“And let me have a hand in it!” cried Boyd, fiercely.
“You belong to the neighborhood and might be recognized,” objected the chief.
“I’ll risk it. I owe him a sound flogging, or something worse,” returned Boyd.
“We all do, for he’d have every mother’s son of us sent to jail or hanged, if he could,” growled another voice on Snell’s right, while from a mask on the left there came in sepulchral tones, the words, “It had better be hands off with you then, man,” the speaker pointing significantly to Boyd’s maimed member.
“It shall!” cried he, “but I flatter myself this right hand, mutilated though it be, can lay on the lash as vigorously as yours, sir.”
After a little more discussion, Boyd’s wish was granted, his fellow raiders were named, and presently the meeting was closed, and the members began to disperse.
Snell thought he had escaped suspicion thus far, but his heart leaped into his mouth as a man whom he had heard addressed as Jim Blake, suddenly clapped his hand on his shoulder, exclaiming, “Ah, ha, I know you, old chap!”
“You do? who am I then?” queried the spy in a feigned, unnatural voice, steady and cool, spite of the terrible danger that menaced him.
“Who? Hal Williams, no disguise could hide you from me.”
Snell drew a breath of relief. “Ha! ha! Jim, I didn’t think you were so cute,” he returned in his feigned voice, and glided away presently disappearing, as others were doing, in the deeper shadows of the wood.
He thought it not prudent to go directly to the spot where he had left his horse, but reached it by a circuitous route, doffing his disguise and rolling it into a bundle again as he went.
He paused a moment to recover breath and listen. All was darkness and silence; the conspirators had left the vicinity.
Satisfied of this, he led his horse into the road, mounted and rode back to the town.
There every one seemed to be asleep except in a drinking saloon, whence came sounds of drunken revelry, and the bar room of the tavern where he put up. A light was burning there, but he avoided it attended to his horse himself, returning it to the precise spot where he had found it, then slipped stealthily up to his room, and without undressing threw himself upon the bed and almost immediately fell into a profound slumber.
“Abate the edge of traitors, gracious lord,
That would reduce these bloody days again,
And make poor England weep in streams of blood.”
The sun had just risen above the tree-tops as Solon led Beppo, ready saddled and bridled for his master’s use, from the stables to the front of the mansion.
A moment later Mr. Travilla came out, gave some orders to the servant, and was about to mount, when his attention was attracted by the approach of a man on horseback who came cantering briskly up the avenue.