“Do you love him very much?” he asked.
She nodded violently. “Better than any b-boy I was ever engaged to.”
“He’s not worth it.”
A strained silence, then he said:
“Nettie, could you be forgiving me if I told you the Lord’s truth?”
“Don’t you suppose dad’s kept me p-posted about his faults? Why, he would walk a mile to find out something b-bad about Carter Nelson.”
“He wouldn’t have to. Nelson’s a bad lot, Nettie. It isn’t all his fault; it’s the price he pays for his blue blood. Your father’s the wise man to try to keep you from being his wife.”
“Everyb-body’s down on him,” she sobbed, “just because he has to d-drink sometimes on account of his lungs. I didn’t know you were so mean.”
“Will you pass the word not to see him again before he leaves in the morning?”
“Indeed, I won’t!”
Sandy stopped the horse. “Then I’ll wait till you do.”
She tried to take the lines, but he held her hands. Then she declared she would walk. He helped her out of the buggy and watched her start angrily forth. In a few minutes she came rushing back.
“Sandy, you know I can’t g-go by myself; I am afraid. Take me home.”
“And you promise?”
She looked appealingly at him, but found no mercy. “You are the very m-meanest boy I ever knew. Get me home before d-dad finds out, and I’ll promise anything. But this is the last word I’ll ever s-speak to you as long as I live.”
At half-past seven they drove into town. The streets were full of people and great excitement prevailed.
“They’ve found out about me!” wailed Annette, breaking her long silence. “Oh, Sandy, what m-must I do?”
Sandy looked anxiously about him. He knew that an elopement would not cause the present commotion. “Jimmy!” He leaned out of the buggy and called to a boy who was running past. “Jimmy Reed! What’s the matter?”
Jimmy, breathless and hatless, his whole figure one huge question-mark, exploded like a bunch of fire-crackers.
“That you, Sandy? Ricks Wilson’s broke jail and shot Judge Hollis. It was at half-past five. Dr. Fenton’s been out there ever since. They say the judge can’t live till midnight. We’re getting up a crowd to go after Wilson.”
At the first words Sandy had sprung to his feet. “The judge shot! Ricks Wilson! I’ll kill him for that. Get out, Annette. I must go to the judge. I’ll be out to the farm in no time and back in less. Don’t you be letting them start without me, Jimmy.”
Whipping the already jaded horse to a run, he dashed through the crowded streets, over the bridge, and out the turnpike.
Ruth stood at one of the windows at Willowvale, peering anxiously out into the darkness. Her figure showed distinctly against the light of the room behind her, but Sandy did not see her.