“That’s right—we won’t argue the question,” Thornton retorted. “There’s nothing to argue. You know where I stand in the matter, little girl. That’s all there is to it, so far as we’re concerned. I’m going now. I think I’m ready for that, talk with my grandfather.”
He took leave of her with a frank handclasp. Kavanagh glowered, but did not comment.
When Harlan whirled his horse he saw the conflagration on the Jo Quacca hills.
He gasped something like an oath. “There goes the slash on our operation!” he said, aloud.
“Your grandfather must have got you into politics in good shape by this time,” observed Kavanagh, sarcastically. “At any rate, he seems to be celebrating with a good big bonfire.”
At that moment the three of them beheld the farm buildings burst into flame.
“Offering up sacrifices, too!” commented the satirist. “Seems to me, Thornton, you ought to be there. They’ll be calling for three cheers and a speech!”
In one heartsick moment Thornton realized that this raging fire had something to do with the political affairs of that day. He had seen “Whispering” Urban Cobb at “The Barracks” in the forenoon, and knew that he had led away a crowd of woodsmen for some purpose of his own. Just what a dangerous conflagration on the Jo Quacca hills could accomplish in relation to that caucus, Harlan did not stop to ponder. He could see that a fire was rioting over his lands, and destroying the property of others. His horse had already begun to leap for the highway, but the girl cried after him so beseechingly that he reined the animal back.
“Just one moment, Harlan! A little instant! I haven’t unsaddled Zero yet. Wait!” She whistled, and the horse came cantering. The hounds, seeing him, leaped and gave tongue understandingly. “I’m going with you,” she declared, swinging to her saddle.
Her father came down off the steps, running at her. “No, you’re not, you wild banshee. What did I just tell you?”
“You told me that children may ride cock-horse—and I’m not sixteen till to-morrow!” she cried, jumping her horse just as her father’s clutching fingers touched his bridle. She was out in the road before Harlan’s horse had picked up his heels. She swung her little whip above her head.
“Come on, Big Boy!” she urged at the top of her voice, crying above the clamor of the racing dogs. “We’re playfellows to-day, and I can’t fall in love till to-morrow!” The last words she lilted mockingly, flashing a look backward at Dennis Kavanagh.
The old man did not shift his attitude, fingers curved to clutch, arms extended, until he heard the tattoo of their horses’ hoofs on the long bridge.
“Maybe Brian Boru might have been proud of her for a daughter,” he muttered, as he trudged back up the steps, “but I’ll be dammed if I know whether I am or not!”