“No doubt of it, wife, and we must send him word immediately.”
Mr. Lilburn had no reason to complain of his reception: he was treated with the utmost hospitality, and his coming made the occasion of general rejoicing in the household. Refreshments were promptly set before him, a handsome suite of apartments appropriated to his use, and a man-servant directed to attend upon his person.
A note was sent to the Oaks inviting the whole family to Ion; the children were given a holiday, and Elsie, her husband, and father, spent the morning in conversation with their guest, and in examining family records, miniatures and photographs which he had brought with him.
The day passed most agreeably to all; the new found relatives were mutually pleased and interested in each other.
Mr. Lilburn was evidently a gentleman of intelligence, polish and refinement; seemed to be an earnest Christian, too, and in easy circumstances.
The little folks made friends with him at once, and as children are apt to be quick at reading character, the older ones felt this to be a confirmation of the good opinion he had already won from them.
“I know that there are angry spirits
And turbulent mutterers of stifled treason,
Who lurk in narrow places, and walk out
Muffled to whisper curses to the night.
Disbanded soldiers, discontented ruffians
And desperate libertines who lurk in taverns.”
A bright, warm day, some hours after sunrise. A man of rather gentlemanly appearance, well, though not handsomely dressed, is riding leisurely along the public highway. He wears a broad-brimmed straw hat as a protection from the sun, and a linen duster somewhat soiled by the dust of travel. He has a shrewd though not unkindly face, and a keen grey eye whose quick glances seem to take in everything within its range of vision.
It is a lonely bit of road he is traveling and he moves with caution evidently on the alert for any appearance of danger.
Presently he perceives another solitary horseman approaching from the opposite direction, and at the sight lays his hand on the pistols in his belt concealed by the duster, to make sure that they are ready for instant use; but at the same time keeping steadily on his way.
The new comer is a slender boy of eighteen or twenty, not at all dangerous looking.
As the two near each other each lifts his hat with a courteous, “Good morning, sir,” the lad at the same time carelessly sliding his right hand down the left lappel of his coat.
The movement, slight as it was, had not escaped the watchful grey eyes, and instantly their owner replied by sliding his left hand in the same manner down the right lappel of his coat.
The lad then ran his fingers lightly through his hair; the other imitated his action; the lad opened his coat and seemed to be searching for a pin; the man opened his, took out a pin and handed it to him with a polite bow.