Capitola The Madcap
Emma D. E. N. Southworth
Part 2 out of 7
"Where I learned to fear God, to speak the truth and to shame the
devil!" replied Cap.
--"And to force yourself into people's houses against their will!"
"There you are again! I tell you that when I learn from the head of
this household that I am unwelcome, then I will retreat, and not
until then! And now I demand to be presented to the master."
"To Colonel Le Noir?"
"I cannot curse you with the 'curse of a granted prayer! Colonel Le
Noir is away."
"Why do you talk so strangely?" inquired Capitola.
"It is my whim. Perhaps my head is light."
"I should think it was, excessively so! Well--as the master of the
house is away, be good enough to present me to the mistress?"
"What mistress? There is no mistress here!" replied Dorcas, looking
around in strange trepidation.
"I mean the young lady, Colonel Le Noir's ward. In lieu of any other
lady, she, I suppose, may be considered the mistress of the house!"
"Humph! Well, young girl, as you are fully resolved to stand your
ground. I suppose there is nothing to do but to put up with you!"
"And put up my horse," added Cap.
"He shall be taken care of! But mind, you must depart early in the
morning!" said Dorcas, sternly.
"Once more, and for the last, Mother Cerberus, I assure you I do not
acknowledge your authority to dismiss me!" retorted Capitola. "So
show me to the presence of your mistress!"
"Perverse, like all the rest! Follow me!" said the house keeper,
leading the way from the hall toward a back parlor.
THE INMATE OF THE HIDDEN HOUSE
There is a light around her brow,
A holiness in those dark eyes,
That show, though wandering earthward now,
Her spirit's home is in the skies.
Pushing open the door, Dorcas Knight exclaimed:
"Here is a young lady, Miss Black, from Hurricane Hall, come to see
you, Miss Day."
And having made this announcement, the woman retired and shut the
door behind her.
And Capitola found herself in a large, dark, gloomy, wainscoted
room, whose tall, narrow windows afforded but little light, and
whose immense fireplace and blackened furniture seemed to belong to
a past century.
The only occupant of this somber apartment was a young girl, seated
in pensive thought beside the central table. She was clothed in deep
mourning, which only served to throw into fairer relief the beauty
of her pearly skin, golden hair and violet eyes.
The vision of her mourning robes and melancholy beauty so deeply
impressed Capitola that, almost for the first time in her life, she
hesitated from a feeling of diffidence, and said gently:
"Indeed, I fear that this is an unwarranted intrusion on my part,
"You are very welcome," replied the sweetest voice Capitola had ever
heard, as the young girl arose and advanced to meet her. "But you
have been exposed to the storm Please come into my room and change
your clothes," continued the young hostess, as she took Cap's hand
and led her into an adjoining room.
The storm was still raging, but these apartments being in the
central portion of the strong old house, were but little exposed to
the sight or sound of its fury.
There was a lamp burning upon the mantelpiece, by the light of which
the young girl furnished her visitor with dry clothing and assisted
her to change, saying as she did so;
"I think we are about the same size, and that my clothes will fit
you; but I will not offer you mourning habiliments--you shall have
this lilac silk."
"I am very sorry to see you in mourning," said Capitola, earnestly.
"It is for my father," replied Clara, very softly.
As they spoke the eyes of the two young girls met. They were both
good physiognomists and intuitive judges, of character. Consequently
in the full meeting of their eyes they read, understood and
appreciated each other.
The pure, grave, and gentle expression of Clara's countenance
touched the heart of Capitola.
The bright, frank, honest face of Cap recommended her to Clara.
The very opposite traits of their equally truthful characters
attracted them to each other.
Clara conducted her guest back into the wainscoted parlor, where a
cheerful fire had been kindled to correct the dampness of the air.
And here they sat down unmindful of the storm that came much subdued
through the thickness of the walls. And, as young creatures, however
tried and sorrowful, will do, they entered into a friendly chat. And
before an hour had passed Capitola thought herself well repaid for
her sufferings from the storm and the rebuff, in having formed the
acquaintance of Clara Day.
She resolved, let Old Hurricane rage as he might, henceforth she
would be a frequent visitor to the Hidden House.
And Clara, for her part, felt that in Capitola she had found a
frank, spirited, faithful neighbor who might become an estimable
While they were thus growing into each other's favor, the door
opened and admitted a gentleman of tall and thin figure and white
and emaciated face, shaded by a luxuriant growth of glossy black
hair and beard. He could not have been more than twenty-six, but,
prematurely broken by vice, he seemed forty years of age. He
advanced bowing toward the young women.
As Capitola's eyes fell upon this newcomer it required all her
presence of mind and powers of self-control to prevent her from
staring or otherwise betraying herself--for in this stranger she
recognized the very man who had stopped her upon her night ride. She
did, however, succeed in banishing from her face every expression of
consciousness. And when Miss Day courteously presented him to her
guest, saying merely, "My cousin, Mr. Craven Le Noir, Miss Black,"
Capitola arose and curtsied as composedly as if she had never set
eyes upon his face before.
He on his part evidently remembered her, and sent one stealthy, been
and scrutinizing glance into her face; but, finding that
imperturbable, he bowed with stately politeness and seemed satisfied
that she had not identified him as her assailant.
Craven Le Noir drew his chair to the fire, seated himself and
entered into an easy conversation with Clara and her guest. Whenever
he addressed Clara there was a deference and tenderness in his tone
and glance that seemed very displeasing to the fair girl, who
received all these delicate attentions with coldness and reserve.
These things did not escape the notice of Capitola, who mentally
concluded that Craven Le Noir was a lover of Clara Day, but a most
When supper was announced it was evidently hailed by Clara as a
great relief. And after the meal was over she arose and excused
herself to her cousin by saying that her guest, Miss Black, had been
exposed to the storm and was doubtless very much fatigued and that
she would show her to her chamber.
Then, taking a night lamp, she invited Capitola to come and
conducted her to an old-fashioned upper chamber, where a cheerful
fire was burning on the hearth. Here the young girls sat down before
the fire and improved their acquaintance by an hour's conversation.
After which Clara arose, and saying, "I sleep immediately below your
room, Miss Black; if you should want anything rap on the floor and I
shall hear you and get up," she wished her guest a good night's rest
and retired from the room.
Cap was disinclined to sleep; a strange superstitious feeling which
she could neither understand nor throw off had fallen upon her
She took the night lamp in her hand and got up to examine her
chamber. It was a large, dark, oak-paneled room, with a dark carpet
on the floor and dark-green curtains on the windows and the
bedstead. Over the mantelpiece hung the portrait of a most beautiful
black-haired and black-eyed girl of about fourteen years of age, but
upon whose infantile brow fell the shadow of some fearful woe. There
was something awful in the despair "on that face so young" that
bound the gazer in an irresistible and most painful spell. And
Capitola remained standing before it transfixed, until the striking
of the hall clock aroused her from her enchantment. Wondering who
the young creature could have been, what had been her history and,
above all, what had been the nature of that fearful woe that
darkened like a curse her angel brow, Capitola turned almost
sorrowfully away and began to prepare for bed.
She undressed, put on the delicate nightclothes Clara had provided
for her use, said her evening prayers, looked under the bed--a
precaution taken ever since the night upon which she had discovered
the burglars--and, finding all right, she blew out her candle and
lay down. She could not sleep--many persons of nervous or mercurial
temperaments cannot do so the first night in a strange bed. Cap was
very mercurial, and the bed and room in which she lay were very
strange; for the first time since she had had a home to call her own
she was unexpectedly staying all night away from her friends, and
without their having any knowledge of her whereabouts. She was
conjecturing, half in fear and half in fun, how Old Hurricane was
taking her escapade and what he would say to her in the morning. She
was wondering to find herself in such an unforeseen position as that
of a night guest in the mysterious Hidden House--wondering whether
this was the guest chamber in which the ghost appeared to the
officer and these were the very curtains that the pale lady drew at
night. While her thoughts were thus running over the whole range of
circumstances around her singular position, sleep overtook Capitola
and speculation was lost in brighter visions.
How long she had slept and dreamed she did not know, when something
gently awakened her. She opened her eyes calmly--to meet a vision
that brave as she was, nearly froze the blood in her warm veins.
Her chamber was illumined with an intense blue flame that lighted up
every portion of the apartment with a radiance bright as day, and in
the midst of this effulgence moved a figure clothed in white--a
beautiful, pale, spectral woman, whose large, motionless black eyes,
deeply set in her death-like face, and whose long unbound black
hair, fallen upon her white raiment, were the only marks of color
about her marble form.
Paralyzed with wonder, Capitola watched this figure as it glided
about the chamber. The apparition approached the dressing-table,
seemed to take something thence, and then gliding toward the bed, to
Capitola's inexpressible horror drew back the curtains and bent down
and gazed upon her! Capitola had no power to scream, to move or to
avert her gaze from those awful eyes that met her own, until at
length, as the spectral head bent lower, she felt the pressure of a
pair of icy lips upon her brow and closed her eyes!
When she opened them again the vision had departed and the room was
dark and quiet.
There was no more sleep for Capitola. She heard the clock strike
four, and was pleased to find that it was so near day. Still the
time seemed very long to her, who lay there wondering, conjecturing
and speculating on the strange adventure of the night.
When the sun arose she left her restless bed, bathed her excited
head and proceeded to dress herself. When she had finished her
toilet, with the exception of putting on her trinkets, she suddenly
missed a ring that she prized more than she did all her possessions
put together--it was a plain gold band, bearing the inscription
Capitola-Eugene, and which she had been enjoined by her old nurse
never to part from but with life. She had, in her days of
destitution suffered the extremes of cold and hunger; had been upon
the very brink of death from starvation or freezing, but without
ever dreaming of sacrificing her ring. And now for the first time it
was missing. While she was still looking anxiously for the lost
jewel the door opened and Dorcas Knight entered the room, bearing on
her arm Capitola's riding dress, which had been well dried and
"Miss Capitola, here is your habit; you had better put it on at
once, as I have ordered breakfast an hour sooner than usual, so that
you may have an early start."
"Upon my word, you are very anxious to get rid of me, but not more
so than I am to depart," said Capitola, still pursuing her search.
"Your friends, who do not know where you are, must be very uneasy
about you. But what are you looking for?"
"A ring, a plain gold circle, with my name and that of another
inscribed on it, and which I would not lose for the world. I hung it
on a pin in this pin-cushion last night before I went to bed. I
would swear I did, and now it is missing," answered Cap, still
pursuing her search.
"If you lost it in this room it will certainly be found," said
Dorcas Knight putting down the habit and helping in the search.
"I am not so sure of that. There was some one in my room last
"Some one in your room!" exclaimed Dorcas in dismay.
"Yes; a dark-haired woman, all dressed in white!"
Dorcas Knight gave two or three angry grunts and then harshly
exclaimed: "Nonsense! woman, indeed! there is no such woman about
the house! There are no females here except Miss Day, myself and
you--not even a waiting-maid or cook."
"Well," said Cap, "if it was not a woman it was a ghost; for I was
wide awake, and I saw it with my own eyes!"
"Fudge! you've heard that foolish story of the haunted room, and you
have dreamed the whole thing!"
"I tell you I didn't! I saw it! Don't I know?"
"I say you dreamed it! There is no such living woman here; and as
for a ghost, that is all folly. And I must beg, Miss Black, that you
will not distress Miss Day by telling her this strange dream of
yours. She has never heard the ridiculous story of the haunted room,
and, as she lives here in solitude, I would not like her to hear of
"Oh, I will say nothing to disquiet Miss Day; but it was no dream.
It was real, if there is any reality in this world."
There was no more said. They continued to look for the ring, but in
vain. Dorcas Knight, however, assured her guest that it should be
found and returned, and that breakfast waited. Whereupon Capitola
went down to the parlor, where she found Clara awaiting her presence
to give her a kindly greeting.
"Mr. Le Noir never gets up until very late, and so we do not wait
for him," said Dorcas Knight, as she took her seat at the head of
the table and signed to the young girls to gather around it.
After breakfast Capitola, promising to come again soon, and inviting
Clara to return her visit, took leave of her entertainers and set
out for home.
"Thank heaven! I have got her off in time and safety!" muttered
Dorcas Knight, in triumph.
Must I give way and room for your rash choler?
Shall I be frighted when a madman stares?
Go show your slaves how choleric you are!
And make your bondsmen tremble! I'll not blench!
It happened that about sunrise that morning Wool awoke In the
cellar, and remembered that on the night previous his master had
commanded him to sally forth in the storm end seek his young
mistress, and had forbidden him, on pain of broken bones, to return
without bringing her safe. Therefore, what did the honest soul do
but steal out to the stables, saddle and mount a horse and ride back
to the house just as Mrs. Condiment had come out into the poultry
yard to get eggs for breakfast.
"Missus Compliment, ma'am, I'se been out all night in search of Miss
Caterpillar, without finding of her. Is she come back, ma'am?"
"Lor', no, indeed, Wool! I'm very anxious, and the major is taking
on dreadful! But I hope she is safe in some house. But, poor Wool,
you must have had a dreadful time out all night in the storm looking
"Awful! Missus Compliment, ma'am, awful!" said Wool.
"Indeed, I know you had, poor creature, come in and get some warm
breakfast," said the kind old lady.
"I dare'nt, Missus Compliment. Old marse forbid me to show my face
to him until I fotch Miss Caterpillar home safe," said Wool, turning
his horse's head as if to go. In doing so he saw Capitola galloping
toward the house, and with an exclamation of joy pointed her out to
the old lady and rode on to meet her.
"Oh, Miss Caterpillar, I'se so glad I've found you! I'se done been
out looking for you all night long!" exclaimed Wool, as he met her.
Capitola pulled up her horse and surveyed the speaker with a comical
"Been out all night looking for me! Well, I must say you seem in a
fine state of preservation for a man who has been exposed to the
storm all night. You have not a wet thread on you."
"Lor', miss, it rained till one o'clock, and then the wind riz and
blowed till six and blowed me dry," said Wool, as he sprang off his
horse and helped his young mistress to alight.
Then, instead of taking the beasts to the stable, he tied them to
the tree and hurried into the house and upstairs to his master's
room, to apprise him of the return of the lost sheep, Capitola.
Old Hurricane was lying awake, tossing, groaning and grumbling with
On seeing Wool enter he deliberately raised up and seized a heavy
iron candlestick and held it ready to hurl at the head of that
worthy, whom he thus addressed:
"Ah, you have come, you atrocious villain! You know the conditions.
If you have dared to show your face without bringing your young
"Please, marse, I wur out looking for her all night."
"Have you brought her?" thundered Old Hurricane, rising up.
"Please, marse, yes, sir; I done found her and brought her home
"Send her up to me," said Old Hurricane, sinking back with a sigh of
Wool flew to do his bidding.
In five minutes Capitola entered her uncle's chamber.
Now, Old Hurricane had spent a night of almost intolerable anxiety
upon his favorite's account, bewailing her danger and praying for
her safety but no sooner did he see her enter his chamber safe and
sound and smiling than indignation quite mastered him, and jumping
out of his bed in his nightgown, he made a dash straight at
Now, had Capitola run there is little doubt but that, in the
blindness of his fury, he would have caught and beat her then and
there. But Cap saw him coming, drew up her tiny form, folded her
arms and looked him directly in the face.
This stopped him; but, like a mettlesome old horse suddenly pulled
up in full career, he stamped and reared and plunged with fury, and
foamed and spluttered and stuttered before he could get words out.
"What do you mean, you vixen, by standing there and popping your
great eyes out at me? Are you going to bite, you tigress? What do
you mean by facing me at all?" he roared, shaking his fist within an
inch of Capitola's little pug nose.
"I am here because you sent for me, sir," was Cap's unanswerable
"Here because I sent for you! humph! humph! humph! and come dancing
and smiling into my room as if you had not kept me awake all the
live-long night--yes, driven me within an inch of brain fever! Not
that I cared for you, you limb of Old Nick! not that I cared for
you, except to wish with all my heart and soul that something or
other had happened to you, you vagrant! Where did you spend the
night, you lunatic?"
"At the old Hidden House, where I went to make a call on my new
neighbor, Miss Day, and where I was caught in the storm."
"I wish to heaven you had been caught in a man-trap and had all your
limbs broken, you--you--you--Oh!" ejaculated Old Hurricane, turning
short and trotting up and down the room. Presently he stopped before
Capitola and rapping his cane upon the floor, demanded:
"Who did you see at that accursed place, you--you--infatuated
"Miss Day, Mr. Le Noir, Mrs. Knight and a man servant, name
unknown," coolly replied Cap.
"And the head demon, where was he?"
"Uncle, if by the 'head demon' you mean Old Nick, I think it quite
likely, from present appearances, that he passed the night at
"I mean--Colonel Le Noir!" exclaimed Old Hurricane, as if the name
"Oh! I understood that he had that day left home."
"Umph! Oh! Ah! That accounts for it; that accounts for it," muttered
Old Hurricane to himself; then, seeing that Cap was wistfully
regarding his face and attending to his muttered phrases, he broke
out upon her with:
"Get out of this--this--this--" He meant to say "get out of this
house," but a sure instinct warned him that if he should speak thus
Capitola, unlike the other members of his household, would take him
at his word.
"Get out of this room, you vagabond!" he vociferated.
And Cap, with a curtsey and a kiss of her hand, danced away.
Old Hurricane stamped up and down the floor, gesticulating like a
demoniac and vociferating:
"She'll get herself burked, kidnapped, murdered or what not! I'm
sure she will! I know it! I feel it! It's no use to order her not to
go; she will be sure to disobey, and go ten times as often for the
very reason that she was forbidden. What the demon shall I do? Wool!
Wool! you brimstone villain, come here!" he roared, going to the
bell-rope and pulling it until he broke it down.
Wool ran in with his hair bristling, his teeth chattering and his
"Come here to me, you varlet! Now, listen: You are to keep a sharp
look-out after your young mistress. Whenever she rides abroad you
are to mount a horse and ride after her, and keep your eyes open,
for if you once lose sight of her, you knave, do you know what I
shall do to you, eh?"
"N--no, marse," stammered Wool, pale with apprehension.
"I should cut your eyelids off to improve your vision! Look to it,
sir, for I shall keep my word! And now come and help me to dress,"
concluded Old Hurricane.
Wool, with chattering teeth, shaking knees and trembling fingers,
assisted his master in his morning toilet, meditating the while
whether it were not better to avoid impending dangers by running
And, in fact, between his master and his mistress, Wool had a hot
time of it. The weather, after the storm had cleared the atmosphere,
was delightful, and Cap rode out that very day. Poor Wool kept his
eyeballs metaphorically "skinned," for fear they should be treated
literally so--held his eyes wide open, lest Old Hurricane should
keep his word and make it impossible for him ever to shut them.
When Cap stole out, mounted her horse and rode away, in five minutes
from the moment of starting she heard a horse's hoofs behind her,
and presently saw Wool gallop to her side.
At first Cap bore this good-humoredly enough, only saying:
"Go home, Wool, I don't want you; I had much rather ride alone."
To which the groom replied:
"It is old marse's orders, miss, as I should wait on you."
Capitola's spirit rebelled against this; and, suddenly turning upon
her attendant, she indignantly exclaimed:
"Wool, I don't want you, sir; I insist upon being left alone, and I
order you to go home, sir!"
Upon this Wool burst into tears and roared.
Much surprised, Capitola inquired of him what the matter was.
For some time Wool could only reply by sobbing, but when he was able
to articulate he blubbered forth:
"It's nuf to make anybody go put his head under a meat-ax, so it
"What is the matter, Wool?" again inquired Capitola.
"How'd you like to have your eyelids cut off?" howled Wool,
"What?" inquired Capitola.
"Yes; I axes how'd you like to have your eyelids cut off? Case
that's what ole marse t'reatens to do long o' me, if I don't follow
arter you and keep you in sight. And now you forbids of me to do it,
and--and--and I'll go and put my neck right underneaf a meat-ax!"
Now, Capitola was really kind-hearted, and, well knowing the
despotic temper of her guardian, she pitied Wool, and after a little
hesitation she said:
"Wool, so your old master says if you don't keep your eyes on me
he'll cut your eyelids off?"
"Ye--ye--yes, miss," sobbed Wool.
"Did he say if you didn't listen to me he'd cut your ears off?"
"Did he swear if you didn't talk to me he'd cut out your tongue
"Well, now, stop howling and listen to me! Since, at the peril of
your eyelids, you are obliged to keep me in sight, I give you leave
to ride just within view of me, but no nearer, and you are never to
let me see or hear you, if you can help it for I like to be alone."
"I'll do anything in this world for peace, Miss Caterpillar," said
And upon this basis the affair was finally settled. And no doubt
Capitola owed much of her personal safety to the fact that Wool kept
his eyes open.
While these scenes were going on at Hurricane Hall, momentous events
were taking place elsewhere, which require another chapter for their
ANOTHER MYSTERY AT THE HIDDEN HOUSE.
"Hark! what a shriek was that of fear intense,
Of horror and amazement!
What fearful struggle to the door and thence
With mazy doubles to the grated casement!"
An hour after the departure of Capitola, Colonel Le Noir returned to
the Hidden House and learned from his man David that upon the
preceding evening a young girl of whose name he was ignorant had
sought shelter from the storm and passed the night at the mansion.
Now, Colonel Le Noir was extremely jealous of receiving strangers
under his roof, never, during his short stay at the Hidden House,
going out into company, lest he should be obliged in return to
entertain visitors. And when he learned that a strange girl had
spent the night beneath his roof, he frowningly directed that Dorcas
should be sent to him.
When his morose manager made her appearance he harshly demanded the
name of the young woman she had dared to receive beneath his roof.
Now, whether there is any truth in the theory of magnetism or not,
it is certain that Dorcas Knight--stern, harsh, resolute woman that
she was toward all others--became as submissive as a child in the
presence of Colonel Le Noir.
At his command she gave him all the information he required, not
even withholding the fact of Capitola's strange story of having seen
the apparition of the pale-faced lady in her chamber, together with
the subsequent discovery of the loss of her ring.
Colonel Le Noir sternly reprimanded his domestic manager for her
neglect of his orders and dismissed her from his presence.
The remainder of the day was passed by him in moody thought. That
evening he summoned his son to a private conference in the parlor--
an event that happily delivered poor Clara Day from their presence
at her fireside.
That night Clara, dreading lest at the end of their interview they
might return to her society, retired early to her chamber where she
sat reading until a late hour, when she went to bed and found
transient forgetfulness of trouble in sleep.
She did not know how long she had slept when she was suddenly and
terribly awakened by a woman's shriek sounding from the room
immediately overhead, in which, upon the night previous, Capitola
Starting up in bed, Clara listened.
The shriek was repeated--prolonged and piercing--and was accompanied
by a muffled sound of struggling that shook the ceiling overhead.
Instinctively springing from her bed, Clara threw on her dressing-
gown and flew to the door; but just as she turned the latch to open
it she heard a bolt slipped on the outside and found herself a
prisoner in her own chamber.
Appalled, she stood and listened.
Presently there came a sound of footsteps on the stairs and a heavy
muffled noise as of some dead weight being dragged down the
staircase and along the passage. Then she heard the hall door
cautiously opened and shut. And, finally, she distinguished the
sound of wheels rolling away from the house.
Unable longer to restrain herself, she rapped and beat upon her own
door, crying aloud for deliverance.
Presently the bolt was withdrawn, the door jerked open and Dorcas
Knight, with a face of horror, stood before her.
"What is the matter! Who was that screaming? In the name of mercy,
what has happened?" cried Clara, shrinking in abhorrence from the
"Hush! it is nothing! There were two tomcats screaming and fighting
in the attic, and they fought all the way downstairs, rolling over
and over each other. I've just turned them out," faltered the woman,
shivering as with an ague fit.
"What--what was that--that went away in the carriage?" asked Clara
"The colonel, gone to meet the early stage at Tip-Top, to take him
to Washington. He would have taken leave of you last night, but when
he came to your parlor you had left it."
"But--but--there is blood upon your hand, Dorcas Knight!" cried
Clara, shaking with horror.
"I--I know; the cats scratched me as I put them out," stammered the
stern woman, trembling almost as much as Clara herself.
These answers failed to satisfy the young girl, who shrank in terror
and loathing from that woman's presence, and sought the privacy of
her own chamber, murmuring:
"What has happened? What has been done? Oh, heaven! oh, heaven! have
mercy on us! some dreadful deed has been done in this house to-
There was no more sleep for Clara. She heard the clock strike every
hour from one to six in the morning, when she arose and dressed
herself and went from her room, expecting to see upon the floor and
walls and upon the faces of the household signs of some dreadful
tragedy enacted upon the previous night.
But all things were as usual--the same dark, gloomy and neglected
magnificence about the rooms and passages, the same reserved, sullen
and silent aspect about the persons.
Dorcas Knight presided as usual at the head of the breakfast table,
and Craven Le Noir at the foot. Clara sat in her accustomed seat at
the side, midway between them.
Clara shuddered in taking her cup of coffee from the hand of Dorcas,
and declined the wing of fowl that Craven Le Noir would have put
upon her plate.
Not a word was said upon the subject of the mystery of the preceding
night until Craven Le Noir, without venturing to meet the eyes of
the young girl, said:
"You look very pale, Clara."
"Miss Day was frightened by the cats last night," said Dorcas.
Clara answered never a word. The ridiculous story essayed to be
palmed off upon her credulity in explanation of the night's mystery
had not gained an instant's belief.
She knew that the cry that had startled her from sleep had burst in
strong agony from human lips!
That the helpless weight she had heard dragged down the stairs and
along the whole length of the passage was some dead or insensible
That the blood she had seen upon the hand of Dorcas Knight was--oh,
heaven! her mind shrank back appalled with horror at the thought
which she dare not entertain! She could only shudder, pray and trust
CAP FREES THE CAPTIVE.
Hold, daughter! I do spy a kind of hope,
Which craves as desperate an execution
As that is desperate, which we would prevent
And if thou darest, I'll give thee remedy!
Hold, then! go home, be merry, give consent
To marry Paris! Wednesday is to-morrow!
As the autumn weather was now very pleasant, Capitola continued her
rides, and, without standing on ceremony, repeated her visit to the
Hidden House. She was, as usual, followed by Wool, who kept at a
respectful distance, and who during his mistress' visit, remained
outside in attendance upon the horses.
Capitola luckily was in no danger of encountering Colonel Le Noir,
who, since the night of the mysterious tragedy, had not returned
home, but had gone to and settled in his winter quarters in
But she again met Craven Le Noir, who, contrary to his usual custom
of accompanying his father upon his annual migrations to the
metropolis, had, upon this occasion, remained home in close
attendance upon his cousin, the wealthy orphan.
Capitola found Clara the same sweet, gentle and patient girl, with
this difference only, that her youthful brow was now overshadowed by
a heavy trouble which could not wholly be explained by her state of
orphanage or her sorrow for the dead--it was too full of anxiety,
gloom and terror to have reference to the past alone.
Capitola saw all this and, trusting in her own powers, would have
sought the confidence of the poor girl, with the view of soothing
her sorrows and helping her out of her difficulties; but Miss Day,
candid upon all other topics, was strangely reserved upon this
subject, and Capitola, with all her eccentricity, was too delicate
to seek to intrude upon the young mourner's sanctuary of grief.
But a crisis was fast approaching which rendered further concealment
difficult and dangerous, and which threw Clara for protection upon
the courage, presence of mind and address of Capitola.
Since Clara Day had parted with her betrothed and had taken up her
residence beneath her guardian's roof, she had regularly written
both to Traverse at St. Louis and to his mother at Staunton. But she
had received no reply from either mother or son. And months had
passed, filling the mind of Clara with anxiety upon their account.
She did not for one moment doubt their constancy. Alas! it required
but little perspicacity on her part to perceive that the letters on
either side must have been intercepted by the Le Noirs--father and
Her greatest anxiety was lest Mrs. Rocke and Traverse, failing to
hear from her, should imagine that she had forgotten them. She
longed to assure them that she had not; but how should she do this?
It was perfectly useless to write and send the letter to the post-
office by any servant at the Hidden House, for such a letter was
sure to find its way--not into the mail bags, but into the pocket of
Colonel Le Noir.
Finally, Clara resolved to entrust honest Cap with so much of her
story as would engage her interest and co-operation, and then
confide to her care a letter to be placed in the post-office. Clara
had scarcely come to this resolution ere, as we said, an imminent
crisis obliged her to seek the further aid of Capitola.
Craven Le Noir had never abated his unacceptable attentions to the
orphan heiress. Day by day, on the contrary, to Clara's unspeakable
distress, these attentions grew more pointed and alarming.
At first she had received them coldly and repulsed them gently; but
as they grew more ardent and devoted she became colder and more
reserved, until at length, by maintaining a freezing hauteur at
variance with her usually sweet temper, she sought to repel the
declaration that was ever ready to fall from his lips.
But, notwithstanding her evident abhorrence of his suit, Craven Le
Noir persisted in his purpose.
And so one morning he entered the parlor and, finding Clara alone,
he closed the door, seated himself beside her, took her hand and
made a formal declaration of love and proposal of marriage, urging
his suit with all the eloquence of which he was master.
Now, Clara Day, a Christian maiden, a recently bereaved orphan and
an affianced bride, had too profound a regard for her duties toward
God, her father's will and her betrothed husband's rights to treat
this attempted invasion of her faith in any other than the most
deliberate, serious and dignified manner.
"I am very sorry, Mr. Le Noir, that it has at length come to this. I
thought I had conducted myself in such a manner as totally to
discourage any such purpose as this which you have just honored me
by disclosing. Now, however, that the subject may be set at rest
forever, I feel bound to announce to you that my hand is already
plighted," said Clara, gravely.
"But, my fairest and dearest love, your little hand cannot be
plighted without the consent of your guardian, who would never
countenance the impudent pretensions which I understand to be made
by the low-born young man to whom I presume you allude. That
engagement was a very foolish affair, my dear girl, and only to be
palliated on the ground of your extreme childishness at the time of
its being made. You must forget the whole matter, my sweetest love,
and prepare yourself to listen to a suit more worthy of your social
position," said Craven Le Noir, attempting to steal his arm around
Clara coldly repelled him, saying:
"I am at a loss to understand, Mr. Le Noir, what act of levity on my
part has given you the assurance to offer me this affront!"
"Do you call it an affront, fair cousin, that I lay my hand and
heart and fortune at your feet?"
"I have called your act, sir, by its gentlest name. Under the
circumstances I might well have called it an outrage!"
"And what may be those circumstances that convert an act of--
adoration--into an outrage, my sweet cousin?"
"Sir, you know them well. I have not concealed from you or my
guardian that I am the affianced bride of Doctor Rocke, nor that our
troth was plighted with the full consent of my dear father," said
"Tut, tut, tut, my charming cousin, that was mere child's play--a
school-girl's romantic whim. Do not dream that your guardian will
ever permit you to throw yourself away upon that low-bred fellow."
"Mr. Le Noir, if you permit yourself to address me in this manner, I
shall feel compelled to retire. I cannot remain here to have my
honored father's will and memory, and the rights of my betrothed,
insulted in my person!" said Clara, rising to leave the room.
"No--stay! forgive me, Clara! pardon me, gentlest girl, if, in my
great love for you, I grow impatient of any other claim upon your
heart, especially from such an unworthy quarter. Clara, you are a
mere child, full of generous but romantic sentiments and dangerous
impulses. You require extra vigilance and firm exercise of authority
on the part of your guardian to save you from certain self-
destruction. And some day, sweet girl, you will thank us for
preserving you from the horrors of such a mesalliance," said Craven
Le Noir, gently detaining her.
"I tell you, Mr. Le Noir, that your manner of speaking of my
betrothal is equally insulting to myself, Doctor Rocke and my dear
father, who never would have plighted our hands had he considered
our prospective marriage a mesalliance."
"Nor do I suppose he ever did plight your hands--while in his right
"Oh, sir, this has been discussed before. I beg of you to let the
subject drop forever, remembering that I hold myself sacredly
betrothed to Traverse Rocke, and ready when, at my legal majority,
he shall claim me--to redeem my plighted faith by becoming his
"Clara, this is madness! It must not be endured, nor shall not! I
have hitherto sought to win your hand by showing you the great
extent of my love; but be careful how you scorn that love or
continue to taunt me with the mention of an unworthy rival. For,
though I use gentle means, should I find them fail of their purpose,
I shall know how to avail myself of harsher ones."
Clara disdained reply, except by permitting her clear eye to pass
over him from head to foot with an expression of consuming scorn
that scathed him to the quick.
"I tell you to be careful, Clara Day! I come to you armed with the
authority of your legal guardian, my father, Colonel Le Noir, who
will forestall your foolish purpose of throwing yourself and your
fortune away upon a beggar, even though to do so he strain his
authority and coerce you into taking a more suitable companion,"
said Craven Le Noir, rising impatiently and pacing the floor. But no
sooner had he spoken these words than he saw how greatly he had
injured his cause and repented them. Going to Clara and intercepting
her as she was about to leave the room, he gently took her hand and,
dropping his eyes to the floor with a look of humility and
penitence, he said:
"Clara, my sweet cousin, I know not how sufficiently to express my
sorrow at having been hurried into harshness toward you--toward you
whom I love more than my own soul, and whom it is the fondest wish
of my heart to call wife. I can only excuse myself for this or any
future extravagance of manner by my excessive love for you and the
jealousy that maddens my brain at the bare mention of my rival. That
is it, sweet girl. Can you forgive one whom love and jealousy have
hurried into frenzy?"
"Mr. Le Noir, the Bible enjoins me to forgive injuries. I shall
endeavor, when I can, to forgive you, though for the present my
heart is still burning under the sense of wrongs done toward myself
and those whom I love and esteem, and the only way in which you can
make me forget what has just passed will be--never to repeat the
offence." And with these words Clara bent her head and passed from
Could she have seen the malignant scowl and gesture with which
Craven Le Noir followed her departure, she would scarcely have
trusted his expressions of penitence.
Lifting his arm above his head he fiercely shook his fist after her
"Go on, insolent girl, and imagine that you have humbled me; but the
tune shall be changed by this day month, for before that time
whatever power the law gives the husband over his wife and her
property shall be mine over you and your possessions. Then we will
see who shall be insolent; then we shall see whose proud blue eye
shall day after day dare to look up and rebuke me. Oh: to get you in
my power, my girl! Not that I love you, moon-faced creature, but I
want your possessions, which is quite as strong an incentive."
Then he fell into thought. He had an ugly way of scowling and biting
his nails when deeply brooding over any subject, and now he walked
slowly up and down the floor with his head upon his breast, his
brows drawn over his nose and his four fingers between his teeth,
gnawing away like a wild beast, while he muttered:
"She is not like the other one; she has more sense and strength; she
will give us more trouble. We must continue to try fair means a
little longer. It will be difficult, for I am not accustomed to
control my passions, even for a purpose--yet, penitence and love are
the only cards to be played to this insolent girl for the present.
Afterwards!--" Here his soliloquy muttered itself into silence, his
head sank deeper upon his breast, his brows gathered lower over his
nose and he walked and gnawed his nails like a hungry wolf.
The immediate result of this cogitation was that he went into the
library and wrote off a letter to his father, telling him all that
had transpired between himself and Clara, and asking his further
He dispatched this letter and waited an answer.
During the week that ensued before he could hope to hear from
Colonel Le Noir, he treated Clara with marked deference and respect.
And Clara, on her part, did not tax his forbearance by appearing in
his presence oftener than she could possibly avoid.
At the end of the week the expected letter came. It was short and to
the purpose. It ran thus;
Washington, Dec. 14, 18-
MY DEAR CRAVEN--You are losing time. Do not hope to win the
girl by the
means you propose. She is too acute to be deceived, and too
firm to be
persuaded. We must not hesitate to use the only possible means
by which we
can coerce her into compliance. I shall follow this letter by
stage-coach, and before the beginning of the next month Clara
Day shall be
your wife. Your Affectionate Father,
GABRIEL LE NOIR,
C. LE NOIR, ESQ., Hidden
When Craven Le Noir read this letter his thin, white face and deep-
set eyes lighted up with triumph. But Craven Le Noir huzzaed before
he was out of the woods. He had not calculated upon Capitola.
The next day Colonel Le Noir came to the Hidden House. He arrived
late in the afternoon.
After refreshing himself with a bath, a change of clothing and a
light luncheon, he went to the library, where he passed the
remainder of the evening in a confidential conference with his son.
Their supper was ordered to be served up to them there; and for that
evening Clara had the comfort of taking her tea alone.
The result of this conference was that the next morning, after
breakfast, Colonel Le Noir sent for Miss Day to come to him in the
When Clara, nerving her gentle heart to resist a sinful tyranny,
entered the library, Colonel Le Noir arose and courteously handed
her to a chair, and then, seating himself beside her, said:
"My dear Clara, the responsibilities of a guardian are always very
onerous, and his duties not always very agreeable, especially when
his ward is the sole heiress of a large property and the object of
pursuit by fortune hunters and maneuverers, male and female. When
such is the case, the duties and responsibilities of the guardian
are augmented a hundredfold."
"Sir, this cannot be so in my case, since you are perfectly aware
that my destiny is, humanly speaking, already decided," replied
Clara, with gentle firmness.
"As--how, I pray you, my fair ward?"
"You cannot possibly be at a loss to understand, sir. You have been
already advised that I am betrothed to Doctor Rocke, who will claim
me as his wife upon the day that I shall complete my twenty-first
"Miss Clara Day! no more of that, I beseech you! It is folly,
perversity, frenzy! But, thanks to the wisdom of legislators, the
law very properly invests the guardian with great latitude of
discretionary power of the person and property of his ward--to be
used, of course, for that ward's best interest. And thus, my dear
Clara, it is my duty, while holding this power over you, to exercise
it for preventing the possibility of your ever--either now or at any
future time, throwing yourself away upon a mere adventurer. To do
this, I must provide you with a suitable husband. My son, Mr. Craven
Le Noir, has long loved and wooed her. He is a young man of good
reputation and fair prospects. I entirely approve his suit, and as
your guardian I command you to receive him for your destined
"Colonel Le Noir, this is no time 'for bated breath and whispered
humbleness.' I am but a simple girl of seventeen, but I understand
your purpose and that of your son just as well as though I were an
old man of the world. You are the fortune hunters and maneuverers!
It is the fortune of the wealthy heiress and friendless orphan that
you are in pursuit of! But that fortune, like my hand and heart, is
already promised to one I love; and, to speak very plainly to you, I
would die ere I would disappoint him or wed your son," said Clara,
with invincible firmness.
"Die, girl! There are worse things than death in the world!" said
Colonel Le Noir, with a threatening glare.
"I know it! and one of the worst things in the world would be a
union with a man I could neither esteem nor even endure!" exclaimed
Colonel Le Noir saw that there was no use in further disguise.
Throwing off, then, the last restraints of good breeding, he said:
"And there are still more terrible evils for a woman than to be the
wife of one she 'can neither esteem nor endure!' "
Clara shook her head in proud scorn.
"There are evils to escape which such a woman would go down upon her
bended knees to be made the wife of such a man."
Clara's gentle eyes flashed with indignation.
"Infamous!" she cried. "You slander all womanhood in my person!"
"The evils to which I allude are--comprised in--a life of dishonor!"
hissed Le Noir through his set teeth.
"This to my father's daughter!" exclaimed Clara, growing white as
death at the insult. "Aye, my girl! It is time we understood each
other. You are in my power, and I intend to coerce you to my will!"
These words, accompanied as they were by a look that left no doubt
upon her mind that he would carry out his purpose to any extremity,
so appalled the maiden's soul that she stood like one suddenly
struck with catalepsy.
The unscrupulous wretch then approached her and said:
"I am now going to the county seat to take out a marriage license
for you and my son. I shall have the carriage at the door by six
o'clock this evening, when I desire that you shall be ready to
accompany us to church, where a clerical friend will be in
attendance to perform the marriage ceremony. Clara Day, if you would
save your honor, look to this!"
All this time Clara had neither moved nor spoken nor breathed. She
had stood cold, white and still as if turned to stone.
"Let no vain hope of escape delude your mind. The doors will be kept
locked; the servants are all warned not to suffer you to leave the
house. Look to it, Clara, for the rising of another sun shall see my
purpose accomplished! "
And with these words the atrocious wretch left the room. His
departure took off the dreadful spell that had paralyzed Clara's
life; her blood began to circulate again; breath came to her lungs
and speech to her lips.
"Oh, Lord," she cried, "oh, Lord, who delivered the children from
the fiery furnace, deliver the poor handmaiden now from her terrible
While she thus prayed she saw upon the writing table before her a
small penknife. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes brightened as she
"This! this!" she said, "this small instrument is sufficient to save
me! Should the worst ensue, I know where to find the carotid artery,
and even such a slight puncture as my timorous hand could make would
set my spirit free! Oh, my father! oh, my father! you little thought
when you taught your Clara the mysteries of anatomy to what a
fearful use she would put your lessons! And would it be right? Oh,
would it be right? One may desire death, but can anything justify
suicide? Oh, Father in heaven, guide me! guide me!" cried Clara,
falling upon her knees and sobbing forth this prayer of agony.
Soon approaching footsteps drew her attention. And she had only time
to rise and put back her damp, disheveled hair from her tear-stained
face before the door opened and Dorcas Knight appeared and said:
"Here is this young woman come again."
"I declare, Miss Day," said Cap, laughing, "you have the most
accomplished, polite and agreeable servants here that I ever met
with! Think with what a courteous welcome this woman received me--'
Here you are again!' she said. 'You'll come once too often for your
own good, and that I tell you.' I answered that every time I came it
appeared to be once too often for her liking. She rejoined, 'The
colonel has come home, and he don't like company, so I advise you to
make your call a short one.' I assured her that I should measure the
length of my visit by the breadth of my will--But good angels,
Clara! what is the matter? You look worse than death!" exclaimed
Capitola, noticing for the first time the pale, wild, despairing
face of her companion.
Clara clasped her hands as if in prayer and raised her eyes with an
appealing gaze into Capitola's face.
"Tell me, dear Clara, what is the matter? How can I help you? What
shall I do for you?" said our heroine.
Before trusting herself to reply, Clara gazed wistfully into
Capitola's eyes, as though she would have read her soul.
Cap did not blanch nor for an instant avert her own honest, gray
orbs; she let Clara gaze straight down through those clear windows
of the soul into the very soul itself, where she found only truth,
honesty and courage.
The scrutiny seemed to be satisfactory for Clara soon took the hand
of her visitor and said:
"Capitola, I will tell you. It is a horrid, horrid story, but you
shall know all. Come with me to my chamber."
Cap pressed the hand that was so confidingly placed in hers and
accompanied Clara to her room, where, after the latter had taken the
precaution to lock the door, the two girls sat down for a
Clara, like the author of Robin Hood's Barn, "began at the
beginning" of her story, and told everything--her betrothal to
Traverse Rocke; the sudden death of her father; the decision of the
Orphans' Court; the departure of Traverse for the far West; her
arrival at the Hidden House; the interruption of all her epistolary
correspondence with her betrothed and his mother; the awful and
mysterious occurrences of that dreadful night when she suspected
some heinous crime had been committed; and finally of the long,
unwelcome suit of Craven Le Noir and the present attempt to force
him upon her as a husband.
Cap listened very calmly to this story, showing very little
sympathy, for there was not a bit of sentimentality about our Cap.
"And now," whispered Clara, while the pallor of horror overspread
her face, "by threatening me with a fate worse than death, they
would drive me to marry Craven Le Noir!"
"Yes, I know I would!" said Cap, as if speaking to herself, but by
her tone and manner clothing these simple words in the very keenest
"What would you do, Capitola?" asked Clara, raising her tearful eyes
to the last speaker.
"Marry Mr. Craven Le Noir and thank him, too!" said Cap. Then,
suddenly changing her tone, she exclaimed:
"I wish--oh! how I wish it was only me in your place--that it was
only me they were trying to marry against my will!"
"What would you do?" asked Clara, earnestly.
"What would I do? Oh! wouldn't I make them know the difference
between their Sovereign Lady and Sam the Lackey? If I had been in
your place and that dastard Le Noir had said to me what he said to
you, I do believe I should have stricken him down with the lightning
of my eyes! But what shall you do, my poor Clara?"
"Alas! alas! see here! this is my last resort!" replied the unhappy
girl, showing the little pen-knife.
"Put it away from you! put it away from you!" exclaimed Capitola
earnestly; "suicide is never, never, never justifiable! God is the
Lord of life and death! He is the only judge whether a mortal's
sorrows are to be relieved by death, and when He does not Himself
release you, He means that you shall live and endure! That proves
that suicide is never right, let the Roman pagans have said and done
what they pleased. So no more of that! There are enough other ways
of escape for you!"
"Ah! what are they? You would give me life by teaching me how to
escape!" said Clara, fervently.
"The first and most obvious means that suggests itself to my mind,"
said Cap, "is to--run away!"
"Ah! that is impossible. The servants are warned; the doors are all
locked; I am watched!"
"Then the next plan is equally obvious. Consent to go with them to
the church, and when you get there, denounce them and claim the
protection of the clergyman!"
"Ah! dear girl, that is still more impracticable. The officiating
clergyman is their friend, and even if I could consent to act a
deceitful part, and should go to church as if to marry Craven and
upon getting there denounce him, instead of receiving the protection
of the clergyman I should be restored to the hands of my legal
guardian and be brought back here to meet a fate worse than death,"
said Clara, in a tone of despair.
Capitola did not at once reply, but fell into deep thought, which
lasted many minutes. Then, speaking more gravely than she had spoken
before, she said:
"There is but one plan of escape left, your only remaining chance,
and that full of danger!"
"Oh, why should I fear danger? What evil can befall me so great as
that which now threatens me?" said Clara.
"This plan requires on your part great courage, self-control and
presence of mind."
"Teach me! teach me, dear Capitola. I will be an apt pupil!"
"I have thought it all out, and will tell you my plan. It is now
eleven o'clock in the forenoon, and the carriage is to come for you
at six this evening, I believe?"
"Then you have seven hours in which to save yourself! And this is my
plan: First, Clara, you must change clothes with me, giving me your
suit of mourning and putting on my riding habit, hat and veil! Then,
leaving me here in your place, you are to pull the veil down closely
over your face and walk right out of the house! No one will speak to
you, for they never do to me. When you have reached the park, spring
upon my horse and put whip to him for the village of Tip Top. My
servant, Wool, will ride after you, but not speak to you or approach
near enough to discover your identity--for he has been ordered by
his master to keep me in sight, and he has been forbidden by his
mistress to intrude upon her privacy. You will reach Tip Top by
three o'clock, when the Staunton stage passes through. You may then
reveal yourself to Wool, give my horse into his charge, get into the
coach and start for Staunton. Upon reaching that place, put yourself
under the protection of your friends, the two old physicians, and
get them to prosecute your guardian for cruelty and flagrant abuse
of authority. Be cool, firm and alert, and all will be well!"
Clara, who had listened to this little Napoleon in petticoats with
breathless interest, now clasped her hands in a wild ecstasy of joy
"I will try it! Oh, Capitola I will try it! Heaven bless you for the
"Be quick, then; change your dress! provide yourself with a purse of
money, and I will give you particular directions how to make a short
cut for Tip Top. Ha, ha, ha!, when they come for the bride she will
be already rolling on the turnpike between Tip Top and Staunton!"
"But you! Oh, you, my generous deliverer?"
"I shall dress myself in your clothes and stay here in your place to
keep you from being missed, so as to give you full time to make your
"But--you will place yourself in the enraged lion's jaws! You will
remain in the power of two men who know neither justice nor mercy!
Who, in their love or their hate, fear neither God nor man! Oh,
Capitola! how can I take an advantage of your generosity, and leave
you here in such extreme peril? Capitola, I cannot do it!"
"Well, then, I believe, you must be anxious to marry Craven Le
"Well, if you are not, hurry and get ready; there is no time to be
"But you! but you, my generous friend!"
"Never mind me. I shall be safe enough! I am not afraid of the Le
Noirs. Bless their wigs; I should like to see them make me blanch.
On the contrary, I desire above all things to be pitted against
these two! How I shall enjoy their disappointment and rage! Oh, it
will be a rare frolic!"
While Capitola was speaking she was also busily engaged doing. She
went softly to the door and turned the key in the lock, to prevent
any one from looking through the keyhole, murmuring as she did it:
"I wasn't brought up among the detective policemen for nothing!"
Then she began to take off her riding-habit. Quickly she dressed
Clara, superintending all the details of her disguise as carefully
as though she were the costumer of a new debutante. When Clara was
dressed she was so nearly of the same size and shape of Capitola
that from behind no one would have suspected her identity.
"There, Clara! tuck your light hair out of the way; pull your cap
over your eyes; gather your veil down close; draw up your figure;
throw back your head; walk with a little springy sway and swagger,
as if you didn't care a damson for anybody, and--there! I declare no
one could tell you from me!" exclaimed Capitola in delight, as she
completed the disguise and the instructions of Clara.
Then Capitola dressed herself in Clara's deep mourning robes. And
then the two girls sat down to compose themselves for a few minutes,
while Capitola gave new and particular directions for Clara's course
and conduct, so as to insure as far as human foresight could do it,
the safe termination of her perilous adventure. By the time they had
ended their talk the hall clock struck twelve.
"There! it is full time you should be off! Be calm, be cool, be
firm, and God bless you, Clara! Dear girl! if I were only a young
man I would deliver you by the strength of my own arms, without
subjecting you to inconvenience or danger!" said Cap, gallantly, as
she led Clara to the chamber door and carefully gathered her thick
veil in close folds over her face, so as entirely to conceal it.
"Oh, may the Lord in heaven bless and preserve and reward you, my
brave, my noble, my heroic Capitola!" said Clara, fervently, with
the tears rushing to her eyes.
"Bosh!" said Cap. "If you go doing the sentimental you won't look
like me a bit, and that will spoil all. There! keep your veil close,
for it's windy, you know; throw back your head and fling yourself
along with a swagger, as if you didn't care, ahem! for anybody, and-
-there you are!" said Cap, pushing Clara out and shutting the door
Clara paused an instant to offer up one short, fervent prayer for
her success and Capitola's safety, and then following her
instructions, went on.
Nearly all girls are clever imitators, and Clara readily adopted
Capitola's light, springy, swaying walk, and met old Dorcas Knight
in the hall, without exciting the slightest suspicion of her
"Humph!" said the woman; "so you are going! I advise you not to come
Clara threw up her head with a swagger, and went on.
"Very well, you may scorn my words, but if you know your own good
you'll follow my advice!" said Dorcas Knight, harshly.
Clara flung up her head and passed out.
Before the door Wool was waiting with the horses. Keeping her face
closely muffled, Clara went to Capitola's pony. Wool came and helped
her into the saddle, saying:
"Yer does right, Miss Cap, to keep your face kivered; it's awful
windy, ain't it, though? I kin scarcely keep the har from blowing
offen my head."
With an impatient jerk after the manner of Capitola, Clara signified
that she did not wish to converse. Wool dropped obediently behind,
mounted his horse and followed at a respectful distance until Clara
turned her horse's head and took the bridle-path toward Tip Top.
This move filled poor Wool with dismay. Riding toward her, he
"'Deed, Miss Cap, yer mus' scuse me for speakin' now! Whar de
muschief is yer a-goin' to?"
For all answer Clara, feigning the temper of Capitola, suddenly
wheeled her horse, elevated her riding whip and galloped upon Wool
in a threatening manner.
Wool dodged and backed his horse with all possible expedition,
exclaiming in consternation:
"Dar! dar! Miss Cap, I won't go for to ax you any more questions--
no--not if yer rides straight to Old Nick or Black Donald!"
Whereupon, receiving this apology in good part, Clara again turned
her horse's head and rode on her way.
Wool followed, bemoaning the destiny that kept him between the two
fierce fires of his old master's despotism and his young mistress's
caprice, and muttering:
"I know old marse and dis young gal am goin' to be the death of me!
I knows it jes' as well as nuffin at all! I 'clare to man, if it
ain't nuff to make anybody go heave themselves right into a grist
mill and be ground up at once." Wool spoke no more until they got to
Tip Top, when Clara still closely veiled, rode up to the stage
office just as the coach, half filled with passengers, was about to
start. Springing from her horse, she went up to Wool and said:
"Here, man, take this horse back to Hurricane Hall! Tell Major
Warfield that Miss Black remains at the Hidden House in imminent
danger! Ask him to ride there and bring her home! Tell Miss Black
when you see her that I reached Tip Top safe and in time to take the
coach. Tell her I will never cease to be grateful! And now, here is
a half eagle for your trouble! Good-by, and God bless you!" And she
put the piece in his hand and took her place in the coach, which
As for Wool! From the time that Clara had thrown aside her veil and
began to speak to him he had stood staring and staring--his
consternation growing and growing--until it had seemed to have
turned him into stone--from which state of petrefaction he did not
recover until he saw the stage coach roll rapidly away, carrying
off--whom?--Capitola, Clara or the evil one?--Wool could not have
told which! He presently astounded the people about the stage office
by leaving his horses and taking to his heels after the stage coach,
"Murder! murder! help! help! stop thief! stop thief! stop the coach!
stop the coach!"
"What is the matter, man?" said a constable, trying to head him.
But Wool incontinently ran over that officer, throwing him down and
keeping on his headlong course, hat off, coat-tail streaming and
legs and arms flying like the sails of a windmill, as he tried to
overtake the coach, crying:
"Help! murder! head the horses! Stop the coach! Old marse told me
not to lose sight of her! Oh, for hebben's sake, good people, stop
When he got to a gate, instead of taking time to open it, he rolled
himself somersault-like right over it! When he met man or woman,
instead of turning from his straight course, he knocked them over
and passed on, garments flying and legs and arms circulating with
the velocity of a wheel.
The people whom he had successively met and overthrown in his
course, picking themselves up and getting into the village, reported
that there was a furious madman broke loose, who attacked every one
And soon every man and boy in the village who could mount a horse
started in pursuit. Only race horses would have beaten the speed
with which Wool ran, urged on by fear. It was nine miles on the
turnpike road from Tip Top that the horsemen overtook and surrounded
Wool, who, seeing himself hopelessly environed, fell down upon the
ground and rolled and kicked, swearing that he would not be taken
alive to have his eyelids cut off!
It was not until after a desperate resistance that he was finally
taken, bound, put in a wagon and carried back to the village, where
he was recognized as Major Warfield's man and a messenger was
despatched for his master.
And not until he had been repeatedly assured that no harm should
befall him did Wool gain composure enough to say, amid tears of
cruel grief and fear:
"Oh, marsers! my young missus, Miss Black, done been captured and
bewitched and turned into somebody else, right afore my own two
looking eyes and gone off in dat coach! 'deed she is! and ole marse
kill me!'deed he will, gemmen! He went and ordered me not to take my
eyes offen her, and no more I didn't! But what good that do, when
she turned to somebody else, and went off right afore my two looking
eyes? But ole marse won't listen to reason. He kill me, I know he
will! "whimpered Wool, refusing to be comforted."
CAP IN CAPTIVITY.
I lingered here and rescue planned
For Clara and for me.
Meanwhile how fared it with Capitola in the Hidden House?
"I am in for it now!" said Cap, as she closed the door behind Clara;
"I am in for it now! This is a jolly imprudent adventure! What will
Wool do when he discovers that he has 'lost sight' of me? What will
uncle say when he finds out what I've done? Whe-ew! Uncle will
explode! I wonder if the walls at Hurricane Hall will be strong
enough to stand it! Wool will go mad! I doubt if he will ever do a
bit more good in this world!"
"But above all, I wonder what the Le Noirs, father and son, will say
when they find that the heiress is flown and a 'beggar,' as uncle
flatters me by calling me, will be here in her place! Whe-ew-ew-ew!
There will be a tornado! Cap, child, they'll murder you! That's just
what they'll do! They'll kill and eat you, Cap, without any salt! or
they may lock you up in the haunted room to live with the ghost,
Cap, and that would be worse!"
"Hush! here comes Dorcas Knight! Now I must make believe I'm Clara,
and do the sentimental up brown!" concluded Capitola, as she seated
herself near the door where she could be heard, and began to sob
Cap sobbed in response.
"Are you coming to luncheon, Miss Day?" inquired the woman.
"Ee-hee! Ee-hee! Ee-hee! I do not want to eat," sobbed Cap, in a low
and smothered voice. Any one would have thought she was drowned in
"Very well; just as you like," said the woman harshly, as she went
"Well, I declare," laughed Cap, "I did that quite as well as an
actress could! But now what am I to do? How long can I keep this up?
Heigh-ho 'let the world slide!' I'll not reveal myself until I'm
driven to it, for when I do-! Cap, child, you'll get chawed right
A little later in the day Dorcas Knight came again and rapped at the
"Ee-hee! Ee-hee! Ee-hee!" sobbed Cap.
"Miss Day, your cousin, Craven Le Noir, wishes to speak with you
"Ee-hee! Ee-hee! Ee-hee! I cannot see him!" sobbed Cap, in a low and
The woman went away, and Cap suffered no other interruption until
six o'clock, when Dorcas Knight once more rapped saying:
"Miss Day, your uncle is at the front door with the carriage, and he
wishes to know if you are ready to obey him."
"Ee-hee! Ee-hee! Ee--hee!-te-te-tell him yes!" sobbed Cap, as if her
heart would break.
The woman went off with this answer, and Capitola hastily enveloped
her form in Clara's large, black shawl, put on Clara's black bonnet
and tied her thick mourning veil closely over her face.
"A pretty bridal dress, this; but, however, I suppose these men are
no more particular about my costume than they are about their own
conduct," said Cap.
She had just drawn on her gloves when she heard the footsteps of two
men approaching. They rapped at the door.
"Come in," she sobbed, in a low, broken voice, that might have
belonged to any girl in deep distress, and she put a white cambric
handkerchief up to her eyes and drew her thick veil closely over her
The two Le Noirs immediately entered the room. Craven approached her
and whispered, softly:
"You will forgive me this, my share in these proceedings after
awhile, sweet Clara! The Sabine women did not love the Roman youths
the less that they were forcibly made wives by them."
"Ee-hee! Ee-hee! Ee-hee!" sobbed Cap, entirely concealing her white
cambric handkerchief under her impenetrable veil.
"Come, come! we lose time!" said the elder Le Noir "Draw her arm
within yours, Craven, and lead her out."
The young man did as he was directed and led Cap from the room. It
was now quite dark--the long, dreary passage was only dimly lighted
by a hanging lamp, so that with the care she took there was scarcely
a possibility of Capitola's being discovered. They went on, Craven
Le Noir whispering hypocritical apologies and Cap replying only by
When they reached the outer door they found a close carriage drawn
up before the house.
To this Craven Le Noir led Capitola, placed her within and took the
seat by her side. Colonel Le Noir followed and placed himself in the
front seat opposite them. And the carriage was driven rapidly off.
An hour's ride brought the party to an obscure church in the depths
of the forest, which Capitola recognized by the cross on its top to
be a Roman Catholic chapel.
Here the carriage drew up and the two Le Noirs got out and assisted
Capitola to alight.
They then led her into the church, which was dimly illumined by a
pair of wax candles burning before the altar. A priest in his
sacerdotal robes was in attendance. A few country people were
scattered thinly about among the pews, at their private devotions.
Guarded by Craven Le Noir on the right and Colonel Le Noir on the
left, Capitola was marched up the aisle and placed before the altar.
Colonel Le Noir then went and spoke apart to the officiating priest,
saying, in a tone of dissatisfaction:
"I told you, sir, that as our bride was an orphan, recently
bereaved, and still in deep mourning, we wished the marriage
ceremony to be strictly private, and you gave me to understand, sir,
that at this hour the chapel was most likely to be vacant. Yet, here
I find a half a score of people! How is this?"
"Sir," replied the priest, "it is true that at this hour of the
evening the chapel is most likely to be vacant, but it is not
therefore certain to be so! nor did I promise as much! Our chapel
is, as you know, open at all hours of the day and night, that all
who please may come and pray. These people that you see are hard-
working farm laborers, who have no time to come in the day, and who
are now here to offer up their evening prayers, and also, some of
them, to examine their consciences preparatory to confession! They
can certainly be no interruption to this ceremony."
"Egad, I don't know that!" muttered Colonel Le Noir between his
As for Cap, the sight of other persons present in the chapel filled
her heart with joy and exultation, inasmuch as it insured her final
safety. And so she just abandoned herself to the spirit of frolic
that possessed her, and anticipated with the keenest relish the
denouement of her strange adventure.
"Well, what are we waiting for? Proceed, sir, proceed!" said Colonel
Le Noir as he took Cap by the shoulders and placed her on the left
side of his son, while he himself stood behind ready to "give the
The ceremony immediately commenced.
The prologue beginning, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together
here," etc., etc., etc., was read.
The solemn exhortation to the contracting parties, commencing "I
require and charge ye both, as ye shall answer in the dreadful day
of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that
if either of you know any just cause or impediment why ye may not
lawfully be joined together," etc., etc., etc., followed.
Capitola listened to all this with the deepest attention, saying to
herself: "Well, I declare, this getting married is really awfully
interesting! If it were not for Herbert Greyson, I'd just let it go
right straight on to the end and see what would happen next!"
While Cap was making these mental comments the priest was asking the
"Wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife," etc., etc., etc.,
"so long as ye both shall live?"
To which Craven Le Noir, in a sonorous voice responded: "I will."
"Indeed you will? We'll see that presently!" said Cap to herself.
The priest then turning toward the bride, inquired:
"Wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband, etc., etc., etc.,
so long as ye both shall live?"
To which the bride, throwing aside her veil, answered firmly:
"No! not if he were the last man and I the last woman on the face of
the earth and the human race was about to become extinct and the
angel of Gabriel came down from above to ask it of me as a personal
The effect of this outburst, this revelation, this explosion, may be
imagined but can never be adequately described.
The priest dropped his book and stood with lifted hands and open
mouth and staring eyes as though he had raised a ghost!
The two Le Noirs simultaneously sprang forward, astonishment,
disappointment and rage contending in their blanched faces.
"Who are you, girl?" exclaimed Colonel Le Noir.
"Capitola Black, your honor's glory!" she replied, making a deep
"What the foul fiend is the meaning of all this?" in the same breath
inquired the father and son.
Cap put her thumb on the side of her nose, and, whirling her four
"It means, your worships' excellencies, that--you--can't come it!
it's no go!' this chicken won't fight It means that the fat's in the
fire, and the cat's out of the bag! It means confusion! distraction!
perdition! and a tearing off of our wigs! It means the game's up,
the play's over, villainy is about to be hanged and virtue about to
be married, and the curtain is going to drop and the principal
performer--that's I-is going to be called out amid the applause of
the audience!" Then, suddenly changing her mocking tone to one of
great severity, she said:
"It means that you have been outwitted by a girl! It means that your
purposed victim has fled, and is by this time in safety! It means
that you two, precious father and son, would be a pair of knaves if
you had sense enough; but, failing in that, you are only a pair of
By this time the attention of the few persons in the church was
aroused. They all arose to their feet to look and listen, and some
of them left their places and approached the altar. And to these
latter Capitola now suddenly turned and said aloud:
"Good people, I am Capitola Black, the niece and ward of Major Ira
Warfield, of Hurricane Hall, whom you all know, and now I claim your
protection while I shall tell you the meaning of my presence here!"
"Don't listen to her. She is a maniac!" cried Colonel Le Noir.
"Stop her mouth!" cried Craven, springing upon Capitola and holding
her tightly in the grasp of his right arm, while he covered her lips
and nostrils with his large left hand.
Capitola struggled so fiercely to free herself that Craven had
enough to do to hold her, and so was not aware of a ringing footstep
coming up the aisle, until a stunning blow dealt from a strong arm
covered his face with blood and stretched him out at Capitola's
Cap flushed, breathless and confused, looked up and was caught to
the bosom of Herbert Greyson, who, pale with concentrated rage, held
her closely and inquired:
"Capitola! What violence is this which has been done you? Explain!
who is the aggresor?"
"Wai, wai, wait until I get my breath! There! that was good! That
villain has all but strangled me to death? Oh, Herbert, I'm so
delighted you've come! How is it that you always drop right down at
the right time and on the right spot?" said Cap, while gasping for
"I will tell you another time! Now I want an explanation."
"Yes, Herbert, I also wish to explain--not only to you but to these
gaping, good people! Let me have a hearing!" said Cap.
"She is mad! absolutely mad!" cried Colonel Le Noir, who was
assisting his son to rise.
"Silence, sir!" thundered Herbert Greyson, advancing toward him with
uplifted and threatening hand.
"Gentlemen! gentlemen! pray remember that you are within the walls
of a church!" said the distressed priest.
"Craven, this is no place for us; let us go and pursue our fugitive
ward," whispered Colonel Le Noir to his son.
"We might as well; for it is clear that all is over here!" replied
Craven. And the two baffled villains turned to leave the place. But
Herbert Greyson, speaking up, said:
"Good people, prevent the escape of those men until we hear what
this young lady has to say! that we may judge whether to let them go
or to take them before a magistrate."
The people flew to the doors and windows and secured them, and then
surrounded the two Le Noirs, who found themselves prisoners.
"Now, Capitola, tell us how it is that you are here!" said Herbert
"Well, that elder man" said Cap, "is the guardian of a young heiress
who was betrothed to a worthy young man, one Doctor Traverse Rocke."
"My friend!" interrupted Herbert.
"Yes, Mr. Greyson, your friend! Their engagement was approved by the
young lady's father, who gave them his dying blessing. Nevertheless,
in the face of all this, this 'guardian' here, appointed by the
Orphans' Court to take charge of the heiress and her fortune,
undertakes, for his own ends, to compel the young lady to break her
engagement and marry his own son! To drive her to this measure, he
does not hesitate to use every species of cruelty. This night he was
to have forced her to this altar! But in the interval, to-day, I
chanced to visit her at the house where she was confined. Being
informed by her of her distressing situation, and having no time to
help her in any better way, I just changed clothes with her. She
escaped unsuspected in my dress. And those two heroes there,
mistaking me for her, forced me into a carriage and dragged me
hither to be married against my will. And instead of catching an
heiress, they caught a Tartar, that's all! And now, Herbert, let the
two poor wretches go hide their mortification, and do you take me
home, for I am immensely tired of doing the sentimental, making
speeches and piling up the agonies!"
While Cap was delivering this long oration, the two Le Noirs had
made several essays to interrupt and contradict her, but were
effectually prevented by the people, whose sympathies were all with
the speaker. Now, at Herbert Greyson's command, they released the
culprits, who, threatening loudly took their departure.
Herbert then led Capitola out and placed her upon her own pony, Gyp,
which, to her unbounded astonishment, she found there in charge of
Wool, who was also mounted upon his own hack.
Herbert Greyson threw himself into the saddle of a third horse, and
the three took the road to Hurricane Hall.
"And now," said Capitola, as Herbert rode up to her side, "for mercy
sake tell me, before I go crazy with conjecture, how it happened
that you dropped down from the sky at the very moment and on the
very spot where you were needed? and where did you light upon Wool
and the horses?"
"It is very simple when you come to understand it," said Herbert,
smiling. "In the first place, you know, I graduated at the last
"Well, I have just received a lieutenant's commission in a regiment
that is ordered to join General Scott in Mexico."
"Oh, Herbert, that is news, and I don't know whether to be in
despair or in ecstasy!" said Cap, ready to laugh or cry, as a
feather's weight might tip the scales in which she balanced
Herbert's new honors with his approaching perils.
"If there's any doubt about it, I decidedly recommend the latter
emotion," said Herbert, laughing.
"When do you go?" inquired Cap.
"Our regiment embarks from Baltimore on the first of next month.
Meanwhile I got leave of absence to come and spend a week with my
friends at home!"
"Oh, Herbert, I--I am in a quandary! But you haven't told me yet how
you happened to meet Wool and to come here just in the nick of
"I am just going to do so. Well, you see Capitola, I came down in
the stage to Tip Top, which I reached about three o'clock. And there
I found Wool in the hands of the Philistines, suspected of being
mad, from the manner in which he raved about losing sight of you.
Well, of course, like a true knight, I delivered my lady's squire,
comforted and reassured him and made him mount his own horse and
take charge of yours. After which I mounted the best beast that I
had hired to convey me to Hurricane Hall, and we all set off
thither. I confess that I was excessively anxious upon your account,
for I could make nothing whatever of Wool's wild story of your
supposed metamorphosis! I thought it best to make a circuit and take
the Hidden House in our course, to make some inquiries there as to
what had really happened. I had got a little bewildered between the
dark night and the strange road, and, seeing the light in the
church, I had just ridden up to inquire my way, when to my
astonishment I saw you within, before the altar, struggling in the
grasp of that ruffian. And you know the rest! And now let us ride on
quickly, for I have a strong presentiment that Major Warfield is
suffering the tortures of a lost soul through anxiety upon your
account," concluded Herbert Greyson.
"Please, Marse Herbert and Miss Cap, don't you tell ole marse nuffin
'tall 'bout my loosin' sight of you!" pleaded Wool.
"We shall tell you old master all about it, Wool, for I would not
have him miss the pleasure of hearing this adventure upon any
account; but I promise to bear you harmless through it," said
Herbert, as they galloped rapidly toward home.
They reached Hurricane Hall by eight o'clock, and in good time for
supper. They found Old Hurricane storming all over the house, and
ordering everybody off the premises in his fury of anxiety upon
Capitola's account. But when the party arrived, surprise at seeing
them in the company of Herbert Greyson quite revolutionized his
mood, and, forgetting to rage, he gave them all a hearty welcome.
And when after supper was over and they were all gathered around the
comfortable fireside, and Herbert related the adventures and feats
of Capitola at the Hidden House, and in the forest chapel, the old
man grasped the hand of his favorite and with his stormy old eyes
full of rain said:
"You deserve to have been a man, Cap! Indeed you do, my girl!"
That was his highest style of praise.
Then Herbert told his own little story of getting his commission and
being ordered to Mexico.
"God bless you, lad, and save you in the battle and bring you home
with victory!" was old Hurricane's comment.
Then seeing that the young people were quite worn out with fatigue,
and feeling not averse to his own comfortable couch, Old Hurricane
broke up the circle and they all retired to rest.
AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR AT MARAH'S COTTAGE.
"Friend wilt thou give me shelter here?
The stranger meekly saith
My life is hunted! evil men
Are following on my path."
Marah Rocke sat by her lonely fireside.
The cottage was not changed in any respect since the day upon which
we first of all found her there. There was the same bright, little
wood fire; the same clean hearth and the identical faded carpet on
the floor. There was the dresser with its glistening crockery ware
on the right, and the shelves with Traverse's old school books on
the left of the fireplace.
The widow herself had changed in nothing except that her clean black
dress was threadbare and rusty, and her patient face whiter and
thinner than before.
And now there was no eager restlessness: no frequent listening and
looking toward the door. Alas! she could not now expect to hear her
boy's light and springing step and cheerful voice as he hurried home
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