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Sandy Flash, the highwayman of Castle Rock online

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Sandy motioned sharply, his pistol cuddled close to the cape
over his right arm.





Author of "Diamond Rock," ''Fair Play," "The Daniel
Boone Pageant," "Christmas on the Meuse," etc.








III THE HEARTH RUG ... . ; .... 43

IV THE RIDLEY OTTER ......... 62




VIII THE ESCAPE . . . , 157



XI SIGNAL HILL .......... 217

XII THE MASK ..... , . . ; . ... 235

XIII THE LOG SET . M . . . . : 254


ARM Frontispiece







HAT'S the very thing we're looking for, Bob!

the snow?" .The younger boy bent eagerly forward bet-
ter to examine the track before him.

"I see it's a trail all right, and not a cottontail's.
Blessed if I know what made it, though. D'you, Dave?"
The taller lad smiled in half-hidden amusement at the
eagerness with which his chum was seeking to unravel the

"Surely! You would, too, if you'd only put in more
time out in the woods like me, 'stead of fooling with that
horse of yours every chance you've got from chores. It's
a coon made it. Coon, Bob, and here's where we get

"I say, Davey! Hold hard! Don't be so cock sure of
everything. I mayn't know much about trapping, but
I've hunted coons myself with houn' dogs too many times
not to know something of 'em. They live in trees, I'd say.
Tall ones mostly. If a fellow chases 'em, why they "

" 'Course they do! I've seen their hairs, black like,


sticking to the old gums over on Blue Hill many a time.
Once you get 'em on the run, they make for the highest
tree they can see. It'll be an evergreen, like as not, if
there's one close by. And then they keep its cover be-
tween 'em and you. I know all that. But they stay on
the ground lots, just the same, when it's quiet. I've found
their marks round hollow logs and stumps. That's why I
hunted so close for a trail in here. Look at this well, Bob,
and you'll be able to mark it better the next time."

The two boys bent down to study the tracks at close
quarters. There they were, quite clear in the soft snow,
leading across a little glade in the forest toward the near-
by stream.

David Thomas, the younger boy, was a lad of fifteen,
wiry to the point of leanness, but lithe and supple and
tough as a bit of hickory. The Welsh blood in him
showed in the high-cheeked eager face and darkish hair.
The boy loved all outdoors with a silent sort of passion
that he could not well explain. To walk the woodland for
untold miles, by himself, in any kind of weather, to watch
his trap lines and cubbies in winter and fish and hunt
and stalk in summer and fall, this brought a glow to his
mind and a tingle to his muscles that enabled him to stand
far more than many a lad years older. Dave Thomas
had lived all his life on a farm near the Rose Tree in
Upper Providence and he knew from daily practice the
meaning of a farm boy's chores. They came first. Once
done, however, and done thoroughly, then he was free to
make what use he would of his spare time. His father,
Hugh Thomas, was a fair man and a wise one, for all his
strict ways of rearing a family, since by such an under-


standing with his boy, Dave not only did his chores gladly,
but well. He knew that on this depended his chances for
a Saturday now and then with traps or gun in the woods
near his home. That, to the boy, was as the very breath
of life.

The old Welsh blood, with its dark touch of aloofness,
ran unusually strong in him, tending to make him a bit
broody at times and apt to keep apart from other boys his
own age. His life-long friendship for Bob Allyn, how-
ever, was unshakable. It was the best thing in the world
for him, too, as it served the purpose of bringing him out
of himself. The very contrasts in their natures drew the
lads together unconsciously.

Bob Allyn, fair and rugged, was nearly seventeen, a
good deal taller and heavier than Dave, but lacking the
quickness of thought and action that marked his chum.
Bob loved horses and dogs with the same feeling that
Dave loved his traps and his lonely forest trails. The boy
was able to do much with the young stock on his father's
place near Sycamore Mills, thanks to this same sym-
pathetic understanding of them. He had broken in more
than one colt that the men had almost despaired of. The
very calmness of his Scotch nature, his way of thinking
things out thoroughly, a bit at a time, enabled him to gain
a control over animals and impart a confidence to them
that many seemingly keener boys could never hope to
equal. Bob made no claim of understanding trapping,
however. His interests were in riding and jumping and
schooling young horses far more than in the pitting of his
brains against the wild things of the wood.

This morning, thanks to Dave's repeated urging, he had


made an exception and ridden over early from Sycamore
Mills, bent upon joining his chum in a day's tramp along
the banks of Ridley, and a search of the possibilities for a
new trap line near Hunting Hill in Edgemont where game
was still plentiful. The winter had been a cold one and
pelts had primed in splendid fashion some time before
this Saturday when the mid-December frosts had broken a
bit and the waters of Crum and Ridley ran free from ice
almost as though a spring thaw had come. Winter mild
spells come that way now and again in the County of
Chester, and the year of Our Lord 1777 was no exception.
A slight fall of snow the previous morning had left a clean
slate for tracking and the boys had been quick to take ad-
vantage of the ideal conditions.

"Couldn't be anything but a coon track, Bob; look
here," Dave was on his knees pointing. "See how it's
shaped just like a foot with long toes. A regular mark
like a little child's bare foot, only for it's being smaller.
Coons always make "

"Reckon you're right, Davey, now we can see it well.
I remember a track like that last summer. It was in the
dust of our garden patch, but I wasn't sure what made it.
It was the time when the sorrel filly was coming along so
nicely at the jumping and I didn' have half a chance to
puzzle it out. Sure was fond of sweet corn though, coon
or no coon. I say "

The chill, midwinter hush of the forest snapped sud-
denly with a sound that brought both boys to their feet.
From the top of Hunting Hill, high above, there had rung
out a sharp cry for help that cut through the frosty air
like the crack of huntsman's thong. There was a mo-


merit's silence, as the echo died away far beyond Edge-
mont and the Willistown Hills. Then came once more
that faint call for aid, shrilled by distance, yet throbbing
with mortal pain or terror. That was all. Bob dropped
his traps and began to struggle after David up the slope,
the unexpectedness of the alarm sending his heart thump-
ing wildly against his ribs.

The pitch of Hunting Hill was steep and the snow,
though only an inch or two in depth, had a provoking way
of slipping downhill beneath the boys' feet as their mocas-
sins pressed through it to the matted leaves beneath.
Dave, more familiar with the woods and in better condi-
tion for climbing, soon outdistanced his companion, but
the latter kept at it close behind him up the slope. Since
that second piercing cry for aid, no further sound had
disturbed the frozen chill of the noonday. As they panted
on to the more or less level summit of the hill, the boys
broke into a run, forcing their way through the under-
brush in an endeavor to reach the spot whence the call
had come. That there was urgent need of haste there
could be no doubt.

The speed of the racing lads soon checked to a jog, then
to a struggling walk, as a tangled thicket of greenbriers,
foxgrapes and thorns barred their way. Dave paused, his
quick mind seeking to recall whether or not he had ever
found a path round them on previous tramps to the hill.
Bob did not hesitate, but without a thought for rent
clothes or thorn-scratched face, he crashed into the thicket
and fought his way to the other side. For once, he had
acted with a speed that left Dave in the rear. His great
strength stood him in good stead. The boy literally tore


his passage clear, leaving a lane through which the
younger lad could squirm.

As he burst free from the clutch of the greenbriers, Bob
found himself in a little glade where a path crossed be-
tween the trees, running off to the right. The boy's ruddy
cheek had a rip that slashed it from jaw to ear, so that the
blood trickled down his neck in crimson stain. There
was no thought of smarting face, however, in Bob's mind,
as he came into the open. In utter bewilderment, he
checked his pace, striving to understand the sight that
lay before him.

Across the glade, a score of yards away, just where the
forest path looped round a huge white oak, stood a man
on tiptoe. Yet, strangely, he seemed to be leaning back
against the tree. Both arms were high above his head.
Dave pushed his way clear of the bushes and halted be-
side Bob Allyn, alike dumbfounded, as he tried to make
out the meaning of what he saw. The man before them,
standing half sideways to the boys, was stripped to the
waist and for all his reaching upward, never uttered a
sound nor moved at the lads' approach. Something
seemed to be wrong with his breathing for his ribs rose
and fell spasmodically with strain. Dave recovered his
presence of mind first and leaped forward to see more
clearly what the man was about.

"He's tied, Bob ! Quick ! Get him loose ! "

A moment later both boys were beside the oak, working
at the rawhide thong that bound the prisoner's wrists to-
gether. The man, evidently well past middle age, was in
pitiful shape. His hands had been secured against the
oak's trunk where a small branch offered a convenient


fastening place for the thong. His coat of tough frieze
and his woolen shirt had been roughly snatched off, ex-
posing the upper portion of his body to the bitter winds
of the dying year. Across his chest swelled great raw
welts as though he had been lashed with a whip. One
cut had ripped the skin. That he had kept silent from
no choice of his own, was due to a gag, at first unnoticed
by the boys. The thing was fast choking the breath from
his lungs, as he strove to get air past the thick wad of
paper that had been crammed in his mouth and made fast
there by a strip of cloth partially covering his nose.

A slash or two from Bob's jack knife severed the thong
and allowed the man's body to slide forward to the
ground. A moment later, his numbed arms were free.
Bob chafed them in an effort to restore circulation, while
Dave tore the bandage from the sufferer's lips. The gag
seemed to have caused him the greatest pain. Soon his
panting ceased and he was able to stand on his feet. Hur-
riedly the boys helped him to put on his ripped clothing.
Then for the first time he spoke, his voice uncertain from
the ordeal.

"A narrow call, lads! An old fellow like me can't stand
over much of this weather in the buff! I'd frozen stiff as
any jack herring before long, muzzled and spread-eagled
that a-way!"

"What happened? Who " Dave looked about him,
seeking some explanation of the extraordinary position in
which they had found the prisoner.

"We heard a call for help and ran up from the creek,"
volunteered Bob. "I say! What in the world did they
do it to you for? Who Where Ve they gotten to?"


"One at a time, lads, one at a time ! " The man swung
his arms and stamped about in the snow, trying to warm
his chilled and shivering body. "Are you armed? That's
the first thing. If you are, quick, give me your guns!
We'll try to catch the blackguard before he gets away.
He can't be half a mile from here right "

"We haven't a thing. Not even a pistol/' said Bob.
"We were trapping over this way "

"Then it's no use trying to find him now. Not the least.
We'd best hurry down to the road at Edgemont Corner.
There might be some people passing by to warn! I'll
have to raise the countryside! We'll "

"Let's start then; it'll be easy to follow the tracks if
we begin right off!

"Tell us what happened as we go!" Dave was quite
beside himself with excitement.

The man savagely stamped the wad that had been his
gag deep into the snow. Then he turned toward the
northern edge of the wood. Dave's mind was keyed to
its sharpest, as he tried to think out some plan of immedi-
ate action, but it was the more thoroughgoing Bob whose
inspiration helped the most. He paused suddenly.

"Oh, I say! Let's stop a second! That's the paper he
gagged you with ! None of us looked at it at all! Maybe
it might"

"Won't do any harm to look, if you can make head or
tail of it, chewed that a-way. I doubt it's more than any
old thing he had handy in his pocket though. Let's
hurry!" The man turned back without much show of
enthusiasm and watched Bob dig up the half-chewed pulp
from the snow.


A few minutes' effort at reading the legend soon con-
vinced them that their seeming loss of time had been well
spent. The paper was the upper portion of an official
hand bill or notice. Almost illegible from wind and
weather, it must have been roughly torn down from some
place where it had been posted. Its five minutes' lodge-
ment crumpled in the prisoner's mouth had not served to
make it the more readable, but between them the anxious
little group in the glade contrived to make enough of it
to serve their purpose far better than they had hoped
when they paused to look it over.

The paper was part of an official notice of the county
offering to all and sundry the sum of $1000 reward for the
capture, alive or dead, of a certain James Fitzpatrick,
alias Captain Fitz, alias Sandy Flash, twice a deserter
from the American army under Washington, now said to
be at large within the bounds of the said County of Ches-
ter, terrorizing the people, robbing the highways, waging
cruel war on patriotic Whig farmers and making it un-
safe, especially, for the tax collectors to venture abroad
without guard. The description followed. Tall, broad-
shouldered, of enormous strength, yet notedly active and
swift of foot, hair bright red the recent victim cried out
as he read aloud the items.

"I knew it! The man himself! The very spit of him!
His hair was red as a burning rick and his arms like the
beam of a Kennett plow! Sandy Flash! Why, he's

"Sandy Flash!" Dave's voice shrilled high. "The
highwayman from Hand's Pass! He'd never come here
so far away, yet "


"It couldn't be any one else! I knew it!" The man
shook the ragged paper at the boys excitedly. "To think
the ruffian nearly choked the life from me with the reward
for his own capture! It's like I've heard tell of him.
Hand's Pass, did you say? Why "

"Yes, in the Valley, where the Great Road to Lancaster
climbs over the hills," replied Dave, who had once visited
kinsfolk close by Duffryn Mawr and so knew the Valley
country well.

"I know that," answered the man, "but that's not the
only place he keeps hidden in from all the hue and cry
that's hot upon him for the villainy he's done the tax men
and the rest. I wish it were, but the rascal has a secret
place near where I come from out in Newlin. And he's
been seen, too, in West Bradford, more's the pity.
Only a"

"What more does the paper have on it? I say, we'd
best begin to get something done." Bob had been listen-
ing as eagerly as Dave, but felt that the time called for
action, not a recital of the highwayman's secret lairs.

They bent once more to decipher the rumpled, sodden
handbill, but little of value could be made of it. There
was a description of an accomplice of Sandy Flash, one
Mordecai Dougherty, with a lesser reward for his capture.
Colonel Andrew Boyd, of Sadsbury, Lieutenant of the
County of Chester, had a line calling upon all law-abiding
men to unite in capturing both outlaws, dead or alive.
The Executive Council endorsed this. The torn sheet
broke off at that point, but little more was needed. The
two boys looked significantly at the man as he returned it
to his pocket.


"Lads, we're not clear of this fellow yet, not by a long
shot, nor won't be, long as we stand here gabbling in the
woods with nary a gun between us. Small doubt he's on
the Strasburg Road this minute, looking for my horse.
He must"

"Your horse! What happened?" questioned Dave.

"Come on, lads, we'll hurry along and I'll tell you the
whole thing as we go. But first suppose you tell me who
you are. Live near abouts?" The man moved off once
more toward the northern edge of the woodland and fol-
lowed the path at a rapid walk along the high ground that
swept in bare, snow-covered fields before them. Beyond
the next hill ran the Strasburg Road, the rutted lane that
crossed the dip of the valley from the hill south of Newton
Square, passed through Crum Creek ford, climbed a bit to
Edgemont, thence dropped down over Ridley near Hunt-
ing Hill, and on toward the Turk's Head Tavern far to
the west. Bob lengthened his stride until he had come
abreast of the man.

"Now then, we'd best get this thing cleared up from
the start," he said quietly, "if we're to catch anybody or
do any good at all. We know it's Sandy Flash and that's
all we do know. I'm Bob Allyn from Sycamore Mills
yonder in Middletown. This is David Thomas. He lives
by the Rose Tree over Blue Hill. What happened to you
on the road?"

Dave squeezed in beside his chum along the narrow
lane, as they hastened on. After a moment, the stranger
began his explanation.

"You're right, lad, right as trivets. A man can't da
much if he's in the dark. Nor boys, either. I'm glad


Fve got your names, for Hugh Thomas I've known this
many a day. Who doesn't know him, I wonder? The
best farmer that ever came out the Old Welsh Barony!"
The man smiled toward David, then continued. "It's
precious little I've to tell and mighty little pride I've got
left in the telling. I'm Peter Burgandine from Newlin
way. Your father, John Allyn, knows me, lad. I was
coming down toward Pratt House at the Square where
I've a cattle deal with Jehu Evans over to Marple. Know
Mm? Reckon you do, young Allyn. Just as I jogged
along a bit west of Edgemont, where the road goes high
over the hill, out steps a man from a patch of sumac and
cedar bushes. He was favoring the off leg right badly and
waved me to stop. 'Course I did, supposing he'd gone and
gotten hurt some way. As he came close, he sort of leaned
against my horse's shoulder. I started to get off and as I
swung clear of the pummel, he straightens up and reached
under his coat to snatch out a pistol! Then he leveled it
at my head. In broad daylight, mind you, not half an
hour gone!" Burgandine rubbed a moment at his wrists,
as he kept up his hurried stride.

"I had two pistols, loaded, on my saddle, but I hadn't
any time to get 'em from the holsters, as I was halfway
off before he showed his weapon. That man meant
trouble! He ordered me to let go the horse and he sent
it galloping down the road, pistols and all, with a wave of
his arm before I could snatch at the reins. Then he drove
me before him off the highway and over the top of the
hill, out of sight. What could I do with his pistol in the
crook of my back?" The old man laughed slyly. "I went
along with him quiet as a lamb all right. Who wouldn't,


seeing that the money for the cattle deal was in two little
bags at the bottom of the holsters! He never so much

"Didn't the fellow get the money after all?" broke in
Bob. "Oh, I say"

"That was clever all right! But where'd your horse
get to?" Dave pressed forward, eager to learn more.

"The good Lord only knows," Burgandine replied with
a hopeless shake of the head, as the three scrunched along,
over the dry snow. "Last I saw he was galloping past
the hill toward Street Road, gone clear to Westtown or
Thornbury by now, I reckon! Well, boys, I may have
saved the shillings for Friend Jehu, don't know yet, but
it came precious close to tallying me dear! Once clear
of the road, the blackguard searched me from top to toe
and only found a couple of fippenny bits. He must have
thought I was carrying money, for he went into a rage at
not finding any. Then I began to see in what a dangerous
pickle I was. I reckoned at the time it must be Sandy
Flash. He poked me along before him, hidden by a
hedgerow, till we came to this path. Then we reached
the woods. I didn't know what he'd do next, but when
he began to threaten me with his pistol and say he'd blow
my brains out unless I told him where the money was, I
decided to make a break for it."

The man paused, scanning the empty landscape of
snow that rolled away in a great bowl-shaped hollow to
Newtown in the east. Not a thing moved, save a distant
crow, low flying, like a black smudge against the white of
the opposing hills.

"That was a mistake. As I jumped for him, he hopped


sideways, tripped me up and cracked me a nasty wallop
along the head with the barrel of his pistol. I'm not so
spry as I used to be, nor young as I was once, and it sent
me groggy a minute. By the time I'd come round, he had
me tied. Could have killed me. That's about all, I
reckon. The brute cursed me for a Whig and for trying
to get away and said he'd teach me a lesson and find out
where the money was at the same time. I think he tool^
me for a tax man or a bailiff when first he spied pistols
on the saddle.

"You saw what he did. After he'd torn my coat off and
my shirt, trying to find money pockets in the lining, he
tied me up with the thong of my own riding crop, then
lashed at me with a hickory withe till I was fairly welted
raw! You saw it? I knew I'd freeze or die if he kept it
up, so I called for help. I'd been afraid to before when
he had me under his pistol, but now it was my only chance.
It seemed a precious slim one in this wild place. He may
have heard you boys climbing the hill. I don't know.
Anyway he stopped cutting at me all of a sudden and
pulled a crumpled bit of paper from his coat tails. That
was the gag and I nearly choked on it. Guess I would
have, if you fellows hadn't come up when you did. Then
he cut me one last fearful lash and walked off, saying he'd
leave me to think it over. He'd not been gone two min-
utes, though it did seem nigh a fortnight, when you came
through the briers. That's all there is to tell, I guess.
The thing now, lads, is get a posse and catch him, not
talk about it."

Peter Burgandine had received a manhandling that
might well have cooled the ardor of a younger man, yet


the sturdy old farmer of Newlin was as eager to come
up with the highwayman and bring him to justice as the
two boys at his side were keen to join him in lending their
aid. A few moments more brought them over the high
ground and in sight of the road that ran east to Edge-
mont crossways. There was no sign of Burgandine's
horse, so they turned into the lane and moved on quickly
toward the distant inn at Newtown Square, where the
farmer still hoped to meet Jehu Evans, the cattle man.
As they strode along, Burgandine continued his story.
The man, like most of his neighbors in Newlin and Marl-
borough, well understood the ill repute of the outlaw with
whom he had just dealt. Silencing the eager queries of
Bob and Dave, he began at the beginning so that they
might realize the danger they had missed.

"They call him Sandy Flash, lads, but his real name is
James Fitzpatrick," Burgandine explained. "I know,
because he hails from my part of the country out in
West Maryborough, across the Brandywine. I never re-
member seeing him, though. Had I, that hair of his would

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Online LibraryClifton LisleSandy Flash, the highwayman of Castle Rock → online text (page 1 of 19)