“She must have been a noble woman,” the Colonel remarked, as he resumed his journey.
“She was,” Dane replied, “and I know of but one who resembles her. You know to whom I refer. Until I met Jean, I thought that my mother was the only one who reached my ideal of what a woman should be. Since meeting her, I have been very happy. Without her, the world would be very dreary to me. But perhaps you cannot fully understand what I mean.”
“I understand better than you imagine,” was the quiet reply. “When I say that Jean is just like her mother, you can be assured that I understand exactly what you mean.”
The Colonel was very tired when he at length reached the settlement. He and Dane were both surprised at the silence which reigned about the place. They had expected to hear sounds of the rangers and others making merry over the success of their march against the rebels. But everything was as quiet as a funeral, causing an ominous feeling to steal into their hearts. Had anything of a serious nature happened during their absence? they asked themselves, although they did not express their thought in words. What was the meaning of those little groups of men and women talking so earnestly? And why was Davidson advancing alone to meet them? Something surely was wrong.
As, Davidson approached, they noted the serious expression upon his face. The Colonel stopped, and with fast-beating heart waited for the purveyor to speak.
“We have been watching for you,” Davidson began. “I am afraid you are very tired.”
“I am somewhat weary,” the Colonel replied. “But, tell me, is anything the matter? What is the meaning of this strange quietness? And why do you meet us like this?”
“We are anxious about your daughter,” Davidson explained. “She has been missing since last night.”
At these words a cry escaped Dane’s lips, and he wheeled impetuously upon his leader. But the Colonel did not utter a sound. His face grew white as death, and his body trembled. He stared at the ranger as if he had not heard aright. Then he raised his left hand, and pressed it to his forehead.
“You say that Jean is missing?” Dane asked. “What has happened to her? Tell me, quick.”
“Yes, she has disappeared, and no one here knows what has become of her.”
With a groan Dane looked beseechingly at Davidson.
“Surely some one must have seen her,” he declared. “Was she alone? Was she out on the water? Was she in the woods? Perhaps she is lost, and is wandering about trying to find her way home.”
“That is not it, Dane. She was visiting at one of the houses early last night, and stayed for about an hour. She left there for home, and has not been seen since.”