Dolly nodded to show that she understood, and Bessie moved silently away. But, as she turned down the trail that would take her back to the spot where she had left Lolla, she had a new cause for fright. She heard Lolla’s voice, raised loudly, arguing with a man who answered in low, guttural tones. What they were saying she could not distinguish, but somehow she understood that Peter had come even sooner than Lolla had feared, and the gypsy girl, at the risk of angering him, was trying to warn her, so that she might not descend the trail and so stumble right into his arms.
So, although the prospect frightened her, she turned and made her way swiftly up to the peak again, determined that if the man should go past the opening that led to the place where Dolly lay, she would risk the danger and the difficulty of the rocky descent from the peak itself.
As she hastened along silence fell behind her, and she knew that Peter must have started. He was whistling a queer gypsy tune and Bessie heard him pass the partly masked opening that she had herself found with so much difficulty.
After that she hesitated no longer, but rushed to the rocky top of the peak, and in a moment she was making her way down, with as much caution as possible, swinging from one ledge to the next, hanging on to a bush here, and a projecting piece of rock there.
Even an expert climber, equipped with rope and sharp pointed stick, would have found the descent difficult. And all that enabled Bessie to succeed was her knowledge that she must.
A TERRIBLE SURPRISE
Bessie, though she had to pause more than once in her wild descent of the rocks, dared not look back to see if the gypsy, Peter, was pursuing her, or even whether he was looking down after her. She had two reasons. For one thing, the task was difficult and terrifying enough as it was, and to know that there was danger from behind, as well as the peril involved in the descent itself, would, she feared, unnerve her.
And, moreover, even if Peter saw her, he might not, if she paid no attention to him, suspect that she had anything to do with Dolly, or that he and his companion had anything to dread from her. Bessie did not know whether he would recognize her as having been at the gypsy camp with Dolly, but she felt that it would be as well not to take the chance. Things were bad enough without running the risk of complicating them still further.
The descent was a long and hard one, but when she was about half way down to the comparatively level ground at the foot of the peak, all real danger of a crippling fall was over, since there a path began. Evidently some trampers who were fond of climbing had worn it through the rough surface to a point where a good view was to be had, and had stopped there, content with the distance they had gone, and not disposed to try the further ascent. And as soon as Bessie reached that point she was able to stop and get her breath.