The Captain had to think fast — if Catharine discovered what he had done, they would both be ruined.

“Why, what on earth has happened to Stratton!  He looks the worse for wear.  By his writhing and thrashing, I’ll wager twenty pounds he’s been nipped by an adder!”  He glanced at Catharine to make sure this ruse was having the desired effect.  “I told him not to go hunting near Adam’s Bog.  That place is rife with all manner of wretched creatures.  I’ll tend to him at once — Catharine, my dear, please do have Mary fetch the county doctor.”

As Catherine let out a plaintive “oh, my!” and ran to the rear of the house, the Captain knew this was his only chance to save her.  He hurried down the stairs and out toward the front gate where Stratton was doing his best to look pitiful.  Sidewinder had no idea what he was about to say.  He only knew that it must be something that would put the fear of God into Stratton and send him packing once and for all.  It was the only way to save Catharine’s name.