"You don't believe in ghosts, do you, Cass?" said he, taking the tongs and settling the fire. "I thought you'd more sense than to let noises scare you."
"No matter what I believe," said Cassy, sullenly.
"Fellows used to try to frighten me with their yarns at sea," said Legree. "Never come it round me that way. I'm too tough for any such trash, tell ye."
Cassy sat looking intensely at him in the shadow of the corner. There was that strange light in her eyes that always impressed Legree with uneasiness.
"Them noises was nothing but rats and the wind," said Legree. "Rats will make a devil of a noise. I used to hear 'em sometimes down in the hold of the ship; and wind, — Lord's sake! ye can make anything out o' wind."
Cassy knew Legree was uneasy under her eyes, and, therefore, she made no answer, but sat fixing them on him, with that strange, unearthly expression, as before.
"Come, speak out, woman, — don't you think so?" said Legree.
"Can rats walk down stairs, and come walking through the entry, and open a door when you've locked it and set a chair against it?" said Cassy; "and come walk, walk, walking right up to your bed, and put out their hand, so?"
Cassy kept her glittering eyes fixed on Legree, as she spoke, and he stared at her like a man in the nightmare, till, when she finished by laying her hand, icy cold, on his, he sprung back, with an oath.
"Woman! what do you mean? Nobody did?"
"O, no, — of course not, — did I say they did?" said Cassy, with a smile of chilling derision.
"But — did — have you really seen? — Come, Cass, what is it, now, — speak out!"
"You may sleep there, yourself," said Cassy, "if you want to know."
"Did it come from the garret, Cassy?"
"It, — what?" said Cassy.
"Why, what you told of — "
"I didn't tell you anything," said Cassy, with dogged sullenness.
Legree walked up and down the room, uneasily.
"I'll have this yer thing examined. I'll look into it, this very night. I'll take my pistols — "
"Do," said Cassy; "sleep in that room. I'd like to see you doing it. Fire your pistols, — do!"
Legree stamped his foot, and swore violently.
"Don't swear," said Cassy; "nobody knows who may be hearing you. Hark! What was that?"
"What?" said Legree, starting.
A heavy old Dutch clock, that stood in the corner of the room, began, and slowly struck twelve.
For some reason or other, Legree neither spoke nor moved; a vague horror fell on him; while Cassy, with a keen, sneering glitter in her eyes, stood looking at him, counting the strokes.
"Twelve o'clock; well now we'll see," said she, turning, and opening the door into the passage-way, and standing as if listening.
"Hark! What's that?" said she, raising her finger.
"It's only the wind," said Legree. "Don't you hear how cursedly it blows?"
"Simon, come here," said Cassy, in a whisper, laying her hand on his, and leading him to the foot of the stairs: "do you know what that is? Hark!"
A wild shriek came pealing down the stairway. It came from the garret. Legree's knees knocked together; his face grew white with fear.
"Hadn't you better get your pistols?" said Cassy, with a sneer that froze Legree's blood. "It's time this thing was looked into, you know. I'd like to have you go up now; they're at it."
"I won't go!" said Legree, with an oath.
"Why not? There an't any such thing as ghosts, you know! Come!" and Cassy flitted up the winding stairway, laughing, and looking back after him. "Come on."
"I believe you are the devil!" said Legree. "Come back you hag, — come back, Cass! You shan't go!"
But Cassy laughed wildly, and fled on. He heard her open the entry doors that led to the garret. A wild gust of wind swept down, extinguishing the candle he held in his hand, and with it the fearful, unearthly screams; they seemed to be shrieked in his very ear.
Legree fled frantically into the parlor, whither, in a few moments, he was followed by Cassy, pale, calm, cold as an avenging spirit, and with that same fearful light in her eye.
"I hope you are satisfied," said she.
"Blast you, Cass!" said Legree.
"What for?" said Cassy. "I only went up and shut the doors. What's the matter with that garret, Simon, do you suppose?" said she.
"None of your business!" said Legree.
"O, it an't? Well," said Cassy, "at any rate, I'm glad I don't sleep under it."
Anticipating the rising of the wind, that very evening, Cassy had been up and opened the garret window. Of course, the moment the doors were opened, the wind had drafted down, and extinguished the light.
This may serve as a specimen of the game that Cassy played with Legree, until he would sooner have put his head into a lion's mouth than to have explored that garret. Meanwhile, in the night, when everybody else was asleep, Cassy slowly and carefully accumulated there a stock of provisions sufficient to afford subsistence for some time; she transferred, article by article, a greater part of her own and Emmeline's wardrobe. All things being arranged, they only waited a fitting opportunity to put their plan in execution.
By cajoling Legree, and taking advantage of a good-natured interval, Cassy had got him to take her with him to the neighboring town, which was situated directly on the Red river. With a memory sharpened to almost preternatural clearness, she remarked every turn in the road, and formed a mental estimate of the time to be occupied in traversing it.
At the time when all was matured for action, our readers may, perhaps, like to look behind the scenes, and see the final coup d'etat.
It was now near evening, Legree had been absent, on a ride to a neighboring farm. For many days Cassy had been unusually gracious and accommodating in her humors; and Legree and she had been, apparently, on the best of terms. At present, we may behold her and Emmeline in the room of the latter, busy in sorting and arranging two small bundles.
"There, these will be large enough," said Cassy. "Now put on your bonnet, and let's start; it's just about the right time."
"Why, they can see us yet," said Emmeline.