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- Capitola The Madcap - 6/61 -
"Lor, Major Warfield, sir, there were others deceived besides me, and as for myself, I never can think of the risk I've run without growing cold all over!"
"Serves you right, mum, for your officiousness, and obsequiousness and toadying to--precious Mr. Gray!--serves you doubly right for famishing me at my own table!"
"Uncle!" said Capitola, "'Honor bright! Fair play is a jewel! If you and I, who have seen Black Donald before, failed to recognize that stalwart athlete in a seemingly old and sickly man, how could you expect Mrs. Condiment to do so, who never saw him but once in her life, and then was so much frightened that she instantly fainted?"
"Pah! pah! pah! Cap, hush! You, all of you, disgust me, except Black Donald! I begin to respect him! Confound if I don't take in all the offers I have made for his apprehension, and at the very next convention of our party I'll nominate him to represent us in the National Congress; for, of all the fools that ever I have met in my life, the people of this county are the greatest! And fools should at least be represented by one clever man--and Black Donald is the very fellow! He is decidedly the ablest man in this congressional district."
"Except yourself, dear uncle!" said Capitola.
"Except nobody, Miss Impudence!--least of all me! The experience of the last week has convinced me that I ought to have a cap and bells awarded me by public acclamation!" said Old Hurricane, stamping about in fury.
The good minister finding that he could make no sort of impression upon the irate old man, soon took his leave, telling Mrs. Condiment that if he could be of any service to her in her trouble she must be sure to let him know.
At this Capitola and Mrs. Condiment exchanged looks, and the old lady, thanking him for his kindness, said that if it should become necessary, she should gratefully avail herself of it.
That day the camp meeting broke up.
Major Warfield struck tents and with his family and baggage returned to Hurricane Hall.
On their arrival, each member of the party went about his or her own particular business.
Capitola hurried to her own room to take off her bonnet and shawl. Pitapat, before attending her young mistress, lingered below to astonish the housemaids with accounts of "Brack Donel, dress up like an ole parson, an' 'ceiving everybody, even ole Marse!"
Mrs. Condiment went to her store room to inspect the condition of her newly put up preserves and pickles, lest any of them should have "worked" during her absence.
And Old Hurricane, attended by Wool, walked down to his kennels and his stables to look after the well-being of his favorite hounds and horses. It was while going through this interesting investigation that Major Warfield was informed--principally by overhearing the gossip of the grooms with Wool--of the appearance of a new inmate of the Hidden House--a young girl, who, according to their description, must have been the very pearl of beauty.
Old Hurricane pricked up his ears! Anything relating to the "Hidden House" possessed immense interest for him.
"Who is she, John?" he inquired of the groom.
"Deed I dunno, sir, only they say she's a bootiful young creature, fair as any lily, and dressed in deep mourning."
"Humph! humph! humph! another victim! Ten thousand chances to one, another victim! who told you this, John?"
"Why, Marse, you see Tom Griffith, the Rev. Mr. Goodwill's man, he's very thick long of Davy Hughs, Colonel Le Noir's coachman. And Davy he told Tom how one day last month his marse ordered the carriage, and went two or three days' journey up the country beyant Staunton, there he stayed a week and then came home, fetching along with him in the carriage this lovely young lady, who was dressed in the deepest mourning, and wept all the way. They 'spects how she's an orphan, and has lost all her friends, by the way she takes on."
"Another victim! My life on it--another victim! Poor child! She had better be dead than in the power of that atrocious villain and consummate hypocrite!" said Old Hurricane, passing on to the examination of his favorite horses, one of which, the swiftest in the stud, he found galled on the shoulders. Whereupon he flew into a towering passion, abusing his unfortunate groom by every opprobrious epithet blind fury could suggest, ordering him, as he valued whole bones, to vacate the stable instantly, and never dare to set foot on his premises again as he valued his life, an order which the man meekly accepted and immediately disobeyed, muttered to himself:
"Humph! If we took ole marse at his word, there'd never be man or 'oman left on the 'state," knowing full well that his tempestuous old master would probably forget all about it, as soon as he got comfortably seated at the supper table of Hurricane Hall, toward which the old man now trotted off.
Not a word did Major Warfield say at supper in regard to the new inmate of the Hidden House, for he had particular reasons for keeping Cap in ignorance of a neighbor, lest she should insist upon exchanging visits and being "sociable."
But it was destined that Capitola should not remain a day in ignorance of the interesting fact.
That night, when she retired to her chamber, Pitapat lingered behind, but presently appeared at her young mistress's room door with a large waiter on her head, laden with meat, pastry, jelly and fruit, which she brought in and placed upon the work stand.
"Why, what on the face of earth do you mean by bringing all that load of victuals into my room to-night? Do you think I am an ostrich or a cormorant, or that I am going to entertain a party of friends?" asked Capitola, in astonishment, turning from the wash stand, where she stood bathing her face.
"'Deed I dunno, Miss, whedder you'se an ostrizant or not, but I knows I don't 'tend for to be 'bused any more 'bout wittels, arter findin' out how cross empty people can be! Dar dey is! You can eat um or leab um alone, Miss Caterpillar!" said little Pitapat, firmly.
Capitola laughed, "Patty" she said, "you are worthy to be called my waiting maid!"
"And Lors knows, Miss Caterpillar, if it was de wittels you was a- frettin' arter, you ought to a-told me before! Lors knows dere's wittels enough!"
"Yes, I'm much obliged to you, Patty, but now I am not hungry, and I do not like the smell of food in my bedroom,, so take the waiter out and set it on the passage table until morning."
Patty obeyed, and came back smiling and saying:
"Miss Caterpillar, has you hern de news?"
"What news, Pat?"
"How us has got a new neighbor--a bootiful young gal--as bootiful as a picter in a gilt-edged Christmas book--wid a snowy skin, and sky- blue eyes and glistenin' goldy hair, like the princess you was a readin' me about, all in deep mournin' and a weepin' and a weepin' all alone down there in that wicked, lonesome, onlawful ole haunted place, the Hidden House, along of old Colonel Le Noir and old Dorkey Knight, and the ghost as draws people's curtains of a night, just for all de worl' like dat same princess in de ogre's castle!"
"What on earth is all this rigmarole about? Are you dreaming or romancing?"
"I'm a-telling on you de bressed trufe! Dere's a young lady a-livin' at de Hidden House!"
"Eh? Is that really true, Patty?"
"True as preaching, miss."
"Then, I am very glad of it! I shall certainly ride over and call on the stranger," said Capitola, gaily.
"Oh, Miss Cap! Oh, miss, don't you do no sich thing! Ole Marse kill me! I heerd him t'reaten all de men and maids how if dey telled you anything 'bout de new neighbor, how he'd skin dem alive!"
"Won't he skin you?" asked Cap.
"No, miss, not 'less you 'form ag'in me, 'case he 'didn't tell me not to tell you, 'case you see he didn't think how I knowed! But, leastways, I know from what I heard, ole marse wouldn't have you to know nothin' about it, no, not for de whole worl'."
"He does not want me to call at the Hidden House! That's it! Now why doesn't he wish me to call there? I shall have to go in order to find out, and so I will," thought Cap
CAP'S VISIT TO THE HIDDEN HOUSE
And such a night "she" took the road in As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in. The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last The rattling showers rose on the blast; The speedy gleams the darkness swallowed Loud, deep and long the thunder bellowed; That night a child might understand The de'il had business on his hand.
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