E-text prepared by Al Haines
GLEN OF THE HIGH NORTH
H. A. CODY
Author of "The Frontiersman," "The Lost Patrol," "The Chief of the Ranges," "The Touch of Abner," etc.
McClelland and Stewart Publishers : : : Toronto George H. Doran Company
ALL TRUE MEN AND WOMEN
Of the Outer Trails of the Yukon,
Where for Years the Author Lived and Travelled,
This Book is Affectionately Dedicated.
I ONE FLEETING VISION II WHEN THE FOG-BANK LIFTED III A BIG BLAZIN' LAUGH IV BEYOND THE GREAT WHITE PASS V COMRADES OP THE TRAIL VI A SHOT THAT TOLD VII BOTTLES WILL DO VIII LOVE VERSUS GOLD IX THE OUTER TRAIL X ADRIFT IN THE WILDERNESS XI INTO THE GREAT UNKNOWN XII THE GIRL OF GLEN WEST XIII WHEN THE STORM BURST XIV ANOTHER PRISONER XV JIM WESTON XVI THE ORDEAL XVII MAN TO MAN XVIII THE PREPARED ROOM XIX THE TURN OF EVENTS XX A SHOT FROM THE GOLDEN CREST XXI THE PLOTTERS XXII THE CABIN IN THE HILLS XXIII AT THE REVOLVER'S POINT XXIV WHEN THE RIFLES CRACKED XXV BY THE INLAND LAKE XXVI THROUGH THE STORM XXVII IN THE TOILS XXVIII HELP FROM THE HILLS XXIX THE OLD TRUE STORY XXX THE UNMASKING XXXI OUTWARD BOUND
"Something lost beyond the Ranges, Lost; and calling to you. Go."
"She had grown, in her unstained seclusion, bright and pure as a first opening lilac, when it spreads its clear leaves to the sweetest dawn of May."
GLEN OF THE HIGH NORTH
ONE FLEETING VISION
It all happened in less than two minutes, and yet in that brief space of time his entire outlook upon life was changed. He saw her across the street standing upon the edge of the sidewalk facing the throng of teams and motors that were surging by. She had evidently attempted to cross, but had hurriedly retreated owing to the tremendous crush of traffic. The gleam of the large electric light nearby brought into clear relief a face of more than ordinary charm and beauty. But that which appealed so strongly to the young man was the mingled expression of surprise, fear and defiance depicted upon her countenance. It strangely affected him, and he was on the point of springing forward to offer his assistance when she suddenly disappeared, swallowed up in the great tide of humanity.
For a few minutes the young man stood perfectly still, gazing intently upon the spot where the girl had been standing, hoping to see her reappear. He could not account for the feeling that had swept upon him at the sight of that face. It was but one of the thousands he daily beheld, yet it alone stirred him to his inmost depths. A few minutes before he had been walking along the street without any definite aim in life, listless and almost cynical. But now a desire possessed him to be up and doing, to follow after the fair vision which had so unexpectedly appeared. Who could she be, and where was she going? Should he ever see her again, and if he did would he have the slightest chance of meeting and talking with her?
These thoughts occupied his mind as he continued on his way. He walked erect now, with shoulders thrown back, and with a more buoyant step than he had taken in many a day. His blood tingled and his eyes glowed with a new-found light. He felt much of the old thrill that had animated him at the beginning of the Great War, and had sent him overseas to take his part in the titanic struggle. An overmastering urge had then swept upon him, compelling him to abandon all on behalf of the mighty cause. It was his nature, and the leopard could no more change its spots than could Tom Reynolds overcome the influence of a gripping desire. Ever since childhood thought and action had always been welded in the strong clear heat of an overwhelming purpose. It had caused him considerable trouble, but at the same time it had carried him through many a difficult undertaking that had daunted other men. It was only the afterwards that affected him, the depression, when the objective had been attained. So for months after the war ended his life had seemed of no avail, and he found it impossible to settle comfortably back into the grooves of civilian life in a bustling, thriving city. Everything seemed tame and insignificant after what he had experienced overseas. Time instead of lessening had only increased this feeling, until Reynolds believed that he could no longer endure the prosaic life of the city. Such was the state of his mind when he beheld the face across the street, which in some mysterious manner gave him a sudden impulse and a new outlook upon the world. After a short quick walk, he turned into a side street and stopped at length before a building from which extended a large electric sign, bearing the words Telegram and Evening News. He entered, and at once made his way through several rooms until he reached the editorial office at the back of the building. The door was open, and seated at the desk was an elderly man, busily writing. He looked up as Reynolds appeared, and a smile illumined his face.
"You are back early, Tom. Found something special?"
"Yes," Reynolds replied as he sat down upon the only vacant chair the office contained. "But nothing for publication."
The editor pushed back his papers, swung himself around in his chair and faced the visitor.
"What is it, Tom?" he asked. "You look more animated than I have seen you for many a day. What has come over you? What is the special something you have found?"
"That's just it. I'm through with this job."
The editor eyed the young man curiously yet sympathetically. He was to him as a son, and he had done everything in his power to help him since his return from the war. But he was well aware that Reynolds was not happy, and that newspaper work was proving most uncongenial.
"Where are you going, Tom, and what are you going to do?" he presently asked.
"I have not the slightest idea, sir. But I must get away from this hum-drum existence. It is killing me by inches. I need adventure, life in the open, where a man can breathe freely and do as he likes."
"Haven't you done about as you like, Tom, since you came home? I promised your father on his death-bed that I would look after you, and I have tried to do so in every possible way. I sincerely hoped that your present work would suit you better than in an office. You are free to roam where you will, and whatever adventure has taken place in this city during the past six months you were in the midst of it, and wrote excellent reports, too."
"I know that, sir, and I feel deeply indebted to you for what you have done. But what does it all amount to? What interest do I take in trouble along the docks, a fight between a couple of toughs in some dark alley, or a fashionable wedding in one of the big churches? Bah! I am sick of them all, and the sooner I get away the better."
Reynolds produced a cigarette, lighted it and threw the match upon the floor. From the corner of his eye he watched the editor as he toyed thoughtfully with his pen. This man was nearer to him than anyone else in the world, and he was afraid that he had annoyed him by his plain outspoken words.
"And you say you have nothing in view?" the editor at length enquired.
"Nothing. Can you suggest anything? Something that will tax all my energy of mind and body. That is what I want. I hope you do not misunderstand me, sir. I do not wish to seem ungrateful for what you have done."
"I do understand you, Tom, and were I in your position, and of your age, I might feel the same. But what about your painting? Have you lost all interest in that? When you were in France you often wrote what impressions you were getting, and how much you intended to do when you came home."
"I have done very little at that, and the sketches I made are still uncompleted. Some day I may do something, but not now."
"You certainly have lost all interest, Tom, in the things that once gave you so much pleasure."
"It is only too true, although I have honestly tried to return to the old ways. But I must have a fling at something else to get this restless feeling out of my system. What do you suggest! Perhaps it is only a thrashing I need. That does children good sometimes."
The editor smiled as he pulled out a drawer in his desk, and brought forth a fair-sized scrapbook. He slowly turned the pages and stopped at length where a large newspaper clipping had been carefully pasted.
"I do not think you need a thrashing, Tom," he began. "But I believe I can suggest something better than that. Here is an entry I made in this book over fifteen years ago, and the story it contains appeals strongly to me now. I read it at least once a year, and it has been the cause of many a day-dream to me, and night-dream as well, for that matter. Did you ever hear of the mysterious disappearance of Henry Redmond, the wealthy merchant of this city? But I suppose not, as you were young at the time."
"No, I never heard of him," Reynolds acknowledged. "Was he killed?"
"Oh, no. He merely disappeared, and left no trace at all. That was, as I have just said, over fifteen years ago, and no word has been received from him since."
"What was the trouble? Financial difficulties?"
"Not at all. He simply disappeared. It was due to his wife's death, so I believe. They were greatly attached to each other, and when she suddenly died Redmond was a broken-hearted man. I knew him well and it was pathetic to watch him. He took no interest in his business, and sold out as soon as possible. Then he vanished, and that was the last we heard of him. He was an odd man in many ways, and although one of the shrewdest men in business I ever knew, he was fond of the simple life. He was a great reader, and at one time possessed a very fine library. This article which I wish you to read tells the story of his life, how he built up his business, and of his sudden disappearance."
"How do you know he wasn't killed?" Reynolds asked.
"Because of this," and the editor laid his forefinger upon a small separate clipping at the bottom of the larger one. A short time after Redmond disappeared, and when the excitement of all was intense, this was received and published. Although it bore no name, yet we well know that it was from Redmond, for it was just like something he would do. This is what he wrote:
"'I go from the busy haunts of men, far from the bustle and worry of business life. I may be found, but only he who is worthy will find me, and whoever finds me, will, I trust, not lose his reward. From the loopholes of retreat I shall watch the stress and fever of life, but shall not mingle in the fray.'"
"Queer words, those," Reynolds remarked, when the editor had finished reading. "What do you make of them?"
"I hardly know, although I have considered them very carefully. I believe they contain a hidden meaning, and that the finding will consist of more than the mere discovery of his person. It must refer to something else, some quality of heart or mind, that is, the real personality behind the mere outward form."
"A double quest, eh, for anyone who undertakes the venture?"
"It seems so, Tom, and that makes it all the more difficult. But what an undertaking! How I wish I were young again, and I should be off to-morrow. I was a fool not to make the try fifteen years ago. I would not now be chained to this desk, I feel certain of that."
"And as you cannot go yourself, you want——?" Reynolds paused and looked quizzically at the editor.
"I want you to go in my stead," was the emphatic reply. "You are young, strong, and anxious for adventure."
"For what purpose, sir? Why do you wish me to undertake this wild-goose chase? For such it seems to me."
"I wish you to go for three reasons. First, for your own good; as an outlet to your abundant energy, and to give you some object in life. Next, to satisfy a curiosity that has been consuming me for years. I am more than anxious to know what has become of Henry Redmond. And finally, for the sake of my paper. If you should prove successful, what a write-up it will make, for you will have a wonderful story to tell. Doesn't the thing appeal to you? Why, it makes my blood tingle at the thought of such an undertaking."
"It does stir me a bit," Reynolds acknowledged. "But where am I to go? Have you any idea where Redmond is? The world is big, remember, and without any clue, the chase would be absolute folly."
"I am well aware of all that. I have no idea where Redmond is, and that makes the venture all the more interesting. If I could tell you where he is, and you merely went and found him, bah! that would not be worth the trouble. But the uncertainty of it all is what appeals to me. The whole world is before you, and somewhere in the world I believe Henry Redmond is living. Your task is to find him. Can you do it?"
For a few minutes Reynolds did not speak. He was interested, but the undertaking seemed so utterly hopeless and ridiculous that he hesitated. If he had the slightest clue as to the man's whereabouts it would be different.
"How old a man was Redmond when he disappeared?" he at length asked.
"About fifty, I understand, although he appeared much older at times. He was a fine looking man, over six feet in height, and a large head, crowned with a wealth of hair streaked with gray, when last I saw him. His commanding appearance attracted attention wherever he went, and that should aid you somewhat in your search."
"Had he any family?" Reynolds questioned.
"One little girl only, for he married late in life. His friends thought that he would remain a permanent bachelor, and they were greatly surprised when he unexpectedly took to himself a wife much younger than himself, and very beautiful. They lived most happily together, and when his wife died Redmond was heartbroken."
"Perhaps her death affected his mind," Reynolds suggested.
"I have thought of that, and his sudden disappearance, as well as the peculiar letter I read to you, lends color to the idea."
"What became of the child?"
"No one knows. He evidently took her with him, and that is another reason why I believe no harm befell him as you suggested. The whole affair is involved in the deepest mystery."
"And did no one attempt to solve it?" Reynolds asked. "Was no effort made to find the missing man?"
"There was at the time, and the newspapers far and near made mention of his disappearance. It was the talk of the city for several weeks, and I understand that several men thought seriously of searching for him. But the interest gradually waned, and he was forgotten except by a few, of whom I am one."
Reynolds rose to his feet and picked up his hat.
"Suppose I think this over for a few days?" he suggested. "If I get the fever I shall let you know. In the meantime I shall plug away at my present job. I can't afford to be idle, for 'idleness is the holiday of fools,' as someone has said."
"That's fine, Tom," and the editor's face brightened with pleasure. "And, remember, you shall be supplied with all the money you need, so do not worry about that."
"Thank you, but I have a little of my own that will last me for a while. When I run through with it I may call upon you."
"Very well, do as you like, Tom. But think it over and let me know of your decision as soon as possible."
WHEN THE FOG-BANK LIFTED
The Northern Light was lying at her wharf preparing for her long run to the far Northern Pacific, through the numerous islands studding the coastal waters of British Columbia, and the United States Territory of Alaska. All day long she had been taking on board great quantities of freight, and now on the eve of her departure passengers were arriving. The latter were mostly men, for new gold diggings had been discovered back in the hills bordering the Yukon River, and old-timers were flocking northward, anticipating another Klondyke, and all that it might mean.
Tom Reynolds stood on the wharf noting the excitement that was taking place around him. Apart from the article he would prepare for the next day's issue of The Telegram; he was more than usually interested in what he beheld. As he watched several bronzed and grizzly veterans of many a long trail and wild stampede, a desire entered into his heart to join them in their new adventure. He would thus find excitement enough to satisfy his restless nature, and perhaps at the same time share in the golden harvest.
This longing, however, was held in check by the thought of the story he had heard the evening before, and also by the hope of seeing again the face he had beheld for a few fleeting seconds at the street crossing. In fact, he had thought more of it than of the mysterious disappearance of Henry Redmond. For the greater part of the night and all the next day the girl had been in his mind. He tried to recall something more about her, the color of her hair, how she was dressed, and whether she was tall or short. But he could remember nothing except the face which alone stood out clear and distinct. Several times during the day he had been on the point of transferring his impressions to paper, but he always deferred action, preferring to muse upon the beautiful vision he had seen and to dream of meeting her again. She must still be in the city, he reasoned, and should he go away now his chance of finding her would be lost forever. That he would find her he had not the slightest doubt, for among the crowds that passed daily along the streets he would surely see her, and when he did—well, he was not certain what would happen. Anyway, he would know more about her than at present. He was standing watching an old man with a long gray beard and wavy hair falling below a broad-brimmed slouch hat. He was evidently a prospector, for he bore a good-sized pack across his right shoulder, and was dressed as if for the trail, with a pair of coarse boots upon his feet. His figure was commanding, almost patriarchal, and Reynolds watched him with much interest as he walked stately and deliberately up the gangway.
As Reynolds turned from his observation of the old man, he gave a great start, and his heart beat wildly, for there but a few feet from him was the very girl he had seen at the street crossing. She had just alighted from an hotel auto, and was pointing out her baggage to one of the cabin boys when Reynolds noticed her. He leaned eagerly forward to catch the sound of her voice, but the noise around him made this impossible. But he had a chance to feast his eyes upon her face, and to note her neat dark-brown travelling suit which fitted so perfectly her well-built erect figure. She was of medium height, and carried herself with complete assurance as one well accustomed to travel. She was apparently alone, for no one accompanied her as she presently went on board the steamer.
Reynolds was all alert now, and his old-time enthusiasm returned. She was going north, and why should not he go too? Once more thought and action became welded, and finding that it would be three-quarters of an hour before the steamer's departure, he hurried back to his boarding house, gathered together his few belongings, including his artist's outfit, thrust them into a grip, settled his board bill, and almost raced to the Telegram and Evening News building, where he found the editor who had just arrived for his nightly duties.
"I am off at once," he announced. "How will that suit you?"
"Good for you!" was the pleased reply. "Decided upon the Great Quest, eh?"
"Yes, all settled, and away in twenty minutes."
"Up north, to the edge of nowhere. How will that do?"
"Found a clue?" The editor was quite excited now.
"All the clue I need," was the evasive reply. "I shall write as soon as possible, telling of my wanderings. So, good-by; I must be away."
"Have you enough money?" The editor was on his feet now, grasping the young man's hand in a firm grip.
"Yes, all that's necessary for the present. If I need more I shall let you know."
An hour later the Northern Light was steaming steadily on her way. Reynolds had been fortunate enough to obtain an upper berth, his roommate being a young clerk destined for a branch bank in a northern mining town. Reynolds strolled about the boat hoping to catch a glimpse of her who was much in his mind, but all in vain. It rained hard most of the next day, and the outside decks were uncomfortable. It was toward evening that he saw her, walking slowly up and down the hurricane deck abaft the funnel. She was with the captain, a fine looking, middle-aged man, and they seemed to be on very friendly terms, for the girl was smiling at something her companion was saying.
Reynolds lighted a cigar and began to pace up and down on the opposite side of the deck. Others were doing the same, so no one paid any heed to his presence. A casual observer might have thought that the silent young man took no interest in anything around him. But Reynolds missed hardly a movement of the girl but a few feet away. He always kept a short distance behind and was thus able to study her closely without attracting attention. She wore a raincoat, of a soft light material, and her head was bare. The wind played with her dark-brown hair, and occasionally she lifted her hand and brushed back a wayward tress that had drifted over her forehead. At times he caught a glimpse of her face as she swung around at the end of the beat, and it was always a happy, animated face he beheld.
For about fifteen minutes this walk was continued, and Reynolds had been unable to distinguish any of the conversation between the two. But as they ended their promenade, and started to go below, they almost brushed him in passing, and he heard the captain say, "Jack will be home soon, and he will——" That was all Reynolds was able to overhear, and yet it was sufficient to cause him to stop so abruptly that he nearly collided with a man a few steps behind. Was all that talk about Jack? he asked himself, and was that why the girl seemed so happy in listening to her companion? Was Jack the captain's son, and did he have the first claim upon the girl? Perhaps he was overseas, and was expected home shortly. No doubt the girl had been visiting his people.
Such an idea had not occurred to Reynolds before, but as he thought it all over that night as he sat silent in the smoking-room, it did indeed seem most reasonable. Why should he think any more about the girl? he mused. He had been a fool for allowing his heart to run away with his head. How could he for one instant imagine that such a girl would be left until now without many admiring suitors, with one successful over all the others? And no doubt that one was Jack, whose name had fallen from the captain's lips.
Although Reynolds felt that the girl was not for him, yet he could not banish her from his mind. She had aroused him from the paralysis of indifference, for which he was most grateful. He would make a desperate effort not to be again enmeshed in such a feeling. He would throw himself ardently into the search for gold, and then turn his attention to Henry Redmond, and strive to solve the mystery surrounding the man.
After breakfast the next morning he went out on deck, and found the girl already there comfortably seated in a large steamer chair. She had evidently been reading, but the book was now lying open upon her lap, and her hands were clasped behind her head. Reynolds caught the gleam of a jewel on one of her fingers, and he wondered if it was an engagement ring she was wearing. Her eyes were looking dreamily out across the water, away to a great fog-bank hanging and drifting over the face of the deep. Reynolds, too, looked, and the sight held him spellbound. The mass of fog slowly rose and rolled across the newly-bathed sun. Then it began to dissolve, and dim forms of trees and islands made their appearance, growing more distinct moment by moment. The scene fascinated him. It was truly a fairy world upon which he was looking.
And as he looked, his eyes rested upon a dark speck just beneath the overhanging fog. For a few minutes it made no impression upon his wandering mind. But slowly he began to realize that the object was in motion, and moving toward the steamer. Then he saw something dark being waved as if to attract attention. He was all alert now, feeling sure that someone was hailing the steamer. In a few minutes she would be past, when it would be too late to be of any assistance.
Turning almost instinctively toward the pilot-house, Reynolds' eyes fell upon the captain, who was again talking to the girl. Only for an instant did he hesitate, and then walking rapidly along the deck, he reached the captain's side and touched him lightly upon the arm.
"Excuse me, sir," he began, as the officer wheeled suddenly around. "Someone seems to be signaling to you over there, just where that fog-bank is lifting," and he pointed with his finger.
The captain and the girl both turned, and their eyes scanned the watery expanse.
"Can you see anything, Glen?" the captain asked. "My eyes must be failing me."
"I do now," was the reply. "Over there to the left," and she motioned with her hand. "I see it quite plainly. It is a boat of some kind with people in it, and they are waving to us."
"So it is!" the captain exclaimed. "Who can it be? However, we shall soon find out."
He hurried away, and soon a long raucous blast ripped the air. Then the steamer swerved to the right and made for the small craft which was now plainly visible. Many of the passengers were already crowding the rail, all greatly interested in this new diversion.
Reynolds stepped back and gave his place to another. He could watch the approaching boat just as well here, and at the same time study to a better advantage the girl who was standing close to the rail. He had accomplished something, anyway, which was worth a great deal to him. He had heard her speak and learned her name. He liked "Glen," and it seemed to suit her. But Glen what? He longed to know that, too. Her voice was soft and musical. It appealed to him. Yes, everything seemed to be in harmony, he mused. Name, voice, dress, and manner, all suited the girl admirably. It was a happy combination.
From where he was standing he could watch her unobserved. He could see the side of her face nearest to him, and he noted how flushed it was with excitement. She was keenly interested in the approaching boat, and her eyes followed it most intently.
The steamer had already slowed down, and its movement now was scarcely perceptible. Reynolds looked at the small approaching craft, and to his surprise he saw that it was a large canoe, being paddled by four stalwart Indians. There were several white men on board, although he could not distinguish their faces. Who could they be, and where had they come from? he wondered. A man standing nearby asked the same question, though no one seemed to be able to give a satisfactory answer.
By this time the canoe was so near the steamer that from his position Reynolds could see nothing more owing to the men crowding the rail. He glanced toward the girl just as she turned suddenly away from the side of the steamer and walked rapidly across the deck. She seemed much agitated, and the flush had fled her face, leaving it very white. All this Reynolds briefly noted, and when she had disappeared through a door leading into the observation room, he stood wrapped in thought, wondering as to the cause of the remarkable change that had so suddenly taken place. Was there some mystery connected with her life, and had she recognized someone in the canoe she did not wish to meet? He determined to learn what he could about the picked-up men, and to keep his eyes and ears open for further developments.
A BIG BLAZIN' LAUGH
"Fine sight that, sir."
Reynolds turned sharply at these words, and saw the old man with the long beard and flowing hair standing at his left. Although he himself was almost six feet in height, he seemed small by the side of this stranger, who was looking calmly out over the water toward the fog-bank, which had now lifted and was slowly dissolving.
"Ye don't see the likes of that often," he continued, "an' it ain't everyone who kin read its meanin', either."
"What do you see there?" Reynolds asked, more interested in hearing the man's deliberate drawl than the meaning of the fog-bank.
"Wall, it seems to me that a fog-bank hasn't a ghost of a chance fer life when the sun hits it good an' hard."
"That one hasn't, anyway," Reynolds replied, as he watched the cloud gradually thinning and drifting away.
"It's the same with all clouds, sir, an' it makes no difference whether they're hangin' over the water or over one's life. They're bound to disappear when the sun gits after 'em."
"Do you think so?"
"I sartinly do. Why, there isn't a cloud but'll gather up its skirts an' run when a good big blazin' laugh gits after it. An' that's what we want in this world to-day; more cheerfulness, more of the joy of life."
"Have you tried it?"
"Y'bet I have, an' it's allus worked like a charm. I could tell ye of many a squabble that's been settled by the means of a smilin' face an' a good hearty laugh. There's nuthin' like it."
"You're an optimist, I see," and Reynolds smiled for the first time in many a day. He could not help it, for this stranger radiated a stimulating influence of cheerfulness and goodwill.
"I try to be, sir, an' when I see a fog-bank hoverin' over people like that one did out yonder a little while ago, I consider it my duty to act like the sun an' drive it away. Then, there's good feelin' all around, 'specially among the ones who were under the cloud."
"I imagine it is that way with those men who have just been picked up. They must feel happy over the lifting of the fog at the right moment."
"That's jist what I mean. It meant much to them."
"Do you know who they are?"
"Miners, no doubt, who wish to go north. They've been prospecting mebbe, on some of the islands along the coast, an' started out to hail a passin' steamer. They do it at times."
"And the steamers always pick them up?"
"Sure; they wouldn't go by without takin' 'em on board, no matter who they are. It's the great Brotherhood of man, ye see, back of it all, an' ye'll find that spirit stronger the farther north ye go. It's different here from what it is in the big cities, an' the more ye preach of that the better."
"Preach! What do you mean?" Reynolds asked in amazement.
"You be one of them missionary chaps, ain't ye?"
Reynolds laughed. "What makes you think so?"
"Dunno, 'cept yer solemncoly face, an' the way yer dressed. Missionaries ginerally come north lookin' about as you do, to turn the sinner from the error of his way, an' to convart the heathen Injun. They're not overly pop'lar up thar."
"Oh, they've too high an' mighty notions about the way men should live; that's the trouble."
"And so you think they should make themselves popular with the men, eh? In what way?"
"By bein' one of 'em, an' not bein' too hard on what they do."
"Do you think that their great Master ever said that they would be popular, and that they were to please all men?" Reynolds defensively asked.
"I dunno. Guess I can't recall anything He ever said about the matter," and the old man scratched his head in perplexity.
"Didn't He tell His first disciples that they would be hated of all men for His name's sake when He sent them forth to do His work?"
"I believe He did," was the reluctant assent. "But that was a long time ago. Things are different now."
"Only outwardly, remember. The heart is the same in all ages; you can't change that. If it is evil and full of vileness, it is bound to hate the good. Surely you know that."
"Then you really are one of them missionary chaps?" and the old man eyed Reynolds curiously.
"No, I am not," was the emphatic reply.
"But ye quote Scripter like a parson, though. I thought mebbe ye was."
"Is it necessary to be a parson to know something about the Bible? Isn't this a Christian land? Why shouldn't I know something about the greatest Book in the world? My mother taught it to me when I was a child, and I learned a great deal about it when I went to Sunday school. I did not value it so much then, but when over in France, with death on all sides, much of it came back to me, and I honestly confess it was a great comfort."
"An' so ye was over thar, young man? Wall, that's sartinly interestin'. Fer how long?"
"Nearly four years. I enlisted at the beginning of the war."
"An' come through all right?"
"Look," and Reynolds bared his left arm, showing a great scar. "I have several more on my body, some worse than that."
"Ye don't tell! My, I'm glad I've met ye. Got some medals, I s'pose."
Reynolds made no reply, as he already felt ashamed of himself for having told this much. It was not his nature to speak about himself, especially to a stranger, and he was determined to say nothing about the medals he had received for conspicuous bravery, and which he carried in his breast pocket.
"Do you smoke?" he suddenly asked.
"Yes; an old hand at it. Good fer the nerves."
"Well, suppose we go and have a smoke now. I am just in the mood for one myself."
Together they made their way to the smoking-room, which was situated well aft. It was partly filled with men, smoking, chatting, and playing cards. The air was dense with various brands of tobacco, making it impossible to see clearly across the room. No one paid any heed to the two as they entered, sat down in one corner of the room, filled and lighted their pipes. Reynolds noted that his companion became suddenly silent, and seemed to be deeply interested in four men playing cards at a small table a short distance from where they were sitting.
"Do you play?" Reynolds asked, thinking that the old man might be fond of cards.
"No," was the brief and absent-minded reply.
Reynolds said no more, but watched the four men. His attention was chiefly centered upon one who was facing him, and who was doing most of the talking. He was a young man, with a dark moustache and black curly hair. He played with keen interest and in a lofty dominating manner. Reynolds did not like his appearance, and the more he studied him the stronger became his repugnance. It was not only the low brutal face that compelled this feeling, but the coarse language that reeked from his lips. This so disgusted Reynolds that he was about to leave the room, when in an instant a commotion took place among the players. They sprang to their feet, and a miniature babel ensued.
"You're a liar."
These were some of the terms hurled forth in sharp rasping sentences, and it seemed as if blood must surely be shed ere the confusion ended. As the word "liar" rang out, a sudden silence followed, and at once hands rested upon butts of revolvers concealed in four hip-pockets. But before they were drawn a peculiar noise broke the stillness, which caused Reynolds to start, for the sound came from the old prospector's lips.
"Me-o-o-o-ow. Me-o-o-o-ow. Bow-wow-wow. Bow-wow-wow."
So unexpected was this interruption that all in the room stared in amazement, and even the four angry men turned to see whence the sound came. So perfect was the imitation, and so humorous the expression upon the face of the old man, that the onlookers burst into a hearty laugh, which caused the four inflamed players to shuffle uneasily, and to look sheepishly at one another. Then their mouths expanded into a grin, and the storm was over.
The curly-haired man at once left his place and strode over to where the prospector was sitting.
"Frontier Samson!" he exclaimed, gripping him firmly by the hand. "Is it really you?"
"Sure, it's me, all right, Curly. Who else did ye think it was; me ghost?"
"Not when I heard that cat-call, an' the bow-wow."
"Heard 'em before, eh? Guess this isn't the first scrape I've got ye out of, is it?"
"Should say not. But where in h—— did ye drop from, Sam? I didn't know ye were on board."
"Oh, I'm jist on a visit from the outside. An' it's mighty lucky that I'm here, or else I don't know what 'ud have happened. Better leave cards alone, Curly, if ye can't play without fightin'. They make people act like a bunch of kids."
"It was those d—— fools' fault, though, Sam."
"Thar, now, don't make excuses an' blame others, Curly. That's jist what kids allus do. An' cut out them unholy words. There might be a parson around."
Curly flung himself down upon a seat, and lighted a cigarette. He cast a furtive glance at Reynolds, thinking that perhaps he might be the "parson."
"What have ye been doin', Curly?" the old man asked. "An' why was ye driftin' out under that fog-bank? Ye nearly got left, let me tell ye that."
"I know we did, and I thought that d——, excuse me, Sam," he apologized, as he again glanced toward Reynolds. "I mean, I thought that the fog-bank would never lift. We've been doing some of the islands for several months."
"Nothing, an' nearly starved in the bargain. If it hadn't been fer an Indian mission, we wouldn't be alive now."
"Then missionaries are of some use after all, Curly. You was allus hard on 'em, if I remember right."
"Umph! They're all right when one's starving. If they'd only leave the Gospel dope out, it wouldn't be so bad."
"Got a dose of it, eh?"
"Should say I did. Morning, noon an' night I had to go to church with the Indians. I've had enough to last me the rest of me life. Say, weren't we glad to get away!"
"Goin' north agin? I thought ye was through, up thar?"
"So did I. But we heard of the new strike at Big Draw, an' decided to try our luck once more."
"Think ye'll hit it this time?"
"I hope so. But it isn't altogether the gold that's taking me back. There's something more attractive."
"So I imagined."
"I thought you would understand." Curly's voice was eager now. "She'll not escape me this time. Gad, she's a beaut! But as wild as a hawk."
"An' so ye think ye'll corner her, eh?" There was a peculiar note in Samson's voice which Reynolds was quick to detect, but which Curly missed.
"Just you wait an' see," the latter reminded. "That old cuss thinks he's got a regular Gibraltar behind those hills with his lousy Indians. But I'll show him a thing or two."
"Ye've never been thar, have ye?" Samson queried.
"Never. But the bird comes out of her nest sometimes, ye know, an' then——"
"You'll be the hawk, is that it?" Samson asked as the other paused.
"Oh, I'll be around," Curly laughed. "One doesn't run across the likes of her every day, an' she's the gold I'm really after."
"Wall, all I kin say is this," the prospector replied, as he rose slowly to his feet, "that ye'd better be mighty keerful, young man. That Giberalter, as ye call it, is guarded by a lion that ain't to be fooled with. He's got claws that reach from sun-up to sun-down as several smarter ones than you have found out to their sorrow. Leave him alone, an' he'll bother nobody. But interfere with that lass of his, an' the hull north won't be big enough to hide ye. That's my warnin', an' if yer not a fool ye'll heed it."
Reynolds had a good long sleep that afternoon. He had been much disturbed the night before by several men in the next room, who shouted and sang until early morning. During the evening he went out upon deck, well forward, as he wished to be alone, and away from the men who were drinking and gambling in other parts of the steamer. It was a beautiful evening, with scarcely a ripple disturbing the surface of the water. The air was mild, and when the sun went down, the moon rose big and cheery above the dense dark forest away to the right. Reynolds thought over the conversation he had heard between Frontier Samson and the man known as "Curly." That the latter was a scoundrel he had not the slightest doubt. His face alone would have betrayed him even if he had not spoken a word. He was curious concerning the reference to "Gibraltar," the "lion," and the "lass."
As he thus sat and mused, listening to the zip-zip of the vessel as it cut through the water, his mind naturally drifted off to her of the street crossing incident. He wondered what had become of her. Why had she left the railing in such a hurry, and what was the cause of the sudden pallor that had come upon her face? Had Curly anything to do with her agitation, and was it possible that she was the girl to whom he referred? As this idea flashed into his mind, he sat bolt upright in his chair. It did seem reasonable when he considered it. In fact, it gave him a certain degree of pleasure as well. If his suspicions were true, then the girl needed protection from that brute, and was it not his duty to keep a sharp lookout, and if necessary to protect her from all harm?
And as he thought of this, the girl herself came upon deck, and walked at once toward the bow close to the tall flag-staff, which pointed upwards like a quivering slender needle. Reynolds could see her plainly as she stood looking straight before her. A cloak was thrown carelessly over her shoulders, and her head was bare. What a perfect picture of gracefulness she presented to the admiring young man as he watched her by the light of the full-orbed moon. How he longed to go forward, speak to her, and listen to her voice. But, no, he did not dare to do that. He must adore her at a distance and wonder what she was thinking about.
Presently an idea leaped into his mind that thrilled his entire being. He was pushing out into the Great Unknown, with all its dangers and uncertainties. But standing there before him was his guiding star, the one girl in all the world who unconsciously had inspired and stirred him to action. Was she really to be his guiding star? Anyway, the sight of her standing before him seemed to be a favorable portent of the future.
For almost half an hour the girl stood silently at the bow, apparently unconscious that anyone was near. Reynolds remained a long time after she had gone. It was good to be there on such a night, with no one to disturb him, alone with a fair vision before him, and a sweet peace in his soul.
BEYOND THE GREAT WHITE PASS
The train was on the point of pulling out from the little coast town of Skagway on its run inland of one hundred and ten miles. There had been much bustle and excitement ever since the steamer landed early that morning. But now everything was in readiness, the signal had been given, and the train began to move.
Reynolds was comfortably seated and looking out of the open window, when Frontier Samson came and sat down by his side. The old prospector was much out of breath and panting heavily.
"I nearly missed the train," he explained. "She was movin' when I swung on board."
"Sight-seeing, eh?" Reynolds queried.
"That's about it, I guess. Watchin' a mix-up, an' gittin' Curly out of a scrape. That's what delayed me."
"What was the trouble?"
"Oh, the same old story. Curly kin never mind his own bizness. He's allus pokin' his nose into other people's affairs. He's too sassy."
"Where is he now?"
"In the smoker. I had to drag him along with me, an' that's what made me late."
"Why didn't you leave him behind?"
"I should have done that. But it's the Brotherhood, ye see, that made me do it. That feller ain't safe runnin' at large, an' somebody's got to keep an eye on him, 'specially up here."
"It seems to me that you have undertaken a big task," and Reynolds smiled.
"Indeed I have an' no one knows that better'n me. If I had my way, he'd be shipped off to some Penitentiary. That's the right place for the likes of him. An' he'll land thar some day, as sure as guns. But in the meantime somebody's got to watch him."
Reynolds made no reply. In fact, he hardly heard his companion's last words, for his eyes were riveted upon the wonderful sights around him. Above towered the peaks of the White Pass Range, grand and majestic. Away to the left, and far above, could be seen the railway track, twisting along the mountain side like a thin dark thread. It seemed incredible that the train could make such a tremendous climb.
"Do we go up there?" he asked in amazement.
"Sure. We'll be thar in a short time, but it takes four engines, though, to tug us up. Then ye'll see something that'll make ye wonder. Guess thar's nuthin' like it in the hull world. We'll go up three thousand feet, an' it'll be the nearest to heaven that some of the chaps on this train'll ever be. Jist look at that, now!"
Reynolds was indeed looking. Far down below a few cabins appeared like little toy houses, while away beyond could be seen the blue cold waters of the North Pacific. The air was becoming keen. But it was bracing and stimulating.
"Say, I'd like to paint that!" he mused half aloud. "It is grand, stupendous, appalling! And what a work to build this road! How was it ever done!"
"It sartinly was, young man. It cost a mint of money, to say nuthin' of the lives sacrificed. Thar was some mighty bad accidents on this bit of road, though thar was some funny ones, too. I often have a good laugh to meself whenever I think of one of the stories that was told."
"What was it?" Reynolds asked. He was interested in everything now.
"Wall, ye see, the company that built this road was considered mighty mean, an' ground the men down to the last cent. One day a big blast went off before its time, an' a feller was blown high into the air. Everybody thought fer sure that thar wouldn't be a speck of him left. But strange to say, in about fifteen minutes he came down pat on his feet, an' but fer a few bruises an' a bad shakin' up he was as chipper as ye please. He got another shock, though, at the end of the week which nearly put him out of bizness."
The old man paused, and a smile overspread his face as he gazed thoughtfully out of the window.
"Yes," he continued, "it sartinly was some shock, an' no mistake. When he went to the office to be paid fer his week's work, he found that the company had docked him two-bits fer the fifteen minutes he was absent on that air-trip when the blast went off. Now, what d'ye think of that?"
"Close shaving, I should say," was the reply. "It's a good yarn, though, and worth remembering. But, my, isn't that a wonderful sight!" And Reynolds motioned to the great mountains away in the distance. "We seem to be surrounded by them."
"So we are, young man. Ye can't escape 'em in the north any more'n ye kin git clear of the sky-scrapers in New York. But them over thar are the work of the Almighty, an' a grand job He made of 'em. This hull land reminds me of a big cathedral; the woods an' valleys are the aisles, an' the mountains are the spires pointin' man to heaven. I tell ye, it's a great place out alone on the hills to worship. Yer not cramped thar, an' it doesn't matter what kind of clothes ye have on. It's wonderful the sights ye see an' the things ye hear. Talk about music! Why, ye have the finest in the world when nature's big organ gits to work, 'specially at night. I've shivered from head to toe when the wind was rippin' an' roarin' through the woods, down the valleys, an' along the mountain passes. That's the music fer me!"
"You seem to love this country," Reynolds remarked, as he noted the intense admiration upon his companion's face.
"I sartinly do, young man. It grips me jist as soon as I cross this range. Thar's nuthin' like it to my way of thinkin', though it takes ye years to find it out. Yet, it doesn't altogether satisfy the soul, although it helps. Thar's something within a man that needs more'n the mountains an' the wonderful things around him. But, thar, I must see what Curly's doin'. He may be up to some more mischief."
Although Reynolds was much interested in the scenery and in listening to the philosophy of the old prospector, yet his mind turned continually to Glen, for it was by that name he now thought of her. He knew that she was on the train, for he had seen her as she stepped aboard but a few minutes before it left the coast. She had passed close to where he was standing, carrying a grip in her hand. He had caught sight of the leather tag fastened to the handle of the grip, and had strained his eyes in a futile effort to read the name written thereon. He was determined in some manner to find out what that name was, as he feared lest he should lose her altogether when the journey by rail was ended. He must have something more definite than the one word Glen.
This opportunity was afforded him when he entered the principal hotel of the little town of Whitehorse at the terminus of the railway. It was just across the street from the station, and when he arrived at the office she was there before him, and about to enter her name in the hotel register. He stood by her side and watched her write. It was a firm sun-browned hand that held the pen, and she wrote in a rapid business-like way. "Glen Weston" were the only words Reynolds saw there as he wrote his own name a minute later below hers. She had not even mentioned where she was from—that space was left blank. He also noticed that the hotel clerk seemed to know who she was, for he was more affable to her than to anyone else. She asked him if her father had yet arrived, and she appeared disappointed when he answered in the negative.
The name "Glen Weston" kept running through Reynolds' mind all that evening. He liked it, and it suited her admirably, so he thought. But who was she, and where was she going? That was what he wished to know.
The town of Whitehorse was of considerable interest to Reynolds as he strolled that evening through its various streets. It was a surprise to him as well, for he had not expected to find such a settled community. He had imagined that all such towns in the north were wild and almost lawless places, abounding in desperate characters, ready to shoot on the slightest provocation. But here all was order, and it was little different from one of the many small conventional towns in Eastern Canada. There were several up-to-date stores, a large post office, bank, churches, and comfortable dwelling houses, though many of the latter were built of logs. The Royal Northwest Mounted Police had their large barracks at the rear of the town under the brow of a high hill, where all day long the flag of the clustered crosses floated from its tall white staff in the centre of the square.
It was the time of year when the light of day reaches far into the night, and deep darkness is unknown. The sun merely dips for a few hours below the mountain Crests, and skims along the horizon, thus illuminating the western sky, and holding back the heavy draperies of night. The light on the far-off ranges and the glory of the distant heavens fascinated Reynolds. He had beheld many beautiful sunsets, but never such a one as this, and his entire soul was stirred within him.
Leaving the level of the town, he climbed the hill, and there on the edge of the steep bank he feasted his eyes upon the wonderful panorama stretched out before him. Like a silver thread the river wound its sinuous way between its steep banks, and faded from view amidst its setting of dark firs and jack-pines; around rose the mountains, their great sides either bathed in the glow of evening, or lying sombre and grim, telling of crouching valleys and funnel-like draws from which the light of day had retreated. And below lay the little town, silent save for the occasional bark of a dog, or the shrill voices of children away to the right.
For some time Reynolds remained here. He was in no hurry to go elsewhere, for the evening was mild and conducive to thought. There was nothing to take him back to the hotel, and he preferred to be out of doors. Just what he was to do next he had no clear idea. He knew that somewhere out from this town was the new mining camp for which he had started. But where it was and how to reach it he had not the faintest knowledge. In truth, he had never been sufficiently interested to make any inquiries, even from Frontier Samson. What had become of the prospector, he wondered, as he had not seen him since his arrival in town. And where was Glen? He had followed her this far, and was he to lose her after all? She had aroused him to action, and caused him to take this long and apparently foolish journey. But he had not spoken a word to her, and so far as he knew she was totally unaware of his existence. He smiled at the thought, and wondered what his friend, the editor, would say if he knew of it. And what about his search for the missing man, Henry Redmond? Instead of throwing himself earnestly and actively into the quest he was frittering away his time, following the will-o'-the-wisp of a fancy, and going daft over a mere slip of a girl who moved serenely apart from his world of thought and being. He called himself a fool and chided himself over and over again. But for all that, he was unable to tear her out of his heart and mind. She seemed to belong to him, and to no one else.
"I believe that my experiences in France have affected my brain," he muttered, as he at length rose to his feet. "I am sure I was not like this before the war. But here I am now dazzled and mystified by a fair face, a pair of sparkling eyes, and the charm of a name. This will never do. I must shake off this fascination, or I shall be good for nothing."
He walked rapidly down the hill, and then along a trail that wound through a thicket of small fir trees. This brought him in a few minutes to one of the streets leading straight to the river. He walked slower now, much interested in the quaint log houses, with here and there a miner's or a prospector's tent. Presently he saw before him a large building, with galvanized roof and sides. People were entering the place, and drawing nearer, the sound of music fell upon his ears. A band was playing, he could easily tell, and it was dancing music at that.
Reaching the building, Reynolds paused and listened. The music was good, the best he had heard in a long time. Through an open door he could see men playing billiards and pool. It was a lively and an attractive scene, which caused him to enter and stand for a while near the door watching the games. No one paid any attention to him, and from what he observed there were others like himself, strangers, who found the time hanging heavily on their hands, and had dropped into the place for the sake of companionship. There were several large tables, and these were all occupied by eager players. Nearby was a bar, where drinks of various kinds were being served. The room was brilliantly lighted by electricity, and the whole atmosphere of the place was most congenial.
At one end of the billiard room were two doors, and here a number of people were standing watching the dancing that was going on in the main part of the building. Reynolds presently joined them, and he was greatly surprised at the size of the room, and the number of people upon the floor. There was a gallery immediately overhead, and here the band was placed.
For a few minutes Reynolds stood and watched the dancers in a somewhat indifferent manner. He learned from a man standing by his side that this building belonged to a town club, and that such dances were not uncommon, at which most of the people attended.
At first Reynolds could not recognize anyone he knew, but as he watched, he gave a great start, for there but a short distance away was Glen, and her partner was none other than the rascal, Curly. He could hardly believe his eyes, and he followed them most intently as they moved about the room. He felt certain now that Glen was the girl mentioned by Curly on the steamer in his conversation with Frontier Samson. He had found her, and was it to her liking? he wondered. He recalled her pale face and agitated manner as Curly boarded the vessel along the coast. Was he the cause of her distress, or was it someone else? It seemed then as if she wished to keep clear of the fellow, and her seclusion during the remainder of the voyage lent color to this idea. But here she was dancing with him, and apparently enjoying herself. All this puzzled Reynolds as he stood there, unheeding everything else save those special two.
When the music ceased, Glen and Curly walked across the room and sat down but a short distance from the door. Reynolds could see the girl's face most plainly now, and he could tell at a glance that she was unhappy. Curly, on the other hand, was very animated and did all of the talking. He was speaking in a low voice and seemed very much in earnest. Occasionally the girl shook her head, and looked uneasily around as if fearful lest someone should overhear what was being said. At length, however, as she glanced to her right, her face brightened, and the light of joy leaped into her eyes. Reynolds also turned his head, and he was surprised to see, standing not far away, a tall and powerfully-built Indian. Where he had come from Reynolds had not the least idea, but there he was, clad in a soft buckskin suit, motionless, and heeding no one except the young girl sitting by Curly's side. His placid face relaxed a little, however, as Glen moved swiftly to where he was standing and spoke to him in a low voice. The Indian merely nodded in reply, and without even glancing around upon the curious watchers in the room, he at once followed the girl as she passed out of the building through a side door which opened upon the street.
COMRADES OF THE TRAIL
There was no wild stampede to the Big Draw mining camp on Scupper Creek, where gold had been discovered. There had been so many such reports in the past which proved but flurries, that many of the old-timers became sceptical, and waited for further developments. There were some, however, who were always on the lookout for anything new, and the hope of making a strike induced them to hasten away at the least information of any discovery. These drifted forth in little groups by the way of the river and mountain passes. Among such there were always newcomers, men from the outside, as well as miners who had left the country years before.
It was with the latest arrivals that Reynolds made his way into Big Draw. He was accustomed to life in the open, and his recent experience of camp life in France served him in good stead now. He had just himself to look after, and, accordingly, he did not need a large outfit. He also learned that provisions could be procured at the mining camp, where a store had been established. He, therefore, took with him only what was absolutely necessary, such as a small tent, a few cooking utensils, a good rifle, and sufficient food to last him for several days. A steamer would carry him part of the way, while the rest of the journey would be made overland on foot.
After her departure from the dance that night, Reynolds saw nothing more of Glen. He found that she had left the hotel, but where she had gone he did not know. He inquired of the clerk, and was answered with a curt "Don't know." He wondered who the Indian could be. There seemed to be a mutual understanding between him and the girl, at any rate, and they must have departed together. During the remainder of his stay in town he had wandered about the streets, with the faint hope that he might again see the girl, or learn something as to her whereabouts.
Frontier Samson had also disappeared, and no one seemed to know anything about him. Reynolds did not mind asking about the old prospector, as it was different from enquiring about Glen. In fact, the girl had become so real to him and such a vital part of his very existence that should he speak of her to others he might betray his deep concern.
During the voyage down river he thought much about her and tried to imagine who she really was and what had become of her. The idea even suggested itself that she might be that stolid Indian's wife. Strange things often happened in the north, so he had read, and this might be one of them. He banished the thought, however, as too ridiculous, and beyond the bounds of probability.
The voyage was an uneventful one to Reynolds, who kept much to himself and did not join his companions at cards, which were played day and night. At times there was considerable roughness, though no shooting. Curly was there, and enjoying himself to his heart's content. He played most of the time, losing and winning in turn. Reynolds often sat and watched him as he played, wondering where the fellow had first met Glen and what he knew about her. He had never spoken to the rascal, and had no inclination to do so. But several times glancing up from his cards Curly noticed Reynolds' eyes fixed intently upon him. Although he had found out that the quiet, reserved man was not a "parson," yet he knew that he had been with Frontier Samson, and he was curious to know what the old prospector had told him about his career. His record was so black that he naturally became suspicious until he at length imagined that the young man with the steady unswerving eyes was following him north with some special object in view. The idea annoyed him, although he said nothing, but went on with his game.
It took the little steamer some time to reach her destination, as she had to buck a heavy current part of the way. When she at length tied up at the landing where the trail over the mountain began, the passengers scrambled quickly ashore, and started at once upon their hard journey, carrying heavy loads upon their backs. With their long trip of several thousand miles almost at an end, the excitement of the quest increased, and eagerly and feverishly they pressed forward, each anxious to be the first of the party to reach the mining camp.
But Reynolds was in no hurry. He had not the same incentive as the others, and so long as his supply of food lasted he was as contented on the trail as anywhere else. His pack was heavy and the day promised to be very warm. He preferred to be alone, away from the insipid chatter and profanity of his companions. It would give him an opportunity to think and to study the beauty of the landscape.
Leaving the landing, he walked along the trail, which in a short time began to ascend around the right side of the mountain. Here he stopped and looked back. The river wound below, and the little steamer was lying at the bank discharging her cargo. It was the last link between him and the great outside world of civilization. In a few hours it would be gone, and for an instant there came to him the longing to go back and give up his foolish quest. He banished the temptation, however, and plodded steadily on his way. He had never turned back yet, and he was determined that this should not be the first time. He had the unaccountable conviction that the lap of the future held something in store for him, and that he would come into his own in due time.
The higher he climbed the more wonderful became the view. The trail twisted around the mountain side, and from this vantage ground the solitary traveller could look forth upon vast reaches of forest and great wild meadows far below, with here and there placid lakes, mirroring trees, mountain peaks, and billowy clouds. The voices of his companions had long since died away, and he was alone with the brooding silence all around, and his own thoughts for company.
At noon he rested under the shade of an old storm-beaten tree, and ate his meagre lunch. This finished, he lighted his pipe and stretched himself full length upon the mossy ground. He was feeling more contented than he had been in many a day. The air was invigorating, and a desire came over him to be up and doing. His old indifference to life seemed to slip away like a useless and impeding garment, leaving him free for action. He even thought with pleasure of mingling again in the activities of civilization, and winning for himself a worthy reputation. He would make good in the north, and then go back and surprise his friend, the editor, and all who knew him.
So strong was this feeling that he sat suddenly up, wondering what had come over him to cause the subtle change. "It must be the wild mystery of this region," he mused. "It is stimulating and impelling. It may be the spirit of the mountains, and the other grand things of nature. They are carrying out the designs for which they were intended, and perhaps they have silently rebuked me for being a traitor to the highest that is in me. But I shall show them a thing or two, if I am not much mistaken."
Springing lightly to his feet, he continued his journey. His step was more buoyant, his heart lighter, and the pack seemed less heavy than when he left the river.
He travelled all that afternoon, crossed the summit, and moved swiftly down the opposite slope. It was easy walking now, and he hoped to reach the valley and there spend the night. He believed that he should find water among that heavy timber ahead of him, and thither he made his way. Neither was he mistaken, for when his steps at length began to lag he heard the ripple of water drifting up the trail. As he drew nearer he smelled the smoke of a camp-fire, and the appetizing odor of roasting meat. "Somebody must be camping there," he mused, "and I may have company. I am sorry, but then it can't be helped."
The brook was a small one, shallow, and Reynolds easily sprang across. Gaining the opposite bank, he peered among the trees, and to his surprise he saw Frontier Samson squatting upon the ground, roasting a grouse over a fire he had previously lighted. The old prospector's face brightened as the young man approached.
"My, y've been a long time comin'," he accosted. "I thought mebbe ye'd played out, tumbled down the side of the mountain, or a grizzly had gobbled ye up. What in time kept ye so long?"
"And where in the world did you come from?" Reynolds asked in reply, as he unslung his pack and tossed it aside. "I never expected to meet you here."
"Ye didn't, eh? Wall, ye never want to be surprised at anything I do. I'm here to-day an' somewhere else to-morrow. I'm allus on the move, rovin' from place to place. It's me nature, I guess."
"A rolling stone gathers no moss, so I've heard. Is that the way with you?" Reynolds asked, with a twinkle to his eyes.
"I may git no moss, young man, an' not become a fossil like some of the fellers in big cities, but I git a heap of rubbin' with me rollin', an' that keeps me brightened up."
"But how did you get here ahead of me?" Reynolds questioned. "You were not on the steamer, and I am certain you didn't walk."
Samson drew the grouse from the fire, and examined it critically. Finding it not done to his satisfaction, he thrust it back again.
"Jist hand me that fryin'-pan, will ye?" and he motioned to his left. "I want it handy when the bird's cooked. Ye didn't expect to find a supper here to-night, young man, did ye?" and he looked quizzically at Reynolds.
"Indeed I didn't," was the emphatic reply.
"Neither did ye imagine that it 'ud be a grouse's bones ye'd be pickin'. Why, it's no tellin' where that bird was three days ago. It may have been fifty miles or more away, fer all we know. But it's here now, isn't it?"
"It looks very much like it," and Reynolds laughed.
"Wall, that's jist the way with many other things. It's allus the unexpected that happens, an' thar are surprises on every trail, as ye'll larn if ye haven't done so already. Meetin' me here is one of 'em, an' my movements are jist as unsartin an' mysterious as were them of that bird which is now sizzlin' over this fire."
"But with not such an unhappy ending, I hope," and again Reynolds smiled.
The prospector's eyes twinkled as he drew the bird from the fire, and laid it carefully in the frying-pan.
"Guess it's done all right this time," he remarked. "Now fer supper. I'm most starved."
Reynolds was hungry, and he did full justice to the meal. Samson had some excellent sour-dough bread of which he was very proud.
"Made it last night," he explained, "an' it turned out better'n usual. Thought mebbe I'd have company before long."
"Did you meet the others?" Reynolds asked.
"Oh, yes, I met 'em," Samson chuckled.
"Were they far ahead?"
"Y' bet, an' chatterin' like a bunch of monkeys. Guess they're thar by now."
"Were they surprised to see you?"
"H'm, they didn't see me. I was settin' under a tree well out of sight. I didn't want to meet that crowd; they're not to my likin'. I jist wished to see if Curly was along."
"You seem to be keepin' a sharp eye on that fellow still," Reynolds remarked. He was anxious to draw the prospector out. Perhaps he might learn something about Curly's acquaintance with Glen.
"Yes, I do keep me eyes peeled fer Curly," Samson drawled, as he finished his supper and pulled out his pipe. "It's necessary, let me tell ye that. He ain't safe nohow."
"You have known him for some time, then?"
"Long enough to be suspicious of the skunk."
"He seems to be very friendly with you, though."
"Oh, he's got sense enough not to buck up aginst me. An' besides, I've yanked him out of many a nasty fix. Most likely he'd been planted long before this if I hadn't been around at the right moment."
"He's up here for more than gold, so I understand."
"How did ye larn that, young man?" There was a sharp note in Samson's voice.
"Oh, I merely overheard your conversation with him in the smoking-room of the Northern Light. That was all, but I drew my own conclusion."
"An' what was that?"
"Nothing very definite. I simply inferred that he is after a girl somewhere here in the north, and that she is so guarded by a lion of a father that Curly hasn't much of a chance."
"An' so that's what ye surmised, is it?" the prospector queried.
"Am I right?"
"Guess yer not fer astray."
"Have you seen the girl? Do you know her father?"
"Have I seen the girl? Do I know her father?" the old man slowly repeated. "Yes, I believe I've seen her, all right. But as fer knowin' her father, wall, that's a different thing. Frontier Samson doesn't pretend to know Jim Weston; he never did."
"Weston, did you say?" Reynolds eagerly asked.
"That's what I said, young man. The name seems to interest ye."
"It does. When I registered at the hotel in Whitehorse, the name just before mine was 'Glen Weston,' and the girl who wrote it came north on the Northern Light. Do you suppose she is Jim Weston's daughter?"
"She might be," was the somewhat slow reply. "As I told ye before, it's ginerally the unexpected that happens. Anyway, ye can't tell much by names these days."
"But Curly knows her, for I saw them together at a dance the night I arrived in town."
"Ye did!" The prospector took his pipe from his mouth and stared hard at Reynolds. "Are ye sure?"
"Positive. Why, I was standing at the door watching the dance, when I saw the two together upon the floor. Later they came over and sat down quite close to me. Curly did most of the talking, and the girl seemed quite uneasy. She left shortly after with a fine-looking Indian, who had evidently come for her. I have not seen her since."
"So Curly was dancin' with her," Samson mused. "Then she must be Jim Weston's gal. I wonder what the old man'll say when he hears about it?"
"How will he know?"
"Oh, he'll find out, all right. There's nuthin' that misses him here in the north."
"What will he do to Curly?"
"I wouldn't like to say at present. That remains to be seen."
"Is this Jim Weston a desperate character?"
"The ones who have tried to fool with him say he is, an' I guess they ought to know. He's a holy terror when he gits goin', 'specially when anyone's after that lass of his."
"The men up here all know about her, I suppose?"
"Should say so. They're about crazy over her. She's been the cause of many a row, an' several shootin' rackets."
"Does she favor anyone?"
"Not as fer as I know. She's in a class all by her lonesome, an' well able to take care of herself. She's not anxious fer lovers, so I understand, at least, not the brand ye find up here. She's some lass, all right, an' whoever succeeds in winnin' her'll be a mighty lucky chap."
"What does her father do? Is he a miner?"
"It's jist hard to tell what Jim Weston does an' what he doesn't do. No one seems to know fer sartin. He lives like a lord on Big Lake, way over yonder," and Samson motioned to the east. "All the folks know that he lives thar with his lass, guarded by a hull pack of Injuns. But what he does an' what he doesn't do is a mighty problem."
"His daughter travels, though, and alone at that, doesn't she?" Reynolds queried.
"Occasionally. Jim's givin' her an eddication, so I hear. She must be comin' back now, as this is vacation time."
"But what happened to her, do you suppose, after the dance that night?" Reynolds asked. "She disappeared as if by magic, and I believe the big Indian had something to do with it."
"How d'ye know she disappeared?" was the sudden and somewhat embarrassing question.
Reynolds laughed, and his face flushed. He knew that he had betrayed himself, and that the prospector noted his confusion.
"Oh, I didn't notice her in town," he explained, "and I saw by the register that she had left the hotel."
"So you're interested in her, too, are ye, young man?"
"I certainly am," was the candid confession. "From the moment that I first saw her at a street crossing in Vancouver she has been hardly out of my mind. I never saw any girl who affected me so much, and she is the reason why I am here now."
"Ye don't tell!" Samson tapped the ashes out of his pipe, and then stretched himself full length upon the ground. "Make a clean breast of it, young man," he encouraged. "I'm an old hardened chap meself, but I do like to hear a real interestin' heart-story once in a while. I git sick an' disgusted listenin' to brutes on two legs, callin' themselves men when they talk about women. But when it comes to a clean young feller, sich as I take you to be, tellin' of his heart-stroke, then it's different, an' I'm allus pleased to listen."
And make a clean breast of it Reynolds did. He was surprised at himself for talking so freely as he told about his indifference to life until he first saw Glen Weston. It was easy to talk there in the silence of the great forest, with the shadows of evening closing around and such a sympathetic listener nearby. He felt better when his story was ended, for he had shared his heart feeling with one worthy of his confidence, so he believed.
Frontier Samson remained silent for a few minutes after the confession had been concluded.. He looked straight before him off among the trees as if he saw something there. Reynolds wondered what he was thinking about, and whether he considered him a fool for becoming so infatuated over a mere girl.
"I must seem ridiculous to you," he at length remarked. "Would any man in his senses act as I have?"
"Ye might do worse," was the quiet reply. "I am sartinly interested in what ye've jist told me, an' I thank ye fer yer confidence. Me own heart was stirred once, an' the feelin' ain't altogether left me yit. But ye've got a difficult problem ahead of ye, young man. Ye want that lass, so I believe, but between you an' her stands Jim Weston."
"And the girl, why don't you say?"
"Sure, sure; she's to be considered. But a gal kin be won when she takes a fancy to a man of your make-up. The trouble'll be with her dad, an' don't fergit that. But thar, I guess we've talked enough about this fer the present. I'm dead beat an' want some sleep. We must be away early in the mornin', remember."
"What! are you going my way?" Reynolds eagerly asked.
"Sure; if ye'd like to have me along. I'm bound fer Big Draw meself."
It was just what Reynolds desired. He liked the old prospector, and now that he had confided to him his tale of love, he was drawn closer than ever to this wandering veteran of the trails.
A SHOT THAT TOLD
The life at Big Draw mining camp on Scupper Creek did not appeal to Reynolds. He watched the men at work upon their various claims, and noted how meagre was their success. They toiled like slaves, lured on by the hope of a rich strike that never came. The principal place of meeting was the roadhouse, where "Shorty" Bill held sway. He lodged men, served meals, and conducted a bar. He was a good-hearted fellow, rough and uncouth, but well liked by all, and a genial companion. It was, therefore, but natural that at this place many of the men should congregate at night, and at times during the day, for a brief respite from their labors. It was here, too, that news would occasionally drift in from the outside world, which would be discussed by the men as they played cards, the only amusement for which they seemed to care. When the mail arrived, as it did at irregular intervals, all work on the creek was suspended, and the men flocked to the roadhouse to receive their scanty dole of letters and papers. Shorty was the custodian of the mail after its arrival, and he magnified his office. With a quid of tobacco tucked away in his cheek, he would study each address most carefully before calling forth the owner's name in a stentorian voice.
Although mining was not in his line, Reynolds realised that he must do something. As he studied the life of the camp, and watched the men at their work, he thought of his friend, the editor. What an article he might write for The Telegram that would make the editor's eyes dance with joy. And he could do it, too, he felt certain, if he could only get up sufficient energy. He could add a number of sketches drawn from life, which would be of much value. He thought of all this as he wandered aimlessly around, and as he lay at night in his little tent.
Several days thus passed without anything being done. Frontier Samson had again disappeared, and no one had any idea where he had gone. Reynolds soon grew tired with having nothing to do, so he accordingly turned his attention to the hills. Fresh meat was urgently needed for the camp, as the miners would not spare the time to go after it themselves. Wild sheep roamed the mountains, and Reynolds decided that he could make more money by supplying the camp with meat than digging for the uncertain gold. It would also satisfy his desire to get away into the wilds, where he could explore to his heart's content the mysteries of the foothills, the great valleys, and the vast expanses of wild meadows.
Reynolds at once put this plan into execution, and each morning he left camp for a day in the hills. At night he returned, loaded down with a mountain sheep he had bagged, and which he readily sold for several ounces of gold. When not hunting, he would spend his time either exploring some creek or lying on the hillside studying the scenery around him, and imbibing impressions for the masterpieces he planned to produce.
But it was not always the beauties of nature which occupied his mind. No matter where he went Glen was ever with him. In some mysterious manner she seemed to be near, and he wondered if he should ever see her again. He often looked away to the east, for there Frontier Samson had told him she lived. How far off was the place? he asked himself, and if he did find her what would her lion of a father do? He was tempted to make the try, anyway, and find out for himself if Jim Weston was as desperate a character as he had been painted. He could do no more than kill him, and he did not fear death. Had he not often faced it on the field of battle, and why should he shrink now?
The more Reynolds thought about this, the more inclined he became to make the effort. It would be another grand adventure to once again go over the top. He might fail, but he would have the satisfaction of making the attempt and showing Glen that he was not a coward. He had been longing for some wild undertaking, and here was the opportunity right at hand. It would be far more preferable than spending his time around camp, or even hunting mountain sheep.
He was thinking seriously of this one beautiful afternoon as he lay on the side of a deep ravine beneath a big weather-beaten fir tree. Below, a brook gurgled, now very small owing to the dryness of the season, but at times swollen by floods into a raging torrent. Across this ravine the mountain rose steep and rugged. Along its side a narrow trail wound, worn smooth by the feet of Indians, mountain sheep, and other denizens of the wild. Reynolds idly wondered whither the trail led, and he was half tempted to start forth on an exploration journey. But it was so comfortable there on the hillside that he gave up the idea, so, lying full upon his back with his hands under his head, he watched the tops of the far-off mountains, and the clouds drifting across the great savannas of the blue.
For some time he remained thus, thinking of Glen and recalling the last time he had seen her. He was trying once more to solve the mystery of her disappearance from Whitehorse, when a sudden noise across the ravine arrested his attention. Casting his eyes in that direction, great was his surprise to see a woman mounted on a magnificent horse riding slowly down that crooked and dangerous trail. Then his heart leaped within him as he recognized Glen. What was he to do? he intuitively asked himself. Should he remain where he was, or hurry down to the brook to meet her? But what right had he to go near her? He had never spoken a word to her, and as she did not even know who he was, she might resent his appearance. Would it not be better for him to remain where he was, and worship at a distance? But was it gentlemanly that he should stay there and watch her when she was unaware of his presence?
And all this time Glen was coming slowly down that winding trail. Reynolds watched her almost spell-bound. She was a superb horsewoman, and rode as one born to the saddle. How graceful was her figure, and how perfectly the noble animal she was riding responded to the lightest touch of the rein as he cautiously advanced. Reynolds could see the girl most plainly now. She sat astride the saddle, with the reins in her right hand, and a small riding-whip in the other. She wore buckskin riding-breeches, a khaki-colored blouse, open at the throat, and a soft felt hat of the same color. The sleeves of her blouse were rolled up to her elbows, thus exposing her strong, supple arms. All this Reynolds quickly noticed, and he believed that he had never before beheld a more beautiful picture of true virile womanhood.
The horse was jet-black, and although walking on such a perilous and difficult trail, it was easy to tell at the first glance that it was a splendid thoroughbred. The animal's carriage showed not only pride in bearing such a beautiful rider, but a full sense of its responsibility as well. Fine were its proportions, reminding Reynolds more of some victor of the race-track than the rough and hardy cayuses of the north.
And even as he looked and wondered from whence such a pair of creatures had so unexpectedly come, the horse gave a terrified snort, threw up its head, and recoiled back upon its haunches. The cause of this fright was at once apparent, for around a huge boulder a large hear had suddenly made its appearance. Reynolds saw at a glance that it was a grizzly, the most formidable animal of the north, and the terror of the trails. Although greatly startled at meeting the horse and its rider, the bear had no idea of retreating. They were blocking his lordly advance and it made him angry. Its coarse savage growl sawed the air as it moved menacingly forward.
All this Reynolds noted as he kneeled upon the ground, firmly clutching his rifle with both hands. Beads of perspiration stood out upon his forehead as he watched the scene across the deep gulch. The horse was rearing wildly, and backing slowly up the trail. There was no room to turn around, so with remarkable coolness and self-control the fair rider was keeping him pressed close to the bank and face to face with the on-coming grizzly. At any instant the horse might disregard the guiding hand as well as the friendly words of encouragement, and in mad terror attempt to swerve suddenly around, and thus hurl itself and rider into the yawning abyss below.
All this passed through Reynolds' mind with lightning rapidity, and he realised that there was not a moment to lose. The bear was advancing more rapidly now, and in a twinkling he might hurl his full weight of eight hundred pounds of compact flesh, bone and muscle upon horse and rider. But ere it could do this, Reynolds brought the rifle to his shoulder, took a quick, steady aim, and fired. The bullet sped true and pierced the bear's body just back of its powerful right shoulder. The great brute stopped dead in its tracks. It swayed for an instant, and then with a roar that drove the recoiling horse almost frantic with terror, it leaped sideways and plunged down the precipice, carrying with it a small avalanche of rocks, earth, and rattling stones.
Reynolds watched the bear until it had plowed its way to the ravine below, where it remained a confused and motionless heap. Then a smile of satisfaction over-spread his face as he lowered his rifle and lifted his eyes to the trail above. The girl had the horse under control now, and was urging him slowly down the narrow way. But the animal's fear was most apparent, for he was advancing very timidly, his whole body quivering with excitement. The fair rider, however, seemed perfectly at ease, and not the least disturbed at what had just happened.
After she had passed the spot where the bear had first appeared, she reined up the horse and looked across to where Reynolds was standing watching her most intently. Waving her band in friendly salutation, she called aloud:
"Come on over."
The young man obeyed with alacrity. He sped down the hill, leaped across the narrow stream, and hurried up the trail. He was panting heavily when he reached the girl's side, and the perspiration was streaming down his face. She looked at him curiously, and her eyes danced with merriment.
"Do you always do that?" she questioned.
"Do what?" Reynolds asked in reply.
"Hustle like that at a woman's call?"
"I never did so before, simply because I never had the chance. This is a new experience to me."
The girl looked at him steadily for a few seconds. Then she smiled and held out her hand.
"I wish to thank you for what you have done for me to-day," she naively told him. "I am certain you saved my life. My, that was a great shot you made!"
Reynolds took her hand in his, and a thrill of joy swept through his body. It was not a soft hand, but brown and firm as if accustomed to toil. Her eyes met his and there was something in her look which aroused the noblest within him. It was an expression of admiration, almost hero-worship, and confidence. It said to him, "I know I can trust you, for you are worthy. You are different from most men in this region. Why are you up here?"
"I am glad that I happened to be near," Reynolds replied. "I was merely resting and enjoying the scenery when you and the bear appeared. You must be more careful in the future, as I might not be around."
The girl gave a merry laugh, and brushed back a wayward tress of hair that had drifted temptingly over her right cheek.
"I forgot to bring my gun," she explained, "and so the bear had me at its mercy. It is always the way, isn't it? Something is sure to happen when you are not prepared."