“What the h—— are you skeering her fer like that, ma,” growled Davy. “Don’t look at her like that, or—”
“See here, my boy, don’t talk like that to me if you don’t want me to kick your head off right where you stand. I’m your mother, Davy, an’—”
“That’ll do. This ain’t no time to chew the rag,” muttered Sam. “We’re done fer. Get us something to eat an’ something to drink, old woman; give the girl a nifter, too. She’s fainted, I reckon. Hurry up; I want to turn in.”
“Better untie her hands—see if she’s froze,” added Bill savagely.
Roughly the old woman slashed the bonds from the girl’s hands and feet and then looked askance at Sam, who stood warming his hands over a kerosene stove not far away. He nodded his head, and she instantly untied the cloth that covered Rosalie’s mouth.
“It won’t do no good to scream, girl. Nobody’ll hear ye but us—and we’re your friends,” snarled the old woman.
“Let her yell if she wants to, Maude. It may relieve her a bit,” said Sam, meaning to be kind. Instinctively Rosalie looked about for the person addressed as Maude. There was but one woman in the gang. Maude! That was the creature’s name. Instead of crying or shrieking, Rosalie laughed outright.
At the sound of the laugh the woman drew back hastily.
“By gor!” she gasped; “the—she’s gone daffy!”
The men turned toward them with wonder in their faces. Bill was the first to comprehend. He saw the girl’s face grow sober with an effort, and realised that she was checking her amusement because it was sure to offend.
“Aw,” he grinned, “I don’t blame her fer laughin’! Say what ye will, Maude, your name don’t fit you.”
“It’s as good as any name—” began the old hag, glaring at him; but Sam interposed with a command to her to get them some hot coffee while he had a talk with the girl. “Set up!” he said roughly, addressing Rosalie. “We ain’t goin’ to hurt you.”
Rosalie struggled to a sitting posture, her limbs and back stiff from the cold and inaction. “Don’t ask questions, because they won’t be answered. I jest want to give you some advice as to how you must act while you are our guest. You must be like one of the family. Maybe we’ll be here a day, maybe a week, but it won’t be any longer than that.”
“Would you mind telling me where I am and what this all means? Why have you committed this outrage? What have I done—” she found voice to say. He held up his hand.
“You forget what I said about askin’ questions. There ain’t nothin’ to tell you, that’s all. You’re here and that’s enough.”
“Well, who is it that has the power to answer questions, sir? I have some right to ask them. You have—”