“All right, then,” Bolster agreed. “But you know what’s in store if you don’t behave yourselves. The first time you’ll go up like that fool there with ropes around your waists, but the second time it’ll be around your necks. See? And let this be a warning to you all,” he said, turning to the cowed slashers.
In the meantime the unfortunate man hanging from the tree was becoming tired, and the rope was pressing hard around his body. At length he pleaded to be taken down. Bolster, however, let him remain there a while longer, but when his cries for mercy became heart-rending, word was given, and a man with an axe began to chop down the tree. This increased the cries of the man above.
“Ye’ll kill me!” he yelled. “Don’t, don’t cut the tree! Fer God’s sake, stop!”
The mast-cutters merely shouted with delight at his fears, and hurled all manner of jibes.
“Got yer wings all ready to fly?” one asked. “Didn’t expect ye’d need them so soon, did ye?”
“Yer havin’ great fun with the mast-cutters, ain’t ye?” another bantered. “Ye was goin’ t’ give them the surprise of their lives.”
In a few minutes the tree was ready for its fall. It slowly swayed, and then with a rush bore the yelling man downward. He landed, as had been planned, in a great bank of snow, from which he was speedily rescued, spluttering and puffing like a steam engine. But he had been taught a lesson, the effect of which was not lost upon the other rebels.
Jean had watched this with intense excitement. At first she was sure that the man hanging from the tree would be killed. But when she saw him emerge from the snow unharmed, she breathed a sigh of relief, and even smiled. She knew that in reality he had come off better than he deserved, as did all of his companions.
“How long will the slashers be kept here?” she asked, turning to Dane who was standing by her side.
“Until the rangers come to take them away,” was the reply. “But come into the house. You will get cold here.”
PEACE AT EVENING TIME
In his lonely house in the wilderness Thomas Norman was undergoing great agony of mind and body. The presence of the first band of slashers had been hard for him to endure, and when they were joined later by the rebels from the Washademoak, his distress was intense. But he knew that he had brought this trouble upon himself. He had sown the seeds of dissension which had sprung up into wild and ungovernable thistles. How he despised the slashers as they crowded about him, drinking his rum, eating his food, and polluting the air with their reeking bodies and coarse language. This excitement increased the distress in his side until he felt that he would go crazy with the pain. Of this the rebels thought nothing. They were beyond human sympathy, so the condition of their chief affected them as little as if he had been a dog.