“Now that we are on the subject, dear Miss Heywood,” remarked Elmsley, “let me once for all disabuse you of an impression which I fear you entertain—or is it so? Do you think that Ronayne has had an opportunity of joining the party at the farm?”
“Certainly, I do,” she answered, gravely, “or why should he have gone forth? Pray do not rob me of what little comfort, in expectation, I have left.”
“That he went forth madly and single-handed for the purpose, I can believe—nay, I am sure of it; but I grieve to add that he has not been seen there.”
“This, indeed, is strange,” she returned in faltering tones, and with ill-disguised emotion, for, hitherto she had been sustained by the belief that he was merely lingering behind the party, in order to satisfy himself of facts, the detail of which could not fail to be satisfactory to her ear. “How know you this?”
“I questioned Corporal Nixon, who commanded the party, and who apprised me of Mr. Heywood’s having been carried off by the Indians, for I was deeply anxious, as you may presume, to know what had become of my friend—and this far less even for my own sake than for yours.”
“And his answer was?” and there was deep melancholy in the question.
“That no American uniform had come under his notice during his absence from the Fort, save those of the party he commanded. These, as far as I can recollect, were his precise words.”
“Mr. Elmsley,” said a sentry, who now appeared at the door of the breakfast-parlor, “Captain Headley waits for you in the orderly room.”
“Is Corporal Nixon there?” asked the lieutenant.
“He is, sir.”
“Good, Dixon, I shall be there immediately.”
“God bless you,” he continued, to Miss Heywood, when the man had departed. “We shall, perhaps, elicit from him, something that will throw light upon the obscure part of this matter. Margaret, do not leave the dear girl alone, but cheer up her spirits, and make her hope for the best.”
So saying, he shook her hand affectionately, pushed back his chair from the table, and resuming his cap and sword, left the friends together, promising to return as soon as the examination of the man should be concluded.
Mr. Heywood’s history may be told in a few words. He was the son of an officer who had served in one of the American partizan corps, during the Revolution, and had been killed at the attack made by General Green upon the stronghold of Ninety-Six, in the South. At that time he was a mere youth, and found himself a few years after, and at the age of eighteen, without fortune, and wholly dependent upon his own resources. The war being soon ended, his naturally enterprising disposition, added to great physical strength, induced him to unite himself with one of the many bands of adventurers that poured into the then, wilds of Kentucky,