“I hope it’s burnt the lining out of your throat,” said the man savagely.
“It was warm, but I like it that way. It was good indeed, and I’m sorry, Madame, that you have such a violent and ill-tempered husband. Maybe your next will be a much better man.”
“John is neither violent nor ill-tempered. He’s never said a harsh word to me since we were married. But he hates the rebels dreadfully.”
“That’s too bad. I don’t hate him and I’m glad you can give him a good character. A man’s own wife knows best. Now, I’m going to eat this breakfast as I ride on. You’ll find the plate on the fence a quarter of a mile ahead.”
He bowed to both, and still keeping a wary eye on the man, thrust his pistol into his belt, and as his horse moved forward at a swift and easy gait he began to eat with a ravenous appetite.
A backward glance showed husband and wife still gazing at him. But it was only for a moment. They ran into the house and a little further on Harry looked back again. They had reappeared and he almost expected to hear again the whistle of a rifle shot, fired from a window. But the distance was much too great, and he devoted renewed attention to the demands of hunger.
When he had finished his breakfast he put the plate upon the fence as he had promised, and, looking back for the last time, he saw an American flag wave to and fro on the roof of the house. He felt a thrill of alarm. It must be a signal concerning him and it could be made only to his enemies. Speaking sharply to his horse, he urged him into a gallop.
THE DANGEROUS ROAD
The road led in the general direction of Lee’s army and Harry knew that if he followed it long enough he was bound to reach his commander, but the two words “long enough” might defeat everything. Undoubtedly a Federal force was near, or the farmer and his wife would not be signaling from the roof of their house.
A plucky couple they were and he gave them all credit, but he was aware that while he had secured breakfast from them they had put the wolves upon his trail. There were high hills on both the right and left of the road, and, as he galloped along he examined them through his glasses for flags answering the signal on the house. But he saw nothing and the thickness of the forest indicated that even if the signals were made there it was not likely he could see them.
Now he wisely restrained the speed of his horse, so full of strength and spirit that it seemed willing to run on forever, and brought him down to a walk. He had an idea that he would soon be pursued, and then a fresh horse would be worth a dozen tired ones.
The road continued to run between high, forested hills, splendid for ambush, and Harry saw what a danger it was not to have knowledge of the country. He understood how the Union forces in the South were so often at a loss on ground that was strange to them.