It was full sunrise the next morning, before the robbers, in Mr. Gunn's barn, awoke. The severe toil of the preceding night, coupled with the lack of sleep, had thoroughly exhausted them, and they continued in those heavy slumbers, which are usual to strong men overcome by fatigue. At last the broad daylight, the crowing of the cocks, and the bustle connected with a large farm-house, aroused them. A man came into the barn to feed the cattle, and care for the young animals housed there from the severe weather of the early spring.
Chauncey's first impulse was to call to him for help; but a motion which he made, as if for such a purpose, was detected by the vigilant Graham, who instantly placed his hand over the young man's mouth, and with a whispered oath, ordered him to be still. The man was recognized by David as an acquaintance, named Francis Noble, now in the employ of Mr. Gunn, as a laborer. Indeed, he was one whom David had invited to join him in the expedition, but for some reason of his own had declined. He was known, however, to be one of the tory party, and it instantly occurred to David that he might be of assistance to them in their present circumstances. Accordingly he called out from under the hay, where he lay hid,–
Halloo, Frank! Is that you?
Halloo! responded Noble, looking 'round in surprise,
but seeing no one. At length espying Wooster,
as he threw the hay from his and sat up, he said,–
Oh, it is you – is it?
Yes, said the latter,
what there is left of me.
I declare, I was never so tired in my life.
By this time the rest of the party were awake, and began to disclose themselves. Noble at once comprehended the reason of their presence at the barn, and a few words of mutual introduction and explanation between him and the strangers of the party put them all at their ease.
So then, said Noble,
it was you that made that
confounded racket in the night – was it? I couldn't
think what stirred up the dogs so. How did you
manage to get in here without being eaten up?
Uncle Joe came out, and called them off. But say,
Noble, how is it here just now? Anybody 'round?
No, I guess not. Webb's going with me over to
the mountain chopping to-day. There's nobody else
here but the women folks.
Where's the old man himself?
I don't know. He was up and off as soon as it
was light; in fact, I don't believe he went to bed
again after you came. His wife says he had to go to
town very early this morning, and couldn't stay for
breakfast with the rest of us.
He wouldn't go to make trouble for us – would
More likely to keep out of trouble for himself, I
guess. He wouldn't want to have it known, maybe,
that he had seen you. But you haven't told me how
you made out with your adventure last night.
No, and we an't going to; at least, not now.
Haven't time for long yarns this morning. We have
got to think what to do next, and you must help us a
little. Can't we leave our bundles here, covered up
under the hay, for a while? 'Twon't do for us to be
seen with them.
Yes; I s'pose so. 'Tan't likely anybody but me
will come into the barn to-day. But what are
you going to do with yourselves?
I'm going to run up home for a few minutes, and
see if all is clear there. If it is, we can stay there for
a while at least, safe enough. I shall be just in time
for breakfast; and while I am gone, you must arrange
to get something for the rest. We are all as hungry
as bears. Aunt Nabby will find them a breakfast, I
know, with a little coaxing. Of course Uncle Joe told
her who we are. I'll be back here before you are
Better have the captain go in and speak to her
himself. He would have more influence with her than
I; and besides, I must be off with Webb. He'll be
along in a few minutes.
Well, if Captain Graham is willing, replied
only it won't do for him or the rest to be
seen by anybody, if it can be helped.
Graham, after some demurring, consented; and when Noble had finished his morning work in the barn, he accompanied the latter to the house. The dogs still showed some disposition to regard the stranger as an intruder, but the reproving voice of Noble silenced them, and they permitted them to pass.
Mrs. Gunn was engaged in the usual housework of the morning, assisted by a stout serving woman and maid of all work, who was washing up the breakfast dishes at the sink. Her husband, as David had supposed, had informed her who their unseasonable visitors were, and cautioned her to have as little to do with them as possible. So it was an ungracious reception which she accorded to them when Noble introduced Graham to her.
We came rather unceremoniously last night, said
but preferred quarters in the barn rather
than disturb you at that unseasonable hour. And now
we propose to leave as soon as possible, but need some
breakfast before we start. We were up nearly
all night and are very hungry. If you will get us something
we'll be really obliged to you.
I'm very sorry, she said,
to refuse anybody a
meal of victuals; but I hope you will excuse me this
But we'll pay you well for your trouble.
Oh, as to that, I don't care for any pay. But my
husband told me who you are, and what you have
been doing, and it will be dangerous for us to have you
here. The rebels are keeping a sharp lookout on us
here in Gunntown, and if they could get hold of anything
against us, it would cost us dear.
But we can't live without eating, you know.
We'll carry it out to the barn, so that you need not
see anybody; and we'll take care that nobody sees us.
I'd rather not, said the lady.
You can get
breakfast somewhere in the neighborhood, I've no
doubt; but Mr. Gunn would not like to have me get it.
Then, ma'am, he replied tartly,
for us to do but to come in and help ourselves. We
don't leave these premises till we have had something
to eat; so there's no use in making any more fuss
How many are there of you? she asked.
Six, not counting Wooster, who has gone to get
his breakfast at his father's. Rather seven, I should
say; for the youngster we caught last night will want
something to eat, I suppose.
Who is that? she inquired.
His name is Judd, I believe. We met him half a
mile or so below here, in the street, and concluded it
would be safest for us to bring him along with us.
I hope you don't intend him any harm, she said.
Oh, no; at least we have nothing against him, except
that he happened along as he did. But excuse
me for saying that we haven't time for anything
but breakfast now. Most of our party are your own
acquaintances, living somewhere in this neighborhood,
and you can't run any risk in giving us a little something
Then, throwing a couple of silver dollars upon the table, he added,–
There! that will pay you for your trouble, and
the risk, too.
It was not easy to resist persuasions so enforced, for these ringing coins were anything but plentiful in those times; so the good woman yielded at length, and set about her preparations. Several slices of ham, with a garnishing of eggs and a huge rye loaf, were soon ready. Noble seized the big cider pitcher, and went into the cellar, whence he presently returned with it full; and the two, taking the food now prepared, bore it to the barn, where the others were waiting with what patience their sharpened appetites permitted. Nobel forthwith returned to the house, and Mr. Webb just then arriving, he called the dogs to accompany them, and the two set off together to the woods, with their axes, for their day's work.