Dark as it had been without, it was light compared to the ebon blackness within. Bessy felt ice form in the marrow of her bones. The darkness was tangible; it seemed to envelop her in heavy folds. The sudden natural impulse to fly out of the thick creeping gloom, down the stairway to the light, strung her muscles for instant action, but checked by the swiftly following thought of her purpose, they relaxed, and she took not a backward step.
“Rose did her part and I’ll do mine,” she cogitated. “I’ve got to save them. But what to do—I may have to wait. I know—in the big room—the closet behind the curtain! I can find that even in this dark, and once in there I won’t be afraid.”
Bessy, fired by this inspiration, groped along the wall through the room to the large chamber, stumbled over chairs and a couch and at last got her hands on the drapery. She readily found the knob, turned it, opened the door and stepped in.
“I hope they won’t be long,” she thought. “I hope the girls come first. I don’t want to burst into a room full of boys. Won’t Daren be surprised when I tell him—maybe angry! But it’s bound to come out all right, and father will never know.”
Early one August evening Lane went out to find a cool misty rain blowing down from the hills. At the inn he encountered Colonel Pepper, who wore a most woebegone and ludicrous expression. He pounced at once upon Lane.
“Daren, what do you think?” he wailed, miserably.
“I don’t think. I know. You’ve gone and done it—pulled that stunt of yours again,” returned Lane.
“Yes—but oh, so much worse this time.”
“Worse! How could it be worse, unless you mean some one punched your head.”
“No. That would have been nothing.... Daren, this—this time I—it was a lady!” gasped Pepper.
“Oh, say now, Pepper—not really?” queried Lane, incredulously.
“It was. And a lady I—I admire very much.”
“Miss Amanda Hill.”
“The schoolteacher? Nice little woman like that! Pepper, why couldn’t you pick on one of these Middleville gossips or society dames?”
“Lord—I didn’t know who she was—until after—and I couldn’t have helped it anyway,” he replied, mopping his red face. “When—I saw her—and she recognized me—I nearly died.... It was at White’s Confectionery Den. And I’m afraid some people saw me.”
“Well. You old duffer! And you say you admire this lady very much?”
“Indeed I do. I call on her.”
“Colonel, your name is Dennis,” replied Lane, with merciless humor. “It serves you right.”
The little man evidently found relief in his confession and in Lane’s censure.
“I’m cured forever,” he declared vehemently. “And say, Lane, I’ve been looking for you. Have you been at my rooms lately—you know—to take a peep?”