Read CHAPTER II of Capitola's Peril A Sequel to 'The Hidden Hand' , free online book, by Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth, on ReadCentral.com.

Old Hurricane storms

“At this sir knight flamed up with ire!
His great chest heaved! his eyes flashed fire.
The crimson that suffused his face
To deepest purple now gave place.”

Who can describe the frenzy of Old Hurricane upon discovering the fraud that had been practised upon him by Black Donald?

It was told him the next morning in his tent, at his breakfast table, in the presence of his assembled family, by the Rev. Mr. Goodwin.

Upon first hearing it, he was incapable of anything but blank staring, until it seemed as though his eyes must start from their sockets!

Then his passion, “not loud but deep,” found utterance only in emphatic thumps of his walking stick upon the ground!

Then, as the huge emotion worked upward, it broke out in grunts, groans and inarticulate exclamations!

Finally it burst forth as follows:

“Ugh! ugh! ugh! Fool! dolt! blockhead! Brute that I’ve been! I wish somebody would punch my wooden head! I didn’t think the demon himself could have deceived me so! Ugh! Nobody but the demon could have done it! and he is the demon! The very demon himself! He does not disguise he transforms himself! Ugh! ugh! ugh! that I should have been such a donkey!”

“Sir, compose yourself! We are all liable to suffer deception,” said Mr. Goodwin.

“Sir,” broke forth Old Hurricane, in fury, “that wretch has eaten at my table! Has drunk wine with me!! Has slept in my bed!!! Ugh! ugh!! ugh!!!”

“Believing him to be what he seemed, sir, you extended to him the rights of hospitality; you have nothing to blame yourself with!”

“Demmy, sir, I did more than that! I’ve coddled him up with negusses! I’ve pampered him up with possets and put him to sleep in my own bed! Yes, sir and more! Look there at Mrs. Condiment, sir! The way in which she worshiped that villain was a sight to behold!” said Old Hurricane, jumping up and stamping around the tent in fury.

“Oh, Mr. Goodwin, sir, how could I help it when I thought he was such a precious saint?” whimpered the old lady.

“Yes, sir! when ‘his reverence’ would be tired with delivering a long-winded mid-day discourse, Mrs. Condiment, sir, would take him into her own tent make him lie down on her own sacred cot, and set my niece to bathing his head with cologne and her maid to fanning him, while she herself prepared an iced sherry cobbler for his reverence! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, Mrs. Condiment, mum!” said Old Hurricane, suddenly stopping before the poor old woman, in angry scorn.

“Indeed, I’m sure if I’d known it was Black Donald, I’d no more have suffered him inside of my tent than I would Satan!”

“Demmy, mum, you had Satan there as well! Who but Satan could have tempted you all to disregard me, your lawful lord and master, as you every one of you did for that wretch’s sake! Hang it, parson, I wasn’t the master of my own house, nor head of my own family! Precious Father Gray was! Black Donald was! Oh, you shall hear!” cried Old Hurricane, in a frenzy.

“Pray, sir, be patient and do not blame the women for being no wiser than you were yourself,” said Mr. Goodwin.

“Tah! tah! tah! One act of folly is a contingency to which any man may for once in his life be liable; but folly is the women’s normal condition! You shall hear! You shall hear! Hang it, sir, everybody had to give way to Father Gray! Everything was for Father Gray! Precious Father Gray! Excellent Father Gray! Saintly Father Gray! It was Father Gray here and Father Gray there, and Father Gray everywhere and always! He ate with us all day and slept with us all night! The coolest cot in the dryest nook of the tent at night the shadiest seat at the table by day were always for his reverence! The nicest tit-bits of the choicest dishes the middle slices of the fish, the breast of the young ducks, and the wings of the chickens, the mealiest potatoes, the juiciest tomatoes, the tenderest roasting ear, the most delicate custard, and freshest fruit always for his reverence! I had to put up with the necks of poultry, and the tails of fishes, watery potatoes, specked apples and scorched custards and if I dared to touch anything better before his precious reverence had eaten and was filled, Mrs. Condiment there would look as sour as if she had bitten an unripe lemon and Cap would tread on my gouty toe! Mrs. Condiment, mum, I don’t know how you can look me in the face!” said Old Hurricane, savagely. A very unnecessary reproach, since poor Mrs. Condiment had not ventured to look any one in the face since the discovery of the fraud of which she, as well as others, had been an innocent victim.

“Come, come, my dear major, there is no harm done to you or your family; therefore, take patience!” said Mr. Goodwin.

“Demmy, sir, I beg you pardon, parson, I won’t take patience! You don’t know! Hang it, man, at last they got me to give up one-half of my own blessed bed to his precious reverence the best half which the fellow always took right out of the middle, leaving me to sleep on both sides of him, if I could! Think of it me, Ira Warfield sleeping between the sheets night after night with Black Donald! Ugh! ugh! ugh! Oh, for some lethean draught that I might drink and forget! Sir, I won’t be patient! Patience would be a sin! Mrs. Condiment, mum, I desire that you will send in your account and supply yourself with a new situation! You and I cannot agree any longer. You’ll be putting me to bed with Beelzebub next!” exclaimed Old Hurricane, besides himself with indignation.

Mrs. Condiment sighed and wiped her eyes under her spectacles.

The worthy minister, now seriously alarmed, came to him and said:

“My dear, dear major, do not be unjust consider. She is an old faithful domestic, who has been in your service forty years whom you could not live without! I say it under advisement whom you could not live without!”

“Hang it, sir, nor live with! Think of her helping to free the prisoners! Actually taking Black Donald precious Father Gray! into their cell and leaving them together to hatch their beg you pardon horrid plots!”

“But, sir, instead of punishing the innocent victim of his deception, let us be merciful and thank the Lord, that since those men were delivered from prison, they were freed without bloodshed; for remember that neither the warden nor any of his men, nor any one else has been personally injured.”

“Hang it, sir, I wish they had cut all our throats to teach us more discretion!” broke forth Old Hurricane.

“I am afraid that the lesson so taught would have come too late to be useful!” smiled the pastor.

“Well, it hasn’t come too late now! Mrs. Condiment, mum, mind what I tell you! As soon as we return to Hurricane Hall, send in your accounts and seek a new home! I am not going to suffer myself to be set at naught any longer!” exclaimed Old Hurricane, bringing down his cane with an emphatic thump.

The sorely troubled minister was again about to interfere, when, as the worm if trodden upon, will turn, Mrs. Condiment herself spoke up, saying:

“Lor, Major Warfield, sir, there were others deceived besides me, and as for myself, I never can think of the risk I’ve run without growing cold all over!”

“Serves you right, mum, for your officiousness, and obsequiousness and toadying to precious Mr. Gray! serves you doubly right for famishing me at my own table!”

“Uncle!” said Capitola, “‘Honor bright! Fair play is a jewel!’ If you and I, who have seen Black Donald before, failed to recognize that stalwart athlete in a seemingly old and sickly man, how could you expect Mrs. Condiment to do so, who never saw him but once in her life, and then was so much frightened that she instantly fainted?”

“Pah! pah! pah! Cap, hush! You, all of you, disgust me, except Black Donald! I begin to respect him! Confound if I don’t take in all the offers I have made for his apprehension, and at the very next convention of our party I’ll nominate him to represent us in the National Congress; for, of all the fools that ever I have met in my life, the people of this county are the greatest! And fools should at least be represented by one clever man and Black Donald is the very fellow! He is decidedly the ablest man in this congressional district.”

“Except yourself, dear uncle!” said Capitola.

“Except nobody, Miss Impudence! least of all me! The experience of the last week has convinced me that I ought to have a cap and bells awarded me by public acclamation!” said Old Hurricane, stamping about in fury.

The good minister finding that he could make no sort of impression upon the irate old man, soon took his leave, telling Mrs. Condiment that if he could be of any service to her in her trouble she must be sure to let him know.

At this Capitola and Mrs. Condiment exchanged looks, and the old lady, thanking him for his kindness, said that if it should become necessary, she should gratefully avail herself of it.

That day the camp meeting broke up.

Major Warfield struck tents and with his family and baggage returned to
Hurricane Hall.

On their arrival, each member of the party went about his or her own particular business.

Capitola hurried to her own room to take off her bonnet and shawl. Pitapat, before attending her young mistress, lingered below to astonish the housemaids with accounts of “Brack Donel, dress up like an olé parson, an’ ’ceiving everybody, even olé Marse!”

Mrs. Condiment went to her store room to inspect the condition of her newly put up preserves and pickles, lest any of them should have “worked” during her absence.

And Old Hurricane, attended by Wool, walked down to his kennels and his stables to look after the well-being of his favorite hounds and horses. It was while going through this interesting investigation that Major Warfield was informed principally by overhearing the gossip of the grooms with Wool of the appearance of a new inmate of the Hidden House a young girl, who, according to their description, must have been the very pearl of beauty.

Old Hurricane pricked up his ears! Anything relating to the “Hidden House” possessed immense interest for him.

“Who is she, John?” he inquired of the groom.

“’Deed I dunno, sir, only they say she’s a bootiful young creature, fair as any lily, and dressed in deep mourning.”

“Humph! humph! humph! another victim! Ten thousand chances to one, another victim! who told you this, John?”

“Why, Marse, you see Tom Griffith, the Rev. Mr. Goodwin’s man, he’s very thick long of Davy Hughs, Colonel Le Noir’s coachman. And Davy he told Tom how one day last month his marse ordered the carriage, and went two or three days’ journey up the country beyant Staunton, there he stayed a week and then came home, fetching along with him in the carriage this lovely young lady, who was dressed in the deepest mourning, and wept all the way. They ’spects how she’s an orphan, and has lost all her friends, by the way she takes on.”

“Another victim! My life on it another victim! Poor child! She had better be dead than in the power of that atrocious villain and consummate hypocrite!” said Old Hurricane, passing on to the examination of his favorite horses, one of which, the swiftest in the stud, he found galled on the shoulders. Whereupon he flew into a towering passion, abusing his unfortunate groom by every opprobrious epithet blind fury could suggest, ordering him, as he valued whole bones, to vacate the stable instantly, and never dare to set foot on his premises again as he valued his life, an order which the man meekly accepted and immediately disobeyed, muttered to himself:

“Humph! If we took olé marse at his word, there’d never be man or ’oman left on the ’state,” knowing full well that his tempestuous old master would probably forget all about it, as soon as he got comfortably seated at the supper table of Hurricane Hall, toward which the old man now trotted off.

Not a word did Major Warfield say at supper in regard to the new inmate of the Hidden House, for he had particular reasons for keeping Cap in ignorance of a neighbor, lest she should insist upon exchanging visits and being “sociable.”

But it was destined that Capitola should not remain a day in ignorance of the interesting fact.

That night, when she retired to her chamber, Pitapat lingered behind, but presently appeared at her young mistress’s room door with a large waiter on her head, laden with meat, pastry, jelly and fruit, which she brought in and placed upon the work stand.

“Why, what on the face of earth do you mean by bringing all that load of victuals into my room to-night? Do you think I am an ostrich or a cormorant, or that I am going to entertain a party of friends?” asked Capitola, in astonishment, turning from the wash stand, where she stood bathing her face.

“’Deed I dunno, Miss, whedder you’se an ostrizant or not, but I knows I don’t ’tend for to be ’bused any more ‘bout wittels, arter findin’ out how cross empty people can be! Dar dey is! You can eat um or leab um alone, Miss Caterpillar!” said little Pitapat, firmly.

Capitola laughed. “Patty” she said, “you are worthy to be called my waiting maid!”

“And Lors knows, Miss Caterpillar, if it was de wittels you was a-frettin’ arter, you ought to a-told me before! Lors knows dere’s wittels enough!”

“Yes, I’m much obliged to you, Patty, but now I am not hungry, and I do not like the smell of food in my bedroom, so take the waiter out and set it on the passage table until morning.”

Patty obeyed, and came back smiling and saying:

“Miss Caterpillar, has you hern de news?”

“What news, Pat?”

“How us has got a new neighbor a bootiful young gal as bootiful as a picter in a gilt-edged Christmas book wid a snowy skin, and sky-blue eyes and glistenin’ goldy hair, like the princess you was a readin’ me about, all in deep mournin’ and a weepin’ and a weepin’ all alone down there in that wicked, lonesome, onlawful olé haunted place, the Hidden House, along of old Colonel Le Noir and old Dorkey Knight, and the ghost as draws people’s curtains of a night, just for all de worl’ like dat same princess in de ogre’s castle!”

“What on earth is all this rigmarole about? Are you dreaming or romancing?”

“I’m a-telling on you de bressed trufe! Dere’s a young lady a-livin at de Hidden House!”

“Eh? Is that really true, Patty?”

“True as preaching, miss.”

“Then, I am very glad of it! I shall certainly ride over and call on the stranger,” said Capitola, gaily.

“Oh, Miss Cap! Oh, miss, don’t you do no sich thing! Olé Marse kill me! I heerd him t’reaten all de men and maids how if dey telled you anything ’bout de new neighbor, how he’d skin dem alive!”

“Won’t he skin you?” asked Cap.

“No, miss, not ’less you ’form ag’in me, ’case he didn’t tell me not to tell you, ’case you see he didn’t think how I knowed! But, leastways, I know from what I heard, olé marse wouldn’t have you to know nothin’ about it, no, not for de whole worl’.”

“He does not want me to call at the Hidden House! That’s it! Now why doesn’t he wish me to call there? I shall have to go in order to find out, and so I will,” thought Cap.