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Title: The Law of Hemlock Mountain
Author: Lundsford, Hugh
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 "The Law of Hemlock Mountain" ***

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



by The Kentuckiana Digital Library)



THE LAW OF HEMLOCK MOUNTAIN

BY HUGH LUNDSFORD

Frontispiece by DOUGLAS DUER


  New York
  W. J. Watt & Company
  PUBLISHERS

  COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
  W. J. WATT & COMPANY

  PRESS OF
  BRAUNWORTH & CO.
  BOOK MANUFACTURERS
  BROOKLYN, N.Y.



[Illustration: "I am sorry," declared Spurrier, humbly. "I didn't know
they were pets. They behaved very much like wild birds."]



CHAPTER I


The officer whose collar ornaments were the winged staff and serpents
of the medical branch, held what was left of the deck in his right
hand and moistened the tip of his thumb against the tip of his
tongue.

"Reënforcements, major?" he inquired with a glance to the man at his
left, and the poker face of the gentleman so addressed remained
impervious to expression as the answer was given back:

"No, I'll stand by what I've got here."

If the utterance hung on a quarter second of indecision it was a
circumstance that went unnoted, save possibly by a young man with the
single bars of a lieutenant on his shoulder straps--and Spurrier gave
no flicker of recognition of what had escaped the others.

Between the whitewashed walls of the room where the little group of
officers sat at cards the Philippine night breeze stirred faintly with
a fevered breath that scarcely disturbed the jalousies.

The pile of poker chips had grown to a bulkiness and value out of
just proportion to the means of army officers below field rank--and
except for the battalion, commander and the surgeon none there held
higher grade than a captaincy. This jungle-hot weather made men
irresponsible.

One or two of the faces were excitedly flushed; several others were
morosely dark. The lights guttered with a jaundiced yellow and sweat
beaded the temples of the players. Sweat, too, made slippery the
enameled surfaces of the pasteboards. Sweat seemed to ooze and simmer
in their brains like the oil from overheated asphalt.

These men had been forced into a companionship of monotony in a
climate of unhealth until their studied politeness, even their forced
jocularity was rather the effort of toleration than the easy play of
comradeship. Their arduously wooed excitement of draw-poker, which had
run improvidently out of bounds, was not a pleasure so much as an
expedient against the boredom that had rubbed their tempers threadbare
and put an edgy sharpness on their nerves.

Captain Comyn, upon whose call for cards the dealer now waited, was
thinking of Private Grant out there under guard in the improvised
hospital. The islands had "gotten to" Private Grant and "locoed" him,
and he had breathed sulphurous maledictions against Captain Comyn's
life--but it was not those threats that now disturbed the company
commander.

Of late Captain Comyn had been lying awake at night and wondering if
he, too, were not going the same way as the unfortunate file. Horribly
quiet fears had been stealing poisonously into his mind--a mind not
given to timidities--and the word "melancholia" had assumed for him a
morbid and irresistible compulsion. No one save the captain's self
knew of these secret hauntings, born of climate and smoldering fever,
and he would not have revealed them on the torture rack. For them he
entertained the same shame as that of a boy grown too large for such
weakness, who shudders with an unconfessed fear of the dark. But he
could no more shake them loose and be free of them than could the
Ancient Mariner rid himself of the bird of ill-omen tied about his
neck. Now he pulled himself together and tossed away a single card.

"I'll take one in the place of that," he commented with studied
carelessness, and Lieutenant John Spurrier, with that infectious smile
which came readily to his lips, pointed a contrast with the captain's
abstraction by the snappy quickness of his announcement:

"If I'm going to trail along, I'll need three. Yes, three, please,
major."

"When Spurrier sits in the game," commented a player who, with a
dolorous glance at the booty before him, threw down his hands, "we at
least get action. Myself, I'm out of it."

The battalion commander studied the ceiling with a troubled furrow
between his brows which was not brought there by the hazards of luck.
He was reflecting that whenever a game was organized it was Spurrier
who quickened its tempo from innocuous amusement to reckless
extravagance. Spurrier, fitted for his life with so many soldierly
qualities, was still, above all else, a plunger. That spirit seemed a
passion that filled and overflowed him. Temperate in other habits, he
played like a nabob. The major remembered hearing that even at West
Point Jack Spurrier had narrowly, escaped dismissal for gambling in
quarters, though his class standing had been distinguished and his
gridiron record had become a tradition.

This sort of game with "the roof off and deuces wild," was not good
for the _morale_ of his junior officers, mused the major. It was like
spiking whisky with absinthe. Yes, to-morrow he would have Spurrier at
his quarters and talk to him like a Dutch uncle.

There were three left battling for the often sweetened pot now, with
three more who had dropped out, looking on, and a tensity enveloped
the long-drawn climax of the evening's session.

Captain Comyn's cheek bones had reddened and his irascible frown lines
deepened. For the moment his fears of melancholia had been swallowed
up in a fitful fury against Spurrier and his smiling face.

At last came the decisive moment of the final call and the show-down,
and through the dead silence of the moment sounded the distant
sing-song of a sentry:

"Corporal of the guard, number one, relief!"

Over the window sill a tiny green lizard slithered quietly and
hesitated, pressing itself flat against the whitewash.

Then the major's cards came down face upward--and showed a queen-high
straight.

"Not quite good enough, major," announced Comyn brusquely as his
breath broke from him with a sort of gasp and he spread out a heart
flush.

But Spurrier, who had drawn three cards, echoed the captain's words:
"Not quite good enough." He laid down two aces and two deuces, which
under the cutthroat rule of "deuces wild" he was privileged to call
four aces.

Comyn came to his feet and pushed back his chair, but he stood
unsteadily. The fever in his bones was playing queer pranks with his
brain. He, whose courtesy had always been marked in its punctilio,
blazed volcano-fashion into the eruption that had been gathering
through these abnormal days and nights.

Yet even now the long habit of decorum held waveringly for a little
before its breaking, and he began with a queer strain in his voice:

"You'll have to take my IOU. I've lost more than I can pay on the
peg."

"That's all right, Comyn," began the victor, "Pay when----" but before
he could finish the other interrupted with a frenzy of anger:

"No, by God, it's not all right! It's all wrong, and this is the last
game I sit in where they deal a hand to you."

Spurrier's smiling lips tightened instantly out of their infectious
amiability into a forbidding straightness. He pushed aside the chips
he had been stacking and rose stiffly.

"That's a statement, Captain Comyn," he said with a warning note in
his level voice, "which requires some explaining."

The abrupt bursting of the tempest had left the others in a tableau of
amazement, but now the authoritative voice of Major Withers broke in
upon the dialogue.

"Gentlemen, this is an army post, and I am in command here. I will
tolerate no quarrels."

Without shifting the gaze of eyes that held those of the captain,
Spurrier answered insistently:

"I have every respect, major, for the requirements of discipline--but
Captain Comyn must finish telling why he will no longer play cards
with me."

"And I'll tell you _pronto_," came the truculent response. "I won't
play with you because you are too damned lucky."

"Oh!" Spurrier's tensity of expression relaxed into something like
amusement for the anticlimax. "That accusation can be stomached, I
suppose."

"Too damned lucky," went on the other with a gathering momentum of
rancor, "and too continuously lucky for a game that's not professional.
When a man is so proficient--or lucky if you prefer--that the card table
pays him more than the government thinks he's worth, it's time----"

Spurrier stepped forward.

"It's time for you to stop," he cautioned sharply. "I give you the
fairest warning!"

But Comyn, riding the flood tide of his passion--a passion of
distempered nerves--was beyond the reach of warnings and his words
came in a bitter outpouring:

"I dare say it was only luck that let you bankrupt young Tillsdale,
but it was as fatal to him as if it bore an uglier name."

The sound in Spurrier's throat was incoherent and his bodily impulse
swift beyond interference. His flat palm smote Captain Comyn's cheek,
to come away leaving a red welt behind it, and as the others swept
forward to intervene the two men grappled.

They were torn apart, still struggling, as Major Withers, unaccustomed
to the brooking of such mutinies, interposed between them the bulk of
his body and the moral force of his indignantly blazing eyes.

"I will have no more of this," he thundered. "I am not a prize-fight
referee, that I must break my officers out of clinches! Go to your
quarters, Comyn! You, too, Spurrier. You are under arrest. I shall
prefer charges against you both. I mean to make an example of this
matter."

But with a strange abruptness the fury died out of Comyn's face. It
left his passion-distorted features so instantly that the effect of
transformation was uncanny. In a breathing space he seemed older and
his eyes held the dark dejection of utter misery. His anger had flared
and died before that grimmer emotion which secretly haunted him--the
fear that he was going the way of climate-crazed Private Grant.

When they released him he turned dispiritedly and left the room in
docile silence. He was not thinking of the charges to be preferred.
They belonged to to-morrow. To-night was nearer, and to-night he must
face those hours of sleeplessness that he dreaded more than all the
penalties enunciated by the Articles of War.

Spurrier, too, bowed stiffly and left the room.

Though it was late when Captain Comyn entered his own quarters, he did
not at once throw himself on the army cot that stood against the
whitewashed wall.

For him the cot held no invitation--only the threat of insomnia and
tossing. His taut nerves had lost the gracious art of relaxation, and
before his thoughts paraded hideously grotesque memories of the few
faces he had ever seen marred by the dethronement of reason.

Already he had forgotten the violent and discreditable scene with
Spurrier, and presently he dropped himself inertly into the camp chair
beside the table at the room's center and opened its drawer.

Slowly his hand came out clutching a service revolver, and his eyes
smoldered unnaturally as they dwelt on it. But after a little he
resolutely shook his head and thrust the thing aside.

He sat in a cold sweat, surrounded by the silence of the Eastern
night, a comprehensive silence which weighed upon him and oppressed
him.

In the thatching of the single-storied adobe building he heard the
rustling of a house snake, and from without, where moonlight seemed to
gush and spill against the cobalt shadows, shrilled the small voice
from a lizard's inflated, crimson throat.

It was all crazing him, and his nails bit into his palms as he sat
there, silent and heavy-breathed. Then he heard footsteps nearer and
louder than those of the pacing sentries, followed by a low rapping of
knuckles on his own door. Perhaps it was Doctor James. He had the
kindly habit of besetting men who looked fagged with the offer of some
innocuous bromide. As if bromides could soothe a brain in which
something had gone _malo_!

"Come in," he growled, and into the room stepped not Major James, but
Lieutenant Spurrier.

Slowly and with an infinite weight of weariness, Comyn rose to his
feet. He might be afraid of lunacy, but not of lieutenants, and his
lips smiled sneeringly.

"If you've come to ask a retraction," he declared ungraciously, "I've
none to offer. I meant all I said."

The visitor stood inside the door calmly eyeing the man who was his
own company commander.

"I didn't come to insist on apologies," he replied after a moment's
silence with an off-hand easiness of tone. "That can wait till you've
gotten over your tantrum. It was another thing that brought me."

"I want to be left alone."

"Aside from the uncomplimentary features of your tirade," went on
Spurrier placidly and he strolled around the table and seated himself
on the window sill, "there was a germ of truth in what you said. We've
been playing too steep a game." He paused and the other man who
remained standing by his table, as though he did not wish to encourage
his visitor by seating himself, responded only with a short, ironic
laugh.

"See here, Comyn," Spurrier's voice labored now with evident
embarrassment. "What I'm getting at is this: I don't want your IOU for
that game. I simply want you to forget it."

But the captain took an angry step forward.

"Do you think I'm a charity patient?" he demanded, as his temper again
mounted to storm pressure. "Why, damn your impertinence, I don't want
to talk to you. I don't want you in my quarters!"

Spurrier slipped from his seat and an angry flush spread to his cheek
bones.

"You're the hell of a--gentleman!" he exclaimed.

The two stood for a few moments without words, facing each other,
while the lieutenant could hear the captain's breath rising and
falling in a panting thickness.

Surgeon James returning from a visit to a colic sufferer was trudging
sleepily along the empty _calle_ when he noted the light still burning
in the captain's window, and with an exclamation of remembrance for
the officer's dark-ringed and sleepless eyes, he wheeled toward the
door. Just as he neared it, a staccato and heated interchange of
voices was borne out to him, and he hurried his step, but at the same
instant a pistol shot bellowed blatantly in the quiet air and into his
nostrils stole the acrid savor of burned powder.

The door, thrown open, gave him the startling picture of Comyn sagged
across his own table and lying grotesque in the yellow light; and of
Spurrier standing, wide-eyed by the window, with the green and cobalt
background of the tropic night beyond his shoulders. While he gazed
the lieutenant wheeled and thrust his head through the raised sash,
under the jalousy.

"Halt!" cried James excitedly, leaping forward to possess himself of
the pistol which Comyn had taken from his drawer and thrust aside.
"Halt, Spurrier, or I'll have to fire!"

The other turned back and faced his captor with an expression which it
was hard to read. Then he shook his shoulders as though to disentangle
himself from an evil dream and in a cool voice demanded:

"Do you mean to intimate, James, that you suspect me of killing
Comyn?"

"Do you mean to deny it?" countered the other incredulously.

"Great God! I oughtn't to have to. That shot was fired through the
window. The bullet whined past my ear while my back was turned. That
was why I looked out just now. Moreover, I am, as you see, unarmed."

"God grant that you can prove these things, Spurrier, but they will
need proof." The doctor turned to bend over the prostrate figure, and
as he did so voices rose from the _calle_ where already had sounded
the alarm and response of running feet. "Or, perhaps," added the
doctor with stubborn suggestiveness, "you acted in self-defense."

Presently the door opened and the corporal of the guard entered and
saluted. His eyes traveled rapidly about the room and he addressed
Spurrier, since James was not a line officer.

"I picked this revolver up, sir, just outside the window," he said,
holding out a service pistol. "It was lying in the moonlight and one
chamber is empty."

Spurrier took the weapon, but when the man had gone James suggested in
an even voice: "Don't you think you had better hand that gun to me?"

"To you? Why?"

"Because this looks like a case for G. C. M. It will have a better
aspect if I can testify that, after the gun was brought in, it wasn't
handled by you except while I saw you?"

"It seems to me"--a belligerent flash darted in the lieutenant's
eyes--"that you are singularly set on hanging this affair around my
neck."

"You were with him and no one else was. If I were you, I'd go direct
to the major and make a statement of facts. He'll be getting reports
from other sources by now."

"Perhaps you are right. Is _he_ dead?"

The surgeon nodded, and Spurrier turned and closed the door softly
behind him.



CHAPTER II


The situation of John Spurrier, who was Jack Spurrier to every man in
that command, standing under the monstrous presumption of having
murdered a brother officer, called for a reaccommodation of the
battalion's whole habit of thought. It demanded a new and unwelcome
word in their vocabulary of ideas, and against it argued, with the hot
advocacy of tested acquaintance, every characteristic of the man
himself, and every law of probability. For its acceptance spoke only
one forceful plea--evidence which unpleasantly skirted the actuality
of demonstration. Short of seeing Spurrier shoot his captain down and
toss his pistol through the open window, Major James could hardly have
witnessed a more damaging picture than the hurriedly opened door had
framed to his vision.

Within the close-drawn cordon of a post, held to military accountability,
facts were as traceable as entries on a card index--and these facts
began building to the lieutenant's undoing. They seemed to bring out
like acid on sympathetic ink the miracle of a Mr. Hyde where his
comrades had known only a Doctor Jekyll.

The one man out of the two skeleton companies of infantry stationed
in the interior town who remained seemingly impervious to the
strangulating force of the tightening net was Spurrier himself.

In another man that insulated and steady-eyed confidence might have
served as a manifest of innocence and a proclamation of clean
conscience. But Spurrier wore a nick-name, until now lightly
considered, to which new conditions had added importance.

They had called him "The Plunger," and now they could not forget the
nickeled and chrome-hardened gambling nerve which had won for him the
sobriquet. There had been the _coup_ at Oakland, for example, when a
stretch finish had stood to ruin him or suddenly enrich him--an
incident that had gone down in racing history and made café talk.

Through a smother of concealing dust and a thunder of hoofs, the field
had struggled into the stretch that afternoon, tight-bunched, with its
snapping silks too closely tangled for easy distinguishing--but the
cerise cap that proclaimed Spurrier's choice was nowhere in sight. The
bookmakers pedestalled on their high stools with field glasses glued
to their eyes had been more excited than the young officer on the
club-house lawn, who put away his binoculars while the horses were
still in the back stretch and turned to chat with a girl.

Three lengths from the finish a pair of distended nostrils had thrust
themselves ahead of the other muzzles to catch the judges' eyes, and
bending over steaming withers had nodded a cerise cap.

But the lieutenant who had escaped financial disaster and won a
miniature fortune had gone on talking to the girl.

Might it not be suspected in these circumstances that "Plunger"
Spurrier's refusal to treat his accusation seriously was only an
attitude? He was sitting in a game now with his neck at stake and the
cards running against him. Perhaps he was only bluffing as he had
never bluffed before. Possibly he was brazening it out.

It was not until the battalion had hiked back through bosque and over
mountains to Manila that the lieutenant faced his tribunal: a court
whose simplified methods cut away the maze of technicalities at which
a man may grasp before a civilian jury of his peers.

If, when he actually sat in the room where the evidence was heard, his
assurance that he was to emerge clean-shriven began to reel under
blows more powerful than he had expected, at least his face continued
to testify for him with an outward serenity of confidence.

Doctor James told his story with an admirable restraint and an
absolute absence of coloring. He had meant to go to Comyn, because he
read in his eyes the signs of nerve waste and insomnia; the same
things that had caused too many suicides among the men whose nervous
constitutions failed to adapt themselves to the climate.

Before he had carried his purpose to fulfillment--perhaps a half hour
before--he had gone to look in on the case of Private Grant, who was
suffering from just such a malady, though in a more serious degree.
That private, a mountaineer from the Cumberland hills of Kentucky, had
been to all appearances merely a lunatic, although it was a case which
would yield to treatment or perhaps come to recovery even if left to
itself. On this night he had gone to see if Grant needed an opiate,
but had found the patient apparently sleeping without restlessness,
and had not roused him. At the door of the place where Grant was
under guard, he had paused for a word with Private Severance who
stood there on sentry duty.

It had been a sticky night following a hot day, and in the _calle_
upon which lay the command in billets of nipa-thatched houses, no one
but himself and the sentries were astir during the twenty minutes he
had spent strolling in the moonlight. On rounding a corner he had seen
a light in Comyn's window, and he had gone around the angle of the
adobe house, since the door was on the farther side, to offer the
captain a sleeping potion, too. That was how he chanced on the scene
of the tragedy, just a moment too late for service.

"You say," began Spurrier's counsel, on cross-examination, "that you
visited Private Grant about half an hour before Captain Comyn was
killed and found him apparently resting naturally, although on
previous nights you had thought morphia necessary to quiet his
delirium?"

The major nodded, then qualified slowly:

"Grant had not, of course, been continuously out of his head nor had
he always slept brokenly. There had been lucid periods alternating
with exhausting storm."

"You are not prepared to swear, though, that this seeming sleep might
not have been feigned?"

"I am prepared to testify that it is most unlikely."

"Yet that same night he did make his escape and deserted. That is
true, is it not?"

The major bowed. "He had sought to escape before. That was symptomatic
of his condition."

"And since then he has not been recaptured, though he was in your
opinion too ill and deranged to have deceived you by feigning sleep?"

"Quite true."

"Have you ever heard Grant threaten Captain Comyn's life?"

"Never."

"Whether he had made such threats to your knowledge or not, he did
come from that hill county of the Kentucky mountains commonly called
Bloody Brackton, did he not?"

"I believe so. His enlistment record will answer that."

"You do know, though, that the man on guard duty--the man with whom
you spoke outside--was Private Severance, also from the so-called
Kentucky feud belt and a friend of the sick man?"

"I can testify of my own knowledge only that he was Private
Severance and that he and Grant were of the same platoon--Lieutenant
Spurrier's."

The defense advocate paused and carefully framed a hypothetical
question to be answered by the witness as a medical expert.

"I will now ask you to speak from your knowledge of blood tendencies
as affected or distorted by mental abnormalities. Suppose a man to
have been born and raised under a code which still adheres to feudal
violence and the private avenging of personal grievances both real and
fancied. Suppose such a man to have conceived a bitter hatred against
his commanding officer and to have brooded over that hatred until it
had become a fixed idea--a monomania--a determination to kill; suppose
such a man to have known only the fierce influences of his retarded
hills until he came into the army and to have encountered there a
discipline which seemed to him a tyranny. I will ask you whether such
a man might not be apt to react to a homicidal mania under nervous
derangement, and whether such a homicidal mania might not develop its
own craftiness of method?"

"Such," testified the medical officer, "is a conceivable but a highly
imaginative possibility."

Then Private Severance was called and came into the room, where he
stood smartly at attention until instructed to take the witness chair.
This dark-haired private from the Cumberlands looked the soldier from
crown to sole leather, yet his features seemed to hold under their
present repose an ancient stamp of sullenness. It was an intangible
quality rather than an expression, as though it bore less relation to
his present than to some unconquerable survival from generations that
had passed on; generations that had been always peering into shadows
and searching them for lurking perils.

In his speech lingered quaintly remnants of dialect from the laureled
hills that army life had failed to eradicate, and in his manner one
could note a wariness of extreme caution. That was easy to understand,
because Private Severance, too, stood under the charge of having
permitted a prisoner to escape, and his evidence would confront him
later when he in turn occupied the dock.

"I didn't have no speech with Bud Grant that night," he testified,
"but I'd looked in some several times through the window. It was a
barred window, an' every time I peeked through it I could see Bud
layin' there asleep. The moon fell acrost his cot so I could see him
plain."

"When did you see him last?"

"After Major James had been in and come out--a full fifteen minutes
later. I'm able to swear to that, because I noticed the moon just as
the major went out, and, when I looked in through the window the last
time, the moon was a full quarter hour lower down to'rds settin'."

After a moment's pause the witness volunteered in amplification:
"Where I come from we don't have many clocks or watches. We goes by
the sun and moon."

"Then you can swear that if Private Grant fired the shot that killed
Captain Comyn, he must have escaped and eluded your sight; armed
himself, crossed the plaza; turned the corner; accomplished the act
and gotten clean away, all within the brief period of five minutes?"

"I can swear to more than that. He didn't get past me till _after_ the
pistol went off. There wasn't no way out but by the one door, and I
was right at that door all the time until I left it."

"When did you leave?"

The witness gave response without hesitation, yet with the same
serious weighing of his words.

"I was standing there, sorter peerin' up at the stars an' beginning to
feel right smart tired when I heard the shot. I heard the shout of the
corporal of the guard, too, an' then it was that I made my mistake."
He paused and went on evenly. "I hadn't ought to have stirred away
from my post, but it seemed like a sort of a general alarm, an' I went
runnin' to'rds it. That was the first chanst Bud had to get away.
When I got back he was gone."

"You are sure he was still there when the shot sounded?"

"As God looks down, I can swear he was!"

Then the defense took the witness.

"When does your enlistment expire?"

"Two months, come Sunday."

"You know to the day, don't you? You are keenly anxious for that day
to come, aren't you?"

"Why wouldn't I be? I've got folks at home."

"Haven't you and Grant both been malcontents throughout your entire
period of service?"

"It's news to me, if it's true."

"Haven't you often heard Private Grant swear vengeance against Captain
Comyn?"

"Not no more than to belly-ache some little."

"Is it not a fact that since you and Grant ran amuck on the transport
coming over, and Comyn put you both in irons, the two of you had sworn
vengeance against him; that you had both taken the blood oath to get
him?"

Severance looked blankly at his questioner and blankly shook his
head.

"That's all new tidings ter me," he asserted with entire calmness.

"Don't you know that you deliberately let Grant out immediately after
the visit of Major James and slipped him the pistol with which he
fired the shot? Didn't you do that, knowing that when the report
sounded you could make it your excuse for leaving your post, and then
perjure yourself as to the time?"

"I know full well," asserted the witness with an unshaken composure,
"that nothing like that didn't happen."

Fact built on fact until even the defendant's counsel found himself
arguing against a growing and ugly conviction. The pistol had been
identified as Spurrier's, and his explanation that he had left it
hanging in his holster at his quarters, whence some unknown person
might have abstracted it, lacked persuasiveness. The defense built a
structure of hypothesis based upon the fact that the open door of
Spurrier's room was visible from the house where Grant had been
tossing on his cot. The claim was urgently advanced that a skulking
lunatic might easily have seen the glint of blued steel, and have been
spurred in his madness by the temptation of such an implement ready to
his hand. But that, too, was held to be a fantastic claim. So the
verdict was guilty and the sentence life imprisonment. It must have
been death, had the case, for all its warp of presumption and woof of
logic, been other than circumstantial.

The defendant felt that this mitigation of the extreme penalty was a
misplaced mercy. The disgrace could be no blacker and death would at
least have brought to its period the hideousness of the nightmare
which must now stretch endlessly into the future.

It was to a prisoner, sentenced and branded, that Major Withers came
one afternoon when the court-martial of Lieutenant Spurrier had run
its course as topic-in-chief for the Officers' Club at Manila. Other
matters were already crowding it out of the minds it had profoundly
shocked.

"I want to talk to you, Jack," began the major bluntly. "I want to
talk to you with a candor that grows out of the affection we all felt
for you--before this damnable thing upset our little world. My God,
boy, you had life in your sling. You had every quality that makes the
soldier; you had every social requisite except wealth. This besetting
passion for gambling has brought the whole train of disaster--as
logically as if you had killed him at the card table itself."

"You are overlooking the fact, major," interrupted the prisoner dryly,
"that I didn't kill him. Moreover, it's too late now for the warning
to benefit me. I dare say in Leavenworth I shall have no trouble
curbing my passion for gaming." He paused and added with an irony of
despairing bitterness: "But I suppose I should thank you and say, like
the negro standing on the gallows, 'dis hyar is surely g'wine to be a
great lesson ter me.'" Suddenly the voice broke and the young man
wheeled to avert his face. "My God," he cried out, "why didn't you let
them hang me or shoot me? Any man can stiffen his legs and his spine
for five minutes of dying--even public dying--but back of those walls
with a convict's number instead of a name----" There he broke off and
the battalion commander laid a hand on his heaving shoulder.

"I didn't come to rub in preachments while you stood at the edge of
the scaffold or the jail, Jack. My warning may not be too late, after
all. We've passed the matter up to the war department with a strong
recommendation for clemency. We mean to pull every wire that can
honorably be pulled. We're making the most of your good record
heretofore and of the conviction being based on circumstantial
evidence."

He paused a moment and then went on with a trifle of embarrassment in
his voice:

"You know that Senator Beverly is at the governor general's
palace--and that his daughter is with him."

Spurrier wheeled at that and stood facing his visitor with eyes that
had kindled, but in which the light at once faded as he commented
shortly:

"Neither the senator nor Augusta has made any effort to see me since I
was brought to Manila."

"Perhaps the senator thought that was best, Jack," argued Withers.
"For the daughter, of course, I'm not prepared to speak--but I know
that Beverly has been keeping the cable hot in your behalf. Your name
has become so familiar to the operators between here and Washington
that they don't spell it out any more: they only need to rap out Sp.
now--and if I needed a voice to speak for me on Pennsylvania Avenue or
on Capitol Hill, there's no man I'd pick before the senator."

When he had gone Spurrier sat alone and to his ears came the distant
playing of a band in the plaza. Somewhere in that ancient town was the
girl who had not been to see him, nor written to him, even though,
just before his battalion had gone into the bosques across the
mountains, she had let him slip a ring on her finger, and had answered
"yes" to his question--the most personal question in the world.



CHAPTER III


There was a more assured light in Major Withers' eyes when he next
came as a visitor into the prison quarters, and the heartiness of his
hand clasp was in itself a congratulation.

"The thing was carried up to the president himself," he declared.
"Washington is sick of you, Spurrier. Because of you miles of red tape
have been snarled up. Departments have worked overtime until the
single hope of the United States government is that it may never hear
of you again. You don't go to prison, after all, my boy."

"You mean I am pardoned?"

Then, remembering that the rose of his bringing carried a sharp thorn
the senior proceeded with a note of concern sobering his voice.

"The red tape has not only been tangled because of you--but it has
tangled you in its meshes, too, Spurrier. Yes, you are pardoned. You
are as free as I am--but 'in view of the gravely convincing evidence,
et cetera, et cetera'--it seems that some sort of compromise was
deemed necessary."

Spurrier stood where he had risen from his seat and his eyes held
those of his informant with a blending of inquiry and suspense.

"What sort of compromise, major?"

"You leave the army with a dishonorable discharge. The world is open
to you and you've got an equipment for success--but you might as
well recognize from the start that you're riding with a heavy
impost in your saddle clothes, my boy." He paused a moment and then,
dropping his race-track metaphor, went hurriedly on: "For myself, I
think you're guilty or innocent and you ought to be hanged or
clean-shriven. I don't get this dubious middle ground of freedom with
a tarnished name. It's going to crop up to crab things for you just
when they hang in the balance, and I'm damned if I can see its
fairness! It will cause men to look askance and to say 'he was saved
from rope-stretching only by wire-pulling.'"

The major ended somewhat savagely and Spurrier made no answer. He was
gazing out at the patch of blue that blazed hotly through the high,
barred window and, seeing there reminders of the bars sinister that
would henceforth stand between himself and the sky.

The battalion chief interrupted the long pause to suggest:

"The _Empress_ sails on Tuesday. If I were you I'd take passage on
her. I suppose you will, won't you?"

"That depends," answered the liberated man hesitantly. "I've got to
thank the senator--and, though she hasn't sent me any message, there's
a question to ask a girl."

"It's none of my business, of course, Spurrier," came the advising
voice quietly. "But the Beverlys have engaged passage on the
_Empress_. If I were you, I'd drop a formal note of gratitude and
leave the rest until you meet them aboard."

After a moment's thought the other nodded. "I'll follow that
suggestion. It may be less embarrassing for--them."

"The other fellows are going to send a sort of a hamper down to the
boat. There won't be any cards, but you'll know that a spirit of
Godspeed goes with the stirrup cup."

For an instant Spurrier looked puzzled and the major, whose note of
embarrassment had been growing until it seemed to choke him, now
spluttered and sought to bury his confusion under a forced paroxysm of
coughing.

Then impulsively he thrust out his hand and gripped that of the man of
whom just now he could remember only gallant things; soldierly
qualities and gently bred charm.

"In a fashion, Jack, you must shake hands with all of them through me.
I come as their proxy. They can't give you a blowout, you know. They
can't even come to see you off. I can say what I like now. The papers
aren't signed up yet, but afterward--well, you know! Damn it, I forget
the exact words that the Articles of War employ--about an officer who
goes out--this way."

"Don't bother, major. I get your meaning." Spurrier took the proffered
hand in both his own. "No officer can give me social recognition. I
believe the official words are that I shall be 'deemed ignominious.'
Tell the boys I understand."

On the sailing day John Spurrier, whose engagingly bold eyes had not
yet learned to evade the challenge of any glance, timed his arrival on
board almost as surreptitiously as a stowaway. It was from behind the
closed door of his own stateroom that he listened to the deck
commotion of laughter and leave-taking and heard, when the whistle had
shrieked its warning to shore-going visitors, the grind of anchor
chain on winch and windlass.

That evening he dined in an inconspicuous corner by arrangement with
the dining-saloon steward, and bolted his meal with nervous haste.

From afar, as he had stood in a companionway, he had glimpsed a
panama-hatted girl--a girl who did not see him, and who had shown only
between the shifting heads and shoulders of the crowd. He could not
have told even had he been closer whether her gloved left hand still
wore upon its third finger the ring that he had put there--before
things had happened.

He must face the issue of questioning her and being questioned, and he
hoped that he might have his first meeting with her alone--free from
the gaze of other eyes that would torture him, and perhaps mortify
her.

So when the moon had risen and the band had begun its evening concert
he slipped out on deck and took up his station alone at the stern
rail. It was not entirely dark even here, but the light was mercifully
tempered, and upon the promenaders he turned his back, remaining in a
seclusion from which, with sidewise glances, he appraised each figure
that drifted by.

Once his eyes encountered those of a tall and elderly gentleman in
uniform upon whose shoulder straps glittered the brigadier's single
star.

For an instant Spurrier forgot the sadly altered color of his status
and his hand, answering to instinct, rose in salute, while his lips
parted in a smile.

But the older man, who fortunately was alone, after an embarrassed
instant went on, pretending an absent-mindedness that ignored the
salutation. Spurrier could feel that the general was scarcely more
comfortable than himself.

Slowly, at length, he left his outlook over the phosphorescent wake
and drifted isolatedly about the decks, giving preference to the spots
where the shadows lay heaviest. But when his wandering brought him
again to the place he had abandoned at the stern, he found that it had
been preëmpted by another. A figure stood there alone and so quiet
that at first he hardly distinguished it as separate from the black
contour of a capstan.

But with the realization he recognized a panama hat, from under whose
brim escaped a breeze-stirred strand of dark hair, and promptly he
stepped to the rail, his rubber-soled shoes making no sound.

The girl did not hear him, nor did she, as he found himself
reflecting, feel his presence as lovers do in romances, and turn to
greet him before he announced himself. But as she stood there in the
shadow, with moonlight and starlight around her, his pulses quickened
with an insupportable commotion of mingled hope and fear.

Her beauty was that of the aristocrat. It was this patrician quality
which had first challenged his interest in her and answered to his own
inordinate pride of self-confidence.

He had liked the lightness with which her small feet trod the earth
and the prideful tilt of her exquisitely modeled chin.

After all, he had known her only a short time--and now he realized
that he did not know her well: certainly not well enough to estimate
with any surety how they would meet again, after an interval which had
tarnished the name that had come to him from two generations of
accrued distinction.

He bent forward, and, in a low voice, spoke her name, and she turned
without a start so that she stood looking into his eyes.

"I suppose you know," he began, and for once he spoke without
self-assurance, "that I didn't hunt you out sooner because I wanted to
spare you embarrassment. I knew you were sailing by this boat--and so
I took it, too."

She nodded her head, but remained silent. Her eyes met his and
lingered, but they were like curtained windows and told him nothing.
It was as if she wished to let him pitch the plane of their meeting
without interference, and he was grateful.

"I don't suppose," he began, forcing himself to speak with forthright
directness, "I need protest my innocence to you--and I don't suppose I
need confess that the stigma will stick to me--that in--some
quarters--it will mean ostracism. I wanted to meet you the first time
alone as much for your sake as my own."

"I know----" she agreed faintly, but there was no rush of confidence,
of sympathy that thought only of the black situation in which he
stood.

"I know, too," he went on with the same steadiness, "that but for your
father's efforts I should have had to spend the rest of my life in
prison. Above all, I know that your father made those efforts because
you ordained it."

"It was too horrible," she whispered with a little shudder. "It was
inconceivable."

"It still is," he reminded her. "There is a question, then, to be
asked--a question for you to answer."

The girl's hands dropped on the rail and her fingers tightened as her
eyes, deeply pained, went off across the wake. She seemed unable to
help him, unable to do more than give back monosyllabic responses to
the things he said.

"Of course, I can't assume that the promise you gave me--before all
this--still stands, unless you can ratify it. I'm the same man, yet
quite a different man."

At last she turned, and he saw that her lashes were wet with tears.

"Some day," she suggested almost pleadingly, "some day surely you will
be able to clear your name--now that you're free to give yourself to
it."

He shook his head, "That is going to be the purpose of my life," he
answered. "But God only knows----"

"When you have done that," she impetuously exclaimed, "come back to
me. I'll wait."

But Spurrier shook his head and stiffened a little, not indignantly,
but painfully, and his face grew paler than it had yet been.

"That is generous of you," he said slowly. "That is the best I had the
right to hope for--but it's not enough. It would be a false position
for you--with a mortgage of doubt on your future. I've got to face
this thing nakedly. I've got to depend only on those people who don't
need proof--who simply know that I must be innocent of--of _this_
because it would be impossible for me to be guilty of it--people," he
added, his voice rising with just a moment's betrayal of boyish
passion, "who will take the seeming facts, just as they are, and still
say, 'Damn the facts!'"

"Can I do that?" She asked the question honestly, with eyes in which
sincere tears glistened, and at last words came in freshet volume.
"Can I ignore the fact that father is in public life, where his
affairs and those of his family are public property? You know he is
talked of as presidential timber. Can I ask him to move heaven and
earth to give you back your liberty--and then have his critics say
that it was all for a member of his own family--a private use of
public power?"

"Then you want your promise back?" he demanded quietly.

Suddenly the girl carried her hands to her face, a face all the
lovelier for its distress. "I don't--know what--I want," she gasped.

Her lover stood looking down at her, and his temples grew coldly moist
where the veins stood out.

"If you don't know what you want, dear, I know one thing that you
can't do," he said. "Under these circumstances, your only chance of
happiness would lie in your wanting one thing so much that the rest
wouldn't count." He paused, and then he, too, moved aside and stood
with her, leaning on the rail while in the phosphorescent play of the
water and the broken reflections of the low-hung stars he seemed to
find a sort of anodyne.

"I said that what you offered was the most I had the right to hope
for. That was true. Your father's objections are legitimate. I owe you
both more than I can ever pay--but I won't add to that debt."

"I thought," said the girl miserably, "that I loved you--enough for
anything. The shock of all this--has made my mind swirl so that
now--I'm not sure of anything."

"Yes," he said dully, "I understand."

Yet perhaps what he understood, or thought he understood, just then
was either more or less than implied in the deferential compliance of
his voice. This girl had given her promise to an officer and a
gentleman with two generations of gallant army record behind him and a
promising future ahead. She was talking now to one who, in the words
of the Articles of War was neither an officer nor a gentleman and who
had been saved from life imprisonment only by influence of her own
importuning.

Her own distress of mind and incertitude were so palpable and pathetic
that the man had spoken with apology in his voice, because through him
she had been forced into her dilemma. Yet, until now, he had been
young enough and naïve enough to believe in certain tenets of
romance--and, in romance, a woman who really loved a man would not be
weighing at such a time her father's aspirations toward the White
House. In romance, even had he been as guilty as perdition, he would
have stood in her eyes, incapable of crime. Palpably life and romance
followed variant laws and, for a bitter moment, Spurrier wished that
the senator had kept hands off, and left him to his fate.

He had heard the senator himself characterized as a man cold-bloodedly
ambitious and contemptuous of others and, having seen only the genial
side of that prominent gentleman, he had resentfully denied such
statements and made mental comment of the calumny that attaches to
celebrity.

Yet, Spurrier argued to himself, the girl was right. Quite probably if
he had a sister similarly placed, he would be seeking to show her the
need of curbing impulse with common sense.

From a steamer chair off somewhere at their backs came a low peal of
laughter, and the orchestra was busy with a fox trot. For perhaps five
minutes neither of them spoke again, but at last the girl twisted the
ring from her finger. At least her loyalty had kept it there until she
could remove it in his presence. She handed it to him and he turned it
this way and that. The moonlight teased from its setting a jet of cold
radiance.

Then Spurrier tossed it outward and watched the white arc of its
bright vanishing. He heard a muffled sob and saw the girl turn and
start toward the companionway door. Instinctively he took a step
forward following, then halted and stood where he was.

Later, Spurrier forced himself toward the smoke room where already
under cigar and cigarette smoke, poker and bridge games were in
progress, and where in little groups those men who were not playing
discussed the topics of East and West. He was following no urge of
personal fancy in entering that place, but rather obeying a resolution
he had made out there on deck. Now that he had asked his question and
had his answer there was nothing from which he could afford to hide.
He knew that he came heralded by the advance agency of gossip and that
it behooved him from the start to meet and give back glance for
glance: to declare by his bearing that he had no intention of
skulking, and no apologies to make.

Yet, having reached the entrance from the deck, he hesitated, and
while he still stood, with his back to the lighted door of the smoke
room, he reeled under a sudden impact and was thrown against the rail.
Recovering himself with an exclamation of anger, Spurrier found
himself confronting a man rising from his knees, whose awkwardness had
caused the collision.

But the stumbling person having regained his feet, stood seemingly
shaken by his fall, and after a moment, during which Spurrier eyed him
with hostile silence, exclaimed:

"Plunger Spurrier!"

"That is not my name, sir," retorted the ex-officer hotly. "And it's
not one that I care to have strangers employ."

The man drew back a step, and the light from the doorway fell across a
face a little beyond middle age; showing a broad forehead and strongly
chiseled features upon which sat an expression of directness and
force.

"My apology is, at least, as ready as was my exclamation," declared
the stranger in a pleasant voice that disarmed hostility. "The term
was not meant offensively. I saw you at Oakland one day when a race
was run, and I've heard certain qualities of yours yarned about at
mess tables in the East. I ask your pardon."

"It's granted," acceded Spurrier of necessity. "And since you've heard
of me, you doubtless know enough to make allowances for my short
temper and excuse it."

"I _have_ heard your story," admitted the other man frankly. "My name
is Snowdon. It's just possible you may have heard of me, too."

"You're not Snowdon the engineer: the Panama Canal man, the Chinese
railway builder, are you?"

"I had a hand in those enterprises," was the answer, and with a slight
bow the gentleman went his way.

The spot where the two men had stood talking was far enough aft to
look down on the space one deck lower and one degree farther astern,
where, as through a well space, showed the meaner life of the
steerage. There was a light third-class list on this voyage, and when
Spurrier moved out of the obscurity which had been thrown over him by
the life boat's shadow, he stood gazing idly down on an empty
prospect. He gazed with an interest too moodily self-centered for easy
inciting.

He himself stood now clear shown under the frosted globe of an
overhead light and, after a little, roused to a tepid curiosity, he
fancied he could make out what seemed to be a human figure that clung
to the blackest of the shadows below him.

He even fancied that in that lower darkness he caught the momentary
dull glint of metal reflecting some half light, and an impression of
furtive movement struck in upon him. But after a moment's scrutiny,
which failed to clarify the picture, he decided that his imagination
had invented the vague shape out of nothing more tangible than shadow.
If there had been a man there he seemed to have dissolved now.

So Spurrier turned away.

Had his eyes possessed a nearer kinship to those of the cat, which can
read the dark, he would have altered his course of action from that
instant forward. He would, first, have gone to the captain and
demanded permission to search the steerage for an ex-private of the
infantry company that had lately been his own; a private against whose
name on the muster roll stood the entry: "Dead or deserted."

Yet when he turned on his heel and passed from the lighted area he
unconsciously walked out of range of a revolver aimed at his
breast--thereby temporarily settling for the man who fingered the
trigger his question, "to shoot or not to shoot."

For Private Grant, a fleeing deserter, convalescent from fever and
lunacy, had been casting up the chances of his own life just then and
debating the dangers and advantages of letting Spurrier live.
Recognizing his former officer as he himself looked out of his hiding,
his first impulse had been one of panic terror and in Spurrier he had
seen a pursuer.

The finger had twitched nervously on the trigger--then while he
wavered in decision the other had calmly walked out of range. Now, if
he kept out of sight until they reached Frisco, the deserter told
himself, a larger territory would spread itself for his escape than
the confines of a steamer, and he belonged to a race that can bide its
time.



CHAPTER IV


Spurrier entered the smoke room and stood for a moment in its
threshold.

There were uniforms there, and some men in them whom he had known,
though now these other-time acquaintances avoided his eye and the
necessity of an embarrassment which must have come from meeting it.

But from an alcove seat near the door rose a stocky gentleman, well
groomed and indubitably distinguished of guise, who had been tearing
the covering from a bridge deck.

"Spurrier, my boy," he exclaimed cordially, "I'm glad to see you. I
read your name on the list. Won't you join us?"

This was the man who had rolled away the mountains of official inertia
and saved him from prison; who had stipulated with his daughter that
she should not write to him in his cell; and who now embraced the
first opportunity to greet him publicly with cordial words. Here,
reflected the cashiered soldier, was poise more calculated than his
own, and he smiled as he shook his head, giving the answer which he
knew to be expected of him.

"No, thank you, senator." Then he added a request: "But if these
gentlemen can spare you for a few minutes I would appreciate a word
with you."

"Certainly, my boy." With a glance about the little company which
made his excuses, Beverly rose and linked his arm through Spurrier's,
but when they stood alone on deck that graciousness stiffened
immediately into manner more austere.

"I've seen Augusta," began the younger man briefly, "and told her I
wouldn't seek to hold her to her promise. I suppose that meets with
your approval?"

The public man, whom rumor credited with presidential aspirations,
nodded. "Under the circumstances it is necessary. I may as well be
candid. I tried vainly to persuade her to throw you over entirely, but
I had to end in a compromise. She agreed not to communicate with you
in any manner until your trial came to its conclusion."

The cashiered officer felt his temples hammering with the surge of
indignant blood to his forehead. This man who had so studiedly and
successfully feigned genuine pleasure at seeing him, when other eyes
were looking on, was telling him now with salamander coolness that he
had urged upon his daughter the policy of callous desertion. The
impulse toward resentful retort was almost overpowering, but with it
came the galling recognition that, except for Beverly's bull-dog
pertinacity, Spurrier himself would have been a life-termer, and that
now humility became him better than anger.

"Did you seek to have Augusta throw me over, without even a
farewell--because you believed me guilty, sir?" His inquiry came
quietly and the older man shook a noncommittal head.

"It's not so much what I think as what the world will think," he made
even response. "To put it in the kindest words, Spurrier, you rest
under a cloud."

"Senator," said the other in measured syllables, "I rest, also, under
a great weight of obligation to you, but, there were times, sir, when
for a note from her I'd willingly have accepted the death penalty."

"I won't pretend that I fail to understand--even to sympathize with
you," came the answer. "You must see none the less that I had no
alternative. Augusta's husband must be--well, like Cæsar's wife."

"There is nothing more to be said, I think," admitted Spurrier, and
the senator held out his hand.

"In every other matter, I feel only as your friend. It will be better
if to other eyes our relations remain cordial. Otherwise my efforts on
your behalf would give the busy-bodies food for gossip. That's what we
are both seeking to avoid."

Spurrier bowed and watched the well-groomed figure disappear.

The cloudless days and the brilliant nights of low-hung stars and
phosphor waters were times of memorable opportunity and paradise for
other lovers on that steamer. For Spurrier they were purgatorial and
when he realized Augusta Beverly's clearly indicated wish that he
should leave her free from the embarrassment of any tete-a-tete, he
knew definitely that her silence was as final as words could have made
it. The familiar panama hat seen at intervals and the curve of the
cheek that he had once been privileged to kiss seemed now to belong to
an orbit of life remote from his own with an utterness of distance no
less actual because intangible.

The young soldier's nature, which had been prodigally generous, began
to harden into a new and unlovely bitterness. Once he passed her as
she leaned on the rail with a young lieutenant who was going to the
States on his first leave from Island duty, and when the girl met his
eyes and nodded, the cub of an officer looked up--and cut him dead
with needless ostentation.

For the old general, who had pretended not to see him, Jack Spurrier
had felt only the sympathy due to a man bound and embarrassed by a
severe code of etiquette, but with this cocksure young martinet, his
hands itched for chastisement.

Throughout the trying voyage Spurrier felt that Snowdon, the engineer,
was holding him under an interested sort of observation, and this
surveillance he mildly resented, though the entire politeness of the
other left him helpless to make his feeling outspoken. But when they
had stood off from Honolulu and brought near to completion the last
leg of the Pacific voyage, Snowdon invited him into his own stateroom
and with candid directness spoke his mind.

"Spurrier," he began, "I'd like to have a straight talk with you if
you will accept my assurance of the most friendly motive."

Spurrier was not immediately receptive. He sat eying the other for a
little while with a slight frown between his eyes, but in the end he
nodded.

"I should dislike to seem churlish," he answered slowly. "But I've had
my nerves rubbed raw of late, and they haven't yet grown callous."

"You see, it's rather in my line," suggested Snowdon by way of
preface, "to assay the minerals of character in men and to gauge the
percentage of pay-dirt that lies in the lodes of their natures. So
I've watched you, and if you care to have the results of my
superficial research, I'm ready to report. No man knows himself until
introduced to himself by another, because one can't see one's self at
sufficient distance to gain perspective."

Spurrier smiled. "So you're like the announcer at a boxing match," he
suggested. "You're ready to say, 'Plunger Spurrier, shake hands with
Jack Spurrier--both members of this club.'"

"Precisely," assented Snowdon as naturally as though there had been no
element of facetiousness in the suggestion. "And now in the first
place, what do you mean to do with yourself?"

"I have no idea."

"I suppose you have thought of the possibilities open to a West Point
man--as a soldier of fortune?"

"Yes," the answer was unenthusiastic. "Thought of them and discarded
them."

"Why?"

The voice laughed and then spoke contemptuously.

"A man's sword belongs to his flag. It can no more be honorably hired
out than a woman's love. I can see in either only a form of
prostitution."

"Good!" exclaimed Snowdon heartily. "I couldn't have coached you to a
better answer. Are you financially independent?"

"On the contrary, I have nothing. Until now there was my pay and----"
He paused there but went on again with a dogged self-forcing. "I might
as well confess that the gaming table has always left a balance on my
side of the ledger."

"I haven't seen you playing since you came aboard."

"No. I've cut that out----"

"Good again--and that brings us to where I stop eliciting information
about yourself and begin giving it. I had heard of your gambling
exploits before I saw you. I found that you had that cold quality of
nerve which a few gamblers have, fewer than are credited with it, by
far! Incidentally, it's precisely the same quality that makes notable
generals--and adroit diplomats--if they have the other qualities to
support it. It's sublimated self-control and boldness. You were using
it badly, but it was because you were seeking an outlet through the
wrong channels. So I studied you, quite impersonally. Your situation
on board wasn't easy or enviable. You knew that eyes followed you and
tongues wagged about you with a morbid interest. You saw chatting
groups fall abruptly silent when you approached them and officers you
had once fraternized with look hurriedly elsewhere. In short, my young
friend, you have faced an acid test of ordeal, and you have borne
yourself with neither the defiance of braggadocio, nor the visible
hint of flinching. If I were looking for a certain type of specialized
ability, I should say you had qualified."

A flush spread on the face of the listener.

"You are indeed introducing me to some one I haven't known," he said.

"I know, too," went on Snowdon, "that there has been a girl--and," he
hastened to add as his companion stiffened, "I mention her only to
show you that my observations have not been _too_ superficial. Those
qualities which I have catalogued have engaged my attention, because
they are rare--rare enough to be profitably capitalized."

"All this is parable to me, sir."

"Quite probably. I mean to construe it. There are men who originate or
discover great opportunities of industry--and they need capital to
bring their plans to fruition--but capital can be approached only
through envoys and will receive only ambassadors who can compel
recognition. The man who can hope to be successfully accredited to the
court of Big Money must possess uncommon attributes. Pinch-beck
promoters and plausible charlatans have made cynics of our lords of
wealth."

"What would such a man accomplish," inquired Spurrier, "aside from a
sort of non-resident membership in the association of plutocrats?"

"He would," declared Snowdon promptly, "help bridge the chasm between
the world's unfinanced achievers, and its unachieving finances."

"That," conceded the ex-soldier, "would be worth the doing."

"John Law at twenty-one built a scheme of finance for Great Britain,"
the engineer reminded him. "He could come into the presence of a king
and in five minutes the king would urge him to stay. Force and
presence can make such an ambassador, and those things are the veins
of human ore I've assayed in you in paying quantities."

Spurrier looked across at the strange companion whom chance had thrown
across his path with a commotion of pulses which his face in no wise
mirrored into outward expression. It had begun to occur to him that if
a man is born for an adventurous life even the Articles of War cannot
cancel his destiny.

"It would seem," he suggested casually enough, "that this need of
which you speak is for fellows, in finance, who can carry the message
to Garcia, as it were. Isn't that it?"

"That's it, and messengers to Garcia don't tramp on each other's
heels. Yet I have spoken of only one phase of the career I'm
outlining. It has another side to it as well, if one man is going to
unite in himself the whole of the possibility."

Snowdon broke off there a moment and seemed to be distracted by some
thought of his own, but presently he began again.

"My hypothetical man would act largely as a free lance, knocking about
the world on a sort of constantly renewed exploration. He would be the
prospector hunting gold and the explorer searching for new continents
of industrial development, only instead of being just the one or the
other he would be a sort of sublimation. His job would sometimes call
him into the wildernesses, but more often, I think, his discoveries
would lie under the noses of crowds, passed by every day by clever
folk who never saw them--clever folk who are not quite clever
enough."

"It would seem to me that those discoveries," demurred Spurrier
thoughtfully, "would come each time to some highly trained technician
in some particular line."

Snowdon shook his head again. "That's why they have come slowly
heretofore," he declared with conviction. "That man I have in mind is
one with a sure nose for the trail and a power of absorbing readily
and rapidly what he requires of the other man's technical knowledge.
It's the policy that Japan has followed as a nation. They let others
work the problems out over there--then they appropriate the results.
I'm not commending it as a national trait, but for this work it's the
first essential. Having made his discovery, this new type of business
man will enlist for it the needful financial support." He paused again
and Spurrier, lighting a fresh cigarette, regarded him through eyes
slit-narrowed against the flare of the match.

"He must be a sort of opportunity hound," continued Snowdon smilingly.
"He would go baying across the world in full cry and come back to the
kennel at the end of each chase."

Spurrier laughed. "If you'll pardon me, sir," he hazarded, "you make a
very bad metaphor. I should fancy that the opportunity hound would do
the stillest sort of still hunting."

The older man smiled and bowed his head affirmatively.

"I accept the amendment. The point is, do I give you the concept of
the work?"

"In a broad, extremely sketchy way, I think I get the picture,"
replied Spurrier. "But could you give me some sort of illustration
that would make it a shade more concrete?"

His companion sat considering the question for a while and at last
inquired: "Do you know anything about oil? I mean about its
production?"

"I've been on the Pennsylvania Railroad, coming west," testified the
former lieutenant. "And I've run through ragged hills where on every
side, stood clumsy, timber affairs like overgrown windmills from which
some victorious Don Quizote had knocked off the whirligigs. Then I've
read a little of Ida Tarbell."

"Even that will serve for a sort of background. Now, people in general
think of striking oil as they might think of finding money on the
sidewalk or of lightning striking a particular spire--as a matter of
purest chance. To some extent that idea is correct enough, but the
brains of oil production are less haphazard. In the office of a few
gentlemen who hold dominion over oil and gas hangs a map drawn by the
intelligence department of their general staff. On that map are traced
lines not unlike those showing ocean currents, but their arrows point
instead to currents far under ground, where runs the crude petroleum,
discovered--and undiscovered."

"Undiscovered?" Spurrier's brows were lifted in polite incredulity,
but his companion nodded decisively.

"Discovered and undiscovered," he repeated. "Geological surveys told
the mapmakers how certain lines and structures ran in tendency. Where
went a particular formation of Nature's masonry, there in probability
would go oil. The method was not absolute, I grant you, but neither
was it haphazard. Sitting in an office in Pittsburgh a certain man
drew on his chart what has since been recognized as the line of the
forty-second degree, running definitely from the Pennsylvania fields
down through Ohio and into the Appalachian hills of Kentucky--thence
west and south. Study your fields in Oklahoma, in old Mexico, and you
will find that, widely separated as they are, each of them is marked
by a cross on that map, and that each of them lies along the current
trend which the Pittsburgh man traced before many of them were touched
by a drill."

"That, surely," argued Spurrier, "testifies for the highly skilled
technician, doesn't it?"

"So far. I now come to the chance of the opportunity hound. The
present fields are spots of production here and there. Between them
lie others, virgin to pump or rig. Much of that ground is, of course,
barren territory, for even on an acre of proven location dry holes may
lie close to gushers; one man's farm may be a 'duster' while his
neighbor's spouts black wealth. But along that charted line run the
probabilities."

Into Spurrier's eyes stole the gleam of the adventuring spirit that
was strong in him.

"It sounds like Robert Louis Stevenson and buried treasure," he
declared with unconcealed enthusiasm, but Snowdon only smiled.

"Remember," he cautioned, "I'm illustrating--nothing more. Now in the
foothills of the Kentucky Cumberlands, for example, some years ago men
began finding oil. It lay for the most part in a country where the
roads were creek beds--remote from railway facilities. It was an
expensive sort of proposition to develop, but the cry of 'Oil! Oil!'
has never failed to set the pack a-running, and it ran."

"I don't remember hearing of that rush," admitted Spurrier.

"No, I dare say you didn't. It was a flare-up and a die-down. The men
who rushed in, plodded dejectedly out again, poorer by the time they
had spent."

"Then the boom collapsed?"

"It collapsed--but why? Because the gentlemen who hold dominion over
oil and gas caucussed and so ordained. They gathered around their map
and stuck pins here and there. They said, 'This oil can come out in
two ways only: by pipe line or tank cars. We will stand aloof and
develop where the cost is less and the profit greater--and without us,
it cannot succeed.'"

"Were there no independent concerns to bring the stuff to market?"

Snowdon laughed. "The gentlemen who hold dominion have their own
defenses against competition. You may have heard of a certain dog in
the manger? Well, they said as they sat about their table on which the
map was spread, 'Some day other fields may run out. Some day something
may set oil soaring until even this yield may be well worth our
attention. We will therefore hold this card in reserve against that
day and that contingency.' So quietly, inconspicuously, yet with a
power that strangled competition, lobbies operated in State
legislatures. The independents failed to secure needful charters--the
lines were never laid. Those particular fields starved, and now the
ignorant mountaineers who woke for a while to dreams of wealth, laugh
at the man who says 'oil' to them. Yet at some properly, or improperly
designated day, those failure fields will flash on the astonished
world as something risen from the dead, and fortunes will blossom for
the lucky."

"Yes?" prompted the listener.

"Now let us suppose our opportunity hound as willing to go
unostentatiously into that country; as willing to spend part of each
year there for a term of years; nipping options here and there,
waiting patiently and watching his chance to slip a charter through
one of those bound and gagged legislatures in some moment of relaxed
vigilance. Such a man might find himself ultimately standing with the
key to the situation in his own hand. It's just a story, but perhaps
it serves to give you my meaning."

"Did I understand you to suggest," inquired Spurrier with a forced
calmness, "that you fancy you see in me the qualities of your
opportunity hound?"

"Our own concern," said Snowdon quietly, "is fortunate enough to have
passed through the period of cooling its heels in the anterooms of
capital, but we can still use a man such as I have described. There's
a place for you with us if you want it."

"When do I go to work?" demanded the former lieutenant rising from his
seat, and Snowdon countered:

"When will you be ready to begin?"

"When we dock at 'Frisco," came the immediate response, "provided I be
allowed time for an affair of my own, two months from now. A certain
private in my old company will be discharged from the service then. I
fancy he'll land there, and I want to be waiting for him when he steps
ashore."

"A reprisal?" inquired Snowdon in a disappointed tone, but the other
shook his head.

"He is the one man through whom there's a chance of clearing my name,"
Spurrier said slowly. "I hope it won't call for violence."



CHAPTER V


Private Grant had been bred of the blood of hatred and suckled in
vindictiveness. He had come into being out of the heritage of feud
fighting "foreparents," and he thought in the terms of his ancestry.

When he had fled into the jungle beyond the island village, though he
had been demented and enfeebled, the instinct of a race that had often
"hidden out" guided him. That instinct and chance had led him to a
native house where his disloyalty gave him a welcome, and there he had
found sanctuary until his fever subsided and he emerged cadaverous,
but free. Word had filtered through to him there of Spurrier's
court-martial and its result.

In the course of time, fever-wasted yet restored out of his
semi-lunacy, he had made his way furtively but successfully toward
Manila and there he had supplemented the sketchy fragments of
information with which his disloyal native friends had been able to
provide him.

He knew now that the accused officer had pitched his defense upon an
accusation of the deserter and the refugee's eyes smoldered as he
learned that he himself had been charged with prefacing his flight
with murder. He knew what that meant. The disgraced officer would move
heaven and earth to clear his smirched name, and the condition
precedent would be the capture of Private Grant and the placing of him
in the prisoner's dock. To be wanted for desertion was grave enough.
To be wanted both for desertion and the assassination of his company
commander was infinitely worse, and to stand in that position and
face, as he believed he would have to, a conspiracy of class feeling,
was intolerable.

Haunting the shadowy places about Manila, Grant had been almost crazed
by his fears but with the lifting of the steamer's anchor, a great
spirit of hope had brightened in him, feeding on the solace of the
thought that, once more in the States, he could lose himself from
pursuit and vigilance.

Then he had seen, on the same ship, the face of the man whom, above
all others, he had occasion to fear!

For their joint lives the world was not large enough. One of them must
die, and in the passion that swept over him with the dread of
discovery. Grant had skirted a relapse into his recent mania.

At that moment when Spurrier had looked down and he had looked up, the
deserter had seen only one way out, and that was to kill. But when the
other had moved away, seemingly without recognition, his thoughts had
moved more lucidly again.

Until he had tried soldiering he had known only the isolated life of
forested mountains and here on a ship at sea he felt surrounded and
helpless--almost timid. When he landed at San Francisco, if his luck
held him undiscovered that long, he would have dry land under him and
space into which to flee.

The refugee had hated Comyn. Now Comyn was dead and Grant transferred
his hatred from the dead captain to the living lieutenant, resolving
that he also must die.

The moment to which he looked forward with the most harrowing
apprehension was that when the vessel docked and put her passengers
ashore. Here at sea a comforting isolation lay between first and
third cabin passengers and one could remain unseen from those deck
levels that lay forward and above. But with the arrangements for
disembarkation, he was unfamiliar, and for all he knew, the steerage
people might be herded along under the eyes of those who traveled
more luxuriously. He might have to march in such a procession,
willy-nilly, over a gang-plank swept by a watchful eye.

So Private Grant brooded deeply and his thoughts were not pretty. Also
he kept his pistol near him and when the hour for debarkation arrived
he was ripe for trouble.

It happened that a group of steerage passengers, including himself,
were gathered together much as he had feared they might be, and
Grant's face paled and hardened as he saw, leaning with his elbows on
a rail above him and a pipe in his mouth, the officer whom he
dreaded.

Grant's hand slipped unobtrusively under his coat and his eyes
narrowed as his heart tightened and became resolved.

Spurrier had not yet seen him but at any moment he might do so. There
was nothing to prevent the wandering and casual glance from alighting
on the spot where the deserter stood, and when it did so the
mountaineer would draw and fire.

But as the ex-officer's eyes went absently here and there a girl
passed at his back and perhaps she spoke as she passed. At all events
the officer straightened and stiffened. Across his face flashed
swiftly such an expression as might have come from a sudden and
stinging blow, and then, losing all interest in the bustle of the
lower decks, the man turned on his heel and walked rapidly away.

The deserter's hand stole away from the pistol grip and his breath ran
out in a long, sibilant gasp of relief and reaction. When later he had
landed safely and unmolested, he turned in flight toward the mountains
that he knew over there across the continent--mountains where only
bloodhounds could run him to earth.

Beyond the rims of those forest-tangled peaks he had never looked out
until he had joined the army, and once back in them, though he dare
not go, for a while, to his own home county, he could shake off his
palsy of fear.

He traveled as a hobo, moneyless, ignorant, and unprepossessing of
appearance, yet before the leaves began to fall he was at last
tramping slopes where the air tasted sweeter to his nostrils, and the
speech of mankind fell on his ear with the music of the accustomed.

The name of Bud Grant no longer went with him. That, since it carried
certain unfulfilled duties to an oath of allegiance, he generously
ceded to the United States Army, and contented himself with the random
substitute of Sim Colby.

Now he tramped swingingly along a bowlder-broken creek bed which by
local euphemism was called a road. When his way led him over the
backbone of a ridge he could see, almost merged with the blue of the
horizon, the smoky purple of a sugar loaf peak, which marked his
objective.

When he passed that he would be in territory where his journeying
might end. To reach it he must transverse the present vicinity in
which a collateral branch of his large family still dwelt, and where
he himself preferred to walk softly, wary of possible recognition.

To the man whose terror had seen in every casual eye that rested on
him while he crossed a continent, a gleam of accusation, it was as
though he had reached sanctuary. The shoulders that he had forced into
a hang-dog slough to disguise the soldierly bearing which had become
habitual in uniform, came back into a more buoyant and upright swing.
The face that had been sullen with fear now looked out with something
of the bravado of earlier days, and the whole experience of the
immediate past; of months and even years, took on the unreality of a
nightmare from which he was waking.

The utmost of caution was still required, but the long flight was
reaching a goal where substantial safety lay like a land of promise.
It was a land of promise broken with ragged ranges and it was fiercely
austere; the Cumberland mountains reared themselves like a colossal
and inhospitable wall of isolation between the abundant richness of
lowland Kentucky to the west, and Virginia's slope seaward to the
east.

But isolation spelled refuge and the taciturn silences of the men who
dwelt there, asking few questions and answering fewer, gave promise of
unmolested days.

These hills were a world in themselves; a world that had stood,
marking time for a hundred and fifty years, while to east and west
life had changed and developed and marched with the march of the
years. Sequestered by broken steeps of granite and sand stone, the
human life that had come to the coves and valleys in days when the
pioneers pushed westward, had stagnated and remained unaltered.

Illiteracy and ignorance had sprung chokingly into weed-like
prevalence. The blood-feud still survived among men who fiercely
insisted upon being laws unto themselves. Speech fell in quaint
uncouthness that belonged to another century, and the tides of progress
that had risen on either hand, left untouched and uninfluenced the
men and women of mountain blood, who called their lowland brethren
"furriners" and who distrusted all that was "new-fangled" or
"fotched-on."

Habitations were widely separated cabins. Roads were creekbeds. Life
was meager and stern, and in the labyrinths of honeycombed and
forest-tangled wilds, men who were "hidin' out" from sheriffs, from
revenuers, from personal enemies, had a sentimental claim on the
sympathy of the native-born.

This was the life from which the deserter had sprung. It was the life
to which with eager impatience he was returning; a life of countless
hiding places and of no undue disposition to goad a man with
questioning.

Through the billowing richness of the Bluegrass lowlands, he had
hurried with a homing throb in his pulses. As the foothills began to
break out of the fallow meadows and the brush to tangle at the fringe
of the smoothness, his breath had come deeper and more satisfying.
When the foothills rose in steepness until low, wet streamers of cloud
trailed their slopes like shrapnel smoke, and the timber thickened and
he saw an eagle on the wing, something like song broke into being in
his heart.

He was home. Home in the wild mountains where air and the water had
zest and life instead of the staleness that had made him sick in the
flat world from which he came. He was home in the mountains where
others were like him and he was not a barbarian any longer among
contemptuous strangers.

He plodded along the shale-bottomed water course for a little way and
halted. As his woodsman's eye took bearings he muttered to himself:
"Hit's a right slavish way through them la'rel hills, but hit's a
cut-off," and, suiting his course to his decision, he turned upward
into the thickets and began to climb.

An hour later he had covered the "hitherside" and "yon side" of a
small mountain, and when he came to the highway again he found himself
confronted by a half dozen armed horsemen whose appearance gave him
apprehensive pause, because at once he recognized in them the
officialdom of the law. The mounted travelers drew rein, and he halted
at the roadside, nodding his greeting in affected unconcern.

The man who had been riding at the fore held in his left hand the
halter line of a led horse, and now he looked down at the pedestrian
and spoke in the familiar phrase of wayside amenity.

"Howdy, stranger, what mout yore name be?"

"Sim Colby from acrost Hemlock Mountain ways, but I've done been west
fer a year gone by, though, an' I'm jest broguein' along to'rds
home."

The questioner, a long, gaunt man with a face that had been scarred,
but never altered out of its obstinate set, eyed him for a moment,
then shot out the question:

"Did ye ever hear tell of Sam Mosebury over thet-away?"

It was lucky that the fugitive had given as his home a territory with
which he had some familiarity. Now his reply came promptly.

"Yes, I knows him when I sees him. Some folks used ter give him a
right hard name over thar, but I reckon he's all right ef a man don't
aim ter crowd him too fur."

"I don't know how fur he mout of been crowded," brusquely replied the
man with the extra horse, "but he kilt a man in Rattletown yestiddy
noon an' tuck ter ther woods. I'm after him."

The foot traveler expressed an appropriate interest, then added:

"Howsomever, hit ain't none of my affair, an' seein' thet I've got a
right far journey ahead of me, I'll hike along."

But the leader of the mounted group shook his head.

"One of my men got horse flung back thar an' broke a bone inside him.
I'm ther high sheriff of this hyar county, an' I hereby summons ye ter
go along with me an' ack as a member of my possy."

Under his tan Private Grant paled a little. This mischance carried a
triple menace to his safety. It involved riding back to the county
seat where some man might remember his face, and recall that two
years ago he had gone away on a three years' enlistment. But even if
he escaped that contingency, it meant tarrying in this neighborhood
through which he had meant to pass inconspicuously and rapidly. To be
attached to a _posse comitatus_ riding the hills on a man hunt meant
to challenge every passing eye with an interest beyond the casual.

Finally, though he might well have forgotten him, the man whose trail
he was now called to take in pursuit had once known him slightly, and
if they met under such hostile auspices, might recognize and denounce
him.

But the sheriff sat enthroned in his saddle and robed in the color of
authority. At his back sat five other men with rifles across their
pommels, and with such a situation there was no argument. The law's
officer threw the bridle rein of the empty-saddled mount to the man in
the road.

"Get up on this critter," he commanded tersely, "and don't let him git
his head down too low. He follers buck-jumpin'."

When Grant, alias Colby, found that the men riding with him were more
disposed to somber silence than to inquisitiveness or loquacity, he
breathed easier. He even made a shrewd guess that there were others in
that small group who answered the call of the law as reluctantly as
he.

Sam Mosebury was accounted as dangerous as a rattlesnake, and Bud
doubted whether even the high sheriff himself would make more than a
perfunctory effort to come to grips with him in his present
desperation.

When the posse had ridden several hours, and had come to a spot in the
forest where the trail forked diversely, a halt was called. They had
traveled steep ways and floundered through many belly-deep fords. Dust
lay gray upon them and spattered mud overlaid the dust.

"We've done come ter a pass, now," declared the sheriff, "where hit
ain't goin' ter profit us no longer ter go trailin' in one bunch. We
hev need ter split up an' turkey tail out along different routes."

The sun had long crossed the meridian and dyed the steep horizon with
burning orange and violet when Bud Grant and Mose Biggerstaff, with
whom he had been paired off, drew rein to let their horses blow in a
gorge between beetling walls of cliff.

"Me, I ain't got no master relish for this task, no-how," declared
Mose morosely as he spat at the black loam of rotting leaves. "No man
ain't jedgmatically proved ter me, yit, thet ther feller Sam kilt
didn't need killin'."

Bud nodded a solemn concurrence in the sentiment. Then abruptly the
two of them started as though at the intrusion of a ghost and, of
instinct, their hands swept holsterward, but stopped halfway.

This sudden galvanizing of their apathy into life was effected by the
sight of a figure which had materialized without warning and in
uncanny silence in a fissure where the rocks dripped from reeking moss
on either side.

It stood with a cocked repeating rifle held easily at the ready, and
it was a figure that required no heralding of its identity or menace.

"Were ye lookin' fer me, boys?" drawled Sam Mosebury with a palpable
enjoyment of the situation, not unlike that which brightens the eyes
of a cat as it plays with a mouse already crippled.

With swift apprehension the eyes of the two deputies met and effected
an understanding. Mose Biggerstaff licked his bearded lips until their
stiffness relaxed enough for speech.

"Me an' Sim Colby hyar," he protested, "got summoned by ther high
sheriff. We didn't hev no rather erbout hit one way ner t'other. All
we've got ter go on air ther _dee_scription thet war give ter us--an'
we don't see no resemblance atween ye an' ther feller we're atter."

The murderer stood eying them with an amused contempt, and one could
recognize the qualities of dominance which, despite his infamies, had
won him both fear and admiration.

"Ef ye thinks ye'd ought ter take me along an' show me ter yore high
sheriff," he suggested, and the finger toyed with the trigger, "I'm
right hyar."

"Afore God, no!" It was Bud who spoke now contradicting his colleague.
"I've seed Sam Mosebury often times--an' ye don't no fashion faver
him."

Sam laughed. "I've seed ye afore, too, I reckon," he commented dryly.
"But ef ye don't know me, I reckon I don't need ter know _you_,
nuther."

The two sat atremble in their saddles until the apparition had
disappeared in the laurel.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gray-templed and seamed of face, Dyke Cappeze entered the courthouse
at Carnettsville one day a few months later and paused for a moment,
his battered law books under his threadbare elbow, to gaze around the
murky hall of which his memory needed no refreshing.

About the stained walls hung fly-specked notices of sheriff's sales,
and between them stamped long-haired, lean-visaged men drawn in by
litigation or jury service from branchwater and remote valley.

Out where the sun lay mellow on the town square was the brick
pavement, on which Cappeze's law partner had fallen dead ten
years ago, because he dared to prosecute too vigorously. Across
the way stood the general store upon which one could still see the
pock-marking of bullets reminiscent of that day when the Heatons
and the Blacks made war, and terrorized the county seat.

Dyke Cappeze looked over it all with a deep melancholy in his eyes. He
knew his mountains and loved his people whose virtues were more
numerous, if less conspicuous, than their sins. In his heart burned a
militant insurgency. These hills cried out for development, and
development demanded a conception of law broader gauged and more
serious than obtained. It needed fearless courts, unterrified juries,
intrepid lawyers.

He had been such a lawyer, and when he had applied for life insurance
he had been adjudged a prohibitive risk. To-day the career of three
decades was to end, and as the bell in the teetering cupola began to
clang its summons he shook his head--and pressed tight the straight
lips that slashed his rugged face.

On the bench sat the circuit-riding judge of that district; a man to
whom, save when he addressed him as "your honor," Dyke Cappeze had not
spoken in three years. They were implacable enemies, because too
often the lawyer had complained that justice waited here on
expediency.

Cappeze looked at the windows bleared with their residue of dust and
out through them at the hills mantling to an autumnal glory. Then he
heard that suave--to himself he said hypocritical--voice from the
bench.

"Gentlemen of the bar, any motions?"

Wearily the thin, tall-framed lawyer came to his feet and stood erect
and silent for a moment in his long, black coat, corroding into the
green of dilapidation.

"May it please your honor," he grimly declared. "I hardly know whether
my statement may be properly called a motion or not. It's more a
valedictory."

He drew from his breast pocket a bit of coarse, lined writing paper
and waved it in his talon-like hand.

"I was retained by the widow Sales, whose husband was shot down by Sam
Mosebury, to assist the prosecution in bringing the assassin to
punishment. The grand jury has failed to indict this defendant. The
sheriff has failed to arrest him. The court has failed to produce
those witnesses whom I have subpoenaed. The machinery of the law which
is created for the sole purpose of protecting the weak against the
encroachments of the malevolent has failed."

He paused, and through the crowded room the shuffling feet fell silent
and heads bent excitedly forward. Then Cappeze lifted the paper in his
hand and went on:

"I hold here an unsigned letter that threatens me with death if I
persist with this prosecution. It came to me two weeks ago, and since
receiving it I have redoubled my energy. When this grand jury was
impaneled and charged, such a note also reached each of its members. I
know not what temper of soul actuates those men who have sworn to
perform the duties of grand jurors. I know not whether these threats
have affected their deliberations, but I know that they have failed to
return a true bill against Sam Mosebury!"

The judge fingering his gavel frowned gravely. "Does counsel mean to
charge that the court has proven lax?"

"I mean to say," declared the lawyer in a voice that suddenly mounted
and rung like a trumpeted challenge, "that in these hills of Kentucky
the militant spirit of the law seems paralyzed! I mean to say that
terrorism towers higher than the people's safeguards! For a lifetime I
have battled here to put the law above the feud--and I have failed. In
this courthouse my partner fought for a recognition of justice and at
its door he paid the penalty with his life. I wish to make no charges
other than to state the facts. I am growing old, and I have lost heart
in a vain fight. I wish to withdraw from this case as associate
commonwealth counsel, because I can do nothing more than I have done,
and that is enough. I wish to state publicly that to-day I shall take
down my shingle and withdraw from the practice of law, because law
among us seems to me a misnomer and a futile semblance."

In a dead silence the elderly attorney came to his period and gathered
up again under his threadbare elbow his two or three battered books.
Turning, he walked down the center aisle toward the door, and as he
went his head sagged dejectedly forward on his chest.

He heard the instruction of his enemy on the bench, still suave:

"Mr. Clerk, let the order be entered striking the name of Mr. Cappeze
from the record as associate counsel for the commonwealth."

It was early forenoon when the elderly attorney left the dingy law
office which he was closing, and the sunset fires were dying when he
swung himself down from the saddle at his own stile in the hills and
walked between the bee-gums and bird boxes to his door. But before he
reached it the stern pain in his eyes yielded to a brightening
thought, and as if responsive to that thought the door swung open and
in it stood a slim girl with eyes violet deep, and a beauty so
alluring and so wildly natural that her father felt as if youth had
met him again, when he had begun to think of all life as musty and
decrepit with age.



CHAPTER VI


Except in that narrow circle of American life which follows the doings
and interests of the army and navy, the world had forgotten, in the
several years since its happening, the court-martial and disgrace of
John Spurrier--but Spurrier himself had not been able to forget.

His name had become forcefully identified with other things and, in
the employ of Snowdon's company, he had been into those parts of the
world which call to a man of energy and constructive ability of major
calibre. But the joy of seeing mine fields open to the rush where
there had been only desert before: of seeing chasms bridged into
roadways had not been enough to banish the brooding which sprung from
the old stigma. In remote places he had encountered occasional army
men to remind him that he was no longer one of them and, though he was
often doing worthier things than they, they were bound by regulations
which branded him.

So Spurrier had hardened, not into outward crustiness of admitted
chagrin, but with an inner congealing of spirit which made him look on
life as a somewhat merciless fight and what he could wrest from life
as the booty of conquest.

One day, in Snowdon's office after a more than usually difficult
task had reached accomplishment, the chief candidly proclaimed
justification for his first estimate of his aide, and Spurrier
smiled.

"It's generous of you to speak so, sir," he said slowly, "and I'm glad
to leave you with that impression--because with many regrets I _am_
leaving you."

The older man raised his brows in surprise.

"I had hoped our association would be permanent," he responded. "I
suppose, though, you have an opening to a broader horizon. If so it
comes as recognition well earned."

"It's an offer from Martin Harrison, sir," came the reply in slowly
weighed words. "There are objections, of course, but the man who gains
Harrison's confidence stands in the temple of big money."

"Yes. Of course Harrison's name needs no amplification." The man who
had opened a door for Spurrier in what had seemed a blank wall, sat
for a moment silent then broke out with more than his customary
emphasis of expression. "Objection from me may seem self-interested
because I am losing a valuable assistant. But--damn it all, Harrison
is a pirate!"

Spurrier's tanned cheeks flushed a shade darker but he nodded his
head. His fine eyes took on that glint of hardness which, in former
times, had never marred their engaging candor.

"I'd like to have you understand me, sir. I owe you that much and a
great deal more. I know that Harrison and his ilk of big money
operators are none too scrupulous--but they have power and opportunity
and those are things I must gain."

"I had supposed," suggested Snowdon deliberately, "that you wanted two
things above all else. First to establish your innocence to the
world, and secondly, even if you failed in that, to make your name so
substantially respected that you could bear--the other."

"Until recently I had no other thought." The young man rose and stood
with his fine body erect and as full of disciplined strength as that
of a Praxiteles athlete. Then he took several restless turns across
the floor and halted tensely before his benefactor.

"I have let no grass grow under my feet. You know how I have run
down every conceivable clue and how I stand as uncleared as the day
the verdict was brought at Manila. I've begun to despair of
vindication.... I am not by nature a beast of prey.... I prefer
fair play and the courtesies of sportsmanlike conflict."

He paused, then went forward again in a hardening voice: "But in this
land of ours there are two aristocracies and only two--and I want to
be an aristocrat of sorts."

"I didn't realize we had even so much variety as that," observed
Snowdon and the younger man continued.

"The real aristocracy is that of gentle blood and ideals. Our little
army is its true nucleus and there a man doesn't have to be rich. I
was born to that and reared to it as to a deep religion--but I've been
cast out, unfrocked, cashiered. I can't go back. One class is still
open to me; the brazen, arrogant circles of wealth into which a
double-fisted achiever can bruise his way. I don't love them. I don't
revere them, but they offer power and I mean to take my place on their
tawdry eminence. It's all that's left."

"I'm not preaching humility," persisted Snowdon quietly. "I started
you along the paths of financial combat and I see no fault in your
continuing, but may I be candid to the point of bluntness?"

He paused for permission and Spurrier prompted: "Yes, please go on."

"Then," finished Snowdon, "since you've been with me I've watched you
grow--and you _have_ grown. But I've also seen a fine chivalric sense
gradually blunting; a generous predisposition hardening out of
flexibility into something more implacable, less gracious. It's a
pity--and Martin Harrison won't soften you."

For a while Spurrier stood meditatively silent, then he smiled and
once more nodded his head.

"There isn't a thing you've said that isn't true, Mr. Snowdon,
and you're the one man who could say it without any touch of
offensiveness. I've counted the costs. God knows if I could go back
to the army to-morrow with a shriven record, I'd rather have my
lieutenant's pay than all the success that could ever come from
moneyed buccaneers! But I can't do that. I can't think of myself
as a fighting man under my own flag whose largest pay is his
contentment and his honor. Very well, I have accepted Hobson's
choice. I will join that group which fights with power, for power;
the group that's strong enough to defy the approval they can't
successfully court. I _have_ hardened but I've needed to. I hope I
shan't become so flagrant, however, that you'll have to regret
sponsoring me."

Snowdon laughed.

"I'm not afraid of that," he made hasty assurance. "And my friendliest
wishes go with you."

Since that day John Spurrier had come to a place of confidence in the
counsels over which Harrison presided with despotic authority.

The man in the street, deriving his information from news print, would
have accorded Martin Harrison a place on the steering committee of the
country's wealth and affairs, and in such a classification he would
have been both right and wrong.

There were exclusive coteries of money manipulation to which Harrison
was denied an entree. These combinations were few but mighty, and
until he won the sesame of admission to their supreme circle his
ambition must chafe, unsatisfied: his power, greater than that of many
kings, must seem to himself too weak.

It must not be inferred that Harrison was embittered by the wormwood
of failure. His trophies of success were numerous and tangible enough
for every purpose except his own contentment.

To-night he was smiling with baronial graciousness while he stood
welcoming a group of dinner guests in his own house, and as his butler
passed the tray of canapes and cocktail glasses the latest arrival
presented himself.

The host nodded. "Spurrier," he said, "I think you know every one
here, don't you?"

The young man who had just come was perfectly tailored and self-confident
of bearing, and as vigorous of bodily strength as a wrestler in training.
The time that had passed over him since he had left Snowdon's company for
wider and more independent fields had wrought changes in him, and in so
far as the observer could estimate values from the externals of life,
every development had been upward toward improvement. Yet, between the
man's impressive surface and his soul lay an acquired coat of cynicism and
a shell of cultivated selfishness.

John Spurrier, who had renounced the gaming table, was more
passionately and coldly than ever the plunger, dedicated to the single
religion of ambition. He had failed to remove the blot of the
court-martial from his name, and, denied the soldier's ethical place,
he had become a sort of moss-trooper of finance.

Backed only by his personal qualifications, he had won his way into a
circle of active wealth, and though he seemed no more a stranger there
than a duckling in a pool, he himself knew that another simile would
more truly describe his status.

He was like an exhibition skater whose eye-filling feats are
watched with admiration and bated breath. His evolutions and dizzy
pirouettings were performed with an adroit ease and grace, but he
could feel the swaying of the thin ice under him and could never
forget that only the swift smoothness of his flight stood between
himself and disaster.

He must live on a lavish scale or lose step with the fast-moving
procession. He must maintain appearances in keeping with his
associations--or drop downscale to meaner opportunities and paltrier
prizes. The wealth which would establish him firmly seemed always just
a shade farther away than the reach of his outstretched grasp.

"We were just talking about Trabue, Spurrier," his host enlightened
him as he looked across the rim of his lifted glass, with eyes
hardening at the mention of that name.

Spurrier did not ask what had been said about Trabue, but he guessed
that it savored of anathema. For Trabue, whose name rarely appeared in
the public announcements of American Oil and Gas, was none the less
the white-hot power and genius of that organization--its unheralded
chief of staff. Just as A. O. and G. dominated the world of finance,
so he dominated A. O. and G.

Harrison laughed. "I'm not a vindictive man," he declared in humorous
self-defense, "but I want his scalp as Salome wanted the head of John
the Baptist."

The newly arrived guest smiled quietly.

"That's a large order, Mr. Harrison," he suggested, "and yet it's in
line with a matter I want to take up with you. My conspiracy won't
exactly separate O. H. Trabue from his scalp lock, but it may pull
some pet feathers out of his war bonnet. I'm leaving to-morrow on a
mission of reconnaissance--and when I come back----"

The eyes of the elder and younger engaged with a quiet interchange of
understanding, and Spurrier knew that into Martin's mind, as crowded
with activities as a busy harbor, an idea had fallen which would grow
into interest.

When dinner was announced, the adventurer de luxe--for it was so that
he recognized himself in the confessional of his own mind--took in the
daughter of his host, and this mark of distinction did not escape the
notice of several men.

Spurrier himself was gravely listening to some low-voiced aside from
the girl who nibbled at an olive, and who merited his attention.

She was tall and undeniably handsome, and if her mentality sparkled
with a cool and brilliant light rather than a warm and appealing glow,
that was because she had inherited the pattern of her father's mind.

If, notwithstanding her wealth and position, she was still unmarried
three seasons after her coming-out, it was her own affair and
possibly his good fortune. For when the Jack Spurrier of these days
contemplated marriage at all, he thought of it as an aid to his career
rather than a sentimental adventure.

"I'm leaving in the morning," he was saying in a low voice, "for the
Kentucky Cumberlands, where I'm told life hasn't changed much since
the pioneers crossed over their divide. It's the Land of Do-Without."

"The Land of Do-Without?" she repeated after him. "It's an expressive
phrase, Jack. Is it your own or should there be quotation marks?"

Spurrier laughed as he admitted: "I claim no credit; I merely quote,
but the land down there in the steeps is one, from all I hear, to stir
the imagination into terms more or less poetic."

He leaned forward a little and his engaging face mirrored his own
interest so that the girl found herself murmuring: "Tell me something
about it, then."

"It is," he assured her, "a stretch of unaltered mediævalism entirely
surrounded by modernity--yet holding aloof. Though the country has
spread to the Pacific and it lies within three hundred miles of
Atlantic tidewater, it is still our one frontier where pioneers live
under the conditions that obtained in the days of the Indian."

"That seems difficult to grasp," she demurred, and he nodded his
head, abstractedly sketching lines on the damask cloth with his oyster
fork.

"When the nation was born," he enlightened, "and the questing spirit
of the overland voyagers asserted itself, the bulk of its human tide
flowed west along the Wilderness Road. Through Cumberland Gap lay
their one discovered gate in the wall that nature had built to the sky
across their path. It was a wall more ancient than that of the Alps
and between the ridges many of them were stranded."

"How?" she demanded, arrested by the vibrant interest of his own
voice, and he continued with a shrug of the shoulder.

"Many reasons. A pack mule fallen lame--a broken wagon-wheel; small
things were enough in such times of hardship to make a family settle
where it found itself balked. The more fortunate won through to 'take
the west with the axe and hold it with the rifle.' Then came railroads
and steamboats, going other ways, and the ridges were swallowed again
by the wilderness. The stranded brethren remained stranded and they
did not alter or progress. They remained self-willed, fiercely
independent and dedicated to the creed 'Leave us alone.' Their life
to-day is the life of two centuries ago."

The girl lifted the brows that were dark enough to require no
penciling.

"That was the speech of a dreamer and a poet, Jack, and I thought you
the most practical of men. What calls you into a land of poverty? I
didn't know you ever ran on cold trails." She spoke with a delicately
shaded irony, as though for the materialism of his own viewpoint, yet
he knew that her interest in him would survive no failure of worldly
attainment.

He did not repeat to her the story told him so long ago by Snowdon,
the engineer, nor confide to her that ever since then his mind had
harked back insistently to that topic and its possibilities. Now he
only smiled with diplomatic suavity.

"Pearls," he said, "don't feed oysters into robustness. They make
'em most uncomfortable. The poverty-stricken illiterates in these
hills, where I'm going, might starve for centuries over buried
treasure--which some one else might find."

The girl nodded.

"In the stories," she answered, though she did not seem disturbed at
the thought, "the stranger in the Cumberlands always arouses the ire
of some whiskered moonshiner and falls in a creek bed pierced by a
shot from the laurel."

Spurrier grinned.

"Or he falls in love with a barefoot Diana and teaches her to adore
him in return."

Miss Harrison made a satirical little grimace. "At least teach her to
eat with a fork, too, Jack," she begged him. "It will contribute to
your fastidious comfort when you come back here to sell your pearls at
Tiffany's or in Maiden Lane, or wherever it is that one wholesales his
treasure-trove."

       *       *       *       *       *

If John Spurrier had presented the picture of a man to the manner born
as he sat with Martin Harrison's daughter at Martin Harrison's table,
he fitted into the ensemble, too, a week later, as he crossed the
hard-tramped dirt of the street from the railway station at Waterfall
and entered the shabby tavern over the way--for the opportunity hound
must be adaptable.

Here he would leave the end of the rails and travel by mule into a
wilder country, for on the geological survey maps that he carried with
him he had made tracings of underground currents which it had not been
easy to procure.

These red-inkings were exact miniatures of a huge wall chart in the
headquarters of American Oil and Gas, and to others than a trusted few
they were not readily accessible. How Spurrier had achieved his
purpose is a separate story and one over which he smiled inwardly,
though it may have involved features that were not nicely ethical.

The tavern had been built in the days when Waterfall had attracted men
answering the challenge of oil discovery. Now it had fallen wretchedly
into decay, and over it brooded the depression of hopes and dreams
long dead. Gladly Spurrier had left that town behind him.

Now, on a crisp afternoon, when the hill slopes were all garbed in the
rugged splendor of the autumn's high color, he was tramping with a
shotgun on his elbow and a borrowed dog at his heels. He had crossed
Hemlock Mountain and struck into the hinterland at its back.

Until now he had thought of Hemlock Mountain as a single peak, but he
had discovered it to be, instead, an unbroken range beginning at
Hell's Door and ending at Praise the Lord, which zigzagged for a
hundred miles and arched its bristling backbone two thousand feet into
the sky. Along this entire length it offered only a few passes over
which a traveler could cross except on foot or horseback.

He had found entertainment overnight at a clay-chinked log-cabin,
where he had shared the single room with six human beings and two
dogs. This census takes no account of a razor-back pig which was
segregated in a box under the dining table, where its feeding with
scraps simplified the problem of stock raising.

His present objective was the house of Dyke Cappeze, the retired
lawyer, whose name had drifted into talk at every town in which he had
stopped along the railroad.

Cappeze was a "queer fellow," a recluse who had quit the villages and
drawn far back into the hills themselves. He was one who could neither
win nor stop fighting; who wanted to change the unalterable, and,
having failed, sulked like Achilles in his tent. But whoever spoke of
Cappeze credited him with being a positive and unique personality, and
Spurrier meant to know him.

So he pretended to hunt quail--in a country where a covey rose and
scattered beyond gorges over which neither dog nor man could follow.
One excuse served as well as another so long as he seemed sufficiently
careless of the things which were really the core and center of his
interest. And now Cappeze's place ought to be near by.

Off to one side of the ragged way stretched a brown patch of stubble,
and suddenly the dog stopped at its edge, lifted his muzzle with
distended nostrils delicately aquiver, and then went streaking away
into the rattling weed stalks, eagerly quartering the bare field.

Spurrier followed, growling skeptically to himself: "He's made a stand
on a rabbit. That dog's a liar and the truth is not in him!"

But the setter had come to a halt and held motionless, his statuesque
pose with one foreleg uplifted as rigid as a piece of bronze save for
the black muzzle sensitively alert and tremulous.

Then as the man walked in there came that startling little thunder of
whirring wings with which quail break cover.

The ground seemed to burst with a tiny drumming eruption of up-surging
feathery shapes, and Spurrier's gun spoke rapidly from both barrels.
Save for the two he had downed, the covey crossed a little rise beyond
a thicket of blackberry brier where he marked them by the tips of a
few gnarled trees, and the man nodded his head in satisfaction as the
dog he had libeled neatly retrieved his dead birds and cast off again
toward the hummock's ridge.

Spurrier, following more slowly, lost sight of his setter and, before
he had caught up, he heard a whimpering of fright and pain. Puzzled,
he hastened forward until from a slight elevation, which commanded a
burial ground, choked with a tangle of brambles and twisted fox
grapes, he found himself looking on a picture for which he was
entirely unprepared.

His dog was crouching and crawling in supplication, while above him,
with eyes that snapped lightning jets of fury, stood a slender girl
with a hickory switch tightly clenched in a small but merciless hand.

As the gunner came into sight she stood her ground, a little startled
but obdurately determined, and her expression appeared to transfer
her anger from the animal she had whipped to the master, until he
almost wondered whether she might not likewise use the hickory upon
him.

He tried not to let the vivid and unexpected beauty of the apparition
cloud his just indignation, and his voice was stern with offended
dignity as he demanded:

"Would you mind telling me why you're mistreating my dog? He's the
gentlest beast I ever knew."

The girl was straight and slim and as colorful as the landscape which
the autumn had painted with crimson and violet, but in her eyes flamed
a war fire.

"What's that a-bulgin' out yore coat pocket, thar?" she demanded
breathlessly. "You an' yore dog air both murderers! Ye've been
shootin' into my gang of pet pa'tridges."

"Pet--partridges?" He repeated the words in a mystified manner, as
under the compulsion of her gaze he drew out the incriminating bodies
of the lifeless victims.

The girl snatched the dead birds from him and laid their soft breasts
against her cheek, crooning sorrowfully over them.

"They trusted me ter hold 'em safe," she declared in a grief-stricken
tone. "I'd kept all the gunners from harmin' 'em--an' now they've done
been betrayed--an' murdered."

"I'm sorry," declared Spurrier humbly. "I didn't know they were pets.
They behaved very much like wild birds."

The dog rose from his cowering position and came over to shelter
himself behind Spurrier, who just then heard the underbrush stir
at his back and wheeled to find himself facing an elderly man with a
ruggedly chiseled face and a mane of gray hair. It was a face that
one could not see without feeling a spirit force behind it, and when
the man spoke his sonorous voice, too, carried a quality of
impressiveness.

"He didn't have no way of knowin', Glory," he said placatingly to the
girl. "Bob Whites are mostly wild, you know." Then turning back to the
man again he courteously explained: "She fed this gang through last
winter when the snows were heavy. They'd come up to the door yard an'
peck 'round with the chickens. She's gifted with the knack of gentlin'
wild things." He paused, then added with a grim touch of irony. "It's
a lesson that it would have profited me to learn--but I never could
master it. You're a furriner hereabouts, ain't you?"

"My name is John Spurrier," said the stranger. "I was looking for Dyke
Cappeze."

"I'm Dyke Cappeze," said the elderly man, "an' this is my daughter,
Glory. Come inside. Yore welcome needs some mendin', I reckon."



CHAPTER VII


As John Spurrier followed his host between rhododendron thickets that
rose above their heads, he found himself wondering what had become of
the girl, but when they drew near to an old house whose stamp of
orderly neatness proclaimed its contrast to the scattering hovels of
widely separated neighbors, he caught a flash of blue gingham by the
open door and realized that the Valkyrie had taken a short cut.

The dog, too, had arrived there ahead of its master and was
fawning now on the girl, who leaned impulsively over to take the
gentle-pointed muzzle between her palms.

"I'm sorry I whopped ye," she declared in a silver-voiced contrition
that made the man think of thrush notes. "Hit wasn't _yore_ fault
no-how. Hit was thet--thet stuck-up furriner. I _hates_ him!"

The setter waved its plumed tail in forgiveness and contentment, and
the girl, discovering with an upward glance that she had been
overheard, rose and stood for a moment defiantly facing the object of
her denunciation, then, as embarrassment flooded her cheeks with
color, fled into the house.

The sense of having stepped back into an older century had been
growing on John Spurrier ever since he had turned away from the town
of Waterfall, and now it possessed him with a singular fascination.

Here was a different world, somber under its shadow of frugality, and
breathing out the heavy atmosphere of isolation. The spirit of this
strange life looked out from the wearied eyes of Dyke Cappeze as he
sat filling his pipe across the hearth, a little later, and it sounded
in his voice when he announced slowly:

"It's not for me to withhold hospitality in a land where a ready
welcome is about all we have to offer, and yet you could hardly have
picked a worse house to come to between the Virginia border and the
Kaintuck ridges."

Spurrier raised his brows interrogatively, and at the same moment he
noticed matters hitherto overlooked. The windows were heavily
shuttered and his host sat beyond the line of vision from the open
door--with a rifle leaning an arm's length away.

"Coming as a stranger," continued Cappeze, "you start without
enmities--with a clean page. You might spend your life here and find a
sincere welcome everywhere--so long as you avoided other men's
controversies. But you come to me and that, sir, is a bad beginning--a
very bad beginning."

A contemplative cloud of smoke went up from the pipe, and the voice
finished in a tone of bitterness.

"I'm the most hated man in this region where hatreds grow like
weeds."

"You mean because you have stood out for the enforcement of law?"

The other nodded, "It has taken me a lifetime," he observed, "to learn
that the mountains are stronger, if not more obstinate, than I."

"Is that the only reason they hate you?" inquired the visitor, and the
lawyer, removing the pipe stem from his teeth, regarded him for a
space in silence. Then he commented quietly:

"If you knew this country better, you wouldn't have to ask that
question. In Athens, I believe, they ostracized Aristides because he
was 'too just a man.'"

"Nonetheless, I'm glad I came to you."

Cappeze smiled gravely. He had a rude sort of dignity which Spurrier
found beguiling; a politeness that sprang from a deeper rooting than
mere formula.

"Merely coming to see me--once in a while--won't damn you, I reckon. A
man has a license to be interested in freaks. But take my advice, and
I sha'n't be offended. Tell every one that you hold no brief for me
and listen with an open mind when they blackguard me."

Spurrier laughed. "In a place where assassination is said to come
cheap, you have at least been able to take care of yourself, sir."

"That," said the other slowly, "is as it happens. My partner was less
lucky. My own luck may break some day."

"And yet you go on living here when you'd be safe enough anywhere
else."

"Yes, I go on living here. It's a land where a man's mind starves and
where the great marching song of the world's progress is silent--and
yet----" Again he paused to draw in and exhale a cloud of pipe smoke.
"Yet there's something in the winds that blow here, in the air one
breathes, that 'is native to my blood.' Elsewhere I should be
miserable, sir, and my daughter----"

He came to an abrupt stop and Spurrier took him up quickly. "She
seems young and vital enough to crave all of life's variety."

"But she is contented, sir." The elderly man spoke eagerly as though
to convince himself and quiet troubling doubts. "She, too, would
rather be here. We know this life and take it as we find it."

Spurrier felt that the conversation was tending into channels too
personal for the participation of a chance acquaintance, and he guided
it to a less intimate subject.

"I understand, Mr. Cappeze, that in the campaign just ended, you
stumped this district whole-heartedly in behalf of one of the
candidates for the circuit judgeship."

Again the hawk-keen blaze flared in the eyes of his host.

"You are mistaken, sir," he declared with heated emphasis. "It was
less _for_ a candidate than _against_ one that I worked. The man whom
circumstances compelled me to support was a poor thing, but he was
better than his adversary."

"Was it party spirit that prompted you, then?" inquired the guest,
feeling that politeness called for some show of interest.

"Sometimes I think," said the lawyer with a grim smile, "that from
some men God withholds the blessed power of riding life's waves. All
they can do is to buffet and fight and wear themselves out. Perhaps
I'm that sort. The man who won--who succeeded himself on the bench--is
an expedientist. So long as he presides, timid juries will return
timid verdicts and the law will falter. I took the stump to brand him
before the people as an apostate to his oath. I knew he would win,
but I meant to make him wear his trade-mark of cowardice along with
his smirk of self-righteousness!"

As Spurrier listened, not to a feudist but to a man who had worn
himself out fighting feudism, there came to him like a revelation an
appreciation of the bitterness which runs in the grim undertow of this
blood.

"I believe," he suggested, glancing sidewise at the door beyond which
he heard the thrushlike voice of the girl, "that you made an issue of
a murder case which collapsed--a case in which you had been employed
to prosecute."

"Yes," Cappeze told him. "Because I believe it to be one in which the
officers of the court lay down and quit like dogs. The defendant was a
red-handed bully, generally feared--and the law was in timid keeping.
I am still trying to have the grand jury call before it the
prosecutor, the sheriff, and every deputy who served on that posse. I
want to make them tell, on oath, just how hard they sought to
apprehend the assassin--who still walks boldly and freely among
us--unwhipped of justice."

Spurrier rose, deeply impressed by the headstrong, willful courage of
this old insurgent, whose daughter's eyes were so full of spring
gentleness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Far up the dwindling thread of a small water course, where the forest
was jungle-thick, a log cabin hung perched to a rocky cornfield that
tilted like a steep roof, and under its shingles Sim Colby dwelt
alone. Since his coming here he had been assimilated into the
commonplace life of the neighborhood and the question of his
origin was no longer discussed. The time had gone by when even an
acquaintance of other days would be apt to calculate that his term of
enlistment in the army had not run its full course. Moreover, there
were no such acquaintances here; none who had known him before he
changed his name from Grant to Colby. The shadow of dread which had
once obsessed him had gradually and imperceptibly lightened until
for weeks together he forgot how poignantly it had once haunted him.
He had painstakingly established a reputation exemplary beyond the
tendencies of his nature in this new habitat--since trouble might
cause closed pages to reopen.

Now on a November afternoon a deputy sheriff, serving summonses in
that neighborhood dismounted at the door where Sim stood with his hand
resting on the jamb, and the two mulled over what sparse gossip the
uneventful neighborhood afforded.

"Old Cappeze, he's a-seekin' ter rake up hell afresh an' brew more
pestilence fer everybody," announced the deputy glumly.

"What's he projeckin' at now?" asked Sim.

"He's seekin' ter warm over thet ancient Sam Mosebury case afore ther
grand jury. Come ter think of hit, Sim, ye rid with ther high sheriff
yoreself thet time, didn't ye?"

Moodily the other nodded. That was a matter he preferred to leave
buried.

"Waal, Cappeze is claimin' now thet ther possy didn't make no master
effort ter lay hands on Sam. He aims ter hev all ye boys tell ther
grand jury what ye knows erbout ther matter."

The deputy turned away, but in afterthought he paused, thrashing idly
with his switch at the weed stalks, as he retailed an almost forgotten
item of news.

"A furriner come ter town yistidday, an' sot out straightway acrost
Hemlock Mountain fer old Cappeze's dwellin' house."

"What manner of man war he, Joe?" Sim's interest was perfunctory. Had
he been haled into the grand-jury room in those earlier days, the
prospect would have bristled with apprehensions, but now he had behind
him the background of respectability and Mose Biggerstaff, who alone
knew of his craven behavior as a member of the posse, was dead. Sim
felt secure in his mantle of virtue.

"He war a right upstandin' sort of feller--ther furriner," enlightened
the deputy. "He goes under ther name of Spurrier--John Spurrier."

As though an electric wire of high tension had broken and brushed him
in falling, Sim Colby's attitude stiffened and every muscle grew taut
from neck to ankles as his jaw sagged.

The deputy, with his foot already in the stirrup, missed the terror
spasms of the face gone suddenly putty gray. He missed the gasp that
contracted the throat and caused its breath to wheeze, and when he
glanced back again from his saddle, the other had, with an effort of
sheer desperation, regained his outward semblance of composure. He
still leaned indolently against the door frame, but now he needed its
support, because all his nerves jumped and a confusion like the
swarming of angry bees filled his brain.

Afterward he groped his way inside and dropped down into a low chair
by the hearth. For a long time he sat there breathing stertorously
while the untended fire died away to ashen dreariness. The sun went
down beyond the pine tops and still he sat dully with his hands
hanging over his knees, their fingers twitching in panic aimlessness.

Out of a past that he had cut away from the present had arisen a ghost
of hideous menace. Here into the laurel which had promised sanctuary
his Nemesis had pursued him.

Two men with the guilt of a murder standing between them had come into
a radius too small to contain them both. It was as if they had met on
a narrow log spanning a chasm where only one could pass and the other
must fall.

If old Cappeze dragged him to the courthouse now, he would be
delivered over to Spurrier, waiting there to identify him, as a fox in
a trap is delivered to the skinning knife. That must be the meaning of
the stranger's visit to the lawyer.

Sim Colby went to an ancient and dilapidated bureau and from a
creaking drawer took out a memento which, for some reason, he had
preserved from times not treasured in memory. He carried it to the
open door and stood looking at it as it lay on the palm of his hand
with the light glinting upon it.

It was a sharpshooter's medal, for, whatever his military shortcomings,
Private Grant had been an efficient rifleman, and as he looked at it
now his lips twisted into a grim smile. Then he took his rifle from its
corner and, sitting on the doorstep, polished it with a fond
particularity, oiling its mechanism and burnishing its bore.

Already Spurrier had made arrangements to ensconce himself under the
roof of a house he had rented. Already the faces that he met in the
road were, for the most part, familiar, and without exception they
were friendly. Quick on the heels of his first disgust for the squalor
of this lapsed and retarded life, had succeeded an exhilaration born
of the wine-like sparkle of the air and the majestic breadth of vistas
across ridge and valley. As he watched mile-wide shadows creep between
sky-high lines of peaks, his dreams borrowed something of their
vastness.

Through half-closed lids imagination looked out until the range-broken
spaces altered to its vision. Spurrier saw white roads and the glitter
of rails running off into gossamer webs of distance. Where now stood
virgin forests of hard wood he visualized the shaftings of oil
derricks, the red iron sheeting of tanks, the belching stacks of
refineries, and in that defaced landscape he read the triumph of
conquest; the guerdon of wealth; the satisfaction of power.

One afternoon Spurrier started over to the house he had rented, but
into which he had not yet moved. The way lay for a furlong or more
through a gorge deeply and somberly shaded. Even now, at midday, the
sunlight of the upper places left it cloistered and the bowlders
trooped along in ferny dampness, where the little waters whispered.

Beside a bulky hummock of green-corroded sandstone the man halted and
stood musingly, with eyes downcast and thoughts uplifted--uplifted
to the worship of his one god: Ambition. At his feet was an oily
sediment along the water's edge and the gravel was thick with
"sand blossom"--tiny fossil formations that are prima facie evidence
of oil. Then, without warning, he felt a light sting along his
cheek and the rock-walled fissure reverberated under what seemed a
volley of musketry.

But the magnified and crumbling effect of the echo struck him with a
less poignant realization than a slighter sound and a sharper one. As
if a taut piano wire had been sharply struck, came the clear whang
that he recognized as the flight song of a rifle bullet, and, whatever
its origin it called for a prompt taking of cover.

Spurrier side-stepped as quickly as a boxer, and stood, for the moment
at least, bulwarked behind the rock that was so providentially close.

"I'm John Spurrier--a stranger in these parts," he sung out in a
confident voice of forced boldness and cheerfulness. "I reckon you've
made a mistake in your man."

There was no answer and Spurrier cautiously raised his hat on the end
of a stick with the same deliberation that might have marked his
action had it been his own head emerging from cover.

Instantly the hidden rifle spoke again and the hat came down pierced
through its band, while the rocks once more reverberated to multiplied
detonations.

"It would seem," the man told himself grimly, "that after all there
was no mistake."

He was unarmed and in no position to pursue investigations of the
mystery, but by crawling along on his belly he could keep his body
shielded behind the litter of broken stone that edged the brook until
he reached the end of the gorge itself and came to safer territory.

Slowly, Spurrier traveled out of his precarious position, flattening
himself when he paused to rest and listen, as he had made his men
flatten themselves over there in the islands when they were going
forward without cover under the fire of snipers.



CHAPTER VIII


Spurrier was not frightened, but he was deeply mystified, and when he
reached the cabin which he was preparing for occupancy he sat down on
the old millstone that served as a doorstep and sought enlightenment
from reflection and the companionship of an ancient pipe.

In an hour or two "Uncle Jimmy" Litchfield, under whose smoky roof he
was being temporarily sheltered, would arrive with a jolt wagon and
yoke of oxen, teaming over the household goods that Spurrier meant to
install. Already the new tenant had swept and whitewashed his cabin
interior and had let the clear winds rake away the mildew of its long
vacancy. Now he sat smoking with a perplexity-drawn brow, while a
tuneful sky seemed to laugh mockingly at the absurd idea of riflemen
in ambush.

Every neighbor had manifested a spirit of cordiality toward him. To
many of them he was indebted for small and voluntary kindnesses, and
he had maintained a diplomatic neutrality in all local affairs that
bore a controversial aspect.

Certainly, he could not flatter himself that as yet any premonition of
danger had percolated to those distant centers of industry against
which he was devising a campaign of surprise. One explanation only
presented itself with any color of plausibility.

That trickle of water might come to the gorge from a spot back in the
laurel where, under the shelter of a felled hemlock top, some one
tended a small "blockade" distillery; some one who resented an
invasion of his privacy.

Yet even that inference was not satisfactory. Only yesterday a man had
offered him moonshine whisky, declaring quite unsuspiciously: "Ef
ye're vouched fer by Uncle Jimmy, I ain't a'skeered of ye none. I made
thet licker myself--drink hearty."

Of the real truth no ghostly glimmer of suspicion came in even the
most shadowy fashion to his mind.

His efforts to trace to definite result some filament of fact that
might prove the court-martial to have reached a conclusion at variance
with the truth, had all ended in failure. That the matter was hopeless
was an admission which he could not afford to make and which he
doggedly denied, but with waning confidence.

This state of mind prevented him from suspecting any connection
between this present and mysterious enmity and those things which had
happened across the Pacific.

He had kept himself informed as to the movements of Private Severance
and when that time-expired man had stepped ashore at San Francisco,
John Spurrier had been waiting to confront him, even though it
involved facing men who had once been brother officers and who could
no longer speak to him as an equal.

From the former soldier, who brought a flush to his cheeks by saluting
him and calling him "Lieutenant," he had learned nothing. There had
been no reason to hope for much. It was unlikely that he would be
able to shake into a damaging admission of complicity--and any
statement of value must have amounted to that--the witness who had
come unscathed out of the cross-examination of two courts-martial.

Indeed Spurrier had expected to encounter unveiled hostility in the
attitude of the mountaineer, who had been doing sentry duty at the
door through which the prisoner, Grant, had escaped. It might have
followed logically upon the officer's defense, which had sought to
involve that sentinel as an accomplice in the fugitive's flight, and
even in the murder itself.

But Severance had greeted him without rancor and with the disarming
guise of candid friendliness.

"I'd be full willin' ter help ye, Lieutenant--ef so be I could," he
had protested. "I knows full well yore lawyers was plum obliged ter
seek ter hang ther blame wharsoever they was able, an' I ain't
harborin' no grudge because I happened ter be one they sought ter
hurt. But I don't know nothin' that kin aid ye."

"Do you think Grant escaped alive?" demanded Spurrier, and the other
shook his head.

"I feels so plum, dead sartain he died," came the prompt response,
"thet when I gits back home I'm goin' ter tell his folks he did. Bud
Grant was a friend of mine, but when he went out inter thet jungle he
was too weakly ter keer fer hisself an' ef he'd lived they would hev
done found him an' brought him back."

Spurrier had come to embrace that belief himself. The one man whose
admission, wrung from him by persuasion or compulsion, could give him
back his clean name, must have perished there in the _bijuca_
tangles. The hope of meeting the runaway in life had died in the
ex-officer's heart and consequently it did not now occur to him to
think of the deserter as a living menace.

At length he rose and stood against the shadowy background of his
door, which was an oblong of darkness behind the golden outer
clarity.

Off in the tangle of oak and poplar and pine a ruffed grouse drummed
and a "cock of the woods" rapped its tattoo on a sycamore top.

Once he fancied he heard a stirring in the rhododendron where its
large waxen leaves banked themselves thickly a hundred yards distant,
and his eyes turned that way seeking to pierce the impenetrable
screen--but unavailingly. Perhaps some small, wild thing had moved
there.

Then, as had happened before that afternoon, the stillness broke to a
rifle shot--this time clean and sharp, unclogged by echoes.

Spurrier stood for an instant while a surprised expression showed in
his out-staring eyes, then he swayed on his feet. His hands came up
and clutched spasmodically at his left breast, and with a sudden
collapse he dropped heavily backward, and lay full length, swallowed
in the darkness that hung beyond the door.

Over the rhododendron thicket quiet settled drowsily again, but
through the toughness of interlaced branches stole upward and outward
an acrid powder smell and a barely perceptible trickle of smoke.

Crouched there, his neutral-hued clothing merging into the earth tones
about him, a man peered out, but he did not rise to go forward and
inspect his work. Instead, he opened the breech block of his piece
and with unhurried care blew through the barrel--cleansing it of its
vapors.

"I reckon thar ain't no needcessity to go over thar an' look at him,"
he reflected. "When they draps down _thet_-away, they don't git up no
more--an' some person from afar mout spy me crossin' ther dooryard."

So he edged backward into the tangle, moving like a crawfish and
noiselessly took up his homeward journey.

When the slow plodding ox team came at last to the dooryard and Uncle
Billy stood shouting outside the house, Sim Colby, holding to tangles
where he would meet no chance wayfarer, was already miles away and
hurrying to establish his alibi against suspicion, in his own
neighborhood--where no one knew he had been absent.

Though it be an evil thing and shameful to confess, ex-private Bud
Grant, alias Sim Colby, traveled light-heartedly, roweled by no
tortures of conscience, but blithe in the assurance of a ghost laid,
and a peril averted.

He would have been both amazed and chagrined had he remained peering
from his ambuscade, for when Uncle Billy's shadow fell through the
open door the man to whom he had come rose from a chair to meet him,
and he presented no mangled or blood-stained breast to the eyes of his
visitors.

"Ye ain't jest a-quippin' with me, be ye?" demanded the old
mountaineer incredulously when he had heard the story in all its
detail. "This hyar's a right serious-soundin' matter--an' ye ain't
got no enemies amongst us thet I've heered tell of."

Spurrier pointed out the spot in the newly whitewashed wall where the
bullet lay imbedded with its glint of freshly flattened lead.

"After the first experience," he explained, "I'd had some time to
think. I was standing in the door so I fell down--and played dead." He
added after a pause quietly: "I've seen men shot to death, and I
happened to know how a man drops when it's a heart hit. I fell inside
where I'd be out of sight, because I was unarmed, and all I could do
was to wait for you. I watched through the door, but the fellow never
showed himself."

"Come on, boys," commanded the old mountaineer in a determined voice.
"Let's beat thet la'rel while ther tracks is still fresh. Mebby we
mout l'arn somethin' of this hyar monstrous matter."

But they learned nothing. Sim Colby had spent painstaking thought upon
his effort and he had left no evidence written in the mold of the
forest.

"Hit beats all hell," declared the nonplussed Uncle Billy at last.
"I ain't got ther power ter fathom hit. Ef I war you I wouldn't
talk erbout this ter no man save only me an' old Dyke Cappeze.
Still-huntin' lands more game then blowin' a fox horn." And
Spurrier nodded his head.

Though Spurrier for a few days after that slipped through the gorge
with the stealth of a sharpshooter, covering himself behind rocks as
he went, he heard no sound there more alarming than the chatter of
squirrels or the grunt of a strayed razor-back rooting among the
acorns. Gradually he relaxed his vigilance as a man will if his
nature is bold and his dreams too sweeping to be forever hobbled by
petty precautions.

The purpose which he privately served called for ranging the country
with a trained eye, and with him went the contour maps upon which were
traced red lines.

One day he came, somewhat winded from a stiff climb, to an eminence
that spread the earth below him and made of it a panorama. The bright
carnival of the autumn was spending itself to its end, but among trees
already naked stood others that clung to a gorgeousness of color the
more brilliant in the face of death. Overhead was flawless blue, and
there was a dreamy violet where it merged mistily with the skyline
ridges.

"All that it needs," mused the man whimsically and aloud, "is the
music of Pan's pipes--and perhaps a small chorus of dryads."

Then he heard a laugh and, wheeling suddenly, discovered Glory Cappeze
regarding him from the cap of a towering rock where, until he had
reached this level, she had been hidden from view. Now she flushed
shyly as the man strode over and confronted her.

"Do you still hate me?" he inquired.

"I reckon thet don't make no master differ ter ye, does hit?" The
musical voice was painfully diffident, and he remembered that she had
always been shy with him except on that first meeting when the leaping
anger in her eyes had burned away self-consciousness.

"You know," he gravely reminded her, "when I first saw you, you were
on the point of thrashing me. You had me cowed and timid. Since then
I've come to think of you as the shooting star."

He paused, waiting for her to demand an elucidation of that somewhat
obscure statement, but she said nothing. She only sat gazing over his
head toward the horizon, and her cheeks were excitedly flushed from
the delicate pink of apple bloom to the warmer color of peach
blossom.

"Since you don't ask what I mean," he continued easily, "I shall tell
you. I've been to your house perhaps four or five times. From afar,
each time, I've seen a scrap of color. Sometimes it has been blue,
sometimes red, but always it has vanished with the swiftness of a
shooting star. It is a flash and it is gone. Sometimes from beyond a
door I also hear a voice singing."

He leaned his elbows on the rock at her feet and stood gazing into the
eyes that would not meet his own, and still she favored him with no
response. After a little silence the man altered his tone and spoke
argumentatively:

"You forgave the dog, you know--why not the man?"

That question carried her thoughts back to the murdered quail and a
gusty back-flash of resentment conquered her diffidence. Her sternness
of tone and the thrushlike softness of her voice, mingled with the
piquancy of paradox.

"A dawg don't know no better."

"Some dogs are very wise," he assured her. "And some men very
foolish."

"The dawg," she went on still unplacated, "got right down on his
stomach and asked my pardon. I _hed_ ter fergive him, when he humbled
hisself like that."

"I'm willing," John Spurrier amiably assured her, "to get right down
on my stomach, too."

Then she laughed, and though she sought to retreat again into her
aloofness, the spell was broken.

"Am I forgiven?" he demanded, and she shook her head doubtfully though
no longer with conviction.

"No," she told him; then she added with a startlingly exact mimicry of
her father's most legalistic manner: "No. The co'te will take the case
under advisement an' defer jedgment."

"I forgot," he said, "that you are a lawyer's daughter. What were you
looking at across there--so fascinatedly?"

"Them hills," she enlightened succinctly.

Spurrier studied her. Her deep eyes had held a glow of almost
prayerful enchantment for which her laconic words seemed inadequate.

Watching her out of the tail of his eye he fell into borrowed phrases:
"'Violet peaks uplifted through the crystal evening air.'"

She shot a glance at him suddenly, eagerly; then at once the lids
lowered, masking the eyes again as she inquired:

"Thet thar's poetry, ain't hit?"

"I'm prepared to go to the mat with any critic who holds the
contrary," he assured her.

"Hit's comin' on ter be night. I've got ter start home," she
irrelevantly announced, as she slid from her rough throne, and the man
fell boldly in step at her side.

"When your honor rules on the matter under advisement," he said
humbly before their paths separated, "please remember that the
defendant was a poor wretch who didn't know he was breaking the law."

For the first time their glances engaged fully and without avoidance,
and a twinkle flashed in the girl's pupils.

"_Ignorantia legis neminem excusat_," she serenely responded, and
Spurrier gasped. Here was a girl who could not steer her English
around the shoals of illiteracy, giving him his retort in Latin:
"Ignorance of the law excuses no one." Of course, it meant only that
her quick memory had appropriated and was parroting legal phrases
learned from her father, but it struck the chord of contrasts, and to
the man's imagination it dramatized her so that when she had gone on
with the lissome grace of her light stride, he stood looking after
her.

Rather abruptly after that the autumn fires of splendor burned out to
the ashes of coming winter, and then it was that Spurrier went north.
As his train carried him seaward he had the feeling that it was also
transporting him from an older to a younger century, and that while
his mind dwelt on the stalwart and unsophisticated folk with whom he
had been brushing shoulders, the life resolved itself into an austere
picture against which the image of Glory stood out with the quick
vividness of a red cardinal flitting among somber pine branches.

Because she was so far removed from his own orbit he could think of
her impersonally and enjoy the thought as though it were of a new type
of flower or bird, recognizing her attractive qualities in a detached
fashion.

As Spurrier gave himself up to the relaxation of reminiscence with
that abandon of train travel which admits of no sustained effort, he
began comparing this life, left over from another era, with that he
had known against more cultivated and complex backgrounds.

Then in analytical mood he reviewed his own past, looking with a
lengthening of perspective on the love affair that had been broken by
his court-martial. His adoration of the Beverly girl had been youthful
enough to surround itself with young illusions.

That was why it had all hurt so bitterly, perhaps, with its ripping
away of his faith in romantic conceptions of love-loyalty.

He wondered now if he had not borne himself with the Quixotic
martyrdom of callowness. He had sought to shield the girl from even
the realization that her lack of confidence was ungenerous. He had
sought to take all the pain and spare her from sharing it. But she had
solaced herself with a swift recovery and a new lover, and had he been
guilty she could not have abandoned him more cavalierly. Well, that
softness belonged to an out-grown stage of development.

He had seen himself then as obeying the dictates of chivalry. He
thought of it now as inexperienced folly--perhaps, so far as she was
concerned, as a lucky escape. His amours of the present were not so
naively conducted. To Vivian he had paid his attentions with an eye
watchful of material advantages. They belonged to a sophisticated
circle which seasoned life's fare rather with the salt of cynicism
than with the sugar of romanticism. Yet the thought of Vivian caused
no pulse to flutter excitedly.

The glimpse of Glory had been refreshing because she was so honest and
sincere that she disquieted one's acquired cynicism of viewpoint. One
might as well spout world-wisdom to a lilac bush as to Glory! Yet
there was a sureness about her which argued for her creed of
wholesome, simple things and old half-forgotten faiths which one would
like to keep alive--if one could.

Snow drifted in the air and made a nimbus about each arc light as
Spurrier's taxi, turning between the collonade pillars of the
Pennsylvania Station, gave him his first returning glimpse of New
York. He had come East in obedience to a wired summons from Martin
Harrison, brief to curtness as were all business messages from that
man of few and trenchant words. The telegram had been slow crossing
the mountain, but Spurrier had been prompt in his response.

A tempered glare hung mistily above the Longacre Square district
through the snow flurries to the north, and the rumbled voice of the
town, after these months in quiet places, was to the returned pilgrim
like the heavy breathing of a monster sleeping out a fever.

At the room that he kept at his club in Fifth Avenue--for that was a
part of the pretentious display of affluence made necessary by his
ambitious scheme of things--he called up a number from memory. It was
a number not included in the telephone directory, and, recognizing the
voice that answered him, he said briefly:

"Manners, this is Mr. Spurrier. Will you tell Mr. Harrison I'm on the
wire?"

"Hello, Spurrier," boomed a deep voice after an interval. "We're
dining out this evening and we go to the opera afterward, but I want a
word with you to-night. In fact, I want you to start for Russia on
Wednesday. Drop into our box, and drive home with me for a few minutes
afterward."

Russia on Wednesday! Spurrier's unoccupied hand clenched in
irritation, but his voice was as unruffled as if he had been asked to
make ready for a journey to Hoboken. He knew enough of Harrison's
methods to ask no questions. If they could have been answered over the
phone Harrison could have found many men to send to Russia. It was
because they were for his ear alone that he had been called to New
York.

That evening he listened to "Otello" with thoughts that wandered from
the voices of the singers. They refused even to be chained by the
novelty of a slender tenor as a new Russian star held the spotlight.
He was studying the almost too regular beauty of Vivian Harrison's
profile as she sat serene and self-confident with the horseshoe of the
Metropolitan beyond her.

At midnight Spurrier sat with Harrison in his study and listened to a
crisp summarizing of the Russian scheme. It proved to be a project
boldly conceived on a broad scale and requiring an ambassador
dependable enough and resourceful enough to decide large matters as
they arose, without cabling for instructions.

In turn Spurrier talked of his own past doings, and through their
cigar smoke the seeming idleness of those weeks assayed a wealth of
exact information and stood revealed as the incubation period of a
large conception. Keenly formulated plans emerged from his recitals so
simply and convincingly that the greater financier leaned forward and
let his cigar die.

Then Harrison rose and paced the room.

"You know something about me, Spurrier," he began. "When I came East
they laughed at me--if they deigned to notice me at all. They said:
'Here comes a bushleaguer who thinks he's good enough for the big
game. It's one more lamb to the shearing shed.' That's the East,
Spurrier! That's cocksure New York! They sneer at a Western-bred
horse--or a Western-trained prize fighter--and when the newcomer licks
the best they've got they straightway let out a holler that they
taught him all he knows. Why, New York would die of lassitude and
anæmia if it wasn't for blood infusions from the provinces!"

Spurrier gazed interestedly at the tall figure of the man with
the sandy red mustache, and the snapping eyes, who for all his
impeccability of evening dress, might have taken a shovel or
pick from a section hand and taught him how to level a road bed.
Harrison laughed shortly.

"They haven't inhaled me so far. I brought only a million with me to
this town, and I've got--well, I've got plenty, but I can't call it a
day quite yet. There's one buccaneer to be settled with first! He's
got to go to the mat with me and come up bloody enough to admit that
he's been in a ruction. He chooses to pretend that I'm nonexistent,
and I won't stand being ignored! I want to leave my mark on that man,
and with God's help--and yours--I'm going to do it!"

"You mean Trabue?" asked Spurrier, and Harrison's head gave a decisive
jerk of affirmation while the hot glow of his eyes made his companion
think of smelting furnaces.

"That's why this thing of yours interests me. That's why I'm willing
to get behind you and back you to the hilt," the big fellow of finance
went on. "A. O. and G. are trying to hold others out of this Kentucky
field. That proves that they think enough of it to be hurt by having
it torn from their teeth. All I need to know is what will hurt them!
If you can take some teeth along with the bone, so much the better."
He paused, then in a voice that had altered to cold steadiness,
commanded: "Now, give me your facts."

"At present prices of oil," summarized Spurrier, "the development
back of Hemlock Mountain wouldn't pay. With higher market values, it
_would_ pay, but less handsomely than other fields A. O. and G. can
work. Once the initial cost is laid out, the profit will be
constant. The A. O. and G. idea is to hold it in reserve and await
developments--meanwhile keeping up the 'no trespass' sign."

"Doesn't the range practically prohibit railroading?"

"Possibly--but it doesn't prohibit pipe lines."

Spurrier opened the packet he had brought in his overcoat pocket and
spread a map under the flooding light of a table lamp.

"I have traced there what seems to me a practical piping route," he
explained. "I call it the neck of the bottle. There is a sort of gap
through the hills and a porous formation caused by a chain of
caverns. Nature is willing to help with some ready-made tunnels."

"Why haven't they discovered that?"

"The oil development of fifteen years ago never crossed Hemlock
Mountain. It came the other way."

Harrison stood thinking for a time, then demanded tersely: "Have you
secured any land or options?"

"Not an acre, nor an inch," laughed Spurrier. "This is a waiting game.
I don't mean to appear interested. If any man offered to give me a
farm I should say it wasn't worth State taxes."

"How do we get the property into our hands then?"

"The buying must be gradual and through men with whom we appear to
have no connection."

"And the State charter--how about that?"

"There lies the chief problem," admitted Spurrier. "The charter must
come from a legislature that A. O. and G. can, at present, control."

"What," Harrison shot the question out like a cross-examiner, "is the
present attitude of the natives toward oil and oil men?"

"Indifference and skepticism." The reply was prompt but the
amplification more deliberate. "Once they saw wealth ahead--then the
boom collapsed, and they have no longer any faith in the magic of the
word 'oil.'"

"I presume," suggested Harrison, "you are encouraging that disbelief?"

Spurrier's face clouded, but only for a moment. "I am the most
skeptical of all the skeptics," he assented, "and yet I'm sorry that
they can't be gainers. They are an honest, upstanding folk and they
have always felt the pinch of privation. After all they are the
rightful owners and development of their country ought to benefit
them. Of course, though, to forecast the possibilities would kill the
game. We can't take them into our confidence without sounding a
warning to the enemy."

"Growing sentimental?" queried Harrison dryly, and the younger man
shook his head.

"No," he responded slowly, "I can't afford that--yet."

"And see that you don't," admonished the chief sharply. "Bear in mind,
as you have in the past, that we don't want to depend on men of
brittle resolution and temperamental squeamishness. We are in this
thing toward a definite end and not as humanitarian dreamers.
However----" He broke off abruptly and added in a milder voice, "I
don't have to caution you. You understand the proposition."

For some minutes the cigar smoke floated in a silent room, while
Martin Harrison sat with the knitted brows of concentrated thought.
Spurrier did not interrupt the mental process which he knew had the
heat and power of an ore smelter, reducing to fluid amenability the
hard metal of a stubborn proposition. He knew, too, that the fuel
which fed the fire was his principal's animosity against Trabue,
rather than the possibilities or extent of the loot. This, no less
than the mountain vendetta, was, in last analysis, a personal feud and
in the parlance of the Cumberlands a "war was in ther b'ilin'."

At last Harrison straightened up and tossed away his cigar.

"You are ambitious, Spurrier," he said. "Put this thing over and I
should say that all your ambitions can come to realization."

While he sat waiting Spurrier had lifted from the table a photograph
of Vivien, appropriately framed in silver. He had taken it up idly
because it was a new portrait and one that he had not before seen, but
into the gesture the father read a deeper significance. It was as if
Spurrier had asked "All my ambitions?" and had emphasized his question
by laying his hands on the picture of the girl. That, thought
Harrison, was an audacious suggestion, but it was Spurrier's audacity
that recommended him.

Slowly the capitalist's eyes lighted into an amused smile as their
glance traveled from the younger face to the framed photograph, and
slowly he nodded his head.

"_All_ your ambitions," he repeated meaningly, then with the electric
snap of warning in his voice he added an admonition: "But don't
underestimate the difficulties of your undertaking. You are bucking
the strongest and most relentless piracy in finance. You will incur
enmities that will stop nowhere, and you must operate in a country
where murderers are for 'hire.'"

The threat of personal danger just at that moment disquieted John
Spurrier less than the other curtailment of freedom implied in
Harrison's words; the tacit acceptance of him as Vivien's suitor. It
came to him abruptly that he did not love Vivien; that he wished to
remain untrammeled. Heretofore, he had always postponed matrimonial
thoughts for the misty future. Now they became embarrassingly near and
tangible.

But quick on this realization followed another. Here was an offered
alliance of tremendous advantage and one not to be ignored. To be
Vivien's husband might fail of rapture, but to be Martin Harrison's
son-in-law meant triumph. It meant his own nomination as heir apparent
and successor in that position of cardinal importance to which he had
looked upward as to a throne.

There was no trace of dubiety in his voice as he answered:

"I have counted the handicaps, sir. I'm taking my chance with open
eyes."



CHAPTER IX


Sim Colby, after that day when he had slipped through the laurel, had
gone back to his own house and waited for the talk of John Spurrier's
mysterious death to drift along the waterways where news is the only
speedy traveler.

There had been no such gossip and he had dared betray his interest by
no inquiry, but he knew it could have only one meaning; that he had
failed.

Spurrier was alive, and obviously he was holding his counsel
concerning his narrow escape. This silence seemed to Sim Colby an
ominous thing indicative of some crafty purpose--as if the intended
victim were stalking grimly as well as being stalked. Sim came of a
race that knows how to bide its time and that can keep bright the edge
of hatred against long-delayed reprisals. It was certainly to be
presumed that Spurrier had taken some of his friends into his
confidence and that under the mantle of silence over on Little Turkey
Tail, these friends were now watchfully alert. The enterprise that had
once failed could not be reundertaken at once. Sim must wait for the
vigilance to "blow over," and while he waited the rancor of his hatred
must fester with the thorn-prickings of a thousand doubts and
apprehensions.

Then he heard one day that Spurrier had left the mountains, and on
another day the news was brought that the grand jury had declined to
reopen the old issues of the murder case in which Mosebury had
escaped justice. Both these things were comforting in themselves, but
they failed of complete reassurance for the deserter.

Men said that Spurrier was coming back again, so the day of reckoning
was only deferred--not escaped.

The determination with which Sim had set out on his mission of death
had largely preëmpted his field of thought. Now, after weeks and
months of brooding reflection, he himself had become only a sort of
human garment worn by the sinister spirit of resolve.

So all that winter while John Spurrier was away as the ambassador,
practicing in Moscow and Odessa the adroit arts of financial
diplomacy, the fixed idea of his assassination was festering in the
mind of the man who lived, under an assumed name, at the head of
Little Quicksand.

That obsession took fantastic shapes and wove webs of grotesque
patterns of hate as Colby, who had been Grant, sat brooding before his
untidy hearth while the winter winds wailed about the eaves and lashed
the mountain world into forlorn bleakness.

And while Colby meditated unendingly on the absentee and built ugly
plans against his return, so in another house and in another spirit,
the ex-officer was also remembered.

Winter in these well-nigh roadless hills meant a blockade and a siege
with loneliness and stagnation as the impregnably intrenched
attackers. The victims could only wait and endure until the rescue
forces of spring should come to raise the chill and sodden barricade,
with a flaunting of blossom-banners and the whispered song of warm
victory.

Glory Cappeze, for the first time in her life, suffered from
loneliness. She had thought herself too used to it to mind it much,
but John Spurrier had brought a new element to her existence and left
behind him a void. She had been hardly more than an onlooker to his
occasional visits with her father, but she had been a very interested
onlooker. When he talked a vigorous mind had spoken and had brought
the greater, unknown, outer world to her door. The striking face with
its square jaw; the ingrained graces and courtesies of his bearing;
the quickness of his understanding--all these things had been a light
in the gray mediocrity of uneventful days and a flame that had fired
her imagination to a splendid disquiet.

The infectious smile and force of personality that had been a
challenge to more critical women, had been almost dazzling qualities
to the mountain girl of strangled opportunities.

But it was that last meeting in which he had thawed her shyness into
friendliness that Glory remembered most eagerly. That had seemed to
make of Spurrier not only a hero admired from a distance but a hero
who was also a friend, and she was hungry for friends.

So it came to pass that to these two widely variant welcomes, neither
of which he suspected, John Spurrier was returning from Russia when
spring had lightly brushed the Cumberland slopes with delicate
fragrance and the color of blossoming.

In Louisville, in Frankfort, and in other Kentucky towns along his way
the returning man had made stops and investigations, to the end that
he came primed with certain information of an ex-cathedra sort.

The fruits of this research included an abstract of the personnel of
the legislature and the trend of oil influences in State politics, and
he studied his notebook as he traveled from the rolling, almost
voluptuous fertility of the bluegrass section to the piedmont where
the foothills began to break the sky.

On the porch of the dilapidated hotel at Waterfall a sparse crowd
centered about a seated figure, and when he had reached the spot
Spurrier paused, challenged by a sense of the medieval, that gripped
him as tangibly as a hand clapped upon his shoulder.

The seated man was blind and shabby, with a beggar's cup strapped to
his knee, and a "fiddle" nestling close to the stubbled chin of a
disfigured face. He sang in a weird falsetto, with minors that rose
thin and dolorous, but he was in every essential the ballad singer who
improvised his lays upon topical themes, as did Scott's last
minstrel--a survival of antiquity.

Now he was whining out a personal plaint in the words of his "song
ballet."

  "I used ter hev ther sight ter see ther hills so high an' green,
  I used ter work a standard rig an' drill fer kero_sene_."

The singer's lugubrious pathos appeared to be received with attentive
and uncritical interest. Beyond doubt he took himself seriously and
sadly.

  "I used ter know a woman's love, an' read a woman's eyes,
  An' look into my baby's face an' dwell in paradise,
  Until a comp'ny foreman, plum' heedless in his mind
  Let nitroglycer_een_ explode an' made me go stone blind."

Spurrier, half-turning, saw a traveling salesman standing at his elbow
with a repressed grin of amusement struggling in his glance.

"Queer card, that," whispered the drummer. "I've seen him before; one
of the wrecks left over from the oil-boom days. A 'go-devil' let loose
too soon and blinded him." He paused, then added as though by way of
apology for his seeming callousness: "Some people say the old boy is a
sort of a miser and has a snug pile salted away."

Spurrier nodded and went on into the office, but later in the day he
sought out the blind fiddler and engaged him in conversation. The
man's blinding had left him a legacy of hate for all oil operators,
and from such relics as this of the active days Spurrier knew how to
evoke scraps of available information. It was not until later that it
occurred to him that he had answered questions as well as asked
them--but, of course, he had not been indiscreet.

With John Spurrier, riding across hills afoam with dogwood blossom and
tenderly vivid with young green, went persistently the thought of the
blind beggar who seemed almost epic in his symbolism of human wreckage
adrift in the wake of the boom. Yet he was honest enough to admit
inwardly that should victory fall to his banners there would be
flotsam in the wake of his triumph, too; simple folk despoiled of
their birthright. He came as no altruist to fight for the native
born. He, no less than A. O. and G., sought to exploit them.

When he went to the house of Dyke Cappeze he did not admit the
curiosity, amounting to positive anxiety, to see again the little
barbarian, who slurred consonants, doubled her negatives, split her
infinitives and retorted in the Latin of Blackstone. Yet when Glory
did not at once appear, he found himself unaccountably disappointed.

"There's been another stranger in here since you went away," the old
man smilingly told him. "What is he doing here? That's the one burning
question debated along the highways when men 'meet and make their
manners.'"

"Well," laughed Spurrier, "what _is_ he doing here?"

Cappeze shrugged his bent shoulders as he knocked the rubble from his
pipe and a quizzical twinkle came into his eyes.

"So far as I can make out, sir, he's as much a gentleman of leisure as
you are yourself."

Spurrier knew what an excellent subterfuge may sometimes lie in
frankness, and now he had recourse to its concealment.

"Good heavens, Mr. Cappeze, I'm no idler!" he declared. "I'm
associated with capitalists who work me like a mule. Since I saw you,
for example, I've been in Russia and I've been hard-driven. That's why
I come here. If I couldn't get absolutely away from it all now and
then, I'd soon be ready for a madhouse. Here I can forget all that and
keep fit."

Cappeze nodded. "That's just about the way I sized you up. At first,
folks pondered about you, too, but now they take you on faith."

"I hope so--and this new man? Has he stepped on anybody's toes?"

"Not yet. He hasn't even bought any land, but there have been some
several transfers of property, in other names, since he came. He _may_
be some man's silent partner."

"What sort of partnership would it be?"

"God knows." For an instant the shrewd eyes leaped into a glint of
feeling. "These poor benighted devils suspect the Greeks bearing
gifts. Civilization has always come here only to leave its scar. They
have been stung once--over oil. God pity the man who seeks to sting
them again."

"You think," Spurrier responded lightly, as one without personal
interest, "they wouldn't take it kindly?"

Once again the sonorous and kindly voice mounted abruptly to
vehemence.

"As kindly, sir, as a wolf bitch robbed, the second time, of her
whelps. It's all a wolf bitch has."

That evening as he walked slowly homeward with a neighbor whom he had
met by the way, Spurrier came face to face with Wharton, the other
stranger, and the mountaineer performed the offices of introduction.

The two men from the outer world eyed each other incuriously and
parted after an exchange of commonplaces.

When Spurrier separated from his chance companion, the hillsman
drawled: "Folks _says_ thet feller's buyin' land. God knows what fer
he wants hit, but ef he _does_ hone fer hit, hit's kinderly probable
thet hit's wuth holdin' on to."

When the brook trout began to leap and flash Cappeze delegated Glory
to act for him as Spurrier's guide, and as the girl led the way to the
likeliest pools, the young, straight-growing trees were not more
gracefully slender.

The fragrance from the pink-hearted laurel and the locust bloom had no
delicacy more subtle or provocative than that of her cheeks and hair.
The breeze in the nodding poplar tops seemed scarcely freer or lighter
than her movements. Like the season she was young and in blossom and
like the hills she was wild of beauty.

Spurrier admitted to himself that, were he free to respond to the
pagan and vital promptings of impulse, instead of standing pledged to
rigid and austere purposes, this girl would have made something ring
within him as a tuning fork rings to its note.

Since the days of Augusta Beverly's ascendency, he had never felt the
need of raising any sort of defense between himself and a woman. At
first he had believed himself, with youthful resentment, a woman-hater
and more latterly he had become in this, as in other affairs, an
expedientist. Augusta had proven weak in loyalty, under stress, and
Vivian had been indifferent to the ostracism of his former comrades so
long as her own aristocracy of money accepted him. Both had been snobs
in a sense, and in a sense he too was a snob.

But because this girl was of a simplicity that regarded all things in
their primary colors and nothing in the shaded half-tones of politer
usage, it was needful to guard against her mistaking his proffered
comradeship for the attitude of the lover--and that would have been
most disastrous. It would have made necessary awkward explanations
that would wound her, embarrass him and arouse the old man's just ire.
For people, he was learning, may be elementally uncouth and yet
prouder than Lucifer, and except when he was here on their own ground
there was no common meeting place between their standards of living.

Yet Glory's presence was like a gypsy-song to his senses; rich and
lyrical with a touch of the plaintive. Glory, he knew, would have
believed in him when Augusta Beverly had doubted, and would have stood
fast when Augusta had cut loose.

This was the sort of thought with which it was dangerous to dally--and
perhaps that was precisely why, under this tuneful sky, it pleased him
to humor it. Certainly, whatever the cause, the sight of her made him
step more elastically as she went on ahead.

When they had whipped the streams for trout until hunger clamored,
Spurrier sat, with a sandwich in his hand in grass that waved
knee-high, and through half closed lids watched Glory as she moved
about crooning an old ballad, and seemingly unconscious of himself,
herself and all but the sunlit spirit of the early summer day.

"Glory," he said suddenly, calling her by her given name for the first
time and in a mood of experiment.

As naturally as though she had not noted his lapsed formality, she
turned toward him and answered in kind.

"What air hit, Jack?"

"Thank you."

"What fer?"

"For calling me Jack."

Then her cheeks colored deeply and she wheeled to her work again. But
after a little she faced him once more to say half angrily:

"I called ye Jack because ye called me Glory. You've always put a Miss
afore hit till now, an' I 'lowed ye'd done made up yore mind ter be
friendly at last."

"I've always wanted to be friendly," he assured her. "It was you who
began with a hickory switch and went on with hard words in Latin."

The girl laughed, and the peal of her mirth transmuted their status
and dispelled her self-consciousness. She came over and stood looking
down at him with violet eyes mischievously a-sparkle.

"The co'te," she announced, "hes carefully weighed there evidence in
ther case of Jack Spurrier, charged with ther willful murder of Bob
White, and is ready to enter jedgment. Jack Spurrier, stand up ter be
sentenced!"

The man rose to his feet and stood with such well-feigned abjectness
of suspense that she had to fight back the laughter from her eyes to
preserve her own pose of judicial gravity.

"It is well established by the evidence befo' ther co'te," she went
solemnly on, "thet ther defendant is guilty on every count contained
in the indictment." She checked off upon the fingers of the left hand
the roster of his crime as she summarized it.

"He entered inter an unlawful conspiracy with the codefendant Rover, a
setter dawg. He made a felonious assault without provocation. He
committed murder in the first degree with malice prepense."

Spurrier's head sank low in mock despair, until Glory came to her
peroration and sentence.

"Yet since the defendant is amply proved to be a poor, ignorant
wanderer upon the face of the earth, unpossessed of ordinary
knowledge, the court is constrained to hold him incapable of
discrimination between right an' wrong. Hence he is not fully
responsible for his acts of violence. Mercy as well as justice lies in
the province of the law, twins of a sacred parentage and equal before
the throne."

She broke off in a laugh, and so sudden was the transition from
absolute mimicry that the man forgot to laugh with her.

"Glory," he demanded somewhat breathlessly, "have you ever been to a
theater in your life? Have you ever seen a real actress?"

"No. Why?"

"Because you _are_ one. Does this life satisfy you? Isn't there
anything off there beyond the hills that ever calls you?"

The dancing eyes grew abruptly grave, almost pained, and the response
came slowly.

"_Everything_ down thar calls ter me. I craves hit all!"

Spurrier suddenly recalled old Cappeze's half-frightened vehemence
when the recluse had inveighed against the awakening of vain longings
in his daughter. Now he changed his manner as he asked:

"I wonder if I'd offend you if I put a question. I don't want to."

"Ye mout try an' see. I ain't got no power ter answer twell I hears
hit."

"All right. I'll risk it. Your father doesn't talk mountain dialect.
His English is pure--and you were raised close to him. Why do _you_
use--the other kind?"

She did not at once reply and, when she did, the astonishingly
adaptable creature no longer employed vernacular, though she spoke
slowly and guardedly as one might who ventured into a foreign tongue.

"My father has lived down below as well as here. He's a gentleman, but
he aims--I mean he intends--to live here now till he dies."

As she paused Spurrier prompted her.

"Yes--and you?"

"My father thinks that while I _do_ live here, I'd better fit into the
life and talk in the phrases that don't seem high-falutin' to my
neighbors."

"I dare say," he assured her with forced conviction, "that your father
is right."

There was a brief silence between them while the warm stillness of the
woods breathed its incense and its langour, then the girl broke out
impulsively:

"I want to see and hear and taste everything, out there!"

Her hands swept outward with an all-embracing gesture toward the whole
of the unknown. "There aren't any words to tell how I want it! What do
you want more than anything else, Jack?"

The man remained silent for a little, studying her under half-lowered
lids while a smile hovered at the corners of his lips. But the smile
died abruptly and it was with deep seriousness that he answered.

"I think, more than anything else, I want a clean name and a
vindicated reputation."

Glory's eyes widened so that their violet depths became pools of
wondering color and her lips parted in surprise.

"A clean name!" she echoed incredulously. "What blight have you got on
it, Jack?" Then catching herself up abruptly she flushed crimson and
said apologetically: "That's a question I haven't any license to put
to you, though. Only you broached the subject yourself."

"And having broached it, I am willing to pursue it," he assured her
evenly. "I was an army officer until I was charged with unprovoked
murder--and court-martialed; dishonorably discharged from the service
in which my father and grandfather had lived and died."

For a moment or two she made no answer but her quick expressiveness of
lip and eye did not, even for a startled interval, betray any shock of
horror. When she did speak it was in a voice so soft and compassionate
that the man thought of its quality before he realized its words.

"Did the man that--that was _really_ guilty go scot free, whilst you
had to shoulder his blame?"

There had been no question of evidence; no waiting for any denial of
guilt. She had assumed his innocence with the same certainty that her
eye assumed the flawlessness of the overheard blue. Her interest was
all for his wronging and not at all for his alleged wrong.

The man started with surprise; the surprise of one who had trained
himself into an unnatural callousness as a defense against what had
seemed a universal proneness to convict. He had told himself that
Glory would see with a straighter and more intuitive eye. He had told
her baldly of the thing which he seldom mentioned out of an
inquisitiveness to test her reaction to the revelation, but he was
unprepared for such unhesitant belief.

"I think you are the first human being, Glory," he said quietly but
with unaccustomed feeling in his voice, "who ever heard that much and
gave me a clean bill of health without hearing a good bit more. Why
didn't you ask whether or not I was guilty?"

"I didn't have to," she said slowly. "Some men could be murderers and
some couldn't. You couldn't. You might have to _kill_ a man--but not
murder him. You might do lots of things that wouldn't be right. I
don't know about that--but those people that convicted you were
fools!"

"Thank you," he said soberly. "You're right, Glory. I was as innocent
of that assassination as you are, yet they proved me guilty. It was
only through influence that I escaped ending my days in prison."

Then he gave her the story, which he had already told her father and
no one else in the mountains. She listened, thinking not at all of the
damaging circumstances, but secretly triumphant that she had been
chosen as a confidant.

But that night Spurrier looked up from a letter he was reading and let
his eyes wander to the rafters and his thoughts to the trout stream.

It was a letter, too, which should have held his attention. It
contained, on a separate sheet of paper, a list of names which was
typed and headed: "Confidential Memorandum." Below that appeared the
notation: "Members of the general assembly, under American Oil and Gas
influence. Also names of candidates who oppose them at the next
election, and who may be reached by us."

Spurrier lighted his pipe and his face became studious, but presently
he looked up frowning.

"I must speak to old Cappeze," he said aloud and musingly. "He's being
unfair to her." And that did not seem a relevant comment upon the
paper he held in his hand.

Then Spurrier started a little as from outside a human voice sounded
above the chorus of the frogs and whippoorwills.

"Hallo," it sung out. "Hit's Blind Joe Givins. Kin I come in?"

A few minutes later into the lamplight of the room shambled the beggar
of the disfigured face, whom Spurrier had last seen at the town of
Waterfall, led by a small, brattish boy. His violin case was tightly
grasped under his arm, and his free hand was groping.

"I'd done sot out ter visit a kinsman over at ther head of Big Wolfpen
branch," explained the blind man, "but ther boy hyar's got a stone
bruise on his heel an' he kain't handily go on, ter-night. We wonder
could we sleep hyar?"

Spurrier bowed to the law of the mountains, which does not deny
shelter to the wayfarer, but he shivered fastidiously at the unkempt
raggedness of his tramp-like visitor, and he slipped into his pocket
the papers in his hand.

That night before Spurrier's hearth, as in elder times before the
roaring logs of some feudal castle, the wandering minstrel paid his
board with song and music; his voice rising high and tremulous in
quaint tales set to measure.

But on the next morning the boy set out on some mission in the
neighborhood and left his charge to await his return, seated in a low
chair, and gazing emptily ahead.

Spurrier went out to the road in response to the shout of a passing
neighbor, and left his papers lying on the table top, forgetful of the
presence of the sightless guest, who sat so negligibly quiet in the
chimney corner.

When he entered the room again the blind man had risen from his seat
and moved across to the hearth. On the threshold the householder
halted and stood keenly eyeing him while he groped along the mantel
shelf as if searching with wavering fingers for something that his
eyes could not discover--and the thought of the papers which he had
left exposed caused an uneasy suspicion to dart into Spurrier's mind.
Any eye that fell on that list would have gained the key to his whole
strategy and intent, but, of course, this man could not see. Still
Spurrier cursed himself for a careless fool.

"I was jest seekin' fer a match," said Joe Givins as a slight sound
from the other attracted his attention. "I aimed ter smoke for a
leetle spell."

The host struck a match and held it while the broken guest kindled his
pipe, then he hurriedly glanced through his papers to assure himself
that nothing had been disturbed--and though each sheet seemed as he
had left it, the uneasiness in Spurrier's mind refused to be stilled.

Presumably this bat-blind ragamuffin was no greater menace to the
secrecy of his plans than a bat itself would have been, yet a glimpse
of this letter would have been so fatal that he asked himself
anxiously, "How do I know he's not faking?" The far-fetched
apprehension gathered weight like a snowslide until suddenly out of it
was born a grim determination.

He would make a test.

Noiselessly, while the ugly face that had been mutilated by a blasting
charge gazed straight and sightlessly at him, Spurrier opened the
table drawer and took from it a heavy calibered automatic pistol. It
was a deadly looking thing and it needed no cocking; only the silent
slipping forward of a safety catch. In this experiment Spurrier must
not startle his guest by any ominous sound, but he must satisfy
himself that his sight was genuinely dead.

"I thought," said the host in a matter-of-fact voice as he searchingly
studied the other face through narrowed lids, "that when sight went,
the enjoyment of tobacco went with it." As he spoke he raised and
leveled the cocked pistol until its muzzle was pointed full into the
staring face. Deliberately he set his own features into the baleful
stamp of deadly threat, until his expression was as wicked and ugly as
a gargoyle of hatred.

If the man were by any possibility shamming it would take cold nerve
to sit there without any hint of confession as this unwarned
demonstration was made against him--a demonstration that seemed
genuine and murderous. For an instant Spurrier fancied that he heard
the breath rasp in the other's throat, but that, he realized, must
have been fancy. The face itself altered no line of expression,
flickered no eyelid. It remained as it had been, stolid and blank, so
that the man with the pistol felt ashamed of his suspicion.

But Spurrier rose and leaned across the table slowly advancing the
muzzle until it almost touched the bridge of the nose, just between
the eyes he was so severely testing. Still no hint of realization came
from the threatened guest. Then the voice of the blind man sounded
phlegmatically:

"That's what folks say erbout terbaccy an' blind men--but, by
crickety, hit _ain't so_."

John Spurrier withdrew his pistol and put it back in the drawer.

"I guess," he said to himself, "he didn't read my letters."



CHAPTER X


Across a tree-shaded public square from the courthouse and "jail
house" at Carnettsville stood a building that wore the dejected guise
of uncomforted old age, and among the business signs nailed about its
entrance was the shingle bearing the name of "Creed Faggott, Atty. at
Law."

The way to this oracle's sanctum lay up a creaking stairway, and on a
brilliant summer day not long after Spurrier had entertained his blind
guest it was climbed by that guest in person, led by the impish boy
whose young mouth was stained with chewing-tobacco.

This precocious child opened the door and led his charge in and, from
a deal table, Creed Faggott removed his broganned feet and turned sly
eyes upon the visitors, out of a cadaverous and furtive face.

"You don't let no grass grow under your feet, do you, Joe?" inquired
the lawyer shortly. "When the day rolls round, you show up without
default or miscarriage." He paused as the boy led the blind man to a
chair and then facetiously capped his interrogation. "I reckon I don't
err in surmisin' that you've come to collect your pension?"

The blind man gazed vacantly ahead. "Who, me?" he inquired with
half-witted dullness.

"Yes, you. Who else would I mean?"

"Hit's due, ain't hit--my money?"

"Due at noon to-day and noon is still ten minutes off. I'm not sure
the company didn't make a mistake in allowing you such a generous
compensation for your accident." There was a pause, then Faggott added
argumentatively: "Your damage suit would have come to naught, most
likely."

"Thet ain't ther way ye talked when I lawed ther comp'ny," whined the
blind man. "Ye 'peared to be right ambitious ter settle outen co'te in
them days, Mr. Faggott."

"The company didn't want the thing hanging on. They got cold feet.
Well, I'll give you your check."

"I'd ruther have hit in cash money--silver money," stipulated the
recipient of the compromise settlement. "I kin count _thet_ over by
ther feel of hit."

Faggott snorted his disgust but he deposited in the outstretched palm
the amount that fell due on each quarterly pay day, and the visitor
thumbed over every coin and tested the edges of all with his teeth.
After that, instead of rising to go, he sat silently reflective.

"That's all, ain't it," demanded the attorney, and something like a
pallid grin lifted the lip corners in the blind man's ugly face.

"Not quite all," replied Joe Givins as he shook his head. "No, thar's
one other leetle matter yit. I'd love ter hev ye write me a letter ter
ther comp'ny's boss-man in Looeyville. I kinderly aims ter go thar an'
see him."

This time it was the attorney who, with an incredulity-freighted
voice, demanded: "Who, you?"

"Yes, sir. Me."

"The Louisville manager," announced Faggott loftily, "is a man of
affairs. The company conducts its business here through its local
counsel--that's me."

"Nevertheless an' notwithstandin', I reckon hit'll kinderly pleasure
ther boss-man ter talk ter _me_--when he hears what I've got ter tell
him."

A light of greed quickened in the shyster's narrow eyes. It was
possible that Blind Joe had come by some scrap of salable information.
It had been stipulated when his damage suit was settled, that he
should, paradoxically speaking, keep his blind eyes open.

"See here, Joe," the attorney, no longer condescending of bearing,
spoke now with a wheedling insistence, "if you've got any tidings,
tell 'em to me. I'm your friend and I can get the matter before the
parties that hold the purse strings."

Joe Givins stretched out a wavering hand and groped before him. "Lead
me on outen hyar, boy," he gave laconic command to his youthful
varlet. "I'm tarryin' overlong an' wastin' daylight."

"What's daylight to you, Joe?" snapped Faggott brutally, but
recognizing his mistake he, at once, softened his manner to a mollifying
tone. "Set still a spell an' let's have speech tergether--an' a little
dram of licker."

Ten minutes of nimble-witted fencing ensued between the two sons
of avarice, and at their end the blind man stumped out, carrying
in his breast pocket a note of introduction to a business man
in Louisville--whose real business was lobbying and directing
underground investigations--but the lawyer was no wiser than he
had been.

And when eventually from the murky lobby of the Farmers' Haven Hotel,
which sits between distillery warehouses in Louisville, the shabby
mountaineer was led to the office building he sought, he was received
while more presentable beings waited in an anteroom.

It chanced that on the same day John Spurrier spoke to Dyke Cappeze of
Glory.

"When we went fishing," he said, "I asked her whether she never felt a
curiosity for the things beyond the ridges--and her eagerness startled
me."

An abrupt seriousness overspread the older face and the answering
voice was sternly pitched.

"I should be profoundly distressed, sir," said Cappeze, "to have
discontent brought home to her. I should resent it as unfriendly and
disloyal."

"And yet," Spurrier's own voice was quickened into a more argumentative
timber, "she has a splendid vitality that it's a pity to crush."

"She has," came the swift retort, "a contented heart which it's a pity
to unsettle."

The elder eyes hardened and looked out over the wall of obstinacy that
had immured Dyke Cappeze's life, but his words quivered to a tremor of
deep feeling.

"I've given her an education of sorts. She knows more law than some
judges, and if she's ignorant of the world of to-day she's got a
bowing acquaintance with the classics. I'm not wholly selfish. If
there was some one--down below that I could send her to--some one who
would love her enough because she needs to be loved--I'd stay here
alone, and willingly, despite the fact that it would well-nigh kill
me." He paused there and his eyes were broodingly somber, then almost
fiercely he went on: "I would trust her in no society where she might
be affronted or belittled. I would rather see her live and die here,
talking the honest, old crudities of the pioneers, than have her
venture into a life where she could not make her own terms."

"Perhaps she could make her own terms," hazarded Spurrier, and the
other snapped his head up indignantly.

"Perhaps--yes--and perhaps not. You yourself are a man of the world,
sir. What would--one of your own sort--have to offer her out there?"

Under that challenging gaze the man from the East found himself
flushing. It was almost as though under the hypothetical form of the
question, the father had bluntly warned him off from any interference
unless he came as an avowed suitor. He had no answer and again the
lawyer spoke with the compelling force of an ultimatum.

"She must stay here with me, who would die for her, until she goes to
some man who offers her everything he has to offer; some man who would
die for her, too." His voice had fallen into tenderness, but a stern
ring went with his final words. "Meanwhile, I stand guard over her
like a faithful dog. I may be old and scarred but, by God, sir, I am
vigilant and devoted!" He waved his thin hand with a gesture of
dismissal for a closed subject, and in a changed tone added:

"I've recently heard of two other travelers riding through--and they
have taken up several land options."

"What meaning do you read into it, Mr. Cappeze?"

The lawyer shrugged his shoulders. If he had no explanation to offer,
it was plain that he did not regard the coming of the strangers as
meaningless.

"I'm going," said Spurrier casually, "to make a trip up Snake Fork to
the head of Little Quicksand. Is there any one up there I can call on
for lodging and information?"

The lawyer shook his head. "It's a mighty rough country and sparsely
settled. You'll find a lavish of rattlesnakes--and a few unlettered
humans. There's a fellow up there named Sim Colby who might shelter
you overnight. He lives by himself, and has a roof that sheds the
rain. It's about all you can ask."

"It's enough," smiled Spurrier, and a few days later he found himself
climbing a stiff ascent toward a point where over the tree-tops a
thread of smoke proclaimed a human habitation.

He was coming unannounced to the house of Sim Colby, but if he had
expected his visit to be an entire surprise he was mistaken, and if he
had known the agitation that went a little way ahead of him, he would
have made a wide detour and passed the place by.

Sim was hoeing in his steeply pitched field when he saw and recognized
the figure which was yet a half-hour's walk distant, by the
meanderings of the trail. The hoe fell from his hand and his posture
stiffened so inimically that the hound at his feet rose and bristled,
a low growl running half smothered in its throat.

Doubtless, Colby reasoned, Spurrier was coming to his lonely house
with a purpose of venom and punishment, yet he walked boldly and to
the outward glance he seemed unarmed. Hence it must be that in the
former army officer's plan lay some intent more complex than mere
open-and-shut meeting and slaying: some carefully planned and guileful
climax to be approached by indirection. Very well, he would also play
the game out, burying his suspicion under a guise of artlessness, but
watching every move--and when the moment came striking first.

At a brook, as he hastened toward his house by a short cut, he knelt
to drink, for his throat was damnably dry, and in the clear water the
pasty pallor and terror of his face was given back to him, and warned
him. But also the mirroring brought another thought and the thought
fathered swift action. In the army he had been spare and clean-shaven
and a scar had marked his chin. Now he was bearded. He carried a
beefier bulk and an altered appearance.

Could there be any possibility of Spurrier's failing to recognize
him--of his having been, after all, ignorant of his presence here?

Yet his eyes would be recognizable. They were arrestingly distinctive,
for one of them was pale-blue and the other noticeably grayish.

By the path he was following, stalks of Jimson weed grew rank, and
Sim, rising from his knees, pulled off a handful of leaves and crushed
them between his palms. When he had reached the house his first action
was to force from this bruised leafage a few drops of liquid into a
saucer and this juice he carefully injected into his eyes.

Then he went to the door and squinted up at the sun. It would be
fifteen minutes before Spurrier would arrive and fifteen minutes might
be enough. He half closed his eyes, because they were stinging
painfully, and sat waiting, to all appearances indolent and
thoughtless.

Spurrier plodded on, measuring the distance to the smoke thread until
he came in view of the cabin itself, then he approached slowly since
the stiff climb had winded him.

Now he could see the shingle roof and the log walls, trailed over with
morning-glory vines, and in the door the slouching figure of a man. He
came on and the native rose lazily.

"My name's John Spurrier," called out the traveler, "and Lawyer
Cappeze cited you to me as a man who might shelter me overnight."

The man who had deserted chewed nonchalantly on a grass straw and
regarded the other incuriously--which was a master bit of dissembling.
Between them, it seemed to Sim Colby who had once been Private Grant,
lay the body of a murdered captain. Between them, too, lay the guilt
of his assassination. To the Easterner's appraisal this heavy-set
mountaineer with unkempt hair and ragged beard was merely a local type
and yet in one respect he was unforgettable.

It was his eyes. They were arrestingly uncommon eyes and, once seen,
they must be remembered. What was the quality that made one notice
them so instantly, Spurrier questioned himself. Then he realized.

They were inkily black eyes, but that was not all. There seemed to be
in them no line of demarcation between iris and pupil--only liquid
pools of jet.

The two men sat there as the shadows lengthened and talked "plumb
friendly" as Colby later admitted to himself. They smoked Spurrier's
"fotched-on" tobacco and drank native distillation from the demijohn
that Colby took down from its place on a rafter. Yet the host was
filling each tranquilly flowing minute with the intensive planning of
a hospitality that was, like Macbeth's, to end in murder.

Spurrier would sleep in an alcovelike room which could be locked from
the outside. Back through the brush was a spot of quicksand where a
body would leave no trace. One thing only troubled the planning brain.
He wished he could learn just who knew of his guest's coming here;
just what precautions that guest had taken before embarking on such a
venture.

From outside came a shout, interrupting these reflections, and Sim was
at once on his feet facing the front door, with a surreptitious hand
inside his shirt, and one eye covertly watching Spurrier, even as he
looked out. A snarl, too, drew his lips into an unpleasant twist.

The Easterner put down to mountain caution the amazing swiftness with
which the other had come from his hulking proneness to upstanding
alertness. But with equal rapidity, Sim's pose relaxed into ease and
he shouted a welcome as the door darkened with a figure physically
splendid in its spare strength and commanding height.

Spurrier rose and found himself looking into a face with most engaging
eyes and teeth that flashed white in smiling.

For a moment as the newcomer gazed at Sim Colby his expression
mirrored some sort of surprise and his lips moved as if to speak, but
Spurrier could not see, because Colby's back was turned, the warning
glance that shot between the two, and the big fellow's lips closed
again without giving utterance to whatever he had been on the point of
saying--something to do with eyes that had mystifyingly changed their
color.

"Mister Spurrier, this hyar's Sam Mosebury," announced the host.
"Mebby ye mout of heered tell of him."

Spurrier nodded. So this was the outlaw against whose terrorism old
Cappeze had broken his Quixote lances, the windmill that had unhorsed
him; the man with a criminal record at which a wild region trembled.

"I've heered tell of Mr. Spurrier, too," vouchsafed the murderer
equably. "He's a friend of old Dyke Cappeze's."

The "furriner" made no denial. Though he had been sitting with his
head in the jaws of death ever since he entered this door, it had been
without any presentiment of danger. Now he felt the menace of this
terrorist's presence, and that menace was totally fictitious.

"Mr. Cappeze has befriended me," he answered stiffly. "I reckon that's
not a recommendation to you, is it?"

The man who had newly entered laughed. He drew a chair forward and
seated himself.

"I reckon, Mr. Spurrier, hit ain't none of my business one way ner
t'other," he said. "Anyhow, hit ain't no reason why you an' me kain't
be friends, is hit?"

"It doesn't make any difficulty with me," laughed Spurrier in relief,
"if it doesn't with you."

Sam Mosebury looked at him, then his voice came with a dry chuckle of
humor.

"Over at my dwellin' house," he announced with a pleasant drawl, "I've
got me a pet mockin'-bird--an' I've got me a pet cat, too. Ther three
of us meks up ther fam'ly over thar."

Spurrier looked at the strong-featured face as he prompted, "Yes?"

"Waal," Sam Mosebury waved his hand, and even his gestures had a
spacious bigness about them, "ef God Almighty didn't see fit fer
thet thar bird an' thet thar cat ter love one another--I don't seek
ter alter His plan. Nonetheless I sets a passel of store by both of
'em." He filled his pipe, then his words became musing, possibly
allegorical. "Mebby some day I'll _ree_lax a leetle mite too much in
watchin' an' then I reckon ther cat'll kill ther bird--but thet's
accordin' ter nature, too, an' deespite I'll grieve some, I won't
disgust ther cat none."

That night Spurrier lay on the same shuck-filled mattress with the
man whom the law had not been strong enough to hang, and for a
while he remained wakeful, reflecting on the strangeness of his
bed-fellowship.

But, had he known it, his life was saved that night because the
murderer had arrived and provided an interfering presence when the
plans on foot required solitude.



CHAPTER XI


Perhaps old Cappeze had spoken too late when he sounded his sharp
warning to the newcomer against unsettling the simple contentment of
his daughter's mind. Always realizing his transient status in the
aloofness of this life, Spurrier had scrupulously guarded his contact
with the girl who belonged to it and who had no prospect of escaping
it. He had sought to behave to her as he might have behaved to a
child, with grave or gay friendliness untouched by those gallantries
that might have been misunderstood, yet treating her intelligence with
full and adult equality.

But his inclination to see more of her than formerly was one that he
indulged because it gave him pleasure and because a failure to do so
would have had the aspect of churlishness.

Those self-confessed traces of snobbery that adhered to this courtier
at the throne of wealth, were attributes of which the girl saw
nothing. Neither did she see the shell of cynicism which Spurrier had
cultivated and this was not because her insight failed of keenness,
but because in these surroundings they were dormant qualities.

The self that he displayed here was the self of the infectious smile,
of the frank boldness and good humor that had made him beloved among
his army mess-mates before these more gracious qualities had been
winter-killed by misfortune.

So he was the picturesque and charming version of himself, and he
became to Glory an object of hero worship, whose presence made the day
eventful and whose intervals of absence were filled with dreams of his
next coming.

It was about this time that John Spurrier, the "opportunity hound,"
made a disquieting discovery. It came upon him one night as he sat on
the porch of Dyke Cappeze's log house at twilight, with pipes glowing
and seductive influences stealing into the senses. Daylight color had
faded to the mistiness of tarnished silver except for a lemon
afterglow above western ridges that were violet-gray, and the evening
star was a single lantern hanging softly luminous, where soon there
would be many others.

Cadenced and melodious as a lullaby fraught with the magic of the
solitudes, the night song of frog and whippoorwill rose stealingly out
of silence, and the materialist who had been city bound so much since
conviction of crime had shadowed his life discovered the thing which
threatened danger.

It came to him as his eyes met those of Glory, who sat in the doorway
itself--since she, at least, need not fear to show her face to any
lurking rifleman.

The yellow lamplight from within outlined the lovely contour of her
rounded cheek and throat and livened her hair, but it was not only her
undeniable beauty that caused Spurrier sudden anxiety. It was the eyes
and what he read in them. Instantly as their gazes engaged she dropped
her glance but, in the moment before she had masked her expression,
Spurrier knew that she had fallen in love with him. The eyes had said
it in that instant when he had surprised them. They had immediately
seized back their secret and hidden it away, but not in time.

The opportunity hound rose and knocked the ash from his pipe. He
wondered whether old Dyke Cappeze, sitting there inscrutable and dimly
shaped in the shadows, had shared his discovery--that grizzled old
watchdog who was not too far gone to fight for his own with the
strength of his yellowed fangs.

The visitor shook hands and walked moodily home, and as he went he
sought to dismiss the matter from his mind. It was all a delusion, he
assured himself; some weird psychological quirk born of a man's innate
vanity; incited by a girl's physical allurement. He would go to sleep
and to-morrow he would laugh at the moonshine problem. But he did not
find it so easy to sleep. He remembered one of those men in the
islands who had become a melancholiac. The fellow had been normal at
one moment; then without warning something like an impenetrable shadow
had struck across him. He had never come out of the shadow. So this
disquiet--though it was abnormal elation rather than melancholy, had
suddenly become a fact with himself, and instead of dismissing it
Spurrier found himself reacting to it. Not only was Glory Cappeze in
love with him but--absurdity of absurdities--he was in love with
Glory!

It was as irreconcilable with all the logic of his own nature as any
conceivable thing could be, yet it was undeniably true.

But Spurrier had been there in the hills when summer had overcome
winter. He had seen trickles of water grow into freshets and feed
rivers. He had seen clouds as large as one's hand swell abruptly into
tempests that cannonaded mightily through the peaks, with the lashing
of torrents, the sting of lightnings, and the onsweep of hurricanes.
He had seen the pink flower of laurel and rhododendron make fragrant
magic over wastes of chocolate and slag-gray mountain sides, and in
himself something akin to these elemental forces had declared itself.
He found himself two men, and though he swore resolutely that his
brain should dominate and govern, he also recognized in himself the
man of new-born impulses who drew the high air into his chest with a
keen elation, and who wanted to laugh at the artificial things that
life has wrought into its structure of accepted civilization.

That insurgent part of himself found a truer congeniality in the
company of grizzled old Dyke Cappeze than that of Martin Harrison; a
stronger comradeship in the frank laugh of Glory than in the cool
intelligence of Vivien's smile.

Glory's brain was as alert as quicksilver, and her heart as high and
clean as the hills. Yet in his own world these two would be as
unplaced as gypsies strayed from their dilapidated caravan. Moreover,
it was ordained that he was to win his game and upon him was to be
conferred an accolade--the hand, in marriage, of his principal's
daughter.

Spurrier laughed a little grimly to himself. Of the woman whose hand
had been half-promised him he could think dispassionately and of this
other, whom he could not take with him into his world of artificial
values, he could not think at all without a pounding of pulses and a
tumult which he thought he had left behind him with his early youth.

In character and genuine metal of mind, Glory was the superior of most
of those women he knew, yet because she was country bred and trained
to a code that did not obtain elsewhere, she could no more be removed
from her setting than a blooming eidelweiss could be successfully
transplanted in a conservatory. He himself was fixed into a certain
place which he had attained by fighting his way, in the figurative
sense at least, over the bodies of the less successful and the less
enduring. It was too late for him to transplant himself, and he and
she were plants of differing soil, as though one were a snow flower
and one a tropic growth.

Also there were immediate things of which to think, such as an
unexpired threat upon his life.

Already he had escaped the assassin's first effort, and he had no
guess where the enmity lay which had actuated that attack. That it
still existed and would strike again he had a full realization. He was
not walking in the shadow of dread but, because he knew of the menace
lurking where all the faces were friendly, he had begun to feel that
companionship of suspense: that nearness of something in hiding under
which men lived here; and under which women grew old in their
twenties.

And it is not given to a man to live under such conditions, and remain
the man who fights only across mahogany tabletops in offices. Yet John
Spurrier scornfully reasoned that if he could not remain himself even
in a new and altered habitat, he was a weakling, and he had no
intention of proving a weakling.

His hand had grasped the plow-haft and, for the present, at least, his
loyalty belonged to his undertaking.

This inward conflict went with him as he rode across the singing hills
to gather up his mail at the nearest post office and he told himself,
"I am a fool to ponder it."

Then his thoughts ran on: "It is dwelling on factitious things that
gives them force. Life presents a Janus aspect of the double-faced at
times, but a man must choose his way and ignore the turnings. Glory
has pure charm. She has a quick mind and a captivating beauty, but so
far as I'm concerned, she is simply out of the picture. I could be mad
about her, if I let myself--but presumably I am not adrift on a gulf
stream of emotionalism."

When he had spent an hour in the dusty little town and turned again
into the coolness of the hills, he dismounted under the shade of a
"cucumber tree" and glanced through those letters that were still
unopened. One envelope was addressed in a hand that tantalized memory
with a half sense of the familiar, and Spurrier's brow contracted in
perplexity.

Then his face grew abruptly grave. "By heavens!" he exclaimed. "It's
Withers--Major Withers! What can he be writing about?"

He opened it and drew out the sheet of paper, and, as he read, his
expression went through the gamut of surprise and incredulity to a
settled sternness of purpose that made his face stony.

"If it's true," he exclaimed, "the man is mine to kill! No, not to
kill, either, but to take alive at all costs."

He stood for a moment, his sinewy body answering to a tremor of deeply
shaken emotion. Had he been mountain-bred and feud-nurtured, the
sinister glitter of his eyes could have been no more relentless. He
was for that moment a man dedicating himself to the blood oath of
vengeance.

Then he composed his features and smoothed out the letter that his
clenched fingers had unconsciously crumpled. Again he read what Major
Withers had to say:

  I am writing because though I infer that you have succeeded in
  material ways, I have heard nothing of your progress in clearing
  your name and I know that until that is accomplished, no success
  will be complete for you.

  Quite recently I have had as my striker a fellow named Wiley, who
  used to be in your platoon--and I have talked with him a good bit.
  Not long ago he declared to me his belief that Private Grant who
  is listed as officially dead, did _not_ die in the Islands.

  He seems to think that Grant made a clean getaway and went back to
  the Kentucky mountains from which he came. He confesses that he
  gets this idea from nothing more tangible than casual hints
  dropped by Private Severance, whose discharge came shortly after
  you left us, yet his impression is so strong as to amount to
  conviction. Possibly if you could trace Severance you might learn
  something. It's a vague clew, I admit, but I pass it along to you
  for whatever it may be worth.

Slowly, as though his tireless limbs had grown suddenly old, Spurrier
mounted and rode on with reins hanging. He was so deep in thought that
he forgot the other unopened letters in his pocket.

Grant might be in these same hills with himself; Grant upon whom his
counsel had sought to place the blame for the murder of Captain
Comyn. If they could meet alone for the period of a brief interview,
either that question would be finally answered or in the reckoning one
of them would have to die.

But how to trace him in this ragged territory covering a great and
broken area--a territory which God had seemed to build, as a haven and
a hiding place for men who sought concealment? Grant would in all
likelihood see him first and--he entertained no illusions as to the
result--the deserter would kill him on sight. On the other hand, it
would do Spurrier no good to kill Grant. If Grant were to serve him it
must be with a confession wrung from living lips, and on oath.

Of course, too, the years would have changed Grant so that if they
came face to face he would probably fail to recognize the man he had
known only in khaki.

The scarred chin? A beard would obliterate that. The stature? Added
weight or lost weight would make it seem another man's.

By processes of elimination Spurrier culled over the possibilities
until at length his glance brightened.

In one particular Private Grant could scarcely disguise himself. His
eyes were in a fashion mismated. One was light gray and one pale blue.
Yes, if ever they met he would have his clew in that.

And that memory reminded him that he had recently been impressed to an
unusual degree by a pair of eyes. Whose were they? Oh, yes, he
remembered now. It was the man at whose house he had met Sam
Mosebury--Sim Colby who dwelt over beyond Clubfoot Branch.

But Colby's eyes had been noticeable by reason of their extraordinary
blackness. So that only helped him in so far as it enabled him to
eliminate from all the thousands of possible men the one man, Sim
Colby.

The afternoon had spent itself toward sunset as he dismounted and
stabled his horse, and it was with a face still somberly thoughtful
that he fitted his key into the padlock which held his door and
entered.

The interior was dusky in contrast with the outer light, but from one
window a shaft of golden radiance slanted inward and in it the dust
motes danced.

Spurrier paused and glanced about him, but before he had thrown down
the hat he had taken from his perspiring forehead, a sound hideously
unmistakable caused his heartbeat to miss its rhythm and pound in
commotion.

Every man has his one terror, or, at least, one antipathy which he is
unable to treat with customary calmness. With Spurrier it was
everything reptilian. In the islands he had dreaded the snake menace
more than fever or head hunters. Now, from the darkened floor near his
feet came the vicious whir of rattles, and as his eyes flashed toward
the sound he saw coiled there a huge snake with its flat, arrow-shaped
head sinuously waving from side to side.

With an agility made lightning-quick by necessity, he leaped aside
and, at the same instant, the snake launched itself with such venomous
force that the sound of its striking and falling on the puncheon floor
was like the lashing of a mule whip. The man had felt the disturbed
air of its passing as of a sword stroke that had narrowly missed him.

But he had no leisure to regain the breath that had caught startled
in his throat, before, from his left, he heard again the ominous note
of warning, and felt his scalp creep with horror. The place which he
had left locked and believed to be mosquito proof, now seemed alive
with the loathsome trespassers.

As Spurrier leaped for his couch he heard again the sound of a living
coil released and its hawserlike lashing of the floor. Now he could
see more plainly and, calculating his distance, he jumped for the
table from which he could reach the loaded shotgun that hung on his
wall. If he fell short, he would come down at their mercy--but he
landed securely and without capsizing his support. His elevation gave
him a precarious sort of safety, but on the floor below him he counted
three rattlesnakes, crawling and recoiling; their cold-blooded eyes
following his movements with baleful intentness.

Spurrier was conscious of his trembling hands as he leveled the
weapon, and of a crawling sensation of loathing along his spine.

Twice the gun roared, splintering the flooring and spattering its
ricochetting pellets, and two of the rattlers twisted in convulsive
but harmless writhings. But the third head--and it seemed the largest
of the three--had withdrawn under the cot. He was not even sure that
these three made up the total. There might be others.

With painstaking care Spurrier came down and armed himself with a
stout hickory flail which had been used in other days by some
housewife in her primitive laundry work as a "battling stick."

Then he advanced to the battle, swinging one end of the cot wide and
shiftily sidestepping. The rattler which lay in piled circles of
coppery length regarded him with steely venom, turning its swaying
head deliberately as its enemy circled. With the startling abruptness
of an electric buzzer it warned and sprang. He escaped by an
uncomfortable margin and attacked it with the flail before it could
rearrange its coils. Finally he stood panting with exertion over the
scene of slaughter.

As he searched the place with profoundest particularity his mind was
analyzing the strange invasion. His house was as tight as he had
thought it. There was no cranny that would have let in three large
rattlers. How had they come there?

Spurrier went out and studied his door. The hasps that held his
padlock were in place, but the woodwork about them had been recently
scarred. The lock fastenings had been pulled out and replaced.

With a nervous moisture on his brow the man recognized the fiendish
ingenuity of his mysterious enemy. These slithering creatures had come
here by human agency as brute accomplices in the murder that had
failed from the rifle muzzle. The pertinacity and cunning of the
scheme's anonymous author gave promise of eventfulness hereafter.

Had he been struck, according to the evident intention, as he entered
his house, he would probably have died there, unsuccored, leaving the
door open. The rattlers would either have found their way out after
that, or, when his body was discovered, the open door would have
explained their presence inside, and no suspicion of a man's
conspiracy would have remained.

One thing stood out clear in Spurrier's summing-up. Whatever the
source of the enmity which pursued him, it had its nerve center in an
ingenious brain and it threw about itself that element of mystery
which a timid man would have found terrifying and unendurable. Also it
operated with a patience which was a manifest of its unswerving
determination. Effort might be expected to follow effort until success
came--or the unknown plotter were discovered and disposed of.

Yet the author of these malignant attempts worked with an unflurried
deliberation, allowing passive intervals to elapse between activities,
like the volcano that rests in the quiet of false security between
fatal eruptions.

Of course, the letter with the mention of Private Grant might be a
clew of identity, yet calm reflection discounted that assumption as a
wild and unconfirmed grasping out after something tangible.

Perhaps Spurrier as nearly approached the absolute in physical
fearlessness as it is given to man to come--but the mystery of a
pursuing hatred which could not be openly faced, filled him with a
sense of futility, and the futility inspired rage which was unsettling
and must be combated.

That night he lay long awake, and after he had fallen asleep he came
often to a sudden and wide-eyed wakefulness again at the sound of an
owl's call or the creaking of a tree limb.

The next morning found him restless of spirit, and it occurred to him
that his secret enemy might be lurking near to inspect the results of
his handiwork, so he went down to the road and hung the three dead
rattlesnakes along the fence where no passer-by could miss seeing
their twisted and mutilated lengths. That should be his retort to any
inquiring and hostile eye, that he was alive and the creatures put
there to destroy him had paid with their lives.

From a place screened from view he meant to watch that gruesome
exhibit and mark its effect upon any one who paused to inspect it.
Possibly in that way a clew might be vouchsafed--but he did not at
once take cover in the thickets.

It was a glorious morning. The sun had ripped away the mists that, in
the mountains, always hang damp and veillike between gray dawning and
colorful day. The cool forest recesses were vocal with the twitterings
and song from feathered throats.

Spurrier sat down by the road and gave himself up to thoughts that it
was safer to banish: thoughts that came with those sights and sounds
and that made long-stilled pulses awaken and throb in him.

This morning made him feel Glory's presence and gave him a fine
recklessness as to responsibility and consequence. Suddenly he came to
himself and seemed to hear the cool cynicism of Martin Harrison's
voice inquiring, as it had once actually inquired: "Growing
sentimental?"

He pulled himself together and stiffened his expression into one more
suitable upon the face of a man who has taken the severe vows of
service to a cold ambition.

But a little later he heard a sound and looked up sidewise to see
Glory herself standing near him in the road; a materialization of the
truant dreams he had been entertaining.

She wore a dress whose simplicity accentuated the slender erectness
of her young body and the litheness of her carriage. Her hair hung in
braids and the sunbonnet had fallen back from the brightness of her
hair. In her eyes played the violet lights of a merriment that lifted
and curved her lips beguilingly.

Spurrier came to his feet, and perhaps Glory, who had succumbed to her
moment of self-revelation there on the twilight porch, had her revenge
now. For that first startled moment as their glances met, the eyes
that looked into hers were lover's eyes, and their unspoken message
was courtship. If he maintained the stoic's silence forever, as to
words, at least his heart had spoken.

"Before Heaven," said the man slowly, and the tremor of his voice was
out of keeping with the ingrained poise of his usual self-command,
"when they called you Glory, they didn't misname you!"

The girl flushed pink, and he took a step toward her with the absorbed
intensity of a sleep-walker.

Glory stood there--watched him coming and did not move. To her, though
she had sought to hide it, he had become the One Man. Her unconfessed
love had magnified and deified him--and now his own eyes were blazing
responsively with love for her!

Suddenly she was shaken by a rapturous tremor that seemed almost like
swooning or being lifted on some powerful wave that swept her clear of
the earth, so that she made no effort at disguise, but let the
laughing light in her eyes become softer, yet more glowingly intense.

It was as if they had met in the free realm of dreams where there are
no hamperings of impossibility. As he drew near her, his arms came
out, and he halted so that, under that same delightful sense of
irresponsibility, it seemed to her quite natural to step into their
welcome.

Possibly the happenings of yesterday and the sleepless hours of last
night had left Spurrier momentarily light-headed. Certainly had one of
the rattlers stung him and poisoned his reason, he could not be doing
a thing more foreign to his program of intention.

He felt his arms close about her; felt the fragrance of her breath,
found himself pressing his kisses on lips that welcomed them, and
forgot everything except that this was a moment of ecstasy and
passion.



CHAPTER XII


For a while they stood there together in the narrow road to whose
edges the dense greenery came down massed and dewy. Their breath was
quick with the excitement of that moment when the hills and the rocks
that upheld them seemed to them palpitant and gloriously shaken. Then
they heard the lumbering of wheels, and with one impulse that needed
no expression in words they turned through a gorge which ran at right
angles into the stillness of the woods--and away from interruption.

Spurrier had, it seemed to him, stepped through a curtain in life and
found beyond it a door of which he had not known. It seemed natural
that he and Glory should be going hand in hand into that place of
dreams like children at play and hearing joyous voices that were mute
and nonexistent in the world of commonplace and fact.

He did not even pause to reflect that this was a continuation of the
same ravine in which an assassin's bullet had once so narrowly missed
him. Yesterday, too, was forgotten.

Just now he was young in his heart again, and had love for his
talisman. Actuality had been dethroned by some dream wizardry and left
him free of obligation to reason. Then he heard Glory's voice
low-pitched and a little frightened.

"It kain't--can't--be true. It's just a dream!"

A flash of sanity, like the shock of a cold plunge, brought the
thought that, from her lips, had sounded a warning. This was the
moment, if ever, to draw back and take counsel of common sense. Now it
would be easier than later to abase himself and confess that in this
midsummer's madness was no substance or color of reality--that he
stood unalterably pledged to her renunciation.

But the earthquake does not still itself at the height of its tremor
and the cyclone does not stop dead with its momentum unspent. Years of
calculated and nerve-trying self-command were exacting their toll in
the satisfaction of outbreak. Spurrier's emotional self was in
volcanic eruption, the more molten and lava-hot for the prolonged
dormancy of a sealed crater.

He caught the girl again and pressed her so close that the commotion
of her heart came throbbing against him through the yielding softness
of her breast; and the agitation of her breath on his face was a
little tempest of acquiescent sweetness.

"Doesn't it seem real, now?" he challenged as he released her enough
to let her breathe, yet held her imprisoned, and she nodded,
radiant-eyed, and answered in a voice half bewildered and more than
half burdened with self-reproach.

"I didn't even hang back," she made confession. "I just walked right
into your arms the minute you held them out. I didn't seem able to
help myself."

Suddenly her eyes, impenitent once more, danced with mischief and her
smile broke like a sun flash over her face.

"If I'd had the power of witchcraft, I'd have put the spell on you,
Jack," she declared. "I had to make you love me. I just _had_ to do
it."

"I rather think you had--that power, dear."

He laughed contentedly as a man may who shifts all responsibility for
an indiscretion to a force stronger than his own volition.

"You see," she went on as if seeking to make illogic seem logical.
"From the first--I couldn't think of you except with storm thoughts. I
couldn't keep my heart quiet, when I was with you."

"At first," he reminded her, "you wanted to kill me. I heard you
confiding to Rover."

Her eyes grew seriously deep and undefensive in their frankness. It
was the candor of a woman's pride in conquest.

"I'm not sure yet," she said almost fiercely, "that I wouldn't almost
rather kill you than--lose you to any other girl."

Vaguely and as yet remotely, Spurrier's consciousness was pricked with
a forecast of reality's veto, but the present spoke in passion and the
future whispered weakly in platitudes.

"You won't lose me," he protested. "I'm yours."

"And yet," went on Glory, "you seemed a long way off. You were the man
who did big things in the world outside. You were--always cool
and--calculating."

"Glory," his words came with the rush of impetuosity for already the
whispers of warning were gaining in volume, and impulse was struggling
for its new freedom, "the man you've seen to-day is one I haven't
known myself before. Chilled calculation and self-repression have been
the articles of my creed. I've been crusted with those obsessions
like a ship's hull with barnacles. Did you know that when vessels pass
through the Panama Canal, the barnacles drop off?"

She shook her head.

"No," she said, and her lips twisted into something like wistfulness
as she dropped unconsciously into vernacular. "There's a lavish of
things I don't know. You've got to learn 'em all to me--I mean teach
them to me."

"Well," he went on slowly, "steamers that pass through the fresh
water, from salt to salt, automatically cleanse their plates. You've
been fresh water to me, Glory."

"Jack," she declared with tempestuous anxiety, "you say I've changed
you. I'll try to change myself, too, all the ways I can--all the ways
you want."

"I don't want you changed," he objected. "If you were changed, it
wouldn't be you."

"Maybe," she persisted, "you'd like me better if I were taller or had
black eyes."

"I wonder now," he teased with the whimsey of the moment, "what you
would look like with black eyes? I can't imagine it. Will you do that
for me?"

"Come to our house to-night," she irrelevantly commanded. "Won't
you?"

"Yes," he said, "I'd come to-night if I had to swim the Hellespont."

But when he had left her an hour later at the crossroads and started
back, his eyes fell on the ugly shapes of the three rattlesnakes, over
which he had forgotten to keep watch and which she had not even seen,
and yesterday came back with the impact of undisguised realization.
Yesterday and to-morrow stood out again in their own solid
proportions and to-day stood like a slender wisp of heart's desire
shouldered between uncompromising giants of fact.

Spurrier could no longer deny that his personal world centered about
Glory; that away from her would be only the unspeakable bleakness of
lonely heart hunger.

But it was equally certain that he could not abandon everything upon
which he had underpinned his future, and in that structure was no
niche which she could occupy.

Sitting alone in his house with a chill ache at his heart and facing a
dilemma that seemed without solution, he knew for once the tortures of
terror. For once he could not face the future intrepidly.

He had recognized when the army had stigmatized him and cast him out,
that only by iron force and aggression could he break his way through
to success. He was enlisted in a warfare captained by financiers of
major caliber and committed to a struggle out of which victory would
bring him not only wealth, but a place of his own among such
financiers--a place which Glory could not share.

He and his principals alike were fighting for the prizes of the
looting victor in a battle without chivalry, and whether he won or was
crushed by American Oil and Gas, the native landholder must be ground
and bruised between the impact of clashing forces. In the trail of his
victory, no less than theirs, would be human wreckage.

Sitting before his dead hearth while the afternoon shadows slanted and
lengthened, Spurrier wondered what agonies had wracked the heart of
Napoleon when he was called upon to choose between Josephine and a
dynasty. For even in his travail the egoist thought of himself and his
ambitions in Napoleonic terms.

As he sat there alone with silences about his lonely cabin that seemed
speaking in still voices of vastness, the poignant personality of his
thoughts brought him, by the strange anomaly of life, to realizations
that were not merely personal.

Glory had won his heart and it was as though in doing so she had also
made his feelings quicken for her people: these people from whose
poverty, hospitality and kindness had been poured out to him: these
people who had taken him at first with reserve and then accepted him
with faith.

He had eaten their bread and salt. He had drunk their illicit whiskey,
given to him with no fear that he would betray them even in the
lawlessness which to them seemed honorable and fair.

And yet his purpose here, was the single one of enabling a certain
group of money-grabbing financiers to triumph over another group at
the cost of the mountaineer land-holders. It was not because, if he
succeeded, there would not be enough of legitimate profit to enrich
all, but because in a campaign of secrecy he could make a confidant of
no one. If the enterprise were carried through at all he must have
secured, for principals who would abate nothing and give back nothing,
the necessary property bought on the basis of barren farming land.
Were it his own endeavor he could first plunder and develop and then
make restitution, but acting as an agent he could no more do that
than the soldier who has unconditionally surrendered, can subsequently
demand terms.

The man who had been a plunger at gaming table and race track, who had
succeeded as an imitator of schemes that attracted major capital, was
of necessity one of imagination. Perhaps had life dealt him different
cards, Spurrier would have been a novelist or even a poet, for that
imagination which he had put into heavy harness was also capable of
flights into phantasy and endowed with something almost mystic.

Now under the stress of this conflict in his mind, as he sat before
his hearth in shadows that were vague of light and shape, that
unaccustomed surrender to imagination possessed him, peopling the
dimness with shapes that seemed actual.

His eye fell upon the empty three-legged stool that stood on the
opposite side of the hearth, and as though he were looking at one of
those motion picture effects which show, in double negative one
character confronting his dual and separate self, he seemed to see a
figure sitting there and regarding him out of contemptuous eyes.

It was the figure of a very young man clad in the tunic of a
graduating West Point cadet and it was a figure that bore itself with
the prideful erectness of one who regards his right to wear his
uniform as a privilege of knighthood. For Spurrier was fancying
himself confronted by the man he had been in those days of eager
forward-looking, and of almost religious resolve to make of himself a
soldier in the best meaning of the word. Then as his eyes closed for a
moment under the vividness of the fancy, the figure dissolved into its
surroundings of shadow and near the stool with folded arms and a
bitterer scorn stood a lieutenant in khaki.

"So this is what you have come to be," said the imaginary Spurrier
blightingly to the actual Spurrier. "A looter and brigand no better
than the false _amigos_ that I fought over there. I was a gentleman
and you are a cad!"

Had the man been dreaming in sleep instead of wakefulness, his vision
could hardly have worn habiliments of greater actuality, and he found
himself retorting in hot defensiveness.

"Whatever I am you made me. It was you who was disgraced. It is
because I was once you that I am now I. You left me no choice but to
fight with the weapons that came to hand, and those weapons were
predatory.... If I have deliberately hardened myself it is only as
soldiers of other days put on coats of mail--because soft flesh could
not survive the mace and broadsword."

"And when you win your prizes, if you ever win them," the accusing
vision appeared to retort, "you will have paid for them by spending
all that was honorable in yourself; all that was generous and
soldierly. When you were I, you led a charge across rice paddies
without cover and under a withering fire. For that you were mentioned
in dispatches and you had a paragraph in the Army and Navy Journal.
Have you ever won a prize since then, that meant as much to you?"

John Spurrier came to his feet, with a groan in his throat. His
temples were moist and marked with a tracery of outstanding veins and
his hands were clenched.

"Good God!" he exclaimed aloud. "Give me back the name and the uniform
I had then, and see how gladly I'll tell these new masters to go to
hell!"

Startled at the sound of his own voice arguing with a fantasy as with
a fact, the man sank back again into his chair and covered his face
with his spread hands. But shutting out sight did not serve to shut
out the images of his fancy.

He saw himself hired out to "practical" overlords and sent to prey on
friends, then he rose and stood confronting the empty stool where the
dream-accuser in uniform had stood and once more he spoke aloud. As he
did so it seemed that the figure returned and stood waiting, stern and
noncommittal, while he addressed it.

"Give me the success I need, and the independence it carries, and I'll
spend my life exonerating my name. I'll go back to the islands and
live among the natives till I find a man who will tell the truth. I'll
move heaven and earth--but that takes money. I've always stood, in
this business, with wealth just beyond my grasp--always promised,
never realized. Let me realize it and be equipped to fight for
vindication. These men I serve have the prizes to dispense, but I am
bound hand and foot to them. They take their pay in advance. Once
victorious I can break with them."

"And these people who have befriended you," questioned the mentor
voice, "what of them?"

"I love them. They are her people. I shall seem to plunder them, but
if my plans succeed I shall be in a position to make terms--and my
terms shall be theirs. Until I succeed I must seem false to them. God
knows I'm paying for that too. I love Glory!"

Suddenly Spurrier wiped a hand across a clammy forehead and stood
looking about his room, empty save for himself. He seemed a man who
had been through a delirium. But he reached no conclusion, and when
twilight found him tramping toward the Cappeze house it was with a
heart that beat with anticipation--while it sought refuge in postponed
decision.

When Glory received him in the lamp-lighted room he halted in
amazement, for the girl who stood there with a mischievous smile on
her lips no longer looked at him out of eyes violet-blue, but black as
liquid jet.

"How did you do that?" he demanded in a voice blank with astonishment.
"It's a sheer impossibility!"

"Maybe it's witchcraft, Jack," she mocked him.

"Can you change them back?" he asked a little anxiously, and she shook
her head.

"No, but they'll change of themselves in a day or two."

"I reckon," commented Dyke Cappeze, looking up from his book by the
table, "I oughtn't to give away feminine secrets, but it's a right
simple matter, after all. She just put some Jimson-weed juice in her
eyes and the trick was done."

"Jimson weed," echoed the visitor, and the elder nodded.

"If you happen to remember your botany, you'll recall that its longer
name is _Datura stramonium_--and it's a strong mydriatic. It swells
the pupil and obliterates the iris."

It was walking homeward with a low moon overhead that evening that
Spurrier's thoughts found time to wrestle with other problems than
those affecting himself and Glory. The incident of the black eyes had
at first interested him only because they were _her_ eyes, but now he
thought also of the episode of the rattlesnakes and the letter from
Major Withers.

In his first analysis of what that letter might mean to him he had
decided that his man would be recognizable by his mismated eyes. He
had recalled Sim Colby's black ones while thinking of unusual eyes in
general and had, in passing, set him down as one who stood alibied.

Now, in the light of this Jimson-weed discovery, those black eyes took
on a new interest. Presumably it was a trick commonly known in these
hills. _If_ Colby's eyes had been so altered--and they had seemed
unnatural in their tense blackness--it must have been with a
deliberate and sufficient motive. Sim Colby was not making his pupils
smart and sting as a matter of vanity. A man resorting to disguises
seeks first to change the most salient notes of his appearance.

Spurrier recalled, with the force of added importance, the surprised
look on Sam Mosebury's face when that genial murderer, upon his
arrival, had stifled some impulse of utterance.

Suspicion of Colby was perhaps far-fetched, but it took a powerful
hold on Spurrier, and one from which he could not free himself. At all
events, he must see this Sim Colby when Colby did not know he was
coming--and look at his eyes again.

So he made a second trip across the hills to the head of Little
Quicksand, and for the sake of safeguarding against any warning going
ahead of him, he spoke to no one of his intention.

This time he went armed with an automatic pistol and a very grim
purpose. When they met--if the mountaineer's eyes were no longer
black--he would probably need both.

But once again the opportunity hound encountered disappointment. He
found a chimney with no smoke issuing from it and a door barred. The
horse had been taken out of the stable and from many evidences about
the untenanted place he judged that the man who lived alone there had
been absent for several days.

To make inquiries would be to proclaim his interest and prejudice his
future chances of success, so he slipped back again as surreptitiously
as he had come, and the determination which he had keyed to the
concert pitch of climax had to be laid by.

At home again he found that the love which he could neither accept nor
conquer was demoralizing his moral and mental equipoise. He could no
longer fix and hold his attention on the problems of his work. His
spirit was in equinox.

The only solution was to go to Glory and tell her the truth, for if he
let matters run uncontrolled their momentum would become unmanageable.
It was the simple matter of choosing failure with her or success
without her, and he had at last reached his decision. It remained only
to tell her so.

It had pleased John Spurrier to find a house upon an isolated site
from which he could work unobserved, while he maintained his careful
semblance of idleness. His nearest neighbor was a mile away as the
crow flew, and Dyke Cappeze almost two miles. Even the deep-rutted
highroad, itself, lay beyond a gorge which native parlance called a
"master shut-in."

Now that remoteness pleased his enemies as well. Former efforts toward
his undoing had been balked by accidents. One must be made that could
have no chance to fail and an isolated setting made for success.
Matters that required deft handling could be conducted by daylight
instead of under a tricky moon. It was a good spot for a "rat-killing"
and Spurrier was to be the rat.

It was well before sunset on a Thursday afternoon that rifle-armed
men, holding to the concealment of the "laurel hells," began
approaching the high place above and behind Spurrier's house. They
came from varying directions and one by one. No one had seen any
gathering, for the plans had been made elsewhere and the details of
liaison perfected in advance. Now they trickled noiselessly into their
designated posts and slowly drew inward toward the common center of
the house itself.

Spurrier who rode in at mid-afternoon from some neighborhood mission
commented with pleasure upon the cheery "Bob Whites" of the quail
whistling back in the timber.

They were Glory's birds, and this winter he would know better than to
shoot them!

But they were not Glory's birds. They were not birds at all, and those
pipings came from human throats, establishing touch as the murder
squad advanced upon him to kill him.

The man opened a package which had come by mail and drew from its
wrappings the portrait of a girl in evening dress with a rope of
pearls at her throat. Its silver frame was a counterpart of the one
which had stood on Martin Harrison's desk that night when Spurrier had
lifted it and Vivien's father had so meaningly said: "Make good in
this and _all_ your ambitions can be fulfilled."

Now Spurrier set the framed picture on the table at the center of the
room and it seemed to look out from that point of vantage with the
amused indulgence of well-bred condescension upon the Spartan
simplicity of his house--the rough table and hickory-withed chairs,
the cot spread with its gray army blanket.

The man gave back to the pictured glance as little fire of eagerness
as was given out from it.

Just now Vivien seemed to him the deity and personification of a creed
that was growing hateful, yet one to which he stood still bound. He
was like the priest whose vows are irrevocable but whose faith in his
dogma has died, and to himself he murmured ironically, "'The idols are
broke in the temple of Baal'--and yet I've got to go on bending the
knee to the debris!"

But when he turned on his heel and looked through the door his face
brightened, for there, coming over the short-cut between Aunt Erie
Toppit's and her own home, was Glory, carrying a basket over which was
tied a bit of jute sacking.

She came on lightly and halted outside his threshold.

"I'm not comin' visitin' you, Mr. John Spurrier," she announced
gravely despite the twinkle in her eyes. "I'm bent on a more seemly
matter, but I'm crossin' your property an' I hope you'll forgive the
trespass."

"Since it's you," he acceded in the same mock seriousness, "I'll grant
you the right of way. You paid the toll when you let me have a glimpse
of you."

"And this is your house," she went on musingly. "And I've never seen
inside its door. It seems strange, somehow, doesn't it?"

Spurrier laughed. "Now that you're here," he suggested, "you might as
well hold an inspection. It's daylight and we can dispense with a
chaperon for ten minutes."

She nodded and laughed too. "I guess the granny-folk would go tongue
wagging if they found it out. Anyhow, I'm going to peek in for just a
minute."

She stepped lightly up to the threshold and looked inside, and the
slanting shaft from the window fell full on the new photograph of
Vivien Martin, so that it stood out in the dim interior emphasized by
the flash of its silver frame.

Glory went over and studied the face with a somewhat cryptic
expression, but she made no comment and at the door she announced:

"I'll be goin' on. You can have three guesses what I've got in this
basket."

But Spurrier, catching sight of a bronze tail-quill glinting between
the bars of the container, spoke with prompt certainty.

"One guess will be enough. It's one of those carrier pigeons that
Uncle Jimmy Litchfield gave you."

"You peeped before you guessed," she accused. "I'm going to leave it
with Aunt Erie and let her take it to Carnettsville with her to-morrow
and set it free."

"Compare your watches," advised the man, "and get her to note the time
when she opens the basket. Then you can time the flight."

Glory shook her head and laughed. "I don't own any watch," she
reminded him. "And even if I did I misdoubt if Aunt Erie would have
anything to compare it with--unless she carried her alarm clock along
with her."

"Wait a minute," admonished the man, as he loosened the strap of his
wrist watch, "I've two as it happens--and a clock besides. You keep
this one and give Aunt Erie my other. I'll get it for you and set it
so that they'll be together to the second."

He wheeled then and went into the room at the back and for a few
minutes, bachelor-like he rummaged and searched for the time-piece
upon which he had supposed he could lay his fingers in the dark.

Yet Spurrier's thought was not wholly and singly upon the adventure of
timing the flight of a carrier pigeon. In it there lurked a sense of
half-guilty uneasiness, which would have been lighter had Glory asked
some question when she gazed on the picture which sat in a seeming
place of honor at the center of his room. Her silence on the subject
had seemed casual and unimportant, yet his intuition told him that had
it been genuinely so, she would have demanded with child-like interest
to be told who the woman might be with the high tilted chin and the
rope of pearls on her throat. The taciturnity had sprung, he fancied,
less from indifference than from a fear of questioning, and when he
came quietly to the door, he stood there for a moment, then drew back
where he would not be so plainly visible.

For Glory had returned to the table and stood with her eyes riveted on
the framed portrait. Unconscious of being observed her face was no
longer guarded of betrayal, and in the swift expressiveness of her
delicate features the man read a gamut and vortex of emotion as
eloquent as words. The jealousy which her pride sought to veto, the
doubt which her faith strove to deny, the realization of her own
self-confessed inferiority in parallel with this woman's aristocratic
poise and cynical smile, flitted in succession across the face of the
mountain girl and declared themselves in her eyes.

For an instant the small hands clenched and the lips stirred and the
pupils blazed with hot fires, so that the man could almost read the
words that she shaped without sound: "He's mine--he ain't your'n--an'
I ain't goin' ter give him up ter ye!"

Spurrier remembered how she had declared she would almost rather see
him die than surrender him to another girl.

Then out of the face the passion faded and the deep eyes widened to a
suffering like that of despair. The sweetly curved lips drooped in an
ineffable wistfulness and the smooth throat worked spasmodically,
while the hands went up and covered the face.

Spurrier drew back into the room into which Glory could not see, and
then in warning of his coming spoke aloud in a matter-of-fact voice.
"I've found it," he declared. "It was hiding out from me--that
watch."

When, after that preface, he came back, Glory was standing again in
the doorway and as she turned, she presented a face from which had
been banished the storm of her recent agitation.

He handed her the watch which she took with a steady hand, and a brief
but cheery, "Farewell."

As she started away Spurrier braced himself with a strong effort and
inquired: "Glory, didn't you have any question to ask me--about the
girl--in the frame?"

She halted in the path and stood looking down. Her lowered lids hid
her eyes, but he thought her cheeks paled a shade. Then she shook her
head.

"Not unless it's something--you want to tell--without my asking," she
announced steadfastly.

For over a week he had struggled to bring himself to his confession
and had failed. Now a sudden impulse assured him that it would never
be easier; that every delay would make it harder and blacken him with
a heavier seeming of treason. Vivien's portrait served as a fortuitous
cue, and he must avail himself of it.

This was the logical time and place, when silence would be only an
unuttered lie and when procrastination would strip him of even his
residue of self-respect. To wait for an easy occasion was to hope for
the impossible and to act with as craven a spirit as to falter when
the bugle sounded a charge.

Yet he remained so long silent that Glory, looking up and reading the
hard-wrung misery on his face and the stiff movement of the lips that
made nothing of their efforts, knew, in advance, the tenor of the
unspoken message.

She closed her eyes as if to shut out some sudden glare too painful
to be borne, and then in a quietly courageous voice she helped him
out.

"You _do_ want to tell me, Jack. You want to take back--what you
said--over there--don't you?"

Spurrier moistened his lips, with his tongue. "God knows," he burst
out vehemently, "I don't want to take back one syllable of what I
said--about loving you."

"What is it, then?"

"Come inside, please," he pleaded. "I'll try to explain."

He went stumblingly ahead of her and set a chair beside the table and
then he leaned toward her and sought for words.

"I love you, Glory," he fervently declared. "I love you as I didn't
suppose I could love any one. To me you are music and starlight--but I
guess I'm almost engaged to her." He jerked his head rebelliously
toward the portrait.

Glory was numb except for a dull, very present ache that started in
her heart and filled her to her finger tips, and she made no answer.

"Her father," Spurrier forced himself on, "is a great financier. I'm
his man. I'm a little cog in a big machine. It's been practically
understood that I was to become his son-in-law--his successor. I'm too
deep in, to pull out. It's like a soldier in the thick of a campaign.
I've got to go through."

That seemed an easier and kinder thing to say than that she herself
was not qualified for full admittance into the world of his larger
life.

"You knew this--the other day--as well as now," she reminded him,
speaking in a stunned voice, yet without anger.

"So help me God, Glory--I had forgotten--everything but--you."

"And now," she half whispered in a dulled monotone, "you remember all
the rest."

She sat there with the basket on the puncheon floor at her feet, and
her fingers twisted themselves tautly together. Her lips, parted and
drooping, gave her delicate face a stamp of dumb suffering, and
Spurrier's arms ached to go comfortingly around her, but he held
himself rigid while the silence lengthened. The old clock on the
mantel ticked clamorously and outside the calls of the bobwhites
seemed to grow louder and nearer until, half-consciously, Spurrier
noted their insistence.

Then faintly, Glory said: "You didn't make me any promise. If you
had--I'd give it back to you."

She rose unsteadily and stood gathering her strength, and Spurrier,
struggling against the impulse which assailed him like a madness to
throw down the whole structure of his past and designed future and
sweep her into his arms, stood with a metal-like rigidity of posture.

Whatever his ultimate decision might be, he kept telling himself, no
decision reached by surrender to such tidal emotion at a moment of
equinox could be trusted. Glory herself would not trust it long.

So while the room remained voiceless and the minds of the man and the
girl were rocking in the swirl of their feelings, the physical senses
themselves seemed, instead of inert, preternaturally keen--and
something came to Spurrier's ears which forced its way to his
attention through the barrier of his abstraction.

Never had the calls of the quail been so frequent and incessant
before, but this sound was different, as though some one in the nearby
tangle had stumbled and in the effort to catch himself had caught and
shaken the leafage.

So the man went to the door and stood looking out.

For a moment he remained there framed and exposed as if painted upon a
target, and--so close that they seemed to come together--two rifles
spoke, and two bullets came whining into the house. One imbedded
itself with a soggy thud in the squared logs of the rear wall but one,
more viciously directed by the chances of its course, struck full in
the center of the glass that covered the pictured face of Vivien
Harrison and sent the portrait clattering and shattered to the floor.

In an instant Spurrier had leaped back, once more miraculously saved,
and slammed the door, but while he was dropping the stanch bar into
its sockets, a crash of glass and fresh roars from another direction
told him that he was also being fired upon through the window. That
meant that the house was surrounded.

"Who are they, Jack?" gasped the girl, shocked by that unwarned
fusillade into momentary forgetfulness of everything, except that her
lover was beset by enemies, and the man who was reaching for his
rifle, and whose eyes had hardened into points of flint, shook his
head.

"Whoever they are," he answered, "they want me--only me--but it would
be death for you to go out through the door."

He drew her to a shadowed corner out of line with both door and
window, and seized her passionately in his arms.

"If we--can't have each other----" he declared tensely, "I don't want
life. You said you'd almost rather see me killed than lose me to
another woman. Now, listen!"

Holding her close to his breast, he drew a deep breath and his
narrowed eyes softened into something like contentment.

"If you tried to go out first, you'd die before they recognized you.
They think I'm alone here and they'll shoot at the first movement. But
if _I_ go out first and fight as long as I can then they'll be
satisfied and the way will be clear for you."

She threw back her head and her hysterical laugh was scornful.

"Clear for me after _you're_ dead!" she exclaimed. "Hev ye got two
guns? We'll both go out alive or else neither one of us."

Then suddenly she drew away from him, and he saw her hurriedly
scribbling on a scrap of paper. Outside it was quiet again.

Glory folded the small sheet and took the pigeon from its basket and
then, for the first time, Spurrier, who had forgotten the bird,
divined her intent.

He was busying himself with laying out cartridges, and preparing for a
siege, and when he looked up again she stood with the bird against her
cheek, just as she had held the dead quail on that first day.

But before he could interfere she had drawn near the window and he saw
that to reach the broken pane and liberate the pigeon she must, for a
moment, stand exposed.

He leaped for her with a shout of warning, but she had straightened
and thrust the bird out, and then to the accompaniment of a horrible
uproar of musketry that drowned his own outcry he saw her fall back.

Spurrier was instantly on his knees lifting the drooping head, and as
her lids flickered down she whispered with a pallid smile:

"The bird's free. He'll carry word home--if ye kin jest hold 'em back
fer a spell and----"



CHAPTER XIII


The window through whose broken pane Glory had dispatched her
feathered messenger could not be seen into from the exterior. That was
a temporary handicap for the besiegers and one upon which, in all
their forethought, they had not calculated. It happened that at this
hour of the afternoon the slanting sun struck blindingly upon the
glass that still remained unbroken and confused the ambushed eyes that
raked the place from advantageous points along the upper slopes.

So when Glory had risen there for an instant, against the window
itself, the vigilant assassins had been able to make out only the
unidentified shadow of a figure moving there, and upon that figure, at
point-blank range, they had loosed their volley. Whose figure it was
they could not tell, and since they believed their intended victim to
be alone they did not question. In the confusion of the instant, with
the glare on windowpanes, they missed the spot of light that rose
phoenixlike as the pigeon took flight. The frightened bird mounted
skyward unnoted and flustered by the bellowing of so much gunnery.

But Spurrier's shout of horror was heard by the besiegers and
misinterpreted as a cry wrung from him under a mortal wound.

The assailants had not seen nor suspected Glory's approach because she
had come from the front, and had arrived before they, drawing in from
the rear and sides, had reached their stations commanding a complete
outlook. They had assumed their victim to be in solitary possession
and now they also assumed him to be helpless--perhaps already dead.

Yet they waited, following long-revered precepts of wariness,
before going onward across the open stretch of the dooryard for an
ultimate investigation. He might die slowly--and hard. He might
have left in him enough fight to take a vengeful toll of the oncoming
attackers--and they could afford to make haste slowly.

So they settled down in their several hiding places and remained as
inconspicuous as grass burrowing field mice. The forest cathedral
which they defiled seemed lifeless in the hushed stillness of the
afternoon as the sun rode down toward its setting.

John Spurrier, inside the house, living where he was supposed to be
dead, at first made no sound that carried out to them across the
little interval of space.

He was kneeling on the floor with the girl's head cradled on his knees
and in his throat sounded only smothering gasps of inarticulate
despair. These low utterances were animal-like and wrung him with the
agonies of heartbreak. He thought that she must have died just after
the whisper and the smile with which she had announced her success in
her effort to save him.

Kneeling there with the bright head inert on his corduroy-clad knee,
he fancied that the smile still lingered on her lips even after she
had laid down her life for him five minutes from the time he had
forsworn her.

Now that she was gone and he about to go, he could recognize her as a
serene and splendid star shining briefly above the lurid shoddiness of
his own grasping life--and the star had set.

At first a profoundly stunned and torpid feeling held him numb; a
blunt agony of loss and guilt, but slowly out of that wretched
paralysis emerged another thought. He was helpless to bring her back
and that futility would drive him mad unless out of it could come some
motive of action.

She was not only dead, but dead by the hands of murderers who had come
after him--and all that remained was the effort to avenge her. Like
waters moving slowly at first but swelling into freshet power, wrath
and insatiable thirst for vengeance swept him to a sort of madness.

Here he was kneeling over the unstirring woman he had loved while out
there were the murder hirelings who had brought about the tragedy. Her
closed and unaccusing eyes, exhorting him as passionate utterances
could not have done, incited him to a frenzy. At least some of these
culprits must go unshriven, and by his own hand to the death that
inevitably awaited himself.

And as Spurrier's flux of molten emotions seethed about that
determination a solidifying transition came over him and his brain
cleared of the blind spots of fury into the coherency of a plan.

Out there they would wait for a while to test the completeness of
their success. If he gave way to his passion and challenged them as
inclination clamored to do, they would dispatch him at leisure.

Just now he was willing enough to die, but entirely unwilling to die
alone. He craved company and a red journey for that final crossing. So
once more he looked down into the face on which there was no stir of
animation, then very gently bent and kissed the quiet lips.

"If you could come back to me," he chokingly whispered, "I'd unsay
everything, except that I love you. But if there's a meeting place
beyond, I'll join you soon--when I've made them pay for you."

He lifted her tenderly and, through his agitation, came a sudden
realization of how light she was as he laid her gently on his army
cot. After that he picked up his rifle and bulged out his pockets with
cartridges.

The cockloft above his room, which was reached by a ladder, had
windows which were really only loopholes and from there he could
better see into the tangle that sheltered his enemies.

He entertained no vain hope of rescue. He asked for no deliverance.
The story drew to its ending and he meant to cap it with the one
climax to which the last half hour had left anything of significance.
Since small things become vastly portentous when written into the
margin between life and death, he hoped that before he died he might
recognize the face of at least one of the men whom he meant to take
with him across the River of Eternity.

So, dedicating himself to that motive, he climbed the ladder.

Peering out through first one and then the other of the loopholes of
the cockloft, he waited, and it seemed to him that he waited
eternally. He began to fear that his self-sure attackers would content
themselves with an inactive vigil and that after all he was to be
cheated.

The sun was westering. The shadows were elongating. The sounds through
the woods were subtly changing from the voices of day to those of
approaching night.

Still he waited.

Outside also they were waiting; waiting to make sure that it was safe
to go in and confirm their presumption that he had fallen.

But when Spurrier had, in a little time as the watch recorded it,
served out his purgatorial sentence, he sensed a stir in the massed
banks of the laurel and thrust his rifle barrel outward in preparation
for welcome. A moment afterward he saw a hat with a downturned brim--a
coat with an upturned collar--a pair of shoulders that hunched slowly
forward with almost imperceptible movement. His mind had become a
calculating machine now, functioning with deliberate surety.

The unrecognizable figure out there was a hundred yards away and the
rifle he held would bore through the head under the hat crown at that
range as a gimlet bores through a marked spot on soft pine.

But a single shot would end the show. No one else would appear and
even the dead man would be hauled back by his heels--unidentified. He
would wait until he could make his bag of game more worth dying
for--more worth _her_ dying for!

Other ages seemed to elapse before the butternut figure showed
stretched at length in the tall grass outside the thicket and a second
hat appeared. Still Spurrier held his fire until three hats were
visible and the first man, having crawled to a tree trunk, had half
risen.

He realized that he could not much longer hold it. At any moment they
might rush the place in force of numbers, and from more than one side,
smothering his defense--and once in contact with the walls they would
need only a lighted torch.

So he sighted with target-range precision and fired, following the
initial effort with snap-shots at the second and third visible heads.

He had the brief satisfaction of seeing the first man plunge forward,
clawing at the earth with hands that dropped their weapon. He saw the
second stumble, recover himself, stumble again and then start crawling
backward with a disabled, crablike locomotion, while the third figure
turned, unharmed, and ran to cover. But at the same moment he heard
shouts and shots from the other side which called him instantly to the
opposite loophole and, once there, kept him pumping his rifle against
what appeared to be a charge of confused figures that he had no
leisure to inspect. They, too, fell back under the vigor of his
punishment, and Spurrier found himself reloading in a silence that had
come as suddenly as the noise of the onrush.

He had shot down two assailants, but both had been retrieved beyond
sight by their confederates, and the besieged man groaned with a
realization of defeated purpose. The sun was low now and soon it would
be too dark to see. Then the trappers would close in and take the rat
out of the trap. What he failed to do while daylight lasted, he would
never do.

In only one respect did his judgment fail him as he sought to forecast
the immediate future. It seemed to him that he had spent hours there
in the cockloft, whereas perhaps thirty minutes had elapsed.

He had been thinking of the pigeon, but had put aside hope as to
succor from that agency. Old Cappeze was not interested in pigeons.
The bird would go to roost in its dovecote and sit all night with its
head tucked placidly under its wing--and the plea for help unread on
its leg--and the lawyer would never think of looking into the
dovecote.

Now, since he had failed and must die unavenged--for the wounding of
two unidentified enemies failed of satisfaction--he must utilize what
was left of life intensively. Once more before he died, he wanted to
see the face of the woman whom he had forsworn; the woman who was
worth infinitely more than the tawdry regards for which he had given
her up.

So he went down the ladder and knelt beside the cot.

He laid his ear close to the bosom and could have sworn that it
fluttered to a half heartbeat.

Suddenly Spurrier closed his hands over his face and for the first
time in years he prayed.

"Almighty Father," he pleaded, "give her back to me! Give me one other
chance--and exact whatever price Thy wisdom designates."

       *       *       *       *       *

To Toby Austin's meager farm, which abutted on that of Dyke Cappeze,
that afternoon had trudged Bud Hawkins. In all the mountain region
thereabout his name was well known and any man of whom you had asked
information would have told you that Bud was "the poorest and the
righteousest man that ever rode circuit."

For Bud was among other things a preacher. To use his own words, "I
farms some, I heals bodies some, an' I gospels some." And in each of
his avocations he followed faithfully the lights of his conscience.

His own farm lay a long way off, and now he was here as a visitor.
This afternoon he fared over to the house of Dyke Cappeze as was his
custom when in that neighborhood. He regarded Cappeze as a righteous
man and a "wrastler with all evil," and he came bearing the greetings
of a brotherhood of effort.

The sun was low when he arrived, and the old lawyer confessed to a
mild anxiety because of Glory's failure to return before the hour
which her clean-cut regularity fixed as the time of starting the
supper preparations.

"She took a carrier pigeon over to Aunt Erie Toppit's," explained
Dyke, "and I looked for her back before now."

"I sometimes 'lows, Brother Cappeze," asserted the visitor with an
enthusiasm of interest, "thet in these hyar days of sin when God don't
show Hisself in signs an' miracles no more, erbout ther clostest thing
ter a miracle we've got left, air ther fashion one of them birds kin
go up in ther air from any place ye sots hit free at an' foller ther
Almighty's finger pointin' home."

Cappeze told him that there was just now only one pigeon in the
dovecote, where the pair belonged, but that one he offered to show,
and idly be led the way to the place back above the henroosts.

It is, however, difficult for any man to sink his own absorptions in
those of another, and so it fell about that on the way Cappeze stopped
at the barn he was building and which was not yet quite complete.

"Brother Hawkins," he said, "as we go along I want to show you the
barn I've been planning for years--and at last have nearly realized."

In the crude, unfinished life of the hills, lean-tos and even rock
ledges are pressed into service as barns, but the man who has erected
an ample and sound structure for such a purpose, stamps himself as one
who "has things hung up," which is the mountain equivalent for
wealth.

"That barn," explained Cappeze, pausing before it in expansiveness of
mood, "is a thing I've wanted ever since I moved over here. A good
barn stands for a farm run without sloven make-shift--and that one
cost me well-nigh as much money as my dwelling house. I reckon it
sounds foolish, but to me that building means a dream come true after
long waiting. I've skimped myself saving to build it, and it's the
apple of my eye. If I saw harm come to it, I almost think it would
hurt me more than to lose the house I live in."

"I reckon no harm won't come ter hit, Brother Cappeze," reassured the
other. "Yit hit mout be right foresighted to insure hit erginst fire
an' tempest."

"Of course I will--when it's finished," said the other as he led the
way inside, and then as he played guide, he forgot the pigeons and
swelled with the pride of the builder, while time that meant life and
death went by, so that it was quite a space later that they emerged
again and went on to the destination which had first called them.

But having arrived there, the elder man halted and his face shadowed
to a disturbed perplexity.

"That's strange," he murmured. "One pigeon's inside--the hen--and
there's the cock _trying_ to get in. It's the bird Glory took with
her. It must have gotten away from her."

"'Pears like ter me," volunteered the preacher, "hit's got some
fashion of paper hitched on ter one leg. Don't ye dis'arn hit, Brother
Cappeze?"

Cappeze started as his eyes confirmed the suggestion. Hurriedly he ran
up the ladder to the resting plank where the bird crooned and preened
itself, plainly asking for admittance to its closed place of
habitation. Perhaps his excited manner alarmed the pigeon, which would
alight on Glory's shoulder without a qualm, for as the man reached out
his hand for it, it flutteringly eluded him and took again to the
air.

But now his curiosity was aroused. Possibly Glory meant to stay the
night at Aunt Erie's and had sent him her announcement in this form.
He went for grain and scattered it, and after repeated efforts
succeeded in capturing the messenger.

But when he loosened the paper and read it his face went abruptly
white and from his lips escaped an excited "Great God!"

He thrust the note into the preacher's hand and rushed indoors,
emerging after a few minutes with eyes wildly lit and a rifle in his
hands. Bud Hawkins understood, for he had read in the interval the
scribbled words:

  Stopped at Jack Spurrier's house. It's surrounded. Men are
  shooting at us on all sides.

Dyke Cappeze was the one man to whom Spurrier had confided both the
circumstances of his mysterious waylaying and the matter of the
rattlesnakes and now the father was not discounting the peril into
which his daughter had strayed.

"I'm going on ahead, Brother Hawkins," he announced. "I want you to
send out a general alarm and to follow me with all the armed men you
can round up." There he halted in momentary bewilderment. In that
sparsely peopled territory the hurried mustering of an adequate force
on such short order was in itself almost an impossibility. There were
no means of communication. Abruptly, the old lawyer wheeled and
pointed a thin and quivering index finger toward his beloved barn.

"There's just one way," he declared with stoical directness. "All my
neighbors will come to fight a fire. I've got to set my own barn to
get them here!"

Five minutes later the structure sent up its black massed summons of
smoke, shot with vermilion, as the shingles snapped and showed
glowingly against the black background of vapor, even in the
brightness of the afternoon.

Dyke Cappeze himself was on his way, and the preacher remaining behind
was meeting and dispatching each hurried arrival. As he did so his
voice leaped as it sometimes leaped in the zealot's fervor of
exhortation, and he sent the men out into the fight with rifle and
shotgun as trenchantly as he expounded peace from the pulpit.

When a dozen men had ridden away, scattering gravel from galloping
hoofs, he rode behind the saddle cantle of the last, for it was not
his doctrine to hold his hand when he sent others into battle. Also he
might be needed there as a minister, a doctor, or both.

As sunset began to wane to twilight the attackers who lay circled
about Spurrier's cabin found themselves growing restive.

And inside John Spurrier was a man reanimated by the faint signs of
life which he had discovered in Glory.

A pulse still fluttered in her heart, but it throbbed flickeringly and
its life spark was pallid. Every moment this malevolent pack held its
cordon close was as surely a moment of strangling her faint chance as
if their fingers had been physically gripping her soft throat. And he
could only kneel futilely beside her and wait!

From his loopholes upstairs he saw once more two hats and gave their
wearers shot for shot, but when they kept their rifles popping he
suspected their purpose and dashed across the floor in time to send
three rapidly successive bullets into a little group that had detached
itself from the timber on that side and was creeping toward the house.
One crawling body collapsed and lay sprawling without motion. Two
others ran back crouching low and were lost to sight.

So he swung pendulumlike from side to side, firing and changing base,
and when his second turn brought him to the window through which he
had shot his man, he saw that the body had already been removed from
sight.



CHAPTER XIV


It was a hopeless game and a grim one. He could not cover all the
defenses long in single-handed effort, and the best he could hope for
was to die in ample companionship. Now, two men had reached
broad-girthed oaks, halfway between thicket and house. There they were
safe for the next rush.

So this was the end of the matter! Spurrier reloaded his rifle and
went down the ladder. Hastily he carried Glory into the room at the
back and overturned his heavy table to serve as a final barricade. He
elected to die here when they swarmed the door from which he could no
longer keep them, crowning the battle with a finale of punishment as
they crowded through the breach.

But the minutes dragged with irksome tension. He was keyed up now,
wire-tight, for the finish, and yet silence fell again and denied him
the relief of action. To Spurrier it was like a long and cruel delay
imposed upon a man standing blindfolded and noosed on the scaffold
trap. Then the quiet was ripped with a totally wasteful fusillade, as
though every attacker outside were pumping his gun in a contest of
speed rather than effect.

Spurrier smiled grimly. Let them burn their powder--he would have his
till they massed in front of his muzzle and the barrier fell.

"When the barrier fell!" Crouched there behind the table where he
meant to sell his life in that brief space that seemed long, the words
brought with them the memory of one of the few poems that had ever
meant much to him--and while he awaited death his mind seized upon the
lines--a funeral address in soliloquy!

  "For the journey is done and the summit attained,
    And the barriers fall----"

He strained his ears to his listening and then through his head ran
other verses:

  "I was ever a fighter, so--one fight more,
    The best and the last!
  I would hate that Death bandaged my eyes and forebore
    And bade me creep past----"

Was that a battering-ram against timber that he heard? He fingered the
trigger.

  "Then a light, then thy breast,
    O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
  And with God be the rest!"

But the door did not fall. The rifle cracking became interspersed with
alarmed outcries of warning and confusion. He could even hear the
brush torn with the hurried tramping of running feet, and then the
pandemonium abruptly stopped dead, and after a long period of inheld
breath there followed a loud rapping on the door and a voice of
agonized anxiety shouted:

"In God's name open if ye're still alive. It's Cappeze--and friends!"

The psychological effect of that recognized voice upon John
Spurrier, and of its incredible meaning, was strange to the point
of grotesquerie. Its sound carried a complete reversal of everything
to which his mind had been focussed with a tensity which had keyed
itself to the acceptance of a violent death, and with the reversal
came reaction. There was no interim of preparation for the altered
aspect of affairs. It was precisely as though a runaway train
furiously speeding to the overhang of an unbridged chasm had
suddenly begun dashing in the contrary direction with no shade of
lessening velocity, and no grinding of breaks to a halt between time.

Spurrier had taken no thought of physical strain. He had not known
that he was wearied with nerve wrack and pell-mell dashing from firing
point to firing point. He knew nothing of the picture he made with
clothing torn from his scrambling rushes up-ladder and down-ladder and
his crouching and shifting among the rough nail-studded spaces of the
cockloft. Of the face, sweat-reeking and dust-smeared, he had no
realization, but when that voice called out and he knew that rescuers
were clamoring where assassins had laid siege, the stout knees under
him buckled weakly, and the fingers that had fitted his rifle as
steadily as part of its own metallic mechanism became so inert that
they could scarcely maintain their grip upon the weapon.

John Spurrier, emotionally stirred and agitated as he had never been
in battle, because of the limp figure that lay under that roof, stood
gulping and struggling for a lost voice with which to give back a
reply. He rocked on his feet and then, like a drunken man went slowly
and unsteadily forward to lift the bar of the door.

When he had thrown it wide the rush of anxious men halted, backing up
instinctively, as their eyes were confused by the inner murk and their
nostrils assailed by the acrid stench of nitrate, from the vapors of
burnt powder that hung stiflingly between the walls and ceiling
rafters. Old Cappeze was at their front and when he saw before him the
battle begrimed and drawn visage of the man, he looked wildly beyond
it for the other face that he did not see, and his voice broke and
rose in a high, thin note that was almost falsetto as he demanded:
"Where is she? Where's Glory?"

John Spurrier sought to speak but the best he could do was to indicate
with a gesture half appealing and half despairing to the door of the
other room, where she lay on his army cot. The father crossed its
threshold ahead of him and dropped to his knees there with agonized
eyes, and Bud Hawkins, the preacher and physician, not sure yet in
which capacity he must act, was bent at his shoulder, while Spurrier
exhorted him with a recovered but tortured voice, "In God's name, make
haste. There's only a spark of life left."

From the crowd which had followed and stood massed about the door came
a low but unmistakable smother of fury, as they saw the unmoving
figure of the girl, and those at the edge wheeled and ran outward
again with the summary resoluteness that one sees in hounds cast off
at the start of the chase.

Upon those who remained Brother Hawkins wheeled and swept out his
hands in a gesture of imperative dismissal.

"Leave us alone, men," he commanded. "I needs ter work alone
hyar--with ther holp of Almighty God."

But he worked kneeling, tearing away the clothing over the wounded
breast, and while he did so he prayed with a fervor that was fiercely
elemental, yet abating no whit of his doctor's efficiency with his
surprisingly deft hands, while his lips and heart were those of the
religionist.

"Almighty Father in Heaven," he pleaded, "spare this hyar child of
Thine ef so be Thy wisdom suffers hit."

There he broke off and as though a different man were speaking, shot
over his shoulder the curt command: "Fotch me water speedily--Because
Almighty Father, she's done fell a victim of evil men thet fears Thee
not in th'ar hearts!"

After a little Brother Hawkins dismissed even the father and Spurrier
from the room and worked on alone, the voice of his praying sounding
over his activity.

Ten minutes later, in a crowded room, Bud Hawkins, preacher and
physician, laid one hand on Spurrier's shoulder and the other on
Cappeze's.

"Men," he said in a hushed voice, "I fears me ther shot thet hit her
was a deadener. Yit I kain't quite fathom hit nuther. She's back in
her rightful senses ergin--but she don't seem ter _want_ to live,
somehow. She won't put for'ard no effort."

Spurrier wheeled to face them both and his voice came with tense,
gasping earnestness.

"Before she dies, Brother Hawkins," he pleaded, "you're a minister of
the gospel--I want you to marry us." He wheeled then on the rescuers,
who stood breathing heavily from exertion and fight.

"Two of you men stay here as wedding witnesses," he commanded. "One of
you ride hell-for-leather to the nearest telephone and call up
Lexington. Have a man start with bloodhounds on a special train. The
rest of you get into the timber and finecomb it for some scrap of
cloth--or anything that will give the dogs a chance when they get
here."

Once more Spurrier was the officer in command, and snappily his
hearers sprang to obedience, but when the place had almost emptied,
the three turned and went into the back room, and, kneeling there
beside the wounded girl, Spurrier whispered:

"Dearest, the preacher has come--to wed us."

Glory's eyes with their deeps of color were startlingly vivid as they
looked out of the pallid face upon which a little while ago John
Spurrier had believed the white stamp of death to be fixed.

The features themselves, except the eyes, seemed to have shrunken from
weakness into wistful smallness, and if the girl had returned, in the
phrases of the preacher, "to her rightful senses" it had been as one
coming out of a dream who realizes that she wakes to heartburnings
which death had promised to smooth away.

Now, as the man stretched out his hand to take hers and drew a ring
from his own little finger, the violet eyes on the rough pillow became
transfigured with a luminous and incredulous happiness. But at once
they clouded again with gravity and pain.

Spurrier was offering to marry her out of pity and gratitude. He was
seeking to pay a debt, and his authoritative words were spoken from
his conscience and not from his heart.

So the lips stirred in an effort to speak, failed in that and drooped,
and weakly but with determination Glory shook her head. She had been
willing to die for him. She could not argue with him, but neither
would she accept the perfunctory amends that he now came proffering.

Spurrier rose, pale, and with a tremor of voice as he said to the
others: "Please leave us alone--for a few moments." Then when no one
was left in the room but the girl on the bed and the man on his knees
beside it, he bent forward until his eyes were close to hers and his
words came with a still intensity.

"Glory, dearest, though I don't deserve it, you've confessed that you
love me. Now I claim the life you were willing to lay down for me--and
you can't refuse."

There was wistfulness in her smile, but through her feebleness her
resolution stood fast and the movement of her head was meant for a
shake of refusal.

"But why, dear," he argued desperately, "why do you deny me when we
know there's only one wish in both our hearts?"

His hands had stolen over one of hers and her weak fingers stirred
caressingly against his own. Her lips stirred too, without sound, then
she lay in a deathlike quiet for a moment or two summoning strength
for an effort at speech, and he, bending close, caught the ghost of a
whisper.

"I don't seek payment ... fer what I done." A gasp caught her breath
and silenced her for a little but she overcame it and finished almost
inaudibly. "It was ... a free-will gift."

John Spurrier rose and sat on the side of the bed. His voice was
electrified by the thrill of his feeling; a feeling purged of all
artificiality by the rough shoulder touch of death.

"I'm asking another gift, now, Glory; the greatest gift of all. I'm
asking yourself. Don't try to talk--only listen to me because I need
you desperately. Except for you they would have killed me to-day--but
my life's not worth saving if I lose you after all. I'm two men,
dearest, rolled into one--and one of those men perhaps doesn't deserve
much consideration, but there's some good in the other and that good
can't prevail without you any more than a plant can grow without
sun."

With full realization, he was pitching his whole argument to the note
of his own selfish needs and wishes, and yet he was guided by a sure
insight into her heart. Brother Hawkins had said she had no wish to
live and would make no fight, and he knew that he might plead
endlessly and in vain unless he overcame her belief that he was
actuated merely by pity for her. If she could be convinced that it was
genuinely he who needed her more than she needed him, her woman
quality of enveloping in supporting love the man who leaned on her,
would bring consent.

"I sought to strengthen myself for success in life," he went on, "by
strangling out every human emotion that stood in the way of material
results. I serve men who sneer at everything on God's earth except
the practical, and I had come to the point where I let those men
shape me and govern even my character."

She had been listening with lowered lids and as he paused, she raised
them and smiled wanly, yet without any sign of yielding to his
supplications.

"The picture that you saw," he swept on torrentially, "was that of a
girl whose father employs me. He's a leader in big affairs and to be
his son-in-law meant, in a business sense, to be raised to royalty.
Vivien is a splendid woman and yet I doubt if either of us has----" he
fumbled a bit for his next words and then floundered on with
self-conscious awkwardness, "has thought of the other with real
sentiment. Until now, I haven't known what real sentiment meant. Until
now I haven't appreciated the true values. I discovered them out there
in the road when you came into my arms--and into my heart. From now on
my arms will always ache for you--and my heart will be empty without
you.'"

"But--," Glory's eyes were deeper than ever as she whispered
laboriously, "but if you're plighted to her----"

"I'm not," he protested hotly. "There is no engagement except a sort
of understanding with her father: a sort of condescending and tacit
willingness on his part to let his successor be his son-in-law as
well."

She lay for a space with the heavy masses of her hair on the rough
pillow framing the pale and exquisite oval of her face, and her vivid
eyes troubled with the longing to be convinced. Then her lips shaped
themselves in a rather pitiful smile that lifted them only at one
corner.

"Maybe ye don't ... know it Jack," she murmured, "but ye're jest
seekin' ... ter let me ... die ... easy in my mind ... and happy."

"Before God I am _not_," he vehemently contradicted her. "I'm not
trying to give but to take. Whether you get well or not, Glory, I want
to fight for your life and your love. We've faced death, together.
We've seen things nakedly--together. For neither of us can there ever
be any true life--except together."

His breath was coming with the swift intensity that was almost a sob
and, in the eyes that bent over her, Glory read the hunger that could
not be counterfeited.

"Anyhow," she faltered, "we've had--this minute."

Spurrier rose at last and called the others back. He himself did not
know when once more he took her hand and the preacher stood over them,
whether her responses to the services would be affirmative or
negative.

To Spurrier marriage had always seemed an opportunity. It was a
thing in which an ambitious man could no more afford yielding to
uncalculating impulses than in the forming of a major business
connection. Marriage must carry a man upward toward the peak of his
destiny, and his wife must bring as her dowry, social reënforcements
and distinction.

Now, in the darkening room of a log house, with figures clad in
patches and hodden-gray, he held the hand that was too weak to
close responsively upon his own, and listened to the words of a
shaggy-headed preacher, whose beard was a stubble and whose lips moved
over yellow and fanglike teeth.

Confusedly he heard the questions and his own firm responses to the
simple service of marriage as rendered by the backwoods preacher, then
his heart seemed to stop and stand as the words were uttered to which
Glory must make her answer.

"Will you, Glory, have this man, John Spurrier----"

What would her answer be--assent or negation?

The pause seemed to last interminably as he bent with supplication in
his glance over her, and the breath came from his lips with an
unconscious sibilance, like escaping steam from a strained boiler,
when at last the head on the pillow gave the ghost of a nod.

Even at that moment there lurked in the back of his mind, though not
admitted as important, the ghost of realization that he was doing
precisely the sort of thing which, in his own world, would not only
unclass him but make him appear ludicrous as well.

As for that world of lifted eye-brows he felt just now only a
withering contempt and a scalding hatred.

Almost as soon as the simple ceremony ended, Glory sank again into
unconsciousness, and the father and preacher, sitting silent in the
next room, were unable to forget that though there had been a wedding,
they were also awaiting the coming of death.

The night fell with the soft brightness of moon and stars, and through
the tangled woods the searchers were following hard on the flight of
the assailants--doggedly and grimly, with the burning indignation of
men bent on vindicating the good name of their people and community.
Yet, so far, the fugitive squad had succeeded not only in eluding
capture or recognition, but also in carrying with them their wounded.

From Lexington, where Spurrier had formed strong connections, a deputy
sheriff was riding in a caboose behind a special engine as fast as the
roadbeds would permit. The smokestack trailed a flat line of hurrying
smoke and the whistle screamed startlingly through the night. At the
officer's knees, gazing up at him out of gentle eyes that belied their
profession, crouched two tawny dogs with long ears--the bloodhounds
that were to start from the cabin and give voice in the laurel.

Waiting for them was a torn scrap of blue denim such as rough overalls
are made of. It had been found in a brier patch where some fleeing
wearer had snarled himself.

Yet two days later the deputy returned from his quest in the timber,
shaking his head.

"I'm sorry," he reported. "I've done my best, but it's not been good
enough."

"What's the trouble?" inquired Cappeze shortly, and the officer
answered regretfully:

"This country is zigzagged and criss-crossed with watercourses--and
water throws the dogs off. The fugitives probably made their way by
wading wherever they could. The longest run we made was up toward Wolf
Pen Branch."

That was the direction, Spurrier silently reflected, of Sim Colby's
house, but he made no comment.

Brother Hawkins, who was leaving that afternoon, laid a kindly hand on
Spurrier's shoulder.

"Thet's bad news," he said. "But I kin give ye better. I kin almost
give ye my gorrantee thet ther gal's goin' ter come through. Hit's
_wantin'_ ter live thet does hit."

Spurrier's eyes brightened out of the misery that had dulled them, and
as to the failure of the chase he reassured himself with the thought
that the dogs had started toward Sim Colby's house, and that he
himself could finish what they had begun.

Those tawny beasts had coursed at the behest of a master who was bound
by the limitations of the law, but he, John Spurrier, was his own
master and could deal less formally and more condignly with an enemy
to whom suspicion pointed--and there was time enough.



CHAPTER XV


And yet on that day when the bobwhites had sounded and the blow had
fallen, Sim Colby was nowhere near the opportunity hound's house. He
sat tippling in a mining town two days' journey away, and he had no
knowledge of what went on at home. His companion was ex-Private
Severance--once his comrade in arms.

The town was one of those places which discredit the march of industry
by the mongrelized character of its outposts. The wild aloofness of
the hills and valleys was marred there by the shacks of the camp and
its sky soiled by a black reek of coke furnaces.

Filth physical and moral brooded along the unkempt streets where the
foul buzz of swarming flies sounded over refuse piles, and that spirit
of degradation lay no less upon the unclean tavern, where the two men
who had once worn the uniform sat with a bottle of cheap whisky
between them.

Colby, who had need to maintain his reputation for probity at home,
made an occasional pilgrimage hither to foregather with his former
comrade and loosen the galling rein of restraint. Just about the time
when the attack on Spurrier's house had begun, he had leaned forward
with his elbows on the table, his face heavy and his eyes inflamed,
pursuing some topic of conversation which had already gained headway.

"These hyar fellers that seeks ter git rid of Spurrier," he confided,
"kinderly hinted 'round thet they'd like ter git me ter do ther job
for 'em, but I pretended like I didn't onderstand what they war
drivin' at, no fashion at all."

"Why didn't ye hearken ter 'em?" questioned Severance practically.
"Hit hain't every day a man kin git paid fer doin' what he seeks ter
do on his own hook."

But Colby grinned with a crafty gleam in his eye and poured another
drink.

"What fer would I risk ther penitenshery ter do a killin' fer them
fellers when, ef I jest sets still on my hunkers they'll do _mine_ fer
me," he countered.

For a time after that whatever enemies Spurrier had seemed to have
lost their spirit of eagerness. One might have presumed that to the
rule of amity which apparently surrounded him, there was no
exception--and so the mystery remained unsolved. Even blind Joe Givins
made a detour in a journey to stop at Spurrier's house and sing a
ballad of his own composition anent the mysterious siege and to
express his indignation at the "pizen meanness" of men who would
father and carry forward such infamies.

And Glory, who had penetrated so deeply into the shadow that life had
seemed ended for her, was recovering. Into her pale cheeks came a new
blossoming and into the smile of her lips and eyes a new light that
was serene and triumphant. She had been too happy to die.

While the summer waned and the beauties of autumn began to kindle, the
young wife grew strong, and her husband, seemingly, had nothing to do
except to wander about the hills with her and discover in her new
charms. Neighborly saws and hammers were ringing now as his place was
transformed from its simple condition to the "hugest log house on
seven creeks."

In some respects he wished that his factitious indolence were real,
for he felt no pride in the occult fashion in which he was directing
the activities of his henchmen. And yet a few months ago this progress
would have been food for satisfaction--almost triumph.

His plans, as outlined to Martin Harrison were by no means at a
standstill. They were going forward with an adroit drawing in and
knitting together of scattered strands, and the warp and woof of this
weaving were coming into definite order and pattern.

The dual necessity was: first to slip through a legislature which was
supposedly under the domination of American Oil and Gas, a charter
which should wrest from that concern the sweet fruits of monopoly, and
secondly, to secure at paltry prices the land options that would give
the prospective pipe line its right of way.

As this campaign had been originally mapped and devised it had not
been simple, but now it was complicated by a new and difficult
element. In those first dreams of conquest the native had been no more
considered than the red Indian was considered in the minds of the new
world settlers. Spurrier himself had brushed lightly aside this aspect
of the affair. Every game has and must have its "suckers." And their
sorry destiny it is to be despoiled. Now the very term that he had
used in his thoughts, brought with it an amendment. It is not every
game that must have its suckers but every bunco game.

Martin Harrison did not know it, but his lieutenant had redrawn his
plans, and redrawn them in a fashion which the chief would have
regarded as insubordinate, impractical and sentimental.

Spurrier intended that when the smoke cleared from the field upon
which the forces of Harrison and those of Trabue had been embattled,
the Harrison banners should be victoriously afloat and the Trabue
standards dust trailed. But also he intended that the native
land-holders, upon whom both combatants had looked as mere unfortunate
onlookers raked by the cross fire of opposing artillery, should emerge
as real and substantial gainers.

Of late the man had not escaped the penalty of one who faces
responsibility and wields power. He had abandoned as puerile his first
impulse, after his marriage, to throw up his whole stewardship to the
Wall Street masters. That would have amounted only to an ostentation
of virtue which would have surrendered the situation into the
merciless hands of A. O. and G., and would have left the mountain folk
unprotected.

Yet he could not escape the realization that he would stand with all
the seeming of a traitor and a plunderer to any of his simple friends
who learned of his activities--for as yet he could confide to no one
the plans he was maturing.

It was when the refurnished and enlarged place had been completed that
the neighbors came from valley, slope, and cove to give their blessing
at the housewarming which was also, belatedly, the "infaring."

That homely, pioneer observance with which the groom brings home his
bride, had not been possible after the wedding, but now Aunt Erie
Toppitt had come over and prepared entertainment on a lavish if homely
scale since Glory was not yet well.

To the husband as he stood greeting the guests who arrived in jeans
and hodden-gray, in bright shawls and calicoes, came the feeling of
contrast and unreality, as though this were all part of some play
quaintly and exaggeratedly staged to reflect a medieval period. In the
drawing rooms of Martin Harrison and his confreres he had moved
through a social atmosphere, quiet, contained, and reflecting such a
life as the dramatist uses for background in a comedy of manners.
Closing his eyes now he could see himself as he had been when,
starting out for such an entertainment, he had paused before the
cheval glass in his club bedroom, adding a straightening touch to his
white tie, adjusting the set of his waistcoat and casting a critical
eye over the impeccable black and white of his evening dress. Here,
flannel shirted and booted, corduroy breeched and tanned brown, he
stood by the door watching the arrival of guests who seemed to have
stepped out of pioneer America or Elizabethan England. There were
women riding mules or tramping long roads on foot and trailing
processions of children who could not be left at home; men feeling
overdressed and uncomfortable because they had donned coats and
brushed their hats; even wagons plodding slowly behind yokes of oxen
and one man riding a steer in lieu of a horse!

So they came to give Godspeed to his marriage--and they were the only
people on God's green earth who thought of him in any terms of regard
save that regard which sprung from self-interest in his ability to
serve beyond others!

Men who were blood enemies met here as friends, because his roof
covered a zone of common friendship and under its protection their
hatreds could no more intrude on such a day than could pursuit in the
Middle Ages follow beyond the sanctuary gates of a cathedral. Inside
sounded the minors of the native fiddlers and the scrape of feet
"running the sets" of quaint square dances.

The labors of preparation had been onerous. Aunt Erie stood at the
open door constituting, with Spurrier and his wife, a "receiving line"
of three, and her wrinkled old face bore an affectation of morose
exhaustion as to each guest she made the same declaration:

"I hopes an' prays ye all enjoys this hyar party--Gawd knows _my_
back's broke."

But Spurrier had not in his letters to Harrison mentioned his
marriage, and to Vivien he had not written at all. He thought they
would hardly understand, and he preferred to make his announcement
when he stood face to face with them, relying on the force of his own
personality to challenge any criticism and proclaim his own
independence of action. Just now there was no virtue in needlessly
antagonizing his chief.

Among the guests who came to that housewarming was one chance visitor
who was not expected. He came because the people under whose roof he
was being sheltered, had "fetched him along," and he was Wharton, the
man whose purpose hereabouts had set gossip winging aforetime.

It seemed to some of the local visitors that despite his entire
courtesy, Spurrier did not evince any profound liking for this other
"furriner," and since they had come to accept their host as a
trustworthy oracle, they took the tip and were prepared to dislike
Wharton, too.

That evening, while blind Joe Givins fiddled, and dancers "ran their
sets" on the smooth, new floor, a group of men gathered on the porch
outside and smoked. Among them for a time were both Spurrier and
Wharton.

The latter raised something of a laugh when he confidently predicted
that the oil prosperity, for all its former collapse and present
paralysis, was not permanently dead.

"The world needs oil and there's oil here," he declared with unctuous
conviction. "Men who are willing to gamble on that proposition will
win out in the end."

"Stranger," responded Uncle Jimmy Litchfield, taking his pipestem from
between his teeth and spitting contemptuously at the earth, "ye sees,
settin' right hyar before ye a man that 'lowed he was a millionaire
one time, 'count of this hyar same oil ye're discoursin' so hopeful
about. Thet man's me. I'd been dirt-pore all my days, oftentimes
hurtin' fer ther plum' needcessities of life. I'm mighty nigh thet
pore still."

"Did you strike oil in the boom days?" demanded Wharton as he bent
eagerly forward.

"I owned me a farm, them days, on t'other side ther mounting," went on
the narrator, "an' them oil men came along an' wanted ter buy ther
rights offen me."

"Did you sell?"

Uncle Billy chuckled. "They up an' offered me a royalty of one-eighth
of ther whole production. They proved hit up ter me by 'rithmetic an'
algebry how hit would make me rich over an' above all avarice--but I
said no, I wouldn't take no eighth. I stud out fer a _sixteenth_ by
crickety!"

Both Spurrier and Wharton smothered their laughter as the latter
inquired gravely: "Did they play one of them royalty games."

"They done better'n thet. They said, 'We'll give ye two sixteenths,'
an' thet's when I 'lowed I was es good es a Pierpont Morgan. I
wouldn't nuver hurt fer no needcessity no more."

"And what was the outcome of it all?" asked Wharton.

Uncle Jimmy's face darkened. "The come-uppance of ther whole blame
business war thet a lot of pore devils what hed done been content with
poverty found hit twice as hard ter go on bein' pore because they'd
got to entertainin' crazy dreams ther same as me. Any man thet talks
oil ter me now's got ter buy outright an' pay me spot cash. I ain't
playin' no more of them royalty games."

"That's fair enough," said Wharton. "But it seems to me that you
people are taking the wrong tack. Because the boom collapsed once, you
are shutting the door against the possibility of its coming again--and
it's going to come again."

"A man kin git stung once," volunteered another native, "an' hit's
jest tough luck or bewitchment. Ef he gits stung twicet on ther same
trumpery, he ain't no more then a plum', daft fool."

Wharton lighted a fresh cigar and turned toward Spurrier.

"Mr. Spurrier here, is a man you all know and trust----" he hazarded.
"I understand that he's seen oil fields in the West and Mexico. I
wonder what he thinks about it all."

On the dark porch Spurrier looked at his visitor for a few minutes in
silence and his first reply was a quiet question.

"Did I tell you I'd seen oil fields in operation?" he inquired, and
Wharton stammered a little.

"I was under that impression," he said. "Possibly I am wrong."

"No--you are right enough," answered the other evenly. "I just didn't
remember mentioning it. What is your question exactly?"

"If I have a hunch that oil holds a future here and am willing to back
that hunch, don't you think I am acting wisely to do it?"

The host sat silent while he seemed to weigh the question with
judicial deliberation, and during the pause he realized that the
little group of men were waiting intently for his utterance as for the
voice of the Delphic oracle.

"I have seen oil operation and oil development," he said at last. "I
have lived here for some time and know the history of the former boom,
but I have not bought a foot of ground. That ought to make my opinion
clear."

"Then you don't believe in the future?"

"Don't you think, Mr. Wharton," inquired Spurrier coolly and, his
listeners thought, with a shaded note of contempt, "that what I've
already said, answers your question? If I _did_ believe in it,
wouldn't I be likely to seek investment at the present stage of land
prices?"

John Spurrier was glad that it was dark out there. He knew that the
mountain men awaited his judgment as something carrying the sanction
of finality and he felt like a Judas. He himself knew that back of his
seeming betrayal was a determination to safeguard their rights, but
the whole game of maneuvering and dissembling was as impossible to
play proudly as it would have been to undertake the duties of a spy.

"I'll admit," observed Wharton modestly, "that if I lost some money,
it wouldn't break me--and I'm a stubborn man when I get a hunch. Well,
I'm going in to watch them dance."

He rose and went indoors and Uncle Jimmy, when he put a question
acted, in effect, as spokesman for them all.

"What does ye think of thet feller, Mr. Spurrier?"

"I think," said the opportunity hound crisply, "that he's a fool, and
Scripture says, 'a fool and his money are soon parted.'"

"An' ef he seeks ter buy?"

"Sell--by all means--if the price is right!"

The next day when they were alone Glory said:

"I don't like that man Wharton. He's got sneaky eyes."

Her husband laughed. "I can't say that he struck me pleasantly," he
admitted. "We talked oil out on the porch. He was the optimist and I
the pessimist."

And it was to happen that the first rift in Glory's lute of happiness
was to come out of Wharton's agency, though she did not recognize it
as his.

For in these times, despite a happiness that made her sing through the
days, something like the panic of stage fright was settling over her:
a thing yet of the future, but some day to be faced.

So long as life ran quietly, like the shaded streams that went down
until they made the rivers of the greater and outer world, she was
confident mistress of her life and had no forebodings. Spurrier
loved her and she worshiped him--but out there beyond the ridges,
the activities of his larger life were calling--or would call. Then
they must leave here and she began to dread the thousand little
mistakes and the humiliations that might come to him because of her
unfamiliarity with that life. Since the bearings of achievement are
delicate, she even feared that she might throw out of gear and
poise the whole machinery of his success, and in secret Glory was
poring over absurd books on etiquette and deportment. That these
stereotyped instructions would only hamper her own naturally plastic
spirit, she did not know when she read and reread chapters headed,
"How to Enter a Drawing-room" and "Hints upon Refined Conversation."

That Spurrier would suggest going without her to any field into which
his work called him, she did not dream. That he would leave her to
wait for him here, as the companion only of his backwoods hours, her
pride never contemplated.

Yet in the fall Spurrier did just that thing, and to the letter which
induced its doing was signed the name of George Wharton. The latter
wrote:

  "We must begin to lay out lines for work with the next legislature.
  There are people in Louisville and Lexington whom you should meet
  and talk with. I think you had better make your headquarters at
  one of the Louisville clubs, and when you get here I will put you
  in touch with the proper bearings."

That much might have puzzled any of the mountaineers who had taken
their own cues from Spurrier's thinly concealed manner of hostility to
Wharton, but the last part of the letter would have explained that,
too:

  "The little game down at your house was nothing short of masterly.
  Your acting was superb, and though you were the star, I think I
  may claim to have played up to you well. The device of gaining
  their confidence so that, of their own accord, they turned to you
  for counsel--and then seeming to gloom on me when I talked oil,
  was pretty subtle. I could openly preach buying and instead of
  turning away from me in suspicion, they fell on me for a sucker.
  I--and others acting for me--have, as the result, secured a good
  part of the options we need--and you appear to be of all men, the
  least interested."

Spurrier read the thing twice, then crushed it savagely in his
clenched hand and cursed under his breath. "The damned jackals," he
muttered. "That's the pack I'm running with--or rather I'm running
with them and against them at once."

But when Spurrier had kissed Glory good-by and she had waved a smiling
farewell, she turned back into her house and covered her face with her
hands.

"I don't want to believe it," she declared. "I won't believe it--but
it looks like he's ashamed to take me with him. Not that I blame
him--only--only I've got to make myself over. He's _got_ to be proud
of me!"



CHAPTER XVI


When he came back for a short stay in the hills between periods of
quiet but strenuous affairs in Louisville, he brought gifts that
delighted Glory and a devotion that made her forget her misgivings.
She had him back, and he found the house expressing in many small ways
a taste and discrimination which brought to him a flush of pleasurable
surprise. Glory knew the menace that hung over Spurrier. She knew of
the malevolent and elusive enmities to which her own life had so
nearly become forfeit, and the old terror of the mountain woman for
her man became the cross that she must carry with her. Because of her
militant father's antagonisms she had been inured from childhood to
the taut moment of suspense that came with every voice raised at the
gate and every knock sounding on the door.

There was an element of possible threat in each arrival. She had
become, as one has need to be, under such circumstances, somewhat
fatalistic as to the old dangers. Now that the fear embraced her
husband as well as her father, the philosophy which she had cultivated
failed her. Yet their happiness was so strong that it threw off these
things and drew upon the treasury of the present.

Spurrier, who talked little of his own dangers, was far from
forgetting. His suspicion of Colby strengthened, and he looked forward
to the day as inevitable when there must be a reckoning between them,
which would not be a final reckoning unless one of them died, and for
that encounter he went grimly prepared.

One thing puzzled him. Of Sim Colby he had thought as a somewhat
solitary character, whose relations with his neighbors, though
amicable, were yet rather detached. He had seemed to have few
intimates, yet if he had led this attack, he was palpably able to
muster at his back a considerable force of men for a desperate
project. That meant that the infection of hatred against himself had
spread from a single enmity to the number, at least, of the men who
had joined in the battle, and it had been a battle in which more than
one had fallen. Before, he had recognized a single enemy. Henceforth
he must acknowledge plural enmities.

And along that line of reasoning the next step followed logically.

Who would suggest himself as so natural a leader for a murder
enterprise as Sam Mosebury, whose record was established in such
matters? Certainly if this suspicion were well-founded it would be
safest to know.

Spurrier, despite all he had heard of Sam Mosebury, was reluctant to
entertain the thought. The man might be, as Cappeze painted him, the
head and front of an infamously vicious system, yet there was
something engaging and likable about him, which made it hard to
believe that for hire or any motive not nearly personal he would have
conspired to do murder.

So among the many claims upon Spurrier's attention was the effort to
find out where Sam Mosebury stood, and it was while he was thinking
of that problem that he encountered the object of his thoughts in
person. The spot was one distant from his own house. Indeed it was
near Colby's cabin--still apparently empty--that the meeting took
place.

The opportunity hound had made several trips over there of late,
because he required to know something of Colby's activities, and, of
course, when he came he observed a surreptitious caution which sought
to guard against any hint leaking through to Colby of his own
surveillance. He firmly believed that Sim was "hiding out," and that
despite the seeming emptiness of his habitation he was not far away.

So it was Spurrier, the law-abiding man, who was skulking in the
laurel while the notorious Mosebury walked the highway "upstanding"
and openly--and the man in the thicket stooped low to escape
discovery. But his foot slipped in the tangle and a rotting branch
cracked under it, giving out a sound which brought Mosebury to an
abrupt halt with his head warily raised and his rifle poised. He, too,
had enemies and must walk in caution.

There had been times when Sam's life had hinged on just such trivial
things as the snapping of a twig, and now, peering through the
thickets Spurrier saw a flinty hardness come into his eyes.

Sam stepped quietly but swiftly to the roadside and sheltered himself
behind a rock. He said no word, but he waited, and Spurrier could feel
that his eyes were boring into his own place of concealment with a
scrutiny that went over it studiously and keenly, foot by foot.

He hurriedly considered what plan to pursue. If Mosebury was in
league with Colby, to show himself would be almost as undesirable a
thing as to show himself to Colby direct. Yet if he stayed there with
the guilty seeming of one in hiding, Mosebury would end by locating
him--and might assume that the hiding was itself a proof of enmity. He
decided to declare himself so he shouted boldly: "It's John Spurrier,"
and rose a moment later into view.

Then he came forward, thinking fast, and when the two met in the road,
mendaciously said:

"I guess it looks queer for a man with a clear conscience to take to
the timber that way, Mr. Mosebury--but you may remember that I was
recently attacked, and I don't know who did it."

Mosebury nodded. "I'd be ther last man ter fault ye fer thet," he
concurred. "I was doin' nigh erbout ther same thing myself, but I
didn't know ye often fared over this way, Mr. Spurrier."

"No, it's off my beat." Spurrier was now lying fluently in what he
fancied was to be a game of wits with a man who might have led the
siege upon his house. "I was just going over to Stamp Carter's place.
He wanted me to advise him about a property deal."

For a space Sam stood gravely thoughtful, and when he spoke his words
astonished the other.

"Seein' we _hev_ met up, accidental-like, I've got hit in head ter
tell ye somethin' deespite hit ain't rightly none of my business."
Again he paused, and it was plain that he was laboring under
embarrassment, so Spurrier inquired:

"What is it?"

"Of course, I've done heered ther talk erbout yore bein' attacked.
Don't ye really suspicion no special man?"

"Suspicion is one thing, Mr. Mosebury, and knowledge is another."

"Yes, thet's Bible truth, an' yit I wouldn't marvel none yore
suspicions went over thet-away--an' came up not fur off from hyar." He
nodded his head toward Sim Colby's house, and Spurrier, who was
steeled to fence, gave no indication of astonishment. He only
inquired:

"Why should Mr. Colby hold a grudge against me?"

"I ain't got no power of knowin' thet." Mosebury spoke dryly. "An' es
I said afore, hit ain't none of my business nohow--still I does know
thet ye've been over hyar some sev'ral times, an' every time ye came,
ye came quietlike es ef ye sought ter see Sim afore Sim seed _you_."

"You think I've been here before?"

"No, sir, I don't think hit. I knows hit. I seed ye."

"Saw me!"

"Yes, sir, seed ye. Hit's my business to keep a peeled eye in my
face."

So Spurrier's careful secrecy had been transparent after all, and if
this man was an ally of Colby's, Colby already shared his knowledge.
More than ever Spurrier felt sure that his suspicions of the man whose
eyes had changed color, were grounded in truth.

"Howsomever," went on Mosebury quietly, "I ain't nuver drapped no hint
ter Sim erbout hit. I ain't, gin'rally speakin', no meddler, but ef so
be I kin forewarn ye ergainst harm, hit would pleasure me ter do
hit."

There was a cordial ring of sincerity in the manner and voice, which
it was hard to doubt, so the other said gravely:

"Thank you. I did suspect Colby, but I have no proof."

"I don't know whether Sim grudges ye or not," continued Mosebury. "He
ain't nuver named ther matter ter me nowise, guise, ner fashion--but
Sim _wasn't with ther crowd thet went atter ye_. He didn't even know
nothin' erbout hit. Sometimes a man comes to grief by barkin' up ther
wrong tree."

Again suspicion came to the front. This savored strongly of an attempt
to alibi a confederate, and Spurrier inquired bluntly:

"Since you broached this subject, I think it's fair to ask you another
question. You tell me who _didn't_ come. Do you know who _did_?"

For a moment Mosebury's face remained blank, then he spoke stiffly.

"I said I'd be glad ter warn ye--but I didn't say I war willin' ter
name no names. Thet would be mighty nigh ther same thing es takin'
yore quarrel onto myself."

"Then that's all you can tell me--that it wasn't Colby?"

"Mr. Spurrier," rejoined the mountaineer seriously, "ye _knows_
jedgmatically an' p'intedly thet ye've got enemies that means
business. I ain't nuver seed a man yet in these hills what belittled a
peril sich as yourn thet didn't pay fer hit--with his life."

"I don't belittle it, but what can I do?"

Sam Mosebury stood with a gaze that wandered off over the broken sky
line. So grave was his demeanor that when his words came they carried
the shock of inconsistent absurdity.

"Thar's a witch woman, thet dwells nigh hyar. Ef I war in youre stid,
I'd git her ter read ther signs fer me an' tell me what I had need
guard ergainst most."

"I'm afraid," answered Spurrier, repressing his contempt with
difficulty, "I'm too skeptical to pin my faith to signs and omens."

Again the mountain man was looking gravely across the hills, but for a
moment the eyes had flashed humorously.

"I reckon we don't need ter cavil over thet, Mr. Spurrier. I don't sot
no master store by witchcraft foolery my ownself. Mebby ye recalls
thet oncet I told ye a leetle story erbout my cat an' my mockin'
bird."

"Yes," Spurrier began to understand now. "You sometimes speak in
allegory. But this time I don't get the meaning."

"Waal, hit's this fashion. I _don't_ know who ther men war thet tried
ter kill ye. Thet's God's truth, but I've got my own notions an' mebby
they ain't fur wrong. I ain't goin' ter name no names--but ef so be ye
wants ter talk ter ther witch woman, _I'll_ hev speech with her fust.
What comes outen magic kain't hardly make me no enemies--but mebby hit
_mout_ enable ye ter discern somethin' thet would profit ye to a
master degree."

Spurrier stood looking into the face of the other and then impulsively
he thrust out his hand.

"Mr. Mosebury," he said, "I'll be honest with you. I half suspected
you--because I'd met you at Colby's and I knew you hated Cappeze. I
owe you an apology, and I'm glad to know I was wrong."

"Mr. Spurrier," replied the other, "ef I _hed_ attempted yore life I
wouldn't hev failed, an', moreover, I don't hate old Cappeze. Ther man
thet wins out don't hev no need ter harbor hatreds. He hates me
because he sought ter penitentiary me--an' failed."

"When shall we go to consult the oracle?" asked Spurrier, and Mosebury
shook his head.

"I reckon mebby I mout seem over cautious--even timorouslike ter ye,
in bein' so heedful erbout keepin' outen sight in this matter," he
said. "But them thet knows my record, knows I _ain't_, jest ter say
easy skeered. You go home an' wait an' afore long I'll write ye a
letter, tellin' ye when ter go an' how ter go. Then ye kin make ther
journey by yoreself."

"That looks like common sense to me," declared the other, and he went
home, forgetting the witch woman on the way, because of the other and
lovelier witchcraft that he knew awaited him in his own house.

Spurrier, despite his dangers, responsibilities, and conflict of
purposes, was happy. He was happy in a simpler and less complicated
way than he had ever been before, because his heart was in the
ascendancy, and Glory, he thought, was "livin' up to her name."

If he could have thrust some other things into the same dark cupboard
of half-contemptuous philosophy to which he relegated his own dangers,
he might have been even happier. But a mentor who had rarely troubled
him in past years became insistent and audible through the
silences--speaking with the voice of conscience.

He remembered telling Vivian Harrison, over the consommé, that pearls
did not make oysters happy and that these illiterates of the hills
might have hidden wealth in the shells of their isolation and gain
nothing more than the oyster. Indeed, he had thought of them no more
than the pearl fisherman thinks of the low form of life whose diseased
state gives birth to treasure. They inhabited a terrain over which he
and the forces of American Oil and Gas were to do battle, and like
birds nesting on a battlefield, they must take their chances.

It was no longer possible to maintain that callous indifference. These
men, to whom he could not, without disclosing his strategy and
defeating his purpose, tell the truth, had befriended him.

They were human and in many ways lovable. If he succeeded, they would,
upon his own advice, have sold their birthrights.

However, he gave an anodyne to his conscience with the thought that if
victory came to him there would be wealth enough for all to share.
Having won his conquest, he could be generous, rendering back as a
gift a part of what should have been theirs by right. The means of
doing this he had worked out but he could confide to no one. He had
embarked as cold bloodedly as Martin Harrison had ever started on any
of the enterprises that had made him a money baron. Indeed it had been
Spurrier who had fired the chief with interest in the scheme, and if
the thing were culpable the culpability had been his own. Then he had
come to realize that in the human equation was a factor that he had
ignored: the rights of the ignorant native. He had fought down that
recognition as the voice of sentimentality until at last he had no
longer been able to fight it down. Between those two states of mind
had been a war of mental agony and conflict, of doubt, of vacillation.
The conclusion had not been easily reached. Now he meant to carry on
the war he had undertaken unaltered as to its objective of winning a
victory for Harrison over Trabue and the myrmidons of A. O. and G.,
but he meant to bring in that victory in such a guise that the native
would share in the division of the spoils. He knew that Harrison, if
he had an intimation of such an amendment of plan, would sharply veto
it, but when the thing was done it would be too late to object--and
meanwhile Spurrier regarded himself no less the trustee of the
mountain-land holder than the servant of Martin Harrison. He was
willing to shoulder, out of his own stipulated profits, the chief
burden of this division, and in the end he would have driven a better
bargain for his simple friends than they could have hoped to attain
for themselves.

Yet in him was being reborn an element of character, which had long
been repressed.

And there in the other section of the State where political
connections had to be established and the skids of intrigue greased,
much stood waiting to be done. Already most of what could be
accomplished here on the ground had progressed to a point from which
the end could be seen.

John Spurrier, the seeming idler, could control almost all the
territory needful for his right of way--all except a tract belonging
to Brother Bud Hawkins, cautiously left for the last because he
wished to handle that himself and did not yet wish to appear in the
negotiations.

In the intricate workings of such a project by a campaign of secrecy,
the matter was not only one of acquiring a certain expanse of a
definite sort of property in a given region, but of acquiring holdings
that commanded the only practicable route through passable gaps. This
special lie and trend of ground he thought of and spoke of, in his
business correspondence, as "the neck of the bottle." When he held it,
it mattered little who else had liquid in the bottle. It could come
out only through his neck and, therefore, under his terms. Yet even
when that was achieved, there remained the need of the corkscrew
without which he himself could make no use of his range-wide jug of
crude petroleum. That corkscrew was the charter to be had from a
legislature where American Oil and Gas was supposed to have sentinels
at the door.

He could not take Glory with him on these trips, because Glory was of
the hills, and loyal to the hills--and he could not yet take the
natives into his confidence. For the same reason he could give her
only business reasons of the most general and evasive character for
leaving her behind.

But the work that Spurrier had done so far was only the primary
section of a broader design. What he had accomplished affected the oil
field on the remote side of Hemlock Mountain, the part of the field
that the earlier boom had never touched, and his entire project looked
to a totality embracing also the "nigh" side, where his operations
still existed only in projection.

It was while this situation stood that there came to him one day two
letters calling upon him for two irreconcilable courses of action. One
was from Louisville, urging him to return there at once to busy
himself with political plannings; the other was a rude scrawl from Sam
Mosebury setting an appointment with the "witch woman."

Spurrier was reluctant to go to Louisville. It meant laying aside the
little paradise of the present for the putting on of heavy harness. It
necessitated another excuse to Glory, and more than that, being away
from Glory. Yet that was the bugle call of his mission, and he fancied
that whatever threatened him here in the hills was a menace of local
effect. If that were true he would not need the warning which the
unaccountable desperado, Sam Mosebury, meant to relay to him through
channels of alleged magic, until he came back.

Therefore, the witch could wait. But in that detail Spurrier erred,
and when he answered the summons that called him to town without his
occult consultation, he unwittingly discarded a warning which he
needed there no less than in the hills.

He was called upon to choose a turning without pause, and he followed
his business instincts. It happened that instinct misled him.



CHAPTER XVII


One afternoon Trabue, the unadvertised dictator of American Oil and
Gas, sat with several of his close subordinates in a conference that
had to do with Martin Harrison, the man he assumed to ignore.

"Unless some unforeseen thing sends oil soaring," ventured Oliver
Morris, "this fellow Spurrier is having his trouble for his pains. My
idea is that he's seeking to tease us into counter activity--and trail
after us in the profits."

"And if something _should_ send oil soaring," crisply countered
Cosgrove, "he'd have us distanced with a runaway start."

"Who is this man Spurrier?" demanded Trabue himself. "What does our
research department report?"

"He's a protégé of Martin Harrison's."

Trabue appeared to find the words illuminating, and a shrewd irony
glinted in his brief smile.

"If he's Harrison's man, he's out to knife me--and he has resources at
his back. Tell me more about him."

Cosgrove took from his portfolio a neatly typed memorandum, and read
from it aloud:

  Former army officer who gained the sobriquet of "Plunger"
  Spurrier: Court-martialed and convicted upon charge of murder,
  and pardoned through efforts of Senator Beverly. Associated with
  various enterprises as a general investigator and initiative
  expert. Rumor has it that Harrison is grooming him as his own
  successor.

"If his reputation is that of a plunger," argued Morris, "my guess is
that he's playing a long-shot bet for a killing."

"And you guess wrong. If Harrison has picked this fellow to wear his
own mantle, the man is more than a gambling tout. It is only lunacy to
underestimate him or dismiss him with contempt."

Cosgrove nodded his concurrence and amplified it. "In my judgment he's
something of a genius with a chrome-nickeled nerve, but he's adroit as
well as bold. He has operated only through others and has kept himself
inconspicuous. Except for an accident, we should have had no warning
of his activities."

"If he were to get bitten by a rattlesnake," growled Morris savagely,
"it would be a lucky thing for us. Of course, we might beguile him
into our own camp."

Trabue shook his head in a decisive negation.

"That would only notify him that we recognize his effort and fear it.
If the game's big enough, we don't want him." He paused, then added
with a grim facetiousness: "As for your other suggestion, we have no
rattlesnakes in our equipment."

The dynamic-minded master of strategy sat balancing a pen-holder on
his extended forefinger for a few moments, then he inquired as if in
afterthought: "By the way, I feel curious as to how the tip came to us
that this conspiracy was on foot. You say that except for an accident
we should not have known it."

Cosgrove smiled. "It came to this office through the regular channels
of our local agencies--and I didn't inquire searchingly into the
details. I gathered, though, that the trail was picked up by a sort of
information tout--a fellow who was hurt and compromised a damage suit
against us. It seems that he is supposed to be blind--but he could
nonetheless see well enough to read some memoranda that chanced to
come his way." The gentleman cleared his throat almost apologetically
as he added: "As I remarked I didn't learn the particulars. I merely
took the information for what it might be worth, and set our men to
watching."

"I see," Trabue made dry acknowledgment. "And what is being done
toward watching him?"

"I understand we have a man there who is assuming an enmity toward us
and who is ostensibly helping Spurrier to build up political
influence."

"I see," said Trabue once more, with even a shade more dryness in his
voice.

That conversation had taken place quite a long while before the
present, but it set into quiet motion the wheels of a large and
powerful organization.

The knowledge that John Spurrier was objectionable to A. O. and G. had
filtered through to more local, yet confidential, officials, and
through them to "men in the field," and it is characteristic of such
delegations of authority, that each department suits the case referred
to it to the practical workings of its own environment.

Gentlemen of high business standing in lower Broadway could permit
themselves no violence of language, beyond the intimation that this
upstart was a nuisance. Translated into the more candid brutality of
camp-following parasites in the wildness of the hills, that mild
declaration became: "The man needs killin'. Let's git him!"

Now, Spurrier found that the visit to Louisville and Lexington, which
had promised to be the matter of weeks, must stretch itself into
months, and that until the convening and adjournment of the assembly
itself, his presence would be as requisite as that of a ship's officer
on the bridge. In one respect he was gratified. American Oil and Gas
seemed serenely unsuspicious of any danger. Vigilance seemed lapsed.
Those men whose duty it was to watch the corporation's interest and to
hold in line the needed lawmakers, appeared to regard legislative
protection as a thing bought and paid for and safe from trespass.

And Spurrier, knowing better, was secretly triumphant, but without
Glory he was far from happy.

Had he known what influences were at work with cancerlike corrosions
upon her loyalty, what food was nourishing her anxiety, he would have
stolen the time to go to her. Hers was an anxiety which she did not
acknowledge. Even to herself she denied its existence and against any
outside suggestion of inner hurt pride would have risen in valiant
resentment.

But in her heart it talked on in whispers that she could not hush. At
night she would waken suddenly, wide-eyed with apprehension and seek
to reassure herself by the emphasis of her avowals: "He's _not_
ashamed of me. He's not leaving me because of that! He's a big man
with big business, and some day he'll take me with him, everywhere!"

When old Cappeze, a man not given to unreflecting or careless speech,
flatly questioned: "Glory--why doesn't John ever take you with him?"
she flinched and fell into exculpations that limped.

The old man was quick to note the pained rawness of the nerve he had
touched, and he began talking of something else, but when he was alone
once more his old eyes took on that fanatic absorption that came of
his deep love for his daughter, and he shook his head dubiously over
her future.

One day a neighborhood woman came by Glory's house and found her
standing at the door. Tassie Plumford neither claimed nor was credited
with powers of magic, but she, too, might have been called a "witch
woman." In curdled disposition and shrewishness of tongue, she merited
the title.

"Waal, waal, Glory Cappeze," she drawled in her rasping, nasal voice.
"Yore man hes done built ye a right monstrous fine house, hyar, ain't
he?"

"Come in and see it, Mrs. Plumford," invited the young wife. "But my
name's Glory Spurrier now--not Cappeze."

In the gesture with which the woman drew her shawl tighter about her
lean shoulders, she contrived to convey the affront of suspicion and
disbelief.

"No, I reckon I ain't got ther power ter tarry now," she declined. "I
don't git much time fer gaddin', an' be yore name whatsoever hit may,
there's them hyar-abouts es 'lows yore man lavishes everything on ye
but his own self. He's away from ye most of his time, albeit I reckon
he's got car fare aplenty fer two."

Glory stiffened, and without a word turned her back on her ungracious
visitor. She went into the house with the tilted chin of one who
disdains to answer insolent slanders, but in the tenderness of her
heart the barb had nonetheless sunk deep. So people were saying that!

Over at Aunt Erie Toppitt's the shrew again halted--and there it
seemed that she did have time to "tarry," and roll the morsel of
gossip under tongue.

"Mebby she's ther furriner's lawful wife an' then ergin mebby she
ain't nuthin' but his woman," opined Tassie Plumford. "Hit ain't none
of my business nohow, but a godly woman hes call ter be heedful whar
she visits at."

"A godly woman!" Aunt Erie's tone stung like a hornet attack. "What
has godliness got ter do with _you_, anyhow, Tassie Plumford? The
records of ther high cote over at Carnettsville hes got _yore_ record
fer a witness thet swears ter perjury."

Mrs. Plumford trembled with rage but, prudently, she elected to ignore
the reference to her legal status.

"Ef they was rightfully married," she retorted, "hit didn't come ter
pass twell old man Cappeze diskivered her alone with him--in his
house--jest ther two of 'em--an' they wouldn't nuver hev _been_
diskivered savin' an' exceptin' fer ther attack on ther furriner." In
the self-satisfaction of one who has scored, she added: "I'll be
farin' on now, I reckon."

"An' don't nuver come back," stormed Aunt Erie, whose occasional
tantrums were as famous as her usual good humor. "Unless ye seeks ter
hev ther dawgs sot on ye."

While the spiteful and forked little tongues of gossip were doing
their serpent best to poison what had promised to be an Eden for Glory
at home in the hills, the husband who was charged with neglecting her
was miserable in town.

His work had been the breath of life to him until now, bringing the
zestful delight of prevailing over stubborn difficulties, and building
bridges that should carry him across to his goal of financial power.
Now he found it a necessity that exiled him from a place to which he
had come half-contemptuously and to which his converted thoughts
turned as the prayers of the true believer turn toward Mecca.

He who had been urban in habit and taste found nothing in the city to
satisfy him. The smoke-filled air seemed to stifle him and fill him
with a yearning for the clean, spirited sweep of the winds across the
slopes. He knew that these physical aspects were trivial things he
would have swept aside had they not stood as emblems for a longing of
the heart itself--a nostalgia born of his new life and love.

But all the plans that had built one on the other toward a definite
end of making an oil field of the barren hills were drawing to a focus
that could not be neglected. He could no more leave these things
undone than could his idol Napoleon have abandoned his headquarters
before Austerlitz, and the sitting of the legislature could not be
changed to suit his wishes. Neither could the lining up of forces that
were to guide his legislation to its passage be left unwatched.

So the absence that he had thought would be brief, or at worst a
series of short trips away from home, was prolonging itself into a
winter in Louisville and Frankfort. He found himself as warily busy as
a collie herding a panicky flock, and as soon as one danger was met
and averted, a new one called upon him from a new and unsuspected
quarter.

Much of the deviousness of playing underground politics disgusted him,
and yet he knew he would have regarded it only as an amusing game for
high stakes before his change of heart. But now that it was to be a
battle for the mountain men as well as for Martin Harrison and for
himself, it could be better stomached.

The effort to pick out men who could be trusted in an enterprise where
they had to be bought, was one which taxed both his insight into human
nature and his self-esteem.

Senator Chew, himself a mountaineer, who had come from a ragged
district to the state assembly and who seemed to harbor a hatred
against A. O. and G. of utter malevolence, was almost as his other
self, furnishing him with eyes with which to see and ears with which
to hear, and familiarity with all the devious, unlovely tricks of
lobby processes.

But Senator Chew, a countryman, who had capitalized his shifty wits
and hard-won education, bent his knee to the brazen gods of cupidity
and ambition.

"I don't just see," he demurred petulantly to Spurrier, "why you go
about this thing the way you do. You've got unlimited capital behind
you and yet in going after these options you ain't hardly got hold of
any more land than just enough to let your pipe line through. You
could get all a man's property just as cheap per acre as part of
it--and when I've sweated blood to give you your charter and you've
sweated blood to grab your right-of-way, that God-forsaken land will
be a Klondike."

"I hope so," smiled Spurrier, and his ally went on.

"All right, but why have nothing out of it except a pipe-line? Why not
have the whole damn business to split three ways, among Harrison's
crowd, yourself--and the crowd I've got to handle?"

"You're a mountain man, Senator," the opportunity hound reminded him.
"You know that in every other section of the hills to which
development has come, the native has reaped only a heart-ache and an
empty belly. I am purposely taking only a part of each man's holding,
so that when the oil flows there what he has left will be worth more
to him than all of it was before."

"Hell," growled the politician. "The men you ought to think about
making money for, are the men you need--like me, and the men who back
you, like Harrison. These local fellows won't thank you, and in my
opinion you're a fool, if you'll permit me to talk plain."

"Talk as plain as you like, Senator," smiled the other. "But I think
I'm acting with right sound sense. Our field can be more profitably
developed among friends than among enemies--even if no consideration
other than the practical enters into the problem."

It was not until Christmas time that Spurrier broke away from his
activities in Louisville, and then he came bearing gifts and with a
heart full of eagerness. He came elated, too, at the fair promise of
his prospects, and confident of victory.

So Glory hid the fears that had been growing in her heart and, because
of the tidal power of personal fascination and contact, she found it
an easy task. While Spurrier was with her, those fears seemed to lose
their substance and to stand out as absurdities. They were delirious
miasmas dissipated by the sun and daylight of companionship.

Spurrier kept most of his valuable papers in a safety vault in
Louisville, but for purposes of reference here, he maintained a
complete system of carbon copies, and these must be stored in some
place where he could feel sure they were immune from any prying eye.
The entire record of his proceedings would be clear to any reader of
those memoranda.

While Glory was away one day, he removed a section of the living-room
wall and fashioned something in the nature of a secret cabinet, upon
which he could rely for these purposes. Before he went away again he
shared that secret with her, since in certain exigencies it might be
needful that some one should be able to act on wired instructions. He
showed her the bit of molding that was removable and which gave
entrance to the hidden recess.

"In that strong box," he told her, "are papers of vital importance. If
I haven't taken you entirely into my confidence about them all, dear,
it's because they concern other people more closely than myself. All
my own affairs are yours--but in the service of others, I must obey
instructions and those instructions are rigid."

He took out one envelope, though, plainly marked.

"This," he said, "is a paper to be used only in case of extreme
emergency. It is an order on the safety-deposit people in Louisville
to open my vault to the bearer. In the event of my death, or if I
should wire you from a distance, I would want you to use it."

Even that admittance into the veiled sanctum of his business life
pleased Glory, and she nodded her head gravely.

She did not tell him, and he did not guess, that tongues were wagging
in his absence, and that people said she was good enough only for that
part of his life in which he shed his white collar and his "fine
manners" and donned the rougher habiliments of the backwoods.

Even when she learned that his coming back had been only to spend the
holidays with her and that he must leave again to be gone for weeks,
at least, she let none of the disquiet that smouldered in her find an
utterance in words.

       *       *       *       *       *

On a fine old Blue Grass estate, which exhaled the elegance and ease
of the Old South, lived Colonel Merriwell, a life-long friend of Dyke
Cappeze. In years long gone he had more than once sought to have
Cappeze transfer his activities to a wider field. Now, timber
interests called him to the mountains, and though the cold weather had
set in, his daughter chose to come with him. She had heard much of the
strange and retarded life of the mountains, and because it was so
different from the refinements with which she had always been
surrounded, she wanted to see it.

When they arrived after traveling conditions that warranted every
conception of quaintness, but violated every demand of comfort, the
girl from the Bluegrass found Glory a discovery.

At once she recognized that into any drawing-room this wilderness-bred
girl could be safely dropped, and that even though she stood in a
corner, she would soon become its center.

Helen Merriwell was fascinated by the anomaly of an inherent
aristocracy in an encompassing life which was almost squalid, and a
bond of sympathy sprang into instant being. The Bluegrass woman knew
by instinct, though through no utterance from the loyal lips, that the
other was lonely, and when Colonel Merriwell announced his intention
of returning home, the daughter decided to continue her visit and its
companionship.

To Spurrier's house, too, during the crisp, clear weather of late
winter came, without announcement or expectation another visitor. They
were two other visitors to be exact, but one so overshadowed his
companion in importance that the second became negligible.

At the Carnettsville station the daily train drew up one morning and
uncoupled, on a siding, the first private car that had ever run over
that piece of roadbed. Its chef and valet gazed superciliously down
upon the assembled loungers, but the two gentlemen who alighted and
gave their names as Martin Harrison and his secretary, Mr. Spooner,
were to all appearances "jest ordinary folks."

Glory was housecleaning on the day of Harrison's coming, and, in
neatly patched gingham and dust-protected crown, she came nearer
seeming the typical mountain woman than she had for many days before.
Her fresh beauty was hard to eclipse, but she was less presentable
than she wished to be when her husband's great patron saw her for the
first time and contrasted her with such women as his own daughter.

When she heard the name, without previous warning, a sort of panic
possessed her and for once she became tongue-tied and awkward, so that
after the first, Helen Merriwell stepped into the breach and did the
talking.

"My name is Martin Harrison," said the great man with simple
cordiality. "I thought John Spurrier lived here--but I seem to be
mistaken."

"He--he does live here," stammered Glory, catching the swiftly stifled
amazement of the magnate's disapproving eyes.

"Here?" He put the question blankly as if only politeness prevented a
greater vehemence of surprise. "But I expected to find a bachelor
establishment. There are ladies here."

Glory fell back a step as if in retreat under attack. If this
statement were true, Spurrier had never acknowledged her to the
employer with whom his relations were intimately close. In her own
eyes, she stood as one who had lost caste and been repudiated--and all
self-confidence abandoned her, giving way to trepidation.

Harrison stood bewilderedly looking at this country girl who had
turned tremulous and pale, and Helen Merriwell stepped forward.

"Then you didn't know that Mr. Spurrier was married?" she smilingly
inquired.

The money baron transferred his glance to her as his shadowed face
lightened into relief. This young woman had the poise and ease of his
own world, which made communication facile. If Spurrier had not been
candid with him, at all events he had, perhaps, not unclassed himself.
The other was presumably a local servant of whom he need think no
more.

"Mr. Spurrier," he answered easily, "had not mentioned his marriage,
probably because our recent correspondence has all related to
business. However, I hold it unhandsome of him not to have done so."
He paused, then added deferentially: "Of course, I am better prepared
now to felicitate him--since I have seen you."

But Helen Merriwell laughed and laid a hand on Glory's shoulder.

"You do me too much honor, Mr. Harrison," she assured him. "_This_ is
Mrs. Spurrier."

The financier's ingrained politeness for once failed him. It was not
for long, but in the breached instant he stiffened arrogantly as his
eyes went back to Glory, and betrayed themselves in half-contemptuous
hostility. The lieutenant whom he had chosen as his own successor in
the world of lofty affairs had not only deceived him but had thrown
himself wantonly away upon a stammering daughter of illiterates!

Martin Harrison bowed again, but this time with a precise formality.

"I didn't notify Mr. Spurrier of my coming, since I felt sure I would
find him here," he explained briefly, directing himself pointedly to
Helen Merriwell. "I am on my way south, so now I'll defer seeing him
until another time--unless you expect him back shortly?"

Helen turned inquiringly to Glory and Glory shook her head. The
episode, confirming her own anxieties, had unnerved her steadfast
courage into collapse.

Had any warning come to her in advance of the event her bearing toward
this stranger would have been a different one. The pride that bowed
submissively to no one except in love, would have sustained her. The
natural dignity which was the gift of her blood would have been the
thing that any observer must have first and last recognized. With a
chance to have shaped her attitude, Glory would have received Harrison
as a Barbarian princess might have met an ambassador from Rome, but no
such chance had been afforded her and she stood as distraught and as
panicky as a stage-struck child whose speech fails.

She even slid back into the rough-hewn vernacular that had been so
completely banished from her lips and custom.

"I ain't got ther power ter say," she faltered, "when he'll git back.
He's goin' ter Frankfort first."

"I'll write to him there," said the capitalist.

Harrison departed with the stiff dignity of an affronted sachem, and
Helen Merriwell, looking after him, smiled with amusement for the
incident which she so well understood, until she turned and saw
Glory.

The girl had wilted back against the wall and stood there as if she
had been stricken. Her great, violet eyes were brimming with the
spirit of tragedy and held the despair of one who has blithely
returned home--to find his house in ruin and ashes.

Glory stole away to her own room, escaping the embrace of sympathetic
arms, as soon as she could. "He's done denied me ter his friends," she
told herself wildly. "He dast'n't acknowledge me ter fine folks!"

Then through the first, torpid misery of hurt pride, crept a more
terrifying thought. Spurrier had been practically engaged to this
man's daughter. He had been diverted from his purpose by motives of
pity, and now that Harrison knew, he might be ruined--probably would
be ruined. If so disaster would come to him because of her--and at
last she rose from the chair where she had dropped down, collapsed,
with a light of new resolution in her eyes.

"If that's all I'm good for," she declared tempestuously, "he's got to
be rid of me."



CHAPTER XVIII


During the sitting of the legislature John Spurrier was a sporadic
onlooker, and his agents were as vigilant as sentinels in a danger
zone. The last day of the term drew to a wintry sunset, and when the
clock registered midnight the body would stand automatically adjourned
until gavel fall two years hence.

Spurrier, outwardly a picture of serenity, but inwardly tensed for the
final issue, sat in the visitors' gallery of the Senate chamber. The
charter upon which all his hopes hung as upon a fulcrum was all but in
his grasp. Seemingly the enemy slept on. Presumably in those last
tired hours the authorizing bill would slip through to passage with
the frictionless ease of well-oiled bearings.

The needed men had been won over. Carping critics might prate, here
and there, of ugly means that savored of bribery, but that was
academic. The promise of forth-coming victory remained. Methods may be
questionable. Results are not, and Spurrier was interested in
results.

A. O. and G. had corrupted and suborned certain public servants. He
had discovered their practice and played their own cards to their
undoing. His ostensible clients were perhaps little cleaner-handed
than their adversaries, but certainly, those other clients who did
not even know themselves to be represented stood with no stain on
their claims.

Those native men and women had not asked him to safeguard them, and
had they been able to see what he was doing they would have guessed
only that, after winning their faith, he was bent on swindling them.
But Spurrier knew not only the seeming facts but those which lay
beneath and he fought with a definite sense of stewardship.

First the _coup_ must succeed, since that success was the foundation
of all the rest, and the moment was at hand.

For this he had slaved, faced dangers and deprived himself of the
contentment of home and the society of his wife. Now it was about to
end in victory.

The enemy had been caught napping, and the victory would be his.
Certainly he had been as fair as the foe. What now remained was a
perfunctory confirmation by the Senate, and in these final wearied
hours it would slip through easily in the general wind-up of
uncontested affairs.

Spurrier had not slept for two days--or had slept little. When
this ended he would go to his bed and lie there in sunken hours of
restoration the clock around--and after that back to Glory. Already
he carried in his pocket the brief message which he meant to put
upon the wires to Harrison, at the moment of midnight and success.
Characteristically it read: "Complete victory. Spurrier."

Now as the clerk droned through the mass of unfinished matters that
burdened the schedule, the clock stood at ten in the evening, and a
spirit of disordered peevishness proclaimed itself in the chamber.
Seats were vacated. Voices rose in unparliamentary clamor.

From the desk where a mountain senator sat in touseled disarray, a
flask was drawn and tipped with scant regard to senatorial dignity.
Then the chairman of the committee which had the steering of
Spurrier's affairs arose and handed a paper to the clerk.

Spurrier himself maintained the same unemotional cast of countenance
with which, years before, he had watched a horse in the stretch
battling for more than he could afford to lose, but Wharton, who sat
at his side, chewed nervously on an unlighted cigar. Sleepy reporters
yawned at the press tables as the clerk droned out his sing-song, "An
act entitled an act conferring charter rights upon the Hemlock Pipe
Line Company of Kentucky."

The reading of the measure seemed devoid of interest or attention. It
went forward in confusion, yet when it was ended the mountain man who
had taken the swig out of his flask, came slowly to his feet.

"Mr. President of the Senate," he drawled, "I want to address a few
incongruvial remarks to the senators in regards to this here proposed
measure."

With a sudden sense of premonition Spurrier found himself sitting
electrically upright.

That man was Senator Chew who had sat in council with him and advised
him; his right hand in action and his fox-brain in planning, yet now,
with every moment invaluable he was burning up time!

He was a pygmy among small men, and as he drooled on he seemed to urge
no pertinent objection. Yet before he had been five minutes on his
feet his intent was clear and his success assured.

Out of the hands of their recognized lieutenants A. O. and G. had
taken the matter of serving them. Into the hands of this obscure and
loutish Solon who was ostensibly pledged to their enemies, they had
thrust their commission, and now with the clock creeping forward
toward adjournment, he meant to talk the charter measure to death by
holding the floor until the opportunity for a vote had elapsed.

Tediously and inanely he meandered along, and no one knew what he was
talking about. In extravagant metaphor and florid simile he indulged
himself--and the clock worked industriously, an ally not to be unduly
hurried.

"Gentlemen of the Senate--" he drooled, "most of us have been raised
in a land that knows little of the primitive features that make up
life with us, and though it may not at first seem germane or
pertinent, I want you to go with me as your guide, while I try to make
you see the life of those steep counties that are affected by the
measure before you; counties that lie behind the barriers and sleep
the ancient sleep of the forgotten."

Men yawned while his tediousness spun itself into a tawdry flow of
slow words, but the Honorable Mr. Chew talked on.

"Many the day, as a lad, have I lain by a rushing brook," he
declaimed, "where the water gushes with the sparkle of sunlit crystal
and watched the deer come down on gingerly lifted feet to drink his
fill. Now I reckon mighty few of you gentlemen have seen a deer come
down to drink----"

The minute hand of the clock, in comparison with this windy
deliberation seemed to be racing between the dial characters.

"In God's name," exclaimed Spurrier, "isn't there any way to shut that
fool up? He's ruining us. Get some of our leaders up here, Wharton.
We've got to stop him."

"How?" demanded Wharton with a fallen jaw.

"I don't give a damn how! Kill him--buy him. Anything!"

"It's too late," responded Wharton grimly. "He's already bought. We've
walked into their trap. We might as well go home."

Spurrier sent for his whip, but he had come to the end of his
resourcefulness and shook a dejected head.

"If you want to shoot him down as he stands there," said the gentleman
testily, "I dare say it would stop him short. I know no other way. He
is having resort to the senatorial privilege of filibuster. We have
let them slip up on us. A. O. and G. has outbid you, that's all."

"But how in God's name did they get wise?"

The other laughed grimly. "Wise?" he snorted. "My guess is that
they've been wise all the time and that hayseed Iscariot has been
playing us along for suckers."

Held by a deadly fascination, Spurrier sank back into his seat. The
clock over the speaker's desk traveled once, almost twice around
the dial, and yet that nasal voice wandered on in an endless
stream of grotesque bombast--talking the charter to a slow death by
strangulation.

Now, reflected Spurrier bitterly, his connection with the enterprise
must seem to any eye that viewed it that only of Harrison's jackal and
lobbyist, who had signally failed in his attempt to raid A. O. and G.

To the mountain folk themselves, if the facts ever percolated into the
hills, his seeming would be far from heroic and with nothing tangible
accomplished, it would do no good to tell them that he had made his
fight with their interests at heart. Such a claim would only stamp him
in the face of contrary evidence as taking a coward's refuge in lies.

Then when it seemed to him that he could no longer restrain himself,
Spurrier heard the gavel fall. It was a light sound, but it crashed on
his brain with thunders of destruction.

"Gentlemen," declared the presiding officer, "The Senate stands
adjourned, _sine die_."

Had John Spurrier gone to see the "witch woman" when Mosebury advised
it, his course from that point on would have brought him to a
different ending.

In looking back on that night, he could never quite remember it with
consecutive distinctness. Gaps of forgetfulness were fitfully shot
through with disconnected scraps of recollection. When events began to
marshal themselves into orderly sequence, the windowpanes of his hotel
room were turning a dirty gray with the coming of dawn, and he was
sitting in a straight-backed chair. His bed had not been touched. Back
of that lay a chaotic sense of irremediable disaster and despair.

At last he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and that picture
of disheveled wildness startled him and brought him back to
realization.

Then self-contempt swept in on him. He had been called a man of iron
nerve; a plunger who never turned a hair under reversals of
fortune--and now he stood looking through the glass at a broken
gambler with frenzied eyes. It was such a face as one might see in the
circle before the Casino at Monte Carlo--the place of suicides.

The man who had seemed to come from nowhere and who had talked last
night with such destructive volubility, had been a pure shyster. To be
outwitted by such a clown carried the sting of chagrin, quite apart
from the material disaster. Yet into his disordered thoughts came the
realization that the senator had been only a puppet. His actuating
wires had been pulled by the fingers of A. O. and G. and the men who
sat as overlords of A. O. and G. were only shysters of a greater
caliber. The men whom he, himself, served were no better. Compared to
this backwoods statesman he, John Spurrier, was as a smooth and
sophisticated confidence man paralleled with a pickpocket. Ethically,
they were cut from the same cloth, though to differing patterns--one
rustic and the other urban.

He had been engaged in a tawdry game, for all its gilding of rich
prospects, but in the face of defeat a man cannot change his colors.

Had he been able to undertake this fight as his own man and choose his
own methods--changing them as he grew in stature--there might have
been a man's zest in the game.

Now, less than ever, could he speak open truth to these simple friends
who had trusted him. Now he must fight out a damaged campaign to the
end along the lines to which he stood committed, and until the end
there was nothing to say.

Perhaps if he could avert total ruin, he might yet have opportunity to
reclaim the confidence of these Esaus who had traded for a mess of
pottage. Certainly they had nothing to hope for from the myrmidons of
Trabue.

John Spurrier forced his shoulders back into military erectness. He
compelled his lips into the stiff and counterfeited curvature of a
smile.

Not only had every resource he could muster gone into the scrapped
enterprise, leaving him worse than bankrupt, but through him Martin
Harrison had been led into the sinking of a fortune.

Harrison would, in all likelihood, be less bitter about the money
loss, than the thought of the triumphant smile on Trabue's thin lips,
but it was quite in the cards that, with his contempt for failure, he
would wash his hands of Spurrier.

That, of course, spelled ruin. The exhibition skater had gone through
the thin ice.

Harrison could, if he chose, do more than dismiss John Spurrier. He
had seen to it that his lieutenant was bound to his standards by debts
he could not pay, save out of some future enrichment contingent on
success. If he chose to call those loans he would leave his employee
shattered beyond hope of recovery.

But when Spurrier went down to the hotel dining room at breakfast
time, a cold bath and a superhuman exertion of will power had
transformed him. His bearing was a nice blending of the debonair and
the dignified.

To no eye of observation was there any trace of collapse or reversal.
He seemed the man who demanded the best from life and who got it.

At a table not far from his own sat Senator Chew with a companion whom
Spurrier did not know. The traitor glanced up and his eye met that of
the man he had betrayed, then fell flinching.

Perhaps the mountaineer expected the dining room to stage such a scene
of recrimination and violence as it had in the past on more than one
occasion, for his crafty face went brick red, then darkened into
truculence as he half pushed back his chair and his hand swept
tentatively toward his hip.

But the plunger had still his pride left, or its remnant, and it was
no part of his plan to stand the self-confessed and vanquished victim,
by any patent demonstration of wrath. He met the eyes of the
politician who had played on both sides of the same game, and smiled,
and if there was contempt in the expression, it was recognized only by
the man who knew its cause.

Later he wrote a telegram to Harrison. It was not the thing he had
expected to say, yet in it went no whine of despair:

  Have suffered a temporary reversal.

Those were the words that the capitalist read when the message, after
being decoded from its cipher, was laid on his desk.

Harrison, recently returned from his Southern trip, thought
truculently of that nearby office in which Trabue was also receiving
telegraphic information, and he writhed in the wormwood of chagrin.

The curtness of his response scorched the wires:

  Explain in person if you can. Otherwise we separate.

So John Spurrier packed his bag and caught the first train for the
mountains. He must say good-by to Glory, before facing this final
ordeal, and he believed that in that clarifying air he could brace
himself for the encounter that awaited him in New York.

As he turned into the yard of his own house he paused, and something
about his heart tightened until it unsteadied him. Here alone, in all
the world, he had known what home meant, and in his heart and veins
rose an intoxicating tumult like that of wine.

Back of that emotional wave though lurked a misery of self-reproach.
Glory had made the magic of his brief happiness, but there was a
background, too, of kindly souls and a ruggedly genuine welcome. He
had learned to know these people and to revise his first, false views
of them. In them dwelt the stout honesty and real strength of oak and
hickory.

First he had striven to plunder them, then sought to lift the yoke of
poverty from their long-bowed shoulders. In both efforts he had
failed.

But had he failed, after all? Certainly he stood under the black
shadow of a major disaster, but had not others retrieved disasters and
made final victory only the brighter for its contrast with lurid
misfortune?

He had been the plunger who seemed strongest when he was weakest, and
these enduring hills spoke their message of steadfastness to him as he
stood surrounded by their lofty crests of spruce and pine.

Then he had reached the door and flung it open and Glory was in his
arms, but unaccountably she had burst into a tempest of tears.

Before he had had time to speak of the necessity that called him East
she was telling of the visit of Martin Harrison and his indignant
departure.

Despite his all-consuming absorption of a moment before, Spurrier drew
away, chilled by that announcement, and Glory read in his eyes a
momentary agony of apprehension.

"In God's name," he demanded in a numbed voice, "why didn't you write
me about that?"

"He said," responded the wife simply, "that _he_ would write to you at
Frankfort. I thought you knew."

"But I should have thought you'd have spoken of his coming and
going--like that."

Her head came up with a brief little flash of hurt pride.

"You hadn't ever told him--about me," she said, though without
accusation. "I didn't want to talk to you about it until you were
ready to suggest it. It might have seemed--disloyal."

Spurrier again braced his shoulders. After a moment he took her in his
arms.

"Glory, my sweetheart, I've been playing a game for big stakes. I've
had to do some things I didn't relish. I've got to do another now. I'm
summoned to Harrison's office in New York, at once--and I have no
choice."

Glory drew away and looked with challenging directness into his eyes.

"I suppose--you'll go alone?"

"I must. Business affairs are at a crisis, and I need a free hand.
But, God granting me a safe return, it's to be our last separation. I
swear that. I am always wretched without you."

Always before when disappointment or disquiet had riffled the deeps of
her eyes, it had taken only a word and a smile from this man to dispel
them and bring back the serenity of content. Her moments of panic when
she had seemed to drop down, down into pits of foreboding until she
had plumbed the depth of despair, had been moments to which she had
surrendered in his absence and of which he had been given no hint.

Now with a gravity that was bafflingly unreadable she stood silent and
looked about the room, and the man's eyes followed hers.

Why was it, he almost fiercely demanded of himself, that this cottage
set in remote hills shed about him a feeling of soul-satisfaction that
he had never encountered in more luxurious places?

Now as he looked at it the thought of leaving it cramped his heart
with a sort of breathless agony.

Yet, of course, there was no question after all. It was because in
everything it was reflection of Glory's own spirit and to him Glory
stood for the only love that had ever been bigger to him than
himself.

The simplicity and good taste of the small house, standing in a land
of squalid cabins like a disciple of quiet elegance among beggars, had
been the result of their collaboration. Glory had had the instinct of
artistic perception and true values and he had been able to guide her
from his sybarite experience.

The stone fireplace with its ingle-nook, built by their own hands from
rocks they had selected and gathered together, seemed to him a
beautiful thing. The natural wood of the paneling, picked out at the
saw-mill with a critical eye for graining and figuration, satisfied
the eye, and the few pictures that he had brought from the East were
all landscapes that meant something to each of them--lyric bits of
canvas with singing skies. To every object a memory had attached
itself; a memory that had also a tendril in their hearts.

But now Glory, too, was looking at all these things as though she as
well as himself were leaving them. There was something of farewell in
the glance that lingered on them and caressed them, as if of
leave-taking and into Spurrier's heart crept the intuition that
despite his declaration just made that this should be their last
separation, she was seeing in it a threat of permanence.

And that was the thought that was chilling Glory's heart and muting
the song of happiness which his coming had awakened. This place which
had been founded with all the promise of home and companionship was
beginning to hold for her the foreboding of loneliness and something
like abandonment. He knew it only when they were together here, but
she had been in it alone and frightened more than in times of shared
happiness.

And why was this true? Why could it be either true or necessary
unless, as she had told herself in panic moments and denied so
persistently, she was a misfit in his broader life and a woman whom he
could enjoy in solitude but dared not trust to comparison with
others?



CHAPTER XIX


At last she turned abruptly away, in order that the misery which would
no longer submit to concealment might not show itself in her eyes, and
stood looking out of the window.

Spurrier crossed with anxious swiftness and took her again into his
arms.

"When I have finished this business trip," he declared fervently, "our
separations shall end. They have been too many and too long--but I've
paid for them in loneliness, dear. This call, that I'm answering now,
is unexpected but it's imperative and I can't disobey it."

She turned then, slowly and gravely, but with no lightening of the
burdened anxiety in her eyes.

"It's not just that you have to go away, Jack," she told him. "It's a
great deal more than that."

"What else is there, dearest?" His question was intoned with surprise.
"When we are together, I have nothing else to ask of life. Have you?"

"The place has been changed--mightily changed," she went on musingly
as though talking to herself rather than to him. "And yet the walls
are the same as they were that day--when we both thought we had to die
here together."

"They are the dearer for that," he exclaimed fervently. "That was what
made us see things truly."

"I wonder," she questioned, then meeting his eyes steadily she went on
as though determined to say what must be said.

"When you called Brother Hawkins in to marry us, I was afraid. I was
afraid because I thought you were only doing it out of kindness, and
that afterward you'd be ashamed of me."

"Ashamed of you," he echoed with indignant incredulity. "In God's name
how could I be?"

"Or if not ashamed of me that you couldn't help knowing that I
was--what I am--all right here in the hills but that outside--I
wouldn't do."

"If you were ever afraid of that, it was only because you were
undervaluing yourself. You surely haven't any ghost of such a fear
left now."

For a little she stood silent again torn between the loyalty that
hesitated to question him and the pride that was hurt.

Finally she said simply: "It's a bigger fear now. Unless I'm
unpresentable, why do you--never take me anywhere with you?"

John Spurrier laughed, vastly relieved that the mountain of her
anxiety had resolved itself, as he thought, into a mole-hill. He could
laugh because he had no suspicion of the chronic soreness of her heart
and his answer was lightly made.

"These trips have all been in connection with the sort of business,
Glory, that would have meant keeping me away from you whether you had
gone to town or not. When we travel together--and I want that we shall
travel a great deal--I must be free to devote myself to you. I want to
show the world to you and I want to show you to the world."

That declaration he fancied ought to resolve her fears of his being
ashamed of her.

"If you were afraid I'd seem out of place," she assured him, "I might
be right sorry--and yet I think I'd understand. I'm not a fool and I
know I'd make mistakes, but I was raised a lawyer's daughter and I've
got a pretty good business head--yet you've never told me anything of
what this business is that calls you away. You always treat me as if
there were no use in even trying to make me understand it."

The man no longer laughed. He could not explain that it was rather
because she might understand too well than not well enough. Even to
her, until he was ready to prove his intent by his actual deeds, it
seemed impossible to give that story without the seeming of the
plunderer of her people.

"When the time comes that releases me from my pledge of absolute
secrecy, dear," he told her earnestly, "I mean to tell you all about
my business--and I think you'll approve, then. Now I don't talk
because I have no right to."

Again there was silence, after which Glory said in a voice of still
resolution which he had never heard from her before:

"I'm ignorant and uncultivated, Jack, but to me marriage is a full
partnership--or it isn't anything. When Mr. Harrison came, I saw for
the first time just how I looked to men like him. I was just 'pore
white trash.'"

"Did he----" Spurrier broke off and his face went abruptly white with
passion. Had Harrison been there at that moment he would have stood
in danger at the hands of his employee, but Glory shook her head and
hastened to quiet him.

"He wasn't impolite, Jack. It wasn't that--only I read in his eyes
what he tried to hide. I only told you that because I wanted you to
understand me. People here say that you give me everything but
yourself; that I'm not good enough for you except right here where
there's nothing better."

"That is a damned lie," he expostulated. "Who says it?"

"Only women-folks and gossipy grannies that you can't fight with,
Jack," she answered steadily. "But I've thought about it lots. I've
come to think, dear, that maybe you ought to be free--and if you
ought," she paused, then the final assertion broke from her with an
agonized voice, "then, I love you enough to set you free."

Spurrier seized her in his arms and his words came choked with
vehement feeling.

"I want you, Glory. I want you always and I couldn't live without you.
When I have to go away I endure it only by thinking of coming back to
you. If you ever set me free as you call it, it will be only because
_you_ don't want _me_. I suppose in that case I'd try to take my
medicine--but I think it would about kill me."

"There's no danger of that, dear," she declared.

The man drew away for a moment and fumbled for words. His aptness of
speech had deserted him and at last he spoke clumsily:

"It's hard to explain just now, when you've accused me of not taking
you into my confidence, but I stand at a point, Glory, where I've got
the hardest fight ahead of me I ever made. I stand to be ruined or to
make good. I've got to use every minute and every thought in
competition with quick brains and enormous power. Until its over I
must be a machine with one idea ... and I'll fail, dear, unless I can
take with me the knowledge that you trust me."

She looked up into his face and the misery in her eyes gave place to
confidence.

"Go ahead, Jack," she said. "I believe in you and I'm not even afraid
of your failing." After a moment she clasped her arms tightly about
him and added vehemently: "But whether you succeed or fail, come back
to me, dear, because, except for your sake, it won't make any
difference to me."

That same afternoon Spurrier found time to visit the "witch woman." It
had dawned upon him since that night in the Senate chamber that, after
all, Sim Colby might have been the least dangerous of his enemies, and
the thought made him inquisitive.

The old crone made her magic with abundant grotesquerie, but at its
end she peered shrewdly into his eyes, and said:

"I reads hyar in the omends thet mebby ye comes too late."

Spurrier smiled grimly. He thought that himself.

"I dis'arns," went on the hag portentously, "thet a blind man
impereled ye mightily--a blind man thet plays a fiddle--but thars
others beside him thet dwells fur away an' holds a mighty power of
wealth."

A blind man! Spurrier's remembrance flashed back to the visit of blind
Joe Givins and the papers incautiously left on his table. Yet if he
was genuinely blind they could have meant nothing to him--and if he
was not genuinely blind it was hard to conceive of human nerves
enduring without wincing that test of the gun thrust against the
temple.

Spurrier rose and paid his fee. Had he seen her in time, this warning
would have averted disaster. Now it was something of a post-mortem.

At the door of Martin Harrison's office several days later Spurrier
drew back his shoulders and braced himself. It was impossible to
ignore the fact that he stood on the brink of total ruin; that his
sole hope lay in persuading his principal that with more time and more
money he would yet be able to succeed--and Harrison was as plastic to
persuasion as a brass Buddha.

But he had steeled himself for the interview--and now he turned the
knob and swung back the mahogany door.

Spurrier was familiar enough with the atmosphere of that office to
read the signs correctly. The hushed air of nervousness that hung over
it now betokened a chief in a mood which no one sought to stir to
further irritation.

Always in the past Spurrier had been deferentially ushered into a
private office and treated as the future chief. Now, as though he were
already a disinherited heir, he was left in the general waiting room,
and he was left there for an hour. That cooling of the heel, he
recognized as a warning of the cold reception to come--and an augury
of ruin.

At last he was called in, but he went with an unruffled demeanor which
hid from the principal's eye how near to breaking his inward
confidence was strained.

"I wired you to come at once," began Harrison curtly, and Spurrier
smiled as he nodded.

"I came at once, sir, except that I hadn't been home for some time,
and it was necessary to make a stop there."

"Home," Martin's brows lifted a trifle. "You mean the mountains."

"Certainly--for the time being, I'm located there."

"We may as well be honest with each other," asserted the magnate. "I
consider that under the circumstances you behaved with serious
discourtesy and without candor." For a casual moment his glance dwelt
on the portrait of Vivien which stood on his table.

"I disagree with you, sir. I preferred relating the full circumstances,
which were unusual, when there was an opportunity to do so in person.
I was kept there by your interests as well as my own."

"That recital," said the older man dryly, "is your concern. Now that I
know the facts I find myself uninterested in the details. You have
chosen your way. The question is whether we can travel it together."

"And I presume that the first point of that question demands a full
report upon the business operations."

"So far as I can see, they have collapsed."

"They have by no means collapsed."

Suddenly the wrath that had been smoldering in Harrison's eyes burst
into tempest. He brought his clenched fist down upon his desk until
inkwells and accessories rattled.

This man's moments of equinox were terrifying to those who must bow
to his will--and his will held sway over broad horizons. If John
Spurrier had not been intrepid he must have collapsed under the
withering violence of the passion that rained on him.

"Before God," cried Harrison, pacing his floor like a lion that lashes
itself to frenzy, "you undertook to avenge me on Trabue. You have
drawn on me with carte-blanche liberties and spent fortunes like a
prodigal! You have assured me that you had, at all times, the
situation well in hand. Then, through some damned blunder, you failed.
Let the money loss slide. Damn the money! I'm the laughingstock of the
business world. I'm delivered over to Trabue's enjoyment as a boob who
failed. I'm an absurdity, and you're responsible!"

"When you've finished, sir," said Spurrier quietly, "I shall endeavor
to show you that none of those things have happened--that our failure
is temporary and that when you undertook this enterprise you were in
no impetuous haste as to the time of its accomplishment."

"The legislature doesn't meet for two years," Harrison barked back at
him. "That will be two years of preparation for Trabue. Now he's fully
warned, where do we get off?"

"At our original point of destination, sir."

The opportunity hound began his argument. His demeanor of unruffled
calm and entire confidence began to exercise its persuasive force.
Harrison cooled somewhat, but Spurrier was fighting, beneath his pose,
as a man who has cramps in deep water fights for his life. These few
minutes would determine his fate, and he was totally at the mercy of
this single arbiter.

"I have now all the options we need on the far side of Hemlock
Mountain," Spurrier summarized at last. "All except one tract which
belongs to Bud Hawkins, who is a preacher and a friend of mine. He
must have more generous terms, but I will be able to do business with
him."

"You talk of the options on the far side of the ridge," Harrison broke
in belligerently. "That is the minor field."

"I'll be able to repeat that performance on the near side."

"You will not! A repetition of your performance is the last thing we
crave. Any movement now would be only a piling up of warnings. For the
present you will give every indication of having abandoned the
project."

"That is my idea, sir. I was not speaking of immediate but future
activities. Also----" In spite of his desperation of plight the
younger man's bearing flashed into a challenging undernote of its old
audacity, "when I used the word 'repeat' I referred to the successful
portion of my effort. There was no failure on the land end. It was the
charter that went wrong--through the deceit of a man we had to
trust."

"A man whom you selected," Harrison caught him up. "You understood, in
advance, the chances of your game. It was agreed upon your own
insistence that your hand should be absolutely free--and freedom of
method carries exclusiveness of responsibility. Traitors exist. They
don't furnish excuses."

"Nor am I making them. I am merely stating facts which you seem
inclined to confuse. I grant the failure but I also claim the partial
success."

Harrison seated himself, and as the interview stretched Spurrier's
nerves stretched with it under the placid surface of his plunger's
camouflage. He had, as yet, no way of guessing how the verdict would
go, and now the capitalist's face was hardened in discouragement. It
was a face of merciless inflexibility. The sentence had been prepared
in the judge's mind. There remained only its enunciation.

"Nothing is to be gained by mincing my words, Spurrier," declared
Spurrier's chief. "We know precisely where you stand."

Harrison extended his hand with its fingers spread and closed it
slowly into a clenched fist. "I hold you--there! I can crush you to a
pulp of absolute ruin. You know that. The only question is whether I
want, or not, to do it."

"And whether, or not, you can afford to do it," amended the other with
an audacity that he by no means felt. "You must decide whether you can
afford to accept tamely and as a final defeat, a mere reversal, which
I--and no one else--can turn into eventual victory."

"I have duly considered that. I had implicit confidence in your
abilities. You have struck at my personal feeling for you by a silence
that was not frank. You have allied yourself with the mountain people
by marriage, and we stand on opposite sides of the line of interest.
You have all the while been watched by our enemies, and I regard you
as a defeated man. If I choose to cast you aside, you go to the scrap
heap. You will never recover."

That was an assertion which there was neither health nor wisdom in
contradicting and Spurrier waited. His last card was played.

"And I am going to cast you aside--bankrupt you--ruin you!" blazed out
Harrison, "unless you absolutely meet my requirements during a period
of probation. That period will engage you in a very different matter.
For the present you are through with the Kentucky mountains. The new
task will be a difficult one, and it should put you on your mettle. It
is one that can't be accomplished at all unless you can do it. You
have that one chance to retrieve yourself. Take it or leave it."

"What are your terms?"

"You will sail to-morrow for Liverpool. I will give you explicit
instructions to-night. Go prepared for an extended stay abroad."

For the first time Spurrier's face paled and insurrection flared in
his pupils.

"Sail for Europe to-morrow!" he exclaimed vehemently. "I'll see you
damned first! Doesn't it occur to you that a man has his human side? I
have a wife and a home and when I am ordered to leave them for an
indefinite time I'm entitled to a breathing space in which to set my
own affairs in shape. I am willing enough to undertake your
bidding--but not to-morrow."

Spurrier paused at the end of his outbreak and stood looking down at
the seated figure, which to all intents and purposes might have been
the god that held, for him, life and death in his hand.

And as he looked Spurrier thought he had never seen such glacial
coldness and merciless indifference in any human face. He had known
this man in the thundering of passion before which the walls about him
seemed to tremble, but this manifestation of adamant implacability was
new, and he realized that he had invited destruction in defying it.

"As you please," replied Harrison crisply, "but it's to-morrow or not
at all. I've already outlined the alternative and since you refuse,
our business seems concluded. Next time you feel disposed to talk or
think of what you're entitled to, remember that my view is different.
All your claims stand forfeit in my judgment. You are entitled to just
what I choose to offer--and no more."

The chief glanced toward the door with a glance of dismissal, and the
door became to Spurrier the emblem of finality. Yet he did not at once
move toward it.

"I appreciate the need of prompt obedience, where there is an urge of
haste," he persisted, "but if a few days wouldn't imperil results, I
want those days to make a flying trip to Kentucky and to my wife."

The face of the seated man remained obdurately set but his eyes blazed
again with a note of personal anger.

"At a time when I was reasonably interested, you chose to leave me
unenlightened about your domestic arrangements. Now I can claim no
concern in them. Most wives, however, permit their husbands such
latitude of movement as business requires. If yours does not it is
your own misfortune. I think that's all."

Spurrier knew that the jaws of the trap were closing on him. He had
been too hasty in his outburst and he turned toward the door, but as
his hand fell on the bronze knob Harrison spoke again.

"Think it over, Spurrier. I can--and will ruin you--unless you yield.
It is no time for maudlin sentiment, but until five-thirty this
afternoon, I shall not consider your answer final. Up to that hour you
may reconsider it, if you wish."

"I will notify you at five," responded the lieutenant as he let
himself out and closed the door behind him.

That day the opportunity hound spent in an agony of conflicting
emotions. That the other held a bolt of destruction and was in the
mood to launch it he did not pretend to doubt. If it were launched
even the land upon which his cottage stood would no longer be his own.
He must either return to Glory empty-handed and bankrupt, or strain
with a new tax, the confidence he had asked of her, with the pledge
that he would return soon and for good.

But if, even at the cost of humbled pride and Glory's hurt, he
maintained his business relations, the path to eventual success
remained open.

As long as the cards were being shuffled chance beckoned and at five
o'clock Spurrier went into a cigar-store booth and called a downtown
telephone number.

"You hold the whip hand, sir," he announced curtly when a secretary had
put Harrison on the wire. "When do I report for final instructions?"

"Come to my house this evening," ordered the master.

Most of the hours of that evening, except the two in Harrison's study,
Spurrier spent in writing to Glory, tearing up letter after letter
while the nervous moisture bedewed his brow. It was so impossible to
give her any true or comprehensive explanation of the pressing weight
of compulsion. His messages must have the limp of unreason. He was
crossing the ocean without her and she would read into it a sort of
abandonment that would hurt and wound her. He had taxed everything
else in life, and now he was overtaxing her loyalty.

Yet he believed that if in his depleted treasury of life there was one
thing left upon which he could draw prodigally and with faith, it was
that love; a love that would stand staunch though he were forced to
hurt it once again.

So Spurrier sailed and, having arrived on European soil, took up the
work that threw him into relations with men of large caliber in Capel
Court and Threadneedle Street. His mission carried him to the
continent as well; from Paris to Brussels and from Brussels to Hamburg
and Berlin, where the quaint customs of the Kentucky Cumberlands
seemed as remote as the life of Mars--remote but, to Spurrier, as
alluring as the thought of salvation to a recluse who has foresworn
the things of earth.

In terms of dead reckoning, Berlin is as far from Hemlock Mountain as
Hemlock Mountain is from Berlin, but in terms of human relations Glory
felt the distance as infinitely greater than did her husband. To him
the Atlantic was only an ocean three thousand miles wide; often
crossed and discounted by familiarity. To her it was a measureless
waste separating all she knew from another world. To him continental
dimensions were reckoned in hours of commonplace railway journeying,
but to her the "measured mile" was both lengthwise and perpendicular,
and when she passed old friends she fancied that she detected in their
glances either pity for her desertion or the smirk of "I-told-you-so"
malevolence.

It even crept to her ears that "some folks" spoke of her as "the
widder Spurrier" and that Tassie Plumford had chuckled, "I reckon he's
done gone off an' left her fer good an' all this time. Folks says he's
fled away cl'ar acrost ther ocean-sea."

Glory told herself that she had promised faith and that she was in no
danger of faltering, but as the weeks lengthened into months and the
months followed each other, her waiting became bitter.

In Berlin John Spurrier passed as a British subject, bearing British
passports. That had been part of the careful plan to prevent discovery
of what American interests he represented and it had proven effective.
He had almost accomplished the difficult task of self-redemption, set
him by the man whose confidence he had strained.

Then came the bolt out of heaven. The inconceivable suddenness of the
war cloud belched and broke, but he remained confident that he would
have a chance to finish up before the paralysis cramped bourse and
exchange.

England would not come in, and he, the seeming British subject, would
have safe conduct out of Germany.

Now he must get back. This would mean the soaring of oil prices, and
along new lines the battle must be pitched back there at home, before
it was too late.

So Spurrier finished his packing. He was going out onto the
streets to watch the upflame of the war spirit and to make railway
reservations.

There was a knock at the door and the man opened it. Stiffly erect,
stood a squad of military police and stiffly their lieutenant
saluted.

"You are Herr John Spurrier?" he inquired.

The man nodded.

"It is, perhaps, in the nature of a formality, which you will be able
to arrange," said the officer. "But I am directed to place you under
arrest. England is in the war. You are said to be a former soldier."



CHAPTER XX


Over the ragged lands that lay on the "nigh side" of Hemlock Mountain
breathed a spirit of excitement and mighty hope. It had been two years
since John Spurrier had left the field he had planned to develop, and
in those years had come the transition of rebirth.

Along muddy streets the hogs still wallowed, but now they were deeply
rutted by the teaming of ponderous oil gear, and one saw young men in
pith helmets and pig-skin puttees; keen-faced engineers and oil
prospectors drawn in by the challenge of wealth from the far trails of
Mexico and the West. One heard the jargon of that single business and
the new vocabulary of its devotees. "Wild-catters" following surface
indications or hunches were testing and well-driving. Gushers rewarded
some and "dry holes" and "dusters" disappointed others. Into the
mediæval life of hills that had stood age-long unaltered and aloof
came the infusion of hot-blooded enterprise, the eager questing after
quick and miraculous wealth.

In Lexington and Winchester oil exchanges carried the activity of
small bourses. In newspapers a new form of advertisement proclaimed
itself.

Oil was king. Oil and its by-product, gasoline, that the armies needed
and that the thousands of engines on the earth and in the air so
greedily devoured.

But over on the far side of the ridge men only fretted and chafed as
yet. They had the oil under their feet, but for it there was no
outlet. Like a land without a seaport, they looked over at neighbors
growing rich while they themselves still "hurted fer needcessities."

American Oil and Gas had locked them in while it milked the other cow.
It had its needed charters for piping both fields, but a man who was
either dead or somewhere across the world held the way barred in a
stalemate of controlled rights of way.

Glory thought less about the wonderful things that were going forward
than did others about her, because she had a broken heart. No letters
came from Spurrier, and the faith that she struggled to hold high like
a banner nailed to the masthead of her life, hung drooping. In the end
her colors had been struck.

If John Spurrier returned in search of her now she would go into
hiding from him, but it was most unlikely that he would return. He had
married her on impulse and under a pressure of excitement. He had
loved her passionately--but not with a strong enough fidelity to hold
him true--and now she believed he had turned back again to his old
idols. She was repudiated, and she ought to hate him with the
bitterness of her mountain blood, yet in her heart's core, though she
would never forgive him and never return to him, she knew that she
still loved him and would always love him.

She no longer feared that she would have hampered him in the society
of his more finished world. She had visited Helen Merriwell and had
come to know that other world for herself. She found that the gentle
blood in her veins could claim its own rights and respond graciously.
Hers had been a submerged aristocracy, but it had come out of its
chrysalis, bright-winged.

Then one day something happened that turned Glory's little personal
world upside down and brought a readjustment of all its ideas.

Sim Colby owned a little patch of land beside his homestead place,
over cross the mountain, and he was among those who became rich. He
was not so rich as local repute declared him, but rich enough to set
stirring the avarice of an erstwhile friend, who owned no land at
all.

So ex-Private Severance came over to the deserter's house with a
scheme conceived in envy and born of greed. He was bent on blackmail.

When he first arrived, the talk ran along general lines, because
"Blind Joe," the fiddler, was at the house, and the real object of the
visit was confidential. Blind Joe had also been an oil beneficiary,
and he and Sim Colby had become partners in a fashion. During that
relationship Blind Joe had told Sim some things that he told few
others.

But when Joe left and the pipes were lighted Severance settled himself
in a back-tilted chair and gazed reflectively at the crest of the
timber line.

"You an' me's been partners for a right long spell, Bud Grant, ain't
we?"

Colby started. The use of that discarded name brought back the past
with its ghosts of fear. He had almost forgotten that once he had been
Bud Grant, and a deserter from the army. It was all part of a bygone
and walled-in long ago. Though they were quite alone he looked
furtively about him and spoke in a lowered voice:

"Don't call me by thet name. Thar ain't no man but you knows
erbout--what I used to be."

"Thet's what I've been studyin' erbout. Nobody else but me."

Severance sat silent for a while after that announcement, but there
was a meaning smile on his lips, and Colby paled a shade whiter.

"_I_ reckon I kin trust ye; I always hev," he declared with a specious
confidence.

Severance nodded. "I was on guard duty an' I suffered ye ter escape,"
he went reminiscently on. "I knows thet ye kilt Captain Comyn, an'
I've done kept a close mouth all these years. Now ye're a rich man an'
I'm a pore one. Hit looks like ter me ye owes me a debt an' ye'd ought
ter do a leetle something for me."

So that was it! Colby knew that if he yielded at all, this man's
avarice and his importunities would feed on themselves increasingly
and endlessly. Yet he dared not refuse, so he sought to temporize.

"I reckon thar's right smart jestice in what ye says," he conceded,
"but I don't know jest yit how I stands or how much money I'm wuth.
Ye'll have ter give me a leetle time ter find out."

But when Severance mounted his mule and rode away, Sim Colby gave him
only a short start and then hurried on foot through the hill tangles
by a short cut that would intercept his visitor's course.

He knew that Severance would have to ride through the same gorge in
which Sim had waylaid Spurrier, and he meant to get there first,
rifle-armed.

It was sunset when, quite unsuspecting of danger, at least for the
moment, Severance turned his mule into the gorge. He was felicitating
himself, since without an acre of land or a drop of oil he had
"declared himself in" on another's wealth. His mule was a laggard in
pace, and the rider did not urge him. He was content to amble.

Back of the rock walls of the great cleft, the woods lay hushed and
dense in the closing shadows. An owl quavered softly, and the water
among the ferns whispered. All else was quiet.

But from just a little way back, a figure hitched forward as it lay
belly-down in the "laurel hell." It sighted a rifle and pressed a
finger.

The mule snorted and stopped dead with a flirt of ears and tail and
with no word, without even a groan, the rider toppled sidewise and
slid from the saddle.

The man back in the brush peered out. He noted how still the crumpled
figure lay between the feet of the patient, mouse-colored beast, that
switched at flies with its tail. It lay twisted almost double with one
arm bent beneath its chest.

So Colby crept closer. It would be as well to haul the body back into
the tangle where it would not be so soon discovered, and to start the
beast along its way with a slap on the flank.

But just as the assassin stooped, Severance's right hand darted out
and, as it did so, there was a quick glint of blue steel, and three
instantly successive reports.

Colby staggered backward with a sense of betrayal and a horrible
realization of physical pain. His rifle dropped from a shattered hand
and jets of blood broke out through his rent clothing. Each of those
three pistol balls had taken effect at a range so close that he had
been powder-burned. He knew he was mortally hurt, and that the other
would soon be dead if he was not so already.

Colby began crawling. He was mangled as if by an explosion, but
instinct drove him. Twice he fainted and recovered dim consciousness
and still dragged himself tediously along.

       *       *       *       *       *

Glory was alone in her house. Her father, who had been living with her
of late, had gone to the county seat overnight.

The young woman sat in silence, and the sewing upon which she had been
busied lay in her lap forgotten. In her eyes was the far-away look of
one who eats out one's heart in thoughts that can neither be solved
nor banished.

Then she heard a faint call. It was hardly more than a gasped whisper,
and as she rose, startled, and went to the door she saw striving to
reach it a shape of terrible human wreckage.

Sim Colby's clothes were almost torn from him and blood, dried brown,
and blood freshly flowing, mingled their ugly smears upon him. His
lips were livid and his face gray.

Glory ran to him with a horrified scream. She did not yet recognize
him, and he gasped out a plea for whisky.

With the utmost effort of her young strength she got him in, and
managed to straighten out the mutilated body with pillows under its
head.

But after a little the stimulant brought a slight reviving, and he
talked in broken and disjointed phrases.

"Hit war Severance," he mumbled. "I fought back--I reckon I kilt him,
too."

Glory gazed in bewildered alarm about the house. Brother Bud Hawkins
was at Uncle Jimmy Litchfield's place, and she must get medical help,
though she feared that the wounded man would be dead before her
return.

When she came back with the preacher, who also "healed human bodies
some," Colby was still alive but near his passing.

"Ef thar's aught on your conscience, Sim," said the old preacher
gently, "hit's time ter make yore peace with Almighty God, fer ye're
goin' ter stand afore him in an hour more. Air ye ready ter face
Him?"

The dying man looked up, and above the weakness and the suffering that
filled his eyes, showed a dominating expression of terror. If ever a
human being needed to be shriven he thought it was himself.

They had to bend close to catch his feeble syllables, as he said: "Git
paper--write this down."

The preacher obeyed, kneeling on the floor, and though the words were
few, their utterance required dragging minutes, punctuated with breaks
of silence and gasping.

"Hit warn't John Spurrier--thet kilt Captain Comyn back tha'r in the
Philippines.... I knows who done hit----" He broke off there, and the
girl closed her hands over her face. "I sought ter kill Spurrier--but
I warn't with them--thet attackted him hyar--an' wounded ther woman."

Once more a long hiatus interrupted the recital and then the mangled
creature went on: "Hit was ther oil folks thet deevised thet murder
scheme."

The preacher was busily writing the record of this death-bed statement
and Glory stood pale and distraught.

The words "oil people" were ringing in her ears. What connection could
Spurrier have had with them: what enmity could they have had for him?

But out of the confusion of her thoughts another thing stood forth
with the sudden glare of revelation. This man might die before he
finished and if he could not tell all he knew, he must first tell that
which would clear her husband's name. Though that husband had turned
his back on her, her duty to him in this matter must take precedence
over the rest.

"Joe Givins--" began Colby once more in laborious syllables, but
peremptorily the girl halted him.

"Never mind Joe Givins just now," she commanded with as sharp a
finality as though to her had been delegated the responsibility of his
judgment. "You said you knew who killed Captain Comyn. Who was it?"

The eyes in the wounded and stricken face gazed up at her in mute
appeal as a sinner might look at a father confessor, pleading that he
be spared the bitterest dregs of his admission.

Glory read that glance and her own delicate features hardened. She
leaned forward.

"I brought you in here and succored you," she asserted with a
sternness which she could not have commanded in her own behalf.
"You're going before Almighty God--and unless you answer that
question honestly--no prayers shall go with you for forgiveness."

"Glory!" The name broke in shocked horror from the bearded lips of the
preacher. "Glory, the mercy of God hain't ter be interfered with by
mortals. Ther man's dying!"

Upon him the young woman wheeled with blazing eyes.

"God calls on his servants for justice to the living as well as mercy
to the dying," she declared. "Sim Colby, who killed Captain Comyn?"

"I done hit," came the unwillingly wrung confession. "My real name's
Grant.... Severance aided me.... Thet's why I sought to kill Spurrier.
I deemed he war a huntin' me down."

"Now," ordered the young woman, "what about Joe Givins?"

Again a long pause, then: "Blind Joe Givins--only he ain't no blinder
than me--read papers hyar--he diskivered thet Spurrier was atter oil
rights--he tipped off ther oil folks--he war their spy all ther
time--shammin' ter be blind----" There the speaker struggled to
breathe and let his head fall back with the utterance incomplete. Five
minutes later he was dead.

"Hit don't seem ter me," said Brother Hawkins a short time later,
while Glory still stood in dazed and trance-like wonderment, "es ef
what he said kin be true. Why ef hit be, John Spurrier was aimin' ter
plunder us hyar all ther time! He was counselin' us ter sell out--an'
he was buyin'. I kain't believe that."

But Glory had drawn back to the wall of the room and into her eyes had
come a new expression. The expression of one who must tear aside a
veil and know the truth, and who dreads what that truth may be.

She had said that justice, no less than mercy, was God's command laid
upon mortals. She had, almost by the extremity of withholding from
Colby his hope of salvation until he spoke, won from him the
declaration which would give back to John Spurrier an unsmirched name.
Once Spurrier had said that was his strongest wish in life. But now
justice called again: this time justice to her own people and perhaps
it meant the unveiling of duplicity in the man she had married.

"Brother Hawkins," she declared in a low but fervent voice, "if it's
not true, it's a slander that I can't let stand. If it _is_ true, I
must undo the wrong he's sought to do--if I can. Please wait."

Then she was tearing at the bit of paneling that gave access to the
secret cabinet, and poring over papers from a broken and rifled strong
box.

There was the uncontrovertible record, clear writ, and at length her
pale face came up resolutely.

"I don't understand it all yet," she told the preacher. "But he was
buying. He bought everything that's been sold this side the ridge. He
was seeking to influence the legislature, too. I've got to talk to my
father."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the next night, when old Dyke Cappeze had ridden back from the
county seat, that he sat under the lamp in the room where Sim Colby
had died, and on the table before him were spread the papers that had
lain unread so long in John Spurrier's secret cabinet.

Across from him sat Glory with her fingers spasmodically clutched and
her eyes riveted on his face as he read and studied the documents,
which at first he had been loath to inspect without the permission of
their owner. He had been convinced, however, when Glory had told the
story of the dying confession and had appealed to him for counsel.

"By what you tell me," the old lawyer had summarized at the end of her
recital, "you forced from this man his admission which cleared John
Spurrier of the charge that's been hanging over him. You set out to
serve him and refused to be turned aside when Colby balked.... But
that confession didn't end there. It went on and besides clearing Jack
in that respect it seems to have involved him in another way. You
can't use a part of a confession and discard the balance. Perhaps we
can serve him as well as others best by going into the whole of the
affair."

So now Glory interrupted by no word or question, despite her anxiety
to understand and her hoping against hope for a verdict which should
leave John Spurrier clean of record.

But if she refrained from breaking in on the study that engrossed her
father and wrinkled his parchment-like forehead, she could not help
reading the expression of his eyes, the growing sternness and
indignation of his stiffening lips--and of drawing the moral that when
he spoke his words must be those of condemnation.

The strident song of the katydids came in through the windows and the
moon dropped behind the hill crests before Dyke Cappeze spoke, and
Brother Hawkins, who was spending the night at that house, smoked
alone on the porch, unwilling to intrude on the confidences that these
two might wish to exchange.

Finally the lawyer folded the last paper and looked up.

"Do you want the whole truth, little gal?" he inquired bluntly. "How
much do you still love this man?"

Glory flushed then paled.

"I guess," she said and her words were very low and soft, "I'll love
him so long as I live--though I hate myself for doing it. He wearied
of me and forgot me--but I can't do likewise."

Then her chin came up and her voice rang with a quiet finality.

"But I want the truth ... the whole truth without any softening."

"Then as I see it, it's simply this. A war was on between two groups
of financiers. American Oil and Gas had held a monopoly and maintained
a corrupt control in the legislature that stifled competition. That's
why the other oil boom failed. The second group was trying to slip up
on these corruptionists and gain the control by a campaign of
surprise. Jack Spurrier appears to have been the ambassador of that
second group--and he seems to have failed."

The wife nodded. Even yet she unconsciously held a brief for his
defense.

"So far as you've gone," she reminded her father, "you show him to
have been what is commonly called a 'practical business man'--but no
worse than the men he fought."

Cappeze bowed his head gravely and his next words came reluctantly.
"So far, yes. Of course he could have done none of the things he did
had he not first won the confidence of those poor ignorant folk that
are our neighbors and our friends. Of course it was because they
believed in him and followed his counsel that they sold their
birthrights to men with whom he pretended to have no connection--and
yet who took their orders from him."

"Then," Glory started, halted and leaned forward with her hands
against her breast and her utterance was the monotone of a voice
forced to a hard question: "Then what I feared was true? He lived
among us and made friends of us--only to rob us?"

"If by 'us' you mean the mountain people, I fear me that's precisely
what he did. I can see no other explanation. Which ever of these two
groups won meant to exploit and plunder us."

For a little she made no answer, but the delicate color of her cheeks
was gone to an ivory whiteness and the violet eyes were hardening.

"Perhaps we oughtn't to judge him too harshly for these things,"
said the father comfortingly. "The scroll of my bitterness against
him is already heavy enough and to spare. He has broken your heart
and that's enough for me. As to the rest there are many so-called
honorable gentlemen who are no more scrupulous. We demand clean
conduct here in these hills," a fierce bitterness came into his
words, "but then we are ignorant, backwoods folk! There are many
intricate ins and outs to this business and I don't presume to speak
with absolute conclusiveness yet."

Outside the katydids sang their prophecies of frost to come and an
owl hooted. Glory Spurrier sat staring ahead of her and at last she
said aloud, in that tone which one uses when a thought finds
expression, unconscious that it has been vocal: "So he won our
faith--with his clear eyes and his honest smile--only to swindle and
rob us!"

"My God, if I were a younger man," broke out the father passionately,
rising from his chair and clenching the damaging papers in his
talon-like fingers, "I'd learn the oil game. I'd take this information
and use it against both their gangs--and I believe I could force them
both to their knees."

He paused and the momentary fire died out of his eyes.

"I'm too old a dog for new tricks though," he added dejectedly, "and
there's no one else to do it."

"How could it be done?" demanded Glory rousing herself from her
trance. "Between them they hold all the power, don't they?"

"As far as I can make out," Cappeze explained with the interest of the
legalistic mind for tackling an abstruse problem, "Spurrier had
completed his arch as to one of his two purposes--all except its
keystone. He had yet to gain a passage way through Brother Hawkins'
land. With that he would have held the completed right-of-way--and
it's the only one. The other gang of pirates hold the ability to get a
charter but no right of way over which to use it. Now the man who
could deliver Brother Hawkins' concession would have a key. He could
force Spurrier's crowd to agree to almost anything, and with
Spurrier's crowd he could wring a compromise from the others. Bud
Hawkins is like the delegate at a convention who can break a
deadlock. God knows I'd love to tackle it--but it's too late for me."

Glory had come to her feet, and stood an incarnation of combat.

"It's not too late for me," she said quietly. "Perhaps I'm too crude
to go into John Spurrier's world of cultivated people but I'm shrewd
enough to go into his world of business!"

"You!" exclaimed the father in astonishment, then after a moment an
eager light slowly dawned in his eyes and he broke out vehemently: "By
God in Heaven, girl, I believe you're the man for the job!"

"Call Brother Hawkins in," commanded Glory. "We need his help."

Before he reached the door old Cappeze turned on his heel.

"Glory," he said, "we've need to move out of this house and go back to
my place. Here we're dwelling under a dishonest roof."

"I'm going to leave it," she responded quickly, "but I'm going farther
away than that. I'm going to study oil and I'm going to do it in the
Bluegrass lowlands."



CHAPTER XXI


John Spurrier stepped from the train at Carnettsville into a life that
had been revolutionized. At last he had succeeded in leaving his
German exile. His own country was in the war but he, with the
equipment of a soldier, bore a dishonored name, which would bar him
from a commission. Here he found the development of his dreams
realized, but by other hands than his own.

Above all, he must see Glory. He had cabled her and written her, so
she would be expecting him. Now he gazed about streets through which
teemed the new activity.

Here was the thing he had seen in his dreams when he stood on wooded
hills and thought in the terms of the future. Here it stood vivid and
actual before the eyes that had visioned it.

With a groan he turned into the road homeward on a hired horse. He
still meant to fight, and unless the Bud Hawkins property had escaped
him, he would still have to be accounted with--but great prizes had
slipped away.

At the gate of his house, his heart rose into his throat. The power of
his emotion almost stifled him. Never had his love for Glory
flickered. Never had he thought or dreamed of anything else or any one
else so dearly and so constantly as of her.

He stood at the fence with half-closed eyes for a moment, steadying
himself against the surges of up-welling emotion, then, raising his
eyes, he saw that the windows and the door were nailed up. The chimney
stood dead and smokeless.

Panic clutched at his throat as with a physical grasp. Before him
trooped a hundred associations unaccountably dear. They were all
memories of little things, mostly foolish little things that went into
the sacred intimacy of his life with Glory.

Now there was no Glory there.

He rode at the best speed left in his tired horse over to old
Cappeze's house, and, as he dismounted, saw the lawyer, greatly aged
and broken, standing in the door.

One glance at that face confirmed all the fears with which he had been
battling. It was a face as stern as those on the frieze of the
prophets. In it there was no ghost of the old welcome, no hope of any
relenting. This old man saw in him an enemy.

"Where is Glory?" demanded Spurrier as he hurried up to the doorstep,
and the other looked accusingly back into his eyes and answered in
cold and bitterly clipped syllables.

"Wherever she is, sir, it's her wish to be there alone." Suddenly the
old eyes flamed and the old voice rose thin and passionate. "If I
burned in hell for it to the end of eternity, I would give you no
other word of her."

"She--she is not dead, then?"

"No--but dead to you."

"Mr. Cappeze," said Spurrier steadily, "are you sure that I may not
have explanations that may change her view of me?"

"We know," said the lawyer in a voice out of which the passion had
passed, but which had the dead quality of an opinion inflexibly
solidified, "that since your marriage, you never made her the
companion of any hour that was not a backwoods hour. We know that you
never told us the truth about yourself or your enterprises--that you
came to us as a friend, won our confidence, and sought to exploit us.
Your record is one of lies and unfaithfulness, and we have cast you
out. That is her decision and with me her wish is sacred."

The returned exile stood meeting the relentless eyes of the old man
who had been his first friend in these hills and for a few moments he
did not trust himself to speak.

The shock of those shuttered windows and that blankly staring front at
the house where he had looked for welcome; the collapse of all the
dreams that had sustained him while a prisoner in an internment camp
and a refugee hounded across the German border were visiting upon him
a prostration that left him trembling and shaken.

Finally he commanded his voice.

"To me, too, her wish is sacred--but not until I hear it from her own
lips. She alone has the right to condemn me and not even she until I
have made my plea to her. Great God, man, my silence hasn't been
voluntary. I've been cut off in a Hun prison-camp. I've kept life in
me only because I could dream of her and because though it was easier
to die, I couldn't die without seeing her and explaining."

"It was from her own lips that I took my orders," came the unmoved
response. "Those orders were that through me you should learn
nothing. You had the friendship of every man here until you abused
it--now I think you'll encounter no sympathy. I told you once how the
wolf-bitch would feel toward the man who robbed her of her young. You
chose to disregard my warning--and I'll ask you to leave my house."

John Spurrier bowed his head. He had lost her! If that were her final
conclusion, he could hardly seek to dissuade her. At least he could
lose the final happiness out of his life--from which so much else had
already been lost--as a gentleman should lose.

And he knew that however old Cappeze might feel, he would not lie. If
he said that was Glory's deliberately formed decision, that statement
must be accepted as true.

"I have never loved any one else," said Spurrier slowly. "I shall
never love any one else. I have been faithful despite appearances. The
rest of your charges are true, and I make no denial. I gambled about
as fairly as most men gamble. That is all."

A stiffening pride, made flinty by the old man's hostility, shut
into silence some things that Spurrier might have said. He scorned
the seeming of whine that might have lain in explanations, even
though the explanations should lighten the shadow of his old friend's
disapproval. He offered no extenuation and breathed nothing of the
changes that had been wrought in himself by the tedious alchemy of
time and reflection.

He had begun under the spur of greedy ambition, but changes had been
wrought in him by Glory's love.

He was still ambitious, but in a different way. He wanted to salvage
something for the equitable beneficiaries. He wanted to stand, not
among the predatory millionaires, but to be his own man, with a clean
name and solvent.

Before he could attain that condition he must render unto Harrison the
things that were Harrison's and wipe out his own tremendous
liabilities--but his heart was in the hills.

John Spurrier went slowly and heavy heartedly back to the house which
he had refashioned for his bride; the house that had become to him a
shrine to all the dear, lost things of life.

The sun fell in mottled luminousness across its face of tempered gray
and from the orchard where the lush grass grew knee-high came the
cheery whistle of a Bob-white.

At the sound the man groaned with a wrench of his heart and throat,
and his thoughts raced back to that day when the same note had come
from the voices of hidden assassins and when Glory had exposed her
breast to rifle-fire to send out the pigeon with its call for help.

The splendid oak that had shaded their stile had grown broader of
girth and more majestic in the spread of its head-growth since he had
stood here before, and in the flower beds, in which Glory had
delighted, a few forlorn survivors, sprung up as volunteers from
neglected roots, struggled through a choke of dusty weeds.

The man looked about the empty yard and his breath came like that of a
torture victim on the rack. The desolation and ache of a life deprived
of all that made it sweet struck in upon him with a blight beside
which his prison loneliness had been nothing.

"If she knew the whole truth--instead of only half the truth," he
groaned, "she might forgive me."

He ripped the padlock from the door and let himself in. He flung wide
a shutter and let the afternoon sun flood the room, and once inside a
score of little things worked the magic of memory upon him and tore
afresh every wound that was festering.

There hung the landscapes that he and she had loved and as he looked
at them her voice seemed to sound again in his ears like forgotten
music. From somewhere came the heavy fragrance of honeysuckle and old
nights with her in the moonlight rushed back upon him.

Then he saw an apron on a peg--hanging limp and empty, and again he
saw her in it. He went and opened a drawer in which his own clothes
had been kept--and there neatly folded by her hand were things of
his.

John Spurrier, whose iron nerve had once been café talk in the Orient,
sat down on a quilted bed and tearless sobs racked him.

"No," he said to himself at last. "No, if she wants her freedom I
can't pursue her. I've hurt her enough--and God knows I'm punished
enough."

Unless he were tamely to surrender to the despair that beset him, John
Spurrier had one other thing to do before he left the hills. He must
come to such an agreement with Bud Hawkins as would give him a right
of way over that single tract and complete his chain of holdings. Thus
fortified the field beyond the ridge would be safe against invasion by
his enemies and even the other field would have readier outlet to
market by that route. In the Hawkins property lay the keystone of the
arch. With it the position was impregnable. Without it all the rest
fell apart like an inarticulated skeleton.

It happened that Spurrier met Hawkins as he went away from his lonely
house, and forcing his own miseries into the background, he sought to
become the business man once more. He began with a frank statement of
the facts and offered fair and substantial terms of trade.

Both because his affection for the old preacher would have tolerated
nothing less and because it would have been folly now to play the
cheaper game, he spoke in the terms of generosity.

But to his surprise and discomfiture, Brother Hawkins shook a stubborn
head.

"Thar ain't skeercely no power on 'arth, Mr. Spurrier," he declared,
"thet could fo'ce me inter doin' no business with ye."

"But, Brother Hawkins," argued the opportunity hound, "you are cutting
your own throat. You and I standing together are invincible. Separate,
we are lost. I'm almost willing to let you name the terms of
agreement--to write the contract for yourself."

"I've done been pore a right long while already," the preacher
reminded him as his eyes kindled with the zealot's fire. "Long afore
my day Jesus Christ was pore an' ther Apostle Paul, an' other
righteous men. I ain't skeered ter go on in likewise ter what I've
always done." He paused and laid a kindly hand on the shoulder of the
man who offered him wealth.

"I ain't seekin' ter fault ye unduly, John Spurrier. Mebby ye've done
follered yore lights--but we don't see with no common eye, ner no
mutual disc'arnment. Ye've done misled folk thet swore by ye, ef I
sees hit a'right. Now ye offers me wealth, much ther same as Satan
offered hit ter Jesus on a high place, an' we kain't trade--no more
then what they could trade."

The old preacher's attitude held the trace of kindliness that sought
to drape reproof in gentleness and to him, as had been impossible with
Cappeze, Spurrier poured out his confidence. At the outset, he
confessed, he had deliberately dedicated himself to the development of
wealth for himself and his employers, with no thought of others.
Later, in a fight between wary capitalists where vigilance had to be
met with vigilance, the seal of secrecy had been imperative. Frankness
with the mountain men would have been a warning to his enemies. Now,
however, his sense of responsibility was awake. Now he wanted to win
back his status of confidence in this land where he had known his only
home. Now what weight he had left to throw into the scales would be
righteously thrown. Even yet he must move with strict, guarded
secrecy.

But the old circuit rider shook his head.

"Hit's too late, now, ter rouse faith in me, John," he reiterated.
"Albeit I'd love ter credit ye, ef so-be I could. What's come ter pass
kain't be washed out with words." He paused before he added the simple
edict against which there was no arguing.

"Mebby I mout stand convinced even yit ef I didn't know thet ther
devil was urgin' me on with prospects of riches."

One thing remained to him; the pride that should stiffen him in the
presence of his accusers and judges. When he went into the eclipse of
ruin, at least he would go with unflinching gallantry.

And it was in that mood that Spurrier reached his club in New York and
prepared himself for the ordeal of the next day's interview.

He had wired Harrison of his coming, but not of his hopelessness, and
when his telephone jangled and he heard the voice of the financier, he
recognized in it an undercurrent of exasperation, which carried omen
of a difficult interview.

"That you, Spurrier? This is Harrison. Be at my office at eleven
to-morrow morning. Perhaps you can construe certain riddles."

"Of what nature, sir?"

"Of a nature that won't bear full discussion over the wire. We have
had an anonymous letter from some mysterious person who claims to come
with the situation in a sling. It may be a crank whom we'll have to
throw out--or some one we dare not ignore. At all events, it's up to
you to dispose of him. He's in your province. If you fail, we lose out
and, as I said once before, you go to the scrap heap."

Spurrier hung up the phone and sat in a nerveless trepidation which
was new and foreign to his nature. This interview of to-morrow morning
would call for the tallest bluffing he had ever attempted, and the
chances would, perhaps, turn on hair-trigger elements of personal
force.

He must depend on his coolness, audacity, and adroitness to win a
decision, and, except by guesswork, he could not hope to formulate in
advance the terrain of battle or the nature of counter-attack with
which he must meet his adversary.

That evening he strolled along Broadway and found himself yielding to
a dangerous and whimsical mood. He wondered how many other men
outwardly as self-assured and prosperous as himself were covertly
confessing suicide as one of to-morrow's probabilities.

Over Longacre Square the incandescent billboards flamed and flared.
The darning-wool kitten disported itself with mechanical abandon. The
woman who advertised a well-known corset and the man who exploited a
brand of underwear brilliantly made and unmade their toilets far above
the sidewalk level. Motors shrieked and droned and crowds drifted.

Before a moving-picture theater, his introspective eye was momentarily
challenged by a gaudy three-sheet. The poster proclaimed a popular
screen star in a "fight fuller of punch than that of 'The Wreckers.'"

What caused Spurrier to pause was the composition of the picture--and
the mental comparison which it evoked. A man crouched behind a heavy
table, overthrown for a barricade--as he had once done.

Fallen enemies lay on the floor of a crude Western cabin. Others still
stood, and fought with flashing guns and faces "registering"
desperation, frenzy, and maniac fury. The hero only, though alone and
outnumbered, was grimly calm. The stress of that inferno had not
interfered with the theatric pose of head and shoulders--the grace and
effect of gesture that was conveyed in the two hands wielding two
smoking pistols.

Spurrier smiled. It occurred to him that had a director stood by
while he himself had knelt behind a table he would have bawled out
many amendments which fact had overlooked. Apparently he and his
attackers had, by these exacting standards of art, missed the drama of
the situation.

Over him swept a fresh flood of memory, and it brought a cold and
nervous dampness to his temples. Again he saw Glory rising at the
broken window with a pigeon to release--and a life to sacrifice, if
need be. On her face had been no theatric expression which would have
warranted a close-up.

Spurrier hastened on, turning into a side street where he could put
the glare at his back and find a more mercifully dark way.

He was seeing, instead of dark house fronts, the tops of pine trees
etched against an afterglow, and Glory standing silhouetted against a
hilltop. Above the grind of the elevated and the traffic, he was
hearing her voice in thrushlike song, happy because he loved her.

The agony of loss overwhelmed him, and he actually longed, as for a
better thing, for that moment to come back when behind an overturned
table he had endured the suspense which death had promised to end in
an instant filled and paid for with revenge.

Then through his disturbed brain once more flashed lines of verse:

  "I was ever a fighter, so--one fight more,
    The best and the last!
  I should hate that Death bandaged my eyes and forebore,
    And bade me creep past."

At all events he would, in the figurative sense, die fighting
to-morrow. He knew his mistakes now. If he lived on he hoped to atone
for them, but if he died he would go out without a whine.

And if he must die, there was one way that seemed preferable to
others. The army would have none of him, as an officer, because he
stood besmirched of honor. But he knew the stern temper of the
mountaineers. They would rise in unanimous response to the call of
arms. He could go with them, not with any insignia on his collar, but
marching shoulder against shoulder into that red hell of Flanders and
France, where a man might baptize himself, shrive himself, and die.
And in dying they would leave a record behind them!



CHAPTER XXII


Down along the creekbeds back of Hemlock Mountain young Jimmy
Litchfield, a son of old Uncle Jimmy, had been teaming with a
well-boring outfit and his wagon had bogged down in deep mud. He had
failed to extricate himself so he tramped three hard, steep miles and
telephoned for an extra team. While he awaited deliverance he found
himself irked and, to while away the time, set his drill down
haphazard and began to bore.

It would be some hours before help arrived, and when he had worked a
while he had forgotten all about help.

His drill had struck through soft gravel to an oil pool lying close to
the surface, and the black tide gushed crazily.

Young Jimmy sat back watching the dark jet that he had no means of
stemming or containing, and through his simple soul flowed all the
intoxication of triumph.

He was the discoverer of a new--and palpably a rich field!

Hereafter oil men would speak of the Snake Creek field as copper men
spoke of Anaconda or gold men of the Yukon.

And that night word went by wire to the opportunity hound who had
just gone east, that the "fur" side was to the "nigh" side as gold is
to silver.

       *       *       *       *       *

"What do you make of it?" demanded Harrison, when Spurrier, secure in
his seeming of undaunted assurance, arrived at his office and the
response came smilingly: "I think it means a bluff."

"Read that," snapped the financier as he flung a letter across his
desk.

Spurrier took the sheet of paper and read in a hand, evidently
disguised!

  You find yourself in a cul-de-sac. I hold the key to a way out. My
  terms are definite and determined in advance. I shall be at your
  office at noon, Tuesday. We will do business at that time, or not
  at all.

"I repeat," said Spurrier, "that this seems to me a brass-bound bluff.
I make only the request that I be permitted to talk with this brigand
alone; to sound him out with no interference and to shape my policy by
the circumstances. I'm not at all frightened."

Harrison answered snappily:

"I agree to that--but if you fail you fail finally."

So on Tuesday forenoon Spurrier sat cross-legged in Harrison's office
and their discussion had come to its end. Now, he had only to await
the unknown person who was to arrive at noon bearing alleged terms, a
person who claimed to be armed for battle if battle were needed.

At Harrison's left and right sat his favored lieutenants, but Spurrier
himself occupied a chair a little bit apart, relegated to a zone of
probation.

Then a rap sounded on the door, and Spurrier smiled with a ghost of
triumph as he noted that he alone of the small group did not start at
the signal. For all their great caliber and standing, these men were
keyed to expectancy and exasperated nervousness.

The clerk who appeared made his announcement with the calculated
evenness of routine: "A lady is waiting. She says her name doesn't
matter. She has an appointment for twelve."

"A lady!" exclaimed Harrison in amazement. "My God, do we have to
fight this thing out with a woman?"

The tableau of astonishment held, until Spurrier broke it:

"What matter personalities to us?" he blandly inquired. "We are
interested in facts."

The chief lifted his hand and gave curt direction. "Show her in."

Then through the door came a woman whose beauty would have arrested
attention in any gathering. Just now what these men, rising grudgingly
from their chairs, noted first, was the self-possession, the poise,
and the convincing evidence of good breeding and competency which
characterized her.

She was elegantly but plainly dressed, and her manner conveyed a
self-assurance in nowise flustered by the prospect of impending
storm.

No one there, save Spurrier, recognized her, for to Martin Harrison
carrying the one disapproving impression of a mountain girl in patched
gingham, the transformation was complete.

And as for Spurrier himself, after coming to his feet, he stood as a
man might be expected to stand if a specter of death had suddenly
materialized before him.

For the one time in his life all the assumption of boldness, worn for
other eyes, broke and fell away from him, leaving him nakedly and
starkly dumbfounded. He presented the pale and distressed aspect of a
whipped prize fighter, reeling groggily against the ropes, and
defenseless against attack.

It was a swift transformation from audacious boldness to something
which seemed abject, or that at least was the aspect which presented
itself to Martin Harrison and his aides, but back of it all lay
reasons into which they could not see.

It was no crumbling and softening of battle metal that had wrought
this astonishing metamorphosis but a thing much nearer to the man's
heart. At that moment there departed from his mind the whole urgent
call of the duel between business enemies--and he saw only the woman
for whom he had sought and whom he had not found.

In the cumulative force and impact of their heart-breaking sequence
there rushed back on him all the memories that had been haunting him,
intensified to unspeakable degree at the sight of her face--and if he
thought of the business awaiting them at all, it was only with a
stabbing pain of realization that he had met Glory again only in the
guise of an enemy.

Harrison gave him one contemptuous glance and remarked brutally:

"Madam, this gentleman was to talk with you, but he seems scarcely
able to conduct any affair of moment."

Glory was looking at the broken man, too, and into her splendid eyes
stole a pity that had tenderness back of it.

Old memories came in potent waves, and she closed her lids for a
moment as though against a painful glare, but with quick recovery she
spoke.

"It is imperative, gentlemen, that I have a few words first--and
alone--with Mr. Spurrier."

"If you insist, but----" Harrison's shoulders stiffened. "But we do
not guarantee that we shall abide by his declarations."

"I do insist--and I think you will find that it is I who am in the
position to dictate terms."

Harrison gave a sharply imperative gesture toward the door through
which the others filed out, followed by the chief himself, leaving the
two alone.

Then John Spurrier rose, and supported himself by hands pressed upon
the table top. He stood unsteadily at first and failed in his effort
to speak. Then, with difficulty, he straightened and swept his two
hands out in a gesture of surrender.

"I'm through," he said. "I thought there was still one fight left in
me--but I can't fight you."

She did not answer and, after a little, with a slight regaining of his
self-command, he went on again:

"Glory! What a name and what a fulfillment! You have always been Glory
to me."

Out of his eyes slowly went the apathy of despair and another look of
even stronger feeling preëmpted its place: a look of worship and
adoration.

"I didn't know," admitted Glory softly, "that I was to meet you here.
I didn't know that the fight was to be between us."

"You have ruined me," he answered. "I'm a sinking ship now, and those
rats out there will leave me--but it's worth ruin to see you again. I
want you to take this message with you and remember it. All my life
I've gambled hard and fought hard. Now I fail hard. I lost you and
deserved to lose you, but I've always loved you and always shall."

Her eyes grew stern, repressing the tenderness and pity that sought to
hold them soft.

"You abandoned me," she said. "You sought to plunder my people. I took
up their fight, and I shall win it."

Spurrier came a step toward her and spread his hands in a gesture of
surrender, but he had recovered from the shock that had so unnerved
him a few minutes ago and there was now a certain dignity in his
acceptance of defeat.

"I break my sword across my knee," he declared, "and since I must do
it, I'm glad you are the victor. I won't ask for mercy even from
you--but when you say I abandoned you, you are grievously wrong.

"When you say I sought to plunder your people, you speak the truth
about me--as I was before I came to love you. From that time on I
sought to serve your people."

"Sought to serve them?" she repeated in perplexity, "The record shows
nothing of that."

"And since the record doesn't," he answered steadily, "any assertions
and protestations would be without proof. I've told you, because my
heart compelled me. I won't try to convince you. At all events, since
I failed, my motives don't matter."

"Your motives are everything. I took up the fight," she said, "because
I thought a Spurrier had wronged them. I wanted a Spurrier to make
restitution."

"At first I saw only the game, dear heart," he confessed, "never the
unfairness. I'm ready to pay the price. Ruin me--but in God's name,
believe that I love you."

Her hand came out waveringly at that, and for a moment rested on his
shoulder with a little gesture of tenderness.

"I thought I hated you," she said. "I tried to hate you. I've
dedicated myself to my people and their rights--but if you trust me
enough, call them in and let me talk with them."

"Trust you enough!" he exclaimed passionately, then he caught her to
him, and, when he let her go, he stood again transformed and
revivified into the man he had seemed before she appeared in the
doorway. It was as though the touch of her lips had given him the fire
from which he rose phoenixlike.

With an unhesitant step he went to the door and opened it, and the men
who had gone out trooped back and ranged themselves again about the
table.

"Mr. Spurrier did all in your interests that a man could do," said
Glory. "He failed to secure your charter and he failed to secure the
one tract that serves as the key. I am a mountain woman seeking only
to protect my people. I hold that tract as trustee for Bud Hawkins. I
mean to do business, but only at a fair price. It's for you to
determine whether I deal with you or your competitors."

A look of consternation spread over the faces of the lesser men, but
Harrison inquired with a grim smile:

"Madam, haven't I seen you somewhere before to-day?"

"Once before--down in the hills."

"Then you are this man's wife! Was this dramatic incident prearranged
between you?"

She raised an imperative hand, and her voice admitted no question of
sincerity.

"Make no such mistake. Mr. Spurrier knew nothing of this. He was loyal
enough--to you. From him I never even learned the nature of his
business. Without his knowledge _I_ was loyal to my people."

Then for ten minutes she talked clearly, forcefully, and with the ring
of indubitable sincerity giving fire to voice and manner. She told of
the fight she and her father had made to keep heart in mountain folk,
enraged by what they believed to be the betrayal by a man they had
trusted and attacked by every means of coercion at the disposal of
American Oil and Gas.

She told of small local reservoirs, mysteriously burned by unknown
incendiaries; of neighborhood pipe lines cut until they spilled out
their wealth again into the earth; of how she herself had walked these
lines at night, watching against sabotage.

As she talked with simple directness and without self-vaunting, they
saw her growing in the trust of these men whose wrath had been, in the
words of old Cappeze, "Like that of the wolf-bitch robbed a second
time of her whelps." They recognized the faith that had commissioned
her to speak as trustee, and to act with carte-blanche powers.

Harrison and his subordinates were not susceptible men, easily swayed
by a dramatic circumstance, so they cross-examined and heckled her
with shrewd and tripping inquiries, until she reminded them that she
had not come as a supplicant, but to lay before them terms, which they
would, at their peril, decline to accept.

The realization was strong in them that she had spoken only the truth
when she declared that she held the key. When they were convinced that
she realized, in full, the strength of her position, they had no wish
to antagonize longer.

The group of financiers drew apart, but after a brief consultation
Harrison came forward and offered his hand.

"Mrs. Spurrier," he announced crisply, "we have gone too far to draw
back. After all, I think you come rather as a rescue party than an
attacker. Spurrier, you have married a damned brilliant woman."

Glory accepted the extended hand of peace, and Harrison, with a jerk
of his head to the door, led his followers out, leaving them alone
again.

Then Glory held out her arms, and into the bright depths of her eyes
flashed the old bewitching merriment.

"Thar's a lavish of things I needs ter know, Jack," she said. "You've
got to l'arn 'em all ter me."

"I come now, not as teacher but as pupil, dear heart," he declared,
"and I come humbly."

Then her face grew serious and her voice vibrant with tenderness.

"I have another gift for you, Jack, besides myself, I can give you
back an untarnished name."


THE END

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcribers Note

Typographical inconsistencies have been changed and are listed below.

Hyphenation standardized.

Other archaic and variable spelling and hyphenation is preserved,
including the author's use of eying and eyeing, Quizote, Otello, and
langour.

Passages in italics indicated by _underscores_.


Transcriber Changes

The following changes were made to the original text:

  Page 86: Was sterterously (he sat there breathing =stertorously=
           while the untended fire died away)

  Page 90: Was plausiblity (One explanation only presented itself with
           any color of =plausibility=)

  Page 96: Was mistly (there was a dreamy violet where it merged
           =mistily= with the skyline ridges)

  Page 118: Was there ("It is well established by the evidence befo'
            =ther= co'te")

  Page 120: Was impusively (the girl broke out =impulsively=)

  Page 124: Removed extra quote (Still Spurrier cursed himself for a
            careless =fool=)

  Page 162: Was it's (you'll recall that =its= longer name is _Datura
            stramonium_)

  Page 180: Was inperceptible (pair of shoulders that hunched slowly
            forward with almost =imperceptible= movement)

  Page 208: Guessed at missing text (the latter inquired gravely:
            ="Did they play one= of them royalty games")

  Page 208: Was single quote (I ain't playin' no more of them royalty
            =games"=)

  Page 263: Was pacink ("Before God," cried Harrison, =pacing= his
            floor like a lion)

  Page 301: Was personalties ("What matter =personalities= to us?")





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