“There’s a French girl along with this prisoner of mine,” said he. “Just take them both along together. I reckon the French girl won’t make any disturbance—it’s the other—the lady—her mistress. She’s apt to—to ‘fomint’ trouble. Handle her gently as you can. You’ll have to have help. The captain will not interfere. You just substitute my prisoner for yours yonder at Cairo—I’ll show you where she is when the time comes. Once you have her aboard my boat for St. Genevieve, you can come back and take care of your own prisoners here. There may be another eagle or so in it. I am not asking questions and want none asked. Do your work, that’s all.”
“You don’t need to be a-skeered but what I’ll do the work, Colonel,” smiled Wilson grimly. “I’ve had a heap o’ trouble the last week, and I’m about tired. I’ll not stand no foolishness.”
Had any friend seen Warville Dunwody that night, he must have pronounced him ten years older than when the Mount Vernon had begun her voyage.
THE SHADOW CABINET
“All very well, gentlemen! All very well!” repeated the man who sat at the head of the table. “I do not deny anything you say. None the less, the question remains, what were we to do with this woman, since she was here? I confess my own relief at this message from our agent, Captain Carlisle, telling of her temporary disappearance.”
As he spoke, he half pushed back his chair, as though in impatience or agitation over the problem which evidently occupied his mind. A man above medium height, somewhat spare in habit of body, of handsome features and distinguished presence, although with hair now slightly thinned by advancing years, he seemed, if not by natural right, at least by accorded authority, the leader in this company with whose members he was not unwilling to take counsel.
Those who sat before him were his counselors, chosen by himself, in manner ratified by law and custom. They made, as with propriety may be stated, a remarkable body of men. It were less seemly openly to determine their names and their station, since they were public men, and since, as presently appeared, they now were engaged on business of such nature as might not be placed in full upon public records.
At least it may be stated that this meeting was held in the autumn of the year 1850, and in one of the great public buildings of the city of Washington. Apparently it was more private than official in its nature, and apparently it now had lasted for some time. The hour was late. Darkness presently must enshroud the room. Even now the shadows fell heavy upon the lofty portraits, the rich furnishings, the mixed assemblage of somewhat hodgepodge decorations. Twice an ancient colored man had appeared at the door with lighted taper, as though to offer better illumination, but each time the master of the place had waved him away, as though unwilling to have present a witness even so humble as he. Through the door, thus half opened, there might have been seen in the hall two silent and motionless figures, standing guard.