“Madge,” said he, approaching, “I wants a word with you,”
She did not wish to talk with him. Her mind was far too busy with its thoughts of Layson, its dismay at the prospect of his departure. “No time, Joe; it’s too late,” said she. She started to go by him toward her little bridge.
But he was not inclined to be put off. The mountaineer’s slow mind had been at work with his great problem and he had quite determined that he would take some action, definite and unmistakable, without delay. He had leaned his ever-present rifle up against a stump, had laid the old game-sack, still burdened with the stolen dynamite, upon the ground, close to it, and was prepared to talk the matter out, to one end or the other. He loved her with the fierce love of the primitive man; his rising wrath against the circumstances amidst which he seemed to be so powerless had made him sullen and suspicious; mountain life, continual defiance of the law, unceasing watchfulness for “revenuers,” does not teach a man to be smooth-mannered, half-way in his methods. He made a move as if to catch her arm; she darted by him, running straight toward the old game-sack.
That burden in the game-sack had been a constant horror to him ever since he had first stolen it down at the railroad workings. The mighty evidence of the power of the explosive which had been shown to him when it had torn and mangled its poor victim there, had filled him with a terror of it, although it had also filled him with determination to make use of that great power if necessary. But now, as he saw her running, light-footed, lovely, toward the bag which held it, running in exactly the right way to stumble on it if a mis-step chanced, his heart sprang to his throat. What if the dire explosive he had planned to use upon his enemies should prove to be the death of the one being whom he loved? He sprang toward her with the mighty impulse of desperate muscles spurred by a panic-stricken mind and caught her, roughly, just before her foot would have touched and spurned the game-sack.
“Stop!” he cried, in desperation.
She was amazed that he should take so great a liberty. She stopped, perforce, but, after she had stopped, she stood there trembling with hot anger. “Joe Lorey,” she exclaimed, “you dare!”
Now he was all humility as he let his hand fall from her arm. “It was for your sake, Madge,” said he. “A stumble on that sack—it mout have sent us both to Kingdom Come!”
She looked at him incredulously, then down at the sack. “That old game-sack? Why, Joe, you’re plumb distracted!”
“I’m in my senses, yet, I tell you,” he persisted. “T’other day I went down where they’re blastin’ for th’ railroad. I see ’em usin’ dynamighty, down thar, an’ I watched my chance an’, when it come, I slipped one o’ th’ bombs into that game-sack. Ef you’d chanced to kick it—”
She was impressed. “Dynamighty bombs? Dellaw! What’s dynamighty bombs?”