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THE STORY OF THE REGICIDES.
The years 1675 and 1676 were years of terrible experience for New England. The most dreadful of all the Indian outbreaks of that region—that known as King Philip's War-was raging, and hundreds of the inhabitants fell victims to the ruthless rage of their savage foes. Whole villages perished, their inhabitants being slain on the spot, or carried away captive for the more cruel fate of Indian vengeance. The province was in a state of terror, for none knew at what moment the terrible war-whoop might sound, and the murderous enemy be upon them with tomahawk and brand.
Everywhere the whites were on the alert. The farmer went to his fields with his musket as an indispensable companion. Outlying houses were guarded like fortresses. Even places of worship were converted into strongholds, and the people prayed with musket in hand, and, while listening to the exhortations of their pastors, kept keenly alive to the sounds without, for none could tell at what moment the foe might break in on their devotions.
In the frontier town of Hadley, Massachusetts, then on the northwestern edge of civilization, on a day in the summer of 1676, the people were thus all
gathered at the meeting-house, engaged in divino service. It was a day of fasting and prayer, set aside to implore God's aid to relieve the land from the reign of terror which had come upon it. Yet the devout villagers, in their appeal for spiritual aid, did not forget the importance of temporal weapons. They had brought their muskets with them, and took part in the pious exercises with these carnal instruments of safety within easy reach of their hands.
Their caution was well advised. In the midst of their devotional exercises a powerful body of Indians made a sudden onslaught upon the village. They had crept up in their usual stealthy way, under cover of trees and bushes, and their wild yells as they assailed the outlying houses were the first intimation of their approach.
These alarming sounds reached the ears of the worshippers, and quickly brought their devotional services to an end. In an instant all thought of dependence upon the Almighty was replaced by the instinct of dependence upon themselves. Grasping their weapons, they hurried out, to find themselves face to face with the armed and exultant savages, who now crowded the village street, and whose cries of triumph filled the air with discordant sounds.
The people were confused and frightened, huddled together with little show of order or discipline, and void of the spirit and energy necessary to meet their threatening foe. The Indians were on all sides, completely surrounding them. The suddenness of the alarm and the evidence of imminent peril robbed the villagers of their usual vigor and readiness, signs of panic were visible, and had the Indians attacked at that moment the people must have been hurled back in disorderly flight, to become in great part the victims of their foes.
It was a critical moment. Was Hadley to suffer the fate of other frontier towns, or would the recent prayers of pastor and people bring some divine interposition in their favor? Yes; suddenly it seemed as if God indeed had come to their aid ; for as they stood there in a state of nerveless dread a venerable stranger appeared in their midst, a tall, stately per. sonage, with long white hair, and dressed in strange, old-fashioned garb, his countenance beaming with energy and decision.
" Quick,” he cried, “into line and order at once! The Indians are about to charge upon you. Take heart, and prepare for them, or they will slaughter you like sheep."
With the air of one born to command, he hastily formed the band of villagers into military array, displaying such skill and ardor that their temporary fright vanished, to be succeeded by courage and confidence. Had not the Almighty sent this venerable stranger to their aid ? Should they fear when led by God's messenger ?
“Now, upon them !" cried their mysterious leader. “We must have the advantage of the assault !"
Putting himself at their head, he led them on with an ardor remarkable in one of his years. The savages, who had been swarming together preparatory to an attack, beheld with surprise this orderly rush
forward of the villagers, and shrunk from their deathdealing and regular volleys. And the white-haired form who led their foes with such fearless audacity struck terror to their superstitious souls, filling them with dread and dismay.
The struggle that followed was short and decisive. Animated by the voice and example of their leader, the small band attacked their savage enemies with such vigor and show of discipline that in very few minutes the Indians were in full flight for the wilderness, leaving a considerable number of dead upon the ground. Of the villagers only two or three had fallen.
The grateful people, when the turmoil and confusion of the affray were over, turned to thank their venerable leader for his invaluable aid. To their surprise he was nowhere to be seen. He had vanished in the same mysterious manner as he had appeared. They looked at one another in bewilderment. What did this strange event signify? Had God really sent one of his angels from heaven, in response to their prayers, to rescue them from destruction? Such was the conclusion to which some of the people came, while the most of them believed that there was some miracle concerned in their strange preservation.
This interesting story, which tradition has preserved in the form here given, has a no less interesting sequel. We know, what most of the villagers never knew, who their preserver was, and how it happened that he came so opportunely to their rescụe. To complete our narrative we must go back
years in time, to the date of 1649, the year of the execution of Charles I. of England.
Fifty-nine signatures had been affixed to the deathwarrant of this royal criminal. A number of the signers afterwards paid the penalty of that day's work on the scaffold. We are concerned here only with two of them, Generals Whalley and Goffe, who, after the death of Cromwell and the return of Charles II., fled for safety to New England, knowing well what would be their fate if found in their mother-land. A third of the regicides, Colonel Dixwell, afterwards joined them in America, but his story is void of the romance which surrounded that of his associates.
Whalley and Goffe reached Boston in July, 1660. The vessel that brought them brought also tidings that Charles II. was on the throne. The fugitives were well received. They had stood high in the Commonwealth, brought letters of commendation from Puritan ministers in England, and hoped to dwell in peace in Cambridge, where they decided to fix their residence. But the month of November brought a new story to Boston. In the Act of Indemnity passed by Parliament the names of Whalley and Goffe were among those left out. They had played a part in the execution of the king, and to the regicides no mercy was to be shown. Their estates were confiscated; their lives declared for feited; any man who befriended them did so at his own peril.
These tidings produced excitement and alarm in Boston. The Puritans of tho colony were all warmly