“Not wanted in this country?” she cried blankly. “I don’t stand in any one’s way. My life and my love are for the peaceful home that you have taken me from. I don’t ask for anything else. Won’t you tell your employer as much for me? If I am released, I shall never interfere with the plans of—”
“’Tain’t that, I reckon. You must be mighty important to somebody, or all this trouble wouldn’t be gone through with. The funny part of it is that we ain’t to hurt you. You ain’t to be killed, you know. That’s the queer part of it, ain’t it?”
“I’ll admit it has an agreeable sound to me,” said Rosalie, with a shadow of a smile on her trembling lips. “It seems ghastly, though.”
“Well, anyhow, it’s part of somebody’s scheme to get you out of this country altogether. You are to be taken away on a ship, across the ocean, I think. Paris or London, mebby, and you are never to come back to the United States. Never, that’s what I’m told.”
[Illustration: “She shrank back from another blow which seemed impending”]
Rosalie was speechless, stunned. Her eyes grew wide with the misery of doubt and horror, her lips moved as if forming the words which would not come. Before she could bring a sound from the contracted throat the raucous voice of old Maude broke in:
“What are you tellin’ her, Sam Welch? Can’t you keep your face closed?” she called, advancing upon him with a menacing look.
“Aw, it’s nothin’ to you,” he retorted, but an uncomfortable expression suddenly crept into his face. A loud, angry discussion ensued, the whole gang engaging. Three to one was the way it stood against the leader, who was forced to admit, secretly if not publicly, that he had no right to talk freely of the matter to the girl. In vain she pleaded and promised. Her tears were of no avail, once Sam had concluded to hold his tongue. Angry with himself for having to submit to the demands of the others, furious because she saw his surrender, Sam, without a word of warning, suddenly struck her on the side of the head with the flat of his broad hand, sending her reeling into the corner. Dazed, hurt and half stunned, she dropped to her knees, unable to stand. With a piteous look in her eyes she shrank back from another blow which seemed impending. Bill Briggs grasped his leader’s arm and drew him away, cursing and snarling.
Late in the afternoon, Bill was permitted to conduct her into the cabin above, for a few minutes in the air, and for a glimpse of the failing sunlight. She had scarcely taken her stand before the little window when she was hastily jerked away, but not before she thought she had perceived a crowd of men, huddling among the trees not far away. A scream for help started to her lips; but Bill’s heavy hand checked it effectually. His burly arm sent her scuttling toward the trap-door; and a second later she was below, bruised from the fall and half fainting with disappointment and despair.