Part 7 out of 7
escape was impossible and death inevitable. He made up his mind to
die. The discovery would surely be made in the morning that Hawbury
had been substituted for the robber; he would be found and punished,
and the priest would be involved in his fate. His only care now was
for Ethel; and he turned his thoughts toward the formation of some
plan by which he might obtain mercy for her.
He was in the midst of these thoughts--for himself resigned, for Ethel
anxious--and turning over in his mind all the various modes by which
the emotion of pity or mercy might be roused in a merciless and
pitiless nature; he was thinking of an appeal to the brigands
themselves, and had already decided that in this there lay his best
hope of success--when all of a sudden these thoughts were rudely
interrupted and dissipated and scattered to the winds by a most
Ethel started to her feet.
"Oh Heavens!" she cried, "what was that?"
"Down! down!" cried the men, wrathfully; but before Ethel could obey
the sound was repeated, and the men themselves were arrested by it.
The sound that thus interrupted the meditations of the priest was the
explosion of a rifle. As Ethel started up another followed. This
excited the men themselves, who now listened intently to learn the
They did not have to wait long.
Another rifle explosion followed, which was succeeded by a loud, long
"An attack!" cried one of the men, with a deep curse. They listened
still, yet did not move away from the place, for the duty to which
they had been assigned was still prominent in their minds. The priest
had already risen to his feet, still smoking his pipe, as though in
this new turn of affairs its assistance might be more than ever needed
to enable him to preserve his presence of mind, and keep his soul
serene in the midst of confusion.
And now they saw all around them the signs of agitation. Figures in
swift motion flitted to and fro amidst the shade, and others darted
past the smouldering fires. In the midst of this another shot sounded,
and another, and still another. At the third there was a wild yell of
rage and pain, followed by the shrill cry of a woman's voice. The fact
was evident that some one of the brigands had fallen, and the women
The confusion grew greater. Loud cries arose; calls of encouragement,
of entreaty, of command, and of defiance. Over by the old house there
was the uproar of rushing men, and in the midst of it a loud, stern
voice of command. The voices and the rushing footsteps moved from the
house to the woods. Then all was still for a time.
It was but for a short time, however. Then came shot after shot in
rapid succession. The flashes could be seen among the trees. All
around them there seemed to be a struggle going on. There was some
unseen assailant striking terrific blows from the impenetrable shadow
of the woods. The brigands were firing back, but they fired only into
thick darkness. Shrieks and yells of pain arose from time to time, the
direction of which showed that the brigands were suffering. Among the
assailants there was neither voice nor cry. But, in spite of their
losses and the disadvantage under which they labored, the brigands
fought well, and resisted stubbornly. From time to time a loud, stern
voice arose, whose commands resounded far and wide, and sustained the
courage of the men and directed their movements.
The men who guarded the priest and Ethel were growing more and more
excited every moment, and were impatient at their enforced inaction.
"They must be soldiers," said one.
"Of course," said another.
"They fight well."
"Ay; better than the last time."
"How did they learn to fight so well under cover?"
"They've improved. The last time we met them we shot them like sheep,
and drove them back in five minutes."
"They've got a leader who understands fighting in the woods. He keeps
them under cover."
"Who is he?"
"Diavolo! who knows? They get new captains every day."
"Was there not a famous American Indian--"
"True. I heard of him. An Indian warrior from the American forests.
Guiseppe saw him when he was at Rome."
"Bah!--you all saw him."
"On the road."
"You did. He was the Zouave who fled to the woods first."
These words were exchanged between them as they looked at the
fighting. But suddenly there came rapid flashes and rolling volleys
beyond the fires that lay before them, and the movement of the flashes
showed that a rush had been made toward the lake. Wild yells arose,
then fierce returning fires, and these showed that the brigands were
being driven back.
The guards could endure this no longer.
"They are beating us," cried one of the men, with a curse. "We must go
"What shall we do with these prisoners?"
"Tie them and leave them."
"Have you a rope?"
"No. There is one by the grave."
"Let's take the prisoners there and bind them."
This proposition was accepted; and, seizing the priest and Ethel, the
four men hurried them back to the grave. The square hole lay there
just beside them, with the earth by its side. Ethel tried to see into
it, but was not near enough to do so. One of the men found the rope,
and began in great haste to bind the arms of the priest behind him.
Another began to bind Ethel in the same way.
But now there came loud cries, and the rush of men near them. A loud,
stern voice was encouraging the men.
"On! on!" he cried. "Follow me! We'll drive them back!"
Saying this, a man hurried on, followed by a score of brigands.
It was Girasole.
He had been guarding the woods at this side when he had seen the rush
that had been made farther up. He had seen his men driven in, and was
now hurrying up to the place to retrieve the battle. As he was running
on he came up to the party at the grave.
"What's this?" he cried.
"The prisoners--we were securing them."
It was now lighter than it had been, and dawn was not far off. The
features of Girasole were plainly distinguishable. They were convulsed
with the most furious passion, which was not caused so much by the
rage of conflict as by the sight of the prisoners. He had suspected
treachery on their part, and had spared them for a time only so as to
see whether his suspicions were true or not. But now this sudden
assault by night, conducted so skillfully, and by such a powerful
force, pointed clearly to treachery, as he saw it, and the ones who to
him seemed most prominent in guilt were the priest and Ethel.
His suspicions were quite reasonable under the circumstances. Here was
a priest whom he regarded as his natural enemy. These brigands
identified themselves with republicans and Garibaldians whenever it
suited their purposes to do so, and consequently, as such, they were
under the condemnation of the Pope; and any priest might think he was
doing the Pope good service by betraying those who were his enemies.
As to this priest, every thing was against him. He lived close by;
every step of the country was no doubt familiar to him; he had come to
the camp under very suspicious circumstances, bringing with him a
stranger in disguise. He had given plausible answers to the
cross-questioning of Girasole; but those were empty words, which went
for nothing in the presence of the living facts that now stood before
him in the presence of the enemy.
These thoughts had all occurred to Girasole, and the sight of the two
prisoners kindled his rage to madness. It was the deadliest purpose of
vengeance that gleamed in his eyes as he looked upon them, and they
knew it. He gave one glance, and then turned to his men.
"On! on!" he cried; "I will join you in an instant; and you," he said
to the guards, "wait a moment."
The brigands rushed on with shouts to assist their comrades in the
fight, while the other four waited.
All this time the fight had not ceased. The air was filled with the
reports of rifle-shots, the shouts of men, the yells of the wounded.
The flashes seemed to be gradually drawing nearer, as though the
assailants were still driving the brigands. But their progress was
slow, for the fighting was carried on among the trees, and the
brigands resisted stubbornly, retreating from cover to cover, and
stopping every moment to make a fresh stand. But the assailants had
gained much ground, and were already close by the borders of the lake,
and advancing along toward the old stone house.
The robbers had not succeeded in binding their prisoners. The priest
and Ethel both stood where they had encountered Girasole, and the
ropes fell from the robbers' hands at the new interruption. The grave
with its mound was only a few feet away.
Girasole had a pistol in his left hand and a sword in his right. He
sheathed his sword and drew another pistol, keeping his eyes fixed
steadily all the while upon his victims.
"You needn't bind these prisoners," said Girasole, grimly; "I know a
better way to secure them."
"In the name of God," cried the priest, "I implore you not to shed
"Pooh!" said Girasole.
"This lady is innocent; you will at least spare her!"
"She shall die first!" said Girasole, in a fury, and reached out his
hand to grasp Ethel. The priest flung himself forward between the two.
Girasole dashed him aside.
"Give us time to pray, for God's sake--one moment to pray!"
"Not a moment!" cried Girasole, grasping at Ethel.
Ethel gave a loud shriek and started away in horror. Girasole sprang
after her. The four men turned to seize her. With a wild and frantic
energy, inspired by the deadly terror that was in her heart, she
bounded away toward the grave.
Hawbury last vanished from the scene to a place which is but seldom
resorted to by a living man. Once inside of his terrible retreat he
became a prey to feelings of the most varied and harrowing character,
in the midst of which there was a suspense, twofold, agonizing, and
intolerable. First of all, his suspense was for Ethel, and then for
himself. In that narrow and restricted retreat his senses soon became
sharpened to an unusual degree of acuteness. Every touch against it
communicated itself to his frame, as though the wood of his inclosure
had become part of himself; and every sound intensified itself to an
extraordinary degree of distinctness, as though the temporary loss of
vision had been compensated for by an exaggeration of the sense of
hearing. This was particularly the case as the priest drove in the
screws. He heard the shuffle on the stairs, the whisper to Ethel, her
retreat, and the ascending footsteps; while at the same time he was
aware of the unalterable coolness of the priest, who kept calmly at
his work until the very last moment. The screws seemed to enter his
own frame, and the slight noise which was made, inaudible as it was to
others, to him seemed loud enough to rouse all in the house.
Then he felt himself raised and carried down stairs. Fortunately he
had got in with his feet toward the door, and as that end was carried
out first, his descent of the stairs was not attended with the
inconvenience which he might have felt had it been taken down in an
One fact gave him very great relief, for he had feared that his
breathing would be difficult. Thanks, however, to the precautions of
the priest, he felt no difficulty at all in that respect. The little
bits of wood which prevented the lid from resting close to the coffin
formed apertures which freely admitted all the air that was necessary.
He was borne on thus from the house toward the grave, and heard the
voice of the priest from time to time, and rightly supposed that the
remarks of the priest were addressed not so much to the brigands as to
himself, so as to let him know that he was not deserted. The journey
to the grave was accomplished without any inconvenience, and the
coffin was at length put upon the ground.
Then it was lowered into the grave.
There was something in this which was so horrible to Hawbury that an
involuntary shudder passed through every nerve, and all the terror of
the grave and the bitterness of death in that one moment seemed to
descend upon him. He had not thought of this, and consequently was not
prepared for it. He had expected that he would be put down somewhere
on the ground, and that the priest would be able to get rid of the
men, and effect his liberation before it had gone so far.
It required an effort to prevent himself from crying out; and longer
efforts were needed and more time before he could regain any portion
of his self-control. He now heard the priest performing the burial
rites; these seemed to him to be protracted to an amazing length; and
so, indeed, they were; but to the inmate of that grave the time seemed
longer far than it did to those who were outside. A thousand thoughts
swept through his mind, and a thousand fears swelled within his heart.
At last the suspicion came to him that the priest himself was unable
to do any better, and this suspicion was confirmed as he detected the
efforts which he made to get the men to leave the grave. This was
particularly evident when he pretended to hear an alarm, by which he
hoped to get rid of the brigands. It failed, however, and with this
failure the hopes of Hawbury sank lower than ever.
But the climax of his horror was attained as the first clod fell upon
his narrow abode. It seemed like a death-blow. He felt it as if it had
struck himself, and for a moment it was as though he had been stunned.
The dull, heavy sound which those heard who stood above, to his ears
became transformed and enlarged, and extended to something like a
thunder-peal, with long reverberations through his now fevered and
distempered brain. Other clods fell, and still others, and the work
went on till his brain reeled, and under the mighty emotions of the
hour his reason began to give way. Then all his fortitude and courage
sank. All thought left him save the consciousness of the one horror
that had now fixed itself upon his soul. It was intolerable. In
another moment his despair would have overmastered him, and under its
impulse he would have burst through all restraint, and turned all his
energies toward forcing himself from his awful prison house.
He turned himself over. He gathered himself up as well as he could.
Already he was bracing himself for a mighty effort to burst up the
lid, when suddenly the voice of Girasole struck upon his ear, and a
wild fear for Ethel came to his heart, and the anguish of that fear
checked at once all further thought of himself.
He lay still and listened. He did this the more patiently as the men
also stopped from their work, and as the hideous earth-clods no longer
fell down. He listened. From the conversation he gathered pretty
accurately the state of affairs. He knew that Ethel was there; that
she had been discovered and dragged forth; that she was in danger. He
listened in the anguish of a new suspense. He heard the words of the
priest, his calm denial of treachery, his quiet appeal to Girasole's
good sense. Then he heard the decision of Girasole, and the party
walked away with their prisoners, and he was left alone.
At any other time it would have been a terrible thing thus to be left
alone in such a place, but now to him who was thus imprisoned it
afforded a great relief. The work of burial, with all its hideous
accompaniments, was stayed. He could collect his senses and make up
his mind as to what he should do.
Now, first of all, he determined to gain more air if possible. The
earth that had fallen had covered up many of the chinks, so that his
breathing had become sensibly more difficult. His confinement, with
this oppression of his breathing, was intolerable. He therefore braced
himself once more to make an effort. The coffin was large and rudely
constructed, being merely an oblong box. He had more play to his'
limbs than he could have had in one of a more regular construction,
and thus he was able to bring a great effort to bear upon the lid. He
pressed. The screws gave way. He lifted it up to some distance. He
drew in a long draught of fresh air, and felt in that one draught that
he received new life and strength and hope.
He now lay still and thought about what he should do next. If it had
only been himself, he would, of course, have escaped in that first
instant, and fled to the woods. But the thought of Ethel detained him.
What was her position; and what could he do to save her? This was his
He knew that she, together with the priest, was in the hands of four
of the brigands, who were commanded to keep their prisoners safe at
the peril of their lives. Where they were he did not know, nor could
he tell whether she was near or at a distance. Girasole had led them
[Illustration: "IN AN INSTANT THE OCCUPANT OF THE GRAVE SPRANG
He determined to look out and watch. He perceived that this grave, in
the heart of the brigands' camp, afforded the very safest place in
which he could be for the purpose of watching. Girasole's words had
indicated that the work of burial would not be resumed that night, and
if any passers-by should come they would avoid such a place as this.
Here, then, he could stay until dawn at least, and watch unobserved.
Perhaps he could find where Ethel was guarded; perhaps he could do
something to distract the attention of the brigands, and afford her an
opportunity for flight.
He now arose, and, kneeling in the coffin, he raised the lid. The
earth that was upon it fell down inside. He tilted the lid up, and
holding it up thus with one hand, he put his head carefully out of the
grave, and looked out in the direction where Girasole had gone with
his prisoners. The knoll to which he had led them was a very
conspicuous place, and had probably been selected for that reason,
since it could be under his own observation, from time to time, even
at a distance. It was about halfway between the grave and the nearest
fire, which fire, though low, still gave forth some light, and the
light was in a line with the knoll to Hawbury's eyes. The party on the
knoll, therefore, appeared thrown out into relief by the faint
fire-light behind them, especially the priest and Ethel.
And now Hawbury kept his watch, and looked and listened and waited,
ever mindful of his own immediate neighborhood, and guarding carefully
against any approach. But his own place was in gloom, and no one would
have thought of looking there, so that he was unobserved.
But all his watching gave him no assistance toward finding out any way
of rescuing Ethel. He saw the vigilant guard around the prisoners.
Once or twice he saw a movement among them, but it was soon over, and
resulted in nothing. Now he began to despond, and to speculate in his
mind as to whether Ethel was in any danger or not. He began to
calculate the time that might be required to go for help with which to
attack the brigands. He wondered what reason Girasole might have to
injure Ethel. But whatever hope, he had that mercy might be shown her
was counterbalanced by his own experience of Girasole's cruelty, and
his knowledge of his merciless character.
Suddenly he was roused by the rifle-shot and the confusion that
followed. He saw the party on the mound start to their feet. He heard
the shots that succeeded the first one. He saw shadows darting to and
fro. Then the confusion grew worse, and all the sounds of battle
arose--the cries, the shrieks, and the stern words of command.
All this filled him with hope. An attack was being made. They might
all be saved. He could see that the brigands were being driven back,
and that the assailants were pressing on.
Then he saw the party moving from the knoll. It was already much
lighter. They advanced toward him. He sank down and waited. He had no
fear now that this party would complete his burial. He thought they
were flying with the prisoners. If so, the assailants would soon be
here; he could join them, and lead them on to the rescue of Ethel.
He lay low with the lid over him. He heard them close beside him. Then
there was the noise of rushing men, and Girasole's voice arose.
He heard all that followed.
Then Ethel's shriek sounded out, as she sprang toward the grave.
In an instant the occupant of the grave, seizing the lid, raised it
up, and with a wild yell sprang forth.
The effect was tremendous.
The brigands thought the dead Antonio had come to life. They did not
stop to look, but with a howl of awful terror, and in an anguish of
fright, they turned and ran for their lives!
Girasole saw him too, with equal horror, if not greater. He saw
Hawbury. It was the man whom he had killed stone-dead with his own
hand. He was there before him--or was it his ghost? For an instant
horror paralyzed him; and then, with a yell like a madman's, he leaped
back and fled after the others.
[Illustration: "IN AN INSTANT THE OCCUPANT OF THE GRAVE SPRANG FORTH.]
In the midst of that wild uproar which had roused Dacres and Mrs.
Willoughby there was nothing that startled him so much as her
declaration that she was not Arethusa. He stood bewildered. While she
was listening to the sounds, he was listening to the echo of her
words; while she was wondering at the cause of such a tumult, he was
wondering at this disclosure. In a moment a thousand little things
suggested themselves as he stood there in his confusion, which little
things all went to throw a flood of light upon her statement, and
prove that she was another person than that "demon wife" who had been
the cause of all his woes. Her soft glance, her gentle manner, her
sweet and tender expression--above all, the tone of her voice; all
these at once opened his eyes. In the course of their conversation she
had spoken in a low tone, often in a whisper, so that this fact with
regard to the difference of voice had not been perceptible; but her
last words were spoken louder, and he observed the difference.
Now the tumult grew greater, and the reports of the rifles more
frequent. The noise was communicated to the house, and in the rooms
and the hall below there were tramplings of feet, and hurryings to and
fro, and the rattle of arms, and the voices of men, in the midst of
which rose the stern command of Girasole.
"Forward! Follow me!"
Then the distant reports grew nearer and yet nearer, and all the men
rushed from the house, and their tramp was heard outside as they
hurried away to the scene of conflict.
"It's an attack! The brigands are attacked!" cried Mrs. Willoughby.
Dacres said nothing. He was collecting his scattered thoughts.
"Oh, may Heaven grant that we may be saved! Oh, it is the troops--it
must be! Oh, Sir, come, come; help us to escape! My darling sister is
here. Save her!"
"Your sister?" cried Dacres.
"Oh yes; come, save her! My sister--my darling Minnie!"
With these words Mrs. Willoughby rushed from the room.
"Her sister! her sister!" repeated Dacres--"Fay! _Her_ sister! Good
Lord! What a most infernal ass I've been making of myself this last
He stood still for a few moments, overwhelmed by this thought, and
apparently endeavoring to realize the full extent and enormous size
and immense proportions, together with the infinite extent of ear,
appertaining to the ass to which he had transformed himself; but
finally he shook his head despondingly, as though he gave it up
altogether. Then he hurried after Mrs. Willoughby.
Mrs. Willoughby rushed into Minnie's room, and clasped her sister in
her arms with frantic tears and kisses.
"Oh, my precious darling!" she exclaimed.
"Oh dear!" said Minnie, "isn't this really too bad? I was _so_ tired,
you know, and I was just beginning to go to sleep, when those horrid
men began firing their guns. I really do think that every body is
banded together to tease me. I do _wish_ they'd all go away and let me
have a little peace. I am so tired and sleepy!"
While Minnie was saying this her sister was embracing her and kissing
her and crying over her.
"Oh, come, Minnie, come!" she cried; "make haste. We must fly!"
"Where to?" said Minnie, wonderingly.
"Any where--any where out of this awful place: into the woods."
"Why, I don't see the use of going into the woods. It's all wet, you
know. Can't we get a carriage?"
"Oh no, no; we must not wait. They'll all be back soon and kill us."
"Kill us! What for?" cried Minnie. "What do you mean? How silly you
are, Kitty darling!"
At this moment Dacres entered. The image of the immeasurable ass was
still very prominent in his mind, and he had lost all his fever and
delirium. One thought only remained (besides that of the ass, of
course), and that was--escape.
"Are you ready?" he asked, hurriedly.
"Oh yes, yes; let us make haste," said Mrs. Willoughby.
"I think no one is below," said he; "but I will go first. There is a
good place close by. We will run there. If I fall, you must run on and
try to get there. It is the bank just opposite. Once there, you are in
the woods. Do you understand?"
"Oh yes, yes!" cried Mrs. Willoughby. "Haste! Oh, haste!"
Dacres turned, and Mrs. Willoughby had just grasped Minnie's hand to
follow, when suddenly they heard footsteps below.
They stopped, appalled.
The robbers had not all gone, then. Some of them must have remained on
guard. But how many?
Dacres listened and the ladies listened, and in their suspense the
beating of each heart was audible. The footsteps below could be heard
going from room to room, and pausing in each.
"There seems to be only one man," said Dacres, in a whisper. "If there
is only one, I'll engage to manage him. While I grapple, you run for
your lives. Remember the bank."
"Oh yes; but oh, Sir, there may be more," said Mrs. Willoughby.
"I'll see," said Dacres, softly.
He went cautiously to the front window and looked out. By the
increased light he could see quite plainly. No men were visible. From
afar the noise of the strife came to his ears louder than ever, and he
could see the flashes of the rifles.
Dacres stole back again from the window and went to the door. He stood
And now the footsteps came across the hall to the foot of the stairs.
Dacres could see the figure of a solitary man, but it was dark in the
hall, and he could not make him out.
He began to think that there was only one enemy to encounter.
The man below put his foot on the lowest stair.
Then he hesitated.
Dacres stood in the shadow of the other doorway, which was nearer to
the head of the stairs, and prepared to spring as soon as the stranger
should come within reach. But the stranger delayed still.
At length he spoke:
"Hallo, up there!"
The sound of those simple words produced an amazing effect upon the
hearers. Dacres sprang down with a cry of joy. "Come, come!" he
shouted to the ladies; "friends are here!" And running down the
stairs, he reached the bottom and grasped the stranger by both arms.
In the dim light he could detect a tall, slim, sinewy form, with long,
black, ragged hair and white neck-tie.
"You'd best get out of this, and quick, too," said the Rev. Saul
Tozer. "They're all off now, but they'll be back here in less than no
time. I jest thought I'd look in to see if any of you folks was
By this time the ladies were both at the bottom of the stairs.
"Come!" said Tozer; "hurry up, folks. I'll take one lady and you take
"Do you know the woods?"
"Like a book."
"So do I," said Dacres.
He grasped Mrs. Willoughby's hand and started.
"But Minnie!" said Mrs. Willoughby.
"You had better let him take her; it's safer for all of us," said
Mrs. Willoughby looked back as she was dragged on after Dacres, and
saw Tozer following them, holding Minnie's hand. This reassured her.
Dacres dragged her on to the foot of the bank. Here she tried to keep
up with him, but it was steep, and she could not.
Whereupon Dacres stopped, and, without a word, raised her in his arms
as though she were a little child, and ran up the bank. He plunged
into the woods. Then he ran on farther. Then he turned and doubled.
Mrs. Willoughby begged him to put her down.
"No," said he; "they are behind us. You can not go fast enough. I
should have to wait and defend you, and then we would both be lost."
"But, oh! we are losing Minnie."
"No, we are not," cried Dacres; "that man is ten times stronger than I
am. He is a perfect elephant in strength. He dashed past me up the
"I didn't see him."
"Your face was turned the other way. He is ahead of us now somewhere."
"Oh, I wish we _could_ catch up to him."
[Illustration: "AT THIS DACRES RUSHED ON FASTER."]
At this Dacres rushed on faster. The effort was tremendous. He leaped
over fallen timbers, he burst through the underbrush.
"Oh, I'm sure you'll _kill_ yourself if you go so fast," said Mrs.
Willoughby. "We can't catch up to them."
At this Dacres slackened his pace, and went on more carefully. She
again begged him to put her down. He again refused. Upon this she felt
perfectly helpless, and recalled, in a vague way, Minnie's ridiculous
question of "How would you like to be run away with by a great, big,
horrid man, Kitty darling?"
Then she began to think he was insane, and felt very anxious.
At last Dacres stopped. He was utterly exhausted. He was panting
terribly. It had been a fearful journey. He had run along the bank up
to that narrow valley which he had traversed the day before, and when
he stopped it was on the top of that precipice where he had formerly
rested, and where he had nurtured such dark purposes against Mrs.
Mrs. Willoughby looked at him, full of pity. He was utterly broken
down by this last effort.
"Oh dear!" she thought. "Is he sane or insane? What _am_ I to do? It
is dreadful to have to go on and humor his queer fancies."
MINNIE'S LAST LIFE-PRESERVER.
When Tozer started after Dacres he led Minnie by the hand for only a
little distance. On reaching the acclivity he seized her in his arms,
thus imitating Dacres's example, and rushed up, reaching the top
before the other. Then he plunged into the woods, and soon became
separated from his companion.
Once in the woods, he went along quite leisurely, carrying Minnie
without any difficulty, and occasionally addressing to her a soothing
remark, assuring her that she was safe. Minnie, however, made no
remark of any kind, good or bad, but remained quite silent, occupied
with her own thoughts. At length Tozer stopped and put her down. It
was a place upon the edge of a cliff on the shore of the lake, and as
much as a mile from the house. The cliff was almost fifty feet high,
and was perpendicular. All around was the thick forest, and it was
unlikely that such a place could be discovered.
[Illustration: "'WORSE AND WORSE,' SAID TOZER."]
"Here," said he; "we've got to stop here, and it's about the right
place. We couldn't get any where nigh to the soldiers without the
brigands seeing us; so we'll wait here till the fight's over, and the
brigands all chased off."
"The soldiers! what soldiers?" asked Minnie.
"Why, they're having a fight over there--the soldiers are attacking
"Well, I didn't know. Nobody told me. And did you come with the
"Well, not exactly. I came with the priest and the young lady."
"But you were not at the house?"
"No. They wouldn't take me all the way. The priest said I couldn't be
disguised--but I don't see why not--so he left me in the woods till he
came back. And then the soldiers came, and we crept on till we came
nigh the lake. Well, then I stole away; and when they made an attack
the brigands all ran there to fight, and I watched till I saw the
coast clear; and so I came, and here we are."
Minnie now was quite silent and preoccupied, and occasionally she
glanced sadly at Tozer with her large, pathetic, child-like eyes. It
was a very piteous look, full of the most tender entreaty. Tozer
occasionally glanced at her, and then, like her, he sat silent,
involved in his own thoughts.
"And so," said Minnie at last, "you're not the priest himself?"
"Well, no; I don't call myself a priest. I'm a minister of the
"Well, you're not a _real_ priest, then."
"All men of my calling are real priests--yes, priests and kings. I
yield to no man in the estimate which I set upon my high and holy
"Oh, but I mean a Roman Catholic priest," said Minnie.
"A Roman Catholic priest! Me! Why, what a question! Me! a Roman
Catholic! Why, in our parts folks call me the Protestant Champion."
"Oh, and so you're only a 'Protestant, after all," said Minnie, in a
"Only a Protestant!" repeated Tozer, severely--"_only_ a Protestant.
Why, ain't you one yourself?"
"Oh yes; but I hoped you were the other priest, you know. I did _so_
want to have a Roman Catholic priest this time."
Tozer was silent. It struck him that this young lady was in danger.
Her wish for a Roman Catholic priest boded no good. She had just come
from Rome. No doubt she had been tampered with. Some Jesuits had
caught her, and had tried to proselytize her. His soul swelled with
indignation at the thought.
"Oh dear!" said Minnie again.
"What's the matter?" asked Tozer, in a sympathizing voice.
"I'm so sorry."
"Why, that you saved my life, you know."
"Sorry? sorry? that I saved your life?" repeated Tozer, in amazement.
"Oh, well, you know, I did so want to be saved by a Roman Catholic
priest, you know."
"To be saved by a Roman Catholic priest!" repeated Tozer, pondering
these words in his mind as he slowly pronounced them. He could make
nothing of them at first, but finally concluded that they concealed
some half-suggested tendency to Rome.
"I don't like this--I don't like this," he said, solemnly.
"What don't you like?"
"It's dangerous. It looks bad," said Tozer, with increased solemnity.
"What's dangerous? You look so solemn that you really make me feel
quite nervous. What's dangerous?"
"Why, your words. I see in you, I think, a kind of leaning toward
"It isn't Rome," said Minnie. "I don't lean to Rome. I only lean a
little toward a Roman Catholic priest."
"Worse and worse," said Tozer. "Dear! dear! dear! worse _and_ worse.
This beats all. Young woman, beware! But perhaps I don't understand
you. You surely don't mean that your affections are engaged to any
Roman Catholic priest. You can't mean _that_. Why, they can't marry."
"But that's just what I like them so for," said Minnie. "I like people
that don't marry; I hate people that want to marry."
Tozer turned this over in his mind, but could make nothing of it. At
length he thought he saw in this an additional proof that she had been
tampered with by Jesuits at Rome. He thought he saw in this a
statement of her belief in the Roman Catholic doctrine of celibacy.
He shook his head more solemnly than ever. "It's not Gospel," said he.
"It's mere human tradition. Why, for centuries there was a married
priesthood even in the Latin Church. Dunstan's chief measures
consisted in a fierce war on the married clergy. So did
Hildebrand's--Gregory the Seventh, you know. The Church at Milan,
sustained by the doctrines of the great Ambrose, always preferred a
married clergy. The worst measures of Hildebrand were against these
good pastors and their wives. And in the Eastern Church they have
always had it."
Of course all this was quite beyond Minnie; so she gave a little sigh,
and said nothing.
"Now as to Rome," resumed Tozer. "Have you ever given a careful study
to the Apocalypse--not a hasty reading, as people generally do, but a
serious, earnest, and careful examination?"
"I'm sure I haven't any idea what in the world you're talking about,"
said Minnie. "I _wish_ you wouldn't talk so. I don't understand one
single word of what you say."
Tozer started and stared at this. It was a depth of ignorance that
transcended that of the other young lady with whom he had conversed.
But he attributed it all to "Roman" influences. They dreaded the
Apocalypse, and had not allowed either of these young ladies to become
acquainted with its tremendous pages. Moreover, there was something
else.' There was a certain light and trifling tone which she used in
referring to these things, and it pained him. He sat involved in a
long and very serious consideration of her case, and once or twice
looked at her with so very peculiar an expression that Minnie began to
feel very uneasy indeed.
Tozer at length cleared his throat, and fixed upon Minnie a very
affectionate and tender look.
"My dear young friend," said he, "have you ever reflected upon the way
you are living?"
At this Minnie gave him a frightened little look, and her head fell.
"You are young now, but you can't be young always; youth and beauty
and loveliness all are yours, but they can't last; and now is the time
for you to make your choice--now in life's gay morn. It ain't easy
when you get old. Remember that, my dear. Make your choice now--now."
"Oh dear!" said Minnie; "I knew it. But I can't--and I don't want
to--and I think it's _very_ unkind in you. I don't want to make _any_
choice. I don't want any of you. It's _so_ horrid."
This was a dreadful shock to Tozer; but he could not turn aside from
this beautiful yet erring creature.
"Oh, I entreat you--I implore you, my dear, _dear_--"
"I do _wish_ you wouldn't talk to me that way, and call me your
_dear_. I don't like it; no, not even if you _did_ save my life,
though really I didn't know there was any danger. But I'm not _your_
And Minnie tossed her head with a little air of determination, as
though she had quite made up her mind on that point.
"Oh, well now, really now," said Tozer, "it was only a natural
expression. I _do_ take a deep interest in you, my--that is--miss; I
feel a sincere regard and affection and--"
"But it's no use," said Minnie. "You really _can't,_ you know; and so,
why, you _mustn't_, you know."
Tozer did not clearly understand this, so after a brief pause he
"But what I was saying is of far more importance. I referred to your
life. Now you're not happy as you are."
"Oh yes, but I am," said Minnie, briskly.
"I'm _very_ happy," continued Minnie, "very, very happy--that is, when
I'm with dear, darling Kitty, and dear, dear Ethel, and my darling old
Dowdy, and dear, kind papa."
Tozer sighed again.
"You can't be _truly_ happy thus," he said, mournfully. "You may think
you are, but you _ain't_. My heart fairly yearns over you when I see
you, so young, so lovely, and so innocent; and I know you can't be
happy as you are. You must live otherwise. And oh, I pray you--I
entreat you to set your affections elsewhere!"
"Well, then, I think it's very, very horrid in you to press me so,"
said, Minnie, with something actually like asperity in her tone; "but
it's _quite_ impossible."
"But oh, why?"
"Why, because I don't want to have things any different. But if I have
to be worried and teased so, and if people insist on it so, why,
there's only one that I'll _ever_ consent to."
"And what is that?" asked Tozer, looking at her with the most
"Why, it's--it's--" Minnie paused, and looked a little confused.
"It's what?" asked Tozer, with still deeper and more anxious interest.
"Why, it's--it's--Rufus K. Gunn."
THE IMPATIENT BARON.
The brigands had resisted stubbornly, but finally found themselves
without a leader. Girasole had disappeared; and as his voice no longer
directed their movements, they began to fall into confusion. The
attacking party, on the other hand, was well led, and made a steady
advance, driving the enemy before them. At length the brigands lost
heart, and took to flight. With a wild cheer the assailants followed
in pursuit. But the fugitives took to the forest, and were soon beyond
the reach of their pursuers in its familiar intricacies, and the
victors were summoned back by the sound of the trumpet.
[Illustration: "THE DISCOVERY OF A BODY ON THE SHORE OF THE LAKE."]
It was now daylight, and as the conquering party emerged from the
forest they showed the uniform of the Papal Zouaves; while their
leader, who had shown himself so skillful in forest warfare, proved to
be no less a personage than our friend the Baron. Led by him, the
party advanced to the old stone house, and here, drawing up his men in
front, their leader rushed in, and searched every room. To his
amazement, he found the house deserted, its only inmate being that
dead brigand whom Girasole had mistaken for Hawbury. This discovery
filled the Baron with consternation. He had expected to find the
prisoners here, and his dismay and grief were excessive. At first he
could not believe in his ill luck; but another search convinced him of
it, and reduced him to a state of perfect bewilderment.
But he was not one who could long remain inactive. Feeling confident
that the brigands were scattered every where in headlong flight, he
sent his men out in different directions, into the woods and along the
shore, to see if they could find any traces of the lost ones. He
himself remained near the house, so as to direct the search most
efficiently. After about an hour they came back, one by one, without
being able to find many traces. One had found an empty coffin in a
grave, another a woman's hood, a third had found a scarf. All of these
had endeavored to follow up these traces, but without result. Finally
a man approached who announced the discovery of a body on the shore of
the lake. After him came a party who was carrying the corpse for the
inspection of their captain.
The Baron went to look at it. The body showed a great gap in the
skull. On questioning the men, he learned that they had found it on
the shore, at the bottom of a steep rock, about half-way between the
house and the place where they had first emerged from the woods. His
head was lying pressed against a sharp rock in such a way that it was
evident that he had fallen over the cliff, and had been instantly
killed. The Baron looked at the face, and recognized the features of
Girasole. He ordered it to be taken away and laid in the empty grave
for future burial.
The Baron now became impatient. This was not what he had bargained for
at all. At length he thought that they might have fled, and might now
be concealed in the woods around; and together with this thought there
came to his mind an idea of an effective way to reach them. The
trumpeter could send forth a blast which could be heard far and wide.
But what might, could, would, or should the trumpeter sound forth
which should give the concealed listeners a certainty that the summons
came from friends and not from foes? This the Baron puzzled over for
some time. At length he solved this problem also, and triumphantly.
There was one strain which the trumpeter might sound that could not be
mistaken. It would at once convey to the concealed hearers all the
truth, and gently woo them home. It would be at once a note of
victory, a song of joy, a call of love, a sound of peace, and an
invitation--"Wanderer, come home!"
Of course there was only one tune that, to the mind of the Baron, was
capable of doing this.
And of course that tune was "Yankee Doodle."
Did the trumpeter know it?
Of course he did.
Who does not know it?
All men know that tune. Man is born with an innate knowledge of the
strain of "Yankee Doodle." No one can remember when he first learned
it. The reason is because he never learned it at all. It was born in
So the trumpeter sounded it forth, and wild and high and clear and far
the sounds arose; and it was "Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes
flying; and answer, echoes, answer, Yankee Doodle dying."
And while the trumpet sounded the Baron listened and listened, and
walked up and down, and fretted and fumed and chafed, and I'm afraid
he swore a little too; and at last he was going to tell the trumpeter
to stop his infernal noise, when, just at that moment, what should he
see all of a sudden emerging from the woods but three figures!
And I'll leave you to imagine, if you can, the joy and delight which
agitated the bosom of our good Baron as he recognized among these
three figures the well-known face and form of his friend Hawbury. With
Hawbury was a lady whom the Baron remembered having seen once in the
upper hall of a certain house in Rome, on a memorable occasion, when
he stood on the stairs calling _Min_. The lady was very austere then,
but she was very gracious now, and very wonderfully sweet in the
expression of her face. And with them was a stranger in the garb of a
Now as soon as the party met the Baron, who rushed to meet them,
Hawbury wrung his hand, and stared at him in unbounded astonishment.
"You!" he cried; "yourself, old boy! By Jove!"
"Yes," said the Baron. "You see, the moment we got into that ambush I
kept my eye open, and got a chance to spring into the woods. There I
was all right, and ran for it. I got into the road again a couple of
miles back, got a horse, rode to Civita Castellaria, and there I was
lucky enough to find a company of Zouaves. Well, Sir, we came here
flying, mind, I tell you, and got hold of a chap that we made guide us
to the lake. Then we opened on them; and here we are, by thunder! But
"Who?" asked Hawbury.
"Min," said the Baron, in the most natural tone in the world.
"Oh! Why, isn't she here?"
"No. We've hunted every where. No one's here at all." And the Baron
went on to tell about their search and its results. Hawbury was
chiefly struck by the news of Girasole.
"He must have gone mad with terror," said Hawbury, as he told the
Baron about his adventure at the grave. "If that's so," he added, "I
don't see how the ladies could be harmed. I dare say they've run off.
Why, we started to run, and got so far off that we couldn't find our
way back, even after the trumpet began to sound. You must keep blowing
at it, you know. Play all the national tunes you can--no end. They'll
find their way back if you give them time."
And now they all went back to the house, and the Baron in his anxiety
could not talk any more, but began his former occupation of walking up
and down, and fuming and fretting and chafing, and, I'm again afraid,
swearing--when all of a sudden, on the bank in front of him, on the
very top, just emerging from the thick underbrush which had concealed
them till that moment, to their utter amazement and indescribable
delight, they beheld Scone Dacres and Mrs. Willoughby. Scone Dacres
appeared to Hawbury to be in a totally different frame of mind from
that in which he had been when he last saw him; and what perplexed him
most, yea, and absolutely confounded him, was the sight of Scone
Dacres with his demon wife, whom he had been pursuing for the sake of
vengeance, and whose frenzy had been so violent that he himself had
been drawn with him on purpose to try and restrain him. And now what
was the injured husband doing with his demon wife? Doing! why, doing
the impassioned lover most vigorously; sustaining her steps most
tenderly; grasping her hand; pushing aside the bushes; assisting her
down the slope; overwhelming her, in short; hovering round her,
apparently unconscious that there was in all the wide world any other
being than Mrs. Willoughby. And as Hawbury looked upon all this his
eyes dilated and his lips parted involuntarily in utter wonder; and
finally, as Dacres reached the spot, the only greeting which he could
give his friend was,
And now, while Mrs. Willoughby and Ethel were embracing with tears of
joy, and overwhelming one another with questions, the Baron sought
information from Dacres.
Dacres then informed him all about Tozer's advent and departure.
"Tozer!" cried the Baron, in intense delight. "Good on his darned old
head! Hurrah for the parson! He shall marry us for this--he, and no
other, by thunder!"
Upon which Mrs. Willoughby and Ethel exchanged glances, but said not a
word. Not they.
But in about five minutes, when Mrs. Willoughby had Ethel apart a
little by herself, she said,
"Oh, Ethel dear, isn't it dreadful?"
"What?" asked Ethel.
"Why, poor Minnie."
"Yes. Another horrid man. And he'll be claiming her too. And, oh dear!
what shall I do?"
"Why, you'll have to let her decide for herself. I think it will
Mrs. Willoughby clasped her hands, and looked up with a pretty little
expression of horror.
"And do you know, dear," added Ethel, "I'm beginning to think that it
wouldn't be so _very_ bad. He's Lord Hawbury's friend, yon know, and
then he's very, very brave; and, above all, think what we all owe
Mrs. Willoughby gave a resigned sigh.
And now the Baron was wilder with impatience than ever. He had
questioned Dacres, and found that he could give him no information
whatever as to Tozer's route, and consequently had no idea where to
search. But he still had boundless confidence in "Yankee Doodle."
"That's the way," said Dacres; "we heard it ever so far, and it was
the first thing that told us it was safe to return. We didn't dare to
Meanwhile Hawbury had got Dacres by himself, and poured a torrent of
questions over him. Dacres told him in general terms how he was
captured. Then he informed him how Mrs. Willoughby was put in the same
room, and his discovery that it was Minnie that the Italian wanted.
"Well, do you know, old chap," continued Dacres, "I couldn't stand it;
so I offered to make it all up with her."
"Oh, I see you've done that, old boy. Congrat--"
"Pooh! wait a minute," said Dacres, interrupting him. "Well, you know,
she wasn't my wife at all."
At this Hawbury stood utterly aghast.
"She wasn't my wife at all. She looks confoundedly like what my wife
was at her best, but she's another person. It's a most extraordinary
likeness; and yet she's isn't any relation, but a great deal prettier
woman. What made me so sure, you know, was the infernally odd
coincidence of the name; and then I only saw her off and on, you know,
and I never heard her voice. Then, you know, I was mad with jealousy;
and so I made myself worse and worse, till I was ripe for murder,
arson, assasination, and all that sort of thing, you know."
To all this Hawbury listened in amazement, and could not utter a word,
until at last, as Dacres paused, he said,
"Well, old man, I was the most infernal ass that ever lived. And how I
must have bored you!"
"By Jove!" exclaimed Hawbury again. "But drive on, old boy."
"Well, you know, the row occurred just then, and away went the
scoundrels to the fight, and in came that parson fellow, and away we
went. I took Mrs. Willoughby to a safe place, where I kept her till I
heard the trumpet, you know. And I've got another thing to tell you.
It's deuced odd, but she knew all about me."
"The deuce she did!"
"Yes, the whole story. Lived somewhere in the county. But I don't
remember the Fays. At any rate, she lived there; and do you know, old
fellow, the county people used to think I beat my wife!"
"Yes; and afterward they raised a report that my cruelty had driven
her mad. But I had a few friends that stood up for me; and among
others these Fays, you know, had heard the truth of it, and, as it
"Well, Mrs. Willoughby, I mean--her name's Kitty--has always known the
truth about it; and when she saw me at Naples she felt interested in
"Oho!" and Hawbury opened his eyes.
"Well, she knew all about it; and, among other things, she gave me one
piece of intelligence that has eased my mind."
"Ah! what's that?"
"Why, my wife _is_ dead."
"Oh, then there's no doubt about it?"
"Not a bit. She died eight years ago, and in an insane asylum."
"By Jove! Then she was mad all the time."
"Yes: that accounts for it and turns all my curses into pity."
Dacres was silent now for a few moments. At length he looked at
Hawbury with a very singular expression.
"Hawbury, old boy."
"I think we'll keep it up."
"Why, Kitty and I--that is, Mrs. Willoughby and I--her name's Kitty,
"Keep what up?"
"Why, the--the--the fond illusion, and all that sort of thing. You see
I've got into such an infernal habit of regarding her as my wife that
I can't look on her in any other light. I claimed her, you know, and
all that sort of thing, and she thought I was delirious, and felt
sorry, and humored me, and gave me a very favorable answer."
"Yes; that's what she says now, you know. But I'm holding her to it,
and I've every reason to believe, you know--in fact, I may as well say
that it is an understood thing, you know, that she'll let it go, you
know, and at some early day, you know, we'll have it all formally
settled, and all that sort of thing, you know."
Hawbury wrung his friend's hand.
"See here, old boy; you see Ethel there?"
"Who do you think she is?"
"Ethel _Orne_!" cried Dacres, as the whole truth flashed on his mind.
"What a devil of a jumble every thing has been getting into!--By
Heaven, dear boy, I congratulate you from the bottom of my soul!"
And he wrung Hawbury's hand as though all his soul was in that grasp.
But all this could not satisfy the impatience of the Baron. This was
all very well in its way, merely as an episode; but he was waiting for
the chief incident of the piece, and the chief incident was delaying
So he strode up and down, and he fretted and he fumed and he chafed,
and the trumpeter kept blowing away.
Until at last--
Just before his eyes--
Up there on the top of the bank, not far from where Dacres and Mrs.
Willoughby had made their appearance, the Baron caught sight of a
tall, lank, slim figure, clothed in rusty black, whose thin and
leathery face, rising above a white neck-tie, peered solemnly yet
interrogatively through the bushes; while just behind him the Baron
caught a glimpse of the flutter of a woman's dress.
[Illustration: "HE GAVE A LOUD CRY OF JOY, AND THEN SPRANG UP THE
He gave a loud cry of joy, and then sprang up the bank.
* * * * *
But over that meeting I think we had better draw a veil.
ASTONISHING WAY OF CONCLUDING AN ADVENTURE.
The meeting between the Baron and Minnie gave a new shock to poor Mrs.
Willoughby, who looked with a helpless expression, and walked away for
a little distance. Dacres and Hawbury were still eagerly conversing
and questioning one another about their adventures. Tozer also had
descended and joined himself to the priest; and each of these groups
had leisure for a prolonged conversation before they were interrupted.
At length Minnie made her appearance, and flung herself into her
sister's arms, while at the same time the Baron grasped Tozer by both
hands, and called out, in a voice loud enough to be heard by all,
"You shall marry us, parson--and this very day, by thunder!"
These words came to Mrs. Willoughby's ears in the midst of her first
joy at meeting her sister, and shocked her inexpressibly.
"What's that, Minnie darling?" she asked, anxiously. "What is it? Did
you hear what that dreadful--what the--the Baron said?"
Minnie looked sweetly conscious, but said nothing.
"What _does_ he mean?" asked her sister again.
"I suppose he means what he says," replied Minnie, with a timid air,
stealing a shy look at the Baron.
"Oh dear!" said Mrs. Willoughby; "there's another dreadful trouble, I
know. It's very, very hard--"
"Well, I'm sure," said Minnie, "I can't help it. They all do so. That
clergyman came and saved me, and he wasn't a Roman Catholic clergyman
at all, and he proposed--"
"Proposed!" cried Mrs. Willoughby, aghast.
"Oh yes," said Minnie, solemnly; "and I had hard work preventing him.
But, really, it was _too_ absurd, and I would not let him be too
explicit. But I didn't hurt his feelings. Well, you know, then all of
a sudden, as we were sitting there, the bugle sounded, and we came
back. Well, then, Rufus K. Gunn came--and you know how very violent he
is in his way--and he said he saved my life again, and so he
"_He_ proposed! Why, he had proposed before."
"Oh yes; but that was for an engagement, and this was for our
"Oh yes; and, you see, he had actually saved my life twice, and he was
very urgent, and he is so awfully affectionate, and so--"
"Well, what?" cried Mrs. Willoughby, seeing Minnie hesitate.
"I mean, I--"
"You what? Really, Minnie dearest, you might tell me, and not keep me
in such dreadful suspense."
"Why, what could I say?"
"But what _did_ you say?"
"Why, I think I--said--yes," said Minnie, casting down her eyes with
indescribable sweetness, shyness, meekness, and resignation. Mrs.
Willoughby actually shuddered.
"Now, Kitty," exclaimed Minnie, who at once noticed it, "you needn't
be so horrid. I'm sure you can't say any thing against him _now_. You
needn't look so. You _always_ hated him. You _never_ would treat him
"But this--this marriage. It's too shocking."
"Well, he saved my life."
"And to-day! How utterly preposterous! It's shameful!"
"Well, I'm sure I can't help it."
"It's too horrid!" continued Mrs. Willoughby, in an excited tone. "It
will break poor papa's heart. And it will break poor darling aunty's
heart. And it will break my heart."
"Now, Kitty dearest, this is too silly in you. If it hadn't been for
him, I would now be married to that wretched Count, who hadn't
sufficient affection for me to get me a chair to sit on, and who was
very, very rude to you. You didn't care, though, whether I was married
to him or not; and now when I am saved from him you have nothing but
very unpleasant things to say about Rufus K. Gunn."
"Oh dear, what _would_ I give if you were only safe home!"
"Well, I'm sure I don't see what _I_ can do. People are always saving
my life. And there is Captain Kirby hunting all over Italy for me. And
I _know_ I will be saved by somebody--if--if--I--I--if--I--if--you
know--that is--I'm sure--"
"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Willoughby, as Minnie broke down in confusion.
"It is _too_ absurd. I won't talk about it. You are a silly child. Oh,
how I _do_ wish you were home!"
At this juncture the conversation was interrupted by the Baron.
"It is not my fashion, ma'am," said he, gravely, "to remind another of
any obligation under which he may be to me; but my claims on Minnie
have been so opposed by you and the rest of her friends that I have to
ask you to think of them. Your father knows what my first claims are.
You yourself, ma'am, know perfectly well what the last claims are
which I have won to-day."
The Baron spoke calmly, firmly, and with dignity. Mrs. Willoughby
answered not a word.
"If you think on your position last night, and Minnie's, ma'am,"
resumed the Baron, "you'll acknowledge, I expect, that it was pretty
hard lines. What would you have given a few hours ago for a sight of
my uniform in that old house yonder? If I had come then to save Minnie
from the clutches of that Italian, wouldn't you have given her to me
with all your heart, and your prayers too? You would, by thunder!
Think, ma'am, on your sufferings last night, and then answer me."
Mrs. Willoughby involuntarily thought of that night of horror, and
shuddered, and said nothing.
"Now, ma'am, just listen to this. I find on coming here that this
Italian had a priest here all ready to marry him and Minnie. If I'd
been delayed or defeated, Minnie would have been that rascal's wife by
this time. The priest was here. They would have been married as sure
as you're born. You, ma'am, would have had to see this poor,
trembling, broken-hearted, despairing girl torn from your arms, and
bound by the marriage tie to a ruffian and a scoundrel whom she
loathed. And now, ma'am, I save her from this. I have my priest too,
ma'am. He ain't a Roman Catholic, it is true--he's an orthodox
parson--but, at the same time, I ain't particular. Now I propose to
avail myself this day of his invaluable services at the earliest hour
possible; but, at the same time, if Min prefers it, I don't object to
the priest, for I have a kind of Roman Catholic leaning myself.
"Now you may ask, ma'am," continued the Baron, as Mrs. Willoughby
continued silent--may ask why I'm in such a thundering hurry. My
answer is, because you fit me off so. You tried to keep me from Min.
You locked me out of your house. You threatened to hand me over to the
police (and I'd like to see one of them try it on with me). You said I
was mad or drunk; and finally you tried to run away. Then you rejected
my advice, and plunged head-foremost into this fix. Now, in view of
all this, my position is this--that I can't trust you. I've got Min
now, and I mean to keep her. If you got hold of her again, I feel it
would be the last of her. Consequently I ain't going to let her go.
Not me. Not by a long chalk.
"Finally, ma'am, if you'll allow me, I'll touch upon another point.
I've thought over your objections to me. It ain't my rank--I'm a
noble; it ain't money--I'm worth a hundred thousand dollars; it ain't
my name--for I call myself Atramonte. It must be something in me. I've
come to the conclusion that it's my general style--my manners and
customs. Very well. Perhaps they don't come up to your standard. They
mayn't square with your ideas. Yet, let me inform you, ma'am, there
are other standards of action and manner and speech than those to
which you are accustomed, and mine is one of them. Minnie doesn't
object to that. She knows my heart is all right, and is willing to
trust herself to me. Consequently I take her, and I mean to make her
mine this day."
As the Baron paused Mrs. Willoughby began, first of all, to express
her gratitude, and then to beg him to postpone the marriage. She
declared that it was an unheard-of thing, that it was shameful, that
it was shocking, that it was dreadful. She grew very much excited; she
protested, she entreated. Finally she burst into tears, and appealed
to Lord Hawbury in the most moving terms. Hawbury listened very
gravely, with his eyes wandering over to where Ethel was; and Ethel
caught the expression of his face, and looked quite confused.
"Oh, think, only think," said Mrs. Willoughby, after an eloquent and
pathetic appeal--"think how the poor child will be talked about!"
"Well, really--ah--'pon my life," said Hawbury, with his eyes still
wandering over toward Ethel, "I'm sure I don't--ah--share your views
altogether, Mrs. Willoughby; for--ah--there _are_ times, you know,
when a fellow finds it very uncommonly desirable--runaway matches, you
know, and all that sort of thing. And, by Jove! to tell the truth, I
really admire the idea, by Jove! And really--ah--I'm sure--I wish most
confoundedly it was the universal fashion, by Jove!"
"But she'll be so talked about. She'll make herself so shockingly
"Conspicuous? By Jove!" said Hawbury, who seemed struck by the idea.
At that moment Minnie began talking to her sister, and Hawbury went
off to Ethel, to whom he began talking in the most earnest manner. The
two wandered off for some distance, and did not return for a full half
hour. When they did return Ethel looked somewhat embarrassed, and
Hawbury was radiant. With this radiance on his face he went up to Mrs.
Willoughby, leaving Ethel in the background.
"Oh, by-the-way," said he, "you were remarking that your sister would
be too conspicuous by such a hasty marriage."
"Yes," said Mrs. Willoughby, anxiously.
"Well," I thought I would tell you that she needn't be so _very_
conspicuous; for, in fact--that is, you know, Ethel and I--she told
you, I suppose, about our mistake?"
"And I think I've persuaded her to save Minnie from being too
Mrs. Willoughby gave Hawbury a look of astonishment and reproach.
"You!" she cried; "and Ethel!"
"Why, I'm sure, we're the very ones you might expect it from. Think
how infernally we've been humbugged by fate."
"Fate!" said Mrs. Willoughby. "It was all your own fault. She was
chosen for you."
"Chosen for me? What do you mean?"
"By your mother."
"She said one of Biggs's nieces."
"Ethel is that niece."
"The devil!" cried Hawbury. "I beg pardon. By Jove!"
Hawbury, overwhelmed by this, went back to Ethel, and they wandered
off once more. The Baron had already wandered off with Minnie in
another direction. Tozer and the priest had gone to survey the house.
Seeing Mrs. Willoughby thus left alone, Dacres drifted up to her. He
came up silently.
"Kitty," said he, in a low voice, "you seem sad."
By which familiar address it will be seen that Dacres had made some
progress toward intimacy with her.
Mrs. Willoughby did not seem at all offended at this, but looked up
with one of her frankest smiles, and the clouds of perplexity passed
away. She was an exceedingly pretty woman, and she was certainly not
"I'm so worried," she said, plaintively.
"What's the matter?" asked Dacres, in a tone of the deepest and
"Why, these horrid men; and, what's worse, Lord Hawbury is actually
encouraging Mr.--the--the Baron; and I'm _so_ worried. Oh dear!"
"But why should you be worried?"
"It's so horrid. It's shocking. It's not to be thought of."
"But why not?" asked Dacres.
"Why, it's--it's so horrid," said Mrs. Willoughby.
Dacres stood looking at her for a long time.
"Kitty," said he at last.
Mrs. Willoughby looked up.
Dacres looked all around. He then took her hand.
"Isn't it too bad," he said, "to let Minnie--"
"To let her go through this ordeal alone?"
"Alone!" exclaimed Mrs. Willoughby, looking in wonder at him.
"What _do_ you mean?"
"Couldn't _we_ accompany her?"
Mrs. Willoughby snatched away her hand.
"Are you mad?" she cried. "I do believe the whole world's mad to-day."
"Mad!" cried Dacres. "Yes, I'm mad--insane--raving! Won't you be
merciful again? Won't you, Kitty? Won't you 'humor' my ravings? Oh,
do. Oh, Kitty! dear Kitty--!"
"It's positive insanity!"
"Won't you 'humor' me--just this once! only this once."
"Hush! there they come," said Mrs. Willoughby, suddenly snatching away
her hand, which Dacres had somehow got hold of again, and moving a
little further away from him.
It was the Baron and Minnie who were coming back again, while Hawbury
and Ethel were seen a little further away.
There they all stood--there, on the spot where they had found the
crisis of their fortunes; and as they stood there the two clergymen,
Catholic and Protestant, slowly came out of the house.