“Why, Lolla, you look pleased!” said Bessie. “As if you were glad it had happened. How can that be; how can you seem as if you were happy about it?”
Lolla blushed slightly.
“He is my man,” she said, simply. “He is strong and brave, do you not see? If he were not brave he would not dare to act so. He is a fine man. If I were bad, he would beat me. And he will beat anyone who is not good to me. Of course, I am glad that he was brave enough to act so, though I did not want him to do it.”
Bessie laughed. The primitive, elemental idea that was expressed in Lolla’s words was beyond her comprehension, and, in fact, a good many people older and wiser than Bessie do not understand it.
But Lolla did not mind the laugh. She did not understand what was in Bessie’s mind; what she had said seemed so simple to her that it required no explanation. And now her mind was bent entirely upon the problem of getting Dolly back to her friends, in order that John might turn back to her and forget the American girl whose appeal to him had lain chiefly in the fact that she was so different from the women of his own race.
“He will not take her back to camp,” said Lolla, thoughtfully. “He knows they would look there first.”
“But will the others—your people—help him?”
“He may tell them that he has stolen her to get a ransom; to keep her until her friends pay well for her to be returned. Our old men do not like that, they say it is too dangerous. But if he were to say that he had done so, they might help him, because our people stand and fall together. But,” and her eyes shone, “I will tell my brothers the truth. They will believe me, and—Quick! Hide in those bushes; someone is coming!”
Bessie obeyed instantly. But, once she had hidden herself, she heard nothing. It was not for a minute or more after she had slipped into the bushes that she heard the sound that had disturbed Lolla. But then, looking out, she saw John coming down one of the paths, peering about him cautiously.
AN UNEXPECTED ALLY
Bessie’s heart leaped at the sight of the man who had given her her wild tramp through the night, and it was all she could do to resist her impulse to rush out, accuse him of the crime she knew he had committed, and demand that he give Dolly up to her at once. It was hard to believe that he was really dangerous.
Here, in the early morning light, his clothes soaked by the wet woods, as were Bessie’s for that matter, he looked very cheap and tawdry, and not at all like a man to be feared. But a moment’s reflection convinced Bessie that, for the time at least, it would be far wiser to leave matters in the hands of Lolla, the gypsy girl, who understood this man, and, if she feared him, and with cause, did so from reasons very different from Bessie’s.