the Ninth Concession
Chapter XLIII - "The Master" begs for his Life
AS the spy was led out between two
armed guards, his face was ghastly pale, and he looked the
personification of craven misery.
"Why, as God lives!" exclaimed
Colin, excitedly, "its Simon Smallpiece."
And sure enough it was Simon. The
mean face of "the master" looked meaner than of old; the features, which
had seemed offensive in the earlier days, now appeared disgusting. Colin
afterwards said to me that he never read so startling and so plain a
page of history as was printed on Simons face, as he walked that April
morning to the place of execution.
Simons first impulse, upon seeing
that he was discovered by the stern young officer, whom he instantly
recognised as the pupil who had thrashed him, and as the one person upon
earth whom he had hated above all other mortals, was to give no sign of
recognition, but the craven nature of the man asserted itself. A sudden
gleam of possible hope shot across his perturbed mind, and he exclaimed:
"Oh, Colin McNabb, for Gods sake, save me! Im innocent of the charge
brought against me, as Heaven is my witness!"
Colin knew that this was a lie,
for he had examined with his own eyes the documents found upon Simon.
However, he did not care at such a moment to tell the miserable wretch
that he lied. He gave command to stop the procession, being determined
to have a word with Simon before he was shot. Willie joined him, and the
two going close up to the victim, Colin said :
it is not within my power to save you. If it were, and I could
honourably do it, I would not hesitate. You have been captured within
our lines; a court-martial, after a fair hearing, has condemned you, and
there is no power on earth, Simon, that can help you. The most that lies
in my power to do for you is to delay your execution a few brief
Simon pleaded piteously for mercy,
appealing first to Colin and then to Willie to intercede with the
commander on his behalf. "I cant die as I am, boys," he said. "Ive
been an awful bad man, and unless I get time to repent, Kearsties soul
(he had evidently heard of her fate) will rise up against me in hell and
taunt me throughout eternity. I must be given time to repent. Oh, for
Gods sake, boys, as you hope for mercy yourselves, try and save me!
Both young men knew it was
hopeless to attempt any intercession. Throughout the entire war they had
never known of a single case where a convicted spy was allowed to
escape, and the evidence against Simon was absolutely conclusive.
"We assure you, Simon," said
Colin, slowly and solemnly, "that it would be perfectly futile to make
any effort to save you. We can only warn you to prepare for the doom
that awaits you. May Heaven have mercy on your soul, Simon, and forgive
you, as I do," added Cohn, sorrowfully, for he could not but pity the
Simons face was horrible. He was
about to make reply, when Colin advanced to his side and said:
"Simon, had I realised as a boy
how terrible a thing the wrath of God is, and that it is wrong to
anticipate His vengeance, I would not have thrashed you as I did that
day in the school. I would not have taken the task out of His hands; I
would have been content to wait. Could I have looked into the future and
beheld your misery as I behold it to-day, could I have seen how fine the
mills of the gods do grind, as I see they have done in your case, I
would have rather let my right hand wither than raise it against you."
During Colins speech, malice and
hatred were depicted in Simons countenance. He realised that his doom
was sealed, and that pleadings would avail him naught. "Curse you, Colin
Wasby!" he shrieked, and uttered a string of oaths and imprecations.
Realising that it was useless to
prolong the talk, and that nothing could be done with or for Simon,
Colin commanded the squad to guard the prisoner closely for a moment or
two, while he sought the commanding officer. "Not knowing who the victim
was," he said to him, "I accepted command of the firing squad to-day,
but I know the man personally, and I beg to be relieved."
An officer was sent in his place,
who, without a moments loss of time, gave the command, "Fall in!
The squad marched down the valley,
towards a little stream some five hundred yards distant.
"Halt!" commanded the adjutant, as
the party reached a newly dug grave prepared for the execution. Willie
and Colin followed at some distance.
The soldiers tied Simons hands
behind his back and stood him in front of the grave. Simon gave a
dreadful shudder, and his face was terrible to look upon as he peered
into the gaping opening in the earth, which was to be his sepulchre. The
firing party took up its position about fifty yards up the slope of the
valley. The adjutant was cool and hard, and his voice rang out, "Ready
" a brief pause.
"Present " another brief and
* * * * * * * * *
A dozen rifles cracked, Simons
body reeled, and then suddenly collapsing, tumbled into the gaping pit.
Colin and Willie walked sorrowfully away without pausing to witness the
shovelling of the earth upon his miserable body.
When the word reached the Scotch
Settlement, as it ultimately did, Auld Peggy exclaimed, as she sat down
to a cup of tea at the widows : "Losh me, Mustress McNabb, an is no
yoan an awfu fate which hes overtook th maister. Weel, weel, Ah aye
kent he wis bawd an thet bawd would come o hum, but wha would hae
thocht sicna fate would overtak hum! But Ahll tall e, Mustress
McNabb, thet I hae aye nawticed thet th maun wha betrays an desearts a
woman, maun come tae some bawd end. Ahm jist waitin tae hear o
McCallum bein haingt in Wast Constant. Th hulk is shair tae meet some
dreadfu doom fr rinnin aff wi yoan hussy an desertin me an th
twa bairns. Thus thing aboot Simon upsets me waur nor onything thet hes
happened syne the burnin." And Auld Peggy puffed away at her pipe, as
she reckoned confidently upon the fate which was sure to overtake her
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