“Now, mother, you shall not say that. You forget the carloads of things that have come—nice, useful, domestic articles——”
“Richard, what is it? What is the matter?” suddenly exclaimed Mrs. Lee, looking at him.
In alarm Netta glanced at his face, which she saw was clouded from anxiety, or pain. At once she closed the casket and went to his side in great concern.
“What is it, dear? Are you ill?”
“Not ill in body, my love; hardly comfortable in mind,” was his reply, as he sat down upon the davenport close by. “Sit here beside me, and I will tell you what is troubling me. No, don’t go,” he added, as the others started to leave the room, “it concerns us all.”
“Don’t look so alarmed,” he said, reassuringly, to his betrothed. “It is only this. News reached Columbus to-day that Baywater’s gang is near Villula, and as usual their progress is marked by bloodshed and outrage. The feature that concerns me most is that if I am detailed for duty, it will of necessity postpone our marriage.”
Various expressions broke from the ladies, and Netta exclaimed in terror:
“But you will be in danger, Richard. Can no one else go?” and she clung to him as though her frail clasp could keep him in safety at her side.
“I fear not. The state militia must do its duty. You would not have me skulk in the hour of danger. But there really is no danger for me, Netta. The sole trouble is in the change of our plans.”
But they remembered too distinctly Baywater’s last visit to derive the comfort conveyed in his words.
“And where must you go? What must you do?” tearfully asked Netta.
“I can scarcely tell. We shall be required to watch the premises of the citizens, and to convey all valuables to places of safety. The policy is not to provoke a battle, but to entrap them nearer and nearer the city by holding out baits till they can be apprehended in a body. To do this, we shall be divided into small squads, perhaps only two persons allotted to a station.”
It was apparent to the elder lady that the plans had already been arranged, and Temple’s duties mapped out.
The man at the window strained his ears to catch the topic which evidently excited profound interest. A word or two reached him, and he saw Temple point to the box of jewels. Then, as the door opened, he heard him say:
“Remember—the first thing to-morrow—Dry Thicket.”
Ere the departing visitor could come upon him, the straggler bounded over the fence and hurried away. But he had learned enough.
A sound, real or fancied, caused Richard Temple to glance down the starlit highway, in time to see the fleeing human figure. In newborn apprehension he returned to the parlor door, and was admitted in some wonder by the ladies, who were still discussing the situation.
“Is Lawrence at home?” he asked.