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The Hidden Children

Chapter 1. The Bedford Road
In the middle of the Bedford Road we three drew bridle. Boyd lounged in his reeking
saddle, gazing at the tavern and at what remained of the tavern sign, which seemed to
have been a new one, yet now dangled mournfully by one hinge, shot to splinters.
The freshly painted house itself, marred with buckshot, bore dignified witness to the
violence done it. A few glazed windows still remained unbroken; the remainder had been
filled with blue paper such as comes wrapped about a sugar cone, so that the misused
house seemed to be watching us out of patched and battered eyes.
It was evident, too, that a fire had been wantonly set at the northeast angle of the house,
where sill and siding were deeply charred from baseboard to eaves.
Nor had this same fire happened very long since, for under the eaves white-faced hornets
were still hard at work repairing their partly scorched nest. And I silently pointed them
out to Lieutenant Boyd.
"Also," he nodded, "I can still smell the smoky wood. The damage is fresh enough. Look
at your map."
He pushed his horse straight up to the closed door, continuing to examine the dismantled
sign which hung motionless, there being no wind stirring.
"This should be Hays's Tavern," he said, "unless they lied to us at Ossining. Can you
make anything of the sign, Mr. Loskiel?"
"Nothing, sir. But we are on the highway to Poundridge, for behind us lies the North
Castle Church road. All is drawn on my map as we see it here before us; and this should
be the fine dwelling of that great villain Holmes, now used as a tavern by Benjamin
Hays."
"Rap on the door," said Boyd; and our rifleman escort rode forward and drove his rifle-
butt at the door, "There's a man hiding within and peering at us behind the third window,"
I whispered.
"I see him," said Boyd coolly.
Through the heated silence around us we could hear the hornets buzzing aloft under the
smoke-stained eaves. There was no other sound in the July sunshine.
The solemn tavern stared at us out of its injured eyes, and we three men of the Northland
gazed back as solemnly, sobered once more to encounter the trail of the Red Beast so
freshly printed here among the pleasant Westchester hills.
 
 
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