Part 4 out of 9
Helen off for wild flowers, curious and thoughtless by
turns. And at length she fell asleep, quickly, in a way that
reminded Helen of the childhood now gone forever.
Dale called them to dinner about four o'clock, as the sun
was reddening the western rampart of the park. Helen
wondered where the day had gone. The hours had flown
swiftly, serenely, bringing her scarcely a thought of her
uncle or dread of her forced detention there or possible
discovery by those outlaws supposed to be hunting for her.
After she realized the passing of those hours she had an
intangible and indescribable feeling of what Dale had meant
about dreaming the hours away. The nature of Paradise Park
was inimical to the kind of thought that had habitually been
hers, She found the new thought absorbing, yet when she
tried to name it she found that, after all, she had only
felt. At the meal hour she was more than usually quiet. She
saw that Dale noticed it and was trying to interest her or
distract her attention. He succeeded, but she did not choose
to let him see that. She strolled away alone to her seat
under the pine. Bo passed her once, and cried,
"My, Nell, but you're growing romantic!"
Never before in Helen's life had the beauty of the evening
star seemed so exquisite or the twilight so moving and
shadowy or the darkness so charged with loneliness. It was
their environment -- the accompaniment of wild wolf-mourn,
of the murmuring waterfall, of this strange man of the
forest and the unfamiliar elements among which he made his home.
Next morning, her energy having returned, Helen shared Bo's
lesson in bridling and saddling her horse, and in riding.
Bo, however, rode so fast and so hard that for Helen to
share her company was impossible. And Dale, interested and
amused, yet anxious, spent most of his time with Bo. It was
thus that Helen rode all over the park alone. She was
astonished at its size, when from almost any point it looked
so small. The atmosphere deceived her. How clearly she could
see! And she began to judge distance by the size of familiar
things. A horse, looked at across the longest length of the
park, seemed very small indeed. Here and there she rode upon
dark, swift, little brooks, exquisitely clear and
amber-colored and almost hidden from sight by the long
grass. These all ran one way, and united to form a deeper
brook that apparently wound under the cliffs at the west
end, and plunged to an outlet in narrow clefts. When Dale
and Bo came to her once she made inquiry, and she was
surprised to learn from Dale that this brook disappeared in
a hole in the rocks and had an outlet on the other side of
the mountain. Sometime he would take them to the lake it
"Over the mountain?" asked Helen, again remembering that she
must regard herself as a fugitive. "Will it be safe to leave
our hiding-place? I forget so often why we are here."
"We would be better hidden over there than here," replied
Dale. "The valley on that side is accessible only from that
ridge. An' don't worry about bein' found. I told you Roy
Beeman is watchin' Anson an' his gang. Roy will keep between
them an' us."
Helen was reassured, yet there must always linger in the
background of her mind a sense of dread. In spite of this,
she determined to make the most of her opportunity. Bo was a
stimulus. And so Helen spent the rest of that day riding and
tagging after her sister.
The next day was less hard on Helen. Activity, rest, eating,
and sleeping took on a wonderful new meaning to her. She had
really never known them as strange joys. She rode, she
walked, she climbed a little, she dozed under her pine-tree,
she worked helping Dale at camp-fire tasks, and when night
came she said she did not know herself. That fact haunted
her in vague, deep dreams. Upon awakening she forgot her
resolve to study herself. That day passed. And then several
more went swiftly before she adapted herself to a situation
she had reason to believe might last for weeks and even months.
It was afternoon that Helen loved best of all the time of
the day. The sunrise was fresh, beautiful; the morning was
windy, fragrant; the sunset was rosy, glorious; the twilight
was sad, changing; and night seemed infinitely sweet with
its stars and silence and sleep. But the afternoon, when
nothing changed, when all was serene, when time seemed to
halt, that was her choice, and her solace.
One afternoon she had camp all to herself. Bo was riding.
Dale had climbed the mountain to see if he could find any
trace of tracks or see any smoke from camp-fire. Bud was
nowhere to be seen, nor any of the other pets. Tom had gone
off to some sunny ledge where he could bask in the sun,
after the habit of the wilder brothers of his species. Pedro
had not been seen for a night and a day, a fact that Helen
had noted with concern. However, she had forgotten him, and
therefore was the more surprised to see him coming limping
into camp on three legs.
"Why, Pedro! You have been fighting. Come here," she called.
The hound did not look guilty. He limped to her and held up
his right fore paw. The action was unmistakable. Helen
examined the injured member and presently found a piece of
what looked like mussel-shell embedded deeply between the
toes. The wound was swollen, bloody, and evidently very
painful. Pedro whined. Helen had to exert all the strength
of her fingers to pull it out. Then Pedro howled. But
immediately he showed his gratitude by licking her hand.
Helen bathed his paw and bound it up.
When Dale returned she related the incident and, showing the
piece of shell, she asked: "Where did that come from ? Are
there shells in the mountains?"
"Once this country was under the sea," replied Dale. "I've
found things that 'd make you wonder."
"Under the sea!" ejaculated Helen. It was one thing to have
read of such a strange fact, but a vastly different one to
realize it here among these lofty peaks. Dale was always
showing her something or telling her something that
"Look here," he said one day. "What do you make of that
little bunch of aspens?"
They were on the farther side of the park and were resting
under a pine-tree. The forest here encroached upon the park
with its straggling lines of spruce and groves of aspen. The
little clump of aspens did not differ from hundreds Helen
"I don't make anything particularly of it," replied Helen,
dubiously. "Just a tiny grove of aspens -- some very small,
some larger, but none very big. But it's pretty with its
green and yellow leaves fluttering and quivering."
"It doesn't make you think of a fight?"
"Fight? No, it certainly does not," replied Helen.
"Well, it's as good an example of fight, of strife, of
selfishness, as you will find in the forest," he said. "Now
come over, you an' Bo, an' let me show you what I mean."
"Come on, Nell," cried Bo, with enthusiasm. "He'll open our
eyes some more."
Nothing loath, Helen went with them to the little clump of
"About a hundred altogether," said Dale. "They're pretty
well shaded by the spruces, but they get the sunlight from
east an' south. These little trees all came from the same
seedlings. They're all the same age. Four of them stand,
say, ten feet or more high an' they're as large around as my
wrist. Here's one that's largest. See how full-foliaged he
is -- how he stands over most of the others, but not so much
over these four next to him. They all stand close together,
very close, you see. Most of them are no larger than my
thumb. Look how few branches they have, an' none low down.
Look at how few leaves. Do you see how all the branches
stand out toward the east an' south -- how the leaves, of
course, face the same way? See how one branch of one tree
bends aside one from another tree. That's a fight for the
sunlight. Here are one -- two -- three dead trees. Look, I
can snap them off . An' now look down under them. Here are
little trees five feet high -- four feet high -- down to
these only a foot high. Look how pale, delicate, fragile,
unhealthy! They get so little sunshine. They were born with
the other trees, but did not get an equal start. Position
gives the advantage, perhaps."
Dale led the girls around the little grove, illustrating his
words by action. He seemed deeply in earnest.
"You understand it's a fight for water an' sun. But mostly
sun, because, if the leaves can absorb the sun, the tree an'
roots will grow to grasp the needed moisture. Shade is death
-- slow death to the life of trees. These little aspens are
fightin' for place in the sunlight. It is a merciless
battle. They push an' bend one another's branches aside an'
choke them. Only perhaps half of these aspens will survive,
to make one of the larger clumps, such as that one of
full-grown trees over there. One season will give advantage
to this saplin' an' next year to that one. A few seasons'
advantage to one assures its dominance over the others. But
it is never sure of holdin' that dominance. An 'if wind or
storm or a strong-growin' rival does not overthrow it, then
sooner or later old age will. For there is absolute and
continual fight. What is true of these aspens is true of all
the trees in the forest an' of all plant life in the forest.
What is most wonderful to me is the tenacity of life."
And next day Dale showed them an even more striking example
of this mystery of nature.
He guided them on horseback up one of the thick,
verdant-wooded slopes, calling their attention at various
times to the different growths, until they emerged on the
summit of the ridge where the timber grew scant and dwarfed.
At the edge of timber-line he showed a gnarled and knotted
spruce-tree, twisted out of all semblance to a beautiful
spruce, bent and storm-blasted, with almost bare branches,
all reaching one' way. The tree was a specter. It stood
alone. It had little green upon it. There seemed something
tragic about its contortions. But it was alive and strong.
It had no rivals to take sun or moisture. Its enemies were
the snow and wind and cold of the heights.
Helen felt, as the realization came to her, the knowledge
Dale wished to impart, that it was as sad as wonderful, and
as mysterious as it was inspiring. At that moment there were
both the sting and sweetness of life -- the pain and the joy
-- in Helen's heart. These strange facts were going to teach
her -- to transform her. And even if they hurt, she welcomed
"I'll ride you if it breaks -- my neck!" panted Bo,
passionately, shaking her gloved fist at the gray pony.
Dale stood near with a broad smile on his face. Helen was
within earshot, watching from the edge of the park, and she
felt so fascinated and frightened that she could not call
out for Bo to stop. The little gray mustang was a beauty,
clean-limbed and racy, with long black mane and tail, and a
fine, spirited head. There was a blanket strapped on his
back, but no saddle. Bo held the short halter that had been
fastened in a hackamore knot round his nose. She wore no
coat; her blouse was covered with grass and seeds, and it
was open at the neck; her hair hung loose and disheveled;
one side of her face bore a stain of grass and dirt and a
suspicion of blood; the other was red and white; her eyes
blazed; beads of sweat stood out on her brow and wet places
shone on her cheeks. As she began to strain on the halter,
pulling herself closer to the fiery pony, the outline of her
slender shape stood out lithe and strong.
Bo had been defeated in her cherished and determined
ambition to ride Dale's mustang, and she was furious. The
mustang did not appear to be vicious or mean. But he was
spirited, tricky, mischievous, and he had thrown her six
times. The scene of Bo's defeat was at the edge of the park,
where thick moss and grass afforded soft places for her to
fall. It also afforded poor foothold for the gray mustang,
obviously placing him at a disadvantage. Dale did not bridle
him, because he had not been broken to a bridle; and though
it was harder for Bo to try to ride him bareback, there was
less risk of her being hurt. Bo had begun in all eagerness
and enthusiasm, loving and petting the mustang, which she
named "Pony." She had evidently anticipated an adventure,
but her smiling, resolute face had denoted confidence. Pony
had stood fairly well to be mounted, and then had pitched
and tossed until Bo had slid off or been upset or thrown.
After each fall Bo bounced up with less of a smile, and more
of spirit, until now the Western passion to master a horse
had suddenly leaped to life within her. It was no longer
fun, no more a daring circus trick to scare Helen and rouse
Dale's admiration. The issue now lay between Bo and the
Pony reared, snorting, tossing his head, and pawing with
"Pull him down!" yelled Dale.
Bo did not have much weight, but she had strength, an she
hauled with all her might, finally bringing him down.
"Now hold hard an' take up rope an' get in to him," called
Dale. "Good! You're sure not afraid of him. He sees that.
Now hold him, talk to him, tell him you're goin' to ride
him. Pet him a little. An' when he quits shakin', grab his
mane an' jump up an' slide a leg over him. Then hook your
feet under him, hard as you can, an' stick on."
If Helen had not been so frightened for Bo she would have
been able to enjoy her other sensations. Creeping, cold
thrills chased over her as Bo, supple and quick, slid an arm
and a leg over Pony and straightened up on him with a
defiant cry. Pony jerked his head down, brought his feet
together in one jump, and began to bounce. Bo got the swing
of him this time and stayed on.
"You're ridin' him," yelled Dale. "Now squeeze hard with
your knees. Crack him over the head with your rope. . . .
That's the way. Hang on now an' you'll have him beat."
The mustang pitched all over the space adjacent to Dale and
Helen, tearing up the moss and grass. Several times he
tossed Bo high, but she slid back to grip him again with her
legs, and he could not throw her. Suddenly he raised his
head and bolted. Dale answered Bo's triumphant cry. But Pony
had not run fifty feet before he tripped and fell, throwing
Bo far over his head. As luck would have it -- good luck,
Dale afterward said -- she landed in a boggy place and the
force of her momentum was such that she slid several yards,
face down, in wet moss and black ooze.
Helen uttered a scream and ran forward. Bo was getting to
her knees when Dale reached her. He helped her up and half
led, half carried her out of the boggy place. Bo was not
recognizable. From head to foot she was dripping black ooze.
"Oh, Bo! Are you hurt?" cried Helen.
Evidently Bo's mouth was full of mud.
"Pp--su--tt! Ough! Whew!" she sputtered. "Hurt? No! Can't
you see what I lit in? Dale, the sun-of-a-gun didn't throw
me. He fell, and I went over his head."
"Right. You sure rode him. An' he tripped an' slung you a
mile," replied Dale. "It's lucky you lit in that bog."
"Lucky! With eyes and nose stopped up? Oooo! I'm full of
mud. And my nice -- new riding-suit!"
Bo's tones indicated that she was ready to cry. Helen,
realizing Bo had not been hurt, began to laugh. Her sister
was the funniest-looking object that had ever come before
"Nell Rayner -- are you -- laughing -- at me?" demanded Bo,
in most righteous amaze and anger.
"Me laugh-ing? N-never, Bo, "replied Helen. "Can't you see
I'm just -- just --"
"See? You idiot! my eyes are full of mud!" flashed Bo. "But
I hear you. I'll -- I'll get even."
Dale was laughing, too, but noiselessly, and Bo, being blind
for the moment, could not be aware of that. By this time
they had reached camp. Helen fell flat and laughed as she
had never laughed before. When Helen forgot herself so far
as to roll on the ground it was indeed a laughing matter.
Dale's big frame shook as he possessed himself of a towel
and, wetting it at the spring, began to wipe the mud off
Bo's face. But that did not serve. Bo asked to be led to the
water, where she knelt and, with splashing, washed out her
eyes, and then her face, and then the bedraggled strands of
"That mustang didn't break my neck, but he rooted my face in
the mud. I'll fix him," she muttered, as she got up. "Please
let me have the towel, now. . . . Well! Milt Dale, you're
"Ex-cuse me, Bo. I -- Haw! haw! haw!" Then Dale lurched off,
holding his sides.
Bo gazed after him and then back at Helen.
"I suppose if I'd been kicked and smashed and killed you'd
laugh," she said. And then she melted. "Oh, my pretty
riding-suit! What a mess! I must be a sight. . . . Nell, I
rode that wild pony -- the sun-of-a-gun! I rode him! That's
enough for me. YOU try it. Laugh all you want. It was funny.
But if you want to square yourself with me, help me clean my
Late in the night Helen heard Dale sternly calling Pedro.
She felt some little alarm. However, nothing happened, and
she soon went to sleep again. At the morning meal Dale
"Pedro an' Tom were uneasy last night. I think there are
lions workin' over the ridge somewhere. I heard one scream."
"Scream?" inquired Bo, with interest.
"Yes, an' if you ever hear a lion scream you will think it a
woman in mortal agony. The cougar cry, as Roy calls it, is
the wildest to be heard in the woods. A wolf howls. He is
sad. hungry, and wild. But a cougar seems human an' dyin'
an' wild. We'll saddle up an' ride over there. Maybe Pedro
will tree a lion. Bo, if he does will you shoot it?"
"Sure," replied Bo, with her mouth full of biscuit.
That was how they came to take a long, slow, steep ride
under cover of dense spruce. Helen liked the ride after they
got on the heights. But they did not get to any point where
she could indulge in her pleasure of gazing afar over the
ranges. Dale led up and down, and finally mostly down, until
they came out within sight of sparser wooded ridges with
parks lying below and streams shining in the sun.
More than once Pedro had to be harshly called by Dale. The
hound scented game.
"Here's an old kill," said Dale, halting to point at some
bleached bones scattered under a spruce. Tufts of
grayish-white hair lay strewn around.
"What was it?" asked Bo.
"Deer, of course. Killed there an' eaten by a lion. Sometime
last fall. See, even the skull is split. But I could not say
that the lion did it."
Helen shuddered. She thought of the tame deer down at Dale's
camp. How beautiful and graceful, and responsive to
They rode out of the woods into a grassy swale with rocks
and clumps of some green bushes bordering it. Here Pedro
barked, the first time Helen had heard him. The hair on his
neck bristled, and it required stern calls from Dale to hold
him in. Dale dismounted.
"Hyar, Pede, you get back," he ordered. "I'll let you go
presently. . . . Girls, you're goin' to see somethin'. But
stay on your horses."
Dale, with the hound tense and bristling beside him, strode
here and there at the edge of the swale. Presently he halted
on a slight elevation and beckoned for the girls to ride
"Here, see where the grass is pressed down all nice an'
round," he said, pointing. "A lion made that. He sneaked
there, watchin' for deer. That was done this mornin'. Come
on, now. Let's see if we can trail him."
Dale stooped now, studying the grass, and holding Pedro.
Suddenly he straightened up with a flash in his gray eyes.
"Here's where he jumped."
But Helen could not see any reason why Dale should say that.
The man of the forest took a long stride then another.
"An' here's where that lion lit on the back of the deer. It
was a big jump. See the sharp hoof tracks of the deer." Dale
pressed aside tall grass to show dark, rough, fresh tracks
of a deer, evidently made by violent action.
"Come on," called Dale, walking swiftly. "You're sure goin'
to see somethin' now. . . . Here's where the deer bounded,
carryin' the lion."
"What!" exclaimed Bo, incredulously.
"The deer was runnin' here with the lion on his back. I'll
prove it to you. Come on, now. Pedro, you stay with me.
Girls, it's a fresh trail." Dale walked along, leading his
horse, and occasionally he pointed down into the grass.
"There! See that! That's hair."
Helen did see some tufts of grayish hair scattered on the
ground, and she believed she saw little, dark separations in
the grass, where an animal had recently passed. All at once
Dale halted. When Helen reached him Bo was already there and
they were gazing down at a wide, flattened space in the
grass. Even Helen's inexperienced eyes could make out
evidences of a struggle. Tufts of gray-white hair lay upon
the crushed grass. Helen did not need to see any more, but
Dale silently pointed to a patch of blood. Then he spoke:
"The lion brought the deer down here an' killed him.
Probably broke his neck. That deer ran a hundred yards with
the lion. See, here's the trail left where the lion dragged
the deer off."
A well-defined path showed across the swale.
"Girls, you'll see that deer pretty quick," declared Dale,
starting forward. "This work has just been done. Only a few
"How can you tell?" queried Bo.
"Look! See that grass. It has been bent down by the deer
bein' dragged over it. Now it's springin' up."
Dale's next stop was on the other side of the swale, under a
spruce with low, spreading branches. The look of Pedro
quickened Helen's pulse. He was wild to give chase.
Fearfully Helen looked where Dale pointed, expecting to see
the lion. But she saw instead a deer lying prostrate with
tongue out and sightless eyes and bloody hair.
"Girls, that lion heard us an' left. He's not far," said
Dale, as he stooped to lift the head of the deer. "Warm!
Neck broken. See the lion's teeth an' claw marks. . . . It's
a doe. Look here. Don't be squeamish, girls. This is only an
hourly incident of everyday life in the forest. See where
the lion has rolled the skin down as neat as I could do it,
an' he'd just begun to bite in there when he heard us."
"What murderous work, The sight sickens me!" exclaimed
"It is nature," said Dale, simply.
"Let's kill the lion," added Bo.
For answer Dale took a quick turn at their saddle-girths,
and then, mounting, he called to the hound. "Hunt him up,
Like a shot the hound was off.
"Ride in my tracks an' keep close to me," called Dale, as he
wheeled his horse.
"We're off!" squealed Bo, in wild delight, and she made her
Helen urged her horse after them and they broke across a
comer of the swale to the woods. Pedro was running straight,
with his nose high. He let out one short bark. He headed
into the woods, with Dale not far behind. Helen was on one
of Dale's best horses, but that fact scarcely manifested
itself, because the others began to increase their lead.
They entered the woods. It was open, and fairly good going.
Bo's horse ran as fast in the woods as he did in the open.
That frightened Helen and she yelled to Bo to hold him in.
She yelled to deaf ears. That was Bo's great risk -- she did
not intend to be careful. Suddenly the forest rang with
Dale's encouraging yell, meant to aid the girls in following
him. Helen's horse caught the spirit of the chase. He gained
somewhat on Bo, hurdling logs, sometimes two at once.
Helen's blood leaped with a strange excitement, utterly
unfamiliar and as utterly resistless. Yet her natural fear,
and the intelligence that reckoned with the foolish risk of
this ride, shared alike in her sum of sensations. She tried
to remember Dale's caution about dodging branches and snags,
and sliding her knees back to avoid knocks from trees. She
barely missed some frightful reaching branches. She received
a hard knock, then another, that unseated her, but
frantically she held on and slid back, and at the end of a
long run through comparatively open forest she got a
stinging blow in the face from a far-spreading branch of
pine. Bo missed, by what seemed only an inch, a solid snag
that would have broken her in two. Both Pedro and Dale got
out of Helen's sight. Then Helen, as she began to lose Bo,
felt that she would rather run greater risks than be left
behind to get lost in the forest, and she urged her horse.
Dale's yell pealed back. Then it seemed even more thrilling
to follow by sound than by sight. Wind and brush tore at
her. The air was heavily pungent with odor of pine. Helen
heard a wild, full bay of the hound, ringing back, full of
savage eagerness, and she believed Pedro had roused out the
lion from some covert. It lent more stir to her blood and it
surely urged her horse on faster.
Then the swift pace slackened. A windfall of timber delayed
Helen. She caught a glimpse of Dale far ahead, climbing a
slope. The forest seemed full of his ringing yell. Helen
strangely wished for level ground and the former swift
motion. Next she saw Bo working down to the right, and
Dale's yell now came from that direction. Helen followed,
got out of the timber, and made better time on a gradual
slope down to another park.
When she reached the open she saw Bo almost across this
narrow open ground. Here Helen did not need to urge her
mount. He snorted and plunged at the level and he got to
going so fast that Helen would have screamed aloud in
mingled fear and delight if she had not been breathless.
Her horse had the bad luck to cross soft ground. He went to
his knees and Helen sailed out of the saddle over his head.
Soft willows and wet grass broke her fall. She was surprised
to find herself unhurt. Up she bounded and certainly did not
know this new Helen Rayner. Her horse was coming, and he had
patience with her, but he wanted to hurry. Helen made the
quickest mount of her experience and somehow felt a pride in
it. She would tell Bo that. But just then Bo flashed into
the woods out of sight. Helen fairly charged into that green
foliage, breaking brush and branches. She broke through into
open forest. Bo was inside, riding down an aisle between
pines and spruces. At that juncture Helen heard Dale's
melodious yell near at hand. Coming into still more open
forest, with rocks here and there, she saw Dale dismounted
under a pine, and Pedro standing with fore paws upon the
tree-trunk, and then high up on a branch a huge tawny
colored lion, just like Tom.
Bo's horse slowed up and showed fear, but he kept on as far
as Dale's horse. But Helen's refused to go any nearer. She
had difficulty in halting him. Presently she dismounted and,
throwing her bridle over a stump, she ran on, panting and
fearful, yet tingling all over, up to her sister and Dale.
"Nell, you did pretty good for a tenderfoot," was Bo's
"It was a fine chase," said Dale. "You both rode well. I
wish you could have seen the lion on the ground. He bounded
-- great long bounds with his tail up in the air -- very
funny. An' Pedro almost caught up with him. That scared me,
because he would have killed the hound. Pedro was close to
him when he treed. An' there he is -- the yellow
deer-killer. He's a male an' full grown."
With that Dale pulled his rifle from its saddle-sheath and
looked expectantly at Bo. But she was gazing with great
interest and admiration up at the lion.
"Isn't he just beautiful?" she burst out. "Oh, look at him
spit! Just like a cat! Dale, he looks afraid he might fall
"He sure does. Lions are never sure of their balance in a
tree. But I never saw one make a misstep. He knows he
doesn't belong there."
To Helen the lion looked splendid perched up there. He was
long and round and graceful and tawny. His tongue hung out
and his plump sides heaved, showing what a quick, hard run
he had been driven to. What struck Helen most forcibly about
him was something in his face as he looked down at the
hound. He was scared. He realized his peril. It was not
possible for Helen to watch him killed, yet she could not
bring herself to beg Bo not to shoot. Helen confessed she
was a tenderfoot.
"Get down, Bo, an' let's see how good a shot you are, said
Dale. Bo slowly withdrew her fascinated gaze from the lion
and looked with a rueful smile at Dale.
"I've changed my mind. I said I would kill him, but now I
can't. He looks so -- so different from what I'd imagined."
Dale's answer was a rare smile of understanding and approval
that warmed Helen's heart toward him. All the same, he was
amused. Sheathing the gun, he mounted his horse.
"Come on, Pedro," he called. "Come, I tell you," he added,
sharply, "Well, girls, we treed him, anyhow, an, it was fun.
Now we'll ride back to the deer he killed an' pack a haunch
to camp for our own use."
"Will the lion go back to his -- his kill, I think you
called it?" asked Bo.
"I've chased one away from his kill half a dozen times.
Lions are not plentiful here an' they don't get overfed. I
reckon the balance is pretty even."
This last remark made Helen inquisitive. And as they slowly
rode on the back-trail Dale talked.
"You girls, bein' tender-hearted an' not knowin' the life of
the forest, what's good an' what's bad, think it was a pity
the poor deer was killed by a murderous lion. But you're
wrong. As I told you, the lion is absolutely necessary to
the health an' joy of wild life -- or deer's wild life, so
to speak. When deer were created or came into existence,
then the lion must have come, too. They can't live without
each other. Wolves, now, are not particularly deer-killers.
They live off elk an' anythin' they can catch. So will
lions, for that matter. But I mean lions follow the deer to
an' fro from winter to summer feedin'-grounds. Where there's
no deer you will find no lions. Well, now, if left alone
deer would multiply very fast. In a few years there would be
hundreds where now there's only one. An' in time, as the
generations passed, they'd lose the fear, the alertness, the
speed an' strength, the eternal vigilance that is love of
life -- they'd lose that an' begin to deteriorate, an'
disease would carry them off. I saw one season of
black-tongue among deer. It killed them off, an' I believe
that is one of the diseases of over-production. The lions,
now, are forever on the trail of the deer. They have
learned. Wariness is an instinct born in the fawn. It makes
him keen, quick, active, fearful, an' so he grows up strong
an' healthy to become the smooth, sleek, beautiful,
soft-eyed, an' wild-lookin' deer you girls love to watch.
But if it wasn't for the lions, the deer would not thrive.
Only the strongest an' swiftest survive. That is the meanin'
of nature. There is always a perfect balance kept by nature.
It may vary in different years, but on the whole, in the
long years, it averages an even balance."
"How wonderfully you put it!" exclaimed Bo, with all her
impulsiveness. "Oh, I'm glad I didn't kill the lion."
"What you say somehow hurts me," said Helen, wistfully, to
the hunter. "I see -- I feel how true -- how inevitable it
is. But it changes my -- my feelings. Almost I'd rather not
acquire such knowledge as yours. This balance of nature --
how tragic -- how sad!"
"But why?" asked Dale. "You love birds, an' birds are the
greatest killers in the forest."
"Don't tell me that -- don't prove it," implored Helen. It
is not so much the love of life in a deer or any creature,
and the terrible clinging to life, that gives me distress.
It is suffering. I can't bear to see pain. I can STAND pain
myself, but I can't BEAR to see or think of it."
"Well," replied. Dale, thoughtfully, "There you stump me
again. I've lived long in the forest an' when a man's alone
he does a heap of thinkin'. An' always I couldn't understand
a reason or a meanin' for pain. Of all the bafflin' things
of life, that is the hardest to understand an' to forgive --
That evening, as they sat in restful places round the
camp-fire, with the still twilight fading into night, Dale
seriously asked the girls what the day's chase had meant to
them. His manner of asking was productive of thought. Both
girls were silent for a moment.
"Glorious!" was Bo's brief and eloquent reply.
"Why?" asked. Dale, curiously. "You are a girl. You've been
used to home, people, love, comfort, safety, quiet."
"Maybe that is just why it was glorious," said Bo,
earnestly. "I can hardly explain. I loved the motion of the
horse, the feel of wind in my face, the smell of the pine,
the sight of slope and forest glade and windfall and rocks,
and the black shade under the spruces. My blood beat and
burned. My teeth clicked. My nerves all quivered. My heart
sometimes, at dangerous moments, almost choked me, and all
the time it pounded hard. Now my skin was hot and then it
was cold. But I think the best of that chase for me was that
I was on a fast horse, guiding him, controlling him. He was
alive. Oh, how I felt his running!"
"Well, what you say is as natural to me as if I felt it,"
said Dale. "I wondered. You're certainly full of fire, An',
Helen, what do you say?"
"Bo has answered you with her feelings," replied Helen, "I
could not do that and be honest. The fact that Bo wouldn't
shoot the lion after we treed him acquits her. Nevertheless,
her answer is purely physical. You know, Mr. Dale, how you
talk about the physical. I should say my sister was just a
young, wild, highly sensitive, hot-blooded female of the
species. She exulted in that chase as an Indian. Her
sensations were inherited ones -- certainly not acquired by
education. Bo always hated study. The ride was a revelation
to me. I had a good many of Bo's feelings -- though not so
strong. But over against them was the opposition of reason,
of consciousness. A new-born side of my nature confronted
me, strange, surprising, violent, irresistible. It was as if
another side of my personality suddenly said: 'Here I am.
Reckon with me now!' And there was no use for the moment to
oppose that strange side. I -- the thinking Helen Rayner,
was powerless. Oh yes, I had such thoughts even when the
branches were stinging my face and I was thrilling to the
bay of the hound. Once my horse fell and threw me. . . . You
needn't look alarmed. It was fine. I went into a soft place
and was unhurt. But when I was sailing through the air a
thought flashed: this is the end of me! It was like a dream
when you are falling dreadfully. Much of what I felt and
thought on that chase must have been because of what I have
studied and read and taught. The reality of it, the action
and flash, were splendid. But fear of danger, pity for the
chased lion, consciousness of foolish risk, of a reckless
disregard for the serious responsibility I have taken -- all
these worked in my mind and held back what might have been a
sheer physical, primitive joy of the wild moment."
Dale listened intently, and after Helen had finished he
studied the fire and thoughtfully poked the red embers with
his stick. His face was still and serene, untroubled and
unlined, but to Helen his eyes seemed sad, pensive,
expressive of an unsatisfied yearning and wonder. She had
carefully and earnestly spoken, because she was very curious
to hear what he might say.
"I understand you," he replied, presently. "An' I'm sure
surprised that I can. I've read my books -- an' reread them,
but no one ever talked like that to me. What I make of it is
this. You've the same blood in you that's in Bo. An' blood
is stronger than brain. Remember that blood is life. It
would be good for you to have it run an' beat an' burn, as
Bo's did. Your blood did that a thousand years or ten
thousand before intellect was born in your ancestors.
Instinct may not be greater than reason, but it's a million
years older. Don't fight your instincts so hard. If they
were not good the God of Creation would not have given them
to you. To-day your mind was full of self-restraint that did
not altogether restrain. You couldn't forget yourself. You
couldn't FEEL only, as Bo did. You couldn't be true to your
"I don't agree with you," replied Helen, quickly. "I don't
have to be an Indian to be true to myself."
"Why, yes you do," said Dale.
"But I couldn't be an Indian," declared Helen, spiritedly.
"I couldn't FEEL only, as you say Bo did. I couldn't go back
in the scale, as you hint. What would all my education
amount to -- though goodness knows it's little enough -- if
I had no control over primitive feelings that happened to be
born in me?"
"You'll have little or no control over them when the right
time comes," replied Dale. "Your sheltered life an'
education have led you away from natural instincts. But
they're in you an' you'll learn the proof of that out here."
"No. Not if I lived a hundred years in the West," asserted
"But, child, do you know what you're talkin' about?"
Here Bo let out a blissful peal of laughter.
"Mr. Dale!" exclaimed Helen, almost affronted. She was
stirred. "I know MYSELF, at least."
"But you do not. You've no idea of yourself. You've
education, yes, but not in nature an' life. An' after all,
they are the real things. Answer me, now -- honestly, will
"Certainly, if I can. Some of your questions are hard to
"Have you ever been starved?" he asked.
"No," replied Helen.
"Have you ever been lost away from home ?"
"Have you ever faced death -- real stark an' naked death,
close an' terrible?"
"Have you ever wanted to kill any one with your bare hands?"
"Oh, Mr. Dale, you -- you amaze me. No! . . . No!"
"I reckon I know your answer to my last question, but I'll
ask it, anyhow. . . . Have you ever been so madly in love
with a man that you could not live without him?"
Bo fell off her seat with a high, trilling laugh. "Oh, you
two are great!"
"Thank Heaven, I haven't been," replied Helen, shortly.
"Then you don't know anythin' about life," declared Dale,
Helen was not to be put down by that, dubious and troubled
as it made her.
"Have you experienced all those things?" she queried,
"All but the last one. Love never came my way. How could it?
I live alone. I seldom go to the villages where there are
girls. No girl would ever care for me. I have nothin'. . . .
But, all the same, I understand love a little, just by
comparison with strong feelin's I've lived."
Helen watched the hunter and marveled at his simplicity. His
sad and penetrating gaze was on the fire, as if in its white
heart to read the secret denied him. He had said that no
girl would ever love him. She imagined he might know
considerably less about the nature of girls than of the
"To come back to myself," said Helen, wanting to continue
the argument. "You declared I didn't know myself. That I
would have no self-control. I will!"
"I meant the big things of life," he said, patiently.
"I told you. By askin' what had never happened to you I
learned what will happen."
"Those experiences to come to ME!" breathed Helen,
"Sister Nell, they sure will -- particularly the last-named
one -- the mad love," chimed in Bo, mischievously, yet
Neither Dale nor Helen appeared to hear her interruption.
"Let me put it simpler," began Dale, evidently racking his
brain for analogy. His perplexity appeared painful to him,
because he had a great faith, a great conviction that he
could not make clear. "Here I am, the natural physical man,
livin' in the wilds. An' here you come, the complex,
intellectual woman. Remember, for my argument's sake, that
you're here. An' suppose circumstances forced you to stay
here. You'd fight the elements with me an' work with me to
sustain life. There must be a great change in either you or
me, accordin' to the other's influence. An' can't you see
that change must come in you, not because of anythin'
superior in me -- I'm really inferior to you -- but because
of our environment? You'd lose your complexity. An' in years
to come you'd be a natural physical woman, because you'd
live through an' by the physical."
"Oh dear, will not education be of help to the Western
woman?" queried Helen, almost in despair.
"Sure it will," answered Dale, promptly. "What the West
needs is women who can raise an' teach children. But you
don't understand me. You don't get under your skin. I reckon
I can't make you see my argument as I feel it. You take my
word for this, though. Sooner or later you WILL wake up an'
forget yourself. Remember."
"Nell, I'll bet you do, too," said Bo, seriously for her.
"It may seem strange to you, but I understand Dale. I feel
what he means. It's a sort of shock. Nell, we're not what we
seem. We're not what we fondly imagine we are. We've lived
too long with people -- too far away from the earth. You
know the Bible says something like this: 'Dust thou art and
to dust thou shalt return.' Where DO we come from?"
Every morning Helen awoke with a wondering question as to
what this day would bring forth, especially with regard to
possible news from her uncle. It must come sometime and she
was anxious for it. Something about this simple, wild camp
life had begun to grip her. She found herself shirking daily
attention to the clothes she had brought West. They needed
it, but she had begun to see how superficial they really
were. On the other hand, camp-fire tasks had come to be a
pleasure. She had learned a great deal more about them than
had Bo. Worry and dread were always impinging upon the
fringe of her thoughts -- always vaguely present, though
seldom annoying. They were like shadows in dreams. She
wanted to get to her uncle's ranch, to take up the duties of
her new life. But she was not prepared to believe she would
not regret this wild experience. She must get away from that
in order to see it clearly, and she began to have doubts of
Meanwhile the active and restful outdoor life went on. Bo
leaned more and more toward utter reconciliation to it. Her
eyes had a wonderful flash, like blue lightning; her cheeks
were gold and brown; her hands tanned dark as an Indian's.
She could vault upon the gray mustang, or, for that matter,
clear over his back. She learned to shoot a rifle accurately
enough to win Dale's praise, and vowed she would like to
draw a bead upon a grizzly bear or upon Snake Anson.
"Bo, if you met that grizzly Dale said has been prowling
round camp lately you'd run right up a tree," declared
Helen, one morning, when Bo seemed particularly boastful.
"Don't fool yourself," retorted Bo.
"But I've seen you run from a mouse!"
"Sister, couldn't I be afraid of a mouse and not a bear?"
"I don't see how."
"Well, bears, lions, outlaws, and other wild beasts are to
be met with here in the West, and my mind's made up," said
Bo, in slow-nodding deliberation.
They argued as they had always argued, Helen for reason and
common sense and restraint, Bo on the principle that if she
must fight it was better to get in the first blow.
The morning on which this argument took place Dale was a
long time in catching the horses. When he did come in he
shook his head seriously.
"Some varmint's been chasin' the horses," he said, as he
reached for his saddle. "Did you hear them snortin' an'
runnin' last night?"
Neither of the girls had been awakened.
"I missed one of the colts," went on Dale, "an' I'm goin' to
ride across the park."
Dale's movements were quick and stern. It was significant
that he chose his heavier rifle, and, mounting, with a sharp
call to Pedro, he rode off without another word to the
Bo watched him for a moment and then began to saddle the
"You won't follow him?" asked Helen, quickly.
"I sure will," replied Bo. "He didn't forbid it."
"But he certainly did not want us."
"He might not want you, but I'll bet he wouldn't object to
me, whatever's up," said Bo, shortly.
"Oh! So you think --" exclaimed Helen, keenly hurt. She bit
her tongue to keep back a hot reply. And it was certain that
a bursting gush of anger flooded over her. Was she, then,
such a coward? Did Dale think this slip of a sister, so wild
and wilful, was a stronger woman than she? A moment's silent
strife convinced her that no doubt he thought so and no
doubt he was right. Then the anger centered upon herself,
and Helen neither understood nor trusted herself.
The outcome proved an uncontrollable impulse. Helen began to
saddle her horse. She had the task half accomplished when
Bo's call made her look up.
Helen heard a ringing, wild bay of the hound.
"That's Pedro," she said, with a thrill.
"Sure. He's running. We never heard him bay like that
"He rode out of sight across there," replied Bo, pointing.
"And Pedro's running toward us along that slope. He must be
a mile -- two miles from Dale."
"But Dale will follow."
"Sure. But he'd need wings to get near that hound now. Pedro
couldn't have gone across there with him. . . . just
The wild note of the hound manifestly stirred Bo to
irrepressible action. Snatching up Dale's lighter rifle, she
shoved it into her saddle-sheath, and, leaping on the
mustang, she ran him over brush and brook, straight down the
park toward the place Pedro was climbing. For an instant
Helen stood amazed beyond speech. When Bo sailed over a big
log, like a steeple-chaser, then Helen answered to further
unconsidered impulse by frantically getting her saddle
fastened. Without coat or hat she mounted. The nervous horse
bolted almost before she got into the saddle. A strange,
trenchant trembling coursed through all her veins. She
wanted to scream for Bo to wait. Bo was out of sight, but
the deep, muddy tracks in wet places and the path through
the long grass afforded Helen an easy trail to follow. In
fact, her horse needed no guiding. He ran in and out of the
straggling spruces along the edge of the park, and suddenly
wheeled around a corner of trees to come upon the gray
mustang standing still. Bo was looking up and listening.
"There he is!" cried Bo, as the hound bayed ringingly,
closer to them this time, and she spurred away.
Helen's horse followed without urging. He was excited. His
ears were up. Something was in the wind. Helen had never
ridden along this broken end of the park, and Bo was not
easy to keep up with. She led across bogs, brooks, swales,
rocky little ridges, through stretches of timber and groves
of aspen so thick Helen could scarcely squeeze through. Then
Bo came out into a large open offshoot of the park, right
under the mountain slope, and here she sat, her horse
watching and listening. Helen rode up to her, imagining once
that she had heard the hound.
"Look! Look!" Bo's scream made her mustang stand almost
Helen gazed up to see a big brown bear with a frosted coat
go lumbering across an opening on the slope.
"It's a grizzly! He'll kill Pedro! Oh, where is Dale!" cried
Bo, with intense excitement.
"Bo! That bear is running down! We -- we must get -- out of
his road," panted Helen, in breathless alarm.
"Dale hasn't had time to be close. . . . Oh, I wish he'd
come! I don't know what to do."
"Ride back. At least wait for him."
Just then Pedro spoke differently, in savage barks, and
following that came a loud growl and crashings in the brush.
These sounds appeared to be not far up the slope.
"Nell! Do you hear? Pedro's fighting the bear," burst out
Bo. Her face paled, her eyes flashed like blue steel. "The
bear 'll kill him!"
"Oh, that would be dreadful!" replied Helen, in distress.
"But what on earth can we do?"
"HEL-LO, DALE!" called Bo, at the highest pitch of her
No answer came. A heavy crash of brush, a rolling of stones,
another growl from the slope told Helen that the hound had
brought the bear to bay.
"Nell, I'm going up," said Bo, deliberately.
"No-no! Are you mad?" returned Helen.
"The bear will kill Pedro."
"He might kill you."
"You ride that way and yell for Dale," rejoined Bo.
"What will -- you do?" gasped Helen.
"I'll shoot at the bear -- scare him off. If he chases me he
can't catch me coming downhill. Dale said that."
"You're crazy!" cried Helen, as Bo looked up the slope,
searching for open ground. Then she pulled the rifle from
But Bo did not hear or did not care. She spurred the
mustang, and he, wild to run, flung grass and dirt from his
heels. What Helen would have done then she never knew, but
the fact was that her horse bolted after the mustang. In an
instant, seemingly, Bo had disappeared in the gold and green
of the forest slope. Helen's mount climbed on a run,
snorting and heaving, through aspens, brush, and timber, to
come out into a narrow, long opening extending lengthwise up
A sudden prolonged crash ahead alarmed Helen and halted her
horse. She saw a shaking of aspens. Then a huge brown beast
leaped as a cat out of the woods. It was a bear of enormous
size. Helen's heart stopped -- her tongue clove to the roof
of her mouth. The bear turned. His mouth was open, red and
dripping. He looked shaggy, gray. He let out a terrible
bawl. Helen's every muscle froze stiff. Her horse plunged
high and sidewise, wheeling almost in the air, neighing his
terror. Like a stone she dropped from the saddle. She did
not see the horse break into the woods, but she heard him.
Her gaze never left the bear even while she was falling, and
it seemed she alighted in an upright position with her back
against a bush. It upheld her. The bear wagged his huge head
from side to side. Then, as the hound barked close at hand,
he turned to run heavily uphill and out of the opening.
The instant of his disappearance was one of collapse for
Helen. Frozen with horror, she had been unable to move or
feel or think. All at once she was a quivering mass of cold,
helpless flesh, wet with perspiration, sick with a
shuddering, retching, internal convulsion, her mind
liberated from paralyzing shock. The moment was as horrible
as that in which the bear had bawled his frightful rage. A
stark, icy, black emotion seemed in possession of her. She
could not lift a hand, yet all of her body appeared shaking.
There was a fluttering, a strangling in her throat. The
crushing weight that surrounded her heart eased before she
recovered use of her limbs. Then, the naked and terrible
thing was gone, like a nightmare giving way to
consciousness. What blessed relief! Helen wildly gazed about
her. The bear and hound were out of sight, and so was her
horse. She stood up very dizzy and weak. Thought of Bo then
seemed to revive her, to shock different life and feeling
throughout all her cold extremities. She listened.
She heard a thudding of hoofs down the slope, then Dale's
clear, strong call. She answered. It appeared long before he
burst out of the woods, riding hard and leading her horse.
In that time she recovered fully, and when he reached her,
to put a sudden halt upon the fiery Ranger, she caught the
bridle he threw and swiftly mounted her horse. The feel of
the saddle seemed different. Dale's piercing gray glance
thrilled her strangely.
"You're white. Are you hurt?" he said.
"No. I was scared."
"But he threw you?"
"Yes, he certainly threw me."
"We heard the hound and we rode along the timber. Then we
saw the bear -- a monster -- white -- coated --"
"I know. It's a grizzly. He killed the colt -- your pet.
Hurry now. What about Bo?"
"Pedro was fighting the bear. Bo said he'd be killed. She
rode right up here. My horse followed. I couldn't have
stopped him. But we lost Bo. Right there the bear came out.
He roared. My horse threw me and ran off. Pedro's barking
saved me -- my life, I think. Oh! that was awful! Then the
bear went up -- there. . . . And you came."
"Bo's followin' the hound!" ejaculated Dale. And, lifting
his hands to his mouth, he sent out a stentorian yell that
rolled up the slope, rang against the cliffs, pealed and
broke and died away. Then he waited, listening. From far up
the slope came a faint, wild cry, high-pitched and sweet, to
create strange echoes, floating away to die in the ravines.
"She's after him!" declared Dale, grimly.
"Bo's got your rifle," said Helen. "Oh, we must hurry."
"You go back," ordered Dale, wheeling his horse.
"No!" Helen felt that word leave her lips with the force of
Dale spurred Ranger and took to the open slope. Helen kept
at his heels until timber was reached. Here a steep trail
led up. Dale dismounted.
"Horse tracks -- bear tracks -- dog tracks," he said,
bending over. "We'll have to walk up here. It'll save our
horses an' maybe time, too."
"Is Bo riding up there?" asked Helen, eying the steep
"She sure is." With that Dale started up, leading his horse.
Helen followed. It was rough and hard work. She was lightly
clad, yet soon she was hot, laboring, and her heart began to
hurt. When Dale halted to rest Helen was just ready to drop.
The baying of the hound, though infrequent, inspirited her.
But presently that sound was lost. Dale said bear and hound
had gone over the ridge and as soon as the top was gained he
would hear them again.
"Look there," he said, presently, pointing to fresh tracks,
larger than those made by Bo's mustang. "Elk tracks. We've
scared a big bull an' he's right ahead of us. Look sharp an'
you'll see him."
Helen never climbed so hard and fast before, and when they
reached the ridge-top she was all tuckered out. It was all
she could do to get on her horse. Dale led along the crest
of this wooded ridge toward the western end, which was
considerably higher. In places open rocky ground split the
green timber. Dale pointed toward a promontory.
Helen saw a splendid elk silhouetted against the sky. He was
a light gray over all his hindquarters, with shoulders and
head black. His ponderous, wide-spread antlers towered over
him, adding to the wildness of his magnificent poise as he
stood there, looking down into the valley, no doubt
listening for the bay of the hound. When he heard Dale's
horse he gave one bound, gracefully and wonderfully carrying
his antlers, to disappear in the green.
Again on a bare patch of ground Dale pointed down. Helen saw
big round tracks, toeing in a little, that gave her a chill.
She knew these were grizzly tracks.
Hard riding was not possible on this ridge crest, a fact
that gave Helen time to catch her breath. At length, coming
out upon the very summit of the mountain, Dale heard the
hound. Helen's eyes feasted afar upon a wild scene of rugged
grandeur, before she looked down on this western slope at
her feet to see bare, gradual descent, leading down to
sparsely wooded bench and on to deep-green canuon.
"Ride hard now!" yelled Dale. "I see Bo, an' I'll have to
ride to catch her."
Dale spurred down the slope. Helen rode in his tracks and,
though she plunged so fast that she felt her hair stand up
with fright, she saw him draw away from her. Sometimes her
horse slid on his haunches for a few yards, and at these
hazardous moments she got her feet out of the stirrups so as
to fall free from him if he went down. She let him choose
the way, while she gazed ahead at Dale, and then farther on,
in the hope of seeing Bo. At last she was rewarded. Far Down
the wooded bench she saw a gray flash of the little mustang
and a bright glint of Bo's hair. Her heart swelled. Dale
would soon overhaul Bo and come between her and peril. And
on the instant, though Helen was unconscious of it then, a
remarkable change came over her spirit. Fear left her. And a
hot, exalting, incomprehensible something took possession of
She let the horse run, and when he had plunged to the foot
of that slope of soft ground he broke out across the open
bench at a pace that made the wind bite Helen's cheeks and
roar in her ears. She lost sight of Dale. It gave her a
strange, grim exultance. She bent her eager gaze to find the
tracks of his horse, and she found them. Also she made out
the tracks of Bo's mustang and the bear and the hound. Her
horse, scenting game, perhaps, and afraid to be left alone,
settled into a fleet and powerful stride, sailing over logs
and brush. That open bench had looked short, but it was
long, and Helen rode down the gradual descent at breakneck
speed. She would not be left behind. She had awakened to a
heedlessness of risk. Something burned steadily within her.
A grim, hard anger of joy! When she saw, far down another
open, gradual descent, that Dale had passed Bo and that Bo
was riding the little mustang as never before, then Helen
flamed with a madness to catch her, to beat her in that
wonderful chase, to show her and Dale what there really was
in the depths of Helen Rayner.
Her ambition was to be short-lived, she divined from the lay
of the land ahead, but the ride she lived then for a flying
mile was something that would always blanch her cheeks and
prick her skin in remembrance.
The open ground was only too short. That thundering pace
soon brought Helen's horse to the timber. Here it took all
her strength to check his headlong flight over deadfalls and
between small jack-pines. Helen lost sight of Bo, and she
realized it would take all her wits to keep from getting
lost. She had to follow the trail, and in some places it was
hard to see from horseback.
Besides, her horse was mettlesome, thoroughly aroused, and
he wanted a free rein and his own way. Helen tried that,
only to lose the trail and to get sundry knocks from trees
and branches. She could not hear the hound, nor Dale. The
pines were small, close together, and tough. They were hard
to bend. Helen hurt her hands, scratched her face, barked
her knees. The horse formed a habit suddenly of deciding to
go the way he liked instead of the way Helen guided him, and
when he plunged between saplings too close to permit easy
passage it was exceedingly hard on her. That did not make
any difference to Helen. Once worked into a frenzy, her
blood stayed at high pressure. She did not argue with
herself about a need of desperate hurry. Even a blow on the
head that nearly blinded her did not in the least retard
her. The horse could hardly be held, and not at all in the
few open places.
At last Helen reached another slope. Coming out upon canuon
rim, she heard Dale's clear call, far down, and Bo's
answering peal, high and piercing, with its note of exultant
wildness. Helen also heard the bear and the hound fighting
at the bottom of this canuon.
Here Helen again missed the tracks made by Dale and Bo. The
descent looked impassable. She rode back along the rim, then
forward. Finally she found where the ground had been plowed
deep by hoofs, down over little banks. Helen's horse balked
at these jumps. When she goaded him over them she went
forward on his neck. It seemed like riding straight
downhill. The mad spirit of that chase grew more stingingly
keen to Helen as the obstacles grew. Then, once more the bay
of the hound and the bawl of the bear made a demon of her
horse. He snorted a shrill defiance. He plunged with fore
hoofs in the air. He slid and broke a way down the steep,
soft banks, through the thick brush and thick clusters of
saplings, sending loose rocks and earth into avalanches
ahead of him. He fell over one bank, but a thicket of aspens
upheld him so that he rebounded and gained his feet. The
sounds of fight ceased, but Dale's thrilling call floated up
on the pine-scented air.
Before Helen realized it she was at the foot of the slope,
in a narrow canuon-bed, full of rocks and trees, with a soft
roar of running water filling her ears. Tracks were
everywhere, and when she came to the first open place she
saw where the grizzly had plunged off a sandy bar into the
water. Here he had fought Pedro. Signs of that battle were
easy to read. Helen saw where his huge tracks, still wet,
led up the opposite sandy bank.
Then down-stream Helen did some more reckless and splendid
riding. On level ground the horse was great. Once he leaped
clear across the brook. Every plunge, every turn Helen
expected to come upon Dale and Bo facing the bear. The canuon
narrowed, the stream-bed deepened. She had to slow down to
get through the trees and rocks. Quite unexpectedly she rode
pell-mell upon Dale and Bo and the panting Pedro. Her horse
plunged to a halt, answering the shrill neighs of the other
Dale gazed in admiring amazement at Helen.
"Say, did you meet the bear again?" he queried, blankly.
"No. Didn't -- you -- kill him?" panted Helen, slowly
sagging in her saddle.
"He got away in the rocks. Rough country down here.
Helen slid off her horse and fell with a little panting cry
of relief. She saw that she was bloody, dirty, disheveled,
and wringing wet with perspiration. Her riding habit was
torn into tatters. Every muscle seemed to burn and sting,
and all her bones seemed broken. But it was worth all this
to meet Dale's penetrating glance, to see Bo's utter,
"Nell -- Rayner!" gasped Bo.
"If -- my horse 'd been -- any good -- in the woods," panted
Helen, "I'd not lost -- so much time -- riding down this
mountain. And I'd caught you -- beat you."
"Girl, did you RIDE down this last slope?" queried Dale.
"I sure did," replied Helen, smiling.
"We walked every step of the way, and was lucky to get down
at that," responded Dale, gravely. "No horse should have
been ridden down there. Why, he must have slid down."
"We slid -- yes. But I stayed on him."
Bo's incredulity changed to wondering, speechless
admiration. And Dale's rare smile changed his gravity.
"I'm sorry. It was rash of me. I thought you'd go back. . .
. But all's well that ends well. . . . Helen, did you wake
She dropped her eyes, not caring to meet the questioning
gaze upon her.
"Maybe -- a little," she replied, and she covered her face
with her hands. Remembrance of his questions -- of his
assurance that she did not know the real meaning of life --
of her stubborn antagonism -- made her somehow ashamed. But
it was not for long.
"The chase was great," she said. "I did not know myself. You
"In how many ways did you find me right?" he asked.
"I think all -- but one," she replied, with a laugh and a
shudder. "I'm near starved NOW -- I was so furious at Bo
that I could have choked her. I faced that horrible brute. .
. . Oh, I know what it is to fear death! . . . I was lost
twice on the ride -- absolutely lost. That's all."
Bo found her tongue. "The last thing was for you to fall
wildly in love, wasn't it?"
"According to Dale, I must add that to my new experiences of
to-day -- before I can know real life," replied Helen,
The hunter turned away. "Let us go," he said, soberly.
After more days of riding the grassy level of that
wonderfully gold and purple park, and dreamily listening by
day to the ever-low and ever-changing murmur of the
waterfall, and by night to the wild, lonely mourn of a
hunting wolf, and climbing to the dizzy heights where the
wind stung sweetly, Helen Rayner lost track of time and
forgot her peril.
Roy Beeman did not return. If occasionally Dale mentioned
Roy and his quest, the girls had little to say beyond a
recurrent anxiety for the old uncle, and then they forgot
again. Paradise Park, lived in a little while at that season
of the year, would have claimed any one, and ever afterward
haunted sleeping or waking dreams.
Bo gave up to the wild life, to the horses and rides, to the
many pets, and especially to the cougar, Tom. The big cat
followed her everywhere, played with her, rolling and
pawing, kitten-like, and he would lay his massive head in
her lap to purr his content. Bo had little fear of anything,
and here in the wilds she soon lost that.
Another of Dale's pets was a half-grown black bear named
Muss. He was abnormally jealous of little Bud and he had a
well-developed hatred of Tom, otherwise he was a very
good-tempered bear, and enjoyed Dale's impartial regard.
Tom, however, chased Muss out of camp whenever Dale's back
was turned, and sometimes Muss stayed away, shifting for
himself. With the advent of Bo, who spent a good deal of
time on the animals, Muss manifestly found the camp more
attractive. Whereupon, Dale predicted trouble between Tom
Bo liked nothing better than a rough-and-tumble frolic with
the black bear. Muss was not very big nor very heavy, and in
a wrestling bout with the strong and wiry girl he sometimes
came out second best. It spoke well of him that he seemed to
be careful not to hurt Bo. He never bit or scratched, though
he sometimes gave her sounding slaps with his paws.
Whereupon, Bo would clench her gauntleted fists and sail
into him in earnest.
One afternoon before the early supper they always had, Dale
and Helen were watching Bo teasing the bear. She was in her
most vixenish mood, full of life and fight. Tom lay his long
length on the grass, watching with narrow, gleaming eyes.
When Bo and Muss locked in an embrace and went down to roll
over and over, Dale called Helen's attention to the cougar.
"Tom's jealous. It's strange how animals are like people.
Pretty soon I'll have to corral Muss, or there'll be a
Helen could not see anything wrong with Tom except that he
did not look playful.
During supper-time both bear and cougar disappeared, though
this was not remarked until afterward. Dale whistled and
called, but the rival pets did not return. Next morning Tom
was there, curled up snugly at the foot of Bo's bed, and
when she arose he followed her around as usual. But Muss did
The circumstance made Dale anxious. He left camp, taking Tom
with him, and upon returning stated that he had followed
Muss's track as far as possible, and then had tried to put
Tom on the trail, but the cougar would not or could not
follow it. Dale said Tom never liked a bear trail, anyway,
cougars and bears being common enemies. So, whether by
accident or design, Bo lost one of her playmates.
The hunter searched some of the slopes next day and even
went up on one of the mountains. He did not discover any
sign of Muss, but he said he had found something else.
"Bo you girls want some more real excitement?" he asked.
Helen smiled her acquiescence and Bo replied with one of her
"Don't mind bein' good an' scared?" he went on.
"You can't scare me," bantered Bo. But Helen looked
"Up in one of the parks I ran across one of my horses -- a
lame bay you haven't seen. Well, he had been killed by that
old silvertip. The one we chased. Hadn't been dead over an
hour. Blood was still runnin' an' only a little meat eaten.
That bear heard me or saw me an' made off into the woods.
But he'll come back to-night. I'm goin' up there, lay for
him, an' kill him this time. Reckon you'd better go, because
I don't want to leave you here alone at night."
"Are you going to take Tom?" asked Bo.
"No. The bear might get his scent. An', besides, Tom ain't
reliable on bears. I'll leave Pedro home, too."
When they had hurried supper, and Dale had gotten in the
horses, the sun had set and the valley was shadowing low
down, while the ramparts were still golden. The long zigzag
trail Dale followed up the slope took nearly an hour to
climb, so that when that was surmounted and he led out of
the woods twilight had fallen. A rolling park extended as
far as Helen could see, bordered by forest that in places
sent out straggling stretches of trees. Here and there, like
islands, were isolated patches of timber.
At ten thousand feet elevation the twilight of this clear
and cold night was a rich and rare atmospheric effect. It
looked as if it was seen through perfectly clear smoked
glass. Objects were singularly visible, even at long range,
and seemed magnified. In the west, where the afterglow of
sunset lingered over the dark, ragged, spruce-speared
horizon-line, there was such a transparent golden line
melting into vivid star-fired blue that Helen could only
gaze and gaze in wondering admiration.
Dale spurred his horse into a lope and the spirited mounts
of the girls kept up with him. The ground was rough, with
tufts of grass growing close together, yet the horses did
not stumble. Their action and snorting betrayed excitement.
Dale led around several clumps of timber, up a long grassy
swale, and then straight westward across an open flat toward
where the dark-fringed forest-line raised itself wild and
clear against the cold sky. The horses went swiftly, and the
wind cut like a blade of ice. Helen could barely get her
breath and she panted as if she had just climbed a laborsome
hill. The stars began to blink out of the blue, and the gold
paled somewhat, and yet twilight lingered. It seemed long
across that flat, but really was short. Coming to a thin
line of trees that led down over a slope to a deeper but
still isolated patch of woods, Dale dismounted and tied his
horse. When the girls got off he haltered their horses also.
"Stick close to me an' put your feet down easy," he
whispered. How tall and dark he loomed in the fading light!
Helen thrilled, as she had often of late, at the strange,
potential force of the man. Stepping softly, without the
least sound, Dale entered this straggly bit of woods, which
appeared to have narrow byways and nooks. Then presently he
came to the top of a well-wooded slope, dark as pitch,
apparently. But as Helen followed she perceived the trees,
and they were thin dwarf spruce, partly dead. The slope was
soft and springy, easy to step upon without noise. Dale went
so cautiously that Helen could not hear him, and sometimes
in the gloom she could not see him. Then the chill thrills
ran over her. Bo kept holding on to Helen, which fact
hampered Helen as well as worked somewhat to disprove Bo's
boast. At last level ground was reached. Helen made out a
light-gray background crossed by black bars. Another glance
showed this to be the dark tree-trunks against the open
Dale halted, and with a touch brought Helen to a straining
pause. He was listening. It seemed wonderful to watch him
bend his head and stand as silent and motionless as one of
the dark trees.
"He's not there yet," Dale whispered, and he stepped forward
very slowly. Helen and Bo began to come up against thin dead
branches that were invisible and then cracked. Then Dale
knelt down, seemed to melt into the ground.
"You'll have to crawl," he whispered.
How strange and thrilling that was for Helen, and hard work!
The ground bore twigs and dead branches, which had to be
carefully crawled over; and lying flat, as was necessary, it
took prodigious effort to drag her body inch by inch. Like a
huge snake, Dale wormed his way along.
Gradually the wood lightened. They were nearing the edge of
the park. Helen now saw a strip of open with a high, black
wall of spruce beyond. The afterglow flashed or changed,
like a dimming northern light, and then failed. Dale crawled
on farther to halt at length between two tree-trunks at the
edge of the wood.
"Come up beside me," he whispered.
Helen crawled on, and presently Bo was beside her panting,
with pale face and great, staring eyes, plain to be seen in
the wan light.
"Moon's comin' up. We're just in time. The old grizzly's not
there yet, but I see coyotes. Look."
Dale pointed across the open neck of park to a dim blurred
patch standing apart some little distance from the black
"That's the dead horse," whispered Dale. "An' if you watch
close you can see the coyotes. They're gray an' they move. .
. . Can't you hear them?"
Helen's excited ears, so full of throbs and imaginings,
presently registered low snaps and snarls. Bo gave her arm a
"I hear them. They're fighting. Oh, gee!" she panted, and
drew a long, full breath of unutterable excitement.
"Keep quiet now an' watch an' listen," said the hunter.
Slowly the black, ragged forest-line seemed to grow blacker
and lift; slowly the gray neck of park lightened under some
invisible influence; slowly the stars paled and the sky
filled over. Somewhere the moon was rising. And slowly that
vague blurred patch grew a little clearer.
Through the tips of the spruce, now seen to be rather close
at hand, shone a slender, silver crescent moon, darkening,
hiding, shining again, climbing until its exquisite
sickle-point topped the trees, and then, magically, it
cleared them, radiant and cold. While the eastern black wall
shaded still blacker, the park blanched and the border-line
opposite began to stand out as trees.
"Look! Look!" cried Bo, very low and fearfully, as she
"Not so loud," whispered Dale.
"But I see something!"
"Keep quiet," he admonished.
Helen, in the direction Bo pointed, could not see anything
but moon-blanched bare ground, rising close at hand to a
"Lie still," whispered Dale. "I'm goin' to crawl around to
get a look from another angle. I'll be right back."
He moved noiselessly backward and disappeared. With him
gone, Helen felt a palpitating of her heart and a prickling
of her skin.
"Oh, my! Nell! Look!" whispered Bo, in fright. "I know I saw
On top of the little ridge a round object moved slowly,
getting farther out into the light. Helen watched with
suspended breath. It moved out to be silhouetted against the
sky -- apparently a huge, round, bristling animal, frosty in
color. One instant it seemed huge -- the next small -- then
close at hand -- and far away. It swerved to come directly
toward them. Suddenly Helen realized that the beast was not
a dozen yards distant. She was just beginning a new
experience -- a real and horrifying terror in which her
blood curdled, her heart gave a tremendous leap and then
stood still, and she wanted to fly, but was rooted to the
spot -- when Dale returned to her side.
"That's a pesky porcupine," he whispered. "Almost crawled
over you. He sure would have stuck you full of quills."
Whereupon he threw a stick at the animal. It bounced
straight up to turn round with startling quickness, and it
gave forth a rattling sound; then it crawled out of sight.
"Por -- cu -- pine!" whispered Bo, pantingly. "It might --
as well -- have been -- an elephant!"
Helen uttered a long, eloquent sigh. She would not have
cared to describe her emotions at sight of a harmless
"Listen!" warned Dale, very low. His big hand closed over
Helen's gauntleted one. "There you have -- the real cry of
Sharp and cold on the night air split the cry of a wolf,
distant, yet wonderfully distinct. How wild and mournful and
hungry! How marvelously pure! Helen shuddered through all
her frame with the thrill of its music, the wild and
unutterable and deep emotions it aroused. Again a sound of
this forest had pierced beyond her life, back into the dim
remote past from which she had come.
The cry was not repeated. The coyotes were still. And
silence fell, absolutely unbroken.
Dale nudged Helen, and then reached over to give Bo a tap.
He was peering keenly ahead and his strained intensity could
be felt. Helen looked with all her might and she saw the
shadowy gray forms of the coyotes skulk away, out of the
moonlight into the gloom of the woods, where they
disappeared. Not only Dale's intensity, but the very
silence, the wildness of the moment and place, seemed
fraught with wonderful potency. Bo must have felt it, too,
for she was trembling all over, and holding tightly to
Helen, and breathing quick and fast.
"A-huh!" muttered Dale, under his breath.
Helen caught the relief and certainty in his exclamation,
and she divined, then, something of what the moment must
have been to a hunter.
Then her roving, alert glance was arrested by a looming gray
shadow coming out of the forest. It moved, but surely that
huge thing could not be a bear. It passed out of gloom into
silver moonlight. Helen's heart bounded. For it was a great
frosty-coated bear lumbering along toward the dead horse.
Instinctively Helen's hand sought the arm of the hunter. It
felt like iron under a rippling surface. The touch eased
away the oppression over her lungs, the tightness of her
throat. What must have been fear left her, and only a
powerful excitement remained. A sharp expulsion of breath
from Bo and a violent jerk of her frame were signs that she
had sighted the grizzly.
In the moonlight he looked of immense size, and that wild
park with the gloomy blackness of forest furnished a fit
setting for him. Helen's quick mind, so taken up with
emotion, still had a thought for the wonder and the meaning
of that scene. She wanted the bear killed, yet that seemed a
He had a wagging, rolling, slow walk which took several
moments to reach his quarry. When at length he reached it he
walked around with sniffs plainly heard and then a cross
growl. Evidently he had discovered that his meal had been
messed over. As a whole the big bear could be seen
distinctly, but only in outline and color. The distance was
perhaps two hundred yards. Then it looked as if he had begun
to tug at the carcass. Indeed, he was dragging it, very
slowly, but surely.
"Look at that!" whispered Dale. "If he ain't strong! . . .
Reckon I'll have to stop him."
The grizzly, however, stopped of his own accord, just
outside of the shadow-line of the forest. Then he hunched in
a big frosty heap over his prey and began to tear and rend.
"Jess was a mighty good horse," muttered Dale, grimly; "too
good to make a meal for a hog silvertip."
Then the hunter silently rose to a kneeling position,
swinging the rifle in front of him. He glanced up into the
low branches of the tree overhead.
"Girls, there's no tellin' what a grizzly will do. If I
yell, you climb up in this tree, an' do it quick."
With that he leveled the rifle, resting his left elbow on
his knee. The front end of the rifle, reaching out of the
shade, shone silver in the moonlight. Man and weapon became
still as stone. Helen held her breath. But Dale relaxed,
lowering the barrel.
"Can't see the sights very well," he whispered, shaking his
head. "Remember, now -- if I yell you climb!"
Again he aimed and slowly grew rigid. Helen could not take
her fascinated eyes off him. He knelt, bareheaded, and in
the shadow she could make out the gleam of his clear-cut
profile, stern and cold.
A streak of fire and a heavy report startled her. Then she
heard the bullet hit. Shifting her glance, she saw the bear
lurch with convulsive action, rearing on his hind legs. Loud
clicking snaps must have been a clashing of his jaws in
rage. But there was no other sound. Then again Dale's heavy
gun boomed. Helen heard again that singular spatting thud of
striking lead. The bear went down with a flop as if he had
been dealt a terrific blow. But just as quickly he was up on
all-fours and began to whirl with hoarse, savage bawls of
agony and fury. His action quickly carried him out of the
moonlight into the shadow, where he disappeared. There the
bawls gave place to gnashing snarls, and crashings in the
brush, and snapping of branches, as he made his way into the
"Sure he's mad," said Dale, rising to his feet. "An' I
reckon hard hit. But I won't follow him to-night."
Both the girls got up, and Helen found she was shaky on her
feet and very cold.
"Oh-h, wasn't -- it -- won-wonder-ful!" cried Bo.
"Are you scared? Your teeth are chatterin'," queried Dale.
"I'm -- cold."
"Well, it sure is cold, all right," he responded. "Now the
fun's over, you'll feel it. . . . Nell, you're froze, too?"
Helen nodded. She was, indeed, as cold as she had ever been
before. But that did not prevent a strange warmness along
her veins and a quickened pulse, the cause of which she did
"Let's rustle," said Dale, and led the way out of the wood
and skirted its edge around to the slope. There they climbed
to the flat, and went through the straggling line of trees
to where the horses were tethered.
Up here the wind began to blow, not hard through the forest,
but still strong and steady out in the open, and bitterly
cold. Dale helped Bo to mount, and then Helen.
"I'm -- numb," she said. "I'll fall off -- sure."
"No. You'll be warm in a jiffy," he replied, "because we'll
ride some goin' back. Let Ranger pick the way an' you hang
With Ranger's first jump Helen's blood began to run. Out he
shot, his lean, dark head beside Dale's horse. The wild park
lay clear and bright in the moonlight, with strange, silvery
radiance on the grass. The patches of timber, like spired
black islands in a moon-blanched lake, seemed to harbor
shadows, and places for bears to hide, ready to spring out.
As Helen neared each little grove her pulses shook and her
heart beat. Half a mile of rapid riding burned out the cold.
And all seemed glorious -- the sailing moon, white in a
dark-blue sky, the white, passionless stars, so solemn, so
far away, the beckoning fringe of forest-land at once
mysterious and friendly, and the fleet horses, running with
soft, rhythmic thuds over the grass, leaping the ditches and
the hollows, making the bitter wind sting and cut. Coming up
that park the ride had been long; going back was as short as
it was thrilling. In Helen, experiences gathered realization
slowly, and it was this swift ride, the horses neck and
neck, and all the wildness and beauty, that completed the
slow, insidious work of years. The tears of excitement froze
on her cheeks and her heart heaved full. All that pertained
to this night got into her blood. It was only to feel, to
live now, but it could be understood and remembered forever
Dale's horse, a little in advance, sailed over a ditch.
Ranger made a splendid leap, but he alighted among some
grassy tufts and fell. Helen shot over his head. She struck
lengthwise, her arms stretched, and slid hard to a shocking
impact that stunned her.
Bo's scream rang in her ears; she felt the wet grass under
her face and then the strong hands that lifted her. Dale
loomed over her, bending down to look into her face; Bo was
clutching her with frantic hands. And Helen could only gasp.
Her breast seemed caved in. The need to breathe was torture.
"Nell! -- you're not hurt. You fell light, like a feather.
All grass here. . . . You can't be hurt!" said Dale,
His anxious voice penetrated beyond her hearing, and his
strong hands went swiftly over her arms and shoulders,
feeling for broken bones.
"Just had the wind knocked out of you," went on Dale. It
feels awful, but it's nothin'."
Helen got a little air, that was like hot pin-points in her
lungs, and then a deeper breath, and then full, gasping
"I guess -- I'm not hurt -- not a bit," she choked out.
"You sure had a header. Never saw a prettier spill. Ranger
doesn't do that often. I reckon we were travelin' too fast.
But it was fun, don't you think?"
It was Bo who answered. "Oh, glorious! . . . But, gee! I was
Dale still held Helen's hands. She released them while
looking up at him. The moment was realization for her of
what for days had been a vague, sweet uncertainty, becoming
near and strange, disturbing and present. This accident had
been a sudden, violent end to the wonderful ride. But its
effect, the knowledge of what had got into her blood, would
never change. And inseparable from it was this man of the
On the next morning Helen was awakened by what she imagined
had been a dream of some one shouting. With a start she sat
up. The sunshine showed pink and gold on the ragged spruce
line of the mountain rims. Bo was on her knees, braiding her
hair with shaking hands, and at the same time trying to peep
And the echoes of a ringing cry were cracking back from the
cliffs. That had been Dale's voice.
"Nell! Nell! Wake up!" called Bo, wildly. "Oh, some one's
come! Horses and men!"
Helen got to her knees and peered out over Bo's shoulder.
Dale, standing tall and striking beside the campfire, was
waving his sombrero. Away down the open edge of the park
came a string of pack-burros with mounted men behind. In the
foremost rider Helen recognized Roy Beeman.
"That first one's Roy!" she exclaimed. "I'd never forget him
on a horse. . . . Bo, it must mean Uncle Al's come!"
"Sure! We're born lucky. Here we are safe and sound -- and
all this grand camp trip. . . . Look at the cowboys. . . .
LOOK! Oh, maybe this isn't great!" babbled Bo.
Dale wheeled to see the girls peeping out.
"It's time you're up!" he called. "Your uncle Al is here."
For an instant after Helen sank back out of Dale's sight she
sat there perfectly motionless, so struck was she by the
singular tone of Dale's voice. She imagined that he
regretted what this visiting cavalcade of horsemen meant --
they had come to take her to her ranch in Pine. Helen's
heart suddenly began to beat fast, but thickly, as if
muffled within her breast.
"Hurry now, girls," called Dale.
Bo was already out, kneeling on the flat stone at the little
brook, splashing water in a great hurry. Helen's hands
trembled so that she could scarcely lace her boots or brush
her hair, and she was long behind Bo in making herself
presentable. When Helen stepped out, a short, powerfully