Search for the Fugitives
Let us return briefly, and trace the progress of
The party that were in search of the missing
boy, being joined with those who had come from
Bethany upon the track of the burglars, set forth from
Mr. Judd's with eager expectation. The latter were
on horseback, the former mostly on foot. Nearly all
were armed, and fully resolved, if the plunderers
made any resistance, to shoot them on the spot.
A few minutes brought them to the house of Mr.
Jobamah Gunn. That gentleman had returned from
his early morning ride, and professed entire ignorance
as to the men they were inquiring after. He declared
positively that they had not been at his house, nor did
they find anything there to contradict his assertion.
At the barn, however, there were very manifest traces
of somebody besides the usual employees of the farm.
The hay in the bays bore the appearance of having
been tumbled about in an extraordinary manner. On
the barn floor were found some remnants of a meal â€“
a bit of bone, a crust of bread, and a fragment of fat
sliced ham; and on one of the beams, a short tobacco
pipe, which seemed to have been laid there and forgotten.
The family professed to be unable to account
for these, Mrs. Gunn protesting that she knew nothing
of what had been done in the barn. The kitchen
woman, however, was not skillful enough to evade
their inquiries. Tangled by their sharp cross-examinations,
she was at last obliged to confess that some
men had slept in that place the night previous, and
that these had compelled her mistress and herself to
get them breakfast that morning, but they went away
early, and where they then were she did not know.
Satisfied that they were on the right track, the pursuers
pushed on rapidly, and soon reached Mr. Wooster's,
as related. A portion of them stopped at the
barn, where he and Seeley were threshing, and a part
passed on to the house.
Short and unceremonious were the greetings which
in those days were used when persons of opposite political
Good afternoon, Uncle David, said the foremost;
I suppose you can guess what we've come for.
Somewhere in this cursed nest of tories those robbers
are hid that plundered Captain Dayton's house in
Bethany last night, and have carried off Chauncey
Judd; and we're going to find them, if we search all
Gunntown. Here's a paper describing the villains,
and offering five thousand dollars for their capture.
Your David, and Henry Wooster, Jr., from Derby,
are said to have been among them, and others well
known in this neighborhood. If you know anything
about them, you had better own up, if you don't want
a taste of old Simsbury.
I certainly don't know where either David or Henry
is, replied Mr. Wooster.
They have been here
to-day, but they went away some time ago, and didn't
say where they were going.
Was there anybody here with them?
Well, we've been threshing here, Seeley and I,
pretty much all day, and I have not paid much attention
to the boys. Sam Doolittle, my wife's nephew,
was here to dinner, but he left soon after. But you
say you are going to search for them â€“ why don't
you do it, then, without stopping to ask me? Have
you got a search warrant?
Yes; all we want. We can't stand on trifles now.
We are going to see what we can find on your premises,
and if you don't like it, you can prosecute us if
you want to.
So saying, they dispersed themselves through the
barn and outhouses; they looked under the hay and
the grain; peered into oat-bins and stables, and wherever
else it was possible the robbers or their booty
might be concealed, but of course they were not successful.
Then they passed on to the house, where a
similar work was already going on.
The chambers and attics were examined, the beds
overhauled, kitchen, pantries and wash-room visited.
Then they went below to the basement kitchen and
cellar. Nothing positive was found here, for the table
and dishes used at dinner had been removed, but the
fire still burning on the hearth, and the odor of tobacco,
suggesting recent occupation, excited suspicions.
Wonder if the old lady washes every day of the
week, said one.
And if she does, where's her wet clothes? asked
And I should like to know, too, continued a
whether she smokes when she is washing.
Somebody that smokes has been here to-day; that's
Mrs. Wooster, meantime, played her part to perfection.
She had seated herself at the kitchen table,
working over a pan full of newly-churned butter with
as much apparent composure as if it was only a children's
frolic which was going on. To their questions
respecting the suspected persons, she only replied that
they were not there, and she did not know where they
were. As to the fire in the basement, about which
they inquired, she said that she had been doing some
kitchen work there, and that Seeley had been in once
or twice, who, like other old soldiers, was an inveterate
smoker, as they very well knew. These representations,
with the evident good order of the house and
the quiet demeanor of its mistress, were already producing
some misgivings as to the result of their
search, when suddenly a clew was obtained in a quarter
Mr. Wooster, we have before stated, had a large
family of children. Two of these were of feeble intellect
â€“ not, indeed, wholly idiots, but destitute of ordinary
understanding, and never able to take care of
themselves. Whether these had any dim perception
of the meaning of the unusual commotion in the
house, or were simply captivated by the finery of the
presents which David had made to his mother and sisters,
we know not. One of them, however, having
watched the course of the proceedings for some time,
drew near to Mr. Judd, whom she had before seen,
as he had called at the house, and with a meaningless
giggle, exclaimed, â€“
Hannah got a silk gown!
Ah, Sally, he replied,
how do you do to-day?
A silk gown, do you say? That must be very nice.
Pretty, said she, with another laugh;
Indeed! Ribbons, too? And where did she get them Sally?
David gin it, and he didn't gin me none! and
the voice sunk into a querulous whine.
Go right along! cried her mother peremptorily;
shan't stay where people are if you can't keep
The poor girl shrunk away abashed under the imperious
command. But the clew had been given.
How is this, Mrs. Wooster? inquired Deacon
Lewis, who had followed after the younger persons in
the pursuing party, and was a justice of the peace.
What does Sally mean?
Oh, it's one of the poor child's fancies. She
knows just enough to love finery, and when nothing
is uppermost, she talks about that.
But you know the old saying, 'Children and fools
speak the truth.' Here has been a robbery committed.
A house has been broken into, and a great quantity
of silk goods have been stolen and carried off.
Your David is suspected of being one of the robbers.
And here Sally says he has given her sister a new silk
gown, which only confirms the suspicion. Now, Mrs.
Wooster, if that is so, you had better own it. We
don't want to make you any trouble, but we shall not
leave the house till we have found out what's in it.
If there are silk dresses here, or any other thing of
that kind, they will certainly be found. The theft
cannot be concealed long, and the more you attempt
it the worse it will be for you. To conceal a crime is
just as punishable by the law as to commit it.
Mrs. Wooster saw that she was involved in a dilemma
from which there was no apparent way of escape.
She knew that goods of the description referred to
were in the house, although all the men but David
had carried away their packs with them, and from the
resolute purpose and increasing number of the pursuers,
she could not doubt that they would make good
their threatening. She began likewise to see the dangers
to which these proceedings were exposing her
husband and all the family, as well as herself. At
last she said,â€“
I don't know anything about the robbery, as you
call it, if there has been one, or who was engaged in
it. I am willing to show you the dress which Hannah
has, and anything else of the kind there is in the
house. We don't intend to countenance robbery, and
we have no disposition to conceal crime. But these
are times of violence, and there's a great deal that's
wrong going on all the time on both sides. I don't
think it's all done by the tories, as you call us.
So saying, she departed, but soon returned with the
aforesaid garment, and one or two similar articles
which had been given to herself and others of the
family. These were recognized as answering to the
description contained in the advertisement. As to
any knowledge of where David and his confederates
then were, she declared positively that she had none.
A consultation was then held by the searching party
as to the course to be pursued. It was evident that
the gang of plunderers were not there, and equally
evident that they had but recently left. Of course
Mr. Wooster and his wife were both guilty of harboring
and concealing them. Deacon Lewis, by virtue
of his authority as a magistrate, ordered that the
former, together with William Seeley, should be arrested
and put under keepers, and that a sufficient
guard should be stationed in the house to apprehend
the robbers themselves if they should return there.
It was now near night, with all the symptoms of
an approaching storm. The raw east wind of the
morning had increased in violence during the day; the
dark clouds, which had drifted northward, settled in
a leaden pall over the sky; and the snow-flakes began
to fall. Squire Lewis, Mr. Judd, and others of the
elderly men of the party, prepared to return home,
while the others declared their intention of pushing
They won't attempt to travel far in such a night
as this, and we shall find them over to Noah's or Dan
Johnson's or somewhere in that neighborhood.
That night was a sleepless one at Mr. Judd's. He
had himself returned from the pursuit shortly after
dark, and reported the facts which had been ascertained
as to the robbers, confirming the theory they
had entertained that Chauncey had been carried away
by them. Indeed, the elder David Wooster and Seeley,
after their arrest, finding that longer denial was
useless, confessed that the robbers had been at his
house, and that the missing young man with
them. The intelligence, while it relieved the suspense
occasioned by their entire ignorance as to what had
became of him, only turned their solicitude into new
His captors were a set of ruffians who would not
scruple at anything necessary for their own concealment.
What severity or abuse they might inflict
upon his could not be known. Their own condition
must be a hard one, exposed to a driving storm,
obliged to fly from one refuge to another, and subject
to fatigue, loss of sleep, and constant apprehension of
discovery, in all which, except the last, Chauncey
himself was compelled to share. He was a slender
youth, tenderly nurtured, and little accustomed to
such hardships. So the mother's imagination depicted
the sufferings he was enduring, and with the acute
sensibilities of her own affection, suffering with him
in them all.
The neighbors gathered there, both to manifest
their sympathy and to learn what report came from
those who had gone in pursuit. Ditha Webb had
been there all the afternoon, and though the evening
was growing late, could not persuade herself to return
home. Indeed, she would not have dared to pass on
the road where that dreadful party of men had been
the night before and so accepted the urgent invitation
of the family to stay with Ruth and Anna all night.
From time to time some of the young men engaged in
the pursuit returned, bring word of the progress
they were making, and of the thousand rumors and
surmises that were flying about, which ministered
fresh fuel to the excitement, and kept all minds in a
state of most painful expectation.
It is in such an hour as this that the devout heart
turns instinctively to the divine sympathy and help.
Mrs. Judd sat apart from the group of young
people that chattered incessantly, with one or two
of her little ones by her side,their hands clasping her
own, and their heads nestling upon her knee. Like
the mother of Samuel,
she was in bitterness of soul,
and prayed to the Lord, and wept sore, not indeed
with audible sobs, but with the inward cry of a mother's
breaking heart. What would it comfort her to
remember that the others were safe, when this one
lamb, the best beloved, as the lost one always is, was
astray in the wilderness?
And there was given to her the answer which has
so often come on the white wings of peace to the distressed â€“
the consciousness of the Savior's presence,
bidding her trust in him, and assuring her that he
would care both for her and her child.