“I’ve got rheumatiz, Mr. Bonner, an’ it would be the death o’ me to sleep in this swamp,” objected Anderson hastily.
“Well, I’ll come alone, then. I’m not afraid. I don’t mean to say I’ll sleep in that old shack, but I’ll bunk out here in the woods. No human being could sleep in that place. Will any one volunteer to keep me company?”
“I don’t blame you. It does take nerve, I’ll confess. My only stipulation is that you shall come down here from the village early to-morrow morning. I may have something of importance to tell you, Mr. Crow.”
“We’ll find his dead body,” groaned old Mr. Borton.
“Say, mister,” piped up a shrill voice, “I’ll stay with you.” It was Bud who spoke, and all Tinkletown was afterward to resound with stories of his bravery. The boy had been silently admiring the bold sportsman from Boston town, and he was ready to cast his lot with him in this adventure. He thrilled with pleasure when the big hero slapped him on the back and called him the only man in the crowd.
At eight o’clock that night Bonner and the determined but trembling Bud came up the bank from the river and pitched a tent among the trees near the haunted house. From the sledge on the river below they trundled up their bedding and their stores. Bud had an old single-barrel shotgun, a knife and a pipe, which he was just learning to smoke; Bonner brought a Navajo blanket, a revolver and a heavy walking stick. He also had a large flask of whiskey and the pipe that had graduated from Harvard with him.
At nine o’clock he put to bed in one of the chilly nests a very sick boy, who hated to admit that the pipe was too strong for him, but who felt very much relieved when he found himself wrapped snugly in the blankets with his head tucked entirely out of sight. Bud had spent the hour in regaling Bonner with the story of Rosalie Gray’s abduction and his own heroic conduct in connection with the case. He confessed that he had knocked one of the villains down, but they were too many for him. Bonner listened politely and then—put the hero to bed.
Bonner dozed off at midnight. An hour or so later he suddenly sat bolt upright, wide awake and alert. He had the vague impression that he was deathly cold and that his hair was standing on end.
The Men in the Sleigh
Let us go back to the night on which Rosalie was seized and carried away from Mrs. Luce’s front gate, despite the valiant resistance of her youthful defenders.
Rosalie had drooned Thackeray to the old lady until both of them were dozing, and it was indeed a welcome relief that came with Roscoe’s resounding thumps on the front door. Mrs. Luce was too old to be frightened out of a year’s growth, but it is perfectly safe to agree with her that the noise cost her at least three months.