The Conspirators

At the supper-table Cousin Angeline gave no sign except that she seemed to speak more kindly than was her wont and to put herself out somewhat to add to my comfort. This was so unusual that by and by if she but offered me a dish or smiled, I was ready to cry out with fear. For what more natural, if she were going to give me up, than that she should seek to lull me to sleep meanwhile by little attentions of this nature. Of Moth or his letter she said not a word. Nor did she so much as look at Cousin Rolland, who sat dumb, with his face buried in his plate. Most strange of all, she did not speak of her father or Rudley and James. This alarmed me more than aught else, for such a thing had never happened before that I could remember. Thus I found nothing to comfort me, and supper being over, I after a little while excused myself and went to bed; but sleep did not visit my tired eyes, and at the first peep of day I got up and went into the garden. Here I wandered aimlessly about until summoned to breakfast. Afterward, still more disturbed, my mind conjured up a thousand improbable things, till finally, worn out with loss of sleep and worry, I entered the house, and slipping unobserved into the parlor, lay down on a settle that stood in the corner, where I soon fell asleep. How long I had thus lain I do not know, when I was awakened by voices in the adjoining room. At this I got up, greatly alarmed, for of way of escape there was none, save through the room from whence the voices came. Listening intently, I recognized Cousin Angeline’s voice, and then, almost with the same breath, Moth’s. Fearing they would enter the room where I lay, I secreted myself, and luckily, as it turned out, for in a moment the parlor door was thrown open and Cousin Angelina and Moth entered.
“Your letter, Mrs. Love, notifying me of Gilbert being here was delayed, not being properly directed,” Moth went on, finishing what he had been saying; “but as soon as it came to hand I wrote you, and have followed as quickly as I could.”
“I am glad you have come,” Cousin Angeline replied, seating herself on the settle behind which I was hidden, “for every day the lad is away from his aunt and her restraining influence is greatly to his disadvantage.”
“I am sure of that, as indeed my client is,” Moth answered, striding back and forth.
“I have done what I could to correct his morals and abominable habits, and while there is nothing positively wicked about him, he is wayward, and I can plainly see a tendency in him to go to the bad that nothing but strict discipline will overcome. Miss Holmes has probably observed this, too, Mr. Miller?”
“Moth, if you please, madam. Yes, she has noticed the tendency you speak of, and it is because of it that I have hastened; and now that I am here,” he went on, “I will lose no time in having him taken before the court and his aunt appointed guardian. His uncle abandoning him is evidence of his unfitness, so there will be no trouble this time, I apprehend.”
11“Take him before the court! What for, pray? No, no, you will never get him that way,” Cousin Angeline answered, in a decided voice.
“Indeed, madam, why not, may I ask?”
“There will be delay, and in the end you will be defeated through the efforts of his uncle and, I fear, my husband, whose heart is like melted butter.”
“Then what am I to do? for have him I will,” Moth answered, in his dogged way.
“Of course; he belongs to his aunt,” Cousin Angeline replied. “But why bother the courts with so trifling a thing, Mr. Miller?”
“Moth, I said, madam, if you please—Moth. I fear I do not quite understand your meaning. How else, pray, can I secure him except through the courts?”
“It is plain enough. Take him wherever you find him. What have the courts to do with his going back to his aunt? It will be time enough to consult them afterward, I should think,” she answered, as if there was no other way.
“I could handle him easily enough if I could once get him away from here,” Moth answered, reflectively. “There is many a way to make a lad keep quiet, or silence inquiry; but how to get him, that is the thing that sticks me.”
“It is easy enough if you have the courage and tact,” she replied, decisively.
“How, madam?” he asked, surprised.
“Well, in this way, among others. He is in the habit of stealing off to a little inlet below the town, and quite out of the way of observation. I will give him permission to go there this afternoon, and that will please him, for he would rather idle away his time than do any useful thing. He will go straight to the inlet, and once there you can come upon him unawares, and in a place where he can neither fly nor make himself heard. You must go early, however, and before my husband joins him, as he will be likely to do later, being that way inclined, I am sorry to say.”
“That is all right as far as it goes, madam, but afterward?” Moth asked, doubtfully.
“When you have him, capsize his boat, and every one will think he has been drowned. Then if you can’t get him away, you are sadly lacking in resources,” Cousin Angeline added, grimly, as if to spur him on.
“Suppose some one should be about. You can’t tell,” Moth answered, dubiously.
“There will be no one, for the place is aside, as I have said. No one frequents it except Gilbert and my husband. And once he is in your possession, you can drop down the river to the first town, and from there take him home; and good riddance to the little glutton.”
“Well, the plan seems all right, madam, and I will try it, and am much obliged to you for your advice, and the hint about overturning the boat,” Moth answered, with a chuckle, as he turned toward the door. “Do not fail to have him on hand, though. And about another matter I had nearly forgotten,” he added, facing about. “You have been very obliging, and my client directs me to say that she will lose no time in recompensing you for your trouble, and of this you may rest assured.”
“Thank you; I have not expected any recompense, but only sought to do my duty by the unfortunate lad. However, she can do as she likes in the matter,” Cousin Angeline answered, as if greatly pleased at the idea of a reward. “Do not fear in regard to Gilbert, Mr. Miller. He will be on hand, as I have said, or if anything should prevent his going this afternoon, he will be there to-morrow. It would be impossible for him to keep away from the river two days in succession, the little vagabond!”
“Thank you; and now as the matter is fully understood, I will go and make the necessary arrangements,” Moth answered; and bidding her good day, took his departure. KANGTAI NORFLOXACIN
When the street door closed behind him and his footsteps could no longer be heard, Cousin Angeline left the room, and putting on her bonnet, followed him, but for what purpose I could not imagine. Nor did it matter, for when she was gone I sprang up, and not losing a moment, gathered such articles of clothing as I could lay hands on, and wrapping them about some biscuits I found in the cupboard, slipped out of the back door and so into the alley. Following this in the direction of the country, I quickly reached the forest, and hiding myself in its depths, soon found my way to the road that led to Appletop.