As they poled toward the bank the woman grasped the man by the arm, dragging him back among the trees. It was observed by all that she was greatly terrified. Moreover, she was exceedingly fair to look upon—young, beautiful, and a most incongruous companion for the bloody rascal who had her in his power. The raft bumped against the reedy bank, and Anderson Crow was the first man ashore.
“Come on, boys; follow me! See that your guns are all right! Straight up the hill now, an’ spread out a bit so’s we can surround him!” commanded he in a high treble.
“‘But supposin’ he surrounds us,” panted a cautious pursuer, half way up the hill.
“That’s what we’ve got to guard against,” retorted Anderson Crow. The posse bravely swept up to and across the greensward; but the fox was gone: There was no sight or sound of him to be had. It is but just to say that fatigue was responsible for the deep breath that came from each member of the pursuing party.
“Into the woods after him!” shouted Anderson Crow. “Hunt him down like a rat!”
In the meantime a coatless young man and a most enticing young woman were scampering off among the oaks and underbrush, consumed by excitement and no small degree of apprehension.
“They really seem to be in earnest about it, Jack,” urged the young woman insistently, to offset his somewhat sarcastic comments.
“How the dickens do you suppose they got onto me?” he groaned. “I thought the tracks were beautifully covered. No one suspected, I’m sure.”
“I told you, dear, how it would turn out,” she cried in a panic-stricken voice.
“Good heavens, Marjory, don’t turn against me! It all seemed so easy and so sure, dear. There wasn’t a breath of suspicion. What are we to do? I’ll stop and fight the whole bunch if you’ll just let go my arm.”
“No, you won’t, Jack Barnes!” she exclaimed resolutely, her pretty blue eyes wide with alarm. “Didn’t you hear them say they’d fill you full of lead? They had guns and everything. Oh, dear! oh, dear! isn’t it horrid?”
“The worst of it is they’ve cut us off from the river,” he said miserably. “If I could have reached the boat ahead of them they never could have caught us. I could distance that old raft in a mile.”
“I know you could, dear,” she cried, looking with frantic admiration upon his broad shoulders and brawny bare arms. “But it is out of the question now.”
“Never mind, sweetheart; don’t let it fuss you so. It will turn out all right, I know it will.”
“Oh, I can’t run any farther,” she gasped despairingly.
“Poor little chap! Let me carry you?”
“You big ninny!”
“We are at least three miles from your house, dear, and surrounded by deadly perils. Can you climb a tree?”
“I can—but I won’t!” she refused flatly, her cheeks very red.
“Then I fancy we’ll have to keep on in this manner. It’s a confounded shame—the whole business. Just as I thought everything was going so smoothly, too. It was all arranged to a queen’s taste—nothing was left undone. Bracken was to meet us at his uncle’s boathouse down there, and—good heavens, there was a shot!”