“Well, let them wait. We’ll have that bunch with us from the Washademoak, an’ you know what devils they are to fight.”
“When do you expect to meet them?”
“To-morrow sometime. Then at night we’ll drop in to see our friends, the mast-cutters, an’ settle up an old score once an’ fer all.”
What was said further Jean could not distinguish, for several men just then lifted up their voices in a rough song, showing that the rum was already taking effect. But what she had heard caused her great uneasiness. She understood now the object of these men. They were to march against the mast-cutters, sweep down upon them in the dead of night, and murder them all. She shuddered as she thought of this. Something must be done to warn the mast-cutters of their danger. They were the King’s men, and it would not do to allow them to be slain without a chance of defending themselves. Why should she not go and give the warning? This idea at first seemed foolish. How could she find the way? Would she dare to traverse the forest alone? But the more she thought of it, the more she felt that she was the one who should undertake the task. If she did not do something she could never forgive herself. And what would her father say if he knew that she had hesitated in the path of duty? It was a hard battle she fought as she crouched there in the dark corner. She pictured to herself the gloomy forest, the uncertainty of the way, and the struggle necessary before she could reach the mast-cutters. Cautiously she crept to the little window and peered out. How dismal and forbidding seemed the forest. She could see the tree-tops waving and the snow swirling before the wind. The prospect of going forth alone on such a night was far from cheerful.
She was about to leave the window when a bearded face was suddenly pressed against the glass. With a gasp of fear she staggered back, and fled to the darkness of her corner. And there she crouched, waiting with wide-staring eyes for what would happen next.
The voices in the adjoining room were becoming louder and more boisterous. What she presently heard caused her to straighten suddenly up, and a chill to sweep through her body. The men were calling for her, and demanding the chief to bring her to them.
“We want the girl,” she heard one man say.
“You won’t get her,” Norman replied. “She is my daughter, and you must not touch her.”
“Your daughter, be damned! You ain’t got no daughter. You can’t git that off on us. She’s in the other room, an’ we want her quick.”
What Norman said in reply Jean could not understand, for the noise the men were making. But she did hear some one trying the door, and cursing because he could not get it open. She knew now that the critical moment had arrived. There was no time to lose. She must leave the place and nee to the shelter of the forest. That was her only hope.