Read CHAPTER XVIII - POLLY GIVES HER PROMISE. of The Boy Scouts in the Blue Ridge / Marooned Among the Moonshiners, free online book, by Herbert Carter, on ReadCentral.com.

“I’M going to ask you a great favor, Polly,” said Bob, earnestly.

“Then hit it up right smart, an’ tell me,” replied the girl, calmly, though Thad could see her dark, expressive face light up.

Polly had her share of the curiosity that is the heritage of her sex.

“You say you feel thankful that we happened along in time to drive that cat off; and you’d be willing to do something for us in return?” Bob went on.

“Thet’s right, Bob Quail,” returned the girl of the mountains sturdily. “Reckons as how it’d on’y be fair. What ye want me to do?”

“First of all, please don’t whisper it to anybody around here that I have come back,” the boy asked in his earnest tones; “and least of all to your father. You know he used to feel right sore against all my family, because my father in trying to do his sworn duty by the Government, ran up against the moonshine boys.”

“Oh! thet’s easy promised, Bob Quail,” she replied, readily enough; “I kin keep a close tongue atween my teeth, ef I happens to be on’y a gal. But I kin see thet ain’t all yer gwine to ask o’ me.”

“But everything else hinges on that, Polly,” returned Bob; “and I’m glad you’ll forget that you saw one of the Quail family. They’re not in any too good odor in this part of the country. Now, you’re wondering, I reckon, why I ever dared come back, after two years. Well, there were reasons that pulled me into the danger zone, Polly. One of them was Bertha, my little cousin.”

Polly smirked, and nodded her wise head.

“I cud a guessed thet, Bob Quail,” she remarked. “Sumbody must a ben tellin’ ye thet she ain’t as happy as she moût be, thet’s it. The old miser, he’s cross as a bear with a sore head; an’ I seen Bertha with red eyes more’n a few times. I don’t blame ye ‘bout wantin’ to do somethin’; though I reckons ye’ll find it a up-hill job, w’en ye tackle thet old fox.”

“But there’s a way to get him in a hole, and I believe I’ve found it,” said Bob. “Only, if I’m chased out of the country before I can carry my plans through, you see, all my coming here wouldn’t amount to a row of beans. That’s one reason why I asked you to keep my secret. But there’s another, Polly.”

“Yep, they’s another,” she repeated after him, with her dark eyes fixed on his face, as though she might be able to read what was passing in his mind, and in this way was prepared to hear his new disclosure.

Thad knew what his comrade meant to say. It was a big risk, but he believed it could be carried through. This girl was no ordinary creature; she had latent possibilities slumbering beneath the surface in her nature, that, as yet, had never been called upon to show themselves. Besides, the girl was grateful to them for what they had done.

“You haven’t forgotten what happened here some years ago, Polly,” Bob went on. “My father led a party of revenue men into these mountains, meaning to destroy the secret Stills. He never came back. Those who were with him said that he had been shot down in a fierce fight with the moonshiners; and that he had died almost instantly. You haven’t forgotten that terrible time, Polly, have you?”

“I reckons not,” she muttered, stirring uneasily.

“Well, somehow I never could get myself to believe that my father was really dead. I had one of the revenue men in my pay, and he used to write me every week or so. It was through him I first heard the rumor that the moonshiners were said to have a prisoner up at your father’s Still, who was kept constantly under guard, and made to work. They even said he was a revenue man; and that it was a part of the moonshiners’ revenge to make him help manufacture the mountain dew, so as to pay up for the quantities he had destroyed in his raids. You’ve heard more or less about this, too, haven’t you, Polly?”

“Sure I has, Bob Quail,” replied the girl.

“Polly, somehow I just can’t get it out of my head that this mysterious prisoner of the mountains might be my own father; that he was badly wounded, and not killed in that fight; that the moonshiners nursed him back to health; and ever since he’s been kept under guard. Do you know if that is so? I ask you to tell me, because it would mean a great deal to me, and to my poor mother at home in the North.”

Polly shook her head in the negative.

“I jest can’t say as to thet,” she answered, soberly; “I done hears a heap ‘bout some man as they has kep’ a long time up thar, adoin’ of the chores, an’ never without a gun clost to his head; but I ain’t never seed him. I gives ye my word on thet, Bob Quail.”

“But Polly, you could see him if you tried real hard, couldn’t you?” the boy went on, in an anxious tone.

She looked at him. The eager expression on poor Bob’s face would have moved a heart of stone; and Polly was surely deeply touched.

“I reckons I cud,” she answered, steadily; while in her black eyes stole a glow that gave Thad a curious feeling; for he began to believe that they had after all come upon an unexpected and valuable ally, right in the household of the chief enemy.

“Think what it means to me, Polly,” Bob suggested, knowing how best to appeal to her sympathies. “Put yourself in my place, and tell me what you would do if it was your own father who was held a prisoner, and you had long believed him dead? Do you blame me for coming back to these mountains to try and learn the truth; and if it should turn out to be all I dream it may, of attempting in some way to bring about his release. Would you blame me, Polly?”

“Sure I wudn’t, Bob Quail,” she replied.

“And will you help me find out?” he went on, feverishly.

“Seein’s I owe ye a heap, ‘case o’ what ye done fur me this day, I’m gwine to say jest what ye wants me to,” the girl returned.

With an almost inarticulate cry Bob seized her hand, and gave it a squeeze.

“Oh! you don’t know how happy you’ve made me by saying that, Polly!” he exclaimed. “And if it should turn out to be my poor father, won’t you try and help me get him free? He’ll never come back here again to bother your people; I give you my word for that, Polly, sure I do. Will you help me do it?”

“Thet’s asking a hull lot, Bob Quail,” she muttered, doubtfully, as though she realized the magnitude of the task he would put upon her shoulders. “It’s wantin’ me to go agin my own dad. If so be thar is a revenue kep’ up thar to the Still, it’s his doin’s. An’ ’less he gives the word, thar ain’t nobody dar’s to let that man go free. An’ now ye arsk me to play agin my own people. It’s a big thing ye want done, Bob Quail. I dunno; I dunno!”

But Thad could see she was wavering. He believed that if Bob only pressed his point he must win out.

“Listen, Polly,” and Bob caught hold of her wrist as he spoke, as though to hold her attention better; “more than two long years this man has been held there, the sport and plaything of the moonshiners, and made to do their rough work. It must have broken his spirit sadly. And surely your father’s desire for revenge should be wholly satisfied by now. Think of my mother, mourning him as dead all this time, Polly. Just imagine her wonderful joy if he came back to her again alive and in the flesh! Oh! don’t talk to me about the risks I am running in just coming here; gladly would I put my life in danger ten times over, if I knew there was a chance to find him, and bring him home with me. That is what you would do, Polly; and perhaps some day, when sorrow and trouble come to you, I may be able to do you a good turn, even as you are going to do for me now; because something tells me you are, Polly!”

That settled it. Bob had gone about the matter in just the right way to reach the moonshiner’s daughter’s heart. No doubt she often thought of the black day that might come at any time, when those never sleeping Government agents would capture Old Phin, and he look a long sentence in the face. Yes, it would be worth something to know that they had a friend in court when that time rolled around.

“Yes, I’m agwine to help ye, Bob Quail,” she said, slowly. “I don’t jest know yet how far I kin go; but anyways I’ll promise to find out who thet prisoner up at the Still kin be. Then, mebbe I moût think it over, an’ reckon as it’s jest like ye sez, an’ he’s shore be’n punished enuff. Thet’s all I’ll tell ye right now.”

“Well, it’s mighty fine of you to say as much as that, Polly, and I want you to know I appreciate it more than I can tell you,” the Southern boy went on, his dark handsome face radiant with renewed hope, as his heart beat high in the belief that his loftiest dreams might after all come true.

“I hope that foot won’t keep you from walking?” Thad thought to remark just then.

This caused Bob to remember that he had a chum near by, and he hastened to say:

“This is one of my best friends, Thad Brewster, Polly. We belong to the troop of Boy Scouts encamped down below. Perhaps you have heard your father speak of them? He was in our camp more than an hour last night, and my chum here seemed to interest him a heap in telling all about what scouts aim to do in the world.”

“Yep, I heerd ’bout hit,” the girl replied, as she gave Thad a short nod; “an’ he shore was takin’ sum stock in wat he done heerd. My dad, he allers liked boys better’n he did gals. Lost three on ’em, he did, an’ every one died with his boots on! But ye needn’t git skeered ’bout this hyar foot ahurtin’ me none. We knows what kin’ o’ stuff to put on a sprain, as’ll take ther swellin’ down right smart. See, I kin walk jest as good as I ever cud. An’ I’ll find out fur ye ’bout thet man up to the Still, sure I will, Bob.”

“When can I see you again, Polly?” Bob asked, anxiously. “You know time is worth a heap to me right now. Say soon, please; sometime to-night, if you can; and it’ll help a lot. I’ll never be able to sleep a wink now till I know the truth.”

“Mout as well put her through on ther lightnin’ express as not,” she replied. “I reckons I kin promise ye to-night. An’ I knows whar yer camp lays, ‘case I arsked my dad. Thort I moût happen thet way, an’ see what boys looked like as was dressed in smart close. It’s gwine to be a hard job, seems like, an’ mebbe I carn’t git ‘roun’ till late, but I’ll be thar, Bob Quail! Ye done ther right thing by me, an’ Polly Dady don’t forgit.”

Then turning her back on the two boys, the mountain girl swung herself along the rough face of the hillside with a perfect confidence in her ability to keep her footing that only a chamois might have exceeded.

And Thad, looking at his chum, saw that the other’s face was wreathed in a smile such as had long been a stranger there.

“The best day’s work I ever did, Thad!” exclaimed Bob, as he seized his chum’s hand, and squeezed it convulsively. “Something just tells me Polly is going to be my good fairy, and bring me the greatest gift that ever could be the knowledge that my dear father lives.”