The moss-covered path had deadened the sound of the animals’ approach as they came up from the rear.
Walter recognized both the new-comers. The foremost was Samuel Haines, a man who had made an unsuccessful attempt to get the appointment to distribute stamped paper in New Hampshire, and the other James Albert, a half-breed Indian, who was well known in Portsmouth as a quarrelsome fellow, ready to take part in any business, however disreputable, so long as he was provided with an ample supply of rum.
Walter nodded familiarly to Haines, but paid no attention to the Indian.
“Wait a moment, Master Neal,” the former said, gravely, as Walter attempted to pass him. “Where are you going that you cannot stop for a short converse? "
“On business which admits of no delay.”
“Do you expect to walk from here to Boston before daylight?”
“Who said I was going to Boston?”
“Perhaps I guessed as much.”
“Then kindly guess that I can’t wait here simply for the pleasure of talking with Master Haines.”
“I shan’t try to do that, my rebellious friend. When Jim gets ready—–”
Walter half turned to see what part the Indian was to play in this interview, and as he did so the fellow’s arms were around him, pinioning his own to his side.
“What is the meaning of this?” he cried, angrily, as he tried in vain to release himself.
“It means, Master Neal, that I wish to see the message you carry,” and Haines, dismounting, hastily searched the prisoner’s pockets.
“You have found yourself mistaken as sadly as when you believed the king would give you the dirty work of selling stamped paper,” Walter said, with a laugh, noting the look of disappointment on Haines’s face when he failed to find any document.
“You have been intrusted to deliver the message by word of mouth, and it will serve my purpose as well if I prevent you from calling on that seditious Revere. Here, Jim, tie him to a tree with this,” and Haines drew from his saddle-bags a piece of stout rope.
It was in vain Walter struggled; taken at a disadvantage as he had been, he was powerless, and in a few moments was bound securely to a tree, while his captors threw themselves on the ground in front of him, as if to make a long stay.
“If you repeat what you were told to say to Revere, I will see to it that you are made more comfortable,” Haines said, after a long pause.
“And what then? "
“We shall make certain you don’t return to Portsmouth for two or three days, that is all.”
“If I have a message to deliver, I will keep it to myself, instead of intrusting it to you,” Walter said, grimly; but his mind was sorely troubled, for he realized that if he should be delayed here no more than four hours the information he was to give might arrive too late.