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- Capitola The Madcap - 60/61 -
they tell me that you are going to be married to-morrow! Well! God bless you, little one!"
"Oh, Donald Bayne! Can you say God bless me, when it was I who put you here?"
"Tut, child, we outlaws bear no malice. Spite is a civilized vice. It was a fair contest, child, and you conquered. It's well you did. Give me your hand in good will, since I must die to-morrow!"
Capitola gave her hand, and whilst he held it, she stooped and said:
"Donald, I have done everything in the world I could to save your life!"
"I know you have, child. May yours be long and happy."
"Donald, may your life be longer and better than you think. I have tried all other means of saving you in vain; there is but one means left!"
The outlaw started violently, exclaiming:
"Is there one?"
"Donald, yes! There is! I bring you the means of deliverance and escape. Heaven knows whether I am doing right--for I do not! I know many people would blame me very much, but I hope that He who forgave the thief upon the cross and the sinful woman at his feet, will not condemn me for following His own compassionate example! For Donald, as I was the person whom you injured most of all others, so I consider that I of all others have the best right to pardon you and set you free. Oh, Donald! Use well the life I am about to give you, else I shall be chargeable with every future sin you commit!"
"In the name of mercy, girl, do not hold out a false hope! I had nerved myself to die!'"
"But you were not prepared to meet your Maker! Oh, Donald! I hold out no false hope! Listen, for I must speak low and quick. I could never be happy again if on my wedding-day you should die a felon's death! Here! here are tools with the use of which you must be acquainted, for they were found in the woods near the Hidden House!" said Capitola, producing from her pockets a burglar's lock-pick, saw, chisel, file, etc.
Black Donald seized them as a famished wolf might seize his prey.
"Will they do?" inquired Capitola, in breathes anxiety.
"Yes--yes--yes! I can file off my irons, pick every lock, drive back every bolt, and dislodge every bar between myself and freedom with these instruments! But, child, there is one thing you have forgotten: suppose a turnkey or a guard should stop me? You have brought me no revolver!"
Capitola turned pale.
"Donald, I could easily have brought you a revolver; but I would not, even to save you from to-morrow's death! No, Donald, no! I give you the means of freeing yourself, if you can do it, as you may, without bloodshed! But, Donald, though your life is not justly forfeited, your liberty is, and so I cannot give you the means of taking any one's life for the sake of saving your own! "
"You are right," said the outlaw.
"Listen further, Donald. Here are a thousand dollars! I thought never to have taken it from the bank, for I would never have used the price of blood! But I drew it to-day for you. Take it--it will help you to live a better life! When you have picked your way out of this place, go to the great elm-tree at the back of the old mill, and you will find my horse, Gyp, which I shall have tied there. He is very swift. Mount him and ride for your life to the nearest seaport, and so escape by a vessel to some foreign country. And oh, try to lead a good life, and may God redeem you, Donald Bayne! There--conceal your tools and your money quickly, for I hear the guard coming. Good-by--and again, God redeem you, Donald Bayne!"
"God bless you, brave and tender girl! And God forsake me if I do not heed your advice!" and the outlaw pressed the hand she gave him while the tears rushed to his eyes.
The guard approached; Capitola turned to meet him. They left the cell together and Black Donald was locked in for the last time!
"Oh, I hope, I pray, that he may get off! Oh, what shall I do if he doesn't! How can I enjoy my wedding to-morrow! How can I bear the music and the dancing and the rejoicing, when I know that a fellow creature is in such a strait! Oh, Lord grant that Black Donald may get clear off to-night, for he isn't fit to die!" said Cap to herself, as she hurried out of the prison.
Her young groom was waiting for her and she mounted her horse and rode until they got to the old haunted church at the end of the village, when drawing rein, she said;
"Jem, I am very tired. I will wait here and you must just ride back to the village, to Mr. Cassell's livery stable, and get a gig, and put your horse into it, and come back here to drive me home, for I cannot ride."
Jem, who never questioned his imperious little mistress's orders, rode off at once to do her bidding.
Cap immediately dismounted from her pony and led him under the deep shadows of the elm tree, where she fastened him. Then taking his face between her hands, and looking him in the eyes, she said:
"Gyp, my son, you and I have had many a frolic together, but we've got to part now! It almost breaks my heart, Gyp, but it is to save a fellow creature's life, and it can't be helped! He'll treat you well, for my sake, dear Gyp. Gyp, he'll part with his life sooner than sell you! Good-by, dear, dear Gyp."
Gyp took all these caresses in a very nonchalant manner, only snorting and pawing in reply.
Presently the boy came back, bringing the gig. Cap once more hugged Gyp about the neck, pressed her cheek against his mane, and with a whispered "Good-by, dear Gyp," sprang into the gig and ordered the boy to drive home.
"An' leab the pony, miss?"
"Oh, yes, for the present; everybody knows Gyp--no one will steal him. I have left him length of line enough to move around a little and eat grass, drink from the brook, or lie down. You can come after him early to-morrow morning."
The little groom thought this a queer arrangement, but he was not in the habit of criticising his young mistress's actions.
Capitola got home to a late supper and to the anxious inquiries of her friends she replied that she had been to the prison to take leave of Black Donald, and begged that they would not pursue so painful a subject.
And, in respect to Cap's sympathies, they changed the conversation.
That night the remnant of Black Donald's band were assembled in their first old haunt, the Old Road Inn. They had met for a twofold purpose--to bury their old matron, Mother Raven, who, since the death of her patron and the apprehension of her captain, had returned to the inn to die--and to bewail the fate of their leader, whose execution was expected to come off the next day.
The men laid the poor old woman in her woodland grave, and assembled in the kitchen to keep a death watch in sympathy with their "unfortunate" captain. They gathered around the table, and, foaming mugs of ale were freely quaffed for "sorrow's dry," they said. But neither laugh, song nor jest attended their draughts. They were to keep that night's vigil in honor of their captain, and then were to disband and separate forever.
Suddenly, in the midst of their heavy grief and utter silence a familiar sound was heard--a ringing footstep under the back windows.
And every man leaped to his feet, with looks of wild delight and questioning.
And the next instant the door was flung wide open, and the outlaw chief stood among them!
Steve stopped rolling and curled himself around Black Donald's neck, exclaiming:
"It's you--it's you--it's you!--my dear, my darling--my adored--my sweetheart--my prince!--my lord!--my king!--my dear, dear captain!"
Steve, the lazy mulatto, rolled down upon the floor at his master's feet, and embraced him in silence.
While Demon Dick growled forth:
"How the foul fiend did you get out?"
And the anxious faces of all the other men silently repeated the question.
"Not by any help of yours, boys! But don't think I reproach you, lads! Well I know that you could do nothing on earth to save me! No one on earth could have helped me except the one who really freed me--Capitola!"
"That girl again!" exclaimed Hal, in the extremity of wonder.
Steve stopped rolling, and curled himself around the feet of his master and gazed up in stupid astonishment.
"It's to be hoped, then, you've got her at last, captain," said Demon Dick.
"No--heaven bless her!--she's in better hands. Now listen, lads, for I must talk fast! I have already lost a great deal too much time. I went first to the cave in the Punch Bowl, and, not finding you there, came here at a venture, where I am happy to meet you for the last time--for to-night we disband forever!"
"'Twas our intention, captain," said Hal, in a melancholy voice.
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