With such ideas Madge had been, to some extent, imbued. With feud feeling she was quite in sympathy—had not she lost her loved ones through its awful work? Could she ever have revenge on those who had thus bereaved her through any means save similar assassination?
And certainly the revenuers were her enemies, for they were the foemen of her friends. If this young man should be a revenuer she might have done a harm incalculable by guiding him along the secret mountain byways which they had been travelling.
Her heart was in her throat from worry, for an instant. Had she, whose very soul was fiercely loyal to the mountains and their people, been the one to show an enemy the way into their citadel? Had she, bound especially to Joe Lorey, not only by the ties of lifelong friendship but by that other comradeship which had grown out of mutual wrongs and mutual hatred of Ben Lindsay (not dimmed, a whit, by the mere fact that, terrified, he had, years ago fled from the mountains), done Joe the greatest wrong of all by leading this fine stranger to the very entrance of his hidden still? Was he a revenuer in disguise?
The magnitude of her possible indiscretion filled her with alarm. That crashing in the bushes back of them might have been made by some associate of his, who had trailed them at a distance, ready to give assistance, if needs be, or, in case all things went right and the bolder man who had gone first and fallen into the great luck of an acquaintance with her had no need of help, to corroborate his observations, help him to scheme the way by which to make attack upon the still when the time for it should come.
As she considered all these possibilities, quite reasonable to her suspicious mind, she shuddered.
But then, as she went slowly down the mountain path beside the stranger she looked up and caught the frank calm glances of his eyes.
Surely there was nothing of cowardice such as would fool a trusting girl into betrayal of her friends, in them; surely there was not the low craft of a spy in them; surely their clear and unexcited gaze was not that of a keen hunter, unscrupulously on the trail of human game, who has just learned through the innocent indiscretion of a girl who trusted him, the secret of its covert.
As she looked at him she was convinced of two things, vastly comforting. One was that Layson had no knowledge of the still; that, untrained to mountain ways and unsuspicious, he had not even guessed at the secret of the little hidden place among the mountains. Another was—and this gave her, although she could have scarcely explained why, a greater comfort than the first had—that had he had that knowledge he would not have used it meanly.
She thrilled pleasantly with the complete conviction that the man whom she had liked so much at first sight, the man who had shown such pluck in saving her from fire, the man who had exhibited such thoughtfulness and helpfulness in starting her upon the rocky path toward education, was true and fair and fine—was, in the curt language of the mountains, “decent.”