That his calculations were not correct was shown as a second ball passed uncomfortably close, and a third tore through his coat-sleeve, causing the warm blood to gush down over his hand.
“Only a scratch, nothing more!” he shouted, and then he was among the friendly shelter of the trees again.
The horse upon which Haines rode could not hold the pace, and when half an hour had elapsed no sound of pursuit was heard.
It was time Walter gave the captured animal a breathing spell, if he hoped to reach Salem as he had calculated, and he brought him to a standstill while he pulled off his coat to examine the wound on his arm.
It was rather deeper than a scratch, but yet nothing more serious than to cause a goodly show of blood, and Walter put on his coat again without a thought that any bandaging might be necessary.
This done, he rode on at a more leisurely pace, but listening intently for any sound betokening the approach of his enemy.
Nothing occurred to cause him alarm, and it was not yet sunset when he drew rein in front of William Cotton’s store.
That gentleman was in and disengaged, as was seen when he came to the door for a view of the new arrival.
“What! Is it you, Walter Neal?”
“There is no doubt about it in my mind, although my joints are so stiff from long riding that if I was less acquainted with myself I might believe I was only a portion of the saddle,” Walter said, laughingly, as he dismounted, and added, in a graver tone, “I must speak with you alone, Friend Cotton.”
“I am alone now. Take your horse to the stable, and come back at once.”
“I will leave him where he is; perhaps it will not be well for you to know anything about him.” And then hurriedly entering the store, Walter explained why he must reach Boston without delay, after which he gave a brief account of his misadventures.
William Cotton, although a sympathizer with those who were about to offer resistance to the commands of his most gracious majesty, was a prudent man, and feared to be known as a disloyal citizen.
The fact that Samuel Haines would probably soon arrive in search of his horse caused Master Cotton no little disquietude of mind, and he said, reprovingly,-
“It is well to be zealous in a good cause, Walter; but it is wrong to commit a crime in order to compass your own ends.”
“What crime have I committed?”
“The theft of the horse will be charged against you, and those who are intrusted with the execution of the law do not favour such an association as that in which you have enlisted.”
“My getting possession of him was the fortune of war, not a theft. I was a prisoner, made so unlawfully, and had the right to escape as best I could.”
“That argument is good here; but will be of little avail to those who look upon you as a disloyal youth, who should be deprived of his liberty.’