Chauncey Juddby Israel P. Warren
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,-
Halloo, Chauncey! Is that you?
Halloo, David! was the reply; but Chauncey, under the circumstances, desired no further recognition, and moved rapidly on.
The men halted for a moment in low conversation, when another, who seemed to be their leader, called after him,-
Halt there, young man, we want to see you!
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.
Stop! cried the harsh voice again, with an oath.
Come back here, or I'll make daylight shine through you. At the same time the sharp click of a gunlock warned him that it would be no idle threat. The young man stopped accordingly, and looked around.
What do you want of me? he asked.
Come back here, and we'll tell you, was the peremptory answer.
There was no alternative but compliance, and he slowly retraced his steps.
So, Chauncey, said Wooster,
you did not want to see your friends, it seems. But how came you to be here at this time of night? Where have you been?
It's none of your business, Dave Wooster. My errand has been an honest one, at any rate, which is more, I guess, than you can say of yours.
Well, whatever it was, it's a pity it did not keep you a little longer, at least till we got by.
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:-
Come, young man, you must go with us.
With you? exclaimed Chauncey, in dismay.
No matter now; we want you; so right about face, march!
But where do you want me to go?
We've no time to confab about it now, cried the other, with an oath.
Come along, and you'll find out.
The truth is, interposed Wooster,
nobody knows that we are away from home to-night, and it wouldn't be quite convenient for us to have them. Might have too many asking questions about it, you know. Folks are mighty inquisitive sometimes.
Oh, said Chauncey,
is that all? I won't tell of you.
No, we don't mean you shall, said the leader;
so, to make sure of it, we'll take you along with us. Come, be quick! Get into the road here before us; we can't wait. Daylight will be along soon, and that is another of our friends that we don't care to see just now.
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.
Sorry to cause you inconvenience, he said,
and we don't mean you any harm. If you go along peaceably it will be better for you, but if you attempt to get away, or if we should meet anybody and you should betray us, you wouldn't live three minutes. Here are five loaded muskets, and you can calculate your chances of escape if I give orders to fire.
But, said Chauncey,
do trust me. I give you my word and honor that I will never tell any living soul that I have seen you to-night.
That's very easy for you to promise, replied Graham,
but we are too old birds to be caught with chaff. We shall, as Wooster says, have people inquiring very affectionately for us in a day or two, and you could not keep the secret if you tried. So there's nothing more to be said, but come along.
Thus saying, Graham pulled his slouched hat more closely over his face, and bidding his men to
hurry up. the whole party moved rapidly down the hill, around the corner of the woods, in the direction of Gunntown.
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,
Friends, answered Graham.
What do you want?
We want the privilege of lying down in your barn and resting till morning. We have been up all night and are very tired. We should have taken the liberty without disturbing you, if it had not been for your cursed dogs, and settled with you for it afterward.
Come out here a moment, Uncle Joe, cried another voice.
We are not strangers, you see; you will find us all right.
The window was closed, and a few minutes afterward Mr. Gunn appeared. As he drew near the party, David stepped forward and said,-
Good morning, Uncle Joe. Just call off your dogs, and you'll soon see who we are. You know me, of course, and my cousin Henry, and Sam Doolittle. Cady and Scott are no strangers, I reckon. Here's one you don't know, - Captain Graham.
We are sorry to disturb you, sir, at this unseasonable hour. said the latter.
Well, boys, I didn't think of seeing you to-night, I declare. Get down, Lion! Be still, Tiger! What are you about, I should like to know. Where have you come from, David?
Oh, from down below, said Wooster.
We've been doing a little business that may be the rebels won't thank us for, and we shall have to keep dark for a day or two.
Then I can't say I want you here, if you have been in any scrape. They've got a vigilance committee, as they call it, in town, and are watching us here in Gunntown pretty sharp. If you are caught, they will very likely treat you, as they did Joel Hickox, to a term in the old copper mine at Simsbury; and that might not be so pleasant. However, I have no objection to your going into my barn, if you want to, but don't get me into any trouble by it.
Oh, no; we'll look out for that. I shall go up to father's by and by, and see how things are there. They'll keep us for a day or two. I know.
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.