“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?”
“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.
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!