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anger ; she was white to the lips.

How dared he intrude like this? She felt the inse-
curity of her position, and was filled with a nameless

" I want you to come to the door of the tent," he said.
" There is a sight here that may possibly interest you."

" Nothing could interest me ! " exclaimed the girl,

" Suspend your opinion until you have seen," he ex-
claimed, fairly dragging her out of the tent. " Look! "
he cried, exultantly, turning her sharply about. " I told
you that I could show you something that would perhaps
make you change your opinion in regard to your mar-
rying me."

One glance, and it seemed to Cora that the blood had
left her body. Scarcely a dozen rods from where she
stood she beheld Arthur Rollins.

Yes, it was Arthur, bound firmly to a tree with heavy
thongs, and but a few feet from him were two men
with their rifles pointed directly at his heart.

" Hush ! Do not scream or cry out," commanded Cap-
tain Lindsay ; " if you do, they will fire on the instant.


Otherwise, they will await my command. One word
from you will save Arthur Rollins' life; refuse, and his
life shall pay the forfeit. You have but five minutes to
make up your mind. If you say, ' Yes,' the ceremony will
be performed here and now ; if you say ' No/ I will
simply give the order to fire, and I shall force you to wit-
ness it."

" Oh, no, no, no ! " cried the girl ; " you could not be
so inhuman ! You will not force me to do anything like

" I do not wish you to witness it ; it will be your own
desire if you do. You can save him if you will, or exe-
cute him if you desire. It all rests with you, my dear

It seemed to Cora that she was dying. Had this man
no mercy, no pity?

He took out a cigar and lighted it, flung away the
burned-out match, then, with a nonchalance which drove
her to desperation, he took out his watch.

Her eyes followed the movement with a pent-up agony
that was too great for words.

She tried to cry out, but her lips made no sound. She
seemed to realize that time was passing.

One, two, three minutes sped by on lightning wings
four minutes! Oh, death in life! Was there anything
more pitiful to bear than the awful suspense the horri-
ble torture which was killing her by degrees?

" One-half minute more," said Captain Lindsay, delib-
erately ; " if you have anything to say, say it quickly."

" Save him oh, save him, at any cost ! " screamed
Cora, wildly. " I I will marry you, you inhuman tor-
turer, if that will buy him life ! "

" Lower your weapons, gentlemen ; the captive is res-


pited," called Captain Lindsay, in an authoritative voice.
" He owes his life to you, my dear Cora," he said. " He
should thank Heaven for sending him in his hour of
need so valiant a friend as you proved yourself to be.
You know the remainder of the proviso and that is,
that you marry me on the spot."

Cora tried to utter a single word, but all utterance
failed her entirely.

For his sake she would endure everything.

Another gaze, that seemed to carry her soul with it,
and she turned away, Captain Lindsay escorting her
back to the tent.

" One hour from now," he said, as she passed within.
"Does that suit you, Cora?"

" Go away ! " she cried out, haughtily. " Why are
you pacing up and down before the tent? "

" My object should certainly be apparent to you," he
answered, calmly. " On the other occasion when you
were to have wedded me you played a most cruel prank
upon me. If you want anything, call me."

Captain Lindsay threw himself down full length, and
gave himself up to brilliant plans for the future.

He never could tell afterward just how it came about
his head sunk lower on his arm, his eyes drooped, the
world seemed to fade slowly from him, and one of the
men who was passing by a few moments later noticed
that Captain Lindsay was sound asleep.

Arthur Rollins saw it, too, from the tree to which he
was bound.

Ah, if he could but rescue Cora! The very thought
seemed to rend his soul from his body. The man who
stood a few feet from him, watching him intently,
broke the awful stillness at length by saying:


" I feel sorry for you, young fellow. It's a mighty
hard thing to be tied to a tree and watch the ceremony
which makes the girl you love the wife of another man,
being powerless to help it."

" Yes, it is more terrible than death," said Arthur.
Strong man as he was, his lips quivered, and the tears
he could not well restrain came to his eyes. " Is there
not some way that you could help me to escape," whis-
pered Arthur, " and and aid me to take that young girl
with me?"

The man shook his head.

" I would not dare do it ! " he exclaimed. " My own
life would pay the penalty if I did. But 1*11 tell you
what I'll do."


Arthur Rollins leaned forward with breathless in-

" I will tell you what I can do to help you," said the
man ; " I can assist that young girl in leaving that tent,
if that will be any good, as she could walk right over
Captain Lindsay's body, and he'd never know it, he sleeps
so soundly. The only trouble is, that the rest of the
men would know it. You see, I don't like this kind of
business, stranger. I was pressed into this business by
the road agents, because I was useful to them. I mean
to break away at the earliest opportunity."

" Help her, and Heaven will reward you ! " cried f Ar-


thur. " If I knew that that sweet young girl was out
of danger, I can tell you that it would matter little what
became of me. Why, I would give a hundred lives, if I
had them, to save her, she is so dear to me ! "

A moment later the young road agent had circled the
ground all unnoticed by his companions, until he found
himself in the rear of the tent which Captain Lindsay
was guarding.

Dropping quickly upon his hands and knees, he raised
one little corner of the tent, whispering at the same time
in a low, shrill voice :

" Hush ! Do not cry out, Miss Ormsby ; I am your
friend ! "

Cora watched the brown hand in terror too great for

What did it mean? Was this a friend or foe who
cautioned her not to cry out? She was surrounded by
so many foes that she distrusted every one around her.

" I would like to have you come closer, please. I have
a message to give you from Mr. Arthur Rollins. I am
his friend and yours you may believe me. Have no
fear, lady. You must come nearer, that I may whisper
my message," he went on. " Remember that I will do
you no harm."

Slowly, with a palpitating heart, Cora crept toward
the opening, fairly holding her breath in terror.

" Take this bundle," went on the same voice from the
outside, " and array yourself in these clothes ; they are
mine. When you are ready, call me ; but remember that
every moment is precious."

Ten minutes, and the answer came back:

" I I have done as you directed me."


'A sharp knife quickly pierced the canvas of the tent,
and the next instant an aperture was made that was large
enough to admit of her passing through it.

" Good ! " cried the young man when his eyes fell on
her " you look so much like one or two of the boys who
often come here, that you will have no difficulty in pass-
ing as one or other of them."

" But, Arthur," cried Cora, in dismay, " what has be-
come of him? Where is he? Have you already helped
him to get away from these terrible people? "

" I I dare not ! " murmured the young man, repeating
the words. " If I did, my life would pay the forfeit."

" Then I will share his fate," cried Cora. " Oh, sir, if
you would be kind to us two, let us both die in each
other's arms and end all our misery."

He shook his head.

" Go ! " he exclaimed, " while there is an opportunity
for you to gain your freedom; make the most of it, I
say ! "

At that same moment Cora's eyes fell upon Arthur,
who was still bound securely to the tree.

Quick as thought an idea came to her. Like a flash
she caught up the knife which the young man had used
to make the opening in the tent, and in a trice she was
at Arthur's side, and the cruel thongs were severed.

The young road agent fairly gasped for breath as he
saw Arthur leap to the girl's side.

They would surely tie him to the stake in Rollins'
place, and in less time than it takes to tell it, his body
would be riddled with bullets.

He did not take an instant longer to consider his posi-
tion; he dared not make an outcry, and he would not
if he could.


There was but one course to pursue, and that was
to accept Arthur Rollins' proposition to flee with them.

Before they could remonstrate with him, he hurried
back to the tent which Cora had so lately quitted.

" Do you think he will prove false ? " cried Cora, in
much fear.

" We must not trust him ; he may prove treacherous.
That is our safest plan. If our fears are without founda-
tion, so much the better."

At last they were among the tall trees that hid them
quite out of sight. Then, and not until then, did Arthur
dare catch Cora in his arms and kiss her ay, madly
kiss the blue eyes, golden hair, and red, quivering lips.

" Thank God, we are out of their clutches ! " he cried.
" But we are not safe yet. We will have to run for our
lives, my darling Cora ! "


Captain Lindsay's deep sleep lasted for tvro hours. It
seemed to those who passed by that it was the sleep of
exhaustion; yet no one dared awaken him, as he had al-
ways given strict orders to that effect. His companions
laughed and chatted loudly as they sauntered past him,
and stopped at the spot where he lay, muttering inco-
herent words. Finally he woke with a start, sat up, and
looked around him.

" What a horrible dream I had ! " he said, rubbing his
brow and looking curiously about him. " I am not a man


to be haunted by presentiments of any kind, but some-
how there is a feeling of impending evil which I can not
shake off."

With a convulsive shudder the captain rose to his feet,
and peered anxiously toward the tent where he had left
Cora. One, two hours had elapsed, and she was, perhaps,
ready and waiting for the eventful ceremony to take
place, no doubt, wondering at his strange absence, and
thinking that perhaps he was not going to put in an ap-
pearance, after all.

Noiselessly he walked past the entrance of the little
tent. There was no sound from within nothing to tell
him that she was awaiting the bridegroom to be.

Wondering as to what course he had better pursue, he
drew near the entrance of the tent, one corner of which
was flung back.

He could see the folds of her dress, which hung over
a chair, where she had evidently laid it, and the thought
occurred to him that the girl had in all probability grown
tired of her monotonous surroundings, and had thrown
herself down on the little couch that had been impro-
vised for her comfort, and that she was enjoying the
sleep of forgetfulness.

He made up his mind that he would not disturb her for
at least a little while longer. One hour more or less
would not matter.

How long he paced up and down before the tent, the
impatient captain never remembered afterward.

A young boy who served in the capacity of waiter and
messenger came up to him, and touching his hat re-
spectfully, stood awaiting orders.

"Jamie," said the captain, displaying more good-
humor than he had shown toward the youth for a long


time, " I want you to take along your best manners, and
stop at the young lady's tent yonder and call out in your
blandest voice : ' The captain sends his compliments to
you, miss, and begs that you will tell him if there is any-
thing that he can do for you, and how long before you
wish the ceremony performed.' Don't forget anything;
remember every word, you young rascal ! "

Thus admonished, the lad started off to do his bidding.
He called at the tent softly, then louder and louder, and
received no response.

Scarcely daring to come back to his master without
a reply of some kind, he took the liberty upon himself
of thrusting his head in through the aperture that had
been made in the canvas.

One quick, penetrating glance, and the situation was
clear to him. The occupant of the place had gone, leav-
ing a dress near the door.

Slowly he made his way back to where his master was
awaiting him, and stood hesitatingly before him, ner-
vously twirling his hat in his hand.

" Well, you are back again almost before I expected
you. Of course she sent me a pleasant answer, the sweet
girl ! " said the captain, cheerily, a broad smile lighting
up his stern face.

" Nuthin' of the sort, sir. That's too good news,

" Eh ? Stop meddling so familiarly with my affairs,
or I'll see that you are put where you belong, I say.
Come, what did she say? Out with it, without any of
your ' hems ' or ' haws.' "

" There's trouble o' some sort in thar, cap'n," he went
on, glibly. " I hollered and hollered to the young miss
I thought was in yonder. Finally suthin' tempted me to


jes' poke my head in at a rent I foun' had been made
back of the tent."

" Well well ; go on what then ? " thundered the of-
ficer as he caught the boy's shoulder and held it in a
painful grip.

A look of uneasiness overspread the youth's features,
and for an instant he dared not answer, lest he should
arouse the wrath of the irate captain.

Finally he summoned up courage to proceed, and went
on agitatedly:

" I peered all around, and there wasn't a solitary living
person inside that tent. Nuffin but jes' a dress lying
thar near the door. You can see that for yourself, cap'n."

In a trice the captain made a spring into the tent.
One glance showed him the truth. Cora Ormsby was not
there. For the second time she had outwitted him, and
with a savage cry of rage he turned toward the place
where he had left Arthur Rollins. He, too, was gone,
and that, too, from beneath his very eyes.

The shout which he uttered gathered all the road
agents around him.

" These people have both given me the slip ! " he cried.
" Quick ! to horse, and overtake them, for they will have
every member of the garrison around us in no time."

Suddenly it dawned upon them that they were refusing
to take orders from him. For the first time since they
had been banded together there were signs of mutiny
among the men.

" Are you so blind, men, that you can not see your
own danger?" he cried.

" We see danger ahead if we follow where you lead! "
they cried out, doggedly. " All you want is to follow
up the girl, no matter about us ! "


" This is not a time for you to get up such nonsensical
notions ! " he cried. " Every man to horse, and keep
those two from getting to Fort Hadley at all hazards."

As before, not a man moved.

" Then I will undertake it myself ! " he cried, springing
into the saddle with a fierce determination of overtaking

" We will not trust you to leave us ! " cried one, grasp-
ing the bridle of his horse.

" Dare you detain me ? " he cried.

" It looks a little bit like it, doesn't it ? " he cried.

Quick as a lash he drew a revolver from his pocket and
shot the man dead, then dug his spurs into the animal's

He fairly mowed his way through their midst.

The animal he had chosen was a fiery one, and his
frantic plunges and mad leaps threatened to unseat him.

A moment later he was lost to sight. He followed in
the direction which the fugitives must have taken.

There were two shots left in his rifle. Rather than
have them escape him now, he would not hesitate to shoot
them both down.

A cry of triumph broke from his lips, as, looking ahead,
he beheld them ascending the hill not far away.

But instead of two forms there were three, as near
as he could make out.

The sudden confusion which the sight of the dark
forms brought to him came very near causing him to
change the dark plot of vengeance which he had formed

in his mind.

" It can not be that I am mistaken. This is the only
route that they could possibly have taken to gain the


fort, which they would soon be able to do if left to them-
selves. But I must not lose time in idle conjectures; I
will redouble my horse's speed, and in a short time over-
take them. Yet, what I shall do with those two men
whom I should make prisoners of, baffles my judgment
completely. If I could overpower them, bind and gag
them, then return with Cora to camp, those unruly fel-
lows might come to my rescue and bring them back to
our retreat again. I shall stand no fooling this time
when I have them safe as prisoners, but I will see that
they are shot down as traitors are punished ! " he mut-
tered to himself.

" Now is my time," thought Captain Lindsay, a fiend-
ish smile playing about his lips. He raised his rifle to his
shoulder and took aim at Arthur. But oh ! unlucky shot,
to his horror he saw that his aim had gone wide of the
mark; the slim figure threw up its arms and fell face


With a great cry, Arthur Rollins faced about.

" Who fired that shot? " he cried.

" I I think I am done for ! " cried the young road
agent, for it was he who had received the shot instead
of Cora. " They are on our trail; do the best you can to"
escape them. My prayers, if they avail anything, will be
with you. Ah ! it is Captain Lindsay ! " he cried in the
same breath. " I knew it ; but the men are not with


him," he added, faintly ; " he is alone. Here, take my re-
volver and rifle, young man ; you may need them."

Those were the most sorrowful words he ever uttered.
His head fell forward, and there was a smile on his lips,
and they knew that all would soon be over with him.

" Go your way, and never mind me," he whispered.
" You could do nothing for me, and time is precious, with
those rascals on your track. Go ! Leave me ! "

Realizing that he was beyond human skill, and that
loitering there only meant danger to themselves, Cora
and Arthur pushed onward ; but they had scarcely taken
a dozen steps forward ere another report rang out on
the air, so near to Arthur that he could hear the whiz
of the bullet as it flew past his cheek.

Cora could utter no word. She had seen so much of
danger that she was becoming inured to it. But it seemed
to her that she had reached the height of human happi-
ness, being with Arthur for those brief moments. Her
energy had worked wonders for her. His very presence,
too, seemed to exhilarate her, his words of encourage-
ment to keep her from falling by the way-side.

" We are within two miles of the nearest fort, Cora/'
he said to her, " and when once there our troubles will
soon be over. Do you think you have strength enough
to reach it?"

" Yes," she answered. " Where thou leadest I can

At that moment they espied a group of horsemen
coming down upon them. One glance, and a cry of joy
broke from Arthur's lips.

" Thank God ! it is some of the cavalry from Fort
Hadley. Heaven be praised, we are saved ! "


This proved to be the case, and Cora's intense joy
knew no bounds.

Drawing his handkerchief from his breast-pocket, Ar-
thur waved it vigorously. Cora sat down upon a fallen
log, and, woman-like, sobbed as though her heart would
break now that the worst danger seemed over.

A moment more and the cavalry had reached their
side. To find Arthur Rollins there, and Cora Ormsby,
the old general's daughter by his side, in male attire,
fairly took their breath away.

Before Arthur could explain the situation, Captain
Lindsay, fairly covered with dust, rushed up.

" Hold, men ! " he shouted, dashing into the midst of
the cavalry. " I have tracked down Arthur Rollins, the
deserter. It was he who abducted our old general's
lovely daughter. I command you to shoot him down
on the spot, as we always shoot down deserters ! "

"No, no!" cried Cora; "it is false! Listen to me:
Mr. Arthur Rollins has saved me from that traitor yon-
tier," pointing to Lindsay.

" Gentlemen," broke in the captain, " I may as well
tell the truth still further. Not only has that miserable
deserter yonder abducted the girl whom we all loved at
the fort, but he has succeeded in hypnotizing her as well.
Death is too good for him. You all know that she was
to be my bride, and what happened. Do not hesitate in
obeying the orders of your commanding officer. Shoot
him down as you would the veriest reptile by the road-
side, as you swore to do when you took the oath of the
army. To arms ! Ready ! "

And then, to Cora's great surprise and terror, every
man slowly raised his rifle, and pointed it directly at
Arthur Rollins.


" For God's sake, wait ! " pleaded Cora Ormsby, falling
before them, and raising her white hands supplicatingly
to Heaven. " Stop! on your life I beg! " screamed the
girl, as the men waited for the order to aim.

" Do not mind her ! " reiterated the irate captain. " I
tell you, follow my instructions at once ! " This without
paying the least regard to the supplicating figure of the
girl who was making such frantic efforts to save the life
of her lover.

Waving her away, the leader of the troop signified
his intention to his men to carry out the captain's orders,
and open fire upon young Rollins without delay.

There was a fixed look upon the men's faces which
could not for a moment be misinterpreted ; and Cora read
determination in their eyes, which roused the poor girl
to the highest pitch of action, that became almost one
of frenzy.

Once again she gathered her scattered senses, and
quick as the dart of a meteor, Cora threw herself, with
a mighty bound, in front of Arthur Rollins just as the
click of the triggers were resounding.

In less time than it takes to tell it, they had each com-
prehended the awful peril in which she had thrown her-
self, and the bullets that had been intended for Arthur
Rollins were discharged over his head.

" Thank God ! " murmured the girl, hysterically. " I
I have saved him ! "

Captain Lindsay jumped forward with tigerish agility.

" Fire again ! " he cried, seizing the girl by the arm
and thrusting her aside.

" Gentlemen ! " cried Arthur Rollins, pale as death,
*' let me have your attention for one brief moment. Re-


member that I once led you on to victory ; remember that
I faced the deadly arrows in advance of you. I did not
fear death then; I am the same man to-day. I do not
fear death. But I do wish justice. I I ask you, as a
man among men, to take me before the proper tribunal
at Fort Hadley, and let me stand trial, and I promise
you that I will abide by the decision rendered. No mat-
ter what this man charges me with, let me prove my in-
nocence, or stand by the consequences ! "

" That is only fair ! " cried the men in chorus. " Let
us give him a chance to prove his innocence, especially
as there is a doubt in our minds ! "

" Agreed ! agreed ! " cried every man.

As Captain Lindsay listened, his face grew Mrid with

He saw what the outcome of it would be that he
would stand no show when the truth was known. He re-
solved at once upon a bold piece of strategy.

" I am perfectly willing, men, that he should be taken
back to Fort Hadley and placed on trial," he said, much
to the surprise of Arthur Rollins and the other men.

" Fall in line ! " said the commander of the troops.

Each soldier obeyed the order. No one noticed that
Captain Lindsay himself fell back, taking his position
directly behind Arthur Rollins.

There was a wicked gleam in his eyes that might have
warned them of approaching danger had they but seen it ;
but there was nothing to tell them of what was to hap-
pen Jn the near future.

A mile or even more the party traveled in silence.
Two of the soldiers had offered their horses to the gen-
eral's daughter and her companion, while Captain Lind-


say had mounted the extra horse, which they generally
took with them in case of emergency.

Every step he journeyed Captain Lindsay was busy
thinking over a plan which he had laid out to accomplish
his diabolical purpose at the first opportunity that pre-
sented itself.

Cora had kept up her courage until now by a super-
human effort; but at last an oppression stole over her

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Online LibraryLaura Jean LibbeyCora, the pet of the regiment → online text (page 15 of 16)