The horses had been refreshed, as Swinton had proposed; but they were too much exhausted to be ridden, and our travellers, with their guns on their shoulders, and the dogs loose, to give notice of any danger, now walked by the sides of the waggons over the sandy ground. The stars shone out brilliantly, and even the tired cattle felt relief, from the comparative coolness of the night air.
He returned early the next morning, in a state of still greater excitement and concern than before; having ridden all night, in his anxiety to reach the settlement by the time people were up, so that immediate measures might be put afoot to scour the country in search of the missing Elwoods, whose continued absence had now become doubly mysterious and alarming, by the discovery he had made, as he feared he should, that they had not gone to Bethel at all, nor been seen or heard of anywhere in that direction.
"After you went away last night, Nance said that there are some folks about here who know I am harboring two chaps that I have took some pains to keep out of sight, and so I thought you had best keep to the bresh till you had got past them peoples' houses," said he; but there was one thing his wife did not tell him, and that was that one of the two boys he was harboring was as good a Confederate as any of the men who had ridden along the road.
"It was not necessary for him to explain further. I remembered the negro for whom Hal-loway had ridden through the storm that night. "I asked Halloway somewhat irrelevantly, if he carried a pistol. He said no, he had never done so. "'Fact is, I 'm afraid of killin' somebody. And I don't want to do that, I know.
If John could have had his way, he would have discovered a cave full of diamonds, and lots of nail-kegs full of gold-pieces and Spanish dollars, with a pretty little girl living in the cave, and two beautifully caparisoned horses, upon which, taking the jewels and money, they would have ridden off together, he did not know where.
You have your choice of two evils surrender or be cut to pieces. We had neither of us any longing to be slashed with steel and bored with bullets, and to no end but a good epitaph. They searched the cellar and found our clothes, and wrapped them in a bundle. Then they tied our hands behind us and took us along the road on which I had lately ridden.
Before two minutes had passed one had ridden back to the orderly, who reported to the Colonel that the Dakoon had commanded the shooting of five men of the tribe of the outlaw hill-chief, Pango Dooni, against the rear wall of the Palace, where the Dakoon might look from his window and see the deed. The Colonel sat up eagerly in his chair, then brought his knuckles down smartly on the table.
But when he had ridden away and disappeared down the path leading through the pine woods, Bee turned into the house, ran into her mother's chamber, threw herself into her mother's arms, and burst into a flood of tears. It is the mother that always comes in for this sort of thing. Women spare men sometimes; but never spare each other. "My poor child! but it isn't far, you know!"
Day after day she put off the moment of "speaking," as she inwardly and very comprehensively, called it speaking, that is, to her father; and all the more that she was ridden by a strange suspense as to his himself breaking silence.