Read CHAPTER VIII of Cudjo's Cave , free online book, by J. T. Trowbridge, on ReadCentral.com.

THE ROVER.

Meanwhile the nocturnal acquaintance from whom Salina had parted took a last look at the house, and shook his envious head darkly at the room where the light and the music were; then, thrusting his hands into his pockets, with a swaggering air, went plodding on his lonely way across the fields, in the starlight.

The direction he took was that from which Penn had arrived; and in the course of twenty minutes he approached the door of the solitary house with the dark windows and the dogs within. He walked all around, and seeing no light, nor any indication of life, drew near, and rapped softly on a pane.

The dogs were roused in an instant, and barked furiously. Nothing daunted, he waited for a lull in the storm he had raised, and rapped again.

“Who’s there?” creaked the stridulous voice of good Mrs. Sprowl.

You know!” said the rover, in a suppressed, confidential tone. “One who has a right.”

Now, the excellent relict of the late lamented Sprowl reflected, naturally, that, if anybody had a right there, it was he who paid her for his board in advance.

“You, agin, after all, is it!” she exclaimed, angrily. “Couldn’t you find nowhere else to go to? But if you imagine I’ve thought better on’t, and will let you in, you’re grandly mistaken! Go away this instant, or I’ll let the dogs out!”

“Let ’em out, and be!”

No matter about the last word of the rover’s defiant answer. It was a very irritating word to the temper of the good Mrs. Sprowl. This was the first time (she thought) she had ever heard the mild and benignant schoolmaster swear; but she was not much surprised, believing that it was scarcely in the power of man to endure what he had that night endured, and not swear.

“Look out for yourself then, you sir! for I shall take you at your word!” And there was a sound of slipping bolts, followed by the careful opening of the door.

Out bounced the dogs, and leaped upon the intruder; but, instead of tearing him to pieces, they fell to caressing him in the most vivacious and triumphant manner.

“Down, Brag! Off, Grip! Curse you!” And he kicked them till they yelped, for their too fond welcome.

“How dare you, sir, use my dogs so!” screamed the lady within, enraged to think they had permitted that miserable schoolmaster to get the better of them.

“I’ll kick them, and you too, for this trick!” muttered the man. “I’ll learn ye to shut me out, and make a row, when I’m coming to see you at the risk of my

She cut him short, with a cry of amazement.

“Lysander! is it you!”

“Hold your noise!” said Lysander, pressing into the house. “Call my name again, and I’ll choke you! Where’s your schoolmaster? Won’t he hear?”

“Dear me! if it don’t beat everything!” said Mrs. Sprowl in palpitating accents. “Don’t you know I took you for the master!”

“No, I didn’t know it. This looks more like a welcome, though!” Lysander began to be mollified. “There, there! don’t smother a fellow! One kiss is as good as fifty. The master is out, then? Anybody in the house?”

“No, I’m so thankful! It seems quite providential! O, dearie, dearie, sonny dearie! I’m so glad to see you agin!”

“Come! none of your sonny dearies! it makes me sick! Strike a light, and get me some supper, can’t you?”

“Yes, my boy, with all my heart! This is the happiest day I’ve seen

“Ah, what’s happened to-day?” said Lysander, treating with levity his mother’s blissful confession.

“I mean, this night! to have you back again! How could I mistake you for that dreadful schoolmaster!” Here her trembling fingers struck a match.

“Draw the curtains,” said Lysander, hastily executing his own order, as the blue sputter kindled up into a flame that lighted the room. “It ain’t quite time for me to be seen here yet.”

“Where did you come from? What are you here for? O, my dear, dear Lysie!” (she gazed at him affectionately), “you ain’t in no great danger, be you?”

“That depends. Soon as Tennessee secedes, I shall be safe enough. I’m going to have a commission in the Confederate army, and that’ll be protection from anything that might happen on account of old scores. I’m going to raise a company in this very place, and let the law touch me if it can!”

He tossed his cap into a corner, and sprawled upon a chair before the stove, at which his devoted mother was already blowing her breath away in the endeavor to kindle a blaze. She stopped blowing to gape at his good news, turning up at him her low, skinny forehead, narrow nose, and close-set, winking eyes.

“There! I declare!” said she. “I knowed my boy would come back to me some day a gentleman!”

“A gentleman? I’m bound to be that!” said the man, with a braggart laugh and swagger. “I tell ye, mar, we’re going to have the greatest confederacy ever was!”

“Do tell if we be!” said the edified “mar.”

“Six months from now, you’ll see the Yankees grovelling at our feet, begging for admission along with us. We’ll have Washington, and all of the north we want, and defy the world!”

“I want to know now!” said Mrs. Sprowl, overcome with admiration.

“The slave-trade will be reopened, Yankee ships will bring us cargoes of splendid niggers, not a man in the south but’ll be able to own three or four, they’ll be so cheap, and we’ll be so rich, you see,” said Lysander.

“You don’t say, re’lly!”

“That’s the programme, mar! You’ll see it all with your own eyes in six months.”

“Why, then, why shouldn’t the south secede!” replied “mar,” hastening to put on the tea-kettle, and then to mix up a corn dodger for her son’s supper. “I’m sure, we ought all on us to have our servants, and live without work; and I knowed all the time there was another side to what Penn Hapgood preaches (for he’s dead set agin’ secession), though I couldn’t answer him as you could, Lysie dear!”

“Wal, never mind all that, but hurry up the grub!” said “Lysie dear,” putting sticks in the stove. “I hain’t had a mouthful since breakfast.”

“You hain’t seen her, of course,” observed Mrs. Sprowl, mysteriously.

“Her? who?”

“Salina!” in a whisper, as if to be overheard by a mouse in the wall would have been fatal.

“Wal, I have seen her, I reckon! Not an hour ago. By appointment. I wrote her I was coming, got a woman to direct the letter, and had a long talk with her to-night. What I want just now is, a little money, and she’s got to raise it for me, and what she can’t raise I shall look to you for.”

“O dear me! don’t say money to me!” exclaimed the widow, alarmed. “Partic’larly now I’ve lost my best feather-bed and my boarder!”

“What is it about your boarder? Out with it, and stop this hinting around!”

Thus prompted, Mrs. Sprowl, who had indeed been waiting for the opportunity, related all she knew of what had happened to Penn. Lysander kindled up with interest as she proceeded, and finally broke forth with a startling oath.

“And I can tell you where he has gone!” he said. “He’s gone to the house I can’t get into for love nor money! She refused me admission to-night refused me money! but he is taken in, and their money will be lavished on him!”

“But how do you know, my son,

“How do I know he’s there? Because, when I was with her in the orchard, we saw an object she said it was some old nigger to see Toby go into the kitchen. Then in a little while a man it must have been Stackridge, if you say he was looking for him went in with Carl, and didn’t come out again, as I could see. I staid till the light from the kitchen went up into the bedroom, in the corner of the house this way. There’s yer boarder, mar, I’ll bet my life! But he won’t be there long, I can tell ye!” laughed Lysander, maliciously.