Bessie and Dolly needed no second invitation. Amazing as was this latest intervention in favor, they were too happy to stop to question it. It was their chance to escape, and five minutes later they were out of sight, and making their way, as fast as their tired bodies would allow them to do, toward Long Lake and safety.
SAFE AT LAST
Indeed, any lingering fear Bessie and Dolly might have had that John had succeeded in escaping from his two anxious friends who were so determined to protect him against his own recklessness, was dissipated before they came in sight of the lake, when, at a crossing of the trail, a glad cry hailed them and a sturdy guide stepped across their path.
“Well, I’ll be hornswoggled!” he exclaimed. “Ain’t you the two that was lost, or stolen by that gypsy critter?”
“We certainly are,” said Dolly and Bessie, in one breath. “Were you looking for us?”
“Lookin’ fer you!” he exclaimed. “Every one in these here woods has been a-lookin’ fer you two since sun-up, I guess. Godfrey, but we was scared! Didn’t know but that there gypsy might have sneaked you clean out of the woods! How did you all ever come to get loose? Or was you just plain lost?”
“No, we weren’t lost,” said Bessie. “He carried Dolly off all right; this is Dolly Ransom, you know. But he didn’t catch me.”
“Then how in tarnation did you come to be lost, too? You was, wasn’t you? They told us two girls was missin’.”
“Well, we were asleep in the open air, outside the tent, and I woke up just as he was carrying Dolly off. I didn’t wake up until he’d got out of the firelight, and there wasn’t any use calling anyone else. So I just followed myself.”
“She says anyone would have done it,” Dolly broke in, her eyes shining. “But I don’t believe it, do you?”
“No, by Godfrey!” he said, emphatically. “A greenhorn, goin’ out in them woods at night, in the dark, and a girl, at that? I guess not!”
He looked at Bessie, as if puzzled to learn that she had actually done such a thing.
“Well, you’re all right now,” he said. “Here, I’ll just give the signal we fixed up. Listen, now!”
He raised his rifle, and, pointing it straight in the air, fired two shots, and then, after a brief interval, two more.
“The sound of that’ll carry a long way,” he explained, “and that means that you’re both found. The other fellows who are searchin’ for you will quit lookin’, now, and come into Long Lake. If I’d fired just two shots, and hadn’t fired the second two, that would have meant that one of you was found, and they’d have kept right on a-lookin’ fer the other. I’ll walk along with you now, an’ I guess that varmint won’t bother you no more. If he does—”
He patted his rifle with a gesture that spoke more plainly than words could have done.