The young man nodded. “Of course, Lulie,” he declared. “You’re perfectly right. I’m off. Good-night.”
He was hastening toward the dining room door, but Primmie, dancing up and down like a jumping jack, barred his way.
“No, no, no,” she squealed, “you can’t—you can’t. They’re almost to the door now. He’ll catch you sure. He will. Oh, my Lord of Isrul!”
Sure enough, the latch of the door leading from the side porch to the dining room was rattling at that moment. Fortunately the door itself was hooked on the inside. Nelson hesitated.
“Humph!” he grunted. “Could I get through to the kitchen and out that way, do you think, Zach?”
“Godfreys, no! Not with them winder curtains strung up higher’n Haman the way they be. No, no! Godfreys!”
Martha stepped across the sitting room and flung open another door on the opposite side. As she did so there sounded a prodigious thumping from the side porch and the bull-like voice of Captain Hallett bellowed his daughter’s name.
“Go let ’em in, Lulie,” whispered Martha. “I’ll look out for things here. Quick, Nelson, out this way, through the front hall and out the front door. Quick!”
Captain Jeth was accompanying his shouts by thumping upon the side of the house. Lulie, after one desperate glance at her lover, hurried to the dining room. Young Howard hesitated a moment.
“My hat and coat?” he whispered. “Where are they?”
They were hanging in the entry upon the door of which the captain was thumping. Zach hastened to get them, but before he reached the dining room they heard the outer door open and Jeth’s voice demanding to know why Lulie had kept him waiting so long. Nelson, with a somewhat rueful smile and a wave of the hand to Martha and Galusha, dodged into the blackness of the front hall. Miss Phipps closed the door after him. The conspirators looked at each other. Primmie’s mouth opened but the expansive hand of Mr. Bloomer promptly covered it and the larger part of her face as well.
“This ain’t no time to holler about your savin’ soul,” whispered Zacheus, hoarsely. “This is the time to shut up. And keep shut up. You be still, Dandelion!”
Primmie obeyed orders and was still. But even if she had shrieked it is doubtful if any one in the dining room could have heard her. The “ghost seiners,” quoting from Mr. Bloomer, were pouring through the entry and, as all were talking at once, the clatter of tongues would have drowned out any shriek of ordinary volume. A moment later the Halletts, father and daughter, led the way into the sitting room. Lulie’s first procedure was to glance quickly about the apartment. A look of relief crossed her face and she and Martha Phipps exchanged glances.
“Father has—he has come back,” was her somewhat superfluous explanation. Captain Jethro noted the superfluity.