Another moment developed the object of the attack, for through the trap-door suddenly shone a red light, and with it came the sound of crackling faggots. A cry of terror broke from the British, and there was a wild rush for the door, which many hands joined in throwing open. As it rolled back a dozen guns spoke, and the seven exposed men fell in a confused heap at the opening,—a lesson sharp enough to turn the rest to right about.
All pretence of discipline disappeared at once, the men ceasing to pay the slightest heed to their officers; and one, panic-stricken with fear, threw off his coat and, fairly tearing his shirt from his back, tied it to his bayonet and waved it through the door. Hennion, with an oath, sprang forwards, caught the gun and wrenched it out of the fellow’s hands, at the same moment stretching him flat with a blow in the neck; but as he did so one of the troopers behind him cut the officer down with his sabre. The subaltern of foot who rushed to help his superior was caught and held by two of the men, and the officers thus disposed of, the white flag was once more held through the doorway.
At the very instant that this was accomplished, the fire below found some crevice in the flooring under the hay, and in a trice the mow burst into spitting and crackling flame. With the holder of the white flag at their head, the men dashed through the doorway, those with arms tossing them away, and most of them throwing themselves flat upon the ground, with the double purpose of signalling their surrender and of escaping the bullets that might greet their exit.
In a moment they were the centre of a hundred men, who, but for their guns, might have been taken for a lot of farmers and field hands. One alone wore a military hat with a cockade, and it was he who demanded in a voice of self-importance:—
“Have you surrendered, and where is your commanding officer?”
“Yes,” shouted a dozen of the British, while the three men still holding the subaltern dragged him forward, without releasing their hold on his arms.
“Give up your sword, then,” demanded the wearer of the cockade.
“I’ll die first!” protested the young fellow,—a lad of not over seventeen at most,—still struggling with his soldiers. “You’ll not see an officer coerced by his own men, sir,” he sobbed, as another of the soldiers caught him by the wrist and twisted his sword from his hand.
“A mighty good lesson it is for your stinking British pride,” was the retort of the militia officer, as he accepted the sword. “I guess you ’re the kind of man we’ve been looking for to make an example of. We’ll teach you what murdering our generals and plundering our houses come to— eh, men?”
“Hooray fer Joe Bagby!” shouted one of the conquerors.
“Some of you tie the prisoners, except him, two and two, and start them down the road at double quick,” ordered Captain Bagby. “Collect all the guns and sabres and throw them on the sledges. Look alive there, for we’ve no time to lose. Well, squire, what do you want?” he demanded, as he turned and found the latter’s hand on his sleeve.