Like a flash the maddened youth stooped, seized a stick lying near, and hurled a savage blow at John’s head. Quick as lightning the latter dodged, and although he managed to escape the full force of the blow, one end of the stick grazed his forehead, inflicting a long gash. It staggered him for an instant, but recovering, he leaped toward his assailant. With a gurgling cry of baffled defeat, Eben turned and fled down the path, along the shore, and disappeared amid the trees.
Blood was now flowing from the wound in John’s forehead as he stood and stared in the direction Eben had gone. Then he turned to his companion.
“This explains something which has been puzzling me,” he began. “I know now who threw the stone which hit you on the head. It was intended for me, but it struck you instead.”
“Oh, do you think so?” the girl asked. “I am greatly surprised at Eben. I had no idea he would do such a thing.”
“H’m, one need never be surprised at anything he does. He’s always been a mystery to me, and to everybody else, I guess.”
Drawing forth his handkerchief, he wiped the blood from his forehead. This action aroused Jess.
“Forgive me,” she pleaded, “I should have been caring for you instead of standing here doing nothing. Come down to the river, and let me bathe your wound. Does it pain you much?”
“Just a scratch,” John replied, as he walked along by her side. “It might have finished me, though. It was meant for a knock-out blow. I shall have to settle with that young fool. He must be taught a lesson.”
“Oh, don’t do anything to him,” Jess begged. “He will get over his anger in time. Isn’t it strange that he should be so jealous?”
“I don’t blame him. If I were in his place I would feel just the same.”
The girl understood his meaning, and for an instant a smile dispelled the serious expression upon her face.
“But you wouldn’t try to kill a man, would you?” she asked. “You have more sense.”
“It is hard to tell what I might do if anyone tried to take you from me.”
John was kneeling close to the water now, and the girl was bathing his wound. How delightful it was to feel her gentle touch, and to know that she was so near! It was worth while being injured to have such attention from the one he loved.
For a few minutes Jess held the handkerchief to his forehead. But the blood still flowed, so they decided to go back to the house as quickly as possible, and, have it properly dressed.
“Mother is a fine hand at doing up wounds,” John explained. “She is as good as any doctor or nurse.”
They walked as fast as possible up the path, and when they at length left this to cross the field, Mrs. Tobin suddenly appeared at the front door of her house.
“Have you seen Eben?” she called.
John stopped short in his tracks, and for an instant he was tempted to tell this woman about her son’s cowardly attack. He resisted the longing, however, and merely informed her that Eben was down on the shore, and no doubt would be home shortly.