Presently Chauncey came to a small piece of woods, through which ran a foot-path, cutting off an angle of the road, and shortening by a few rods the distance to his home. As he emerged from the woods upon the highway, be suddenly met a party of men, who had come up the road from the bridge and were traveling toward Gunntown. They were all armed with muskets or halberts, and most of them carried heavy packs, as of merchandise tied in bundles and slung upon their shoulders.
At first Chauncey hesitated a moment as if he would turn back into the woods; but the men had seen him the same moment that he discovered them, and be felt that retreat would be useless. He therefore drew to one side of the path and hastily passed them, recognizing as he did so one or two, under the bright moonlight, as persons whom he knew, among whom was the young man whose conversation with him we have before recorded, and who as he passed exclaimed,–
The men halted for a moment in low conversation, when another, who seemed to be their leader, called after him,–
For any instant Chauncey slackened his steps, as if about to comply with the summons, but the next moment he started forward with quickened pace.
There was no alternative but compliance, and he slowly retraced his steps.
By this time several others of the party had gathered round whom he knew. Most of them were tories belonging in Gunntown, but two or three were strangers to him. The former called him by name, but be answered only in monosyllables, as if feeling anything but pleasure at the interview. Very soon the harsh voice of their leader broke in again:–
It was plain that remonstrance would be useless; so the young man took his way with the gang. The leader, whose name was Graham, and whose accent betrayed him as a foreigner, stepped forward by his side, and they walked on together, the rest following in the rear.
Thus saying, Graham pulled his slouched hat more
closely over his face, and bidding his men to
They soon reached the house of Mr. Webb, now wrapped in darkness and silence. Keenly did Chauncey feel, as they passed it, the change in his circumstances which the last half hour had brought. How little did she, who had parted from him with a soft good-bye a few minutes before, imagine that he had already returned, in far less agreeable company, and that he was being unwillingly hurried away, he knew not whither.
It was but a short mile further to the abode of Mr. Gunn, where they expected to make a halt. This was a large two-story house, now the residence of a grandson of his, standing in a bend or hollow of the hillside overlooking the Longmeadow valley. Around it were the various out-houses usually belonging to large farmers, for the kitchen, the dairy, the wash-room and the like.
On arriving in sight of the house, the party halted for consultation. They were reluctant to call up the family at that time of the night, though not apparently from any doubt of the friendliness of the reception they might meet with. But what they needed just then was rest. They had been up all night and had traveled a considerable distance, burdened with their heavy guns and bundles, and some of them were greatly exhausted. After a few minutes' consultation, they decided to enter the large barn by the roadside a few rods east of the house, and stow themselves away in the hay until daybreak.
Meanwhile the dogs, of which Uncle Joe never had less than two or three, had discovered the approach of the strangers, and with loud barking had announced it to the family. The clamor was redoubled in violence when some of the party went to the barn door and attempted to gain an entrance. Graham tried to soothe these vigilant custodians of the premises, but in vain. Caresses and friendly tones were unavailing; nay, had it not been for the muskets and halberts which the men carried, they would, doubtless, have been in considerable danger.
Presently there were indications that the outcry had
made itself heard in the house. A window was
raised, and a head thrust out with the inquiry,
The window was closed, and a few minutes afterward Mr. Gunn appeared. As he drew near the party, David stepped forward and said,–
By this time Mr. Gunn had silenced his dogs and opened the barn door, and the travelers, without staying for further ceremony, entered, and creeping under the hay were soon in deep sleep. Chauncey was placed between Graham and Wooster, with a charge, enforced with an oath, not to stir or make any noise that would betray them, on pain of having a bayonet put through him. Even he, overcome with the night's excitement, soon fell into a perturbed slumber.