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Chapter 13 A RUNAWAY

  • Four days passed. I might have used the word "sped," only that verb could no_e truthfully applied. Never before in the history of time (so our jeh_hought) did four days cast their shadows more slowly across the dial of th_ours. From noon till night there was a madding nothing to do but polish bit_nd buckles and stirrups and ornamental silver. He would have been totall_iserable but for the morning rides. These were worth while; for he was ridin_irate, and there was always that expectation of the unexpected. But Pirat_ehaved himself puzzlingly well. Fortunately for the jehu, these rides wer_lways into the north country. He was continually possessed with fear lest sh_ould make him drive through the shopping district. If he met Nancy, it woul_e, in the parlance of the day, all off. Nancy would have recognized him in _eard like a Cossack's; and here he was with the boy's face—the face she neve_ould forget.
  • He was desperately in love. I do not know what desperately in love is, my ow_ove's course running smoothly enough; but I can testify that it was makin_r. Robert thin and appetiteless. Every morning the impulse came to him t_ell her all; but every morning his courage oozed like Bob Acres', and hi_ips became dumb. I dare say that if she had questioned him he would have tol_er all; but for some reason she had ceased to inquire into his past. Possibl_er young mind was occupied with pleasanter things.
  • He became an accomplished butler, and served so well in rehearsals that Pierr_ould only grumble. One afternoon she superintended the comedy. She found _housand faults with him, so many, in fact, that Pierre did not understan_hat it meant, and became possessed with the vague idea that she was hittin_im over the groom's shoulder. He did not like it; and later, when they wer_lone, Warburton was distinctly impressed with Pierre's displeasure.
  • "You can not please _her_ , and you can not please _me_. Bah! Zat ees va_omes uf teaching a groom table manners instead uf stable manners. And yo_ill smell uf horse! I do _not_ understand Mees Annesley; no!"
  • And there were other humiliations, petty ones. She chid him on having th_tirrup too long or too short; the curb chain was rusting; this piece o_rnamental silver did not shine like that one; Jane's fetlocks were too long; Pirate's hoofs weren't thoroughly oiled. With dogged patience he tried t_emedy all these faults. It was only when they had had a romping run down th_oad that this spirit fell away from her, and she talked pleasantly.
  • Twice he ran into Karloff; but that shrewd student of human nature did no_onsider my hero worth studying; a grave mistake on his part, as he wa_resently to learn. He was a handsome man, and the only thing he noticed abou_he groom was his handsome face. He considered it a crime for a servant to b_ndowed with personal attractions. A servant in the eyes of a Russian nobl_xcites less interest than a breedless dog. Mr. Robert made no complaint; h_as very well satisfied to have the count ignore him entirely. Once he met th_ount in the Turkish room, where, in the capacity of butler, he served liqueu_nd cigars. There was a certain grim humor in lighting his rival's cigar fo_im. This service was a test of his ability to pass through a room withou_nocking over taborets and chairs. Another time they met, when Betty and th_wo of them took a long ride. Karloff _did_ notice how well the groom rode hi_ettlesome mount, being himself a soldier and a daring horseman. Warburton ha_ome trouble. Pirate did not take to the idea of breathing Jane and Dick'_ust; he wanted to lead these second-raters. Mr, James' arms ached tha_fternoon from the effort he had put forth to restrain Pirate and keep him i_is proper place, five yards to the rear.
  • Nothing happened Sunday; the day went by uneventfully. He escaped the ordea_f driving her to the Chevy Chase Club, William being up that afternoon.
  • Then Monday came, and with it Betty's curious determination to ride Pirate.
  • "You wish to ride Pirate, Miss?" exclaimed James, his horror of the ide_penly manifest.
  • "Saddle him for me,"—peremptorily. "I desire to ride him. I find Jane isn'_xciting enough."
  • "Pardon me, Miss Annesley," he said, "but I had rather you would not make th_ttempt."
  • "You had rather I would not make the attempt?"—slowly repeating the words, making a knife of each one of them, tipped with the poison of her contempt. "_o not believe I quite understand you."
  • He bravely met the angry flash of her eyes. There were times when the color o_hese eyes did not resemble sapphires; rather disks of gun- metal, caused by _udden dilation of the pupils.
  • "Yes, Miss, I had rather you would not."
  • "James, you forget yourself. Saddle Pirate, and take Jane back to the stables.
  • Besides, Jane has a bit of a cold." She slapped her boot with her riding-cro_nd indolently studied the scurrying clouds overhead; for the day was windy.
  • Soberly Warburton obeyed. He was hurt and angry, and he knew not what besides.
  • Heavens, if anything should happen to her! His hopes rose a bit. Pirate ha_hown no temper so far that morning. He docilely permitted his master to pu_n the side-saddle. But as he came out into the air again, he threw forwar_is ears, stretched out his long black neck, took in a great breath, an_hinnied a hoarse challenge to the elements. William had already saddled Dick, who looked askance at his black rival's small compact heels.
  • "I am afraid of him," said Warburton, as he returned. "He will run away wit_ou. I did not wholly subjugate him the other day. He pulls till my arm_che."
  • Miss Annesley shrugged and patted Pirate on the nose and offered him a lump o_ugar. The thirst for freedom and a wild run down the wind lurked in Pirate'_ar-off gazing eyes, and he ignored the sign of conciliation which hi_istress made him.
  • "I am not afraid of him. Besides, Dick can outrun and out jump him."
  • This did not reassure Warburton, nor did he know what this comparison meant, being an ordinary mortal.
  • "With all respect to you, Miss Annesley, I am sorry that you are determined t_ide him. He is most emphatically not a lady's horse, and you have neve_idden him. Your skirts will irritate him, and if he sees your crop, he'l_olt."
  • She did not reply, but merely signified her desire to mount. No sooner was sh_p, however, than she secretly regretted her caprice; but not for a hundre_orlds would she have permitted this groom to know. But Pirate, with that rar_nstinct of the horse, knew that his mistress was not sure of him. He showe_he whites of his eyes and began pawing the gravel. The girl glanced covertl_t her groom and found no color in his cheeks. Two small muscular lump_ppeared at the corners of her jaws. She would ride Pirate, and nothing shoul_top her; nothing, nothing. Womanlike, knowing herself to be in the wrong, sh_as furious.
  • And Pirate surprised them both. During the first mile he behaved himself i_he most gentlemanly fashion; and if he shied once or twice, waltzed a little, it was only because he was full of life and spirit. They trotted, the_antered, ran and walked. Warburton, hitherto holding himself in readiness fo_hatever might happen, relaxed the tension of his muscles, and his shoulder_ank relievedly. Perhaps, after all, his alarm had been needless. The troubl_ith Pirate might be the infrequency with which he had been saddled an_idden. But he knew that the girl would not soon forget his interference.
  • There would be more humiliations, more bitter pills for him to swallow. I_leased him, however, to note the ease with which Dick kept pace with Pirate.
  • As for the most beautiful person in all the great world, I am afraid that sh_as beginning to feel self-important. Now that her confidence was full_estored, she never once spoke to, or looked at, her groom. Occasionally fro_he corner of her eye she could see the white patch on Dick's nose.
  • "James," she said maliciously and suddenly, "go back five yards. I wish t_ide alone."
  • Warburton, his face burning, fell back. And thus she made her first mistake.
  • The second and final mistake came immediately after. She touched Pirate wit_er heel, and he broke from a trot into a lively gallop. Dick, without a touc_f the boot, kept his distance to a foot. Pirate, no longer seeing Dick at hi_ide, concluded that he had left his rival behind; and the suppressed mischie_n his black head began to find an outlet. Steadily he arched his neck; steadily but surely he drew down on the reins. The girl felt the effort an_ried to frustrate it. In backing her pull with her right hand, the end of he_rop flashed down the side of Pirate's head—the finishing touch. There was _ild leap, a blur of dust, and Mr. Pirate, well named after his freebootin_ires, his head down where he wanted it, his feet rolling like a snare-drum, Mr. Pirate ran away, headed for heaven only knew where.
  • For a brief moment Warburton lost his nerve; he was struck with horror. If sh_ould not hold her seat, she would be killed or dreadfully hurt, and perhap_isfigured. It seemed rather strange, as he recalled it, that Dick, instead o_imself, should have taken the initiative. The noble sorrel, formerly _avalry horse, shot forward magnificently. Doubtless his horse-sense took i_he situation, or else he did not like the thought of yonder proud, supercilious show- horse beating him in a running race. So, a very fast mil_as put to the rear.
  • The girl, appreciating her peril, did as all good horsewomen would have done: locked her knee on the horn and held on. The rush of wind tore the pins fro_er hair which, like a golden plume, stretched out behind her. (Have you eve_ead anything like this before? I dare say. But to Warburton and the girl, i_ever occurred that other persons had gone through like episodes. It was real, and actual, and single, and tragic to them.)
  • The distance between the two horses began slowly to lessen, and Warburto_nderstood, in a nebulous way, what the girl had meant when she said that Dic_ould outrun Pirate. If Pirate kept to the road, Dick would bring him down; but if Pirate took it into his head to vault a fence! Warburton shuddered.
  • Faster, faster, over this roll of earth, clattering across this bridge, aroun_his curve and that angle. Once the sight of a team drawing a huge grain-wago_ent a shiver to Warburton's heart. But they thundered past with a foot t_pare. The old negro on the seat stared after them, his ebony face drawn wit_onder and the whites of his eyes showing.
  • Foot by foot, yard by yard, the space lessened, till Dick's nose was withi_hree feet of Pirate's flowing tail. Warburton fairly lifted Dick along wit_is knees. I only wish I could describe the race as my jehu told it to me. Th_escription held me by the throat. I could see the flashing by of trees an_ouses and fields; the scampering of piccaninnies across the road; the horse_rom the meadows dashing up to the fences and whinnying; the fine stone an_ust which Pirate's rattling heels threw into my jehu's face and eyes; the ol_ain throbbing anew in his leg. And when he finally drew alongside the blac_rute and saw the white, set face of the girl he loved, I can imagine n_reater moment but one in his life. There was no fear on her face, but ther_as appeal in her eyes as she half turned her head. He leaned across th_ntervening space and slid his arm around her waist. The two horses cam_ogether and twisted his leg cruelly. His jaws snapped.
  • "Let the stirrup go!" he cried. "Let go, quick!" She heard him. "Your kne_rom the horn! I can't keep them together any longer. Now!"
  • Brave and plucky and cool she was. She obeyed him instantly. There was _ighty heave, a terrible straining of the back and the knees, and Pirate wa_reed of his precious burden. The hardest part of it came now. Dick could no_e made to slow down abruptly. He wanted to keep right on after his rival. So, between holding the girl with his right arm and pulling the horse with hi_eft, Warburton saw that he could keep up this terrible effort but a ver_hort time. Her arms were convulsively wound around his neck, and this adde_o the strain. Not a word did she say; her eyes were closed, as if sh_xpected any moment to be dashed to the earth.
  • But Dick was only a mortal horse. The fierce run and the double burden bega_o tell, and shortly his head came up. Warburton stopped him. The girl slid t_he ground, and in a moment he was at her side. And just in time. The reactio_as too much for her. Dazedly she brushed her hair from her eyes, stare_ildly at Warburton, and fainted. He did not catch her with that gracefu_recision which on the stage is so familiar to us. No. He was lucky to snatc_ne of her arms, thus preventing her head from striking the road. He dragge_er to the side of the highway and rested her head on his shaking knees.
  • Things grew dark for a time. To tell the truth, he himself was very close t_hat feminine weakness which the old fellows, in their rough and ready plays, used to call "vapours". But he forced his heart to steady itself.
  • And what do you suppose the rascal did—with nobody but Dick to watch him? Why, he did what any healthy young man in love would have done: pressed his lips t_he girl's hair, his eyes filling and half a sob in his parched throat. H_olefully pictured himself a modern Antiochus, dying of love and neve_onfessing it. Then he kissed her hair again; only her hair, for somehow h_elt that her lips and cheeks were as yet inviolable to his touch. I shoul_ave liked to see the picture they made: the panting horse a dozen rods away, looking at them inquiringly; the girl in her dust-covered habit, her hai_preading out like seaweed on a wave, her white face, her figure showing it_raceful lines; my jehu, his hair matted to his brow, the streaks of dust an_erspiration on his face, the fear and love and longing in his dark eyes. _ecollect a picture called _Love and Honor,_ or something like that. It neve_ppealed to me. It lacked action. It simply represented a fellow urging a gir_o elope with him. Both of them were immaculately dressed. But here, on thi_ld highway leading into Maryland, was something real. A battle had bee_ought and won.
  • Fainting is but transitory; by and by she opened her eyes, and stared vaguel_nto the face above her. I do not know what she saw there; whatever it was i_aused her to struggle to her feet. There was color enough in her cheeks now; and there was a question, too, in her eyes. Of Warburton it asked, "What di_ou do when I lay there unconscious?" I'm afraid there was color in his face, too. Her gaze immediately roved up the road. There was no Pirate, only a haz_f dust. Doubtless he was still going it, delighted over the trouble he ha_anaged to bring about. Warburton knelt at the girl's side and brushed th_ust from her skirt. She eyed him curiously. I shan't say that she smiled; _on't know, for I wasn't there.
  • Meanwhile she made several futile attempts to put up her hair, and as _inality she braided it and let it hang down her back. Suddenly an_naccountably she grew angry—angry at herself, at James, at the rascally hors_hat had brought her to this pass. Warburton saw something of this emotion i_er eyes, and to avoid the storm he walked over to Dick, picked up the reins, and led him back.
  • "If you will mount Dick, Miss," he said, "I will lead him home. It's abou_ive miles, I should say."
  • The futility and absurdity of her anger aroused her sense of the ridiculous; and a smile, warm and merry, flashed over her stained face. It surprised he_room.
  • "Thank you, James. You were right. I ought not to have ridden Pirate. I a_unished for my conceit. Five miles? It will be a long walk."
  • "I shan't mind it in the least," replied James, inordinately happy; and h_elped her to the saddle and adjusted the left stirrup.
  • So the journey home began. Strangely enough, neither seemed to car_articularly what had or might become of Pirate. He disappeared, mentally an_hysically. One thing dampened the journey for Warburton. His "game leg" ache_ruelly, and after the second mile (which was traversed without speech fro_ither of them), he fell into a slight limp. From her seat above and behin_im, she saw this limp.
  • "You have hurt yourself?" she asked gently.
  • "Not to-day, Miss,"—briefly.
  • "When he ran away with you?"
  • "No. It's an old trouble."
  • "While you were a soldier?"
  • "Yes."
  • "How?"
  • He turned in surprise. All these questions were rather unusual. Nevertheles_e answered her, and truthfully.
  • "I was shot in the leg by a drunken Indian."
  • "While on duty?"
  • "Yes." Unconsciously he was forgetting to add "Miss", which was the patent o_is servility. And I do not think that just then she noticed this subtractio_rom the respect due her.
  • It was eleven o'clock when they arrived at the gates. She dismounted alone.
  • Warburton was visibly done up.
  • "Any orders for this afternoon, Miss?"
  • "I shall want the victoria at three. I have some shopping to do and a call t_ake. Send William after Pirate. I am very grateful for what you have done."
  • He made no reply, for he saw her father coming down the steps.
  • "Betty," said the colonel, pale and worried, "have you been riding Pirate?
  • Where is he, and what in the world has happened?"—noting the dust on her habi_nd her tangled hair.
  • She explained: she told the story rather coolly, Warburton thought, but sh_eft out no detail.
  • "You have James to thank for my safety, father. He was very calm and clear- headed."
  • _Calm and clear-headed!_ thought Warburton.
  • The girl then entered the house, humming. Most women would have got out th_avender salts and lain down the rest of the day, considering the routine of _ashionable dinner, which was the chief duty of the evening.
  • "I am grateful to you, James. My daughter is directly in your care when sh_ides, and I give you full authority. Never permit her to mount any horse bu_er own. She is all I have; and if anything should happen to her—"
  • "Yes, sir; I understand."
  • The colonel followed his daughter; and Warburton led Dick to the stables, gav_is orders to William, and flung himself down on his cot. He was dead tired.
  • And the hour he had dreaded was come! He was to drive her through the shoppin_istrict. Well, so be it. If any one exposed him, very good. This groo_usiness was decidedly like work. And there was that confounded dinner-party, and he would have to limp around a table and carry soup plates! And as likel_s not he would run into the very last person he expected to see.
  • Which he did.