“Come,” went on Dunwody, “let’s be frank about it. You may trust me, of course. But—neither sister, wife, nor servant—could you blame any man, especially any man who had a direct message like this, for wanting, or, say, even demanding a meeting? Haven’t I the right? Come, now!”
Carlisle made no immediate answer, and was about to turn on his heel, finding it hard to restrain himself. He paused, however.
“Very good, then. To show how little you know me, and how much you wrong both this lady and myself, you shall meet her, as you say. Not that you have earned the right.”
The Mount Vernon, favored by a good stage of water, soon cleared the narrow Monongahela channel, passed the confluence, and headed down under full steam, all things promising well for a speedy and pleasant run. The sky was blue and cloudless, and the air fresh with the tang of coming autumn. Especially beautiful were the shores which they now were skirting. The hues of autumn had been shaken down over mile after mile of wide forest which appeared in a panorama of russet and gold and red, to grow the more resplendent when they should arrive opposite the high bluffs which line the stream almost to the town of Wheeling.
Below these upper reaches, then the least settled and wildest portion of the country along the Ohio, the river flattened and widened, the current becoming more gentle, and the shores, though not yet wholly cleared of their forests, presenting here and there scenes of rural rather than of savage beauty. Civilization had not as yet taken full hold along this rich valley. The old town of Marietta, the cities of Louisville and Cincinnati, the villages huddled at mouths of such rivers as came down from the Virginia hills, or the larger settlements marking points near the debouchments of slower streams like the Muskingum and Wabash, which crossed the flatter lands beyond, made the chief points of traffic and of interest in those days of west bound travel.
On the upper deck or along the rails of the lower deck, many passengers were gazing out at the varying pictures of the passing shores. Not so the young officer, erstwhile accosted as jailer of a woman, later hinted to be something else than jailer. With eyes cast down, he spent most of his time pacing up and down alone. Yet it was not an irresolute soul which reposed beneath the half-frigid exterior. He presently arrived upon a plan of action.
The public, too, had its rights, he concluded, and the woman as a woman had her rights also to her good fame. He must not harm her name. Best then, to disarm suspicion by playing the game wholly in the open. The midday meal now being announced by loud proclamation of the boat’s gong, he turned, and soon rapped at the door of room nineteen.