Part 2 out of 3
cleared the distance to the guard and had driven his fist against the
officer's head with the sickening force of a sledge-hammer. The man fell
without a groan. In another flash he had drawn his knife and severed the
thongs that held the man at the stake. For a moment his face was very
near the girl's and he saw her lips form the glad cry which he did not
wait to hear.
He turned like an enraged beast toward the circle of dumfounded
spectators and launched himself at the second guard. From behind him
there sounded a shout and he caught the gleam of naked shoulders as the
man who had been at the stake rushed to his side. Together they tore
through the narrow rim of the crowd, striking at the faces which
appeared before them, their terrific blows driving men right and left.
"This way, Neil!" shouted Nathaniel. "This way--to the ship!"
They raced up the slope that led from the town to the forest. Even the
king's officer, palsied by the suddenness of the attack, had not
followed. From a screened window in the king's building two men had
witnessed the exciting scene near the jail. One of these men was Strang.
The other was Arbor Croche. At another window a few feet away, hidden
from their eyes by a high desk and masses of papers and books, Winnsome
Croche was crumpled up on the floor hardly daring to breathe through
fear of betraying her presence. From these windows they had seen the
girl run from behind the jail; they had watched her struggle through the
line of spectators, saw Nathaniel leap forward--saw the quick blow, the
gleaming knife, and the escape. So suddenly had it all occurred that not
a sound escaped the two astonished men. But as Nathaniel and Neil burst
through the crowd and sped toward the forest Strang's great voice
boomed forth like the rumble of a gun.
"Arbor Croche, overtake those men--and kill them!"
With a wild curse the chief of sheriffs dashed down the stairway and as
she heard him go the terror of Winnsome's heart seemed to turn her blood
cold. She knew what that command meant. She knew that her father would
obey it. As the daughter of the chief of sheriffs more than one burning
secret was hidden in her breast, more than one of those frightful
daggers that had pricked at the soul of her mother until they had
murdered her. And the chief of them all was this: that to Arbor Croche
the words of Strang were the words of God and that if the prophet said
kill, he would kill. For a full minute she crouched in her concealment,
stunned by the horror that had so quickly taken the place of the joy
with which she had witnessed the escape. She heard Strang leave the
window, heard his heavy steps in the outer room, heard the door close,
and knew that he, too, was gone. She sprang to her feet and ran to the
window at which the two men had stood. The chief of sheriffs was already
at the jail. The crowd had begun to disperse. Men were swarming like
ants up the long slope reaching to the forest. Three or four of the
leaders were running and she knew that they were hot in pursuit of the
fugitives. Others were following more slowly and among these she saw
that there were women. As she looked there came a sound from the stair.
She recognized the step. She recognized the voice that called her name a
moment later and with a despairing cry she turned with outstretched arms
to greet the girl for whom Nathaniel had interrupted the king's
Hardly had Nathaniel fought his way through the thin crowd of startled
spectators about the whipping-post before the enormity of his offense in
interrupting the king's justice dawned upon him. He was not sorry that
he had responded to the mute appeal of the girl who had entered so
strangely into his life. He rejoiced at the spirit that had moved him to
action, that had fired his blood and put the strength of a giant in his
arms; and his nerves tingled with an unreasoning joy that he had leaped
all barriers which in cooler moments would have restrained him, and
which fixed in his excited brain only the memory of the beautiful face
that had sought his own in those crucial moments of its suffering. The
girl had turned to him and to him alone among all those men. He had
heard her voice, he had felt the soft sweep of her hair as he severed
the prisoner's thongs, he had caught the flash of her eyes and the
movement of her lips as he dashed himself into the crowd. And as he sped
swiftly up the slope he considered himself amply repaid for all that he
had done. His blood was stirred as if by the fire of sharp wines; he was
still in a tension of fighting excitement. Yet no sooner had he fought
himself clear of the mob than his better judgment leaped into the
ascendency. If danger had been lurking for him before it was doubly
threatening now and he was sufficiently possessed of the common spirit
of self-preservation to exult at the speed with which he was enabled to
leave pursuit behind. A single glance over his shoulder assured him that
the man whom he had saved from the prophet's wrath was close at his
heels. His first impulse was to direct his flight toward Obadiah's
cabin; his second to follow the path that led to his ship. At this hour
some of his men would surely be awaiting him in a small boat and once
aboard the _Typhoon_ he could continue his campaign against the Mormon
king with better chances of success than as a lone fugitive on the
island. Besides, he knew what Casey would do at sundown.
At the top of the slope he stopped and waited for the other to come up
"I've got a ship off there," he called, pointing inland. "Take a short
cut for the point at the head of the island. There's a boat waiting for
Neil came up panting. He was breathing so hard that for a moment he
found it impossible to speak but in his eyes there was a look that told
his unbounded gratitude. They were clear, fearless eyes, with the blue
glint of steel in them and, as he held out his hands to Nathaniel, they
were luminous with the joy of his deliverance.
"Thank you, Captain Plum!"
He spoke his companion's name with the assurance of one who had known
it for a long time. "If they loose the dogs there will be no time for
the ship," he added, with a suggestive hunch of his naked shoulders.
There was no alarm in his voice and Nathaniel caught the flashing gleam
of white teeth as Neil smiled grimly back at him, running in the lead.
From the man's eyes the master of the _Typhoon_ had sized up his
companion as a fighter. The smile--daring, confident, and yet signaling
their danger--assured him that he was right, and he followed close
behind without question. A dozen rods up the path Neil turned into a
dense thicket of briars and underbrush and for ten minutes they plunged
through the pathless jungle. Now and then Nathaniel saw the three red
stripes of the whipper's lash upon the bare shoulders of the man ahead
and to these every step seemed to add new wounds made by the thorns. As
they came out upon an old roadway the captain stripped off his coat and
Neil thrust himself into it as they ran.
Even in these first minutes of their flight Nathaniel was thrilled by
another thought than that of the peril behind them. Whom had he saved?
Who was this clear-eyed young fellow for whom the girl had so openly
sacrificed herself at the whipping-post, about whom she had thrown her
arms and covered with the protection of her glorious hair? With his joy
at having served her there was mingled a chilling doubt as these
questions formed themselves in his mind. Obadiah's vague suggestions,
the scene in the king's room, the night visits of the girl to the
councilor's cabin--and last of all this incident at the jail flashed
upon him now with another meaning, with a significance that slowly
cooled the enthusiasm in his veins. He was sure that he was near the
solution of the mysterious events in which he had become involved, and
yet this knowledge brought with it something of apprehension, something
which made him anticipate and yet dread the moment when the fugitive
ahead would stop in his flight, and he might ask him those questions
which would at least relieve him of his burden of doubt. They had
traveled a mile through forest unbroken by path or road when Neil halted
on the edge of a little stream that ran into a swamp. Pointing into the
tangled fen with a confident smile he plunged to his waist in the water
and waded slowly through the slough into the gloom of the densest alder.
A few minutes later he turned in to the shore and the soft bog gave
place to firm ground. Before Nathaniel had cleared the stream he saw his
companion drop to his knees beside a fallen log and when he came up to
him he was unwrapping a piece of canvas from about a gun. With a warning
gesture he rose to his feet and for twenty seconds the men stood and
listened. No sound came to them but the chirp of a startled squirrel and
the barking of a dog in the direction of St. James.
"They haven't turned out the dogs yet," said Neil, holding a hand
against his heaving chest. "If they do they can't reach us through that
slough." He leaned his rifle against the log and again thrusting an arm
into the place where it had been concealed drew forth a small box.
"Powder and ball--and grub!" he laughed. "You see I am a sort of
revolutionist and have my hiding-places. To-morrow--I will be a martyr."
He spoke as quietly as though his words but carried a careless jest.
"A martyr?" laughed Nathaniel, looking down into the smiling, sweating
"Yes, to-morrow I shall kill Strang."
There was no excitement in Neil's voice as he stood erect. The smile did
not leave his lips. But in his eyes there shone that which neither words
nor smiling lips revealed, a reckless, blazing fury hidden deep in
them--so deep that Nathaniel stared to assure himself what it was. The
other saw the doubt in his face.
"To-morrow I shall kill Strang," he repeated. "I shall kill him with
this gun from under the window of his house through which you saw
"Marion!" exclaimed Nathaniel. "Marion--" He leaned forward eagerly,
questioning. "Tell me--"
"My sister, Captain Plum!"
It seemed to Nathaniel that every fiber in his body was stretched to the
breaking point. He reached out, dazed by what he had heard and with both
hands seized Neil's arm.
"Your sister--who came to you at the whipping-post?"
"That was Marion."
"No!" cried Neil. "No--not his wife!" He drew back from Nathaniel's
touch as if the question had stabbed him to the heart. The passion that
had slumbered in his eyes burst into savage flame and his face became
suddenly terrible to look upon. There was hatred there such as Nathaniel
had never seen; a ferocious, pitiless hatred that sent a shuddering
thrill through him as he stood before it. After a moment the clenched
fist that had risen above Neil's head dropped to his side. Half
apologetically he held out his hand to his companion.
"Captain Plum, we've got a lot to thank you for, Marion and I," he said,
a tremble of the passing emotion in his voice. "Obadiah told Marion that
help might come to us through you and Marion brought the word to me at
the jail late last night--after she had seen you at the window. The old
councilor kept his word! You have saved her!"
"Saved her!" gasped Nathaniel. "From what? How?" A hundred questions
seemed leaping from his heart to his lips.
"From Strang. Good God, don't you understand? I tell you that I am going
to kill Strang!"
Neil stood as though appalled by his companion's incomprehension. "I am
going to kill Strang, I tell you!" he cried again, the fire burning
deeper through the sweat of his cheeks.
Nathaniel's bewilderment still shone in his face.
"She is not Strang's wife," he spoke softly, as if to himself. "And she
is not--" His face flushed as he nearly spoke the words. "Obadiah lied!"
He looked squarely into Neil's eyes. "No, I don't understand you. The
councilor said that she--that Marion was Strang's wife. He told me
nothing more than that, nothing of her trouble, nothing about you. Until
this moment I have been completely mystified. Only her eyes led me to
do--what I did at the jail."
Neil gazed at him in astonishment.
"Obadiah told--you--nothing?" he asked incredulously.
"Not a word about you or Marion except that Marion was the king's
seventh wife. But he hinted at many things and kept me on the trail,
always expecting, always watching, and yet every hour was one of
mystery. I am in the darkest of it at this instant. What does it all
mean? Why are you going to kill Strang? Why--"
Neil interrupted him with a cry so poignant in its wretchedness that
the last question died upon his lips.
"I thought that the councilor had told you all," he said. "I thought you
knew." The disappointment in his voice was almost despair. "Then--it was
only accidentally--you helped us?"
"Only accidentally that I helped _you_--yes! But Marion--" Nathaniel
crushed Neil's hand in both his own and his eyes betrayed more than he
would have said. "I've got an armed ship and a dozen men out there and
if I can help Marion by blowing up St. James--I'll do it!"
For a time only the tense breathing of the two broke the silence of
their lips. They looked into each other's face, Nathaniel with all the
eagerness of the passion with which Marion had stirred his soul, Neil
half doubting, as if he were trying to find in this man's eyes the
friendship which he had not questioned a few minutes before.
"Obadiah told you nothing?" he asked again, as if still unbelieving.
"And you have not seen Marion--to talk with her?"
Nathaniel had dropped his companion's hand, and now Neil walked to the
log and sat down with his face turned in the direction from which their
pursuers must come if they entered the swamp.
Suddenly the memory of Obadiah's note shot into Nathaniel's head, the
councilor's admonition, his allusion to a visitor. With this memory
there recurred to him Obadiah's words at the temple, "If you had
remained at the cabin, Nat, you would have known that I was your friend.
She would have come to you, but now--it is impossible." For the first
time the truth began to dawn upon him. He went and sat down beside Neil.
"I am beginning to understand--a little," he said. "Obadiah had planned
that I should meet Marion, but I was a fool and spoiled his scheme. If I
had done as he told me I should have seen her this morning."
In a few words he reviewed the events of the preceding evening and of
that morning--of his coming to the island, his meeting with Obadiah, and
of the singular way in which he had become interested in Marion. He
omitted the oaths but told of Winnsome's warning and of his interview
with the Mormon king. When he spoke of the girl as he had seen her
through the king's window, and of her appealing face turned to him at
the jail, his voice trembled with an excitement that deepened the flush
in Neil's cheeks.
"Captain Plum, I thank God that you like Marion," he said simply. "After
I kill Strang will you help her?"
"You are willing to risk--"
"My life--my men--my ship!"
Nathaniel spoke like one to whom there had been suddenly opened the
portals to a great joy. He sprang to his feet and stood before Neil, his
whole being throbbing with the emotions which had been awakened within
"Good God, why don't you tell me what her peril is?" he cried, no longer
restraining himself. "Why are you going to kill Strang? Has he--has
he--" His face flamed with the question which he dared not finish.
"No--not that!" interrupted Neil. "He has never laid a hand on Marion.
She hates him as she hates the snakes in this swamp. And yet--next
Sunday she is to become his seventh wife!"
Nathaniel started as if he had been threatened by a blow.
"You mean--he is forcing her into his harem?" he asked.
"No, he can not do that!" exclaimed Neil, the hatred bursting out anew
in his face. "He can not force her into marrying him, and yet--" He
flung his arms above his head in sudden passionate despair. "As there
is a God in Heaven I would give ten years of my life for the secret of
the prophet's power over Marion!" he groaned. "Three months ago her
hatred of him was terrible. She loathed the sight of him. I have seen
her shiver at the sound of his voice. When he asked her to become his
wife she refused him in words that I had believed no person in the
kingdom would dared to have used. Then--less than a month ago--the
change came, and one day she told me that she had made up her mind to
become Strang's wife. From that day her heart was broken. I was
dumfounded. I raged and cursed and even threatened. Once I accused her
of a shameful thing and though I implored her forgiveness a thousand
times I know that she weeps over my brutal words still. But nothing
could change her. On my knees I have pleaded with her, and once she
flung her arms round my shoulders and said, 'Neil, I can not tell you
why I am marrying Strang. But I must.' I went to Strang and demanded an
explanation; I told him that my sister hated him, that the sight of his
face and the sound of his voice filled her with abhorrence, but he only
laughed at me and asked why I objected to becoming the brother-in-law of
a prophet. Day by day I have seen Marion's soul dying within her. Some
terrible secret is gnawing at her heart, robbing her of the very life
which a few weeks ago made her the most beautiful thing on this island;
some dreadful influence is shadowing her every step, and as the day
draws near when she is to join the king's harem I see in her eyes at
times a look that frightens me. There is only one salvation. To-morrow I
shall kill Strang!"
Neil shrugged his shoulders.
"I will shoot him through the abdomen so that he will live to tell his
wives who did the deed. After that I will try to make my escape to the
"Will not marry Strang! Isn't that plain?"
"You have guessed nothing--no cause for the prophet's power over your
sister?" asked Nathaniel.
"Absolutely nothing. And yet that influence is such that at times the
thought of it freezes the blood in my veins. It is so great that Strang
did not hesitate to throw me into jail on the pretext that I had
threatened his life. Marion implored him to spare me the disgrace of a
public whipping and he replied by reading to her the commandments of the
kingdom. That was last night--when you saw her through the window.
Strang is madly infatuated with her beauty and yet he dares to go to any
length without fear of losing her. She has become his slave. She is as
completely in his power as though bound in iron chains. And the most
terrible thing about it all is that she has constantly urged me to leave
the island--to go, and never return. Great God, what does it all mean? I
love her more than anything else on earth, we have been inseparable
since the day she was old enough to toddle alone--and yet she would have
me leave her! No power on earth can reveal the secret that is torturing
her. No power can make Strang divulge it."
"And Obadiah Price!" cried Nathaniel, sudden excitement flashing in his
eyes. "Does he not know?"
"I believe that he does!" replied Neil, pacing back and forth in his
agitation. "Captain Plum, if there is a man on this island who loves
Marion with all of a father's devotion it is Obadiah Price, and yet he
swears that he knows nothing of the terrible influence which has so
suddenly enslaved her to the prophet! He suggests that it may be
mesmerism, but I--" He interrupted himself with a harsh, mirthless
laugh. "Mesmerism be damned! It's not that!"
"Your sister--is--a Mormon," ventured Nathaniel, remembering what the
prophet had said to him that morning. "Could it be her faith?--a
message revealed through Strang from--"
Neil stopped him almost fiercely.
"Marion is not a Mormon!" he said. "She hates Mormonism as she hates
Strang. I have tried to get her to leave the island with me but she
insists on staying because of the old folk. They are very old, Captain
Plum, and they believe in the prophet and his Heaven as you and I
believe in that blue sky up there. The day before I was arrested I
begged my sister to flee to the mainland with me but she refused with
the words that she had said to me a hundred times before--'Neil, I must
marry the prophet!' Don't you see there is nothing to do--but to kill
Nathaniel thrust his hand into a pocket of the coat he had loaned to
Neil and drew forth his pipe and tobacco pouch. As he loaded the pipe he
looked squarely into the other's eyes and smiled.
"Neil," he said softly. "Do you know that you would have made an awful
fool of yourself if I hadn't hove in sight just when I did?"
He lighted his pipe with exasperating coolness, still smiling over its
"You are not going to kill Strang to-morrow," he added, throwing away
the match and placing both hands on Neil's shoulders. His eyes were
laughing with the joy that shone in them. "Neil, I am ashamed of you!
You have worried a devilish lot over a very simple matter. See here--"
He blew a cloud of smoke over the other's head. "I've learned to demand
some sort of pay for my services since I landed on this island. Will you
promise to be--a sort of brother--to me--if I steal Marion and sail away
with her to-night?"
At Nathaniel's astonishing words Neil stood as though struck suddenly
"Don't you see what a very simple case it is?" he continued, enjoying
the other's surprised silence. "You plan to kill Strang to keep Marion
from marrying him. Well, I will hunt up Marion, put her in a bag if
necessary, and carry her to my ship. Isn't that better and safer and
just as sure as murder?"
The excitement had gone out of Neil's face. The flush slowly faded from
his cheeks and in his eyes there gleamed something besides the
malevolence of a few moments before. As Nathaniel stepped back from him
half laughing and puffing clouds of smoke from his pipe Marion's brother
thrust his hands into his pockets with an exclamation that forcefully
expressed his appreciation of Captain Plum's scheme.
"I never thought of that," he added, after a moment. "By Heaven, it will
"So easy that I tell you again I am ashamed of you for not having
thought of it!" cried Nathaniel. "The first thing is to get safely
aboard my ship."
"We can do that within an hour."
"And to-night--where will we find Marion?"
"At home," said Neil. "We live near Obadiah. You must have seen the
house as you came out into the clearing this morning from the forest."
Nathaniel smiled as he thought of his suspicions of the old councilor.
"It couldn't be better situated for our work," he said. "Does the forest
run down to the lake on Obadiah's side of the island?"
"Clear to the beach."
Neil's face betrayed a sudden flash of doubt.
"I believe that our place has been watched for some time," he explained.
"I am sure that it is especially guarded at night and that no person
leaves or enters it without the knowledge of Strang. I am certain that
Marion is aware of this surveillance although she professes to be wholly
ignorant of it. It may cause us trouble."
"Can you reach the house without being observed?"
"Then there is no cause for alarm," declared Nathaniel. "If necessary I
can bring ten men into the edge of the woods. Two can approach the house
as quietly as one and I will go with you. Once there you can tell Marion
that your life depends on her accompanying you to Obadiah's. I believe
she will go. If she won't--" He stretched out his arms as if in
anticipation of the burden they might hold. "If she won't--I'll help you
"And meanwhile," said Neil, "Arbor Croche's men--"
"Will be as dead as herring floaters if they show up!" he cried, leaping
two feet off the ground in his enthusiasm. "I've got twelve of the
damnedest fighters aboard my ship that ever lived and ten of them will
be in the edge of the woods!"
Neil's eyes were shining with something that made Nathaniel turn his own
to the loading of his pipe.
"Captain Plum, I hope I will be able to repay you for this," he said.
There was a trembling break in his voice and for a moment Nathaniel did
not look up. His own heart was near bursting with the new life that
throbbed within it. When he raised his eyes to his companion's face
again there was a light in them that spoke almost as plainly as words.
"You haven't accepted my price, yet, Neil," he replied quietly. "I asked
you if you'd--be--a sort of brother--"
Neil sprang to his side with a fervor that knocked the pipe out of his
"I swear that! And if Marion doesn't--"
Suddenly he jerked himself into a listening attitude.
For a moment the two ceased to breathe. The sound had come to them both,
low, distant. After it there fell a brief hush. Then again, as they
stared questioningly into each other's eyes, it rolled faintly into the
swamp--the deep, far baying of a hound.
"Ah!" exclaimed Neil, drawing back with a deep breath. "I thought they
would do it!"
Horror, not fear, sent an involuntary shiver through Nathaniel.
"They can't reach us!" assured Neil. There was the glitter of triumph in
his eyes. "This was to have been my way of escape after I killed Strang.
A quarter of a mile deeper in the swamp I have a canoe." He picked up
the gun and box and began forcing his way through the dense alder along
the edge of the stream. "I'd like to stay and murder those dogs," he
called back, "but it wouldn't be policy."
For a time the crashing of their bodies through the dense growth of the
swamp drowned all other sound. Five minutes later Neil stopped on the
edge of a wide bog. The hounds were giving fierce tongue in the forest
on their left and their nearness sent Nathaniel's hand to his pistol.
Neil saw the movement and laughed.
"Don't like the sound, eh?" he said. "We get used to it on Beaver
Island. They're just about at the place where they tore little Jim
Schredder to pieces a few weeks back. Schredder tried to kill one of the
elders for stealing his wife while he was away on a night's fishing
He plunged to his knees in the bog.
"They caught him just before he reached the swamp," he flung back over
his shoulder. "Two minutes more and he would have been safe."
Nathaniel, sinking to his knees in the mire, forged up beside him.
"Lord!" he exclaimed, as a breath of air brought a sudden burst of
blood-curdling cries to them. "If they'd loosed them on us sooner--"
He shivered at the terrible grimace Neil turned on him.
"Had they slipped the leashes when we escaped, we would have been with
poor Schredder now, Captain Plum. By the way--" he stopped a moment to
wipe the water and mud from his face, "--three days after they covered
Schredder's bones with muck out there, the elder took Schredder's wife!
She was too pretty for a fisherman." He started on, but halted suddenly
with uplifted hand. No longer could they hear the baying of the dogs.
"They've struck the creek!" said Neil. "Listen!"
After an interval of silence there came a long mournful howl.
"Treed--treed or in the water, that's what the howling means. How
Croche and his devils are hustling now!"
A curse was mingled with Neil's breath as he forced his way through the
bog. Twenty rods farther on they came to a slime covered bit of water on
which was floating a dugout canoe. Immense relief replaced the anxiety
in Nathaniel's face as he climbed into it. At that moment he was willing
to fight a hundred men for Marion's sake, but snakes and bogs and
bloodhounds were entirely outside his pale of argument and he exhibited
no hesitation in betraying this fact to his companion. For a quarter of
a mile Neil forced the dugout through water viscid with slime and rotted
substance before the clearer channel of the creek was reached. As they
progressed the stream constantly became deeper and more navigable until
it finally began to show signs of a current and a little later, under
the powerful impetus of Neil's paddle, the canoe shot from between the
dense shores into the open lake. A mile away Nathaniel discerned the
point of forest beyond which the _Typhoon_ was hidden. He pointed out
the location of the ship to his companion.
"You are sure there is a small boat waiting for you on the point?" asked
"Yes, since early morning."
Neil was absorbed in thought for some time as he drove the canoe through
the tall rice grass that grew thick along the edge of the shore.
"How would it be if I landed you on the point and met you to-night at
Obadiah's?" he asked suddenly. "It is probable that after we get Marion
aboard your ship I will not return to the island again, and it is quite
necessary that I run down the coast for a couple of miles--for--" He did
not finish his reason, but added: "I can make the whole distance in this
rice so there is no danger of being seen. Or you might lie off the point
yonder and I would join you early this evening."
"That would be a better plan if we must separate," said Nathaniel, whose
voice betrayed the reluctance with which he assented to the project. He
had guessed shrewdly at Neil's motive. "Is it possible that we may have
another young lady passenger?" he asked banteringly.
There was no answering humor to this in Neil's eyes.
"I wish we might!" he said quietly.
"We can!" exclaimed Nathaniel. "My ship--"
"It is impossible. I am speaking of Winnsome. Arbor Croche's house is in
the heart of the town and guarded by dogs. I doubt if she would go,
anyway. She has always been like a little sister to Marion and me and
she has come to believe--something--as we do. I hate to leave her."
"Obadiah told me about her mother," ventured Nathaniel. "He said that
some day Winnsome will be a queen."
"I knew her mother," replied Neil, as though he had not heard
Nathaniel's last words. He looked frankly into the other's face. "I
"From a distance," he hastened. "She was as pure as Winnsome is now.
Little Winn looks like her. Some day she will be as beautiful."
"She is beautiful now."
"But she is a mere child. Why, it seems only a year ago that I was
toting her about on my shoulders! And--by George, that was a year before
her mother died! She is sixteen now."
Nathaniel laughed softly.
"To-morrow she will be making love, Neil, and before you know it she
will be married and have a family of her own. I tell you she is a
woman--and if you are not a fool you will take her away with Marion."
With a powerful stroke of his paddle Neil brought the canoe in to the
"There!" he whispered. "You have only to cross this point to reach your
boat." He stretched out his long arm and in the silence the two shook
hands. "If you should happen to think of a way--that we might get
Winnsome--" he added, coloring.
The sudden grip of his companion's fingers made him flinch.
"We must!" said Nathaniel.
He climbed ashore and watched Neil until he had disappeared in the wild
rice. Then he turned into the woods. He looked at his watch and saw that
it was only two o'clock. He was conscious of no fatigue; he was not
conscious of hunger. To him the whole world had suddenly opened with
glorious promise and in the still depths of the forest he felt like
singing out his rejoicing. He had never stopped to ask himself what
might be the end of this passion that had overwhelmed him; he lived only
in the present, in the knowledge that Marion was not a wife, and that it
was he whom fate had chosen for her deliverance. He reasoned nothing
beyond the sweet eyes that had called upon him, that had burned their
gratitude, their hope and their despair upon his soul; nothing beyond
the thought that she would soon be free from the mysterious influence of
the Mormon king and that for days and nights after that she would be on
the same ship with him. He had emptied the pockets of the coat he had
given Neil and now he brought forth the old letter which Obadiah had
rescued from the sands. He read it over again as he sat for a few
moments in the cool of the forest and there was no trouble in his face
now. It was from a girl. He had known that girl, years ago, as Neil knew
Winnsome; in years of wandering he had almost forgotten her--until this
letter came. It had brought many memories back to him with shocking
clearness. The old folk were still in the little home under the hill;
they received his letters; they received the money he sent them each
month--but they wanted _him_. The girl wrote with merciless candor. He
had been away four years and it was time for him to return. She told
him why. She wrote what they, in their loving fear of inflicting pain,
would never have dared to say. At the end, in a postscript, she had
asked for his congratulations on her approaching marriage.
To Nathaniel this letter had been a torment. He saw the truth as he had
never seen it before--that his place was back there in Vermont, with his
father and mother; and that there was something unpleasant in thinking
of the girl as belonging to another. But now matters had changed. The
letter was a hope and inspiration to him and he smoothed it out with
tender care. What a refuge that little home among the Vermont hills
would make for Marion! He trembled at the thought and his heart sang
with the promise of it as he went his way again through the thick growth
of the woods.
It was half an hour before he came out upon the beach. Eagerly he
scanned the sea. The _Typhoon_ was nowhere in sight and for an instant
the gladness that had been in his heart gave place to a chilling fear.
But the direction of the wind reassured him. Casey had probably moved
beyond the jutting promontory, that swung in the form of a cart wheel
from the base of the point, that he might have sea room in case of
something worse than a stiff breeze. But where was the small boat? With
every step adding to his anxiety Nathaniel hurried along the narrow rim
of beach. He went to the very tip of the point which reached out like
the white forefinger of, a lady's hand into the sea; he passed the spot
where he had lain concealed the preceding day; his breath came faster
and faster; he ran, and called softly, and at last halted in the arch of
the cart wheel with the fear full-flaming in his breast. Over all those
miles of sea there was no sign of the sloop. From end to end of the
point there was no boat. What did it mean? Breathlessly he tore his way
through the strip of forest on the promontory until all Lake Michigan
to the south lay before his eyes. The _Typhoon_ was gone! Was it
possible that Casey had abandoned hope of Nathaniel's return and was
already lying off St. James with shotted gun? The thought sent a shiver
of despair through him. He passed to the opposite side of the point and
followed it foot by foot, but there was no sign of life, no distant
flash of white that might have been the canvas of the sloop _Typhoon_.
There was only one thing for him to do--wait. So he went to his
hiding-place of the day before and watched the sea with staring eyes. An
hour passed and his still aching vision saw no sign of sail; two
hours--and the sun was falling in a blinding glare over the Wisconsin
wilderness. At last he sprang to his feet with a hopeless cry and stood
for a few moments undecided. Should he wait until night with the hope of
attracting the attention of Neil and joining him in his canoe or should
he hasten in the direction of St. James? In the darkness he might miss
Neil, unless he kept up a constant shouting, which would probably bring
the Mormons down upon him; if he went to St. James there was a
possibility of reaching Casey. He still had faith in Obadiah and he was
sure that the old man would help him to reach his ship; he might even
assist him in his scheme of getting Marion from the island.
He would go to the councilor's. Having once decided, Nathaniel turned in
the direction of the town, avoiding the use of the path which he and
Obadiah had taken, but following in the forest near enough to use it as
a guide. He was confident that Arbor Croche and his sheriffs were
confining their man-hunt to the swamp, but in spite of this belief he
exercised extreme caution, stopping to listen now and then, with one
hand always near his pistol. A quiet gloom filled the forest and by the
tree-tops he marked the going down of the sun. Nathaniel's ears ached
with their strain of listening for the rumbling roar that would tell of
Casey's attack on St. James.
Suddenly he heard a crackling in the underbrush ahead of him, a sound
that came not from the strain of listening for the rumbling roar and in
a moment he had dodged into the concealment of the huge roots of an
overturned tree, drawn pistol in hand. Whatever object was approaching
came slowly, as if hesitating at each step--a cautious, stealthy
advance, it struck Nathaniel, and he cocked his weapon. Directly in
front of him, half a stone's throw away, was a dense growth of hazel and
he could see the tops of the slender bushes swaying. Twice this movement
ceased and the second time there came a crashing of brush and a faint
cry. For many minutes after that there was absolute silence. Was it the
cry of an animal that he had heard--or of a man? In either case the
creature who made it had fallen in the thicket and was lying there as
still as if dead. For a quarter of an hour Nathaniel waited and
listened. He could no longer have seen the movement of bushes in the
gathering night-gloom of the forest but his ears were strained to catch
the slightest sound from the direction of the mysterious thing that lay
within less than a dozen rods of him. Slowly he drew himself out from
the shelter of the roots and advanced step by step. Half way to the
thicket a stick cracked loudly under his foot and as the sound startled
the dead quiet of the forest with pistol-shot clearness there came
another cry from the dense hazel, a cry which was neither that of man
nor animal but of a woman; and with an answering shout Nathaniel sprang
forward to meet there in the edge of the thicket the white face and
outstretched arms of Marion. The girl was swaying on her feet. In her
face there was a pallor that even in his instant's glance sent a chill
of horror through the man and as she staggered toward him, half falling,
her lips weakly forming his name Nathaniel leaped to her and caught her
close in his arms. In that moment something seemed to burst within him
and flood his veins with fire. Closer he held the girl, and heavier he
knew that she was becoming in his arms. Her head was upon his breast,
his face was crushed in her hair, he felt her throbbing and breathing
against him and his lips quivered with the words that were bursting for
freedom in his soul. But first there came the girl's own whispered
breath--"Neil--where is Neil?"
"He is gone--gone from the island!"
She had become a dead weight now and so he knelt on the ground with her,
her head still upon his breast, her eyes closed, her arms fallen to her
side. And as Nathaniel looked into the face from which all life seemed
to have fled he forgot everything but the joy of this moment--forgot all
in life but this woman against his breast. He kissed her soft mouth and
the closed eyes until the eyes themselves opened again and gazed at him
in a startled, half understanding way, until he drew his head far back
with the shame of what he had dared to do flaming in his face.
And as for another moment he held her thus, feeling the quivering life
returning in her, there came to him through that vast forest stillness
the distant deep-toned thunder of a great gun.
"That's Casey!" he whispered close down to the girl's face. His voice
was almost sobbing in its happiness. "That's Casey--firing on St.
THE HOUR OF VENGEANCE
For perhaps twenty seconds after the last echoes of the gun had rolled
through the forest the girl lay passive in Nathaniel's arms, so close
that he could feel her heart beating against his own and her breath
sweeping his face. Then there came a pressure against his breast, a
gentle resistance of Marion's half conscious form, and when she had
awakened from her partial swoon he was holding her in the crook of his
arm. It had all passed quickly, the girl had rested against him only so
long as he might have held half a dozen breaths and yet there had been
all of a lifetime in it for Nathaniel Plum, a cycle of joy that he knew
would remain with him for ever. But there was something bitter-sweet in
the thought that she was conscious of what he had done, something of
humiliation as well as gladness, and still not enough of the first to
make him regret that he had kissed her, that he had kissed her mouth and
her eyes. He loved her, and he was glad that in those passing moments he
had betrayed himself. For the first time he noticed that her face was
scratched and that the sleeves of her thin waist were torn to shreds;
and as she drew away from him, steadying herself with a hand on his arm,
his lips were parched of words, and yet he leaned to her eagerly,
everything that he would have said burning in the love of his eyes.
Still irresolute in her faintness the girl smiled at him, and in that
smile there was gentle accusation, the sweetness of forgiveness, and
measureless gratitude, and it was yet light enough for him to see that
with these there had come also a flush into her cheeks and a dazzling
glow into her eyes.
"Neil has escaped!" she breathed. "And you--"
"I was going back to you, Marion!" He spoke the words hardly above a
whisper. The beautiful eyes so close to him drew his secret from him
before he had thought. "I am going to take you from the island!"
With his words there came again that sound of a great gun rolling from
the direction of St. James. With a frightened cry the girl staggered to
her feet, and as she stood swaying unsteadily, her arms half reached to
him, Nathaniel saw only mortal dread in the whiteness of her face.
"Why didn't you go? Why didn't you go with Neil?" she moaned. Her breath
was coming in sobbing excitement. "Your ship is--at--St. James!"
"Yes, my ship is at St. James, Marion!" His voice was tremulous with
triumph, with gladness, with a tenderness which he could not control. He
put an arm half round her waist to support her trembling form and to his
joy she did not move away from him. His hand was buried in the richness
of her loose hair. He bent until his lips touched her silken tresses.
"Neil has told me everything--about you," he added softly. "My ship is
bombarding St. James, and I am going to take you from the island!"
Not until then did Marion free herself from his arm and then so gently
that when she stood facing him he felt no reproof. No longer did shame
send a flush into his face. He had spoken his love, though not in words,
and he knew that the girl understood him. It did not occur to him in
these moments that he had known this girl for only a few hours, that
until now a word had never passed between them. He was conscious only
that he had loved her from the time he saw her through the king's
window, that he had risked his life for her, and that she knew why he
had leaped into the arena at the whipping-post.
The words she spoke now came like a dash of cold water in his face.
"Your ship is not bombarding St. James, Captain Plum!" she exclaimed.
Darkness hid the terror in her face but he could hear the tremble of it
in her voice. "The _Typhoon_ has been captured by the Mormons and those
guns are--guns of triumph--and not--" She caught her breath in a
convulsive sob. "I want you to go--I want you to go--with Neil!" she
"So Casey is taken!"
He spoke slowly, as if he had not heard her last words. For a moment he
stood silent, and as silently the girl stood and watched him. She
guessed the despair that was raging in his heart but when he spoke to
her she could detect none of it in his voice.
"Casey is a fool," he said, unconsciously repeating Obadiah's words.
"Marion, will you come with me? Will you leave the island--and join your
The hope that had risen in his heart was crushed as Marion drew farther
away from him.
"You must go alone," she replied. With a powerful effort she steadied
her voice. "Tell Neil that he has been condemned to death. Tell him
that--if he loves me--he will not return to the island."
From her distance she saw his arms stretched like shadows toward her.
Her voice was low, so low that he could hardly hear the words she spoke,
but its sweetness thrilled him.
"And you--if you love me--will do this thing for me. Go to Neil. Save
his life for me!"
She had come to him through the gloom, and in the luster of the eyes
that were turned up to him Nathaniel saw again the power that swayed his
"You will go?"
"I will save your brother--if I can!"
"You can--you can--" she breathed. In an ecstasy of gratitude she seized
one of his hands in both her own. "You can save him!"
"For you--I will try."
She was so close that he could feel the throbbing of her bosom. Suddenly
he lifted his free hand and brushed back the thick hair from her brow
and turned her face until what dim light there still remained of the day
glowed in the beauty of her eyes. "I will keep him from the island if I
can," he said, looking deep into them, "and as there is a God in Heaven
I swear that you--"
"What?" she urged, as he hesitated.
"That you shall not marry Strang!" he finished.
A cry welled up in the girl's throat. Was it of gladness? Was it of
hope? She sprang back a pace from Nathaniel and with clenched hands
waited breathlessly, as if she expected him to say more.
"No--no--you can not save me from Strang! Now--you must go!"
She retreated slowly in the direction of the path. In an instant
Nathaniel was at her side.
"I am going to see you safely back in St. James," he declared. "Then I
will go to your brother."
She barred his way defiantly.
"You can not go!"
"Because--" He caught the frightened flutter of her voice again.
"Because--they will kill you!"
The low laugh that he breathed in her hair was more of joy than fear.
"I am glad you care--Marion." He spoke her name with faltering
tenderness, and led her out into the path.
"You must go," she still persisted.
"With you--yes," he answered.
She surrendered to the determination in his voice and they moved slowly
along the path, listening for any sound that might come from ahead of
them. Nathaniel had already formed his plan of action. From Marion's
words and the voice in which she had uttered them he knew that it would
be useless for him as it had been for Neil to urge her to flee from the
island. There remained but one thing for him to do, so he fell back upon
the scheme which he had proposed to Marion's brother. He realized now
that he might be compelled to play the game single-handed unless he
could secure assistance from Obadiah. His ship and men were in the hands
of the Mormons; Neil, in his search for the captured vessel, stood a
large chance, of missing him that night, and in that event Marion's fate
would depend on him alone. If he could locate a small boat on the beach
back of Obadiah's; if he could in some way lure Marion to it--He gave an
involuntary shudder at the thought of using force upon the girl at his
side, at the thought of her terror of those first few moments, her
struggles, her broken confidence. She believed in him now. She believed
that he loved her. She trusted him. The warm soft pressure of her hand
as it clung to his arm in the blackening gloom of the forest was
evidence of that trust. She looked into his face anxiously, inquiringly
when they stopped to listen, like a child who was sure of a stronger
spirit at her side. She held her breath when he held his, she listened
when he listened, her feet fell with velvet stillness when he stepped
with caution. Her confidence in him was like a beautiful dream to
Nathaniel and he trembled when he pictured the destruction of it. After
a little he reached over and as if by accident touched the hand that was
lying on his arm; he dared more after a moment, and drew the warm little
fingers into his great strong palm and held them there, his soul
thrilled by their gentle submissiveness. And then in another breath
there came to still his joy a thought of the terrible power that chained
this girl to the Mormon king. He longed to speak words of encouragement
to her, to instil hope in her bosom, to ask her to confide in him the
secret of the shadow which hung over her, but the memory of what Neil
had said to him held his lips closed.
They had walked in silence for many minutes when the girl stopped.
"It is not very far now," she whispered. "You must go!"
"Only a little farther," he begged.
She surrendered again, hesitatingly, and they went on, more slowly than
before, until they came to where the path met the footway that led to
"Now--now you _must_ go," whispered Marion again.
In this last moment Nathaniel crushed her hand against his breast, his
body throbbing with a wild tumult, and a half of what he had meant not
to say fell passionately from his lips.
"Forgive me for--that--back there--Marion," he whispered. "It was
because I love you--love you--" He freed her hand and stood back,
choking the words that would have revealed his secret. He lied now for
the love of this girl. "Neil is out there waiting for me in a small
boat," he continued, pointing beyond Obadiah's to the lake. "I will see
him soon, and then I will return to Obadiah's to tell you if he has left
for the mainland. Will you promise to meet me there--to-night?"
"I will promise."
"Yes, at twelve o'clock."
This time it was Marion who came to him. Her eyes shone like stars.
"And if you make Neil go to the mainland," she said softly, "when I meet
you I will--will tell you--something."
The last word came in a breathless sob. As she slipped into the path
that led to St. James she paused for a moment and called back, in a low
voice, "Tell Neil that he must go for Winnsome's sake. Tell him that her
fate is shortly to be as cruel as mine--tell him that Winnsome loves
him, and that she will escape and come to him on the mainland. Tell him
She turned again, and Nathaniel stood like a statue, hardly breathing,
until the sound of her feet had died away. Then he walked swiftly up
the foot-path that led to Obadiah's. He forgot his own danger in the
excitement that pulsated with every fiber of his being, forgot his old
caution and the fears that gave birth to it--forgot everything in those
moments but Marion and his own great happiness. Neil's absence meant
nothing to him now. He had held Marion in his arms, he had told her of
his love, and though she had accepted it with gentle unresponsiveness he
was thrilled by the memory of that last look in her eyes, which had
spoken faith, confidence, and perhaps even more. What was that
_something_ she would tell him if he got Neil safely away? It was to be
a reward for his own loyalty--he knew that, by the half fearing tremble
of her voice, the sobbing catch of her breath, the strange glow in her
eyes. With her brother away would she confide in him? Would she tell him
the secret of her slavedom to Strang? Nathaniel was conscious of no
madness in the wild hope that filled him; nothing seemed impossible to
him now. Marion would meet him at midnight. She would go with him to the
boat, and then--ah, he had solved the problem! He would use no force. He
would tell her that Neil was in his canoe half a mile out from the shore
and that he had promised to leave the island for good if she would go
out to bid him good-by. And once there, a half a mile or a mile away, he
would tell her that he had lied to her; and he would give her his heart
to trample upon to prove the love that had made him do this thing, and
then he would row her to the mainland.
It was the sight of Obadiah's cabin that brought his caution back. He
came upon it so suddenly that an exclamation of surprise fell unguarded
from his lips. There was no light to betray life within. He tried the
door and found it locked. He peered in at the windows, listened, and
knocked, and at last concealed himself near the path, confident that the
little old councilor was still at St. James. For an hour he waited. From
the rear of Obadiah's home a narrow footway led toward the lake and
Nathaniel followed it, now as warily as an animal in search of prey. For
half a mile it took him through the forest and ended at the white sands
of the beach. In neither direction could Nathaniel see a light, and
keeping close in the shadows of the trees he made his way slowly toward
St. James. He had gone but a short distance when he saw a house directly
ahead of him, a single gleam of light from a small window telling him
that it was inhabited and that its tenants were at home. He circled down
close to the water looking for a boat. His heart leaped with sudden
exultation when he saw a small skiff drawn upon the beach and his joy
was doubled at finding the oars still in the locks. It took him but a
moment to shove the light craft into the sea and a minute later he was
rowing swiftly away from the land.
Nathaniel was certain that by this time Neil had abandoned his search
for the captured _Typhoon_ and was probably paddling in the direction
of St. James. With the hope of intercepting him he pulled an eighth of a
mile from the shore and rowed slowly toward the head of the island.
There was no moon, but countless stars glowed in a clear sky and upon
the open lake Nathaniel could see for a considerable distance about him.
For another hour he rowed back and forth and then beached his boat
within a dozen rods of the path that came down from Obadiah's.
It was ten o'clock. Two more hours! He had tried to suppress his
excitement, his apprehensions, his eagerness, but now as he went back
into the darkness of the forest they burst out anew. What if Marion
should not keep the tryst? He thought of the spies whom Neil had said
guarded the girl's home--and of Obadiah. Could he trust the old
councilor? Should he confide his plot to him and ask his assistance? As
the minutes passed and these thoughts recurred again and again in his
brain he could not keep the nervousness from growing within him. He was
sure now that he would have to fight his battle without Neil. He saw
the necessity of coolness, of judgment, and he began to demand these
things of himself, struggling sternly against those symptoms of weakness
which had replaced his confidence of a short time before. Gradually he
fought himself back into his old faith. He would save Marion--without
Neil, without Obadiah. If Marion did not come to him by midnight it
would be because of the guards against whom Neil had warned him, and he
would go to her. In some way he would get her to the boat, even if he
had to fight his way through Arbor Croche's men.
With this return of confidence Nathaniel's thoughts reverted to his
present greatest need, which was food. Since early morning he had eaten
nothing and he began to feel the physical want in a craving that was
becoming acutely uncomfortable. If Obadiah had not returned to his home
he made up his mind that he would find entrance to the cabin and help
himself. A sudden turn in the path which he was following, however,
revealed one of the councilor's windows aglow with light, and as he
pressed quietly around the end of the building the sound of a low voice
came to him through the open door. Cautiously he approached and peered
in. A large oil lamp, the light of which he had seen in the window, was
burning on a table in the big room but the voice came from the little
closet into which Obadiah had taken him the preceding night. For several
minutes he crouched and listened. He heard the chuckling laugh of the
old councilor--and then an incoherent raving that set his blood
tingling. There is a horror in the sound of madness, a horror that
creeps to the very pit of one's soul, that sends shivering dread from
every nerve center, that causes one who is alone with it to sweat with a
nameless fear. It was the voice of madness that came from that little
room. Before it Nathaniel quailed as if a clammy hand had reached out
from the darkness and gripped him by the throat. He drew back shivering
in every limb, and the voice followed him, shrieking now in a sudden
burst of insane mirth and dying away a moment later in a hollow cackling
laugh that seemed to curdle the blood in his veins. Mad! Obadiah Price
was mad! Step by step Nathaniel fell back from the door. He felt himself
trembling from head to foot. His heart thumped within his breast like
the beating of a hammer. For an instant there was silence--a silence in
which strange dread held him breathless while he watched the glow in the
door and listened. And after that quiet there came suddenly a cry that
ended in the exultant chattering of a name.
At the sound of that name Nathaniel sprang forward again. It was
Marion's name and he strained his ears to catch the words that might
follow it. As he listened, his head thrust half in at the door,
Obadiah's voice became lower and lower, until at last it ceased
entirely. Not a step, not a deep breath, not the movement of a hand
disturbed the stillness of the little room. By inches Nathaniel drew
himself inside the door. His heavy boot caught in a sliver on the step
but the rending of wood brought no response. It was the quiet of death
that pervaded the cabin, it was a strange, growing fear of death that
entered Nathaniel as he now hurried across the room and peered through
the narrow aperture. The old councilor was half stretched upon the
table, his arms reaching out, his long, thin fingers gripping its edges,
his face buried under his shoulders. It looked as if death had come
suddenly to him during some terrible convulsion, but after a moment
Nathaniel saw that he was breathing. He went over and placed a hand on
the old man's twisted back.
"Hello, Obadiah! Hello--hello!" he called cheerfully.
A shudder ran through the councilor's frame, as if the voice had
startled him, his arms and body stiffened and slowly he lifted his head.
Nathaniel tried to stifle the cry on his lips, tried to smile--to
speak, but the terrible face that stared up into his own held him
silent, motionless. He had heard the voice of madness, now he looked
upon madness in the eyes that glared at him. In them was no sign of
recognition, no passing flash of sanity. The white face was lined with
purplish veins, the mouth was distorted and the lips bleeding.
Involuntarily he stepped back to the end of the table.
At his movement the councilor stretched out his arms with a sobbing
He fell again upon his face, clutching the table in a sudden convulsion.
In the next room Nathaniel had noticed a pail of water and he brought
this and wet the old man's head. For a long time Obadiah did not move,
and when he did it was to reach out with a groping hand to find
Nathaniel. A change had come into his face when he lifted it again, the
mad fire had partly burned itself out of his eyes, the old chuckling
laugh came from between his lips.
"A little weakness, Nat--a little weakness," he gasped faintly. "I have
it now and then. Excitement--great excitement--" He straightened himself
for a moment and stood, swaying free from the table, then collapsed into
a chair his head dropping upon his breast.
Without arousing him from the stupor into which he had fallen, Nathaniel
again concealed himself in the shadows outside the cabin where he could
better guard himself against the possible approach of Mormon visitors.
But he did not remain long. He struck a match and saw that it was nearly
eleven and a sudden resolution turned him back to the cabin door. He
believed that Obadiah would not easily arouse himself from the strange
stupor into which he had fallen. Meanwhile he would find food and then
conceal himself near the path to intercept Marion.
As he mounted the step he heard for the second time since landing upon
the island the solemn tolling of the great bell at St. James, and as he
paused for an instant to listen, peal upon peal followed the first until
its brazen thunder rolled in one long booming echo through the forests
of the Mormon kingdom. There came a shrill cry at his back and he
whirled about to see the councilor standing in the center of the big
room, his arms outstretched, his face lifted as it had been raised in
prayer at the tolling of that same bell the night before--but this time
it was not prayer that fell from his lips.
"Nat, ye have returned in the hour of vengeance! The hand of God is
descending upon the Mormon kingdom!"
His words came in a gasping, but triumphant cry.
"And to-morrow--to-morrow--" He stepped forward, his voice crooning a
wild joy, "To-morrow--I--shall--be--king!"
As he spoke the cabin trembled, a tremor passed under them, and the
tolling of the bell was lost in a sudden tumult that came like the
bursting crash of low thunder.
"What is it?" cried Nathaniel. He leaped into the room and caught
Obadiah by the arm. "What is it?"
"The hand of God!" whispered the old man again. "Nat--Nat--" It was his
old self that stood grimacing and twisting his hands before Nathaniel
now. "Nat--a thousand armed men are off the coast! The Lamanites of the
mainland are descending upon the Mormon kingdom as the hosts of Israel
upon Canaan! Strang is doomed--doomed--doomed--and to-morrow I shall be
king!" His voice rose in a wailing shriek. He darted to the door and his
cackling laugh rang with the old madness as he pointed into the north
where a lurid glow had mounted high into the sky.
"The signal fire--the bell!" he gurgled chokingly. "They are calling the
Mormons to arms--but it is too late--too late! Ho, ho, it is too late,
Nat--too late!" He staggered back, gripping his throat, and fell upon
the floor. "Too late--too late," he moaned, groveling weakly, as if
struggling for breath. "Too late--Nat--Marion--"
A shiver passed through his body and he lay quite still.
THE SIX CASTLE CHAMBERS
In an instant Nathaniel was upon his knees beside the prostrate form of
the old councilor.
Obadiah's eyes were open, but unseeing; his face was blanched to the
whiteness of paper; an almost imperceptible movement of his chest showed
that he still breathed. Nathaniel lifted one of the limp hands and its
clammy chill struck horror to his heart. Tenderly he lifted the old man
and carried him to the cot at the end of the room. He loosened his
clothes, tore off the low collar about his throat, and felt with his
hand to measure the faint beating of life in the councilor's breast. For
a few moments it seemed to grow fainter and fainter, and a choking lump
rose in his throat as he watched the pallor of death fixing itself on
the councilor's shriveled face. What strange chord of sympathy was it
that bound him to this old man? Was it the same mysterious influence
that had attracted Marion to him? He dropped upon his knees and called
the girl's name softly but it awakened no response in the sightless
eyes, no tremor in the parted, unquivering lips. Very slowly as the
minutes passed there came a reaction. The pulsations of the weakened
heart became a little stronger, he could catch faintly the sound of
breath coming from between the old man's lips.
With a gasp of relief Nathaniel rose to his feet. Through the door he
saw the red glare growing in the northern sky and heard the great bell
at St. James ring a wilder and more excited alarm. For a few moments he
stood in silent, listening inaction, his nerves tingling with a strange
sensation of impending peril. Obadiah's madness, the mysterious
trembling of the earth beneath his feet, the volcano of fire, the
clanging of the bell and the councilor's insane rejoicing had all come
so suddenly that he was dazed. What great calamity, what fearful
vengeance, was about to come upon the Mormon kingdom? Was it possible
that the fishermen and settlers of the mainland had risen, as Obadiah
had said, and were already at hand to destroy Strang and his people? The
thought spurred him to the door. The blood rushed like fire through his
veins. What would it mean to Marion--to Neil?
In his excitement he started down the path that led to the lilac hidden
home beyond the forest. Then he thought again of Obadiah and his last
choking utterance of Marion's name. He had tried to speak of her, even
with that death-like rattling of the breath in his throat; and the
memory of the old councilor's frantic struggle for words brought
Nathaniel quickly back to the cabin. He bent over Obadiah's shriveled
form and spoke the girl's name again and again in his ears. There came
no response, no quiver of life to show that the old man was conscious
of his presence. As he worked over him, bathing his face and chest in
cool water, the feeling became strong in him that he was fighting death
in this gloomy room for Marion's sake. It was like the whispering of an
invisible spirit in his ears--something more than presentiment,
something that made his own heart grow faint when death seemed winning
in the struggle. His watchfulness was acute, intense, desperate. When,
after a time, he straightened himself again, rewarded by Obadiah's more
regular breathing, the sweat stood in beads upon his face. He knew that
he had triumphed. Obadiah would live, and Marion--
He placed his mouth close to the councilor's ear.
"Tell me about Marion," he said again. "Marion--Marion--Marion--"
He waited, stilling his own breath to catch the sound of a whisper. None
came. As he bent over him he saw through the open door that the red
glare of fire had faded to a burnt out glow in the sky. In the deep
silence the sullen beating of the bell seemed nearer, and he could hear
the excited barking of dogs in St. James. Slowly the hope that Obadiah
might speak to him died away and he returned to the door. It still
lacked an hour of midnight, when Marion, had promised to come to him. He
was wildly impatient and to his impatience was added the fear that had
filled him as he hovered over Obadiah, a nameless, intangible
fear--something which he could not have analyzed and which clutched at
his heart and urged him to follow the path that led to Marion's. For a
time he resisted the impulse. What if she should come by another path
while he was gone? He waited nervously in the edge of the forest,
watching, and listening for footsteps. Each minute seemed like an hour
marked into seconds by the solemn steady tolling of the bell, and after
a little he found himself unconsciously measuring time by counting the
strokes. Then he went out into the path. He followed it, step by step,
until he could no longer see the light in the cabin; his pulse beat a
little faster; he stared ahead into the deep gloom between the walls of
forest--and quickened his pace. If Marion was coming to him he would
meet her. If she was not coming--
In his old fearless way he promptly made up his mind. He would go boldly
to the cabin and tell her that Neil was waiting. He felt sure that the
alarm sounding from St. James had drawn away the guards and that there
would be nothing to interfere with his plan. If she had already left the
cabin he would return quickly to Obadiah's. In his eagerness he began to
run. Once a sound stopped him--the distant beating of galloping hoofs.
He heard the shout of a man, a reply farther away, the quick, excited
yelping of a dog. His blood danced as he thought of the gathering of the
Mormon fighters, the men and boys racing down the black trails from the
inland forests, the excitement in St. James. As he ran on again he
thought of Arbor Croche mustering the panting, vengeful defenders; of
Strang, his great voice booming encouragement and promise, above the
brazen thunder of the bell; he saw in fancy the frightened huddling
groups of women and children and beyond and above all the coming of the
"vengeance of God"--a hundred beats, a thousand men--and there went out
from his soul if not from his lips a great cry of joy. At the edge of
the forest he stopped for a moment. Over beyond the clearing a light
burned dimly through the lilacs. The sweet odor of the flowers came to
him gently, persuasively, and nerved him into the open. He passed across
the open space swiftly and plunged into a tangle of bushes close to the
He heard a man's voice within, and then a woman's. Was it Marion?
Cautiously Nathaniel crept close to the log wall of the cabin. He
reached out, and hesitated. Should he look--as he had done at the king's
window? The man's voice came to him again, harsh and angry, and this
time it was not a woman's words that he heard but a woman's sobbing cry.
He parted the bushes and a glare of light fell on his face. The lamp was
on a table and beside the table there sat a woman, her white head turned
from him, her face buried in her hands. She was an old woman and he knew
that it was Marion's mother. He could not see the man.
Where was Marion? He wormed himself back out of the bushes and walked
quickly around the house. There was no other light, no other sign of
life except in that one room. With sudden resolution he stepped to the
door and knocked loudly.
For a full half minute there was silence, and he knocked again. He heard
the approach of a shuffling step, the thump, thump, thump of a cane, and
the door swung back. It was the man who opened it, a tall giant of an
old man, doubled as if with rheumatism, and close behind him was the
frightened face of the woman. An involuntary shudder passed through
Nathaniel as he looked at them. They were old--so old that the man's
shrivelled hands were like those of a skeleton; his giant frame seemed
about to totter into ruin, his eyes were sunken until his face gave the
horror of a death mask. Was it possible that these people were the
father and mother of Marion--and of Neil? As he stepped to the threshold
they timidly drew back from him. In a single glance Nathaniel swept the
room and what he saw thrilled him, for everywhere were signs of Marion;
in the pictures on the walls, the snowy curtains, the cushions in the
window-seat--and the huge vase of lilacs on the mantle.
"I am a messenger of the king," he said, advancing and closing the door
behind him. "I want to speak with Marion."
"Strang--the king!" cried the old man, clutching the knob of his cane
with both hands. "She has gone!"
"Gone!" exclaimed Nathaniel. For an instant his heart bounded with
delight. Marion was on her way to the tryst! He sprang back to the
door. "When? When did she go?"
The woman had come forward, her hands trembling, her lips quivering.
Something in the terror of her face sent the hot blood from Nathaniel's
"They sent for her an hour ago," she said. "The king sent Obadiah Price
for her! O, my God!" she shrieked suddenly, clutching at her breast,
"Tell me--what are they doing with Marion--"
"Shut up!" snarled the old man. "That is Strang's business. She has gone
to Strang." With an effort he straightened himself until his towering
form rose half a head above Nathaniel. "She has gone to the king," he
repeated. "Tell Strang that she will wive him to-night, as she has
In spite of his effort to control himself a terrible cry burst from
Nathaniel's lips. He flung open the door and stood for an instant with
his white face turned back.
"She went to the castle--an hour ago?" he cried.
"Yes, to the castle--with Obadiah Price--" The last words followed him
as he sped out into the night. As swiftly as a wolf he raced across the
clearing to the trail that led down to St. James. Something seemed to
have burst in his brain; something that was not blood, but fire, seemed
to burn in his veins--a mad desire to reach Strang, to grip him by the
throat, to mete out to him the vengeance of a fiend instead of that of a
man. He was too late to save Marion! His brain reeled with the thought.
Too late--too late--too late. He panted the words. They came with every
gasp for breath. Too late! Too late! His heart pumped like an engine as
he strained to keep up his speed. He passed a man and a boy hurrying
with their rifles to St. James and made no answer to their shout; a
galloping horse forged ahead of him and he tried to keep up with it; and
then, at the top of the long hill that sloped down to the stronghold of
the Mormon kingdom something seemed to sweep his legs from under him,
and he fell panting on the ground. For a few moments he lay there
looking down upon the city. The great bell at the temple was now silent.
He saw huge fires burning for a mile along the coast, hundreds of lights
were twinkling in the harbor, there came up to him softly, subdued by
distance, the sound of commotion and excitement far below.
His eyes rested on the beacon above the prophet's home, burning like a
ball of fire over the black canopy of tree-tops. Marion was there! He
rose to his feet again and went on, reason and judgment returning to
him--telling him that he was about to play against odds; that his work
was to be one of strength and generalship and not of madness. As he
picked his way more slowly and cautiously down the slope a new hope
flashed upon him. Was it possible that the discovery of the approach of
the mainlanders had served to save Marion? In the excitement that
followed the calling of the Mormons to arms and the preparations for the
defense would Strang, the master of the kingdom, the bulwark of his
people, waste priceless time in carrying out the purpose for which he
had sent for Marion? Hardly did hope burn anew in his breast when there
came another thought to quench it. Why had the king sent for Marion on
this particular night and at this late hour? Why, unless at the approach
of his enemies he had feared that he might lose his beautiful victim,
and in his overmastering passion had called her to him even as his
people assembled in defense of his kingdom.
There was desperate coolness in Nathaniel's approach now. Whatever had
happened he would do what Neil had threatened to do--kill Strang. And
whatever had happened he would take Marion away with him if it was only
her dead body that he carried in his arms. To do these things he needed
strength. He advanced more slowly and drew deeper and deeper drafts of
air into his exhausted lungs. At the edge of the grove surrounding the
castle he paused to listen. For the first time it occurred to Nathaniel
that the prophet might have assembled some of his fighters to the
defense of his harem, which he knew would be one of the first places to
feel the vengeance of the outraged men of the mainland. But he heard no
voices ahead of him. There were no fires to betray the approach of the
enemy. Not even the barking of a dog gave warning of his stealthy
advance. Soon he could make out a light in the king's house. A few steps
more and he saw that the door was open, as it had been on his first
visit to the castle. He dodged swiftly from bush to bush, darted under
the window through which he had seen Marion, leaped lightly up the broad
steps and sprang into the great room, his pistol cocked in his hand.
The room was empty. He listened, but not a sound came to his ears except
the rustling of a curtain in the breeze. The huge lamp over the table
was burning dimly. The five doors leading from the room were tightly
closed. Nathaniel held his breath, tried to still the tumultuous
pounding of his heart as he waited for a sound of life--a step beyond
those doors, a woman's voice, a child's cry. But none came. The
stillness of desertion hovered about him. He went to one of the five
doors. It was not locked. He opened it silently, with the caution of a
thief, and there loomed before him a chaos of gloom.
"Hello!" he called gently. "Hello--Hello--"
There was no answer. He struck a match and advanced step by step,
holding the yellow bit of flame above his head. It disclosed the narrow
walls of a hall and an open door leading into another room. The match
sputtered and went out and he lighted another. On a little table just
outside the door was a half burned candle and he replaced his match with
this. Then he went in.
At a glance he knew that he had entered a woman's room, redolent with
the perfume of flowers. On one side was a bed and close beside it a
cradle with a child's toys scattered about it. The tumbled coverlets
showed that both had been recently used. About the room were thrown
articles of wearing apparel; a trunk had been dragged from a closet and
was half packed; everywhere was the disorder of hurried flight. For a
few moments the depth of his despair held Nathaniel motionless. The
castle was deserted--Marion was gone! He ran back into the great room,
no longer trying to still the sound of his footsteps, and opened a
second door. The same silence greeted him, the same disorder, the same
evidence that the wives and children of the Mormon king had fled. He
went into a third room--and then a fourth.
For an instant he paused at the threshold of this fourth chamber. A
light was burning in the room at the end of the hall. The door was
closed with the exception of an inch or two.
"Marion!" he called softly, and listened intently.
He went on when there was no reply, and pushed open the door.
A candle was burning on a stand in front of a mirror. The room was as
empty as the others. But there was no disorder here. The bed was unused,
the garments in the open closet had not been disarranged. On the floor
beside the bed was a pair of shoes and as Nathaniel saw them his heart
seemed to leap to his throat and stifled the cry that was on his lips.
He took one of them in his hand, his whole being throbbing with
excitement. It was Marion's shoe--encrusted with mud and torn as he had
seen it in the forest. With her name falling from his lips in a pleading
cry he now searched the room and on the stand in front of the mirror he
found a lilac colored ribbon, soiled and crumpled. It was Marion's
ribbon--the one he had seen last in her hair, and he crushed it to his
lips as he ran back into the great room, calling out her name again and
again in the torture of helplessness that now possessed him.
Mechanically, rather than with reason, he went to the fifth and last
door. His candle had become extinguished in his haste and after he had
opened the door he stopped at the threshold of the black hall to light
it again. There was a moment's pause as he searched his pockets for a
match, a silence in which he listened as he searched, and suddenly as he
was about to strike the sulphur tipped splint there came to his ears a
sound that held him chained to the spot. It was the sobbing of a woman;
or was it a child? In a moment he knew that it was a woman; and then the
There was nothing but darkness ahead of him; no ray of light shone under
the door; the chamber itself was in utter gloom. As quietly as possible
he relighted his candle. A glance assured him that this hall was
different from the others; it was deeper, and there were two doors at
the end of it instead of one. Through which of these doors had come the
sound of sobbing he had heard?
He approached and listened. Each moment added to his excitement, his
fears, his hopes, but at last he opened the door on the left. The room
was empty; there was the same disorder as before; the same signs of
hurried flight. It was the room on the right! His heart almost stopped
its beating as he placed his hand on the latch, lifted it, and pushed
the door in. Kneeling beside the bed he saw a woman. She had turned
toward the light and in the dim illumination of the room Nathaniel
recognized the beautiful face he had seen at the king's castle the
preceding day--the face of the woman who had sent him to find the
prophet, who had placed her gentle hand on Marion's head as he had
looked through the window. There was no fear in her eyes as she saw
Nathaniel. Something more terrible than that shone in their glorious
depths as she rose to her feet and stood before him, her face lined with
grief, her mouth twitching in agony. She stood with clenched hands, her
bosom rising and falling in the passion of the storm within her; and she
sobbed even as Nathaniel paused there, unmanned in this sudden presence
of a distress greater than his own; sobbed in a choking, tearless way,
waiting for him to speak.
"Forgive me," he spoke gently. "I have come--for--Marion." He felt that
he had no reason to lie to this woman. His face betrayed his own anguish
as he came nearer to her. "I want Marion," he repeated. "My God, won't
you tell me--?"
She struggled to calm herself as he spoke the girl's name.
"Marion is not here," she said. She crushed his hands against her bosom
and a softer look came into her eyes; her voice was low and sweet, as it
had been the morning he asked for Strang. As she saw the despair
deepening in the man's face a great pity swept over her and she
stretched out her arms to him with an aching cry, "Marion is
gone--gone--gone," she moaned, "and you must go, too! O, I know you love
her--she told me that you loved her, as I love Strang, my king! We have
both lost--lost--and you must go--as--I--shall--go!" She turned away
from him with a cry so heart-breaking in its pain that Nathaniel felt
himself trembling to the soul. In another instant she had faced him
again, fighting back a strange calm into her face.
"I love Marion," she breathed softly. "I would help you--I would help
her--if I could." For a moment her pale beautiful face was filled with a
light that might have shone from the face of an angel, "Don't you
understand?" she continued, scarcely above a whisper. "I have been
Strang's one great love--his life--until Marion came into his heart. I
have lost--you have lost--but mine is the more bitter because Marion
loves you, and Strang--"
With a cry Nathaniel sprang to her side. The candle fell from his hand,
sputtered on the floor, and left them in darkness.
"Marion loves me! You say that Marion loves me?"
The woman's voice came to him in a whisper filled with the sweetness of
"She said so to-night--in this room. She told me that she loved you as
she never thought that she could love a man in this world. O, my God, is
that not a balm for your heart, if it is broken? And Strang--my
Strang--has forgotten his love for me!"
Nathaniel reached out his arms. They found the woman and for a time he
held her hands in his, while a great silence fell upon them. He could
hear the sobbing of her breath and as her fingers tightened about his
own his heart seemed bursting with its hatred of this man who called
himself a prophet of God; a hatred that burned furiously even as his
being throbbed with the wild joy of the words he had just heard.
"Where is Marion?" he pleaded.
"I don't know," replied the woman. "They took her away alone. The
others have gone to the temple."
"Do you think she is at the temple?" he inquired insistently.
"No. One of the others came back a little while ago. She said that
Marion was not there."
"Where is Strang?"
This time he felt the woman tremble.
She drew her hands away from him. There was a strange quiver in her
"Yes--where is Strang?"
There came no reply.
"Tell me--where is he?"
"I don't know."
"Is he at the temple?"
"I don't know."
He could hear her stifled breath; he could almost feel her trembling, an
arm's reach out there in the darkness. What a woman was this whose
heart the Mormon king had broken for a new love!
"Listen," he said gently. "I am going to find Marion. I am going to take
her away. To-morrow you shall have Strang again--if he is alive!"
There was no answer and he moved slowly back to the door. He closed it
after him as he entered the hall. Once in the big room he paused for a
moment under the hanging lamp to examine his pistol and then went
outside. The grove in which the castle stood was absolutely deserted. So
far as he could see not even a guard watched over the property of the
king. Nathaniel had become too accustomed to the surprises of Beaver
Island to wonder at this. He could see by the lights flaring along the
harbor that the castle was in an isolated position and easy of attack.
From what Strang's wife had told him and the evidences of panic in the
chambers of the harem he believed that the Mormon king had abandoned the
castle to its fate and that the approaching conflict would center about
Was Marion at the temple? If so he realized that she was beyond his
reach. But the woman had said that she was not there. Where could she
have gone? Why had not Strang taken her with his wives? In a flash
Nathaniel thought of Arbor Croche and Obadiah--the two men who always
knew what the king was doing. If he could find the sheriff alone--if he
could only nurse Obadiah back into sane life again! He thrust his pistol
into its holster. There was but one thing for him to do and that was to
return to the old councilor. It would be madness for him to go down to
St. James. He had lost--Strang had won. But his love for Marion was
undying. If he found her Strang's wife it would make no difference to
him. It would all be evened up when he killed the king. For Marion loved
He turned his face toward Obadiah's, his heart singing the glad words
which the woman had spoken to him back there in the sixth chamber.
And as he was about to take the first step in that long race back to the
mad councilor's he heard behind him the approach of quick feet. He
crouched behind a clump of bushes and waited. A shadowy form was
hurrying through the grove. It passed close to him, mounted the castle
steps, and in the doorway turned and looked back for an instant in the
direction of St. James.
Nathaniel's lips quivered; the pounding of his heart half choked him; a
shriek of mad, terrible joy was ready to leap from his lips.
There in the dim glow of the great lamp stood Strang, the Mormon king.
THE HAND OF FATE
Like a panther Nathaniel crouched and watched the man on the steps. His
muscles jerked, his hands were clenched; each instant he seemed about to
spring. But he held himself back until Strang had passed through the
door. Then he slipped along the log wall of the castle, hugging the
shadows, fearing that the king might reappear and see him in time to
close the door. What an opportunity fate had made for him! His fingers
itched to get at Strang's thick bull-like throat. He felt no fear, no
hesitation about the outcome of the struggle with this giant prophet of
God. He did not plan to shoot, for a shot would destroy the secret of
Marion's fate. He would choke the truth from Strang; rob him of life
slowly, gasp by gasp, until in the horror of death the king would reveal
her hiding-place--would tell what he had done with her.
Then he would kill him!
There was the strength of tempered steel in his arms; his body, slender
as an athlete's, quivered to hurl itself into action. Up the steps he
crept so cautiously that he made no sound. In the intensity of his
purpose Nathaniel looked only ahead of him--to the door. He did not see
that another figure was stealing through the gloom behind him as
cautiously, as quietly as himself. He passed through the door and stood
erect. Strang had not seen him. He had not heard him. He was standing
with his huge back toward him, facing the hall that led to the sixth
chamber--and the woman. Nathaniel drew his pistol. He would not shoot,
but Strang might be made to tell the truth with death leveling itself at
his heart. He groped behind him, found the door, and slammed it shut.
There would be no retreat for the king!
And the man who turned toward him at the slamming of that door, turned
slowly, coolly, and gazed into the black muzzle of his pistol looked,
indeed, every inch of him a king. The muscles of his face betrayed no
surprise, no fear. His splendid nerve was unshaken, his eyes unfaltering
as they rose above the pistol to the face behind it. For fifteen seconds
there was a strange terrible silence as the eyes of the two men met. In
that quarter of a minute Nathaniel knew that he had not guessed rightly.
Strang was not afraid. He would not tell him where Marion was. The
insuperable courage of this man maddened Captain Plum and unconsciously
his finger fell upon the trigger of his pistol. He almost shrieked the
words that he meant to speak calmly:
"Where is Marion?"
"She is safe, Captain Plum. She is where the friends who are invading us
from the mainland will have no chance of finding her."
Strang spoke as quietly as though in his own office beside the temple.
Suddenly he raised his voice.
"She is safe, Captain Plum--safe!"
His eyes wavered, and traveled beyond. As accurately as a striking
serpent Nathaniel measured that glance. It had gone to the door. He
heard a movement, felt a draft of air, and in an instant he whirled
about with his pistol pointed to the door. In another instant he had
fired and the huge form of Arbor Croche toppled headlong into the room.
A roar like that of a beast came from behind him and before he could
turn again Strang was upon him. In that moment he felt that all was
lost. Under the weight of the Mormon king he was crushed to the floor;
his pistol slipped from his grasp; two great hands choked a despairing
cry from his throat. He saw the prophet's face over him, distorted with
passion, his huge neck bulging, his eyes flaming like angry garnets. He
struggled to free his pinioned arms, to wrench off the death grip at his
throat, but his efforts were like those of a child against a giant. In a
last terrible attempt he drew up his knees inch by inch under the
weight of his enemy; it was his only chance--his only hope. Even as he
felt the fingers about his throat sinking like hot iron into his flesh
and the breath slipping from his body he remembered this murderous
knee-punch of the rough fighters of the inland seas and with all the
life that remained in him he sent it crushing into the abdomen of the
Mormon king. It was a moment before he knew that it had been successful,
before the film cleared from his eyes and he saw Strang groveling at his
feet; another moment and he had hurled himself on the prophet. His fist
shot out like a hammer against Strang's jaw. Again and again he struck
until the great shaggy head fell back limp. Then his fingers twined
themselves like the links of a chain about the purplish throat and he
choked until Strang's eyes opened wide and lifeless and his convulsions
ceased. He would have held on until there was no doubt of the end, had
not the king's wife--the woman whose misery he had shared that
night--suddenly flung herself with a piercing cry, between him and the
blackened face, clutching at his hands with all her fragile strength.
[Illustration: His fingers twined about the purplish throat.]
"My God, you are killing him--killing him!" she moaned.
Her eyes blazed as she tore at his fingers.
"You are killing him--killing him!" she shrieked. "He has not destroyed
Marion! You said you would take her and leave him--for me--" She struck
her head against his breast, tearing the flesh of his wrists with her
Nathaniel loosened his grip and staggered to his feet.
"For you!" he panted. "If you had only come--a little sooner--" He
stumbled to his pistol and picked it up. "I am afraid he is--dead!"
He did not look back.
Arbor Croche barred the door. He had not moved since he had fallen. His
head was twisted so that his face was turned to the glow of the lamp
and Nathaniel shuddered as he saw where his shot had struck. He had
apparently died with that last cry on his lips.
There was no longer a fear of the Mormons in Nathaniel. He believed the
king and Arbor Croche dead, and that in the gloom and excitement of the
night he could go among the people of St. James undiscovered. A great
load was lifted from his soul, for if he had not been in time to save
Marion he had at least delivered her after a short bondage. He had now
only to find Marion and she would go with him, for she loved him--and
Strang was no more.
He hurried through the grove toward the temple. Even before he had come
near to it he could see that a great crowd had congregated there. The
street which he passed was deserted. No lights shone in the houses. Even
the dogs were gone. For the first time he understood what it meant. The
whole town had fled to that huge log stronghold for protection.
Buildings and trees shut out his view seaward but he could see the
flare of great fires mounting into the sky and he knew that those who
were not at the temple were guarding the shore.
Suddenly he almost fell over a figure in his path. It was an old woman
mumbling and sobbing incoherently as she stumbled weakly in the
direction of the temple. Like an inspiration the thought came to him
that here was his opportunity of gaining admittance to that multitude of
women and children. He seized the old woman by the arm and spoke words
of courage to her as he half carried her on her way. A few minutes more
and a blaze of light burst upon them and the great square in which the
temple was situated lay open before them. Half a hundred yards ahead a
fire was burning; oil and pine sent their lurid flame high up into the
night, and in the thick gloom behind it, intensified by the blinding
glare, Nathaniel saw the shadows of men. He caught the old woman in his
arms and went on boldly. He passed close to a thin line of waiting men,
saw the faint glint of firelight on their rifles, and staggering past
them unchallenged with his weight he stopped for a moment to look back.
The effect was startling. Beyond the three great fires that blazed
around the temple the clearing was bathed in a sea of light; in its
concealment of giant trees the temple was buried in gloom. From the
gloom a hundred cool men might slaughter five times their number
charging across that illumined death-square!
Nathaniel could not repress a shudder as he looked. Screened behind each
of the three fires was a cannon. He figured that there were more than a
hundred rifles in that silent cordon of men. What was there on the
opposite side of the temple?
He turned with the old woman and joined the throng that was seething
about the temple doors. There were women, children and old men, crushing
and crowding, fighting with panic-stricken fierceness for admittance to
the thick log walls. Through the doors there came the low thunder of
countless voices pierced by the shrill cries of little children. Foot by
foot Nathaniel fought his way up the steps. At the top were drawn a
dozen men forming barriers with their rifles. One of them shoved him
"Not you!" he shouted. "This is for the women!"
Nathaniel fell back, filled with horror. A glance had shown him the vast
dimly lighted interior of the temple packed to suffocation. What sins
had this people wrought that it thus feared the vengeance of the men
from the mainland! He felt the sweat break out upon his face as he
thought of Marion being in that mob, tired and fainting with her
terrible day's experience--perhaps dying under the panic-stricken feet
of those stronger than herself. He hoped now for that which at first had
filled him with despair--that Strang had hidden Marion away from the
terror and suffocation of this multitude that fought for its breath
within the temple. Freeing himself of the crowd he ran to the farther
side of the building. A fourth fire blazed in his face. But on this side
there was no cannon; scarcely a score of men were guarding the rear of
For a full minute he stood concealed in the gloom. He realized now that
it would be useless to return to Obadiah. The old councilor could
probably have told him all that he had discovered for himself; that
Marion had gone to the castle--that Strang intended to make her his
bride that night. But did Obadiah know that the castle had been
abandoned? Did he know that the king's wives had sought refuge in the
temple, and did he know where Marion was hidden? Nathaniel could assure
himself but one answer; Obadiah, struck down by his strange madness, was
more ignorant than he himself of what had occurred at St. James.
While he paused a heavy noise arose that quickened his heart-beats and
sent the blood through his veins in wild excitement. From far down by
the shore there came the roar of a cannon. It was closely followed by a
second and a third, and hardly was the night shaken by their thunder
than a mighty cheering of men swept up from the fire-rimmed coast. The
battle had begun! Nathaniel leaped out into the glow of the great
blazing fire beyond the temple; he heard a warning shout as he darted
past the men; for an instant he saw their white faces staring at him
from the firelight--heard a second shout, which he knew was a
command--and was gone. Half a dozen rifles cracked behind him and a yell
of joyful defiance burst from his throat as the bullets hissed over his
head. The battle had begun! Another hour and the Mormon kingdom would be
at the mercy of the avenging host from the mainland--and Marion would be
his own for ever! He heard again the deep rumble of a heavy gun and from
its sullen detonation he knew that it was fired from a ship at sea. A
nearer crash of returning fire turned him into a deserted street down
which he ran wildly, on past the last houses of the town, until he came
to the foot of a hill up which he climbed more slowly, panting like a
From its top he could look down upon the scene of battle. To the
eastward stretched the harbor line with its rim of fires. A glance
showed him that the fight was not to center about these. They had served
their purpose, had forced the mainlanders to seek a landing farther down
the coast. The light of dawn had already begun to disperse the thick
gloom of night and an eighth of a mile below Nathaniel the Mormon forces
were creeping slowly along the shore. The pale ghostly mistiness of the
sea hung like a curtain between him and what was beyond, and even as he
strained his eyes to catch a glimpse of the avenging fleet a vivid light
leaped out of the white distance, followed by the thunder of a cannon.
He saw the head of the Mormon line falter. In an instant it had been
thrown into confusion. A second shot from the sea--a storm of cheering
voices from out of that white chaos of mist--and the Mormons fell back
from the shore in a panic-stricken, fleeing mob. Were those frightened
cowards the fierce fighters of whom he had heard so much? Were they the
men who had made themselves masters of a kingdom in the land of their
enemies--whose mere name carried terror for a hundred miles along the
coast? He was stupefied, bewildered. He made no effort to conceal
himself as they approached the hill, but drew his pistol, ready to fire
down upon them as they came. Suddenly there was a change. So quickly
that he could scarcely believe his eyes the flying Mormons had
disappeared. Not a man was visible upon that narrow plain between the
hill and the sea. Like a huge covey of quail they had dropped to the
ground, their rifles lost in that ghostly gloom through which the voices
of the mainlanders came in fierce cries of triumph. It was magnificent!
Even as the crushing truth of what it all meant came to him, the
fighting blood in his veins leaped at the sight of it--the pretended
effect of the shots from sea, the sham confusion, the disorderly
flight, the wonderful quickness and precision with which the rabble of
armed men had thrown itself into ambush!
Would the mainlanders rush into the trap? Had some keen eye seen those
shadowy forms dropping through the mist? Each instant the ghostly pall
that shut out vision seaward seemed drifting away. Nathaniel's staring
eyes saw a vague shape appear in it, an indistinct dirt-gray blotch, and
he knew that it was a boat. Another followed, and then another; he heard
the sound of oars, the grinding of keels upon the sand, and where the
Mormons had been a few moments before the beach was now alive with
mainlanders. In the growing light he could make out the king's men below
him, inanimate spots in the middle of the narrow plain. Helpless he
stood clutching his pistol, the horror in him growing with each breath.
Could he give no warning? Could he do nothing--nothing--At least he
could join in the fight! He ran down the hill, swinging to the left of
the Mormons. Half way, and he stopped as a thundering cheer swept up
from the shore. The mainlanders had started toward the hill! Without
rank, without order--shouting their triumph as they came they were
rushing blindly into the arms of the ambush! A shriek of warning left
Nathaniel's lips. It was drowned in a crash of rifle fire. Volley after
volley burst from that shadowy stretch of plain. Before the furious fire
the van of the mainlanders crumpled into ruin. Like chaff before a wind
those behind were swept back. Apparently they were flying without
waiting to fire a shot! Nathaniel dashed down into the plain. Ahead of
him the Mormons were charging in a solid line, and in another moment the
shore had become a mass of fighting men. Far to the left he saw a group
of the mainlanders running along the beach toward the conflict. If he
could only intercept them--and bring them into the rear! Like the wind
he sped to cut them off, shouting and firing his pistol.
He won by a hundred yards and stood panting as they came toward him.
Dawn had dispelled the mist-gloom and as the mainlanders drew nearer he
discerned in their lead a figure that brought a cry of joy from his
"Neil!" he shouted. "Neil--"
He turned as Marion's brother darted to his side.
"This way--from behind!"
The two led the way, side by side, followed by a dozen men. A glance
told Nathaniel that nothing much less than a miracle could turn the tide
of battle. Half of the mainlanders were fighting in the water. Others
were struggling desperately to get away in the boats. Foot by foot the
Mormons were crushing them back, their battle cries now turned into
demoniac yells of victory. Into the rear of the struggling mass, firing
as they ran, charged the handful of men behind Captain Plum and Neil.
For a little space the king's men gave way before them and with wild
cheers the powerful fishermen from the coast fought their way toward
their comrades. Many of them were armed with long knives; some had
pistols; others used their empty rifles as clubs. A dozen more men and
they would have split like a wedge through the Mormon mass. Above the
din of battle Nathaniel's voice rose in thundering shouts to the men in
the sea, and close beside him he heard Neil shrieking out a name between
his blows. Like demons they fought straight ahead, slashing with their
knives. The Mormon line was thinning. The mainlanders had turned and
were fighting their way back, gaining foot by foot what they had lost.
Suddenly there came a terrific cheer from the plain and the hope that
had flamed in Nathaniel's breast died out as he heard it. He knew what
it meant--that the Mormons at St. James had come to reinforce their
comrades. He fought now to reach the boats, calling to Neil, whom he
could no longer see. Even in that moment he thought of Marion. His only
chance was to escape with the others, his only hope of wresting her from
the kingdom lay in his own freedom. He had waited too long. A crushing
blow fell upon him from behind and with a last cry to Neil he sank under
the trampling feet. Indistinctly there came to him the surging shock of
the fresh body of Mormons. The din about him became fainter and fainter
as though he was being carried rapidly away from it; shouting voices
came to him in whispers, and deadened sounds, like the quick tapping of
a finger on his forehead, were all that he heard of the steady rifle
fire that pursued the defeated mainlanders in their flight.
After a little he began struggling back into consciousness. There was a
splitting pain somewhere in his head and he tried to reach his hand to
"You won't have to carry him," he heard a voice say. "Give him a little
water and he'll walk."
He felt the dash of the water in his face and it put new life into him.
Somebody had raised him to a sitting posture and was supporting him
there while a second person bound a cloth about his head. He opened his
eyes and the light of day shot into them like a stinging, burning charge
of needle-points, and he closed them again with a sharp cry of pain.
That second's glance had shown him that it was a woman who was binding
his head. He had not seen her face. Beyond her he had caught a half
formed vision of many people and the glistening edge of the sea, and as
he lay with closed eyes the murmur of voices came to him. The support at
his back was taken away, slowly, as if the person who held him feared
that he would fall. Nathaniel stiffened himself to show his returning
strength and opened his eyes again. This time the pain was not so great.