Jones had heard enough. Hastening back to Dick, he asked:
“Can you swim?”
“Yes, I’m a good swimmer.”
“Very well; throw away everything—no, stay—that would betray us. When we reach the water bury all you can’t carry in the sand and then follow me.”
They were forced to retrace their painful way through the bushes to reach a place as distant from the point of pursuit as possible. A half-mile or more from their starting-place they found themselves in a running stream. Jones examined it in both directions, and bade Dick enter it and follow in the water, pushing upward in the bed, waist-deep, a hundred yards. Then, climbing to the bank, he groped about until he found a slender white oak. Climbing this as high as he could get, he slowly swung off, and, the tree bending down to the very stream, he dropped back into the water and rejoined Dick. Both waded in the middle of the stream until they reached the pond, and then struck out toward the pine clump the lightning had revealed a little while before. There was no need of swimming, and, finding it possible to wade, Jones decided to retain the pistols and ammunition which he had at first resolved to bury as impeding the flight. The bottom appeared to be hard sand, a condition often found in Southern ponds near the inflow of the sea. They had gone a mile or more, keeping just far enough from the bank to remain undistinguishable, when the appalling baying of a hound sounded from the farther end of the pond, where the patrol fire gleamed faintly among the trees.
“Now, youngster, we must keep all our wits at work. The dogs will push on to where we hid. They will follow to the stream, and I think I have given them the slip there. Then they will beat about and follow our trail into the cypress swamp. There the horses will mislead them, and if you can only hold out, so soon as daylight comes we can strike into the pines and make for the Union lines.”
“I—I—think I can—ah!—”
Dick reeled helplessly and would have sunk under the water, if Jones had not caught him.
“Courage, my boy, courage! Don’t give up now, just as we are near rescue!”
But Dick was unconscious, the strain of the early part of the night, the desperate fight through the brakes, all had told on the slight frame, and Jones stood up to his middle in the dark water, holding the fainting boy.
IN THE UNION LINES.
If there is reason as well as rhyme in the old song that danger’s a soldier’s delight and a storm the sailor’s joy, Jack and his comrade were in for all the delights that ever gladdened soldier or sailor boy. When they left Dick and Jones, the eager couriers tore through the marshy lowlands, the stubbly thickets and treacherous quagmires, poor Barney, panting and groaning in his docile desire to keep up with his leader, as he had done often in boyish bravado.