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A Bound Boy's Story

From: Far Past The Frontier

With the horses gone beyond recapture, Big Pete must needs depend on his
own legs if he meant to escape. The constable's party could not be far
behind, and with the boy, whose throat he clutched, to point the way in
which he had gone, when the officer came up, his chance of getting away
was much less than it would be should that boy be powerless to give any

Ree Kingdom thought of this and lay perfectly still, feigning
insensibility but keenly wondering what disposition would be made of him,
and resolved to fight to the last breath if his pretense of
unconsciousness were discovered. Then the giant's grip about his throat
grew tighter, and he felt that a terrible struggle and perhaps death were
just at hand. Between his almost closed eyelids he saw the man's big
frame bending silently over him and thus moments which seemed like hours

The slow-thinking fugitive could not at once decide what he should do. He
was hoping Ree would spring to his feet and run. Then, pretending to try
to catch him, he would escape among the darker shadows before the boy
could see in which direction he had gone. He was not deceived by the
pretense of unconsciousness, as Ree thought, and really hoped to be saved
the necessity of killing the lad or of knocking him senseless, to a
certainty, lest such a blow might produce death. He shuddered as he
remembered that his hands were probably already stained with blood.

If Ellis had but known it, flight was far from Kingdom's thoughts. He was
steadfast in his every purpose, to a fault, and having set out to capture
Big Pete, the idea of running away just as he was face to face with the
giant fellow, did not so much as occur to him, though he well knew his

"Scoot!" With sudden fury Ellis dragged Ree to his feet and violently
pushed him as he spoke, expecting to see the boy dash away.

Ree could not prevent a grim smile from crossing his lips as he turned
quickly toward the giant again, realizing that the fellow had intended to
frighten him. Each moment, however, he looked for a deadly conflict to
begin, and as he stood in quiet defiance, trying to determine what the
fugitive's next move would be, and momentarily expecting a struggle,
there was in the background of his thoughts a vision of an unmarked,
flower-strewn grave in a quiet church-yard. Strongly intertwined with it
was memory of his past life. But hark!

"Clockety-clack-clockety-clack!" It was the sound of horses' hoofs close
by. The constable had discovered them at last. Big Pete heard the
hoof-beats and knew he had paused too long.

"Death to ye!" he cried with an oath, and lodged a hammer-like blow on
Kingdom's head, sending the lad staggering, while he swiftly took to his

Dazed, but still conscious, Ree sprang after him, shouting "Come on!" to
the party of horsemen now but a few rods distant, "Ellis has just this
minute run into the woods!"

For an hour the men searched for the fugitive, but in vain. He had
disappeared completely and in the deep darkness pervading the
thickly-grown brush and trees of the forest he eluded his pursuers with

In disappointment the chase was abandoned and attention given to
capturing the escaped horses. This was at last accomplished, and as the
early moon was waning, the constable and his volunteers turned homeward.
One source of satisfaction was theirs--they had, at least, recovered the
stolen team and wagon, though the latter would need many repairs before
again being fit for service.

Ree briefly told of his adventure as the party rode along. John Jerome
could not withhold his words of regret that his horse had been too slow
for the race, nor could he quite understand how the stolen team had been
able to outstrip the others.

"I'll tell you how that was," said the constable's brother. "The nags Big
Pete had was really runnin' away. I guess you know how much faster a dog
will run when he has a rattle tied to his tail, than when he's jest
runnin' for the fun on it! Wall, this here's a parallel case."

Although it was nearly midnight, a small crowd of curious ones was found
still lingering about Mr. Rice's store, anxious to learn all that had
been done. Ree Kingdom received a large share of the praise for the
return of the stolen horses. Captain Bowen was delighted over his
behavior and would not listen to one word about the lost pistol.

"I'll drive over that way an' pick it up along the road somewheres in the
mornin'," he said. "An' to-morrow night I want you to come an' try some
o' the new cider. You come too, son," he added, turning to John.

The boys thanked him heartily, for well they might esteem it a great
favor and an honor to receive this invitation from the warlike old
veteran. Again they inquired for the latest news of Jim Huson, and
learning that he was likely to recover, set out for their homes.

"I have a presentiment that we shall see Big Pete again," said Ree

"Are you afraid of him?" John quietly asked.

"No, I am not afraid of him, yet I would rather we should never meet
again. But I think he will go west and though it is a big country, we
might find him there. By the way, John, Capt. Bowen is just the man to
give us advice about our expedition. Meet me about sundown at the old
place. We will have a lot to talk about as we are on the way to make our

A few minutes later the boys separated. John going to the overcrowded
little house of his parents; Ree to the Henry Catesby farm, which was the
only home he had known since childhood. As he crept into bed in his attic
room, and stretched his full length restfully on the straw-filled tick,
again there came to him a vision of an unmarked grave in the quiet
burying-ground, bringing an influence of sadness to all his thoughts.

"Oh, mother, my memory of you is the dearest thing in life," he softly
whispered to himself, and his mind turned fondly to his childhood.
Faintly he remembered his father. More vividly he recalled the coming of
a neighbor with the news of his father's death--killed by Gen. Howe's
troops as they advanced on Philadelphia, after succeeding in defeating
the American soldiers at Wilmington, because Gen. Washington was misled
by false information.

Poor Ree! How well did he remember his mother's grief, though he was too
young to understand--too care-free to grieve long or deeply himself. Many
times he had heard the story in after days, how his father and two
companions were fired upon as they were hurrying forward to give notice
of the enemy's coming; and one of the three being wounded, his father
would not leave him, though in trying to save him, his own life was
sacrificed. It was the third man, who escaped, who spread the news of the
bravery and death of the elder Return Kingdom.

Ree did not know how long a time had elapsed, but it seemed a very little
while after this sad story reached his mother that she removed with him
to a newer part of Connecticut, where she earned a living for them both
by weaving and spinning. A happy year or two slipped by and then--ah,
well, he remembered the dreary day when some neighbors had taken him to
see her whom he loved so well, buried beneath the elm trees, and he knew
he was left alone.

Memory of the bitter tears he shed came freshly to the boy as he recalled
it all--how, in but a few days, he was "bound out" to Henry Catesby with
the promise that he should have a home and want for nothing.

Had he been in want? Oh, he had been supplied with food and clothing and
a roof over his head. Could he ask more? Yes, a thousand times, yes! He
wanted friends, companionship, love. He remembered no one who had cared
for him in those early days, except--Mary Catesby, his hard master's
little daughter. And she was still but a child when she was told to have
no association with the "bound boy;" learning of which, he had steeled
his proud young heart and had spoken to her only when necessary.

So with work, day in and day out, save for a few winter weeks in school,
the years had passed, until he made the acquaintance of John Jerome, the
son of a distant neighbor. Too poverty-distressed to be proud, he had
known little happiness except a sort of sad pleasure he found in visiting
the church-yard, where in summer he placed great bunches of wild flowers
on the mound to him most sacred.

For two years he and John had been intimate friends. The latter being
sometimes employed by Mr. Catesby, gave the boys additional opportunities
of being with one another. Late at night after a long, hard day in the
harvest fields, they had gone swimming together. They had borrowed a gun,
and John's money bought the ammunition they used in learning to shoot, to
practice which they had risen before sunrise; for at Old Sol's first peep
the day's work must be begun. Many a time they had labored all day, then
tramped the woods all night, hunting 'coons, coming home in time only to
catch a wink of sleep before jumping into their clothes and away to work

Sometimes in winter when, by reason of John helping him with his work,
Ree was able to secure a half-day off, the boys had sought other game,
and shared the profits arising from their hunting and trapping. What with
the knowledge they thus picked up themselves, and the instruction given
them by Peter Piper and others, there were no two boys in Connecticut
better versed in woodcraft.

Ree thought of all these things as he lay awake looking out through his
window at the stars in the western sky. And as his thoughts ran on, he
reflected on the death of Mr. Catesby a short eight months ago, and the
great change it had brought into his life. From the moment Mrs. Catesby
had called him to go for the doctor when her husband was taken ill, she
had depended on him in nearly everything. It was he who took charge of
all the farm work of the spring and summer, and the neighbors had said
the Catesby place never produced better crops. With scarcely a pause
except on Sundays, he had toiled early and late to accomplish this. Only
within the past few weeks when the rush of the harvest was over, had he
allowed himself any time for recreation. Yet it had been a happy summer,
he thought. Mrs. Catesby, appreciative of his splendid services, had been
all kindness; Mary Catesby had been agreeable as his own sister might
have been. Both had forgotten, or at least no longer observed, the bar of
social inequality which Mr. Catesby had set up against the "bound boy."

Then in August had come Mrs. Catesby's decision to remove to the city
that her daughter might have educational advantages. It was with genuine
regret that Ree had learned her plans. He would never have admitted even
to himself that he had, in a certain boyish, vague way, dreamed of a dim,
distant time when he and Mary might be more than friends; but maybe some
such thought had been in his mind at some time. Strange it would be had
nothing of the kind occurred to him.

Thus as he lay awake still pondering on the past, the present and the
future, in the depths of Ree's heart of hearts there may have been a wish
that he should become a successful man, wealthy perhaps, well-to-do
certainly; but in any event, looked up to and respected.

But, oh!--What obstacles confronted him! How could he ever be more than a
rough, uneducated "bound boy" that he was! The subject was not a pleasant
one, but he gave it most serious thought, and determined for the
hundredth time, that, come what might, he would make the most of his
opportunities and ever be able to hold up his head in any company.

So his reflections passed to the future. He was to receive $100 for his
summer's work. He also had some money which he had secured in odd sums
from time to time, safely put away in the chest beneath his bed.

John Jerome had a hoard of savings, too. How should they best invest
their joint capital for their proposed journey to the western wilderness,
where, they planned, they would make homes and secure farms for
themselves amid savages and wild beasts! They must be obtaining this and
other information at once. They would have learned much that very evening
had not the man to whom they were going in quest of advice, been
assaulted by Big Pete Ellis. And what of that burly giant, by the way?

"But this will never do. I must be getting to sleep," Ree said to

Going to sleep just when one wishes, however, is not always easy. Ree
found it the very opposite. Tired as he was, his mind went over the
adventure of the night, and in a round-about way to his future home in
the wilderness, again, before his eyes closed. At last dreams came to
him, and in one of them he saw Big Pete waving a white handkerchief as a
flag of truce. He could not make out for whom the sign of peace was
meant; for a war party of Indians seemed to be hot on the giant's trail,
and it was in the opposite direction that Pete waved the handkerchief.

Ree recalled the dream when pulling on his boots in the morning, and
pondered over the possibility of its having some significance.

Many times during that day the young man had occasion to remember the
incidents of the night preceding. Everyone he met, it seemed, had heard
of his adventure with Big Pete and they all congratulated him. More than
one, too, warned him against the giant Ellis, saying the fellow would
surely seek revenge.

Ree gave but little heed to this talk. Big Pete had had the chance to
kill him, or at least to attempt it, and had not done so, evidently
wishing to avoid blood-shed. But Peter Piper came along during the
afternoon with a story which he had heard in the adjacent village, that
gave the boy some uneasiness. Big Pete had sent word by a farmer he had
seen at daybreak, that he would return to his old haunts and that not a
man would dare to touch him; that he would not be driven off, though he
had killed both Jim Huson and Marvel Rice, and that those who had
interfered with him would suffer for it.

"He's a braggart," said Ree contemptuously.

"Jes' what he says, he will do. He's bad, bad, bad," said Peter Piper in
his simple, earnest way.

So Ree came to look upon the matter with much seriousness. Somehow it
occurred to him that the giant might seek revenge by burning the barn or
poisoning the horses, or some such cowardly thing--he knew not what. For
himself he was not afraid, and it is not strange that in the wildest
flights of his lively fancy he did not for a moment imagine under what
startling circumstances he was destined to next behold the fugitive

Next: The Beginning Of A Perilous Journey

Previous: The Flight Of Big Pete Ellis

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