“This whole blame country is full of discharged sojers,” he growled, “an’ they know their biz all right. I reckon them fellers is pretty sure to git one of us yit; anyhow, they ’ve got us cooped. Say, Bob, thet lad crawling yonder ought to be in reach, an’ it’s our bounden duty not to let the boys git too gay.”
Hampton tried the shot suggested, elevating considerable to overcome distance. There was a yell, and a swift skurrying backward which caused Mason to laugh, although neither knew whether this result arose from fright or wound.
“’Bliged ter teach ’em manners onct in a while, or they ’ll imbibe a fool notion they kin come right ’long up yere without no invite. ’T ain’t fer long, no how, ’less all them guys are ijuts.”
Hampton turned his head and looked soberly into the freckled face, impressed by the speaker’s grave tone.
“Fire, my boy, fire. The wind’s dead right fer it; thet brush will burn like so much tinder, an’ with this big wall o’ rock back of us, it will be hell here, all right. Some of ’em are bound to think of it pretty blame soon, an’ then, Bob, I reckon you an’ I will hev’ to take to the open on the jump.”
Hampton’s eyes hardened. God, how he desired to live just then, to uncover that fleeing Murphy and wring from him the whole truth which had been eluding him all these years! Surely it was not justice that all should be lost now. The smoke puffs rose from the encircling rifles, and the hunted men cowered still lower, the whistling of the bullets in their ears.
“She loves me; she loves me not”
Unkind as the Fates had proved to Brant earlier in the day, they relented somewhat as the sun rose higher, and consented to lead him to far happier scenes. There is a rare fortune which seems to pilot lovers aright, even when they are most blind to the road, and the young soldier was now most truly a lover groping through the mists of doubt and despair.
It was no claim of military duty which compelled him to relinquish Miss Spencer so promptly at the hotel door, but rather a desire to escape her ceaseless chatter and gain retirement where he could reflect in quiet over the revelations of Hampton. In this quest he rode slowly up the valley of the Bear Water, through the bright sunshine, the rare beauty of the scene scarcely leaving the slightest impress on his mind, so busy was it, and so preoccupied. He no longer had any doubt that Hampton had utilized his advantageous position, as well as his remarkable powers of pleasing, to ensnare the susceptible heart of this young, confiding girl. While the man had advanced no direct claim, he had said enough to make perfectly clear the close intimacy of their relation and the existence of a definite understanding between them. With this recognized as a fact, was he