But this misshapen hulk of humanity did not possess even the wisdom of a child. He only laughed and crawled faster, looking back with an expression of mischievous cunning and extreme delight. Jess saw the imminent danger of Tusk's direction. With one movement he uncocked his rifle and laid it on the ground, then sprang out upon the spur.
The mountaineer also knew, and put his remaining strength into the struggle, yet only for a moment did it seem to divert Tusk's purpose. If the girl had previously looked the beautiful savage, she now became its incarnation. With an agonized cry she screamed at him to stop, but his answer was to pin the man more firmly and recommence the murderous twisting. It was a matter of seconds now.
But the work went stubbornly on, in spite of the dull gnawing which made it, and reform and life, indeed seem meaningless. With this grew another worry, shared more deeply by the Colonel, as time brought no hint of Tusk's fate. Both men were beginning to believe that he had crawled back in some ravine and died, but neither would voice so dismal a suggestion. It was the Fourth of July.
But, once snug in his hiding place near Tusk's cabin, he would fitfully yield to cat-naps alternately dozing a few minutes and watching half an hour. That the first of these brief slumbers did not hold him in its soothing clasp throughout the night, was merely proof of his dominant purpose to remove every obstacle which would keep the school from opening in September.
"This isn't your country," Brent held his temper. "Men aren't shot around here and carted off and buried without some sort of legal investigation. If Tusk's body is found, and it will be found if he's dead, someone's got to pay; someone must either stand trial or turn fugitive." "Great Gawd," Dale cried, slowly rocking his body from side to side. "Great Gawd!
"Oh," Jane gasped. "Damn," Brent growled, as both instruments clicked simultaneously. Early that same morning as Jess approached the place where Dale was "laying out" near Tusk's cabin, he stopped a moment, listening; then gave the clear call of a quail. After waiting several minutes he whistled again, and as still no answer came he proceeded with extreme caution.
So in her eagerness she had arisen, when Tusk stepped roughly to the door and slammed it. "Nobody's goin' home to-night," he growled, turning and glaring at them. His eyes, set unusually deep and close together, flashed murder, and the girl sank weakly back into a seat. For she knew Tusk's strength. She had seen him shoulder a log under which two men were struggling and walk firmly away with it.
I'll stand in the fence here and listen; and if you don't put it to him strong! " Again the electric torch. Tusk's wavering call sounded before the broken gate, and the injured voice of Mrs. Hewlet answered.
This was all he asked to know; so when Jess held out the handle of Tusk's discarded club, he sniffed it carefully and was satisfied. A low whine assured them that the man-hunter had now an imperishable record of the scent; that he was ready to follow it across the State, around the world providing the pursued one used no pepper or other mean artifice, and traveled by foot on land.
Ain't he said time an' time agin he's goin' to have it; an' ain't you said you wouldn't sell? Well, then how's he goin' to git it, you tell me that?" As though a veil had been drawn from Tusk's face he saw it all in an instant, and the next few minutes he spent in a flow of lurid oaths. Tom watched him, a slow smile flickering about the corners of his mouth.