“Jump!” a voice ordered. “Jump!”

“I don’t want to,” returned another voice, uneasily.

“You said you would,” said several. “Didn’t he say he would? Ah, he said he would. Jump now, quick!”

“But I don’t want to,” quavered the voice in a tone so dismal that Molly went out to see.

They had got Bob Carmody on the top of the gate by a tree, with a rope round his neck, the other end of which four little boys were joyously holding. The rest looked on eagerly, three little girls clasping their hands, and springing up and down with excitement.

“Why, children!” exclaimed Molly.

“He’s said his prayers and everything,” they all screamed out. “He’s a rustler, and we’re lynchin’ him. Jump, Bob!”

“I don’t want--”

“Ah, coward, won’t take his medicine!”

“Let him go, boys,” said Molly. “You might really hurt him.” And so she broke up this game, but not without general protest from Wyoming’s young voice.

“He said he would,” Henry Dow assured her.

And George Taylor further explained: “He said he’d be Steve. But Steve didn’t scare.” Then George proceeded to tell the schoolmarm, eagerly, all about Steve and Ed, while the schoolmarm looked at him with a rigid face.

“You promised your mother you’d not tell,” said Henry Dow, after all had been told. “You’ve gone and done it,” and Henry wagged his head n a superior manner.

Thus did the New England girl learn what her cow-boy lover had done. She spoke of it to nobody; she kept her misery to herself. He was not there to defend his act. Perhaps in a way that was better. But these were hours of darkness indeed to Molly Wood.

On that visit to Dunbarton, when at the first sight of her lover’s photograph in frontier dress her aunt had exclaimed, “I suppose there are days when he does not kill people,” she had cried in all good faith and mirth, “He never killed anybody!” Later, when he was lying in her cabin weak from his bullet wound, but each day stronger beneath her nursing, at a certain word of his there had gone through her a shudder of doubt. Perhaps in his many wanderings he had done such a thing in self-defence, or in the cause of popular justice. But she had pushed the idea away from her hastily, back into the days before she had ever seen him. If this had ever happened, let her not know of it. Then, as a cruel reward for his candor and his laying himself bare to her mother, the letters from Bennington had used that very letter of his as a weapon against him. Her sister Sarah had quoted from it. “He says with apparent pride,” wrote Sarah, “that he has never killed for pleasure or profit.’ Those are his exact words, and you may guess their dreadful effect upon mother. I congratulate you, my dear, on having chosen a protector so scrupulous.”

Thus her elder sister had seen fit to write; and letters from less near relatives made hints at the same subject. So she was compelled to accept this piece of knowledge thrust upon her. Yet still, still, those events had been before she knew him. They were remote, without detail or context. He had been little more than a boy. No doubt it was to save his own life. And so she bore the hurt of her discovery all the more easily because her sister’s tone roused her to defend her cow-boy.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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