“Wouldn’t ye, Mr. Thayor?”
Thayor turned his head and faced the hide-out.
“Yes,” he said slowly, between his clenched teeth; “I would have killed him too, Mr. Dinsmore.”
“And yet they say I ain’t fit to live ’mong men,” murmured the thin voice, grown fainter from speaking. “God knows they’ve made me suffer for what I done.”
“Where is she?” asked Thayor, a certain tenderness creeping into his voice.
There was no reply.
“Have you no news of your wife?”
“I dunno; I ain’t never laid eyes on her since,” he answered wearily. “I can’t even ask no one; father said he heard she was in Montreal, where Bergstein had some hold on her. I’d have took her back if I’d been free. ’T won’t never be no use now—I won’t never be free, Mr. Thayor.”
Again silence fell upon the group; each one was occupied with his own thoughts. The old man had slouched closer and had settled himself beside his son, his hand on the outcast’s knee. Thayor’s voice broke the silence.
“Where are these men you ran across, Dinsmore?” he asked abruptly, a ring of determination in his voice.
“’Bout eight mile from here, I figger it—in a holler southeast of Alder Swamp,” answered the hide-out, returning to a sense of his surroundings.
“And you say they were camped?”
“Yes, I see them cut some timber for a lean-to. Like as not they cal’lated to make it a kind of headquarters for a day or so, strikin’ off by twos to find ye. That’s what I come to tell ye; I didn’t want ye to be took. I knowed I’d find ye if I kep’ on—I’m more used than most of ’em to travellin’ in the dark.”
“Could you find them again, Dinsmore?”
“Yes, but I’d hev to be twice as keerful. It’d be all up with me if they was to see me.”
“I will take care of that,” replied Thayor briskly.
“What do ye mean?” stammered Dinsmore.
“I mean that you shall take me to them to-morrow.”
“But I ain’t goin’ to let ye risk yer life if I—”
“I mean what I say, Dinsmore. I start at daylight.”
Before sunrise the next morning two men were seen by a circling hawk moving steadily southeast. The man leading stopped now and then to glance carefully about him; in these pauses he studied the ground—often a weed trodden down in dew turned their course abruptly. After six miles of this careful back-tracing Dinsmore halted—this time to listen. Both could now faintly distinguish voices ahead.
“Keep straight on over that thar hemlock ridge,” whispered the hide-out; “they’re in the holler on t’other side.” He held out his hand to Thayor, pointed again in the direction he had indicated, and disappeared as easily as a partridge.
Sam Thayor went on alone.
* * * * *