As he stood there uncertain what to do, the creeping figure among the bushes suddenly stumbled, and with a wild cry of despair fell headlong upon the ground. No longer did John hesitate. He sprang forward, plunged through the bushes, leaped over jagged rocks, and in a few minutes was by the side of the prostrate man.
“Hello! What’s wrong?” he asked. “Can I do anything for you?”
Hearing the sound of a human voice, the fallen man moved, lifted his head, and looked around. As be did so, John gave a great start and uttered an exclamation of astonishment. It was Henry Randall!
IN THE RING OF DEATH
At first Randall did not recognise the young man who had so suddenly appeared before him. He stared as if he beheld a vision, and his lips moved, although he uttered no sound. His face was drawn and haggard, his eyes wild and blood-shot. He was a far different man from the bustling and imperious lumber merchant of the morning.
“What’s wrong?” John asked. “Can I help you?”
“What’s wrong?” the man repeated. “Everything’s wrong. My daughter’s gone to the devil, my foot’s sprained, and the fire is almost upon me.”
“Well, let me help you, then,” John replied. “Come, get up, and lean on me. We must get to the lake at once.”
Randall made a feeble effort to obey, but sank back upon the ground with a cry.
“I can’t walk a step,” he groaned. “Leave me here and save yourself. There’s no time to lose. O Lord, this is awful!”
“No, I won’t leave you here,” John declared. “Try to bear the pain for a while. It will be better than to be burned alive. Hurry up. We must get to the lake to save your daughter. She’s on the island, and the fire will be there in a short time.”
“How do you know my daughter’s on the island?” Randall asked. Then the expression upon his face suddenly changed, and a new energy possessed him. He struggled to his knees and faced the young man. “Are you John Hampton?” he demanded. “Are you the man who lured my daughter away from home?”
“I am John Hampton,” was the quiet reply. “But I didn’t lure your daughter away from home. She left of her own free will.”
“You lie,” Randall shouted. “You cursed villain, I’ll make you pay for your deviltry. You brought all this trouble upon me, and I’ll, I’ll——”
“There, now, don’t get so excited, sir,” John warned. “You need all your strength, so if you don’t make an effort to save yourself, you won’t have a chance to do anything to me.”
“Get out of my sight,” Randall shouted. “I won’t be saved by a thing like you. I’d rather die first.”
To try to reason with this angry and half distracted man John realised would be useless. And besides, there was not time. The roar of the fire was becoming louder, and the flames were about to burst through the forest.