“Is aught amiss?” she asked, under her breath.
I turned and slowly traversed the upper hallway to her chamber door, she walking beside me in silence, striving to read my face.
“Let your maids disarm you,” I whispered; “then dress and tap at my door. I shall be waiting.”
“Tell me now, cousin.”
“No; dress first.”
“It will take too long to do my hair. Oh, tell me! You have frightened me.”
“It is nothing to frighten you,” I said. “Put off your armor and come to my door. Will you promise?”
“Ye-es,” she faltered; and I turned and hastened to my own chamber, to prepare for the business which lay before me.
I dressed rapidly, my thoughts in a whirl; but I had scarcely slung powder-horn and pouch, and belted in my hunting-shirt, when there came a rapping at the door, and I opened it and stepped out into the dim hallway.
At sight of me she understood, and turned quite white, standing there in her boudoir-robe of China silk, her heavy, burnished hair in two loose braids to her waist.
In silence I lifted her listless hands and kissed the fingers, then the cold wrists and palms. And I saw the faint circlet of the ghost-ring on her bridal finger, and touched it with my lips.
Then, as I stepped past her, she gave a low cry, hiding her face in her hands, and leaned back against the wall, quivering from head to foot.
“Don’t go!” she sobbed. “Don’t go—don’t go!”
And because I durst not, for her own sake, turn or listen, I reeled on, seeing nothing, her faint cry ringing in my ears, until darkness and a cold wind struck me in the face, and I saw horses waiting, black in the starlight, and the gigantic form of a man at their heads, fringed cape blowing in the wind.
“All ready?” I gasped.
“All is ready and the night fine! We ride by Broadalbin, I think.... Whoa! back up! you long-eared ass! D’ye think to smell a Mohawk?... Or is it your comrades on the picket-rope that bedevil you?... Look at the troop-horses, sir, all a-rolling on their backs in the sand, four hoofs waving in the air. It’s easier on yon sentry than when they’re all a-squealin’ and a-bitin’—This way, sir. We swing by the bush and pick up the Iroquois trail ’twixt the Hollow and Mayfield.”
As we galloped into Broadalbin Bush a house on our right loomed up black and silent, and I saw shutters and doors swinging wide open, and the stars shining through. There was something sinister in this stark and tenantless homestead, whose void casements stared, like empty eye-sockets.
“They have gone to the Middle Fort—all of them except the Stoners,” said Mount, pushing his horse up beside mine. “Look, sir! See what this red terror has already done to make a wilderness of County Try on—and not a blow struck yet!”