Hours after the light-footed girl, spurred by her fear for one whom she but dimly guessed that she had learned to love, had arrived at the bluegrass mansion and been welcomed by the owner of Queen Bess, the mountaineer reached the confines of the splendid farm, and lurked there, waiting for night-fall to make his entrance into the house grounds safe.
The rough youth’s mental state was pitiable. Tragedy had pursued him, almost from his life’s beginning, he reflected, as he furtively awaited opportunity for the revenge which he had planned. The fierce feud of the mountains had robbed him of his parents, and, with them, of the best years of his youth; the rough life of the mountains had robbed his strong young manhood of those opportunities which, he dimly realized, might have made him different and better; when love for sweet Madge Brierly had come to him, Fate had brought up from the bluegrass the young stranger, who, with his superior learning, polished manner and smooth speech, had found the conquest of the girl (Joe bitterly reflected) all too easy; and finally had come the crowning, black disaster—the betrayal of his still to the agents of the government, its destruction and his transformation from a free man of the mountains into a furtive outlaw.
He could not see that life held anything but gloom for him—black, impenetrable, ever thickening. He had but one thing left to live for—a revenge as dark as were the wrongs which he had suffered.
He knew that government agents have shrewd wits, keen eyes, strong arms, and never let a moonshiner escape if, through any strategy, they may bring about his capture; he knew that since the discovery and destruction of his still he was a marked man; so it was nearing dusk when, after intensely cautious and immensely skilful manoeuvering against discovery, he actually entered the Layson grounds.
The long, exciting afternoon, full of Queen Bess, a certain sense of triumph over Barbara Holton, the extent of which she could not guess, countless thrills of gratitude and exultation born of the kindness and consideration shown her by Miss Alathea and the Colonel, had sped away before Madge realized that it had been half-spent. Now, though, the deepening twilight warned her of the flight of time and told her that she must, perforce, perform the task for which she had descended from the mountains.