“There is a strong bolt on the door of your room,” Norman explained. “It might be well to keep it fastened when the men are here, for one can never tell what might happen.”
“You think there will be danger, then?” Jean asked, as she sat down in the big chair.
“There is always danger more or less with those men around. When I was well I could keep them within bounds. But now I am helpless. And, besides, you are here, and that makes a difference.”
“I must keep out of sight, then.”
“It might be just as well. I am afraid that Dave has told the men about you, so they will be anxious to see my—my daughter.”
Jean asked no further questions, but her face was very pale and her heart beat fast. She felt more helpless than she had been when with her Indian captors upon the river. What could she do to defend herself? She thought of the guns in the other room, and wondered if they were loaded. She might use them, but what could one woman do against a band of lawless men? Anyway, she was determined to do almost anything to defend herself, if necessary.
Slowly the evening wore away, and anxiously Jean listened to every sound. The man on the cot slept, and at times muttered words which the girl could not understand. She felt inexpressibly lonely, and she often glanced toward the small window as if expecting to see faces peering in upon her. She did not dare to sleep lest the slashers should come and catch her off guard. How she longed for Sam and Kitty. What a comfort they would be.
At length she rose to her feet, crossed the room, opened the door and looked out. It was not a dark night, but the moon, now almost at the full, was invisible. A keen wind was driving over the land and it sounded among the trees the same as it did before the storm she enjoyed so much in the lodge by the lake. How weird appeared the great trees, and she imagined she could see menacing forms watching her from their sombre depths. She knew where lay the trail by which the slashers would come, and she kept her eyes fixed in that direction. At the back of the house another trail began, which led to the St. John River, so Sam had told her, and passed the very place where the mast-cutters were at work. This to the lonely girl seemed the trail of hope, while the other was the trail of doom.
She was about to close the door, for the wind was piercing, when casting a final glance toward the forest, she caught sight of dim forms moving swiftly and silently toward the house. That they were the dreaded slashers she had not the slightest doubt. Quickly she shut the door, and hastened over to the cot. Norman opened his eyes and looked at her in a dazed manner.
“They are coming!” she cried. “I have seen them!”
“Where are they?” the man asked, rising to a sitting position.
“Just out there,” and she motioned to the right.