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      The thing was at once preposterous and rational, and the Doctor almost yielded to a desire to laugh hysterically. Then, with a final jerk of the handle, he started the engine and opened the door of the car for the Clockwork man to enter. The latter, after making several absurd attempts to mount the step in the[Pg 135] ordinary manner, stumbled and fell head foremost into the interior. The Doctor followed, and picking up the prostrate figure, placed him in a sitting posture upon the seat. He was extraordinarily light, and there was something about the feel of his body that sent a thrill of apprehension down the Doctor's spine. He was thoroughly frightened by now, and the manner in which his companion took everything for granted only increased his alarm."We shall lie low for the present," Prout said. "And I will ask you to do the same. You may mention this matter to your manager, but not to another soul. I'll try and get down before five and see your manager myself."

      "How long have you belonged to Ferry's scouts?" sceptically demanded their spokesman.

      "I admit it. Leon discovered my whereabouts, and that I was apparently rich and prosperous. He demanded large sums of money. As a matter of fact I was driven to my wits' ends for cash then, and I refused. I had to drug him and detain him to still that fool's tongue of his. He might have done me a grave mischief. Then I had a bit of luck, and I gave Leon four hundred sovereigns. He knew where you could be found; he told me he wanted to send half to you. I allowed him to go so that he could change his gold into notes for the purpose."

      "Charlotte Oliver!"


      "Very good," said the General, "you are now on parole. See the lady conducted to Squire Gilmer's, Major. And now, Miss--eh,--day after to-morrow morning I shall either pass you beyond my lines or else send you to Baton Rouge. Good-day." When Charlotte found herself alone in a room of the Gilmer house she lay down upon the bed staring and sighing with dismay; she was bound by a parole! If within its limit of time Oliver should appear, "It will mean Baton Rouge for me!" she cried under her breath, starting up and falling back again; "Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Ship Island!" She was in as feminine a fright as though she had never braved a danger. Suddenly a new distress overwhelmed her: if--if--someone to deliver her should come--"Oh Heaven! I am paroled!--bound hand and foot by my insane parole!"


      I prompted Camille to ask if he had ever encountered Ned Ferry, and he laughed.


      Prout's expression was that of a man who by no means shared this opinion, but he said nothing on that head.