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- [Sub The Tory's Daughter] - 50/72 -
what is going on through the rest of the state. But that is a secret, which, thanks to the prompt patriotism shown by our young men in enlisting, we shall now soon be able to teach them; for my company is already nearly full; and, if you have notified the recruits you enlisted. Sergeant Dunning, they will all be here for mustering by to-morrow night."
"All done, as in der duty bound, captain; and six of my men said they would be here this evening."
"Indeed! there will be almost enough of us, if your six recruits all get in, to make a pounce upon this nest of vipers to-night Let's see; six--you, myself, and Captain Coffin, and----"
"And der Bart, if he comes; ditter don't you expect him along here to-night?"
"I do. Miss Haviland, according to the letter of Mr. Allen, who wrote some days ago, to apprise me of her coming, would have started, I calculate, this morning; and Bart, whom I immediately despatched to act as her guard on the way, will of course come with her. They will probably arrive before long, now--unless----" and the speaker suddenly paused at the new and startling thought that now seemed to occur to him.
"Unless," said Dunning, guessing the thoughts of the other and taking up the supposition--"unless beset by some of this crew, who are ordered to take prisoners and hostages. But der stay; didn't I catch the glimmer of a distant horseman then?" he continued, pointing along the partially wooded road to the west. "There! that was a clearer view; and, by the ditter darting kind of gait of the horse, I should think it might be Lightfoot, and the short rider the critter we've been talking about."
The hunter's eye had not misled him; for in a few minutes the horseman emerged from the forest into open view, and confirmed the conjecture that had just been made respecting his identity. As he neared the house, perceiving Woodburn and Dunning beckoning to him from behind the buildings, he threw himself from his saddle, leaped over the fence, and approached them.
"The news, sir? What is it? Speak!" eagerly exclaimed Woodburn, as Bart, with a downcast and troubled look, drew near.
"Bad as need to be, consarn it!" replied the latter, with an air of mingled vexation and self-reproach. "But I couldn't help it."
"Help what? What has happened? Where is the lady?" rapidly asked the alarmed and impatient lover.
"Taken prisoner by the tories, as I guessed 'em. She and Vine Howard, that come with her, and the boy that drove 'em."
"How? when? where?"
"Why, as we were coming down this side the mountain, and when nearly to the bottom, five or six fellows, with guns, rushed out of the bush, seized the horse, pulled out the women, and hurried them off with two of their number into the woods towards the pond; while the rest made a push to take me, who was riding just behind. But firing a pistol in their faces, and giving Lightfoot my stiffest sign, we dashed through or over them, and escaped, with their bullets whistling after us, one after another, till we were out of reach."
"These ladies shall be rescued before I sleep, or I will perish in the attempt," said Woodburn, with stern emphasis. "Let us arm and set forward immediately with the best force we can raise."
"There is a thing or two to be ditter done first, it strikes me," observed Dunning, with his usual coolness; "that is, if we don't want enemies both before and behind us, on the way."
"What is that, Dunning?"
"Secure those three chaps in the bar-room, or they'll be ditter sure either to be on our heels, or get there before us to raise the alarm of our coming."
"Are they armed, think you?"
"With ditter knives only, I'm thinking--their guns may have been left in the point of woods yonder, in charge of the spy I named, who, now I ditter think on't, ought to be taken about the same time, for fear of some secret signal being given."
The suggestions of Dunning, who, as the reader will already have inferred, had been made a sergeant in Woodburn's company of Rangers, were at once approved by his superior, who accordingly, as the first step, despatched him and Bart to the woods, where the man conjectured to be in charge of the arms of his comrades was supposed to be concealed. After waiting till the two others might have had time to gain the woods in question, Woodburn left his stand, and, passing round to the front of the house, boldly marched into the bar-room, where the three suspected personages still sat listening to the stories with which the landlord, who suspected what was in progress, seemed intent on amusing them. They, however, now seemed suddenly to lose all interest in the recital going on, and, after exchanging uneasy and significant glances, simultaneously rose to depart.
"You are my prisoners, gentlemen," said Woodburn, stepping before them and presenting a cocked pistol.
For a moment, the surprised tories stood mute in alarm and doubt, alternately glancing from their armed opponent to the landlord, and from the latter to the door and windows, as if weighing the chances and means of escape. But, the next instant, two of them suddenly turned, and drawing and flourishing their knives behind them, sprang for the open windows, with the intention of leaping through them.
"At 'em, Roarer!" exclaimed Coffin, seizing one escaping tory by the leg, and hurling him back with stunning effect upon the floor.
The dog was but little behind his master in drawing back, by a grip in his clothes, the other to the floor, where he was glad to lie without offering further resistance to the grim and growling conqueror standing over him. The third, in the mean while, not daring to stir lest a worse fate should befall him, standing as he was directly before the muzzle of Woodburn's pistol, and seeing the situation of his comrades, immediately submitted; when all, giving up their concealed arms, now quietly yielded themselves as prisoners.
In a few minutes after the surrender of the tories, their guns were brought in by Dunning and Bart, who found them at the suspected place, though the traitor, Redding, whom they identified, had just taken the alarm, and was seen retreating over a distant knoll as they came up to the spot.
The prisoners being left in charge of the landlord's oldest boy, who was armed for the purpose, and the dog Roarer, the rest of the company now retired to another part of the house, to devise measures for the rescue of the fair captives, for which a preliminary step only had as yet been taken. Having at length fixed on the plan of operations which they believed most promising of auspicious results, they immediately commenced their hasty preparations for the bold adventure. And Dunning's six recruits luckily arriving in season, the whole company, now consisting of ten resolute woodsmen, and led on by a man fully resolved to succeed or perish, set forward, a little after sunset, for the scene of action, which was several miles distant from the tavern. According to the plan that had been adopted, two men were to proceed to the eastern shore of the pond, take a log canoe, and, under cover of the darkness, row silently over to some point beyond, but near the tory encampment; and, after making what discoveries they could respecting the situation of the captives, lie in ambush and await the operations of the rest of the company, who were to proceed round by the road, enter the woods, and gain a post on the other side of the encampment, and, by a feigned attack, draw off the tories, and thus afford the former a favorable moment to rush from their concealment and release the captives. And if they found this impracticable, they were then to shout aloud the watchword, _To the rescue!_ when both parties of the assailants were to make an earnest and desperate onset on the foe. Dunning and Bart, from their known sagacity and skill as woodsmen and coolness and intrepidity in action, were the two men selected to undertake the more difficult and hazardous part first mentioned.
After a rapid and silent march of about an hour, the company reached the vicinity of the pond, just as the last suffusions of an obscured twilight disappeared in the west, and halted a few minutes, that the different parts of the plan might be repeated and clearly understood by all before separating.
"Remember the arrangement, boys," said Woodburn, addressing Dunning and Bart, in a voice which betrayed the intense solicitude he felt in the event at issue. "Recollect the first and main object is to release and get off the ladies, and if this can be done within the hour we will give you for the purpose, as it possibly may be, before we make any demonstrations in front, so much the better; if not, proceed in the manner agreed on. And may Heaven favor the innocent, whose cause, remember, is mostly in your hands."
With this the company separated, and each party proceeded to their different destinations. We will follow the two intrusted with the most difficult part of the enterprise.
"The first that hears Shall be the first to bleed."
The hunter, followed by his young comrade, now leaving the rest of the band to proceed to their contemplated stand by the main road, struck off into the woods to the right, and, with silent and rapid steps, led the way to the south-eastern shore of the pond. Here finding, as he seemed to have expected, a capacious canoe, dug out from the trunk of some huge pine, he drew it forth from its concealment, beneath a mass of fallen trees projecting over the bank, and, bidding Bart enter with the oars, and placing one knee on the stern, with a grasp on the sides, gave a push with his foot from the shore, which sent his rude craft surging out far into the open expanse of water before him. Before applying the oars, however, and while the canoe continued to move under the impulse it had thus received, its occupants employed themselves in bending their heads to the water, and listening for any sounds that might indicate the presence of others abroad on the pond. The night, as it was yet moonless, and as the sky was overclouded, was consequently a dark one; and the adventurers could distinguish little else but the dark outlines of the Green Mountains, that rose high in the western heavens, casting, by their huge shadows, an impenetrable
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