Owing to his stooping posture, the release of the cords had caused the aide to fall forward out of the chair; but he instantly scrambled to his feet, and without so much as a glance behind him, seized the billet from the hands of the cook and sprang toward the doorway, reaching it at the moment the dragoon turned about to learn the cause of the sudden commotion. Bringing the log down with crushing force on the man’s head, Jack stooped as the man plunged’ forward, possessed himself of his sabre, caught one of the long cavalry capotes from its hook in the entry, and, banging to the door, vanished in the outer darkness. There he stood for a moment, listening intently, apparently in doubt as to his next step; then electing the bolder course, he threw the coat about his shoulders, fastened the sabre to his side, and ran to the stable, where the tired troopers, in the dim light furnished by a solitary lantern, were now dismounting from their horses. Without hesitation the aide walked among them, and in a disguised voice announced: “Colonel Harcourt orders me to look to his horse.”
“Here,” called a man, and the fugitive stepped forward and caught the bridle the trooper threw to him. He stood quietly while the dragoons one by one led their horses into the stable, then pulling gently on the reins, he slowly walked the colonel’s horse forward as if to follow their example, but, turning a little to the left, he passed softly around the side of the building. Letting down the bars into the next field, he quickened his pace until the road was reached; swinging himself into the saddle, he once more spurred northward.
“Poor brute,” he remarked, “spent as thou art, we must make a push for it until beyond Middle-Brook, if I am to save my bacon. ’T is a hard fate that makes thee serve both sides by turn, until there is no go left in thee. Luckily, the other horses are as tired as thou, or my escape would be very questionable, even though I had wit enough about me to see to it that I got the officer’s mount. Egad, a queer shift it is that ends with Lee in their hands and me spurring northward to repeat the general’s orders to Sullivan. Who knows but Mrs. Meredith and the parson may be right in their holding to foreordination?”
As Brereton slammed the kitchen door behind him, the girl ran to the assistance of the injured trooper, only to recoil at sight of the blood flowing from his mouth and nose, and in uncontrollable horror and fright she fled to her own room. Here, cowering and shivering, she crouched on the floor behind her bed, her breath coming fast and short, as she waited for the sword of vengeance to fall. Ere many seconds the sounds below told her that the escape had been discovered, bangings of doors, shouts, bugle calls, and the clatter of horses’ feet each in succession giving her fresh terror. Yet minute after minute passed without any one coming to find