As he walked rapidly on in the cool night air, feeling refreshed because of the opportunity of stretching his legs after sitting in the saddle so long, the desire for slumber fled from his eyes. There was no reason why he should halt until he felt drowsy again, and he continued on, thinking alternately of what he had accomplished, of the mill he hoped at some future time to see erected on the small tract of land bordering the Pascataqua River which his father had bequeathed him, and of the taxes to be paid by some means within twenty-four hours of his arrival.
With so much to occupy his mind, he forgot his weariness, and the hours went by without his being aware of the passage of time.
When he first realized how near he was to the starting point of his long journey, a rosy light in the east told of the coming sun, and he marveled that the night had gone so quickly.
Half an hour later, as the knowledge of distance traversed brought with it weariness, and he was about to seek a thicket where his slumbers would not be disturbed, a noise as of some one approaching brought him to a full stop.
In another instant he recognized the form of his friend, Stephen Kidder, in the distance, and he ran toward him, crying,-
“What brings you here at this hour, Stephen?”
“I left home at midnight to meet you.”
“Meet me? It would have been easier to have waited I there until I arrived.”
“It is to prevent your arrival that I have come,” and Stephen had very much the appearance of a bearer of evil tidings.
“What is the matter? Why do you look so glum? Is my mother well?”.
“Yes; but sorrowing.”
“Tell me what has happened.”
“Your cattle and horses have been sold by the sheriff.”
“How can that be? It is not forty-eight hours since they were attached,”
“That is true; but yet they have been sold, Samuel Haines is at the bottom of the mischief, and he it was who bought them. He is now declaring you shall be arrested for stealing his horse, and Master McCleary sent me to warn you not to come home until the matter can be arranged.”
“Not go home!” Walter repeated, like one bewildered. “Where, then, shall I go ?”
“Your mother bade me ask you why you did not visit the land on the Pascataqua? It is not likely you would be searched for there, and I should be able to find you whenever it might be necessary.”
Walter was silent a few moments, as if trying to under stand all that had befallen him, and then said, slowly,-
“Haines would never dare to have me arrested. He took me prisoner unlawfully, and I had a right to make my escape if possible.”
“That is very true; yet, because you are one of the Sons of Liberty, Master McCleary thinks an arrest will surely follow.”
“Is it not safe for me to see my mother a few moments? "
“She herself told me to warn you against coming. That half-breed, Jim, has been seen near the farm twice since yesterday noon, and he can be there for no other purpose than to give notice of your arrival.”