Soon afterward Lorey turned away. The day was getting on toward noon. The long tramp back to his lonely cabin in the mountains would consume some hours. The sight of all these strangers, all this work on the new railroad worried him, made him unhappy, added to and multiplied the apprehension which for weeks had filled his heart about Madge Brierly and young Layson. He battled with a mixture of emotions. There was no ounce of cowardice, in Joe. Never had he met a situation in his life before which he had feared or which had proved too strong for him. All his battles, so far, and they had been many and been various, as was inevitable from the nature of his secret calling, had resulted in full victories for his mighty strength of body or his quick foot, certain hand, keen knowledge of the mountains and the woods resource and wit that went with these; but now things seemed to baffle him. His soul was struggling against acknowledgment of it, while his mind continually told him it was true. Everything seemed, now, to be against him.
He knew, but would not admit, even to himself, that the march of progress must inevitably drive out of existence the still hidden in his cave and make the marketing of its illicit product doubly hazardous, nay, quite impossible. He knew that he must give it up; he realized that real good sense would send him home, that day, to bury the last trace of it in some spot where it never could be found again. But his stubborn soul revolted at the thought of being beaten, finally, by this civilization which he hated; he would not admit, even in his mind, that it had bested him, or could ever best him. He ground his teeth and pressed his elbow down against the stock of his long rifle with a force which ground the gun into his side until it hurt him. He would never give up, never! Let them try to get him if they could, these lowlanders! He would not be afraid of them. His father had not been—and he would never be.
And there was a voice within him which kept whispering as did the one which counselled the abandonment of his illegal calling, the abandonment of that other effort, infinitely dearer to him, to win Madge Brierly’s love and hand in marriage. His common-sense assured him that she was not made for such as he, that, while she had been born there in the mountains there were delicacies, refinements in her which would make her mating with his rude and uncouth strength impossible, would make it cruelly unhappy for her, even should it come about. But this voice he steadfastly declined to listen to, even more emphatically than he did to that which counselled caution in his calling. Again he ground his teeth. His heels, when they came down upon the rocky mountain trails up which he soon was climbing, fell on the slopes so heavily that, constantly, his progress was followed by the rattle of small stones down the inclined path behind him, constant little landslides. And, at ordinary times, Joe Lorey, awkward as he looked to be, could scale a sloping sand-bank without sending down a sliding spoonful to betray the fact that he was moving on it to the wild things it might startle.