“If I am to be charged with horse-stealing because of what has been done, it cannot be avoided now. Before I am arrested I must carry the message with which I have been entrusted, and to do so I need another horse. I had believed I could get one from you without difficulty.”
“So you can, lad but at the same time you must not think hardly of me if I use proper precaution to save myself from being caught in the meshes of the law. You know where my stable is j take an animal from there without my permission, and I cannot prevent it.”
“I am to steal another horse in order that you may not get into trouble?”
“It can make but little difference to you, so long as you see Master Revere by daylight, and I must not neglect my own interests. No one has seen you, and you may be able to get out of town secretly.”
Walter could not afford to waste any more time in what seemed very like quibbling, and without further parley he turned to act upon his friend’s suggestion.
“It is not well that you remain in Boston any longer than may be absolutely necessary for your business,” the worthy Master Cotton called after him, warningly. “There is that being done which you need not be identified with.”
Walter made no reply; but when he was out of the building on his way to the stable, he muttered to himself, —
“If I was as timorous as you, Master Cotton, I should now be in the company of Sam Haines, with a rope tied tightly about me.”
Five minutes later he was riding out of Salem at full speed on the fleetest horse to be found in the stable, and there was every reason for him to believe that he would, in due season, deliver the message with which he had been charged.
The light of the coming day had not yet appeared in the eastern sky when the young messenger drew rein at the edge of Charlestown harbour, and sat in the saddle, gazing curiously around, as he speculated upon the chances of being ferried across to Boston.
It was well the journey was ended, for the heaving flanks of Master Cotton’s horse told that he had been ridden so long at full speed as to be well-nigh exhausted.
Immediately on leaving Salem, Walter had debated in his mind as to the choice of roads. By making a long detour he could ride directly into the city of his destination; but it would be at the expense of considerable time, which he believed to be precious.
On the other hand, by traversing the shortest road he would, as he now did, find himself penniless, with a broad stretch of water to be crossed before the message could be delivered.
“I shall get over in some way,” he had said, as he arrived at a decision, and now was come the time when that “some way” must be found.
“It is certain I shan’t be able to take the horse with me,” he said, after a brief time of silence, “and I must look around for a place in which he can be hidden.”