“That girl yonder—ah! she has been whipped! My God in Heaven. What is to be next, in this wilderness! Is there indeed here no law, no justice?”
The deep voice of the German, Kammerer, broke in. “Thank God in Heaven, at least you are a woman!” he said, turning to her.
“A woman! Why thank God for that? Here, at least, a woman’s sole privilege is insult and abuse.”
The others heard but did not all understand her taunt. Tears sprang to the eyes of young Carlisle. “Don’t talk so!” was all he could exclaim, feeling himself not wholly innocent of reproach. Dunwody’s face flushed a deep red. He made no answer except to call aloud for the old house servant, Sally, who presently appeared.
“Madam,” said Dunwody, in a low voice, limping forward toward Josephine, “you and I must declare some sort of truce. The world has all gone helter-skelter. What’ll become of us I don’t know; but we need a woman here now.”
She gazed at him steadily, but made no reply. Growling, he turned away and limped up the steps, beckoning the others to follow into the hall.
They entered, awkward, silent, and stood about, none knowing what was best to do. Dunwody, luckless and unhappy as he was, still remembered something of his place as host, and would have led them, friends and enemies, into the dining-room beyond in search of some refreshment. He limped forward, without any support. In the door between the hall and the farther room there lay a mounted rug, of a bear skin. He tripped at its edge and fell, catching vainly at the door. A sharp exclamation escaped him. He did not at once rise. It was the arm of his prisoner, Carlisle, who aided him. “You are hurt, sir.”
“No, no, go away!” exclaimed Dunwody, as he struggled to his feet.
“One bone’s gone,” he said presently in a low tone to Clayton. “I broke it when I fell that time.”
A curious moment of doubt and indecision was at hand. The men, captors and captives, looked blankly at one another. It was the mind of a woman which first rose to this occasion. In an instant Josephine, with a sudden exclamation, flung aside indecision.
“Jeanne’ Sally!” she called. “Show these gentlemen to their rooms,” naming Clayton and Jones. “Sir,” she said to Dunwody, whose injury she did not guess to be so severe, “you must lie down. Gentlemen, pass into the other room, there, if you please.” She motioned to the two prisoners, and stepped to Dunwody’s side.
“I can’t have this,” he broke out suddenly. “You’re hurt, yourself. Go to your room. I tell you, it’s nothing.”
“Be quiet,” she said, close at his ear. “I’m not afraid of you now.”
In this strange house party, a truce was tacitly agreed. It seemed sufficient that the future for the time should take care of itself. Dunwody’s injury left Clayton practically leader of the Missourians. His party gravitated toward him, while opposite sat the two prisoners, Carlisle and Kammerer, composed and silent, now and then exchanging a glance with each other, but making no spoken comment.