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Title: A Daughter of the Forest
Author: Raymond, Evelyn, 1843-1910
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.

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A DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST

by

EVELYN RAYMOND

Author of "A Yankee Girl" etc.

Illustrated by Ida Waugh



The Penn Publishing Company
Philadelphia MCMII

Copyright 1902 by The Penn Publishing Company

Published August 15, 1902

A Daughter of the Forest



[Illustration: THE GIRL KNELT, INDIAN FASHION]



Contents


 CHAPTER                                                    PAGE

     I THE STORM                                              5

    II SPIRIT OR MORTAL                                      15

   III AN ESTRAY FROM CIVILIZATION                           27

    IV WHAT WAS IN THE NAME                                  40

     V IN ALADDIN LAND                                       53

    VI A ONE-SIDED STORY                                     67

   VII A WOODLAND MENAGERIE                                  78

  VIII KING MADOC                                            84

    IX PERPLEXITIES                                          96

     X DEPARTURE                                            109

    XI A DISCLOSURE                                         120

   XII CARRYING                                             134

  XIII A DEAD WATER TRAGEDY                                 146

   XIV SHOOTING THE RAPIDS                                  157

    XV SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION                             172

   XVI DIVERGING ROADS                                      188

  XVII IN THE HOUR OF DARKNESS                              201

 XVIII THE LETTER                                           212

   XIX A QUESTION OF APPAREL                                226

    XX COMING AND GOING                                     241

   XXI IN THE GREAT RAILWAY STATION                         259

  XXII NUMBER 526                                           272

 XXIII FATHER AND SON                                       283

  XXIV  A HIDDEN SAFE DEPOSIT                               302

   XXV THE MELODY AND MYSTERY OF LIFE                       319



A Daughter of the Forest



CHAPTER I

THE STORM


"Margot! Margot!"

Mother Angelique's anxious call rang out over the water, once, twice,
many times. But, though she shaded her brows with her hands and
strained her keen ears to listen, there was no one visible and no
response came back to her. So she climbed the hill again and,
reëntering the cabin, began to stir with almost vicious energy the
contents of a pot swinging in the wide fireplace. As she toiled she
muttered and wagged her gray head with sage misgivings.

"For my soul! There is the ver' bad hoorican' a-comin', and the child
so heedless. But the signs, the omens! This same day I did fall
asleep at the knitting and waked a-smother. True, 'twas Meroude, the
cat, crouched on my breast; yet what sent her save for a warning?"

Though even in her scolding the woman smiled, recalling how Margot had
jeered at her superstition; and that when she had dropped her bit of
looking-glass the girl had merrily congratulated her on the fact;
since by so doing she had secured "two mirrors in which to behold such
loveliness!"

"No, no, not so. Death lurks in a broken glass; or, at the best, must
follow seven full years of bad luck and sorrow."

On which had come the instant reproof:

"Silly Angelique! When there is no such thing as luck but all is of
the will of God."

The old nurse had frowned. The maid was too wise for her years. She
talked too much with the master. It was not good for womenkind to
listen to grave speech or plague their heads with graver books. Books,
indeed, were for priests and doctors; and, maybe, now and then, for
men who could not live without them, like Master Hugh. She, Angelique,
had never read a book in all her life. She never meant to do so. She
had not even learned a single letter printed in their foolish pages.
Not she. Yet was not she a most excellent cook and seamstress? Was
there any cabin in all that northland as tidy as that she ruled?
Would matters have been the better had she bothered her poor brain
with books? She knew her duty and she did it. What more could mortal?

This argument had been early in the day. A day on which the master had
gone away to the mainland and the house-mistress had improved by
giving the house an extra cleaning. To escape the soapsuds and the
loneliness, Margot had, also, gone, alone and unquestioned; taking
with her a luncheon of brown bread and cold fowl, her book and
microscope. Angelique had watched the little canoe push off from
shore, without regret, since now she could work unhindered at
clearing the room of the "rubbishy specimen" which the others had
brought in to mess the place.

Now, at supper time, perfect order reigned, and perfect quiet, as
well; save for the purring of Meroude upon the hearth and the
simmering of the kettle. Angelique wiped her face with her apron.

"The great heat! and May but young yet. It means trouble. I wish----"

Suddenly, the cat waked from her sleep and with a sharp meouw leaped
to her mistress' shoulder; who screamed, dropped the ladle, splashed
the stew, and boxed the animal's ears--all within a few seconds. Her
nerves were already tingling from the electricity in the air, and her
anxiety returned with such force that, again swinging the crane around
away from the fire, she hurried to the beach.

To one so weatherwise the unusual heat, the leaden sky, and the
intense hush were ominous. There was not a breath of wind stirring,
apparently, yet the surface of the lake was already dotted by tiny
white-caps, racing and chasing shoreward, like live creatures at play.
Not many times, even in her long life in that solitude, had Angelique
Ricord seen just that curious coloring of cloud and water, and she
recalled these with a shudder. The child she loved was strong and
skilful, but what would that avail? Her thin face darkened, its
features sharpened, and making a trumpet of her hands, she put all her
force into a long, terrified halloo.

"Ah-ho-a-ah! Margot--Mar-g-o-t--MARGOT!"

Something clutched her shoulder and with another frightened scream the
woman turned to confront her master.

"Is the child away?"

"Yes, yes. I know not where."

"Since when?"

"It seems but an hour, maybe two, three, and she was here, laughing,
singing, all as ever. Though it was before the midday, and she went
in her canoe, still singing."

"Which way?"

She pointed due east, but now into a gloom that was impenetrable. On
the instant, the lapping wavelets became breakers, the wind rose to a
deafening shriek, throwing Angelique to the ground and causing even
the strong man to reel before it. As soon as he could right himself he
lifted her in his arms and staggered up the slope. Rather, he was
almost blown up it and through the open door into the cabin, about
which its furnishings were flying wildly. Here the woman recovered
herself and lent her aid in closing the door against the tempest, a
task that, for a time, seemed impossible. Her next thought was for her
dinner-pot, now swaying in the fireplace, up which the draught was
roaring furiously. Once the precious stew was in a sheltered corner,
her courage failed again and she sank down beside it, moaning and
wringing her hands.

"It is the end of the world!"

"Angelique!"

Her wails ceased. That was a tone of voice she had never disobeyed in
all her fifteen years of service.

"Yes, Master Hugh."

"Spread some blankets. Brew some herb tea. Get out a change of dry
clothing. Make everything ready against I bring Margot in."

She watched him hurrying about securing all the windows, piling wood
on the coals, straightening the disordered furniture, fastening a
bundle of kindlings to his own shoulders, putting matches in the
pocket of his closely buttoned coat, and caught something of his
spirit. After all, it was a relief to be doing something, even though
the roar of the tempest and the incessant flashes of lightning turned
her sick with fear. But it was all too short a task; and when, at
last, her master climbed outward through a sheltered rear window,
closing it behind him, her temporary courage sank again and finally.

"The broken glass! the broken glass! Yet who would dream it is my
darling's bright young life must pay for that and not mine, the old
and careworn? Ouch! the blast! That bolt struck--and near! Ah! me! Ah!
me!"

Meroude rubbed pleadingly against her arm and, glad of any living
companionship, she put out her hand to touch him; but drew it back in
dread, for his surcharged fur sparkled and set her flesh a-tingle,
while the whole room grew luminous with an uncanny radiance. Feeling
that her own last hour had come, poor Angelique crouched still lower
in her corner and began to say her prayers with so much earnestness
that she became almost oblivious to the tornado without.

Meanwhile, by stooping and clinging to whatever support offered, Hugh
Dutton made his slow way beachward. But the bushes uprooted in his
clasp and the bowlders slipped by him on this new torrent rushing to
the lake. Then he flung himself face downward and cautiously crawled
toward the point of rocks whereon he meant to make his beacon fire.

"She will see it and steer by it," he reflected; for he would not
acknowledge how hopeless would be any human steering under such a
stress.

Alas! the beacon would not light. The wind had turned icy cold and the
rain changed to hail which hurled itself upon the tiny blaze and
stifled its first breath. A sort of desperate patience fell on the man
and he began again, with utmost care, to build and shelter his little
stock of fire-wood. Match after match he struck and with unvarying
failure, till all were gone; and realizing at last how chilled and
rigid he was growing he struggled to his feet and set them into
motion.

Then there came a momentary lull in the storm and he shouted aloud, as
Angelique had done:

"Margot! Little Margot! MARGOT!"

Another gust swept over lake and island. He could hear the great
trees falling in the forest, the bang, bang, bang, of the deafening
thunder, as, blinded by lightning and overcome by exhaustion, he sank
down behind the pile of rocks and knew no more.



CHAPTER II

SPIRIT OR MORTAL


The end of that great storm was almost as sudden as its beginning.
Aroused by the silence that succeeded the uproar, Angelique stood up
and rubbed her limbs, stiff with long kneeling. The fire had gone out.
Meroude was asleep on the blankets spread for Margot, who had not
returned, nor the master. As for that matter the house-mistress had
not expected that they ever would.

"There is nothin' left. I am alone. It was the glass. Ah! that the
palsy had but seized my unlucky hand before I took it from its shelf!
How still it is. How clear, too, is my darling's laugh--it rings
through the room--it is a ghost. It will haunt me al-ways, al-ways."

Unable longer to bear the indoor silence, which her fancy filled with
familiar sounds, she unbarred the heavy door and stepped out.

"Ah! is it possible! Can the sun be settin' that way? as if there had
been nothin' happenin'."

Wrecks strewed the open ground about the cabin, poultry coops were
washed away, the cow shed was a heap of ruins, into which the
trembling observer dared not peer. That Snowfoot should be dead was a
calamity but second only to the loss of master and nursling.

"Ah! my beast, my beast. The best in all this northern Maine. That the
master bought and brought in the big canoe for an Easter gift to his
so faithful Angelique. And yet the sun sets as red and calm as if all
was the same as ever."

It was, indeed, a scene of grandeur. The storm, in passing northward,
had left scattered banks of clouds, now colored most brilliantly by
the setting sun and widely reflected on the once more placid lake. But
neither the beauty, nor the sweet, rain-washed air, appealed to the
distracted islander who faced the west and shook her hand in impotent
rage toward it.

"Shine, will you? With the harm all done and nothin' left but me, old
Angelique! Pouf! I turn my back on you!"

Then she ran shoreward with all speed, dreading what she might find
yet eager to know the worst, if there it might be learned. With her
apron over her head she saw only what lay straight before her and so
passed the point of rocks without observing her master lying behind
it. But a few steps further she paused, arrested by a sight which
turned her numb with superstitious terror. What was that coming over
the water? A ghost! a spirit!

Did spirits paddle canoes and sing as this one was singing?

     "The boatman's song is borne along far over the water so blue,
     And loud and clear, the voice we hear of the boatman so honest
                         and true;
           He's rowing, rowing, rowing along,
             He's rowing, rowing, rowing along--
               He's rowing and singing his song."

Ghosts should sing hymns, not jolly little ballads like this, in which
one could catch the very rhythm and dip of oar or paddle. Still, it
was as well to wait and see if this were flesh or apparition before
pronouncing judgment.

It was certainly a canoe, snowy white and most familiar--so familiar
that the watcher began to lose her first terror. A girl knelt in it,
Indian fashion, gracefully and evenly dipping her paddle to the melody
of her lips. Her bare head was thrown back and her fair hair floated
loose. Her face was lighted by the western glow, on which she fixed
her eyes with such intentness that she did not perceive the woman who
awaited her with now such mixed emotions.

But Tom saw. Tom, the eagle, perched in the bow, keen of vision and of
prejudice. Between him and old Angelique was a grudge of long
standing. Whenever they met, even after a brief separation, he
expressed his feelings by his hoarsest screech. He did so now and, by
so doing, recalled Margot from sky-gazing and his enemy from doubt.

"Ah! Angelique! Watching for me? How kind of you. Hush, Tom. Let her
alone, good Angelique, poor Angelique!"

The eagle flapped his wings with a melancholy disdain and plunged his
beak in his breast. The old woman on the beach was not worth minding,
after all, by a monarch of the sky--as he would be but for his broken
wing--but the girl was worth everything, even his obedience.

She laughed at his sulkiness, plying her paddle the faster, and soon
reached the pebbly beach, where she sprang out, and drawing her canoe
out of the water, swept her old nurse a curtsey.

"Home again, mother, and hungry for my supper."

"Supper, indeed! Breakin' my heart with your run-about ways! and the
hoorican', with ever'thin' ruined, ever'thin'! The master---- Where's
he, I know not. The great pine broken like a match; the coops, the
cow-house, and Snowfoot---- Ah, me! Yet the little one talks of
supper!"

Margot looked about her in astonishment, scarcely noticing the other's
words. The devastation of her beloved home was evident, even down on
the open beach, and she dared not think what it might be further
inland.

"Why, it must have been a cyclone! We were reading about them only
yesterday and Uncle Hugh--did you say that you knew--where is he?"

Angelique shook her head.

"Can I tell anythin', me? Into the storm he went and out of it he will
come alive, as you have. If the good Lord wills," she added
reverently.

The girl sprang to the woman's side, and caught her arm impatiently.

"Tell me, quick. Where is he? where did you last see him?"

"Goin' into the hoorican', with wood upon his shoulder. To make a
beacon for you. So I guess. But you--tell how you come alive out of
all that?" Sweeping her arm over the outlook.

Margot did not stop to answer but darted toward the point of rocks
where, if anywhere, she knew her guardian would have tried his signal
fire. In a moment she found him.

"Angelique! Angelique! He's here. Quick--quick---- He's---- Oh! is he
dead, is he dead?"

There was both French and Indian blood in mother Ricord's veins, a
passionate loyalty in her heart, and the suppleness of youth still in
her spare frame. With a dash she was at the girl's side and had thrust
her away, to kneel herself and lift her master's head from its hard
pillow of rock.

With swift nervous motions she unfastened his coat and bent her ear to
his breast.

"'Tis only a faint, maybe shock. In all the world was only Margot, and
Margot was lost. Ugh! the hail. See, it is still here--look! water,
and--yes, the tea! It was for you---- Ah!"

Her words ended with a sigh of satisfaction as a slight motion stirred
the features into which she peered so earnestly, and she raised her
master's head a bit higher. Then his eyes slowly opened and the dazed
look gradually gave place to a normal expression.

"Why, Margot! Angelique? What's happened?"

"Oh! Uncle Hugh! are you hurt? are you ill? I found you here behind
the rocks and Angelique says--but I wasn't hurt at all. I wasn't out
in any storm, didn't know there had been one, that is, worth minding,
till I came home----"

"Like a ghost out of the lake. She was not even dead, not she. And she
was singin' fit to burst her throat while you were--well, maybe, not
dead, yourself."

At this juncture, Tom, the inquisitive, thrust his white head forward
into the midst of the group and, in her relief from her first fear,
Margot laughed aloud.

"Don't, Tom! You're one of the family, of course, and since none of
the rest of us will die to please that broken mirror, you may have to!
Especially, if there's a new brood out----"

But here Angelique threw up her free hand with such a gesture of
despair that Margot said no more, and her face sobered again,
remembering that, even though they were all still alive, there might
be suffering untold among her humbler woodland friends. Then, as Mr.
Dutton rose, almost unaided, a fresh regret came:

"That there should be a cyclone, right here at home, and I not to see
it! See! Look, uncle, look! You can trace its very path, just as we
read. Away to the south there is no sign of it, nor on the northeast.
It must have swept up to us out of the southeast and taken our island
in its track. Oh! I wouldn't have missed it for anything."

The man rested his hand upon her shoulder and turned her gently
homeward. His weakness had left him as it had come upon him, with a
suddenness like that of the recent tempest. It was not the first
seizure of the kind, which he had had, though neither of these others
knew it; and the fact added a deeper gravity to his always thoughtful
manner.

"I am most thankful that you were not here; but where could you have
been to escape it?"

"All day in the long cave. To the very end of it I believe, and see! I
found these. They are like the specimens you brought the other day.
They must be some rich metal."

"In the long cave, you? Alone? All day? Margot, Margot, is not the
glass enough? but you must tempt worse luck by goin' there!" cried
Angelique, who had preceded the others on the path, but now faced
about, trembling indignantly. What foolish creature was this who
would pass a whole day in that haunted spot, in spite of the dreadful
tales that had been told of it. "Pouf! But I wear out my poor brain,
everlastin' to study the charms will save you from evil, me. And
yet----"

"You would do well to use some of your charms on Tom, yonder. He's
found an overturned coop and looks too happy to be out of mischief."

The woman wheeled again and was off up the slope like a flash, where
presently the king of birds was treated to the indignity of a sound
boxing, which he resented with squawks and screeches, but not with
talons, since under each foot he held the plump body of a fat chicken.

"Tom thinks a bird in the hand is worth a score of cuffs! and
Angelique's so determined to have somebody die--I hope it won't be
Tom. A pity, though, that harm should have happened to her own pets.
Hark! What is that?"

"Some poor woodland creature in distress. The storm----"

"That's no sound belonging to the forest. But it is--distress!"



CHAPTER III

AN ESTRAY FROM CIVILIZATION


They paused by the cabin door, left open by Angelique, and listened
intently. She, too, had caught the alien sound, the faint, appealing
halloo of a human voice--the rarest of all cries in that wilderness.
Even the eagle's screeches could not drown it, but she had had enough
of anxieties for one day. Let other people look out for themselves;
her precious ones should not stir afield again, no, not for anything.
Let the evil bird devour the dead chickens, if he must, her place was
in the cabin, and she rushed back down the slope, fairly forcing the
others inward from the threshold where they hesitated.

"'Tis a loon. You should know that, I think, and that they're always
cryin' fit to scare the dead. Come. The supper's waited this long
time."

With a smile that disarmed offense Margot caught the woman's shoulder
and lightly swung her aside out of the way.

"Eat then, hungry one! I, too, am hungry, but---- Hark!"

The cry came again, prolonged, entreating, not to be confounded with
that of any forest wilding.

"It's from the north end of our own island!"

The master's ear was not less keen than the girl's, and both had the
acuteness of an Indian's, but his judgment was better.

"From the mainland, across the narrows."

Neither delayed, as a mutual impulse sent them toward the shore, but
again Angelique interposed.

"Thoughtless child, have you no sense? With the master just out of a
faint that was nigh death itself! With nothin' in his poor stomach
since the mornin' and your own as empty. Wait. Eat. Then chase loons,
if you will."

Mr. Dutton laughed, though he also frowned and cast a swift, anxious
glance toward Margot. But she was intent upon nothing save answering
that far-off cry.

"Which canoe, uncle?"

"Mine."

The devoted servant made a last protest, and caught the girl's arm as
it pushed the light craft downward into the water.

"My child, he is not fit. Believe me. Best leave others to their fate
than he should over-tax himself again, so soon."

Margot was astonished. In all her life she had never before associated
thought of physical weakness with her stalwart guardian, and a sharp
fear of some unknown trouble shot through her heart.

"What do you mean?"

The master had reached them and now laid his own hand upon Angelique's
detaining one.

"There, woman, that's enough. The storm has shaken your nerves. If
you're afraid to stay alone, Margot shall stop with you. But let's
have no more nonsense."

Mother Ricord stepped back, away. She had done her best. Let come what
might, her conscience was clear.

A few seconds later the canoe pushed off over the now darkening water
and its inmates made all speed toward that point from which the cry
had been heard, but was heard no more. However, the steersman followed
a perfectly direct course and, if he were still weak from his seizure,
his movement showed no signs of it, so that Margot's fear for him was
lost in the interest of their present adventure. She rhymed her own
stroke to her uncle's and when he rested her paddle instantly stopped.

"Halloo! Hal-l-oo!" he shouted, but as no answer came, said:
"Now--both together!"

The girl's shriller treble may have had further carrying power than
the man's voice, for there was promptly returned to them an echoing
halloo, coming apparently from a great distance. But it was repeated
at close intervals and each time with more distinctness.

"We'll beach the boat just yonder, under that tamarack. Whoever it is
has heard and is coming back."

Margot's impatience broke bounds and she darted forward among the
trees, shouting: "This way! this way! here we are--here!" Her peculiar
life and training had made her absolutely fearless, and she would have
been surprised by her guardian's command to "Wait!" had she heard it,
which she did not. Also, she knew the forest as other girls know their
city streets, and the dimness was no hindrance to her nimble feet. In
a brief time she caught the crashing of boughs as some person, less
familiar than she, blundered through the underbrush and finally came
into view where a break in the timber gave a faint light.

"Here! Here! This way!"

He staggered and held out his hands, as if for aid, and Margot clasped
them firmly. They were cold and tremulous. They were, also, slender
and smooth, not at all like the hands of any men whom she was used to
seeing. At the relief of her touch, his strength left him, but she
caught his murmured:

"Thank God. I--had--given up----"

His voice, too, was different from any she knew, save her own uncle's.
This was somebody, then, from that outside world of which she dreamed
so much and knew so little. It was like a fairy tale come true.

"Are you ill? There. Lean on me. Don't fear. Oh! I'm strong, very
strong, and uncle is just yonder, coming this way. Uncle--uncle!"

The stranger was almost past speech. Mr. Dutton recognized that at
once and added his support to Margot's. Between them they half-led,
half-carried the wanderer to the canoe and lifted him into it, where
he sank exhausted. Then they dipped their paddles and the boat shot
homeward, racing with death. Angelique was still on the beach and
still complaining of their foolhardiness, but one word from her master
silenced that. "Lend a hand, woman! Here's something real to worry
about. Margot, go ahead and get the lights."

As the girl sprang from it, the housekeeper pulled the boat to a spot
above the water and, stooping, lifted a generous share of the burden
it contained.

It had not been a loon, then. No. Well, she had known that from the
beginnin', just as she had known that her beloved master was in no fit
condition to go man-huntin'. This one he had found was, probably, dead
anyway. Of course. Somebody had to die--beyond chickens and such--had
not the broken glass so said?

Even in the twilight Mr. Dutton could detect the grim satisfaction of
her face and smiled, foreseeing her change of expression when this
seemingly lifeless guest should revive.

They laid him on the lounge that had been spread with blankets for
Margot, and she was already beside it, waiting to administer the herb
tea which had, also, been prepared for herself, and which she had
marveled to find so opportunely brewed.

Mr. Dutton smiled again. In her simplicity the girl did not dream that
the now bitter decoction was not a common restorative outside their
primitive life, and in all good faith forced a spoonful of it between
the closed lips.

"After all, it doesn't matter. The poor fellow is doubtless used to
richer cordials, but it's hot and strong and will do the work. You,
Angelique, make us a pot of your best coffee, and swing round that
dinner-pot. The man is almost starved, and I'm on the road to follow
him. How about you, Margot?"

"Poh! I guess I'm hungry--I will be--see! He's swallowing it. Fast.
Give me that bigger spoon! Quick!"

"What would you? Scald the creature's throat? So he isn't dead, after
all. Well, he needn't have made a body think so, he needn't. There,
Margot! You've messed him with the black stuff!"

Indignantly brushing her child aside the woman seized the cup and
deftly administered its entire contents. The stranger had not yet
opened his eyes, but accepted the warm liquid mechanically, and his
nurse hurried to fill a bowl with the broth of the stew in the kettle.
This, in turn, was taken from her by Margot, who jealously exclaimed:

"He's mine. I heard him first, I found him first, let me be the first
he sees. Dish up the supper, please, and set my uncle's place."

So when, a moment later, having been nearly choked by the more
substantial food forced into his mouth, the guest opened his eyes,
they beheld the eager face of a brown skinned, fair haired girl very
close to his and heard her joyous cry:

"He sees me! he sees everything! He's getting well already!"

He had never seen anybody like her. Her hair was as abundant as a
mantle and rippled over her shoulders like spun silver. So it looked
in the lamplight. In fact, it had never been bound nor covered, and
what in a different social condition might have been much darker, had
in this outdoor life become bleached almost white. The weather which
had whitened the hair had tanned the skin to bronze, making the blue
eyes more vivid by contrast and the red lips redder. These were
smiling now, over well kept teeth, and there was about the whole
bearing of the maid something suggestive of the woodland in which she
had been reared.

Purity, honesty, freedom, all spoke in every motion and tone, and to
this observer, at least, seemed better than any beauty. Presently, he
was able to push her too willing hand gently away and to say:

"Not quite so fast, please."

"Oh! uncle! Hear him? He talks just as you do! Not a bit like Pierre,
or Joe, or the rest."

Mr. Dutton came forward, smiling and remonstrating.

"My dear, our new friend will think you quite rude, if you discuss him
before his face, so frankly. But, sir, I assure you she means nothing
but delight at your recovery. We are all most thankful that you are
here and safe. There, Margot. Let the gentleman rest a few minutes.
Then a cup of coffee may be better than the stew. Were you long
without food, friend?"

The stranger tried to answer but the effort tired him, and with a
beckoning nod to the young nurse, the woodlander led the way back to
the table and their own delayed supper. Both needed it and both ate it
rather hastily, much to the disgust of Angelique who felt that her
skill was wasted; but one was anxious to be off out of doors, to learn
the damage left by the storm, and the other to be back on her stool
beside the lounge. When Mr. Dutton rose, the housekeeper left her own
seat.

"I'll fetch the lantern, master. But that's the last of Snowfoot's
good milk you'll ever drink," she sighed, touching the pitcher sadly.

"What? Is anything wrong with her?"

"The cow-house is in ruins. So are the poultry coops. What with
falling ill yourself just at the worst time and fetchin' home other
sick folks we might all go to wrack and nobody the better."

The familiar grumbling provoked only a smile from the master, who
would readily have staked his life on the woman's devotion to "her
people" and knew that the apparent crossness was not that in reality.

"Fie, good Angelique! Never so happy as when you're miserable. Come
on. Nothing must suffer if we can prevent. Take care of our guest,
Margot, but give him his nourishment slowly, at intervals. I'll get
some tools, and join you at the shed, Angelique."

He went out and the housekeeper followed with the lantern, not needed
in the moonlight, but possibly of use at the fallen cow-house.

They were long gone. The stranger dozed, waked, ate, and dozed again.
Margot, accustomed to early hours, also slept and soundly, till a
fearful shriek roused her. Her patient was wildly kicking and striking
at some hideous monster which had settled on his chest and would not
be displaced.

"He's killing me! Help--help! Oh-a-ah!"



CHAPTER IV

WHAT WAS IN THE NAME


Thrusting back the hair that had fallen over her eyes, Margot sprang
up and stared at the floundering mass of legs, arms, and wings upon
the wide lounge--a battle to the death, it seemed. Then she caught the
assailant in her strong hands and flung him aside, while her laughter
rang out in a way to make the stranger, also, stare, believing she had
gone crazy with sudden fear.

But his terror had restored his strength most marvelously, for he too,
leaped to his feet and retreated to the furthest corner of the room,
whence he regarded the scene with dilated eyes.

"Why--why--it's nobody, nothing but dear old Tom!"

"It's an eagle! The first----"

"Of course, he's an eagle. Aren't you, dear? The most splendid bird
in Maine, or maybe Canada. The wisest, the most loving, the---- Oh!
You big blundering precious thing! Scaring people like that. You
should be more civil, sir."

"Is--is--he tame?"

"Tame as a pet chicken. But mischievous. He wouldn't hurt you for
anything."

"Humph! He would have killed me if I hadn't waked and yelled."

"Well, you did that surely. You feel better, don't you?"

"I wish you'd put him outdoors, or shut him up where he belongs. I
want to sit down."

"There's no reason why you shouldn't," she answered, pushing a chair
toward him.

"Where did you get it--that creature?"

"Uncle found him when he was ever so young. Somebody or something, a
hunter or some other bird, had hurt his wing and one foot. Eagles can
be injured by the least little blow upon their wings, you know."

"No. I know nothing about them--yet. But I shall, some day."

"Oh! I hope so. They're delightful to study. Tom is very large, we
think. He's nearly four feet tall, and his wings---- Spread your
wings, sir! Spread!"

Margot had dropped upon the floor before the wide fireplace, her
favorite seat. Her arms clasped her strange pet's body while his white
head rested lovingly upon her shoulder. His eyes were fixed upon the
blazing logs and his yellow irises gleamed as if they had caught and
held the dancing flames. But at her command he shook himself free, and
extended one mighty wing, while she stretched out the other. Their
tips were full nine feet apart and seemed to fill and darken the whole
place.

In spite of this odd girl's fearless handling of the bird, it looked
most formidable to the visitor, who retreated again to a safe
distance, though he had begun to advance toward her. And again he
implored her to put the uncanny "monster" out of the house.

Margot laughed; as she was always doing; but going to the table filled
a plate with fragments from the stew and calling Tom, set the dish
before him on the threshold.

"There's your supper, Thomas the King! Which means, no more of
Angelique's chickens, dead or alive."

The eagle gravely limped out of doors and the visitor felt relieved,
so that he cast somewhat longing glances upon the table, and Margot
was quick to understand them. Putting a generous portion upon another
plate, she moved a chair to the side nearest the fire.

"You're so much stronger, I guess it won't hurt you to take as much as
you like now. When did you eat anything before?"

"Day before yesterday--I think. I hardly know. The time seems
confused. As if I had been wandering, round and round, forever. I--was
almost dead, wasn't I?"

"Yes. But 'twas our housekeeper who was first to see it was
starvation. Angelique is a Canadian. She lived in the woods long
before we came to them. She is very wise."

He made no comment, being then too busy eating; but at length,
even his voracity was satisfied and he had leisure to examine his
surroundings. He looked at Margot as if girls were as unknown as
eagles; and indeed such as she were--to him, at least. Her dress was
of blue flannel, and of the same simple cut that she had always worn.
A loose blouse, short skirt, full knickerbockers, met at the knees by
long shoes, or gaiters of buckskin. These were as comfortable and
pliable as Indian moccasins, and the only footgear she had ever known.
They were made for her in a distant town, whither Mr. Dutton went for
needed supplies, and, like the rest of her costume, after a design
of his own. She was certainly unconventional in manner, but not from
rudeness so much as from a desire to study him--another unknown
"specimen" from an outside world. Her speech was correct beyond that
common among schoolgirls, and her gaze was as friendly as it was
frank.

Their scrutiny of each other was ended by her exclaiming:

"Why--you are not old! Not much older than Pierre, I believe! It must
be because you are so dirty that I thought you were a man like uncle."

"Thank you," he answered drily.

But she had no intention of offense. Accustomed all her own life to
the utmost cleanliness, in the beginning insisted upon by Angelique
because it was "proper," and by her guardian for health's sake, she
had grown up with a horror of the discomfort of any untidiness, and
she felt herself most remiss in her attentions, that she had not
earlier offered soap and water. Before he realized what she was about,
she had sped into the little outer room which the household used as a
lavatory and whirled a wooden tub into its centre. This she promptly
filled with water from a pipe in the wall, and having hung fresh
towels on a chair, returned to the living room.

"I'm so sorry. I ought to have thought of that right away. But a bath
is ready now, if you wish it."

The stranger rose, stammered a little, but accepted what was in truth
a delightful surprise.

"Well, this is still more amazing! Into what sort of a spot have I
stumbled? It's a log house, but with apparently, several rooms. It has
all the comforts of civilization and at least this one luxury. There
are books, too. I saw them in that inner apartment as I passed the
open door. The man looks like a gentleman in the disguise of a
lumberman, and the girl--what'll she do next? Ask me where I came from
and why, I presume. If she does, I'll have to answer her, and
truthfully. I can't fancy anybody lying to those blue eyes. Maybe she
won't ask."

She did, however, as soon as he reëntered the living room, refreshed
and certainly much more attractive in appearance than when he had had
the soil and litter of his long wandering upon him.

"Oh! how much more comfortable you must be. How did you get lost? Is
your home far from here?"

"A long, long way;" and for a moment, something like sadness touched
his face. That look passed quickly and a defiant expression took its
place.

"What a pity! It will be so much harder to get word to your people.
Maybe Pierre can carry a message, or show you the road, once you are
strong enough again."

"Who's Pierre?"

"Mother Ricord's son. He's a woodlander and wiser even than she is.
He's really more French than Indian, but uncle says the latter race is
strongest in him. It often is in his type."

"A-ah, indeed! So you study types up here, do you?"

"Yes. Uncle makes it so interesting. You see, he got used to teaching
stupid people when he was a professor in his college. I'm dreadfully
stupid about books, though I do my best. But I love living things; and
the books about animals, and races, are charming. When they're true,
that is. Often they're not. There's one book on squirrels uncle keeps
as a curiosity, to show how little the writer knew about them. And the
pictures are no more like squirrels than--than they are like me."

"A-ah," said the listener, again. "That explains."

"I don't know what you mean. No matter. It's the old stupidity, I
suppose. How did you get lost?"

"The same prevailing stupidity," he laughed. "Though I didn't realize
it for that quality. Just thought I was smart, you know--conceit.
I--I--well, I didn't get on so very well at the lumber camp I'd
joined. I wasn't used to work of that sort and there didn't seem
to be room, even in the woods, for a greenhorn. I thought it was
easy enough. I could find my way anywhere, in any wilderness,
with my outfit. I'd brought that along, or bought it after I left
civilization; so one night I left, set out to paddle my own canoe. I
paddled it into the rapids, what those fellows called rips, and they
ripped me to ruin. Upset, lost all my kit, tried to find my way back,
wandered and walked forever and ever, it seemed to me, and--you know
the rest."

"But I do not. Did you keep hallooing all that long time? or how did
it happen we heard you?"

"I was in a rocky place when that tornado came and it was near the
water. I had just sense enough left to know they could protect me and
crept under them. Oh! that was awful--awful!"

"It must have been, but I was so deep in our cave that I heard but
little of it. Uncle and Angelique thought I was out in it and lost.
They suffered about it, and uncle tried to make a fire and was sick.
We had just got home when we heard you."

"After the storm I crawled out and I saw you in the boat. You seemed
to have come right out of the earth and I shouted, or tried to. I kept
on shouting, even after you were out of sight and then I got
discouraged and tried once more to find a road out."

"I was singing so loud I suppose I didn't hear, at first. I'm so
sorry. But it's all right now. You're safe, and some way will be found
to get you to your home, or that lumber camp, if you'd rather."

"Suppose I do not wish to go to either place? What then?"

Margot stared. "Not--wish--to go--to your own dear--home?"

The stranger smiled at the amazement of her face.

"Maybe not. Especially as I don't know how I would be received there.
What if I was foolish and didn't know when I was well off? What if I
ran away, meaning to stay away forever?"

"Well, if it hadn't been for the rocks, and me, it would have been
forever. But God made the rocks and gave them to you for a shelter;
and He made me, and sent me out on the lake so you should see me and
be found. If He wants you to go back to that home He'll find a way.
Now, it's queer. Here we've been talking ever so long yet I don't know
who you are. You know all of us: Uncle Hugh Dutton, Angelique Ricord,
and me. I'm Margot Romeyn. What is your name?"

"Mine? Oh! I'm Adrian Wadislaw. A good-for-nought, some people say.
Young Wadislaw, the sinner, son of old Wadislaw, the saint."

The answer was given recklessly, while the dark young face grew sadly
bitter and defiant.

After a moment, something startled Margot from the shocked surprise
with which she had heard this harsh reply. It was a sigh, almost a
groan, as from one who had been more deeply startled even than
herself. Turning, she saw the master standing in the doorway, staring
at their visitor as if he had seen a ghost and nearly as white as one
himself.



CHAPTER V

IN ALADDIN LAND


It seemed to Margot, watching, that it was an endless time her uncle
stood there gazing with that startled look upon their guest. In
reality it was but a moment. Then he passed his hand over his eyes, as
one who would brush away a mist, and came forward. He was still unduly
pale, but he spoke in a courteous, almost natural manner, and quietly
accepted the chair Margot hastened to bring him.

"You are getting rested, Mr.----"

"Oh! please don't 'Mister' me, sir. You've been so good to me and
I'm not used to the title. Though, in my scratches and wood-dirt,
his young lady did take me for an old fellow. Yes, thanks to her
thoughtfulness, I've found myself again, and I'm just 'Adrian,' if
you'll be so kind."

There was something very winning in this address, and it suited
the elder man well. The stranger was scarcely out of boyhood and
reminded the old collegian of other lads whom he had known and loved.
"Wadislaw" was not a particularly pleasing name that one should dwell
upon it, unless necessary. "Adrian" was better and far more common.
Neither did it follow that this person was of a family he remembered
far too well; and so Mr. Dutton reassured himself. In any case the
youth was now "the stranger within the gates" and therefore entitled
to the best.

"Adrian, then. We are a simple household, following the old habit of
early to bed and to rise. You must be tired enough to sleep anywhere,
and there is another big lounge in my study. You would best occupy it
to-night, and to-morrow Angelique will fix you better quarters. Few
guests favor us in our far-away home," he finished with a smile that
was full of hospitality.

Adrian rose at once and bidding Margot and Angelique good-night,
followed his host into a big room which, save for the log walls, might
have been the library of some city home. It was a room which somehow
gave him the impression of vastness, liberality, and freedom--an
enclosed bit of the outside forest. Like each of the other apartments
he had seen it had its great fireplace and its blazing logs, not at
all uncomfortable now in the chill that had come after the storm.

But he was too worn out to notice much more than these details, and
without undressing, dropped upon the lounge and drew the Indian
blanket over him. His head rested upon great pillows stuffed with
fragrant spruce needles, and this perfume of the woods soothed him
into instant sleep.

But Hugh Dutton stood for many minutes, gravely studying the face of
the unconscious stranger. It was a comely, intelligent face, though
marred by self-will and indulgence, and with each passing second its
features grew more and more painfully familiar. Why, why, had it come
into his distant retreat to disturb his peace? A peace that it had
taken fifteen years of life to gain, that had been achieved only by
bitter struggle with self and with all that was lowest in a noble
nature.

"Alas! And I believed I had at last learned to forgive!"

But none the less because of the bitterness would this man be unjust.
His very flesh recoiled from contact with that other flesh, fair as it
might be in the sight of most eyes, yet he forced himself to draw with
utmost gentleness the covering over the sleeper's shoulders, and to
interpose a screening chair between him and the firelight.

"Well, one may at least control his actions, if not his thoughts," he
murmured and quietly left the place.

A few moments later he stood regarding Margot, also, as she lay in
sleep, and all the love of his strong nature rose to protect her from
the sorrow which she would have to bear some time but--not yet! Oh!
not yet! Then he turned quickly and went out of doors.

There had been nights in this woodlander's life when no roof could
cover him. When even the forest seemed to suffocate, and when he had
found relief only upon the bald bare top of that rocky height which
crowned the island. On such nights he had gone out early and come home
with the daybreak, and none had known of his absence, save, now and
then, the faithful Angelique, who knew the master's story but kept it
to herself.

Margot had never guessed of these midnight expeditions, nor understood
the peculiar love and veneration her guardian had for that mountain
top. She better loved the depths of the wonderful forest, with its
flowers and ferns, and its furred or feathered creatures. She was
dreaming of these, the next morning, when her uncle's cheery whistle
called her to get up.

A cold plunge, a swift dressing, and she was with him, seeing no
signs of either illness or sorrow in his genial face, and eager with
plans for the coming day. All her days were delightful, but this would
be best of all.

"To think, uncle dear, that somebody else has come at last to see our
island! why, there's so much to show him I can hardly wait, nor know
where best to begin."

"Suppose, Miss Impatience, we begin with breakfast? Here comes Adrian.
Ask his opinion."

"Never was so hungry in my life!" agreed that youth, as he came
hastily forward to bid them both good-morning. "I mean--not since
last night. I wonder if a fellow that's been half-starved, or
three-quarters even, will ever get his appetite down to normal again?
It seems to me I could eat a whole wild animal at a sitting!"

"So you shall, boy. So you shall!" cried Angelique, who now came in
carrying a great dish of browned and smoking fish. This she placed at
her master's end of the table and flanked it with another platter of
daintily crisped potatoes. There were heaps of delicate biscuits, with
coffee and cakes galore; enough, the visitor thought, to satisfy even
his own extravagant hunger, and again he wondered at such fare in such
a wilderness.

"Why, this might be a hotel table!" he exclaimed, in unfeigned
pleasure. "Not much like lumberman's fare: salt pork, bad bread,
molasses-sweetened tea, and the everlasting beans. I hope I shall
never have to look another bean in the face! But that coffee! I never
smelled anything so delicious."

"Had some last night," commented Angelique, shortly. She perceived
that this stranger was in some way obnoxious to her beloved master,
and she resented the surprise with which he had seen her take her own
place behind the tray. Her temper seemed fairly cross-edged that
morning and Margot remarked:

"Don't mind mother. She's dreadfully disappointed that nobody died and
no bad luck followed her breaking a mirror, yesterday."

"No bad luck?" demanded Angelique, looking at Adrian with so marked a
manner that it spoke volumes. "And as for dyin'--you've but to go into
the woods and you'll see."

Here Tom created a diversion by entering and limping straight to the
stranger's side, who moved away, then blushed at his own timidity,
seeing the amusement with which the others regarded him.

"Oh! we're all one family here, servants and ever'body," cried the
woman, tossing the eagle a crumb of biscuit.

But the big bird was not to be drawn from his scrutiny of this new
face; and the gravity of his unwinking gaze was certainly
disconcerting.

"Get out, you uncanny creature! Beg pardon, Miss Margot, but I'm--he
seems to have a special grudge against me."

"Oh! no. He doesn't understand who you are, yet. We had a man here
last year, helping uncle, and Tom acted just as he does now. Though
he never would make friends with the Canadian, as I hope he will with
you."

Angelique flashed a glance toward the girl. Why should she, or anybody
speak as if this lad's visit were to be a prolonged one? And they had,
both she and the master. He had bidden the servant fill a fresh "tick"
with the dried and shredded fern leaves and pine needles, such as
supplied their own mattresses; and to put all needful furnishings into
the one disused room of the cabin.

"But, master! When you've always acted as if that were bein' kept for
somebody who was comin' some day. Somebody you love!" she protested.

"I have settled the matter, Angelique. Don't fear that I've not
thought it all out. 'Do unto others,' you know. For each day its duty,
its battle with self, and, please God, its victory."

"He's a saint, ever'body knows; and there's somethin' behind all this
I don't understand!" she had muttered, but had also done his bidding,
still complaining.

Commonly, meals were leisurely affairs in that forest home, but on
this morning Mr. Dutton set an example of haste that the others
followed; and as soon as their appetites were satisfied he rose and
said:

"I'll show you your own room now, Adrian. Occupy it as long as you
wish. And find something to amuse yourself with while I am gone; for I
have much to do out of doors. It was the worst storm, for its
duration, that ever struck us. Fortunately, most of the outbuildings
need only repairs, but Snowfoot's home is such a wreck she must have a
new one. Margot, will you run up the signal for Pierre?"

"Yes, indeed! Though I believe he will come without it. He'll be
curious about the tornado, too, and it's near his regular visiting
time."

The room assigned to Adrian excited his fresh surprise; though he
assured himself that he would be amazed at nothing further, when he
saw lying upon a table in the middle of the floor, two complete suits
of clothing, apparently placed there by the thoughtful host for his
guest to use. They were not of the latest style, but perfectly new and
bore the stamp of a well-known tailor of his own city.

"Where did he get them, and so soon? What a mammoth of a house it is,
though built of logs. And isn't it the most fitting and beautiful of
houses, after all? Whence came those comfortable chairs? and the
books? Most of all, where and how did he get that wonderful picture
over that magnificent log mantel? It looks like a room made ready for
the unexpected coming of some prodigal son! I'm that, sure enough; but
not of this household. If I were--well, maybe---- Oh! hum!"

The lad crossed the floor and gazed reverently at the solitary
painting which the room contained. A marvelously lifelike head of the
Man of Sorrows, bending forward and gazing upon the onlooker with eyes
of infinite tenderness and appealing. Beneath it ran the inscription:
"Come Unto Me"; and in one corner was the artist's signature--a broken
pine branch.

"Whew! I wonder if that fellow ran away from home because he loved a
brush and paint tube! What sort of a spot have I strayed into, anyway?
A paradise? Hmm. I wish the mater could see me now. She'd not be so
unhappy over her unworthy son, maybe. Bless her, anyhow. If everybody
had been like her----"

He finished his soliloquy before an open window, through which he
could see the summit of the bare mountain that crowned the centre of
the island, and was itself crowned by a single pine-tree. Though many
of its branches had been lopped away, enough were left to form a sort
of spiral stairway up its straight trunk and to its lofty top.

"What a magnificent flagstaff that would make! I'd like to see Old
Glory floating there. Believe I'll suggest it to the magician--that's
what this woodlander is--and doubtless he'll attend to that little
matter! Shades of Aladdin!"

[Illustration: SHE UNROLLED THE STARS AND STRIPES]

Adrian was so startled that he dropped into a chair, the better to
sustain himself against further Arabian-nights-like discoveries.

It was a flagstaff! Somebody was climbing it--Margot! Up, up, like a
squirrel, her blond head appearing first on one side then the other, a
glowing budget strapped to her back.

Adrian gasped. No sailor could have been more fleet or sure-footed. It
seemed but a moment before that slender figure had scaled the topmost
branch and was unrolling the brilliant burden it had borne. The stars
and stripes, of course. Adrian would have been bitterly disappointed
if it had been anything else this agile maiden hoisted from that dizzy
height.

In wild excitement and admiration the watcher leaned out of his
window and shouted hoarsely:

"Hurrah! H-u-r-rah! H-U-R----!"

The cheer died in his throat. Something had happened. Something too
awful to contemplate. Adrian's eyes closed that he might not see. Had
her foot slipped? Had his own cry reached and startled her?

For she was falling--falling! and the end could be but one.



CHAPTER VI

A ONE-SIDED STORY


Adrian was not a gymnast though he had seen and admired many wonderful
feats performed by his own classmates. But he had never beheld a
miracle, and such he believed had been accomplished when, upon
reaching the foot of that terrible tree, he found Margot sitting
beneath it, pale and shaken, but, apparently, unhurt.

She had heard his breathless crashing up the slope and greeted him
with a smile, and the tremulous question:

"How did you know where I was?"

"You aren't--dead?"

"Certainly not. I might have been, though, but God took care."

"Was it my cheers frightened you?"

"Was it you, then? I heard something, different from the wood sounds,
and I looked quick to see. Then my foot slipped and I went down--a
way. I caught a branch just in time and, please, don't tell uncle. I'd
rather do that myself."

"You should never do such a thing. The idea of a girl climbing trees
at all, least of any, such a tree as that!"

He threw his head back and looked upward, through the green spiral to
the brilliant sky. The enormous height revived the horror he had felt
as he leaped through the window and rushed to the mountain.

"Who planned such a death-trap as that, anyway?"

"I did."

"You! A girl!"

"Yes. Why not. It's great fun, usually."

"You'd better have been learning to sew."

"I can sew, but I don't like it. Angelique does that. I do like
climbing and canoeing and botanizing, and geologizing, and
astronomizing, and----"

Adrian threw up his hands in protest.

"What sort of creature are you, anyway?"

"Just plain girl."

"Anything but that!"

"Well, girl, without the adjective. Suits me rather better;" and she
laughed in a way that proved she was not suffering from her mishap.

"This is the strangest place I ever saw. You are the strangest family.
We are certainly in the backwoods of Maine, yet you might be a Holyoke
senior, or a circus star, or--a fairy."

Margot stretched her long arms and looked at them quizzically.

"Fairies don't grow so big. Why don't you sit down? Or, if you will,
climb up and look toward the narrows on the north. See if Pierre's
birch is coming yet."

Again Adrian glanced upward, to the flag floating there, and shrugged
his shoulders.

"Excuse me, please. That is, I suppose I could do it, only seeing you
slip--I prefer to wait awhile."

"Are you afraid?"

There was no sarcasm in the question. She asked it in all sincerity.
Adrian was different from Pierre, the only other boy she knew, and she
simply wondered if tree-climbing were among his unknown
accomplishments.

It had been, to the extent possible with his city training and his
brief summer vacations, though unpracticed of late; but no lad of
spirit, least of all impetuous Adrian, could bear even the suggestion
of cowardice. He did not sit down, as she had bidden, but tossed aside
his rough jacket and leaped to the lower branch of the pine.

"Why, it's easy! It's grand!" he called back and went up swiftly
enough.

Indeed, it was not so difficult as it appeared from a distance.
Wherever the branches failed the spiral ladder had been perfected by
great spikes driven into the trunk and he had but to clasp these in
turn to make a safe ascent. At the top he waved his hand, then shaded
his eyes and peered northward.

"He's coming! Somebody's coming!" he shouted. "There's a little boat
pushing off from that other shore."

Then he descended with a rapidity that delighted even himself and
called a bit of praise from Margot.

"I'm so glad you can climb. One can see so much more from the
tree-tops; and, oh! there is so much, so much to find out all the
time! Isn't there?"

"Yes. Decidedly. One of the things I'd like to find out first is who
you are and how you came here. If you're willing."

Then he added, rather hastily: "Of course, I don't want to be
impertinently curious. It only seems so strange to find such educated
people buried here in the north woods. I don't see how you live here.
I--I----"

But the more he tried to explain the more confused he grew, and Margot
merrily simplified matters by declaring:

"You are curious, all the same, and so am I. Let's tell each other all
about everything and then we'll start straight without the bother of
stopping as we go along. Do sit down and I'll begin."

"Ready."

"There's so little, I shan't be long. My dear mother was Cecily
Dutton, my Uncle Hugh's twin. My father was Philip Romeyn, uncle's
closest friend. They were almost more than brothers to each other,
always; though uncle was a student and, young as he was, a professor
at Columbia. Papa was a business man, a banker, or a cashier in a
bank. He wasn't rich, but mamma and uncle had money. From the time
they were boys uncle and papa were fond of the woods. They were great
hunters, then, and spent all the time they could get up here in
northern Maine. After the marriage mamma begged to come with them, and
it was her money bought this island, and the land along the shore of
this lake as far as we can see from here. Much farther, too, of
course, because the trees hide things. They built this log cabin and
it cost a great, great deal to do it. They had to bring the workmen so
far, but it was finished at last, and everything was brought up here
to make it--just as you see."

"What an ideal existence!"

"Was it? I don't know much about ideals, though uncle talks of them
sometimes. It was real, that's all. They were very, very happy. They
loved each other so dearly. Angelique came from Canada to keep the
house and she says my mother was the sweetest woman she ever saw. Oh!
I wish--I wish I could have seen her! Or that I might remember her.
I'll show you her portrait. It hangs in my own room."

"Did she die?"

"Yes. When I was a year old. My father had passed away before that,
and my mother was broken-hearted. Even for uncle and me she could not
bear to live. It was my father's wish that we should come up here to
stay, and Uncle Hugh left everything and came. I was to be reared 'in
the wilderness, where nothing evil comes,' was what both my parents
said. So I have been, and--that's all."

Adrian was silent for some moments. The girl's face had grown dreamy
and full of a pathetic tenderness as it always did when she discussed
her unknown father and mother, even with Angelique. Though, in
reality, she had not been allowed to miss what she had never known.
Then she looked up with a smile and observed:

"Your turn."

"Yes--I--suppose so. May as well give the end of my story first----
I'm a runaway."

"Why?"

"No matter why."

"That isn't fair."

He parried the indignation of her look by some further questions of
his own. "Have you always lived here?"

"Always."

"You go to the towns sometimes, I suppose."

"I've never seen a town, except in pictures."

"Whew! Don't you have any friends? Any girls come to see you?"

"I never saw a girl, only myself in that poor broken glass of
Angelique's; and, of course, the pictured ones--as of the towns--in
the books."

"You poor child!"

Margot's brown face flushed. She wanted nobody's pity and she had not
felt that her life was a singular or narrow one, till this outsider
came. A wish very like Angelique's, that he had stayed where he
belonged, arose in her heart, but she dismissed it as inhospitable.

"I'm not poor. Not in the least. I have everything any girl could want
and I have--uncle! He is the best, the wisest, the noblest man in all
the world. I know it, and so Angelique says. She's been in your
towns, if you please. Lived in them and says she never knew what
comfort meant until she came to Peace Island and us. You don't
understand."

Margot was more angry than she had ever been, and anger made her
decidedly uncomfortable. She sprang up hastily, saying:

"If you've nothing to tell, I must go. I want to get into the forest
and look after my friends there. The storm may have hurt them."

She was off down the mountain, as swift and sure-footed as if it were
not a rough pathway that made him blunder along very slowly. For he
followed, at once, feeling that he had not been "fair," as she had
accused, in his report of himself; and that only a complete confidence
was due these people who had treated him so kindly.

"Margot! Margot! Wait a minute! You're too swift for me! I want
to----"

Just there he caught his foot in a running vine, stumbled over a
hidden rock, and measured his length, head downward, on the slope. He
was not hurt, however, though vexed and mortified. But when he had
picked himself up and looked around the girl had vanished.



CHAPTER VII

A WOODLAND MENAGERIE


"Hoo-ah! Yo-ho! H-e-r-e! This--way!"

Adrian followed the voice. It led him aside into the woods on the
eastern slope, and it was accompanied by an indescribable babel of
noises. Running water, screaming of wild fowl, cooing of pigeons,
barking of dogs or some other beasts, cackling, chattering, laughter.

All the sounds of wild life had ceased suddenly in the tree-tops, as
Adrian approached, recognizing and fearing his alien presence. But
they were reassured by Margot's familiar summons, and soon the
"menagerie" he had suspected was gathered about her.

"Whew! It just rains squirrels--and chipmunks--and birds! Hello!
That's a fawn. That's a fox! As sure as I'm alive, a magnificent red
fox! Why isn't he eating the whole outfit? And---- Hurra!"

To the amazement of the watcher there came from the depths of the
woods a sound that always thrills the pulses of any hunter--the cry of
a moose-calf, accompanied by a soft crashing of branches, growing
gradually louder.

"So they tame even the moose--these wonderful people! What next!" and
as Adrian leaned forward the better to watch the advance of this
uncommon "pet," the "next" concerning which he had speculated also
approached. Slowly up the river bank, stalked a pair of blue herons,
and for them Margot had her warmest welcome.

"Heigho, Xanthippé, Socrates! What laggards! But here's your
breakfast, or one of them. I suppose you've eaten the other long ago.
Indeed, you're always eating, gourmands!"

The red fox eyed the newcomers with a longing eye and crept cautiously
to his mistress' side as she coaxed the herons nearer. But she was
always prepared for any outbreak of nature among her forest friends,
and drew him also close to her with the caressing touch she might have
bestowed upon a beloved house-dog.

"Reynard, you beauty! Your head in my lap, sir;" and dropping to a
sitting posture, she forced him to obey her. There he lay, winking but
alert, while she scattered her store of good things right and left.
There were nuts for the squirrels and 'munks, grains and seeds for the
winged creatures, and for the herons, as well as Reynard, a few bits
of dried meat. But for Browser, the moose-calf, she pulled the tender
twigs and foliage with a lavish hand. When she had given some dainty
to each of her oddly assorted pets, she sprang up, closed the box, and
waved her arms in dismissal. The more timid of the creatures obeyed
her, but some held their ground persistently, hoping for greater
favors. To these she paid no further attention, and still keeping
hold of Reynard's neck started back to her human guest.

The fox, however, declined to accompany her. He distrusted strangers
and it may be had designs of his own upon some other forest wilding.

"That's the worst of it. We tame them and they love us. But they are
only conquered, not changed. Isn't Reynard beautiful? Doesn't he look
noble? as noble as a St. Bernard dog? If you'll believe me, that
fellow is thoroughly acquainted with every one of Angelique's fowls,
and knows he must never, never touch them, yet he'd eat one, quick as
a flash, if he got a chance. He's a coward, though; and by his
cowardice we manage him. Sometimes;" sighed Margot, who had led the
way into a little path toward the lake.

"How odd! You seem actually grieved at this state of things."

"Why shouldn't I be? I love him and I have a notion that love will do
anything with anybody or anything. I do believe it will, but that I
haven't found just the right way of showing it. Uncle laughs at me, a
little, but helps me all he can. Indeed, it is he who has tamed most
of our pets. He says it is the very best way to study natural
history."

"Hmm. He intends your education shall be complete!"

"Of course. But one thing troubles him. He cannot teach me music. And
you seem surprised. Aren't girls, where you come from, educated?
Doesn't everybody prize knowledge?"

"That depends. Our girls are educated, of course. They go to college
and all that, but I think you'd down any of them in exams. For my own
part, I ran away just because I did not want this famous 'education'
you value. That is, I didn't of a certain sort. I wasn't fair with you
awhile ago, you said. I'd like to tell you my story now."

"I'd like to hear it, of course. But, look yonder! Did you ever see
anything like that?"

Margot was proud of the surprises she was able to offer this stranger
in her woods, and pointed outward over the lake. They had just come to
an open place on the shore and the water spread before them sparkling
in the sunlight. Something was crossing the smooth surface, heading
straight for their island, and of a nature to make Adrian cry out:

"Oh! for a gun!"



CHAPTER VIII

KING MADOC


"If you had one you should not use it! Are you a dreadful hunter?"

Margot had turned upon her guest with a defiant fear. As near as she
had ever come to hating anything she hated the men, of whom she had
heard, who used this wonderful northland as a murder ground. That was
what she named it, in her uncompromising judgment of those who killed
for the sake of killing, for the lust of blood that was in them.

"Yes. I reckon I am a 'dreadful' hunter, for I am a mighty poor shot.
But I'd like a try at that fellow. What horns! What a head! And how
can that fellow in the canoe keep so close to him, yet not finish
him!"

Adrian was so excited he could not stand still. His eyes gleamed, his
hands clenched, and his whole appearance was changed. Greatly for the
worse, the girl thought, regarding him with disgust.

"Finish him? That's King Madoc, Pierre's trained bull-moose. You'd be
finished yourself, I fear, if you harmed that splendid creature.
Pierre's a lazy fellow, mostly, but he spent a long time teaching
Madoc, and with his temper--I'm thankful you lost your gun."

"Do you never shoot things up here? I saw you giving the fox and
herons what looked like meat. You had a stew for supper, and fish for
breakfast. I don't mean to be impertinent, but the sight of that big
game---- Whew!"

"Yes. We do kill things, or have them killed, when it is necessary for
food. Never in sport. Man is almost the only animal who does that.
It's all terrible, seems to me. Everything preys upon something else,
weaker than itself. Sometimes when I think of it my dinner chokes me.
It's so easy to take life, and only God can create it. But uncle says
it is also God's law to take what is provided, and that there is no
mistake, even if it seems such to me."

But there Margot perceived that Adrian was not listening. Instead, he
was watching, with the intensest interest, the closer approach of the
canoe, in which sat idle Pierre, holding the reins of a harness
attached to his aquatic steed. The moose swam easily, with powerful
strokes, and Pierre was singing a gay melody, richer in his unique
possession than any king.

When he touched the shore and the great animal stood shaking his wet
hide, Adrian's astonishment found vent in a whirlwind of questions
that Pierre answered at his leisure and after his kind. But he walked
first toward Margot and offered a great bunch of trailing arbutus
flowers, saying:

"I saw these just as I pushed off and went back after them. What's the
matter here, that the flag is up? It was the biggest storm I ever
saw. Yes. A deal of beasties are killed back on the mainland. Any dead
over here?"

"No, I am glad to say, none that we know of. But Snowfoot's shed is
down and uncle is going to build a new one. I hope you've come to
work."

Pierre laughed and shrugged his shoulders.

"Oh! yes."

But his interest in work was far less than in the stranger whom he now
answered, and whose presence on Peace Island was a mystery to him.
Heretofore, the only visitors there had been laborers or traders, but
this young fellow so near his own age, despite his worn clothing, was
of another sort. He recognized this, at once, as Margot had done, and
his curiosity made him ask:

"Where'd you come from? Hurricane blow you out the sky?"

"About the same. I was lost in the woods and Margot found me and saved
my life. What'll you take for that moose?"

"There isn't money enough in the state of Maine to buy him!"

"Nonsense. Well, if there was I haven't it. But you could get a good
price for it anywhere."

Pierre looked Adrian over. From his appearance the lad was not likely
to be possessed of much cash, but the moose-trainer was eager for
capital, and never missed an opportunity of seeking it.

"I want to go into the show business. What do you say? would you
furnish the tents and fixings? And share the profits. I'm no scholar,
but maybe you'd know enough to get out the hand-bills and so on. What
do you say?"

"I--say---- What you mean, Pierre Ricord, keepin' the master waitin',
your foolishness, and him half sick? What kept you twice as long as
you ought? Hurry up, now, and put that moose in the cow-yard and get
to work."

The interruption was caused by Angelique, and it was curious to see
the fear with which she inspired the great fellow, her son. He forgot
the stranger, the show business, and all his own immediate interests,
and with the docility of a little child obeyed. Unhitching his odd
steed, he turned the canoe bottom upward on the beach and hastily led
the animal toward that part of the island clearing, where Snowfoot
stood in a little fenced-in lot behind her ruined shed.

Adrian went with him, and asked:

"Won't those two animals fight?"

"Won't get a chance. When one goes in the other goes out. Here, bossy,
you can take the range of the island. Get out!"

She was more willing to go than Madoc to enter the cramped place, but
the transfer was made and Adrian lingered by the osier paling, to
observe at close range this subjugated monarch of the forest.

"Oh! for a palette and brush!" he exclaimed, while Pierre walked away.

"What would you do with them?"

Margot had followed the lads and was beside him, though he had not
heard her footsteps. Now he wheeled about, eager, enthusiastic.

"Paint--as I have never painted before!"

"Oh!--are you an--artist?"

"I want to be one. That's why I'm here."

"What? What do you mean?"

"I told you I was a runaway. I didn't say 'why,' before. It's truth.
My people, my--father--forced me to college. I hated it. He was
forcing me to business. I liked art. All my friends were artists. When
I should have been at the books I was in their studios. They were a
gay crowd, spent money like water when they had it, merrily starved
and pinched when they hadn't. A few were worse than spendthrifts, and
with my usual want of sense I made that particular set my intimates. I
never had any money, though, after it was suspected what my tastes
were. Except a little that my mother gave me."

Margot was listening breathlessly and watching intently. At the
mention of his mother a shadow crossed Adrian's face, softening and
bettering it, and his whole mood seemed to change.

Their talk drifted from vexing subjects to merry anecdotes of Adrian's
childhood, in the home where he had been the petted only brother of a
half-dozen elder sisters. But while they laughed and Margot listened,
her fingers were busy weaving a great garland of wild laurel, and when
it was finished she rose and said:

"It's getting late. There'll be just time to take this to the grave.
Will you go with me?"

"Yes."

But this was another of the puzzling things he found at Peace Island.
In its very loveliest nook was the last resting-place of Cecily
Romeyn, and the sacred spot was always beautiful with flowers, or in
the winter, with brilliant berries. Both the master and the girl spoke
of their dead as if she were still present with them; or at least
lived as if she were only removed from sight but not from their lives.

When Margot had laid the fresh wreath upon the mound, she carefully
removed the faded flowers of the day before, and a thought of his own
mother stirred Adrian's heart.

"I wish I could send a bunch of such blossoms to my mother!"

"How can you live without her, since she is still alive?"

His face hardened again.

"You forget. I told you that she, too, turned against me at the last.
It was a case of husband or son, and she made her choice."

"Oh! no. She was unhappy. One may do strange things, then, I suppose.
But I tell you one thing, if I had either father or mother, anywhere
in this world, nothing should ever, ever make me leave them. Nothing.
I would bear anything, do anything, suffer anything--but I would be
true to them. I could not forget that I was their child, and if I had
done wrong to them my whole life would be too short to make
atonement."

She spoke strongly, as she felt. So early orphaned, she had come to
think of parents as the most wonderful blessing in the power of God to
leave one. She loved her Uncle Hugh like a second father, but her
tenderest dreams were over the pictured faces of her dead.

"Where is your father buried?"

It was the simplest, most natural question.

"I--don't--know."

They stared at one another. It was proof of her childlike acceptance
of her life that she had never asked. Had never thought to do so,
even. She had been told that he had "passed out of sight" before they
came to Peace Island and the forest, and had asked no further
concerning him. Of his character and habits she had heard much. Her
uncle was never weary in extolling his virtues; but of his death he
had said only what has been written.

"But--I must know right away!"

In her eagerness she ran, and Adrian followed as swiftly. He was sorry
for his thoughtless inquiry, but regret came too late. He tried to
call Margot back, but she would not wait.

"I must know. I must know right away. Why have I never known before?"

Hugh Dutton was resting after a day of study and mental labor, and his
head leaned easily upon his cushioned chair. Yet as his dear child
entered his room he held out his arms to draw her to his knee.

"In a minute, uncle. But Adrian has asked me something and it is the
strangest thing that I cannot answer him. Where is my father buried?"

If she had dealt him a mortal blow he could not have turned more
white. With a groan that pierced her very heart, he stared at Margot
with wide, unseeing eyes; then sprang to his feet and fixed upon poor
Adrian a look that scorched.

"You! You?" he gasped, and sinking back covered his face with his
hands.



CHAPTER IX

PERPLEXITIES


What had he done?

Ignorant why his simple question should have had such strange results,
that piercing look made Adrian feel the veriest culprit, and he
hastened to leave the room and the cabin. Hurrying to the beach he
appropriated Margot's little canvas canoe and pushed out upon the
lake. From her and Pierre he had learned to handle the light craft
with considerable skill and he now worked off his excitement by swift
paddling, so that there was soon a wide distance between him and the
island.

Then he paused and looked around him, upon as fair a scene as could
be found in any land. Unbroken forests bounded this hidden Lake
Profundis, out of whose placid waters rose that mountain-crowned,
verdure-clad Island of Peace, with its picturesque home, and its
cultured owner, who had brought into this best of the wilderness the
best of civilization.

"What is this mystery? How am I concerned in it? For I am, and mystery
there is. It is like that mist over the island, which I can see and
feel but cannot touch. Pshaw! I'm getting sentimental, when I ought to
be turning detective. Yet I couldn't do that--pry into the private
affairs of a man who's treated me so generously. What shall I do? How
can I go back there? But where else can I go?"

At thought that he might never return to the roof he had quitted, a
curious homesickness seized him.

"Who'll hunt what game they need? Who'll catch their fish? Who'll keep
the garden growing? Where can I study the forest and its furry people,
at first hand, as in the Hollow? And I was doing well. Not as I hope
to do, but getting on. Margot was a merciless critic, but even she
admitted that my last picture had the look, the spirit of the woods.
That's what I want to do, what Mr. Dutton, also, approved; to bring
glimpses of these solitudes back to the cities and the thousands who
can never see them in any other way. Well--let it go. I can't stay and
be a torment to anybody, and some time, in some other place, maybe----
Ah!"

What he had mistaken for the laughter of a loon was Pierre's halloo.
He was coming back, then, from the mainland where he had been absent
these past days. Adrian was thankful. There was nothing mysterious or
perplexing about Pierre, whose rule of life was extremely simple.

"Pierre first, second, and forever. After Pierre, if there was
anything left, then--anybody, the nearest at hand;" would have
expressed the situation; but his honest, unblushing selfishness was
sometimes a relief.

"One always knows just where to find Pierre," Margot had said.

So Adrian's answering halloo was prompt, and turning about he watched
the birch leaving the shadow of the forest and heading for himself. It
was soon alongside and Ricord's excited voice was shouting his good
news:

"Run him up to seven hundred and fifty!"

"But I thought there wasn't money enough anywhere to buy him!"

Pierre cocked his dark head on one side and winked.

"Madoc sick and Madoc well are different."

"Oh! you wretch. Would you sell a sick moose and cheat the buyer?"

"Would I lose such a pile of money for foolishness? I guess not."

"But suppose, after you parted with him, he got well?"

Again the woodlander grinned and winked.

"Could you drive the king?"

"No."

"Well, that's all right. I buy him back, what you call trade. One do
that many times, good enough. If----"

Pierre was silent for some moments, during which Adrian had steadily
paddled backward to the island, keeping time with the other boat, and
without thinking what he was doing. But when he did remember, he
turned to Pierre and asked:

"Will you take me across the lake again?"

"What for?"

"No matter. I'll just leave Margot's canoe and you do it. There's time
enough."

"What'll you give me?"

"Pshaw! What can I give you? Nothing."

"That's all right. My mother, she wants the salt," and he kicked the
sack of that valuable article, lying at his feet. "There. She's on the
bank now and it's not she will let me out of sight again, this long
time."

"You'd go fast enough, for money."

"Maybe not. When one has Angelique Ricord for mére---- Umm."

But it was less for Pierre than for Adrian that Angelique was waiting,
and her expression was kinder than common.

"Carry that salt to my kitchen cupboard, son, and get to bed. No.
You've no call to tarry. What the master's word is for his guest is
nothin' to you."

Pierre's curiosity was roused. Why had Adrian wanted to leave the
island at nightfall, since there was neither hunting nor fishing to be
done? Sport for sport's sake, that was forbidden. And what could be
the message he was not to hear? He meant to learn, and lingered,
busying himself uselessly in beaching the canoes afresh, after he had
once carefully turned them bottom side upward; in brushing out
imaginary dirt, readjusting his own clothing--a task he did not often
bother with--and in general making himself a nuisance to his impatient
parent.

But, so long as he remained, she kept silence, till unable to hold
back her rising anger she stole up behind him, unperceived, and
administered a sounding box upon his sizable ears.

"Would you? To the cupboard, miserable!" and Adrian could not repress
a smile at the meekness with which the great woodlander submitted to
the little woman's authority.

"Xanthippé and Socrates!" he murmured, and Pierre heard him. So,
grimacing at him from under the heavy sack, called back: "Fifty
dollar. Tell her fifty dollar."

"What he mean by fifty dollar?" demanded Angelique.

"I suppose something about that 'show' business of his. It is his
ambition, you know, and I must admit I believe he'd be a success at
it."

"Pouf! There is more better business than the 'showin'' one, of takin'
God's beasties into the towns and lettin' the foolish people stare.
The money comes that way is not good money."

"Oh! yes. It's all right, fair Angelique. But what is the word for
me?"

"It is: that you come with me, at once, to the master. He will speak
with you before he sleeps. Yes. And Adrian, lad!"

"Well, Angelique?"

"This is the truth. Remember. When the heart is sore tried the tongue
is often sharp. There is death. That is a sorrow. God sends it. There
are sorrows God does not send but the evil one. Death is but joy to
them. What the master says, answer; and luck light upon your lips."

The lad had never seen the old housekeeper so impressive nor so
gentle. At the moment it seemed as if she almost liked him, though,
despite the faithfulness with which she had obeyed her master's wishes
and served him, he had never before suspected it.

"Thank you, Angelique. I am troubled, too, and I will take care that I
neither say nor resent anything harsh. More than that, I will go away.
I have stayed too long, already, though I had hoped I was making
myself useful. Is he in his own study?"

"Yes, and the little maid is with him. No. There she comes, but she is
not laughin', no. Oh! the broken glass. Scat, Meroude! Why leap upon
one to scare the breath out, that way? Pst! 'Tis here that tame
creatures grow wild and wild ones tame. Scat! I say."

Margot was coming through the rooms, holding Reynard by the collar she
made him wear whenever he was in the neighborhood of the hen-house,
and Tom limped listlessly along upon her other side. There was trouble
and perplexity in the girl's face, and Angelique made a great pretense
of being angry with the cat, to hide that in her own.

But Margot noticed neither her nor Adrian, and sitting down upon the
threshold dropped her chin in her hands and fixed her eyes upon the
darkening lake.

"Why, mistress! The beast here at the cabin, and it nightfall? My poor
fowls!"

"He's leashed, you see, Angelique. And I'll lock the poultry up, if
you like," observed Adrian. Anything to delay a little an interview
from which he shrank with something very like that cowardice of which
the girl had once accused him.

[Illustration: HER PETS ON EITHER SIDE OF HER]

The housekeeper's ready temper flamed, and she laid an ungentle touch
upon the stranger's shoulder.

"Go, boy. When Master Hugh commands, 'tis not for such as we to
disobey."

"All right. I'm going. And I'll remember."

At the inner doorway he turned and looked back. Margot was still
sitting, thoughtful and motionless, the firelight from the great
hearth making a Rembrandt-like silhouette of her slight figure against
the outer darkness and touching her wonderful hair to a flood of
silver. Reynard and the eagle, the wild foresters her love had tamed,
stood guard on either side. It was a picture that appealed to Adrian's
artistic sense and he lingered a little, regarding its "effects," even
considering what pigments would best convey them.

"Adrian!"

"Yes, Angelique. Yes."

When the door shut behind him Angelique touched her darling's shining
head, and the toil-stiffened fingers had for it almost a mother's
tenderness.

"Sweetheart, the bedtime."

"I know. I'm going. Angelique, my uncle sent me from him to-night. It
was the first time in all my life that I remember."

"Maybe, little stupid, because you've never waited for that, before,
but were quick enough to see whenever you were not wanted."

"He---- There's something wrong and Adrian is the cause of it.
I--Angelique, you tell me. Uncle did not hear, or reply, anyway. Where
is my father buried?"

Angelique was prepared and had her answer ready.

"'Tis not for a servant to reveal what her master hides. No. All will
come to you in good time. Tarry the master's will. But, that silly
Pierre! What think you? Is it fifty dollar would be the price of the
tame blue herons? Hey?"

"No. Nor fifty times fifty. Pierre knows that. Love is more than
money."

"Sometimes, to some folks. Well, what would you? That son will
be havin' even me, his old mother, in his 'show,' why not? As a
cur'osity--the only livin' human bein' can make that ingrate mind.
Yes. To bed, my child."

Margot rose and housed her pets. This threat of Pierre's, that
he would eventually carry off the "foresters" and exhibit their
helplessness to staring crowds, always roused her fiercest
indignation; and this result was just what Angelique wanted, at
present, and she murmured her satisfaction:

"Good. That bee will buzz in her ear till she sleeps, and so sound
she'll hear no dip of the paddle, by and by. Here, Pierre, my son,
you're wanted."

"What for now? Do leave me be. I'm going to bed. I'm just wore out,
trot-trottin' from Pontius to Pilate, lugging salt, and----" he
finished by yawning most prodigiously.

"Firs'-rate sign, that gapin'. Yes. Sign you're healthy and able to do
all's needed. There's no bed for you this night. Come. Here. Take this
basket to the beach. If your canoe needs pitchin', pitch it. There's
the lantern. If one goes into the show business he learns right now
to work and travel o' nights. Yes. Start. I'll follow and explain."



CHAPTER X

DEPARTURE


But Adrian need not have dreaded the interview to which his host had
summoned him. Mr. Dutton's face was a little graver than usual but his
manner was even more kind. He was a man to whom justice seemed the
highest good, who had himself suffered most bitterly from injustice.
He was forcing himself to be perfectly fair with the lad and it was
even with a smile that he motioned toward an easy-chair opposite
himself. The chair stood in the direct light of the lamp, but Adrian
did not notice that.

"Do not fear me, Adrian, though for a moment I forgot myself. For you
personally--personally--I have only great good will. But---- Will you
answer my questions, believing that it is a painful necessity which
compels them?"

"Certainly."

"One word more. Beyond the fact, which you confided to Margot, that
you were a runaway I know no details of your past life. I have wished
not to know and have refrained from any inquiries. I must now break
that silence. What--is your father's name?"

As he spoke the man's hands gripped the arms of his chair more
tightly, like one prepared for an unpleasant answer.

"Malachi Wadislaw."

The questioner waited a moment, during which he seemed to be thinking
profoundly. Then he rallied his own judgment. It was an uncommon name,
but there might be two men bearing it. That was not impossible.

"Where does he live?"

"Number --, Madison Avenue, New York."

A longer silence than before, broken by a long drawn: "A-ah!" There
might, indeed, be two men of one name, but not two residing at that
once familiar locality.

"Adrian, when you asked my niece that question about her father, did
you--had you---- Tell me what was in your mind."

The lad's face showed nothing but frank astonishment.

"Why, nothing, sir, beyond an idle curiosity. And I'm no end sorry for
my thoughtlessness. I've seen how tenderly you both watch her mother's
grave and I wondered where her father's was. That was all. I had no
business to have done it----"

"It was natural. It was nothing wrong, in itself. But--unfortunately,
it suggested to Margot what I have studiously kept from her. For
reasons which I think best to keep to myself, it is impossible to run
the risk of other questions which may rouse other speculations in her
mind. I have been truly glad that she could for a time, at least, have
the companionship of one nearer her own age than Angelique or me, but
now----"

He paused significantly, and Adrian hastened to complete the
unfinished sentence.

"Now it is time for her to return to her ordinary way of life. I
understand you, of course. And I am going away at once. Indeed, I did
start, not meaning to come back, but--I will--how can I do so, sir? If
I could swim----"

Mr. Dutton's drawn face softened into something like a smile; and
again, most gently, he motioned the excited boy to resume his seat. As
he did so, he opened a drawer of the table and produced a purse that
seemed to be well filled.

"Wait. There is no such haste, nor are you in such dire need as you
seem to think. You have worked well and faithfully and relieved me of
much hard labor that I have not, somehow, felt just equal to. I have
kept an account for you and, if you will be good enough to see if it
is right, I will hand you the amount due you."

He pushed a paper toward Adrian who would not, at first, touch it.

"You owe me nothing, sir, nor can I take anything. I thank you for
your hospitality and some time----" he stopped, choked, and made a
telling gesture. It said plainly enough that his pride was just then
deeply humiliated but that he would have his revenge at some future
day.

"Sit down, lad. I do not wonder at your feeling, nor would you at
mine if you knew all. Under other circumstances we should have been
the best of friends. It is impossible for me to be more explicit,
and it hurts my pride as much to bid you go as yours to be sent.
Some time--but no matter. What we have in hand is to arrange for
your departure as speedily and comfortably as possible. I would
suggest----" but his words had the force of a command--"that Pierre
convey you to the nearest town from which, by stage or railway, you
can reach any further place you choose. If I were to offer advice, it
would be to go home. Make your peace there; and then, if you desire a
life in the woods, seek such with the consent and approval of those
to whom your duty is due."

Adrian said nothing at first; then remarked:

"Pierre need not go so far. Across the lake, to the mainland is
enough. I can travel on foot afterward, and I know more about the
forest now than when I lost myself and you, or Margot, found me. I owe
my life to you. I am sorry I have given you pain. Sorry for many
things."

"There are few who have not something to regret; for anything that has
happened here no apology is necessary. As for saving life, that was by
God's will. Now--to business. You will see that I have reckoned your
wages the same as Pierre's: thirty dollars a month and 'found,' as the
farmers say, though it has been much more difficult to find him than
you. You have been here nearly three months and eighty dollars is
yours."

"Eighty dollars! Whew! I mean, impossible. In the first place I
haven't earned it; in the second, I couldn't take it from--from
you--if I had. How could a man take money from one who had saved his
life?"

"Easily, I hope, if he has common sense. You exaggerate the service we
were able to do you, which we would have rendered to anybody. Your
earnings will start you straight again. Take them, and oblige me by
making no further objections."

Despite his protests, which were honest, Adrian could not but be
delighted at the thought of possessing so goodly a sum. It was the
first money he had ever earned, therefore better than any other ever
could be, and as he put it, in his own thoughts: "it changed him from
a beggar to a prince." Yet he made a final protest, asking:

"Have I really, really, and justly earned all this? Do you surely mean
it?"

"I am not in the habit of saying anything I do not mean. It is getting
late, and if you are to go to-night, it would be better to start
soon," answered Mr. Dutton, with a frown.

"Beg pardon. But I'm always saying what I should not, or putting the
right things backward. There are some affairs 'not mentioned in the
bond': my artist's outfit, these clothes, boots, and other matters. I
want to pay the cost of them. Indeed, I must. You must allow me, as
you would any other man."

The woodlander hesitated a moment as if he were considering. He would
have preferred no return for anything, but again that effort to be
wholly just influenced him.

"For the clothing, if you so desire, certainly. Here, in this account
book, is a price list of all such articles as I buy. We will deduct
that much. But I hope, in consideration of the pleasure that your
talent has given me, that you will accept the painting stuff I so
gladly provided. If you choose, also, you may leave a small gift for
Angelique. Come. Pride is commendable, but not always."

"Very well. Thank you, then, for your gift. Now, the price list."

It had been a gratification to Mr. Dutton that Adrian had never worn
the suits of clothing which he had laid out ready for use, on that
morning after his arrival at the island. The lad had preferred the
rougher costume suited to the woods and still wore it.

In a few moments the small business transactions were settled, and
Adrian rose.

"I would like to bid Margot good-bye. But, I suppose, she has gone to
bed."

"Yes. I will give her your message. There is always a pain in parting
and you two have been much together. I would spare her as much as I
can. Angelique has packed a basket of food and Pierre is on the beach
with his canoe. He may go as far with you as you desire, and you must
pay him nothing for his service. He is already paid, though his greed
might make him despoil you, if he could. Good-bye. I wish you well."

Mr. Dutton had also risen, and as he moved forward into the lamplight
Adrian noticed how much altered for the worse was his physical
bearing. The man seemed to have aged by many years and his fine head
was now snow-white. He half extended his hand, in response to the
lad's proffered clasp, then dropped it to his side. He hoped that the
departing guest had not observed this inhospitable movement--but he
had. Possibly, it helped him over an awkward moment, by touching his
pride afresh.

"Good-bye, sir, and again--thank you. For the present, that is all I
can do. Yet I have heard it was not so big a world, after all, and my
chance may come. I'll get my traps from my room, if you please, and
one or two little drawings as souvenirs. I'll not be long."

Fifteen minutes later Pierre was paddling vigorously toward the
further side of the lake and Adrian was straining his eyes for the
last glimpse of the beautiful island which even now, in his banishment
from it, seemed his real and beloved home. It became a vague and
shadowy outline, as silent as the stars that brooded over it; and
again he marveled what the mystery might be which enshrouded it, and
why he should be connected with it.

"Now that I am no longer its guest, there is no dishonor in my finding
out; and find out--I will!"

"Hey?" asked Pierre, so suddenly, that Adrian jumped and nearly upset
the boat. "Oh! I thought you said somethin'. Say, ain't this a go?
What you done that make the master shut the door on you? I never knew
him do it before. Hey?"

"Nothing. Keep quiet. I don't feel like talking."

"Pr-r-r-rp! Look a here, young fello'. Me and you's alone on this dead
water and I can swim--you can't. I've got all I expect to get out the
trip and I've no notion o' makin' it. Not 'less things go to my
thinkin'. Now, I'll rest a spell. You paddle!"

With that, he began to rock the frail craft violently and Adrian's
attention was recalled to the necessity of saving his own life.



CHAPTER XI

A DISCLOSURE


As the sun rose, Margot came out of her own room, fresh from her
plunge that had washed all drowsiness away, as the good sleep had also
banished all perplexities. Happy at all times, she was most so at
morning, when, to her nature-loving eyes, the world seemed to have
been made anew and doubly beautiful. The gay little melodies she had
picked up from Pierre, or Angelique--who had been a sweet singer in
her day--and now again from Adrian, were always on her lips at such an
hour, and were dear beyond expression to her uncle's ears.

But this morning she seemed to be singing them to the empty air. There
was nobody in the living room, nor in the "study-library," as the
housekeeper called the room of books, nor even in the kitchen. That
was oddest of all! For there, at least, should Angelique have been,
frying, or stewing, or broiling, as the case might be. Yet the coffee
stood simmering, at one corner of the hearth and a bowl of eggs waited
ready for the omelet which Angelique could make to perfection.

"Why, how still it is! As if everybody had gone away and left the
island alone."

She ran to the door and called: "Adrian!"

No answer.

"Pierre! Angelique! Where is everybody?"

Then she saw Angelique coming down the slope and ran to meet her. With
one hand the woman carried a brimming pail of milk and with the other
dragged by his collar the reluctant form of Reynard, who appeared as
guilty and subdued as if he had been born a slave not free. To make
matters more difficult, Meroude was surreptitiously helping herself to
a breakfast from the pail and thereby ruining its contents for other
uses.

"Oh! the plague of a life with such beasts! And him the worst o' they
all. The ver' next time my Pierre goes cross-lake, that fox goes or I
do! There's no room on the island for the two of us. No. Indeed no.
The harm comes of takin' in folks and beasties and friendin' them 'at
don't deserve it. What now, think you?"

Margot had run the faster, as soon as she descried poor Reynard's
abject state, and had taken him under her own protection, which
immediately restored him to his natural pride and noble bearing.

"I think nothing evil of my pet, believe that! See the beauty now!
That's the difference between harsh words and loving ones. If you'd
only treat the 'beasties' as well as you do me, Angelique dear, you'd
have less cause for scolding. What I think now is--speckled rooster.
Right?"

"Aye. Dead as dead; and the feathers still stickin' to the villain's
jaws. What's the life of such brutes to that o' good fowls? Pst!
Meroude! Scat! Well, if it's milk you will, milk you shall!" and,
turning angrily about, Snowfoot's mistress dashed the entire contents
of her pail over the annoying cat.

Margot laughed till the tears came. "Why, Angelique! only the other
day, in that quaint old 'Book of Beauty' uncle has, I read how a Queen
of Naples, and some noted Parisian beauties, used baths of milk for
their complexions; but poor Meroude's a hopeless case, I fear."

Angelique's countenance took on a grim expression. "Mistress Meroude's
got a day's job to clean herself, the greedy. It's not her nose'll go
in the pail another mornin'. No. No, indeed."

"And it was so full. Yet that's the same Snowfoot who was to give us
no more, because of the broken glass. Angelique, where's uncle?"

"How should I tell? Am I set to spy the master's ins and outs?"

"Funny Angelique! You're not set to do it, but you can usually tell
them. And where's Adrian? I've called and called, but nobody answers.
I can't guess where they all are. Even Pierre is out of sight, and
he's mostly to be found at the kitchen door when meal time comes."

"There, there, child. You can ask more questions than old Angelique
can answer. But the breakfast. That's a good thought. So be. Whisk in
and mix the batter cakes for the master's eatin'. 'Tis he, foolish
man, finds they have better savor from Margot's fingers than mine.
Simple one, with all his wisdom."

"It's love gives them savor, sweet Angelique! and the desire to see me
a proper housewife. I wonder why he cares about that, since you are
here to do such things."

"Ah! The 'I wonders!' and the 'Is its?' of a maid! They set the head
awhirl. The batter cakes, my child. I see the master comin' down the
hill this minute."

Margot paused long enough to caress Tom, the eagle, who met her on the
path, then sped indoors, leaving Reynard to his own devices and
Angelique's not too tender mercies. But she put all her energy into
the task assigned her and proudly placed a plate of her uncle's
favorite dainty before him when he took his seat at table. Till then
she had not noticed its altered arrangement, and even her guardian's
coveted: "Well done, little housekeeper!" could not banish the sudden
fear that assailed her.

"Why, what does it mean? Where is Adrian? Where Pierre? Why are only
dishes for three?"

"Pst! my child! Hast been askin' questions in the sleep? Sure, you
have ever since your eyes flew open. Say your grace and eat your meat,
and let the master rest."

"Yes, darling. Angelique is wise. Eat your breakfast as usual, and
afterward I will tell you all--that you should know."

"But, I cannot eat. It chokes me. It seems so awfully still and
strange and empty. As I should think it might be, were somebody dead."

Angelique's scant patience was exhausted. Not only was her loyal heart
tried by her master's troubles, but she had had added labor to
accomplish. During all that summer two strong and, at least one,
willing lads had been at hand to do the various chores pertaining to
all country homes, however isolated. That morning she had brought in
her own supply of fire-wood, filled her buckets from the spring,
attended the poultry, fed the oxen, milked Snowfoot, wrestled over the
iniquity of Reynard and grieved at the untimely death of the speckled
rooster: "When he would have made such a lovely fricasee, yes. Indeed,
'twas a sinful waste!"

Though none of these tasks were new or arduous to her, she had not
performed them during the past weeks, save and except the care of her
cow. That she had never entrusted to anybody, not even the master; and
it was to spare him that she had done some of the things he meant to
attend to later. Now she had reached her limit.

"Angelique wants her breakfast, child. She has been long astir. After
that the deluge!" quoted Mr. Dutton, with an attempt at lightness
which did not agree with his real depression.

Margot made heroic efforts to act as usual but they ended in failure,
and as soon as might be her guardian pushed back his chair and she
promptly did the same.

"Now I can ask as many questions as I please, can't I? First, where
are they?"

"They have gone across the lake, southward, I suppose. Toward whatever
place or town Adrian selects. He will not come back but Pierre will do
so, after he has guided the other to some safe point beyond the woods.
How soon I do not know, of course."

"Gone! Without bidding me good-bye? Gone to stay? Oh! uncle, how could
he? I know you didn't like him but I did. He was----"

Margot dropped her face in her hands and sobbed bitterly. Then ashamed
of her unaccustomed tears she ran out of the house and as far from it
as she could. But even the blue herons could give her no amusement,
though they stalked gravely up the river bank and posed beside her,
where she lay prone and disconsolate in Harmony Hollow. Her squirrels
saw and wondered, for she had no returning chatter for them, even when
they chased one another over her prostrate person and playfully pulled
at her long hair.

"He was the only friend I ever had that was not old and wise in
sorrow. It was true he seemed to bring a shadow with him and while he
was here I sometimes wished he would go, or had never come; yet now
that he has--oh! it's so awfully, awfully lonesome. Nobody to talk
with about my dreams and fancies, nobody to talk nonsense, nobody to
teach me any more songs--nobody but just old folks and animals! And he
went, he went without a word or a single good-bye!"

It was, indeed, Margot's first grief; and the fact that her late
comrade could leave her so coolly, without even mentioning his plan,
hurt her very deeply. But, after awhile, resentment at Adrian's
seeming neglect almost banished her loneliness; and, sitting up, she
stared at Xanthippé, poised on one leg before her, apparently asleep
but really waiting for anything which might turn up in the shape of
dainties.

"Oh! you sweet vixen! but you needn't pose. There's no artist here now
to sketch you, and I don't care, not very much, if there isn't. After
all my trying to do him good, praising and blaming and petting, if he
was impolite enough to go as he did---- Well, no matter!"

While this indignation lasted she felt better, but as soon as she came
once more in sight of the clearing and of her uncle finishing one of
Adrian's uncompleted tasks, her loneliness returned with double force.
It had almost the effect of bodily illness and she had no experience
to guide her. With a fresh burst of tears she caught her guardian's
hand and hid her face on his shoulder.

"Oh! it's so desolate. So empty. Everything's so changed. Even the
Hollow is different and the squirrels seem like strangers. If he had
to go, why did he ever, ever come!"

"Why, indeed!"

Mr. Dutton was surprised and frightened by the intensity of her grief.
If she could sorrow in this way for a brief friendship, what untold
misery might not life have in store for her? There must have been some
serious blunder in his training if she were no better fitted than this
to face trouble; and for the first time it occurred to him that he
should not have kept her from all companions of her own age.

"Margot!"

The sternness of his tone made her look up and calm herself.

"Y-es, uncle."

"This must stop. Adrian went by my invitation. Because I could no
longer permit your association. Between his household and ours is a
wrong beyond repair. He cannot help that he is his father's son, but
being such he is an impossible friend for your father's daughter. I
should have sent him away, at my very first suspicion of his identity,
but--I want to be just. It has been the effort of my life to learn
forgiveness. Until the last I would not allow myself even to believe
who he was, but gave him the benefit of the chance that his name might
be of another family. When I did know--there was no choice. He had to
go."

Margot watched his face, as he spoke, with a curious feeling that this
was not the loved and loving uncle she had always known but a
stranger. There were wrinkles and scars she had never noticed, a
bitterness that made the voice an unfamiliar one, and a weariness in
the droop of the figure leaning upon the hoe which suggested an aged
and heart-broken man.

Why, only yesterday, it seemed, Hugh Dutton was the very type of a
stalwart woodlander, with the grace of a finished and untiring
scholar, making the man unique. Now---- If Adrian had done this thing,
if his mere presence had so altered her beloved guardian, then let
Adrian go! Her arms went around the man's neck and her kisses showered
upon his cheeks, his hands, even his bent white head.

"Uncle, uncle! Don't look like that! Don't. He's gone and shall never
come back. Everything's gone, hasn't it? Even that irreparable past,
of which I'd never heard. Why, if I'd dreamed, do you suppose I'd even
ever have spoken to him? No, indeed. Why you, the tip of your smallest
finger, the smallest lock of your hair, is worth more than a thousand
Adrians! I was sorry he'd treated me so rudely. But now I'm glad,
glad, glad. I wouldn't listen to him now, not if he said good-bye
forever and ever. I love you, uncle, best of all the world, and you
love me. Let's be just as we were before any strangers came. Come,
let's go out on the lake."

He smiled at her extravagance and abruptness. The times when they had
gone canoeing together had been their merriest, happiest times. It
seemed to her that it needed only some such outing to restore the
former conditions of their life.

"Not to-day, dearest."

"Why not? The potatoes won't hurt and it's so lovely."

"There are other matters, more important than potatoes. I have put
them off too long. Now--Margot, do you love me?"

"Why--uncle!"

"Because there is somebody whom you must love even more dearly. Your
father."

"My--father! My father? Of course; though he is dead."

"No, Margot. He is still alive."



CHAPTER XII

CARRYING


Pierre's ill-temper was short-lived, but his curiosity remained.
However, when Adrian steadily refused to gratify it his interest
returned to himself.

"Say, I've a mind to go the whole way."

"Where?"

"Wherever you're going. Nothin' to call me back."

"Madoc?"

"We might take him along."

"Not if he's sick. That would be as cruel to him as troublesome to us.
Besides, you need go no further than yonder shore."

"Them's the woods you got lost in."

"I know them better now."

"Couldn't find your road to save your life."

"I think I could. Besides, you will be wanted at the island. I don't
think Mr. Dutton is a well man. With nobody but an old woman and a
young girl he'll need somebody. You're not much good, still----"

Pierre laughed. They had about reached the forest and he rested his
paddle.

"You hear me. I'm going to where you go. That was the master's word. I
wouldn't dare not do it. If I did, my mother'd make me sorry. So
that's settled."

Adrian had doubts as to the truth of this statement of the islander's
commands. He recalled the words: "as far as you desire." After all,
this was not setting a time limit, and it was perfectly natural that
anybody should like company through the wilderness. Why, it would be a
wild, adventurous journey! the very sort of which he had dreamed
before he had tasted the prosaic routine of the lumber-camp. He had
his colors and brushes, the birch-bark which served so many forest
purposes should be his canvas, they had food, and Pierre, at least,
his gun and ammunition--no lad could have protested further.

"All right. It will be a lark after my own heart. We can quit as soon
as we're tired of it; and--look here. Mr. Dutton said you were paid to
take me to the nearest town. How far is that? How long to get there?"

"Oh! I don't know. Donovan's nighest. Might go in four days--might a
week. Canada's closer, but you don't want to go north. South, he
said."

"Ye-es. I suppose so. Fact is, I don't care where I go nor when. I'm
in no hurry. As long as the money and food hold out, I'm satisfied."

"Speakin' of money. I couldn't afford to waste my time."

Adrian laughed at this sudden change of front. It was Pierre who had
proposed the long road, but at the mention of money had remembered
prudence.

"That's all right, too. It was of that I was thinking, you greedy
fellow. What do guides get, here in the woods?"

Pierre stepped ashore, carefully beached his canoe, and as carefully
considered his reply before he made it. How much did this city lad
know? Either at camp or on the island had he heard the just rates of
such service?

"Well--how much you got?"

"I'm asking a question, not you."

"About four dollars, likely."

"Whew! not much. You can get the best of them for two. I'll give you a
dollar a day when we're resting and one-fifty when we're traveling."

Adrian was smiling in the darkness at his own sudden thrift. He had
taken a leaf out of his comrade's own book, and beyond that, he almost
loved his precious earnings, so soon as the thought came of parting
with them. He instantly resolved to put aside a ten dollar piece to
take the "mater," whenever he should see her. The rest he would use,
of course, but not waste. He would paint such pictures up here as
would make his old artist friends and the critics open their eyes. The
very novelty of the material which should embody them would "take."
Already, in imagination, he saw dozens of fascinating "bits" hung on
the line at the old Academy, and felt the marvelous sums they brought
swelling his pockets to bursting. He'd be the rage, the hit of the
next season; and what pride he'd have in sending newspaper notices of
himself to Peace Island! How Margot would open her blue eyes, and
Angelique toss her hands, and the master slowly admit that there was
genius where he had estimated only talent.

"There's such a wide, wide difference in the two!" cried Adrian,
aloud.

"Hey? What?"

The dreamer came back to reality, and to Pierre, demanding,

"Make it one-seventy-five, and I'll do it."

"Well. I will. Now, for to-night. Shall we camp right here or go
further into the forest? In the woods I'm always ready for bed, and
its later than usual now."

"Here. I know the very rocks you got under in that storm. They'll do
as good as a tent, and easier."

Adrian, also, knew that spot and in a few moments both lads were
asleep. They had not stopped even to build the fire that was customary
in such quarters.

Pierre was awake first, on the next morning, and Adrian slowly rose,
stretching his cramped limbs and yawning widely.

"Well, I must say that Angelique's good mattress beats rocks. You
don't catch me doing that again. I guess I'll walk down to the water
and have a last look at the island."

"I guess you won't. You'll eat your breakfast right now. Then you'll
fix that birch for the carry. If I do the heavy work you've got to do
the light."

"Sounds fair enough, but you're paid and I'm not."

"It is fair."

Adrian did not contest the point; the less readily because he saw that
the fried chicken Angelique had given them was rapidly diminishing in
quantity.

"Think I'll fall to, myself. My, but I'm hungry! Wish I had a cup of
coffee."

"Can't waste time now. We'll have some to-night."

"Did they give us some?"

"Look in the pack."

"After breakfast, I'll oblige you."

Pierre grinned and helped himself to a wing.

Adrian seized the tin basin which held the fowl and placed it behind
himself. "Enough's as good as a feast. We shall be hungry again. See
here. What kind of a bird was this? or birds? all legs and arms, no
bodies. Freaks of nature. Eh? How many breast portions have you
devoured?"

"Three."

"Oh! Then, travel or no travel, you get no wage this day. Understand.
I'm commander of this expedition. I see to the commissariat. I'll
overhaul the pack, and take account of stock."

Pierre assisted at the task. Though he had been impatient to get away
from that locality, still too dangerously near his mother's rule, he
intended to keep an eye on everything. Paid or not paid, as Adrian
fared so would he--only rather better.

"Why, they must have thought we would be in the woods a long time.
They were certainly generous."

They had been, but Pierre considered that they might have been more
so.

"This was for both trips. Half is mine."

"Nonsense. But--there. We're not going to squabble all the time, like
children. And we both know exactly what we have to depend on. We must
fish and shoot----"

"How'll you do that? The only gun is mine."

"It's part of the outfit. Let's see. A little good tent cloth--not big
enough to cover any but good-natured folks--salt pork, beans, sugar,
coffee, tea, flour, meal, dishes---- Hello! We're kings, Ricord!
Monarchs of Maine."

"Cut the splints."

After all, it seemed to be Pierre who did the ordering, but Adrian had
sense to see that he was the wiser of the two in woodcraft; even
though he himself had made it a study during the last weeks. He seized
the axe and attacked a cedar-tree, from which he had soon cut the
binding strips he wanted. Then he laid the paddles in the boat,
fastening them with rootlets to the three thwarts. He also fastened
two broad bands of the pliable splints in such a way that when it was
inverted, the weight of the canoe could be borne in part by the
forehead and shoulders. He was ready almost as soon as Pierre had
retied the pack, which was to be Adrian's burden.

"All right! I'll swing her up. This 'carry' isn't a long one and the
first thoroughfare is ten miles before we come to dead water. But
it's up-stream that far and we'll have to warp up some. Part is fair,
but more is rips."

If Pierre thought to confound his mate by his woodland slang he was
disappointed. Margot had been a good teacher and Adrian had been eager
to learn what he had not already done from the loggers. Pierre had
been puzzled by "commissariat" and "expedition" and felt that he had
evened matters nicely.

"Oh! I know. A thoroughfare is a river, and a dead water is a lake.
And a carrier is--yourself!"

To show his new skill he caught up the canoe and inverted it over his
own head. He, also, had been calculating a bit, and realized that the
birch was really the lighter burden. So he generously left the pack to
his neighbor and started forward bravely.

"All right, like you say. One little bit, then you change. Then, too,
maybe I'm not ready."

With a whistle and spring Pierre hoisted the pack to his shoulders,
wound its straps around his body and started off through the forest at
a sort of dog-trot pace, pausing neither for swamp nor fallen tree;
and Adrian realized that if he were to keep his companion in sight he
must travel equally fast.

Alas! this was impossible. The birch which had seemed so light and
romantic a "carry" became suddenly the heaviest and most difficult. He
caught its ends on tree trunks and righting these blunders he stumbled
over the rough way. The thongs that had seemed so smooth cut his
forehead and burned into his chest, and putting pride in his pocket,
he shouted:

"Pierre! Pierre Ricord! Come back or you'll get no money!"

It would have been a convincing argument had it been heard, but it
was not. Pierre had already gone too far in advance. Yet at that
moment a sound was borne on the breeze toward Adrian which effectually
banished all thought of fatigue or of ill-treatment. A long-drawn,
unmistakable cry that once heard no man with the hunter instinct ever
forgets.

"A moose! And Pierre has the gun!"



CHAPTER XIII

A DEAD WATER TRAGEDY


But Pierre, also, had heard that distant "Ugh-u-u-ugh!" and instantly
paused. His own anxiety was lest Adrian should not hear and be still.
Fortunately, the wind was in their favor and the sensitive nostrils of
the moose less apt to scent them. Having listened a moment, he dropped
his pack so softly that, heavy as it was, it scarcely made the
undergrowth crack. His gun was always loaded and now making it ready
for prompt use, he started back toward his companion. The Indian in
his nature came to the fore. His step was alert, precise, and light as
that of any four-footed forester. When within sight of the other lad,
listening and motionless, his eye brightened.

"If he keeps that way, maybe---- Ah!"

The moose called again, but further off. This was a disappointment,
but they were on good ground for hunting and another chance would
come. Meanwhile they would better make all haste to the thoroughfare.
There would be the better place, and out in the canoe they'd have a
wider range.

"Here, you. Give me the boat. Did you hear it?"

"Did I not? But you had the gun!"

"Wouldn't have made any difference if you'd had it. Too far off. Let's
get on."

Adrian lifted the pack and dropped it in disgust. "I can't carry that
load!"

Pierre was also disgusted--by the other's ignorance and lack of
endurance.

"What you don't know about the woods beats all. Haven't you seen
anybody pack things before? I'll show you. When there's big game handy
is no time to quarrel. If a pack's too heavy, halve it. Watch and
learn something."

Pierre could be both swift and dexterous if he chose, and he rapidly
unrolled and divided the contents of the cotton tent. Putting part
into the blanket he retied the rest in the sheeting, and now neither
bundle was a very severe tax.

"Whew! What's the sense of that? It's the same weight. How does
halving it help?"

Pierre swung the canoe upon his head and directed:

"Catch hold them straps. Carry one a few rods. Drop it. Come back
after the other. Carry that a ways beyond the first. Drop it. Get
number one. All time lap over, beyond, over, beyond. So."

With a stick he illustrated on the ground, and wasting no further time
nor speech, clasped his gun the tighter under his arm and trotted
forward again.

Adrian obeyed instructions, and though it seemed, at first, a waste to
go back and forth along the carry as he had been directed, found that,
in the end, he had accomplished his task with small fatigue or delay.

"Another bit of woodcraft for my knowledge box. Useful elsewhere, too.
Wish I could get through this country as fast as Pierre does. But
he'll have to wait for me, anyway."

For a time Adrian could easily trace the route of his guide by the
bruises the canoe had given the leaves and undergrowth but after
awhile the forest grew more open and this trail was lost. Then he
stopped to consider. He had no intention of losing himself again.

"We are aiming for the south. Good. All the big branches of these
hemlocks point that way--so yonder's my road. Queer, too, how mossy
the tree trunks are on the north sides. I've heard that you could drop
an Indian anywhere in any forest and he'd travel to either point of
the compass he desired with nothing to guide him but his instinct.
Wish I were an Indian! Wish, rather, I had my own compass and good
outfit that went over in my canoe. Hurrah! There's a glimmer of
water. That's the thoroughfare. Now a dash for it!"

Adrian was proud of his new skill in finding his own way through a
trackless forest, but though he duly reached the stream he could not
for a time see anything of Pierre. He did not wish to shout, lest the
moose might be near and take fright, but at last he did give a faint
halloo and an answer came at once. Then the boat shot out from behind
a clump of alders and made down the river toward him.

The current was swift and strong and there was considerable poling
to be done before it touched the shore and Pierre stepped out.

"I've been looking round. This is as good a place to camp to-night as
we'll find. Leave the things here, and might as well get ready now.
Then we can stay out all day and come back when we like."

"But I thought we were to go on up the thoroughfare. Why stop here at
all? Other camping places are easy to find."

"Are they? My, you can ask questions. Good many things go to making
right sort of camp. Dry ground, good water to drink, fire-wood,
poles---- Oh! shucks! If you don't know, keep still and learn."

This was excellent advice and Adrian was tired. He decided to trust
to the other lad's common sense and larger experience, and having
so decided, calmly stretched himself out upon the level bank of the
stream and went to sleep.

Pierre's temper rose still higher and after he had endured the sight
of Adrian's indolence as long as possible he stepped to the river and
dipped a bucket of water. Then he returned and quietly dashed it over
the drowsy lad. The effect was all that Pierre desired.

"What did you do that for?"

"Take this axe and get to work. I've chopped long enough. It's my turn
to rest. Or would be, only I'm after moose."

Adrian realized that he had given cause for offense and laughed
good-naturedly. His nap had rested him much more than his broken sleep
of the night under the rocks, and the word "moose" had an inspiration
all its own.

"I've cut the fire-wood. You get poles for the tent. I'll get things
ready for supper."

Adrian laid his hand dramatically upon his stomach. "I've an inner
conviction already that dinner precedes supper."

"Cut, can't you?"

"Cut, it is."

In a few moments he had chopped down a few slender poles, and
selecting two with forked branches he planted these upright on a
little rise of the driest ground. Across the notches he laid a third
pole, and over this he stretched their strip of sheeting. When this
was pegged down at a convenient angle at the back and also secured at
the ends, they had a very comfortable shelter from the dew and
possible rain. The affair was open on one side and before this Pierre
had heaped the wood for the fire when they should return after the
day's hunt. Together they cut and spread the spruce and hemlock boughs
for their bed, arranging them in overlapping rows, with an added
quantity for pillows. Wrapped in their blankets, for even at midsummer
these were not amiss, they hoped to sleep luxuriously.

They stored their food in as safe a spot as possible, though Pierre
said that nothing would molest it, unless it might be a hungry
hedgehog, but Adrian preferred to take no risks. Then with knives
freshly sharpened on the rocks, and the gun in hand, they cautiously
stepped into the canoe and pushed off.

"One should not jump into a birch. Easiest thing in the world to split
the bottom," its owner had explained.

Adrian had no desire to do anything that would hinder their success,
therefore submitted to his guide's dictation with a meekness that
would have amused Margot.

She would not have been amused by their undertaking nor its but
half-anticipated results. After a long and difficult warping-up the
rapids, in which Adrian's skill at using the sharp-pointed pole that
helped to keep the canoe off the rocks surprised Ricord, they reached
a dead water, with low, rush-dotted banks.

"Get her into that cove yonder, and keep still. I've brought some bark
and'll make a horn."

There, while they rested and listened, Pierre deftly rolled his strip
of birch-bark into a horn of two feet in length, small at the mouth
end but several inches wide at the other. He tied it with cedar thongs
and putting it to his lips, uttered a call so like a cow-moose that
Adrian wondered more and more.

"Hmm. I thought I was pretty smart, myself; but I'll step down when
you take the stand."

"'Sh-h-h! Don't move. Don't speak. Don't breathe, if you can help it."

Adrian became rigid, all his faculties merged in that one desire to
lose no sound.

Again Pierre gave the moose-call, and--hark! what was that? An
answering cry, a far-away crashing of boughs, the onrush of some big
creature, hastening to its mate.

Noiselessly Pierre brought his gun into position, sighting one distant
point from which he thought his prey would come. Adrian's body dripped
with a cold sweat, his hands trembled, specks floated before his
staring eyes, every nerve was tense, and, as Margot would have said,
he was a-thrill "with murder," from head to foot! Oh! if the gun were
his, and the shot!

Another call, another cry, and a magnificent head came into view. With
horns erect and quivering nostrils the monarch of that wilderness
came, seeking love, and faced his enemies.

"He's within range--shoot!" whispered Adrian.

"Only anger him that way. 'Sh! When he turns----"

"Bang! bang--bang!" in swift succession.

The great horns tossed, the noble head came round again, then bent,
wavered and disappeared. The tragedy was over.

"I got him! I got him that time! Always shoot that way, never----"

Pierre picked up his paddle and sent the canoe forward at a leap. When
there came no responding movement from his companion he looked back
over his shoulder. Adrian's face had gone white and the eagerness of
his eyes had given place to unspeakable regret.

"What's the matter? Sick?"

"Yes. Why, it was murder! Margot was right."

"Oh! shucks!"

Whereupon Pierre pulled the faster toward the body of his victim.



CHAPTER XIV

SHOOTING THE RAPIDS


Three months earlier, if anybody had told Adrian he would ever be
guilty of such "squeamishness" he would have laughed in derision. Now,
all unconsciously to himself, the influence of his summer at Peace
Island was upon him and it came to him with the force of a revelation
that God had created the wild creatures of His forests for something
nobler than to become the prey of man.

"Oh! that grand fellow! his splendidly defiant, yet hopeless, facing
of death! I wish we'd never met him!"

"Well, of all foolishness! I thought you wanted nothing but the chance
at him yourself."

"So I did. Before I saw him. What if it had been Madoc?"

"That's different."

"The same. Might have been twin brothers. Maybe they were."

"Couldn't have been. Paddle, won't you?"

Adrian did so, but with a poor grace. He would now far rather have
turned the canoe about toward camp, yet railed at himself for his
sudden cowardice. He shrank from looking on the dead moose as only an
hour before he had longed to do so.

They were soon at the spot where the animal had disappeared and
pushing the boat upon the reedy shore, Pierre plunged forward through
the marsh. Adrian did not follow, till a triumphant shout reached him.
Then he felt in his pocket and, finding a pencil with a bit of paper,
made his own way more slowly to the side of his comrade, who, wildly
excited, was examining and measuring his quarry. On a broad leaved
rush he had marked off a hand's width and from this unit calculated
that:

"He's eight feet four from hoof to shoulder, and that betters the
King by six inches. See. His horns spread nigh six feet. If he stood
straight and held them up he'd be fifteen feet or nothing! They spread
more'n six feet, and I tell you, he's a beauty!"

"Yes. He's all of that. But of what use is his beauty now?"

"Humph! Didn't know you was a girl!"

Adrian did not answer. He was rapidly and skilfully sketching the
prostrate animal, and studying it minutely. From his memory of it
alive and the drawing he hoped to paint a tolerably lifelike portrait
of the animal; and a fresh inspiration came to him. To those projected
woodland pictures he would add glimpses of its wild denizens, and in
such a way that the hearts of the beholders should be moved to pity,
not to slaughter.

But, already that sharpened knife of Pierre's was at work, defacing,
mutilating.

"Why do that, man?"

"Why not? What ails you? What'd we hunt for?"

"We don't need him for food. You cannot possibly carry those horns any
distance on our trip, and you're not apt to come back just this same
way. Let him lie. You've done him all the harm you should. Come on. Is
this like him?" And Adrian showed his drawing.

"Oh! it's like enough. If you don't relish my job--clear out. I can
skin him alone."

Adrian waited no second bidding, but strolled away to a distance and
tried to think of other things than the butchering in progress. But at
last Pierre whistled and he had to go back or else be left in the
wilderness to fare alone as best he might. It was a ghastly sight. The
great skin, splashed and wet with its owner's blood, the dismembered
antlers, the slashed off nose--which such as Pierre considered a
precious tid-bit, the naked carcass and the butcher's own uninviting
state.

"I declare, I can never get into the same boat with you and all that
horror. Do leave it here. Do wash yourself--there's plenty of water,
and let's be gone."

Pierre did not notice the appeal. Though the lust of killing had died
out of his eyes the lust of greed remained. Already he was estimating
the value of the hide, cured or uncured, and the price those antlers
would bring could he once get them to the proper market.

"Why, I've heard that in some of the towns folks buy 'em to hang their
hats on. Odd! Lend a hand."

Reluctantly, Adrian did lift his portion of the heavy horns and helped
carry them to the birch. He realized that the pluckiest way of putting
this disagreeable spot behind him was by doing as he was asked. He was
hopeless of influencing the other by any change in his own feelings
and wisely kept silence.

But they hunted no more that day, nor did they make any further
progress on their journey. Pierre busied himself in erecting a rude
frame upon which he stretched the moose skin to dry. He also prepared
the antlers and built a sort of hut, of saplings and bark, where he
could store his trophies till his return trip.

"For I shall surely come back this same way. It's good hunting ground
and moose feed in herds. Small herds, course, but two, three make a
fellow rich. Eh?"

Adrian said nothing. He occupied himself in what Pierre considered a
silly fashion, sketching, studying "effects," and carefully cutting
big pieces of the birch-bark that he meant to use for "canvas." To
keep this flat during his travels was a rather difficult problem, but
finally solved by cutting two slabs of cedar wood and placing the
sheets of bark between these.

Whereupon, Pierre laughed and assured the weary chopper that he had
had his trouble for his pains.

"What for you want to carry big lumber that way? Roll your bark.
That's all right. When you want to use it put it in water. Easy.
Queer how little you know about things."

"All right. I was silly, sure enough. But thanks for your teaching.
Maybe, if you were in my city I might show you a thing or two."

Both lads were glad, however, when night came, and having cooked
themselves a good supper and replenished their fire, they slept as
only such healthy lads can sleep; to wake at sunrise, ready for fresh
adventures, and with the tragedy of the previous day partly forgotten
even by Adrian. Then, after a hearty breakfast, they resumed their
trip.

Nothing eventful occurred for some time after. No more moose appeared,
and beyond winging a duck or two and fishing now and then, Pierre kept
his hunting instincts down. In fact, he was just then too lazy to
exert himself. He felt that he had labored beyond all reason during
the past summer and needed a rest. Besides, were not his wages
steadily going on? If Adrian was silly enough to paint and paint and
paint--all day, this old tree and that mossy stump, he was not
responsible for another man's stupidity. Not he. The food was still
holding out, so let things take their course.

Suddenly, however, Adrian realized that they were wasting time. He
had made sketches on everything and anything he could find and had
accumulated enough birch-bark to swamp the canoe, should they strike
rough water; and far more than was comfortable for him to carry over
any portage. So one morning he announced his intention of leaving the
wilderness and getting back to civilization.

"All right. I go with you. Show me the town, then I'll come back."

"Well. As you please. Only I don't propose to pay you any longer than
will take us, now by the shortest road, to Donovan's."

"Time enough to borrow that trouble when you see it."

But Pierre suggested that, as Adrian wished to learn everything
possible about the woods, he should now take the guidance of affairs,
and that whenever things went wrong he, Pierre, could point the way.
He did this because, of late, he fancied that his young employer
had taken a "too top-lofty" tone in addressing him; and, in truth,
Adrian's day-dreams of coming fame and his own genius were making him
feel vastly superior to the rough woodsman.

They had paddled over dead water to a point where two streams touched
it, and the question rose--which way?

"That!" said Adrian, with decision, pointing to the broader and more
southern of the two.

"Good enough."

For a moment the leader fancied there was a gleam of malice in
his hireling's eye, but he considered it beneath his notice and
calmly turned the canoe into the thoroughfare he had chosen. It was
wonderfully smooth and delightful paddling. In all their trip they had
not found so level a stream, and it was nothing but enjoyment of the
scenery that Adrian felt, until it seemed to him that they had been
moving a long time without arriving anywhere. "Haven't we?" he asked.

"Oh! we'll get there soon, now."

Presently things began to look familiar. There was one curiously
shaped, lightning-riven pine, standing high above its fellows, that
appeared like an old friend.

"Why, what's this? Can there be two trees, exactly alike, within a
half-day's rowing? I've certainly sketched that old landmark from
every side, and---- Hello! yonder's my group of white-birches or I'm
blind. How queer!"

A few more sweeps and the remains of the camp they had that morning
left were before them, and Pierre could no longer repress his glee.

"Good guide, you! Trust a know-it-all for making mistakes."

"What does it mean?" demanded Adrian, angrily.

"Nothing. Only you picked out a run-about, a little branch of river,
that wanders out of course and then comes home again. Begins and ends
the same. Oh! you're wise, you are."

"Would the other lead us right?"

"Yes."

"But it turns north. We're bound south."

"That's no matter. Can't a river turn, same as runabouts?"

"I give up. You guide. I'll stick to my brush."

This restored affairs to the ground which Pierre considered proper;
and having paused long enough to eat a lunch, they set out afresh. The
new track they followed ascended steadily, and it proved a difficult
stream to get up; but the ascent was accomplished without accident and
then the surface of the land altered. Again they reached a point where
two branches met and Pierre explained that the waters of one ran due
north, but the other bent gradually toward the south and in a little
while descended through one of the most dangerous "rips" he had ever
seen.

"Only saw them once, too. When I went as far as Donovan's with the
master, year before last."

"Didn't know he ever came so far from the island."

"Why, he goes once every summer, or fall, as far as that New York of
yours. Likely he'll be going soon again."

"He does? Queer he never mentioned it."

"Maybe. I've a notion, though, that the things he don't say are more
important than what he does. Ever shoot a rip?"

"No. I've tried and failed. That's how I happened to get lost and
wandered to Dutton's."

"He's the boss hand at it. Seems as if the danger fired him up. Makes
him feel as I do when I hunt big game. He didn't need my help, only
fetched me along to take back some truck. That's how he picked me out
to show you. He knew I knew----"

"And I wish I knew--lots of things!"

"One of 'em might be that round that next turn comes the first dip.
Then, look out."

The stream was descending very perceptibly; and they needed no
paddling to keep them moving. But they did require to be incessantly
on the watch to guard against the rocks which obstructed the current
and which threatened the safety of their frail craft.

"You keep an eye on me and one on the channel. It'll take a clear head
to carry us through, and no fooling."

Adrian did not answer. He had no thought for anything just then but
the menace of those jagged points which seemed to reach toward them as
if to destroy.

Nor did Pierre speak again. Far better even than his silent companion
could he estimate the perils which beset them. Life itself was the
price which they would pay for a moment's carelessness; but a cool
head, a clear eye, and a steady wrist--these meant safety and the
proud record of a dangerous passage wisely made. A man who could shoot
those rapids was a guide who might, indeed, some time demand the high
wages at which Adrian had jeered.

Suddenly, the channel seemed barred by two opposing bowlders, whose
points lapped each other. In reality, there was a way between them, by
the shortest of curves and of but little more than the canoe's width.
Pierre saw and measured the distance skilfully, but he had not counted
upon the opposing force of the water that rushed against them.

"Look--out! take----"

Behind the right-hand rock seethed a mighty whirlpool where the river
speeding downward was caught and tossed back upon itself, around and
around, mad to escape yet bound by its own power.

Into this vortex the canoe was hurled; to be instantly overturned and
dashed to pieces on the rock.

On its first circuit of the pool Adrian leaped and landed upon the
slippery bowlder--breathless, but alive! His hand still clasped the
pole he had been using to steer with, and Pierre----? He had almost
disappeared within the whirling water, that tossed him like a feather.



CHAPTER XV

SCIENCE AND SUPERSTITION


For an instant Adrian closed his eyes that he might not see the
inevitable end. But--was it inevitable? At the logging camp he had
heard of just such accidents as this and not all of them were fatal.
The water in its whirling sometimes tossed that which it had caught
outward to safety.

He flung himself prone and extended the pole. Pierre's body was making
another circuit of that horrible pit and when--if--should it---- The
drowning boy's head was under the current, but his legs swung round
upon its surface, faster and faster, as they drew nearer the centre.

Then--a marvel! The long pole was thrust under the invisible arms,
which closed upon it as a vice.

"Hold! Hold! I'll pull you out!"

But for the hard labor of the past few weeks Adrian's muscles could
not have stood the strain. Yet they did, and as he drew the nearly
senseless Pierre upon the rock beside himself his soul went up in such
glad thanksgiving as he had never known, or might know again. A life
saved. That was worth all things.

For an hour they lay there, resting, recovering; then Pierre, himself,
stood up to see what chance there was for a fuller deliverance. He was
a very sober and altered Pierre, and his drenched clothing added to
the forlornness of his appearance.

"Nothing left but--us. Came nigh bein' only you. Say, Adrian, I shan't
forget it."

"How are we going to get ashore?"

"'Tisn't much harder'n Margot's stepping-stones. Done them times
enough."

Again Adrian was grateful for his forest experience, but he asked with
some anxiety:

"Suppose you are strong enough to do it?"

"Isn't any supposin' about it. Got to. Might as well died in the pool
as starve on this rock."

Adrian didn't see that there was much better than starvation before
them even if they did reach shore, but he kept his fear to himself.
Besides, it was not probable that they had been saved from the flood
to perish in the forest. They would better look at the bright side of
the situation, if they hoped to find such.

"I can jump them."

"So can I."

"Don't let go that pole. I mean to keep that as long as I live--'less
you want it yourself. If you do----"

"No, Pierre, it belongs to you, and doubly now. Which should go
first--you or I?"

"Draw lots. If that one falls in, the other must fish him out. Only we
won't try it on this side, by the pool."

They carefully surveyed the crossing, almost as dangerous an affair as
shooting the rapids had been. Yet, as Pierre had said, they "had to."

Adrian picked a bit of floating weed that had swept within his reach
and broke it into unequal portions. The shortest bit fell to him and
with as cheerful a "here goes!" as he could muster he sprang for
the next stone. He made it; more easily than he had hoped, and saw
that his best chance lay in looking straight ahead to the next
landing-point--and the next--never down at the swirling river.

"Landed! Come!"

Pierre was heavier but more practiced than his mate, and in a few
seconds the two stood together on the shore, regarding the ruins of
their boat and thinking of what they would not have for supper.

All at once Pierre's eye brightened.

"Say! there's been a camp here. Not so long ago, either. See that
barrel in the brush? There's an old birch shed yonder. Hurrah!"

They did not linger, though Adrian kept hoping that something from
their lost outfit might be tossed outward toward them, even as Pierre
had been; but nothing came in sight and he reached the dilapidated
shed only a few feet behind the other.

"There's a bed left still, but not such a soft one. And there's pork
in that barrel. Wonder the hedgehogs haven't found it."

But as Pierre thrust his nose into the depths of the cask he
understood the reason of its safety.

"Whew! Even a porkypine wouldn't touch that! Never mind. Reckon our
boots'll need greasing after that ducking, or mine will, and it'll
answer. Anything under the shed?"

"Don't see anything. Wait. Yes, I do. A canvas bag hung up high. Must
have been forgotten when the campers left, for they took everything
else, clean sweep. Hurrah! It's beans!"

"Good. Beans are good fodder for hungry cattle."

"How can you eat such hard things? Should think they'd been
resurrected from the Pyramids."

"Well, I don't know 'Pyramids,' but I do know beans, and how to cook
them. Fall to. Let's get a fire. I'm nearly frozen."

"Fire? Can you make one?"

"I can try and---- I've got to. When needs must, you know."

Adrian hastily collected some dry twigs and decaying chips and heaped
them in the sunniest place, but for this was promptly reprimanded by
the shivering Pierre.

"Don't you know anything at all? Wood won't light, nor burn after 'tis
lighted, in the sunshine. Stick up something to shade the stuff,
whilst----"

He illustrated what he did not further say, by carefully selecting
some hard stones and briskly rubbing them together. A faint spark
resulted and a thistle-down caught the spark. To the thistle-down he
held a dried grass blade and another. By this small beginning they
had soon a tiny blaze and very soon a comforting fire.

When they were partially dried and rested, said Pierre:

"Now, fetch on your beans. While they're cooking, we'll take account
of what is left."

Adrian brought the bag, refraining from any questions this time. He
was wondering and watchful. Pierre's misadventures were developing
unsuspected resources and the spirits of both lads rose again to the
normal.

"You're so fond of splitting birch for pictures, split me some now for
a bucket, while I sharpen this knife again. Lucky for me my pocket
buttoned, else it would have gone to the bottom of that pool. Got
yours?"

"Yes. I didn't fall in, you know."

"Then I don't ask odds of anybody. I'd rather have a good axe, but
when I can't get my rather I take the next best thing."

Adrian procured the strips of birch, which grows so plentifully to
hand in all that woodland, and when Pierre had trimmed it into the
desired shape he deftly rolled it and tied it with stout rootlets, and
behold! there was a shapely sort of kettle, with a twig for a handle.
But of what use it might be the city lad had yet to learn.

Pierre filled the affair with water and put into it a good handful of
the beans. Then he fixed a crotched stick over his fire and hung the
birch kettle upon it.

"Oh! don't waste them. I know. I saw Angelique soak them, as they did
at camp. I know, now. If we can't cook them we can make them swell up
in water, and starving men can exist on such food till they reach a
settlement. Of course we'll start as soon as you're all right."

"We'll start when we're ready. That's after we've had something to eat
and have made our new canoe. Never struck a spot where there was
likelier birches. 'Twon't be the first one I've built or seen built.
Say. Seems as if that God that Margot is always saying takes care of
folks must have had a hand in this. Doesn't it?"

"Yes. It does," answered Adrian, reverently. Surely, Pierre was a
changed and better lad.

Then his eyes rested on the wooden dinner-pot, and to his astonishment
it was not burning but hung steadily in its place and the water in it
was already beginning to simmer. Above the water line the bark
shrivelled and scorched slightly, but Pierre looked out for this and
with a scoop made from a leaf replenished the water as it steamed
away. The beans, too, were swelling and gave every promise of
cooking--in due course of time. Meanwhile, the cook rolled himself
over and about in the warmth of the fire till his clothes were dry and
all the cold had left his body. Also, he had observed Adrian's
surprise with a pardonable pride.

"Lose an Indian in the woods and he's as rich as a lord. It's the
Indian in me coming out now."

"It's an extra sense. Divination, instinct, something better than
education."

"What the master calls 'woodcraft.' Yes. Wonder how he is, and all of
them. Say. What do you think I thought about when I was whirling round
that pool, before I didn't think of anything?"

"Your sins, I suppose. That's what I've heard comes to a drowning
man."

"Shucks! Saw the mére's face when she broke that glass! Fact. Though I
wasn't there at the time. And one thing more: saw that ridiculous
Xanthippé, looking like she'd never done a thing but warble. Oh! my!
How I do wish Margot'd sell her."

"Shall I help you get birch for the canoe now? I begin to believe you
can do even that, you are so clever."

This praise was sweet to Pierre's vain ears and had the result which
Adrian desired, of diverting the talk from their island friends. In
their present situation, hopeful as the other pretended to find it, he
felt it best for his own peace of mind not to recall loved and absent
faces.

They went to work with a will, and will it was that helped them; else
with the poor tools at hand they had never accomplished their
undertaking. Indeed, it was a labor of considerable time. Not only was
that first meal of boiled beans cooked and eaten, but several more of
the same sort followed. To vary these, Pierre baked some, in the same
method as he had boiled them, or else in the ashes of their fire. He
even fashioned a sort of hook from a coat button and with cedar roots
for a line, caught a fish now and then. But they craved the seasoning
of salt, and even the dessert of blue-berries which nature provided
them could not satisfy this longing, which grew almost intolerable to
Adrian's civilized palate.

"Queer, isn't it? When I was at that lumber camp I nearly died because
all the meat, or nearly all, was so salt. Got so I couldn't eat
anything, hardly. Now, just because I haven't salt I can't eat,
either."

"Indians not that way. Indians eat one thing same's another. Indian
just wants to live, don't care about the rest. Indian never eats too
much. I'm all Indian now."

Adrian opened his eyes to their widest, then threw himself back and
laughed till the tears came.

"Pierre, Pierre! Would you had been 'all Indian' when you tackled
Angelique's fried chicken! Umm! I can taste it now!"

But at length the new canoe was ready. They had put as few ribs into
it as would suffice to hold it in shape and Pierre had carefully sewn
it with the roots of the black cedar, which serves the woodsman for so
many purposes, where thread or twine is needed. They had made a paddle
and a pole as well as they could with their knives, and having nothing
to pack except themselves and their small remnant of beans, made their
last camp-fire at that spot and lay down to sleep.

But the dreams of both were troubled; and in the night Adrian rose and
went to add wood to the fire. It had died down to coals, but his
attention was caught by a ring of white light upon the ashes, wholly
distinct from the red embers.

"What's that?"

In a moment he had answered his own question. It was the
phosphorescent glow from the inner bark of a half burned log,
and further away he saw another portion of the same log making a
ghostly radiance on the surrounding ground.

"Oh! I wouldn't have missed that for anything. Mr. Dutton told me of
beautiful sights he had witnessed and of the strange will-o'-the-wisps
that abound in the forest. I'll gather some of the chips."

He did so, and they made a fairy-like radiance over his palm; but
while he was intently studying them, he felt his hand rudely knocked
up, so that the bits of wood flew out of it.

"Pierre! Stop that!"

"Don't you know what that is? A warning--a sign--an omen. Oh! if I had
never come upon this trip!"

"You foolish fellow. Just as I thought you were beginning to get
sense. Nothing in the world but decayed bark and chemical----"

Pierre stopped his ears.

"I was dreaming of the mére. She came with her apron to her eyes and
her clothes in tatters. She was scolding----"

"Perfectly natural."

"And begging me----"

"Not to eat so many half-baked beans for supper."

"There's something wrong at the island. I saw the cabin all dark. I
saw Margot's eyes red with weeping."

"No doubt Tom has been into fresh mischief and your mother has
punished him."

Pierre ignored these flippant interruptions, but rehearsed his dismal
visions till Adrian lost patience and pushed him aside.

"Go. Bring an armful of fresh wood; some that isn't phosphorescent, if
you prefer. That'll wake you up and drive the megrims out of your
mind."

"'Tis neither of them things. 'Tis a warning. They were all painted
with black, and all the Hollow creatures were painted, too. 'Tis a
warning. I shall see death before I am----"

Even while he maundered on in this strain he was unconsciously obeying
the command to fetch wood, and moved toward a pile left ready. Now, in
raking this together, Adrian had, also, swept that spot of ground
clean and exposed; and what neither had observed in the twilight was
plainly revealed by the glow and shadows cast by the fire.

This was a low, carefully made mound that, in shape and significance,
could be confounded with no other sort of mound, wherever met. Both
recognized it at once, and even upon Adrian the shock was painful;
but its effect upon superstitious Pierre was far greater. With a
shriek that startled the silence of the forest he flung himself
headlong.



CHAPTER XVI

DIVERGING ROADS


"Get up, Pierre. You should be ashamed of yourself!"

It needed a strong and firm grasp to force the terrified lad to his
feet and even when he, at last, stood up he shivered like an aspen.

"A grave!"

"Certainly. A grave. But neither yours nor mine. Only that of some
poor fellow who has died in the wilderness. I'm sorry I piled the
brush upon it, yet glad we discovered it in the end."

"Gla-a-ad!" gasped the other.

"Yes. Of course. I mean to cover it with fresh sods and plant some of
those purple orchids at its head. I'll cut a cedar headstone, too, and
mark it so that nobody else shall desecrate it as we have done."

"You mustn't touch it! It's nobody's--only a warning."

"A warning, surely; that we must take great care lest a like fate come
on us; but somebody lies under that mound and I pity him. Most
probable that he lost his life in that very whirlpool which wrecked
us. Twice I've been upset and lost all my belongings, but escaped
safe. I hope I'll not run the same chance again. Come. Lie down again,
and go to sleep."

"Couldn't sleep; to try in such a haunted place would be to be
'spelled'----"

"Pierre Ricord! For a fellow that's so smart at some things you are
the biggest dunce I know, in others. Haven't we slept like lords ever
since we struck this camp? I'm going to make my bed up again and turn
in. I advise you to do the same."

Adrian tossed the branches aside, then rearranged them, lapping the
soft ends over the hard ones in an orderly row which would have
pleased a housewife. Thus freshened his odorous mattress was as good
as new, and stretching himself upon it he went to sleep immediately.

Pierre fully intended to keep awake; but fatigue and loneliness
prevailed, and five minutes later he had crept close to Adrian's side.

The sunshine on his face, and the sound of a knife cutting wood awoke
him; and there was Adrian whittling away at a broad slab of cedar,
smiling and jeering, and in the best of spirits, despite his rather
solemn occupation.

"For a fellow who wouldn't sleep, you've done pretty well. See. I've
caught a fish and set it cooking. I've picked a pile of berries, and
have nearly finished this headstone. Added another accomplishment to
my many--monument maker. But I'm wrong to laugh over that, though the
poor unknown to whom it belongs would be grateful to me, I've no
doubt. Lend a hand, will you?"

But nothing would induce Pierre to engage in any such business. Nor
would he touch his breakfast while Adrian's knife was busy. He sat
apart, looking anywhere rather than toward his mate, and talking over
his shoulder to him in a strangely subdued voice.

"Adrian!"

"Well?"

"Most done?"

"Nearly."

"What you going to put on it?"

"I've been wondering. Think this: 'To the Memory of My Unknown
Brother.'"

"Wh-a-a-t!"

Adrian repeated the inscription.

"He was no kin to you."

"We are all kin. It's all one world, God's world. All the people and
all these forests, and the creatures in them--I tell you I've never
heard a sermon that touched me as the sight of this grave in the
wilderness has touched me. I mean to be a better, kinder man, because
of it. Margot was right, none of us has a right to his own self.
She told me often that I should go home to my own folks and make
everything right with them; then, if I could, come back and live in
the woods, somewhere. 'If I felt I must.' But I don't feel that way
now. I want to get back and go to work. I want to live so that when I
die--like that poor chap, yonder,--somebody will have been the better
for my life. Pshaw! Why do I talk to you like this? Anyway, I'll set
this slab in place, and then----"

Pierre rose and still without looking Adrian's way, pushed the new
canoe into the water. He had carefully pitched it, on the day before,
with a mixture of the old pork grease and gum from the trees, so that
there need be no delay at starting.

Adrian finished his work, lettered the slab with a coal from the
fire, and re-watered the wild flowers he had already planted.

"Aren't you going to eat breakfast first?"

"Not in a graveyard," answered Pierre, with a solemnity that checked
Adrian's desire to smile.

A last reverent attention, a final clearing of all rubbish from the
spot, and he, too, stepped into the canoe and picked up his paddle.
They had passed the rapids and reached a smooth stretch of the river,
where they had camped, and now pulled steadily and easily away,
once more upon their journey south. But not till they had put a
considerable distance between themselves and that woodland grave,
would Pierre consent to stop and eat the food that Adrian had
prepared. Even then, he restricted the amount to be consumed,
remarking with doleful conviction:

"We're going to be starved before we reach Donovan's. The 'food stick'
burnt off and dropped into the fire, last night."

Adrian remembered that his mate had spoken of it at the time, when by
some carelessness, they had not secured the crotched sapling on which
they hung their birch kettle.

"Oh! you simple thing. Why will you go through life tormenting
yourself with such nonsense? Come. Eat your breakfast. We're going
straight to Donovan's as fast as we can. I've done with the woods
for a time. So should you be done. You're needed at the island. Not
because of any dreams but because the more I recall of Mr. Dutton's
appearance the surer I am that he is a sick man. You'll go back,
won't you?"

"Yes. I'm going back. Not because you ask me, though."

"I don't care why--only go."

"I'm not going into the show business."

Adrian smiled. "Of course you're not. You'll never have money enough.
It would cost lots."

"'Tisn't that. 'Twas the dream. That was sent me. All them animals in
black paint, and the blue herons without any heads, and---- My mother
came for me, last night."

"I heartily wish you could go to her this minute! She's superstitious
enough, in all conscience, yet she has the happy faculty of keeping
her lugubrious son in subjection."

Whenever Pierre became particularly depressing the other would rattle
off as many of the longest words as occurred to him. They had the
effect of diverting his comrade's thoughts.

Then they pulled on again, nor did anything disastrous happen to
further hinder their progress. The food did not give out, for they
lived mostly upon berries, having neither time nor desire to stop and
cook their remnant of beans. When they were especially tired Pierre
lighted a fire and made a bucket of hemlock tea, but Adrian found cold
water preferable to this decoction; and, in fact, they were much
nearer Donovan's, that first settlement in the wilderness, than even
Pierre had suspected.

Their last portage was made--an easy one, there being nothing but
themselves and the canoe to carry--and they came to a big dead water
where they had looked to find another running stream; but had no
sooner sighted it than their ears were greeted by the laughter of
loons, which threw up their legs and dived beneath the surface in that
absurd manner which Adrian always found amusing.

"Bad luck, again!" cried Pierre, instantly, "never hear a loon
but----"

"But you see a house! Look, look! Donovan's, or somebody's, no matter
whose! A house, a house!"

There, indeed, it lay; a goodly farmstead, with its substantial
cabins, its outbuildings, its groups of cattle on the cleared land,
and--yes, yes, its moving human beings, and what seemed oddest still,
its teams of horses.

Even Pierre was silent, and tears sprang to the eyes of both lads as
they gazed. Until that moment neither had fully realized how lonely
and desolate had been their situation.

"Now for it! It's a biggish lake and we're pretty tired! But that
means rest, plenty to eat, people--everything."

Their rudely built canoe was almost useless when they beached it at
last on Donovan's wharf, and their own strength was spent. But it was
a hospitable household to which they had come, and one quite used to
welcoming wanderers from the forest. They were fed and clothed and
bedded, without question, but, when a long sleep had set them both
right, tongues wagged and plans were settled with amazing promptness.

For there were other guests at the farm; a party of prospectors, going
north into the woods to locate timber for the next season's cutting.
These would be glad of Pierre's company and help, and would pay him
"the going wages." But they would not return by the route he had come,
though by leaving theirs at a point well north, he could easily make
his way back to the island.

"So you shot the poor moose for nothing. You cannot even have his
horns!" said Adrian reproachfully. "Well, as soon as I can vote, I
mean to use all my influence to stop this murder in the forest."

The strangers smiled and shrugged their shoulders. "We're after game
ourselves, as well as timber, but legislation is already in progress
to stop the indiscriminate slaughter of the fast disappearing moose
and caribou. Five hundred dollars is the fine to be imposed for any
infringement of the law, once passed."

Pierre's jaw dropped. He was so impressed by the long words and the
mention of that, to him, enormous sum, that he was rendered speechless
for a longer time than Adrian ever remembered. But, if he said
nothing, he reflected sadly upon the magnificent antlers he should see
no more.

Adrian's affairs were also, speedily and satisfactorily arranged.
Farmer Donovan would willingly take him to the nearest stage route;
thence to a railway would be easy journeying; and by steam he could
travel swiftly, indeed, to that distant home which he now so longed to
see.

The parting of the lads was brief, but not without emotion. Two people
cannot go through their experiences and dangers, to remain indifferent
to each other. In both their hearts was now the kindliest feeling and
the sincere hope that they should meet again. Pierre departed first
and looked back many times at the tall, graceful figure of his
comrade; then the trees intervened and the forest had again swallowed
him into its familiar depths.

Then Adrian, also, stepped upon the waiting buck-board and was driven
over the rough road in the opposite direction.

Three days later, with nothing in his pocket but his treasured knife,
a roll of birch-bark, and the ten-dollar piece which, through all his
adventures, he had worn pinned to his inner clothing, "a make-piece
offering" to his mother he reached the brown stone steps to his
father's city mansion.

There, for the first time, he hesitated. All the bitterness with which
he had descended those steps, banished in disgrace, was keenly
remembered.

"Can I, shall I, dare I go up and ring that bell?"

A vision floated before him. Margot's earnest face and tear-dimmed
eyes. Her lips speaking:

"If I had father or mother anywhere--nothing should ever make me leave
them. I would bear everything--but I would be true to them."

An instant later a peal rang through that silent house, such as it had
not echoed in many a day. What would be the answer to it?



CHAPTER XVII

IN THE HOUR OF DARKNESS


"No sign yet?"

"No sign." Margot's tone was almost hopeless. Day after day, many
times each day, she had climbed the pine-tree flagstaff and peered
into the distance. Not once had anything been visible, save that wide
stretch of forest and the shining lake.

"Suppose you cross again, to old Joe's. He might be back by this time.
I'll fix you a bite of dinner, and you better. Maybe----"

The girl shook her head and clasped her arms about old Angelique's
neck. Then the long repressed grief burst forth in dry sobs that shook
them both, and pierced the housekeeper's faithful heart with a pain
beyond endurance.

"Pst! Pouf! Hush, sweetheart, hush! 'Tis nought. A few days more and
the master will be well. A few days more and Pierre will come---- Ah!
but I had my hands about his ears this minute! That would teach him,
yes, to turn his back on duty, him. The ingrate! Well, what the Lord
sends the body must bear."

Margot lifted her head, shook back her hair, and smiled wanly. The
veriest ghost of her old smile, it was, yet even such a delight to the
other's eyes.

"Good. That's right. Rouse up. There's a wing of a fowl in the
cupboard, left from the master's broth----"

"Angelique, he didn't touch it, to-day. Not even touch it."

"'Tis nought. When the fever is on the appetite is gone. Will be all
right once that is over."

"But, will it ever be over? Day after day, just the same. Always that
tossing to and fro, the queer, jumbled talk, the growing thinner--all
of the dreadful signs of how he suffers. Angelique, if I could bear it
for him! I am so young and strong and worth nothing to this world
while he's so wise and good. Everybody who ever knew him must be the
better for Uncle Hughie."

"'Tis truth. For that, the good Lord will spare him to us. Of that be
sure."

"But I pray and pray and pray, and there comes no answer. He is never
any better. You know that. You can't deny it. Always before when I
have prayed the answer has come swift and sure, but now----"

"Take care, Margot. 'Tis not for us to judge the Lord's strange ways.
Else were not you and me and the master shut up alone on this island,
with no doctor near, and only our two selves to keep the dumb things
in comfort, though, as for dumbness, hark yonder beast!"

"Reynard! Oh! I forgot. I shut him up because he would hang about the
house and watch your poor chickens. If he'd stay in his own forest
now, I would be so glad. Yet I love him----"

"Aye, and he loves you. Be thankful. Even a beastie's love is of God's
sending. Go feed him. Here. The wing you'll not eat yourself."

There were dark days now on the once sunny island of peace.

That day when Mr. Dutton had said: "Your father is still alive,"
seemed now to Margot, looking back, as one of such experiences as
change a whole life. Up till that morning she had been a thoughtless,
unreflecting child, but the utterance of those fateful words altered
everything.

Amazement, unbelief of what her ears told her, indignation that she
had been so long deceived--as she put it--were swiftly followed by a
dreadful fear. Even while he spoke, the woodlander's figure swayed and
trembled, the hoe-handle on which he rested wavered and fell, and he,
too, would have fallen had not the girl's arms caught and eased his
sudden sinking in the furrow he had worked. Her shrill cry of alarm
had reached Angelique, always alert for trouble and then more than
ever, and had brought her swiftly to the field. Between them they had
carried the now unconscious man within and laid him on his bed. He had
never risen from it since; nor, in her heart, did Angelique believe he
ever would, though she so stoutly asserted to the contrary before
Margot.

"We have changed places, Angelique, dear," the child often said. "It
used to be you who was always croaking and looking for trouble. Now
you see only brightness."

"Well, good sooth. 'Tis a long lane has no turnin', and better late
nor never. Sometimes 'tis well to say 'stay good trouble lest worser
comes,' eh? But things'll mend. They must. Now, run and climb the
tree. It might be this ver' minute that wretch, Pierre, was on his way
across the lake. Pouf! But he'll stir his lazy bones, once he touches
this shore! Yes, yes, indeed. Run and hail him, maybe."

So Margot had gone, again and again, and had returned to sit beside
her uncle's bed, anxious and watchful.

Often, also, she had paddled across the narrows and made her way
swiftly to a little clearing on her uncle's land, where, among giant
trees, old Joseph Wills, the Indian guide and faithful friend of all
on Peace Island, made one of his homes. Once Mr. Dutton had nursed
this red man through a dangerous illness, and had kept him in his own
home for many weeks thereafter. He would have been the very nurse they
now needed, in their turn, could he have been found. But his cabin was
closed, and on its doorway, under the family sign-picture of a turtle
on a rock, he had printed in dialect, what signified his departure for
a long hunting trip.

Now, as Angelique advised, she resolved to try once more; and hurrying
to the shore, pushed her canoe into the water and paddled swiftly
away. She had taken the neglected Reynard with her and Tom had invited
himself to be a party of the trip; and in the odd but sympathetic
companionship, Margot's spirits rose again.

"It must be as Angelique says. The long lane will turn. Why have I
been so easily discouraged? I never saw my precious uncle ill before,
and that is why I have been so frightened. I suppose anybody gets thin
and says things, when there is fever. But he's troubled about
something. He wants to do something that neither of us understand.
Unless---- Oh! I believe I do understand! My head is clearer out here
on the water, and I know, I know! it is just about the time of year
when he goes away on those long trips of his. And we've been so
anxious we never remembered. That's it. That surely is it. Then, of
course, Joe will be back now or soon. He always stays on the island
when uncle goes and he'll remember. Oh! I'm brighter already, and I
guess, I believe, it is as Angelique claims--God won't take away so
good a man as uncle and leave me alone. Though--I am not alone! I have
a father! I have a father, somewhere, if I only knew--all in good
time--and I'm growing gladder and gladder every minute."

She could even sing to the stroke of her paddle and she skimmed the
water with increasing speed. Whatever the reason for her growing
cheerfulness, whether the reaction of youth or a prescience of
happiness to come, the result was the same; she reached the further
shore flushed and eager eyed, more like the old Margot than she had
been for many days.

"Oh! he's there. He is at home. There is a smoke coming out the
chimney. Joseph! Oh! Joseph, Joseph!"

She did not even stop to take care of her canoe but left it to float
whither it would. Nothing mattered, Joseph was at home. He had canoes
galore, and he was help indeed.

She was quite right. The old man came to his doorway and waited her
arrival with apparent indifference, though surely no human heart
could have been unmoved by such unfeigned delight. Catching his
unresponsive hands in hers she cried:

"Come at once, Joseph! At once!"

"Does not the master trust his friend? It is the time to come.
Therefore I am here."

"Of course. I just thought about that. But, Joseph, the master is ill.
He knows nothing any more. If he ever needed you he needs you doubly
now. Come, come at once."

Then, indeed, though there was little outward expression of it, was
old Joseph moved. He stopped for nothing, but leaving his fire burning
on the hearth and his supper cooking before it, went out and closed
the door. Even Margot's nimble feet had ado to keep pace with his long
strides and she had to spring before him to prevent his pushing off
without her.

"No, no. I'm going with you. Here. I'll tow my own boat, with Tom and
Reynard--don't you squabble, pets!--but I'll paddle no more while
you're here to do it for me."

Joseph did not answer, but he allowed her to seat herself where she
pleased and with one strong movement sent his big birch a long
distance over the water.

Margot had never made the passage so swiftly, but the motion suited
her exactly, and she leaped ashore almost before it was reached, to
speed up the hill and call out to Angelique wherever she might be:

"All is well! All will now be well--Joseph has come."

The Indian reached the house but just behind her and acknowledged
Angelique's greeting with a sort of grunt; yet he paused not at all to
ask the way or if he might enter the master's room, passing directly
into it as if by right.

Margot followed him, cautioning, with finger on lip, anxious lest her
patient should be shocked and harmed by the too sudden appearance of
the visitor.

Then and only then, when her beloved child was safely out of sight did
Angelique throw her apron over her head and give her own despairing
tears free vent. She was spent and very weary; but help had come; and
in the revulsion of that relief nature gave way. Her tears ceased, her
breath came heavily, and the poor woman slept, the first refreshing
slumber of an unmeasured time.

When she waked at length, Joseph was crossing the room. The fire had
died out, twilight was falling, she was conscious of duties left
undone. Yet there was light enough left for her to scan the Indian's
impassive face with keen intensity, and though he turned neither to
the right nor left but went out with no word or gesture to satisfy her
craving, she felt that she had had her answer:

"Unless a miracle is wrought my master is doomed."



CHAPTER XVIII

THE LETTER


From the moment of his entrance to the sick room, old Joe assumed all
charge to it, and with scant courtesy banished from it both Angelique
and Margot.

"But he is mine, my own precious uncle. Joe has no right to keep me
out!" protested Margot, vehemently.

Angelique was wiser. "In his own way, among his own folks, that Indian
good doctor. Leave him be. Yes. If my master can be save', Joe
Wills'll save him. That's as God plans; but if I hadn't broke----"

"Angelique! Don't you ever, ever let me hear that dreadful talk again!
I can't bear it. I don't believe it. I won't hear it. I will not. Do
you suppose that our dear Lord is--will----"

She could not finish her sentence and Angelique was frightened by the
intensity of the girl's excitement. Was she, too, growing feverish
and ill? But Margot's outburst had worked off some of her own
uncomprehended terror, and she grew calm again. Though it had not been
put into so many words, she knew from both Angelique's and Joseph's
manner that they anticipated but one end to her guardian's illness.
She had never seen death, except among the birds and beasts of the
forest, and even then it had been horrible to her; and that this
should come into her own happy home was unbearable.

Then she reflected. Hugh Dutton's example had been her instruction,
and she had never seen him idle. At times when he seemed most so,
sitting among his books, or gazing silently into the fire, his brain
had been active over some problem that perplexed or interested him.
"Never hasting, never wasting," time, nor thought, nor any energy of
life. That was his rule and she would make it hers.

"I can, at least, make things more comfortable out of doors. Angelique
has let even Snowfoot suffer, sometimes, for want of the grooming and
care she's always had. The poultry, too, and the poor garden. I'm glad
I'm strong enough to rake and hoe, even if I couldn't lift uncle as
Joe does."

Her industry brought its own reward. Things outside the house took
on a more natural aspect. The weeds were cleared away, and both
vegetables and flowers lifted their heads more cheerfully. Snowfoot
showed the benefit of the attention she received, and the forgotten
family in the Hollow chattered and gamboled in delight at the
reappearance among them of their indulgent mistress. Margot herself
grew lighter of heart and more positive that, after all, things would
end well.

"You see, Angelique dismal, we might as well take that broken glass
sign to mean good things as evil. That uncle will soon be up and
around again; Pierre be at home; and the 'specimen' from the old cave
prove copper or something just as rich; and--everybody be as happy as
a king."

Angelique grunted her disbelief, but was thankful for the other's
lighter mood.

"Well, then, if you've so much time and strength to spare, go yonder
and clean up the room that Adrian left so untidy. Where he never
should have been, had I my own way; but one never has that in this
world; hey, no. Indeed, no. Ever'thin' goes contrary, else I'd have
cleared away all trace long sin'. Yes, indeed, yes."

"Well, he is gone. There's no need to abuse him, even if he did not
have the politeness to say good-bye. Though, I suppose, it was my
uncle who put a stop to that. What uncle has to do he does at
once. There's never any hesitation about uncle. But I wish--I
wish--Angelique Ricord, do you know something? Do you know all the
history of this family?"

"Why should I not, eh?" demanded the woman, indignantly. "Is it not my
own family, yes? What is Pierre but one son? I love him, oh! yes.
But----"

"You adore him, bad and trying as he is. But there is something you
must tell me. If you know it. Maybe you do not. I did not, till that
awful morning when he was taken ill. But that very minute he told me
what I had never dreamed. I was angry; for a moment I almost hated him
because he had deceived me, though afterward I knew that he had done
it for the best and would tell me why when he could. So I've tried to
trust him just the same and be patient. But--he may never be able--and
I must know. Angelique, where is my father?"

The housekeeper was so startled that she dropped the plate she was
wiping and broke it. Yet even at that fresh omen of disaster she could
not remove her gaze from the girl's face nor banish the dismay of her
own.

"He told--you--that--that----"

"That my father is still alive. He would, I think have told me more;
all that there may be yet to tell, if he had not so suddenly been
stricken. Where is my father?"

[Illustration: "WHERE IS MY FATHER?"]

"Oh! child, child! Don't ask me. It is not for me----"

"If uncle cannot and you can, and there is no other person,
Angelique--you must!"

"This much, then. It is in a far, far away city, or town, or place, he
lives. I know not, I. This much I know. He is good, a ver' good man.
And he have enemies. Yes. They have done him much harm. Some day, in
many years, maybe when you have grown a woman, old like me, he will
come to Peace Island and forget. That is why we wait. That is why the
master goes, once each summer, on the long, long trip. When Joseph
comes, and the bad Pierre to stay. I, too, wait to see him though I
never have. And when he comes, we must be ver' tender, me and you, for
people who have been done wrong to, they--they---- Pouf! 'Twas anger I
was that the master could put the evil-come into that room, yes."

"Angelique! Is that my father's room? Is it? Is that why there are the
very best things in it? And that wonderful picture? And the fresh
suits of clothing? Is it?"

Angelique slowly nodded. She had been amazed to find that Margot knew
thus much of a long withheld history, and saw no harm in adding these
few facts. The real secret, the heart of the matter--that was not yet.
Meanwhile, let the child accustom herself to the new ideas and so be
prepared for what she must certainly learn, should the master's
illness be a fatal one.

"Oh! then, hear me. That room shall always now be mine to care for. I
haven't liked the housewifery, not at all. But if I have a father and
I can do things for him--that alters everything. Oh! you can't mean
that it will be so long before he comes. You must have been jesting.
If he knew uncle was ill he would come at once, wouldn't he? He would,
I know."

Poor Angelique turned her face away to hide its curious expression,
but in her new interest concerning the "friend's room," as it had
always been called, Margot did not notice this. She was all eagerness
and loving excitement.

"To think that I have a father who may come, at any minute, for he
might, Angelique, you know that, and not be ready for him. Your best
and newest broom, please; and the softest dusters. That room shall,
indeed, be cleaned better than anybody else could do it. Just hurry,
please, I must begin. I must begin right away."

She trembled so that she could hardly braid and pin up her long hair
out of the way, and her face had regained more than its old-time
color. She was content to let all that was still a mystery remain for
the present. She had enough to think about and enjoy.

Angelique brought the things that would be needed and, for once,
forbore advice. Let love teach the child--she had nought to say. In
any case she could not have seen the dust, herself, for her dark eyes
were misty with tears, and her thoughts on matters wholly foreign to
household cares.

Margot opened the windows and began to dust the various articles
which could be set out in the wide passage, and did not come round
to the heavy dresser for some moments. As she did so, finally, her
glance flew instantly to a bulky parcel, wrapped in sheets of white
birch-bark, and bearing her own name, in Adrian's handwriting.

"Why, he did remember me, then!" she cried, delightedly, tearing the
package open. "Pictures! the very ones I liked the best. Xanthippé and
Socrates, and oh! that's Reynard! Reynard! Reynard, ready to speak!
The splendid, beautiful creature! and the splendid, generous boy to
have given it. He called it his 'masterpiece' and, indeed, it was by
far the best he ever did here. Harmony Hollow--but that's not so fine.
However, he meant to make it like, and---- Why, here's a note. Why
didn't I come in here before? Why didn't I think he would do something
like this? Forgive me, Adrian, wherever you are, for misjudging you
so. I'm sorry uncle didn't like you and sorry--for lots of things. But
I'm glad, glad you weren't so rude and mean as I believed. If I ever
see you I'll tell you so. Now, I'll put these in my own room and then
get to work again. This room you left so messed shall be as spotless
as a snowflake before I'm done with it."

For hours she labored there, brushing, renovating, polishing; and when
all was finished she called Angelique to see and criticise--if she
could! But she could not; and she, too, had something now of vital
importance to impart.

"It is beautiful' done, yes, yes. I couldn't do it more clean myself,
I, Angelique, no. But, my child! Hear, hear, and be calm! The master
is himself! The master has awoke, yes, and is askin' for his child!
True, true. Old Joe, he says, 'Come. Quick, soft, no cry, no laugh,
just listen.' Yes. Oh! now all will be well."

Margot almost hushed her very breathing. Her uncle awake, sane, asking
for her! Her face was radiant, flushed, eager, a face to brighten the
gloom of any sick room, however dark.

But this one was not dark. Joe knew his patient's fancies. He had
forgotten none. One of them was the sunshine and fresh air; and though
in his heart he believed that these two things did a world of harm,
and that the ill-ventilated and ill-lighted cabins of his own people
were more conducive to recovery, he opposed nothing which the master
desired. He had experimented, at first, but finding a close room
aggravated Mr. Dutton's fever, reasoned that it was too late to break
up the foolish habits of a man's lifetime; and as the woodlander had
lived in the sunlight so he would better die in it, and easier.

If she had been a trained nurse Margot could not have entered her
uncle's presence more quietly, though it seemed to her that he must
hear the happy beating of her heart and how her breath came fast and
short. He was almost too weak to speak at all, but there was all the
old love, and more, in his whispered greeting:

"My precious child!"

"Yes, uncle. And such a happy child because you are better."

She caught his hand and covered it with kisses, but softly, oh! so
softly, and he smiled the rare sweet smile that she had feared she'd
never see again. Then he looked past her to Angelique in the doorway
and his eyes moved toward his desk in the corner. A little fanciful
desk that held only his most sacred belongings and had been Margot's
mother's. It was to be hers some day, but not till he had done with
it, and she had never cared to own it since doing so meant that he
could no longer use it. Now she watched him and Angelique wonderingly.

For the woman knew exactly what was required. Without question or
hesitation she answered the command of his eyes by crossing to the
desk and opening it with a key she took from her own pocket. Then she
lifted a letter from an inner drawer and gave it into his thin
fingers.

"Well done, good Angelique. Margot--the letter--is yours."

"Mine? I am to read it? Now? Here?"

"No, no. No, no, indeed! Would you tire the master with the rustlin'
of paper? Take it else. Not here, where ever'thin' must be still as
still."

Mr. Dutton's eyes closed. Angelique knew that she had spoken for him
and that the disclosure which that letter would make should be faced
in solitude.

"Is she right, uncle, dearest? Shall I take it away to read?"

His eyes assented, and the tender, reassuring pressure of his hand.

"Then I'm going to your own mountain top with it. To think of having a
letter from you, right here at home! Why, I can hardly wait! I'm so
thankful to you for it, and so thankful to God that you are getting
well. That you will be soon; and then--why, then--we'll go a-fishing!"

A spasm of pain crossed the sick man's wasted features and poor
Angelique fled the place, forgetful of her own caution to "be still as
still," and with her own dark face convulsed with grief for the grief
which the letter would bring to her idolized Margot.

But the girl had already gone away up the slope, faster and faster.
Surely a letter from nobody but her uncle and at such a solemn time
must concern but one subject--her father. Now she would know all, and
her happiness should have no limit.

But it was nightfall when she, at last, came down from the mountain,
and though there were no signs of tears upon her face neither was
there any happiness in it.



CHAPTER XIX

A QUESTION OF APPAREL


"The master."

"He wants me?"

Joe nodded and went out of doors. But it was noticeable that he merely
walked around to the rear of the sick room and stationed himself
beside the open window. Not that he might overhear the conversation
within, but to be near if he were needed. He cast one stern look upon
Margot, as he summoned her, and was evidently reassured by her own
calmness.

Three days had passed since she had been given that fateful letter,
and she had had time to think over its startling contents in every
connection. There was now not the slightest blame of her guardian for
having so long kept her in ignorance of her father's existence; and,
indeed, her love had been strengthened, if that were possible. The
sick man had gained somewhat, though he was yet very weak and recovery
was still a question. But, with improvement, came again the terrible
restlessness and impatience with the circumstances which kept him a
prisoner in bed, when, of all times in the year, he would be up and
abroad.

When the child entered the room he was watching for her, eagerly,
anxiously. How had she borne his news? How would she greet him?

Her first glance answered him. It was so tender, so pitiful, so
strong.

"My darling! My own Margot! I--need not--have feared."

"There is nothing to fear, dearest uncle. Fear must have been done
with years ago, when--when--it happened. Now, now, it is time for
hope, for confidence."

He shook his head mournfully. Then he asked:

"You will let it make no difference in your love, your loyalty to
him, when--when he comes? If he lives to come?"

"If he had been a father who did not come because he would not, then,
maybe, I don't know. But a father who could not come, who has been so
cruelly, frightfully wronged--why, uncle! all my life, no matter how
long, all my care and devotion, no matter how great, will never, never
be able to express one-half of my love. And I bless you more for your
faithfulness to him than for all you've ever done for me--yet even my
debt to you is boundless."

"My own impulsive, overgrateful Margot! As if it had not been also all
my life, my happiness. Well, since I cannot go, you must write to him.
For me and for yourself. Explaining why I cannot come, just yet, but
that I will as soon as may be. Make it a letter such as you have
talked just now and it will be better to his hungry heart than even a
sight of his old friend and brother."

"I will write as many letters for you as you please, but--I will
deliver them in person."

He did not get the full import of her words, at first, but when he did
he frowned. It hurt him beyond expression that she should jest on such
a subject, even for the laudable purpose of cheering himself.

Then he felt her cool hand on his wrist.

"Uncle, I mean it. I have thought it over and over. I have thought of
nothing else, except that you were getting better, and I know I am
right. I am going to see my father. I am going to get my father. I
shall never come back without him. But I shall certainly come, and he
with me. You cannot go. I can, I want to, beyond telling. I must."

A thousand objections flashed through his mind and the struggle to
comprehend just what were and were not valid ones wearied him. For
some time neither of them spoke again, but clasped hands until he fell
into a sudden sleep. Even then Margot did not release her hold, though
her cramped position numbed her arm, and her impatience to make him
see matters from her point of view was hard to control. But he awoke
almost as suddenly as he had dozed, and with a clear idea of her
meaning. After all, how simple it was! and what an infinite relief to
his anxiety.

"Tell me what you think."

"This: My father must not be disappointed. Your visit, the one link
that connects him with his old life and happiness, is impossible. Each
year you have taken him reports of me and how I grew. I'm going to
show him whether you represented me as I am or as your partial eyes
behold me. More than that, I must go. I must see him. I must put my
arms about his neck and tell him that I love him, as my mother loved
him, with all his child's affection added. I must. It is my right."

"But--how. You've never been beyond the forest. You are so young and
ignorant of--everything."

"Maybe I shall do all the better for that reason. 'Know nothing, fear
nothing,' and I certainly am not afraid. We are looking for Pierre to
come home, any day. He should have been here long ago. As soon as he
comes I will start. Old Joseph shall go with me. He knows what I do
not, of towns and routes, and all those troublesome things. You will
give us the money it will cost; and enough to pay for my father's
coming home. I have made his room ready. There isn't a speck or spot
in it, and there are fresh flowers every day. There have been ever
since I knew that room was his. I shall go to that city of New York
where--where it happened, and I shall find out the truth. I shall
certainly bring him home with me."

It was absurd. He said that to himself, not once but many times; yet
despite his common sense and his bitter experience, he could not but
catch something of her hopefulness. Yet so much the more hard to bear
would be her disappointment.

"Dear, I have no right, it may be, to stop you. It was agreed upon
between us that, when you were sixteen years old, if nothing happened
to make it unnecessary, you should be told. That is, if I believed you
had a character which could endure sorrow and not turn bitter under
it. I do so believe, I know. But though you may make the journey, if
you wish and it can be arranged safely, you must not even hope to do
more than see your father and that only for a brief time."

Margot smiled. The same bright, unconvinced smile with which she had
always received any astonishing statement. When, not much more than a
baby, she had been told that fire would burn, she had laughed her
unbelief that fire would burn, and had thrust her small hand into the
flame. The fire had burned, but she had still smiled, and bravely,
though her lips trembled and there were tears upon her cheeks.

"I must go, uncle. It is my right, and his. I must try this matter for
myself. I shall never be happy else and I shall succeed. I shall. I
trust in God. You have taught me that He never fails those who trust
in Him."

"Have I not trusted? Have I not prayed? Did I not labor till labor was
useless? But, there, child. Not for me to darken your faith. His ways
are not as our ways, else this had never come. But you shall go. You
are right; and may He prosper your devotion!"

She saw that he was tired and, having gained his consent, went gladly
away to Angelique, to consult with that disturbed person concerning
her journey.

Angelique heard this strange announcement with incredulity. The master
was delirious again. That was the explanation. Else he would never,
never have consented for this outrageous journey from Pontius to
Pilate, with only a never-say-anything old Indian for escort.

"But you're part Indian yourself, sweet Angelique, so don't abuse your
own race. As for knowing nothing, who but Joe could have brought my
uncle through this dreadful sickness so well? I believe it is all a
beautiful plan.

"Well, we'll see. If Adrian had not come, maybe my uncle would never
have told me all he has. The letter was written, you know that,
because he feared he might not live to tell it with his lips. And even
when he was getting better he thought I still should learn the truth,
and the written pages held it all. I'm so glad I know. Oh! Angelique,
think! How happy, how happy we shall be when my father comes home!"

"'Tis that bad Pierre who should be comin', yes. Wait till I get my
hands about his ears."

"Pierre's too big to have his ears boxed. I don't wonder he hates it.
I think I would--would box back again if anybody treated me to that
indignity."

"Pst. Pouf! you are you, and Pierre is Pierre; and as long as he is in
the world and I am, if his ears need boxin', I shall box them. I, his
mother."

"Oh! very well. Suit yourself. But now, Angelique!"

"Well? I must go set the churn. Yes, I've wasted too much time,
already, bein' taught my manners by a chit of a thing like you. Yes. I
have so. Indeed, yes."

"Come, Angelique. Be good. When you were young, and lived in the
towns, did the girls who went a-journeying wear bonnets?"

"Did they not? And the good Book that the master reads o' nights,
sayin' the women must cover their heads. Hmm. I've thought a many time
how his readin' and his rearin' didn't go hand in glove. Bonnets,
indeed! Have I not the very one I wore when I came to Peace Island. A
charmin' thing, all green ribbons and red roses. I shall wear it
again, to my Pierre's weddin'. 'Tis for that I've been savin' it. And,
well, because a body has no need to wear out bonnets on this bit of
land in water. No."

But Angelique was a true woman; and once upon the subject of dress her
mind refused to be drawn thence. She recalled items of what had been
her own trousseau, ignoring Margot's ridicule of the clumsy Pierre as
a bridegroom, and even her assertion that: "I should pity his wife,
for I expect her ears would have to be boxed, also."

"Come yon. I've that I will show you. 'Tis your mother's own lovely
clothes. Just as she wore them here, and carefully folded away for you
till you needed them. Well, that is now, I suppose, if you're to be
let gad all over the earth, with as good a home as girl ever had right
here in the peaceful woods."

"Oh! show them to me, Angelique. Quick. Why have you never before? Of
course, I shall need them now. And, Angelique! That is some more of
the beautiful plan. The working out of the pattern. Else why should
there be the clothes here when I need clothes? Answer me that, good
Angelique, if you can."

"Pst. 'Twas always a bothersome child for questions. But answer one
yourself. If you had had them before would you have had them ready
now, and the pleasure of them? No. No, indeed. But come. The clothes
and then the churnin'. If that Pierre were here, 'twould not be my
arms would have to ache this night with the dash, dash, dashin'. No.
No, indeed, no. But come."

Alas! Of all the carefully preserved and dainty garments there was not
one which Margot could wear.

"Why, Angelique! What a tiny thing she must have been! I can't get
even my hand through the wrist of this sleeve. And look here. This
skirt is away up as short as my own. If I've to wear short ones I'll
not change at all. In the pictures, I've seen lovely ladies with
skirts on the ground and I thought that was the way I should look if I
ever went into the world."

"Eh? What? Lovely? You? Hmm. Lovely is that lovely does. Vanity is a
disgrace to any woman. Has not the master said that often and often?"

Margot flushed. She was not conscious of vanity, yet she did not
question Angelique's opinion. But she rallied.

"I don't think I should feel at all vain if I put on any of these
things. That is, if I could even get them on. I should all the time be
thinking how uncomfortable I was. Well, that's settled. I wear my own
clothes, and not even my dear mother's. Hers I will always keep for
her sake; but to her great daughter they are useless. And I'll go
bareheaded just as here. Why not? I certainly don't need a bonnet,
with all this hair."

Now Margot's hair was Angelique's especial pride. Indeed, it was a
wonderful glory upon that shapely young head; but again this was not
to be admitted.

"Hair! What's hair? Not but you've enough of it for three women, for
that matter. But it will not do to go that way. It must be braided and
pinned fast. Here is a bonnet, not so gay as mine, and I would trust
you with that--only----"

"I wouldn't wear it, dear Angelique. It's lovely and kind for you to
even think of offering. You must keep that for Pierre's wife, and----"

"I should like to see her with it on! Huh! Indeed! Pouf!"

"There are hats enough of my own mother's, and to wear one may be
another piece of your 'good luck.' I shall wear this one. It is all
blue like my frocks, and the little brown ribbon is the color of my
shoes. Adrian would say that was 'artistic,' if he were here. Oh!
Angelique! When I go to that far city, do you suppose I shall see
Adrian? Do you?"

"Do you go there to break your uncle's heart again? 'Tis not Adrian
you will see, ever again, I hope. No. Indeed, no. See. This shawl. It
goes so;" and Angelique adjusted the soft, rich fabric around her own
shoulders, put a hat jauntily upon her head, and surveyed the effect
with undisguised admiration, as reflected in the little mirror in the
lid of the big trunk.

"Angelique! Angelique, take care! 'Vanity is a disgrace to any woman!'
What if that misguided Pierre should see you now? What would he think
of his----"

Hark! What was that? How dared old Joseph tramp through the house at
such a pace, with such a noise? and the master still so weak. Why----

The indignant house-mistress disappeared with indignation blazing in
her eyes.

Margot, also, stood still in the midst of her finery, listening and
almost as angry as the other; till there came back to her another
sound so familiar and reassuring that her fears were promptly
banished, while one more anxiety was lifted from her heart.



CHAPTER XX

COMING AND GOING


"Pierre! and Angelique is boxing his ears! My, what a whack, that I
can hear it way in here! I must to the rescue, but his coming makes
right for me to go. Angelique, Angelique, don't! Heigho, Pierre! I'm
glad you're back!"

But if he heard this welcome he did not heed it, and Margot stood
amazed at the ridiculous scene upon which she had entered.

There was Angelique, still arrayed in her own flower-bedecked bonnet
and her mistress' India shawl, being whirled about the big kitchen in
a crazy sort of waltz which seemed to suit the son's excited mood. Her
bonnet sat rakishly on one side and the rich shawl dragged over the
floor, which, fortunately, was too clean to harm it; but amidst her
enforced exercises, the mother continued to aim those resounding blows
at her son's great ears. Sometimes they hit the mark, but at others
fell harmlessly upon his broad shoulders. In any case, they seemed not
to disturb him but rather to add to the homelikeness of his return.

At length, however, he released his irate parent and held out his hand
to Margot.

"Done the old lady heap of good. How's things? How's the menagerie?
and the master?"

"Hey? Where's the manners I've always taught you? Askin' for the
master last when 'tis he is always first. Yes. Yes, indeed. But,
Pierre, 'twas nigh no master at all you came home to. He's been at
death's door for weeks. Even yet----"

Then Angelique turned and saw Margot, whose presence she had not
before observed. But she rallied instantly, turning her sentence into
a brisk command:

"Even yet, the churnin' not done and it goin' on to measure nine
o'clock. Get to the dasher, lad, and tie this big apron round your
neck. Then change that dirty shirt. That a child of mine should wear
such filthy things. Pouf! you were always the torment; that is so."

"Just the same, Angelique, dear, your eyes are shining like stars, and
you are happier than you have been a single minute since that bad boy
of yours paddled away in the night. If he's to churn I'm to sit beside
him and hear all his long story first. Come on, Pierre! Oh! how good
it is to have you back!"

It was, also, most delightful to the mother, even though her happiness
expressed itself in a peculiar way, by grumbling and scolding as she
had not done once since real trouble fell upon that home, with the
illness of its master.

The churn stood outside the kitchen door, for Angelique would allow no
chance of spilled cream on her scoured boards; so Margot settled
herself on the door-step and listened while the wanderer gave her a
long and detailed account of his journey. Meanwhile, and at every few
minutes, his mother would step to his side, take the dasher from his
hand and force a bit of food within it. He devoured this greedily,
though he made no comment, and resumed his churning as soon as the
tid-bit was consumed. Through all, Angelique's face was beaming and
her lips fretting, till Margot laughed aloud.

"Oh! Angelique Ricord! Of all the odd people you are the oddest!"

"So? Well, then. How many odd people have you seen, my child that you
should be so fine a judge? So that evil-come departed to his own, he
did? May his shadow never darken this door again! 'Twas all along of
him the trouble came."

"No, Angelique, you forget. It must have been the broken glass! How
could it possibly have been anything else? Never mind, sweetheart;
when I come home from my long journey I will bring you a new one, big
and clear, and that has the power to make even plain folks look
lovely. If my uncle will let me. Dear, but I do wish you had a bit,
this minute, to see how silly you look with that big bonnet on!"

Angelique's hand flew to her head in comic dismay. She had carefully
removed and refolded the beautiful shawl, but had quite forgotten her
other adornment, which she now tore off in a haste that threatened
damage to the precious possession.

"Pierre, bid her be careful. That is your wife's bonnet!"

Even the housekeeper had to smile at this and listen patiently while
Margot made much of the incident. Indeed, she would have willingly
been laughed at indefinitely, if thus she could herself hear these
young voices gay with the old-time unconcern.

"And Adrian was good to the poor, wild things. Well, I have hopes of
Adrian. He didn't have the right sort of rearing to know how the
forest people feel, but he learned fast. I'm thankful, thankful,
Pierre Ricord, that you had to lose those fine antlers. If you'd sold
them and made a lot of money by it, you would have forgotten that the
moose could suffer and have killed many more. As it is, better one
should die than many. And Pierre, I'm going away myself. Now that
you've come home, I'm going at once. Old Joseph and I. Clear to that
far away New York where Adrian has gone, and to many other places,
too."

Pierre dropped the dasher with such force that the "half-brought"
butter, which Angelique was opening the churn to "scrape down
together," splashed out over the step, Margot's lap, and the ground.

Angelique was too indignant to speak, but Margot cried:

"Oh! Pierre! How careless and wasteful. We've none too much butter,
anyway."

The lad still stared, open-mouthed. After a minute he asked:

"What's that you said? About that New York?"

"I'm going to New York. I'm going in my uncle's place, to attend to my
uncle's business. Old Joe is to go with me to take care of me--or I of
him--and you are to stay here with the master and your mother. You may
bring King Madoc over if you wish; and, by the way, how did you get
here, if you have lost your own canoe?"

"Helped myself to one of Joe's. Helped myself to a breakfast, too.
Joe's stocked up for winter, already. But, I say, Margot. He's no use
in a big city. Better take me. I was goin' anyway, only after
that--well, that grave, I made up my mind I'd just step back here a
spell and take a fresh start. I'm ready, any minute, and Joe hates it.
Hey?"

"I wouldn't trust myself with you a dozen miles. You're too foolish
and fickle. Joe is steady and faithful. It's settled. I think,
Angelique, that we can start to-morrow. Don't you?"

Angelique sighed. All her happiness was once more overclouded. Why
couldn't well enough be let alone? However, she answered nothing. She
had sometimes ventured to grumble even at the master but she had never
questioned his decisions. If it was by his will that her inexperienced
darling was to face the dangers of an unknown world, with nobody but a
glum old Indian to serve her, of course, there was nothing for it but
submission.

At daybreak the next morning, Margot stood beside her uncle's bed,
clasping his thin hands in parting. His eyes were sad and anxious, but
hers were bright and full of confidence. He had given his last advice;
she had ample money for all possible needs, with directions upon whom
to call for more, should anything arise for which they had not
prepared, and she had, also, her route marked out on paper, with
innumerable suggestions about this or that stop; and now, there was
nothing more to do or say but add his blessing and farewell.

[Illustration: HIS BIRCH CANOE PULLED STEADILY AWAY]

"Good-bye, Margot. Into God's hands I give you."

"The same Hands, uncle, which have cared for me always. I shall come
back and bring our loved one with me. Get well fast, to make him happy
when he comes."

A hasty kiss to Angelique who was sobbing herself ill, a clasp of
Pierre's hand, and she was gone. Joe's birch was pulling steadily away
from the Island of Peace into that outside world of strife and
contention, of which the young voyager was so wholly ignorant.

Her eyes were wet and her heart ached, with that same sort of physical
distress which had assailed her when Adrian went away, but now much
sharper. Yet her lips still smiled and Joseph, furtively regarding
her, was satisfied. She would give him no trouble.

A few miles' journey and she had entered what seemed like fairyland.
She had then no time for looking back or remembering. The towns were
wonderful, and the first time that she saw a young girl of her own age
she stared until the stranger made a grimace toward her. This
perplexed and annoyed her, but taught her a lesson: she stared no
more.

Yet she saw everything; and in that little book her uncle had provided
for this object made notes of her impressions, to be discussed with
him upon her return. Her first ride behind horses made her laugh
aloud. They were so beautiful and graceful and their strength so
appealed to her animal-loving heart. The ricketty buck-board, which
was their first vehicle, seemed luxurious, though after a few miles'
jogging over a corduroy-road she confided to Joseph that she preferred
a canoe.

"Umm. No shakeum up."

A stage drawn by four steeds, rather the worse for wear, yet with
the accompaniment of fellow-travelers and a musical horn, brought
memories of Cinderella and other childish heroines, and made the old
tales real; but when they reached the railway and stepped into a car
her interest grew painfully intense. When the conductor paused to
take their tickets, obligingly procured for this odd pair by the
stage-driver, Margot immediately requested to be put upon the engine.

"The engine! Well, upon my word!"

"Yes, I've never seen one, except the one in front of this car-train.
I know how they operate but I would so dearly like to see them working
close at hand. Can't I?"

The brass-buttoned official made no reply, save to purse his lips and
utter another low whistle; but he gave Margot and Joe a critical
survey and reflected that of all the passengers he had ever carried
these were the most unique. There was something in the girl's
intelligent face that was hard to deny, and for all his silence,
perhaps because of it, a certain dignity about the Indian that won
favor even for him.

It was a way-train on a branch road; one of the connecting links
between the wilderness and the land of the "through express" else it
might not have happened that, after so long a time had elapsed that
Margot felt her request was indeed refused, the conductor returned and
whispered in her ear. It was a concession, not to be made general; but
she was informed:

"I've spoken to the engineer and he says he doesn't mind. Not if
you'll ask no questions and won't bother."

"I'll not. And I thank you very much."

"Hmm. She may be a backwoods girl but she can give a lesson in manners
to many a city miss," thought the obliging guide, as he led Margot
forward through the few cars toward the front; and, at the next stop,
helped her to the ground and up again into the little shut-in space
beside the grimy driver of this wonderful iron horse.

Margot never forgot that ride; nor the man at the lever his unknown
passenger. She had left her obnoxious bonnet upon the seat beside old
Joseph and her hair had broken from its unaccustomed braid to its
habitual freedom, so that it enveloped her and streamed behind her
like a cloud. Her trim short skirt, her heelless shoes, her absence
of "flummery" aroused the engineer's admiration and he volunteered,
what he had previously declined to give, all possible information
concerning his beloved locomotive. He even allowed her, for one brief
moment to put her own hand on the lever and feel the thrill of that
resistless plunging forward into space.

It was only when they stopped again and she knew she ought to go back
to Joe that she ventured to speak.

"I never enjoyed anything so much in my life, nor learned so much in
so short a time. I wish--I wish--have you a sister, or a little girl?
Or anybody you love very much?"

"Why, yes. I've got the nicest little girl in the United States. She's
three years old and as cute as they make 'em."

"You've given me pleasure, I'd like to give her as much. May she have
this from me, to get--whatever a town child would like?"

"Sure, miss, it's too much; but----"

Margot was gone, and on the engineer's palm shone a bright gold coin.
All Mr. Dutton's money was in specie and he had given Margot a liberal
amount of "spending money" for her trip. Money being a thing she knew
as little about as she did traveling he had determined to let her
learn its value by experience; yet even he might have been a trifle
shocked by the liberality of this, her first "tip." However, she saw
only the gratitude that leaped into the trainman's eyes and was glad
that she had had the piece handy in her pocket.

Yet, delightful as the novelty of their long journey was, Margot found
it wearisome; and the nearer she reached its end the more a new and
uncomfortable anxiety beset her. Joseph said nothing. He had never
complained nor admired, and as far as sociability was concerned he
might have been one of those other, wooden Indians which began to
appear on the streets of the towns, before shops where tobacco
was sold. She looked at Joe, sometimes, wondering if he saw these
effigies of his race and what were his opinions on the matter. But
his face remained stolid and she decided that he was indifferent to
all such slight affairs.

It was when they first stepped out of their train into the great
station at New York, that the full realization of her undertaking came
to her. Even Joseph's face now showed some emotion, of dismay and
bewilderment, and her own courage died in that babel of noises and the
crowding rush of people, everywhere.

"Why, what has happened? Surely, there must have been some fearful
accident, or they would not all hurry so."

Then she saw among the crowd, men in a uniform she recognized, from
the description her uncle had once given her, and remembered that he
had then told her if ever she were in a strange place and needed help
it was to such officers she should apply. When this advice had been
given, a year before, neither had imagined it would so soon be
useful. But it was with infinite relief that she now clutched Joseph's
hand and impelled him to go with her. Gaining the side of an officer,
she caught his arm and demanded:

"What is the matter? Where are all the people hurrying to?"

"Why--nowhere, in special. Why?"

The policeman had, also, been hastening forward as if his life
depended upon his reaching a certain spot at a certain time, but now
he slackened his speed and walked quietly along beside this odd girl,
at the same moment keeping his eye upon a distant group of gamins bent
on mischief. It had been toward them he had made such speed, but a
brother officer appearing near them he turned his attention upon
Margot and her escort.

"Oh! I thought there was something wrong. Is it always such a racketty
place? This New York?"

"Always. Why, 'tis quiet here to-day, compared to some."

"Are you an officer of the law? Is it your business to take care of
strangers?"

"Why, yes. I suppose so."

"Can I trust you? Somebody must direct me. I was to take a cab and
go--to this address. But I don't know what a cab is from any other
sort of wagon. Will you help me?"

"Certainly. Give me the card."

Margot handed him the paper with the address of the old friend with
whom her uncle wished her to stop while she was in the city; but the
moment the policeman looked at it his face fell.

"Why, there isn't any such place, now. All them houses has been torn
down to put up a sky-scraper. They were torn down six months ago."

"Why, how can that be? This lady has lived in that house all her life,
my uncle said. She is a widow, very gentle and refined: she was quite
poor; though once she had plenty of money. She took boarders, to keep
a roof over her head; and it isn't at all likely that she would tear
it down and so destroy her only income. You must be mistaken. Won't
you ask somebody else, who knows more about the city, please?"

The officer bridled, and puffed out his mighty chest. Was not he "one
of the finest"? as the picked policemen are termed. If he didn't know
the streets of the metropolis, who did?

Margot saw that she had made a serious mistake. Her head turned giddy,
the crowd seemed to surge and close about her, and with a sense of
utter failure and homesickness she fainted away.



CHAPTER XXI

IN THE GREAT RAILWAY STATION


"There, dear, you are better. Drink this."

Margot opened her eyes in the big waiting-room for women at the great
station. A kind-faced woman in a white cap and apron was bending over
her and holding a cup of bouillon to her lips, which obediently opened
and received the draught with grateful refreshment.

"Thank you. That is good. Where am I? Who are you?"

The attendant explained: and added, with intent to comfort:

"You are all right. You will be cared for. It was the long going
without food and the sudden confusion of arrival. The Indian says you
have not eaten in a long time. He is here, I could not keep him out.
Is--is he safe?"

The hot, strong soup, and the comforting presence restored the girl so
far that she could laugh.

"Joe safe? Our own dear old Joseph Wills? Why, madam, he is the very
best guide in all the state of Maine. Aren't you, Joe? And my uncle's
most trusted friend. Else he would not be here with me. What happened
to me that things got so queer?"

"You fainted. That's all."

"I? Why, I never did such a thing in my life before."

Joe drew near. His face seemed still impassive but there was a look of
profound concern in his small, black eyes.

"Wouldn' eat. Get sick. Joe said. Joe hungry, too."

Margot sat up, instantly, smitten with remorse. If this uncomplaining
friend admitted hunger she must have been remiss, indeed.

"Oh, dear madam! Please get him something to eat, or show him where to
get it for himself. This last part of the road, or journey, was so
long. The train didn't stop anywhere, hardly, and I saw none of the
eating places I had seen on the other trains. We were late, too, in
starting, and had no breakfast. My own head whirls yet, and poor Joe
must be famished. I have money, plenty, to pay for everything."

The station matron called an attendant and put Joe in his charge. She,
also, ordered a tray of food brought from the restaurant and made
Margot eat. Indeed, she was now quite ready to do this and heartily;
and her appetite appeased, she told the motherly woman as much of her
story as was necessary; asking her advice about a stopping place, and
if she, too, thought it true that the widow's house had been
demolished.

"Oh, yes, miss. I know that myself, for I live not so far from that
street. It is, or was, an old-fashioned one, and full of big houses
that had once been grand but had run down. The property was valuable,
though, and no doubt the widow bettered herself by selling. More
than that, if she is still in the city, her name should be in the
directory. I'll look it up and if I find it, telephone her. After we
do that will be time enough to look for some other place, if she is
not to be found."

Margot did not understand all this, and wondered what this quiet,
orderly person had to do with the starting of trains, which she could
hear continually moving out and in the monster building, even though
she could not see them from this inner room. But this wonder was soon
lost in a fresh surprise as, having consulted a big book which was
chained to a desk in one corner, the matron came forward, smiling.

"I've found the name, miss. Spelled just as you gave it to me. The
number is away up town, in Harlem. But I'll ring her up and see."

Again the matron crossed the room, toward a queer looking arrangement
on the wall; but, a new train arriving, the room so filled with women
and children that she had no more leisure to attend to Margot.
However, she managed to tell her:

"Don't worry. I'll be free soon again, for a minute. And I'll tell
that Indian to sit just outside the door, if you wish. You can sit
there with him, too, if it makes you feel more at home. You're all
right now, and will not faint again."

"No, indeed. I never did before nor shall again, I hope."

Yet Margot was very thankful when she and Joe were once more side by
side, and now amused herself in studying the crowds about her.

"Oh! Joe, there are more 'types' here in a minute than one could see
at home in years. Look. That's a Swede. I know by the shape of his
face, and his coloring. Though I never saw a live Swede before."

"Wonder if she ever saw a dead one!" said a voice in passing, and
Margot knew she had been ridiculed, yet not why. Then, too, she saw
that many glances were turned upon the bench where she and Joe sat,
apart from the crowd and, for almost the first time, became conscious
that in some way she looked not as other people. However, she was
neither over-sensitive nor given to self-contemplation and she had
perfect faith in her uncle's judgment. He had lived in this great
city, he knew what was correct. He had told her to ask the widow to
supply her with anything that was needed. She had nothing to do now
but wait till the widow was found, and then she could go on about the
more important business which had brought her hither.

As she remembered that business, her impatience rose. She was now, she
must be, not only within a few miles of her unknown father, but of the
man who had wronged him, whom she was to compel to right that wrong.
She sprang to her feet. The crowd that had filled the waiting-room was
again thinning, for a time, and the matron should be free. Would she
never come?

"Then I'll go to her! Stay right here, Joe. Don't leave this place a
minute now till I get back. Then we'll not lose each other. I'll come
for you as soon as I can."

Joe grunted his assent and closed his eyes. He, too, was conscious of
staring eyes and indignant at them. Had nobody ever seen an Indian
before? Were not these clothes that he was wearing the Master's gift
and of the same sort all these other men wore? Let them gaze, if that
suited the simple creatures. As for him he was comfortable. The bench
was no harder than the ground. Not much harder. He would sleep. He
did.

But Margot found the matron doing a strange thing. She had a long pipe
running from a box on the wall, and sometimes she was calling into it,
or a hole beside it, in the most absurd way: "Hello! Hello, Central!"
or else she was holding the tube to her ear and listening.

"What is it? What are you doing?"

"The telephone. I'm ringing up your friend. I'll tell you what I hear,
soon."

Even the matron rather objected to having this oddly-dressed,
inquisitive girl continually at hand, asking questions. She was busy
and tired, and Margot understood that she was dismissed to her bench
and Joe.

There she settled herself to think. It was time she did. If this
friendly widow, whom her family had always known, could not be found,
where should she go? To some hotel she supposed, and wondered which
and where.

She was still deep in her musings when the matron touched her arm.

"I got an answer. The number is all right. It is the lady's home when
she is in town, but she has been in the country all summer. The
boarding-house--it's that--is closed except for the janitor, and he
doesn't know where she has gone. That's all."

It might be "all," but it made the woodlander's heart sink. Then she
looked up and saw a vaguely familiar profile, yet she knew nobody, had
seen nobody at home, and not even on her journey, whom she could
remember to have been just like this.

It was the face of a young man, who was dressed like all these other
city men about her, though with a something different and finer in the
fit and finish of the light gray suit he wore. A slight moustache
darkened his upper lip, and he fingered this lovingly, as one might a
new possession. A gray haired lady leaned lightly on his arm and he
carried her wraps upon his other. Suddenly she spoke to him, as they
moved outward toward a suburban train, and he smiled down upon her. It
was the smile that revealed him--Adrian.

"Why, how could I fail to know him! Adrian--then all is right!"

She forgot Joe and all else save that retreating figure which she must
overtake, and dashed across the room regardless of the people who
hindered her progress, and among whom she darted with lightning-like
speed.

"Adrian! Adrian! ADRIAN!"

Their train was late, the lady had been helped to the last platform,
and the young man sprang after her just as it was moving out. He heard
his own name and turned, wondering and startled, to see a light-haired
girl fiercely protesting against a blue-coated official, who firmly
barred her passage beyond the stile into the dangerous region of a
hundred moving cars.

"Your ticket, miss! Your train--which is it?"

"Ticket! It's Adrian I want. Adrian, who has just gone on that
car--oh, so fast, so fast! Adrian!"

"Too bad, miss, and too late. Sorry. The next train out will not be
many minutes. Likely your friends will wait for you at your station.
Which is it?"

"My friends? Oh! I don't know. I guess--I guess I haven't any."

She turned away slowly, her heart too heavy for further speech, even
had there been any speech possible; and there was Joe, the faithful
and silent, laying his hand on her shoulder and guiding her back to
their own bench.

"One girl runs away, get lost. Joe go home no more."

"Poor Joe, dear Joe. I had no idea of running away. But I saw
somebody, that boy who was at the island this summer, and I tried to
make him see me. Too late, as the man said. He has gone, and now we,
too, must go somewhere. I'll ask that nice woman. She'll tell us, I
think," and she again sought the matron.

"Yes. I do know a good place for you, if--they'll take you in. Meaning
no harm miss, but you see, you aren't fixed just the same, and the
Indian----"

"Is it a question of clothes? It's not the clothing makes the
character, my uncle says."

"No, miss, I suppose not. All the same they go a mighty long way
toward making friends, leastways in this big city. And Indians----"

"Joe Wills is just as noble and as honest as any white man ever
lived!"

"Maybe so. Indeed, I'm not denying it, but Indians are Indians, and
some landladies might think of tomahawks."

Margot's laugh rang out and the other smiled in sympathy.

"Joe, Joe! Would you scalp anybody?"

Then, indeed, was the red man's impassivity broken by a grin, which
happily relieved the situation, fast becoming tragic.

"Well, I'm not wise in city ways but I know that I can find a safe
shelter somewhere. I'm going to ask that policeman, yonder, to find us
a place."

"That's sensible, and I'll talk with him myself. If he isn't on duty
likely he'll take you to my friend's himself. By the way, who was that
you ran after and called to so loud? You shouldn't do that in a big,
strange station, you know."

"I suppose not; yet I needed him so, and it was Adrian, who's been at
my own home all summer. If he'd heard, or seen me, he would have taken
all the care, because this is where he's always lived. The same
familiar spot that--that dear Peace Island is to Joe and me," she
said, with a catch in her voice and laying her hand affectionately
upon his sleeve.

"Adrian? A Mr. Adrian?"

"Why, no. He is a Wadislaw. His father's name is Malachi Wadislaw, and
my business here is with him."

"Wadislaw, the banker? Why then, of course, it's all right. Officer,
please call a cab and take them to Number -- West Twenty-fifth Street.
That's my friend's; and say I sent them."



CHAPTER XXII

NUMBER 526


"Mother, that was Margot!"

Mrs. Wadislaw heard but did not comprehend what Adrian was saying. She
was flushed and panting from her rush after the retreating train and
her nerves were excited.

"I'll never, never--run--for any car--in this world, again!" she
gasped. "It's dangerous, and--so--so uncomfortable. My heart----"

"Poor mother! I'm sorry. I'll get you some water."

The young fellow was excited himself but on quite a different matter;
yet he knew that nothing could be done for the present and that the
disturbed lady would take no interest in anything until her own
agitation was calmed.

"No, no. Don't you leave me. Touch the button. Let the porter
attend--I--I am so shaken. I'll never, never do it again."

He obeyed her and sat down in the easy-chair beside her. She had been
compelled to run else they had been left behind, and she had been
hurried from the platform of that last car through the long train to
their own reserved seats in the drawing-room car.

"It was foolish; doubly so, because trains are so frequent. There was
no need for haste, anyway, was there?"

"Only this need: that when anybody accepts a dinner invitation one
should never keep a hostess waiting."

"But when the hostess is only your own sister, and daughter?"

"One should be most punctilious in one's own family. Oh, yes. It is no
laughing matter, my son, and since you have come home and regained
your common sense, you must regard all these seeming trifles. Half the
disagreements and discomforts of life are due to the fact that even
well-bred people treat their own households with a rudeness they
would not dare show strangers. Now that you have given up your
careless habits I shall take care to remind you of all these details,
and expect to see you a finished society man within a twelvemonth."

"No, indeed!"

"Adrian! How can you trifle so? Now when you've so lately been
restored to me?"

"Dearest mother, I am not trifling. I should be, though, if I meant to
shine nowhere else than at a fashionable dinner-table. There, don't
look worried. I'll try not to disgrace you, yet---- Well, I've learned
a higher view of life than that. But can you hear me now? That was
Margot--woodland Margot--who saved my life!"

"Nonsense. It couldn't be."

"It surely was; and I'm going to ask you to excuse me from this one
visit so that I can go back and find her."

"Find her? If it were she, and I'm positive you are mistaken, of
course she is not in the city alone. Her uncle must be with her, and
your sister will be deeply hurt if you fail her this first time. At a
dinner, you know, there are a certain and limited number of guests.
The failure of one leaves his or her partner in an awkward position.
You must keep your engagement, even if---- But, Adrian?"

"Yes, mother."

"You must not exaggerate your obligations to those people. They did
for you only what anybody would do for a man lost in the woods. By
their own admission you were worth a great deal to that farmer. Else
he never would have parted with eighty dollars, as he did. I shall
always prize the gold piece you brought me; indeed, I mean to have
it set in a pin and wear it. But this Maine farmer, or lumberman,
or whatever he is, just drop him out of mind. His very name is
objectionable to me, and you must never mention it before your father.
Years ago there was a--well, something unpleasant with some people;
and, please oblige me by--by not being disagreeable now. After all my
anxiety while you were gone and about your father's health, I think--I
really----"

Adrian slipped his arm across the back of the lady's chair and smiled
upon her, lovingly. He was trying his utmost to make up to her and all
his family for whatever they had suffered because of his former
"misdeeds." He had come home full of high resolves and had had his
sincerity immediately tested by his father's demanding that:

"If you are in earnest, if you intend to do a son's part by us, go
back into the bank and learn a good business. This 'art' you talk
about, what is it? But the shifty resource of a lot of idle fellows.
Get down to business. Dollars are what count, in this world. Put
yourself in a place where you can make them, and while I am alive to
aid you."

Adrian's whole nature rebelled against this command, yet he had obeyed
it. And he had inwardly resolved that, outside the duties of his
clerkship, his time was his own and should be devoted to his beloved
painting.

"After all, some of the world's finest pictures have been done by
those whose leisure was scant. If it's in me it will have to come out.
Some time, in some way, I'll live my own life in spite of all."

It had hurt him, too, a little that his people so discouraged all
history of his wanderings.

All of his sisters were married and well-connected, and one of them
voiced the opinion of all, when she said:

"Your running away, or your behaving so that you had to be sent away,
is quite disgrace enough. That you are back safe, and sensible, is all
any of us care to know."

But because he was forbidden to talk of his forest experiences he
dwelt upon them all the more in his own mind; and this afternoon's
glimpse of Margot's sunny head had awakened all his former interest.
Why was she in New York? Was the "master" with her? He, of whom
his own mother spoke in such ignorant contempt, as a "farmer," a
"lumberman," yet who was the most finished scholar and gentleman that
Adrian had ever met.

"Well, I can't get home till after that wretched dinner, and I should
have to wait for the next train, anyway, even if the 'mater' would let
me off. I've promised myself to make her happy, dear little woman, if
I can, and sulking over my own disappointments isn't the way to do
that," he reflected. So he roused himself to talk of other matters,
and naturally of the sister at whose home they were to dine.

"I don't see what made Kate ever marry a warden of state's prison. I
should think life in such a place would be hateful."

"That shows how little you know about it, and what a revelation this
visit will be to you. Why, my dear, she has a beautiful home, with
horses and carriages at her disposal; her apartments are finely
furnished and she has one comfort that I have not, or few
housekeepers in fact."

"What is that?"

"As many servants as she requires, and at no expense to herself.
Servants who are absolutely obedient, thoroughly trained, and never
'giving notice.'"

"I do not understand."

"They are the convicts. Why, they even have an orchestra to play at
their entertainments, also of convicts; the musical ones to whom the
playing is a great reward and treat. I believe they are to play
to-night."

"Horror! I hope not. I don't want to be served by any poor fellow out
of a cell."

"You'll not think about that. Not after a little. I don't at all, now,
though I used to, sometimes, when they were first in office. It's odd
that though they've lived at Sing Sing for two years you've not been
there yet."

"Not so odd, little mother. Kate and I never get along together very
well. She's too dictatorial. Besides, she was always coming home and
I saw her there. I had no hankering after a prison, myself. And
speaking of disgrace, I feel that her living in such a place is worse
than anything I ever did."

"Adrian, for a boy who has ordinary intelligence you do say the
strangest things. The office of warden is an honorable one and well
paid."

The lad smiled and his mother hastily added:

"Besides, it gives an opportunity for befriending the unhappy
prisoners. Why, there is a man----"

She hesitated, looked fixedly at her son as if considering her next
words, then concluded, rather lamely:

"But you'll see."

She opened her novel and began to read and Adrian also busied himself
with the evening paper; and presently the station was reached and they
left the train.

A carriage was in waiting for them, driven by men in livery, and
altogether quite smart enough to warrant his mother's satisfaction as
they stepped into it and were whirled away to the prison.

But as he had been forewarned, there was no suggestion of anything
repulsive in the charming apartments they entered, and his sister's
greeting was sufficiently affectionate to make him feel that he had
misjudged her in the past.

All the guests were in dinner dress and Adrian was appointed to take
in his own mother, Kate having decided that this would be a happy
surprise to both parties. They had been the last to arrive and as soon
as greetings were over the meal was immediately served; but on their
way toward the dining-room, Mrs. Wadislaw pressed her son's arm and
nodded significantly toward the leader of the palm-hidden orchestra.

"Take a look at that man."

"Yes. Who is he?"

"A convict, life sentence. Number 526. He plays divinely, violin.
But----"

Again she hesitated and looked sharply into Adrian's face. Should she,
or should she not, tell him the rest? Yes. She must; it would be the
surest, shortest way of curing his infatuation for those wood people.
Her boy had spoken of this Margot as a child, yet with profound love
and admiration. It would be as well to nip any nonsense of that sort
in the bud. There was only a moment left, they were already taking
their places at the elegantly appointed table, and she whispered the
rest:

"He is in for robbery and manslaughter,--your own father the victim.
His name is Philip Romeyn, and your woodland nonpareil is his
daughter."



CHAPTER XXIII

FATHER AND SON


"Mother!"

Adrian's cry was a gasp. He could not believe that he had heard
aright; but he felt himself pulled down into his chair and realized
that though his spiritual world had been turned upside down, as it
were, this extraordinary dinner must go on. There was only one fact
for which to rejoice, a trivial one: he had been placed so that he
could look directly into that palm-decked alcove and upon this
convict, Number 526.

Convict! Impossible. The fine head was not debased by the
close-cropped hair, and held itself erect as one upon which no shadow
of guilt or disgrace had ever rested. The face was noble, despite its
lines and the prison pallor; and though hard labor had bowed the once
stalwart shoulders, they neither slouched nor shrunk together as did
those of the other poor men in that group.

"Adrian! Remember where you are."

Even the bouillon choked him and the fish was as ashes in his mouth.
Courses came on and were removed, and he tasted each mechanically,
prodded to this duty by his mother's active elbow. Her tact and
volubility covered his silence, though there was nobody at that table,
save herself, who did not mentally set the lad down as an ignorant,
ill-bred person, oddly unlike the others of his family. Handsome? Oh!
yes. His appearance was quite correct and even noticeable, but if a
man were too stupid to open his mouth, save to put food into it, his
place at a social function were better filled by a plainer and more
agreeable person.

But all things end, as even that intolerable dinner finally did, and
Adrian was free to rise and in some quieter place try to rearrange
his disordered ideas. But he noticed that Kate signaled her mother
to lead the guests from the room while she, herself, remained to
exchange a few words with her chief musician. Adrian, also, lingered,
unreproved, with an intensity of interest which fully redeemed his
face from that dulness which his sister had previously assigned to it.
She even smiled upon him, reassuringly:

"You'll get used to society after a bit, brother. You've avoided it so
much and lived so among those artists that you're somewhat awkward
yet. But you'll do in time, you'll do very well. I mean to make it a
point that you shall attend all my little functions."

But Adrian resolved that he would never grace, or disgrace, another in
this place, though he answered nothing. Then the lady turned to Number
526, and the boy's eyes fixed themselves upon that worn face, seeking
resemblances, trying to comprehend that this unhappy fellow was the
father of his sunny Margot.

Kate was speaking now with an accent intended to be kind, even
commendatory, but her brother's ear detected, also, its tone of
condescension. Did the convict notice it, as well? If so, his face
showed no sign.

"You did well, my man, very well. I think that there might be a bit
more time allowed for practice, and will speak to the warden about it.
But you, personally, have a remarkable gift. I hope you will profit by
it to your soul's good. I shall want you and your men again for a time
this evening. I have the warden's consent in the matter. A few arias
and dreamy waltzes, perhaps that sonata which you and 1001 played the
other day at my reception. Just your violin and the piano. You will
undertake it? The instruments shall be screened, of course."

Adrian was leaning forward, his hands clenched, his lips parted. His
gaze became more and more intense. Suddenly the convict raised his own
eyes and met the youth's squarely, unflinchingly. They were blue eyes,
pain-dimmed, but courageous. Margot's eyes, in very shape and color,
as hers might be when life had brought her sorrow. For a half-minute
the pair regarded one another, moved by an influence the elder man
could not understand; then Adrian's hand went out invitingly, while he
said:

"Allow me to thank you for your music. I've never heard a violin speak
as yours does."

The convict hesitated, glanced at the warden's lady, and replied:

"Probably because no other violin has been to any other man what this
has been to me."

But he did not take the proffered hand and, with a bow that would have
graced a drawing-room rather than a cell, clasped his instrument
closely and quietly moved away.

Kate was inured to prison sights, yet even she was touched by this
little by-play, though she reproved her too warm-hearted brother.

"Your generosity does you credit, dear, but we never shake the hand
of a prisoner, except when he is leaving. Not always then."

"Kate, wait a minute. Tell me all about that man. I thought the
prisoners were kept under lock and key. I thought---- Oh! it's so
awful, so incredible."

"Why, Adrian! How foolish. Your artistic temperament, I suppose, and
you cannot help it. No. They are by no means always kept so close.
This one is a 'trusty.' So were all the orchestra. So are all whom
you see about the house or grounds. This man is the model for the
whole prison. He is worth more, in keeping order, than a hundred
keepers. His influence is something wonderful, and his life is a
living sermon. His repentance is unmistakably sincere, and his
conduct will materially shorten his term, yet it will be a dark day
for the institution when he leaves it. I cannot help but like him and
trust him; and yet---- Dear, dear! I must not loiter here. I must get
back to my guests."

"Wait, wait. There's something I want to ask you. To tell you, too. Do
you know who that man is?"

Kate shivered.

"Do I not? Oh! Adrian, though I have brought myself to look upon him
so indulgently now, it was not so at first. Then I hated the sight of
his face, and could scarcely breathe in the room where he was. He is
under life-sentence for manslaughter and--I wonder if I ought to tell
you! But I must. The situation is so dramatic, so unprecedented. The
man whom Number 526 tried to kill, and whom he robbed of many
thousands, was--our own father!"

He was not even surprised and her astonishing statement fell
pointless, except that he shivered a little, as she had done, and
withdrew his hand from her arm, where it had arrested her departure.

"I have heard that already. Mother told me. But I don't believe it.
That man never, never attempted or committed a crime. If he were
guilty could he lift his eyes to mine so steadfastly, I, the son of my
father? There is some horrible, horrible mistake. I don't know what,
nor how, but there is. And I will find it out, will set it right. I
must. I shall never know another moment's peace until I do. Those eyes
of his! Why, sister, do you know that it was little Margot, that man's
daughter, who saved me from starvation in the forest? Yes, saved my
life; and whose influence has turned me from an idle, careless lad
into--a man."

If any of those critical guests could have seen his face at that
moment they would not have called him stupid; and his excitement
communicated itself so strongly to his sister, that she passed her
hands across her brow as if to clear her startled thoughts.

"Impossible. Fifteen years has Number 526 lived a prison life, and if
there had been any mistake, it would, it must, have been found out
long ago. Why, the man had friends, rich ones, who spent great sums to
prove his innocence and failed. The evidence was too strong. If he
had had his way we two would have long been fatherless."

Kate turned to leave the room but Adrian did not follow her. The place
had become intolerable to him, yet he blessed the chance which had
brought him there to see this unhappy fellow-man and to learn this
amazing story. Now he could not wait to put distance between himself
and the hateful spot, and to begin the unraveling of what he knew,
despite all proof, was somebody's terrible blunder.

As cautiously as any convict of them all, escaping from his fetters,
the lad made his way into the street and thence with all speed to the
station. He had picked up a hat somewhere, but was still in full
dress, and more than one glance fell with suspicion upon his heated
countenance and disordered appearance. However, he was too deep in his
own thoughts to observe this, and as the train rushed cityward he grew
more calm and better able to formulate a plan of action.

"I begin to understand. This yearly visit of the 'master' has been to
Number 526. They were close friends, and brothers by marriage. This
year he has brought Margot with him. Will he, I wonder, will he let
her see this convict in stripes? No marvel that my question as to her
father's burial place was an unanswerable one. Mother desired me not
to mention the names of my forest friends before my father, but in
this I must disobey her. I dare not do otherwise. I must get the
whole, complete, detailed history of this awful affair, and there is
nobody who could so well remember it as its victim. But I believe
there were two victims, and one is suffering still. I only hope that
father's head will not be troubling him. I can't think of him without
these queer 'spells' yet he has always been capable of transacting
business, and I must get him to talk, even if it does confuse him. Oh!
hum! Will we never reach the city! And where is Margot now? If I knew
I should hurry to see her first; but--what a welcome her uncle would
give me if I succeeded in clearing her father's name. No wonder he
disliked me--rather I am astonished that he let me stay at all,
knowing my name, even if not my parentage. After that, of course, I
had to go. Yet he was kind and just to the last, despite his personal
feeling, and this poor Number 526 looks just as noble."

The house on Madison Avenue was dark when Adrian reached it, but he
knew that his father's private room was at the rear of the building
and, admitting himself with his latch-key, went directly there.

The banker sat in an attitude familiar to all his family, with his
hands locked together, his head bent, and his gaze fixed upon vacancy.
He might have been asleep for all appearances, but when Adrian entered
and bade "Good-evening, father," he responded promptly enough.

"Good-evening, Adrian. Has your mother come home?"

"No, father. I left--well, I left rather suddenly. In any case, you
know, she was to stop for the night with Kate. But I came, right after
dinner, because I want to have a talk with you. Are you equal to it,
to-night, sir?"

The banker flashed a suspicious glance upward, then relapsed into his
former pose. Memories of previous disagreeable "talks" with this, his
only son, arose, but Adrian anticipated his remark.

"Nothing wrong with me, this time, father, I hope. I am trying to
learn the business and to like it. I----"

"Have you any money, Adrian?"

"A little. What is left of my salary; more than I should have if
mother hadn't fitted my wardrobe out so well. A clerk even in your
bank doesn't earn a princely sum, you remember; not at first."

It was a well-known fact, upon the "street," that the employees of
"Wadislaw's" received almost niggardly payment. Wadislaw, himself had
the reputation of penuriousness, and that his family had lived in the
style they had was because Mrs. Wadislaw's personal income paid
expenses.

"Put it away. Put it away where nobody can find it. There are more
robbers than honest men in the country. Once I was robbed, myself. Of
an enormous sum. I have never recovered from that set-back. We should
not have gotten on at all but for your mother. Your mother is a very
good woman, Adrian."

"Why, yes, father. Of course. The very best in the world, I believe.
She has only one fault, she will make me go into society, and I
dislike it. Otherwise, she's simply perfect."

"Yes, yes. But she watches me too closely, boy. Don't let your wife be
a spy upon you, lad."

"No, I won't," laughed he. "But speaking of robberies, I wish you
would tell me about that great one which happened to you. It was when
I was too young to know anything about it. I have a particular reason
for asking. If you are able, that is."

"Why shouldn't I be able? It is never out of my mind, night nor day.
There was always a mystery in it. Yet I would have trusted him as I
trusted myself. More than I would dare trust anybody now, even you, my
son."

The man was thoroughly aroused, at last. Adrian began to question if
he had done right in saying what would move him so, knowing that all
excitement was apt to be followed by a "spell," during which he acted
like a man in a dream, though never sleeping.

But he resumed the conversation, voluntarily, and Adrian listened
intently.

"He was a poor boy from a country farm. Your mother and the girls,
were boarding at his home. I went up for Sundays, for I liked his
horses. I never felt I could afford to own one---- Don't buy a horse,
Adrian!"

"No, father. Not yet. I'm rather more anxious to buy a certain moose I
know and present it to the city Zoo. King Madoc. You remember I told
you about the trained animal, who would swim and tow a boat, and could
be harnessed to draw a sleigh?"

"Umm. Indeed? Remarkable. Quite remarkable. But I wouldn't do it, boy.
The gift would not be appreciated. Nobody ever does appreciate
anything. It is a selfish world. A selfish world, and an ungrateful
one."

"Not wholly, father, I hope."

"We were talking. What about? I--my memory--so much care, and the
difficulty of keeping secrets. It's hard to keep everything to one's
self when a man grows old, Adrian."

"Yes, father dear. But I'm at home now to stay. You must trust me more
and rely upon me. Believe me, I will deserve your confidence. But it
was the boy from the farm you were telling me of, and the horses."

In all his life Adrian had never drawn so near his father's real self
as he was drawing then. He rejoiced in this fact as a part of the
reward of his more filial behavior. He meant wholly what he had just
promised, but he was still most anxious to hear this old story from
this participant's own lips, while they were together, undisturbed.

"Yes, yes. Well, I thought I could drive a pair of colts as well as
any jockey, though I knew no more about driving than any other city
business man. Of course, they ran away, and I should have been killed,
but that little shaver---- Why, Adrian, that little shaver just sprung
on the back of one, from where he'd been beside me in the wagon, and
he held and pulled and wouldn't let go till they'd quieted down, and
then he was thrown off and nearly trampled to death. I wasn't hurt a
bit, not a single bit. You'd think I'd befriend such a brave,
unselfish little chap as that, wouldn't you, lad?"

In the interest of his recital Mr. Wadislaw had risen and paced the
floor, but he now sat down again, flushed and a bit confused.

"What did you do for him, father?"

"Hmm. What? Oh! yes. Found out he wanted to come to New York and put
him to school. Made a man of him. Gave him a place in the bank.
Promoted him, promoted him, promoted him. Till he got almost as high
as I was myself. Trusted him with everything even more than myself for
he never forgot. It would have been better if he had."

A long silence that seemed intolerable to Adrian's impatience.

"Then, father, what next?"

"How curious you are! Well, what could be next? except that I went one
night--or day--I don't remember--he went---- The facts were all
against him. There was no hope for him from the beginning. If I had
died, he would have hanged, that boy--that little handsome shaver who
saved my life. But I didn't die, and he only tried to kill me. They
found him at the safe--we two, only, knew the lock--and the iron bar
in his hand. He protested, of course. They always do. His wife
came---- Oh! Adrian, I shall never forget her face. She was a
beautiful woman, with such curious, wonderful hair, and she had a
little baby in her arms, while she pleaded that I would not prosecute.
The baby laughed, but what could I do? The law must take its course.
The money was gone and my life almost. There was no hope for him from
the beginning, though he never owned his guilt. But I didn't die,
and--Adrian, why have you asked me all this to-night? I am so tired. I
often am so tired."

The lad rose and stood beside his father's chair, laying his arm
affectionately around the trembling shoulders, as any daughter might
have done, as none of this stern father's daughters dared to do.

"I have asked you, father, and pained you because it was right. I had
to ask. To-day I have seen this 'little shaver,' a convict in his
prison. I have looked into a face that is still noble and undaunted,
even after all these years of suffering and shame. I have heard of a
life that is as helpful behind prison bars as the most devoted
minister's outside them. And I know that he is innocent. He never
harmed you or meant to. I am as sure of this as that I stand here, and
it is my life's task to undo this wrong that has been done. You would
be glad to see him righted, would you not, father? After all this
weary time?"

"I--I--don't--I am ill, Adrian, I---- Take care! The money, the bonds!
My head, Adrian, my head!"



CHAPTER XXIV

A HIDDEN SAFE DEPOSIT


Upon reaching the New York railway station, Adrian had stopped long
enough to send his mother an explanatory telegram, so that she might
not worry over his sudden disappearance. He had also urged her in it,
to "make a good visit, since he would be at home to look after his
father."

In this new consideration for the feelings of others he was now
thankful that Mrs. Wadislaw was away. "She gets so anxious and
frightened over father's 'spells,' though he always comes out of them
well," he reflected; then did what he remembered to have seen her do
on similar occasions. He helped his father to the lounge, loosened his
collar, bathed his head, and administered a few drops of a restorative
kept near at hand.

In a few moments the banker sat up again and remarked:

"It is queer that no doctor can stop these attacks. I never quite lose
consciousness, or rather I seem to be somebody else. I have an impulse
to do things I would not do at other times--yet what these things are
I do not clearly remember when the attack passes. But I always feel
better for some days after them. For that reason I do not dread them
as I would, otherwise. Strange, that a man has to lose his senses in
order to regain them! A paradox, but a fact."

"Do you have them as often as formerly?"

"Oftener, I think. They are irregular. I may feel one coming on again
within a few hours or it may not be for weeks. The trouble is that I
may be stricken some time more severely and fall senseless in some
unsafe place."

"Don't fear about that, father. I am at home again, you know, and
shall keep you well in sight. If you would only give up business and
go away to Europe, or somewhere. Take a long rest. You might recover
entirely then and enjoy a ripe old age."

"I can't afford it, lad. If those stolen bonds--but what's the use of
recalling them? Your talk has brought my loss so freshly before me. I
wish you hadn't asked me about it. However, it's done, and it's late.
Let's get to bed. I must be early at the bank, to-morrow. The builders
are coming to look things over and estimate on the cost of safe
deposit vaults in the basement. Ours is one of the oldest buildings in
the city and every inch of space has increased in value since it was
put up. The waste room of that basement should bring us in a princely
income, if the inspector will give the permit to construct the vaults.
My head must be clear in the morning, if ever, and I must rest now.
Good-night."

Adrian saw his father to his room and sought his own, resolving to be
present at the next day's interview with the builders, and to give
the banker his own most watchful care. But his thoughts soon returned
to the startling knowledge he had gained concerning Margot's history,
and when he fell asleep, at last, it was to dream of a prison on an
island, of his mother in a cell, and other most distressing scenes. So
that he awoke unrefreshed, and in greater perplexity than ever as to
how he could find Margot or be of any help to Number 526.

But Mr. Wadislaw seemed brighter than usual, and was almost jovial in
his discussion of the proposed alterations of his property.

"You will be a rich man, Adrian, a very rich man, as I figure it.
Money is the main thing. Get money and--and--keep it;" he added with a
cautious glance around the breakfast room.

But there was nobody except the old butler to hear this worldly advice
and he had always been hearing it. Adrian, to whom it was given, heard
it not at all. He was thinking of his island friends and wondering how
he should find them. However, when they reached the bank, he rallied
his wandering thoughts and gave strict attention to the talk between
the banker and the builders, trying to impress upon his mind the dry
facts and figures which meant so much to them.

"You say that this wall will have to be torn down. To reach bottom
rock. Why, sir, that wall has stood--Adrian, what is that racket in
the outer office? Stop it. The porter should not allow---- But, sir,
that wall is as thick as the safe built into it. I mean----"

Mr. Wadislaw passed his hand across his forehead and Adrian, seeing
this familiar sign of impending trouble, felt that his place was at
his father's side rather than in quelling that slight disturbance in
the adjoining room. He took his stand behind the banker's chair and
rested his hand upon it.

Mr. Wadislaw cast a hurried, appealing glance upward, and the son
smiled and nodded. The contractor moved about the place, tapping the
walls, the floor, and the great chimney beside the safe; pausing at
this spot and listening, tapping afresh, listening again, with a
marked interest growing in his face.

But nobody noticed this, for, suddenly, the door slid open and there
stood in the aperture a girl with wonderful, flowing hair and a face
strangely stern and defiant.

"Margot!"

But it was not at Adrian she looked. At last she was in the presence
of the man who had ruined her father. And--he knew her! Aye, knew her,
though they two had never met before and, as yet, she had spoken no
accusing word. For he had sunk back in his seat, his face white, his
eyes staring, his jaw dropped. To him she was an apparition, one risen
from the dead to confront him with the darkest hour of all his past,
when a broken-hearted wife had kneeled to him, begging her husband's
life. Yet it was broad daylight and he wide awake.

"Are you Malachi Wadislaw?"

"I--I--thought you were dead!"

"No, not dead. Alive and come at last to make you right the wrong you
did my father. To make you open his prison doors and set him free."

"Are you Philip Romeyn's wife? Her hair--his eyes--I--I--am
confused--Adrian!"

"Yes, father. I am here. Margot!"

Her glance passed from the father to the son but there was no
relenting kindness in it. When the young suffer it is profoundly, and
the inmost depths of Margot's nature were stirred by this first sight
of her father's enemy.

"Philip Romeyn's wife lies in the grave, whither your persecution sent
her. I am her daughter and his, come to make you do a tardy justice.
To make you lead me to the place where you have hidden the bonds, the
gold, you said he stole! For if stealing was done it was by your own
hands, not his."

"Margot--MARGOT! This is my father!" cried Adrian, aghast.

"Yes, Adrian, and my father--my father--wears a convict's garb this
day because of yours!"

"No, no! No, no. I tried to save him, but he would not save himself! I
begged him, almost on my knees I begged him, the little shaver, to
confess and get the benefit of that. But he would not. There was no
hope for him from the beginning. None. They found me all but dead. The
money gone. He by me, the steel rod in his hand with which we used to
fasten the--that very safe. I---- Why, I can see it all as if it were
to-day, even though they lifted me for dead, and found him standing,
dazed and speechless. When they questioned him about the money he
said: 'Ask Malachi Wadislaw. I never touched it.' That was all. But
they proved it against him. I was dead--almost--and I was beggared.
Beggared!" his voice rose to a scream, "by that brave little shaver
who had once--once saved my life. Robbed and murdered--his benefactor,
who had made him rich and prosperous. Should he not suffer? Aye,
forever!"

The silence that followed this speech was intense. The builder ceased
his inquisitive tapping and listened spellbound. Old Joe stood rigidly
behind the girl whom he had followed. Adrian scarcely breathed.
Accused and accuser faced one another, motionless.

Then: "Where--was--it?" demanded Margot. "Show me--the place."

"Here. Here, in this very sanctum to which nobody had the entrance but
us two. There--is the monster safe that was robbed. With such another
rod of steel"--he pointed to a bar resting above the safe--"was I
struck--here." His hand touched for an instant a deep scar on his
temple and an involuntary shudder passed over the girl's frame.

But her face did not change nor the defiance of her eyes grow less.
She moved a step forward, and, as if to make way for her, the builder,
also, stepped aside. As he did so his hammer caught upon the little
ledge of the chimney projection which he had been testing and whose
hollow sound had aroused his curiosity. The small slab of marble
slipped and fell, though it had seemingly been securely plastered in
the wall. It left an aperture of a few inches, and the contractor
ejaculated:

"Pshaw! That's queer. Must have been loose, I never saw just such a
hole in such a place. I'm sorry, sir, yet----" He turned to address
the banker but paused, amazed. What had he done?

The effect of that trivial accident upon the owner of the building was
marvelous. He sprang to his feet, clasped his head with his hands, and
gazed upon that tiny opening with the fascination of horror. For a
moment it seemed as if his staring eyes would start from their sockets
and he gasped in his effort to breathe.

"Father! What is it? What ails you?"

But the distraught man tossed off his son's arm like one who needed
no support, and to whom each second of delay was unendurable.

"Look, look! What they told me--I believed--look, look!" then he
swayed and Adrian caught him.

But Margot's anxious love leaped to a swift comprehension of what
merely amazed the others.

"That hole! The bonds--the bonds are in that hole! That's what he
means. Look, look!"

Incredulous, but impelled by her insistence, the builder peered into
the opening. It was too small to admit his head and his gaze could
pass no further than its opposite side.

"There's nothing there, miss, but a hole, as he said."

She tossed him aside, not noticing, and thrust her arm down as far as
it would reach.

"A stick, a string, something--quick! It is deep."

Nobody moved, till she turned upon the Indian.

"For the master, Joe! a string and a weight. Quick, quick!"

The empty-handed son of the forest was the man who filled her need. A
new, well-leaded fishing line that had caught his fancy, passing down
the street, came from his pocket. She seized, uncoiled, and dropped it
down the hole.

"Oh! it is so deep. But we must get to the bottom. We must, even if I
tear that wall down with my own hands. You'll help me, Joe, dear Joe,
won't you? For the master?"

He moved forward, instantly, but Adrian interposed. He was colorless
with excitement yet his voice had the ring of hope and expectation, as
he bent and looked into Malachi Wadislaw's eyes.

"Is she right, father? Do you hear me? Is there anything in that small
place?"

"I remember--I remember. The bonds. The bonds are safe. Always--always
keep your money in a hidden----"

"God forbid!" groaned the lad. Then to the builder, "Get your men.
Tear down that wall. Quick. A man's life is at stake, or more than
life--his honor."

The contractor hesitated, then remarked:

"Well, it won't weaken the building, as I see; and we had decided on
the work. It would have to come down anyway."

He stepped to the street and summoned a waiting workman. They were
skilled and labored rapidly, with little scattering of dust or mortar,
though Margot would not move aside even from that, but gave them room
for working only, standing with gaze riveted on that deepening shaft.
A mere shell of single bricks, plastered and painted as the remaining
wall, had hidden it; and its depth was little below the thick-beamed
floor.

At last the workman stood up.

"I think I see the bottom, sir, and there seems to be stuff in it.
Would you like to feel, young man?"

"No, no! I! It is I--to me the right--to find them!" cried Margot,
flinging herself between, and downward on the floor.

[Illustration: SHE STOOPED AND FLUNG THEM OUT]

"But, Margot, little girl, don't be so sure. It's scarcely
probable----" began Adrian, compassionately, shrinking from sight of
her bitter disappointment, should disappointment come. Alas! it would
be almost as great to him, and whether a glad or sorry one he could
not yet realize.

"His face! Look at your father's face. That tells the story. The bonds
are there, and 'tis Philip Romeyn's daughter shall bring them to the
light."

Indeed, the banker's expression confirmed her faith. Its frenzied
eagerness had given place to a satisfied expectation, and a normal
color tinged his cheeks. But he still watched intently, saying
nothing.

"Catch them, Adrian, catch them! But hold them fast, the horrible,
accursed things!"

One after one, stooping, the exultant daughter lifted and flung them
out. The folded papers seemingly so worthless but of such value;
the little canvas bags of gold; the precious documents and vouchers,
hidden from all other men by one unhappy man, in his miserly
aberration. The price of fifteen years of agony and shame. Now,
fifteen years to be forgotten, and honor restored.

In that far past Philip Romeyn's story had been simple and it had been
true. He had been unaccountably anxious and had risen in the night and
gone to the bank. He believed that the safe had not been locked,
though he had been assured it should be by Mr. Wadislaw, the only
other person who had a key to it. To his surprise he had found the
banker in his office, but in dire mishap. He was lying on the floor,
unconscious, bleeding from a wound upon his temple. The safe was open,
empty. The steel bar which, at night, was padlocked upon it for extra
security lay on the floor, beside the senseless man. Mr. Romeyn had
picked this up and was standing with it in his hand, horrified and
half-stupefied by the shocking affair, when the watchman, discovering
light and noise, had entered and found them. It was his hasty,
accusing voice which started the cry of robbery and murder; and the
circumstances had seemed so aggravated, the circumstantial evidence so
strong, that the judge had imposed the heaviest penalty within his
power. The hypothesis that Mr. Wadislaw had himself put the contents
of the safe away, had even perverted them to his own use; and that he
had injured himself by falling against the sharp corner of the safe's
heavy and open door, had been set aside as too trivial for
consideration.

The hypothesis had been correct, the circumstantial evidence
incorrect; yet in the name of justice, the latter had prevailed.

"Count them! have you counted them, Adrian?"

"Yes, Margot. It is all here. The very sum of which I have so often
heard. Thank God, that it is found!"

"My father! Come, Joe, we're going to my father."

"And I go with you. In my father's name and to begin his lifelong
reparation."



CHAPTER XXV

THE MELODY AND MYSTERY OF LIFE


Swift the way and joyous now, that same road over which Adrian had
journeyed on the day before, so grudgingly. Yet not half swift enough
that through express by which they left the city limits for the little
town of Sing Sing, or as would have better suited Indian Joe, of
Ossining. Scene of so many tragedies and broken hearts; to be, to-day,
a scene of unutterable gladness.

Margot's eyes were on the flying landscape, counting the lessening
landmarks as one counts off the stitches of a tedious seam, and with
each mile of progress her impatience growing.

"Oh! Adrian! shall we never be there! I can hardly breathe. My heart
beats so--I cannot wait, I cannot!"

In the seat behind them Joe still carefully held the old-fashioned
shawl and bonnet, which Angelique had decided her young traveler
should--but never would--wear. Her hair was out of that decorous plait
which had been commanded, and there had been neither time nor friend
to substitute new clothes for old. Therefore, it was just as she
looked in the woodland that Margot looked now when she was first to
meet her father's eyes; and neither she, nor even Adrian, cared one
whit for the curious glances which scrutinized her unusual,
comfortable attire.

What were clothes? Money could soon buy those, if they were needed,
and there would be money abundant, Adrian thought, fingering the
"specimens" which the girl desired old Joseph to produce from that
wonderful pocket of his, which held so few, yet just the very things
that were important.

"Copper, Margot. I'm sure of it. I have a friend, a man who deals in
mining stocks, and I've seen samples at his office which do not look
as pure to me as this."

"These pieces came from the deep cave under the island. Where I was
that day during the great storm, the day you came to us. I don't see
why there shouldn't be plenty of the metal there, for we're in nearly
the same latitude as the copper regions of the great lakes. I hope we
may find it in large enough quantities to pay for getting it out."

Adrian was surprised and not wholly pleased by what seemed a mercenary
taint upon her fine character, but was ashamed of his momentary
misjudgment when she added:

"Because, you see, we've suffered so much for money's sake that we
want to use it ourselves to make other people happy. I know what I
will do with it, if I ever have much, or even little."

"What is that?"

"I will use it to defend the wrongfully imprisoned. To help the poor
men when they come out, even if they have been wicked once. To
comfort the families of those who suffer disgrace and poverty. To
forward justice--justice. Oh! Adrian, how far now?"

"Fifteen minutes, now. Only fifteen minutes!"

"They will never pass! They are longer than the fifteen years of my
ignorance, when I didn't know I had a father. My father. My father."

Over and over, she said the words softly, caressingly, as if she could
never have enough of all they meant to her; and the listening lad
asked once, a trifle warningly:

"Are you not at all afraid, Margot, that this unknown father will be
different from your anticipations? Remember, though so close of kin,
you are still strangers."

"Why, Adrian! My mother loved him and my uncle. I love him, too,
unknowing; but I tell you now, this minute, if I found him all that
was bad and repulsive, I should still love him and all the more. So
love him that he would grow good again and forget all the evil he
must have seen in that evil place. For he is my father, my father."

"Have no fear, I only meant to try you. He is all that you dream and
more. He has the noblest face I ever looked on; yes, not even
excepting your uncle's."

"What? you--have seen him?"

"Yes. Yesterday;" at which she sat in silent wonder till he said: "Now
come. We're there!"

When they stepped out at the final station Adrian called for the
swiftest horses waiting possible fares, and burst in upon his sister's
presence with the demand, almost breathlessly spoken:

"Number 526, at once, Kate. This is Margot---- Ah! mother! Margot! The
money's found--Number 526--quick!"

The excitement was all his by then. The girl to whom this moment was
so much more eventful stood pale and quiet, with a luminous joy in her
blue eyes that was more pathetic than tears.

"Adrian, are you crazy? Upon my word, I almost believe you are!
Running away as you did last night and coming back again to-day, in
this wild fashion. What do you mean? Who is this--this young person?
And what in the world do you, can you, possibly, want of Number 526?"

He paid no attention to her many questions, nor even to his mother who
clutched his arm in extreme agitation. He had caught the tones of a
violin played softly, tenderly, and oh! so sadly.

"Yes, that's Number 526, since you wish to see him, though it's quite
against the rules and--he's practicing with his men----"

"Come, Margot. Come."

The player was in the little alcove behind the screen and palms, and
did not even look up as the two entered his presence, for his own soul
had floated far away from that dread place, on the strains of that
music which no prison bars could confine.

"Father!"

[Illustration: "MY FATHER! I HAVE COME"]

The music ceased, but only for an instant. Once the player had heard a
voice like that--clear, sweet, exquisitely modulated. The voice of the
wife he had loved, silent in death these many years. But the tone had
been sufficient to stir his soul to even deeper harmonies: and he
stood there forgetful of his shaven head, his prison stripes, once
more a man among men.

"Father! My father! I have come! Margot, baby Margot! Come to set you
free!"

Her arms were about his neck, her wet face pressed close to his, her
tender kisses poured upon his lips, his dazed, unseeing eyes, his
trembling shoulders.

Then he put out his hand and held her from him, that he might the
better see her fairness, hear her marvelous story--told in few words,
and comprehend what was the merciful, the Heaven-sent bliss that had
come to him.

"Cecily! Margot! My daughter with her mother's face! Free! Free! Oh!
God, support me!"

The indomitable courage which suffering had had no power to weaken
failed in this supreme moment; and as, in his hours of darkness, he
had clung to his music for sustenance so he turned to it now. He
pressed his violin to his shoulder, leaned his cheek upon it, and from
its quivering strings drew out in melody the story of his fifteen
years. All the bitterness, the sadness, the sweetness; and that
exalted faith which had made the mystery of his life, and his shame,
almost divine.

Blinded by their own tears, one by one, the others left them, and when
the last strain ended in a burst of joyous victory, there were but two
to hear it--parent and child.

       *       *       *       *       *

Adrian watched the train that bore them homeward roll away, with a
heart both heavy and glad. In fancy he could see them reach that
journey's end; with brother clasping the hand of brother, the silent,
wonderful forest receiving them into its restful solitude. He could
see that great room which had waited for its occupant so many years,
and which was now all aglow from its flame-filled fireplace, and
redolent with wild flowers. He could see the wide couch drawn up
before the hearth and a toil-worn man, who had not rested before in
fifteen years, lying there with grateful, adoring eyes fixed upon that
pictured Face of The Man of Sorrows.

There was a girl in the room, moving everywhere in needless, tender
care that nothing should be wanting. As if anything ever could be
wanting where Margot was! The innocent, great-hearted child of nature,
whose love no obstacle could overcome, and who hesitated at no danger
for love's sweet sake.



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       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors;
otherwise, every effort has been made to remain true to the
author's words and intent.





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