She rose, and in a moment their fears were confirmed. John, his eyes triumphant, stepped out, abandoning the concealment of the hushes.
“Where is the other?” he said. “The one called Bessie—Bessie King? It’s not you I want—”
“Hands up!” cried the voice of Andrew, the chief guide.
And the gypsy, wheeling with a savage cry, faced a half circle of grinning faces. He made one wild dash to escape, but it was useless, and in a moment he was on the ground, and his hands were tied. In the struggle a letter fell from his pocket, and Bessie picked it up. Suddenly, as she was looking at it idly, she saw something that made her cry out in surprise, and the next moment she and Miss Mercer were reading it together.
“Get this girl, Bessie King, and I will pay you a thousand dollars,” it read. “She is dark, and goes around with a fair girl called Dolly. It will be easy, and if you once get them to me and out of the woods, I will pay you the money, and see that you are not in danger of being arrested. I will back you up.”
“Who wrote that letter? Turn over, quickly!” cried Eleanor.
“I know without looking,” said Bessie. “Now we can guess why he was so reckless; why he took such chances! He thought I was Dolly, because of that mistake about our hair! Yes, see; it is Mr. Holmes who sent him this letter!”
THE GYPSY’S MOTIVE
But, despite the revelation of that letter, the gypsy himself maintained a sullen silence when efforts were made to make him tell all he knew and the reason for his determined effort to kidnap Dolly. He snarled at his captors when they, asked him questions, and so enraged Andrew and the other guides by his refusal to answer that only Eleanor’s intervention saved him from rough handling.
“No I won’t let you use violence, Andrew,” said Eleanor, firmly. “It would do no good. He won’t talk; that is his nature. You have him now, and the law will take him from you. There isn’t any question of his guilt; there will be evidence enough to convict him anywhere, and he will go to prison, as he deserves to do. All I hope is that he won’t be the only one, that we can get the man who bribed him to do this, and see that he gets punished properly, too.”
“I’m sure with you there, ma’am,” said old Andrew. “He’s a worthless critter enough, I know, but he ain’t as bad as the man that set him on. If the law lets that other snake go, ma’am, jest you get him to come up here for a little hunting, and we’ll make him sorry he ever went into such business, I’d like to get my hands on him. I’m an old man, but I reckon I’m strong enough to thrash any imitation of a man what would play such a cowardly trick as that. Afraid to do his own dirty work, is he? So he hires it done. Well, much good it’s done him this time.”
“I’ll keep this letter,” said Eleanor. “I think it was mighty foolish of him to sign his name to it. It’s a pretty good piece of evidence against the man, if he is rich and powerful. If there’s any justice to be had, I think he’ll suffer this time.”