The next instant the man was gone, swallowed up by the darkness.
“Oh, how can I ever thank you enough?” the girl impulsively asked. “You have saved me from that creature. I didn’t know that he was here.”
“Who is he?” Dane asked. “And where did he come from?”
“He is Seth Lupin, a man I hate and fear. He must have come on one of the other vessels, most likely as a stowaway. He is not a Loyalist, for he was a coward during the war, and has no right to be numbered among us. I am sure that daddy does not know he is here, and I am almost afraid to tell him for fear he might do something desperate to the villain. But, then, we shall soon be away from this place, so it is hardly likely that Seth will follow us.”
They were walking slowly now, picking their way with difficulty across the rough hillside. Dane’s soul was athrill in the presence of this girl who had affected him in such a wonderful manner. It was almost too good to be true that he had rescued her, and was now so close to her.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Up river, I believe. But just where I do not know. Daddy hasn’t drawn his lot of land yet.”
“What is your name?”
“I like it. But Jean what?”
“Did you ever live in the woods?”
“No. This is my first experience.”
“Do you think you will like it? Won’t you be afraid?”
“I am going to do my best to like it. And why should I be afraid?”
“Because of men, especially the slashers; that’s why.”
“Who are the slashers?”
“Rebels who oppose the King’s men in cutting masts. They wander everywhere, slashing as they go, and ruining the forests.”
“But why should I be afraid of them? They have never heard of me.”
“But they will soon hear of you, though.” Dane stopped abruptly, and laid his hand upon her arm. “Say, do you know how beautiful you are?”
Jean was somewhat startled by this strange question.
“What makes you ask that?”
“Because if you don’t know, then you are not aware of your danger. That villain, Lupin, knows of your beauty, so he followed you here. The slashers and others will soon know, too, and I might not always be on hand. This is just a friendly warning.”
Jean’s heart was beating rapidly, while the darkness hid her flushed face.
“T-thank you,” she stammered. “I think I understand your meaning, although I am not used to such plain words, especially from a stranger. But I feel I can trust you.”
“In a country such as this we use plain language, Miss Sterling. I have warned you of your danger because I am deeply interested in your welfare. You can trust me, for, thank God, I have had a noble mother’s training, and was taught to respect women. But, we are almost at your home, so I must leave you.”