During the hour which followed Walter’s capture the two men remained close at hand, while their horses were allowed to stroll along the path, eating grass, and at the expiration of that time the animals could no longer either be seen or heard.
“Go and bring them back, Jim!” Haines said, in a peremptory tone. “It would be a hard job for us if they should stray too far.”
The half-breed hesitated an instant, as if undecided whether to obey this command, and then, rising slowly to his feet, he slouched down the path lazily.
After the brief conversation which had followed the capture of Walter, neither of the men had spoken until this moment; but as soon as his comrade disappeared among the bushes, Haines said, in what he intended should sound like a friendly tone,-
“I am sorry to see a promising young man like you, Neal, led astray by these fanatics, who dream of opposing his majesty’s just and wise laws. You have too much solid sense to train in any such company.”
“You seem to have a remarkably good opinion of me,” Walter said, grimly.
“So I have, lad, so I have. I know you have been hoping to build a mill of your own on the Pascataqua, and am interested in the project, for it is a sensible one: there is plenty of money to be made in that section.”
“According to appearances now I shan’t reap any very large harvest this year.”
“It depends upon yourself. If you had kept proper company there would have been no attachment made to-day.
“How did you know anything about that?” Walter asked, sharply.
“I heard the matter discussed, and feel certain you would have been given more time but for your own very unwise move last night.”
“Then you know-”
Walter stopped suddenly on realizing that he was about to betray a secret, but Haines finished the remark.
“That you enrolled yourself among that rabble who call themselves the Sons of Liberty? Yes; I know it, and so do others.”
“It seems I am of more importance than I fancied. I never supposed anything I did could make any difference to the good people of Portsmouth; but I was mistaken.”
“It concerns right-minded people anywhere when a boy who stands on the threshold of manhood makes a grievous mistake.”
“That remains to be proven.”
“And it will be speedily, as you must learn to your cost. If you really want a mill on the Pascataqua, I will show you how it can be built at once.”
“I should like to learn the secret.”
“Abandon the evil companions you have chosen, reveal such of their plots against his majesty’s officers as you are acquainted with, and I guarantee that a sufficient sum of money to put up the buildings and purchase the machinery shall be loaned you within twenty-four hours.”
“I am a fool not to have understood the drift of your conversation before it reached this point,” Walter said, hotly. " I had rather never own a mill than get it as you propose; and as for evil companions,’ I am proud to have been allowed to join them.”