“Mrs. Clancy again!” said one.
“That was not Mrs. Clancy: ’twas a far different voice,” answered Blake, and tore away across the parade as fast as his long legs would carry him.
“Look! The guard are running too!” cried Mrs. Waldron. “What can it be?” And, sure enough, the gleam of the rifles could be seen as the men ran rapidly away in the direction of the east gate. Mrs. Rayner had grown ghastly, and was looking at Miss Travers, who with white lips and clinched hands stood leaning on one of the wooden posts and gazing with all her eyes across the dim level. Others came hurrying out from the hall. Other young officers ran in pursuit of the first starters. “What’s the matter? What’s happened?” were the questions that flew from lip to lip.
“I—I must go home,” faltered Mrs. Rayner. “Come, Nellie!”
“Oh, don’t go, Mrs. Rayner. It can’t be anything serious.”
But, even as they urged, a man came running towards them.
“Is the doctor here?” he panted.
“Yes. What’s the trouble?” asked Dr. Pease, as he squeezed his burly form through the crowded door-way.
“You’re wanted, sir. Loot’nant Hayne’s shot; an’ Captain Rayner he’s hurt too, sir.”
Straight as an arrow Mr. Blake had sped across the parade, darted through the east gate, and, turning, had arrived breathless at the wooden porch of Hayne’s quarters. Two bewildered-looking members of the guard were at the door. Blake pushed his way through the little hall-way and into the dimly-lighted parlor, where a strange scene met his eyes: Lieutenant Hayne lay senseless and white upon the lounge across the room; a young and pretty woman, singularly like him in feature and in the color of her abundant tresses, was kneeling beside him, chafing his hands, imploring him to speak,—to look at her,—unmindful of the fact that her feet were bare and that only a loose wrapper was thrown over her white night-dress; Captain Rayner was seated in a chair, deathly white, and striving to stanch the blood that flowed from a deep gash in his temple and forehead; he seemed still stunned as by the force of the blow that had felled him; and Buxton, speechless with amaze and heaven only knows what other emotions, was glaring at a tall, athletic stranger who, in stocking-feet, undershirt, and trousers, held by three frightened-looking soldiers and covered by the carbine of a fourth, was hurling defiance and denunciation at the commanding officer. A revolver lay upon the floor at the feet of a corporal of the guard, who was groaning in pain. A thin veil of powder-smoke floated through the room. As Blake leaped in,—his cavalry shoulder-knots and helmet-cords gleaming in the light,—a flash of recognition shot into the stranger’s eyes, and he curbed his fearful excitement and stopped short in his wrath.
“What devil’s work is this?” demanded Blake, glaring intuitively at Buxton.