"See the bodies anywhere?" said Lysander.
"Can't see ary thing by this light," replied Dan. "But we can go down and find 'em."
Sprowl did not much fancy the idea of descending.
"It will be a waste of time to stop here," he said to Silas. "The live traitors are of more consequence than the dead ones. Supposing we go to the cave first, and come back and find the bodies afterwards. Have you got your bearings yet, Carl?"
"I am peginning," said Carl, staring about him, with his hands in his pockets. "I think I vill have 'em soon."
Sprowl looked at him with suppressed rage. "How cussed provoking!" he muttered.
"It is—wery prowoking!" said Carl, looking at the moon. "Aggrawating!"
"Well, make up your mind quick! What will you do?"
Then it seemed as if a bright idea occurred to Carl.
"I vill tell you. You go down and find the podies, and I vill be looking. Ven you come up again, I shouldn't be surprised if I could see vair the cave is."
"Ropes," said Sprowl, "take a couple of men, and go down in there with Pepperill. I think it's best to stay with this boy."
This arrangement did not please Carl at all; but, as he could not reasonably complain of it, he said, stoically, "Yes, it vill be petter so."
Ropes selected his two men, and left the rest concealed in the shadows of the thickets.
"If I could go up on the rocks there, I suppose I could see something," said Carl.
"Well, I'll go with you. I mean to give you a fair chance." Carl felt a secret hope. Once more alone with this villain, would not some interesting thing occur? "Wait, though!" said Sprowl; and he called a corporal to his side. "Come with us. Keep close to this boy. At the first sign of his giving us the slip, put your bayonet through him."
"I will," said the corporal.
This was discouraging again. But Carl looked up at the captain and smiled—his good-humored, placid smile.
"You do right. But you vill see I shall not give you the shlip. Now come, and be wery still."
In the mean time, Pepperill, with the three rebels, descended into the ravine. The spot where the dead man and horse had been was soon found. But now no dead man was to be seen. The horse had been removed from the rocks between which his back was wedged, and rolled down lower into the ravine. A broad, shallow hole had been dug there, as if to bury him. But the work had been interrupted. There was a shovel lying on the heap of earth. Near by was another spot where the soil had been recently stirred—a little mound: it was shaped like a grave.
"They've buried the poor cuss hyar," said Dan.
"We'll see." Ropes took the shovel. "They can't have put him in very deep, fur they've struck the rock in this yer t'other hole."
He threw up a little dirt, then gave the shovel to one of the soldiers. The moon shone full upon the place. The man dug a few minutes, and came to something which was neither rock nor soil. He pulled it up. It was a man's arm.
"You didn't guess fur from right this time, Dan! Scrape off a little more dirt, and we'll haul up the carcass. Needn't be partic'lar 'bout scrapin' very keerful, nuther. He's a mean shoat, whoever he is; one o' them cussed Union-shriekers. Wish they was all planted like he is! Hope we shall find five or six more. Ketch holt, Dan!"
Dan caught hold. The body was dragged from the lonely resting-place to which it had been consigned. Parts of it, which had not been protected by the superincumbent bulk of the horse, were hideously burned. Ropes rolled it over on the back, and kicked it, to knock off the dirt. He turned up the face in the moonlight—a frightful face! One side was roasted; and what was left of the hair and beard was full of sand.
"Damn him!" said Ropes, giving it a wipe with the spade.
The eyes were open, and they too were full of sand.
But the features were still recognizable. The men started back with horror. They knew their comrade. It was the spy who had been sent out to watch the fugitives. It was "the sleeper," whom nought could waken more. It was Gad.
"Wal, if I ain't beat!" said Silas, with a ghastly look. "Fool! how did he come hyar?"
This question has never been satisfactorily answered. The fatal leap of the terrified horse with his rider is known; but how came Gad on the horse? Those who knew the character of the man account for it in this way: He had been something of a horse-thief in his day; and it is supposed that, finding Stackridge's horse on the mountain, he fell once more into temptation. He was probably a little drunk at the time; and he was a man who would never walk if he could ride, especially when he was tipsy. So he mounted. But he had no sooner commenced the descent of the mountain, than the fire, which had been previously concealed from the animal by the clump of trees behind which he was hampered, burst upon his sight, and filled him with uncontrollable frenzy.
Dan, who had witnessed the flight and plunge, could have contributed an item towards the solution of the mystery. But he opened not his mouth.
"Them cussed traitors shall pay fur this!" said Ropes. This was the only consolatory thought that occurred to him. Having uttered it, he looked remorsefully at the spade with which he had rudely wiped the face of his dead friend. "I thought 'twas one o' them rotten scoundrels, or I—But never mind! Kiver him up agin, boys! We can't take him with us, and we've no time to lose."
So they laid the corpse once more in the grave, and heaped the sand upon it.
CARL FINDS A GEOLOGICAL SPECIMEN.
In the mean time Carl ascended the moonlit slope, with Sprowl's pistol on one side of him, and the corporal's bayonet on the other. Between the two he felt that he had little chance. But he did not despair. He reasoned thus with himself:—
"These two men vill not think to take the cave alone. They must go back for reenforcements. That shall make a diwersion in my favor. If I show them some dark place, and make them think it is there, they vill not go wery near to examine." And he arrived at this conclusion: "I suppose I shall inwent a cave."
They were advancing cautiously towards the summit of a bushy ridge. Suddenly Carl stopped.
"Anything?" said Sprowl. Carl nodded, with a pleased and confident smile. "What?"
"You shall see wery soon. Shtoop low." He himself crouched close to the ground. The men followed his example. "Come a little more on. Now you see that rock?" Lysander saw it. "Vell, it is not there."
They crept forward a little farther. Then Carl stopped again, and said,—
"You see that tree?"
"All alone in the moonshine." Lysander perceived it.
"Vell," said Carl, "it is not there."
Again they advanced, and again he paused and pointed.
"You see them little saplings?" Lysander distinguished them revealed against the sky.
"Vell," said Carl, "it is not there neither."
He was crawling on again, when Sprowl seized his collar.
"What the devil do you mean?—if I see these things!"
Carl turned on his side, smiled intelligently, and, beckoning the captain to bring his ear close, put his lips to it, covered them with his hand, with an air of secrecy, and whispered hoarsely,—
"Ah! well!" said Lysander, suffering him to proceed.
Carl crept slowly, raising his head at every moment to observe. The bayonet came behind; the captain continued at his side. "The further I take these willains from the others, the petter," thought he. At length he came in view of the high ledge upon which Penn had discovered Cudjo at his idolatrous devotions, on the night of the fire. The moon was getting behind the mountain, and there were dark shadows beneath this ledge. Though he should travel a mile, he might not find a more suitable spot to locate his fictitious cave. He hesitated; considered well; then gently tapped Lysander's arm.
"You see vair the rock comes down? And some pushes just under it? Vell, the cave is pehind the pushes, ven you find it!" Which was indeed true.
Lysander crept a few paces nearer, stealthily, flat on his belly, with his head slightly elevated, like a dark reptile gliding over the moonlit ground.
"Now is my time!" thought Carl. His heart beat violently. He raised himself on his knees, preparing to spring. Lysander was at least ten feet in advance of him, and he thought he would risk the pistol. "I run—he fires—he vill miss me—I shall get avay." But the corporal? Just then he felt a piercing pressure in his side. It was the corporal, nudging him with the bayonet to make him lie down.
"I vas shust going a little nearer."
The corporal seemed satisfied with the explanation; but, as the boy advanced on his hands and knees, he advanced close behind him,—holding the bayoneted gun ready for a thrust.
So Carl succeeded only in getting a little nearer Lysander, without increasing at all the distance between him and the corporal. It was a state of affairs that required serious consideration. He lay dawn again, and pretended to be anxiously looking for the mouth of the cave, whilst watching and reflecting.
Just then occurred a circumstance which seemed almost providentially designed to favor the boy's strategy. Upon the ledge appeared two human figures, male and female, touched by the moonlight, and defined against the sky. They remained but a moment on the summit, then began to descend in the shadow of the ledge. Their movements were slow, uncertain, mysterious. Below the base of the rock they stood once more in the moonlight, and after appearing to consult together for a few seconds, disappeared behind the bushes where Carl had placed his imaginary cave.
If Sprowl had any doubts on the subject before, he was now entirely satisfied. He believed the forms to be those of Virginia and the schoolmaster; they had been out to enjoy solitude and sentiment in the moonlight; and now they were returning reluctantly to the cave.
"Wouldn't Gus be edified if he was in my place!" Lysander little thought that he was the one to be edified,—as he would certainly have been, to an amazing degree, had he known the truth. "But we'll spoil their fun in a few minutes!" he said to himself, as he crept back towards his former position.
As for Carl, it was he who had been most astonished by the phenomenon. No sooner had he invented a cave, than two phantoms made their appearance, and walked into it! The illusion was so perfect, that he himself was almost deceived by it. Only for an instant, however. Continuing to gaze, he had another glimpse of the apparitions, when, having merely passed behind the bushes, they came out beyond them, in the direction of the real cave, and were lost once more in shadow. Lysander, engaged in making his retrograde movement, did not notice this very important circumstance; and the corporal was too intently occupied in watching Carl to observe anything else.
The captain got behind the shelter of a cluster of thistles, and beckoned for the two to approach.
"Corporal," said he, "hurry back and tell Ropes to bring up his men. I'll wait here."
The corporal crawled off.
Carl heard the order, saw the movement, and felt thrilled to the heart's core with joy. He was now alone with the captain. And he was no longer unarmed. In creeping towards the thistles, he had laid his hand on a wonderful little stone. Somehow, his fingers had closed upon it. It was about the size of an apple, slightly flattened, rough, and heavy. "I thought," he said afterwards, "if anything vas to happen, that stone might be waluable." And so it proved. Lysander, considering that the cave was found, had become less suspicious. "These Dutch are stupid, and that's all," he thought.
"You vas going to shoot me," said Carl, with an honest laugh at the ludicrousness of the idea.
"And so I would," said Sprowl, with an oath, "if you hadn't brought us to the cave."
"That means," thought Carl, "he vill kill me yet if he can, ven he finds out." He observed, also, that Sprowl, lying on his left side, had his right hand free, and near the pocket where his pistol was. It was not yet too late for him to be shot if he attempted an escape without first attempting something else. The violent beating of his heart recommenced. He felt a strange tremor of excitement thrilling through every nerve. His hand still held the pebble, covering and concealing it as he leaned forward on the ground. He crept a little nearer Lysander.
"The vay they go into the cave," he said, "is wery queer."
"How so?" asked the captain.
They were facing each other. Carl drew still a little nearer, and raised himself slightly on the hand that grasped the geological specimen.
"I promised to take you in. I vill take you in on vun condition."
"Condition?" repeated Lysander.
"That is vat I said. Vun leetle condition. Let me whishper."
Carl put up his left hand as if to cover the communication he was about to breathe into Lysander's ear.
"The condition—IS THIS!"
As he uttered the last words, he seized Lysander's wrist with his left hand, and at the same instant, with a stroke rapid as lightning, smote him on the temple with the stone.
All this, being interpreted, meant, "I take you to the cave on condition that you go as my prisoner." Thus Carl designed to keep his promise.
As he struck he sprang up, to be ready for any emergency. He had expected a struggle, an outcry. He never dreamed that he could strike a man dead with a single blow!
Without a shriek, without even a moan, Lysander merely sunk back upon the ground, gasped, shuddered, and lay still.
Carl was stupefied. He looked at the prostrate man. Then he cast his eye all around him on the moonlit mountain slope. No one was in sight. Was this murder he had committed? He knelt down, bending over the horribly motionless form. He gazed on the ghastly-pale face, and saw issuing from the nostrils a dark stream. It was blood.
Was it not all a dream? He still held the stone in his hand. He looked at it, and mechanically placed it in his pocket. Nothing now seemed left for him but to escape to the cave; and yet he remained fixed with horror to the spot, regarding what he had done.
CARL KEEPS HIS ENGAGEMENT.
Of the two forms that had been seen on the ledge, the female was not Virginia, and the other was not Penn. A word of explanation is necessary.
Filled with hatred for her husband,—filled with shame and disgust, too, on hearing how he had caused his own mother to be whipped (for the secret was out, thanks to Aunt Deb at the stove-pipe hole),—resolved in her soul never to forgive him, never even to see him again if she could help it, yet intolerably wretched in her loneliness,—Salina had that afternoon taken Toby into her counsel.
"Toby, what are we to do?"
"Dat's what I do'no' myself!" the sore old fellow confessed; even his superior wisdom, usually sufficient (in his own estimation) for the whole family, failing him now. "When it comes to lickin' white women and 'spec'able servants, ain't nobody safe. I's glad ol' massa and Miss Jinny's safe up dar in de cave; and I on'y wish we war safe up dar too."
"Toby," said Salina, "we will go there. Can you find the way?"
"Reckon I kin," said Toby, delighted at the proposal.
They set out early. They succeeded in reaching the woods without exciting suspicion. They kept well to the south, in order to approach the cave on the same side of the ravine from which Toby had discovered it, or rather Penn near the entrance of it, before. He thought he would be more sure to find it by that route. At the same time he avoided the burned woods, and, without knowing it, the soldiers.
But, the best they could do, the daylight was gone when they came to the ravine; and Toby could not find the place where he had previously crossed. He passed beyond it. Then they crossed at random in the easiest place. Once on the side where the cave was, Toby decided that they were above it; and, owing to the steepness of the banks, it was necessary to go around over the rocks, at a short distance from the ravine, in order to reach the shelf behind the thickets. It was in making this movement that they had been seen to descend the ledge and pass behind the bushes at its base.
"Now," said Toby, "you jes' wait while I makes a reckonoyster!"
Salina, weary, sat down in the shadow of a juniper-tree.
Toby made his reconnoissance, discovered nothing, and returned. She, sitting still there, had been more successful. She pointed.
"What dar?" whispered Toby, frightened.
"There is somebody. Don't you see? By those shrub-like things."
"Dey ain't nobody dar!"—with a shiver.
"Yes there is. I saw a man jump up. He is bending over something now, trying to lift it. It must be Penn, or some of his friends. Go softly, and see."
Toby, imaginative, superstitious, did not like to move. But Salina urged him; and something must be done.
"I—I's mos' afeard to! But dar's somebody, shore!"
He advanced, with eyes strained wide and cold chills creeping over him. What was the man doing there? What was he trying to lift and drag along the ground? It was the body of another man.
"Who dar?" said Toby.
"Be quiet. Come here!" was the answer.
"What! Carl! Carl! dat you? What you doin' dar? massy sakes!" said Toby.
"I've got a prisoner," said Carl.
"Dead! O de debil!" said Toby.
"I've knocked him on the head a little, but he is not dead," said Carl. "Be still, for there's forty more vithin hearing!"
Toby, with mouth agape, and hands on knees, crouching, looked in the face of the lifeless man. That jaunty mustache, with the blood from the nostrils trickling into it, was unmistakable.
"Dat Sprowl!" ejaculated the old negro, with horrified recoil.
"He won't hurt you! Take holt! I pelief Ropes is coming, mit his men, now!"
"Le' 'm drap, den. Wha' ye totin' on him fur?"
Carl had quite recovered from his stupefaction. His wits were clear again. Why did he not leave the body? His reasons against such a course were too many to be enumerated on the spot to Toby. In the first place, he had promised to take the captain to the cave; and he felt a stubborn pride in keeping his engagement. Secondly, the man might die if he abandoned him. Moreover, the troops arriving, and finding him, would know at once what had happened; while, on the contrary, if both Carl and the captain should be missing, it would be supposed that they had gone to make observations in another quarter; they would be waited for, and thus much time would be gained.
Carl had all these arguments in his brain. But instead of stopping to explain anything, he once more, and alone, lifted the head and shoulders of the limp man, and recommenced bearing him along.
"Toby, who is that?"
"Dat am Miss Salina."
Carl asked no explanations. "Vimmen scream sometimes. Tell her she is not to scream. You get her handkersheaf. And do not say it is Shprowl."
"Who—what is it?" Salina inquired.
"Our Carl! don't ye know?" said Toby. "He's got one ob dem secesh he's knocked on de head."
"Has he killed him?"
"Part killed him, and part took him prisoner,—about six o' one and half a dozen o' tudder. He say you's specfully 'quested not to scream; and he wants your hank'cher."
"What does he want of it?"—giving it.
"Dat he best know hisself; but if my 'pinion am axed, I should say, to wipe de fellah's nose wiv."
Having delivered this profound judgment, Toby carried the handkerchief to Carl, who spread it over the wounded man's face.
"That prewents her seeing him, and prewents his seeing the vay to the cave."
"Who eber knowed you's sech a powerful smart chil'?" said old Toby, amazed.
A new perception of Carl's character had burst suddenly, with a wonderful light, upon his dazzled understanding. In the terror of their first encounter, in this strange place, he had comprehended nothing of the situation. He had not even remembered that he last saw Carl in the guard-house, with irons on his wrists. It was like a fragment of some dream to find him here, holding the lifeless Lysander in his arms. But now he remembered; now he comprehended. Carl had saved him from torture by engaging to bring this man to the cave; whom by some miracle of courage and valor, he had overcome and captured, and brought thus far over the lonely rocks. All was yet vague to the old negro's mind; but it was nevertheless strange, great, prodigious. And this lad, this Carl, whom Penn had brought, a sort of vagabond, a little hungry beggar, to Mr. Villars's house—that is to say, Toby's; whom the vain, tender, pompous, affectionate old servant had had the immense satisfaction of adopting into the family, patronizing, scolding, tyrannizing over, and tenderly loving; who had always been to him "Dat chil'!" "dat good-for-nuffin'!" "dat mis'ble Carl!"—the same now loomed before his imagination a hero. The simple spreading of the handkerchief over the face appeared to him a master-stroke of cool sagacity. He himself, with all that stupendous wisdom of his, would not have thought of that! He actually found himself on the point of saying "Massa Carl!"
Ah, this foolish old negro is not the only person who, in these times of national trouble, has been thus astonished! Carl is not the only hero who has suddenly emerged, to thrilled and wondering eyes, from the disguises of common life. How many a beloved "good-for-nothing" has gone from our streets and firesides, to reappear far off in a vision of glory! The school-fellows know not their comrade; the mother knows not her own son. The stripling, whose outgoing and incoming were so familiar to us,—impulsive, fun-loving, a little vain, a little selfish, apt to be cross when the supper was not ready, apt to come late and make you cross when the supper was ready and waiting,—who ever guessed what nobleness was in him! His country called, and he rose up a patriot. The fatigue of marches, the hardships of camp and bivouac, the hard fare, the injustice that must be submitted to, all the terrible trials of the body's strength and the soul's patient endurance,—these he bore with the superb buoyancy of spirit which denotes the hero. Who was it that caught up the colors, and rushed forward with them into the thick of the battle, after the fifth man who attempted it had been shot down? Not that village loafer, who used to go about the streets dressed so shabbily? Yes, the same. He fell, covered with wounds and glory. The rusty, and seemingly useless instrument we saw hang so long idle on the walls of society, none dreamed to be a trumpet of sonorous note until the Soul came and blew a blast. And what has become of that white-gloved, perfumed, handsome cousin of yours, devoted to his pleasures, weary even of those,—to whom life, with all its luxuries, had become a bore? He fell in the trenches at Wagner. He had distinguished himself by his daring, his hardihood, his fiery love of liberty. When the nation's alarum beat, his manhood stood erect; he shook himself; all his past frivolities were no more than dust to the mane of this young lion. The war has proved useful if only in this, that it has developed the latent heroism in our young men, and taught us what is in humanity, in our fellows, in ourselves. Because it has called into action all this generosity and courage, if for no other cause, let us forgive its cruelty, though the chair of the beloved one be vacant, the bed unslept in, and the hand cold that penned the letters in that sacred drawer, which cannot even now be opened without grief.
As Toby had never been conscious what stuff there was in Carl, so he had never known how much he really loved, admired, and relied upon him. He stood staring at him there in the moonlight as if he then for the first time perceived what a little prodigy he was.
"Take holt, why don't you?" said Carl.
And this time Toby obeyed: he secretly acknowledged the authority of a master.
He had checked himself when on the point of saying "Massa Carl;" but the respectful "sah" slipped from his tongue before he was aware of it.
Among the bushes, and in the shadows of the rocks, they bore the body in swiftness and silence. Salina followed.
In the cave the usual fire was burning; by the light of which only Virginia and her father were to be seen. The sisters fell into each other's arms. Salina was softened: here, after all her sufferings, was refuge at last: here, in the warmth of a father's and a sister's affection, was the only comfort she could hope for now, in the world she had found so bitter.
"Who is with you?" said the old man. "Toby? and Carl? What is the matter?"
"I vants Mr. Hapgood, or Pomp, or Cudjo!" said Carl, laying down his burden.
"They have gone to bury the man in the rawine," said Virginia.
Carl opened great eyes. "The man in the rawine? That's vair Ropes and the soldiers have gone."
"What soldiers?—Who is this?"
"This is their waliant captain! I am wery sorry, ladies, but I have given him a leetle nose-pleed. Some vater, Toby! Your handkersheaf, ma'am, and wery much obliged."
Salina stooped to take the handkerchief. A flash of the fire shone upon the uncovered face. The eyes opened; they looked up, and met hers looking down.
"Sal, is it you? Where am I, anyhow?" And the husband tried to raise himself. "Carl, what's this?"
"Don't be wiolent!" said Carl, gently laying him down again, "and I vill tell you. I vas your prisoner, and I vas showing you the cave. Veil, this is the cave; but things is a little inwerted. You are my prisoner."
"Is that so?" said the astonished Lysander.
"Wery much so," replied Carl.
"Didn't somebody knock me on the head?"
"I shouldn't be wastly surprised if somepody did knock you on the head."
"Was it you?"
"I rather sushpect it vas me."
Lysander rubbed his bruised temple feebly, looking amazed.
"But how came she here?"
"It vas she and Toby we saw going into the cave."
"What's that?"—to Toby, bringing a gourd.
"It is vater; it vill improve your wysiognomy. You can trink a little. You feel pretty sound in your witals, don't you? I vas careful not to hurt your witals," said Carl, kindly, raising Sprowl's head and holding the water for him to drink.
Lysander, ungrateful, instead of drinking, started up with sudden fury, struck the gourd from him with one hand, and thrust the other into the pocket where his pistol was, at last accounts.
"Vat is vanting?" Carl inquired, complacently.
Lysander, fumbling in vain for his weapon, muttered, "Vengeance!"
"Wery good," said Carl. "Ve vill discuss the question of wengeance, if you like."' And drawing the pistol from his pocket, he coolly presented it at Sprowl's head. "Vat for you dodge? You think, maybe, the discussion vould not be greatly to your adwantage?"
Lysander felt for his sword, found that gone also, and muttered again, "Villain!"
"Did somepody say somepody is a willain?" remarked Carl. "I should not be wery much surprised if that vas so. Willains nowdays is cheap. I have known a great wariety since secesh times pegan. But as for your particular case, sir, I peg to give some adwice. There is some ladies present, and you must keep quiet. Do you remember how I vas kept quiet ven I vas your prisoner? I had pracelets on. And do you remember I vas putting some supper in my pocket ven you took me to show you the cave? Veil, I make von great mishtake; instead of supper, vat I vas putting in my pocket vas them wery pracelets!"
And Carl produced the handcuffs. At that moment Penn and Cudjo arrived; and Lysander, observing them, submitted to his fate with beautiful resignation. The irons were put on, and Carl mounted guard over him with the pistol.
LOVE IN THE WILDERNESS.
Cudjo was highly exasperated to find strangers in the cave. He became quickly reconciled to the presence of Virginia's sister, but not to that of Lysander. To pacify him, Carl made him a present of the sword which he had removed from the captain's noble person on arriving.
Cudjo received the weapon with unbounded delight, and proceeded to adjust the belt to his own Ethiopian waist. It mattered little with him that he got the scabbard on the wrong side of his body: a sword was a sword; and he wore it in awkward and ridiculous fashion, strutting up and down in the fire-lighted cave, to the envy and disgust of old Toby, the rage of Lysander, and the amusement of the rest.
Penn meanwhile related to his friends his evening's adventures. He had gone down to the ravine with the negroes to bury the horse and his dead rider. He was keeping watch while they worked; the man was interred, and they were digging a pit for the animal, when they discovered the approach of the soldiers, and retired to a hiding-place close by. There they lay concealed, whilst Ropes and his men descended to the spot, exhumed the corpse with Cudjo's shovel, made their comments upon it, and put it back into the ground. During this operation it had required all Pomp's authority, and the restraint of his strong hand, to keep Cudjo from pouncing upon his old enemy and former overseer, Silas Ropes.
"There were three of us," said Penn, "and only three of them, besides Pepperill; and no doubt a struggle would have resulted in our favor. But we did not want to be troubled with prisoners; and Pomp and I could not see that anything was to be gained by killing them. Besides, we knew they had a strong reserve within call. So we waited patiently until they finished their work, and climbed up out of the ravine; then we climbed up after them. We thought their main object must be to find the cave, and Pomp strongly suspected Pepperill of treachery. We found a large number of soldiers lying under some bushes, and crept near enough to hear what they were saying. They were going to take the cave by surprise, and an order had just come for them to move farther up the mountain. They set off with scarcely any noise, reminding me of the 'Forty Thieves,' as they filed away in the moonlight, and disappeared among the bushes and shadows. Pomp is on their trail now; he has his rifle with him, and it may be heard from if he sees them change their course and approach too near the cave."
Penn had come in for his musket. It was the same that had fallen from the hands of the man Griffin at the moment when that unhappy rebel was in the act of charging bayonet at his breast. Assuring Virginia—who could not conceal her alarm at seeing him take it from its corner—that he was merely going out to reconnoitre, he left the cave.
He was gone several hours. At length he and Pomp returned together. The moon had long since set, but it was beautiful starlight; and, themselves unseen, they had watched carefully the movements of the soldiers.
"You would have laughed to have been in my place, Carl!" said Penn, laying his hand affectionately on the shoulder of his beloved pupil. "They besieged the ledge where your imaginary cave is for full two hours after I went out, apparently without daring to go very near it."
"I suppose," replied Carl, "they vas vaiting for me and the captain. It vas really too pad now for us to make them lose so much waluable time! But they vill excuse Mishter Shprowl; his absence is unawoidable." And lifting his brows with a commiserating expression, he gave a comical side-glance from under them at the languishing Lysander.
All laughed at the lad's humor except the captain himself—and Salina.
After besieging the imaginary cave as Penn had described, several of the confederates, he said, at last ventured with extreme caution to approach it.
"And found," added Carl, "they had been made the wictims of von leetle stratagem!"
"I suppose so," said Penn; "for immediately an unusual stir took place amongst them."
"In searching for the entrance," laughed Pomp, leaning on his rifle, "they came close under a juniper-tree I had climbed into, and I could hear them cursing the little Dutchman——"
"I suppose that vas me," smiled the good-natured Carl.
"And the 'pig-headed captain' who had gone off with him."
"The pig-headed captain is this indiwidual"—indicating Sprowl. "But it is wery unjust to be cursing him, for it vas not his fault. It vas my legs and Toby's that conweyed him; and he had a handkersheaf over his face for a wail."
"I suspected how it was, even before I met Penn and learned what had happened. I am sorry to see this fellow in this place,"—Pomp turned a frowning look at the corner where Lysander lay,—"but now that he is here, he must stay."
Carl, upon whom the only noticeable effect produced by his exciting adventure was a lively disposition to talk, quite unusual with him, entered upon a full explanation of the circumstances which had led to Lysander's capture. His narrative was altogether so simple, so honest, so droll, that even the bitter Salina had to smile at it, while all the rest, the old clergyman included, joined in a hearty laugh of admiring approval at its conclusion.
"I don't see but that you did the best that could be done," said Pomp. "At all events, the villains seem to have been completely baffled. The last I saw of them they were retreating through the burned woods, as if afraid to have daylight find them on the mountain."
The daylight had now come; and Penn, who went out to take an observation, could discover no trace of the vanished rebels. The eastern sky was like a sheet of diaphanous silver, faintly crimsoned above the edges of the hills with streaks of the brightening dawn. All the valley below was inundated by a lake of level mist, whose subtle wave made islands of the hills, and shining inlets of the intervales. Above this sea of white silence rose the mountain ranges, inexpressibly calm and beautiful, fresh from their bath of starlight and dew, and empurpled with softest tints of the early morning.
Penn heard a footstep, and felt a touch on his arm. Was it the beauty of the earth and sky that made him shiver with so sudden and sweet a thrill? or was it the lovely presence at his side, in whom was incarnated, for him, all the beauty, all the light, all the joy of the universe?
It was Virginia, who leaned so gently on his arm, that not the slight pressure of her weight, but rather the impalpable shock of bliss her very nearness brought, made him aware of her approach. Toby followed, supporting her along the shelf of rock—a dark cloud in the wake of that rosy and perfumed dawn.
"O, how delicious it is out here!" said the voice, which, if we were to describe it from the lover's point of view, could be likened only to the songs of birds, the musical utterance of purest flutes, or the blowing of wild winds through those grand harp-strings, the mountain pines; for there was more of poetry and passion compressed in the heart of this quiet young Quaker than we shall venture to give breath to in these pages.
"It is—delicious!" he quiveringly answered, in his happy confusion blending her with his perception of the daybreak.
She inhaled deep draughts of the mountain air.
"How I love it! The breath of trees, and grass, and flowers is in it,—those dear friends of mine, that I pine for, shut up here in prison!"
"Do you?" said Penn, vaguely, half wishing that he was a flower, a blade of grass, or a tree, so that she might pine for him.
"The air of the cave," she said, "is cold; it is odorless. The cave seems to me like the great, chill hearts of some of your profound philosophers! Some of those tremendous books father makes me read to him came out of such hearts, I am sure; great hollow caverns, full of mystery and darkness, and so cold and dull they make me shudder to touch them;—but don't you, for the world, tell him I said so,—for, to please him, I let him think I am ever so much edified by everything that he likes."
"What sort of books do you like?"
"O, I like books with daylight in them! I want them to be living, upper-air, joyous books. There must be sunshine, and birds, and brooks,—human nature, life, suffering, aspiration, and——"
"Of course, there should be a little love in books, since there is sometimes a little, I believe, in real life." But she touched this subject with such airy lightness,—just hovering over it for an instant, and then away, like a butterfly not to be caught,—that Penn felt a jealous trouble. "How long," she added immediately, "do you imagine we shall have to stay here?"
"It is impossible to say," replied Penn, turning with reluctance to the more practical topic. "One would think that the government cannot leave us much longer subject to this atrocious tyranny. An army may be already marching to our relief. But it may be weeks, it may be months, and I am not sure," he added seriously, "but it may be years, before Tennessee is relieved."
"Why, that is terrible! Toby says that poor old man, Mr. Ellerton, who assisted you to escape, was caught and hung by some of the soldiers yesterday."
"I have no doubt but it is true. Although he had returned to his home, he was known to be a Unionist, and probably he was suspected of having aided us; in which case not even his white hairs could save him."
"But it is horrible! They have commenced woman-whipping. And Toby says a negro was hung six times a couple of days ago, and afterwards cut to pieces, for saying to another negro he met, 'Good news; Lincoln's army is coming!' What is going to become of us, if relief doesn't arrive soon? O, to look at the beautiful world we are driven from by these wicked, wicked men!"
"And are you so very weary of the cave?"
Penn gave her a look full of electric tenderness, which seemed to say, "Have not I been with you? and am I nothing to you?"
She smiled, and her voice was tremulous as she answered,—
"I wish I could go out into the sunshine again! But I have not been unhappy. Indeed, I think I have been very happy."
There was an indescribable pause; Virginia's eyes modestly veiled, her face suffused with a blissful light, as if her soul saw some soft and exquisite dream; while Penn's bosom swelled with the long undulations of hope and transport. Toby still lingered in the entrance of the cave.
"Toby," said Penn, such a radiance flashing from his brow as the negro had never seen before, "my good Toby,"—and what ineffable human sympathy vibrated in his tones!—"I wish you would go in and tell our friends that the enemy has quite disappeared: will you?"
"Yes, massa!" said Toby, a ray of that happiness penetrating even the old freedman's breast. For such is the beautiful law of our nature, that love cannot be concealed; it cannot be monopolized by one, nor yet by two; but when its divine glow is kindled in any soul, it beams forth from the eyes, it thrills in the tones of the voice, it breathes from all the invisible magnetic pores of being, and sheds sunshine and warmth on all.
Toby went. Then an arm of manly strength, yet of all manly gentleness, stole about the waist of the girl, and drew her softly, close, closer; while something else, impalpable, ravishing, holy, drew her by a still more potent attraction; until, for the first time in her young and pure life, her mouth met another mouth with the soul's virgin kiss. Her lips had kissed many times before, but her soul never. How long it lasted, that sweet perturbation, that fervent experience of a touch, neither, I suppose, ever knew; for at such times a moment is an eternity. As a lightning flash in a dark night reveals, for a dazzling instant, a world concealed before, so the electric interchange of two hearts charged with love's lightning seems to open the very doors of infinity; and it is the glory of heaven that shines upon them.
Not a word was spoken.
Then Penn held Virginia before him, and looked deep into her eyes, and said, with a strange tremor of lip and voice,—using the gentle speech of the Friends, into which old familiar channel his thoughts flowed naturally in moments of strong feeling,—
"Wherever this dear face smiles upon me, there is my sunshine. I must be very selfish; for notwithstanding all the dangers and discomforts by which I see thee and thy father surrounded, the hours we have passed together here have been the happiest of my life. Yea, and suffering and privation would be never anything to me, if I could always have thee with me, Virginia!"
How different, meanwhile, was the scene within the cave! How chafed the fiery Lysander! How spitefully Salina bit her lips ever at sight of him! And these two had once been lovers, and had seen rainbows span their future also! Is it love that unites such, or is it only the yearning for love? For love, the reality, fuses all qualities, and brings into harmony all clashing chords.
Toby entered, the gleam of others' happiness still in his countenance.
"De enemy hab dis'peared; all gone down in de frog."
"The frog, Toby?" said Mr. Villars.
"Yes, sar; right smart frog down 'ar in de volley!"
"He means, a fog in the walley," said Carl.
A COUNCIL OF WAR.
Owing to the disturbances of the night the old clergyman had slept little. He now lay down on the couch, and soon sank into a profound slumber. When he awoke he heard the hum of voices. The cave was filled with armed men.
"It is Mr. Stackridge and his friends," said Virginia. "They have come to hold a council of war; and they look upon you as their grand sachem."
"I have brought them here," said Pomp, "at their request—all except Deslow."
"Where is he?"
"Deslow, I believe, has deserted!" said Stackridge.
"Ah! What makes you think so?"
"Well, I've watched him right close, and I've seen a good deal of what's been working in his mind. He's one o' them fools that believe Slavery is God; and he can't get over it. Pomp, here, saved our lives in the fire the other night; and Deslow couldn't stand it. To owe his life to a runaway slave—that was too dreadful!" said Stackridge with savage sarcasm. "He's a man that would rather be roasted alive, and see his country ruined, I suppose, than do anything that might damage in the least degree his divine institution! There's the difference 'twixt him and me. Sence slavery has made war agin' the Union, and turned us out of our homes, I say, by the Lord! let it go down to hell, as it desarves!"
"You use strong language, neighbor!"
"I do; and it's time, I reckon, when strong language, and strong actions too, are called fur. You hate a man that you've befriended, and that's turned traitor agin' ye, worse'n you hate an open inemy, don't ye? Wal, I've befriended slavery, and it's turned traitor agin' me, and all I hold most sacred in this world, and I'm jest getting my eyes open to it; and so I say, let it go down! I've no patience with such men as Deslow, and I'm glad, on the whole, he's gone. He don't belong with us anyhow. I say, any man that loves any kind of property, or any party, or institution, better than he loves the old Union"—Stackridge said this with tears of passion in his eyes,—"such a man belongs with the rebels, and the sooner we sift 'em out of our ranks the better."
"When did he go?"
"Some of us were out foraging again last night; Withers and Deslow with the rest. Tell what he said to you, Withers."
The group of fugitives had gathered about the bed on which the old clergyman sat. Withers was scraping his long horny nails with a huge jackknife.
"He says to me, says he, 'Withers, we've got inter a bad scrape.' 'How so?' says I; for I thought we war gittin' out of a right bad scrape when we got out of that temp'rary jail. 'The wust hain't happened yet,' says he. 'That's bad,' says I, 'fur it's allus good fur a feller to know the wust has happened.' And so I told him a little story. Says I, 'When I was a little boy 'bout that high, I was helping my daddy one day secure some hay. Wal, it looked like rain, and we put in right smart till the fust sprinkles begun to fall,—great drops, big as ox-eyes,—and they skeert me, for I war awful 'fraid of gittin' wet. So what did I do but run and git under some boards. My daddy war so busy he didn't see me, till bime-by he come that way, rolling up the hay-cocks to kill, and looked, and thar I war under the pile o' boards, curled up like a hedgehog to keep dry. 'Josh,' says he, 'what ye doin' thar? Why ain't ye to work?' ''Fraid o' gittin' wet!' says I. 'Pon that he didn't say a word, but jest come and took me by the collar, and led me to a little run close by, and jest casoused me in the water, head over heels, and then jest pulled me out agin. 'Now,' says he, 'ye can go to work, and you won't be the leastest mite afeard o' gittin' wet. Wal, 'twas about so. I didn't mind the rain, arter that. 'Wal, Deslow,' says I, 'that larnt me a lesson; and ever sence I've always thought 'twas a good thing fur us, when trouble comes, to have the wust happen, and know it's the wust, fur then we'se prepared fur't, and ain't no longer to be skeert by a little shower.' That's what I said to Deslow." And Withers continued scraping his nails.
"Very good philosophy, indeed!" said Mr. Villars. "And what did he reply?"
"He said, when the wust happened to us, we'd find we had no home, no property, and no country left; and fur his part he had been thinking we'd better go and give ourselves up, make peace with the authorities, and take the oath of allegiance. 'Lincoln won't send no army to relieve us yet a-while,' says he, 'and even if he does, you know, victory for the Federals means the death of our institootions! So I see where the shoe pinched with him; and I said, 'If that continners to be your ways of thinkin', I hain't the least objections to partin' comp'ny with ye, as the house dog said to the skunk; only,' says I, 'don't ye go to betrayin' us, if you conclude to go.' Soon arter that we separated, and that's the last any on us have seen of him."
"They've begun to whip women, too," said Stackridge. "But, by right good luck, when this scamp here—" glowering upon Lysander—"sent to have my wife whipped, he got his own mother whipped in her place! He's a connection o' your family, I know, Mr. Villars; but I never spile a story for relation's sake."
"Nor need you, friend Stackridge. Sorry I am for that deluded young man; but he reaps what he has sown, and he has only himself to blame."
"'Twas a regular secesh operation, that of having his own mother strung up," said Captain Grudd. "They are working against their own interests and families without knowing it. When they think they are destroying the Union, they are destroying their own honor and influence; for so it 'ill be sure to turn out."
"It was Liberty they intended to have beaten," said Penn; "but they will find that it is the back of their own mother, Slavery, that receives the rods."
"Just what I meant to say; but it took the professor to put it into the right shape. By the way, neighbors, we owe the professor an apology. Some of us found fault with his views of slavery and secession; but we've all come around to 'em pretty generally, I believe, by this time. Here's my hand, professor, and let me say I think you was right enough in all but one thing—your plaguy non-resistance."
"He has thought better of that," said Mr. Villars, pleasantly.
"Yes, zhentlemen," said Carl, anxious to exonerate his friend, "he has been conwerted."
"We have found that out, to his credit," said Stackridge.
And, one after another, all took Penn cordially by the hand.
"We are all brothers in one cause, OUR COUNTRY," said Penn. Nor did he stop when the hand of the last patriot was shaken; he took the hand of Pomp also. "We are all men in the sight of God!" His heart was full; there was a thrill of fervent emotion in his voice. His calm young face, his firm and finely-cut features, always noticeable for a certain massiveness and strength, were singularly illumined. He went on, the light of the cave-fire throwing its ruddy flash on the group. "We are all His children. He has brought us together here for a purpose. The work to be done is for all men, for humanity: it is God's work. To that we should be willing to give everything—even our lives; even our selfish prejudices, dearer to some than their lives. I believe that upon the success of our cause depends, not the prosperity of any class of men, or of any race of men, only, but of all men, and all races. For America marches in the van of human progress, and if she falters, if she ignobly turns back, woe is to the world! Perhaps you do not see this yet; but never mind. One thing we all see—a path straight before us, our duty to our country. We must put every other consideration aside, forget all minor differences, and unite in this the defence of the nation's life."
An involuntary burst of applause testified how ardently the hearts of the patriots responded to these words. Some wrung Penn's hand again. Pomp meanwhile, erect, and proud as a prince, with his arms folded upon his massive and swelling chest, smiled with deep and quiet satisfaction at the scene. There was another who smiled, too, her face suffused with love and pride ineffable, as her eyes watched the young Quaker, and her soul drank in his words.
"That's the sentiment!" said Stackridge. "And now, what is to be done? We have been disappointed in one thing. Our friends don't join us. One reason is, no doubt, they hain't got arms. But the main reason is, they look upon our cause as desperate. Desperate or not, it can't be helped, as I see. With or without help, we must fight it through, or go back, like that putty-head Deslow, and take the oath of allegiance to the bogus government. Mr. Villars, you're wise, and we want your opinion."
"That, I fear, will be worth little to you!" answered the old man, bowing his head with true humility. "It seems to me that you are not to rely upon any open assistance from your friends. And sorry I am to add, I think you should not rely, either, upon any immediate aid from the government. The government has its hands full. The time is coming when you who have eyes will see the old flag once more floating on the breezes of East Tennessee. But it may be long first. And in the mean time it is your duty to look out for yourselves."
"That is it," said Stackridge. "But how?"
"It seems to me that your retreat cannot remain long concealed. Therefore, this is what I advise. Make your preparations to disperse at any moment. You may be compelled to hide for months in the mountains and woods, hunted continually, and never permitted to sleep in safety twice in the same place. That will be the fate of hundreds. There is but one thing better for you to do. It is this. Force your way over the mountains into Kentucky, join the national army, and hasten its advance."
"And you?" said Captain Grudd.
The old man smiled with beautiful serenity.
"Perhaps I shall have my choice, after all. You remember what that was? To remain in the hands of our enemies. I ought never to have attempted to escape. I cannot help myself; I am only a burden to you. My daughters cannot continue to be with me here in this cave; and, if I am to be separated from them, I may as well be in a confederate prison as elsewhere. If the traitors seek my life, they are welcome to it."
"O, father! what do you say!" exclaimed Virginia, in terror at his words.
"I advise what I feel to be best. I will give myself up to the military authorities. You, and Salina, if she chooses, will, I am certain, be permitted to go to your friends in Ohio. But before I take this step, let all here who have strong arms to lend their country be already on their way over the mountains. Penn and Carl must go with them. Nor do I forget Pomp and Cudjo. They shall go too, and you will protect them."
Penn turned suddenly pale. It was the soundness of the good old man's counsel that terrified him. Separation from Virginia! She to be left at the mercy of the confederates! This was the one thing in the world he had personally to dread.
"It may be good advice," he said. "It is certainly a noble self-sacrifice, Mr. Villars proposes. But I do not believe there is one here who will consent to it. I say, let us keep together. If necessary, we can die together. We cannot separate, if by so doing we must leave him behind."
He spoke with intense feeling, yet his words were but feebly echoed by the patriots. The truth was, they were already convinced that they ought to be making their way out of the state, and had said so among themselves; but, being unwilling to abandon the old minister, and knowing well that he could never think of undertaking the terrible journey they saw before them, hither they had come to hear what he had to suggest.
"What do you think, Pomp?" Penn asked, in despair.
"I think that what Mr. Villars advises these men to do is the best thing."
Penn was stupefied. He saw that he stood alone, opposed to the general opinion. And something within himself said that he was selfish, that he was wrong. He did not venture to glance at Virginia, but bent his eyes downward with a stunned expression at the floor of the cave.
"But as for himself, and us, I am not so sure. There are recesses in this cave that cannot easily be discovered. He shall remain, and we will stay and take care of him, if he will."
These calm words of the negro sounded like a reprieve to Penn's soul. He caught eagerly at the suggestion.
"Yes, if there must be a separation, Pomp is right. If many go, it will be believed that all are gone, and the rest can remain in safety."
"You are all too generous towards me," said the old minister. "But I have nothing more to say. I am very patient. I am willing to accept whatever God sends, and to wait his own blessed time for it. When you, Penn, were sick in my house, and the ruffians were coming to kill you, and I could not determine what to do, the question was decided for me: Providence decided it by taking you, by what seemed a miracle, beyond the reach of all of us. So I believe this question, which troubles us now, will be decided for us soon. Something is to happen that will show us plainly what must be done."
So it was: something was indeed to happen, sooner even than he supposed.
THE WONDERS OF THE CAVE.
The other inmates of the cave had breakfasted whilst the old clergyman was asleep. Toby was now occupied in preparing his dish of coffee, and Mr. Villars invited the patriots to remain and take a cup with him.
Penn noticed Cudjo's discontent at seeing Toby usurp his function. He remembered also a rare pleasure he had been promising himself whenever he should find Cudjo at leisure and circumstances favorable for his purpose.
"Now is our time," he whispered Virginia. "Will Salina come too?"
"What to do?" Salina asked.
"To explore the cave," said Penn, courteously, yet trembling lest the invitation should be accepted.
She excused herself: she was feeling extremely fatigued; much to Penn's relief—that is to say, regret, as he hypocritically gave her to understand.
She smiled: though she had declined, Virginia was going, and she thought he looked consoled.
"What does anybody care for me?" she said bitterly to herself.
It was to save her the pain of a slight that Penn, always too honest to resort to dissimulation from selfish motives, had assumed towards her a regard he did not feel. But the little artifice failed. She saw she was not wanted, and was jealous—angry with him, with Virginia, with herself. For thus it is with the discontented and envious. They cannot endure to see others happy without them. They gladly make the most of a slight, pressing it like a thistle to the breast, and embracing it all the more fiercely as it pierces and wounds. But he who has humility and love in his heart says consolingly at such times, "If they can be happy without me, why, Heaven be thanked! If I am neglected, then I must draw upon the infinite resources within myself. And if I am unloved, whose fault is it but my own? I will cultivate that sweetness of soul, the grace, and goodness, and affection, which shall compel love!"
Something like this Carl found occasion to say to himself; for if you think he saw the master he loved, and her who was dear to him as ever sister was to younger brother, depart with Cudjo and the torches, without longing to go with them and share their pleasure, you know not the heart of the boy. He was almost choking with tears as he saw the torches go out of sight. But just as he had arrived at this philosophical conclusion, O joy! what did he see? Penn returning! Yes, and hastening straight to him! "Carl, why don't you come too?"
There was no mistaking the sincerity of Penn's frank, animated face. Again the tears came into Carl's eyes; but this time they were tears of gratitude.
"Vould you really be pleased to have me?"
"Certainly, Carl! Virginia and I both spoke of it, and wondered why we had not thought to ask you before."
"Then I vill get my wery goot friend the captain to excuse me. I sushpect he vill be wexed to part from me; but I shall take care that the ties that bind us shall not be proken."
In pursuance of this friendly design, Carl produced a good strong cord which he had found in the cave. This he attached to the handcuffs by a knot in the middle; then, carrying the two ends in opposite directions around one of the giant's stools, he fastened them securely on the side farthest from the prisoner. This done, he gave the pistol to Toby, and invested him with the important and highly gratifying office of guarding "dat Shprowl."
"If you see him too much unhappy for my absence, and trying for some diwersion by making himself free," said Carl, instructing him in the use of the weapon, "you shall shust cock it so,—present it at his head or stomach, vichever is conwenient—so,—then pull the trigger as you please, till he is vunce more quiet. That is all. Now I shall say goot pie to him till I come pack."
"Why don't you kill and eat him?" asked Withers, watching the boy's operations with humorous enjoyment.
"Him?" said Carl, dryly. "Thank ye, sir; I am not fond of weal."
As Pomp and the patriots remained in the cave, it was not anticipated that Lysander would give any trouble.
With Carl at his side, Penn bore the torch above his head, and plunged into the darkness, which seemed to retreat before them only to reappear behind, surrounding and pursuing their little circle of light as it advanced.
A gallery, tortuous, lofty, sculptured by the gnomes into grotesque and astonishing forms, led from the inhabited vestibule to the wonders beyond. They had gone but a few rods when they saw a faint glimmer before them, which increased to a mild yellowish radiance flickering on the walls. It was the light of Cudjo's torch.
They found Cudjo and Virginia waiting for them at the entrance of a long and spacious hall, whose floor was heaped with fragments of rock, some of huge size, which had evidently fallen from the roof.
"De cave whar us lives, des' like dis yer when me find um in de fust place," the negro was saying to Virginia. "Right smart stuns dar."
"What did you do with them?"
"Tuk all me could tote to make your little dressum-room wiv. Lef' de big 'uns fur cheers when me hab comp'ny, hiah yah! When Pomp come, him help me place 'em around scrumptious like. Pomp bery strong—lif' like you neber see!"
Climbing over the stones, they reached, at the farther end of the hall, an abrupt termination of the floor. A black abyss yawned beyond. In its invisible depths the moan of waters could be heard. Virginia, who had been thrilled with wonder and fear, standing in the hall of the stones, and thinking of those crushing masses showered from the roof, now found it impossible not to yield to the terrors of her excited imagination.
"I cannot go any farther!" she said, recoiling from the gulf, and drawing Penn back from it.
"Come right 'long!" cried Cudjo; "no trouble, missis!"
"See, he has piled stones in here and made some very good and safe stairs. Take my torch, Carl, and follow; Cudjo will go before with his. Now, one step at a time. I will not let thee fall."
Thus assured, she ventured to make the descent. A strong arm was about her waist; a strong and supporting spirit was at her side; and from that moment she felt no fear.
The limestone, out of which the cave was formed, lay in nearly horizontal strata; and, at the bottom of Cudjo's stairs, they came upon another level floor. It was smooth and free from rubbish. A gray vault glimmered above their heads in the torchlight. The walls showed strange and grotesque forms in bas-relief, similar to those of the first gallery: here a couchant lion, so distinctly outlined that it seemed as if it must have been chiselled by human art; an Indian sitting in a posture of woe, with his face buried in his hands; an Arctic hunter wrestling with a polar bear; the head of a turbaned Turk; and, most wonderful of all, the semblance of a vine (Penn named it "Jonah's gourd"), which spread its massive branches on the wall, and, climbing under the arched roof, hung its heavy fruit above their heads.
Close by "Jonah's gourd" a little stream gushed from the side of the rock, and fell into a fathomless well. The torches were held over it, and the visitors looked down. Solid darkness was below. Carl took from his pocket a stone.
"It is the same," he said, "that Mishter Sprowl pumped his head against. I thought I should find some use for it; and now let's see."
He dropped it into the well. It sunk without a sound, the noise of its distant fall being lost in the solemn and profound murmur of the descending water.
"What make de cave, anyhow?" asked Cudjo.
"The wery question I vas going to ask," said Carl.
"It will take but a few words to tell you all I know about it," said Penn. "Water containing carbonic acid gas has the quality of dissolving such rock as this part of the mountain is made of. It is limestone; and the water, working its way through it, dissolves it as it would sugar, only very slowly. Do you understand?"
"O, yes, massa! de carbunkum asses tote it away!"
Penn smiled, and continued his explanation, addressing himself to Carl.
"So, little by little, the interior of the rock is worn, until these great cavities are formed."
"But what comes o' de rock?" cried Cudjo; "dat's de question!"
"What becomes of the sugar that dissolves in your coffee?"
"Soaks up, I reckon; so ye can't see it widout it settles."
"Just so with the limestone, Cudjo. It soaks up, as you say. And see!—I will show you where a little of it has settled. Notice this long white spear hanging from the roof."
"Dat? Dat ar a stun icicle. Me broke de pint off oncet, but 'pears like it growed agin. Times de water draps from it right smart."
"A good idea—a stone icicle! It grew as an icicle grows downward from the eaves. It was formed by the particles of lime in the water, which have collected there and hardened into what is called stalactite. These curious smooth white folds of stone under it, which look so much like a cushion, were formed by the water as it dropped. This is called stalagmite."
"Heap o' dem 'ar sticktights furder 'long hyar," observed Cudjo, anxious to be showing the wonders.
They came into a vast chamber, from the floor of which rose against the darkness columns resembling a grove of petrified forest trees. The flaming torches, raised aloft in the midst of them, revealed, supported by them, a wonderful gothic roof, with cornice, and frieze, and groined arches, like the interior of a cathedral. A very distinct fresco could also be seen, formed by mineral incrustations, on the ceiling and walls. On a cloudy background could be traced forms of men and beasts, of forests and flowers, armies, castles, and ships, not sculptured like the figures before described, but designed by the subtile pencil of some sprite, who, Virginia suggested, must have been the subterranean brother of the Frost.
"How wonderful!" she said. "And is it not strange how Nature copies herself, reproducing silently here in the dark the very same forms we find in the world above! Here is a rose, perfect!"
"With petals of pure white gypsum," said Penn.
Whilst they were talking, Cudjo passed on. They followed a little distance, then halted. The light of his torch had gone out in the blackness, and the sound of his footsteps had died away. Carl remained with the other torch; and there they stood together, without speaking, in the midst of immense darkness ingulfing their little isle of light, and silence the most intense.
Suddenly they heard a voice far off, singing; then two, then three voices; then a chorus filling the heart of the mountain with a strange spiritual melody. Virginia was enraptured, and Carl amazed.
Penn, who had known what was coming, looked upon them with pride and delight. At length the music, growing faint and fainter, melted and was lost in the mysterious vaults through which it had seemed to wander and soar away.
It was a minute after all was still before either spoke.
"Certainly," Virginia exclaimed, "if I had not heard of a similar effect produced in the Mammoth Cave, I should never have believed that marvellous chorus was sung by a single voice!"
"A single woice!" repeated Carl, incredulous. "There vas more as a dozen woices!"
"Right, Carl!" laughed Penn. "The first was Cudjo's; and all the rest were those, of the nymph Echo and her companions."
They continued their course through the halls of the echoes, and soon came to an arched passage, at the entrance of which Penn paused and placed the torch in a niche. A projection of the rock prevented the light from shining before them, yet their way was softly illumined from beyond, as by a dim phosphorescence. They advanced, and in a moment their eyes, grown accustomed to the obscurity, came upon a scene of surprising and magical beauty.
"The Grotto of Undine," said Penn.
It was, to all appearances, a nearly spherical concavity, some thirty yards in length, and perhaps twenty in perpendicular diameter. Carl's torch was concealed in the niche, and Cudjo's was nowhere visible; yet the whole interior was luminous with a dim and silvery halo. A narrow corridor ran round the sides, and resembled a dark ring swimming in nebulous light, midway between the upper and nether hemispheres of the wondrous hollow globe. Within this horizontal rim, floor there was none; and they stood upon its brink; and, looking up, they saw the marvellous vault all sparkling with stars and beaming with pale, pendent, taper, crystalline flames, noiseless and still; and, looking down, beheld beneath their feet, and shining with a yet more soft and dreamy lustre, the perfect counterpart of the vault above.
Penn held Virginia upon the verge. A bewildering ecstasy captivated her reason as she gazed. They seemed to be really in the grotto of some nymph who had fled the instant she saw her privacy invaded, or veiled the immortal mystery and loveliness of her charms in some mesh of the glimmering nimbus that baffled and entangled the sight. Save one or two stifled cries of rapture from Virginia and Carl, not a syllable was uttered: perfect stillness prevailed, until Penn said, in a whisper,—
"Wouldst thou like to see the face of Undine? Bend forward. Do not fear: I hold thee!"
By gentle compulsion he induced her to comply. She bent over the brink, and looked down, when, lo! out of the hazy effulgence beneath, emerged a face looking up at her—a face dimly seen, yet full of vague wonder and surprise—a face of unrivalled sweetness and beauty, Penn thought. What did Virginia think?—for it was the reflection of her own.
"O, Penn! how it startled me!"
"But isn't she a Grace? Isn't she loveliness itself?"
"I hope you think so!" she whispered, with arch frankness, a sweet coquettish confidence ravishing to his soul.
"I do!" And in the privacy of telling her so, his lips just brushed her ear. Did you ever, in whispering some secret trifle, some all-important, heavenly nothing, just brush the dearest little ear in the world with your lips? or, in listening to the syllables of divine nonsense, feel the warm breath and light touch of the magnetic thrilling mouth? Then you know something of what Penn and Virginia experienced for a brief moment in the Grotto of Undine.
Just then a duplicate glow, like a double sunrise, one part above and the other below the horizon, appeared at the farther end of the grotto. It increased, until they saw come forth from behind an upright rock an upright torch; and at the same time, from behind a suspended rock beneath, an inverted torch. Immediately after two Cudjoes came in sight; one standing erect on the rock above, and the other standing upside down on—or rather under—the rock below.
"Take your torch, Carl," said Penn, "and go around and meet him."
The boy returned to the niche; and presently two Carls, with two torches, were seen moving around the rim of the corridor, one upright above, the other walking miraculously, head downwards, below.
The two Carls had not reached the rock, when the two Cudjoes stooped, and took up each a stone and threw them. One fell upward (so to speak), as the other fell downward: they met in the centre: there was a strange clash, which echoed through the hollow halls; and in a moment the entire nether hemisphere of the enchanted grotto was shattered into numberless flashing and undulating fragments.
Virginia had already perceived that the appearance of a concave sphere was an illusion produced by the ceiling lighted by Cudjo's hidden torch, and mirrored in a floor of glassy water. Yet she was entirely unprepared for this astonishing result; and at sight of the Cudjo beneath instantaneously annihilated by the plashing of a stone, she started back with a scream. Fortunately, Penn still held her close, no doubt in a fit of abstraction, forgetting that his arms were no longer necessary to prevent her falling, as when she leaned to look at the shadowy Undine.
"All those stalactites," said he, as the two torches were held towards the roof, "are of the most beautiful crystalline structure; and the spaces between are all studded with brilliant spars. The first time I was here, it was April; the mountain springs were full, and every one of these stone icicles was dripping with water that percolated through the strata above. The effect was almost as surprising as what we saw before Cudjo cast the stone. The surface of the pool seemed all leaping and alive with perpetual showers of dancing pearls. But now the springs are low, or the water has found another channel. Yet this basin is always full."
"Why, so it is! I had no idea the water was so near!" And Virginia, stooping, dipped her hand.
The mirrored crystals were still coruscating and waving in the ripples, as they passed around the rim of rock, and followed Cudjo into a scarcely less beautiful chamber beyond.
Here was no water; but in its place was a floor of alabaster, from which arose a great variety of pure white stalagmites, to meet each its twin stalactite pendent from above. In some cases they did actually meet and grow together in perfect pillars, reaching from floor to roof.
"The stalagmites are very beautiful," said Virginia; "but the stalactites are still more beautiful."
"I think," said Penn, "there is a moral truth symbolized by them. As the rock above gives forth its streaming life, it benefits and beautifies the rock below, while at the same time it adorns still more richly its own beautiful breast. So it always is with Charity: it blesses him that receives, but it blesses far more richly him that gives."
"O, must we pass on?" said Virginia, casting longing eyes towards all those lovely forms.
"We are to return the same way," replied Penn. "But now Cudjo seems to be in a hurry."
"Dat's de last ob de sticktights," cried the black, standing at the end of the colonnade, and waving his torch above his head. "Now we's comin' to de run."
"Come," said Penn, "and I will show thee what Hood must have meant by the 'dark arch of the black flowing river.'"
A stupendous cavern of seemingly endless extent opened before them. Cudjo ran on ahead, shouting wildly under the hollow, reverberating dome, and waving his torch, which soon appeared far off, like a flaming star amid a night of darkness. Then there were two stars, which separated, and, standing one above the other, remained stationary.
"Listen!" said Penn. And they heard the liquid murmur of flowing water.
He took the torch from Carl, and advancing towards the right wall of the cavern, showed, flowing out of it, through a black, arched opening, a river of inky blackness. It rolled, with scarce a ripple, slow, and solemn, and still, out of that impenetrable mystery, and swept along between the wall on one side and a rocky bank on the other. By this bank they followed it, until they came to a natural bridge, formed by a limestone cliff, through which it had worn its channel, and under which it disappeared. On this bridge they found Cudjo perched above the water with his torch.
They passed the bridge without crossing,—for the farther end abutted high upon the cavern wall,—and found the river again flowing out on the lower side. Few words were spoken. The vastness of the cave, the darkness, the mystery, the inky and solemn stream pursuing its noiseless course, impressed them all. Suddenly Virginia exclaimed,—
"Light ahead!" though Carl was with her, and Cudjo now walked behind.
It was a gray glimmer, which rapidly grew to daylight as they advanced.
"It is the chasm, or sink, where the roof of the cave has fallen in," said Penn.
While he spoke, a muffled rustling of wings was heard above their heads. They looked up, and saw numbers of large black bats, startled by the torches, darting hither and thither under the dismal vault. Birds, too, flew out from their hiding-places as they advanced, and flapped and screamed in the awful gloom.
To save the torches for their return, Cudjo now extinguished them. They walked in the brightening twilight along the bank of the stream, and found, to the surprise and delight of Virginia, some delicate ferns and pale green shrubs growing in the crevices of the rock. Vegetation increased as they proceeded, until they arrived at the sink, and saw before them steep banks covered with vines, thickets, and forest trees.
The river, whose former course had evidently been stopped by the falling in of the forest, here made a curve to the right around the banks, and half disappeared in a channel it had hollowed for itself under the cliff. Here they left it, and climbed to the open day.
"How strangely yellow the sunshine looks!" said Virginia. "It seems as though I had colored glasses on. And how sultry the air!"
She looked up at the towering rocks that walled the chasm, and at the trees upon whose roots she stood, and whose tops waved in the summer breeze and sunshine, at the level of the mountain slope so far above. She could also see, on the summit of the cliffs, the charred skeletons of trees the late fire had destroyed.
"It was here," said Penn, "that Stackridge and his friends escaped. This leaning tree with its low branches forms a sort of ladder to the limbs of that larger one; and by these it is easy to climb——"
As he was speaking, all eyes were turned upwards; when suddenly Cudjo uttered a warning whistle, and dropped flat upon the ground.
"A man!" said Carl, crouching at the foot of the tree.
Penn did not fall or crouch, nor did Virginia scream, although, looking up through the scant leafage, they saw, standing on the cliff, and looking down straight at them, at the same time waving his hand exultantly, one whom they well knew—their enemy, Silas Ropes.
At the wave of the lieutenant's hand, a squad of soldiers rushed to the spot. In a minute their muskets were pointed downwards, and aimed. "Fly!" said Penn, thrusting Virginia from him. "Carl, take her away!"
The boy drew her back down the rocks, following Cudjo, who was descending on all fours, like an ape. She turned her face in terror to look after Penn. There he stood, where she had left him, intrepid, his fine head uncovered, looking steadfastly up at the men on the cliff, and waving his hat, defiantly. At once she recognized his noble self-sacrifice. It was his object to attract their fire, and so shield her from the bullets as she fled.
She struggled from Carl's grasp. "O, Penn," she cried, extending her hands beseechingly, and starting to return to him.
"Fire!" shouted Silas Ropes.
Crack! went a gun, immediately succeeded by an irregular volley, like a string of exploding fire-crackers. Penn, expecting death, saw first the rapid flashes, then the soldiers half concealed by the smoke of their own guns. The smoke cleared, and there he still stood, smiling—for Virginia was unhurt.
"Your practice is very poor!" he shouted up at the soldiers; and, putting on his hat, he walked calmly away.
The bullets had struck the trees and flattened on the stones all around him; but he was untouched. And before the rebels could reload their pieces, he was safe with his companions in the cavern.
He found Cudjo hastily relighting his torch. Virginia was sitting on a stone where Carl had placed her; powerless with the reaction of fear; her countenance, white as that of a snow-image in the gloom, turned upon Penn as if she knew not whether it was really he, or his apparition. She did not rise to meet him. She could not speak. Her eyes were as the eyes of one that beholds a miracle of God's mercy.
"Is no guns here?" cried Carl.
"De men hab all urn's guns,"' said Cudjo, over his kindlings. "Me gwine fotch 'em!" And, his torch lighted, he darted away. In a minute he was out of sight and hearing; only the flame he bore could be seen dancing like an ignis fatuus in the darkness of the cavern.
"O, if I had only that pistol, Carl!" said Penn. "I could manage to defend the chasm with it until they come. But wishes won't help us. Virginia, Deslow has turned traitor! He must have known his friends were going this morning to visit thy father, or else he could not so well have chosen his time for betraying them." He lighted his torch, and lifted Virginia to her feet. "Have no fear. Even if the rebels get possession here, the subterranean passages can be held by a dozen men against a hundred."
"I am not afraid now; I am quite strong."
"That is well. Carl, take the light and go with her."
"And vat shall you do?"
"I will stay and watch the movements of the soldiers."
"Wery goot. But I have vun little obshection."
"What is it?"
"You know the vay petter, and you vill take her safer as I can. But my eyes is wery wigorous, and I vill engage to vatch the cusses myself."
"Thou art right, my Carl!" said Penn, who indeed felt that it was for him, and for no other, to convey Virginia back to her father and safety.
He crept upon the rocks, and took a last observation of the cliffs. Not a soldier was in sight. But that fact did not delight him much.
"They fear a possible shot or two. No doubt they are making preparations, and when all is ready they will descend. I only hope they will delay long enough! Farewell, Carl!"
"Goot pie, Penn! Goot pie, Wirginie!" cried Carl, with stout heart and cheery voice. And as he saw them depart,—Penn's arm supporting her,—listened for the last murmur of their voices, and watched for the last glimmer of the torch as it was swallowed by the darkness, and he was left alone, he continued to smile grimly; but his eyes were dim.
"They are wery happy together! And I susphect the time vill come ven he vill marry her; and then they vill neither of 'em care much for me. Veil, I shall love 'em, and wish 'em happy all the same!"
With which thought he smiled still more resolutely than before, and squeezed the tears from his eyes very tenderly, in order, probably, to keep those useful organs as "wigorous" as possible for the work before him.
* * * * *
Handcuffed and securely bound to the rock, that modern Prometheus, Captain Lysander Sprowl, like his mythical prototype, felt the vulture's beak in his vitals. Chagrin devoured his liver. An overflow of southern bile was the result, and he turned yellow to the whites of his eyes.
Old Toby noticed the phenomenon. Poor old Toby, with that foolish head and large tropical heart of his, knew no better than to feel a movement of compassion.
"Kin uh do any ting fur ye, sar?"
The unfeigned sympathy of the question gave the wily Prometheus his cue. He uttered a feeble moan, and studied to look as much sicker than he was as possible.
Pity at the sight made the old negro forget much which a white man would have been apt to remember—the disgrace this wretch had brought upon "the family;" and the recent cruel whipping, from which his own back was still sore.
"Ye pooty sick, sar?"
"Water!" gasped Lysander.
The patriots had finished their coffee and taken their guns. Toby ran to them.
"Some on ye be so good as keep an eye skinned on de prisoner, while I's gittin' him a drink!"
He hastened with the gourd to a dark interior niche where a little trickling spring dripped, drop by drop, into a basin hollowed in the rocky floor. As he bore it, cool and brimming, to his captive-patient, Withers said,—
"I don't keer! it's a sight to make most white folks ashamed of their Christianity, to see that old nigger waiting on that rascal, 'fore his own back has done smarting!"
"If, as I believe," said Mr. Villars, "men stand approved before God, not for their pride of intellect or of birth, but for the love that is in their hearts, who can doubt but there will be higher seats in heaven for many a poor black man than for their haughty masters?"
"According to that," replied Withers, "maybe some besides the haughty masters will be a little astonished if they ever git into heaven—nigger-haters that won't set in a car, or a meeting-house, or to see a theatre-play, if there's a nigger allowed the same privilege! Now I never was any thing of an emancipationist; but by George! if there's anything I detest, it's this etarnal and unreasonable prejudice agin' niggers! How do you account for it, Mr. Villars?"
"Prejudice," said the old man, "is always a mark of narrowness and ignorance. You might almost, I think, decide the question of a man's Christianity by his answer to this: 'What is your feeling towards the negro?' The larger his heart and mind, the more compassionate and generous will be his views. But where you find most bigotry and ignorance, there you will find the negro hated most violently. I think there are men in the free states whose sins of prejudice and blind passion against the unhappy race are greater than those of the slaveholders themselves."
"Our interest is in our property—that's nat'ral; but what possesses them to want to see the nigger's face held tight to the grindstone, and never let up?" said Withers. "Their howl now is, 'Put down the rebellion! but don't tech slavery, and don't bring in the nigger!' As if, arter dogs had been killing my sheep, you should preach to me, 'Save your sheep, neighbor, but don't agitate the dog question! You mustn't tech the dogs!' I say, if the dogs begin the trouble, they must take the consequences, even if my dog's one."
"They maintain," said Grudd, "that, no matter what slavery may have done, there is no power in the constitution to destroy it."
"I am reminded of a story my daughter Virginia was reading to me not long ago,—how the great polar bear is sometimes killed. The hunter has a spear, near the pointed end of which is securely fastened a strong cross-piece. The bear, you know, is aggressive; he advances, meets the levelled shaft, seizes the cross-piece with his powerful arms, and with a growl of rage hugs the spear-head into his heart. Now, slavery is just such another great, stupid, ferocious monster. The constitution is the spear of Liberty. The cross-piece, if you like, is the republican policy which has been nailed to it, and which has given the bear a hold upon it. He is hugging it into his heart. He is destroying himself."
The story was scarcely ended when Cudjo leaped into the circle, crying,—
"De sogers! de sogers!"
"Where?" said Pomp, instinctively springing to his rifle.
"In de sink! Dey fire onto we and de young lady!"
"Any one hurt?"
"No. Massa Hapgood cotch de bullets in him's hat!" for this was the impression the negro had brought away with him. "Hull passel sogers! Sile Ropes,—seed him fust ob all!"
It was some moments before the patriots fully comprehended this alarming intelligence. But Pomp understood it instantly.
"Gentlemen, will you fight? Your side of the house is attacked!"
There was a moment's confusion. Then those who had not already taken their guns, sprang to them. They had brought lanterns, which were now burning. They plunged into the gallery, following Pomp. Cudjo ran for his sword, drew it from the scabbard, and ran yelling after them.
The sudden tumult died in the depths of the cavern; and all was still again before those left behind had recovered from their astonishment.
There was one whose astonishment was largely mixed with joy. A moment since he was lying like a man near the last gasp; but now he started up, singularly forgetful of his dying condition, until reminded of it by feeling the restraint of the rope and seeing Toby. Lysander sank back with a groan.
"'Pears like you's a little more chirk," said Toby.
"My head! my head!" said Lysander. "My skull is fractured. Can't you loose the rope a little? The strain on my wrists is—" ending the sentence with a faint moan.
Had Toby forgotten the strain on his wrists, and the anguish of the thumbs, when this same cruel Lysander had him strung up?
"Bery sorry, 'deed, sar! But I can't unloosen de rope fur ye."
And, full of pity as he was, the old negro resolutely remained faithful to his charge. Sprowl tried complaints, coaxing, promises, but in vain.
"Well, then," said he, "I have only one request to make. Let me see my wife, and ask her forgiveness before I die."
"Dat am bery reason'ble; I'll speak to her, sar." And, without losing sight of his prisoner, Toby went to Cudjo's pantry, now Virginia's dressing-room, into which Salina had retreated, and notified her of the dying request.
Salina was in one of her most discontented moods. What had she fled to the mountain for? she angrily asked herself. After the first gush of grateful emotion on meeting her father and sister, she had begun quickly to see that she was not wanted there. Then she looked around despairingly on the dismal accommodations of the cave. She had not that sustaining affection, that nobleness of purpose, which enabled her father and sister to endure so cheerfully all the hardships of their present situation. The rude, coarse life up there, the inconveniences, the miseries, which provoked only smiles of patience from them, filled her with disgust and spleen.
But there was one sorer sight to those irritated eyes than all else they saw—her captive husband. She could not forget that he was her husband; and, whether she loved or hated him, she could not bear to witness his degradation. Yet she could not keep her eyes off of him; and so she had shut herself up.
"He wishes to speak with me? To ask my forgiveness? Well! he shall have a chance!"
She went and stood over the prisoner, looking down upon him coldly, but with compressed lips.
"Well, what do you want of me?"
Sprowl made a motion for Toby to retire. Humbly the old negro obeyed, feeling that he ought not to intrude upon the interview; yet keeping his eye still on the prisoner, and his hand on the pistol.
"Sal,"—in a low voice, looking up at her, and showing his manacled hands,—"are you pleased to see me in this condition?"
"I'd rather see you dead! If I were you, I'd kill myself!"
"There's a knife on the table behind you. Give it to me, free my hands, and you won't have to repeat your advice."
She merely glanced over her shoulder at the knife, then bent her scowling looks once more on him.
"A captain in the confederate army! outwitted and taken prisoner by a boy! kept a prisoner by an old negro! This, then, is the military glory you bragged of in advance! And I was going to be so proud of being your wife! Well, I am proud!"
There was gall in her words. They made Lysander writhe.
"Bad luck will happen, you know. Once out of this scrape, you'll see what I'll do! Come, Sal, now be good to me."
"Good to you! I've tried that, and what did I get for it?"
"I own I've given you good cause to hate me. I'm sorry for it. The truth is, we never understood each other, Sal. You was always quick and sharp yourself; you'll confess that. You know how easy it is to irritate me; and I'm a devil when in a passion. But all that's past. Hate me, if you will—I deserve it. But you don't want to see me eternally disgraced, I know."
She laughed disdainfully. "If you will disgrace yourself, how can I help it?"
"The other end of the cave is attacked, and it is sure to be carried. I shall soon be in the hands of my own men. If I don't succeed in doing something for myself first, it'll be impossible for me to regain the position I've lost."
"Well, do something for yourself! What hinders you?"
"This cursed rope! I wouldn't mind the handcuffs if the rope was away. Just a touch with that knife—that's all, Sal."
"Yes! and then what would you do?"
"And lose no time in sending your men to attack this end of the cave, too! O, I know you!"
"I swear to you, Sal! I never will take advantage of it in that way, if you will do me just this little favor. It will be worth my life to me; and it shall cost you nothing, nor your friends."
"Hush! I know too well what your promises amount to. How can I depend even upon your oath? There's no truth or honor in you!"
"Well?" said Lysander, despairingly.
"Well, I am going to help you, for all that. Only it must not appear as if I did it. And you shall keep your oath,—or one of us shall die for it! Now be still!"
She walked back past the block that served as a table, and, when between it and Toby, quietly took the knife from it, concealing it in her sleeve.
"Don't come for me to hear any more dying requests," she said to the old negro, with a sneer. "Your prisoner will survive. Only give him a little coffee, if there is any. Here is some: I will wait upon him."
And, carrying the coffee, she dropped the knife at Lysander's side.
Five minutes later Penn and Virginia arrived. Penn ran eagerly for his musket. At the same time, looking about the cave, he was surprised to see only the old clergyman sitting by the fire, and Prometheus reclining by his rock.
"Where is Salina? Where is Toby?"
"Toby has just left his charge to see what discovery Salina has made outside. She went out previously and thought she saw soldiers."
At that moment Toby came running in.
"Dar's some men way down by the ravine! O, sar! I's bery glad you's come, sar!"
Having announced the discovery, and greeted Penn and Virginia, he went to look at his prisoner. He had been absent from him but a minute: he found him lying as he had left him, and did not reflect, simple old soul, how much may be secretly accomplished by a desperate villain in that brief space of time.
Penn took Pomp's glass, climbed along the rocky shelf, peered over the thickets, and saw on the bank of the ravine, where Salina pointed them out to him, several men. They were some distance below Gad's Leap (as he named the place where the spy met his death), and seemed to be occupied in extinguishing a fire. He levelled the glass. The recent burning of the trees and undergrowth had cleared the field for its operation. His eye sparkled as he lowered it.
"I recognize one of our friends in a new uniform!"—handing the glass to Salina.
Returning to the cave, he added, in Virginia's ear,—
The bright young brow contracted: "Not coming here?"
"I trust not. Yet his proximity means mischief. Pomp will be interested!"