小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Scott Burton and the Timber Thieves » CHAPTER XIX
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
CHAPTER XIX
For at least a minute neither of the boys spoke. They knew that Roberts and his gang had planned on coming there to the cabin that morning, but it had not occurred to them that they could be there so soon. Moreover, they had rather taken it for granted that they had possession of the only boat in the swamp.

Scott realized now that he had been grossly careless. There was no possible justification for their staying in that cabin after they learned whose it was and knew that the others were planning on coming there. He was filled with remorse now and would have given anything to be out of the scrape, but it was too late. They were trapped like a couple of rats and the ferrets were rapidly approaching the only possible way out. Scott fairly groaned. Possibly they would not get out and no news would ever reach the outside world as to what had become of them, but if the truth should ever become known it was maddening to think that they would be reported as having lost out on a most important mission through carelessness and a few hours of hunger.

But trapped and hopelessly outnumbered as they knew themselves to be they had no idea of giving up without a struggle. Scott slipped noiselessly from the bench and grabbed an iron bar which was leaning against the door frame and was evidently intended to bar the door.

“Get that ax-handle over there in the corner,” he whispered to Murphy, “and take your place on the other side of the door. We’ll get as many of them as we can. I’ll take the first one who comes in the door and you take the next.”

They took up their stations and waited grimly with nerves on edge. They expected every instant to hear the boat bump the landing and the thud of feet on the steps. But they did not come. The suspense was terrific. Suddenly Scott remembered their boat tied to the landing. No wonder they did not land. They knew that there were strangers within and probably suspected who it was. They were probably holding a council of war now to determine the best method of attack, for they would not know that the boys had lost their guns in the quicksands.

Scott felt that he must know what was going on at all hazards and he slipped cautiously over to the window in the front of the cabin and peeped out. At first he could see nothing and thought they must have gone around to the other side, but just as he was turning away a moving object quite a distance off in the swamp caught his eye. It was two darkies in a bateau paddling straight away from the cabin. He heaved a sigh of relief. For the moment they were saved. The next instant he realized what it meant and groaned inwardly.

“There goes the news!” he exclaimed bitterly, as he pointed out the rapidly disappearing boat to Murphy. “It may be a long chase now before we ever locate those fellows again, if we ever find them.”

“Oh, we’ll find them all right when the time comes,” Murphy replied cheerfully. “The thing to do now is to get out of this trap as fast as we know how before any one else comes. If we can get away I’m not worrying about the rest of it.”

Scott realized the wisdom of the suggestion, but he thought it best to cover up their tracks as best they could. They quickly straightened up the cabin, put everything as nearly as they could just as they had found it, took one cautious glance around the swamp and hurried out to their boat. They half expected to hear a shot from the back of the cabin. There was no window on that side of the house and they had no assurance that there had not been two bateaux, one of which might be lying in wait for them. But there was no sound and a hurried survey discovered no boat in sight.

“Now for it!” Murphy exclaimed, bending to his pole with all his might. “I wouldn’t stop to eat anywhere else before I get to headquarters if I was starving.”

They did not realize how badly they had been scared in that cabin till they found how hard they were working to get away from it. They were headed due north by the compass and going as fast as they could. Scott had caught up a fishing pole off the landing and was doing his best to help. It was not till they were far out of sight of the cabin that they relaxed a little in their efforts. They were at least a mile from the south edge of the swamp and still there was no intimation that they were approaching the other side.

“Good thing we found this boat,” Murphy commented; “we’d have drowned before this if we had tried to cross this place without it.”

Scott did not reply. He was wondering how far it was from the north edge of the swamp to the railroad track and how long it would be before they could get a train going in their direction. When he had discovered the log canal and the hidden mill he had thought his work in Florida was about completed, and successfully completed. The scare at the cabin had showed him how easy it would be for him to fail completely even yet. He was anxious now to get back to headquarters and place his information where it would be safe.

They had covered at least another mile and were beginning to think that the swamp must extend clear up into Georgia when they began to see some signs of land ahead. They were coming to a fringe of dense underbrush and behind it they could see the tops of pine trees. In a few minutes they were standing on solid ground once more with an open pine forest stretching away to the northward as far as they could see.

“Well, it can’t be more than a hundred miles from here to the railroad!” Murphy exclaimed. “Let’s go.”

They were both anxious to get out of that unknown country where so many unexpected things seemed to happen to them, and set out at a lively pace. The country continued to be dry and open, but it was at least two hours before they saw any sign of life or a road or anything else which would indicate that they were anywhere near civilization. Then they sighted a little cabin far ahead of them in the woods. Smoke was curling from the chimney and two men were leaning on the front fence with their backs toward them.

Scott decided that there could be no danger in approaching these people who could not possibly know anything about them and he wanted to learn the shortest way to the railroad. They advanced in silence and their feet made no sound in the soft sand. The men in the yard turned out to be a couple of darkies and they seemed to be enjoying some huge joke. Their laughter broke out in an almost continuous high-pitched cackle and they were having altogether too good a time to pay any attention to the approach of strangers. In fact, strangers were so rare in that section that no one ever thought of seeing one. The boys were not very far from the cabin when one of the darkies roared between his gusts of laughter, “No, suh, you won’t ketch me tryin’ to steal no grub out of dat cabin ag’in. A little mo’ and we’d a-walked right in on ’em and you know what Mist’ Roberts said de las’ time he ketched us out dere. No, suh, I’ll buy my grub fust.”

Scott stopped in astonishment and stared at Murphy. So that was what had scared them so at the cabin; only a couple of darkies trying to steal some of the supplies. And Roberts had not learned anything of their whereabouts, nor was he likely to from these fellows. It was the first cheerful news he had had for some time.

Murphy cleared his throat loudly and the two darkies jumped almost out of their skins and looked as though they were about to run away. The sight of the two forest service uniforms did not seem to reassure them. The weight of a guilty conscience made them nervous.

“Say, boy,” Murphy called to reassure them, for he was familiar enough with darkies to know that if they were frightened there would be no hope of getting the truth out of them about anything, “which is the nearest road to the railroad station?”

It took the darky a moment to recover from his fright, but the terror died from his face when he realized that the stranger had not said anything about robbing a cabin and he grinned respectfully. “Dat de road right deah, boss, de ain’t no otheh.”

“How far is it?”

“Fo’ miles, suh. Leastways dat’s what dey calls it around heah.”

Murphy wanted to ask what station it was but he did not want to acknowledge that he was as completely lost as all that. So they took the little used track in the sand which the darky had dignified by the name of a road and walked on as though they were perfectly satisfied and knew just where they were going. There was one thing they did know. They knew that they had furnished the darkies with a subject of conversation which would keep them busy for some time to come.

Like most estimates of distance in the country the “fo’ miles” proved to be rather a rough guess and it was pretty well along in the afternoon when they came in sight of the three or four houses which composed the railroad town. The few people who were in sight eyed them curiously when they walked into the station. They were too far from the forest for any one to recognize their service uniforms and every one took them for soldiers.

There was no train till ten o’clock that night. It seemed as though they had eaten enough of Roberts’ supplies out there in the swamp to last them for a week, but they were hungry again already and walked over to the store to get some crackers and cheese for supper. The storekeeper asked them so many questions that they had a hard time eating their lunch after they had bought it, but it at least gave Scott a chance to ask a few questions in return.

“Isn’t there a Mr. Roberts living somewhere around here?” he asked casually.

“He don’t exactly live around heah, suh, but he does his buyin’ heah. He operates a sawmill down to the south of heah. Fine gentleman, suh.”

Scott reserved his opinion about the qualities of the gentleman in question, but Murphy could not suppress a very audible snort of contempt. They picked up what little information they could about the sawmill, which was not much, and strolled outside to wait for the train. They felt fairly safe here, but they would feel safer outside where it was dark.



欢迎访问英文小说网http://novel.tingroom.com

©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533

鲁ICP备05031204号