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Title: The Chalice Of Courage - A Romance of Colorado
Author: Brady, Cyrus Townsend, 1861-1920
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             THE CHALICE OF COURAGE

                             _A Romance of Colorado_

                             BY CYRUS TOWNSEND BRADY

Author of "The Island of Regeneration," "The Better Man," "Hearts and
the Highway," "As the Sparks Fly Upward," etc., etc.


    _With Illustrations By
    HARRISON FISHER and J. N. MARCHAND_

    NEW YORK
    DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
    1912

    COPYRIGHT, 1911
    BY W. G. CHAPMAN

    COPYRIGHT, 1912
    BY DODD, MEAD & COMPANY

    _Published, February, 1912_



              To My Beloved Friend
             _JOHN B . WALKER, JR._

    Great-hearted, Great-souled, High-spirited
    Man of Colorado.



[Illustration: "Leave me to myself, I would not take the finest, noblest
man on earth--"]



PREFACE


Prefaces, like much study, are a weariness to the flesh; to some people,
not to me. I can conceive of no literary proposition more attractive
than the opportunity to write unlimited prefaces. Let me write the
preface and I care not who writes the book. Unfortunately for my
desires, I can only be prefatory in the case of my own. Happily my own
are sufficiently numerous to afford me some scope in the indulgence of
this passion for forewords.

I suppose no one ever sat down to write a preface until after he had
written the book. It is like the final pat that the fond parent gives to
the child before it is allowed to depart in its best clothes. I have
seen the said parent accompany the child quite a distance on the way,
keeping up a continual process of adjustment of raiment which it was
evidently loath to discontinue.

And that is my case exactly. Here is the novel with which I have done my
best, which I have written and rewritten after long and earnest thought,
and yet I cannot let it go forth without some final, shall I say caress?
And as it is, I really have nothing of importance to say! The final
pats and pulls and tugs and smoothings do not materially add to the
child's appearance or increase its fascination, and I am at a loss to
find a reason for the preface except it be the converse of the statement
about the famous and much disliked Dr. Fell!

Perhaps, if I admit to you that I have been in the cañon, that I have
followed the course of the brook, that I have seen that lake, that I
have tramped those trails, it will serve to make you understand, dear
reader, how real and actual it all is to me. Yes, I have even looked
over the precipice down which the woman fell. I have talked with old
Kirkby; Robert Maitland is an intimate friend of mine; I have even met
his brother in Philadelphia and as for that glorious girl Enid--well,
being a married man, I will refrain from any personal appraisement of
her qualities. But I can with propriety dilate upon Newbold, and even
Armstrong, bad as he was, has some place in my regard.

If these people shall by any chance seem real to you and become your
friends as they are mine, another of those pleasant ties that bind the
author and his public together will have been woven, knotted, forged.
Never mind the method so long as there is a tie. And with this hope,
looking out up the winter snows that might have covered the range, as I
have often seen them there, I bid you a happy good morning.

                                          CYRUS TOWNSEND BRADY

_St. George's Rectory, Kansas City, Missouri._

_Thanksgiving Day, 1911._



CONTENTS



   BOOK I

   THE HIGHER LAW

       I THE CUP THAT WOULD NOT PASS               1
      II ALONE UPON THE TRAIL                     16


   BOOK II

   THE EAST AND THE WEST

     III THE YOUNG LADY FROM PHILADELPHIA         29
      IV THE GAME PLAYED IN THE USUAL WAY         43
       V THE STORY AND THE LETTERS                55
      VI THE POOL AND THE WATER SPRITE            72
     VII THE BEAR, THE MAN AND THE FLOOD          88
    VIII DEATH, LIFE AND THE RESURRECTION        101


   BOOK III

   FORGETTING AND FORGOT

      IX A WILD DASH FOR THE HILLS               123
       X A TELEGRAM AND A CALLER                 136
      XI OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY             149
     XII ON THE TWO SIDES OF THE DOOR            166
    XIII THE LOG HUT IN THE MOUNTAINS            179
     XIV A TOUR OF INSPECTION                    193
      XV THE CASTAWAYS OF THE MOUNTAINS          203


   BOOK IV

   OH YE ICE AND SNOW, PRAISE YE THE LORD

     XVI THE WOMAN'S HEART                       223
    XVII THE MAN'S HEART                         236
   XVIII THE KISS ON THE HAND                    248
     XIX THE FACE IN THE LOCKET                  261
      XX THE STRENGTH OF THE WEAK                276


   BOOK V

   THE CUP IS DRAINED

     XXI THE CHALLENGE OF THE RANGE              291
    XXII THE CONVERGING TRAILS                   310
   XXIII THE ODDS AGAINST HIM                    327
    XXIV THE LAST RESORT OF KINGS AND MEN        339
     XXV THE BECOMING END                        357
    XXVI THE DRAUGHT OF JOY                      368



ILLUSTRATIONS


"LEAVE ME TO MYSELF, I WOULD NOT TAKE THE
FINEST, NOBLEST MAN ON EARTH--"                _FRONTISPIECE_

"READ THE LETTERS," HE SAID. "THEY'LL TELL
THE STORY. GOOD-NIGHT."                       _FACING PAGE_ 70

"WAIT! I AM A WOMAN, ABSOLUTELY ALONE,
ENTIRELY AT YOUR MERCY"                            "   "   156

IT WAS ALL UP WITH ARMSTRONG                       "   "   354



THE CHALICE OF COURAGE

(Courtesy of _The Outlook_)


    Drink of the Chalice of Courage!
      Pressed to the trembling lip,
    The dark-veiled fears
      From the passing years,
    Like a dusty garment slip.

    Drink of the Chalice of Courage!
      Poured for the Hero's feast,
    When the strength divine
      Of its subtle wine
    Is shared with the last and least.

    Drink of the Chalice of Courage!
      The mead of mothers and men,
    And the sinewed might
      Of the Victor's might,
    Be yours, again and again.

                Marie Hemstreet



BOOK I

THE HIGHER LAW



CHAPTER I

THE CUP THAT WOULD NOT PASS


The huge concave of the rocky wall towering above them threw the woman's
scream far into the vast profound of the cañon. It came sharp to the
man's ear, yet terminated abruptly; as when two rapidly moving trains
pass, the whistle of one is heard shrill for one moment only to be cut
short on the instant. Brief as it was, however, the sound was
sufficiently appalling; its suddenness, its unexpectedness, the awful
terror in its single note, as well as its instantaneity, almost stopped
his heart.

With the indifference of experience and long usage he had been riding
carelessly along an old pre-historic trail through the cañon, probably
made and forgotten long before the Spaniards spied out the land.
Engrossed in his thoughts, he had been heedless alike of the wall above
and of the wall below. Prior to that moment neither the over-hanging
rock that curved above his head nor the almost sheer fall to the river a
thousand feet beneath the narrow ledge of the trail had influenced him
at all. He might have been riding a country road so indifferent had
been his progress. That momentary shriek dying thinly away into a
strange silence changed everything.

The man was riding a sure-footed mule, which perhaps somewhat accounted
for his lack of care, and it seemed as if the animal must also have
heard and understood the meaning of the woman's scream, for with no
bridle signal and no spoken word the mule stopped suddenly as if
petrified. Rider and ridden stood as if carved from stone.

The man's comprehending, realizing fear almost paralyzed him. At first
he could scarcely force himself to do that toward which his whole being
tended--look around. Divining instantly the full meaning of that sudden
cry, it seemed hours before he could turn his head; really her cry and
his movement were practically simultaneous. He threw an agonized glance
backward on the narrow trail and saw--nothing! Where there had been
life, companionship, comradeship, a woman, there was now vacancy.

The trail made a little bend behind him, he could see its surface for
some distance, but not what lay beneath. He did not need the testimony
of his eyes for that. He knew what was down there.

It seemed to his distorted perceptions that he moved slowly, his limbs
were like lead, every joint was as stiff as a rusty hinge. Actually he
dropped from the mule's back with reckless and life-defying haste and
fairly leaped backward on his path. Had there been any to note his
progress, they would have said he risked his own life over every foot of
the way. He ran down the narrow shelf, rock strewn and rough, swaying
upon the unfathomable brink until he reached the place where she had
been a moment since. There he dropped on one knee and looked downward.

She was there! A few hundred feet below the trail edge the cañon wall,
generally a sheer precipice, broadened out into a great butte, or
buttress, which sloped somewhat more gently to the foaming, roaring
river far beneath. About a hundred and fifty feet under him a stubby
spur with a pocket on it jutted out from the face of the cliff; she had
evidently struck on that spur and bounded off and fallen, half rolling,
to the broad top of the butte two hundred or more feet below the pocket.

Three hundred and fifty feet down to where she lay he could distinguish
little except a motionless huddled mass. The bright blue of her dress
made a splotch of unwonted color against the reddish brown monotones of
the mountain side and cañon wall. She was dead, of course; she must be
dead, the man felt. From that distance he could see no breathing, if
such there were; indeed as he stared she grew less and less distinct to
him, his eyes did not fill with tears, but to his vision the very earth
itself, the vast depths of the cañon, the towering wall on the other
side, seemed to quiver and heave before him. For the first time in his
life the elevation made him dizzy, sick. He put his hands to his face to
shut out the sight, he tore them away to look again. He lifted his eyes
toward the other side across the great gulf to the opposing wall which
matched the one upon which he stood, where the blue sky cloudless
overhung.

"God!" he whispered in futile petition or mayhap expostulation.

He was as near the absolute breaking point as a man may go and yet not
utterly give way, for he loved this woman as he loved that light of
heaven above him, and in the twinkling of an eye she was no more. And so
he stared and stared dumbly agonizing, wondering, helpless, misty-eyed,
blind.

He sank back from the brink at last and tried to collect his thoughts.
What was he to do? There was but one answer to that question. He must
go down to her. There was one quick and easy way; over the brink, the
way she had gone. That thought came to him for a moment, but he put it
away. He was not a coward, life was not his own to give or to take,
besides she might be alive, she might need him. There must be some other
way.

Determining upon action, his resolution rose dominant, his vision
cleared. Once again he forced himself to look over the edge and see
other things than she. He was a daring, skillful and experienced
mountaineer; in a way mountaineering was his trade. He searched the side
of the cañon to the right and the left with eager scrutiny and found no
way within the compass of his vision to the depths below. He shut his
eyes and concentrated his thoughts to remember what they had passed over
that morning. There came to him the recollection of a place which as he
had viewed it he had idly thought might afford a practicable descent to
the river's rim.

Forgetful of the patient animal beside him, he rose to his feet and with
one last look at the poor object below started on his wild plunge down
the trail over which some men might scarcely have crept on hands and
knees. Sweat bedewed his forehead, his limbs trembled, his pulses
throbbed, his heart beat almost to bursting. Remorse sharpened by love,
passion quickened by despair, scourged him, desperate, on the way. And
God protected him also, or he had fallen at every uncertain, hurried,
headlong step.

And as he ran, thoughts, reproaches, scourged him on. Why had he brought
her, why had he allowed her to take that trail which but for him and for
her had probably not been traversed by man or woman or beast, save the
mountain sheep, the gray wolves, or the grizzly bear, for five hundred
years. She had protested that she was as good a mountaineer as he--and
it was true--and she had insisted on accompanying him; he recollected
that there had been a sort of terror in her urgency,--he must take her,
he must not leave her alone, she had pleaded; he had objected, but he
had yielded, the joy of her companionship had meant so much to him in
his lonely journeying, and now--he accused himself bitterly as he surged
onward.

After a time the man forced himself to observe the road, he discovered
that in an incredibly short period, perhaps an hour, he had traversed
what it had taken them four times as long to pass over that very day. He
must be near his goal. Ah, there it was at last, and in all the turmoil
and torture of his brain he found room for a throb of satisfaction when
he came upon the broken declivity. Yes, it did afford a practicable
descent; some landslide centuries back had made there a sort of rude,
rough, broken, megalithic stairway in the wall of the cañon. The man
threw himself upon it and with bleeding hands, bruised limbs and torn
clothing descended to the level of the river.

Two atoms to the eye of the Divine, in that vast rift in the gigantic
mountains. One unconscious, motionless, save for faint gasping breaths;
the other toiling blindly along the river bank, fortunately here
affording practicable going, to the foot of the great butte upon whose
huge shoulder the other lay. The living and the dead in the waste and
the wilderness of the everlasting hills.

Unconsciously but unerringly the man had fixed the landmarks in his mind
before he started on that terrific journey. Without a moment of
incertitude, or hesitation, he proceeded directly to the base of the
butte and as rapidly as if he had been fresh for the journey and the
endeavor. Up he climbed without a pause for rest. It was a desperate
going, almost sheer at times, but his passion found the way. He clawed
and tore at the rocks like an animal, he performed feats of strength and
skill and determination and reckless courage marvelous and impossible
under less exacting demands. Somehow or other he got to the top at last;
perhaps no man in all the ages since the world's first morning when God
Himself upheaved the range had so achieved that goal.

The last ascent was up a little stretch of straight rock over which he
had to draw himself by main strength and determination. He fell panting
on the brink, but not for a moment did he remain prone; he got to his
feet at once and staggered across the plateau which made the head of the
butte toward the blue object on the further side beneath the wall of the
cliff above, and in a moment he bent over what had been--nay, as he saw
the slow choking uprise of her breast, what was--his wife.

He knelt down beside her and looked at her for a moment, scarce daring
to touch her. Then he lifted his head and flung a glance around the
cañon as if seeking help from man. As he did so he became aware, below
him on the slope, of the dead body of the poor animal she had been
riding, whose misstep, from whatever cause he would never know, had
brought this catastrophe upon them.

Nothing else met his gaze but the rocks, brown, gray, relieved here and
there by green clumps of stunted pine. Nothing met his ear except far
beneath him the roar of the river, now reduced almost to a murmur, with
which the shivering leaves of aspens, rustled by the gentle breeze of
this glorious morning, blended softly like a sigh of summer. No, there
was nobody in the cañon, no help there. He threw his head back and
stretched out his arms toward the blue depths of the heavens above, to
the tops of the soaring peaks, and there was nothing there but the
eternal silence of a primeval day.

"God! God!" he murmured again in his despair.

It was the final word that comes to human lips in the last extremity
when life and its hopes and its possibilities tremble on the verge. And
no answer came to this poor man out of that vast void.

He bent to the woman again. What he saw can hardly be described. Her
right arm and her left leg were bent backward and under her. They were
shattered, evidently. He was afraid to examine her and yet he knew that
practically every other bone in her body was broken as well. Her head
fell lower than her shoulders, the angle which she made with the uneven
rock on which she lay convinced him that her back was broken too. Her
clothing was rent by her contact with the rocky spur above, it was torn
from the neck downward, exposing a great red scar which ran across her
sweet white young breast, blood oozing from it, while in the middle of
it something yellow and bright gleamed in the light. Her cheek was cut
open, her glorious hair, matted, torn and bloody, was flung backward
from her down-thrown head.

She should have been dead a thousand times, but she yet lived, she
breathed, her ensanguined bosom rose and fell. Through her pallid lips
bloody foam bubbled, she was still alive.

The man must do something. He did not dare to move her body, yet he took
off his hat, folded it, lifted her head tenderly and slipped it
underneath; it made a better pillow than the hard rock, he thought. Then
he tore his handkerchief from his neck and wiped away the foam from her
lips. In his pocket he had a flask of whiskey, a canteen of water that
hung from his shoulder somehow had survived the rough usage of the
rocks. He mingled some of the water with a portion of the spirit in the
cup of the flask and poured a little down her throat. Tenderly he took
his handkerchief again, and wetting it laved her brow. Except to mutter
incoherent prayers again and again he said no word, but his heart was
filled with passionate endearments, he lavished agonized and infinite
tenderness upon her in his soul.

By and by she opened her eyes. In those eyes first of all he saw
bewilderment, and then terror and then anguish so great that it cannot
be described, pain so horrible that it is not good for man even to think
upon it. Incredible as it may seem, her head moved, her lips relaxed,
her set jaw unclenched, her tongue spoke thickly.

"God!" she said.

The same word that he had used, that final word that comes to the lips
when the heart is wrung, or the body is racked beyond human endurance.
The universal testimony to the existence of the Divine, that trouble and
sometimes trouble alone, wrings from man. No human name, not even his,
upon her lips in that first instant of realization!

"How I--suffer," she faltered weakly.

Her eyes closed again, the poor woman had told her God of her condition,
that was all she was equal to. Man and human relationships might come
later. The man knelt by her side, his hands upraised.

"Louise," he whispered, "speak to me."

Her eyes opened again.

"Will," the anguished voice faltered on, "I am--broken--to pieces--kill
me. I can't stand--kill me"--her voice rose with a sudden fearful
appeal--"kill me."

Then the eyes closed and this time they did not open, although now he
overwhelmed her with words, alas, all he had to give her. At last his
passion, his remorse, his love, gushing from him in a torrent of frantic
appeal awakened her again. She looked him once more in the face and once
more begged him for that quick relief he alone could give.

"Kill me."

That was her only plea. There has been One and only One, who could
sustain such crucifying anguish as she bore without such appeal being
wrested from the lips, yet even He, upon His cross, for one moment,
thought God had forsaken and forgotten Him!

She was silent, but she was not dead. She was speechless, but she was
not unconscious, for she opened her eyes and looked at him with such
pitiful appeal that he would fain hide his face as he could not bear it,
and yet again and again as he stared down into her eyes he caught that
heart breaking entreaty, although now she made no sound. Every twisted
bone, every welling vein, every scarred and marred part on once smooth
soft flesh was eloquent of that piteous petition for relief. "Kill me"
she seemed to say in her voiceless agony. Agony the more appalling
because at last it could make no sound.

He could not resist that appeal. He fought against it, but the demand
came to him with more and more terrific force until he could no longer
oppose it. That cup was tendered to him and he must drain it. No more
from his lips than from the lips of Him of the Garden could it be
withdrawn. Out of that chalice he must drink. It could not pass. Slowly,
never taking his eyes from her, as a man might who was fascinated or
hypnotized, he lifted his hand to his holster and drew out his revolver.

No, he could not do it. He laid the weapon down on the rock again and
bowed forward on his knees, praying incoherently, protesting that God
should place this burden on mere man. In the silence he could hear the
awful rasp of her breath--the only answer. He looked up to find her eyes
upon him again.

Life is a precious thing, to preserve it men go to the last limit. In
defense of it things are permitted that are permitted in no other case.
Is it ever nobler to destroy it than to conserve it? Was this such an
instance? What were the conditions?

There was not a human being, white or red, within five days' journey
from the spot where these two children of malign destiny confronted
each other. That poor huddled broken mass of flesh and bones could not
have been carried a foot across that rocky slope without suffering
agonies beside which all the torture that might be racking her now would
be as nothing. He did not dare even to lay hand upon her to straighten
even one bent and twisted limb, he could not even level or compose her
body where she lay. He almost felt that he had been guilty of
unpardonable cruelty in giving her the stimulant and recalling her to
consciousness. Nor could he leave her where she was, to seek and bring
help to her. With all the speed that frantic desire, and passionate
adoration, and divine pity, would lend to him, it would be a week before
he could return, and by that time the wolves and the vultures--he could
not think that sentence to completion. That way madness lay.

The woman was doomed, no mortal could survive her wounds, but she might
linger for days while high fever and inflammation supervened. And each
hour would add to her suffering. God was merciful to His Son, Christ
died quickly on the cross, mere man sometimes hung there for days.

All these things ran like lightning through his brain. His hand closed
upon the pistol, the eternal anodyne. No, he could not. And the
tortured eyes were open again, it seemed as if the woman had summoned
strength for a final appeal.

"Will," she whispered, "if you--love me--kill me."

He thrust the muzzle of his weapon against her heart, she could see his
movement and for a moment gratitude and love shone in her eyes, and then
with a hand that did not tremble, he pulled the trigger.

A thousand thunder claps could not have roared in his ear with such
detonation. And he had done it! He had slain the thing he loved! Was it
in obedience to a higher law even than that writ on the ancient tables
of stone?

For a moment he thought incoherently, the pistol fell from his hand, his
eyes turned to her face, her eyes were open still, but there was neither
pain, nor appeal, nor love, nor relief in them; there was no light in
them; only peace, calm, darkness, rest. His hand went out to them and
drew the lids down, and as he did so, something gave way in him and he
fell forward across the red, scarred white breast that no longer either
rose or fell.



CHAPTER II

ALONE UPON THE TRAIL


They had started from their last camp early in the morning. It had been
mid-day when she fell and long after noon when he killed her and lapsed
into merciful oblivion. It was dusk in the cañon when he came to life
again. The sun was still some distance above the horizon, but the
jutting walls of the great pass cut off the light, the butte top was in
ever deepening shadow.

I have often wondered what were the feelings of Lazarus when he was
called back to life by the great cry of his Lord. "Hither--Out!" Could
that transition from the newer way of death to the older habit of living
have been accomplished without exquisite anguish and pain, brief,
sudden, but too sacred, like his other experiences, to dwell upon in
mortal hours?

What he of Bethany might perhaps have experienced this man felt long
after under other circumstances. The enormous exertions of the day, the
cruel bruises and lacerations to which clothes and body gave evidence,
the sick, giddy, uncertain, helpless, feeling that comes when one
recovers consciousness after such a collapse, would have been hard
enough to bear; but he took absolutely no account of any of these things
for, as he lifted himself on his hands, almost animal-like for a moment,
from the cold body of his wife, everything came across him with a
sudden, terrific, overwhelming, rush of recollection.

She was dead, and he had killed her. There were reasons, arguments,
excuses, for his course; he forgot them confronted by that grim,
terrific, tragic fact. The difference between that mysterious thing so
incapable of human definition which we call life, and that other
mysterious thing equally insusceptible of explanation which we call
death, is so great that when the two confront each other the most
indifferent is awed by the contrast. Many a man and many a woman prays
by the bedside of some agonized sufferer for a surcease of anguish only
to be brought about by death, by a dissolution of soul and body,
beseeching God of His mercy for the oblivion of the last, long, quiet,
sleep; but when the prayer has been granted, and the living eyes look
into the dead, the beating heart bends over the still one--it is a hard
soul indeed which has the strength not to wish again for a moment, one
little moment of life, to whisper one word of abiding love, to hear one
word of fond farewell.

Since that is true, what could this man think whose hand had pointed the
weapon and pulled the trigger and caused that great gaping hole through
what had once been a warm and loving heart? God had laid upon him a
task, than which none had ever been heavier on the shoulders of man, and
he did not think as he stared at her wildly that God had given him at
the same time strength to bear his burden.

Later, it might be that cold reason would come to his aid and justify
him for what he had done, but now, now, he only realized that she was
dead, and he had killed her. He forgot her suffering in his own anguish
and reproach of himself. He found time to marvel at himself with a
strange sort of wonder. How could he have done it.

Something broke the current of his thoughts, and it was good for him
that it was so. He heard a swish through the air and he looked away from
his dead wife in the direction of the sound. A little distance off upon
a pinnacle of rock he saw a vulture, a hideous, horrible, unclean,
carrion bird. While he watched, another and another settled softly down.
He rose to his feet and far beneath him from the tree clad banks of the
river the long howl of a wolf smote upon his ear. Gluttony and rapine
were at hand. Further down the declivity the body of the dead mule was
the object of the converging attack from earth and air. The threat of
that attack stirred him to life.

There were things he had to do. The butte top was devoid of earth or
much vegetation, yet here and there in hollows where water settled or
drained, soft green moss grew. He stooped over and lifted the body of
the woman. She seemed to fall together loosely and almost break within
his hands--it was evidence of what the fall had done for her,
justification for his action, too, if he had been in a mood to reason
about it, but his only thought then was of how she must have suffered.
By a strange perversion he had to fight against the feeling that she was
suffering now. He laid her gently and tenderly down in a deep hollow in
the rock shaped almost to contain her. He straightened her poor twisted
limbs. He arranged with decent care the ragged dress, covering over the
torn breast and the frightful wound above her heart. With the last of
the water in the canteen, he washed her face, he could not wash out the
scar of course. With rude unskillful hands, yet with pitiable
tenderness, he strove to arrange her blood-matted hair, he pillowed her
head upon his hat again.

Sometimes the last impression of life is stamped on the face of death,
sometimes we see in the awful fixity of feature that attends upon
dissolution, the index of the agony in which life has passed, but more
often, thank God, death lays upon pain and sorrow a smoothing, calming
hand. It was so in this instance. There was a great peace, a great
relief, in the face he looked upon; this poor woman had been tortured
not only in body, that he knew, but she had suffered anguish of soul of
which he was unaware, and death, had it come in gentler form would
perhaps not have been unwelcome. That showed in her face. There was
dignity, composure, surcease of care, repose--the rest that shall be
forever!

The man had done all that he could for her. Stop, there was one thing
more; he knelt down by her side, he was not what we commonly call a
religious man, the habit that he had learned at his mother's knee he had
largely neglected in maturer years, but he had not altogether forgotten,
and even the atheist--and he was far from that--might have prayed then.

"God, accept her," he murmured. "Christ receive her,"--that was all but
it was enough.

He remained by her side some time looking at her; he would fain have
knelt there forever; he would have been happy at that moment if he
could have lain down by her and had someone do for them both the last
kindly office he was trying to do for her. But that was not to be, and
the growing darkness warned him to make haste. The wolf barks were
sharper and nearer, he stooped over her, bent low and laid his face
against hers. Oh that cold awful touch of long farewell. He tore himself
away from her, lifted from her neck a little object that had gleamed so
prettily amid the red blood. It was a locket. He had never seen it
before and had no knowledge of what it might contain. He kissed it,
slipped it into the pocket of his shirt and rose to his feet.

The plateau was strewn with rock; working rapidly and skillfully he
built a burial mound of stone over her body. The depression in which she
lay was deep enough to permit no rock to touch her person. The cairn, if
such it may be called, was soon completed. No beast of the earth or bird
of the air could disturb what was left of his wife. It seemed so piteous
to him to think of her so young, and so sweet and so fair, so soft and
so tender, so brave and so true, lying alone in the vast of the cañon,
weighted down by the great rocks that love's hands had heaped above her.
But there was no help for it.

Gathering up the revolver and canteen he turned and fell rather than
climbed to the level of the river. It was quite dark in the depths of
the cañon, but he pressed rapidly on over the uneven and broken rocks
until he reached the giant stairway. Up them he toiled painfully until
he attained again the trail.

It was dark when he reached the wooded recess where they had slept the
night before. There were grass and trees, a bubbling spring, an oasis
amid the desert of rocks; he found the ashes of their fire and gathering
wood heaped it upon the still living embers until the blaze rose and
roared. He realized at last that he was weary beyond measure, he had
gone through the unendurable since the morning. He threw himself down
alone where they had lain together the night before and sought in vain
for sleep. In his ears he heard that sharp, sudden, breaking cry once
more, and her voice begging him to kill her. He heard again the rasp of
her agonized breathing, the crashing detonation of the weapon. He
writhed with the anguish of it all. Dry-eyed he arose at last and
stretched out his hands to that heaven that had done so little for him
he thought.

Long after midnight he fell into a sort of uneasy, restless stupor. The
morning sun of the new and desolate day recalled him to action. He arose
to his feet and started mechanically down the trail alone--always and
forever alone. Yet God was with him though he knew it not.

Four days later a little party of men winding through the foothills came
upon a wavering, ghastly, terrifying figure. Into the mining town two
days before had wandered a solitary mule, scraps of harness dangling
from it. They had recognized it as one of a pair the man had purchased
for a proposed journey far into the unsurveyed and inaccessible
mountains--to hunt for the treasures hidden within their granite
breasts. It told too plainly a story of disaster. A relief party had
been hurriedly organized to search for the two, one of whom was much
beloved in the rude frontier camp.

The man they met on the way was the man they had come to seek. His boots
were cut to pieces, his feet were raw and bleeding for he had taken no
care to order his going or to choose his way. His clothes were in rags,
through rents and tatters his emaciated body showed its discolored
bruises. His hands were swollen and soiled with wounds and the stains of
the way. The front of his shirt was sadly and strangely discolored. He
was hatless, his hair was gray, his face was as white as the snow on the
crest of the peak, his lips were bloodless yet his eyes blazed with
fever.

For four days without food and with but little water this man had
plodded down the mountain toward the camp. All his energies were merged
in one desire, to come in touch with humanity and tell his awful story;
the keeping of it to himself, which he must do perforce because he was
alone in the world, added to the difficulty of endurance. The sun had
beaten down upon him piteously during the day. The cold dew had drenched
him in the night. Apparitions had met his vision alike in the darkness
and in the light. Voices had whispered to him as he plodded on. But
something had sustained him in spite of the awful drain, physical and
mental, which had wasted him away. Something had sustained him until he
came in touch with men, thereafter the duty would devolve upon his
brethren not upon himself.

They caught him as he staggered into the group of them, these Good
Samaritans of the frontier; they undressed him and washed him, they
bound up his wounds and ministered to him, they laid him gently down
upon the ground, they bent over him tenderly and listened to him while
he told in broken, disjointed words the awful story, of her plunge into
the cañon, of his search for her, of her last appeal to him. And then he
stopped.

"What then?" asked one of the men bending over him as he hesitated.

"God forgive me--I shot her--through the heart."

There was appalling stillness in the little group of rough men, while he
told them where she lay and begged them to go and bring back what was
left of her.

"You must bring her--back," he urged pitifully.

None of the men had ever been up the cañon, but they knew of its
existence and the twin peaks of which he had told them could be seen
from afar. He had given them sufficient information to identify the
place and to enable them to go and bring back the body for Christian
burial. Now these rude men of the mining camp had loved that woman as
men love a bright and cheery personality which dwelt among them.

"Yes," answered the spokesman, "but what about you?"

"I shall be--a dead man," was the murmured answer, "and I don't care--I
shall be glad--"

He had no more speech and no more consciousness after that. It was a
sardonic comment on the situation that the last words that fell from his
lips then should be those words of joy.

"Glad, glad!"



BOOK II

THE EAST AND THE WEST



CHAPTER III

THE YOUNG LADY FROM PHILADELPHIA


Miss Enid Maitland was a highly specialized product of the far east. I
say far, viewing Colorado as a point of departure not as identifying her
with the orient. The classic shades of Bryn Mawr had been the "Groves of
Academus where with old Plato she had walked." Incidentally during her
completion of the exhaustive curriculum of that justly famous
institution she had acquired at least a bowing acquaintance with other
masters of the mind.

Nor had the physical in her education been sacrificed to the mental. In
her at least the _mens sana_ and the _corpore sano_ were alike in
evidence. She had ridden to hounds many times on the anise-scented trail
of the West Chester Hunt! Exciting tennis and leisurely golf had engaged
her attention on the courts and greens of the Merion Cricket Club. She
had buffeted "Old Ocean's gray and melancholy waste" on the beach at
Cape May and at Atlantic City.

Spiritually she was a devoted member of the Episcopal Church, of the
variety that abhors the word "Protestant" in connection therewith.
Altogether she reflected great credit upon her pastors and masters,
spiritual and temporal, and her up-bringing in the three departments of
life left little to be desired.

Upon her graduation she had been at once received and acclaimed by the
"Assembly Set," of Philadelphia, to which indeed she belonged
unquestioned by right of birth and position--and there was no other
power under heaven by which she could have effected entrance therein; at
least that is what the "outs" thought of that most exclusive circle. The
old home of the Maitlands overlooking Rittenhouse Square had been the
scene of her début. In all the refined and decorous gayeties of
Philadelphia's ultra-fastidious society she had participated. She had
even looked upon money standardized New York in its delirium of
extravagance, at least in so far as a sedate and well-born Philadelphia
family could countenance such golden madness. During the year she had
ranged like a conqueror--pardon the masculine appellation--between Palm
Beach in the South and Bar Harbor in the North. Philadelphia was proud
of her, and she was not unknown in those unfortunate parts of the United
States which lay without.

In all this she had remained a frank, free, unspoiled young woman. Life
was full of zest for her, and she enjoyed it with the most
un-Pennsylvanian enthusiasm.

The second summer after her coming out found her in Colorado. Robert
Maitland was one of the big men of the west. He had departed from
Philadelphia at an early age and had settled in Colorado while it was
still in the formative period. There he had grown up with the state. The
Philadelphia Maitlands could never understand it or explain it. Bob
Maitland must have been, they argued, a reversion to an ancient type, a
throwback to some robber baron long antecedent to William Penn. And the
speculation was true. The blood of some lawless adventurer of the past,
discreetly forgot by the conservative section of the family, bubbled in
his veins unchecked by the repressive atmosphere of his home and his
early environment.

He had thoroughly identified himself with his new surroundings and had
plunged into all the activities of the west. During one period in his
life he had actually served as sheriff of one of the border counties,
and it was a rapid "bad man" indeed, who enjoyed any advantage over him
when it came to drawing his "gun." His skill and daring had been
unquestioned. He had made a name for himself which still abides,
especially in the mountains where things yet remained almost as
primitive as they had been from the beginning.

His fame had been accompanied by fortune, too; the cattle upon a
thousand hills were his, the treasures of mines of fabulous richness
were at his command. He lived in Denver in one of the greatest of the
bonanza palaces on the hills of that city, confronting the snow-capped
mountain range. For the rest he held stock in all sorts of corporations,
was a director in numerous concerns and so on--the reader can supply the
usual catalogue, they are all alike. He had married late in life and was
the father of two little girls and a boy, the oldest sixteen and the
youngest ten.

Going east, which he did not love, on an infrequent business trip he had
renewed his acquaintance with his brother and the one ewe lamb of his
brother's flock, to wit, the aforementioned Enid. He had been struck, as
everybody was, by the splendid personality of the girl and had striven
earnestly to disabuse her mind of the prevalent idea that there was
nothing much worth while on the continent beyond the Alleghanies except
scenery.

"What you need, Enid, is a ride across the plains, a sight of real
mountains, beside which these little foothills in Pennsylvania that
people back here make so much of wouldn't be noticed. You want to get
some of the spirited glorious freedom of the west into your conservative
straight-laced little body!"

"In my day, Robert," reprovingly remarked his brother, Enid's father,
"freedom was the last thing a young lady gently born and delicately
nurtured would have coveted."

"Your day is past, Steve," returned the younger Maitland with shocking
carelessness. "Freedom is what every woman desires now, especially when
she is married. You are not in love with anybody are you, Enid?"

"With not a soul," frankly replied the girl, greatly amused at the
colloquy between the two men, who though both mothered by the same woman
were as dissimilar as--what shall I say, the east is from the west? Let
it go at that.

"That's all right," said her uncle, relieved apparently. "I will take
you out west and introduce you to some real men and--"

"If I thought it possible," interposed Mr. Stephen Maitland in his most
austere and dignified manner, "that my daughter," with a perceptible
emphasis on the "my," as if he and not the daughter were the principal
being under consideration, "should ever so far forget what belongs to
her station in life and her family as to allow her affections to become
engaged by anyone who, from his birth and up-bringing in the
er--ah--unlicensed atmosphere of the western country would be _persona
non grata_ to the dignified society of this ancient city and--"

"Nonsense," interrupted the younger brother bluntly. "You have lived
here wrapped up in yourselves and your dinky little town so long that
mental asphyxiation is threatening you all."

"I will thank you, Robert," said his brother with something approaching
the manner in which he would have repelled a blasphemy, "not to refer to
Philadelphia as--er--What was your most extraordinary word?"

"'Dinky,' if my recollection serves."

"Ah, precisely. I am not sure as to the meaning of the term but I
conceive it to be something opprobrious. You can say what you like about
me and mine, but Philadelphia, no."

"Oh, the town's right enough," returned his brother, not at all
impressed. "I'm talking about people now. There are just as fine men and
women in the west as in New York or Philadelphia."

"I am sure you don't mean to be offensive, Robert, but really the
association of ideas in your mention of us with that common and vulgar
New York is er--unpleasant," fairly shuddered the elder Maitland.

"I'm only urging you to recognize the quality of the western people. I
dare say they are of a finer type than the average here."

"From your standpoint, no doubt," continued his brother severely and
somewhat wearily as if the matter were not worth all this argument. "All
that I want of them is that they stay in the west where they belong and
not strive to mingle with the east; there is a barrier between us and
them which it is not well to cross. To permit any intermixtures of
er--race or--"

"The people out there are white, Steve," interrupted his brother
sardonically. "I wasn't contemplating introducing Enid here to Chinese,
or Negroes, or Indians, or--"

"Don't you see," said Mr. Stephen Maitland, stubbornly waving aside this
sarcastic and irrelevant comment, "from your very conversation the vast
gulf that there is between you and me? Although you had every advantage
in life that birth can give you, we are--I mean you have changed so
greatly," he had quickly added, loath to offend.

But he mistook the light in his brother's eyes, it was a twinkle not a
flash. Robert Maitland laughed, laughed with what his brother conceived
to be indecorous boisterousness.

"How little you know of the bone and sinew of this country, Steve," he
exclaimed presently. Robert Maitland could not comprehend how it
irritated his stately brother to be called "Steve." Nobody ever spoke of
him but as Stephen Maitland--"But Lord, I don't blame you," continued
the Westerner. "Any man whose vision is barred by a foothill couldn't be
expected to know much of the main range and what's beyond."

"There isn't any danger of my falling in love with anybody," said Enid
at last, with all the confidence of two triumphant social seasons. "I
think I must be immune even to dukes," she said gayly.

"I referred to worthy young Americans of--" began her father who, to do
him justice, was so satisfied with his own position that no foreign
title 'dazzled' him in the least degree.

"Rittenhouse Square," cut in Robert Maitland with amused sarcasm. "Well,
Enid, you seem to have run the gamut of the east pretty thoroughly, come
out and spend the summer with me in Colorado. My Denver house is open to
you, we have a ranch amid the foothills, or if you are game we can
break away from civilization entirely and find some unexplored, unknown
cañon in the heart of the mountains and camp there. We'll get back to
nature, which seems to be impossible in Philadelphia, and you will see
things and learn things that you will never see or learn anywhere else.
It'll do you good, too; from what I hear, you have been going the pace
and those cheeks of yours are a little too pale for so splendid a girl,
you look too tired under the eyes for youth and beauty."

"I believe I am not very fit," said the girl, "and if father will
permit--"

"Of course, of course," said Stephen Maitland. "You are your own
mistress anyway, and having no mother"--Enid's mother had died in her
infancy--"I suppose that I could not interfere or object if I wished to,
but no marrying or giving in marriage: Remember that."

"Nonsense, father," answered the young woman lightly. "I am not anxious
to assume the bonds of wedlock."

"Well, that settles it," said Robert Maitland. "We'll give you a royal
good time. I must run up to New York and Boston for a few days, but I
shall be back in a week and I can pick you up then."

"What is the house in Denver, is it er--may I ask, provided with all
modern conveniences and--" began the elder Maitland nervously.

Robert Maitland laughed.

"What do you take us for, Steve? Do you ever read the western
newspapers?"

"I confess that I have not given much thought to the west since I
studied geography and--_The Philadelphia Ledger_ has been thought
sufficient for the family since--"

"Gracious!" exclaimed Maitland. "The house cost half a million dollars
if you must know it, and if there is anything that modern science can
contribute to comfort and luxury that isn't in it, I don't know what it
is. Shall it be the house in Denver, or the ranch, or a real camp in the
wilds, Enid?"

"First the house in Denver," said Enid, "and then the ranch and then the
mountains."

"Right O! That shall be the program."

"Will my daughter's life be perfectly safe from the Cowboys, Indians and
Desperadoes?"

"Quite safe," answered Robert, with deep gravity. "The cowboys no longer
shoot up the city and it has been years since the Indians have held up
even a trolley car. The only real desperado in my acquaintance is the
mildest, gentlest old stage driver in the west."

"Do you keep up an acquaintance with men of that class, still?" asked
his brother in great surprise.

"You know I was Sheriff in a border county for a number of years and--"

"But you must surely have withdrawn from all such society now."

"Out west," said Robert Maitland, "when we know a man and like him, when
we have slept by him on the plains, ridden with him through the
mountains, fought with him against some border terror, some bad man
thirsting to kill, we don't forget him, we don't cut his acquaintance,
and it doesn't make any difference whether the one or the other of us is
rich or poor. I have friends who can't frame a grammatical sentence, who
habitually eat with their knives, yet who are absolutely devoted to me
and I to them. The man is the thing out there." He smiled and turned to
Enid. "Always excepting the supremacy of woman," he added.

"How fascinating!" exclaimed the girl. "I want to go there right away."

And this was the train of events which brought about the change. Behold
the young lady astride of a horse for the first time in her life in a
divided skirt, that fashion prevalent elsewhere not having been accepted
by the best equestriennes of Philadelphia. She was riding ahead of a
lumbering mountain wagon, surrounded by other riders, which was loaded
with baggage, drawn by four sturdy broncos and followed by a number of
obstinate little burros at present unencumbered with packs which would
be used when they got further from civilization and the way was no
longer practicable for anything on wheels.

Miss Enid Maitland was clad in a way that would have caused her father a
stroke of apoplexy if he could have been suddenly made aware of her
dress, if she had burst into the drawing-room without announcement for
instance. Her skirt was distinctly short, she wore heavy hobnailed shoes
that laced up to her knees, she had on a bright blue sweater, a kind of
a cap known as a tam-o-shanter was pinned above her glorious hair, which
was closely braided and wound around her head. She wore a silk
handkerchief loosely tied around her neck, a knife and revolver hung at
her belt, a little watch was strapped to one wrist, a handsomely braided
quirt dangled from the other, a pair of spurs adorned her heels and,
most discomposing fact of all, by her side rode a handsome and dashing
cavalier.

How Mr. James Armstrong might have appeared in the conventional black
and white of evening clothes was not quite clear to her, for she had as
yet never beheld him in that obliterating raiment, but in the habit of
the west, riding trousers, heavy boots that laced to the knees, blue
shirt, his head covered by a noble "Stetson," mounted on the fiery
restive bronco which he rode to perfection, he was ideal. Alas for the
vanity of human proposition! Mr. James Armstrong, friend and protégé
these many years of Mr. Robert Maitland, mine owner and cattle man on a
much smaller scale than his older friend, was desperately in love with
Enid Maitland, and Enid, swept off her feet by a wooing which began with
precipitant ardor so soon as he laid eyes on her, was more profoundly
moved by his suit, or pursuit, than she could have imagined.

_Omne ignotum pro magnifico!_

She had been wooed in the conventional fashion many times and oft, on
the sands of Palm Beach, along the cliffs of Newport, in the romantic
glens of Mount Desert, in the old fashioned drawing-room overlooking
Rittenhouse Square. She had been proposed to in motor cars, on the decks
of yachts and once even while riding to hounds, but there had been a
touch of sameness about it all. Never had she been made love to with the
headlong gallantry, with the dashing precipitation of the west. It had
swept her from her moorings. She found almost before she was aware of it
that her past experience now stood her in little stead. She awoke to a
sudden realization of the fact that she was practically pledged to James
Armstrong after an acquaintance of three weeks in Denver and on the
ranch.

Business of the most important and critical nature required Armstrong's
presence east at this juncture, and willy-nilly there was no way he
could put off his departure longer. He had to leave the girl with an
uneasy conscience that though he had her half-way promise, he had her
but half-way won. He had snatched the ultimate day from his business
demands to ride with her on the first stage of her journey to the
mountains.



CHAPTER IV

THE GAME PLAYED IN THE USUAL WAY


The road on which they advanced into the mountains was well made and
well kept up. The cañon through the foothills was not very deep--for
Colorado--and the ascent was gentle. Naturally it wound in every
direction following the devious course of the river which it frequently
crossed from one side to the other on rude log bridges. A brisk gallop
of a half mile or so on a convenient stretch of comparatively level
going put the two in the lead far ahead of the lumbering wagon and out
of sight of those others of the party who had elected to go a horseback.
There was perhaps a tacit agreement among the latter not to break in
upon this growing friendship or, more frankly, not to interfere in a
developing love affair.

The cañon broadened here and there at long intervals and ranch houses
were found in every clearing, but these were few and far between and for
the most part Armstrong and Enid Maitland rode practically alone save
for the passing of an occasional lumber wagon.

"You can't think," began the man, as they drew rein after a splendid
gallop and the somewhat tired horses readily subsided into a walk, "how
I hate to go back and leave you."

"And you can't think how loath I am to have you return," the girl
flashed out at him with a sidelong glance from her bright blue eyes and
a witching smile from her scarlet lips.

"Enid Maitland," said the man, "you know I just worship you. I'd like to
sweep you out of your saddle, lift you to the bow of mine and ride away
with you. I can't keep my hands off you, I--"

Before she realized what he would be about he swerved his horse toward
her, his arm went around her suddenly. Taken completely off her guard
she could make no resistance, indeed she scarcely knew what to expect
until he crushed her to him and kissed her, almost roughly, full on the
lips.

"How dare you!" cried the girl, her face aflame, freeing herself at
last, and swinging her own horse almost to the edge of the road which
here ran on an excavation some fifty feet above the river.

"How dare I?" laughed the audacious man, apparently no whit abashed by
her indignation. "When I think of my opportunity I am amazed at my
moderation."

"Your opportunity, your moderation?"

"Yes; when I had you helpless I took but one kiss, I might have held you
longer and taken a hundred."

"And by what right did you take that one?" haughtily demanded the
outraged young woman, looking at him beneath level brows while the color
slowly receded from her face. She had never been kissed by a man other
than a blood relation in her life--remember, suspicious reader, that she
was from Philadelphia--and she resented this sudden and unauthorized
caress with every atom and instinct of her still somewhat conventional
being.

"But aren't you half-way engaged to me?" he pleaded in justification,
seeing the unwonted seriousness with which she had received his impudent
advance. "Didn't you agree to give me a chance?"

"I did say that I liked you very much," she admitted, "no man better,
and that I thought you might--"

"Well, then--" he began.

But she would not be interrupted.

"I did not mean that you should enjoy all the privileges of a conquest
before you had won me. I will thank you not to do that again, sir."

"It seems to have had a very different effect upon you than it did upon
me," replied the man fervently. "I loved you before, but now, since I
have kissed you, I worship you."

"It hasn't affected me that way," retorted the girl promptly, her face
still frowning and indignant. "Not at all, and--"

"Forgive me, Enid," pleaded the other. "I just couldn't help it. You
were so beautiful I had to. I took the chance. You are not accustomed to
our ways."

"Is this your habit in your love affairs?" asked the girl swiftly and
not without a spice of feminine malice.

"I never had any love affairs before," he replied with a ready masculine
mendacity, "at least none worth mentioning. But you see this is the
west, we have gained what we have by demanding every inch that nature
offers, and then claiming the all. That's the way we play the game out
here and that's the way we win."

"But I have not yet learned to play the 'game,' as you call it, by any
such rules," returned the young woman determinedly, "and it is not the
way to win me if I am the stake."

"What is the way?" asked the man anxiously. "Show me and I'll take it
no matter what its difficulty."

"Ah, for me to point out the way would be to play traitor to myself,"
she answered, relenting and relaxing a little before his devoted wooing.
"You must find it without assistance. I can only tell you one thing."

"And what is that?"

"You do not advance toward the goal by such actions as those of a moment
since."

"Look here," said the other suddenly. "I am not ashamed of what I did,
and I'm not going to pretend that I am, either."

"You ought to be," severely.

"Well, maybe so, but I'm not. I couldn't help it any more than I could
help loving you the minute I saw you. Put yourself in my place."

"But I am not in your place, and I can't put myself there. I do not wish
to. If it be true, as you say, that you have grown to--care so much for
me and so quickly--"

"If it be true?" came the sharp interruption as the man bent toward her
fairly devouring her with his bold, ardent gaze.

"Well, since it is true," she admitted under the compulsion of his
protest, "that fact is the only possible excuse for your action."

"You find some justification for me, then!"

"No, only a possibility, but whether it be true or not, I do not feel
that way--yet."

There was a saving grace in that last word, which gave him a little
heart. He would have spoken, but she suffered no interruption, saying:

"I have been wooed before, but--"

"True, unless the human race has become suddenly blind," he said softly
under his breath.

"But never in such ungentle ways."

"I suppose you have never run up against a real red-blooded man like me
before."

"If red-blooded be evidenced mainly by lack of self-control, perhaps I
have not. Yet there are men whom I have met who would not need to
apologize for their qualities even to you, Mr. James Armstrong."

"Don't say that. Evidently I make but poor progress in my wooing. Never
have I met with a woman quite like you."--And in that indeed lay some of
her charm, and she might have replied in exactly the same language and
with exactly the same meaning to him.--"I am no longer a boy. I must be
fifteen years older than you are, for I am thirty-five."

The difference between their years was not quite so great as he
declared, but woman-like the girl let the statement pass unchallenged.

"And I wouldn't insult your intelligence by saying you are the only
woman that I have ever made love to, but there is a vast difference
between making love to a woman and loving one. I have just found that
out for the first time. I marvel at the past, and I am ashamed of it,
but I thank God that I have been saved for this opportunity. I want to
win you, and I am going to do it, too. In many things I don't match up
with the people with whom you train. I was born out here, and I've made
myself. There are things that have happened in the making that I am not
especially proud of, and I am not at all satisfied with the results,
especially since I have met you. The better I know you the less pleased
I am with Jim Armstrong, but there are possibilities in me, I rather
believe, and with you for inspiration, Heavens!"--the man flung out his
hand with a fine gesture of determination. "They say that the east and
west don't naturally mingle, but it's a lie, you and I can beat the
world."

The woman thrilled to his gallant wooing. Any woman would have done so,
some of them would have lost their heads, but Enid Maitland was an
exceedingly cool young person, for she was not quite swept off her feet,
and did not quite lose her balance.

"I like to hear you say things like that," she answered. "Nobody quite
like you has ever made love to me, and certainly not in your way, and
that's the reason I have given you a half-way promise to think about it.
I was sorry that you could not be with us on this adventure, but now I
am rather glad, especially if the even temper of my way is to be
interrupted by anything like the outburst of a few moments since."

"I am glad, too," admitted the man. "For I declare I couldn't help it.
If I have to be with you either you have got to be mine, or else you
would have to decide that it could never be, and then I'd go off and
fight it out."

"Leave me to myself," said the girl earnestly, "for a little while; it's
best so. I would not take the finest, noblest man on earth--"

"And I am not that."

"Unless I loved him. There is something very attractive about your
personality. I don't know in my heart whether it is that or--"

"Good," said the man, as she hesitated. "That's enough," he gathered up
the reins and whirled his horse suddenly in the road, "I am going back.
I'll wait for your return to Denver, and then--"

"That's best," answered the girl.

She stretched out her hand to him, leaning backward. If he had been a
different kind of a man he would have kissed it, as it was he took it
in his own hand and almost crushed it with a fierce grip.

"We'll shake on that, little girl," he said, and then without a backward
glance he put spurs to his horse and galloped furiously down the road.

No, she decided then and there, she did not love him, not yet. Whether
she ever would she could not tell. And yet she was half bound to him.
The recollection of his kiss was not altogether a pleasant memory; he
had not done himself any good by that bold assault upon her modesty,
that reckless attempt to rifle the treasure of her lips. No man had ever
really touched her heart, although many had engaged her interest. Her
experiences therefore were not definitive or conclusive. If she had
truly loved James Armstrong, in spite of all that she might have said,
she would have thrilled to the remembrance of that wild caress. The
chances, therefore, were somewhat heavily against him that morning as he
rode hopefully down the trail alone.

His experiences in love affairs were much greater than hers. She was by
no means the first woman he had kissed--remember suspicious reader that
he was _not_ from Philadelphia!--hers were not the first ears into which
he had poured passionate protestations. He was neither better nor worse
than most men, perhaps he fairly enough represented the average, but
surely fate had something better in store for such a superb woman--a
girl of such attainments and such infinite possibilities, she must mate
higher than with the average man. Perhaps there was a sub-consciousness
of this in her mind as she silently waited to be overtaken by the rest
of the party.

There were curious glances and strange speculations in that little
company as they saw her sitting her horse alone. A few moments before
James Armstrong had passed them at a gallop, he had waved his hand as he
dashed by and had smiled at them, hope giving him a certain assurance,
although his confidence was scarcely warranted by the facts.

His demeanor was not in consonance with Enid's somewhat grave and
somewhat troubled present aspect. She threw off her preoccupation
instantly and easily, however, and joined readily enough in the merry
conversation of the way.

Mr. Robert Maitland, as Armstrong had said, had known him from a boy.
There were things in his career of which Maitland did not and could not
approve, but they were of the past, he reflected, and Armstrong was
after all a pretty good sort. Mr. Maitland's standards were not at all
those of his Philadelphia brother, but they were very high. His
experiences of men had been different; he thought that Armstrong,
having certainly by this time reached years of discretion, could be
safely entrusted with the precious treasure of the young girl who had
been committed to his care, and for whom his affection grew as his
knowledge of and acquaintanceship with her increased.

As for Mrs. Maitland and the two girls and the youngster, they were
Armstrong's devoted friends. They knew nothing about his past, indeed
there were things in it of which Maitland himself was ignorant, and
which had they been known to him might have caused him to withhold even
his tentative acquiescence in the possibilities.

Most of these things were known to old Kirkby who with masterly skill,
amusing nonchalance and amazing profanity, albeit most of it under his
breath lest he shock the ladies, tooled along the four nervous excited
broncos who drew the big supply wagon. Kirkby was Maitland's oldest and
most valued friend. He had been the latter's deputy sheriff, he had been
a cowboy and a lumberman, a mighty hunter and a successful miner, and
now although he had acquired a reasonable competence, and had a nice
little wife and a pleasant home in the mountain village at the entrance
to the cañon, he drove stage for pleasure rather than for profit. He had
given over his daily twenty-five mile jaunt from Morrison to Troutdale
to other hands for a short space that he might spend a little time with
his old friend and the family, who were all greatly attached to him, on
this outing.

Enid Maitland, a girl of a kind that Kirkby had never seen before, had
won the old man's heart during the weeks spent on the Maitland ranch. He
had grown fond of her, and he did not think that Mr. James Armstrong
merited that which he evidently so overwhelmingly desired. Kirkby was
well along in years, but he was quite capable of playing a man's game
for all that, and he intended to play it in this instance.

Nobody scanned Enid Maitland's face more closely than he, sitting humped
up on the front seat of the wagon, one foot on the high brake, his head
sunk almost to the level of his knee, his long whip in his hand, his
keen and somewhat fierce brown eyes taking in every detail of what was
going on about him. Indeed there was but little that came before him
that old Kirkby did not see.



CHAPTER V

THE STORY AND THE LETTERS


Imagine, if you please, the forest primeval; yes, the murmuring pines
and the hemlocks of the poem as well, by the side of a rapidly rushing
mountain torrent fed by the eternal snows of the lofty peaks of the
great range. A level stretch of grassy land where a mountain brook
joined the creek was dotted with clumps of pines and great boulders
rolled down from the everlasting hills--half an acre of open clearing.
On the opposite side of the brook the cañon wall rose almost sheer for
perhaps five hundred feet, ending in jagged, needle-edged pinnacles of
rock, sharp, picturesque and beautiful. A thousand feet above ran the
timber line, and four thousand feet above that the crest of the greatest
peak in the main range.

The white tents of the little encampment which had gleamed so brightly
in the clear air and radiant sunshine of Colorado, now stood dim and
ghost-like in the red reflection of a huge camp fire. It was the evening
of the first day in the wilderness.

For two days since leaving the wagon, the Maitland party with its long
train of burros heavily packed, its horsemen and the steady plodders on
foot, had advanced into unexplored and almost inaccessible retreats of
the mountains--into the primitive indeed! In this delightful spot they
had pitched their tents and the permanent camp had been made. Wood was
abundant, the water at hand was as cold as ice, as clear as crystal and
as soft as milk. There was pasturage for the horses and burros on the
other side of the mountain brook. The whole place was a little
amphitheater which humanity occupied perhaps the first time since
creation.

Unpacking the burros, setting up the tents, making the camp, building
the fire had used up the late remainder of the day which was theirs when
they had arrived. Opportunity would come to-morrow to explore the
country, to climb the range, to try the stream that tumbled down a
succession of waterfalls to the right of the camp and roared and rushed
merrily around its feet until, swelled by the volume of the brook, it
lost itself in tree-clad depths far beneath. To-night rest after labor,
to-morrow play after rest.

The evening meal was over. Enid could not help thinking with what scorn
and contempt her father would have regarded the menu, how his gorge
would have risen--hers too for that matter!--had it been placed before
him on the old colonial mahogany of the dining-room in Philadelphia. But
up there in the wilds she had eaten the coarse homely fare with the zest
and relish of the most seasoned ranger of the hills. Anxious to be of
service, she had burned her hands and smoked her hair and scorched her
face by usurping the functions of the young ranchman who had been
brought along as cook, and had actually fried the bacon herself! Imagine
a goddess with a frying pan! The black thick coffee and the condensed
milk, drunk from the graniteware cup, had a more delicious aroma and a
more delightful taste than the finest Mocha and Java in the daintiest
porcelain of France. _Optimum condimentum._ The girl was frankly,
ravenously hungry, the air, the altitude, the exertion, the excitement
made her able to eat anything and enjoy it.

She was gloriously beautiful, too; even her brief experience in the west
had brought back the missing roses to her cheek, and had banished the
bister circles from beneath her eyes. Robert Maitland, lazily reclining
propped up against a boulder, his feet to the fire, smoking an old pipe
that would have given his brother the horrors, looked with approving
complacency upon her, confident and satisfied that his prescription was
working well. Nor was he the only one who looked at her that way. Marion
and Emma, his two daughters, worshiped their handsome Philadelphia
cousin and they sat one on either side of her on the great log lying
between the tents and the fire. Even Bob junior condescended to give her
approving glances. The whole camp was at her feet. Mrs. Maitland had
been greatly taken by her young niece. Kirkby made no secret of his
devotion; Arthur Bradshaw and Henry Phillips, each a "tenderfoot" of the
extremest character, friends of business connections in the east, who
were spending their vacation with Maitland, shared in the general
devotion; to say nothing of George the cook, and Pete, the packer and
"horse wrangler."

Phillips, who was an old acquaintance of Enid's, had tried his luck with
her back east and had sense enough to accept as final his failure.
Bradshaw was a solemn young man without that keen sense of humor which
was characteristic of the west. The others were suitably dressed for
adventure, but Bradshaw's idea of an appropriate costume was
distinguished chiefly by long green felt puttees which swathed his huge
calves and excited curious inquiry and ribald comment from the surprised
denizens of each mountain hamlet through which they had passed, to all
of which Bradshaw remained serenely oblivious. The young man, who does
not enter especially into this tale, was a vestryman of the church in
his home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. His piety had been put to a
severe strain in the mountains.

That day everybody had to work on the trail--everybody wanted to for
that matter. The hardest labor consisted in the driving of the burros.
Unfortunately there was no good and trained leader among them through an
unavoidable mischance, and the campers had great difficulty in keeping
the burros on the trail. To Arthur Bradshaw had been allotted the most
obstinate, cross-grained and determined of the unruly band, and old
Kirkby and George paid particular attention to instructing him in the
gentle art of manipulating him over the rocky mountain trail.

"Wall," said Kirkby with his somewhat languid, drawling, nasal voice,
"that there burro's like a ship w'ich I often seed 'em w'n I was a kid
down east afore I come out to God's country. Nature has pervided 'em
with a kind of a hellum. I remember if you wanted the boat to go to the
right you shoved the hellum over to the left. Sta'boad an' port was the
terms as I recollects 'em. It's jest the same with burros, you takes 'em
by the hellum, that's by the tail, git a good tight twist on it an' ef
you want him to head to the right, slew his stern sheets around to the
left, an' you got to be keerful you don't git no kick back w'ich if it
lands on you is worse 'n the ree-coil of a mule."

Arthur faithfully followed directions, narrowly escaping the outraged
brute's small but sharp pointed heels on occasion. His efforts not being
productive of much success, finally in his despair he resorted to brute
strength; he would pick the little animal up bodily, pack and all--he
was a man of powerful physique--and swing him around until his head
pointed in the right direction; then with a prayer that the burro would
keep it there for a few rods anyway, he would set him down and start him
all over again. The process, oft repeated, became monotonous after a
while. Arthur was a slow thinking man, deliberate in action, he stood it
as long as he possibly could. Kirkby who rode one horse and led two
others, and therefore was exempt from burro driving, observed him with
great interest. He and Bradshaw had strayed way behind the rest of the
party.

At last Arthur's resistance, patience and piety, strained to the
breaking point, gave way suddenly. Primitive instincts rose to the
surface and overwhelmed him like a flood. He deliberately sat down on a
fallen tree by the side of a trail, the burro halting obediently, turned
and faced him with hanging head apparently conscious that he merited the
disapprobation that was being heaped upon him, for from the desperate
tenderfoot there burst forth so amazing, so fluent, so comprehensive a
torrent of assorted profanity, that even the old past master in
objurgation was astonished and bewildered. Where did Bradshaw, mild and
inoffensive, get it? His proficiency would have appalled his Rector and
amazed his fellow vestrymen. Not the Jackdaw of Rheims himself was so
cursed as that little burro. Kirkby sat on his horse in fits of silent
laughter until the tears ran 'down his cheeks, the only outward and
visible expression of his mirth.

Arthur only stopped when he had thoroughly emptied himself, possibly of
an accumulation of years of repression.

"Wall," said Kirkby, "you sure do overmatch anyone I ever heard w'en it
comes to cursin'. W'y you could gimme cards an' spades an' beat me, an'
I was thought to have some gift that-a-way in the old days."

"I didn't begin to exhaust myself," answered Bradshaw, shortly, "and
what I did say didn't equal the situation. I'm going home."

"I wouldn't do that," urged the old man. "Here, you take the hosses an'
I'll tackle the burro."

"Gladly," said Arthur. "I would rather ride an elephant and drive a herd
of them than waste another minute on this infernal little mule."

The story was too good to keep, and around the camp fire that night
Kirkby drawled it forth. There was a freedom and easiness of intercourse
in the camp, which was natural enough. Cook, teamster, driver, host,
guest, men, women, children, and I had almost said burros, stood on the
same level. They all ate and lived together. The higher up the mountain
range you go, the deeper into the wilderness you plunge, the further
away from the conventional you draw, the more homogeneous becomes
society and the less obvious are the irrational and unscientific
distinctions of the lowlands. The guinea stamp fades and the man and the
woman are pure gold or base metal inherently and not by any artificial
standard.

George, the cattle man who cooked, and Peter, the horse wrangler, who
assisted Kirkby in looking after the stock, enjoyed the episode
uproariously, and would fain have had the exact language repeated to
them, but here Robert Maitland demurred, much to Arthur's relief, for he
was thoroughly humiliated by the whole performance.

It was very pleasant lounging around the camp fire, and one good story
easily led to another.

"It was in these very mountains," said Robert Maitland, at last, when
his turn came, "that there happened one of the strangest and most
terrible adventures that I ever heard of. I have pretty much forgotten
the lay of the land, but I think it wasn't very far from here that there
is one of the most stupendous cañons through the range. Nobody ever goes
there--I don't suppose anybody has ever been there since. It must have
been at least five years ago that it all happened."

"It was four years an' nine months, exactly, Bob," drawled old Kirkby,
who well knew what was coming.

"Yes, I dare say you are right. I was up at Evergreen at the time,
looking after timber interests, when a mule came wandering into the
camp, saddle and pack still on his back."

"I knowed that there mule," said Kirkby. "I'd sold it to a feller named
Newbold, that had come out yere an' married Louise Rosser, old man
Rosser's daughter, an' him dead, an' she bein' an orphan, an' this
feller bein' a fine young man from the east, not a bit of a tenderfoot
nuther, a minin' engineer he called hisself."

"Well, I happened to be there too, you remember," continued Maitland,
"and they made up a party to go and hunt up the man, thinking something
might have happened."

"You see," explained Kirkby, "we was all mighty fond of Louise Rosser.
The hull camp was actin' like a father to her at the time, so long's she
hadn't nobody else. We was all at the weddin', too, some six months
afore. The gal married him on her own hook, of course, nobody makin'
her, but somehow she didn't seem none too happy, although Newbold, who
was a perfect gent, treated her white as far as we knowed."

The old man stopped again and resumed his pipe.

"Kirkby, you tell the story," said Maitland.

"Not me," said Kirkby. "I have seen men shot afore for takin' words
out'n other men's mouths an' I ain't never done that yit."

"You always were one of the most silent men I ever saw," laughed George.
"Why, that day Pete yere got shot accidental an' had his whole breast
tore out w'en we was lumbering over on Black Mountain, all you said was,
'Wash him off, put some axle grease on him an' tie him up.'"

"That's so," answered Pete, "an' there must have been somethin' powerful
soothin' in that axle grease, for here I am, safe an' sound, to this
day."

"It takes an old man," assented Kirkby, "to know when to keep his mouth
shet. I learned it at the muzzle of a gun."

"I never knew before," laughed Maitland, "how still a man you can be.
Well, to resume the story, having nothing to do, I went out with the
posse the sheriff gathered up--"

"Him not thinkin' there had been any foul play," ejaculated the old man.

"No, certainly not."

"Well, what happened, Uncle Bob," inquired Enid.

"Just you wait," said young Bob, who had heard the story. "This is an
awful good story, Cousin Enid."

"I can't wait much longer," returned the girl. "Please go on."

"Two days after we left the camp, we came across an awful figure,
ragged, blood stained, wasted to a skeleton, starved--"

"I have seen men in extreme cases afore," interposed Kirkby, "but never
none like him."

"Nor I," continued Maitland.

"Was it Newbold?" asked Enid.

"Yes."

"And what had happened to him?"

"He and his wife had been prospecting in these very mountains, she had
fallen over a cliff and broken herself so terribly that Newbold had to
shoot her."

"What!" exclaimed Bradshaw. "You don't mean that he actually killed
her?"

"That's what he done," answered old Kirkby.

"Poor man," murmured Enid.

"But why?" asked Phillips.

"They were five days away from a settlement, there wasn't a human being
within a hundred and fifty miles of them, not even an Indian," continued
Maitland. "She was so frightfully broken and mangled that he couldn't
carry her away."

"But why couldn't he leave her and go for help?" asked Bradshaw.

"The wolves, the bears, or the vultures would have got her. These woods
and mountains were full of them then and there are some of them, left
now, I guess."

The two little girls crept closer to their grown up cousin, each casting
anxious glances beyond the fire light.

"Oh, you're all right, little gals," said Kirkby, reassuringly, "they
wouldn't come nigh us while this fire is burnin' an' they're pretty well
hunted out I guess; 'sides, there's men yere who'd like nothin' better'n
drawin' a bead on a big b'ar."

"And so," continued Maitland, "when she begged him to shoot her, to put
her out of her misery, he did so and then he started back to the
settlement to tell his story and stumbled on us looking after him."

"What happened then?"

"I went back to the camp," said Maitland. "We loaded Newbold on a mule
and took him with us. He was so crazy he didn't know what was happening,
he went over the shooting again and again in his delirium. It was
awful."

"Did he die?"

"I don't think so," was the answer, "but really I know nothing further
about him. There were some good women in that camp, and we put him in
their hands, and I left shortly afterwards."

"I kin tell the rest," said old Kirkby. "Knowin' more about the
mountains than most people hereabouts I led the men that didn't go back
with Bob an' Newbold to the place w'ere he said his woman fell, an'
there we found her, her body, leastways."

"But the wolves?" queried the girl.

"He'd drug her into a kind of a holler and piled rocks over her. He'd
gone down into the cañon, w'ich was somethin' frightful, an' then
climbed up to w'ere she'd lodged. We had plenty of rope, havin' brought
it along a purpose, an' we let ourselves down to the shelf where she was
a lyin'. We wrapped her body up in blankets an' roped it an' finally
drug her up on the old Injun trail, leastways I suppose it was made
afore there was any Injuns, an' brought her back to Evergreen camp,
w'ich the only thing about it that was green was the swing doors on the
saloon. We got a parson out from Denver an' give her a Christian
burial."

"It that all?" asked Enid as the old man paused again.

"Nope."

"Oh, the man?" exclaimed the woman with quick intuition.

"He recovered his senses so they told us, an' w'en we got back he'd
gone."

"Where?" was the instant question.

Old Kirkby stretched out his hands.

"Don't ax me," he said. "He'd jest gone. I ain't never seed or heerd of
him sence. Poor little Louise Rosser, she did have a hard time."

"Yes," said Enid, "but I think the man had a harder time than she. He
loved her?"

"It looked like it," answered Kirkby.

"If you had seen him, his remorse, his anguish, his horror," said
Maitland, "you wouldn't have had any doubt about it. But it is getting
late. In the mountains everybody gets up at daybreak. Your sleeping bags
are in the tents, ladies, time to go to bed."

As the party broke up, old Kirkby rose slowly to his feet. He looked
meaningly toward the young woman, upon whom the spell of the tragedy
still lingered, he nodded toward the brook, and then repeated his
speaking glance at her. His meaning was patent, although no one else had
seen the covert invitation.

"Come, Kirkby," said the girl in quick response, "you shall be my
escort. I want a drink before I turn in. No, never mind," she said, as
Bradshaw and Phillips both volunteered, "not this time."

The old frontiersman and the young girl strolled off together. They
stopped by the brink of the rushing torrent a few yards away. The noise
that it made drowned the low tones of their voices and kept the others,
busy preparing to retire, from hearing what they said.

"That ain't quite all the story, Miss Enid," said the old trapper
meaningly. "There was another man."

"What!" exclaimed the girl.

"Oh, there wasn't nothin' wrong with Louise Rosser, w'ich she was Louise
Newbold, but there was another man. I suspected it afore, that's why she
was sad. W'en we found her body I knowed it."

"I don't understand."

"These'll explain," said Kirkby. He drew out from his rough hunting coat
a package of soiled letters; they were carefully enclosed in an oil skin
and tied with a faded ribbon. "You see," he continued, holding them in
his hand, yet carefully concealing them from the people at the fire.
"W'en she fell off the cliff--somehow the mule lost his footin', nobody
never knowed how, leastways the mule was dead an' couldn't tell--she
struck on a spur or shelf about a hundred feet below the brink.
Evidently she was carryin' the letters in her dress. Her bosom was
frightfully tore open an' the letters was lying there. Newbold didn't
see 'em, because he went down into the cañon an' came up to the shelf,
or butte head, w'ere the body was lyin', but we dropped down. I was the
first man down an' I got 'em. Nobody else seein' me, an' there ain't no
human eyes, not even my wife's, that's ever looked on them letters,
except mine and now yourn."

"You are going to give them to me?"

"I am," said Kirkby.

"But why?"

"I want you to know the hull story."

"But why, again?"

"I rather guess them letters'll tell," answered the old man evasively,
"an' I like you, and I don't want to see you throwed away."

[Illustration: "Read the letters," he said. "They'll tell the story.
Good night."]

"What do you mean?" asked the girl, curiously, thrilling to the
solemnity of the moment, the seriousness, the kind affection of the old
frontiersman, the weird scene, the fire light, the tents gleaming
ghost-like, the black wall of the cañon and the tops of the mountain
range broadening out beneath the stars in the clear sky where they
twinkled above her head. The strange and terrible story, and now the
letters in her hand which somehow seemed to be imbued with human
feeling, greatly affected her! Kirkby patted her on the shoulder.

"Read the letters," he said. "They'll tell the story. Good-night."



CHAPTER VI

THE POOL AND THE WATER SPRITE


Long after the others in the camp had sunk into the profound slumber of
weary bodies and good consciences, a solitary candle in the small tent
occupied by Enid Maitland alone, gave evidence that she was busy over
the letters which Kirkby had handed to her.

It was a very thoughtful girl indeed who confronted the old frontiersman
the next morning. At the first convenient opportunity when they were
alone together she handed him the packet of letters.

"Have you read 'em?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Wall, you keep 'em," said the old man gravely. "Mebbe you'll want to
read 'em agin."

"But I don't understand why you want me to have them."

"Wall, I'm not quite sure myself why, but leastways I do an'--"

"I shall be very glad to keep them," said the girl still more gravely,
slipping them into one of the pockets of her hunting shirt as she
spoke.

The packet was not bulky, the letters were not many nor were they of any
great length. She could easily carry them on her person and in some
strange and inexplicable way she was rather glad to have them. She could
not, as she had said, see any personal application to herself in them,
and yet in some way she did feel that the solution of the mystery would
be hers some day. Especially did she think this on account of the
strange but quiet open emphasis of the old hunter.

There was much to do about the camp in the mornings. Horses and burros
to be looked after, fire wood to be cut, plans for the day arranged,
excursions planned, mountain climbs projected. Later on unwonted hands
must be taught to cast the fly for the mountain trout which filled the
brook and pool, and all the varied duties, details and fascinating
possibilities of camp life must be explained to the new-comers.

The first few days were days of learning and preparation, days of mishap
and misadventure, of joyous laughter over blunders in getting settled,
or learning the mysteries of rod and line, of becoming hardened and
acclimated. The weather proved perfect; it was late October and the
nights were very cold, but there was no rain and the bright sunny days
were invigorating and exhilarating to the last degree. They had huge
fires and plenty of blankets and the colder it was in the night the
better they slept.

It was an intensely new experience for the girl from Philadelphia, but
she showed a marked interest and adaptability, and entered with the
keenest zest into all the opportunities of the charming days. She was a
good sportswoman and she soon learned to throw a fly with the best of
them. Old Kirkby took her under his especial protection, and as he was
one of the best rods in the mountains, she enjoyed every advantage.

She had always lived in the midst of life. Except in the privacy of her
own chamber she had rarely ever been alone before--not twenty feet from
a man: she thought whimsically; but here the charm of solitude attracted
her, she liked to take her rod and wander off alone. She actually
enjoyed it.

The main stream that flowed down the cañon was fed by many affluents
from the mountain sides, and in each of them voracious trout appeared.
She explored them as she had opportunity. Sometimes with the others but
more often by herself. She discovered charming and exquisite nooks,
little stretches of grass, the size perhaps of a small room, flower
decked, ferny bordered, overshadowed by tall gaunt pine trees, the
sunlight filtering through their thin foliage, checkering the verdant
carpet beneath. Huge moss covered boulders, wet with the everdashing
spray of the roaring brooks, lay in mid-stream and with other natural
stepping stones hard-by invited her to cross to either shore. Waterfalls
laughed musically in her ears, deep still pools tempted her skill and
address.

Sometimes leaving rod and basket by the waterside, she climbed some
particularly steep acclivity of the cañon wall and stood poised, wind
blown, a nymph of the woods, upon some pinnacle of rock rising needle
like at the cañon's edge above the sea of verdure which the wind waved
to and fro beneath her feet. There in the bright light, with the breeze
blowing her golden hair, she looked like some Norse goddess, blue eyed,
exhilarated, triumphant.

She was a perfectly formed woman on the ancient noble lines of Milo
rather than the degenerate softness of Medici. She grew stronger of limb
and fuller of breath, quicker and steadier of eye and hand, cooler of
nerve, in these demanding, compelling adventures among the rocks in this
mountain air. She was not a tall woman, indeed slightly under rather
than over the medium size, but she was so ideally proportioned, she
carried herself with the fearlessness of a young chamois, that she
looked taller than she was. There was not an ounce of superfluous flesh
upon her, yet she had the grace of Hebe, the strength of Pallas Athene,
and the swiftness of motion of Atalanta. Had she but carried bow and
spear, had she worn tunic and sandals, she might have stood for Diana
and she would have had no cause to blush by comparison with the finest
model of Praxiteles' chisel or the most splendid and glowing example of
Appelles' brush.

Uncle Robert was delighted with her. His contribution to her western
outfit was a small Winchester. She displayed astonishing aptitude under
his instructions and soon became wonderfully proficient with that deadly
weapon and with a revolver also. There was little danger to be
apprehended in the daytime among the mountains the more experienced men
thought, still it was wise for the girl always to have a weapon in
readiness, so in her journeyings, either the Winchester was slung from
her shoulder or carried in her hand, or else the Colt dangled at her
hip. At first she took both, but finally it was with reluctance that she
could be persuaded to take either. Nothing had ever happened. Save for a
few birds now and then she had seemed the only tenant of the
wildernesses of her choice.

One night after a camping experience of nearly two weeks in the
mountains, and just before the time for breaking up and going back to
civilization, she announced that early the next morning she was going
down the cañon for a day's fishing excursion.

None of the party had ever followed the little river very far, but it
was known that some ten miles below the stream merged in a lovely
gem-like lake in a sort of crater in the mountains. From thence by a
series of waterfalls it descended through the foothills to the distant
plains beyond. The others had arranged to climb one especially dangerous
and ambition provoking peak which towered above them and which had never
before been surmounted so far as they knew. Enid enjoyed mountain
climbing. She liked the uplift in feeling that came from going higher
and higher till some crest was gained, but on this occasion they urged
her to accompany them in vain.

When the fixity of her decision was established she had a number of
offers to accompany her, but declined them all, bidding the others go
their way. Mrs. Maitland, who was not feeling very well, old Kirkby, who
had climbed too many mountains to feel much interest in that game, and
Pete, the horse wrangler, who had to look after the stock, remained in
camp; the others, with the exception of Enid, started at daybreak for
their long ascent. She waited until the sun was about an hour high and
then bade good-by to the three and began the descent of the cañon.
Traveling light for she was going far--farther indeed than she knew--she
left her Winchester at home, but carried the revolver with the fishing
tackle and substantial luncheon.

Now the river--a river by courtesy only--and the cañon turned sharply
back on themselves just beyond the little meadow where the camp was
pitched. Past the tents that had been their home for this joyous period
the river ran due east for a few hundred feet, after which it curved
sharply, doubled back and flowed westward for several miles before it
gradually swung around to the east on its proper course again.

It had been Enid's purpose to cut across the hills and strike the river
where it turned eastward once more, avoiding the long detour back. In
fact she had declared her intention of doing that to Kirkby and he had
given her careful directions so that she should not get lost in the
mountains.

But she had plenty of time and no excuse or reason for saving it; she
never tired of the charm of the cañon; therefore, instead of plunging
directly over the spur of the range, she followed the familiar trail
and after she had passed westward far beyond the limits of the camp to
the turning, she decided, in accordance with that utterly irresponsible
thing, a woman's will, that she would not go down the cañon that day
after all, but that she would cross back over the range and strike the
river a few miles above the camp and go up the cañon instead.

She had been up in that direction a few times, but only for a short
distance, as the ascent above the camp was very sharp; in fact for a
little more than a mile the brook was only a succession of waterfalls;
the best fishing was below the camp and the finest woods were deeper in
the cañon. She suddenly concluded that she would like to see what was up
in that unexplored section of the country and so, with scarcely a
momentary hesitation, she abandoned her former plan and began the ascent
of the range.

Upon decisions so lightly taken what momentous consequences depend?
Whether she should go up the stream or down the stream, whether she
should follow the rivulet to its source or descend it to its mouth, was
apparently a matter of little moment, yet her whole life turned
absolutely upon that decision. The idle and unconsidered choice of the
hour was fraught with gravest possibilities. Had that election been
made with any suspicion, with any foreknowledge, had it come as the
result of careful reasoning or far-seeing of probabilities, it might
have been understandable, but an impulse, a whim, the vagrant idea of an
idle hour, the careless chance of a moment, and behold! a life is
changed. On one side were youth and innocence, freedom and contentment,
a happy day, a good rest by the cheerful fire at night; on the other,
peril of life, struggle, love, jealousy, self-sacrifice, devotion,
suffering, knowledge--scarcely Eve herself when she stood apple in hand
with ignorance and pleasure around her and enlightenment and sorrow
before her, had greater choice to make.

How fortunate we are that the future is veiled, that the psalmist's
prayer that he might know his end and be certified how long he had to
live is one that will not and cannot be granted; that it has been given
to but One to foresee His own future, for no power apparently could
enable us to stand up against what might be, because we are only human
beings not sufficiently alight with the spark divine. We wait for the
end because we must, but thank God we know it not until it comes.

Nothing of this appeared to the girl that bright sunny morning. Fate hid
in those mountains under the guise of fancy. Lighthearted, carefree,
fitted with buoyant joy over every fact of life, she left the flowing
water and scaled the cliff beyond which in the wilderness she was to
find, after all, the world.

The ascent was longer and more difficult and dangerous than she had
imagined when she first confronted it, perhaps it was typical and
foretold her progress. More than once she had to stop and carefully
examine the face of the cañon wall for a practicable trail; more than
once she had to exercise extremest care in her climb, but she was a bold
and fearless mountaineer by this time and at last surmounting every
difficulty she stood panting slightly, a little tired but triumphant,
upon the summit.

The ground was rocky and broken, the timber line was close above her and
she judged that she must be several miles from the camp. The cañon was
very crooked, she could see only a few hundred yards of it in any
direction. She scanned her circumscribed limited horizon eagerly for the
smoke from the great fire that they always kept burning in the camp, but
not a sign of it was visible. She was evidently a thousand feet above
the river whence she had come. Her standing ground was a rocky ridge
which fell away more gently on the other side for perhaps two hundred
feet toward the same brook. She could see through vistas in the trees
the up-tossed peaks of the main range, bare, chaotic, snow covered,
lonely, majestic, terrible.

The awe of the everlasting hills is greater than that of the heaving
sea. Save in the infrequent periods of calm, the latter always moves,
the mountains are the same for all time. The ocean is quick, noisy,
living; the mountains are calm, still--dead.

The girl stood as it were on the roof of the world, a solitary human
being, so far as she knew, in the eye of God above her. Ah, but the Eyes
Divine look long and see far; things beyond the human ken are all
revealed. None of the party had ever come this far from the camp in this
direction she knew. And she was glad to be the first, as she fatuously
thought, to observe that majestic solitude.

Surveying the great range she wondered where the peak climbers might be.
Keen sighted though she was she could not discover them. The crest that
they were attempting lay in another direction hidden by a nearer spur.
She was in the very heart of the mountains; peaks and ridges rose all
about her, so much so that the general direction of the great range was
lost. She was at the center of a far flung concavity of crest and
range. She marked one towering point to the right of her that rose
massively grand above all the others. To-morrow she would climb to that
high point and from its lofty elevation look upon the heavens above and
the earth beneath, aye and the waters under the earth far below.
To-morrow!--it is generally known that we do not usually attempt the
high points in life's range at once, content are we with lower altitudes
to-day.

There was no sound above her, the rushing water over the rocks upon the
nearer side she could hear faintly beneath her, there was no wind about
her, to stir the long needles of the pines. It was very still, the kind
of a stillness of body which is the outward and visible complement of
that stillness of the soul in which men know God. There had been no
earthquake, no storm, the mountains had not heaved beneath her feet, the
great and strong wind had not passed by, the rocks had not been rent and
broken, yet Enid caught herself listening as if for a Voice. The thrall
of majesty, silence, loneliness was upon her. She stood--one stands when
there is a chance of meeting God on the way, one does not kneel until He
comes--with her raised hands clasped, her head uplifted in exultation
unspeakable, God-conquered with her face to heaven upturned.

"I will lift up mine eyes to the hills whence cometh my salvation," her
heart sang voicelessly. "We praise Thee, O God, we magnify Thy Holy Name
forever," floated through her brain, in great appreciation of the
marvelous works of the Almighty Shaping Master Hand. Caught up as it
were into the heavens, her soul leaped to meet its maker. Thinking to
find God she waited there on the heaven-kissing hill.

How long she stayed she did not realize; she took no note of time, it
did not occur to her even to look at the watch on her wrist; she had
swept the skyline cut off as it were by the peaks when first she came,
and when at last she turned away--even divinest moments must have an
end--she looked not backward. She saw not a little cloud hid on the
horizon behind the rampart of ages, as it were, no bigger than a man's
hand, a cloud full of portent and which would alarm greatly the veteran
Kirkby in the camp and Maitland on the mountain top. Both of them
unfortunately were unable to see it, one being on the other side of the
range, and the other deep in the cañon, and for both of them as for the
girl the sun still shone brightly.

The declivity to the river on the upper side was comparatively easy and
Enid Maitland went slowly and thoughtfully down to it until she reached
the young torrent. She got her tackle ready, but did no casting as she
made her way slowly up the ever narrowing, ever rising cañon. She was
charmed and thrilled by the wild beauty of the way, the spell of the
mountains was deep upon her. Thoughtfully she wandered on until,
presently she came to another little amphitheater like that where the
camp was pitched, only smaller. Strange to say the brook, or river, here
broadened into a little pool perhaps twenty feet across; a turn had
thrown a full force of water against the huge boulder wall and in ages
of effort a giant cup had been hollowed out of the native rock. The pool
was perhaps four or five feet deep, the rocky bottom worn smooth, the
clearing was upon the opposite side and the banks were heavily wooded
beyond the spur of the rock which formed the back of the pool. She could
see the trout in it. She made ready to try her fortune, but before she
did so an idea came to her--daring, unconventional, extraordinary, begot
of innocence and inexperience.

The water of course was very cold, but she had been accustomed all her
life to taking a bath at the natural temperature of the water at
whatever season. She knew that the only people in that wilderness were
the members of her own party; three of them were at the camp below, the
others were ascending a mountain miles away. The cañon was deep sunk,
and she satisfied herself by careful observation that the pool was not
overlooked by any elevations far or near.

Her ablutions in common with those of the rest of the campers had been
by piecemeal of necessity. Here was an opportunity for a plunge in a
natural bath tub. She was as certain that she would be under no
observation as if she were in the privacy of her own chamber. Here again
impulse determined the end. In spite of her assurance there was some
little apprehension in the glance that she cast about her, but it soon
vanished. There was no one. She was absolutely alone. The pool and the
chance of the plunge had brought her down to earth again; the thought of
the enlivening exhilaration of the pure cold water dashing against her
own sweet warm young body changed the current of her thoughts--the
anticipation of it rather.

Impulsively she dropped her rod upon the grass, unpinned her cap, threw
the fishing basket from her shoulder. She was wearing a stout sweater;
that too joined the rest. Nervous hands manipulated buttons and the
fastenings. In a few moments the sweet figure of youth, of beauty, of
purity and of innocence brightened the sod and shed a white luster upon
the green of the grass and moss and pines, reflecting light to the gray
brown rocks of the range. So Eve may have looked on some bright Eden
morning. A few steps forward and this nymph of the woods, this naiad of
the mountains, plunged into the clear, cold waters of the pool--a water
sprite and her fountain!



CHAPTER VII

THE BEAR, THE MAN AND THE FLOOD


The water was deep enough to receive her dive and the pool was long
enough to enable her to swim a few strokes. The first chill of the icy
water was soon lost in the vigorous motions in which she indulged, but
no mere human form however hardened and inured could long endure that
frigid bath. Reluctantly, yet with the knowledge that she must go, after
one more sweeping dive and a few magnificent strokes, she raised her
head from the water lapping her white shoulders, and shaking her face
clear from the drops of crystal, faced the shore. It was no longer
untenanted, she was no longer alone.

What she saw startled and alarmed her beyond measure. Planted on her
clothes, looking straight at her, having come upon her in absolute
silence, nothing having given her the least warning of his approach, and
now gazing at her with red, hungry, evil, vicious eyes, the eyes of the
covetous filled with the cruel lust of desire and carnal possession, and
yet with a glint of surprise in them, too, as if he did not know quite
what to make of the white loveliness of this unwonted apparition
flashing so suddenly at him out of the water, this strange invader of
the domain of which he fancied he was sole master and lord paramount,
stood a great, monstrous frightful looking Grizzly Bear. _Ursus
Horribilis_, indeed.

He was an aged monarch of the mountains, reddish brown in color
originally, but now a hoary dirty gray. His body was massive and burly,
his legs short, dark colored and immensely powerful. His broad square
head moved restlessly. His fanged mouth opened and a low hoarse growl
came from the red cavern of his throat. He was an old and terrible
monster who had tasted the blood of man and who would not hesitate to
attack even without provocation especially anything at once so harmless
and so whitely inviting as the girl in the pool.

The girl forgot the chill of the water in the horror of that moment.
Alone, naked, defenseless, lost in the mountains, with the most
powerful, sanguinary and ferocious beast of the continent in front of
her, she could neither fight nor fly, she could only wait his pleasure.
He snuffed at her clothing a moment and stood with one fore foot
advanced for a second or two growling deeply, evidently, she thought
with almost superhuman keenness of perception, preparing to leap into
the pool and seize upon her.

The rush of the current as it swirled about her caused her to sway
gently, otherwise she stood motionless and apprehensive, terribly
expectant. She had made no sound, and save for that low growl the great
beast had been equally silent. There was an awful fixity in the gaze she
turned upon him and he wavered under it. It annoyed him. It bespoke a
little of the dominance of the human. But she was too surprised, too
unnerved, too desperately frightened to put forth the full power of mind
over matter. There was piteous appeal in her gaze. The bear realized
this and mastered her sufficiently.

She did not know whether she was in the water or in the air, there were
but two points upon which her consciousness was focussed in the vast
ellipse of her imagination. Another moment or two and all coherency of
thought would be gone. The grizzly, still unsettled and uneasy before
her awful glance, but not deterred by it, turned its great head sideways
a little to escape the direct immobile stare, brought his sharp clawed
foot down heavily and lurched forward.

Scarcely had a minute elapsed in which all this happened. That huge
threatening heave of the great body toward her relieved the tension.
She found voice at last. Although it was absolutely futile she realized
as she cried, her released lips framed the loud appeal.

"Help! for God's sake."

Although she knew she cried but to the bleak walls of the cañon, the
drooping pines, the rushing river, the distant heaven, the appeal went
forth accompanied by the mightiest conjuration known to man.

"For God's sake, Help!"

How dare poor humanity so plead, the doubter cries. What is it to God if
one suffers, another bleeds, another dies. What answer could come out of
that silent sky?

Sometimes the Lord speaks with the loud voice of men's fashioning,
instead of in that still whisper which is His own and the sound of which
we fail to catch because of our own ignoble babble!

The answer to her prayer came with a roar in her nervous frightened ear
like a clap of thunder. Ere the first echo of it died away, it was
succeeded by another and another and another, echoing, rolling,
reverberating among the rocks in ever diminishing but long drawn out
peals.

On the instant the bear rose to his feet, swayed slightly and struck as
at an imaginary enemy with his weighty paws. A hoarse, frightful
guttering roar burst from his red slavering jaws, then he lurched
sideways and fell forward, fighting the air madly for a moment, and lay
still.

With staring eyes that missed no detail, she saw that the brute had been
shot in the head and shoulder three times, and that he was apparently
dead. The revulsion that came over her was bewildering; she swayed
again, this time not from the thrust of the water but with sick
faintness. The tension suddenly taken off, unstrung, the loose bow of
her spirit quivered helplessly; the arrow of her life almost fell into
the stream.

And then a new and more appalling terror swept over her. Some man had
fired that shot. Actæon had spied upon Diana. With this sudden
revelation of her shame, the red blood beat to the white surface in
spite of the chill water. The anguish of that moment was greater than
before. She could be killed, torn to pieces, devoured, that was a small
thing, but that she should be so outraged in her modesty was
unendurable. She wished the hunter had not come. She sunk lower in the
water for a moment fain to hide in its crystal clarity and realized as
she did how frightfully cold she was. Yet, although she froze where she
was and perished with cold she could not go out on the bank to dress,
and it would avail her little she saw swiftly, since the huge monster
had fallen a dead heap on her clothes.

Now all this, although it takes minutes to tell, had happened in but a
few seconds. Seconds sometimes include hours, even a life time, in their
brief composition. She thought it would be just as well for her to sink
down and die in the water, when a sudden splashing below her caused her
to look down the stream.

She was so agitated that she could make out little except that there was
a man crossing below her and making directly toward the body of the
bear. He was a tall black bearded man, she saw he carried a rifle, he
looked neither to the right nor to the left, he did not bestow a glance
upon her. She could have cried aloud in thanksgiving for his apparent
obliviousness to her as she crouched now neck deep in the benumbing
cold. The man stepped on the bank, shook himself like a great dog might
have done and marched over to the bear. He up-rooted a small near-by
pine, with the ease of a Hercules--and she had time to mark and marvel
at it in spite of everything--and then with that as a lever he
unconcernedly and easily heaved the body of the monster from off her
clothing. She was to learn later what a feat of strength it was to move
that inert carcass weighing much more than half a ton.

Thereafter he dropped the pine tree by the side of the dead grizzly and
without a backward look tramped swiftly and steadily up the cañon
through the trees, turning at the point of it, and was instantly lost to
sight. His gentle and generous purpose was obvious even to the
frightened, agitated, excited girl.

The woman watched him until he disappeared, a few seconds longer, and
then she hurled herself through the water and stepped out upon the
shore. Her sweater, which the bear had dragged forward in its advance,
lay on top of the rest of her clothes covered with blood. She threw it
aside and with nervous, frantic energy, wet, cold, though she was, she
jerked on in some fashion enough clothes to cover her nakedness and then
with more leisurely order and with necessary care she got the rest of
her apparel in its accustomed place upon her body, and then when it was
all over she sank down prone and prostrate upon the grass by the carcass
of the now harmless monster which had so nearly caused her undoing, and
shivered, cried and sobbed as if her heart would break.

She was chilled to the bone by her motionless sojourn, albeit it had
been for scarcely more than a minute, in that icy water, and yet the
blood rushed to her brow and face, to every hidden part of her in waves
as she thought of it. It was a good thing that she cried, she was not a
weeping woman, her tears came slowly as a rule and then came hard. She
rather prided herself upon her stoicism, but in this instance the great
deeps of her nature had been undermined and the fountains thereof were
fain to break forth.

How long she lay there, warmth coming gradually to her under the direct
rays of the sun, she did not know, and it was a strange thing that
caused her to arise. It grew suddenly dark over her head. She looked up
and a rim of frightful, black, dense clouds had suddenly blotted out the
sun. The clouds were lined with gold and silver and the long rays shot
from behind the somber blind over the yet uncovered portions of the
heaven, but the clouds moved with the irresistible swiftness and
steadiness of a great deluge. The wall of them lowered above her head
while they extended steadily and rapidly across the sky toward the other
side of the cañon and the mountain wall.

A storm was brewing such as she had never seen, such as she had no
experience to enable her to realize its malign possibilities. Nay, it
was now at hand. She had no clew, however, of what was toward, how
terrible a danger overshadowed her. Frightened but unconscious of all
the menace of the hour her thoughts flew down the cañon to the camp. She
must hasten there. She looked for her watch which she had picked from
the grass and which she had not yet put on; the grizzly had stepped upon
it, it was irretrievably ruined. She judged from her last glimpse of the
sun that it must now be early afternoon. She rose to her feet and
staggered with weakness, she had eaten nothing since morning, and the
nervous shock and strain through which she had gone had reduced her to a
pitiable condition.

Her luncheon had fortunately escaped unharmed. In a big pocket of her
short skirt there was a small flask of whiskey, which her Uncle Robert
had required her to take with her. She felt sick and faint, but she knew
that she must eat if she was to make the journey, difficult as it might
prove, back to the camp. She forced herself to take the first mouthful
of bread and meat she had brought with her, but when she had tasted she
needed no further incentive, she ate to the last crumb; she thought this
was the time she needed stimulants too, and mingling the cold water from
the brook with a little of the ardent spirit from the flask she drank.
Some of the chill had worn off, some of the fatigue had gone.

She rose to her feet and started down the cañon; her bloody sweater
still lay on the ground with other things of which she was heedless. It
had grown colder but she realized that the climb down the cañon would
put her stagnant blood in circulation and all would be well.

Before she began the descent of the pass, she cast one long glance
backward whither the man had gone. Whence came he, who was he, what had
he seen, where was he now? She thanked God for his interference in one
breath and hated him for his presence in the other.

The whole sky was now black with drifting clouds, lightning flashed
above her head, muttered peals of thunder, terrifically ominous, rocked
through the silent hills. The noise was low and subdued but almost
continuous. With a singular and uneasy feeling that she was being
observed, she started down the cañon, plunging desperately through the
trees, leaping the brook from side to side where it narrowed, seeking
ever the easiest way. She struggled on, panting with sudden inexplicable
terror almost as bad as that which had overwhelmed her an hour
before--and growing more intense every moment, to such a tragic pass had
the day and its happenings brought her.

Poor girl, awful experience really was to be hers that day. The Fates
sported with her--bodily fear, outraged modesty, mental anguish and now
the terror of the storm.

The clouds seemed to sink lower, until they almost closed about her.
Long gray ghostly arms reached out toward her. It grew darker and darker
in the depths of the cañon. She screamed aloud--in vain.

Suddenly the rolling thunder peals concentrated, balls of fire leaped
out of the heavens and struck the mountains where she could actually see
them. There are not words to describe the tremendous crashings which
seemed to splinter the hills, to be succeeded by brief periods of
silence, to be followed by louder and more terrific detonations.

In one of those appalling alternations from sound to silence she heard a
human cry--an answering cry to her own! It came from the hills behind
her. It must proceed, she thought, from the man. She could not meet that
man; although she craved human companionship as never before, she did
not want his. She could not bear it. Better the wrath of God, the fury
of the tempest.

Heedless of the sharp note of warning, of appeal, in the voice ere it
was drowned by another roll of thunder, she plunged on in the darkness.
The cañon narrowed here, she made her way down the ledges, leaping
recklessly from rock to rock, slipping, falling, grazing now one side,
now the other, hurling herself forward with white face and bruised body
and torn hands and throbbing heart that would fain burst its bonds.
There was once an ancient legend of a human creature, menaced by all the
furies, pitilessly pursued by every malefic spirit of earth and air;
like him this sweet young girl, innocent, lovely, erstwhile happy, fled
before the storm.

And then the heavens opened, the fountains of the great deeps were
broken down, and with absolute literalness the floods descended. The
bursting clouds, torn asunder by the wild winds, riven by the pent up
lightning within their black and turgid breasts, disburdened themselves.
The water came down, as it did of old when God washed the face of the
world, in a flood. The narrow of the cañon was filled ten, twenty,
thirty feet in a moment by the cloud burst. The black water rolled and
foamed, surging like the rapids at Niagara.

The body of the girl, utterly unprepared, was caught up in a moment and
flung like a bolt from a catapult down the seething sea filled with the
trunks of the trees and the débris of the mountains, tossing almost
humanly in the wild confusion. She struck out strongly, swimming more
because of the instinct of life than for any other reason. A helpless
atom in the boiling flood. Growing every minute greater and greater as
the angry skies disgorged themselves of their pent up torrents upon her
devoted head.



CHAPTER VIII

DEATH, LIFE AND THE RESURRECTION


The man was coming back from one of his rare visits to the settlements.
Ahead of him he drove a train of burros who, well broken to their work,
followed with docility the wise old leader in the advance. The burros
were laden with his supplies for the approaching winter. The season was
late, the mountains would soon be impassable on account of the snow,
indeed he chose the late season always for his buying in order that he
might not be followed and it was his habit to buy in different places in
different years that his repeated and expected presence at one spot
might not arouse suspicion.

Intercourse with his fellow men was limited to this yearly visit to a
settlement and even that was of the briefest nature, confined always to
the business in hand. Even when busy in the town he pitched a small tent
in the open on the outskirts and dwelt apart. No men there in those days
pried into the business of other men too closely. Curiosity was neither
safe nor necessary. If he aroused transient interest or speculation it
soon died away. He vanished into the mountains and as he came no more to
that place, he was soon forgotten.

Withdrawing from his fellow men and avoiding their society, this man was
never so satisfied as when alone in the silent hills. His heart and
spirit rose with every step he made away from the main traveled roads or
the more difficult mountain trails.

For several days he journeyed through the mountains, choosing the
wildest and most inaccessible parts for his going. Amid the cañons and
peaks he threaded his way with unerring accuracy, ascending higher and
higher until at last he reached the mountain aerie, the lonely
hermitage, where he made his home. There he reveled in his isolation.
What had been punishment, expiation, had at last become pleasure.

Civilization was bursting through the hills in every direction, railways
were being pushed hither and thither, the precious metals were being
discovered at various places and after them came hoards of men and with
them--God save the mark--women; but his section of the country had
hitherto been unvisited even by hunters, explorers, miners or pleasure
seekers. He was glad, he had grown to love the spot where he had made
his home, and he had no wish to be forced, like little Joe, to move on.

Once a man who loved the strife, noble or ignoble, of the madding crowd,
he had grown accustomed to silence, habituated to solitude. Winter and
summer alike he roamed the mountains, delving into every forest,
exploring every hidden cañon, surmounting every inaccessible peak; no
storm, no snow, no condition of wind or weather daunted him or stopped
him. He had no human companionship by which to try his mettle, but
nevertheless over the world of the material which lay about him he was a
master as he was a man.

He found some occupation, too, in the following of old Adam's
inheritance, during the pleasant months of summer he made such garden as
he could. His profession of mining engineer gave him other employment.
Round about him lay treasures inestimable, precious metals abounded in
the hills. He had located them, tested, analyzed, estimated the wealth
that was his for the taking--it was as valueless to him as the doubloons
and golden guineas were to Selkirk on his island. Yet the knowledge that
it was there gave him an energizing sense of potential power,
unconsciously enormously flattering to his self esteem.

Sometimes he wandered to the extreme verge of the range and on clear
days saw far beneath him the smoke of great cities of the plains. He
could be a master among men as he was a master among mountains, if he
chose. On such occasions he laughed cynically, scornfully, yet rarely
did he ever give way to such emotion.

A great and terrible sorrow was upon him; cherishing a great passion he
had withdrawn himself from the common lot to dwell upon it. From a
perverted sense of expiation, in a madness of grief, horror and despair,
he had made himself a prisoner to his ideas in the desert of the
mountains. Back to his cabin he would hasten, and there surrounded by
his living memories--deathless yet of the dead!--he would recreate the
past until dejection drove him abroad on the hills to meet God if not
man--or woman. Night-day, sunshine-shadow, heat-cold, storm-calm; these
were his life.

Having disburdened his faithful animals of their packs and having seen
them safely bestowed for the winter in the corral he had built near the
base of the cliff upon which his rude home was situated, he took his
rifle one morning for one of those lonely walks across the mountains
from which he drew such comfort because he fancied the absence of man
conduced to the nearness of God. It was a delusion as old nearly as the
Christian religion. Many had made themselves hermits in the past in
remorse for sin and for love toward God; this man had buried himself in
the wilderness in part for the first of these causes, in other part for
the love of woman. In these days of swift and sudden change he had been
constant to a remembrance and abiding in his determination for five
swift moving years. The world for him had stopped its progress in one
brief moment five years back--the rest was silence. What had happened
since then out yonder where people were mated he did not know and he did
not greatly care.

In his visits to the settlements he asked no questions, he bought no
papers, he manifested no interest in the world; something in him had
died in one fell moment, and there had been, as yet, no resurrection.
Yet life, and hope, and ambition do not die, they are indeed eternal.
_Resurgam!_

Life with its tremendous activities, its awful anxieties, its wearing
strains, its rare triumphs, its opportunities for achievement, for
service; hope with its illuminations, its encouragements, its
expectations; ambition with its stimulus, its force, its power; and
greatest of all love, itself alone--all three were latent in him. In
touch with a woman these had gone. Something as powerful and as human
must bring them back.

It was against nature that a man dowered as he should so live to himself
alone. Some voice should cry to his soul in its cerements of futile
remorse, vain expiations and benumbing recollection; some day he should
burst these grave clothes self-wound about him and be once more a man
and a master among men, rather than the hermit and the recluse of the
solitudes.

He did not allow these thoughts to come into his life, indeed it is
quite likely that he scarcely realized them at all yet; such
possibilities did not present themselves to him; perhaps the man was a
little mad that morning, maybe he trembled on the verge of a
break--upward, downward I know not so it be away--unconsciously as he
strode along the range.

He had been walking for some hours, and as he grew thirsty it occurred
to him to descend to the level of the brook which he heard below him and
of which he sometimes caught a flashing glimpse through the trees. He
scrambled down the rocks and found himself in a thick grove of pine.
Making his way slowly and with great difficulty through the tangle of
fallen timber which lay in every direction, the sound of a human voice,
the last thing on earth to be expected in that wilderness, smote upon
the fearful hollow of his ear.

Any voice or any word then and there would have surprised him, but there
was a note of awful terror in this voice, a sound of frightened appeal.
The desperation in the cry left him no moment for thought, the demand
was for action. The cry was not addressed to him, apparently, but to
God, yet it was he who answered--sent doubtless by that Over-looking
Power who works in such mysterious ways His wonders to perform!

He leaped over the intervening trees to the edge of the forest where the
rapid waters ran. To the right of him rose a huge rock, or cliff, in
front of him the cañon bent sharply to the north, and beneath him a few
rods away a speck of white gleamed above the water of a deep and still
pool that he knew.

_There was a woman there!_

He had time for but the swiftest glance, he had surmised that the voice
was not that of a man's voice instantly he heard it, and now he was
sure. She stood white breast deep in the water staring ahead of her. The
next instant he saw what had alarmed her--a Grizzly Bear, the largest,
fiercest, most forbidding specimen he had ever seen. There were a few of
those monsters still left in the range, he himself had killed several.

The woman had not seen him. He was a silent man by long habit;
accustomed to saying nothing, he said nothing now. But instantly aiming
from the hip with a wondrous skill and a perfect mastery of the weapon,
and indeed it was a short range for so huge a target, he pumped bullet
after bullet from his heavy Winchester into the evil monarch of the
mountains. The first shot did for him, but making assurance doubly and
trebly sure, he fired again and again. Satisfied at last that the bear
was dead, and observing that he had fallen upon the clothes of the
bather, he turned, descended the stream for a few yards until he came to
a place where it was easily fordable, stepped through it without a
glance toward the woman shivering in the water, whose sensation, so far
as a mere man could, he thoroughly understood and appreciated, and whose
modesty he fain would spare, having not forgotten to be a gentleman in
five years of his own society--high test of quality, that.

He climbed out upon the bank, up-rooted a small tree, rolled the bear
clear of the heap of woman's clothing and marched straight ahead of him
up the cañon and around the bend.

Thereafter, being a man, he did not faint or fall, but completely
unnerved he leaned against the cañon wall, dropped his gun at his feet
and stood there trembling mightily, sweat bedewing his forehead, and the
sweat had not come from his exertions. In one moment the whole even
tenor of his life was changed. The one glimpse he had got of those white
shoulders, that pallid face, that golden head raised from the water had
swept him back five years. He had seen once more in the solitude a
woman.

Other women he had seen at a distance and avoided in his yearly visits
to the settlements of course; these had passed him by remotely, but here
he was brought in touch intimately with humanity. He who had taken life
had saved it. A woman had sent him forth, was a woman to call him back?

He cursed himself for his weakness. He shut his eyes and summoned other
memories. How long he stood there he could not have told; he was
fighting a battle and it seemed to him at last that he triumphed.
Presently the consciousness came to him that perhaps he had no right to
stand there idle, it might be that the woman needed him, perhaps she had
fainted in the water, perhaps--He turned toward the bend which concealed
him from her and then he stopped. Had he any right to intrude upon her
privacy? He must of necessity be an unwelcome visitor to her, he had
surprised her at a frightful disadvantage; he knew instinctively,
although the fault was none of his, although he had saved her life
thereby, that she would hold him and him alone responsible for the
outrage to her modesty, and although he had seen little at first glance
and had resolutely kept his eyes away, the mere consciousness of her
absolute helplessness appealed to him--to what was best and noblest in
him, too. He must go to her. Stay, she might not yet be clothed, in
which event--But no, she must be dressed, or dead, by this time and in
either case he would have a duty to discharge.

It devolved upon him to make sure of her safety, he was in a certain
sense responsible for it, until she got back to her friends wherever
they might be; but he persuaded himself that otherwise he did not want
to see her again, that he did not wish to know anything about her
future; that he did not care whether it was well or ill with her; and it
was only stern obligation which drove him toward her--oh fond and
foolish man!

He compromised with himself at last by climbing the ridge that had shut
off a view of the pool, and looking down at the place so memorable to
him. He was prepared to withdraw instantly should circumstances warrant,
and he was careful so to conceal himself as to give no possible
opportunity for her to discover his scrutiny.

With a beating heart and eager eyes he searched the spot. There lay the
bear and a little distance away prone on the grass, clothed but whether
in her right mind or not he could not tell, lay the woman. For a moment,
as he bent a concentrated eager gaze upon her, he thought she might have
fainted or that she might have died. In any event he reflected that she
had strength and nerve and will to have dressed herself before either of
these things had happened. She lay motionless under his gaze for so long
that he finally made up his mind that common humanity required him to go
to her assistance.

He rose to his feet on the instant and saw the woman also lift herself
from the grass as if moved by a similar impulse. In his intense
preoccupation he had failed to observe the signs of the times. A sense
of the overcast sky came to him suddenly, as it did to her, but with a
difference. He knew what was about to happen, his experience told him
much more as to the awful potentialities of the tempest than she could
possibly imagine. She must be warned at once, she must leave the cañon
and get up on the higher ground without delay. His duty was plain and
yet he did it not. He could not. The pressure upon him was not yet
strong enough.

A half dozen times as he watched her deliberately sitting there eating,
he opened his mouth to cry to her, yet he could not bring himself to
it. A strange timidity oppressed him, halted him, held him back. A man
cannot stay away five years from men and woman and be himself with them
in the twinkling of an eye. And when to that instinctive and acquired
reluctance against which he struggled in vain, he added the assurance
that whatever his message he would be unwelcome on account of what had
gone before, he could not force himself to go to her or even to call to
her, not yet. He would keep her under surveillance, however, and if the
worst came he could intervene in time to rescue her. He counted without
his cost, his usual judgment bewildered. So he followed her through the
trees and down the bank.

Now he was so engrossed in her and so agitated that his caution slept,
his experience was forgotten. The storm in his own breast was so great
that it overshadowed the storm brewing above. Her way was easier than
his and he had fallen some distance behind when suddenly there rushed
upon him the fact that a frightful and unlooked for cloudburst was about
to occur above their heads. A lightning flash and a thunder clap at last
arrested his attention. Then, but not until then, he flung everything to
the winds and amid the sudden and almost continuous peals of thunder he
sent cry after cry toward her which were lost in the tremendous
diapason of sound that echoed and re-echoed through the rifts of the
mountains.

"Wait," he cried again and again. "Come up higher. Get out of the cañon.
You'll be drowned."

But he had waited too long, the storm had developed too rapidly, she was
too far ahead of and beneath him. She heard nothing but the sound of a
voice, shrill, menacing, fraught with terror for her, not a word
distinguishable; scarcely to her disturbed soul even a human voice, it
seemed like the weird cry of some wild spirit of the storm. It sounded
to her overwrought nerves so utterly inhuman that she only ran the
faster.

The cañon swerved and then doubled back, but he knew its direction;
losing sight of her for the moment he plunged straight ahead through the
trees, cutting off the bend, leaping with superhuman agility and
strength over rocks and logs until he reached a point where the rift
narrowed between two walls and ran deeply. There and then the heavens
opened and the floods came and beat into that open maw of that vast
crevasse and filled it full in an instant.

As the deluge came roaring down, bearing onward the sweepings and
scourings of the mountains, he caught a glimpse of her white desperate
face rising, falling, now disappearing, now coming into view again, in
the foamy midst of the torrent. He ran to the cliff bank and throwing
aside his gun he scrambled down the wall to a certain shelf of the rock
over which the rising water broke thinly. Ordinarily it was twenty feet
above the creek bed. Bracing himself against a jagged projection he
waited, praying. The cañon was here so narrow that he could have leaped
to the other side and yet it was too wide for him to reach her if the
water did not sweep her toward his feet. It was all done in a
second--fortunately a projection on the other side threw the force of
the torrent toward him and with it came the woman.

She was almost spent; she had been struck by a log upheaved by some
mighty wave, her hands were moving feebly, her eyes were closed, she was
drowning, dying, but indomitably battling on. He stooped down and as a
surge lifted her he threw his arm around her waist and then braced
himself against the rock to sustain the full thrust of the mighty flood.
As he seized her she gave way suddenly, as if after having done all that
she could there was now nothing left but to trust herself to his hand
and God's. She hung a dead weight on his arm in the ravening water
which dragged and tore at her madly.

He was a man of giant strength, but the struggle bade fair to be too
much even for him. It seemed as if the mountain behind him was giving
way. He set his teeth, he tried desperately to hold on, he thrust out
his right hand, holding her with the other one, and clawed at the
dripping rock in vain. In a moment the torrent mastered him and when it
did so it seized him with fury and threw him like a stone from a sling
into the seething vortex of the mid-stream. But in all this he did not,
he would not, release her.

Such was the swiftness of the motion with which they were swept downward
that he had little need to swim; his only effort was to keep his head
above water and to keep from being dashed against the logs that tumbled
end over end, or whirled sideways, or were jammed into clusters only to
burst out on every hand. He struggled furiously to keep himself from
being overwhelmed in the seething madness, and what was harder, to keep
the lifeless woman in his arms from being stricken or wrenched away. He
knew that below the narrows where the cañon widened the water would
subside, the awful fury of the rain would presently cease. If he could
steer clear of the rocks in the broad he might win to land with her.

The chances against him were thousands to nothing. But what are chances
in the eyes of God. The man in his solitude had not forgotten to pray,
his habits stood him in good stead now. He petitioned shortly, brokenly,
in brief unspoken words, as he battled through the long dragging
seconds.

Fighting, clinging, struggling, praying, he was swept on. Heavier and
heavier the woman dragged in an unconscious heap. It would have been
easier for him if he had let her go; she would never know and he could
then escape. The idea never once occurred to him. He had indeed
withdrawn from his kind, but when one depended upon him all the old
appeal of weak humanity awoke quick response in the bosom of the strong.
He would die with the stranger rather than yield her to the torrent or
admit himself beaten and give up the fight. So the conscious and the
unconscious struggled through the narrow of the cañon.

Presently with the rush and hurl of a bullet from the mouth of a gun,
they found themselves in a shallow lake through which the waters still
rushed mightily, breaking over rocks, digging away shallow rooted trees,
leaping, biting, snarling, tearing at the big walls spread away on
either side. He had husbanded some of his strength for this final
effort, this last chance of escape. Below them at the other end of this
open the walls came together again; there the descent was sharper than
before and the water ran to the opening with racing speed. Once again in
the torrent and they would be swept to death in spite of all.

Shifting his grasp to the woman's hair, now unbound, he held her with
one hand and swam hard with the other. The current still ran swiftly,
but with no gigantic upheaving waves as before. It was more easy to
avoid floating timber and débris, and on one side where the ground
sloped somewhat gently the quick water flowed more slowly. He struck out
desperately for it, forcing himself away from the main stream into the
shallows and ever dragging the woman. Was it hours or minutes or seconds
after that he gained the battle and neared the shore at the lowest edge?

He caught with his forearm, as the torrent swerved him around, a stout
young pine so deeply rooted as yet to have withstood the flood.
Summoning that last reserve of strength that is bestowed upon us in our
hour of need, and comes unless from God we know not whence, he drew
himself in front of the pine, got his back against it, and although the
water thundered against him still--only by comparison could it be called
quieter--and his foothold was most precarious, he reached down carefully
and grasped the woman under the shoulders. His position was a cramped
one, but by the power of his arms alone he lifted her up until he got
his left arm about her waist again. It was a mighty feat of strength
indeed.

The pine stood in the midst of the water, for even on the farther side
the earth was overflowed but the water was stiller; he did not know what
might be there, but he had to chance it. Lifting her up he stepped out,
fortunately meeting firm ground; a few paces and he reached solid rock
above the flood. He raised her above his head and laid her upon the
shore, then with the very last atom of all his force, physical, mental
and spiritual, he drew himself up and fell panting and utterly exhausted
but triumphant by her side.

The cloud burst was over, but the rain still beat down upon them, the
thunder still roared above them, the lightning still flashed about them,
but they were safe, alive if the woman had not died in his arms. He had
done a thing superhuman--no man knowing conditions would have believed
it. He himself would have declared a thousand times its patent
impossibility.

For a few seconds he strove to recover himself; then he thought of the
flask he always carried in his pocket. It was gone; his clothes were
ragged and torn, they had been ruined by his battle with the waves. The
girl lay where he had placed her on her back. In the pocket of her
hunting skirt he noticed a little protuberance; the pocket was provided
with a flap and tightly buttoned. Without hesitation he unbuttoned it.
There was a flask there, a little silver mounted affair; by some miracle
it had not been broken. It was half full. With nervous hands he opened
it and poured some of its contents down her throat; then he bent over
her his soul in his glance, scarcely knowing what to do next. Presently
she opened her eyes.

And there, in the rain, by that raging torrent whence he had drawn her
as it were from the jaws of death by the power of his arm, in the
presence of the God above them, this man and this woman looked at each
other and life for both of them was no longer the same.



BOOK III

FORGETTING AND FORGOT



CHAPTER IX

A WILD DASH FOR THE HILLS


Old Kirkby, who had been lazily mending a saddle the greater part of the
morning, had eaten his dinner, smoked his pipe and was now stretched out
on the grass in the warm sun taking a nap. Mrs. Maitland was drowsing
over a book in the shadow of one of the big pines, when Pete, the horse
wrangler, who had been wandering rather far down the cañon rounding up
the ever straying stock, suddenly came bursting into the camp.

"Heavens!" he cried, actually kicking the prostrate frontiersman as he
almost stumbled over him. "Wake up, old man, an'--"

"What the--" began Kirkby fiercely, thus rudely aroused from slumber and
resentful of the daring and most unusual affront to his dignity and
station, since all men, and especially the younger ones, held him in
great honor.

"Look there!" yelled Pete in growing excitement and entirely oblivious
to his _lèse-majesté_, pointing at a black cloud rolling over the top of
the range. "It'll be a cloud burst sure, we'll have to git out o' here
an' in a hurry too. Oh, Mrs. Maitland."

By this time Kirkby was on his feet. The storm had stolen upon him
sleeping and unaware, the configuration of the cañon having completely
hid its approach. At best the three in the camp could not have
discovered it until it was high in the heavens. Now the clouds were
already approaching the noonday sun. Kirkby was alive to the situation
at once; he had the rare ability of men of action, of awakening with all
his faculties at instant command; he did not have to rub his eyes and
wonder where he was, and speculate as to what was to be done. The moment
that his eyes, following Pete's outstretched arm, discovered the black
mass of clouds, he ran toward Mrs. Maitland, and standing on no ceremony
he shook her vigorously by the shoulder.

"We'll have to run for our lives, ma'm," he said briefly. "Pete, drive
the stock up on the hills, fur as you kin, the hosses pertikler, they'll
be more to us an' them burros must take keer of themselves."

Pete needed no urging, he was off like a shot in the direction of the
improvised corral. He loosed the horses from their pickets and started
them up the steep trail that led down from the hogback to the camp by
the water's edge. He also tried to start the burros he had just rounded
up in the same direction. Some of them would go and some of them would
not. He had his hands full in an instant. Meanwhile Kirkby did not
linger by the side of Mrs. Maitland; with incredible agility for so old
a man he ran over to the tent where the stores were kept and began
picking out such articles of provision as he could easiest carry.

"Come over here, Mrs. Maitland," he cried. "We'll have to carry up on
the hill somethin' to keep us from starvin' till we git back to town. We
hadn't orter camped in this yere pocket noways, but who'd ever expected
anything like this now."

"What do you fear?" asked the woman, joining him as she spoke and
waiting for his directions.

"Looks to me like a cloud bust," was the answer. "Creek's pretty full
now, an' if she does break everything below yere'll go to hell on a
run."

It was evidence of his perturbation and anxiety that he used such
language which, however, in the emergency did not seem unwarranted even
to the refined ear of Mrs. Maitland.

"Is it possible?" she exclaimed.

"Taint only possible, it's sartin. Now ma'm," he hastily bundled up a
lot of miscellaneous provisions in a small piece of canvas, tied it up
and handed it to her, "that'll be for you." Immediately after he made up
a much larger bundle in another tent fly, adding, "an' this is mine."

"Oh, let us hurry," cried Mrs. Maitland, as a peal of thunder, low,
muttered, menacing, burst from the flying clouds now obscuring the sun,
and rolled over the camp.

"We've got time enough yit," answered Kirkby coolly calculating their
chances. "Best git your slicker on, you'll need it in a few minutes."

Mrs. Maitland ran to her own tent and soon came out with sou'wester and
yellow oil skins completely covering her. Kirkby meantime had donned his
own old battered soiled rain clothes and had grabbed up Pete's.

"I brought the children's coats along," said Mrs. Maitland, extending
three others.

"Good," said Kirkby, "now we'll take our packs an'--"

"Do you think there is any danger to Robert?"

"He'll git nothin' worse'n a wettin'," returned the old man confidently.
"If we'd pitched the tents up on the hogback, that's all we'd a been in
for."

"I have to leave the tents and all the things," said Mrs. Maitland.

"You can stay with them," answered Kirkby, dryly, "but if what I think's
goin' to happen comes off, you won't have no need of nothin' no
more--Here she comes."

As he spoke there was a sudden swift downpour of rain, not in drops, but
in a torrent. Catching up his own pack and motioning the woman to do
likewise with her load, Kirkby caught her by the hand, and half led,
half dragged her up the steep trail from the brook to the ridge which
bordered the side of the cañon. The cañon was much wider here than
further up and there was much more room and much more space for the
water to spread. Yet, they had to hurry for their lives as it was. They
had gone up scarcely a hundred feet when the disgorgement of the heavens
took place. The water fell with such force, directness and
continuousness that it almost beat them down. It ran over the trail down
the side of the mountain in sheets like waterfalls. It required all the
old man's skill and address to keep himself and his companion from
losing their footing and falling down into the seething tumult below.

The tents went down in an instant. Where there had been a pleasant bit
of meadow land was now a muddy tossing lake of black water. Some of the
horses and most of the burros which Pete had been unable to do anything
with were engulfed in a moment. The two on the mountain side could see
them swimming for dear life as they swept down the cañon. Pete himself,
with a few of the animals, was already scrambling up to safety.

Speech was impossible between the noise of the falling rain and the
incessant peals of thunder, but by persistent gesture old Kirkby urged
the terrified trembling woman up the trail until they finally reached
the top of the hogback, where under the poor shelter of the stunted
pines they joined Pete with such of the horses as he had been able to
drive up. Kirkby taking a thought for the morrow, noted that there were
four of them, enough to pull the wagon if they could get back to it.

After the first awful deluge of the cloud burst it moderated slightly,
but the hard rain came down steadily, the wind rose as well and in spite
of their oil skins they were soon wet and cold. It was impossible to
make a fire, there was no place for them to go, nothing to be done, they
could only remain where they were and wait. After a half hour of
exposure to the merciless fury of the storm, a thought came suddenly to
Mrs. Maitland; she leaned over and caught the frontiersman by his wet
sleeve. Seeing that she wished to speak to him he bent his head toward
her lips.

"Enid," she cried, pointing down the cañon; she had not thought before
of the position of the girl.

Kirkby, who had not forgotten her, but who had instantly realized that
he could do nothing for her, shook his head, lifted his eyes and
solemnly pointed his finger up to the gray skies. He had said nothing to
Mrs. Maitland before, what was the use of troubling her.

"God only kin help her," he cried; "she's beyond the help of man."

Ah, indeed, old trapper, whence came the confident assurance of that
dogmatic statement? For as it chanced at that very moment the woman for
whose peril your heart was wrung was being lifted out of the torrent by
a man's hand! And, yet, who shall say that the old hunter was not right,
and that the man himself, as men of old have been, was sent from God?

"It can't be," began Mrs. Maitland in great anguish for the girl she had
grown to love.

"Ef she seed the storm an' realized what it was, an' had sense enough
to climb up the cañon wall," answered the other, "she won't be no worse
off 'n we are; ef not--"

Mrs. Maitland had only to look down into the seething caldron to
understand the possibility of that "if."

"Oh," she cried, "let us pray for her that she sought the hills."

"I've been a doin' it," said the old man gruffly.

He had a deep vein of piety in him, but like other rich ores it had to
be mined for in the depths before it was apparent.

By slow degrees the water subsided, and after a long while the rain
ceased, a heavy mist lay on the mountains and the night approached
without any further appearance of the veiled sun. Toward evening Robert
Maitland with the three men and the three children joined the wretched
trio above the camp. Maitland, wild with excitement and apprehension,
had pressed on ahead of the rest. It was a glad faced man indeed who ran
the last few steps of the rough way and clasped his wife in his arms,
but as he did so he noticed that one was missing.

"Where is Enid?" he cried, releasing his wife.

"She went down the cañon early this mornin' intendin' to stay all day,"
slowly and reluctantly answered old Kirkby, "an'--"

He paused there, it wasn't necessary for him to say anything more.

Maitland walked to the edge of the trail and looked down into the
valley. It had been swept clean of the camp. Rocks had been rolled over
upon the meadow land, trunks of trees torn up by the roots had lodged
against them, it was a scene of desolate and miserable confusion and
disaster.

"Oh, Robert, don't you think she may be safe?" asked Mrs. Maitland.

"There's jest a chance, I think, that she may have suspicioned the storm
an' got out of the cañon," suggested the old frontiersman.

"A slim chance," answered Maitland gloomily. "I wouldn't have had this
happen for anything on earth."

"Nor me; I'd a heap ruther it had got me than her," said Kirkby simply.

"I didn't see it coming," continued Maitland nodding as if Kirkby's
statement were to be accepted as a matter of course, as indeed it was.
"We were on the other slope of the mountain, until it was almost over
head."

"Nuther did I. To tell the truth I was lyin' down nappin' w'en Pete,
yere, who'd been down the cañon rounding up some of the critters, came
bustin' in on us."

"I ain't saved but four hosses," said Pete mournfully, "and there's only
one burro on the hogback."

"We came back as fast as we could," said Maitland. "I pushed on ahead.
George, Bradshaw and Phillips are bringing Bob and the girls. We must
search the cañon."

"It can't be done to-night, old man," said Kirkby.

"I tell you we can't wait, Jack!"

"We've got to. I'm as willin' to lay down my life for that young gal as
anybody on earth, but in this yere mist an' as black a night as it's
goin' to be, we couldn't go ten rod without killin' ourselves an' we
couldn't see nothin' noways."

"But she may be in the cañon."

"If she's in the cañon 'twon't make no difference to her w'ether we
finds her to-morrer or next day or next year, Bob."

Maitland groaned in anguish.

"I can't stay here inactive," he persisted stubbornly.

"It's a hard thing, but we got to wait till mornin'. Ef she got out of
the cañon and climbed up on the hogback she'll be all right; she'll soon
find out she can't make no progress in this mist and darkness. No, old
friend, we're up agin it hard; we jest got to stay the night w'ere we
are an' as long as we got to wait we might as well make ourselves as
comfortable as possible. For the wimmen an' children anyway. I fetched
up some ham and some canned goods and other eatin's in these yere canvas
sacks, we might kindle a fire--"

"It's hardly possible," said Maitland, "we shall have to eat it cold."

"Oh, Robert," pleaded his wife, "isn't it possible that she may have
escaped?"

"Possible, yes, but--"

"We won't give up hope, ma'am," said Kirkby, "until to-morrer w'en we've
had a look at the cañon."

By this time the others joined the party. Phillips and Bradshaw showed
the stuff that was in them; they immediately volunteered to go down the
cañon at once, knowing little or nothing of its dangers and indifferent
to what they did know, but as Kirkby had pointed out the attempt was
clearly impossible. Maitland bitterly reproached himself for having
allowed the girl to go alone, and in those self reproaches old Kirkby
joined.

They were too wet and cold to sleep, there was no shelter and it was not
until early in the morning they succeeded in kindling a fire. Meanwhile
the men talked the situation over very carefully. They were two days'
journey from the wagons. It was necessary that the woman and children
should be taken back at once. Kirkby hadn't been able to save much more
than enough to eat to get them back to a ranch or settlement, and on
very short rations at best. It was finally decided that George and Pete
with Mrs. Maitland, the two girls and the youngster should go back to
the wagon, drive to the nearest settlement, leave the women and then
return on horseback with all speed to meet Maitland and Kirkby who would
meanwhile search the cañon.

The two men from the east had to go back with the others although they
pleaded gallantly to be allowed to remain with the two who were to take
up the hunt for Enid. Maitland might have kept them with him, but that
meant retaining a larger portion of the scanty supplies that had been
saved, and he was compelled against his will to refuse their requests.
Leaving barely enough to subsist Maitland and Kirkby for three or four
days, or until the return of the relief party, the groups separated at
daybreak.

"Oh, Robert," pleaded his wife, as he kissed her good-by, "take care of
yourself, but find Enid."

"Yes," answered her husband, "I shall, never fear, but I must find the
dear girl or discover what has become of her."

There was not time for further leave taking. A few hand clasps from man
to man and then Robert Maitland standing in the midst of the group bowed
his head in the sunny morning, for the sky again was clear, and poured
out a brief prayer that God would prosper them, that they would find the
child and that they would all be together again in health and happiness.
And without another word, he and Kirkby plunged down the side of the
cañon, the others taking up their weary march homeward with sad hearts
and in great dismay.



CHAPTER X

A TELEGRAM AND A CALLER


"You say," asked Maitland, as they surveyed the cañon, "that she went
down the stream?"

"She said she was goin' down. I showed her how to cut across the
mountains an' avoid the big bend, I've got no reason to suspicion that
she didn't go w'ere she said."

"Nevertheless," said Maitland, "it is barely possible that she may have
changed her mind and gone up the cañon."

"Yep, the female mind does often change unexpected like," returned the
other, "but w'ether she went up or down, the only place for us to look,
I take it, is down, for if she's alive, if she got out of the cañon and
is above us, nacherly she'd follow it down yere an' we'd a seed her by
this time. If she didn't git out of the cañon, why, all that's left of
her is bound to be down stream."

Maitland nodded, he understood.

"We'd better go down then," continued Kirkby, whose reasoning was
flawless except that it made no allowance for the human-divine
interposition that had been Enid Maitland's salvation. "An' if we don't
find no traces of her down stream, we kin come back here an' go up."

It was a hard desperate journey the two men took. One of them followed
the stream at its level, the other tramped along in the mountains high
above the high water mark of the day before. If they had needed any
evidence of the power of that cloud burst and storm, they found it in
the cañon. In some places where it was narrow and rocky, the pass had
been fearfully scoured; at other places the whole aspect of it was
changed. The place was a welter of up-rooted trees, logs jammed together
in fantastic shapes; it was as if some wanton besom of destruction had
swept the narrow rift.

Ever as they went they called and called. The broken obstructions of the
way made their progress slow; what they would have passed over
ordinarily in half a day, they had not traversed by nightfall and they
had seen nothing. They camped that night far down the cañon and in the
morning with hearts growing heavier every hour they resumed their
search.

About noon of the second day they came to an immense log jam where the
stream now broadened and made a sudden turn before it plunged over a
fall of perhaps two hundred feet into the lake. It was the end of their
quest. If they did not find her there, they would never find her
anywhere, they thought. With still hearts and bated breath they climbed
out over the log jam and scrutinized it. A brownish gray patch concealed
beneath the great pines caught their eyes. They made their way to it.

"It's a b'ar, a big grizzly," exclaimed Kirkby.

The huge brute was battered out of all semblance of life, but that it
was a grizzly bear was clearly evident. Further on the two men caught
sight suddenly of a dash of blue. Kirkby stepped over to it, lifted it
in his hand and silently extended it to Maitland. It was a sweater, a
woman's sweater. They recognized it at once. The old man shook his head.
Maitland groaned aloud.

"See yere," said Kirkby, pointing to the ragged and torn garment where
evidences of discoloration still remained, "looks like there'd bin blood
on it."

"Heavens!" cried Maitland, "not that bear, I'd rather anything than
that."

"W'atever it is, she's gone," said the old man with solemn finality.

"Her body may be in these logs here--"

"Or in the lake," answered Kirkby gloomily; "but w'erever she is we
can't git to her now."

"We must come back with dynamite to break up this jam and--"

"Yep," nodded the old man, "we'll do all that, of course, but now, arter
we search this jam o' logs I guess there's nothin' to do but go back,
an' the quicker we git back to the settlement, the quicker we can git
back here. I think we kin strike acrost the mountains an' save a day an'
a half. There's no need of us goin' back up the cañon now, I take it."

"No," answered the other. "The quicker the better, as you say, and we
can head off George and the others that way."

They searched the pile eagerly, prying under it, peering into it,
upsetting it, so far as they could with their naked hands, but with
little result, for they found nothing else. They had to camp another day
and next morning they hurried straight over the mountains, reaching the
settlement almost as soon as the others. Maitland with furious energy at
once organized a relief party. They hurried back to the logs, tore the
jam to pieces, searched it carefully and found nothing. To drag the lake
was impossible; it was hundreds of feet deep and while they worked it
froze. The weather had changed some days before, heavy snows had already
fallen, they had to get out of the mountains without further delay or
else be frozen up to die. Then and not till then did Maitland give up
hope. He had refrained from wiring to Philadelphia, but when he reached
a telegraph line some ten days after the cloud burst, he sent a long
message east, breaking to his brother the awful tidings.

And in all that they did he and Kirkby, two of the shrewdest and most
experienced of men, showed with singular exactitude how easy it is for
the wisest and most capable of men to make mistakes, to leave the plain
trail, to fail to deduce the truth from the facts presented. Yet it is
difficult to point to a fault in their reasoning, or to find anything
left undone in the search.

Enid had started down the cañon, near the end of it they had discovered
one of her garments which they could not conceive any reason for her
taking off. It was near the battered body of one of the biggest
grizzlies that either man had ever seen, it held evidence of blood
stains upon it still, they had found no body, but they were as
profoundly sure that the mangled remains of the poor girl lay within the
depths of that mountain lake as if they had actually seen her there. The
logic was all flawless.

It so happened that on that November morning, when the telegram was
approaching him, Mr. Stephen Maitland had a caller. He came at an
unusually early hour. Mr. Stephen Maitland, who was no longer an early
riser, had indeed just finished his breakfast when the card of Mr. James
Armstrong of Colorado was handed to him.

"This, I suppose," he thought testily, "is one of the results of Enid's
wanderings into that God-forsaken land. Did you ask the man his
business, James?" he said aloud to the footman.

"Yes, sir; he said he wanted to see you on important business, and when
I made bold to ask him what business, he said it was none of mine, and
for me to take the message to you, sir."

"Impudent," growled Mr. Maitland.

"Yes, sir; but he is the kind of a gentleman you don't talk back to,
sir."

"Well, you go back and tell him that you have given me his card, and I
should like to know what he wishes to see me about, that I am very busy
this morning and unless it is a matter of importance--you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"I suppose now I shall have the whole west unloaded upon me; every
vagabond friend of Robert's and people who meet Enid," he thought, but
his reveries were shortly interrupted by the return of the man.

"If you please, sir," began James hesitatingly, as he re-entered the
room, "he says his business is about the young lady, sir."

"Confound his impudence!" exclaimed Mr. Maitland, more and more annoyed
at what he was pleased to characterize mentally as western assurance.
"Where is he?"

"In the hall, sir."

"Show him into the library and say I shall be down in a moment."

"Very good, sir."

It was a decidedly wrathful individual who confronted Stephen Maitland a
few moments afterwards in the library, for Armstrong was not accustomed
to such cavalier treatment, and had Maitland been other than Enid's
father he would have given more outward expression of his indignation
over the discourtesy in his reception.

"Mr. James Armstrong, I believe," began Mr. Maitland, looking at the
card in his hand.

"Yes, sir."

"Er--from Colorado?"

"And proud of it."

"Ah, I dare say. I believe you wished to see me about--"

"Your daughter, sir."

"And in what way are you concerned about her, sir?"

"I wish to make her my wife."

"What!" exclaimed the older man in a voice equally divided between
horror and astonishment. "How dare you, sir? You amaze, me beyond
measure with your infernal impudence."

"Excuse me, Mr. Maitland," interposed Armstrong quickly and with great
spirit and determination, "but where I come from we don't allow anybody
to talk to us in this way. You are Enid's father and a much older man
than I, but I can't permit you to--"

"Sir," said the astounded Maitland, drawing himself up at this bold
flouting, "you may be a very worthy young man, I have no doubt of it,
but it is out of the question. My daughter--"

Again a less excited hearer might have noticed the emphasis on the
pronoun.

"Why, she is half way engaged to me now," interrupted the younger man
with a certain contemptuous amusement in his voice. "Look here, Mr.
Maitland, I've knocked around the world a good deal, I know what's what,
I know all about you Eastern people, and I don't fancy you any more than
you fancy me. Miss Enid is quite unspoiled yet and that is why I want
her. I'm well able to take care of her too; I don't know what you've got
or how you got it, but I can come near laying down dollar for dollar
with you and mine's all clean money, mines, cattle, lumber, and it's
all good money. I made it myself. I left her in the mountains three
weeks ago with her promise that she would think very seriously of my
suit. After I came back to Denver--I was called east--I made up my mind
that I'd come here when I'd finished my business and have it out with
you. Now you can treat me like a dog if you want to, but if you expect
to keep peace in the family you'd better not, for I tell you plainly
whether you give your consent or not I mean to win her. All I want is
her consent, and I've pretty nearly got that."

Mr. Stephen Maitland was black with wrath at this clear, unequivocal,
determined statement of the case from Armstrong's point of view.

"I would rather see her dead," he exclaimed with angry stubbornness,
"than married to a man like you. How dare you force yourself into my
house and insult me in this way? Were I not so old a man I would show
you, I would give you a taste of your own manner."

The old man's white mustache fairly quivered with what he believed to be
righteous indignation. He stepped over to the other and looked hard at
him, his eyes blazing, his ruddy cheeks redder than ever. The two men
confronted each other unblenchingly for a moment, then Mr. Maitland
touched a bell button in the wall by his side. Instantly the footman
made his appearance.

"James," said the old man, his voice shaking and his knees trembling
with passion, which he did not quite succeed in controlling despite a
desperate effort, "show this--er--gentleman the door. Good morning, sir,
our first and last interview is over."

He bowed with ceremonious politeness as he spoke, becoming more and more
composed as he felt himself mastering the situation. And Armstrong, to
do him justice, knew a gentleman when he saw him, and secretly admired
the older man and began to feel a touch of shame at his own rude way of
putting things.

"Beg pardon, sir," said the footman, breaking the awkward silence, "but
here is a telegram that has just come, sir."

There was nothing for Armstrong to do or say. Indeed, having expressed
himself so unrestrainedly to his rapidly increasing regret, as the old
man took the telegram he turned away in considerable discomfiture, James
bowing before him at the door opening into the hall and following him as
he slowly passed out. Mr. Stephen Maitland mechanically and with great
deliberation and with no premonition of evil tidings, tore open the
yellow envelope and glanced at the dispatch. Neither the visitor nor
the footman had got out of sight or hearing when they heard the old man
groan and fall back helplessly into a chair. Both men turned and ran
back to the door, for there was that in the exclamation which gave rise
to instant apprehension. Stephen Maitland now as white as death sat
collapsed in the chair gasping for breath, his hand on his heart. The
telegram lay open on the floor. Armstrong recognized the seriousness of
the situation, and in three steps was by the other's side.

"What is it?" he asked eagerly, his hatred and resentment vanished at
the sight of the old man's ghastly, stricken countenance.

"Enid!" gasped her father. "I said I would rather see her--dead, but--it
is not true--I--"

James Armstrong was a man of prompt decision. Without a moment's
hesitation he picked up the telegram; it was full and explicit, thus it
read:

     "We were encamped last week in the mountains. Enid went down the
     cañon for a day's fishing alone. A sudden cloud burst filled the
     cañon, washed away the camp. Enid undoubtedly got caught in the
     torrent and was drowned. We have found some of her clothing but not
     her body. Have searched every foot of the cañon. Think body has got
     into the lake now frozen. Snow falling, mountains impassable, will
     search for her in the spring when the winter breaks. I am following
     this telegram in person by first train. Would rather have died a
     thousand deaths than had this happen. God help us."

     "ROBERT MAITLAND."

Armstrong read it, stared at it a moment frowning heavily, passed it
over to the footman and turned to the stricken father.

"Old man, I loved her," he said simply. "I love her still, I believe
that she loves me. They haven't found her body, clothes mean nothing,
I'll find her, I'll search the mountains until I do. Don't give way,
something tells me that she's alive, and I'll find her."

"If you do," said the broken old man, crushed by the swift and awful
response to his thoughtless exclamation, "and she loves you, you shall
have her for your wife."

"It doesn't need that to make me find her," answered Armstrong grimly.
"She is a woman, lost in the mountains in the winter, alone. They
shouldn't have given up the search; I'll find her as there is a God
above me whether she's for me or not."

A good deal of a man this James Armstrong of Colorado, in spite of many
things in his past of which he thought so little that he lacked the
grace to be ashamed of them. Stephen Maitland looked at him with a
certain respect and a growing hope, as he stood there in the library
stern, resolute, strong.

Perhaps--



CHAPTER XI

"OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY"


Recognition--or some other more potent instantaneous force--brought the
woman to a sitting position. The man drew back to give her freedom of
action, as she lifted herself on her hands. It was moments before
complete consciousness of her situation came to her; the surprise was
yet too great. She saw things dimly through a whirl of driving rain, of
a rushing mighty wind, of a seething sea of water, but presently it was
all plain to her again. She had caught no fair view of the man who had
shot the bear as he splashed through the creek and tramped, across the
rocks and trees down the cañon, at least she had not seen his front
face, but she recognized him immediately. The thought tinged with color
for a moment, her pallid cheek.

"I fell into the torrent," she said feebly, putting her hand to her head
and striving by speech to put aside that awful remembrance.

"You didn't fall in," was the answer. "It was a cloud burst, you were
caught in it."

"I didn't know."

"Of course not, how should you."

"And how came I here?"

"I was lucky enough to pull you out."

"Did you jump into the flood for me?"

The man nodded.

"That's twice you have saved my life this day," said the girl, forcing
herself woman-like to the topic that she hated.

"It's nothing," deprecated the other.

"It may be nothing to you, but it is a great deal to me," was the
answer. "And now what is to be done?"

"We must get out of here at once," said the man. "You need shelter,
food, a fire. Can you walk?"

"I don't know."

"Let me help you." He rose to his feet, reached down to her, took her
hands in the strong grasp of his own and raised her lightly to her feet
in an effortless way which showed his great strength. She did not more
than put the weight of her body slightly on her left foot when a spasm
of pain shot through her, she swerved and would have fallen had he not
caught her. He sat her gently on the rock.

"My foot," she said piteously. "I don't know what's the matter with it."

Her high boots were tightly laced of course, but he could see that her
left foot had been badly mauled or sprained, already the slender ankle
was swelling visibly. He examined it swiftly a moment. It might be a
sprain, it might be the result of some violent thrust against the rocks,
some whirling tree trunks might have caught and crushed her foot, but
there was no good in speculating as to causes; the present patent fact
was that she could not walk, all the rest was at that moment
unimportant. This unfortunate accident made him the more anxious to get
her to a place of shelter without delay. It would be necessary to take
off her boot and give the wounded member proper treatment. For the
present the tight shoe acted as a bandage, which was well.

When the man had withdrawn himself from the world, he had inwardly
resolved that no human being should ever invade his domain or share his
solitude, and during his long sojourn in the wilderness his
determination had not weakened. Now his consuming desire was to get this
woman, whom fortune--good or ill!--had thrown upon his hands, to his
house without delay. There was nothing he could do for her out there in
the rain. Every drop of whiskey was gone; they were just two
half-drowned, sodden bits of humanity cast up on that rocky shore, and
one was a helpless woman.

"Do you know where your camp is?" he asked at last.

He did not wish to take her to her own camp, he had a strange instinct
of possession in her. In some way he felt he had obtained a right to
deal with her as he would; he had saved her life twice, once by chance,
the other as the result of deliberate and heroic endeavor, and yet his
honor and his manhood obliged him to offer to take her to her own people
if he could. Hence the question, the answer to which he waited so
eagerly.

"It's down the cañon. I am one of Mr. Robert Maitland's party."

The man nodded. He didn't know Robert Maitland from Adam, and he cared
nothing about him.

"How far down?" he asked.

"I don't know; how far is it from here to where you--where--where we--"

"About a mile," he replied quickly, fully understanding her reason for
faltering.

"Then I think I must have come at least five miles from the camp this
morning."

"It will be four miles away then," said the man.

The girl nodded.

"I couldn't carry you that far," he murmured half to himself. "I
question if there is any camp left there anyway. Where was it, down by
the water's edge?"

"Yes."

"Every vestige will have been swept away by that, look at it," he
pointed over to the lake.

"What must we do?" she asked instantly, depending upon his greater
strength, his larger experience, his masculine force.

"I shall have to take you to my camp."

"Is it far?"

"About a mile or a mile and a half from here."

"I can't walk that far."

"No, I suppose not. You wouldn't be willing to stay here while I went
down and hunted for your camp?"

The girl clutched at him.

"I couldn't be left here for a moment alone," she said in sudden fever
of alarm. "I never was afraid before, but now--"

"All right," he said, gently patting her as he would a child, "we'll go
up to my camp and then I will try to find your people and--"

"But I tell you I can't walk!"

"You don't have to walk," said the man.

He did not make any apology for his next action, he just stooped down
and disregarding her faint protests and objections, picked her up in
his arms. She was by no means a light burden, and he did not run away
with her as the heroes of romances do. But he was a man far beyond the
average in strength, and with a stout heart and a resolute courage that
had always carried him successfully through whatever he attempted, and
he had need of all his qualities, physical and mental, before he
finished that awful journey.

The woman struggled a little at first, then finally resigned herself to
the situation; indeed, she thought swiftly, there was nothing else to
do; she had no choice, she could not have been left alone there in the
rocks in that rain, she could not walk. He was doing the only thing
possible. The compulsion of the inevitable was upon them both.

They went slowly. The man often stopped for rest, at which times he
would seat her carefully upon some prostrate tree, or some rounded
boulder, until he was ready to resume his task. He did not bother her
with explanation, discussion or other conversation, for which she was
most thankful. Once or twice during the slow progress she tried to walk,
but the slightest pressure on her wounded foot nearly caused her to
faint. He made no complaint about his burden and she found it after all
pleasant to be upheld by such powerful arms; she was so sick, so tired,
so worn out, and there was such assurance of strength and safety in his
firm hold of her.

By and by, in the last stage of their journey, her head dropped on his
shoulder and she actually fell into an uneasy troubled sleep. He did not
know whether she slumbered or whether she had fainted again. He did not
dare to stop to find out, his strength was almost spent; in this last
effort the strain upon his muscles was almost as great as it had been in
the whirlpool. For the second time that day the sweat stood out on his
forehead, his legs trembled under him. How he made the last five hundred
feet up the steep wall to a certain broad shelf perhaps an acre in
extent where he had built his hut among the mountains, he never knew;
but the last remnant of his force was spent when he finally opened the
unlatched door with his foot, carried her into the log hut and laid her
upon the bed or bunk built against one wall of the cabin.

Yet the way he put her down was characteristic of the man. That last
vestige of strength had served him well. He did not drop her as a less
thoughtful and less determined man might have done; he laid her there as
gently and as tenderly as if she weighed nothing, and as if he had
carried her nowhere. So quiet and easy was his handling of her that she
did not wake up at once.

So soon as she was out of his arms, he stood up and stared at her in
great alarm which soon gave way to reassurance. She had not fainted;
there was a little tinge of color in her cheek that had rubbed up
against his rough wet shoulder; she was asleep, her regular breathing
told him that. Sleep was of course the very best medicine for her and
yet she should not be allowed to sleep until she had got rid of her wet
clothing and until something had been done for her wounded foot. It was
indeed an embarrassing situation.

He surveyed her for a few moments wondering how best to begin. Then
realizing the necessity for immediate action, he bent over and woke her
up. Again she stared at him in bewilderment until he spoke.

"This is my house," he said, "we are home."

"Home!" sobbed the girl.

"Under shelter, then," said the man. "You are very tired and very
sleepy, but there is something to be done. You must take off those wet
clothes at once, you must have something to eat, and I must have a look
at that foot, and then you can have your sleep out."

The girl stared at him; his program, if a radical one under the
circumstances, was nevertheless a rational one, indeed the only one. How
was it to be carried out? The man easily divined her thoughts.

[Illustration: "Wait! I am a woman, absolutely alone, entirely at your
mercy"]

"There is another room in this house, a store room, I cook in there," he
said. "I am going in there now to get you something to eat, meanwhile
you must undress yourself and go to bed."

He went to a rude set of box-like shelves draped with a curtain,
apparently his own handiwork, against the wall, and brought from it a
long and somewhat shapeless woolen gown.

"You can wear this to sleep in," he continued. "First of all, though, I
am going to have a look at that foot."

He bent down to where her wounded foot lay extended on the bed.

"Wait!" said the girl, lifting herself on her arm and as she did so he
lifted his head and answered her direct gaze with his own. "I am a
woman, absolutely alone, entirely at your mercy, you are stronger than
I, I have no choice but to do what you bid me. And in addition to the
natural weakness of my sex I am the more helpless from this foot. What
do you intend to do with me? How do you mean to treat me?"

It was a bold, a splendid question and it evoked the answer it merited.

"As God is my judge," said the man quietly, "just as you ought to be
treated, as I would want another to treat my mother, or my sister, or
my wife--" she noticed how curiously his lips suddenly tightened at that
word--"if I had one. I never harmed a woman in my life," he continued
more earnestly, "only one, that is," he corrected himself, and once
again she marked that peculiar contraction of the lips. "And I could not
help that," he added.

"I trust you," said the girl at last after gazing at him long and hard
as if to search out the secrets of his very soul. "You have saved my
life and things dearer will be safe with you. I have to trust you."

"I hope," came the quick comment, "that it is not only for that. I don't
want to be trusted upon compulsion."

"You must have fought terribly for my life in the flood," was the
answer. "I can remember what it was now, and you carried me over the
rocks and the mountains without faltering. Only a man could do what you
have done. I trust you anyway."

"Thank you," said the man briefly as he bent over the injured foot
again.

The boot laced up the front, the short skirt left all plainly visible.
With deft fingers he undid the sodden knot and unlaced it, then stood
hesitatingly for a moment.

"I don't like to cut your only pair of shoes," he said as he made a
slight motion to draw it off, and then observing the spasm of pain, he
stopped. "Needs must," he continued, taking out his knife and slitting
the leather.

He did it very carefully so as not to ruin the boot beyond repair, and
finally succeeded in getting it off without giving her too much pain.
And she was not so tired or so miserable as to be unaware of his
gentleness. His manner, matter-of-fact, business-like, if he had been a
doctor one would have called it professional, distinctly pleased her in
this trying and unusual position. Her stocking was stained with blood.
The man rose to his feet, took from a rude home-made chair a light
Mexican blanket and laid it considerately across the girl.

"Now if you can manage to get off your stocking, yourself, I will see
what can be done," he said turning away.

It was the work of a few seconds for her to comply with his request.
Hanging the wet stocking carefully over a chair back, he drew back the
blanket a little and carefully inspected the poor little foot. He saw at
once that it was not an ordinary sprained ankle, but it seemed to him
that her foot had been caught between two tossing logs, and had been
badly bruised. It was very painful, but would not take so long to heal
as a sprain. The little foot, normally so white, was now black and blue
and the skin had been roughly torn and broken. He brought a basin of
cold water and a towel and washed off the blood, the girl fighting down
the pain and successfully stifling any outcry.

"Now," he said, "you must put on this gown and get into bed. By the time
you are ready for it I will have some broth for you and then we will
bandage that foot. I shall not come in here for some time, you will be
quite alone and safe."

He turned and left the room, shutting the door after him as he went out.
For a second time that day Enid Maitland undressed herself and this time
nervously and in great haste. She was almost too excited and
apprehensive to recall the painful circumstances attendant upon her
first disrobing. She said she trusted the man absolutely, yet she would
not have been human if she had not looked most anxiously toward that
closed door. He made plenty of noise in the other room, bustling about
as if to reassure her.

She could not rest the weight of her body on her left foot and getting
rid of her wet clothes was a somewhat slow process in spite of her
hurry, made more so by her extreme nervousness. The gown he gave her was
far too big for her, but soft and warm and exquisitely clean. It draped
her slight figure completely. Leaving her sodden garments where they had
fallen, for she was not equal to anything else, she wrapped herself in
the folds of the big gown and managed to get into bed. For all its rude
appearance it was a very comfortable sleeping place, there were springs
and a good mattress. The unbleached sheets were clean; although they had
been rough dried, there was a delicious sense of comfort and rest in her
position. She had scarcely composed herself when he knocked loudly upon
her door.

"May I come in?" he asked.

When she bade him enter she saw he had in his hand a saucepan full of
some steaming broth. She wondered how he had made it in such a hurry,
but after he poured it into a granite ware cup and offered it to her,
she took it without question. It was thick, warming and nourishing. He
stood by her and insisted that she take more and more. Finally she
rebelled.

"Well, perhaps that will do for to-night," he said, "now let's have a
look at your foot."

She observed that he had laid on the table a long roll of white cloth;
she could not know that he had torn up one of his sheets to make
bandages, but so it was. He took the little foot tenderly in his hands.

"I am going to hurt you," he said, "I am going to find out if there is
anything more than a bruise, any bones broken."

There was no denying that he did pain her exquisitely.

"I can't help it," he said as she cried aloud. "I have got to see what's
the matter, I am almost through now."

"Go on, I can bear it," she said faintly. "I feel so much better anyway
now that I am dry and warm."

"So far as I can determine," said the man at last, "it is only a bad
ugly bruise; the skin is torn, it has been battered, but it is neither
sprained nor broken and I don't think it is going to be very serious.
Now I am going to bathe it in the hottest water you can bear, and then I
will bandage it and let you go to sleep."

He went out and came back with a kettle of boiling water, with which he
laved again and again, the poor, torn, battered little member. Never in
her life had anything been so grateful as these repeated applications of
hot water. After awhile he applied a healing lotion of some kind, then
he took his long roll of bandage and wound it dexterously around her
foot, not drawing it too close to prevent circulation, but just tight
enough for support, then as he finished she drew it back beneath the
cover.

"Now," said he, "there is nothing more I can do for you to-night, is
there?"

"Nothing."

"I want you to go to sleep now, you will be perfectly safe here. I am
going down the cañon to search--"

"No," said the girl apprehensively. "I dare not be left alone here;
besides I know how dangerous it would be for you to try to descend the
cañon in this rain. You have risked enough for me, you must wait until
the morning. I shall feel better then."

"But think of the anxiety of your friends."

"I can't help it," was the nervous reply. "I am afraid to be left alone
here at night."

Her voice trembled, he was fearful she would have a nervous breakdown.

"Very well," he said soothingly, "I will not leave you till the
morning."

"Where will you stay?"

"I'll make a shakedown for myself in the store room," he answered. "I
shall be right within call at any time."

It had grown dark outside by this time and the two in the log hut could
barely see each other.

"I think I shall light the fire," continued the man; "it will be sort of
company for you and it gets cold up here of nights at this season. I
shouldn't wonder if this rain turned into snow. Besides, it will dry
your clothes for you."

Then he went over to the fireplace, struck a match, touched it to the
kindling under the huge logs already prepared, and in a moment a
cheerful blaze was roaring up through the chimney. Then he picked up
from the floor where she had cast them in a heap, her bedraggled
garments. He straightened them out as best he could, hung them over the
backs of chairs and the table which he drew as near to the fire as was
safe. Having completed this unwonted task he turned to the woman who had
watched him curiously and nervously the while.

"Is there anything more that I can do for you?"

"Nothing; you have been as kind and as gentle as you were strong and
brave."

He threw his hand out with a deprecating gesture.

"Are you quite comfortable?"

"Yes."

"And your foot?"

"Seems very much better."

"Good night then, I will call you in the morning."

"Good night," said the girl gratefully, "and God bless you for a true
and noble man."



CHAPTER XII

ON THE TWO SIDES OF THE DOOR


The cabin contained a large and a small room. In the wall between them
there was a doorway closed by an ordinary batten door with a wooden
latch and no lock. Closed it served to hide the occupant of one room
from the view of the other, otherwise it was but a feeble barrier. Even
had it possessed a lock, a vigorous man could have burst it through in a
moment.

These thoughts did not come very clearly to Enid Maitland. Few thoughts
of any kind came to her. Where she lay she could see plainly the dancing
light of the glorious fire. She was warm; the deftly wrapped bandage,
the healing lotion upon her foot, had greatly relieved the pain in that
wounded member. The bed was hard but comfortable, much more so than the
sleeping bags to which of late she had been accustomed.

Few women had gone through such experiences mental and physical as had
befallen her within the last few hours and lived to tell the story. Had
it not been for the exhaustive strains of body and spirit to which she
had been subjected, her mental faculties would have been on the alert
and the strangeness of her unique position would have made her so
nervous that she could not have slept.

For the time being, however, the physical demands upon her entity were
paramount. She was dry, she was warm, she was fed, she was free from
anxiety and she was absolutely unutterably weary. Her thoughts were
vague, inchoate, unconcentrated. The fire wavered before her eyes, she
closed them in a few moments and did not open them.

Without a thought, without a care, she fell asleep. Her repose was
complete, not a dream even disturbed the profound slumber into which she
sank. Pretty picture she made; her head thrown backward, her golden hair
roughly dried and quickly plaited in long braids, one of which fell
along the pillow while the other curled lovingly around her neck. Her
face in the natural light would have looked pallid from what she had
gone through, but the fire cast red glows upon it; the fitful light
flickered across her countenance and sometimes the color wavered, it
came and went as if in consciousness; and sometimes deep shadows
unrelieved accentuated the paleness born of her sufferings.

There is no light that plays so many tricks with the imagination, or
that so stimulates the fancy as the light of an open fire. In its sudden
outbursts it sometimes seems to add life touches to the sleeping and the
dead. Had there been any eye to see this girl, she would have made a
delightful picture in the warm glow from the stone hearth. There were no
eyes to look, however, save those which belonged to the man on the other
side of the door.

On the hither side of that door in the room where the fire burned on the
hearth, there was rest in the heart of the woman, on the farther side
where the fire only burned in the heart of the man, there was tumult.
Not outward and visible, but inward and spiritual, and yet there was no
lack of apparent manifestation of the turmoil in the man's soul.

Albeit the room was smaller than the other, it was still of a good size.
He walked nervously up and down from one end to the other as ceaselessly
as a wild animal impatient of captivity stalks the narrow limits of his
contracted cage. The even tenor of his life had suddenly been diverted.
The ordinary sequence of his days had been abruptly changed. The privacy
of five years, which he had hoped and dreamed might exist as long as he,
had been rudely broken in upon. Humanity, which he had avoided, from
which he had fled, which he had cast away forever, had found him.
_Abiit, excessit, evasit, erupit!_ And, lo, his departures were all in
vain! The world, with all its grandeur and its insignificance, with all
its powers and its weaknesses, with all its opportunities and its
obligations, with all its joys and its sorrows, had knocked at his door;
and that the knocking hand was that of a woman, but added to his
perplexity and to his dismay.

He had cherished a dream that he could live to himself alone with but a
memory to bear him company, and from that dream he had been thunderously
awakened. Everything was changed. What had once been easy had now become
impossible. He might send her away, but though he swore her to secrecy
she would have to tell her story and something of his; the world would
learn some of it and seek him out with insatiable curiosity to know the
rest.

Eyes as keen as his would presently search and scrutinize the mountains
where he had roamed alone. They would see what he had seen, find what he
had found. Mankind, gold-lusting, would swarm and hive upon the hills
and fight and love and breed and die.

He would of course move on, but where? And went he whithersoever he
might, he would now of necessity carry with him another memory which
would not dwell within his mind in harmony with the memory which until
that day had been paramount there alone.

Slowly, laboriously, painfully, he had built his house upon the sand,
and the winds had blown and the floods had come, not only in a literal
but in a spiritual significance, and in one day that house had fallen.
He stood amid the wrecked remains of it trying to recreate it, to endow
once more with the fitted precision of the past the shapeless broken
units of the fabric of his fond imagination.

Whiles he resented with fierce, savage, passionate intensity the
interruption of this woman into his life. Whiles he throbbed with equal
intensity and almost as much passion at the thought of her.

Have you ever climbed a mountain early in the morning while it was yet
dark and having gained some dominant crest stood staring at the far
horizon, the empurpled east, while the "dawn came up like thunder?" Or,
better still, have you ever stood within the cold dark recesses of some
deep valley of river or pass and watched the clear light spread its bars
athwart the heavens, like nebulous mighty pinions, along the light
touched crest of a towering range until all of a sudden, with a leap
almost of joy, the great sun blazed in the high horizon?

You might be born a child of the dark, and light might sear and burn
your eyeballs accustomed to cooler, deeper shades, yet you could no more
turn away from this glory, though you might hate it, than by mere effort
of will you could cease to breathe the air. The shock that you might
feel, the sudden surprise, is only faintly suggestive of the emotions in
the breast of this man.

Once long ago the gentlest and tenderest of voices called from the dark
to the light, the blind. And it is given to modern science and to modern
skill sometimes to emulate that godlike achievement. Perhaps the
surprise, the amazement, the bewilderment, of him who having been blind
doth now see, if we can imagine it, not having been in the case
ourselves, will be a better guide to the understanding of this man's
emotion when this woman came suddenly into his lonely orbit. His eyes
were opened although he would not know it. He fought down his new
consciousness and would have none of it. Yet it was there. He loved her!

With what joy did Selkirk welcome the savage sharer of his solitude!
Suppose she had been a woman of his own race; had she been old,
withered, hideous, he must have loved her on the instant, much more if
she were young and beautiful. The thing was inevitable. Such passions
are born. God forbid that we should deny it. Even in the busy haunts of
men where women are as plenty as blackberries, to use Falstaff's simile,
and where a man may sometimes choose between a hundred, or a thousand,
often such loves are born, forever.

A voice in the night, a face in the street, a whispered word, the touch
of a hand, the answering throb of another heart--and behold! two walk
together where before each walked alone. Sometimes the man or the woman
who is born again of love knows it not, declines to admit it, refuses to
recognize it. Some birth pain must awake the consciousness of the new
life.

If those things are true and possible under every day conditions and to
ordinary men and women, how much more to this solitary. He had seen this
woman, white breasted like the foam, rising as the ancient goddess from
the Paphian Sea. Over that recollection, as he was a gentleman and a
Christian, he would fain draw a curtain, before it erect a wall. He must
not dwell upon that fact, he would not linger over that moment. Yet he
could not forget it.

Then he had seen her lying prone, yet unconsciously graceful in her
abandonment, on the sward; he had caught a glimpse of her white face
desperately up-tossed by the rolling water; he had looked into the
unfathomable depths of her eyes at that moment when she had awakened in
his arms after such a struggle as had taxed his manhood and almost
broken his heart; he had carried her unconsciously, ghastly white with
her pain-drawn face, stumbling desperately over the rocks in the beating
rain to this his home. There he had held that poor, bruised slender
little foot in his hand, gently, skillfully treating it, when he longed
to press his lips passionately upon it. Last of all he had looked into
her face warmed with the red light of the fire, searched her weary eyes
almost like blue pools, in whose depths there yet lurked life and light,
while her golden hair tinged crimson by the blaze lay on the white
pillow--and he loved her. God pity him, fighting against fact and
admission of it, yet how could he help it?

He had loved once before in his life with the fire of youth and spring,
but it was not like this; he did not recognize this new passion in any
light from the past, therefore he would not admit it, hence he did not
understand it. But he saw and admitted and understood enough to know
that the past was no longer the supreme subject in his life, that the
present rose higher, bulked larger and hid more and more of his far-off
horizon.

He felt like a knave and a traitor, as if he had been base, disloyal,
false to his ideal, recreant to his remembrance. Was he indeed a true
man? Did he have that rugged strength, that abiding faith, that eternal
consciousness, that lasting affection beside which the rocky paths he
often trod were things transient, perishable, evanescent? Was he a
weakling that he fell at the first sight of another woman?

He stopped his ceaseless pace forward and backward, and stopped near
that frail and futile door. She was there and there was none to prevent.
His hand sought the latch.

What was he about to do? God forbid that a thought he could not freely
share with humanity should enter his brain then. He held all women
sacred, and so he had ever done, and this woman in her loveliness, in
her helplessness, in her weakness, trebly appealed to him. But he would
look upon her, he would fain see if she were there, if it were all not a
dream, the creation of his disordered imagination.

Men had gone mad in hermitages in the mountains, they had been driven
insane in lonely oases in vast deserts; and they had peopled their
solitudes with men and women. Was this same working of a disordered
brain too much turned upon itself and with too tremendous a pressure
upon it producing an illusion? Was there in truth any woman there? He
would raise the latch and open the door and look. Once more the hand
went stealthily to the latch.

The woman slept quietly on. No thin barricade easily unlocked or easily
broken protected her. Something intangible yet stronger than the
thickest, the most rigid, bars of steel guarded her; something unseen,
indescribable, but so unmistakable when it throbs in the breast that
those who depend on it feel that their dependence is not in vain,
watched over her.

Cherishing no evil thought, the man had power to gratify his desire
which might yet bear a sinister construction should his action be
observed. It was her privacy he was invading; she had trusted to him,
she had said so, to his honor and that stood her in good stead. His
honor! Not in five years had he heard the word or thought the thing, but
he had not forgotten it. She had not appealed to an unreal thing. Upon a
rock her trust was based. His hand left the latch, it fell gently, he
drew back and turned away trembling, a conqueror who mastered himself.
He was awake to the truth again.

What had he been about to do? Profane, uninvited, the sanctity of her
chamber, violate the hospitality of his own house. Even with a proper
motive imperil his self-respect, shatter her trust, endanger that honor
which so suddenly became a part of him on demand. She would not probably
know, she could never know unless she awoke. What of that? That ancient
honor of his life and race rose like a mountain whose scarped face
cannot be scaled.

He fell back with a swift turn, a feeling almost womanly--and more men
perhaps if they lived in feminine isolation, as self-centered as women
are so often by necessity, would be as feminine as their
sisters--influenced him, overcame him. His hand went to his hunting
shirt; nervously he tore it open, he grasped a bright object that hung
against his breast; as he did so, the thought came to him that not
before in five years had he been for a moment unconscious of the
pressure of that locket over his heart, but now that this other had
come, he had to seek for it to find it.

The man dragged it out, held it in his hand and opened it. He held it so
tightly that it almost gave beneath the strong grasp of his strong hand.
From a near-by box he drew another object with his other hand; he took
the two to the light, the soft light of the candle upon the table, and
stared from one to the other with eyes brimming.

Like crystal gazers he saw other things than those presented to the
casual vision, he heard other sounds than the beat of the rain upon the
roof, the roar of the wind down the cañon. A voice that he had sworn he
would never forget, but which, God forgive him, had not now the
clearness that it might have had yesterday, whispered awful words to
him.

Anon he looked into another face, red too, but with no hue from the
hearth or leaping flame, but red with the blood of ghastly wounds. He
heard again that report, the roar louder and more terrible than any peal
of thunder that rived the clouds above his head and made the mountains
quake and tremble. He was conscious again of the awful stillness of
death that supervened. He dropped on his knees, buried his face in his
hands where they rested on picture and locket on the rude table.

Ah, the past died hard; for a moment he was the lover of old--remorse,
passionate expiation, solitude--he and the dead together--the world and
the living forgot! He would not be false, he would be true; there was no
power in any feeble woman's tender hand to drive him off his course, to
shake his purpose, to make him a new, another man. _O, Vanitas,
Vanitatum!_

On the other side of the door the unconscious woman slept quietly on.
The red fire light died away, the glowing coals sank into gray ash.
Within the smaller room the cold dawn stealing through the unshaded
window looked upon a field of battle--deaths, wounds, triumphs,
defeats--portrayed upon one poor human face, upturned as sometimes
victors and vanquished alike upturn stark faces from the field to the
God above who may pity but who has not intervened.

So Jacob may have looked after that awful night when he wrestled until
the day broke with the angel and would not let him go until he blessed
him, walking, forever after, with halting step as memorial but with his
blessing earned. Hath, this man blessing won or not? And must he pay for
it if he hath achieved it?

And all the while the woman slept quietly on upon the other side of that
door.



CHAPTER XIII

THE LOG HUT IN THE MOUNTAINS


What awakened the woman she did not know; in all probability it was the
bright sunlight streaming through the narrow window before her. The
cabin was so placed that the sun did not strike fairly into the room
until it was some hours high, consequently she had her long sleep out
entirely undisturbed. The man had made no effort whatever to awaken her.
Whatever tasks he had performed since daybreak had been so silently
accomplished that she had not been aware of them.

So soon as he could do so, he had left the cabin and was now busily
engaged in his daily duties outside the cabin and beyond earshot. He
knew that sleep was the very best medicine for her and it was best that
she should not be disturbed until in her own good time she awoke.

The clouds had emptied themselves during the night and the wind had at
last died away toward morning and now there was a great calm abroad in
the land. The sunlight was dazzling. Outside, where the untempered rays
beat full upon the crests of the mountains, it was doubtless warm, but
within the cabin it was chilly--the fire had long since burned
completely away and he had not entered the room to replenish it. Yet
Enid Maitland had lain snug and warm under her blankets. She presently
tested her wounded foot by moving it gently and discovered agreeably
that it was much less painful than she had anticipated. The treatment of
the night before had been very successful.

She did not get up immediately, but the coldness of the room struck her
so soon as she got out of bed. Upon her first awakening she was hardly
conscious of her situation; her sleep had been too long and too heavy
and her awakening too gradual for any sudden appreciation of the new
condition. It was not until she had stared around the walls of the rude
cabin for some time that she realized where she was and what had
happened. When she did so she arose at once.

Her first impulse was to call. Never in her life had she felt such
death-like stillness. Even in the camp almost always there had been a
whisper of breeze through the pine trees, or the chatter of water over
the rocks. But here there were no pine trees and no sound of rushing
brook came to her. It was almost painful. She was keen to dress and go
out of the house. She stood upon the rude puncheon floor on one foot
scarcely able yet to bear even the lightest pressure upon the other.
There were her clothes on chairs and tables before the fireplace. Such
had been the heat thrown out by that huge blaze that a brief inspection
convinced her that everything was thoroughly dry. Dry or wet she must
needs put them on since they were all she had. She noticed that there
were no locks on the doors and she realized that the only protection she
had was the sense of decency and the honor of the man. That she had been
allowed her sleep unmolested made her the more confident on that
account.

She dressed hastily, although it was the work of some difficulty in view
of her wounded foot and of the stiff condition of her rough dried
apparel. Presently she was completely clothed save for that disabled
foot. With the big clumsy bandages upon it she could not draw her
stocking over it and even if she succeeded in that she could in no way
make shift to put on her boot.

The situation was awkward, the predicament annoying; she was wearing
bloomers and a short skirt for her mountain climbing and she did not
know quite what to do. She thought of tearing up one of the rough
unbleached sheets and wrapping it around her leg, but she hesitated as
to that. It was very trying. Otherwise she would have opened the door
and stepped out into the open air, now she felt herself virtually a
prisoner.

She had been thankful that no one had disturbed her, but now she wished
for the man. In her helplessness she thought of his resourcefulness with
eagerness. The man however did not appear and there was nothing for her
to do but to wait for him. Taking one of the blankets from the bed, she
sat down and drew it across her knees and took stock of the room.

The cabin was built of logs, the room was large, perhaps twelve by
twenty feet, with one side completely taken up by the stone fireplace;
there were two windows, one on either side of the outer door which
opened toward the southwest. The walls were unplastered save in the
chinks between the rough hewn logs of which it was made. Over the
fireplace and around on one side ran a rude shelf covered with books.
She had no opportunity to examine them, although later she would become
familiar with every one of them.

Into the walls on the other side were driven wooden pegs; from some of
them hung a pair of snow shoes, a heavy Winchester rifle, fishing tackle
and other necessary wilderness paraphernalia. On the puncheon floor wolf
and bear skins were spread. In one corner against the wall again were
piled several splendid pairs of horns from the mountain sheep.

The furniture consisted of the single bed or berth in which she had
slept, built against the wall in one of the corners, a rude table on
which were writing materials and some books. A row of curtained shelves,
evidently made of small boxes and surmounted by a mirror, occupied
another space. There were two or three chairs, the handiwork of the
owner, comfortable enough in spite of their rude construction. On some
other pegs hung a slicker and a sou'wester, a fur overcoat, a fur cap
and other rough clothes; a pair of heavy boots stood by the fireplace.
On another shelf there were a number of scientific instruments the
nature of which she could not determine, although she could see that
they were all in a beautiful state of preservation.

There was plenty of rude comfort in the room which was excessively
mannish. In fact there was nothing anywhere which in any way spoke of
the existence of woman--except a picture in a small rough wooden frame
which stood on the table before which she sat down. The picture was of a
handsome woman--naturally Enid Maitland saw that before anything else;
she would not have been a woman if that had not engaged her attention
more forcibly than any other fact in the room. She picked it up and
studied it long and earnestly, quite unconscious of the reason for her
interest, and yet a certain uneasy feeling might have warned her of what
was toward in her bosom.

This young woman had not yet had time to get her bearings, she had not
been able to realize all the circumstances of her adventure; so soon as
she did so she would know that into her life a man had come and whatever
the course of that life might be in the future, he would never again be
out of it.

It was therefore with mingled and untranslatable emotions that she
studied this picture. She marked with a certain resentment the bold
beauty quite apparent despite the dim fading outlines of a photograph
never very good. So far as she could discern the woman was dark haired
and dark eyed--her direct antithesis! The casual viewer would have found
little to find fault with in the presentment, but Enid Maitland's eyes
were sharpened by--what, pray? At any rate she decided that the woman
was of a rather coarse fiber, that in things finer and higher she would
be found wanting. She was such a woman, so the girl reasoned acutely, as
might inspire a passionate affection in a strong hearted, reckless
youth, but whose charms being largely physical would pall in longer and
more intimate association; a dangerous rival in a charge, but not so
formidable in a steady campaign.

These thoughts were the result of long and earnest inspection and it was
with some reluctance that the girl at last put the photograph aside and
looked toward the door. She was hungry, ravenously so. She began to be a
little alarmed and had just about made up her mind to rise and stumble
out as she was, when she heard steps outside and a knock on the door.

"What is it?" she asked in response.

"May I come in?"

"Yes," was the quick answer.

The man opened the door, left it ajar and entered the room.

"Have you been awake long?" he began abruptly.

"Not very."

"I didn't disturb you because you needed sleep more than anything else.
How do you feel?"

"Greatly refreshed, thank you."

"And hungry, I suppose?"

"Very."

"I will soon remedy that. Your foot?"

"It seems much better, but I--"

The girl hesitated, blushing. "I can't get my shoe on and--"

"Shall I have another look at it?"

"No, I don't believe it will be necessary. If I may have some of that
liniment, or whatever it was you put on it, and more of that bandage, I
think I can attend to it myself, but you see my stocking and my boot--"

The man nodded, he seemed to understand; he went to his cracker box
chiffonier and drew from it a long coarse woolen stocking.

"That is the best that I can do for you," he said, extending it toward
her somewhat diffidently.

"And that will do very nicely," said the girl. "It will cover the
bandage and that is the main thing."

The man laid on the table by the side of the stocking another strip of
bandage torn from the same sheet; as he did so he noticed the picture.
He caught it up quickly, a dark flush spreading over his face, and
holding it in his hand he turned abruptly away.

"I will go and cook you some breakfast while you get yourself ready. If
you have not washed, you'll find a bucket of water and a basin and towel
outside the door."

He went through the inner door as suddenly as he had come through the
outer one. He was a man of few words and whatever of social grace he
might once have possessed and in more favorable circumstances exhibited,
was not noticeable now; the tenderness with which he had cared for her
the night before had also vanished.

His bearing had been cool almost harsh and forbidding and his manner was
as grim as his appearance. The conversation had been a brief one and her
opportunity for inspection of him consequently limited, yet she had
taken him in. She saw a tall splendid man, no longer very young,
perhaps, but in the prime of life and vigor. His complexion was dark and
burned browner by long exposure to sun and wind, winter and summer. In
spite of the brown there was a certain color, a hue of health in his
cheeks. His eyes were hazel, sometimes brown, sometimes gray, and
sometimes blue, she afterward learned. A short thick closely cut beard
and mustache covered the lower part of his face, disguising but not
hiding the squareness of his jaw and the firmness, of his lips.

He had worn his cap when he entered and when he took it off she noticed
that his dark hair was tinged with white. He was dressed in a leather
hunting suit, somewhat the worse for wear, but fitting him in a way to
give free play to all his muscles. His movements were swift, energetic
and graceful; she did not wonder that he had so easily hurled the bear
to one side and had managed to carry her--no light weight, indeed!--over
what she dimly recognized must have been a horrible trail, which
burdened as he was would have been impossible to a man of less splendid
vigor than he.

The cabin was low ceiled and as she had sat looking up at him he had
towered above her until he seemed to fill it. Naturally she had
scrutinized his every action, as she had hung upon his every word. His
swift and somewhat startled movement, his frowning as he had seized the
picture on which she had gazed with such interest aroused the liveliest
surprise and curiosity in her heart.

Who was this woman? Why was he so quick to remove the picture from her
gaze? Thoughts rushed tumultuously through her brain, but she realized
at once that she lacked time to indulge them. She could hear him moving
about in the other room, she threw aside the blanket with which she had
draped herself, changed the bandage on her foot, drew on the heavy
woolen stocking which of course was miles too big for her, but which
easily took in her foot and ankle encumbered as they were by the rude,
heavy but effective wrapping. Thereafter she hobbled to the door and
stood for a moment almost aghast at the splendor and magnificence before
her.

He had built his cabin on a level shelf of rock perhaps fifty by a
hundred feet in area. It was backed up against an overtowering cliff,
otherwise the rock fell away in every direction. She divined that the
descent from the shelf into the pocket or valley spread before her was
sheer, except off to the right where a somewhat gentler acclivity of
huge and broken boulders gave a practicable ascent--a sort of titantic
stairs--to the place perched on the mountain side. The shelf was
absolutely bare save for the cabin and a few huge boulders. There were a
few sparse, stunted trees further up on the mountain side above; a few
hundred feet beyond them, however, came the timber line, after which
there was nothing but the naked rock.

Below several hundred feet lay a clear emerald pool, whose edges were
bordered by pines where it was not dominated by high cliffs. Already the
lakelet was rimmed with ice on the shaded side. This enchanting little
body of water was fed by the melting snow from the crest and peaks,
which in the clear pure sunshine and rarefied air of the mountains
seemed to rise and confront her within a stone's throw of the place
where she stood.

On one side of the lake in the valley or pocket beneath there was a
little grassy clearing, and there this dweller in the wilderness had
built a rude corral for the burros. On a rough bench by the side of the
door she saw the primitive conveniences to which he had alluded. The
water was delightfully soft and as it had stood exposed to the sun's
direct rays for some time, although the air was exceedingly crisp and
cold, it was tempered sufficiently to be merely cool and agreeable. She
luxuriated in it for a few moments and while she had her face buried in
the towel, rough, coarse, but clean, she heard a step. She looked up in
time to see the man lay down upon the bench a small mirror and a clean
comb. He said nothing as he did so and she had no opportunity to thank
him before he was gone. The thoughtfulness of the act affected her
strangely and she was very glad of a chance to unbraid her hair, comb it
out and plait it again. She had not a hair pin left of course, and all
she could do with it was to replait it and let it hang upon her
shoulders; her coiffure would have looked very strange to civilization,
but out there in the mountains, it was eminently appropriate.

Without noticing details the man felt the general effect as she limped
back into the room toward the table. Her breakfast was ready for her; it
was a coarse fare, bacon, a baked potato hard tack crisped before the
fire, coffee black and strong, with sugar but no cream. The dishes
matched the fare, too, yet she noticed that the fork was of silver and
by her plate there was a napkin, rough dried but of fine linen. The man
had just set the brimming smoking coffee pot on the table when she
appeared.

"I am sorry I have no cream," he said, and then before she could make
comment or reply, he turned and walked out of the door, his purpose
evidently being not to embarrass her by his presence while she ate.

Enid Maitland had grown to relish the camp fare, bringing to it the
appetite of good health and exertion. She had never eaten anything that
tasted so good to her as that rude meal that morning, yet she would have
enjoyed it better, she thought, if he had only shared it with her, if
she had not been compelled to eat it alone. She hastened her meal on
that account, determined as soon as she had finished her breakfast to
seek the man and have some definite understanding with him.

And after all she reflected that she was better alone than in his
presence, for there would come stealing into her thoughts the
distressing episode of the morning before, try as she would to put it
out of her mind. Well, she was a fairly sensible girl, the matter was
passed, it could not be helped now, she would forget it as much as was
possible. She would recur to it with mortification later on, but the
present was so full of grave problems that there was not any room for
the past.



CHAPTER XIV

A TOUR OF INSPECTION


The first thing necessary, she decided, when she had satisfied her
hunger and finished her meal, was to get word of her plight and her
resting place to her uncle and the men of the party; and the next thing
was to get away, where she would never see this man again and perhaps be
able to forget what had transpired--yet there was a strange pang of pain
in her heart at that thought!

No man on earth had ever so stimulated her curiosity as this one. Who
was he? Why was he there? Who was the woman whose picture he had so
quickly taken from her gaze? Why had so splendid a man buried himself
alone in that wilderness? These reflections were presently interrupted
by the reappearance of the man himself.

"Have you finished?" he asked unceremoniously, standing in the doorway
as he spoke.

"Yes, thank you, and it was very good indeed."

Dismissing this politeness with a wave of his hand but taking no other
notice, he spoke again.

"If you will tell me your name--"

"Maitland, Enid Maitland."

"Miss Maitland?"

The girl nodded.

"And where you came from, I will endeavor to find your party and see
what can be done to restore you to them."

"We were camped down that cañon at a place where another brook, a large
one, flows into it, several miles I should think below the place
where--"

She was going to say "where you found me," but the thought of the way in
which he had found her rushed over her again; and this time with his
glance directly upon her, although it was as cold and dispassionate and
indifferent as a man's look could well be, the recollection of the
meeting to which she had been about to allude rushed over her with an
accompanying wave of color which heightened her beauty as it covered her
with shame.

She could not realize that beneath his mask of indifference so
deliberately worn, the man was as agitated as she, not so much at the
remembrance of anything that had transpired, but at the sight, the
splendid picture, of the woman as she stood, there in the little cabin
then. It seemed to him as if she gathered up in her own person all the
radiance and light and beauty, all the purity and freshness and
splendor of the morning, to shine and dazzle in his face. As she
hesitated in confusion, perhaps comprehending its causes he helped out
her lame and halting sentence.

"I know the cañon well," he said. "I think I know the place to which you
refer; is it just about where the river makes an enormous bend upon
itself?"

"Yes, that is it. In that clearing we have been camped for ten days. My
uncle must be crazy with anxiety to know what has become of me and--"

The man interposed.

"I will go there directly," he said. "It is now half after ten. That
place is about seven miles or more from here across the range, fifteen
or twenty by the river; I shall be back by nightfall. The cabin is your
own."

He turned away without another word.

"Wait," said the woman, "I am afraid to stay here."

She had been fearless enough before in these mountains but her recent
experiences had somehow unsettled her nerves.

"There is nothing on earth to hurt you, I think," returned the man.
"There isn't a human being, so far as I know, in these mountains."

"Except my uncle's party."

He nodded.

"But there might be another--bear," she added desperately, forcing
herself.

"Not likely, and they wouldn't come here if there were any. That's the
first grizzly I have seen in years," he went on unconcernedly,
studiously looking away from her, not to add to her confusion at the
remembrance of that awful episode which would obtrude itself on every
occasion. "You can use a rifle or gun?"

She nodded; he stepped over to the wall and took down the Winchester
which he handed her.

"This one is ready for service, and you will find a revolver on the
shelf. There is only one possible way of access to this cabin, that's
down those rock stairs; one man, one woman, a child even, with these
weapons could hold it against an army."

"Couldn't I go with you?"

"On that foot?"

Enid pressed her wounded foot upon the ground; it was not so painful
when resting, but she found she could not walk a step on it without
great suffering.

"I might carry you part of the way," said the man. "I carried you last
night, but it would be impossible, all of it."

"Promise me that you will be back by nightfall with Uncle Bob and--"

"I shall be back by nightfall, but I can't promise that I will bring
anybody with me."

"You mean?"

"You saw what the cloud burst nearly did for you," was the quick answer.
"If they did not get out of that pocket there is nothing left of them
now."

"But they must have escaped," persisted the girl, fighting down her
alarm at this blunt statement of possible peril. "Besides, Uncle Robert
and most of the rest were climbing one of the peaks and--"

"They will be all right then, but if I am to find the place and tell
them your story, I must go now."

He turned and without another word or a backward glance scrambled down
the hill. The girl limped to the brink of the cliff over which he had
plunged and stared after him. She watched him as long as she could see
him until he was lost among the trees. If she had anybody else to depend
upon she would certainly have felt differently toward him. When Uncle
Robert and her Aunt and the children and old Kirkby and the rest
surrounded her again she could hate that man in spite of all he had done
for her, but now, as she stared after him determinedly making his way
down the mountain and through the trees, it was with difficulty she
could restrain herself from calling him back.

The silence was most oppressive, the loneliness was frightful; she had
been alone before in these mountains, but from choice; now the fact that
there was no escape from them made the sensation a very different one.

She sat down and brooded over her situation until she felt that if she
did not do something and in some way divert her thoughts she would break
down again. He had said that the cabin and its contents were hers. She
resolved to inspect them more closely. She hobbled back into the great
room and looked about her again. There was nothing that demanded careful
scrutiny; she wasn't quite sure whether she was within the proprieties
or not, but she seized the oldest and most worn of the volumes on the
shelf. It was a text book on mining and metallurgy she observed, and
opening it at the fly leaf, across the page she saw written in a firm
vigorous masculine hand a name, "William Berkeley Newbold," and beneath
these words, "Thayer Hall, Harvard," and a date some seven years back.

The owner of that book, whether the present possessor or not, had been a
college man. Say that he had graduated at twenty-one or twenty-two, he
would be twenty-eight or twenty-nine years old now, but if so, why that
white hair? Perhaps though the book did not belong to the man of the
cabin.

She turned to other books on the shelf. Many of them were technical
books which she had sufficient general culture to realize could be only
available to a man highly educated and a special student of mines and
mining--a mining engineer, she decided, with a glance at those
instruments and appliances of a scientific character plainly, but of
whose actual use she was ignorant.

A rapid inspection of the other books confirmed her in the conclusion
that the man of the mountains was indeed the owner of the collection.
There were a few well worn volumes of poetry and essays. A Bible,
Shakespeare, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Tennyson, Keats, a small
dictionary, a compendious encyclopedia, just the books, she thought,
smiling at her conceit, that a man of education and culture would want
to have upon a desert island where his supply of literature would be
limited.

The old ones were autographed as the first book she had looked in;
others, newer editions to the little library if she could judge by their
condition, were unsigned.

Into the corner cupboard and the drawers of course she did not look.
There was nothing else in the room to attract her attention, save some
piles of manuscript neatly arranged on one of the shelves, each one
covered with a square of board and kept in place by pieces of glistening
quartz. There were four of these piles and another half the size of the
first four on the table. These of course she did not examine, further
than to note that the writing was in the same bold free hand as the
signature in the books. If she had been an expert she might have deduced
much from the writing; as it was she fancied it was strong, direct,
manly.

Having completed her inspection of this room, she opened the door and
went into the other; it was smaller and less inviting. It had only one
window and a door opening outside. There was a cook stove here and
shelves with cooking utensils and granite ware, and more rude box
receptacles on the walls which were filled with a bountiful and well
selected store of canned goods and provisions of various kinds. This was
evidently the kitchen, supply room, china closet. She saw no sign of a
bed in it and wondered where and how the man had spent the night.

By rights her mind should have been filled with her uncle and his party
and in their alarm she should have shared, but she was so extremely
comfortable, except for her foot, which did not greatly trouble her so
long as she kept it quiet, that she felt a certain degree of contentment
not to say happiness. The Adventure was so romantic and thrilling--save
for those awful moments in the pool--especially to the soul of a
conventional woman who had been brought up in the most humdrum and
stereotyped fashion of the earth's ways, and with never an opportunity
for the development of the spirit of romance which all of us exhibit
some time in our life and which thank God some of us never lose, that
she found herself reveling in it.

She lost herself in pleasing imaginations of the tales of her adventures
that she could tell when she got back to her uncle and when she got
further back to staid old Philadelphia. How shocked everybody would be
with it all there! Of course she resolved that she would never mention
one episode of that terrible day, and she had somehow absolute
confidence that this man, in spite of his grim, gruff taciturnity, who
had shown himself so exceedingly considerate of her feelings would never
mention it either.

She had so much food for thought, that not even in the late afternoon of
the long day, could she force her mind to the printed pages of the book
she had taken at random from the shelf which lay open before her, where
she sat in the sun, her head covered by an old "Stetson" that she had
ventured to appropriate. She had dragged a bear skin out on the rocks in
the sun and sat curled up on it half reclining against a boulder
watching the trail, the Winchester by her side. She had eaten so late a
breakfast that she had made a rather frugal lunch out of whatever had
taken her fancy in the store room, and she was waiting most anxiously
now for the return of the man.

The season was late and the sun sank behind the peaks quite early in the
afternoon, and it grew dark and chill long before the shadows fell upon
the dwellers of the lowlands.

Enid drew the bear skin around her and waited with an ever growing
apprehension. If she should be compelled to spend the night alone in
that cabin, she felt that she could not endure it. She was never so glad
of anything in her life as when she saw him suddenly break out of the
woods and start up the steep trail, and for a moment her gladness was
not tempered by the fact, which she was presently to realize with great
dismay, that as he had gone, so he now returned, alone.



CHAPTER XV

THE CASTAWAYS OF THE MOUNTAINS


The man was evidently seeking her, for so soon as he caught sight of her
he broke into a run and came bounding up the steep ascent with the speed
and agility of a chamois or a mountain sheep. As he approached the girl
rose to her feet and supported herself upon the boulder against which
she had been leaning, at the same time extending her hand to greet him.

"Oh," she cried, her voice rising nervously as he drew near, "I am so
glad you are back, another hour of loneliness and I believe I should
have gone crazy."

Now whether that joy in his return was for him, personally or for him
abstractly, he could not tell; whether she was glad that he had come
back simply because he was a human being who would relieve her
loneliness or whether she rejoiced to see him individually, was a matter
not yet to be determined. He hoped the latter, he believed the former.
At any rate he caught and held her outstretched hand in the warm clasp
of both his own. Burning words of greeting rushed to his lips
torrentially, what he said, however, was quite commonplace; as is so
often the case, thought and outward speech did not correspond.

"It's too cold for you out here, you must go into the house at once," he
declared masterfully and she obeyed with unwonted meekness.

The sun had set and the night air had grown suddenly chill. Still
holding her hand they started toward the cabin a few rods away. Her
wounded foot was of little support to her and the excitement had
unnerved her; in spite of his hand she swayed; without a thought he
caught her about the waist and half lifted, half led her to the door. It
seemed as natural as it was inevitable for him to assist her in this way
and in her weakness and bewilderment she suffered it without comment or
resistance. Indeed there was such strength and power in his arm, she was
so secure there, that she liked it. As for him his pulses were bounding
at the contact; but for that matter even to look at her quickened his
heart beat.

Entering the main room he led her gently to one of the chairs near the
table and immediately thereafter lighted the fire which he had taken the
precaution to lay before his departure. It had been dark in the cabin,
but the fire soon filled it with glorious light. She watched him at his
task and as he rose from the hearth questioned him.

"Now tell me," she began, "you found--"

"First your supper, and then the story," he answered, turning toward the
door of the other room.

"No," pleaded the girl, "can't you see that nothing is of any importance
to me but the story? Did you find the camp?"

"I found the place where it had been."

"Where it had been!"

"There wasn't a single vestige of it left. That whole pocket, I knew it
well, had been swept clean by the flood."

"But Kirkby, and Mrs. Maitland and--"

"They weren't there."

"Did you search for them?"

"Certainly."

"But they can't have been drowned," she exclaimed piteously.

"Of course not," he began reassuringly. "Kirkby is a veteran of these
mountains and--"

"But do you know him?" queried the girl in great surprise.

"I did once," said the man, flushing darkly at his admission. "I haven't
seen him for five years."

So that was the measure of his isolation, thought the woman, keen for
the slightest evidence as to her companion's history, of which, by the
way, he meant to tell her nothing.

"Well?" she asked, breaking the pause.

"Kirkby would certainly see the cloudburst coming and he would take the
people with him in the camp up on the hogback near it. It is far above
the flood line, they would be quite safe there."

"And did you look for them there?"

"I did. The trail had been washed out, but I scrambled up and found
undisputed evidence that my surmise was correct. I haven't a doubt that
all who were in the camp were saved."

"Thank God for that," said the girl, greatly relieved and comforted by
his reassuring words. "And my uncle, Mr. Robert Maitland, and the rest
on the mountain, what do you think of them?"

"I am sure that they must have escaped too. I don't think any of them
have suffered more than a thorough drenching in the downpour and that
they are all safe and perhaps on their way to the settlements now."

"But they wouldn't go back without searching for me, would they?" cried
the girl.

"Certainly not, I suppose they are searching for you now."

"Well then--"

"Wait," said the man. "You started down the cañon, you told everybody
that you were going that way. They naturally searched in that direction;
they hadn't the faintest idea that you were going up the river."

"No," admitted Enid, "that is true. I did not tell anyone. I didn't
dream of going up the cañon when I started out in the morning; it was
the result of a sudden impulse."

"God bless that--" burst out the man and then he checked himself,
flushing again, darkly.

What had he been about to say? The question flashed into his own mind
and into the woman's mind at the same time when she heard, the
incompleted sentence; but she, too, checked the question that rose to
her lips.

"This is the way I figure it," continued the man hurriedly to cover up
his confusion. "They fancy themselves alone in these mountains, which
save for me they are; they believe you to have gone down the cañon.
Kirkby with Mrs. Maitland and the others waited on the ridge until Mr.
Maitland and his party joined them. They couldn't have saved very much
to eat or wear from the camp, they were miles from a settlement, they
probably divided into two parties; the larger with the woman and
children started for home, the second went down the cañon searching for
your dead body!"

"And had it not been for you," cried the girl impulsively, "they had
found it."

"God permitted me to be of service to you," answered the man simply. "I
can follow their speculations exactly; up or down, they believed you to
have been in the cañon when the storm broke, therefore there was only
one place and one direction to search for you."

"And that was?"

"Down the cañon."

"What did you do then?"

"I went down the cañon myself. I think I saw evidences that someone had
preceded me, too."

"Did you overtake them!"

"Certainly not; they traveled as rapidly as I, they must have started
early in the morning and they had several hours the advantage of me."

"But they must have stopped somewhere for the night and--"

"Yes," answered the man. "If I had had only myself to consider, I should
have pressed on through the night and overtaken them when they camped."

"Only yourself?"

"You made me promise to return here by nightfall. I don't know whether I
should have obeyed you or not. I kept on as long as I dared and still
leave myself time to get back to you by dark."

She had no idea of the desperate speed he had made to reach her while it
was still daylight.

"If you hadn't come when you did, I should have died," cried the girl
impetuously. "You did perfectly right. I don't think I am a coward, I
hope not, I never was afraid before, but--"

"Don't apologize or explain to me, it's not necessary; I understand
everything you feel. It was only because I had given you my word to be
back by sunset that I left off following their trail. I was afraid that
you might think me dead or that something had happened and--"

"I should, I did," admitted the girl. "It wasn't so bad during the day
time, but when the sun went down and you did not come I began to imagine
everything. I saw myself left alone here in these mountains, helpless,
wounded, without a human being to speak to. I could not bear it."

"But I have been here alone for five years," said the man grimly.

"That's different. I don't know why you have chosen solitude, but I--"

"You are a woman," returned the other gently, "and you have suffered,
that accounts for everything."

"Thank you," said Enid gratefully. "And I am so glad you came back to
me."

"Back to you," reiterated the man and then he stopped. If he had allowed
his heart to speak he would have said, back to you from the very ends of
the world--"But I want you to believe that I honestly did not leave the
trail until the ultimate moment," he added.

"I do believe it," she extended her hand to him. "You have been very
good to me, I trust you absolutely."

And for the second time he took that graceful, dainty, aristocratic hand
in his own larger, stronger, firmer grasp. His face flushed again; under
other circumstances and in other days perhaps he might have kissed that
hand; as it was he only held it for a moment and then gently released
it.

"And you think they are searching for me?" she asked.

"I know it. I am sure of what I myself would do for one I love--I loved
I mean, and they--"

"And they will find me?"

The man shook his head.

"I am afraid they will be convinced that you have gone down with the
flood. Didn't you have a cap or--"

"Yes," said the woman, "and a sweater. The bear you shot covered the
sweater with blood. I could not put it on again."

As she spoke she flushed a glorious crimson at the remembrance of that
meeting, but the man was looking away with studied care. She thanked him
in her heart for such generous and kindly consideration.

"They will have gone down the stream with the rest, and it's just
possible that the searchers may find them, the body of the bear too.
This river ends in a deep mountain lake and I think it is going to snow,
it will be frozen hard to-morrow."

"And they will think me--there?"

"I am afraid so."

"And they won't come up here?"

"It is scarcely possible."

"Oh!" exclaimed the woman faintly at the dire possibility that she might
not be found.

"I took an empty bottle with me," said the man, breaking the silence,
"in which I had enclosed a paper saying that you were here and safe,
save for your wounded foot, and giving directions how to reach the
place. I built a cairn of rocks in a sheltered nook in the valley where
your camp had been pitched and left the tightly corked bottle wedged on
top of it. If they return to the camp they can scarcely fail to see it."

"But if they don't go back there."

"Well, it was just a chance."

"And if they don't find me?"

"You will have to stay here for a while; until your foot gets well
enough to travel," returned the man evasively.

"But winter is coming on, you said the lake would freeze to-night, and
if it snows?"

"It will snow."

The woman stared at him, appalled.

"And in that case--"

"I am afraid," was the slow reply, "that you will have to stay here"--he
hesitated in the face of her white still face--"all winter," he added
desperately.

"Alone!" exclaimed the girl faintly. "With you?"

"Miss Maitland," said the man resolutely, "I might as well tell you the
truth. I can make my way to the settlements now or later, but it will be
a journey of perhaps a week. There will be no danger to me, but you will
have to stay here. You could not go with me. If I am any judge you
couldn't possibly use your foot for a mountain journey for at least
three weeks, and by that time we shall be snowed in as effectually as if
we were within the Arctic Circle. But if you will let me go alone to the
settlement I can bring back your uncle, and a woman to keep you company,
before the trails are impassable. Or enough men to make it practicable
to take you through the cañons and down the trails to your home again. I
could not do that alone even if you were well, in the depth of the
winter."

The girl shook her head stubbornly.

"A week alone in these mountains and I should be mad," she said
decisively. "It isn't to be thought of."

"It must be thought of," urged the man. "You don't understand. It is
either that or spend the winter here--with me."

The woman looked at him steadily.

"And what have I to fear from you?" she asked.

"Nothing, nothing," protested the other, "but the world?"

"The world," said the woman reflectively. "I don't mean to say that it
means nothing to me, but it has cause enough for what it would fain say
now." She came to her decision swiftly. "There is no help for it," she
continued; "we are marooned together." She smiled faintly as she used
the old word of tropic island and southern sea. "You have shown me that
you are a man and a gentleman, in God and you I put my trust. When my
foot gets well, if you can teach me to walk on snow shoes and it is
possible to get through the passes, we will try to go back; if not, we
must wait."

"The decision is yours," said the man, "yet I feel that I ought to point
out to you how--"

"I see all that you see," she interrupted. "I know what is in your mind,
it is entirely clear to me, we can do nothing else."

"So be it. You need have no apprehension as to your material comfort; I
have lived in these mountains for a long time, I am prepared for any
emergency, I pass my time in the summer getting ready for the winter.
There is a cave, or recess rather, behind the house which, as you see,
is built against the rock wall, and it is filled with wood enough to
keep us warm for two or three winters; I have an ample supply of
provisions and clothing for my own needs, but you will need something
warmer than that you wear," he continued.

"Have you needle and thread and cloth?" she asked.

"Everything," was the prompt answer.

"Then I shall not suffer."

"Are you that wonder of wonders," asked the man, smiling slightly, "an
educated woman who knows how to sew?"

"It is a tradition of Philadelphia," answered the girl, "that her
daughters should be expert needlewomen."

"Oh, you are from Philadelphia."

"Yes, and you?"

She threw the question at him so deftly and so quickly that she caught
him unaware and off his guard a second time within the hour.

"Baltimore," he answered before he thought and then bit his lip.

He had determined to vouchsafe her no information regarding himself and
here she had surprised him into an admission in the first blush of their
acquaintance, and she knew that she had triumphed for she smiled in
recognition of it.

She tried another tack.

"Mr. Newbold," she began at a venture, and as it was five years since he
had heard that name, his surprise at her knowledge, which after all was
very simple, betrayed him a third time. "We are like stories I have
read, people who have been cast away on desert islands and--"

"Yes," said the man, "but no castaways that I have ever read of have
been so bountifully provided with everything necessary to the comfort
of life as we are. I told you I lacked nothing for your material
welfare, and even your mind need not stagnate."

"I have looked at your books already," said the woman, answering his
glance.

This was where she had found his name he realized.

"You will have this room for your own use and I will take the other for
mine," he continued.

"I am loath to dispossess you."

"I shall be quite comfortable there, and this shall be your room
exclusively except when you bid me enter, as when I bring you your
meals; otherwise I shall hold it inviolate."

"But," said the woman, "there must be an equal division of labor, I must
do my share."

"There isn't much to do in the winter, except to take care of the
burros, keep up the fire and prepare what we have to eat."

"I am afraid I should be unequal to outdoor work, but in the rest I must
do my part."

He recognized at once that idleness would be irksome.

"So you shall," he assented heartily, "when your foot is well enough to
make you an efficient member of our little society."

"Thank you, and now--"

"Is there anything else before I get supper?"

"You think there is no hope of their searching for me here?"

The man shook his head.

"If James Armstrong had been in the party," she said reflectively, "I am
sure he would never have given up."

"And who is James Armstrong, may I ask?" burst forth the other bluntly.

"Why he--I--he is a friend of my uncle's and an--acquaintance of my
own."

"Oh," said the man shortly and gloomily, as he turned away.

Enid Maitland had been very brave in his presence, but when he went out
she put her head down on her arms on the table and cried softly to
herself. Was ever a woman in such a predicament, thrown into the arms of
a man who had established every conceivable claim upon her gratitude,
forced to live with him shut up in a two-room log cabin upon a lonely
mountain range, surrounded by lofty and inaccessible peaks, pierced by
terrific gorges soon to be impassable from the snows? She had read many
stories of castaways from Charles Reade's famous "Foul Play" down to
more modern instances, but in those cases there had always been an
island comparatively large over which to range, with privacy,
seclusion, opportunity for withdrawal; bright heavens, balmy breezes,
idyllic conditions. Here were two uplifted from the earth upon a
sky-piercing mountain; they would have had more range of action and more
liberty of motion if they had been upon a derelict in the ocean.

And she realized at the same time that in all those stories the two
castaways always loved each other. Would it be so with them? Was it so!
And again the hot flame within outvied the fire on the hearth as the
blood rushed to the smooth surface of her cheek again.

What would her father say if he could know her position, what would the
world say, and above all what would Armstrong say? It cannot be denied
that her thoughts were terribly and overwhelmingly dismayed, and yet
that despair was not without a certain relief. No man had ever so
interested her as this one. What was the mystery of his life, why was he
there, what had he meant when he had blessed the idle impulse that had
sent her into his arms?

Her heart throbbed again. She lifted her face from her hands and dried
her tears, a warm glow stole over her and once again not altogether from
the fire. Who and what was this man? Who was that woman whose picture he
had taken from her? Well, she would have time to find out. And meantime
the world outside could think and do what it pleased. She sat staring
into the firelight, seeing pictures there, dreaming dreams. She was as
lovely as an angel to the man when he came back into the room.



BOOK IV

OH YE ICE AND SNOW, PRAISE YE THE LORD



CHAPTER XVI

THE WOMAN'S HEART


That upper earth on which they lived was covered with a thick blanket of
snow. The lakes and pools were frozen from shore to shore. The mountain
brooks, if they flowed at all, ran under thick arches of ice. The
deepest cañons were well nigh impassable from huge drifts that sometimes
almost rose level with the tops of the walls. In every sheltered spot
great banks of white were massed. The spreading branches of the tall
pine trees in the valleys drooped under heavy burdens of snow. Only here
and there sharp gaunt peaks were swept clean by the fierce winter winds
and thrust themselves upward in the icy air, naked and bare. The cold
was polar in its bitter intensity.

The little shelf, or plateau, jutting out from the mountain side upon
which the lonely cabin stood was sheltered from the prevailing winds,
but the house itself was almost covered with the drifts. The constant
fire roaring up the huge stone chimney had melted some of the snow at
the top and it had run down the slanting roof and formed huge icicles
on what had been the eaves of the house. The man had cut away the drifts
from doors and windows for light and liberty. At first every stormy
night would fill his laborious clearings with drifting snow, but as it
became packed down and frozen solid he was able to keep his various ways
open without a great deal of difficulty. A little work every morning and
evening sufficed.

Every day he had to go down the mountain stairway to the bottom of the
pocket to feed and water the burros. What was a quick and simple task in
milder, warmer seasons, sometimes took him half a day under the present
rigorous conditions. And the woman never saw him start out in the storm
without a sinking heart and grave apprehension. On his return to the
cabin half frozen, almost spent and exhausted, she ever welcomed him
with eager gratitude and satisfaction which would shine in her eyes,
throb in her heart and tremble upon her lips, control it as she might.
And he thought it was well worth all the trouble and hardships of his
task to be so greeted when he came back to her.

Winter had set in unusually early and with unprecedented severity. Any
kind of winter in the mountains would have amazed the girl, but even the
man with his larger experiences declared he had never before known such
sharp and sudden cold, or such deep and lasting snow. His daily records
had never shown such low temperatures, nor had his observation ever
noted such wild and furious storms as raged then and there. It seemed as
if Nature were in a conspiracy to seal up the mountains and all they
contained, to make ingress and egress alike impossible.

A month had elapsed and Enid's foot was now quite well. The man had
managed to sew up her boot where his knife had cut it, and although the
job was a clumsy one the result was a usable shoe. It is astonishing the
comfort she took when she first put it on and discarded for good the
shapeless woolen stocking which had covered the clumsy bandage, happily
no longer necessary. Although the torn and bruised member had healed and
she could use it with care, her foot was still very tender and capable
of sustaining no violent or long continued strain. Of necessity she had
been largely confined to the house, but whenever it had been possible he
had wrapped her in his great bear skin coat and had helped her out to
the edge of the cliff for a breath of fresh air.

Sometimes he would leave her there alone, would perhaps have left her
alone there always had she not imperiously required his company.

Insensibly she had acquired the habit--not a difficult one for a woman
to fall into--of taking the lead in the small affairs of their
circumscribed existence, and he had acquiesced in her dominance without
hesitation or remonstrance. It was she who ordered their daily walk and
conversation. Her wishes were consulted about everything; to be sure no
great range of choice was allowed them, or liberty of action, or
freedom, in the constraints with which nature bound them, but whenever
there was any selection she made it.

The man yielded everything to her and yet he did it without in any way
derogating from his self respect or without surrendering his natural
independence. The woman instinctively realized that in any great crisis,
in any large matter, the determination of which would naturally affect
their present or their future, their happiness, welfare, life, he would
assert himself, and his assertion would be unquestioned and
unquestionable by her.

There was a delightful satisfaction to the woman in the whole situation.
She had a woman's desire to lead in the smaller things of life and yet
craved the woman's consciousness that in the great emergencies she would
be led, in the great battles she would be fought for, in the great
dangers she would be protected, in the great perils she would be saved.
There was rest, comfort, joy and satisfaction in these thoughts.

The strength of the man she mastered was evidence of her own power and
charm. There was a sweet, voiceless, unconscious flattery in his
deference of which she could not be unaware.

Having little else to do, she studied the man and she studied him with a
warm desire and an enthusiastic predisposition to find the best in him.
She would not have been a human girl if she had not been thrilled to the
very heart of her by what the man had done for her. She recognized that
whether he asserted it or not, he had established an everlasting and
indisputable claim upon her.

The circumstances of their first meeting, which as the days passed did
not seem quite so horrible to her, and yet a thought of which would
bring the blood to her cheek still on the instant, had in some way
turned her over to him. His consideration of her, his gracious
tenderness toward her, his absolute abnegation, his evident overwhelming
desire to please her, to make the anomalous situation in which they
stood to each other bearable in spite of their lonely and unobserved
intimacy, by an absolute lack of presumption on his part--all those
things touched her profoundly.

Although she did not recognize the fact then, perhaps, she loved him
from the moment her eyes had opened in the mist and rain after that
awful battle in the torrent to see him bending over her.

No sight that had ever met Enid Maitland's eyes was so glorious, so awe
inspiring, so uplifting and magnificent as the view from the verge of
the cliff in the sunlight of some bright winter morning. Few women had
ever enjoyed such privileges as hers. She did not know whether she liked
the winter crowned range best that way, or whether she preferred the
snowy world, glittering cold in the moonlight; or even whether it was
more attractive when it was dark and the peaks and drifts were only
lighted by the stars which shone never so brightly as just above her
head.

When he allowed her she loved to stand sometimes in the full fury of the
gale with the wind shrieking and sobbing, like lost souls in some icy
inferno, through the hills and over the pines, the snow beating upon
her, the sleet cutting her face if she dared to turn toward the storm.
Generally he left her alone in the quieter moments, but in the tempest
he stood watchful, on guard by her side, buttressing her, protecting
her, sheltering her. Indeed, his presence then was necessary; without
him she could scarce have maintained a footing. The force of the wind
might have hurled her down the mountain but for his strong arm. When
the cold grew too great he led her back carefully to the hut and the
warm fire.

Ah, yes, life and the world were both beautiful to her then, in night,
in day, by sunlight, by moonlight, in calm and storm. Yet it made no
difference what was spread before the woman's eyes, what glorious
picture was exhibited to her gaze, she could not look at it more than a
moment without thinking of the man. With the most fascinating panorama
that the earth's surface could spread before human vision to engage her
attention she looked into her own heart and saw there this man!

Oh, she had fought against it at first, but lately she had luxuriated in
it. She loved him, she loved him! And why not? What is it that women
love in men? Strength of body? She could remember yet how he had carried
her over the mountains in the midst of the storm, how she had been so
bravely upborne by his arms to his heart. She realized later what a task
that had been, what a feat of strength. The uprooting of that sapling,
and the overturning of that huge grizzly were child's play to the long
portage up the almost impassable cañon and mountain side which had
brought her to this dear haven.

Was it strength of character she sought, resolution, determination? This
man had deliberately withdrawn from the world, buried himself in this
mountain; and had stayed there deaf to the alluring call of man or
woman; he had had the courage to do that.

Was it strength of mind she admired? Enid Maitland was no mean judge of
the mental powers of her acquaintance. She was just as full of life and
spirit and the joy of them as any young woman should be, but she had not
been trained by and thrown with the best for nothing. _Noblesse oblige!_
That his was a mind well stored with knowledge of the most varied sort
she easily and at once perceived. Of course the popular books of the
last five years had passed him by, and of such he knew nothing, but he
could talk intelligently, interestingly, entertainingly upon the great
classics. Keats and Shakespeare were his most thumbed volumes. He had
graduated from Harvard as a Civil Engineer with the highest honors of
his class and school and the youngest man to get his sheepskin! Enid
Maitland herself was a woman of broad culture and wide reading and she
deliberately set herself to fathom this man's capabilities. Not
infrequently, much to her surprise, sometimes to her dismay, but
generally to her satisfaction, she found that she had no plummet with
which to sound his greater depths.

Did she seek in him that fine flower of good breeding, gentleness and
consideration? Where could she find these qualities better displayed?
She was absolutely alone with this man, entirely in his power, shut off
from the world and its interference as effectually as if they had both
been abandoned on an ice floe at the North Pole or cast away on some
lonely island in the South Seas, yet she felt as safe as if she had been
in her own house, or her uncle's, with every protection that human power
could give. He had never presumed upon the situation in the least
degree, he never once referred to the circumstances of their meeting in
the remotest way, he never even discussed her rescue from the flood, he
never told her how he had borne her through the rain to the lonely
shelter of the hills, and in no way did he say anything that the most
keenly scrutinizing mind would torture into an allusion to the pool and
the bear and the woman. The fineness of his breeding was never so well
exhibited as in this reticence. More often than not it is what he does
not rather than what he does that indicates the man.

It would be folly to deny that he never thought of these things. Had he
forgotten them there would be no merit in his silence; but to remember
them and to keep still--aye, that showed the man! He would close his
eyes in that little room on the other side of the door and see again the
dark pool, her white shoulders, her graceful arms, the lovely face with
its crown of sunny hair rising above the rushing water. He had listened
to the roar of the wind through the long nights, when she thought him
asleep if she thought of him at all, and heard again the scream of the
storm that had brought her to his arms. No snow drop that touched his
cheek when he was abroad but reminded him of that night in the cold rain
when he had held her close and carried her on. He could not sit and mend
her boot without remembering that white foot before which he would fain
have prostrated himself and upon which he would have pressed passionate
kisses if he had given way to his desires. But he kept all these things
in his heart, pondered them and made no sign.

Did she ask beauty in her lover? Ah, there at last he failed. According
to the canons of perfection he did not measure up to the standard. His
features were irregular, his chin a trifle too square, his mouth a
thought too firm, his brow wrinkled a little; but he was good to look
at, for he looked strong, he looked clean and he looked true. There was
about him, too, that stamp of practical efficiency that men who can do
things always have. You looked at him and you felt sure that what he
undertook, that he would accomplish; that decision and capability were
incarnate in him.

But after all the things are said, love goes where it is sent, and I, at
least, am not the sender. This woman loved this man neither because nor
in spite of these qualities. That they were might account for her
affection, but if they had not been, it may be that that affection, that
that passion, would have sprung up in her heart still. No one can say,
no one can tell how or why those things are. She had loved him while she
raged against him and hated him. She did neither the one nor the other
of those two last things, now, and she loved him the more.

Mystery is a great mover, there is nothing so attractive as a problem we
cannot solve. The very situation of the man, how he came there, what he
did there, why he remained there, questions to which she had yet no
answer, stimulated her profoundly. Because she did not know she
questioned in secret; interest was aroused and the transition to love
was easy.

Propinquity, too, is responsible for many an affection. "The ivy clings
to the first met tree." Given a man and woman heart free and throw them
together and let there be decent kindness on both sides, and it is
almost inevitable that each shall love the other. Isolate them from the
world, let them see no other companions but the one man and the one
woman and the result becomes more inevitable.

Yes, this woman loved this man. She said in her heart--and I am not one
to dispute her conclusions--that she would have loved him had he been
one among millions to stand before her, and it was true. He was the
complement of her nature. They differed in temperament as much as in
complexion, and yet in such differences as must always be to make
perfect love and perfect union, there were striking resemblances,
necessary points of contact.

There was no reason whatever why Enid Maitland should not love this man.
The only possible check upon her feelings would have been her rather
anomalous relation to Armstrong, but she reflected that she had promised
him definitely nothing. When she had met him she had been heart whole,
he had made some impression upon her fancy and might have made more with
greater opportunity, but unfortunately for him, luckily for her, he had
not enjoyed that privilege. She scarcely thought of him longer.

She would not have been human if her mind had not dwelt upon the world
beyond the skyline on the other side of the range. She knew how those
who loved her must be suffering on account of her disappearance, but
knowing herself safe and realizing that within a short time, when the
spring came again, she would go back to them and that their mourning
would be turned into joy by her arrival, she could not concern herself
very greatly over their present feelings and emotions; and besides, what
would be the use of worrying over those things. There was subject more
attractive for her thoughts close at hand. And she was too blissfully
happy to entertain for more than a moment any sorrow.

She pictured her return and never by any chance did she think of going
back to civilization alone. The man she loved would be by her side, the
church's blessing would make them one. To do her justice in the
simplicity and purity of her thoughts she never once thought of what the
world might say about that long winter sojourn alone with this man. She
was so conscious of her own innocence and of his delicate forbearance,
she never once thought how humanity would elevate its brows and fairly
cry upon her from the house tops. She did not realize that were she ever
so pure and so innocent she could not now or ever reach the high
position which Cæsar, who was none too reputable himself, would fain
have had his wife enjoy?



CHAPTER XVII

THE MAN'S HEART


Now love produces both happiness and unhappiness, dependent upon
conditions, but on the whole I think the happiness predominates, for
love itself if it be true and high is its own reward. Love may feel
itself unworthy and may shrink even from the unlatching of the shoe lace
of the beloved, yet it joys in its own existence nevertheless. Of course
its greatest satisfaction is in the return, but there is a sweetness
even in the despair of the truly loving.

Enid Maitland, however, did not have to endure indifference, or fight
against a passion which met with no response, for this man loved her
with a love that was greater even than her own. The moon, in the trite
aphorism, looks on many brooks, the brook sees no moon but the one above
him in the heavens. In one sense his merit in winning her affection for
himself from the hundreds of men she knew was the greater; in many years
he had only seen this one woman. Naturally she should be everything to
him. She represented to him not only the woman but womankind. He had
been a boy practically when he had buried himself in those mountains,
and in all that time he had seen nobody like Enid Maitland. Every
argument which has been exploited to show why she should love him could
be turned about to account for his passion for her. Those arguments are
not necessary, they are all supererogatory, like idle words. To him also
love had been born in an hour. It had flashed into existence as if from
the fiat of the Divine.

Oh, he had fought against it. Like the eremites of old he had been
scourged into the desert by remorse and another passion, but time had
done its work. The woman he first loved had ministered not to the
spiritual side of the man, or if she had so ministered in any degree it
was because he had looked at her with a glamour of inexperience and
youth. During those five years of solitude, of study and of reflection,
the truth had gradually unrolled itself before him. Conclusions vastly
at variance with what he had ever believed possible as to the woman upon
whom he had first bestowed his heart had got into his being and were in
solution there, this present woman was the precipitant which brought
them to life. He knew now what the old appeal of his wife had been. He
knew now what the new appeal of this woman was.

In humanity two things in life are inextricably intermingled, body and
soul. Where the function of one begins and the function of the other
ends no one is able to say. In all human passions there are admixtures
of the earth earthy. We are born the sons of the Old Adam as we are
re-born the sons of the New. Passions are complex. As in harvest wheat
and tares grow together until the end, so in love earth and heaven
mingle ever. He remembered a clause from an ancient marriage service he
had read. "With my body I thee worship," and with every fiber of his
physical being, he loved this woman.

It would be idle to deny that, impossible to disguise the facts, but in
the melting pot of passion the preponderant ingredients were mental and
spiritual; and just because higher and holier things predominated, he
held her in his heart a sacred thing. Love is like a rose: the material
part is the beautiful blossom, the spiritual factor is the fragrance
which abides in the rose jar even after every leaf has faded away, or
which may be expressed from the soft petals by the hard circumstances of
pain and sorrow until there is left nothing but the lingering perfume of
the flower.

His body trembled if she laid a hand upon him, his soul thirsted for
her; present or absent he conjured before his tortured brain the
sweetness that inhabited her breast. He had been clear-sighted enough
in analyzing the past, he was neither clear-sighted nor coherent in
thinking of the present. He worshiped her, he could have thrown himself
upon his knees to her; if it would have added to her happiness she could
have killed him, smiling at her. Rode she in the Juggernaut car of the
ancient idol, with his body would he have unhesitatingly paved the way
and have been glad of the privilege. He longed to compass her with sweet
observances. The world revenged itself upon him for his long neglect, it
had summed up in this one woman all its charm, its beauty, its romance,
and had thrust her into his very arms. His was one of those great
passions which illuminate the records of the past. Paolo had not loved
Francesca more.

Oh, yes, the woman knew he loved her. It was not in the power of mortal
man, no matter how iron his restraint, how absolute the imposition of
his will, to keep his heart hidden, his passion undisclosed. No one
could keep such things secret. His love for her cried aloud in a
thousand ways: even his look when he dared to turn his eyes upon her was
eloquent of his feeling. He never said a word, however; he held his lips
at least fettered and bound for he believed that honor and its
obligations weighed down the balance upon the contrary side to which
his inclinations lay.

He was not worthy of this woman. In the first place all he had to offer
her was a blood-stained hand. That might have been overcome in his mind;
but pride in his self-punishment, his resolution to withdraw himself
from man and woman until such time as God completed his expiation and
signified His acceptance of the penitent by taking away his life, held
him inexorably.

The dark face of his wife rose before him. He forced himself to think
upon her; she had loved him, she had given him all that she could. He
remembered how she had pleaded with him that he take her on that last
and most dangerous of journeys, her devotion to him had been so great
she could not let him go out of her sight a moment, he thought
fatuously! And he had killed her. In the queer turmoil of his brain he
blamed himself for everything. He could not be false to his purpose,
false to her memory, unworthy of the passion in which he believed she
had held him and which he believed he had inspired.

If he had gone out in the world, after her death, he might have
forgotten most of these things, he might have lived them down. Saner,
clearer views would have come to him. His morbid self-reproach and
self-consciousness would have been changed. But he had lived with them
alone for five years and now there was no putting them aside. Honor and
pride, the only things that may successfully fight against love,
overcame him. He could not give way. He wanted to, every time he was in
her presence he longed to, sweep her to his heart and crush her in his
arms and bend her head back and press kisses of fire on her lips.

But honor and pride held him back. How long would they continue to
exercise dominion over him? Would the time come when his passion rising
like a sea would thunder upon these artificial embankments of his soul,
beat them down and sweep them away?

At first the disparity between their situations, not so much on account
of family or of property--the treasures of the mountains, hidden since
creation, he had discovered and let lie--but because of the youth and
position of the woman compared to his own maturer years, his desperate
experience, and his social withdrawal, had reinforced his determination
to live and love without a sign. But he had long since got beyond this.
Had he been free he would have taken her like a viking of old, if he had
to pluck her from amid a thousand swords and carry her to a beggar's hut
which love would have turned to a palace. And she would have come with
him on the same conditions.

He did not know that. Women have learned through centuries of weakness
that fine art of concealment which man has never mastered. She never let
him see what she thought of him. Yet he was not without suspicion; if
that suspicion grew to certainty, would he control himself then?

At first he had sought to keep out of her way, but she had compelled him
to come in. The room that was kitchen and bedroom and store-room for him
was cheerless and somewhat cold. Save at night or when he was busy with
other tasks outside they lived together in the great room. It was always
warm, it was always bright, it was always cheerful, there.

The little piles of manuscript she had noted were books he had written.
He made no effort to conceal such things from her. He talked frankly
enough about his life in the hills, indeed there was no possibility of
avoiding the discussion of such topics. On but two subjects was he
inexorably silent. One was the present state of his affections and the
other was the why and wherefore of his lonely life. She knew beyond
peradventure that he loved her, but she had no faint suspicion even as
to the reason why he had become a recluse. He had never given her the
slightest clew to his past save that admission that he had known Kirkby,
which was in itself nothing definite and which she never connected with
that package of letters which she still kept with her.

The man's mind was too active and fertile to be satisfied with manual
labor alone, the books that he had written were scientific treatises in
the main. One was a learned discussion of the fauna and flora of the
mountains. Another was an exhaustive account of the mineral resources
and geological formations of the range. He had only to allow a whisper,
a suspicion of his discovery of gold and silver in the mountains to
escape him and the cañons and crests alike would be filled with eager
prospectors. Still a third work was a scientific analysis of the water
powers in the cañons.

He had willingly allowed her to read them all. Much of them she found
technical and, aside from the fact that he had written them,
uninteresting. But there was one book remaining in which he simply
discussed the mountains in the various seasons of the year; when the
snows covered them, when the grass and the moss came again, when the
flowers bloomed, when autumn touched the trees. There was the soul of
the man, poetry expressed in prose, man-like but none the less poetry
for that. This book she pored over, she questioned him about it, they
discussed it as they discussed Keats and the other poets.

Those were happy evenings. She on one side of the fire sewing, her
finger wound with cloth to hold his giant thimble, fashioning for
herself some winter garments out of a gay colored, red, white and black
ancient and exquisitely woven Navajo blanket, soft and pliable almost as
an old fashioned piece of satin--priceless if she had but known
it--which he put at her disposal. While on the other side of the same
homely blaze he made her out of the skins of some of the animals that he
had killed, shapeless foot coverings, half moccasin and wholly legging,
which she could wear over her shoes in her short excursions around the
plateau and which would keep her feet warm and comfortable.

By her permission he smoked as he worked, enjoying the hour, putting
aside the past and the future and for a few moments blissfully content.
Sometimes he laid aside his pipe and whatever work he was engaged upon
and read to her from some immortal noble number. Sometimes the
entertainment fell to her and she sang to him in her glorious contralto
voice, music that made him mad. Once he could stand it no longer. At
the end of a burst of song which filled the little room--he had risen
to his feet while she sang, compelled to the erect position by the
magnificent melody--as the last notes died away and she smiled at him,
triumphant and expectant of his praise and his approval, he hurled
himself out of the room and into the night; wrestling for hours with the
storm which after all was but a trifle to that which raged in his bosom.
While she, left alone and deserted, quaked within the silent room till
she heard him come back.

Often and often when she slept quietly on one side the thin partition,
he lay awake on the other, and sometimes his passion drove him forth to
cool the fever, the fire in his soul, in the icy, wintry air. The
struggle within him preyed upon him, the keen loving eye of the woman
searched his face, scrutinized him, looked into his heart, saw what was
there.

She determined to end it, deciding that he must confess his affections.
She had no premonition of the truth and no consideration of any evil
consequences held her back. She could give free range to her love and
her devotion. She had the ordering of their lives and she had the power
to end the situation growing more and more impossible. She fancied the
matter easily terminable. She thought she had only to let him see her
heart in such ways as a maiden may, to bring joy to his own, to make
him speak. She did not dream of the reality.

One night, therefore, a month or more after she had come, she resolved
to end the uncertainty. She believed the easiest and the quickest way
would be to get him to tell her why he was there. She naturally surmised
that the woman of the picture, which she had never seen since the first
day of her arrival, was in some measure the cause of it; and the only
pain she had in the situation was the keen jealousy that would obtrude
itself at the thought of that woman. She remembered everything that he
had said to her and she recalled that he had once made the remark that
he would treat her as he would have his wife treated if he had one;
therefore whoever and whatever the picture of this woman was, she was
not his wife. She might have been someone he had loved, who had not
loved him. She might have died. She was jealous of her, but she did not
fear her.

After a long and painful effort the woman had completed the winter suit
she had made for herself. He had advised her and had helped her. It was
a belted tunic that fell to her knees, the red and black stripes ran
around it, edged the broad collar, cuffed the warm sleeves and marked
the graceful waist line. It was excessively becoming to her. He had been
down into the valley, or the pocket, for a final inspection of the
burros before the night, which promised to be severe, fell, and she had
taken advantage of the opportunity to put it on.

She knew that she was beautiful; her determination to make this evening
count had brought an unusual color to her cheeks, an unwonted sparkle to
her eye. She stood up as she heard him enter the other room, she was
standing erect as he came through the door and faced her. He had only
seen her in the now somewhat shabby blue of her ordinary camp dress
before, and her beauty fairly smote him in his face. He stood before
her, wrapped in his great fur coat, snow and ice clinging to it,
entranced. The woman smiled at the effect she produced.

"Take off your coat," she said gently, approaching him. "Here, let me
help you. Do you realize that I have been here over a month now? I want
to have a little talk with you. I want you to tell me something."



CHAPTER XVIII

THE KISS ON THE HAND


"Did it ever occur to you," began Enid Maitland gravely enough, for she
quite realized the serious nature of the impending conversation, "did it
ever occur to you that you know practically all about me, while I know
practically nothing about you?"

The man bowed his head.

"You may have fancied that I was not aware of it, but in one way or
another you have possessed yourself of pretty nearly all of my short
and, until I met you, most uneventful life," she continued.

Newbold might have answered that there was one subject which had been
casually introduced by her upon one occasion and to which she had never
again referred, but which was to him the most important of all subjects
connected with her; and that was the nature of her relationship to one
James Armstrong whose name, although he had heard it but once, he had
not forgotten. The girl had been frankness itself in following his deft
leads when he talked with her about herself, but she had shown the same
reticence in recurring to Armstrong that he had displayed in questioning
her about him. The statement she had just made as to his acquaintance
with her history was therefore sufficiently near the truth to pass
unchallenged and once again he gravely bowed in acquiescence.

"I have withheld nothing from you," went on the girl; "whatever you
wanted to know, I have told you. I had nothing to conceal, as you have
found out. Why you wanted to know about me, I am not quite sure."

"It was because--" burst out the man impetuously, and then he stopped
abruptly and just in time.

Enid Maitland smiled at him in a way that indicated she knew what was
behind the sudden check he had imposed upon himself.

"Whatever your reason, your curiosity--"

"Don't call it that, please."

"Your desire, then, has been gratified. Now it is my turn. I am not even
sure about your name. I have seen it in these books and naturally I have
imagined that it is yours."

"It is mine."

"Well, that is really all that I know about you. And now I shall be
quite frank. I want to know more. You evidently have something to
conceal or you would not be living here in this way. I have never asked
you about yourself, or manifested the least curiosity to solve the
problem you present, to find the solution of the mystery of your life."

"Perhaps," said the man, "you didn't care enough about it to take the
trouble to inquire."

"You know," answered the girl, "that is not true. I have been consumed
with desire to know?"

"A woman's curiosity?"

"Not that," was the soft answer that turned away his wrath.

She was indeed frank. There was that in her way of uttering those two
simple words that set his pulses bounding. He was not altogether and
absolutely blind.

"Come," said the girl, extending her hand to him, "we are alone here
together. We must help each other. You have helped me, you have been of
the greatest service to me. I can't begin to count all that you have
done for me; my gratitude--"

"Only that?"

"But that is all that you have ever asked or expected," answered the
young woman in a low voice, whose gentle tones did not at all accord
with the boldness and courage of the speech.

"You mean?" asked the man, staring at her, his face aflame.

"I mean," answered the girl swiftly, willfully misinterpreting and
turning his half-spoken question another way, "I mean that I am sure
that some trouble has brought you here. I do not wish to force your
confidence--I have no right to do so--yet I should like to enjoy it.
Can't you give it to me? I want to help you. I want to do my best to
make some return for what you have been to me and have done for me."

"I ask but one thing," he said quickly.

"And what is that?"

But again he checked himself.

"No," he said, "I am not free to ask anything of you."

And that answer to Enid Maitland was like a knife thrust in the heart.
The two had been standing, confronting each other. Her heart grew faint
within her. She stretched out her hand vaguely, as if for support. He
stepped toward her, but before he reached her she caught the back of the
chair and sank down weakly. That he should be bound and not free, had
never once occurred to her. She had quite misinterpreted the meaning of
his remark.

The man did not help her; he could not help her. He just stood and
looked at her. She fought valiantly for self-control a moment or two
and then utterly oblivious to the betrayal of her feelings involved in
the question--the moments were too great for consideration of such
trivial matters--she faltered:

"You mean there is some other woman?"

He shook his head in negation.

"I don't understand."

"There was some other woman?"

"Where is she now?"

"Dead."

"But you said you were not free."

He nodded.

"Did you care so much for her that now--that now--"

"Enid," he cried desperately. "Believe me, I never knew what love was
until I met you."

The secret was out now, it had been known to her long since, but now it
was publicly proclaimed. Even a man as blind, as obsessed, as he could
not mistake the joy that illuminated her face at this announcement. That
very joy and satisfaction produced upon him, however, a very different
effect than might have been anticipated. Had he been free indeed he
would have swept her to his breast and covered her sweet face with
kisses broken by whispered words of passionate endearment. Instead of
that he shrank back from her and it was she who was forced to take up
the burden of the conversation.

"You say that she is dead," she began in sweet appealing bewilderment,
"and that you care so much for me and yet you--"

"I am a murderer," he broke out harshly. "There is blood upon my hands,
the blood of a woman who loved me and whom, boy as I was, I thought that
I loved. She was my wife, I killed her."

"Great Heaven!" cried the girl, amazed beyond measure or expectation by
this sudden avowal which she had never once suspected, and her hand
instinctively went to the bosom of her dress where she kept that soiled,
water-stained packet of letters, "are you that man?"

"I am that man that did that thing, but what do you know?" he asked
quickly, amazed in his turn.

"Old Kirkby, my uncle Robert Maitland, told me your story. They said
that you had disappeared from the haunts of men--"

"And they were right. What else was there for me to do? Although
innocent of crime, I was blood guilty. I was mad. No punishment could be
visited upon me like that imposed by the stern, awful, appalling fact. I
swore to prison myself, to have nothing more forever to do with mankind
or womankind with whom I was unworthy to associate, to live alone until
God took me. To cherish my memories, to make such expiation as I could,
to pray daily for forgiveness. I came here to the wildest, the most
inaccessible, the loneliest, spot in the range. No one ever would come
here I fancied, no one ever did come here but you. I was happy after a
fashion, or at least content. I had chosen the better part. I had work,
I could read, write, remember and dream. But you came and since that
time life has been heaven and hell. Heaven because I love you, hell
because to love you means disloyalty to the past, to a woman who loved
me. Heaven because you are here, I can hear your voice, I can see you,
your soul is spread out before me in its sweetness, in its purity; hell
because I am false to my determination, to my vow, to the love of the
past."

"And did you love her so much, then?" asked the girl, now fiercely
jealous and forgetful of other things for the moment.

"It's not that," said the man. "I was not much more than a boy, a year
or two out of college. I had been in the mountains a year. This woman
lived in a mining camp, she was a fresh, clean, healthy girl, her father
died and the whole camp fathered her, looked after her, and all the
young men in the range for miles on either side were in love with her.
I supposed that I was, too, and--well, I won her from the others. We had
been married but a few months and a part of the time my business as a
mining engineer had called me away from her. I can remember the day
before we started on the last journey. I was going alone again, but she
was so unhappy over my departure, she clung to me, pleaded with me,
implored me to take her with me, insisted on going wherever I went,
would not be left behind. She couldn't bear me out of her sight, it
seemed. I don't know what there was in me to have inspired such
devotion, but I must speak the truth, however it may sound. She seemed
wild, crazy about me. I didn't understand it; frankly, I didn't know
what such love was--then--but I took her along. Shall I not be honest
with you? In spite of the attraction physical, I had begun to feel even
then that she was not the mate for me. I don't deserve it, and it shames
me to say it of course, but I wanted a better mind, a higher soul. That
made it harder--what I had to do, you know."

"Yes, I know."

"The only thing I could do when I came to my senses was to sacrifice
myself to her memory because she had loved me so; as it were, she gave
up her life for me, I could do no less than be true and loyal to the
remembrance. It wasn't a sacrifice either until you came, but as soon as
you opened your eyes and looked into mine in the rain and the storm upon
the rock to which I had carried you after I had fought for you, I knew
that I loved you. I knew that the love that had come into my heart was
the love of which I had dreamed, that everything that had gone before
was nothing, that I had found the one woman whose soul should mate with
mine."

"And this before I had said a word to you?"

"What are words? The heart speaks to the heart, the soul whispers to the
soul. And so it was with us. I had fought for you, you were mine, mine.
My heart sang it as I panted and struggled over the rocks carrying you.
It said the words again and again as I laid you down here in this cabin.
It repeated them over and over; mine, mine! It says that every day and
hour. And yet honor and fidelity bid me stay. I am free, yet bound; free
to love you, but not to take you. My heart says yes, my conscience no. I
should despise myself if I were false to the love which my wife bore me,
and how could I offer you a blood stained hand?"

He had drawn very near her while he spoke; she had risen again and the
two confronted each other. He stretched out his hand as he asked that
last question, almost as if he had offered it to her. She made the best
answer possible to his demand, for before he could divine what she would
be at, she had seized his hand and kissed it, and this time it was the
man whose knees gave way. He sank down in the chair and buried his face
in his hands.

"Oh, God! Oh, God!" he cried in his humiliation and shame. "If I had
only met you first, or if my wife had died as others die, and not by my
hand in that awful hour. I can see her now, broken, bruised, bleeding,
torn. I can hear the report of that weapon. Her last glance at me in the
midst of her indescribable agony was one of thankfulness and gratitude.
I can't stand it, I am unworthy even of her."

"But you could not help it, it was not your fault. And you can't
help--caring--for me--"

"I ought to help it, I ought not love you, I ought to have known that I
was not fit to love any woman, that I had no right, that I was pledged
like a monk to the past. I have been weak, a fool. I love you and my
honor goes, I love you and my self respect goes, I love you and my pride
goes. Would God I could say I love you and my life goes and end it all."
He stared at her a little space. "There is only one ray of satisfaction
in it at all, one gleam of comfort," he added.

"And what is that?"

"You don't know what the suffering is, you don't understand, you don't
comprehend."

"And why not?"

"Because you do not love me."

"But I do," said the woman quite simply, as if it were a matter of
course not only that she should love him, but that she should also tell
him so.

The man stared at her, amazed. Such fierce surges of joy throbbed
through him as he had not thought the human frame could sustain. This
woman loved him, in some strange way he had gained her affection. It was
impossible, yet she had said so! He had been a blind fool. He could see
that now. She stood before him and smiled up at him, looking at him
through eyes misted with tears, with lips parted, with color coming and
going in her cheek and with her bosom rising and falling. She loved him,
he had but to step nearer to her to take her in his arms. There was
trust, devotion, surrender, everything, in her attitude and between
them, like that great gulf which lay between the rich man and the
beggar, that separated heaven and hell, was that he could not cross.

"I never dreamed, I never hoped--oh," he exclaimed as if he had got his
death wound, "this cannot be borne."

He turned away, but in two swift steps she caught him.

"Where do you go?"

"Out, out into the night."

"You cannot go now, it is dark; hark to the storm, you will miss your
footing; you would fall, you would freeze, you would die."

"What matters that?"

"I cannot have it."

"It would be better so."

He strove again to wrench himself away, but she would not be denied. She
clung to him tenaciously.

"I will not let you go unless you give me your word of honor that you
will not leave the plateau, and that you will come back to me."

"I tell you that the quicker and more surely I go out of your life, the
happier and better it will be for you."

"And I tell you," said the woman resolutely, "that you can never go out
of my life again, living or dead," she released him with one hand and
laid it upon her heart, "you are here."

"Enid," cried the man.

"No," she thrust him gently away with one hand yet detained him with the
other--that was emblematic of the situation between them. "Not now, not
yet, let me think, but promise me you will do yourself no harm, you will
let nothing imperil your life."

"As you will," said the man regretfully. "I had purposed to end it now
and forever, but I promise."

"Your word of honor?"

"My word of honor."

"And you won't break it?"

"I never broke it to a human being, much less will I do so to you?"

She released him. He went into the other room and she heard him cross
the floor and open the door and go out into the night, into the storm
again.



CHAPTER XIX

THE FACE IN THE LOCKET


Left alone in the room she sat down again before the fire and drew from
her pocket the packet of letters. She knew them by heart, she had read
and re-read them often when she had been alone. They had fascinated her.
They were letters from some other man to this man's wife. They were
signed by an initial only and the identity of the writer was quite
unknown to her. The woman's replies were not with the others, but it was
easy enough to see what those replies had been. All the passion of which
the woman had been capable had evidently been bestowed upon the writer
of the letters she had treasured.

Her story was quite plain. She had married Newbold in a fit of pique. He
was an Eastern man, the best educated, the most fascinating and
interesting of the men who frequented the camp. There had been a quarrel
between the letter writer and the woman, there were always quarrels,
apparently, but this had been a serious one and the man had savagely
flung away and left her. He had not come back as he usually did. She
had waited for him and then she had married Newbold and then he had
come back--too late!

He had wanted to kill the other, but she had prevented, and while
Newbold was away he had made desperate love to her. He had besought her
to leave her husband, to go away with him. He had used every argument
that he could to that end and the woman had hesitated and wavered, but
she had not consented; she had not denied her love for him any more than
she had denied her respect and a certain admiration for her gallant
trusting husband. She had refused again and again the requests of her
lover. She could not control her heart, nevertheless she had kept to her
marriage vows. But the force of her resistance had grown weaker and she
had realized that alone she would perhaps inevitably succumb.

Her lover had been away when her husband returned prior to that last
fateful journey. Enid Maitland saw now why she had besought him to take
her with him. She had been afraid to be left alone! She had not dared to
depend upon her own powers any more, her only salvation had been to go
with this man whom she did not love, whom at times she almost hated, to
keep from falling into the arms of the man she did love. She had been
more or less afraid of Newbold. She had soon realized, because she was
not blinded by any passion as he, that they had been utterly mismated.
She had come to understand that when the same knowledge of the truth
came to him, as it inevitably must some day, nothing but unhappiness
would be their portion.

Every kind of an argument in addition to those so passionately adduced
in these letters urging her to break away from her husband and to seek
happiness for herself while yet there was time, had besieged her heart,
had seconded her lover's plea and had assailed her will, and yet she had
not given way.

Now Enid Maitland hated the woman who had enjoyed the first young love
of the man she herself loved. She hated her because of her priority of
possession, because her memory yet came between her and that man. She
hated her because Newbold was still true to her memory, because Newbold,
believing in the greatness of her passion for him, thought it shame and
dishonor to his manhood to be false to her, no matter what love and
longing drew him on.

Yet there was a stern sense of justice in the bosom of this young woman.
She exulted in the successful battle the poor woman had waged for the
preservation of her honor and her good name, against such odds. It was a
sex triumph for which she was glad. She was proud of her for the stern
rigor with which she had refused to take the easiest way and the
desperation with which she had clung to him she did not love, but to
whom she was bound by the laws of God and man, in order that she might
not fall into the arms of the man she did love, in defiance of right.

Enid Maitland and this woman were as far removed from each other as the
opposite poles of the earth, but there was yet a common quality in each
one, of virtuous womanhood, of lofty morality. Natural, perhaps, in the
one and to be expected; unnatural, perhaps, and to be unexpected in the
other, but there! Now that she knew what love was and what its power and
what its force--for all that she had felt and experienced and dreamed
about before were as nothing to what it was since he had spoken--she
could understand what the struggle must have been in that woman's heart.
She could honor her, reverence her, pity her.

She could understand the feeling of the man, too, she could think much
more clearly than he. He was distracted by two passions, for his pride
and his honor and for her; she had as yet but one, for him. And as there
was less turmoil and confusion in her mind, she was the more capable of
looking the facts in the face and making the right deduction from them.

She could understand how in the first frightful rush of his grief and
remorse and love the very fact that Newbold had been compelled to kill
his wife, of whom she guessed he was beginning to grow a little weary,
under such circumstances had added immensely to his remorse and
quickened his determination to expiate his guilt and cherish her memory.
She could understand why he would do just as he had done, go into the
wilderness to be alone in horror of himself and in horror of his fellow
men, to think only, mistakenly, of her.

Now he was paying the penalty of that isolation. Men were made to live
with one another, and no one could violate that law natural, or by so
long an inheritance as to have so become, without paying that penalty.
His ideas of loyalty and fidelity were warped, his conceptions of his
duty were narrow. There was something noble in his determination, it is
true, but there was something also very foolish. The dividing line
between wisdom and folly is sometimes as indefinite as that between
comedy and tragedy, between laughter and tears. If the woman he had
married and killed had only hated him and he had known, it would have
been different, but since he believed so in her love he could do nothing
else.

At that period in her reflections Enid Maitland saw a great light. The
woman had not loved her husband after all, she had loved another. That
passion of which he had dreamed had not been for him. By a strange chain
of circumstances Enid Maitland held in her hand the solution of the
problem. She had but to give him these letters to show him that his
golden image had stood upon feet of clay, that the love upon which he
had dwelt was not his. Once convinced of that he would come quickly to
her arms. She cried a prayer of blessing on old Kirkby and started to
her feet, the letters in hand, to call Newbold back to her and tell him,
and then she stopped.

Woman as she was, she had respect for the binding conditions and laws of
honor as well as he. Chance, nay, Providence, had put the honor of this
woman, her rival, in her hands. The world had long since forgotten this
poor unfortunate; in no heart was her memory cherished save in that of
her husband. His idea of her was a false one, to be sure, but not even
to procure her own happiness could Enid Maitland overthrow that ideal,
shatter that memory.

She sat down again with the letters in her hand. It had been very simple
a moment since, but it was not so now. She had but to show him those
letters to remove the great barrier between them. She could not do it.
It was clearly impossible. The reputation of her dead sister who had
struggled so bravely to the end was in her hands, she could not
sacrifice her even for her own happiness.

Quixotic, you say? I do not think so. She had blundered unwittingly,
unwillingly, upon the heart secret of the other woman, she could not
betray it. Even if the other woman had been really unfaithful in deed as
well as in thought to her husband, Enid could hardly have destroyed his
recollection of her. How much more impossible it was since the other
woman had fought so heroically and so successfully for her honor.
Womanhood demanded her silence. Loyalty, honor, compelled her silence.

A dead hand grasped his heart and the same dead hand grasped hers. She
could see no way out of the difficulty. So far as she knew, no human
soul except old Kirkby and herself knew this woman's story. She could
not tell Newbold and she would have to impose upon Kirkby the same
silence as she herself exercised. There was absolutely no way in which
the man could find out. He must cherish his dream as he would. She would
not enlighten him, she would not disabuse his mind, she could not
shatter his ideal, she could not betray his wife. They might love as
the angels of heaven and yet be kept forever apart--by a scruple, an
idea, a principle, an abstraction, honor, a name.

Her mind told her these things were idle and foolish, but her soul would
not hear of it. And in spite of her resolutions she felt that eventually
there would be some way. She would not have been a human woman if she
had not hoped and prayed that. She believed that God had created them
for each other, that He had thrown them together. She was enough of a
fatalist in this instance at least to accept their intimacy as the
result of His ordination. There must be some way out of the dilemma.

Yet she knew that he would be true to his belief, and she felt that she
would not be false to her obligation. What of that? There would be some
way. Perhaps somebody else knew, and then there flashed into her mind
the writer of the letters. Who was he? Was he yet alive? Had he any part
to play in this strange tragedy aside from that he had already essayed?

Sometimes an answer to a secret query is made openly. At this juncture
Newbold came back. He stopped before her unsteadily, his face now marked
not only by the fierceness of the storm outside, but by the fiercer
grapple of the storm in his heart.

"You have a right," he began, "to know everything now. I can withhold
nothing from you."

He had in his hand a picture and something yellow that gleamed in the
light. "There," he continued, extending them toward her, "is the picture
of the poor woman, who loved me and whom I killed, you saw it once
before."

"Yes," she nodded, taking it from him carefully and looking again in a
strange commixture of pride, resentment and pity at the bold, somewhat
coarse, entirely uncultured, yet handsome face which gave no evidence of
the moral purpose which she had displayed.

"And here," said the man, offering the other article, "is something that
no human eye but mine has ever seen since that day. It is a locket I
took from her neck. Until you came I wore it next my heart."

"And since then?"

"Since then I have been unworthy her as I am unworthy you, and I have
put it aside."

"Does it contain another picture?"

"Yes."

"Of her?"

"A man's face."

"Yours?"

He shook his head.

"Look and see," he answered. "Press the spring."

Suiting action to word the next second Enid Maitland found herself
gazing upon the pictured semblance of Mr. James Armstrong!

She was utterly unable to suppress an exclamation and a start of
surprise at the astonishing revelation. The man looked at her curiously,
he opened his mouth to question her, but she recovered herself in part
at least and swiftly interrupted him in a panic of terror lest she
should betray her knowledge.

"And what is the picture of another man doing in your wife's locket?"
she asked to gain time, for she very well knew the reply; knew it,
indeed, better than Newbold himself; who, as it happened, was equally in
the dark both as to the man and the reason.

"I don't know," answered the other.

"Did you know this man?"

"I never saw him in my life that I can recall."

"And have you--did you--"

"Did I suspect my wife?" he asked. "Never. I had too many evidences that
she loved me and me alone for a ghost of suspicion to enter my mind. It
may have been a brother, or her father in his youth."

"And why did you wear it?"

"Because I took it from her dead heart. Some day I shall find out who
the man is, and when I shall I know there will be nothing to her
discredit in the knowledge."

Enid Maitland nodded her head. She closed the locket, laid it on the
table and pushed it away from her. So this was the man the woman had
loved, who had begged her to go away with him, this handsome Armstrong
who had come within an ace of winning her own affection, to whom she was
in some measure pledged!

How strangely does fate work out its purposes. Enid had come from the
Atlantic seaboard to be the second woman that both these two men loved!

If she ever saw Mr. James Armstrong again, and she had no doubt that she
would, she would have some strange things to say to him. She held in her
hands now all the threads of the mystery, she was master of all the
solutions, and each thread was as a chain that bound her.

"My friend," she said at last with a deep sigh, "you must forget this
night and go on as before. You love me, thank God for that, but honor
and respect interpose between us. And I love you, and I thank God for
that, too, but for me as well the same barrier rises. Whether we shall
ever surmount these barriers God alone knows. He brought us together, He
put that love in our hearts, we will have to leave it to Him to do as
He will with us both. Meanwhile we must go on as before."

"No," cried the man, "you impose upon me tasks beyond my strength; you
don't know what love like mine is, you don't know the heart hunger, the
awful madness I feel. Think, I have been alone with a recollection for
all these years, a man in the dark, in the night, and the light comes,
you are here. The first night I brought you here I walked that room on
the other side of that narrow door like a lion pent up in bars of steel.
I had only my own love, my own passionate adoration to move me then, but
now that I know you love me, that I see it in your eyes, that I hear it
from your lips, that I mark it in the beat of your heart, can I keep
silent? Can I live on and on? Can I see you, touch you, breathe the same
air with you, be shut up in the same room with you hour after hour, day
after day, and go on as before? I can't do it; it is an impossibility.
What keeps me now from taking you in my arms and from kissing the color
into your cheeks, from making your lips my own, from drinking the light
from your eyes?" He swayed near to her, his voice rose, "What restrains
me?" he demanded.

"Nothing," said the woman, never shrinking back an inch, facing him with
all the courage and daring with which a goddess might look upon a man.
"Nothing but my weakness and your strength."

"Yes, that's it; but do not count too much upon the one or the other.
Great God, how can I keep away from you. Life on the old terms is
insupportable. I must go."

"And where?"

"Anywhere, so it be away."

"And when?"

"Now."

"It would be death in the snow and in the mountains to-night. No, no,
you can not go."

"Well, to-morrow then. It will be fair, I can't take you with me, but I
must go alone to the settlements, I must tell your friends you are here,
alive, well. I shall find men to come back and get you. What I cannot do
alone numbers together may effect. They can carry you over the worst of
the trails, you shall be restored to your people, to your world again.
You can forget me."

"And do you think?" asked the woman, "that I could ever forget you?"

"I don't know."

"And will you forget me?"

"Not as long as life throbs in my veins, and beyond."

"And I too," was the return.

"So be it. You won't be afraid to stay here alone, now."

"No, not since you love me," was the noble answer. "I suppose I must,
there is no other way, we could not go on as before. And you will come
back to me as quickly as you can with the others?"

"I shall not come back. I will give them the direction, they can find
you without me. When I say good-by to you to-morrow it shall be
forever."

"And I swear to you," asserted the woman in quick desperation, "if you
do not come back, they shall have nothing to carry from here but my dead
body. You do not alone know what love is," she cried resolutely, "and I
will not let you go unless I have your word to return."

"And how will you prevent my going?"

"I can't. But I will follow you on my hands and knees in the snow until
I freeze and die unless I have your promise."

"You have beaten me," said the man hopelessly. "You always do. Honor,
what is it? Pride, what is it? Self respect, what is it? Say the word
and I am at your feet, I put the past behind me."

"I don't say the word," answered the woman bravely, white faced, pale
lipped, but resolute. "To be yours, to have you mine, is the greatest
desire of my heart, but not in the coward's way, not at the expense of
honor, of self respect--no not that way. Courage, my friend, God will
show us the way, and meantime good night."

"I shall start in the morning."

"Yes," she nodded reluctantly but knowing it had to be, "but you won't
go without bidding me good-bye."

"No."

"Good night then," she said extending her hand.

"Good night," he whispered hoarsely and refused it backing away. "I
don't dare to take it. I don't dare to touch you again. I love you so,
my only salvation is to keep away."



CHAPTER XX

THE STRENGTH OF THE WEAK


Although Enid Maitland had spoken bravely enough while he was there,
when she was alone her heart sank into the depths as she contemplated
the dreadful and unsolvable dilemma in which these two lovers found
themselves so unwittingly and inextricably involved. It was indeed a
curious and bewildering situation. Passionate adoration for the other
rose in each breast like the surging tide of a mighty sea and like that
tide upon the shore it broke upon conventions, ideas, ideals and
obligations intangible to the naked eye but as real as those iron coasts
that have withstood the waves' assaults since the world's morning.

The man had shaped his life upon a mistake. He believed absolutely in
the unquestioned devotion of a woman to whom he had been forced to mete
out death in an unprecedented and terrible manner. His unwillingness to
derogate by his own conduct from the standard of devotion which he
believed had inhabited his wife's bosom, made it impossible for him to
allow the real love that had come into his heart for this new woman to
have free course; honor, pride and self respect scourged him just in
proportion to his passion for Enid Maitland.

The more he loved her, the more ashamed he was. By a curious combination
of circumstances, Enid Maitland knew the truth, she knew that from one
point of view the woman had been entirely unworthy the reverence in
which her husband held her memory. She knew that his wife had not loved
him at all, that her whole heart had been given to another man, that
what Newbold had mistaken for a passionate desire for his society
because there was no satisfaction in life for the wife away from him was
due to a fear lest without his protection she should be unable to resist
the appeal of the other man which her heart seconded so powerfully. If
it were only that Newbold would not be false to the obligation of the
other woman's devotion, Enid might have solved the problem in a moment.

It was not so simple, however. The fact that Newbold cherished this
memory, the fact that this other woman had fought so desperately, had
tried so hard not to give way, entitled her to Enid Maitland's
admiration and demanded her highest consideration as well. Chance, or
Providence, had put her in possession of this woman's secret. It was as
if she had been caught inadvertently eavesdropping. She could not in
honor make use of what she had overheard, as it were; she could not
blacken the other woman's memory, she could not enlighten this man at
the expense of his dead wife's reputation.

Although she longed for him as much as he longed for her, although her
love for him amazed her by its depth and intensity, even to bring her
happiness commensurate with her feelings she could not betray her dead
sister. The imposts of honor, how hard they are to sustain when they
conflict with love and longing.

Enid Maitland was naturally not a little thrown off her balance by the
situation and the power that was hers. What she could not do herself she
could not allow anyone else to do. The obligation upon her must be
extended to others. Old Kirkby had no right to the woman's secret any
more than she, he must be silenced. Armstrong, the only other being
privy to the truth, must be silenced too.

One thing at least arose out of the sea of trouble in a tangible way,
she was done with Armstrong. Even if she had not so loved Newbold that
she could scarcely give a thought to any other human being, she was done
with Armstrong.

A singular situation! Armstrong had loved another woman, so had Newbold,
and the latter had even married this other woman, yet she was quite
willing to forgive Newbold, she made every excuse for him, she made none
for Armstrong. She was an eminently sane, just person, yet as she
thought of the situation her anger against Armstrong grew hotter and
hotter. It was a safety valve to her feelings, although she did not
realize it. After all, Armstrong's actions rendered her a certain
service; if she could get over the objection in her soul, if she could
ever satisfy her sense of honor and duty, and obligation, she could
settle the question at once. She had only to show the letters to Newbold
and to say, "These were written by the man of the picture; it was he and
not you your wife loved," and Newbold would take her to his heart
instantly.

These thoughts were not without a certain comfort to her. All the
compensation of self-sacrifice is in its realization. That she could do
and yet did not somehow ennobled her love for him. Even women are
alloyed with base metal. In the powerful and universal appeal of this
man to her, she rejoiced at whatever was of the soul rather than of the
body. To possess power, to refrain from using it in obedience to some
higher law is perhaps to pay oneself the most flattering of
compliments. There was a satisfaction to her soul in this which was yet
denied him.

Her action was quite different from his. She was putting away happiness
which she might have had in compliance with a higher law than that which
bids humanity enjoy. It was flattering to her mind. In his case it was
otherwise: he had no consciousness that he was a victim of misplaced
trust, of misinterpreted action; he thought the woman for whom he was
putting away happiness was almost as worthy, if infinitely less
desirable, as the woman whom he now loved.

Every sting of conscious weakness, every feeling of realized shame,
every fear of ultimate disloyalty, scourged him. She could glory in it;
he was ashamed, humiliated, broken.

She heard him savagely walking up and down the other room, restlessly
impelled by the same Erinnyes who of old scourged Orestes, the violater
of the laws of moral being, drove him on. These malign Eumenides held
him in their hands. He was bound and helpless; rage as he might in one
moment, pray as he did in another, no light came into the whirling
darkness of his torn, tempest tossed, driven soul. The irresistible
impulse and the immovable body the philosophers puzzled over were
exemplified in him. While he almost hated the new woman, while he
almost loved the old, yet that he did neither the one thing nor the
other absolutely was significant.

Indeed he knew that he was glad Enid Maitland had come into his life. No
life is complete until it is touched by that divine fire which for lack
of another name we call love. Because we can experience that sensation
we are said to be made in God's image. The image is blurred as the
animal predominates, it is clearer as the spiritual has the ascendency.

The man raved in his mind. White faced, stern, he walked up and down, he
tossed his arms about him, he stopped, his eyes closed, he threw his
hands up toward God, his heart cried out under the lacerations of the
blows inflicted upon it. No flagellant of old ever trembled beneath the
body lash as he under the spiritual punishment.

He prayed that he might die at the same moment that he longed to live.
He grappled blindly for solutions of the problem that would leave him
with untarnished honor and undiminished self-respect and fidelity, and
yet give him this woman; and in vain. He strove to find a way to
reconcile the past with the present, realizing as he did so the futility
of such a proposition. One or the other must be supreme; he must
inexorably hold to his ideas and his ideals, or he must inevitably take
the woman.

How frightful was the battle that raged within his bosom. Sometimes in
his despair he thought that he would have been glad if he and she had
gone down together in the dark waters before all this came upon him. The
floods of which the heavens had emptied themselves had borne her to him.
Oh, if they had only swept him out of life with its trouble, its trials,
its anxieties, its obligations, its impossibilities! If they had gone
together! And then he knew that he was glad even for the torture,
because he had seen her, because he had loved her, and because she had
loved him.

He marveled at himself curiously and in a detached way. There was a
woman who loved him, who had confessed it boldly and innocently; there
were none to say him nay. The woman who stood between had been dead five
years, the world knew nothing, cared nothing; they could go out
together, he could take her, she would come. On the impulse he turned
and ran to the door and beat upon it. Her voice bade him enter and he
came in.

Her heart yearned to him. She was shocked, appalled, at the torture she
saw upon his face. Had he been laid upon the rack and every joint pulled
from its sockets, he could not have been more white and agonized.

"I give up," he cried. "What are honor and self-respect to me? I want
you. I have put the past behind. You love me, and I, I am yours with
every fiber of my being. Great God! Let us cast aside these foolish
quixotic scruples that have kept us apart. If a man's thoughts declare
his guilt I am already disloyal to the other woman; deeply, entirely so.
I have betrayed her, shamed her, abandoned her. Let me have some
compensation for what I have gone through. You love me, come to me."

"No," answered the woman, and no task ever laid upon her had been harder
than that. "I do love you, I will not deny it, every part of me responds
to your appeal. I should be so happy that I cannot even think of it, if
I could put my hand in your own, if I could lay my head upon your
shoulder, if I could feel your heart beat against mine, if I could give
myself up to you, I would be so glad, so glad. But it can not be, not
now."

"Why not?" pleaded the man.

He was by her side, his arm went around her. She did not resist
physically, it would have been useless; she only laid her slender hand
upon his broad breast and threw her head back and looked at him.

"See," she said, "how helpless I am, how weak in your hands? Every
voice in my heart bids me give way. If you insist I can deny you
nothing. I am helpless, alone, but it must not be. I know you better
than you know yourself, you will not take advantage of affection so
unbounded, of weakness so pitiable."

Was it the wisdom of calculation, or was it the wisdom of instinct by
which she chose her course? Resistance would have been unavailing, in
weakness was her strength.

_Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth!_

Yes, that was true. She knew it now if never before, and so did he.

Slowly the man released her. She did not even then draw away from him;
she stood with her hand still on his breast, she could feel the beating
of his heart beneath her fingers.

"I am right," she said softly. "It kills me to deny you anything, my
heart yearns toward you, why should I deny it, it is my glory not my
shame."

"There is nothing above love like ours," he pleaded, wondering what
marvelous mastery she exercised that she stopped him by a hand's touch,
a whispered word, a faith.

"No; love is life, love is God, but even God Himself is under
obligations of righteousness. For me to come to you now, to marry you
now, to be your wife, would be unholy. There would not be that perfect
confidence between us that must endure in that relation. Your honor and
mine, your self-respect and mine would interpose. If I can't have you
with a clear conscience, if you can't come to me in the same way, we are
better apart. Although it kills me, although life without you seems
nothing and I would rather not live it, we are better apart. I cannot be
your wife until--"

"Until what and until when?" demanded Newbold.

"I don't know," said the woman, "but I believe that somewhere, somehow,
we shall find a way out of our difficulty. There is a way," she said a
little incautiously, "I know it."

"Show it to me."

"No, I can not."

"What prevents?"

"The same thing which prevents you, honor, loyalty."

"To a man?"

"To a woman."

"I don't understand."

"No, but you will some day," she smiled at him. "See," she said,
"through my tears I can smile at you, though my heart is breaking. I
know that in God's good time this will work itself out."

"I can't wait for God, I want you now," persisted the other.

"Hush, don't say that," answered the woman, for a moment laying her hand
on his lips. "But I forgive you, I know how you suffer."

The man could say nothing, do nothing. He stared at her a moment and his
hand went to his throat as if he were choking.

"Unworthy," he said hoarsely, "unworthy of the past, unworthy of the
present, unworthy of the future. May God forgive me, I never can."

"He will forgive you, never fear," answered Enid gently.

"And you?" asked her lover. "I have ruined your life."

"No, you have ennobled it. Let nothing ever make you forget that.
Wherever you are and whatever you do and whatever you may have been, I
love you and I shall love you to the end. Now you must go, it is so
late, I can't stand any more. I throw myself on your mercy again. I grow
weaker and weaker before you. As you are a man, as you are stronger,
save me from myself. If you were to take me again in your arms," she
went on steadily, "I know not how I could drive you back. For God's
sake, if you love me--"

That was the hardest thing he had ever done, to turn and go out of the
room, out of her sight and leave her standing there with eyes shining,
with pulses throbbing, with breath coming fast, with bosom panting. Once
more, and at a touch she might have yielded!



BOOK V

THE CUP IS DRAINED



CHAPTER XXI

THE CHALLENGE OF THE RANGE


Mr. James Armstrong sat at his desk before the west window of his
private room in one of the tallest buildings in Denver. His suite of
offices was situated on one of the top floors and from it over the
intervening house tops and other buildings, he had a clear and
unobstructed view of the mighty range. The earth was covered with snow.
It had fallen steadily through the night but with the dawn the air had
cleared and the sun had come out brightly although it was very cold.

Letters, papers, documents, the demands of a business extensive and
varied, were left unnoticed. He sat with his elbow on the desk and his
head on his hand, looking moodily at the range. In the month that had
elapsed since he had received news of Enid Maitland's disappearance he
had sat often in that way, in that place, staring at the range, a prey
to most despondent reflections, heavy hearted and disconsolate indeed.

After that memorable interview with Mr. Stephen Maitland in Philadelphia
he had deemed it proper to await there the arrival of Mr. Robert
Maitland. A brief conversation with that distracted gentleman had put
him in possession of all the facts in the case. As Robert Maitland had
said, after his presentation of the tragic story, the situation was
quite hopeless. Even Armstrong reluctantly admitted that her uncle and
old Kirkby had done everything that was possible for the rescue or
discovery of the girl.

Therefore the two despondent gentlemen had shortly after returned to
their western homes, Robert Maitland in this instance being accompanied
by his brother Stephen. The latter never knew how much his daughter had
been to him until this evil fate had befallen her. Robert Maitland had
promised to inaugurate a thorough and extensive search to solve the
mystery of her death, which he felt was certain, in the spring when the
weather permitted humanity to have free course through the mountains.

Mr. Stephen Maitland found a certain melancholy satisfaction in being at
least near the place where neither he nor anyone had any doubt his
daughter's remains lay hid beneath the snow or ice on the mountains in
the freezing cold. Robert Maitland had no other idea than that Enid's
body was in the lake. He intended to drain it--an engineering task of no
great difficulty--and yet he intended also to search the hills for
miles on either side of the main stream down which she had gone; for she
might possibly have strayed away and died of starvation and exposure
rather than drowning. At any rate he would leave nothing undone to
discover her.

He had strenuously opposed Armstrong's recklessly expressed intention of
going into the mountains immediately to search for her. Armstrong was
not easily moved from any purpose he once entertained or lightly to be
hindered from attempting any enterprise that he projected, but by the
time the party reached Denver the winter had set in and even he realized
the futility of any immediate search for a dead body lost in the
mountains. Admitting that Enid was dead the conclusions were sound of
course.

The others pointed out to Armstrong that if the woman they all loved had
by any fortunate chance escaped the cloud burst she must inevitably have
perished from cold, starvation and exposure in the mountain long since.
There was scarcely a possibility that she could have escaped the flood,
but if she had it would only to be devoted to death a little later. If
she was not in the lake what remained of her would be in some lateral
cañon. It would be impossible to discover her body in the deep snows
until the spring and the warm weather came. When the snows melted what
was concealed would be revealed. Alone, she could do nothing. And
admitting again that Enid was alone this conclusion was as sound as the
other.

Now no one had the faintest hope that Enid Maitland was yet alive except
perhaps her father, Mr. Stephen Maitland. They could not convince him,
he was so old and set in his opinions and so utterly unfamiliar with the
conditions that they tried to describe to him, that he clung to his
belief in spite of all, and finally they let him take such comfort as he
could from his vain hope without any further attempt at contradiction.

In spite of all the arguments, however, Mr. James Armstrong was not
satisfied. He was as hopeless as the rest, but his temperament would not
permit him to accept the inevitable calmly. It was barely possible that
she might not be dead and that she might not be alone. There was
scarcely enough possibility of this to justify a suspicion, but that is
not saying there was none at all.

Day after day he had sat in his office denying himself to everyone and
refusing to consider anything, brooding over the situation. He loved
Enid Maitland, he loved her before and now that he had lost her he loved
her still more.

Not altogether admirable had been James Armstrong's outwardly successful
career. In much that is high and noble and manly his actions--and his
character--had often been lacking, but even the base can love and
sometimes love transforms if it be given a chance. The passion of Cymon
for Iphigenia, made a man and prince out of the rustic boor. His real
love for Enid Maitland might have done more for Armstrong than he
himself or anyone who knew him as he was--and few there were who had
such knowledge of him--dreamed was possible. There was one thing that
love could not do, however; it could not make him a patient philosopher,
a good waiter. His rule of life was not very high, but in one way it was
admirable in that prompt bold decisive action was its chiefest
characteristic.

On this certain morning a month after the heart breaking disaster his
power of passive endurance had been strained to the vanishing point. The
great white range was flung in his face like a challenge. Within its
secret recesses lay the solution of the mystery. Somewhere, dead or
alive, beyond the soaring rampart was the woman he loved. It was
impossible for him to remain quiet any longer. Common sense, reason,
every argument that had been adduced, suddenly became of no weight. He
lifted his head and stared straight westward. His eyes swept the long
semi-circle of the horizon across which the mighty range was drawn like
the chord of a gigantic arc or the string of a mighty bow. Each white
peak mocked him, the insolent aggression of the range called him
irresistibly to action.

"By God," he said under his breath, rising to his feet, "winter or no
winter, I go."

Robert Maitland had offices in the same building. Having once come to a
final determination there was no more uncertainty or hesitation about
Armstrong's course. In another moment he was standing in the private
room of his friend. The two men were not alone there. Stephen Maitland
sat in a low chair before another window removed from the desk somewhat,
staring out at the range. The old man was huddled down in his seat,
every line of his figure spoke of grief and despair. Of all the places
in Denver he liked best his brother's office fronting the rampart of the
mountains, and hour after hour he sat there quietly looking at the
summits, sometimes softly shrouded in white, sometimes swept bare by the
fierce winter gales that blew across them, sometimes shining and
sparkling so that the eye could scarce sustain their reflection of the
dazzling sun of Colorado; and at other times seen dimly through mists of
whirling snow.

Oh, yes, the mountains challenged him also to the other side of the
range. His heart yearned for his child, but he was too old to make the
attempt. He could only sit and pray and wait with such faint and fading
hope as he could still cherish until the break up of the spring came.
For the rest he troubled nobody; nobody noticed him, nobody marked him,
nobody minded him. Robert Maitland transacted his business a little more
softly, a little more gently, that was all. Yet the presence of his
brother was a living grief and a living reproach to him. Although he was
quite blameless he blamed himself. He did not know how much he had grown
to love his niece until he had lost her. His conscience accused him
hourly, and yet he knew not where he was at fault or how he could have
done differently. It was a helpless and hopeless situation. To him,
therefore, entered Armstrong.

"Maitland," he began, "I can't stand it any longer, I'm going into the
mountains."

"You are mad!"

"I can't help it. I can't sit here and face them, damn them, and remain
quiet."

"You will never come out alive."

"Oh, yes I will, but if I don't I swear to God I don't care."

Old Stephen Maitland rose unsteadily to his feet and gripped the back of
his chair.

"Did I hear aright, sir?" he asked with all the polished and graceful
courtesy of birth and breeding which never deserted him in any emergency
whatsoever. "Do you say--"

"I said I was going into the mountains to search for her."

"It is madness," urged Robert Maitland.

But the old man did not hear him.

"Thank God!" he exclaimed with deep feeling. "I have sat here day after
day and watched those mighty hills, and I have said to myself that if I
had youth and strength as I have love, I would not wait."

"You are right," returned Armstrong, equally moved, and indeed it would
have been hard to have heard and seen that father unresponsively, "and I
am not going to wait either."

"I understand your feeling, Jim, and yours too, Steve," began Robert
Maitland, arguing against his own emotions, "but even if she escaped the
flood, she must be dead by this time."

"You needn't go over the old arguments, Bob. I'm going into the
mountains and I'm going now. No," he continued swiftly, as the other
opened his mouth to interpose further objections, "you needn't say
another word. I'm a free agent and I'm old enough to decide what I can
do. There is no argument, there is no force, there is no appeal, there
is nothing that will restrain me. I can't sit here and eat my heart out
when she may be there."

"But it's impossible!"

"It isn't impossible. How do I know that there may not have been
somebody in the mountains, she may have wandered to some settlement,
some hunter's cabin, some prospector's hut."

"But we were there for weeks and saw nothing, no evidence of humanity."

"I don't care. The mountains are filled with secret nooks you could pass
by within a stone's throw and never see into, she may be in one of them.
I suppose she is dead and it's all foolish, this hope, but I'll never
believe it until I have examined every square rod within a radius of
fifty miles from your camp. I'll take the long chance, the longest
even."

"Well, that's all right," said Robert Maitland. "Of course I intend to
do that as soon as the spring opens, but what's the use of trying to do
it now?"

"It's use to me. I'll either go mad here in Denver, or I must go to seek
for her there."

"But you will never come back if you once get in those mountains alone."

"I don't care whether I do or not. It's no use, old man, I am going and
that's all there is about it."

Robert Maitland knew men, he recognized finality when he heard it or
when he saw it and it was quite evident that he was in the presence of
it then. It was of no use for him or anyone to say more.

"Very well," he said, "I honor you for your feeling even if I don't
think much of your common sense."

"Damn common sense," cried Armstrong triumphantly, "it's love that moves
me now."

At that moment there was a tap on the door. A clerk from an outer office
bidden to enter announced that old Kirkby was in the ante-room.

"Bring him in," directed Maitland, eager to welcome him.

He fancied that the new comer would undoubtedly assist him in dissuading
Armstrong from his foolhardy, useless enterprise.

"Mornin', old man," drawled Kirkby.

"Howdy, Armstrong. My respects to you, sir," he said, sinking his voice
a little as he bowed respectfully toward Mr. Stephen Maitland, a very
sympathetic look in the old frontiersman's eyes at the sight of the
bereaved father.

"Kirkby, you've come in the very nick of time," at once began Robert
Maitland.

"Allus glad to be Johnny-on-the-spot," smiled the older man.

"Armstrong here," continued the other intent upon his purpose, "says he
can't wait until the spring and the snows melt, he is going into the
mountains now to look for Enid."

Kirkby did not love Armstrong, he did not care for him a little bit, but
there was something in the bold hardihood of the man, something in the
way which he met the reckless challenge of the mountains that the old
man and all the others felt that moved the inmost soul of the hardy
frontiersman. He threw an approving glance at him.

"I tell him that it is absurd, impossible; that he risks his life for
nothing, and I want you to tell him the same thing. You know more about
the mountains than either of us."

"Mr. Kirkby," quavered Stephen Maitland, "allow me. I don't want to
influence you against your better judgment, but if you could sit here as
I have done and think that maybe she is there and perhaps alive still,
and in need, you would not say a word to deter him."

"Why, Steve," expostulated Robert Maitland, "surely you know I would
risk anything for Enid; somehow it seems as if I were being put in the
selfish position by my opposition."

"No, no," said his brother, "it isn't that. You have your wife and
children, but this young man--"

"Well, what do you say, Kirkby? Not that it makes any difference to me
what anybody says. Come, we are wasting time," interposed Armstrong,
who, now that he had made up his mind, was anxious to be off.

"Jim Armstrong," answered Kirkby decidedly, "I never thought much of you
in the past, an' I think sence you've put out this last projick of yourn
that I'm entitled to call you a damn fool, w'ich you are, an' I'm
another, for I'm goin' into the mountains with you."

"Oh, thank God!" cried Stephen Maitland fervently.

"I know you don't like me," answered Armstrong; "that's neither here nor
there. Perhaps you have cause to dislike me, perhaps you have not; I
don't like you any too well myself; but there is no man on earth I'd
rather have go with me on a quest of this kind than you, and there's my
hand on it."

Kirkby shook it vigorously.

"This ain't committin' myself," he said cautiously. "So far's I'm
concerned you ain't good enough for Miss Maitland, but I admires your
spirit, Armstrong, an' I'm goin' with you. Tain't no good, twon't
produce nothin', most likely we'll never come back agin; but jest the
same I'm goin' along; nobody's goin' to show me the trail; my nerve and
grit w'en it comes to helpin' a young feemale like that girl is as good
as anybody's I guess. You're her father," he drawled on, turning to
Stephen Maitland, "an' I ain't no kin to her, but by gosh, I believe I
can understand better than anyone else yere what you are feelin'."

"Kirkby," said Robert Maitland, smiling at the other two, "you have gone
clean back on me. I thought you had more sense. But somehow I guess it's
contagious, for I am going along with you two myself."

"And I, cannot I accompany you?" pleaded Stephen Maitland, eagerly
drawing near to the other three.

"Not much," said old Kirkby promptly. "You ain't got the stren'th, ol'
man, you don't know them mountains, nuther; you'd be helpless on a pair
of snow shoes, there ain't anything you could do, you'd jest be a drag
on us. Without sayin' anything about myself, w'ich I'm too modest for
that, there ain't three better men in Colorado to tackle this job than
Jim Armstrong an' Bob Maitland an'--well, as I said, I won't mention no
other names."

"God bless you all, gentlemen," faltered Stephen Maitland. "I think
perhaps I may have been wrong, a little prejudiced against the west, you
are men that would do honor to any family, to any society in
Philadelphia or anywhere else."

"Lord love ye," drawled Kirkby, his eyes twinkling, "there ain't no
three men on the Atlantic seaboard that kin match up with two of us
yere, to say nothin' of the third."

"Well," said Robert Maitland, "the thing now is to decide on what's to
be done."

"My plan," said Armstrong, "is to go to the old camp."

"Yep," said Kirkby, "that's a good point of deeparture, as my seafarin'
father down Cape Cod way used to say, an' wot's next."

"I am going up the cañon instead of down," said the man, with a flash of
inspiration.

"That ain't no bad idea nuther," assented the old man; "we looked the
ground over pretty thoroughly down the cañon, mebbe we can find
something up it."

"And what do you propose to take with you?" asked Maitland.

"What we can carry on the backs of men. We will make a camp somewhere
about where you did. We can get enough husky men up at Morrison who will
pack in what we want and with that as a basis we will explore the upper
reaches of the range."

"And when do we start?"

"There is a train for Morrison in two hours," answered Armstrong. "We
can get what we want in the way of sleeping bags and equipment between
now and then if we hurry about it."

"Ef we are goin' to do it, we might as well git a move on us," assented
Kirkby, making ready to go.

"Right," answered Robert Maitland grimly. "When three men set out to
make fools of themselves the sooner they get at it and get over with it
the better. I've got some business matters to settle, you two get what's
needed and I'll bear my share."

A week later a little band of men on snow shoes, wrapped in furs to
their eyes, every one heavily burdened with a pack, staggered into the
clearing where once had been pitched the Maitland camp. The place was
covered with snow of course, but on a shelf of rock half way up the
hogback, they found a comparatively level clearing and there, all
working like beavers, they built a rude hut which they covered with
canvas and then with tightly packed snow and which would keep the three
who remained from freezing to death. Fortunately they were favored by a
brief period of pleasant weather and a few days served to make a
sufficiently habitable camp.

Maitland, Kirkby and Armstrong worked with the rest. There was no
thought of search at first. Their lives depended upon the erection of a
suitable shelter and it was not until the helpers, leaving their burdens
behind them, had departed that the three men even considered what was to
be done next.

"We must begin a systematic search to-morrow," said Armstrong decisively
as the three men sat around the cheerful fire in the hut.

"Yes," assented Maitland. "Shall we go together, or separately?"

"Separately, of course. We are all hardy and experienced men, nothing is
apt to happen to us, we will meet here every night and plan the next
day's work. What do you say, Kirkby?"

The old man had been quietly smoking while the others talked. He smiled
at them in a way which aroused their curiosity and made them feel that
he had news for them.

"While you was puttin' the finishin' touches on this yere camp, I come
acrost a heap o' stuns, that somehow the wind had swept bare. There was
a big drift in front of it w'ich kep' us from seein' it afore; it was
built up in the open w'ere there want no trees, an' in our lumberin'
operations we want lookin' that-a-way. I came acrost a bottle by chance
an'--"

"Well, for God's sake, old man," cried Armstrong impatiently, "what did
you find in it, anything?"

"This," answered Kirkby, carefully producing a folded scrap of paper
from his leather vest.

Armstrong fell on it ravenously, and as Maitland bent over him they both
read these words by the fire light.

     "_Miss Enid Maitland, whose foot is so badly crushed as to prevent
     her traveling, is safe in a cabin at the head of this canon. I put
     this notice here to reassure any who may be seeking her as to her
     welfare. Follow the stream up to its source._"

     _Wm. Berkeley Newbold._

"Thank God!" exclaimed Robert Maitland.

"You called me a damn fool, Kirkby," said Armstrong, his eyes gleaming.
"What do you think of it now?"

"It's the damn fool, I find," said Kirkby sapiently, "that gener'ly gits
there. Providence seems to be a-watchin' over 'em."

"You said you chanced on this paper, Jack," continued Maitland, "it
looks to me like the deliberate intention of Almighty God."

"I reckon so," answered the other simply. "You see He's got to look
after all the damn fools on earth to keep 'em from doin' too much damage
to theirselves an' to others in this yere crooked trail of a world."

"Let us start now," urged Armstrong.

"Tain't possible," said the old man, taking another puff at his pipe,
and only a glistening of the eye betrayed the joy that he felt;
otherwise his phlegmatic calm was unbroken, his demeanor just as
undisturbed as it always was. "We'd jest throw away our lives a
wanderin' round these yere mountains in the dark, we've got to have
light an' clear weather. Ef it should be snowin' in the mornin' we'd
have to wait until it cleared."

"I won't wait a minute," cried Armstrong. "At daybreak, weather or no
weather, I start."

"What's your hurry, Jim?" continued Kirkby calmly. "The gal's safe, one
day more or less ain't goin' to make no difference."

"She's with another man," answered Armstrong quickly.

"Do you know this Newbold?" asked Maitland, looking at the note again.

"No, not personally, but I have heard of him."

"I know him," answered Kirkby quickly, "an' you've seed him too, Bob;
he's the fellow that shot his wife, that married Louise Rosser."

"That man!"

"The very same."

"You say you never saw him, Jim?" asked Maitland.

"I repeat I never met him," said Armstrong, flushing suddenly, "but I
knew his wife."

"Yes, you did that--" drawled the old mountaineer.

"What do you mean?" flashed Armstrong.

"I mean that you knowed her, that's all," answered the old man with an
innocent air that was almost childlike.

When the others woke up in the morning Armstrong's sleeping bag was
empty. Kirkby crawled out of his own warm nest, opened the door and
peered out into the storm.

"Well," he said, "I guess the damn fool has beat God this time; it don't
look to me as if even He could save him now."

"But we must go after him at once," urged Maitland.

"See for yourself," answered the old man, throwing wider the door.
"We've got to wait 'til this wind dies down unless we give the Almighty
the job o' lookin' after three instid o' one."



CHAPTER XXII

THE CONVERGING TRAILS


Whatever the feelings of the others, Armstrong found himself unable to
sleep that night. It seemed to him that fate was about to play him the
meanest and most fantastic of tricks. Many times before in his crowded
life he had loved other women, or so he characterized his feelings, but
his passion for Louise Rosser Newbold had been in a class by itself
until he had met Enid Maitland. Between the two there had been many
women, but these two were the high points, the rest was lowland.

Once before, therefore, this Newbold had cut in ahead of him and had won
the woman he loved. Armstrong had cherished a hard grudge against him
for a long time. He had not been of those who had formed the rescue
party led by old Kirkby and Maitland which had buried the poor woman on
the great butte in the deep cañon. Before he got back to the camp the
whole affair was over and Newbold had departed. Luckily for him,
Armstrong had always thought, for he had been so mad with grief and rage
and jealousy that if he had come across him helpless or not he would
have killed him out of hand.

Armstrong had soon enough forgotten Louise Rosser, but he had not
forgotten Newbold. All his ancient animosity had flamed into instant
life again, at the sight of his name last night. The inveteracy of his
hatred had been in no way abated by the lapse of time it seemed.

Everybody in the mining camp had supposed that Newbold had wandered off
and perished in the mountains, else Armstrong might have pursued him and
hunted him down. The sight of his name on that piece of paper was
outward and visible evidence that he still lived. It had almost the
shock of a resurrection, and a resurrection to hatred rather than to
love. If Newbold had been alone in the world, if Armstrong had chanced
upon him in the solitude, he would have hated him just as he did; but
when he thought that his ancient enemy was with the woman he now loved,
with a growing intensity, beside which his former resentment seemed weak
and feeble, he hated him yet the more.

He could not tell when the notice, which he had examined carefully, was
written; there was no date upon it, but he could come to only one
conclusion. Newbold must have found Enid Maitland alone in the mountains
very shortly after her departure and he had had her with him in his
cabin alone for at least a month. Armstrong gritted his teeth at the
thought. He did not undervalue the personality of Newbold, he had never
happened to see him, but he had heard enough about him to understand his
qualities as a man. The tie that bound Armstrong to Enid Maitland was a
strong one, but the tie by which he held her to him, if indeed he held
her at all, was very tenuous and easily broken; perhaps it was broken
already, and so he hated him still more and more.

Indeed his animosity was so great and growing that for the moment he
took no joy in the assurance of the girl's safety, yet he was not
altogether an unfair man and in calmer moments he thanked God in his own
rough way that the woman he loved was alive and well, or had been when
the note was written. He rejoiced that she had not been swept away with
the flood or that she had not been lost in the mountains and forced to
wander on, finally to starve and freeze and die. In one moment her
nearness caused his heart to throb with joyful anticipation. The
certainty that at the first flush of day he would seek her again sent
the warm blood to his cheeks. But these thoughts would be succeeded by
the knowledge that she was with his enemy. Was this man to rob him of
the latest love as he had robbed him of the first? Perhaps the hardest
task that was ever laid upon Armstrong was to lie quietly in his
sleeping bag and wait until the morning.

So soon as the first indication of dawn showed through the cracks of the
door, he slipped quietly out of his sleeping bag and without disturbing
the others drew on his boots, put on his heavy fur coat and cap and
gloves, slung his Winchester and his snow shoes over his shoulder and
without stopping for a bite to eat softly opened the door, stepped out
and closed it after him. It was quite dark in the bottom of the cañon,
although a few pale gleams overhead indicated the near approach of day.
It was quite still, too. There were clouds on the mountain top heavy
with threat of wind and snow.

The way was not difficult, the direction of it that is. Nor was the
going very difficult at first; the snow was frozen and the crust was
strong enough to bear him. He did not need his snow shoes and indeed
would have had little chance to use them in the narrow broken rocky
pass. He had slipped away from the others because he wanted to be the
first to see the man and the woman. He did not want any witness to that
meeting. They would have to come on later of course, but he wanted an
hour or two in private with Enid and Newbold without any interruption.
His conscience was not clear. Nor could he settle upon a course of
action.

How much Newbold knew of his former attempt to win away his wife, how
much of what he knew he had told Enid Maitland, Armstrong could not
surmise. Putting himself into Newbold's place and imagining that the
engineer had possessed entire information, he decided that he must have
told everything to Enid Maitland so soon as he had found out the quasi
relation between her and Armstrong. And Armstrong did not believe the
woman he loved could be in anybody's presence a month without telling
something about him. Still it was possible that Newbold knew nothing and
that he told nothing therefore.

The situation was paralyzing to a man of Armstrong's decided, determined
temperament. He could not decide upon the line of conduct he should
pursue. His course in this, the most critical emergency he had ever
faced, must be determined by circumstances of which he felt with savage
resentment he was in some measure the sport. He would have to leave to
chance what ought to be subject to his will. Of only one thing was he
sure--he would stop at nothing, murder, lying, nothing to win that
woman, and to settle his score with that man.

There was really only one thing he could do and that was to press on up
the cañon. He had no idea how far it might be or how long a journey he
would have to make before he reached that shelf on the high hill where
stood that hut in which she dwelt. As the crow flies it could not be a
great distance, but the cañon zigzagged through the mountains with as
many curves and angles as a lightning flash. He plodded on therefore
with furious haste, recklessly speeding over places where a misstep in
the snow or a slip on the icy rocks would have meant death or disaster
to him.

He had gone about an hour, and had perhaps made four miles from the
camp, when the storm burst upon him. It was now broad day and the sky
was filled with clouds and the air with driving snow. The wind whistled
down the cañon with terrific force, it was with difficulty that he made
any headway at all against it. It was a local storm; if he could have
looked through the snow he would have discovered calmness on the top of
the peaks. It was one of those sudden squalls of wind and snow which
rage with terrific force while they last but whose range was limited and
whose duration would be as short as it was violent.

A less determined man than he would have bowed to the inevitable and
sought some shelter behind a rock until the fury of the tempest was
spent, but there was no storm that blew that could stop this man so long
as he had strength to drive against it. So he bent his head to the
fierce blast and struggled on. There was something titantic and
magnificent about the iron determination and persistence of Armstrong.
The two most powerful passions which move humanity were at his service;
love led him and hate drove him. And the two were so intermingled that
it was difficult to say which predominated, now one and now the other.
The resultant of the two forces however was an onward move that would
not be denied.

His fur coat was soon covered with snow and ice, the sharp needles of
the storm cut his face wherever it was exposed. The wind forced its way
through his garments and chilled him to the bone. He had eaten nothing
since the night before and his vitality was not at its flood, but he
pressed onward and upward and there was something grand in his
indomitable progress. _Excelsior!_

Back in the hut Kirkby and Maitland sat around the fire waiting most
impatiently for the wind to blow itself out and for that snow to stop
falling through which Armstrong struggled forward. As he followed the
windings of the cañon, not daring to ascend to the summit of either
wall and seek short cuts across the range, he was sensible that he was
constantly rising. There were many indications to his experienced mind;
the decrease in the height of the surrounding pines, the increasing
rarity of the icy air, the growing difficulty in breathing under the
sustained exertion he was making, the quick throbbing of his accelerated
heart, all told him he was approaching his journey's end.

He judged that he must now be drawing near the source of the stream, and
that he would presently come upon the shelter. He had no means of
ascertaining the time, he would not have dared to unbutton his coat to
glance at his watch, and it is difficult to measure the flying minutes
in such scenes as those through which he passed, but he thought he must
have gone at least seven miles in perhaps three hours, which he fancied
had elapsed, his progress in the last two having been frightfully slow.
Every foot of advance he had to fight for.

Suddenly, after a quick turn in the cañon, a passage through a narrow
entrance between lofty cliffs, and he found himself in a pocket or a
circular amphitheater which he could see was closed on the further side.
The bottom of this enclosure or valley was covered with pines, now
drooping under tremendous burdens of snow. In the midst of the pines a
lakelet was frozen solid, the ice was covered with the same dazzling
carpet of white.

He could have seen nothing of this had not the sudden storm now stopped
as precipitately almost as it had begun. Indeed, accustomed to the
grayness of the snowfall, his eyes were fairly dazzled by the bright
light of the sun, now quite high over the range, which struck him full
in the face.

He stopped, panting, exhausted, and leaned against the rocky wall of the
cañon's mouth which, here rose sheer over his head. This certainly was
the end of the trail, the lake was the source of the frozen rivulet
along whose rocky and torn banks he had tramped since dawn. Here if
anywhere he would find the object of his quest.

Refreshed by the brief pause and encouraged by the sudden stilling of
the storm, he stepped out of the cañon and ascended a little knoll
whence he had a full view of the pocket over the tops of the pines.
Shading his eyes from the light with his hand as best he could, he
slowly swept the circumference with his eager glance, seeing nothing
until his eye fell upon a huge broken trail of rocks projecting from the
snow, indicating the ascent to a broad bare shelf of the mountains
across the lake to the right. Following this up he saw a huge block of
snow which suggested dimly the outlines of a hut!

Was that the place? Was she there? He stared fascinated and as he did so
a thin curl of smoke rose above the snow heap and wavered up in the cold
quiet air! That was a human habitation then, it could be none other than
the hut referred to in the note. Enid Maitland must be there, and
Newbold!

The lake lay directly in front of him beyond the trees at the foot of
the knoll and between him and the slope that led up to the hut. If it
had been summer, he would have been compelled to follow the water's edge
to the right or to the left, both journeys would have led over difficult
trails with little to choose between them, but the lake was now frozen
hard and covered with snow. He had no doubt that the snow would bear
him, but to make sure he drew his snow shoes from his shoulder, slipped
his feet in the straps, and sped straight on through the trees and then
across the lake like an arrow from a bow.

In five minutes he was at the foot of the giant stairs. Kicking off his
snow shoes he scrambled up the broken way, easily finding in the snow a
trail which had evidently been passed and repassed daily. In a few
moments he was at the top of the shelf. A hard trampled path ran
between high walls of snow to a door!

Behind that door what would he find? Just what he brought to it, love
and hate he fancied. We usually find on the other side of doors no more
and no less than we bring to our own sides. But whatever it might be,
there was no hesitation in Armstrong's course. He ran toward it, laid
his hand on the latch and opened it.

What creatures of habit we are! Early in that same morning, after one
vain attempt again to influence the woman who was now the deciding and
determining factor and who seemed to be taking the man's place, Newbold,
ready for his journey, had torn himself away from her presence and had
plunged down the giant stair. He had done everything that mortal man
could do for her comfort; wood enough to last her for two weeks had been
taken from the cave and piled in the kitchen and elsewhere so as to be
easily accessible to her, the stores she already had the run of and he
had fitted a stout bar to the outer door which would render it
impregnable to any attack that might be made against it, although he saw
no quarter from which any assault impended.

Enid had recovered not only her strength but a good deal of her nerve.
That she loved this man and that he loved her had given her courage.
She would be fearfully lonely of course, but not so much afraid as
before. The month of immunity in the mountains without any interruption
had dissipated any possible apprehensions on her part. It was with a
sinking heart however that she saw him go at last.

They had been so much together in that month they had learned what love
was. When he came back it would be different, he would not come alone.
The first human being he met would bring the world to the door of the
lonely but beloved cabin in the mountains--the world with its questions,
its inferences, its suspicions, its denunciations and its accusations!
Some kind of an explanation would have to be made, some sort of an
answer would have to be given, some solution of the problem would have
to be arrived at. What these would be she could not tell.

Newbold's departure was like the end of an era to her. The curtain
dropped, when it rose again what was to be expected? There was no
comfort except in the thought that she loved him. So long as their
affections matched and ran together nothing else mattered. With the
solution of it all next to her sadly beating heart she was still
supremely confident that Love, or God--and there was not so much
difference between them as to make it worth while to mention the One
rather than the Other--would find the way.

Their leave taking had been singularly cold and abrupt. She had realized
the danger he was apt to incur and she had exacted a reluctant promise
from him that he would be careful.

"Don't throw your life away, don't risk it even, remember that it is
mine," she had urged.

And just as simply as she had enjoined it upon him he had promised. He
had given his word that he would not send help back to her but that he
would bring it back, and she had confidence in that word. A confidence
that had he been inclined to break his promise would have made it
absolutely impossible. There had been a long clasp of the hands, a long
look in the eyes, a long breath in the breast, a long throb in the heart
and then--farewell. They dared no more.

Once before he had left her and she had stood upon the plateau and
followed his vanishing figure with anxious troubled thought until it had
been lost in the depths of the forest below. She had controlled herself
in this second parting for his sake as well as her own. Under the ashes
of his grim repression she realized the presence of live coals which a
breath would have fanned into flame. She dared nothing while he was
there, but when he shut the door behind him the necessity for
self-control was removed. She had laid her arms on the table and bowed
her head upon them and shook and quivered with emotions unrelieved by a
single tear--weeping was for lighter hearts and less severe demands!

His position after all was the easier of the two. As of old it was the
man who went forth to the battle field while the woman could only wait
passively the issue of the fight. Although he was half blinded with
emotion he had to give some thought to his progress, and there was yet
one task to be done before he could set forth upon his journey toward
civilization and rescue.

It was fortunate, as it turned out, that this obligation detained him.
He was that type of a merciful man whose mercies extended to his beasts.
The poor little burros must be attended to and their safety assured so
far as it could be, for it would be impossible for Enid Maitland to care
for them. Indeed he had already exacted a promise from her that she
would not leave the plateau and risk her life on the icy stairs with
which she was so unfamiliar.

He had gone to the corral and shaken down food enough for them which if
it had been doled out to them day by day would have lasted longer than
the week he intended to be absent; of course he realized that they would
eat it up in half that time, but even so they would probably suffer not
too great discomfort before he got back.

All these preparations took some little time. It had grown somewhat late
in the morning before he started. There had been a fierce storm raging
when he first looked out and at her earnest solicitation he had delayed
his departure until it had subsided.

His tasks at the corral were at last completed; he had done what he
could for them both, nothing now remained but to make the quickest and
safest way to the settlement. Shouldering the pack containing his ax and
gun and sleeping bag and such provisions as would serve to tide him over
until he reached human habitations, he set forth. He did not look up to
the hut; indeed, he could not have seen it for the corral was almost
directly beneath it; but if it had been in full view he would not have
looked back, he could not trust himself to; every instinct, every
impulse in his soul would fain drag him back to that hut and to the
woman. It was only his will and, did he but know it, her will that made
him carry out his purpose.

He would have saved perhaps half a mile on his journey if he had gone
straight across the lake to the mouth of the cañon. We are creatures of
habit. He had always gone around the lake on the familiar trail and
unconsciously he followed that trail that morning. He was thinking of
her as he plodded on in a mechanical way over the trail which followed
the border of the lake for a time, plunged into the woods, wound among
the pines and at last reached that narrow rift in the encircling wall
through which the river flowed. He had passed along the white way
oblivious to all his surroundings, but as he came to the entrance he
could not fail to notice what he suddenly saw in the snow.

Robinson Crusoe when he discovered the famous footprint of Man Friday in
the sand was not more astonished at what met his vision than Newbold on
that winter morning. For there, in the virgin whiteness, were the tracks
of a man!

He stopped dead with a sudden contraction of the heart. Humanity other
than he and she in that wilderness? It could not be! For a moment he
doubted the evidence of his own senses. He shook his pack loose from his
shoulders and bent down to examine the tracks to read if he could their
indications. He could see that some one had come up the cañon, that
someone had leaned against the wall, that someone had gone on. Where had
he gone?

To follow the new trail was child's play for him. He ran by the side of
it until he reached the knoll. The stranger had stopped again, he had
shifted from one foot to another, evidently he had been looking about
him seeking someone, only Enid Maitland of course. The trail ran forward
to the edge of the frozen lake, there the man had put on his snow shoes,
there he had sped across the lake like an arrow and like an arrow
himself, although he had left behind his own snow shoes, Newbold ran
upon his track. Fortunately the snow crest upbore him. The trail ran
straight to the foot of the rocky stairs. The newcomer had easily found
his way there.

With beating heart and throbbing pulse, Newbold himself bounded up the
acclivity after the stranger, marking as he did so evidences of the
other's prior ascent. Reaching the top like him he ran down the narrow
path and in his turn laid his hand upon the door.

He was not mistaken, he heard voices within. He listened a second and
then flung it open, and as the other had done, he entered.

Way back on the trail, old Kirkby and Robert Maitland, the storm having
ceased, were rapidly climbing up the cañon. Fate was bringing all the
actors of the little drama within the shadow of her hand.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE ODDS AGAINST HIM


The noise of the opening of the door and the in-rush of cold air that
followed awoke Enid Maitland to instant action. She rose to her feet and
faced the entrance through which she expected Newbold to reappear--for
of course the newcomer must be he--and for the life of her she could not
help that radiating flash of joy at that momentary anticipation which
fairly transfigured her being; although if she had stopped to reflect
she would have remembered that not in the whole course of their
acquaintance had Newbold ever entered her room at any time without
knocking and receiving permission.

Some of that joy yet lingered in her lovely face when she tardily
recognized the newcomer in the half light. Armstrong, scarcely waiting
to close the door, sprang forward joyfully with his hands outstretched.

"Enid!" he cried.

Naturally he thought the look of expectant happiness he had surprised
upon her face was for him and he accounted for its sudden disappearance
by the shock of his unexpected, unannounced, abrupt, entrance.

The warm color had flushed her face, but as she stared at him her aspect
rapidly changed. She grew paler. The happy light that had shone in her
eyes faded away and as he approached her she shrank back.

"You!" she exclaimed almost in terror.

"Yes," he answered smilingly, "I have found you at last. Thank God you
are safe and well. Oh, if you could only know the agonies I have gone
through. I thought I loved you when I left you six weeks ago, but now--"

In eager impetuosity he drew nearer to her. Another moment and he would
have taken her in his arms, but she would have none of him.

"Stop," she said with a cold and inflexible sternness that gave pause
even to his buoyant joyful assurance.

"Why, what's the matter?"

"The matter? Everything, but--"

"No evasions, please," continued the man still cheerfully but with a
growing misgiving. His suspicions in abeyance for the moment because of
his joy at seeing her alive and well arose with renewed force. "I left
you practically pledged to me," he resumed.

"Not so fast," answered Enid Maitland, determined to combat the
slightest attempt to establish a binding claim upon her.

"Isn't it true?" asked Armstrong. "Here, wait," he said before she could
answer, "I am half frozen, I have been searching for you since early
morning in the storm." He unbuttoned and unbelted his huge fur coat as
he spoke and threw it carelessly on the floor by his Winchester leaning
against the wall. "Now," he resumed, "I can talk better."

"You must have something to eat then," said the girl.

She was glad of the interruption since she was playing for time. She did
not quite know how the interview would end, he had come upon her so
unexpectedly and she had never formulated how she should say to him that
which she felt she must say. She must have time to think, to collect
herself, which he on his part was quite willing to give her, for he was
not much better prepared for the interview than she. He really was
hungry and tired; his early journey had been foolhardy and in the
highest degree dangerous. The violence of his admiration for her, added
to the excitement of her presence and the probable nearness of Newbold
as to whose whereabouts he wondered, were not conducive to rapid
recuperation. It would be comfort to him also to have food and time.

"Sit down," she said. "I shall be back in a moment."

The fire of the morning was still burning in the stove in the kitchen;
to heat a can of soup, to make him some buttered toast and hot coffee
were the tasks of a few moments. She brought them back to him, set them
on the table before him and bade him fall to.

"By Jove," exclaimed the man after a little time as he began to eat
hastily but with great relish what she had prepared, while she stood
over him watching him silently, "this is cozy. A warm, comfortable room,
something to eat served by the finest woman in the world, the prettiest
girl on earth to look at--what more could a man desire? This is the way
it's going to be always in the future."

"You have no warrant whatever for saying or hoping that," answered the
girl slowly but decisively.

"Have I not?" asked the man quickly. "Did you not say to me a little
while ago that you liked me better than any man you had ever met and
that I might win you if I could? Well, I can, and what's more I will in
spite of yourself." He laughed. "Why, the memory of that kiss I stole
from you makes me mad." He pushed away the things before him and rose to
his feet once more. "Come, give me another," he said; "it isn't in the
power of woman to stand out against a love like mine."

"Isn't it?"

"No, indeed."

"Louise Newbold did," she answered very quietly, but with the swiftness
and the dexterity of a sword thrust by a master hand, a mighty arm.

Armstrong stared at her in open-mouthed astonishment.

"What do you know about Louise Rosser or Newbold?" he asked at last.

"All that I want to know."

"And did that damned hound tell you?"

"If you mean Mr. Newbold, he never mentioned your name, he does not know
you exist."

"Where is he now?" thundered the man.

"Have no fear," answered the woman calmly, "he has gone to the
settlements to tell them I am safe and to seek help to get me out of the
mountains."

"Fear!" exclaimed Armstrong, proudly, "I fear nothing on earth. For
years, ever since I heard his name in fact, I have longed to meet him. I
want to know who told you about that woman, Kirkby?"

"He never mentioned your name in connection with her."

"But you must have heard it somewhere," cried the man thoroughly
bewildered. "The birds of the air didn't tell it to you, did they?"

"She told me herself," answered Enid Maitland.

"She told you! Why, she's been dead in her grave five years, shot to
death by that murderous dog of a husband of hers."

"A word with you, Mr. Armstrong," said the woman with great spirit. "You
can't talk that way about Mr. Newbold; he saved my life twice over, from
a bear and then in the cloud burst which caught me in the cañon."

"That evens up a little," said Armstrong. "Perhaps for your sake I will
spare him."

"You!" laughed the woman contemptuously. "Spare him! Be advised, look to
yourself; if he ever finds out what I know, I don't believe any power on
earth could save you."

"Oh," said Armstrong carelessly enough, although he was consumed with
hate and jealousy and raging against her clearly evident disdain, "I can
take care of myself, I guess. Anyway, I only want to talk about you, not
about him or her. Your father--"

"Is he well?"

"Well enough, but heart-broken, crushed. I happened to be in his house
in Philadelphia when the telegram came from your uncle that you were
lost and probably dead. I had just asked him for your hand," he added,
smiling grimly at the recollection.

"You had no right to do that."

"I know that."

"It was not, it is not, his to give."

"Still, when I won you I thought it would be pleasant all around if he
knew and approved."

"And did he?"

"Not then, he literally drove me out of the house; but afterward he said
if I could find you I could have you; and I have found you and I will
have you whether you like it or not."

"Never," said the woman decisively.

The situation had got on Armstrong's nerves, and he must perforce show
himself in his true colors. His only resources were his strength, not of
mind but of body. He made another most damaging mistake at this
juncture.

"We are alone here, and I am master, remember," he said meaningly.
"Come, let's make it up. Give me a kiss for my pains and--"

"I have been alone here for a month with another man," answered Enid
Maitland, who was strangely unafraid in spite of his threat. "A
gentleman, he has never so much as offered to touch my hand without my
permission; the contrast is quite to your disadvantage."

"Are you jealous of Louise Rosser?" asked Armstrong, suddenly seeing
that he was losing ground and casting about desperately to account for
it, and to recover what was escaping him. "Why, that was nothing, a mere
boy and girl affair," he ran on with specious good humor, as if it were
all a trifle. "The woman was, I hate to say it, just crazy in love with
me, but I really never cared anything especially for her, it was just a
harmless sort of flirtation anyway. She afterward married this man
Newbold and that's all there was about it."

The truth would not serve him and in his desperation and desire he
staked everything on this astounding lie. The woman he loved looked at
him with her face as rigid as a mask.

"You won't hold that against me, will you?" pleaded the man. "I told you
that I'd been a man among men, yes among women, too, here in this rough
country and that I wasn't worthy of you; there are lots of things in my
past that I ought to be ashamed of and I am, and the more I see you the
more ashamed I grow, but as for loving any one else all that I've ever
thought or felt or experienced before now is just nothing."

And this indeed was true, and even Enid Maitland with all her prejudice
could realize and understand it. Out of the same mouth, it was said of
old, proceeded blessing and cursing, and from these same lips came truth
and falsehood; but the power of the truth to influence this woman was as
nothing to the power of falsehood. She could never have loved him, she
now knew; a better man had won her affections, a nobler being claimed
her heart; but if Armstrong had told the truth regarding his
relationship to Newbold's wife and then had completed it with his
passionate avowal of his present love for her, she would have at least
admired him and respected him.

"You have not told me the truth," she answered directly, "you have
deliberately been false."

"Can't you see," protested the man, drawing nearer to her, "how much I
love you?"

"Oh, that, yes I suppose that is true; so far as you can love anyone I
will admit that you do love me."

"So far as I can love anyone?" he repeated after her. "Give me a chance
and I'll show you."

"But you haven't told the truth about Mrs. Newbold. You have calumniated
the dead, you have sought to shelter yourself by throwing the burden of
a guilty passion upon the weaker vessel, it isn't man-like, it isn't--"

Armstrong was a bold fighter, quick and prompt in his decisions. He made
another effort to set himself right. He staked his all on another throw
of the dice, which he began to feel were somehow loaded against him.

"You are right," he admitted, wondering anxiously how much the woman
really knew. "It wasn't true, it was a coward's act, I am ashamed of it.
I'm so mad with love for you that I scarcely know what I am doing, but I
will make a clean breast of it now. I loved Louise Rosser after a
fashion before ever Newbold came on the scene. We were pledged to each
other, a foolish quarrel arose, she was jealous of other girls--"

"And had she no right to be?"

"Oh, I suppose so. We broke it off anyway, and then she married Newbold,
out of pique, I suppose, or what you will. I thought I was heart-broken
at the time, it did hit me pretty hard; it was five or six years ago, I
was a youngster then, I am a man now. The woman has been dead long
since. There was some cock-and-bull story about her falling off a cliff
and her husband being compelled to shoot her. I didn't half believe it
at the time and naturally I have been waiting to get even with him. I
have been hating him for five years, but he has been good to you and we
will let bygones be bygones. What do I care for Louise Rosser, or for
him, or for what he did to her, now? I am sorry that I said what I did,
but you will have to charge it to my blinding passion for you. I can
truthfully say that you are the one woman that I have ever craved with
all my heart. I will do anything, be anything, to win you."

It was very brilliantly done, he had not told a single untruth, he had
admitted much, but he had withheld the essentials after all. He was
playing against desperate odds, he had no knowledge of how much she
knew, or where she had learned anything. Everyone about the mining camp
where she had lived had known of his love for Louise Rosser, but he had
not supposed there was a single human soul who had been privy to its
later developments, and he could not figure out any way by which Enid
Maitland could have learned by any possibility any more of the story
than he had told her. He had calculated swiftly and with the utmost
nicety, just how much he should confess. He was a keen witted, clever
man and he was fighting for what he held most dear, but his eagerness
and zeal, as they have often done, overrode his judgment, and he made
another mistake at this juncture. His evil genius was at his elbow.

"You must remember," he continued, "that you have been alone here in
these mountains with a man for over a month; the world--"

"What, what do you mean?" exclaimed the girl, who indeed knew very well
what he meant, but who would not admit the possibility.

"It's not every man," he added, blindly rushing to his doom, "that would
care for you or want you--after that."

He received a sudden and terrible enlightenment.

"You coward," she cried, with upraised hand, whether in protest or to
strike him neither ever knew, for at that moment the door opened the
second time that morning to admit another man.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE LAST RESORT OF KINGS AND MEN


The sudden entrant upon a quarrel between others is invariably at a
disadvantage. Usually he is unaware of the cause of difference and
generally he has no idea of the stage of development of the affair that
has been reached. Newbold suffered from this lack of knowledge and to
these disadvantages were added others. For instance, he had not the
faintest idea as to who or what was the stranger. The room was not very
light in the day time, Armstrong happened to be standing with his back
to it at some distance from the window by the side of which Enid stood.
Six years naturally and inevitably make some difference in a man's
appearance and it is not to be wondered that at first Newbold did not
recognize the man before him as the original of the face in his wife's
locket, although he had studied that face over and over again. A nearer
scrutiny, a longer study would have enlightened him of course, but for
the present he saw nothing but a stranger visibly perturbed on one side
and the woman he loved apparently fiercely resentful, sternly
indignant, confronting the other with an upraised hand.

The man, whoever he was, had affronted her, had aroused her indignation,
perhaps had insulted her, that was plain. He went swiftly to her side,
he interposed himself between her and the man.

"Enid," he asked, and his easy use of the name was a revelation and an
illumination to Armstrong, "who is this man, what has he done?"

It was Armstrong who replied. If Newbold were in the dark, not so he;
although they had never spoken, he had seen Newbold. He recognized him
instantly, indeed recognized or not the newcomer could be no other than
he. There was doubtless no other man in the mountains. He had expected
to find him when he approached the hut and was ready for him.

To the fire of his ancient hatred and jealousy was added a new fuel that
increased its heat and flame. This man had come between Armstrong and
the woman he loved before and had got away unscathed, evidently he had
come between him and this new woman he loved. Well, he should be made to
suffer for it this time and by Armstrong's own hands. The instant
Newbold had entered the room Armstrong had thirsted to leap upon him and
he meant to do it. One or the other of them, he swore in his heart,
should never leave that room alive.

But Newbold should have his chance. Armstrong was as brave, as fearless,
as intrepid, as any man on earth. There was much that was admirable in
his character; he would not take any man at a disadvantage in an
encounter such as he proposed. He would not hesitate to rob a man of his
wife if he could and he would not shrink from any deceit necessary to
gain his purpose with a woman, for good or evil, but he had his own
ideas of honor, he would not shoot an enemy in the back for instance.

Singular perversion, this, to which some minds are liable! To take from
a man his wife by subtle and underhand methods, to rob him of that which
makes life dear and sweet--there was nothing dishonorable in that! But
to take his life, a thing of infinitely less moment, by the same
process--that was not to be thought of. In Armstrong's code it was
right, it was imperative, to confront a man with the truth and take the
consequences; but to confront a woman with a lie and take her body and
soul, if so be she might be gained, was equally admirable. And there are
other souls than Armstrong's in which this moral inconsistency and
obliquity about men and women has lodgment.

Armstrong confronted Newbold therefore, lustful of battle; he yearned to
leap upon him, his fingers itched to grasp him, then trembled slightly
as he rubbed them nervously against his thumbs; his face protruded a
little, his eyes narrowed.

"My name is Armstrong," he said, determined to precipitate the issue
without further delay and flinging the words at the other in a tone of
hectoring defiance which, however, strange to say, did not seem to
affect Newbold in exactly the degree he had anticipated.

Yet the name was an illumination to Newbold, though not at all in the
way the speaker had fancied; the recollection of it was the one fact
concerning the woman he loved that rankled in the solitary's mind. He
had often wanted to ask Enid Maitland what she had meant by that chance
allusion to Armstrong which she had made in the beginning of their
acquaintance, but he had refrained. At first he had no right to question
her, there could be no natural end to their affections; and latterly
when their hearts had been disclosed to each other in the wild,
tempestuous, passionate scenes of the last two or three days, he had had
things of greater moment to engage his attention, subjects of more
importance to discuss with her.

He had for the time being forgotten Armstrong and he had not before
known what jealousy was until he had entered that room. To have seen her
with any man would have given him acute pain, perhaps just because he
had been so long withdrawn from human society, but to see her with this
man who flashed instantly into his recollection upon the utterance of
his name was an added exasperation.

Newbold turned to the woman, to whom indeed he had addressed his
question in the first place, and there was something in his movement
which bespoke a galling, almost contemptuous, obliviousness to the
presence of the other man which was indeed hard for him to bear.

Hate begets hate. He was quite conscious of Armstrong's antagonism,
which was entirely undisguised and open and which was growing greater
with every passing moment. The score against Newbold was running up in
the mind of his visitor.

"Ah," coolly said the owner of the cabin to the latest of his two
guests, "I do remember Miss Maitland did mention your name the first day
she spent here. Is he a--a friend of yours?" he asked of the woman.

"Not now," answered Enid Maitland.

She too was in a strange state of perturbation on account of the
dilemma in which she found herself involved. She was determined not to
betray the unconscious confidence of the dead. She hoped fervently that
Newbold would not recognize Armstrong as the man of the locket, but if
he did she was resolute that he should not also be recognized as the man
of the letters, at least not by her act. Newbold was ignorant of the
existence of those letters and she did not intend that he should be
enlightened so far as she could prevent it. But she was keen enough to
see that the first recognition would be inevitable; she even admitted
the fact that Armstrong would probably precipitate it himself. Well, no
human soul, not even their writer, knew that she had the letters except
old Kirkby and he was far away. She wished that she had destroyed them;
she had determined to do so at the first convenient opportunity. Before
that, however, she intended to show them not to Newbold but to
Armstrong, to disclose his perfidy, to convict him of the falsehood he
had told her and to justify herself even in his eyes for the action she
had taken.

Mingled with all these quick reflections was a deadly fear. She was
quick to perceive the hatred Armstrong cherished against Newbold on the
one hand because of the old love affair, the long standing grudge
breaking into sudden life; on the other because of her own failure to
come to Armstrong's hand and her love for Newbold which she had no
desire to conceal. The cumulation of all these passionate antagonisms
would only make him the more desperate, she knew.

Whether or not Newbold found out Armstrong's connection with his past
love there was sufficient provocation in the present to evoke all the
oppugnation and resentment of his nature. Enid felt as she might if the
puncheons of the floor had been sticks of dynamite with active
detonators in every heel that pressed them; as if the slightest movement
on the part of anyone would bring about an explosion.

The tensity of the situation was bewildering to her. It had come upon
her with such startling force; the unexpected arrival of Armstrong, of
all the men on earth the one who ought not to be there, and then the
equally startling arrival of Newbold, of whom perhaps the same might
have been said. If Newbold had only gone on, if he had not come back, if
she had been rescued by her uncle or old Kirkby--But "ifs" were idle,
she had to face a present situation to which she was utterly unequal.

She had entirely repudiated Armstrong, that was one sure point; she knew
how guilty he had been toward Newbold's wife, that was another; she
realized how he had deceived her, that was the third. These eliminated
the man from her affections. But it is one thing to thrust a man out of
your heart and another to thrust him out of your life; he was still
there. And by no means the sport of blind fate, Armstrong intended to
have something to say as to the course of events, to use his own powers
to determine the issue.

Of but one thing besides her hatred for Armstrong was Enid Maitland
absolutely certain; she would never disclose to the man she loved the
fact that the woman, the memory of whose supposed passion he cherished,
had been unfaithful to him in heart if not in deed. Nothing could wrest
that secret from her. She had been infected by Newbold's quixotic ideas,
the contagion of his perversion of common sense had fastened itself upon
her. She would not have been human either if she had not experienced a
thrill of pride and joy at the possibility that in some way, of which
she yet swore she would not be the instrument blind or otherwise, the
facts might be disclosed which would enable Newbold to claim her openly
and honorably, without hesitation before or remorse after, as his wife.
This fascinating flash of expectant hopeful feeling she thought unworthy
of her and strove to fight it down, but with manifest impossibility.

It has taken time to set these things down; to speak or to write is a
slow process and the ratio between outward expressions and inward is as
great as that between light and sound. Questions and answers between
these three followed as swiftly as thrust and parry between accomplished
swordsmen, and yet between each demand and reply they had time to
entertain these swift thoughts--as the drowning compass life experiences
in seconds!

"I may not be her friend," said Armstrong steadily, "but she left me in
these mountains a month ago with more than a half way promise to marry
me, and I have sought her through the snows to claim the fulfillment."

"You never told me that," exclaimed Newbold sternly and again addressing
the woman rather than the man.

"There was nothing to tell," she answered quickly. "I was a young girl,
heart free. I liked this man, perhaps because he was so different from
those to whom I had been accustomed and when he pressed his suit upon
me, I told him the truth. I did not love him, I did not know whether I
might grow to care for him or not; if I did, I should marry him and if I
did not no power on earth could make me. And now--I hate him!"

She flung the hard and bitter words at him savagely.

Armstrong was beside himself with fury at her remark, and Newbold's cool
indifference to him personally was unendurable. In battle such as he
waged he had the mistaken idea that anything was fair. He could not
really tell whether it was love of woman or hate of man that was most
dominant; he saw at once the state of affairs between the two. He could
hurt the man and the woman with one statement; what might be its
ulterior effect he did not stop to consider; perhaps if he had he would
not have cared greatly then. He realized anyway that since Newbold's
arrival his chance with Enid was gone; perhaps whether Newbold were
alive or dead it was gone forever, although Armstrong did not think
that, he was not capable of thinking very far into the future in his
then condition, the present bulked too large for that.

"I did not think after that kiss in the road that you would go back on
me this way, Enid," he said quickly.

"The kiss in the road!" cried Newbold, staring again at the woman.

"You coward," repeated she, with one swift envenomed glance at the other
man and then she turned to her lover. She laid her hand upon his arm,
she lifted her face up to him. "As God is my judge," she cried, her
voice rising with the tragic intensity of the moment and thrilling with
indignant protest, "he took it from me like the thief and the coward he
was and he tells it now like the liar he is. We were riding side by
side, I was utterly unsuspicious, I thought him a gentleman, he caught
me and kissed me before I knew it, I drove him from me. That's all."

"I believe you," said Newbold gently, and then, for the second time, he
addressed himself to Armstrong. "You came doubtless to rescue Miss
Maitland, and in so far your purpose was admirable and you deserve
thanks and respect, but no further. This is my cabin, your words and
your conduct render you unwelcome here. Miss Maitland is under my
protection, if you will come outside I will be glad to talk with you
further."

"Under your protection?" sneered Armstrong, completely beside himself.
"After a month with you alone I take it she needs no further
protection."

Newbold did not leap upon the man for that mordant insult to the woman,
his approach was slow, relentless, terrible. Eight or ten feet separated
them. Armstrong met him half way, his impetuosity was the greater, he
sprang forward, turned about, faced the full light from the narrow
window.

"Well," he cried, "have you got anything to say or do about it?"

For Newbold had stopped, appalled. He stood staring as if petrified;
recognition, recollection rushed over him. Now and at last he knew the
man. The face that confronted him was the same face that had stared out
at him from the locket he had taken from the bruised breast of his dead
wife, which had been a mystery to him for all these years.

"Well," tauntingly asked Armstrong again, "what are you waiting for, are
you afraid?"

From Newbold's belt depended a holster and a heavy revolver. As
Armstrong made to attack him he flashed it out with astonishing
quickness and presented it. The newcomer was unarmed, his Winchester
leaned against the wall by his fur coat and he had no pistol.

"If you move a step forward or backward," said Newbold with deadly calm,
"I will kill you without mercy."

"So you'd take advantage of a weaponless man, would you?" sneered
Armstrong.

"Oh, for God's sake," cried the woman, "don't kill him."

"You both misjudge me," was the answer. "I shall take no advantage of
this man. I would disdain to do so if it were necessary, but before the
last resort I must have speech with him, and this is the only way in
which I can keep him quiet for a moment, if as I suspect, his hate
measures with mine."

"You have the advantage," protested Armstrong. "Say your say and get it
over with. I've waited all these years for a chance to kill you and my
patience is exhausted."

Still keeping the other covered, Newbold stepped over to the table,
pulled out the drawer and drew from it the locket. Enid remembered she
had hastily thrust it there when he had handed it to her and there it
had lain unnoted and forgotten. It was quite evident to her what was
toward now. Newbold had recognized the other man, explanations were
inevitable. With his left hand Newbold sought the catch of the locket
and pressed the spring. In two steps he faced Armstrong with the open
locket thrust toward him.

"Your picture?" he asked.

"Mine."

"Do you know the locket?"

"I gave it to a woman named Louise Rosser five or six years ago."

"My wife."

"Yes, she was crazy in love with me but--"

With diabolic malice Armstrong left the sentence uncompleted. The
inference he meant should be drawn from his reticence was obvious.

"I took it from her dead body," gritted out Newbold.

"She was beside herself with love for me, an old affair, you know," said
Armstrong more explicitly, thinking to use a spear with a double barb to
pierce the woman's and the man's heart alike. That he defamed the dead
was of no moment then. "She wanted to leave you," he ran on glibly, "she
wanted me to take her back and--"

"Untrue," burst forth from Enid Maitland's lips. "A slanderous,
dastardly, cowardly untruth."

But the men paid no attention to her in their excitement, perhaps they
did not even hear her. Newbold thrust his pistol violently forward.

"Would you murder me as you murdered the woman?" gibed Armstrong in
bitter taunt.

Then Enid Maitland found it in her heart to urge Newbold to kill him
where he stood, but she had no time if she could have carried out her
design, for Newbold flung the weapon from him and the next moment the
two men leaped upon each other, straining, struggling, clawing,
battling like savage beasts, each seeking to clasp his fingers around
the throat of the other and then twist and crush until life was gone.

Saying nothing, fighting in a grim silence that was terrible, they
reeled crashing about the little room. No two men on earth could have
been better matched, yet Newbold had a slight advantage in height and
strength, as he had also the advantage in simple life and splendid
condition. Armstrong's hate and fierce temper counterbalanced these at
first and with arms locked and legs twined, with teeth clenched and eyes
blinded and pulses throbbing and hearts beating, they strove together.

The woman shrank back against the wall and stared frightened. She feared
for her lover, she feared for herself. Strange primitive feelings
throbbed in her veins. It was an old situation, when two male animals
fought for supremacy and the ownership of a female, whose destiny was
entirely removed from her own hands.

Armstrong had shown himself in his true colors at last. She would have
nothing to hope from him if he were the victor and she even wondered in
terror what might happen to her if the man she loved triumphed after the
passions aroused in such a battle. She grew sick and giddy, her bosom
rose and fell, her breath came fast as she followed the panting,
struggling, clinging, grinding figures about the room.

At first there had been no advantage to either, but now after five
minutes--or was it hours?--of fierce fighting, the strength and superior
condition of her lover began to tell. He was forcing the other backward.
Slowly, inch by inch, foot by foot, step by step, he mastered him. The
two intertwining figures were broadside to her now, she could see their
faces inflamed by the lust of the battle, engorged, blood red with hate
and fury. There was a look of exultation in one and the shadow of
approaching disaster in the other. But the consciousness that he was
being mastered ever so little only increased Armstrong's determination
and he fought back with the frenzy, the strength of a maddened gorilla,
and again for a space the issue was in doubt. But not for long.

The table, a heavy, cumbersome, four-legged affair, solid almost as a
rock, stood in the way. Newbold at last backed Armstrong up against it
and by superhuman effort bent him over it, held him with one arm and
using the table as a support, wrenched his left hand free, and sunk his
fingers around the other's throat. It was all up with Armstrong. It was
only a question of time now.

[Illustration: It was all up with Armstrong]

"Now," Newbold guttered out hoarsely, "you slandered the dead woman I
married, and you insulted the living one I love. Take back what you said
before you die."

"I forgive him," cried Enid Maitland. "Oh, don't kill him before my
eyes."

Armstrong was past speech. The inveteracy of his hatred could be seen
even in his fast glazing eyes, the indomitableness of his purpose yet
spoke in the negative shake of his head. He could die, but he would die
in his hate and in his purpose.

Enid ran to the two, she grappled Newbold's arm with both her own and
strove with all her might to tear it away from the other's throat. Her
lover paid no more attention to her than if a summer breeze had touched
him. Armstrong grew black in the face, his limbs relaxed, another second
or two and it would have been over with him.

Once more the door was thrown open, through it two snow covered men
entered. One swift glance told them all, one of them at least had
expected it. On the one side Kirkby, on the other Maitland, tore Newbold
away from his prey just in time to save Armstrong's life. Indeed the
latter was so far gone that he fell from the table to the floor
unconscious, choking, almost dying. It was Enid Maitland who received
his head in her arms and helped bring him back to life while the panting
Newbold stood staring dully at the woman he loved and the man he hated
on the floor at his feet.



CHAPTER XXV

THE BECOMING END


"Why did you interfere?" when at last he got his breath again, asked
Newbold of Maitland who still held him firmly although restraint was now
unnecessary, the heat and fire of his passion being somewhat gone out of
him. "I meant to kill him."

"He'd oughter die sure nuff," drawled old Kirkby, rising from where he
had been kneeling by Armstrong's side, "but I don't know's how you're
bound to be his executioner. He's all right now, Miss Enid," said the
old man. "Here"--he took a pillow from the bunk and slipped it under his
head and then extending his hands he lifted the excited almost
distraught woman to her feet--"tain't fittin' for you to tend on him."

"Oh," exclaimed Enid, her limbs trembling, the blood flowing away from
her heart, her face deathly white, fighting against the faintness that
came with the reaction, while old Kirkby supported and encouraged her.
"I thank God you came. I don't know what would have happened if you had
not."

"Has this man mistreated you?" asked Robert Maitland, suddenly
tightening his grip upon his hard breathing but unresisting passive
prisoner.

"No, no," answered his niece. "He has been everything that a man should
be."

"And Armstrong?" continued her uncle.

"No, not even he."

"I came in time, thank God!" ejaculated Newbold.

By this time Armstrong had recovered consciousness. To his other causes
for hatred were now added chagrin, mortification, shame. He had been
overcome. He would have been a dead man and by Newbold's hands if the
others had not interfered. He almost wished they had let his enemy
alone. Well, he had lost everything but a chance for revenge on them
all.

"She has been alone here with this man in this cabin for a month," he
said thickly. "I was willing to take her in spite of that, but--"

"He made that damned suggestion before," cried Newbold, his rage
returning. "I don't know who you are--"

"My name is Robert Maitland, and I am this girl's uncle."

"Well, if you were her father, I could only swear--"

"It isn't necessary to swear anything," answered Maitland serenely. "I
know this child. And I believe I'm beginning to find out this man."

"Thank you, Uncle Robert," said Enid gratefully, coming nearer to him as
she spoke. "No man could have done more for me than Mr. Newbold has, and
no one could have been more considerate of me. As for you," she turned
on, Armstrong, who now slowly got to his feet, "your insinuations
against me are on a par with your charges against the dead woman,
beneath contempt."

"What did he say about her?" asked Old Kirkby.

"You know my story?" asked Newbold.

"Yes."

"He said that my wife had been unfaithful to me--with him--and that he
had refused to take her back."

"And it was true," snarled Armstrong.

It was all Maitland could do to check Newbold's rush, but in the end it
was old Kirkby who most effectively interposed.

"That's a damned lie," he said quietly with his usual drawling voice.

"You can say so," laughed Armstrong, "but that doesn't alter the
facts."

"An' I can prove it," answered the old man triumphantly.

It was coming, the secret that she had tried to conceal was about to be
revealed, thought Enid. She made a movement toward the old man. She
opened her mouth to bid him be silent and then stopped. It would be
useless she knew. The determination was no longer hers. The direction of
affairs had been withdrawn from her. After all it was better that the
unloving wife should be proved faithful, even if her husband's cherished
memory of her love for him had to be destroyed thereby. Helpless she
listened knowing full well what the old frontiersman's next word would
be.

"Prove it!" mocked Armstrong. "How?"

"By your own hand, out of your own mouth, you dog," thundered old
Kirkby. "Miss Enid, w'ere are them letters I give you?"

"I--I--" faltered the girl, but there was no escape from the keen glance
of the old man, her hand went to the bosom of her tunic.

"Letters!" exclaimed Armstrong. "What letters?"

"These," answered Enid Maitland, holding up the packet.

Armstrong reached for them but Kirkby again interposed.

"No, you don't," he said dryly. "Them ain't for your eyes yit. Mr.
Newbold, I found them letters on the little shelf w'ere your wife first
struck w'en she fell over onto the butte w'ere she died. I figgered out
her dress was tore open there an' them letters she was carryin' fell out
an' lodged there. We had ropes an' we went down over the rocks that way.
I went first an' I picked 'em up. I never told nobody about it an' I
never showed 'em to a single human bein' until I give 'em to Miss
Maitland at the camp."

"Why not?" asked Newbold, taking the letters.

"There wasn't no good tellin' nobody then, jest fer the sake o' stirrin'
up trouble."

"But why did you give them to her at last?"

"Because I was afeered she might fall in love with Armstrong. I supposed
she'd know his writin', but w'en she didn't I jest let her keep 'em
anyway. I knowed it'd all come out somehow; there is a God above us in
spite of all the damned scoundrels on earth like this un."

"Are these letters addressed to my dead wife?" asked Newbold.

"They are," answered Enid Maitland; "look and see."

"And did Mr. Armstrong write them?"

"He'll deny it, I suppose," answered Kirkby.

"But I am familiar with his handwriting," said Maitland.

Taking the still unopened packet from Newbold he opened it, examined one
of the letters and handed them all back.

"There is no doubt about it," he said. "It's Armstrong's hand, I'll
swear to it."

"Oh, I'll acknowledge them," said Armstrong, seeing the absolute
futility of further denial. He had forgotten all about the letters. He
had not dreamed they were in existence. "You've got me beat between you,
the cards are stacked against me, I've done my damndest--" and indeed
that was true.

Well, he had played a great game, battling for a high stake he had stuck
at nothing. A career in which some good had mingled with much bad was
now at an end. He had lost utterly, would he show himself a good loser?

"Mr. Armstrong," said Newbold, quietly extending his hand, "here are
your letters."

"What do you mean?"

"I am not in the habit of reading letters addressed to other people
without permission and when the recipient of them is dead long since, I
am doubly bound."

"You're a damned fool," cried Armstrong contemptuously.

"That kind of a charge from your kind of a man is perhaps the highest
compliment you could pay me. I don't know whether I shall ever get rid
of the doubt you have tried to lodge in my soul about my dead wife,
but--"

"There ain't no doubt about it," protested old Kirkby earnestly. "I've
read them letters a hundred times over, havin' no scruples whatsomever,
an' in every one of 'em he was beggin' an' pleadin' with her to go away
with him an' fightin' her refusal to do it. I guess I've got to admit
that she didn't love you none, Newbold, an' she did love this here
wuthless Armstrong, but for the sake of her reputation I'll prove to you
all from them letters of hisn, from his own words, that there didn't
live a cleaner hearted, more virtuous, upright feemale than that there
wife of yourn, even if she didn't love you. It's God's truth an' you kin
take it from me."

"Mr. Armstrong," cried Enid Maitland, interposing at this juncture, "not
very long ago I told you I liked you better than any man I had ever
seen, I thought perhaps I might have loved you, and that was true. You
have played the coward's part and the liar's part in this room--"

"Did I fight him like a coward?" asked Armstrong.

"No," answered Newbold for her, remembering the struggle, "you fought
like a man."

Singular perversion of language and thought there! If two struggled like
wild beasts that was fighting like men!

"But let that pass," continued the woman. "I don't deny your physical
courage, but I am going to appeal to another kind of a courage which I
believe you possess. You have showed your evil side here in this room,
but I don't believe that's the only side you have, else I couldn't even
have liked you in the past. You have made a charge against two women,
one dead and one living. It makes little difference what you say about
me; I need no defense and no justification in the eyes of those here who
love me and for the rest of the world I don't care. But you have slain
this man's confidence in a woman he once loved, and whom he thought
loved him. As you are a man, tell him that it was a lie and that she was
innocent of anything else although she did love you."

What a singular situation, an observer who knew all might have
reflected? Here was Enid Maitland pleading for the good name of the
woman who had married the man she now loved, and whom by rights she
should have jealously hated.

"You ask me more than I can," faltered Armstrong, yet greatly moved by
this touching appeal to his better self.

"Let him speak no word," protested Newbold quickly. "I wouldn't believe
him on his oath."

"Steady now, steady," interposed Kirkby with his frontier instinct for
fair play. "The man's down, Newbold, don't hit him now."

"Give him a chance," added Maitland earnestly.

"You would not believe me, eh?" laughed Armstrong horribly; "well then
this is what I say, whether it is true or a lie you can be the judge."

What was he about to say? They all recognized instinctively that his
forthcoming deliverance would be a final one. Would good or evil
dominate him now? Enid Maitland had made her plea and it had been a
powerful one; the man did truly love the woman who urged him, there was
nothing left for him but a chance that she should think a little better
of him than he merited, he had come to the end of his resources. And
Enid Maitland spoke again as he hesitated.

"Oh, think, think before you speak," she cried.

"If I thought," answered Armstrong quickly, "I should go mad. Newbold,
your wife was as pure as the snow. That she loved me I cannot and will
not deny. She married you in a fit of jealousy and anger after a quarrel
between us in which I was to blame, and when I came back to the camp in
your absence I strove to make it up and used every argument that I
possessed to get her to leave you and to go with me. Although she had no
love for you she was too good and too true a woman for that. Now you've
got the truth, damn you; believe it or not as you like. Miss Maitland,"
he added swiftly, "if I had met you sooner, I might have been a better
man. Good-by."

He turned suddenly and none preventing, indeed it was not possible, he
ran to the outer door; as he did so his hand snatched something that lay
on the chest of drawers. There was a flash of light as he drew in his
arm but none saw what it was. In a few seconds he was outside the door.
The table was between old Kirkby and the exit, Maitland and Newbold were
nearest. The old man came to his senses first.

"After him," he cried, "he means--"

But before anybody could stir, the dull report of a pistol came through
the open door!

They found Armstrong lying on his back in the snowy path, his face as
white as the drift that pillowed his head, Newbold's heavy revolver
still clutched in his right hand and a bloody, welling smudge on his
left breast over his heart. It was the woman who broke the silence.

"Oh," she sobbed, "It can't be--"

"Dead," said Maitland solemnly.

"And it might have been by my hand," muttered Newbold to himself in
horror.

"He'll never cause no more trouble to nobody in this world, Miss Enid
an' gents," said old Kirkby gravely. "Well, he was a damned fool an' a
damned villain in some ways," continued the old frontiersman
reflectively in the silence broken otherwise only by the woman's sobbing
breaths, "but he had some of the qualities that go to make a man, an' I
ain't doubtin' but what them last words of hisn was mighty near true. Ef
he had met a gal like you earlier in his life he mought have been a
different man."



CHAPTER XXVI

THE DRAUGHT OF JOY


The great library was the prettiest room in Robert Maitland's
magnificent mansion in Denver's most favored residence section. It was a
long, low studded room with a heavy beamed ceiling. The low book cases,
about five feet high, ran between all the windows and doors on all sides
of the room. At one end there was a huge open fireplace built of rough
stone, and as it was winter a cheerful fire of logs blazed on the
hearth. It was a man's room preëminently. The drawing room across the
hall was Mrs. Maitland's domain, but the library reflected her husband's
picturesque if somewhat erratic taste. On the walls there were pictures
of the west by Remington, Marchand, Dunton, Dixon and others, and to set
them off finely mounted heads of bear and deer and buffalo. Swords and
other arms stood here and there. The writing table was massive and the
chairs easy, comfortable and inviting. The floor was strewn with robes
and rugs. From the windows facing westward, since the house was set on
a high hill, one could see the great rampart of the range.

There were three men in the room on that brilliant morning early in
January something like a month after these adventures in the mountains
which have been so veraciously set forth. Two of them were the brothers
Maitland, the third was Newbold.

The shock produced upon Enid Maitland by the death of Armstrong,
together with the tremendous episodes that had preceded it, had utterly
prostrated her. They had spent the night at the hut in the mountains and
had decided that the woman must be taken back to the settlements in some
way at all hazards.

The wit of old Kirkby had effected a solution of the problem. Using a
means certainly as old as Napoleon and the passage of his cannon over
the Great St. Bernard--and perhaps as old as Hannibal!--they had made a
rude sled from the trunk of a pine which they hollowed out and provided
with a back and runners. There was no lack of fur robes and blankets for
her comfort.

Wherever it was practicable the three men hitched themselves to the sled
with ropes and dragged it and Enid over the snow. Of course for miles
down the cañon it was impossible to use the sled. When the way was
comparatively easy the woman supported by the two men, Newbold and
Maitland, made shift to get along afoot. When it became too difficult
for her, Newbold picked her up as he had done before and assisted by
Maitland carried her bodily to the next resting place. At these times
Kirkby looked after the sled.

They had managed to reach the temporary hut in the old camp the first
night and rested there. They gathered up their sleeping bags and tents
and resumed their journey in the morning. They were strong men, and,
save for old Kirkby, young. It was a desperate endeavor but they carried
it through.

When they hit the open trails the sledding was easy and they made great
progress. After a week of terrific going they struck the railroad and
the next day found them all safe in Maitland's house in Denver.

To Mr. Stephen Maitland his daughter was as one who had risen from the
dead. And indeed when he first saw her she looked like death itself. No
one had known how terrible that journey had been to the woman. Her three
faithful attendants had surmised something, but in spite of all even
they did not realize that in these last days she had been sustained only
by the most violent effort of her will. She had no sooner reached the
house, greeted her father, her aunt and the children than she collapsed
utterly.

The wonder was, said the physician, not that she did it then but that
she had not done it before. For a short time it appeared as if her
illness might be serious, but youth, vigor, a strong body and a good
constitution, a heart now free from care and apprehension and a great
desire to live and love and be loved, worked wonders.

Newbold had enjoyed no opportunity for private conversation with the
woman he loved, which was perhaps just as well. He had the task of
readjusting himself to changed conditions; not only to a different
environment, but to strange and unusual departures from his long
cherished view points.

He could no longer doubt Armstrong's final testimony to the purity of
his wife, although he had burned the letters unread, and by the same
token he could no longer cherish the dream that she had loved him and
him alone. Those words that had preceded that pistol shot had made it
possible for him to take Enid Maitland as his wife without doing
violence to his sense of honor or his self-respect. Armstrong had made
that much reparation. And Newbold could not doubt that the other had
known what would be the result of his speech and had chosen his words
deliberately. Score that last action to his credit. He was a sensitive
man, however; he realized the brutal and beastlike part he and Armstrong
had both played before this woman they both loved, how they had battled
like savage animals and how but for a lucky interposition he would have
added murder to his other disabilities.

He was honest enough to say to himself that he would have done the same
thing over under the same circumstances, but that did not absolve his
conscience. He did not know how the woman looked at the transaction or
looked at him, for he had not enjoyed one moment alone with her to
enable him to find out.

They had buried Armstrong in the snow, Robert Maitland saying over him a
brief but fervent petition in which even Newbold joined. Enid Maitland
herself had repeated eloquently to her Uncle and old Kirkby that night
before the fire the story of her rescue from the flood by this man, how
he had carried her in the storm to the hut and how he had treated her
since, and Maitland had afterwards repeated her account to his brother
in Denver.

Maitland had insisted that Newbold share his hospitality, but that young
man had refused. Kirkby had a little place not far from Denver and
easily accessible to it and the old man had gladly taken the younger
one with him. Newbold had been in a fever of anxiety over Enid
Maitland's illness, but his alarm had soon been dispelled by the
physician's assurance and there was nothing now left for him but to wait
until she could see him. He inquired for her morning and evening at the
great house on the hill, he kept her room a bower of beauty with
priceless blossoms, but he had sent no word.

Robert Maitland had promised to let him know, however, so soon as Enid
could see him and it was in pursuance of a telephone message that he was
in the library that morning.

He had not yet become accustomed to the world, he had lived so long
alone that he had grown somewhat shy and retiring, the habits and
customs of years were not to be lightly thrown aside in a week or a
month. He had sought no interview with Enid's father heretofore, indeed
had rather avoided it, but on this morning he had asked for it, and when
Robert Maitland would have withdrawn he begged him to remain.

"Mr. Maitland," Newbold began, "I presume that you know my unfortunate
history."

"I have heard the general outlines of it, sir, from my brother and
others," answered the other kindly.

"I need not dwell upon it further then. Although my hair is tinged with
gray and doubtless I look much older, I was only twenty-eight on my last
birthday. I was not born in this section of the country, my home was in
Baltimore."

"Do you by any chance belong to the Maryland Newbolds, sir?"

"Yes, sir."

"They are distantly related to a most excellent family of the same name
in Philadelphia, I believe?"

"I have always understood that to be the truth."

"Ah, a very satisfactory connection indeed," said Stephen Maitland with
no little satisfaction. "Proceed, sir."

"There is nothing much else to say about myself, except that I love your
daughter and with your permission I want her for my wife."

Mr. Stephen Maitland had thought long and seriously over the state of
affairs. He had proposed in his desperation to give Enid's hand to
Armstrong if he found her. It had been impossible to keep secret the
story of her adventure, her rescue and the death of Armstrong. It was
natural and inevitable that gossip should have busied itself with her
name. It would therefore have been somewhat difficult for Mr. Maitland
to have withheld his consent to her marriage to almost any reputable
man who had been thrown so intimately with her, but when the man was so
unexceptionably born and bred as Newbold, what had appeared as a more or
less disagreeable duty, almost an imperative imposition, became a
pleasure!

Mr. Maitland was no bad judge of men when his prejudices were not
rampant and he looked with much satisfaction on the fine, clean limbed,
clear eyed, vigorous man who was at present suing for his daughter's
hand. Newbold had shaved his beard and had cropped close his mustache,
he was dressed in the habits of civilization and he was almost
metamorphosed. His shyness wore away as he talked and his inherited ease
of manner and his birthright of good breeding came back to him and sat
easily upon him.

Under the circumstances the very best thing that could happen would be a
marriage between the two; indeed, to be quite honest, Mr. Stephen
Maitland would have felt that perhaps under any circumstances his
daughter could do no better than commit herself to a man like this.

"I shall never attempt," he said at last, "to constrain my daughter. I
think I have learned something by my touch with this life here, perhaps
we of Philadelphia need a little broadening in airs more free. I am sure
that she would never give her hand without her heart, and therefore,
she must decide this matter herself. From her own lips you shall have
your answer."

"But you, sir; I confess that I should feel easier and happier if I had
your sanction and approval."

"Steve," said Mr. Robert Maitland, as the other hesitated, not because
he intended to refuse but because he was loath to say the word that so
far as he was concerned would give his daughter into another man's
keeping, "I think you can trust Newbold. There are men here who knew him
years ago; there is abundant evidence and testimony as to his qualities;
I vouch for him."

"Robert," answered his brother, "I need no such testimony; the way in
which he saved Enid, the way he comported himself during that period of
isolation with her, his present bearing--in short, sir, if a father is
ever glad to give away his daughter, I might say that I should be glad
to entrust her to you. I believe you to be a man of honor and a
gentleman, your family is almost as old as my own, as for the disparity
in our fortunes, I can easily remedy that."

Newbold smiled at Enid's father, but it was a pleasant smile, albeit
with a trace of mockery and a trace of triumph in it.

"Mr. Maitland I am more grateful to you than I can say for your consent
and approval which I shall do my best to merit. I think I may claim to
have won your daughter's heart, to have added to that your sanction
completes my happiness. As for the disparity in our fortunes, while your
generosity touches me profoundly, I hardly think that you need be under
any uneasiness as to our material welfare."

"What do you mean?"

"I am a mining engineer, sir; I didn't live five years alone in the
mountains of Colorado for nothing."

"Pray explain yourself, sir."

"Did you find gold in the hills?" asked Robert Maitland, quicker to
understand.

"The richest veins on the continent," answered Newbold.

"And nobody knows anything about it?"

"Not a soul."

"Have you located the claims?"

"Only one."

"We'll go back as soon as the snow melts," said the younger Maitland,
"and take them up. You are sure?"

"Absolutely."

"But I don't quite understand?" queried Mr. Stephen Maitland.

"He means," said his brother, "that he has discovered gold."

"And silver too," interposed Newbold.

"In unlimited quantities," continued the other Maitland.

"Your daughter will have more money than she knows what to do with,
sir," smiled Newbold.

"God bless me!" exclaimed the Philadelphian.

"And that, whether she marries me or not, for the richest claim of all
is to be taken out in her name," added her lover.

Mr. Stephen Maitland shook the other by the hand vigorously.

"I congratulate you," he said, "you have beaten me on all points. I must
therefore regard you as the most eligible of suitors. Gold in these
mountains, well, well!"

"And may I see your daughter and plead my cause in person, sir?" asked
Newbold.

"Certainly, certainly. Robert, will you oblige me--"

In compliance with his brother's gesture, Robert Maitland touched the
bell and bade the answering servant ask Miss Maitland to come down to
the library.

"Now," said Mr. Stephen Maitland as the servant closed the door, "you
and I would best leave the young people alone, eh, Robert?"

"By all means," answered the younger and opening the door again the two
older men went out leaving Newbold alone.

He heard a soft step on the stair in the hall without, the gentle swish
of a dress as somebody descended from the floor above. A vision appeared
in the doorway. Without a movement in opposition, without a word of
remonstrance, without a throb of hesitation on her part, he took her in
his arms. From the drawing room opposite, Mr. Robert Maitland softly
tiptoed across the hall and closed the library door, neither of the
lovers being aware of his action.

Often and often they had longed for each other on the opposite side of a
door and now at last the woman was in the man's arms and no door rose
between them, no barrier kept them apart any longer. There was no
obligation of loyalty or honor, real or imagined, to separate them now.
They had drunk deep of the chalice of courage, they had drained the cup
to the very bottom, they had shown each other that though love was the
greatest of passions, honor and loyalty were the most powerful of forces
and now they reaped the reward of their abnegation and devotion.

At last the woman gave herself up to him in complete and entire
abandonment without fear and without reproach; and at last the man took
what was his own without the shadow of a reservation. She shrank from no
pressure of his arms, she turned her face away from no touch of his
lips. They two had proved their right to surrender by their ability to
conquer.

Speech was hardly necessary between them and it was not for a long time
that coherent words came. Little murmurs of endearment, little
passionate whispers of a beloved name--these were enough then.

When he could find strength to deny himself a little and to hold her at
arm's length and look at her, he found her paler, thinner and more
delicate than when he had seen her in the mountains. She had on some
witching creation of pale blue and silver, he didn't know what it was,
he didn't care, it made her only more like an angel to him than ever.
She found him, too, greatly changed and highly approved the alterations
in his appearance.

"Why, Will," she said at last, "I never realized what a handsome man you
were."

He laughed at her.

"I always knew you were the most beautiful woman on earth."

"Oh, yes, doubtless when I was the only one."

"And if there were millions you would still be the only one. But it
isn't for your beauty alone that I love you. You knew all the time that
my fight against loving you was based upon a misinterpretation, a
mistake; you didn't tell me because you were thoughtful of a poor dead
woman."

"Should I have told you?"

"No. I have thought it all out: I was loyal through a mistake but you
wouldn't betray a dead sister, you would save her reputation in the mind
of the one being that remembered her, at the expense of your own
happiness. And if there were nothing else I could love you for that."

"And is there anything else?" asked she who would fain be loved for
other qualities.

"Everything," he answered rapturously, drawing her once more to his
heart.

"I knew that there would be some way," answered the satisfied woman
softly after a little space. "Love like ours is not born to fall short
of the completest happiness. Oh, how fortunate for me was that idle
impulse that turned me up the cañon instead of down, for if it had not
been for that there would have been no meeting--"

She stopped suddenly, her face aflame at the thought of the conditions
of that meeting, she must needs hide her face on his shoulder.

He laughed gayly.

"My little spirit of the fountain, my love, my wife that is to be! Did
you know that your father has done me the honor to give me your hand,
subject to the condition that your heart goes with it?"

"You took that first," answered the woman looking up at him again.

There was a knock on the door. Without waiting for permission it was
opened; this time three men entered, for old Kirkby had joined the
group. The blushing Enid made an impulsive movement to tear herself away
from Newbold's arms, but he shamelessly held her close. The three men
looked at the two lovers solemnly for a moment and then broke into
laughter. It was Kirkby who spoke first.

"I hear as how you found gold in them mountains, Mr. Newbold."

"I found something far more valuable than all the gold in Colorado in
these mountains," answered the other.

"And what was that?" asked the old frontiersman curiously and
innocently.

"This!" answered Newbold as he kissed the girl again.


THE END





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