She stopped, paralyzed. Another “crack!” followed, that echoed over to the far corral. She recalled herself instantly and dashed off wildly to the woods again.
As she ran she thought of one thing only. He had been “dogged” by one of his old pursuers and attacked. But there were two shots, and he was unarmed. Suddenly she remembered that she had left her father’s gun standing against the tree where they were talking. Thank God! she may again have saved him. She ran to the tree; the gun was gone. She ran hither and thither, dreading at every step to fall upon his lifeless body. A new thought struck her; she ran to the corral. The horse was not there! He must have been able to regain it, and escaped, after the shots had been fired. She drew a long breath of relief, but it was caught up in an apprehension of alarm. Her father, awakened from his sleep by the shots, was hurriedly approaching her.
“What’s up now, Salomy Jane?” he demanded excitedly.
“Nothin’,” said the girl with an effort. “Nothin’, at least, that I can find.” She was usually truthful because fearless, and a lie stuck in her throat; but she was no longer fearless, thinking of him. “I wasn’t abed; so I ran out as soon as I heard the shots fired,” she answered in return to his curious gaze.
“And you’ve hid my gun somewhere where it can’t be found,” he said reproachfully. “Ef it was that sneak Larrabee, and he fired them shots to lure me out, he might have potted me, without a show, a dozen times in the last five minutes.”
She had not thought since of her father’s enemy! It might indeed have been he who had attacked Jack. But she made a quick point of the suggestion. “Run in, dad, run in and find the gun; you’ve got no show out here without it.” She seized him by the shoulders from behind, shielding him from the woods, and hurried him, half expostulating, half struggling, to the house.
But there no gun was to be found. It was strange; it must have been mislaid in some corner! Was he sure he had not left it in the barn? But no matter now. The danger was over; the Larrabee trick had failed; he must go to bed now, and in the morning they would make a search together. At the same time she had inwardly resolved to rise before him and make another search of the wood, and perhaps—fearful joy as she recalled her promise!—find Jack alive and well, awaiting her!