Bonner crouched among the bushes as if paralysed. He began to comprehend the situation. In a vague sort of way he remembered hearing of Tinkletown’s sensation over at his uncle’s house, where he was living with a couple of servants for a month’s shooting. The atmosphere had been full of the sensational abduction story for several days—the abduction of a beautiful young woman and the helpless attitude of the relatives and friends. Like a whirlwind the whole situation spread itself before him; it left him weak. He had come upon the gang and their victim in this out-of-the-way corner of the world, far from the city toward which they were supposed to have fled. He had the solution in his hands and he was filled with the fire of the ancients.
A light appeared in the low doorway and the squat figure of a man held a lantern on high. An instant later, another man dragged the helpless girl across the threshold and into the house. Even as Bonner squared himself to rush down upon them the light disappeared and darkness fell over the cabin. There was a sound of footsteps on the floor, a creaking of hinges and the stealthy closing of a door. Then there was absolute quiet.
Bonner was wise as well as brave. He saw that to rush down upon the house now might prove his own as well as her undoing. In the darkness, the bandits would have every advantage. For a moment he glared at the black shadow ahead, his brain working like lightning.
“That poor girl!” he muttered vaguely. “Damn beasts! But I’ll fix ’em, by heaven! It won’t be long, my boys.”
His pondering brought quick results. Crawling to Bud’s cot, he aroused him from a deep sleep. Inside of two minutes the lad was streaking off through the woods toward town, with instructions to bring Anderson Crow and a large force of men to the spot as quickly as possible.
“I’ll stand guard,” said Wicker Bonner.
As the minutes went by Bonner’s thoughts dwelt more and more intently upon the poor, imprisoned girl in the cabin. His blood charged his reason and he could scarce control the impulse to dash in upon the wretches. Then he brought himself up with a jerk. Where was he to find them? Had he not searched the house that morning and was there a sign of life to be found? He was stunned by this memory. For many minutes he stood with his perplexed eyes upon the house before a solution came to him.
He now knew that there was a secret apartment in the old house and a secret means of entrance and exit. With this explanation firmly impressed upon his mind, Wicker Bonner decided to begin his own campaign for the liberation of Rosalie Gray. It would be hours before the sluggish Anderson Crow appeared; and Bonner was not the sort to leave a woman in jeopardy if it was in his power to help her. Besides, the country people had filled him with stories of Miss Gray’s beauty, and they found him at an impressionable and heart-free age. The thrill of romance seized him and he was ready to dare.