Peter Loon

Peter Loon by Van Reid

Book: Peter Loon by Van Reid Read Free Book Online
Authors: Van Reid
out a snort of disgust.
    â€œWhat’s that?” said Manasseh.
    Parson Leach had no more than put the glass to his eye again, when the. others were just able to discern a person’s head and shoulders over the next point of land. Someone was hurrying along the shore, but disappeared, perhaps in a stumble, then returned to view and continued more slowly. The men, further on, scrambled after, closing the gap between themselves and the bit of pale figure.
    â€œHeaven preserve!” said Parson Leach. He swung the glass beneath his cape and hurried to Mars. “Peter!” he called as he swung onto the great horse, and Peter was quick to be pulled up behind. “Hold tight!” declared the preacher, and then he shouted “Heeyaa!” whereupon Mars leapt forward at a near gallop through thickety cover. The animal lowered its head, Parson Leach put his own face against the creature’s neck, and Peter was almost swept off the horse’s back by a swatting branch. Then they broke into an open glade and Mars mounted a broad shelf of granite where the preacher skittered him to a short halt, sparks flying from the animal’s shoes. Peter all but fell off with the clergyman’s sudden vault from the saddle, and he slid without ceremony down Mars’s hindquarters.
    They were still some yards away from the person scrambling toward them, however; Peter saw the unmistakable figure and face of Nora Tillage, and he shouted, almost angrily, “Parson Leach! We must get her!”
    But the parson had pulled his musket from its sheath and he was loading and priming it, leaning over the firing mechanism to protect it from the rain. “She’ll reach us before they reach her, lad!” he shouted back. “And I need a moment to ready this!” It was true, had he gone the entire distance to the young woman, he might not have had time to load and prime.
    Peter ran across the granite projection and tumbled down the side of the rock, using his sudden momentum to propel himself toward the girl. He heard an angry bellow and perhaps the snap of flint against steel. No explosion followed, however, and he barely slowed himself in time to avoid knocking the young woman over when he reached her. Other angry shouts and curses raised a panic in Peter’s heart. He was aware of two horsemen closing the distance with them, but he turned about and half led, half carried Nora Tillage to the stand of granite.
    Parson Leach had his musket raised. He shouted a warning, waited several beats, which kept time with the sound of hooves, then pulled the trigger. The powder in the pan had fouled with the rain, however, and there was no resultant kick or flashing bang.
    But directly behind him Manasseh Cutts pulled his own musket to his shoulder and the gun roared with an alarming blast of flame. He was aiming at the muddy flat just before the oncoming horses and the ball kicked up a shower of mud and stone, which proved more impressive than harmful. The horsemen drew up; one animal slipped and fell back on its rear legs, and the other slued to a halt.
    Crispin Moss passed Manasseh his own loaded musket, then held out his arms and Peter lifted the slight young woman up to him, before scrambling after. Parson Leach had blown out his pan and was repriming, leaning over the firingpiece. Nora Tillage collapsed in a heap at their feet, shivering from fright and exertion as much as from her thin soaked garments. In a moment, Crispin had Manasseh’s musket loaded and primed; he nudged Peter behind him. Mars let out an angry sounding snort and shifted his shod feet loudly on the granite porch.
    â€œLeach!” came a shout from beyond the first horsemen.
    Nora let out a single sob at the sound of Barrow’s voice, and she clutched at Peter’s leg, almost like an animal that has ceased to know friend from foe, but scrambles at any cover near.
    Nathan Barrow glared from the back of his horse. “You give her

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