Read CHAPTER XVII - AN EXCHANGE OF COURTESIES of The Tory Maid , free online book, by Herbert Baird Stimpson, on ReadCentral.com.

“A narrow escape that for you, Lieutenant,” said Jones. “But she was a plucky lass, and now it is time for us to be looking for cover.”

He turned down a narrow, quiet street until we came to a house set somewhat back in the yard.

Jones now rapped very gently on the door; it swung open as if he was expected, and a moment later we found ourselves heartily welcomed by an old Quaker lady in a little room with a bright fire burning.

“I thought thee would come, Brother Jones,” said she, “and who is this braw lad thou hast brought with thee?” And she smiled on me.

“He is one of our Lieutenants, who has a sweetheart in town, and is willing to risk his neck to see her,” said Jones gruffly, but there was a twinkle in his eye.

This completed my conquest, and the motherly old soul proceeded to take charge of me.

“Who is thy lady love thou hast come to see?” And when I told her that she was a Tory she was much distressed, but eager to help me.

“The Good Book says thou must not fight, but it also says thou must help thy friends and neighbours, so I will help thee.”

But at last, after chattering awhile she took a candle and showed us to our rooms. I was soon lost in the almost blissful comfort of clean white sheets and a feather-bed.

When I awoke next morning Jones had already departed on his mission, leaving me a note telling me where to meet him the next night on our return to camp.

All that day I kept close to the house, for I did not dare to venture forth in the broad day, as I was known to many, and it would not have gone well with me if I had met with those I knew.

But at last the night began to fall, and, bidding my kind hostess good-bye, I made my way through the streets to the Tory’s house.

I soon found it a square brick structure in a quiet street. I noticed, as I approached it, several dark alleys just at the right places for a rapid retreat if the worse should come to the worst.

Then my hand was on the knocker, and its fall startled me as the clatter echoed far down the street and seemed to wake the very dead.

A slave opened the door, who, though he glanced at me suspiciously, told me that his mistress was at home.

Then in a moment my storm-coat was off, and I stood in the door of the drawing-room.

It was a beautiful picture, the great strong Highlander on his knees at the feet of Mistress Jean begging for her hand, which she seemed to be denying him, for he was growing more and more passionate.

For a moment, as I stood there, I could feel my hair grow gray, but the tumult and the conflict within me were short and I turned to go, for it seemed to me that she could not but care for so gallant a gentleman.

But her eyes met mine, and then for a moment there was terror in them, and a cry broke forth from her lips.

Farquharson, startled by her gaze, turned also, and, seeing me, was quickly on his feet, his face aflame with passion.

“Sir,” said he, advancing toward me, “do you not know the fate of eavesdroppers” and then for the first time noticing my uniform, added, “and spies?”

“I know the fate of those who call a gentleman by such names,” I retorted coolly.

“A gentleman?” and he laughed. “I will have you hanged for a dog of a spy before sunrise.”

“Pardon me, sir, but you are my prisoner until it shall suit me to let you go free.”

At this he laughed merrily.

“Well said, Sir Rebel,” he cried; “but permit me to pass before I spit you on my sword.” And he drew and advanced upon me.

“Permit me, sir, to use another argument;” and I drew my pistol and covered him. “Advance another step and I will blow your brains out.”

He glanced at me for a moment, but did not advance. “And further, let me suggest that we are in the presence of a lady, and it is not seemly for her to see the flash of weapons.”

At this he put up his sword.

“To whom do I owe a lesson in gallantry?” he asked with a low and sweeping bow.

“James Frisby, of Fairlee, a Lieutenant in the Maryland Line,” I replied with equal courtesy.

Mistress Jean had stood as though she were turned to stone during our exchange of courtesies, but now she seemed to recover.

“Captain Farquharson,” she cried, and she came and stood between us, “this is an old friend of mine. He saved my life at the Braes when we were raided by the rebels. You must promise me to let him go free out of the city.”

“Your wishes, Mistress Jean, are law,” said he, “and shall be obeyed. I shall give him till morning to escape in.”

“Which I promptly accept,” said I, “with the hope that I may be able to repay your courtesy if fortune should bring you within our lines some day.”

And so he bade Mistress Jean farewell, but as he passed me, I whispered to him:

“Sir, some words have been said that need an explanation.”

“It will give me pleasure to offer you one at any place you may appoint.”

“Then meet me,” I said, “two days hence at sunrise on the pike, half-way between the lines.”

“With swords or pistols?”

“Swords.”

“I will be there;” and he passed on out.

When he had gone, I turned to Mistress Jean, who urged me to leave at once.

“You must go,” said she, “for at any moment you may be tracked and discovered, and then ”

“And then what?” I answered, smiling. “Do you think, Mistress Jean, that I, who travelled for miles through the snow and the storm last night to catch one glimpse of your face, that I, who at last stand in your presence, would give a thought to the noose around my neck?”

But she would not let me say her nay, and then her terror grew, until at last she told me that Lord Howe sometimes came home with her father at nine o’clock to talk over the plans of the spring campaign, and that every moment she expected to hear their voices in the hall.

“The sight of your face, Mistress Jean, has repaid me for my journey; but if you bid me go, why, then, it is fate, and go I must.” Then a thought came to me. “Mistress Jean, tell me this before I leave in the enemy’s camp all that is dearest on earth to me: tell me if you love that Highlander, if you care for him.” And she, who a moment before was urging me to leave, stood silent, with her face turned away from me, with never a word to say.

And I, seeing how matters stood, took my courage in my hands, and, with a low bow, wished her good-bye.