Part 4 out of 7
In crossing the thicket of woods between the river and the rising
ground in front of Hurricane Hall, he overtook Capitola, who, as we
have said, had been out alone with her gun and dog, and was now
returning home with her game bag well laden.
Now, as John Stone looked at Capitola, with her reckless, free and
joyous air, he thought she was just the sort of girl, unconsciously,
to get herself and friends into trouble. And he thought it best to
give her a hint to put an abrupt period to her acquaintance, if she
had even he slightest, with the heir apparent of the Hidden House.
While still hesitating how to begin the conversation, he came up
with the young girl, dismounted, and, leading his horse, walked by
her side, asking carelessly:
"What have you bagged, Cap?"
"Some partridges! Oh, you should have been out with me and
Sweetlips! We've had such sport! But, anyhow, you shall enjoy your
share of the spoils! Come home and you shall have some of these
partridges broiled for supper, with currant sauce--a dish of my own
invention for uncle's sake, you know! He's such a gourmand!"
"Thank you, yes--I am on my way home now. Hem--m! Capitola, I
counsel you to cut the acquaintance of our neighbor, Craven Le
"I have already done so; but--what in the world is the matter that
you should advise me thus?" inquired Capitola, fixing her eyes
steadily upon the face of John Stone, who avoided her gaze as he
"The man is not a proper associate for a young woman."
"I know that, and have cut him accordingly; but, Cousin John, there
is some reason for your words, that you have not expressed; and as
they concern me, now I insist upon knowing what they are!"
"Tut! it is nothing!" said the other evasively.
"John Stone, I know better! And the more you look down and whip your
boot the surer I am that there is something I ought to know, and I
"Well, you termagant! Have your way! He has been speaking lightly of
you--that's all! Nobody minds him--his tongue is no scandal."
"John Stone--what has he said?" asked Capitola, drawing her breath
hardly between her closed teeth.
"Oh, now, why should you ask? It is nothing--it is not proper that I
should tell you," replied that gentleman, in embarrassment.
"'It is nothing,' and yet 'it is not proper that you should tell
me!' How do you make that out? John Stone, leave off lashing the
harmless bushes and listen to me! I have to live in the same
neighborhood with this man, after you have gone away, and I insist
upon knowing the whole length and breadth of his baseness and
malignity, that I may know how to judge and punish him!" said
Capitola, with such grimness of resolution that Mr. Stone, provoked
at her perversity, answered:
"Well, you wilful girl, listen!" And commencing, he mercilessly told
her all that had passed at the table.
To have seen our Cap then! Face, neck and bosom were flushed with
the crimson tide of indignation!
"You are sure of what you tell me, Cousin John?"
"The man vouches for it!"
"He shall bite the dust!"
"The slanderer shall bite the dust!"
Without more ado, down was thrown gun, game bag, powder flask and
shot-horn, and, bounding from point to point over all the
intervening space, Capitola rushed into Hurricane Hall, and without
an instant's delay ran straight into the parlor, where her epicurean
friend, the young Creole, lay slumbering upon the lounge.
With her face now livid with concentrated rage, and her eyes
glittering with that suppressed light peculiar to intense passion,
she stood before him and said:
"Edwin! Craven Le Noir has defamed your cousin! Get up and challenge
"What did you say, Cap?" said Mr. Percy, slightly yawning.
"Must I repeat it? Craven Le Noir has defamed my character--
"That would be against the law, coz; they would indict me sure!"
"You--you--you lie there and answer me in that way! Oh that I were a
"Compose, yourself, sweet coz, and tell me what all this is about!
Yaw-ooo!--really I was asleep when you first spoke to me!"
"Asleep! Had you been dead and in your grave, the words that I spoke
should have roused you like the trump of the archangel!" exclaimed
Capitola, with the blood rushing back to her cheeks.
"Your entrance was sufficiently startling, coz, but tell me over
again--what was the occasion?"
"That caitiff, Craven Le Noir, has slandered me! Oh, the villain! He
is a base slanderer! Percy, get up this moment and challenge Le
Noir! I cannot breathe freely until it is done!" exclaimed Capitola,
"Cousin Cap, duelling is obsolete; scenes are passe; law settles
everything; and here there is scarcely ground for action for libel.
But be comforted, coz, for if this comes to Uncle Hurricane's ears,
he'll make mince-meat of him in no time, It is all in his line;
he'll chaw him right up! "
"Percy, do you mean to say that you will not call out that man?"
asked Capitola, drawing her breath hardly.
"You won't fight him?"
"Edwin Percy, look me straight in the face!" said Cap, between her
"Well, I am looking you straight in the face--straight in the two
blazing gray eyes, you little tempest in a teapot--what then?"
"Do I look as though I should be in earnest in what I am about to
"I should judge so."
"Then listen, and don't take your eyes off mine until I am done
"Very well, don't be long, though, for it rather agitates me."
"I will not! Hear me, then! You say that you decline to challenge Le
Noir. Very good! I, on my part, here renounce all acquaintance with
you! I will never sit down at the same table--enter the same room,
or breathe the same air with you--never speak to you--listen to you,
or recognize you in any manner, until my deep wrongs are avenged in
the punishment of my slanderer, so help me--"
"Hush--sh! don't swear, Cap--it's profane and unwomanly; and nothing
on earth but broken oaths would be the result!"
But Cap was off! In an instant she was down in the yard, where her
groom was holding her horse, ready in case she wished to take her
"Where is Mr. John Stone?" she asked.
"Down at the kennels, miss," answered the boy.
She jumped into her saddle, put whip to her horse and flew over the
ground between the mansion house and the kennels.
She pulled up before the door of the main building, sprang from her
saddle, threw the bridle to a man in attendance, and rushed into the
house and into the presence of Mr. John Stone, who was busy in
prescribing for an indisposed pointer.
He looked up in astonishment, exclaiming: "Hilloe! All the witches!
Here's Cap! Why, where on earth did you shoot from? What's up now?
You look as if you were in a state of spontaneous combustion and
couldn't stand it another minute."
"And I can't--and I won't! John Stone, you must call that man out!"
"What man, Cap--what the deuce do you mean?"
"You know well enough--you do this to provoke me! I mean the man of
whom you cautioned me this afternoon--the wretch who slandered me--
the niece of your host!"
"Will you do it?"
"On the lounge with an ice in one hand and a novel in the other! I
suppose it is no use mincing the matter, John--he is a--mere
epicure--there is no fight in him! It is you who must vindicate your
"My cousin's honor cannot need vindication! It is unquestioned and
"No smooth words, if you please, cousin John! Will you, or will you
not fight that man?"
"Tut, Cap, no one really questions your honor--that man will get
himself knocked into a cocked hat if he goes around talking of an
"A likely thing, when her own cousins and guests take it so
"What would you have them do, Cap? The longer an affair of this sort
is agitated, the more offensive it becomes! Besides, chivalry is out
of date! The knights-errant are all dead."
"The men are all dead! If any ever really lived!" cried Cap, in a
fury. "Heaven knows I am inclined to believe them to have been a
fabulous race like that of the mastodon or the centaur! I certainly
never saw a creature that deserved the name of man! The very first
of your race was the meanest fellow that ever was heard of--ate the
stolen apple and when found out laid one half of the blame on his
wife and the other on his Maker--'The woman whom thou gavest me' did
so and so--pah! I don't wonder the Lord took a dislike to the race
and sent a flood to sweep them all off the face of the earth! I will
give you one more chance to retrieve your honor--in one word, now--
will you fight that man?"
"My dear little cousin, I would do anything in reason to vindicate
the assailed manhood of my whole sex, but really, now--"
"Will you fight that man? One word--yes or no?"
"Tut, Cap! you are a very reckless young woman! You--it's your
nature--you are an incorrigible madcap! You bewitch a poor wretch
until he doesn't know his head from his heels--puts his feet into
his hat and covers his scalp with his boots! You are a will-o'-the-
wisp who lures a poor fellow on through woods, bogs and briars,
until you land him in the quicksands! You whirl him around and
around until he grows dizzy and delirious, and talks at random, and
then you'd have him called out, you blood-thirsty little vixen! I
tell you, Cousin Cap, if I were to take up all the quarrels your
hoydenism might lead me into, I should have nothing else to do!"
"Then you won't fight!"
"Can't, little cousin! I have a wife and family, which are powerful
checks upon a man's duelling impulses!"
"Silence! You are no cousin of mine--no drop of your sluggish blood
stagnates in my veins--no spark of the liquid fire of my life's
current burns in your torpid arteries, else at this insult would it
set you in a flame! Never dare to call me cousin again." And so
saying, she flung herself out of the building and into her saddle,
put whip to her horse and galloped away home.
Now, Mr. Stone had privately resolved to thrash Craven Le Noir; but
he did not deem it expedient to take Cap into his confidence. As
Capitola reached the horse block, her own groom came to take the
"Jem," she said, as she jumped from her saddle, "put Gyp up and then
come to my room, I have a message to send by you."
And then, with burning cheeks and flashing eyes, she went to her own
sanctum, and after taking off her habit, did the most astounding
thing that ever a woman of the nineteenth or any former century
attempted--she wrote a challenge to Craven Le Noir--charging him
with falsehood in having maligned her honor--demanding from him "the
satisfaction of a gentleman," and requesting him as the challenged
party to name the time, place and weapons with which he would meet
By the time she had written, sealed and directed this warlike
defiance, her young groom made his appearance.
"Jem," she asked, "do you know the way to the Hidden House?"
"Yes, miss, sure."
"Then take this note thither, ask for Mr. Le Noir, put it into his
hands, and say that you are directed to wait an answer. And listen!
You need not mention to any one in this house where you are going--
nor when you return, where you have been; but bring the answer you
may get directly to this room, where you will find me."
"Yes, miss," said the boy, who was off like a flying Mercury.
Capitola threw herself into her chair to spend the slow hours until
the boy's return as well as her fierce impatience and forced
inaction would permit.
At tea time she was summoned; but excused herself from going below
upon the plea of indisposition.
"Which is perfectly true," she said to herself, "since I am utterly
indisposed to go. And besides, I have sworn never again to sit at
the same table with my cousins, until for the wrongs done me I have
received ample satisfaction."
CAPITOLA CAPS THE CLIMAX.
Oh! when she's angry, she is keen and shrewd
She was a vixen when she went to school;
And though she is but little she is fierce.
It was quite late in the evening when Jem, her messenger, returned.
"Have you an answer?" she impetuously demanded, rising to meet him
as he entered.
"Yes, miss, here it is," replied the boy, handing a neatly folded,
highly perfumed little note.
"Go," said Cap, curtly, as she received it.
And when the boy had bowed and withdrawn, she threw herself into a
chair, and with little respect for the pretty device of the pierced
heart with which the note was sealed, she tore it open and devoured
Why did Capitola's cheeks and lips blanch white as death? Why did
her eyes contract and glitter like stilettoes? Why was her breath
drawn hard and laboriously through clenched teeth and livid lips?
That note was couched in the most insulting terms.
Capitola's first impulse was to rend the paper to atoms and grind
those atoms to powder beneath her heel. But a second inspiration
changed her purpose.
"No--no--no! I will not destroy you, precious little note! No legal
document involving the ownership of the largest estate, no cherished
love letter filled with vows of undying affection, shall be more
carefully guarded! Next to my heart shall you lie. My shield and
buckler shall you be! My sure defense and justification! I know what
to do with you, my precious little jewel! You are the warrant for
the punishment of that man, signed by his own hand." And so saying
Capitola carefully deposited the note in her bosom.
Then she lighted her chamber lamp, and, taking it with her, went
down-stairs to her uncle's bedroom.
Taking advantage of the time when she knew he would be absorbed in a
game of chess with John Stone, and she would be safe from
interruption for several hours if she wished, she went to Major
Warfield's little armory in the closet adjoining his room, opened
his pistol case and took from it a pair of revolvers, closed and
locked the case, and withdrew and hid the key that they might not
chance to be missed until she should have time to replace them.
Then she hurried back into her own chamber, locked the pistols up in
her own drawer, and, wearied out with so much excitement, prepared
to go to rest. Here a grave and unexpected obstacle met her; she had
always been accustomed to kneel and offer up to heaven her evening's
tribute of praise and thanksgiving for the mercies of the day, and
prayers for protection and blessing through the night.
Now she knelt as usual, but thanksgiving and prayer seemed frozen on
her lips! How could she praise or pray with such a purpose as she
had in her heart?
For the first time Capitola doubted the perfect righteousness of
that purpose which was of a character to arrest her prayers upon her
With a start of impatience and a heavy sigh, she sprang up and
hurried into bed.
She did not sleep, but lay tossing from side to side in feverish
excitement the whole night--having, in fact, a terrible battle
between her own fierce passions and her newly awakened conscience.
Nevertheless, she arose by daybreak in the morning, dressed herself,
went and unlocked her drawer, took out the pistols, carefully loaded
them, and laid them down for service.
Then she went down-stairs, where the servants were only just
beginning to stir, and sent for her groom, Jem, whom she ordered to
saddle her pony, and also to get a horse for himself, to attend her
in a morning ride.
After which she returned up-stairs, put on her riding habit, and
buckled around her waist a morocco belt, into which she stuck the
two revolvers. She then threw around her shoulders a short circular
cape that concealed the weapons, and put on her hat and gloves and
She found her little groom already at the door with the horses. She
sprang into her saddle, and, bidding Jem follow her, took the road
She knew that Mr. Le Noir was in the habit of riding to the village
every morning, and she determined to meet him. She knew, from the
early hour of the day, that he could not possibly be ahead of her,
and she rode on slowly to give him an opportunity to overtake her.
Probably Craven Le Noir was later that morning than usual, for
Capitola had reached the entrance of the village before she heard
the sound of his horse's feet approaching behind her.
She did not wish that their encounter should be in the streets of
the village, so she instantly wheeled her horse and galloped back to
As both were riding at full speed, they soon met.
She first drew rein, and, standing in his way, accosted him with:
"Mr. Le Noir!"
"Your most obedient, Miss Black!" he said, with a deep bow.
"I happen to be without father or brother to protect me from
affront, sir, and my uncle is an invalid veteran whom I will not
trouble! I am, therefore, under the novel necessity of fighting my
own battles! Yesterday, sir, I sent you a note demanding
satisfaction for a heinous slander you circulated against me! You
replied by an insulting note. You do not escape punishment so! Here
are two pistols; both are loaded; take either one of them; for, sir,
we have met, and now we do not part until one of us falls from the
And so saying, she rode up to him and offered him the choice of the
He laughed--partly in surprise and partly in admiration, as he said,
with seeming good humor:
"Miss Black, you are a very charming young woman, and delightfully
original and piquant in all your ideas; but you outrage all the laws
that govern the duello. You know that, as the challenged party, I
have the right to the choice of time, place and arms. I made that
choice yesterday. I renew it to-day. When you accede to the terms of
the meeting I shall endeavor to give you all the satisfaction you
demand! Good-morning, miss."
And with a deep bow, even to the flaps of his saddle, he rode past
"That base insult again!" cried Capitola, with the blood rushing to
Then lifting her voice, she again accosted him: "Mr. Le Noir!"
He turned, with a smile.
She threw one of the pistols on the ground near him, saying: "Take
that up and defend yourself."
He waved his hand in negation, bowed, smiled, and rode on.
"Mr. Le Noir!" she called, in a peremptory tone.
Once more he turned.
She raised her pistol, took deliberate aim at his white forehead,
Bang! bang! bang! bang! bang! bang!
Six times without an instant's intermission, until her revolver was
When the smoke cleared away, a terrible vision met her eyes!
It was Craven Le Noir with his face covered with blood, reeling in
his saddle, from which he soon dropped to the ground.
In falling his foot remained in the hanging stirrup. The well-
trained cavalry horse stood perfectly still, though trembling in a
panic of terror, from which he might at any moment start to run,
dragging the helpless body after him.
Capitola saw this danger, and not being cruel, she tempered justice
with mercy, threw down her spent pistol, dismounted from her horse,
went up to the fallen man, disengaged his foot from the stirrup,
and, taking hold of his shoulders, tried with all her might to drag
the still breathing form from the dusty road where it lay in danger
of being run over by wagons, to the green bank, where it might lie
in comparative safety.
But that heavy form was too much for her single strength. And,
calling her terrified groom to assist her, they removed the body.
Capitola then remounted her horse and galloped rapidly into the
village, and up to the "ladies' entrance" of the hotel, where, after
sending for the proprietor she said:
"I have just been shooting Craven Le Noir for slandering me; he lies
by the roadside at the entrance of the village; you had better send
somebody to pick him up."
"Miss!" cried the astonished inn-keeper.
Capitola distinctly repeated her words and then, leaving the inn-
keeper, transfixed with consternation, she crossed the street and
entered a magistrate's office, where a little, old gentleman, with a
pair of green spectacles resting on his hooked nose, sat at a
writing-table, giving some directions to a constable, who was
standing hat in hand before him.
Capitola waited until this functionary had his orders and a written
paper, and had left the office, and the magistrate was alone, before
she walked up to the desk and stood before him.
"Well, well, young woman! Well, well, what do you want?" inquired
the old gentleman, impatiently looking up from folding his papers.
"I have come to give myself up for shooting Craven Le Noir, who
slandered me," answered Capitola, quietly.
The old man let fall his hands full of papers, raised his head and
stared at her over the tops of his green spectacles.
"What did you say, young woman?" he asked, in the tone of one who
doubted his own ears.
"I say that I have forestalled an arrest by coming here to give
myself up for the shooting of a dastard who slandered, insulted and
refused to give me satisfaction," answered Capitola, very
"Am I awake? Do I hear aright? Do you mean to say that you have
killed a man?" asked the dismayed magistrate.
"Oh, I can't say as to the killing! I shot him off his horse and
then sent Mr. Merry and his men to pick him up, while I came here to
answer for myself!"
"Unfortunate girl! And how can you answer for such a dreadful deed?"
exclaimed the utterly confounded magistrate.
"Oh, as to the dreadfulness of the deed, that depends on
circumstances," said Cap, "and I can answer for it very well! He
made addresses to me. I refused him. He slandered me. I challenged
him. He insulted me. I shot him!"
"Miserable young woman, if this be proved true, I shall have to
"Just as you please," said Cap, "but bless your soul, that won't
help Craven Le Noir a single bit!"
As she spoke several persons entered the office in a state of high
excitement--all talking at once, saying:
"That is the girl!"
"Yes, that is her!"
"She is Miss Black, old Warfield's niece."
"Yes, he said she was," etc., etc., etc.
"What is all this, neighbors, what is all this?" inquired the
troubled magistrate, rising in his place.
"Why, sir, there's been a gentleman, Mr. Craven Le Noir, shot. He
has been taken to the Antlers, where he lies in articulus mortis,
and we wish him to be confronted with Miss Capitola Black, the young
woman here present, that he may identify her, whom he accuses of
having shot six charges into him, before his death. She needn't deny
it, because he is ready to swear to her!" said Mr. Merry, who
constituted himself spokesman.
"She accuses herself," said the magistrate, in dismay.
"Then, sir, had she not better be taken at once to the presence of
Mr. Le Noir, who may not have many minutes to live?"
"Yes, come along," said Cap. "I only gave myself up to wait for
this; and as he is already at hand, let's go and have it all over,
for I have been riding about in this frosty morning air for three
hours, and I have got a good appetite, and I want to go home to
"I am afraid, young woman, you will scarcely get home to breakfast
this morning," said Mr. Merry.
"We'll see that presently," answered Cap, composedly, as they all
left the office, and crossed the street to the Antlers.
They were conducted by the landlord to a chamber on the first floor,
where upon a bed lay stretched, almost without breath or motion, the
form of Craven Le Noir. His face was still covered with blood, that
the bystanders had scrupulously refused to wash off until the
arrival of the magistrate. His complexion, as far as it could be
seen, was very pale. He was thoroughly prostrated, if not actually
Around his bed were gathered the village doctor, the landlady and
"The squire has come, sir; are you able to speak to him?" asked the
landlord, approaching the bed.
"Yes, let him swear me," feebly replied the wounded man, "and then
send for a clergyman."
The landlady immediately left to send for Mr. Goodwin, and the
magistrate approached the head of the bed, and, speaking solemnly,
exhorted the wounded man, as he expected soon to give an account of
the works done in his body, to speak the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth, without reserve, malice or exaggeration, both
as to the deed and its provocation.
"I will I will--for I have sent for a minister and I intend to try
to make my peace with heaven," replied Le Noir.
The magistrate then directed Capitola to come and take her stand at
the foot of the bed, where the wounded man, who was lying on his
back, could see her without turning.
Cap came as she was commanded and stood there with some
irrepressible and incomprehensible mischief gleaming out from under
her long eye-lashes and from the corners of her dimpled lips.
The magistrate then administered the oath to Craven Le Noir, and
bade him look upon Capitola and give his evidence.
He did so, and under the terrors of a guilty conscience and of
expected death, his evidence partook more of the nature of a
confession than an accusation. He testified that he had addressed
Capitola, and had been rejected by her; then, under the influence of
evil motives, he had circulated insinuations against her honor,
which were utterly unjustifiable by fact; she, seeming to have heard
of them, took the strange course of challenging him--just as if she
had been a man. He could not, of course, meet a lady in a duel, but
he had taken advantage of the technical phraseology of the
challenged party, as to time, place and weapons, to offer her a deep
insult; then she had waylaid him on the highway, offered him his
choice of a pair of revolvers, and told him that, having met, they
should not part until one or the other fell from the horse; he had
again laughingly refused the encounter except upon the insulting
terms he had before proposed. She had then thrown him one of the
pistols, bidding him defend himself. He had laughingly passed her
when she called him by name, he had turned and she fired--six times
in succession, and he fell. He knew no more until he was brought to
his present room. He said in conclusion he did not wish that the
girl should be prosecuted, as she had only avenged her own honor;
and that he hoped his death would be taken by her and her friends as
a sufficient expiation of his offenses against her; and, lastly he
requested that he might be left alone with the minister.
"Bring that unhappy young woman over to my office, Ketchum," said
the magistrate, addressing himself to a constable. Then turning to
the landlord, he said:
"Sir, it would be a charity in you to put a messenger on horseback
and send him to Hurricane Hall for Major Warfield, who will have to
enter into a recognizance for Miss Black's appearance at court."
"Stop," said Cap, "don't be too certain of that! 'Be always sure
you're right--then go ahead!' Is not any one here cool enough to
reflect that if I had fired six bullets at that man's forehead and
every one had struck, I should have blown his head to the sky? Will
not somebody at once wash his face and see how deep the wounds are?"
The doctor who had been restrained by others now took a sponge and
water and cleaned the face of Le Noir, which was found to be well
peppered with split peas!
Cap looked around, and seeing the astonished looks of the good
people, bust into an irrepressible fit of laughter, saying, as soon
as she had got breath enough:
"Upon my word, neighbors, you look more shocked, if not actually
more disappointed, to find that, after all he is not killed, and
there'll be no spectacle, than you did at first when you thought
murder had been done."
"Will you be good enough to explain this, young woman?" said the
"Certainly, for your worship seems as much disappointed as others!"
said Cap. Then turning toward the group around the bed, she said:
"You have heard Mr. Le Noir's 'last dying speech and confession,' as
he supposed it to be; and you know the maddening provocations that
inflamed my temper against him. Last night, after having received
his insulting answer to my challenge, there was evil in my heart, I
do assure you! I possessed myself of my uncle's revolvers and
resolved to waylay him this morning and force him to give me
satisfaction, or if he refused--well, no matter! I tell you, there
was danger in me! But, before retiring to bed at night, it is my
habit to say my prayers; now the practice of prayer and the purpose
of 'red-handed violence' cannot exist in the same person at the same
time! I wouldn't sleep without praying, and I couldn't pray without
giving up my thoughts of fatal vengeance upon Craven Le Noir. So at
last I made up my mind to spare his life, and teach him a lesson.
The next morning I drew the charges of the revolvers and reloaded
them with poor powder and dried peas! Everything else has happened
just as he has told you! He has received no harm, except in being
terribly frightened, and in having his beauty spoiled! And as for
that, didn't I offer him one of the pistols, and expose my own face
to similar damage? For I'd scorn to take advantage of any one!" said
Craven Le Noir had now raised himself up in a sitting posture, and
was looking around with an expression of countenance which was a
strange blending of relief at this unexpected respite from the
grave, and intense mortification at finding himself in the
ridiculous position which the address of Capitola and his own weak
nerves, cowardice and credulity had placed him.
Cap went up to him and said, in a consoling voice:
"Come, thank heaven that you are not going to die this bout! I'm
glad you repented and told the truth; and I hope you may live long
enough to offer heaven a truer repentance than that which is the
mere effect of fright! For I tell you plainly that if it had not
been for the grace of the Lord, acting upon my heart last night,
your soul might have been in Hades now!"
Craven Le Noir shut his eyes, groaned and fell back overpowered by
"Now, please your worship, may I go home?" asked Cap, demurely,
popping down a mock courtesy to the magistrate.
"Yes--go! go! go! go! go!" said that officer, with an expression as
though he considered our Cap an individual of the animal kingdom
whom neither Buffon nor any other natural philosopher had ever
classified, and who, as a creature of unknown habits, might
sometimes be dangerous.
Cap immediately availed herself of the permission, and went out to
look for her servant and horses.
But Jem, the first moment he had found himself unwatched, had put
out as fast as he could fly to Hurricane Hall, to inform Major
Warfield of what had occurred.
And Capitola, after losing a great deal of time in looking for him,
mounted her horse and was just about to start, when who should ride
up in hot haste but Old Hurricane, attended by Wool.
"Stop there!" he shouted, as he saw Cap.
She obeyed, and he sprang from his horse with the agility of youth,
and helped her to descend from hers.
Then drawing her arm within his own, he led her into the parlor,
and, putting an unusual restraint upon himself, he ordered her to
tell him all about the affair.
Cap sat down and gave him the whole history from beginning to end.
Old Hurricane could not sit still to hear. He strode up and down the
room, striking his stick upon the floor, and uttering inarticulate
sounds of rage and defiance.
When Cap had finished her story he suddenly stopped before her,
brought down the point of his stick with a resounding thump upon the
floor and exclaimed:
"Demmy, you New York newsboy! Will you never be a woman? Why the
demon didn't you tell me, sirrah? I would have called the fellow out
and chastised him to your heart's content! Hang it, miss, answer me
"Because you are on the invalid list and I am in sound condition and
capable of taking my own part!" said Cap.
"Then, answer me this, while you were taking your own part, why the
foul fiend didn't you pepper him with something sharper than dried
"I think he is quite as severely punished in suffering from extreme
terror and intense mortification and public ridicule," said Cap.
"And now, uncle, I have not eaten a single blessed mouthful this
morning, and I am hungry enough to eat up Gyp, or to satisfy Patty."
Old Hurricane, permitting his excitement to subside in a few
expiring grunts, rang the bell and gave orders for breakfast to be
And after that meal was over he set out with his niece for Hurricane
And upon arriving at home he addressed a letter to Mr. Le Noir, to
the effect that as soon as the latter should have recovered from the
effect of his fright and mortification, he, Major Warfield, should
demand and expect satisfaction.
BLACK DONALD'S LAST ATTEMPT.
Who can express the horror of that night,
When darkness lent his robes to monster fear?
And heaven's black mantle, banishing the light,
Made everything in fearful form appear.
Let it not be supposed that Black Donald had forgotten his promise
to Colonel Le Noir, or was indifferent to its performance.
But many perilous failures had taught him caution.
He had watched and waylaid Capitola in her rides. But the girl
seemed to bear a charmed safety; for never once had he caught sight
of her except in company with her groom and with Craven Le Noir. And
very soon by eavesdropping on these occasions, he learned the secret
design of the son to forestall the father, and run off with the
And as Black Donald did not foresee what success Craven Le Noir
might have with Capitola, he felt the more urgent necessity for
prompt action on his own part.
He might, indeed, have brought his men and attacked and overcome
Capitola's attendants, in open day; but the enterprise must needs
have been attended with great bloodshed and loss of life, which
would have made a sensation in the neighborhood that Black Donald,
in the present state of his fortunes, was by no means ambitious of
In a word, had such an act of unparalleled violence been attempted,
the better it succeeded the greater would have been the indignation
of the people, and the whole country would probably have risen and
armed themselves and hunted the outlaws, as so many wild beasts,
with horses and hounds.
Therefore, Black Donald preferred quietly to abduct his victim, so
as to leave no trace of her "taking off," but to allow it to be
supposed that she had eloped.
He resolved to undertake this adventure alone, though to himself
personally this plan was even more dangerous than the other.
He determined to gain access to her chamber, secrete himself
anywhere in the room (except under the bed, where his instincts
informed him that Capitola every night looked), and when the
household should be buried in repose, steal out upon her, overpower,
gag and carry her off, in the silence of the night, leaving no trace
of his own presence behind.
By means of one of his men, who went about unsuspected among the
negroes, buying up mats and baskets, that the latter were in the
habit of making for sale, he learned that Capitola occupied the same
remote chamber, in the oldest part of the house; but that a guest
slept in the room next, and another in the one opposite hers. And
that the house was besides full of visitors from the city, who had
come down to spend the sporting season, and that they were hunting
all day and carousing all night from one week's end to another.
On hearing this, Black Donald quickly comprehended that it was no
time to attempt the abduction of the maiden, with the least
probability of success. All would be risked and most probably lost
in the endeavor.
He resolved, therefore, to wait until the house should be clear of
company, and the household fallen into their accustomed carelessness
He had to wait much longer than he had reckoned upon--through
October and through November, when he first heard of and laughed
over Cap's "duel" with Craven Le Noir, and congratulated himself
upon the fact that that rival was no longer to be feared. He had
also to wait through two-thirds of the month of December, because a
party had come down to enjoy a short season of fox-hunting. They
went away just before Christmas.
And then at last came Black Donald's opportunity! And a fine
opportunity it was! Had Satan himself engaged to furnish him with
one to order, it could not have been better!
The reader must know that throughout Virginia the Christmas week,
from the day after Christmas until the day after New-year, is the
negroes' saturnalia! There are usually eight days of incessant
dancing, feasting and frolicking from quarter to quarter, and from
barn to barn. Then the banjo, the fiddle and the "bones" are heard
from morning until night, and from night until morning.
And nowhere was this annual octave of festivity held more sacred
than at Hurricane Hall. It was the will of Major Warfield that they
should have their full satisfaction out of their seven days'
carnival. He usually gave a dinner party on Christmas day, after
which his people were free until the third of January.
"Demmy, mum!" he would say to Mrs. Condiment, "they wait on us
fifty-one weeks in the year, and it's hard if we can't wait on
ourselves the fifty-second!"
Small thanks to Old Hurricane for his self-denial! He did nothing
for himself or others, and Mrs. Condiment and Capitola had a hot
time of it in serving him. Mrs. Condiment had to do all the cooking
and housework. And Cap had to perform most of the duties of Major
Warfield's valet. And that was the way in which Old Hurricane waited
It happened, therefore, that about the middle of the Christmas week,
being Wednesday, the twenty-eighth of December, all the house-
servants and farm laborers from Hurricane. Hall went off in a body
to a banjo break-down given at a farm five miles across the country.
And Major Warfield, Mrs. Condiment and Capitola were the only living
beings left in the old house that night.
Black Donald, who had been prowling about the premises evening after
evening, watching his opportunity to effect his nefarious object,
soon discovered the outward bound stampede of the negroes, and the
unprotected state in which the old house, for that night only, would
be left. And he determined to take advantage of the circumstance to
consummate his wicked purpose.
In its then defenceless condition he could easily have mustered his
force and carried off his prize without immediate personal risk.
But, as we said before, he eschewed violence, as being likely to
provoke after effects of a too fatal character.
He resolved rather at once to risk his own personal safety in the
quieter plan of abduction which he had formed.
He determined that as soon as it should be dark he would watch his
opportunity to enter the house, steal to Cap's chamber, secrete
himself in a closet, and when all should be quiet, "in the dead
waste and middle of the night," he would come out, master her, stop
her mouth and carry her off.
When it became quite dark he approached the house, and hid himself
under the steps beneath the back door leading from the hall into the
garden, to watch his opportunity of entering. He soon found that his
enterprise required great patience as well as courage. He had to
wait more than two hours before he heard the door unlocked and
He then peered out from his hiding-place and saw old Hurricane
taking his way out towards the garden.
Now was his time to slip unperceived into the house. He stealthily
came out from his hiding-place, crept up the portico stairs to the
back door, noiselessly turned the latch, entered and closed it
behind him. He had just time to open a side door on his right hand
and conceal himself in a wood closet under the stairs, when he heard
the footsteps of Old Hurricane returning.
The old man came in and Black Donald laughed to himself to hear with
what caution he locked, bolted and barred the doors to keep out
"Ah, old fellow, you are fastening the stable after the horse has
been stolen!" said Black Donald to himself.
As soon as old Hurricane had passed by the closet in which the
outlaw was concealed, and had gone into the parlor, Black Donald
determined to risk the ascent into Capitola's chamber. From the
description given by his men, who had once succeeded in finding
their way thither, he knew very well where to go.
Noiselessly, therefore, he left his place of concealment and crept
out to reconnoitre the hall, which he found deserted.
Old Hurricane's shawl, hat and walking stick were deposited in one
corner. In case of being met on the way, he put the hat on his head,
wrapped the shawl around his shoulders, and took the stick in his
His forethought proved to be serviceable. He went through the hall
and up the first flight of stairs without interruption; but on going
along the hall of the second story he met Mrs. Condiment coming out
of Old Hurricane's room.
"Your slippers are on the hearth, your gown is at the fire and the
kettle is boiling to make your punch, Major Warfield," said the old
lady in passing.
"Umph! umph! umph!" grunted Black Donald in reply.
The housekeeper then bade him good-night, saying that she was going
at once to her room.
"Umph!" assented Black Donald. And so they parted and this peril was
Black Donald went up the second flight of stairs and then down a
back passage and a narrow staircase and along a corridor and through
several untenanted rooms, and into another passage, and finally
through a side door leading into Capitola's chamber.
Here he looked around for a safe hiding-place--there was a high
bedstead curtained; two deep windows also curtained; two closets, a
dressing bureau, workstand, washstand and two arm chairs. The
forethought of little Pitapat had caused her to kindle a fire on the
hearth and place a waiter of refreshments on the workstand, so as to
make all comfortable before she had left with the other negroes to
go to the banjo breakdown.
Among the edibles Pitapat had been careful to leave a small bottle
of brandy, a pitcher of cream, a few eggs and some spice, saying to
herself, "Long as it was Christmas time Miss Caterpillar might want
a sup of egg nog quiet to herself, jes' as much as old marse did his
whiskey punch"--and never fancying that her young mistress would
require a more delicate lunch than her old master.
Black Donald laughed as he saw this outlay, and remarking that the
young occupant of the chamber must have an appetite of her own, he
put the neck of the brandy bottle to his lips and took what he
called "a heavy swig."
Then vowing that old Hurricane knew what good liquor was, he
replaced the bottle and looked around to find the best place for his
He soon determined to hide himself behind the thick folds of the
window curtain, nearest the door, so that immediately after the
entrance of Capitola he could glide to the door, lock it, withdraw
the key and have the girl at once in his power.
He took a second "swig" at the brandy bottle and then went into his
place of concealment to wait events.
That same hour Capitola was her uncle's partner in a prolonged game
of chess. It was near eleven o'clock before Cap, heartily tired of
the battle, permitted herself to be beaten in order to get to bed.
With a satisfied chuckle, Old Hurricane arose from his seat, lighted
two bed-chamber lamps, gave one to Capitola, took the other himself,
and started off for his room, followed by Cap as far as the head of
the first flight of stairs, where she bade him good night.
She waited until she saw him enter his room, heard him lock his door
on the inside and throw himself down heavily into his arm chair, and
then she went on her own way.
She hurried up the second flight of stairs and along the narrow
passages, empty rooms, and steep steps and dreary halls, until she
reached the door of her own dormitory.
She turned the latch and entered the room.
The first thing that met her sight was the waiter of provisions upon
the stand. And at this fresh instance of her little maid's
forethought, she burst into a uncontrollable fit of laughter.
She did not see a dark figure glide from behind the window curtains,
steal to the door, turn the lock and withdraw the key!
But still retaining her prejudice against the presence of food in
her bed-chamber, she lifted up the waiter in both hands to cany it
out into the passage, turned and stood face to face with--Black
THE AWFUL PERIL OF CAPITOLA.
Out of this nettle, danger,
I'll pluck the flower, safety!
Capitola's blood seemed turned to ice, and her form to stone by the
sight! Her first impulse was to scream and let fall the waiter! She
controlled herself and repressed the scream though she was very near
dropping the waiter.
Black Donald looked at her and laughed aloud at her consternation,
saying with a chuckle:
"You did not expect to see me here to-night, did you now, my dear?"
She gazed at him in a silent panic for a moment.
Then her faculties, that had been suddenly dispersed by the shock,
as suddenly rallied to her rescue.
In one moment she understood her real position.
Black Donald had locked her in with himself and held the key--so she
could not hope to get out.
The loudest scream that she might utter would never reach the
distant chamber of Major Warfield, or the still more remote
apartment of Mrs. Condiment; so she could not hope to bring any one
to her assistance.
She was, therefore, entirely in the power of Black Donald. She fully
comprehended this, and said to herself:
"Now, my dear Cap, if you don't look sharp your hour is come!
Nothing on earth will save you, Cap, but your own wits! For if ever
I saw mischief in any one's face, it is in that fellow's that is
eating you up with his great eyes at the same time that he is
laughing at you with his big mouth! Now, Cap, my little man, be a
woman! Don't you stick at trifles! Think of Jael and Sisera! Think
of Judith and Holofernes! And the devil and Doctor Faust, if
necessary, and don't you blanch! All stratagems are fair in love and
war--especially in war, and most especially in such a war as this is
likely to be--a contest in close quarters for dear life!"
All this passed through her mind in one moment, and in the next her
plan was formed.
Setting her waiter down upon the table and throwing herself into one
of the armchairs, she said:
"Well, upon my word! I think a gentleman might let a lady know when
he means to pay her a domiciliary visit at midnight!"
"Upon my word, I think you are very cool!" replied Black Donald,
throwing himself into the second armchair on the other side of the
stand of refreshments.
"People are likely to be cool on a December night, with the
thermometer at zero, and the ground three feet under the snow," said
Cap, nothing daunted.
"Capitola, I admire you! You are a cucumber! That's what you are, a
"A pickled one?" asked Cap.
"Yes, and as pickled cucumbers are good to give one an appetite, I
think I shall fall to and eat."
"Do so," said Cap, "for heaven forbid that I should fail in
"Why, really, this looks as though you had expected a visitor--
doesn't it?" asked Black Donald, helping himself to a huge slice of
ham, and stretching his feet out toward the fire.
"Well, yes, rather; though, to say the truth, it was not your
reverence I expected," said Cap.
"Ah! somebody else's reverence, eh? Well, let them come! I'll be
ready for them!" said the outlaw, pouring out and quaffing a large
glass of brandy. He drank it, set down the glass, and turning to our
little heroine, inquired:
"Capitola did you ever have Craven Le Noir here to supper with you?"
"You insult me! I scorn to reply!" said Cap.
"Whe--ew! What long whiskers our Grimalkin's got! You scorn to
reply! Then you really are not afraid of me?" asked the robber,
rolling a great piece of cheese in his mouth.
"Afraid of you? No, I guess not!" replied Cap, with a toss of her
"Yet, I might do you some harm."
"But, you won't!"
"Why won't I?"
"Because it won't pay!"
"Why wouldn't it?"
"Because you couldn't do me any harm, unless you were to kill me,
and you would gain nothing by my death, except a few trinkets that
you may have without."
"Then, you are really not afraid of me?" he asked, taking another
deep draught of brandy.
"Not a bit of it--I rather like you!"
"Come, now, you're running a rig upon a fellow," said the outlaw,
winking and depositing a huge chunk of bread in his capacious jaws.
"No, indeed! I liked you, long before I ever saw you! I always did
like people that make other people's hair stand on end! Don't you
remember when you first came here disguised as a peddler, though I
did not know who you were, when we were talking of Black Donald, and
everybody was abusing him, except myself? I took his part and said
that for my part I liked Black Donald and wanted to see him."
"Sure enough, my jewel, so you did! And didn't I bravely risk my
life by throwing off my disguise to gratify your laudable wish?"
"So you did, my hero!"
"Ah, but well as you liked me, the moment you thought me in your
power didn't you leap upon my shoulders like a catamount and cling
there, shouting to all the world to come and help you, for you had
caught Black Donald and would die before you would give him up? Ah!
you little vampire, how you thirsted for my blood! And you pretended
to like me!" said Black Donald, eying her from head to foot, with a
Cap returned the look with interest. Dropping her head on one side,
she glanced upward from the corner of her eye, with an expression of
"infinite" mischief and roguery, saying:
"Lor, didn't you know why I did that?"
"Because you wanted me captured, I suppose."
"No, indeed, but, because--"
"Because I wanted you to carry me off!"
"Well, I declare! I never thought of that!" said the outlaw,
dropping his bread and cheese, and staring at the young girl.
"Well, you might have thought of it then! I was tired of hum-drum
life, and I wanted to see adventures!" said Cap.
Black Donald looked at the mad girl from head to foot and then said,
"Miss Black, I am afraid you are not good."
"Yes I am--before folks!" said Cap.
"And so you really wished me to carry you off?"
"I should think so! Didn't I stick to you until you dropped me?"
"Certainly! And now if you really like me as well as you say you do,
come give me a kiss."
"I won't!" said Cap, "until you have done your supper and washed
your face! Your beard is full of crumbs!"
"Very well, I can wait awhile! Meantime just brew me a bowl of egg-
nog, by way of a night-cap, will you?" said the outlaw, drawing off
his boots and stretching his feet to the fire.
"Agreed, but it takes two to make egg-nog; you'll have to whisk up
the whites of the eggs into a froth, while I beat the yellows, and
mix the other ingredients," said Cap.
"Just so," assented the outlaw, standing up and taking off his coat
and flinging it upon the floor.
Cap shuddered, but went on calmly with her preparations. There were
two little white bowls setting one within the other upon the table.
Cap took them apart and set them side by side and began to break the
eggs, letting the whites slip into one bowl and dropping the yellows
into the other.
Black Donald sat down in his shirt sleeves, took one of the bowls
from Capitola and began to whisk up the whites with all his might
Capitola beat up the yellows, gradually mixing the sugar with it. In
the course of her work she complained that the heat of the fire
scorched her face, and she drew her chair farther to-wards the
corner of the chimney, and pulled the stand after her.
"Oh, you are trying to get away from me," said Black Donald,
hitching his own chair in the same direction, close to the stand, so
that he sat immediately in front of the fireplace.
Cap smiled and went on beating her eggs and sugar together. Then she
stirred in the brandy and poured in the milk and took the bowl from
Black Donald and laid on the foam. Finally, she filled a goblet with
the rich compound and handed it to her uncanny guest.
Black Donald untied his neck cloth, threw it upon the floor and
sipped his egg-nog, all the while looking over the top of the glass
"Miss Black," he said, "it must be past twelve o'clock."
"I suppose it is," said Cap.
"Then it must be long past your usual hour of retiring."
"Of course it is," said Cap.
"Then what are you waiting for?"
"For my company to go home," replied Cap.
"Oh, don't mind me, my dear."
"Very well," said Cap, "I shall not trouble myself about you," and
her tones were steady, though her heart seemed turned into a ball of
ice, through terror.
Black Donald went on slowly sipping his egg-nog, filling up his
goblet when it was empty, and looking at Capitola over the top of
his glass. At last he said:
"I have been watching you, Miss Black."
"Little need to tell me that," said Cap.
"And I have been reading you."
"Well, I hope the page was entertaining."
"Well, yes, my dear, it was, rather so. But why don't you proceed?"
"With what you are thinking of, my darling."
"I don't understand you!"
"Why don't you offer to go down-stairs and bring up some lemons?"
"Oh, I'll go in a moment," said Cap, "if you wish."
"Ha--ha--ha--ha--ha! Of course you will, my darling! And you'd
deliver me into the hands of the Philistines, just as you did my
poor men when you fooled them about the victuals! I know your tricks
and all your acting has no other effect on me than to make me admire
your wonderful coolness and courage; so, my dear, stop puzzling your
little head with schemes to baffle me! You are like the caged
starling! You can't--get--out!" chuckled Black Donald, hitching his
chair nearer to hers. He was now right upon the center of the rug.
Capitola turned very pale, but not with fear, though Black Donald
thought she did, and roared with laughter.
"Have you done your supper?" she asked, with a sort of awful
"Yes my duck," replied the outlaw, pouring the last of the egg-nog
into his goblet, drinking it at a draught and chuckling as he set
down the glass.
Capitola then lifted the stand with the refreshments to remove it to
its usual place.
"What are you going to do, my dear?" asked Black Donald.
"Clear away the things and set the room in order," said Capitola, in
the same awfully calm tone.
"A nice little housewife you'll make, my duck!" said Black Donald.
Capitola set the stand in its corner and then removed her own
armchair to its place before the dressing bureau.
Nothing now remained upon the rug except Black Donald seated in the
Capitola paused; her blood seemed freezing in her veins; her heart
beat thickly; her throat was choked; her head full nearly to
bursting, and her eyes were veiled by a blinding film.
"Come--come--my duck--make haste; it is late; haven't you done
setting the room in order yet?" said Black Donald, impatiently.
"In one moment," said Capitola, coming behind his chair and leaning
upon the back of it.
"Donald," she said, with dreadful calmness, "I will not now call you
Black Donald! I will call you as your poor mother did, when your
young soul was as white as your skin, before she ever dreamed her
boy would grow black with crime! I will call you simply Donald, and
entreat you to hear me for a few minutes."
"Talk on, then, but talk fast, and leave my mother alone! Let the
dead rest!" exclaimed the outlaw, with a violent convulsion of his
bearded chin and lip that did not escape the notice of Capitola, who
hoped some good of this betrayal of feeling.
"Donald," she said, "men call you a man of blood; they say that your
hand is red and your soul black with crime!"
"They may say what they like--I care not!" laughed the outlaw.
"But I do not believe all this of you! I believe that there is good
in all, and much good in you; that there is hope for all, and strong
hope for you!"
"Bosh! Stop talking poetry! 'Tain't in my line, nor yours either!"
laughed Black Donald.
"But truth is in all our lines. Donald, I repeat it, men call you a
man of blood! They say that your hands are red and your soul black
with sin. Black Donald, they call you! But, Donald, you have never
yet stained your soul with a crime as black as that which you think
of perpetrating to-night!"
"It must be one o'clock, and I'm tired," replied the outlaw, with a
"All your former acts," continued Capitola, in the same voice of
awful calmness, "have been those of a bold, bad man. This act would
be that of a base one!"
"Take care, girl--no bad names! You are in my power--at my mercy!"
"I know my position, but I must continue. Hitherto you have robbed
mail coaches and broken into rich men's houses. In doing thus you
have always boldly risked your life, often at such fearful odds that
men have trembled at their firesides to hear of it. And even women,
while deploring your crimes, have admired your courage."
"I thank 'em kindly for it! Women always like men with a spice of
the devil in them!" laughed the outlaw.
"No, they do not!" said Capitola, gravely. "They like men of
strength, courage and spirit--but those qualities do not come from
the Evil One, but from the Lord, who is the giver of all good. Your
Creator, Donald, gave you the strength, courage and spirit that all
men and women so much admire; but He did not give you these great
powers that you might use them in the service of his enemy, the
"I declare there is really something in that! I never thought of
"Nor ever thought, perhaps, that however misguided you may have
been, there is really something great and good in yourself that
might yet be used for the good of man and the glory of God!" said
"Ha, ha, ha! Oh, you flatterer! Come, have you done? I tell you it
is after one o'clock, and I am tired to death!"
"Donald, in all your former acts of lawlessness your antagonists
were strong men; and as you boldly risked your life in your
depredations, your acts, though bad, were not base! But now your
antagonist is a feeble girl, who has been unfortunate from her very
birth; to destroy her would be an act of baseness to which you never
"Bosh! Who talks of destruction? I am tired of all this nonsense! I
mean to carry you off and there's an end of it!" said the outlaw,
doggedly, rising from his seat.
"Stop!" said Capitola, turning ashen pale. "Stop--sit down and hear
me for just five minutes--I will not tax your patience longer."
The robber, with a loud laugh, sank again into his chair, saying:
"Very well, talk on for just five minutes, and not a single second
longer; but if you think in that time to persuade me to leave this
room to-night without you, you are widely out of your reckoning, my
duck, that's all."
"Donald, do not sink your soul to perdition by a crime that heaven
cannot pardon! Listen to me! I have jewels here worth several
thousand dollars! If you will consent to go I will give them all to
you and let you quietly out of the front door and never say one word
to mortal of what has passed here to-night."
"Ha, ha, ha! Why, my dear, how green you must think me! What hinders
me from possessing myself of your jewels, as well as of yourself!"
said Black Donald, impatiently rising.
"Sit still! The five minutes' grace are not half out yet," said
Capitola, in a breathless voice.
"So they are not! I will keep my promise," replied Black Donald,
laughing, and again dropping into his seat.
"Donald, Uncle pays me a quarterly sum for pocket money, which is at
least five times as much as I can spend in this quiet country place.
It has been accumulating for years until now. I have several
thousand dollars all of my own. You shall have it if you will only
go quietly away and leave me in peace!" prayed Capitola.
"My dear, I intend to take that anyhow--take it as your bridal
dower, you know! For I'm going to carry you off and make an honest
wife of you!"
"Donald, give up this heinous purpose!" cried Capitola, in an agony
of supplication, as she leaned over the back of the outlaw's chair.
"Yes, you know I will--ha--ha--ha!" laughed the robber.
"Man, for your own sake give it up!"
"Ha, ha, ha! for my sake!"
"Yes, for yours! Black Donald, have you ever reflected on death?"
asked Capitola, in a low and terrible voice.
"I have risked it often enough; but as to reflecting upon it--it
will be time enough to do that when it comes! I am a powerful man,
in the prime and pride of life," said the athlete, stretching
"Yet it might come--death might come with sudden overwhelming power,
and hurl you to destruction! What a terrible thing for this
magnificent frame of yours, this glorious handiwork of the Creator,
to be hurled to swift destruction, and for the soul that animates it
to be cast into hell!"
"Bosh again! That is a subject for the pulpit, not for a pretty
girl's room. If you really think me such a handsome man, why don't
you go with me at once and say no more about it," roared the outlaw
"Black Donald--will you leave my room?" cried Capitola, in an agony
"No!" answered the outlaw, mocking her tone.
"Is there no inducement that I can hold out to you to leave me?"
Capitola raised herself from her leaning posture, took a step
backward, so that she stood entirely free from the trap-door, then
slipping her foot under the rug, she placed it lightly on the
spring-bolt, which she was careful not to press; the ample fall of
her dress concealed the position of her foot.
Capitola was now paler than a corpse, for hers was the pallor of a
living horror! Her heart beat violently, her head throbbed, her
voice was broken as she said:
"Man, I will give you one more chance! Oh, man, pity yourself as I
pity you, and consent to leave me!"
"Ha, ha, ha! It is quite likely that I will! Isn't it, now? No, my
duck, I haven't watched and planned for this chance for this long
time past to give it up, now that you are in my power! A likely
story indeed! And now the five minutes' grace are quite up!"
"Stop! Don't move yet! Before you stir, say: 'Lord, have mercy on
me!" said Capitola, solemnly.
"Ha, ha, ha! That's a pretty idea! Why should I say that?"
"Say it to please me! Only say it, Black Donald!"
"But why to please you?"
"Because I wish not to kill both your body and soul--because I would
not send you prayerless into the presence of your Creator! For,
Black Donald, within a few seconds your body will be hurled to swift
destruction, and your soul will stand before the bar of God!" said
Capitola, with her foot upon the spring of the concealed trap.
She had scarcely ceased speaking before he bounded to his feet,
whirled around and confronted her, like a lion at bay, roaring
"You have a revolver there, girl--move a finger and I shall throw
myself upon you like an avalanche?"
"I have no revolver--watch my hands as I take them forth, and see!"
said Capitola, stretching her arms out toward him.
"What do you mean, then, by your talk of sudden destruction?"
inquired Black Donald, in a voice of thunder.
"I mean that it hangs over you--that it is imminent! That it is not
to be escaped! Oh, man, call on God, for you have not a minute to
The outlaw gazed on her in astonishment.
Well he might, for there she stood paler than marble--sterner than
fate--with no look of human feeling about her, but the gleaming
light of her terrible eyes, and the beading sweat upon her death-
For an instant the outlaw gazed on her in consternation, and then,
recovering himself he burst into a loud laugh, exclaiming:
"Ha, ha, ha! Well, I suppose this is what people would call a piece
of splendid acting! Do you expect to frighten me, my dear, as you
did Craven Le Noir, with the peas!"
"Say 'Lord have mercy on my soul'--say it. Black Donald--say it. I
beseech you!" she prayed.
"Ha, ha, ha, my dear! You may say it for me! And to reward you, I
will give you, such a kiss! It will put life into those marble
cheeks of yours!" he laughed.
"I will say it for you! May the Lord pity and save Black Donald's
soul, if that be yet possible, for the Saviour's sake!" prayed
Capitola, in a broken voice, with her foot upon the concealed and
He laughed aloud, stretched forth his arms and rushed to clasp her.
She pressed the spring.
The drop fell with a tremendous crash!
The outlaw shot downwards--there was an instant's vision of a white
and panic-stricken face, and wild, uplifted hands as he disappeared,
and then a square, black opening, was all that remained where the
terrible intruder had sat.
No sight or sound came up from that horrible pit, to hint of the
secrets of the prison house.
One shuddering glance at the awful void and then Capitola turned and
threw herself, face downward, upon the bed, not daring to rejoice in
the safety that had been purchased by such a dreadful deed, feeling
that it was an awful, though a complete victory!
THE NEXT MORNING.
Oh, such a day!
So fought, so followed and so fairly won
Came not till now to dignify the times.
Since Caesar's fortunes.
Capitola lay upon the bed, with her face buried in the pillow, the
greater portion of the time from two o'clock until day. An
uncontrollable horror prevented her from turning lest she should see
the yawning mystery in the middle of the floor, or hear some awful
sound from its unknown depths. The very shadows on the walls thrown
up wildly by the expiring firelight were objects of grotesque
terror. Never--never--in her whole youth of strange vicissitude, had
the nerves of this brave girl been so tremendously shaken and
It was late in the morning when at last nature succumbed, and she
sank into a deep sleep. She had not slept long when she was aroused
from a profound state of insensibility by a loud, impatient knocking
at her door.
She started up wildly and gazed around her. For a minute she could
not remember what were the circumstances under which she had laid
down, or what was that vague feeling of horror and alarm that
possessed her. Then the yawning trapdoor, the remnants of the
supper, and Black Donald's coat, hat and boots upon the floor, drove
in upon her reeling brain the memory of the night of terror!
The knocking continued more loudly and impatiently, accompanied by
the voice of Mrs. Condiment, crying:
"Miss Capitola--Miss Capitola--why, what can be the matter with her?
"Eh? What? Yes!" answered Capitola, pressing her hands to her
feverish forehead, and putting back her dishevelled hair.
"Why, how soundly you sleep, my dear! I've been calling and rapping
here for a quarter of an hour! Good gracious, child what made you
oversleep yourself so? "
"I--did not get to bed till very late," said Capitola, confusedly.
"Well, well, my dear, make haste now, your uncle is none of the
patientest, and he has been waiting breakfast for some time! Come,
open the door and I will help you to dress, so that you may be ready
Capitola rose from the side of the bed, where she had been sitting,
and went cautiously around that gaping trap door to her chamber
door, when she missed the key, and suddenly remembered that it had
been in Black Donald's pocket when he fell. A shudder thrilled her
frame at the thought of that horrible fall.
"Well--well--Miss Capitola, why don't you open the door?" cried the
old lady, impatiently.
"Mrs. Condiment, I have lost the key--dropped it down the trap-door.
Please ask uncle to send for some one to take the lock off--and
don't wait breakfast for me."
"Well, I do think that was very careless, my dear; but I'll go at
once," said the old lady, moving away.
She had not been gone more than ten minutes, when Old Hurricane was
heard, coming blustering along the hall and calling:
"What now, you imp of Satan? What mischief have you been at now?
Opening the trap-door, you mischievous monkey! I wish from the
bottom of my soul you had fallen into it, and I should have got rid
of one trial! Losing your key, you careless baggage! I've a great
mind to leave you locked up there forever."
Thus scolding, Old Hurricane reached the spot and began to ply
screw-drivers and chisels until at length the strong lock yielded,
and he opened the door.
There a vision met his eyes that arrested his steps upon the very
threshold; the remains of a bacchanalian supper; a man's coat and
hat and boots upon the floor; in the midst of the room the great,
square, black opening; and beyond it standing upon the hearth, the
form of Capitola, with disordered dress, dishevelled hair and wild
"Oh, uncle, see what I have been obliged to do!" she exclaimed,
extending both her arms down toward the opening with a look of
blended horror and inspiration, such as might have sat upon the
countenance of some sacrificial priestess of the olden time.
"What--what--what!" cried the old man, nearly dumb with amazement.
"Black Donald was in my room last night. He stole from his
concealment and locked the door on the inside and withdrew the key,
thus locking me in with himself, and--" She ceased and struck both
hands to her face, shuddering from head to foot.
"Go on, girl!" thundered Old Hurricane, in an agony of anxiety.
"I escaped harmless--oh, I did, sir--but at what a fearful price!"
"Explain! Explain!" cried Old Hurricane, in breathless agitation.
"I drew him to sit upon the chair on the rug, and"--again she
shuddered from head to foot, "and I sprang the trap and precipitated
him to--oh, heaven of heavens!--where? I know not!"
"But you--you were unharmed?"
"Oh, Cap! Oh, my dear Cap! Thank heaven for that!"
"But, uncle, where--oh, where did he go?" inquired Capitola, almost
"Who the demon cares? To perdition. I hope and trust, with all my
heart and soul!" cried Old Hurricane, with emphasis, as he
approached and looked down the opening.
"Uncle, what is below there?" asked Capitola anxiously, pointing
down the abyss.
"An old cellar, as I have told you long ago, and Black Donald, as
you have just told me. Hilloe there! Are you killed, as you deserve
to be, you atrocious villain?" roared Old Hurricane, stooping down
into the opening.
A feeble distant moan answered him.
"Oh, heaven! He is living! He is living! I have not killed him!"
cried Capitola, clasping her hands.
"Why, I do believe you are glad of it!" exclaimed Old Hurricane, in
"Oh, yes, yes, yes! For it was a fearful thought that I had been
compelled to take a sacred life! to send an immortal soul unprepared
to its account!"
"Well! his neck isn't broken, it appears, or he couldn't groan; but
I hope and trust every other bone in his body is! Mrs. Condiment,
mum! I'll trouble you to put on your bonnet and walk to Ezy's and
tell him to come here directly! I must send for the constable," said
Old Hurricane, going to the door and speaking to his housekeeper,
who, with an appalled countenance had been a silent spectator of all
that had passed.
As soon as the old woman had gone to do her errand he turned again,
and stooping down the hole, exclaimed:
"I say, you scoundrel down there! What do you think of yourself now?
Are you much hurt, you knave? Is everyone of your bones broken, as
they deserve to be, you villain? Answer me, you varlet!"
A low, deep moan was the only response.
"If that means yes, I'm glad to hear it, you wretch. You'll go to
the camp-meeting with us again, won't you, you knave? You'll preach
against evil passions and profane swearing, looking right straight
at me all the time, until you bring the eyes of the whole
congregation upon me as a sinner above all sinners, you scoundrel?
You'll turn me out of my own bed and away from my own board, won't
you, you villain? Won't you, precious Father Grey? Oh, we'll Father
Grey you! Demmy, the next time a trap-door falls under you, you
rascal, there shall be a rope around your neck to keep you from the
ground, precious Father Grey!"
"Uncle! Uncle! that is cowardly!" exclaimed Capitola.
"What is cowardly, Miss Impertinence?"
"To insult and abuse a fallen man who is in your power! The poor man
is badly hurt, may be dying, for aught you know, and you stand over
him and berate him when he cannot even answer you!"
"Umph, umph, umph; Demmy, you're--umph, well, he is fallen, fallen
pretty badly, eh? and if he should come round after this, the next
fall he gets will be likely to break his neck, eh?--I say, you
gentleman below there--Mr. Black Donald--precious Father Grey--
you'll keep quiet, won't you, while we go and get our breakfast? do,
now! Come, Cap, come down and pour out my coffee, and by the time we
get through, Old Ezy will be here."
Capitola complied, and they left the room together.
The overseer came in while they were at breakfast, and with his hair
standing on end, listened to the account of the capture of the
outlaw by our heroine.
"And now saddle Fleetfoot and ride for your life to Tip-Top and
bring a pair of constables," were the last orders of Old Hurricane.
While Mr. Ezy was gone on his errand, Major Warfield, Capitola and
Mrs. Condiment remained below stairs.
It was several hours before the messenger returned with the
constables, and with several neighbors whom interest and curiosity
had instigated to join the party.
As soon as they arrived, a long ladder was procured and carried up
into Capitola's chamber, and let down through the trap-door.
Fortunately it was long enough, for when the foot of the ladder
found the floor of the cellar, the head rested securely against the
edge of the opening.
In a moment the two constables began singly to descend, the foremost
one carrying a lighted candle in his hand.
The remaining members of the party, consisting of Major Warfield,
Capitola, Mrs. Condiment, and some half dozen neighbors, remained
gathered around the open trap-door, waiting, watching, and listening
for what might next happen.
Presently one of the constables called out:
"Major Warfield, sir!"
"Well!" replied Old Hurricane.
"He's a-breathing still, sir; but seems badly hurt, and may be a-
dying, seeing as he's unsensible and unspeakable. What shall we do
long of him?"
"Bring him up! let's have a look at the fellow, at any rate!"
exclaimed Old Hurricane, peremptorily.
"Just so, sir! but some of the gem-men up there'll have to come down
on the ladder and give a lift. He's a dead weight now, I tell your
Several of the neighbors immediately volunteered for the service,
and two of the strongest descended the ladder to lend their aid.
On attempting to move the injured man he uttered a cry of pain, and
fainted, and then it took the united strength and skill of four
strong men to raise the huge insensible form of the athlete, and get
him up the ladder. No doubt the motion greatly inflamed his inward
wounds, but that could not be helped. They got him up at last, and
laid out upon the floor a ghastly, bleeding, insensible form, around
which every one gathered to gaze. While they were all looking upon
him as upon a slaughtered wild beast, Capitola alone felt
"Uncle, he is quite crushed by his fall. Make the men lay him upon
the bed. Never think of me; I shall never occupy this room again;
its associations are too full of horrors. There, uncle, make them at
once lay him upon the bed."
"I think the young lady is right, unless we mean to let the fellow
die," said one of the neighbors.
"Very well! I have particular reasons of my own for wishing that the
man's life should be spared until he could be brought to trial and
induced to give up his accomplices," said Old Hurricane. Then,
turning to his ward, he said:
"Come along, Capitola. Mrs. Condiment will see that your effects are
transferred to another apartment."
"And you, friends," he continued, addressing the men present, "be so
good, so soon as we have gone, to undress that fellow and put him to
bed, and examine his injuries while I send off for a physician; for
I consider it very important his life should be spared sufficiently
long to enable him to give up his accomplices." And so saying, Old
Hurricane drew the arm of Capitola within his own and left the room.
It was noon before the physician arrived. When he had examined the
patient he pronounced him utterly unfit to be removed, as besides
other serious contusions and bruises, his legs were broken and
several of his ribs fractured.
In a word. It was several weeks before the strong constitution of
the outlaw prevailed over his many injuries, and he was pronounced
well enough to be taken before a magistrate and committed to prison
to await his trial. Alas! his life, it was said, was forfeit by a
hundred crimes, and there could be no doubt as to his fate. He
maintained a self-possessed good-humored and laughingly defiant
manner, and when asked to give up his accomplices, he answered
That treachery was a legal virtue which outlaws could not be
expected to know anything about.
Capitola was everywhere lauded for her brave part in the capture of
the famous desperado. But Cap was too sincerely sorry for Black
Donald to care for the applause.
A FATAL HATRED.
"Oh, heaven and all its hosts, he shall not die!"
"By Satan and his fiends, he shall not live!
This is no transient flash of fugitive passion,
His death has been my life for years of misery,
Which, else I had not lived,
Upon that thought, and not on food, I fed,
Upon that thought, and not on sleep, I rested,
I came to do the deed that must be done,
Nor thou, nor the sheltering angels could prevent me."
The United States army, under General Scott, invested the city of
A succession of splendid victories had marked every stage of their
advance, from the seacoast to the capital. Vera Cruz had fallen;
Cerro-Gordo had been stormed and passed: Xalapa taken; the glorious
triumph of Churubusco had been achieved. The names of Scott, Worth,
Wool, Quitman, Pillow and others were crowned with honor. Others
again, whose humble names and unnoticed heroism have never been
recorded, endured as nobly, suffered as patiently, and fought as
bravely. Our own young hero, Herbert Greyson, had covered himself
The war with Mexico witnessed, perhaps, the most rapid promotions of
any other in the whole history of military affairs.
The rapid ascent of our young officer was a striking instance of
this. In two years from the time he had entered the service, with a
lieutenant's commission, he held the rank of major, in the--Regiment
Fortune had not smiled upon our other young friend, Traverse Rocke--
partly because, being entirely out of his vocation, he had no right
to expect success; but mostly because he had a powerful enemy in the
Colonel of his regiment--an unsleeping enemy, whose constant
vigilance was directed to prevent the advancement and insure the
degradation and ruin of one whom he contemptuously termed the
Now, it is known that by the rules of military etiquette, a wide
social gulf lies between the Colonel of the regiment and the private
in the ranks.
Yet, Colonel Le Noir continually went out of his way to insult
Private Rocke, hoping to provoke him to some act of fatal
And very heavy was this trial to a high spirited young man like
Traverse Rocke, and very fortunate was it for him that he had early
been imbued with that most important truth, that "He who ruleth his
own spirit is greater than he who taketh a city."
But, if Colonel Le Noir crossed the gulf of military etiquette to
harass the poor young soldier, Major Greyson did the same thing for
the more honorable purpose of soothing and encouraging him.
And both Herbert and Traverse hoped that the designs of their
Colonel would be still frustrated by the self-command and patience
of the young private.
Alas! they did not know the great power of evil! They did not know
that nothing less than Divine Providence could meet and overcome it.
They fondly believed that the malignity of Le Noir had resulted in
no other practical evil than in preventing the young soldier's well-
merited advancement, and in keeping him in the humble position of a
private in the ranks.
They were not aware that the discharge of Traverse Rocke had long
ago arrived, but that it had been suppressed through the diabolical