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

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "That Girl Montana" ***

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THAT GIRL MONTANA

BY

MARAH ELLIS RYAN

AUTHOR OF

TOLD IN THE HILLS, THE BONDWOMAN,
A FLOWER OF FRANCE, Etc.

NEW YORK

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS

Made in the United States of America



Copyright, 1901, by Rand. McNally & Company.



THAT GIRL MONTANA.

PROLOGUE.


"That girl the murderer of a man--of Lee Holly! That pretty little girl?
Bosh! I don't believe it."

"I did not say she killed him; I said she was suspected. And even though
she was cleared, the death of that renegade adds one more to the mysteries
of our new West. But I think the mere suspicion that she did it entitles
her to a medal, or an ovation of some sort."

The speakers were two men in complete hunting costume. That they were
strangers in the Northwest was evidenced by the very lively interest they
took in each bit of local color in landscape or native humanity. Of the
latter, there was a most picturesque variety. There were the Northern red
men in their bright blankets, and women, too, with their beadwork and
tanned skins for sale. A good market-place for these was this spot where
the Kootenai River is touched by the iron road that drives from the lakes
to the Pacific. The road runs along our Northern boundary so close that it
is called the "Great Northern," and verily the land it touches is great in
its wildness and its beauty.

The two men, with their trophies of elk-horn and beaver paws, with their
scarred outfit and a general air of elation gained from a successful
"outing," tramped down to the little station after a last lingering view
toward far hunting grounds. While waiting for the train bound eastward,
they employed their time in dickering with the Indian moccasin-makers, of
whom they bought arrows and gaily painted bows of ash, with which to deck
the wall of some far-away city home.

While thus engaged, a little fleet of canoes was sighted skimming down the
river from that greater wilderness of the North, penetrated at that time
only by the prospector, or a chance hunter; for the wealth of gold in
those high valleys had not yet been more than hinted at, and the hint had
not reached the ears of the world.

Even the Indians were aroused from their lethargy, and watched with keen
curiosity the approaching canoes. When from the largest there stepped
forth a young girl--a rather remarkable-looking young girl--there was a
name spoken by a tall Indian boatman, who stood near the two strangers.
The Indians nodded their heads, and the name was passed from one to the
other--the name 'Tana--a soft, musical name as they pronounced it. One of
the strangers, hearing it, turned quickly to a white ranchman, who had a
ferry at that turn of the river, and asked if that was the young girl who
had helped locate the new gold find at the Twin Springs.

"Likely," agreed the ranchman. "Word came that she was to cut the diggings
and go to school a spell. A Mr. Haydon, who represents a company that's to
work the mine, sent down word that a special party was to go East over the
road from here to-day; so I guess she's one of the specials. She came near
going on a special to the New Jerusalem, she did, not many days ago. I
reckon you folks heard how Lee Holly--toughest man in the length of the
Columbia--was wiped off the living earth by her last week."

"We heard she was cleared of it," assented the stranger.

"Yes, so she was, so she was--cleared by an alibi, sworn to by Dan
Overton. You don't know Dan, I suppose? Squarest man you ever met! And he
don't have to scratch gravel any more, either, for he has a third interest
in that Twin Spring find, and it pans out big. They say the girl sold her
share for two hundred thousand. She doesn't look top-heavy over it,
either."

And she did not. She walked between two men--one a short, rather pompous
elderly man, who bore a slight resemblance to her, and whom she treated
rather coolly.

"Of course I am not tired," she said, in a strong, musical voice. "I have
been brought all the way on cushions, so how could I be? Why, I have gone
alone in a canoe on a longer trail than we floated over, and I think I
will again some day. Max, there is one thing I want in this world, and
want bad; that is, to get Mr. Haydon out on a trip where we can't eat
until we kill and cook our dinner. He doesn't know anything about real
comfort; he wants too many cushions."

The man she called Max bent his head and whispered something to her, at
which her face flushed just a little and a tiny wrinkle crept between her
straight, beautiful brows.

"I told you not to say pretty things that way, just because you think
girls like to hear them. I don't. Maybe I will when I get civilized; but
Mr. Haydon thinks that is a long ways ahead, doesn't he?" The wrinkle was
gone--vanished in a quizzical smile, as she looked up into the very
handsome face of the young fellow.

"So do I," he acknowledged. "I have a strong desire, especially when you
snub me, to be the man to take you on a lone trail like that. I will, too,
some day."

"Maybe you will," she agreed. "But I feel sorry for you beforehand."

She seemed a tantalizing specimen of girlhood, as she stood there, a
slight, brown slip of a thing, dressed in a plain flannel suit, the color
of her golden-brown short curls. In her brown cloth hat the wings of a
redbird gleamed--the feathers and her lips having all there was of bright
color about her; for her face was singularly colorless for so young a
girl. The creamy skin suggested a pale-tinted blossom, but not a fragile
one; and the eyes--full eyes of wine-brown--looked out with frank daring
on the world.

But for all the daring brightness of her glances, it was not a joyous
face, such as one would wish a girl of seventeen to possess. A little
cynical curve of the red mouth, a little contemptuous glance from those
brown eyes, showed one that she took her measurements of individuals by a
gauge of her own, and that she had not that guileless trust in human
nature that is supposed to belong to young womanhood. The full expression
indicated an independence that seemed a breath caught from the wild beauty
of those Northern hills.

Her gaze rested lightly on the two strangers and their trophies of the
chase, on the careless ferryman, and the few stragglers from the ranch and
the cabins. These last had gathered there to view the train and its people
as they passed, for the ties on which the iron rails rested were still of
green wood, and the iron engines of transportation were recent additions
to those lands of the far North, and were yet a novelty.

Over the faces of the white men her eyes passed carelessly. She did not
seem much interested in civilized men, even though decked in finer raiment
than was usual in that locality; and, after a cool glance at them all, she
walked directly past them and spoke to the tall Indian who had first
uttered her name to the others.

His face brightened when she addressed him; but their words were low, as
are ever the words of an Indian in converse, low and softly modulated; and
the girl did not laugh in the face of the native as she had when the
handsome young white man had spoken to her in softened tones.

The two sportsmen gave quickened attention to her as they perceived she
was addressing the Indian in his own language. Many gestures of her slim
brown hands aided her speech, and as he watched her face, one of the
sportsmen uttered the impulsive exclamation at the beginning of this
story. It seemed past belief that she could have committed the deed with
which her name had been connected, and of which the Kootenai valley had
heard a great deal during the week just passed. That it had become the one
topic of general interest in the community was due partly to the
personality of the girl, and partly to the fact that the murdered man had
been one of the most notorious in all that wild land extending north and
west into British Columbia.

Looking at the frank face of the girl and hearing her musical, decided
tones, the man had a reasonable warrant for deciding that she was not
guilty.

"She is one of the most strongly interesting girls of her age I have ever
seen," he decided. "Girls of that age generally lack character. She does
not; it impresses itself on a man though she never speak a word to him.
Wish she'd favor me with as much of her attention as she gives that
hulking redskin."

"It's a 'case,' isn't it?" asked his friend. "You'll be wanting to use her
as a centerpiece for your next novel; but you can't make an orthodox
heroine of her, for there must have been some reason for the suspicion
that she helped him 'over the range,' as they say out here. There must
have been something socially and morally wrong about the fact that he was
found dead in her cabin. No, Harvey; you'd better write up the inert,
inoffensive red man on his native heath, and let this remarkable young
lady enjoy her thousands in modest content--if the ghosts let her."

"Nonsense!" said the other man, with a sort of impatience. "You jump too
quickly to the conclusion that there must be wrong where there is
suspicion. But you have put an idea into my mind as to the story. If I can
ever learn the whole history of this affair, I will make use of it, and
I'm not afraid of finding my pretty girl in the wrong, either."

"I knew from the moment we heard who she was that your impressionable
nature would fall a victim, but you can't write a story of her alone; you
will want your hero and one or two other people. I suppose, now, that very
handsome young fellow with the fastidious get-up will about suit you for
the hero. He does look rather lover-like when he addresses your girl with
the history. Will you pair them off?"

"I will let you know a year from now," returned the man called Harvey.
"But just now I am going to pay my respects to the very well-fed looking
elderly gentleman. He seems to be the chaperon of the party. I have
acquired a taste for trailing things during our thirty days hunt in
these hills, and I'm going to trail this trio, with the expectation of
bagging a romance."

His friend watched him approach the elder gentleman, and was obviously
doubtful of the reception he would get, for the portly, prosperous-looking
individual did not seem to have been educated in that generous Western
atmosphere, where a man is a brother if he acts square and speaks fair.
Conservatism was stamped in the deep corners of his small mouth, on the
clean-shaven lips, and the correctly cut side-whiskers that added width to
his fat face.

But the journalist proper, the world over, is ever a bit of a diplomat. He
has won victories over so many conservative things, and is daunted by few.
When Harvey found himself confronted by a monocle through which he was
coolly surveyed, it did not disturb him in the least (beyond making it
difficult to retain a grave demeanor at the lively interest shown by the
Indians in that fashionable toy).

"Yes, sir--yes, sir; I am T. J. Haydon, of Philadelphia," acknowledged he
of the glass disc, "but I don't know you, sir."

"I shall be pleased to remedy that if you will allow me," returned the
other, suavely, producing a card which he offered for examination. "You
are, no doubt, acquainted with the syndicate I represent, even if my name
tells you nothing. I have been hunting here with a friend for a month, and
intend writing up the resources of this district. I have a letter of
introduction to your partner, Mr. Seldon, but did not follow the river so
far as to reach your works, though I've heard a good deal about them, and
imagine them interesting."

"Yes, indeed; very interesting--very interesting from a sportsman's or
mineralogist's point of view," agreed the older man, as he twirled the
card in a disturbed, uncertain way. "Do you travel East, Mr.--Mr. Harvey?
Yes? Well, let me introduce Mr. Seldon's nephew--he's a New Yorker--Max
Lyster. Wait a minute and I'll get him away from those beastly Indians. I
never can understand the attraction they have for the average tourist."

But when he reached Lyster he said not a word of the despised reds; he had
other matters more important.

"Here, Max! A most annoying thing has happened," he said, hurriedly.
"Those two men are newspaper fellows, and one is going East on our train.
Worse still--the one knows people I know. Gad! I'd rather lose a thousand
dollars than meet them now! And you must come over and get acquainted.
They've been here a month, and are to write accounts of the life and
country. That means they have been here long enough to hear all about
'Tana and that Holly. Do you understand? You'll have to treat them
well,--the best possible--pull wires even if it costs money, and fix it so
that a record of this does not get into the Eastern papers. And, above and
beyond everything else, so long as we are in this depraved corner of the
country, you must keep them from noticing that girl Montana."

The young man looked across at the girl, and smiled doubtfully.

"I'm willing to undertake any possible thing for you," he said; "but, my
dear sir, to keep people from noticing 'Tana is one of the things beyond
my power. And if she gives notice to all the men who will notice her, I've
an idea jealousy will turn my hair gray early. But come on and introduce
your man, and don't get in a fever over the meeting. I am so fortunate
as to know more of the journalistic fraternity than you, and I happen to
be aware that they are generally gentlemen. Therefore, you'd better not
drop any hints to them of monetary advantages in exchange for silence
unless you want to be beautifully roasted by a process only possible in
printer's ink."

The older man uttered an exclamation of impatience, as he led his young
companion over to the sportsmen, who had joined each other again; and as
he effected the introduction, his mind was sorely upset by dread of the
two gentlemanly strangers and 'Tana.

'Tana was most shamelessly continuing her confidences with the tall
Indian, despite the fact that she knew it was a decided annoyance to her
principal escort. Altogether the evening was a trying one to Mr. T. J.
Haydon.

The sun had passed far to the west, and the shadows were growing longer
under the hills there by the river. Clear, red glints fell across the cool
ripples of the water, and slight chill breaths drifted down the ravines
and told that the death of summer was approaching.

Some sense of the beauty of the dying October day seemed to touch the
girl, for she walked a little apart and picked a spray of scarlet maple
leaves and looked from them to the hills and the beautiful valley, where
the red and the yellow were beginning to crowd out the greens. Yes, the
summer was dying--dying! Other summers would come in their turn, but none
quite the same. The girl showed all the feeling of its loss in her face.
In her eyes the quick tears came, as she looked at the mountains. The
summer was dying; it was autumn's colors she held in her hand, and she
shivered, though she stood in the sunshine.

As she turned toward the group again, she met the eyes of the stranger to
whom Max was talking. He seemed to have been watching her with a great
deal of interest, and her hand was raised to her eyes, lest a trace of
tears should prove food for curiosity.

"It was to one of Akkomi's relations I was talking," she remarked to Mr.
Haydon, when he questioned her. "His little grandson is sick, and I would
like to send him something. I haven't money enough in my pocket, and wish
you would get me some."

After taking some money out of his purse for her, he eyed the tall savage
with disfavor.

"He'll buy bad whisky with it," he grumbled.

"No, he will not," contradicted the girl. "If a person treats these
Indians square, he can trust them. But if a lie is told them, or a promise
broken--well, they get even by tricking you if they can, and I can't say
that I blame them. But they won't trick me, so don't worry; and I'm as
sure the things will go to that little fellow safely as though I took
them."

She was giving the money and some directions to the Indian, when a word
from a squaw drew her attention to the river.

A canoe had just turned the bend not a quarter of a mile away, and was
skimming the water with the swiftness of a swallow's dart. Only one man
was in it, and he was coming straight for the landing.

"Some miner rushing down to see the train go by," remarked Mr. Haydon; but
the girl did not answer. Her face grew even more pale, and her hands
clasped each other nervously.

"Yes," said the Indian beside her, and nodded to her assuringly. Then the
color swept upward over her face as she met his kindly glance, and
drawing herself a little straighter, she walked indifferently away.

The stolid red man did not look at all snubbed; he only pocketed the money
she had given him, and looked after her with a slight smile, accented more
by the deepening wrinkles around his black eyes than by any change about
the lips.

Then there was a low rumbling sound borne on the air, and as the muffled
whistle of the unseen train came to them from the wilderness to the west,
with one accord the Indians turned their attention to their wares, and the
white people to their baggage. When the train slowed up Mr. Haydon, barely
waiting for the last revolution of the wheels, energetically hastened the
young girl up the steps of the car nearest them.

"What's the hurry?" she asked, with a slight impatience.

"I think," he replied quickly, "there is but a short stop made at this
station, and as there are several vacant seats in this car, please occupy
one of them until I have seen the conductor. There may be some changes
made as to the compartments engaged for us. Until that is decided, will
you be so kind as to remain in this coach?"

She nodded rather indifferently, and looked around for Max. He was
gathering up some robes and satchels when the older man joined him.

"We are not going to make the trip to Chicago in the car with those
fellows if it can be helped, Max," he insisted, fussily; "we'll wait and
see what car they are booked for, and I'll arrange for another. Sorry I
did not get a special, as I first intended."

"But see here; they are first-class fellows--worth one's while to meet,"
protested Max; but the other shook his head.

"Look after the baggage while I see the conductor. 'Tana is in one of the
cars--don't know which. We'll go for her when we get settled. Now, don't
argue. Time is too precious."

And 'Tana! She seated herself rather sulkily, as she was told, and looked
at once toward the river.

The canoe was landing, and the man jumped to the shore. With quick,
determined strides, he came across the land to the train. She tried to
follow him with her eyes, but he crossed to the other side of the track.

There was rather a boisterous party in the car--two men and two women. One
of the latter, a flaxen-haired, petite creature, was flitting from one
side of the car to the other, making remarks about the Indians, admiring
particularly one boy's beaded dress, and garnishing her remarks with a
good deal of slang.

"Say, Chub! that boy's suit would be a great 'make-up' for me in that new
turn--the jig, you know; new, too. There isn't a song-and-dance on the
boards done with Indian make-up. Knock them silly in the East, where they
don't see reds. Now sing out, and tell me if it wouldn't make a hit."

"Aw, Goldie, give us a rest on shop talk," growled the gentleman called
Chub. "If you'd put a little more ginger into the good specialty you have,
instead of depending on wardrobe, you'd hit 'em hard enough. It ain't
plans that count, girlie--it's work."

The "girlie" addressed accepted the criticism with easy indifference, and
her fair, dissipated face was only twisted in a grimace, while she held
one hand aloft and jingled the bangles on her bracelets as though
poising a tambourine.

"Better hustle yourself into the smoker again, Chubby dear. It will take a
half-dozen more cigars to put you in your usual sweet frame of mind. Run
along now. Ta-ta!"

The other woman seemed to think their remarks very witty, especially when
Chub really did arise and make his way toward the smoker. Goldie then went
back to the window, where the Indians were to be seen. The quartet were,
to judge by their own frank remarks, a party of variety singers and
dancers who had been doing the Pacific circuit, and were now booked for
some Eastern houses, of which they spoke as "solid."

Some of the passengers had got out and were buying little things from the
Indians, as souvenirs of the country. 'Tana saw Mr. Haydon among them, in
earnest conversation with the conductor; saw Max, with his hand full of
satchels, suddenly reach out the other hand with a great deal of
heartiness and meet the man of the canoe.

He was not so handsome a man as Max, yet would have been noticeable
anywhere--tall, olive-skinned, and dark-haired. His dress had not the
fashionable cut of the young fellow he spoke to. But he wore his buckskin
jacket with a grace that bespoke physical strength and independence; and
when he pushed his broad-brimmed gray hat back from his face, he showed a
pair of dark eyes that had a very direct glance. They were serious,
contemplative eyes, that to some might look even moody.

"There is a fellow with a great figure," remarked the other woman of the
quartet; "that fellow with the sombrero; built right up from the ground,
and looks like a picture; don't he, Charlie?"

"I can't see him," complained Goldie, "but suppose it's one of the
ranchmen who live about here." Then she turned and donated a brief survey
to 'Tana. "Do you live in this region?" she asked.

After a deliberate, contemptuous glance from the questioner's frizzed head
to her little feet, 'Tana answered:

"No; do you?"

With this curt reply, she turned her shoulder very coolly on the searcher
for information.

Vexation sent the angry blood up into the little woman's face. She looked
as though about to retort, when a gentleman who had just taken possession
of a compartment, and noted all that had passed, came forward and
addressed our heroine.

"Until your friends come in, will you not take my seat?" he asked,
courteously. "I will gladly make the exchange, or go for Mr. Lyster or Mr.
Haydon, if you desire it."

"Thank you; I will take your seat," she agreed. "It is good of you to
offer it."

"Say, folks, I'm going outside to take in this free Wild West show,"
called the variety actress to her companions. "Come along?"

But they declined. She had reached the platform alone, when, coming toward
the car, she saw the man of the sombrero, and shrank back with a gasp of
utter dismay.

"Oh, good Heaven!" she muttered, and all the color and bravado were gone
from her face, as she shrank back out of his range of vision and almost
into the arms of the man Harvey, who had given the other girl his seat.

"What's up?" he asked, bluntly.

She only gave a muttered, unintelligible reply, pushed past him to her own
seat, where her feather-laden hat was donned with astonishing rapidity, a
great cloak was thrown around her, and she sank into a corner, a huddled
mass of wraps and feathers. Any one could have walked along the aisle
without catching even a glimpse of her flaxen hair.

'Tana and the stranger exchanged looks of utter wonder at the lightning
change effected before their eyes.

At that moment a tap-tap sounded on the window beside 'Tana, and, looking
around, she met the dark eyes of the man with the sombrero gazing kindly
upward at her.

The people were getting aboard the train again--the time was so short--so
short! and how can one speak through a double glass? The fingers were all
unequal to the fastening of the window, and she turned an imploring,
flushed face to the helpful stranger.

"Can you--oh, will you, please?" she asked, breathlessly. "Thank you, I'm
very much obliged."

Then the window was raised, and her hand thrust out to the man, who was
bareheaded now, and who looked very much as though he held the wealth of
the world when he clasped only 'Tana's fingers.

"Oh, it is you, is it?" she asked, with a rather lame attempt at careless
speech. "I thought you had forgotten to say good-by to me."

"You knew better," he contradicted. "You knew--you know now it wasn't
because I forgot."

He looked at her moodily from under his dark brows, and noticed the color
flutter over her cheek and throat in an adorable way. She had drawn her
hand from him, and it rested on the window--a slim brown hand, with a
curious ring on one finger--two tiny snakes whose jeweled heads formed the
central point of attraction.

"You said you would not wear that again. If it's a hoodoo, as you thought,
why not throw it away?" he asked.

"Oh--I've changed my mind. I need to wear it so that I will be reminded of
something--something important as a hoodoo," she said, with a strange,
bitter smile.

"Give it back to me, 'Tana," he urged. "I will--No--Max will have
something much prettier for you. And listen, my girl. You are going away;
don't ever come back; forget everything here but the money that will be
yours for the claim. Do you understand me? Forget all I said to you
when--you know. I had no right to say it; I must have been drunk. I--I
lied, anyway."

"Oh, you lied, did you?" she asked, cynically, and her hands were clasped
closely, so close the ring must have hurt her. He noticed it, and kept his
eyes on her hand as he continued, doggedly:

"Yes. You see, little girl, I thought I'd own up before you left, so you
wouldn't be wasting any good time in being sorry about the folks back
here. It wasn't square for me to trouble you as I did. And--I lied. I came
down to say that."

"You needn't have troubled yourself," she said, curtly. "But I see you can
tell lies. I never would have believed it if I hadn't heard you. But I
guess, after all, I will give you the ring. You might want it to give to
some one else--perhaps your wife."

The bell was ringing and the wheels began slowly to revolve. She pulled
the circlet from her finger and almost flung it at him.

"'Tana!" and all of keen appeal was in his voice and his eyes, "little
girl--good-by!"

But she turned away her head. Her hand, however, reached out and the spray
of autumn leaves fluttered to his feet where the ring lay.

Then the rumble of the moving train sounded through the valley, and the
girl turned to find Max, Mr. Haydon and a porter approaching, to convey
her to the car ahead. Mr. Haydon's face was a study of dismay at the sight
of Mr. Harvey closing the window and showing evident interest in 'Tana's
comfort.

"So Dan did get down to see you off, 'Tana?" observed Max, as he led her
along the aisle. "Dear old fellow! how I did try to coax him into coming
East later; but it was of no use. He gave me some flowers for you--wild
beauties. He never seemed to say much, 'Tana, but I've an idea you'll
never have a better friend in your life than that same old Dan."

Mr. Harvey watched their exit, and smiled a little concerning Mr. Haydon's
evident annoyance. He watched, also, the flaxen-haired bundle in the
corner, and saw the curious, malignant look with which she followed 'Tana,
and to his friend he laughed over his triumph in exchanging speech with
the pretty, peculiar girl in brown.

"And the old party looked terribly fussy over it. In fact, I've about
sifted out the reason. He imagines me a newspaper reporter on the alert
for sensations. He's afraid his stupidly respectable self may be mentioned
in a newspaper article concerning this local tragedy they all talk about.
Why, bless his pocket-book! if I ever use pen and ink on that girl's
story, it will not be for a newspaper article."

"Then you intend to tell it?" asked his friend. "How will you learn it?"

"I do not know yet. The 'how' does not matter; I'll tell you on paper some
day."

"And write up that handsome Lyster as the hero?"

"Perhaps."

Then a bend of the road brought them again in sight of the river of the
Kootenais. Here and there the canoes of the Indians were speeding across
at the ferry. But one canoe alone was moving north; not very swiftly, but
almost as though drifting with the current.

Using his field-glass, Harvey found it was as he had thought. The occupant
of the solitary canoe was the tall man whose dark face had impressed the
theatrical lady so strongly. He was not using the paddle, and his chin was
resting on one clenched hand, while in the other he held something to
which he was giving earnest attention.

It was a spray of bright-colored leaves, and the watcher dropped his glass
with a guilty feeling.

"He brings her flowers, and gets in return only dead leaves," Harvey
thought, grimly. "I didn't hear a word he said to her; but his eyes spoke
strongly enough, poor devil! I wonder if she sees him, too."

And all through the evening, and for many a day, the picture remained in
his mind. Even when he wrote the story that is told in these pages, he
could never find words to express the utter loneliness of that life, as it
seemed to drift away past the sun-touched ripples of water into that vast,
shadowy wilderness to the north.



CHAPTER I.

A STRANGE GIRL.


"Well, by the help of either her red gods or devils, she can swim,
anyway!"

This explosive statement was made one June morning on the banks of the
Kootenai, and the speaker, after a steady gaze, relinquished his
field-glass to the man beside him.

"Can she make it?" he asked.

A grunt was the only reply given him. The silent watcher was too much
interested in the scene across the water.

Shouts came to them--the yells of frightened Indian children; and from the
cone-shaped dwellings, up from the water, the Indian women were hurrying.
One, reaching the shore first, sent up a shrill cry, as she perceived
that, from the canoe where the children played, one had fallen over, and
was being swept away by that swift-rushing, chill water, far out from the
reaching hands of the others.

Then a figure lolling on the shore farther down stream than the canoe
sprang erect at the frightened scream.

One quick glance showed the helplessness of those above, and another the
struggling little form there in the water--the little one who turned such
wild eyes toward the shore, and was the only one of them all who was not
making some outcry.

The white men, who were watching from the opposite side, could see shoes
flung aside quickly; a jacket dropped on the shore; and then down into the
water a slight figure darted with the swiftness of a kingfisher, and swam
out to the little fellow who had struggled to keep his head above water,
but was fast growing helpless in the chill of the mountain river.

Then it was that Mr. Maxwell Lyster commented on the physical help lent by
the gods of the red people, as the ability of any female to swim thus
lustily in spite of that icy current seemed to his civilized understanding
a thing superhuman. Of course, bears and other animals of the woods swam
it at all seasons, when it was open; but to see a woman dash into it like
that! Well, it sent a shiver over him to think of it.

"They'll both get chilled and drop to the bottom!" he remarked, with
irritated concern. "Of course there are enough of the red vagabonds in
this new El Dorado of yours, without that particular squaw. But it would
be a pity that so plucky a one should be translated."

Then a yell of triumph came from the other shore. A canoe had been
loosened, and was fairly flying over the water to where the child had been
dragged to the surface, and the rescuer was holding herself up by the slow
efforts of one arm, but could make no progress with her burden.

"That's no squaw!" commented the other man, who had been looking through
the glass.

"Why, Dan!"

"It's no squaw, I tell you," insisted the other, with the superior
knowledge of a native. "Thought so the minute I saw her drop the shoes and
jacket that way. She didn't make a single Indian move. It's a white
woman!"

"Queer place for a white woman, isn't it?"

The man called Dan did not answer. The canoe had reached that figure in
the water and the squaw in it lifted the now senseless child and laid him
in the bottom of the light craft.

A slight altercation seemed going on between the woman in the water and
the one in the boat. The former was protesting against being helped on
board--the men could see that by their gestures. She finally gained her
point, for the squaw seized the paddle and sent the boat shoreward with
all the strength of her brown arms, while the one in the water held on to
the canoe and was thus towed back, where half the Indian village had now
swarmed to receive them.

"She's got sand and sense," and Dan nodded his appreciation of the towing
process; "for, chilled as she must be, the canoe would more than likely
have turned over if she had tried to climb into it. Look at the pow-wow
they are kicking up! That little red devil must count for big stakes with
them."

"But the woman who swam after him. See! they try to stand her on her feet,
but she can't walk. There! she's on the ground again. I'd give half my
supper to know if she has killed herself with that ice-bath."

"Maybe you can eat all your supper and find out, too," observed the other,
with a shrug of his shoulders, and a quizzical glance at his companion,
"unless even the glimpse of a petticoat has chased away your appetite. You
had better take some advice from an old man, Max, and swear off
approaching females in this country, for the specimens you'll find here
aren't things to make you proud they're human."

"An old man!" repeated Mr. Lyster with a smile of derision. "You must be
pretty near twenty-eight years old--aren't you, Dan? and just about five
years older than myself. And what airs you do assume in consequence! With
all the weight of those years," he added, slowly, "I doubt, Mr. Dan
Overton, if you have really _lived_ as much as I have."

One glance of the dark eyes was turned on the speaker for an instant, and
then the old felt hat again shaded them as he continued watching the group
on the far shore. The swimmer had been picked up by a stalwart Indian
woman, and was carried bodily up to one of the lodges, while another
squaw--evidently the mother--carried the little redskin who had caused all
the commotion.

"I suppose, by living, you mean the life of settlements--or, to condense
the question still more, the life of cities," continued Overton,
stretching himself lazily on the bank. "You mean the life of a certain set
in one certain city--New York, for instance," and he grinned at the
expression of impatience on the face of the other. "Yes, I reckon New York
is about the one, and a certain part of the town to live in. A certain
gang of partners, who have a certain man to make their clothes and boots
and hats, and stamp his name on the inside of them, so that other folks
can see, when you take off your coat, or your hat, or your gloves, that
they were made at just the right place. This makes you a man worth
knowing--isn't that about the idea? And in the afternoon, at just about
the right hour, you rig yourself out in a certain cut of coat, and stroll
for an hour or so on a certain street! In the evening--if a man wants to
understand just what it is to live--he must get into other clothes and
drop into the theater, making a point of being introduced to any heavy
swell within reach, so you can speak of it afterward, you know. Just as
your chums like to say they had a supper with a pretty actress, after
the curtain went down; but they don't go into details, and own up that the
'actress' maybe never did anything on a stage but walk on in armor and
carry a banner. Oh, scowl if you want to! Of course it sounds shoddy when
a trapper outlines it; but it doesn't seem shoddy to the people who live
like that. Then, about the time that all good girls are asleep, it is just
the hour for a supper to be ordered, at just the right place for the wine
to be good, and the dishes served in A1 shape, with a convenient waiter
who knows how dim to make the lights, and how to efface himself, and let
you wait on your 'lady' with your own hands. And she'll go home wearing a
ring of yours--two, if you have them; and you'll wake up at noon next day,
and think what a jolly time you had, but with your head so muddled that
you can't remember where it was you were to meet her the next night, or
whether it was the next night that her husband was to be home, and she
couldn't see you at all." Overton rolled over on his face and grunted
disdainfully, saying: "That's about the style of thing you call _living_,
don't you, sonny?"

"Great Scott, Dan!" and the "sonny" addressed stared at him in perplexity,
"one never knows what to expect of you. Of course there is _some_ truth in
the sketch you make; but--but I thought you had never ranged to the
East?"

"Did you? Well, I don't look as if I'd ever ranged beyond the timber, do
I?" and he stretched out his long legs with their shabby coverings, and
stuck his fingers through a hole in his hat. "This outfit doesn't look as
if the hands of a Broadway tailor had ever touched it. But, my boy, the
sketch you speak of would be just as true to life among a certain set in
any large city of the States; only in the West, or even in the South,
those ambitious sports would know enough to buy a horse on their own
judgment, if they wanted to ride. Or would bet on the races without
hustling around to find some played-out jockey who would give them tips."

"Well, to say the least, your opinion is not very flattering to us,"
remarked the young man, moodily. "You've got some grudge against the East,
I guess."

"Grudge? Not any. And you're all right, Max. You will find thousands
willing to keep to your idea of life, so we won't split on that wedge. My
old stepdad would chime in with you if he were here. He prates about
civilization and Eastern culture till I get weary sometimes. Culture! Wait
till you see him. He's all right in his way, of course; but as I cut loose
from home when only fifteen, and never ran across the old man again until
two years ago--well, you see, I can make my estimates in that direction
without being biased by family feeling. And I reckon he does the same
thing. I don't know what to expect when I go back this time; but, from
signs around camp when I left, I wouldn't be surprised if he presented me
with a stepmother on my return."

"A stepmother? Whew!" whistled the other. "Well, that shows there are some
white women in your region, anyway."

"Oh, yes, we have several. This particular one is a Pennsylvania product;
talks through her nose, and eats with her knife, and will maybe try to
make eyes at you and keep you in practice. But she is a good, square
woman; simply one of the many specimens that drift out here. Came up from
Helena with the 'boom,' and started a milliner store--a milliner store in
the bush, mind you! But after the Indians had bought all the bright
feathers and artificial flowers, she changed her sign, and keeps an
eating-house now. It is the high-toned corner of the camp. She can cook
some; and I reckon that's what catches the old man."

"Any more interesting specimens like that?"

"Not like that," returned Overton; "but there are some more."

Then he arose, and stood listening to sounds back in the wild forests.

"I hear the 'cayuse' bell," he remarked; "so the others are coming. We'll
go back up to the camp, and, after 'chuck,' we'll go over and give you a
nearer view of the tribe on the other shore, if you want to add them to
the list of your sight-seeing."

"Certainly I do. They'll be a relief after the squads of railroad section
hands we've been having for company lately. They knocked all the romance
out of the wildly beautiful country we've been coming through since we
left the Columbia River."

"Come back next year; then a boat will be puffing up here to the landing,
and you can cross to the Columbia in a few hours, for the road will be
completed then."

"And you--will you be here then?"

"Well--yes; I reckon so. I never anchor anywhere very long; but this
country suits me, and the company seems to need me."

The young fellow looked at him and laughed, and dropped his hand on the
broad shoulder with a certain degree of affection.

"Seems to need you?" he repeated. "Well, Mr. Dan Overton, if the day ever
comes when _I'm_ necessary to the welfare of a section as large as a
good-sized State, I hope I'll know enough to appreciate my own
importance."

"Hope you will," said Overton, with a kindly smile. "No reason why you
should not be of use. Every man with a fair share of health and strength
ought to be of use somewhere."

"Yes, that sounds all right and is easy to grasp, if you have been brought
up with the idea. But suppose you had been trained by a couple of maiden
aunts who only thought to give you the manners of a gentleman, and leave
you their money to get through the world with? I guess, under such
circumstances, you, too, might have settled into the feathery nest
prepared for you, and thought you were doing your duty to the world if you
were only ornamental," and the dubious smile on his really handsome face
robbed the speech of any vanity.

"You're all right, I tell you," returned the other. "Don't growl at
yourself so much. You'll find your work and buckle down to it, some of
these days. Maybe you'll find it out here--who knows? Of course Mr. Seldon
would see to it that you got any post you would want in this district."

"Yes, he's a jolly old fellow, and has shown me a lot of favors. Seems to
me relatives mean more to folks out here than they do East, because so few
have their families or relatives along, I guess. If it had not been for
Seldon, I rather think I would not have had the chance of this wild trip
with you."

"Likely not. I don't generally want a tenderfoot along when I've work to
do. No offense, Max; but they are too often a hindrance. Now that you have
come, though, I'll confess I'm glad of it. The lonely trips over this wild
region tend to make a man silent--a bear among people when he does reach a
camp. But we've talked most of the time, and I reckon I feel the better of
it. I know I'll miss you when I go over this route again. You'll be on
your way East by that time."

The "cayuse" bell sounded nearer and nearer, and directly from the dense
forest a packhorse came stepping with care over the fallen logs, where the
sign of a trail was yet dim to any eyes but those of a woodsman. A bell at
its neck tinkled as it walked, and after it four others followed, all with
heavy loads bound to their backs. It looked strange to see the patient
animals thus walk without guide or driver through the dense timber of the
mountains; but a little later voices were heard, and two horsemen came out
of the shadows of the wood, and followed the horses upward along the bank
of the river to where a little stream of fresh water tumbled down to the
Kootenai. There a little camp was located, an insignificant gathering of
tents, but one that meant a promising event to the country, for it was to
be the connecting point of the boats that would one day float from the
States on the river, and the railroad that would erelong lead westward
over the trail from which the packhorses were bringing supplies.

The sun was setting and all the ripples of the river shone red in its
reflected light. Forests of pine loomed up black and shadowy above the
shores; and there, higher up--up where the snow was, all tips of the river
range were tinged a warm pink, and where the shadows lay, the lavender and
faint purples drifted into each other, and bit by bit crowded the pink
line higher and higher until it dared touch only the topmost peaks with
its lingering kiss.

Lyster halted to look over the wild beauty of the wilderness, and from the
harmony of river and hills and sky his eyes turned to Overton.

"You are right, Dan," he said, with an appreciative smile, a smile that
opened his lips and showed how perfect the mouth was under the brown
mustache--"you are right enough to keep close to all these beauties. You
seem in some way to belong to them--not that you are so much 'a thing of
beauty' yourself," and the smile widened a little; "but you have in you
all the strength of the hills and the patience of the wilderness. You know
what I mean."

"Yes, I guess so," answered Overton. "You want some one to spout verses to
or make love to, and there is no subject handy. I can make allowances for
you, though. Those tendencies are apt to stick to a man for about a year
after a trip to Southern California. I don't know whether it's the girls
down there, or the wine that is accountable for it; but whatever it is,
you have been back from there only three months. You've three-quarters of
a year to run yet--maybe more; for I've a notion that you have a leaning
in that direction even in your most sensible moments."

"H'm! You must have made a trip to that wine country yourself sometime,"
observed Lyster. "Your theory suggests practice. Were there girls and wine
there then?"

"Plenty," returned Overton, briefly. "Come on. There's the cook shouting
supper."

"And after supper we're to go over to the Kootenai camp. Say! what is the
meaning of that name, anyway? You know all their jargons up here; do you
know that, too?"

"Nobody does, I reckon; there are lots of theories flying around. The
generally accepted one is that they were called the '_Court Nez_' by the
French trappers long ago, and that Kootenai is the result, after
generations of Indian pronunciation. They named the '_Nez Perces_,'
too--the 'pierced noses,' you know; but that name has kept its meaning
better. You'll find the trail of the French all through the Indian tribes
up here."

"Think that was a Frenchwoman in the river back there? You said she was
white."

"Yes, I did. But it's generally the Frenchmen you find among the reds, and
not the women; though I do know some square white women across the line
who have married educated Indians."

"But they are generally a lazy, shiftless set?"

The tone was half inquiring, and Overton grimaced and smiled.

"They are not behind the rest, when it comes to a fight," he answered.
"And as to lazy--well, there are several colors of people who are that,
under some circumstances. I have an Indian friend across in the States,
who made eight thousand dollars in a cattle deal last year, and didn't
sell out, either. Now, when you and I can do as well on capital we've
earned ourselves, then maybe we'll have a right to criticise some of the
rest for indolence. But you can't do much to improve Indians, or any one
else, by penning them up in so many square miles and bribing them to be
good. The Indian cattleman I speak of kept clear of the reservation, and
after drifting around for a while, settled down to the most natural
civilized calling possible to an Indian--stock-raising. Dig in the ground?
No; they won't do much of that, just at first. But I've eaten some pretty
good garden truck they've raised."

Lyster whistled and arched his handsome brows significantly.

"So your sympathies run in that direction, do they? Is there a Kootenai
Pocahontas somewhere in the wilderness accountable for your ideas? That is
about the only ground I could excuse you on, for I think they are beastly,
except in pictures."

They had reached a gathering of men who were seated at a table in the open
air--some long boards laid on trestles.

Overton and his friend were called to seats at the head of the table,
where the "boss" of the construction gang sat. The rough pleasantries of
the men, and the way they made room for him, showed that the big bronzed
ranger was a favorite visitor along the "works."

They looked with some curiosity at his more finely garbed companion, but
he returned their regard with a good deal of careless audacity, and won
their liking by his independence. But in the midst of the social studies
he was making of them, he heard Overton say:

"And you have not heard of a white girl in this vicinity?"

"Never a girl. Are you looking for one? Old Akkomi, the Indian, has gone
into camp across the river, and he might have a red one to spare."

"Perhaps," agreed Overton. "He's an old acquaintance of mine--a year old.
But I'm not looking for red girls just now, and I'm going to tell the old
man to keep the families clear of your gang, too." Then to Lyster he
remarked:

"Whether these people know it or not, there is a white girl in the Indian
camp--a young girl, too; and before we sleep, we'll see who she is."



CHAPTER II.

IN THE LODGE OF AKKOMI.


The earliest stars had picked their way through the blue canopy, when the
men from the camp crossed over to the fishing village of the Indians; for
it was only when the moon of May, or of June, lightened the sky that the
red men moved their lodges to the north--their winter resort was the
States.

"Dan--umph! How?" grunted a tall brave lounging at the opening of the
tepee. He arose, and took his pipe from his lips, glancing with assumed
indifference at the handsome young stranger, though, in reality, Black Bow
was not above curiosity.

"How?" returned Overton, and reached out his hand. "I am glad to see that
the lodges by the river hold friends instead of strangers," he continued.
"This, too, is a friend--one from the big ocean where the sun rises. We
call him Max."

"Umph! How?" and Lyster glanced in comical dismay at his friend as his
hand was grasped by one so dirty, so redolent of cooked fish, as the one
Black Bow was gracious enough to offer him.

Thereupon they were asked to seat themselves on the blanket of that
dignitary--no small favor in the eyes of an Indian. Overton talked of the
fish, and the easy markets there would soon be for them, when the boats
and the cars came pushing swiftly through the forests; of the many wolves
Black Bow had killed in the winter past; of how well the hunting shirt
of deer-skin had worn that Black Bow's squaw had sold him when he met them
last on the trail; of any and many things but the episode of the evening
of which Lyster was waiting to hear.

As the dusk fell, Lyster fully appreciated the picturesque qualities of
the scene before him. The many dogs and their friendly attentions
disturbed him somewhat, but he sat there feeling much as if in a theater;
for those barbarians, in their groupings, reminded him of bits of stage
setting he had seen at some time or another.

One big fire was outside the lodges, and over it a big kettle hung, and
the steam drifted up and over the squaws and children gathered there. Some
of them came over and looked at him, and several grunted at Overton. Black
Bow would order them away once in a while with a lordly "Klehowyeh," much
as he did the dogs; and, like the dogs, they would promptly return, and
gaze with half-veiled eyes at the elegance of the high boots covering the
shapely limbs of Mr. Lyster.

The men were away on a hunt, Black Bow explained; only he and Akkomi, the
head chief, had not gone. Akkomi was growing very old and no longer led
the hunts; therefore a young chief must ever be near to his call; so Black
Bow was also absent from the hunt.

"We stay until two suns rise," and Overton pointed across to the camp of
the whites. "To-morrow I would ask that Black Bow and the chief Akkomi eat
at our table. This is the kinsman--_tillicums_--of the men who make the
great work where the mines are and the boats that are big and the cars
that go faster than the horses run. He wants that the two great chiefs of
the Kootenais eat of his food before he goes back again to the towns of
the white people."

Lyster barely repressed a groan as he heard the proposal made, but Overton
was blandly oblivious of the appealing expression of his friend; the thing
he was interested in was to bring Black Bow to a communicative mood, for
not a sign could he discover of a white woman in the camp, though he was
convinced there was or had been one there.

The invitation to eat succeeded. Black Bow would tell the old chief of
their visit; maybe he would talk with them now, but he was not sure. The
chief was tired, his thoughts had been troubled that day. The son of his
daughter had been near death in the river there. He was only a child, and
could not swim yet; a young squaw of the white people had kept him from
drowning, and the squaw of Akkomi had been making medicines for her ever
since.

"Young squaw! Where comes a white squaw from to the Kootenai lakes?" asked
Overton, incredulously. "Half white, half red, maybe."

"White," affirmed their host. "Where? Humph! Where come the sea-birds from
that get lost when they fly too far from shore? Kootenai not know, but
they drop down sometimes by the rivers. So this one has come. She has
talked with Akkomi; but he tell nothing; only maybe we will all dance a
dance some day, and then she will be Kootenai, too."

"_Adopt_ her," muttered Overton, and glanced at Lyster; but that
gentleman's attention was given at the moment to a couple of squaws who
walked past and looked at him out of the corners of their eyes, so he
missed that portion of Black Bow's figurative information.

"I have need to see the chief Akkomi," said Overton, after a moment's
thought. "It would be well if I could see him before sleeping. Of these,"
producing two colored handkerchiefs, "will you give one to him, that he
may know I am in earnest, the other will you not wear for Dan?"

The brave grunted a pleased assent, and carefully selecting the
handkerchief with the brightest border, thrust it within his hunting
shirt. He then proceeded to the lodge of the old chief, bearing the other
ostentatiously in his hand, as though he were carrying the fate of his
nation in the gaudy bit of silk and cotton weaving.

"What are you trading for?" asked Lyster, and looked like protesting, when
Overton answered:

"An audience with Akkomi."

"Great Cæsar! is one of that sort not enough? I'll never feel that my hand
is clean again until I can give it a bath with some sort of disinfectant
stuff. Now there's another one to greet! I'll not be able to eat fish
again for a year. Why didn't luck send the old vagabond hunting with the
rest? I can endure the women, for they don't sprawl around you and shake
hands with you. Just tell me what I'm to donate for being allowed to bask
in the light of Akkomi's countenance? Haven't a thing over here but some
cigars."

Overton only laughed silently, and gave more attention to the lodge of
Akkomi than to his companion's disgust. When Black Bow emerged from the
tent, he watched him sharply as he approached, to learn from the Indian's
countenance, if possible, the result of the message.

"If he sends a royal request that we partake of supper, I warn you, I
shall be violently and immediately taken ill--too ill to eat," whispered
Lyster, meaningly.

Black Bow seated himself, filled his pipe, handed it to a squaw to light,
and then sent several puffs of smoke skyward, ere he said:

"Akkomi is old, and the time for his rest has come. He says the door of
his lodge is open--that Dan may go within and speak what there is to say.
But the stranger--he must wait till the day comes again."

"Snubbed me, by George!" laughed Lyster. "Well, am I then to wait outside
the portals, and be content with the crumbs you choose to carry out to
me?"

"Oh, amuse yourself," returned Overton, carelessly, and was on his feet at
once. "I leave you to the enjoyment of Black Bow."

A moment later he reached the lodge of the old chief and, without
ceremony, walked in to the center of it.

A slight fire was there,--just enough to kill the dampness of the river's
edge, and over it the old squaw of Akkomi bent, raking the dry sticks,
until the flames fluttered upward and outlined the form of the chief,
coiled on a pile of skins and blankets against the wall.

He nodded a welcome, said "Klehowyeh," and motioned with his pipe that his
visitor should be seated on another pile of clothing and bedding, near his
own person.

Then it was that Overton discovered a fourth person in the shadows
opposite him--the white woman he had been curious about.

And it was not a woman at all,--only a girl of perhaps sixteen years
instead--who shrank back into the gloom, and frowned on him with great,
dark, unchildlike eyes, and from under brows wide and straight as those of
a sculptor's model for a young Greek god; for, if any beauty of feature
was hers, it was boyish in its character. As for beauty of expression, she
assuredly did not cultivate that. The curved red mouth was sullen and the
eyes antagonistic.

One sharp glance showed Overton all this, and also that there was no
Indian blood back of the rather pale cheek.

"So you got out of the water alive, did you?" he asked, in a matter of
fact way, as though the dip in the river was a usual thing to see.

She raised her eyes and lowered them again with a sort of insolence, as
though to show her resentment of the fact that he addressed her at all.

"I rather guess I'm alive," she answered, curtly, and the visitor turned
to the chief.

"I saw to-day your child's child in the waters of the Kootenai. I saw the
white friend lifting him up out of the river, and fighting with death for
him. It would have been a good thing for a man to do, Akkomi. I crossed
the water to-night, to see if your boy is well once more, or if there is
any way I can do service for the young white squaw who is your friend."

The old Indian smoked in silence for a full minute. He was a sharp-eyed,
shrewd-faced old fellow. When he spoke, it was in the Chinook jargon, and
with a significant nod toward the girl, as though she was not to hear or
understand his words.

"It is true, the son of my daughter is again alive. The breath was gone
when the young squaw reached him, but she was in time. Dan know the young
squaw, maybe?"

"No, Akkomi. Who?"

The old fellow shook his head, as if not inclined to give the information
required.

"She tell white men if she want white men to know," he observed. "The
heart of Akkomi is heavy for her--heavy. A lone trail is a hard one for a
squaw in the Kootenai land--a white squaw who is young. She rests here,
and may eat of our meat all her days if she will."

Overton glanced again at the girl, who was evidently, from the words of
the chief, following some lone trail through the wilderness,--a trail
starting whence, and leading whither? All that he could read was that no
happiness kept her company.

"But the life of a red squaw in the white men's camps is a bad life,"
resumed the old man, after a season of deliberation; "and the life of the
white squaw in the red man's village is bad as well."

Overton nodded gravely, but said nothing. By the manner of Akkomi, he
perceived that some important thought was stirring in the old man's mind,
and that it would develop into speech all the sooner if not hurried.

"Of all the men of the white camps it is you Akkomi is gladdest to talk to
this day," continued the chief, after another season of silence; "for you,
Dan, talk with a tongue that is straight, and you go many times where the
great towns are built."

"The words of Akkomi are true words," assented Overton, "and my ears
listen to hear what he will say."

"Where the white men live is where this young white squaw should live,"
said Akkomi, and the listening squaw of Akkomi grunted assent. It was easy
to read that she looked with little favor on the strange white girl within
their lodge. To be sure, Akkomi was growing old; but the wife of Akkomi
had memories of his lusty youth and of various wars she had been forced to
wage on ambitious squaws who fancied it would be well to dwell in the
lodge of the head chief.

And remembering those days, though so long past, the old squaw was sorely
averse to the adoption dance for the white girl who lay on their blankets,
and thought it good, indeed, that she go to live in the villages of the
white people.

Overton nodded gravely.

"You speak wisely, Akkomi," he said.

Glancing at the girl, Dan noted that she was leaning forward and gazing at
him intently. Her face gave him the uncomfortable feeling that she perhaps
knew what they were talking of, but she dropped back into the shadows
again, and he dismissed the idea as improbable, for white girls were
seldom versed in the lore of Indian jargon.

He waited a bit for Akkomi to continue, but as that dignitary evidently
thought he had said enough, if Overton chose to interpret it correctly,
the white man asked:

"Would it please Akkomi that I, Dan, should lead the young squaw where
white families are?"

"Yes. It is that I thought of when I heard your name. I am old. I cannot
take her. She has come a long way on a trail for that which has not been
found, and her heart is so heavy she does not care where the next trail
leads her. So it seems to Akkomi. But she saved the son of my daughter,
and I would wish good to her. So, if she is willing, I would have her go
to your people."

"If she is willing!" Overton doubted it, and thought of the scowl with
which she had answered him before. After a little hesitation, he said: "It
shall be as you wish. I am very busy now, but to serve one who is your
friend I will take time for a few days. Do you know the girl?"

"I know her, and her father before her. It was long ago, but my eyes are
good. I remember. She is good--girl not afraid."

"Father! Where is her father?"

"In the grave blankets--so she tells me."

"And her name--what is she called?"

But Akkomi was not to be stripped of all his knowledge by questions. He
puffed at the pipe in silence and then, as Overton was as persistently
quiet as himself, he finally said:

"The white girl will tell to you the things she wants you to know, if she
goes with your people. If she stays here, the lodge of Akkomi has a
blanket for her."

The girl was now face downward on the couch of skins, and when Overton
wished to speak to her he crossed over and gently touched her shoulder. He
was almost afraid she was weeping, because of the position; but when she
raised her head he saw no signs of tears.

"Why do you come to me?" she demanded. "I ain't troubling the white folks
any. Huh! I didn't even stop at their camp across the river."

The grunt of disdain she launched at him made him smile. It was so much
more like that of an Indian than a white person, yet she was white,
despite all the red manners she chose to adopt.

"No, I reckon you didn't stop at the white camp, else I'd have heard of
it. But as you're alone in this country, don't you think you'd be better
off where other white women live?"

He spoke in the kindliest tone, and she only bit her lip and shrugged her
angular shoulders.

"I will see that you are left with good people," he continued; "so don't
be afraid about that. I'm Dan Overton. Akkomi will tell you I'm square. I
know where there's a good sort of white woman who would be glad to have
you around, I guess."

"Is it your wife?" she demanded, with the same sullen, suspicious wrinkle
between her brows.

His face paled ever so little and he took a step backward, as he looked at
her through narrowing eyes.

"No, miss, it is not my wife," he said, curtly, and then walked back and
sat down beside the old chief. "In fact, she isn't any relation to me, but
she's the nearest white woman I know to leave you with. If you want to go
farther, I reckon I can help you. Anyway, you come along across the line
to Sinna Ferry, and I feel sure you'll find friends there."

She looked at him unbelievingly. "She's used to being deceived," decided
Overton, as she watched him; but he stood her gaze without flinching and
smiled back at her.

"Do you live there?" she asked again, in that abrupt, uncivil way, and
turned her eyes to Akkomi, as though to read his countenance as well as
that of the white man,--a difficult thing, however, for the head of the
old man was again shrouded in his blanket, from which only the tip of his
nose and his pipe protruded.

In a far corner the squaw of Akkomi was crouched, her bead-like eyes
glittering with a watchful interest, as they turned from one to the other
of the speakers, and missed no tone or gesture of the two so strangely met
within her tepee. Overton noticed her once, and thought what a subject
for a picture Lyster would think the whole thing--at long range. He would
want to view it from the door of the tepee, and not from the interior.

But the questioning eyes of the girl were turned to him, and remembering
them, he said:

"Live there? Well, as much--a little more than I do anywhere else of late.
I am to go there in two days; and if you are ready to go, I will take you
and be glad to do it."

"You don't know anything about me," she protested.

He smiled, for her tone told him she was yielding.

"Oh, no--not much," he confessed, "but you can tell me, you know."

"I know I can, but I won't," she said, doggedly. "So I guess you'll just
move on down to the ferry without me. He knows, and he says I can live
here if I want to. I'm tired of the white people. A girl alone is as well
with the Indians. I think so, anyway, and I guess I'll try camping with
them. They don't ask a word--only what I tell myself. They don't even care
whether I have a name; they would give me one if I hadn't."

"A suitable name--and a nice Indian one--for you would be, 'The Water Rat'
or 'The Girl Who Swims.' Maybe," he added, "they will hunt you up one more
like poetry in books (the only place one finds poetry in Indians),
'Laughing Eyes,' or 'The One Who Smiles.' Oh, yes, they'll find you a name
fast enough. So will I, if you have none. But you have, haven't you?"

"Yes, I have, and it's 'Tana," said the girl, piqued into telling by the
humorous twinkle in the man's eyes.

"'Tana? Why, that itself is an Indian name, is it not? And you are not
Indian."

"It's 'Tana, for short. Montana is my name."

"It is? Well, you've got a big name, little girl, and as it is proof that
you belong to the States, don't you think you'd better let me take you
back there?"

"I ain't going down among white folks who will turn up their noses at me,
just because you found me among these redskins," she answered, scowling at
him and speaking very deliberately. "I know how proud decent women are,
and I ain't going among any other sort and that's settled."

"Why, you poor little one, what sort of folks have you been among?" he
asked, compassionately. Her stubborn antagonism filled him with more of
pity than tears could have done; it showed so much suspicion, that spoke
of horrible associations, and she was so young!

"See here! No one need know I found you among the Indians. I can make up
some story--say you're the daughter of an old partner of mine. It'll be a
lie, of course, and I don't approve of lies. But if it makes you feel
better, it goes just the same! Partner dies, you know, and I fall heir to
you. See? Then, of course, I pack you back to civilization, where you
can--well, go to school or something. How's that?"

She did not answer, only looked at him strangely, from under those
straight brows. He felt an angry impatience with her that she did not take
the proposal differently, when it was so plainly for her good he was
making schemes.

"As to your father being dead--that part of it would be true enough, I
suppose," he continued; "for Akkomi told me he was dead."

"Yes--yes, he is dead," she said coldly, and her tones were so even no one
would imagine it was her father she spoke of.

"Your mother, too?"

"My mother, too," she assented. "But I told you I wasn't going to talk any
more about myself, and I ain't. If I can't go to your Sunday-school
without a pedigree, I'll stop where I am--that's all."

She spoke with the independence of a boy, and it was, perhaps, her
independence that induced the man to be persistent.

"All right, 'Tana," he said cheerfully. "You come along on your own terms,
so long as you get out of these quarters. I'll tell the dead partner
story--only the partner must have a name, you know. Montana is a good
name, but it is only a half one, after all. You can give me another, I
reckon."

She hesitated a little and stared at the glowing embers of the lodge fire.
He wondered if she was deciding to tell him a true one, or if she was
trying to think of a fictitious one.

"Well?" he said at last.

Then she looked up, and the sullen, troubled, unchildlike eyes made him
troubled for her sake.

"Rivers is a good name--Rivers?" she asked, and he nodded his head,
grimly.

"That will do," he agreed. "But you give it just because you were baptized
in the river this evening, don't you?"

"I guess I give it because I haven't any other I intend to be called by,"
she answered.

"And you will cut loose from this outfit?" he asked. "You will come with
me, little girl, across there into God's country, where you must belong."

"You won't let them look down on me?"

"If any one looks down on you, it will be because of something you will
do in the future, 'Tana," he said, looking at her very steadily.
"Understand that, for I will settle it that no one knows how I came across
you. And you will go?"

"I--will go."

"Come, now! that's a good decision--the best you could have made, little
girl; and I'll take care of you as though you were a cargo of gold. Shake
hands on the agreement, won't you?"

She held out her hand, and the old squaw in the corner grunted at the
symbol of friendship. Akkomi watched them with his glittering eyes, but
made no sign.

It surely was a strange beginning to a strange friendship.

"You poor little thing!" said Overton, compassionately, as she half shrank
from the clasp of his fingers. The tender tone broke through whatever wall
of indifference she had built about her, for she flung herself face
downward on the couch, and sobbed passionately, refusing to speak again,
though Overton tried in vain to calm her.



CHAPTER III.

THE IMAGE-MAKER.


The world was a night older ere Dan Overton informed Lyster that they
would have an addition of one to their party when they continued their
journey into the States.

On leaving the village of Akkomi but little conversation was to be had
from Dan. In vain did his friend endeavor to learn something of the white
squaw who swam so well. He simply kept silence, and looked with provoking
disregard on all attempts to surprise him into disclosures.

But when the camp breakfast was over, and he had evidently thought out his
plan of action, he told Lyster over the sociable influence of a pipe, that
he was going over to the camp of Akkomi again.

"The fact, is, Max, that the girl we saw yesterday is to go across home
with us. She's a ward of mine."

"What!" demanded Max, sitting bolt upright in his amazement, "a ward of
yours? You say that as though you had several scattered among the tribes
about here. So it is a Kootenai Pocahontas! What good advice was it you
gave me yesterday about keeping clear of Selkirk Range females? And now
you are deliberately gathering one to yourself, and I will be the
unnecessary third on our journey home. Dan! Dan! I wouldn't have thought
it of you!"

Overton listened in silence until the first outburst was over.

"Through?" he asked, carelessly; "well, then, it isn't a Pocahontas; it
isn't an Indian at all. It is only a little white girl whose father
was--was an old partner. Well, he's gone 'over the range'--dead, you
know--and the girl is left to hustle for herself. Naturally, she heard I
was in this region, and as none of her daddy's old friends were around but
me, she just made her camp over there with the Kootenais, and waited till
I reached the river again. She'll go with me down to Sinna; and if she
hasn't any other home in prospect, I'll just locate her there with Mrs.
Huzzard, the milliner-cook, for the present. Now, that's the story."

"And a very pretty little one it is, too," agreed Mr. Max. "For a
backwoodsman, who is not supposed to have experience, it is very well put
together. Oh, don't frown like that! I'll believe she's your
granddaughter, if you say so," and he laughed in wicked enjoyment at
Overton's flushed face. "It's all right, Dan. I congratulate you. But I
wouldn't have thought it."

"I suppose, now," remarked Dan, witheringly, "that by all these remarks
and giggles you are trying to be funny. Is that it? Well, as the fun of it
is not visible to me yet, I'll just keep my laughter till it is. In the
meantime, I'm going over to call on my ward, Miss Rivers, and you can
hustle for funny things around camp until I come back."

"Oh, say, Dan, don't be vindictive. Take me along, won't you? I'll promise
to be good--'pon honor I will. I'll do penance for any depraved suspicions
I may have indulged in. I'll--I'll even shake hands again with Black
Bow, there! Beyond that, I can think of no more earnest testimony of
repentance."

"I shall go by myself," decided Overton. "So make a note of it, if you see
the young lady before to-morrow, it will be because she specially requests
it. Understand? I'm not going to have her bothered by people who are only
curious; not but that she can take her own part, as you'll maybe learn
later. But she was too upset to talk much last night. So I'll go over and
finish this morning, and in the meantime, this side of the river is plenty
good enough for you."

"Is it?" murmured Mr. Lyster, as he eyed the stalwart form of the
retreating guardian, who was so bent on guarding. "Well, it would do my
heart good, anyway, to fasten another canoe right alongside of yours where
you land over there, and I shouldn't be surprised if I did it."

Thus it happened that while Overton was skimming upward across the river,
his friend, on mischief bent, was getting a canoe ready to launch. A few
minutes after Overton had disappeared toward the Indian village, the
second canoe danced lightly over the Kootenai, and the occupant laughed to
himself, as he anticipated the guardian's surprise.

"Not that I care in the least about seeing the dismal damsel he has to
look after," mused Lyster. "In fact, I'm afraid she'll be a nuisance, and
spoil our jolly good time all the way home. But he is so refreshingly
earnest about everything. And as he doesn't care a snap for girls in
general, it is all the more amusing that it is he who should have a charge
of that sort left on his hands. I'd like to know what she looks like.
Common, I dare say, for the ultra refined do not penetrate these wilds
to help blaze trails; and she swam like a boy."

When he reached the far shore, no one was in sight. With satisfied smiles,
he fastened his canoe to that of Overton, and then cast about for some
place to lie in wait for that selfish personage and surprise him on his
return.

He had no notion of going up to the village, for he wanted only to keep
close enough to trace Overton. Hearing children's voices farther along the
shore, he sauntered that way, thinking to see Indian games, perhaps. When
he came nearer, he saw they were running races.

The contestants were running turn about, two at a time. Each victory was
greeted with shrill cries of triumph. He also noticed that each victor
returned to a figure seated close under some drooping bushes, and each
time a hand was reached out and some little prize was given to the winner.
Then, with shouts of rejoicing, a new race was planned.

As the stranger stood back of the thick bushes, watching the stretch of
level beach and the half-naked, childish figures, he grew curious to see
who that one person just out of sight was.

One thing at last he did discover--that the hand awarding the prizes was
tanned like the hand of a boy, but that it certainly had white blood
instead of red in its veins. What if it should be the ward?

Elated, and full of mischief, he crept closer. If only he could be able to
give Overton a description of her when Overton came back to the canoe!

At first all he could see were the hands--hands playing with a bit of wet
clay--or so it seemed to him.

Then his curiosity was more fully aroused when out of the mass a
recognizable form was apparent--a crudely modeled head and shoulders of a
decided Indian character.

Lyster was so close now that he could notice how small the hands were, and
to see that the head bent above them was covered with short, brown,
loosely curled hair, and that there was just a tinge of reddish gold on
it, where the sunlight fell.

A race was just ended, and one of the little young savages trotted up
where the image-maker was. The small hand was again reached out, and he
could see that the prize the little Indian had raced for was a blue bead
of glass. He could see, also, that the owner of the hand had the face of a
girl--a girl with dark eyes, and long lashes that touched the rather pale
cheeks. Her mouth was deliciously saucy, with its bow-like curve, and its
clear redness. She said something he did not understand, and the children
scampered away to resume the endless races, while she continued the
manipulation of the clay, frowning often when it would not take the
desired form.

Then one of the sharp-eyed little redskins left his companions and slipped
back to her, and said something in a tone so low it was almost a whisper.

She turned at once and looked directly into the thicket, back of which
Lyster stood.

"What are you watching for?" she demanded. "I don't like people who are
afraid to show themselves."

"Well, I'll try to change that as quickly as I can," Lyster retorted, and
circling the clump of bushes, he stood before her with his hat in his
hand, looking smilingly audacious as she frowned on him.

But the frown faded as she looked; perhaps because 'Tana had never seen
any one quite so handsome in all her life, or so fittingly and
picturesquely dressed, for Mr. Maxwell Lyster was artist enough to make
the most of his many good points and to exhibit them all with charming
unconsciousness.

"I hope you will like me better here than across there," he said, with a
smile that was contagious. "You see, I was too shy to come forward at
first, and then I was afraid to interrupt your modeling. It is very
good."

"You don't look shy," she said, combatively, and drew the clay image back,
where he could not look at it. She was not at all sure that he was not
laughing at her, and she covered her worn shoes with the skirt of her
dress, feeling suddenly very poor and shabby in the light of his eyes. She
had not felt at all like that when Overton looked at her in Akkomi's
lodge.

"You would not be so unfriendly if you knew who I am," he ventured meekly.
"Of course, I--Max Lyster--don't amount to much, but I happen to be Dan
Overton's friend, and with your permission, I hope to continue with him to
Sinna Ferry, and with you as well; for I am sure you must be Miss
Rivers."

"If you're sure, that settles it, I suppose," she returned. "So he--he
told you about me?"

"Oh, yes; we are chums, as you will learn. Then I was so fortunate as to
see your brave swim after that child yesterday. You don't look any the
worse for it."

"No, I'm not."

"I suppose, now, you thought that little dip a welcome break in the
monotony of camp-life, while you were waiting for Dan."

She looked at him in a quick, questioning way he thought odd.

"Oh--yes. While I was waiting for--Dan," she said in a queer tone, and
bent her head over the clay image.

He thought her very interesting with her boyish air, her brusqueness, and
independence. Yet, despite her savage surroundings, a certain amount of
education was visible in her speech and manner, and her face had no stamp
of ignorance on it.

The young Kootenais silently withdrew from their races, and gathered
watchfully close to the girl. Their nearness was a discomfiting thing to
Lyster, for it was not easy to carry on a conversation under their
watchful eyes.

"You gave them prizes, did you not?" he asked. "How much wealth must one
offer to get them to run?"

"Run where?" she returned carelessly, though quietly amused at the
scrutiny of the little redskins. They were especially charmed by the
glitter of gold mountings on Mr. Lyster's watch-guard.

"Oh, run races--run anywhere," he said.

From a pocket of her blouse she drew forth a few blue beads that yet
remained.

"This is all I had to give them, and they run just as fast for one of
these as they would for a pony."

"Good enough! I'll have some races for my own edification and comfort,"
and he drew out some coins. "Will you run for this--run far over there?"

The children looked at the girl. She nodded her head, said a word or two
unintelligible to him, but perfectly clear to them; for, with sharp looks
at the coins and pleased yells, they leaped away to their racing.

"Now, this is more comfortable," he said. "May I sit down here? Thanks!
Now would you mind telling me whose likeness it is you are making in the
clay?"

"I guess you know it's nobody's likeness," she answered, and again thrust
it back out of sight, her face flushing that he should thus make a jest of
her poor efforts. "You've seen real statues, I suppose, and know how they
ought to be, but you don't need to look for them in the Purcell Range."

"But, indeed, I am in earnest about your modeling. Won't you believe me?"
and the blue eyes looking into her own were so appealing, that she turned
away her head half shyly, and a pink flush crept up from her throat. Miss
Rivers was evidently not used to eyes with caressive tendencies and they
disturbed her, for all her strangely unchildlike character.

"Of course, your work is only in the rough," he continued; "but it is not
at all bad, and has real Indian features. And if you have had no
teaching--"

"Huh!" and she looked at him with a mirthless smile. "Where'd any one get
teaching of that sort along the Columbia River? Of course, there are some
gentlemen--officers and such--about the reservations, but not one but
would only laugh at such a big girl making doll babies out of mud. No, I
had no teaching to do anything but read, and I did read some in a book
about a sculptor, and how he made animals and people's faces out of clay.
Then I tried."

As she grew communicative, she seemed so much more what she really was in
years--a child; and he noticed, with satisfaction, that she looked at him
more frankly, while the suspicion faded almost entirely from her face.

"And are you going to develop into a sculptor under Overton's
guardianship?" he asked. "You see, he has told me of his good luck."

She made a queer little sound between a laugh and a grunt.

"I'll bet the rest of the blue beads he didn't call it good luck," she
returned, looking at him keenly. "Now, honest Injun--did he?"

"Honest Injun! he didn't speak of it as either good or bad luck; simply as
a matter of course, that at your father's death you should look him up,
and let him know you were alone. Oh, he is a good fellow, Dan is, and
glad, I am sure, to be of use to you."

Her lips opened in a little sigh of content, and a swift, radiant smile
was given him.

"I'm right glad you say that about him," she answered, "and I guess you
know him well, too. Akkomi likes him, and Akkomi's sharp."

The winner of the race here trotted back for the coin, and Lyster showed
another one, as an incentive for all to scatter along the beach again. It
looked as though the two white people must pay for the grant of privacy on
the river-bank.

Having grown more at ease with him, 'Tana resumed again the patting and
pressing of the clay, using only a little pointed stick, while Lyster
watched, with curiosity, the ingenious way in which she seemed to feel her
way to form.

"Have you ever tried to draw?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"Only to copy pictures, like I've seen in some papers, but they never
looked right. But I want to do everything like that--to make pictures, and
statues, and music, and--oh, all the lovely things there are somewhere,
that I've never seen--never will see them, I suppose. Sometimes, when I
get to thinking that I never will see them, I just get as ugly as a
drunken man, and I don't care if I never do see anything but Indians
again. I get so awful reckless. Say!" she said, again with that hard,
short laugh, "girls back your way don't get wild like that, do they? They
don't talk my way either, I guess."

"Maybe not, and few of them would be able, either, to do what we saw you
do in this river yesterday," he said kindly. "Dan is a judge of such
things, you know, and he thought you very nervy."

"Nervy? Oh, yes; I guess he'd be nervy himself if he was needed. Say! can
you tell me about the camp, or settlement, at this Sinna Ferry? I never
was there. He says white women are there. Do you know them?"

Lyster explained his own ignorance of the place, knowing it as he did only
through Dan's descriptions.

Then she, from her bit of Indian knowledge, told him Sinna was the old
north Indian name for Beaver. Then he got her to tell him other things of
the Indian country, things of ghost-haunted places and strange witcheries,
with which they confused the game and the fish. He fell to wondering what
manner of man Rivers, the partner of Dan, had been, that his daughter had
gained such strange knowledge of the wild things. But any attempt to learn
or question her history beyond yesterday was always checked in some way or
other.



CHAPTER IV.

DAN'S WARD.


Mr. Max Lyster was not given to the study of deep problems; his habits of
thought did not run in that groove. But he did watch the young stranger
with unusual interest. Her face puzzled him as much as her presence
there.

"I feel as though I had seen you before," he said at last, and her face
grew a shade paler. She did not look up, and when she spoke, it was very
curtly:

"Where?"

"Oh, I don't know--in fact, I believe it is a resemblance to some one I
know that makes me feel that way."

"I look like some one you know?"

"Well, yes, you do--a little--a lady who is a little older than you--a
little more of a brunette than you; yet there is a likeness."

"Where does she live--and what is her name?" she asked, with scant
ceremony.

"I don't suppose her name would tell you much," he answered. "But it is
Miss Margaret Haydon, of Philadelphia."

"Miss Margaret Haydon," she said slowly, almost contemptuously. "So you
know her?"

"You speak as though you did," he answered; "and as if you did not like
the name, either."

"But you think it's pretty," she said, looking at him sharply. "No, I
don't know such swells--don't want to."

"How do you know she is a swell?"

"Oh, there's a man owns big works across the country, and that's his name.
I suppose they are all of a lot," she said, indifferently. "Say! are there
any girls at Sinna Ferry, any family folks? Dan didn't tell me--only said
there was a white woman there, and I could live with her. He hasn't a
wife, has he?"

"Dan?" and he laughed at the idea, "well, no. He is very kind to women,
but I can't imagine the sort of woman he would marry. He is a queer fish,
you know."

"I guess you'll think we're all that up in this wild country," she
observed. "Does he know much about books and such things?"

"Such things?"

"Oh, you know! things of the life in the cities, where there's music and
theaters. I love the theaters and pictures! and--and--well, everything
like that."

Lyster watched her brightening face, and appreciated all the longing in it
for the things he liked well himself. And she loved the theaters! All his
own boyish enthusiasm of years ago crowded into his memory, as he looked
at her.

"You have seen plays, then?" he asked, and wondered where she had seen
them along that British Columbia line.

"Seen plays! Yes, in 'Frisco, and Portland, and Victoria--big, real
theaters, you know; and then others in the big mining camps. Oh, I just
dream over plays, when I do see them, specially when the actresses are
pretty. But I mostly like the villains better than the heroes. Don't know
why, but I do."

"What! you like to see their wickedness prosper?"

"No--I think not," she said, doubtfully. "But I tell you, the heroes are
generally just too good to be live men, that's all. And the villain mostly
talks more natural, gets mad, you know, and breaks things, and rides over
the lay-out as though he had some nerve in him. Of course, they always
make him throw up his hands in the end, and every man in the audience
applauds--even the ones who would act just as he does if such a pretty
hero was in their way."

"Well, you certainly have peculiar ideas of theatrical personages--for a
young lady," decided Lyster, laughing. "And why you have a grievance
against the orthodox handsome hero, I can't see."

"He's too good," she insisted, with the little frown appearing between her
brows, "and no one is ever started in the play with a fair chance against
him. He is always called Willie, where the villain would be called
Bill--now, isn't he? Then the girl in the story always falls in love with
him at first sight, and that's enough to rile any villain, especially when
he wants her himself."

"Oh!" and the face of the young man was a study, as he inspected this
wonderful ward of Dan. Whatever he had expected from the young swimmer of
the Kootenai, from the welcomed guest of Akkomi, he had not expected this
sort of thing.

She was twisting her pretty mouth, with a schoolgirl's earnestness, over a
problem, and accenting thus her patient forming of the clay face. She
built no barriers up between herself and this handsome stranger, as she
had in the beginning with Overton. What she had to say was uttered with
all freedom--her likes, her thoughts, her ambitions. At first the fineness
and perfection of his apparel had been as grandeur and insolence when
contrasted with her own weather-stained, coarse skirt of wool, and her
boy's blouse belted with a strap of leather. Even the blue beads--her one
feminine bit of adornment--had been stripped from her throat, that she
might give some pleasure to the little bronze-tinted runners on the shore.
But the gently modulated, sympathetic tones of Lyster and the kindly
fellowship in his eyes, when he looked at her, almost made her forget her
own shabbiness (all but those hideous coarse shoes!) for he talked to her
with the grace of the people in the plays she loved so, and had not once
spoken as though to a stray found in the shelter of an Indian camp.

But he did look curious when she expressed those independent ideas on
questions over which most girls would blush or appear at least a little
conscious.

"So, you would put a veto on love at first sight, would you?" he asked,
laughingly. "And the beauty of the hero would not move you at all? What a
very odd young lady you would have me think you! I believe love at first
sight is generally considered, by your age and sex, the pinnacle of all
things hoped for."

A little color did creep into her face at the unnecessary personal
construction put on her words. She frowned to hide her embarrassment and
thrust out her lips in a manner that showed she had little vanity as to
her features and their attractiveness.

"But I don't happen to be a young lady," she retorted; "and we think as we
please up here in the bush. Maybe your proper young ladies would be very
odd, too, if they were brought up out here like boys."

She arose to her feet, and he saw more clearly then how slight she was;
her form and face were much more childish in character than her speech,
and the face was looking at him with resentful eyes.

"I'm going back to camp."

"Now, I've offended you, haven't I?" he asked, in surprise. "Really, I did
not mean to. Won't you forgive me?"

She dug her heel in the sand and did not answer; but the fact that she
remained at all assured him she would relent. He was amused at her quick
show of temper. What a prospect for Dan!

"I scarcely know what I said to vex you," he began; but she flashed a
sullen look at him.

"You think I'm odd--and--and a nobody; just because I ain't like fine
young ladies you know somewheres--like Miss Margaret Haydon," and she dug
the sand away with vicious little kicks. "Nice ladies with kid slippers
on," she added, derisively, "the sort that always falls in love with the
pretty man, the hero. Huh! I've seen some men who were heroes--real
ones--and I never saw a pretty one yet."

As she said it, she looked very straight into the very handsome face of
Mr. Lyster.

"A young Tartar!" he decided, mentally, while he actually colored at the
directness of her gaze and her sweepingly contemptuous opinion of "pretty
men."

"I see I'd better vacate your premises since you appear unwilling to
forgive me even my unintentional faults," he decided, meekly. "I'm very
sorry, I'm sure, and hope you will bear no malice. Of course I--nobody
would want you to be different from what you are; so you must not think I
meant that. I had hoped you would let me buy that clay bust as a memento
of this morning, but I'm afraid to ask favors now. I can only hope that
you will speak to me again to-morrow. Until then, good-by."

She raised her eyes sullenly at first, but they dropped, ashamed, before
the kindness of his own. She felt coarse and clumsy, and wished she had
not been so quick to quarrel. And he was turning away! Maybe he would
never speak nicely to her again, and she loved to hear him speak.

Then her hand was thrust out to him, and in it was the little clay model.

"You can have it. I'll give it to you," she said, quite humbly. "It ain't
very pretty, but if you like it--"

Thus ended the first of many differences between Dan's ward and Dan's
friend.

When Daniel Overton himself came stalking down among the Indian children,
looking right and left from under his great slouch hat, he halted
suddenly, and with his lips closed somewhat grimly, stood there watching
the rather pretty picture before him.

But the prettiness of it did not seem to appeal to him strongly. He looked
on the girl's half smiling, drooped face, on Lyster, who held the model
and his hat in one hand and, with his handsome blonde head bared, held out
his other hand to her, saying something in those low, deferential tones
Dan knew so well.

Her hand was given after a little hesitation. When they beheld Dan so near
them, the hands were unclasped and each looked confused.

Mr. Lyster was the first to recover, and adjusting his head covering once
more, he held up the clay model to view.

"Thought you'd be around before long," he remarked, with a provoking gleam
in his eyes. "I really had no hope of meeting Miss Rivers before you this
morning; but fortune favors the brave, you know, and fortune sent me
right along these sands for my morning walk--a most indulgent fortune,
for, look at this! Did you know your ward is an embryo sculptress?"

The older man looked indifferently enough at the exalted bit of clay.

"I leave discoveries of that sort to you. They seem to run in your line
more than mine," he answered, briefly. Then he turned to the girl. "Akkomi
told me you were here with the children, 'Tana. If you had other company,
Akkomi would have made him welcome."

He did not speak unkindly, yet she felt that in some way he was not
pleased; and perhaps--perhaps he would change his mind and leave her where
he found her! And if so, she might never see--either of their faces again!
As the thought came to her, she looked up at Dan in a startled way, and
half put out her hand.

"I--I did not know. I don't like the lodges. It is better here by the
river. It is _your_ friend that came, and I--"

"Certainly. You need not explain. And as you seem to know each other, I
need not do any introducing," he answered, as she seemed to grow confused.
"But I have a little time to talk to you this morning and so came early."

"Which means that I can set sail for the far shore," added Lyster,
amiably. "All right; I'm gone. Good-by till to-morrow, Miss Rivers. I'm
grateful for the clay Indian, and more grateful that you have agreed to be
friends with me again. Will you believe, Dan, that in our short
acquaintance of half an hour, we have had time for one quarrel and 'make
up'? It is true. And now that she is disposed to accept me as a traveling
companion, don't you spoil it by giving me a bad name when my back is
turned. I'll wait at the canoes."

With a wave of his hat, he passed out of sight around the clump of bushes,
and down along the shore, singing cheerily, and the words floated back to
them:

                        "Come, love! come, love!
                        My boat lies low;
                        She lies high and dry
                        On the Ohio."

Overton stood looking at the girl for a little time after Lyster
disappeared. His eyes were very steady and searching, as though he began
to realize the care a ward might be, especially when the antecedents and
past life of the ward were so much of stubborn mystery to him.

"I wonder," he said, at last, "if there is any chance of your being my
friend, too, in so short a time as a half-hour? Oh, well, never mind," he
added, as he saw the red mouth tremble, and tears show in her eyes as she
looked at him. "Only don't commence by disliking, that's all; for
unfriendliness is a bad thing in a household, let alone in a canoe, and I
can be of more downright use to you, if you give me all the confidence you
can."

"I know what you mean--that I must tell you about--about how I came here,
and all; but I won't!" she burst out. "I'll die here before I do! I hated
the people they said were my people. I was glad when they were
dead--glad--glad! Oh, you'll say it's wicked to think that way about
relatives. Maybe it is, but it's natural if they've always been wicked to
you. I'll go to the bad place, I reckon, for feeling this way, and I'll
just have to go, for I can't feel any other way."

"'Tana--_'Tana!_" and his hand fell on her shoulder, as though to shake
her away from so wild a mood. "You are only a girl yet. When you are
older, you will be ashamed to say you ever hated your parents--whoever
they were--your mother!"

"I ain't saying anything about her," she answered bitterly. "She died
before I can mind. I've been told she was a lady. But I won't ever use the
name again she used. I--I want to start square with the world, if I leave
these Indians, and I can't do it unless I change my name and try to forget
the old one. It has a curse on it--it has."

She was trembling with nervousness, and her eyes, though tearless, were
stormy and rebellious.

"You'll think I'm bad, because I talk this way," she continued, "but I
ain't--I ain't. I've fought when I had to, and--and I'd swear--sometimes;
but that's all the bad I ever did do. I won't any more if you take me with
you. I--I can cook and keep house for you, if you hain't got folks of your
own, and--I do want to go with you."

                      "Come, love! come!
                      Won't you go along with me?
                      And I'll take you back
                      To old Tennessee!"

The words of the handsome singer came clearly back to them. Overton, about
to speak, heard the words of the song, and a little smile, half-bitter,
half-sad, touched his lips as he looked at her.

"I see," he said, quietly, "you care more about going to-day, than you did
when I talked to you last night. Well, that's all right. And I reckon you
can make coffee for me as long as you like. That mayn't be long, though,
for some of the young fellows will be wanting you to keep house for them
before many years, and you'll naturally do it. How old are you?"

"I'm--past sixteen," she said, in a deprecating way, as though ashamed of
her years and her helplessness. "I'm old enough to work, and I will work
if I get where it's any use trying. But I won't keep house for any one but
you."

"Won't you?" he asked, doubtfully. "Well, I've an idea you may. But we'll
talk about that when the time comes. This morning I wanted to talk of
something else before we start--you and Max and I--down into Idaho. I'm
not asking the name of the man you hate so; but if I am to acknowledge him
as an old acquaintance of mine, you had better tell me what business he
was in. You see, it might save complications if any one should run across
us some day and know."

"No one will know me," she said, decidedly. "If I didn't know that, I'd
stay right here, I think. And as to him, my fond parent," and she made a
grimace--"I guess you can call him a prospector and speculator--either of
those would be correct. I think they called him Jim, when he was
christened."

"Akkomi said last night you had been on the trail hunting for some one.
Was it a friend, or--or any one I could help you look for?"

"No, it wasn't a friend, and I'm done with the search and glad of it. Did
you," she added, looking at him darkly, "ever put in time hunting for any
one you didn't want to find?"

Without knowing it, Miss Rivers must have touched on a subject rather
sensitive to her guardian, for his face flushed, and he gazed at her
with a curious expression in his eyes.

"Maybe I have, little girl," he said at last. "I reckon I know how to let
your troubles alone, anyway, if I can't help them. But I must tell you,
Max--Max Lyster, you know--will be the only one very curious about your
presence here--as to the route you came, etc. You had better be prepared
for that."

"It won't be very hard," she answered, "for I came over from Sproats'
Landing, up to Karlo, and back down here."

"Over from Sproats--you?" he asked, looking at her nervously. "I heard
nothing of a white girl making that trip. When, and how did you do it?"

"Two weeks ago, and on foot," was the laconic reply. "As I had only a
paper of salt and some matches, I couldn't afford to travel in high style,
so I footed it. I had a ring and a blanket, and I traded them up at Karlo
for an old tub of a dugout, and got here in that."

"You had some one with you?"

"I was alone."

Overton looked at her with more of amazement than she had yet inspired in
him. He thought of that indescribably wild portage trail from the Columbia
to the Kootenai. When men crossed it, they preferred to go in company, and
this slip of a girl had dared its loneliness, its dangers alone. He
thought of the stories of death, by which the trail was haunted; of
prospectors who had verged from that dim path and had been lost in the
wilderness, where their bones were found by Indians or white hunters long
after; of strange stories of wild beasts; of all the weird sounds of the
jungles; of places where a misstep would send one lifeless to the jagged
feet of huge precipices. And through that trail of terror she had
walked--alone!

"I have nothing more to ask," he said briefly. "But it is not necessary to
tell any of the white people you meet that you made the trip alone."

"I know," she said, humbly, "they'd think it either wasn't true--or--or
else that it oughtn't to be true. I know how they'd look at me and whisper
things. But if--if you believe me--"

She paused uncertainly, and looked up at him. All the rebellion and
passion had faded out of her eyes now: they were only appealing. What a
wild, changeable creature she was with those quick contrasts of temper!
wild as the name she bore--Montana--the mountains. Something like that
thought came into his mind as he looked at her.

He had gathered other wild things from his trips into the wilderness;
young bears with which to enliven camp life; young fawns that he had loved
and cared for, because of the beauty of eyes and form; even a pair of
kittens had been carried by him across into the States, and developed into
healthy, marauding panthers. One of these had set its teeth through the
flesh of his hand one day ere he could conquer and kill it, and his fawns,
cubs and smaller pets had drifted from him back to their forests, or else
into the charge of some other prospector who had won their affections.

He remembered them, and the remembrance lent a curious character to the
smile in his eyes, as he held out his hand to her.

"I do believe you, for it is only cowards who tell lies; and I don't
believe you'd make a good coward--would you?"

She did not answer, but her face flushed with pleasure, and she looked up
at him gratefully. He seemed to like that better than words.

"Akkomi called you 'Girl-not-Afraid,'" he continued. "And if I were a
redskin, too, I would look up an eagle feather for you to wear in your
hair. I reckon you've heard that only the braves dare wear eagle
feathers."

"I know, but I--"

"But you have earned them by your own confession," he said, kindly, "and
some day I may run across them for you. In the meantime, I have only
this."

He held out a beaded belt of Indian manufacture, a pretty thing, and she
opened her eyes in glad surprise, as he offered it to her.

"For me? Oh, Dan!--Mr. Overton--I--"

She paused, confused at having called him as the Indians called him; but
he smiled understandingly.

"We'll settle that name business right here," he suggested. "You call me
Dan, if it comes easier to you. Just as I call you 'Tana. I don't know
'Mr. Overton' very well myself in this country, and you needn't trouble
yourself to remember him. Dan is shorter. If I had a sister, she'd call me
Dan, I suppose; so I give you license to do so. As to the belt, I got it,
with some other plunder, from some Columbia River reds, and you use it.
There is some other stuff in Akkomi's tepee you'd better put on, too; it's
new stuff--a whole dress--and I think the moccasins will about fit you. I
brought over two pairs, to make sure. Now, don't get any independent
notions in your head," he advised, as she looked at him as though about to
protest. "If you go to the States as my ward, you must let me take the
management of the outfit. I got the dress for an army friend of mine, who
wanted it for his daughter; but I guess it will about fit you, and she
will have to wait until next trip. Now, as I've settled our business, I'll
be getting back across the river, so until to-morrow, _klahowya_."

She stood, awkward and embarrassed, before him. No words would come to her
lips to thank him. She had felt desolate and friendless for so long, and
now when his kindness was so great, she felt as if she should cry if she
spoke at all. Just as she had cried the night before at his compassionate
tones and touch.

Suddenly she bent forward for the belt, and with some muttered words he
could not distinguish, she grasped his big hand in her little brown
fingers, and touching it with her lips, twice--thrice--turned and ran away
as swiftly as the little Indians who had run on the shore.

The warm color flushed all over Dan's face, as he looked after her. Of
course, she was only a little girl, but he was devoutly glad Max was not
in sight. Max would not have understood aright. Then his eyes traveled
back to his hand, where her mouth had touched it. Her kiss had fallen
where the scar of the panther's teeth was.

And this, also, was a wild thing he was taking from the forests!



CHAPTER V.

AT SINNA FERRY.


"It has been young wolves, an' bears, an' other vicious pets--every formed
thing, but snakes or redskins, and at last it's that!"

"Tush, tush, captain! Now, it's not so bad. Why, I declare, now, I was
kind of pleased when I got sight of her. She's white, anyway, and she's
right smart."

"Smart!" The captain sniffed, dubiously. "We'll get a chance to see about
that later on, Mrs. Huzzard. But it's like your--hem! tender heart to have
a good word for all comers, and this is only another proof of it."

"Pshaw! Now, you're making game, I guess. That's what you're up to,
captain," and Mrs. Huzzard attempted a chaste blush and smile, and
succeeded in a smirk. "I'm sure, now, that to hem a few neckties an' sich
like for you is no good reason for thinking I'm doing the same for every
one that comes around. No, indeed; my heart ain't so tender as all that."

The captain, from under his sandy brows, looked with a certain air of
satisfaction at the well rounded personality of Mrs. Huzzard. His vanity
was gently pleased--she was a fine woman!

"Well, I mightn't like it so well myself if I thought you'd do as much for
any man," he acknowledged. "There's too many men at the Ferry who ain't
fit even to eat one of the pies you make."

Mrs. Huzzard was fluting the edge of a pie at that moment, and looked
across the table at the captain, with arch meaning.

"Maybe so; but there's a right smart lot of fine-looking fellows among
them, too; there's no getting around that."

The unintelligible mutter of disdain that greeted her words seemed to
bring a certain comfort to her widowed heart, for she smiled brightly and
flipped the completed pie aside, with an airy grace.

"Now--now, Captain Leek, you can't be expecting common grubbers of men to
have all the advantages of manners that you've got. No, sir; you can't.
They hain't had the bringing up. They hain't had the schooling, and they
hain't had the soldier drills to teach them to carry themselves like
gentlemen. Now, you've had all that, and it's a sight of profit to you.
But don't be too hard on the folks that ain't jest so finished like as
you. There's that new Rivers girl, now--she ain't a bad sort, though it is
queer to see your boy Dan toting such a stranger into camp, for he never
did seem to take to girls much--did he?"

"It's not so easy to tell what he's taken to in his time," returned the
captain, darkly. "You know he isn't my own boy, as I told you before. He
was eight years old when I married his mother, and after her death he took
the bit in his own teeth, and left home. No great grief to me, for he
wasn't a tender boy to manage!" And Captain Leek heaved a sigh for the
martyrdom he had lived through.

"Oh, well, but see what a fine man he's turned out, and I'm sure no own
son could be better to you," for Mrs. Huzzard was one of the large,
comfortable bodies, who never see any but the brightest side of affairs,
and a good deal of a peacemaker in the little circle where she had taken
up her abode. "Indeed, now, captain, you'll not meet many such fine
fellows in a day's tramp."

"If she'd even been a real Indian," he continued, discontentedly, "it
would have been easier to manage her--to--to put her in some position
where she could earn her own living; for by Dan's words (few enough, too!)
I gather that she has no money back of her. She'll be a dead weight on his
hands, that's what she'll be, and an expensive savage he'll find her, I'll
prophesy."

"Like enough. Young ones of any sort do take a heap of looking after. But
she's smart, as I said before, and I do think it's a sight better to make
room for a likely young girl than to be scared most to death with young
wolves and bears tied around for pets. I was all of a shiver at night on
account of them. I'll take the girl every time. She won't scratch an' claw
at folks, anyway."

"Maybe not," added the captain, who was too contented with his discontent
to let go of it at once. "But no telling what a young animal like that may
develop into. She has no idea whatever of duty, Mrs. Huzzard, or of--of
veneration. She contradicted me squarely this morning when I made some
comment about those beastly redskins; actually set up her ignorance
against my years of service under the American flag, Mrs. Huzzard. Yes,
madame! she did that," and Captain Leek arose in his wrath and tramped
twice across the room, halting again near her table and staring at her as
though defying her to justify that.

When he arose, one could see by the slight unsteadiness in his gait that
the cane in his hand was for practical use. His limp was not a
deformity--in fact, it made him rather more interesting because of it;
people would notice or remember him when nothing else in his personality
would cause them to do so.

For Captain Alphonso Leek was not a striking-looking personage. His blue
eyes had a washed-out, querulous expression. His sandy whiskers had the
appearance of having been blown back from his chin, and lodged just in
front of his ears. An endeavor had been made to train the outlying
portions of his mustache in line with the lengthy, undulating "mutton
chops;" but they had, for well-grounded reasons, failed to connect, and
the effect was somewhat spoiled by those straggling skirmishers, bristling
with importance but waiting in vain for recruits. The top of his head had
got above timber line and glistened in the sun of early summer that
streamed through the clear windows of Mrs. Huzzard's back room.

But as that head was generally covered by a hat that sported a cord and
tassel, and as his bulging breastbone was covered by a dark-blue coat and
vest, on which the brass buttons shone in real military fashion--well, all
those things had their weight in a community where few men wore a coat at
all in warm weather.

Mrs. Huzzard, in the depths of her being, thought it would be a fine thing
to go back to Pennsylvania as "Mrs. Captain," even if the captain wasn't
as forehanded as she'd seen men.

Even the elegant way in which he could do nothing and yet diffuse an air
of importance, was impressive to her admiring soul. The clerical whiskers
and the military dress completed the conquest.

But Mrs. Huzzard, having a bit of native wisdom still left, knew he was
a man who would need managing, and that the best way was not to let his
opinion rule her in all things; therefore, she only laughed cheerily at
his indignation.

"Well, captain, I can't say but she did flare up about the Indians, when
you said they were all thieves and paupers, stealing from the Government,
and all that. But then, by what she says, she has knowed some decent ones
in her time--friends of hers; an' you know any one must say a good word
for a friend. You'd do that yourself."

"Maybe; I don't say I wouldn't," he agreed. "But I do say, the friends
would not be redskins. No, madame! They're no fit friends for a gentleman
to cultivate; and so I have told Dan. And if this girl owns such friends,
it shows plainly enough that the class she belongs to is not a high one.
Dan's mother was a lady, Mrs. Huzzard! She was my wife, madame! And it is
a distress for me to see any one received into our family who does not
come up to that same level. That is just the state of the case, and I
maintain my position in the matter; let Dan take on all the temper he
likes about it."

The lady of the pies did not respond to his remarks at once. She had an
idea that she herself might fall under the ban of Captain Leek's
discriminating eyes, and be excluded from that upper circle of chosen
humanity to which he was born and bred. He liked her pies, her flap-jacks,
and even the many kinds of boiled dinners she was in the habit of
preparing and garnishing with "dumplings." So far as his stomach was
concerned, she could rule supreme, for his digestion was of the best and
her "filling" dishes just suited him. But Lorena Jane Huzzard had read in
the papers some romances of the "gentle folk" he was fond of speaking of
in an intimate way. The gentle folk in her kind of stories always had
titles, military or civil, and were generally English lords and ladies;
the villains, as generally, were French or Italian. But think as she might
over the whole list, she could remember none in which the highbred scion
of blue blood had married either a cook or a milliner. One might marry the
milliner if she was very young and madly beautiful, but Lorena Jane was
neither. She remembered also that beautiful though the milliner or
bailiff's daughter, or housekeeper's niece might be, it was only the
villain in high life who married her. Then the marriage always turned out
at last to be a sham, and the milliner generally died of a broken heart.

So Mrs. Huzzard sighed and, with a thoughtful face, stirred up the batter
pudding.

Captain Leek had given her food for reflection of which he was little
aware, and it was quite a little while before she remembered to answer his
remarks.

"So Mr. Dan is showing temper, too, is he? Well--well--that's a pity. He's
a good boy, captain. I wouldn't waste my time to go against him, if I was
you, and there he is now. Good-morning, Mr. Dan! Come right in! Breakfast
over, but I'll get you up a bite at any time, and welcome. It does seem
right nice for you to be back in town again."

Overton entered at her bidding, and smiled down from his tall stature to
the broad, good-natured face she turned to him.

"Breakfast! Why, I'm thinking more about dinner, Mrs. Huzzard. I was up in
the hills last night, and had a camp breakfast before you city folks were
stirring. Where's 'Tana?"

A dubious sniff from Captain Leek embarrassed Mrs. Huzzard for a moment.
She thought he meant to answer and hesitated to give him a chance. But the
sniff seemed to express all he wanted to say, and she flushed a little at
its evident significance.

"Well, what's the matter now?" demanded the younger man, impatiently,
"where is she--do you know?"

"Oh--why, yes--of course we do," said Mrs. Huzzard hurriedly. "I didn't
mean to leave you without an answer--no, indeed. But the fact is, the
captain is set against something I did this morning, but I do hope you
won't be. Whatever they know or don't know in sussiety, the girl was
ignorant of it as could be when she asked to go, and so was I when I let
her. That's the gospel truth, and I do hope you won't have hard feeling
against me for it."

He came a step nearer them both, and looked keenly from one to the
other--even a little threateningly into the watchful eyes of Captain
Leek.

"Let her go! What do you mean? Where--Out with it!"

"Well, then, it was on the river she went, in one of them tiltuppy Indian
boats that I'm deathly afraid of. But Mr. Lyster, he did promise
faithfully he'd take good care of her. And as she'd seemed a bit
low-spirited this morning, I thought it 'ud do her good, and I part told
her to run along. And to think of its being improper for them to go
together--alone! Well, then, I never did--that's all!"

"Is it?" and Overton drew a long breath as of relief and laughed shortly.
"Well, you are perfectly right, Mrs. Huzzard. There is nothing wrong about
it, and don't you be worried into thinking there is. Max Lyster is a
gentleman--didn't you ever happen to know one, dad? Heavens! what a sinner
you must have been in your time, if you can't conceive two young folks
going out for an innocent boat ride. If any 'sky pilot' drifts up this
way, I'll explain your case to him--and ask for some tracts. Why, man,
your conscience must be a burden to you! I understand, now, how it comes I
find your hair a little scarcer each time I run back to camp."

He had seated himself, and leaning back, surveyed the irate captain as
though utterly oblivious of that gentleman's indignation, and then turned
his attention to Mrs. Huzzard, who was between two fires in her regret
that the captain should be ridiculed and her joy in Overton's commendation
of herself. The captain had dismayed her considerably by a monologue on
etiquette while she was making the pies, and she had inwardly hoped that
the girl and her handsome escort would return before Overton, for vague
womanly fears had been awakened in her heart by the opinions of the
captain. To be sure, Dan never did look at girls much, and he was as
"settled down" as any old man yet. The girl was pretty, and there was a
bit of mystery about her. Who could tell what her guardian intended her
for? This question had been asked by Captain Leek. Dan was very
close-lipped about her, and his reticence had intensified the mystery
regarding his ward. Mrs. Huzzard had seen wars of extermination started
for a less worthy reason than pretty Montana, and so she had done some
quiet fretting over the question until 'Tana's guardian set her free from
worries by his hearty words.

"Don't you bother your precious head, or 'Tana's, with ideas of what rules
people live by in a society of the cities thousands of miles away," he
advised her. "It's all right to furnish guards or chaperons where people
are so depraved as to need them."

This with a turn of his eyes to the captain, who was gathering himself up
with a great deal of dignity.

"Good-morning, Mrs. Huzzard," he said, looking with an unapproachable air
across Dan's tousled head. "If my stepson at times forgets what is due a
gentleman in your house, do not fancy that I reflect on you in the
slightest for it. I regret that he entertains such ideas, as they are
totally at variance with the rules by which he was reared. Good-morning,
madame."

Mrs. Huzzard clasped her hands and gazed with reproach at Overton, but at
the same time she could not repress a sigh of relief.

"Well, now, he is good-natured to take it like that, and speak so
beautiful," she exclaimed, admiringly; "and you surely did try any man's
patience, Mr. Dan. Shame on you!"

But Dan only laughed and held up his finger warningly.

"You'll marry that man some day, if I don't put a stop to this little
mutual admiration society I find here on my return," he said, and caught
her sleeve as she tried to pass him. "Now don't you do it, Mrs. Huzzard.
You are too nice a woman and too much of a necessity to this camp for any
one man to build up a claim for you. Just think what will happen if you do
marry him! Why, you'll be my stepmother! Doesn't the prospect frighten
you?"

"Oh, stop your nonsense, Mr. Dan! I declare you do try a body's patience.
You are too big to send to bed without your supper, or I vow I'd try it
and see if it would tame you any. The captain is surely righteous mad."

"Then let him attend to his postoffice instead of interfering with your
good cooking. Jim Hill said yesterday he guessed the postoffice had moved
to your hotel, and the boys all ask me when the wedding is to be."

She blushed with a certain satisfaction, but tossed her head provokingly.

"Well, now, you can just tell them it won't be this week, Mr. Dan Overton;
so you can quit your plaguing. Who knows but they may be asking the same
about you, if you keep fetching such pretty girls into camp? Oh, I guess
you don't like bein' plagued any more than other folks."

For Overton's smile had vanished at her words, and a tiny wrinkle crept
between his brows. But when she commented on it, he recovered himself, and
answered carelessly:

"But I don't think I will keep on bringing pretty girls into camp--that
is, I scarcely think it will grow into a steady habit," he said, and met
her eyes so steadily that she dismissed all idea of any heart interest in
the girl. "But I'd rather 'Tana didn't hear any chaff of that sort. You
know what I mean. The boys, or any one, is like enough to joke about it at
first; but when they learn 'for keeps,' that I'm not a marrying man,
they'll let up. As she grows older, there'll be enough boys to bother her
in camp without me. All I want is to see that she is looked after right;
and that's what I'm in here to talk about this morning."

"Well, now, I'm right glad to help you all I can--which ain't much, maybe,
for I never did have a sight of schooling. But I can learn her the
milliner trade--though it ain't much use at the Ferry yet; but it's
always a living, anyway, for a woman in a town. And as to cookin' and
bakin'--"

"Oh, yes; they are all right; she will learn such things easily, I think!
But I wanted to ask about that cousin of yours--the lady who, you said,
wanted to come out from Ohio to teach Indians and visit you. Is she
coming?"

"Well, she writes like it. She is a fine scholar, Lavina is; but I kind o'
let up on asking her to come after I struck this camp, for she always held
her head high, I hear, and wouldn't be noways proud of me as a relation,
if she found me doing so much downright kitchen work. I hain't seen her
since she was grow'd up, you know, and I don't know how she'd feel about
it."

"If she's any good, she'll think all the more of you for having pluck to
tackle any honest work that comes," said Overton, decidedly. "We all
do--every man in the settlement. If I didn't, I wouldn't be asking you to
look after this little girl, who hasn't any folks--father or mother--to
look after her right. I thought if that lady teacher would just settle
down here, I would make it worth her while to teach 'Tana."

"Well, now, that would be wise," exclaimed Mrs. Huzzard, delightedly. "An'
I'll write her a letter this very night. Or, no--not to-night," she added,
"for I'll be too busy. To-night the dance is to be."

"What dance?"

"Well, now, I clean forgot to tell you about that. But it was Mr. Lyster
planned it out after you left yesterday. As he's to go back East in a few
days, he is to give a supper and a dance to the boys, and I just thought
if they were going to have it, they might as well have it right and so
it's to be here."

Overton twisted his hat around in silence for a few moments.

"What does 'Tana think of it?" he asked, at last.

"She? Why, land's sakes! She's tickled a heap over it. Indeed, to go back
to the commencement, I guess it was to please her he got it up. At least,
that's the way it looked to me, for she no sooner said she'd like to see a
dance with this crowd at the Ferry than he said there should be one, and I
should get up a supper. I tell you that young chap sets store by that
little girl of yours, though she does sass him a heap. They're a
fine-looking young couple, Mr. Dan."

Mr. Dan evidently agreed, for he nodded his head absently, but did not
speak. He did not look especially pleased over the announcement of the
dance.

"Well, I suppose she's got to learn soon or late whom to meet and whom to
let alone here," he said at last, in a troubled way, "and she might as
well learn now as later. Yet I wish Max had not been in such a hurry. And
he promised to take good care of her on the river, did he?" he added,
after another pause. "Well, he's a good fellow; but I reckon she can guide
him in most things up here."

"No, indeed," answered Mrs. Huzzard, with promptness, "I heard her say
myself that she had never been along this part of the Kootenai River
before."

"Maybe not," he agreed. "I'm not speaking of this immediate locality. I
mean that she has good general ideas about finding ways, and trails, and
means. She's got ideas of outdoor life that girls don't often have, I
reckon. And if she can only look after herself as well in a camp as she
can on a trail, I'll be satisfied."

Mrs. Huzzard looked at him as he stared moodily out of the window.

"I see how it is," she said, nodding her head in a kindly way. "Since
she's here, you're afraid some of the folks is most too rough to teach her
much good. Well, well, don't you worry. We'll do the best we can, and that
dead partner o' yours--her father, you know--will know you do your best;
and no man can do more. I had a notion about her associates when I let her
go out on the river this morning. 'Just go along,' thought I, 'if you get
into the way of making company out of real gentlemen, you'll not be so
like to be satisfied with them as ain't--"

"Good enough," Dan assented, cheerily. "You have been doing a little
thinking on your own account, Mrs. Huzzard? That's all right, then. I'll
know that you are a conscientious care-taker, no matter how far out on a
trail I am. There's another thing I wanted to say; it's this: Just you let
her think that the help she gives you around the house more than pays for
her keeping, will you?"

"Why, of course I will; and I'm willing enough to take her company in
change for boarding, if that's all. You know I didn't want to take the
money when you did pay it."

"I know; that's all right. I want you to have the money, only don't let
her know she is any bill of expense to me. Understand! You see, she said
something about it yesterday--thought she was a trouble to me, or some
such stuff. It seemed to bother her. When she gets older, we can talk to
her square about such things. But now, till she gets more used to the
thought of being with us, we'll have to do some pious cheating in the
matter. I'll take the responsibilities of the lies, if we have to tell
any. It--it seems the only way out, you see."

He spoke a little clumsily, as though uttering a speech prepared
beforehand and by one not used to memorizing, and he did not look at Mrs.
Huzzard as he talked to her.

But she looked at him and then let her hand fall kindly on his shoulder.
She had not read romances for nothing. All at once she fancied she had
found a romance in the life of Dan Overton.

"Yes, I see, as plain as need be," she said. "I see that you've brought
care for yourself with that little mischief in her Indian dress; an' you
take all the care on your shoulders as though it was a blessed privilege.
And she's never to know what she owes you. Well, there's my hand. I'm your
friend, Dan Overton. But don't waste your days with too much care about
this new pet you've brought home. That's all I've got to say. She'll never
think more of you for it. Girls don't; they are as selfish as young
wolves."



CHAPTER VI.

MRS HUZZARD'S SUSPICIONS.


Overton sat silent and thoughtful for a little while after Mrs. Huzzard's
words. Then he glanced up and smiled at her.

"I've just been getting an idea of the direction your fancies are taking,"
he said mockingly, "and they're very pretty, but I reckon you'll change
them to oblige me; what I'm doing for her is what I'd do for any other
child left alone. But as this child doesn't happen to be a boy, I can't
take it on the trail, and a ranger like me is not fit to look after her,
anyway. I think I told you before, I'm not a marrying man, and she, of
course, would not look at me if I was; so what does it matter about her
thinking of me? Of course, she won't--it ain't my intention. Even if she
leaves these diggings some day and forgets all about me, just as the young
wolves or wildcats do--well, what difference? I've helped old bums all
over the country, and never heard or wanted to hear of them again, and I'm
sure it's more worth one's while to help a young girl. Now, you're a nice
little woman, Mrs. Huzzard, and I like you. But if you and I are to keep
on being good friends, don't you speak like that about the child and me.
It's very foolish. If she should hear it, she'd leave us some fine night,
and we'd never learn her address."

Then he put on his hat, nodded to her, and walked out of the door as
though averse to any further discussion of the subject.

"Bums all over the country!" repeated Mrs. Huzzard, looking after him
darkly. "Well, Mr. Dan Overton, it's well for you that ward of yours, as
you call her, wasn't near enough to hear that speech. And you're not a
marrying man, are you? Well, well, I guess there's many a man and woman,
too, goes through life and don't know what they might be, just because
they never meet with the right person who could help them to learn, and
you're just of that sort. Not a marrying man! Humph! When there's not a
better favored one along this valley--that there ain't."

She fidgeted about the dinner preparations, filled with a puzzled
impatience as to why Dan Overton should thus decidedly state that he was
not one of the men to marry, though all the rest of the world might fall
into the popular habit if they chose.

"It's the natural ambition of creation," she declared in confidence to the
dried peach-pie she was slipping from the oven. "Of course, being as I'm a
widow myself, I can't just make that statement to men folks promiscuous
like. But it's true, and every man ought to know it's true, and why Dan
Overton--"

She paused in the midst of her soliloquy, and dropped into the nearest
chair, while a light of comprehension illuminated her broad face.

"To think it never came in my mind before," she ejaculated. "That's it!
Poor boy! he's had a girl somewhere and she's died, I suppose, or married
some other fellow; and that's why he's a bachelor at nearly thirty, I
guess," she added, thoughtfully. "She must have died, and that's why he
never looks as gay or goes on larks with the other boys. He just goes on a
lone trail mostly, Dan does. Even his own stepfather don't seem to have
much knowledge about him. Well, well! I always did feel that he had some
sort of trouble lookin' out of them dark eyes of his, and his words to-day
makes it plain to me all at once. Well, well!"

The pensive expression of her face, as it rested on her fat hand, was
evidence that Lorena Jane Huzzard had, after all, found a romance in real
life suited to her fancy, and the unconscious hero was Dan Overton. Poor
Dan!

The grieving hero to whom her thoughts went out was at that moment walking
in a most prosaic, lazy fashion down the main thoroughfare of the
settlement. The road led down to the Ferry from seemingly nowhere in
particular, for from the Ferry on both sides of the river the road
dwindled into mere trails that slipped away into the wildernesses--trails
traveled by few of the white race until a few short years ago, and then
only by the most daring of hunters, or the most persevering of the
gold-seekers.

In the paths where gold is found the dwellings of man soon follow, and the
quickly erected shanties and more pretentious buildings of Sinna Ferry had
grown there as evidence that the precious metals in that region were no
longer visionary things of the enthusiasts, but veritable facts. The men
who came to it along the water, or over the inland trails, were all in
some way connected with the opening up of the new mining fields.

Overton himself had drifted up there as an independent prospector, two
years before. Then, when works were got under way all along that river and
lake region, when a reliable man was needed by the transfer company to
get specie to their men for pay-days, it was Overton to whom was given the
responsibility.

Various responsible duties he had little by little shouldered, until, as
Lyster said, he seemed a necessity to a large area, yet he had not quite
abandoned the dreams with which he had entered those cool Northern lands.
Some day, when the country was more settled and transportation easier, it
was his intention to slip again up into the mountains, along some little
streams he knew, and work out there in quietness his theories as to where
the gold was to be found.

Meantime, he was contented enough with his lot. No vaulting ambition
touched him. He was merely a ranger of the Kootenai country, and was as
welcome in the scattered lodges of the Indians as he was in the camps of
the miners. He even wore clothes of Indian make, perhaps for the novelty
of them, or perhaps because the buckskin was better suited than cloth to
the wild trails over which he rode. And if, at times, he drifted into talk
of existence beyond the frontier, and gave one an idea that he had drunk
of worldly life deep enough to be tired of it, those times were rare; even
Lyster had but once known him to make reference to it--that one evening
after their ride along the falls of the Kootenai.

But however tired he might at some time have grown of the life of cities,
he was not at all too _blasé_ to accommodate himself to Sinna Ferry. If
poor Mrs. Huzzard had seen the very hearty drink of whisky with which he
refreshed himself after his talk with her, she would not have been so apt
to think of him with such pensive sympathy.

The largest and most popular saloon was next door to the postoffice, the
care of which Dan had secured for his stepfather, as the duties of it were
just about as arduous as any that gentleman would deign to accept. The
mail came every two weeks, and its magnitude was of the fourth-class
order. No one else wanted it, for a man would have to possess some other
means of livelihood before he could undertake it, but the captain accepted
it with the attitude of a veteran who was a martyr to his country. As to
the other means of livelihood, that did not cause him much troubled
thought, since he had chanced to fall in Dan's way just as Dan was
starting up to the Kootenai country, and Dan had been the "other means"
ever since.

The captain watched Overton gulp down the "fire-water," while he himself
sipped his with the appreciation of a gentleman of leisure.

"You didn't use to drink so early in the day," the captain remarked, with
a certain watchful malice in his face. "Are your cares as a guardian
wearing on your nerves, and bringing a need of stimulants?"

Overton wheeled about as though to fling the whisky-glass across at the
speaker; but the gallant captain, perceiving that he had overreached his
stepson's patience, promptly dodged around the end of the bar, squatting
close to the floor. Overton, leaning over to look at him, only laughed
contemptuously, and set the glass down again.

"You're not worth the price of the glass," he decided, amused in spite of
himself at the fear in the pale-blue eyes. Even the flowing side-whiskers
betrayed a sort of alarm in their bristling alertness. "And if it wasn't
that one good woman fancied you were true metal instead of slag, I'd--"

He did not complete the sentence, leaving the captain in doubt as to his
half-expressed threat.

"Get up there!" Dan suddenly exclaimed. "Now, you think you will annoy me
about that guardianship until I'll give it up, don't you?" he said, more
quietly, as the captain once more stood erect, but in a wavering,
uncertain way. "Well, you're mightily mistaken, and you might as well end
your childish interference right here. The girl is as much entitled to my
consideration as you are--more! So if any one is dropped out of the family
circle, it will not be her. Do you understand? And if I hear another word
of your insinuations about her amusements, I'll break your neck! Two,
Jim."

This last was to the barkeeper, and had reference to a half-dollar he
tossed on the counter as payment for his own drink and that of the
captain; and again he stalked into the street with his temper even more
rumpled than when he left Mrs. Huzzard's.

Assuredly it was not a good morning for Mr. Overton's peace of mind.

Down along the river he came in sight of the cause of his discontent, the
most innocent-looking cause in the world. She was teaching Lyster to
paddle the canoe with but one paddle, as the Indians do, and was laughing
derisively at his ineffectual attempts to navigate in a straight line.

"You--promised--Mrs. Huzzard--you'd--take--care--of--me," she said, slowly
and emphatically, "and a pretty way you're doing it. Suppose I depended on
you getting me in to shore for my dinner, how many hours do you think I'd
have to go without eating? Just about sixteen. Give me that paddle, and
don't upset the canoe when you move."

These commands Mr. Lyster obeyed with alacrity.

"What a clever little girl you are!" he said, admiringly, as she sent the
canoe skimming straight as a swallow for the shore. "Now, Overton would
appreciate your skill at this sort of work"--and then he laughed a
little--"much more than he would your modeling in clay."

A dark flush crept over her face, and her lips straightened.

"Why shouldn't he look down on that sort of pottering around?" she
demanded. "_He_ isn't the sort of man who has time to waste on trifles."

"Why that emphasis on the _he_?" asked her tormentor. "Do you mean to
insinuate that I do waste time on trifles? Well, well! is that the way I
get snubbed, because I grow enthusiastic over your artistic modeling and
your most charming voice, Miss 'Tana?"

She flashed one sulky, suspicious look at him, and paddled on in silence.

"What a stormy shadow lurks somewhere back of your eyes," he continued,
lazily. "One moment you are all sugar and cream to a fellow, and the next
you are an incipient tornado. I think you might distribute your frowns a
little among the people you know, and not give them all to me. Now,
there's Overton--"

"Don't you talk about him," she commanded, sharply. "You do a lot of
making fun about folks, but don't you go on making fun of him, if that's
what you're trying to do. If it's _me_--pooh!" and she looked at him,
saucily. "I don't care much what you think about me; but Dan--"

"Oh! Dan, then, happens to-day to be one of the saints in your calendar,
and plain mortals like myself must not take his name in vain--is that
it? What a change from this time yesterday!--for I don't think you sent
him to the hills in a very angelic mood. And you!--well, I found you with
a clay Indian crumbled to pieces in your destroying hands; so I don't
imagine Dan's talk to you left a very peaceful impression."

He laughed at her teasingly, expecting to see her show temper again, but
she did not. She only bent her head a little lower, and when she lifted
it, she looked at him with a certain daring.

"He was right, and I was silly, I guess. He was good--so good, and I'm
mostly bad. I was bad to him, anyway, but I ain't too much of a baby to
say so. And if he's mad at me when he comes back, I'll just pack my traps
and take another trail."

"Back to Akkomi?" he asked, gaily. "Now, you know we would not hear to
that."

"It ain't your affair, only Dan's."

"Oh, excuse me for living on the same earth with you and Dan! It is not my
fault, you know. I suppose now, if you did desert us, it would be to act
as a sort of guardian angel to the tribes along the river, turn into a
whole life-saving service yourself, and pick up the superfluous reds who
tumble into the rivers. I wondered for a whole day why you made so strong
a swim for so unimportant an article."

"His mother thought he was important," she answered. "But I didn't know he
had a mother just then; all I thought as I started for him was that he was
so plucky. He tried his little best to save himself, and he never said one
word; that was what I liked about him. It would have been a pity to let
that sort of a boy be lost."

"You think a heap of that--of personal bravery--don't you? I notice you
gauge every one by that."

"Maybe I do. I know I hate a coward," she said, indifferently.

Then, as the canoe ran in to the shore, she for the first time saw
Overton, who was standing there waiting for them. She looked at him with
startled alertness as his eyes met hers. He looked like a statue--a
frontier sentinel standing tall and muscular with folded arms and gazing
with curious intentness from one to the other of the canoeists.

In the bottom of the boat a string of fish lay, fine speckled fellows, to
delight the palate of an epicure. She stooped and picking up the fish,
walked across the sands to him.

"Look, Dan!" she said, with unwonted humility. "They're the best I could
find, and--and I'm sorry enough for being ugly yesterday. I'll try not to
be any more. I'll do anything you want--yes, I will!" she added,
snappishly, as he smiled dubiously, she thought unbelievingly. "I'd--dress
like a boy, and go on the trails with you, paddle your canoe, or feed your
horse--I would, if you like."

Lyster, who was following, heard her words, and glanced at Overton with
curious meaning. Overton met the look with something like a threat in his
own eyes--a sort of "laugh if you dare!"

"But I don't like," Dan said, briefly, to poor 'Tana, who had made such a
great effort to atone for ugly words spoken to him the day before.

She said no more; and Lyster, walking beside her, pulled one of her unruly
curls teasingly, to make her look at him.

"Didn't I tell you it was better to give your smiles to me instead of to
Overton?" he asked, in a bantering way, as he took the string of fish. "I
care a great deal more about your good opinion than he does."

"Oh--you--" she began, and shrugged her shoulders for a silent finish to
her thought, as though words were useless.

"Oh, _me_! Of course, me. Now, if you had offered to paddle a canoe for
me, I'd--"

"You'd loll in the bottom of the boat and let me," she flashed out. "Of
course you would; you're made just that way."

"Sh--h, 'Tana," said Overton, while to himself he smiled in an indulgent
way, and thought: "That is like youth; they only quarrel when there is a
listener." Then turning to the girl, he said aloud:

"You know, 'Tana, I want you to learn other things besides paddling a
canoe. Such things are all right for a boy; but--"

"I know," she agreed; but there was a resentful tone in her voice. "And I
guess I'll never trouble you to do squaw's work for you again."

She looked squaw-like, but for her brown, curly hair, for she still wore
the dress Overton had presented to her at the Kootenai village; and very
becoming it was with its fancy fringes and dots of yellow, green, and
black beads. Only the hat was a civilized affair--the work of Mrs.
Huzzard, and was a wide, pretty "flat" of brown straw, while from its
crown some bunches of yellow rosebuds nodded--the very last "artificial"
blossoms left of Sinna Ferry's first millinery store. The young face
looked very piquant above the beaded collar; not so pinched or worn a face
as when the men had first seen her. The one week of sheltered content
had given her cheeks a fullness and color remarkable. She was prettier
than either man had imagined she would be. But it was not a joyous,
girlish face even yet. There was too much of something like suspicion in
it, a certain watchful attention given to the people with whom she came in
contact; and this did not seem to abate in the least. Overton had noticed
it, and decided that first night that she must have been treated badly by
people to have distrust come so readily to her. He noticed, also, that any
honest show of kindness soon won her over; and that to Lyster, with his
graceful little attentions and his amused interest, she turned from the
first hour of their acquaintance as to some chum who was in the very inner
circle of those to whom her favor was extended. Overton, hearing their
wordy wars and noting their many remarks of friendship, felt old, as
though their light enjoyment of little things made him realize the weight
of his own years, for he could no longer laugh with them.

Looking down now at the clouded young face under the hat, he felt
remorsefully like a "kill-joy;" for she had been cheery enough until she
caught sight of him.

"And you will never do squaw work for me again, little squaw?" Dan
questioned, banteringly. "Not even if I asked you?"

"You never will ask me," she answered, promptly.

"Well, then, not even if I should get sick and need a nurse?"

"You!" and she surveyed him from head to foot with pronounced unbelief.
"_You'll_ never be sick. You're strong as a mountain lion, or an old king
buffalo."

"Maybe," he agreed, and smiled slightly at the dubious compliment. "But
you know even the old king buffaloes die sometime."

"Die? Oh, yes, in a fight, or something of that sort; but they don't need
much medicine!"

"And even if you did," said Lyster, addressing Overton, "I'm going to give
you fair warning you can't depend on 'Tana, unless you mend your ways. She
threatened to-day to leave us, if you allow the shadow of your anger to
fall on her again. So take heed, or she will swim back to Akkomi."

Overton looked at her sharply, and saw that back of Lyster's badinage
there was something of truth.

"You did?" he asked, reproachfully. "I did not know I had been so bad a
friend to you as that."

But no answer was made to him. She was ashamed, and she looked it. She was
also angry at Lyster, and he was made aware of it by a withering glance.

"Now _I'm_ in her bad books," he complained; "but it was only my fear of
losing her that urged me to give you warning. I hope she does not take
revenge by refusing me all the dances I am looking forward to to-night.
I'd like to get you, as her guardian, on my side, Overton."

The girl looked up, expectantly, and rested her slim fingers on the arms
of the two men.

"I could not be of much use, unless I had an invitation myself to the
dance," Dan remarked, dryly; "mine has evidently been delayed in the
mail."

"You don't like it?" said the girl, detecting the fact in his slight
change of tone. "You don't want me to go to dances?"

"What an idea!" exclaimed Lyster. "Of course, he is not going to spoil our
good time by objecting--are you, Dan? I never thought of that. You see,
you were away; but, of course, I fancied you would like it, too. I'll
write you out a flourishing request for your presence, if that's all."

"It isn't necessary; I'll be there, I reckon. But why should you think I
mean to keep you from jollifications?" he asked, looking kindly at 'Tana.
"Don't get the idea in your head that I'm a sort of 'Bad Man from Roaring
River,' who eats a man or so for breakfast every day, and all the little
girls he comes across. No, indeed! I'll whistle for you to dance any time;
so get on your war-paint and feathers when it pleases you."

The prospect seemed to please her, for she walked closer to him and looked
up at him with more content.

"Anyway, you ain't like Captain Leek," she decided. "He's the worst old
baby! Why, he just said all sorts of things about dances. Guess he must be
a heavy swell where he comes from, and where all the fandangoes are got up
in gilt-edged style. I'd like to spoil the gilt for him a little. I will,
too, if he preaches any more of his la-de-da society rules to me. I'll
show him I'm a different boy from Mrs. Huzzard."

"Now, what would you do?" asked Lyster. "He wouldn't trust himself in a
boat with you, so you can't drown him."

"Don't want to. Huh! I wouldn't want to be lynched for _him_. All I'd like
to hit hard would be his good opinion of himself. I could, too, if Dan
wouldn't object."

"If you can, you're a wonder," remarked Dan. "And I'll give you license to
do what I confess I can't. But I think you might take us into your
confidence."

This she would not do, and escaped all their questions, by taking refuge
in Mrs. Huzzard's best room, and much of her afternoon was spent there
under that lady's surveillance, fashioning a party gown with which to
astonish the natives. For Mrs. Huzzard would not consent to her appearing
in the savageness of an Indian dress, when the occasion was one of
importance--namely, the first dance in the settlement held in the house of
a respectable woman.

And as 'Tana stitched, and gathered, and fashioned the dress, according to
Mrs. Huzzard's orders, she fashioned at the same time a little plan of her
own in which the personality of Captain Leek was to figure.

If Mrs. Huzzard fancied that her silent smiles were in anticipation of the
dancing festivities, she was much mistaken.



CHAPTER VII.

A GAME OF POKER.


Mr. Max Lyster, in his hasty plans for an innocent village dance, had
neglected to make allowance for a certain portion of the inhabitants whose
innocence was not of the quality that allowed them to miss anything, no
matter who was host. They would shoot the glass out of every window in a
house, if the owner of the house should be in their bad books for any
trifling slight, and would proceed to "clean out" any establishment where
their own peculiar set was ignored.

There were, perhaps, seven or eight women in the place who were shown all
respect by men in general. They were the wives and daughters of the city
fathers--the first of the "family folks" to give the stamp of permanency
to the little camp by the river. These ladies and their husbands, together
with the better class of the "boys," were the people whom Mr. Lyster
expected to meet and to partake of his hospitality in the cheery abode of
Mrs. Huzzard.

But Overton knew there were one or two other people to consider, and felt
impatient with Lyster for his impulsive arrangements. Of course, 'Tana
could not know and Mrs. Huzzard did not, but Lyster had at least been very
thoughtless.

The fact was that the well-ordered establishment of Mrs. Huzzard was a
grievance and a thorn in the side of certain womankind, who dwelt along
the main street and kept open drinking saloons seven days in the week.
They would have bought ribbons and feathers from her, and as a milliner
thought no more about her, or even if she had opened a hotel, with a bar
attached, they would have been willing to greet her as a fellow worker,
and all would have had even chances. But her effrontery in opening an
eating house, where only water--pure or adulterated with tea or
coffee--was drunk--Well, her immaculate pretensions, to use the vernacular
of one of the disgusted, "made them sick."

It may have been their dislike was made more pronounced because of the
fact that the more sober-minded men turned gladly to the irreproachable
abode of Mrs. Huzzard, and the "bosses" of several "gangs" of workmen had
arranged with her for their meals. Besides, the river men directed any
strangers to her house; whereas, before, the saloons had been the first
point of view from which travelers or miners had seen Sinna Ferry. All
these grievances had accumulated through the weeks, until the climax was
capped when the report went abroad that a dance was to take place at the
sickeningly correct restaurant, and that only the _elité_ of the
settlement were expected to attend.

Thereupon some oaths had been exchanged in a desultory fashion over the
bars at Mustang Kate's and Dutch Lena's; and derisive comments made as to
Mrs. Huzzard and her late charge, the girl in the Indian dress. Some of
the boys, who owned musical instruments--a banjo and a mouth organ--were
openly approached by bribery to keep away from the all too perfect
gathering, so that there might be a dearth of music. But the boys with the
musical instruments evaded the bribes, and even hinted aloud their
desire to dance once anyway with the new girl of the curly hair and the
Indian dress.

This decision increased somewhat the muttering of the storm brewing; and
when Dutch Lena's own man indiscreetly observed that he would have to drop
in line, too, if all the good boys were going, then indeed did the cyclone
of woman's wrath break over that particular branch of Hades. Lena's man
was scratched a little with a knife before quiet was restored, and there
had been some articles of furniture flung around promiscuously; also some
violent language.

Overton divined somewhat of all this, knowing as he did the material of
the neighborhood, though no actual history of events came to his ears. And
'Tana, presenting herself to his notice in all the glory of her party
dress, felt her enthusiasm cool as he looked at her moodily. He would have
liked to shut her away from all the vulgar gaze and comment he knew her
charming face would win for her. His responsibilities as a guardian forced
on him so many new phases of thought. He had never before given the social
side of Sinna Ferry much consideration; but he thought fast and angrily as
he looked down on the slim, girlish, white-draped figure and the lovely
appealing face turned upward to him.

"You don't like it--you don't think it is pretty?" she asked, and her
mouth was a little tremulous. "I tried so hard. I sewed part of it myself,
and Mrs. Huzzard said--"

Lyster arose from a seat by the window. He had entered the room but a
moment before, and now lounged toward her with critical eyes.

"Mrs. Huzzard said you were enchanting in your new gown--is not that it?"
he asked, and then frowned at Overton in a serio-comic way. "And lives
there a man with soul so dead that he cannot perceive the manifold
beauties arranged for his inspection? Well, you know I told you I
appreciate you much more than he will ever do; so--"

"What nonsense you are talking!" said Overton, irritably. "Of course, the
dress is all right. I don't know much about such things, though; so my
opinion is not worth much. But I don't think little girls should be told
so much of their charms, Lyster. They are too likely to be made think that
prettiness is the only thing worth living for."

He smiled at 'Tana to soften the severity of his speech; but she was not
looking at him just then, and so missed the softening accompaniment. She
felt it was herself who was taken to task instead of Lyster, and stood
with drooped, darkening face until the door closed behind Overton.

"That is your fault," she burst out. "He--he might have thought it was
nice, if you hadn't been here with your fool speeches. You just go around
laughing at everything, Mr. Max Lyster, and you're just as empty as that
china cat on the mantel, and it's hollow. I'd like to hit you sometimes
when you say your nice, tantalizing words--that's what _I'd_ like to do;
and maybe some day I will."

"I shouldn't be surprised if you did," he agreed, and stepped back out of
range of her clenched brown hands. "Whew! what a trial you'd be to a
guardian who had nerves. You are spoiling your pretty face with that
satanic expression. Now, why should you make war on me? I'm sure I am one
of your most devoted servants."

"You are your own devoted servant," she retorted, "and you'll never be any
other person's."

"Well, now, I'm not so sure of that," he said, and looked at her
smilingly. All her anger did not keep him from seeing what a wondrous
difference all that white, billowy lawn made in the girl whom he had taken
for a squaw that first day when he saw her swimming the Kootenai.

She looked taller, slighter, with such lovable curves in the girlish form,
and the creamy neck and arms gleaming through the thin material. No
ornaments or ribbons broke the whiteness of her garb--nothing but the
Indian belt of beads that Overton had given her, and in it were reddish
tints and golden brown the color of her hair.

To be sure, the cheeks were a little tanned by the weather, and the little
hand was browner than need be for beauty; but, for all that, he realized,
as Overton had seemingly not done, that the girl, when dressed as dainty
girlhood should be, was very pretty, indeed.

"I am willing to sign myself your bond slave from this hour, if that will
lessen your anger against me," he protested. "Just think, I leave Sinna
Ferry to-morrow. How shall I do penance until then?"

            "'It may be for years, and it may be forever,
            Then why art thou silent, O voice of my heart?'"

She pouted and frowned a little at his warbling, though a smile eventually
touched her lips, and speculation shone in her eyes.

"I _will_ make you do penance," she declared, "and right now, too. I
haven't any money, but I'll put up my moccasins against five dollars in a
game of poker."

"You--play poker?"

"I'll try," she said briefly, and her eyes sparkled; "I'll play you and
ask no favors."

"Your moccasins are not worth five."

"Maybe not. Call it two-fifty then and promise me two hands at that."

"How sure you are to win!" he laughed, well pleased that she was diverted
from her quick displeasure. "We'll call it five against the moccasins.
Here are the cards. And what am I to do with those little moccasins, even
if I do win them?"

"Oh, I'll take care of the moccasins!" she said, easily. "I guess they'll
not trouble you much, Mr. Lyster. Cut for deal?"

He nodded, and they commenced their game there alone in Mrs. Huzzard's
most respectable _café_. Mrs. Huzzard herself did not approve of card
playing. No one but Captain Leek had, as yet, been allowed that privilege.
His playing she had really begun to look upon as almost moral in its
effects, since he pursued it as the most innocent of pastimes, never
betting more than a few dimes, and since it secluded him effectually from
the roaring lion of iniquity to which so many men fell victims in the
lively little settlement. But 'Tana, knowing that card playing by a girl
would not be a thing within Mrs. Huzzard's understanding, glanced warily
at the door leading to the second floor of the establishment and comforted
herself that the mistress of the domain was yet employed by her toilet for
the evening.

'Tana dealt, and did it so deftly that Lyster looked at her in
surprise, even irritation. What business had she touching the bits of
pasteboard like that--like some old gambler. Such a slight slip of a
thing, with all the beauty of early youth in her face, and all the
guilelessness of a vestal in the pure white of her garb. He fancied
he would have felt different if he had seen her playing cards in that
Indian dress; it would not have brought such a discord with it. And it was
not merely that she played, but it was the way she played that brought
vexation to him--that careless, assured handling of the cards. It
seemed almost professional,--it seemed--

"I'll just take that little five," remarked his opponent easily, and
spread out the cards before him. "I know what you've got, and it won't
touch this flush, and if you play again I'd advise you to gather your wits
and not play so wild--that is, if you want to win."

He stared at her in astonishment. It was quite true--while his thoughts
had been with her personality and her incongruous occupation, her thoughts
had been centered very decidedly on the points of the game. She, at least,
had not played "wild." A doubt even came into his mind, as to whether she
played honestly.

"I don't think I cared about winning," he answered, "I'd rather have given
you the stakes than to have had you play for them that way--yes, 'Tana,
double the stakes."

"Oh, would you?" she asked, with saucy indifference. "Well, I ain't asking
favors. I guess I can win all I want."

"No doubt you can," he assented, gravely. "But as young ladies do not
generally depend on their skill with cards to earn their pocket money, I'm
afraid Overton would have a lecture ready for you, if he learned of your
skill."

"Let him," she said, recklessly. "I've tried to be good, and tried to be
nice, and--and even pretty," she added, touching the dainty sleeve and
skirt of her dress, "but what use is it? He just stands off and stares
at me, and even speaks sharp as if he's sorry he ever brought me down
here. I didn't think he'd be like that. He was nicer in Akkomi's village;
and now--"

She hesitated, and, seeing that Lyster's eyes were watching her
attentively, she laughed in a careless way, and curled the five-dollar
bill around her finger.

"So I might as well be bad, don't you see? and I'm going to be, too. I
want this five dollars to gamble with, and for nothing else in the world.
I'm going to get square with some one."

"Which means you are going to worry some one else, just because Overton
has annoyed you," decided Lyster. "That is a woman's idea of retaliation,
I believe. Am I the selected victim?"

"Of course you're not, or I wouldn't have told you. All I wanted of you
was to give me a start."

"Exactly; your frankness is not very flattering; but, in spite of it, I'd
like to give you a start in a different way--toward a good school, for
instance. How would you like that?"

She looked at him for a moment suspiciously, she was so used to raillery
from him; then she answered briefly:

"But you are not my guardian, Mr. Max Lyster."

"Then you prefer card playing?"

"No, I don't. I'd like it, but my income can't cover such luxuries, and I
have booked myself to play for a time this evening, if I can get the man I
want to play with."

"But that is what you must not do," he said, hastily. "With Overton or
myself, of course, a game would not do you any special harm; but you
simply must not indulge in such pastime with this promiscuous gathering
of people--of men."

"But it isn't men--it's only one man I want to play--do you see?"

"I might if I knew who it was; but you don't know any men here but Dan and
me."

"Yes, I do, too. I know Captain Alphonso Leek."

"Perhaps, but--" Lyster smiled, and shook his head dubiously.

"But he won't play with me, because he don't like me; that's what you
would say, if you were not too polite--isn't it? He doesn't approve of me,
and can't understand why I'm on the face of the earth, and especially why
Dan should take any responsibility but Captain Leek on his hands. Huh!
Can't I see? Of course I do. I heard him call me _'that'_ this morning.
And so, I want to play a game of poker with him."

She looked impishly at him from under her brows, and twirled the money.

"Won't you be a messenger of peace and fix the game for me?" she asked,
insinuatingly. "You know you promised to do penance."

"Then I forswear all rash promises for the future," he declared.

"But you did promise."

"Well, then, I'll keep my word, since you are such a little Shylock. And
if it is only the captain--"

She laughed after he had gone out, and sat there shuffling the cards and
building them into various forms. She was thus employed when Overton again
passed the window and entered the room ere she could conceal them. He
observed her attempt to do so and smiled indulgently.

"Playing with the cards, are you?" he asked, in a careless way. "They are
expensive toys sometimes. But I'll teach you 'seven-up' some day; it's an
easy game."

"Is it?" she said; but did not look up at him. His indifference to the
pretty dress had not yet ceased to annoy her.

"Yes. And see here, 'Tana! I forgot to give you a present I brought you a
little while ago. It's a ring a fellow from the upper lake region worried
me into buying, as he was dead broke. He bought it from an Indian up near
Karlo. Queer for an Indian to have, isn't it?"

"Near Karlo?" she said, and reached out her hand for it.

There was a strange look on her face, a strange choking sound in her
throat. He noticed it, and his voice was very kindly as he spoke again.

"You don't like even to hear of that region, do you? You must have been
very miserable somewhere up there. But never mind, little girl; we'll try
to forget all that. And if the ring fits you, wear it, no matter what
country it comes from."

She tried to thank him, but the words would not come easily, and her
outstretched hand in which the ring lay was tremulous.

"Oh, that's all right," he said hastily, afraid, no doubt, she was going
to cry, as he had seen her do before at kind words. "Never mind about the
thanks. If you care to wear it, that's all that's necessary; though a
snake ring is not the prettiest of ornaments for a girl. It fits, doesn't
it?"

"Yes, it fits," she returned, and slipped it on her finger. "It is very
nice," but she shivered as with cold, and her hand shook.

It was curious enough to attract notice anywhere, a silver and a gold
snake twined together with their heads meeting, and in the flattened gold
head, eyes of garnet gleamed, while the silver head had eyes of emerald.
Not a girlish looking ornament, surely.

"I'll wear it," she said, and dropped the hand to her side. "But don't
tell the rest where it came from. I may want to tease them."



CHAPTER VIII.

THE DANCE.


"Ain't it lovely, Ora?" and 'Tana danced past Ora Harrison, the doctor's
pretty daughter, as if her feet had wings to them. And as Ora's bright
face smiled an answer, it was clear that the only two young girls in the
settlement were enjoying Lyster's party to the full.

For it was a pronounced success. Every "boy" invited was there in as much
of festive outfit as circumstances would allow. All the "family" people
were there. And the presence of Doctor Harrison--the only "professional"
man in the town--and his wife and daughter gave a stamp of select society
to the gathering in Mrs. Huzzard's rooms.

Mrs. Huzzard beamed with pleasure at the great success of it all. She
would have liked to dance, too, and refused most unwillingly when Lyster
tried to persuade her. But a supercilious glance from the captain made her
refusal decided. The doubt as to whether ladies in "sussiety" ever did
dance after forty years, and one hundred and sixty-three pounds weight,
deterred her. Now, if the captain had asked her to dance, she would have
been more assured.

But the captain did not; and, after a while, he was not to be seen. He had
vanished into the little back sitting room, and she was confident he was
engaged in his innocent pastime of a friendly game of cards with the
doctor.

"Go and dance with 'Tana, or that nice little girl of the doctor's,"
she said to Lyster, when he was trying to inveigle her into a
quadrille--"that's the sort of partner for you."

"But 'Tana has disappeared mysteriously; and as Miss Ora is 'bespoke,' I
can't dance with her unless I want a duel with her partner."

"'Tana disappeared! Well, now, I haven't seen her for two dances," said
Mrs. Huzzard, looking around searchingly, "though I never missed her till
this minute."

"Beg pardon, ma'am," said a voice at her elbow; "but is it the--the young
lady with the white dress you are looking for?"

"Yes, it is," answered Mrs. Huzzard, and turned around to face the
speaker, who was an apologetic-looking stranger with drab-colored chin
whiskers, and a checkered shirt, and a slight impediment in his speech.

"Well, ma'am, I saw her go into that room there quite a spell ago," and he
nodded toward the back sitting room. "She hasn't passed out again, as I've
seen."

Then, as Mrs. Huzzard smiled on him in a friendly way, he ventured
further:

"She's a very pretty girl, as any one can see. Might I ask her name?"

"Oh, yes! Her name is Rivers--Miss Tana Rivers," said Mrs. Huzzard. "You
must be a stranger in the settlement?"

"Yes, ma'am, I am. My name is Harris--Jim Harris. I come down from the
diggings with Mr. Overton this morning. He allowed it would be all right
for me to step inside, if I wanted to see the dancing."

"To be sure it is," agreed Mrs. Huzzard, heartily. "His friends are our
friends, and civil folks are always right welcome."

"Thank, you, ma'am; you're kind, I'm sure. But we ain't just friends,
especial. Only I had business in his line, so we picked up acquaintance
and come into camp together; and when I saw the pretty girl in white, I
did think I'd like to come in a spell. She looks so uncommon like a boy I
knew up in the 'big bend' country. Looks enough like him to be a twin; but
he wasn't called Rivers. Has--has this young lady any brothers or cousins
up there?"

"Well, now, as for cousins, they are far out, and we hain't ever talked
about them; but as for brothers or sisters, father or mother, that she
hasn't got, for she told me so. Her pa and Mr. Dan Overton they was
partners once; and when the pa died he just left his child to the
partner's care; and he couldn't have left her to a squarer man."

"That's what report says of him," conceded the stranger, watching her with
guarded attention. "Then Mr. Overton's partner hasn't been dead long?"

"Oh, no--not very long; not long enough for the child to get used to
talking of it to strangers, I guess; so we don't ask her many questions
about it. But it troubles her yet, I know."

"Of course--of course; such a pretty little girl, too."

Then the two fell into quite a pleasant chat, and it was not until he
moved away from beside her, to make room for the doctor's wife, that Mrs.
Huzzard observed that one arm hung limply beside him, and that one leg
dragged a little as he walked. He was a man who bore paralysis with him.

She thought, while he was talking to her, that he looked like a man who
had seen trouble. A weary, drawn look was about his eyes. She had seen
dissipated men who looked like that; yet this stranger seemed in no ways a
man of that sort. He was so quiet and polite; and when she saw the almost
useless limbs, she thought she knew then what that look in his face
meant.

But there were too many people about for her to study one very
particularly, so she lost sight of the stranger, Harris, and did not
observe that he had moved near the door of the sitting room, or that the
door was open.

But it was; and just inside of it Lyster stood watching, with a certain
vexation, a game of cards played there. The doctor had withdrawn, and was
looking with amusement at the two players--'Tana and Captain Leek. The
captain was getting the worst of it. His scattered whiskers fairly
bristled with perplexity and irritation. Several times he displayed bad
judgment in drawing and discarding, because of his nervous annoyance,
while she seemed surprisingly skillful or lucky, and was not at all
disturbed by her opponent's moods. She looked smilingly straight into his
eyes, and when she exhibited the last winning hand, and the captain dashed
his hand angrily into the pack, she waited for one civil second and then
swept the stakes toward her.

"What! Don't you want to play any more, captain?" she asked, maliciously.
"I would really like to have another dance, yet if you want revenge--"

"Go and dance by all means," he said, testily. "When I want another game
of poker, I'll let you know, but I must say I do not approve of such
pastime for young ladies."

"None of us would, if in your place, captain," laughed the doctor. "And,
for my part, I am glad I did not play against her luck."

The captain mumbled something about a difference between luck and skill,
while 'Tana swept the money off the table and laughed--not a pleasant
laugh, either.

"One--two--three--four!--twenty dollars--that is about a dollar a minute,
isn't it?" she asked provokingly. "Well, captain, I guess we are square up
to to-night, and if you want to open another account, I'm ready."

She spoke with the dash and recklessness of a boy. Lyster noticed it
again, and resented it silently. But when she turned, she read the
displeasure in his eyes.

"Oh, it's you, is it?" she inquired airily. "Is it time for our dance? You
see, the captain wanted some amusement, and, as the doctor was nearly
asleep over the cards, I came in and helped them out."

"Beautifully," agreed the doctor.

But Lyster borrowed no cheeriness from their smiles.

"I think it is our dance," Lyster observed. "And if you will come--"

"Certain," she said, with a nod; but at the door she paused. "Won't you
keep this money for me?" she asked. "I've no pocket. And just put a five
in a locked pocket 'for keeps,' please; I owe it to you."

"To me? You won that five."

"No, I didn't; I cheated you," she whispered. "Keep it, please do."

She pushed the money into his hand. One piece of it fell and rolled to the
feet of the stranger, who leaned carelessly against the doorway, but in
such a position that he could easily see into the sitting room.

He stooped and picked up the money.

"Yours, miss?" he said, courteously, and she smilingly reached out her
hand for it--the hand on which Overton's gift, the strange ring,
glittered.

The paralytic stranger barely repressed an exclamation as he noticed it,
and from it his eyes went swiftly, questioningly, to the girl's face.

"Yes, it's mine," she said, with a nod of thanks. Then she smiled a little
as she saw where his attention was given. "Are you wondering if the snakes
you see are the result of odd drinks? Well, they are not; they are of
metal and won't hurt you."

"Beg pardon, miss. Guess I did look at your pretty ring sharp; and it is
enough to make a man shake if he's been drinking. But a little drink will
do me a long time."

Then Lyster and the girl passed on, the girl smiling at the little
exchange of words with the stranger. But Lyster himself was anything but
well pleased at the entire affair. He resented the fact that he had found
her there gambling, that she had shown such skill, that she had turned to
the seedy-looking stranger and exchanged words, as men might do, but as a
girl assuredly should not do. All these things disturbed him. Why, he
could scarcely have told. Only that morning she had been but a little
half-savage child, who amused him by her varying moods and sharp speech.
But to-night, in her graceful white gown, she seemed to have grown taller
and more womanly and winsome. The glances and homage of the most
acceptable youths about revealed to him the fact that she was somewhat
more than the strong swimmer or clever canoeist. She was deemed charming
by others, in a very different fashion than he had thought of her, and she
appeared rather too conscious of the fact. He fancied that she even
delighted in letting him see that others showed deference to her, when
he had only that day teased her as carelessly as he would have teased a
boy into a rage.

Then to stop and jest like that with the insignificant stranger by the
door! Mr. Lyster said a bad word in his mind, and decided that the
presuming masculinity of the settlement would be allowed few chances for
favors the remainder of the evening. He intended to guard her himself--a
formidable guard for the purpose, as a man would need a good deal of
self-reliance to try for favor if so handsome a personality as Lyster's
was an opponent.

But the rather shabby stranger, standing by the inner door, scarcely
noticed the noticeable young fellow. All his attention was given to the
girl who had spoken to him so frankly. She passed on and did not observe
his excessive interest. But his eyes lighted up when he heard her voice
speaking to him, and his face flushed with color as he stroked his beard
with his well hand and gazed after her.

"So this is where the trail begins, is it?" he whispered to the trembling
hand at his lips. "Well, I would have looked for it many another place
before commencing with a partner of Mr. Dan Overton--law-and-order man. He
must have gulled this whole territory beautifully to have them swear by
him as they do. And 'Monte' is his _protégée_! Well, Miss--or Mr.
Monte--whichever it is--your girl's toggery is more becoming than the
outfit I saw you wear last; but though your hair is a little darker, I'd
swear to you anywhere--yes, and to the ring, too. Well, I think I'll rest
my weary body in this 'burgh' for a few weeks to come. If the devil hasn't
helped his own, and cheated me, this partner--Mr. 'Rivers'--is yet alive
and in the flesh. If so, there is one place he will drift sooner or later,
and that is to this young gambler. And then--then death will be no sham
for him, for I will be here, too."

To 'Tana--jubilant with her victory over her instinctive antagonist, the
captain--all the evening was made for her pleasure, and she floated in the
paradise of sixteen years; and the world where people danced was the only
world worth knowing.

"I will be good now--I can be as good as an angel since I've got even with
the captain."

She whispered those words to Lyster, whose hand was clasping hers, whose
arm was about her waist, as they, drifted around the rather small circle,
to a waltz played on a concertina and a banjo.

She looked up at him, mutely asking him to believe her. Her desire for
revenge satisfied, she could be a very good girl now.

It was just then that Overton, who stood outside the window, glanced in
and saw her lovely upturned face--saw the red lips move in some pouting
protest, to which Lyster smiled but looked doubtfully down at her. To the
man watching them from without, the two seemed always so close--so
confidential. At times he even wondered if Lyster had not learned more
than himself of her life before that day at Akkomi's camp.

All that evening Dan had not once entered the room where they danced, or
added in any way to their merry-making. He had stood outside the door most
of the time, or sometimes rested a little way from it on a store box,
where he smoked placidly, and inspected the people who gathered to the
dance.

All the invited guests came early, and perfect harmony reigned within. A
few of the unsavory order of citizens had sauntered by, as though taking
note of the pleasures from which they were excluded. But it was not
until almost twelve o'clock--just after Overton had turned away from
watching the waltz--that a pistol shot rang out in the street, and several
dancers halted.

Some of the men silently moved to the door, but just then the door was
opened by Overton, who looked in.

"It was only my gun went off by accident," he said, carelessly. "So don't
let me stampede the party. Go on with your music."

The stranger, Harris, was nearest the door, and essayed to pass out, but
Overton touched him on the arm.

"Not just yet," he said hurriedly. "Don't come out or others will follow,
and there'll be trouble. Keep them in some way."

Then the door closed. The concertina sobbed and shrieked out its notes,
and drowned a murmur of voices on the outside. One man lay senseless close
to the doorstep, and four more men with two women stood a little apart
from him.

"If another shot is fired, your houses will be torn down over your heads
to-morrow," said Overton, threateningly; "and some of you will not be
needing an earthly habitation by that time, either."

"Fury! It is Overton!" muttered one of the men to another. "They told us
he wasn't in this thing."

"What for you care?" demanded the angry tones of a Dutch woman. "What
difference that make--eh? If so be as we want to dance--well, then, we go
in and dance--you make no mistake."

But the men were not so aggressive. The most audacious was the senseless
one, who had fired the revolver and whom Overton had promptly and quietly
knocked down.

"I don't think you men want any trouble of this sort," he remarked, and
ignored the women entirely. "If you've been told that I'm not in this,
that's just where some one told you a lie; and if it's a woman, you should
know better than to follow her lead. If these women get through that door,
it will be when I'm an angel. I'm doing you all a good turn by not letting
the boys in there know about this. No religion could save you, if I turned
them loose on you; so you had better get away quiet, and quick."

The men seemed to appreciate his words.

"That's so," mumbled one.

And as the other woman attempted a protest, one of the men put his hand
over her mouth, and, picking her up bodily, walked down the street with
her, she all the time kicking and making remarks of a vigorous nature.

The humor of the situation appealed to the delicate senses of her
companions, until they laughed right heartily, and the entire tone of the
scene was changed from a threat of battle to an excuse for jollity. The
man on the ground reeled upward to his feet with the help of a shake from
Overton.

"Where's my gun?" he asked, sulkily.

Blood trickling from a cut brow compelled him to keep one eye shut.

"Overton has it," explained one of his friends. "Come on, and don't try
another racket."

"I want my gun--it was him hit me," growled the wounded one, whose spirits
had not been enlivened by the spectacle the rest had witnessed.

"You are right--it was him," agreed the other, darkly; "and if it hadn't
been for breaking up the dance, I guess he'd a-killed you. Come on. You
left a ball in his arm by the looks of things, and all he did was to knock
you still. He may want to do more to-morrow. But as you have no gun,
you'd better wait till then."

The door had been opened, and the light streamed out. Men talked in a
friendly, jovial fashion on and about the doorstep. They saw the forms
moving away in the shadows, but no sign of disturbance met them.

Overton stood looking in the window at the dancers. The waltz was not yet
finished, and 'Tana and Lyster drifted past within a few feet of him. The
serenity of their evening had not been disturbed. Her face held all of
joyous content--so it seemed to the watcher. She laughed as she danced;
and hearing the music of her high, girlish tones, he forgot for a time the
stinging little pain in his arm, until his left hand, thrust into his coat
pocket, slowly filled with blood. Then Dan turned to the man nearest him.

"If Doctor Harrison is still in there, would you do me the favor of asking
him to come outside for a few minutes?" he asked, and the man addressed
stepped closer.

"There is a back way into the house. Hadn't you better just step in that
way, and have him fix you up? He's in the back room, alone, smoking."

Overton turned with an impatient exclamation, and a sharp, questioning
look. It was the half-paralyzed stranger--Harris.

"Oh, I ain't interfering!" he said, amiably. "But as I slipped out through
the back door before your visitors left, I dropped to the fact that you
had some damage done to that left arm. Yes, I'll carry any message you
like to your doctor, for I like your nerve. But I must say it's thankless
work to stand up as a silent target for cold lead, just so some one else
may dance undisturbed. Take an old man's advice, sonny, do some of the
dancing yourself."



CHAPTER IX.

THE STRANGER'S WARNING.


That one festive night decided the immediate future of 'Tana. All her joy
in it did not prevent a decision that it should be the last in her
experience, for a year to come, at least.

It was Lyster who broached the subject, and Overton looked at him closely
while he talked.

"You are right," he decided, at last; "a school is the easiest path out of
this jungle, I reckon. I thought of a school, but didn't know where--I'm
not posted on such things. But if you know the trail to a good one, we'll
fix it. She has no family folks at all, so--"

"I'd like to ask, if it's allowable--"

"Don't ask me about her people," said the other, quickly; "she wouldn't
want me to talk of them. You see, Max, all sorts get caught in whirlpools
of one sort or another, when ventures are made in a new country like this,
and often it's a thoroughbred that goes under first, while a lot of scrub
stock will pull through an epidemic and never miss a feed. Well, her folks
belonged to the list that has gone under--speculating people, you know,
who left her stranded when they started 'over the range,' and she's
sensitive about it--has a sort of pride, too, and doesn't want to be
pitied, I guess. Anyway, I've promised she sha'n't be followed by any
reminder of her misfortunes, and I can't go into details."

"Oh, that's all right; I'm not curious to know whether her folks had a
palace or a cabin to live in. But she has brightness. I like her well
enough to give up some useless pastimes that are expensive, and contribute
the results to a school fund for her, if you say yes. But I should like to
know if her people belonged to the class we call ladies and
gentlemen--that is all."

Overton did not answer at once. His eyes were turned toward his bandaged
arm, and a little wrinkle grew between his brows.

"The man is dead, and I don't think there's anything for me to say as to
his gentlemanly qualities," he said at last. "He was a prospector and
speculator, with an equal amount of vice and virtue in him, I suppose;
just about like the rest of us. Her mother I never saw, but have reason to
think she was a lady."

"And you say every word of that as if they were drawn from you with
forceps," said Lyster, cheerily. "Well, I'll not bother you about it
again. But, you see, there is a cousin of mine at the school I spoke of,
and I wanted to know because of that. It's all right, though; my own
instincts would tell me she came of good stock. But even good stock will
grow wild, you know, if it doesn't get the right sort of training. You
know, old fellow, I'm downright in earnest about wanting to help you about
her."

"Yes, I know. You have, too," said the other. "You've pointed out the
school and all, and we see she can't be left here."

"Not when you are ranging around the hills, and never a man to take your
place as a guard," agreed Lyster. "I feel about two years old ever since I
heard of how you kept annoyances from us last night while we were so
serenely unconscious of your trials. 'Tana will scarcely look at me this
morning, for no reason but that I did not divine the state of affairs and
go to help you. That girl has picked up so much queer knowledge herself
that she expects every one to be gifted with second sight."

Then he told, with a good deal of amusement, the episode of the poker game
and the discomfiture of the captain.

Overton said little. He was not so much shocked or vexed over it as Lyster
had been, because he had lived more among people to whom such pastimes
were not unusual.

"And I offered to teach her 'seven-up,' because it was easy," he remarked
grimly. "Yes, the school is best. You see, even if I am on the ground, I'm
not a fit guardian. Didn't I give her leave to get square with the old
man? While, if I'd been the right sort of a guardian, she would have been
given a moral lecture on the sinfulness of revenge. I guess we'd better
begin to talk school right away."

"I imagine she'll object at first, through force of habit, and protest
that she knows enough for one girl."

But she did not. She listened with wonder in her eyes, and something of
shamed contrition in her face, and knew so well--so very well that she did
not deserve it. She had wanted--really wanted to vex him when she played
the cards, when she had danced past, and never let on she saw him looking
somberly in at the window the night before. But in the light of morning
and with the knowledge of his wounded arm, all her resentment was gone.
She could scarcely speak even the words she meant to say.

"I can't do that--go, I mean. It will cost so much, and I have no money.
I can't make any here, and--and you are not rich enough to lend it to me,
even if I could pay it back some day, so--"

"Never mind about the money; it will be got. I'm to start up north of this
soon, and this doesn't seem a good place to school you in, anyway. So, for
a year or so, you go to that school down in Helena. Max knows the name of
it; I forget. When you get all rigged out with an education, and have a
capital of knowledge, you can talk then about the money and paying it, if
it makes you feel more comfortable. But just now you be a good little
girl; go down there with Max to the school, study hard, so that if I drop
into a chasm some night, or am picked off by a bullet, you'll have
learned, anyway, how to look after yourself in the right way."

"Oh, it's Mr. Max, then, that's planning this, is it?" she asked suddenly,
and her face flushed a little--he must have thought in anger, for he
said:

"Why--yes; that is--mostly. You see, 'Tana, I've drifted out from the ways
of the world while Max has kept up with them. So he proposed--well, no
matter about the plan. I'm to suggest it to you, and as it's no loss and
all gain to you, I reckon you'll be sensible enough to say yes."

"I will," she answered, quietly; "it is very kind of you both to be so
good to me, for I haven't been good to you--to either of you, I'm
sorry--I--maybe I'll be better when I come back--and--maybe I can pay you
some day."

"Me? Oh, you won't owe me anything, and I reckon you'd better not make
plans about coming back here! The books and things you learn will likely
turn you toward other places--finer places. This is all right for men
who have money to make; but you--"

"I'm coming back here," she said, nodding her head emphatically. "Maybe
not for always--but I'll come back some time--I will."

She was twisting her fingers in a nervous way, and, as he watched her, he
noticed that her little brown hands were devoid of all ornament.

"Where is the ring?" he asked. "Have you lost it already?"

"No, it's here--in my pocket," and she drew it out that he might see.
"I--I took it off this morning when I saw you were shot. You'll laugh, I
suppose; but I thought the snakes brought bad luck."

"So you are superstitious?"

"Oh, I don't know! I'm not afraid very often; but sometimes I think there
are signs that are true. I've heard old folks say so, and talk of things
unlucky. I took the ring off when I saw your arm."

"But the arm was only scratched--not worth a thought from a little girl
like you," he said; "and surely not worth throwing off your jewelry for.
But some day--some day of good luck, I may find you a prettier ring--one
more like a girl's ring, you know; one you can wear and not be afraid."

"If I'm afraid, it isn't for myself," she said, with that old, unchildlike
look he had not seen in her eyes of late. "But I'll tell you what I'm
afraid of. Have you ever heard of people who were 'hoodoos'? I guess you
have. Well, sometimes I'm afraid I'm just that--like the snakes in that
ring. I'm afraid I bring bad luck to people--people I like. It isn't the
harm to me that ever frightens me. I guess I can fight that; but no one
can fight a 'hoodoo,' I guess; and your arm--"

"Oh, see here! Wake up, 'Tana, you're dreaming! Who put that cussed
nonsense into your head? 'Hoodoo!' Pshaw! I will have patience with you in
anything but that. Did any one look at you last night as if you were a
'hoodoo'? Here comes Max; we'll ask him."

But she did not smile at their badinage.

"I was in earnest, and you think it only funny," she said. "Well, maybe
you won't always laugh at it. Men who know a heap believe in 'hoodoos.'"

"But not 'hoodoos' possessed of the _tout ensemble_ of Miss Rivers,"
objected Lyster. "You are simply trying to scare us--me, out of the
journey I hoped to make with you to Helena. You are trying to evade a year
of scholastic training we have planned for you, and you would like to
prophesy that the boat will blow up or the cars run off the track if you
embark. But it won't. You will say good-by to your ogre of a guardian
to-morrow. You will be guarded by no less a personage than my immaculate
self to the door of your academy; from which you will emerge, later on,
with never a memory of 'hoodoos' in your wise brain; and you will live to
a green old age and make clay busts of us both when we are gray haired.
There! I think I'm a good healthy sort of a prophet; and as a reward will
you go with me to-morrow?"

"With you? Then it is you who--"

"Who has planned the whole brilliant scheme? Exactly--the journey part of
it at all events; and I'm not so modest as our friend here. I'll take the
blame of my share, and his, too, if he doesn't speak up for himself.
Here comes your new friend, Dan. Where did you pick him up?"

It was the man Harris, and beside him was the captain. They were talking
with some animation of late Indian raids to the westward.

"I doubt if it was Indians at all who did the thieving," remarked Harris;
"there are always a lot of scrub whites ready to take advantage of war
signals, and do devilment of that sort, made up as reds."

"Oh, yes--some say so! That man Holly used to get the credit of that sort
of renegade work. Handsome Holly he was called once. But now that he's
dead, maybe we'll see he was not the only one to work mischief between the
whites and reds."

"Holly? Lee Holly?" asked Lyster. "Why, didn't we hear a rumor that he
wasn't dead at all, but had been seen somewhere near Butte?"

"I didn't," returned Overton, who was the one addressed, "though it may be
so. He's a very slippery specimen and full of schemes, from what I hear.
But he doesn't seem to range over this territory, so I've never run across
him. It would be like him, though, to play dead when the Government men
grew warm on his trail, and he'd no doubt get plenty of help from his
Indian allies."

Harris was watching him keenly, and the careless honesty of the speaker's
face and tone evidently perplexed him, for he turned with a baffled look
to the girl, who stood with down-dropped eyes, and twisted a spray of
leaves nervously around her fingers. He noticed one quick, troubled glance
she gave Overton, but even to his suspicious eyes it did not seem a regard
given a fellow-conspirator.

"I believe it was the doctor I heard speak of the rumor that Holly was yet
above ground," said Lyster. "The mail came up yesterday, and perhaps he
found it in the papers. Don't think I had heard of the man before. Is he
one of the important people up here?"

"Rather," remarked Overton, "an accomplished crook who has dabbled in
several trades in the Columbia River region. The latest was a wholesale
horse steal from a ranch over in Washington--Indian work, with him as
leader. The regulars from the fort got after them, there was an ugly
fight, and the reds reported Holly as killed. That is the last I heard of
him. You were asking me yesterday if he ever prospected in our valley,
didn't you?" he asked, turning to Harris.

"A man made undue importance of by the stupid Indians," declared Captain
Leek. "He humored their superstitions and played medicine man with them,
I've heard; and he had a boy for a partner--a young slip the gamblers
called 'Monte' down in Coeur d'Alene. Some said it was his son."

"A fine instructor for youth," observed Lyster. "Who could expect anything
but vice from a man who had such a boyhood?"

"But you would," said 'Tana, suddenly, "if you knew that boy when he grew
to be a man. If he was bad, you'd want him to get off the earth where you
walked; and you never once would stop to ask if he was brought up right or
not--you know you wouldn't--nobody does, I guess. I don't know why it is,
but it seems all wrong to me. Maybe, though, when I go to school, and
learn things, I will think like the rest, and not care."

Lyster shrugged his shoulders and looked after her as she vanished into
the regions where Mrs. Huzzard was concocting dishes for the mid-day
meal.

"I doubt if she thinks like the rest," he remarked. "How fiery she is, and
how independent in her views of things."

But Overton smiled at her curt speech.

"Poor 'Tana has lived among rough scenes until she learns to judge
quickly, and for herself," he said. "Her words are true enough, too; she
may have known just such boys as Holly's clever little partner and seen
how hard it was for them to be any good. I wonder now what has become of
young 'Monte' since Holly disappeared. He would be a good one to follow,
if there is doubt as to Holly's death being a fact. I believe there was a
reward out for him some time ago, to stimulate lagging justice. Don't know
if it's withdrawn or not."

"Square," decided Harris, in silent communion with himself, as he surveyed
Overton; "dead square, and don't scent the trail. I'd like to know what
their little game is with him. Some devilment, sure."

On one pretext and another he kept close to Overton. He was studying the
stalwart, easy-going keeper of the peace, and Dan, who had a sort of
compassion for all who were halt, or blind, or homeless, took kindly
enough to the semi-paralyzed stranger. Harris seemed to belong nowhere in
particular, yet knew each trail of the Kootenai and Columbia country, knew
each drift where the yellow sands were found--each mine where the silver
hunt paid best returns.

"You've prospected some, I see, even if you don't get over the ground very
fast," Dan remarked; "and with it all, I reckon you've staked out some pay
claims for yourself?"

The face of Harris contracted in a swift frown; he drew a long breath, and
his clasped hands tightened on each other.

"I did," he said, in a choked, nervous sort of way; "I did. If I could
tell you of it, I would. You're the sort of man I'd--But never mind. I'm
not well yet--not strong enough to get excited over it. I've got to take
things easy for a spell, or another stroke of this paralysis will come as
my share. That handicaps me considerable. I was--was upset by something
unexpected last night, and I've had a queer, shaky feeling ever since;
can't articulate clear. Did you notice? The--the only thing under God's
heaven I'm afraid of is that paralysis--that it will catch me again before
I get my work done; and to-day--"

"Don't talk of it," advised Overton, as he noticed how the man's voice
hesitated and trembled, how excitable he was over the subject of his
mineral finds and his threatened helplessness. "Don't think of it, and
you'll come out all right yet. If I can do anything for you--"

The other man laughed in a spasmodic, contemptuous fashion.

"For me?" he said. "You can't. I thought you could, but I was on a blind
trail--you can't. I can give you a lift, though--yes, I can. It's
about--about that girl. You--you tried to guard her last night, as if she
was a flower the rough wind must not blow on. I know--I watched you. I've
been there, and know."

"Know what? You're an infernal fool!" burst out Dan, with all his good
nature out of sight. "No hints about the girl, or--or anything else! I
won't have it!"

"It's no hint; facts are all I'd mention to you, and I'd do that just
because I think you're square. And they--they are playing you. See? For
he ain't dead. I don't know what their game is with you, but he ain't
dead; and there--there's no telling what scheme he's got her into
this--this territory for. So I want you to know. I don't want you to be
caught in any trap of theirs. She--she looks all right; but he's a
devil--a thing infernal--a--"

Overton caught him by one arm, and swung him around like a child.

"Speak clear. No more of your blasted stuttering or beating away from
points; who is the man you talk of? Who is playing with me? Now speak."

"Why, Monte, the girl; Monte and Lee Holly. He's somewhere alive--that's
what I'm trying to tell you. I was hunting for him when I found her laying
low here, don't you understand? You stare so. It is Lee Holly and--
Ah--my--God!"

The last words were gurgled in his throat; his face whitened, and he sank
to the ground as though his bones had suddenly been converted into
jelly--a strange, shapeless heap of humanity as he lay at Overton's feet.
Overton bent over him, and after a moment of blank amaze, lifted the
helpless head, and almost dropped it again, when the eyes, appealing and
keenly conscious, met his own. There was a queer chuckling sound in the
man's throat; he was trying to speak, but could not. The secret he was
trying to tell was buried back of those speechless lips, and one more
stroke of the doom he feared had overtaken him.



CHAPTER X.

THE STRANGER'S LOVE STORY.


'Tana sat alone in her room a few hours later, and from the window watched
the form of Ora Harrison disappear along the street. The latter had been
sent by her father with some medicine for the paralyzed stranger, and the
girls had chatted of the school 'Tana was to attend, and of the schools
Ora had gone to and all the friends she remembered there, who now sent her
such kind letters. Ora told 'Tana of the lovely time she expected to have
when the steamers would come up from Bonner's Ferry to the Kootenai Lake
region, for then her friends were to come in the summers, and the warm
months were to be like holidays.

All this girlish frankness, all the cheery friendship of the doctor's
family filled 'Tana with a wild unrest against herself--against the
world.

"It would be easy to be good if a person lived like that always," she
thought, "in a nice home, with a mother to kiss me and a father I was not
ashamed of. I felt stupid when they talked to me. I could only think how
happy they were, and that they did not seem to know it. And Ora was sweet
and sorry for me because my parents were dead. Huh!" she grunted,
disdainfully, in the Indian fashion peculiar to her at times. "If she knew
how I felt about it she'd hate me, I suppose. They'd all think I was bad
clear through. They wouldn't understand the reason--no nice women like
them could. Oh, if the school would only make me nice like that! But I
suppose it's got to be born in people, and I was born different."

Even this reason did not render her more resigned; and, to add to her
disquiet, there came to her the memory of eyes whose gaze made her
shiver--the eyes of the stranger whom Overton had carried into the house
for dead, but whose brain was yet alive. He had looked at her with a
strange, wild stare, and Overton himself had turned his eyes toward her in
moody questioning when she came forward to help. He had accepted the help,
but each time she raised her eyes she saw that Dan was looking at her with
a new watchfulness; all his interest in the stricken stranger did not keep
him from that.

"If any one is accountable for this, I guess I'm the man," he confessed,
ruefully. "He told me he was afraid of this, yet I was fool enough to lose
my temper and turn him around rough. It might have struck him, anyway; but
my conscience doesn't let me down easy. He'll be my care till some one
comes along with a stronger claim."

"Maybe there is some one somewhere," said 'Tana. "There might be letters,
if it would be right to look."

"If there are relatives anywhere in the settlements, I guess they'd be
glad enough if I'd look," decided Overton. "There is no way to get
permission from him, though," and he looked in the helpless man's eyes. "I
don't know what you'd say to this if you could speak, stranger," he said;
"but to go through your pockets seems the only way to locate you or your
friends; so I'll have to do it."

It was not easy to do, with those eyes staring at him in that horrible
way. But he tried to avoid the eyes, and thrust his hand into the inner
pocket, drawing out an ordinary notebook, some scraps of newspaper folded
up in it, and two letters addressed to Joe Hammond; one to Little Dalles,
and the other had evidently been delivered by a messenger, for no
destination was marked on it. It was an old letter and the envelope was
worn through all around the edges. Another paper was wrapped around it,
and the writing was of a light feminine character. Overton touched it with
a certain reverence and looked embarrassed.

"I think, Mrs. Huzzard, I will ask you to read this, as it seems a lady's
letter, and if there is any information in it, you can give it to us; if
not, I'll just put it back in his pocket and hope luck will tell us what
the letter doesn't."

But Mrs. Huzzard demurred: "And me that short-sighted that even specs
won't cure it! No, indeed. I'm no one to read important papers. But here's
'Tana, with eyes like a hawk for sighting things. She'll read it fast
enough."

Overton looked undecided, remembering those strange insinuations of the
now helpless man, and feeling that the man himself might not be willing.

"I--well--I guess not," he said, at last. "It ain't just square to send a
little girl blindfold like that into a stranger's claim. We'll let some
one over twenty-one read the letters. You'll do, Max, and if it ain't all
right, you can stop up short."

So Lyster read the treasured message, all in the same feminine writing.
His sensitive face grew grave, and he turned compassionate glances toward
the helpless man as he read the letters, according to their dates. The
oldest one was the only one not sad. Its postmark was a little town many
miles to the south.

  "DEAR OLD JOE: It's awful to be this near you, and know you are sick,
  without being able to get to you. I just arrived, and your partner
  has met me, and told me all about it. But I'll go up with him, just
  the same; and when you are able to travel we can come down to a town
  and be married, instead of to-day, as we had set on. So that's all
  right, and don't you worry. Your partner, John Ingalls, is as nice as
  he can be to me. Why did you not tell me how good looking he was?
  Maybe you never discovered it--you slow, prosy old Joe! When you
  wrote to me of that rich find you stumbled on, I was sorry you had
  picked up a partner; for you always did trust folks too much, and I
  was afraid you'd be cheated by the stranger you picked up. But I
  guess that I was wrong, Joe; for he is a very nice gentleman--the
  nicest I ever met, I think. And he talks about you just as if he was
  your brother, and thought a heap of you. He tried to tease me some,
  too--asked how you ever came to catch such a pretty girl as me! Then
  I told him, Joe, that you never had to catch me--that I was little,
  and hadn't any folks, and how you got your folks to give me a home
  when you was only a boy; and that you was always like a big brother
  to me till you made some money in the mines. Then you wrote and asked
  me to come out and marry you. He just laughed, Joe, and said it was
  not a brother's love that a wife wanted; but I don't think he knows
  anything about that--do you? And, Joe, I came pretty near telling him
  all about that richest find you made--the one you said you wanted me
  to be the first to see. I thought, of course, you had told your
  partner, just as you told me when you sent me the plan of it--what
  for, I don't know, Joe, for I never could find it in the wide world,
  even if there was any chance of my hunting for it alone. Your partner
  asked me point blank if you had written to me of any late find of
  yours, or of any special location where you found good signs. I tried
  to look innocent, and said maybe you had, but I couldn't remember.
  I didn't like to tell a story. I wanted to tell him all the truth,
  and how rich you said we would be. I knew you would want to tell him
  yourself, so I managed to keep quiet in time. But whenever he looks
  at me I feel guilty. And he looks at me so kindly, and he is so good.
  He says we can't begin our journey to you right away, because he has
  provisions and things to get first; but we will set out in three
  days. So I send this letter that you will know I am on the road;
  maybe we'll reach you first. He is going to take me riding around
  this camp this evening--I mean Mr. Ingalls. He says I must get some
  enjoyment before I go up there to the mountains, where no one lives.
  He is the nicest stranger I ever met. But, of course, I never was
  away from home much to meet folks; I guess, though, I might travel a
  long ways and not meet any one so nice. He just brought me a pretty
  purse made by the Indians. I hope you wear a big hat like he does,
  and big, high boots. I never saw folks wear them back home; but they
  do look nice. Now, good-by, Joe, for a few days.

                                            "Yours affectionately,
                                                             "FANNIE."

"Well, that letter is plain sailing," remarked Overton, "but there is only
one name in it we could follow up--the partner, John Ingalls. But I don't
think I've heard of him."

"Wait! there is another letter--two more," said Lyster; and the others
were silent as he read:

  "JOE: I hope you'll hate me now. I can stand that better than to know
  you still like me. I can't help it. I am going with him--your
  partner. He loves me, too, Joe--not in the brotherly way you did, but
  in a way that makes me think of him and no one else. So I can't marry
  any one but him. Maybe it's a sin to be false to you, Joe; but I
  never could go to you now. And I can't help going where he wants me
  to go. Don't be mad at him; he can't help it either, I suppose. He
  says he will always be good to me, and I am going. But my heart is
  heavy as I write to you. I am not happy--maybe because I love him
  too much. But I am going. Try and forget me.

                                                             "FANNIE."

In dead silence Lyster unfolded the third paper. The drama of this
stranger's life was a pathetic thing to the listeners, who looked at him
with pity in their eyes, but could utter no words of sympathy to the man
who sat there helpless and looked at them. Then the last, a penciled
sheet, was read.

  "JOE: I am dying, I think. The Indian woman with me says so; and I
  hope it is true. He came to me to-day--the first time in weeks. He
  never married me, as he promised. He cursed me to-day because my baby
  face led him away from a fortune he knows you found. I never told
  him, though it is a wonder. All he knows of it he heard you say in
  your sleep when you were sick that time. To-day he told me you were
  paralyzed, Joe--that you are helpless still--that he has taken
  Indians with him there to your old claim, and searched every foot of
  ground for the gold vein he thinks you know of. But it is of no use,
  and he is furious over it, and so taunts me of your helplessness
  alone in the wilderness.

  "Joe, I still have the plan you made of the river and the two little
  streams and the marked tree. Can't I make amends some way for the
  wrong I did you? Is there anywhere a friend you could trust to work
  the find and take care of you? For if you are too helpless to write
  yourself, and can get only the name of the person to me, I will send
  the plan some way to him. I know I am not to live long. I am in a
  perfect fever to hear from you, and tell you that my sin against you
  weighs me down to despair.

  "I can't tell you of my life with him; it is too horrible. I do not
  even know who he is, for Ingalls is not his name. We are with Indians
  and they call him 'Medicine,' and seem to know him well. He has left
  me here, to-day, and I feel I will never see him again. He tells me
  he has sent for a young white boy who is to be brought to camp, and
  who will help care for me. Anything would be better than the sly red
  faces about me; they fill me with terror. My one hope is that the boy
  may get this letter sent to you, and that some word may come to me
  from you before my life ends. It has taken me all this day to write
  to you.

  "Good-by. I am dying miserably, and I deserve it. I can't even tell
  you where to write me; only we are with Indians camped by a big
  river. Not far away is a wall of rock, like a hill, beside the river,
  and Indian writing is cut on the wall, and holes and things are cut
  all along it."

"The Arrow lakes of the Columbia!" interrupted Overton--

  "If the boy comes, and is to be trusted at all, he may tell me more;
  that is my only hope of this reaching you. If you are not able to
  make another plan (and he says your hands are powerless) remember, I
  have the one you did make. If you can send me one word--one name of a
  friend--I will try--try so hard. He would kill me if he knew, and I
  would be glad of it, if I could only help you first. I feel that I
  will never see you again.

                                                             "FANNIE."

Mrs. Huzzard was crying and whispering, "Poor dear!--poor child!" and even
the voice of Lyster was not quite steady as he read. Those straggling,
weak pencil marks had a pathos of their own to him. The letter, crossed
and recrossed by the lines, was on two pages, evidently torn from the back
of a book.

"It seems a sacrilege to dive into a man's feelings and secrets like
this," he said, ruefully. "It _is_! My only consolation is that I did it
with good intent."

"And, after all, not a plain trail found that will help us locate this man
or his friends," decided Overton--"not a name we can really fasten to but
the name on the envelope--Joe Hammond. It is too bad. Why, 'Tana! Good
God! _'Tana!_"

For the girl, who had uttered no word, but had listened to that last
letter with whitened face and staring eyes, leaned against the wall at its
close, and a little gasp from her drew their attention.

She fell forward on her face ere Overton could reach her.

"Tana, my girl, what is it? Speak!" he entreated.

But the girl only whispered: "I know now! Joe--Joe Hammond!" and fainted
dead away at the feet of the paralyzed man.



CHAPTER XI.

'TANA AND JOE.


"Just like a part in a play, captain--that's just the way it struck me,"
said Mrs. Huzzard, recounting the affair for the benefit of the postmaster
of Sinna Ferry. "The man a-sitting there like a statue, with only his eyes
looking alive, and that poor, scared dear a-falling down on the floor
beside him, and looking as white as milk! I never had a notion she was so
easy touched by people's troubles. It surely was a sorry story read from
them three letters. I tell you, sir, men leave women with aching hearts
many's the time," and she glanced sentimentally toward her listener;
"though if there is one place more heart-rending to be deserted in than
another, I think an Indian village would be the very worst. Just to think
of that poor dear dying there in a place she didn't even know the name
of."

"Humph! I've an idea you are giving your sympathy to the wrong
individual," decided the captain. "It must be easier even to die in some
unknown corner than for a living soul to be shut up in a dead body, after
the manner of this Harris, or Hammond, or whatever his name is. I guess,
from the looks of things, he must have collapsed when that second letter
reached him; had a bad stroke, and was just recovering somewhat when he
strayed into this camp. Yes, madame, I've an idea he's had a harder row
to hoe than the girl; and, then, it doesn't look as though he'd deserved
it so much."

"Mr. Dan is mightily upset over it, ain't he?"

"Mr. Dan is just as likely to get upset over any other vagabond who strays
in his direction," grumbled the captain. "Folks are always falling in his
way to be looked after. He has the worst luck! He never did a bit of harm
to this stranger--nothing but drop a hand on his shoulder; and all at once
the man falls down helpless. And Dan feels in duty bound to take care of
him. Then the girl 'Tana has to flop over in the same way, just when I
thought we were to get rid of her. And she's another charge to look after.
He'll be wanting to hire your house for a hospital next thing, Mrs.
Huzzard."

"And welcome he'd be to it for 'Tana," declared Mrs. Huzzard, valiantly.
"She's been a bit saucy to you at times, and I know it; but, indeed, it's
only because she fancies you don't like her."

"Like her, madame! A girl who plays poker, and--and--"

"And wins," added Mrs. Huzzard, with a twinkle in her eyes. "Ah, now,
didn't Mr. Max tell me the whole story! She is a clip, and I know it; but
I think she only meant that game as a bit of a joke."

"A twenty-dollar joke, Mrs. Huzzard, is too expensive to be funny,"
growled the captain, with natural discontent. "But if I could only
convince myself that the money was honestly won, I would not feel so
annoyed over it; but I can't--no, madame. I am confident there was a trick
in that game--some gambler's trick she has picked up among her promiscuous
acquaintances. And I am annoyed--more than ever annoyed now that there is
a chance of her remaining longer under Dan's care. She's a dangerous
_protégée_ for a boy of his age, that's all."

"Dangerous! Oh, now, I've my doubts of that," said Mrs. Huzzard, shaking
her head, emphatically. "You take my word for it, if she's dangerous as a
girl to any one in this camp, it's not Mr. Dan's peace of mind she's
disturbing, but that of his new friend."

"You mean Lyster? Ridiculous! A gentleman of culture, used to the best
society, give a thought to such an unclassed individual? No,
madame!--don't you believe it. His interest about the school affair was
doubtless to get her away from camp, and to keep her from being a
responsibility on Dan's hands."

"Hum! maybe. But, from all the dances he danced with her, and the way he
waited on her, I'd a notion that he did not think her a great
responsibility at all."

This conversation occurred the morning after those letters had been read.
The owner of them was installed in the best room Mrs. Huzzard had to
offer, and miners from all sections were cordially invited to visit the
paralyzed man, in the vain hope that some one would chance to remember his
face, or help establish the lost miner's identity; for he seemed utterly
lost from all record of his past--all but that he had loved a girl whom an
unknown partner had stolen. And Overton remembered that he seemed
especially interested in the whereabouts of the renegade, Lee Holly.

The unknown Lee Holly's name had suddenly attained the importance of a
gruesome ghost to Overton. He had stared gloomily at the paralytic, as
though striving to glean from the living eyes the secrets held close by
the silenced lips. 'Tana and Monte and Lee Holly!--his little girl and
those renegades! Surely these persons could have nothing to do with each
other. Harris was looney--so Overton decided as he stalked back and forth
beside the house, glancing up once in a while to a window above him--a
window where he hoped to see 'Tana's face; for all one day had gone, and
the evening come again, yet he had never seen her since he had lifted her
unconscious form from beside the chair of Harris. Her words, "I know now!
Joe--Joe Hammond!" were yet whispering through his senses. Did those words
mean anything? or was the child simply overwrought by that tragedy told in
the letters? He did not imagine she would comprehend all the sadness of it
until she had fallen in that faint.

The night he had talked with her first in Akkomi's tepee, and afterward in
the morning by the river, he had promised to be satisfied with what she
chose to tell him of herself, and ask no questions of her past. But since
the insinuations of Harris and her own peculiar words and manner, he
discovered that the promise was not easy to keep--especially when Lyster
besieged him with questions; for 'Tana had spent the day utterly alone,
but for the ministrations of Mrs. Huzzard. She would not see even the
doctor, as she said she was not sick. She would not see Overton, Lyster,
or any one else, because she said she did not want to talk; she was tired,
and that reason must suffice. It did for Lyster, especially after he had
received a nod, a smile, and a wave of her hand from her window--a
circumstance he related hopefully to Overton, as it banished the lingering
fear in his mind that her exile was one caused by absolute illness.

"I candidly believe, Dan, that she is simply ashamed of having fainted
before us last evening--fancies it looks weak, I suppose; and she does
pride herself so on her ungirlish strength. I've no doubt she will
emerge from her seclusion to-morrow morning, and expect us to ignore her
sentimental swoon. How is your other patient?"

"Better."

"Much?"

"Well, just the difference of turning his eyes quickly toward a thing,
instead of slowly, as at first. The doctor just told me he is able to move
his head slightly, so I guess he is not to go under this trip. But he'll
never be a well man again."

"Rather heavy on you, old fellow, that you feel bound to look after him. I
can't see the necessity of it. Why don't you let the rest of the camp--"

But Overton had turned away and resumed his walk. Lyster stared at him in
wonder for a moment and then laughed.

"All right, Rothschild," he observed. "You know the depth of your own
purse best. But, to tell the truth, you don't act like your own
responsible self to-day. You go moping around as though the other fellow's
stroke had touched you, too. You are a great fellow, Dan, to take other
people's loads on your shoulders; but it is a bad habit, and you'd better
reform."

"I will, when I have time," returned Overton, with a grim smile. "Just now
I have other things to think of. Don't mind me."

"I sha'n't. I confess I don't mind any of you very much since I saw the
cheery vision of your _protégée_ at the window--and waving her hand to me,
too; the first bit of sunshine I've seen in camp to-day. For the average
specimen I've run across has looked to me like you--glum."

Receiving no reply whatever to this criticism, he strolled away after a
smiling glance upward to 'Tana's window. But no girlish hand waved
greeting to him this time, and he comforted himself by humming, "My Love
is but a Lassie Yet." This was a mischievous endeavor to attract Overton's
attention and make him say something, even though the something should
prove uncomplimentary to the warbler.

But it was a failure. Overton only thrust his hands a little deeper in his
pockets as he stared after the handsome, light-hearted fellow. Of course,
it would be Max to whom she would wave her hand; and he was glad somebody
felt like singing, though he himself could not. His mind was too much
tormented by the thoughts of those two who formed a nucleus for the
hospital already contemptuously alluded to by the captain.

And those two?

One sat almost motionless, as he had been for the twenty-four hours. But
as Mrs. Huzzard and the captain left his room, each spoke hopefully of his
appearance. Mrs. Huzzard especially was very confident his face showed
more animation than she had observed at her noonday visit; and the fact
that he could move his head and nod in reply to questions certainly did
seem to promise recovery.

In the adjoining room, close to the very thin partition, 'Tana lay with
ears strained to catch each word of the conversation. But when her door
was opened by Mrs. Huzzard, all semblance of interest was gone, and she
lay on the little bed with closed eyes.

"I'm right glad she's taking a nap at last," said the good soul as she
closed the door softly. "That child scarce slept a bit all night, and I
know it. Curious how nervous she got over that man's troubles. But, of
course, he did look awful at first, and nigh about scared me."

'Tana lay still till the steps died away on the stairs, and the voices
were heard more faintly on the lower floor. All the day she had waited for
the people to leave the stranger in the next room alone; and, for the
first time, no voice of visitors broke the silence of the upper floor.

She slipped to the door and listened. Her movements were stealthy as that
of some forest animal evading a hunter. She turned the knob softly, and
with still swiftness was inside the stranger's room, and the door closed
behind her.

He certainly was more alert, for his eyes met hers instantly. His look was
almost one of fear, and she was trembling visibly.

"I had to come," she said, nervously, in a half whisper, "I heard the
letters read, and I have to tell you something I've thought all night--all
day--and I have to tell you. Do you understand? Try to understand. Nod
your head if you do. Do you?"

Her speech was rapid and impatient, while she listened each moment lest a
step sound on the stairs again. But in all her eagerness to hear she never
looked away from his face, and she uttered a low exclamation of gladness
when the man's head bent slowly in assent.

"Oh, I am so glad--so glad! You will get well; you must! Listen! I know
you now, and why you looked at me so. You think you saw me up at
Revelstoke--I think I remember your face there--and you don't trust me.
You are looking for that man--the man that took her away from you. You
think I could find a trail to him; but you are wrong. He is dead, and I
know she is--I _know_! Your name was the last word she said--'Joe.' She
wanted you to forgive her, and not cross _his_ path. You don't believe me,
perhaps; but it is all true. I went to the camp with--with the boy she
wrote of. She talked of you to me. I had word to give you if we ever met.
But how was I to know that Jim Harris was the man--the same man? Do you
hear--do you believe me?"

Those burning eyes--eyes in which all of life in him seemed
concentrated--looked out on her from the pale, strange face; looked on her
until her own cheeks grew colorless, for there was something awful in the
searching regard of the man who was but half alive.

"See!" she said, and slipped from her belt a package in which paper
rustled, "I've had that plan of the gold find ever since--since she died.
She gave it to me, in case you should be--as you are, and no one to look
after it for you. Or, if you should go under, she said, I was to look it
up. And I started to look it up--yes, I did; but things were against me,
and I let it go for a while. But now, listen! If you get well, it means
money must do it. See? Dan hasn't very much--not enough to float you long.
Now, I've thought it all out. You give up the notion of looking for that
man, who wasn't worth a shot of powder when he was alive, and worth less
now. It's that notion that's been eating the life out of you. Oh, I've
thought it all out! Now you just turn honest prospector, like you was when
that man Ingalls first spotted you. I'm only a girl, but I'll try to help
make amends for the wrongs he did you. I'll go partners with you. Look!
here is the plan; and I'm almost sure I know where the two little streams
meet. I've thought of it a heap; but the face of--of that dead girl, kept
me from doing anything till I had either found you or knew you were
dead. No one knows I have the plan--though _he_ would have cut throats for
it. Now do you trust me?"

She held the plan up so he could see it--a queer puzzle of lines and dots;
but a glance sufficed, and he turned his eyes again to the face of the
girl. Her eagerness, her intensity, awakened him to trust and sympathy. He
looked at her and nodded his head.

"Oh, I knew you would!" she breathed, thankfully. "And I'll stand by
you--you'll see! I've wanted a chance like this--a chance to make up for
some of the devilment he's done to folks--and some he's made me help at.
You know who I am, but none of the rest do--and they sha'n't. I'm a new
girl now. I want to make up for some of the badness that has been. It's
all over; but sometimes I hate the blood in my veins because--you know!
And if I can only do _some_ good--"

She paused, for the eyes of the paralyzed man had moved from her face, and
were resting on something back of her.

It was Overton! He entered and closed the door, and stood looking doubtful
and astonished, while 'Tana rose to her feet trembling and a little pale.

"How long--were you there?" she demanded, angrily.

He looked at her very steadily before making reply--such a curious,
searching look that she moved uneasily because of it; but her face
remained defiant.

"I just now opened the door," he said at last, speaking in a slow,
deliberate way. "I slipped here as quietly as I could, because they told
me you were asleep, and I must not make a noise. I got here just as you
were telling this man that no one but him should know who you were
before you came among us--that is all, I guess."

She had sat down on a seat close to Harris, and dropped her face in her
hands.

Overton stood with his back against the door, looking down at her. In his
eyes was a keen sorrow as she sat down in that despairing fashion, and
crept close to the stranger as though for refuge from _him_.

"I might have avoided telling what I heard," he continued; "but I don't
think that would be quite square among friends. Then, as I see you have
found a new acquaintance here, I thought maybe you would have something to
tell me if you knew what I heard you say to him."

But, kindly as his words were, she seemed to shrink from them.

"No; I can't. Oh, Mr. Dan, I can't--I can't," she muttered, with her head
still bowed on the arm of the chair occupied by Harris. "If you can't
trust me any more, I can't blame you. But I can't tell you--that's all."

"Then I'll just go down stairs again," he decided, "and you can finish
your talk with Harris. I'll keep the rest of the folks from interrupting
you as I did. But if you want me, little girl, you know I'll not be far
away."

The tears came in her eyes. His persistent kindness to her made her both
ashamed and glad, and she reached out her hand.

"Wait," she said, "maybe I have something to tell you," and she unfolded
the paper again and showed it to Harris.

"Shall I tell him? Would you rather he would be the man to do the
business?" she asked. "You know I'm willing, but I don't know enough
myself. Do you want him to be the man?"

Harris nodded his head.

With a look of relief on her face, she turned to Overton, who watched them
wonderingly.

"What sort of man is it you want? or what is it you want to tell me?"

"Only that I've found a plan of the ground where he made that rich find
the letter told of," she answered, with a bit of a tremble in her voice.
"He's never been able to look after it himself, and was afraid to trust
any one. But now--"

"And you have the plan--_you_, 'Tana?"

"Yes, I have it. I think I even know where the place is located.
But--don't ask me anything about how I got the plan. He knows, and is
satisfied--that is all."

"But, 'Tana, I don't understand. You are giving me surprises too thick
this evening. If he has found a rich yield of ore, and has taken you into
partnership, it means that you will be a rich woman. A streak of pay ore
can do more for you than a ranger like myself; so I guess you can afford
to drop me."

Her face fell forward in her hands again. The man in the chair looked at
her and then turned his eyes pleadingly to the other man, who remained
standing close to the door.

Overton recognized the pleading quality of the glance, and was filled with
amazement by it. Witchery seemed to have touched the stranger when
paralysis touched him, else he would not so quickly have changed from his
suspicion of the girl into that mute pleading for her.

She was trying so hard to keep back the tears, and in the effort her jaws
were set and her brows drawn together stormily. She looked to him as she
had looked in the lodge of Akkomi.

"You don't trust me," she said at last; "that's why you won't help us. But
you ought to, for I've never lied to you. If it's because I'm in it that
you won't have anything to do with the mine, I'll leave. I won't bother
you about that school. I won't bother you about anything. I'll help locate
the place if--if Joe here is willing; and then you two can be partners,
and I'll be out of it, for I can trust you to take care of him, and see
that the money does what it can for him. I can trust you if you can't me.
So you are the one to speak up. What is your answer?"



CHAPTER XII.

PARTNERS.


"Well, I've been a 'hoodoo' all my, life; and if I only lead some one into
luck now--good luck--oh, wouldn't I learn a sun-dance, and dance it!"

The world was two weeks older, and it was 'Tana who spoke; not the
troubled 'Tana who had crouched beside the paralytic and cowered under her
fear of Overton's distrust, but a girl grown lighter-hearted by the help
of work to be done--work in which she was for once to stand side by side
with Overton himself, for his decision about the prospecting had been in
her favor. He had "spoken up," as she had asked him to do, and a curious
three-cornered partnership had been arranged the next day; a very
mysterious partnership, of which no word was told to any one. Only 'Tana
suddenly decided that the schooling must wait a little longer. Lyster
would have to make the trip to Helena without her; she was not feeling
like it just then, and so forth.

Therefore, despite the very earnest arguments of Mr. Lyster, he did have
to go alone. During all the journey, he was conscious of a quite
unreasonable disappointment, an impatience with even Overton, for not
enforcing his authority as guardian, and insisting that she at once
commence the many studies in which she was sadly deficient.

But Overton had stood back and said nothing. Lyster did not understand it,
and could not succeed in making either of them communicative.

"You'll be back here in less than a month," said Overton. "We will send
her then, if she feels equal to it. In the meantime, we'll take the best
care we can of her here at the Ferry. I find I will have time to look
after her a little until then. I have only one short trip to make up the
river; so don't get uneasy about her. She'll be ready to go next run you
make, sure."

So Lyster wondered, dissatisfied, and went away. He was even a little more
dissatisfied with his last memory of the girl--a vision of her bending
over that unknown, helpless miner. His sympathies were with the man. He
was most willing to assist, in a financial way, toward taking care of one
so unfortunate. But the thing he was not willing to do was to see 'Tana
devote herself without restraint to the welfare of a stranger--a man they
knew nothing of--a fellow who, of course, could have no appreciation of
the great luck he was in to have her constantly beside him. It was a clean
waste of exceptionable sympathy; and a squaw, or some miner out of work,
would do as well in this case.

He even offered to pay for a squaw, or for any masculine nurse; but the
girl had very promptly suggested that he busy himself with his own duties,
if he had any. She stated further that he had no control whatever over her
actions, and she could not understand--

"I know I have none," he retorted, with some impatience, and yet a good
deal of fondness in his handsome eyes. "That is why I'm complaining. I
wish I had. And if I had, wouldn't I whisk you away from this uncouth
life! I wonder if you will ever let me do so, Tana?"

"I think you'd better be packing your plunder," she remarked, coolly. "If
you don't, you'll keep the whole outfit waiting."

And that was how they let even Lyster go away. Not a hint was he given of
the all-engrossing plan that bound both 'Tana and Overton to the interests
of the passive stranger, who looked at them with intelligence, but who
could not speak.

Their partnership was a curious affair, and the arrangement for interests
in it was conducted on the one side by nods or shakes of the head, while
the other two offered suggestions, and asked questions, until a very clear
understanding was arrived at.

Only one knotty discussion had arisen. Overton offered to give one month
of time to the search, on condition that one half of the find, if there
was any made, should belong to 'Tana, while the original finder should
have the other half. He himself would give that much time to helping them
out in a friendly way; but more than that he could not give, because of
other duties.

To this the man Harris shook his head with all possible vigor, while 'Tana
was quite as emphatic in an audible way. Harris desired that all shares be
equal, and Overton count himself in for a third. 'Tana approved the plan,
insisting that she would not accept an ounce of the dust if he did not. So
Dan finally agreed and ended the discussion concerning the division of the
gold they might never find.

"And don't be so dead sure that the dirt will pan out well, even if we do
find the place," he said, warningly, to 'Tana. "Why, my girl, if the
average of dust had been as high as my average of hope over strikes I've
made myself, I would have been a billionaire long ago."

"I never heard you talk of prospecting," remarked 'Tana. "All the rest do
here, and not you--how is that?"

"Oh, prospecting strikes one like a fever; sometimes a man recovers from
it, or seems to for a while. I had the fever bad about two years ago--out
in Nevada. Well, I left there. I sunk my stock of capital in a very big
hole, and lost my enthusiasm for a while. Maybe I will find it again,
drifting along the Kootenai; but as yet it has not struck me hard. From
what I can gather, this fellow must simply have dropped on a nugget or
little pocket, and something must have made him distrust his partner to
such an extent that he kept the secret find to himself. So there evidently
has been no testing of the soil, no move toward development. We may never
find an ounce of metal, for such disappointments have been even where very
large nuggets have been found. You must not expect too much of this
search. Golden hope lets you down hard when you do fall with it."

But, despite his warnings, he made arrangements for their river journey
with all speed possible. The three of them were to go; and, as chaperon,
Mrs. Huzzard was persuaded to join their queer "picnic" party, for that
was the idea given abroad concerning their little trip to the north. It
was to be a venture in the interests of Harris--supposedly the physical
interests; though Captain Leek did remark, with decided emphasis, that it
was the first time he ever knew of a man being sent out to live in the
woods as a cure for paralysis.

But the preparations were made; even the fact that Mrs. Huzzard was seized
with an unreasonable attack of rheumatism on the eve of departure did not
deter them at all.

"Unless you need me to stay here and look after you, we'll go just the
same," decided 'Tana. "A squaw won't be much of a substitute for you; but
she'll be better than no one, and we'll go."

So the squaw was secured, through the agency of her husband, whom Overton
knew, and who was to take their camp outfit up the river for them. This
was one reason why Mrs. Huzzard, as she watched them depart, was a little
thankful for the visitation of rheumatism.

Their camp was only a day old when 'Tana announced her willingness to
dance if only good fortune would come to her.

It seemed a thing probable, for as Overton poured water slowly from a tin
pan into the shallow little stream, there were left in the bottom of the
pan, as the last sifting bit of soil was washed out, some tiny bits of
yellow the size of a pin-head, and one as large as a grain of wheat.

'Tana gave a little ecstatic cry as she bent over it and touched the
particles with her finger.

"Oh, Dan--it is the gold!--the real gold! and we are
millionaires!--millionaires, and you would not believe it!"

He raised his finger warningly, and shook his head.

"Wait until we are millionaires before you commence to shout," he advised.
"It is a good show here--yes; but, after all, it may be only a chance
washing from hills far enough away. Show them to Harris, though; he may
be interested, though he appears to me very indifferent about the
matter."

"He don't seem to care," she agreed. "He just looks at us as though we
were a couple of children he had found a new plaything for. But don't you
think he looks brighter?"

"Well, yes; the river trip has done him good, instead of the harm the
Ferry folks prophesied. But you run along and show him the 'yellow,' and
don't draw the squaw's attention to it."

The squaw was wrapped neck and heels in a blanket, although the day was
one of the warmest of summer; and stretched asleep in the sun, she gave no
heed to the quick, light step of the girl.

Neither did Harris, at whose tent door she lay. He must have thought it
was the stoical, indifferent Indian, for he gave her a quick, startled
glance as he heard her surprised "Oh!" at the door. Then she walked
directly to him, lifted his right hand, and let go again. It fell on his
knee in the old, helpless way.

"But you did raise it," she said, accusingly. "I saw you as I came to the
door. You stretched out your hand."

He looked at her and nodded very slightly, then looked at his hand and
appeared trying to lift it; but gave up, and shook his head sadly.

"You mean you moved it a little once, but can't do it again?" she asked,
and he nodded assent.

"Oh, well, that's all right," she continued, cheerfully. "You are sure to
get along all right, now that you have commenced to manage your hands if
ever so little. But just at first, when I saw you, I had a mighty queer
notion come into my head. I thought you were getting over that stroke
faster than you let us know. But I'm too suspicious, ain't I? Maybe it's a
bad thing for folks to trust strangers too much in this world; but it is
just as bad for a girl to grow up where she can't trust any one. Don't you
think so?"

The man nodded. They had many conversations like that, and she had grown
not to notice his lack of speech nearly so much as at first. He was so
good a listener, and she had become so used to his face gradually gaining
again expressive power, that she divined his wishes more readily than the
others.

"But trusting don't cut any figure in what I came to speak to you about,"
she continued. "No 'trust and hope on, brethren,' about this, I guess,"
and she held the grains of yellow metal before his eyes. "There it is--the
gold! Dan found it in the little hollow where the spring is. Is that where
you found it?"

He shook his head, but looked pleased at the show they had found.

"Was it bigger bundles of it than this you struck?"

He nodded assent.

"Bigger than this! Well, it must have been rich. These lumps are enough in
size if they only turn out enough in number. Oh, how I wish you had put
the very spot on that plan of the ground and the rivers! Still, I suppose
you were right to be cautious. And if I hadn't been on a lone trail
through this country last spring, and got lost, and happened to notice the
two little streams running into the river so close to each other, we might
have had a year's journey along the Kootenai before we could have found
the particular little stream and followed the right one to its source. I
think we are close on the trail now, Joe."

He shook his head energetically when she called him Joe.

"Well, I forget," she said. "You see, I've been thinking for months about
finding Joe Hammond; and now that I've found you, I can't get used to
thinking you are Jim Harris. What's the use of your changing your name,
anyway? You did it so you could trail him, your partner, better. But what
was the use, with him well and strong, and with devils back of him, and
you alone and barely able to crawl? Your head was wrong, Joe--Jim, I mean.
If you hadn't been looney, you'd just have settled down and worked your
claim, got rich, and then looked for your man."

He shook his head impatiently, and looked at her with as much of a frown
as his locked muscles would allow, and a very queer, hard smile about his
eyes and mouth.

"Ah!" and 'Tana shivered a little; "don't look like that, Joe. You
wouldn't get any Sunday-school prizes for a meek and lowly spirit if the
manager saw you fix your face in that fashion. I guess I know how you
felt. If you had just so much strength, and couldn't hope for more, you
wouldn't waste it looking for gold while he was above ground. Now, ain't I
about right?"

He gave no assent, but smiled in a more kindly way at the shrewdness of
her guess.

"You won't own up, but I know I am right," she said; "and the way I know
it is because I think I'd feel just like that myself if some one hurt me
bad. I wonder if girls often feel that way. I guess not. I know Ora
Harrison, the doctor's girl, don't. She says her prayers every night, and
asks God to let her enemies have good luck. U'm! I can't do that."

The man watched her as she sat silent for a little, looking out into the
still, warm sunshine. The squaw slumbered on, and the girl stared across
her, and her face grew sad and moody with some hard thought.

"It's awful to hate," she said, at last. "Don't you think it is?--to hate
so that you can't breathe right when the person you hate comes near where
you are--to be able to _feel_ if he comes near, even when you don't see or
hear him, to feel a devil that rises up in your breast and makes you want
to get a knife and cut--cut deep, until the blood you hate runs away from
the face you hate, and leaves it white and cold. Ah! it's bad, I reckon,
to have some one hate you; but it's a thousand times worse to hate back.
It makes the prettiest day black when the devil tells you of the hate you
must remember, and you can't pray it away, and you can't forget it, and
you can't help it! Oh, dear!"

She put her hands over her eyes and leaned her head against his hand. He
felt her tears, but could not comfort her.

"You see, I know--how you felt," she said, trying to speak steadily.
"Girls shouldn't know; girls should have love and good thoughts taught to
them. I--I've dreamed dreams of what a girl's life ought to be like;
something like Ora's home, where her mother kisses her and loves her, and
her father kisses and loves them both. I went to their home once, and I
never could go again. I was starving for the kind of home she has, and I
knew I never would get it. That is the hardest part of it--to know, no
matter how hard you try to be good, all your life, you can't get back the
good thoughts and the love that should have been yours when you were
little--the good thoughts that would have kept hate from growing in your
heart, until it is stronger than you are. Oh, it's awful!"

The squaw, who did not understand English, but did understand tears,
rolled over and peered out from her blanket at the girl who knelt there as
at the feet of a confessor. But the girl did not see her; she still knelt
there, almost whispering now.

"And the worst of it is, Joe, after they are dead--the ones you hate--then
the devil in you commences to torment you by making you think of some good
points among the bad ones; some little kind word that would have made the
hate in your heart less if it had not been for your own terrible
wickedness. And it gnaws and torments you just like a rat gnawing the
heart out of a log for a nest. And hate is terrible! whether it is live
hate, or dead, it is terrible. Maybe I won't feel so bad now that I've
said out loud to some one how I feel--how much harder my heart is than it
ought to be. I couldn't tell any one else. But you hate, too, you know.
Maybe you know, too, that dead hate hurts worst--that it haunts like a
ghost."

She looked up at him, and saw again that queer, wise smile about his
lips.

"You don't believe he's dead!" she said, and her face grew paler. "You
think he's still alive, and that is why you don't want folks to use your
old name. You are laying for him yet, and you so helpless you can't
move!"

The man only looked at her grimly. He would not deny; he would not
assent.

"But you are wrong," she persisted. "He is dead. The Indians told me
so--Akkomi told me so. Would they lie to me? Joe, can't you let the hate
go by, now that he is dead--dead?"

But no motion answered her, though his eyes rested on her kindly enough.
Then the squaw arose and slouched away to pick up firewood in the forest,
and the girl arose, too, and touched his hand.

"Well, whether you can or not, I am glad I told you what I did. Maybe it
won't worry me so much now; for sometimes, just when I'm almost happy, the
ghost of that bad hate seems to whisper, whisper, and there ain't any more
good times for me. I'm glad I told you. I would not have, though, if you
could talk like other folks, but you can't."

She got him a drink of water, slipped their first find of the gold into
his pocket, and then stood at the tent door, watching for Overton.

But he did not come, and after a little she picked up the pan again and
started for the small stream where she had left him.

The man in the chair watched her go, and when she was out of sight, that
right hand was again slowly raised from the chair.

"C--an't I?" he whispered, in a strange, indistinct way. "Poor lit--tle
girl! poor little--girl!"



CHAPTER XIII.

THE TRACK IN THE FOREST.


Their camp was about a mile from the Kootenai River, and close to a stream
of depth sufficient to carry a canoe; while, a little way north of their
camp, a beautiful spring of clear water gurgled out from under a little
bank, and added its portion to the larger stream that flowed eastward to
the river.

There was a little peculiarity about the spring, which made it one to
remember--or, rather, two to remember, for it was really a twin, and its
sister stream slipped from the other side of the narrow ledge and ran
north for a little way, and then turned to the east and emptied into the
Kootenai, not a hundred yards from the stream into which its mate had
run.

The two springs were not twenty feet apart, and lay direct north and south
from each other. Then their wide curves, in opposite directions, left
within their circle a tract of land like an island, for the streams
bounded it entirely except for that narrow neck of rock and soil joining
it to the bigger hills to the west.

It was in the vicinity of the two springs that the rude sketch of Harris
bade them search; but more definite directions than that he had not given.
He had marked a tree where the north stream joined the river; and finding
that as a clew, they followed the stream to its source. When they reached
the larger stream, navigable for a mile, they concluded to move their
tents there, for no lovelier place could be found.

It was 'Tana and Overton who tramped over the lands where the streams lay,
and did their own prospecting for location. He was surprised to find her
knowledge of the land so accurate. The crude drawing was as a solved
problem to her; she never once made a wrong turn.

"Well, I've thought over it a heap," she said, when he commented on her
clever ideas. "I saw that marked tree as we went down to the Ferry, and I
remembered where it was; and the trail is not hard if you only get started
on it right. It's getting started right that counts--ain't it, Dan?"

There seemed fewer barriers between them in the free, out-of-door life,
where no third person's views colored their own. They talked of Lyster,
and missed him; yet Dan was conscious that if Lyster were with them, he
would have come second instead of first in her confidences, and her
friendly, appealing ways.

Whether he trusted her or not, she did not know. He had not asked a
question as to how that survey of the land came to her; but he watched
Harris sometimes when the girl paid him any little attention, and he could
read only absolute trust in the man's eyes.

Overton was not given to keen analysis of people or motives; a healthy
unconcern pervaded his mind as to the affairs of most people. But
sometimes the girl's character, her peculiar knowledge, her mysterious
past, touched him with a sense of strange confusion, yet in the midst of
the confusion--the deepest of it--he had put all else aside when she
appealed to him, and had followed her lead into the wilderness.

And as she ran from him with the particles of gold, and carried them, as
he bade her, to Harris, he followed her with his gaze until she
disappeared through the green wall of the bushes. Once he started to
follow her, and then stopped, suddenly muttered something about a "cursed
fool," and flung himself face down in the tall grass.

"It's got to end here," he said, aloud, as men grow used to thinking when
they live alone in the woods much. Then he raised himself on his elbows
and looked over the little grassy dip of the land to where the stream from
the hills sparkled in the warm sun; and then away beyond to where the
evergreens raised their dark heads along the heights, looking like somber
guardians keeping ward over the sunny valley of the twin springs. Over
them all his gaze wandered, and then up into the deep forest above him--a
forest unbroken from there to the swift Columbia.

The perfect harmony of it all must have oppressed him until he felt
himself the one discordant note, for he closed his eyes with a sigh that
was almost a groan.

"I'll see it all again--often, I suppose," he muttered; "but never quite
as it is now--never, for it's got to end. The little bits of gold I found
are a warning of the changes to come here--that is the way it seems to me.
Queer how a man will change his idea of life in a year or so! There have
been times when I would have rejoiced over the prospect of wealth there is
here; yet all I am actually conscious of is regret that everything must
change--the place--the people--all where gold is king. Pshaw! what a fool
I would seem to any one else if he knew. Yet--well, I have dreamed all my
days of a sort of life where absolute happiness could be lived. Other
men do the same, I suppose--yes, of course. I wonder if others also come
in reach of it too late. I suppose so. Well, reasoning won't change it. I
marked out my own path--marked it out with as little thought as many
another fool; but I've got to walk in it just the same, and cursing back
don't help luck. But I had to have a little pow-wow all alone and be sorry
for myself, before turning my back on the man I'd like to be--and--the
rest of my dreams that have come in sight for a little while but can never
come nearer--There she comes again! I'm glad of it, for she will at least
keep me from drifting into dreams alone."

But she appeared to be dreaming a little herself. At any rate, the scene
she had passed through in the tent left memories too dark with feeling to
be quickly dispelled, and he noticed at once the change in her face, and
the traces of tears left about her eyes.

"What has hurt you?" he asked.

She shook her head and said:

"Nothing."

"Oh! So you leave here jolly enough, and run around to camp, and cry about
nothing--do you?" he asked, with evident unbelief. "Were you crying for
joy over those little grains of gold--or over your loneliness in being so
far from the Ferry folks?"

She laughed at the mere idea of either--and laughter dispels tear traces
so quickly from faces that are young. "Lonely!" she exclaimed: "lonely
here? why, I feel a heap more satisfied here than down at the Ferry, where
the whole place smelled like saw-mills and new lumber. I always had a
grudge against saw-mills, for they spoil all the lovely woods. That is why
I like all this," and she made a sweep of her arm, embracing all the
territory in sight; "for in here not a tree has been touched with an ax.
Lonely here! Why, Dan, I've been so perfectly happy that I'm afraid--yes,
I am. Didn't you ever feel like that--just as if you were too happy to
last, and you were afraid some trouble would come and end it all?"

But Overton stooped to lift the pick he had been using, and so turned his
face away from her.

"Well, I'm glad you are not getting blue over lack of company," he
remarked; "for we have only commenced prospecting, you know, and it will
be at least a week before we can hope to send for any one else to join
us."

"A week! Do you intend to send for other folks, then?" and her tone was
one of regret. "Oh, it would be all different, then. My pretty camp would
be spoiled for me if folks should come talking and whistling up our creek.
Don't let any one know so soon!"

"You don't know what you are talking of," he answered, a little roughly.
"This is a business trip. We did not come up here just because we were
looking for a pretty picture of a place to camp in."

"Oh!" and surprise and dismay were in the exclamation. "Then you don't
care for it--you want other people just as soon as you find the rich
streak where the gold is? Well"--and she looked again over their little
chosen valley--"I almost hope you won't find it very soon--not for several
days. I would like to live just like this for a whole week. And I
thought--I was so sure you liked it, too."

"Oh, yes," he answered, indifferently enough, evidently giving his whole
attention to examining the soil he had commenced to dig up again, "I like
the camp all right, but we can't just stand around and admire it, if we
want to accomplish what we came for. And see here, 'Tana," he said, and
for the first time he looked at her with a sort of unwillingness, "you
must know that this gold is going to make a big change in things for you.
You can't live out in the woods with a couple of miners and an Indian
squaw, after your fortune is made--don't you see that? You must go to
school, and live out in the world where your money will help you to--well,
the right sort of society for a girl."

"What is the use of having money if it don't help you to live where you
please?" she demanded. "I thought that was what money was for. I'd a heap
rather stay poor here in the woods, with--with the folks I know, instead
of going where I'll have to buy friends with money. Don't think I'd want
the sort of friends who have to be baited with money, anyway."

He stared at her helplessly. She was saying to him the things he had
called himself a fool for thinking. But he could not call her a fool. He
could only stifle an impatient groan, and wonder how he was to reason her
into thinking as other girls would think of wealth and its advantages.

"Why were you so wild about finding the gold, if you care so little for
the things it brings?" he demanded, and she pointed toward the tents.

"It was for him I thought at first--of how the money would, maybe, help to
make him well--get him great doctors, and all that. The world had been
rough on him--people had brought him trouble, and--and I thought, maybe, I
could help clear it away. That was what I had in my mind at first."

"You need things, too, don't you?--not doctors, but education--books,
beautiful things. You want pictures, statues, fine music, theaters--all
such things. Well, the money will help you get them, and get people to
enjoy them with you. I've heard you talk to Max about how you would like
to live, and what you would like to see; and I think you can soon. But,
'Tana, you will live then where people will be more critical than we are
here--"

"More like Captain Leek?" she asked, with a deep wrinkle between her
brows; "for if they are, I'll stay here."

"N--no; not like him; and yet they will think considerable of his sort of
ideas, too," he answered, blunderingly. "One thing sure is this: When your
actual work here is over, you must go at once back to Mrs. Huzzard. It was
necessary for you to come, else I wouldn't have allowed it. But, little
girl, when you get among those fine friends you are going to have, I don't
want them to think you had a guardian up here who didn't take the first
bit of civilized care of you. And that's what they would think if I let
you stay here, just as though you were a boy. So you see, 'Tana, I just
felt I'd have to tell you plain that you would have to try and fit
yourself to city ways of living. And when you are a millionairess, as you
count on being, we three partners can't keep on living in tents in the
Kootenai woods."

She pulled handfuls of the plumy grasses beside her, and stared sulkily
ahead of her. Evidently it was a great deal for her to understand at
once.

"Would they blame you--_you_ for it, if they knew?" she asked at last.

"Yes, they would--if they knew," he said, savagely; and turning away, he
walked across the little grassy level to where the abrupt little wall or
ledge commenced--the one from under which the springs flowed.

She thought he was simply out of patience with her. He was going to the
woods--anywhere to be rid of her and her stupid ideas; and swift as a
bird, she slipped after him.

"Then I'll go, Dan," she said reassuringly, catching his arm. "So don't be
vexed at me for being stubborn. Come! let me look for the gold with you,
and then--then I'll go when you say."

"It's a bargain," he said, briefly, and drew his arm away. "And if we are
going to do any more prospecting this evening, we had better begin."

He stood facing her, with his back to the bank that was the first tiny
step toward the mountain that rose dark and shadowy far above. He had
walked along there before, looking with a miner's attention to the lay of
the land. Suddenly he uttered an exclamation, and a light of comprehension
brightened his eyes.

"I've got a clew to it, sure, 'Tana!" he said, eagerly. "Do you know where
we are standing? Well, if I don't make a big mistake, a good-sized river
once rolled along just where we are now. The little creek is all that's
left of it. This soil is all a comparatively recent deposit, and it and
the gold dust in it have been washed down from the mountain. Which means
that this little valley is only a gateway, and the dust we found is only a
trail we are to follow up to the mine from which it came. Do you
understand?"

"Yes, I think so," she answered, looking at the green-covered banks, and
trying to realize how they looked when a mountain river had cut its way
through and covered all the pretty level where the spring stream slipped
now. "But doesn't that make the gold seem farther away--much farther? Will
we have to move up higher in the mountains?"

"That is a question I need time to answer, but if I am right--if there is
a backing of gold ore somewhere above this old river bed, it means a much
surer thing than an occasional bit of dust washed out of the mud here. But
we won't ignore our little placer digging either. There is an advantage to
a poor prospector in having a claim he can work without any machinery but
a pick, shovel, and pan; while the gold ore needs a fortune to develop it.
Let us go back and talk to Harris, to see if his evidence substantiates my
theory. If not, we will just stake out our claims on the level, and be
thankful. Later we will investigate the hills."

The girl walked slowly beside him back to their camp. The shadows were
commencing to lengthen. It was nearing supper time, and their day had been
a busy, tiring one, for they had moved their camp many miles since dawn.

"You are very nearly worn out, aren't you?" he asked, as he noticed her
tired eyes and her listless step. "You see, you would tramp along the
shore this morning when I wanted you to stay in the boat."

"Yes, I know," she answered; "but I don't think that made me tired. Maybe
it's the gold we are to find. How queer it is, Dan, that a person will
want and want some one thing all his life, and he thinks it will make him
so happy; and yet, when at last he gets in sight of it, he isn't happy at
all. That is the way I feel about our gold. I suppose I ought to be
singing and laughing and dancing for joy. I said I would, too. Yet here
I am feeling as stupid as can be, and almost afraid of the fine life you
say I must go to. Oh, bother! I won't think over it any more. I am going
to get supper."

For while 'Tana would accept the squaw as an assistant and a gatherer of
fuel, she decidedly declined to have her installed as head cook. She
herself filled that office with a good deal of girlish conceit, encouraged
by the praise of Overton and the approving nods of Harris.

There had been a fifth member of their party, Flap-Jacks' husband. 'Tana
had bestowed that name on the squaw in the very beginning of their
acquaintance. But Overton had sent him on an errand back to Sinna Ferry,
not wishing to have his watchful eyes prying into their plans in the very
beginning of their prospecting. And it was not until he had started on his
journey that the pick and pan had disclosed the golden secret of the old
river bed.

Harris watched the two approach, and his keen gray eyes turned with a
certain fondness from one to the other. They were as guardian angels to
him, and their mutual care of him had brought them closer to each other
there in the wilderness than they ever had been in the little settlement
farther down the river.

"Squaw not here yet?" asked 'Tana, and at once set to work preparing
things for the supper.

Harris shook his head, but at that moment their hand-maiden did return,
carrying a great load of sticks for fire, and then brought to the girl a
number of fine trout she had caught almost at their door. She built the
fire outside, where two forked sticks had been driven into the ground, and
across them a pole lay, from which kettles could be hung. As 'Tana set the
coffee pot on the hot coals, the Indian woman spoke to her in that low
voice which is characteristic of the red people.

"More white men to come into camp?" she asked.

"White men? No. Why do you ask?"

"I see tracks--not Dan's tracks--not yours."

"Made when?"

"Now--little while back--only little."

Overton heard their voices, though not their words; and as 'Tana
re-entered the wigwam, he glanced around at her with a dubious smile.

"That is the first time I ever heard you actually talking Chinook," he
observed; "though I've had an idea you could, ever since the evening in
Akkomi's village. It is like your poker playing, though you have been very
modest about it."

"I was not the night I played the captain," she answered; "and I think you
might let me alone about that, after I gave him back his money."

"That is just the part I can not forgive you for," he said. "He will never
get over the idea, now, that you cheated him, and that your conscience got
the better of you to such an extent that you tried to wipe a sin away by
giving the money back."

"Perhaps I did," she answered, quietly. "I had to settle his conceit some
way, for he did bother me a heap sometimes. But I'm done with that."

She seemed rather thoughtful during the frying of the fish and the slicing
down of Mrs. Huzzard's last contribution--a brown loaf.

She was disturbed over the footprints seen by the Indian woman--the track
of a white man so close to their camp that day, yet who had kept himself
from their sight! Such actions have a meaning in the wild countries, and
the meaning troubled her. While it would have been the most simple thing
in the world to tell Overton and have him make a search, something made
her want to do the searching herself--but how?

"I was right in my theory about the old river bed," he said to her, as she
poured his coffee. "Harris backs me up in it, and it was ore he found, and
not the loose dirt in the soil. So the thing I am going to strike out for
is the headquarters where that loose dust comes from."

"Oh! then it was ore you found?" she asked.

Harris nodded his head.

"Ore on the surface--and near here."

That news made her even more anxious about that stranger who had prowled
around. Perhaps he, too, was searching for the hidden wealth.

When the supper was over, and the sun had slipped back of the mountain,
she beckoned to the squaw, and with the water bucket as a visible errand,
they started toward the spring.

But they did not stop there. She wanted to see with her own eyes those
footprints, and she followed the Indian down into the woods already
growing dusky in the dying day.

The birds were singing their good-night songs, and all the land seemed
steeped in repose. Only those two figures, gliding between the trees,
carried with them the spirit of unrest.

They reached an open space where no trees grew very close--a bit of marsh
land, where the soil was black and tall ferns grew. The squaw led her
straight to a place where two of the fern fronds were bent and broken. She
parted the green lances, and there beside it was a scraping away of the
earth, as though some one walking there had slipped, and in the black
sandy loam a shoe had sunk deep. The Indian was right; it was the mark of
a white man, for the reds of that country had not yet adopted the footgear
of their more advanced neighbors.

"It turn to camp," said the squaw. "Maybe some white thief, so I tell you.
Me tell Dan?"

"Wait," answered the girl; and, kneeling down, she studied the slender
outline of the foot attentively. "Any more tracks?"

"No more--only leaves stirred nearer to camp; he go that way."

The full moon rose clear and warm in the east, while yet the sun's light
lingered over the wilderness. Beautiful flowers shone white and pink and
yellow in the opaline light of the evening; and 'Tana mechanically plucked
a few that touched her as she passed, but she gave little notice to their
beauty. All her thought was on the slender footprint of the man in the
woods, and her face looked troubled.

They walked on, looking to right and left in any nook where deep shadows
lay, but never a sign could they see of aught that was human besides
themselves, until they neared the springs again, when the squaw laid her
hand on the arm of the girl.

"Dan," she said, in her low, abrupt way.

The girl, looking up, saw him a little way ahead of them, standing there
straight, strong, and surely to be trusted; yet her first impulse was to
tell him nothing.

"Take the water and go," she said to the Indian, and the woman disappeared
like a mere wraith of a woman in the pale shadows.

"Don't go so far next time when you want to pick flowers in the evening,"
said Overton, as 'Tana came nearer to him. "You make me realize that I
have nerves. If you had not come in sight the instant you did, I should
have been after you."

"But nothing will harm us; I am not afraid, and it is pretty in the woods
now," she answered lamely, and toyed with the flowers. But the touch of
her fingers was nervous, and the same quality trembled in her voice. He
noticed it and reaching out took her hand in his very gently, and yet with
decision that forced her to look up at him.

"Little girl--what is it? You are sick?"

She shook her head.

"No, I am not--I am not sick," and she tried to free her hand, but could
not.

"'Tana," and his teeth closed for a moment on his lip lest he say all the
warm words that leaped up from his heart at sight of her face, which
looked startled and pale in the moonlight--"'Tana, you won't need me very
long; and when you go away, I'll never try to make you remember me. Do you
understand, little girl? But just now, while we are so far off from the
rest of the world, won't you trust me with your troubles--with the
thoughts that worry you? I would give half of my life to help you. Half of
it! Ah, good God! all of it! 'Tana--"

In his voice was all the feeling which compels sympathy, or else builds up
a wall that bars it out. But in the eyes of the girl, startled though she
was, no resistance could be read. Her hand was in his, her face lifted to
him, and alight with sudden gladness. In his eyes she read the force of
an irresistible power taking possession of a man's soul and touching her
with its glory.

"'Tana!" he said very softly, in a tone she had never before heard Dan
Overton use--a tone hushed and reverent and appealing. "_'Tana!_"

Did he guess all the stormy emotions locked alone in the girl's heart, and
wearing out her strength? Did he guess all the childish longing to feel
strong, loving arms around her as a shield? His utterance of her name drew
her to him. His arm fell around her shoulders, and her head was bowed
against his breast. The hat she wore had fallen to the ground, and as he
bent over her, his hand caressed her hair tenderly, but there was more of
moody regret than of joy in his face.

"'Tana, my girl! poor little girl!" he said softly.

But she shook her head.

"No--not so poor now," she half whispered and looked up at him--"not so
very poor."

Then she uttered a half-strangled scream of terror and broke away from
him; for across his shoulder she saw a face peering at her from the
shadows of the over-hanging bushes above them, a white, desperate face, at
sight of which she staggered back and would have fallen had Overton not
caught her.

He had not seen the cause of her alarm, and for one instant thought it was
himself from whom she shrank.

"Tell me--what is it?" he demanded. "'Tana, speak to me!"

She did not speak, but a rustle in the bushes above them caught his ear;
and looking up, he saw a form pass lightly through the shadows and away
from them. He could not tell whether it was an Indian, a white man, or
even an animal scampering off that way through the bushes. But anything
that spied like that and ran when discovered was a thing to shoot at. He
dropped his hand to his revolver, but she caught his arm.

"No, Dan! Oh, don't--don't shoot him!"

He stared at her, conscious that it was no ordinary fear that whitened her
face. What did it mean? She herself had just come from the woods--pale,
agitated, and with only a semblance of flower gathering to explain her
absence. Had she met some one there--some one who--

He let go of her and started to run up the side of the steep bank; but
swiftly as he moved, she caught him and clung to him, half sobbing.

"Don't go! Oh, Dan, let him go!" she begged, and her grasp made it
impossible for him to go unless he picked her up and carried her along.

He stooped, took her head roughly in his hands, and turned her face up, so
that the light would fall upon it.

"_Him!_ Then you know who it is?" he said, grimly. "What sort of business
is this, 'Tana? Are you going to tell me?"

But she only crouched closer to him, and, sobbing, begged him not to go.
Once he tried to break away but lost his footing, and the soil and bits of
boulders went clattering down past her.

With a muttered oath of impatience, he gave up the pursuit, and stared
down at her with an expression more bitter than any she had ever seen on
his face before.

"So you are bound to protect him, are you?" he asked, coldly. "Very well.
But if you value him so highly you had better keep him clear of this camp,
else he'll find himself ready for a box. Come! get up and go to the tents.
That is a better place for you than here. Your coming out here this
evening has been a mistake all around--or else mine has. I wish to Heaven
I could undo it all."

She stood a little apart from him, but her hand was still outstretched and
clasping his arm.

"All, Dan?" she asked, and her mouth trembled. But his own lips were firm
enough, as he nodded his head and looked at her.

"All," he said briefly. "Go now; and here are your flowers for which you
hunted so long in the woods."

He stooped to pick them up for her from where they had fallen--the white,
fragrant things he had thought so beautiful as she came toward him with
them in the moonlight.

But as he lifted them from the bank, where they were scattered, he saw
something else there which was neither beautiful nor fragrant, but over
which he bent with earnest scrutiny. An ordinary looking piece of shale or
stone it would have seemed to an inexperienced eye, a thing with irregular
veins of a greenish appearance, and the green dotted plainly with
yellow--so plainly as to show even in the moonlight the nature of the
find.

He turned to the girl and reached it to her with the flowers.

"There! When my foot slipped I broke off that bit of 'float' from the
ledge," he said curtly. "Show it to Harris. We have found the gold ore,
and I'll stake out the claims to-night. You can afford to leave for
civilization now as soon as you please, I reckon, for your work in the
Kootenai country is over. Your fortune is made."



CHAPTER XIV.

NEW-COMERS.


Many days went by after that before more time was given to the hunting of
gold in that particular valley of the Kootenai lands; for before another
day broke, the squaw spoke at the door of Overton's tent and told him the
girl was sick with fever, that she talked as a little child babbles and
laughs at nothing.

He went with her, and the face he had seen so pale in the moonlight was
flushed a rosy red, and her arms tossed meaninglessly, while she
muttered--muttered! Sometimes her words were of the gold, and of flowers.
He even heard his name on her lips, but only once; and then she cried out
that he hurt her. She was ill--very ill; he could see that, and help must
be had.

He went for it as swiftly as a boat could be sped over the water. During
the very short season of waiting for the doctor and Mrs. Huzzard, he wrote
to Lyster, and secured some Indians for work needed. If the doctor thought
her able for the journey, he meant to have her brought back in a boat to
Sinna Ferry, where she would have something more substantial than canvas
walls about her.

But the doctor did not. He was rather mystified by her sudden illness, as
there had been no forewarnings of it. That it was caused by some shock was
possible; and that it was serious was beyond doubt.

The entire party, and especially Mrs. Huzzard, were taken aback by finding
a newly arrived, self-imposed guardian at the door of Tana's tent. It was
the blanket-draped figure of old Akkomi, and his gaily painted canoe was
pulled up on the bank of the creek.

"I heard on the wind the child was sick," he said briefly to Overton. "I
come to ask if you needed help."

But Overton looked at him suspiciously. It was impossible that he could
have heard of her illness so soon, though he might have heard of her
presence there.

"Were any of your people here at nightfall yesterday?" he asked. The old
fellow shook his head.

"No, none of my people," he said briefly; then he puffed away at his pipe,
and looked approvingly at Mrs. Huzzard, who tried to pass him without
turning her back to him at all, and succeeded in making a circuit bearing
some relation to progress made before a throne, though the relationship
was rather strained. His approving eyes filled her with terror; for, much
as she had reveled in Indian romances (on paper) in her youth, she had no
desire to take any active part in them in her middle age.

And so, with the help of the doctor and Mrs. Huzzard, they commenced the
nursing of 'Tana back to consciousness and health. Night after night Dan
walked alone in the waning moonlight, his heart filled with remorse and
blame for which he could find no relief. The gathering of the gold had no
longer allurements for him.

But he moved Harris' tent on to one of the claims, and he cut small
timber, and in a day and a half had a little log house of two rooms put up
and chinked with dry moss and roofed with bark, that 'Tana might have a
home of her own, and have it close to where the ore streaked with gold
had been found. Then he sent the Indians up the river again, and did with
his own hands all labor needed about the camp.

"You'll be sick yourself, Overton," growled the doctor, who slept in the
tent with him, and knew that scarce an hour of the night passed that he
was not at the door of 'Tana's cabin, to learn if any help was needed, or
merely to stand without and listen to her voice as she spoke.

"For mercy's sake, Mr. Dan, do be a little careful of yourself," entreated
Mrs. Huzzard; "for if you should get used up, I don't know what I ever
would do here in this wilderness, with 'Tana and the paralyzed man and you
to look after--to say nothing of the fear I'm in every hour because o'
that nasty beast of an Indian that you say is a chief. He is here
constant!"

"Proof of your attractive powers," said Overton, reassuringly. "He comes
to admire you, that is all."

"And enough, too! And if it wasn't for you that's here to protect me, the
good Lord only knows whether I'd ever see a milliner shop or a pie again,
as long as I lived. So I am set on your taking more care of yourself--now
won't you?"

"Wait until you have cause, before you worry," he advised, "I don't look
like a sick man, do I?"

"You don't look like a well one, anyway," she said, looking at him
carefully; "and you don't look as I ever saw you look before. You are as
hollow eyed as though you had been sick yourself for a month. Altogether,
I think your coming out here to camp in the wild woods has been a big
mistake."

"It looks like it just now," he agreed, and his eyes, tired and troubled,
looked past her into the cabin where 'Tana lay. "Does she seem better?"

"Just about the same. Eight days now since she was took down; and the
doctor, he said to-morrow would be the day to hope for a change, either
for the better or--"

But the alternative was not a thing easy for the good soul to contemplate,
and she left the sentence unfinished and disappeared into the cabin again,
while the man outside dropped his head in his hands, feeling the most
helpless creature in all the world.

"Better to-morrow, or--worse;" that was what Mrs. Huzzard meant, but could
not utter. Better or worse! And if the last, she might be dying now, each
minute! And he was powerless to help her--powerless even to utter all the
regret, the remorse, the heart-aching sorrow that was with him, for her
ears were closed to the sense of words, and his lips were locked by some
key of some past.

His own judgment on himself was not light as he went over in his mind each
moment of their hours together. Poor little 'Tana! poor little stray!

"I promised not to question her; yes, I promised that, or she would never
have left the Indians with me. And I--I was savage with her, just because
she would not tell me what she had a perfect right to keep from me if she
chose. Even if it was--a lover, what right had I to object? What right to
hold her hands--to say all the things I said? If she were a woman, I could
tell her all I think--all, and let her judge. But not as it is--not to a
girl so young--so troubled--so much of a stray. Oh, God! she shall never
be a stray again, if only she gets well. I'd stay here digging forever if
I could only send her out in the world among people who will make her
happy. And she--the child, the child! said she would rather live here as
we did than to have the gold that would make her rich. God! it is hard
for a man to forget that, no matter what duty says."

So his thoughts would ramble on each day, each night, and his restlessness
grew until Harris took to watching him with a great pity in his eyes, and
mutely asked each time he entered if hope had grown any stronger.

By the request of Mrs. Huzzard they had moved Harris into the other room
of the cabin, because of a rain which fell one night, and reminded them
that his earthen floor might prove injurious to his health. Mrs. Huzzard
declared she was afraid, with that room empty; and Harris, though having a
partially dead body, had at least a living soul, and she greatly preferred
his presence to the spiritless void and the fear of Indian occupancy.

So she shared the room with 'Tana, and the doctor and Overton used one
tent, while the squaw used the other. All took turns watching at night
beside the girl, who never knew one from the other, but who talked of
gold--gold that was too heavy a load for her to carry--gold that ran in
streams where she tried to find water to drink and could not--gold that
Dan thought was better than friends or their pretty camp. And over those
woes she would moan until frightened from them by ghosts, the ghosts she
hated, and which she begged them so piteously to keep out of her sight.

So they had watched her for days, and toward the evening of the eighth
Overton was keeping an ever-watchful ear for the Indian and the doctor who
had gone personally to fetch needed medicines from the settlement.

Akkomi was there as usual. Each day he would come, sit in the doorway of
the Harris cabin for hours, and contemplate the helpless man there. When
evening arrived he would enter his canoe and go back to his own camp,
which at that time was not more than five miles away.

Overton, fearing that Harris would be painfully annoyed by the presence of
this self-invited visitor, offered to entertain him in his own tent, if
Harris preferred. But while Harris looked with no kindly eye on the old
fellow, he signified that the Indian should remain, if he pleased. This
was a decision so unexpected that Overton asked Harris if he had ever met
Akkomi before.

He received an affirmative nod, which awakened his curiosity enough to
make him question the Indian.

The old fellow nodded and smoked in silence for a little while before
making a reply; then he said:

"Yes, one summer, one winter ago, the man worked in the hills beyond the
river. Our hunters were there and saw him. His cabin is there still."

"Who was with him?"

"White man, stranger," answered Akkomi briefly. "This man stranger, too,
in the Kootenai country--stranger from away somewhere there," and he
pointed vaguely toward the east. "Name--Joe--so him called."

"And the other man?"

"Other man stranger, too--go way--never come back. This one go away, too;
but he come back."

"And that is all you know of them?"

"All. Joe not like Indian friends," and the old fellow's eyes wrinkled up
in the semblance of laughter; "too much tenderfoot, maybe."

"But Joe's partner," persisted Overton, "he was not tenderfoot? He had
Indian friends on the Columbia River."

"Maybe," agreed the old fellow, and his sly, bead-like eyes turned toward
his questioner sharply and were as quickly withdrawn, "maybe so. They hunt
silver over there. No good."

Just inside the door Harris sat straining his ears to catch every word,
and Akkomi's assumption of bland ignorance brought a rather sardonic smile
to his face, while his lips moved in voiceless mutterings of anger.
Impatience was clearly to be read in his face as he waited for Overton to
question further, and his right hand opened and closed in his eagerness.

But no other questions were asked just then; for Overton suddenly walked
away, leaving the crafty-eyed Akkomi alone in his apparent innocence of
Joe's past or Joe's partner.

The old fellow looked after him kindly enough, but shook his head and
smoked his dirty black pipe, while an expression of undivulged knowledge
adorned his withered physiognomy.

"No, Dan, no," he murmured. "Akkomi good friend to little sick squaw and
to you; but he not tell--not tell all things."

Then his ears, not so keen as in years gone by, heard sounds on the water,
sounds coming closer and closer. But Dan's younger ears had heard them
first, and it was to learn the cause that he had left so abruptly and
walked to the edge of the stream.

It was the doctor and the Indian boatman who came in sight first around
the bend of the creek. Back of them was another canoe, but a much larger,
much more pretentious one. In this was Lyster and a middle-aged
gentleman of rather portly build, who dressed in a fashion very fine when
compared with the average garb of the wilderness.

Overton watched with some surprise the approach of the man, who was an
utter stranger to him, and yet who bore a resemblance to some one seen
before. A certain something about the shape of the nose and general
contour of the face seemed slightly familiar. He had time to notice, also,
that the hair was auburn in color, and inclined to curl, and that back of
him sat a female form. By the time he had made these observations, their
boat had touched the shore, and Lyster was shaking his hand vigorously.

"I got your letter, telling me of your big strike. It caught me before I
was quite started for Helena, so I just did some talking for you where I
thought it would do the most good, old fellow, and turned right around and
came back. I've been wild to hear about 'Tana. How is she? This is my
friend, Mr. T. J. Haydon, my uncle's partner, you know. He has made this
trip to talk a little business with you, and when I learned you were not
at the settlement, but up here in camp, I thought it would be all right to
fetch him along."

"Of course it is all right," answered Overton, assuringly. "Our camp has a
welcome for your friend even if we haven't first-class accommodations for
him. And is this lady also a friend?"

For Lyster, forgetful of his usual gallantry, had allowed the doctor to
assist the other voyager from the canoe--a rather tall lady of the age
generally expressed as "uncertain," although the certainty of it was an
indisputable fact.

A rather childish hat was perched upon her thin but carefully frizzed
hair, and over her face floated a white veil, that was on a drawing string
around the crown of the hat and drooped gracefully and chastely over the
features beneath, after the fashion of 1860. A string of beads adorned the
thin throat, and the rest of her array was after the same order of
elegance.

The doctor and Lyster exchanged glances, and Lyster was silently
proclaimed master of ceremonies.

"Oh, yes," he said, easily. "Pardon me that I am neglectful, and let me
introduce you to Miss Slocum--Miss Lavina Slocum of Cherry Run, Ohio. She
is the cousin of our friend, Mrs. Huzzard, and was in despair when she
found her relative had left the settlement; so we had the pleasure of her
company when she heard we were coming direct to the place where Mrs.
Huzzard was located."

"She will be glad to see you, miss," said Overton, holding out his hand to
her in very hearty greeting. "Nothing could be more welcome to this camp
just now than the arrival of a lady, for poor Mrs. Huzzard has been having
a sorry siege of care for the last week. If you will come along, I will
take you to her at once."

Gathering up her shawl, parasol, a fluffy, pale pink "cloud," and a
homemade and embroidered traveling bag, he escorted her with the utmost
deference to the door of the log cabin, leaving Lyster without another
word.

That easily amused gentleman stared after the couple with keen
appreciation of the picture they presented. Miss Slocum had a queer,
mincing gait which her long limbs appeared averse to, and the result was a
little hitchy. But she kept up with Overton, and surveyed him with weak
blue eyes of gratitude. He appeared to her a very admirable personage--a
veritable knight of the frontier, possibly a border hero such as every
natural woman has an ideal of.

But to Lyster, Dan with his arms filled with female trappings and a lot of
pink zephyr blown about his face and streaming over his shoulder, like a
veritable banner of Love's color, was a picture too ludicrous to be lost.
He gazed after them in a fit of delight that seemed likely to end in
apoplexy, because he was obliged to keep his hilarity silent.

"Just look at him!" he advised, in tones akin to a stage whisper. "Isn't
he a great old Dan? And maybe you think he would not promenade beside that
make-up just as readily on Broadway, New York, or on Chestnut street,
Philadelphia? Well, sir, he would! If it was necessary that some man
should go with her, he would be the man to go, and Heaven help anybody he
saw laughing! If you knew Dan Overton twenty years you would not see
anything that would give you a better key to his nature than just his
manner of acting cavalier to that--wonder."

But Mr. Haydon did not appear to appreciate the scene with the same degree
of fervor.

"Ah!" he said, turning his eyes with indifference to the two figures, and
with scrutiny over the little camp-site and primitive dwellings. "Am I to
understand, then, that your friend, the ranger, is a sort of modern Don
Juan, to whom any order of femininity is acceptable?"

"No," said Lyster, facing about suddenly. "And if my thoughtless manner of
speech would convey such an idea of Dan Overton, then (to borrow one of
Dan's own expressions) I deserve to be kicked around God's footstool for
a while."

"Well, when you speak of his devotion to any sort of specimen--"

"Of course," agreed Lyster. "I see my words were misleading--especially to
one unaccustomed to the life and people out here. But Dan, as Don Juan, is
one of the most unimaginable things! Why, he does not seem to know women
exist as individuals. This is the only fault I have to find with him; for
the man who does not care for some woman, or never has cared for any
woman, is, according to my philosophy, no good on earth. But Dan just
looks the other way if they commence to give him sweet glances--and they
do, too! though he thinks that collectively they are all angels. Yes, sir!
let the worst old harridan that ever was come to Overton with a tale of
virtue and misfortune, and he will take off his hat and divide up his
money, giving her a good share, just because she happens to be a woman.
That is the sort of devotion to women I had reference to when I spoke
first; the wonder to me is that he has not been caught in a matrimonial
noose long ere this by some thrifty maid or matron. He seems to me
guileless game for them, as his sympathy is always so easily touched."

"Perhaps he is keeping free from bonds that he may marry this ward of his
for whom he appears so troubled," remarked Mr. Haydon.

Lyster looked anything but pleased at the suggestion.

"I don't think he would like to hear that said," he returned. "'Tana is
only a little girl in his eyes--one left in his charge at the death of her
own people, and one who appeals to him very strongly just now because of
her helplessness."

"Well," said Mr. Haydon, with a slight smile, "I appear to be rather
unfortunate in all my surmises over the people of this new country,
especially this new camp. I do not know whether it is because I am in a
stupid mood, or because I have come among people too peculiar to be judged
by ordinary standards. But the thing I am interested in above and beyond
our host and his _protégée_ is the gold mine he wrote you to find a buyer
for. I think I could appreciate that, at least, at its full value, if I
was allowed a sight of the output."

The doctor had hurried to the cabin even before Overton and Miss Slocum,
so the two gentlemen were left by themselves, to follow at their leisure.
Mr. Haydon seemed a trifle resentful at this indifferent reception.

"One would think this man had been making big deals in gold ore all his
life, and was perfectly indifferent as to whether our capital is to be
used to develop this find of his," he remarked, as they approached the
cabin. "Did you not tell me he was a poor man?"

"Oh, yes. Poor in gold or silver of the United States mint," agreed
Lyster, with a strong endeavor to keep down his impatience of this magnate
of the speculative world, this wizard of the world of stocks and bonds,
whom his partners deferred to, whose nod and beck meant much in a circle
of capitalists. "I myself, when back East," thought Lyster to himself,
"considered Haydon a wonderful man, but he seems suddenly to have grown
dwarfed and petty in my eyes, and I wonder that I ever paid such reverence
to his judgment."

He smiled dubiously to himself at the consciousness that the wide spirit
of the West must have already changed his own views of things somewhat,
since once he had thought this marketer of mines superior.

"But no one out here would think of calling Dan Overton poor," he
continued, "simply because he is not among the class that weighs a man's
worth by the dollars he owns. He is considered one of the solid men of the
district--one of the best men to know. But no one thinks of gauging his
right to independence by the amount of his bank account."

Mr. Haydon shrugged his shoulders, and tapped his foot with the
gold-headed umbrella he carried.

"Oh, yes. I suppose it seems very fine in young minds and a young country,
to cultivate an indifference to wealth; but to older minds and
civilization it grows to be a necessity. Is that object over there also
one of the solid men of the community?"

It was Akkomi he had reference to, and the serene manner with which the
old fellow glanced over them, and nonchalantly smoked his pipe in the
doorway, did give him the appearance of a fixture about the camp, and
puzzled Lyster somewhat, for he had never before met the ancient chief.

He nodded his head, however, saying "How?" in friendly greeting, and the
Indian returned the civility in the same way, but gave slight attention to
the speaker. All the attention of his little black eyes was given to the
stranger, who did not address him, and whose gaze was somewhat critical
and altogether contemptuous.

Then Mrs. Huzzard, without waiting for them to reach the door, hurried out
to greet Lyster.

"I'm as glad as any woman can be to see you back again," she said
heartily, "though it's more than I hoped for so soon, and--Yes, the doctor
says she's a little better, thank God! And your name has been on her lips
more than once--poor dear!--since she has been flighty, and all the
thanks I feel to you for bringing Lavina right along I can never tell you;
for it seems a month since I saw a woman last. I just can't count the
squaw! And do you want to come in and look at our poor little girl now?
She won't know you; but if you wish--"

"May I?" asked Lyster, gratefully. Then he turned to the stranger.

"Your daughter back home is about the same age," he remarked. "Will you
come in?"

"Oh, certainly," answered Mr. Haydon, rather willing to go anywhere away
from the very annoying old redskin of the pipe and the very--very
scrutinizing eyes.

The doctor and Overton had passed into the room where Harris was, and Mrs.
Huzzard halted at the door with her cousin, so that the two men approached
the bed alone. The dark form of Akkomi had slipped in after them like a
shadow, but a very alert one, for his head was craned forward that his
eyes might lose never an expression of the fine stranger's face.

'Tana's eyes were closed, but her lips moved voicelessly. The light was
dim in the little room, and Lyster bent over to look at her, and touched
her hot forehead tenderly.

"Poor little girl! poor 'Tana!" he said, and turned the covering from
about her chin where she had pulled it. He had seen her last so saucy, so
defiant of all his wishes, and the change to this utter helplessness
brought the quick tears to his eyes. He clasped her hand softly and turned
away.

"It is too dark in here to see anything very clearly," said the stranger,
who bent toward her slightly, with his hat in his hand.

Then Akkomi, who had intercepted the light somewhat, moved from the foot
of the bed to the stranger's side, and a little sunshine rifted through
the small doorway and outlined more clearly the girl's face on the
pillow.

The stranger, who was quite close to her, uttered a sudden gasping cry as
he saw her face more clearly, and drew back from the bed.

The dark hand of the Indian caught his white wrist and held him, while
with the other hand he pointed to the curls of reddish brown clustering
around the girl's pale forehead, and from them to the curls on Mr.
Haydon's own bared head. They were not so luxuriant as those of the girl,
but they were of the same character, almost the same color, and the vague
resemblance to something familiar by which Overton had been impressed was
at once located by the old Indian the moment the stranger lifted the hat
from his head.

"Sick, maybe die," said Akkomi, in a voice that was almost a whisper--"die
away from her people, away from the blood that is as her blood," and he
pointed to the blue veins on the white man's wrist.

With an exclamation of fear and anger, Mr. Haydon flung off the Indian's
hand.

Lyster, scarce hearing the words spoken, simply thought the old fellow was
drunk, and was about to interfere, when the girl, as though touched by the
contest above her, turned mutteringly on the pillow and opened her
unconscious eyes on the face of the stranger.

"See!" said the Indian. "She looks at you."

"Ah! Great God!" muttered the other and staggered back out of the range of
the wide-open eyes.

Lyster, puzzled, astonished, came forward to question his Eastern friend,
who pushed past him rudely, blindly, and made his way out into the
sunshine.

Akkomi looked after him with a gratified expression on his dark, wrinkled
old face, and bending over the girl, he muttered in a soothing way words
in the Indian tongue, as though to quiet her restlessness with Indian
witchery.



CHAPTER XV.

SOMETHING WORSE THAN A GOLD CRISIS.


"What is the matter with your friend?" asked Overton, as Lyster stood
staring after Mr. Haydon, who walked alone down the way they had come from
the boats. "Is one glimpse of our camp life enough to drive him to the
river again?"

"No, no--that is--well, I don't just know what ails him," confessed
Lyster, rather lamely. "He went in with me to see 'Tana, and seems all
upset by the sight of her. She does look very low, Dan. At home he has a
daughter about her age, who really resembles her a little--as he does--a
girl he thinks the world of. Maybe that had something to do with his
feelings. I don't know, though; never imagined he was so impressionable to
other people's misfortunes. And that satanic-looking old Indian helped
make things uncomfortable for him."

"Who--Akkomi?"

"Oh, that is Akkomi, is it? The old chief who was too indisposed to
receive me when I awaited admittance to his royal presence! Humph! Well,
he seemed lively enough a minute ago--said something to Haydon that nearly
gave him fits; and then, as if satisfied with his deviltry, he collapsed
into the folds of his blanket again, and looks bland and innocent as a
spring lamb at the present speaking. Is he grand chamberlain of your
establishment here? Or is he a medicine man you depend on to cure
'Tana?"

"Akkomi said something to Mr. Haydon?" asked Overton, incredulously.
"Nonsense! It could not have been anything Haydon would understand,
anyway, for Akkomi does not speak English."

Lyster looked at him from the corner of his eyes, and whistled rather
rudely.

"Now, it is not necessary for any reason whatever, for you to hide the
accomplishments of your noble red friend," he remarked. "You are either
trying to gull me, or Akkomi is trying to gull you--which is it?"

"What do you mean?" demanded Overton, impatiently. "You look as though
there may be a grain of sense in the immense amount of fool stuff you are
talking. Akkomi, maybe, understands English a little when it is spoken;
but, like many another Indian who does the same, he will not speak it. I
have known him for two years, in his own camp and on the trail, and I have
never yet heard him use English words."

"Well, I have not had the felicity of even a two-hour acquaintance with
his royal chieftainship," remarked Lyster, "but during the limited space
of time I have been allowed to gaze on him I am confident I heard him use
five English words, and use them very naturally."

"Can you tell me what they were?"

"Certainly; and I see I will have to--and maybe bring proof to indorse me
before you will quite credit what I tell you," answered Lyster, with an
amused expression. "You can scarcely believe a tenderfoot has learned more
of your vagabond reds than you yourself knew, can you? Well, I distinctly
heard him say to Mr. Haydon: 'See! She looks at you.' But his other
mutterings did not reach my ears; they did Haydon's, however, and drove
him out yonder. I tell you, Dan, you ought to chain up your medicine men
when capitalists brave the wilds of the Kootenai to lay wealth at your
doorstep, for this pet of yours is not very engaging."

Overton paid little heed to the chaffing of his friend. His gaze wandered
to the old Indian, who, as Lyster said, was at that moment a picture of
bland indifference. He was sunning himself again at the door of Harris'
cabin, and his eyes followed sleepily the form of Mr. Haydon, who had
stopped at the creek, and with hands clasped back of him, was staring into
the swift-flowing mountain stream.

"Oh, I don't doubt you, Max," said Overton, at last. "Don't speak as if I
did. But the idea that old Akkomi really expressed himself in English
would suggest to me a vital necessity, or else that he was becoming weak
in his old age; for his prejudice against his people using any of the
white men's words has been the most stubborn thing in his whole make-up.
And what strong necessity could there be for him to address Mr. Haydon, an
utter stranger?"

"Don't know, I am sure--unless it is that his interest in 'Tana is very
strong. You know she saved the life of his little grandchild--the future
chief, you said. And I think you are fond of asserting that an Indian
never forgets a favor; so it may be that his satanic majesty over there
only wanted to interest a seemingly influential stranger in a poor little
sick girl, and was not aware that he took an uncanny way of doing it. Had
we better go down and apologize to Haydon?"

"You can--directly. Who is he?"

"Well, he is the great moneyed mogul at the back of the company for whom
you have been doing some responsible work out here. I guess he is what you
call a silent partner; while Mr. Seldon--my relation, you know--has been
the active member in the mining deals. They have been friends this long
time. I have heard that Seldon was to have married Haydon's sister years
ago. Wedding day set and all, when the charms of a handsome employee of
theirs proved stronger than her promise, and she was found missing one
morning; also the handsome clerk, as well as a rather heavy sum of money,
to which the clerk had access. Of course, they never supposed that the
girl knew she was eloping with a thief. But her brother--this one
here--never forgave her. An appeal for help came to him once from
her--there was a child then--but it was ignored, and they never heard from
her again. Haydon was very fond of her, I believe--fond and proud, and
never got over the disgrace of it. Seldon never married, and he did what
he could to make her family forgive her, and look after her. But it was no
use, though their regard for him never lessened. So you see they are
partners from away back; and while Haydon is considerable of an expert in
mineralogy, this is the first visit he has ever made to their works up in
the Northwest. In fact, he had not intended coming so far north just now;
he was waiting for Seldon, who was down in Idaho. But when I got your
letter, and impressed on his mind the good business policy of having the
firm investigate at once, he fell in with the idea, and--here we are! Now,
that is about all I can tell you of Haydon, and how he came here."

"Less would have been plenty," said Overton, with a pretended sigh of
relief. "I didn't ask to be told his sister's love affairs or his
brother-in-law's failings. I was asking about the man himself."

"Well, I don't know what to tell you about him; there doesn't seem to be
anything to say. He is T. J. Haydon, a man who inherited both money and a
genius for speculation. Not a plunger, you know; but one of those pursy,
far-seeing fellows who always put their money on the right number and wait
patiently until it wins. I might tell you that he was sentimental once in
his life, and got married; and I might tell you of a pretty daughter he
has (and whom he used to be very much afraid I would make love to), but I
suppose you would not be interested in those exciting details, so I will
refrain. But as to the man himself and his trip here, I can only say, if
you have made a strike up here, he is the very best man I know to get
interested. Better even than Seldon, for Seldon always defers to Haydon,
while Haydon always acts on his own judgment. And say, old fellow, long as
we have talked, you have not yet told me one word of the new gold mine. I
suspected none of the Ferry folks knew of it, from the general opinion
that your trip here was an idiotic affair. Even the doctor said there was
no sane reason why you should have dragged Harris and 'Tana into the woods
as you did. I kept quiet, remembering the news in your letter, for I was
sure you did not decide on this expedition without a good reason. Then the
contents of that letter I read the night Harris collapsed--well, it stuck
in my mind, and I got to wondering if your bonanza was the one he had
found before. Oh, I've been doing some surmising about it. Am I right?"

"Pretty nearly," assented Overton. "Of course I knew some of the folks
would raise a howl because I let 'Tana come along; but it was necessary,
and I thought it would be best for her in the end, else you may be
sure--be very sure--I would not have had her come. She--was to have gone
back--at once--the very next day; but when the next day came, she was not
able. I have done what I could, but nothing seems to count. She does not
get well, and the gold doesn't play much of a figure in this camp just
now. One-third of the find is hers, and the same for Harris and me; but
I'd give my share cheerfully this minute if it would buy back health for
her and let me see her laughing and bright again."

Lyster reached out his hand and gave Overton's arm an affectionate
pressure.

"Don't I know it, Dan?" he asked kindly. "Can't I see that you have just
worked and worried yourself sick over her illness--blaming yourself,
perhaps--"

"Yes, that is it--blaming myself for--many things," he agreed, brokenly,
and then he checked himself as Lyster's curious glance was turned on him.
"So you see I am in no fit condition to talk values with this Mr. Haydon.
All my thoughts are somewhere else. Doctor says if she is not better
to-night she will not get well. That means she will not live. Tell your
friend that something worse than a gold crisis is here just now, and I
can't talk to him till it is over. Don't mind if I'm even a bit careless
with you, Max. Look after yourselves as well as you can. You are
welcome--you know that; but--what's the use of words? Perhaps 'Tana is
dying!"

And turning his back abruptly on his friend, he walked away, while Lyster
looked after him with some surprise.

"I seem to be dropped by everybody," he remarked, "first Haydon and now
Dan. But I don't believe there is danger of her dying. I _won't_ believe
it! Dan has worried himself sick and fearful during these terrible days,
but I'll do my share now and let him get some rest and sleep. 'Tana die! I
can't think it. But I care ten times more for Dan, just because of his
devotion to her. I wonder what he would think if he knew why I wanted her
to go to school, or how much she was in my mind every hour I was gone. I
felt like telling him just now, but better not--not yet. He thinks she is
only a little child yet. Dear old Dan!"

He entered the cabin and spoke to Harris, whom he had not seen before, and
who looked with pleasure at him, though, as ever, speechless and moveless,
but for that nod of his head and the bright, quick glance of his eyes.

From him he went again to 'Tana; but she lay still and pale, with closed
eyes and no longer muttering.

"There ain't a blessed thing you can do, Mr. Max," said Mrs. Huzzard, in a
wheezing whisper; "but if there is, you may be sure I'll let you know and
glad to do it. Lavina says she's going to help me to a rest; and you must
help Dan Overton, for slept he has not, and I know it, these eight nights
since I've been here. And if that ain't enough to kill a man!"

"Sure enough. But now that I am here, we will not have any night watches
on his part," decided Lyster. "Between Miss Slocum and myself I think we
can manage to do some very creditable nursing."

"I am willing to do my best," said Miss Lavina, with a shrinking glance
toward Flap-Jacks, who just slouched past with a bucket of water; "but I
must confess I do feel a timidity in the presence of these sly-looking
Indians. And if at night I can only be sure none of them are very close, I
may be able to watch this poor girl instead of watching for them with
their tomahawks."

"Never fear while I am detailed as guard," answered Lyster, reassuringly.
"They will reach you only over my dead body."

"Oh, but--" and the timid one arose as if for instant flight, but was held
by Mrs. Huzzard.

"Now, now!" she said reprovingly to the young fellow, "it's noways
good-natured of you to make us more scared of the dirty things than we are
naturally. But, Lavina, I'll go bail that he never yet has seen a dead
body of their killing since he came in the country. Lord knows, they don't
look as if they would kill a sheep, though they might steal them fast
enough. It ain't from Dan Overton that you ever learned to scare women,
Mr. Max; you wouldn't catch him at such tricks."

"Now I beg that whatever you do, Mrs. Huzzard, you will not compare me to
that personage," objected Lyster; "for I am convinced that anything human
would in your eyes suffer by such a comparison. Great is Dan in the camp
of the Kootenais!"

Mrs. Huzzard only laughed at his words, but Miss Lavina did not. She even
let her eyes wander again to Akkomi, in order to show her disapproval of
frivolous comment on Mr. Overton; a fact Lyster perceived and was
immensely amused by.

"She has set her covetous maidenly eyes on him, and if she doesn't marry
him before the year is over, he will have to be clever," he decided, as he
left them and went to look up Haydon. "Serves Dan right if she did, for he
never gives any other fellow half a chance with the old ladies. The rest
of us have to be content with the young ones."



CHAPTER XVI.

THROUGH THE NIGHT.


The soft dusk of the night had fallen over the northern lands, and the
pale stars had gleamed for hours on the reflecting waves of mountain
streams. It was late--near midnight, for the waning sickle of the moon was
slipping from its dark cover in the east and hanging like a jewel of gold
just above the black crown of the pines. Breaths from the heights sifted
down through the vast woods, carrying sometimes the dreary twitter of a
bird disturbed, or the mellow call of insects singing to each other of the
summer night. All sounds of the wilderness were as echoes of rest and
utter content.

And in the camp of the Twin Springs, shadows moved sometimes with a
silence that was scarce a discord in the wood songs of repose. A camp fire
glimmered faintly a little way up from the stream, and around it slept the
Indian boatman, the squaw, and old Akkomi, who, to the surprise of
Overton, had announced his intention of remaining until morning, that he
might know how the sickness went with the little "Girl-not-Afraid."

A dim light showed through the chinks of 'Tana's cabin, where Miss Lavina,
the doctor, and Lyster were on guard for the night. The doctor had grown
sleepy and moved into Harris' room, where he could be comfortable on
blankets. Lyster, watching the girl, was trying to make himself think that
their watching was all of no use; her sleep seemed so profound, so
healthfully natural, that he could not bring himself to think, as Dan did,
that the doctor's worst prophecy could come true--that out of that sleep
she might awake to consciousness, or that, on the other hand, she might
drift from sleep to lethargy and thus out of life.

Outside a man stood peering in through a chink from which he had
stealthily pulled the moss. He could not see the girl's face, but he could
see that of Lyster as he bent over, listening to her breathing, and he
watched it as if to glean some reflected knowledge from the young fellow's
earnest glances.

He had been there a long time. Once he slipped away for a short distance
and stood in the deeper shadows, but he had returned, and was listening to
the low, disjointed converse of the watchers within, when suddenly a tall
form loomed up beside him and a heavy hand was dropped on his shoulder.

"Not a word!" said a voice close to his ear. "If you make a noise, I'll
strangle you! Come along!"

To do otherwise was not easy, for the hand on his shoulder had a helpful
grip. He was almost lifted over the ground until they were several yards
from the cabin, and out in the clearer light of the stars.

"Well, I protest, Mr. Overton, that your manner is not very pleasant,"
remarked the captive, as he was released and allowed to speak. "Is--is
this sort of threats a habit of yours with strangers in your camp?"

Overton, seeing him now away from the thick shadows of the cabin, gave a
low exclamation of astonishment and irritation.

"_You_--Mr. Haydon! Well, you must confess that if my threats are not
pleasant, neither is it pleasant to find some one moving like a spy
around that little girl's cabin. If you don't want to be treated like a
spy, don't act like one."

"Well, it does look queer, maybe," said the other, lamely. "I--I could not
get asleep, and as I was walking around, it seemed natural to look in the
cabin, though I did not want to disturb them by going in. I think I heard
them say she was improving."

"Did they say that--lately?" asked Overton, earnestly, everything else
forgotten for the moment in his strong desire for her recovery. "Who said
it--Miss Slocum? Well, she seems like a sensible woman, and I hope to God
she is right about this! Don't mind my roughness just now. I was too
quick, maybe; but spies around a new gold mine or field are given pretty
harsh treatment up here sometimes; and you were liable to suspicion from
any one."

"No doubt--no doubt," agreed the other, with visible relief. "But to be a
suspected character is a new rôle for me--a bit amusing, too. However, now
that you have broached the subject of this new find of yours, I presume
Lyster made clear to you that I came up here for the express purpose of
investigating what you have to offer, with a view to making a deal with
you. And as my time here will be limited--"

"Perhaps to-morrow we can talk of it. I can't to-night," answered Overton.
"To that little girl in there one-third of the stock belongs; another
third belongs to that paralyzed man in the other cabin. I have to look
after the interests of them both, and need to have my head clear to do it.
But with her there sick--dying maybe--I can't think of dollars and cents."

"You mean to tell me that the young girl is joint owner of a gold find
promising a fortune? Why, I understood Max to say she was poor--in fact,
indebted to you for all care."

"Max is too careless with his words," answered Overton, coldly. "She is in
my care--yes; but I do not think she will be poor."

"She has a very conscientious guardian, anyway," remarked Mr. Haydon,
"when it is impossible for a man even to look in her cabin without finding
you on his track. I confess I am interested in her. Can you tell me how
she came in this wild country? I did not expect to find pretty young white
girls in the heart of this wilderness."

"I suppose not," agreed the other.

They had reached the little camp fire by this time, and he threw some dry
sticks on the red coals. As the blaze leaped up and made bright the circle
around them, he looked at the stranger and said, bluntly:

"What did Akkomi tell you of her?"

"Akkomi?"

"Yes; the old Indian who went in with you to see her."

"Oh, that fellow? Some gibberish."

"I guess he must have said that she looks like you," decided Overton. "I
rather think that was it."

"Like _me_! Why--how--" and Mr. Haydon tried to smile away the absurdity
of such a fancy.

"For there is a resemblance," continued the younger man, with utter
indifference to the stranger's confusion. "Of course it may not mean
anything--a chance likeness. But it is very noticeable when your hat is
off, and it must have impressed the old Indian, who seems to think
himself a sort of godfather to her. Yes, I guess that was why he spoke to
you."

"But her--her people? Are there only you and these Indians to claim her?
She must have some family--"

"Possibly," agreed Overton, curtly. "If she ever gets able to answer, you
can ask her. If you want to know sooner, there is old Akkomi; he can tell
you, perhaps."

But Mr. Haydon made a gesture of antipathy to any converse with that
individual.

"One meets so many astonishing things in this country," he remarked, as
though in extenuation of something. "The mere presence of such a savage in
the sick girl's room is enough to upset any one unused to this border
life--it upset me completely. You see, I have a daughter of my own back
East."

"So Max tells me," replied Overton, carelessly, all unconscious of the
intended honor extended to him when Mr. Haydon made mention of his own
family to a ranger of a few hours' acquaintance.

"Yes," Haydon continued, "and that naturally makes one feel an interest in
any young girl without home or--relatives, as this invalid is; and I would
be glad of any information concerning her--or any hint of help I might be
to her, partly for--humanity's sake, and partly for Max."

"At present I don't know of any service you could render her," said
Overton, coldly, conscious of a jarring, unpleasant feeling as the man
talked to him. He thought idly to himself how queer it was that he should
have an instinctive feeling of dislike for a person who in the slightest
degree resembled 'Tana; and this stranger must have resembled her much
before he grew stout and broad of face; the hair, the nose, and other
points about the features, were very much alike. He did not wonder that
Akkomi might have been startled at it, and made comments. But as he
himself surveyed Mr. Haydon's features by the flickering light of the
burning sticks, he realized how little the likeness of outlines amounted
to after all, since not a shadow of expression on the face before him was
like that of the girl whose sleep was so carefully guarded in the cabin.

And then, with a feeling of thankfulness that it was so, there flashed
across his mind the import of the stranger's closing words--"for the sake
of Max."

"For Max, you said. Well, maybe I am a little more stupid than usual
to-night, but I must own up I can't see how a favor to 'Tana could affect
Max very much."

"You do not?"

"I tell you so," said Overton curtly, not liking the knowing smile in the
eyes of the speaker. He did not want to be there talking to him, anyway.
To walk alone under the stars was better than the discord of a voice
unpleasant. Under the stars she had come to him that once--once, when she
had been clasped close--close! when she had whispered words near to his
heart, and their hands had touched in the magnetism of troubled joy. Ah!
it was best to remember that, though death itself follow after! A short,
impatient sigh touched his lips as he tried to listen to the words of the
stranger while his thoughts were elsewhere.

"And Seldon would do something very handsome for Max if he married to suit
him," Haydon was saying, thoughtfully. "Seldon has no children, you know,
and if this girl was sent to school for a while, I think it would come out
all right--all right. I would take a personal interest to the extent of
talking to Seldon of it. He will think it a queer place for Max to come
for a wife; but when--when I talk to him, he will agree. Yes, I can
promise it will be all right."

"What are you talking of?" demanded Overton, blankly. He had not heard
one-half of a very carefully worded idea of Mr. Haydon's. "Max married! To
whom?"

"You are not a very flattering listener," remarked the other, dryly, "and
don't show much interest in the love affairs of your _protégeé_; but it
was of her I was speaking."

"You--you would try to marry her to Max Lyster--marry her!" and his voice
sounded in his own ears as strange and far away.

"Well, it is not an unusual prophecy to make of a young girl, is it?"
asked Mr. Haydon, with an attempt to be jocular. "And I don't know where
she could find a better young fellow. From his discourses concerning her
on our journey here and his evident devotion since our arrival, I fancy
the idea is not so new to him as it seems to be to you, Mr. Overton."

"Nonsense! when she is well, they quarrel as often as they
agree--oftener."

"That is no proof that he is not in love with her--and why not? She is a
pretty girl, a bright girl, he says, and of good people--"

"He knows nothing about her people," interrupted Overton.

"But you do?"

"I know all it has been necessary for me to know," and, in spite of
himself, he could not speak of 'Tana to this man without a feeling of
anger at his persistence. "But I can't help being rather surprised, Mr.
Haydon, that you should so quickly agree that a wise thing for your
partner's nephew to do is to turn from all the cultured, intelligent girls
he must know, and look for a wife among the mining camps of the Kootenai
hills. And, considering the fact that you approve of it, without ever
having heard her speak, without knowing in the least who or what her
family have been--I must say it is an extraordinarily impulsive thing for
a man of your reputation to do--a cool-headed, conservative business
man."

Mr. Haydon found himself scrutinized very closely, very coldly by the
ranger, who had all the evening kept away from him, and whom he had
mentally jotted down as a big, careless, improvident prospector, untaught
and a bit uncouth.

But his words were not uncouth as he launched them at the older man, and
he was no longer careless as he watched the perturbation with which they
were received. But Haydon shrugged his shoulders and attempted to look
indifferent.

"I remarked just now that this was a land of astonishing things," he said,
with a tolerant air, "and it surely is so when the most depraved-looking
redskin is allowed admittance to a white girl's chamber, while the most
harmless of Caucasians is looked on with suspicion if he merely shows a
little human interest in her welfare."

"Akkomi is a friend of her own choosing," answered Overton, "and a friend
who would be found trusty if he was needed. As to you--you have no right,
that I know of, to assume any direction of her affairs. She will choose
her own friends--and her own husband--when she wants them. But while she
is sick and helpless, she is under my care, and even though you were her
father himself, your ideas should not influence her future unless she
approved you."

With a feeling of relief he turned away, glad to have in some way given
vent to the irritation awakened in him by the prosperous gentleman from
civilization.

The prosperous gentleman saw his form grow dim in the starlight, and
though his face flushed angrily at first, the annoyance gave place to a
certain satisfaction as he seated himself on a log by the fire, and
repeated Overton's final words:

"_'Even though you were her father himself_!' Well, well, Mr. Overton!
Your uncivil words have told me more than you intended--namely, that your
own knowledge as to who her father was, or is, seems very slight. So much
the better, for one of your unconventional order is not the sort of person
I should care to have know. 'Even though you were her father himself.'
Humph! So he does me the doubtful honor to suppose I may be? It is a nasty
muddle all through. I never dreamed of walking into such a net as this.
But something must be done, and that is clear; no use trying to shirk it,
for Seldon is sure to run across them sooner or later up here--sure. And
if he took a hand in it--as he would the minute he saw her--well, I could
not count on his being quiet about it, either. I've thought it all out
this evening. I've got to get her away myself--get her to school, get her
to marry Max, and all so quietly that there sha'n't be any social
sensation about her advent into the family. I hardly know whether this
wealth they talk of will be a help or a hindrance; a help, I suppose. And
there need not be any hitch in the whole affair if the girl is only
reasonable and this autocratic ranger can be ignored or bought over to
silence. It would be very annoying to have such family affairs talked
of--annoying to the girl, also, when she lives among people who object to
scandals. Gad! how her face did strike me! I felt as if I had seen a
ghost. And that cursed Indian!"

Altogether, Mr. Haydon had considerable food for reflection, and much of
it was decidedly annoying; or so it seemed to Akkomi, who lay in the
shadow and looked like a body asleep, as were the others. But from a fold
of his blanket he could see plainly the face of the stranger and note the
perplexity in it.

The first tender flush of early day was making the stars dim when the
doctor met Overton between the tents and the cabins, and surveyed him
critically from his slouch hat to his boots, on which were splashes of
water and fresh loam.

"What, in the name of all that's infernal, has taken possession of you,
Overton?" he demanded, with assumed anger and real concern. "You have not
been in bed all night. I know, for I've been to your tent. You prowl
somewhere in the woods when you ought to be in bed, and you are looking
like a ghost of yourself."

"Oh, I guess I'll last a day or two yet, so quit your growling; you think
you'll scare me into asking for some of your medicines; but that is where
you will find yourself beautifully left. I prefer a natural death."

"And you will find it, too, if you don't mend your ways," retorted the man
of the medicines. "I thought at first it was the care of 'Tana that kept
you awake every hour of every night; but I see it is just the same now
when there are plenty to take your place; worse--for now you go tramping,
God only knows where, and come back looking tired, as though you had
been racing with the devil."

"You haven't told me how she is," was all the answer he made to this
tirade. "You said--that by daylight--"

"There would be a change--yes, and there is; only a shadow of a change as
yet, but the shadow leans the right way."

"The _right_ way," he half whispered, and walked on toward her cabin. He
felt dizzy and the tears crept up in his eyes, and he forgot the doctor,
who looked after him and muttered statements damaging to Dan's sanity.

All the long night he had fought with himself to keep away, to let the
others care for her--the others, who fancied they were giving him a
wished-for rest. And all the while the desire of his heart was to bar them
out--to wait, alone with her, for the life or death that was to come. He
had walked miles in his restlessness, but could not have found again the
paths he walked over. He had talked with some of the people who were
wakeful in the night, but could scarce have told of any words he had
said.

He had felt dazed by the dread of what the new day would bring, and now he
looked up at the morning star with a great thankfulness in his heart. The
new day had come, and with it a breath of hope.

Miss Lavina met him at the door, and whispered that the doctor thought the
fever had taken the hoped-for turn for the better. 'Tana had opened her
eyes but a moment before, and looked at Miss Slocum wonderingly, but fell
asleep again; she had looked rational, but very weak.

"Well, old fellow, I am proud of myself," said Lyster, as Overton entered.
"It took Miss Slocum and me only one night to bring 'Tana around several
degrees nearer health. We are the nurses! And if she only wakes
conscious--"

His words, or else the intense, wistful gaze of the man at the foot of the
bed, must have aroused her, for she moved and opened her eyes and looked
around aimlessly, passing over the faces of Miss Slocum, of the squaw, and
of Overton, until Lyster, close beside her, whispered her name. Then her
lips curved ever so little in a smile as her eyes met his.

"Max!" she said, and put out her hand to him. As his fingers clasped it,
she turned her face toward him, and fell contentedly asleep again, with
her cheek against his hand.

And Mr. Haydon, who came in with the doctor a moment later, glanced at the
picture they made, and smiled meaningly at Overton.

"You see, I was right," he observed. "And do you not think it would be a
very exacting guardian who could object?"

Overton only looked at Max, whose face had flushed a little, knowing how
significant his attitude must appear to others. But his hand remained in
hers, and his eyes turned to Dan with a half embarrassed confession in
them--a confession Dan read and understood.

"Yes, you may well be proud, Max," he said, answering Lyster's words. "You
deserve all gratitude; and I hope--I hope nothing but good luck will come
your way."

Mr. Haydon, who watched him with critical eyes, could read nothing in his
words but kindliest concern for a friend.

The doctor, who had suddenly got a ridiculous idea in his head that Dan
Overton was wearing himself out on 'Tana's account, changed his mind and
silently called himself a fool. He might have known Dan had more sense
than that. Yet, what was it that had changed him so?

Twenty-four hours later he thought he knew.



CHAPTER XVII.

MISS SLOCUM'S IDEAS REGARDING DEPORTMENT.


"So it was a gold mine that dragged you people up into this wilderness?
Well, I've puzzled my mind a good deal to understand your movements
lately; but the finding of a vein as rich as your free gold promises is
enough to turn any man's head for a while. Well, well; you are a lucky
fellow, Overton."

"Yes, I've no doubt that between good luck and bad luck, I've as much luck
as anybody," answered Overton, with a grimace, "but a week or so ago you
did not think me lucky--you thought me 'looney.'"

"You are more than half right," agreed the doctor; "appearances justified
me. My wife and I stormed at you--behind your back--for carrying 'Tana
with you on your fishing trip; it was such an unheard-of thing to my
folks, you know. Humph! I wonder what they will say when it is known that
she was on a prospecting trip, and that the venture will result in a gain
to her of dollars that will be counted by the tens of thousands. By
George! it seems incredible! Just like a chapter from the old fairy
tales."

"Yes. I find myself thinking about it like that sometimes," said Overton;
"a little afraid to lay plans, for fear that after all it may be a dream.
I never hoped much for it; I came under protest, and the luck seems more
than I deserved."

"Maybe that is the reason you accept it in such a sulky fashion," observed
the doctor, "for, upon my soul, I think I am more elated over your good
fortune than you are. You don't appear to get up a particle of enthusiasm
because of it."

"Well, I have not had an enthusiastic lot of partners, either. Harris,
here, not able to move; 'Tana not expected to live; and I suddenly face to
face with all this responsibility for them. It gave me considerable to
think about."

"You are right. I only wonder you are not gray-haired. A new gold-field
waiting for you to make it known, and you guarding it at the same time,
perhaps, from red tramps who come spying around. But you are lucky, Dan;
everything comes your way, even a capitalist ready at your word to put up
money on the strength of the ore you have to show. Why, man, many a poor
devil of a prospector has stood a long siege with starvation, even with
gold ore in sight, just because no one with capital would buy or back
him."

"I know. I realize that; and, for the sake of the other two, I am very
glad there need be no waiting for profits."

"Do you know, Dan, I fancy little 'Tana is in the way of being well cared
for, even without this good fortune," observed the doctor, looking at the
other in a questioning way. "It just occurred to me yesterday that that
fine young fellow, Lyster, is uncommonly fond of her. It may be simply
because she is ill, and he is sorry for her; but his devotion appeared to
me to have a sentimental tinge, and I thought what a fine thing it would
be."

"Very," agreed Overton; "and you are sentimental enough yourself to plan
it all out for them. I guess Haydon helped to put that notion into your
head, didn't he?"

The doctor laughed.

"Well, yes, he did speak of Lyster's devotion to your _protégée_" he
acknowledged; "and you think we are a couple of premature match-makers,
don't you?"

"I think maybe you had better leave it for 'Tana to decide," answered
Overton, "and I also think schools will be the first thing considered by
her. She is very young, you know."

"Seventeen, perhaps," hazarded the doctor; but Overton did not reply.

He was watching the canoe just launched by their Indian boatmen. They were
to take Mr. Haydon back again to the Ferry. He was to send up workmen, and
Overton was to manage the work for the present--or, at least, until Mr.
Seldon could arrive and organize the work of developing the vein that Mr.
Haydon had found was of such exceeding richness that his offer to the
owners had been of corresponding magnitude. Overton had promptly accepted
the terms offered; Harris agreed to them; and even if 'Tana should not,
Dan decided that out of his own share he could make up any added sum
desired by her for her share, though he had little idea that she would
find fault with his arrangements. She! who had thought, that day of the
gold find, that it was better to have their little camp unshared by the
many whom gold would bring to them--that it was almost better to be poor
than to have their happy life changed.

And it was all over now. Other people had come and were close about her,
while he had not seen her since the morning before, when she had awakened
and turned to Max. Well, he should be satisfied, so he told himself. She
was going to get well again. She was going to be happy. More wealth than
they had hoped for had come to her, and with it she would, of course,
leave the hills, would go into the life of the cities, and by and by would
be glad to forget the simple, primitive life they had shared for the few
days of one Kootenai summer. Well, she would be happy.

And here on the spot where their pretty camp had been, he would remain. No
thought of leaving came to him. It would all be changed, of course; men
and machinery would spoil all the beauty of their wilderness. But as yet
no plan for his own future had occurred to him. That he himself had wealth
sufficient to secure him from all toil and that a world of pleasure was
within his reach, did not seem to touch him with any alluring sense. He
was going to remain until the vein of the Twin Springs had a big hole made
in it; and the rich soil of the old river he had staked out as a reserve
for himself and his partners, to either work or sell. Through his
one-sided conversations with Harris he learned that he, too, wanted to
remain in the camp where their gold had been found. Doctors, medicines,
luxuries, could be brought to him, but he would remain.

Mrs. Huzzard had at once been offered a sum that in her eyes was
munificent, for the express purpose of managing the establishment of the
partners--when it was built. Until then she was to draw her salary, and
act as either nurse or cook in the rude dwellings that for the present had
to satisfy all their dreams of luxury.

An exodus from Sinna Ferry was expected; many changes were to be made;
and Overton and the doctor went down to the canoe to give final directions
to their Indian messenger.

Lyster was there, too, with a most exhausting list of articles which Mr.
Haydon was to send up from Helena.

"Dan, some of these things I put down for 'Tana, as I happened to think of
them," he said, and unfolded a little roll made from the leaves of a
notebook stuck together at the ends with molasses. "You look it over and
see if it's all right. I left one sheet empty for anything you might want
to add."

Dan took it, eying dubiously the length of it and the great array of
articles mentioned.

"I don't think I had better add anything to it until heavier boats are
carrying freight on the Kootenai," he remarked, and then commenced reading
aloud some of the items:

                          Eiderdown pillows.
                          Rugs and hammocks.
                          A guitar.
                          Hot water bottle.
                          Some good whisky.
                          Toilet soap.
                          Bret Harte's Poems.

  A traveling dress for a girl. (Here followed measurements and
  directions to the dressmaker.) Then the whole was scratched out, and
  the following was substituted: Brown flannel or serge--nine yards.

"I had to get Mrs. Huzzard to tell me some of the things," said Lyster,
who looked rather annoyed at the quizzical smiles of Dan and the doctor.

"I should imagine you would," observed Overton. "I would have needed the
help of the whole camp to get together that amount of plunder. A good
shaving set and a pair of cork insoles, No. 8, are they for 'Tana, too?"

But Lyster disdained reply, and Overton, after reading, "All the late
magazines," and "A double kettle for cooking oatmeal," folded up the paper
and gave it back.

"As I have read only a very small section of the list, I do not imagine
you have omitted anything that could possibly be towed up the river," he
said. "But it is all right, my boy. I would never have thought of half
that stuff, but I've no doubt they will all be of use, and 'Tana will
thank you."

"How soon do you expect she will be able to walk, or be moved?" asked Mr.
Haydon of the doctor.

"Oh, in two or three weeks, if nothing interferes with her promised
recovery. She is a pretty sick girl; but I think her good constitution
will help her on her feet by that time."

"And by that time I will be back here," said Haydon, addressing Lyster.

He took a sealed envelope from an inner pocket and gave it to the young
fellow.

"When she gets well enough to read that, give it to her, Max," he said, in
a low tone. "It's something that may surprise her a little, so I trust
your discretion as to when she is to see it. From what I hear of her, she
must be a rather level-headed, independent little girl. And as I have
something to tell her worth her knowing, I have decided to leave the
letter. Now, don't look so puzzled. When I come back she will likely tell
you what it means, but you may be sure it is no bad news I send her. Will
you attend to it?"

"Certainly. But I don't understand--"

"And there is no need for you to understand--just yet. Take good care of
her, and help Overton in all possible ways to look after our interests
here. There will be a great deal to see to until Seldon or I can get
back."

"Oh, Dan is a host in himself," said Lyster. "He won't want me in his way
when it comes to managing his men. But I can help Flap-Jacks carry water,
or help old Akkomi smoke, for he comes here each day for just that
purpose--that and his dinner--so never fear but that I will make myself
useful."

Miss Slocum from the cabin doorway--the door was a blanket--watched the
canoe skim down the little stream, and sighed dolefully when it
disappeared entirely.

"Now, Lavina," remonstrated Mrs. Huzzard, "I do hope that you ain't
counting on making part of the next load that leaves here; for now that
you have got here, I'd hate the worst kind to lose you. Gold mines are
fine things to live alongside of, I dare say; but I crave some human
beings within hail--yes, indeed."

"Exactly my own feelings, Cousin Lorena," admitted Miss Slocum, "and I
regret the departure of any member of our circle--all except the Indians.
I really do not think that any amount of living among them would teach me
to feel lonely at their absence. And that dreadful Akkomi!"

"Yes, isn't he a trial? Not that he ever does any harm; but he just keeps
a body in mortal dread, for fear he might take a notion to."

"Yet Mr. Overton seems to think him entirely friendly."

"Humph! yes. But if 'Tana should pet a rattlesnake, Mr. Overton would
trust it. That's just how constant he is to his friends."

"Well, now," said Miss Lavina, with mild surprise in her tone, "I really
have seen nothing in his manner that would indicate any extreme liking for
the girl, though she is his ward. Now, that bright young gentleman, Mr.
Lyster--"

"Tut, tut, Lavina! Max Lyster is all eyes and hands for her just now. He
will fan her and laugh with her; but it will be Dan who digs for her and
takes the weight of her care on his shoulders, even if he never says a
word about it. That is just Dan Overton's way."

"And a very fine way it is, Lorena," said Miss Slocum, while her eyes
wandered out to where he stood talking to Lyster. "I've met many men of
fine manners in my time, but I never was more impressed at first sight by
any person than by him when he conducted me personally to you on my
arrival. The man had never heard my name before, yet he received me as if
this camp had been arranged on purpose for my visit, and that he himself
had been expecting me. If that did not contain the very essence of fine
manners, I never saw any, Lorena Jane."

"I--I s'pose it does, Lavina," agreed Mrs. Huzzard; "though I never heard
any one go on much about his manners before. And as for me--well," and she
looked a bit embarrassed, "I ain't the best judge myself. I've had such a
terrible hard tussle to make a living since my man died, that I hain't had
time to study fine manners. I'll have time enough before long, I suppose,
for Dan Overton surely has offered me liberal living wages. But, Lavina,
even if I did want to learn now, I wouldn't know where to commence."

"Well, Lorena, since you mention it, there is lots of room for
improvement in your general manner. You've been with careless people, I
suppose, and bad habits are gathered that way. Now I never was much of a
genius--couldn't trim a bonnet like you to save my life; but I did have a
most particular mother; and she held that good manners was a
recommendation in any land. So, even if her children had no fortune left
them, they were taught to show they had careful bringing up. One of my
ideas in coming out here was that I might teach deportment in some Indian
school, but not much of that notion is left me. Could I ever teach
Flap-Jacks to quit scratching her head in the presence of ladies and
gentlemen? No."

"I don't think," said Mrs. Huzzard, in a meditative way, "that I mind the
scratching so much as I do the dratted habit she has of carrying the
dish-cloth under her arm when she don't happen to be using it. That just
wears on my nerves, it does. But I tell you what it is, Lavina--if you are
kind of disappointed on account of not getting Indian scholars that suit
just yet, I'm more than half willing you should teach me the deportment,
if you'd be satisfied with one big white scholar instead of a lot of
little red ones."

"Yes, indeed, and glad to do it," said Miss Slocum, frankly. "Your heart
is all right, Lorena Jane; but a warm heart will not make people forget
that you lean your elbow on the table and put your food into your mouth
with your knife. Such things jar on other people just as Flap-Jacks and
the dish-cloth jar on you. Don't you understand? But your desire to
improve shows that you are a very remarkable woman, Lorena, for very few
people are willing to learn new habits after having followed careless ones
for forty years."

"Thirty-nine," corrected Lorena Jane, showing that, however peculiar and
remarkable her wisdom might be in some directions, it did not prevent a
natural womanly feeling regarding the number of years she had lived.

"You see," she continued, after a little, as Miss Lavina kept a discreet
silence, "this here gold fever is catching; and if any one gets started on
the right track, there is no telling what day he may stumble over a
fortune. One might come my way--or yours, Lavina. And, just as you say,
fine manners is a heap of help in sassiety. And thinking of it that way
makes me feel I'd like to be prepared to enjoy, in first-class style, any
amount of money I might get a chance at up here. For I tell you what it
is, Lavina, this Western land is a woman's country. Her chances in most
things are always as good, and mostly better than a man's."

"Yes, if she does not die from fright at the creepy looks of the friendly
Indians," said Miss Slocum, with a shivering breath. "I have not slept
sound for a single minute since I saw that old smoking wretch who never
seems a rod from this cabin. Now down there at Sinna Ferry I thought it
might be kind of nice, though we stopped only a little while, and I was
not up in the street. Any real genteel people there?"

"Well--yes, there is," answered Lorena Jane, after a slight hesitation as
to just how much it would be wise to say of the genteel gentleman who
resided in Sinna Ferry, and was in her eyes a model of culture and
disdainful superiority. Indeed, that disdain of his had been a first cause
in her desire to reach the state of polish he himself enjoyed--to rise
above the vulgar level of manners that had of old seemed good enough to
her. "Yes, there is some high-toned folks there; the doctor's wife and
family, for one; and then there is a very genteel man there--Captain
Leek. He is an ex-officer in the late war, you know; a real military
gentleman, with a wound in his leg. Limps some, but not enough to make him
awkward. He keeps the postoffice. But if this Government looked after its
heroes as it ought to, he'd be getting a good pension--that's just what he
would. I'm too sound a Union woman not to feel riled at times when I see
the defenders of the Constitution go unrewarded."

"Don't say 'riled,' Lorena," corrected Miss Slocum. "You must drop that
and 'dratted' and 'I'll swan'; for I don't think you could tell what any
of them mean. I couldn't, I'm sure. But I used to know a family of Leeks
back in Ohio. They were Democrats, though, and their boys joined the
Confederate Army, though I heard they wasn't much good to the cause. But
of course it is not likely to be one of them."

"I should think not," agreed Mrs. Huzzard, stoutly. "I never heard him
talk politics much; but I do know that he wears nothing but the Union blue
to this day, and always that military sort of hat with a cord around
it--so--so dignified like."

"No, I did not suppose it could be the one I knew," said her cousin; "the
military uniform decides that."



CHAPTER XVIII.

AWAKENING.


"Flap-Jacks," said 'Tana, softly, so as to reach no ear but that of the
squaw, who came in from Harris' cabin to find the parasol of Miss Slocum,
who was about to walk in the sunshine. To the red creature of the forest
this parasol seemed the most wonderfully beautiful thing of all the
strange things which the white squaws made use of. "Flap-Jacks, are they
gone?"

Three weeks had gone by, three weeks of miraculous changes in the beauty
of their wild nook along the trail of the old river.

"Twin Springs," the place was called now--Twin Spring Mines. Already men
were at work on the new lode, and doing placer digging for the free gold
in the soil. Wooden rails were laid to the edge of the stream, and over it
the small, rude car was pushed with the new ore down to a raft on which a
test load had been drifted to the immense crusher at the works on Lake
Kootenai. And the test had resulted so favorably that the new strike at
Twin Springs was considered by far the richest one of the year.

Through all the turbulence that swept up the little stream to their camp,
two of the discovering party were housed, sick and silent, in the little
double cabin. The doctor could see no reason why 'Tana was so slow in her
recovery; he had expected so much more of her--that she would be carried
into health again by the very force of her ambition, and her eager delight
in the prospects which her newly acquired wealth was opening up to her.

But puzzling to relate, she showed no eagerness at all about it. Her
ambitions, if she had any, were asleep, and she scarcely asked a question
concerning all the changes of life and people around her. Listless she lay
from one day to another, accepting the attention of people indifferently.
Max would read to her a good deal, and several times she asked to be
carried into the cabin of Harris, where she would sit for hours talking to
him, sometimes in a low voice and then again sitting close beside him in
long silences, which, strangely enough, seemed more of companionship to
her than the presence of people who laughed and talked. They wearied her
at times. When she was able to walk out, she liked to go alone; even Max
she had sent back when he followed her.

But she never went far. Sometimes she would sit for an hour by the stream,
watching the water slip past the pebbles and the grasses, and on to its
turbulent journey toward a far-off rest in the Pacific. And again, she
would watch some strange miner dig and wash the soil in his search for the
precious "yellow." But her walks were ever within the limits of the busy
diggings; all her old fondness for the wild places seemed sleeping--like
her ambitions.

"She needs change now. Get her away from here," advised the doctor, who no
longer felt that she needed medicines, but who could not, with all his
skill, build her up again into the daring, saucy 'Tana, who had won the
game of cards from the captain that night at the select party at Sinna
Ferry.

But when Overton, after much hesitation, broached the subject of her going
away, she did look at him with a touch of the old defiance in her face,
and after a bit said:

"I guess the camp will have to be big enough for you and me, too, a few
days longer. I haven't made up my mind as to when I want to go."

"But the summer will not last long, now. You must commence to think of
where you want to go; for when the cold weather comes, 'Tana, you can't
remain here."

"I can if I want to," she answered.

After one troubled, helpless look at her pale face, he walked out of the
cabin; and Lyster, who had wanted to ask the result of the interview,
could not find him all that evening. He had gone somewhere alone, up on
the mountain.

She had answered him with a great deal of cool indifference; but when the
two cousins entered her room, she was on the bed with her face buried in
the pillows, weeping in an uncontrollable manner that filled them with
dismay. The doctor decided that while Dan was a good fellow in most ways,
he evidently had not a soothing influence on 'Tana, possibly not realizing
the changed mental condition laid on her by her sickness. The doctor
further made up his mind that, without hurting Dan's feelings, he must
find some other mouthpiece for his ideas concerning her or reason with her
himself.

But, so far, she would only say she was not ready to go yet. Dan, wishing
to make her stay comfortable as possible, went quietly to all the
settlements within reach for luxuries in the way of house-furnishing, and
had Mrs. Huzzard use them in 'Tana's cabin. But when he had done all
this, she never asked a question as to where the comforts came from--she,
who, a short month before, had valued each kind glance received from him.

Mrs. Huzzard was sorely afraid that it was pride, the pride of newly
acquired wealth, that changed her from the gay, saucy girl into a moody,
dreamy being, who would lie all alone for hours and not notice any of them
coming and going. The good soul had many a heartache over it all, never
guessing that it was an ache and a shame in the heart of the girl that
made the new life that was given her seem a thing of little value.

'Tana had watched the squaw wistfully at times, as if expecting her to say
something to her when the others were not around, but she never did. When
'Tana heard the ladies ask Lyster to go with them to a certain place where
beautiful mosses were to be found, she waited with impatience until their
voices left the door.

The squaw shook her head when asked in that whispering way of their
departure; but when she had carried out the parasol and watched the party
disappear beyond the numerous tents now dotting the spaces where the grass
grew rank only a month before, then she slipped back and stood watchful
and silent inside the door.

"Come close," said the girl, motioning with a certain nervousness to her.
She was not the brave, indifferent little girl she had been of old. "Come
close--some one might listen, somewhere. I've been so sick--I've dreamed
so many things that I can't tell some days what is dream and what is true.
I lie here and think and think, but it will not come clear. Listen! I
think sometimes you and I hunted for tracks--a white man's tracks--across
there where the high ferns are. You showed them to me, and then we came
back when the moon shone, and it was light like day, and I picked white
flowers. Some days I think of it--of the tracks, long, slim tracks, with
the boot heel. Then my head hurts, and I think maybe we never found the
tracks, maybe it is only a dream, like--like other things!"

She did not ask if it were so, but she leaned forward with all of eager
question in her eyes. It was the first time she had shown strong interest
in anything. But, having aroused from her listlessness to speak of the
ghosts of fancy haunting her, she seemed quickened to anxiety by the
picture her own words conjured up.

"Ah! those tracks in the black mud and that face above the ledge!"

"It is true," said the squaw, "and not a dream. The track of the white man
was there, and the moon was in the sky, as you say."

"Ah!" and the evidently unwelcome truth made her clench her fingers
together despairingly; she had hoped so that it was a dream. The truth of
it banished her lethargy, made her think as nothing else had. "Ah! it was
so, then; and the face--the face was real, was--"

"I saw no face," said the squaw.

"But I did--yes, I did," she muttered. "I saw it like the face of a white
devil!"

Then she checked herself and glanced at the Indian woman, whose dark,
heavy face appeared so stupid. Still, one never could tell by the looks of
an Indian how much or how little he knows of the thing you want to know;
and after a moment's scrutiny, the girl asked:

"Did you learn more of the tracks?--learn who the white man was that made
them?"

The woman shook her head.

"You sick--much sick," she explained. "All time Dan he say: 'Stay here by
white girl's bed. Never leave.' So I not get out again, and the rain come
wash all track away."

"Does Dan know?--did you tell him?"

"No, Dan never ask--never talk to me, only say, 'Take care 'Tana,' that
all."

The girl asked no more, but lay there on her couch, filled with dry moss
and covered with skins of the mountain wolf. Her eyes closed as though she
were asleep; but the squaw knew better, and after a little, she said
doubtfully:

"Maybe Akkomi know."

"Akkomi!" and the eyes opened wide and slant. "That is so. I should have
remembered. But oh, all the thoughts in my brain have been so muddled. You
have heard something, then? Tell me."

"Not much--only little," answered the squaw. "That night--late that night,
a white stranger reached Akkomi's tent, to sleep. No one else of the tribe
got to see him, so the word is. Kawaka heard on the river, and it was that
night."

"And then? Where did the stranger go?"

The squaw shook her head.

"Me not know. Kawaka not hear. But I thought of the track. Now many white
men make tracks, and one no matter."

"Akkomi," and the thoughts of the girl went back to the very first she
could remember of her recovery; and always, each day, the face of Akkomi
had been near her. He had not talked, but would look at her a little while
with his sharp, bead-like eyes, and then betake himself to the sunshine
outside her door, where he would smoke placidly for hours and watch the
restless Anglo-Saxon in his struggle to make the earth yield up its
riches.

Each day Akkomi had been there, and she had not once aroused herself to
question why; but she would.

Rising, she passed out and looked right and left; but no blanketed brave
met her gaze. Only Kawaka, the husband of Flap-Jacks, worked about the
canoes by the water. Then she entered Harris' cabin, where the sight of
his helpless form, and his welcoming smile, made her halt, and drop down
on the rug beside him. She had forgotten him so much of late, and she
touched his hand remorsefully.

"I feel as if I had just got awake, Joe," she said, and stretched out her
arms, as though to drive away the last vestige of sleep. "Do you know how
that feels? To lie for days, stupid as a chilled snake, and then, all at
once, to feel the sun creeping around where you are and warming you until
you begin to wonder how you could have slept so many days away. Well, just
now I feel almost well again. I did not think I would get well; I did not
care. All the days I lay in there I wished they would just let me be, and
throw their medicines in the creek. I think, Joe, that there are times
when people should be allowed to die, when they grow tired--tired away
down in their hearts; so tired that they don't want to take up the old
tussle of living again. It is so much easier to die then than when a
person is happy, and--and has some one to like them, and--"

She left the sentence unfinished, but he nodded a perfect understanding of
her thoughts.

"Yes, you have felt like that, too, I suppose," she continued, after a
little. "But now, Joe, they tell me we are rich--you and Dan and I--so
rich we ought to be happy, all of us. Are we?"

He only smiled at her, and glanced at the cozy furnishing of his rude
cabin. Like 'Tana's, it had been given a complete going over by Overton,
and rugs and robes did much to soften its crude wood-work. It had all the
luxury obtainable in that district, though even yet the doors were but
heavy skins.

She noticed the look but shook her head.

"Thick rugs and soft pillows don't make troubles lighter," she said, with
conviction; and then: "Maybe Dan is happy. He--he must be. All he thinks
of now is the gold ore."

She spoke so wistfully, and her own eyes looked so far, far from happy,
that the face of the man was filled with longing to comfort her--the
little girl who had tramped so long on a lone trail--how lonely none knew
so well as he. His fingers closed and unclosed, as if with the desire to
clasp her hand,--to make some visible show of friendship.

She saw the slight movement, and looked up at him with a new interest.

"Oh, I forgot, Joe! I never once have asked how you have got along while I
have been so sick. Can you use your hands any at all? You could once, a
little bit that day--the day we found the gold."

But he shook his head, and just then a step was heard outside, and Lyster
looked in.

A shade of surprise touched his face, as he saw 'Tana there, with so
bright an expression in her eyes.

"What has Harris been telling you that has aroused you to interest, Tana?"
he asked, jestingly. "He has more influence than I, for I have scarcely
been able to get you to talk at all."

"You don't need me; you have Miss Slocum," she answered. "Have you dropped
her in the creek and run back to camp? And have you seen Akkomi lately? I
want him."

"Of course you do. The moment I make my appearance, you want to get rid of
me by sending me for some other man. No, I am happy to say I have not seen
that royal loafer for the past hour. And I am more happy still to find
that you really want some one--any one--once more. Do you realize, my dear
girl, how very many days it is since you have condescended to want
anything on this earth of ours? Won't you accept me as a substitute for
Akkomi?"

"I don't want you."

But her eyes smiled on him kindly, and he did not believe her.

"Perhaps not; but won't you pretend you do for a little while, long enough
to come with me for a little walk--or else to talk to me in your cabin?"

"To talk to you? I don't think I can talk much to any one yet. I just told
Joe I feel as if I was only waking up."

"So I see; that is the reason I am asking an audience. I will do the
talking, and it need not be a very long talk, if you are too tired."

"I believe I will go," she said, at last. "I was thinking it would be nice
to float in a canoe again--just to float lazy on the current. Can't we do
that?"

"Nothing easier," he answered, entirely delighted that she was again more
like the 'Tana of two months before. She seemed to him a little paler and
a little taller, but as they walked together to the canoe, he felt that
they would again come to the old chummy days of Sinna Ferry, when they
quarreled and made up as regularly as the sun rose and set.

"Well, why don't you talk?" she asked, as their little craft drifted away
from the tents and the man who washed the soil by the spring run. "What
did you do with the women folks?"

"Gave them to Overton. They concluded not to risk their precious selves
with me, when they discovered that he, for a wonder, was disengaged.
Really and truly, that angular schoolmistress will make herself Mrs.
Overton if he is not careful. She flatters him enough to spoil an average
man; looks at him with so much respectful awe, you know, though she never
does say much to him."

"Saves her breath to drill Mrs. Huzzard with," observed the girl, dryly.
"That poor, dear woman has a bee in her muddled old head, and the bee is
Captain Leek and his fine manners. I can see it, plain as day. Bless her
heart! I hear her go over and over words that she always used to say
wrong, and she does eat nicer than she used to. Humph! I wonder if Dan
Overton will take as kindly to being taught, when the school-teacher
begins with him."

There was a mirthless, unlovely smile about her lips, and Lyster reached
over and clasped her hand coaxingly.

"'Tana, what has changed you so?" he asked. "Is it your sickness--is it
the gold--or what, that makes you turn from your old friends? Dan never
says a word, but I notice it. You never talk to him, and he has almost
quit going to your cabin at all, though he would do anything for you, I
know. My dear, you will find few friends like him in the world."

"Oh, don't--don't bother me about him," she answered, irritably. "He is
all right, of course. But I--"

Then she stopped, and with a determined air turned the subject.

"You said you had something to talk to me about. What was it?"

"You don't know how glad I am to hear you speak as you used to," he said,
looking at her kindly. "I would be rejoiced even to get a scolding from
you these days. But that was not exactly what I brought you out to tell
you, either," and he drew from his pocket the letter he had carried for
three weeks, waiting until she appeared strong enough to accept surprises.
"I suppose, of course, you have heard us talk a good deal about the
Eastern capitalist who was here when you were so sick, and who,
unhesitatingly, made purchase of the Twin Spring Mines, as it is called
now."

"You mean the very fine Mr. Haydon, who had curly hair and looked like
me?" she asked, ironically. "Yes, I've heard the women folks talking about
him a good deal, when they thought me asleep. Old Akkomi scared him a
little, too, didn't he?"

"So, you _have_ heard?" he asked, in surprise. "Well, yes, he does look a
little like you; it's the hair, I think. But I don't see why you utter his
name with so much contempt, 'Tana."

"Maybe not; but I've heard the name of Haydon before to-day, and I have a
grudge against it."

"But not this Haydon."

"I don't know which Haydon. I never saw any of them--don't know as I
want to. I guess this one is almost too fine for Kootenai country people,
anyway."

"But that is where you are wrong, entirely wrong, 'Tana," he hastened to
explain. "He was very much interested in you--very much, indeed; asked
lots of questions about you, and--and here is what I wanted to speak of.
When he went away, he gave me this letter for you. I imagine he wants to
help make arrangements for you when you go East, have you know nice people
and all that. You see, 'Tana, his daughter is about your age, and looks
just a little as you do sometimes; and I think he wants to do something
for you. It's an odd thing for him to take so strong an interest in any
stranger; but they are the very best people you could possibly know if you
go to Philadelphia."

"Maybe if you would let me see the letter myself, I could tell better
whether I wanted to know them or not," she said, and Lyster handed it to
her without another word.

It was a rather long letter, two closely-written sheets, and he could not
understand the little contemptuous smile with which she opened it. Haydon,
the great financier, had seemed to him a very wonderful personage when he
was 'Tana's age.

The girl was not so indifferent as she tried to appear. Her fingers
trembled a little, though her mouth grew set and angry as she read the
carefully kind words of Mr. Haydon.

"It is rather late in the day for them to come with offers to help me,"
she said, bitterly. "I can help myself now; but if they had looked for me
a year ago--two or three years ago--"

"Looked for you!" he exclaimed, with a sort of impatient wonder. "Why,
my dear girl, who would even think of hunting for little white girls in
these forests? Don't be foolishly resentful now that people want to be
nice to you. You could not expect attention from people before they were
aware of your existence."

"But they did know of my existence!" she answered, curtly. "Oh! you
needn't stare at me like that, Mr. Max Lyster! I know what I'm talking
about. I have the very shaky honor of being a relation of your fine
gentleman from the East. I thought it when I heard the name, but did not
suppose he would know it. And I'm not too proud of it, either, as you seem
to think I ought to be."

"But they are one of our best families--"

"Then your worst must be pretty bad," she interrupted. "I know just about
what they are."

"But 'Tana--how does it come--"

"I won't answer any questions about it, Max, so don't ask," and she folded
up the letter and tore it into very little pieces, which she let fall into
the water. "I am not going to claim the relationship or their hospitality,
and I would just as soon you forgot that I acknowledged it. I didn't mean
to tell, but that letter vexed me."

"Look here, 'Tana," and Lyster caught her hand again. "I can't let you act
like this. They can be of much more help to you socially than all your
money. If the family are related to you, and offer you attention, you
can't afford to ignore it. You do not realize now how much their attention
will mean; but when you are older, you will regret losing it. Let me
advise you--let me--"

"Oh, hush!" she said, closing her eyes, wearily. "I am tired--tired! What
difference does it make to you--why need you care?"

"May I tell you?" and he looked at her so strangely, so gravely, that her
eyes opened in expectation of--she knew not what.

"I did not mean to let you know so soon, 'Tana," and his clasp of her hand
grew closer; "but, it is true--I love you. Everything that concerns you
makes a difference to me. Now do you understand?"

"You!--Max--"

"Don't draw your hand away. Surely you guessed--a little? I did not know
myself how much I cared till you came so near dying. Then I knew I could
not bear to let you go. And--and you care a little too, don't you! Speak
to me!"

"Let us go home," she answered in a low voice, and tried to draw her
fingers away. She liked him--yes; but--

"Tana, won't you speak? Oh, my dear, dear one, when you were so ill, so
very ill, you knew no one else, but you turned to me. You went asleep with
your cheek against my hand, and more than once, 'Tana, with your hand
clasping mine. Surely that was enough to make me hope--for you did like me
a little, then."

"Yes, I--liked you," but she turned her head away, that he could not see
her flushed face. "You were good to me, but I did not know--I could not
guess--" and she broke down as though about to cry, and his own eyes were
full of tenderness. She appealed to him now as she had never done in her
days of brightness and laughter.

"Listen to me," he said, pleadingly. "I won't worry you. I know you are
too weak and ill to decide yet about your future. I don't ask you to
answer me now. Wait. Go to school, as I know you intend to do; but don't
forget me. After the school is over you can decide. I will wait with all
patience. I would not have told you now, but I wanted you to know I was
interested in the answer you would give Haydon. I wanted you to know that
I would not for the world advise you, but for your best interests. Won't
you believe--"

"I believe you; but I don't know what to say to you. You are different
from me--your people are different. And of my people you know nothing,
nothing at all, and--"

"And it makes no difference," he interrupted. "I know you have had a lot
of trouble for a little girl, or your family have had trouble you are
sensitive about. I don't know what it is, but it makes no difference--not
a bit. I will never question about it, unless you prefer to tell of your
own accord. Oh, my dear! if some day you could be my wife, I would help
you forget all your childish troubles and your unpleasant life."

"Let us go home," she said, "you are good to me, but I am so tired."

He obediently turned the canoe, and at that moment voices came to them
from toward the river--ringing voices of men.

"It is possibly Mr. Haydon and others," he exclaimed, after listening a
moment. "We have been expecting them for days. That was why I could no
longer put off giving you the letter."

"I know," she said, and her face flushed and paled a little, as the voices
came closer. He could see she nervously dreaded the meeting.

"Shall I get the canoe back to camp before they come?" he asked kindly;
but she shook her head.

"You can't, for they move fast," she answered, as she listened. "They
would see us; and, if he is with them, he--would think I was afraid."

He let the canoe drift again, and watched her moody face, which seemed to
grow more cold with each moment that the strangers came closer. He was
filled with surprise at all she had said of Haydon and of the letter. Who
would have dreamed that she--the little Indian-dressed guest of Akkomi's
camp--would be connected with the most exclusive family he knew in the
East? The Haydon family was one he had been especially interested in only
a year ago, because of Mr. Haydon's very charming daughter. Miss Haydon,
however, had a clever and ambitious mamma, who persisted in keeping him at
a safe distance.

Max Lyster, with his handsome face and unsettled prospects, was not the
brilliant match her hopes aspired to. Pretty Margaret Haydon had, in all
obedience, refused him dances and affected not to see his efforts to be
near her. But he knew she did see; and one little bit of comfort he had
taken West with him was the fancy that her refusals were never voluntary
affairs, and that she had looked at him as he had never known her to look
at another man.

Well, that was a year ago, and he had just asked another girl to marry
him--a girl who did not look at him at all, but whose eyes were on the
swift-flowing current--troubled eyes, that made him long to take care of
her.

"Won't you speak to me at all?" he asked. "I will do anything to help you,
'Tana--anything at all."

She nodded her head slowly.

"Yes--now," she answered. "So would Mr. Haydon, Max."

"'Tana! do you mean--" His face flushed hotly, and he looked at her for
the first time with anger in his face.

She put out her hand in a tired, pleading way.

"I only mean that now, when I have been lucky enough to help myself, it
seems as if every one thinks I need looking after so much more than they
used to. Maybe because I am not strong yet--maybe so; I don't know." Then
she smiled and looked at him curiously.

"But I made a mistake when I said 'every one,' didn't I? For Dan never
comes near me any more."

Then the strange canoes came in sight and very close to them, as they
turned a bend in the creek. There were three large boats--one carrying
freight, one filled with new men for the works, and in the other--the
foremost one--was Mr. Haydon, and a tall, thin, middle-aged stranger.

"Uncle Seldon!" exclaimed Lyster, with animation, and held the canoe still
in the water, that the other might come close, and in a whisper he said:

"The one to the right is Mr. Haydon."

He glanced at her and saw she was making a painful effort at
self-control.

"Don't worry," he whispered. "We will just speak, and drift on past
them."

But when they called greeting to each other, and the Indian boatman was
told to send their craft close to the little camp canoe, she raised her
head and looked very levelly across the stranger, who had hair so like her
own, and spoke to the Indian who paddled their boat as though he were the
only one there to notice.

"Plucky!" decided Mr. Haydon, "and stubborn;" but he kept those thoughts
to himself, and said aloud: "My dear young lady, I am indeed pleased to
see you so far recovered since my last visit. I presume you know who I
am," and he looked at her in a smiling, confidential way.

"Yes, I know who you are. Your name is Haydon, and--there is a piece of
your letter."

She picked up a fragment of paper that had fallen at her feet, and flung
it out from her on the water. Mr. Haydon affected not to see the pettish
act, but turned to his companion.

"Will you allow me, Miss Rivers, to introduce another member of our firm?
This is Mr. Seldon. Seldon, this is the young girl I told you of."

"I knew it before you spoke," said the other man, who looked at her with a
great deal of interest, and a great deal of kindness. "My child, I was
your mother's friend long ago. Won't you let me be yours?"

She reached out her hand to him, and the quick tears came to her eyes. She
trusted without question the earnest gray eyes of the speaker, and turned
from her own uncle to the uncle of Max.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE MAN IN AKKOMI'S CLOAK.


"My dear fellow, there is, of course, no way of thanking you sufficiently
for your care of her; but I can only say I am mighty glad to know a man
like you."

It was Mr. Seldon who said so, and Dan Overton looked embarrassed and
deprecating under the praise he had to accept.

"It is all right for you to make a fuss over it, Seldon," he returned;
"but you know, as well as you know dinner time, that you would have done
no less if you had found a young girl anywhere without a home--and
especially if you found her in an Indian camp."

"Did she give you any information as to how she came to be there?"

Overton looked at him good-naturedly, but shook his head.

"I can't give you any information about that," he answered. "If you want
to know anything of her previous to meeting her here, she will have to
tell you."

"But she won't. I can't understand it; for I can see no need of mystery. I
knew her mother when she was a girl like 'Tana, and--"

"You did?"

"Yes, I did. So now, perhaps, you will understand why I take such an
interest in her--why Mr. Haydon takes an interest in her. Simply because
she is his niece."

"Oh, she is--is she? And he came here, found her dying, or next door to
it, and never claimed her."

"No; that is a little way of his," acknowledged his partner. "If she had
really died, he never would have said a word about it, for it would have
caused him a lot of troublesome explanation at home. But I guess he knew I
would be likely to come across her. She is the very image of what her
mother was. He told me the whole story of how he found her here, and all.
And now he wants to do the proper thing and take her home with him."

"The devil he does!" growled Overton. "Well, why do you come to me about
it?"

"Your influence with her was one thing," answered Mr. Seldon, with a
dubious smile at the dark face before him. "This _protégée_ of yours has a
will of her own, it seems, and refuses utterly to acknowledge her
aristocratic relations, refuses to be a part of her uncle's household; and
we want your influence toward changing her mind."

"Well, you'll never get it," and the tone was decided as the words. "If
she says she is no relation to anybody, I'll back her up in it, and not
ask her her reasons, either. If she doesn't want to go with Mr. Haydon,
she is the only one I will allow to decide, unless he brings a legal order
from some court, and I might try to hinder him even then. She willingly
came under my guardianship, and when she leaves it, it must be
willingly."

"Oh, of course there will be no coercion about the matter," explained Mr.
Seldon, hastily. "But don't you, yourself, think it would be a decided
advantage for her to live for a while with her own relatives?"

"I am in no position to judge. I don't know her relatives. I don't know
why it is that she has not been taken care of by them long ago; and I am
not asking any questions. She knows, and that is enough; and I am sure her
reasons for not going would satisfy me."

"Well, you are a fine specimen to come to for influence," observed the
other. "She has a grudge against Haydon, that is the obstacle--a grudge,
because he quarreled with her mother long ago. I thought that as you have
done so much for her, your word might have weight in showing her the folly
of it."

"My word would have no more weight than yours," he answered, curtly. "All
I have done for her amounts to nothing; and I've an idea that if she
wanted me to know her family affairs, she would tell me."

"Which, interpreted, means that I had better be at other business than
gossiping," said Mr. Seldon, with much good humor. "Well, you are a fine
pair, and something alike, too--you goldfinders! She snubbed Max for
trying to persuade her, and you snub me. As a last resort, I think I shall
try to get that old Indian into our lobbying here. He is her next great
friend, I hear."

"I haven't seen him in camp to-day, for a wonder; but he is sure to be
around before night."

"But, you see, we are to go on up to the new works on the lake to-day, and
be back day after to-morrow. I wish you, too, could go up to-morrow, for I
would like your judgment about some changes we expect to make. Could you
leave here for twenty-four hours?"

"I'll try," promised Overton. "But the new men from the Ferry will be up
to-day or to-morrow, so I may not reach there until you are about ready to
start back."

"Come anyway, if you can, I don't seem to get much chance to talk to you
here in camp--maybe I could on the river. You may be in a more reasonable
mood about 'Tana by that time, and try to influence her to partake of
civilization."

"'Civilization!' Oh, yes, of course, you imagine it all lies east of the
Appalachian range," remarked Overton, slightingly. "I expect that from a
man of Haydon's stamp, but not from you."

Seldon only laughed.

"One would think you had been born and bred out here in the West," he
remarked, "while you are really only an importation. But what is that
racket about?"

For screeches were sounding from the cabin--cries, feminine and
frightened.

Overton and Seldon started for it, as did several of the workmen, but
their haste slackened as they saw 'Tana leaning against a doorway and
laughing, while the squaw stood near her, chuckling a little as a
substitute for merriment.

But there were two others within the cabin who were by no means merry--the
two cousins, who were standing huddled together on the couch, uttering
spasmodic screeches at every movement made by a little gray snake on the
floor.

It had crept in at a crevice, and did not know how to make its escape from
the noisy shelter it had found. Its fright was equal to that of the women,
for it appeared decidedly restless, and each uneasy movement of it was a
signal for fresh screams.

"Oh, Mr. Overton! I beg of you, kill the horrible reptile!" moaned Miss
Slocum, who at that moment was as indifferent to the proprieties as Mrs.
Huzzard, and was displaying considerable white hosiery and black gaiter
tops.

"Oh, lawsy! It is coming this way again. Ooh--ooh--h!" and Mrs. Huzzard
did a little dance from one foot to the other, in a very ecstasy of fear.
"Oh, Lavina, I'll never forgive myself for advising you to come out to
this Idaho country! Oh, Lord! won't somebody kill it?"

"Why, there is no need to fear that little thing," said Overton. "Really,
it is not a snake to bite--no more harm in it than in a mouse."

"A _mouse_!" they both shrieked. "Oh, please take it away."

Just then Akkomi came in through the other cabin, and, hearing the
shrieks, simply stooped and picked up the little stranger in his hand,
holding it that they might see how harmless it was.

But, instead of pacifying them, as he had kindly intended, they only
cowered against the wall, too horrified even to scream, while they gazed
at the old Indian, as at something just from the infernal regions.

"Lord, have mercy on our souls," muttered Lavina, in a sepulchral tone,
and with pallid, almost moveless, lips.

"Forever and ever, amen," added Lorena Jane, clutching her drapery a
little closer, and a little higher.

And not until Overton persuaded Akkomi to throw the frightened little
thing away did they consent to move from their pedestal. Even then it was
with fear and trembling, and many an awful glance toward the placid old
Indian, who smoked his pipe and never glanced toward them.

"Never again will I sleep in that room--not if I die for it!" announced
Mrs. Huzzard, and Miss Slocum was of the same mind.

"But the cabin is as safe as a tent," said 'Tana, persuasively, "and,
really, it was not a dangerous snake."

"Ooh--h! I beg that you will not mention it," shivered Miss Slocum. "For
my part, I don't expect to sleep anywhere after this terrible experience.
But I'll go wherever Lorena Jane goes, and do what I can to comfort and
protect her, while she rests."

Akkomi sat on Harris' doorstep, and smoked, while they argued on the
dangers around them, and were satisfied only when Overton put a tent at
their disposal. They proceeded to have hammocks swung in it on poles set
for the purpose, as they could feel safe on no bed resting on the ground.

"But, really, my conscience troubles me about leaving you here alone,
'Tana," said Mrs. Huzzard, and Overton also looked at her as if interested
in her comfort.

"Well, your conscience had better give itself a rest, if that is all it
has to disturb it," she answered. "I don't care the least bit about
staying alone--I rather like it; though, if I need any one, I'll have
Flap-Jacks stay."

So Overton left them to their arrangements, and said nothing to 'Tana; but
as Seldon and Haydon were about to embark, he spoke to the former.

"I may not be able to get up there after all, as I may feel it necessary
to be here at night, so don't wait for me."

"All right, Overton; but we'd like to have you."

After the others had left the cabin, Akkomi still remained, and the girl
watched him uneasily but did not speak. She talked to Harris, telling him
of the funny actions of the two frightened women, but all the time she
talked and tried to entertain the helpless man, it was with an evident
effort, for the dark old Indian's face at the door was constantly drawing
her attention.

When she finally entered her own room, he appeared at the entrance, and,
after a careful glance, to see that no one was near, he entered and
spoke:

"'Tana, it is now two suns since we talked. Will you go to-day in my boat
for a little ways?"

"No," she said, angrily. "Go home to your tepee, Akkomi, and tell the man
there I am sorry he is not dead. I never will see him again. I go away
from this place now--very soon--maybe this week. What becomes of him I do
not care, and it will be long before I come back."

He muttered some words of regret, and she turned to him more kindly.

"Yes, I know, Akkomi, you are my good friend. You think it is right to do
what you are doing now. Maybe it is; maybe I am wrong. But I will not be
different in this matter--never--never!"

"If he should come here--"

"He would not dare. There are people here he had better fear. Give him the
names of Seldon and of Haydon."

"He knows; but it is the new miners he fears most; they come from all
parts. He wants money."

"Let him work for it, like an honest man," she said, curtly. "Don't talk
of it again. I will not go outside the camp alone, and I will not listen
to any more words about it. Now mind that!"

In the other cabin, Harris listened intently to each word uttered. His
eyes fairly blazed in his eagerness to hear 'Tana's final decision. But
when Akkomi slouched past his door, and peered in, with his sharp, quick
eyes, he had relapsed again into the apathetic state habitual to him. To
all appearances he had not heard their words, and the old Indian walked
thoughtfully past the tents and out into the timber.

Lyster called some light greeting to him, but he barely looked up and made
no reply whatever. His thoughts were evidently on other things than camp
sociabilities.

It was dark when he returned, and his fit of thoughtfulness was yet upon
him, for he spoke to no one. Overton, who had been talking to Harris,
noticed him smoking beside the door as he came out.

"You had better bring your camp down here," he remarked, ironically.
"Well, for to-night you will have to spread your blanket in this room if
Harris doesn't object. That is what I am to do, for I've given up my
quarters to the ladies, who are afraid of snakes."

Akkomi nodded, and then Overton moved nearer the door again.

"Jim, I may not be back for an hour or so. I am going either on the water
or up on the mountain for a little while. Don't lie awake for me, and I'll
send a fellow in to look after you."

Harris nodded, and 'Tana, in her own room, heard Overton's steps die away
in the night. He was going on the water or on the mountains--the places
she loved to go, and dared not.

She felt like calling after him to wait to take her with him once more,
and did rise and go to the door, but no farther.

Lights were gleaming all along the little stream; laughter and men's
voices came to her across the level. Her own corner of the camp looked
very dark and shadowy in comparison. But she turned back to it with a
sigh.

"You may go, Flap-Jacks," she said to the squaw. "I don't mind being
alone, but first fix the bed of Harris."

She noticed Akkomi outside the door, but did not speak to him. She heard
the miner enter the other cabin and assist Harris to his couch and then
depart. She wondered a little that the old Indian still sat there smoking,
instead of spreading his blanket, as Overton had invited him to do.

A book of poems, presented to her by Lyster, was so engrossing, however,
that she forgot the old fellow, until a movement at the door aroused her,
and she turned to find the silent smoker inside her cabin.

But it was not Akkomi, though it was the cloak of Akkomi that fell from
his shoulders.

It was a man dressed as an Indian, but his speech was the speech of a
white man, as he frowned on her white, startled face.

"So, my fine lady, I've found you at last, even if you have got too high
and mighty to come when I sent for you," he said, growlingly. "But I'll
change your tune very quick for you."

"Don't forget that I can change yours," she retorted. "A word from me, and
you know there is not a man in this camp wouldn't help land you where you
belong--in a prison, or at the end of a rope."

"Oh, no," and he grimaced in a sardonic way. "I'm not a bit afraid of
that--not a bit in the world. You can't afford it. These high-toned
friends you've been making might drop off a little if they heard your old
record."

"And who made it for me?" she demanded. "You! You've been a curse to every
one connected with you. In that other room is a man who might be strong
and well to-day but for you. And there is that girl buried over there by
the picture rocks of Arrow Lake. Think of my mother, dragged to death
through the slums of 'Frisco! And me--"

"And you with a gold mine, or the price of one," he concluded--"plenty of
money and plenty of friends. That is about the facts of your
case--friends, from millionaires down to that digger I saw you with the
other night."

"Don't you dare say a word against him!" she exclaimed, threateningly.

"Oh, that's the way the land lies, is it?" he asked, with an ugly leer at
her. "And that is why you were playing 'meet me by moonlight alone,' that
night when I saw you together at the spring. Well, I think your money
might help you to some one besides a married man."

"A married man?" she gasped. "Dan!"

"Dan, it is," he answered, insolently. "But you needn't faint away on that
account. I have other use for you--I want some money."

"You are telling that lie about him because you think it will trouble me,"
she said, regarding his painted face closely and giving no heed to his
demand. "You know it is not true."

"About the marriage? I'll swear--"

"I would not believe your oath for anything."

"Oh, you wouldn't? Well, now, what if I prove to you, right in this camp,
that I know his wife?"

"His wife?" She sat down on the side of the couch, and all the cabin
seemed whirling around her.

"Well--a girl he married. You may call her what you please. She had been
called a good many things before he picked her up. Humph! Now that he has
struck it rich, some one ought to let her know. She'd make the dollars
fly."

"It is not true! It is not _true_!" she murmured to herself, as if by the
words she could drive away the possibility of it.

He appeared to enjoy the sensation he had created.

"It is true," he answered--"every word of it, and he has been keeping
quiet about it, has he? Well, see here. You don't believe me--do you? Now,
while I was waiting there at the door, a man came in to put your paralyzed
partner to bed. The man was Jake Emmons--used to hang out at Spokane. He
knew Lottie Snyder before this Overton did--and after Overton married her,
too, I guess. You ask him anything you want to know of it. He can tell
you--if he will."

She did not answer. She feared, as he talked, that it was true; and she
longed for him to go away, that she could think alone. The hot blood
burned in her cheeks, as she remembered that night by the Twin Springs.
The humiliation of it, if it proved true!

"But, see here, 'Tana. I didn't come here to talk about your virtuous
ranger. I want some money--enough to cut the country. It ain't any more
than fair, anyway, that you divide with me, for if it hadn't been for that
sneaking hound in the other room, half of this find would have been mine a
year ago."

"It will do more good where it is," she answered. "He did right not to
trust you. And if he were able to walk, you would not be allowed to live
many minutes within reach of him."

"Oh, yes; I know he was trailing me," he answered, indifferently, "but it
was no hard trick to keep out of his road. I suppose you let him know you
approve of his feelings toward me."

"Yes, I would load a gun for him to use on you if he were able to hold
it," she answered, and he seemed to think her words amusing.

"You have mighty little regard for your duty to me," he observed.

"Duty? I can't owe you any duty when I never received any from you. I am
nearly seventeen, and in all the years I remember you, I can't recall any
good act you have ever done for me."

"Nearly seventeen," and he smiled at her in the way she hated. "Didn't
your new uncle, Haydon, tell you better than that? You are nearly eighteen
years old."

"Eighteen!" and she rose in astonishment. "I?"

"You--though you don't look it. You always were small for your age, so I
just told you a white lie about it in order to manage you better. But that
is over; I don't care what you do in the future. All I want of you is
money to get to South America; so fix it up for me."

"I ought to refuse, and call them in to arrest you."

"But you won't," he rejoined. "You can't afford it."

He watched her, though, with some uncertainty, as she sat silent,
thinking.

"No, I can't afford it," she said, at last. "I will be doing wrong to help
you, just as if I let a poison snake loose where people travel--for that
is what you are. But I am not strong enough to let these friends go and
start over again; so I will help you away this once."

He drew a breath of relief, and gathered up his blanket.

"That is the way to talk. You've got a level head--"

"That will do," she said, curtly. "I don't want praise from a coward, a
thief, or a murderer. You are all three. I have no money here. You will
have to come again for it to-morrow night."

"A trick--is it?"

"It is no trick. I haven't got it, that is all. Maybe I can't get it in
money, but I will get it in free gold by to-morrow at dusk. I will put it
here under the pillow, and will manage to keep the rest away at that time.
You can come as you came this evening, and get it; but I will neither take
it nor send it to you. You will have to risk your freedom and your life to
come for it. But while I can't quite decide to give you up or to kill you,
myself, I hope some one else will."

"Hope what you please," he returned, indifferently. "So long as you get
the dust for me, I can stand your opinion. And you will have it here?"

"I will have it here."

"I trust you only because I know you can't afford to go back on me," he
said, as he wrapped the blanket around him, and dropped his taller form to
the height of Akkomi. "It is a bargain, then, my dear. Good-night."

"I don't wish you a good-night," she answered. "I hope I shall never see
you alive again."

And she never did.



CHAPTER XX.

'TANA'S ENGAGEMENT


"And she wants a thousand dollars in money or free gold--a thousand
dollars to-day?"

"No use asking me what for, Dan, for I don't know," confessed Lyster. "I
can't see why she don't tell you herself; but you know she has been a
little queer since the fever--childish, whimsical, and all that. Maybe as
she has not yet handled any specie from your bonanza, she wants some only
to play with, and assure herself it is real."

"Less than a thousand in money and dust would do for a plaything,"
remarked Overton. "Of course she has a right to get what she wants; but
that amount will be of no use to her here in camp, where there is not a
thing in the world to spend it for."

"Maybe she wants to pension off some of her Indian friends before she
leaves," suggested Max--"old Akkomi and Flap-Jacks, perhaps. I am a little
like Miss Slocum in my wonder as to how she endures them, though, of
course, the squaw is a necessity."

"Oh, well, she was not brought up in the world of Miss Slocum--or your
world, either," answered Overton. "You should make allowance for that."

"Make allowance--I?" and Lyster looked at him curiously. "Are you trying
to justify her to me? Why, man, you ought to know by this time what keeps
me here a regular lounger around camp, and there is no need to make
excuses for her to me. I thought you knew."

"You mean you--like her?"

"Worse than that," said Max, with his cheery, confident smile. "I'm trying
to get her to say she likes me."

"And she?"

"Well, she won't meet me as near half-way as I would like," he confessed;
"talks a lot of stuff about not being brought up right, and not suited to
our style of life at home, and all that. But she did seem rather partial
to me when she was ill and off guard. Don't you think so? That is all I
have to go on; but it encourages me to remember it."

Overton did not speak, and Lyster continued speculating on his chances,
when he noticed his companion's silence.

"Why don't you speak, Dan? I did hope you would help me rather than be
indifferent."

"Help you!" and Lyster was taken aback at the fierce straightening of the
brows and the strange tone in which the words were uttered. The older man
could not but see his surprised look, for he recovered himself, and
dropped his hand in the old familiar way on Lyster's shoulder.

"Not much chance of my helping you when she employs you as an agent when
she wants any service, rather than exchange words with me herself. Now,
that is the way it looks, Max."

"I know," agreed Lyster. "And to tell the truth, Dan, the only thing she
does that really vexes me is her queer attitude toward you of late. I
can't think she means to be ungrateful, but--"

"Don't bother about that. Everything has changed for her lately, and she
has her own troubles to think of. Don't you doubt her on my account. Just
remember that. And if--she says 'yes' to you, Max, be sure I would rather
see her go to you than any other man I know."

"That is all right," observed Lyster, laughingly; "but if you only had a
love affair or two of your own, you could perhaps get up more enthusiasm
over mine."

Then he sauntered off to report the financial interview to 'Tana, and
laughed as he went at the impatient look flung at him by Overton.

He found 'Tana visiting at the tent of the cousins, who were using all
arguments to persuade her to share their new abode. Each was horrified to
learn that she had dismissed the squaw at sleeping time, and had remained
in the cabin alone.

"Not quite alone," she corrected, "for Harris was just on the other side
of the door."

"Much protection he would be."

"Well, then, Dan Overton was with him. How is he for protection?"

"Thoroughly competent, no doubt," agreed Miss Lavina, with a rather
scandalized look. "But, my dear, the propriety?"

"Do you think Flap-Jacks would help any one out in propriety?" retorted
'Tana. "But we won't stumble over that question long, for I want to leave
the camp and go back to the Ferry."

"And then, 'Tana?"

"And then--I don't know, Mrs. Huzzard, to school, maybe--though I feel old
for that, older than either of you, I am sure--so old that I care nothing
for all the things I wanted less than a year ago. They are within my
reach now, yet I only want to rest--"

She did not finish the sentence.

Mrs. Huzzard, noticing the tired look in her eyes and the wistfulness of
her voice, reached out and patted her head affectionately.

"You want, first of all, to grow strong and hearty, like you used to
be--that is what you need first, then the rest will all come right in good
time. You'll want to see the theaters, and the pictures, and hear the fine
music you used to talk of. And you'll travel, and see all the fine places
you used to dream about. Then, maybe, you'll get ambitious, like you used
to be, about making pictures out of clay. For you can have fine teaching
now, you know, and you'll find, after a while, that the days will hardly
seem long enough for all the things you want to do. That is how it will be
when you get strong again."

'Tana tried to smile at the cheerful picture, but the smile was not a
merry one. Her attention was given to Lyster and Overton, whom she could
see from the tent door.

How tall and strong Dan looked! Was she to believe that story of him heard
last night? The very possibility of it made her cheeks burn at the thought
of how she had stood with his arm around her. And he had pitied her that
night. "Poor little girl!" he had said. Was his pity because he saw how
much he was to her, while he himself thought only of some one else? One
after another those thoughts had come to her through the sleepless night,
and when the day came she could not face him to speak to him of the
simplest thing. And of the money she must have, she could not ask him at
all. She wished she could have courage to go to him and tell him the
thing she had heard; but courage was not strong in her of late. The fear
that he might look indifferently on her and say, "Yes, it is true--what
then?"--the fear of that was so great that she had walked by the water's
edge, as the sun rose, and felt desperate enough to think of sleep under
the waves, as a temptation. For if it was true--

The two older women watched her, and decided that she was not yet strong
enough to think of long journeys. Her hands would tremble at times, and
tears, as of weakness, would come to her eyes, and she scarcely appeared
to hear them when they spoke.

She never walked through the woods as of old, though sometimes she would
stand and look up at the dark hills with a perfect hunger in her eyes. And
when the night breeze would creep down from the heights, and carry the
sweet wood scents of the forest to her, she would close her eyes and draw
in long breaths of utter content. The strong love for the wild places was
as second nature to her; yet when Max would ask her to go with him for
flowers or mosses, her answer was always "no."

But she would go to the boat sometimes, though no longer having strength
to use the paddle. It was a good place to think, if she could only keep
the others from going, too, so she slipped away from Max and the women and
went down. A chunky, good-looking fellow was mending one of the canoes,
and raised his head at her approach, nodding to her and evidently pleased
when she addressed him.

"Yes, it is a shaky old tub," he agreed, "but I told Overton I thought it
could be fixed to carry freight for another trip; so he put me at it."

"You are new in camp, aren't you?" she asked, not caring at all whether he
was or not. She was always friendly with the workmen, and this one smiled
and bowed.

"We are all that, I guess," he said. "But I came up the day Haydon and
Seldon came. I lived with Seldon down the country, and was staggered a
little, I tell you, when I found Overton was in charge, and had struck it
rich. But no man deserves good luck more."

"No," she agreed. "Then you knew him before?"

"Yes, indeed--over in Spokane. He don't seem quite the same fellow,
though. We thought he would just go to the dogs after he left there, for
he started to drink heavily. But he must have settled in his own mind that
it wasn't worth while; so here he is, straight as a string, and counting
his dollars by the thousands, and I'm glad to see it."

"Drink! He never drinks to excess, that we know of," she answered.
"Doesn't seem to care for that sort of thing."

"No, he didn't then, either," agreed this loquacious stranger, "but a
woman can drive as good men as him to drink; and that is about the way it
was. No one thought any worse of Overton, though--don't think that. The
worst any one could say was that he was too square--that's all."

Too square! She walked away from him a little way, all her mind aflame
with his suggestions. He had taken to drink and dissipation because of
some woman. Was it the woman whose name she had heard last night? The key
to the thing puzzling her had been dropped almost at her feet, yet she
feared to pick it up. No teaching she had ever received told her it was
unprincipled to steal through another the confidence he himself had not
chosen to give her. But some instinct of justice kept her from further
question.

She knew the type of fellow who was rigging up the canoe, a light-headed,
assuming specimen, who had not yet learned to keep a still tongue in his
head, but he did not impress her as being a deliberate liar. Then, all at
once, she realized who he must be, and turned back. There was no harm in
asking that, at any rate.

"You are the man whom Overton sent to put Harris to bed last night, are
you not?" she asked.

He nodded, cheerfully.

"And your name is Jake Emmons, of the Spokane country?"

"Thet's who," he assented; "that's where I came across Lottie Snyder,
Overton's wife, you know. I was running a little stage there for a
manager, and she--"

"I am not asking you about--about Mr. Overton's affairs," she said, and
she sat down, white and dizzy, on the overturned canoe. "And he might not
like it if he knew you were talking so free. Don't do it again."

"All right," he agreed. "I won't. No one here seems to know about the bad
break he made over there; but, Lord! there was excuse enough. She is one
of those women that look just like a little helpless baby; and that caught
Overton. Young, you know. But I won't whisper her name in camp again, for
it is hard on the old man. But, as you are partners, I guessed you must
know."

"Yes," she said, faintly; "but don't talk, don't--"

"Say! You are sick, ain't you?" he demanded, as her voice dropped to a
whisper. "Say! Look here, Miss Rivers! Great snakes! She's fainted!"

When she opened her eyes again, the rough roof of her cabin was above
her, instead of the blue sky. The women folks were using the camp
restorative--whisky--on her to such good purpose that her hands and face
and hair were redolent of it, and the amount she had been forced to
swallow was strangling her.

The face she saw first was that of Max--Max, distressed and anxious, and
even a little pale at sight of her death-like face.

She turned to him as to a haven of refuge from the storm of emotion under
which she had fallen prostrate.

It was all settled now--settled forever. She had heard the worst, and knew
she must go away--away from where she must see that one man, and be filled
with humiliation if ever she met his gaze. A man with a wife somewhere--a
man into whose arms she had crept!

"Are you in pain?" asked Miss Lavina, as 'Tana groaned and shut her eyes
tight, as if to bar out memory.

"No--nothing ails me. I was without a hat, and the sun on my head made me
sick, I suppose," she answered, and arose on her elbow. "But I am not
going to be a baby, to be watched and carried around any more. I am going
to get up."

Just outside her door Overton stood; and when he heard her voice again,
with its forced independent words, he walked away content that she was
again herself.

"I am going to get up," she continued. "I am going away from here
to-morrow or next day--and there are things to do. Help me, Max."

"Best thing you can do is to lie still an hour or two," advised Mrs.
Huzzard, but the girl shook her head.

"No, I'm going to get up," she said, with grim decision; and when Lyster
offered his hand to help her, she took it, and, standing erect, looked
around at the couch.

"That is the last time I'm going to be thrown on you for any such fool
cause," she said, whimsically. "Who toted me in here--you?"

"I? Not a bit of it," confessed Lyster. "Dan reached you before any of the
others knew you were ill. He carried you up here."

"He? Oh!" and she shivered a little. "I want to talk to Harris. Max, come
with me."

He went wonderingly, for he could see she was excited and nervous. Her
hand trembled as it touched his, but her mouth was set so firmly over the
little white teeth that he knew it was better to humor her than fret her
by persuading her to rest.

But once beside Harris, she sat a long time in silence, looking out from
the doorway across the level now active with the men of the works. Not
until the two cousins had walked across to their other shelter did she
speak, and then it was to Harris.

"Joe, I am sick," she confessed; "not sick with the fever, but heartsick
and headsick. You know how and maybe why."

He nodded his head, and looked at Lyster questioningly.

"And I've come in here to tell you something. Max, you won't mind. He
can't talk, but knows me better than you do, I guess; for I've come to him
before when I was troubled, and I want to tell him what you said to me in
the boat."

Max stared at her, but silently agreed when he saw she was in earnest. He
even reached out his hand to take hers, but she drew away.

"Wait till I tell him," she said, and turned to the helpless man in the
chair. "He asked me to marry him--some day. Would it be right for me to
say yes?"

"'Tana!" exclaimed Lyster; but she raised her hand pleadingly.

"I haven't any other person in the world I could go to and ask," she said.
"He knows me better than you do, Max, and I--Oh! I don't think I should be
always contented with your ways of living. I was born different--a heap
different. But to-day it seems as if I am not strong enough to do
without--some one--who likes me, and I do want to say 'yes' to you, yet
I'm afraid it is only because I am sick at heart and lonely."

It was a declaration likely to cool the ardor of most lovers, but Lyster
reached out his hand to her and laughed.

"Oh, you dear girl," he said, fondly. "Did your conscience make it
necessary for you to confess in this fashion? Now listen. You are weak and
nervous; you need some one to look after you. Doesn't she, Harris? Well,
take me on trial. I will devote myself to your interests for six months,
and if at the end of that time you find that it was only sickness and
loneliness that ailed you, and not liking me, then I give you my word I'll
never try to hold you to a promise. You will be well and strong by that
time, and I'll stand by the decision you make then. Will you say 'yes,'
now?"

She looked at Harris, who nodded his head. Then she turned and gave her
hand to Max.

"Yes," she said. "But if you should be sorry--"

"Not another word," he commanded; "the 'yes' is all I want to hear just
now; when I get sorry I'll let you know."

And that is the way their engagement began.



CHAPTER XXI.

LAVINA AND THE CAPTAIN.


As the day wore on, 'Tana became more nervous and restless. With the dark,
that man was to come for the gold she had promised.

Lyster brought it to her, part in money, part in free gold, and as he laid
it on the couch, she looked at him strangely.

"How much you trust me when you never even ask what I am to do with all
this!" she said. "Yet it is enough to surprise you."

"Yes, it is," he agreed. "But when you are ready you will tell me."

"No, I will not tell you," she answered, "but it is the last thing--I
think--that I will keep from you, Max. It is a debt that belongs to days
before I knew you. What did Overton say?"

"Not much, maybe he will leave for the upper works this evening or
to-morrow morning."

"Did you--did you tell him--"

"That you are going to belong to me? Well, no, I did not. You forgot to
give me permission."

Her face flushed shyly at his words.

"You must think me a queer girl, Max," she said. "And you are so good and
patient with me, in spite of my queer ways. But, never mind; they will not
last always, I hope."

"Which?--my virtues or your queerness?" he asked.

She only smiled and pushed the gold under the pillow.

"Go away now for a little while. I want to rest."

"Well, rest if you like; but don't think. You have been fretting over some
little personal troubles until you fancy them heavy enough to overbalance
the world. But they won't. And I'm not going to try and persuade you into
Haydon's house, either, now that you've been good to me; unless, of
course, you fall in love with Margaret, and want to be with her, and it is
likely to happen. But Uncle Seldon and my aunts will be delighted to have
you, and you could live as quiet as you please there."

"So I am likely to fall in love with Margaret, am I?" she asked. "Why?
Does everybody? Did you--Max? Now, don't blush like that, or I'll be sure
of it. I never saw you blush so pretty before. It made you almost good
looking. Now go; I want to be alone."

"Sha'n't I send one of the ladies up?"

"Not a soul! Go, Max. I am tired."

So he went, in all obedience, and he and the cousins had a long talk about
the girl and the danger of leaving her alone another night. Her sudden
illness showed them she was not strong enough yet to be allowed to guide
herself.

"I shall try hard to get her to leave to-morrow, or next day," said
Lyster. "Where is Dan? I would like to talk to him about it, but he has
evidently disappeared."

"I don't know what to think of Dan Overton," confessed Mrs. Huzzard. "He
isn't ever around, chatty and sociable, like he used to be. When we do see
him, he is nearly always busy; and when he isn't busy, he strikes for the
woods."

"Maybe he is still searching for new gold mines," suggested Miss Lavina.
"I notice he does seem very much engaged in thought, and is of a rather
solitary nature."

"Never was before," protested her cousin. "And if these gold finds just
twist a person's nature crosswise, or send them into a fever, then I hope
the good Lord'll keep the rest of them well covered up in future."

"Lorena Jane," said Miss Lavina, in a reproachful tone, "it is most
essential that you free yourself from those very forcible expressions.
They are not a bit genteel."

"No, I reckon they ain't, Lavina; and the more I try the more I'm afraid I
never will be. Land sakes, if folks would only teach their young ones good
manners when they are young, what a sight of mortified feelings would be
saved after a while!"

Lyster left them in the midst of the very earnest plea for better
training, for he espied a new boat approaching camp. As it came closer, he
found that among the other freight it carried was the autocrat of Sinna
Ferry--Captain Leek.

"What a God-forsaken wilderness!" he exclaimed, and looked around with a
supercilious air, suggesting that he would have given the Creator of the
Kootenai country valuable points if he had been consulted. "Well, my dear
young fellow, how you have managed to exist here for three weeks I don't
know."

"Well, we had Mrs. Huzzard," explained Max, with a twinkle in his eye;
"and she is a panacea for many ills. She has made our wilderness very
endurable."

"Yes, yes; excellent woman," agreed the other, with a suspicious look.
"And 'Tana? How is she--the dear girl! I really have been much grieved to
hear of her illness; and at the earliest day I could leave my business I
am here to inquire in person regarding her health."

"Oh!" and Max struggled with a desire to laugh at the change in the
captain's attitude since 'Tana was a moneyed individual instead of a
little waif. Poor 'Tana! No wonder she looked with suspicion on
late-coming friends.

"Yes, she is better--much better," he continued, as they walked up from
the boat. "I suppose you knew that a cousin of Mrs. Huzzard, a lady from
Ohio, has been with us--in fact, came up with our party."

"So I heard--so I heard. Nice for Mrs. Huzzard. I was not in town, you
know, when you rested at the Ferry. I heard, however, that a white woman
had come up. Who is she?"

They had reached the tent, and Mrs. Huzzard, after a frantic dive toward
their very small looking glass, appeared at the door with a smile
enchanting, and a courtesy so nicely managed that it nearly took the
captain's breath away. It was the very latest of Lavina's teachings.

"Well, now, I'm mighty--hem!--I'm extremely pleased that you have called.
Have a nice trip?"

But the society tone of Mrs. Huzzard was so unlike the one he had been
accustomed to hearing her use, that the captain could only stare, and
before he recovered enough to reply, she turned and beckoned Miss Slocum,
with the idea of completing the impression made, and showing with what
grace she could present him to her cousin.

But the lately acquired style was lost on him this time, overtopped by the
presence of Miss Lavina, who gazed at him with a prolonged and steady
stare.

"And this is your friend, Captain Leek, of the Northern Army, is it?" she
asked, in her very sharpest voice--a voice she tried to temper with a
smile about her lips, though none shone in her eyes. "I have no doubt you
will be very welcome to the camp, Captain Leek."

Mrs. Huzzard had surely expected of Lavina a much more gracious reception.
But Mrs. Huzzard was a bit of a philosopher, and if Lavina chose to be
somewhat cold and unresponsive to the presence of a cultured gentleman,
well, it gave Lorena Jane so much better chance, and she was not going to
slight it.

"Come right in; you must be dead tired," she said, cordially. "Mr. Max,
you'll let Dan know he's here, won't you--that is, when he does show up
again, but no one knows how long that will be."

"Yes, I am tired," agreed the captain, meekly, and not quite at his ease
with the speculative eyes of Miss Slocum on him. "I--I brought up a few
letters that arrived at the Ferry. I can't make up my mind to trust mail
with these Indian boatmen Dan employs."

"They are a trial," agreed Mrs. Huzzard, "though they haven't the bad
effect on our nerves that one or two of the camp Indians have--an awful
squaw, who helps around, and an ugly old man, who only smokes and looks
horrible. Now, Lavina--she ain't used to no such, and she just shivers at
them."

"Yes--ah--yes," murmured the captain.

"Lavina says she knew folks of your name back in Ohio," continued Mrs.
Huzzard, cheerfully, in order to get the two strangers better acquainted.
"I thought at first maybe you'd turn out to know each other; but she says
they was Democrats," and she turned a sharp glance toward him, as if to
read his political tendencies.

"No, I never knew any Captain Leek," said Miss Slocum, "and the ones I
knew hadn't any one in the Union Army. Their principles, if they had any,
were against it, and there wasn't a Republican in the family."

"Then, of course, that would settle Captain Leek belonging to them,"
decided Mrs. Huzzard, promptly. "I don't know much about politics, but as
all our men folks wore the blue clothes, and fought in them, I was always
glad I come from a Republican State. And I guess all the Republicans that
carried guns against the Union could be counted without much arithmetic."

"I--I think I will go and look for Dan myself," observed the captain,
rising and looking around a little uncertainly at Miss Slocum. "I brought
some letters he may want."

He made his bow and placed the picturesque corded hat on his head as he
went out. But Mrs. Huzzard looked after him somewhat anxiously.

"He's sick," she decided as he vanished from her view; "I never did see
him walk so draggy like. And don't you judge his manners, either, Lavina,
from this first sight of him, for he ain't himself to-day."

"He didn't look to me as though he knew who he was," remarked Lavina; and
after a little she looked up from the tidy she was knitting. "So, Lorena
Jane, that is the man you've been trying to educate yourself up to more
than for anybody else--now, tell the truth!"

"Well, I don't mind saying that it was his good manners made me see how
bad mine were," she confessed; "but as for training for him--"

"I see," said Miss Lavina, grimly, "and it is all right; but I just
thought I'd ask."

Then she relapsed into deep thought, and made the needles click with
impatience all that afternoon.

The captain came near the tent once, but retreated at the vision of the
knitter. He talked with Mrs. Huzzard in the cabin of Harris, but did not
visit her again in her own tent; and the poor woman began to wonder if the
air of the Kootenai woods had an erratic influence on people. Dan was
changed, 'Tana was changed, and now the captain seemed unlike himself from
the very moment of his arrival. Even Lavina was a bit curt and
indifferent, and Lorena Jane wondered where it would end.

In the midst of her perplexity, 'Tana added to it by appearing before her
in the Indian dress Overton had presented her with. Since her sickness it
had hung unused in her cabin, and the two women had fashioned garments
more suitable, they thought, to a young girl who could wear real laces now
if she chose. But there she was again, dressed like any little squaw, and
although rather pale to suit the outfit, she said she wanted a few more
"Indian hours" before departing for the far-off Eastern city that was to
her as a new world.

She received Captain Leek with an unconcern that was discouraging to the
pretty speeches he had prepared to utter.

Dan returned and looked sharply at her as she sat whittling a stick of
which she said she meant to make a cane--a staff for mountain climbing.

"Where do you intend climbing?" he asked.

She waved the stick toward the hill back of them, the first step of the
mountain.

"It is only a few hours since I picked you up down there, looking as if
you were dead," he said, impatiently; "and you know you are not fit to
tramp."

"Well, I'm not dead yet, anyway," she answered, with a shrug of her
shoulders; "and as I'm going to break away from this camp about to-morrow,
I thought I'd like to see a bit of the woods first."

"You--are going--to-morrow?"

"I reckon so."

"'Tana! And you have not said a word to me of it? That was not very
friendly, little girl."

She did not reply, but bent her head low over her work.

After observing her for a while in silence, he arose and put on his hat.

"Here is my knife," he remarked. "You had better use it, if you are
determined to haggle at that stick. Your own knife is too dull for any
use. You can leave it here in the cabin when you are done with it."

She accepted it without a word, but flushed red when he had gone, and she
found the eyes of Harris regarding her sadly.

"'Not very friendly,'" she said, going over Overton's words--"you think
that, too--don't you? You think I'm ugly, and saucy, and awful, I know!
You look scoldings at me; but if you knew all, maybe you wouldn't--if you
knew that my heart is just about breaking. I'm going out where there is no
one to talk to, or I'll be crying next."

The two cousins and the captain were in 'Tana's cabin. Mrs. Huzzard was
determined that Miss Slocum and the captain should become acquainted, and,
getting sight of the girl, who was walking alone across the level, she at
once followed her, thinking that the two left behind would perhaps become
more social if left entirely to themselves. And they did; that is, they
talked, and the captain spoke first.

"So you--you bear a grudge--don't you, Lavina?"

"Well, I guess if I owed you a very heavy one, I've got a good chance to
pay it off now," she remarked, grimly.

He twirled his hat in a dejected way, and did not speak.

"You an officer in the Union Army?" she continued, derisively. "You a
pattern of what a gentleman should be; you to set up as superior to these
rough-handed miners; you to act as if this Government owes you a pension!
Why, how would it be with you, Alf Leek, if I'd tell this camp the truth
of how you went away, engaged to me, twenty-five years ago, and never let
me set eyes on you since--of how I wore black for you, thinking you were
killed in the war, till I heard that you had deserted. I took off that
mourning quick, I can tell you! I thought you were fighting on the wrong
side; yet if you had a good reason for being there, you should have staid
and fought so long as there was breath in you. And if I was to tell them
here that you haven't a particle of right to wear that blue suit that
looks like a uniform, and that you were no more 'captain' of anything than
I am--well, I guess Lorena Jane wouldn't have much to say to you, though
maybe Mr. Overton would."

He grew actually pale as he listened. His fear of some one overhearing her
was as great as his own mortification.

"But you--you won't tell--will you, Lavina?" he said pleadingly. "I
haven't done any harm! I--"

"Harm! Alf Leek, you never had enough backbone to do either harm or help
to any one in this world. But don't you suppose you did me harm when you
spoiled me for ever trusting any other man?"

"I--I would have come back, but I thought you'd be married," he said, in a
feeble, hopeless way.

"Likely that is now, ain't it?" she demanded. And, woman-like, now that
she had reduced him to meekness and humiliation, she grew a shade less
severe, as if pretty well satisfied. "I had other things to think of
besides a husband."

"You won't tell--will you, Lavina? I'll tell you how it all happened, some
day. Then I'll leave this country."

"You'll not," she contradicted. "You'll stay right here as long as I do,
and I won't tell just so long as you keep from trying to make Lorena Jane
believe how great you are. But at the first word of your heroic actions,
or the cultured society you were always used to--"

"You'll never hear of them," he said eagerly, "never. I knew you wouldn't
make trouble, Lavina, for you always were such a good, kind-hearted
girl."

He offered his hand to her, sheepishly, and she gave it a vixenish slap.

"Don't try any of your skim-milk praise on me," she said, tartly. "Huh!
You, that Lorena thought was a pillar of cultured society! When, the Lord
knows, you wouldn't have known how to read the addresses on your own
letters if I hadn't taught you!"

He moved to the door in a crestfallen manner, and stood there a moment,
moistening his lips, and apparently swallowing words that could not be
uttered.

"That's so, Lavina," he said, at last, and went out.

"There!" she muttered aggrievedly--"that's Alf Leek, just as he always
was. Give him a chance, and he'd ride over any one; but get the upper hand
of him, and he is meeker than Moses. Not that much meekness is needed to
come up to Moses, either." Then, after an impatient tattoo, she
exclaimed:

"Gracious me! I do wish he hadn't looked so crushed, and had talked back a
little."



CHAPTER XXII.

THE MURDER.


That evening, as the dusk fell, a slight figure in an Indian dress slipped
to the low brush back of the cabin, and thence to the uplands.

It was 'Tana, ready to endure all the wilds of the woods, rather than stay
there and meet again the man she had met the night before. She had sent
the squaw away; she had arranged in Mrs. Huzzard's tent a little game of
cards that would hold the attention of Lyster and the others; and then she
had slipped away, that she might, for just once more, feel free on the
mountain, as she had felt when they first located their camp in the sweet
grass of the Twin Springs.

The moon would be up after a while. She could not walk far, but she meant
to sit somewhere up there in the high ground until the moon should roll up
over the far mountains.

The mere wearing of the Indian dress gave her a feeling of being herself
once more, for in the pretty conventional dress made for her by Mrs.
Huzzard, she felt like another girl--a girl she did not know very well.

In the southwest long streaks of red and yellow lay across the sky, and a
clear radiance filled the air, as it does when a new moon is born after
the darkness. She felt the beauty of it all, and stretched out her arms as
though to draw the peaks of the hills to her.

But, as she stepped forward, a form arose before her--a tall, decided
form, and a decided voice said:

"No, 'Tana, you have gone far enough."

"Dan!"

"Yes--it is Dan this time, and not the other fellow. If he is waiting for
you to-night, I will see that he waits a long time."

"You--you!" she murmured, and stepped back from him. Then, her first
fright over, she straightened herself defiantly.

"Why do you think any one is waiting for me?" she demanded. "What do you
know? I am heartsick with all this hiding, and--and deceit. If you know
the truth, speak out, and end it all!"

"I can't say any more than you know already," he answered--"not so much;
but last night a man was in your cabin, a man you know and quarreled with.
I didn't hear you; don't think I was spying on you. A miner who passed the
cabin heard your voices and told me something was wrong. You don't give me
any right to advise you or dictate to you, 'Tana, but one thing you shall
not do, that is, steal to the woods to meet him. And if I find him in your
cabin, I promise you he sha'n't die of old age."

"You would kill him?"

"Like a snake!" and his voice was harsher, colder, than she had ever heard
it. "I'm not asking you any questions, 'Tana. I know it was the man whom
you--saw that night at the spring, and would not let me follow. I know
there is something wrong, or he would come to see you, like a man, in
daylight. If the others here knew it, they would say things not kind to
you. And that is why it sha'n't go on."

"Sha'n't? What right have you--to--to--"

"You will say none," he answered, curtly, "because you do not know."

"Do not know what?" she interrupted, but he only drew a deep breath and
shook his head.

"Tana, don't meet this man again," he said, pleadingly. "Trust me to judge
for you. I don't want to be harsh with you. I don't want you to go away
with hard thoughts against me. But this has got to stop--you must promise
me."

"And if I refuse?"

"Then I'd look for the man, and he never would meet you again."

A little shiver ran over her as he spoke. She knew what he meant, and,
despite her bitter words last night to her visitor, the thought was
horrible to her that Dan--

She covered her face with her hands and turned away.

"Don't do that, little girl," he said, and laid his hand on her arm.
"'Tana!"

She flung off his hand as though it stung her, and into her mind flashed
remembrance of Jake Emmons from Spokane--of him and his words.

"Don't touch me!" she half sobbed. "Don't you say another word to me! I am
going away to-morrow, and I have promised to marry Max Lyster."

His hand dropped to his side, and his face shone white in the wan glimmer
of the stars.

"You have promised that?" he said, at last, drawing his breath hard
through his shut teeth. "Well--it is right, I suppose--right. Come! I will
take you back to him now. He is the best one to guard you. Come!"

She drew away and looked from him across to where the merest rim of the
rising moon was to be seen across the hills. The thought of that other
night came to her, the night when they had stood close to each other in
the moonlight. How happy she had been for that one little space of time!
And now--Ah! she scarcely dare allow him to speak kindly to her, lest she
grow weak enough to long for that blind content once more.

"Come, Tana."

"Go. I will follow after a little," she answered, without turning her
head.

"I may never trouble you to walk with you again," he said, in a low,
constrained tone; "but this time I must see you safe in the tent before I
leave."

"Leave! Going! Where to?" she asked, and her voice trembled in spite of
herself. She clasped her hands tightly, and he could see the flash of the
ring he had given her. She had put it on with the Indian dress.

"That does not matter much, does it?" he returned; "but somewhere, far
enough up the lake not to trouble you again while you stay. Come."

She walked beside him without another word; words seemed so useless. She
had said words over and over again to herself all that day--words of his
wrong to her in not telling her of that other woman, words of reproach,
bitter and keen; yet none of her reasoning kept her from wanting to touch
his hand as he walked beside her.

But she did not. Even when they reached the level by the springs, she only
looked her farewell to him, but did not speak.

"Good-by," he said, in a voice that was not like Dan's voice.

She merely bowed her head, and walked away toward the tent where she heard
Mrs. Huzzard laughing.

She halted near the cabin, and then hurried on, dreading to enter it yet,
lest she should meet the man she was trying to avoid.

Overton watched her until she reached the tent. The moon had just escaped
the horizon, and threw its soft misty light over all the place. He pulled
his hat low over his eyes, and, turning, took the opposite direction.

Only a few minutes elapsed when Lyster remembered he had promised Dan to
look after Harris, and rose to go to the cabin.

"I will go, too," said 'Tana, filled with nervous dread lest he encounter
some one on her threshold, though she had all reason to expect that her
disguised visitor had come and gone ere that.

"Well, well, 'Tana, you are a restless mortal," said Mrs. Huzzard. "You've
only just come, and now you must be off again. What did you do that you
wanted to be all alone for this evening? Read verses, I'll go bail."

"No, I didn't read verses," answered 'Tana. "But you needn't go along to
the cabin."

"Well, I will then. You are not fit to sleep alone. And, if it wasn't for
the beastly snakes!--"

"We will go and see Harris," said the girl, and so they entered his cabin,
where he sat alone with a bright light burning.

Some newspapers, brought by the captain, were spread before him on a rough
reading stand rigged up by one of the miners.

He looked pale and tired, as though the effort of perusing them had been
rather too much for him.

Listen as she might, the girl could hear never a sound from her own cabin.
She stood by the blanket door, connecting the two rooms, but not a
breath came to her. She sighed with relief at the certainty that he had
come and gone. She would never see him again.

"Shall I light your lamp?" asked Lyster; and, scarce waiting for a reply,
he drew back the blanket and entered the darkness of the other cabin.

Two of the miners came to the door just then, detailed to look after
Harris for the night. One was the good-natured, talkative Emmons.

"Glad to see you are so much better, miss," he said, with an expansive
smile. "But you scared the wits nearly out of me this morning."

Then they heard the sputter of a match in the next room, and a sharp,
startled cry from Lyster, as the blaze gave a feeble light to the
interior.

He staggered back among the rest, with the dying match in his fingers, and
his face ashen gray.

"Snakes!" half screamed Mrs. Huzzard. "Oh, my! oh, my!"

'Tana, after one look at Lyster, tried to enter the room, but he caught
and held her.

"Don't, dear!--don't go in there! It's awful--awful!"

"What's wrong?" demanded one of the miners, and picked up a lamp from
beside Harris.

"Look! It is Akkomi!" answered Lyster.

At the name 'Tana broke from him and ran into the room, even before the
light reached it.

But she did not take many steps. Her foot struck against something on the
floor, an immovable body and a silent one.

"Akkomi--sure enough," said the miner, as he saw the Indian's blanket.
"Drunk, I suppose--Indian fashion."

But as he held the light closer, he took hold of the girl's arm, and tried
to lead her from the scene.

"You'd better leave this to us, miss," he added, in a grave tone. "The man
ain't drunk. He's been murdered!"

'Tana, white as death itself, shook off his grasp and stood with tightly
clasped hands, unheeding the words of horror around her, scarce hearing
the shriek of Mrs. Huzzard, as that lady, forgetful even of the snakes,
sank to the floor, a very picture of terror.

'Tana saw the roll of money scattered over the couch; the little bag of
free gold drawn from under the pillow. He had evidently been stooping to
secure it when the assassin crept behind him and left him dead there, with
a knife sticking between his shoulders.

"The very knife you had to-day!" said Lyster, horror-stricken at the
sight.

The miner with the lamp turned and looked at her strangely, and his eyes
dropped from her face to her clasped hands, on which the ring of the
snakes glittered.

"Your knife?" he asked, and others, attracted by Mrs. Huzzard's scream,
stood around the doors and looked at her too.

She nodded her head, scarce understanding the significance of it, and
never taking her eyes from the dead man, whose face was yet hidden.

"He may not be dead," she said, at last. "Look!"

"Oh, he's dead, safe enough," and Emmons lifted his hand. "Was he trying
to rob you?"

"I--no--I don't know," she answered, vaguely.

Then another man turned the body over, and utter surprise was on every
face; for, though it was Akkomi's blanket, it was a much younger man who
lay there.

"A white man, by Heavens!" said the miner who had first entered. "A white
man, with brown paint on his face and hands! But, look here!" and he
pulled down the collar of the dead man's shirt, and showed a skin fair as
a child's.

"Something terribly crooked here," he continued. "Where is Overton?"

Overton! At the name her very heart grew cold within her. Had he not
threatened he would kill the man who visited her at night? Had he come
straight to the cabin after leaving her? Had he kept his word? Had he--

"I think Overton left camp after supper--started for the lake," answered
some one.

"Well, we'll do our best to get it straight without him, then. Some of you
see what time it is. This man has been dead about a half hour. Mr. Lyster,
you had better write down all about it; and, if any one here has any
information to give, let him have it."

His eyes were on the girl's face, but she said nothing, and he bent to
wipe off the stain from the dead man's face. Some one brought water, and
in a little while was revealed the decidedly handsome face of a man about
forty-five years old.

"Do any of you know him?" asked the miner, who, by circumstance, appeared
to have been given the office of speaker--"look--all of you."

One after another the men approached, but shook their heads; until an old
miner, gray-haired and weather-beaten, gave vent to a half-smothered oath
at sight of him.

"Know him?" he exclaimed. "Well, I do, though it's five years since I saw
him. Heavens! I'd rather have found him alive than dead, though, for there
is a standing reward offered for him by two States. Why, it's the
card-sharper, horse-thief and renegade--Lee Holly!"

"But who could have killed him?"

"That is Overton's knife," said one of the men.

"But Overton had not had it since noon," said 'Tana, speaking for the
first time in explanation. "I borrowed it then."

"You borrowed it? For what?"

"Oh--I forget. To cut a stick with, I think."

"You think. I'm sorry to speak rough to a lady, miss but this is a time
for knowing--not thinking."

"What do you mean by that?" demanded Lyster.

The man looked at him squarely.

"Nothing to offend innocent folks," he answered. "A murder has been done
in this lady's room, with a knife she acknowledges she has had possession
of. It's natural enough to question her first of all."

The color had crept into her face once more. She knew what the man meant,
and knew that the longer they looked on her with suspicion, the more time
Overton would have to escape. Then, when they learned they were on a false
scent, it would be late--too late to start after him. She wished he had
taken the money and the gold. She shuddered as she thought him a
murderer--the murderer of that man; but, with what skill she could, she
would keep them off his track.

Her thoughts ran fast, and a half smile touched her lips. Even with that
dead body at her feet, she was almost happy at the hope of saving him. The
others noticed it, and looked at her in wonder. Lyster said:

"You are right. But Miss Rivers could know nothing of this. She has been
with us since the moon rose, and that is more than a half-hour."

"No, only fifteen minutes," said one of the men.

"Well, where were you for the half-hour before the moon rose?" asked the
man who seemed examiner. "That is really the time most interesting to this
case."

"Why, good heavens, man!" cried Lyster, but 'Tana interrupted:

"I was walking up on the hill about that time."

"Alone?"

"Alone."

Mrs. Huzzard groaned dismally, and Lyster caught 'Tana by the hand.

"'Tana! think what you are saying. You don't realize how serious this
is."

"One more question," and the man looked at her very steadily. "Were you
not expecting this man to-night?"

"I sha'n't answer any more of your questions," she answered, coldly.

Lyster turned on the man with clenched hands and a face white with anger.

"How dare you insult her with such a question?" he asked, hoarsely. "How
could it be possible for Miss Rivers to know this renegade horse-thief?"

"Well, I'll tell you," said the man, drawing a long breath and looking at
the girl. "It ain't a pleasant thing to do; but as we have no courts up
here, we have to straighten out crimes in a camp the best way we can. My
name is Saunders. That man over there is right--this is Lee Holly; and I
am sure now that I saw him leave this cabin last night. I passed the cabin
and heard voices--hers and a man's. I heard her say: 'While I can't quite
decide to kill you myself, I hope some one else will.' The rest of their
words were not so clear. I told Overton when he came back, but the man
was gone then. You ask me how I dare think she could tell something of
this if she chose. Well, I can't help it. She is wearing a ring I'll swear
I saw Lee Holly wear three years ago, at a card table in Seattle. I'll
swear it! And he is lying here dead in her room, with a knife sticking in
him that she had possession of to-day. Now, gentlemen, what do you think
of it yourselves?"



CHAPTER XXIII.

GOOD-BY.


"Oh, 'Tana, it is awful--awful!" and poor Mrs. Huzzard rocked herself in a
spasm of woe. "And to think that you won't say a word--not a single word!
It just breaks my heart."

"Now, now! I'll say lots of things if you will talk of something besides
murders. And I'll mend your broken heart when this trouble is all over,
you will see!"

"Over! I'm mightily afraid it is only commencing. And you that cool and
indifferent you are enough to put one crazy! Oh, if Dan Overton was only
here."

The girl smiled. All the hours of the night had gone by. He had at least
twelve hours' start, and the men of the camp had not yet suspected him for
even a moment. They had questioned Harris, and he told them, by signs,
that no man had gone through his cabin, no one had been in since dark; but
he had heard a movement in the other room. The knife he had seen 'Tana
take into the other room long before dark.

"And some one quarreling with this Holly--or following him--may have
chanced on it and used it," contested Lyster, who was angered, dismayed,
and puzzled at 'Tana, quite as much as at the finding of the body. Her
answers to all questions were so persistently detrimental to her own
cause.

"Don't be uneasy--they won't hang me," she assured him. "Think of them
hanging any one for killing Lee Holly! The man who did it--if he knows
whom he was settling for--was a fool not to face the camp and get credit
for it. Every man would have shaken hands with him. But just because there
is a little mystery about it, they try to make it out a crime. Pooh!"

"Oh, child!" exclaimed Mrs. Huzzard, totally scandalized. "A murder! Of
course it is a crime--the greatest."

"I don't think so. It is a greater crime to bring a soul into the world
and then neglect it--let it drift into any hell on earth that nets
it--than it is to send a soul out of the world, to meet heaven, if it
deserves it. There are times when murder is justifiable, but there are
certain other crimes that nothing could ever justify."

"Why, 'Tana!" and Mrs. Huzzard looked at her helplessly. But Miss Slocum
gave the girl a more understanding regard.

"You speak very bitterly for a young girl; as if you had thought a great
deal on this question."

"I have," she acknowledged, promptly; "you think it is not a very nice
question for girls to study about, don't you? Well, it isn't nice, but
it's true. I happen to be one of the souls dragged into life by people who
didn't think they had responsibilities. Miss Slocum, maybe that is why I
am extra bitter on the subject."

"But not--not against your parents, 'Tana?" said Mrs. Huzzard, in dismay.

The girl's mouth drew hard and unlovely at the question.

"I don't know much about religion," she said, after a little, "and I don't
know that it matters much--now don't faint, Mrs. Huzzard! but I'm pretty
certain old married men who had families were the ones who laid down the
law about children in the Bible. They say 'spare the rod and spoil the
child,' and then say 'honor your father and mother.' They seem to think it
a settled thing that all fathers and mothers are honorable--but they
ain't; and that all children need beating--and they don't."

"Oh, 'Tana!"

"And I think it is that one-sided commandment that makes folks think that
all the duty must go from children to the parents, and not a word is said
of the duty people owe to the souls they bring into the world. I don't
think it's a square deal."

"A square deal! Why, 'Tana!"

"Isn't it so?" she asked, moodily. "You think a girl is a pretty hard case
if she doesn't give proper respect and duty to her parents, don't you? But
suppose they are the sort of people no one can respect--what then? Seems
to me the first duty is from the parent to the children--the duty of
caring for them, loving them, and teaching them right. A child can't owe a
debt of duty when it never received the duties it should have first. Oh, I
may not say this clearly as I feel it."

"But you know, 'Tana," said Miss Slocum, "that if there is no commandment
as to parents giving care to their children, it is only because it is so
plainly a natural thing to do that it was unnecessary to command it."

"No more natural than for a child to honor any person who is honorable, or
to love the parent who loves him, and teaches him rightly. Huh! If a child
is not able to love and respect a parent, it is the child who loses the
most."

Miss Slocum looked at her sadly.

"I can't scold you as I would try to scold many a one in your place," she
said, "for I feel as if you must have traveled over some long, hard path
of troubles, before you could reach this feeling you have. But, 'Tana,
think of brighter things; young girls should never drift into those
perplexing questions. They will make you melancholy if you brood on such
things."

"Melancholy? Well, I think not," and she smiled and shrugged her
shoulders. "Seems to me I'm the least gloomy person in camp this morning.
All the rest of you look as though Mr. Holly had been your bosom friend."

She talked recklessly--they thought heartlessly--of the murder, and the
two women were strongly inclined to think the shock of the affair had
touched her brain, for she showed no concern whatever as to her own
position, but treated it as a joke. And when she realized that she was to
a certain extent under guard, she seemed to find amusement in that, too.
Her expressions, when the cousins grew pitiful over the handsome face of
Holly, were touched with ridicule.

"I wonder if there was ever a man too low and vile to get woman's pity, if
he only had a pretty face," she said, caustically. "If he was an ugly,
old, half-decent fellow, you wouldn't be making any soft-hearted surmises
as to what he might have been under different circumstances. He has
spoiled the lives of several tenderhearted women like you--yet you pity
him!"

"'Tana, I never knew you to be so set against any one as you are against
that poor dead man," declared Mrs. Huzzard. "Not so much wonder the folks
think you know how it happened, for you always had a helping word for
the worst old tramp or beggarly Indian that came around; but for this man
you have nothing but unkindness."

"No," agreed the girl, "and you would like to think him a romantic victim
of somebody, just because he is so good-looking. I'm going to talk to
Harris. He won't sympathize with the wrong side, I am sure."

He looked up eagerly as she entered, his eyes full of anxious question.
She touched his hand kindly and sat close beside him as she talked.

"You want to know all about it, don't you?" she asked, softly. "Well, it
is all over. He was alive, after all, and I would not believe it. But now
you need never trail him again, you can rest now, for he is dead. Somebody
else has--has owed him a grudge, too. They think I am the somebody, but
you don't believe that?"

He shook his head decidedly.

"No," she continued; "though for one moment, Joe, I thought that it might
have been you. Yes, I did; for of course I knew it was only weakness would
keep you from it, if you were in reach of him. But I remembered at once
that it could not be, for the hand that struck him was strong."

He assented in his silent way, and watched her face closely, as if to read
the shadows of thought thrown on it by her feelings.

"It's awful, ain't it?" she whispered. "It is what I said I hoped for, and
just yet I can't be sorry--I can't! But, after this stir is all over, I
know it will trouble me, make me sorry because I am not sorry now. I can't
cry, but I do feel like screaming. And see! every once in a while my hands
tremble; I tremble all over. Oh, it is awful!"

She buried her face in her hands. Only to him did she show any of the
feeling with which the death of the man touched her.

"And you can't tell me anything of how it was done?" she said, at last.
"You so near--did you see any one?"

She longed to ask if he had seen Overton, but dared not utter his name,
lest he might suspect as she did. Each hour that went by was an added gain
to her for him. Of course he had struck, not knowing who the man was. If
he had known, it would have been so easy to say, "I found him robbing the
cabin. I killed him," and there would have been no further question
concerning it.

"But if all the other bars were beaten down between us, this one would
keep me from ever shaking hands with him again. Why should it have been he
out of all the camp? Oh, it makes my heart ache!"

While she sat thus, with miserable thoughts, others came to the door, and
looking up, she saw Akkomi, who looked on her with keen, accusing eyes.

"No--it is not true, Akkomi," she said, in his own jargon. "Keep silent
for a little while of the things these people do not know--a little while,
and then I can tell you who it is I am shielding, but not yet."

"Him!" and the eyes of the Indian turned to the paralytic.

"No--not him; truly not," she said, earnestly. "It is some one you would
want to help if you knew--some one who is going fast on the path from
these people. They will learn soon it is not I; but till then, keep
silence."

"Dan--where?" he asked, laconically, and her face paled at the question.

Had he any reason to suspect the dread in her own mind? But a moment's
thought reassured her. He had asked simply because Overton seemed always
to him the controlling spirit of the camp, and Overton was the one he
would have speech with, if any.

"Overton left last night for the lake," explained Lyster, who had entered
and heard the name of Dan and the interrogative tone. Then the blanket was
brought to Akkomi--his blanket, in which the man had died.

"I sold it to the white man--that is all," he answered through 'Tana; and
more than that he would not say except to inform them he would wait for
Dan. Which was, in fact, the general desire of the committee organized to
investigate.

They all appeared to be waiting for Dan. Lyster did not by any means fill
his place, simply because Lyster's interest in 'Tana was too apparent, and
there was little of the cool quality of reason in his attitude toward the
mysterious case. He did not believe the ring she wore had belonged to
Holly, though she refused to tell the source from which it had reached
her. He did not believe the man who said he heard that war of words at her
cabin in the evening--at least, when others were about, he acted as if he
did not believe it. But when he and 'Tana chanced to be alone, she felt
the doubt there must be in his mind, and a regret for him touched her. For
his sake she was sorry, but not sorry enough to clear the mystery at the
expense of that other man she thought she was shielding.

Captain Leek had been dispatched with all speed to the lake works, that
Seldon, Haydon, and Overton might be informed of the trouble in camp, and
hasten back to settle it. To send for them was the only thing Lyster
thought of doing, for he himself felt powerless against the lot of men,
who were not harsh or rude in any way, but who simply wanted to know
"why"--so many "whys" that he could not answer.

Not less trying to him were the several who persisted in asserting that
she had done a commendable thing--that the country ought to feel grateful
to her, for the man had made trouble along the Columbia for years. He and
his confederates had done ugly work along the border, etc., etc.

"Sorry you asked me, Max?" she said, seeing his face grow gloomy under
their cheering (?) assertions.

He did not answer at once, afraid his impatience with her might make
itself apparent in his speech.

"No, I'm not sorry," he said, at last; "but I shall be relieved when the
others arrive from the lake. Since you utterly refuse to confide even in
me, you render me useless as to serving you; and--well--I can't feel
flattered that you confide in me no more than in the strangers here."

"I know," she agreed, with a little sigh, "it is hard on you, and it will
be harder still if the story of this should ever creep out of the
wilderness to the country where you come from--wouldn't it?" and she
looked at him very sharply, noting the swift color flush his face, as
though she had read his thoughts. "Yes--so it's lucky, Max, that we
haven't talked to others about that little conditional promise, isn't it?
So it will be easier to forget, and no one need know."

"You mean you think me the sort of fellow to break our engagement just
because these fools have mixed you up with this horror?" he asked,
angrily. "You've no right to think that of me; neither have you the
right--in justice to me as well as yourself--to maintain this very
suggestive manner about all things connected with the murder. Why can you
not tell more clearly where your time was spent last evening? Why will you
not tell where the ring came from? Why will you see me half-frantic over
the whole miserable affair, when you could, I am sure, easily change it?"

"Oh, Max, I don't want to worry you--indeed I don't! But--" and she smiled
mirthlessly. "I told you once I was a 'hoodoo.' The people who like me are
always sure to have trouble brewing for them. That is why I say you had
better give me up, Max; for this is only the beginning."

"Don't talk like that; it is folly," he said, in a sharp tone. "'Hoodoo!'
Nonsense! When Overton and the others arrive, they will find a means of
changing the ideas of these people, in spite of your reticence; and then
maybe old Akkomi may find words, too. He sits outside the door as
impassive as the clay image you gave me and bewitched me with."

She smiled faintly, thinking of those days--how very long ago they seemed,
yet it was this same summer.

"I feel as if I had lived a long time since I played with that clay," she
said, wistfully; "so many things have been made different for me."

Then she arose and walked about the little room restlessly, while the eyes
of Harris never left her. Into the other room she had not gone at all, for
in it was the dead stranger.

"When do you look for your uncle and Mr. Haydon?" she asked, at last, for
the silences were hardest to endure.

She would laugh, or argue, or ridicule--do anything rather than sit silent
with questioning eyes upon her. She even grew to fancy that Harris must
accuse her--he watched her so!

"When do we look for them? Well, I don't dare let myself decide. I only
hope they may have made a start back, and will meet the captain on his
way. As to Dan--he had not so very much the start, and they ought to catch
up with him, for there were the two Indian canoeists--the two best ones;
and when they are racing over the water, with an object, they surely ought
to make better time than he. I can't see that he had any very pressing
reason for going at all."

"He doesn't talk much about his reasons," she answered.

"No; that's a fact," he agreed, "and less of late than when I knew him
first. But he'll make Akkomi talk, maybe, when he arrives--and I hope you,
too."

"When he arrives!"

She thought the words, but did not say them aloud. She sat long after Max
had left her, and thought how many hours must elapse before they
discovered that Dan had not followed the other men to the lake works. She
felt sure that he was somewhere in the wilderness, avoiding the known
paths, alone, and perhaps hating her as the cause of his isolation,
because she would not confess what the man was to her, but left him
blindly to keep his threat, and kill him when found in her room.

Ah! why not have trusted him with the whole truth? She asked herself the
question as she sat there, but the mere thought of it made her face grow
hot, and her jaws set defiantly.

She would not--she could not! so she told herself. Better--better far be
suspected of a murder--live all her life under the blame of it for
him--than to tell him of a past that was dead to her now, a past she
hated, and from which she had determined to bar herself as far as silence
could build the wall. And to tell him--him--she could not.

But even as she sat, with her burning face in her hands, quick, heavy
steps came to the door, halted, and looking up she found Dan before her.

"Oh! you should not," she whispered, hurriedly. "Why did you come back?
They do not suspect; they think I did it--and so--"

"What does this all mean?--what do you mean?" he asked. "Can't you
speak?"

It seemed she could not find any more words, she stared at him so
helplessly.

"Max, come here!" he called, to hasten steps already approaching. "Come,
all of you; I had only a moment to listen to the captain when he caught up
with me. But he told me she is suspected of murder--that a ring she wore
last night helped the suspicion on. I didn't wait to hear any more, for I
gave the little girl that snake ring--gave it to her weeks ago. I bought
it from a miner, and he told me he got it from an Indian near Karlo. Now
are you ready to suspect me, too, because I had it first?"

"The ring wasn't just the most important bit of circumstantial evidence,
Mr. Overton," answered the man named Saunders; "and we are all mighty glad
you've got here. It was in her room the man was found, and a knife she
borrowed from you was what killed him; and of where she was just about the
time the thing happened she won't say anything."

His face paled slightly as he looked at her and heard the brief summing up
of the case.

"My knife?" he said, blankly.

"Yes, sir. When some one said it was your knife, she spoke up and said it
was, but that you had not had it since noon, for she borrowed it then to
cut a stick; but beyond that she don't tell a thing."

"Who is the man?"

"The renegade--Lee Holly."

"Lee Holly!" He turned a piercing glance on Harris, remembering the deep
interest he had shown in that man Lee Holly and his partner, "Monte."

Harris met his gaze without flinching, and nodded his head as if in
assent.

And that was the man found dead in her room!

The faces of the people seemed for a moment an indistinct blur before his
eyes; then he rallied and turned to her.

"'Tana, you never did it," he said, reassuringly; "or if you did, it has
been justifiable, and I know it. If it was necessary to do it in any
self-defense, don't be afraid to tell it all plainly. No one would blame
you. It is only this mystery that makes them want to hear the truth."

She only looked at him. Was he acting? Did he himself know nothing? The
hope that it was so--that she had deceived herself--made her tremble as
she had not at danger to herself. She had risen to her feet as he entered,
but she swayed as if to fall, and he caught her, not knowing it was hope
instead of despair that took the color from her face and left her
helpless.

"Courage, 'Tana! Tell us what you can. I left you just as the moon came
up. I saw you go to Mrs. Huzzard's tent. Now, where did you go after
that?"

"What?" almost shouted Lyster. "You were with her when the moon rose. Are
you sure?"

"Sure? Of course I am. Why?"

"And how long before that, Mr. Overton?" asked Saunders; "for that is a
very important point."

"About a half-hour, I should say--maybe a little more," he answered,
staring at them. "Now, what important thing does that prove?"

One of the men gave a cheer; three or four had come up to the door when
they saw Overton, and they took the yell up with a will. Mrs. Huzzard
started to run from the tent, but grew so nervous that she had to wait
until Miss Slocum came to her aid.

"What in the world does it mean?" she gasped.

Saunders turned around with an honestly pleased look.

"It means that Mr. Overton here has brought word that clears Miss Rivers
of being at the cabin when the murder was done--that's what it means; and
we are all too glad over it to keep quiet. But why in the world didn't you
tell us that, miss?"

But she did not say a word. All about Dan were exclamations and disjointed
sentences, from which he could gain little actual knowledge, and he turned
to Lyster, impatiently:

"Can't you tell me--can't some of you tell me, what I have cleared up for
her? When was this killing supposed to be done?"

"At or a little before moonrise," said Max, his face radiant once more.
"'Tana--don't you know what he has done for you? taken away all of that
horribly mistaken suspicion you let rest on you. Where was she, Dan?"

"Last night? Oh, up above the bluff there--went up when the pretty red
lights were in the sky, and staid until the moon rose. I came across her
up there, and advised her not to range away alone; so, when she got good
and ready, she walked back again, and went to the tent where you folks
were. Then I struck the creek, decided I would take a run up the lake, and
left without seeing any of you again. And all this time 'Tana has had a
guard over her. Some of you must have been crazy."

"Well, then, I guess I was the worst lunatic of the lot," confessed
Saunders. "But to tell the truth, Mr. Overton, it looks to me now as if
she encouraged suspicion--yes, it does. 'Overton's knife,' said some one;
but, quick as could be, she spoke up and said it was she who had it, and
she didn't mind just where she left it. And as to where she was at that
time, well, she just wouldn't give us a bit of satisfaction. Blest if I
don't think she wanted us to suspect her."

"Oh!" he breathed, as if in understanding, and her first words swept back
to him, her nervous--"Why did you come back? They suspect me!" Surely that
cry was as a plea for his own safety; it spoke through eyes and voice as
well as words. Some glimmer of the truth came to him.

"Come, 'Tana!" he said, and reached his hand to her. "Where is the
man--Holly? I should like to go in. Will you come, too?"

She rose without a word, and no one attempted to follow them.

Mrs. Huzzard heaved a prodigious sigh of content.

"Oh, that girl Montana!" she exclaimed. "I declare she ain't like any girl
I ever did see! This morning, when she was a suspected criminal, she was
talky, and even laughed, and now that she's cleared, she won't lift her
head to look at any one. I do wonder if that sort of queerness is catching
in these woods. I declare I feel most scared enough to leave."

But Lyster reassured her.

"Remember how sick she has been; and think what a shock this whole affair
has been to weak nerves," he said, for with Dan's revelations he had grown
blissfully content once more, "and as for that fellow hearing voices in
her cabin--nonsense! She had been reading some poem or play aloud. She is
fond of reading so, and does it remarkably well. He heard her spouting in
there for the benefit of Harris, and imagined she was making threats to
some one. Poor little girl! I'm determined she sha'n't remain here any
longer."

"Are you?" asked Mrs. Huzzard, dryly. "Well, Mr. Max, so long as I've
known her, I've always found 'Tana makes her own determinations--and
sticks to them, too."

"I'm glad to be reminded of that," he retorted, "for she promised me
yesterday to marry me some time."

"Bless my soul!"

"If she didn't change her mind," he added, laughingly.

"To marry you! Well, well, well!" and she stared at him so queerly, that a
shade of irritation crossed his face.

"Why not?" he asked. "Don't you think that a plain, ordinary man is good
enough for your wild-flower of the Kootenai hills?"

"Oh, you're not plain at all, Mr. Max Lyster," she returned, "and I'll go
bail many a woman who is smarter than either 'Tana or me has let you know
it! It ain't the plainness--it's the difference. And--well, well! you know
you've been quarreling ever since you met."

"But that is all over now," he promised; "and haven't you a good wish for
us?"

"Indeed I have, then--a many of them, but you have surprised me. I used to
think that's how it would end; and then--well, then, a different notion
got in my head. Now that it's settled, I do hope you will be happy. Bless
the child! I'll go and tell her so this minute."

"No," he said, quickly, "let her and Dan have their talk out--if she will
talk to him. That fever left her queer in some things, and one of them is
her avoidance of Dan. She hasn't been free and friendly with him as she
used to be, and it is too bad; for he is such a good fellow, and would do
anything for her."

"Yes, he would," assented Mrs. Huzzard.

"And she will be her own spirited self in a few weeks--when she gets away
from here--and gets stronger. She'll appreciate Dan more after a while,
for there are few like him. And so--as she is to go away so soon, I hope
something will put them on their former confidential footing. Maybe this
murder will be the something."

"You are a good friend, Mr. Max," said the woman, slowly, "and you deserve
to be a lucky lover. I'm sure I hope so."

Within the cabin, those two of whom they spoke stood together beside the
dead outlaw, and their words were low--so low that the paralyzed man in
the next room listened in vain.

"And you believed that of me--of me?" he asked, and she answered,
falteringly:

"How did I know? You said--you threatened--you would kill him--any man you
found in here. So, when he was here dead, I--did not know."

"And you thought I had stuck that knife in him and left?"

She nodded her head.

"And you thought," he continued, in a voice slightly tremulous, "that you
were giving me a chance to escape just so long as you let them
suspect--you?"

She did not answer, but turned toward the door. He held his arm out and
barred her way.

"Only a moment!" he said, pleadingly. "It never can be that--that I would
be anything to you, little girl--never, never! But--just once--let me tell
you a truth that shall never hurt you, I swear! I love you! No other word
but that will tell your dearness to me. I--I never would have said it,
but--but what you risked for me has broken me down. It has told me more
than your words would tell me, and I--Oh, God! my God!"

She shrank from the passion in his words and tone, but the movement only
made him catch her arm and hold her there. Tears were in his eyes as he
looked at her, and his jaws were set firmly.

"You are afraid of me--of me?" he asked. "Don't be. Life will be hard
enough now without leaving me that to remember. I'm not asking a word in
return from you; I have no right. You will be happy somewhere else--and
with some one else--and that is right."

He still held her wrist, and they stood in silence. She could utter no
word; but her mouth trembled and she tried to smother a sob that arose in
her throat.

But he heard it.

"Don't!" he said, almost in a whisper--"for God's sake, don't cry. I can't
stand that--not your tears. Here! be brave! Look up at me, won't you? See!
I don't ask you for a word or a kiss or a thought when you leave me--only
let me see your eyes! Look at me!"

What he read in her trembling lips and her shrinking, shamed eyes made him
draw his breath hard through his shut teeth.

"My brave little girl!" he said softly. "You will think harshly of me for
this some day--if you ever know--know all. But what you did this morning
made a coward of me--that and my longing for you. Try to forgive me. Or,
no--you had better not. And when you are his wife--Oh, it's no use--I
can't think or speak of that--yet. Good-by, little girl--good-by!"



CHAPTER XXIV.

LEAVING CAMP.


Afterward, 'Tana never could remember clearly the incidents of the few
days that followed. Only once more she entered the cabin of death, and
that was when Mr. Haydon and Mr. Seldon returned with all haste to the
camp, after meeting with Captain Leek and the Indian boatman.

Then, as some of the men offered to go with them to view the remains of
the outlaw, she came forward.

"No. I will take them," she said.

When Mr. Haydon demurred, feeling that a young girl should be kept as much
as possible from such scenes, she had laid her hand on Seldon's arm.

"Come!" she said, and they went with her.

But when inside the door, she did not approach the blanket-covered form
stretched on the couch; only pointed toward it, and stood herself like a
guard at the entrance.

When Seldon lifted the Indian blanket from the face, he uttered a startled
exclamation, and looked strangely at her. She never turned around.

"What is it?" asked Mr. Haydon.

No one replied, and as he looked with anxiety toward the form there, his
face grew ashen in its horror.

"Lord in heaven!" he gasped; "first her on that bed and now _him_! I--I
feel as if I was haunted in this camp. Seldon, is it--is it--"

"No mistake possible," answered the other man, decidedly. "I could swear
to the identity. It is George Rankin!"

"And Holly, the renegade!" added Haydon, in consternation; "and Lord only
knows how many other aliases he has worn. Oh, what a sensation the papers
would make over this if they got hold of it all. My! my! it would be
awful! And that girl, Montana, as she calls herself, she has been clever
to keep it quiet as she has, for--Oh, Lord!"

"What is the matter now? You look fairly sick," said the other,
impatiently. "I didn't fancy you'd grieve much over his death."

"No, it isn't that," said Haydon, huskily. "But that girl--don't you see
she was accused of this? And--well seeing who he is, how do we know--"

He stopped awkwardly, unable to continue with the girl herself so near and
with Seldon's warning glance directed to him.

She leaned against the wall, and apparently had not heard their words.
Seldon's face softened as he looked at her; and, going over, he put his
hand kindly on her hair.

"I am going to be your uncle, now," he said in a caressing tone. "You have
kept up like a soldier under some terrible things here; but we will try to
make things brighter for you now."

She smiled in a dreary way without looking at him. His knowledge of the
terrible things she had endured seemed to her very limited.

"And you will go now with us--with Mr. Haydon--back to your mother's old
home, won't you?" he said, in a persuasive way. "It is not good, you know,
for a little girl not to know any of her relations, or to bear such
shocking grudges," he added, in a lower tone.

But she gave him no answering smile.

"I will go to your house if you will have me," she said. "You and Max are
my friends. I will go only with people I like."

"You know, my dear," said Mr. Haydon, who heard her last words. "You know
I offered you a home in my house until such time as you got to school,
and--and of course, I'll stick to it."

"Though you are a little afraid to risk it, aren't you?" she asked, with
an unpleasant smile. "Haven't you an idea that I might murder you all in
your beds some fine night? You know I belong to a country where they do
such things for pastime. Aren't you afraid?"

"That is a very horrible sort of pleasantry," he answered, and moved away
from the dead face he had been staring at. "I beg you will not indulge in
it, especially when you move in a society more refined than these mining
camps can afford. It will be a disadvantage to you if you carry with you
customs and memories of this unfinished section. And after all, you do not
belong here, your family was of the East. When you go back there, it would
be policy for you to forget that you had ever lived anywhere else."

Mr. Haydon had never made so long a speech to her before, and it was
delivered with a certain persistence, as if it was a matter of conscience
he would be relieved to have off his mind.

"I think you are mistaken when you say I do not belong here," she
answered, coolly. "Some of my family have been a good many things I
don't intend to be. I was born in Montana; and I might have starved to
death for any help my 'family' would have given me, if I hadn't struck
luck and helped myself here in Idaho. So I think I belong out here, and if
I live, I will come back again--some day."

She turned to Seldon and pointed to the dead form.

"They will take him away to-day--I heard them say so," she said quietly.
"Let it be somewhere away from the camp--not near--not where I can see."

"Can't you forget--even now, 'Tana?"

"Does anybody ever forget?" she asked. "When people say they can forget
and forgive, I don't trust them, for I don't believe them."

"Have you any idea who killed him?" he asked. "It is certainly a strange
affair. I thought you might suspect some one these people know nothing
of."

But she shook her head. "No," she said. "There were several who would have
liked to do it, I suppose--people he had wronged or ruined; for he had few
friends left, or he would not have come across to these poor reds to hide.
Give old Akkomi part of that gold; he was faithful to me--and to him, too.
No, I don't know who did it. I don't care, now. I thought I knew once; but
I was wrong. This way of dying is better than the rope; and that is what
the law would have given him. He would have chosen this--I know."

"Did you ever in your life hear such cold-blooded words from a girl?"
demanded Haydon, when she left them and went to Harris. "Afraid of her?
Humph! Well, some people would be. No wonder they suspected her when she
showed such indifference. Every word she says makes me regret more and
more that I acknowledged her. But how was I to know? She was ill, and
made me feel as if a ghost had come before me. I couldn't sleep till I had
made up my mind to take the risk of her. Max sung her praises as if she
was some rare untrained genius. Nothing gave me an idea that she would
turn out this way."

"'This way' has not damaged you much so far," remarked Mr. Seldon, dryly.
"And as she is not likely to be much of a charge on your hands, you had
better not borrow trouble on that score."

"All very well--all very well for you to be indifferent," returned Mr.
Haydon, with some impatience. "You have no family to consider, no matter
what wild escapade she would be guilty of, you would not be touched by the
disgrace of it, because she doesn't belong in any way to your family."

"Maybe she will, though," suggested Seldon.

Mr. Haydon shrugged his shoulders significantly.

"You mean through Max, don't you?" he asked. "Yes, I was simple enough to
build on that myself--thought what a nice, quiet way it would be of
arranging the whole affair; but after a talk with this ranger, Overton,
whom you and Max unite in admiring, I concluded he might be in the way."

"Overton? Nonsense!"

"Well, maybe; but he made himself very autocratic when I attempted to
discuss her future. He seemed to show a good deal of authority concerning
her affairs."

"Not a bit more than he does over the affairs of their paralyzed partner
in there," answered Seldon. "If she always makes as square friends as Dan
Overton, I shan't quarrel with her judgment."

When 'Tana left them and went into the other cabin, she stood looking at
Harris a long time in a curious, scrutinizing way, and his face changed
from doubt to dread before she spoke.

"I am hardly able to think any more, Joe," she said at last, and her tired
eyes accented the truth of her words; "but something like a thought keeps
hammering in my head about you--about you and--" She pointed to the next
room. "If you could walk, I should know you did it. If you could talk, I
should know you had it done. I wouldn't tell on you; but I'd be glad I was
going where I would not see you, for I never could touch your hand again.
I am going away, Joe; won't you tell me true whether you know who did it?
Do you?"

He shook his head with his eyes closed. He, too, looked pale and worn, and
noticing it, she asked if he would not rather move to some other dwelling,
since--

He nodded his head with a sort of eagerness. All of the two days and the
night he had sat there, with only the folds of a blanket to separate him
from the room where his dead foe lay.

"I will speak to them about it right away." She lifted his hand and
stroked it with a sort of sympathy. "Joe, can you forgive him now?" she
whispered.

He made her no reply; only closed his eyes as before.

"You can't, then? and I can't ask you to, though I suppose I ought to.
Margaret would," and she smiled strangely. "You don't know Margaret, do
you? Well, neither do I. But I guess she is the sort of girl I ought to
be. Joe, I can't stay in camp any longer. Maybe I'll leave for the Ferry
to-day. Will you miss me? Yes, I know you will," she added, "and I will
miss you, too. Do you know--can you tell when Dan will come back?"

He shook his head, and an hour later she said to Max:

"Take me away from here, back to the Ferry--any place. Mrs. Huzzard will,
maybe, come for a few days--or Miss Slocum. Ask them, and let me go
soon."

And an hour after they had started, another canoe went slowly over the
water toward the Kootenai River, a canoe guided by Akkomi; and in it lay
the blanket-draped figure of the man whose death was yet a mystery to the
camp. He was at least borne to his resting place by a friend, though what
the reason for Akkomi's faithfulness, no one ever knew; for some favor in
the past, no doubt. Seldon knew that 'Tana would rather Akkomi should be
the one to cover his grave, though where it was made, no white man ever
knew.



CHAPTER XXV.

ON MANHATTAN ISLAND.


"What do you intend to make of your life, Montana, since you avoid all
questions of marriage? You will not go to school, and care nothing about
fitting yourself for the society where by right you should belong."

A whole winter had gone, and the springtime had come again; and over all
the Island of Manhattan, and on the heights back from the rivers, the
green of the leaves was creeping over the boughs from which winter had
swept all signs of life months ago.

In a very lovely little room, facing a park where the glitter of a tiny
lake could be seen, 'Tana lounged and stared at the waving branches and
the fettered water.

Not just the same 'Tana as when, a year ago, she had breasted the cold
waves of the Kootenai. No one, to look at her now, would connect the
taller, stylishly dressed figure, with that little half-savage who had
scowled at Overton in the lodge of Akkomi. Her hair was no longer short
and boyish in its arrangement. A silver comb held it in place, except
where the tiny curls crept down to cluster about her neck. A gown of soft
white wool was caught at her waist by a flat woven belt of silver, and an
embroidered shoe of silvery gleam peeped from under the white folds.

No, it was not the same 'Tana. And the little gray-haired lady, who
slipped ivory knitting needles in and out of silky flosses, watched her
with troubled concern as she asked:

"And what do you intend to make of your life, Montana?"

"You are out of patience with me, are you not, Miss Seldon?" asked the
girl. "Oh, yes, I know you are; and I don't blame you. Everything I have
ever wanted in my life is in reach of me here--everything a girl should
have; yet it doesn't mean so much to me as I thought it would."

"But if you would go to school, perhaps--"

"Perhaps I would learn to appreciate all this," and the girl glanced
around at the fine fittings of the room, and then back to the point of her
own slipper.

"But I do study hard at home. Doesn't Miss Ackerman give me credit for
learning very quickly? and doesn't that music teacher hop around and wave
his hands over my most excellent, ringing voice? They say I study well."

"Yes, yes; you do, too. But at a school, my dear, where you would have the
association of other girls, you would naturally grow more--more girlish
yourself, if I may say so; for you are old beyond your years in ways that
are peculiar. Your ideas of things are not the ideas of girlhood; and yet
you are very fond of girls."

"And how do you know that?" asked 'Tana.

"Why, my dear, you never go past one on the street that you don't give her
more notice than the very handsomest man you might see. And at the
matinees, if the play does not hold you very close, your eyes are always
directed to the young girls in the audience. Yes, you are fond of them,
yet you will not allow yourself to be intimate with any."

And the pretty, refined-looking lady smiled at her and nodded her head in
a knowing way, as though she had made an important discovery.

The girl on the couch lay silent for a while, then she rose and went over
to the window, gazing across to the park, where people were walking and
riding along the green knolls and levels. Young girls were there, too, and
she watched them a little while, with the old moody expression in her dark
eyes.

"Perhaps it is because I don't like to make friends under false
pretenses," she said, at last. "Your society is a very fine and very
curious thing, and there is a great deal of false pretense about it.
Individually, they would overlook the fact that I was accused of murder in
Idaho--the gold mine would help some of them to do that! But if it should
ever get in their papers here, they would collectively think it their duty
to each other not to recognize me."

"Oh, Montana, my dear child, why do you not forget that horrible life, and
leave your mind free to partake of the advantages now surrounding you?"
and Miss Seldon sighed with real distress, and dropped her ivory needles
despairingly. "It seems so strange that you care to remember that which
was surely a terrible life."

"Much more so than you can know," answered the girl, coming over to her
and drawing a velvet hassock to her side. "And, my dear, good, innocent
little lady, just so long as you all try to persuade me that I should go
out among young people of my own age, just so long must I be forced to
think of how different my life has been to theirs. Some day they, too,
might learn how different it has been, and resent my presence among them.
I prefer not to run that risk. I might get to like some of them, and
then it would hurt. Besides, the more I see of people since I came here,
the more I feel that every one should remain with their own class in
life."

"But, Montana, that is not an American sentiment at all!" said Miss
Seldon, with some surprise. "But even that idea should not exclude from
refined circles. By birth you are a lady."

The girl smiled bitterly. "You mean my mother was," she answered. "But she
did not give me a gentleman for a father; and I don't believe the parents
of any of those lovely girls we meet would like them to know the daughter
of such a man, if they knew it. Now, do you understand how I feel about
myself and this social question?"

"You are foolishly conscientious and morbid," exclaimed the older lady. "I
declare, Montana, I don't know what to do with you. People like you--you
are very clever, you have youth, wealth, and beauty--yes, the last, too!
yet you shut yourself up here like a young nun. Only the theaters and the
art galleries will you visit--never a person--not even Margaret."

"Not even Margaret," repeated the girl; "and that is the crowning sin in
your eyes, isn't it? Well, I don't blame you, for she is very lovely; and
how much she thinks of you!"

"Yes!" sighed the little lady. "Mrs. Haydon is a woman of very decided
character, but not at all given to loving demonstrations to children. Long
ago, when we lived closer, little Margie would come to me daily to be
kissed and petted. Max was only a boy then, and they were great
companions."

"Yes; and if he had been sensible, he would have fallen in love with her
and made her Mrs. Lyster, instead of knocking around Western mining
towns, and making queer friends," said the girl, smiling at the old lady's
astonished face. "She is just the sort of girl to suit him."

"My dear," she said, solemnly, "do you really care for him a particle?"

"Who--Max? Of course I do. He is the best fellow I know, and was so good
to me out there in the wilderness. There was no one out there to compare
me with, so I suppose I loomed up big when compared with the average
squaw. But everything is different here. I did not know how different. I
know now, however, and I won't let him go on making a mistake."

"Oh, Montana!" cried the little lady, pleadingly.

Just then a maid entered with two cards, at which she glanced with a
dismay that was comical.

"Margaret and Max! Why, is it not strange they should call at the same
time, and at a time when--"

"When I was pairing them off so nicely, without their knowledge," added
the girl. "Have them come up here, won't you? It is so much more cozy than
that very elegant parlor. And I always feel as if poor Max had been turned
out of his home since I came."

So they came to the little sitting room--pretty, dark-eyed Margaret, with
her faultless manners and her real fondness for Miss Seldon, whom she
kissed three times.

"For I have not seen you for three days," she explained, "and those two
are back numbers." Then she turned to 'Tana and eyed her admiringly as
they clasped hands.

"You look as though you had stepped from a picture of classic Greek," she
declared. "Where in that pretty curly head of yours do you find the ideas
for those artistic arrangements of form and color? You are an artist,
Montana, and you don't know it."

"I will begin to believe it if people keep telling me so."

"Who else has told you?" asked Lyster, and she laughed at him.

"Not you," she replied; "at least not since you teased me about the clay
Indians I made on the shores of the Kootenai. But some one else has told
me--Mr. Roden."

"Roden, the sculptor! But how does he know?"

She glanced from one face to the other, and sighed with a serio-comic
expression. "I might as well confess," she said, at last. "I am so glad
you are here, Miss Margaret, for I may need an advocate. I have been
working two hours a day in Mr. Roden's studio for over a month."

"Montana!" gasped Miss Seldon, "but--how--when?"

"Before you were awake in the morning," she said, and looked from one to
the other of their blank faces. "You look as if it were a shock, instead
of a surprise," she added. "I did not tell you at first, as it would seem
only a whim. But he has told me I have reason for the whim, and that I
should continue. So--I think I shall."

"But, my child--for you are a child, after all--don't you know it is a
very strange thing for a girl to go alone like that, and--and--Oh, dear!
Max, can't you tell her?"

But Max did not. There was a slight wrinkle between his brows, but she saw
it and smiled.

"You can't scold me, though, can you?" she asked. "That is right, for it
would be no use. I know you would say that in your set it would not be
proper for a girl to do such independent things. But you see, I do not
belong to any set. I have just been telling this dear little lady, who
is trying to look stern, some of the reasons why society life and I can
never agree. But I have found several reasons why Art life and I should
agree perfectly. I like the freedom of it--the study of it. And, even if I
never accomplish much, I shall at least have tried my best."

"But, Montana, it is not as though you had to learn such things," pleaded
Miss Seldon. "You have plenty of money."

"Oh, money--money! But I have found there are a few things in this world
money can not buy. Art study, little as I have attempted, has taught me
that."

Lyster came over and sat beside her by the window.

"'Tana," he said, and looked at her with kindly directness, "can the Art
study give you that which you crave, and which money can not buy?"

Her eyes fell to the floor. She could not but feel sorry to go against his
wishes; and yet--

"No, it can not, entirely," she said, at last. "But it is all the
substitute I know of, and, maybe, after a while, it will satisfy me."

Miss Seldon took Margaret from the room on some pretext, and Lyster rose
and walked across to the other window. He was evidently much troubled or
annoyed.

"Then you are not satisfied?" he asked. "The life that seemed possible to
you, when out there in camp, is impossible to you now."

"Oh, Max! don't be angry--don't. Everything was all wrong out there. You
were sorry for me out there; you thought me different from what I am. I
could never be the sort of girl you should marry--not like Margaret--"

"Margaret!" and his face paled a little, "why do you speak of her?"

"I know, if you do not, Max," she answered, and smiled at him. "I have
learned several things since I came here, and one of them is Mr. Haydon's
reason for encouraging our friendship so much. It was to end any
attachment between you and Margaret. Oh, I know, Max! If I had not looked
just a little bit like her, you would never have fancied you loved me--for
it was only a fancy."

"It was no fancy! I did love you. I was honest with you, and I have waited
patiently, while you have grown more and more distant until now--"

"Now we had better end it all, Max. I could not make you happy, for I am
not happy myself."

"Perhaps I--"

"No, you can not help me; and it is not your fault. You have been good to
me--very good; but I can't marry any one."

"No one?" he asked, looking at her doubtfully. "'Tana, sometimes I have
fancied you might have cared for some one else--some one before you met
me."

"No, I cared for no one before I met you," she answered, slowly. "But I
could not be happy in the social life of your people here. They are
charming, but I am not suited to their life. And--and I can't go back to
the hills. So, in a month, I am going to Italy."

"You have it all decided, then?"

"All--don't be angry, Max. You will thank me for it some day, though I
know our friends will think badly of me just now."

"No, they shall not; you are breaking no promises. You took me only on
trial, and it seems I don't suit," he said, with a grimace. "I will see
that you are not blamed. And so long as you do not leave America, I should
like you to remain here. Don't let anything be changed in our friendship,
'Tana."

She turned to him with tears in her eyes, and held out her hand.

"You are too good to me, Max," she said, brokenly, "God knows what will
become of me when I leave you all and go among foreign faces, among whom I
shall not have a friend. I hope to work and--be contented; but I shall
never meet a friend like you again."

He drew her to him quickly.

"Don't go!" he whispered, pleadingly. "I can't let you go out into the
world alone like that! I will love you--care for you--"

"Hush!" and she put her hand on his face to push it away; "it is no use,
and don't do that--try to kiss me; you must not. No man has ever kissed
me, and you--"

"And I sha'n't be the first," he added, shrugging his shoulders. "Well, I
confess I hoped to be, and you are a greater temptation than you know,
Miss Montana. And you ought to pardon me the attempt."

Her face was flushed and shamed. "I could pardon a great deal in you,
Max," she answered; "but don't speak of it again. Talk to me of other
things."

"Other things? Well, I haven't many other things in my mind just now.
Still, I did see some one down town this morning whom you rather liked,
and who asked after you. It was Mr. Harvey, the writer, whom we met first
at Bonner's Ferry, up in the Kootenai land. Do you remember him?"

"Certainly. We met him afterward at one of the art galleries, and I have
seen him several times at Roden's studio. They are great friends. He
looked surprised to find me there, but, after I spoke to him, he talked to
me a great deal. You know, Max, I always imagine he heard that suspicion
of me up at the camp. Do you think so?"

"He never intimated it to me," answered Max; "though Haydon nearly went
into spasms of fear lest he would put it all in some paper."

"I remember. He would scarcely allow me breathing space for fear the
stranger would get near enough to speak to me again. I remember all that
journey, because when I reached the end of it, the past seemed like a
troubled dream, for this life of fineness and beauty and leisure was all
so different."

"And yet you are not contented?"

"Oh, don't talk of that--of me!" she begged. "I am tired of myself. I just
remembered another one on the train that journey--the little variety
actress who had her dresses made to look cute and babyish--the one with
bleached hair, and they called her Goldie. She looked scared to death when
he--Overton--stopped at the window to say good-by. I often wondered why."

"Oh, you know Dan was a sort of sheriff, or law-and-order man, up there.
He might have known her unfavorably, and she was afraid of being
identified by him, or something of that sort. She belonged to the rougher
element, no doubt."

"Max, it makes me homesick to think of that country," she confessed. "Ever
since the grass has commenced to be green, and the buds to swell, it seems
to me all the woods are calling me. All the sluggish water I see here in
the parks and the rivers makes me dream of the rush of the clear Kootenai,
and long for a canoe and paddle. Contrive something to make me forget
it, won't you? Make up a party to go somewhere--anywhere. I will be
cavalier to your lovely little aunt, and leave you to Margaret."

"I asked you before why you speak of Margaret and me in that tone?" he
said. "Are you going to tell me? You have no reason but your own fancy."

"Haven't I? Well, this isn't fancy, Max--that I would like to see my
cousin--you see, I claim them for this once--happy in her own way, instead
of unhappy in the life her ambitious family are trying to arrange for her.
And I promise to trade some surplus dust for a wedding present just as
soon as you conclude to spoil their plans, and make yourself and that
little girl and your aunt all happy by a few easily spoken words."

"But I have just told you I love you."

"You will know better some day," she said, and turned away. "Now go and
pacify your aunt, won't you? She seemed so troubled about the
modeling--bless her dear heart! I didn't want to trouble her, but the
work--some work--was a necessity to me. I was growing so homesick for the
woods."

After she was left alone, she drew a letter from her pocket, one she had
got in the morning mail, and read over again the irregular lines sent by
Mrs. Huzzard.

  "I got Lavina to write you the letter at Christmas, because I was so
  tickled with all the things you sent me that I couldn't write a
  straight line to save me; and you know the rheumatiz in my finger
  makes it hard work for me sometimes. But maybe hard work and me is
  about done with each other, 'Tana; though I'll tell you more of that
  next time.

  "I must tell you Mr. Harris has got better--can talk some and walk
  around; can't move his left arm any yet. But Mr. Dan sent for two
  fine doctors, and they tried to help him with electricity. And I was
  scared for fear lightning might strike camp after that; but it
  didn't. Lavina is here still, and likely to stay. She's a heap of
  company; and she and Captain Leek are better friends than they was.

  "There is a new man in camp now; he found a silver mine down near
  Bonner's Ferry, and sold it out well. He was a farmer back in
  Indiana, and has been on a visit to our camp twice. Mr. Dan says it's
  my cooking fetches him. Everything is different here now. Mr. Dan got
  sawed lumber, and put me up a nice little house; and up above the
  bluff he has laid out a place where he is going to build a stone
  house, just as if he intends to live and die here. He doesn't ever
  seem to think that he has enough made now to rest all his days.
  Sometimes I think he ain't well. Sometimes, 'Tana, I think it would
  cheer him up if you would just write him a few lines from time to
  time. He always says, 'Is she well?' when I get a letter from you;
  and about the time I'm looking for your letters he's mighty regular
  about getting the mail here.

  "That old Akkomi went south when winter set in, and we reckon he'll
  be back when the leaves get green. His whole village was drunk for
  days on the money you had Mr. Seldon give him, and he wore pink
  feathers from some millinery store the last time I saw him. But Mr.
  Dan is always patient with him whether he is drunk or sober.

  "I guess that's all the news. Lavina sends her respects. And I must
  tell you that on Christmas they got some whisky, and all the boys
  drank your health--and drank it so often Mr. Dan had to give them a
  talking to. They think a heap of you. Yours with affection,

                                                 "LORENA JANE HUZZARD.

  "P. S.--William McCoy is the name of the stranger I spoke of. The
  boys call him Bill."



CHAPTER XXVI.

OVERTON'S WIFE.


A few hours later, 'Tana sat in a box at the theater; for the party she
had suggested had been arranged, and pretty Miss Margaret was radiant over
the evening planned for her, and 'Tana began to enjoy her rôle of
matchmaker. She had even managed to tell Margaret, in a casual manner,
that Miss Seldon's idea of a decided engagement between herself and Max
had never a very solid foundation, and now had none at all. He was her
good friend--that was all, and she was to leave for Italy in a month.

And Margaret went up to her and kissed her, looking at her with puzzled,
admiring eyes.

"They tried at home to make me think very differently," she said. "But you
are a queer girl, Miss Montana. You have told me this on purpose, and--"

"And I want to hear over in Italy that you are going to make a boy I like
very happy some of these days. Remember, Margaret, you are--or will be--a
millionairess, while he has not more than a comfortable income; and
boys--even when they are in love--can be proud. Will you think of that?"

Margaret only blushed and turned away, but the answer was quite satisfying
to 'Tana, and she felt freer because her determination had been put into
words, and the last bond connecting her with the old life was to be
broken. Ever since the snows had gone, some cord of her heart-string had
been drawing all her thoughts to those Northern hills, and she felt the
only safety was to put the ocean between them and her.

The home Mr. Seldon had offered her with his sister was a very lovely one,
but to it there came each week letters about the mines and the people
there. Mr. Seldon had already gone out, and would be gone all summer. As
he was an enthusiast over the beauties and the returns of the country, his
letters were full of material that she heard discussed each day.
Therefore, the only safety for herself lay in flight; and if she did not
go across the ocean to the East, she would surely grow weaker and more
homesick until she would have to turn coward entirely and cross the
mountains to her West.

Realizing it all, she sat in her dainty array of evening dress and watched
with thoughts far away the mimic scene of love triumphant on the stage
before her. When, on the painted canvas, a far-off snow-crowned mountain
rose to their view, her heart seemed to creep to her throat and choke her,
and when the orchestra breathed softly of the winds, music, and the
twittering of birds, the tears rose to her eyes and a great longing in her
heart for all the wild beauty of her Kootenai land.

Then, just as the curtain went down on the second act, some one entered
their box.

"You, Harvey?" said Max, with genuine pleasure. "Good of you to look me
up. Let me introduce you to my aunt and Miss Haydon. You and Miss Rivers
are old acquaintances."

"Yes; and that fact alone has brought me here just now," he managed to say
to Lyster. "To confess the truth, I have been to see Miss Rivers at her
home this evening, having got her address from Roden, and then had the
assurance to follow her here. You may be sure I would not have spoiled
your evening for any trivial thing, but I come because of a woman who is
dying."

"A woman who is dying?" repeated 'Tana, in wonder. "And why do you come to
me?"

"She wants to see you. I think--to tell you something."

"But who is it?" asked Lyster. "Some beggar?"

"She is a beggar now at least," agreed Mr. Harvey--"a poor woman dying.
She said only to tell Miss Rivers, and here is a line she sent."

He gave her a slip of paper, and on it was written:

  "Come and take some word to Dan Overton for me. I am dying.

                                                      OVERTON'S WIFE."

She arose, and Margaret exclaimed at the whiteness of her face.

"Oh, my dear," sighed Miss Seldon, "you know how I warned you not to give
your charities individually among the beggars of a city. It is really a
mistake. They have no consideration, and will send for you at all hours if
you will go. It is so much better to distribute charity through some
organization."

But 'Tana was tying her opera cloak, and moving toward the entrance.

"I am going," she said. "Don't worry. Is it far, Mr. Harvey? If not,
perhaps I can be back to go home with you when the curtain goes down."

"It is not far," he answered. "Will you come, Lyster?"

"No!" said 'Tana; "you stay with the others, Max. Don't look vexed. Maybe
I can be of some use, and that is what I need."

Many heads turned to look at the girl whose laces were so elegant, and
whose beautiful face wore such a startled, questioning expression. But she
hurried out of their sight, and gave a little nervous shiver as she
wrapped her white velvet cloak close about her and sank into a corner of
the carriage.

"Are you cold?" Harvey asked, but she shook her head.

"No. But tell me all."

"There is not much. I was with a doctor--a friend of mine--who was called
in to see her. She recognized me. It is the little variety actress who
came over the Great Northern, on our train."

"Oh! But how could she know me?"

"She did not know your name; she only described you, remembering that I
had talked with you and your friends. When I told her you were in the
city, she begged so for you to come that I could not refuse to try."

"You did right," she answered. "But it is very strange--very strange."

Then the carriage stopped before a dingy house in a row that had once
belonged to a very fashionable quarter, but that was long ago. Boarding
houses they were now, and their class was about number three.

"It is a horrible place to bring you to, Miss Rivers," confessed her
guide; "and I am really glad Miss Seldon did not accompany you, for she
never would have forgiven either of us. But I knew you would not be
afraid."

"No, I am not afraid. But, oh, why don't they hurry?"

He had to ring the bell the second time ere any one came to the door.
Then, as the harsh jangle died away, steps were heard descending the
stairs, and a man without a coat and with a pipe in his mouth, shot back
the bolt with much grumbling.

"I'll cut the blasted wire if some one in the shebang don't tend to this
door better," he growled to a lady with a mug of beer, who just then
emerged from the lower regions. "Me a-trying to get the lines of that new
afterpiece in my head--chock-full of business, too!--and that bell
clanging forever right under my room. I'll move!"

"I wish you would," remarked Harvey, when the door opened at last. "Move a
little faster when you do condescend to open the door. Come, Miss
Rivers--up this way."

And the lady of the beer mug and the gentleman of the pipe stared at each
other, and at the white vision of girlhood going up the dark, bad-smelling
stairway.

"Well, that's a new sort in this castle," remarked the man. "Do you guess
the riddle of it?"

The woman did not answer, but listened to the footsteps as they went along
the hall. Then a door opened and shut.

"They've gone to Goldie's room," she said. "That's queer. Goldie ain't the
sort to have very high-toned friends, so it can't be a long-lost sister,"
and she smiled contemptuously.

"She's a beauty, anyway, and I'm going to see her when she makes her exit,
if I have to sit up all night."

"Oh! And what about the afterpiece?"

"To the devil with the afterpiece! It hasn't any angels in it."

Inside Goldie's room, a big Dutch blonde in a soiled blue wrapper sat by
the bed, and stared in open-mouthed surprise at the new-comers.

"Is it _you_ she's been askin' for?" she asked, bluntly.

But 'Tana did not reply, and Harvey got the blonde to the door, and
after a few whispered words, induced her to go out altogether, and closed
the door behind her.

"I thought you'd come," whispered the little woman on the bed. "I thought
the note would bring you. I saw you talk to him, and I dropped to the
game. You're square, too, ain't you? That's the kind I want now. That
swell who went for you is the right sort, too. I minded his face and
yours. But tell him to go out for a minute. It won't take long--to tell
you."

Harvey went, at a motion from 'Tana. She had not uttered a word yet. All
she could do was to stare in wonder at the wreck of a woman before her--a
painted wreck; for, even on her deathbed, the ghastly face was tinted with
rouge.

"I can't get well--doctor says," she continued. "There was a baby; it died
yesterday--three hours old; and I can't get well. But there is another one
I want to tell you of. You tell him. It is two years old. Here is the
address. Maybe he will take care of it for me. He was good-hearted--that's
why he married me; thought I was only a little girl without a home. Any
woman could fool him, for he thought all women were good. He thought I was
only a little girl; and I had been married three years before."

She smiled at the idea of that past deception, while 'Tana's face grew
hard and white.

"How you look!" said the dying woman. "Well, it's over now. He never cared
for me much, though--not so much as others did. He was never my real
husband, you know, for I never had a divorce. He thought he was, though;
and even after he left me, he sent me money regular for me to live quiet
in 'Frisco, but it didn't suit me. Then he got turned dead against me
when I tried to make him think the child was his. He wouldn't do
anything for me after that; I had cheated him once too often."

"And was it?" It was the first time 'Tana had spoken, and the woman
smiled.

"You care, too, do you? Well, yes, it was. You tell him so; tell him I
said so, and I was dying. He'll take care of her, I think. She's pretty,
but not like me. He never saw her. She's with a woman in Chicago, where I
boarded. I haven't paid her board now for months, but it's all right; the
woman's a good soul. Dan Overton will pay when you tell him."

"You write an order for that child, and tell the woman to give it to me,"
said 'Tana, decidedly, and looked around for something to write with. A
sheet of paper was found, and she went to Harvey for a pencil.

"'Most ready to go?" he asked, looking at her anxiously.

She nodded her head, and shut the door.

"But I can't write now; my hands are too weak," complained the woman. "I
can't."

"You've _got_ to!" answered the girl; and, taking her in her strong young
hands, she raised her up higher on the pillow. "There is the paper and
pencil--now write."

"It will kill me to lay like this."

"No matter if it does; you write."

"You're not a woman at all; you're like iron--white iron," whined the
other. "Any woman with a heart--" and the weak tears came in her eyes.

"No, I have no heart to be touched by you," answered the girl. "You had a
chance to live a decent life, and you wouldn't take it. You had an honest
man to trust you and take care of you, and you paid him with deceit.
Don't expect pity from me; but write that order."

She tried to write but could not, and the girl took the pencil.

"I will write it, and you can sign it," she said; "that will do as well."

Thus it was accomplished, and the woman was again laid lower in the bed.

"You are terrible hard on--on folks that ain't just square," she said.
"You needn't be so proud; you ain't dead yet yourself. You don't know what
may happen to you."

"I know," said the girl, coldly, "that if I ever brought children into the
world, to be thrown on strangers' hands and brought up in the streets to
live your sort of life, I would expect a very practical sort of hell
prepared for me. Have you anything more to tell me? I'm going."

"Oh--h! I wish you hadn't said that about hell. I'm dreadful afraid of
hell," moaned the woman.

"Yes," said the girl; "you ought to be."

"How hard you are! And the doctor said I would die to-night."

Then she lay still quite a while, and when she spoke again, her voice
seemed weaker.

"You have that order for Gracie, and you are so hard-hearted. I don't know
what you will do--and I don't want her to grow up like me."

"That is the first womanly thing I have heard you say," replied the girl.

She went over to the bed and took the woman's hands in hers, looking at
her earnestly.

"Your child shall have a beautiful and a good home," she said,
reassuringly. "I am going for her myself to-morrow, and she will never
lack care again. Have you any other word to give me?"

The woman shook her head, and then as 'Tana turned away, she said:

"Not unless you would kiss me. You are not like other women; but--will you
kiss me?"

And, with the pressure of the dying kiss on her lips, 'Tana went out the
door.

"Please give her every care money can secure for her," she said to the
woman at the door; while the man, minus the pipe, was there to open it.

"Mr. Harvey, can I trouble you to look after it for me? You know the
doctor and can learn all that is needed. Have the bills sent to me; and
let me know when it is all--over."

They reached the theater just as the curtain went down on the last act,
and she remained in the carriage until her own party came out.

"I can hardly thank you enough for coming after me to-night," she said, as
she shook hands very cordially with Harvey. "You can never be a mere
acquaintance to me again. You are my friend."

"Have I ignorantly done some good?" he asked, and she smiled at him.

"Yes--more than you know--more than I can tell you."

"Then may I hope not to be forgotten when you are in Italy?"

"Oh!" and the color flushed over all the pallor caught from that deathbed.
"But I--I don't think I will go to Italy after all, Mr. Harvey. I have
changed my mind about that, and think I will go back to the Kootenai hills
instead."



CHAPTER XXVII.

LIFE AT TWIN SPRINGS.


Over all the land of the Kootenai the sun of early June was shining. Trees
of wild fruits were white with blossoms, as if from far above on the
mountains the snows had blown down and settled here and there on the new
twigs of green.

And high up above the camp of the Twin Springs, Overton and Harris sat
looking over the wide stretches of forest, and the younger man looked
troubled.

"I think your fear is all an empty affair," he said, in an argumentative
tone. "You eat well and sleep well. What gives you the idea you are to be
called in soon?"

"Several things," said the other, slowly, and his speech was yet
indistinct; "but most of all the feel of my feet and legs. A week ago my
feet turned cold; this week the coldness is up to my knees, and it won't
go away. I know what it means. When it gets as high as my heart I'll be
done for. That won't take long, Dan; and I want to see her first."

"She can't help you."

"Yes, she can, too. You don't know. Dan, send for her."

"Things are all different with her now," protested the other. "She's with
friends who are not of the diggings or the ranges, Joe. She is going to
marry Max Lyster; and, altogether, is not the same little girl who made
our coffee for us down there in the flat. You must not expect that she
will change all her new, happy life to run back here just because you want
to talk to her."

"She'll come if you telegraph I want her," insisted Harris. "I know her
better than you do, Dan. The fine life will never spoil her. She would be
happier here to-day in a canoe than she would be on a throne. I know her
best."

"She wasn't very happy before she left here."

"No," he agreed; "but there were reasons, Dan. Why are you so set against
her coming back?"

"Set against it? Oh, no."

"Yes, you are. Mrs. Huzzard and all the camp would be only too glad to see
her; but you--you say no. What's your reason?"

"Joe, not many months ago you tried to make me suspicious of her," said
Overton, not moving his eyes from a distant blue peak of the hills. "You
remember the day you fell in a heap? Well, I've never asked you your
reasons for that; though I've thought of it considerably. You changed your
mind about her afterward, and trusted her with the plan of this gold field
down here. Now, you had reasons for that, too; but I never have asked you
what they are. Do the same for me, will you?"

The other man did not answer for a little while, but he watched Dan's
moody face with a great deal of kindness in his own.

"You won't tell me?" he said at last. "Well, that's all right. But one of
the reasons I want her back is to make clear to you all the unexplained
things of last summer. There were things you should have been told--that
would have made you two better friends, would have broken down the wall
there always seemed to be between you--or nearly always. (She wouldn't
tell you, and I couldn't.) It left her always under a cloud to you, and
she felt it. Many a time, Dan, she has knelt beside me and cried over her
troubles to me--and they were troubles, too!--telling them all to me just
because I couldn't speak and tell them again. And I won't, unless she lets
me. But I don't want to go over the range and know that you two, all your
lives, will be apart and cold to each other on account of suspicions I
could clear away."

"Suspicions? No, I have no suspicions against her."

"But you have had many a troubled hour because of that man found dead in
her room, and his visit to her the night before, and that money she asked
for that he was after. All such things that you could not clear her of in
your own mind, when you cleared her of murder--they are things I want
straightened out before I leave, Dan. You have both been good friends to
me, and I don't want any bar between you."

"What does all that matter now, Joe? She is out of our lives, and in a
happier one some one else is making for her. I am not likely ever to see
her again. She won't come back here."

"I know her best; she will come if she is needed. I need her for once; and
if you don't send for her, I will, Dan. Will you send?"

But Overton got up and walked away without answering. Harris thought he
would turn back after a little while, but he did not. He watched him out
of sight, and he was still going higher up in the hills.

"Trying to walk away from his desire for her," thought Joe, sadly. "Well,
he never will. He thinks I don't know. Poor Dan!"

Then he whistled to a man down below him, and the man came and helped him
down to camp, for his feet had grown helpless again in that strange chill
of which he had spoken.

Mrs. Huzzard met him at the door of a sitting room, gorgeous as an
apartment could well be in the Northern wilderness. All the luxuries
obtainable were there; for, as Harris had to live so much of his time
indoors, Overton seemed determined that he should get benefit from his new
fortune in some way. The finest of furs and of weavings furnished the
room, and a dainty little stand held a tea service of shell-pink china,
from which the steam floated cheerily.

And Lorena Jane herself partook of the general air of prosperity, as she
drew forward a great cushioned chair for the invalid and brought him a cup
of fragrant tea.

"I just knew you was tired the minute I saw you coming down that hill,"
she said, filling a cup herself and sitting down to enjoy it. "I knew a
cup of tea would do you good, for you ain't quite so brisk as you was a
few weeks ago."

"No," he agreed, and gulped down the beverage with a dubious expression on
his face. He very much preferred whisky as a tonic; but as Mrs. Huzzard
was bound to use that new tea service every day for his benefit, he
submitted without a protest and enjoyed most the number of cups she
disposed of.

"I suppose, now, you got sight from up there on the hill of the two young
folks going boat riding?" she remarked, with attempted indifference; and
he looked at her questioningly.

"Oh, I mean Lavina and the captain! Yes, he did get up ambition enough
to paddle a boat and ask her to ride in it; and away they went, giddy as
you please!"

"I thought you had a high regard for the captain?" remarked Harris.

"Who? Me? Well, as Mr. Overton's relation, of course I show him respect,"
and her tone was almost as pompous as that of the captain used to be. "But
I must say, sir, that to admire a man--for me to admire a man--he must
have a certain lot of push and ambition. He must be a real American, who
don't depend on the record of his dead relations to tell you how great he
is--a man who will dig either gold or potatoes if he needs them, and not
be afraid of spoiling his hands."

"Somebody like this new lucky man, McCoy," suggested Harris, and she
smiled complacently but did not answer.

And out on the little creek, sure enough, Lavina and the captain were
gliding with the current, and the current had got them into dangerous
waters.

"And you won't say yes, Lavina?" he asked, and she tapped her foot
impatiently on the bottom of the boat.

"I told you yes twenty-five years ago, Alf Leek," she answered.

He sighed helplessly. His old aggressive manner was all gone. The tactics
he would adopt for any other woman were useless with this one. She knew
him like a book. She had him completely cowed and miserable. No longer did
he regale admiring friends with tales of the late war, and incidentally
allow himself to be thought a hero. One look from Lavina would freeze the
story of the hottest battle that ever was fought.

To be sure, she had as yet refrained from using words against him; but how
long would she refrain? That question he had asked himself until, in
despair, a loop-hole from her quiet vengeance had occurred to him, and he
had asked her to marry him.

"You never could--would marry any one else," he said, pleadingly.

"Oh, couldn't I?"

"And I couldn't, either, Lavina," he continued, looking at her
sentimentally. But Lavina knew better.

"You would, if anybody would have you," she retorted. "I know I reached
here just in time to keep poor Lorena Jane from being made a victim of.
You would have been a tyrant over her, with your great pretensions, if I
hadn't stopped it. You always were tyrannical, Alf Leek; and the only time
you're humble as you ought to be is when you meet some one who can
tyrannize over you. You are one of the sort that needs it."

"That's why I asked you to marry me," he remarked, meekly.

And after a moment she said:

"Well, thinking of it from that point of view, I guess I will."

Far up on the heights, a man lying there alone saw the canoe with the man
and the woman in it, and it brought back to him keen rushes of memory from
the summer time that had been. It was only a year ago that 'Tana had
stepped into his canoe, and gone with him to the new life of the
settlement. How brave she had been! how daring! He liked best to remember
her as she had been then, with all the storms and sunshine of her face. He
liked to remember that she had said she would be cook for him, but for no
other man. Of course her words were a child's words, soon forgotten by
her. But all her words and looks and their journeys made him love the
land he had known her in. They were all the treasures he had with which to
comfort his loneliness.

And when in the twilight he descended to the camp, Joe--or his own
longings--had won.

"I will send the telegram for you, old fellow," he said, and that was all.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

AGAIN ON THE KOOTENAI.


Another canoe, with a woman in it, skimmed over the waters in the twilight
that evening--a woman with all the gladness of youth in her bright eyes,
and an eagerness for the north country that far outstripped the speed of
the boat.

Each dark tree-trunk as it loomed up from the shores, each glint of the
after-glow as it lighted the ripples, each whisper of the fresh, soft wind
of the mountains, was to her as a special welcome. All of them touched her
with the sense of a friendship that had been faithful. That she was no
more to them than any of the strangers who came and went on the current,
she could not believe; for they all meant so much, so very much to her.

She asked for a paddle, that she might once more feel against her strength
the strong rush of the mountain river. She caressed its waves and reached
out her hands to the bending boughs, and laughter and sighs touched her
lips.

"Never again!" she whispered, as if a promise was being made; "never
again! my wilderness!"

The man who had charge of the canoe--a stalwart, red-whiskered man of
perhaps forty-five--looked at her a good deal in a cautious way. She was
so unlike any of the girls he had ever seen--so gay, so free of speech
with each stranger or Indian who came their way; so daintily garbed in a
very correct creation of some city tailor; and, above all, so tenderly
careful of a child who slept among the rugs at her feet, and looked like a
bit of pink blossom against the dark furs.

"You are a stranger here, aren't you?" she asked the man. "I saw no one
like you running a boat here last summer."

"No, no," he said, slowly; "I didn't then. My camp is east of Bonner's
Ferry, quite a ways; but I get around here sometimes, too. I don't run a
boat only for myself; but when they told me a lady wanted to get to Twin
Springs, I didn't allow no scrub Indians to take her if my boat was good
enough."

"It is a lovely boat," she said, admiringly; "the prettiest I ever saw on
this river, and it is very good of you to bring me yourself. That is one
of the things makes me realize I am in the West once more--to be helped
simply because I am a girl alone. And you didn't even know my name when
you offered to bring me."

"No, but I did before I left shore," he answered; "and then I counted
myself kind of lucky. I--I've heard so much about you, miss, from folks up
at Twin Springs; from one lady there in particular--Mrs. Huzzard."

"Oh! so you know her, do you?" she asked, and wondered at the
self-conscious look with which he owned up that he did--a little.

"A little? Oh, that is not nearly enough," she said, good-naturedly.
"Lorena Jane is worth knowing a good deal of."

"That's my opinion, too," he agreed; "but a fellow needs some help
sometimes, if he ain't over handy with the gift of gab."

"Well, now, I should not think you would need much help," she answered.
"You ought to be the sort she would make friends with quick enough."

"Oh, yes--friends," he said, and sent the canoe on with swifter, stronger
strokes. The other boat, paddled by Indians and carrying baggage, was left
far behind.

"You make this run often?" she asked, with a little wonder as to who the
man was. His dress was much above the average, his boat was a beautiful
and costly thing, and she had not learned, in the haste of her departure,
who her boatman was.

"Not very often. Haven't been up this way for two weeks now."

"But that is often," she said. "Are you located in this country?"

"Well--yes, I have been. I struck a silver lode across the hills in yon
direction. I've sold out and am only prospecting around just now, not
settled anywhere yet. My name is McCoy."

"McCoy!" and like a flash she remembered the post-script of Mrs. Huzzard's
letter. "Oh, yes--I've heard of you."

"You have? Well, that's funny. I didn't know my name had got beyond the
ranges."

"Didn't you? Well, it got across the country to Manhattan Island--that's
where I was when it reached me," and she smiled quizzically. "You know
Mrs. Huzzard writes me letters sometimes."

"And do you mean--did she--"

"Yes, she did--mentioned your name very kindly, too," she said, as he
hesitated in a confused way. Then, with all the gladness of home-coming in
her heart and her desire that no heart should be left heavy, she added:
"And, really, as I told you before, I don't think you need much help."

The kindly, smiling eyes of the man thanked her, as he drove the canoe
through the clear waters. Above them the stars were commencing to gleam
faintly, and all the sweet odors of the dusk floated by them, and the
sweetest seemed to come to her from the north.

"We will not stop over--let us go on," she said, when he spoke of Sinna
Ferry. "I can paddle while you rest at times, or we can float there on the
current if we both grow tired; but let us keep going."

But ere they reached the little settlement, a canoe swept into sight ahead
of them and when it came near, Captain Leek very nearly fell over the side
of it in his anxiety to make himself known to Miss Rivers.

"Strangest thing in the world!" he declared. "Here I am, sent down to
telegraph you and wait a week if need be until an answer comes; and
half-way on my journey I meet you just as if the message had reached you
in some way before it was even put on paper. Extraordinary thing--very!"

"You were going to telegraph me? What for?" and the lightness of her heart
was chased away by fear. "Is--is any one hurt?"

"Hurt? Not a bit of it. But Harris thinks he is worse and wanted you,
until Dan concluded to ask you to come. I have the message here
somewhere," and he drew out a pocket-book.

"Dan asked me to come? Let me see it, please," and she unfolded the paper
and read the words he had written--the only time she had ever seen his
writing in a message to her.

A lighted match threw a flickering light over the page, on which he said:

  "Joe is worse. He wants you. Will you come back?

                                                        "DAN OVERTON."

She folded it up and held it tight in her hand under the cloak she wore.
He had sent for her! Ah! how long the night would be, for not until dawn
could she answer his message.

"We will go on," she said. "Can't you spare us a boatman? Mr. McCoy has
outstripped our Indian extras who have our outfit, and he needs a little
rest, though he won't own up."

"Why, of course! Our errand is over, too, so we'll turn back with you. I
just passed Akkomi a few miles back. He is coming North with the season,
as usual. I thought the old fellow would freeze out with the winter; but
there he was drifting North to a camping-place he wanted to reach before
stopping. I suppose we'll have him for a neighbor all summer again."

The girl, remembering his antipathy to all of the red race, laughed and
raised in her arms the child, that had awakened.

"All I needed to perfect my return to the Kootenai country was the
presence of Akkomi," she confessed. "I should have missed him, for he was
my first friend in the valley. And it may be, Mr. McCoy, that if he is
inclined to be friendly to-night, I may ask him to take me the rest of the
way. I want to talk to him. He is an old friend."

"Certainly," agreed McCoy; but he evidently thought her desire was a very
peculiar one.

"But you will have a friend at court just the same--whether I go all the
way with you or not," she said and smiled across at him knowingly.

Captain Leek heard the words, too, and must have understood them, for he
stared stonily at the big, good-looking miner. Their greeting had been
very brief; evidently they were not congenial spirits.

"Is that a--a child?" asked the captain, as the little creature drooped
drowsily with its face against 'Tana's neck; "really a child?"

"Really a child," returned the girl, "and the sweetest, prettiest little
thing in the world when her eyes are open." As he continued to stare at
her in astonishment while their boats kept opposite each other, she added:
"You would have sooner expected to see me with a pet bear, or wolf,
wouldn't you?"

"Yes; I think I would," he confessed, and she drew the child closer and
kissed it and laughed happily.

"That is because you only know one side of me," she said.

The stars were thick overhead, and their clear light made the night
beautiful. When they reached the boats of Akkomi, only a short parley was
held, and then an Indian canoe darted out ahead of the others. Two dark
experts bent to the paddles and old Akkomi sat near the girl and the
child. Looking in their dusky faces, 'Tana realized more fully that she
was again in the land of the Kootenais.

It was just as she would have chosen to come back, and close against her
heart was pressed the message by which he had called her.

The child slept, but she and the old Indian talked now and then in low
tones all through the night. She felt no weariness. The air she breathed
was as a tonic against fatigue, and when the canoe veered to the left
and entered the creek leading to camp, she knew her journey was almost
over.

The dusk was yet over the land, a faint whiteness touched the eastern edge
of the night and told of the dawn to come, but it had not arrived.

The camp was wrapped in silence. Only the watch-man of the ore-sheds was
awake, and came tramping down to the shore when their paddles dipped in
the water and told him a boat was near. It was the man Saunders.

"Miss Rivers!" he exclaimed, incredulously. "Well, if this isn't luck!
Harris will about drop dead with joy when he sees you. He took worse just
after dark last night. He says he is worse, though he can talk yet. I was
with him a little while, and how he did worry because you wouldn't get
here before he was done for! Overton has been with him all night; went to
bed only an hour ago. I'll call the folks up for you."

"No," said the girl, hastily; "call no one yet. I will go to Joe if you
will take me. If he is so bad, that will be best. Let the rest sleep."

"Can I carry the--the baby?" he asked, doubtfully, and took the child in
his arms with a sort of fear lest it should break. He was not the sort of
man to be needlessly curious, so he showed no surprise at the rather
strange adjunct to her outfit, but carried the little sleeper into the
pretty sitting room, where he deposited it on a couch, and the girl
arranged it comfortably, that it might at last have undisturbed rest.

A man in an adjoining room heard their voices and came to the door.

"You can come out for a while, Kelly," said Saunders. "This is Miss
Rivers. She will want to see him."

A minute later the man in charge had left 'Tana alone beside Harris.

All the life in him seemed to gather in his eyes as he looked at her.

"You have come! I told him you would--I told Dan," he whispered,
excitedly. "Come close; turn up the light; I want to see you plain. Just
the same girl; but happier--a heap happier, ain't you?"

"A heap happier," she agreed.

"And I helped you about it some--about the mine, I mean. I like to think
of that, to think I made some return for the harm I done you."

"But you never did me any harm, Joe."

"Yes, I did--lots. You didn't know--but I did. That's why I wanted you to
come so bad. I wanted to square things--before I had to go."

"But you are all right, Joe. You are not going to die. You are much better
than when I saw you last."

"Because I can talk, you think so," he answered. "But I am cold to my
waist--I know what that means; and I ain't grumbling. It's all right, now
that you have come. Queer that all the time we've known each other, this
is the first time I've talked to you! 'Tana, you must let me tell Dan
Overton all--"

"All! All what?"

"Where I saw you first, and--"

"No--no, I can't do that," she said, shrinking back. "Joe, I've tried
often to think of it--of telling him, but I never could. He will have to
trust or distrust me, but I can't tell him."

"I know how you feel; but you wrong yourself. Any one would give you
credit instead of blaming you--don't you ever think of that? And
then--then, 'Tana, I tried to tell him down at the Ferry, because I
thought you were in some game against him. I managed to tell him you were
Holly's partner, but hadn't got any farther when the paralysis caught me.
I hadn't time to tell him that Holly was your father, and that he made you
go where he said; or that you dressed as a boy and was called 'Monte,'
because that disguise was the only safety possible for you in the gambling
dens where he took you. Part of it I didn't understand clearly at that
time. I didn't know you really thought he was dead, and that you tramped
alone into this region in your boy's clothes, so you could get a new start
where no white folks knew you. I told him just enough to wrong you in his
eyes, and then could not tell him enough to right you again. Now do you
know why I want you to let me tell him all--while I can?"

It had taken him a long time to say the words; his articulation had grown
indistinct at times, and the excitement was wearing on him.

Once the door into the room where the child lay swung open noiselessly,
and he had turned his eyes in that direction; but the girl's head was
bowed on the arm of his chair, and she did not notice it.

"And then--there are other things," he continued. "He don't know you were
the boy Fannie spoke of in that letter; or that she gave you the plot of
this land; or, more--far more to me!--that you took care of her till she
died. All that must give him many a worried thought, 'Tana, that you never
counted on, for he liked you--and yet all along he has been made to think
wrong of you."

"I know," she assented. "He blamed me for--for a man being in my cabin
that night, and I--I wanted him to--think well of me; but I could not tell
him the truth, I was ashamed of it all my life. And the shame has got in
my blood till I can't change it. I want him to know, but I can't tell
him."

"You don't need to," said a voice back of her, and she arose to see
Overton standing in the door. "I did not mean to listen; but I stopped to
look at the child, and I heard. I hope you are not sorry," and he came
over to her with outstretched hand.

She could not speak at first. She had dreamed of so many ways in which she
would meet him--of what she would say to him; and now she stood before him
without a word.

"Don't be sorry, 'Tana," he said, and tightened his hand over her own. "I
honor you for what I heard just now. You were wrong not to tell me; I
might have saved you some troubles."

"I was ashamed--ashamed!" she said, and turned away.

"But it is not to me all this should be told," he said, more coldly. "Max
is the one to know; or, maybe, he does know."

"He knows a little--not much. Seldon and Haydon recognized--Holly. So the
family knew that, but no more."

It was so hard for her to talk to him there, where Harris looked from one
to the other expectantly.

And then the child slipped from the couch and came toddling into the light
and to the girl.

"Tana--bek-fas!" she lisped, imperatively. "Bek-fas."

"Yes, you shall have your breakfast very soon," promised the girl. "But
come and shake hands with these gentlemen."

She surveyed them each with baby scrutiny, and refused. "Bek-fas" was all
the world contained that she would give attention to just then.

"You with a baby, 'Tana?" said Harris. "Have you adopted one?"

"Not quite," and she wished--how she wished it was all over! "Her mother,
who is dead, gave her to me. But she has a father. I have come up here to
see what he will say."

"Up here!"

"Yes. But I must go and find some one to get her breakfast. Then--Dan--I
would like to see you."

He bowed and started to follow her, but Harris called him back.

"This spurt of strength has about done for me," he said. "The cold is
creeping up fast. I want to tell you something else. Don't tell her till I
am gone, for she wouldn't touch my hand if she knew it. I killed Lee
Holly!"

"You didn't--you couldn't!"

"I did. I was able to walk long before you knew it, but I lay low. I knew
if he was living, he would come where she was, sooner or later, and I knew
the gold would fetch him, so I waited. I could hardly keep from killing
him as he left her cabin that first night, but she had told him to come
back, and I knew that would be my time. She thought once it might be me,
but changed her mind. Don't tell her till I am gone, Dan. And--listen! You
are everything to her, and you don't know it. I knew it before she left,
but--Oh, well, it's all square now, I guess. She won't blame me--after
I'm dead. She knows he deserved it. She knew I meant to kill him, if ever
I was able."

"But why?"

"Don't you know? He was the man--my partner--who took Fannie away. Don't
you--understand?"

"Yes," and Overton, after a moment, shook hands with him.

"I didn't want 'Tana to go back on me--while I lived," he whispered. It
was his one reason for keeping silence--the dread that she could never
talk to him freely, nor ever clasp his hand again; and Overton promised
his wish should be regarded.

When he went to find 'Tana, Mrs. Huzzard had possession of her, and the
two women were seeing that the baby got her "bek-fas," and doing some
talking at the same time.

"And he's got his new boat, has he?" she was saying. "Well, now! And it's
to be a new house next, and a fine one, he says, if he can only get the
right woman to live in it," and she smoothed her hair complacently. "He
thinks a heap of fine manners in a woman, too; and right enough, for he'll
have an elegant home to put one in and she never to wet her hands in
dish-water! But he is so backward like; but maybe this time--"

"Oh, you must cure him of that," laughed the girl. "He is a splendid
fellow, and I won't forgive you if you don't marry him before the summer
is over."

At that instant Overton opened the door.

"If you are ready now to see me--" he began, and she nodded her head and
went toward him, her face a little pale and visibly embarrassed.

Then she turned and went back.

"Come, Toddles," she said; "you come with 'Tana."

A faint flush was tingeing the east, and over the water-courses a silvery
mist was spread. She looked out from the window and then up the mountain.

"Let us go out--up on the bluff," she suggested. "I have been shut up in
houses so long! I want to feel that the trees are close to me again."

He assented in silence and the child, having appeased its hunger, was
disposed to be more gracious, and the little hands were reached to him
while she said:

"Up."

He lifted her to his shoulder, where she laughed down in high glee at the
girl who walked beside in silence. It was so much easier to plan, while
far away from him, what she would say, than to say it.

But he himself broke the silence.

"You call her Toddles," he remarked. "It is not a pretty name for so
pretty a child. Has she no other one?"

They had reached the bluff above the camp that was almost a town now. She
sat down on a log and wished she could keep from trembling so.

"Yes--she has another one--a pretty one, I think," she said, at last. "It
is Gracie--Grace--"

She looked up at him appealingly.

But the emotion in her face made his lips tighten. He had heard so many
revelations of her that morning. What was this last to be?

"Well," he said, coldly, "that is a pretty name, so far as it goes; but
what is the rest of it?"

"Overton," she said, in a low voice, and his face flushed scarlet.

"What do you mean?" he asked, harshly, and the little one, disliking his
tone, reached her arms to 'Tana. "Whose child is this?"

"Your child."

"It is not true."

"It is true," she answered, as decidedly as himself. "Her mother--the
woman you married--told me so when she was dying."

He stared at her incredulously.

"I wouldn't believe her even then," he answered. "But how does it come
that you--"

"You don't need to claim her, if you don't want to," she said, ignoring
all his astonishment. "Her mother gave her to me. She is mine, unless you
claim her. I don't care who her father was--or her mother, either. She is
a helpless, innocent little child, thrown on the world--that is all the
certificate of parentage I am asking for. She shall have what I never
had--a childhood."

He walked back and forth several times, turning sometimes to look at the
girl, whom the child was patting on the cheek while she put up her little
red mouth every now and then for kisses.

"Her mother is dead?" he asked at last, halting and looking down at her.

She thought his face was very hard and stern, and did not know it was
because he, too, longed to take her in his arms and ask for kisses.

"Her mother is dead."

"Then--I will take the child, if you will let me."

"I don't know," she said, and tried to smile up at him. "You don't seem
very eager."

"And you came back here for that?" he said, slowly, regarding her. "'Tana,
what of Max? What of your school?"

"Well, I guess I have money enough to have private teachers out here for
the things I don't know--and there are several of them! And as for Max--he
didn't say much. I saw Mr. Seldon in Chicago and he scolded me when I told
him I was coming back to the woods to stay--"

"To stay?" and he took a step nearer to her. "'Tana!"

"Don't you want me to?" she asked. "I thought maybe--after what you said
to me in the cabin--that day--"

"You'd better be careful!" he said. "Don't make me remember that
unless--unless you are willing to tell me what I told you that day--unless
you are willing to say that you--care for me--that you will be my wife.
God knows I never hoped to say this to you. I have fought myself into the
idea that you belong to Max. But now that it is said--answer me!"

She smiled up at him and kissed the child happily.

"What shall I say?" she asked. "You should know without words. I told you
once I would make coffee for no man but you. Do you remember? Well, I have
come back to you for that. And see! I don't wear Max's ring any longer.
Don't you understand?"

"That you have come back to _me_--'Tana!"

"Now don't eat me! I may not always be a blessing, so don't be too
jubilant. I have bad blood in my veins, but you have had fair warning."

He only laughed and drew her to him, and she could never again say no man
had kissed her.

"'Tana!" said the child, "'ook."

She looked where the little hand pointed and saw all the clouds of the
east flooded with gold, and higher up they lay blushing above the far
hills.

A new day was creeping over the mountains to banish shadows from the
Kootenai land.

THE END



FLORENCE L. BARCLAY'S
NOVELS

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THE WHITE LADIES OF WORCESTER

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THE UPAS TREE

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THROUGH THE POSTERN GATE

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vanished into insignificance before the convincing demonstration of
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THE ROSARY

The story of a young artist who is reputed to love beauty above all else
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superbly capable of love, its sacrifices and its exceeding reward.

THE MISTRESS OF SHENSTONE

The lovely young Lady Ingleby, recently widowed by the death of a husband
who never understood her, meets a fine, clean young chap who is ignorant
of her title and they fall deeply in love with each other. When he learns
her real identity a situation of singular power is developed.

THE BROKEN HALO

The story of a young man whose religious belief was shattered in childhood
and restored to him by the little white lady, many years older than
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THE FOLLOWING OF THE STAR

The story of a young missionary, who, about to start for Africa, marries
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Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York



ETHEL M. DELL'S NOVELS

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THE LAMP IN THE DESERT

The scene of this splendid story is laid in India and tells of the lamp of
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GREATHEART

The story of a cripple whose deformed body conceals a noble soul.

THE HUNDREDTH CHANCE

A hero who worked to win even when there was only "a hundredth chance."

THE SWINDLER

The story of a "bad man's" soul revealed by a woman's faith.

THE TIDAL WAVE

Tales of love and of women who learned to know the true from the false.

THE SAFETY CURTAIN

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ELEANOR H. PORTER'S NOVELS

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JUST DAVID

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THE ROAD TO UNDERSTANDING

A compelling romance of love and marriage.

OH, MONEY! MONEY!

Stanley Fulton, a wealthy bachelor, to test the dispositions of his
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SIX STAR RANCH

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DAWN

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ACROSS THE YEARS

Short stories of our own kind and of our own people. Contains some of the
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THE TANGLED THREADS

In these stories we find the concentrated charm and tenderness of all her
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THE TIE THAT BINDS

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"STORM COUNTRY" BOOKS BY
GRACE MILLER WHITE

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JUDY OF ROGUES' HARBOR

Judy's untutored ideas of God, her love of wild things, her faith in life
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TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY

It was as Tess, beautiful, wild, impetuous, that Mary Pickford made her
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according to the character of the man she loves--is the theme of the
story.

THE SECRET OF THE STORM COUNTRY

The sequel to "Tess of the Storm Country," with the same wild background,
with its half-gypsy life of the squatters--tempestuous, passionate,
brooding. Tess learns the "secret" of her birth and finds happiness and
love through her boundless faith in life.

FROM THE VALLEY OF THE MISSING

A haunting story with its scene laid near the Country familiar to readers
of "Tess of the Storm Country."

ROSE O' PARADISE

"Jinny" Singleton, wild, lovely, lonely, but with a passionate yearning
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STORIES OF THE KENTUCKY MOUNTAINS

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THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE.

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

The "lonesome pine" from which the story takes its name was a tall tree
that stood in solitary splendor on a mountain top. The fame of the pine
lured a young engineer through Kentucky to catch the trail, and when he
finally climbed to its shelter he found not only the pine but the
_footprints of a girl_. And the girl proved to be lovely, piquant, and the
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than "the trail of the lonesome pine."

THE LITTLE SHEPHERD OF KINGDOM COME

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This is a story of Kentucky, in a settlement known as "Kingdom Come." It
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springs the flower of civilization.

"Chad," the "little shepherd" did not know who he was nor whence he
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way, who could play the banjo better that anyone else in the mountains.

A KNIGHT OF THE CUMBERLAND.

Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

The scenes are laid along the waters of the Cumberland; the lair of
moonshiner and feudsman. The knight is a moonshiner's son, and the heroine
a beautiful girl perversely christened "The Blight." Two impetuous young
Southerners' fall under the spell of "The Blight's" charms and she learns
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Included in this volume is "Hell fer-Sartain" and other stories, some of
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ZANE GREY'S NOVELS

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THE MAN OF THE FOREST
THE DESERT OF WHEAT
THE U. P. TRAIL
WILDFIRE
THE BORDER LEGION
THE RAINBOW TRAIL
THE HERITAGE OF THE DESERT
RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE
THE LIGHT OF WESTERN STARS
THE LAST OF THE PLAINSMEN
THE LONE STAR RANGER
DESERT GOLD
BETTY ZANE

LAST OF THE GREAT SCOUTS
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  Helen Cody Wetmore, with Foreword and Conclusion
  by Zane Grey.

ZANE GREY'S BOOKS FOR BOYS

KEN WARD IN THE JUNGLE
THE YOUNG LION HUNTER
THE YOUNG FORESTER
THE YOUNG PITCHER
THE SHORT STOP
THE RED-HEADED OUTFIELD AND
  OTHER BASEBALL STORIES

Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York





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