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- [Sub The Tory's Daughter] - 10/72 -
"Till we can help ourselves," said Patterson, taking up the sentence where the other left it, or rather finishing in words what had been expressed by looks.
"That's just my notion," remarked Stearns. "Let them see and be assured that we are for peace, and want nothing but what is right; all of which may be said truly. And in this manner, if the thing is well managed, their suspicions can be allayed, and we can get possession of the Court House as soon as our friends get on, which will be by to-morrow noon--will it not Patterson?"
"Yes, unless this cussed flood has carried away all the roads, as well as bridges," gruffly replied the sheriff. "Yes, and if these mobbing knaves can be kept quiet then, we shall be in a situation to ask no favors."
"And grant none," said Sabin, with cool bitterness.
"You don't learn," asked Chandler, with feigned indifference--"you don't learn that the people have brought any offensive implements with them, do you, Patterson? It might be done covertly, you know. Has this been seen to, by proper measures,--such as examining the straw in the bottoms of their sleighs, and the like?"
"Yes, thoroughly," returned the former; "they have brought no arms with them, at any rate. We are undoubtedly indebted to your honor's skilful management with them at Chester for that."
"Ay, ay," interposed Stearns, "nobody but the judge could have executed that piece of diplomacy with the fellows. And no one but he can carry out the business successfully now. His honor must be the one to undertake it."
"Certainly." "The very man." "He must do it." "They would listen to none of us." "The thing is settled, and he must go" unanimously responded the company.
"I really feel flattered, gentlemen," replied Chandler, bowing and waving his hand towards the company--"highly flattered by your opinion of my capacity to negotiate in this delicate affair. But you will understand, in case I accede to your wishes, gentlemen," he continued, with a look of peculiar meaning--"you will understand that I am to be considered, on all hands, as utterly opposed to coercive measures--to all--I am understood, I suppose, gentlemen?"
"Yes, yes, judge," returned the others, with knowing winks and laughter, "we will all understand that you are opposed to the whole move."
Having thus arranged business for the morrow to their satisfaction, these astute personages, who, like their party generally in America, at that period, seemed to have acted on an entirely false estimate of the intelligence and spirit of the common people, now rose and retired to their respective lodgings, inwardly chuckling at their sagacity, in being able to concoct what they believed would prove a successful scheme of overreaching and putting down their opponents, and, at the same time, of establishing their own tottering authority on a basis which might bid defiance to all future attempts to overturn it.
"But here, at least, are arms unchained And souls that thraldom never stained."
As soon as the company, described in the preceding chapter, had all retired from the room, Brush, bidding Bart to rake up the fire and go to bed, proceeded to lock all the outer doors of the house, muttering to himself as he did so, "It can't be as Chandler fears, I think, about this fellow's going out to blab to-night; but as this will put an end to the possibility of his doing it, I may as well make all fast, and then there will be no chance for blame for suffering him to remain in the room."
So saying, and putting the different keys in his pocket, he at once disappeared, on his way to his own apartment. When the sound of his retiring footsteps had ceased to be heard, Bart, who had lingered in the room, suddenly changed his sleepy, abject appearance for a prompt, decisive look and an erect attitude.
"Two ideas above a jackass!--two ideas above a jackass, eh?" he said, and slowly repeated, as with flashing eyes he nodded significantly in the direction his master had taken. "You may yet find out, Squire Brush, that my ears aint sich a disput sight longer than yourn, arter all."
With this he blew out the last remaining light, and groped his way to his own humble sleeping-room, in the low attic story of the back kitchen. Here, however, he manifested no disposition to go to bed, but sitting down upon the side of his miserable pallet, he remained motionless and silent for fifteen or twenty minutes, when he began to soliloquize: "Jackass!--sleepy devil!--not wit enough to see what they are at in six weeks, eh? Barty Burt, you are one of small fishes, it is true; but, for all that, you needn't be walloped about at this rate, and bamboozled, and swallowed entirely up by the big ones of this court-and-king party. You know enough to take care of yourself; yes, and at the same time, you can be doing something towards paying these gentry for the beautiful compliments you have had from them to-night and at other times. The fact is, Bart, you are a rebel now--honestly one of them--you feel it in you, and you may as well let it out. So here goes for their meeting, if it is to be found, if I am hanged for it."
Having, in this whimsical manner, made a sort of manifesto of his principles and intentions, as if to give them, with himself, a more fixed and definite character, he now rose buttoned up his jacket, carefully raised the window of his room, let himself down to the roof of a shed beneath it, and from that descended to the ground, with the easy and rapid motions of a squirrel engaged in nut-gathering. Here he cast a furtive glance around him, and paused some moments, in apparent hesitation, respecting the course to be taken to find those of whom he was in quest. Soon, however, appearing to come to a determination, he struck out into the main street, and, with a quick step, proceeded on, perhaps a furlong, when he suddenly stopped short, and exclaimed, "Hold up, Bart. What did that sly judge say about searching in folks' sleighs, for--what was that word now?--But never mind, it meant guns. And what did the sheriff say about a dozen flint-and-steel men having come? Put that and that together now, Bart, and see if it don't mean that the only guns brought into town to-night are packed away in the straw, in the bottom of the sleighs of the court party understrappers? Let's go and mouse round their stopping-place a little, Bart. Perhaps you'll get more news to carry to the rebels," he added, turning round and making towards the tavern at which those in the interests of the loyalists were known generally to put up.
On reaching the tavern, and finding all there still and dark, he proceeded directly to the barn shed, and commenced a search, which was soon rewarded by finding, in the different sleighs about the place, twelve muskets, carefully concealed in hay or blankets. With a low chuckle of delight at his discovery, Bart took as many as he could conveniently carry at one load, and, going with them into the barn, thrust them one by one into the hay mow, under the girts and beams, so as effectually to conceal them. He then returned for others, and continued his employment till the whole were thus disposed of; when he left the place, and resumed his walk to the northerly end of the village. After pursuing his way through the street, and some distance down the road beyond the village, he paused against a low, long log-house, standing endwise to the road. This house was occupied by a middle-aged, single man, known by the name of Tom Dunning, though often called Ditter Dunning, and sometimes Der Ditter, on account of his frequent use of these terms as prefixes to his words and sentences, arising from a natural impediment of speech. He was a hunter by profession, and passed most of his lime in the woods, or round the Connecticut in catching salmon, which, at that period, were found in the river in considerable numbers, as far up as Bellows Falls. Though he mingled but little in society, yet he was known to be well informed respecting all the public movements of the times; and it was also believed that he had enrolled himself among the far-famed band of Green Mountain Boys, and often joined them in their operations against the Yorkers, on the other side of the mountains. Very little however, was known about the man, except that he was a shrewd resolute fellow, extremely eccentric, and perfectly impenetrable to all but the few in whom he confided.
Bart, from some remark he had overheard in the street, in the early part of the evening, had been led to conclude that the company he now sought were assembled at this house. And though he was personally unacquainted with the owner, and knew nothing of his principles, yet he was resolved to enter and trust to luck to make his introduction, if the company were present, and, if not, to rely on his own wit to discover whether it were safe to unfold his errand.
As he was approaching the house, Dunning hastily emerged from the door, and, advancing with a quick step, confronted him in the path with an air which seemed to imply an expectation that his business would be at once announced. Bart, who was not to be discomposed by any thing of this kind, manifested no hurry to name his errand, and seemed to prefer that the other should be the first to break the silence.
"Ditter--seems to me I have seen you somewhere?" at length said Dunning, inquiringly.
"Very likely. I have often been there," replied Bart, with the utmost gravity.
"Ditter--devil you have! And what did you--der--ditter--find there, my foxy young friend?"
"Nothing that I was looking for."
"Der--what was that?"
"The one I'd like to go to, may be."
"You are a bright pup; but--der--don't spit this way; it might be der--ditter--dangerous business to me; for you must have been eating razors to-night."
"No, I haven't; don't love 'em. But you haven't yet told me where the meeting is?"
"Ditter--look here, my little chap," said Dunning, getting impatient and vexed that he could not decide whether the other was a knave, simpleton, or neither--"ditter--look here;--der--don't your folks want you?" Hadn't you better run along now?"
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