LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
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
28 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
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
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,
30 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
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
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-
"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
"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
32 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
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
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
34 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
usher been dreaming, or what did his
report mean? But James Macnamara
a guest at Mr. Harleston's? Pshaw!
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
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
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
"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,
36 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
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
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.
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