She was amazed, not in the least dismayed. Indeed the episode took from the moment some of its emotional strain. That he should try to do this utterly unwarrantable thing took a portion of the weight of guilty feeling from her heart. It had been pressing heavily there. “You shan’t!” she cried. “Careful, Joe Lorey!”
She eluded him with ease and ran across her little bridge. He paused, a second, in astonishment, and, as he paused, she grasped the rope and pulled the little draw up after her.
“Look out, Joe; it air a hundred feet, straight down!” she cried, as she saw that the baffled mountaineer was trembling on the chasm’s edge, as if preparing for a spring. “Good night, Joe. Take my advice—gin up th’ still, an’ all thought of makin’ a wife of a girl as ain’t willin’.”
Half laughing and half crying she ran up the path which wound about among the thickets on the rocky little island where her rough cabin stood, secure, secluded.
The mountaineer stood, baffled, on the brink of the ravine. Much loneliness among the mountains, where there was no voice but his own to listen to, had given him the habit of talking to himself in moments of excitement.
“Gone! Gone!” he said. “Gone laughin’ at me!” He clenched his fists. “And it is him as has come atween us!” He turned slowly from the place, picked up his rifle, slung the game-sack, saggin with the weight of the dynamite, across his shoulder by its strap, and started from the place.
He had gone but a short distance, though, before he stopped, considering. Murder was in Joe Lorey’s heart.
“She said he war comin’ back,” he sullenly reflected. “I’ll ... lay for him, right hyar.”
He looked cautiously about. His quick ear caught the sound of footsteps coming up the trail.
“Somebody’s stirrin’, now,” he said. “Oh, if it’s only him!”
He slipped behind a rock to wait in ambush.
But it was not his enemy who came, now, along the trail. Horace Holton, held to the mountains by his mysterious business, had left the others of the party to go home alone, as they had come, and returned to the neighborhood which housed the girl who owned the land he coveted.
Joe, suspicious of him, as the mountaineer who makes his living as a moonshiner, is, of course, of every stranger who appears within his mountains, stepped forward, suddenly, his rifle in his hand and ready to be used. He had no idea that the man had been a member of the party from the bluegrass.
“Halt, you!” he cried.