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Bennett, Emerson, 1822-1905 [1851], The league of the Miami. (Lorenzo Stratton, Cincinnati) [word count] [eaf470T].
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[figure description] Page 083.[end figure description]

On the night following the meeting of
the Anti-League Society, as recorded in
the last two chapters, some twenty or
more of the outlaws were assembled at
Oaken Grove. This was a level spot of
ground, some ten rods by twenty, on the
summit of a short, steep hill, at a distance
perhaps of ten miles north of the
Ohio river, and near the line which
divides the State of the same name from
that of Indiana. On this level tract grew
many large, noble oaks, at regular intervals
from each other, and hence the place
had come to receive the appellation of
Oaken Grove. On three sides the mount
was so steep as to be difficult of ascent;
the fourth side sloped off gradually to its
base; but the ridge of easy ascent, was,
in some places, not more than a rod wide;
and, on either side of this, the hill again
descended as steep as on the before-mentioned
three sides.

On the flat, as we have said, the outlaws
had assembled, to the number of
twenty or more; and by the dim light of
the stars, through the occasional openings
in the grove, a faint outline of their dusky
forms could be seen, as they stood grouped
together, or were carelessly lounging
about, apparently awaiting the arrival of
some expected person or persons. On
the outskirts of this level tract, where the
descent of the hill began, some three or
four of the party were stationed, at equal
distances, to act the part of sentinels, and
see that no one entered the grove without
giving the password; for the excitement
caused by their late daring acts among
the honest settlers, rendered this precaution
necessary to avoid a troublesome

It was about nine o'clock in the evening,
and most of the party present had
been on the ground over an hour, and
some of them were already beginning to
get impatient. The delay of another half
hour, without bringing the looked-for
personage, caused the impatient ones to
grumble aloud.

“Why don't he come?” said one.

“He's getting to neglect us of late, it
seems to me,” returned another.

“May be it will be best to make a new
choice soon,” rejoined a third.

“That we can't do till his time is out,”
put in a fourth; “and that won't be this

At this moment the voice of one of the
sentinels was heard saying:

“Who goes there?”

“Bonny Gray,” was the reply.

“Ha! he comes at last!” said one of
the party of grumblers—“and it is high
time he were here.”

A tall, dark figure was now seen advancing,
with a quick step, and presently
he stepped in the center of the grove,
and all the outlaws, not on duty, began to
gather round him.

“Jarvis!” he called, in a tone of

“Here, Captain,” was the quick response;
and the individual who answered,
drew closer to the other.

“How many are here assembled?”
inquired Gerolstein.

“Twenty-one, besides the four sentinels.”

“Have we had any purchasers?”

“Not as yet, Captain.”

“Henry Morford!”

“Here, Captain.”

“What amount of spurious coin have
you on hand?”

“Ten thousand dollars, full value—
five thousand, sale price.”

“Is it better, then, than usual?”

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“The best, I believe, we have ever

“But these are no buyers, it seems!”

“We have had none yet, Captain.”

“Strange! we surely have not mistaken
the night—eh! Morford?”

“This, sir, according to my reckoning,
is the twenty-third—and that is the regular
day, I believe for this business.”

“Has this monthly meeting ever proved
a failure before?”

“Yes, Captain, once, last year, you

“Ah! yes—I remember. It seems
to me I am growing forgetful. Well, we
will wait another half-hour, and if no one
comes, we will go down to Harlem's
Cover, and look to our horses. By-the-by,
that last night's job was not a bad
one, all things considered. Six as goodblooded
nags as one need wish to ride;
and that reminds me we have done our
share in this part of the country for the
present. The haul last night, and the
night before, has pretty well thinned all
the animals worth taking, besides rousing
up the settlers to some decisive action. I
would we had not taken so many at once—
but it cannot be helped now. We must
try and get them across the ford as soon
as we can; and then those who have not
families, had better go to another part of
the country, till the storm this will raise
shall have time to blow over. I truly
hope no trouble will come of it!” pursued
the captain, uneasily; “but, somehow,
I have my fears. I am sorry that
Thrasher was obliged to kill young Wilden,
for such deeds are apt to bring
trouble, especially when the whole transaction
is so exposed as was that. But no
blame can be attached to Thrasher, who
acted in self defense: his escape was a
very narrow one at that. But what seems
somewhat singular to me, is the fact that
Butterman should be watching his spring
at that time of night, as though he really
knew some one was coming to poison it.”

“Pardon me, Captain—but somehow
I am inclined to think he did know,”
rejoined Morford.

“Gods! that implies treachery, Harry!”
cried Gerolstein, with a vehement

“And if it does—”

“If it does, Harry!” repeated the
other, interrupting him. “If it does!
then we should know the traitor, and sit
in judgment on him before we do anything
else. It could not have been Melven,
for he is still in close confinement.
Speak, Harry Morford, and declare whom
you suspect!”

“Nay, Captain, I would rather not,
till I have further proof—lest I wrong an
innocent man, and it be set down by my
enemies, or the friends of the accused
party, to sheer malice.”

“But, sir, this is matter that puts all
our lives in jeopardy, and must be known.
Name him you suspect, no matter what
be the consequences! and so let us endeavor
to ascertain whether or no your
suspicions are correct.”

All now crowded around Morford, and
many were clamorous for the name of the

“Thus called upon, gentlemen,”
rejoined the treasurer, “I feel myself
bound to speak; but mind! I accuse no
man, and only mention the name of him
I suspect. I have doubts of the honesty
and true faith of John Roberts.”

“Ha!” exclaimed the captain, with a
convulsive start, as though a new thought
had suddenly struck him; while the hands
of the others instinctively clutched the
knives they carried in their belts, and
many a low, deep muttered curse was
heard. “Where is Roberts?” demanded
Gerolstein. “I have not seen him to-night.”

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“And did you see him last night?”
inquired the treasurer.

“By heavens, no!—this, then, looks
suspicious. But then he was present the
night before, and therefore I do not see
how he could have conveyed any information
to Butterman; for it was not
decided, till late in the evening, that his
spring should be poisoned, and that very
night Thrasher was there. Can it be
possible, that any one knows of our secret
retreat, who was near enough to listen
and overhear our plans?”

“No,” answered one of the party; “I
will take my oath that no stranger was
near; for, until the breaking up of the
meeting, I stood sentinel near the entrance
to the cave.”

“Pardon me, Captain!” said Morford;
“but do you not overlook the fact, that,
after leaving the cave, we all separated,
to rendezvous in the vicinity of Wilden's
barn?—and if a man rode, might he not
have had time to get his horse, go past
Butterman's, give him the information,
and be in time at the appointed place of

“True enough, this could be done;
but are you sure Roberts rode that night?”

“I can bring proof that he did; for
one of our party, not now present, informed
me, that in making his escape, he took
a different direction from the others; and
that some half a mile from the barn, in
the edge of a heavy wood, he stumbled
upon a horse, tied to a sapling. Surprised
at this, he secreted himself near, and
waited to ascertain who was the comer.
He had not been there many minutes,
when a man approached, and began to
untie him; and on accosting him, he
found it to be Roberts. The latter seemed
greatly surprised, and flurried, at finding
who was there, and stammered out an
apology, by saying that, being very tired,
he had been home, got his horse, and
ridden-thither; but said if the captain
knew it, he might think strange of it, and
therefore begged he would not mention it
to any one. This my friend promised;
but afterward, in conversation, happening
to mention my suspicion to him, he related
these particulars.”

“Well, well, this must be seen to immediately!”
replied the captain. “Jarvis,
you have proved yourself good at arresting
traitors—see that Roberts has a place
along with Melven, so that the trial of
both may take place at the same time.”

“I will do my best, Captain, to execute
your orders—though I must protest,
so far as my belief is concerned, that I do
not think Roberts guilty—and that the
evidence against him, so far, is trifling.”

“Mind, I do not bring it forward as
conclusive,” returned Morford; “but the
captain and others insisted on knowing
of whom I am suspicious, and so I mentioned
the name of Roberts, and some of
the reasons why I thought he might be

“Well, well,” rejoined Gerolstein, “so
far you have done right; but his guilt
must be proved before we can harm him.
But hark! some one comes—I hear the
sentinel's challenge. Perhaps it is a
stranger. Put on your masks, gentlemen.”

In an instant, as it were, every figure
placed a mask over his face, so as to
avoid the possibility of detection—lest in
dealing with strangers, some one might
afterward take a notion to betray them.
Scarcely was the masking completed,
when the new-comer was dimly seen
moving along through the grove, and a
minute later the suspected Roberts stood
in the center of an excited group.

“It is well you have come, Mr.
Roberts,” said the captain, sternly; “for
we were just speaking of you in no very
flattering terms.”

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“Of me, Captain?” exclaimed Roberts,
in a rather excited, and, as some
fancied, agitated tone. “And pray, what
were you saying of me?”

“Why, it is fully believed by some of
us that there is a traitor in our party, and
your name has already been mentioned
as one suspected”

“And who dares accuse me, sir?” said
the other, in a well-feigned tone of innocent
indignation; for well the traitor
knew he stood on slippery ground, and
that nothing short of the boldest assurance
could save him from falling to rise
no more.

Already he trembled at the thought;
But he labored to conceal the secret terror
he felt; and so well succeeded, that even
his enemies could perceive nothing in his
actions but what was natural of one placed
under such disagreeable circumstances.
Of how much was really known to his
confederates in crime, Roberts was ignorant;
and he would freely have given ten
years of his life to have been assured of
his safety; for well he knew, if the charge
were proved against him, nothing short
of a miraculous interposition of that Providence
in which he had but little faith,
could save him from a speedy and bloody
death; but, as we have before said, he
was determined to put on the boldest face
he could; and if the whole matter were
merely a suspicion, he fancied he could
yet escape. The reply of the captain
greatly reassured him.

“No one really accuses you,” returned
Gerolstein, “because, as yet, we have
no positive proof of your guilt, and it
is to be hoped you can prove yourself

“I trust I can,” replied Roberts; “at
least I can declare myself so, and it is
for you to prove me otherwise. Really,
gentlemen,” he said—in a tone and with
a manner well calculated to reassure his
friends and make his enemies somewhat
doubtful of his guilt—“I feel hurt, and
grieved, that you should find cause to
suspect one who has been as true to you,
as I have, for the last five years of my
life—thus dating from the time when I
first became one of you, and bound myself,
by the strongest of oaths, to true

“Can I be permitted a question, Captain?”
asked Morford.

“Certainly—go on!” replied Gerolstein.

“How was it, then, that you should
make use of the language you did, on the
last night of our meeting at the cave?”
inquired Morford, turning to Roberts.

“Ha!” said Roberts—“if I am not
mistaken, it is Henry Morford who now
addresses me; and if so, I can readily
perceive who is my would-be accuser.
Not satisfied with getting me disgraced,
and deprived of the honorable office I
held for two years, you must now seek to
degrade me still further in the eyes of my
worthy comrades—and, if possible, send
me out of the world as a traitor. I shall
not forget, nor overlook this, Henry

“As to that, sir,” replied the other,
“you can do as you please; but just
now I wish you to answer my question,
as to why you made use of the language
you did on the night in question; and
when you have done that, I will, with the
captain's permission, interrogate you still

“So, then, you are to constitute yourself
my inquisitor, eh?”

“Remember, Mr. Roberts, you are
evading my question; and one that I
have a right to ask—for I first obtained
permission of our commander.”

“Out of respect to Captain Gerolstein,
then, and the other gentlemen here
present, I will answer the question

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propounded,” replied Roberts; “though,
I protest, I am not answering you individually,
with whom I scorn to hold any
further conversation. The night alluded
to, I was greatly excited, and, in the heat
of passion, I might have made use of
language, the real meaning of which I
did not fully take into consideration, and
have now forgotten: this is my answer.
If I am to be questioned further, I beg,
Captain, that you will be my interrogator;
for it is your office by right, and
I would rather answer a superior than an

“By heavens! wretch, do you allude
to me as your inferior?” cried Morford,
completely thrown off his guard by passion.

“Hold!” exclaimed Gerolstein, sternly.
“You seem to forget, Henry Morford,
that I am present. Henceforth, I will
question Roberts myself.” And then
turning to the latter. “I wish,” he said,
“to know where you went, after leaving
the cave, on the night of our last meeting

“I will answer you truly, Captain.
When we separated at the cave, it was
decided that each should go what way he
pleased, so that all were at the rendezvous
at the time appointed. Well, at
first, I thought of going afoot—as I
believe most of the party did do—but
feeling a good deal fatigued, I altered my
mind, and went home for my horse. My
wife, hearing me in the act of taking him
out, came out to me, and said our little
child was sick. I could do no less than
go into the house, where I was detained
above an hour. I then mounted my
horse, and rode to within half a mile of
the rendezvous, where I tied him to a
sapling, and then set off afoot. This
accounts for my being somewhat late;
though, you will bear in mind, I was in
time to have taken part in the business
of the night, had my services been

“Well, so far your story seems straight-forward,
and tallies with what we already
know,” replied the captain. “But what
seems strange to us, and first excited our
suspicion of treachery in some one, is the
fact that Butterman should be watching
his spring, with a loaded rifle, at the very
time Thrasher went to poison it.”

“It is strange,” replied Roberts, “and
I have thought of it much—and, I must
confess, not without uneasiness. I have
thought that perhaps a message had been
conveyed to him, of what that night took
place in the cave; and again I have
thought that it might, perhaps, all be the
result of accident. You know that Butterman,
from what we hear, has, for
some time, held the belief that we had,
and still have, a design upon his life.
Well, it is possible (mind I only suggest
this as an idea that occurred to me, as a
way of accounting for his accidentally
being there,) that, having occasion to get
some water for his family, he went out,
taking his rifle with him as a natural
precaution; and that on arriving at the
spring, which is concealed in some bushes,
he saw a man approaching, and waited
quietly to ascertain his intention; and
that, furthermore, on seeing him approach,
he drew back himself; and that,
finally, when the other threw the poison
in, mistrusting his design, he fired, and,
owing to the darkness, missed his mark.
Such has been one way I have had of
accounting for the singular circumstance;
but since I have been accused myself, another
idea has struck me.”

“What is it?” demanded the captain.

“Why, I have thought that it sometimes
happens that the real thief is the
first to cry thief.”

“And what do you mean by such insinuations
as that?” cried Morford.

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“Did I insinuate?” queried Roberts,

“Yes, you did.”

“Does the coat fit?”

“By heavens, I—”

“Silence!” thundered the captain.
“Henry Morford, if you dare to interfere
in this matter again, till I am done, I will
have you arrested for mutiny! John
Roberts, be careful of your language,
unless you can made a direct accusation!”

“But has he—”

“Silence, sirrah! Gods! I shall get in
a passion soon, if I do not find my orders
obeyed a little more promptly. But to
the point. Admitting you to be innocent
of treachery night before last, I wish to
know where you were last night, that you
were not among us as I directed?”

This was a rather difficult question to
answer satisfactorily; nevertheless, Roberts
had resolved on his reply; but fortunately,
perhaps, for him, he was not
granted an opportunity to make it; for at
the moment he was about to speak, the
sharp cry of one of the sentinels, “Who
goes there?” broke the stillness, followed
by the report of a musket, and shouts of
vengeance; while from every quarter of
the Oaken Grove, dark figures sprang
up, as it were, from the earth, and, rushing
toward the center, completely surrounded
and hemmed in the surprised,
alarmed, and discomfitted outlaws.

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Bennett, Emerson, 1822-1905 [1851], The league of the Miami. (Lorenzo Stratton, Cincinnati) [word count] [eaf470T].
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