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Title: John Baring's House
Author: Singmaster, Elsie
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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JOHN BARING’S HOUSE


      *      *      *      *      *      *

BOOKS BY ELSIE SINGMASTER


  WHEN SARAH SAVED THE DAY
  WHEN SARAH WENT TO SCHOOL
  GETTYSBURG
  KATY GAUMER
  EMMELINE
  THE LONG JOURNEY
  THE LIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER
  JOHN BARING’S HOUSE
  BASIL EVERMAN
  ELLEN LEVIS
  BENNETT MALIN
  THE HIDDEN ROAD
  A BOY AT GETTYSBURG
  BRED IN THE BONE
  KELLER’S ANNA RUTH
  ‘SEWING SUSIE’
  WHAT EVERYBODY WANTED
  VIRGINIA’S BANDIT
  YOU MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK
  A LITTLE MONEY AHEAD
  THE YOUNG RAVENELS
  SWORDS OF STEEL
  THE MAGIC MIRROR
  THE LOVING HEART
  RIFLES FOR WASHINGTON

      *      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration: ELIZABETH AND HERBERT]


JOHN BARING’S HOUSE

by

ELSIE SINGMASTER



[Illustration]

Boston and New York
Houghton Mifflin Company
The Riverside Press Cambridge

Copyright, 1920, by Elsie Singmaster Lewars

All Rights Reserved Including the Right to Reproduce
This Book or Parts Thereof in Any Form



  TO

  JAMES ARTHUR SINGMASTER, JUNIOR



Contents


     I. A NEW HOME                               1

    II. “WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH US?”           19

   III. “I WILL NOT BELIEVE IT!”                38

    IV. A JOURNEY IN VAIN                       54

     V. AN ALARMING MESSAGE                     74

    VI. ANOTHER VAIN JOURNEY                    89

   VII. “MAMMY’S BOY”                          106

  VIII. BLACK SMITH’S BARGAIN                  123

    IX. HERBERT PUTS TWO AND TWO TOGETHER      138



JOHN BARING’S HOUSE



Chapter I

A NEW HOME


Sitting on the doorstep, Elizabeth Scott leaned her head against the
stone wall of the old house. The June twilight was closing in and a
hard day’s work was done. Three meals had been prepared and half of the
large garden had been hoed and weeded. Feeling that their gardening
knowledge was limited, Elizabeth and her brother made up by an excess
of cultivation.

A tall, slender boy came round the corner of the house and called
“Elizabeth!” There was a dependent quality in his voice; one would
have guessed that he was a good deal younger and a good deal less
enterprising than the sister whom he addressed.

“Yes, Herbert!” Elizabeth looked up smilingly. Her voice was soft
like his, but the words were briskly and firmly spoken. Briskness and
firmness were two of Elizabeth’s most noticeable qualities. Those who
opposed her called her firmness stubbornness.

There was another quality expressed in her voice--an intense affection
for the brother whom she addressed.

“Aren’t you going to bed, Elizabeth?”

“Not yet. Come and sit down.”

Herbert dropped to the doorstep beside his sister. His motions still
showed the effect of a long illness from which he had not entirely
recovered.

“Are you very tired, Herbert?”

“Not very.”

For a long time both were quiet. The old house seemed gradually to sink
into the woodland which rose behind it against the wall of the higher
mountains, the shadows of night crept over the miles of fields and
orchards which dropped to the distant plain, the garden between the
house and the road was blotted out, and the old oak trees on the other
side came closer and closer. In the woods whip-poor-wills called, and
once an owl flapped low above the doorstep. At that Herbert started and
Elizabeth spoke reassuringly.

“Nothing but an owl, dear! He looked like a great moth, didn’t he?
Herbert, when we can, we must restore the old driveway. It used to come
in from the road in a beautiful curve to the door. Then the garden can
be moved, and I believe if we’d cut away that clump of poor trees we
could sit here on our own doorstep and see Gettysburg. Think of it,
Herbert!”

“Yes,” said Herbert. His voice expressed pleasure, but a qualified
pleasure.

“I can’t make it seem _real_,” said Elizabeth.

“If we can only succeed!”

“Of course we shall succeed!” Any one listening to Elizabeth would have
said “Of course!” “In the first place, we have this house, blessed,
substantial old thing that it is, only occasionally occupied during
forty years and yet habitable after a little mending of the roof. John
Baring’s character can be seen in the way he built his house. I’m more
proud of him every day. Then we have the acres and acres of woodland
behind us, and our garden--think of the produce we have to sell
to-morrow! And soon we shall have our orchard,--_our_ orchard, Herbert.
They say that men within a few miles have sold a single crop for ten
thousand dollars. It will mean work and saving and then comfort for all
our lives. Why, we are the most fortunate people in the world!”

Herbert looked back over his shoulder into the dark hall. At the other
end a door opened against the black wall of the woodland.

“Doesn’t it make you nervous to think of those men prowling round with
their guns and dogs?”

“Not at all. They’ll have to be warned away. I suppose they’re so used
to roaming about that they think the place is theirs. I’m not so much
afraid of them as I am of their big dogs running over the garden.”

“What is that noise, Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth listened intently. Herbert often heard alarming noises. There
was a soft rustle of leaves near at hand.

“A deer, I guess,” she answered cheerfully, “or some other wild
thing--nothing to hurt us, I’m sure. I cannot see why our people ever
went away from here. Grandfather Baring was a man of standing--why,
this must have been the finest place for miles around! Wait till
we have a new portico and a little paint on the woodwork and some
shrubbery! I should think mother would have been continually homesick.”


“Did she ever say she was?”

“No. When I asked her she used to tell me what she remembered hearing
people say about the battle. She was not a talkative person. But all
these years the taxes have been paid and there wasn’t even always a
renter.”

“Do you think she believed we should ever come back? Do you--” Herbert
interrupted himself. “There is some one looking at us now!”

“Where?”

“There’s a man at the edge of the woods with a big dog and a gun!”

Elizabeth turned her head. The moon had risen and its rays shone on
a long object of bright steel. This object was not pointed in the
direction of the two on the doorstep; it slanted backward from the
shoulder which supported it, but it was none the less menacing.

Elizabeth sprang up, a short, somewhat stocky, swiftly moving figure.

“Well, neighbor!” she said loudly. “How are you this evening?”

The man drew back into the shadows, but he was not to be allowed to
slink away. Elizabeth went closer to him.

“Aren’t you a neighbor?” she persisted.

“Not close,” was the sullen answer.

“Have you lived about here a long time?”

“’Bout’s long as I’ve lived anywhere.” It was impossible to tell
whether this was a humorous way of saying that he had lived here
always, or whether it was meant to indicate that he was a wanderer.

“We are going to stay here,” went on Elizabeth. “After a while when our
orchard is set out, we shall need a good deal of help. Could you give
us a hand sometimes?”

“No.”

“Do you know any one who could?”

“No.”

“We really belong here,” explained Elizabeth pleasantly.

The stranger seemed startled.

“What do you mean by that?”

“This was our grandfather’s place. We were born in the West, but our
people are gone, and so we have come back. We’re going to raise apples.
The fields in front of the house are to be turned into an orchard.”

It seemed that the stranger could take in but one thought at a time.

“Your gran’paw lived here?”

“Yes.”

“What mought ’a’ been his name?”

“John Baring was his name. Did you ever hear of him?”

“I heard of him.” The answer, begun near at hand, receded into the
shadows, as man and dog disappeared.

Elizabeth returned to the doorstep.

“I told him our pedigree and our intentions. If he had stayed a little
longer, I should have told him to keep out of our woodland. Now, my
dear, it’s time for bed.”

Herbert rose stiffly.

“Everything is ready, isn’t it, Elizabeth?”

“Yes, everything; the onions and the radishes and the lettuce and the
peas.”

“Doesn’t it make you a little uncomfortable to think of going about
peddling things from door to door to strange people?”

“Not a bit! It’s just as honorable to sell onions as diamonds or books.
I’m so proud of my garden sass, I’d drive to the gate of the White
House and offer it there. And I don’t mean my patrons to be strangers,
I mean them to be friends. It’s quite time that we made acquaintances.”

Herbert sighed as he went into the house. Elizabeth stood for a while
looking at the illuminated landscape and thinking, not of the morrow or
of the menacing gun, but of a deeper source of anxiety. Would Herbert
never get well and grow up to be a man? She did not mind hard work, but
she wished now to share responsibility. He was anxious to do his part,
but he was like a child, requiring direction and encouragement.

It was well that the wagon was already packed with the produce which
Elizabeth meant to offer, because in the morning she had but one
thought--she would see the battle-field of Gettysburg. Her curiosity
had been only half gratified by her mother’s answers to her questions
and her meager accounts in her school histories had told her little
more. She meant to try to find books which described the battle, so
that looking from her doorstep she should be able to picture to herself
in detail the conflict which, she believed, had saved her country. She
was intensely patriotic; long ago she had hung from one of the upper
windows of the old house a little flag.

The brother and sister spoke but seldom as they drove down the hills.
The morning was clear and bright, they were young, and a great
adventure awaited them. It seemed to Elizabeth that each old farmhouse
must have some patriotic significance, that each old tree could tell
tales of valor.

“I wish I knew what had happened on this road!” said she.

Herbert shivered.

“Do you suppose there was _fighting_ here?”

“It’s very likely,” said Elizabeth. “There’s got to be fighting,” she
went on a little impatiently. “Everything we have has been fought and
suffered for, Herbert. Why, look!”

She pulled the old horse up and climbing out of the wagon went to the
side of the road.

“Here is a marker with an inscription on it!”

Even Herbert showed interest.

“Do you think Joe’ll stand?” he asked.

“Either that or he’ll lie down,” answered Elizabeth gayly. “He won’t
run, that’s certain.”

Together the two read the inscription:

  First Shot at Gettysburg
  July 1, 1863, 7.30 A.M.
  By Captain Jones, Lieut. Riddler and Serg. Shafer

         *       *       *       *       *

  Fired by Captain Jones with Serg. Shafer’s Carbine
  Co. E.
  8th Illinois Cavalry

         *       *       *       *       *

  Erected 1886

Then they climbed silently back into the wagon.

A few miles farther on more elaborate monuments greeted their eager
eyes, a Union general on horseback and a Union officer, booted and
spurred, standing with field-glasses in hand, looking earnestly and
inquiringly toward the west from which Elizabeth and Herbert had come.

“The Confederates must have come by our house!” said Herbert.

At the brow of the next hill they saw Gettysburg, spread before them.
Beyond another rise they could see white marble shafts. To the right a
tall building lifted its cupola above the trees of a thick grove.

“This must be the Seminary,” said Elizabeth. “You remember there was a
Seminary Ridge!”

Old Joe traveled slowly down the leafy avenue and at the first house
stopped of his own accord. He had been a huckster’s horse, a fact which
accounted for various peculiarities.

Elizabeth went into the yard and offered her wares to a lady on the
porch. She had looked at Herbert hopefully, but he made no sign of
intending to act as agent.

“Good-morning. Do you need any vegetables?”

“Why, yes,” answered the lady. “I shall be glad to have vegetables. Now
that we have a curb market in the town, no one stops here.”

“We have onions and peas and lettuce and radishes.”

The lady came out to inspect the wares.

“They’re fine! I’ll have some of each.”

When the bargain was complete, Elizabeth, in friendly fashion, told who
she was. The crisp bill in her hand was an earnest of future success.

“Our grandfather was John Baring who lived in one of the old houses
between here and Chambersburg. It stands a little back from the road on
the first steep hill above Cashtown. Perhaps you’ve seen it?”

The lady did not say. She looked curiously at Elizabeth.

“We mean to live there and raise apples. We came early in the spring
and planted our garden and it has grown splendidly. You are our first
customer. When would you like another supply? The day after to-morrow?”

The lady hesitated. Her expression had changed. Then she began to speak
rapidly.

“There is a curb market, you know. I don’t know whether you will
find much business. Many people have their own gardens.” She seemed
to realize the contradiction between her first enthusiasm and this
deterring advice, for she no longer looked at Elizabeth. “Perhaps you
had better try to sell your produce at Chambersburg.”

Elizabeth was mystified and a little hurt.

“Thank you,” said she as she climbed back into the wagon.

She stopped at the next house and the next. At both, before she
offered her wares she told her name and her grandfather’s name. She
sold nothing, however, in spite of her friendliness. It could not be
possible that her friendliness repelled these people!

From the porch of one large house a kindly old gentleman walked to meet
her, book in hand.

“No, thank you,” he said before she had time to speak. “We have a
garden. But you have fine-looking vegetables and I wish you luck.”

He even waved his hand as they drove away. Elizabeth liked him because
of his smile and she wished that she might stop and talk to him; he
would probably know all about the battle.

As for the old gentleman, he liked Elizabeth and spoke of her to
his family. “A capable-looking soul, not pretty, exactly, but with
unexpectedly blue eyes. She looked like an interesting girl.”

“Now, Sherlock Holmes,” said the old gentleman’s daughter. “How did
you make that out? You are always finding interesting persons.”

“From the way she looked at the book which I had in my hand.”

Elizabeth made no more sales. In the end she disposed of the remainder
of her goods at a store and turned Joe’s head homeward. Herbert was
depressed by their bad luck.

“Perhaps it is all a mistake!”

Elizabeth slapped the lines on Joe’s back. Unconsciously she had taken
them from Herbert and as unconsciously he had handed them to her. It
was too late now to return them, but the next responsibility, however
great or small, Herbert must shoulder.

“Of course it isn’t a mistake! They were just supplied, that is all.
We’ll go on a day when there is no curb market.”

In encouraging Herbert, she forgot her own disturbance of mind. “We
have ten dollars, at any rate, and that is as good as found.”

The June afternoon had grown cool; as the two drove across the grass to
the doorway of the stone house the shadows of the mountain lay darkly
about them. The house looked larger; it might have appeared, to one who
did not love it, sinister. In the stone above the door the name John
Baring was deeply carved; it seemed to Elizabeth suddenly to have no
relation to her; it looked strange as even familiar words may look at
times. But she spoke in her usual soft, brisk tone.

“To-morrow we’ll try Chambersburg. It is so much larger and there will
not be so many gardens. Stable your war-horse, Herbert, and I’ll make
waffles for supper.”

Elizabeth went into her room, originally a sitting-room behind the
larger parlor with windows opening toward the woods. On the floor lay a
piece of paper which had not been there when she went away. She picked
it up and carried it to the window.

“What in the world!” she cried. With difficulty she deciphered the
awkward writing.

    This ant no place to rase apels. Nor yit for those what are kin to
    John Baring.

As if to add the last touch of melodrama to his warning, the author had
executed a sketch of what was intended to be a skull and cross-bones.

Elizabeth looked at the paper and turned it over. After a while she
heard the sound of Herbert’s footsteps and knew that in a second she
would hear the familiar “Elizabeth!” This was not a responsibility to
be shared with frightened Herbert. She laid the paper under the scarf
on her bureau and crossed the hall to the kitchen, and there, as she
moved about gathering her materials for supper, she had astonished and
bitter thoughts.

“I didn’t make friends with the neighbors at first because I thought
they might feel under obligations to help us! I thought that was the
Eastern way!” She looked out into the darkening woods. “This is a
polite neighborhood into which we have moved!” said she.



Chapter II

“WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH US?”


Chambersburg is a much larger town than Gettysburg, and to Elizabeth,
who had bought her supplies there when she and Herbert had arrived in
the early spring, it seemed now to promise more patrons. She would
still be interested in Gettysburg and wished to learn all she could
about the battle, but her relations with the town would henceforth be
those of a tourist.

When morning dawned, she began to wonder whether Gettysburg’s rudeness
was not a product of her own imagination.

“No town is going to hang out banners because Elizabeth Scott has
arrived to sell onions!” said she to herself.

Of the paper found upon the floor she said nothing to Herbert. The
whole incident seemed fantastic. It was silly to have been disturbed
for an instant. The sign of the skull and cross-bones as an impelling
threat had no longer any power, at least it should have none over
Elizabeth Scott. It was doubtless the man with the gun who had thus
favored her. Besides, she declined to be frightened by any man who
spelled apples, “apels.”

The distance to Chambersburg is longer than the distance to Gettysburg
and the hills are steep. But the morning sunlight slanted through the
trees, the birds sang, laurel bloomed everywhere, and there was a
succession of sweet odors, many of which Elizabeth could not identify.
The woods were for the most part still virgin and into their depths an
occasional road or path invited.

In an open place they passed a park with pavilions and swings, where
a queer old ruin which seemed the work of a fire stood against a
hillside. It was not the ruin of a house or barn; it was difficult to
tell what it was.

“I’m going to find out,” said Elizabeth. “I’m going to learn all
about this mountain. Perhaps this place was burned when Chambersburg
was burned. That was a year after the battle of Gettysburg--that is,
I think it was. It’s hard to realize that there was fighting here or
anything else but peace and happiness. As I remember, people had to
flee from the fire for their lives. I suppose it’s hard to forgive
things like that.”

She drove through the eastern part of the town and into the busy
square, then she turned to the right. After she had driven several
blocks, she began to offer her wares. As at Gettysburg, the beginning
was propitious. The first purchaser asked whether they were newcomers,
and Elizabeth told happily their history.

“We lived in the West, but after our mother died, we decided to come
back to our grandfather’s place and raise apples. My brother and I are
alone.”

“Where is your grandfather’s place?” asked the lady kindly.

“On the road to Gettysburg.”

“What was your grandfather’s name? I know many families on that road.”

“His name was John Baring. The house which he built in 1860 is still
standing and in good condition and we live there. We--”

The stranger seemed to be indifferent to what Elizabeth had to say
further.

“What name did you say?” she asked sharply.

“John Baring.”

The lady’s lips parted and a brilliant red appeared upon her cheeks.

“You would much better have stayed in the West!” said she sharply. “You
made a great mistake to come back.”

Elizabeth stared. She had brought the woman’s order in from the wagon
in a basket. Now, without taking out the articles, she lifted the
basket and started toward the street.

“I didn’t mean that I wouldn’t buy your things this time, especially as
I have ordered them!” came a loud protest.

Elizabeth made no answer. She went out of the gate and closed it
carefully behind her.

“Let us drive on quickly, Herbert!”

“What is the matter?”

“There is a crazy woman in there.”

“What did she say?”

Elizabeth’s hot anger gave place to a keener feeling of alarm.

“Nothing worth repeating.”

“Shall we stop at other places?”

“Certainly.”

Elizabeth now treated her customers with peremptory shortness and the
method seemed to pay.

“If you buy, buy quickly, but it really doesn’t make any difference to
me whether you buy or not.” Thus said Elizabeth’s bright blue eyes. It
seemed that a new Elizabeth had come out from the rude woman’s gate.

But Herbert could not long be kept in ignorance. They turned and
drove back, offering the remainder of their wares on the other side
of the street. When they reached the house opposite that of the first
purchaser, Elizabeth had approached the porch steps before she saw
that the woman had crossed the street and sat with her neighbor. The
neighbor rose as Elizabeth drew near.

“You ought not to come here,” she declared. “If people knew who you
were no one would buy from you.” The voice was not angry; it was
earnest and kindly. “Don’t you understand that?”

“Do you need any vegetables?” asked Elizabeth with burning cheeks.
Whatever this strange mystery was, she was determined not to have it
explained on the public street.

“No, I don’t need any vegetables.”

Elizabeth turned and went out. Herbert looked shrunken.

“Did the woman across the street speak to you like that?”

“Something like that.”

“What do they mean?”

“I have no idea.”

“Is it our name that angers them?”

“I don’t know, Herbert.”

“Can you account for it in any way?”

“No.”

“Did mother ever say that anything dreadful had happened in our family?”

“Never.”

“She was a sad sort of woman. Could anything have worried her?”

“I never suspected anything.” When the words were out, Elizabeth
remembered long periods of depression.

“She never warned us not to come here?”

“She never thought of our coming.”

“What shall we do now, Elizabeth?”

“I am considering that.”

It was not until they had left Chambersburg far behind and had reached
again the little park, that Elizabeth spoke. She lifted her head
suddenly.

“Elizabeth, have you a plan?” It was a question often asked by her
brother.

“Yes, I have a plan. To-morrow I am going to Gettysburg and I am going
to call upon the old gentleman and ask him what is the matter with us.”

“The old gentleman with the book?”

“Yes.”

“Why are you going to ask him?”

“Because he is old and kind and because he probably knows all about
the neighborhood. We seem to have some kind of a bar sinister on our
escutcheon.”

Herbert looked sidewise at Elizabeth. Thank fortune she could still
joke!

“If we committed murder or theft or any other base crime, I want to
know it.”

“Elizabeth!” protested Herbert. Then he asked a little faintly, “Don’t
you want me to go with you?”

Elizabeth’s eyes hardened. She had thought, of course, that Herbert
would go with her.

“No; it isn’t necessary. There is a great deal to be done at home and
Joe will travel better with a light load.”

Rising early, she called Herbert. The sun was up; it gilded the boles
of the trees and turned the spider’s webs to silver. If the old house
had been a beautiful belle, one might have said that the morning was
her hour. The sunlight fell upon the fine, severe old façade, showing
all its sturdy strength of design and workmanship and making glitter
each tiny point of quartz in the stone.

But Elizabeth did not think of its beauty. She prepared Herbert’s
breakfast and also his lunch, then she climbed once more into the wagon.

She did not remember until she reached the old gentleman’s house that
she did not know his name. Fortunately he was on the porch and rose to
greet her. He was, as his daughter had said, always finding interesting
persons, and he was also frequently disappointed in them. Few young
people, he mourned, were willing to put their minds upon anything for
any length of time, even upon the history of their own country and
neighborhood.

“Good-morning,” he said, recalling at once the blue eyes which he had
admired. “Well, did you sell all your wares?”

“Yes,” answered Elizabeth. She proceeded at once to the business
in hand. “My name is Elizabeth Scott. I have come to live in this
neighborhood and I wished to ask some questions about its history.”

The old gentleman beamed.

“Sit down, sit down! My name is Thomas, and I am a crank about the
history of this neighborhood.”

“I heard some one speak on the street about Colonel Thomas--is that
you?”

The old gentleman nodded.

“Pennsylvania is the most interesting State in the Union and this is
its most interesting county. You will probably be sorry that you ever
made my acquaintance, because, once started, I never stop.”

Elizabeth smiled wistfully.

“Oh, no!”

But Colonel Thomas, upon whose lips volumes of information trembled,
did not get far into the history of the county. He saw suddenly tears
in Elizabeth’s blue eyes.

“What is the matter?” he asked.

“My brother and I have come here to earn our living. We were born in
Illinois and there father died when we were children. Our mother lived
until a year ago, then she died suddenly. I had expected to teach
school, but my brother’s health failed and the doctors thought that
an entire change of climate might cure him. Mother still owned her
father’s property in this county, so we came here, expecting to plant
an orchard. My brother is much better, even in these few months. We
have a fine garden and we have tried to sell our things, but wherever
I have gone people have insulted me and advised me to leave. I thought
that perhaps you could tell me what is the matter with us.”

The old colonel raised both his hands.

“On my life, young lady! I never heard of such a state of affairs. This
is a pleasant, hospitable neighborhood. I was born here and have lived
here all my life and I know it. What did you say your name is?”

“My name is Elizabeth Scott. But it isn’t my name that excites them
apparently; it’s the name of my grandfather.”

“What was his name?”

It seemed to Elizabeth before she answered that the expression of the
kindly countenance had changed. A disturbing suspicion seemed to have
entered Colonel Thomas’s mind.

“John Baring,” said she.

“John Baring!” repeated Colonel Thomas. “Oh, my dear young lady! John
Baring!”

“What did he do?” asked Elizabeth steadily.

“You’ve never heard anything about him?”

“Nothing. My mother was a quiet woman who spoke little about anything,
but I am sure that she respected him and loved him. What did he do?”

“Oh, young lady, you have asked me a hard question. I have a friendly
feeling for you, I--”

“That is the reason I came to you,” explained Elizabeth. “You looked at
me in a friendly way.”

“You seem like a young person of excellent common sense and composure.
Do you wish me to tell you the whole truth?”

“By all means!”

“Will you come into the house? We might be interrupted here.”

“Yes,” consented Elizabeth.

Colonel Thomas led the way to a library whose walls were lined to the
ceiling with books. If she had been less worried, Elizabeth would have
exclaimed with delight. As it was, she gave a long sigh.

Colonel Thomas took from a shelf a thick book. Elizabeth could see on
its back the title “Recollections of a Confederate General.” Her heart
stood still. Was their disgrace printed? What kind of disgrace could it
be?

“Sit down.”

Elizabeth obeyed.

“I should decline to tell you if it weren’t inevitable that you should
know.” Even yet Colonel Thomas hesitated.

“I’d rather know it quickly, sir.”

Colonel Thomas began to speak as rapidly as Elizabeth could wish.

“There was a certain fact long gossiped about in this county. It was
said that John Baring had given the Confederates valuable aid when they
came here and that he had even guided them a part of the way. Before
that his neighbors had never dreamed that he was anything but loyal.”

“Was it just neighborhood gossip?” asked Elizabeth. Her cheeks were
pale, but her eyes held the old gentleman’s bravely. “Was it confirmed
in any way?”

Colonel Thomas opened his large book.

“Unfortunately a few months ago this book was published, ‘The
Recollections and Letters of General Adams,’ a reliable witness.
He describes the approach of Lee’s troops to Gettysburg and says
this”--Colonel Thomas found the place and read--“‘From John Baring we
secured information about roads leading to Gettysburg.’”

“May I see it?” asked Elizabeth.

Colonel Thomas laid the book on Elizabeth’s knee. She read in silence,
with bent head.

“You see how the neighbors felt about him. He could not have done much
harm, of course, because there were few roads and these were easy to
find, and they could have got the information in other ways. He went
away with the Confederate army and never came back. He was never seen
here again, but it is not impossible that he lived for many years.”

Elizabeth sat motionless.

“I remember now that his wife died after some years and his daughter
married a stranger and went away.”

Still Elizabeth did not move.

“It seemed kinder to tell you and prepare you to protect yourself
against rudeness. Unfortunately, some local editor read this book and
copied this letter and it has revived an old story which had better
been forgotten. I fought against the Confederates, but I am willing to
forgive. Perhaps there is some other place where you could make a home.”

“Thank you,” said Elizabeth. “You have done me a very great favor.” She
rose and handed Colonel Thomas his book.

Colonel Thomas grew more and more disturbed.

“Won’t you partake of some refreshment?” he offered in his
old-fashioned way. “I will call my daughter.”

“No, I thank you. I have a long journey and I must start.” She looked
up at the old gentleman for a single brave instant; then her eyes
dropped.

“We can’t be blamed for the sins and mistakes of our ancestors,” said
he unhappily.

“No,” agreed Elizabeth. “That is true.” But she could not fail to see
that, consciously or unconsciously, he glanced toward two old swords
crossed above his mantelpiece. “Good-bye,” said she.

But her farewell was not final. She had driven only a short distance
when she turned old Joe round, facing him the way he had come. Her
cheeks burned. Now she looked upon the marauders on her land in a new
light.

“They probably think they can do as they please because we are
despised!”

Colonel Thomas welcomed her.

“I’ll always be glad to see you.”

“I’ve come back to ask another question, which has to do with the
present instead of the past. We have a good deal of woodland back of
the house and men prowl about there constantly with guns and dogs.”

“I know them!” said Colonel Thomas excitedly. “They have a settlement
up in the woods.”

“I spoke to one of them and told him that we had come to stay, and the
next evening I found a scrawled note directing us to leave. It was even
decorated with skull and cross-bones!”

“There’s only one of ’em can write and he learned in the penitentiary,
that’s Sheldon, a tall man with a drooping mustache. Was it he?”

“He’s the one I talked to.”

“They’re a set of miserable rascals!” Colonel Thomas rose and began to
walk up and down. “They’ve an interesting origin, but that’s all about
’em that is interesting. They’re descendants of the first squatters.
The Colonial Government had a great deal of trouble with them, and
since then they’ve been against everything, against the Government,
against education, against religion, against law. During the war they
were against the North, and the draft couldn’t reach into the mountains
far enough to catch ’em. There’s this Sheldon who served a term for
arson--I sent him up myself when I was judge--and a heavy, short,
black-bearded man named Black Smith--don’t think it’s ‘blacksmith’;
there’s nothing so industrious about ’em! They all have pleasant
descriptive titles, like ‘Black’ and ‘Bud’ and ‘Bully.’ But there’s one
institution they fear and that’s the constabulary.”

“Who are they?”

“They are the State police. If you are annoyed, let me know and
there’ll be a settlement. The law will stand behind you there.”

Elizabeth rose once more.

“Thank you.”

Colonel Thomas assured her again vehemently that he and the law and the
constabulary would stand by her. “You wouldn’t hesitate to ask me?”

It was evidently a relief to the old gentleman to be able to offer to
do something for her.

“No,” promised Elizabeth, “I shouldn’t hesitate.”

Colonel Thomas watched her until she turned at the top of the hill.

“Now she has a row to hoe!” said he aloud.



Chapter III

“I WILL NOT BELIEVE IT!”


Elizabeth had a great deal of time to think on the way home. Old
Joe, who in three days had traveled about fifty miles, could not be
encouraged beyond a slow walk. But she did not think very connectedly.
Mind and soul were weary; her troubles presented themselves rather as
a dull, undefined pain than as a sharp anxiety. Things could wait, she
said to herself.

It would be necessary, of course, for her to tell Herbert, and she
trembled for the effect upon him. She had feared for weeks that his
very nature had been affected by his illness and that he would remain
a sort of dependent child instead of becoming a man. But what she had
heard to-day threw another light on his condition. Could it be that it
was an inherited weakness, the result of the shame which their mother
must have felt? Their mother had been a woman of strong will, but
might it not have been that her grief and anxiety had affected Herbert?
She must have felt her father’s act to be a disgrace--it could not be
otherwise. It was from that poor mother that Elizabeth had learned to
love her country!

But not even the word of a Colonel Thomas and the printed statement
of a book could in an hour or two alter the conscious and unconscious
convictions of Elizabeth’s life. The belief that one has been
“well-born” is not easily yielded, even though one may have hitherto
felt no conscious satisfaction. When, at last, she turned a weary Joe
in upon the grassy drive, her lips were set.

“I don’t believe it,” said she stubbornly.

Herbert came to meet her and to take the horse. He glanced back over
his shoulder into the woods. All day poor Herbert had been looking over
his shoulder.

“Well, Elizabeth?” he asked nervously. “What did you find out?”

“We will talk after we have had supper,” said Elizabeth cheerfully.
“You remember mother used to say that ‘empty stomachs make cowards.’”

“All right,” agreed Herbert.

Sometimes through the meal he looked at Elizabeth uneasily, but most of
the time he seemed to be occupied with a trouble of his own. He had had
that day a peculiar kind of anonymous communication meant for him and
he was meditating upon it.

When the supper dishes were put away, the two sat down on the doorstep.
The lovely weather continued, the rising moon shone once more over the
beautiful plain, the whip-poor-wills called mysteriously.

“This is the home of my soul, the earthly home at least,” said
Elizabeth to herself. Then she laid her hand on Herbert’s knee. “My
dear, things are a little worse than I imagined. I visited the old
gentleman and he tells me that our grandfather was supposed to have
helped the Confederates when they came into this county; he advised
them, and is said also to have guided them. This was common report
about here for many years. He disappeared with them and never returned.
I suppose this must have been pretty well forgotten in all this
time, especially as all the family had gone away, but a little while
ago a book was published, ‘The Recollections and Letters of General
Adams.’ This Confederate general said that John Baring had given them
information about roads. That is why they hate us!”

“It isn’t our fault!”

“No.”

“What shall we do, Elizabeth?”

“We shan’t do anything right away. We’re here and we can live even if
people won’t buy our things. Our trees are engaged and we’ll set them
out. We--”

“Oh, let us go away!” cried Herbert. “We should never be happy, we
should never see anything but scowling faces.”

“We shouldn’t make ourselves happy by going away,” said Elizabeth. “The
day would come when we’d regret it. And at any rate we shan’t go unless
things get worse. I shan’t be driven away whether the story is true or
untrue.”

“Do you think that there’s a chance that it might not be true?”
faltered Herbert.

“I don’t believe it yet,” said Elizabeth stoutly.

“Why not, Elizabeth?”

“I don’t know exactly. I just don’t believe it. I should have
difficulty believing such a thing about any living man whom I had
respected, and I’ll believe it still less about a man who is dead.
Moreover, we owe it to ourselves to follow it to its remotest
conclusion, Herbert. The possession of ancestors who are a credit is
no small possession. But it’s like good health, we don’t value it till
it’s gone.”

“Do you think we could make investigations and prove it untrue?”

“It might be possible.” Elizabeth was pleased. Herbert did not often
make original suggestions.

“I’ll do all the work on the place,” offered Herbert, looking uneasily
over his shoulder. “That is, if you have to go away anywhere. We
haven’t papers or records of any kind, have we?”

“Nothing.”

“And you’re _sure_ mother never said anything?”

Elizabeth’s brow puckered.

“I can’t remember that she did. I have been trying to think. It must
have been too dreadful to talk about and I wonder her heart didn’t
break.” Elizabeth looked back into the dark hall as though she could
see there a lonely figure.

“Have you any plan, Elizabeth?”

“No; except that I thought of hunting through the house. Years and
years have passed, but there might be something. There might be a nook
or cranny that had escaped the renters and that has escaped us.”

“What do you think you might find?”

“I don’t know,” said Elizabeth. “Now let us go to bed.”

The next day offered itself as a suitable time for indoor occupation.
The fine weather had broken and rain fell steadily. The plain was gray,
the woods were dim, there was all about the sound of running water,
water dripping from the eaves and falling from the sky and running
rapidly in the brook near the house.

“We’ll begin in the cellar,” said Elizabeth.

The cellar, explored inch by inch by the aid of lantern and candle,
yielded nothing but resolutions that it should be thoroughly
whitewashed as soon as possible.

“We can store bushels and barrels of stuff there,” said Elizabeth as
they came upstairs. “Now the first floor.”

Beside the fireplace in the parlor were two deep cupboards for wood.
These had been looked into often, but Elizabeth examined them again and
scrutinized them earnestly to be sure that they contained no secret
compartments. But the interior was plastered smoothly.

On the first floor there were no other cupboards or closets, and the
other rooms, occupied as a kitchen and as bedrooms, had been lived in
for too many weeks to hold any secrets.

At the top of the first flight of stairs, Elizabeth stood still.

“Herbert, this place has inexhaustible possibilities! See these many
rooms, how easily we could make this a comfortable place for quiet
people in summer! Water could be piped down from one of the springs.
I know that gravity alone would carry it higher than the house-top. I
wonder whether John Baring thought of that!”

Elizabeth went into the first room. It was large and bare and offered
no place of storage. She passed into the next and there for a moment
she forgot the purpose of her search. The view from the front door was
extensive, but from the second floor one could look over a spur of the
mountain to the right and see other miles of rain-drenched plain.

“There isn’t anything here, Elizabeth,” said Herbert.

“No, nothing. Now we’ll try the attic. That’s the traditional
hiding-place for documents.”

The attic was as bare as the rest of the house. If the family had left
any property there, it had been long since removed by the successive
renters.

Herbert went downstairs for a candle and they crept into the low
cubby-holes under the slanting roof. Mud wasps’ nests and spider webs
rewarded them.

“There is really nothing,” said Herbert drearily.

“Yes, there is!” cried Elizabeth. “Here is writing on this beam. I
can’t quite stretch to it, Herbert. What does it say?”

Herbert dropped the candle from his nervous hand.

“I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed,” said he after a glance. “It
doesn’t say anything about the battle.”

“What does it say?”

“It says, ‘I have built this house the best I know. God bless those who
go in and out.’ It’s signed ‘John Baring.’”

Elizabeth stood looking up at the inscription. Suddenly a tear rolled
down her cheek.

“I don’t believe he was a traitor,” said she. “I believe he was a good
man.”

They went carefully over each beam, and crept again into the dusty
cupboards.

“Now we’ll go to the barn,” said Elizabeth.

“What do you expect to find there?”

“I don’t know, but I’m going.”

As Elizabeth had left the attic for the last spot to be visited in the
house, so she left the barn chamber as the most promising quarter of
the barn. It was a large room on the main floor which had evidently
been used at one time as a living-room, for there was an opening in the
wall for a stovepipe.

“I think the hired man usually lived in the barn chamber,” said she.
“And I suppose the harness was kept in these cupboards. This could
easily be put in order for our chauffeur, Herbert!”

Herbert smiled faintly. He had opened the door of one of the cupboards
and drew out an old map.

“There’s nothing in here but this, Elizabeth.”

“Let’s unroll it.”

Then Herbert grew white. It was a map of Adams County. From its center
Gettysburg and the surrounding country had been cut, or rather slashed,
as though it were done hastily with a large knife.

“What’s the matter, Herbert?”

“Do you suppose he showed them with this, or gave them this piece?”

“No,” said Elizabeth. “I prefer to think that some one cut that out to
hide or destroy it. They might not have been able to destroy the whole
map quickly. It signifies nothing whatever.”

Herbert looked at her white face and shook his head.

After two days of rain the sky cleared. Brother and sister rested on
the doorstep at the end of a long day. They had not spoken again of
the writing or of the old map. Herbert wondered whether Elizabeth was
now convinced. Elizabeth sat silently, drinking in the beauty of the
evening. A faint gold showed where the moon would rise.

“Elizabeth!”

“What is it?”

“That man is watching us again with his dog and his gun. I can see him
quite plainly.”

Elizabeth lifted her voice. All her depression and anxiety were
transmuted into anger against these disturbers of her peace.

“I told Colonel Thomas in Gettysburg about the men who are prowling
about,” said she loudly and distinctly. “He said the State police
would be up here the minute I complained. From what I hear, there are
enough crimes in the past to put these men where they won’t bother us.
They can be punished for these even if they don’t do anything now.”

For a while there was not a sound.

“I didn’t see him go, but he’s gone,” said Herbert in a whisper. He
clasped his hands tightly. Again he had had his anonymous greeting, and
again by Herculean effort of will had kept it from Elizabeth. It was
not only because of its ignominious character, it was because at last
he was beginning to see his dependence. This was, moreover, his own
trouble; it was not Elizabeth’s, nor a trouble common to them both.

“I don’t suppose they’ve had much chance,” said Elizabeth at last; then
she added bitterly, “When I first saw this man I thought perhaps we
might help the women and children of such people. But now--”

She let her chin sink to her clasped hands.

“Have you any other plan?” asked Herbert.

“Yes, I have. I’m going to talk to the neighbors.”

“What neighbors?”

“I’m going all round this country and wherever there is an old person,
I’ll find out what he or she knows about John Baring. There must be
some who remember him, and he must have had some friends among them. I
believe that he was a good man and that he was kind.”

“But would that have any relation to this?”

“Yes, it would. Somebody might be able to give a clue.”

“What kind of a clue?”

“Well, somebody might have lived here, and have heard him refuse to
guide the Confederates. The Confederates might then have killed him, or
carried him away, or he might have met with an accident. Somebody might
have some testimony about his previous loyalty.”

“But the book said he had given them information!”

“The general might have been mistaken in the confusion. Some one else
might have given them information.”

Herbert shook his head. One could not move Elizabeth when she believed
that she was right.

“The people might shame you or insult you.”

“They can’t do either.”

“When are you going to start?”

“To-morrow morning. I’m going to leave you to guard the property.”

Herbert looked at her startled. His short period of courage had passed.
Again he was about to speak, then he covered his lips with his hand as
if forcibly to restrain himself. The words which he choked back were,
“Do not leave me alone, Elizabeth!” Poor Herbert rose filled with
despair. When Elizabeth called good-night to him, he did not answer,
being certain that he could not command his voice. He went into his
room and to bed. But he did not sleep.

It was a long time before Elizabeth closed her eyes. Her mind traveled
beyond her visits to the neighbors.

“When I have done that, what then?” said she. “If that fails, what can
I do?”

It was not merely the rehabilitation of John Baring which depended upon
the success of Elizabeth’s plans, it was livelihood itself. She saw in
her first drowsiness rows of young trees standing in attitudes which
were humanly expectant, awaiting planters who did not come. She was
at once wide awake. Suppose that no one would work for John Baring’s
grandchildren!

“I have signed the contract for the trees,” said she. “It would really
mean ruin!”



Chapter IV

A JOURNEY IN VAIN


Elizabeth started out on foot, going northward along the eastern slope
of the mountain. Here lay large and well-cultivated farms, and orchards
which were already yielding large profits. Fences were well-made and
clear of vines and briars, lawns were mowed, and in beds and on porches
bloomed an abundance of flowers. She saw the windows of the Baring
house abloom the winter long with geraniums--before the day was over
she would ask for slips to plant for winter blooming.

She found few old persons. It was almost fifty years since the
battle and farms had changed hands, some of them many times. She saw
busy young men and women and tiny children, but no grandmothers or
grandfathers. When she inquired she was stared at curiously.

At last in the middle of the morning she saw on a farmhouse porch an
old lady shelling peas. There was a cat at her feet which was purring
a loud tune and the sound was a welcome to Elizabeth. She must have a
cat--perhaps she could take a kitten home with her.

The old lady smiled pleasantly. She had bright, intelligent eyes and
quick, deft hands. She invited Elizabeth to sit down and they exchanged
views about the beauty of the weather and the promising condition of
the crops.

“Have you lived here always?” asked Elizabeth.

“I was born in this house,” answered the old lady. “When I was married,
we stayed here because my people were old. Now I live here with my son.
I want him to get married, but he can’t find the right woman, though
he could give her pretty nearly everything.” She looked at Elizabeth
meaningly. “I might send him to get acquainted with you.”

Elizabeth smiled at this match-making.

“I have my own farm on my hands,” said she.

“Where is that?”

Elizabeth took a deep breath. For a few minutes she had forgotten the
cloud which hung over her. Then she told her story, Herbert’s long
illness, the advice of the doctors, their discovery that their mother
still owned her father’s property in Pennsylvania, and their journey
East.

“We settled down here and made a garden, and then we started out to
sell our things. I believe in being friendly so I told who I was.
Immediately people seemed to be repelled, they treated me unkindly.
Presently I found out that it was because of my grandfather and
something he was supposed to have done.”

The old lady looked at her intently. Her hands had ceased to work and
she frowned heavily.

“What is your name?”

Elizabeth went over the old formula.

“My name is Elizabeth Scott; my grandfather’s name was John Baring.”

The old lady responded in deeds and not in words. She rose and peas
and pan fell clattering to the floor. The cat, startled out of sleep,
dashed away, and all that had seemed a moment ago so friendly and
peaceful was now inimical and confused.

“I can’t sit with a granddaughter of John Baring!” said the old lady.
“You made a mistake to come back here! Why, you’re his image!”

Elizabeth sat still.

“Won’t you hear me till the end?” she asked. This melodramatic behavior
was, she believed, sincere. She was all the more anxious, unpleasant as
the situation was, to ask questions.

“Well, what have you to say?” The old lady stood with her hand on the
latch of the screen door, ready for instant flight.

“After I had been treated so rudely, I determined to find out what
was the matter, so I went to an old gentleman in Gettysburg, Colonel
Thomas, and he told me about John Baring.”

“He could tell you the truth! He was a soldier himself. He knows what
John Baring did!”

“Yes, he told me the truth, at least what seems like the truth. Then I
came home. It’s very hard to learn suddenly that you are a descendant
of a man whom his neighbors believe to be a traitor.”

“He was a traitor!” cried the old lady. “There never was a worse
traitor.”

“When I came home, I went through the house, carefully, to see whether
any papers belonging to him could have been stowed away and overlooked.
I couldn’t accept this without doing something, could I?”

The old lady’s hand dropped from the door-latch and she leaned against
the wall, a sign of relenting in her eyes.

“I didn’t find anything that referred directly to it,” went on
Elizabeth, “but I did find some writing on one of the beams in the
attic.”

“What writing?”

“It had nothing to do with the battle, but it had to do with John
Baring. It said, ‘I have built this house the best I know. God bless
those who go in and out.’ That didn’t look like the sentiment of a man
who was a traitor, did it? So I thought I would try to see whether
there were any persons who remembered him and who could tell me about
him. Perhaps there is some mistake.”

“Why didn’t he come back?” demanded the old woman. “That was what
finished him. There were some who couldn’t believe that he would do
such a thing, but why didn’t he come back? He went away with them and
having chosen his company he stayed. Even his friends gave up then.”

“So he had friends?”

“Of course he had friends. Everybody was his friend! But he was a
traitor! He betrayed his own neighbors! My people lost everything but
the actual ground of the farm. The crops were ruined, the barn was set
afire, everything we had was taken, stock driven off. And this is a
side road; they would never have known about it if they hadn’t been
shown.”

To Elizabeth’s astonishment the old lady was crying.

“May I help you gather up the peas?” she asked. “I’m afraid that I’ve
made you feel badly.”

The old lady stooped and began to fumble about.

“They can be washed,” said she. Then she straightened up. “He wasn’t an
ordinary man. It was like it says in the Bible, he was a star fallen
from heaven when he did wrong. That was what we couldn’t stand, that
_John Baring_ should have done such a thing! Now the heathen back
in the mountain, they would have done it and nobody would have been
surprised. But _John Baring_!”

Elizabeth was ready to go.

“Did you know his wife?”

“She was my companion!” said the old woman. “And I never spoke to her
afterwards. _I never spoke to her!_” In the declaration was a rage as
fresh as though its cause were of yesterday and--Elizabeth was certain
of it--a wild remorse. “I didn’t even go to see her buried!”

Elizabeth wiped her eyes.

“Come again, if you want to,” said the old lady.

Then Elizabeth smiled. Grudging as the invitation was, it gave her the
first faint hope that whatever John Baring had done, his descendants
might in time make their way here in his old home.

She could see, as she left the yard, one more farmhouse and this she
determined to visit. It was a mile away and was much smaller and less
well-cared-for than the establishment she was leaving. There she found
an old man, who stood leaning on the fence and chewing a straw. His
working days were obviously over.

Elizabeth bade him the time of day and asked him whether he remembered
John Baring.

“Yes, I remember him,” said he. “Everybody remembers him about here.
He set Chambersburg on fire. Three million dollars was lost and
thousands of people set out on the streets and animals driv’ off and
all kinds of damage done. It was Baring done it. If he comes back,
people will shoot him.”

Elizabeth asked no more questions. He had become, it seemed, to some, a
sort of legendary demon! But she saw him, reaching up to write on the
attic beam, “I have built this house the best I know. God bless those
who go in and out.”

As she walked home, her body was weary, but her spirits were brighter
than they had been. She imagined that he had gone to the attic on
a quiet Sunday afternoon and had sat looking out over the rich and
beautiful country.

“I don’t believe that he was a traitor!” said she.

When she reached home she saw an automobile at the entrance to the
yard. From it Colonel Thomas waved his hand, and she ran to meet him.

“Oh, won’t you come in?”

“No, I thank you. I was anxious about you on account of your neighbors.
Have they given you any trouble?”

“No; they hang round, but they haven’t bothered me.”

Then, impulsively, Elizabeth told him what she had been doing. He shook
his head.

“Oh, young lady, you’ll find it a wild-goose chase!”

“They think he burned Chambersburg,” said Elizabeth with a faint smile.
“The situation has a gleam of humor, hasn’t it?”

“Why, the burning took place a year after he had disappeared!”

“I’d like to ask you some questions about the battle,” said Elizabeth.
“When I was a child, it was my dream to come here.” Tears dimmed her
eyes. The old gentleman saw them and looked away.

“I’ll be up here again one of these days, then I’ll bring you some
books.”

“And will you stop and visit with us for a while?”

“Yes. You’ll not take any risk with those rascals beyond you, will you?”

Elizabeth promised.

“They have only one accomplishment and that is shooting, but I don’t
believe you need be afraid of that.”

For a day Elizabeth stayed at home. Herbert, who was always quiet, was
even quieter than usual, but she discovered no clue to his depression.
He was under no more of a cloud than she; he worked no harder; it was
time that he lifted up his head.

When she started out on her next journey of exploration she knew that
she was doing that of which the old gentleman would not approve. She
went not to the north where lay the cultivated farms, but turned in
toward the south on the old wood road which led into the mountain
and toward the settlement of the mountaineers. She had no serious
expectation of making any important discovery; it was rather with an
Elizabethan desire to finish that which she had begun. Among ignorant
people like the mountaineers there were often old persons whose
memories were long.

For almost an hour she went on without seeing a sign of human life.
The towering trees interlaced their branches far above her head,
sometimes she could see long distances, sometimes the view was cut off
on both sides by thickets of rhododendron. She saw many deer; once a
fox crossed her path, and partridges rose whirring. The road, if it
could be called a road, rose gradually. Presently she had to pick her
way over large clods of ground which had been dug up from the side and
tossed into the middle. Some one was mending the road according to the
inexplicable method followed in the neighborhood. A moment later she
heard the sound of voices, and at the next turn she came upon three
men working with mattock and spade. They worked close together as
though to forget the lonely forest, and they talked loudly and a little
nervously.

At sight of Elizabeth they stared open-mouthed. No other sort of
appearance could have surprised them as much as that of a young woman
alone in the wood road.

“Good-morning,” said Elizabeth.

The men did not answer her good-morning in kind, but made astonished
inquiry.

“You are not alone, miss?”

“Yes.”

“Where are you going, miss?”

“I’m looking for a house. Aren’t there any on this road?”

The men looked at one another.

“There’s houses of a certain kind. There’s one round the bend; that’s
the nearest. But if I were you I wouldn’t go any farther. There’s a
good deal of reckless shooting in these woods, miss, and the people
ain’t very hospitable except with bullets.”

“_You_ aren’t afraid!” said Elizabeth.

“No, but that’s different.” The speaker scratched his head seeking a
reason for the difference. “You see they know we ain’t spyin’ on ’em,
and ain’t likely to give any information against ’em. You see there
ain’t no women goes in here but a nurse sometimes, and she ain’t afraid
of nothing.”

“Are there women living in there?”

“Oh, yes.”

“If you call them women,” said a second voice. “There’s an old one in
the first house.”

“I’ll walk that far,” said Elizabeth. “You’ll be working right here,
will you?”

“Yes, miss.”

She knew that the men did not begin to work as long as she was in
sight. Suddenly one of them ran after her.

“She’s a crazy old woman,” he said. “But she’s paralyzed and she can’t
hurt you. Don’t be afraid if she hollers!”

She thanked him and he stood still and stared at her. When he returned
to his mates, the three contemplated one another in silence.

“Could she be a teacher?” asked one.

“They chased the last teacher away before she ever taught.”

“I think we oughtn’t to make a noise with our implements, but we ought
to move up closer,” suggested the third.

The three moved slowly up the road one behind the other.

Elizabeth was thankful for the warning about the old woman’s
“hollering.” It began suddenly and so near that she was startled. The
cabin was hidden in a thicket; if it had not been for the shrill voice,
she would have passed it. She parted the branches and looked into a
little open space at a log house surrounded by heaps of wretched débris
gathered in years of careless, slovenly living. She slipped in through
the opening made by her arms and went to the door.

The single room held three pieces of furniture, a queer old charcoal
stove, a bed made of saplings with the bark still on and covered with a
mattress from which the stuffing of leaves was bursting, and a broken
chair. The chair stood by the bed and on it was a tin cup filled with
some unrecognizable liquid and a part of a rough loaf of grayish bread.
On the bed lay a pitiful old body of which only the dull eyes and lips
and one hand seemed still alive.

The eyes peered at Elizabeth as though the room were dark.

“Is a human being coming to visit me in my misery?” asked the old voice.

“Yes,” said Elizabeth, aghast.

“Are you the nurse?” the question was put with feverish eagerness.

“No, but perhaps I can do something to make you more comfortable.”

The old woman began to cry loudly like a child.

“No, there ain’t. He’s been after me again, tormentin’ me an’ tauntin’
me.”

“Who’s been after you?”

“My son. He wants the forty dollars what is all I have in this yearth,
to buy him a gun, an’ I want it to bury me. I want to be buried decent
with a preacher an’ the singin’ of psalms an’ prayin’ to carry me away
from this yearth. He can’t get it now, but he can get it when I’m
dead.” She began to scream, “I want to be buried decent! I want to be
buried decent!”

Elizabeth went nearer to the dreadful bed.

“Why don’t you make a will?”

“Learnin’ is the possession of some, but not of none in the mountains,”
said the old woman. She began to cry again.

“I’ll write a will for you if I can find anything to write with,”
offered Elizabeth.

The old woman made a desperate effort to raise herself on her elbow and
thus see more plainly this comforting visitor.

“Will it hold in the courts of men?”

“It will hold if you have the forty dollars,” Elizabeth assured her.
“There are some men back here who will witness it, I’m sure.”

Fortunately one of the road-makers had a dull pencil and an old
envelope. But they were not so willing to help as Elizabeth expected.
At last after a great deal of persuasion the youngest consented to
go with her. She wrote a brief statement and the old woman put a mark
on it, and the road-maker signed his name as witness. Then he hurried
away, glad to get out of the filthy cabin.

“Put it up there back of the beam, lady. It’s a place my offspring have
never found.”

“Can’t I do anything to make you comfortable? I could heat some water
and--” as she spoke Elizabeth looked round for a vessel or cloths or
soap.

“Water shortens life,” said the old soul as though she were quoting a
proverb.

Then Elizabeth asked her a question, because she had come to ask it,
not because she had either expectation or desire of having it answered
here.

“Did you ever know John Baring?”

Elizabeth made at once for the door. From the old lips fell a stream of
denunciation, violent and profane.

“He lost the battle! It was him as did it! He lost the battle!” The old
woman denounced not only John Baring, but his descendants to distant
generations.

Elizabeth did not stay to hear the end. She stepped out into the road
and walked rapidly back. At the bend, seeing the road-makers, she drew
a deep breath of relief. They were still standing motionless.

“We didn’t expect you’d stay long, miss.”

“She’s a dreadful old woman!” said Elizabeth.

“They’re all dreadful, miss, but the fear of God’s bein’ put into ’em
by the constabulary. They’ve built too many huckleberry fires--”

“What are huckleberry fires?”

“When they wanted a good crop, they’d light the woods and acres of
trees would burn. They’s always a good crop of huckleberries after a
fire. But one of ’em, Sheldon, went to the penitentiary for it, and
there ain’t been any since. Now they’s often a constabulary round and
they know it. This was Sheldon’s mammy what you was visitin’. Sheldon
has a strong-willed wife too. The women they’s gettin’ new notions.
They go down sometimes an’ look at the Chambersburg trolley, and they
twist up their hair different. It’s the women’s day, miss.”

Elizabeth thanked them for their protection, and walked on. After a
while she smiled grimly. On the other side of the mountain they thought
that John Baring had set Chambersburg afire. Here they thought he had
lost the battle. But the battle hadn’t been lost. It was a benighted
community, indeed!

Herbert was nervously watching for her when she reached home.

“You mustn’t do this again!” said he crossly.

Elizabeth looked at him. If Herbert was going to be cross in addition
to being babyish, then she would have trouble.

“I shan’t,” she promised.

“Did you find out anything?”

“Nothing,” said Elizabeth, protecting him once more.



Chapter V

AN ALARMING MESSAGE


One pleasant afternoon in July Colonel Thomas came again, bringing
Elizabeth the books which he had promised. He made the journey not only
for her sake, but to satisfy his own desire for an audience. He had
begun to believe that the position of Elizabeth and her brother would
not be intolerable if they had courage to persist. His car waited at
the road’s edge, and he walked in to the door.

“A car doesn’t seem to belong in here, does it?” said he.

“We’re going to have one ourselves some day,” declared Elizabeth.

“You’re going to stay, are you?”

“I shan’t be driven away. I’ve really had a peaceful time for three
weeks. We sold our goods anonymously in Chambersburg.” Elizabeth smiled
wearily. “Please come and sit down. You are our first unarmed caller.”

“They haven’t bothered you again?”

“No.”

“Perhaps they are really frightened,” said Colonel Thomas. “I came up
partly to see you and partly to have a look at the ruins of the old
furnace.”

“Do you mean the ruins near the park?”

“Yes; that was Thad Stevens’s furnace and the Confederates burned it.
Great man, Thaddeus Stevens, young lady, as great as the hatred felt
for him and that’s saying a good deal. He had a vision--the equality
of men before their Creator and nothing else mattered, personal safety
least of all. He lived here in this county from 1818 till 1842, and
this county sent him to the legislature, as its representative. When
he first came South, he saw in Maryland a slave girl being sold. He
had three hundred dollars in the world to buy his law library, and
instead he bought the girl and set her free. He was a representative
from this district when he said, ‘Hereditary distinctions of rank
are sufficiently odious; but that which is founded upon poverty is
infinitely more so.’

“I tell you--” suddenly the old gentleman thrust out his arms, as
though to free his elbows from restraint. Then he leaned back and began
to rock. His daughter, if she had been present, would have laid down
her book and taken up her sewing and would have begun a long seam.

“I tell you that this is the most interesting State in the United
States and this the most interesting county in the State. We had
squatter troubles, whites pushing into the country which had not yet
been bought from the Indians, and thereby endangering the safety of
the whole border, men who refused to move back, pioneers of the finest
water, but law-breakers in fact. It’s interesting to think where the
world would have been by this time if laws hadn’t been broken, if
squatters hadn’t pushed on and buccaneers hadn’t sailed the main.”

Elizabeth sat on the doorstep, her hands clasped round her knees. If
only Herbert were here!--but Herbert had ridden up into the woods.

“Then we had interesting Jesuit settlements, overflow by mistake from
Lord Baltimore’s land to the south. We had all the ante-war troubles,
slaves escaping over the border and claiming our protection. We
protected ’em too with a flourishing underground railroad. But the
brigands used to capture them; sometimes they captured our own free
darkies and carried them off. There was a young black woman with her
children who had lived as a free woman in our county, who was captured
and carried screaming in the dead of night through the streets of
Gettysburg, she and each of her children across the saddle of a rascal.
A posse was made up, but they couldn’t be rescued. In the end they got
back, and one of those children grew up in my grandfather’s family.
When the Confederates came she crept under the old valanced bed in the
downstairs bedroom, and my little brother who crept in there too always
remembered two details, the spurred feet of the officers which he
could see under the valance and the deathly green-gray of that young
girl’s face. She must have been almost twenty, but the terror had never
left her.

“Then we had the battle, and you will acknowledge that that was
something!”

“Yes,” said Elizabeth. “What happened about here at the time of the
battle?”

Colonel Thomas stooped and picked up one of the books which he had laid
on the doorstep.

“The best lengthy account of the battle was written by a famous
Frenchman, the Count of Paris. Here it is.” He turned from page to
page.

“This will answer your question. This is after the first day’s fight.
‘Lee, having determined not to provoke a decisive battle until the
concentration of his army was accomplished, must naturally have
resorted to every device in order to complete this concentration before
that of his adversary. This was easy for him to do, for two of his
three army corps were entirely under his control at the close of the
first day. Longstreet was still absent. Pickett’s division had remained
at Chambersburg for the purpose of covering the defiles of South
Mountain; an order to join the army was forwarded to him, but it could
not reach him until the next day. The other two divisions, under McLaws
and Hood, had started from Greenwood in the morning, after having
successfully aided in the passage of Johnson’s division.’”

Colonel Thomas stopped and looked at Elizabeth uneasily.

“Go on,” said Elizabeth.

“‘They all followed the same road. Messengers were sent to expedite
their movements; an extraordinary order which had directed the supply
train to pass before them had caused a great loss of time which
could not be repaired; in fact, the road, muddy and broken up, was
encumbered by vehicles, loaded with provisions and ammunition, that
were proceeding in the direction of the battle-field, and by others
that were already returning with some of the wounded.’ You see there
was dreadful congestion and confusion.”

Elizabeth looked at him steadily.

“Was that when my grandfather was supposed to have given them help?”

“Yes,” answered Colonel Thomas. “They wanted to find another way to get
in.”

Elizabeth said nothing. But she thought of the old map with its center
gone.

“But I don’t believe it!” said she stubbornly.

Colonel Thomas acted upon impulse.

“I have been making some investigations,” said he, quite as though
he had not determined to say nothing whatever to Elizabeth about
his investigations. “I looked again at General Adams’s letter. His
statement about John Baring is followed by a row of asterisks,
signifying that something was omitted at that place. They may have
forced your grandfather--that would be a mitigation. If I find
anything, I’ll straighten the matter out publicly; I promise you that!”

Then he rose to go.

“My brother will be back soon. I wish he might have seen you.”

“I’d like to see him. But I’m a little late for an appointment now.
I’ll come another time. I’m old-fashioned and I don’t like to think of
you here all by yourself.”

“I’m not afraid.”

Elizabeth thanked him once more for the books, then she walked with
him to his car. She watched it plunge down the mountain-side. Colonel
Thomas was apparently afraid neither of speed nor of speed laws.

When she returned to her doorstep, she found another visitor, a tall,
middle-aged woman in a serviceable blue dress with a white collar.

“I came down through the woods,” she explained. “I’m the State nurse.”

Elizabeth hastened to welcome her. Her cheeks glowed. Here was the sort
of friendliness of which she had dreamed! Did the nurse know nothing
about them, or didn’t she care what their grandfather was said to have
done?

“I’ve been up to see Old Mammy Sheldon, and she tells me some one made
a will for her. I met the road-menders, and they told me where you
lived. I’m going to stop some day to talk about those wretched people,
if I may.”

“You may, indeed!”

“Next winter I’m going to have this side of the mountain for my
bailiwick. I wonder whether you would take me to board and lodge?”

The nurse, watching Elizabeth, thought with a start that she grew pale.

“I will, indeed!”

Elizabeth walked with her guest to the road and watched her out of
sight. Then she stood still. She had been meaning for days to attend
to an important errand. On a cross-road a half-mile below them lived
the farmer who had been recommended to her to set out the orchard, and
it was quite time that the bargain with him was made. Now, without
returning for her hat, she walked down the road.

She met the farmer at the entrance to his lane, and there stated her
errand. She had not got farther than the first sentence when she saw
that he knew who she was and that her request was in vain.

“They tell me that you know all about setting out orchards.”

The farmer shook his head.

“Miss, I tell you how it was. My father lost everything in the war,
even his own life. Then the Confederates came here and, thanks to John
Baring, they found out all about us, and they took everything my mother
had, all our money and stock, and they ruined our fields and gardens.
I know it was part of war and all that. I forgive the soldiers. But I
can’t forgive John Baring. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I can’t
work for you. I don’t believe I could stay in the neighborhood. Folks
wouldn’t be friendly with me; that is the way it would work out. I know
you’re all right, a good, law-abiding citizen, and I’m sorry for you.
You see, the folks round here are afraid of the Baring stock, that’s
the sum total of it. I _am_ sorry for you, young lady. Ain’t there any
other place that you can live?”

“I’ve talked to people about him,” said Elizabeth. “They all say he was
considered to be a good man.”

“Yes, I guess that’s right.” The farmer repeated his question. “Isn’t
there any other place you could live, miss? I tell you why I ask. That
place has a bad name. Nobody who ever rented it had good luck. They
died, or they went crazy, or the men didn’t keep sober. You must know
that it was empty most of the time.”

“Why had it a bad name?”

“Well, of course I don’t believe those things. But I’ve heard tell as
how folks _saw_ John Baring wandering about. He had a long white beard
and he--”

“But he didn’t have a long white beard!” contradicted Elizabeth. “He
wasn’t an old man, he wasn’t even middle-aged! It’s the mountaineers
who go wandering about. They think the place is theirs.”

The farmer looked at her and shook his head again.

“I wouldn’t get their ill-will, miss. They’re thieves, and they set
things afire, and I expect they wouldn’t stop at murder.”

“I can’t see why you citizens have allowed them to remain as they are
all these years.”

The farmer opened his gate.

“It’s better to let some things be,” he explained. “There are some
things you’d better just stand, like skunks and weasels. They can’t be
brought to judgment, they’re too all-fired sly and disagreeable.”

Elizabeth climbed the road slowly. She saw that in another week the
golden-rod would be in bloom. Already, though it was only July, a
bright red branch of a gum tree showed here and there in the woods.

Then she quickened her steps. She had not seen Herbert since noon and
that was a long time for him to spend alone in the woods. For several
days he had been more quiet than usual and she believed that he was
growing more depressed. At first he had gained in strength and weight,
but now he was losing. Herbert was all she had; it would be madness to
carry her plans for him to the point of risking his life! They would go
to a city; they would do anything in the world that he wished to do.

Then as she entered the yard the old place put its spell upon her once
more. If this cloud could be removed, Herbert would be as anxious to
stay as she. It was theirs, and never in the world could they possess
elsewhere anything so beautiful.

To her astonishment Herbert had not come, though the woodland must be
by this time almost dark.

“He rode to the upper end and Joe is slow as molasses,” said she aloud
for the sake of hearing a human voice. Then she set about preparing the
kind of supper that Herbert liked. For a while she whistled; then her
own whistling disturbed her. When supper was prepared she walked to
the edge of the woodland and called, then she walked back to the house.
She remembered now that she had a new blow to transmit to him. If their
orchards could not be planted, then they had reason for anxiety. At
least she would not tell him until after supper. She said aloud her
mother’s proverb about an empty stomach. She knew as she said it that
she was trying to keep out of her mind another thought.

But the thought was not to be put off.

“In a few minutes it will be quite dark!” said Elizabeth in terror. She
walked again to the border of the woods, and again back to the house.
She should never have allowed him to go alone. But he had proposed to
look for traces of old boundary lines and she had consented, glad of
his independence.

As she reached the edge of the woods once more, she looked back over
her shoulder at the house. She had been in but one room and she felt
suddenly afraid, afraid of the great bulk, afraid of the dark corners,
afraid of the deep cellar and the cubby-holes in the attic. She turned
and crossed the yard to the barn.

“If he has come back, Joe is here!”

But the stable was empty. Elizabeth then walked directly to the front
door and back to the kitchen and there lit the lamp and lifted it from
the table.

“Shall I find another vague notice?” said she to herself. “Or a
positive threat of kidnapping?”

A notice was exactly what she found. Tossed in at the window of her own
room, lying just where the first soiled scrap of paper had lain, was
another. Upon it was the same gruesome sign of skull and cross-bones
and below another ill-written message.

    You bring that paper and you can hav him back.

“What paper?” said Elizabeth. “Have him back! Who! Where is he?”

But no voice answered, either from the house or from the dusky
woodland.



Chapter VI

ANOTHER VAIN JOURNEY


Elizabeth stood still, the lamp shaking in her hand. When at last she
had taken the few steps between her and her bureau and had set down the
lamp it seemed to her that she had accomplished a great feat.

They commanded her to bring back “the paper.” What paper? Was it the
will she had written for the poor old woman? Herbert’s safety should
not be jeopardized for that! It lay on the beam in her house. What had
they done with Herbert? Had they carried him to some cave or den, or to
some dreadful cabin like the one she had visited? Would they torture
him, starve him?

Elizabeth quite lost her head. She looked again into the stable to
convince herself that Joe was really not there. Then she started into
the blackness of the wood road. As she went, she called, and the
echo from the higher hill broken by the trees answered her faintly,
“Herbert! Herbert!” Or was it a voice mocking her distress?

Before she had gone half a mile, she realized that nothing was to be
gained by this procedure. She was not sure that she was still in the
road; she had walked into trees, and long shoots of crow’s-foot, which
grew only in the deeper woods, reached out and grasped her ankles. If
she lost the road, she would have to spend the night in the woods and
that would not profit Herbert. She must start back while she was still
sure that she could extricate herself.

Once more she seemed to hear voices, and called. If Herbert were near,
he would answer. But when she stopped and listened, she heard only the
murmuring wind.

Again she grew terror-stricken and started to run. There was no unhappy
situation in Herbert’s life from which she had not rescued him, whether
it was from the small ills of childhood or the more serious troubles
of his later days. She blamed herself now for having expected too much
of him. He was still frail and she had required him to take the part of
a strong man. For the past few weeks there had been not a coldness, but
a silence between them. She should have told him the full extent of the
hatred for their grandfather or she should not have left him alone.

Then she started to run. Now the road was comparatively smooth and she
knew each turn. He must be at home. This was not the day of brigands!
Surely she would find him watching for her, worried because she had not
come!

But Herbert was not at home. The old house was grim and silent and
empty.

Common sense directed that she should go at once for help. But who
would help her on this inhospitable hill? Would people not rather
rejoice in her misfortune? Who would venture now, at night, into the
neighborhood of the mountaineers of whom every one was afraid by day?
She thought of the words of the farmer. “There are things you’d better
just let be, like weasels and skunks.”

She remembered all that Colonel Thomas had told her of them, of their
certain aim, of their indifference to authority. It would be far better
to negotiate with them herself, to go alone and make any concession to
bring Herbert back. Then she and Herbert would flee from the home of
their ancestors never, never to return.

It was now almost midnight and the distance to dawn was not long.
Elizabeth sat all night at the window, listening, and certain that
she heard occasionally the sound of a footstep. At the first sign of
daylight she would start and go on foot to the old cabin and thence
into the mountaineers’ settlement.

Just before daylight she heard a sound and saw a dark form emerge from
the woods. She leaned far out the window to see as well as she could.
At first she thought it was Herbert, but it proved to be too large an
object to be human. When she recognized old Joe, she rushed out and
took him by the bridle. He was dull of vision and feeble of step and
therefore ill-equipped to make his way alone through thickets and over
rocks, but eventually instinct had brought him home, though he had
suffered cruelly on the journey. His skin was torn by briars, his knees
were bleeding from numerous falls.

Elizabeth caught the bridle. In the dim light she could see that it had
been severed apparently by a knife. She talked to him as she fed him
and brushed him gently.

“Oh, you poor Joe, you’ve got to start out again! I’m sorry for you,
but I’ve got to go as fast as I can!”

In the first gray light she climbed on old Joe’s back. He gave a
resentful whinny and then started into the woods in which he had
recently had such perilous adventure. Once he snorted as though in
alarm, and Elizabeth looked round sharply. But she could see no
dangerous object, and Joe could not speak to tell her of a guard asleep
under a tree.

Little by little the woods grew gray; then the trunks of the trees
turned pale gold. The chorus of the birds sounded from the tree-tops
and from every thicket. It was the moment in which the cheerful heart
is most uplifted.

But Elizabeth grew more anxious. She really expected that she would
see Herbert, making his way homeward, but she heard no human sound,
saw no human being until she came in sight of the little cabin. The
road-makers were not at work, and the last bend of the road seemed like
a door which would close behind her. No living soul would know where
she was or where Herbert was, except their enemies. She had left no
clue in the house, for she had carried with her in her pocket even the
notice which she had found upon the floor.

When she came in sight of the cabin she heard Mammy Sheldon crying. Did
the poor soul cry all the time, or did her ear warn her of the approach
of a step, and did she then begin to sob and moan? She recognized
Elizabeth and made a frantic effort to lift herself on her elbow.

“Don’t give it to him! Don’t give it to him!”

Elizabeth went close to the bed.

“What is it he wants?”

“He wants my last testament, so as to tear it up or burn it an’ to
have the money to spend for a gun. My money to be buried decent with a
preacher an’ the singin’ of psalms. Don’t give it to him! Don’t give it
to him!”

Elizabeth could see on the beam above her head the edge of the white
paper, still undisturbed.

“Where is my brother?”

Mammy Sheldon looked long at Elizabeth. Into her eyes came a look of
crazy cunning.

“They shot him,” said she. “Of course they shot him! It was right
outside this door.”

Elizabeth laughed hysterically.

“What nonsense! They did not shoot him! Where is he? I helped you; now
you help me.”

The old woman laid her head down on her poor pillow. She began to cry
once more about a decent burial. Whether she was trying to deceive, or
whether her mind could not hold an idea more than a moment, it was hard
to say.

Elizabeth walked to the door and looked out. The tall trees, the
glimpses of sky, the brown earth covered with a carpet of pine needles
and dead leaves--this was surely no place of execution! Only the
loneliness and the dreadful sound were ominous; there was no bird’s
song, even in the early morning, loud enough to make itself heard above
the wild sobbing.

Elizabeth went back to the bed.

“Where is my brother?” she demanded. “They must have come to the house
yesterday and compelled him to come with them.”

The old woman did not answer.

“They want a paper. Is it the paper that I wrote for you?”

The mention of the “testament” caught Mammy Sheldon’s attention.

“Don’t give it to them! They’ll take my money and bury me like a dog.
Don’t give it to them; oh, please, oh, please!”

“I shan’t if you tell me what they have done with my brother.”

“They don’t tell me what they do. I’m away off yere from ’em. But
they’ll get their pay! Their children’ll treat ’em as they’ve treated
me!”

“Where are the people that feed you and take care of you?”

“Buried,” answered Mammy Sheldon. “Dead and buried.”

“They are not dead and buried! Some one brought you food within the
last few days.”

But no further answer was to be had from the old woman. She seemed now
to be asleep.

Elizabeth stood for a moment considering. Then she reached up and
pushed the will a little farther back on the beam. There it could not
be seen, but she could direct them where to find it. She would pay the
old woman’s funeral expenses if they destroyed the will and if she died
penniless. Forty dollars was nothing compared to the precious life
which might now be in danger.

Clambering to old Joe’s back, Elizabeth started to go farther into
the woods. For herself she had not the least fear. If she could only
see Sheldon and find what they wanted of her! Sometimes she bravely
determined to hold out against them even if it were only the will which
they wanted. The old woman should do with her money what she chose,
they should not coerce her! They would get tired and let Herbert go;
they would not risk their lives for the sake of forty dollars! If
she gave them the will, she would only be doing what all the other
inhabitants had been doing for generations, ignoring their crimes for
fear of reprisal and giving them a free hand. It was no wonder they had
no fear of God or man!

But they had actually carried off her brother! It was difficult to hold
to any principle when one remembered that!

As she rode on, looking eagerly from side to side, another suspicion
entered her mind. Was it possible that they suspected Old Mammy Sheldon
of having revealed some secret of the past, some hidden crime? The
farmer had said that they would not stop at murder. The old woman had
talked about some one who was shot and buried. Elizabeth shuddered.

Presently she came to a place where the dim road divided, one fork
going toward the right, the other bending toward the left. There was
nothing which indicated the way to the mountaineers’ settlement, except
that the right-hand road seemed to run against an almost perpendicular
section of the mountain-side. The lay of the land seemed to indicate
that that road did not go far.

Selecting the road to the left, she rode on, not noticing at first the
gradual descent. Nor did she hear back of her the sound of hurried
footsteps. The man at whose sleeping presence Joe had snorted, paused,
panting, at the fork of the road where she had paused. He looked up and
down the road into the forest, and even, in a foolish way, up into the
air. Then he ran on to the right.

Presently Elizabeth began to be doubtful about her choice, but she
decided to ride a little farther. When at last she was about to turn
back, she found that she had been riding for a few rods in a little
glade and that the road had vanished, either having ended, or having
turned imperceptibly in another direction. She gave Joe a free rein,
but Joe seemed to have no wisdom about wood roads.

Now she shed a few tears. She was afraid to go upward for fear that she
would be more hopelessly lost. If she went directly downward, using the
slope of the mountain for her guide, she would be going each moment
farther away from Herbert. But that seemed to be the only possible
course to follow. Dismounting, she led old Joe, who slipped and slid
and frequently whinnied his distress. She would find her way home, and
then there should be no further delay in calling Colonel Thomas’s
constabulary to her aid. It was criminal to have delayed so long.

Once, when she stopped to let Joe rest, she was confident that
she heard, dim and far away, the sound of a gunshot. There was no
following shot and she was not sure that she was not mistaken, but the
possibilities suggested by the sound horrified her. She rose and took
the unwilling Joe by the bridle and went on over stones and rocks. She
saw masses of arbutus plants and beautiful carpets of pine leaves with
a pattern of trailing crow’s-foot; she passed through stretches of
cathedral woods. She saw strange flowers which looked like orchids and
high, deep thickets of rhododendron, set with pale blossoms. A month
ago she would have exclaimed with delight; now she scarcely observed
them, or said to herself while she looked, “We are going away.” Late
in the afternoon she saw suddenly a stone fence and a weed-grown field
and recognized her own property. Then the old house showed through the
trees and she pulled Joe rapidly forward.

“Herbert!” she called, “Herbert! Herbert!”

But no Herbert answered.

After stabling old Joe, she hurried to the kitchen. She would get a
bite to eat, then she would smooth her hair and change her dress and go
directly to the road, there to beg a ride from the first passer-by. Old
Joe could not have carried her for a square. Her spirits rose. If there
was something one could do the situation was more tolerable.

When she opened the door of her room, she saw that a new scrap of paper
lay on the floor. With trembling hand she took it up:

Him in exchang for the paper. It will be wuss for you if you git any
one.

She sat down heavily on the edge of her bed. The thought of the
constabulary riding to her aid had all the afternoon sustained her.
Then she lifted her head.

“I _will_ go,” said she. “They won’t shoot me, that is certain.”

She looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was untidy and sifted
over it were twigs and dust and the pollen of flowers; her face was
soiled and scratched, her eyes looked wild. She made as rapid a toilet
as she could, and then she started out. It was already almost dark, so
long had been her dreary journey. She started to run.

Then she stopped. She might have been uncertain in the afternoon
whether or not she had heard the sound of a gunshot, but now there
was no mistaking. It seemed to her that the bullet passed immediately
before her, that she heard its whistle. It said to her as distinctly as
if a voice had spoken, “Stay where you are!”

She went back to the house. Only a fool would have gone on after that
sort of warning. But she did not go indoors. She stood on the step and
called.

“Come here and talk to me. I’ll listen to what you have to say! Don’t
hide like a coward!”

But there was no answer. Perhaps when it was still darker they would
come. She sat down in her corner of the step and leaned her head
against the wall. She would be here if they came, she would--she
would--her head nodded and she was asleep.

When she woke it was in answer to an abrupt summons. She heard
simultaneously another shot and a little sharp crack and some object
fell from above upon her head. She thought it was a fluttering bird
and put up her hand. But the texture of the object was that of cloth.
It was the flag which had been shot at! Elizabeth stood with it in
her hands. Colonel Thomas had said that the mountaineers had been
in sympathy with the enemies of their country. Was this generation
traitorous also? Every fiber of her being stiffened with resentment.
Yet, alas! John Baring--

Again she stood on the step and called angrily.

“Come and tell me what you want! Don’t hide like a coward!”

But whether the watcher was deaf, or whether he was merely a sentinel
without power to act or to answer, he made no response.

She carried the flag into the house and lighting the lamp, examined it.
In it were half a dozen bullet-holes. Then she ate a hastily prepared
breakfast and set out into the woods. Once more daybreak was at hand,
and this time she would not miss the road to the settlement.



CHAPTER VII

“MAMMY’S BOY”


Herbert Scott was not a coward--indeed, his errand, deep in the woods
above the Baring house on the afternoon when Colonel Thomas came to see
Elizabeth, proved him courageous.

His anonymous and unpleasant communications had not been threats or
warnings, but taunts. The mountaineers seemed to have come to the
conclusion that he was worth nothing, that he was a mere appendage
attached to the proverbial apron-string of his sister.

The taunts were never uttered when Elizabeth was within hearing.
Herbert, bending over a garden-bed, heard from the woodland a shrill
“Mammy’s boy! Mammy’s boy!” then a laugh. At first he had walked
directly toward the sound, but he never could see who had uttered it.
He knew, sometimes, that the speaker receded before him; there was
a rustle in the leaves and underbrush, and sometimes the call was
repeated at increasing distances. But more often, he could neither see
nor hear a living soul.

But now, on the afternoon when he had gone to look up the boundary
lines, the taunts changed to a more serious approach. Suddenly he found
himself looking into a gun-barrel. He recognized at once the holder of
the gun and stood still. He did not throw up his hands or make any sign
of surrender, but he felt the blood recede from his heart.

“What do you want?” he asked.

“I want that paper,” answered Sheldon, sullenly and with determination.
There was also another quality in the thick tones--could it be fright?

Herbert was wholly mystified.

“What paper?”

“The paper the girl got from Old Mammy. Mammy’s holdin’ it up to tease
me! Mammy’s crazy; what she says won’t go, but we want the paper.”

“I don’t know anything about a paper.”

“You lie!” cried Sheldon.

A little of the blood returned to Herbert’s heart. He squared his
shoulders.

“I do not lie!”

“You’ve got it hidden somewhere to make trouble. Fork it out! We won’t
make no trouble for them that makes no trouble for us. She got the
road-maker to help her; one of them writ his name on it. Mammy brags
about it.”

Herbert was completely bewildered.

“I know nothing about it.”

“Well, then, you come with me an’ perhaps you’ll learn something.”

“My horse is tied over there.”

“Don’t worry about your horse. Come on.”

Herbert obeyed. There was no question as to the seriousness of
Sheldon’s intentions and there was no question about the deadly power
of his loaded gun. He led the way slowly and cautiously down through
the woods toward the house. Did he mean to corral Elizabeth also?
Even in his terror and despair Herbert hoped that Elizabeth was
not at home. Surely she could have no paper which belonged to these
desperadoes!

Before they reached the edge of the woods where they could look out on
the old house, two men met them. One was a shorter man than Sheldon
with glowering eyes and a black beard which made him look like a
pirate. Elizabeth would have recognized him as the “Black Smith” whom
Colonel Thomas had described. The other was “Bud.”

“She’s went off,” Black Smith announced. “She’s far down the road.”

“Come on,” ordered Sheldon. “We’ll find that paper.”

He marched Herbert into the kitchen and made him open the doors of
the cupboard. Then they went through the house, from cellar to attic.
Confident that he would find nothing, Herbert searched thoroughly.
Under Elizabeth’s bureau cover, he found the two warning papers. His
eyes blazed.

“I never saw these. I should think you’d be ashamed of yourselves, big
men trying to frighten a girl!”

“And a little mammy’s boy!” said Sheldon in an ugly tone.

Then Sheldon took from his pocket a stump of a lead pencil and another
piece of paper and wrote another bulletin.

“She’ll know what to do when she finds that,” said he. “Now march!”

Herbert went out the front door and round the house into the woods as
he was directed. At the wood’s edge, Black Smith fell in with them; the
other remained behind.

“What are you going to do with my sister?” demanded Herbert.

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” answered Sheldon. “I want the paper,
I don’t want your sister. Wishin’ she’d come an’ take care of you, are
you, mammy’s boy?”

Herbert made no answer. Now Black Smith took a share in the
conversation.

“The mountain people don’t stand for no nonsense,” said he. “They ain’t
like the people of the plain. The people of the plain says one thing
and means another, while the mountain people says one thing and sticks
to it. The mountain people--”

“Shut up!” commanded Sheldon, whether in weariness of Black Smith’s
loquacity or because he thought silence best, it was hard to say. There
was a surprising sentimentality about Black Smith.

“You talk too much,” said Sheldon.

The three looked back. From their position they could see past the
corner of the house to a spot of color still vivid in the afternoon
light. Sheldon lifted his gun.

“Don’t do that!” cried Herbert.

But Sheldon only laughed. A bullet struck the spot of bright color and
the flag fluttered a little.

“Hit it!” said Sheldon with satisfaction.

“You rascal!” cried Herbert.

Sheldon laughed again as though pleased with himself.

“I shot at that rag many times,” said he. “Off with you! March!”

When they had penetrated into the deep woods, Herbert remembered poor
Joe.

“I told you that my horse is tied up there,” said he. “He can’t even
crop the grass.”

“We’ll settle him,” said Sheldon. To Herbert his tone was vicious.
Would they shoot the poor beast or torture him?

But Sheldon had no such cruel intention, although he lifted his gun at
sight of the old animal, now restless and whinnying.

“Oh, don’t!” cried Herbert.

The bullet did not touch the horse, but only the strap which held him.
Joe lifted head and heels. The quick motion tore the pierced bridle
through and Joe was gone, bounding over the rocks and through thickets
as though on a smooth race-course.

Once or twice Herbert was given directions to walk toward the right
or the left. Otherwise his captors did not speak. Black Smith had
evidently accepted reproof, for he said no more about the “mountain
people.”

Herbert began presently to stumble over stones and projecting roots. It
was now almost dark and his head was dizzy. They seemed after a while
to have stepped into a rough road, even a road upon which some work had
recently been done. If so, he was not being entirely separated from the
rest of mankind. Then a thought startled him. Sheldon had spoken of
road-makers in connection with this mysterious paper. There evidently
had been road-makers in the neighborhood. But Elizabeth could not have
come as far as this!

At last, when it seemed to Herbert that he had walked almost all
night, he began to hear voices, and in a moment saw a faint light. The
light was darkened, apparently, by the passing of an object before it.
Another man joined them, and still another.

“Sit down!” ordered Sheldon.

“Where?” asked Herbert.

Sheldon took him by the arm and guided him to what appeared to be the
doorway of a cabin. He sat down, breathing uncomfortably a heavy human
and canine odor which seemed to emanate from within the cabin. Sheldon
whistled and Herbert felt a panting creature pass him.

“Watch him!” ordered Sheldon.

Herbert heard the sound of retreating steps, of other growls, of voices
near at hand. One was a woman’s.

“You’ll bring destruction on yourselves!” she cried. “You’re plottin’
an’ plannin’ your own ruin an’ downfall! The State police won’t stand
the carrying off of men, they--”

The speech ended abruptly, almost as though a period had been put to it
by force.

Herbert heard Sheldon’s sharp “Shut up, Jinny!” and another whine
from Black Smith about the “mountain people.” Then he sat motionless,
hearing the heavy breathing of the watch-dog, though he could not see
him. When he stretched out his tired legs, the dog growled menacingly.
He had seen either this dog or one like him with Sheldon, a tall, gaunt
animal with a bristling collar of fur, and he had no intention of
risking an attack.

His eyes strained in vain to pierce the darkness, but he could see
nothing, not even the light. He surmised that there were tall trees
near by; he could hear the leaves stirring gently far above his head.
Even the voices had ceased to sound. Had his captors gone to bed, or
had they shut themselves in somewhere to discuss his fate?

Sometimes waves of weakness rushed over poor Herbert, but they were
not waves of fright. Elizabeth would long ago have found the paper and
would have gone for help. He believed that by morning he might expect
her. The summary treatment which he had received had wrought a change
in him. The high-handedness of his capture enraged him. He lifted his
head and said the words that Elizabeth had said weeks before, “They
shall not drive us away!” He had no affection for the house of John
Baring, and he shared but few of Elizabeth’s fond dreams of clearing
his grandfather’s name of its stain, but he would not be coerced in
this fashion. He despised the neighborhood which had for so long
tolerated these desperadoes.

He was mistaken about the flight of time. Twilight had seemed to come
early because the woods were thick and because it was cloudy, and the
journey had seemed hours long because of his weariness. It was not yet
eleven o’clock when Sheldon and Black Smith returned with the two other
men. Did these, together with the man left at the house, represent the
total able-bodied forces?

They carried with them old lanterns, made of tin and pierced with
holes, and they sat down in a semi-circle before the door of the cabin
or dog-kennel whichever it might be. Sheldon, who seemed to lead them
in everything, spoke first.

“Now, boy, we want that paper, an’ we believe there is one way to get
it. You write an’ tell your sis to send it up here. Then you can go,
prompt.”

Black Smith was, it seemed, like many orators, not to be permanently
suppressed.

“People have got to be learned that there’s no foolin’ with the
mountain people,” said he.

“I don’t know anything about any paper,” insisted Herbert. “My sister
didn’t tell me anything about a paper.”

“You don’t need to know anything about the paper,” said Sheldon. “We
tell you that the girl got a sworn paper from Mammy an’ Mammy’s out of
her head an’ she talks too much. She don’t know what she’s sayin’, but
a sworn lie holds for the truth.” He leaned forward and laid a scrap of
paper on Herbert’s knee. “You tell her that you’re here an’ that you’re
safe, an’ that she shall send the paper, then by morning you can go.”

“I can’t make her send it.”

Sheldon laughed.

“She’ll send it to get her baby boy!” said he.

The insulting words brought Herbert to his feet.

“She won’t do anything of the kind. She’s gone for help, long ago, I
can tell you that. Do you think she’ll sit down there and do nothing?
You don’t know her! We were told that the instant you gave us any
trouble we could have the constabulary come up here. They’ll wipe
you out! They’ve got your deeds recorded! They’ll punish you for the
present and the past.”

A dark figure appeared in the faint speckled circle of lamplight.

“I told you so!” said the woman’s voice, which Herbert had heard
before. “Destruction is waiting for us! Destruction from our airless
lives, according to the nurse, and destruction from the guns of the
soldiers.”

Sheldon rose muttering.

“Git out of here, Jinny!”

The woman moved backward.

“She’s exactly right,” said Herbert. “One of you has sense, anyhow!”

But Jinny’s tirade was not taken seriously by her kinsfolk. Sheldon
returned and sat down heavily.

“You don’t suppose, boy, that we left her free to run round over the
country, do you?”

Herbert shivered. Was a gun-barrel pointed also at Elizabeth?
Nevertheless, he did not believe that she would follow the dictation
of any gun-barrel. He saw the desperation of these outlaws on one side
and Elizabeth’s indifference to danger and her anger at injustice on
the other. There was also another element. Elizabeth would be wild
with fear for him. At that thought Herbert’s cheeks reddened in the
darkness. She would not expect him to be able to help himself!

“Write what we tell you,” said Sheldon, tapping him on the knee.

Herbert glanced down at the paper. The dark night, which seemed
actually to press down upon him, the encircling men, the den behind
him, the ferocious dogs lurking in the shadow--he was acutely conscious
of all. He had always been taken care of by Elizabeth, and now he
saw the words formed by his hand, “For my sake, Elizabeth, send them
whatever paper you have!”

But what paper was it? Why had she not told him about it? She had no
business to keep him in ignorance! What motive could she have had?

Then Herbert answered his own question. Elizabeth’s motive was never
a selfish one; she wished always to spare and defend him. Perhaps she
had thought that she had found a clue, and losing it, had not wished to
disappoint him. Perhaps she had come upon some fact which had ended all
her hopes. She had seemed quieter of late. Perhaps, on the other hand,
she had really found a clue, and by appealing to her to save him, he
would spoil everything.

He looked up. He believed again that, even in the dim light, he saw
fear in the scowling faces. What dreadful secrets this distant corner
of the mountain might hide! What crimes might have been committed here,
undiscovered, perhaps unsuspected! An old woman might well, in her
dotage, cry out facts at which her family would be terrified! The blood
now rushed through Herbert’s veins.

“You’ve told her what you want,” said he. “She’ll have to decide for
herself. I won’t write anything--not a word!”

There was an angry murmur. Black Smith began to declaim.

“You needn’t think the mountain people’ll stand for such talk,” said he
wildly. “You--”

“Shut up!” commanded Sheldon.

Then Sheldon himself uttered a sentence of more weighty import. He
accompanied it with a sharp stroke of his fist on Herbert’s knee.

“We can bury you in the grave with your gran’pappy, if that’s what you
want,” said he. “He was a betrayer.”

At that there came a cry from outside the circle. Again Jinny had come
close to the group in front of the cabin door.

“You’ll see destruction soon enough!” she warned.

Sheldon got to his feet and whistled. Two great dogs bounded toward him.

“Watch him!” he commanded.

At once he and his mates went off into the darkness.



Chapter VIII

BLACK SMITH’S BARGAIN


In spite of the exertion of all her power of will, which was not small,
Elizabeth found her step lagging as she went through the woods. The
strenuous efforts of the last days and her abbreviated hours of sleep
had naturally exhausted her. She had to sit down often to rest. As she
did so, she looked first to this side, now to that. She was certain
that she was watched each moment. Once she called, “I know you are
there! Don’t hide like a coward, but come out!”

There was no answer, though Black Smith, appointed over her for the
night, and now following her, heard her plainly. Black Smith had not
slept at his post as had her guardian of the night before.

When she approached the old woman’s cabin she could hear no sound. She
would go in and get the will and carry it with her.

But she did not enter the cabin. On the step lay one of the cross dogs
of the mountaineers, who, when she spoke to him, rose and growled
fiercely. She backed out of the thicket.

At the forks she took the right-hand road. She had gone only a short
distance when she heard behind her the sound of footsteps, and turned
and looked toward the bend round which she had come. Black Smith had
decided to accompany her instead of stalking her.

“Stop!” he called.

Elizabeth stood still, recognizing him at once from the description of
Colonel Thomas.

“What do you want with me?”

Black Smith grinned at her.

“It ain’t no use to come here unless you got the paper.”

Elizabeth backed against the tree, appalled by the savage aspect of
Smith.

“I have no paper that would be of any value to you.”

Black Smith came closer.

“You made out a paper,” he insisted. “We heard tell of it. You can’t
keep things secret from the mountain people. You’ve got to get it for
us.”

“That was a will made for the sick old woman,” explained Elizabeth.
“She was afraid that her son would take her money for a gun and she
would not have decent burial. I made a will for her.”

“There was other things on it!”

“There was nothing else on it!”

“She says there was.”

“Then she doesn’t tell the truth!”

Black Smith came still closer. The odor of liquor was strong on his
breath.

“Well, then, git the paper! No paper should be written by strangers in
the settlement of the mountain people. There’s those of us can write.
If papers is to be writ we can write them. An’ we can read what is on
papers that has been writ. You fetch this paper an’ we’ll tell what’s
on it.”

Elizabeth hesitated. The old woman could hardly be made more miserable
than she was. She would go and get the paper now and Herbert should be
free.

Black Smith was impatient with her delay. He looked at her menacingly.

“Look here. Your brother ain’t gettin’ much to eat while you’re
foolin’! He sets all the time an’ cries for his mammy, that’s what he
does! We know his kind, an’ we have no use for such folks among the
mountain people. We know what else was on that paper beside a will, an’
you know.”

“I’ve told you all that was on it!” Elizabeth’s answer was almost a
scream. “You and your mountain people are wicked!”

The man scowled still more heavily. It seemed to Elizabeth that the
time for delay was past. She was about to say, “Come on, I’ll find it
for you!”

Then Smith’s words halted her.

“Your brother can find place in the grave with his gran’pappy, that he
can. The mountain people didn’t take nothin’ from him, I can tell you!”

Elizabeth’s hands pressed close upon the coarse bark of the tree
against which she leaned. The pressure hurt, but she wished it to hurt.
It seemed to her that physical pain would help her to clearness of
thought. Once she feared that she was going to faint, then strength
came back. Was she to hear even from these evil lips mockery and
reproach for John Baring? Had these been his friends? Had he, perhaps,
hidden here among them, had he taken refuge with them? They, too, were
enemies of their country--one of them had fired upon the flag! Did John
Baring die here, was he, perhaps, killed by them after some quarrel?
Was it he who, in the old woman’s words, had been “shot and buried”?
Was there any truth in anything they said?

“It ain’t a hundred yards away where he lays,” said Black Smith. “He
went counter to the mountain people, an’ see what become of him! Will
you give me the paper?”

Elizabeth bent her head. John Baring had ruined the lives of many of
his kin; he should not destroy Herbert’s. Again she determined that she
would give them the paper and provide so that the old woman should have
the decent burial that she craved, and then they would obey the advice
of friend and foe and go away.

That is, they would go, if it were not too late. She did not believe
that they would starve Herbert, or that he sat crying for her. But he
might be ill.

“I will--” began Elizabeth.

Then, suddenly, Elizabeth stopped. The arching trees seemed to contract
into the ceiling of a low room, she smelled not the fresh, living,
woodsy odors about her, but the odor of dry wood, of old beams and
broad ceiling-boards, dried for fifty years under a roof. She saw
herself rising on tiptoe to read, and she heard Herbert’s voice.

“I have built this house the best I know. God bless those that go in
and out.”

For a moment Elizabeth saw more than the writing, she seemed to look
into a pair of sad and steady eyes. Once more in a rush of confused
emotions a wave of semi-unconsciousness passed over her and she found
herself pressing her hands again hard against the rough bark of the
old tree. Her eyes, staring at Black Smith, looked wild. She saw a
scene of which she often dreamed, the old house surrounded by armed and
mounted men. She heard the creak of wagons, the steady, rhythmic beat
of marching troops, the cries of the wounded, already being carried to
the rear, the throng and press which filled the steep and narrow road.
She saw the clear blue moonlight over the wide plain, and the flaring
torchlight at hand; she seemed to see John Baring standing in his
doorway, looking at it all, hearing a question, a demand which could
not be put off. It may have been that his wife stood beside him with
her baby in her arms.

“I have built this house the best I know.” He had intended to live here
long years, to die here decades from now--perhaps that intention went
through his mind.

But he had not been given a long time for dreaming. He must decide at
once. There was probably a heavy hand on his shoulder, a harsh voice at
his ear.

“Here is a horse for you! We must know another way to Gettysburg and
that quickly!”

Then Elizabeth awoke. This was not the time for dreaming, for trying to
reconstruct the mental processes of John Baring!

“I cannot think,” she said to herself. “There is something in the back
of my mind, but I cannot get at it!”

“I’ll give you one more minute, missy, to decide what you’re goin’ to
do.”

Black Smith drew from his pocket a giant silver watch and looked at it.

Elizabeth looked down at the ground, then steadily up at Black Smith.
There was in her blue eyes a hard expression. Thus had she looked
when she had refused to sell her vegetables to the rude woman in
Chambersburg. Thus had she looked also when she had first heard of John
Baring’s crime. From some ancestor she had inherited a stubborn will.
Her affection, her common sense, her pride, directed that she free
Herbert promptly and that they go away as soon and as quietly as they
could. But to neither affection nor common sense nor pride would she
yield. She would have made a thorough-going early Christian martyr.

“How do I know that after I have given you the paper you will let him
go?” she asked. “I might get the paper and you might not be satisfied
with it and refuse to bring him.”

Black Smith looked at her warily. He rather admired this finesse and he
had no fear that she would go away.

“The mountain people keep their word,” said he. “You set on that rock
an’ I’ll bring him an’ others.” Suddenly he grinned. “If you ain’t
here, of course you know what happens to your baby boy. An’ don’t you
come after me!”

“I shan’t come after you,” promised Elizabeth.

Once Black Smith stopped and looked back at her. Then he went on.
Elizabeth could not see that he followed any road.

When he was out of sight she hid her face for a moment in her hands;
then she looked up.

“It will be a little while until they come back,” said she to herself.
“Then they will try to catch me. They will think I have gone down to
the house and they will hunt and by that time--”

She rose and looked down the side of the mountain.

“I had old Joe to lead the other day,” said she. “And I had some
respect for my bones and my clothes and I went round obstacles instead
of going over them. Now--”

She looked back over her shoulder. The woods had closed absolutely
behind Black Smith. She believed that the settlement of the mountain
people must be some distance away, else sounds would have penetrated
to her ears. It was a desperate chance, but she took it. She started
recklessly, not back to the comparatively open ground, but in a direct
line downward. She fell and she picked herself up; she caught her dress
in briars and pulled it loose without any mercy on the cloth or without
any care for the appearance which she would soon present. She stopped
but once, and then merely to listen. There was no sound in the woods of
any pursuit, there was scarcely a song of a bird. Again she plunged on.
She did not think of John Baring, she scarcely thought of Herbert. She
was a desperate creature, who forgets all but the goal, even the reason
for the race.

After a while she stopped again, panting. Her hair had come unfastened
and she braided it as she waited. Then she listened intently, not
now in terror for sign of pursuit, but in hope of another sound. She
had descended a long distance and she had kept well to the left. She
should hear before long an automobile horn blown warningly on the long
descent, or the chug, chug of a machine climbing the hill.

But as yet there was nothing. She drew a deep breath and went on. Again
she stopped and listened. She heard no sound, but she saw before her
an open field. She had gone down through the spur of woods which ran
out from the main forest and in a moment she was in the weedy fields
of John Baring’s property, the old house far above her, and in a few
moments more she stood panting by the roadside.

There she waited. She did not walk on toward Gettysburg, because here
on this comparatively level strip at the foot of a short curve the
drivers would have slackened their speed and it would be easy for a car
to stop. But no car came. She held her breath as she listened.

When, at last, she heard a distant horn, she stepped out toward the
road. She heard also laughing voices above the sound of the horn. As
the car came round the curve she lifted her hand.

“Will you take me to Gettysburg?” she cried. “I have--” But the riders
did not stop to hear what she had. They were young; it may have been
that her appearance frightened them. They did not even answer, but
sailed on. One young man stood up in the car and looked back at her.
Elizabeth shrank against the fence.

Then she heard a different sound, this time the throb of an engine
rapidly climbing the hill. Here there would be no use to ask. But when
the car came into view, long and low and powerful and occupied by a man
alone, she walked out into the road.

The driver stopped with a grinding of brakes, his machine turned a
little to one side. It was to be gathered from his expression that he
believed himself to be halted by a madwoman.

Elizabeth laid her hand across her heart. Consciousness seemed to be
going once more. If he would not listen she would despair.

“I am not crazy,” she explained earnestly. “I am in great trouble. I
tried to get some people to take me to Gettysburg to get the officers,
but they would not stop. Perhaps if you would wait here and help me I
could get a ride.”

“What is your trouble?” asked the man.

Elizabeth could not answer. Her blue eyes rested upon him in anguish.
The stranger called to her to stand out of the way and began to turn
his car. She watched him incredulously as he opened the door.

“Get in. Where do you want to go in Gettysburg?”

“I want to see Colonel Thomas,” she explained. Already the car seemed
to be leaping down the hill. “I live up here and the mountaineers have
threatened to do us harm. They hold a fancied wrong against us and they
have carried off my brother.”

The stranger stared. The story was, indeed, fantastic beyond belief.

“What mountaineers?”

“They’re people that have always lived up here far back in the woods.
They’re outlaws. I had been warned by them, but I couldn’t believe
they’d do what they threatened.”

“Whom will Colonel Thomas get to help you?”

“There are State police in this neighborhood,” said Elizabeth.

“Good,” said the stranger.

They had reached the level plain, and the machine seemed to leap into a
speed greater than that at which they had come down the hill. Elizabeth
told, gasping, a few of the details of her trouble. The stranger
glanced at her in amazement, no longer doubting her sanity. He leaned
over his wheel, watching the road with a trained eye.

“I’ll take the constabulary up,” he offered.



Chapter IX

HERBERT PUTS TWO AND TWO TOGETHER


Herbert had been in reality left almost without food for a day. But as
he grew weaker, he grew more determined. Several times Sheldon brought
him the soiled paper and the stub of pencil and asked him to write.
Herbert shook his head.

“She ain’t got help for you very fast,” growled Sheldon.

Herbert looked up into the sullen face, seeing there again a kind of
desperation.

On the morning of the second day, when Elizabeth was traveling toward
the cabin, the gaunt, angular woman called Jinny came to speak to him.
She brought with her a piece of bread.

“I’ll sneak you some more,” she promised. “Are you learned?”

“Not very,” answered Herbert, as he munched the dry, poor bread.

“I mean can you read and write?”

“Oh, yes.”

“An’ do sums?”

“Yes, I can do sums.”

“You can’t get along in the world without some learnin’, kin you?”

“Not very well,” answered Herbert.

The woman pointed to the south.

“There’s lots of us, down that-a-way what ain’t got no use for learnin’
an’ we’re dyin’ like flies with our airless lives. We’ve got the tisic
an’ the takin’-off an’ we won’t listen to no one. I’m willin’ to learn
an’ to have my children learn, an’ sometimes one comes to show us the
way, but they get druv off by those that are against ’em. I tell you
the mountain people don’ know what’s for their good; they’re blind an’
they won’t see, as the Good Book says. They--”

Jinny was not allowed to finish her speech. Her husband approached
with Black Smith, and Herbert heard the account of Black Smith’s
conversation with Elizabeth.

“She says if we let her have the boy, she’ll git us the paper.”

“Where is she?”

“She’s settin’ on a rock. There ain’t but one way out for her an’
that’s the way she come in an’ John’s watchin’ that. Let her set.”

“Do you hev faith in her that she will keep her word?” asked Sheldon.

“Yes, I do. She’s had two nights an’ a day now an’ she’s droppin’ from
sleep.”

But Sheldon looked about uneasily.

“You’re sure it ain’t no trap?”

“Of course it ain’t no trap.”

“Where is the paper?”

“I don’t know. She’ll git it when she sees him.”

Sheldon stood leaning against a tree. Another man joined them and then
another. They were a formidable group with their long guns, and with
their savage-looking dogs standing alertly beside them.

“You bring her to Mammy’s bedside an’ then we’ll test ’em both,”
commanded Sheldon. “Go git her.”

But the party was not to move. A pleasant odor of freshly frying ham
and of baking johnny-cake filled the air.

“I ain’t had no food yet to-day,” whined Black Smith. “I can’t go too
long without food.”

“Well, then, eat,” grumbled Sheldon, who, while he scolded, commanded
Jinny to bring him his own breakfast.

Jinny brought him not only his breakfast, but advice as well.

“You have no right to persecute these young people,” said she.
“Vengeance is prepared for you; it were well to meet it with deeds of
goodness. Let ’em go.”

Her husband silenced her with his usual command.

“I ain’t goin’ to shet up,” persisted Jinny. “An’ you can’t make me
shet up. I’ve stood by ye, but I won’t stand by ye no longer. We were
benighted, but we have seen the light. Light is bein’ let into all
sorts o’ dark places these days.”

“Shet up, Jinny,” commanded Sheldon once more. “Ain’t a man to eat his
vittles in peace?”

“No,” said Jinny, “he ain’t! Keep on an’ them police in black
clothes’ll git ye soon enough, an’ then ye can eat in the peace o’
prison.”

Sheldon rose brushing the plate of food from his knee.

“Ye take my appetite,” said he. “Come on, Smith.”

But Smith would not obey until he had had his fill.

“Come on,” he ordered Herbert at last.

Herbert rose, stiff and trembling. Then he sat down heavily.

“Come on,” commanded Sheldon roughly. “We spent enough time foolin’
with you!”

“How can they walk who haven’t et?” demanded Jinny. “When he has had
some o’ the food that tantalizes his senses, then he can walk.”

“Git him some.”

Herbert ate slowly. He did not mean to delay the start; it seemed a
year since he had seen Elizabeth; but he was afraid to eat rapidly.

“He has a delicate stomick,” said Black Smith, grinning.

Herbert rose once more.

“I can go now,” said he angrily. “But I can’t go very fast.”

“Well, go as fast as ye can,” said Sheldon. Then he directed Herbert to
step out from behind Smith and take another way. “You fetch her,” said
he to Smith. “We’ll be there ahead of you.”

Smith started rapidly, looking forward not without pleasant
anticipation to the moment when, gun in hand, he should lead Elizabeth
to Mammy Sheldon’s cabin. It would be not only another triumph for the
mountain people to have outwitted the people of the plain, but it would
end an anxiety which was really acute. Mammy Sheldon knew their past
history, and there were incidents which Smith and his friends believed
might get them into serious trouble. Heaven only knew how much she had
told! They would end her chances for making mischief by moving her
nearer to their own cabins, annoying as was her constant crying.

Then Smith stopped speculating and stood still. The rock on which
he had left Elizabeth was bare; she was not there either awake or
sleeping. Under his black beard he grew deathly white. Then, cursing,
he stepped rapidly into the woods. After a while he returned to
the rock. Elizabeth was still not there. He stepped out again in
a different direction, and this time he was longer away. When he
returned a second time, he stared with a terror which had ceased to be
intelligent. His journey and his meal had made his absence long. She
could not have gone to fetch those black-coated police! Some one would
kill him if she had; he knew that, but in his confusion he was not sure
whether it would be Sheldon or the police. The girl had said that they
could be punished for past crimes. Again, now without any conscious
plan, he plunged into the woods.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Elizabeth reached the house of Colonel Thomas, not much more
than a quarter of an hour after she had accosted the stranger on the
roadside, she saw that old gentleman sitting, as usual, on his porch.
As usual, he did not wait for his visitors to come to him, but rose and
walked to the porch steps. The kindly stranger bade Elizabeth sit still
in the car and went to meet him.

“I was stopped on the Cashtown road by a young woman named Elizabeth
Scott, who says that her brother has been carried off into the
mountain. She has come to find you and the constabulary. My car is at
your service, if you need it.”

Colonel Thomas said “Wait!” and vanished indoors. His voice could be
heard, first shouting to his family, then into a telephone. When he
reappeared a hat was set rakishly on his head, and he was answering
over his shoulder protests of some one indoors.

“Of course I’m going!” said he.

In another instant his foot was on the car step.

“Two State police, Garnett and Byers, rode toward Fairfield not fifteen
minutes ago. We can catch them and there is a cross-road. Why, Miss
Scott, don’t cry _now_!”

Elizabeth looked at him tearfully. The great car was turning; she felt
like a child who had been lost and who sees at last some hope of rescue.

Within five minutes they had caught up with the two horsemen who left
their mounts at a farmhouse and got into the machine. The driver bent
a little over his wheel and again they were off. Before they started
to climb the last hill, Colonel Thomas leaning forward shouted to the
driver to stop.

“We’d better make our plans,” said he nervously. His eyes sparkled; one
could imagine how he had looked before going into a charge. He had
had, alas, a letter from the editor of General Adams’s “Recollections,”
who had explained that the letter from which Colonel Thomas’s quotation
was taken had been partially destroyed and that the row of asterisks
indicated a missing sheet. He wished that he had not mentioned his
inquiry to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth recounted hurriedly the history of the last few days.

“After you went away, I went down the road on an errand, and when I
came back Herbert was gone, and there was a notice saying that I could
have him in exchange for the paper.”

“What paper?” asked Colonel Thomas.

“Some time ago I walked up into the woods and heard an old woman crying
because her son was going to take her money to buy a gun and there
wouldn’t be anything to bury her. Forty dollars was all she had. So
I wrote a will, but I left it in the cabin, and she won’t give it to
them. I think they’re afraid that she told other things.”

“What other things?” asked one of the police.

“I don’t know, but they’re afraid of something.”

“I bet they are!” said Colonel Thomas.

“This afternoon I was to bring the paper to the old woman’s cabin and
they were to bring Herbert. I expect they are there now. Instead I came
to get you.”

The driver of the car touched a button and the car moved. Elizabeth
indicated the turn into the wood road above the house. One of the
police leaned forward.

“Hadn’t you better get out, miss?”

“Oh, no!” answered Elizabeth.

“And you, sir?” said he to Colonel Thomas.

“Of course not!” said Colonel Thomas.

Each of the constabulary took something from his hip pocket. Elizabeth
looked back at them smiling in a pale sort of way, and they smiled at
her.

“Never you mind, miss; they won’t give much trouble.”

Herbert, sitting at the foot of a tree with his captors beside him,
heard the car first. The mountaineers stood about, guns in hand, first
one, then another going off toward the spot where Black Smith was
supposed to have left Elizabeth. More than an hour had passed since he
had left them and there had been no sign of his return. The crying of
Mammy Sheldon was almost continuous; she seemed to believe that now
they had come to fetch her will. There were moments when she screamed
for fear that they would bury her as she was. It was no wonder that
they did not hear the car.

Black Smith had heard it, as he hunted frantically, and he came now
running toward them, shouting. But his shouts were too late. The men
stood mystified, and found themselves covered by the pistols of their
dreaded enemies.

One of the constabulary stepped down.

“You are covered from the car!” said he quietly. “Put down your guns.”

Elizabeth tried in vain to move. For an instant she did not see
Herbert. If they had hurt him, if they had carried out their threats,
then she hoped that the mountain-side would become a place of execution.

But Herbert came forward, unrestrained by his captors. The mountaineers
seemed stupefied. The uniforms, the heavy revolvers, the car--all
declared a newer and swifter age of retribution. Jinny was right when
she said that light was about to be let in. They obeyed meekly the
command of the young officer.

Herbert walked directly to the side of the car and laid his hand on
Elizabeth’s arm. His mind was filled with one emotion; he scarcely saw
the constabulary or Colonel Thomas; he thought only that Elizabeth
wanted something, and that he had it to give. He had had much time to
meditate, and he had put two and two together. He had less persistence
than Elizabeth, but he had more originality of mind. Weak and excited,
he blurted out the words which were uppermost in his consciousness, and
which had been growing to seem more and more significant.

“They said my Grandfather Baring was buried here. They threatened to
put me in the same grave. They were angry with him. I believe they shot
him here.”

“What! What!” Colonel Thomas stepped down from the car. “He went away
with the Confederates and was never heard of more!”

“They threatened to put me in the same grave with him!” insisted
Herbert. “I believe they shot him here. If he was friendly to the South
they would not have done that.”

“We didn’t hurt you,” cried a terrified voice. “We treated you good!”

“It was war-time!” cried another. “Things is done different in
war-time!”

“Who shot him?” demanded the old gentleman in a voice of authority.

“It was before our time,” came the frightened answer.

Then a shrill, spent voice spoke from within the log cabin.

“If you don’t let me have my forty dollars for to bury me, I’ll tell
about John Baring!”

The old colonel went with the step of youth to the tumbledown building.
Vague gleams of light illuminated the confusion in his mind. What the
boy said was true--if John Baring had come to his end here, and at
these hands, he was no friend to the enemy! He beckoned to the police
to step nearer to the door. But the old voice carried to them all.

“I’ll tell about John Baring, if you don’t let me have my forty
dollars.”

“What about John Baring?” asked the old gentleman. “I’ll see that you
get your forty dollars.”

The old woman was silent. Elizabeth Scott held her breath. Then the
old woman spoke. Intelligence was almost gone, or she would not have
uttered the betraying words. There was among them all a conviction that
for the crime of their fathers against John Baring, they might still be
held responsible.

“He led ’em in here to deceive ’em!” she cried. “He pretended to help
’em and he deceived ’em. He led ’em to the wilderness to show ’em the
way to Gettysburg. And our folks led ’em safely out. Great generals was
among ’em an’ fine men. But it was too late, an’ the battle was lost.
So our folks shot him an’ buried him deep.”

The old gentleman leaned against the door frame.

“Is it true?” he asked of Sheldon and Black Smith.

“It was before my time,” answered Sheldon.

“But is it true?”

The men saw prison yawning.

“Yes,” said Sheldon; “he lies buried yonder.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Elizabeth sat on her doorstep at twilight. Her body was weary, but her
mind was alert. She had shown Colonel Thomas the old map and he had
looked at it with tears.

“Slashed it out so they couldn’t get it, evidently with the first knife
at hand!”

Then Colonel Thomas had gone, his hand itching for his pen. Relieved
of fear of punishment, Sheldon and his mates had told all they knew.
Their bravado had vanished; they looked browbeaten and ashamed and even
apologized for using the flag for a target. The constabulary had given
back their guns and had smiled at Elizabeth’s gratitude.

“It’s a new age, miss, and they know it.”

Already Elizabeth had had two callers. The first was the farmer from
down the road, who twisted his hat awkwardly.

“Colonel Thomas, he stopped at my place,” he explained. “You might
think he’d found a million dollars. I want to know when your trees are
coming.”

Elizabeth rose, frightening the farmer, who thought she was going to be
resentful.

“I’m going to call my brother,” said she. “He’s the boss of the
orchard.”

While the men talked, Elizabeth sat on the doorstep, her hands clasped
round her knees. She smiled into the twilight, remembering with
amusement a narrow escape. It had been on the tip of her tongue to say,
when she had heard Herbert’s adventures, “Darling, weren’t you afraid?”
and she had caught herself in time, realizing that neither “afraid” nor
“darling” were words to say any more to Herbert.

When the farmer had gone, Elizabeth thought of a blossoming orchard.

Then a gaunt figure crossed the yard. Elizabeth had not seen Jinny, but
she believed that this was Jinny before her.

“We’ve heard tell that you spoke for us,” said a harsh, tired voice.
“You said to every one assembled at the place of meetin’ this afternoon
that not bein’ trusted makes folks wicked. You said you was goin’ to
trust us. Now you have let your light shine, miss, don’t forsake us.
There’s not many left of us, what with our airless houses an’ the
tisic, but what there is is not so bad as you might expect. What I ask,
miss, is that you will stand by us.”

“I will,” promised Elizabeth.

“And we by you,” said Jinny; and was gone.

Elizabeth’s thoughts, following her, went back to John Baring,
traveling the same dark road.

“He led ’em here to deceive ’em!” Mammy Sheldon’s shrill old voice had
cried.

She saw him again standing in his doorway. She saw the moonlight and
the torchlight and the horsemen, and heard the rumbling guns.

“It was putting his brave head into a noose,” said Elizabeth. Then she
remembered the cry of the old woman on the side road. “Why, you’re his
image!”

“I’m glad of that!” said Elizabeth to herself.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.





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