“Oh, shoot me and have done with it!” groaned Bute; “I’d rather be shot than hanged anyhow.”
“Couldn’t think of it,” replied the detective, cheerily. “My rule is to take prisoners alive, so that they can have a fair trial and be sure that they get justice. I’d take you the rest of the way in a bed if I could, but if you can’t sit up, I’ll have to tie you on. We’ll reach a friend of mine by daylight, and then you can ride in a wagon, so brace up.”
This the outlaw did for a time, and then he gave out utterly and was tied more securely to the pony. Out of compassion, Brandt thereafter travelled more slowly; and when the sun was an hour high, he led his forlorn captives to the house of a man whom he knew could be depended upon for assistance. After a rest sufficient to give Bute time to recover somewhat, the remainder of the journey was made without any incident worth mentioning, and the prisoners were securely lodged in jail on the evening of the 24th of December.
WHAT BRANDT SAW CHRISTMAS EVE
Brandt’s words and effort had had their natural effect on the mind of Clara Heyward. They proved an increasing diversion of her thoughts, and slowly dispelled the morbid, leaden grief under which she had been sinking. Her new anxiety in regard to her lover’s fortune and possible fate was a healthful counter-irritant. Half consciously she yielded to the influence of his strong, hopeful spirit, and almost before she was aware of it, she too began to hope. Chief of all, his manly tenderness and unbargaining love stole into her heart like a subtle balm; and responsive love, the most potent of remedies, was renewing her life. She found herself counting the days and then the hours that must intervene before the 25th. On Christmas eve her woman’s nature triumphed, and she instinctively added such little graces to her toilet as her sombre costume permitted. She also arranged her beautiful hair in the style which she knew he admired. He might come; and she determined that his first glance should reveal that he was not serving one who was coldly apathetic to his brave endeavor and loyalty.
Indeed, even she herself wondered at the changes that had taken place during the brief time which had elapsed since their parting. There was a new light in her eyes, and a delicate bloom tinged her cheeks.
“Oh,” she murmured, “it’s all so different now that I feel that I can live for him and make him happy.”
She was sure that she could welcome him in a way that would assure him of the fulfilment of all his hopes; but when he did come with his eager, questioning eyes, she suddenly found herself under a strange restraint, tongue-tied and embarrassed. She longed to put her arms about his neck and tell him all—the new life, the new hope which his look of deep affection had kindled; and in effort for self-control, she seemed to him almost cold. He therefore became perplexed and uncertain of his ground, and took refuge in the details of his expedition, meanwhile mentally assuring himself that he must keep his word and put no constraint on the girl contrary to the dictates of her heart.