For a moment, even now, she thrilled unpleasantly with a mean suspicion that he might be a “revenuer,” after all, and have done the good things he had done as a part of that infernal craft which revenuers sometimes showed when searching for the hidden stills where “moonshine” whisky is illegally produced among the mountains; but she put this thought out of her heart, indignantly, almost as quickly as it came to her. Instinctively she felt quite certain that duplicity did not form any portion of his nature. They had not been traitor’s arms which had so bravely (and so firmly) clasped her for the quick and risky dash across that terrifying belt of fire!
“No,” said she, determined to give him fullest measure of due credit, “I didn’t help you none. I didn’t help you none—an’ you did what I don’t believe any other man I ever knew could do. I’m—”
Again she paused, again at loss for words, again the quest failed wholly.
“I’m much obleeged,” said she.
Then, suddenly, the thought came to her of that other and less prepossessing “foreigner” whom, that day, she had seen there in her mountains. She described him carefully to Layson, and asked if he could guess who he had been and what his business could have been. Descriptions are a sorry basis for the recognition of a person thought to be far miles away, a person unassociated in one’s mind with the surroundings he has suddenly appeared in; and, therefore, Layson, who really knew the man and who, had he identified him with the unknown visitor, would have been surprised, intensely curious, and, possibly, suspicious, could offer her no clue to his identity.
That same “foreigner,” for a “foreigner,” was acting strangely. Surely he was dressed in a garb hitherto almost unknown in the rough mountains, certainly none of the mountaineers whom he had met (and he had met, with plain unwillingness, a few, as he had climbed up to the rocky clearing where his fire had blossomed so remarkably) had recognized him. But, despite all this, it was quite plain that he was traveling through a country of which he found many details familiar. Now and then a little vista caught his view and held him for long minutes while he seemed to be comparing its reality with pictures of it stored within his memory; again he paused when he discovered that some whim of tramping mountaineers or roaming cattle, some landslide born of winter frosts; some blockade of trees storm-felled, had changed the course of an old path. Always, in a case like this, he investigated carefully before he definitely started on the new one.