David is one great backwoods tracker...lol
The date was two days after the events described in the previous chapter. David had called a halt to his party’s march in the early morning. It was now nearly noon and the twins had not yet risen. David, who was keeping watch along with Gabriel, remarked “It appears to me that Joseph’s boys don’t have the long wind needed to keep ahead of our pursuers. But you know we can’t leave them. We’re honor - bound to stay by them, and we’re to die if we have to.”
“We both know that well enough. You’re saying that just to hear yourself talk in this silence.” Gabriel replied, in a tone meant somehow to convey both exasperation and amusement. Then he looked up to see a dust cloud moving quickly down the road towards them. “Look! We’ve been found! We must hurry! We’ll carry the boys if we have to, but we must leave!”
Startled by Gabriel’s sudden excitement, David looked up and spotted the dust cloud in his turn. A moment later, he was up, rushing to Mark’s side. Heaving the boy onto his shoulders, after having attempted to rouse him and discovering that he seemed to be an exceptionally deep sleeper, David began running down the road as hard as he could while carrying the load. When he had gotten a few yards away from their camp, Mark woke up. Stopping to set him on his own feet once more, David heard the voices of the group running after them.
“No, Father! Don’t leave us! We can’t go on much longer!”
David, who was about to start running once more, instead stopped where he was and shouted to Gabriel, who was several yards ahead with Matt. “Gabe! Stop! It’s our boys, and they’re exhausted!”
Gabriel, coming to an abrupt halt when David’s words reached him, nearly fell over under Matt’s weight. Helping him down, he called back to David. “What’s that? Our boys?! How did they manage to find us so quickly? We had better stop where we are, because they’ll need some hot food!”
A moment later, David, Gabriel and the twins had turned back and were returning to the campsite they had left only minutes ago. Once there, they found Luke, John, and Raphael sprawled out on the grass around the remains of the cooking fire David had made that morning. David immediately reached for his water, passing it to his son. “Not too much, or you’ll soon feel worse than you did. When you’ve eaten, you can explain yourselves.” With that, he began attempting to revive his fire.
Nearly half an hour later, after all the boys had eaten as much as they felt they could handle, David began questioning them. “First of all, tell me why you’re here.”
“We were ordered to come after you.”
“Does your Uncle want us to return?”
“Where is he now?”
“We can not know that, but our last sight of was about twenty miles outside a city where we had been captured. The Spaniards were taking us to the capital.”
“You were captured?”
“Yes, but we escaped from the prison, thanks to Raphael. Later they surprised and recaptured us, then took us out of the city.”
“Why did he not come with you?”
“I urged him to several times, father, but he appears to consider it a slight upon his honor to escape this time. He seemed depressed, but also to believe that living to return was not his lot.”
David turned to Gabriel and the boys, who had been standing a few yards away, looking up the road. “Did you hear that? Dameon has given himself up to buy us time to escape, in the hope that having caught him, the Spaniards will disregard the rest of us. Let us make good use of the time. Mark, Matt, do you feel you can carry one of the others?”
Taking long looks at the younger boys seated around the fire, the twins replied “We believe we can.”
“Then do that and let’s go. We can’t waste the time that is costing a good man his life for no other reason.”
As the twins each hoisted one of the others onto their backs, David began to cover the traces of the morning’s camp. After he had extinguished the fire, covered their tracks, and spent nearly half an hour laying a false trail while the others waited silently several feet from the original camp, he returned, taking up the position of rearguard and ordering the rest to start ahead of him.
“Go on! We must move! The Spaniards use dogs, and if they reach this point within the next three days, they’ll find us, false trails or no!” Checking his gun, he began following after the others, walking backwards the whole time.
When they had marched in silence for nearly half an hour, mark was forced to put down his passenger. As he squatted to allow an easier descent from his tall frame, he whispered “I’m afraid I can’t carry you any farther. From here, it’ll be hard enough for me to keep up. My breath is running short.”
Sliding down to the ground, Luke answered “I can carry my own weight.”
The whole party, wary of any noise, continued walking in silence. Matt had fallen back to accompany Mark. Mark was now leaning on Matt’s shoulder, gasping for breath. “I need to stop. I can not continue without a rest.”
“Then I’m stopping with you. I’ll get our Godfather to stay with us as our guard and guide.”
Accordingly, Matt left Mark momentarily to make the request to David. Dropping back to their position, David replied “Of course I will. Wouldn’t be decent if I didn’t.”