The officer had been absolutely inattentive to the complaints and growls, but the quizzing made him lose his temper. “You-alls shut your jaws, the lot of you, or when we reach the roundyvous this evenin’ I’ll report you to the kurnel and you’ll get the guard-house or worse,” he threatened. “I’m danged if I don’t believe every one of you-alls is a Tory at heart.”
“A little more o’ this’ll make me one,” muttered a man who hitherto had been silent, but he spoke so low as to be heard by his fellow unfortunates only, and not by the captain.
“Don ’t talk to me of the tyranny of Britain after this!” responded his immediate neighbour.
The militia officer would have done better to let the dissatisfaction find its vent in jokes; for, deprived of this outlet, the malcontents took to whispering among themselves in a manner that boded ill for something or somebody. But he was too busy securing each new recruit and each horse to give attention to the signs that might have warned him.
A rude awakening came to the captain when the motley cavalcade drew up at the ordinary at the cross-roads, for as he was in the act of dismounting, two of the party, who had been more expeditious in their movements, caught him by the leg as he swung it clear of the saddle, and brought him violently to the ground. He was held in that position while his hands and feet were tied with his own bridle, as many of the men as could get about him assisting in the operation, while the remainder, the Merediths excepted, kept up a chorus of approving remarks, or of gibing and mocking comments on the officer’s half-smothered menaces and oaths. Once secured, he was dragged to the guide-post, and with his stirrup straps was fastened to it securely. This done, his saddle-bags were pulled off his horse and the paper money was emptied out and heaped about his feet. Meantime, and as an evidence of how carefully every detail of their revenge had been planned, one of the ring-leaders had disappeared into the tavern, and now returned with a lighted brand.
“You can threat and cuss all you hanker,” he chuckled. “If we ain’t to have no bounty, we’ll give you some of ourn,” he added malignantly, as he stooped and set fire to the pile of bills.
“Oh, don’t!” screamed Janice. “Dadda, stop them!
“For shame!” echoed Mr. Meredith, swinging out of his saddle, in which hitherto he had remained a passive spectator.
“Hands off,” warned the torch-bearer, “if you don’t want to be tied alongside of him.”
There was nothing to do, and the ladies were only able to turn their backs on the sight; but they could not thus escape the howls of terror and pain that the miserable victim uttered, though the squire sought to save them from this by taking hold of the two bridles and leading their horses away.