When the morning of Thursday dawned, the
storm showed no signs of abatement. The
wind blew as only March winds can blow,
piling the fleecy masses in drifts, and rendering the
roads nearly impassable.
Tobiah was up very early in the morning, to start
the fires at the tavern and attend to his numerous
chores. He was engaged in this manner in the kitchen,
and restoring to order the furniture, which showed
signs of a late occupancy the night before, when the
chamber door opened, and two men with packs already
slung upon their backs, and with guns in their hands,
came down. They were at first startled at seeing the
negro, but perceiving that he was a servant of the
family, included that they were in no danger of betrayal
by him, and passed through the hall into the
bar-room. Presently one of them, Graham, returned,
and began to look carefully around the room, under
the table and benches, which served instead of chairs,
as if searching for something.
Los' anything, massa? Tobiah inquired.
I'm afraid so, was the reply.
gone out of my pack this morning, which I know I
had yesterday. We put down our bundles in the corner
there, last night, while we ate supper, and I
thought likely it dropped out when we took them to
go up to bed,
What was it, sar? said Tobiah; and he drew
near with his candle, to assist in the search; for the
room was still quite dark in the thick gloom, after the
Ah, here it is! exclaimed the other, snatching
something from the floor, and hastily thrusting it into
his pocket. Rapid as was the motion, the quick eyes
of the negro detected what he took to be a pistol.
Graham made no further reply to the question, but
returned immediately to the bar-room.
The sight of the pistol, with the general appearance
of the strangers, awakened suspicions in the mind of
Tobiah. He had heard, the day before, that a search
was going on for somebody accused of robbery, and it,
instantly occurred to him that these might be the
The arms they carried, together with their
bundles, the distrustful look they gave him as they
came down, all tended to confirm his suspicion. He
resolved, however, to say, nothing about it at present,
but to watch them very carefullyâ€“
Presently Captain Wooster came out from his apartment,
and passed also into the bar-room. Tobiah had
been there before he came into the kitchen, and a
brisk fire was already blazing in the chimney.
The landlord had not met his guests the night before,
but he needed no formal introduction. Doolittle
was slightly known to him, being a relative of his
brother David's family. The morning salutations
were exchanged, and the customary transaction at
the bar engaged in by the strangers with more than
usual relish. A brief conversation followed as to the
events of the day previous, and the prospect of their
being able to get away that day. They inquired where
they might find their companions, and were manifestly
eager to leave the house as soon as possible, feeling
that they were in danger there. Mr. Wooster went
with them down to the horse-shed, and pointing to a
large barn at a considerable distance in the meadow,
bade them all keep quiet there during the day. Some
men would probably come there, he said, with their
oxen and sled for a load of hay, which fact, if they
kept carefully out of sight, would tend to increase
their safety rather than otherwise, since no one would
think of suspecting their presence in a place thus occupied.
Thus advised, the two men sprang over the
fence, and speedily joined their comrades in the barn.
That day was gloomy in the extreme to the fugitives.
They had intended to start with the first dawn
of light, and thread their way over the hills and
through the woods to Derby Landing, there to embark
at night for Long Island. The severity of the weather,
however, made them shrink from the exposure
and fatigue. They were without boots or overcoats,
both of which were articles not in common use in
those days. A homespun flannel shirt and coarse
woolen stockings sufficed for warmth, or if more were
needed, it must be gained by vigorous work or other
exercise. The bottoms of the trousers were tied about
the ankles with strings, and sometimes an old stocking
drawn over them, making a rude sort of legging.
These, at best, were but a poor preparation for wading
in the deep snow.
The barn was open and breezy. The boards with
which it was covered had shrunk so that one's fingers
might be thrust between them, while the ill-fitting
and broken doors gave free access to light and storm.
New England farmers had not learned then, â€“ as too
many, it is to be feared, have not learned yet, â€“ that
warmth is as necessary to the thrift of their animals as
food, and that close and comfortable stables save many
a ton of hay in the winter.
The entrance of Graham and Doolittle roused the
sleepers in the hay; but after reconnoitering the view
outside, and receiving the message sent them from
their host, they concluded to remain where they were
until the storm should abate. Designating one of
their number to act as sentinel, and give notice if any
one approached, they crept anew beneath their fragrant
covering, and tried to go to sleep again. But
the spell was broken, and to some, at least, sleep was
impossible. The stern realities of their condition
pressed upon their thoughts, and awoke too deep an
anxiety to permit them to slumber any longer.
Such was especially the case with our young friend
Chauncey. Under the excitement and fatigue of the
preceding day, he had slept soundly through the
night, oblivious alike of the past and the future. But
with the return of consciousness dawned anew the realization
of his peril. Never do the facts of our experience
come to us with so vivid an impression as
when we wake to them from the depths of a dreamless
sleep. As they recur to us one by one, they thrill
along our nerves like successive electric discharges,
making them seem, if possible, more real than at the
moment of their actual experience.
So it was with the young man. He was a prisoner.
He was in the power of those who would not shrink
at any moment to murder him. He was being hurried
away, he knew not whither, to some dark destination,
from which the chances were that he would never return.
Then came, too, the remembrance of the sweet
divine peace which had been granted him in his agony
by the side of the old well in the cellar. He was in
the hands of his heavenly Father still; of him who
had twice interposed to save his life, and who in that
hour of mortal terror had revealed himself to him as
an unseen but loving Friend.
The thought was like a benediction to his overburdened
heart. Silently he poured out the expression
of his thankfulness and trust. He entreated the God
who had made himself known to him, the God of
Joseph and Daniel, to save him from bondage and restore
him to his home. He prayed for all the inmates
of that home, especially the ever dear father and
mother, who, he knew, must be in deep grief on his
account. Nay, he prayed for his captors themselves,
that they might be induced to release him; and more,
that they might be caused to see the sinfulness of their
ways and be brought to repentance and a better life.
In the earnestness of his feeling he forgot for the moÂment
where he was; the words, which at first were
little more than whispered sighs, became audible, and
his eyes streamed with tears.
The deep emotion of Chauncey awoke some sympathetic
feeling in the mind of David Wooster, by whose
side be was lying, a little apart from the rest. Partly
out of pity, and partly out of curiosity to hear what
the former would say to such a question, he said to
Do you believe praying does any good, Chauncey?
Why, yes, David â€“ don't you?
Well, I don't know. I never knew much good
come of it. Your praying people an't any better than
other folks, so far as I can see. Besides, how do you
know there is a God, anyway? You never saw nor
heard him, and nobody living ever did. For my part,
I believe it's all a humbug.
But the Bible says there is, pleaded Chauncey,
it says, too, that he does hear and answer
Oh, the Bible says so! sneered David;
enough, I suppose. But what's the Bible, I'd like to
know? An old book that came from nobody knows
where. Why should I believe that, because the
priests swear by it, while at the same time there's no
two of them can agree what it means?
Well, I have not learning enough to answer all
your questions, but at the same time I believe the
Bible. My father and mother believe it. They read
it every day, and they love it, and it does them good,
I know that they who read and obey it are better men
and women than those that don't. And as to praying,
I know it is not useless.
How do you know it?
Well, for one thing. I believe God heard my
prayer yesterday, when you were going to throw me
into the well. He saved me then, and he gave me beÂside
a sweet peace and confidence that he will go with
me through all that is before me. I cannot tell what
His will is, or how much I may be called to suffer,
but he has made me feel that he is my Father, and
that he will take care of me. Somewhere he says
that all things work together for good to them that
In spite of himself, David could not help being affected
by the simple faith and tender earnestness of
his companion, and he said,â€“
I hope it will be so, I'm sure. I don't wish you
any harm, and it was an unlucky moment when we
fell in with you. However, we must make the best
of it now. Keep up good pluck, and whether your
prayers are heard or not, I trust you will get back
home by and by, safe and sound.
As the day wore on, the storm seemed to abate
somewhat. It grew lighter, as if the sun were about
to break through the heavy clouds. Towards noon, a
team and sled with its broad rigging were seen coming
from the road into the meadow, and approaching the
barn. Mr. Daniel Wooster had sold a quantity of
hay stored there to a Mr. Hazleton, one of his neighbors,
and the necessities of the latter required that it
should be taken away at once without waiting for a
better day. At first, Captain Wooster had engaged
to do the work of removing it, but this morning, fearing
to disturb the secrecy of his nephews, and their
companions, and possibly forseeing some legal hazard
from putting himself into a position where he could
not help having a knowledge of their concealment, he
had excused himself to Mr. Hazleton, on the plea that
his sled was broken, offering to do the work the next
day. Mr. Hazleton, however, could not wait, and
procured another man to do it instead.
Warned by Captain Wooster that such a visit might
be made to the barn, the fugitives were already prepared
for it. The hay would be taken from the large
mow in the main bay, and they supposed there was
little probability that the other parts of the barn
would be disturbed. On the opposite side was a loft
above the stables, which was filled with rye straw, the
remains of the summer's harvesting which the month
before had been thrashed out. Upon and behind this
they had made spaces between the bundles where they
might stow themselves, the open cracks in the boarding
affording them plenty of air for breathing. Here
they hoped to lie undiscovered during the brief time
requisite for loading the hay. At the same time they
had agreed that, if detected, they would seize upon
the men in charge of the team and hold them in
custody till night, when they might make their
The teamsmen reached the barn and began their
work. Having cleared the floor of litter, they first
prepared their apparatus for weighing the hay. Mr.
Hazleton ascended the stable loft and crept over the
pile of straw to the scaffolding which rested on the
great beams, to one of the timbers of which be attached
a rope. This hanging directly over the floor,
served to suspend the big steelyard to which the hay
was slung in successive bundles for weighing. It was
an anxious moment for those lying beneath the straw,
as they felt the weight of the man passing along over
them; but they lay profoundly still, and fortunately
The men worked with a will, for it was very cold.
A portion of the rope was laid in two parallel
lengths upon the floor, upon which the hay was
thrown from the mow. When as much was thus
piled as the rope would compass, the loose ends were
gathered and passed through the bight, making a slip-noose
around the mass, then being lifted to the steelyard,
its weight was speedily ascertained, and marked
with a bit of chalk upon one of the boards of the barn.
It was laborious work, and the men had little time or
inclination for talking.
At length, in a brief pause in which they indulged
for resting, Hazleton remarked that he thought it
singular that Captain Wooster's sled should have
been broken so soon, for it was a new one, and had
never been used before that winter.
The more I think of it, said he,
the more I
believe it was an excuse to get rid of the job. He
had his old sled, even if the new one was broke. I
don't believe he wanted to come out to-day. I wonder
if he don't know something about this robbery
that's making so much noise. They say the Wooster
boys were in it, and that David's father was took last
night and put under keepers for harboring them.
Mebbe so, said his companion,
but where do
you s'pose the rogues be now?
I don't know. They haven't been caught yet,
but they will be, you may depend, for the whole region
is after them. The fellows are lurking around
somewhere, and I shouldn't a bit wonder if the captain
Nor I either, said the other;
but we musn't
stand here talking. The day is short, and we've got
to pitch in.
So saying, he suited the action to the word, and
plunged his fork into a heavy mass of hay. Just
then, owing probably to the dust arising from the
work, which penetrated every part of the barn, a suppressed
sneeze was heard.
Hush! cried Hazleton;
what was that? I
should almost think there was somebody hid here in
the barn. Didn't you hear it? a kind of sneeze, or
Pshaw, no! replied the laborer.
anybody be hid here? Besides, you know there
wa'n't any tracks in the snow, and nobody could get
here without leaving his mark. Hand up the rope
yonder, and let's finish our job.
A half hour more and the loading was completed,
the oxen brought around from under the shed,
where they had had their bating, and the sled
with its burden moved slowly away across the