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[231]

“Aha! and you couldn't take good enough care of it by leaving it in your house, so you brought it along with you?”

“ Wall, you see I was a coming to mill anyhow, and sometimes I see lot of ‘pattridges’ along of this lane, and I thought I'd fetch the gun along and kill one for my old woman who's sorter ailen.”

“Look here, my friend, we rather think you're a bushwhacker, and so are those men over there,” pointing to the end of the lane.

“Oh! no, no, sir; thar arn't no bushwhackers about here; thar never was. They're all over on the Sandy. The folks about here are all peaceable folks. Thar arn't no danger for you to go right on to Boston.”

“ Well, come along with us.”

Our suspicions were excited, and marching him before us, we retraced our steps to the creek, where we found a squad of twenty men slaking their thirst, and filling canteens from the cold, clear water. A soldier took the fellow's musket, and, drawing the “pattridge” load, it proved to be ball and buck, and nine similar cartridges were found in his pockets.

Still under the impression that General Heth and the cavalry were surely ahead, we recrossed the creek and resumed our journey, but had passed little more than one half the lane when thirty or forty men, some afoot and others on horseback, drew up in line across the mouth of it. At this menacing movement we halted, when they called to us, in loud voice, to know if we were Union men. Colonel Brent replied promptly, “No; who are you?” “Come on; all right,” they replied. Brent was in favor of going on, but to this I very decidedly demurred. I was convinced that their intentions were hostile, and that we could only advance at the imminent peril of our lives. Turning to Harry (my servant), Brent said, “Gallop back to the creek, and tell those men to come to our assistance as quickly as possible.” I felt sure that the men at the head of the lane would fire as soon as the soldiers appeared above the creek, and was watching alternately in each direction. But the rascals saw our men before we did. A little puff of white smoke floated upward, and a ball struck in the road in front of us, and ricochetted over our heads. I dismounted, and sat down upon the trunk of a fallen tree, making myself as small as possible. Brent advanced a few paces, when a close bullet frightened his horse, which plunged wildly, and in endeavouring to dismount Brent was thrown to the ground. We were woefully bad off, in the way of arms, for soldiers in this predicament. Brent had only his sabre, and I an old straight sword, in silver scabbard, which had hardly done anything more than

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