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- Capitola The Madcap - 20/61 -


"I will tell you another time! Now I want an explanation."

"Yes, Herbert, I also wish to explain--not only to you but to these gaping, good people! Let me have a hearing!" said Cap.

"She is mad! absolutely mad!" cried Colonel Le Noir, who was assisting his son to rise.

"Silence, sir!" thundered Herbert Greyson, advancing toward him with uplifted and threatening hand.

"Gentlemen! gentlemen! pray remember that you are within the walls of a church!" said the distressed priest.

"Craven, this is no place for us; let us go and pursue our fugitive ward," whispered Colonel Le Noir to his son.

"We might as well; for it is clear that all is over here!" replied Craven. And the two baffled villains turned to leave the place. But Herbert Greyson, speaking up, said:

"Good people, prevent the escape of those men until we hear what this young lady has to say! that we may judge whether to let them go or to take them before a magistrate."

The people flew to the doors and windows and secured them, and then surrounded the two Le Noirs, who found themselves prisoners.

"Now, Capitola, tell us how it is that you are here!" said Herbert Greyson.

"Well, that elder man" said Cap, "is the guardian of a young heiress who was betrothed to a worthy young man, one Doctor Traverse Rocke."

"My friend!" interrupted Herbert.

"Yes, Mr. Greyson, your friend! Their engagement was approved by the young lady's father, who gave them his dying blessing. Nevertheless, in the face of all this, this 'guardian' here, appointed by the Orphans' Court to take charge of the heiress and her fortune, undertakes, for his own ends, to compel the young lady to break her engagement and marry his own son! To drive her to this measure, he does not hesitate to use every species of cruelty. This night he was to have forced her to this altar! But in the interval, to-day, I chanced to visit her at the house where she was confined. Being informed by her of her distressing situation, and having no time to help her in any better way, I just changed clothes with her. She escaped unsuspected in my dress. And those two heroes there, mistaking me for her, forced me into a carriage and dragged me hither to be married against my will. And instead of catching an heiress, they caught a Tartar, that's all! And now, Herbert, let the two poor wretches go hide their mortification, and do you take me home, for I am immensely tired of doing the sentimental, making speeches and piling up the agonies!"

While Cap was delivering this long oration, the two Le Noirs had made several essays to interrupt and contradict her, but were effectually prevented by the people, whose sympathies were all with the speaker. Now, at Herbert Greyson's command, they released the culprits, who, threatening loudly took their departure.

Herbert then led Capitola out and placed her upon her own pony, Gyp, which, to her unbounded astonishment, she found there in charge of Wool, who was also mounted upon his own hack.

Herbert Greyson threw himself into the saddle of a third horse, and the three took the road to Hurricane Hall.

"And now," said Capitola, as Herbert rode up to her side, "for mercy sake tell me, before I go crazy with conjecture, how it happened that you dropped down from the sky at the very moment and on the very spot where you were needed? and where did you light upon Wool and the horses?"

"It is very simple when you come to understand it," said Herbert, smiling. "In the first place, you know, I graduated at the last commencement."

"Yes."

"Well, I have just received a lieutenant's commission in a regiment that is ordered to join General Scott in Mexico."

"Oh, Herbert, that is news, and I don't know whether to be in despair or in ecstasy!" said Cap, ready to laugh or cry, as a feather's weight might tip the scales in which she balanced Herbert's new honors with his approaching perils.

"If there's any doubt about it, I decidedly recommend the latter emotion," said Herbert, laughing.

"When do you go?" inquired Cap.

"Our regiment embarks from Baltimore on the first of next month. Meanwhile I got leave of absence to come and spend a week with my friends at home!"

"Oh, Herbert, I--I am in a quandary! But you haven't told me yet how you happened to meet Wool and to come here just in the nick of time!"

"I am just going to do so. Well, you see Capitola, I came down in the stage to Tip Top, which I reached about three o'clock. And there I found Wool in the hands of the Philistines, suspected of being mad, from the manner in which he raved about losing sight of you. Well, of course, like a true knight, I delivered my lady's squire, comforted and reassured him and made him mount his own horse and take charge of yours. After which I mounted the best beast that I had hired to convey me to Hurricane Hall, and we all set off thither. I confess that I was excessively anxious upon your account, for I could make nothing whatever of Wool's wild story of your supposed metamorphosis! I thought it best to make a circuit and take the Hidden House in our course, to make some inquiries there as to what had really happened. I had got a little bewildered between the dark night and the strange road, and, seeing the light in the church, I had just ridden up to inquire my way, when to my astonishment I saw you within, before the altar, struggling in the grasp of that ruffian. And you know the rest! And now let us ride on quickly, for I have a strong presentiment that Major Warfield is suffering the tortures of a lost soul through anxiety upon your account," concluded Herbert Greyson.

"Please, Marse Herbert and Miss Cap, don't you tell ole marse nuffin 'tall 'bout my loosin' sight of you!" pleaded Wool.

"We shall tell you old master all about it, Wool, for I would not have him miss the pleasure of hearing this adventure upon any account; but I promise to bear you harmless through it," said Herbert, as they galloped rapidly toward home.

They reached Hurricane Hall by eight o'clock, and in good time for supper. They found Old Hurricane storming all over the house, and ordering everybody off the premises in his fury of anxiety upon Capitola's account. But when the party arrived, surprise at seeing them in the company of Herbert Greyson quite revolutionized his mood, and, forgetting to rage, he gave them all a hearty welcome.

And when after supper was over and they were all gathered around the comfortable fireside, and Herbert related the adventures and feats of Capitola at the Hidden House, and in the forest chapel, the old man grasped the hand of his favorite and with his stormy old eyes full of rain said:

"You deserve to have been a man, Cap! Indeed you do, my girl!"

That was his highest style of praise.

Then Herbert told his own little story of getting his commission and being ordered to Mexico.

"God bless you, lad, and save you in the battle and bring you home with victory!" was old Hurricane's comment.

Then seeing that the young people were quite worn out with fatigue, and feeling not averse to his own comfortable couch, Old Hurricane broke up the circle and they all retired to rest.

CHAPTER XI.

AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR AT MARAH'S COTTAGE.

"Friend wilt thou give me shelter here? The stranger meekly saith My life is hunted! evil men Are following on my path."

Marah Rocke sat by her lonely fireside.

The cottage was not changed in any respect since the day upon which we first of all found her there. There was the same bright, little wood fire; the same clean hearth and the identical faded carpet on the floor. There was the dresser with its glistening crockery ware on the right, and the shelves with Traverse's old school books on the left of the fireplace.

The widow herself had changed in nothing except that her clean black dress was threadbare and rusty, and her patient face whiter and thinner than before.

And now there was no eager restlessness: no frequent listening and looking toward the door. Alas! she could not now expect to hear her boy's light and springing step and cheerful voice as he hurried home at eventide from his daily work. Traverse was far away at St. Louis undergoing the cares and trials of a friendless young physician trying to get into practice. Six months had passed since he took leave of her, and there was as yet no hope of his returning even, to pay a visit.

So Marah sat very still and sad, bending over her needlework without ever turning her head in the direction of the door. True, he wrote to her every week. No Wednesday ever passed without bringing her a letter written in a strong. buoyant and encouraging strain. Still she missed Traverse very sadly. It was dreary to rise up in the empty house every morning; dreary to sit down to her solitary meals,


Capitola The Madcap - 20/61

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