“‘I hear you men are looking for me,’ I said. ‘What can I do for you?’ They all stood around, their eyes on Le Boeuf, as if they wanted him to speak. A more surprised and frightened lot of men I never saw.
“‘Well, we didn’t burn de house,’ Le Boeuf began. ’We ’fraid you come and ’rest us. We haf no money to fight reech man like you—we want work for you again. We know who burn de house—it not us.’
“‘That’s all right, Le Boeuf,’ I said. ’I know you didn’t have anything to do with the fire or you wouldn’t be here. Now go back home all of you, and if I rebuild Big Shanty I’ll send for you to help. Good-bye!’ and I turned on my tracks, picked up Mr. Dinsmore where he had hidden himself and started back. We really have been running away from our shadows—” and Thayor laughed one of his hearty laughs that showed how greatly his mind was relieved.
“And what kep’ ye so long?” broke in the trapper.
“The fear of running across some of them who would know your son. You see we had to go around the lake, and we didn’t know which side of it they would take. The rain, too, made the night settle the earlier. We were almost within sight of the camp here when we saw the torches. Holcomb and Margaret reached us first. I guess you carried her over the rough places—didn’t you, Billy? Well, I don’t blame you, my boy.” There was a twinkle in his eye when he spoke. He was very happy to-night! “And so you see we have had our scare for nothing.”
“And now one thing more before I turn in,” he added in his quick, business-like way. “This has been on my mind all day, and as we have no secrets now that we can’t share with each other, I want you all to hear what I am going to say. Will you come closer, Mr. Dinsmore”—it was marvellous how he never omitted the prefix; “would you mind moving up so that you can listen the better? I am going to do what I can to end your sufferings.” The hide-out shambled up and sat in a crouching position, the blanket about his shoulders, his hollow eyes fixed on Thayor.
“What I want to say to you all is this: I have had several conferences with this poor fellow and he has my deepest sympathy. I believe every word he has told me. What I intend to do now is to find a place for him among the lumber gangs in the great Northwest. There he will be safe; there, too, he can earn his living for he knows the woods thoroughly, but he must get to Canada without a day’s delay. I can handle the matter better there than here. I have some friends in Montreal who can help, and some others farther north—correspondents of mine.”
The head of the hide-out dropped to his breast; then he muttered, half to himself:
“I dassent—ain’t nobody to look arter her but me; ’taint much, but it’s all she’s got.”
Thayor turned quickly. “You mean your little girl? I’ve thought of that; she shall join you whenever you’re safe.” Then he added in a lower tone—so low that only Dinsmore heard: “Your wife was in Montreal, remember, when you last heard from her, and now that Bergstein’s dead she may get free.”