[Illustration: “TURNED TO HER DOMESTIC DUTIES.”]
So, early in a morning as beautiful as the preceding one, mounted on her own stanch mare Maid Marion, she ambled down the green over-hung forest-road, in the vista of which she had watched her husband disappear the day before; thinking about what she had to buy, and thinking, no doubt, much more, as brides will, of the absent lord and master—as brides of those days loved to consider and denominate their husbands.
Coming into the little town, the freshly painted, swinging sign-board of the new tavern, “The Honest Georgian,” as usual was the thing to catch her eye; but the instant after what should she see but Black Beetle hitched to the rack under the tree that shadowed the hostelry!
It was not decorous; but she was young, and the day of her first separation from her husband had been so long; and was he not also, against the firmest of resolutions and plans, hastening back to her, the separation being too long for him also?
Slipping her foot from the stirrup, she jumped to the ground, and ran into the tavern. There he stood calling hastily for a drink; and her heart more than her eyes took in his, to her, consecrated signalment—the riding-boots, short clothes, blue coat, cocked hat, ruffles. She crept up behind to surprise him, her face, with its delight and smiles, beyond her control. She crept, until she saw his watch-fob dangling against the counter, and then her heart made a call. He turned. He was not her husband! Another man was in her husband’s clothes, a man with a villainous countenance! With a scream she gave the alarm. The stranger turned, dropped his drink, bounded to the door and out, leaped to the back of Beetle, gave rein and spur, and the black horse made good his reputation. In a second all was hue-and-cry and pursuit. While men and horses made, for all they were worth, down the road after Beetle, she on Maid Marion galloped for her life in the opposite direction, the direction of the court town whither her husband had journeyed. The mare’s hide made acquaintance with the whip that day if never before, for not even the willing Maid Marion could keep pace with the apprehensions on her back.
Scouring with her eyes the highway ahead of her, shooting hawk’s glances into the forest on each side of her, the wife rode through the distance all, all day, praying that the day might be long enough, might equal the distance. The sun set, and night began to fall; but she and Maid Marion were none the less fresh, except in the heart.
The moon rose straight before them down the road, lighting it and them through the threatened obscurity. And so they came to trampled earth and torn grass, and so she uncovered concealed footsteps, and so, creeping on her hands and knees, she followed traces of blood, through thicket and glade, into the deep forest, to a hastily piled hillock of earth, gravel, and leaves. Burrowing with her hands, she came