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31. Escape
"Oliver? Where is Oliver?"
These were Reuther's first words, as, coming to herself, she perceived Mr. Black
bending helplessly over her.
The answer was brief, almost indifferent. Alanson Black was cursing himself for
allowing her to come to this house alone.
"He was here a moment ago. When he saw you begin to give signs of life, he slid
out. How do you feel, my--my dear? What will your mother say?"
"But Oliver?" She was on her feet now; she had been lying on some sort of
couch. "He must--Oh, I remember now. Mr. Black, we must go. I have given him
his father's letter."
"We are not going till you have something to eat. Not a word. I'll--" Why did his
eye wander to the nearest window, and his words trail away into silence?
Reuther turned about to see. Oliver was in front, conversing earnestly with Mr.
Sloan. As they looked, he dashed back into the rear of the house, and they heard
his voice rise once or twice in some ineffectual commands to his deaf servant,
then there came a clatter and a rush from the direction of the stable, and they
saw him flash by on a gaunt but fiery horse, and take with long bounds the road
up which they had just laboured. He had stopped to equip himself in some
measure for this ride, but not the horse, which was without saddle or any sort of
bridle but a halter strung about his neck.
This was flight; or so it appeared to Mr. Sloan, as he watched the young man
disappear over the brow of the hill. What Mr. Black thought was not so apparent.
He had no wish to discourage Reuther whose feeling was one of relief as her first
word showed.
"Oliver is gone. We shall not have to hurry now and perhaps if I had a few
minutes in which to rest---"
She was on the verge of fainting again.
And then Alanson Black showed of what stuff he was made. In ten minutes he
had bustled about the half-deserted building, and with the aid of the dazed and
uncomprehending deaf-mute, managed to prepare a cup of hot tea and a plate of
steaming eggs for the weary girl.
After such an effort, Reuther felt obliged to eat, and she did; seeing which, the
lawyer left her for a moment and went out to interview their guide.
"Where's the young lady?"
This from Mr. Sloan.
"Eating something. Come in and have a bite; and let the horses eat, too. She
must have a rest. The young fellow went off pretty quick, eh?"
"Ya-as." The drawl was one of doubt. "But quickness don't count. Fast or slow,
he's on his way to capture--if that's what you want to know."
"What? We are followed then?"
"There are men on the road; two, as I told you before. He can't get by them--IF
that's what he wants to do."
"But I thought they fell back. We didn't hear them after you joined us."