
would give him the opportunity of ingratiating himself into her affections,
of which, finally, he felt certain.

He became a constant and frequent visitor at the mansion of the Waltons,
and was ever received with cordiality. He let no opportunity pass
unimproved to carry out his design. Goodness, benevolence, charity, were
counterfeited most adroitly, until even Ellen began to think she had done
him injustice by her suspicions. This is a favorable moment for a lover.
Prove that you have been dealt with unjustly, and a woman's heart is opened
by sympathy to let you in. It was well for Ellen that her heart was already
occupied, or this might possibly have been her fate. As it was, she
became, insensibly and unintentionally, kind to Durant. He did not fail to
notice the change, and his heart exulted in the prospect of complete
success.

When he thought the proper time had arrived, he prepared the way, and again
declared himself a lover, with more eloquence than before. Again his suit
was gently declined; but this time he persevered until his importunities
became unbearable, and with them, all Ellen's old prejudices returned,
strengthened ten-fold. If he could and would force himself for weeks and
months upon an unwilling victim of his importunities, and attempt by such
means to force her to accept his hand, he was depraved enough for any other
wickedness. So she plainly told him she could not and would not submit
longer to his unreasonable conduct; that he must consider himself as
finally, fully and unrecallably dismissed.

"And give up all hope--the hope that has sustained and given me life so
long? Oh, think, Ellen, think of my misery, of the untold wretchedness into
which you plunge me, and let your heart, your kind, generous heart,
relent!"

"Mr. Durant, I have told you often and often that it was impossible for me
to love you, and that it was kindness to tell you so. If you have
disregarded my oft repeated declaration, the truth of which you must long
ere this have been convinced, the fault is yours, not mine."

"I know you have so spoken often, but still I have dared to hope. I loved
too fervently for the passion ever to die before you denied me hope. Think
of all these things, and then recall your words."

"You have repeated them so frequently, that I could not well avoid thinking
of them whether I chose to or not. Let me now say, once for all, that
importunities are utterly useless, and can prove of no avail."

"Then I am to understand you as casting me off from your presence; and this
being the _end_ of your kindness, may I ask what was the _object_ of that
kindness?"

"I always endeavor to do unto others as I would have them do to me. If you
think such a course wrong, I cannot help it."

"Then you would wish some person, who had the power, to show you all
manner of good will, until your affections were won, and so firmly fixed as
to be unalterable, and then cast you off?"

"No, I should be far from desiring such conduct on the part of any one."

"And yet that is your way of 'doing as you would be done by!'"

"I am not aware of ever having done so; if I have been the unwitting
instrument of such acts, I am truly sorry for it."

"Then let your sorrow work repentance."

"Tell me how, and I will try to do so."

"You cannot be ignorant of my meaning."

"I am totally at a loss to know how your remarks can apply to me, in any
way."

"Then I will speak plainly. Your actions for the last few months have been
such as to bid me hope for a return of my love, and allured by that hope,
founded on those actions, I have placed my affections so strongly, that I
fear it will be death to tear them away. As you have caused me to love, is
it demanding more than justice that I should ask you to at least _try_ to
love me in return?"

"Mr. Durant, you know that your accusations are untrue. Did you not just
tell me that you loved before you ever spoke to me on the subject? and have
you not repeatedly, aye, a hundred times, told me I was cold toward you,
ever evincing a want of cordiality? How, then, can you have the face to ask
a return of love on this score? Since you have been at such pains to make
out so contradictory a case, I will say that you but lessen yourself in my
esteem by the attempt!"

"I see, alas, you are a heartless coquette!"

"Because I will not place the half of my father's wealth in your
possession. I have read your motive from the beginning, sir, and have only
refrained from telling you my mind, because I make it a rule to have the
good will of a dog, in preference to his ill will, when I can. But as your
conduct to-day has removed the last thin screen from your real character,
and revealed your naked depravity of heart, I care not even for your
friendship. You know, you _feel_, that you are a degraded wretch, and that
you are unworthy of the society of the virtuous."

"Madam, those words just spoken have sealed your fate! Dog as I am, I have
the power to work your ruin, and _I will do it_! I go from your presence a
bitter and unrelenting foe! The love you have rejected has turned into
bitterness, and the dregs of that bitterness you shall drink till your soul
sickens unto death! I will never lose sight of you! Go where you may, I
will follow you! Hide in what corner of the world you may, I will find you!
When you meet me, remember I am an implacable enemy, seeking revenge!"

"Go, vile miscreant, from my presence! Think not to intimidate me. Better
an 'open enemy than a secret foe.' I am glad you have unmasked yourself so
fully. Now I know that I have escaped the worst fate on earth."

"Not the worst! To be the wife of even a villain is better than to be his
victim!"

"Leave my presence, sir, or I will call a slave to put you out! Infamous
wretch! The curse of God be upon you!"

He went, quailing under the flash of her indignant eye, which made his
guilty soul cower in abasement.

When he was fairly gone, her high strung energies relaxed, and the reaction
prostrated her strength. She sunk upon a lounge, and, giving way to her
feelings, exclaimed:

"That man may yet work the ruin of my happiness! Oh, God, pity me, and let
not the wicked triumph! In Thee I put my trust. Let thy watchful eye be
over me, and thy power protect me. Oh, let me not fall into the hands of my
enemy; but preserve me by thy right hand, and keep me lifted up!"

Prayer gave her strength, and renewed her courage. Relying, with firm
faith, on the goodness and watchful care of her Father in heaven, she
became cheerful and composed.

She very seldom saw or heard anything of Durant, but when she did, it
always awakened fear. For a year she heard nothing of him, and, at last,
the old dread had passed from her heart, when her father prepared to go to
the West.

As for Durant, he went from her presence muttering curses and threatening
vengeance, among which was distinguished by a slave, grated out between his
clenched teeth, "I'll make her repent this day's work in 'sack-cloth and
ashes!' aye, if all h--ll oppose!"



CHAPTER III.

THE VILLAIN AND HIS VICTIM.


The reader has, doubtless, arrived at the conclusion that Durant was
planning the destruction of Ellen Walton when he so earnestly desired the
assistance of Miss Fleming; and it will now be perceived how false were his
statements in relation to the _character_ of the expected guest. Though
unseen himself, he had taken every precaution to make certain of the party
at the Fleming Hotel; and just at the close of day he had the satisfaction
of seeing his efforts crowned with success. General Walton, influenced by
the tales his daughter's foe had whispered to him in confidence, passed by
the more elegant houses, which, but for defaming reports, he would have
preferred making his abode during his short stay in the place, and took
lodgings at the "Fleming."

Eliza Fleming made the acquaintance of her young female guest, and every
fresh insight into Miss Walton's character made her regret the hard
necessity she was under of doing her an injury. She had a hard struggle in
her mind, but at length her determination was fixed. To procure the ruin of
the innocent guest, (for she had thoroughly satisfied herself that Miss
Walton _was_ innocent and virtuous,) whom every obligation of hospitality
required her to protect, was indeed damnable; but to forfeit the hand of
Durant under the circumstances was impossible, and not to be thought of.
Poor Ellen! Heaven shield thee!

Durant was not seen by any of the Waltons, as it was his object to keep
them in entire ignorance of his proximity until such time as he chose to
reveal himself. Miss Fleming knew where to find him; and, according to
agreement, met him during the evening, to arrange some matters connected
with the plot.

"Louis, you have required too much at my hands in this affair. I fear I
shall not be able to comply with the terms of agreement."

"Then return my written promise of marriage, and live to be despised and a
by-word among men! I thought the matter was definitely settled, and that
you had resolved to save your own honor and name at every hazard."

"But is this my only hope?"

"Yes, as true as there is a God in heaven, it is. I will forsake you
forever unless you comply with my wishes in this affair."

"Then I must name some conditions, to which I shall demand the strictest
compliance on your part."

"Name them."

"In the first place, then, to avoid the possibility of noise or mishap, I
will give the lady a potion, which will stupefy her faculties, and cause a
deep sleep to lock up all her senses for the space of three or four hours.
I will so arrange it, that these hours shall be from eleven to three
o'clock, and what is done must be accomplished between those periods of
time. You shall, therefore, not enter number seventeen until after eleven
o'clock, and you must positively leave it before three; and you shall not
let your victim know what transpires at this house until after the Waltons
have left the city. Do you consent to these terms?"

"I suppose I must."

"Then the matter is settled. Remember the hours; I shall know if my
injunctions are disregarded, and you will fare the worse for it."

"Fear not. Come to reflect, I like your plan better than my own, as there
is less danger in it every way."

"Enough. Good night."

"Hold a moment. Is there any fastening on the door between the rooms, on
the side in number seventeen?"

"There is; but I will take care of that; and you know no one, unless well
acquainted with the spot, could tell there was a door there."

"True, true--I had forgotten that fact."

"Oh, I forgot one prohibition. You must in no case let a ray of light into
seventeen. It might render all our precautions abortive, and defeat their
object."

"Very well. I will be careful."

"Do so, and all will be well. Of course, no noise, even as loud as a
whisper, must be heard in the lady's room."

"I will be discreet; trust me for that. I am glad you have come to the
rescue; I find there is nothing like a woman's wit."

"Take care, then, that you are never _outwitted_ by them!"

"Not much fear of that while I have such an ingenious ally!"

"Take good care to keep her an ally; as an enemy, she might be equally
ingenious."

And so they parted. As she left the room, she mentally exclaimed:

"'Come to the rescue!' Yes, I am truly glad I have!"

The guests retired to their beds, and all was still as the solemn silence
of midnight. The old clock in the corner tolled the hour of eleven, and
half an hour afterward, a stealthy tread might have been heard along the
partition dividing the two rooms already named. Soon a door slowly opened
on its rusty hinges, and in the rayless darkness Durant entered the number
containing his victim. He reached the couch, and paused to assure himself
that all was as he desired. His ear was saluted with a heavy breathing, as
of one in deep sleep.

"All right!" he muttered within himself. "My hour has come. The vengeance
of the '_dog_' shall be complete! Oh, but how I will glory in _my_ triumph,
and the proud one's disgrace! I'll make her _feel_ what it is to insult a
nobleman by blood! Gods, how the memory burns my brain of that indignity!
An unknown girl to scorn and cast contumely upon one of England's line of
lords! This night be the stain wiped out!"

Lost! lost! _lost_! demon! from thy presence we turn away! Villain and
victim, there is a God above!

       *       *       *       *       *

The morning dawned, and the sun rose as cloudless as though no deeds of
crime, needing the darkness to cover them, had been perpetrated on the
earth. The Waltons left with the company they expected to join at Pittsburg
on the succeeding day, not knowing that Durant had slept under the same
roof with them. No, not so fast. One of their number _did_ know the
fact--Ellen. Was it that knowledge that caused the paleness on her cheek,
that aroused the anxious solicitude of her tender and watchful parents?

"Are you sick, my daughter?" was the mother's affectionate inquiry. But she
was cheered by the assurance that there was no serious cause of alarm; and
that Ellen was only a little unwell. Without any mishap, they reached their
new home in Kentucky.

Two weeks had passed, and Eliza Fleming was still unmarried. During that
time, she had seen Durant but twice, and he appeared desirous of avoiding a
private interview. She was not slow to perceive this, and it filled her
mind with misgivings of his truth, or the sincerity of his protestations.
She demanded an interview; the demand was acceded to; and she said:

"Why do you not make arrangements for our approaching marriage? It is
surely time you were about it."

"Oh, no hurry yet," he replied. "There is plenty of time."

"Plenty of time! Yes, if all that need be done, is to call the minister,
and have the ceremony performed! But it strikes me this is _not_ all.
However, what day have you fixed upon as your choice for the wedding
occasion?"

"I can't say as I have thought upon any day in particular; in fact, the
subject had so far escaped my mind, that I had nearly forgotten it
entirely."

"A devoted lover, truly! What am I to think of such unmerited coldness?"
and she burst into tears.

"Come, Eliza, let us understand each other, and be friends."

"Friends! Is that all?"

"Lovers, then."

"Husband and wife, you mean."

"Lovers only; as we have been."

"Am I to understand you as saying you will not fulfill your written promise
of making me your lawful wife?"

"You might be farther from the truth."

"Is this the reward of my devotion? the fruits of my sacrifice? Oh, God,
who shall measure the depths of wickedness of a depraved heart? Sir, I
shall enforce my rights."

"You dare not do it."

"Why not?"

"The very attempt will ruin yourself, and your father's business by
bringing disgrace upon his house."

"I see it, sir; but what if I still proceed?"

"You cannot."

"I can."

"On what plan?"

"On your own written promise."

"You have no such promise."

"Do you deny giving it?"

"I do."

"Then your own hand-writing will condemn you."

"Be certain of that before you proceed."

"You know I _have_ such a document."

"I know you have _not_."

"Then I will prove it."

And she went in search of the paper, where she had carefully placed it
away. But no paper was to be found! What could have become of it? She
returned.

"Well, let me see your 'document,' as you term it," he said, in a taunting
manner.

"It has been misplaced by some means, but I will find it in time to answer
my purpose."

"Perhaps."

"Durant, you _know_ I have such a paper, and what is the use of denying
it?"

"Again, I repeat, I know no such thing." Then after a pause, he continued:
"We might as well understand each other at once."

He produced a paper, and went on: "Here, I suppose, is the article you
speak of. I see it is in my hand-writing, and lest by any chance it should
again fall into your hands, I will destroy it."

And holding it in the candle, it was soon reduced to ashes. The outwitted
girl sat dumb with astonishment, surprise and dismay, and, for several
seconds, was speechless. When utterance came, she inquired:

"How, in the name of reason, did you get that paper in your possession?"

"I will be frank: I watched you putting it away, and the next day I went
and took it."

"And this is my reward for the signal service you demanded as the price of
that written promise?"

"My continued love will be your reward."

"_Your_ love! Think you, vile miscreant, I would have the base semblance of
affection from such a polluted thing as you? No, sir! Now that I see your
depravity, worlds would not tempt me to wed you, degraded as I am! How I
have remained blinded so long is a mystery I cannot solve, in the
overwhelming light of this hour. Thank God, I am even with you!--Yes, thank
Him from the bottom of my heart! You have deceived me, but in this instance
I am not behind you. Ellen Walton left this house as pure as she entered
it! Think you I had no object in all my restrictions of time, of secrecy
and darkness? I had. One hour in the society of Miss Walton, convinced me
of her unsullied purity, and another of your baseness. I resolved to save
her at all hazards; and I did. My only regret _now_ is, that I made myself
the victim instead of her!"

"H--ll and furies!"

"Even, am I not?"

"May the devil take you!"

"Better take care of the old fellow yourself; and of woman's wit, too!"

"I'll have my revenge yet. I'll swear that I did stay the night with Ellen,
despite your treachery."

"It will do you no good. My sister gave the young lady an attested
certificate, stating that she passed the whole time with her, the two
together, that the door to their room was locked, and that they were
undisturbed during the night.--Nothing like a 'woman's wit!'"

[Illustration: "And drawing a pistol, which some freak had caused her to
conceal in her dress, she made it ready, and, with her finger on the
trigger, aimed it at his heart."--See page 29.]

"I curse you! Vile, treacherous--"

"Spare your epithets, inhuman monster! or, by the heavens above us, you
leave not this spot alive!"

And drawing a pistol, which some freak had caused her to conceal in her
dress, she made it ready, and, with her finger on the trigger, aimed it at
his heart. Like all villains of his caste, he was a coward, and trembled
with quaking fear before the flashing eye and resolute look of the excited
girl.

"Now, vile, degraded, polluted _thing_! you go from my presence never to
return. Hold! not just yet, I have a parting word to say before you leave.
I confess, with self-abasement, that I once loved you, and with deep
humiliation, amounting to agony, that that love was the cause of my ruin.
The vail is now torn from my eyes, and I behold you as you are, a
corrupted, debased, unfeeling demon, in the human form; and I would not
even touch you with my finger's end, so deep is my detestation and
abhorrence of your depravity! Aye, sir, even for _me_ your very touch is
defiling! But if ever you whisper a word concerning the relation you once
sustained toward _me_, be it but so loud as your breath, I will as surely
destroy you as I now stand before you! Remember and beware! for I call God,
and angels, and earth to witness this my vow! One so lost as _you_, shall
not couple _my_ name with his!"

She paused a moment, as if to collect her energies for a last effort, and
then continued:

"Into the darkness of this moonless, starless, sky-beclouded night, you
shall soon be driven. May it faintly prefigure the unending blackness of
that eternal night you have chosen as your future portion. As you have
willfully, voluntarily, and most wickedly called it down upon your own
head, may the 'curse of God rest upon you in this world and the world to
come!' May evils betide you in this life, every cherished hope be blasted;
every plot of villainy thwarted, and you become a reproach among men, an
outcast and a vagabond on the face of the earth! And when, at last, your
sinful race is run, and your guilty soul has been ushered into that dreaded
eternity you have plucked upon it, may your polluted carcass become the
prey of the carrion-crow and the buzzard, and the wild beasts of the desert
wilderness howl a requiem over your bones! Go now, and meet your doom! Go
with the curse of wretched innocence ever abiding upon you! Go with the
canker-worm of festering corruption ever hanging, like an incubus, upon
your prostituted heart, and may its fangs, charged with burning poison,
pierce the very vitals of existence, till life itself shall become a burden
and a curse! Go!"

And he went, with the awful curse ever burning as a flaming fire on the
tablet of his memory.

       *       *       *       *       *

The reader must bear with us for being compelled to introduce in our pages
some exceptional characters. Had we consulted our own taste, or painted the
characters ourself, it would not have been so. In this particular, we had
no choice, as the actors were furnished to our hand in the light we have
represented them, as we shall presently show by authenticated history. For
the present, however, we pass to other scenes.--AUTHOR.



CHAPTER IV.

MORE VILLAINY.


From the presence of Miss Fleming, Durant went to an obscure old cabin near
the river, where he met an accomplice in villainy, a tool of his, by the
name of Ramsey, whom he often employed to do hazardous and dirty work, he
himself was too cowardly or too _aristocratic_ to perform. The object of
the present interview was to learn on what boat the Waltons had taken
passage. He was scheming again.

"Ramsey," said he, "what boats have left in the last two weeks to go down
the river?"

"Only three, sir."

"Three! Did you see them all?"

"I did."

"Did you know any of the passengers?"

"I did. Colonel Thomas Marshall commanded one of the boats, with whom there
were a number of Virginians, several of them personally known to me."

"Was there a family by the name of Walton among them?"

"Walton--Walton? I don't know them."

"A father, mother and daughter; the girl eighteen, and uncommonly good
looking--present a much richer appearance than is usual with emigrants."

"I remember them; they went in another boat."

"Do you think they have reached Maysville yet?"

"If unusually lucky, they have; but most probably not."

"Then there is a possibility of their being overtaken, you think?"

"There _may_ be; particularly if any bad luck has attended them."

"Quick, then, quick! away!--Have the boat decoyed to the shore, and
captured by the Indians! You understand, _captured_: the girl must on no
account be killed."

"You don't mean that I shall start out to-night in this storm and
darkness?"

"Yes, and without a moment's delay. Set the red dogs on the scent--capture
the girl, and you shall be rewarded on your own terms. Go, or it will be
too late!"

With some hesitation Ramsey obeyed, and when once in for the business,
pushed it forward with all the energy he could master. This fellow was on
friendly terms with the Indians, a band of whom--kind of
renegades--whenever he could come across them, would follow his orders, or
do his bidding. With a dispatch that would have done credit to the swiftest
courier in the days of chivalry, he pushed forward through the wilderness
to the usual place of rendezvous of this band, hoping to find and enlist
them in the enterprise on hand; but they were absent on some expedition of
their own. Not to be discouraged by one disappointment, Ramsey paused only
long enough to determine that his expected coadjutors were not to be found
in or about their usual lurking place, then continued his course down the
Ohio with unabated ardor, and on the second day came in sight of a boat
just at dusk of the evening. A momentary scrutiny convinced him that it was
the one he was in pursuit of, and he concluded it must have been delayed by
some misfortune, as he did not expect to come up to it so soon, if at all.
However this might be, one thing was certain, the boat was there, and more
still, the crew were careless, a certain sign that they felt secure and
free from any dread of danger. So much the better for his purpose, thought
the villain.

Driving on through the forest, at a speed far exceeding the slow motions of
the boat, he resolved to collect a body of savages, and intercept the
prize. Fortune seemed to favor him; for on the next day he fell in with a
large force of warriors, who were "on the war-path," and ready for any work
that gave promise of blood, booty, or scalps. They were easily induced to
further the designs of Ramsey, of whose character they were well aware; and
placing themselves under his guidance, he soon posted them along the banks
of the river to watch for the coming boat. At dark it was descried, but
being too far out to admit of being attacked, the enemy silently withdrew,
and hastening forward, took a second position below the first. This was
done several times, and, at last, Ramsey had the satisfaction of seeing the
boat near the Ohio shore. When within fifty yards of the bank, the Indians,
to the number of several hundred, suddenly came down to the edge of the
water, and opened a heavy fire upon the crew.

The boat was commanded by Captain James Ward--was a crazy old thing, with
only a single pine board for a bulwark. The captain was at one oar, and his
nephew, a young man, at the other. Knowing that all depended on reaching
the middle of the stream, the captain used his best exertions to force the
vessel out; but his nephew let go his oar, and took up his gun to fire. As
he did so, he was pierced through with a ball, and fell, mortally wounded.
His oar dropped into the river; and the exertions of the captain only
tended to force the boat nearer the shore. Seeing this, the savages gave a
yell of triumph, and prepared to take possession of the prize. Ward,
however, seized hold of a board, and with it took the place of his nephew,
giving his own oar to one of the men, and made renewed exertions to gain
the current, the enemy, meanwhile, pouring upon the crew an incessant
volley of balls, thick as the falling hail of the storm, which soon riddled
everything above the plank breastwork, and killed or wounded all the horses
on board--seven in number.

During this time most of the crew were too badly frightened to do or be
conscious of anything, excepting danger. One large, fat old Dutchman, in
particular, was so taken aback, he threw himself down flat, with his face
to the deck, hoping thus to escape with his life. Unfortunately for his
peace of mind, however, his posterior protuberance was of such enormously
aldermanic dimensions, that it projected above the defenses, and became a
fine and laughable target for the savage marksmen, who aimed the great
majority of their shots thereat. As the bullets tore through the old
fellow's unmentionables, and raking his hide, made it smart, he would shift
his position, and endeavor to shield himself all over; but it was of no
use. In spite of all the efforts he could make, the young mountain _would_
remain in view in its exposed situation, to the great annoyance of its
owner, and the equally great merriment of the enemy. In this sad
predicament the phlegmatic hero of the flesh mountain lay, piteously
bemoaning his fate, and cursing his foes.

As the balls would rake the subnascent appendage, making it twinge with the
sharp sting, he would cry out:

"Oh! oh, Lort! haf' mercy on _me_ and _mine_!"

But his cries availed nothing; and so losing all patience, he raised up his
head, and, looking at the enemy, called to them:

"Oh, now, t'ere! quit t'at tam nonsense, will you?"

The boat was, finally, saved, with all on board, except the young man and
the horses. (For further particulars of this affair, see "Western
Adventure," page 275-6.)

Ramsey discovered at the commencement of the fray that this was not the
boat he was in quest of, and so, leaving the Indians to accomplish its
capture as they pleased, he hastened onward in the hope of still overtaking
the right vessel. In this he failed; already had it reached its
destination, and the Waltons were in their new home. He returned, and
reported his ill success to Durant, who was greatly vexed at the issue of
his undertaking, but resolved to renew his efforts to obtain possession of
Ellen, or in some way work her ruin.



CHAPTER V.

STILL AT WORK.


An evil heart, bent on mischief, is never contented in idleness, but, like
the volcanic fires, its passions and thirst for revenge, when not in open
eruption, are actively at work in secret and darkness, preparing for new
outbursts, bearing death along their path, and leaving devastation, blight
and ruin in their wake. This was much the case with Louis Durant, after the
failure of his attempt on the boat. He was resolved to accomplish the
villainy on which he had set his heart, and to this end determined to leave
no means untried, be they ever so base, which lay within his reach.

To proceed openly, however, was not exactly practicable, as by so doing too
many eyes would be upon him; and he was too cowardly to face an open foe on
fair ground. So he went to work in secret.

After mature deliberation, and the revolving and the re-revolving of the
matter in his mind, he concluded to join the Indians, and through their aid
accomplish the consummation of his designs. In carrying out this plan, he
was very materially aided by his old accomplice in crime, Ramsey, whose
familiarity with the red men gave him at once the facilities for
introducing his friend to their notice, which he did with a flourish and
eulogium. Things went on smoothly enough while Durant was learning the
language, customs, manners and habits of his new allies. He had as much as
he could do to convince them of his bravery and undaunted courage, which
qualities, believing he was deficient in them, they as often as possible
put to the test. In many of these adventures he barely came off with credit
whole, a thing he found absolutely necessary to maintain any kind of credit
with this singular people, and, for this purpose, he called into action
every particle of courage from every crack and crevice of his system, and
brought the whole to bear upon one point, the wavering of his own heart,
and, with it, the staying of his almost quaking limbs, and
ready-to-run-away feet. He had just "_quantum sufficit_" for this purpose,
and _none to spare_.

These achievements occupied about two years in their accomplishment, at the
end of which period, Durant, having established himself pretty fairly in
the good graces of his red brethren, felt as though the time had arrived
for him to put in execution his long intended project; for, be it known,
his desire for vengeance had neither slumbered nor died during the two
years, but was the grand moving impulse to every important act. These
years, so full of restrained wrath on his part, were years of peace to his
intended victim. Ellen Walton, save the fear of Indians, and the usual
trials incident to pioneer life, had spent her time in hopeful quiet, full
of love's anticipated bliss in the bright _future_.

Almost had she forgotten Durant and his threats. Pity she should ever be
awakened from her blissful dreams to dread reality.

Very early in the spring of 1787, and not quite two years since her
father's settlement in the country, on a very pleasant day, she ventured to
walk out a short distance into the forest, which adjoined their dwelling.
Becoming interested in her own musings, she sat down on the trunk of a
fallen tree, to give free vent and wide range to her thoughts. The reader
can, doubtless, imagine as well as we, the rainbow hues of her straying
fancy, as it reveled in the rosy bowers of love.

"Miss Walton, I believe I have the honor of addressing."

[Illustration: "Looking up, she saw a tall, dark man standing before her,
his eye bent upon hers with a look that sent the blood to her heart."--See
page 36.]

At the sound of her name, Ellen sprung to her feet, with a suppressed
scream of fright on her lips. Looking up, she saw a tall, dark man standing
before her, his eye bent upon hers with a look that sent the blood to her
heart, she hardly knew why; for certainly the individual before her was a
stranger, or one with whom she had had so slight an acquaintance, as to
remember nothing concerning him. While her mind was running over all the
passing acquaintances she had ever made, and endeavoring among them to put
the personage before her, he continued to scan her countenance with a
steady gaze, as if to read her thoughts, which divining, he continued:

"I perceive you do not remember me, though we have met before. My memory
is not so treacherous; and, beside, your looks made a lasting impression on
my mind, an impression that time can never efface or obliterate; and to
this impression you are indebted for my present visit--an unceremonious
one, I must confess."

At this point of his discourse Ellen made a movement as if to retrace her
steps homeward, seeing which, he went on:

"Do not be impatient, fair maiden, or in haste to go, for I have that to
tell thee which is of the utmost importance both to thy present and future
welfare."

This adoption of the familiar and solemn style of address, had the effect
rather to increase than diminish the tremors about the girl's heart; yet
she silently awaited his words:

"I am come to warn thee that great, very great and imminent danger is
hanging, impended but by a thread, over thy head."

This blunt and unexpected announcement caused Ellen to start with a
shudder, and sent the blood still more forcibly upon her heart, which
labored, for a moment, under the load, and then beat so loud she was afraid
the stranger would hear it. Noticing the effect of his words, he continued:

"Thou hast an enemy, a bitter enemy, who has sworn to do thee an evil, and
it is in his heart to keep the oath. I see by the pallor of thy countenance
thou hast not forgotten him."

And true it was that the mention of "an enemy" called up her old foe to the
most vivid recollection of the now thoroughly alarmed Ellen. With the
utmost exertion of her strength and will, she could barely suppress the
outward manifestations of her terror.

"Well, this enemy, whom you had well-nigh forgotten, has never, for a
single day, had thee out of his mind. Ever since his threat, he has been
laying deep schemes to ruin thee, and once very nearly succeeded. For two
years he has been at work in a new way; his plans are about matured, and
_you will soon be in his power!_"

This last clause was spoken slowly, and emphasized on every word. All the
time he was speaking, Ellen's feelings became more and more intensely
excited, and, at the close, had reached the limit of control. For a moment
she was overcome, and leaned against a tree for support; but seeing the
stranger make a motion as though to assist her, she rallied again, and,
becoming more composed, demanded:

"How know you these things of which you speak?"

"It matters but little to thee, to know more than the facts in the case;
these I tell thee, but no more."

"Then you have come as a kind friend to warn me of my danger?"

"Aye, and more."

"Thanks! thanks! and pardon me if, at the first, I looked with suspicion on
a friend. The circumstances of our meeting is my apology for the ungenerous
thought."

"Thou hadst cause to suspect, if not to fear me, and for thy thought I have
no need to pardon thee. But my mission is not yet completed."

"Then let us go to the house of my father, which is but a short way off,
and there hear what further is to be said."

"No, I have but little time, and this place will answer my purpose quite as
well as your father's house, with the situation of which I am well
acquainted."

"Indeed! Then you are not a stranger in these parts?"

"Not entirely so; but as my business was with you, more particularly, it
was natural that I should familiarize myself with your place of abode,
that, if need be, I might render myself efficient in a case of emergency,
which may arrive but too soon."

This allusion to danger re-awakened Ellen's apprehensions, which noticing,
he continued:

"I have told you of overhanging peril; yet I have told you but half. You
are unable to escape from the net that is woven around you--you have no
means in your power to free yourself from the unseen toils that have been
secretly laid to ensnare you. Every step you take is one of danger, and
every effort you make to flee from that danger, may but drive you nearer to
destruction. Such is the nature of your enemy's operations, that while they
are secret, they are sure; and so thoroughly has every preparation been
made, and so exact has every minute particular been examined and attended
to, there is no possibility of his scheme failing, and equally no
possibility for you to escape."

"Your words are words of doom. How am I to interpret your enigmatical
conduct? But now I thought you a friend, come to give me timely warning to
guard against threatened danger, when, all at once, you declare my
situation a hopeless one! If you _are_ my friend, why not warn me sooner,
and in time?"

This was said in a firm manner, and gave the stranger to understand he had
no common, timid nature to deal with. The truth was, the thought had
flashed across Ellen's mind that this man was some way connected with
Durant, perhaps employed by him, and she began to conclude it might be a
trick to frighten her, after all. If so, or if not, she determined to meet
boldly what he had to say. The man perceived the change, and replied:

"My seemingly enigmatical conduct is easily explained. It is true I have a
long time been known to the fact that most determined designs of mischief
were entertained against you, and that your enemy was ceaselessly at work
to perfect his plans; but just as I was preparing to come to inform you of
this state of affairs, I was so unfortunate as to be desperately wounded in
battle with the Indians. I have but just recovered; the fresh scar you can
see on my temple."

And brushing away the hair, he exposed a hardly healed, terrible gash. This
appeared to satisfy his listener.

"I have, therefore, done the best I could, and you must charge the rest to
fate--a fate whose inexorable decree I almost rebeled against bowing to.
But I am here, my warning is given, and I can only regret that it comes so
late."

These words and the exhibition of the scar restored Ellen's confidence in
the stranger, and, with it, her fears returned. He perceived this, and
proceeded:

"Though your case is a desperate one, there is still some hope; there is a
_possibility_ of your deliverance from impending peril."

"Then let me know how I am to act."

"I fear to do so."

"Why fear?"

"It may prove a desperate alternative."

"Nothing can be so dreadful as falling into the hands of my enemy."

"Perhaps not; still you may be unable to choose between the evils."

"Let me know them, and I will try."

"As I said, it may be a desperate alternative, and I must ask of you
beforehand to pardon me for being compelled to give you only the choice
between what may prove one of two equally direful evils. Your only hope of
relief from present evil _is in me_."

This was an unexpected announcement; it fairly startled Ellen, and, in the
moment of bewilderment, she made no reply. He continued:

"Do not consider me selfish--at least do not condemn me for my selfishness.
If you have ever loved, you know what almost omnipotent power that passion
has over the mind and heart. For long years I have loved you in secret,
with a burning, consuming intensity of feeling, which defies all efforts to
describe. I cannot tell you all the joy or agony love has awakened in my
bosom; I can only say, that you have it now in your power to render me
supremely happy, or abjectly miserable. If you will cast yourself on my
love, I will save you from your plotting foe, and devote my life to your
service, and to make you happy. If I had any other means of saving you, I
would not propose this one, but I have not. Just now I have not time to
explain all that I would like to make clear, and must ask you, for the
present, to take my word; for at any moment, even now, your malignant foe
may come upon us, and then all is lost. Can you accept the alternative?"

"I--I thank you, but I cannot."

"You say, in view of all the facts, this is your unalterable decision, from
which I may not hope to persuade you?"

"It is. For all or any kind intentions and wishes you may have had or still
entertain for me, please accept my sincere thanks; but do not attempt to
change my purpose, for it is fixed, and I would save us both the pain of
repeating it."

"Then farewell, and God protect you!"

"Amen!"

This one word was said in such a fervent, and, at the same time, confident
manner, the stranger paused a moment as he was turning away; for a short
time he seemed engaged in deep thought, which had the effect of totally
changing his former, and apparently predetermined course of action. Turning
again to Ellen, who saw his hesitancy of action, he said:

"You rely, then, in God?"

"I do, most assuredly."

"And you have a hope that He will deliver you from the sad situation in
which you are now placed?"

"I humbly trust He will shield and protect me from harm."

"Perhaps that confidence induces your present course of action?"

"Doubtless it does, in part."

"Well, let me tell you that angels nor devils can save you!"

"I have no wish to be saved by the devils."

"I wonder you can be at all merry in your situation."

"I begin to be less apprehensive than I was."

"Indeed! and why, pray?"

"To be plain, an explanation will not be very flattering to your vanity, or
very creditable to my penetration, and, therefore, I had rather not make
it."

"I see you suspect me, so you may as well know the truth."

Saying which, he threw off some outward disguises, and stood before the
astonished maiden--LOUIS DURANT himself!

"You see me, Ellen Walton, and in me your worst enemy, because you will not
permit me to be a friend. I have made the present attempt to win you by
stratagem, in the not very sanguine hope of success. I have failed--now for
my revenge. Know that all I have said concerning my plans, and the net I
have woven around you, is true. You are now in my power, and I only forbear
taking you captive at this time because I wish you to live for a short
period in dread and suspense, as you once made me."

"Keep to the truth, sir, in making your statements."

"I intend to; and so bid you beware, and _to escape if you can!_"

"I have a very comfortable expectation for the future, thank you."

"Well, cherish it, then; hug it close, for it will be short lived, I give
you fair warning."

"The warnings of a man who comes with the tissue of falsehood, are of
little worth. Keep them to yourself."

"Beware how you presume on my forbearance; it may give way."

"I presume on nothing but your cowardice."

"Enough! enough! I will bear no more! I go, but you will see me soon again!
_Your doom is sealed!_ '_Cowardice!_' This from a woman! Gods! but I'll
remember this in my revenge!"

He started, as if to leave the place, but turned again, and said.

"Girl, I dislike to leave you in this manner. For the love I bear you, I
would still see you happy--happy as a wife and not a despised outcast--the
scorn of society. You might once have been my honorable bride; yes, you
might still be. Passing by all your insults, I would still offer you my
hand, and honorable marriage."

"Infamous villain! how dare you insult my self-respect by even naming such
a thing? Never dare again, to couple my name with yours! never, sir! It is
the basest sacrilege to humanity!"

"Very well. Our _names_ shall _not_ be coupled; our _destinies shall be!_
Go, with the consoling thought to cheer you for a few fleeting hours. Here
I stand and swear it--witness my oath, ye trees! witness it, earth and sky!
and, if such beings there are, witness it, angels and devils--_Ellen Walton
shall be mine!_"

He was so deeply absorbed in calling on his witnesses, he noticed nothing
about him, and now looking to the spot where she stood, to observe the
effect of his words, behold, Ellen was not there. His tragic agony had been
wasted on the "desert air." Turning away once more, he left the place in a
rage.

Ellen, though she had left, heard his words in the distance, and
notwithstanding she had made a show of boldness, she was really alarmed,
and greatly dreaded the future. She knew that an evil-minded man, however
contemptible, was capable of doing infinite harm to a fellow-being, when
determinedly set thereon. Thus, between hope and fear, her time was passed.



CHAPTER VI.

PLANS FRUSTRATED--ESPIONAGE.


Durant, who considered himself a perfect genius in contriving strategetical
measures, now turned all his attention to the execution of the secret plans
he had matured. He first accompanied a body of Indians, who were ready to
march upon the settlements of Kentucky, with a select few, to whom he had
confided his intentions of capturing a white squaw. With these villains he
intended to attack the house of the Waltons, while the main body of the
savages made their onset upon the bulk of the settlement, including the
block-house. This measure failed, for the simple reason that he had
mistaken the house, and a family by the name of Scraggs suffered in the
stead of his intended victim.[A]

[Footnote A: "Western Adventure," page 179-182.]

He next resolved to go, with a few of his renegade followers, in a secret
manner, and steal Ellen at night, or during some of her daily walks, when
alone. Soon after crossing the river, he was taken sick, and his followers,
mistaking his directions, went another way, and made a worse blunder than
on the first occasion; and a party of whites coming into the vicinity of
his camp, the villain hastened to recross the river to the Ohio side, not
yet knowing the fate of the expedition, that portion of the band who had
been commissioned with the execution of the plot not having returned when
he was forced to retreat. However, he was not long kept in suspense; one of
his men came back, and reported a wonderful adventure with a "big squaw,
taller than the greatest warrior," who killed a number of the Indians, he
said, and when two of the others undertook to get down the chimney, "big
squaw took up mighty great wallet, all full of feathers, more than was on
all the eagles of all the hunting grounds of the red men, and tearing it
open, easy as we tear a leaf, poured them on the fire. Big black smoke puff
up quick as powder flash, and down come Indian like he shot. White squaw
take up big tomahawk, and strike both on the head. Me nearly in the door by
this time; big squaw jump at me with he great tomahawk, so big the great
chief no lift it, and lifted it to strike. Me no like to be killed by old
squaw, so me come away." A very marvelous story told the Indians, full of
high flourishes and exaggerations, but founded on truth, nevertheless.[B]

[Footnote B: "Western Adventure," page 187.]

Durant saw that some mistake had been made, and that his attempt had
signally failed, notwithstanding his confidence and boasting, and the care
with which he had laid his "hidden toils." He was greatly exasperated at
the failure of his plots, on the success of which he had built such
sanguine hopes.

After much reflection, and the formation and abandonment of many schemes
for the accomplishment of his object, he finally hit upon a plan which he
felt sure would succeed. This time he called into requisition the services
of his old crony in crime, the infamous, but not untainted, Ramsey. With
him and a couple of trusty Indians, he set out on his expedition, resolved
to succeed at the risk of his life. Ellen he would possess at all hazards.

The party reached a point which was as near the settlement as prudence
allowed them to go, and here, in the deep forest, his three companions hid
themselves, while he went forward to make observations, and work out the
details of the plot and attack. Stealthily approaching the vicinity of the
Waltons, he secreted himself in a hollow tree during the day, from an
orifice of which, at some distance from the base, he had quite a commanding
view of the adjacent country for a considerable distance either way. Here
he placed himself to make observations.

It was in the early part of autumn; the weather was mild and pleasant; the
forest had put on its diadem of rich colors, purple, scarlet and yellow,
and was gorgeously beautiful in the ripened glory of its drapery. The
season, the scene, the sunny warmth all invited to a participation in the
enjoyment which nature held out to those who would accept her bounty, and
refresh themselves in her sylvan bowers.

It was on the second day of his watch, that Durant had the satisfaction of
noticing the arrival of a gentleman at the house of Mr. Walton, which was
followed on the succeeding day by a circumstance which at once gave him
fresh encouragement and sanguine hopes. Ellen made her appearance, leaning
on the gentleman's arm; they were out enjoying the pleasure of an excursion
into the quiet woods, and to his infinite gratification, wended their way
to his immediate neighborhood.

Fortune sometimes favors the wicked, and, in this instance, she smiled on
the villain; for the lovers, fancying the spot, seated themselves on the
trunk of a fallen tree, that lay close to the one in which he had ensconced
himself, and by placing his ear near the orifice, he could distinctly hear
what passed between them.

"It is so refreshing to sit in the shade of the 'gray old forest,'" said
Ellen. "I have not enjoyed such a treat these many months."

"Why, with your facilities, I should think you would recreate every day in
pleasant weather."

"That was my habit formerly; but the last time I ventured out alone, I met
with an unexpected streak of ill luck, which has deterred me ever since
from laying myself liable to a repetition of the same bad fortune."

"Indeed! You have not informed me of this before."

"For the simple reason that more agreeable thoughts and memories have
occupied my mind; and, after all, it is hardly worth relating, though it
made me feel very unpleasant for a time."

"I must know of this adventure."

"It was only the unlooked-for appearance of my old and sworn enemy, Durant,
who made another attempt to deceive me; but failing in his designs, finally
renewed his threats of revenge."

She then, at her lover's request, narrated the incidents of her interview
with Durant, as already known to the reader.

"Strange that the villain should form such an unaccountable dislike for
you, when you never injured him in the least."

"I think his bad nature was excited, and his ill-will increased, by a few
words of merited rebuke I was forced, by his unmanliness, to pronounce
against him, the last time he was at our house in Virginia."

"And you have heard nothing from him since the day he obtruded himself upon
your notice here in the woods?"

"Nothing direct or definite, though I think he made an attempt to capture
me, with the aid of some Indians, soon afterward, but failed in his object
from some cause. But notwithstanding I have heard no direct tidings from
him, I feel a constant dread of evil, as though some impending calamity was
hanging over me."

"Such fears had better be banished at once from your mind."

"I know it, and have tried to get rid of them, but they will, despite my
efforts to the contrary, come into my mind. I do not and will not yield to
them, though I find it impossible at all times to shake them off."

"Singular, truly; I pray God, they presage no harm."

"Oh, I so much wish you could always be near me; I dread nothing in your
presence."

"I hope the time is not far distant when this dearest wish of both our
hearts will be realized."

The conversation took a tender cast at this point; and as matters of the
heart are secrets between lovers, which they dislike for third parties to
look into, we will take ourselves away, and leave them to enjoy their hour
of happiness in undisturbed quiet.

Several days brought a return of much the same routine of events, the
lovers always spending an hour of each afternoon in the woods. Durant kept
to his tree, and the others invariably occupied the same seat near his
hiding-place. At the end of a week, Durant learned from the conversation of
the young couple that the gentleman was to return to Virginia in a day or
two, to make preparations for the coming wedding, which was to take place
about the holidays, he being now on a visit to arrange the preliminaries,
and enjoy for a brief time the society of his betrothed. When they had
returned home, Durant muttered to himself:

"Now is my time! To-morrow is their last day for walking, and, like loving
fools as they are, they will be so absorbed in each others' feelings, and
the silly sentimentality of love, as to be easily surprised. Yes, to-morrow
will be my time!"

And gloating over the anticipated triumph, he left his burrow, and hastened
to his companions, to make known his intentions, and prepare everything for
the event of the morrow. He and one Indian were to seize and secure Ellen,
while Ramsey and the other should perform the more difficult task of
capturing her lover. All the details of their arrangements were discussed
and adopted; and Durant, now that he felt certain of his victims--for his
hate of Ellen's lover was bitter, though of recent date--was almost beside
himself with malignant and hellish joy. He saw before him the speedy
accomplishment of his fiendish purpose--the gratification of his inveterate
hate and long sought revenge, by the commission of the most damnable act
known this side of the "bottomless pit" of darkness; and his sin-polluted
heart actually swelled with venomous delight, and demoniac exultation. One
of the fairest flowers of earth is to be plucked by his rude hand, and
soiled by his touch and embrace! Will he succeed in his satanic designs?



CHAPTER VII.

THE LOVERS


Ellen Walton, ere she left the home of her childhood for the scenes of
border life, was the affianced bride of Walter Hamilton, a young man of
most promising talent, irreproachable character, and fine looking withal;
and, in a word, was worthy of the high favor he found in the eyes and the
heart of his beloved. As gathered from the narrations of the last chapter,
he was now on a visit to the wilderness home of his betrothed, to arrange
for the nuptials, which were to be solemnized on Christmas Eve, the winter
season being deemed most safe from the predatory excursions of the Indians.
All these particulars their bitter adversary was familiar with; and he so
exulted over the sad termination of their plans, he could scarcely command
his feelings, or act with becoming sanity.

Without further ado, we will introduce the lovers at their last interview
in the forest, previous to Hamilton's return home. The same spot finds them
seated again, as though fate led them surely on into the jaws of
destruction, and opened the way of triumph for the plotting villain.

"And this is the last time we shall enjoy together the sweet solitude of
this sylvan temple of love?" said Hamilton, after they had been conversing
for some time on the hopes before them.

"Oh, I pray it may not be the _last_ time! What fatal words!" replied the
fair Ellen, as a momentary pallor overspread her beautiful face.

"You know, love I only meant for this visit. Of course, I hope to enjoy the
same felicity many times when we shall mutually sustain to each other those
dearest of all relations; after that our hopes shall have been fully
consummated."

"I know you did not intend to say the last time for life; but the word
_last_ struck with a chill to my heart, and called up old dreads, which,
unbidden, sent a thrill of fear through my spirit. I could not avoid the
thought that this _might be_, indeed, our last meeting. Would to heaven the
unwelcome thought were banished from my mind, never again to return."

"Well, love, just banish it. You are certainly in no personal danger; and
there is hardly a possibility, let alone a probability, protected as I
shall be, of my encountering serious danger on my way home."

"I know all you say; I can see no cause of fear; no reason to apprehend
danger; yet I _do_ feel alarmed; but it is a vague, undefined sensation,
which I hope reason will soon banish from my mind. I am not now, and never
have been, a believer in presentiments, and I do not intend to become a
convert to the notion to-day."

"I am glad to hear you speak in that manner. There are but few things in
the compass of possibility that may not be achieved, if we bring a resolute
will to bear upon them. The belief in presentiments, signs of good and bad
luck, and the like, is calculated, in no small degree, to 'make slaves of
us all,' and to detract very much from the happiness we might otherwise
enjoy. I have known persons who were perfect slaves to such things, having
their evil omens and good omens, their bad days and good days, their moon
signs, their owl signs, their cat and dog signs, and I know not what all
other kinds of signs, all of which were regarded with the reverence due
only to sacred things. I must confess I have often been disgusted at the
tomfoolery of some of these 'signs' people."

"Really, I hope you do not intend to be _personal_ in your remarks?"

"My usual reply to such inquiries is, 'if the shoe fits, wear it;' but you
know, love, I had no intention of alluding to you in what I said; at least,
if you did not know it, I tell you so now."

"Very well; your amusing strictures on the 'signs' have had the effect to
dispel, in a good degree, my forebodings of evil, whatever may have given
rise to them. I presume, if the sign is really reliable, I may now conclude
that the danger, if any was near me, has passed away."

"One would naturally suppose that the more imminent the danger, the
heavier would be the pressure on the spirits."

"And who knows but some unseen calamity _was_ near us--a serpent, for
instance, whose deadly fangs might have proved fatal, or some other unknown
or invisible foe, with power to work us evil?"

"Without entering the field of speculation, we will just suppose your
snakeship has departed, and, as your spirits have recovered their wonted
elasticity, let us talk of more pleasing and interesting matters."

"With all my heart."

And _had_ the serpent, Durant, really withdrawn himself? Had some long
buried cord of human sympathy at last been touched in his heart, and the
slumbering emotions of a better nature awakened? Let us hope so if we can.

The lovers continued to converse of their hopes for the future, and regrets
for the immediate separation; and their attention became so fixed in each
other, that it would have required some extraordinary occurrence or sound
to arouse them. In reply to a remark of his companion, Hamilton said:

"Yes, but four months, and our probation will be ended. Would that they
would speed away as rapidly as the past week. Four months, and then shall
our happiness be--"

The sentence was never finished. At that precise moment rude hands grasped
each lover. A smothered cry arose to Ellen's lips, but was hushed by a
covering which was placed and fastened over her mouth. They were both
secured with thongs, and led away into captivity. As Ellen was being
secured, the miscreant captor hissed in her ear:

"Be of good cheer, you are in the hands of Durant, the 'DOG!' who
distinctly remembers your former kindness and amiability!"



CHAPTER VIII.

THE CAPTIVES.


With all the speed possible, Durant hurried off toward the Ohio, determined
as soon as it could be done, to place that river between himself and
captives and any pursuers that might follow them, when it became known that
the lovers were missing.

It was a matter of wonder with Ellen's family what could keep her and
Hamilton out so late in the evening; and when darkness set in, and they
were still absent, the wonder changed to alarm. Search was instantly made;
they were traced to their resting-place; the evident marks of a scuffle
were visible; and the unanimous opinion of all was that they were in the
hands of Indians. Preparations for pursuit were immediately instituted, and
by daylight next morning, a strong band of armed pioneers, well mounted,
were on the trail of the fugitives, determined to retake the captives, if
such a feat were in the bounds of possibility.

Durant had everything so arranged, that his party need not be subjected to
a moment's delay. Every member of his band, including the prisoners,
expected a vigorous pursuit, and the lovers were not without hope that it
would prove successful. In this hope, they, as far as circumstances and
ability permitted, endeavored to retard the progress of the captors by slow
movements; and Durant was finally constrained to threaten them, if they did
not step with greater alacrity; for he feared they might be overtaken.

At length the hilly banks of the Ohio were reached; the clear waters of
that noble stream lay before them; and between the prisoners and despair,
and no friends in sight to bid them hope! Durant now concluded all was
safe; and the malice of his heart, which the pressure of circumstances had
kept smothered, began again to display itself. Pointing to the verdure-clad
and tree-crowned hills on the other side of the river, he said:

"Once there, amid the lovely groves of Ohio, and you are beyond the last
hope of recovery from my power, my beautiful girl! Then and there I shall
have the exquisite pleasure of informing you more particularly concerning
my plans for the future. For the present, receive my assurances, that
nothing else could give me such unbounded satisfaction as the felicity
unspeakable of having won my old and dear love from all competitors for her
hand and person, and the certain assurance, that, for the time to come, she
is all my own, without fear of rivalship!"

The bitter irony attempted in this malignantly polite address went to the
heart of the fair girl; but she resolutely set herself against any display
of fear, or the least manifestation of alarm, well knowing that the marks
of such emotions would but increase the revengeful feeling of delight
evinced by her adversary.

Just as Durant concluded his speech, the tramp of horses' feet was heard in
the distance, and the cry raised by the Indians:

"White man come! white man come!"

All hands sprung to unmoor the canoes, which were in readiness, concealed
among the drooping branches of some trees which overhung the margin of the
stream. While thus engaged, Hamilton, who was watching his opportunity,
knocked down the Indian who guarded him, sent Durant whirling round like a
top to the distance of ten or twelve feet, seized Ellen in his arms, and
with strength almost superhuman, and a speed miraculous under the
circumstances, bounded away in the direction of the approaching horsemen,
who were now visible through the interstices of the forest, a good way off,
but coming rapidly on to the rescue, though, as yet, in ignorance of their
near proximity to friends and foes.

"Seize them! seize them!--shoot the infernal dog!" roared Durant, in a
hoarse voice of passion and rage, so soon as he recovered from the
astonishment and fright into which the unceremonious assault of Hamilton
had thrown him.

[Illustration: "Hamilton knocked down the Indian who guarded him, sent
Durant whirling round like a top to the distance of ten or twelve
feet."--See page 54.]

His first command was not obeyed, for Hamilton and Ellen were already
beyond reach when the order was given; but the second one led to the
discharge of two guns without effect, and the leveling of a third by
Ramsey, with a coolness and steadiness of nerve and aim which gave
assurance of success. His finger was on the trigger, when Durant himself
threw up the muzzle of the rifle, and sent the ball whizzing through the
air, some ten feet above the heads of the fugitives.

"My revenge must be fuller than that, or not at all," he said. "The ball
would have killed both, and I would not have had that for the world."

He had hardly uttered these words, when the sharp crack of the remaining
Indian's rifle, who had recovered from the blow given him by Hamilton, and
was glad of the opportunity of so speedily avenging it, rung in his ear
with piercing shrillness, and looking in the direction of the flying
couple, Durant saw Hamilton stagger with his burden, and then both fell to
the earth. Instantly the demon was roused within him; every emotion of fear
was swallowed up in his usually cowardly heart by the burning thirst for
revenge which rankled in his bosom; and crying "_Come_!" he rushed to the
spot where the lovers lay, followed by his comrade. Both were wounded, but
neither was dead. Lifting the bleeding Ellen in his arms, he bore her back,
while Ramsey and an Indian did the same by Hamilton. Springing into their
canoes, and bending to the oars with all the strength they could muster,
they were soon far out into the stream, and had just reached a point of
safety, when the pursuing party of whites came up to the water's brink.
Several shots were fired at the canoes without effect, and then the men
tried to force their horses into the river; but by yelling and splashing
the water with their oars by the enemy, the beasts were effectually
frightened, so that no efforts of their riders could induce them to attempt
the unwilling task of swimming across.

Durant could perceive the agony of the father and brother of Ellen, as they
wrung their hands in despair, still vainly striving to urge forward their
stubborn steeds. Feeling perfectly secure, now that the pursuers were
effectually baffled in their designs, he gave orders to cease the
frightening demonstrations, and continue their course. In a few minutes the
Ohio shore was gained, and they soon buried themselves in the deep woods
beyond and were lost to the sight of those on the opposite bank, who
reluctantly turned their faces homeward, and, in deep and mournful silence,
retraced their steps, revolving in their minds what next could be done.

Hamilton and Ellen were both severely wounded, the ball having passed
through the right side of each, but no vital part seemed to have suffered,
and the wounds were not deemed mortal of themselves, but might prove fatal
if not properly attended to. Durant's first care was to have them dressed
and bound up; and he used every means within his reach to expedite their
recovery. He had them taken to a place of safety, a kind of cove, known to
himself and Ramsey, which was in an obscure and unfrequented spot, where
they were carefully nursed until in a fair way for speedy recovery.

Until now, Durant had been careful to say and do nothing that might tend to
excite the minds of his captives, fearing that inflamation might ensue, and
rob him of his anticipated triumph and revenge. But so soon as their
convalescence was distinctly manifest, the crisis and the danger past, he
began to torment his victims; the one of his wounded vanity, his
disappointed avarice, and his venomous hate; the other of his envy and
jealous malice. In consummating his revenge upon Ellen, he would not only
gratify his malicious and vengeful nature, but minister, also, to the
basest passions of a corrupt human heart. Seating himself in her presence
one day, he said:

"I now understand why it was that I found no more favor in your sight while
so foolishly attempting to win your love. Your heart was already occupied,
a circumstance you took good care to conceal. Thank my stars, my rival is
now in my hands! And do you know, my dear, that he is a doomed man? If not,
permit me to inform you of the fact."

"Sir, what has he ever done to you that you should wish to harm him?"

"Done! Has he not robbed me of your love, your hand, and made my life a
hopeless desert and a weary waste?"

"No, sir, he has not. My heart was his before I saw you, and _you_, sir,
attempted the part of a robber, not Mr. Hamilton. Now judge yourself by
your own rule and what fate should be yours?"

"Ah, very fine logic, truly; but, unfortunately, you have not the power to
back it up. I presume you have never beheld the sacrifice of a victim on a
funeral pile, nor more than read of prisoners burned at the stake; how
would such a spectacle affect you, think?"

This was said with a peculiar expression, and was evidently intended to
make a strong impression; but whatever its real effect upon the mind of his
auditor, no visible tokens of dread or pain were manifested, and Ellen
replied:

"I do not know, so much would depend on circumstances; but that I would
abhor the actors in the scene of barbarous cruelty, I can well imagine."

This was not the kind of a reply expected, and Durant changed his discourse
from an insinuating tone to a direct manner.

"I perceive it will be necessary for me to render my meaning more explicit,
and I now change the form of my query, and beg to know how you would
probably feel, were you compelled to witness the burning of your lover at
the stake?"

A momentary paleness blanched the cheek of the fair girl, as this heartless
interrogation was fully comprehended, but recovering herself quickly from
the rude shock, she replied:

"I doubt not the sight would be a harrowing one, but I do not anticipate
such an unlikely event."

"Pardon me, but I may as well tell you at first, that this fate is in store
for you."

"Why do you persist in this attempt at refinement of cruelty? Bad as you
are, I give you credit for too much humanity to believe your words are more
than an idle threat, which you have no intention of putting into
execution."

"Then you have given me credit for more humanity than is justly my due; for
I never was more earnest in my life, and it is my fixed determination to do
exactly what I have intimated."

Ellen, who had all the time been really alarmed, now gave way, in her
reduced strength of body, to the feelings which, until now, she had kept in
subjection; and, changing her tone, commenced pleading with the miscreant:

"Mr. Hamilton has never harmed you, and can, therefore, only be hated by
you through me; do not, then, make him the object of your wrath, but let it
fall on me. I will readily burn at the stake to save him."

This last remark, as it showed the depths and tenderness of her love for
his rival, only excited him the more, and he repeated his intention of
burning Hamilton at the stake in her presence, with many additions,
purposely introduced to make a more horrifying impression. In vain she
pleaded for her lover, and offered herself as the sacrifice; the only
effect of her prayers was to render him more savage and determined in his
intentions and avowals. The excitement of the interview, however, in her
case, superinduced a state of fever, which bid fair, for a few days, to
render her recovery very doubtful. This result was not expected by Durant,
and he in turn became alarmed, lest his dearly bought vengeance should yet
slip from him. Every exertion was put forth for her restoration, and
finally success crowned the well directed but ill intentioned efforts of
the villain. Ellen's fever abated, and she again began to mend. It would be
some time, however, ere the monster would dare renew his threats, and in
the interim, he set his wits to work with a little different object in
view. A new thought had entered his mind, the ultimate end of which he
would endeavor to carry out.

He had never fallen in love with savage life, because it was one of too
much peril to suit his natural disposition to cowardice, and he would
gladly return to civilized life, if he could do so safely--his Indian home
and habits having only been adopted as a means, and the only means, of
ministering to his revengeful desires. His idea looked to the
accomplishment of this object, and he was fain to believe he saw a way to
succeed. As Ellen was to act a part in his newly formed plan, his manner
toward her changed. He was polite and respectful in his words and
attentions. He was, also, very kind and considerate toward Hamilton. They
were both surprised at this unexpected change in the demeanor of their
captor, but were unable to account for it. All was explained in time. One
day, after Ellen was much restored, he ventured on the following
communication:

"I have," he said to her, "had very serious thoughts of late. A singular
dream, which made a powerful impression on my mind, opened up to my mental
vision the sinfulness of my past life, and convinced me of the necessity of
repentance and reformation. I would gladly amend my ways, and lead a new
and better life, but my way is hedged up before me. I am an outcast of
society, made so by my own acts, the dark enormity of which I now behold
with astonishment, and, unless some great influence is brought to bear in
my favor, I dare not return to a Christian community, and if I remain here
among the heathens, I may give up all hope at once, as it will be
impossible for me, as one of the savages, to become a moral and Christian
man. It is in your power, fair lady, to give me the requisite guarantee of
safety. May I hope that you will extend to me the hand of salvation?"

Ellen hardly knew whether to believe in the man's sincerity or not; but
hoping for the best, she replied:

"If in your good intentions I can aid you in any way, I shall be most happy
to do so."

"Thank you; I expected as much from your generous heart, though I have
merited nothing but hatred from you by my acts. I will consult Mr. Hamilton
on the subject, before pointing out more definitely the mode in which you
can serve and save me."

Leaving her presence, he placed himself before Hamilton, whom he addressed
after this manner:

"I am aware, my good sir, that you are on somewhat intimate terms with Miss
Walton, the lady in another apartment of this rather dismal abode, and, I
doubt not, have much influence over her. If so, I very much desire the
benefit of that influence, to aid me in the best and noblest undertaking of
my life."

He then explained his intentions and desires of reformation, and the
impediments in the way, much in the same manner as he had done to Ellen;
after which he continued:

"Now, to relieve me from my embarrassing situation, I deem it needful to
form a connection with some influential person or family, whose
recommendation and protection will secure me from harm, and restore me to
the bosom of that society from whose enjoyments and privileges I severed
myself by a rash act, committed in an hour of passion, and followed up by
a strange course of infatuation ever since. I know of none upon whose names
and aid I would sooner cast myself than upon you and Miss Walton, as your
families are of the first respectability, and could throw an effectual
shield around me. I would, therefore, that you let me bear to the young
lady the assurances that you approve my plans and purposes, (if you really
do so,) and that you are willing to aid me yourself, and hope she will
also, in carrying them out."

Hamilton was still confined by his wound, which had been a much more
serious one than that inflicted upon Ellen; and in his then state of
prostration, was not as well prepared to scorn the motives of Durant, or
penetrate his designs, as he might have been under more favorable auspices;
and having no reason to doubt the sincerity of the seemingly repentant man,
he entered into his plans at once, with all the warmth of a benevolent and
Christian heart. He said:

"I can hardly believe it necessary that I should say a word to Miss Walton,
to induce her to put forth her best endeavors to serve you in so worthy a
work; but, if need be, bear to her the assurance of my hearty approval of
your designs and wishes, and that I shall do all in my power to aid you in
the laudable efforts you are making to return to a Christian country, and a
virtuous life."

"As I have, very unfortunately, laid myself liable to her distrust, will
you have the goodness to place your approval on this slip of paper?"

Saying which, he handed him the paper and a pencil. He wrote as follows:

    "MISS WALTON:--The bearer, Mr. Durant, has laid before me his
    intentions and wishes, and the difficulties in the way of his
    reformation. I most heartily approve his plans, as they seem to be
    the most judicious that now occur to me, and hope you will assist
    him to the utmost of your ability in his very worthy object.

    "HAMILTON."

As Durant run his eye over the lines, a peculiar expression of satisfaction
crossed his features, and with the warmest thanks on his lips, he
departed, and lost no time in again presenting himself before Ellen, whom
he thus addressed:

"I have just laid my case before Mr. Hamilton, whose opinion on the subject
you will find here expressed in his own hand-writing."

And he gave her the slip. She read the lines traced upon it, when he
proceeded:

"If I only dared to hope you would as readily approve and as heartily enter
into my plans, all disquiet in my heart would at once be set at rest."

"I am quite sure I shall object to nothing Mr. Hamilton approves; and in
all good endeavors, I shall be most happy to render you all the assistance
I can command or bestow."

"Then I need entertain no further apprehensions, and will at once make
known to you the details which seem to me necessary to be carried out.
There are very few persons in the settlements who have any knowledge of my
connection with the Indians, and my first request is that you never, under
any circumstances, allude to this connection, or let it be known that I
have been here. Have I your promise?"

"Most certainly."

"I desire, in the second place, that you will say as much good of me as you
can, (and that, I am sorry to say, will be but little,) to those who may
ask you for information concerning me; but if you have _nothing_ good to
say, then that you will say no evil, and especially if my Indian life is
alluded to. May I hope for your favor in this respect?"

"I will do my best to exonerate you in all cases where your reputation is
at stake, and to aid you in reaching a place of honor in society."

"Thank you. I have but one additional solicitation to make, and if to this
you can give your assent, I shall be truly happy, delighted, and
confident."

All this time he had been driving at one point, which he had now reached,
but was slow to present. A momentary pause ensued; Ellen was in doubt as to
the nature of the requirement, and he of the propriety of making it. But he
had set his all upon the desperate stake for which he was playing, and it
would not now do to leave the game. He at length went on:

"I shall not feel myself safe in society unless I can form an alliance with
some family of note and respectability. I am not as extensively acquainted
as some others--in a word, I know of no young lady but yourself to whom I
can offer my hand, and having loved you so long and ardently, I can do
nothing less than make this as my final request, _that you consent to
become my wife_. I make this request the only condition of release, and
upon your acceptance of my hand depends my present and future hope, my
salvation in time and eternity. My fate is in your hands, and you can raise
me to heaven, or cast me down to hell. Will you save me?"

It would be quite impossible to depict the consternation this announcement
created in the mind of Ellen. In spite of her better judgment, and the
precedents in the villain's former life, she had suffered herself to be
beguiled by his seeming sincerity of manner into the hope that he was
really desirous of reforming; and even now she could hardly believe her own
ears, so consummate was his hypocrisy; but as the whole truth shone out to
her comprehension, she saw through his scheme at once--that all his seeming
repentance was a pretense as hollow as his own heart. The hope that had
begun to swell in her heart was blotted out in a moment. She replied
without hesitation:

"I cannot accede to your last proposition."

"Why not?"

"It is impossible."

"Then you willingly consign me to wretchedness in this life, and to
perdition hereafter."

"I do no such thing. _You_ are not responsible for _my_ acts; and your
repentance can be just as sincere without a wife as with one."

"You are mistaken. If I am doomed to remain among the Indians, I shall
never be able to reform, however earnestly I may desire to do so; and if I
go to the settlements, I shall be slain as a foe, unless protected by
family ties and influence; these I can secure in no other way than by
becoming your husband."

"I am of an entirely different opinion; and I think your whole scheme a
very thin and flimsy contrivance, of which you ought to be ashamed."

"But there are two against you. Mr. Hamilton, as you have already seen,
perfectly coincides with me in his views, and--"

"I beg leave to correct you. Mr. Hamilton never consented to your last
proposition, for the very good reason that it was never mentioned to him;
in this respect you have tried to deceive me; but to put the matter to
rest, at once and forever, let me say, as mistress of my own decisions,
that whether _he_ should consent to your proposition or not, _I never
will_!"

"Then, as you voluntarily cast me off, and consign me to infamy and
hopeless wretchedness, be the consequences upon your own head. I came to
you and implored assistance in my extremity, but you turned away, and left
me in despair. Do not, therefore, accuse me of cruelty if I demand by force
that which you have denied as a free gift. You know that I have the power
of life and death over yourself and Hamilton, and I now ask you, as a last
resort, to choose between assenting to become my wife and seeing your lover
at the stake! You may well start and turn pale; for as sure as there is a
sky above and the earth beneath us, I swear that one or the other fate
shall be yours. Make your own election, and, in doing so, bear in mind that
Hamilton's death will be gratuitous, if caused, for you shall then be worse
than my wife. As a lawful companion, I will use my best endeavors to make
you happy; as a companion in what the world calls _guilt_, I will bind
myself by no such promise. Think of all these things, and then decide."

"Louis Durant, the very proposition you make, accompanied as it is by the
alternative, is one of such black enormity, that if nothing else were added
to debase you in my estimation, I would spurn your offer as I would the
proffered hand of Satan himself or of the vilest imp in the loathsome pit
of night where he reigns! You have your answer. As well try to pluck the
sun from his place in the heavens or wrench the sparkling stars from the
firmament as to alter my resolve."

"Perhaps you will think differently when the trying hour comes, perhaps
repent when it is too late."

"Never, sir villain! Do you suppose I cannot penetrate the thin gauze that
is intended to hide your motives? Your highest aspiration is after the
_Wealth_ you imagine me to possess; if I were poor, you would not even
offer me your hand, let alone make such efforts to obtain it. I see through
all your devices, base miscreant, including your sham repentance, which
deserves the descent of God's just indignation upon your guilty head, and
polluted soul!"

"Your perceptions are exceedingly acute, I must confess; but I leave you
for the present, to reflect on the subject, so vital to us all, and hope
that reason may yet prevail."

Much after the same manner he continued to persecute her, day after day,
and with no better success. In the meantime Hamilton had so far recovered
as to be able to walk about. To him Durant appealed; but his offer of
freedom, on condition of using his influence to induce Ellen to consent to
become his captor's wife, was rejected with the contempt and scorn it
merited, and a brave man could give it.

This was the last peg upon which the villain hung a hope of working out his
purpose, and he now resolved to fall back on his first intention, and
execute his long threatened vengeance. The stake was prepared after the
most approved Indian model, and the fagots piled high around it. The two
victims were then led out to see what awaited them; and this excess of
cruelty, this torture in advance, was forced upon the lovers with a view to
shake their resolution.

Again they were separately and jointly appealed to; but with the same
result as before; they were pale with hopeless despair, but firm and
unwavering in purpose.

"I would die a thousand deaths of torture, my beloved Ellen, rather than
persuade you to sacrifice yourself to save me," was Hamilton's language to
his companion in distress. "Life without you would be a burden; and I can
now die with a pleasing hope of reunion beyond the grave."

Durant would not permit a continuation of such interchange of thoughts,
and they were separated.

On the following day Hamilton was fastened to the stake, and an Indian
stood ready with a torch to fire the combustibles so soon as the word of
command was given.

"Behold the fate of him you pretend to love!" said Durant to Ellen, whom he
had dragged to the spot. "His destiny is yet in the balances; say but the
word, and he shall go free!"

Pale as death itself, and scarcely able to stand, Ellen replied:

"The will of God be done! I am prepared for the worst!"

"The worst?" and he hissed in her ear some words of infamy.

"Oh, God! not that! not that!" and she reeled as if struck with a blow.

"Then, in the name of reason, save yourself, save both! It is easily done."

The villain's words calmed her in a moment, and she responded:

"Either fate is more than I can bear; but I will not perjure my soul to
save myself from any fate it pleases God to send upon me."

"And you will not be an honorable bride, then?"

"Yours,--_never_!"

"Fire the fagots!" he commanded in a voice of rage, and the order was
instantly obeyed by the Indian who stood impatiently awaiting the word.



CHAPTER IX.

THE BURNING STAKE


The material around the stake was the most highly inflammable that could be
collected, and a mighty blaze soon spread along the pile, with its fiery
spires leaping high in air, and its forked tongues hissing like serpents!
Snapping, crackling, roaring! the devouring flames rushed to their work of
death!

The stake was in the center of the heap, the wood being piled around it at
a distance of some feet, leaving an open space on all sides, in which the
prisoner could walk, being fastened with a cord, some ten feet in length,
one end of which was lashed to the stake, a large post, driven firmly into
the ground. This vacant space was purposely left, that the sufferings of
the doomed might be prolonged, a species of cruelty common in Indian
tortures. As it would be some time before the flames would touch Hamilton,
though his sufferings from heat would be excruciating in a little while,
murdering him by slow inches, Durant hoped that the sufferings and
reflections of this interval would bring repentance at the eleventh hour,
and cause his victim to plead for mercy on his own terms.

The fiery circle kept drawing nearer and nearer, narrowing the space
between life and death at every moment; yet no groan escaped the lips of
Hamilton; and he evinced the steady and unflinching heroism of a martyr. At
a sign from Durant, the Indians prepared themselves with long splinters,
which were to be fired at one end, and then driven into the flesh of the
sufferer; the guns were loaded with powder, to be fired against the naked
person of the prisoner when the signal should be given. Hamilton saw all
these preparations, but they shook not his firm resolve for a moment. His
proud soul rose above all the horrors of the scene, and remained calm in
the dignity of its earthly despair and eternal hopes. He knelt down by the
stake and engaged in prayer:

"Oh, Father! give me strength to endure this trial by fire! Forsake me not
in this hour of extremity, but send Thy ministering angels to strengthen
and sustain my spirit, that it faint not with the consuming flesh! And, oh,
God! protect Thy persecuted daughter, and save, oh, save her from the grasp
of the destroyer! Let not the wicked triumph! my God, let not the wicked
triumph! but shield, oh, shield the innocent! Thou art He who canst do
wonders; make known Thy power in the rescue and salvation of the afflicted
child of misfortune from the hands of the spoiler! Not for myself, but for
her, I implore Thee for deliverance! Oh, hear my prayer in her behalf, and
send help in the hour of need!"

Durant listened to this prayer in spite of himself; there was a something
about it which held him spell-bound, fascinated; and he forgot, for the
moment, that his followers were awaiting his orders--everything, in fact,
but the one scene before him, the man on his knees at the stake. And there
was another of those present no less deeply interested, though in a
different way--Ellen, who was in agony at the sight before her. A thought
entered her mind--a wild thought, which only despair could arouse. She saw
the fixed attention of her persecutor, and at the close of Hamilton's
fervent prayer, she sprung from the midst of her enemies, and ere they
comprehended her design, or had time to lift a hand to stay her progress,
rushed through the flames, and fell on her knees by the side of her lover.
In a moment they were in each others' arms, shedding tears on each others'
bosoms.

The spectators of this strange exhibition were struck dumb with wonder, as
they beheld this act of devoted heroism, and looked on in astonishment,
then exchanged glances of bewilderment and consternation. A solemn pause
ensued, as though all were paralyzed by such a deed of self-devotion to
death.

"Tear away the fire! scatter the burning embers!" at length fell from the
lips of Durant, as he aroused himself from the spell that was on him.
"Quick! for your lives! for if they are not rescued, you shall all die!"

His command was obeyed with alacrity, and every one present worked as
though life really depended upon his exertions.

Unobserved by any of the actors in this strange and exciting drama, a dark
cloud had gathered and spread over the face of heaven, black as the
heralding banner of an approaching hurricane, from whose bosom the lurid
lightning leaped forth, and the deep-toned thunder resounded. Presently the
large drops of rain fell peltering on the leaves; then the first heavy dash
of the fitful storm came down, and presently extinguished the fire, which,
by this time, was pretty well scattered over the ground. Walter and Ellen,
still locked in a close embrace, were rescued from the jaws of the
devouring element, and restored to a state of life more painful to
contemplate than the prospect of ending existence in each others' arms,
even at the stake.

But He who had interposed to save them, was now speaking through the storm
in a voice which made the guilty Durant tremble with conscious-smitten
fear. Flash followed flash in quick succession, and the jarring thunder,
loud and terrible, broke, peal after peal, on the ear! Then the howling
wind, like ten thousand furies, came crashing and roaring through the
forest, bearing whole trees on its driving wings, while others bent low
before the blasting swoop of its leveling might!

Cowering like a condemned criminal, the dark-deeded villain crept toward a
shelter, dragging with him his captives. Suddenly a dazzling flood of
light, blinding and bewildering, enveloped the whole party, and, at the
same instant, an earth-shaking, sky-rending burst of sound stunned them all
to prostration. It was some seconds before any one recovered. Then Hamilton
arose and lifted Ellen also. On looking around, they perceived a large oak
had been riven by the descending bolt at a short distance from them. A
splinter from the tree had struck Durant on the breast and temple, and he
lay bleeding and senseless upon the earth, but whether dead or alive, none
could tell, as they had no time to certainly determine the point at such a
moment. Hastily gathering him up, Ramsey and two of the Indians carried him
to the cave, where they were all glad to congregate themselves during the
continuance of the frightful tornado.

Once sheltered, Walter and Ellen gazed out upon the raging tempest in
bewildered amazement, not unmixed with awe. Never had they beheld the
elements so fearfully agitated as now! Blacker than midnight were the
pall-like clouds that "hung the heavens." Loud as thunder was the roaring
of the wind. Incessantly the vivid lightnings blazed forth in blinding
flashes; while above all the mingled commotion of the storm strife, the
bursting thunders boomed. Like feathers in the breeze, great limbs of trees
were wrenched from their places, and whirled, and twirled, and borne away.
The tough oaks were twisted from their stems, or pulled up by the roots,
while the smaller trees were snapped off like brittle reeds.

"Terribly grand!" said Hamilton to his companion.

"A fearful display of God's power!" responded Ellen.

"A mere breath of his omnipotence--nothing more!"

For half an hour the tempest raged in violence, then its fury was spent,
and soon after the clouds rolled away. During its continuance, the wild
passions of the savages were awed into quiet, and their hearts filled with
other thoughts and emotions than those of vengeance and cruelty. They were
silent as the grave, and harmless as silent.

The party now found time to look about them. Durant had manifested signs of
life, but was evidently badly hurt. Presently he opened his eyes, and
stared about, but his glances were those of bewildered delirium. A high
fever was burning in his veins; its fires penetrated to the head, and,
reveling amid the brain, unhinged reason, and let loose the fierce passions
so long time grown strong and o'ermastering.

Who shall paint the darkness of a corrupt heart, when for years the basest
feelings human nature is capable of experiencing have been nourished until
more than mature? It was more dreadful to listen to the ravings of Durant
than to witness the fearful war of the elements. The tempest just over, was
nothing to the one that was struggling and out-breaking in his bosom. We
shall not attempt to record all the dark revelations he made of his own
evil thoughts and deeds, as we would spare the reader's feelings from the
shock so revolting a record would produce. In his delirium he raved of the
past, and unbosomed his intentions for the future. First he seemed to be
enacting over the tragic scenes of the day.

"Tear away the fagots!" he cried. "I say, tear them away! Stupid
blockheads! do you not know that I must have my revenge on the girl?
Scatter the fagots! Gods! if she dies the heart's blood of every dog of you
shall be spilled! I--I must, I _will_ have her alive!"

During the utterance of those words his voice, gestures, and expression of
countenance were in keeping with the language itself, and truly horrible.
Suddenly a change came over his countenance; the dark lines of passion
retreated, and an expression of timidity or fear came in their place. He
muttered incoherently for a time, and then, as if communing with himself,
he spoke in a subdued voice of the last scene in his conscious life. A few
sentences were audible and connected, showing how his mind was affected by
the tempest:

"How I dread the storm! It tells me there is a God! that the thunder is his
voice, and the fierce wind but the motion of his breath! And the lightning!
oh, the lightning! how it looks into the heart and exposes all its secrets
to the eye of Deity! What a flash was that! Come! to the cave! to the
cave!"

With the concluding words his quiet ceased, and he struggled as if exerting
himself to do something very hastily. A moment more and a short, frightened
cry, escaped his lips, and he sunk back, as if dead. It was plain that he
was re-living and re-enacting the day, and its scenes; and in this
condition he remained for some time; then his insanity took a wilder and
wider range, recalling the past, and exposing the future of his life and
designs. He raved and cajoled, commanded and persuaded by times; was now
quiet, and, anon, in a fever of excitement, or rage. After one of his quiet
moods, he slowly aroused and addressed himself in this manner:

"That oath! it was a great mistake, this worst blunder I have made. In
spite of myself it will haunt me. And the curse! that awful curse! Gods!
will it never cease ringing in my ears! night and day, sleeping and waking
it never leaves me! I see her now! How weird-like her prophetic looks! How
like the sentence of doom are her words, as, with flashing eye and
quivering lip, she says: 'As you have wilfully, voluntarily, and wickedly
called it down upon your own head, may the curse of God rest upon you in
this world and the world to come.' Gods and demons! if their should be 'a
world to come!'--How her words burn into my heart! and, worst of all, they
are proving a reality! I am accused! my 'plans of villainy' do fail, and I
_am_ a 'vagabond upon the face of the earth!' But I'll not endure it
longer! I'll shake myself from these haunting fears! aye, and I'll prove
them false! I'll do it if all the curses of the universe rise up before me!
Avaunt, ye specters! I'll be a man despite your efforts to frighten me by
your grim presence!"

Again, in another strain, he broke forth with this development of his
inward thoughts.

"Heigh, ho! I am on the track now, and nothing can save her! Oh, but I'll
be sweetly revenged! I'll teach the proud minx to insult a Durant! Won't
she be humbled, though! ha! ha! ha! How she will struggle and beg for
mercy! But will I pity her? Yes, 'as the wolf the lamb!' Oh, if I but
possessed her now!"

And again:

"Proud as ever! Never mind, I'll bring her down! I'll wreathe that lofty
brow with shame! I'll strike her through her lover! To save _him_ at the
stake she'll yield! I'll revel in her charms, and then--then what? Ha! ha!
As a reward for her condescensions, _I'll burn him alive_! Ha! ha! Fool,
she'll be to think I'd let a _rival_ live, when _her_ heart was
_his_!" * * *

"How pale she is! the charm works! she'll bend to my will at last. * * Not
yet? Look at his agony, have you the heart to see him suffer so? Ah, how
dearly you must love him, to stand by and see him burn to ashes when a word
from your lips would rescue him from the flames!" * * * * * * * *

"Let me see, I'll not suffer him to die so soon; perhaps a little
reflection will induce him to persuade her to yield. At all events I'll try
the experiment. Ho! Ramsey, cut him loose; we'll adjourn the fun to another
day."

Having thus given a few snatches of the revelations made by the villain in
his delirium, enough to show what were his intentions toward his prisoners,
and the utter blackness of his heart, we will depict another phase of his
madness, in which he imagines the swift feet of retribution to be on his
track, while the future was uncurtained to his distempered gaze.

"Coming! coming! coming! and there is no escape! * * Away! ye grinning
devils! out of my sight, ye imps of h--l! Begone! ye ghostly demons,
forever pointing with your long fingers! what would you have me see?"

His eyes were wild with a horrible stare, as if fixed by the magic power of
some ghastly sight, while large drops of perspiration oozed from every
pore, and stood in cold beads upon his brow! In fixed horror he thus
remained for some moments, then fell back and covered his eyes with his
hands, as if to shut out the dreadful scene!

Then rousing again, he exclaimed in another key:

"No! no! no! not that! I'll not come to that! Alive, and food for crawling
worms! No! no! no! Then birds of prey feasting upon my flesh! Oh, God! the
curse! the curse!"

This last vision seemed to overpower him, and he lay moaning most piteously
for a length of time. Then the wilder phases of a distempered mind came on,
and he again resumed his frenzied tone, manner, and language.

"Begone! ye lying fiends, avaunt! I'll not believe your hissing tongues!
'Tis false! all false! Back, or I'll smite you to the earth! Back! back!"

And he fought the air furiously, for a brief period, then sunk back
exhausted on his pallet. A troubled half hour's sleep followed, from which
he awoke much debilitated. With his waning strength, the delirium took a
milder form. The vail of the future seemed still to be lifted, to give him
a glimpse of coming events, but the scene that appeared was not dreadful
like the ones which had preceded it.

"Happy at last, despite my oath, my vengeance unachieved! All my deep-laid
schemes of no avail! Oh, Eliza! thou art indeed revenged! Thy worst
predictions are realized."

The fever soon returned in violence, and once more his ravings were
dreadful.

"Ho, Ramsey! keep them safe, on your life, keep them safe! do you hear?
Your life, if they escape! I'll not be thwarted in my wishes; I'll move all
h--l but I'll be revenged! ay, I'll walk through fire, flood and storm to
gain my ends and work their ruin! They shall not escape my vengeance, I
swear it in the face of earth and heaven!"

But we will not dwell longer on this unpleasant picture of a wretched man
exposing his own dark soul to the eyes of others. All the night long he
continued to rave in this fever-crazed manner, Hamilton, and much of the
time Ellen, too, a witness of his madness. As morning drew near he fell
into a more tranquil slumber, and the violence of the fever seemed to have
passed. With the early dawn seizing a favorable moment, when all their
enemies were asleep, the lovers made their escape. Ramsey and the Indians
were so much occupied with Durant, they did not think of the prisoners as
they would have done under other circumstances, though they did not feel
desirous of seeing the deeds of the past day re-enacted. It was some time
before they noticed the escape, and then no pursuit was instituted until
after the morning meal was dispatched.

Hamilton and Ellen made the best of their way down the Ohio, and early in
the evening had the good fortune to fall upon the camp of a party of
whites, under the direction of Ellen's brother, who had busied himself day
and night to raise the force and go in quest of the captives, having
resolved never to cease his efforts until his sister was rescued, or her
fate learned and her death avenged.

The meeting was a happy one; and as the object of the expedition was
accomplished, the party returned home, when there was a time of general
rejoicing.



CONCLUSION.


We have little more to say. As the reader will conclude without reading the
fact, Walter and Ellen were married, according to their original
arrangements, and afterward lived in the enjoyment of that happiness which
love alone can procure, and which can be found only at the domestic
fireside where peace reigns; their descendants may still be found in
Kentucky and other western states.

Durant recovered from his hurt, and lived for some years to plot more
mischief, and fail in his designs. He at last quarreled with one of his
savage followers, and in a fit of anger, struck him a blow with his fist.
The indignity was never forgotten or forgiven. The Indian vowed to be
revenged, and he kept his oath; dogging the steps of his foe, he found an
opportunity to inflict a wound, which felled his adversary to the earth.
With proper attention he might have recovered, but his enemy left him
disabled and bound, to die by slow inches!

His wound, at first very painful, soon began to mortify, and he felt the
worms in his still living body! Vultures came to feast upon him, ere the
vital spark of existence had gone out within him, and he had not the
strength left to lift a hand, or speak a word in his own defense, though
their long beaks were stretched over him and planted in his flesh and eyes!
And when death at last came, and laid his icy fingers upon his heart, for
the final stilling of its disquiet and guilty throbbing, his failing senses
were suddenly and momentarily aroused, and the curdling blood sent again
with quickened impulse through his veins, as his dull ears were saluted
with the horrible sound of the howlings of wild beasts in the distance; and
the last things that his closing, almost sightless balls beheld were the
glaring eyes of the monsters of the forest, as they gloated over their
prey!

The sight was enough to finish the work of dissolution, already advanced
near to completion, and the sluggish blood rushed for the last time upon
his paralyzed heart with such chilling coldness and mastering power, that
it ceased to beat, and the wretch was dead!

Then a fight took place over his putrefying carcass, and the screech of
the vulture, mingled with the angry growl of the wolf, as they contended
for the remains of the man of crimes in their wild fury and ferocious
hunger!

A few hours longer, and the flesh was all torn from his frame, and only a
ghostly, grinning skeleton was left of the once proud and vicious Louis
Durant; and yet fresh beasts arriving upon the scene, disappointed in their
anticipated feast, howled a dismal requiem over his bones, which were left,
without sepulture, to bleach in the winds and storms of heaven!

Such was the terrible end of the _villain_, while the _victims_ of his hate
and malice, against whom he had plotted so often and so fiendishly, were
happy in the enjoyment of life's best blessings; and thus the story points
its own moral.

THE END





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