CHAPTER III.

  MONSIEUR DUTARQUE, ignoring Cath-
  arine's piteous cry, strode to the
  nearest house, his own.  No other
  person was within sight or hearing.
  Perhaps he was somewhat ashamed of
  what he had done, for when his wife
  rushed to meet him, and to learn his
  tidings, he put her aside with a brief,
  "She is safe," and buried himself again
  in his books.
    She, busy woman, was putting things
  in readiness for the half-yearly fair, which
  was to begin on the following Tuesday,
  being the third Tuesday in May, and she
  told herself that Catharine must have
  found her way to Fish Pond.
    She would have liked to know all the
  particulars, and her red nose grew redder
  still with anxiety as she thought of all
  that might be said.  But she knew better
  than to tempt the bolt that was wont to
  fall from that black and ominous, yet
  familiar, cloud resting upon her husband's
  brow; she awaited further disclosures


  from him with what patience she might;
  but they did not come that day.
    At first Monsieur Dutarque half-lis-
  tened, as he read, for some call from the
  graveyard; but hearing none, he told him-
  self with a malicious smile that he would
  punish obstinate "mees" well this time,
  yet leave no telltale mark upon her.  He
  meant to go to bring her in just at dark;
  but in a little while he forgot the child's
    Seeing him absorbed in his book, his
  wife brought a candle and put it at his
  elbow, and gave little Betty Green her
  bowl of maize and milk and sent her off
  to bed.  The master ate with his book
  still before him, and afterward betook
  himself to repose, murmuring long Latin
  phrases, like one in a dream, as was his
  wont, in a manner which never failed to
  make a deep impression on Madame Du-
  tarque, who was neither foreign nor class-
  ical, but only a poor English serving-girl
  who had come to pick up a fortune in
  America, and had found it thus.
    About nine o'clock came Mr. Macna-
  mara, the usher, and stole off quietly to
  bed.  He was full of excitement this
  night, for Mr. John Harleston, having
  become interested in a story the usher had

        LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.        29
  been telling him of some deer tracks he
  had noted last fall under some crab-apple
  trees, and of how he really believed that
  he had chanced upon one of the favorite
  haunts of the deer, had invited him home
  to tea.  This was a great honor for the
  poor usher.
    Moreover, Mr. Harleston had asked
  him to attend the next meet of the Hunt-
  ing Club, which was to take place on
  Wednesday, and had lent him his own
  horse to ride back to Childbury, though
  the walk was none too great for him.
    All athrob with these anticipated and
  remembered honors and pleasures, James
  Macnamara did not drop asleep for a
  long time, but lay tossing on his pallet
  under the roof, plagued by mosquitoes,
  by the strident, rasping chant of the
  frogs without, and even by the strong
  and heavy perfumes of the flowers.
    At last he slept soundly, and began to
  smile-poor, hatchet-faced boy!-dream-
  ing of home.
    Athwart this dream a discord intruded.
  He stirred.  The dream faded, the dis-
  cord grew.  It culminated, and he awoke
  with the echo of a terrified cry ringing
  through his brain.
    "'Tis a screech-owl!" he muttered,
  and turned on his pillow to seek sleep
  again.  But on a sudden, through the
  pulsing, warm dampness of the spring
  night, there came a sound he knew:
     "M'sieu' Dutarque! Dear M'sieu' Du-
     It was very faint, but Macnamara
  heard it clearly.  Then there was silence.
     Just as he was coaxing sleep anew,
  and telling himself that he dreamed with
  open eyes, it came again-the sweet,
  frightened baby voice.
     "Mr. Mack! Mr. Mack! Tell him I
  will be good!" and then as he sprang,
  shivering, in spite of the warmth of the
  weather, from his bed, there was one wild
  shriek: "Mamma!"
     A baby in mortal terror calls on its
  mother as men in mortal anguish call
  on God.  Both mean the same thing-
     "Help of the helpless!"
     Master Macnamara hurried into his
  clothes, all the while trying to persuade
  himself that he had heard nothing.  At
  the door where the children slept he
  paused and listened.  He could hear low,
  regular breathing.     The whole house
  seemed wrapt in peace.  Still anxious, he
  pushed open the door and stole within.
     Betty Green, her heavy brown hair
        LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.          31

  loose on the pillow, lay, sleeping soundly,
  all alone.  Could it be that Monsieur Du-
  tarque had chosen this hour of the night
  to punish little Catharine for some fault?
  But no! For there was silence also in
  the schoolmaster's room, save for the
  sound of stertorous breathing.
    Timidly the usher knocked against the
  panels of the door.  The heavy breathing
  continued, but there was a movement
  within.  Presently Madame Dutarque
  put her sharp face through the half-
  opened door.
    "I ask pardon, madame," said the
  young man humbly, "but I thought I
  heard the child Catharine cry out loudly,
  as though frightened, and when I sought
  her room she was not there, and I could
  not return to rest for fear that something
  strange might have happened."
    "What could happen, fool?" cried
  Madame Dutarque snappishly.  "Have
  a care how you go roaming through the
  master's house at midnight!  Catharine is
  safe at Fish Pond with her aunt, Mistress
  Hannah Harleston."
    "Nay, then," said the usher eagerly.
  "There is some mistake, for I myself,
  when I left there at eight o' the clock,
  saw nor heard nothing of little Mistress


  Kate; and it was surely her voice that
  called me by my name just now, and bade
  me tell the master that she would be
    Madame Dutarque shut the door in his
  face with another sharp ejaculation of
  "Fool!" and he went away sorrowful,
  and sat by his open window to listen if
  he might hear that cry again.
    Hearing nothing, he stole down like a
  ghost, and glided through the streets,
  calling softly everywhere, "Catharine!
    There was no reply, but so vivid was
  his memory of that piercing scream that
  when he failed in his search a wild im-
  pulse caused him to seek further for
  stronger aid.  For what might not have
  happened?  What meant that weird cry,
  with the child who uttered it nowhere
    Mounting Mr. Harleston's horse in
  haste, he never drew rein until he alighted
  at the gates of Fish Pond, and sent word
  up to the master of Fish Pond that he
  wished to speak with him on a matter of
  life and death.  For his courage and his
  alarm had alike increased with every mile
  he traveled; and by the time he reached
  those gates he was sure that his little pet

        LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.           33
  and wonder, Catharine, was in mortal
  peril somewhere. -
    Mr. Harleston waited only to hear
  that Catharine was not at the schoolmas-
  ter's house, and to say that neither was
  she at Fish Pond.  He knew too much
  of the real dangers to which she might
  be exposed to dream of any supernatural
  terrors such as the usher cherished.
    He wasted no time in questions as to
  how the schoolmaster and his wife should
  have allowed her to wander away; all
  that he left for future investigation.  But
  he shared all the forebodings-of evil with
  which the breast of James Macnamara
  was filled.
    About two hours before day there was
  a muster of half the country-side.
  Colonel Lejau and Mr. Harleston and
  Mr. Nicholas Harleston, his brother, and
  many others were there.  As yet they
  suffered no word to go to Kensington,
  for fear of alarming Mistress Lydia, un-
  til they should know what foundation
  their fears had.  With lanterns and with
  the baying of hounds, they startled the
  shadows and the dreamy murmurs of the
  soft spring night.
    Madame Dutarque could not sleep,
  but tossed upon her bed.  Had the

  usher been dreaming, or what did his
  report mean?  But James Macnamara
  a guest at Mr. Harleston's?  Pshaw!
  Not he!
    Yet what were the words that he had
  said?  That Catharine had bidden him
  tell the master that she would be good!
  In her soul, the woman admitted that
  this was, indeed, the child's own plaintive
  manner of speech.  Could it really be
  that she had not gone to Fish Pond
  after all?
    Truly, the master had not told her so
  in words, as she remembered, and it might
  very well be that he had sent the child
  nearer home for punishment.  She began
  to fear she knew not what.  These were
  the days when the laws against witches
  were still in force; when every forest was
  peopled with phantoms.  Madame Du-
  tarque was by no means above the un-
  reasoning terrors of the times.
    The night began to ring with voices,
  all of which asked loudly what the mas-
  ter had done with little Catharine by way
  of punishment.
    When she could bear it no more, she
  awakened her husband, and told him her
  fears and her suspicions.  Monsieur Du-
  tarque sprang from his bed, and stag-

         LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.        35
  gered like a-drunken man at the memory
  of what he had done.
     "Mon Dieu!  I had forgot!" he cried
  aloud, in genuine consternation.  Then
  hastily he told his wife how he had tied
  Catharine to a tombstone, and then for-
  gotten her.  And she, in deadly fear, fled
  to the usher's room, only to find that he
  was gone.
     "Quick!" she cried to Monsieur Du-
  tarque, fumbling over his clothes in the
  dark." Quick, man, we have not a mo-
  ment to lose!  Macnamara has gone in
  search of her.  Quick!  Let us bring her
  home, and let him find her in her bed,
  asleep, when he returns.  Then he will
  think he dreamed.  God help us! Sup-
  pose a panther or a bear hath taken her!"
     Like thieves the two fled noiselessly
  out into the night, the master still half-
  dreaming, and Madame Dutarque trem-
  bling with terror.
     As they opened the wicket-gate of the
  churchyard they could see a motionless
  little white figure erect in the distance,
  and lo! out of the velvet blackness not
  far from it there arose a luminous face
  with hollow, blazing eyes.  Slowly it rose,
  until it stopped at eight feet high!
     The master would have shrieked aloud,

  but his wife put her cold hand over his
  lips and fell to her knees with a whis-
  pered prayer.  The monster remained
  visible a few moments, then disappeared;
  but there was a noise of dogs and horses
  on the air-the shouts of men, the sound
  of horns.
    They could hear even the dull thud of
  the bare feet of the slaves, running along
  with the horses.  Afar, the yellow glare
  of pine torches stained the faint whiteness
  of the starlit night.  All the plantations
  were astir, and all the town as well.  In a
  moment they would be upon them!
    They dared not go to where the little
  motionless, white figure stood, guarded
  by that mysterious horror, which, though
  now unseen, was no doubt lurking near.
  They dared not return to face that ap-
  proaching throng.  They dared not re-
  main where they were to meet their fate.
    "They will kill you!" said Madame
  Dutarque, drawing her breath in a shiver,
  as she grasped her husband's hand.
    Like shadows they sped toward the
  river.  Yet what escape was possible?
  Lights flared from the tavern, and men
  were looking out from doors and win-
  dows.  Toward the east was another
  ferry, but between lay the plantations of

        LITTE MISTRESS CHICKEN.           37

  those who knew and loved this child.  To-
  ward the north lay more plantations and
  the child's own home; toward the south,
  the river; toward the west, this ferry-
  their only hope.  Yet the ferry itself be-
  longed to the child's own mother!
    At this strange hour, with all the town
  astir, how could a man so well known as
  Monsieur Dutarque cross, without many
  explanations and much delay, if at all?
  And they had not even a shilling between
     So they lay at the bottom of a deep
  gully on Luckins's land, and listened,
  like hunted hares, with beating hearts, to
  the tumult in the town.

Contents Chapter IV