That his actual and only dangerous enemy was Holton, he did not, for an instant, guess. He knew of not the slightest reason why this stranger should include him in the hatred he had sworn he felt for Layson—that hatred which, he had assured him, was as bitter as his own. He would have been as much astonished as dismayed had he known that Holton’s almost instant action, upon arriving at the county-seat, had been to make a visit to the local chief of the Revenue-Service—cautiously, at night, for to be known as an informer might have cost his life at other hands than Lorey’s, would have made the mountain for far miles blaze vividly with wrath against him.
So, defiant of the man he thought to be his foe, unconscious of the hatred of the man who really was, Lorey was working in his still when a small boy, sent up from a cabin far below, dashed, breathless, to him with the news that revenue-men were actually upon their way in his direction. He had scarcely time to put his fire out, hide the lighter portions of his apparatus and flee to a safe hiding-place, nearby, before, clambering with lithe skill and caution almost equal to his own along the rocky pathways of the mountain-side, armed like soldiers scouting in a hostile country, cool-eyed as Indians, hard-faced as executioners, they actually appeared.
For a time, as Lorey watched their progress from his covert, he held his rifle levelled, held his finger on its trigger, determined to kill them in their tracks; and it was no thrill of mercy for the men or fear of consequences to himself which saved their lives. It was rather that he did not wish further to risk his liberty until he had had opportunity to glance along the gleaming barrel of his rifle as it was pointed at Frank Layson’s heart.
After the men had gone he went back to his still to view the ruins they had left behind them. His wrath was terrible. Madge, who had, of course, learned what had happened almost instantly, for the still was scarcely out of hearing of her cabin, tried vainly to console, to calm him. He turned on her with a rage of which, in all her life among hot-tempered mountaineers, she had never seen the equal, and chokingly swore vengeance on the man who had given the information which had resulted in the raid.
“They come straight to th’ still,” he told her, “never falterin’, never wonderin’ if, maybe, they was on th’ right path. Ev’ry inch o’ th’ hull way had been mapped out for ’em, an’ they didn’t make a mis-step from th’ valley to th’ very entrance o’ th’ cave. I’ll git th’ chap that planned their course out for ’em thataway! I’ll git ’im, Madge! I’ll git ’im, sure!”
Her heart sank in her breast like lead. She knew perfectly whom Lorey meant. She knew as perfectly that Layson never had informed upon the moonshiner, but she also knew that Heaven itself could not, then, convince the man of that.
“Who do you mean you’ll git, Joe?” she faltered, hoping against hope that she was wrong in her suspicions.