“Then hitch up the coach and let me try it.”
He bristled: “What are you going to find out by ‘trying’ it? What d’you ’llow it’ll do? Blow up? Who’ll drive it? I can’t spare any one.”
I was glad. Any man of his would know me, and my scheme called for a stranger to both me and the coach. I must find such a person.
“If I send a driver,” I said, “you’ll lend me the span, won’t you?”
But all at once I decided to do without the whole rig. I went back to my room and had an hour’s enjoyment making myself up as a lady dressed for travel. For a woman I was of just a fine stature. In years I looked a refined forty. My hands were not too big for black lace mitts, my bosom was a success, and my feet, in thin morocco, were out of sight and nobody’s business. A little oil and a burnt match darkened my eyebrows, my wig sat straight, under the weest of bonnets I wore a chignon, behind one ear a bunch of curls, and, unseen at one side of a modest bustle, my revolver. Though I say it myself, I managed my crinoline with grace.
["That was pritty co’rect,” the costumer remarked. “Humph!” said Chester. The three mesdames exchanged glances, and the reading went on.]
Leaving a note on her door to tell our landlady that business would keep me away an indefinite time, I got out at the front gate unobserved, and with a sweet dignity that charmed me with myself walked away under a bewitching parasol, well veiled.
I knew where to find my two sportsmen. A few hundred paces put the town and an open field at my back; a few more down a bushy lane brought me where a dense wood overhung both sides of the narrow way, and the damp air was full of the smell of penny-royal and of creek sands. From here I proposed to saunter down through the woods to the creek, locate my fishermen, and draw them my way by cries of distress.
On their reaching my side my story, told through my veil and between meanings and clingings, was to be that while on a journey in my own coach, a part of its running-gear having broken, I had sent it on to be mended; that through love of trees and wild flowers I had ventured to stay alone meantime among them, and that a snake had bitten me on the ankle. I should describe a harmless one but insist I was poisoned, and yet refuse to show the wound or be borne back to the road, or to let either man stay with me alone while the other went for a doctor, or to drink their whiskey for a cure. On getting back to the road—with the two fellows for crutches—I should send both to town for my coach, keeping with me their tackle and fish. Then I should get myself and my spoils back to our dwelling as best I could and—await the issue. If this poor performance had so come off—but see what occurred instead!
I had shut my parasol and moved into hiding behind some wild vines to mop my face, when near by on the farther side of the way came slyly into view a negro and negress. They were in haste to cross the road yet quite as wishful to cross unseen. One, in home-spun gown and sunbonnet, was ungainly, shoeless, bird-heeled, fan-toed, ragged, and would have been painfully ugly but for a grotesqueness almost winsome.