“No; the last I remember I was with Kirby and another man. He—he was dressed like a minister, but—but he was half drunk, and once he swore at me. The place where we were was a little shack in the side of a hill, with stone walls. Kirby took me there from the steamer, together with a man he called Rale—Jack Rale. They locked me in and left me alone until after dark. Then this other man, who dressed like a minister, came back with Kirby. They had food and something to drink with them, and lit a lamp, so that we could see. It was awfully dismal and dark in there.” She pressed her hands to her head despairingly. “I can remember all this, but later it is not so clear; it fades out, like a dream.”
“Try to tell me all you can,” I urged. “They fed you?”
“Yes, I managed to eat a little, but I would not drink. They both became angry then and frightened me, but they did compel me to swallow some of the stuff. Then I became dazed and partially helpless. Oh, I cannot tell you; I do not really know myself—it seemed as though I had to do just what they told me; I had no will of my own, no power of resistance.”
“You were married to Kirby.”
“Oh, God!—was I? I wondered; I did not really know; truly I did not know. I seem to remember that I stood up, and then signed some paper, but nothing had any meaning to me. Is that true? Do you know that it is true?”
I grasped her hand and held it closely within my own.
“I am afraid it is true,” I answered. “I know very little law, and it may be that such a ceremony is not legal. Yet I imagine those men were certain as to what they could do. Kirby had planned to marry you from the very first, as I explained to you before. He told me that on the Warrior the night your father died.”
“Yes, you said so; but I did not quite understand—he planned then—why?”
“Because he had heard of your beauty and that you were rich. Were these not reasons enough? But, after he had mistaken you for Rene, the only possible way in which he could hope to gain you was by force. Jack Rale suggested that to him and how it could be done. The other man was a friend of Rale’s, a renegade preacher named Gaskins; he is dead.”
“Yes; we brought you away after a fight with those fellows. We left Rale bound and Kirby unconscious.”
“Unconscious, hurt—but not dead?”
“He had a bad gash in his skull, but was alive.”
Kennedy, puffing happily upon a pipe, came loitering about the corner of the hut and approached us. Eloise staggered to her feet, shrinking back against the wall of the shack, her eyes on his face.
“That man here!” she cried in terror. “That man? Why, he was at Beaucaire! He is the one to whom I claimed to be Rene.”
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