A Bound Boy's Story





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

information.



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

passed.



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

peril.



"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

heels.



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

ease.



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

thoughtfully.



"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

call."



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

again.



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

himself.



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

criminal.





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