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“God bless you, my brave boy,” the mother exclaimed, as he went out and sprang into the cart. She now knew that he had taken the bread and cider for the sick man, under the hill.
Charles hurried old Moll to a faster gait than she was accustomed to go, and found the stranger where he had left him. Leaping from the cart, he said:
“I am back, sir! You said you were faint. Here's some of our cider, and if you will sit up and drink it and eat this bread, you will feel better, and here is old Moll and the cart ready to take you home where you will receive good Christian treatment until you are well enough to go on your way rejoicing."
So he went on, bobbing now here and now there and talking as fast as he could, so as not to hear the poor man's outpourings of gratitude, as he ate and drank and was refreshed. With some difficulty, he got the stranger into the cart, where, supported by the boy's strong arm, he rode in almost total silence through the increasing darkness to the home of the widow Stevens. He was taken from the cart and was soon reclining upon a bed.
His wound, though painful, was not dangerous and began to heal almost immediately. Surgery was in its infancy in America, and on the frontier of the American colonies, every one was his own surgeon.
The widow dressed the wound herself, and the stranger recovered rapidly. Charles next day found a horse straying in the forest with a saddle and holsters, and, knowing it to be the steed of the wounded stranger, he brought it home.
As the wounded man recovered he became more silent and melancholy. He had not even spoken his name and seldom uttered a word unless addressed.
One night this mysterious stranger disappeared from the widow's cottage. He might have been thought ungrateful had he not left behind five golden guineas, which, the note left behind said, were in part to remunerate the good people who had watched over and cared for him so kindly. Charles Stevens and his mother were much puzzled at this mysterious stranger, and often when alone they commented on his conduct.
Their home was outside the village of Salem, and for days they did not have a visitor; but two or three of their neighbors had seen the stranger while at their house, yet they told no one about him. His mysterious disappearance was kept a secret by mother and son. Little did they dream that in after years they would suffer untold sorrow for playing the part of good Samaritans.
John Louder and his friends had almost forgotten their day of hard luck in the woods. Their more
recent hunts had proven successful, for the witches had temporarily left off tampering with their guns. The stranger whom they had met on that evening was quite forgotten.
A fortnight after the stranger disappeared, John Louder was wandering in the forest, his gun on his shoulder. The sun had just dipped below the western hills and trees, and he was approaching a small lake at which the deer came to drink.
It was a dense forest through which he was pressing his way.
In places it was so dense he was compelled to part the underbrush with his hands. Centuries of summer suns had warmed the tops of the same noble oaks and pines, sending their heat even to the roots. Though the early frosts of October had stricken many a leaf from its parent stem, enough still remained to obscure the vision at a rod's distance.
Night was approaching, and John Louder, brave as he was to natural danger, had a strange dread of shadows and the unreal.
He pressed his way through the wood, until a spot almost clear of timber was in sight. This little area, which afforded a good view of the sky, although it was pretty well filled with dead trees, lay between two of those high hills or low mountains into which the whole surface of the adjacent country was broken.
Dashing aside the bushes and brambles of the swamp, the forester burst into the area with an exclamation of delight.
"One can breathe here! There is the lake to which the deer come to drink. Now, if Satan send not a witch to lead my bullets astray, perchance I
have a venison ere an hour has
He gathered some dry sticks of wood and, with his flint and steel, quickly kindled a fire.
His fire was to keep off the mosquitoes, which were tormenting in that locality. The fire did not alarm the deer, for they had seen the woods burn so often that they would go quite close to a blaze.
Hardly had he lighted his fire, when he was startled by the tramp of feet near, and a moment later a horseman rode out of the woods and drew rein before him.
Louder was surprised, but by no means alarmed. A man in the forest was by no means uncommon, yet he felt a little curious to know why he was there. He reasoned that probably the fellow had lost his way, and had been attracted by his camp fire; but the stranger's question dispelled that delusion.
“Are you John Louder?” he asked.
"I do." "Are
you a Protestant?” “I am."
“You do not believe in the transubstantiation of the body and blood of Christ into the bread and wine of the Sacrament?"
John Louder, who was a true Puritan and a hater of the Papists, quickly responded:
“I do not hold to any such theology."
“Nor do you believe in the infallibility of the pope?”
“I believe no such doctrine."
“ Then there can be no doubt that you are a true Protestant."
” Louder answered with no small degree of pride.
“So much the better."
The stranger dismounted from his horse and slipped his left hand through the rein, allowing the tired beast to graze, while with his right hand he began searching in his pockets for something.
“Would you have a Catholic king?” he asked while searching his pockets.
“I knew it," and he continued, “King Charles is nearing his end. But a few months more must