Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Told In The Hills
Author: Ryan, Marah Ellis, 1866-1934
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Told In The Hills" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                           TOLD IN THE HILLS

                                A NOVEL

                          BY MARAH ELLIS RYAN

AUTHOR OF THAT GIRL MONTANA, THE BONDWOMAN, A FLOWER OF FRANCE, ETC.


    NEW YORK
    GROSSET & DUNLAP
    PUBLISHERS

    Copyright, 1891 By Rand McNally & Co. Chicago.
    Copyright, 1905 By Rand McNally & Co. Chicago.
    All Rights Reserved
    (Told in the Hills)


    IN ALL REVERENCE--IN ALL GRATITUDE
    TO THE FRIENDS GRANTED ME BY
    THE WEST

    FAYETTE SPRINGS, PENN.


    KOPA MESIKA--

    Nika sikhs klaksta kumtucks--
    Klaksta yakwa mamook elahan,
    Nika mahsie--mahsie kwanesum.

    M. E. R.


     Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox, or his sheep, go astray.

     ... Thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be
     with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt
     restore it to him again....

     ... And with all lost things of thy brother's which he hath
     lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise....

     In any case thou shalt deliver him the pledge again when the
     sun goeth down.--Deuteronomy.



[Illustration: Mowitza forged ahead, her sturdy persistence suggesting
a realization of her own importance]



List of Illustrations


Mowitza forged ahead, her sturdy persistence suggesting a realization of
her own importance

At a sharp cut of the whip, Betty sprang forward

Cooling it to suit baby's lips, she knelt beside the squaw



TOLD IN THE HILLS



PART FIRST

THE PLEDGE


"The only one of the name who is not a gentleman"; those words were
repeated over and over by a young fellow who walked, one autumn morning,
under the shade of old trees and along a street of aristocratic houses
in old New Orleans.

He would have been handsome had it not been for the absolutely wicked
expression of his face as he muttered to himself while he walked. He
looked about twenty-five--dark and tall--so tall as to be a noticeable
man among many men, and so well proportioned, and so confidently
careless in movement as not to be ungainly--the confidence of strength.

Some negroes whom he passed turned to look after him, even the whites he
met eyed him seriously. He looked like a man off a sleepless journey,
his eyes were bloodshot, his face haggard, and over all was a malignant
expression as of lurking devilishness.

He stopped at a house set back from the street, and half-smothered in
the shade of the trees and great creeping vines that flung out long arms
from the stone walls. There was a stately magnificence about its grand
entrance, and its massive proportions--it showed so plainly the
habitation of wealth. Evidently the ill-natured looking individual was
not a frequent visitor there, for he examined the house, and the numbers
about, with some indecision; then his eyes fell on the horse-block, in
the stone of which a name was carved. A muttered something, which was
not a blessing, issued from his lips as he read it, but with indecision
at an end he strode up the walk to the house. A question was answered by
the dubious-looking darky at the door, and a message was sent somewhere
to the upper regions; then the darky, looking no less puzzled, requested
the gentleman to follow him to the "Young Massa's" study. The gentleman
did so, noting with those wicked side glances of his the magnificence of
the surroundings, and stopping short before a picture of a brunette,
willowy girl that rested on an easel. The face was lovely enough to win
praise from any man, but an expression, strangely akin to that bestowed
on the carven name outside, escaped him. Through the lattice of the
window the laughter of woman came to him--as fresh and cheery as the
light of the young sun, and bits of broken sentences also--words of
banter and retort.

"Ah, but he is beautiful--your husband!" sighed a girlish voice with the
accent of France; "so impressibly charming! And so young. You two
children!"

Some gay remonstrance against childishness was returned, and then the
first voice went on:

"And the love all of one quick meeting, and one quick, grand passion
that only the priest could bring cure for? And how shy you were, and how
secret--was it not delightful? Another Juliet and her Romeo. Only it is
well your papa is not so ill-pleased."

"Why should he be? My family is no better than my husband's--only some
richer; but we never thought of that--we two. I thought of his beautiful
changeable eyes, and he thought of my black ones, and--well, I came home
to papa a wife, and my husband said only, 'I love her,' when we were
blamed for the haste and the secrecy, and papa was won--as I think every
one is, by his charming boyishness; but," with a little laugh, "he is
not a boy."

"Though he is younger than yourself?"

"Well, what then? I am twenty-three. You see we are quite an old couple,
for he is almost within a year of being as old. Come; my lord has not
yet come down. I have time to show you the roses. I am sure they are the
kind you want."

Their chatter and gaiety grew fainter as they walked away from the
window, and their playful chat added no light to the visitor's face. He
paced up and down the room with the eager restlessness of some caged
thing. A step sounded outside that brought him to a halt--a step and a
mellow voice with the sweetness of youth in it. Then the door opened and
a tall form entered swiftly, and quick words of welcome and of surprise
came from him as he held out his hand heartily.

But it was not taken. The visitor stuck his hands in the pockets of his
coat, and surveyed his host with a good deal of contempt.

Yet he was a fine, manly-looking fellow, almost as tall as his visitor,
and fairer in coloring. His hair was a warmer brown, while the other
man's was black. His eyes were frank and open, while the other's were
scowling and contracted. They looked like allegorical types of light and
darkness as they stood there, yet something in the breadth of forehead
and form of the nose gave a suggestion of likeness to their faces.

The younger one clouded indignantly as he drew back his offered hand.

"Why, look here, old fellow, what's up?" he asked hastily, and then the
indignation fled before some warmer feeling, and he went forward
impulsively, laying his hand on the other's arm.

"Just drop that," growled his visitor, "I didn't come here for that sort
of thing, but for business--yes--you can bet your money on that!"

His host laughed and dropped into a chair.

"Well, you don't look as if you come on a pleasure trip," he agreed,
"and I think you might look a little more pleasant, considering the
occasion and--and--everything. I thought father would come down sure,
when I wrote I was married, but I didn't expect to see anyone come in
this sort of a temper. What is it? Has your three-year-old come in last
in the fall race, or have you lost money on some other fellow's stock,
and what the mischief do you mean by sulking at me?"

"It isn't the three-year-old, and it isn't money lost," and the dark
eyes were watching every feature of the frank young face; "the business
I've come on is--you."

"Look here," and the young fellow straightened up with the conviction
that he had struck the question, "is it because of my--marriage?"

"Rather." Still those watchful eyes never changed.

"Well," and the fair face flushed a little, "I suppose it wasn't just
the correct thing; but you're not exactly the preacher for correct
deportment, are you?" and the words, though ironical, were accompanied
by such a bright smile that no offense could be taken from them. "But
I'll tell you how it happened. Sit down. I would have sent word before,
if I'd suspected it myself, but I didn't. Now don't look so glum, old
fellow. I never imagined you would care. You see we were invited to make
up a yachting party and go to Key West. We never had seen each other
until the trip, and--well, we made up for the time we had lost in the
rest of our lives; though I honestly did not think of getting
married--any more than you would. And then, all at once, what little
brains I had were upset. It began in jest, one evening in Key West, and
the finale of it was that before we went to sleep that night we were
married. No one knew it until we got back to New Orleans, and then I
wrote home at once. Now, I'm ready for objections."

"When you left home you were to be back in two months--it is four now.
Why didn't you come?"

"Well, you know I was offered the position of assistant here to Doctor
Grenier; that was too good to let go."

"Exactly; but you could have got off, I reckon, to have spent your
devoted father's birthday at home--if you had wanted to."

"He was your father first," was the good-humored retort.

"Why didn't you come home?"

There was a hesitation in the younger face. For the first time he looked
ill at ease.

"I don't know why I should give you any reason except that I did not
want to," he returned, and then he arose, walking back and forth a
couple of times across the room and stopping at a window, with his back
to his visitor. "But I will," he added, impulsively. "I stayed away on
account of--Annie."

The dark eyes fairly blazed at the name.

"Yes?"

"I--I was a fool when I was home last spring," continued the young
fellow, still with his face to the window. "I had never realized before
that she had grown up or that she was prettier than anyone I knew, until
you warned me about it--you remember?"

"I reckon I do," was the grim reply.

"Well, I tried to be sensible. I did try," he protested, though no
contradiction was made. "And after I left I concluded I had better stay
away until--well, until we were both a little older and more
level-headed."

"It's a pity you didn't reach that idea before you left," said the other
significantly.

"What!"

"And before you turned back for that picture you had forgotten."

"What do you mean" and for the first time a sort of terror shone in his
face--a dread of the dark eyes that were watching him so cruelly. "Tell
me what it is you mean, brother."

"You can just drop that word," was the cold remark. "I haven't any
relatives to my knowledge. Your father told me this morning I was the
only one of the name who was not a gentleman. I reckon I'll get along
without either father or brother for the rest of my life. The thing I
came here to see about is the homestead. It is yours and mine--or will
be some day. What do you intend doing with your share?"

"Well, I'm not ready to make my will yet," said the other, still looking
uneasy as he waited further explanations.

"I rather think you'll change your mind about that, and fix it right
here, and now. To-day I want you to transfer every acre of your share to
Annie."

"What?"

"To insure her the home you promised your mother she should always
have."

"But look here--"

"To insure it for her and--her child."

The face at the window was no longer merely startled, it was white as
death.

"Good God! You don't mean that!" he gasped. "It is not true. It can't be
true!"

"You contemptible cur! You damnable liar!" muttered the other through
his teeth. "You sit there like the whelp that you are, telling me of
this woman you have married, with not a thought of that girl up in
Kentucky that you had a right to marry. Shooting you wouldn't do her any
good, or I wouldn't leave the work undone. Now I reckon you'll make the
transfer."

The other had sat down helplessly, with his head in his hands.

"I can't believe it--I can't believe it," he repeated heavily. "Why--why
did she not write to me?"

"It wasn't an easy thing to write, I reckon," said the other bitterly,
"and she waited for you to come back. She did send one letter, but you
were out on the water with your fine friends, and it was returned. The
next we heard was the marriage. Word got there two days ago, and
then--she told me."

"You!" and he really looked unsympathetic enough to exempt him from
being chosen as confidant of heart secrets.

"Yes; and she shan't be sorry for it if I can help it. What about that
transfer?"

"I'll make it;" and the younger man rose to his feet again with eyes in
which tears shone. "I'll do anything under God's heaven for her! I've
never got rid of the sight of her face. It--it hoodooed me. I couldn't
get rid of it!--or of remorse. I thought it best to stay away, we were
so young to marry, and there was my profession to work for yet; and then
on top of all my sensible plans there came that invitation on the
yacht--and so you know the whole story; and now--what will become of
her?"

"You fix that transfer, and I'll look after her."

"You! I don't deserve this of you, and--"

"No; I don't reckon you do," returned the other, tersely; "and when
you--damn your conceit!--catch me doing that or anything else on your
account, just let me know. It isn't for either one of you, for that
matter. It's because I promised."

The younger dropped his arms and head on the table.

"You promised!" he groaned. "I--I promised as well as you, and mother
believed me--trusted me, and, now--oh, mother! mother!"

His remorseful emotion did not stir the least sympathy in his listener,
only a chilly unconcern as to his feelings in the matter.

"You, you cried just about that way when you made the promise," he
remarked indifferently. "It was wasted time and breath then, and I
reckon it's the same thing now. You can put in the rest of your life in
the wailing and gnashing of teeth business if you want to--you might get
the woman you married to help you, if you tell her what she has for a
husband. But just now there are other things to attend to. I am leaving
this part of the country in less than six hours, and this thing must be
settled first. I want your promise to transfer to Annie all interest you
have in the homestead during your life-time, and leave it to her by will
in case the world is lucky enough to get rid of you."

"I promise."

His head was still on the table; he did not look up or resent in any way
the taunts thrown at him. He seemed utterly crushed by the revelations
he had listened to.

"And another thing I want settled is, that you are never again to put
foot on that place or in that house, or allow the woman you married to
go there, that you will neither write to Annie nor try to see her."

"But there might be circumstances--"

"There are no circumstances that will keep me from shooting you like the
dog you are, if you don't make that promise, and keep it," said the
other deliberately. "I don't intend to trust to your word. But you'll
never find me too far out of the world to get back here if you make it
necessary for me to come. And the promise I expect is that you'll never
set foot on the old place again without my consent--" and the phrase was
too ironical to leave much room for hope.

"I promise. I tell you I'll do anything to make amends," he moaned
miserably.

"Your whole worthless life wouldn't do that!" was the bitter retort.
"Now, there is one thing more I want understood," and his face became
more set and hardened; "Annie and her child are to live in the house
that should be theirs by right, and they are to live there respected--do
you hear? That man you call father has about as much heart in him as a
sponge. He would turn her out of the house if he knew the truth, and in
this transfer of yours he is to know nothing of the reason--understand
that. He is quite ready to think it prompted by your generous,
affectionate heart, and the more he thinks that, the better it will be
for Annie. You will have a chance to pose for the rest of your life as
one of the most honorable of men, and the most loyal to a dead mother's
trust," and a sound that would have been a laugh but for its bitterness
broke from him as he walked to the door; "that will suit you, I reckon.
One more lie doesn't matter, and the thing I expect you to do is to make
that transfer to-day and send it to Annie with a letter that anyone
could read, and be none the wiser--the only letter you're ever to write
her. You have betrayed that trust; it's mine now."

"And you'll be worth it," burst out the other heart-brokenly; "worth a
dozen times over more than I ever could be if I tried my best. You'll
take good care of her, and--and--good God! If I could only speak to her
once!"

"If you do, I'll know it, and I'll kill you!" said the man at the door.

He was about to walk out when the other arose bewilderedly.

"Wait," he said, and his livid face was convulsed pitifully. He was so
little more than a boy. "This that you have told me has muddled my head.
I can't think. I know the promises, and I'll keep them. If shooting
myself would help her, I'd do that; but you say you are leaving the
country, and Annie is to live on at the old place, and--and yet be
respected? I can't understand how, with--under the--the circumstances.
I--"

"No, I don't reckon you can," scowled the other, altogether unmoved by
the despairing eyes and broken, remorseful words. "It isn't natural that
you should understand a man, or how a man feels; but Annie's name shall
be one you had a right to give her four months ago--"

"What are you saying?" broke in the other with feverish intensity; "tell
me! tell me what it is you mean!"

"I mean that she shan't be cheated out of a name for herself and child
by your damned rascality! Her name for the rest of her life will be the
same as yours--just remember that when you forward that transfer. She is
my wife. We were married an hour before I started."

Then the door closed, and the dark, malignant looking fellow stalked out
into the morning sunlight, and through the scented walk where late
lillies nodded as he passed. He seemed little in keeping with their
fragrant whiteness, for he looked not a whit less scowlingly wicked than
on his entrance; and of some men working on the lawn, one said to
another:

"Looks like he got de berry debbel in dem snappin' eyes--see how dey
shine. Mighty rakish young genelman to walk out o' dat doah--look like
he been on a big spree."

And when the bride and her friend came chattering in, with their hands
full of roses, they found a strange, unheard-of thing had happened. The
tall young husband, so strong, so long acclimated, had succumbed to the
heat of the morning, or the fragrance of the tuberose beside him, and
had fallen in a fainting fit by the door.



PART SECOND

"A CULTUS CORRIE"



CHAPTER I.

ON SCOT'S MOUNTAIN.


"The de'il tak' them wi' their weeman folk, whose nerves are too
delicate for a squaw man, or an Injun guide. I'd tak' no heed o' them if
I was well, an' I'll do less now I'm plagued wi' this reminder o' that
grizzly's hug. It gives me many's the twinge whilst out lookin' to the
traps."

"Where's your gallantry, MacDougall?" asked a deep, rather musical voice
from the cabin door; "and your national love for the 'winsome sex,' as
I've heard you call it? If ladies are with them you can't refuse."

"Can I not? Well, I can that same now," said the first speaker,
emphasizing his speech by the vim with which he pitched a broken-handled
skillet into the cupboard--a cupboard made of a wooden box. "Mayhaps you
think I haven't seen a white woman these six months, I'll be a breakin'
my neck to get to their camp across there. Well, I will not; they may be
all very fine, no doubt--folk from the East; but ye well know a lot o'
tenderfeet in the bush are a sight worse to tak' the care of than the
wild things they'll be tryin' to hunt. 'A man's a fool who stumbles over
the same stone twice,' is an old, true sayin', an' I know what I'm
talkin' of. It's four years this autumn since I was down in the Walla
Walla country, an' there was a fine party from the East, just as these
are; an' they would go up into the Blue Mountains, an' they would have
me for a guide; an' if the Lord'll forgive me for associatin' with sich
a pack o' lunatics for that trip, I'll never be caught wi' the same bait
again."

"What did they do to you?" asked the voice, with a tinge of amusement in
it.

"To me? They did naught to me but pester me wi' questions of insane
devisin'. Scarce a man o' them could tether a beast or lasso one that
was astray. They had a man servant, a sort o' flunky, to wait on them
and he just sat around like a bump on a log, and looked fearsomely for
Injuns an' grizzlies. They would palaver until all hours in the night,
about the scientific causes of all things we came across. Many a good
laugh I might have had, if I had na been disgusted wi' the pretenses o'
the poor bodies. Why, they knew not a thing but the learnin' o' books.
They were from the East--down East, they said; that is, the Southeast, I
suppose they meant to say; and their flunky said they were well-to-do at
home, and very learned, the poor fools! Well, I'll weary myself wi' none
others o' the same ilk."

"You're getting cranky, Mac, from being too much alone;" and the owner
of the voice lounged lazily up from the seat of the cabin door, and
stood looking in at the disgusted Scotchman, bending ever so slightly a
dark, well-shaped head that was taller than the cross-piece above the
door.

"Am I, now?" asked the old man, getting up stiffly from filling a pan of
milk for the cat. "Well, then, I have a neighbor across on the Maple
range that is subject o' late to the same complaint, but from a wide
difference o' reason;" and he nodded his head significantly at the man
in the door, adding: "An' there's a subject for a debate, Jack Genesee,
whether loneliness is worse on the disposition than the influence o'
wrong company."

Jack Genesee straightened out of his lounging attitude, and stepped back
from the door-way with a decision that would impress a man as meaning
business.

"None o' that, MacDougall," he said curtly, dropping his hand with a
hillman's instinct to the belt where his revolvers rested. "I reckon you
and I will be better friends through minding our own business and
keeping to our own territory in future;" and whistling to a beautiful
brown mare that was browsing close to the cabin, he turned to mount her,
when the old man crossed the floor quickly and laid a sinewy, brown hand
on his arm.

"Bide a bit, Genesee," he said, his native accent always creeping upward
in any emotion. "Friends are rare and scarce in this Chinook land.
You're a bit hasty in your way, and mayhaps I'm a bit curious in mine;
but I'll no let ye leave Davy MacDougall's like that just for the want
o' sayin' I'm regretful at havin' said more than I should o' you and
yours. I canna lose a friend o' four years for a trifle like that."

The frankness of the old man's words made the other man drop the bridle
and turn back with outstretched hand.

"That's all right, Mac," he said, heartily; "say no more about it. I am
uglier than the devil to get along with sometimes, and you're about
straight when you say I'm a crank; only--well, it's nobody's fault but
my own."

"No, o' course not," said MacDougall in a conciliatory tone as he went
back to his dish-washing at the table--the dishes were tin pans and
cups, and the dish-pan was an iron pot--"to be sure not; but the
half-breeds are pizen in a man's cabin, an' that Talapa, wi' the name
that's got from a prairie wolf an' the Injun de'il, is well called--a
full-blood Injun is easier to manage, my lad; an' then," he added,
quizzically, "I'm but givin' ye the lay o' the land where I've fought
myself, an' mayhaps got wounded."

The "lad," who was about thirty-five, laughed heartily at this
characteristic confession. There was evidently some decided incongruity
between the old Scotchman's statement and his quaint housewifery, as he
wrapped a cloth reduced to strings around a fork and washed out a
coffee-pot with the improvised mop. Something there was in it that this
man Genesee appreciated, and his continued laughter drew the beautiful
mare again to his side, slipping her velvety nose close to his ear, and
muzzling there like a familiar spirit that had a right to share her
master's emotions.

"All right, Mowitza," he said in a promising tone; "we'll hit the bush
by and by. But old sulky here is slinging poisoned arrows at our
Kloocheman. We can't stand that, you know. We don't like cooking our own
grub, do we, Mowitza? Shake your head and tell him 'halo'--that's
right. Skookum Kiutan! Skookum, Mowitza!"

And the man caressed the silky brown head, and murmured to her the
Indian jargon of endearment and praise, and the mare muzzled closer and
whinnied an understanding of her master. MacDougall put away the last
pan, threw a few knots of cedar on the bit of fire in the stone
fire-place, and came to the door just as the sun, falling back of the
western mountains, threw a flood of glory about the old cabin of the
mountaineer. The hill-grass back of it changed from uncertain green to
spears of amber as the soft September winds stole through it. Away below
in the valley, the purple gloom of dark spruces was burying itself in
night's shadows. Here and there a poison-vine flashed back defiance
under its crimson banners, and again a white-limbed aspen shone like a
shapely ghost from between lichen-covered bowlders. But slowly the
gloaming crept upward until the shadow-line fell at the cabin door, and
then up, up, past spruce and cedar, past the scrub of the dwarf growths,
past the invisible line that the snakes will not cross, on up to the
splintered crest, where the snows glimmer in the sunshine, and about
which the last rays of the sun linger and kiss and fondle, long after a
good-bye has been given to the world beneath.

Such was but one of the many recurring vistas of beauty which the
dwellers of the northern hills are given to delight in--if they care to
open their eyes and see the glorious smile with which the earth ever
responds to the kiss of God.

MacDougall had seen many of the grand panoramas which day and night on
Scot's mountain give one, and he stood in the door unheeding this one.
His keen eyes, under their shaggy brows, were directed to the younger
man's bronzed face.

"There ye go!" he said, half peevishly; "ye jabber Chinook to that
Talapa and to the mare until it's a wonder ye know any English at all;
an' when ye be goin' back where ye belong, it'll be fine, queer times
ye'll have with your ways of speech."

Genesee only laughed shortly--an Indian laugh, in which there is no
melody.

"I don't reckon I belong anywhere, by this time, except in this Chinook
region; consequently," he added, looking up in the old man's interested
face, "I'm not likely to be moving anywhere, if that's what you're
trying to find out."

MacDougall made a half-dissenting murmur against trying to find out
anything, but Genesee cut him short without ceremony.

"The fact is, Mac," he continued; "you are a precious old galoot--a
regular nervous old numbskull. You've been as restless as a newly-caught
grizzly ever since I went down to Coeur d'Alene, two weeks ago--afraid
I was going to cut loose from Tamahnous Peak and pack my traps and go
back to the diggin's; is that it? Don't lie about it. The whole trip
wasn't worth a good lie, and all it panned out for me was empty
pockets."

"Lord! lad, ye canna mean to say ye lost--'

"Every damned red," finished Mr. Genesee complacently.

"An' how--"

"Cards and mixed drinks," he said, laconically. "Angels in the
wine-rooms, and a slick individual at the table who had a better poker
hand than I had. How's that as a trade for six months' work? How does it
pan out in the balance with half-breeds?"

Evidently it staggered MacDougall. "It is no much like ye to dissipate,
Genesee," he said, doubtfully. "O' course a man likes to try his chance
on the chips once in a way, and to the kelpies o' the drinkin' places
one must leave a few dollars, but the mixin' o' drinks or the muddlin'
o' the brains is no natural to ye; it may be a divarsion after the hill
life, but there's many a kind that's healthier."

"You're a confounded old humbug," said Genesee coolly; "you preach
temperance to me, and get drunk as a fiddler all alone here by
yourself--not much Scotch in that way of drinking, I can tell you.
Hello! who's that?"

MacDougall leaned forward and peered down the path where the sound of a
horse's feet were heard coming around the bend.

"It's that man o' Hardy's comin' again about a guide, I have na doubt.
I'll send him across Seven-mile Creek to Tyee-Kamooks. They can get a
Siwash guide from him, or they can lose themsel's for all me," he said,
grumpily, incited thereto, no doubt, by Genesee's criticism of his
habits. He often grumbled that his friend from the Maple range was
mighty "tetchy" about his own faults, and mighty cool in his opinions of
others.

A dark, well-built horse came at an easy, swinging pace out of the gloom
of the spruce boughs and over the green sward toward the cabin; his
rider, a fair, fine-looking fellow, in a ranchman's buckskin suit,
touched his hat ever so lightly in salute, a courtesy the others
returned, Genesee adding the Chinook word that is either salutation or
farewell, "Klahowya, stranger," and the old man giving the more
English speech of "Good evening; won't ye light, stranger?"

"No; obliged to you, but haven't time. I suppose I'm speaking to Mr.
MacDougall," and he took his eyes from the tall, dark form of Genesee to
address his speech to the old trapper.

"Yes, I'm Davy MacDougall, an' I give a guess you're from the new sheep
ranch that's located down Kootenai Park; you're one of Hardy's men."

"No; I'm Hardy."

"Are ye, now?" queried the old fellow in surprise. "I expected to see an
older man--only by the cause of hearin' you were married, I suppose.
Well, now, I'm right glad to meet wi' a new neighbor--to think of a
ranch but a bit of ten miles from Scot's Mountain, an' a white family on
it, too! Will ye no' light an' have a crack at a pipe an' a glass?"

Hardy himself was evidently making a much better impression on
MacDougall than the messenger who had come to the cabin in the morning.

"No, partner, not any for me," answered the young ranchman, but with so
pleasant a negative that even a Westerner could not but accept
graciously such a refusal. "I just rode up from camp myself to see you
about a guide for a small party over into the west branch of the
Rockies. Ivans, who came to see you this morning, tells me that you are
disabled yourself--"

"Yes; that is, I had a hug of a grizzly two weeks back that left the
ribs o' my right side a bit sore; but--"

The old man hesitated; evidently his reluctance to act as guide to the
poor fools was weakening. This specimen of an Eastern man was not at all
the style of the tourists who had disgusted him so.

"An' so I told your man I thought I could na guide you," he continued
in a debatable way, at which Hardy's blonde mustache twitched
suspiciously, and Genesee stooped to fasten a spur that had not needed
attention before; for the fact was Mac had felt "ower cranky" that
morning, and the messenger had been a stupid fellow who irritated him
until he swore by all the carpenter's outfit of a certain workman in
Nazareth that he would be no guide for "weemen folk and tenderfeet" in
the hills. His vehemence had caused the refusal of Ivans to make a
return trip, and Hardy, remembering Ivans' account, was amused, and had
an idea that the dark, quiet fellow with the musical voice was amused as
well.

"Yes," agreed the stranger; "I understood you could not come, but I
wanted to ask if you could recommend an Indian guide. I had Jim Kale
engaged--he's the only white man I know in this region; the men on my
place are all from south of the Flathead country. He sent me word
yesterday he couldn't come for a week--confound these squaw men! He's
gone to hunt caribou with his squaw's people, so I brought my party so
far myself, but am doubtful of the trail ahead. One of the ladies is
rather nervous about Indians, and that prevented me from getting a guide
from them at first; but if we continue, she must accustom herself to
Montana surroundings."

"That's the worst o' the weemen folk when it comes to the hills," broke
in MacDougall, "they've over easy to be frightened at shadows; a roof
an' four walls is the best stoppin' place for a' o' them."

The young ranchman laughed easily.

"I don't believe you have known many of our Kentucky women, Mr.
MacDougall; they are not hot-house plants, by any means."

Genesee pushed a wide-brimmed light hat back from his face a little, and
for the first time joined the conversation.

"A Kentucky party, did you say, sir?" he queried, with half-careless
interest.

"Yes," said Hardy, turning toward him; "relatives of mine from back
East, and I wanted to give them a taste of Montana hill life, and a
little hunting. But I can't go any farther into the hills alone,
especially as there are three ladies in the party; and a man can't take
many risks when he has them to consider."

"That's so," said Genesee, with brief sympathy; "big gang?"

"No--only six of us. My sister and her husband, and a cousin, a young
lady, are the strangers. Then one of the men off my ranch who came to
look after the pack-mules, and my wife and self. I have an extra horse
for a guide if I can pick one up."

"I shouldn't be surprised if you could," said Genesee reflectively; "the
woods are full of them, if you want Indian guides, and if you
don't--well, it doesn't seem the right thing to let visitors leave the
country disappointed, especially ladies, and I reckon I might take
charge of your outfit for a week or so."

MacDougall nearly dropped his pipe in his surprise at the offer.

"Well, I'll be--" he began; but Genesee turned on him.

"What's the matter with that?" he asked, looking at Mac levelly, with a
glance that said: "Keep your mouth shut." "If I want to turn guide and
drop digging in that hill back there, why shouldn't I? It'll be the
'divarsion' you were suggesting a little while back; and if Mr. Hardy
wants a guide, give me a recommend, can't you?"

"Do you know the country northwest of here?" asked Hardy eagerly. It was
plain to be seen he was pleased at his "find." "Do you live here in the
Chinook country? You may be a neighbor of mine, but I haven't the
pleasure of knowing your name."

"That's Mac's fault," said the other fellow coolly; "he's master of
ceremonies in these diggin's, and has forgotten his business. They call
me Genesee Jack mostly, and I know the Kootenai hills a little."

"Indeed, then, he does Mr. Hardy," said MacDougall, finding his voice.
"Ye'll find no Siwash born on the hills who knows them better than does
Genesee, only he's been bewitched like, by picks and shovels an' a gulch
in the Maple range, for so long it's a bit strange to see him actin' as
guide; but you're a lucky man to be gettin' him, Mr. Hardy, I'll tell ye
that much."

"I am willing to believe it," said Hardy frankly. "Could you start at
once with us, in the morning?"

"I reckon so."

"I will furnish you a good horse," began the ranchman; but Genesee
interrupted, shaking his head with a gesture of dissent.

"No, I think not," he said in the careless, musical voice that yet could
be so decided in its softness; and he whistled softly, as a cricket
chirrups, and the brown mare came to him with long, cat-like movements
of the slender limbs, dropping her head to his shoulder.

"This bit of horse-flesh is good enough for me," he said, slipping a
long, well-shaped hand over the silky cheek; "an' where I go, Mowitza
goes--eh, pet?"

The mare whinnied softly as acknowledgment of the address, and Hardy
noticed with admiration the fine points in her sinewy, supple frame.

"Mowitza," he repeated. "That in Chinook means the deer, does it not--or
the elk; which is it? I haven't been here long enough to pick up much of
the jargon."

"Well, then, ye'll be hearin' enough of it from Genesee," broke in
MacDougall. "He'll be forgettin' his native language in it if he lives
here five years longer; an'--"

"There, you've said enough," suggested Genesee. "After giving a fellow a
recommend for solid work, don't spoil it by an account of his fancy
accomplishments. You're likely to overdo it. Yes, Mowitza means a deer,
and this one has earned her name. We'll both be down at your camp by
sun-up to-morrow; will that do?"

"It certainly will," answered Hardy in a tone of satisfaction. "And the
folks below will be mighty glad to know a white man is to go with us.
Jim Kale rather made them doubtful of squaw men, and my sister is timid
about Indians as steady company through the hills. I must get back and
give them the good news. At sun-up to-morrow, Mr. Genesee?"

"At sun-up to-morrow."



CHAPTER II.

AS THE SUN ROSE.


Do you know the region of the Kootenai that lies in the northwest corner
of a most northwestern state--where the "bunch-grass" of the grazing
levels bends even now under a chance wild stallion and his harem of
silken-coated mates; where fair upland "parks" spread back from the cool
rush of the rivers; where the glittering peaks of the mountains glow at
the rise and fall of night like the lances of a guard invincible, that
lift their grand silence as a barrier against the puny strife of the
outside world?

Do you know what it is to absorb the elastic breath of the mountains at
the awakening of day? To stand far above the levels and watch the faint
amethystine peaks catch one by one their cap of gold flung to them from
an invisible sun? To feel the blood thrill with the fever of an infinite
possession as the eyes look out alone over a seemingly creatureless
scene of vastness, of indefiniteness of all vague promise, in the
growing light of day? To feel the cool crispness of the heights,
tempered by the soft "Chinook" winds? To feel the fresh wet dews of the
morning on your hands and on your face, and to know them in a dim way
odorous--odorous with the virginity of the hills--of the day dawn, with
all the sweet things of form or feeling that the new day brings into new
life?

A girl on Scot's Mountain seemed to breathe in all that intoxication of
the hill country, as she stood on a little level, far above the smoke of
the camp-fire, and watched the glowing, growing lights on the far peaks.
A long time she had stood there, her riding-dress gathered up above the
damp grass, her cap in her hand, and her brown hair tossing in a bath of
the winds. Twice a shrill whistle had called her to the camp hidden by
the spruce boughs, but she had only glanced down toward the valley,
shook her head mutinously, and returned to the study of her panorama;
for it seemed so entirely her own--displaying its beauties for her sole
surprisal--that it seemed discourteous to ignore it or descend to lower
levels during that changing carnival of color. So she just nodded a
negative to her unseen whistler below, determined not to leave, even at
the risk of getting the leavings of the breakfast--not a small item to a
young woman with a healthy, twenty-year-old appetite.

Something at last distracted that wrapt attention. What was it? She
heard no sound, had noticed no movement but the stir of the wind in the
leaves and the grasses, yet she shrugged her shoulders with a twitchy
movement of being disturbed and not knowing by what. Then she gathered
her skirts a little closer in her hand and took a step or so backward in
an uncertain way, and a moment later clapped the cap on her tumbled
hair, and turned around, looking squarely into the face of a stranger
not a dozen steps from her, who was watching her with rather sombre,
curious eyes. Their steady gaze accounted for the mesmeric disturbance,
but her quick turn gave her revenge, for he flushed to the roots of his
dark hair as she caught him watching her like that, and he did not speak
just at first. He lifted his wide-brimmed hat, evidently with the
intention of greeting her, but his tongue was a little unruly, and he
only looked at her, and she at him.

They stood so in reality only a flash of seconds, though it seemed a
continuous stare of minutes to both; then the humorous side of the
situation appealed to the girl, and her lips twitched ever so slightly
as she recovered her speech first and said demurely:

"Good morning, sir."

"How are you?" he returned; and having regained the use of his tongue,
he added, in an easier way: "You'll excuse me, lady, if I sort of scared
you?"

"Oh, no, I was not at all startled," she answered hastily, "only a
little surprised."

"Yes," he agreed, "so was I. That's why I stood there a-staring at
you--couldn't just make out if you were real or a ghost, though I never
before saw even the ghost of a white woman in this region."

"And you were watching to see if I would vanish into thin air like a
Macbeth witch, were you?" she asked quizzically.

He might be on his native heath and she an interloper, but she was much
the most at her ease--evidently a young lady of adaptability and
considerable self-possession. His eyes had grown wavering and uncertain
in their glances, and that flush made him still look awkward, and she
wondered if Macbeth's witches were not unheard-of individuals to him,
and she noticed with those direct, comprehensive eyes that a suit of
buckskin can be wonderfully becoming to tall, lazy-looking men, and that
wide, light sombreros have quite an artistic effect as a frame for dark
hair and eyes; and through that decision she heard him say:

"No. I wasn't watching you for anything special, only if you were a real
woman, I reckoned you were prospecting around looking for the trail,
and--and so I just waited to see, knowing you were a stranger."

"And is that all you know about me?" she asked mischievously. "I know
much more than that about you."

"How much?"

"Oh, I know you're just coming from Davy MacDougall's, and you are going
to Hardy's camp to act as commander-in-chief of the eastern tramps in
it, and your name is Mr. Jack Genesee--and--and--that is all."

"Yes, I reckon it is," he agreed, looking at her in astonishment. "It's
a good deal, considering you never saw me before, and I don't know--"

"And you don't know who I am," she rejoined easily. "Well, I can tell
you that, too. I'm a wanderer from Kentucky, prospecting, as you would
call it, for something new in this Kootenai country of yours, and my
name is Rachel Hardy."

"That's a good, square statement," he smiled, put at his ease by the
girl's frankness. "So you're one of the party I'm to look after on this
cultus corrie?"

"Yes, I'm one of them--Cousin Hardy says the most troublesome of the
lot, because I always want to be doing just the things I've no business
to"; then she looked at him and laughed a little. "I tell you this at
once," she added, "so you will know what a task you have undertaken, and
if you're timid, you might back out before it's too late--are you
timid?"

"Do I look it?"

"N--no"; but she didn't give him the scrutiny she had at first--only a
swift glance and a little hurry to her next question: "What was that
queer term you used when speaking of our trip--cul--cultus?"

"Oh, cultus corrie! That's Chinook for pleasure ride."

"Is it? What queer words they have. Cousin Harry was telling me it was a
mongrel language, made up of Indian, French, English, and any stray
words from other tongues that were adjustable to it. Is it hard to
learn?"

"I think not--I learned it."

"What becoming modesty in that statement!" she laughed quizzically.
"Come, Mr. Jack Genesee, suppose we begin our cultus corrie by eating
breakfast together; they've been calling me for the past half-hour."

He whistled for Mowitza, and Miss Rachel Hardy recognized at once the
excellence of this silken-coated favorite.

"Mowitza; what a musical name!" she remarked as she followed the new
guide to the trail leading down the mountain. "It sounds Russian--is
it?"

"No; another Chinook word--look out there; these stones are bad ones to
balance on, they're too round, and that gully is too deep below to make
it safe."

"I'm all right," she announced in answer to the warning as she amused
herself by hopping bird-like from one round, insecure bowlder to
another, and sending several bounding and crashing into the gully that
cut deep into the heart of the mountain. "I can manage to keep my feet
on your hills, even if I can't speak their language. By the way, I
suppose you don't care to add Professor of Languages to your other
titles, do you, Mr. Jack Genesee?"

"I reckon I'm in the dark now, Miss, sort of blind-fold--can't catch
onto what you mean."

"Oh, I was just thinking I might take up the study of Chinook while out
here, and go back home overwhelming the natives by my novel
accomplishment." And she laughed so merrily at the idea, and looked so
quizzically at Genesee Jack's dark, serious face, that he smiled in
sympathy.

They had only covered half the trail leading down to the camp, but
already, through the slightly strange and altogether unconventional
meeting, she found herself making remarks to him with the freedom of a
long-known chum, and rather enjoying the curious, puzzled look with
which he regarded her when she was quick enough to catch him looking at
her at all.

"Stop a moment," she said, just as the trail plunged from the open face
of the mountain into the shadow of spruce and cedar. "You see this every
morning, I suppose, but it is a grand treat to me. See how the light has
crept clear down to the level land now. I came up here long before there
was a sign of the sun, for I knew the picture would be worth it. Isn't
it beautiful?"

Her eyes, alight with youth and enthusiasm, were turned for a last look
at the sun-kissed country below, to which she directed his attention
with one bare, outstretched hand.

"Yes, it is," he agreed; but his eyes were not on the valley of the
Kootenai, but on the girl's face.



CHAPTER III.

WHAT IS A SQUAW MAN?


"Rache, I want you to stop it." The voice had an insinuating tone, as if
it would express "will you stop it?"

The speaker was a chubby, matronly figure, enthroned on a hassock of
spruce boughs, while the girl stretched beside her was drawing the
fragrant spikes of green, bit by bit, over closed eyes and smiling; only
the mouth and chin could be seen under the green veil, but the corners
of the mouth were widening ever so little. Smiles should engender
content; they are supposed to be a voucher of sweet thoughts, but at
times they have a tendency to bring out all that is irritable in human
nature, and the chubby little woman noted that growing smile with rising
impatience.

"I am not jesting," she continued, as if there might be a doubt on that
question; "and I wish you would stop it."

"You haven't given it a name yet. Say, Clara, that sounds like an
invitation to drink, doesn't it?--a western invitation."

But her fault-finder was not going to let her escape the subject like
that.

"I am not sure it has a name," she said curtly. "No one seems to know
whether it is Genesee Jack or Jack Genesee, or whether both are not
aliases--in fact, the most equivocal sort of companion for a young girl
over these hills."

"What a tempest you raise about nothing, Clara," said the girl
good-humoredly; "one would think that I was in hourly danger of being
kidnaped by Mr. Genesee Jack--the name is picturesque in sound, and
suits him, don't you think so? But I am sure the poor man is quite
harmless, and stands much more in awe of me than I do of him."

"I believe you," assented her cousin tartly. "I never knew you to stand
in awe of anything masculine, from your babyhood. You are a born flirt,
for all your straightforward, independent ways. Oh, I know you."

"So I hear you say," answered Miss Hardy, peering through the screen of
cedar sprays, her eyes shining a little wickedly from their shadows.
"You have a hard time of it with me, haven't you, dear? By the way,
Clara, who prompted you to this lecture--Hen?"

"No, Hen did not; neither he nor Alec seem to have eyes or ears for
anything but deer and caribou; they are constantly airing their
new-found knowledge of the country. I had to beg Alec to come to sleep
last night, or I believe they would have gossiped until morning. The one
redeeming point in your Genesee Jack is that he doesn't talk."

"He isn't my Genesee Jack," returned the girl; "but he does talk, and
talk well, I think. You do not know him, that is all, and you never
will, with those starchy manners of yours. Not talk!--why, he has taught
me a lot of Chinook, and told me all about a miner's life and a
hunter's. Not talk!--I've only known him a little over a week, and he
has told me his life for ten years back."

"Yes, with no little encouragement from you, I'll wager."

"Well, my bump of curiosity was enlarged somewhat as to his life,"
acknowledged the girl. "You see he has such an unusual personality,
unusually interesting, I mean. I never knew any man like him in the
East. Why, he only needs a helmet instead of the sombrero, and armor
instead of the hunting suit, and he would make an ideal Launcelot."

"Good gracious, Rache! do stop raving over the man, or I shall certainly
have Hen discharge him and take you back to civilization at once."

"But perhaps I won't go back--what then; and perhaps Hen could not be
able to see your reason for getting rid of a good guide," said the girl
coolly, knowing she had the upper hand of the controversy; "and as to
the raving, you know I never said a word about him until you began to
find fault with everything, from the cut of his clothes to the name he
gives, and then--well, a fellow must stand up for his friends, you
know."

"Of course a fellow must," agreed someone back of them, and the young
ranchman from the East came down under the branches from the camp-fire
just kindled; "that is a manly decision, Rache, and does you credit. But
what's the argument?"

"Oh, Clara thinks I am taking root too quickly in the soil of loose
customs out here," explained the girl, covering the question, yet
telling nothing.

"She doesn't approve of our savage mode of life, does she?" he queried,
sympathetically; "and she hasn't seen but a suggestion of its horrors
yet. Too bad Jim Kale did not come; she could have made the acquaintance
of a specimen that would no doubt be of interest to her--a squaw man
with all his native charms intact."

"Hen," said the girl, rising on her elbow, "I wish you would tell me
just what you mean by a 'squaw man'; is it a man who buys squaws, or
sells them, or eats them, or--well, what does he do?"

"He marries them--sometimes," was the laconic reply, as if willing to
drop the question. But Miss Rache, when interested, was not to be thrust
aside until satisfied.

"Is that all?" she persisted; "is he a sort of Mormon, then--an Indian
Mormon? And how many do they marry?"

"I never knew them to marry more than one," hazarded Mr. Hardy. "But, to
tell the truth, I know very little about their customs; I understand
they are generally a worthless class of men, and the term 'squaw man' is
a stigma, in a way--the most of them are rather ashamed of it, I
believe."

"I don't see why," began Rache.

"No, I don't suppose you do," broke in her cousin Hardy with a
relative's freedom, "and it is not necessary that you should; just
confine your curiosity to other phases of Missoula County that are open
for inspection, and drop the squaw men."

"I haven't picked up any of them yet," returned the girl, rising to her
feet, "but I will the first chance I get; and I give you fair warning,
you might as well tell me all I want to know, for I will find out."

"I'll wager she will," sighed Clara, as the girl walked away to where
their traps and sachels were stacked under a birch tree, and while she
turned things topsy-turvy looking for something, she nodded her head
sagaciously over her shoulder at the two left behind; "to be sure she
will--she is one of the girls who are always stumbling on just the sort
of knowledge that should be kept from them; and this question of your
horrid social system out here--well, she will know all about it if she
has to interview Ivans or your guide to find out; and I suppose it is an
altogether objectionable topic?"

The intonation of the last words showed quite as much curiosity as the
girl had declared, only it was more carefully veiled.

"Oh, I don't know as it is," returned her brother; "except
under--well--circumstances. But, some way, a white man is mightily
ashamed to have it known that he has a squaw wife. Ivans told me that
many of them would as soon be shot as to have it known back East where
they came from."

"Yes," remarked a gentleman who joined them during this speech, and
whose brand-new hunting suit bespoke the "got-up-regardless" tourist;
"it is strange, don't you think so? Why, back East we would hear of such
a marriage and think it most romantic; but out here--well, it seems hard
to convince a Westerner that there is any romance about an Indian."

"And I don't wonder, Alec, do you?" asked Mrs. Houghton, turning to her
husband as if sure of sympathy from him; "all the squaws we have seen
are horribly slouchy, dirty creatures. I have yet to see the Indian
maiden of romance."

"In their original state they may have possessed all the picturesque
dignities and chivalrous character ascribed to them," answered Mr.
Houghton, doubtfully; "but if so, their contact with the white race has
caused a vast degeneration."

"Which it undoubtedly has," returned Hardy, decidedly. "Mixing of races
always has that effect, and in the Indian country it takes a most
decided turn. The Siwash or Indian men of this territory may be a
thieving, whisky-drinking lot, but the chances are that nine-tenths of
the white men who marry among them become more worthless and degraded
than the Indian."

"There are, I suppose, exceptions," remarked Houghton.

"Well, there may be," answered Hardy, "but they are not taken into
consideration, and that is why a man dislikes to be classed among them.
There is something of the same feeling about it that there is back home
about a white man marrying a negro."

"Then why do they do it, if they are ashamed of it?" queried Mrs.
Houghton with logical directness.

"Well, I suppose because there are no white women here for them to
marry," answered her brother, "and Indians or half-breeds are always to
be found."

"If ministers are not," added Houghton.

"Exactly!"

"Oh, good gracious!" ejaculated the little matron in a tone of disgust;
"no wonder they are ashamed--even the would-be honest ones are likely to
incur suspicion, because, as you say, the exceptions are too few for
consideration. A truly delightful spot you have chosen; the moral
atmosphere would be a good field for a missionary, I should say--yet you
would come here."

"Yes, and I am going to stay, too," said Hardy, in answer to this
sisterly tirade. "We see or know but little of those poor devils or
their useless lives--only we know by hearing that such a state of things
exists. But as for quitting the country because of that--well, no, I
could not be bought back to the East after knowing this glorious
climate. Why, Tillie and I have picked out a tree to be buried under--a
magnificent fellow that grows on the plateau above our house--just high
enough to view the Four-mile Park from. She is as much in love with the
freedom of these hills as I am."

"Poor child!" said his sister, commiseratingly; "to think of her being
exiled in that park, twenty miles from a white woman!--didn't you say it
was twenty?"

"Yes," and her brother leaned his back against the tree and smiled down
at her; "it's twenty and a half, and the white woman whom you see at the
end of the trip keeps a tavern--runs it herself, and sells the whisky
that crosses the bar with an insinuating manner that is all her own.
I've heard that she can sling an ugly fist in a scrimmage. She is a
great favorite with the boys; the pet name they have for her is Holland
Jin."

"Ugh! Horrible! And she--she allows them to call her so?"

"Certainly; you see it is a trade-mark for the house; her real name is
Jane Holland."

"Holland Jin!" repeated his sister with a shudder. "Tillie, come here!
Have you heard this? Hen has been telling me of your neighbor, Holland
Jin. How do you expect to live always in this out-of-the-way place?"

Out from under the branches where their camp had just been located came
Tillie, a charmingly plain little wife of less than a year--just her
childishly curved red lips and her soft dark eyes to give attractiveness
to her tanned face.

"Yes, I have heard of her," she said in a slow, half-shy way; "she can't
be very--very--nice; but one of the stockmen said she was good-hearted
if anyone was sick or needed help, so she can't be quite bad."

"You dear little soul," said her sister-in-law fondly; "you would have a
good word to say for anyone; but you must allow it will be awfully
dismal out here without any lady friends."

"You are here, and Rache."

"Yes, but when Rache and I have gone back to civilization?"

The dark eyes glanced at the speaker and then at the tall young
ranchman. "Hen will be here always."

"Oh, you insinuating little Quaker!" laughed the older woman; "one would
think you were married yesterday and the honeymoon only begun, would you
not, Alec? I wonder if these Chinook winds have a tendency to softening
of the brain--have they, Hen? If so, you and Tillie are in a dangerous
country. What was it you shot this time, Alec--a pole-cat or a
flying-squirrel? Yes, I'll go and see for myself."

And she followed her husband across the open space of the plateau to
where Ivans was cutting slices of venison from the latest addition to
their larder; while Hardy stood smiling down, half amusedly, at the
flushed face of the little wife.

"Are you afraid of softening of the brain?" he asked in a tone of
concern. She shook her head, but did not look up. She was easily teased,
as much so about her husband as if he was still a wooer. And to have
shown her fondness in his sister's eyes! What sister could ever yet see
the reason for a sister-in-law's blind adoration?

"Are you going to look on yourself as a martyr after the rest have left
you here in solitary confinement with me as a jailer?"

Another shake of the head, and the drooped eyes were raised for one
swift glance.

"Because I was thinking," continued her tormentor--"I was thinking that
if the exile, as Clara calls it, would be too severe on you, I might, if
it was for your own good--I might send you back with the rest to
Kentucky."

Then there was a raising of the head quick enough and a tempestuous
flight across the space that separated them, and a flood of
remonstrances that ended in happy laughter, a close clasp of arms,
and--yes, in spite of the girl who was standing not very far away--a
kiss; and Hardy circled his wife's shoulders with his long arms, and,
with a glance of laughing defiance at his cousin, drew her closer and
followed in the wake of the Houghtons.

The girl had deliberately stood watching that little scene with a
curious smile in her eyes, a semi-cynical gaze at the lingering fondness
of voice and touch. There was no envy in her face, only a sort of
good-natured disbelief. Her cousin Clara always averred that Rachel was
too masculine in spirit to ever understand the little tendernesses that
burnish other women's lives.



CHAPTER IV.

BANKED FIRES.


She did not look masculine, however, as she stood there, slender, and
brown from the tan of the winds; the unruly, fluffy hair clustering
around a face and caressing a neck that was essentially womanly in every
curve; only, slight as the form seemed, one could find strong points in
the depth of chest and solid look of the shoulders; a veteran of the
roads would say those same points in a bit of horse-flesh would denote
capacity for endurance, and, added to the strong-looking hand and the
mockery latent in the level eyes, they completed a personality that she
had all her life heard called queer. And with a smile that reflected
that term, she watched those two married lovers stroll arm in arm to
where the freshly-killed deer lay. Glancing at the group, she missed the
face of their guide, a face she had seen much of since that sunrise in
the Kootenai. Across the sward a little way the horses were picketed,
and Mowitza's graceful head was bent in search for the most luscious
clusters of the bunch-grass; but Mowitza's master was not to be seen.
She had heard him speak, the night before, of signs of grizzlies around
the shank of the mountain, and wondered if he had started on a lone hunt
for them. She was conscious of a half-resentful feeling that he had not
given her a chance of going along, when he knew she wanted to see
everything possible in this out-of-door life in the hills.

So, in some ill-humor, she walked aimlessly across the grass where
Clara's lecture on the conventionalities had been delivered; and pushing
ahead under the close-knit boughs, she was walking away from the rest,
led by that spirit of exploration that comes naturally to one in a
wilderness, and parting a wide-spreading clump of laurel, was about to
wedge her way through it, when directly on the other side of that green
wall she saw Genesee, whom she had supposed was alone after a grizzly.
Was he asleep? He was lying face downward under the woven green roof
that makes twilight in the cedars. The girl stopped, about to retrace
her steps quietly, when a sudden thought made her look at him more
closely, with a devout prayer in her heart that he was asleep, and
asleep soundly; for her quick eyes had measured the short distance
between that resting-place and the scene of the conversation of a few
minutes ago. She tried wildly to remember what Clara had said about him,
and, most of all, what answers Clara had received. She had no doubt said
things altogether idiotic, just from a spirit of controversy, and here
the man had been within a few feet of them all the time! She felt like
saying something desperately, expressively masculine; but instead of
easing her feelings in that manner, she was forced to complete silence
and a stealthy retreat.

Was he asleep, or only resting? The uncertainty was aggravating. And a
veritable Psyche, she could not resist the temptation of taking a last,
sharp look. She leaned forward ever so little to ascertain, and thus
lost her chance of retreating unseen; for among the low-hanging branches
was one on which there were no needles of green--a bare, straggling limb
with twigs like the fingers of black skeletons. In bending forward, she
felt one of them fasten itself in her hair; tugging blindly and wildly,
at last she loosened their impish clutches, and left as trophy to the
tree some erratic, light-brown hair and--she gave up in despair as she
saw it--her cap, that swung backward and forward, just out of reach.

If it only staid there for the present, she would not care so much; but
it was so tantalizingly insecure, hanging by a mere thread, and almost
directly above the man. Fascinated by the uncertainty, she stood still.
Would it stay where it was? Would it fall?

The silent query was soon answered--it fell, dropped lightly down on the
man's shoulder, and he, raising his head from the folded arms, showed a
face from which the girl took a step back in astonishment. He had not
been asleep, then; but to the girl's eyes he looked like a man who had
been either fighting or weeping. She had never seen a face so changed,
telling so surely of some war of the emotions. He lay in the shadow, one
hand involuntarily lifting itself as a shade for his eyes while he
looked up at her.

"Well!" The tone was gruff, almost hoarse; it was as unlike him as his
face at that moment, and Rachel Hardy wondered, blankly, if he was
drunk--it was about the only reasonable explanation she could give
herself. But even with that she could not be satisfied; there was too
much quick anger at the thought--not anger alone, but a decided feeling
of disappointment in the man. To be sure, she had been influenced by no
one to have faith in him; still--someway--

"Are you--are you ill, Mr. Genesee?" she asked at last.

"Not that I know of."

What a bear the man was! she thought; what need was there to answer a
civil question in that tone. It made her just antagonistic enough not to
care so much if his feelings had been hurt by Clara's remarks, and she
asked bluntly:

"Have you been here long?"

"Some time."

"Awake?"

"Well, yes," and he made a queer sound in his throat, half grunt, half
laugh; "I reckon I--was--awake."

The slow, half-bitter words impelled her to continue:

"Then you--you heard the--the conversation over there?"

He looked at her, and she thought his eyes were pretty steady for a
drunken man's.

"Well, yes," he repeated, "I reckon--I--heard it."

All her temper blazed up at the deliberate confession. If he had seemed
embarrassed or wounded, she would have felt sorry; but this stoicism
angered her, as the idea of drunkenness had done--perhaps because each
set herself and her feelings aside--I do not know, but that may have
been the reason; she was a woman.

"And you deliberately lay there and listened," she burst out wrathfully,
"and let us say all sorts of things, no doubt, when it was your place as
a gentleman to let us know you were here? I--I would not have taken you
for an eavesdropper, Mr. Jack Genesee!" And with this tirade she turned
to make her way back through the laurel.

"Here!"

She obeyed the command in his voice, thinking, as she did so, how quick
the man was to get on his feet. In a stride he was beside her, his hand
outstretched to stop her; but it was not necessary, his tone had done
that, and he thrust both hands into the pockets of his hunting coat.

"Stop just where you are for a minute, Miss," he said, looking down at
her; "and don't be so infernally quick about making a judge and jury of
yourself--and you look just now as if you'd like to be sheriff, too. I
make no pretense of being a gentleman of culture, so you can save
yourself the trouble of telling me the duty of one. What little polish I
ever had has been knocked off in ten years of hill life out here. I'm
not used to talking to ladies, and my ways may seem mighty rough to you;
but I want you to know I wasn't listening--I would have got away if I
could, but I--was paralyzed."

"What?" Her tone was coldly unbelieving.

His manner was collected enough now. He was talking soberly, if rather
brusquely; but--that strange look in his face at first? and the eyes
that burned as if for the lack of tears?--those were things not yet
understood.

"Yes," he continued, "that's what I was, I reckon. I heard what she
said; she is right, too, when she says I'm no fit company for a lady. I
hadn't thought of it before, and it started me to thinking--thinking
fast--and I just lay still there and forgot everything only those words;
and then I heard the things you said--mighty kind they were, too, but I
wasn't thinking of them much--only trying to see myself as people of
your sort would see me if they knew me as I do, and I concluded I would
pan out pretty small; then I heard something else that was good for me,
but bitter to take. And then--" His voice grew uncertain; he was not
looking at the girl, but straight ahead of him, his features softened,
his eyes half closed at some memory.

"And then what, Genesee?" She felt a little sorry for him as he was
speaking--a little kinder since he had owned his own unworthiness. A
touch of remorse even led her to lay a couple of fingers on the sleeve
of his coat, to remind him of her presence as she repeated: "And then?"

He glanced down at the fingers--the glance made the hand drop to her
side very quickly--and then he coolly brushed his sleeve carefully with
the other hand.

"Then for a little bit I was let get a glimpse of what heaven on earth
might mean to a man, if he hadn't locked the door against himself and
dropped into hell instead. This is a blind trail I'm leading on, is it,
Miss?--all tsolo. Well, it doesn't matter; you would have to drop into
a pretty deep gulch yourself before you could understand, and you'll
never do that--the Almighty forbid!" he added, energetically. "You
belong to the mountains and the high places, and you're too sure-footed
not to stay there. You can go now. I only stopped you to say that my
listening mightn't have been in as mean a spirit as you judged. Judging
things you don't understand is bad business anyway--let it alone."

With that admonition he turned away, striding through the laurel growth
and spruce, and on down the mountain, leaving Miss Hardy feeling more
lectured and astonished than she had often been in her life.

"Well, upon my word!"

It is not an original exclamation--she was not equal to any original
thought just then; but for some time after his disappearance that was
all she could find to say, and she said it standing still there,
bare-headed and puzzled; then, gathering up her faculties and her
skirts, she made her way back through the low growth, and sat down where
Clara and herself had sat only a little while before.

"And Clara says he doesn't talk!" she soliloquized, with a faint smile
about her lips. "Not talk!--he did not give me a chance to say a word,
even if I had wanted to. I feel decidedly 'sat upon,' as Hen would say,
and I suppose I deserved it."

Then she missed her cap, and went to look for it; but it was gone. She
remembered seeing it in his hand; he must have forgotten and taken it
with him. Then she sat down again, and all the time his words, and the
way he had said them, kept ringing in her head--"Judging things you
don't understand is bad business."

Of course he was right; but it seemed strange for her to be taken to
task by a man like that on such a subject--an uncouth miner and hunter
in the Indian hills. But was he quite uncouth? While he made her stop
and listen, his earnestness had overleaped that slurred manner of speech
that belongs to the ignorant of culture. His words had been clearer cut.
There had been the ring of finished steel in his voice, not the thud of
iron in the ore, and it had cut clear a path of revelations. The man,
then, could do more than ride magnificently, and look a Launcelot in
buckskin--he could think--how deeply and wildly had been shown by the
haggard face she had seen. But the cause of it? Even his disjointed
explanation had given her no clue.

"Tsolo," she thought, repeating the Chinook word he had used; "that
means to lose one's way--to wander in the dark. Well, he was right. That
is what I am doing"; and then she laughed half mockingly at herself as
she added: "And Mr. Jack Genesee has started me on the path--and started
me bare-headed. Oh, dear, what a muddle! I wonder where my cap is, and I
wonder where the man went to, and I wonder--I wonder what he meant by a
glimpse of heaven. I haven't seen any signs of it."

But she had seen it--seen it and laughed mockingly, unbelievingly, while
the man had by the sight been touched into a great heart-ache of
desolation. And yet it was a commonplace thing they had seen; only two
lives bound together by the wish of their hearts and a wedding ring--an
affection so honest that its fondness could be frankly shown to the
world.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening Genesee came back to camp looking tired, and told Ivans
there was a grizzly waiting to be skinned in a gully not far off. He had
had a hard tussle after it and was too tired to see to the pelt; and
then he turned to Miss Hardy and drew her cap from his pocket.

"I picked it up back there in the brush, and forgot to give it to you
before going out," he said.

That was all--no look or manner that showed any remembrance of their
conversation. And for the next two days the girl saw very little of
their guide; no more long gallops ahead of the party. Mr. Genesee had
taken a sedate turn, and remained close to the rest, and if any of the
ladies received more of his attention than another it was Mrs. Hardy.

He had for her something approaching veneration. In her tender, half-shy
love of her husband she seemed to him as the Madonna to those of the
Roman church--a symbol of something holy--of a purity of affection
unknown to the rough man of the hills. Unpretentious little Tillie would
have been amazed if she had suspected the pedestal she occupied in the
imagination of this dark-faced fellow, whose only affection seemed to be
lavished on Mowitza. Clara always looked at him somewhat askance; and in
passing a party of the Indians who were berry-hunting in the mountains,
she noted suspiciously his ready speech in their own language, and the
decided deference paid him by them; the stolid stare of the squaws
filled her with forebodings of covetousness for her raiment--of which
several of them rather stood in need, though the weather was warm--and
that night was passed by her in waking dreams of an Indian massacre,
with their guide as a leader of the enemy.

"Do you know them very well?" asked Miss Hardy, riding up to Genesee.
"Is it entirely Chinook they are talking? Let me try my knowledge of it.
I should like to speak to them in their jargon. Can I?"

"You can try. Here's a Siwash, a friend of mine, who is as near a Boston
(American) man as any of them--try him."

And, under Genesee's tuition, she asked several questions about the
berry yield in the hills, and the distance to markets where pelts could
be sold; and the Indian answered briefly, expressing distance as much by
the sweep of his hand toward the west as by the adjective
"siah-si-ah;" and Miss Hardy, well satisfied with her knowledge, would
have liked to add to her possessions the necklace of bear's claws that
adorned the bronze throat of the gentleman who answered her questions.

The squaws slouched around the camp, curious and dirty, here and there a
half-breed showing the paler blood through olive skin. The younger women
or girls were a shade less repulsive than their mothers, but none showed
material for a romance of Indian life. They were as spiritless as
ill-kept cattle.

Back of some tethered ponies Miss Hardy noticed a dark form dodging as
if to avoid being seen. A squaw possessed of shyness was such a direct
contradiction of those she had seen, that the white girl found herself
watching the Indian one with a sort of curiosity--in fact, she rode her
horse over in the direction of the ponies, thinking the form she had a
glimpse of was only a child; but it was not, for back of the ponies it
lay flat to the ground as a snake, only the head raised, the eyes
meeting those of Miss Hardy with a half scowl, and the bright-beaded
dress outlining the form of a girl perhaps twenty years old, and dressed
much neater than any she had seen in the camp. By the light tinge of
color she was evidently a half-breed, and the white girl was about to
turn her horse's head, when, with a low exclamation, the other seized a
blanket that had slipped from a pony, and quick as a flash had rolled
her plump form in it, head and heels, and dropped like one asleep, face
downward, in the trampled grass.

Wondering at the sudden hiding and its cause, Miss Hardy turned away and
met Genesee, who was riding toward her.

"Shaky-looking stock," he commented, supposing she was looking at the
ponies. "The rest are going on, Miss; we have to do some traveling to
reach our last camp by night-fall."

As they rode away, Miss Hardy turned for a last look at that
mummy-looking form by the ponies. It apparently had not moved. She
wondered if it was Genesee the girl was hiding from, and if so, why? Was
their guide one of those heroes of the border whose face is a thing of
terror to Indian foe? And was the half-breed girl one of the few timid
ones? She could not answer her own questions, and something kept her
from speaking to Genesee of it; in fact, she did not speak to him of
anything with the same freedom since that conversation by the laurel
bushes.

Sometimes she would laugh a little to herself as she thought of how he
had brushed off that coat-sleeve; it had angered her, amused her, and
puzzled her. That entire scene seemed a perplexing, unreal sort of an
affair to her sometimes, especially when looking at their guide as he
went about the commonplace duties in the camp or on the trail. An
undemonstrative, prosaic individual she knew he appeared to the rest;
laconic and decided when he did speak, but not a cheery companion. To
her always, after that day, he was a suggestion of a crater in which the
fires were banked.



CHAPTER V.

AT LAST CAMP.


After their stop at the Indian camp, which Genesee explained was a
berrying crowd from the Kootenai tribe, there was, of course, comment
among the visitors as to the mixed specimens of humanity they had seen
there.

"I don't wonder a white man is ashamed of an Indian wife," said Mrs.
Houghton. "What slouchy creatures!"

"All the more reason for a white man to act the part of missionary, and
marry them," remarked Rachel Hardy, "and teach them what the domestic
life of a woman should be."

Genesee turned square around to look at the speaker--perhaps she did not
strike him as being a domestic woman herself. Whatever the cause of that
quick attention, she noticed it, and added: "Well, Mr. Genesee, don't
you think so? You must have seen considerable of that sort of life."

"I have--some," he answered concisely, but showing no disposition to
discuss it, while Mrs. Houghton was making vain efforts to engage Miss
Hardy's attention by the splendid spread of the country below them; but
it was ineffectual.

"Yes, Clara, I see the levels along that river--I've been seeing them
for the past two hours--but just now I am studying the social system of
those hills"; and then she turned again to their guide. "You did not
answer my question, Mr. Genesee," she said, ignoring Mrs. Houghton's
admonishing glances. "Do you not agree with my idea of marriages between
whites and Indians?"

"No!" he said bluntly; "most of the white men I know among the Indians
need themselves to be taught how people should live; they need white
women to teach them. It's uphill work showing an Indian how to live
decently when a man has forgotten how himself. Missionary work! Squaw
men are about as fit for that as--as hell's fit for a powder-house."

And under this emphatic statement and the shocked expression of Clara's
face, Miss Hardy collapsed, with the conviction that there must be
lights and shades of life in the Indian country that were not apparent
to the casual visitor. She wondered sometimes that Genesee had lived
there so long with no family ties, and she seldom heard him speak of any
white friend in Montana--only of old Davy MacDougall sometimes. Most of
his friends had Indian names. Altogether, it seemed a purposeless sort
of existence.

"Do you expect to live your life out here, like this?" she asked him
once. "Don't you ever expect to go back home?"

"Hardly! There is nothing to take me back now."

"And only a horse and a gun to keep you here?" she smiled.

"N--no; something besides, Miss. I've got a right smart of a ranch on
the other side of the Maple range. It's running wild--no stock on it;
but in Tamahnous Hill there's a hole I've been digging at for the past
four years. MacDougall reckons I'm 'witched' by it, but it may pan out
all right some of these days."

"Gold hunting?"

"No, Miss, silver; and it's there. I've got tired more than once and
given it the klatawa (the go-by); but I'd always come back, and I
reckon I always will until I strike it."

"And then?"

"Well, I haven't got that far yet."

And thus any curiosity about the man's life or future was generally
silenced. He had told her many things of the past; his life in the mines
of Colorado and Idaho, with now and then the diversion of a government
scout's work along the border. All of that he would speak of without
reserve, but of the actual present or of the future he would say
nothing.

"I have read somewhere in a book of a man without a past," remarked the
girl to Mrs. Hardy; "but our guide seems a man utterly without a
future."

"Perhaps he does not like to think of it here alone," suggested Tillie
thoughtfully; "he must be very lonely sometimes. Just see how he loves
that horse!"

"Not a horse, Tillie--a klootchman kiuatan," corrected the student of
Chinook; "If you are going to live out here, you must learn the language
of the hills."

"You are likely to know it first;" and then, after a little, she added:
"But noticing that man's love for his Mowitza, I have often thought how
kind he would be to a wife. I think he has a naturally affectionate
nature, though he does swear--I heard him; and to grow old and wild here
among the Indians and squaw men seems too bad. He is intelligent--a man
who might accomplish a great deal yet. You know he is comparatively
young--thirty-five, I heard Hen say."

"Yes," said Mrs. Houghton sarcastically; "a good age at which to adopt a
child. You had better take him back as one of the fixtures on the ranch,
Tillie; of course he may need some training in the little courtesies of
life, but no doubt Rachel would postpone her return East and offer her
services as tutor;" and with this statement Mistress Houghton showed her
disgust of the entire subject.

"She is 'riled,'" said the girl, looking quizzically after the plump
retreating form.

"Why, what in the world--"

"Nothing in the world, Tillie, and that's what's the matter with Clara.
Her ideas of the world are, and always will be, bounded by the rules and
regulations of Willow Centre, Kentucky. Of course it isn't to be found
on a map of the United States, but it's a big place to Clara; and she
doesn't approve of Mr. Genesee because he lives outside its knowledge.
She intimated yesterday that he might be a horse-thief for any actual
acquaintance we had with his resources or manner of living."

"Ridiculous!" laughed Tillie. "That man!"

The girl slipped her arm around the little wife's waist and gave her a
hug like a young bear. She had been in a way lectured and snubbed by
that man, but she bore no malice.

The end of their cultus corrie was reached as they went into camp for
a two-days' stay, on the shoulder of a mountain from which one could
look over into the Idaho hills, north into British Columbia, and through
the fair Kootenai valleys to the east, where the home-ranch lay.

Houghton and Hardy each had killed enough big game to become inoculated
with the taste for wild life, and the ladies were delighted with the
idea of having the spoils of the hunt for the adornment of their homes;
and altogether the trip was voted a big success.

Is there anything more appetizing, after a long ride through the
mountains, than to rest under the cedars at sunset and hear the sizzle
of broiled meat on the red coals, and have the aroma of coffee borne to
you on the breeze that would lull you to sleep if you were not so
hungry?

"I could have eaten five meals during every twenty-four hours since we
started," acknowledged Rachel, as she watched with flattering attention
the crisping slices of venison that were accumulating on a platter by
the fire.

And she looked as if both the appetite and the wild living had agreed
with her. Clara complained that Rachel really seemed to pride herself on
the amount of tan she had been able to gather from the wind and the sun,
while Hardy decided that only her light hair would keep her from being
taken for an Indian.

But for all the looks that were gaining a tinge of wildness, and the
appetites that would persist in growing ravenous, it was none the less a
jolly, pleasant circle that gathered about the evening meal, sometimes
eaten on a large flat stone, if any were handy, and again on the grass,
where the knives and small articles of table-ware would lose themselves
in the tall spears; but, whatever was used as a table, the meal in the
evening was the domestic event of the day. At midday there was often but
a hasty lunch; breakfast was simply a preparation for travel; but in the
evening all were prepared for rest and the enjoyment of either eatables
or society. And until the darkness fell there was the review of the
day's hunt by the men--Hardy and Houghton vying with each other in their
recitals--or, as Ivans expressed it, "swappin' lies"--around the fire.
Sometimes there would be singing, and blended with the notes of
night-birds in the forest would sound the call of human throats echoing
upward in old hymns that all had known sometime, in the East. And again
Tillie would sing them a ballad or a love-song in a sweet, fresh voice;
or, with Clara, Hardy, and Houghton, a quartette would add volume to
some favorite, their scout a silent listener. Rachel never sang with the
rest; she preferred whistling, herself. And many a time when out of
sight of her on the trail, she was located by that boyish habit she had
of echoing the songs of many of the birds that were new to her, learning
their notes, and imitating them so well as to bring many a decoyed
answer from the woods.

Between herself and the guide there was no more their former
comaraderie. They had never regained their old easy, friendly manner.
Still, she asked him that night at "last camp" of the music of the
Indians. Had they any? Could he sing? Had there ever been any of their
music published? etc.

And he told them of the airs that were more like chants, like the echoes
of whispering or moaning forests, set to human words; of the dusky
throats that, without training, yet sang together with never a discord;
of the love-songs that had in them the minor cadences of sadness. Only
their war-songs seemed to carry brightness, and they only when echoes of
victory.

In the low, glowing light of the fire, when the group around it faded in
the darkness, he seemed to forget his many listeners, and talked on as
if to only one. To the rest it was as if they had met a stranger there
that evening for the first time, and found him entertaining. Even Mrs.
Houghton dropped her slightly supercilious manner toward him, a change
to which he was as indifferent as to her coolness. It may have been
Tillie's home-songs in the evening that unlocked his lips; or it may
have been the realization that the pleasure-trip was ended--that in a
short time he would know these people no more, who had brought him
home-memories in their talk of home-lives. It may have been a dash of
recklessness that urged him to enjoy it for a little only--this
association that suggested so much to which he had long been a stranger.
Whatever the impulse was, it showed a side of his nature that only
Rachel had gained any knowledge of through those first bright, eager
days of their cultus corrie.

At Tillie's request he repeated some remembered fragments of Indian
songs that had been translated into the Red's language, and of which he
gave them the English version or meaning as well as he could. A couple
of them he knew entire, and to Tillie's delight he hummed the plaintive
airs until she caught the notes. And even after the rest had quietly
withdrawn and rolled themselves in blankets for the night's rest, Hardy
and his wife and Genesee still sat there with old legends of Tsiatko,
the demon of the night, for company, and with strange songs in which the
music would yet sound familiar to any ears used to the shrilling of the
winds through the timber, or the muffled moans of the wood-dove.

And in the sweet dusk of the night, Rachel, the first to leave the fire,
lay among the odorous, spicy branches of the cedar and watched the
picture of the group about the fire. All was in darkness, save when a
bit of reflected red would outline form or feature, and they looked
rather uncanny in the red-and-black coloring. An Indian council or the
grouping of witches and warlocks it might have been, had one judged the
scene only from sight. But the voices of the final three, dropped low
though they were for the sake of the supposed sleepers, yet had a tone
of pleasant converse that belied their impish appearance.

Those voices came to Rachel dreamily, merging their music with the
drowsy odors of a spruce pillow. And through them all she heard Tillie
and Genesee singing a song of some unlettered Indian poet:

    "Lemolo mika tsolo siah polaklie,
    Towagh tsee chil-chil siah saghallie.
    Mika na chakko?--me sika chil-chil,
    Opitsah! mika winapia,
    Tsolo--tsolo!"

    "Wild do I wander, far in the darkness,
    Shines bright a sweet star far up above.
    Will you not come to me? you are the star,
    Sweetheart! I wait,
    Lost!--in the dark!"

And the white girl's mouth curled dubiously in that smile that always
vanquished the tender curves of her lips, and then dropped asleep
whispering the refrain, "Tsolo--tsolo!"



CHAPTER VI.

TSOLO--TSOLO!


The retracing of steps, either figuratively or literally, is always
provocative of thought to the individual who walks again over the old
paths; the waning of a moon never finds the same state of feelings in
the heart that had throbbed through it under the gold sickle. Back over
how many a road do we walk with a sigh, remembering the laughter that
had once echoed along it! Something has been gained, something has been
lost, since; and a human sigh is as likely to be called forth by one
cause as the other.

Miss Rachel Hardy, who usually laughed at sighs of sentiment, did not
indulge in them as one by one the landmarks of the past three weeks rose
in sight. But different natures find different vents for feeling, and
she may have got rid of hers by the long gallops she took alone over the
now known trail, priding herself on her ability to find her way miles
ahead of the slower-moving party; and resting herself and horse in some
remembered retreat, would await their coming.

Through these solitary rides she began to understand the fascination
such a free, untrammeled existence would have for a man. One must feel a
very Adam in the midst of this virginity of soil and life of the hills.
She had not Tillie's domestic ideas of life, else the thought of an Eve
might also have occurred to her. But though she wasted no breath in
sighs over the retraced cultus corrie, neither did she in the mockery
that had tantalized Clara in the beginning. That lady did not find her
self-imposed duty of chaperon nearly so arduous as at first, since, from
the time the other ladies awakened to the fact that their guide had a
good baritone voice and could be interesting, the girl forgot her role
of champion, also her study of mongrel languages; for she dropped that
ready use of Chinook of which she had been proud, especially in her
conversation with him, and only used it if chance threw her in the way
of Indians hunting or gathering olallie (berries) in the hills.

Genesee never noticed by word or action the changed manner that dropped
him out of her knowledge. Once or twice, in crossing a bit of country
that was in any way dangerous to a stranger, he had said no one must
leave the party or go out of hearing distance; and though the order was
a general one, they all knew he meant Rachel, and the ladies wondered a
little if that generally headstrong damsel would heed it, or if she
would want willfully to take the bit in her teeth and go as she
pleased--a habit of hers; but she did not; she rode demurely with the
rest, showing the respect of a soldier to the orders of a commander.
Along the last bit of bad country he spoke to her of the enforced care
through the jungle of underbrush, where the chetwoot (black bear) was
likely to be met and prove a dangerous enemy, at places where the trail
led along the edge of ravines, and where a fright to a horse was a risky
thing.

"It's hard on you, Miss, to be kept back here with the rest of us," he
said, half apologetically; "you're too used to riding free for this to
be any pleasure, but--"

"Don't distress yourself about me," she answered easily, but without
looking at him. "I have felt a little lazy to-day, so has Betty, and
have been satisfied to loaf; but now we are at the edge of this bad
strip, and just down over this bend ahead is a long stretch of level,
and I think--yes, I am quite sure--I am ready now for a run."

And without waiting to hear either assent or dissent to her intention,
she touched Betty with the whip, and Mowitza and her master were left
behind, much to Mowitza's dissatisfaction. She gave one plunge ahead as
if to follow, but Genesee's hand on the bridle had a quick, cruel grip
for a moment, and in slow silence they made their way down the timbered
slope to the lower levels. The girl, free from companionship save her
own thoughts, galloped through the odorous, shadowy table-lands,
catching here and there a glimpse of glistening water in a river ahead,
as it trailed its length far below the plateaus, and shone like linked
diamonds away toward the east.

She remembered the river; it was a branch of the Kootenai. To be near it
meant but a short journey home; two days more, perhaps, and then--well,
their outing would be over. She would go back East, and say good-bye to
Betty; and then she began to think of that man who belonged to these
hills and who never need leave them--never need go a mile without his
horse, if he did not choose; and she envied him as she could not have
thought it possible to do six months before--to envy a man such a
primitive existence, such simple possessions! But most human wants are
so much a matter of association, and Rachel Hardy, though all
unconscious of it, was most impressionable to surroundings. Back of her
coolness and carelessness was a sensitive temperament in which the
pulses were never stilled. It thrilled her with quick sympathies for
which she was vexed with herself, and which she hid as well as she
could. She had more than likely never tried to analyze her emotions;
they were seldom satisfactory enough for her to grant them so much
patience; but had she done so, she would have found her desires molded
as much by association and sentiment as most other human nature of her
age.

Once or twice she looked back as she left the timber, but could see
nothing of the others, and Betty seemed to scent the trail home, and
long for the ranch and the white-coated flocks of the pastures, for she
struck out over the table-lands, where her hoofs fell so softly in the
grass that the wild things of the ground-homes and the birds that rest
on the warm earth scampered and flew from under the enemy's feet that
were shod with iron. A small herd of elk with uncouth heads and
monstrous antlers were startled from the shelter of a knoll around which
she cantered; for a moment the natives and the stranger gazed at each
other with equal interest, and then a great buck plunged away over the
rolling land to the south, and the others followed as if they had been
given a word of command.

The girl watched them out of sight, finding them, like the most of
Montana natives, strange and interesting--not only the natives, but the
very atmosphere of existence, with its tinges of wildness and coloring
of the earth; even the rising and setting of the sun had a distinct
character of its own, in the rarefied air of this land that seemed so
far off from all else in the world. For in the valley of the Kootenai,
where the light breaks over the mountains of the east and vanishes again
over the mountains of the west, it is hard at times to realize that its
glory is for any land but the mellow, sun-kissed "park" whose only gates
open to the south.

The late afternoon was coming on; only an hour or so of sun, and then
the long flush twilight.

Remembering the camping-spot they were making for, she gave Betty rein,
thinking to reach it and have a fire built on their arrival, and her
hard ride gave her a longing for the sight of the pack-mules with the
eatables.

Another of those ugly, jolting bits of scrub-timber had to be crossed
before the haven of rest was reached. Betty had almost picked her way
through it, when a huge black something came scrambling down through the
brush almost in front of them. The little mare shied in terror, and the
girl tried to make a circuit of the animal, which she could see was an
enormous black bear. It did not seem to notice her, but was rolling and
pitching downward as if on a trail--no doubt that of honey in a tree.
Managing Betty was not an easy matter, and it took all of the girl's
strength to do so until the black stranger passed, and then, on
loosening the bridle, the terrified beast gave a leap forward. There was
a crash, a growl from under her feet, and an answering one from the huge
beast that had just gone by them; she had been followed by two cubs that
had escaped Rachel's notice in the thick brush, as all her attention had
been given to the mother; but Betty's feet coming down on one of the
cubs had brought forth a call that the girl knew might mean a war of
extermination. With a sharp cut of the whip, Betty, wild from the
clawing thing at her feet, sprang forward over it with a snort of
terror, just as the mother with fierce growls broke through the brush.

[Illustration: At a sharp cut of the whip, Betty sprang forward]

Once clear of them, the little mare ran like mad through the rough trail
over which she had picked her way so carefully but a little before.
Stones and loose earth clattered down the gully, loosened by her flying
feet, and dashed ominously in the mountain stream far below. The girl
was almost torn from the saddle by the low branches of the trees under
which she was borne. In vain she tried to check or moderate the mare's
gait. She could do little but drop low on the saddle and hang there,
wondering if she should be able to keep her seat until they got clear of
the timber. The swish of some twigs across her eyes half blinded her,
and it seemed like an hour went by with Betty crashing through the
brush, guiding herself, and seeming to lose none of her fright. Her ears
were deaf to the girl's voice, and at last, stumbling in her headlong
run, her rider was thrown against a tree, knowing nothing after the
sickening jar, and seeing nothing of Betty, who, freed from her burden,
recovered her footing, and, triumphant, dashed away on a cultus
"coolie" (run) of her own.

When Rachel recovered her powers of reasoning, she felt too lazy, too
tired to use them. She ached all over from the force of the fall, and
though realizing that the sun was almost down, and that she was alone
there in the timber, all she felt like doing was to drag herself into a
more comfortable position and go to sleep; but real sleep did not come
easily--only a drowsy stupor, through which she realized she was hungry,
and wondered if the rest were eating supper by that time, and if they
had found Betty, and if--no, rather, when would they find her?

She had no doubt just yet that they would find her; she could half
imagine how carefully and quickly Mowitza would cover the ground after
they missed her. Of course there were other horses in the party, but
Mowitza was the only one she happened to think of. She did not know
where she was; the mare had struck into a new trail for herself, and had
dropped her rider on a timbered slope of one of the foot-hills, where
there were no remembered landmarks, and the closeness of night would
prevent her from seeking them.

Twice she roused herself and tried to walk, but she was dizzily sick
from the wild ride and the fall that had stunned her, and both times she
was compelled to drop back on her couch of grass. The stars began to
creep out in the clear, warm sky, and up through the timber the shadows
grew black, and it all seemed very peaceful and very lovely. She thought
she would not mind sleeping there if she only had a blanket, and--yes,
some hot coffee--for through the shadows of the lower hills the dew
falls quickly, and already the coolness made itself felt with a little
shiver. She searched her pocket for some matches--not a match, therefore
no fire.

A sound in the distance diverted her thoughts from disappointment, and
she strained her ears for a repetition of it. Surely it was a shot, but
too far off for any call of hers to answer it. She could do nothing but
listen and wait, and the waiting grew long, so long that she concluded
it could be no one on her trail--perhaps some of the Indians in the
hills. She would be glad to see even them, she thought, for all she met
had seemed kindly disposed.

Then she fell to wondering about that half-breed girl who had hid back
of the ponies; was it Genesee she was afraid of, and if so, why?

Suddenly a light gleamed through the woods above her; a bent figure was
coming down the hill carrying a torch, and back of it a horse was
following slowly.

"Genesee!" called a glad voice through the dusk. "Genesee!"

There was no word in answer; only the form straightened, and with the
torch held high above his head he plunged down through the trees,
straight as an arrow, in answer to her voice.

She had risen to her feet, but swayed unsteadily as she went to meet
him.

"I am so glad--it--is--you," she said, her hands outstretched as he came
close. And then that returning dizziness sent her staggering forward,
half on her knees and half in his arms, as he threw the torch from him
and caught her.

She did not faint, though the only thing she was still conscious of was
that she was held in strong arms, and held very closely, and the beat of
a heart that was not her own throbbed against her rather nerveless form.
He had not yet spoken a word, but his breath coming quickly, brokenly,
told of great exhaustion, or it may be excitement.

Opening her eyes, she looked up into the face that had a strange
expression in the red light from the torch--his eyes seemed searching
her own so curiously.

"I--I'm all right," she half smiled in answer to what she thought an
unspoken query, "only"--and a wave of forgetfulness crept over the
estrangement of the late days--and she added--"only--Hyas till nika"
(I am very tired).

Her eyes were half closed in the content of being found, and the safety
of his presence. She had not changed her position or noticed that he had
not spoken. His hat had fallen to the ground, and something almost
boyish was in the bend of his bared head and the softness of his
features as his face drooped low over her own. Death brings back the
curves of youth to aged faces sometimes--is it the only change that does
so?

She felt the hand on her shoulder trembling; was it with her weight--and
he so strong? A muttered sentence came to her ears, through which she
could only distinguish a word that in its suppressed force might belong
to either a curse or a prayer--an intense "Christ!"

That aroused her to a realization of what she had been too contented to
remember. She opened her eyes and raised her head from his arm, brushing
his lips with her hair as she did so.

"Were you so much alarmed?" she asked in a clearer, more matter-of-fact
way, as she propped herself up on his outstretched arm; "and did you
come alone to find me?"

He drew back from her with a long, indrawn breath, and reached for his
hat.

"Yes," he said.

It was the first time he had spoken to her, and he did so with his eyes
still on her face and that curious expression in them. He was half
kneeling, his body drawn back and away from her, but his eyes unchanging
in their steadiness. As the girl lay there full length on the mountain
grass, only her head raised and turned toward him, she might have been a
Lamia from their attitudes and his expression.

"It seemed long to wait," she continued, turning her eyes toward
Mowitza, who had quietly come near them; "but I was not afraid. I knew
you would find me. I would have walked back to meet you if the fall had
not made me so dizzy. I am decidedly wake kloshe" (no good); and she
smiled as she reached out her hand to him, and he helped her rise to her
feet. "I feel all jolted to pieces," she said, taking a few steps toward
a tree against which she leaned. "And even now that you have come, I
don't know how I am to get to camp."

"I will get you there," he answered briefly. "Did the mare throw you?"

"I am not sure what she did," answered the girl. "She fell, I think, and
I fell with her, and when I could see trees instead of stars she had
recovered and disappeared. Oh! Did you see the bear?"

"Yes, and shot her. She might have killed you when her temper was up
over that cub. How did it happen?"

Each of them was a little easier in speech than at first, and she told
him as well as she could of the episode, and her own inability to check
Betty. And he told her of the fright of the others, and their anxiety,
and that he had sent them straight ahead to camp, while he struck into
the timber where Betty had left the old trail.

"I promised them to have word of you soon," he added; "and I reckon
they'll be mighty glad you can take the word yourself--it's more than
they expected. She might have killed you."

His tone and repetition of the words showed the fear that had been
uppermost in his thoughts.

"Yes--she might," agreed the girl. "That is a lesson to me for my
willfulness;" and then she smiled mockingly with a gleam of her old
humor, adding: "And so in the future, for the sake of my neck and the
safety of my bones, I will be most obedient to orders, Mr. Genesee
Jack."

He only looked at her across the flickering circle of light from the
torch. It must have dazzled his eyes, for in putting on his hat he
pulled it rather low over his forehead, and turning his back abruptly on
her he walked over for Mowitza.

But he did not bring her at once. He stood with his elbows on her
shoulders and his head bent over his clasped hands, like a man who is
thinking--or else very tired.

Rachel had again slipped down beside the tree; her head still seemed to
spin around a little if she stood long; and from that point of vantage
she could easily distinguish the immovable form in the shifting lights
and shadows.

"What is the matter with the man?" she asked herself as he stood there.
"He was glad to find me--I know it; and why he should deliberately turn
his back and walk away like that, I can't see. But he shan't be cool or
sulky with me ever again; I won't let him."

And with this determination she said:

"Genesee!"

"Yes," he answered, but did not move.

"Now that you have found me, are you going to leave me here all night?"
she asked demurely.

"No, Miss," he answered, and laid his hand on the bridle. "Come,
Mowitza, we must take her to camp;" and striding back with quick,
decided movements that were rather foreign to his manner, he said:

"Here she is, Miss; can you ride on that saddle?"

"I don't know, I'm sure. I--I--suppose so; but how are you to get
there?"

"Walk," he answered concisely.

"Why, how far is it?"

"About five miles--straight across."

"Can we go straight across?"

"No."

She looked up at him and laughed, half vexed.

"Mr. Genesee Jack," she remarked, "you can be one of the most
aggravatingly non-committal men I ever met. It has grown as dark as a
stack of black cats, and I know we must have an ugly trip to make with
only one horse between us. Do you suppose I have no natural curiosity as
to how we are to get there, and when? Don't be such a lock-and-key
individual. I can't believe it is natural to you. It is an acquired
habit, and hides your real self often."

"And a good thing it does, I reckon," he returned; "locks and keys are
good things to have, Miss; don't quarrel with mine or my ways to-night;
wait till I leave you safe with your folks, then you can find fault or
laugh, whichever you please. It won't matter then."

His queer tone kept her from answering at once, and she sat still,
watching him adjust the stirrup, and then make a new torch of pine
splits and knots.

"What do you call a torch in Chinook?" she asked after a little,
venturing on the supposed safe ground of jargon.

"La gome towagh," he answered, splitting a withe to bind them
together, and using a murderous looking hunting-knife on which the light
glimmered and fretted.

"And a knife?" she added.

"Opitsah."

She looked up at him quickly. "Opitsah means sweetheart," she
returned; "I know that much myself. Are you not getting a little mixed,
Professor?"

"I think not," he said, glancing across at her; "the same word is used
for both; and," he added, thrusting the knife in its sheath and rising
to his feet, "I reckon the men who started the jargon knew what they
were talking about, too. Come, are you ready?"

Assuredly, though he had hunted for her, and been glad to find her
alive, yet now that he had found her he had no fancy for conversation,
and he showed a decided inclination to put a damper on her attempts at
it. He lifted her to the saddle, and walking at Mowitza's head, they
started on their home journey through the night.

"The moon will be up soon," he remarked, glancing up at the sky. "We
only need a torch for the gulch down below there."

She did not answer; the movement of the saddle brought back the
dizziness to her head--all the glare of the torch was a blur before her.
She closed her eyes, thinking it would pass away, but it did not, and
she wondered why he stalked on like that, just as if he did not care,
never once looking toward her or noticing how she was dropping forward
almost on Mowitza's neck. Then, as they descended a steep bit of hill,
she became too much lost to her surroundings for even that speculation,
and could only say slowly:

"Tsolo, Genesee?"

"No," he answered grimly, "not now."

But she knew or heard nothing of the tone that implied more than it
expressed. She could only reach gropingly toward him with one hand, as
if to save herself from falling from the saddle. Only her finger-tips
touched his shoulder--it might have been a drooping branch out of the
many under which they went, for all the weight of it; but grim and
unresponsive as he was in some ways, he turned, through some quick
sympathy at the touch of her hand, and caught her arm as she was about
to fall forward. In an instant she was lifted from the saddle to her
feet, and his face was as white as hers as he looked at her.

"Dead!" he said, in a quiet sort of way, as her hand dropped nerveless
from his own, and he lifted her in his arms, watching for some show of
life in the closed lids and parted lips. And then with a great shivering
breath, he drew the still face to his own, and in a half-motherly way
smoothed back the fair hair as if she had been a child, whispering over
and over: "Not dead, my pretty! not you, my girl! Here, open your eyes;
listen to me; don't leave me like this until I tell you--tell you--God!
I wish I was dead beside you! Ah, my girl! my girl!"



CHAPTER VII.

UNDER THE CHINOOK MOON.

     Ikt polaklie konaway moxt.


Over the crowns of the far hills the moon wheeled slowly up into the
sky, giving the shadows a cloak of blue mist, and vying with the
forgotten torch in lighting up the group in the gulch. The night winds
rustled through the leaves and sighed through the cedars; and the girl's
voice, scarcely louder than the whispers of the wood, said: "Genesee!
Tillie!"

"Yes, Miss," the man answered, as he lowered her head from his shoulder
to the sward, making a pillow for her of his hat. With returning life
and consciousness she again slipped out of his reach or possession, and
himself and his emotions were put aside, to be hidden from her eyes.

Through the blessing of death, infinite possession comes to so many
souls that life leaves beggared; and in those hurried moments of
uncertainty, she belonged to him more fully than he could hope for while
she lived.

"Is it you, Genesee?" she said, after looking at him drowsily for a
little. "I--I thought Tillie was here, crying, and kissing me."

"No, Miss, you fainted, I reckon, and just dreamed that part of it," he
answered, but avoiding the eyes that, though drowsy, looked so directly
at him.

"I suppose so," she agreed. "I tried to reach you when I felt myself
going; but you wouldn't look around. Did you catch me?"

"Yes; and I don't think you were quite square with me back there; you
told me you were all right; but you must have got hurt more than you
owned up to. Why didn't you tell me?"

"But I am not--indeed I am not!" she persisted. "I was not at all
injured except for the jar of the fall; it leaves me dizzy and sick when
I sit upright in the saddle--that is all."

"And it is enough," he returned decidedly; "do you 'spose, if you'd told
me just how you felt, I should have set you there to ride through these
hills and hollows?"

"What else could you do?" she asked; "you couldn't bring a carriage for
me."

"May be not, but I could have ridden Mowitza myself and carried you."

"That would be funny," she smiled. "Poor Mowitza! could she carry
double?"

"Yes," he answered curtly; perhaps the situation did not strike him in a
humorous light. "Yes, she can, and that's what she will have to do. Let
me know when you feel able to start."

"I think I do now," she said, raising herself from the ground; "I am a
little shaky, but if I do not have to sit upright I can keep my wits
about me, I believe. Will you help me, please?"

He lifted her into the saddle without a word, and then mounting himself,
he took her in front of him, circling her with one arm and guiding
Mowitza with the other, with as much unconcern as if he had carried
damsels in like cavalier fashion all his life.

They rode on in silence for a little through the shadows of the valley,
where the moon's light only fell in patches. His eyes were straight
ahead, on the alert for gullies and pitfalls along the blind trail. He
seemed to have no glances for the girl whose head was on his shoulder,
but whom he held most carefully. Once he asked how she felt, and if she
was comfortable; and she said "Yes, thank you," very demurely, with that
mocking smile about her lips. She felt like laughing at the whole
situation--all the more so because he looked so solemn, almost grim. She
always had an insane desire to laugh when in circumstances where any
conventional woman would be gathering up her dignity. It had got her
into scrapes often, and she felt as if it was likely to do so now. The
movement of the horse no longer made her ill, since she did not have to
sit upright; she was only a little dizzy at times, as if from the
rocking of a swing, and lazily comfortable with that strong arm and
shoulder for support.

"I am afraid I am getting heavy," she remarked after a while; "if I
could get my arm around back of you and hold either the saddle or reach
up to your shoulder, I might not be such a dead weight on your arm."

"Just as you like," was the brief reply that again aroused her desire to
laugh. It did seem ridiculous to be forced into a man's arms like that,
and the humorous part of it was heightened, in her eyes, by his apparent
sulkiness over the turn affairs had taken.

She slipped her arm across his back, however, and up to his shoulder,
thus lightening her weight on the arm that circled her, an attempt to
which he appeared indifferent. And so they rode on out of the valley
into the level land at the foot of the hills, and then into the old
trail where the route was more familiar and not so much care needed.

The girl raised her head drowsily as she noted some old landmarks in the
misty light.

"Poor Mowitza!" she said; "she did not have such a load when she came
over this road before; it was the day after you joined us, do you
remember?"

"Yes."

Remember! It had been the gateway through which he had gained a glimpse
into a new world--those days that were tinged with the delightful
suggestions of dawn. He smiled rather grimly at the question, but she
could not see his face very well, under the shadow of his wide hat.

"Has Mowitza ever before had to carry double?"

There was a little wait after her question--perhaps he was trying to
remember; then he said:

"Yes."

She wanted to ask who, and under what circumstances, but someway was
deterred by his lock-and-key manner, as she called it. She rather
commended herself for her good humor under its influence, and wondered
that she only felt like laughing at his gruffness. With any other person
she would have felt like retaliating, and she lay there looking up into
the shadowy face with a mocking self-query as to why he was made an
exception of.

"Genesee!" she began, after one of those long spells of silence; and
then the utterance of the name suggested a new train of thought--"by the
way, is your name Genesee?"

He did not answer at once--was he trying to remember that also?

"I wish you would tell me," she continued, more gently than was usual
with her. "I am going away soon; I should like to know by what real name
I am to remember you when I am back in Kentucky. Is your name Jack
Genesee?"

"No," he said at last; "Genesee is a name that stuck to me from some
mines where I worked, south of this. If I went back to them I would be
called Kootenai Jack, perhaps, because I came from here. Plenty of men
are known by names out here that would not be recognized at home, if
they have a home.

"But your name is Jack" she persisted.

"Yes, my name is Jack."

But he did not seem inclined to give any further information on the
subject that just then was of interest to her, and she did not like to
question further, but contented herself with observing:

"I shan't call you Genesee any more."

"Just as you like, Miss."

Again came that crazy desire of hers to laugh, and although she kept
silent, it was a convulsive silence--one of heaving bosom and quivering
shoulders. To hide it, she moved restlessly, changing her position
somewhat, and glancing about her.

"Not much farther to go," she remarked; "won't they be surprised to find
you carrying me into camp like this? I wonder if Betty came this way, or
if they found her--the little vixen! There is only one more hill to
cross until we reach camp--is there not?"

"Only one more."

"And both Mowitza and yourself will need a good rest when we get there,"
she remarked. "Your arm must feel paralyzed. Do you know I was just
thinking if you had found me dead in that gulch, you would have had to
carry me back over this trail, just like this. Ugh! What a dismal ride,
carrying a dead woman!"

His arm closed around her quickly, and he drew a deep breath as he
looked at her.

"I don't know," he said in a terse way, as if through shut teeth;
"perhaps it wouldn't have been so dismal, for I might never have come
back. I might have staid there--with you."

She could see his eyes plainly enough when he looked at her like that;
even the shadows could not cover their warmth; they left little to be
expressed in words, and neither attempted any. Her face turned away from
him a little, but her hand slipped into the clasp of his fingers, and so
they rode on in silence.

The brow of the last hill was reached. Down below them could be seen the
faint light from the camp-fire, and for an instant Mowitza was halted
for a breathing-spell ere she began the descent. The girl glanced down
toward the fire-light, and then up to his face.

"You can rest now," she said, with the old quizzical smile about her
lips, even while her fingers closed on his own. "There is the camp;
alta nika wake tsolo" (now you no longer wander in the dark).

But there was no answering smile on his face--not even at the pleasure
of the language that at times had seemed a tacit bond between them. He
only looked at her in the curious way she had grown accustomed to in
him, and said:

"The light down there is for you; I don't belong to it. Just try and
remember that after--after you are safe with your folks."

"I shall remember a great deal," returned the girl in her independent
tone; "among other things, the man who brought me back to them. Now, why
don't you say, 'Just as you like, Miss?' You ought to--to be natural."

But her raillery brought no more words from him. His face had again its
sombre, serious look, and in silence he guided Mowitza's feet down
toward the glow-light. Once a puff of wind sent the girl's hair blowing
across her face, and he smoothed it back carefully that he might see her
eyes in the moonlight; but the half-caress in the movement was as if
given to a child. All the quick warmth was gone from his eyes and speech
after that one comprehensive outbreak, and the girl was puzzled at the
change that had come in its stead. He was so gentle, but so guarded--the
touch even of his fingers on her shoulder was tremulous, as if with the
weight of resistance forced into them. She did not feel like laughing
any longer, after they began the descent of the hill. His manner had
impressed her too strongly with the feeling of some change to come with
the end of that ride and the eventful moonlight night, but no words came
to her; but her hand remained in his of its own accord, not because it
was held there, and she lay very quiet, wondering if he would not
speak--would say nothing more to her ere they joined the others, to whom
they were moving nearer at every step.

He did not. Once his fingers closed convulsively over her own. His eyes
straight ahead caused her to glance in that direction, and she saw
Tillie and Hardy clearly, in the moonlight, walking together
hand-in-hand down toward the glow of the camp-fire. On a ledge of rock
that jutted out clear from the shadowy brush, they lingered for an
instant. The soft blue light and the silence made them look a little
ghostly--a tryst of spirits--as the tall shoulders drooped forward with
circling arms into which Tillie crept, reaching upward until their faces
met. The eyes of those two on horseback turned involuntarily toward each
other at the sight of those married lovers, but there was no echo of a
caress in their own movements, unless it was the caress of a glance; and
in a few moments more they were within speaking distance of the camp.

"We are here," he said slowly, as Hardy and his wife, hearing the steps
of the horse, hurried toward them.

"Yes, I know," she whispered.

It was their good-bye to the night.

A neigh from the renegade Betty was answered by Mowitza, and in an
instant all the group about the camp was alive to the fact of the
return. But the eager questions received few answers, for Genesee handed
Rachel into the arms of Hardy, and said to Tillie:

"Don't let them pester her with questions to-night, Mrs. Hardy. She has
no injuries, I guess, only she's used up and needs rest badly. I found
her ready to faint in a gulch back from the trail about three miles.
She'll be all right to-morrow, I reckon; only see that she gets a good
rest and isn't bothered to-night."

No need to tell them that. Their gladness at her safe return made them
all consideration.

Genesee and Mowitza also came in for a share of their solicitude, and
the former for a quantity of thanks that met with rather brusque
response.

"That's nothing to thank a man for," he said a little impatiently, as
the Houghtons were contributing their share. "I reckon you don't know
much about the duties of a scout or guide in this country, or you would
know it was my business to go for the lady--just as it would be to hunt
up lost stock, if any had strayed off. There wasn't much of a trick in
finding her--Betty left too clear a trail; and I reckon it's time we all
turned in to sleep instead of talking about it."

In the morning Rachel awoke refreshed and expectant in a vague way. The
incidents of the night before came crowding to her memory, sending the
blood tingling through her veins as she thought of their meeting; of the
ride; of those few significant words of his, and his face as he had
spoken. She wondered at herself accepting it all so dreamily--as if in a
lethargy. She was far from a stupor at the thought of it in the light of
the early day, as she watched the blue mists rising up, up, from the
valleys. Was he watching them, too? Was he thinking as she was of that
ride and its revelations? Would he meet her again with that queer,
distant manner of his? Would he--

Her ruminations were cut short by Tillie, who thought to awaken her with
the proffer of a cup of hot coffee, and who was surprised to find her
awake.

"Yes, I am awake, and hungry, too," she said briskly; "you did not give
me nearly enough to eat last night. Is breakfast all ready? I wonder how
poor Mowitza is this morning after her heavy load. Say, Tillie, did we
look altogether ridiculous?"

"No, you did not," said Tillie stoutly. "It was wonderfully kind of him
to bring you so carefully. I always said he had a great deal of heart in
him; but he is gone, already."

"Gone!--where?" And the cup of coffee was set on the grass as if the
hunger and thirst were forgotten. "Where?"

"We don't know," said Tillie helplessly. "Clara says back to his tribe;
but she always has something like that to say of him. It's the queerest
thing; even Hen is puzzled. He was wakened this morning about dawn by
Genesee, who told him his time was up with the party; that we could
follow the trail alone well enough now; and that he had to join some
Indian hunters away north of this to-night, so had to make an early
start. I guess he forgot to speak of it last night, or else was too
tired. He left a good-bye for Hen to deliver for him to the rest of us,
and a klahowya to you."

"Did he?" asked the girl with a queer little laugh. "That was thoughtful
of him. May his hunting be prosperous and his findings be great."

"Dear me!" said Tillie weakly, "you are just as careless about it as
Clara, and I did think you would be sorry to lose him. I am, and so is
Hen; but evidently persuasions were of no avail. He said he could not
even wait for breakfast; that he should have gone last night. And the
queerest thing about it is that he utterly refused any money from Hen,
on the plea that the whole affair had been a pleasure ride, not work at
all; and so--he is gone."

"And so--he is gone," said the girl, mimicking her tone; "what a
tragical manner over a very prosaic circumstance! Tillie, my child,
don't be so impressible, or I shall have to tell Hen that our guide has
taken your affections in lieu of greenbacks."

"Rachel!"

"Matilda!" said the other mildly, looking teasingly over the rim of the
coffee-cup she was slowly emptying. "Don't startle me with that tone
before breakfast, and don't grieve over the exodus of Mr. Genesee Jack.
I shall take on my own shoulders the duties of guide in his stead, so
you need not worry about getting home safely; and in the meantime I am
woefully hungry."

She was still a little dizzy as she rose to her feet, and very stiff and
sore from her ride; but, joking over her rheumatic joints, she limped
over to where the breakfast was spread on a flat rock.

"There is one way in which I may not be able to take Mr. Genesee Jack's
place, in your estimation," she said lowly to Tillie as they were about
to join the others. "I shall not be able to tell you stories of Indian
conjurors or sing you Indian love-songs. I can't do anything but
whistle."

"Hen, she wasn't the least bit interested about him leaving like that!"
said Tillie confidentially to her husband a few hours later. "She never
does seem to have much feeling for anything; but after he brought her
back so carefully, and after the chumminess there was between them for a
while, one would naturally think--"

"Of course one would," agreed her husband laughingly, "especially if one
was an affectionate, match-making little person like yourself, and
altogether a woman. But Rache--" and his glance wandered ahead to where
the slim figure of the girl was seen stubbornly upright on Betty--"well,
Rache never was like the rest of the girls at home, and I fancy she will
never understand much of the sentimental side of life. She is too
level-headed and practical."



CHAPTER VIII.

THE STORM--AND AFTER.

     Olapitski yahka ships.


Two weeks later storm-clouds were flying low over the Kootenai hills and
chasing shadows over the faces of two equestrians who looked at each
other in comic dismay.

"Jim, we are lost!" stated the one briefly.

"I allow we are, Miss Hardy," answered the other, a boy of about
fifteen, who gazed rather dubiously back over the way they had come and
ahead where a half-blind trail led up along the mountain.

"Suppose we pitch pennies to see what direction to take," suggested the
girl; but the boy only laughed.

"Haven't much time for that, Miss," he answered. "Look how them clouds
is crowdin' us; we've got to hunt cover or get soaked. This trail goes
somewhere; may be to an Injun village. I allow we'd better freeze to
it."

"All right. We'll allow that we had," agreed Miss Hardy. "Betty, get
around here, and get up this hill! I know every step is taking us
farther from the ranch, but this seems the only direction in which a
trail leads. Jim, how far do you suppose we are from home?"

"'Bout fifteen miles, I guess," said the boy, looking blue.

"And we haven't found the lost sheep?"

"No, we haven't."

"And we have got lost?"

"Yes."

"Jim, I don't believe we are a howling success as sheep farmers."

"I don't care a darn about the sheep just now," declared Jim. "What I
want to know is where we are to sleep to-night."

"Oh, you want too much," she answered briskly; "I am content to sit up
all night, if I only can find a dry place to stay in--do you hear that?"
as the thunder that had grumbled in the distance now sounded its threats
close above them.

"Yes, I hear it, and it means business, too. I wish we were at the end
of this trail," he said, urging his horse up through the scrubby growth
of laurel.

The darkness was falling so quickly that it was not an easy matter to
keep the trail; and the wind hissing through the trees made an open
space a thing to wish for. Jim, who was ahead, gave a shout as he
reached the summit of the hill where the trail crossed it.

"We're right!" he yelled that she might hear his voice above the thunder
and the wind; "there's some sort of a shanty across there by a big pond;
it's half a mile away, an' the rain's a-comin'--come on!"

And on they went in a wild run to keep ahead of the rain-cloud that was
pelting its load at them with the force of hail. The girl had caught a
glimpse of the white sheen of a lake or pond ahead of them; the shanty
she did not wait to pick out from the gloom, but followed blindly after
Jim, at a breakneck gait, until they both brought up short, in the
shadow of a cabin in the edge of the timber above the lake.

"Jump off quick and in with you" called Jim; and without the ceremony of
knocking, she pushed open the door and dived into the interior.

It was almost as dark as night. She stumbled around until she found a
sort of bed in one corner, and sat down on it, breathless and wet. The
rain was coming down in torrents, and directly Jim, with the saddles in
his arms, came plunging in, shaking himself like a water-spaniel.

"Great guns! But it's comin' down solid," he gasped; "where are you?"

"Here--I've found a bed, so somebody lives here. Have you any matches?"

"I allow I have," answered Jim, "if they only ain't wet--no, by George,
they're all right."

The brief blaze of the match showed him the fire-place and a pile of
wood beside it, and a great osier basket of broken bark. "Say, Miss
Hardy, we've struck great luck," he announced while on his knees,
quickly starting a fire and fanning it into a blaze with his hat; "I
wonder who lives here and where they are. Stickin' to that old trail was
a pay streak--hey?"

In the blaze of the fire the room assumed quite a respectable
appearance. It was not a shanty, as Jim had at first supposed, but a
substantial log-cabin, furnished in a way to show constant and recent
occupation.

A table made like a wide shelf jutted from the wall under the one square
window; a bed and two chairs that bespoke home manufacture were covered
by bear-skins; on the floor beside the bed was a buffalo-robe; and a
large locked chest stood against the wall. Beside the fire-place was a
cupboard with cooking and table utensils, and around the walls hung
trophies of the hunt. A bow and quiver of arrows and a knotted silken
sash hung on one wooden peg, and added to a pair of moccasins in the
corner, gave an Indian suggestion to the occupancy of the cabin, but the
furnishing in general was decidedly that of a white person; to the
rafters were fastened some beaver-paws and bear-claws, and the skins of
three rattlesnakes were pendent against the wall.

"Well, this is a queer go! ain't it?" remarked Jim as he walked around
taking a survey of the room. "I'd like to know who it all belongs to.
Did you ever hear folks about here speak of old Davy MacDougall?"

"Yes, I have," answered the girl, sitting down on the buffalo-robe
before the fire, to dry her shoulders at the blaze.

"Well, I believe this is his cabin, and we are about ten mile from
home," decided the boy. "I didn't think we'd strayed as far north as
Scot's Mountain, but I allow this is it."

"Well, I wish he would come home and get supper," said the girl, easily
adapting herself to any groove into which she happened to fall; "but
perhaps we should have sent him word of our visit. What did you do with
the horses, Jim?"

"Put 'em in a shed at the end o' the house--a bang-up place, right on
the other side o' this fire-place. Whoever lives here keeps either a
horse or a cow."

"I hope it's a cow, and that there's some milk to be had. Jimmy, I
wonder if there is anything to eat in that cupboard."

"I've been thinkin' o' that myself," said Jim in answer to that
insinuating speech.

"Suppose you do something besides think--suppose you look," suggested
the more unscrupulous of the foragers; "I'm hungry."

"So am I," acknowledged her confederate; "you an' me is most alike about
our eatin', ain't we? Mrs. Houghton said yesterday I had a terrible
appetite."

The boy at once began making an examination of the larder, wondering, as
he did so, what the girl was laughing at.

The rain was coming down in torrents through the blackness of the night;
now and then the lightning would vie with the fire in lighting up the
room, while the thunder seemed at home in that valley of the mountain,
for its volleys of sound and their echoes never ceased.

Small wonder that anyone's house would seem a home to the two, or that
they would have no compunction in taking possession of it.

"There's coffee here somewhere, I can smell it," announced Jim; "an'
here's rice an' crackers, an' corn-meal, an' dried raspberries, an'
potatoes, an'--yes, here's the coffee! Say, Miss Hardy, we'll have a
regular feast!"

"I should say so!" remarked that lady, eyeing Jim's "find" approvingly;
"I think there is a bed of coals here at this side of the fire-place
that will just fit about six of those potatoes--can you eat three, Jim?"

"Three will do if they're big enough," said Jim, looking dubiously at
the potatoes; "but these ain't as good-sized as some I've seen."

"Then give me two more; that makes five for you and three for me."

"Hadn't you better shove in a couple more?" asked Jim with a dash of
liberality. "You know MacDougall may come back hungry, an' then we can
spare him two--that makes ten to roast."

"Ten it is!" said the girl, burying two more in the ashes as the share
of their host. "Jim, see if there is any water in here to make coffee
with."

"Yes, a big jar full," reported the steward; "an' here is a little crock
half full of eggs--prairie-chicken, I guess--say, can you make a pone?"

"I think I can;" and the cook at once rolled up the sleeves of her
riding-dress, and Jimmy brought out the eggs and some bits of salt
meat--evidently bear-meat--that was hung from the ceiling of the
cupboard; at once there began a great beating of eggs and stirring up of
a corn pone; some berries were set on the coals to stew in a tin-cup,
the water put to boil for the coffee, and an iron skillet with a lid
utilized as an oven; and the fragrance of the preparing eatables filled
the little room and prompted the hungry lifting of lids many times ere
the fire had time to do its work.

"That pone's a 'dandy!'" said Jim, taking a peep at it; "it's gettin' as
brown as--as your hair; an' them berries is done, an' ain't it time to
put in the coffee?"

Acting on this hint, the coffee, beaten into a froth with an egg, had
the boiling water poured over it, and set bubbling and aromatic on the
red coals.

"You mayn't be much use to find strayed-off stock," said Jim
deliberately, with his head on one side, as he watched the apparent ease
with which the girl managed her primitive cooking apparatus; "but I tell
you--you ain't no slouch when it comes to gettin' grub ready, and
gettin' it quick."

"Better keep your compliments until you have tried to eat some of the
cooking," suggested Miss Hardy, on her knees before the fire. "I believe
the pone is done."

"Then we'll dish-up in double-quick," said Jim, handing her two tin pans
for the pone and potatoes. "We'll have to set the berries on in the
tin--by George! what's that?"

"That" was the neigh of Betty in the shed by the chimney, and an
answering one from somewhere out in the darkness. Through the thunder
and the rain they had heard no steps, but Jim's eyes were big with
suspense as he listened.

"My horse has broke loose from the shed," he said angrily, reaching for
his hat; "and how the dickens I'm to find him in this storm I don't
know."

"Don't be so quick to give yourself a shower-bath," suggested the girl
on the floor; "he won't stray far off, and may be glad to come back to
the shed; and then again," she added, laughing, "it may be MacDougall."

Jim looked rather blankly at the supper on the hearth and the girl who
seemed so much at home on the buffalo-robe.

"By George! it might be," he said slowly; and for the first time the
responsibility of their confiscations loomed up before him. "Say," he
added uneasily, "have you any money?"

"Money?" she repeated inquiringly; and then seeing the drift of his
thoughts, "Oh, no, I haven't a cent."

"They say MacDougall is an old crank," he insinuated, looking at her out
of the corner of his eye, to see what effect the statement would have on
her. But she only smiled in an indifferent way. "An'--an' ef he wants
the money cash down for this lay-out"--and he glanced comprehensively
over the hearth--"well, I don't know what to say."

"That's easily managed," said the girl coolly; "you can leave your horse
in pawn."

"An' foot it home ten miles?--not if I know it!" burst out Jim; "an'
besides it's Hardy's horse."

"Well, then, leave the saddle, and ride home bareback."

"I guess not!" protested Jim, with the same aggressive tone; "that's my
own saddle."

After this unanswerable reason, there was an expectant silence in the
room for a little while, that was finally broken by Jim saying ruefully:

"If that is MacDougall, he'll have to have them two potatoes."

Rachel's risible tendencies were not proof against this final fear of
Jim's, and her laughter drowned his grumblings, and also footsteps
without, of which neither heard a sound until the door was flung open
and a man walked into the room.

Jim looked at him with surprised eyes, and managed to stammer, "How are
you?" for the man was so far from his idea of old Davy MacDougall that
he was staggered.

But Miss Hardy only looked up, laughing, from her position by the fire,
and drew the coffee-pot from the coals with one hand, while she reached
the other to the new-comer.

"Klahowya! Mr. Jack," she said easily; "got wet, didn't you? You are
just in time for supper."

"You!" was all he said; and Jim thought they were both crazy, from the
way the man crossed the room to her and took her one hand in both his as
if he never intended letting it go or saying another word, content only
to hold her hand and look at her. And Miss Rachel Hardy's eyes were not
idle either.

"Yes, of course it's I," she said, slipping her hand away after a
little, and dropping her face that had flushed pink in the fire-light;
"I don't look like a ghost, do I? You would not find a ghost at such
prosaic work as getting supper."

"Getting supper?" he said, stepping back a bit and glancing around. For
the first time he seemed to notice Jim, or have any remembrance of
anything but the girl herself. "You mean that you two have been getting
supper alone?"

"Yes, Jim and I. Mr. Jack, this is my friend Jim, from the ranch. We
tried to guide each other after sheep, and both got lost; and as you did
not get here in time to cook supper, of course we had to do it alone."

"But I mean was there no one else here?"--he still looked a little dazed
and perplexed, his eyes roving uneasily about the room--"I--a--a young
Indian--"

"No!" interrupted the girl eagerly. "Do you mean the Indian boy who
brought me that black bear's skin? I knew you had sent it, though he
would not say a word--looked at me as if he did not understand Chinook
when I spoke."

"May be he didn't understand yours," remarked Jimmy, edging past her to
rake the potatoes out of the ashes.

"But he wasn't here when we came," continued Miss Hardy. "The house was
deserted and in darkness when we found it, just as the storm came on in
earnest."

"And the fire?" said Genesee.

"There was none," answered the boy. "The ashes were stone-cold. I
noticed it; so your Injun hadn't had any fire all day."

"All day!" repeated the man, going to the door and looking out. "That
means a long tramp, and to-night--"

"And to-night is a bad one for a tramp back," added Jim.

"Yes," agreed Genesee, "that's what I was thinking."

If there was a breath of relief in the words, both were too occupied
with the potatoes in the ashes to notice it. He shut the door directly
as the wind sent a gust of rain inside, and then turned again to the
pirates at the fire-place.

"What did you find to cook?" he asked, glancing at the "lay-out," as Jim
called it. "I haven't been here since yesterday, and am afraid you
didn't find much--any fresh meat?"

Miss Hardy shook her head.

"Salt meat and eggs, that's all," she said.

"Not by a long shot it ain't, Mr.--Mr Jack," said Jim, contradicting her
flatly. "She's got a first-class supper; an' by George! she can make
more out o' nothin' than any woman I ever seen." In his enthusiasm over
Rachel he was unconscious of the slur on their host's larder. "I never
knowed she was such a rattlin' cook!"

"I know I have never been given credit for my everyday, wearing
qualities," said the girl, without looking up from the eggs she was
scrambling in the bake-oven of a few minutes before. The words may have
been to Jim, but by the man's eyes he evidently thought they were at
Genesee--such a curious, pained look as that with which he watched her
every movement, every curve of form and feature, that shone in the light
of the fire. Once she saw the look, and her own eyes dropped under it
for a moment, but that independence of hers would not let it be for
long.

"Do you want a share of our supper?" she asked, looking up at him
quizzically.

"Yes," he answered, but his steady, curious gaze at her showed that his
thoughts were not of the question or answer.

Not so Jim. That young gentleman eyed dubiously first the lay-out and
then Genesee's physique, trying to arrive at a mental estimate of his
capacity and the probable division of the pone and potatoes.

"How about that saddle, now, Jim?" asked the girl. Whereupon Jim began a
pantomime enjoining silence, back of the chair of the man, who appeared
more like a guest than host--perhaps because it was so hard to realize
that it was really his hearth where that girl sat as if at home. She
noticed his preoccupation, and remarked dryly:

"You really don't deserve a share of our cooking after the way you
deserted us before!--not even a klahowya when you took the trail."

"You're right, I reckon; but don't you be the one to blame me for that,"
he answered, in a tone that made the command a sort of plea; and Miss
Hardy industriously gave her attention to the supper.

"It's all ready," announced Jim, as he juggled a pan of hot pone from
one hand to another on the way to the table. "Ouch! but it's hot! Say,
wouldn't some fresh butter go great with this!"

"Didn't you find any?" asked Genesee, waking to the practical things of
life at Jim's remark.

"Find any? No! Is there any?" asked that little gourmand, with hope and
doubt chasing each other over his rather thin face.

"I don't know--there ought to be;" and lifting a loose board in the
floor by the cupboard, he drew forth a closely-woven reed basket, and on
a smooth stone in the bottom lay a large piece of yellow butter, around
which Jim performed a sort of dance of adoration.

What a supper that was, in the light of the pitch-pine and the fierce
accompaniment of the outside tempest! Jim vowed that never were there
potatoes so near perfection, in their brown jackets and their steaming,
powdery flakes; and the yellow pone, and the amber coffee, and the cool
slices of butter that Genesee told them was from an Indian village
thirty miles north. And to the table were brought such tremendous
appetites! at least by the cook and steward of the party. And above all,
what a delicious atmosphere of unreality pervaded the whole thing! Again
and again Genesee's eyes seemed to say, "Can it be you?" and grew warm
as her quizzical glances told him it could be no one else.

As the night wore on, and the storm continued, he brought in armfuls of
wood from the shed without, and in the talk round the fire his manner
grew more assured--more at home with the surroundings that were yet his
own. Long they talked, until Jim, unable to think of any more questions
to ask of silver-mining and bear-hunting, slipped down in the corner,
with his head on a saddle, and went fast asleep.

"I'll sit up and keep the fire going," said Genesee, at this sign of the
late hour; "but you had better get what rest you can on that bunk
there--you'll need it for your ride in the morning."

"In the morning!" repeated the girl coolly; "that sounds as if you are
determined our visit shall end as soon as possible, Mr. Genesee Jack."

"Don't talk like that!" he said, looking across at her; "you don't know
anything about it." And getting up hastily, he walked back and forward
across the room; once stopping suddenly, as if with some determination
to speak, and then, as she looked up at him, his courage seemed to
vanish, and he turned his face away from her and walked to the door.

The storm had stilled its shrieks, and was dying away in misty moans
down the dip in the hills, taking the rain with it. The darkness was
intense as he held the door open and looked into the black vault, where
not a glimmer of a star or even a gray cloud could be seen.

"It's much nicer in-doors," decided Miss Hardy, moving her chair against
the chimney-piece, and propping herself there to rest.

"Jim had better lie on the bed, he is so sleepy, and I am not at all so;
this chair is good enough for me, if you don't mind."

He picked the sleeping boy up without a word, and laid him on the couch
of bear-skins without waking him.

"There isn't much I do mind," he said, as he came back to the
fire-place; "that is, if you are only comfortable."

"I am--very much so," she answered, "and would be entirely so if you
only seemed a little more at home. As it is, I have felt all evening as
if we are upsetting your peace of mind in some way--not as if we are
unwelcome, mind you, but just as if you are worried about us."

"That so?" he queried, not looking at her; "that's curious. I didn't
know I was looking so, and I'm sure you and the boy are mighty welcome
to my cabin or anything in the world I can do for you."

There was no mistaking the heartiness of the man's words, and she smiled
her gratitude from the niche in the corner, where, with her back toward
the blaze, only one side of her face was outlined by the light.

"Very well," she said amicably; "you can do something for me just
now--open the door for a little while; the room seems close with being
shut up so tight from the rain--and then make yourself comfortable there
on that buffalo-robe before the fire. I remember your lounging habits in
the camp, and a chair doesn't seem to quite suit you. Yes, that looks
much better, as if you were at home again."

Stretched on the robe, with her saddle on which to prop up his
shoulders, he lay, looking in the red coals, as if forgetful of her
speech or herself. But at last he repeated her words:

"At home again! Do you know there's a big lot of meaning in those words,
Miss, especially to a man who hasn't known what home meant for years?
and to-night, with white people in my cabin and a white woman to make
things look natural, I tell you it makes me remember what home used to
be, in a way I have not experienced for many a day."

"Then I'm glad I strayed off into the storm and your cabin," said the
girl promptly; "because a man shouldn't forget his home and home-folks,
especially if the memories would be good ones. People need all the good
memories they can keep with them in this world; they're a sort of
steering apparatus in a life-boat, and help a man make a straight
journey toward his future."

"That's so," he said, and put his hand up over his eyes as if to shield
them from the heat of the fire. He was lying full in the light, while
she was in the shadow. He could scarcely see her features, with her head
drawn back against the wall like that. And the very fact of knowing
herself almost unseen--a voice, only, speaking to him--gave her courage
to say things as she could not have said them at another time.

"Do you know," she said, as she sat there watching him with his eyes
covered by his hand--"do you know that once or twice when we have been
together I have wished I was a man, that I could say some things to you
that a woman or a girl--that is, most girls--can't say very well? One of
the things is that I should be glad to hear of you getting out of this
life here; there is something wrong about it to you--something that
doesn't suit you; I don't know what it is, but I can see you are not the
man you might be--and ought to be. I've thought of it often since I saw
you last, and sometimes--yes--I've been sorry for my ugly manner toward
you. White people, when they meet in these out-of-the-way places in the
world, ought to be as so many brothers and sisters to each other; and
there were times, often, when I might have helped you to feel at home
among us--when I might have been more kind."

"More kind? Good God!" whispered the man.

"And I made up my mind," continued the girl courageously, "that if I
ever saw you again, I was going to speak plainly to you about yourself
and the dissatisfaction with yourself that you spoke of that day in the
laurel thicket. I don't know what the cause of it is, and I don't want
to, but if it is any wrong that you've done in--in the past, a bad way
to atone is by burying oneself alive, along with all energy and
ambition. Now, you may think me presuming to say these things to you
like this; but I've been wishing somebody would say them to you, and
there seems no one here to do it but me, and so--"

She stopped, not so much because she had finished as because she felt
herself failing utterly in saying the things she had really intended to
say. It all sounded very flat and commonplace in her own ears--not at
all the words to carry any influence to anyone, and so she stopped
helplessly and looked at him.

"I'm glad it is you that says them," he answered, still without looking
at her, "because you've got the stuff in you for such a good, square
friend to a man--the sort of woman a person could go to in trouble, even
if they hadn't the passport of a saint to take with them; and I wish--I
wish I could tell you to-night something of the things that you've
started on. If I could--" he stopped a moment.

"I suppose any other girl--" she began in a deprecating tone; but he
dropped his hand from his eyes and looked at her.

"You're not like other girls," he said with a great fondness in his
eyes, "and that's just the reason I feel like telling you all. You're
not like any girl I've ever known. I've often felt like speaking to you
as if you were a boy--an almighty aggravatin' slip of a boy sometimes;
and yet--"

He lay silent for a little while, so long that the girl wondered if he
had forgotten what he was to try to tell her. The warmth after the rain
had made them neglect the fire, and its blaze had dropped low and lower,
until she was entirely in the shadow--only across the hearth and his
form did the light fall.

"And yet," he continued, as if there had been no break in his speech,
"there's been many a night I've dreamed of seeing you sit here by this
fire-place just as I've seen you to-night; just as bright like and
contented, as if all the roughness and poorness of it was nothing to
you, or else a big joke for you to make fun of; and then--well, at such
times you didn't seem like a boy, but--"

Again he stopped.

"Never mind what I'm like," suggested the girl; "that doesn't matter. I
guess everyone seems a different person with different people; but you
wanted to tell me something of yourself, didn't you?"

"That's what I'm trying to get at," he answered, "but it isn't easy.
I've got to go back so far to start at the beginning--back ten years, to
reckon up mistakes. That's a big job, my girl--my girl."

The lingering repetition of those words opened the girl's eyes wide with
a sudden memory of that moonlit night in the gulch. Then she had not
fancied those whispered words! they had been uttered, and by his voice;
and those fancied tears of Tillie's, and--the kisses!

So thick came those thronging memories, that she did not notice his
long, dreamy silence. She was thinking of that night, and all the sweet,
vague suggestion in it that had vanished with the new day. She was
comparing its brief charm with this meeting of to-night that was
ignoring it so effectually; that was as the beginning of a new knowledge
of each other, with the commonplace and practical as a basis.

Her reverie was broken sharply by the sight of a form that suddenly,
silently, appeared in the door-way. Her first impulse of movement or
speech was checked as the faint, flickering light shifted across the
visage of the new-comer, and she recognized the Indian girl who had
hidden behind the ponies. A smile was on the dark face as she saw
Genesee lying there, asleep he must have looked from the door, and
utterly oblivious of her entrance. Her soft moccasins left no sound as
she crossed the floor and dropped down beside him, laying one arm about
his throat. He clasped the hand quickly and opened his half-shut eyes.
Did he, for an instant, mistake it for another hand that had slipped
into his that one night? Whatever he thought, his face was like that of
death as he met the eyes of the Indian girl.

"Talapa!" he muttered, and his fingers closing on her wrist must have
twisted it painfully, by the quick change in her half-Indian,
half-French face. He seemed hardly conscious of it. Just then he looked
at her as if she was in reality that Indian deity of the inferno from
whom her name was derived.

"Hyak nika kelapie!" (I returned quickly), she whined, as if puzzled
at her reception, and darting furious sidelong glances from the black
eyes that had the width between them that is given to serpents. "Nah!"
she ejaculated angrily, as no answer was made to her; and freeing her
hand, she rose to her feet. She had not once seen the white girl in the
shadow. Coming from the darkness into the light, her eyes were blinded
to all but the one plainly seen figure. But as she rose to her feet, and
Genesee with her, Rachel stooped to the pile of wood beside her, and
throwing some bits of pine on the fire, sent the sparks flying upward,
and a second later a blaze of light flooded the room.

The action was a natural, self-possessed one--it took a great deal to
upset Miss Hardy's equanimity--and she coolly sat down again facing the
astonished Indian girl and Genesee; but her face was very white, though
she said not a word.

"There is no need for me to try to remember the beginning, is there,"
said Genesee bitterly, looking at her with sombre, moody eyes, "since
the end has told its own story? This is--my--my--"

Did he say wife? She never could be quite sure of the word, but she knew
he tried to say it.

His voice sounded smothered, unnatural, as it had that day in the laurel
thicket when he had spoken of locking himself out from a heaven. She
understood what he meant now.

"No, there is no need," she said, as quietly as she could, though her
heart seemed choking her and her hands trembled. "I hope all will come
right for you sometime, and--I understand, now."

Did she really understand, even then, or know the moral lie the man had
told, the lie that, in his abasement, he felt was easier to have her
believe than the truth?

Talapa stood drying her moccasins at the fire, as if not understanding
their words; but the slow, cunning smile crept back to her lips as she
recognized the white girl, and no doubt remembered that she and Genesee
had ridden together that day at the camp.

He picked up his hat and walked to the door, after her kindly words,
putting his hand out ahead of him in a blind sort of way, and then
stopped, saying to her gently:

"Get what rest you can--try to, anyway; you will need it." And then,
with some words in Indian to Talapa, he went out into the night.

His words to Talapa were in regard to their guests' comfort, for that
silent individual at once began preparations for bed-making on her
behalf, until Rachel told her in Chinook that she would sleep in her
chair where she was. And there she sat through the night, feeling that
the eyes of the Indian girl were never taken from her as the motionless
form lay rolled in a blanket on the floor, much as it had rolled itself
up on the grass that other day.

Jim was throned in royal state, for he had the bed all to himself, and
in the morning opened his eyes in amazement as he smelled the coffee and
saw the Indian girl moving about as if at home.

"Yes, we've got a new cook, Jim," said Miss Hardy, from the window; "so
we are out of work, you and I. Sleep well?"

"Great!" said Jim, yawning widely. "Where's Mr. Jack?"

"Out, somewhere," returned the girl comprehensively. She did not add
that he had been out all night, and Jim was too much interested with the
prospect of breakfast to be very curious.

He had it, as he had the bed--all to himself. Miss Hardy was not hungry,
for a wonder, and Talapa disappeared after it was placed on the table.
The girl asked Jim if that was Indian etiquette, but Jim didn't know
what etiquette was, so he couldn't tell.

Through that long vigil of the night there had returned to the girl much
of her light, ironical manner; but the mockery was more of herself and
her own emotions than aught else, for when Genesee brought the horses to
the door and she looked in his face, any thought of jesting with him was
impossible; the signs of a storm were on him as they were on the
mountains in the morning light.

"I will guide you back to the home trail," he said as he held Betty at
the door for her to mount.

"Go in and get some breakfast," was all the answer she made him. But he
shook his head, and reached his hand to help her.

"What's the matter with everyone this morning?" asked Jim. "There hasn't
been a bite of breakfast eaten only what I got away with myself."

Genesee glanced in at the table. "Would you eat nothing because it was
mine?" he asked in a low tone.

"I did not because I could not," she said in the same tone; and then
added, good-humoredly: "Despite Jim's belief in my appetite, it does go
back on me sometimes--and this is one of the times. It's too early in
the morning for breakfast. Are you going with us on foot?" as she
noticed Mowitza, unsaddled, grazing about the green turf at the edge of
the timber.

"Yes," he answered, "I have not far to go."

She slipped past him, and gathering her dress up from the wet grass
walked over to where Mowitza browsed. The beautiful mare raised her head
and came over the grass with long, light steps, as if recognizing the
low call of her visitor; and resting her head on the girl's shoulder,
there seemed to be a conversation between them perfectly satisfactory to
each; while Mowitza's owner stood looking at them with a world of
conflicting emotions in his face.

"I have been saying good-bye to Mowitza," she remarked, as she joined
them and mounted Betty, "and we are both disconsolate. She carried me
out of danger once, and I am slow to forget a favor."

It was a very matter-of-fact statement; she was a matter-of-fact young
woman that morning. Genesee felt that she was trying to let him know her
memory would keep only the best of her knowledge of him. It was an added
debt to that which he already owed her, and he walked in silence at her
horse's head, finding no words to express his thoughts, and not daring
to use them if he had.

The valleys were wrapped in the whitest of mists as they got a glimpse
of them from the heights. The sun was struggling through one veil only
to be plunged into another, and all the cedar wood was in the drip, drip
of tears that follow tempests. Where was all that glory of the east at
sunrise which those two had once watched from a mountain not far from
this? In the east, as they looked now, there were only faint streaks of
lavender across the sky--of lavender the color of mourning.

He directed Jim the way of the trail, and then turned to her.

"I don't know what to say to you--or just how low you will think me," he
said in a miserable sort of way. "When I think of--of some things, I
wonder that you even speak to me this morning--God! I'm ashamed to look
you in the face!"

And he looked it. All the cool assurance that had been a prominent phase
of his personality that evening when Hardy met him first, was gone. His
handsome, careless face and the independent head were drooped before
hers as his broad-brimmed hat was pulled a little lower over his eyes.

Some women are curious, and this one, whom he had thought unlike all
others, rather justified his belief, as she bent over in the saddle and
lifted the cover from his dark hair.

"Don't be!" she said gently--and as he looked up at her she held out her
hand--"nika tillikum" (my friend); and the sweetness possible in the
words had never been known by him until she uttered them so. "My friend,
don't feel like that, and don't think me quite a fool. I've seen enough
of life to know that few men under the same circumstances would try as
hard to be honest as you did, and if you failed in some ways, the fault
was as much mine as yours."

"Rachel!" It was the first time he had ever called her that.

"Yes, I had some time to think about it last night," she said, with a
little ironical smile about her lips; "and the conclusion I've come to
is that we should afford to be honest this morning, and not--not so very
much ashamed;" and then she hurried on in her speech, stumbling a little
as the clasp of his hand made her unsteady through all her
determination. "I will not see you again, perhaps ever. But I want you
to know that I have faith in your making a great deal of your life if
you try; you have the right foundations--strong will and a good
principle. Mentally, you have been asleep here in the hills--don't find
fault with your awakening. And don't feel so--so remorseful about--that
night. There are some things people do and think that they can't
help--we couldn't help that night; and so--good-bye--Jack."

"God bless you, girl!" were the heart-felt, earnest words that answered
her good-bye; and with a last firm clasp of hands, she turned Betty's
head toward the trail Jim had taken, and rode away under the cedar
boughs.

Genesee stood bare-headed, with a new light in his eyes as he watched
her--the dawn of some growing determination.

Once she looked back, and seeing him still there, touched her cap in
military fashion, and with a smile disappeared in the wet woods. As he
turned away there crept from the shrubbery at the junction of the trails
Talapa, who, with that slow, knowing smile about her full lips, stole
after him--in her dusky silence a very shadow of a man's past that grows
heavy and wide after the noon is dead, and bars out lives from sunny
doors where happiness might be found. His head was bent low,
thinking--thinking as he walked back to the cabin that had once held at
least a sort of content--a content based on one side of his nature. Had
the other died, or was it only asleep? And she had told him not to find
fault with his awakening--she! He had never before realized the wealth
or loss one woman could make to the world.

"Ashamed to look her in the face!" His own words echoed in his ears as
he walked under the wet leaves, with the shadow of the shame skulking
unseen after him; and then, little by little, the sense of her farewell
came back to him, and running through it, that strong thread of faith in
him yet, making his life more worth living.

"Damned little in my present outfit for her to build any foundation for
hope on," he muttered grimly, as he saddled and bridled Mowitza, as if
in hot haste to be gone somewhere, and then sat down on the door-step as
if forgetful of the intention.

Talapa slipped past him with an armful of bark for the fire. Not a word
had passed between them since the night before, and the girl watched him
covertly from under drooped lids. Was she trying to fathom his
meditations, or determine how far they were to affect her own future?
For as the birds foretell by the signs in the air the change of the
summer, so Talapa, through the atmosphere of the cabin that morning,
felt approach the end of a season that had been to her luxurious with
comforts new to her; and though the Indian blood in her veins may have
disdained the adjuncts of civilization, yet the French tide that crossed
it carried to her the Gallic yearning for the dainties and delicacies of
life. To be sure, one would not find many of those in a backwoodsman's
cabin; but all content is comparative, and Talapa's basis of comparison
was the earthen floor of a thronged "tepee," or wigwam, where blows had
been more frequent than square meals; and being a thing feminine, her
affections turned to this white man of the woods who could give her a
floor of boards and a dinner-pot never empty, and moreover, being of the
sex feminine, those bonds of affection were no doubt securely
fastened--bonds welded in a circle--endless.

At least those attributes, vaguely remembered, are usually conceded to
the more gentle half of humanity, and I give Talapa the benefit of the
belief, as her portrait has been of necessity set in the shadows, and
has need of all the high lights that can be found for it. Whatever she
may have lacked from a high-church point of view, she had at least
enviable self-possession. Whatever tumult of wounded feeling there may
have been in this daughter of the forest, she moved around sedately,
with an air that in a white woman would be called martyr-like, and said
nothing.

It was as well, perhaps, that she had the rare gift of silence, for the
man at the door, with his chin resting grimly on his fists, did not seem
at all sympathetic, or in the humor to fit himself to anyone's moods.
The tones of that girl's voice were still vibrating over chords in his
nature that disturbed him. He did not even notice Talapa's movements
until she ceased them by squatting down with native grace by the
fire-place, and then--

"Get up off that!" he roared, in a voice that hastened Talapa's rising
considerably.

"That" was the buffalo-robe on which the other girl had throned herself
the night before; and what a picture she had made in the fire-light!

Genesee in two strides crossed the floor, and grabbing the robe, flung
it over his shoulder. No, it was not courteous to unseat a lady with so
little ceremony--it may not even have been natural to him, so many
things are not natural to us human things that are yet so true.

"And why so?" asked Talapa sullenly, her back against the wall as if in
a position to show fight; that is, she said "Pe-kah-ta?" but, for the
benefit of the civilized reader, the ordinary English is given--"And why
so?"

Genesee looked at her a moment from head to foot, but the scrutiny
resulted in silence--no remark. At length he walked back to the chest
against the wall, and unlocking it, drew out an account-book, between
the leaves of which were some money orders; two of them he took out,
putting the rest in his pocket. Then, writing a signature on those
two--not the name of Jack Genesee, by the way--he turned to Mistress
Talapa, who had slid from the wall down on the floor minus the
buffalo-robe.

"Here!" he said tersely. "I am going away. Klat-awah si-ah--do you
understand?" And then, fishing some silver out of his pocket, he handed
it to her with the notes. "Take these to the settlement--to the
bank-store. They'll give you money--money to live all winter. Live in
the cabin if you want; only get out in the spring--do you hear? I will
want it myself then--and I want it alone."

Without comment, Talapa reached up and took the money, looking curiously
at the notes, as if to decipher the meaning in the pictured paper, and
then:

"Nika wake tikegh Talapa?" she queried, but with nothing in her tone
to tell if she cared whether he wanted her or not.

"Not by a--" he began energetically, and then, "you are your own boss
now," he added, more quietly. "Go where you please, only you'd better
keep clear of the old gang, for I won't buy you from them
again--kumtuks?"

Talapa nodded that she understood, her eyes roving about the cabin,
possibly taking note of the wealth that she had until spring to revel in
or filch from.

Genesee noticed that mental reckoning.

"Leave these things alone," he said shortly. "Use them, but leave them
here. If any of them are gone when I get back--well, I'll go after
them."

And throwing the robe over his arm again, he strode out through the
door, mounted Mowitza, and rode away.

It was not a sentimental finale to an idyl of the wood, but by the time
the finale is reached, the average human specimen has no sentiment to
waste. Had they possessed any to begin with?

It was hard to tell whether Talapa was crushed by the cold cruelty of
that leave-taking, or whether she was indifferent; that very uncertainty
is a charm exerted over us by those conservative natures that lock
within themselves wrath or joy where we ordinary mortals give expression
to ours with all the language possessed by us, and occasionally borrow
some adjectives that would puzzle us to give a translation of.

Talapa sat where he left her, not moving except once to shy a pine knot
at a rat by the cupboard--and hit it, too, though she did belong to the
sex divine. So she sat, pensively dribbling the silver coin from hand to
hand, until the morning crept away and the sun shone through the mists.

What was it that at last awakened her from an apparent dreamland--the
note of that bird whistling in the forest in very gladness that the sun
shone again? Evidently so, and the Indian blood in her veins had taught
her the secret of sympathy with the wild things, for she gave an
answering call, half voice, half whistle. Silence for a little, and then
again from the timber came that quavering note, with the rising
inflection at the finish that was so near an interrogation.

It brought Talapa to her feet, and going to the door, she sent a short,
impatient call that a little later was answered by the appearance of a
comely buck--one of the order of red men--who lounged down the little
incline with his head thrust forward as if to scent danger if any was
about; but a few words from the girl assuring him that the coast was
clear--the fort unguarded--gave him more an air of assurance, as he
stepped across the threshhold and squatted down on the side of the bed.

"Genesee gone?" he queried in the musical medley of consonants.

Talapa grunted an assent, with love in her eyes for the noble specimen
on the bed.

"Gone far--gone all time--till spring," she communicated, as if sure of
being the giver of welcome news. "House all mine--everything mine--all
winter."

"Ugh!" was all the sound given in answer to the information; but the
wide mouth curved upward ever so slightly at the corners, and coupled
with the interrogative grunt, expressed, no doubt, as much content as
generally falls to the lot of individual humanity. One of his boots hurt
him, or rather the moccasins which he wore with leggings, and above them
old blue pantaloons and a red shirt; the moccasin was ripped, and
without ceremony he loosened it and kicked it toward Talapa.

"Mamook tipshin," he remarked briefly; and by that laconic order to
sew his moccasin, Skulking Brave virtually took possession of Genesee's
cabin and Genesee's squaw.

Through the gray shadows of that morning Rachel and Jim rode almost in
silence down the mountain trail. The memory of the girl was too busy for
speech, and the frequent yawns of Jim showed that a longer sleep would
have been appreciated by him.

"Say," he remarked at last, as the trail grew wide enough for them to
ride abreast, "everything was jolly back here at Mr. Jack's last night,
but I'm blest if it was this morning. The breakfast wasn't anything to
brag of, an' the fire was no good, an' the fog made the cabin as damp as
rain when the door was open, an' he was glum an' quiet, an' you wasn't
much better. Say, was it that Injun cook o' his you was afeared to eat
after?"

"Not exactly," she answered with a little laugh; "what an observer you
are, Jim! I suppose the atmosphere of the cabin was the effect of the
storm last night."

"What? Well, the storm wasn't much worse to plow through last night than
the wet timber this morning," he answered morosely; "but say, here's the
sun coming out at last--by George! How the wind lifts the fog when it
gets started. Look at it!" And then, as the sunlight really crept in a
great shimmer through the pines, he added: "It might just as well have
come earlier, or else kept away altogether, for we're as wet now as we
can get."

"Be thankful that it shines at all, Jim."

"Oh, the shine's all right, but it shines too late."

"Yes," agreed the girl, with a memory of shamed, despairing eyes
flitting through her brain. "Yes, it always shines too late--for
someone."

"It's for two of us this time," replied grumbling Jim, taking her speech
literally. "We've had a Nick of a time anyway this trip. Why that storm
had to wait until just the day we got lost, so as we'd get wet, an'
straggle home dead beat--an' without the sheep--I can't see."

"No, we can't see," said Rachel, with a queer little smile.
"Perhaps--perhaps it's all because this is the end instead of the
beginning of a cultus corrie."



PART THIRD

"PRINCE CHARLIE"



CHAPTER I.

IN THE KOOTENAI SPRING-TIME.


In the spring that followed, what a spirit of promise and enterprise was
abroad on the Hardy ranch! What multitudes of white lambs, uncertain in
the legs, staggered and tottered about the pasture lands! and what
musical rills of joy in the mountain streams escaping through the
sunshine from their prisons of ice! The flowers rose from the dead once
more--such a fragrant resurrection! slipping from out their damp coffins
and russet winding-sheets with dauntless heads erect, and eager lips
open to the breath of promise. Some herald must bear to their
earth-homes the tidings of how sweet the sun of May is--perhaps the snow
sprites who are melted into tears at his glances and slip out of sight
to send him a carpet of many colors instead of the spotless white his
looks had banished. It may be so, though only the theory of an alien.

And then the winged choruses of the air! What matinees they held in the
sylvan places among the white blossoms of the dogwood and the feathery
tassels of the river willow, all nodding, swaying in the soft kisses
sent by the Pacific from the southwest--soft relays of warmth and
moisture that moderate those western valleys until they are affronted by
the rocky wall that of old was called by the Indians the Chippewyan
Mountains, but which in our own day, in the more poetical language of
the usurper, has been improved upon and dubbed the "Rockies." But all
the commonplaces of those aliens can not deprive the inaccessible,
conservative solitudes of their wild charms. And after those long months
of repression, how warmly their smile bursts forth--and how contagious
it is!

Laugh though the world may at the vibrations of poet hearts echoing the
songs of the youngest of seasons, how can they help it? It is never the
empty vessel that brims over, and with the spring a sort of inspiration
is wakened in the most prosaic of us. The same spirit of change that
thrills the saplings with fresh vitality sends through human veins a
creeping ecstasy of new life. And all its insidious, penetrating charm
seemed abroad there in the Northern-land escaped from under the white
cloak of winter. The young grass, fresh from the valley rains, warmed
into emerald velvet in the sunshine, bordered and braced with yellow
buttons of dandelion; while the soil was turned over with the plows, and
field and garden stocked with seed for the harvest.

Energetic, busy days those were after the long months of semi-inaction;
even the horses were too mettlesome for farm drudgery--intoxicated, no
doubt, by the bracing, free winds that whispered of the few scattered
droves away off to the north that bore no harness and owned no master.
All things were rebellious at the long restraint, and were breaking into
new paths of life for the new season.

Even a hulking Siwash, with his squaw and children, came dragging down
the valley in the wake of the freshets, going to the Reservation south,
content to go any place where they could get regular meals, with but the
proviso to be "good Injun."

They loafed about the ranch two days, resting, and coming in for a share
of rations from the Hardy table; and the little barefooted "hostiles"
would stand about the gate and peer in around the posts of the porch,
saying in insinuating tones:

"Pale papoose?"

Yes, the spirit of the hills and grazing lands had crept under the
rafters and between the walls, and a new life had been given to the
world, just as the first violets crept sunward.

And of course no other life was ever quite so sweet, so altogether
priceless, as this little mite, who was already mistress of all she
surveyed; and Aunty Luce--their one female servant--declared:

"Them eyes o' hers certainly do see everything in reach of 'em. She's a
mighty peart chile, I'm tellin' ye."

Even Jim had taken to loafing around the house more than of old, and
showing a good deal of nervous irritation if by any chance "she" was
allowed to test her lungs in the slightest degree. The setter pups paled
into insignificance, and a dozen times a day he would remark to Ivans
that it was "the darndest, cutest, little customer he ever saw."

"Even you have become somewhat civilized, Rachel, since baby's arrival,"
remarked Tillie in commendation.

Yes, Rachel was still there. At the last moment, a few appealing glances
from Tillie and some persuasive words from Hen had settled the question,
and a rebellion was declared against taking the home trail, and all the
words of the Houghtons fell on barren soil, for she would not--and she
would not.

"They will never miss me back there in Kentucky," she argued; "there are
so many girls there. But out here, femininity is at a premium. Let me
alone, Clara; I may take the prize."

"And when am I to tell the folks you will come back?" asked Mrs.
Houghton, with the purpose of settling on a fixed time and then holding
her to it.

"Just tell them the truth, dear--say you don't know," answered the girl
sweetly. "I may locate a claim out here yet and develop into a
stock-grower. Do not look so sulky. I may be of use here; no one needs
me in Kentucky."

"What of Nard Stevens?" was a final query; at which Rachel no longer
smiled--she laughed.

"Oh, you silly Clara!" she burst out derisively. "You think yourself so
wise, and you never see an inch beyond that little nose of yours. Nard
needs me no more than I need him--bless the boy! He's a good fellow; but
you can not use him as a trump card in this game, my dear. Yes, I know
that speech is slangy. Give my love to Nard when you see him--well,
then, my kind regards and best wishes if the other term conflicts with
your proper spirit, and tell him I have located out here to grow up with
the country."

And through the months that followed she assuredly grew to the country
at all events; the comparative mildness of the winters proving a
complete surprise to her, as, hearing of the severe weather of the
North, she had not known that its greatest intensity extends only to the
eastern wall of the great mountain range, and once crossing the divide,
the Chinook winds or currents from the Pacific give the valleys much the
temperature of our Middle States, or even more mild, since the snow-fall
in the mountains is generally rain in the lowlands. Sometimes, of
course, with the quick changes that only the wind knows, there would
come a swoop downward of cold from the direct North, cutting through the
basins, and driving the Pacific air back coastward in a fury, and those
fitful gusts were to be guarded against by man and beast; and wise were
growing those eastern prophets in their quickness to judge from the
heavens whether storm or calm was to be with them.

But despite Clara's many predictions, the days did not grow dull to
Rachel, and the ranch was not a prison in winter-time. She had too
clearly developed the faculty of always making the best of her
surroundings and generally drawing out the best points in the people
about her.

It was that trait of hers that first awakened her interest in that
splendid animal, their guide from the Maple range.

He had disappeared--gone from the Kootenai country, so they told her.
But where? or for what? That none could answer.

Her memory sometimes brought her swift flushes of mortification when she
thought of him--of their association so pregnant with some sympathy or
subtle influence that had set the world so far beyond them at times. Now
that he was gone, and their knowledge of each other perhaps all over,
she tried to coolly reason it all out for herself, but found so much
that contained no reason--that had existed only through
impulses--impulses not easy to realize once outside the circle of their
attending circumstances.

Those memories puzzled her--her own weakness when she lay in his arms,
and her own gift of second-sight that gave her an understanding of him
that morning when she turned champion for him against himself.

Was it really an understanding of him? or was it only that old
habit of hers of discovering fine traits in characters voted
worthless?--discoveries laughed at by her friends, until her "spectacles
of imagination" were sometimes requested if some specimen of the genus
homo without any redeeming points was under discussion.

Was it so in this case? She had asked herself the question more than
once during the winter. And if she had been at all pliable in her
opinions, she would long ere spring have dropped back to the original
impression that the man was a magnificent animal with an intellect, and
with spirituality and morality sleeping.

But she was not. A certain stubbornness in her nature kept her from
being influenced, as the others were, by the knowledge that after all
they had had a veritable "squaw man" as a guide.

Hardy was surprised, and Tillie was inconsolable.

"I never will believe in an honest face again!" she protested.

"Nonsense!" laughed Rachel. "Pocahontas was an Indian and Rolfe was not
hustled out of society in consequence."

"N--No," assented Tillie, eyeing Rachel doubtfully "but then, you see
Rolfe married Pocahontas."

"Yes?"

"And--and Ivans told Hen he heard that the squaw you saw at Genesee's
was only a sort of slave. Did he tell you and Jim that she was his
wife?"

"I--I don't know;" and Rachel suddenly sat down on a chair near the
window and looked rather hopelessly at the questioner. "No, I don't
believe he said so, but the circumstances and all--well, I took it for
granted; he looked so ashamed."

"And you thought it was because of a marriage ceremony, not for the lack
of one?"

"Yes," acknowledged the girl, inwardly wondering why that view of the
question had not presented itself to her. Had she after all imagined
herself sighting an eagle, and was it on nearer acquaintance to develop
into a vulture--or, worse still, a buzzard--a thing reveling only in
carrion, and knowing itself too unclean to breathe the same air with the
untainted! So it seemed; so Tillie was convinced; so she knew Clara
would have thought. In fact, in all the range of her female
acquaintances she could think of none whose opinion would not have been
the same, and she had an impatient sort of wonder with herself for not
agreeing with them. But the memory of the man's face that morning, and
the echo of that "God bless you, girl!" always drifted her away from
utter unbelief in him.

She heard considerable about him that winter; that he was thought rather
eccentric, and belonged more to the Indians than the whites, sometimes
living with a tribe of Kootenais for weeks, sometimes disappearing, no
one knew where, for months, and then settling down in the cabin again
and placidly digging away at that hole in the hill by the little
lake--the hill itself called by the Indians "Tamahnous," meaning
bewitched, or haunted. And his persistence in that work was one of the
eccentric things that made some people say significantly:

"They allowed Genesee was a good man, but a little 'touched' on the
silver question."

And for Tillie's benefit Hen had to explain that the term "good" had
nothing whatever to do with the man's moral or spiritual worth; its use
was in a purely physical sense.

After the snows fell in the mountains there were but few strangers found
their way to the new ranch. Half locked in as it was by surrounding
hills, the passes were likely to be dangerous except to the initiated,
and there were not many who had business urgent enough to push them
through the drifts, or run their chances with land-slides. But if a
stray hunter did come their way, his call was not allowed to be a short
one. They had already become too thoroughly Western in their hospitality
to allow the quick departure of a guest, a trait of which they had
carried the germs from old Kentucky.

What cheery evenings there were in the great sitting-room, with the logs
heaped high in the stone fire-place! An uncarpeted room, with long,
cushioned settees along two sides of it--and mighty restful they were
voted by the loungers after the day's work; a few pictures on the wall,
mostly engravings; the only color given the furnishing was in the pink
and maroon chintz curtains at the windows, or cushions to the oak
chairs. There in the fire-light of the long evenings were cards played,
or stories told, or magazines read aloud, Rachel and Hen generally
taking turn about as reader. And Tillie in the depths of the cushioned
rocker, knitting soft wool stuffs, was a chatelaine, the picture of
serene content, with close beside her a foil in the form of black Aunty
Luce, whom only devotion to her young miss would ever have tempted into
those wilds; and after the work was over for the night, it was a usual
thing to see her slipping in and snuggling down quietly to listen to the
stories told or read, her big eyes glancing fearfully toward windows or
doors if the Indian question was ever touched on; though occasionally,
if approached with due ceremony and full faith shown in her knowledge,
she would herself add her share to the stories told, her donation
consisting principally of sure "hoodoos," and the doings of black
witches and warlocks in the land of bayous; for Aunty Luce had
originally come from the swamps of Louisiana, where the native religion
and superstitions have still a good following. And old Aunty's
reminiscences added to the variety of their evening's bill of
entertainment.

A mail-carrier unexpectedly sprang up for them in the winter in the
person of a young half-breed called Kalitan, or the Arrow. He had
another name, his father, an Englishman, and agent for a fur company,
had happened to be around when his swarthy offspring was ushered into
the world, and he promptly bestowed on him his own name of Thomas
Alexander. But it was all he did bestow on him--and that only by
courtesy, not legality; and Alexander Junior had not even the pleasure
of remembering his father's face, as his mother was soon deserted. She
went back to her tribe and reared her son as an Indian, even his name in
time was forgotten, as by common consent the more characteristic one of
Kalitan was given him because of the swiftness of foot that had placed
him among the best "runners" or messengers in the Indian country--and
the average speed of a runner will on a long march out-distance that of
cavalry. At the military post at Fort Missoula, Kalitan's lines had
first fallen among those of Genesee, and for some unexplained reason his
adherence to that individual became as devoted as Mowitza's own. For a
long time they had not ranged far apart, Genesee seldom leaving the
Kootenai country that Kalitan did not disappear as well. This last trip
his occupation was gone, for word had been left with MacDougall that the
trail was not clear ahead, but if Kalitan was wanted he would be sent
for, and that sinewy, bronze personage did not seem to think of doing
other than wait--and the waiting promised to be long.

He took to hanging around Scot's Mountain more than of old, with the
query, "Maybe Genesee send lettah--s'pose? I go see."

And go he would, over and over again, always with a philosophic "S'pose
next time," when he returned empty-handed. Sometimes he stopped at the
ranch, and Rachel at once recognized him as the youth who had brought
her the black bear skin months before, and pretended at the time utter
ignorance of Chinook. He would speak Chinook fast enough to her now if
there was any occasion, his white blood, and the idea that she was
Genesee's friend, inclining him to sociability seldom known to the
aristocratic conservatives of the Indian race.

The nearest mail station was twenty miles south, and it was quite an
item to find a messenger as willing as was Kalitan; storm or calm, he
would make the trip just the same, carrying his slip of paper on which
all the names were written and which he presented as an order to the
postmaster. A big mail was a cause of pride to him, especially magazines
or packages. Letters he did not think of much account, because of their
size.

To Aunty Luce he was a thing of dread, as were all of his race. She was
firmly convinced that the dusky well-featured face belonged to an imp of
the evil one, and that he simply slid over the hills on the cold winds,
without even the aid of a broom-stick. The nights that he spent at the
ranch found Aunty's ebony face closer than ever to the side of Mistress
Tillie's chair.

Another member had been added to the visiting list at Hardy's, and that
was the sovereign of Scot's Mountain.

Along in midwinter, Kalitan brought a scrawled note from "Ole Man Mac,"
asking for some drugs of which he stood in need. The request brought to
light the fact that Kalitan one day while paying visits had found "Ole
Man Mac" sick in bed--"heap sick--crank--no swallow medicine but white
man's."

The required white man's medicine was sent, and with it a basket with
white bread, fresh butter, and various condiments of home manufacture
that Tillie's kindly heart prompted her to send to the old trapper--one
of their nearest neighbors.

The following day Rachel and her henchman Jim started on Kalitan's
trail, with the idea of learning personally if any further aid that the
ranch could give was needed at the cabin. A snow three days old covered
the ground, in which Kalitan's trail was easily followed; and then
Rachel had been over the same route before, starting light-hearted and
eager, on that cultus corrie.

They reached Scot's Mountain a little after noon, and found its
grizzled, unshaven owner much better than he had been the day before,
and close beside him on the pillow lay his one companion, the cat.

"Well, well! to think o' this!" said the old man, reaching a brawny hand
to her from the bunk. "You're the first white woman as ever passed that
door-post, and it's rare and glad I am that it's your own self."

"Why myself more than another?" she asked, rather surprised at his
words. "I would have come long ago if I had known I was wanted, or that
you even knew of me."

"Have I not, then?" he queried, looking at her sharply from under his
wrinkled, half-closed lids. "But sit ye down, lady. Kalitan, bring the
chair. And is that a brother--the lad there? I thought I had na heard of
one. Sit you down close that I can see ye--a sight good for sore een;
an' I have no heard o' ye? Ah, but I have, though. Many's the hour the
lad has lain lazy like on the cot here, an' told me o' the gay folk frae
the East. Ye know I'd be a bit curious o' my new neighbors, an' would be
askin' many's the question, an' all the tales would end wi' something
about the lass that was ay the blithe rider, an' ever the giver o' good
judgment."

The girl felt her face grow hot under those sharp old eyes. She scarcely
knew what to say, and yet could give no sensible reason for such
embarrassment; and then--

"The lad--what lad?" she asked at last.

"Oh--ay. I clean forgot he is no lad to you. Kalitan, will ye be
building up that fire a bit? When we have quality to visit we must give
them a warm welcome, if no more. An' the lad, as I was sayin'," he
continued, "was but Genesee--no other; though he looked more the lad
when I called him so first."

"You are such old friends, then?"

"No so old as so close, ye might say. It's a matter o' five year now
since he come up in these hills wi' some men who were prospectin', an'
one an' another got tired and dropped down the country again till only
Genesee was left. He struck that haunted hill in the Maple range that
they all said was of no good, an' he would na leave it. There he stuck
in very stubbornness, bewitched like by it; an' the day before his
flittin' in the fall found him clear through the hill, helped a bit by
striking into an old mine that nobody knew aught of. Think o' that!--dug
into a mine that had been abandoned by the Indians generations ago, most
like."

"I did not know that the Indians ever paid attention to mining. They
seem to know no use for gold or silver until the white men teach them
it."

"True enough; but there the old mine stands, as a clear showin' that
some o' the heathen, at some time, did mine in that range; an' the stone
mallets an' such like that he stumbled on there shows that the cave was
not the result o' accident."

"And has he at last given it up as hopeless?"

"That's as time may happen to tell," answered the old man sagely; "an'
old Daddy Time his own self could na keep his teeth shut more tight than
can Genesee if there's a bit secret to hold. But o' the old mine he said
little when he was takin' the trail, only, 'It has kept these thousand
o' years, Davy--it will most like keep until I get back.'"

From that speech Rachel gathered the first intimation that Genesee's
absence from the Kootenai country was only a transient one. Was he then
to come back and again drop his life into its old lines? She did not
like to think of it--or to question. But that winter visit to "Ole Man
Mac," as Kalitan called him, was the beginning of an avowed friendship
between the old hermit of the northern hills and the young girl from the
southern ones.

Her independent, curious spirit and youthful vitality were a sort of
tonic to him, and as he grew better he accepted her invitation to visit
the ranch, and from that time on the grizzled head and still athletic
frame of the old fellow were not strange to the Hardy household. He was
there as often as was consistent with the weather in the hills and
almost seventy years of braving their hardships; for of late years
MacDougall did not range widely. His traps could find too many nooks
near home for mink, lynx, and the black bear, and from the Kootenai
tribes on the north he bought pelts, acting the trader as well as
trapper; and twice a year making a trip to a settlement to dispose of
his wares, with horses from his Indian neighbors to transport them with.

Rachel learned that for forty years he had followed that isolated
life--moving steadily farther west or farther north as the grip of
civilization made itself felt behind him; and he felt himself crowded if
a settler's prairie schooner was sighted within twenty-five miles of
him. The girl wondered, often, the cause of that self-exile, but no word
or sign gave her any clew. He had come from the eastern highlands of
Scotland when less than thirty years old, and had struck out at once for
the extreme borders of civilization in America; and there he had
remained--always on the borders--never quite overtaken.

"It will be but a few more stands I can make," he would say to her
sometimes. "Time is little content to be a laggard, and he is running me
close in a race he has na' a doubt of winning."

With advancing years, the barrier, whatever the foundation, that he had
raised between himself and the world was evidently weakening somewhat;
and first through Genesee, and now through this girl, had come a growing
desire for intercourse with his own race once more. And much teasing did
the girl get in consequence of the visits that by the family in general
were conceded to belong to Rachel in particular, teasing, however, which
she bore with indifference, openly claiming that the stronger interest
was on her side, and if he forgot his visits she would certainly go
herself to Scot's Mountain to learn the why and wherefore. This she did
more than once, through the season, when indoor life grew at all
monotonous; sometimes with Jim as a companion, and sometimes with
Kalitan trotting at her mare's head, and guiding very carefully Betty's
feet over the dangerous places--Aunty Luce always watching such a
departure with prophecies of "Miss Rache's sea'p a-hangin' round the
neck o' that red nigger some o' these days, I'm a-tellin' yeh!"

Despite prophecies, Kalitan proved a most eager and careful guardian,
seeming to feel rather proud when he was allowed to be her sole
companion.

Sometimes he would say: "S'pose you hear where Genesee is--may be?" and
at her negative he, like a philosopher of unlimited patience, would
content himself with: "Sometime he sure come; s'pose waum
illihie"--waum illihie meaning the summer-time; and Rachel, noting
his faithfulness to that one idea, wondered how many seasons his
patience would endure.

At last, about the middle of April, he stalked into the ranch door one
morning early, scaring Aunty Luce out of her seven senses, or as many
extra ones as she laid claim to.

"Rashell Hardy?" was all he deigned to address to that personage, so
inborn in the Indian is the scorn of a slave or those of slavish origin.
And Kalitan, who had lived almost entirely with his tribe, had many of
the aristocratic ideas of race that so soon degenerate in the Indian of
the settlements or haunts of the white man. Once Aunty Luce, not
understanding his ideas of caste, thought to propitiate him with some
kindly social inquiry as to the state of his health and well-being, and
had beat an ignominious retreat to the floor above at the black look of
indignation on his face at being questioned by a slave. When Rachel took
him to task for such a ferocious manner, he answered, with a sullen sort
of pride: "I, Kalitan, am of a race of chiefs--not a dog to be bidden by
black blood;" and she had noticed then, and at other times, that any
strong emotion, especially anger, gave an elevated tone and manner of
speech to him and his race, lifting it out of the slurred commonplaces
of the mongrel jargon--a direct contradiction of their white brother, on
whom anger generally has an effect exactly contrary. After that one
venture of Aunty's at timorous friendliness, she might have been a dumb
woman so far as Kalitan ever had further knowledge; for her
conversations in his presence were from that date carried on entirely in
pantomime, often to the annoyance, though always to the amusement, of
the family.

Kalitan's abrupt entrance and query that April morning was answered by a
comprehensive nod and wave of pudgy black hands toward the sitting-room,
into which he walked without knocking--that, also perhaps, being deemed
a prerogative of his lordly race.

"Why, Kalitan, so early!" said Rachel in surprise. "Are you trying to
outrun the sun? What is it?" For her eyes, accustomed to the usual calm
of his countenance, recognized at once that some new current of emotion
was struggling for supremacy in him that morning. He did not answer at
once, but seated himself in impressive silence on the edge of one of the
settees, and after a dramatic pause that he considered a fitting prelude
to the importance of his communication, he addressed himself to
Rachel--the only woman, by the way, whom he was ever known to meet or
converse with on terms of equality, as Indian chivalry does not extend
to their exaltation of the gentler sex.

"Rashell Hardy," he said, in a mingling of English and Chinook, "I,
Kalitan, the Arrow, shoot to the south. Genesee has sent in the
talking-paper to Ole Man Mac that the Reservation Indians south have dug
up the hatchet. Genesee is taking the trail from the fort, with rifle
and many men, and he wants an arrow that can shoot out of sight of any
other; so he wants Kalitan."

And having delivered himself of this modest encomium on his own worth,
there was a stage-wait of about a minute, that might have been relieved
by some words conceding his superiority, but wasn't. Rachel was looking
out of the window as if in momentary forgetfulness of the honor done her
in this statement of facts. Kalitan rose to his feet.

"Ole Man Mac come town valley, may be, in two days. I stop to tell you,
and say like white man, klahowya."

And with the Indian word of farewell, he turned to the door, when Rachel
stopped him.

"Wait, Kalitan," she said, holding out her hand to stop him. "You are
going south into the hostile country. Will the Arrow carry a message as
it flies?"

"Let Rashell Hardy speak. Kalitan is swift. A message is not heavy from
a friend."

"That is it, Kalitan; it is to your friend--Genesee."

"Rachel!" ejaculated Tillie, who had been a silent auditor of this queer
little scene, with its ceremony and its ludicrous features--ludicrous to
any not knowing the red man's weakness for forms and a certain pomposity
that seems a childish love of display and praise. But Rachel never
ridiculed it; instead, she simply let herself drop into his tone, and
thus enhanced very much his opinion of her. And at Tillie's voice she
turned impatiently.

"Well, why not?" she asked; and her combative air at once reduced Tillie
to withdrawing as easily as she could from the discussion.

"But, dear, the man's reputation! and really you know he is nothing we
thought he was. He is scarcely fit for any lady to speak to. It is
better to leave such characters alone. One never can tell how far they
may presume on even recognition."

"Yes? After all, Tillie, I believe you are very much of the world
worldly. Did he stop to ask if I was entirely a proper sort of person
before he started to hunt for me that time in the Kootenai hills?"

"Nonsense! Of course not. But the cases are totally unlike."

"Naturally. He is a man; I am a woman. But if the cases were reversed,
though I might preserve a better reputation, I doubt much if, in some
respects, I should equal the stubborn strength of character I have seen
that man show at times."

"Oh, I might have known better than to advise you, Rachel, if I wanted
to influence you," remarked Tillie helplessly. "You are like an
Irishman, always spoiling for a fight, and hunt up the most ridiculous,
impossible theories to substantiate your views; but I am so disappointed
in that man--he seemed such a fine fellow. But when we are assured of
our mistake, it is time, especially, Rachel, for a girl to drop all
acquaintance with him."

"I wish I was not a girl. Then I would not have to be hedged in forever.
You would not think it so terrible if Hen or Ivans, or any of the men,
were to meet him as usual or send word to him if they chose."

"But that is different."

"And I am sick of the differences. The more I see the narrowness of
social views, the less I wonder at old MacDougall and Genesee taking to
the mountains, where at least the life, even the life's immoralities,
are primitive."

"Primitive! Oh, good Lord!" ejaculated Tillie in serio-comic despair.
"What would you suggest as an improvement on their simplicity?"

And then, both being rather good-natured women, the absurdity of their
vehemence seemed to strike them, and looking at each other for a second,
they both burst out laughing.

All this time Kalitan stood, showing his silent disdain of this squaw
"wau-wau" with the impassive gaze that went straight over their heads
at the opposite wall, not seeing the debaters, as if it were beneath his
dignity to open his ears to their words. In fact, his dignity had been
enhanced several degrees since his visit to the ranch, some ten days
before--all because of that "talking-paper," no doubt, that had come
from the Fort, and his full Indian dress--for he would scorn to wear the
garb of his father--was decked with several additional trinkets,
borrowed or stolen from the tribe, that were likely to render his
appearance more impressive.

And Rachel, glancing at him, was reminded by that manner of dignified
toleration that she had kept him waiting no doubt five minutes--and five
minutes in the flight of an arrow is a life-time.

"Tell Jack Genesee," she said, turning to him in complete negligence of
arguments just used, "that Rachel Hardy sends to him greetings--you
understand? That she is glad to hear where he is; a soldier's life is a
good one for him, and she will always have faith in his fighting well,
and trying to fight on the right side. Is that message much to
remember?"

Kalitan poetically answered in Chinook to the effect that his heart was
in his ears when she spoke, and would be in his tongue when he met
Genesee, and with that startling statement he made his exit, watched by
Aunty Luce from the stairs on which she had taken refuge.

"You are a queer girl, Rache," said Tillie as Rachel stood watching the
gaily-decked, sinewy form as it broke into a sort of steady trot, once
outside the gate, and was so quickly out of sight down the valley.

"Am I? Try and say something more original," she suggested.

"I believe you would make a good missionary," continued Tillie
debatably. "Your theory of civilizing people seems to be all right; but
while it may work capitally with those savages born in heathendom, I
fear its results when applied to enlightened mortals who have preferred
dropping into degraded lives. Your laudable energy is likely to be
wasted on that sort of material."

"What a learned diagnosis for you to make, my child," said Miss Hardy
approvingly. "Aunty Luce confided to me she was going to make a 'batch'
of sugar cookies this morning, and you shall have the very first one as
a reward for delivering your little speech so nicely."



CHAPTER II.

A RECRUIT FROM THE WORLD.

    "Oh, cam' ye here the fight to shun,
    Or herd the sheep wi' me, man?"


Spring, with its showers and promises, drifted into the dim perspective,
as summer, with flaunting assumption, took possession of the foreground.
All through the changing weeks rumors came from the south and east,
telling of disaffection among the hereditary lords of the soil, and
petty troubles in different localities, that, like low mutterings of
far-off thunder, promised storms that might be remembered.

Some rust on the wheels of the slow-moving machinery of government had
caused a delay in the dealings with the people on the reservations.
Treaties ignored through generations, in both letter and spirit, are not
calculated to beget faith in the hearts of the red nations, or teach
them belief in the straightness of our tongues. Was it the fault of the
Department of the Interior at Washington, or the dishonesty of their
local agents?--the chicanery of the party in office or the scheme of
some political ring that wanted to get in by bringing forward a cause
for condemnation of the existing regime? Whatever one of the
multitudinous excuses was finally given for neglect of duty--treaties,
promises of government--Mr. Lo had now--as he has ever had--to bear the
suffering in question, whether just or unjust.

Small wonder if, now and then, a spark of that old fire in the blood
ignites, and even the most tamed spirits rise up ready to write pages of
history in blood. The only wonder is that they ever pass by the house or
the offspring of the white race without that call of the red heart for
vengeance being too strong for the hand to resist.

Through the late winter, whether through storms or floods or the schemes
of men, on one of the reservations to the south the rations had not been
forthcoming; and from week to week excuses were given that were no
longer listened to with credence by the Indians. In vain were visits
made, first to the agency, next to the nearest fort, supplicating for
their rights. One delegation after another turned back from those visits
unsatisfied, told by the first that the rations would be distributed
when they arrived, not before; told by the second that the War
Department was not in any way responsible for deficiencies of the
Department of the Interior, and could not interfere--at the same time
advising them to be patient, as eventually their wants would be
satisfied. Eventually! and in the meantime they could go back to their
tribes and eat their horses, their dogs, and see their people grow weak
as the children for the want of food.

Small wonder if one group after another of the younger braves, and even
the older warriors, broke loose from the promise of peace and joined the
hostile bands that thieved along the border, sweeping the outlying
ranches of horses and cattle, and beating a retreat back into the hills
with their booty.

Of course, the rations arrived eventually, and were distributed by those
fair-minded personages whose honest dealing with the red man is
proverbial along the border; but the provisions came too late to stem
the tide of secession that had set in, and the War Department had found
that, after all, it would be influenced by the actions of the Department
of the Interior, and that its interference was demanded for the
protection of the homes on the frontier. As the homes were the homes of
white citizens, its action was, of course, one of promptness. White
men's votes decide who shall continue to sit in the high places of the
land, or who shall step down and out to make way for the new man of new
promises.

But they found ordinary methods of war were of little avail against the
scattered bands, who, like bees in the summer-time, divided their
swarms, and honey-combed the hills, knowing every retreat, and posted as
to every movement by Indian runners and kindred left behind.

It was simply a war of skirmishing, and one not likely soon to cease.
Reinforcements came to the hostile tribes from all the worthless outlaws
of the border--some of white, others of mixed blood; and from those
mongrels resulted the more atrocious features of the outbreak. They
fought and schemed with the Indian because they wanted his protection,
and any proposed treaty for peace was argued against by them most
vehemently. And while an Indian makes a good thief, a half-breed makes a
better; but the white man, if his taste runs in that direction, is an
artist, and to him his red brother is indebted for much teaching in the
subtle art through many generations.

That, and like accomplishments, made them comrades to be desired by the
tribes who depended for their subsistence on the country guarded by
troops; and scientific methods of thievery were resorted to, methods
that required the superior brain and the white face of the Caucasian.

Thus was the trouble fostered, and the contagion spread, until far-off
tribes, hearing of it, missed now one, now another, of their more
restless spirits; and the white authorities found it would not do to
trust to the peace of any of the nations--the only surety was to guard
it. This they tried to do, locating posts and stationing troops near
even the most peaceable tribes--their presence suggesting the
advisability of remaining so.

And, now through one, now another, and generally by MacDougall, the
people at the ranch heard at times of the Arrow and of Genesee. They
were with the troops, and were together; and the latter's knowledge of
Indian tactics was counting much in his favor evidently, as his opinions
were cited in the reports and prophecies of results, and his influence
had decided more than one movement of the campaign that had won him the
commendation of his superior officers--circumstances that were, of
course, discussed pro and con by the people of the Kootenai. There was
little of local news in so isolated a place, and Rachel declared they
were all developing into gossips because of the avidity with which the
slightest of events in their own region was talked over; and of course
the Indian question was an all-absorbing topic, and to Aunty Luce was
attended by a sort of paralysis of terror. In vain to point out the
friendly listlessness of the Kootenais, their nearest neighbors of the
red race, for the Kootenais were simple hunters or fishers, making war
on none, unless now and then a detachment of thieving Blackfeet from
east of the mountains would file through the old Flathead Pass and run
off portions of their stock; in the time of the fishing, the greater
part of the village would move for the season away from their
pasture-lands, in search of the fish that they smoke, dry, and pack in
osier baskets for the winter. It was generally during that temporary
flitting that a visit from those neighboring tribes would be made, and
an assessment levied, to the extent of all loose cattle in reach, and an
occasional squaw now and then. And so, though the Kootenais were on the
most friendly terms with the few whites about them, their relations with
their red brethren on the east, and across the line in the Northwest
Territories were decidedly strained.

But it was useless to talk "good Indian" to Aunty who was afraid to stay
in the house or out of it; afraid to start back to Kentucky, yet sure
that delay meant death. And all through the summer, let the rest have
faith if they chose, yet the baby's wardrobe and her own were always
packed ready for flight at the first sign of danger.

With this one exception, the Indian question troubled the people at the
ranch but little. They found too many duties in the new country to take
up their time and attention. The sheep-raising experiment showed signs
of such thorough success that it would require more than the skirmishing
of the races a couple of hundred miles away to disenchant Hardy with the
country; and where he was content, Tillie was, of course; and
Rachel--well, Rachel was deemed a sort of vagabond in regard to a
settlement anywhere. She was satisfied with any place where the fences
were not too high, or the limits of her range too narrow.

She often wondered that the world in general knew so little of that
beautiful corner of the earth. She knew that people flocked to "resorts"
that possessed not at all the wealth of beauties that whimsical nature
had scattered on those Indian hills.

In the fall, about a year after the cultus corrie, she began to think
that, after all, they might meet with deserved appreciation some day,
for one man rode up to them, not for stock, or to locate land, or for
any of the few reasons that brought people to the Kootenai country, but
simply and only for pleasure and rest--so he said.

It was in late September, and as he rode leisurely through the dusky
shadows of the pines, and along the passionate, restless path of some
mountain stream, his expressive face showed a more than casual interest
in the prodigality of delightful vistas and the impressive grandeur of
the mountains, as they loomed about him or slowly drifted beneath him.

All the beauty of autumn was around him, yet he himself looked like one
of the people who belong only to summer, judging from his eager eyes and
the boyish laugh that broke on the still air as he watched the pranks of
some squirrels making holiday in their own domain.

Not that the stranger was so young. He was not a boy in years; but the
spirit of youth, that remains so long with some natures, shone in his
glance, and loitered about the sensitive mouth. In seeing him smile, one
would forget the thread of premature silver that shone through the
bronze of his hair. He was almost beautiful in face; yet his stature,
which was much above the average, and his exceptionally complete
proportions, saved him from the beauty that is effeminate; but whatever
beauty he possessed, however, was in every way refined.

It was noon when stragglers of sheep met his gaze, dotting with white
the green and amber grasses of the great park, and showing, as he forded
Missoula Creek, a picture before him, framed in the high wall of the
hills, and restful with pastoral peace that was a striking contrast to
the untamable wilds through which he had passed.

"Almost there," he whispered eagerly, as he rode along the corrals and
was greeted by a tumbling lot of sheep-dogs. "Will it be of use?"

Before he reached the gate he was met by Hardy, who, bare-headed, had
left the dinner-table to welcome a visitor whom, from the porch, all had
decided was a stranger.

The host scattered the dogs. There were a few words, a shake of hands,
and they could hear Hardy's hearty invitation to dismount.

Meanwhile, Aunty Luce was bustling about as fast as her stout, short
form would allow her, arranging a place at the table for the late guest,
and thanking her stars that a real gentleman was to be company for them
once more--her opinion that he was a gentleman having foundation in the
fact that he wore "store-clothes" instead of the trappings of buckskin
affected by the natives of the Kootenai.

They found he was possessed of more decided points due the idea of a
gentleman, both in breeding and education, and before many remarks were
exchanged, the rest of the family, as well as Aunty, were congratulating
themselves on this acquisition from the world.

"Yes, I am altogether a stranger up here," he said pleasantly, in answer
to a query; "and at Holland's they told me there was one of my Statesmen
up in this park; so I asked the way and started west, instead of north,
as I had thought of doing."

"Doing a bit o' prospectin', then?" was MacDougall's query.

It was a visiting-day of his, and he had been watching the new-comer's
face with scrutinizing eyes ever since the first words of
self-introduction, in which the visitor's name had been overlooked.

"Well--yes," answered the other slowly, as if he was not decided, or had
not anticipated the question.

"I thought as much, since ye carry no hunting gear," remarked the
trapper; "and in this country a man is likely to be the one thing or the
other."

"And in this case it is the other," smiled the stranger, "as I have not
as yet found any vocation; I have come out here to forget I ever had
one--prospecting for a rest."

"Well, there is plenty of room here to rest in," said Hardy hospitably.

"Yes, or work in," added Rachel; "and a new country needs the workers."

Tillie threw an admonishing glance as payment for the uncivil speech,
and the stranger turned his attention to the speaker. The contour of her
face must have been pleasing, since he looked at it interestedly, as if
forgetting in its contemplation the words uttered; and then--

"Indeed?" he said at last. "Well, who knows but that I may develop into
a worker; is industry contagious here?"

And Rachel, whose tone had been more uncivil than her intention, felt
herself put at a disadvantage by the suavity that was not a feature of
Kootenai character.

"Indeed, then," said MacDougall, "it's gettin' to be a brisk, busy
country these late days, an' ye canna go a matter o' twenty mile without
trippin' up on a settlement. An' ye come from Holland's without a guide?
That's pretty good for a stranger in the parts, as I doubt na ye be,
Mr.--" And he stopped suggestively.

The stranger laughed, and drew a card from his pocket.

"I told Mr. Hardy my name at the gate," he observed, "but evidently it
escaped his memory; he introduced me only as a stranger."

"It does not matter, however, what a man is called out here," returned
Hardy. "It is the man that is valued in the West--not the name given
him; now, back home they weighed about equal."

"And in my country," said MacDougall, looking up from the card, "here's
a name that would carry ye many a mile, an' bespeak ye good-will from
many an old heart--Charles Stuart. It's a name to take unco' good care
of, my man."

"I try to take good care of the owner of it, at all events," answered
the stranger; "but it is not an uncommon name in America; there are few
parts of the country in which I am not able to find a namesake."

"Indeed, then, an' I have run across none o' the name these seven odd
year," said MacDougall; "an' then it was a man in the Bitter Root
Mountains, who spelt it with the 'e-w' instead of the 'u,' an' had never
e'en heard tell o' Prince Charlie."

"And you have known no one in this country by the name of Stuart?" asked
the stranger, his eyes seeming to watch at the same time both Hardy and
the old man. Ivans and Jim had left the table and lounged out to the
stables to smoke.

"No," answered Hardy; "we are comparatively new-comers here, but all the
settlers within a radius of fifty miles are already known to us by
name--it is not so difficult where white men are so scarce; and I have
never heard of any Stuarts among them."

"Then I have dropped literally into a strange country," said Stuart,
rising and walking to the end of the porch; "and from what I have seen
of it, a decidedly interesting one. Hunting good?"

"Excellent," returned Hardy. "We've been too busy to get to the hills so
far this year, but now we have a little breathing-spell, and if you
would care to try your luck with game, I should take pleasure in showing
you our hunting grounds."

"That is certainly kind of you," said Mr. Stuart heartily, "and I will
accept the offer most gratefully. The fact is, I've been rather used up
with a professional life, and was in hopes a trip up through this
country would set me on my feet again. Over there at Holland's they told
me about you and your family, and--"

"Yes," completed Hardy, "a man with his family and household goods up in
these hills is a marked individual; but my wife and cousin do not rebel
at the exile; they are both philosophers, in their way."

"Yes?" and Stuart's agreement had the intonation of a man who hears, but
ceases to grasp the sense of words. Some closer thought seemed present
with him. He glanced at Hardy, a swift, quickly withdrawn scrutiny, and
then said: "Do you know, Mr. Hardy, I should like to propose myself for
membership in your household for a few weeks; would it be deemed an
impertinence? I can't stay at Holland Centre with any comfort, and this
place of yours seems to be a haven of rest. Could you give me space to
live in for a while, without my being a nuisance to the establishment?"

"Yes, and welcome," answered Hardy. "You don't seem to appreciate what a
treat it is to have a visitor from civilization ride our way; and one
from our old State is especially in demand. I was going to propose that
you move your outfit up here and make the ranch your headquarters while
in the country. A nuisance! No, sir."

And thus was the simple ceremony concluded that introduced this stranger
to the Hardys, to the general satisfaction of all concerned. Rachel was
the only member who did not seem especially delighted.

"Oh, yes, he is clever and entertaining," she agreed to Tillie, "and his
manner is so charmingly insinuating that I may end by falling in love
with him; but I am beginning with an unreasonable desire to say snappy
things to him."

"I should say it was unreasonable--a thorough gentleman, of fine family
connections. He mentioned several Kentucky families that Hen might know
what his standing was back home, and his profession is that of
medicine--I noticed the M. D. on his card; and altogether I can not see
what ground you have for objecting."

"I am not objecting--bless the man! no," returned Rachel; "only, because
a man has acquired a charming manner and possesses a handsome face is no
reason for me devoting myself to admiration of him, like Aunty Luce. She
is jubilant over having so fine a gentleman to wait on. You are
discreetly elated over having so charming a person to entertain; even
Miss Margaret (Miss Margaret was the baby)--everything feminine about
the place has succumbed. And I suppose my reason for keeping on my own
side of the fence is that I'm jealous. I am no longer first in the
affections of anyone about the place. MacDougall is likely to swear
allegiance at any time because his name is Stuart--and, above all,
Charlie Stuart; even Jim is wavering in the balance, and shows a
wonderful alacrity in anticipating the wishes of this tenderfoot. Is it
any wonder I rebel?"

"Well, for the comfort of the rest of us, do not begin a civil war,"
admonished Tillie, and was only reassured by a promise that there should
be no active hostilities. "If you are more comfortable in war than in
peace, go south and fight with the skirmishing Indians," suggested the
little woman.

"I will," said Rachel. "If you get any more civilized recruits up here
to make the place tame and commonplace, I will seek service under the
standard of the Arrow, or Genesee." And at the mention of the last name
Tillie discreetly subsided.

The girl found the raw recruit rapidly making himself a power in the
social world of the ranch. There was something of charming grace in the
man's personality; and that rare gift of a sympathetic nature that had
also the faculty of expression, at once accorded him the trust of women
and children.

It may be that a degree of physical beauty influenced them also, for his
fine, well-shaped head was very good to look at; the poise of the erect,
tall figure bespoke serene self-confidence; the curves of his lips,
slightly hidden by a mustache, gave a sweetness of expression to the
lower part of his face; while the wide brows and fine eyes gave an
intellectual cast to a personality that did not lack attractive points.

"The lad has the old grace o' the Stuarts," MacDougall affirmed,
sticking to his fancy of connecting the old blood-royal with the slip of
the name grown on alien ground. "And it is much the same free-handed
manner o' the old stock--free o' their smiles, an' winning o' hearts by
the clasp o' the hand; but there's a bit about this one that is a rare
puzzle to me. I think like enough it's the eyes, they're main handsome
ones; but I'm always a-rackin' o' my brains to tell where I've seen them
before."

Rachel, to whom this speech was made, only laughed.

"He has never been West until now, so you can not have seen them," she
argued; but her tone made the old man regard her with attention.

"What do ye mean by that, lass?"

"Oh, nothing, only he says so;" and then she went into the house,
leaving her guest sitting on the bench of the porch.

"The Stuart," as the others had already dropped into calling him, after
MacDougall, had been at the ranch about a week. The proposed hunt was
yet to be; and in the meantime he rode through the parks, and saw all
that was near-about the ranch. He talked stock raising with Hardy,
medicinal herbs with Aunty Luce, babies with Tillie, and with Rachel
numerous worldly topics of interest, that, however, never seemed to
change the nature of their acquaintance; which remained much as it was
the first day--on her side, arms burnished and ready for action; on his,
the serene gentleness of manner, almost a caress, a changeless
good-humor that spoke volumes for his disposition, and at times forced
even her into a sort of admiration of him.

The health-recruiting trip he had come on, he was evidently taking
advantage of, for he almost lived out-of-doors, and looked wonderfully
healthy and athletic for an invalid. In the house, he wrote a great
deal. But the morning Rachel left MacDougall on the porch, the Stuart
came sauntering up the path, the picture of careless content with
himself and the world. "Where has Mr. Hardy gone?" he inquired, seating
himself on the porch. "I've been looking for him out at the pens but the
men have all disappeared."

"Gone up the range for the yearlin's that strayed off the last week; but
they'll no go far."

"I wanted to ask Mr. Hardy about mail out here. How often is it brought
to the ranch?"

"Well," said the old man, between the puffs of his pipe, "that depends a
bit on how often it is sent for; just whene'er they're a bit slack o'
work, or if anybody o' them wants the trip made special; but Hardy will
be sendin' Jimmy across for it, if it's any favor to you--be sure o'
that."

"Oh, for that matter--I seem to be the most useless commodity about the
ranch--I could make the trip myself. Is Jim the usual mail-carrier?"

"Well, I canna say; Andrews, a new man here, goes sometimes, but it's no
rare thing for him to come home carrying more weight in whisky than in
the letters, an' Hardy got a bit tired o' that."

"But haven't you a regular mail-carrier for this part of the country?"
persisted Stuart.

MacDougall laughed shortly at the idea. "Who'd be paying the post?" he
asked, "with but the Hardys an' myself, ye might say, barring the
Kootenais; an' I have na heard that they know the use of a postage
stamp."

"But someone of their tribe does come to the Centre for mail," continued
Stuart in half argument--"an Indian youth; have you never seen him?"

"From the Kootenais? Well, I have not, then. It may be, of late, there
are white men among them, but canna say; I see little o' any o' them
this long time."

"And know no other white people in this region?"

"No, lad, not for a long time," said the old man, with a half sigh.

The listener rose to his feet. "I think," he said, as if a prospect of
new interest had suddenly been awakened in his mind--"I think I should
like to make a trip up into the country of the Kootenais. It is not very
far, I believe, and would be a new experience. Yes, if I could get a
guide, I would go."

"Well," said MacDougall drily, "seeing I've lived next door to the
Kootenais for some time, I might be able to take ye a trip that way
myself."

Rachel, writing inside the window, heard the conversation, and smiled to
herself.

"Strange that Kalitan should have slipped MacDougall's memory," she
thought; "but then he may have been thinking only of the present, and
the Stuart, of months back. So he does know some things of people in the
Kootenai, for all his blind ignorance. And he would have learned more,
if he had not been so clever and waited until the rest were gone, to
question. I wonder what he is hunting for in this country; I don't
believe it is four-footed game."



CHAPTER III.

AT CROSS-PURPOSES.

    "Their tricks and craft ha' put me daft,
    They've taen me in, and a' that."


"And so you got back unharmed from the midst of the hostiles?" asked
Rachel in mock surprise, when, a week later, Hardy, Stuart, and
MacDougall returned from their pilgrimage, bringing with them specimens
of deer they had sighted on their return.

"Hostiles is about the last name to apply to them, I should imagine,"
remarked Stuart; "they are as peaceable as sheep."

"But they can fight, too," said MacDougall, "an' used to be reckoned
hard customers to meet; but the Blackfeet ha' well-nigh been the finish
o' them. The last o' their war-chiefs is an old, old man now, an'
there's small chance that any other will ever walk in his moccasins."

"I've been told something of the man's character," said Rachel, "but
have forgotten his name--Bald Eagle?"

"Grey Eagle. An' there's more character in him worth the tellin' of than
you'll find in any Siwash in these parts. I doubt na Genesee told you
tales o' him. He took a rare, strange liking to Genesee from the
first--made him some presents, an' went through a bit o' ceremony by
which they adopt a warrior."

"Was this Genesee of another tribe?" asked Stuart, who was always
attentive to any information of the natives.

"Yes," said Rachel quickly, anticipating the others, "of a totally
different tribe--one of the most extensive in America at present."

"A youth? A half-breed?"

"No," she replied; "an older man than you, and of pure blood. Hen, there
is Miss Margaret pummeling the window for you to notice her. Davy
MacDougall, did you bring me nothing at all as a relic of your trip?
Well, I must say times are changing when you forget me for an entire
week."

Both the men looked a little amused at Rachel's truthful yet misleading
replies, and thinking it just one of her freaks, did not interfere,
though it was curious to them both that Stuart, living among them so
many days, had not heard Genesee mentioned before. But no late news
coming from the southern posts, had made the conversations of their
troops flag somewhat; while Stuart, coming into their circle, brought
new interests, new topics, that had for the while superseded the old,
and Genesee's absence of a year had made them count him no longer as a
neighbor. Then it may be that, ere this, Rachel had warded off attention
from the subject. She scarcely could explain to herself why she did
it--it was an instinctive impulse in the beginning; and sometimes she
laughed at herself for the folly of it.

"Never mind," she would reassure herself by saying, "even if I am wrong,
I harm no one with the fancy; and I have just enough curiosity to make
me wonder what that man's real business is in these wilds, for he is not
nearly so careless as his manner, and not nearly so light-hearted as his
laugh."

"Well, did you find any white men among the Kootenais?" she asked him
abruptly, the day of his return.

His head, bent that Miss Margaret could amuse herself with it, as a toy
of immense interest, raised suddenly. Much in the girl's tone and manner
to him was at times suggestive; this was one of the times. His usually
pale face was flushed from his position, and his rumpled hair gave him a
totally different appearance as he turned on her a look half-compelling
in its direct regard.

"What made you ask that?" he demanded, in a tone that matched the eyes.

She laughed; to see him throw off his guard of gracious suavity was
victory enough for one day.

"My feminine curiosity prompted the question," she replied easily. "Did
you?"

"No," he returned, after a rather steady look at her; "none that you
could call men."

"A specimen, then?"

"Heaven help the race, if the one I saw was accepted as a specimen," he
answered fervently; "a filthy, unkempt individual, living on the
outskirts of the village, and much more degraded than any Indian I met;
but he had a squaw wife."

"Yes, the most of them have--wives or slaves."

"Slaves?" he asked incredulously.

"Actually slaves, though they do not bring the high prices we used to
ask for those of darker skin in the South. Emancipation has not made
much progress up here. It is too much an unknown corner as yet."

"Is it those of inferior tribes that are bartered, or prisoners taken in
battle?"

"No, I believe not, necessarily," she replied, "though I suppose such a
windfall would be welcomed; but if there happens to be any superfluous
members in a family, it is a profitable way to dispose of them, among
some of the Columbia Basin Indians, anyway. Davy MacDougall can give you
more information than I, as most of my knowledge is second-hand. But I
believe this tribe of the Kootenais is a grade above that sort of
traffic--I mean bartering their own kindred."

"How long have you been out here, Miss Rachel?" he asked, as abruptly as
she had questioned him of the white men.

"About a year--a little over."

"And you like it?"

"Yes; I like it."

In response to several demands, he had enthroned Miss Margaret on his
lap by this time; and even there she was not contented. His head seemed
to have a special fascination for her babyship; and she had such an
insinuating way of snuggling upward that she was soon close in his arms,
her hands in easy reach of his hair, which she did not pull in infantile
fashion, but dallied with, and patted caressingly. There was no
mistaking the fact that Stuart was prime favorite here at all events;
and the affection was not one-sided by any means--unless the man was a
thorough actor. His touch, his voice even, acquired a caressing way when
Miss Margaret was to be pleased or appeased. Rachel, speaking to Tillie
of it, wondered if his attraction was to children in general or to this
one in particular; and holding the baby so that her soft, pink cheek was
against his own, he seemed ruminating over the girl's replies, and after
a little--

"Yes, you must, of course," he said thoughtfully; "else you could never
make yourself seem so much a part of it as you do."

During the interval of silence the girl's thoughts had been wandering.
She had lost the slight thread of their former topic, and looked a
little at sea.

"A part of what?" she asked.

"Why, the life here. You seem as if you had always belonged to it--a bit
of local color in harmony with the scenes about us."

"How flattering!--charmingly expressed!" murmered Miss Hardy derisively.
"A bit of local color? Then, according to Mr. Stuart's impressions I may
look forward to finding myself catalogued among greasy squaws and
picturesque squaw men."

"You seem to take a great deal of delight in turning all I say or do
into ridicule," he observed. "You do it on the principle of the country
that guys a 'tenderfoot'; and that is just one of the things that stamp
you as belonging to the life here. I try to think of you as a Kentucky
girl transplanted, but even the fancy eludes me. You impress one as
belonging to this soil, and more than that, showing a disposition to
freeze out new-comers."

"I haven't frozen you out."

"No--thanks to my temperament that refuses to congeal. I did not leave
all my warmth in the South."

"Meaning that I did?"

"Meaning that you, for some reason, appear to have done so."

"Dear me, what a subtle personage you make of me! Come here, Margaret;
this analyst is likely to prejudice you against your only auntie."

"Let her be with me," he said softly, as the baby's big blue eyes turned
toward Rachel, and then were screened by heavy, white lids; "she is
almost asleep--little darling. Is she not a picture? See how she clings
to my finger--so tightly;" and then he dropped his face until his lips
touched the soft cheek. "It is a child to thank God for," he said
lovingly.

The girl looked at him, surprised at the thrill of feeling in his tones.

"You spoke like a woman just then," she said, her own voice changed
slightly; "like a--a mother--a parent."

"Did I?" he asked, and arose with the child in his arms to deliver it to
Aunty Luce. "Perhaps I felt so; is that weakness an added cause for
trying to bar me out from the Kootenai hills?"

But he walked away without giving her a chance to reply.

She saw nothing more of him until evening, and then he was rather quiet,
sitting beside Tillie and Miss Margaret, with occasional low-toned
remarks to them, but not joining in the general conversation.

"What a queer remark that was for a man to make!" thought Rachel,
looking at him across the room;--"a young man especially"; and that
started her to thinking of his age, about which people would have widely
different opinions. To see him sometimes, laughing and joking with the
rest, he looked a boy of twenty. To hear him talking of scientific
researches in his own profession and others, of the politics of the day,
or literature of the age, one would imagine him at least forty. But
sitting quietly, his face in repose, yet looking tired, his eyes so full
of life, yet steeped in reveries, the rare mouth relaxed, unsmiling,
then he looked what he probably was, thought the girl--about thirty; but
it was seldom that he looked like that.

"Therefore," reasoned this feminine watcher, "it is seldom that we see
him as he really is; query--why?"

"Perhaps I felt as a parent feels!" How frank his words had been, and
how unlike most men he was, to give utterance to that thought with so
much feeling, and how caressing to the child! Rachel had to acknowledge
that he was original in many ways, and the ways were generally charming.
His affections were so warm, so frankly bestowed; yet that gracious,
tender manner of his, even when compared with the bluntness of the men
around him, never made him seem effeminate.

Rachel, thinking of his words, wondered if he had a sweetheart
somewhere, that made him think of a possible wife or children
longingly--and if so, how that girl must love him!

So, despite her semi-warlike attitude, and her delight in thwarting him,
she had appreciation enough of his personality to understand how
possible it was for him to be loved deeply.

Jim, under Miss Hardy's tuition, had been making an attempt to "rope in"
an education, and that night was reading doubtfully the history of our
Glorious Republic in its early days; garnishing the statements now and
then with opinions of his own, especially the part relating to the
character of the original lords of the soil.

"Say, Miss Rache, yer given' me a straight tip on this lay-out?" he said
at last, shutting the book and eyeing her closely.

The question aroused her from the contemplation of the Hermes-like head
opposite, though she had, like Hardy, been pretending to read.

"Do you mean, is it true?" she asked.

"Naw!" answered Jim, with the intonation of supreme disgust; "I hain't
no call to ask that; but what I'm curious about is whether the galoot as
wrote the truck lied by accident--someone sort o' playin' it on him, ye
see--er whether he thought the rest o' creation was chumps from away
back, an' he just naturally laid himself out to sell them cheap--now
say, which is it?"

In vain his monitor tried to impress on his mind the truth of the
chronicles, and the fact that generations ago the Indian could be truly
called a noble man, until his child-like faith in the straight tongue of
the interloper had made a net for his feet, to escape which they had
recourse only to treachery and the tomahawk, thus carving in history a
character that in the beginning was not his, but one into which he was
educated by the godly people who came with their churches and guns,
their religion and whisky, to civilize the credulous people of the
forests.

Jim listened, but in the supercilious disbelief in his eyes Rachel read
the truth. In trying to establish historical facts for his benefit, she
was simply losing ground in his estimation at every statement made.

"An' you," he finally remarked, after listening in wonderful silence for
him--"an' you've read it all, then?"

"Yes, most of it."

"An' swallowed it as gospel?"

"Well, not exactly such literal belief as that; but I have read not only
this history, but others in support of those facts."

"Ye have, have yeh?" remarked her pupil, with a sarcastic contempt for
her book-learning. "Well, I allow this one will do me a life-time, fer
I've seen Flatheads, an' Diggers, an' Snakes!"

Thus ended the first lesson in history.

"Don't you think," said Tillie softly to Stuart, "that Rachel would win
more glory as a missionary to the Indians than among her own race? She
is always running against stumbling-blocks of past knowledge with the
progressive white man."

Rachel cast one silencing glance at the speaker; Tillie laughed.

"Never mind," she said reassuringly; "I will say nothing about your
other attempt, and I only hope you will be willing to confine yourself
to the Indians near home, and not start out to see some Flatheads, and
Diggers, and Snakes for yourself."

"Lawd bress yeh, honey!" spoke up Aunty Luce, whose ears were always
open to anything concerning their red neighbors; "don' yo' go to puttin'
no sech thoughts in her haid. Miss Rache needs tamin' down, she do,
'stead o' 'couragement."

"Well, it's precious little encouragement I get here, except to grow
rusty in everything," complained Rachel. "A crusade against even the
Diggers would be a break in the monotony. I wish I had gone with you to
the Kootenai village, Mr. Stuart; that would have been a diversion."

"But rather rough riding," he added; "and much of the life, and--well,
there is a great deal one would not care to take a lady to see."

"You don't know how Rachel rides," said Tillie, with a note of praise in
her voice; "she rides as hard as the men on the ranch. You must go
together for a ride, some day. She knows the country very well already."

Rachel was thinking of the other part of his speech.

"I should not have asked to be taken," she said, "but would have gone on
my own independence, as one of the party."

"Then your independence would have led you to several sights revolting
to a refined nature," he said seriously, "and you would have wished
yourself well out of it."

"Well, the Kootenais are several degrees superior to other tribes of the
Columbia Basin; so you had better fight shy of Jim's knowledge. Why,"
she added, with a little burst of indignation that their good points
were so neglected, "the Kootenais are a self-supporting people, asking
nothing of the Government. They are independent traders."

"Say, Miss Rachel," broke in Jim, "was Kalitan a Kootenai Injun?"

"No, though he lived with them often. He was of the Gros Ventres, a race
that belongs to the plains rather than the hills."

"You are already pretty well posted about the different tribes,"
observed Stuart.

"Yes, the Lawd knows--humph!" grunted Aunty Luce, evidently thinking the
knowledge not a thing to be proud of.

"Oh, yes," smiled Tillie, "Rachel takes easily to everything in these
hills. You should hear her talking Chinook to a blanket brave, or
exchanging compliments with her special friend, the Arrow."

"The Arrow? That is a much more suggestive title than the Wahoosh,
Kah-kwa, Sipah, and some other equally meaningless names I jotted down
as I heard them up there."

"They are only meaningless to strangers," answered the girl. "They all
have their own significance."

"Why, this same Arrow is called Kalitan," broke in Jim; "an' what'd you
make out of that? Both names mean just the same thing. He was called
that even when he was a little fellow, he said, 'cause he could run like
a streak. Why, he used to make the trip down to the settlement an' be
back here with the mail afore supper, makin' his forty miles afoot after
breakfast; how's that for movin' over rough country?"

The swiftness did not seem to make the desired impression, his listener
catching, instead, at the fact of their having had an Indian
mail-carrier.

"And where is your Indian messenger of late?" he asked. "He has not
visited you since my arrival, has he?"

"No; he left this country months ago," said Rachel. "Kalitan is a bit of
a wanderer--never long in one place."

"Davy MacDougall says he'd allus loaf around here if Genesee would, but
he's sure to go trottin' after Genesee soon as he takes a trail."

"That is the Indian you spoke of this morning, is it not?" asked Stuart,
looking at Rachel.

"What!" roared Jim; and Hardy, who was taking a nap behind a paper,
awoke with a start. "Genesee an Injun! Well, that's good!" and he broke
into shrill, boyish laughter. "Well, you ought to just say it to his
face, that's all!"

"Is he not?" he asked, still looking at the girl, who did not answer.

"Oh, no," said Tillie; "he is a white man, a--a--well, he has lived with
the Indians, I believe."

"I understood you to say he himself was an Indian." And Rachel felt the
steady regard of those warm eyes, while she tried to look unconscious,
and knew she was failing.

Hardy laughed, and shook himself rightly awake.

"Beg your pardon," he said, coming to the rescue, "but she didn't say
so; she only gave you the information that he was pure-blooded; and I
should say he is--as much of a white man as you or I."

"Mine was the mistake," acknowledged Stuart, with his old easy manner
once more; "but Miss Rachel's love of a joke did not let me fall into it
without a leader. And may I ask who he is, this white man with the
Indian name--what is he?"

Rachel answered him then brusquely: "You saw a white man with the
Kootenais, did you not--one who lives as they do, with a squaw wife, or
slave? You described the specimen as more degraded than the Indians
about him. Well, Genesee is one of the class to which that man
belongs--a squaw man; and he is also an Indian by adoption. Do you think
you would care for a closer acquaintance?"

Tillie opened her eyes wide at this sweeping denunciation of Genesee and
his life, while even Hardy looked surprised; Rachel had always, before,
something to say in his favor. But the man she questioned so curtly was
the only one who did not change even expression. He evidently forgot to
answer, but sat there looking at her, with a little smile in his eyes.

Once in bed, it did not keep her awake; and the gray morning crept in
ere she opened her eyes, earlier than usual, and from a cause not
usual--the sound in the yard of a man's voice singing snatches of song,
ignoring the words sometimes, but continuing the air in low carols of
music, such as speak so plainly of a glad heart. It was not yet sun-up,
and she rebelled, drowsily, at the racket as she rolled over toward the
window and looked out. There he was, tinkering at something about his
saddle, now and then whistling in mimicry of a bird swaying on a
leafless reed in the garden. She could see the other men, out across the
open space by the barn, moving around as usual, looking after the
domestic stock; but until one has had a breakfast, no well-regulated
individual is hilarious or demonstrative, and their movements, as she
could see, were not marvels of fast locomotion. They looked as she felt,
she thought, yawningly, and groped around for her shoes, and finding
them, sat down on the side of the bed again and looked out at that
musical worker in the yard.

She could hear Aunty Luce tinkling the dishes in the kitchen, and Tillie
and Miss Margaret, in the next room, cooing over some love-story of dawn
they were telling each other. All seemed drowsy and far off, except that
penetrating, cheery voice outside.

"The de'il tak' him!" she growled, quoting MacDougall; "what does the
fellow mean by shouting like that this time of the night? He is as much
of a boy as Jim."

    "Here awa', there awa', wandering Willie.
    Here awa', there awa', haud awa', hame!"

warbled the Stuart, with an accent that suited his name; and the girl
wakened up a bit to the remembrance of the old song, thinking, as she
dressed, that, social and cheery as he often was, this was the first
time she had ever heard him sing; and what a resonant, yet boyish,
timbre thrilled through his voice. She threw up the window.

"Look here!" she said, with mock asperity, "we are willing to make some
allowance for national enthusiasm, Mr. Charles, Prince of the Stuarts,
but we rebel at Scotch love-songs shouted under our windows before
daybreak."

"All right," he smiled, amiably. "I know one or two Irish ones, if you
prefer them.

    "Oh, acushla Mavourneen! won't you marry me?
    Gramachree, Mavourneen; oh, won't you marry me?"

Click! went the window shut again, and from the inside she saw him
looking up at the casement with eyes full of triumph and mischief. He
was metamorphosed in some way. Yesterday he had been serious and
earnest, returning from his hill trip with something like despondency,
and now--

She remembered her last sight of him the night before, as he smiled at
her from the stairway. Ah, yes, yes! all just because he had felt
jubilant over outwitting her, or rather over seeing a chance do the work
for another. Was it for that he was still singing? Had her instincts
then told her truly when she had connected his presence with the memory
of that older man's sombre eyes and dogged exile? Well, the exile was
his own business, not that of anyone else--least of all that of this
debonair individual, with his varying emotions.

And she went down the stairs with a resentful feeling against the
light-hearted melody of "Acushla Mavourneen."

"Be my champion, Mrs. Hardy," he begged at the breakfast-table, "or I am
tabooed forever by Miss Rachel."

"How so?"

"By what I intended as an act of homage, giving her a serenade at
sunrise in the love-songs of my forefathers."

"Nonsense!" laughed Rachel. "He never knew what his forefathers were
until Davy MacDougall brushed up his history; and you have not thought
much of the songs you were trying to sing, else you would know they
belong to the people of the present and future as well as the past.

"Trying to sing!" was all the comment Mr. Stuart made, turning with an
injured air to Tillie.

"Learn some Indian songs," advised that little conspirator impressively;
"in the Kootenai country you must sing Chinook if you want to be
appreciated."

"There speaks one who knows," chimed in Hardy lugubriously. "A year ago
I had a wife and an undivided affection; but I couldn't sing Chinook,
and the other fellow could, and for many consecutive days I had to take
a back seat."

"Hen! How dare you?"

"In fact," he continued, unrestrained by the little woman's tones or
scolding eyes, "I believe I have to thank jealousy for ever reinstating
me to the head of the family."

"Indeed," remarked Stuart, with attention impressively flattering; "may
I ask how it was effected?"

"Oh, very simply--very simply. Chance brought her the knowledge that
there was another girl up the country to whom her hero sang Chinook
songs, and, presto! she has ever since found English sufficient for all
her needs."

And Tillie, finding she had enough to do to defend herself without
teasing Rachel, gave her attention to her husband, and the girl turned
to Stuart.

"All this gives no reason for your spasms of Scotch expression this
morning," she reminded him.

"No? Well, my father confessor in the feminine, I was musical--beg
pardon, tried to be--because I awoke this morning with an unusually
light heart; and I sang Scotch songs--or tried to sing them--because I
was thinking of a Scotchman, and contemplating a visit to him to-day."

"Davy MacDougall?"

"The same."

"And you were with him only yesterday."

"And may say good-bye to him to-morrow for a long time."

"So you are going?" she asked, in a more subdued tone.

"I believe so!" And for the moment the question and answer made the two
seem entirely alone, though surrounded by the others. Then she laughed
in the old quizzical, careless way.

"I see now the inspiration to song and jubilance that prevented you from
sleeping," she said, nodding her head sagaciously. "It was the thought
of escaping from us and our isolated life. Is that it?"

"No, it is not," he answered earnestly. "My stay here has been a
pleasure, and out of it I hope will grow something deeper--a happiness."

The feeling in the words made her look at him quickly. His eyes met her
own, with some meaning back of their warmth that she did not understand.
Nine girls out of ten would have thought the words and manner suggestive
of a love declaration and would at once have dropped their eyes in the
prettiest air of confusion and been becomingly fluttered; but Rachel was
the tenth, and her eyes were remarkably steady as she returned his
glance with one of inquiry, reached for another biscuit, and said:

"Yes?"

But the low tones and his earnestness had not escaped two pairs of eyes
at the table--those of Mistress Tillie and Master Jim--both of them
coming to about the same conclusion in the matter, the one that Rachel
was flirting, and the other that Stuart "had a bad case of spoons."

Many were the expostulations when, after breakfast, Hardy's guest
informed him that his exit from their circle was likely to be almost as
abrupt as his entrance had been. In vain was there held out to him the
sport of their proposed hunt--every persuasive argument was met with a
regretful refusal.

"I am sorry to put aside that pleasure," he answered; "but, to tell the
truth, I scarcely realized how far the season has advanced. The snow
will soon be deep in the mountains, they tell me, and before that time I
must get across the country to Fort Owens. It is away from a railroad
far enough to make awkward travel in bad weather, and I realize that the
time is almost past when I can hope for dry days and sunshine; so,
thinking it over last night, I felt I had better start as early as
possible."

"You know nothing of the country in that direction?" asked Hardy.

"No more than I did of this; but an old school-fellow of mine is one of
the officers there--Captain Sneath. I have not seen him for years, but
can not consider my trip up here complete without visiting him; so, you
see--"

"Better fight shy o' that territory," advised Andrews, chipping in with
a cowboy's brief say-so. "Injun faction fights all through thar, an'
it's risky, unless ye go with a squad--a big chance to pack bullets."

"Then I shall have an opportunity of seeing life there under the most
stirring circumstances," replied Stuart in smiling unconcern, "for in
time of peace a military post is about the dullest place one can find."

"To be sure," agreed his adviser, eyeing him dubiously; "an' if ye find
yerself sort o' pinin' for the pomp o' war, as I heard an actor spoutin'
about once, in a theatre at Helena--well, down around Bitter Root River,
an' up the Nez Perce Fork, I reckon you'll find a plenty o' it jest
about this time o' year."

"And concluding as I have to leave at once," resumed Stuart, turning to
Hardy, "I felt like taking a ride up to MacDougall's for a good-bye. I
find myself interested in the old man, and would not like to leave
without seeing him again."

"I rather think I've got to stay home to-day," said his host ruefully,
"else I would go with you, but--"

"Not a word of your going," broke in Stuart; "do you think I've located
here for the purpose of breaking up your routine of stock and
agricultural schemes? Not a bit of it! I'm afraid, as it is, your
hospitality has caused them to suffer; so not a word of an escort. I
wouldn't take a man from the place, so--"

"What about a woman?" asked Rachel, with a challenging glance that was
full of mischief. For a moment he looked at a loss for a reply, and she
continued: "Because I don't mind taking a ride to Davy MacDougall's my
own self. As you say, the sunny days will be few now, and I may not have
another chance for weeks; so here I am, ready to guide you, escort you,
and guard you with my life."

What was there left for the man to say?

"What possessed you to go to-day, Rachel?" asked Tillie dubiously. "Do
you think it is quite--"

"Oh, yes, dear--quite," returned that young lady confidently; "and you
need not assume that anxious air regarding either the proprieties or my
youthful affections, for, to tell the truth, I am impelled to go through
sheer perversity; not because your latest favorite wants me, but simply
because he does not."

Twenty minutes after her offer they were mounted and clattering away
over the crisp bronze turf. To Stuart the task of entertaining a lady
whose remarks to him seldom verged from the ironical was anything but a
sinecure--more, it was easy to see that he was unused to it; and an
ungallant query to himself was: "Why did she come, anyway?" He had not
heard her reply to Tillie.

The air was crisp and cold enough to make their heavy wraps a comfort,
especially when they reached the higher land; the sun was showing
fitfully, low-flying, skurrying clouds often throwing it in eclipse.

"Snow is coming," prophesied the girl, with a weather-eye to the north,
where the sky was banking up in pale-gray masses; "perhaps not heavy
enough to impede your trip south, to Owens, but that bit over there
looks like a visiting-card of winter."

"How weather-wise you are!" he observed. "Now I had noticed not the
slightest significance in all that; in fact, you seem possessed of
several Indian accomplishments--their wood-lore, their language, their
habit of going to nature instead of an almanac; and did not Mrs. Hardy
say you knew some Indian songs? Who taught you them?"

"Songs came near getting us into a civil war at breakfast," she
observed, "and I am not sure that the ground is any more safe around
Indian than Scotch ones."

"There is something more substantial of the former race" he said,
pointing ahead.

It was the hulking figure of a Siwash, who had seen them first and tried
to dodge out of sight, and failing, halted at the edge of a little
stream.

"Hostile?" queried Stuart, relying more on his companion's knowledge
than his own; but she shook her head.

"No; from the Reservation, I suppose. He doesn't look like a blanket
brave. We will see."

Coming within speaking distance, she hailed him across the divide of the
little stream, and got in reply what seemed to Stuart an inextricable
mass of staccatos and gutturals.

"He is a Kootenai," she explained, "and wants to impress on our minds
that is a good Indian."

"He does not look good for much," was the natural remark of the white
man, eyeing Mr. Kootenai critically; "even on his native heath he is not
picturesque."

"No--poor imp!" agreed the girl, "with winter so close, their concern is
more how they are to live than how they appear to people who have no
care for them."

She learned he was on his way south to the Flathead Reservation; so he
had evidently solved the question of how he intended living for the
winter, at all events. He was, however, short of ammunition. When Rachel
explained his want, Stuart at once agreed to give him some.

"Don't be in a hurry!" advised his commander-in-chief; "wait until we
know how it is that he has no ammunition, and so short a distance from
his tribe. An Indian can always get that much if he is not too lazy to
hunt or trap, or is not too much of a thief."

But she found the noble red man too proud to answer many questions of a
squaw. The fear however, of hostilities from the ever-combative
Blackfeet seemed to be the chief moving cause.

"Rather a weak-backed reason," commented Rachel; "and I guess you can
dig roots from here to the Reservation. No powder, no shot."

"Squaw--papoose--sick," he added, as a last appeal to sympathy.

"Where?"

He waved a dirty hand up the creek.

"Go on ahead; show us where they are."

His hesitation was too slight to be a protest, but still there was a
hesitation, and the two glanced at each other as they noticed it.

"I don't believe there is either squaw or papoose," decided Stuart. "Lo
is a romancer."

But there was, huddled over a bit of fire, and holding in her arms a
little bundle of bronze flesh and blood. It was, as the Indian had said,
sick--paroxysms of shivers assailing it from time to time.

"Give me your whisky-flask!" Rachel said promptly; and dismounting, she
poured some in the tin cup at her saddle and set it on the fire--the
blue, sputtering flame sending the odor of civilization into the crisp
air. Cooling it to suit baby's lips, she knelt beside the squaw, who had
sat stolidly, taking no notice of the new-comers; but as the girl's hand
was reached to help the child she raised her head, and then Rachel knew
who she was.

[Illustration: Cooling it to suit baby's lips, she knelt beside the
squaw]

They did not speak, but after a little of the warm liquor had forced
itself down the slight throat, Rachel left the cup in the mother's
hands, and reached again for the whisky.

"You can get more from Davy MacDougall," she said, in a
half-conciliatory tone at this wholesale confiscation; "and--and you
might give him some ammunition--not much."

"What a vanishing of resolves!" he remarked, measuring out an allowance
of shot; "and all because of a copper-colored papoose. So you have a bit
of natural, womanly weakness?"

The girl did not answer; there was a certain air of elation about her as
she undid a scarf from her throat and wrapped it about the little morsel
of humanity.

"Go past the sheep ranch," she directed the passive warrior, who stood
gazing at the wealth in whisky and powder. "Do you know where it
is--Hardy's? Tell them I sent you--show them that," and she pointed to
the scarf; "tell them what you need for squaw and papoose; they will
find it."

Skulking Brave signified that he understood, and then led Betty toward
her.

"He is not very hospitable," she confided to Stuart, in the white man's
tongue, "else he would not be in such haste to get rid of us."

And although their host did not impress one as having a highly strung
nervous organization, yet his manner during their halt gave them the
idea that he was ill at ease. They did not tarry long, but having given
what help they could, rode away, lighter of whisky and ammunition, and
the girl, strange enough, seemed lighter of heart.

After they had reached a point high above the little creek, they turned
for a look over the country passed. It lay in brown and blue-gray
patches, with dashes of dark-green on the highlands, where the pines
grew.

"What is the white thing moving along that line of timber?" asked the
girl, pointing in the direction they had come. It was too far off to see
clearly, but with the aid of Stuart's field-glass, it was decided to be
the interesting family they had stopped with a little ways back. And the
white thing noticed was a horse they were riding. It was getting over
the ground at the fastest rate possible with its triple weight, for the
squaw was honored with a seat back of her lord.

"I imagined they were traveling on foot, didn't you?" asked Stuart.

"What a fool he was to steal a white horse!" remarked the girl
contemptuously; "he might know it would be spotted for miles."



CHAPTER IV.

A TRIO IN WITCHLAND.


The noon was passed when they reached the cabin on Scot's Mountain, and
found its owner on the point of leaving for the Maple range. But quickly
replacing his gun on its pegs, he uncovered the fire, set on the
coffee-pot, and, with Rachel's help, in a very short time had a
steaming-hot dinner of broiled bear steaks and "corn-dodgers," with the
additional delicacy of a bowl of honey from the wild bees' store.

"I have some laid by as a bit of a gift to Mr. Hardy's lady," he
confided to Rachel. "I found this fellow," tapping the steak, "in one o'
the traps as I was a-comin' my way home; an' the fresh honey on his paws
helped me smell out where he had spied it, and a good lot o' it there
was that Mr. Grizzly had na reached."

"See here," said Stuart, noting that, because of their visit, the old
man had relinquished all idea of going to the woods, "we must not
interfere with your plans, for at best we have but a short time to
stay." And then he explained the reason.

When the question of snow was taken into account, Davy agreed that
Stuart's decision was perhaps wise; but "he was main sorry o' the
necessity."

"An' it's to Owens ye be taken' the trail?" he asked. "Eh, but that's
curious now. I have a rare an' good friend thereabouts that I would be
right glad to send a word to; an' I was just about to take a look at his
tunnel an' the cabin, when ye come the day, just to see it was all as it
should be ere the snows set in."

"I should be delighted to be of any service to you," said Stuart warmly;
"and to carry a message is a very slight one. Who is your friend?"

"It's just the man Genesee, who used to be my neighbor. But he's left me
alone now these many months--about a year;" and he turned to Rachel for
corroboration.

"More than a year," she answered briefly.

"Well, it is now. I'm losin' track o' dates these late days; but you're
right, lass, an' the winter would ha' been ower lonely if it had na been
for yourself. Think o' that, Charlie Stuart: this slim bit o' womankind
substituting herself for a rugged build o' a man taller than you by a
half-head, an' wi' no little success, either. But," he added teasingly,
"ye owed me the debt o' your company for the sending o' him away; so ye
were only honest after all, Rachel Hardy."

Rachel laughed, thinking it easier, perhaps, to dispose of the question
thus than by any disclaimer--especially with the eyes of Stuart on her
as they were.

"You are growing to be a tease," she answered. "You will be saying I
sent Kalitan and Talapa, next."

"But Talapa has na gone from the hills?"

"Hasn't she? Well, I saw her on the trail, going direct south, this
morning, as fast as she could get over the ground, with a warrior and a
papoose as companions."

"Did ye now? Well, good riddance to them. They ha' been loafing around
the Kootenai village ever since I sent them from the cabin in the
summer. That Talapa was a sleepy-eyed bit o' old Nick. I told Genesee
that same from the first, when he was wasting his stock o' pity on her.
Ye see," he said, turning his speech to Stuart, "a full-blooded Siwash
has some redeeming points, and a character o' their own; but the
half-breeds are a part white an' a part red, with a good wheen o' the
devil's temper thrown in."

"She didn't appear to have much of the last this morning," observed
Rachel. "She looked pretty miserable."

"Ah, well, tak' the best o' them, an' they look that to the whites. An'
so they're flittin' to the Reservation to live off the Government?
Skulking Bob'll be too lazy to be even takin' the chance o' fightin'
with his people against the Blackfeet, if trouble should come; and
there's been many a straggler from the rebels makin' their way north to
the Blackfeet, an' that is like to breed mischief."

"And your friend is at Owens?"

"Yes--or thereabouts. One o' the foremost o' their scouts, they tell me,
an' a rare good one he is, with no prejudice on either side o' the
question."

"I should think, being a white man, his sympathies would lean toward his
own race," observed Stuart.

"Well, that's as may chance. There's many the man who finds his best
friends in strange blood. Genesee is thought no little of among the
Kootenais--more, most like, than he would be where he was born and bred.
Folk o' the towns know but little how to weigh a man."

"And is he from the cities?"

For the first time Davy MacDougall looked up quickly.

"I know not," he answered briefly, "an', not giving to you a short
answer, I care not. Few questions make long friends in the hills."

Stuart was somewhat nonplussed at the bluntness of the hint, and Rachel
was delighted.

"You see," she reminded him wickedly, "one can be an M. D., an L. S. D.,
or any of the annexations, without Kootenai people considering his
education finished. But look here, Davy MacDougall, we only ran up to
say 'klahowya,' and have got to get back to-night; so, if you are
going over to Tamahnous cabin, don't stop on our account; we can go
part of the way with you."

"But ye can go all the way, instead o' but a part, an' then no be out o'
your road either," he said, with eagerness that showed how loath he was
to part from his young companions. "Ye know," he added, turning to
Rachel, "it is but three miles by the cross-cut to Genesee's, while by
the valley ye would cover eight on the way. Now, the path o'er the hills
is no fit for the feet o' a horse, except it be at the best o' seasons;
but this is an ower good one, with neither the rain nor the ice; an' if
ye will risk it--"

Of course they would risk it; and with a draught apiece from an odorous,
dark-brown jug, and the gift of a flask that found its way to Stuart's
pocket, they started.

They needed that swallow of brandy as a brace against the cold wind of
the hills. It hustled through the pines like winged fiends let loose
from the north. Dried berries from the bushes and cones from the trees
were sent pattering to sleep for the winter, and the sighs through the
green roofing, and the moans from twisted limbs, told of the hardihood
needed for life up there. The idea impressed Stuart so much that he gave
voice to it, and was laughed at grimly by the old mountaineer.

"Oh, well, it just takes man to be man, an' that's all when all's said,"
he answered "To be sure, there be times when one canna stir for the snow
wreaths, but that's to be allowed for; an' then ye may ha' took note
that my cabin is in shelter o' all but the south wind, an' that's a
great matter. Men who live in the mountain maun get used to its frolics;
but it's an ugly bit," he acknowledged, as they stopped to rest and look
up over the seemingly pathless way they had come; "but I've been
thankful for it many's the time, when, unlooked for, Genesee and Mowitza
would show their faces at my door, an' she got so she could make that
climb in the dark--think o' that! Ah, but she was the wise one!"

Stuart glanced at Rachel, who was more likely than himself to understand
what was meant by the "wise one;" but he did not again venture a
question. Mowitza was another squaw, he supposed, and one of the
companions of the man Genesee. And the other one they had passed in the
morning?--her name also was connected with the scout whom the white girl
seemed to champion or condemn as the fancy pleased her. And Stuart, as a
stranger to the social system of the wilderness, had his curiosity
widely awakened. A good deal of it was directed to Rachel herself.
Hearing MacDougall speak of the man to her, he could understand that she
had no lack of knowledge in that direction--and the direction was one of
which the right sort of a girl was supposed to be ignorant; or, if not
ignorant, at least to conceal her wisdom in the wise way of her sisters.

This one did nothing of the sort; and the series of new impressions
received made him observe the girl with a scrutiny not so admiring as he
had always, until now, given her. He was irritated with himself that it
was so, yet his ideas of what a woman should be were getting some hard
knocks at her hands.

Suddenly the glisten of the little lake came to them through the gray
trunks of the trees, and a little later they had descended the series of
small circular ridges that terraced the cove from the timber to the
waters, that was really not much more than an immense spring that
happened to bubble up where there was a little depression to spread
itself in and show to advantage.

"But a mill would be turned easily by that same bit o' water," observed
MacDougall; "an' there's where Genesee showed the level head in locating
his claim where he did."

"It looks like wasted power, placed up here," observed Stuart, "for it
seems about the last place in Christendom for a mill."

"Well, so it may look to many a pair o' eyes," returned the old man,
with a wink and a shrug that was indescribable, but suggested a vast
deal of unuttered knowledge; "but the lad who set store by it because o'
the water-power was a long ways from a fool, I can tell ye."

Again Stuart found himself trying to count the spokes of some shadowy
wheels within wheels that had a trick of eluding him; and he felt
irritatingly confident that the girl looking at him with quizzical,
non-committal eyes could have enlightened him much as to the absent
ruler of this domain, who, according to her own words, was utterly
degraded, yet had a trick of keeping his personality such a living thing
after a year's absence.

The cabin was cold with the chill dreariness of any house that is left
long without the warmth of an embodied human soul. Only the wandering,
homeless spirits of the air had passed in and out, in and out of its
chinks, sighing through them for months, until, on entrance, one felt an
intuitive, sympathetic shiver for their loneliness.

A fire was soon crackling on the hearth; but the red gleams did not
dance so merrily on the rafters as they had the first time she had been
warmed at the fire-place--the daylight was too merciless a rival. It
penetrated the corners and showed up the rude bunk and some mining
implements; from a rafter hung a roll of skins done up in bands of some
pliable withes.

Evidently Genesee's injunction had been obeyed, for even the pottery,
and reed baskets, and bowls still shone from the box of shelves.

"It's a mystery to me those things are not stolen by the Indians,"
observed Stuart, noticing the lack of any fastening on the door, except
a bar on the inside.

"There's no much danger o' that," said the old man grimly, "unless it be
by a Siwash who knows naught o' the country. The Kootenai people would
do no ill to Genesee, nor would any Injun when he lives in the
Tamahnous ground."

"What territory is that?"

"Just the territory o' witchcraft--no less. The old mine and the spring,
with the circle o' steps down to it, they let well alone, I can tell ye;
and as for stealin', they'd no take the worth o' a tenpenny nail from
between the two hills that face each other, an' the rocks o' them 'gives
queer echoes that they canna explain. Oh, yes, they have their witches,
an' their warlocks, an' enchanted places, an' will no go against their
belief, either."

"But," said Rachel, with a slight hesitation, "Talapa was not afraid to
live here."

"An' did ye not know, then, that she was not o' Kootenai stock?" asked
the old man. "Well, she was not a bit o' it; Genesee bought her of a
beast of a Blackfoot."

"Bought her?" asked Stuart, and even Rachel opened her eyes in
attention--perhaps, after all, not knowing so much as the younger man
had angrily given her credit for.

"Just that; an' dear she would ha' been at most any price. But she was a
braw thing to look at, an' young enough to be sorry o'er. An' so when he
come across her takin' a beating like a mule he could na stand it; an'
the only way he could be sure o' putting an end to it was by maken' a
bargain; an' that's just what he did, an' a'most afore he had time to
take thought, the girl was his, an' he had to tek her with him. Well,"
and the old man laughed comically at the remembrance, "you should ha'
seen him at the comin' home!--tried to get her off his hands by leavin'
her an' a quitclaim at my cabin; but I'd have none o' that--no
half-breed woman could stay under a roof o' mine; an' the finish o' it
was he hed to bring her here to keep house for him, an' a rueful
commencement it was. Then it was but a short while 'til he got hurt one
day in the tunnel, an' took a deal o' care before he was on his feet
again. Well, ye know womankind make natural nurses, an' by the time she
had him on the right trail again he had got o' the mind that Talapa was
a necessity o' the cabin; an' so ye may know she stayed."

"In what tunnel was he injured?" asked Stuart.

"Why, just--"

"There's your horse ranging calmly up toward the timber," observed
Rachel, turning from the window to Stuart. "Do you want to walk to the
ranch?"

"Well, not to-day;" and a moment later he was out of the door and
running across the terraced meadow.

"Don't tell him too much about the tunnel," suggested the girl, when she
and the old man were alone.

"Why, lass,"--he began; but she cut him short brusquely, keeping her eye
on the form on the hill-side.

"Oh, he may be all right; but it isn't like you, Davy MacDougall, to
tell all you know to strangers, even if they do happen to have Scotch
names--you clannish old goose!"

"But the lad's all right."

"May be he is; but you've told him enough of the hills now to send him
away thinking we are all a rather mixed and objectionable lot. Oh, yes,
he does too!" as Davy tried to remonstrate. "I don't care how much you
tell him about the Indians; but that tunnel may have something in it
that Genesee wouldn't want Eastern speculators spying into while he's
away--do you see?"

Evidently he did, and the view was not one flattering to his judgment,
for, in order to see more clearly, he took off his fur cap, scratched
his head, and then replacing the covering with a great deal of energy,
he burst out:

"Well, damn a fool, say I."

Rachel paid not the slightest attention to this profane plea.

"I suppose he's all right," she continued; "only when somebody's
interest is at stake, especially a friend's, we oughtn't to take things
for granted, and keeping quiet hurts no one, unless it be a stranger's
curiosity."

The old man looked at her sharply. "Ye dinna like him, then?"

She hesitated, her eyes on the tall form leading back the horse. Just
then there seemed a strange likeness to Mowitza and Genesee in their
manner, for the beast was tossing its head impatiently, and he was
laughing, evidently teasing it with the fact of its capture.

"Yes, I do like him," she said at last; "there is much about him to
like. But we must not give away other people's affairs because of that."

"Right you are, my lass," answered Davy; "an' it's rare good sense ye
show in remindin' me o' the same. It escapes me many's the time that
he's a bit of a stranger when all's said; an' do ye know, e'en at the
first he had no the ways of a stranger to me. I used to fancy that
something in his build, or it may ha' been but the voice, was like to--"

"You are either too old or not old enough to have fancies, Davy
MacDougall," interrupted the girl briskly, as Stuart re-entered. "Well,
is it time to be moving?"

He looked at his watch.

"Almost; but come to the fire and get well warmed before we start. I
believe it grows colder; here, take this seat."

"Well, I will not," she answered, looking about her; "don't let your
gallantry interfere with your comfort, for I've a chair of my own when I
visit this witchy quarter of the earth--yes, there it is."

And from the corner by the bunk she drew forward the identical chair on
which she had sat through the night at her only other visit. But from
her speech Stuart inferred that this time was but one of the many.

"What are you going to do here, Davy MacDougall?" she asked, drawing her
chair close beside him and glancing comprehensively about the cabin;
"weather-board it up for winter?"

"Naw, scarcely that," he answered good-humoredly; "but just to gather up
the blankets or skins or aught that the weather or the rats would lay
hold of, and carry them across the hills to my own camp till the spring
comes; mayhaps he may come with it."

The hope in his voice was not very strong, and the plaintiveness in it
was stronger than he knew. The other two felt it, and were silent.

"An' will ye be tellin' him for me," he continued, after a little, to
Stuart, "that all is snug an' safe, an' that I'll keep them so, an' a
welcome with them, against his return? An' just mention, too, that his
father, Grey Eagle, thinks the time is long since he left, an' that the
enemy--Time--is close on his trail. An'--an' that the day he comes back
will be holiday in the hills."

"The last from Grey Eagle or yourself?" asked Stuart teasingly. But the
girl spoke up, covering the old man's momentary hesitation.

"From me," she said coolly; "if any name is needed to give color to so
general a desire, you can use mine."

His face flushed; he looked as if about to speak to her, but, instead,
his words were to MacDougall.

"I will be very glad to carry the word to your friend," he said; "it is
but a light weight."

"Yes, I doubt na it seems so to the carrier, but I would no think it so
light a thing to ha' word o' the lad. We ha' been neighbors, ye see,
this five year, with but little else that was civilized to come near us.
An' there's a wide difference atween neighbors o' stone pavements an'
neighbors o' the hills--a fine difference."

"Yes, there is," agreed the girl; and from their tones one would gather
the impression that all the splendors of a metropolis were as nothing
when compared with the luxuries of "shack" life in the "bush."

"Can ye hit the trail down at the forks without me along?" asked
MacDougall, with a sudden remembrance of the fact that Rachel did not
know the way so well from the "Place of the Tamahnous" as she did from
Scot's Mountain. She nodded her head independently.

"I can, Davy MacDougall. And you are paying me a poor compliment when
you ask me so doubtfully. I've been prowling through the bush enough for
this past year to know it for fifty miles around, instead of twenty. And
now if your highness thinks we've had our share of this fire, let us
'move our freight,' 'hit the breeze,' or any other term of the woolly
West that means action, and get up and git."

"I am at your service," answered Stuart, with a graciousness of manner
that made her own bravado more glaring by contrast. He could see she
assumed much for the sake of mischief and irritation to himself; and his
tone in reply took an added intonation of refinement; but the hint was
lost on her--she only laughed.

"I tell you what it is, Davy MacDougall," she remarked to that
gentleman, "this slip of your nation has been planted in the wrong
century. He belongs to the age of lily-like damsels in sad-colored
frocks, and knights of high degree on bended knee and their armor hung
to the rafters. I get a little mixed in my dates sometimes, but believe
it was the age when caps and bells were also in fashion."

"Dinna mind her at all," advised the old man; "she'd be doin' ye a good
turn wi' just as ready a will as she would mak' sport o' ye. Do I not
know her?--ah, but I do!"

"So does the Stuart," said Rachel; "and as for doing him a good turn, I
proved my devotion in that line this morning, when I saved him from a
lonely, monotonous ride--didn't I?" she added, glancing up at him.

"You look positively impish," was the only reply he made; and returning
her gaze with one that was half amusement, half vexation, he went out
for the horses.

"You see, he didn't want me at all, Davy MacDougall," confided the girl,
and if she felt any chagrin she concealed it admirably. "But they've
been talking some about Genesee down at the ranch, and--and Stuart's
interest was aroused. I didn't know how curious he might be--Eastern
folks are powerful so"--and in the statement and adoption of vernacular
she seemed to forget how lately she was of the East herself; "and I
concluded he might ask questions, or encourage you to talk about--well,
about the tunnel, you know; so I just came along to keep the trail free
of snags--see?"

The old man nodded, and watched her in a queer, dubious way; as she
turned, a moment later, to speak to Stuart at the door, she noticed it,
and laughed.

"You think I'm a bit loony, don't you, Davy MacDougall? Well, I forgive
you. May be, some day, you'll see I'm not on a blind trail. Come and see
us soon, and give me a chance to prove my sanity."

"Strange that any mind could doubt it," murmured Stuart. "Come, we
haven't time for proofs of the question now. Good-bye, MacDougall; take
care of yourself for the winter. Perhaps I'll get back in the summer to
see how well you have done so."

A hearty promise of welcome, a hand-clasp, a few more words of
admonition and farewell, and then the two young people rode away across
the ground deemed uncanny by the natives; and the old man went back to
his lonely task.

On reaching the ranch at dusk, it was Rachel who was mildly hilarious,
seeming to have changed places with the gay chanter of the dawn. He was
not sulky, but something pretty near it was in his manner, and rather
intensified under Miss Hardy's badinage.

She told the rest how he divided his whisky with the squaw; hinted at a
fear that he intended adopting the papoose; gave them an account of the
conversation between himself and Skulking Brave; and otherwise made
their trip a subject for ridicule.

"Did you meet with Indians?" asked Tillie, trying to get the girl down
to authentic statements.

"Yes, my dear, we did, and I sent them home to you--or told them to
come; but they evidently had not time for morning calls."

"Were they friendly?"

"Pretty much--enough so to ask for powder and shot. None of the men
sighted them?"

"No."

"And no other Indians?"

"No--why?"

"Only that I would not like Talapa to be roughly unhorsed."

"Talapa! Why, Rachel, that's--"

"Yes, of course it is--with a very promising family in tow. Say, suppose
you hustle Aunty up about that supper, won't you? And have her give the
Stuart something extra nice; he has had a hard day of it."



CHAPTER V.

A VISIT IN THE NIGHT-TIME.

    Yahka kelapie.


The snows had dropped a soft cloak over the Kootenai hills, and buried
the valleys in great beds of crystallized down. Rachel's prophecy had
proven a true one, for the clouds that day had been a visiting-card from
winter.

That day was two weeks gone now; so was Stuart's leave-taking, and at
the ranch life had dropped into the old lines, but with an impression of
brightness lost. Miss Margaret had not yet got over the habit of turning
quickly if anyone entered the room, and showing her disappointment in a
frown when it was not the one looked for.

Aunty Luce declared she "nevah did see a chile so petted on one who
wasn't no kin."

All of them discovered they had been somewhat "petted" on the genial
nature. Again the evenings were passed with magazines or cards; during
his stay they had revived the primitive custom of taking turns telling
stories, and in that art Stuart had proven himself a master, sometimes
recounting actual experiences of self or friends, again giving voice to
some remembered gem of literature; but, whatever the theme, it was given
life, through the sympathetic tendencies of the man who had so much the
timber of an actor--or rather an artist--the spirit that tends to
reproduce or create.

If Rachel missed him, she kept quiet about it, and ridiculed the rest if
any regrets came to her ears. No one minded that much; Rachel ridiculed
everyone--even herself. Sometimes she thought Fate seemed more than
willing to help her. One night, two weeks after that ride from the
"Place of the Tamahnous," she was struck with a new conviction of the
fact.

Andrews had gone to Holland's for the mail and domestic miscellany. A
little after sun-up he had started, and the darkness was three hours
old, and yet no sign or sound. The rest had finally given up the idea of
getting any letters that night, and had gone to bed. As usual,
Rachel--the night-owl of the family--was left the last guard at the warm
hearth. Upstairs she could hear Jim's voice in the "boys'" room, telling
Ivans some exploit whose character was denoted by one speech that made
its way through the ceiling of pine boards:

"Yes, sir; my horse left his'n half a length behind every time it hit
the ground."

Ivans grunted. Evidently he had listened to recitals from the same
source before, and was too tired for close attention; anyway, the
remarks of this Truthful James drifted into a monologue, and finally
into silence, and no sound of life was left in the house.

She had been reading a book Stuart had sent back to her by Hardy, the
day he left. She wondered a little why, for he had never spoken of it to
her. It was a novel, a late publication, and by an author whose name she
had seen affixed to magazine work; and the charm in it was
undeniable--the charm of quiet hearts and restful pictures, that proved
the writer a lover of the tender, sympathetic tones of life, rather than
the storms and battles of human emotions.

It held the girl with a puzzling, unusual interest--one that in spite of
her would revert from the expressed thoughts on the paper to the
personality of the man who had sent it to her, and she found in many
instances, a mystifying likeness.

She sat there thinking drowsily over it, and filled with the conviction
that it was really time to go to bed; but the big chair was so
comfortable, and the little simmer of the burning wood was like a
lullaby, and she felt herself succumbing, without the slightest
rebellion, to the restful influence. She was aroused by the banging of a
door somewhere, and decided that Andrews had at last returned; and
remembering the number of things he had to bring in, concluded to go out
and help him. Her impulse was founded as much on economy as generosity,
for the late hour was pretty good proof that Andrews was comfortably
drunk--also that breakages were likely to be in order.

It was cloudy--only the snow gave light; the air was not cold, but had
in it the softness of rain. Over it she walked quickly, fully awakened
by the thought of the coffee getting a bath of vinegar, or the mail
mucilaged together with molasses.

"Oh, here you are at last!" she remarked, in that inane way people have
when they care not whether you are here or in the other place. "You took
your own time."

"Well, I didn't take any other fellow's!" returned the man from the dark
corner where he was unsaddling the horse.

Andrews was usually very obsequious to Miss Rachel, and she concluded he
must be pretty drunk.

"I came out to help you with the things," she remarked from her post in
the door-way; "where are they?"

"I've got 'em myself," came the gruff tones again from the corner. "I
reckon I'll manage without help. You'd better skip for the house--you'll
catch cold likely."

"Why, it isn't cold--are you? I guess Aunty left a lunch for you. I'll
go and warm the coffee."

She started, and then stopped.

"Say, did you get any letters for me?"

"No."

With a grumble about her ill-luck, she started back toward the house,
the late arrival following a little ways behind with something over his
shoulder. Once she looked back.

"I rather think Andrews gets on dignified drunks," she soliloquized; "he
is walking pretty straight, anyway."

She set the coffee-pot on the coals and glanced at the bundle he had
dropped just inside the door--it was nothing but a blanket and a saddle.

"Well, upon my word!" she began, and rose to her feet; but she did not
say any more, for, in turning to vent her displeasure on Andrews, she
was tongue-tied by the discovery that it was not he who had followed her
from the stable.

"Genesee!" she breathed, in a tone a little above a whisper. "Alah mika
chahko!"

She was too utterly astonished either to move toward him or offer her
hand; but the welcome in her Indian words was surely plain enough for
him to understand. It was just like him, however, not to credit it, and
he smiled a grim understanding of his own, and walked over to a chair.

"Yes, that's who it is," he remarked. "I am sorry, for the sake of your
hopes, that it isn't the other fellow; but--here I am."

He had thrown his hat beside him and leaned back in the big chair,
shutting his eyes sleepily. She had never seen him look so tired.

"Tillikum, I am glad to see you again," she said, going to him and
holding out her hand. He smiled, but did not open his eyes.

"It took you a long time to strike that trail," he observed. "What
brought you out to the stable?"

"I thought you were Andrews, and that you were drunk and would break
things."

"Oh!"

"And I am glad to see you, Jack."

He opened his eyes then. "Thank you, little girl. That is a good thing
for a man to hear, and I believe you. Come here. It was a good thing for
me to get that word from Kalitan, too. I reckon you know all that,
though, or you wouldn't have sent it."

She did not answer, but stooped to lift the pot of coffee back from the
blaze. The action recalled him to the immediate practical things, and he
said:

"Think I can stay all night here?"

"I don't know of any reason to prevent it."

"Mowitza was used up, and I wanted a roof for her; but I didn't allow to
come to the house myself."

"Where would you have slept?"

"In my blanket, on the hay."

"Just as if we would let you do that on our place!"

"No one would have known it if you had kept away from the stable, and in
your bed, where you ought to be."

"Shall I go there at once, or pour your coffee first?"

"A cup of coffee would be a treat; I'm dead tired."

The coffee was drank, and the lunch for Andrews was appropriated for
Genesee.

"Have you come back to the Kootenai country for good?" she asked, after
furnishing him with whatever she could find in the pantry without
awakening the rest.

"I don't know--it may be for bad," he replied doubtfully. "I've taken
the trail north to sound any tribes that are hostile, and if troops are
needed they are to follow me."

"Up into this country?"

"I reckon so. Are you afraid of fighting?"

She did not answer. A new idea, a sudden remembrance, had superseded
that of Indian warfare.

"How long since you left Fort Owens?" she asked.

"Fifteen days. Why?"

"A friend of MacDougall's started in that direction about two weeks ago.
Davy sent a kind message by him; but you must have passed it on the
way."

"Likely; I've been in the Flathead country, and that's wide of the trail
to Owens. Who was the man?"

"His name is Stuart."

He set the empty cup down, and looked in the fire for a moment with a
steadiness that made the girl doubt if he had either heard or noticed;
but after a little he spoke.

"What was that you said?"

"That the man's name was Stuart."

"Young or old?"

"Younger than you."

"And he has gone to Fort Owens?"

"Started for there, I said."

"Oh! then you haven't much faith in a tenderfoot getting through the
hostiles or snow-banks?"

"How do you know he is a tenderfoot?"

He glanced up; she was looking at him with as much of a question in her
eyes as her words.

"Well, I reckon I don't," he answered, picking up his hat as if to end
the conversation. "I knew a man called Stuart once, but I don't know
this one. Now, have you any pressing reason for loafing down here any
longer? If not, I'll take my blanket and that lounge and get some sleep.
I've been thirty-six hours in the saddle."

In vain she tried to prevail on him to go upstairs and go to bed
"right."

"This is right enough for me," he answered, laying his hat and gloves on
a table and unfastening his spurs. "No, I won't go up to the men's room.
Good-night."

"But, Jack--look here--"

"I can't--too sleepy to look anywhere, or see if I did look;" and his
revolvers and belt were laid beside the growing collection on the table.

"But Hen will scold me for not giving you better lodging."

"Then he and another man will have a shooting-match before breakfast
to-morrow. Are you going?"

He was beginning to deliberately unfasten his neck-gear of scarlet and
bronze. She hesitated, as if to make a final protest, but failed and
fled; and as the door closed behind her, she heard another half-laughing
"Klahowya!"

Early in the morning she was down-stairs, to find Aunty Luce half wild
with terror at the presence of a stranger who had taken possession of
the sitting-room during the night.

"Cain't see his face for the blanket, honey," she whispered shrilly,
"but he's powerful big; an'--an' just peep through the door at the guns
and things--it's wah times right ovah again, shueh as I'm tellen' yo',
chile."

"Be quiet, Aunty, and get breakfast; it's a friend of ours."

"Hi-yi! I know all 'bout them kind o' friends, honey; same kind as comes
South in wah times, a trampen' into houses o' quality folks an sleepen'
whah they liked, an' callen' theyselves friends. He's a moven'
now!--less call the folks!"

The attempted yell was silenced by Rachel clapping her hand over the
full lips and holding her tightly.

"Don't be a fool!" she admonished the old woman impatiently. "I let the
man in last night; it's all right. Go and get him a good breakfast."

Aunty Luce eyed the girl as if she thought her a conspirator against the
safety of the house, and despite precautions, managed to slip upstairs
to Tillie with a much-garbled account of thieves in the night, and
wartimes, and tramps, and Miss Rache.

Much mystified, the little woman dressed quickly, and came down the
stairs to find her husband shaking hands quite heartily with Genesee.
Instantly she forgot the multitudinous reasons there were for banning
him from the bosom of one's family, and found herself telling him he was
very welcome.

"I reckon in your country a man would wait to hear someone say that
before stowing his horse in their stables, or himself in their beds," he
observed.

His manner was rather quiet, but one could see that the heartiness of
their greeting was a great pleasure, and, it may be, a relief.

"Do you call that a bed?" asked Tillie, with contemptuous warmth. "I do
think, Mr. Genesee, you might have wakened some of us, and given us a
chance to treat a guest to something better."

"I suppose, then, I am not counted in with the family," observed Rachel,
meekly, from the background. "I was on hand to do the honors, but wasn't
allowed to do them. I even went to the stable to receive the late-comer,
and was told to skip into the house, and given a general understanding
that I interfered with his making himself comfortable in the hay-mow."

"Did she go out there at night, and alone, after we were all in bed?"
And Tillie's tone indicated volumes of severity.

"Yes," answered Genesee; for Rachel, with a martyr-like manner, said
nothing, and awaited her lecture; "she thought it was your man Andrews."

"Yes, and she would have gone just as quickly if it had been
Indians--or--or--anybody. She keeps me nervous half the time with her
erratic ways."

"I rather think she's finding fault with me for giving you that coffee
and letting you sleep on the lounge," said Rachel; and through Tillie's
quick disclaimer her own short-comings were forgotten, at least for the
time. The little matron's caution, that always lagged woefully behind
her impulse, obtruded itself on her memory several times before the
breakfast was over; and thinking of the reasons why a man of such
character should not be received as a friend by ladies, especially
girls, she was rather glad when she heard him say he was to push on into
the hills as soon as possible.

"I only stopped last night because I had to; Mowitza and I were both
used up. I was trying to make MacDougall's, but when I crossed the trail
to your place, I reckoned we would fasten to it--working through the
snow was telling on her; but she is all right this morning."

Rachel told him of her visit to the old man, and his care of the cabin
on the Tamahnous ground; of rumors picked up from the Kootenai tribe
as to the chance of trouble with the Blackfeet, and many notes that were
of interest to this hunter of feeling on the Indian question. He
commented on her Chinook, of which she had gained considerable knowledge
in the past year, and looked rather pleased when told it had been gained
from Kalitan.

"You may see him again if I have to send for troops up here, and it
looks that way now," he remarked, much to the terror and satisfaction of
Aunty Luce, who was a house divided against itself in her terror of
Indian trouble and her desire to prove herself a prophetess.

Jim was all anticipation. After a circus or a variety show, nothing had
for him the charm that was exerted by the prospect of a fight; but his
hopes in that direction were cooled by the scout's statement that the
troops were not coming with the expectation of war, but simply to show
the northern tribes its futility, and that the Government was
strengthening its guard for protection all along the line.

"Then yer only ringin' in a bluff on the hostiles!" ventured the
sanguinary hopeful disgustedly. "I counted on business if the 'yaller'
turned out," meaning by the "yaller" the cavalry, upon whose
accoutrements the yellow glints show.

"Never mind, sonny," said Genesee; "if we make a bluff, it won't be on
an empty hand. But I must take the trail again, and make up for time
lost in sleep here."

"When may we look for you back?"

It was Hardy who spoke, but something had taken the free-heartiness out
of his tones; he looked just a trifle uncomfortable. Evidently Tillie
had been giving him a hint of second thoughts, and while trying to adopt
them they fitted his nature too clumsily not to be apparent.

His guest, however, had self-possession enough for both.

"Don't look for me," he advised, taking in the group with a
comprehensive glance; "that is, don't hurt the sight of your eyes in the
business; the times are uncertain, and I reckon I'm more uncertain than
the times. I'm obliged to you for the sleep last night, and the cover
for Mowitza. If I can ever do you as good a turn, just sing out."

Hardy held out his hand impulsively. "You did a heap more for us a year
ago, for which we never had a chance to make return," he said in his
natural, hearty manner.

"Oh, yes, you have had," contradicted Rachel's cool tones from the
porch; "you have the chance now."

Genesee darted one quick glance at her face. Something in it was
evidently a compensation, and blotted out the bitterness that had crept
into his last speech, for with a freer manner he took the proffered
hand.

"That's all right," he said easily. "I was right glad of the trip
myself, so it wasn't any work; but at the present speaking the days are
not picnic days, and I must 'git.' Good-bye, Mrs. Hardy, good-bye;
boys."

Then he turned in his saddle and looked at Rachel.
"Klahowya--tillikum," he said, lifting his hat in a final farewell to
all.

But in the glance toward her she felt he had said "thank you" as plainly
as he had in the Indian language called her "friend."

"Oh, dear!" said Tillie, turning into the house as he rode away. "I wish
the man had staid away, or else that we had known more about him when we
first met him. It is very awkward to change one's manner to him,
and--and yet it seems the only thing to do."

"Certainly," agreed Rachel, with an altogether unnecessary degree of
contempt, "it is the only thing for you to do."

Tillie sat down miserably under this stroke, the emphasis denoting very
plainly the temper of the speaker.

"Oh, don't be ugly, Rache," she begged. "I really feel wretched about
it. I thought at first all the freedom of social laws out here was so
nice but it isn't. It has a terrible side to it, when the greatest scamp
is of as much account as the finest gentleman, and expects to be
received on the same footing. He--he had no right to come imposing on us
at the first;" and with this addition to her defense, Tillie tried to
ensconce herself behind the barricade of injured faith, but feeling that
her protests were only weakening her argument.

"To the best of my recollection," said the girl, with a good deal of the
supercilious in her manner, "he neither came near us nor advanced any
desire for friendship on his own account. We hunted him up, and insisted
on talking natural history and singing songs with him, and pressing on
him many invitations to visit us, invitations which he avoided
accepting. He was treated, not as an equal of the other gentlemen, but
as a superior; and I believe it is the only time we ever did him
justice."

"Yes, he did seem very nice in those days; but you see it was all false
pretense. Think of the life that he had come from, and that he went back
to! It's no use talking, Rachel--there is only a right way and a wrong
way in this world. He has shown his choice, and self-respecting people
can only keep rid of him as much as possible. I don't like to hurt his
feelings, but it makes it very awkward for us that we have accepted any
favors from him."

"The obligation rests rather lightly on your shoulders to cause you much
fretting," said the girl bitterly; "and he thought so much of you,
too--so much."

Her voice, that began so calmly, ended a little uncertainly, and she
walked out of the door.

Hardy, coming in a moment later, found Tillie divided between penitence
and pettishness, and fighting her way to comfort through tears.

"I know I'm right, Hen, about the whole question," she whimpered, when
safely perched on the stronghold of his knee, "and that is what makes it
so aggravating."

"To know you're right?"

"No; but to have Rachel, who knows she is in the wrong, take that
high-handed way about the affair, and end up by making me feel ashamed.
Yes, she did, Hen--just that. I felt so ashamed I cried, and yet I knew
I was right all the time--now what are you laughing at?"



CHAPTER VI.

NEIGHBORS OF THE NORTH PARK.


Reveille! Boots and saddles! Taps!

About the Hardy ranch the changes were rung on all those notes of camp,
from early morn till dewy eve, by the melodious imitations of Jim.

Stories of grizzlies and black bear had grown passé; even the more
rare accounts of wild horses spotted in some secluded valley failed to
stir his old-time interest. All else had drifted into nothingness to
him, for the "yaller" had come.

It had been stationed in the North Park for ten days--days of wild
commotion at the ranch, for North Park was only two miles away,
following the little branch of Missoula Creek that flowed north to the
Kootenai River. The necessary errands to and fro between the two points
of residence were multitudinous, for Jim could never remember but one
thing at a time of late; and the retraced steps he took would have tired
out anyone less curious. He was disappointed, at first, to find that
only one company had been sent up to guard the gate into the Kootenai
country. It did not look as if they feared any outbreak or active
service, and if it had not been in the most miserable of seasons, they
would have had much the appearance of a pleasure party; but the rains
were in the valleys and the snows were on the hills, and camp life under
those circumstances is a breeder of rayless monotony.

"And your ranch up here has proved the oasis in our desert," declared
Fred Dreyer in a burst of gratitude to Rachel, just as if the locating
of the sheep farm in that particular part of the world was due to the
sagacity and far-sightedness of Miss Hardy; "and when Mr. Stuart told us
at the Fort that we should have so charming a neighbor, I wanted to
throw up my plate and give three cheers. We were at mess--at dinner, I
mean. But I restrained my enthusiasm, because my leave to come along was
only provisional at that time, and depended on my good behavior; but
once here, my first impulse was to give you a big hug instead of the
conventional hand-shake, for there are no girls at the Fort, and I was
hungry for the sight of one."

It was not, as one may suppose, one of the uniformed warriors of the
camp who expressed himself with this enthusiasm, though several looked
as if they would like to, but it was the most petite little creature in
petticoats--to her own disgust; and to mitigate the femininity of them
as much as possible, they were of regular army blue, their only trimming
belt and bands of the "yaller," an adornment Jim openly envied her, and
considered senseless when wasted on a girl. She was Miss Frederick
Dreyer, the daughter of Major Dreyer, of the Fort, and the sweetheart of
most of the men in it, from the veterans down.

"They all think they own me," she confided plaintively to Rachel, "just
because I'm little. It's only a year and a half since they quit calling
me 'Baby Fred'--think of that! When you're owned by a whole regiment,
it's so hard to gather up any dignity, or keep it if you do get hold of
it; don't you think so?"

"I have had no experience in that line," answered Rachel. "You see I
have never been owned by a regiment, nor by anybody else."

"How delightfully independent you are!" and Miss Fred, encircled by
comrades, seemed really to envy the other her loneness in the world. "No
orderly forever on duty at your heels, and--"

"And no lieutenant," put in Rachel; and then they both laughed, and the
younger told the elder she was ridiculous, for the lieutenants were not
a bit worse than the rest.

"Worse? Not at all. I could even imagine circumstances under which they
might be preferable, and I'm not gifted with much imagination, either."

"I know someone who thinks you are, and an enviable imagination at
that," laughed Miss Fred.

Rachel opened her eyes a little in questioning, but did not speak.

"Why, it was Mr. Stuart. He talked about you a good deal at the Fort.
You know there are several officers who have their wives with them, and
he was asking them lots of questions about typical Western girls, but
they didn't seem to know any, for at a military fort girls don't remain
girls long--unless they're half boys, like me. Someone always snaps them
up and tacks 'Mrs.' to their name, and that settles them."

"Poor girls!"

"Oh, bless you! they would say that same thing of anyone who visited a
fort and did not become married, or engaged--well, I should think so!"

"Do you come in for your share of commiseration?" asked Tillie, who was
listening with interest to this gossip of military life that seemed
strange for a woman to share.

"Me? Not a bit of it. I am not worth their notice in that respect. They
haven't begun to treat me as if I was grown up, yet; that's the
disadvantage of being little--you never can impress people with a belief
in your own importance. Yesterday, Lieutenant Murray had the impudence
to tell me that, when all was said and done, I was only a 'camp
follower' hanging onto the coat-tails of the army, and likely to be
mustered out of the regiment at the discretion of the superior
officers--my lords and masters! What do you think of that?"

"That you must have made things rather warm for the poor Lieutenant to
provoke a speech so unnatural to his usual courtesy," answered Rachel.
"Whatever Mr. Stuart may credit me with, I have not imagination enough
to conceive that speech being unprovoked."

"Well, if you're going to champion his High-Mightiness, I'll tell you
nothing more. Mr. Stuart said you were so sympathetic, too."

"I should say it was the Stuart who was imaginative," laughed Rachel;
"ask Tillie."

"But, he did say that--seriously," insisted Miss Fred, turning to
Tillie. "When Mrs. Captain Sneath was curious about you, he said you had
a delicate imagination that would find beauty in things that to many
natures would be commonplace, and topped off a long list of virtues by
saying you were the most loyal of friends."

Tillie sat looking at Rachel in astonishment.

"What have you been doing with the man?" she asked; "giving him some
potion brewed by an Indian witch? A sure 'hoodoo' it must be, to warp a
man's judgment like that! And you were not so very nice to him, either."

"Wasn't she?" asked Fred in amazement. "Well I think it would be hard to
be anything else to so charming and so clever a man. Do you know he is
very rich?"

"No," answered Tillie. "We only knew that he was a physician out here
for a change of air. He is splendid company."

"Well, I should think so! We were all in love with him at the Fort. Mrs.
Sneath says he has given up medicine, and--I believe it's something of a
secret, but it doesn't matter in this far-out corner of the world--he is
something of a writer--a writer of fiction. The way I heard it was
through the Captain, who used to know him at college. He says that the
Stuart, as you call him, is most likely out here studying up material
for some work--a novel, may be. Wouldn't you love to read it?"

"I can't say unless I have some idea of the class of work. What has he
done?"

It was Rachel who was the questioner, and who, in the light of a
reasonable cause for his presence in the Kootenai, felt herself all in a
moment a bit of a fool for some of her old fancies.

"I don't know--wish I did," said Miss Fred promptly. "He writes under an
assumed name. Mrs. Sneath wouldn't tell me, for fear I'd bother him
about it, I suppose; but if he comes up here to camp, I'll find out
before he leaves--see if I don't."

"He is not likely to pay a visit up here in this season of the year,"
remarked Rachel. "I thought he was going East from Owens."

"He did talk like that when he first went down there, and that's what
made Captain Sneath decide he was studying up the country; for all at
once he said he might stay out West all winter, and seemed to take quite
an interest in the Indian question--made friends with all the scouts
down there, and talked probabilities with even the few 'good' Indians
about the place. He told me he might see me again, if I was coming up
with the company. So he is studying up something out here--sure."

Nobody answering this speculation, she was silent a bit, looking at
Rachel, who had picked up a book off the table; and then she began to
laugh.

"Well--" and Rachel glanced over at her, noting that she looked both
amused and hesitating--"well, what is it?"

"I was only thinking how--how funny it would be if you happened to be
that 'something.'"

But Rachel's answering laugh, as she pushed the book away, signified
that it was the least probable of all fancies.

"It is you who should write romances, instead of the Stuart," she
replied--"you and Tillie here. She has a good deal of the same material
in her--that of a match-maker. She has spied out life-partners for me in
all sorts of characters out here, from Davy MacDougall down to Jim. They
are wonderfully anxious to get rid of me."

Just outside the gate, the blue of military garb showed the coming of
the usual afternoon callers from Camp Kootenai, among them the Major,
commander of the company, the only occasional rebel being his petite
non-commissioned officer in petticoats. A tall young fellow in
lieutenant's uniform halted on his way out to exchange greeting; and if
the daughter complained of the young soldier's lack of deference, the
father had no reason to, for in his eyes, as he saluted, shone something
nearer affection than mere duty--a feeling that he shared with every man
in the command, for Major Dreyer was a universal favorite.

"No later news of that scout, Genesee?" asked the younger as they
separated.

"No; but we can expect him soon now for that red shadow of his, Kalitan,
just loped into camp. And, by the way," added the older officer, "he
mentioned that he passed our friend Stuart back at the settlement. He is
coming up this way again."

"Tell Miss Fred that, Major. When I saw her, an hour ago, she needed
something to put her in a good humor."

"Ah! Good-evening, Lieutenant."

"Good-evening, Major."

The minute the subordinate's back was turned, Miss Fred, with a running
jump that would have done Jim credit, landed almost on the Major's
shoulder. He gave her a ferocious hug, and dropped her plump on her feet
with a stern--

"Attention!"

Quick as light the little hand was raised in salute, and the little
figure gathered together its scattered dignity to make a soldierly
appearance.

"Private Dreyer, I have been met on the outposts with a message telling
me of a disorganized temper that should belong to your command. What
have you to say for yourself?"

Instantly the role of the soldier was dropped, and that of the girl with
a temper took its place.

"Oh, he told you, did he?" she asked, with a wrathful glance at the
figure retreating toward camp. "Well, just wait until I go riding with
him again! He's called me a camp follower, and--and everything else that
was uncivil."

"Ah! And what did you do?"

"I? Why nothing, of course."

"Nothing?"

"Well, I did threaten to go over and turn them out of the cabin that was
built for me, but--"

"But that was a mere trifle in this tropical climate. I've no doubt it
would do them good to sleep under the stars instead of a roof; and then
it would give you an opportunity to do some wholesale nursing, if they
caught colds all around."

"Just as if I would!"

"Just as if you would not! And Lieutenant Murray would come in for the
worse medicine and the biggest doses."

"If his constitution is equal to his impudence, it would take stupendous
doses to have any effect. I wish he could be sent back to the Fort."

"Won't sending him up among the Indians do just as well?"

"Y-yes. Are you going to, papa?"

"Ah! now you grow inquisitive."

"I do think," said Tillie, "you all plague her a great deal."

"They just treat me as if I was a joke instead of a girl," complained
Fred. "They began it before I was born by giving me a boy's name, and
it's been kept up ever-since."

"Never mind, Baby," he said soothingly; "if I had not made a boy of you
I could not have had you with me, so the cause was vital."

They both laughed, but it was easy to see that the cause was vital to
them, and their companionship very much of a necessity. Its
interruptions since her babyhood had been few and short, and her
education, picked up on the frontier, had taught her that in the world
there was just one place for her--in the saddle, and beside her father,
just as her mother had ridden beside him before Fred was born.



CHAPTER VII.

"A WOMAN WHO WAS LOST--LONG AGO!"


The next morning, bright and early, Kalitan called at the ranch; and
Miss Fred, accustomed as she was to the red men, grew rather
enthusiastic over this haughty, graceful specimen, who gave her one
glance at the door and walked past her into the house--as she afterward
described it, "just as if she had been one of the wooden door-posts."

"Rashell Hardy?" was all he said; and without more ado Miss Fred betook
herself up the stairs to do his implied bidding and hunt Miss Hardy.

"I rather think it's the grand mogul of all the Kootenais," she said, in
announcing him. "No, he didn't give any card; but his personality is too
striking to be mistaken, if one has ever seen him or heard him speak. He
looked right over my head, and made me feel as if I was about two feet
high."

"Young Indian?"

"Yes, but he looks like a young faun. That one never came from a scrub
race."

"I'll ask him to stay to dinner," laughed Rachel; "if anything will cure
one of a tendency to idealize an Indian, it is to see him satisfying the
inner man. Come down and talk to him. It is Kalitan."

"Oh, it is Kalitan, is it? And pray what it is that--a chief rich in
lineage and blooded stock? His assurance speaks of wealth and power, I
should say, and his manner shows one a Fenimore Cooper spirit come to
life. How am I as a guesser?"

"One of the worst in the world. Kalitan is really a handsome humbug in
some ways. That superb manner of his is the only stock in trade he
possesses beyond his swift feet; but the idea of importance he manages
to convey speaks wonders for his strength of will. Come along!"

"Klahowya, Rashell Hardy?" he said; and stepping solemnly forward,
shook her hand in a grave, ceremonious fashion. Rachel told him the
other lady was her friend, by way of introduction, and he widened his
mouth ever so little in a smile, but that was the only sign of
acknowledgement he gave; and when Rachel spoke to him in English he
would not answer, but sat stolidly looking into the fire until she saw
what was wrong and addressed him in Chinook. "Rashell Hardy need not so
soon forget," he reminded her briefly; and then went on with his speech
to her of where he had been; the wonders he had done in the way of a
runner, and all else of self-glorification that had occurred in the past
months. Many times the name of his chief was uttered in a way that
impressed on a listener the idea that among the troops along the
frontier there were two men who were really worthy of praise--a scout
and a runner. "Kalitan tired now--pretty much," he wound up, as a
finale; "come up Kootenai country to rest, may be, while spring comes.
Genesee he rest, too, may be--may be not."

"Where, Kalitan?"

"S'pose camp--s'pose may be Tamahnous cabin; not here yet."

"Coming back?"

Kalitan nodded, and arose.

"Come see you, may be, sometime, often," he said as if conferring a
special honor by promised visits; and then he stalked out as he had
stalked in, only checking his gait at sight of Aunty Luce coming in from
the kitchen with a dish of cold meat. She nearly dropped it in her
fright, and closed her eyes in silent prayer and terror; when she opened
them the enemy had left the porch.

"Good Lawd, Miss Rache!" she gasped. "He's skeered me before bad enough,
but this the fust time he evah stopped stock an' glare at me! I's gwine
to complain to the milantary--I is, shuah."

"You are a great old goose!" said Rachel brusquely. "He wasn't looking
at you, but at that cold meat."

There seemed a general gathering of the clans along the Kootenai valley
that winter. With the coming north of Genesee had come the troops, then
Kalitan, then their mercurial friend of the autumn--the Stuart; and down
from Scot's Mountain came Davy MacDougall, one fair day, to join the
circle that was a sort of reunion. And among the troops were found many
good fellows who were so glad of an evening spent at the ranch that
never a night went by without a party gathered there.

"The heft o' them does everything but sleep here," complained Aunty
Luce; "an' all the other ones look jealous 'cause Mr. Stuart does that."

For Hardy and his wife had insisted on his stopping with them, as
before, though much of his time was spent at the camp. There was
something about him that made him a companion much desired by men;
Rachel had more opportunity to observe this now than when their circle
was so much smaller. That gay good-humor, with its touches of serious
feeling, and the delicate sympathy that was always alive to earnest
emotion--she found that those traits were keys to the hearts of men as
well as women; and a smile here, a kind word there, or a clasp of the
hand, were the only arts needed to insure him the unsought friendship of
almost every man in the company.

"It's the gift that goes wi' the name," said MacDougall one day when
someone spoke of the natural charm of the man's manner. "It's just
that--no less. No, o' course he does na strive for it; it's but a bit o'
nature. A blessin', say you, Miss? Well, mayhaps; but to the old stock
it proved but a curse."

"It seems a rather fair life to connect the idea of a curse with,"
remarked the Major; "but I rather think he has seen trouble, too.
Captain Sneath said something to that effect, I believe--some sudden
death of wife and children in an epidemic down in Mexico."

"Married! That settles the romance," said Fred; "but he is interesting,
anyway, and I am going immediately to find out what he has written and
save up my money to buy copies."

"I may save you that expense in one instance," and Rachel handed her the
book Stuart had sent her. Tillie looked at her in astonishment, and Fred
seized it eagerly.

"Oh, but you are sly!" she said, with an accusing pout; "you've heard me
puzzling about his work for days and never gave me a hint."

"I only guessed it was his, he never told me; but this morning I charged
him with it, and he did not deny. I do not think there is any secret
about it, only down at the Fort there were several ladies, I believe,
and--and some of them curious--"

"You're right," laughed the Major; "they would have hounded him to
death. Camp life is monotonous to most women, and a novelist, especially
a young, handsome fellow, would have been a bonanza to them. As it was,
they tried to spoil him; and look here!" he said suddenly, "see that you
say nothing of his marriage to him, Babe. As he does not mention it
himself, it may be that the trouble, or--well, just remember not to
broach the subject."

"Just as if I would!" said his daughter after he had left. "Papa never
realizes that I have at all neared the age of discretion. But doesn't it
seem strange to think of Mr. Stuart being married? He doesn't look a bit
like it."

"Does that state of existence impress itself so indelibly on one's
physical self?" laughed Rachel.

"It does--mostly," affirmed Fred. "They get settled down and prosy, or
else--well, dissipated."

"Good gracious! Is that the effect we are supposed to have on the
character of our lords and masters?" asked Mrs. Hardy unbelievingly.

"Fred's experience is confined to barrack life and its attendant evils.
I don't think she makes allowance for the semi-artistic temper of the
Stuart. He strikes me as having just enough of it to keep his heart
always young, and his affections too--on tap, as it were."

"What queer ideas you have about that man!" said Fred suddenly. "Don't
you like him?"

"I would not dare say no with so many opposing me."

"Oh, you don't know Rachel. She is always attributing the highest of
virtues or the worst of vices to the most unexpected people," said
Tillie. "I don't believe she has any feeling in the question at all,
except to get on the opposite side of the question from everyone else.
If she would own up, I'll wager she likes him as well as the rest of
us."

"Do you, Rachel?" But her only answer was a laugh. "If you do, I can't
see why you disparage him."

"I did not."

"Well, you said his affections were always on tap."

"That was because I envy him the exhaustless youth such a temperament
gives one. Such people defy time and circumstances in a way we prosaic
folks can never do. It is a gift imparted to an artist, to supply the
lack of practical ingredients that are the prime ones to the rest of
creation."

"How you talk! Why, Mr. Stuart is not an artist!"

"Isn't he? There are people who are artists though they never draw a
line or mix a color; but don't you think we are devoting a great deal of
time to this pill-peddler of literary leanings?"

"You are prejudiced," decided Fred. "Leanings indeed! He has done more
than lean in that direction--witness that book."

"I like to hear him tell a story, if he is in the humor," remarked
Tillie, with a memory of the cozy autumn evenings. "We used to enjoy
that so much before we ever guessed he was a story-teller by
profession."

"Well, you must have had a nice sort of a time up here," concluded Fred;
"a sort of Tom Moore episode. He would do all right for the
poet-prince--or was it a king? But you--well, Rachel, you are not just
one's idea of a Lalla."

"You slangy little mortal! Go and read your book."

Which she did obediently and thoroughly, to the author's discomfiture,
as he was besieged with questions that taxed his memory and ingenuity
pretty thoroughly at times.

He found himself on a much better footing with Rachel than during his
first visit. It may have been that her old fancy regarding his mission
up there was disappearing; the fancy itself had always been a rather
intangible affair--a fabrication wrought by the shuttle of a woman's
instinct. Or, having warned Genesee--she had felt it was a
warning--there might have fallen from her shoulders some of the
responsibility she had so gratuitously assumed. Whatever it was, she was
meeting him on freer ground, and found the association one of pleasure.

"I think Miss Fred or your enlarged social circle has had a most
excellent influence on your temper," he said to her one day after a ride
from camp together, and a long, pleasant chat. "You are now more like
the girl I used to think you might be--the girl you debarred me from
knowing."

"But think what an amount of time you had for work in those days that
are forfeited now to dancing attendance on us women folk!"

"I do not dance."

"Well, you ride, and you walk, and you sing, and tell stories, and
manage at least to waste lots of time when you should be working."

"You have a great deal of impatience with anyone who is not a worker,
haven't you?"

"Yes," she said, looking up at him. "I grow very impatient myself often
from the same cause."

"You always seem to me to be very busy," he answered half-vexedly; "too
busy. You take on yourself responsibilities in all directions that do
not belong to you; and you have such a way of doing as you please that
no one about the place seems to realize how much of a general manager
you are here, or how likely you are to overburden yourself."

"Nonsense!"

She spoke brusquely, but could not but feel the kindness in the
penetration that had given her appreciation where the others, through
habit, had grown to take her accomplishments as a matter of course. In
the beginning they had taken them as a joke.

"Pardon me," he said finally. "I do not mean to be rude, but do you mind
telling me if work is a necessity to you?"

"Certainly not. I have none of that sort of pride to contend with, I
hope, and I have a little money--not much, but enough to live on; so,
you see, I am provided for in a way."

"Then why do you always seem to be skirmishing around for work?" he
asked, in a sort of impatience. "Women should be home-makers, not--"

"Not prospectors or adventurers," she finished up amiably. "But as I
have excellent health, average strength and understanding, I feel they
should be put to use in some direction. I have not found the direction
yet, and am a prospector meanwhile; but a contented, empty life is a
contemptible thing to me. I think there is some work intended for us all
in the world; and," she added, with one of those quick changes that kept
folks from taking Rachel's most serious meanings seriously--"and I think
it's playing it pretty low down on Providence to bluff him on an empty
hand."

He laughed. "Do you expect, then, to live your life out here helping to
manage other people's ranches and accumulating that sort of Western
logic in extenuation?"

She did not answer for a little; then she said:

"I might do worse."

She said it so deliberately that he could not but feel some special
thing was meant, and asked quickly:

"What?"

"Well, I might be given talents of benefit to people, and fritter them
away for the people's pastime. The people would never know they had lost
anything, or come so near a great gain; but I, the cheat, would know it.
After the lights were turned out and the curtain down on the farce, I
would realize that it was too late to begin anew, but that the same
lights and the same theater would have served as well for the truths of
Christ as the pranks of Pantaloon--the choice lay only in the will of
the worker."

Her eyes were turned away from him, as if she was seeking for metaphors
in the white stretch of the snow-fall. He reached over and laid his hand
on hers.

"Rachel!"

It was the only time he had called her that, and the caress of the name
gave voice to the touch of his fingers.

"Rachel! What is it you are talking about? Look around here! I want to
see you! Do you mean that you think of--of me like that--tell me?"

If Miss Fred could have seen them at that moment it would have done her
heart good, for they really looked rather lover-like; each was
unconscious of it, though their faces did not lack feeling. She drew her
hand slowly away, and said, in that halting yet persistent way in which
she spoke when very earnest yet not very sure of herself:

"You think me egotistical, I suppose, to criticise work that is beyond
my own capabilities, but--it was you I meant."

"Well?"

His fingers closed over the arm of the chair instead of her hand. All
his face was alight with feeling. Perhaps it was as well that her
stubbornness kept her eyes from his; to most women they would not have
been an aid to cool judgment.

"Well, there isn't anything more to say, is there?" she asked, smiling a
little out at the snow. "It was the book that did it--made me feel like
that about you; that your work is--well, surface work--skimmed over for
pastime. But here and there are touches that show how much deeper and
stronger the work you might produce if you were not either lazy or
careless."

"You give one heroic treatment, and can be merciless. The story was
written some time ago, and written under circumstances that--well, you
see I do not sign my name to it, so I can't be very proud of it."

"Ah! that is it? Your judgment, I believe, is too good to be satisfied
with it; I shouldn't waste breath speaking, if I was not sure of that.
But you have the right to do work you can be proud of; and that is what
you must do."

Rachel's way was such a decided way, that people generally accepted her
"musts" as a matter of course. Stuart did the same, though evidently
unused to the term; and her cool practicalities that were so surely
noting his work, not himself, had the effect of checking that first
impulse of his to touch her--to make her look at him. He felt more than
ever that the girl was strange and changeable--not only in herself, but
in her influence. He arose and walked across the floor a couple of
times, but came back and stood beside her.

"You think I am not ambitious enough; and you are right, I suppose. I
have never yet made up my mind whether it was worth my while to write,
or whether it might not be more wise to spare the public."

"But you have the desire--you must feel confidence at times."

"How do you know or imagine so much of what I feel?"

"I read it in that book," and she nodded toward the table. "In it you
seem so often just on the point of saying or doing, through the people,
things that would lift that piece of work into a strong moral lesson;
but just when you reach that point you drop it undeveloped."

"You have read and measured it, haven't you?" and he sat down again
beside her. "I never thought of--of what you mention in it. A high moral
lesson," he repeated; "but to preach those a man should feel himself
fit; I am not."

"I don't believe you!"

"What do you know about it?" he demanded so sharply that she smiled; it
was so unlike him. But the sharpness was evidently not irritation, for
his face had in it more of sadness than any other feeling; she saw it,
and did not speak.

After a little he turned to her with that rare impetuosity that was so
expressive.

"You are very helpful to me in what you have said; I think you are that
to everyone--it seems so. Perhaps you are without work of your own in
the world, that you may have thought for others who need help; that is
the highest of duties, and it needs strong, good hearts. But do you
understand that it is as hard sometimes to be thought too highly of as
to be accused wrong-fully? It makes one feel such a cheat--such a cursed
liar!"

"I rather think we are all cheats, more or less, in that respect," she
answered. "I am quite sure the inner workings of my most sacred thought
could not be advertised without causing my exile from the bosom of my
family; yet I refuse to think myself more wicked than the rest of
humanity."

"Don't jest!"

"Really, I am not jesting," she answered. "And I believe you are
over-sensitive as to your own short-comings, whatever they happen to be.
Because I have faith in your ability to do strong work, don't think I am
going to skirmish around for a pedestal, or think I've found a piece of
perfection in human nature, because they're not to be found, my friend."

"How old are you?" he asked her suddenly.

She laughed, feeling so clearly the tenor of his thought.

"Twenty-two by my birthdays, but old enough to know that the strongest
workers in the world have not been always the most immaculate. What
matter the sort of person one has been, or the life one has lived if he
come out of it with knowledge and the wish to use it well? You have a
certain power that is yours, to use for good or bad, and from a fancy
that you should not teach or preach, you let it go to waste. Don't
magnify peccadillos!"

"You seem to take for granted the fact that all my acts have been
trifling--that only the promises are worthy," he said impatiently.

"I do believe," she answered smiling brightly, "that you would rather I
thought you an altogether wicked person than an average trifler. But I
will not--I do not believe it possible for you deliberately to do any
wicked thing; you have too tender a heart, and--"

"You don't know anything about it!" he repeated vehemently. "What
difference whether an act is deliberate or careless, so long as the
effect is evil? I tell you the greater part of the suffering in the
world is caused not by wicked intents and hard hearts, but by the
careless desire to shirk unpleasant facts, and the soft-heartedness that
will assuage momentary pain at the price of making a life-long cripple,
either mentally, morally, or physically. Nine times out of ten the man
whom we call soft-hearted is only a moral coward. Ah, don't help me to
think of that; I think of it enough--enough!"

He brought his clenched hand down on the arm of the chair with an
emphasis that was heightened by the knitted brow and compressed lips. He
did not look at her. The latter part of the rapid speech seemed more to
himself than to her. At least it admitted of no answer; the manner as
much as the words kept her silent.

"Come! come!" he added, after a little, as if to arouse himself as well
as her. "You began by giving me some good words of advice and
suggestion; I must not repay you by dropping into the blues. For a long
time I've been a piece of drift-wood, with nothing to anchor ambition
to; but a change is coming, I think, and--and if it brings me fair
weather, I may have something then to work for; then I may be worth your
belief in me--I am not now. My intentions to be so are all right, but
they are not always to be trusted. I said, before, that you had the
faculty of making people speak the truth to you, if they spoke at all,
and I rather think I am proving my words."

He arose and stood looking down at her. Since he had found so many
words, she had seemed to lose hers; anyway, she was silent.

"It can't be very pleasant for you," he said at last, "to be bored by
the affairs of every renegade to whom you are kind, because of some
fancied good you may see in him; but you are turning out just the sort
of woman I used to fancy you might be--and--I am grateful to you."

"That's all right," she answered in the old brusque way. To tell the
truth, a part of his speech was scarcely heard. Something in the whole
affair--the confidence and personal interest, and all--had taken her
memory back to the days of that cultus corrie, when another man had
shared with her scenes somewhat similar to this. Was there a sort of
fate that had set her apart for this sort of thing? She smiled a little
grimly at the fancy, and scarcely heard him. He saw the ghost of a
smile, and it made him check himself in something he was about to say,
and walk toward the door.

She neither spoke nor moved; her face was still toward the window.
Turning to look at her, his indecision disappeared, and in three steps
he was beside her.

"Rachel, I want to speak to you of something else," he said rapidly,
almost eagerly, as if anxious to have it said and done with; "I--I want
to tell you what that anchor is I've been looking for, and without which
I never will be able to do the higher class of work, and--and--"

"Yes?"

He had stopped, making a rather awkward pause after his eager beginning.
With the one encouraging word, she looked up at him and waited.

"It is a woman."

"Not an unusual anchor for mankind," she remarked with a little laugh.

But there was no answering smile in his eyes; they were very serious.

"I never will be much good to myself, or the rest of the world, until I
find her again," he said, "though no one's words are likely to help me
more than yours. You would make one ambitious if he dared be and--"

"Never mind about that," she said kindly. "I am glad if it has happened
so. And this girl--it is someone you--love?"

"I can't talk to anyone of her--yet," he answered, avoiding her eyes;
"only I wanted you to understand--it is at least a little step toward
that level where you fancy I may belong. Don't speak of it again; I can
hardly say what impelled me to tell you now. Yes, it is a woman I cared
for, and who was--lost--whom I lost--long ago."

A moment later she was alone, and could hear his step in the outer room,
then on the porch. Fred called after him, but he made no halt--did not
even answer, much to the surprise of that young lady and Miss Margaret.

The other girl sat watching him until he disappeared in the stables, and
a little later saw him emerge and ride at no slow gait out over the
trail toward camp.

"It only needed that finale," she soliloquized, "to complete the
picture. Woman! woman! What a disturbing element you are in the
universe--man's universe!"

After this bit of trite philosophy, the smile developed into a noiseless
laugh that had something of irony in it.

"I rather think Talapa's entrance was more dramatic," was one of the
reflections that kept her company; "anyway, she was more picturesque, if
less elegant, than Mrs. Stuart is likely to be. Mrs. Stuart! By the way,
I wonder if it is Mrs. Stuart? Yes, I suppose so--yet, 'a woman whom I
cared for, and who was lost--long ago!'--Lost? lost?"



CHAPTER VIII.

"I'LL KILL HIM THIS TIME!"


Rumors were beginning to drift into camp of hostile intents of the
Blackfeet; and a general feeling of uneasiness became apparent as no
word came from the chief of their scouts, who had not shown up since
locating the troops.

The Major's interest was decidedly alive in regard to him, since not a
messenger entered camp from any direction who was not questioned on the
subject. But from none of them came any word of Genesee.

Other scouts were there--good men, too, and in the southern country of
much value; but the Kootenai corner of the State was almost an unknown
region to them. They were all right to work under orders; but in those
hills, where everything was in favor of the native, a man was needed who
knew every gully and every point of vantage, as well as the probable
hostile.

While Major Dreyer fretted and fumed over the absentee, there was more
than one of the men in camp to remember that their chief scout was said
to be a squaw man; and as most of them shared his own expressed idea of
that class, conjectures were set afloat as to the probability of his not
coming back at all, or if it came to a question of fighting with the
northern Indians, whether he might not be found on the other side.

"You can't bet any money on a squaw man," was the decision of one of the
scouts from over in Idaho--one who did not happen to be a squaw man
himself, because the wife of his nearest neighbor at home objected. "No,
gentlemen, they're a risky lot. This one is a good man; I allow that--a
damned good man, I may say, and a fighter from away back; but the thing
we have to consider is that up this way he's with his own people, as you
may say, having taken a squaw wife and been adopted into the tribe; an'
I tell you, sirs, it's jest as reasonable that he will go with them as
against them--I'm a tellin' you!"

Few of these rumors were heard at the ranch. It was an understood thing
among the men that the young ladies at Hardy's were to hear nothing of
camp affairs that was likely to beget alarm; but Stuart heard them, as
did the rest of the men; and like them, he tried to question the only
one in camp who shared suspicion--Kalitan. But Kalitan was
unapproachable in English, and even in Chinook would condescend no
information. He doubtless had none to give, but the impression of
suppressed knowledge that he managed to convey made him an object of
close attention, and any attempt to leave camp would have been hailed as
proof positive of many intangible suspicions. He made no such attempt.
On the contrary, after his arrival there from the Gros Ventres, he
seemed blissfully content to live all winter on Government rations and
do nothing. But he was not blind by any means and understanding English,
though he would not speak it, the chances were that he knew more of the
thought of the camp than it guessed of his; and his stubborn resentment
showed itself when three Kootenai braves slouched into camp one day, and
Kalitan was not allowed to speak to them save in the presence of an
interpreter, and when one offered in the person of a white scout,
Kalitan looked at him with unutterable disdain, and turning his back,
said not a word.

The Major was not at camp. He had just left to pay his daily visit to
Hardy's; for, despite all persuasions, he refused to live anywhere but
with his men, and if Fred did not come to see him in the morning, he was
in duty bound to ride over to her quarters in the afternoon.

The officer in command during his absence was a Captain Holt, a man who
had no use for an Indian in any capacity, and whose only idea of
settling the vexed question of their rights was by total extermination
and grave-room--an opinion that is expressed by many a white man who has
had to deal with them. But he was divided between his impulse to send
the trio on a double-quick about their business and the doubt as to what
effect it would have on the tribe if they were sent back to it in the
sulks. Ordinarily he would not have given their state of mind a moment's
consideration; but the situation was not exactly ordinary, and he
hesitated.

After stowing away enough provender in their stomachs to last an
ordinary individual two days, and stowing the remainder in convenient
receptacles about their draperies, intercourse was resumed with their
white hosts by the suggestive Kalitan.

Just then Stuart and Rachel rode into camp. They had taken to riding
together into camp, and out of camp, and in a good many directions of
late; and in the coffee-colored trio she at once recognized the brave of
the bear-claws whom she had spoken with during that "olallie" season
in the western hills, and who she had learned since was a great friend
of Genesee's. She spoke to him at once--a great deal more intelligibly
than her first attempt--and upon questioning, learned that she was well
remembered. She heard herself called "the squaw who rides" by him,
probably from the fact that she was the only white woman met by their
hunters in the hills, though she had not imagined herself so well known
by them as his words implied.

He of the bear-claws--their spokesman--mentioned Kalitan, giving her for
the first time an idea of what had occurred. She turned at once to
Captain Holt--not protesting, but interested--and learned all she wanted
to.

"Kalitan does not like your southern scouts, for some reason," she said,
"and I rather think it was his dignity rather than his loyalty that
would suffer from having one of them a listener. Let them speak in my
presence; I can understand them, and not arouse Kalitan's pride,
either."

The Captain, nothing loath, accepted her guidance out of the dilemma,
though it was only by a good deal of flattery on her part that Kalitan
could at all forget his anger enough to speak to anyone.

The conversation was, after all, commonplace enough, as it was mostly a
recital of his--Kalitan's--glories; for in the eyes of these provincials
he posed as a warrior of travel and accumulated knowledge. The impassive
faces of his listeners gave no sign as to whether they took him at his
own valuation or not. Rachel now and then added a word, to keep from
having too entirely the appearance of a listener, and she asked about
Genesee.

The answer gave her to understand that weeks ago--five weeks--Genesee
had been in their village; asked for a runner to go south to the Fort
with talking-paper. Had bought pack-horse and provisions, and started
alone to the northeast--may be Blackfoot Agency, they could not say; had
seen him no more. Kalitan made some rapid estimate of probabilities that
found voice in--

"Blackfoot--one hundred and twenty miles; go slow--Mowitza tired; long
wau-wau (talk); come slow--snows high; come soon now, may be."

That was really the only bit of information in the entire "wau-wau"
that was of interest to the camp--information that Kalitan would have
disdained to satisfy them with willingly; and even to Rachel, whom he
knew was Genesee's friend, and his, he did not hint the distrust that
had grown among the troops through that suspicious absence.

He would talk long and boastfully of his own affairs, but it was a habit
that contrasted strangely with the stubborn silence by which he guarded
the affairs of others.

"What is the matter back there?" asked Rachel, as she and Stuart started
back to the ranch. "Ill-feeling?"

"Oh, I guess not much," he answered; "only they are growing careful of
the Indians of late--afraid of them imposing on good nature, I suppose."

"A little good nature in Captain Holt would do him no harm with the
Indians," she rejoined; "and he should know better than to treat Kalitan
in that suspicious way. Major Dreyer would not do it, I feel sure, and
Genesee won't like it."

"Will that matter much to the company or the command?"

He spoke thus only to arouse that combative spirit of hers; but she did
not retort as usual--only said quietly:

"Yes, I think it would--they will find no man like him."

They never again referred to that conversation that had been in a way a
confession on his part--the question of the woman at least was never
renewed, though he told her much of vague plans that he hoped to
develop, "when the time comes."

Three days after the visit of Bear-claws and his brethren, Stuart and
Rachel were again at the camp; this time accompanying Miss Fred, who
thought it was a good-enough day to go and see the "boys."

Surely it was a good-enough day for any use--clear and fresh overhead,
white and sparkling underfoot, and just cold enough to make them think
with desire of the cheery wood fires in the camp they were making for.
From above, a certain exhilaration was borne to them on the air, sifted
through the cedars of the guardian hills; even the horses seemed
enthused with the spirit of it, and joyously entered into a sort of a
go-as-you-please race that brought them all laughing and breathless down
the length of "the avenue," a strip of beaten path about twenty feet
wide, along which the tents were pitched in two rows facing each
other--and not very imposing looking rows, either.

There were greetings and calls right and left, as they went
helter-skelter down the line; but there was no check of speed until they
stopped, short, at the Major's domicile, that was only a little more
distinguished on the outside than the rest, by having the colors
whipping themselves into shreds from the flagstaff at the door.

It was too cold for ceremony; and throwing the bridles to an orderly,
they made a dash for the door--Miss Fred leading.

"Engaged, is he?" she said good-humoredly to the man who stepped in her
path. "I don't care if he is married. I don't intend to freeze on the
place where his door-step ought to be. You tell him so."

The man on duty touched his cap and disappeared, and from the sound of
the Major's laughter within, must have repeated the message verbatim,
and a moment later returned.

"Major Dreyer says you may enter;" and then, laughing and shivering, the
Major's daughter seized Rachel with one hand, Stuart with the other, and
making a quick charge, darted into the ruling presence.

"Oh, you bear!" she said, breaking from her comrades and into the bear's
embrace; "to keep us out there--and it so cold! And I came over
specially for--"

And then she stopped. The glitter of the sun on the sun had made a
glimmer of everything under a roof, and on her entrance she had not
noticed a figure opposite her father, until a man rose to his feet and
took a step forward as if to go.

"Let me know when you want me, Major," he said; and the voice startled
those two muffled figures in the background, for both, by a common
impulse, started forward--Rachel throwing back the hood of her jacket
and holding out her hand.

"I am glad you have come," she said heartily, and he gripped the offered
member with a sort of fierceness as he replied:

"Thank you, Miss."

But his eyes were not on her. The man who had come with her--who still
held her gloves in his hand--was the person who seemed to draw all his
attention.

"You two are old neighbors, are you not?" remarked the Major. "Fred, my
dear, you have met Mr. Genesee, our scout? No? Mr. Genesee, this is my
daughter; and this, a friend of ours--Mr. Stuart."

An ugly devil seemed alive in Genesee's eyes, as the younger man came
closer, and with an intense, expressive gesture, put out his hand.

Then, with a bow that might have been an acknowledgment of the
introduction, and might have been only one of adieu to the rest of the
group, the scout walked to the door without a word, and Stuart's hand
dropped to his side.

"Come back in an hour, Genesee," said the Major; "I will think over the
trip to the Fort in the meantime."

"I hear. Good-morning, ladies;" and then the door closed behind him, and
the quartette could not but feel the situation awkward.

"Come closer to the fire--sit down," said the Major hospitably, intent
on effacing the rudeness of his scout. "Take off your coat, Stuart;
you'll appreciate it more when outside. And I'm going to tell you right
now, that, pleased as I am to have you all come this morning, I intend
to turn you out in twenty minutes--that's all the time I can give to
pleasure this morning."

"Well, you are very uncivil, I must say," remarked Fred. "But we will
find some of the other boys not so unapproachable. I guess," she added,
"that we have to thank Mr. Man-with-the-voice for being sent to the
right-about in such short order."

"You did not hear him use it much," rejoined her father, and then turned
to the others, neither of whom had spoken. "He is quite a character, and
of great value to us in the Indian troubles, but I believe is averse to
meeting strangers; anyway, the men down at the Fort did not take to him
much--not enough to make him a social success."

"I don't think he would care," said Fred. "He impressed me very much as
Kalitan did when I first met him. Does living in the woods make people
feel like monarchs of all they survey? Does your neighbor ever have any
better manners, Rachel?"

"I have seen him with better--and with worse."

"Worse? What possibilities there must be in that man! What do you think,
Mr. Stuart?"

"Perhaps he lacks none of the metal of a soldier because he does not
happen to possess that of a courtier," hazarded Stuart, showing no sign
that the scout's rudeness had aroused the slightest feeling of
resentment; and Rachel scored an opinion in his favor for that
generosity, for she, more than either of the others, had noted the
meeting, and Genesee's entire disregard of the Stuart's feelings.

Major Dreyer quickly seconded Stuart's statement.

"You are right, sir. He may be as sulky as Satan--and I hear he is at
times--but his work makes amends for it when he gets where work is
needed. He got in here last night, dead-beat, from a trip that I don't
believe any other man but an Indian could have made and get back alive.
He has his good points--and they happen to be points that are in decided
demand up here."

"I don't care about his good points, if we have to be turned out for
him," said Fred. "Send him word he can sleep the rest of the day, if he
is tired out; may be he would wake up more agreeable."

"And you would not be ousted from my attention," added her father,
pinching her ear. "Are you jealous of Squaw-man-with-a-voice?"

"Is he that?" asked the girl, with a great deal of contempt in her tone.
"Well, that is enough to hear of him. I should think he would avoid
white people. The specimens we have seen of that class would make you
ashamed you were human," she said, turning to Rachel and Stuart. "I know
papa says there are exceptions, but papa is imaginative. This one looks
rather prosperous, and several degrees cleaner than I've seen them,
but--"

"Don't say anything against him until you know you have reason, Fred,"
suggested Rachel. "He did me a favor once, and I can't allow people to
talk about him on hearsay. I think he is worse than few and better than
many, and I have known him over a year."

"Mum is the word," said Fred promptly, proceeding to gag herself with
two little fists; but the experiment was a failure.

"If she takes him under her wing, papa, his social success is an assured
fact, even if he refuses to open his mouth. May I expect to be presented
to his interesting family to-morrow, Rachel?"

Rachel only laughed, and asked the Major some questions about the
reports from the northeast; the attitude of the Blackfeet, and the
snow-fall in the mountains.

"The Blackfeet are all right now," he replied, "and the snows in the
hills to the east are very heavy--that was what caused our scout's
delay. But south of us I hear they are not nearly so bad, for a wonder,
and am glad to hear it, as I myself may need to make a trip down to Fort
Owens."

"Why, papa," broke in his commanding officer, "you are not going to turn
scout or runner, are you, and leave me behind? I won't stay!"

"You will obey orders, as a soldier should," answered her father. "If I
go instead of sending, it will be because it is necessary, and you will
have to bow to necessity, and wait until I can get back."

"And we've got to thank Mr. Squaw-man for that, too!" burst out Fred
wrathfully. "You never thought of going until he came; oh, I know it--I
hate him!"

"He would be heart-broken if he knew it," observed her father dryly. "By
the way, Miss Rachel, do you know if there is room in the ranch stables
for another horse?"

"They can make room, if it is necessary. Why?"

"Genesee's mare is used up even worse than her master by the long, hard
journey he has made. Our stock that is in good condition can stand our
accommodations all right, but that fellow seemed miserable to think the
poor beast had not quarters equal to his own. He is such a queer fellow
about asking a favor that I thought--"

"And the thought does you credit," said the girl with a suspicious
moisture in her eyes. "Poor, brave Mowitza! I could not sleep very
soundly myself if I knew she was not cared for, and I know just how he
feels. Don't say anything about it to him, but I will have my cousin
come over and get her, before evening."

"You are a trump, Miss Rachel!" said the Major emphatically; "and if you
can arrange it, I know you will lift a load off Genesee's mind. I'll
wager he is out there in the shed with her at this moment, instead of
beside a comfortable fire; and this camp owes him too much, if it only
knew it, to keep from him any comforts for either himself or that plucky
bit of horse-flesh."

Then the trio, under guard of the Lieutenant, paid some other calls
along the avenue--were offered more dinners, if they would remain, than
they could have eaten in a week; but in all their visits they saw
nothing more of the scout. Rachel spoke of his return to one of the men,
and received the answer that they reckoned he was putting in most of his
time out in the shed tying the blankets off his bunk around that mare of
his.

"Poor Mowitza! she was so beautiful," said the girl, with a memory of
the silken coat and wise eyes. "I should not like to see her looking
badly."

"Do you know," said Stuart to her, "that when I heard you speak of
Mowitza and her beauty and bravery, I never imagined you meant a
four-footed animal?"

"What, then?"

"Well, I am afraid it was a nymph of the dusky tribe--a woman."

"Naturally!" was the one ironical and impatient word he received as
answer, and scarcely noted.

He was talking with the others on multitudinous subjects, laughing, and
trying to appear interested in jests that he scarcely heard, and all the
while the hand he had offered to Genesee clenched and opened nervously
in his seal glove.

Rachel watched him closely, for her instincts had anticipated something
unusual from that meeting; the actual had altered all her preconceived
fancies. More strong than ever was her conviction that those two were
not strangers; but from Stuart's face or manner she could learn nothing.
He was a much better actor than Genesee.

They did not see any more of him, yet he saw them; for from the shed,
off several rods from the avenue, the trail to Hardy's ranch was in
plain sight half its length. And the party, augmented by Lieutenant
Murray, galloped past in all ignorance of moody eyes watching them from
the side of a blanketed horse.

Out a half-mile, two of the riders halted a moment, while the others
dashed on. The horses of those two moved close--close together. The arms
of the man reached over to the woman, who leaned toward him. At that
distance it looked like an embrace, though he was really but tying a
loose scarf, and then they moved apart and went on over the snow after
their comrades. A brutal oath burst from the lips of the man she had
said was worse than few.

"If it is--I'll kill him this time! By God!--I'll kill him!"



CHAPTER IX.

AFTER TEN YEARS.


Major Dreyer left the next day, with a scout and small detachment, with
the idea of making the journey to Fort Owens and back in two weeks, as
matters were to be discussed requiring prompt action and personal
influence.

Jack Genessee was left behind--an independent, unenlisted adjunct to the
camp, and holding a more anomalous position there than Major Dreyer
dreamed of; for none of the suspicious current of the scout ever
penetrated to his tent--the only one in the company who was ignorant of
them.

"Captain Holt commands, Genesee," he had said before taking leave; "but
on you I depend chiefly in negotiations with the reds, should there be
any before I get back, for I believe you would rather save lives on both
sides than win a victory through extermination of the hostiles. We need
more men with those opinions; so, remember, I trust you."

The words had been uttered in the presence of others, and strengthened
the suspicions of the camp that Genesee had been playing some crooked
game. None knew the reason for that hastily decided trip of the Major's,
though they all agreed that that "damned skunk of a squaw man" was
posted. Prophecies were rife to the effect that more than likely he was
playing into the hands of the hostiles by sending away the Major and as
many men as possible on some wild-goose chase; and the decision arrived
at was that observation of his movements was a matter of policy, and
readiness to meet an attack from the hills a probable necessity.

He saw it--had seen it from the day of his arrival--and he kept pretty
much out of the way of all except Kalitan; for in watching Genesee they
found they would have to include his runner, who was never willingly far
away.

During the first few days their watching was an easy matter, for the
suspected individual appeared well content to hug the camp, only making
daily visits to Hardy's stable, generally in the evening; but to enter
the house was something he avoided.

"No," he said, in answer to Hardy's invitation; "I reckon I'm more at
home with the horses than with your new company. I'll drop in sometime
after the Kootenai valley is clear of uniforms."

"My wife told me to ask you," said Hardy; "and when you feel like
coming, you'll find the door open."

"Thank you, Hardy; but I reckon not--not for awhile yet."

"I'd like you to get acquainted with Stuart," added the unsuspicious
ranchman. "He is a splendid fellow, and has become interested in this
part of the country."

"Oh, he has?"

"Yes," and Hardy settled himself, Mexican fashion, to a seat on his
heels. "You see he's a writer, a novelist, and I guess he's going to
write up this territory. Anyway, this is the second trip he has made.
You could give him more points than any man I know."

"Yes--I might."

"Rachel has given him all the knowledge she has about the country--the
Indians, and all that--but she owns that all she learned she got from
you; so, if you had a mind to be more sociable, Genesee--"

The other arose to his feet.

"Obliged to you, Hardy," he said; and only the addition of the name
saved it from curtness. "Some day, perhaps, when things are slack; I
have no time now."

"Well, he doesn't seem to me to be rushed to death with work,"
soliloquized Hardy, who was abruptly left alone. "He used to seem like
such an all-round good fellow, but he's getting surlier than the devil.
May be Tillie was right to hope he wouldn't accept the invitation.
Hello, Stuart! Where are you bound for?"

"Nowhere in particular. I thought that Indian, Kalitan, was over here."

"No; Jack Genesee came over himself this morning. That mare of his is
coming up in great shape, and you'd better believe he's proud over it. I
reckon he saw you coming that he took himself away in such a hurry. He's
a queer one."

"I should judge so. Then Kalitan won't be over?"

"Well, he's likely to be before night. Want him?"

"Yes. If you see him, will you send him to the house?"

Hardy promised; and Kalitan presented himself, with the usual
interrogation:

"Rashell Hardy?"

But she, the head of the house in his eyes, was in the dark about his
visit, and was not enlightened much when Stuart entered, stating that it
was he who had wanted Kalitan.

That personage was at once deaf and dumb. Only by Rachel saying, "He is
my friend; will you not listen?" did he unbend at all; and the girl left
them on the porch alone, and a little later Stuart went upstairs, where
she heard him walking up and down the room. She had heard a good deal of
that since that day the three had called upon the Major, and a change
had come over the spirit of their social world; for where Stuart had
been the gayest, they could never depend on him now. Even Rachel found
their old pleasant companionship ended suddenly, and she felt, despite
his silence he was unhappy.

"Well, when he finds his tongue he will tell me what's the matter," she
decided, and so dismissed that question.

She rode to camp alone if it was needful, and sometimes caught a glimpse
of Genesee if he did not happen to see her first; but he no longer came
forward to speak, as the rest did--only, perhaps, a touch of his hat and
a step aside into some tent, and she knew she was avoided. A
conventional young lady of orthodox tendencies would have held her head
a little higher next time they met, and not have seen him at all; but
this one was woefully deficient in those self-respecting bulwarks; so,
the next time she happened to be at the end of the avenue, she turned
her steed directly across his path, and called a halt.

"Good-morning, Miss Rachel."

"Klahowya, tillikum," she answered, bringing him back to a remembrance
of his Chinook. "Jack Genesee, do you intend ever to come to see us--I
mean to walk in like your old self, instead of looking through the
window at night?"

"Looking--"

"Don't lie," she said coolly, "for I saw you, though no one else did.
Now tell me what's wrong. Why won't you come in the house?"

"Society is more select in the Kootenai hills than it was a year ago;"
he answered with a sort of defiance. "Do you reckon there is any woman
in the house who would speak to me if she could get out of it--anyone
except you?"

"Oh, I don't count."

"I had an 'invite' this morning," he added grimly--"not because they
wanted me, but because your new friend over there wanted someone to give
him points about the country; so I've got him to thank for being wanted
at all. Now don't look like that--or think I'm kicking. It's a square
enough deal so far as I'm concerned, and it stands to reason a man of my
stamp hasn't many people pining for him in a respectable house. For the
matter of that, it won't do you any good to be seen talking to me this
long. I'm going."

"All right; so am I. You can go along."

"With you?"

"Certainly."

"I reckon not."

"Don't be so stubborn. If you didn't feel like coming, you would not
have been at that window last night."

His face flushed at this thrust which he could not parry.

"Well, I reckon I won't go there again."

"No; come inside next time. Come, ride half way to the ranch, and tell
me about that trip of yours to the Blackfeet. Major Dreyer gave you
great praise for your work there."

"He should have praised you;" and her own color deepened at the
significance of his words.

"I met Kalitan on his way to the ranch, as I came," she said in the most
irrelevant way.

He looked at her very sharply, but didn't speak.

"Well, are you going to escort me home, or must I go alone?"

"It is daylight; you know every foot of the way, and you don't need me,"
he said, summing up the case briefly. "When you do, let me know."

"And you won't come?" she added good-naturedly. "All right. Klahowya!"

She moved out of his way, touched Betty with the whip, and started
homeward. She rather expected to meet Kalitan again, but there was no
sign of him on the road; arriving at the house, she found that youth
ensconced among the pillows of the largest settee with the air of a king
on a throne, and watching with long, unblinking stares Miss Fred, who
was stumbling over the stitches of some crochet-work for the adornment
of Miss Margaret.

"I'm so glad you've come!" she breathed gratefully. "He has me so
nervous I can't count six; and Mrs. Hardy is taking a nap, and Aunty
Luce has locked herself upstairs, and I never was stared so out of
countenance in my life."

"I rather think that's a phase of Indian courtship," Rachel comforted
her by saying; "so you have won a new admirer. What is it Kalitan?"

He signified that his business was with the "Man-who-laughs," the term
by which he designated Stuart.

"Mr. Stuart left the house just after you did," said Fred; "I thought,
perhaps, to catch you."

"No, he didn't go my way. Well, you look comfortable, Kalitan; and if
you had the addition of another crazy-patch cushion for your left elbow,
you might stand a little longer wait--think so?"

Kalitan thought he could; and there he remained until Stuart arrived,
flushed and rather breathless from his ride from somewhere.

"I was out on the road, but did not see you," said Rachel, on his
entrance.

"This is likely enough," he answered. "I didn't want you to--or anyone
else. I'm not good company of late. I was trying to ride away from
myself." Then he saw Kalitan, propped among the cushions. "Well," he
said sharply; "what have you brought me?"

Kalitan answered by no word, but thrust his hand inside his
hunting-shirt and brought forth an envelope, which he gave into the
eager hands reaching for it.

Stuart gave it one quick glance, turning it in his hand to examine both
sides, and then dropped it in his pocket and sat down by the window.
Rachel could see it was a thick, well-filled envelope, and that the
shape was the same used by Stuart himself, very large and perfectly
square--a style difficult to duplicate in the Kootenai hills.

"You can go now, if you choose, Kalitan," she said, fearing his ease
would induce him to stay all night, and filled with a late alarm at the
idea of Tillie getting her eyes on the peaceful "hostile" and her
gorgeous cushions; and without any further notice of Stuart, Kalitan
took his leave.

When Rachel re-entered the room, a moment later, a letter was crisping
into black curls in the fire-place, and the man sat watching it moodily.

All that evening there was scarcely question or answer to be had from
Stuart. He sat by the fire, with Miss Margaret in his arms--her usual
place of an evening; and through the story-telling and jollity he sat
silent, looking, Jim said, as if he was "workin' hard at thinkin'."

"To-morrow night you must tell us a story," said Miss Fred, turning to
him. "You have escaped now for--oh, ever so many nights."

"I am afraid my stock is about exhausted."

"Out of the question! The flimsiest of excuses," she decided. "Just
imagine a new one, and tell it us instead of writing it; or tell us the
one you are writing at now."

"Well, we will see when to-morrow comes;" and with that vague proposal
Miss Fred had to be content.

When the morrow came Stuart looked as if there had been no night for
him--at least no sleep; and Rachel, or even MacDougall himself, would
not think of calling him Prince Charlie, as of old.

She was no longer so curious about him and that other man who was
antagonistic to him. She had been fearful, but whatever knowledge they
had of each other she had decided would not mean harm; the quiet days
that had passed were a sort of guarantee of that.

Yet they seemed to have nerved Stuart up to some purpose, for the
morning after the burning of the letter he appeared suddenly at the door
of Genesee's shack, or the one Major Dreyer had turned over to him
during his own absence.

From the inside Kalitan appeared, as if by enchantment, at the sound of
a hand on the latch. Stuart, with a gesture, motioned him aside, and
evidently to Kalitan's own surprise, he found himself stepping out while
the stranger stepped in. For perhaps a minute the Indian stood still,
listening, and then, no sounds of hostilities coming to his ears, an
expressive gutteral testified to his final acquiescence, and he moved
away. His hesitation showed that Rachel had not been the only one to
note the bearing of those two toward each other.

Had he listened a minute longer, he might have heard the peace within
broken by the voices that, at first suppressed and intense, rose with
growing earnestness.

The serious tones of Stuart sounded through the thin board walls in
expostulation, and again as if urging some point that was granted little
patience; for above it the voice of Genesee broke in, all the mellowness
gone from it, killed by the brutal harshness, the contemptuous derision,
with which he answered some plea or proposition.

"Oh, you come to me now, do you?" he said, walking back and forth across
the room like some animal fighting to keep back rage with motion, if one
can imagine an animal trying to put restraint on itself; and at every
turn his smoldering, sullen gaze flashed over the still figure inside
the door, and its manner, with a certain calm steadfastness of purpose,
not to be upset by anger, seemed to irritate him all the more.

"So you come this time to lay out proposals to me, eh? And think, after
all these years, that I'm to be talked over to what you want by a few
soft words? Well, I'll see you damned first; so you can strike the back
trail as soon as you've a mind to."

"I shan't go back," said Stuart deliberately, "until I get what I came
for."

The other answered with a short, mirthless laugh.

"Then you're located till doomsday," he retorted, "and doomsday in the
afternoon; though I reckon that won't be much punishment, considering
the attractions you manage to find up here, and the advantages you carry
with you--a handsome face, a gentleman's manners and an honest name.
Why, you are begging on a full hand, Mister; and what are you begging
to? A man that's been about as good as dead for years--a man without any
claim to a name, or to recognition by decent people--an outlaw from
civilization."

"Not so bad as that, Jack," broke in Stuart, who was watching in a sort
of misery the harsh self-condemnation in the restless face and eyes of
Genesee. "Don't be so bitter as that on yourself. You are unjust--don't
I know?"

"The hell you say!" was the withering response to this appeal, as if
with the aid of profanity to destroy the implied compliment to himself.
"Your opinion may go for a big pile among your fine friends, but it
doesn't amount to much right here. And you'd better beat a retreat, sir.
The reputation of the highly respected Charles Stuart, the talented
writer, the honorable gentleman, might get some dirty marks across it if
folks knew he paid strictly private visits to Genesee Jack, a renegade
squaw man; and more still if they guessed that he came for a
favor--that's what you called it when you struck the shack, I believe. A
favor! It has taken you a good while to find that name for it."

"No, it has not, Jack," and the younger man's earnestness of purpose
seemed to rise superior to the taunts and sarcasm of the other. "It was
so from the first, when I realized--after I knew--I didn't seem to have
thoughts for anything else. It was a sort of justice, I suppose, that
made me want them when I had put it out of my power to reach them. You
don't seem to know what it means, Jack, but I--I am homesick for them; I
have been for years, and now that things have changed so for me,
I--Jack, for God's sake, have some feeling! and realize that other men
can have!"

Jack turned on him like a flash.

"You--you say that to me!" he muttered fiercely.

"You, who took no count of anybody's feelings but your own, and thought
God Almighty had put the best things on this earth for you to use and
destroy! Killing lives as sure as if they'd never drawn another breath,
and forgetting all about it with the next pretty face you saw! If that
is what having a stock of feeling leads a man to, I reckon we're as well
off without any such extras."

Stuart had sat down on a camp-stool, his face buried in his hands, and
there was a long silence after Genesee's bitter words, as he stood
looking at the bent head with an inexplicable look in his stormy eyes.
Then his visitor arose.

"Jack," he said with the same patience--not a word of retort had come
from him--"Jack, I've been punished every day since. I have tried to
forget it--to kill all memory by every indulgence and distraction in my
reach--pursued forgetfulness so eagerly that people have thought me
still chasing pleasure. I turned to work, and worked hard, but the
practice brought to my knowledge so many lives made wretched
as--as--well, I could not stand it. The heart-sickness it brought me
almost drove me melancholy mad. The only bright thing in life was--the
children--"

An oath broke from Genesee's lips.

"And then," continued Stuart, without any notice save a quick closing of
the eyes as if from a blow, "and then they died--both of them. That was
justice, too, no doubt, for they stayed just long enough to make
themselves a necessity to me--a solace--and to make me want what I have
lost. I am telling you this because I want you to know that I have had
things to try me since I saw you last, and that I've come through them
with the conviction that there is to be no content in life to me until I
make what amends I can for the folly of the boy you knew. The thought
has become a monomania with me. I hunted for months for you, and never
found a trace. Then I wrote--there."

"You did!"

"Yes, I did--say what you please, do what you please. It was my only
hope, and I took it. I told her I was hunting for you--and my purpose.
In return I got only this," and he handed toward Genesee a sheet of
paper with one line written across it. "You see--your address, nothing
more. But, Jack, can't you see it would not have been sent if she had
not wished--"

"That's enough!" broke in the other. "I reckon I've given you all the
time I have to spare this morning, Mister. You're likely to strike
better luck in some different direction than talking sentiment and the
state of your feelings to me. I've been acquainted with them
before--pretty much--and don't recollect that the effect was healthy."

"Jack, you will do what I ask?"

"Not this morning, sonny," answered the other, still with that
altogether aggressive taunt in his tone. "I would go back to the ranch
if I was you, and by this time to-morrow some of them may make you
forget the favor you want this morning. So long!"

And with this suggestion to his guest to vacate, he turned his back, sat
down by the fire, and began filling a pipe.

"All right; I'll go, and in spite of your stubbornness, with a lighter
heart than I carried here, for I've made you understand that I want to
make amends, and that I have not been all a liar; that I want to win
back the old faith you all had in me; and, Jack, if my head has gone
wrong, something in my heart forbade me to have content, and that has
been my only hope for myself. For I have a hope, and a determination,
Jack, and as for anyone helping me to forget--well, you are wrong there;
one woman might do it--for a while--I acknowledge that, but I am safe in
knowing she would rather help me to remember."

Genesee wheeled about quickly.

"Have you dared--"

"No, I have not told her, if that is what you mean; why--why should I?"

His denial weakened a little as he remembered how closely his impulse
had led him to it, and how strong, though reasonless, that impulse had
been.

The stem of the pipe snapped in Genesee's fingers as he arose, pushing
the camp-stool aside with his foot, as if clearing space for action.

"Since you own up that there's someone about here that you--you've taken
a fancy to--damn you!--I'm going to tell you right now that you've got
to stop that! You're no more fit than I am to speak to her, or ask for a
kind word from her, and I give you a pointer that if you try playing
fast and loose with her, there'll be a committee of one to straighten
out the case, and do it more completely than that man did who was a fool
ten years ago. Now, hearken to that--will you?"

And then, without waiting for an answer, he strode out of the shack,
slamming the door after him, and leaving his visitor in possession.

"I've got to show him, by staying right in these hills, that I am in
earnest," Stuart decided, taking the seat his host had kicked aside, and
stretching his feet out to the fire. "No use in arguing or pleading with
him--there never was. But give him his own lead, and he will come around
to the right point of view, though he may curse me up hill and down dale
while he is doing it; a queer, queer fellow--God bless him! And how
furious he was about that girl! Those two are a sort of David and
Jonathan in their defense of each other, and yet never exchange words if
they can help it--that's queer, too--it would be hard telling which of
them is the more so. Little need to warn any man away from her, however;
she is capable of taking very good care of herself."

There was certainly more than one woman at the ranch; but to hear the
speech of those two men, one would have doubted it; for neither had
thought it necessary even to mention her name.



CHAPTER X.

THE TELLING OF A STORY.


"But you promised! Yes, you did, Mr. Stuart--didn't he, Mrs. Hardy?
There, that settles it; so you see this is your evening to tell a
story."

The protracted twilight, with its cool grays and purples, had finally
faded away over the snow, long after the stars took up their watch for
the night. The air was so still and so chill that the bugle-call at
sunset had sounded clearly along the little valley from camp, and Fred
thought the nearness of sound made a house seem so much more home-like.
After the bugle notes and the long northern twilight, had come the
grouping of the young folks about the fire, and Fred's reminder that
this was to be a "story" night.

"But," declared Stuart, "I can think of none, except a very wonderful
one of an old lady who lived in a shoe, and another of a house
marvelously constructed by a gentleman called Jack--"

Here a clamor arose from the rebels in the audience, and from Fred the
proposal that he should read or tell them of what he was working on at
present, and gaining at last his consent.

"But I must bring down some notes in manuscript," he added, "as part of
it is only mapped out, and my memory is treacherous."

"I will go and get them," offered Fred. "No, don't you go! I'm afraid to
let you out of the room, lest you may remember some late business at
camp and take French leave. Is the manuscript on the table in your room?
I'll bring it."

And scarcely waiting either assent or remonstrance, she ran up the
stairs, returning immediately with hands full of loose sheets and two
rolls of manuscript.

"I confiscated all there was in reach," she laughed. "Here they are; you
pay no money, and you take your choice."

She was such a petite, pretty little creature, her witchy face alight
with the confidence of pleasure to come; and looking down at her, he
remarked:

"You look so much a spirit of inspiration, Miss Fred, that you had
better not make such a sweeping offer, lest I might be tempted to choose
you."

"And have a civil war on your hands," warned Rachel, "with the whole
camp in rebellion."

"Not much; they don't value me so highly," confessed Fred. "They would
all be willing to give me away."

"A willingness only seconded by your own." This from the gallant
Lieutenant on the settee. "My child, this is not leap-year, and in the
absence of your parent I--"

"Yes, I know. But as Captain Holt commands in papa's absence, I don't
see what extra responsibility rests on your shoulders. Now, Mr. Stuart,
all quiet along the Kootenai; go ahead."

"Not an easy thing to do," he answered ruefully, trying to sort the
jumbled lot of papers she had brought him, and beginning by laying the
rolls of manuscript on the table back of him, as if disposing of them.
"You have seized on several things that we could not possibly wade
through in one evening, but here is the sketch I spoke of. It is of
camp-life, by the way, and so open to criticism from you two veterans.
It was suggested by a story I heard told at the Fort."

Just then a wild screech of terror sounded from the yard, and then an
equally wild scramble across the porch. Everyone jumped to their feet,
but Rachel reached the door first, just as Aunty Luce, almost gray from
terror, floundered in.

"They's come!" she panted, in a sort of paralysis of fright and triumph
of prophecy. "I done tole all you chillen! Injuns! right here--I seed
'em!"

Hardy reached for his gun, the others doing the same; but the girl at
the door had darted out into the darkness.

"Rachel!" screamed Tillie, but no Rachel answered. Even Hardy's call was
not heeded; and he followed her with something like an oath on his lips,
and Stuart at his elbow.

Outside, it seemed very dark after the brightness within, and they
stopped on the porch an instant to guide themselves by sound, if there
was any movement.

There was--the least ominous of sounds--a laugh. The warlike attitude of
all relaxed somewhat, for it was so high and clear that it reached even
those within doors; and then, outlined against the background of snow,
Stuart and Hardy could see two forms near the gate--a tall and a short
one, and the shorter one was holding to the sleeve of the other and
laughing.

"You and Aunty Luce are a fine pair of soldiers," she was saying; "both
beat a retreat at the first glimpse of each other. And you can't leave
after upsetting everyone like this; you must come in the house and
reassure them. Come on!"

Some remonstrance was heard, and at the sound of the voice Hardy stepped
out.

"Hello, Genesee!" he said, with a good deal of relief in his manner;
"were you the scarecrow? Come in to the light, till we make sure we're
not to be scalped."

After a few words with the girl that the others could not hear, he
walked beside her to the porch.

"I'm mighty sorry, Hardy," he said as they met. "I was a little shaky
about Mowitza to-day, and reckoned I'd better make an extra trip over;
but I didn't count on kicking up a racket like this--didn't even spot
the woman till she screeched and run."

"That's all right," said Hardy reassuringly. "I'm glad you came, whether
intentionally or by accident. You know I told you the other day--"

"Yes--I know."

Rachel and Stuart had entered the house ahead of them, and all had
dropped back into their chosen points of vantage for the evening when
assurance was given that the Indians belonged to Aunty's imagination;
but for those short seconds of indecision Tillie had realized, as never
before, that they were really within the lines of the Indian country.

Aunty Luce settled herself sulkily in the corner, a grotesque figure,
with an injured air, eyeing Genesee with a suspicion not a whit allayed
when she recognized the man who had brought the first customs of war to
them--taking nocturnal possession of the best room.

"No need tell me he's a friend o' you all!" she grunted. "Nice sort o'
friend you's comin' to, I say--lives with Injuns; reckon I heard--umph!"

This was an aside to Tillie, who was trying to keep her quiet, and not
succeeding very well, much to the amusement of the others within
hearing, especially Fred.

Genesee had stopped in the outer room, speaking with Hardy; and,
standing together on the hearth, in the light of the fire, it occurred
to the group in the other room what a fine pair they made--each a piece
of physical perfection in his way.

"A pair of typical frontiersmen," said Murray, and Miss Fred was pleased
to agree, and add some praise on her own account.

"Why, that man Genesee is really handsome," she whispered; "he isn't
scowling like sin, as he was when I saw him before. Ask him in here,
Mrs. Tillie; I like to look at him."

Mrs. Tillie had already made a movement toward him. Perhaps the steady,
questioning gaze of Rachel had impelled her to follow what was really
her desire, only--why need the man be so flagrantly improper? Tillie had
a great deal of charity for black sheep, but she believed in their
having a corral to themselves, and not allowing them the chance of
smutching the spotless flocks that have had good luck and escaped the
mire. She was a good little woman, a warm-hearted one; and despite her
cool condemnation of his wickedness when he was absent, she always found
herself, in his presence, forgetting all but their comradeship of that
autumn, and greeting him with the cordiality that belonged to it.

"I shall pinch myself for this in the morning," she prophesied, even
while she held out her hand and reminded him that he had been a long
time deciding about making them a visit.

Her greeting was much warmer than her farewell had been the morning he
left--possibly because of the relief in finding it was not a "hostile"
at their gate. And he seemed more at ease, less as if he need to put
himself on the defensive--an attitude that had grown habitual to him, as
it does to many who live against the rulings of the world.

She walked ahead of him into the other room, thus giving him no chance
to object had he wanted to; and after a moment's hesitation he followed
her, and noticed, without seeming to look at any of them, that Rachel
stood back of Stuart's chair, and that Stuart was looking at him
intently, as if for recognition. On the other side, he saw the
Lieutenant quietly lay his hand on Miss Fred's wrist that was in shadow,
just as she arose impulsively to offer her hand to the man whom she
found was handsome when he had the aid of a razor. A beard of several
weeks' growth had covered his face at their first meeting; now there was
only a heavy mustache left. But she heeded that silent pressure of the
wrist more than she would a spoken word, and instead of the proffered
hand there was a little constrained smile of recognition, and a hope
given that Aunty Luce had not upset his nerves with her war-cries.

He saw it all the moment he was inside the door--the refined face of
Stuart, with the graciousness of manner so evidently acceptable to all,
the sheets of manuscript still in his fingers, looking as he stood there
like the ruling spirit of the cheery circle; and just outside that
circle, though inside the door, he--Genesee--stood alone, the fact
sharply accented by Miss Fred's significant movement; and with the
remembrance of the fact came the quick, ever-ready spirit of bravado,
and his head was held a trifle higher as he smiled down at her in
apparent unconcern.

"If it is going to make Aunty Luce feel more comfortable to have
company, I'm ready to own up that my hair raised the hat off my head at
first sight of her--isn't quite settled into place yet;" and he ran his
fingers through the mass of thick, dark hair. "How's that, Aunty?"

"Umph!" she grunted, crouching closer to the wall, and watching him
distrustfully from the extreme corner of her eye.

"Have you ever been scared so badly you couldn't yell, Aunty?" he asked,
with a bland disregard of the fact that she was just then in danger of
roasting herself on the hearth for the purpose of evading him. "No?
That's the way you fixed me a little while back, sure enough. I was
scared too badly to run, or they never would have caught me."

The only intelligible answer heard from her was: "Go 'long, you!"

He did not "go 'long." On the contrary, he wheeled about in Tillie's
chair, and settled himself as if that corner was especially attractive,
and he intended spending the evening in it--a suggestion that was a
decided surprise to all, even to Rachel, remembering his late
conservatism.

Stuart was the only one who realized that it was perhaps a method of
proving by practical demonstration the truth of his statement that he
was a Pariah among the class who received the more refined character
with every welcome. It was a queer thing for a man to court slights, but
once inside the door, his total unconcern of that which had been a
galling mortification to him was a pretty fair proof of Stuart's theory.
He talked Indian wars to Hardy, and Indian love-songs to Hardy's wife.
He coolly turned his attention to Lieutenant Murray, with whom his
acquaintance was the slightest, and from the Lieutenant to Miss Fred,
who was amused and interested in what was, to her, a new phase of a
"squaw man;" and her delight was none the less keen because of the
ineffectual attempts in any way to suppress this very irregular
specimen, whose easy familiarity was as silencing as his gruff curtness
had been the day they met him first.

Beyond an occasional remark, his notice was in no way directed to
Rachel--in fact, he seemed to avoid looking at her. He was much more
interested in the other two ladies, who by degrees dropped into a
cordiality on a par with that of Aunty Luce; and he promptly took
advantage of it by inviting Miss Fred to go riding with him in the
morning.

The man's impudence and really handsome face gave Fred a wicked desire
to accept, and horrify the Lieutenant and Tillie; but one glance at that
little matron told her it would not do.

"I have an engagement to ride to-morrow," she said rather hurriedly,
"else--"

"Else I should be your cavalier," he laughed. "Ah, well, there are more
days coming. I can wait."

A dead silence followed, in which Rachel caught the glance Genesee
turned on Stuart--a smile so mirthless and with so much of bitter irony
in it that it told her plainly as words that the farce they had sat
through was understood by those two men, if no others; and, puzzled and
eager to break the awkward silence, she tried to end it by stepping into
the breach.

"You have totally forgotten the story you were to tell us," she said,
pointing to the sheets of manuscript in Stuart's hand; "if we are to
have it to-night, why not begin?"

"Certainly; the story, by all means," echoed Fred. "We had it scared out
of our heads, I guess, but our nerves are equal to it now. Are you fond
of stories, Mr.--Mr. Genesee?"

"Uncommonly."

"Well, Mr. Stuart was about to read us one just as you came in: one he
wrote since he came up in these wilds--at the Fort, didn't you say, Mr.
Stuart? You know," she added, turning again to Genesee--"you know Mr.
Stuart is a writer--a romancer."

"Yes," he answered slowly, looking at the subject of their discourse as
if examining something rare and curious; "I should reckon--he--might
be."

The contempt in the tone sent the hot blood to Stuart's face, his eyes
glittering as ominously as Genesee's own would in anger. An instant
their gaze met in challenge and retort, and then the sheets of paper
were laid deliberately aside.

"I believe, after all, I will read you something else," he said,
reaching for one of the rolls of manuscript on the table; "that is, with
your permission. It is not a finished story, only the prologue. I wrote
it in the South, and thought I might find material for the completion of
it up here; perhaps I may."

"Let us have that, by all means," urged Tillie.

"What do you call it?"

"I had not thought of a title, as the story was scarcely written with
the idea of publication. The theme, however, which is pretty fairly
expressed in the quotation at the beginning, may suggest a title. I will
leave that to my audience."

"And we will all put on our thinking-caps and study up a title while you
tell the story, and when it is ended, see which has the best one to
offer. It will be a new sort of game with which to test our
imaginations. Go on. What is the quotation, to begin with?"

To the surprise of the listeners, he read that old command from
Deuteronomy, written of brother to brother:

     "Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his sheep go astray;
     thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother.

     "And with all lost things of thy brother's, which he hath lost
     and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise.

     "In any case thou shalt deliver him the pledge again when the
     sun goeth down."

Stuart ceased after those lines, and looked for comment. He saw enough
in the man's face opposite him.

"Oh, go on," said Rachel. "Never mind about the suggestions in that
heading--it is full of them; give us the story."

"It is only the prologue to a story," he reminded her; and with no
further comment began the manuscript.

Its opening was that saddest of all things to the living--a
death-bed--and that most binding of all vows--a promise given to the
dying.

There was drawn the picture of a fragile, fair little lady, holding in
her chilling fingers the destiny of the lives she was about to leave
behind--young lives--one a sobbing, wondering girl of ten, and two boys;
the older perhaps eighteen, an uncouth, strong-faced youth, who clasped
hands with another boy several years younger, but so fair that few would
think them brothers, and only the more youthful would ever have been
credited as the child of the little woman who looked so like a white
lily.

The other was the elder son--an Esau, however, who was favorite with
neither father nor mother; with no one, in fact, who had ever known the
sunny face and nature of the more youthful--an impulsive, loving
disposition that only shone the brighter by contrast with the
darker-faced, undemonstrative one whom even his mother never understood.

And the shadow of that misunderstanding was with them even at the
death-bed, where the Jacob sobbed out his grief in passionate protests
against the power that would rob him, and the Esau stood like a statue
to receive her commands. Back of them was the father, smothering his own
grief and consoling his favorite, when he could, and the one witness to
the seal that was set on the three young lives.

Her words were not many--she was so weak--but she motioned to the girl
beside the bed. "I leave her to you," she said, looking at them both,
but the eyes, true to the feeling back of them, wandered to the fairer
face and rested there. "The old place will belong to you two ere many
years--your father will perhaps come after me;" and she glanced lovingly
toward the man whom all the world but herself had found cold and hard in
nature. "I promised long ago--when her mother died--that she should
always have a home, and now I have to leave the trust to you, my sons."

"We will keep it," said the steady voice of Esau, as he sat like an
automaton watching her slowly drifting from them; while Jacob, on his
knees, with his arms about her, was murmuring tenderly, as to a child,
that all should be as she wished--her trust was to be theirs always.

"And if either of you should fail or forget, the other must take the
care on his own shoulders. Promise me that too, because--"

The words died away in a whisper, but her eyes turned toward the Esau.
He knew too bitterly what it meant. Though only a boy, he was a wild
one--people said a bad one. His father had pronounced him the only one
of their name who was not a gentleman. He gambled and he drank; his home
seemed the stables, his companions, fast horses and their fast masters;
and in the eyes of his mother he read, as never before, the effect that
life had produced. His own mother did not dare trust the black sheep of
the family, even though he promised at her death-bed.

A wild, half-murderous hate arose in him at the knowledge--a hate
against his elegant, correctly mannered father, whose cold condemnation
had long ago barred him out from his mother's sympathy, until even at
her death-bed he felt himself a stranger--his little mother--and he had
worshiped her as the faithful do their saints, and like them, afar off.

But even the hate for his father was driven back at the sight of the
wistful face, and the look that comes to eyes but once.

"We promise--I promise that, so help me God!" he said earnestly, and
then bent forward for the first time, his voice breaking as he spoke.
"Mother! mother! say just once that you trust--that you believe in me!"

Her gaze was still on his face; it was growing difficult to move the
eyes at will, and the very intensity of his own feelings may have held
her there. Her eyes widened ever so little, as if at some revelation
born to her by that magnetism, and then--"My boy, I trust--"

The words again died in a whisper; and raising his head with a long
breath of relief, he saw his father drop on his knees by the younger
son. Their arms were about each other and about her. A few broken,
disjointed whispers; a last smile upward, beyond them, a soft, sighing
little breath, after which there was no other, and then the voice of the
boy, irrepressible in his grief, as his love, broke forth in passionate
despair, and was soothed by his father, who led him sobbing and
rebellious from the bedside--both in their sorrow forgetting that third
member of the family who sat so stoically through it all, until the
little girl, their joint trust, half-blind with her own tears, saw him
there so still and as pathetically alone as the chilling clay beside
him. Trying to say some comforting words, she spoke to him, but received
no answer. She had always been rather afraid of this black sheep--he was
so morose about the house, and made no one love him except the horses;
but the scene just past drew her to him for once without dread.

"Brother," she whispered, calling him by the name his mother had left
her; "dear brother, don't you sit there like that;" and a vague terror
came to her as he made no sign. "You--you frighten me."

She slipped her hand about his neck with a child's caressing sympathy,
and then a wild scream brought the people hurrying into the room.

"He is dead!" she cried, as she dropped beside him; "sitting there cold
as stone, and we thought he didn't care! And he is dead--dead!"

But he was not dead--the physician soon assured them of that. It was
only a cataleptic fit. The emotion that had melted the one brother to
tears had frozen the other into the closest semblance to stone that life
can reach, and still be life.

The silence was thrilling as Stuart's voice ceased, and he stooped for
the other pages laid by his chair.

A feeling that the story on paper could never convey was brought to
every listener by the something in his voice that was not tears, but
suggested the emotion back of tears. They had always acknowledged the
magnetism of the man, but felt that he was excelling himself in this
instance. Tillie and Fred were silently crying. Rachel was staring very
steadily ahead of her, too steadily to notice that the hand laid on
Genesee's revolver at the commencement of the story had gradually
relaxed and dropped listless beside him. All the strength in his body
seemed to creep into his eyes as he watched Stuart, trusting as much to
his eyes as his ears for the complete comprehension of the object in or
back of that story. In the short pause the author, with one sweeping
glance, read his advantage--that he was holding in the bonds of sympathy
this man whom he could never conquer through an impersonal influence.
The knowledge was a ten-fold inspiration--the point to be gained was so
great to him; and with his voice thrilling them all with its intensity,
he read on and on.

The story? Its finish was the beginning of this one; but it was told
with a spirit that can not be transmitted by ink and paper, for the
teller depended little on his written copy. He knew it by heart--knew
all the tenderness of a love-story in it that was careless of the future
as the butterflies that coquette on a summer's day, passing and
repassing with a mere touch of wings, a challenge to a kiss, and then
darting hither and yon in the chase that grows laughing and eager, until
each flash of white wings in the sun bears them high above the heads of
their comrades, as the divine passion raises all its votaries above the
commonplace. Close and closer they are drawn by the spirit that lifts
them into a new life; high and higher, until against the blue sky there
is a final flash of white wings. It is the wedding by a kiss, and the
coquettings are over--the sky closes in. They are a world of their own.

Such a love story of summer was told by him in the allegory of the
butterflies; but the young heart throbbing through it was that of the
woman-child who had wept while the two brothers had clasped hands and
accepted her as the trust of the dying; and her joyous teacher of love
had been the fair-haired, fine-faced boy whose grief had been so great
and whose promises so fervent. It is a very old story, but an
ever-pathetic one--that tragedy of life; and likewise this one, without
thought of sin, with only a fatal fondness on her part, a fatal desire
for being loved on his, and a season's farewell to be uttered, of which
they could speak no word--the emotions that have led to more than one
tragedy of soul. And one of the butterflies in this one flitted for many
days through the flowers of her garden, shy, yet happy, whispering over
and over, "His wife, his wife!" while traveling southward, the other
felt a passion of remorse in his heart, and resolved on multitudinous
plans for the following of a perfection of life in the future.

All this he told--too delicately to give offense, yet too unsparingly
not to show that the evil wrought in a moment of idle pastime, of joyous
carelessness, is as fatal in its results as the most deliberate act of
preconceived wickedness.

And back of the lives and loves of those two, with their emotional
impulses and joyous union of untutored hearts, there arose, unloved and
seemingly unloving, the quiet, watchful figure of the Esau.

Looking at his life from a distance, and perhaps through eyes of
remorse, the writer had idealized that one character, while he had only
photographed the others; had studied out the deeds back of every decided
action, and discovered, or thought he had, that it was the lack of
sympathy in his home-life had made a sort of human porcupine of him, and
none had guessed that, back of the keen darts, there beat a pulse hungry
for words such as he begged from his mother at the last--and receiving,
was ready to sacrifice every hope of his, present or future, that he
might prove himself worthy of the trust she had granted him, though so
late.

Something in the final ignoring of self and the taking on his own
shoulders the responsibilities of those two whom his mother had
loved--something in all that, made him appear a character of heroic
proportions, viewed from Stuart's point of view. He walked through those
pages as a live thing, the feeling in the author's voice testifying to
his own earnestness in the portrayal--an earnestness that seemed to gain
strength as he went along, and held his listeners with convincing power
until the abrupt close of the scene between those two men in the old New
Orleans house.

Everyone felt vaguely surprised and disturbed when he finished--it was
all so totally unlike Stuart's stories with which he had entertained
them before. They were unprepared for the emotions provoked; and there
was in it, and in the reading, a suggestion of something beyond all that
was told.

The silence was so long that Stuart himself was the first to lift his
eyes to those opposite, and tried to say carelessly:

"Well?"

His face was pale, but not more so than that of Genesee, who, surprised
in that intent gaze, tried to meet his eyes steadily, but failed,
faltered, wavered, and finally turned to Rachel, as if seeking in some
way his former assurance. And what he saw there was the reaching out of
her hand until it touched Stuart's shoulder with a gesture of approving
comradeship.

"Good!" she said tersely; "don't ever again talk of writing for
pastime--the character of that one man is enough to be proud of."

"But there are two men," said Fred, finding her voice again, with a
sense of relief; "which one do you mean?"

"No," contradicted Rachel, with sharp decision; "I can see only one--the
Esau."

Stuart shrank a little under her hand, not even thanking her for the
words of praise; and, to her surprise, it was Genesee who answered her,
his eyes steady enough, except when looking at the author of the story.

"Don't be too quick about playing judge," he suggested; and the words
took her back like a flash to that other time when he had given her the
same curt advice. "May be that boy had some good points that are not put
down there. Maybe he might have had plans about doing the square thing,
and something upset them; or--or he might have got tangled up in a
lariat he wasn't looking for. It's just natural bad luck some men have
of getting tangled up like that; and may be he--this fellow--"

Fred broke out laughing at his reasoning for the defense.

"Why, Mr. Genesee," she said gleefully, "an audience of you would be an
inspiration to an author or actor; you are talking about the man as if
he was a flesh and blood specimen, instead of belonging to Mr. Stuart's
imagination."

"Yes, I reckon you're right, Miss," he said, rising to his feet, with a
queer, half-apologetic smile; "you see, I'm not used to hearing folks
read--romances." But the insolent sarcasm with which he had spoken of
the word at first was gone.

The others had all regained their tongues, or the use of them, and
comment and praise were given the author--not much notice taken of
Genesee's opinion and protest. His theories of the character might be
natural ones; but his own likelihood for entanglements, to judge by his
reputation, was apt to prejudice him, rendering him unduly charitable
toward any other fellow who was unlucky.

"My only objection to it," said Tillie, "is that there is not enough of
it. It seems unfinished."

"Well, he warned us in the beginning that it was only a prologue,"
reminded her husband; "but there is a good deal in it, too, for only a
prologue--a good deal."

"For my part," remarked the Lieutenant, "I don't think I should want
anything added to it. Just as it stands, it proves the characters of the
two men. If it was carried further, it might gain nothing, and leave
nothing for one's imagination."

"I had not thought of that," said Stuart; "in fact, it was only written
to help myself in analyzing two characters I had in my head, and could
not get rid of until I put them on paper. Authors are haunted by such
ghosts sometimes. It is Miss Fred's fault that I resurrected this one
to-night--she thrust on me the accidental remembrance."

"There are mighty few accidents in the world," was Genesee's concise
statement, as he pulled on his heavy buckskin gloves. "I'm about to cut
for camp. Going?" This to the Lieutenant.

After that laconic remark on accidents, no further word or notice was
exchanged between Stuart and Genesee; but it was easily seen that the
story read had smoothed out several wrinkles of threatened discord and
discontent. It had at least tamed the spirit of the scout, and left him
more the man Rachel knew in him. Her impatience at his manner early in
the evening disappeared as he showed improvement; and just before they
left, she crossed over to him, asking something of the snows on the Scot
Mountain trail, his eyes warming at the directness of her speech and
movement, showing to any who cared to notice that she spoke to him as to
a friend; but his glance turned instinctively from her to Stuart. He
remembered watching them that day as they rode from camp.

"But what of Davy?" she repeated; "have you heard any word of him?"

"No, and I'm ashamed to say it," he acknowledged; "I haven't been to see
him at all since I got back. I've had a lot of things in my head to keep
track of, and didn't even send. I'll do it, though, in a day or so--or
else go myself."

"I'm afraid he may be sick. If the snow is not bad, it's a wonder he has
not been down. I believe I will go."

"I don't like you to go over those trails alone," he said in a lower
tone; "not just now, at any rate."

"Why not now?"

"Well, you know these Indian troubles may bring queer cattle into the
country. The Kootenai tribe would rather take care of you than do you
harm; but--well, I reckon you had better keep to the ranch."

"And you don't reckon you can trust me to tell me why?" she said in a
challenging way.

"It mightn't do any good. I don't know, you see, that it is really
dangerous, only I'd rather you'd keep on the safe side; and--and--don't
say I can't trust you. I'd trust you with my life--yes, more than that,
if I had it!"

His voice was not heard by the others, who were laughing and chatting,
it was so low; but its intensity made her step back, looking up at him.

"Don't look as if I frighten you," he said quickly; "I didn't come in
here for that. You shouldn't have made me come, anyway--I belong to the
outside; coming in only helps me remember it."

"So that was what put you in such a humor. I thought it was Stuart."

"You did?"

"Yes; I know you don't like him--but, I think you are prejudiced."

"Oh, you do?" And she saw the same inscrutable smile on his face that
she had noticed when he looked at Stuart.

"There--there," she laughed, throwing up her hand as if to check him,
"don't tell me again that I am too anxious to judge people; but he is a
good fellow."

"And you are a good girl," he said warmly, looking down at her with so
much feeling in his face that Stuart, glancing toward them, was startled
into strange conjectures at the revelation in it. It was the first time
he had ever seen them talking together.

"And you're a plucky girl, too," added Genesee, "else you wouldn't stand
here talking to me before everyone. I'll remember it always of you.
Tillikum, good-night."



PART FOURTH

ONE SQUAW MAN



CHAPTER I.

LAMONTI.


The next morning awoke with the balmy air of spring following the
sunrise over the snow--a fair, soft day, with treachery back of its
smiles; for along in the afternoon the sky gathered in gray drifts, and
the weather-wise prophesied a big snow-fall.

All the morning Genesee wrote. One page after another was torn up, and
it was the middle of the afternoon before he finally finished the work
to his satisfaction, did it up in a flat, square package, and having
sealed it securely, called Kalitan.

"You take this to the express office at the station," he said; "get a
paper for it--receipt; then go to Holland's--to the bank store; give
them this," and he handed a slip of written paper. "If they give you
letter, keep it carefully--so," and he took from his shirt-pocket a
rubber case the size of an ordinary envelope. Evidently Kalitan had
carried it before, for he opened a rather intricate clasp and slipped
the bit of paper into it.

"All good--not get wet," he said, picking up the larger package. "The
Arrow fly down; come back how soon?"

"Send this," pointing to the package, "the first thing in the morning;
then wait until night for the stage from Pacific that brings the
mail--may be if road is bad it will not come till next morning."

"Kalitan wait?"

"Yes, wait till the stage comes, then ask for letter, and keep your eyes
open; watch for bad whites. Klahowya!"

Watching Kalitan start off with that package, he drew a long breath of
relief, like a man who had laid down some burden; and leaving the avenue
and the camp behind, he struck out over the trail toward Hardy's, not
even stopping to saddle a horse. He was going to have a "wau-wau" with
Mowitza.

He had barely entered the stable door when Tillie came across the yard,
with a shawl thrown over her head and looking disturbed.

"Oh, is it you, Mr. Genesee?" she said, with a little sigh of
disappointment; "I thought it was Hen or one of the others come back.
Did you meet them?"

"Yes; going up the west valley after stock."

"The west valley! Then they won't get back before dark, and I--I don't
know what to do!" and the worried look reached utter despair as she
spoke.

"What's up? I can ride after them if you say so."

"I don't know what to say. I should have told Hen at noon; but I knew it
would put him out of patience with Rachel, and I trusted to her getting
back all right; but now, if the snow sets in quickly, and it threatens
to, she may get lost, and I--"

"Where is she?"

"Gone to Scot's Mountain."

An energetic expletive broke from his lips, unchecked even by the
presence of the little woman who had seemed a sort of Madonna to him in
the days a year old. The Madonna did not look much shocked. She had an
idea that the occasion was a warrant for condemnation, and she felt
rather guilty herself.

"One of the Kootenai tribe came here this morning, and after jabbering
Chinook with him, she told me Davy MacDougall was sick, and she was
going to ride up there. Hen was out, and she wouldn't listen to Miss
Fred and me--just told us to keep quiet and not tell him where she was,
and that she would get back for supper; so we haven't said a word; and
now the snow is coming, she may get lost."

Tillie was almost in tears; it was easy to see she was terribly
frightened, and very remorseful for keeping Rachel's command to say
nothing to Hardy.

"Did that Indian go with her?"

"No; and she started him back first, up over that hill, to be sure he
would not go over to the camp. I can't see what her idea was for that."

Genesee could--it was to prevent him from knowing she was going up into
the hills despite his caution.

"There is not a man left on the place, except Jim," continued Tillie,
"or I would send them after her. But Jim does not know the short-cut
trail that I've heard Rachel speak of, and he might miss her in the
hills; and--oh, dear! oh, dear!"

Genesee reached to the wooden peg where his saddle hung, and threw it
across Mowitza's back.

In a moment Tillie understood what it meant, and felt that, capable as
he might be, he was not the person she should send as guardian for a
young girl. To be sure, he had once before filled that position, and
brought her in safety; but that was before his real character was known.

Tillie thought of what the rest would say, of what Stuart would think
for she had already bracketed Rachel and Stuart in her match-making
calendar. She was between several fires of anxiety and indecision, as
she noted the quick buckling of straps and the appropriation of two
blankets from the hanging shelf above them.

"Are you--can you get someone to go for me--from the camp?" she asked
hurriedly. He turned and looked at her with a smile in his eyes.

"I reckon so," he answered briefly; and then, seeing her face flushed
and embarrassed, the smile died out as he felt what her thoughts were.
"Who do you want?" he added, leading Mowitza out and standing beside
her, ready to mount.

She did not even look up. She felt exactly as she had when she told Hen
that she knew she was right, and yet felt ashamed of herself.

"I thought if you could spare Kalitan--" she hesitated. "She knows him,
and he has been with her so often up there, no one else would know so
well where to look for her--that is, if you could spare him," she added
helplessly.

"The chances are that I can," he said in a business-like way; "and if I
was you I'd just keep quiet about the trip, or else tell them she has an
Indian guide--and she will have. Can you give me a bottle of brandy and
some biscuits?"

She ran into the house, and came back with them at once. He was mounted
and a-waiting her.

"Kalitan has left the camp--gone over that hill;" and he motioned rather
vaguely toward the ridge across the valley. "I'll just ride over and
start him from there, so he won't need to go back to camp for rations.
Don't you worry; just keep quiet, and she'll come back all right with
Kalitan."

He turned without further words, and rode away through the soft flakes
of snow that were already beginning to fall. He did not even say a
good-bye; and Tillie, hedged in by her convictions and her anxiety, let
him go without even a word of thanks.

"I simply did not dare to say 'thank you' to him," she thought, as he
disappeared. And then she went into the house and eased Fred's heart and
her own conscience with the statement that Kalitan, the best guide
Rachel could have, had gone to meet her. She made no mention of the
objectionable character who had sent Kalitan.

By the time of sunset, Scot's Mountain was smothered in the white cloud
that had closed over it so suddenly, and the snow was still falling
straight down, and so steadily that one could not retrace steps and find
tracks ten minutes after they were made. Through the banked-up masses a
white-coated unrecognizable individual plowed his way to MacDougall's
door, and without ceremony opened it and floundered in, carrying with
him what looked enough snow to smother a man; but his eyes were clear of
it, and a glance told him the cabin had but one occupant.

"When did she leave?" was the salutation MacDougall received, after a
separation of six weeks.

"Why, Jack, my lad!"

"Yes, that's who it is, and little time to talk. Has she been here?"

"The lass--Rachel? She has that--a sight for sore eyes--and set all
things neat and tidy for me in no time;" and he waved his hand toward
the clean-swept hearth, and the table with clean dishes, and a basket
with a loaf of new bread showing through. "But she did na stay long wi'
me. The clouds were comin' up heavy, she said, and she must get home
before the snow fell; an' it snows now?"

"Well, rather. Can't you see out?"

"I doubt na I've had a nap since she left;" and the Old man raised
himself stiffly from the bunk. "I got none the night, for the sore pain
o' my back, but the lass helped me. She's a rare helpful one."

"Which trail did she take?" asked Genesee impatiently.

He saw the old man was not able to help him look for her, and did not
want to alarm him; but to stand listening to comments when every minute
was deepening the snow, and the darkness--well, it was a test to the man
waiting.

"I canna say for sure, but she spoke o' the trail through the Maples
being the quickest way home; likely she took it."

Genesee turned to the door with a gesture of despair. He had come that
way and seen no sign of her; but the trail wound above gulches where a
misstep was fatal, and where a horse and rider could be buried in the
depths that day and leave no trace.

At the door he stopped and glanced at Davy MacDougall, and then about
the cabin.

"Are you fixed all right here in case of being snowed in?" he asked.

"I am that--for four weeks, if need be; but does it look like that out?"

"Pretty much. Good-bye, Davy;" and he walked back and held out his hand
to the old man, who looked at him wonderingly. Though their friendship
was earnest, they were never demonstrative, and Genesee usually left
with a careless klahowya!

"Why, lad--"

"I'm going to look for her, Davy. If I find her, you'll hear of it; if I
don't, tell the cursed fools at the ranch that I--that I sent a guide
who would give his life for her. Good-bye, old fellow--good-bye."

Down over the mountain he went, leading Mowitza, and breaking the path
ahead of her--slow, slow work. At that rate of travel, it would be
morning before he could reach the ranch; and he must find her first.

He found he could have made more speed with snow-shoes and without
Mowitza--the snow was banking up so terribly. The valley was almost
reached when a queer sound came to him through the thick veil of white
that had turned gray with coming night.

Mowitza heard it, too, for she threw up her head and answered it with a
long whinny, even before her master had decided what the noise was; but
it came again, and then he had no doubt it was the call of a horse, and
it was somewhere on the hill above him.

He fastened Mowitza to a tree, and started up over the way he had come,
stopping now and then to call, but hearing no answer--not even from the
horse, that suggested some phantom-like steed that had passed in the
white storm.

Suddenly, close to him, he heard a sound much more human--a whistle; and
in a moment he plunged in that direction, and almost stumbled over a
form huddled against a fallen tree. He could not see her face. He did
not need to. She was in his arms, and she was alive. That was enough.
But she lay strangely still for a live woman, and he felt in his pocket
for that whisky-flask; a little of the fiery liquor strangled her, but
aroused her entirely.

"Jack?"

"Yes."

"I knew if I called long enough you would come; but I can only whisper
now. You came just in time."

"How long have you been here?"

"Oh, hours, I think. I started for the gulch trail, and couldn't make it
with snow on the ground. Then I tried for the other trail, but got lost
in the snow--couldn't even find the cabin. Help me up, will you? I guess
I'm all right now."

She was not, quite, for she staggered woefully; and he caught her
quickly to him and held her with one arm, while he fumbled for some
matches with the other.

"You're a healthy-looking specimen," was the rather depreciating verdict
he gave at sight of the white, tired face. She smiled from the pillow of
his shoulder, but did not open her eyes; then the match flickered and
went out, and he could see her no more.

"Why didn't you stay at home, as I told you to?"

"Didn't want to."

"Don't you know I'm likely to catch my death of cold tramping here after
you?"

"No," with an intonation that sounded rather heartless; "you never catch
cold."

The fact that she had not lost her old spirit, if she had her voice, was
a great point in her favor, and he had a full appreciation of it. She
was tired out, and hoarse, but still had pluck enough to attempt the
trip to the ranch.

"We've got to make it," she decided, when the subject was broached; "we
can make it to-night as well as to-morrow, if you know the trail. Did
you say you had some biscuits? Well, I'm hungry."

"You generally are," he remarked, with a dryness in no way related to
the delight with which he got the biscuits for her and insisted on her
swallowing some more of the whisky. "Are you cold?"

"No--not a bit; and that seems funny, too. If it hadn't been such a
soft, warm snow, I should have been frozen."

He left her and went to find the mare, which he did without much
trouble; and in leading her back over the little plateau he was struck
with a sense of being on familiar ground. It was such a tiny little
shelf jutting out from the mountain.

Swathed in snow as it was, and with the darkness above it, he felt so
confident that he walked straight out to where the edge should be if he
was right. Yes, there was the sudden shelving that left the little plot
inaccessible from one side.

"Do you know where we are, my girl?" he asked as he rejoined her.

"Somewhere on Scot's Mountain," she hazarded; the possessive term used
by him had a way of depriving her of decided opinions.

"You're just about the same place where you watched the sun come up
once--may be you remember?"

"Yes."

He had helped her up. They stood there silent what seemed a long time;
then he spoke:

"I've come here often since that time. It's been a sort of a church--one
that no one likely ever set foot in but you and me." He paused as if in
hesitation; then continued: "I've wished often I could see you here
again in the same place, just because I got so fond of it; and I don't
know what you think of it, but this little bit of the mountain has
something witched in it for me. I felt in the dark when my feet touched
it, and I have a fancy, after it's all over, to be brought up here and
laid where we stood that morning."

"Jack," and her other hand was reached impulsively to his, "what's the
matter--what makes you speak like that now?"

"I don't know. The idea came strong to me back there, and I felt as if
you--you--were the only one I could tell it to, for you know nearly all
now--all the bad in me, too; yet you've never been the girl to draw away
or keep back your hand if you felt I needed it. Ah, my girl, you are one
in a thousand!"

He was speaking in the calmest, most dispassionate way, as if it was
quite a usual thing to indulge in dissertations of this sort, with the
snow slowly covering them. Perhaps he was right in thinking the place
witched.

"You've been a good friend to me," he continued, "whether I was near or
far--MacDougall told me things that proved it; and if my time should
come quick, as many a man's has in the Indian country, I believe you
would see I was brought here, where I want to be."

"You may be sure of it," she said earnestly; "but I don't like to hear
you talk like that--it isn't like you. You give me a queer, uncanny
feeling. I can't see you, and I am not sure it is Jack--nika
tillikum--I am talking to at all. If you keep it up, you will have me
nervous."

He held her hand and drew it up to his throat, pressing his chin against
the fingers with a movement that was as caressive as a kiss.

"Don't you be afraid," he said gently; "you are afraid of nothing else,
and you must never be of me. Come, come, my girl, if we're to go, we'd
better be getting a move on."

The prosaic suggestion seemed an interruption of his own tendencies,
which were not prosaic. The girl slipped her fingers gently but
decidedly from their resting-place so near his lips, and laid her one
hand on his arm.

"Yes, we must be going, or"--and he knew she was smiling, though the
darkness hid her--"or it will look as if there are two witched folks in
our chapel--our white chapel--to-night. I'm glad we happened here, since
the thought is any comfort to you; but I hope it will be many a day
before you are brought here, instead of bringing yourself."

He took her hand, and through the white masses turned their faces down
the mountain. The mare followed meekly after. The stimulant of bread and
whisky--and more, the coming of this man, of whom she was so stubbornly
confident--had acted as a tonic to Rachel, and she struggled through
bravely, accepting little of help, and had not once asked how he came to
be there instead of the ranchmen.

Perhaps it was because of their past association, and that one night
together when he had carried her in his arms; but whatever he was to the
other people, he had always seemed to her a sort of guardian of the
hills and all lost things.

She did not think of his presence there nearly so much as she did of
those ideas of his that seemed "uncanny." He, such a bulwark of physical
strength, to speak like that of a grave-site! It added one more to the
contradictions she had seen in him.

Several things were in her mind to say to him, and not all of them
pleasant. She had heard a little of the ideas current as to his Indian
sympathies, and the doubt with which he was regarded in camp; and, while
she defended him, she many times felt vexed that he cared so little
about defending himself. And with the memory of the night before, and
feminine comments at the ranch after he had gone, she made an attempt to
storm his stubbornness during a short breathing-spell when they rested
against the great bole of a tree.

"Genesee, why don't you let the other folks at the ranch, or the camp,
know you as I do?" was the first break, at which he laughed shortly.

"They may know me the best of the two."

"But they don't; I know they don't; you know they don't."

"Speak for yourself," he suggested; "I'm not sure either way, and when a
man can't bet on himself, it isn't fair to expect his friends to. You've
been the only one of them all to pin faith to me, with not a thing to
prove that you had reason for it; it's just out-and-out faith, nothing
else. What they think doesn't count, nor what I've been; but if ever I
get where I can talk to you, you'll know, may be, how much a woman's
faith can help a man when he's down. But don't you bother your head over
what they think. If I'm any good, they'll know it sometime; if I'm not,
you'll know that, too. That's enough said, isn't it? And we'd better
break away from here; we're about the foot of the mountain, I reckon."

Then he took possession of her hand again, and led her on in the night;
and she felt that her attempt had been a failure, except that it showed
how closely he held her regard, and she was too human not to be moved by
the knowledge. Yes, he was very improper, as much so as most men, only
it had happened to be in a way that was shocking to tenderfeet lucky
enough to have families and homes as safeguards against evil. He was
very disreputable, and, socially, a great gulf would be marked between
them by their friends. But in the hills, where the universe dwindled to
earth, sky, and two souls, they were but man and woman; and all the
puzzling things about him that were blameful things melted away, as the
snow that fell on their faces. She felt his strong presence as a guard
about her, and without doubt or hesitation she kept pace beside him.

Once in the valley, she mounted Betty, and letting Mowitza follow, he
walked ahead himself, to break the trail--a slow, slavish task, and the
journey seemed endless. Hour after hour went by in that slow
march--scarcely a word spoken, save when rest was necessary; and the
snow never ceased falling--a widely different journey from that other
time when he had hunted and found her.

"You have your own time finding the trail for me when I get lost," she
said once, as he lifted her to the saddle after a short rest.

"You did the same thing for me one day, a good while ago," he answered
simply.

The night had reached its greatest darkness, in the hours that presage
the dawn, when they crossed the last ridge, and knew that rest was at
last within comparatively easy reach. Then for the first time, Genesee
spoke of his self-imposed search.

"I reckon you know I'm an Indian?" he said by way of preface.

"I don't know anything of the sort."

"But I am--a regular adopted son in the Kootenai tribe, four years old;
so if they ask you if an Indian guide brought you home, you can tell
them yes. Do you see?"

"Yes, I see, but not the necessity. Why should I not tell them you
brought me?"

"May be you know, and may be you don't, that I'm not supposed to range
far from camp. Kalitan was to go for you. Kalitan had some other work,
and sent a Kootenai friend of his. The friend's name is Lamonti. Can you
mind that? It means 'the mountain.' I come by it honest--it's a present
Grey Eagle made me. If they ask questions about your guide, just put
them off some way--tell them you don't know where he's gone to; and you
won't. Now, can you do that?"

"I can, of course; but I don't like to have you leave like this. You
must be half-dead, and I--Jack, Jack, what would I have done without
you!"

He was so close, in the darkness, that in throwing out her hand it
touched his face, one of the trivial accidents that turn lives
sometimes. He caught it, pressing it to his lips, his eyes, his cheek.

"Don't speak like that, unless you want to make a crazy man of me," he
muttered. "I can't stand everything. God! girl, you'll never know, and
I--can't tell you! For Christ sake, don't act as if you were afraid--the
only one who has ever had faith in me! I think that would wake up all
the devil you helped put asleep once. Here! give me your hand again,
just once--just to show you trust me. I'll be worth it--I swear I will!
I'll never come near you again!"

The bonds under which he had held himself so long had broken at the
touch of her hand and the impulsive tenderness of her appeal. Through
the half sob in his wild words had burst all the repressed emotions of
desolate days and lonely nights, and the force of them thrilled the
girl, half-stunned her, for she could not speak. A sort of terror of his
broken, passionate speech had drawn her quickly back from him, and she
seemed to live hours in that second of indecision. All her audacity and
self-possession vanished as a bulwark of straws before a flood. Her
hands trembled, and a great compassion filled her for this alien by
whose side she would have to stand against the world. That certainty it
must have been that decided her, as it has decided many another woman,
and ennobled many a love that otherwise would have been commonplace. And
though her hands trembled, they trembled out toward him, and fell softly
as a benediction on his upturned face.

"I think you will come to me again," she said tremulously, as she leaned
low from the saddle and felt tears as well as kisses on her hands, "and
you are worth it now, I believe; worth more than I can give you."

A half-hour later Rachel entered the door of the ranch, and found
several of its occupants sleepless and awaiting some tidings of her. In
the soft snow they had not heard her arrival until she stepped on the
porch.

"I've been all night getting here," she said, glancing at the clock that
told an hour near dawn, "and I'm too tired to talk; so don't bother me.
See how hoarse I am. No; Kalitan did not bring me. It was a Kootenai
called Lamonti. I don't know where he has gone--wouldn't come in. Just
keep quiet and let me get to bed, will you?"



CHAPTER II.

A PHILOSOPHICAL HORSE-THIEF.


An hour before dawn the wind came, hurtling down through the mountains
and moaning along the valleys; before it drove the flying snow in great
chilly sheets, as it was lifted from the high places and spread in every
nook that would warrant its safe-keeping.

Through its fitful gusts Genesee walked into camp, his tracks filled by
the eager flakes as he left them. There seemed a strange alertness about
the place, for so early an hour--even through the commotion, blissful
and despairing, in his own breast, he noticed it as the guard hailed
him, and when he replied, he heard from that individual an excited
exclamation of astonishment.

"By jolly, if it ain't Genesee!"

"I reckon it is," he answered, and passed on, too tired, yet elated by
his night's work, to care whether or not his absence had been commented
on.

The door of the shack had barely closed on him when one of the several
lanterns that he had noticed floating like stars along the snow stopped
at his door, then a knock, and the entrance of a very wide-awake looking
corporal.

"You are to report to Captain Holt at once," was the message he brought.

"What's up?" and the boot that was half-way off was yanked on again.

"That's all the message I was given."

"The hell you say! Well, trot along."

His own frowning perplexity was no more decided than that of Captain
Holt, as he looked up to notice the entrance of the scout--and there was
little of friendliness in the look.

"You sent a man to say you wanted me."

"Yes, I sent a man about two hours ago to say I wanted you," was the
ironical reply. "You were not to be found. Have you any report to make?"

"Not that I know of," he said curtly. A sort of quiet antagonism had
always been felt between the chief of scouts and the new commander, but
this was the first time any expression had been given it, and Genesee's
intolerance quickly responded to the manner of the officer that had in
it both dislike and distrust.

"Then you refuse to tell me where you spent the night?"

The light in Genesee's eyes flashed sudden defiance.

"Yes; if it comes to that, and that's the way you put it, I do."

"You had better think twice before you give that answer," advised
Captain Holt, his face paling with anger at the insubordination; "and
another question to be put to you is, Where is the half-breed, your
runner?"

"I don't know as that concerns you, either," answered Genesee coolly.
"He is my Indian, and neither of us belonging to the United States Army,
we can leave camp when it suits us. But I don't mind telling you I sent
him to Holland's yesterday."

"For what purpose?"

"My own business."

"The same thing that took you from camp at three yesterday and kept you
out all night?"

"Just so."

"Then, since you refuse to answer a very necessary question, you
may--until I have an opportunity of investigating an absence that is, to
say the least, suspicious--you may consider yourself under arrest."

"What in--"

"For horse-stealing," finished the Captain calmly.

Genesee's hand dropped to his belt in a suggestive manner, and from the
door two guards stepped forward. He turned to look at them, and the
ridiculous idea of his arrest quelled the quick rage that had flashed up
in his face.

"You needn't have troubled yourself with these protectors," he remarked,
"for I reckon there isn't much I'd want to do that they would stop me
from; and as for you--this is a piece of dirty work for some end. I'm
ready to be put under arrest, just to see some fun when your commander
gets back. And now may be you'll just tell me whose horse I stole?"

"It is not one horse, but one-half the stock belonging to the company,
that was run off by your Kootenai friends last night," replied Captain
Holt grimly; "and as your disappearance was likely helpful to them, and
a matter of mystery to the command, you will be debarred from visiting
them again until the matter is investigated. Even the explanation is
more than your insolence deserves. You can go back to your quarters."

"It's an infernal lie!" burst out Genesee wrathfully. "No Kootenai
touched your stock. It's been some thieving Blackfeet and their white
friends; and if you interfere with the Kootenais, and try to put it on
their shoulders, you'll get yourself in trouble--big trouble."

"When I want your advice, I will ask for it," was the natural reply to
the contradiction and half threat. Genesee walked to the door with the
guards, and turning, came back.

"Captain Holt," with more of appeal in manner than one would look for in
him, "I'm ready to take my chances in this business, and I'm not trying
to give advice, but I'm going to ask you, on the reputation you know I
have in Indian matters, to be mighty careful what you do or what you let
the men do toward the Kootenai people. They're only waiting the Major's
return to send word to camp that their arms and fighting braves are
willing to help the troops against the Blackfeet if they're needed. I
know it. Their messenger is likely to come any day; and it will be a bad
thing for our cause if their friendliness is broken by this suspicion."

"Your cause?"

"No, I haven't got any," he retorted. "I'm not talking for myself--I'm
out of it; but I mean the cause of lives here in the valley--the lives
on both sides--that would be lost in a useless fight. It's all useless."

"And you acknowledge, then, that you don't consider the cause of the
whites as your own cause?" asked the Captain quietly.

"Yes!" he burst out emphatically, "I'll own up to you or anyone else; so
make me a horse-thief on that, if you can! I'd work for the reds quicker
than for you, if there was anything to be gained by fighting for them;
but there isn't. They'd only kill, and be killed off in the end. If I've
worked on your side, it's been to save lives, not to take them; and if
I've got any sympathies in the matter, it's with the reds. They've been
dogged to death by your damned 'cause.' Now you've got my ideas in a
nut-shell."

"Yes," agreed the Captain sarcastically, "very plainly expressed. To
establish entirely your sympathy with your red friends, it only remains
for you to be equally frank and report your movements of last night."

"Go to hell and find out;" and with this climax of insubordination, the
scout left the presence of the commanding officer and marched back to
his shack, where he took possession of the bunk and was sound asleep in
five minutes, and altogether undisturbed by the fact that a guard was
stationed at the door of the impromptu prison with orders to shoot him
if an attempt to escape was made.

Captain Holt's leniency with the scout, who simply ignored military rule
and obedience in a place where it was the only law, was, for him,
phenomenal.

The one thing in Genesee's favor was his voluntary return to camp; and
until he learned what scheme was back of that, the Captain was obliged,
with the thought of his superior officer in mind and the scout's
importance, to grant him some amenities, ignore his insolence, and
content himself with keeping him under guard.

The guard outside was not nearly so strong in its control of Genesee as
the bonds of sleep that held him through the morning and well-nigh high
noon. He had quickly summed up the case after his interview with Holt,
and decided that in two days, at most, the Major would be back, and that
the present commander would defer any decided movement toward the
Kootenais until then. As for the horses, that was a bad business; but if
they chose to put him under arrest, they plainly took from him the
responsibility of hunting for stock. So he decided, and in the freedom
from any further care, dropped asleep. Once a guard came in with some
breakfast, which he ate drowsily, and turned again to his pillow.

"When that fool, the commanding officer, concludes to let up on this
arrest, there's likely to be some work to do--I'll fortify myself while
I have the chance;" and that determination, added to his exhaustion,
served to make his rest a very deliberate affair, not to be disturbed by
trifles.

Several things occurred during that winter's morning that were far from
trifling; yet no sound of them came to him, not even when a shot on the
ridge echoed across the valley, and ten minutes later was followed by
several more, accompanied by yells, heard faintly, but clearly enough to
tell that a skirmishing party was having a shooting-match with someone
across the hills. In three minutes every horse left in camp was mounted
and scurrying fast as their feet could carry them through the drifts,
while the horseless ones, whose stock had been run off in the muffled
silence of the snow-storm, remained unwillingly behind.

At the end of the avenue Lieutenant Murray caught sight of Stuart and
Hardy, riding toward camp. There was a hallooed invitation to join,
another of acceptance, and the civilians joined the irregular cavalcade
and swept with them over the hill, where the sounds of shots were
growing fainter--evidently a retreat and a chase--toward which they rode
blindly.

Through all of it their chief of scouts slept unconcernedly; a solid ten
hours of rest was taken possession of before he aroused himself to care
whether it was daylight or darkness.

"Major come yet?" was the first query.

"No."

"Am I still under arrest?"

"Yes."

"Then bring me something to eat. Past chuck?"

On being informed that the midday meal had been ended two hours before,
his next query was whether anyone from the ranch had been to camp; but
the guard thought not--a reply most grateful to the prisoner.

"Suppose you tell me something about the horses being run off," he
suggested. "Oh, yes, I reckon I'm supposed to know all about it," he
added; "but, just to pass the time, suppose you tell me your side of
it."

There was not much to tell. Hardy's men had been riding around after
stray stock until late; had passed camp after ten o'clock. About one in
the morning the snow was falling thick; a little racket was heard in the
long shed where the horses were tied, and the sentry, thinking some of
Hardy's stray stock had wandered in there, tramped around with a light
to see what was wrong. He had barely reached the end of the corral when
someone from behind struck him over the head. In falling, his gun was
discharged; and when investigations were made, it was found that nearly
half the horses, about forty head, had been quietly run off through the
snow, and the exploded gun was all that saved the rest.

The trail was hot, and pursuit began, but the thieves evidently knew the
country, while the troops did not; and every moment lost in consultation
and conjecture was gained by the people ahead, until the wind rose and
the trail was buried in the snow.

The followers had only returned to camp a few minutes before Genesee was
reported back; but the man surmised that if the troops did not get the
horses, they were taking their pay out of the hides of the red-skins.

"How's that?" demanded Genesee, with the quick, perplexed frown that was
as much anxiety as displeasure.

"Well, a young cub of a Siwash came a-riding along to camp about noon,
as large as life and independent as a hog on ice, and Denny Claflin--you
know him, his horse was roped in by them last night--well, he called the
buck to halt, as he'd a perfect right to do, and got no more notice than
if the wind had whistled. Denny hates an Injun as the devil does holy
water, and being naturally riled over last night, he called to halt, or
he'd fire. Well, Mr. Siwash never turned his head, and Denny let him
have it."

"Killed him?"

"Dead as a door-nail. Right over the ridge north. Our boys were just
coming in, after skirmishing for signs from last night. They heard the
shot, and rode up; and then, almost before they saw them, some ambushed
Injuns burst out on them like all-possessed. They'd come with the young
one, who was sent ahead, you see. Well, there was a go-as-you-please
fight, I guess, till our men got out from camp, and chased them so far
they haven't showed up since. Some of us went out afoot to the ridge,
and found the dead buck. We buried him up there, and have been keeping
an eye open for the boys ever since."

"Did Captain Holt go?"

"You bet! and every other man that had a horse to go on; even that Mr.
Stuart and Hardy from the ranch went."

"And they haven't showed up?"

"Naw."

No more questions were asked, and the guard betook himself to his pipe
and enjoyment of the warm room, for intense cold had followed in the
wake of the snow.

And the prisoner? The man on watch eyed dubiously the dark face as it
lounged on the bunk. Aroused and refreshed by rest, he drifted away from
the remembrance of his prison by living over with tender eyes the
victory of the night before. Once he had seen it was possible for her to
care for him--that once of a year ago, before she knew what he was; but
lately--well, he thought her a plucky, cool-headed girl, who wouldn't go
back on a friend, and her stanchness had shown that; but the very frank
and outspoken showing had taken from him any hope of the warmer feeling
that had existed in the old days, when she had likened him to a
Launcelot in buckskin. The hope? His teeth set viciously as he thought
of it as a hope. What right had he for such a wish? What right had he to
let go of himself as he had done, and show her how his life was bound up
in hers? What a hopeless tangle it was; and if she cared for him, it
meant plainly enough that he was to repay her by communicating its
hopelessness to her.

If she cared! In the prosaic light of day he even attempted to tell
himself that the victory of the night might have been in part a
delusion; that she had pitied him and the passion she had raised, and so
had stooped from the saddle. Might it not have been only that? His
reason told him--perhaps; and then all the wild unreason in the man
turned rebel, and the force of a tumultuous instinct arose and took
possession of him--of her, for it gave her again into his arms, and the
laws of people were as nothing. She was his by her own gift; the rest of
the world was blotted out.



CHAPTER III.

"THE SQUAW WHO RIDES."


At the ranch a strange cloak of silence hung around the household in
regard to the horse-stealing. The men, hearing of the night raid, had
endeavored to keep it from the women for fear of giving them uneasiness,
but had not altogether succeeded. Jim had frustrated that attempt by
forgetting, and blurting out at the dinner table something about
Genesee's arrest.

"It isn't true; it can't be true!" and Rachel turned with such an appeal
in her tired eyes that Andrews dropped his own.

"It's true, Miss; he's accused of knowin' all about it, even if he
didn't help. It's supposed to be his Kootenai friends that did it, and
they say he's mighty close-mouthed over it; that tells against him. I
hope to God it ain't true, for he seemed a mighty good man; but he's
under guard at the camp; won't allow folks to see him, I
hear--leastwise, no Injuns."

Rachel glanced at the others, but found in their faces no strong
partisanship for Genesee. Tillie and Fred were regretful, but not
hopeful.

"It seems a shame that such a fine-looking fellow should be a squaw
man," said the Major's daughter; "but since he is one, there is not much
to be hoped of him, though papa did have a wonderful lot of faith in
this one."

Rachel's eyes lightened at the words. "What day do they look for your
father back?" she asked quickly.

"To-day or to-morrow, though this snow may hinder them some."

"Well, he can't get here any too soon," chipped in the loquacious Jim.
"I reckon they--"

Then his discourse was cut short by the toe of Andrews' boot under the
table. Although the horse-stealing was known at the ranch, and now the
suspicion of Genesee, yet there was one thing that Andrews and Ivans had
maneuvered to keep quiet, and that was the absence of Hardy and Stuart,
and the fact that hostile Indians had descended from the hills.

Apocryphal stories had been told Tillie of an early supper her husband
and guest had eaten at camp, and a ride they had taken after stock
overlooked the night before; and the hours dragged on, the night came,
and the two conspirators were gaining themselves the serious anxiety
they had endeavored to shield the women from, and Jim, once outside the
door, was threatened with instant annihilation if he let his tongue run
so far ahead of his wit again.

The ladies had decided not to tell Rachel about Genesee--Tillie had so
clear a remembrance of her stubborn friendliness for that outlaw; but
Jim had settled the question of silence, and all the weariness dropped
from her at thought of what that accusation meant to him--death. Once
she got up with the strong light of hope in her eyes, and running across
the snow in the dark, opened the door of the stable where Jim was
bedding the horses.

"Jim!" she called sharply; "when was it the stock was run off from
camp--what time?"

"Early this mornin'," answered that youth sulkily. He had just received
the emphatic warning against "tattling."

"This morning? What time this morning?"

"Oh, early; afore daylight."

Before daylight! She had gained a wild hope that it was during the time
they were together; but from Jim's vague suggestion they had returned
just about the time it had occurred--in time for it. She turned
hopelessly toward the house, then hesitated and came back.

"Jim."

"Well?"

"Is Mowitza here?"

"Yes, can't you see?"

But she could not see very clearly. Something in her eyes blinded her as
she thought of Mowitza and the glad days when they knew each other
first; and of Mowitza's master, and his voice as she had heard it
last--and the words! Oh, the despairing, exultant, compelling words! And
then, after he had gone from her, could it be so?

"Take good care of the mare, Jim, until--until he needs her."

When the girl re-entered the house, Tillie turned with a lecture to
deliver on the idiocy of going out without a wrap; it was not spoken,
for a glance into Rachel's eyes told she had been crying--something so
unusual as to awe the little woman into silence, and perplex her
mightily. Headstrong as the girl had been in her championship of
Genesee, Tillie had always been very sure that the cause was mainly
Rachel's contrariness; and to associate him with the tears never entered
her mind.

The evening wore on, and about the fire there were conjectures about the
protracted stay of Hardy and Stuart, and wonderment from Fred that not a
man had called from the camp all day and evening. Rachel sat silent,
thinking--thinking, and finding a glimmer of hope in the thought that
Major Dreyer would soon be back; there, she felt, would be no prejudiced
mind come to judgment.

At last they were startled by the sound of a step on the porch, and all
looked around, glad of the return of the two wanderers, when the door
opened, and there entered Kalitan--a very tired-looking Arrow, and with
something in his face that was more than fatigue--anxiety.

"Rashell Hardy?" he said, and deliberately walked into the other room,
intimating that she was to follow and the interview to be private--an
interview conducted in low tones and in Chinook, after which Rachel
asked Aunty Luce to give him some supper; for he was very tired, and
would not go on to camp until morning.

The night before had been one of wakefulness, because of Rachel's
absence, and all were sleepy enough to hunt beds early; and leaving a
lunch on the table for the absent ones, the hearth was soon
deserted--Ivans and Andrews, however, agreeing to sleep with one eye
open.

Both must have closed unawares, or else the moccasined feet that stole
out in the darkness must have been very, very light, and the other
figure beside him very stealthy; for no alarm was given, no ear took
note. It was late, past eleven o'clock, when the sentry challenged a
horse and rider coming as briskly and nonchalantly into camp as if it
had been eleven in the morning, and occasioning as much astonishment as
had Genesee, when it was seen to be Miss Hardy.

"Rather late to be out alone, Miss, ain't it?" asked the sentry, as she
stopped to chat with him of the continued absence of the men.

"Is it?" she laughed. "I don't know what you call late over here; but I
suppose we of the ranch would be considered night-owls. I rode over with
some mail that came late, and thought I'd hear if there was any news
before we went to bed. Who's in command?"

"Lieutenant Kennedy; but he turned in an hour ago."

"Good gracious! Do you folks go to bed with the sun? I have a magazine
for him, but he can wait for it, then, until to-morrow. Tell him I will
expect him over."

"Yes, Miss."

Just then from along the avenue sauntered a soldierly figure, who drew
near at the sound of voices.

"There comes Sergeant Kelp," remarked the sentry. "He's on night duty in
Kennedy's place."

Instantly the girl turned to the officer in charge.

"Well, I'm glad to find someone up and awake," she said, leaning over to
shake hands with him. "It helps to keep me from seeming altogether a
night-prowler. I came over to get the returns, if there were any. The
folks are getting anxious at the ranch."

"Naturally," answered the young fellow. "I would have called this
evening, but am on duty. Don't let the ladies worry if you can help it.
We are likely to hear from the men before morning. Every scout we had
went with them, and without horses we can't do much but just stay here
and wait; all the boys find it mighty hard work, too."

"You remind me of half my mission, Sergeant, when you speak of your
scouts. I brought over some mail, and everyone I wanted to see is either
away or asleep. How about your chief of scouts--is he asleep, too?"

It seemed to her that her heart ceased beating, the wind ceased blowing,
and the stars ceased twinkling above the snow, as she waited for his
disgusted reply.

"No; not by a good deal. I never saw such a crank as that fellow! When
everything was smooth sailing, that man would skulk around camp without
a word to speak to anyone, the surliest white man I want to see; but now
that he's jailed for horse-stealing, tied up and watched in the shack,
I'm blest if he doesn't put in the time singing. Yes, he does; been at
it ever since taps. I threatened to have him gagged if he disturbed the
boys; but they say he don't. Roberts is the only one who has to listen
to it; says he never heard so many Indian songs in his life. But it's a
mighty queer streak of luck for a man to be musical over."

Rachel laughed, and agreed. "I have a letter for him, too," she added.
"Look, here; I'd like to take it to him myself, and get to hear some of
those songs. Can I? I know it's rather late, but if he is awake, it
doesn't matter, I suppose; or is no one allowed to see him?"

"Indians only are tabooed, but none of them have shown up, not even his
runner, and I guess you can speak to him if you want to; it isn't a
thing most ladies would like to do, though," he added.

"I suppose not," she said good-humoredly, "but then, I've known the man
for something over a year, and am not at all afraid--in fact, I'd rather
like to do it and have something to horrify the ladies at the ranch
with. Think of it! An interview with a horse-thief--perhaps a duet with
him all alone in the middle of the night. Oh, yes, that's too good to
miss. But I must hurry up, or they will be sending someone after me."

At the door of the shack, however, she paused a moment in what might be
trepidation, her hand laid hesitatingly on the saddle, as if in doubt
whether to remount or enter the shanty, from which she could hear the
low refrain of a song of their cultus corrie--"Tsolo, tsolo!"

"The guard will not leave the door?" she whispered; and Sergeant Kelp
concluded that, after all, she was pretending to greater nerve than she
possessed.

"Never fear," he returned; "I will call him out to hold your horse, and
he won't stir from the door. By the way, I'll have someone to see you
home when you're ready to go. Good-night."

Then the guard was called out, and a moment later the visitor slipped
in, the prisoner never turning his head or noticing the exchange until
she spoke.

"Jack!"

He turned quickly enough.

"God A'mighty, girl! What are you doing here?"

She thought of the ears, possibly listening ears, on the other side of
the door, and her tone was guarded and careless, as it had been with the
Sergeant, as she laughed and answered in Chinook:

"To pay a visit; what else?"

She noticed with exultation that it was only rope he was tied with--his
hands and his feet, as he sat on the bunk--a plaited rope of rawhide;
strong enough when strengthened by a guard opposite and a loaded gun;
but without the guard and with a keen knife!

She checked him in the midst of a passionate protest against her coming.

"I am here, so that fact is settled," she said quietly. "I didn't come
for fun, and we haven't any time to lose. I brought you a letter; it is
in this," she said.

"You have seen Kalitan?"

He took from her the rubber case and extracted the letter from it, but
scarcely noticed it, his eyes were turned so anxiously to her face.

"Yes; and you had better read it," she advised, walking back to the
door.

"Rachel--"

"Read it; let them see you!" and she opened the door wide and stepped
out as if to make sure of the guard's presence.

"It's all right, Miss, I'm here," he whispered, looking past her to the
prisoner opening the letter and throwing the envelope in the fire. "I'll
not stir from here with the beast. Don't be uneasy;" and then she turned
back and closed the door. She had seen he was not close enough to
listen.

"Jack," she said, coming back to him, "you must get out of this. Mowitza
is at the door; I have brought the things you will need. Can you make a
dash for it and get away?"

He looked at her in utter amazement.

"I didn't know it until to-night," she continued; "this is your chance,
before the others get back--if they ever do get back! God help them!"

"What do you mean? Where are they?" And his hand, tied as it was, caught
her own quickly.

"They are in a death-trap, in that gully back of the Tamahnous ground.
You know where--right over the peak from the old mine. They've been
there since dark, hedged in by the Kootenais, who are only waiting for
daylight to come. Heaven help our men when it does come!"

"The Kootenais? It can't be them. They are not hostile."

"Not yesterday," she agreed bitterly, "but they are to-day. They sent a
messenger of good-will to camp this morning, the grandson of Grey Eagle.
He was shot down, almost in sight of camp, by one of the soldiers, and
the braves he had brought, the best in the tribe, attempted a rescue.
Our cavalry pursued them, and were led into that ravine. The Indians
knew the ground, and our men didn't. At the end of the narrow pass, the
reds rolled boulders down the mountain and closed it up, and then cut
off retreat; and there they are, waiting for daylight or starvation--God
knows what!"

"Who told you this?"

"Kalitan; he met an Indian trapper who had passed the gulch but a little
while before. He came directly to me. The whites here blame you for
helping the trouble--the beginning it, the--"

"You mean the horse stealing?" he said, looking at her curiously.

"Yes." Her eyes were on the floor; she did not see that scrutiny. "And
you must get out of here before word comes of those men penned up there.
There would be no waiting for trial then; they would shoot you."

"And that is what you came for?"

"Yes;" and she drew a sharp knife--an Indian knife--from her belt under
the shawl. "With a quick stroke, the severed the knotted cords and they
fell from his wrists; then she dropped on her knees, a flash, once,
twice, of the blade in the light, and he stooped and raised her.

"You are doing this for me," he said, drawing her to him, "without
knowing whether I deserve shooting or not?"

"Don't speak of that part of it!" she burst out. "When I let myself
think, I feel as if I am going crazy!"--then she stopped short. "And a
crazy woman just now would handicap you some. No, Jack, we need all of
our wits for to-night--here," and unfastening the belt from under her
shawl, she buckled it about him. It contained two loaded revolvers.

"It's the first time I've armed you as I've seen sweethearts or wives
do," she said, looking up at him. "It may be the last. I only ask one
thing--you will not, unless it is the last means of saving your own
life, turn one of these against my friends?"

Even then, the weakness of the man in him came uppermost.

"But if it is to save my own life?"

Her hands went quickly over her eyes, as if to shut out sight or
thought.

"Don't ask me--only go--and--take care of yourself!"

He caught the hands from her eyes, kissing her fiercely--exultantly.

"Then I am first to you--nearer than all the rest! My girl, you've
proved it to-night, and I'll show you! If you know how to pray, pray for
me to-night--for me and the men in that death-trap. Do you hear? I am
going now. Here is this letter; it will tell you all. If I never come
back, tell Prince Charlie he is right at last--that I believe him. He
will understand. My girl--mine--it is not an eternal good-bye. I will
come back if I live, and I will have to live long enough for that! Here,
just once, kiss me, my girl--my girl!"

The next instant she was flung from that embrace and fell with a faint
scream to the floor.

The guard dashed in, and was dextrously tripped by an unlooked-for
figure close to the wall, his gun wrenched from him, and a staggering
blow dealt that sent him to his knees.

Clouds had swept over the cold stars, and the sentry could see but dimly
the equestrian figure that came clattering down the avenue.

"Hadn't you better wait for company, Miss?" he called, but no answer was
given; and in much wonder, he was about to call again, when pistol-shots
from the shack aroused the camp. He called a halt; that was heeded no
more than his question, and he sent a random shot after the flying
figure--not for the purpose of hitting the girl, but to impress on her
the duty of a sentry and some idea of military rule. Before the last
dull thud of hoofs in the snow had ceased to be heard, Roberts had
staggered to the door, firing wildly, and calling to stop the
prisoner--to stop the horse-thief.

There was nothing in the camp to do it with. He was gone--everyone was
blaming everybody else for it; but no one thought of blaming the girl
who lay in a dead faint on the floor, where he had flung her, that none
might think she had let him go willingly. And Miss Rachel was cared for
very tenderly, and a man was sent to the ranch to assure Mrs. Hardy of
her safe-keeping, waking Mrs. Hardy out of a delicious sleep, and
mystifying her completely by the information. The only one about the
house who might have helped elucidate happened to be remarkably sound
asleep at the time the messenger arrived--an Arrow encased in the quiver
of rest.



CHAPTER IV.

THROUGH THE LOST MINE.


An hour before day in the Kootenais! Not the musical dawn of that early
autumn, when all the woods were a-quiver with the fullness of color and
sound; when the birds called to each other of the coming sun, and the
little rills of the shady places moistened the sweet fern and spread its
fragrance around and about, until one could find no couch so seductive
as one on the amber grasses with the rare, all-pervading scents of the
virgin soil.

Not any of those seductions solaced or made more bitter the watch of the
men who stood hopeless in the snow of that treacherous ravine. Not even
a fire dared be lit all the night long, because of those suddenly
murderous natives, who, through knowing the secrets of the cleft earth,
held their fates at the mercy of eager bronze hands.

"And one man who knew the country could have prevented this!" groaned
Hardy, with a thought of the little wife and Miss Margaret. How would
they listen to this story?

"If we had Genesee with us, we should not have been penned up in any
such fashion as this," decided Murray, stamping back and forward, as
many others were doing, to keep their blood in circulation--for what?

"Hard to tell," chimed in the scout from Idaho. "Don't know as it's any
better to be tricked by one's own gang than the hostiles. Genesee,
more'n likely, was gettin' ready for this when he run off the stock."

Just then something struck him. The snow made a soft bed, but the
assailant had not stopped to consider that, and quick as light his knee
was on the fallen man's chest.

"Take it back!" he commanded, with the icy muzzle of a revolver
persuading his meaning into the brain of the surprised scout. "That man
is no horse-thief. Take it back, or I'll save the Indians the trouble of
wasting lead on you."

"Well," reasoned the philosopher in the snow, "this ain't the damnedest
best place I've ever been in for arguin' a point, an' as you have
fightin' ideas on the question, an' I haven't any ideas, an' don't care
a hell of a sight, I'll eat my words for the time bein', and we'll
settle the question o' that knock on the head, if the chance is ever
given us to settle anything, out o' this gully."

"What's this?" and though only outlines of figures could be
distinguished, the voice was the authoritative one of Captain Holt. "Mr.
Stuart, I am surprised to find you in this sort of thing, and about that
squaw man back in camp. Find something better to waste your strength
for. There is no doubt in my mind now of the man's complicity--"

"Stop it!" broke in Stuart curtly; "you can hold what opinion you please
of him, but you can't tell me he's a horse-thief. A squaw man and
adopted Indian he may be and altogether an outlaw in your eyes; but I
doubt much your fitness to judge him, and advise you not to call him a
thief until you are able to prove your words, or willing to back them
with all we've got left here."

All they had left was their lives, and Stuart's unexpected recklessness
and sharp words told them his was ready as a pledge to his speech. None
cared, at that stage of the game, to question why. It was no time for
quarrels among themselves when each felt that with the daylight might
come death.

Afterward, when the tale was told, no man could remember which of them
first discovered a form in their midst that had not been with them on
their entrance--a breathless, panting figure, that leaned against one of
their horses.

"Who is it?" someone asked.

"What is it?"

No one answered--only pressed closer, with fingers on triggers, fearing
treachery. And then the panting figure raised itself from its rest on
the horse's neck, rose to a stature not easily mistaken, even in that
light, and a familiar, surly voice spoke:

"I don't reckon any of you need be puzzled much to find out; hasn't been
such a long time since you saw me."

"By God, it's Genesee!"

And despite the wholesale condemnation of the man, there was not a heart
that did not grow lighter with the knowledge. They knew, or believed,
that here was the one man who had the power to save them, if he cared to
use it; but would he?

"Jack!"

Someone, at sound of his voice, pushed through the crowd with
outstretched hand. It was not refused this time.

"I've come for you," was all Genesee said; then he turned to the others.

"Are you willing to follow me?" he asked, raising his voice a little.
"The horses can't go through where I've got to take you; you'll have to
leave them."

A voice close to his elbow put in a word of expostulation against the
desertion of the horses. Genesee turned on the speaker with an oath.

"You may command in a quiet camp, but we're outside of it now, and I put
just a little less value on your opinion than on any man's in the gulch.
This is a question for every man to answer for himself. You've lost
their lives for them if they're kept here till daylight. I'll take them
out if they're ready to come."

There was no dissenting voice. Compared with the inglorious death
awaiting them in the gulch, the deliverance was a God-send. They did not
just see how it was to be effected; but the strange certainty of hope
with which they turned to the man they had left behind as a horse-thief
was a thing surprising to them all, when they had time to think of
it--in the dusk of the morning, they had not.

He appeared among them as if a deliverer had materialized from the
snow-laden branches of cedar, or from the close-creeping clouds of the
mountain. They had felt themselves touched by a superstitious thrill
when he was found in their midst; but they knew that, come as he might,
be what he would, they had in him one to whom the mountains were as an
open book, as the Indians knew when they tendered him the significant
name of Lamonti.

Captain Holt was the only rebel on the horse question; to add those to
the spoils of the Indians was a bitter thing for him to do.

"It looks as if we were not content with them taking half our stock, but
rode up here to leave them the rest," he said, aggressively, to nobody
in particular. "I've a notion to leave only the carcasses."

"Not this morning," broke in the scout. "We've no time to wait for work
of that sort. Serves you right to lose them, too, for your damned
blunders. Come along if you want to get out of this--single file, and
keep quiet."

It was no time for argument or military measures for insubordination;
and bitter as the statement of inefficiency was, Captain Holt knew there
were some grounds for it, and knew that, in the eyes of the men, he was
judged from the same standpoint. The blind raid with green scouts did
seem, looking back at it, like a headlong piece of folly. How much of
folly the whole attack was, they did not as yet realize.

It was not far that Genesee led them through the stunted, gnarled growth
up the steep sides of the gulch. Half-way to the top there were, in the
summer-time, green grass and low brush in which the small game could
hide; but above that rose a sheer wall of rock clear up to where the
soil had gathered and the pines taken root.

In the dusk they could see no way of surmounting it; yet there was no
word of demur, not even a question. He was simply their hope, and they
followed him.

And their guide felt it. He knew few of them liked him personally, and
it made his victory the greater; but even above that was the thought
that his freedom was due to the girl who never guessed how he should use
it.

He felt, some way, as if he must account to her for every act she had
given him the power to perform, as if his life itself belonged to her,
and the sweetness of the thought was with him in every step of the night
ride, in every plan for the delivery of the men.

At the very foot of the rock wall he stopped and turned to the man next
him. It was Hardy.

"It's a case of 'crawl' here for a few lengths; pass the word along, and
look out for your heads."

The next instant he had vanished under the rock wall--Hardy following
him; then a flicker of light shone like a star as a guide for the
others, and in five minutes every man of them had wriggled through what
seemed but a slit in the solid front.

"A regular cave, by hooky!" said the moral guide from Idaho, as he stood
upright at last. His voice echoed strangely. "Hooky! hooky! hooky!"
sounded from different points where the shadows deepened, suggesting
endless additions to the room where they stood.

Genesee had halted and was splitting up some pine for a torch, using the
knife Rachel had cut his bonds with, and showing that the handle was
stained with blood, as were the sticks of pine he was handling.

"Look for some more sticks around here, and lend a hand," he said. "We
need more than one torch. I burnt up what I had in working through that
hole. I've been at it for three hours, I reckon, without knowing, till I
got the last stone away, whether I'd be in time or find daylight on the
other side."

"And is that what cut your hands?" asked Lieutenant Murray. "Why,
they're a sight! For heaven's sake, what have you been doing?"

"I found a 'cave-in' of rock and gravel right at the end of that
tunnel," answered Genesee, nodding the way they had just come, and
drawing their notice to fresh earth and broken stone thrown to the side.
"I had no tools here, nothing but that," and he motioned toward a
mallet-like thing of stone. "My tools were moved from the mine over to
Scot's Mountain awhile back, and as that truck had to be hoisted away,
and I hadn't time to invite help, it had to be done with these;" and he
held out his hands that were bleeding--a telling witness of his
endeavors to reach there in time. And every man of them felt it.

There was an impulsive move forward, and Hardy was the first to hold out
his hand. But Genesee stepped back, and leaned against the wall.

"That's all right, Hardy," he said, with something of his old careless
smile. "I'm glad you're the first, for the sake of old times; but I
reckon it would be playing it pretty low down on a friend to let him
take me in on false pretenses. You see I haven't been acquitted of
horse-stealing yet--about the most low-lived trade a man can turn to,
unless it is sheep-stealing."

"Oh, hell!" broke in one of the men, "this clears the horse business so
far as I'm concerned, and I can bet on the other boys, too!"

"Can you?" asked Genesee, with a sort of elated, yet conservative, air;
"but this isn't your game or the boys' game. I'm playing a lone hand,
and not begging either. That torch ready?"

The rebuff kept the others from any advance, if they had thought of
making it. Lieutenant Murray had picked up the stone mallet and was
examining it by the flickering light; one side was flattened a little,
like a tomahawk.

"That's a queer affair," he remarked. "What did you have it made for?"

"Have it made! The chances are that thing was made before Columbus
ever managed a sail-boat," returned Genesee. "I found a lot of them in
here; wedges, too, and such."

"In here?" and the men looked with a new interest at the rocky walls.
"What is it?"

"An extension I tumbled into, over a year back, when I was tunneling at
a drift the other side of the hill. One day I found that hole there, and
minded it this morning, so it came in handy. I reckon this is the
original Tamahnous mine of the old tribe. It's been lost over a hundred
years. The Kootenais only have a tradition of it."

"A mine--gold?"

"Well, I was digging for a silver show when I struck it," answered
Genesee; "and, so far as I see, that's what was here, but it's worked
out. Didn't do much prospecting in it, as I left the Kootenai hills less
than a week after. I just filled up the entry, and allowed it would keep
till I got back."

"Does it belong to you?" asked one man, with speculation in his voice.

Genesee laughed. "I reckon so. Tamahnous Peak is mine, and a few feet of
grazing land on the east. Nobody grudges it to me up this way. Indians
think it's haunted, 'cause all the rocks around it give echoes; and I--"

He ceased speaking abruptly, his eyes on the pile of debris in the
corner. Then he lit a fresh torch from the dying one, and gave the word
to strike for the outside, following single file, as the hill was pretty
well honey-combed, and it was wise to be cautious.

"Because," said their leader, "if any should stray off, we might not
have time this day of our Lord to come back and hunt him up."

Before leaving what seemed like the back entrance, he walked over to the
corner and picked up the thing that had arrested his attention a minute
before, and slipping it in his pocket, walked to the head of the long
line of men, several of whom were wounded, but only one less than the
number who had left camp. And the one lacking was the man who had fired
the first shot and killed the messenger from Grey Eagle--he himself
dying from a wound, after the ride into the gulch.

As the scout passed the men, a hand and a pair of gloves were thrust out
to him from a group; and turning his torch so that the light would show
the giver, he saw it was Stuart.

"Thank you, sir," he said, with more graciousness than most of the men
had ever seen in him; "I'll take them from you, as my own are damaged
some." They were torn to shreds, and the fingers under them worn to the
quick.

The echoing steps of the forty men were as if forty hundred were making
their way through the mine of the Tamahnous; for no living tribe ever
claimed it, even by descent. The hill that contained it had for
generations been given by tradition to the witches of evil, who spoke
through the rock--a clever scheme of those vanished workers to guard
their wealth, or the wealth they hoped to find; but for what use?
Neither silver in coin nor vessel can be traced as ever belonging to
tribes of the Northern Indians. Yet that honey-combed peak, with its
wide galleries, its many entries, and well-planned rooms, bespoke
trained skill in underground quarrying. From some unseen source fresh
air sifted through the darkness to them, and the tinkle of dripping
water in pools came to their ears, though the pools were shrouded in the
darkness that, just beyond the range of the few torches, was intense;
and after the long tramp through echoing winds and turns, the misty dawn
that was still early seemed dazzling to the eyes, red and haggard from
the vigil of the night.

"You will have to get away from here on a double-quick," said Genesee
sharply, after a glance at the sky and up the sides of the hill from
which they had come. "Once down there in the valley, the fog may hide
you till sun-up, and then, again, it mightn't. Just mind that they have
horses."

"We are not likely to forget it," was Captain Holt's answer; and then
hesitated a moment, looking at Genesee.

"Are you not coming with us?" asked Lieutenant Murray, giving voice to
the question in his commander's mind as well as the others.

"Yes, part of the way," said the scout quietly, but with a challenge to
detention in the slight pause with which he glanced at the group; "but I
have a beast to carry me back, and I'm just tired enough to use it." And
disappearing for a minute in the brush, he led out Mowitza, and,
mounting her, turned her head toward the terraces of the lower valley.

They passed the isolated cabin that brought back to Stuart a remembrance
of where they were; then down the steps of the Tamahnous and along the
little lake, all swathed alike in the snow and the mist leaving null all
character in the landscape.

The cabin was commented on by the men, to whom it was a surprise,
looming up so close to them through the cloud curtain.

"That's mine," their guide remarked, and one of them, puzzled, stated it
as his belief that Genesee claimed the whole Kootenai territory.

The scout gave up his saddle to a man with a leg-wound, but he did not
let go the bridle of Mowitza; and so they went on with their guide
stalking grimly ahead, ready, they all knew, to turn as fiercely against
them at a sign of restraint as he had worked for them, if a movement was
made to interfere with his further liberty.

The sun rolled up over the purple horizon--a great body of blushes
suffusing the mountains; but its chaste entrance had brazened into a
very steady stare before it could pierce the veil of the valleys, and
pick out the dots of moving blue against the snow on the home trail.

It had been a wonderfully quiet tramp. Most of the thoughts of the party
were of the man walking ahead of them, and his nearness made the
discussion of his actions awkward. They did not know what to expect of
him, and a general curiosity prevailed as to what he would do next.

They learned, when at last the ridge above camp was reached, about the
middle of the forenoon. He had been talking some to the man on Mowitza,
and when they reached that point he stopped.

"Whereabouts?" he asked; and the man pointed to a place where the snow
was colored by soil.

"Over there! I guess the boys buried him."

"Well, you can get down from that saddle now. I reckon you can walk down
to camp; if not, they can carry you." Then he turned to the rest.

"There's a body under that snow that I want," he said sententiously.
"I'm not in condition for any more digging," and he glanced at his
hands. "Are there any men among you that will get it out for me?"

"You bet!" was the unhesitating reply; and without question, hands and
knives were turned to the task, the man on horseback watching them
attentively.

"May I ask what that is for?" asked Captain Holt; at last, as amiably as
he could, in the face of being ignored and affronted at every chance
that was given Genesee. He had saved the commander's life; that was an
easy thing to do compared with the possibility of hiding his contempt.

He was openly and even unreasonably aggressive--one of the spots in his
nature that to a careless eye would appear the natural color of his
whole character. He did not answer at once, and Captain Holt spoke
again:

"What is the object of digging up that Indian?"

Then Genesee turned in the saddle.

"Just to give you all a little proof of how big a fool a man can be
without being a 'permanent' in a lunatic asylum."

And then he turned his attention again to the men digging up the loose
earth. They had not far to go; small care had been taken to make the
grave deep.

"Take care there with your knives," said Genesee as one shoulder was
bared to sight. "Lift him out. Here--give him to me."

"What in----"

"Give him to me!" he repeated. "I've given your damned fool lives back
to forty of you, and all I'm asking for it is that Kootenai's dead
body."

Stuart stooped and lifted the chill, dark thing, and other hands were
quick to help. The frozen soil was brushed like dust from the frozen
face, and then, heavy--heavy, it was laid in the arms of the man waiting
for it.

He scanned from the young face to the moccasined feet swiftly, and then
turned his eyes to the others.

"Where's his blanket?" he demanded; and a man who wore it pushed forward
and threw it over the figure.

"Denny took it," he said in extenuation, "and when Denny went under, I
took it."

"Yes!" and again his eyes swept the crowd. "Now I want his rifle, his
knife, a snake-skin belt, and a necklace of bear's teeth--who's got
them?"

"Well, I'll be damned!" "How's that for second sight?" "Beats the devil
out of hell!" were some of the sotto-voce remarks exchanged at the
enumeration of the things wanted.

"I've no time to waste in waiting," he added. "If they're in this crowd
and ain't given up, I'll straighten the account some day, if I have to
hunt five years for the trail to them. I'm a-waiting."

His hand was laid on the breast of the dead Indian as he spoke, and
something in the touch brought a change to his face. The hand was
slipped quickly inside the fringed shirt, and withdrawn, clasping a roll
of parchment cured in Indian fashion. A bitter oath broke from him as he
untied the white sinews of the deer, and glanced at the contents.

"What is it? What is it?" was the question from all sides.

Genesee, in a sort of fury, seemed to hear most clearly that of the, for
the hour, displaced commander.

"I'll tell you what it is!" he burst out wrathfully. "It's a message of
peace from the Kootenai tribe--an offer of their help against the
Blackfeet any time the troops of the United States need them. It is sent
by Grey Eagle, the oldest of their war chiefs, and the messenger sent
was Grey Eagle's grandson, Snowcap--the future chief of their people.
And you have had him shot down like a dog while carrying that message.
By God! I wouldn't have blamed them if they had scalped every mother's
son of you."

To say that the revelation was impressive, would express the emotions of
the men but mildly. Captain Holt was not the only one of them who turned
white at the realization of what a provoked uprising of those joint
tribes would mean, in the crippled condition of the camp. It would mean
a sweeping annihilation of all white blood in their path; the troops
would have enough to do to defend themselves, without being able to help
the settlers.

"In God's name, Genesee, is this true?" and forgetting all animosity in
the overwhelming news, Holt pressed forward, laying his hand on the
shoulder of the dead messenger.

"Take it off!" yelled Genesee, looking at the unconscious hand that
involuntarily had moved toward him. "Take it off, or, by Heaven, I'll
cut it off!"

And his fingers closing nervously on the hunting-knife emphasized his
meaning, and showed how stubborn and sleepless were the man's
prejudices.

The hand dropped, and Genesee reached out the document to one of the
crestfallen scouts.

"Just read that out loud for the benefit of anyone that can't understand
my way of talking," he suggested with ironical bitterness; "and while
you are about it, the fellows that stripped this boy will be good enough
to ante up with everything they've got of his--and no time to waste
about it either."

And Captain Holt, with a new idea of the seriousness of the demand,
seconded it, receiving with his own hands the arms and decorations that
had been seized by the victorious Denny, and afterward divided among his
comrades. Genesee noted that rendering up of trifling spoils with sullen
eyes, in which the fury had not abated a particle.

"A healthy crew you are!" he remarked contemptuously; "a nice,
clean-handed lot, without grit enough to steal a horse, but plenty of it
for robbing a dead boy. I reckon no one of you ever had a boy that age
of your own."

Several of them--looking in the dark, dead face--felt uneasy, and forgot
for the moment that they were lectured by a horse-thief; forgot even how
light a thing the life of an Indian was anyway.

"Don't blame the whole squad," said the man who took the articles from
the Captain and handed them up to Genesee. "Denny captured them when he
made the shot, just as anyone would do, and it's no use cussin' about
Denny; he's buried up in that gulch--the Kootenais finished him."

"And saved me the trouble," added the scout significantly.

He was wrapping as well as he could the gay blanket over the rigid form.
The necklace was clasped about the throat, but the belt was more awkward
to manage, and was thrust into the bosom of Genesee's buckskin shirt,
the knife in his belt, the rifle swung at his back.

There was something impressively ghastly in those two figures--the live
one with the stubborness of fate, and the stolidity, sitting there, with
across his thighs the blanketed, shapeless thing that had held a life;
and even the husk seemed a little more horrible with its face hidden
than when revealed more frankly; there was something so weirdly
suggestive in the motionless outlines.

"No, I don't want that," he said, as the man who read the message was
about to hand it back to him; "it belongs to the command, and I may get
a dose of cold lead before I could deliver it."

Then he glanced about, signaling Stuart by a motion of his head.

"There's a lady across in the valley there that I treated pretty badly
last night," he said, in a tone so natural that all near could hear him,
and more than one head was raised in angry question. "She was just good
enough to ride over from the ranch to bring a letter to me--hearing I
was locked up for a horse-thief, and couldn't go after it. Well, as I
tell you, I was just mean enough to treat her pretty bad--flung her on
the floor when she tried to stop me, and then nabbed the beast she rode
to camp on--happened to be my own; but may be she won't feel so bad if
you just tell her what the nag was used for; and may be that will show
her I didn't take the trail for fun."

"That" was one of the gloves he had worn from his hands with his night's
work, and there were stains on it darker than those made with earth.

"I'll tell her;" and then an impulsive honesty of feeling made him add:
"You need never fear her judgment of you, Jack."

The two looked a moment in each other's eyes, and the older man spoke.

"I've been hard on you," he said deliberately, "damned hard; all at once
I've seen it, and all the time you've been thinking a heap better of me
than I deserved. I know it now, but it's about over. I won't stand in
your way much longer; wait till I come back--"

"You are coming back? and where are you going?" The questions, a tone
louder than they had used, were heard by the others around. Genesee
noted the listening look on the faces, and his words were answers to
them as much as to the questioner.

"I'm going to take the trail for the Kootenai village; if any white man
is let reach it, or patch up the infernal blunder that's been made, I
can do it with him," and his hand lay on the breast of the shrouded
thing before him.

"If I get out of it alive, I'll be back to meet the Major; if I
don't"--and this time his significant glance was turned unmistakably to
the blue coats and their leader--"and if I don't, you'd better pack your
carcasses out of this Kootenai valley, and hell go with you."

So, with a curse for them on his lips, and the dogged determination to
save them in his heart, he nodded to Hardy, clasped the hand of Stuart,
and turning Mowitza's head, started with that horrible burden back over
the trail that would take a day and a night to cover.

The men were grateful for the bravery that had saved their lives, but
burned under the brutal taunts that had spared nothing of their
feelings. His execrable temper had belittled his own generosity.

He was a squaw man, but they had listened in silence and ashamed, when
he had presumed to censure them. He was a horse-thief, yet the men who
believed it watched, with few words, the figure disappear slowly along
the trail, with no thought of checking him.



CHAPTER V.

HIS WIFE'S LETTER.


In the bosom of Rachel's family strange thoughts had been aroused by
that story of Genesee's escape.

They were wonderfully sparing of their comments in her presence; for,
when the story came to her of what he had done when he left her, she
laughed.

"Yet he is a horse-thief," she said, in that tone of depreciation that
expresses praise, "and he sent me his glove? Well, I am glad he had the
grace to be sorry for scattering me over the floor like that. And we owe
it to him that we see you here alive again? We can appreciate his
bravery, even say prayers for him, if the man would only keep out of
sight, but we couldn't ask him to a dinner party, supposing we gave
dinner parties, could we, Tillie?"

And Tillie, who had impulsively said "God bless him!" from the shelter
of her husband's arms, collapsed, conscience-stricken and tearful.

"You have a horrid way, Rachel, of making people feel badly," she said,
in the midst of her thankfulness and remorse; "but wait until I see him
again--I will let him know how much we can appreciate such courage as
that. Just wait until he comes back!"

"Yes," said the girl, with all the irony gone from her voice, only the
dreariness remaining, "I'm waiting."

The words started Tillie to crying afresh; for, in the recesses of her
own bosom, another secret of Genesee's generosity was hidden for
prudential motives--the fact that it was he who had sent the guide for
Rachel that terrible night of the snow. And Tillie was not a good keeper
of secrets--even this thoroughly wise one was hard to retain, in her
gladness at having her husband back!

"The man seems a sort of shepherd of everything that gets astray in
these hills," said Lieutenant Murray, who was kindly disposed toward all
creation because of an emotional, unsoldier-like welcome that had been
given him by the little non-commissioned officer in petticoats. "He
first led us out of that corral in the hills and brought us back where
we belonged, and then dug up that dead Indian and started to take him
where he belonged. I tell you there was a sort of--of sublimity in the
man as he sat there with that horrible load he was to carry, that is,
there would have been if he hadn't 'cussed' so much."

"Does he swear?" queried Fred.

"Does he? My child, you would have a finely-trained imagination if you
could conceive the variety of expressions by which he can consign a
citizen to the winter resort from which all good citizens keep free. His
profanity, they say, is only equaled by his immorality. But, ah--what a
soldier he would make! He is the sort of a man that men would walk right
up to cannon with--even if they detested him personally."

"And a man needs no fine attributes or high morality to wield that sort
of influence, does he?" asked Rachel, and walked deliberately away
before any reply could be made.

But she was no more confident than they of his unimpeachable worth.
There was the horse-thieving still unexplained; he had not even denied
it to her. And she came to the conclusion that she herself was sadly
lacking in the material for orthodox womanhood, since the more proof she
had of his faults, the more solidly she took her position for his
defense. It had in it something of the same blind stubbornness that
governed his likes and dislikes, and that very similarity might have
accounted for the sort of understanding that had so long existed between
them. And she had more than the horse-stealing to puzzle over. She had
that letter he had thrust in her hand and told her to read; such a
pleading letter, filled with the heart-sickness of a lonely woman. She
took it out and re-read it that time when she walked away from their
comments; and reading over the lines, and trying to read between them,
she was sorely puzzled:

     "DEAR JACK: I wrote you of my illness weeks ago, but the letter
     must have been lost, or else your answer, for I have not heard
     a word from you, and I have wanted it more than I can tell you.
     I am better, and our little Jack has taken such good care of
     me. He is so helpful, so gentle; and do you know, dear, he
     grows to look more like you every day. Does that seem strange?
     He does not resemble me in the least. You will think me very
     exacting, I suppose, when I tell you that such a child, and
     such a home as you have given me, does not suffice for my
     content. I know you will think me ungrateful, but I must speak
     of it to you. I wrote you before, but no answer has come. If I
     get none to this, I will go to find you--if I am strong enough.
     If I am not, I shall send Jack. He is so manly and strong, I
     know he could go. I will know then, at least, if you are
     living. I feel as if I am confessing a fault to you when I tell
     you I have heard from him at last--and more, that I was so
     glad to hear!

     "Jack--dear Jack--he has never forgotten. He is free now; would
     marry me yet if it were possible. Write to me--tell me if it
     can ever be. I know how weak you will think me. Perhaps my late
     ill-health has made me more so; but I am hungry for the sound
     of the dear voice, and I am so alone since your father died.
     You will never come back; and you know, Jack, how loneliness
     always was so dreadful to me--even our boy is not enough. He
     does not understand. Come back, or write to me. Let my boy know
     his father, or else show me how to be patient; this silence is
     so terrible to YOUR WIFE.

     "Jack, what a mockery that word looks--yet I am grateful."

This was the letter he had told her to read and give to Stuart, if he
never returned; but she gave it to no one. She mentioned it to no one,
only waited to see if he ever came back, and with each reading of that
other woman's longings, there grew stronger in her the determination
that his life belonged to the writer of that letter and her child--her
boy, who looked like him. Surely there was a home and an affection that
should cure him of this wild, semi-civilized life he was leading. She
was slipping away that almighty need he had shown of herself. She grimly
determined that all remembrance of it must be put aside; it was such an
unheard-of, reasonless sort of an attraction anyway, and if she really
had any influence over him, it should be used to make him answer that
letter as it should be answered, and straighten out the strange puzzles
in it. All this she determined she would tell him--when he got back.



CHAPTER VI.

ON THE HEIGHTS.


While they commented, and wondered, and praised, and found fault with
him, the day drifted into darkness, the darkness into a dreary dawn; and
through all changes of the hours the outlaw stalked, with sometimes his
ghastly companion bound to the saddle, and then again he would remount,
holding Snowcap in his arms--but seldom halting, never wavering; and
Mowitza, who seemed more than ever a familiar spirit, forged ahead as if
ignoring the fact of hunger and scanty herbage to be found, her sturdy
persistence suggesting a realization of her own importance.

A broad trail was left for them, one showing that the detachment of
braves and the horses of the troops had returned under forced march to
bear the news to their village--and such news!

The man's dark face hardened and more than one of those expressive
maledictions broke from him as he thought over it. All his sympathies
were with them. For five years they had been as brethren to him; never
had any act of treachery touched him through them. To their people he
was not Genesee the outcast, the immoral, the suspected. He was
Lamonti--of the mountains--like their own blood.

He was held wise in their councils, and his advice had weight.

He could have ruled their chief, and so their nation, had he been
ambitious for such control.

He was their adopted son, and had never presumed on their liking, though
he knew there was little in their slender power that would not have been
his had he desired it.

Now he knew he would be held their enemy. His influence had encouraged
the sending of that message and the offered braves to the commander of
the troops. Would they grant him a hearing now? or would they shoot him
down, as the soldier had shot Snowcap, with his message undelivered?

Those questions, and the retrospection back of them, were with him as he
went upward into the mountains to the north.

Another night was falling slowly, and the jewels of the far skies one by
one slipped from their ether casket, and shone with impressive serenity
on the crusted snow. Along the last ridge Mowitza bore for the last time
her double burden. There was but a slope to descend, a sheltered cove to
reach, and Snowcap would be given back to his kindred.

The glittering surface of the white carpet warmed into reflected lights
as the moon, a soft-footed, immature virgin, stole after the stars and
let her gleams be wooed and enmeshed in the receptive arms of the
whispering pine. Not a sound broke through the peace of the heights. In
their sublime isolation, they lift souls as well as bodies above the
commonplace, and the rider, the stubborn keeper of so many of their
secrets, threw back his head with a strange smile in his eyes as the
last summit was reached--and reached in the light of peace. Was it an
omen of good? He thought of that girl back in the valley who was willing
to share this life of the hills with him. All things beautiful made him
think of her, and the moon-kissed night was grand, up there above where
men lived. He thought of her superb faith, not in what he was, but in
what her woman's instinct told her it was possible for him to be. What a
universe of loves in human hearts revolves about those unseen, unproven
substances!

He thought of the time when she had lain in his arms as Snowcap was
lying, and he had carried her over the hills in the moonlight. He was
bitterly cold, but through the icy air there came the thrill and flush
of that long-past temptation. He wondered what she would say when they
told her how he had used his freedom. The conviction of her approval
again gave that strange smile of elation to his eyes; and the cold and
hunger were ignored, and his fatigue fell from him. And with the
tenderness that one gives to a sleeping child, he adjusted with his
wounded hands the blanket that slipped from the dead boy, raising one of
the rigid arms the better to shroud it in the gay colors.

Then the peace of the heights was broken by a sharp report; the
whiteness of the moonlight was crossed by the quick, red flash of death
and Mowitza stopped still in her tracks, while her master, with that
dead thing clasped close in his arms, lunged forward on her neck.



CHAPTER VII.

A REBEL.


Within the confines of Camp Kootenai there was a ripple of rejoicing. At
last, after four days lost because of the snow, Major Dreyer had
arrived, pushing on with all possible haste after meeting the
runner--and, to the bewilderment of all, he rode into camp on one of the
horses stolen almost a week ago.

"No mystery about it--only a little luck," he said in explanation. "I
found him at Holland's as I came up. A white man belonging to the
Blackfeet rode him in there several nights ago. The white man got drunk,
picked a row, and got his pay for it. They gave him grave-room down
there, and in the morning discovered that the beast had our brand, so
gave him up to us as we came through."

Needless to say that this account was listened to with unusual interest.
A man belonging to the Blackfeet! That proved Genesee's theory of which
he had spoken to Captain Holt--the theory that was so thoroughly
discredited.

When word was brought that the Major's party had been sighted from the
south, Fred and Rachel could hardly wait for the saddles to be thrown on
the horses.

Tillie caught the fever of impatience, and rode down beside Hardy.
Stuart was not about. The days since Genesee's departure he had put in
almost entirely with the scouts stationed to note any approach from the
north; he was waiting for that coming back. Kalitan, for the first time
since Genesee's flight, came into camp. The man who had seemed the
friend of his friend was again in command; and he showed his
appreciation of the difference by presenting himself in person beside
Rachel, to whom he had allied himself in a way that was curious to the
rest, and was so devotionally serious to himself.

"Then, perhaps it was not that Genesee who stole the horses, after all,"
broke in Fred, as her father told the story.

"Genesee!--nonsense!" said the Major brusquely. "We must look into that
affair at once," and he glanced at the Captain; "but if that man's a
horse-thief, I've made a big mistake--and I won't believe it until I
have proof."

As yet there had been no attempt at any investigation of affairs, only
an informal welcoming group, and Fred, anxious to tell a story that she
thought astonishing, recounted breathlessly the saving of the men by way
of the mine, and of the gloves and the hands worn in that night's work,
and last, of the digging up of that body and carrying it away to the
mountains.

Her father, at first inclined to check her voluble recital that would
come to him in a more official form, refrained, as the practical array
of facts showing through her admiration summed themselves up in a mass
that echoed his convictions.

"And that is the man suspected of stealing a few horses? Good God! what
proof have you that will weigh against courage like that?"

"Major, he scarcely denied it," said the Captain, in extenuation of
their suspicions. "He swore the Kootenais did not do it, and that's all
he would say. He was absent all the afternoon and all the night of the
thievery, and refused to give any account whatever of his absence, even
when I tried to impress him with the seriousness of the situation. The
man's reputation, added to his suspicious absence, left me but one thing
to do--I put him under guard."

"That does look strange," agreed the Major, with, a troubled face;
"refused--"

He was interrupted by a sound from Rachel, who had not spoken after the
conversation turned to Genesee. She came forward with a low cry,
trembling and passionate, doubt and hope blending in her face.

"Did you say the night the horses were stolen?" she demanded. All
looked at her wonderingly, and Kalitan instinctively slid a little
nearer.

"Yes, it was in the night," answered the Captain, "about two o'clock;
but you surely knew about it?"

"I? I knew nothing," she burst out furiously; "they lied to me--all of
you. You told me it was in the morning. How dared you--how dared you do
it?"

The Major laid a restraining hand on her arm; he could feel that she was
trembling violently. She had kept so contemptuously cool through all
those days of doubt, but she was cool no longer; her face was white, but
it looked a white fury.

"What matter about the hour, Miss Rachel?" asked the commander; and she
shook off his hand and stepped back beside Kalitan, as if putting
herself where Genesee had put himself--with the Indians.

"Because I could have told where Jack Genesee was that night, if they
had not deceived me. He was with me."

Tillie gave a little cry of wonder and contrition. She saw it all now.

"But--but you said it was a Kootenai who brought you home," she
protested feebly; "you told us Lamonti."

"He is a Kootenai by adoption, and he is called Lamonti," said the girl
defiantly; "and the night those horses were run off, he was with me from
an hour after sundown until four o'clock in the morning."

That bold statement had a damaging ring to it--unnecessarily so; and the
group about her, and the officers and men back of them, looked at her
curiously.

"Then, since you can tell this much in his favor, can you tell why he
himself refused to answer so simple a question?" asked Major Dreyer
kindly.

That staggered her for a moment, as she put her hand up in a helpless
way over her eyes, thinking--thinking fast. She realized now what it
meant, the silence that was for her sake--the silence that was not
broken even to her. And a mighty remorse arose for her doubt--the doubt
she had let him see; yet he had not spoken! She raised her eyes and met
the curious glances of the men, and that decided her. They were the men
who had from the first condemned him--been jealous of the commander's
trust.

"Yes, I think I can tell you that, too," she said frankly. "The man is
my friend. I was lost in the snow that night; he found me, and it took
us all night to get home. He knows how these people think of him;" and
her eyes spared none. "They have made him feel that he is an outcast
among them. They have made him feel that a friendship or companionship
with him is a discredit to any woman--oh, I know! They think so now, in
spite of what he has done for them. He knows that. He is very generous,
and wanted, I suppose, to spare me; and I--I was vile enough to doubt
him," she burst out. "Even when I brought him his horse, I half believed
the lies about him, and he knew it, and never said a word--not one
word."

"When you brought him his horse?" asked the Major, looking at her
keenly, though not unkindly.

Her remorse found a new vent in the bravado with which she looked at
them all and laughed.

"Yes," she said defiantly, as if there was a certain comfort in braving
their displeasure, and proving her rebellion to their laws; "yes, I
brought him his horse--not by accident either! I brought him brandy and
provisions; I brought him revolvers and ammunition. I helped him to
escape, and I cut the bonds your guards had fastened him with. Now, what
are you going to do about it?"

Tillie gasped with horror. She did not quite know whether they would
shoot her as a traitor, or only imprison her; but she knew military law
could be a very dreadful thing, and her fears were extravagant.

As for Miss Fred, her eyes were sparkling. With the quick deductions of
her kind, she reasoned that, without the escape that night, the men
would have died in that trap in the hills, and a certain delicious
meeting and its consequences--of which she was waiting to tell the
Major,--would never have been hers. Her feelings were very frankly
expressed, as she stepped across to the self-isolated rebel and kissed
her.

"You're a darling--and a plucky girl," she said warmly; "and you never
looked so pretty in your life."

The defiant face did not relax, even at that intelligence. Her eyes were
on the commander, her judge. And he was looking with decided interest at
her.

"Yours is a very grave offense, Miss Rachel," he said, with deliberation
that struck added terrors to Tillie's heart. "The penalty of contriving
the escape of prisoners is one I do not like to mention to you; but
since the man in this case was innocent, and I take your evidence in
proof--well, that might be some extenuation of the act."

"I didn't know he was innocent when I helped him," she broke in; "I
thought the horses were stolen after he left me."

"That makes it more serious, certainly;" but his eyes were not at all
serious. "And since you seem determined to allow nothing in extenuation
of your own actions, I can only say that--that I value very highly the
forty men whose lives were saved to us by that escape; and when I see
Mr. Genesee, I will thank him in the warmest way at my command;" and he
held out his hand to the very erect, very defiant rebel.

She could scarcely believe it when she heard the words of praise about
her; when one man after another of that rescued crowd came forward to
shake hands with her--and Hardy almost lifted her off her feet to kiss
her. "By George! I'm proud of you, Rachel," he said impulsively. "You
are plucky enough to--to be Genesee himself."

The praise seemed a very little thing to her. Her bravado was over; she
felt as if she must cry if they did not leave her alone. Of what use
were words, if he should never come back--never know that he was cleared
of suspicion? If they had so many kind words now, why had they not found
some for him when he needed them? She did not know the uncompromising
surliness that made him so difficult of approach to many people,
especially any who showed their own feeling of superiority, as most of
them did, to a squaw man.

She heard that term from the Major, a moment after he had shaken hands
with her. He had asked what were the other suspicions mentioned against
Genesee; she could not hear the answer--they had moved a little apart
from her--but she could hear the impatience with which he broke in on
their speech.

"A squaw man!--well, what if he is?" he asked, with a serene
indifference to the social side of the question. "What difference does
it make whether the man's wife has been red, or white, or black, so long
as she suited him? There are two classes of squaw men, as there are of
other men on the frontier--the renegades and the usual percentage of
honest and dishonest citizens. You've all apparently been willing to
understand only the renegades. I've been along the border for thirty
years, and some of the bravest white men I've ever seen had Indian
wives. Some of the men whose assistance in Indian wars has been
invaluable to us are ranchmen whose children are half-breeds, and who
have taught their squaws housework and English at the same time, and
made them a credit to any nation. There's a heap of uncalled-for
prejudice against a certain class of those men; and, so far as I've
noticed, the sneak who abandons his wife and children back in the
States, or borrows the wife of someone else to make the trip out here
with, is the specimen that is first to curl his lip at the squaw man.
That girl over there strikes me as showing more common sense than the
whole community; she gave him the valuation of a man."

The Major's blood was up. It was seldom that he made so long a speech;
but the question was one against which he had clashed often, and to find
the old prejudice was so strong a factor in the disorganizing of an
outpost was enraging.

"And do you realize what that man did when he took that trail north?" he
demanded impressively. "He knew that he carried his life in his hand as
surely as he carried that body. And he went up there to play it against
big odds for the sake of a lot of people who had a contemptible contempt
for him."

"And cursed us soundly while he did it," added one of the men, in an
aside; but the Major overheard it.

"Yes, that's like him, too," he agreed. "But, if any of you can show me
so great a courage and conscientiousness in a more refined citizen, I'm
waiting to see it."

Then there was the quick fall of hoofs outside the shack, hurried
questions and brief answers. One of the scouts from the north ridge
rushed in and reported to Major Dreyer.

"A gang o' hostiles are in sight--not many; they've got our horses.
Think they carry a flag o' truce, but couldn't spot it for sure. They're
not a fighten' gang, any way, fur they're comen' slow and carryen'
somethen'."

"A flag of truce? That means peace. Thank God!" said Tillie, fervently.

"And Genesee," added the Major.

As for Rachel, her heart seemed in her throat. She tried to speak, to
rush out and learn their message, but she could not move. An awful
presentiment bound her. "Carrying something!"



CHAPTER VIII.

"WHEN THE SUN GOETH DOWN."

    "Opitsah!--Klahowya."


They brought him--his dark, sad-faced brothers--bearing him on a bed of
elastic poles and the skins of beasts; and walking through the lines of
blue-coats as if not seeing them, they laid him on the floor of the
shack, and grouped themselves clannishly in one corner, near his head.
Stuart knelt with trembling hands to examine the cruel wound in the
throat, and turned away, shaking his head. He could not speak. There was
a slow, inward hemorrhage. He was bleeding to death.

"Determination has kept him alive," decided the Major, when the
spokesman of the Kootenais told of the shot on the mountain, and how
they had to carry him, with Snowcap in his arms, to the wigwam of Grey
Eagle; of the council through which he kept up, and then told them he
would live until he reached camp--he was so sure of it! For the body of
Snowcap he had asked the horses left in the gulch, and was given
them--and much more, because of the sorrow of their nation. He did not
try to speak at first, only looked about, drinking in the strange
kindness in all the faces; then he reached out his hand toward Rachel.

"Opitsah!" he whispered, with that smile of triumph in his eyes. "I
told you I'd live--till I got back to you;" and then his eyes turned to
the Major. "I got a stand-off on the hostilities--till your
return--inside my coat--I wrote it." He ceased, gasping, while they drew
out the "talking-paper" with the mark of Grey Eagle at the foot, and on
it also were their murderous stains.

"You--treat with them now," he continued, "but--be careful. Don't shirk
promises. They're easy managed now--like a lot of children, just because
they shot me--when I was carrying Snowcap home. But they'll get
over--that, and then--be careful. They were ready for the war-path--when
I got there."

He saw Captain Holt not far from him, and through the pallor of his face
a faint flush crept.

"Well, I've come back for my trial," he scowled, with something of his
old defiance; and the Major knelt down and took his hand.

"That's all over, Genesee," he said gently. "It was a big mistake. There
is not a soul here with anything but gratitude and admiration for you.
It was your own fault you were suspected; Miss Rachel has explained. Why
did you not?"

He did not answer--only looked at her, and seemed gathering his strength
for some final effort.

"I want someone--to write."

He was still holding Rachel's hand. She had not said a word; only her
eyes seemed to tell him enough.

Stuart came forward. "Will I do, Jack?"

Jack nodded, and more than one was astonished at the signs of grief in
Stuart's face. Rachel was past speculation.

"This lady, here," said Genesee, motioning to her, "has done a heap for
me--more than she knows--I reckon--and I want--to square things."

Rachel attempted to speak; but he raised his hand.

"Don't," he whispered. "Let me say it--tillikum." Then he turned to
Stuart. "There's a bit of ground up in the hills; it's mine, and I want
her to have it--it's Tamahnous Hill--and the old mine--write it."

She thought of that other woman, and tried to protest. Again he saw it,
and pressed her hand for silence.

"I want her to have it--for she likes these hills, and--she's been
mighty good to me. No one will interfere--with her claim--I reckon."

"No one shall interfere," said Stuart, toward whom he looked. Genesee
smiled.

"That's right--that's all right. She won't be afraid of the--witches.
And she'll tell you where I want to go--she knows." His voice was
growing fainter; they could see he was almost done with the Kootenai
valley.

"In my pocket is something--from the mine," he said, looking at Rachel;
"it will show you--and there's another will in the bank--at
Holland's--it is--for Annie."

Stuart guided his hand for the signature to the paper. Stuart wrote his
own, and Hardy followed, his eyes opening in wonder at something written
there.

A slight rustle in the group at the door drew the Major's attention, and
a young face coming forward made him turn to Stuart.

"I had altogether forgotten that I brought someone from Holland's for
you--a boy sent there to find J. S. Stuart. I knew it must be C. S.
Stuart, though, and brought him along."

A dark-faced little fellow, with a sturdy, bright look, walked forward
at the commander's motion; but his wondering gaze was on the man lying
there with such an eager look in his eyes.

"This is Mr. Stuart," said the Major, and then turned to Genesee.

The Stuart's face was white as the wounded man's as the boy looked up at
him, frankly.

"I'm--I'm Jack," he said; "and mamma sent a letter."

The letter was held out, and the boy's plucky mouth trembled a little at
the lack of welcome; not even a hand-shake, and he was such a little
fellow--about ten. But Stuart looked like a man who sees a ghost. He
took the letter, after a pause that seemed very long to the people who
watched his strange manner. Then he looked at the envelope, took the boy
by the arm, and thrusting the Major blindly aside, he knelt by Genesee.

"This is for you, Jack," he said, motioning the others back by a
gesture--all but Rachel--that hand-clasp was so strong! "and your
namesake has brought it."

"Read it," and he motioned Rachel to take it; "read me Annie's letter."

She read it in a low tone--a repetition of that other plea that Jack had
left with her, and its finale the same longing request that her boy
should at last be let know his father. Stuart was in tears when she
finished.

"Jack," he said, "ten years is a long time; I've suffered every hour of
them. Give me the boy; let me know you are agreed at last. Give Annie
back to me!"

Jack raised his hand to the bewildered boy, who took it reverently.

"You are Annie's boy?" he whispered; "kiss me for her--tell her--" And
then his eyes sought Stuart's--"I held them in pawn for you. I reckon
you're earnest enough now--to redeem them. What was that verse
about--giving back the pledge when--the sun goes down? You read it.
Mother used to read it--little mother! She will be glad, I
reckon--she--"

Stuart was sobbing outright, with his arms about the boy. Rachel, with
the letter in her hand, was as puzzled as those who had drawn out of
hearing. Only the Indians stood close and impassive. Jack, meeting her
eyes, smiled.

"You know now--all about--them--and Annie. That was why I tried--to keep
away from you--you know now."

But she did not know.

"You took his wife from him?" she said, in a maze of conflicting
revelations; and Jack looked at Stuart, as she added, "and who were
you?"

"He is my brother!" said Stuart, in answer to that look of Jack's. "He
would not let me say it before--not for years. But he is my brother!"

The words were loud enough for all to hear, and there was a low chorus
of surprise among the group. All concealment was about over for
Genesee--even the concealment of death.

Then Stuart looked across at Rachel. He heard that speech, "You took his
wife from him;" and he asked no leave of Jack to speak now.

"Don't think that of him," he said, steadily. "You have been the only
one who has, blindfolded, judged him aright. Don't fail him now. He is
worth all the belief you had in him. The story I read you that night was
true. His was the manhood you admired in it; mine, the one you
condemned. As I look back on our lives now, his seems to me one immense
sacrifice--and no compensations--one terrible isolation; and now--now
everything comes to him too late!"

"He is--sorry," whispered Genesee, "and talks wild--but--you know now?"

"Yes," and the girl's face had something of the solemn elation of his
own. "Yes, I know now."

"And you--will live in the hills--may be?--not so very far away
from--me. In my pocket--is something--from the mine--Davy will tell you.
Be good to--my Kootenais; they think--a heap of you. Kalitan!"

The Arrow came forward, and shook reverently the hand of the man who had
been master to him. The eyes roved about the room, as if in search of
others unseen. Rachel guessed what was wanted, and motioned to the
Indians.

"Come; your brother wants you," she said. And as they grouped about him
and her, they barred out the soldiers and civilians--the white brother
and child--barred out all from him save his friends of the mountains and
the wild places--the haunts of exiles. And the girl, as one by one they
touched her hand at his request, and circled her with their dark forms,
seemed to belong to them too.

"When the--snow melts--the flowers are on that ledge," he whispered with
his eyes closed, "and the birds--not echoes--the echoes are in the
mine--don't be--afraid. I'll go long--and Mowitza."

He was silent for so long that she stooped and whispered to him of
prayer. He opened his eyes and smiled at her.

"Give me--your good wishes--and kiss me, and I'll--risk hell," was the
characteristic answer given so low that she had to watch closely the
lips she kissed.

"And you've kissed me--again! Who said--no compensation?--they--don't
know; we know--and the moonlight, and--yes--mother knows; she thought,
at last--I was not--all bad; not all--little mother! And now--don't be
afraid; I won't go--far--klahowya, my girl--my girl!"

Then one Indian from the circle unslung his rifle from his shoulder and
shattered it with one blow of an axe that lay by the fire. The useless
thing was laid beside what had been Genesee. And the owner, shrouding
his head in his blanket, sat apart from the rest. It was he of the bear
claws; the sworn friend of Lamonti, and the man who had shot him.

       *       *       *       *       *

At sunset he was laid to rest in the little plateau on Scot's Mountain
that faces the west. He was borne there by the Indians, who buried in
his grave the tomahawk they had resurrected for the whites of Camp
Kootenai. Mowitza, rebelliously impatient, was led riderless by Kalitan.
All military honors were paid him who had received no honors in life,
the rites ending by that volley of sound that seals the grave of a
soldier.

Then the pale-faces turned again to the south, the dark-faces took the
trail to the north, and the sun with a last flickering blaze flooded the
snow with crimson, and died behind the western peaks they had watched
light up one morning.



CHAPTER IX.

"RASHELL OF LAMONTI."


The echoes are no longer silent in Tamahnous Peak. The witchcraft of
silver has killed the old superstition. The "something" in Genesee's
pocket had been a specimen that warranted investigation. The lost tribe
had left enough ore there through the darkness of generations to make
mining a thing profitable. Above those terraces of unknown origin there
is a dwelling-house now, built of that same bewitched stone in which the
echoes sleep; and often there is gathered under its roof a strange
household.

The words of Genesee, "Be good to my Kootenais!" have so far been
remembered by the girl who during the last year of his life filled his
thoughts so greatly. His friends are her friends, and medley as the lot
would appear to others, they are welcome to her. They have helped her
solve the problem of what use she could make of her life. Her relatives
have given up in despair trying to alter her unheard-of manner of
living. The idea is prevalent among them that Rachel's mind, on some
subjects, is really queer--she was always so erratic! They speak to her
of the loneliness of those heights, and she laughs at them. She is never
lonely. She had his word that he would not go far. With her lives old
Davy MacDougall, who helps her much in the mining matters, and Kalitan
is never far off. He is her shadow now, as he once was Genesee's. Indian
women do the work of her home. A school is there for any who care to
learn, and in the lodges of the Kootenais she is never forgotten.

It seemed strange that he who had so few friends in his life should win
her so many by his death. The Indians speak of him now with a sort of
awe, as their white brother whose counsels were so wise, whose courage
was so great; he who forced from the spirits the secret of the lost
mine. He has drifted into tradition as some wonderful creature who was
among them for a while, disappearing at times, but always coming back at
a time of their need.

To Rachel they turn as to something which they must guard--for he said
so. She is to them always "Rashell of Lamonti"--of the mountains.

From the East and South come friends sometimes--letters and faces of
people who knew him; Miss Fred, and her husband, and the Major, who is a
stanch friend and admirer of the eccentric girl who was once a rebel in
his camp; and in reminiscences the roughness of his Kootenai chief of
scouts is swathed in the gray veil of the past--only the
lightning-flashes of courage are photographed in the veteran's memory.

The Stuart and his wife and boy come there sometimes in the summer; and
the girl and little Jack, who are very fond of each other, ride over the
places where the other Jack Stuart rode--nameless for so long.

As for Prince Charlie, his natural affection for children amounts to
adoration of the boy. Rachel wonders sometimes if the ideal his remorse
had fostered for so long was filled at last by the girl whom he had left
a delicately tinted apple-blossom and found a delicate type of the
invalid, whose ill-health never exceeds fashionable indisposition. If
not, no word or sign from him shows it. The pretty, ideal phases of
domestic love and life that he used to write of, are not so ready to his
pen as they once were through his dreams and remorse. Much changed for
him are those northern hills, but they still have a fascination for him
and he writes of them a good deal.

"It is the witchcraft of the place, or else it is you, Rachel," he said,
once. "Both help me. When life grows old and stale in civilization, I
come up here and straightway am young again. I can understand now how
you helped Jack."

His wife--a pretty little woman with a gently appealing air--never
really understands Rachel, though she and Tillie are great friends; but,
despite Tillie's praise, Annie never can discover what there is in the
girl for "Charlie and all the other men to like so much--and even poor,
dear Jack, who must have been in love with her to leave her a silver
mine." To Annie she seems rather clever, but with so little affection!
and not even sympathetic, as most girls are. She heard of Rachel's pluck
and bravery; but that is so near to boldness!--as heroes are to
adventurers; and Annie is a very prim little woman herself. She quotes
"my husband" a good deal, and rates his work with the first writers of
the age.

The work has grown earnest; the lessons of Rachel's prophecy have crept
into it. He has in so many ways justified them--achieved more than he
hoped; but he never will write anything more fascinating than the
changeless youth in his own eyes, or the serious tenderness of his own
mouth when he smiles.

"Prince Charlie is a rare, fine lad," old Davy remarked at the end of an
autumn, as he and Rachel watched their visitors out of sight down the
valley; "a man fine enough to be brother to Genesee, an' I ne'er was
wearied o' him till I hearkened to that timorous fine lady o' his
lilting him into the chorus o' every song she sung. By her tellin' she's
the first o' the wives that's ever had a husband."

"But she is not a fine lady at all," contradicted Rachel; "and she's a
very affectionate, very good little woman. You are set against her
because of that story of long ago--and that is hardly fair, Davy
MacDougall."

"Well, then, I am not, lass. It's little call I have to judge children,
but I own I'm ower cranky when I think o' the waste o' a man's life for
a bit pigeon like that--an' a man like my lad was! The prize was no'
worth the candle that give light to it. A man's life is a big thing to
throw away, lass, an' I see nothing in that bit o' daintiness to warrant
it. To me it's a woeful waste."

The girl walked on beside him through the fresh, sweet air of the
morning that was filled with crisp kisses--the kisses that warn the wild
things of the Frost-King's coming. She was separated so slightly from
the wild things herself that she was growing to understand them in a new
spirit--through a sympathy touched less by curiosity than of old. She
thought of that man, who slept across on Scot's Mountian, in sight of
Tamahnous Peak; how he had understood them!--not through the head, but
the heart. Through some reflected light of feeling she had lived those
last days of his life at a height above her former level. She had seen
in the social outlaw who loved her a soul that, woman-like, she placed
above where she knelt. Perhaps it had been the uncivilized heroism,
perhaps the unselfish, deliberate sacrifice, appealing to a
hero-worshiper. Something finer in nature than she had ever been touched
by in a more civilized life had come to her through him in those last
days--not through the man as men knew him, and not through the love he
had borne her--but through the spirit she thought she saw there.

It may have been in part an illusion--women have so many--but it was
strong in her. It raised up her life to touch the thing she had placed
on the heights, and something of the elation that had come to him
through that last sacrifice filled her, and forbade her return into the
narrowed valleys of existence.

His wasted life! It had been given at last to the wild places he loved.
It had left its mark on the humanity of them, and the mark had not been
a mean one. The girl, thinking of what it had done for her, wondered
often if the other lives of the valley that winter could live on without
carrying indelible coloring from grateful, remorseful emotions born
there. She did not realize how transient emotions are in some people;
and then she had grown to idealize him so greatly. She fancied herself
surely one of many, while really she was one alone.

"Yes, lass--a woeful waste," repeated the old man; and her thoughts
wandered back to their starting-place.

"No!" she answered with the sturdy certainty of faith. "The prodigality
there was not wastefulness, and was not without a method--not a method
of his own, but that something beyond us we call God or Fate. The lives
he lived or died for may seem of mighty little consequence individually,
but what is, is more than likely to be right, Davy MacDougall, even if
we can't see it from our point of view." Then, after a little, she
added, "He is not the first lion that has died to feed dogs--there was
that man of Nazareth."

Davy MacDougall stopped, looking at her with fond, aged eyes that shone
perplexedly from under his shaggy brows.

"You're a rare, strange lass, Rachel Hardy," he said at last, "an' long
as I've known ye, I'm not ower certain that I know ye at all. The lad
used to be a bit like that at times, but when I see ye last at the
night, I'm ne'er right certain what I'll find ye in the mornin'."

"You'll never find me far from that, at any rate," and she motioned up
the "Hill of the Witches," and on a sunny level a little above them
Mowitza and Kalitan were waiting.

"Then, lass, ye'll ne'er tak' leave o' the Kootenai hills?"

"I think not. I should smother now in the life those people are going
to," and she nodded after the departing guests who were going back to
the world. Then her eyes turned from the mists of the valleys to the
whispering peace of cedars that guard Scot's Mountain.

"No, Davy, I'll never leave the hills."

    KLOSHE KAH-KWA.



JOHN FOX, JR'S. STORIES OF THE KENTUCKY MOUNTAINS


THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE.

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

The "lonesome pine" from which the story takes its name was a tall tree
that stood in solitary splendor on a mountain top. The fame of the pine
lured a young engineer through Kentucky to catch the trail, and when he
finally climbed to its shelter he found not only the pine but the
foot-prints of a girl. And the girl proved to be lovely, piquant, and
the trail of these girlish foot-prints led the young engineer a madder
chase than "the trail of the lonesome pine."


THE LITTLE SHEPHERD OF KINGDOM COME

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

This is a story of Kentucky, in a settlement known as "Kingdom Come." It
is a life rude, semi-barbarous; but natural and honest from which often
springs the flower of civilization.

"Chad," the "little shepherd" did not know who he was nor whence he
came--he had just wandered from door to door since early childhood,
seeking shelter with kindly mountaineers who gladly fathered and
mothered this waif about whom there was such a mystery--a charming waif,
by the way, who could play the banjo better that anyone else in the
mountains.


A KNIGHT OF THE CUMBERLAND.

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

The scenes are laid along the waters of the Cumberland, the lair of
moonshiner and feudsman. The knight is a moonshiner's son, and the
heroine a beautiful girl perversely christened "The Blight." Two
impetuous young Southerners' fall under the spell of "The Blight's"
charms and she learns what a large part jealousy and pistols have in the
love making of the mountaineers.

Included in this volume is "Hell fer-Sartain" and other stories, some of
Mr. Fox's most entertaining Cumberland valley narratives.



NOVELS OF FRONTIER LIFE BY WILLIAM MacLEOD RAINE


MAVERICKS.

A tale of the western frontier, where the "rustler," whose depredations
are so keenly resented by the early settlers of the range, abounds. One
of the sweetest love stories ever told.

A TEXAS RANGER.

How a member of the most dauntless border police force carried law into
the mesquit, saved the life of an innocent man after a series of
thrilling adventures, followed a fugitive to Wyoming, and then passed
through deadly peril to ultimate happiness.

WYOMING.

In this vivid story of the outdoor West the author has captured the
breezy charm of "cattleland," and brings out the turbid life of the
frontier with all its engaging dash and vigor.

RIDGWAY OF MONTANA.

The scene is laid in the mining centers of Montana, where politics and
mining industries are the religion of the country. The political
contest, the love scene, and the fine character drawing give this story
great strength and charm.

BUCKY O'CONNOR.

Every chapter teems with wholesome, stirring adventures, replete with
the dashing spirit of the border, told with dramatic dash and absorbing
fascination of style and plot.

CROOKED TRAILS AND STRAIGHT.

A story of Arizona; of swift-riding men and daring outlaws; of a bitter
feud between cattle-men and sheep-herders. The heroine is a most unusual
woman and her love story reaches a culmination that is fittingly
characteristic of the great free West.

BRAND BLOTTERS.

A story of the Cattle Range. This story brings out the turbid life of
the frontier, with all its engaging dash and vigor, with a charming love
interest running through its 320 pages.



JACK LONDON'S NOVELS


JOHN BARLEYCORN. Illustrated by H. T. Dunn.

This remarkable book is a record of the author's own amazing
experiences. This big, brawny world rover, who has been acquainted with
alcohol from boyhood, comes out boldly against John Barleycorn. It is a
string of exciting adventures, yet it forcefully conveys an
unforgettable idea and makes a typical Jack London book.

THE VALLEY OF THE MOON. Frontispiece by George Harper.

The story opens in the city slums where Billy Roberts, teamster and
ex-prize fighter, and Saxon Brown, laundry worker, meet and love and
marry. They tramp from one end of California to the other, and in the
Valley of the Moon find the farm paradise that is to be their salvation.

BURNING DAYLIGHT. Four illustrations.

The story of an adventurer who went to Alaska and laid the foundations
of his fortune before the gold hunters arrived. Bringing his fortunes to
the States he is cheated out of it by a crowd of money kings, and
recovers it only at the muzzle of his gun. He then starts out as a
merciless exploiter on his own account. Finally he takes to drinking and
becomes a picture of degeneration. About this time he falls in love with
his stenographer and wins her heart but not her hand and then--but read
the story!

A SON OF THE SUN. Illustrated by A. O. Fischer and C. W. Ashley.

David Grief was once a light-haired, blue-eyed youth who came from
England to the South Seas in search of adventure. Tanned like a native
and as lithe as a tiger, he became a real son of the sun. The life
appealed to him and he remained and became very wealthy.

THE CALL OF THE WILD. Illustrations by Philip R. Goodwin and Charles
Livingston Bull. Decorations by Charles E. Hooper.

A book of dog adventures as exciting as any man's exploits could be.
Here is excitement to stir the blood and here is picturesque color to
transport the reader to primitive scenes.

THE SEA WOLF. Illustrated by W. J. Aylward.

Told by a man whom Fate suddenly swings from his fastidious life into
the power of the brutal captain of a sealing schooner. A novel of
adventure warmed by a beautiful love episode that every reader will hail
with delight.

WHITE FANG. Illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull.

"White Fang" is part dog, part wolf and all brute, living in the frozen
north; he gradually comes under the spell of man's companionship, and
surrenders all at the last in a fight with a bull dog. Thereafter he is
man's loving slave.



ZANE GREY'S NOVELS


THE LIGHT OF WESTERN STARS

Colored frontispiece by W. Herbert Dunton.

Most of the action of this story takes place near the turbulent Mexican
border of the present day. A New York society girl buys a ranch which
becomes the center of frontier warfare. Her loyal cowboys defend her
property from bandits, and her superintendent rescues her when she is
captured by them. A surprising climax brings the story to a delightful
close.

DESERT GOLD

Illustrated by Douglas Duer.

Another fascinating story of the Mexican border. Two men, lost in the
desert, discover gold when, overcome by weakness, they can go no
farther. The rest of the story describes the recent uprising along the
border, and ends with the finding of the gold which the two prospectors
had willed to the girl who is the story's heroine.

RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE

Illustrated by Douglas Duer.

A picturesque romance of Utah of some forty years ago when Mormon
authority ruled. In the persecution of Jane Withersteen, a rich ranch
owner, we are permitted to see the methods employed by the invisible
hand of the Mormon Church to break her will.

THE LAST OF THE PLAINSMEN

Illustrated with photograph reproductions.

This is the record of a trip which the author took with Buffalo Jones,
known as the preserver of the American bison, across the Arizona desert
and of a hunt in "that wonderful country of yellow crags, deep canons
and giant pines." It is a fascinating story.

THE HERITAGE OF THE DESERT

Jacket in color. Frontispiece.

This big human drama is played in the Painted Desert. A lovely girl, who
has been reared among Mormons, learns to love a young New Englander. The
Mormon religion, however, demands that the girl shall become the second
wife of one of the Mormons--

Well, that's the problem of this sensational, big selling story.

BETTY ZANE

Illustrated by Louis F. Grant.

This story tells of the bravery and heroism of Betty, the beautiful
young sister of old Colonel Zane, one of the bravest pioneers. Life
along the frontier, attacks by Indians, Betty's heroic defense of the
beleaguered garrison at Wheeling, the burning of the Fort, and Betty's
final race for life, make up this never-to-be-forgotten story.



THE NOVELS OF WINSTON CHURCHILL


THE INSIDE OF THE CUP. Illustrated by Howard Giles.

The Reverend John Hodder is called to a fashionable church in a
middle-western city. He knows little of modern problems and in his
theology is as orthodox as the rich men who control his church could
desire. But the facts of modern life are thrust upon him; an awakening
follows and in the end he works out a solution.

A FAR COUNTRY. Illustrated by Herman Pfeifer.

This novel is concerned with big problems of the day. As The Inside of
the Cup gets down to the essentials in its discussion of religion, so
A Far Country deals in a story that is intense and dramatic, with
other vital issues confronting the twentieth century.

A MODERN CHRONICLE. Illustrated by J. H. Gardner Soper.

This, Mr. Churchill's first great presentation of the Eternal Feminine,
is throughout a profound study of a fascinating young American woman. It
is frankly a modern love story.

MR. CREWE'S CAREER. Illustrated by A. I. Keller and Kinneys.

A new England state is under the political domination of a railway and
Mr. Crewe, a millionaire, seizes a moment when the cause of the people
is being espoused by an ardent young attorney, to further his own
interest in a political way. The daughter of the railway president plays
no small part in the situation.

THE CROSSING. Illustrated by S. Adamson and L. Baylis.

Describing the battle of Fort Moultrie, the blazing of the Kentucky
wilderness, the expedition of Clark and his handful of followers in
Illinois, the beginning of civilization along the Ohio and Mississippi,
and the treasonable schemes against Washington.

CONISTON. Illustrated by Florence Scovel Shinn.

A deft blending of love and politics. A New Englander is the hero, a
crude man who rose to political prominence by his own powers, and then
surrendered all for the love of a woman.

THE CELEBRITY. An episode.

An inimitable bit of comedy describing an interchange of personalities
between a celebrated author and a bicycle salesman. It is the purest,
keenest fun--and is American to the core.

THE CRISIS. Illustrated with scenes from the Photo-Play.

A book that presents the great crisis in our national life with splendid
power and with a sympathy, a sincerity, and a patriotism that are
inspiring.

RICHARD CARVEL. Illustrated by Malcolm Frazer.

An historical novel which gives a real and vivid picture of Colonial
times, and is good, clean, spirited reading in all its phases and
interesting throughout.



STORIES OF RARE CHARM BY GENE STRATTON-PORTER


LADDIE.

Illustrated by Herman Pfeifer.

This is a bright, cheery tale with the scenes laid in Indiana. The story
is told by Little Sister, the youngest member of a large family, but it
is concerned not so much with childish doings as with the love affairs
of older members of the family. Chief among them is that of Laddie, the
older brother whom Little Sister adores, and the Princess, an English
girl who has come to live in the neighborhood and about whose family
there hangs a mystery. There is a wedding midway in the book and a
double wedding at the close.

THE HARVESTER. Illustrated by W. L. Jacobs.

"The Harvester," David Langston, is a man of the woods and fields, who
draws his living from the prodigal hand of Mother Nature herself. If the
book had nothing in it but the splendid figure of this man it would be
notable. But when the Girl comes to his "Medicine Woods," and the
Harvester's whole being realizes that this is the highest point of life
which has come to him--there begins a romance of the rarest idyllic
quality.

FRECKLES. Decorations by E. Stetson Crawford.

Freckles is a nameless waif when the tale opens, but the way in which he
takes hold of life; the nature friendships he forms in the great
Limberlost Swamp; the manner in which everyone who meets him succumbs to
the charm of his engaging personality; and his love-story with "The
Angel" are full of real sentiment.

A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST.

Illustrated by Wladyslaw T. Brenda.

The story of a girl of the Michigan woods; a buoyant, lovable type of
the self-reliant American. Her philosophy is one of love and kindness
towards all things; her hope is never dimmed. And by the sheer beauty of
her soul, and the purity of her vision, she wins from barren and
unpromising surroundings those rewards of high courage.

AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW.

Illustrations in colors by Oliver Kemp.

The scene of this charming love story is laid in Central Indiana. The
story is one of devoted friendship, and tender self-sacrificing love.
The novel is brimful of the most beautiful word painting of nature, and
its pathos and tender sentiment will endear it to all.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Told In The Hills" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home