University of Virginia Library


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Titius Sabinus.

—Am I then catch'd?


—How think you, sir? you are.

Ben Jonson.

Though neither William Carrington nor myself
sat entirely at ease at the table of our host, neither
of us had any suspicion of his purposes. Regarding
the fellow as essentially low in his character, and
totally unworthy the esteem of honourable men, we
were only solicitous to get our money and avoid
collision with him. And so far, we had but little
reason to complain. Though indulging freely in
remarks upon persons—Colonel Grafton for example—which
were not altogether inoffensive, his language
in reference to ourselves was sufficiently civil;
and bating a too frequent approach which he made
to an undue familiarity, and which, when it concerned
me particularly, I was always prompt to
check, there was nothing in his manner calculated
to offend the most irritable. On the contrary the
fellow played the part of humility in sundry instances
to admiration; when we resisted him on any
subject he shrank from pursuing it, and throughout


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the interview exhibited a disposition to forbear all
annoyance, except possibly on the one subject of
Colonel Grafton. On that point even his present
policy did not suffer him to give way—his self
esteem had been evidently wounded to the quick
by his former employer, and with a forbearance like
his own, which, under any other circumstances,
would have been wisdom, we avoided controversy
on a topic in which we must evidently disagree.
But not so Webber. He seemed desirous to gain
aliment for his anger by a frequent recurrence to
the matter which provoked it, and throughout the
whole of our interview until the occurrence of
those circumstances which served, by their personal
importance, to supersede all other matters in our
thoughts, he continued, in spite of all our discouragements,
to bring Grafton before us in various lights
and anecdotes, throughout the whole of which, his
own relation to the subject of remark was that of
one who hated with the bitterest hate, and whom
fear, or some less obvious policy, alone, restrained
from an attempt to wreak upon his enemy the full
extent of that malice which he yet had not the wisdom
to repress.

It was while he indulged in this very vein that
we heard the approaching tramp of horses. Webber
stopped instantly in his discourse.

“Ah, there he comes,” he remarked—“the


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debtor is punctual enough, though he should have
been here an hour sooner. And now, 'Squire Carrington,
I hope we shall be able to do your business.”

Sincerely did I hope so too. There was an odd
sort of smile upon the fellow's lips as he said these
words which did not please me. It was strange and
sinister. It was not good humoured certainly, and
yet it did not signify any sort of dissatisfaction.
Perhaps, it simply denoted insincerity and for this
I did not like it. Carrington made some reply;
and by this time we heard a bustling among our
horses which were fastened to the branches of a tree
at the entrance. I was about to rise, for I recollected
that we had money in the saddle bags, when I was
prevented by the appearance of the stranger who entered
in the same moment. One glance at the fellow
was enough. His features were those of the undisguised
ruffian; and even then I began to feel some
little apprehension though I could not to my own
mind define the form of the danger which might
impend. I could not think it possible that these
two ruffians, bold however they might be, would
undertake to grapple with us face to face, and
in broad day light. They could not mistake our
strength of body; and, body and soul, we felt ourselves
more than a match for them, and a third
to help them. And yet, when I reflected upon the


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large amount of money which William had in his
possession, I could not but feel that nothing but a
like knowledge of the fact, was wanting to prompt,
not only these but a dozen other desperates like
them, to an attempt, however unfavourable the aspect,
to possess themselves of it. Besides, we had
surely heard the trampling of more horses than one
when the newcomer was approaching. Had he companions?
Where were they? These thoughts began
to annoy and make me suspicious, and I turned to
William. Never was unquestioning confidence so
clearly depicted in any countenance as in his. He
looked on the stranger with, perhaps, no less disgust
than myself, but suspicion of foul play he had none.
I determined that he should be awakened, and was
about to rise, and suggest the conclusion of our business,
in such a manner as to make it absolutely impossible
that he should not see that I was placing
myself against the wall, when Webber of himself
proposed the adjustment of the debt. Every thing
seemed to be unequivocal and above board. The
stranger pulled forth his wallet, and sitting down to
the table, on the side next to Carrington, proceeded
to count out the money before him. The amount
was in small bills, and having completed his count,
which took him an uneasy time, he pushed the bundle
towards Webber, who slowly proceeded to go
through a like examination. I grew impatient at


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the delay, but concluded that it would be better to
say nothing. To show temper at such a moment
might have been to defeat the purpose which we
had in view; and send us off with a satisfaction, essentially
different from that for which we came.
The face of Webber grew more grave than usual as
he counted the money, and I could observe that his
eyes were frequently lifted from the bills, and
seemed to wander about the room as if his thoughts
were elsewhere. But he finished at length, and handing
the required sum over to William he begged him
to see that all was right. The latter was about to do
so—had actually taken the bills in his hand, when I
heard a slight footstep behind me—before I could
turn, under the influence of the natural curiosity
which prompted me to do so, I heard a sudden exclamation
from my companion, and in the very
same instant, felt something falling over my face.
Suspicious of foul play before, I leaped, as if under
a natural instinct, to my feet, but was as instantly
jerked down, and falling over the chair behind,
dragged it with me upon the floor. All this was
the work of a moment. Striving to rise, I soon
discovered the full extent of my predicament, and
the way in which we were taken. My arms were
bound to my side—almost drawn behind my back
—by a noose formed in a common plough line,
which was cutting into the flesh at every movement


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which I made. That I struggled furiously for release
need not be said. I was not the man to submit
quietly to martyrdom. But I soon found my exertions
were in vain. The cords were not only tightly
drawn, but securely fastened behind me to one of
the sleepers of the cabin—a vacant board from the
floor enabling my assailants to effect this arrangement
with little difficulty. Added to this, my
struggles brought upon me the entire weight of the
two fellows who had effected my captivity. One
sat upon my body as indifferently as a Turk upon
his cushions, while the other, at every movement
which I made, thrust his sharp knees into my breast,
and almost deprived me of the power of breathing.
Rage for the moment, added to my strength, which
surprised even myself as it surprised my enemies.
More than once, without any use of my arms, by the
mere writhings of my body did I throw them from
it; but exhaustion did for them what their own
strength could not; and I lay quiet at length and at
their mercy. The performance of this affair took
far less time than the telling of it; and was over, I
may say, in an instant. With William Carrington
the case was different. He was more fortunate. I
thought so at the time, at least. He effected his
escape. By what chance it was I know not; but
they failed to noose him so completely as they had
done me. The slip was caught by his hand in


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descending over his shoulders, and he threw it from
him, and in the same moment with a blow of his fist
that might have felled an ox, he prostrated the ruffian
who had brought the money, and who stood most
convenient to his hand. Without stopping to look at
the enemy behind, with that prompt impulse which
so frequently commands success, he sprang directly
over the table, and aimed a second blow at Webber,
who had risen from his seat, and stood directly in
the way. With a fortunate alacrity the fellow
avoided the blow, and darting on one side drew his
dirk, and prepared to await the second. By this
time, however, I was enabled, though prostrated, and
overcome, to behold the combat in which I could
bear no part. I saw that the only chance of my
companion was in flight. Our enemies, as if by
magic, had sprung up around us like the teeth of the
dragon. There were no less than seven persons in
the room beside ourselves. With my utmost voice
I commanded William to fly. He saw, in the same
instant with myself, the utter inability of any efforts
which he might make, and the click of a pistol cock
in the hands of a fellow behind me, was a warning too
significant to be trifled with. With a single look at
me which fully convinced me of the pang which he
felt at being compelled to leave me in such a situation,
he sprang through the entrance, and in another


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moment had disappeared from sight. Webber and
three others immediately rushed off in pursuit, leaving
me in the custody and at the mercy of the three