The circle stood firm; some were clubbing their cudgels, others lifting their blades, and here and there along the line rang out the click of a pistol.
“Come, Pete,” cried one of the ringleaders; “you’re treed, Pete! Don’t be a fool, but give yourself in.”
The negro gnashed his teeth, and his wild eyes glared like coals of fire.
“Do you give me faih-play?” he bellowed, extending the knife.
“Yes, Pete, yes,” answered the multitude.
“Then look heah,” answered the wretch, drawing his knife across his throat. He staggered into the air like an ox, cursing as he came. They parted to avoid him, and as he reached a fence, a few rods from the cabin, he leaned upon it, and swaying to and fro, raised his horrible eyes to the sky.
Paul recognized his ancient captor with a thrill and a silent prayer. Vengeance had come in His own good time, and Paul felt no bitterness toward the poor fellow, but prayed forgiveness for his slipping soul.
The second offender burrowed so remotely that the mob could not drag him from his covert. They struck at him with knives, and hired dogs to creep beneath the logs and rend him, but in vain. At length one of the ringleaders obtained a torch, and the cabin was fired in several places. The flames spouted into the night, bursting from the small windows, and the roof fell in with a crash, scattering ashes and red-hot coals. They could hear the shriek of the victim now, and he was seen dancing among the fire-brands, for the blaze encircled him like an impassable wall. He made a desperate rush at length to overleap the fire, and his figure, magnified by the red light, looked gigantic as he sprang high in the air. A dozen pistols clattered together—the man fell heavily forward, tossing up his scorched hands, and the frizzing, cracking timbers closed darkly above him to the thunder of his executioners’ huzzas.
Paul did not reveal himself. He left the village stealthily, and journeyed northward. Years afterwards a name was added to the tablet in the old church:
“Here lie also the
Remains of the
REV. PAUL BATES.
‘He went about doing good.’”
The Judge took down his fiddle,
And put his feet on the stove,
And heaved a sigh from his middle
That might have been fat, or love;
He leaned his head on the mantel,
And bent his ear to the strings,
And the tender chords awakened
The echoes of many things.
The Bar had enjoyed the measure,
The Bench and Senate had been
Amused at the simple pleasure
He drew from his violin;
But weary of power and duty,
He had laid them down with a sigh,
Exhausted of life the beauty,
And he fiddled he knew not why.