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"Jane," said Holcroft in hot anger, "my wife's things hahuobi token where to buyve been pulled out of her bureau and stuffed back again as if they were no better than dishcloths. Who did it?"

He laughed in a confused delighted way at her piquant, half saucy manner as he watched her deft round arm and shapely hand.bitcoin mining energy"The farmers' wives in Oakville would say your hands were too little to do much."

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"They would?" and she raised her blue eyes indignantly to his. "No matter, you are the one to say about that.""I say they do too much. I shall have to get Jane to help you.""By all means! Then you'll have more society.""That was a home shot. You know how I dote on everybody's absence, even Jane's.""You dote on butter. See how firm and yellow it's getting. You wouldn't think it was milk-white cream a little while ago, would you? Now I'll put in the salt and you must taste it, for you're a connoisseur."

"A what?""Judge, then.""Bah!" said Jane with a snicker, "as if I hadn't seen his ugly mug so I'd know it 'mong a thousand."

With a face full of loathing and dread, Alida watched her enemy disappear down the lane, and then, half fainting, sank on the lounge."Jane!" she called feebly, but there was no answer.Chapter 32 Jane Plays Mouse to the LionIt can well be understood that Jane had no disposition to return to Mrs. Holcroft and the humdrum duties of the house. There opened before her an exciting line of action which fully accorded with her nature, and she entered upon it at once. Her first impulse was to follow the man of whom she had learned so much. Not only was she spurred to this course by her curiosity, but also by her instinctive loyalty to Holcroft, and, it must be admitted, by her own interests. Poor little Jane had been nurtured in a hard school, and had by this time learned the necessity of looking out for herself. This truth, united with her shrewd, matter-of-fact mind, led her to do the most sensible thing under the circumstances. "I know a lot now that he'll be glad to know, and if I tell him everything he'll keep me always. The first thing he'll want to know is what's become of that threatenin' scamp," and she followed Ferguson with the stealth of an Indian.

Ferguson was not only a scamp, but, like most of his class, a coward. He had been bitterly disappointed in his interview with Alida. As far as his selfish nature permitted, he had a genuine affection for her, and he had thought of little else besides her evident fondness for him. He was so devoid of moral principle that he could not comprehend a nature like hers, and had scarcely believed it possible that she would repulse him so inflexibly. She had always been so gentle, yielding, and subservient to his wishes that he had thought that, having been assured of his wife's death, a little persuasion and perhaps a few threats would induce her to follow him, for he could not imagine her becoming attached to such a man as Holcroft had been described to be. Her uncompromising principle had entered but slightly into his calculations, and so, under the spur of anger and selfishness, he had easily entered upon a game of bluff He knew well enough that he had no claim upon Alida, yet it was in harmony with his false heart to try to make her think so. He had no serious intention of harming Holcroft--he would be afraid to attempt this--but if he could so work on Alida's fears as to induce her to leave her husband, he believed that the future would be full of possibilities. At any rate, he would find his revenge in making Alida and Holcroft all the trouble possible. Even in the excitement of the interview, however, he realized that he was playing a dangerous game, and when Jane answered so readily to Alida's call he was not a little disturbed. Satisfied that he had accomplished all that he could hope for at present, his purpose now was to get back to town unobserved and await developments. He therefore walked rapidly down the lane and pursued the road for a short distance until he came to an old, disused lane, leading up the hillside into a grove where he had concealed a horse and buggy. Unless there should be necessity, it was his intention to remain in his hiding place until after nightfall.Jane had merely to skirt the bushy hillside higher up, in order to keep Ferguson in view and discover the spot in which he was lurking. Instead of returning to the house she kept right on, maintaining a sharp eye on the road beneath to make sure that Holcroft did not pass unobserved. By an extended detour, she reached the highway and continued toward town in the hope of meeting the farmer. At last she saw him driving rapidly homeward. He was consumed with anxiety to be at least near to Alida, even if, as he believed, he was no longer welcome in her presence. When Jane stepped out into the road he pulled up his horses and stared at her. She, almost bursting with her great secrets, put her finger on her lips and nodded portentously.

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"Well, what is it?" he asked, his heart beating quickly."I've got a lot to tell yer, but don't want no one to see us.""About my wife?"The girl nodded.

"Good God! Speak then. Is she sick?" and he sprung out and caught her arm with a grip that hurt her."Please, sir, I'm doin' all I kin for yer and--and you hurt me."Holcroft saw the tears coming to her eyes and he released his hold as he said, "Forgive me, Jane, I didn't mean to; but for mercy's sake, tell your story.""It's a long 'un."

"Well, well, give me the gist of it in a word.""I guess she's goin' to run away."

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Holcroft groaned and almost staggered to his horses' heads, then led them to the roadside and tied them to a tree. Sitting down, as if too weak to stand, he buried his face in his hands. He could not bear to have Jane see his distress. "Tell your story," he said hoarsely, "quick, for I may have to act quickly.""Guess yer will. Did yer know she was married?"

"Certainly--to me.""No, to another man--married by a minister. He's been there with her." She little foresaw the effect of her words, for the farmer bounded to his feet with an oath and sprang to his horses."Stop!" cried Jane, tugging at his arm. "If you go rushin' home now, you'll show you've got no more sense than mother. You'll spoil everything. She aint goin' to run away with HIM--she said she wouldn't, though he coaxed and threatened to kill yer if she didn't. 'Fi's a man I wouldn't act like a mad bull. I'd find out how to get ahead of t'other man.""Well," said Holcroft, in a voice that frightened the child, "she said she wouldn't run away with this scoundrel--of course not--but you say she's going to leave. She'll meet him somewhere--good God! But how should you understand? Come, let me get home!""I understand a sight more'n you do, and you go on so that I can't tell you anything. If you showed sense, you'd be glad I was lookin' out for you so I could tell you everything. What's the good of goin' rampaigin' home when, if you'd only listen, you could get even with that scoundrel, as yer call 'im, and make all right," and Jane began to cry."Oh, thunder!" exclaimed the chafing man, "tell me your story at once, or you'll drive me mad. You don't half know what you're talking about or how much your words mean--how should you? The thing to do is to get home as soon as possible."

"You aint no reason to be so mad and glum all the while," cried Jane, smarting under a sense of injustice. "Here I'm a-tryin' to do for you, and you'll be sorry ernuff if you don't stop and listen. And she's been a-tryin' to do for you all along, and she's been standin' up for you this afternoon, and is goin' to run away to save your life.""Run away to save my life? Are you crazy?"

"No, but you be," cried the girl, excited and exasperated beyond restraint. "If she IS your wife I'd stand up for her and take care of her, since she stands up for you so. 'Stead of that, you go round as glum as a thundercloud and now want to go ragin' home to her. Dunno whether she's your wife or not, but I DO know she said she loved you and 'ud die for you, and she wouldn't do a thing that man asked but go away to save your life."Holcroft looked at the girl as if dazed. "Said she LOVED me?" he repeated slowly.

"Of course! You knowed that all 'long--anybody could see it--an' you don't treat her much better'n you did mother." Then, with an impatient gesture, she asked, "Will you sit down and listen?""No, I won't!" he cried, springing toward his horses. "I'll find out if your words are true."

"Oh, yes!" said Jane contemptuously; "run right to her to find out somethin' as plain as the nose on her face, and run right by the man that was threatenin' her and you too."Wheeling round, he asked, "Where is he?""I know, but I won't say 'nuther word till you stop goin' on. 'Fi's a man I'd find out what to do 'fore I did anythin'."Jane had little comprehension of the tempest she had raised in Holcroft's soul or its causes, and so was in no mood to make allowances for him. By this time, the first gust of his passion was passing and reason resuming its sway. He paced up and down in the road a moment or two, and then sat down as he said, "I don't half understand what you've been talking about and I fear you don't. You've evidently been listening and watching and have got hold of something. Now, I'll be as patient as I can if you'll tell me the whole story quickly," and he turned his flushed, quivering face toward her.

"Then I s'pose you'll scold me for listenin' and watchin' that scamp," said the girl sullenly."No, Jane, not in this case. Unless your impressions are all mistaken I may have to thank you all my life. I'm not one to forget those who are true to me. Now, begin at the beginning and go right through to the end; then I may understand better than you can."

Jane did as she was told, and many "says he's" and "says she's" followed in her literal narrative. Holroft again dropped his face into his hands, and before she was through, tears of joy trickled through his fingers. When she finished, he arose, turned away, and hastily wiped his eyes, then gave the girl his hand as he said, "Thank you, Jane. You've tried to be a true friend to me today. I'll show you that I don't forget. I was a fool to get in such a rage, but you can't understand and must forgive me. Come, you see I'm quiet now," and he untied the horses and lifted her into his wagon."What yer doin' to do?" she asked, as they drove away.

"I'm going to reward you for watching and listening to that scoundrel, but you must not watch me or Mrs. Holcroft, or listen to what we say unless we speak before you. If you do, I shall be very angry. Now, you've only one thing more to do and that is, show me where this man is hiding.""But you won't go near him alone?" inquired Jane in much alarm.

"You must do as I bid you," he replied sternly. "Show me where he's hiding, then stay by the wagon and horses.""But he same as said he'd kill you.""You have your orders," was his quiet reply.She looked scared enough, but remained silent until they reached a shaded spot on the road, then said, "If you don't want him to see you too soon, better tie here. He's around yonder, in a grove up on the hill."

Holcroft drove to a tree by the side of the highway and again tied his horses, then took the whip from the wagon. "Are you afraid to go with me a little way and show me just where he is?" he asked."No, but you oughtn' ter go."

"Come on, then! You must mind me if you wish to keep my good will. I know what I'm about." As in his former encounter, his weapon was again a long, tough whipstock with a leather thong attached. This he cut off and put in his pocket, then followed Jane's rapid lead up the hill. Very soon she said, "There's the place I saw 'im in. If you will go, I'd steal up on him.""Yes. You stay here." She made no reply, but the moment he disappeared she was upon his trail. Her curiosity was much greater than her timidity, and she justly reasoned that she had little to fear.

Holcroft approached from a point whence Ferguson was expecting no danger. The latter was lying on the ground, gnawing his nails in vexation, when he first heard the farmer's step. Then he saw a dark-visaged man rushing upon him. In the impulse of his terror, he drew his revolver and fired. The ball hissed near, but did no harm, and before Ferguson could use the weapon again, a blow from the whipstock paralyzed his arm and the pistol dropped to the ground. So also did its owner a moment later, under a vindictive rain of blows, until he shrieked for mercy."Don't move!" said Holcroft sternly, and he picked up the revolver. "So you meant to kill me, eh?"

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Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC#

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster