at their feet. All three were barefooted, and they stole noiselessly across the yard to the seat, which was nearly opposite their window. Vincent had already fastened his clasp-knife to the end of the string, and he now threw it over the wall, which was about twenty feet high.
He had tied a knot at forty feet from the end, and, standing close to the wall, he drew in the string until the knot was in his hand. Another two yards, and he knew that the knife was hanging a yard from the ground against the wall. He now drew it up and down, hoping that the slight noise the knife made against the wall might aid Dan in finding it. In two or three minutes he felt a jerk, and knew that Dan had got it. He fastened the end of the string to the rope and waited. The rope was gradually drawn up; when it neared the end he fastened it to the stone seat.
“Now,” he said, “up you go, Geary.”
The order in which they were to ascend had been settled by lot, as Geary insisted that Vincent, who had contrived the whole affair, should be the first to escape; but Vincent declined to accept the advantage, and the three had accordingly tossed up for precedence.
Geary was quickly over, and lowered himself on the opposite side. The others followed safely, but not without a good deal of scraping against the wall, for the smallness of the rope added to the difficulty of climbing it. However, the noise was so slight that they had little fear of attracting attention, especially as the sentries would be standing in their boxes, for the rain was now coming down pretty briskly. As soon as they were down Vincent seized Dan by the hand.
“My brave lad,” he said, “I owe you my freedom, and I sha’n’t forget it. Now, where are the clothes?”
“Here day are, sah. One is a rough suit, like a workingman’s; another is a black-and-white sort of suit–a check-suit; de oder one is for you–a clargy’s suit, sir. You make very nice young minister, for sure.”
“All right, Dan!” Vincent said laughing; “give me the minister’s suit.”
“Then I will be the countryman,” Geary said.
There was a little suppressed laughter as they changed their clothes in the dark; and then, leaving their uniforms by the wall, they shook hands and started at once in different directions, lest they might come across some one who would, when the escape was known, remember four men having passed him in the dark.
“Now, Dan, what is the next move?” Vincent asked as they walked off. “Have you fixed upon any plan?”
“No special plan, sah, but I have brought a bag; you see I have him in my hand.”
“I suppose that’s what you carried the clothes in?”
“No, sir; I carried dem in a bundle. Dis bag has got linen, and boots, and oder tings for you, sah. What I tink am de best way is dis. Dar am a train pass trou here at two o’clock and stop at dis station. Some people always get out. Dar is an hotel just opposite the station, and some of de passengers most always go there. I thought the best way for you would be to go outside the station. Just when the train come in we walk across de road wid the others and go to hotel. You say you want bedroom for yo’self, and that your sarvant can sleep in de hall. Den in de morning you get up and breakfast, and go off by de fust train.”
“But then they may send down to look at the passengers starting, and I should be taken at once.”
“De train go out at seven o’clock, sah. I don’t expect dey find dat you have got away before dat.”
“No, Dan. We all turn out at seven, and I shall be missed then; but it will be some little time before the alarm is given, and they find out how we got away, and send out search-parties. If the train is anything like punctual we shall be off long before they get to the station.”
“Besides, sah, dar are not many people knows your face, and it not likely de bery man dat know you come to the station. Lots of oder places to search, and dey most sure to tink you go right away–not tink you venture to stop in town till the morning.”
“That is so, Dan; and I think your plan is a capital one.”
Dan’s suggestion was carried out, and at seven o’clock next morning they ware standing on the platform among a number of other parsons waiting for the train. Just as the locomotive’s whistle was heard the sound of a cannon boomed out from the direction of the prison.
“That means some of the prisoners have escaped,” one of the porters on the platform said. “There have been five or six of them got away in the last two months, but most of them have been caught again before they have gone far. You see, to have a chance at all, they have got to get rid of their uniforms, and as we are all Unionists about here that ain’t an easy job for ’em to manage.”
Every one on the platform joined in the conversation, asking which way the fugitive would be likely to go, whether there were any cavalry to send after him, what would be done to him if he were captured, and other questions of the same kind, Vincent joining in the talk. It was a relief to him when the train drew up, and he and Dan took their place in it, traveling, however, in different cars. Once fairly away, Vincent had no fear whatever of being detected, and could travel where he liked, for outside the prison there were not ten people who knew his face throughout the Northern States. It would be difficult for him to make his way down into Virginia from the North as the whole line of frontier there was occupied by troops, and patrols were on the watch night and day to prevent persons from going through the lines. He therefore determined to go west to St. Louis, and from there work his way down through Missouri. After two days’ railway traveling they reached St. Louis, a city having a large trade with the South, and containing many sympathizers with the Confederate cause. Vincent, having now no fear of detection, went at once to an hotel, and taking up the newspaper, one of the first paragraphs that met his eye was headed:
“Escape of three Confederate officers from Elmira. Great excitement was caused on Wednesday at Elmira by the discovery that three Confederate officers had, during the night, effected their escape from prison. One of the bars of the window of the ward on the first floor in which they were, with fifteen other Confederate officers, confined, had been removed; the screws having been taken out by a large screw-driver which they left behind them. They had lowered themselves to the yard, and climbed over the wall by means of a rope which was found in position in the morning. The rest of the prisoners professed an entire ignorance of the affair, and declare that until they found the beds unoccupied in the morning they knew nothing of the occurrence.
“This is as it may be, but it is certain they must have been aided by traitors outside the prison, for the rope hung loose on the outside of the wall, and must have been held by some one there as they climbed it. The inside end was fastened to a stone seat, and they were thus enabled to slide down it on the other side. Their uniforms were found lying at the foot of the wall, and their accomplice had doubtless disguises ready for them. The authorities of the prison are unable to account for the manner in which the turn-screw and rope were passed in to them, or how they communicated with their friends outside.”
Then followed the personal description of each of the fugitives, and a request that all loyal citizens would be on the look-out for them, and would at once arrest any suspicious character unable to give a satisfactory account of himself. As Vincent sat smoking in the hall of the hotel he heard several present discussing the escape of the prisoners.
“It does not matter about them one way or the other,” one of the speakers said. “They seem to be mere lads, and whether they escape or not will not make any difference to any one. The serious thing is that there must be some traitors among the prison officials, and that next time, perhaps two or three generals may escape, and that would be a really serious misfortune.”
“We need not reckon that out at present,” another smoker said. “We haven’t got three of the rebel generals yet, and as far as things seem to be going on, we may have to wait some time before we have. They are pretty well able to take care of themselves, I reckon.”
“They are good men, some of them, I don’t deny,” the first speaker said; “but they might as well give up the game. In the spring we shall have an army big enough to eat them up.”
“So I have heard two or three times before. Scott was going to eat them up, McClellan was going to eat them up, then Pope was going to make an end of ’em altogether. Now McClellan is having a try again, but somehow or other the eating up hasn’t come off yet. It looks to me rather the other way.”
There was an angry growl from two or three of those sitting round, while others uttered a cordial “That’s so.”
“It seems to me, by the way you put it, that you don’t wish to see this business come to an end.”
“That’s where you are wrong now. I do wish to see it come to an end. I don’t want to see tens of thousands of men losing their lives because one portion of these States wants to ride roughshod over the other. The sooner the North looks this affair squarely in the face and sees that it has taken up a bigger job than it can carry through, and agrees to let those who wish to leave it go if they like, the better for all parties. That’s what I think about it.”
“I don’t call that Union talk,” the other said angrily.
“Union or not Union, I mean to talk it, and I want to know who is going to prevent me?”
The two men rose simultaneously from their chairs, and in a second the crack of two revolvers sounded. As if they had only been waiting for the signal, a score of other men leaped up and sprang at each other. They had, as the altercation grew hotter, joined in with exclamations of anger or approval, and Vincent saw that although the Unionists were the majority the party of sympathizers with the South was a strong one. Having neither arms nor inclination to join in a broil of this kind he made his escape into the street the instant hostilities began, and hurried away from the sound of shouts, oaths, the sharp cracks of pistols, and the breaking of glass. Ten minutes later he returned. The hotel was shut up, but an angry mob were assembled round the door shouting, “Down with the rebels! down with the Secessionists!” and were keeping up a loud knocking at the door. Presently a window upstairs opened, and the proprietor put out his head.
“Gentlemen,” ha said, “I can assure you that the persons who were the cause of this disturbance all left the hotel by the back way as soon as the affair was over. I have sent for the police commissioner, and upon his arrival he will be free to search the house, and to arrest any one concerned in this affair.”
The crowd were not satisfied, and renewed their knocking at the door; but two or three minutes later an officer, with a strong body of police, arrived on the spot. In a few words he told the crowd to disperse, promising that the parties concerned in the affair would be taken in and duly deal with. He than entered the house with four of his men, leaving the rest to wait. Vincent entered with the constables, saying that he was staying at the house. The fumes of gunpowder were still floating about the hall, three bodies were lying on the floor, and several men were binding up their wounds. The police-officer inquired into the origin of the broil, and all present concurred in saying that it arose from some Secessionists speaking insultingly of the army of the Union.
Search was then made in the hotel, and it was found that eight persons were missing. One of the killed was a well-known citizen of the town; he was the speaker on the Union side of the argument. The other two were strangers, and no one could say which side they espoused. All those present declared that they themselves were Union men, and it was supposed that the eight who were missing were the party who had taken the other side of the question. The evidence of each was taken down by the police- officer. Vincent was not questioned, as, having entered with the constables, it was supposed he was not present at the affair.
In the morning Vincent read in the local paper a highly colored account of the fray. After giving a large number of wholly fictitious details of the fray, it went on to say: “The victims were Cyrus D. Jenkins, a much-esteemed citizen and a prominent Unionist; the other two were guests at the hotel; one had registered as P. J. Moore of Vermont, the other James Harvey of Tennessee. Nothing is as yet known as to the persons whose rooms were unoccupied, and who had doubtless made their escape as soon as the affray was over; but the examination of their effects, which will be made by the police in the morning, will doubtless furnish a clew by which they will be brought to justice.”
Having read this, Vincent looked for the news as to the escape from Elmira, being anxious to know whether his companions had been as fortunate as himself in getting clear away. He was startled by reading the following paragraph: “We are enabled to state that the police have received a letter stating that one of the officers who escaped from Elmira prison has adopted the disguise of a minister, and is traveling through the country with a black servant. At present the authorities are not disposed to attach much credit to this letter, and are inclined to believe that it has been sent in order to put them on a wrong scent. However a watch will doubtless be kept by the police throughout the country for a person answering to this description.”
Accustomed to rise early, Vincent was taking his breakfast almost alone, only two or three of the other guests having made their appearance. He finished his meal hastily, and went out to Dan, who was lounging in front of the hotel.
“Dan, go upstairs at once, pack the bag, bring it down and get out with it immediately. I will pay the bill. Don’t stop to ask questions now.”
Vincent then walked up to the desk at the and of the hall, at which a clerk was sitting reading the paper. Sincerely hoping that the man’s eye had not fallen on this paragraph, he asked if his account was made out. As he had fortunately mentioned on the preceding evening that he should be leaving in the morning, the bill was ready; and the clerk, scarce looking up from the paper, handed it to him. Vincent paid him the amount, saying carelessly, “I think I have plenty of time to catch the train for the east?”
The clerk glanced at the clock.
“Yes, it goes at 8, and you have twenty minutes. It’s only five minutes’ walk to the station.”
CHAPTER XI. FUGITIVES.
On leaving the hotel Vincent walked a short distance, and then stopped until Dan came up to him.
“Anyting de matter, sah?”
“Yes, Dan. There is a notice in the paper that the police have obtained information that I am traveling disguised as a minister, and have a negro servant with me..”
“Who told dem dat?” Dan asked in surprise.
“We can talk about that presently, Dan; the great thing at present is to get away from here. The train for the south starts at ten. Give me the bag, and follow me at a distance. I will get you a ticket for Nashville, and as you pass me in the station I will hand it to you. It must not be noticed that we are traveling together. That is the only clew they have got.”
Dan obeyed his instructions. The journey was a long one. The train was slow and stopped frequently; passengers got in and out at every station. The morning’s news from the various points at which the respective forces were facing each other was the general topic of conversation, and Vincent was interested in seeing how the tone gradually changed as the passengers from St. Louis one by one left the train and their places were taken by those of the more southern districts, At first the sentiment expressed had been violently Northern, and there was no dissent from the general chorus of hope and expectation that the South were on their last legs and that the rebellion would shortly be stamped out; but gradually, as the train approached the State of Tennessee, the Unionist opinion, although expressed with even greater force and violence, was by no means universal. Many man read their papers in silence and took no part whatever in the conversation, but Vincent could see from the angry glances which they shot at the speakers that the sentiments uttered were distasteful to them. He himself had scarcely spoken during the whole journey. He had for some time devoted himself to the newspaper, and had then purchased a book from the newsboy who perambulated the cars. Presently a rough-looking man who had been among the wildest and most violent in his denunciation of the South said, looking at Vincent:
“I see by the papers to-day that one of the cursed rebel officers who gave them the slip at Elmira is traveling in the disguise of a minister. I guess it’s mighty unpleasant to know that even if you meet a parson in a train like as not he is a rebel in disguise. Now, mister, may I ask where you have come from and where you are going to?”
“You may ask what you like,” Vincent said quietly; “but I am certainly not going to answer impertinent questions.”
A hum of approval was heard from several of the passengers.
“If you hadn’t got that black coat on,” the man said angrily, “I would put you off the car in no time.”
“Black coat or no black coat,” Vincent said, “you may find it more difficult than you think. My profession is a peaceful one; but even a peaceful man, if assaulted, may defend himself. You say it’s unpleasant to know that if you travel with a man in a black coat he may be a traitor. It’s quite as unpleasant to me to know that if I travel with a man in a brown one he may be a notorious ruffian, and may as likely as not have just served his time in a penitentiary.”
Two or three of the passengers laughed loudly. The man, starting up, crossed the car to where Vincent was sitting and laid his hand roughly on his shoulder.
“You have got to get out!” he said. “No man insults Jim Mullens twice.”
“Take your hand off my shoulder,” Vincent said quietly, “or you will be sorry for it.”
The man shifted his hold to the collar of Vincent’s coat amid cries of shame from some of the passengers, while the others ware silent, even those of his own party objecting to an assault upon a minister. It was only the fact that the fellow was a notorious local ruffian that prevented their expressing open disapproval of the act. As the man grasped Vincent’s collar with his right hand Vincent saw his left go under his coat toward the pocket in the back of the trousers where revolvers were always carried. In an instant he sprang to his feet, and before the man, who was taken by surprise at the suddenness of the movement, could steady himself, he struck him a tremendous blow between the eyes, and at the same moment, springing at his throat, threw him backward on to the floor of the carriage. As he fell the man drew out his revolver, but Vincent grasped his arm and with a sharp twist wrenched the revolver from his grasp, and leaping up, threw it out of the open window. The ruffian rose to his feat, for a moment half dazed by the violence with which ha had fallen, and poured out a string of imprecations upon Vincent. The latter stood calmly awaiting a fresh attack. For a moment the ruffian hesitated, and then, goaded to fury by the taunting laughter of the lookers-on, was about to spring upon him when he was seized by two or three of the passengers.
“I reckon you have made a fool enough of yourself already,” one of them said; “and we are not going to see a minister ill-treated, not if we know it.”
“You need not hold him,” Vincent said. “It is not because one wears a black coat and is adverse to fighting that one is not able to defend one’s self. We all learn the same things at college whether we are going into the church or any other profession. You can let him alone if he really wants any more, which I do not believe. I should be ashamed of myself if I could not punish a ruffian of his kind.”
“Let me get at him!” yelled Mullens; and the men who held him, taking Vincent at his word, released him. He rushed forward, but was received with another tremendous blow on the mouth. He paused a moment in his rush, and Vincent, springing forward, administered another blow upon the same spot, knocking him off his legs on to the floor. On getting up he gave no sign of a desire to renew the conflict. His lips were badly cut and the blood was streaming from his month, and he looked at Vincent with an air of absolute bewilderment. The latter, seeing that the conflict was over, quietly resumed his seat; while several of the passengers came up to him, and, shaking him warmly by the hand, congratulated him upon having punished his assailant.
“I wish we had a few more ministers of your sort down this way,” one said. “That’s the sort of preaching fellows like this understand. It was well you got his six-shooter out of his hand, for he would have used it as sure as fate. He ought to have been lynched long ago, but since the troubles began these fellows have had all their own way. But look to yourself when he gets out; he belongs to a hand who call themselves Unionists, but who are nothing but plunderers and robbers. If you take my advice, when you get to the end of your journey you will not leave the station, but take a ticket straight back north. I tell you your life won’t be safe five minutes when you once get outside the town. They daren’t do anything there, for though folks have had to put up with a good deal they wouldn’t stand the shooting of a minister; still, outside the town I would not answer for your life for an hour.”
“I have my duties to perform,” Vincent said, “and I shall certainly carry them through; but I am obliged to you for your advice I can quite understand that ruffian,” and he looked at Mullens, who, with his handkerchief to his mouth, was sitting alone in a corner–for the rest had all drawn away from him in disgust–and glaring ferociously at him, “will revenge himself if he has the opportunity. However as far as possible I shall be on my guard.”
“At any rate,” the man said, “I should advise you when you get to Nashville to charge him with assault. We can all testify that he laid hands on you first. That way he will get locked up for some days anyhow, and you can go away about your business, and he won’t know where to find you when he gets out.”
“Thank you–that would be a very good plan; but I might lose a day or two in having to appear against him; I am pressed for time and have some important business on hand and I have no doubt I shall be able to throw him off my track, finish my business, and be off again before he can come across me.”
“Well, I hope no harm will come of it,” the other said. “I like you, and I never saw any one hit so quickly and so hard. It’s a downright pity you are a preacher. My name’s John Morrison, and my farm is ten miles from Nashville, on the Cumberland River. If you should be going in that direction I should be right glad if you would drop in on me.”
The real reason that decided Vincent against following the advice to give his assailant in charge was that he feared he himself might be questioned as to the object of his journey and his destination. The fellow would not improbably say that he believed he was the Confederate officer who was trying to escape in the disguise of a clergyman and that he had therefore tried to arrest him. He could of course give no grounds for the accusation, still questions might be asked which would be impossible for him to answer; and, however plausible a story he might invent, the lawyer whom the fellow would doubtless employ to defend him might suggest that the truth of his statements might be easily tested by the despatch of a telegram, in which case he would be placed in a most awkward situation. It was better to run the risk of trouble with the fellow and his gang than to do anything which might lead to inquiries as to his identity.
When the train reached Nashville, Vincent proceeded to an hotel. It was already late in the afternoon, for the journey had occupied more than thirty hours. As soon as it was dark he went out again and joined Dan, whom he had ordered to follow him at a distance and to be at the corner of the first turning to the right of the hotel as soon as it became dark. Dan was at the point agreed upon, and he followed Vincent until the latter stopped in a quiet and badly lighted street.
“Things are going badly, Dan. I had a row with a ruffian in the train, and he has got friends here, and this will add greatly to our danger in getting to our lines. I must get another disguise. What money have you left?”
“Not a cent, sah. I had only a five-cent piece left when we left St. Louis, and I spent him on bread on de journey.”
“That is bad, Dan. I did not think your stock was so nearly expended.”
“I had to keep myself, sah, and to pay for de railroad, and to buy dem tree suits of clothes, and to make de nigger I lodged with a present to keep him mouth shut.”
“Oh, I know you have had lots of expenses, Dan, and I am sure that you have not wasted your money; but I had not thought about it. I have only got ten dollars left, and we may have a hundred and fifty miles to travel before we are safe. Anyhow, you must get another disguise, and trust to luck for the rest. We have tramped a hundred and fifty miles before now without having anything beyond what we could pick up on the road. Here’s the money. Get a rough suit of workingman’s clothes, and join me here again in an hour’s time. Let us find out the name of the street before we separate, for we may miss our way and not be able to meet again.”
Passing up into the busy streets, Vincent presently stopped and purchased a paper of a newsboy who was running along shouting, “News from the war. Defeat of the rebels. Fight in a railway car near Nashville; a minister punishes a border ruffian.”
“Confound those newspaper fellows!” Vincent muttered to himself as he walked away. “They pick up every scrap of news. I suppose a reporter got hold of some one who was in the car.” Turning down a quiet street, he opened the paper and by the light of the lamp read a graphic and minute account of the struggle in the train.
“I won’t go back to the hotel,” he said to himself. “I shall be having reporters to interview me. I shall be expected to give them a history of my whole life; where I was born, and where I went to school, and whether I prefer beef to mutton, and whether I drink beer, and a thousand other things. No; the sooner I am away the better. As to the hotel, I have only had one meal, and they have got the bag with what clothes there are; that will pay them well.” Accordingly when he rejoined Dan he told him that they would start at once.
“It is the best way, anyhow,” he said. “To-morrow, no doubt, the fellow I had the row with will be watching the hotel to see which way I go off, but after once seeing me go to the hotel he will not guess that I shall be starting this evening. What have you got left, Dan?”
“I got two dollars, sah.”
“That makes us quite rich men. We will stop at the first shop we come to and lay in a stock of bread and a pound or two of ham.”
“And a bottle of rum, sah. Berry wet and cold sleeping out of doors now, sah. Want a little comfort anyhow.”
“Very well, Dan; I think we can afford that.”
“Get one for half a dollar, massa. Could not lay out half a dollar better.”
Half an hour later they had left Nashville behind them, and were tramping along the road toward the east, Dan carrying a bundle in which the provisions were wrapped, and the neck of the bottle of rum sticking out of his pocket. As soon as they were well in the country Vincent changed his clothes for those Dan had just bought him, and making the others up into a bundle continued his way.
“Why you not leave dem black clothes behind, sah? What good take dem wid you?”
“I am not going to carry them far, Dan. The first wood or thick clump of bushes we come to I shall hide them away; but if you were to leave them here they would be found the first thing in the morning, and perhaps be carried into the town and handed over to the police, and they might put that and the fact of my not having returned to the hotel–which is sure to be talked about–together, and come to the conclusion that either Mullens was right and that I was an escaped Confederate, or that I had been murdered by Mullens. In either case they might get up a search, and perhaps send telegrams to the troops in the towns beyond us. Anyhow, it’s best the clothes should not be found.”
All night they tramped along, pausing only for half an hour about midnight, when Dan suggested that as he had only had some bread to eat–and not too much of that–during the last forty-eight hours, he thought that he could do with some supper. Accordingly the bundle was opened, and they sat down and partook of a hearty meal. Dan had wisely taken the precaution of having the cork drawn from the bottle when he bought it, replacing it so that it could be easily extracted when required, and Vincent acknowledged that the spirit was a not unwelcome addition to the meal. When morning broke they had reached Duck’s River, a broad stream crossing the road.
Here they drew aside into a thick grove, and determined to get a few hours’ sleep before proceeding. It was nearly midday before they woke and proceeded to the edge of the trees. Vincent reconnoitered the position.
“It is just as well we did not try to cross, Dan. I see the tents of at least a regiment on the other bank. No doubt they are stationed there to guard the road and railway bridge. This part of the country is pretty equally divided in opinion, though more of the people are for the South than for the North; but I know there are guerrilla parties on both sides moving about, and if a Confederate band was to pounce down on these bridges and destroy them it would cut the communication with their army in front, and put them in a very ugly position if they were defeated. No doubt that’s why they have stationed that regiment there. Anyhow, it makes it awkward for us. We should be sure to be questioned where we are going, and as I know nothing whatever of the geography of the place we should find it very difficult to satisfy them. We must cross the river somewhere else. There are sure to be some boats somewhere along the banks; at any rate, the first thing to do is to move further away from the road.”
They walked for two or three miles across the country. The fields for the most part were deserted, and although here and there they saw cultivated patches, it was evident that most of the inhabitants had quitted that part of the country, which had been the scene of almost continued fighting from the commencement of the war; the sufferings of the inhabitants being greatly heightened by the bands of marauders who moved about plundering and destroying under the pretense of punishing those whom they considered hostile to the cause in whose favor–nominally, at least–they had enrolled themselves. The sight of ruined farms and burned houses roused Vincent’s indignation; for in Virginia private property had, up to the time of Pope’s assuming command of the army, been respected, and this phase of civil war was new and very painful to him.
“It would he a good thing,” he said to Dan, “if the generals on both sides in this district would agree to a month’s truce, and join each other in hunting down and hanging these marauding scoundrels. On our side Mosby and a few other leaders of bands composed almost entirely of gentlemen, have never been accused of practices of this kind; but, with these exceptions, there is little to choose between them.”
After walking for four or five miles they again sat down till evening, and then going down to the river endeavored to find a boat by which they could cross, but to their disappointment no craft of any kind was visible, although in many places there were stages by the riverside, evidently used by farmers for unloading their produce into boats. Vincent concluded at last that at some period of the struggle all the boats must have been collected and either sunk or carried away by one of the parties to prevent the other crossing the river.
Hitherto they had carefully avoided all the farmhouses that appeared to be inhabited; but Vincent now determined to approach one of them and endeavor to gain some information as to the distance from the next bridge, and whether it was guarded by troops, and to find out if possible the position in which the Northern forces in Tennessee were at present posted–all of which points he was at present ignorant of. He passed two or three large farmhouses without entering, for although the greater part of the male population were away with one or other of the armies, he might still find two or three hands in such buildings. Besides, it was now late, and whatever the politics of the inmates they would be suspicious of such late arrivals, and would probably altogether refuse them admittance. Accordingly another night was spent in the wood.
The next morning, after walking a mile or two, they saw a house at which Vincent determined to try their fortune. It was small, but seemed to have belonged to people above the class of farmer. It stood in a little plantation, and was surrounded by a veranda. Most of the blinds were down, and Vincent judged that the inmates could not be numerous.
“You remain here, Dan, and I will go and knock at the door. It is better that we should not be seen together.” Vincent accordingly went forward and knocked at the door. An old negress opened it.
“We have nothing for tramps,” she said. “De house am pretty well cleared out ob eberyting.” She was about to shut the door when Vincent put his foot forward and prevented it closing. “Massa Charles,” the negress called out, “bring yo’ shot-gun quick; here am tief want to break into the house.”
“I am neither a thief nor a tramp,” Vincent said; “and I do not want anything, except that I should be glad to buy a loaf of bread if you have one that you could spare. I have lost my way, and I want to ask directions.”
“Dat am pretty likely story,” the old woman said. “Bring up dat shot-gun quick, Massa Charles.”
“What is it, Chloe?” another female voice asked.
“Here am a man pretend he hab lost his way and wants to buy a loaf. You stand back, Miss Lucy, and let your broder shoot de villain dead.”
“I can assure you that I am not a robber, madam,” Vincent said through the partly opened door. “I am alone, and only beg some information, which I doubt not you can give me.”
“Open the door, Chloe,” the second voice said inside; “that is not the voice of a robber.”
The old woman reluctantly obeyed the order and opened the door, and Vincent saw in the passage a young girl of some sixteen years old. He took off his hat.
“I am very sorry to disturb you,” he said; “but I am an entire stranger here, and am most desirous of crossing the river, but can find no boat with which to do so.”
“Why did you not cross by the bridge?” the girl asked. “How did you miss the straight road?”
“Frankly, because there were Northern troops there,” Vincent said, “and I wish to avoid them if possible.”
“You are a Confederate?” the girl asked, when the old negress interrupted her:
“Hush! Miss Lucy, don’t you talk about dem tings; der plenty of mischief done already. What hab you to do wid one side or do oder?”
The girl paid no attention to her words, but stood awaiting Vincent’s answer. He did not hesitate. There was something in her face that told him that, friend or foe, she was not likely to betray a fugitive, and he answered:
“I am a Confederate officer, madam. I have made my escape from Elmira prison, and am trying to find my way back into our lines.”
“Come in, sir,” the girl said, holding out her hand. “We are Secessionists, heart and soul. My father and my brother are with our troops–that is, if they are both alive. I have little to offer you, for the Yankee bands have been here several times, have driven off our cattle, emptied our barns, and even robbed our hen-nests, and taken everything in the house they thought worth carrying away. But whatever there is, sir, you are heartily welcome to. I had a paper yesterday–it is not often I get one–and I saw there that three of our officers had escaped from Elmira. Are you one of them?”
“Yes, madam. I am Lieutenant Wingfield.”
“Ah! then you are in the cavalry. You have fought under Stuart,” the girl said. “The paper said so. Oh, how I wish we had Stuart and Stonewall Jackson on this side! we should soon drive the Yankees out of Tennessee.”
“They would try to, anyhow,” Vincent said, smiling, “and if it were possible they would assuredly do it. I was in Ashley’s horse with the Stonewall division through the first campaign in the Shenandoah Valley and up to Bull Run, and after that under Stuart. But is not your brother here? Your servant called to him.”
“There is no one here but ourselves,” the girl replied. “That was a fiction of Chloe’s, and it has succeeded sometimes when we have had rough visitors. And now what can I do for you, sir? You said you wanted to buy a loaf of bread, and therefore, I suppose, you are hungry. Chloe, put the bacon and bread on the table, and make some coffee. I am afraid that is all we can do, sir, but such as it is you are heartily welcome to it.”
“I thank you greatly,” Vincent replied, “and will, if you will allow me, take half my breakfast out to my boy who is waiting over there.”
“Why did you not bring him in?” the girl asked. “Of course he will be welcome too.”
“I did not bring him in before because two men in these days are likely to alarm a lonely household; and I would rather not bring him in now, because, if by any possibility the searchers, who are no doubt after me, should call and ask you whether two men, one a white and the other a negro, had been here, you could answer no.”
“But they cannot be troubling much about prisoners,” the girl said. “Why, in the fighting here and in Missouri they have taken many thousands of prisoners, and you have taken still more of them in Virginia; surely they cannot trouble themselves much about one getting away.”
“I am not afraid of a search of that kind,” Vincent said; “but, unfortunately, on my way down I had a row in the train with a ruffian named Mullens, who is, I understand, connected with one of these bands of brigands, and I feel sure that he will hunt me down if he can.”
The girl turned pale.
“Oh!” she said, “I saw that in the paper too, but it said that it was a minister. And it was you who beat that man and threw his revolver out of the window? Oh, then, you are in danger indeed, sir. He is one of the worst ruffians in the State, and is the leader of the party who stripped this house and threatened to burn it to the ground. Luckily I was not at home, having gone away to spend the night with a neighbor. His band have committed murders all over the country, hanging up defenseless people on pretense that they were Secessionists. They will show you no mercy if they catch you.”
“No. I should not expect any great mercy if I fell into their hands, Miss Lucy. I don’t know your other name.”
“My name is Kingston. I ought to have introduced myself to you at once.”
“Now you understand, Miss Kingston, how anxious I am to get across the river, and that brings me to the question of the information I want you to give me. How far is it from the next bridge on the south, and are there any Federal troops there?”
“It is about seven miles to the bridge at William sport, we are just halfway between that and the railway bridge at Columbus. Yes, there are certainly troops there–“
“Then I see no way for it but to make a small raft to carry us across, Miss Kingston. I am a good swimmer, but the river is full and of considerable width; still, I think I can get across. But my boy cannot swim a stroke.”
“I know where there is a boat hid in the wood near the river,” the girl said. “It belongs to a neighbor of ours, and when the Yankees seized the boats he had his hauled up and hidden in the woods. He was a Southerner, heart and soul, and thought that he might be able sometimes to take useful information across the river to our people; but a few weeks afterward his house was attacked by one of these bands–it was always said it was that of Mullens–and he was killed defending it to the last. He killed several of the band before he fell, and they were so enraged that after plundering it they set it on fire and fastened the door, and his wife and two maid-servants were burned to death.”
“I wish instead of throwing his pistol out of the window I had blown his brains out with it,” Vincent said; “and I would have done so if I had known what sort of fellow he was. However, as to the boat, can you give me instructions where to find it, and is it light enough for two men to carry?”
“Not to carry, perhaps, but to push along. It is a light boat he had for pleasure. He had a large one, but that was carried away with the others. I cannot give you directions, but I can lead you to the place.”
“I should not like you to do that,” Vincent said. “We might he caught, and your share in the affair might be suspected.”
“Oh! there is no fear of that,” the girl said; “besides, I am not afraid of danger.”
“I don’t think it is right, Miss Kingston, for a young lady like you to be living here alone with an old servant in such times as these. You ought to go into a town until it’s all over.”
“I have no one to go to,” the girl said simply. “My father bought this place and moved here from Georgia only six years ago, and all my friends are in that State. Except our neighbors round here I do not know a soul in Tennessee. Besides, what can I do in a town? We can manage here, because we have a few fowls, and some of our neighbors last spring plowed an acre or two of ground and planted corn for us, and I have a little money left for buying other things; but it would not last us a month if we went into a town. No, I have nothing to do but to stay here until you drive the Yankees back. I will willingly take you down to the boat to-night. Chloe can come with us and keep me company on the way back. Of course it would not be safe to cross in the daytime.”
“I thank you greatly, Miss Kingston, and shall always remember your kindness. Now, when I finish my meal I will go out and join my boy, and will come for you at eight o’clock; it will be quite dark then.”
“Why should you not stay here till then, Mr. Wingfield? It is very unlikely that any one will come along.”
“It is unlikely, but it is quite possible,” Vincent replied, “and were I caught here by Mullens, the consequence would be very serious to you as well as to myself. No, I could not think of doing that. I will go out, and come back at eight o’clock. I shall not be far away; but if any one should come and inquire, you can honestly say that you do not know where I am.”
“I have two revolvers here, sir; in fact I have three. I always keep one loaded, for there is never any saying whether it may not be wanted; the other two I picked up last spring. There was a fight about a quarter of a mile from here and after it was over and they had moved away, for the Confederates won that time and chased them back toward Nashville, I went out with Chloe with some water and bandages to see if we could do anything for the wounded. We were at work there till evening, and I think we did some good. As we were coming back I saw something in a low bush, and going there found a Yankee officer and his horse both lying dead; they had been killed by a shell, I should think. Stooping over to see if he was quite dead I saw a revolver in his belt and another in the holster of his saddle, so I took them out and brought them home, thinking I might give them to some of our men, for we were then, as we have always been, very short of arms; but I never had an opportunity of giving them away, and I am very glad now that I have not. Here they are, sir, and two packets of cartridges, for they are of the same size as those of the pistol my father gave me when he went away. You are heartily welcome to them.”
“Thank you extremely,” Vincent said, as he took the pistols and placed the packets of ammunition in his pocket. “We cut two heavy sticks the night we left Nashville so as to be able to make something of a fight; but with these weapons we shall feel a match for any small parties we may meet. Then at eight o’clock I will come back again.”
“I shall be ready,” the girl said; “but I wish you would have stopped, there are so many things I want to ask you about, and these Yankee papers, which are all we see now, are full of lies.”
“They exaggerate their successes and to some extent conceal their defeats,” Vincent said; “but I do not think it is the fault of the newspapers, whose correspondents do seem to me to try and tell the truth to their readers, but of the official despatches of the generals. The newspapers tone matters down, no doubt, because they consider it necessary to keep up the public spirit; but at times they speak out pretty strongly too. I am quite as sorry to leave as you can be that I should go, Miss Kingston, but I am quite sure that it is very much the wisest thing for me to do. By the way, if I should not be here by half-past eight I shall not come at all, and you will know that something has occurred to alter our plans. I trust there is no chance of anything doing so, but it is as well to arrange so that you should not sit up expecting me. Should I not come back you will know that I shall be always grateful to you for your kindness, and that when this war is over, if I am alive, I will come back and thank you personally.”
“Good-by till this evening!” the girl said. “I will not even let myself think that anything can occur to prevent your return.”
“Golly, Massa Vincent, what a time you hab been!” Dan said when Vincent rejoined him. “Dis child began to tink dat somefing had gone wrong, and was going in anoder five minutes to knock at do door to ask what dey had done to you.”
“It is all right, Dan, I have had breakfast, and have brought some for you; here is some bread and bacon and a bottle of coffee.”
“Dat good, massa; my teeth go chatter chatter wid sleeping in dese damp woods; dat coffee do me good, sah. After dat I shall feel fit for anyting.”
CHAPTER XII. THE BUSHWHACKERS.
“By the way, Dan,” Vincent said when the negro had finished his meal, “we have not talked over that matter of my clothes. I can’t imagine how that letter saying that one of us was disguised as a minister and would have a negro servant came to be written. Did you ever tell the people you lodged with anything about the disguise?”
“No, sah, neber said one word to dem about it; dey know nothing whatsoeber. De way me do wid your letter was dis. Me go outside town and wait for long time. At last saw black follow coming along. Me say to him, ‘Can you read?’ and he said as he could. I said ‘I got a letter, I want to read him, I gib you a quarter to read him to me;’ so he said yes, and he read de letter. He a long time of making it out, because he read print but not read writing well. He spell it out word by word, but I don’t tink he understand dat it come from prison, only dat it come from some one who wanted some rope and a turn-screw. Me do just de same way wid de second letter. As for de clothes, me buy dem dat day, make dem up in bundle, and not go back to lodging at all. Me not know how any one could know dat I buy dat minister clothes for you, sah. Me told de storekeeper dat dey was for cousin of mine, who preach to de colored folk, and dat I send him suit as present. Onless dat man follow me and watch me all de time till we go off together, sah, me no see how de debbil he guess about it.”
“That’s quite impossible, Dan; it never could have been that way. It is very strange, for it would really seem that no one but you and I and the other two officers could possibly know about it.”
“Perhaps one of dem want to do you bad turn, massa, and write so as to get you caught and shut up again.”
Vincent started at the suggestion. Was it possible that Jackson could have done him this bad turn after his having aided him to make his escape It would be a villainous trick; but then he had always thought him capable of villainous tricks, and it was only the fact that they were thrown together in prison that had induced him to make up his quarrel with him; but though Jackson had accepted his advances, it was probable enough that he had retained his bad feeling against him, and had determined, if possible, to have his revenge on the first opportunity.
“The scoundrel,” he said to himself, “after my getting him free, to inform against me! Of course I have no proof of it, but I have not the least doubt that it was him. If we ever meet again, Mr. Jackson, I will have it out with you.”
“You got two pistols, sah,” Dan said presently. “How you get dem?”
“The lady of that house gave them to me, Dan; they are one for you and one for me.”
“Dis chile no want him, sah; not know what to do wid him. Go off and shoot myself, for sure.”
“Well, I don’t suppose you would do much good with it, Dan. As I am a good shot, perhaps I had better keep them both. You might load them for me as I fire them.”
“Berry well, sah; you show me how to load, me load.”
Vincent showed Dan how to extricate the discharged cartridge- cases and to put in fresh ones, and after a quarter of an hour’s practice Dan was able to do this with some speed.
“When we going on, sah?” he said as, having learned the lesson, he handed the pistol back to Vincent.
“We are not going on until the evening, Dan. When it gets dark the lady is going to take us to a place where there is a boat hidden, and we shall then be able to cross the river.”
“Den I will hab a sleep, sah. Noting like sleeping when there is a chance.”
“I believe you could sleep three-quarters of your time, Dan. However, you may as well sleep now if you can, for there will be nothing to do till night.”
Vincent went back to the edge of the wood, and sat down where he could command a view of the cottage. The country was for the most part covered with wood, for it was but thinly inhabited except in the neighborhood of the main roads. Few of the farmers had cleared more than half their ground; many only a few acres. The patch, in which the house with its little clump of trees stood nearly in the center, was of some forty or fifty acres in extent, and though now rank with weeds, had evidently been carefully cultivated, for all the stumps had been removed, and the fence round it was of a stronger and neater character than that which most of the cultivators deemed sufficient.
Presently he heard the sound of horses’ feet in the forest behind him, and he made his way back to a road which ran along a hundred yards from the edge of the wood. He reached it before the horsemen came up, and lay down in the underwood a few yards back. In a short time two horsemen came along at a walking pace.
“I call this a fool’s errand altogether,” one of them said in a grumbling tone. “We don’t know that they have headed this way; and if they have, we might search these woods for a month without finding them.”
“That’s so,” the other said; “but Mullens has set his heart on it, and we must try for another day or two. My idea is that when the fellow heard what sort of a chap Mullens was, he took the hack train that night and went up north again.”
Vincent heard no more, but it was enough to show him that a sharp hunt was being kept up for him; and although he had no fear of being caught in the woods, he was well pleased at the thought that he would soon be across the water and beyond the reach of his enemy. He went back again to the edge of the clearing and resumed his watch. It was just getting dusk, and he was about to join Dan when he saw a party of twelve men ride out from the other side of the wood and make toward the house. Filled with a vague alarm that possibly some one might have caught sight of him and his follower on the previous day, and might, on being questioned by the searchers, have given them a clew as to the direction in which they were going, Vincent hurried to the spot where he left Dan. The negro jumped up as he approached.
“Me awake long time, sah. Began to wonder where you had got to.”
“Take your stick and come along, Dan, as fast as you can.”
Without another word Vincent led the way along the edge of the wood to the point where the clump of trees at the back of the house hid it from his view.
“Now, Dan, stoop low and get across to those trees.”
Greatly astonished at what was happening, but having implicit faith in his master, Dan followed without a question.
It was but ten minutes since Vincent had seen the horsemen, but the darkness had closed in rapidly, and he had little fear of his approach being seen. He made his way through the trees, and crept up to the house, and then kept close along it until he reached the front. There stood the horses, with the bridles thrown over their neck. The riders were all inside the house.
“Look here, Dan,” he whispered, “you keep here perfectly quiet until I join you again or you hear a pistol-shot. If you do hear a shot, rush at the horses with your stick and drive them off at full gallop. Drive them right into the woods if you can and then lie quiet there till you hear me whistle for you. If you don’t hear my whistle you will know that something has happened to me, and then you must make your way home as well as you can.”
“Oh, Master Vincent,” Dan began; but Vincent stopped him.
“It’s no use talking, Dan; you must do as I order you. I hope all will be well; but it must be done anyhow.”
“Let me come and load your pistol and fight with you, sah.”
“You can do more good by stampeding the horses, Dan. Perhaps, after all, there will be no trouble.”
So saying, leaving Dan with the tears running down his cheeks, Vincent went to the back of the house and tried the door there. It was fastened. Then he went to the other side; and here, the light streaming though the window, which was open, and the sound of loud voices, showed him the room where the party were. He crept cautiously up and looked in. Mullens was standing facing Lucy Kingston; the rest of the men were standing behind him. The girl was as pale as death, but was quiet and composed.
“Now,” Mullens said, “I ask you for the last time. You have admitted that a man has been here to-day, and that you gave him food. You say he is not in the house; and as we have searched it pretty thoroughly, we know that’s right enough. You say you don’t know where he is, and that may be true enough in a sense; but I have asked you whether he is coming back again, and you won’t answer me. I just give you three seconds;” and he held out his arm with a pistol in it. “One!” As the word “Two” left his lips, a pistol cracked, and Mullens fell back with a bullet in his forehead.
At the same time Vincent shouted at the top of his voice, “Come on, lads; wipe ’em out altogether. Don’t let one of them escape.” As he spoke he discharged his pistol rapidly into the midst of the men, who were for the moment too taken by surprise to move, and every shot took effect upon them. At the same moment there was a great shouting outside, and the trampling of horses’ feet. One or two of the men hastily returned Vincent’s fire, but the rest made a violent rush to the door. Several fell over the bodies of their comrades, and Vincent had emptied one of his revolvers and fired three shots with the second before the last of those able to escape did so. Five bodies remained on the floor. As they were still seven to one against him, Vincent ran to the corner of the house, prepared to shoot them as they came round; but the ruffians were too scared to think of anything but escape, and they could be heard running and shouting across the fields.
Vincent ran into the house. He had seen Lucy Kingston fall prostrate at the same instant as the ruffian facing her. Strung up to the highest tension, and expecting in another second to be shot, the crack of Vincent’s pistol had brought her down as surely as the bullet of Mullens would have done. Even in the excitement of firing, Vincent felt thankful when he saw her fall, and knew that she was safe from the bullets flying about. When he entered the room he found the old negress lying beside her, and thought at first that she had fallen in the fray. He found that she was not only alive, but unhurt, having, the instant she saw her young mistress fall, thrown herself upon her to protect her from harm.
“Am dey all gone, sah?” she asked, as Vincent somewhat roughly pulled her off the girl’s body.
“They have all gone, Chloe; but I do not know how soon they may be back again. Get your mistress round as soon as you can. I am sure that she has only fainted, for she fell the instant I fired, before another pistol had gone off.”
Leaving the old woman to bring Miss Kingston round, he reloaded his pistols and went to the door. In a few minutes the sound of horses galloping was heard.
“Halt, or I fire!” he shouted.
“Don’t shoot, sah! Don’t shoot! It am me!” and Dan rode up, holding a second horse by the bridle. “I thought I might as well get two ob dem, so I jump on de back ob one and get hold ob anoder bridle while I was waiting to hear your pistol fire. Den de moment I heard dat I set de oders off, and chased dem to de corner where de gate was where dey came in at, and along de road for half a mile; dey so frightened dey not stop for a long time to come. Den I turn into de wood and went through de trees, so as not to meet dem fellows, and lifted two of de bars of the fence, and here I am. You are not hurt, massa?”
“My left arm is broken, I think, Dan; but that is of no consequence. I have shot five of these fellows–their leader among them–and I expect three of the others have got a bullet somewhere or other in them. There was such a crowd round the door that I don’t think one shot missed. It was well I thought of stampeding the horses; that gave them a greater fright than my pistols. No doubt they thought that there was a party of our bushwhackers upon them. Now, Dan, you keep watch, and let me know if you see any signs of their returning. I think they are too shaken up to want any more fighting; but as there are seven of them, and they may guess there are only two or three of us, it is possible they may try again.”
“Me don’t tink dey try any more, sah. Anyhow, I look out sharp.” So saying, Dan, fastening up one of the horses, rode the other in a circle round and round the house and little plantation, so that it would not be possible for any one to cross the clearing without being seen. Vincent returned to the house, and found Miss Kingston just recovering consciousness. She sat upon the ground in a confused way.
“What has happened, nurse?”
“Never mind at present, dearie. Juss you keep yourself quiet, and drink a little water.”
The girl mechanically obeyed. The minute she put down the glass her eye fell upon Vincent, who was standing near the door.
“Oh! I remember now!” she said, starting up. “Those men were here and they were going to shoot me. One–two–and then he fired, and it seemed that I fell dead. Am I not wounded?”
“He never fired at all, Miss Kingston; he will never fire again. I shot him as he said ‘two,’ and no doubt the shock of the sudden shot caused you to faint dead away. You fell the same instant that he did.”
“But where are the others?” the girl said with a shudder. “How imprudent of you to come here! I hoped you had seen them coming toward the house.”
“I did see them, Miss Kingston, and that was the reason I came. I was afraid they might try rough measures to learn from you where I was hidden. I arrived at the window just as the scoundrel was pointing his pistol toward you, and then there was no time to give myself up, and I had nothing to do for it but to put a bullet through his head in order to save you. Then I opened fire upon the rest, and my boy drove off their horses. They were seized with a panic and bolted, thinking they were surrounded. Of course I kept up my fire, and there are four of them in the next room besides their captain. And now, if you please, I will get you, in the first place, to bind my arm tightly across my chest, for one of their bullets hit me in the left shoulder, and has, I fancy, broken it.”
The girl gave an exclamation of dismay.
Do not be alarmed, Miss Kingston; a broken shoulder is not a very serious matter, only I would rather it had not happened just at the present moment; there are more important affairs in hand. The question is, What is to become of you? It is quite impossible that you should stay here after what has happened. Those scoundrels are sure to come back again.”
“What am I to do, Chloe?” the girl asked in perplexity. “I am sure we cannot stay here. We must find our way through the woods to Nashville, and I must try and get something to do there.”
“There is another way, Miss Kingston, if you like to try it,” Vincent said. “Of course it would be toilsome and unpleasant, but I do not think it would be dangerous, for even if we got caught there would be no fear of your receiving any injury from the Federal troops. My proposal is that you and Chloe should go with us. If we get safely through the Federal lines I will escort you to Georgia and place you with your friends there.”
The girl looked doubtful for a moment, and then she shook her head.
“I could not think of that, sir. It would be difficult enough for you to get through the enemy by yourselves It would add terribly to your danger to have us with you.”
“I do not think so,” Vincent replied. “Two men would be sure to be questioned and suspected, but a party like ours would be far less likely to excite suspicion. Every foot we get south we shall find ourselves more and more among people who are friendly to us, and although they might be afraid to give shelter to men, they would not refuse to take women in. I really think, Miss Kingston, that this plan is the best. In the first place it would be a dangerous journey for you through the woods to Nashville and if you fall into the hands of any of those ruffians who have been here you may expect no mercy. At Nashville you will have great difficulty in obtaining employment of any kind and even suppose you went further north your position as a friendless girl would be a most painful one. As to your staying here that is plainly out of the question. I think that there is no time to lose in making a decision. Those fellows may go to the camp at the bridge, give their account of the affair, declare they have been attacked by a party of Confederate sympathizers, and return here with a troop of horse.”
“What do you say, Chloe?” Lucy asked.
“I’se ready to go wid you whereber you like, Miss Lucy; but I do tink dat in times like dis dat a young gal is best wid her own folk. It may be hard work getting across, but as to danger dar can’t he much more danger than dar has been in stopping along here, so it seems to me best to do as dis young officer says.”
“Very well, then, I will, sir. We will go under your protection, and will give you as little trouble as we can. We will be ready in five minutes. Now, Chloe, let us put a few things together. The fewer the better. Just a small bundle which we can carry in our hands.”
In a few minutes they returned to the room, Chloe carrying a large basket, and looking somewhat ruffled.
“Chloe is a little upset,” the girl said, smiling, “because I won’t put my best things on; and the leaving her Sunday gown behind is a sore trouble to her.”
“No wonder, sah,” Chloe said, “why dey say dat thar am no pretty dresses in de ‘Federacy, and dat blue gown wid red spots is just as good as new, and it am downright awful to tink dat dose fellows will come back and take it.”
“Never mind, Chloe,” Vincent said, smiling. “No doubt we are short of pretty dresses in the South, but I dare say we shall be able to find you something that will be almost as good. But we must not stand talking. You are sure you have got everything of value, Miss Kingston?”
“I have got my purse,” she said, “and Chloe has got some food. I don’t think there is anything else worth taking in the house.”
“Very well, we will be off,” Vincent said, leading the way to the door.
A minute later Dan rode past, and Vincent called him and told him they were going to start.
“Shall we take de horses, sah?”
“No, Dan. We are going to carry out our original plan of crossing the river in a boat, and I think the horses would be rather in our way than not. But you had better not leave them here. Take them to the farther side of the clearing and get them through the fence into the forest, then strike across as quickly as you can and join us where we were stopping to-day. Miss Kingston and her servant are going with us. They cannot stay here after what has taken place.”
Dan at once rode off with the two horses, and the others walked across to the edge of the clearing and waited until he rejoined them.
“Now, Miss Kingston, you must be our guide at present.”
“We must cross the road first,” the girl said. “Nearly opposite to where we are there is a little path through the wood leading straight down to the river. The boat lies only a short distance from it.”
The path was a narrow one, and it was very dark under the trees.
“Mind how you go,” Vincent said as the girl stepped lightly on ahead. “You might get a heavy fall if you caught your foot on a root.”
She instantly moderated her pace. “I know the path well, but it was thoughtless of me to walk so fast. I forgot you did not know it, and if you were to stumble you might hurt your arm terribly. How does it feel now?”
“It certainly hurts a bit,” Vincent replied in a cheerful tone; “but now it is strapped tightly to me it cannot move much. Please do not worry about me.”
“Ah!” she said, “I cannot forget how you got it–how you attacked twelve men to save me!”
“Still less can I forget, Miss Kingston, how you, a young girl, confronted death rather than say a word that would place me in their power.”
“That was quite different, Mr. Wingfield. My own honor was pledged not to betray you, who had trusted me.”
“Well, we will cry quits for the present, Miss Kingston; or, rather, we will be content to remain for the present in each other’s debt.”
A quarter of an hour’s walking brought them to the river.
“Now,” Lucy said, “we must make our way about ten yards through these bushes to the right.”
With some difficulty they passed through the thick screen of bushes, the girl still leading the way.
“Here it is,” she said; “I have my hand upon it.” Vincent was soon beside her, and the negroes quickly joined them.
“There are no oars in the boat,” Vincent said, feeling along the seat.
“Oh! I forgot! They are stowed away behind the bushes on the right; they were taken out, so that if the Yankees found the boat it would be of no use to them.”
Dan made his way through the bushes, and soon found the oars. Then uniting their strength they pushed the boat through the high rushes that screened it from the river.
“It is afloat,” Vincent said. “Now, Dan, take your place in the bow.”
I will row, Mr. Wingfield. I am a very good hand at it. So please take your seat with Chloe in the stern.”
“Dan can take one oar, anyhow,” Vincent replied; “but I will let you row instead of me. I am afraid I should make a poor hand of it with only one arm.”
The boat pushed quietly out. The river was about a hundred yards wide at this point. They had taken but a few strokes when Vincent said:
“You must row hard, Miss Kingston, or we shall have to swim for it. The water is coming through the seams fast.”
The girl and Dan exerted themselves to the utmost; but, short as was the passage, the boat was full almost to the gunwale before they reached the opposite bank, the heat of the sun having caused the planks to open during the months it had been lying ashore.
“This is a wet beginning,” Lucy Kingston said laugh as she tried to wring the water out of the lower part of her dress. “Here, Chloe; you wring me and I will wring you.”
“Now, Dan, get hold of that head-rope,” Vincent said; “haul her up little by little as the water runs out over the stern.”
“I should not trouble about the boat, Mr. Wingfield; it is not likely we shall ever want it again.”
“I was not thinking of the boat; I was thinking of ourselves. If it should happen to be noticed at the next bridge as it drifted down, it would at once suggest to any one on the lookout for us that we had crossed the river; whereas, if we get it among the bushes here, they will believe that we are hidden in the woods or have headed back to the north, and we shall be a long way across the line, I hope, before they give up searching for us in the woods on the other side.”
“Yes; I didn’t think of that. We will help you with the rope.”
The boat was very heavy, now that it was full of water. Inch by inch it was pulled up, until the water was all out except near the stern. Dan and Vincent then turned it bottom upward, and it was soon hauled up among the bushes.
“Now, Miss Kingston, which do you think is our best course? I know nothing whatever of the geography here.”
“The next town is Mount Pleasant; that is where the Williamsport road passes the railway. If we keep south we shall strike the railway, and that will take us to Mount Pleasant. After that the road goes on to Florence, on the Tennessee River. The only place that I know of on the road is Lawrenceburg. That is about forty miles from here, and I have heard that the Yankees are on the line from there right and left. I believe our troops are at Florence; but I am not sure about that, because both parties are constantly shifting their position, and I hear very little, as you may suppose, of what is being done. Anyhow, I think we cannot do better than go on until we strike the railway, keep along by that till we get within a short distance of Mount Pleasant, and then cross it. After that we can decide whether we will travel by the road or keep on through the woods. But we cannot find our way through the woods at night; we should lose ourselves before we had gone twenty yards.”
“I am afraid we should, Miss Kingston.”
“Please call me Lucy,” the girl interrupted. “I am never called anything else, and I am sure this is not a time for ceremony.”
“I think that it will be better; and will you please call me Vin. It is much shorter and pleasanter using our first names; and as we must pass for brother and sister if we get among the Yankees, it is better to get accustomed to it. I quite agree with you that it will be too dark to find our way through the woods unless we can discover a path.
“Dan and I will see if we can find one. If we can, I think it will be better to go on a little way at any rate, so as to get our feet warm and let our clothes dry a little.”
“They will not dry to-night,” Lucy said. “It is so damp in the woods that even if our clothes were dry now they would be wet before morning.”
“I did not think of that. Yes, in that case I do not see that we should gain anything by going farther; we will push on for two or three hundred yards, if we can, and then we can light a fire without there being any chance of it being seen from the other side.”
“That would be comfortable, Mr.–I mean Vin,” the girl agreed. “That is, if you are quite sure that it would be safe. I would rather be wet all night than that we should run any risks.”
“I am sure if we can get a couple of hundred yards into this thick wood the fire would not be seen through it,” Vincent said; “of course I do not mean to make a great bonfire which would light up the forest.”
For half an hour they forced their way through the bushes, and then Vincent said he was sure that they had come far enough. Finding a small open space, Dan, and Lucy, and the negress set to work collecting leaves and dry sticks. Vincent had still in his pocket the newspaper he had bought in the streets of Nashville, and he always carried lights. A piece of the paper was crumpled up and lighted, a few of the driest leaves they could find dropped upon it, then a few twigs, until at last a good fire was burning.
“I think that is enough for the present,” Vincent said. “We will keep on adding wood as fast as it burns down, so as to get a great pile of embers, and keep two or three good big logs burning all night.”
He then gave directions to Dan, who out a long stick and fastened it to two saplings, one of which grew just in front of the fire. Then he set to work and cut off branches, and laid them sloping against it, and soon had an arbor constructed of sufficient thickness to keep off the night dews.
“I think you will be snug in there,” Vincent said when he had finished. “The heat of the fire will keep you dry and warm, and if you lie with your heads the other way I think your things will he dry by the morning. Dan and I will lie down by the other side of the fire. We are both accustomed to sleep in the open air, and have done so for months.”
“Thank you very much,” she said. “Our things are drying already, and I am as warm as a toast; but, indeed, you need not trouble about us. We brought these warm shawls with us on purpose for night-work in the forest. Now, I think we will try the contents of the basket Dan has been carrying.”
The basket, which was a good-sized one, was opened. Chloe had before starting put all the provisions in the house into it, and it contained three loaves, five or six pounds of bacon, a canister of tea and loaf-sugar, a small kettle, and two pint mugs, besides a number of odds and ends. The kettle Dan had, by Chloe’s direction, filled with water before leaving the river, and this was soon placed among the glowing embers.
“But you have brought no teapot, Chloe.”
“Dar was not no room for it, Miss Lucy. We can make tea berry well in de kettle.”
“So we can. I forgot that. We shall do capitally.”
The kettle was not long in boiling. Chloe produced some spoons and knives and forks from the basket.
“Spoons and forks are luxuries, Chloe,” Vincent said laughing. “We could have managed without them.”
“Yes, sah; but me not going to leave massa’s silver for dose villains to find.”
Lucy laughed. “At any rate, Chloe, we can turn the silver into money if we run short. Now the kettle is boiling.”
It was taken off the fire, and Lucy poured some tea into it from the canister, and then proceeded to cut up the bread. A number of slices of bacon had already been cut off, and a stick thrust through them, and Dan, who was squatted at the other side of the fire holding it over the flames, now pronounced them to be ready. The bread served as plates, and the party were soon engaged upon their meal, laughing and talking over it as if it had been an ordinary picnic in the woods, though at times Vincent’s face contracted from the sharp twitching of pain in his shoulder. Vincent and Lucy first drank their tea, and the mugs were then handed to Dan and Chloe.
“This is great fun,” Lucy said. “If it goes on like it all through our journey we shall have no need to grumble. Shall we Chloe?”
“If you don’t grumble, Miss Lucy, you may be quite sure dat Chloe will not. But we hab not begun our journey at present; and I spec dat we shall find it pretty hard work before we get to de end. But neber mind dat; anyting is better dan being all by ourselves in dat house. Terrible sponsibility dat.”
“It was lonely,” the girl said, “and I am glad we are away from it whatever happens. What a day this has been. Who could have dreamed when I got up in the morning that all this would take place before night. It seems almost like a dream, and I can hardly believe”–and here she stopped with a little shiver as she thought of the scene she had passed though with the band of bushwhackers.
“I would not think anything at all about it,” Vincent said. “And now I should recommend your turning in, and getting to sleep as soon as you can. We will be off at daybreak, and it is just twelve o’clock now.”
Five minutes later Lucy and her old nurse were snugly ensconced in their little bower, while Vincent and Dan stretched themselves at full length on the other side of the fire. In spite of the pain in his shoulder Vincent dozed off occasionally, butt he was heartily glad when he saw the first gleam of light in the sky. He woke Dan.
“Dan, do you take the kettle down to the river and fill it. We had better have some breakfast before we make our start. If you can’t find your way back, whistle and I will answer you.”
Dan, however, had no occasion to give the signal. It took him little more than five minutes to traverse the distance that had occupied them half an hour in the thick darkness, and Vincent was quite surprised when he reappeared again with the kettle. Not until it was boiling, and the bacon was ready, did Vincent raise his voice and call Lucy and the nurse.
“This is reversing the order of things altogether,” the girl said as she came out and saw breakfast already prepared. “I shall not allow it another time, I can tell you.”
“We are old campaigners, you see,” Vincent said, “and accustomed to early movements. Now please let us waste no time, as the sooner we are off the better.”
In a quarter of an hour breakfast was eaten and the basket packed, and they were on their way. Now the bright, glowing light in the east was sufficient guide to them as to the direction they should take, and setting their face to the south they started through the forest. In a quarter of an hour they came upon a little stream running through the wood, and here Vincent suggested that Lucy might like a wash, a suggestion which was gratefully accepted. He and Dan went a short distance down the streamlet, and Vincent bathed his face and head.
“Dan, I will get you to undo this bandage and get off my coat; then I will make a pad of my handkerchief and dip it in the water and you can lay it on my shoulder, and then help me on again with my coat. My arm is getting horribly painful.”
Vincent’s right arm was accordingly drawn through the sleeve and the coat turned down so as to enable Dan to lay the wet pad on the shoulder.
“It has not bled much,” Vincent said, looking down at it.
“No, sah, not much blood on de shirt.”
“Pull the coat down as far as the elbow, Dan, and bathe it for a bit.”
Using his cap as a bailer, Dan bathed the arm for ten minutes, then the wet pad was placed in position, and with some difficulty the coat got on again. The arm was then bandaged across the chest, and they returned to the women, who were beginning to wonder at the delay.
CHAPTER XIII. LAID UP.
“You must see a surgeon whatever the risk,” Lucy said when the others joined them, for now that it was light she could see by the paleness of Vincent’s face, and the drawn expression of the mouth, how much he had suffered.
“You have made so light of your wound that we have not thought of it half as much as we ought to do, and you must have thought me terribly heartless to be laughing and talking when you were in such pain. But it will never do to go on like this; it is quite impossible for you to be traveling so far without having your shoulder properly attended to.”
“I should certainly be glad to have it looked to,” Vincent replied. “I don’t know whether the bullet’s there or if it has made its way out, and if that could be seen to, and some splints or something of that sort put on to keep things in their right place, no doubt I should be easier; but I don’t see how it is to be managed. At any rate, for the present we must go on, and I would much rather that you said nothing about it. There it is, and fretting over it won’t do it any good, while if you talk of other things I may forget it sometimes.”
In two hours they came upon the railway, whose course lay diagonally across that they were taking. They followed it until they caught sight of the houses of Mount Pleasant, some two miles away, and then crossed it. After walking some distance farther they came upon a small clearing with a log-hut, containing apparently three or four rooms, in the center.
“We had better skirt round this,” Vincent suggested.
“No,” Lucy said in a determined voice. “I have made up my mind I would go to the first place we came to and see whether anything can be done for you. I can see you are in such pain you can hardly walk, and it will be quite impossible for you to go much further. They are sure to be Confederates at heart here, and even if they will not take us in, there is no fear of their betraying us; at any rate we must risk it.”
Vincent began to remonstrate, but without paying any attention to him the girl left the shelter of the trees and walked straight toward the house. The others followed her. Vincent had opposed her suggestion, but he had for some time acknowledged to himself that he could not go much further. He had been trying to think what had best be done, and had concluded that it would be safest to arrange with some farmer to board Lucy and her nurse for a time, while he himself with Dan went a bit further; and then, if they could get no one to take them in, would camp up in the woods and rest. He decided that in a day or two if no improvement took place in his wound he would give himself up to the Federals at Mount Pleasant, as he would there be able to get his wound attended to.
“I don’t think there is any one in the house,” Lucy said, looking back over her shoulder; “there is no smoke coming from the chimney, and the shutters are closed, and besides the whole place looks neglected.”
Upon reaching the door of the house it was evident that it had been deserted. Lucy had now assumed the command.
“Dan,” she said, “there is no shutter to the window of that upper room. You must manage to climb up there and get in at that window, and then open the door to us.”
“All right, missie, me manage dat,” Dan said cheerfully. Looking about he soon found a long pole which would answer his purpose, placed the end of this against the window, and climbed up. It was not more than twelve feet above the ground. He broke one of the windows, and inserting his hand undid the fastening and climbed in at the window. A minute later they heard a grating sound, and then the lock shot back under the application of his knife, and the door swung open.
“That will do nicely,” Lucy said, entering. “We will take possession. If the owners happen to come back we can pay them for the use of the place.”
The furniture had been removed with the exception of a few of the heavy articles, and Chloe and Lucy at once set to work, and with bunches of long grass swept out one of the rooms. Dan cut a quantity of grass and piled it upon an old bedstead that stood in the corner, and Lucy smoothed it down.
“Now, sir,” she said peremptorily to Vincent, “you will lie down and keep yourself quiet, but first of all I will cut your coat off.”
One of the table-knives soon effected the work, and the coat was rolled up as a pillow. Dan removed his boots, and Vincent, who was now beyond even remonstrating, laid himself down on his cool bed.
“Now, Chloe,” Miss Kingston said when they had left Vincent’s room, “I will leave him to your care. I am sure that you must be thoroughly tired, for I don’t suppose you have walked so many miles since you were a girl.”
“I is tired, missie; but I am ready to do anyting you want.”
“I only want you to attend to him, Chloe. First of all you had better make some tea. You know what is a good thing to give for a fever, and if you can find anything in the garden to make a drink of that sort, do; but I hope he will doze off for some time. When you have done, you had better get this place tidy a little; it is in a terrible litter. Evidently no one has been in since they moved out.”
The room, indeed, was strewed with litter of all sorts, rubbish not worth taking away, old newspapers, and odds and ends of every description. Lucy looked about among these for some time, and with an exclamation of satisfaction at last picked up two crumpled envelopes. They were both addressed “William Jenkins, Woodford, near Mount Pleasant.”
“That is just what I wanted,” she said.
“What am you going to do, Miss Lucy?”
“I am going to Mount Pleasant,” she said.
“Lor’ a marcy, dearie, you are not going to walk that distance! You must have walked twelves miles already.”
“I should if it were twice as far, Chloe. There are some things we must get. Don’t look alarmed, I shall take Dan with me. Now, let me see. In the first place there are lemons for making drink and linseed for poultices, some meat for making broth, and some flour, and other things for ourselves; we may have to stay here for some time. Tell me just what you want and I will get it.”
Chloe made out a list of necessaries.
“I sha’n’t be gone long,” the girl said. “If he asks after me or Dan, make out we are looking about the place to see what is useful. Don’t let him know I have gone to Mount Pleasant, it might worry him.”
Dan at once agreed to accompany the girl to Mount Pleasant when he heard that she was going to get things for his master.
Looking about he found an old basket among the litter, and they started without delay by the one road from the clearing, which led, they had no doubt, to the town. It was about two miles distant, and was really but a large village. A few Federal soldiers from the camp hard by were lounging about the streets but these paid no attention to them. Lucy soon made her purchases, and then went to the house that had been pointed out to her as being inhabited by the doctor who attended to the needs of the people of Mount Pleasant and the surrounding district. Fortunately he was at home. Lucy looked at him closely as he entered the room and took his seat. He was a middle-aged man with a shrewd face, and she at once felt that she might have confidence in it.
“Doctor,” she said, “I want you to come out to see some one who is very ill.”
“What is the matter with him? Or is it him or her?”
“It is–it’s–” and Lucy hesitated, “a hurt he has got.”
“A wound, I suppose?” the doctor said quietly. “You may as well tell me at once, as for me to find out when I get there, then I can take whatever is required with me.”
“Yes, sir. It is a wound,” Lucy said. “His shoulder is broken, I believe, by a pistol bullet.”
“Umph!” the doctor said. “It might have been worse. Do not hesitate to tell me all about it, young lady. I have had a vast number of cases on hand since these troubles began. By the way, I do not know your face, and I thought I knew every one within fifteen miles around.”
“I come from the other side of the Duck river. But at present he is lying at a place called Woodford, but two miles from here.”
“Oh, yes! I know it. But I thought it was empty. Let me see, a man named Jenkins lived there. He was killed at the beginning of the troubles in a fight near Murfreesboro. His widow moved in here; and she has married again and gone five miles on the other side. I know she was trying to sell the old place.”
“We have not purchased it, sir; we have just squatted there. My friend was taken so bad that we could go no further. We were trying, doctor, to make our way down south.”
“Your friend, whoever he is, did a very foolish thing to bring a young lady like yourself on such a long journey. You are not a pair of runaway lovers, are you?”
“No, indeed,” Lucy said, flushing scarlet; “we have no idea of such a thing. I was living alone, and the house was attacked by bushwhackers, the band of a villain named Mullens.”
“Oh! I saw all about that in the Nashville paper this morning. They were attacked by a band of Confederate plunderers, it said.”
“They were attacked by one man,” the girl replied. “They were on the point of murdering me when he arrived. He shot Mullens and four of his band and the rest made off, but he got this wound. And as I knew the villains would return again and burn the house and kill me, I and my old nurse determined to go southward to join my friends in Georgia.”
“Well, you can tell me more about it as we go,” the doctor said. “I will order my buggy round to the door, and drive you back. I will take my instruments and things with me. It is no business of mine whether a sick man is a Confederate or a Federal; all my business is to heal them.”
“Thank you very much, doctor. While the horse is being put in I will go down and tell the negro boy with me to go straight on with a basket of things I have been buying.”
“Where is he now?” the doctor asked.
“I think he is sitting down outside the door, sir.”
“Then you needn’t go down,” the doctor said. “He can jump up behind and go with us. He will get there all the quicker.”
In five minutes they were driving down the village, with Dan in the back seat. On the way the doctor obtained from Lucy a more detailed account of their adventures.
“So he is one of those Confederate officers who broke prison at Elmira,” he said. “I saw yesterday that one of his companions was captured.”
“Was he, sir? How was that?”
“It seems that he had made his way down to Washington, and was staying at one of the hotels there as a Mr. James of Baltimore. As he was going through the street he was suddenly attacked by a negro, who assaulted him with such fury that he would have killed him had he not been dragged off by passers-by. The black would have been very roughly treated, but he denounced the man he had attacked as one of the Confederate officers who had escaped from the prison. It seems that the negro had been a slave of his who had been barbarously treated, and finally succeeded in making his escape and reaching England, after which he went to Canada; and now that it is safe for an escaped slave to live in the Northern States without fear of arrest or ill-treatment he had come down to Washington with the intention of engaging as a teamster with one of the Northern armies, in the hope when he made his way to Richmond of being able to gain some news of his wife, whom his master had sold before he ran away from him.”
“It served the man right!” Lucy said indignantly. “It’s a good thing that the slaves should turn the tables sometimes upon masters who ill-treat them.”
“You don’t think my patient would ill-treat his slaves?” the doctor asked with a little smile.
“I am sure he wouldn’t,” the girl said indignantly. “Why, the boy behind you is one of his slaves, and I am sure be would give his life for his master.”
Dan had overheard the doctor’s story, and now exclaimed:
“No, sah. Massa Vincent de kindest of masters. If all like him, do slaves everywhere contented and happy. What was de name of dat man, sah, you was speaking of?”
“His name was Jackson,” the doctor answered.
“I tought so,” Dan exclaimed in excitement. “Massa never mentioned de names of de two officers who got out wid him, and it war too dark for me to see their faces, but dat story made me tink it must be him. Berry bad man that; he libs close to us, and Massa Vincent one day pretty nigh kill him because he beat dat bery man who has catched him now on de street of Washington. When dat man sell him wife Massa Vincent buy her so as to prevent her falling into bad hands. She safe now wid his mother at de Orangery–dat’s the name of her plantation.”
“My patient must be quite an interesting fellow, young lady,” the doctor said, with a rather slight twinkle of his eye. “A very knight-errant. But there is the house now; we shall soon see all about him.”
Taking with him the case of instruments and medicines he had brought, the doctor entered Vincent’s room. Lucy entered first; and although surprised to see a stranger with her, Vincent saw by her face that there was no cause for alarm.
“I have brought you a doctor,” she said. “You could not go on as you were, you know. So Dan and I have been to fetch one.”
The doctor now advanced and took Vincent’s hand.
“Feverish,” he said, looking at his cheeks, which were now flushed. “You have been doing too much, I fancy. Now let us look at this wound of yours. Has your servant got any warm water?” he asked Lucy.
Lucy left the room, and returned in a minute with a kettleful of warm water and a basin, which was among the purchases she had made at Mount Pleasant.
“That is right,” the doctor said, taking it from her. “Now we will cut open the shirt sleeve. I think, young lady, you had better leave us, unless you are accustomed to the sight of wounds.”
“I am not accustomed to them, sir; but as thousands of women have been nursing the wounded in the hospitals, I suppose I can do so now.”
Taking a knife from the case, the doctor cut open the shirt from the neck to the elbow. The shoulder was terribly swollen and inflamed, and a little exclamation of pain broke from Lucy.
“That is the effect of walking and inattention,” the doctor said. “If I could have taken him in hand within an hour of his being hit the matter would have been simple enough; but I cannot search for the ball, or in fact do anything, till we have reduced the swelling. You must put warm poultices on every half-hour, and by to-morrow I hope the inflammation will have subsided, and I can then see about the ball. It evidently is somewhere there still, for there is no sign of its having made its exit anywhere. In the meantime you must give him two tablespoonfuls of this cooling draught every two hours, and to-night give him this sleeping draught. I will be over to-morrow morning to see him. Do not be uneasy about him; the wound itself is not serious, and when we have got rid of the fever and inflammation I have no doubt we shall pull him round before long.”
“I know the wound is nothing,” Vincent said; “I have told Miss Kingston so all along. It is nothing at all to one I got at the first battle of Bull Run, where I had three ribs badly broken by a shell. I was laid up a long time over that business. Now I hope in a week I shall he fit to travel.”
The doctor shook his head. “Not as soon as that. Still we will hope it may not be long. Now all you have to do is to lie quiet and not worry, and to get to sleep as quick as you can. You must not let your patient talk, Miss Kingston. It will be satisfactory to you, no doubt,” he went on turning to Vincent, “to know that there is no fear whatever of your being disturbed here. The road leads nowhere, and is entirely out of the way of traffic. I should say you might be here six months without even a chance of a visitor. Every one knows the house is shut up, and as you have no neighbor within half a mile no one is likely to call in. Even if any one did by accident come here you would be in no danger; we are all one way of thinking about here.”
“Shall we make some broth for him?” Lucy asked after they had left the room.
“No; he had best take nothing whatever during the next twenty-four hours except his medicine and cooling drinks. The great thing is to get down the fever. We can soon build him up afterward.”
By nightfall the exertions of Dan, Lucy, and Chloe had made the house tidy. Beds of rushes and grass had been made in the room upstairs for the women, and Dan had no occasion for one for himself, as he was going to stop up with his master. He, however, brought a bundle of rushes into the kitchen, and when it became dark threw himself down upon them for a few hours’ sleep, Lucy and her old nurse taking their place in Vincent’s room, and promising to rouse Dan at twelve o’clock.
During the easy part of the night Vincent was restless and uneasy, but toward morning he became more quiet and dozed off, and had