Part 3 out of 7
you would admit?"
"Oh, no, but the friction of the reins can make even a scratch
uncomfortable after a while, and my glove is getting tight. A little
peroxide, when we reach a pharmacy, will fix it all right."
But Miss Armitage watched him doubtfully. She assured him she was not
tired and that she loved to drive. Had she not told him so at the start?
Then, as they left the promontory, her glance followed the road ahead. The
bridge was no longer fine as a spider web; it was a railroad crossing of
steel, and the long eaves of the Great Northern depot lifted near, flanked
by the business blocks of a town. "Wenatchee!" she exclaimed; and
wavering, asked: "_Isn't_ this Wenatchee?"
"Yes, Miss Armitage, I am afraid that it is. You are back to civilization.
A few minutes more and, if you will give me their address, you will be
safe with your friends."
"I did not say I had any friends in Wenatchee, Mr. Tisdale. I am going on
to Hesperides Vale. But please leave me at any quiet hotel. I can't thank
you enough for all your kindness and patience," she went on hurriedly.
"For making this trip possible. All I can hope to do is share the
expense." And she found the inside pocket of her coat and drew out a small
Tisdale, driving slowly, divided his attention between his team and the
buildings on either side. "There is a public garage," he said, "and a
rival establishment opposite. You will have no trouble to finish your trip
by automobile, as you planned. It will be pleasant making the run up the
valley this evening, when it is cool."
Miss Armitage opened her purse. "The rates must be considerably higher on
a rough mountain road than on the Seattle boulevard, and, of course, one
couldn't expect to hire Nip and Tuck at ordinary rates."
Tisdale drew in, hesitating, before a hotel, then relaxed the reins. "The
building seems modern, but we may find a quiet little inn up some side
street with more shade."
"I presume you will drive on up the valley," she said, after a moment,
"and start back to Kittitas to-morrow. Or will it be necessary to rest the
team a day?"
"I shall drive on to that tract of Weatherbee's this afternoon; but I
expect to take the westbound train to-night, somewhere up the valley."
"I see," she said quickly and tried to cover her dismay, "you intend to
ship the team back to Kittitas by way of Seattle. I'm afraid"--her voice
broke a little, the color flushed pinkly to her forehead, her ears, and
her glance fell to the purse in her lap--"but please tell me the charges."
"Madam," and the ready humor crinkled the corners of his mouth, "when I
ship these horses back to Lighter, he is going to pay the freight."
She drew a quick breath of relief, but her purse remained open, and she
waited, regarding Tisdale with an expectant, disconcerting side-glance of
her half-veiled eyes. "And the day rates for the use of the team?" she
For a moment he was busy turning the horses. They had reached a second
hotel, but it proved less inviting than the first, and the side streets
they had crossed afforded no quiet inn, or indeed any dwelling in the
shade. "After all," he said, "a room and bath on the north side, with
windows looking up the Columbia, should make you fairly comfortable
through the heat of the day." But the girl waited, and when his eyes fell
to that open purse, his own color burned through the tan. There was no
help for it; she must know the truth. He squared his shoulders, turning a
little toward her. "There are no expenses to share, Miss Armitage. I--
happened to own this team, and since we were traveling the same way, I was
glad to offer you this vacant seat."
"Do you mean you bought these horses--outright--at Kittitas?"
"Yes, the opportunity was too good to miss." He tried to brave the
astonishment in her eyes, but his glance moved directly to the colts.
"And, you see, if I should buy that tract of Weatherbee's, I am going to
need a team."
"Doubtless," answered Miss Armitage slowly. "Still, for breaking wild land
or even cultivating, one would choose a steadier, heavier team. But they
are beauties, Mr. Tisdale, and I know a man in Seattle who is going to be
disappointed. I congratulate you on being able to secure them." She closed
the purse at last and reluctantly put it away, and she added, with the
merriment dimpling her lips: "Fate certainly was with me yesterday."
They had reached the hotel, and as he drew up to the curb, a man came from
the lobby to hold the bays. Several traveling salesmen stood smoking and
talking outside the entrance, while a little apart a land promoter and his
possible capitalist consulted a blue print; but there was a general pause
as Tisdale sprang out, and the curious scrutiny of wayfarers in a small
town was focussed on the arrivals.
"It looks all right," he said quietly, helping her down, "but if you find
anything wrong, or should happen to want me, I shall be at that other
hotel until two o'clock. Good-by!"
He saw the surprise in her face change to swift appreciation. Then
"Good-by," she answered and walked towards the door. But there she stopped.
Tisdale, looking back as he gave her suitcase to a boy, saw her lips part,
though she did not speak. Then her eyelids drooped, the color played
softly in her face, and she turned to go in. There had been no invitation
in her attitude, yet he had felt a certain appeal. It flashed over him she
did not want to motor up the valley; she wished to drive on with him. Too
proud, too fine to say so, she was letting her opportunity go. He hurried
across the pavement.
"Miss Armitage," he said, and instantly she turned; the sparkles leaped in
her eyes; she came towards him a few steps and stopped expectantly. "If I
start up the valley at two"--and he looked at his watch--"that will be a
rest of nearly three hours. It means the heat of the day, but if it seems
better than motoring over a country road with a public chauffeur, I would
be glad to have you drive for me."
A WOMAN'S HEART-STRINGS
"Now I know the meaning of Wenatchee. It's something racy, Mr. Tisdale,
and a little wicked, yet with unexpected depths, and just the coolest,
Tisdale's pulses quickened; his blood responded to her exhilaration. "Yes,
only"--and he waited to catch the glance she lifted from the stream--"your
green is blue, and you forgot to count the sparkles in."
As he spoke, the bays paced off the bridge. They sprang, gathering
themselves lightly for a sharp ascent and for an interval held the
driver's close attention. The town and the Columbia were behind, and the
road, which followed the contour of the slopes rising abruptly from the
Wenatchee, began a series of sudden turns; it cut shelf-wise high across
the face of a ridge; spurs constantly closed after them; there seemed no
way back or through, then, like an opening gate, a bluff detached from the
wall ahead, and they entered another breadth of valley. In the wide levels
that bordered the river, young orchards began to supplant the sage.
Looking down from the thoroughfare, the even rows and squares seemed
wrought on the tawny background like the designs of a great carpet.
Sometimes, paralleling the road, the new High Line canal followed an upper
cut; it trestled a ravine or, stopped by a rocky cliff, bored through.
Where a finished spillway irrigated a mountainside, all the steep incline
between the runnels showed lines on lines of diminutive trees, pluckily
A little after that, near an old mission, they dropped to a lower bench
and passed an apple orchard in full bearing. Everywhere boughs laden with
a gold or crimson harvest were supported by a network of scaffolding. It
was marvelous that fruit could so crowd and cling to a slender stem and
yet round and color to such perfection. Miss Armitage slowed the horses
down and looked up the shady avenues. Presently a driveway divided the
tract, leading to a dwelling so small it had the appearance of a toy
house; but on the gatepost above the rural delivery box the name of the
owner shone ostentatiously. It was "Henderson Bailey, Hesperides Vale."
"Do you see?" she asked. "This is that station master's orchard, where the
Rome Beauty grew."
But the team was troublesome again. The road made a turn, rounding the
orchard, and began the descent to a bridge. On the right a great
water-wheel, supplied with huge, scoop-shaped buckets, was lifting water
from the river to distribute it over a reclaimed section. The bays pranced
toward it suspiciously. "Now, now, Tuck," she admonished, "be a soldier."
The colt sidled gingerly. "Whoa, Nip, whoa!" and, rearing lightly, they
took the approach with a rush.
As they quieted and trotted evenly off the bridge, a large and brilliant
signboard set in an area of sage-brush challenged the eye. Miss Armitage
fluted a laugh.
"Buy one of these Choice Lots,"
she read, with charming, slightly mocking exaggeration.
"To-morrow will see this Property the Heart of a City.
"Buy before the Prices Soar.
"Talk with Henderson Bailey.
"This surely is Hesperides Vale," she added.
The amusement went out of Tisdale's face. "Yes, madam, and your journey's
end. Probably the next post-box will announce the name of your friends."
She did not answer directly. She looked beyond the heads of the team to
the top of the valley, where two brown slopes parted like drawn curtains
and opened a blue vista of canyon closed by a lofty snow-peak. The sun had
more than fulfilled its morning promise of heat, but a soft breeze began
to pull from that white summit down the watercourse.
"I did not tell you I had friends in Hesperides Vale," she said at last.
Her eyes continued to search the far blue canyon, but her color heightened
at his quick glance of surprise, and she went on with a kind of
"I--I have a confession to make. I--But hasn't it occurred to you, Mr.
Tisdale, that I might be interested in this land you are on your way to
His glance changed. It settled into his clear, calculating look of
appraisal. Under it her color flamed; she, turned her face farther away.
"No," he answered slowly, "No, that had not occurred to me."
"I should have told you at the beginning, but I thought, at first, you
knew. Afterward--but I am going to explain now," and she turned
resolutely, smiling a little to brave that look. "Mr. Morganstein had
promised, when he planned the trip to Portland, that he would run over
from Ellensburg to look the property up. He believed it might be feasible
to plat it into five-acre tracts to put on the market. Of course we knew
nothing of the difficulties of the road; we had heard it was an old stage
route, and we expected to motor through and return the same day. So, when
the accident happened to the car in Snoqualmie Pass, and the others were
taking the Milwaukee train home, I decided, on the impulse of the moment,
to finish this side trip to Wenatchee and return to Seattle by the Great
Northern. I admit seeing you on the eastbound influenced me. We--Mrs.
Feversham--guessed you were on your way to see this land, and when the
porter was uncertain of the stage from Ellensburg, but that you were
leaving the trail below Kittitas, I thought you had found a newer, quicker
way. So--I followed you."
Tisdale's brows relaxed. He laughed a little softly, trying to ease her
evident distress. "I am glad you did, Miss Armitage. I am mighty glad you
did. But I see," he went on slowly, his face clouding again, "I see Mrs.
Weatherbee had been talking to you about that tract. It's strange I hadn't
thought of that possibility. I'll wager she even tried to sell the land
off a map, in Seattle. I wonder, though, when this Weatherbee trip was
arranged to look the property over, that she didn't come, too. But no
doubt that seemed too eager."
The blue lights flashed in her eyes; her lip trembled. "Be fair," she
said. "You can afford to be--generous."
"I am going to be generous, Miss Armitage, to you." The ready humor
touched his mouth again, the corners of his eyes. "I am going to take you
over the ground with me; show you Weatherbee's project, his drawn plans.
But afterwards, if you outbid me--"
"You need not be afraid of that," she interrupted quickly. "I--you must
know"--she paused, her lashes drooped--"I--am not very rich," she
Tisdale laughed outright. "Neither am I. Neither am I." Then, his glance
studying the road, he said: "I think we take that branch. But wait!" He
drew his map from his pocket and pored over it a moment. "Yes, we turn
there. After that there is just one track."
For an instant Miss Armitage seemed to waver. She sent a backward look to
the river, and the glance, returning, swept Tisdale; then she straightened
in her seat and swung the bays into the branch. It cut the valley
diagonally, away from the Wenatchee, past a last orchard, into wild lands
that stretched in level benches under the mountain wall. One tawny,
sage-mottled slope began to detach from the rest; it took the shape of a
reclining brazen beast, partly leopard, partly wolf, and a line of pine
trees that had taken root in a moist strata along the backbone had the
effect of a bristling mane.
"That is Weatherbee's landmark," said Tisdale. "He called it Cerberus. It
is all sketched in true as life on his plans. The gap there under the
brute's paw is the entrance to his vale."
As they approached, the mountain seemed to move; it took the appearance of
an animal, ready to spring. Miss Armitage, watching, shivered. The
dreadful expectation she had shown the previous night when the cry of the
cougar came down the wind, rose in her face. It was as though she had come
upon that beast, more terrifying than she had feared, lying in wait for
her. Then the moment passed. She raised her head, her hands tightened on
the reins, and she drove resolutely into the shadows of the awful front.
"Now," she said, not quite steadily, "now I know how monstrously alive a
mountain can seem."
Tisdale looked at her. "You never could live in Alaska," he said. "You
feel too much this personality of inanimate things. That was David
Weatherbee's trouble. You know how in the end he thought those Alaska
peaks were moving. They got to 'crowding' him."
The girl turned a little and met his look. Her eyes, wide with dread,
entreated him. "Yes, I know," she said, and her voice was almost a
whisper. "I was thinking of him. But please don't say any more. I can't--
So she was thinking of Weatherbee. Her emotion sprang from her sympathy
for him. A gentleness that was almost tenderness crept over Tisdale's
face. How fine she was, how sensitively made, and how measureless her
capacity for loving, if she could feel like this for a man of whom she had
Miss Armitage, squaring her shoulders and sitting very erect once more,
her lips closed in a straight red line drove firmly on. A stream ran
musically along the road side,--a stream so small it was marvelous it had
a voice. As they rounded the mountain, the gap widened into the mouth of
the vale, which lifted back to an upper bench, over-topped by a lofty
plateau. Then she swung the team around and stopped. The way was cut off
by a barbed wire fence.
The enclosure was apparently a corral for a flock of Angora goats. There
was no gate for the passage of teams; the road ended there, and a rough
sign nailed to a hingeless wicket warned the wayfarer to "Keep Out." On a
rocky knob near this entrance a gaunt, hard-featured woman sat knitting.
She measured the trespassers with a furtive, smouldering glance and
clicked her needles with unnecessary force.
Tisdale's eyes made a swift inventory of the poor shelter, half cabin,
partly shed, that evidently housed both the woman and her flock, then
searched the barren field for some sort of hitching post. But the few
bushes along the stream were small, kept low, doubtless, by the browsing
goats, and his glance rested on a fringe of poplars beyond the upper
"There's no way around," he said at last, and the amusement broke softly
in his face. "We will have to go through."
"The wicket will take the team singly," she answered, "but we must unhitch
and leave the buggy here."
"And first, if you think you can hold the colts that long, I must tackle
"I can manage," she said, and the sparkles danced in her eyes, "unless you
The woman rose and stood glowering while he sprang down and drew the
wooden pin to open the wicket. Then, "You keep off my land," she ordered
sharply. "I will, madam," he answered quietly, "as soon as I am satisfied
it is yours."
"I've lived on this claim 'most five years," she screamed. "I'm
homesteading, and when I've used the water seven years, I get the rights."
She sprang backward with a cattish movement and caught up a gun that had
been concealed in some bushes. "Now you go," she said.
But Tisdale stayed. He stood weighing her with his steady, appraising
eyes, while he drew the township plat from his pocket.
"This is the quarter section I have come to look up. It starts here, you
see,"--and having unfolded the map, he turned to hold it under her
glance--"at the mouth of this gap, and lifts back through the pocket,
taking in the slopes to this bench and on up over this ridge to include
The woman, curbing herself to look at the plat, allowed the rifle to
settle in the curve of her arm. "I piped the water down," she said. "This
stream was a dry gully. I fenced and put up a house."
"The tract was commuted and bought outright from the Government over seven
years ago." Tisdale's voice quickened; he set his lips dominantly and
folded the map. "I have copies of the field notes with me and the owner's
landscape plans. And I am a surveyor, madam. It won't take me long to find
out whether there is a mistake. But, before I go over the ground, I must
get my horses through to a hitching-place. I will have to lower that upper
fence, but if you will keep your goats together, I promise to put it back
as soon as the team is through."
"You let that fence alone." Tisdale had started to cross the field, and
she followed, railing, though the gun still rested in the hollow of her
arm. "If one of those goats breaks away, the whole herd'll go wild. I
can't round 'em in without my dog. He's off trailing one of the ewes. She
strayed yesterday, and he'll chase the mountain through if he has to. It's
no use to whistle; he won't come back without her. You let that fence be.
You wouldn't dare to touch it," she finished impotently, "if I had a man."
"Haven't you?" Tisdale swung around, and his voice dropped to its soft
undernote. "That's mighty hard. Who laid all that water-pipe? Who built
"I did," she answered grimly. "The man who hauled my load of lumber
stopped long enough to help set the posts, but I did the rest."
"You did?" Tisdale shook his head incredulously. "My! My! Made all the
necessary improvements, single-handed, to hold your homestead and at the
same time managed these goats."
The woman's glance moved to the shack and out over the barren fields, and
a shade of uncertainty crept into her passionate eyes. "The improvements
don't make much of a show yet; I've had to be off so much in the
mountains, foraging with the herd. But I was able to hire a boy half a day
with the shearing this spring, and from now on they're going to pay. There
are twenty-eight in the bunch, counting the kids, and I started with one
old billy and two ewes."
"My! My! what a record!" Tisdale paused to look back at Miss Armitage, who
had turned the bays, allowing them to pace down a length of road and back.
"But," he added, walking on, "what led you to choose goats instead of
"I didn't do the choosing"; she moved abreast of Hollis, "it was a fool
"So," he answered softly, with a glimmer of amusement in his eyes, "there
is a man, after all."
"There was," she corrected grimly. "The easiest fellow to be talked over
under the sun; the kind always chasing off after a new scheme. First it
was a mineral claim; then he banked the future on timber, and when he got
tired waiting for stumpage to soar, he put up a dinky sawmill to cut his
own trees. He was doing well, for him, getting out ties for a new
railroad--it was down in Oregon--when he saw the chance to trade for a
proved-up homestead. But it was the limit when he started out to buy a
bunch of sheep and came back with that old Angora billy and two ewes."
"I see." They were near the fence, and Tisdale swerved a little to reach a
stout poplar that formed the corner post. He saw that the wire ends met
there and felt in his pocket for his knife. "I see. And then he left the
responsibility to his wife."
"The wedding hadn't come off," she said sharply. "It was fixed for the
seventeenth of June, and that was only May. And I told him I couldn't risk
it--not in the face of those goats."
"And he?" pressed Hollis gently. This thistle, isolated, denied human
intercourse, was more easily handled than he had hoped.
"He said it suited him all right. He had been wanting to go to Alaska.
Nothing but that wedding had kept him back."
Tisdale stopped and opened his knife. "And he went?" he asked.
"Yes." The woman's face worked a little, and she stood looking at him with
hard, tragic eyes. "He sold the homestead for what he could get to raise
the money to take him to Dawson. He was gone in less than twenty-four
hours and before daylight, that night he left, I heard those goats
_ma-a-ing_ under my window. He had staked them there in the front yard and
tucked a note, with his compliments, in the door. He wrote he didn't know
of anything else he could leave that would make me remember him better."
Tisdale shook his head. "I wish I had been there." He slipped the knife in
between the ends of the wires and the bole, clawing, prying, twisting.
"And you kept them?" he added.
"Yes, I don't know why, unless it was because I knew it was the last thing
he expected. But I hated them worse than snakes. I couldn't stand it
having them around, and I hired a boy to herd them out on his father's
farm. Then I went on helping Dad, selling general merchandise and sorting
mail. But the post-office was moved that year five miles to the new
railroad station, and they put in a new man. Of course that meant a line
of goods, too, and competition. Trade fell off, then sickness came. It
lasted two years, and when Dad was gone, there wasn't much left of the
store but debt." She paused a moment, looking up to the serene sky above
the high plateau. A sudden moisture softened her burning eyes, and her
free hand crept to her throat. "Dad was a mighty fine man," she said. "He
had a great business head. It wasn't his fault he didn't leave me well
Tisdale laid the loosened wire down on the ground and started to work on
another. "But there was the man in Alaska," he said. "Of course you let
"No, sir." Her eyes flashed back to Tisdale's face. "You wouldn't have
caught me writing to Johnny Banks, then. I'm not that kind. The most I
could do was to see what I could make of the goats. I commenced herding
them myself, but I hadn't the face to do it down there in Oregon, where
everybody knew me, and I gradually worked north with them until I ended
Tisdale had dropped his knife. He stooped to pick it up. "That's where you
made your mistake," he said.
The woman drew a step nearer, watching his face; tense, breathless.
Clearly he had turned her thoughts from the fence, and he slipped the
knife in farther and continued to pry and twist the wire loose. "How do
you know it was a mistake?" she asked at last.
Tisdale laid the second wire down. "Well, wasn't it? To punish yourself
like this, to cheat yourself out of the best years of your life, when you
knew how much Banks thought of you. But you seem to have overlooked his
side. Do you think, when he knows how you crucified yourself, it's going
to make him any happier? He carried a great spirit bottled in that small,
wiry frame, but he got to seeing himself through your eyes. He was ashamed
of his failures--he had always been a little sensitive about his size--and
it wasn't the usual enthusiasm that started him to Alaska; he was stung
into going. It was like him to play his poor joke gamily, at the last, and
pretend he didn't care. A word from you would have held him--you must have
known that--and a letter from you afterwards, when you needed him, would
have brought him back. Or you might have joined him up there and made a
home for him all these years, but you chose to bury yourself here in the
desert of the Columbia, starving your soul, wasting your best on these
goats." He paused with the last loosened wire in his hands and stood
looking at her with condemning eyes. "What made you?" he added, and his
voice vibrated softly. "What made you?"
The woman's features worked; tears filled her eyes.
They must have been the first in many months, for they came with the gush
that follows a probe. "You know him," she said brokenly. "You've seen him
lately, up there in Alaska."
"I think so, yes. The Johnny Banks I knew in the north told me something
about a girl he left down in Oregon. But she was a remarkably pretty girl,
with merry black eyes and a nice color in her cheeks. Seems to me she used
to wear a pink gown sometimes, and a pink rose in her black hair, and made
a picture that the fellows busy along the new railroad came miles on
Sundays to see."
A bleak smile touched the woman's mouth. "Dad always liked to see me wear
nice clothes. He said it advertised the store." Then her glance fell to
her coarse, wretched skirt, and the contrast struck poignantly.
Tisdale moved the wires back, clearing a space for the bays to pass.
"There was one young engineer," he went on, as though she had not spoken;
"a big, handsome fellow, who came oftener than the rest. Banks thought it
was natural she should favor him. The little man believes yet that when he
was out of the way she married that engineer."
The woman was beyond speech. Tisdale had penetrated the last barrier of
her fortitude. The bitterness, pent so long, fostered in solitude, filled
the vent and surged through. Her shoulders shook, she stumbled a few steps
to the poplar and, throwing up her arm against the bole, buried her face,
sobbing, in her sleeve.
Tisdale looked back across the field. Miss Armitage was holding the team
in readiness at the wicket. "I am going now," he said. "You will have to
watch your goats until I get the horses through. But if you will write
that letter, madam, while I'm at work, I'll be glad to mail it for you."
The woman looked up. A sudden hope transfigured her face. "I wish I dared
to. But he wouldn't know me now; I've changed so. Besides, I don't know
"That's so." Tisdale met her glance thoughtfully. "But leave it to me. I
think I can get into touch with him when I am back in Seattle."
Miss Armitage watched him as he came swiftly across the field. "Oh," she
cried, when he reached the waiting team, "how did you accomplish it? Are
you a magician?"
Hollis shook his head. "I only tried to play a little on her
heart-strings, to gain time, and struck an unexpected chord. But it's all
right. It's going to do her good."
The afternoon sun shone hot in that pocket; the arid slopes reflected the
glare; heat waves lifted; the snow-peak was shut out, and when a puff of
wind found the gap it was a breath from the desert. Miss Armitage, who had
trailed pluckily after Tisdale through the sage-brush and up the steep
face of the bench, rested on the level, while he hurried on to find the
easiest route to the high plateau and the spring. He had left her seated
on a flat rock in the shade of a sentinel pine tree, looking over the vale
to Cerberus and the distant bit of the Wenatchee showing beyond the mouth,
but as he came back along the ridge, he saw she had turned her shoulder on
the crouching mountain. At his far "Hello!" she waved her hand to him and
rose to start across the bench to meet him. He was descending a broken
stairway below two granite pillars that topped a semi-circular bluff and,
springing from a knob to avoid a dry runnel, he shaped his way diagonally
to abridge the distance. He moved with incredible swiftness, swinging by
his hands to drop from a ledge, sliding where he must, and the ease and
expediency with which he accomplished it all brought the admiration
sparkling to her eyes.
"I am sorry," he said, as he drew near, "but there isn't any easy way.
It's too bad to have traveled so far and miss the spring, for the whole
project hinges on it; but the climb is impossible for you in this heat."
"Then you found the spring?" she asked quickly. "It was all the plans
"Yes." He began to walk on across the bench, suiting his steps to hers.
"And Weatherbee had put in a small dam there to create his first
reservoir. I found his old camp, too; a foundation of logs, open now to
the sky, with a few tatters left of the canvas that had roofed it over."
There was a silent moment, then he added, with the emotion still playing
gently in his voice: "I wish I could show you that place; the pool is
crystal clear and cool, rimmed in pines, like a basin of opals."
When they reached the flat rock in the shade of the pine tree, he took the
reclamation plan from his inner pocket and seated himself beside her.
"This is Weatherbee's drawing," he said. "See how carefully he worked in
the detail. This is the spring and that upper reservoir, and this lower
one is a natural dry basin up there under that bluff, a little to the left
of those granite chimneys; you can see its rocky rim. All it needs is this
short flume sketched in here to bring the water down, and a sluice-gate to
feed the main canal that follows this bench we are on. Spillways would
irrigate a peach orchard along this slope below us and seep out through
this level around us to supply home gardens and lawn. Just imagine it!" He
paused, while her glance followed his brief comparisons, moving from the
plan to the surface of the bench and down over the slope to the vale.
"Imagine this tract at the end of four years; a billowing sea of green;
with peach trees in bearing on this mountainside; apples, the finest
Jonathans, Rome Beauties if you will, beginning to make a showing down
there. Water running, seeping everywhere; strawberries carpeting the
ground between the boles; alfalfa, cool and moist, filling in; and even
Cerberus off there losing his sinister shape in vineyards."
"Then it is feasible," she exclaimed softly, and the sparkles broke
subdued in her eyes. "And the price, Mr. Tisdale; what would you consider
a fair price for the property as it stands now, unimproved?" Tisdale rose.
He paused to fold the drawing and put it away, while his glance moved
slowly down over the vale to the goat-keeper's cabin and her browsing
flock. "You must see, Miss Armitage," he said then, "that idea of Mr.
Morganstein's to plat this land into five-acre tracts for the market
couldn't materialize. It is out of range of the Wenatchee valley projects;
it is inaccessible to the railroad for the small farmer. Only the man with
capital to work it on a large scale could make it pay. And the property is
Mrs. Weatherbee's last asset; she is in urgent need of ready money. You
should be able to make easy terms with her, but I warn you, if it comes to
bidding, I am prepared to offer seven thousand dollars."
He turned, frowning a little, to look down at her and, catching those
covert sparkles of her side-glance, smiled.
"You may have it," she said.
"Wait. Think it over," he answered. "I am going down to the gap now to
find the surveyor's monument and trace the section line back to the top of
the plateau. Rest here, where it's cooler, and I will come down this way
for you when I am through. Think the project over and take my word for the
spring; it's well worth the investment."
Doubtless Miss Armitage followed his suggestion, for she sat thoughtfully,
almost absently, watching him down the slope. At the foot of the vale, the
goat-woman joined him, and it was clear he again used his magic art, for
presently he had her chaining for him and holding an improvised flag,
while he estimated the section line. But finally, when they left the bed
of the pocket and began to cross-cut up the opposite mountainside, the
girl rose and looked in the direction of the spring. It was cooler; a
breeze was drawing down from the upper ridge; a few thin clouds like torn
gauze veiled the sky overhead; the blue lost intensity. She began to walk
across the bench towards the granite chimneys. In a little while she found
the dry reservoir, walled, where the plateau lifted, in the semi-circular
bluff; then she stopped at the foot of an arid gully that rose between
this basin and a small shoulder which supported the first needle. This was
the stairway she had seen Tisdale descend, and presently she commenced to
climb it slowly, grasping bunches of the tenacious sage or jutting points
of rock to ease her weight.
The stairs ended in a sharp incline covered with debris from the
decomposing pillars; splinters of granite shifted under her tread; she
felt the edges cutting through her shoes. Fragments began to rattle down;
one larger rock crashed over the bluff into the dry basin. Then, at last,
she was on the level, fighting for breath. She turned, trembling, and
braced herself against the broken chimney to look back. She shrank closer
to the needle and shook her head. It was as though she said: "I never
could go back alone."
But when her glance moved to the opposite mountainside, Tisdale was no
longer in sight. And that shoulder was very narrow; it presented a sheer
front to the vale, like the base of a monument, so that between the
chimney and the drop to the gully there was little room in which to stand.
She began to choose a course, picking her foothold cautiously, zigzagging
as she had seen Hollis do on the slope above. Midway another knob jutted,
supporting a second pillar and a single pine tree, but as she came under
the chimney she was forced to hurry. Loose chippings of granite started at
every step. They formed little torrents, undermining, rushing, threatening
to sweep her down; and she reached the ledge in a panic. Then she felt the
stable security of the pine against her body and for a moment let herself
go, sinking to the foot of the tree and covering her eyes with her hands.
Up there a stiff wind was blowing, and presently she saw the snow-peak she
had missed in the vale. The ridge lifted less abruptly from this second
spur, and in a little while she rose and pushed on, lagging sometimes,
stumbling, to the level of the plateau. The Wenatchee range, of which it
was a part, stretched bleak and forbidding, enclosing all those minor arid
gulfs down to the final, long, scarred headland set against the Columbia
desert. She was like a woman stranded, the last survivor, on an
inhospitable coast. Turning to look across the valley of the Wenatchee,
she saw the blue and glaciered crests of the Chelan mountains, and behind
her, over the neck of a loftier height, loomed other white domes. And
there yesterday's thunder-caps, bigger and blacker, with fringed edges,
drove along the sky line. One purplish mass was streaming like a sieve.
For an interval the sun was obscured, and her glance came back to the vale
below where Cerberus reclined, watchful, his tawny head lifted slightly
between two advanced paws. Suddenly the lower clouds grew brilliant, and
shafts of light breaking through changed the mountain before her to a
beast of brass.
She turned and began to pick her way through grease brush and insistent
sage towards a grove of pines. In a little while she saw water shining
through the trees. She hesitated--it was as though she had come to the
threshold of a sanctuary--then went on under the boughs to the opal pool.
She remained in the grove a long time. When she reappeared, the desert
eastward was curtained in a gray film. Torn breadths of it, driven by some
local current of air, formed tented clouds along the promontory. It was as
though yesterday's army was marshalled against other hosts that held the
Chelan heights. A twilight indistinctness settled over the valley between.
Rain, a downpour, was near. She hurried on to the brow of the plateau, but
she dared not attempt to go down around those crumbling chimneys alone.
And Tisdale had said he would come back this side of the vale. Any moment
he might appear. She turned to go back to the shelter of the pines. It was
then a first electrical flash, like a drawn sword, challenged the opposite
ridge. Instantly a searchlight from the encamped legions played over the
lower plain. She turned again, wavering, and began to run on over the
first dip of the slope and along to the first pillar. There she stopped,
leaning on the rock, trembling, yet trying to force down her fear. It was
useless; she could not venture over that stream of shifting granite. She
started back, then stopped, wavering again. After a moment she lifted her
voice in a clear, long call: "Mr. Tis--da--le!"
"I'm coming!" The answer rang surprisingly close, from the gully above the
basin. Soon she discovered him and, looking up, he saw her standing
clear-cut against a cavernous, dun-colored cloud, which, gathering all
lesser drift into its gulf, drove low towards the plateau. She turned her
face, watching it, and it seemed to belch wind like a bellows, for her
skirt stiffened, and the loosened chiffon veil, lifting from her shoulders,
streamed like the drapery of some aerial figure, poised there briefly on
its flight through space. Then began cannonading. Army replied to army.
The advancing film from the desert, grown black, became an illuminated
scroll; thin ribbons of gold were traced on it, bowknots of tinsel. The
pattern changed continually. The legions repeated their fire; javelins,
shafts, flew. Lightning passed in vertical bolts, in sheets from ridge to
ridge. Then the cloud approaching the plateau spoke, and the curtain
moving from the Columbia became a wall of doom, in which great cracks
yawned, letting the light of eternity through.
The girl was flying down the slope to meet Tisdale. She came with bent
head, hands to her ears, skimming the pitfalls. Under her light tread the
loose debris hardly stirred. Then, as he rounded the pillar, her pace
slackened. "I am afraid," she said and stumbled. "I am afraid." And her
trembling body sank against his arm; she buried her face in his coat.
"Take me away from this terrible place."
Her impact had started the splintered granite moving, but Hollis swung
instantly and set his back to the crumbling chimney, clinging there,
staying her with his arm, until the slide stopped.
"See here," he said, and his voice vibrated its soft undernote, "you
mustn't lose your grip. It's all right. Old Mother Nature is just having
one of her scolding fits. She has to show the woman in her once in a
while. But it's going to end, any minute, in tears."
She lifted her face, and he paused, knitting his brows, yet smiling a
little, mastering the terror in her eyes with his quiet, compelling gaze.
"Come, Miss Armitage," he said, "we must hurry. You will be wet through."
He took her hand and began to lead her quickly down the rugged staircase.
"Be careful," he admonished, "this granite is treacherous." But she gave
little heed to her steps; she looked back continually over her shoulder,
watching the dun cloud. Presently she tripped. Hollis turned to steady
her, and, himself looking up beyond her, caught her in his arms and ran,
springing, out of the gully.
The ledge he reached formed the rim of the natural reservoir and,
measuring the distance with a swift glance, he let himself over, easing
the drop with one hand on the rocky brink, while the other arm supported
her. Midway, on a jutting knob, he gathered momentary foothold, then swung
to the bottom of the basin.
It was all done surely but with incredible haste, while the cavernous
cloud drew directly overhead. The next instant, from its brazen depths, it
spoke again. The whole mountain seemed to heave. Then something mighty
crashed down. The basin suddenly darkened as though a trap door had
closed, and Tisdale, still shielding his companion, stood looking up,
listening, while the reverberations rang from slope to slope and filled
the vale. Then silence came.
Miss Armitage drew erect, though her hand rested unconsciously on
Tisdale's sleeve. The thing that roofed the basin was black, impenetrably
thick; in it she saw no possible loophole of escape. "This time," she
faltered, "Fate is against you."
Her breast rose and fell in deep, hurried breaths; in the twilight of the
basin her eyes, meeting his, shone like twin stars. Tisdale's blood began
to race; it rose full tide in his veins, "Fate is with me," he answered,
and bent and kissed her mouth.
She shrank back, trembling, against the rocky wall; she glanced about her
with the swift, futile manner of a creature helplessly trapped, then she
pressed her fingers an instant to her eyes and straightened. "You never
will forgive yourself," she said; not in anger, not in judgment, but in a
tone so low, so sad, it seemed to express not only regret but finality.
Tisdale was silent. After a moment he turned to the lower side of the
basin, which afforded better foothold than the wall he had descended, and
began to work up from niche to ledge, grasping a chance bunch of sage, a
stunted bush of chaparral that grew in a cranny, to steady himself. And
the girl stood aloof, watching him. Finally he reached a shelf that
brought him, in touch with the obstruction overhead and stopped to take
out his pocketknife, with which he commenced to create a loophole. Little
twigs rained down; a larger branch fell, letting the daylight through. The
roof was a mesh of pine boughs.
At last he closed his knife and, taking firm hold on a fixed limb, leaned
to reach his other palm down to her. "Come," he said, "set your foot in
that first niche--no, the left one. Now, give me your hand."
She obeyed as she must, and Hollis pushed backward through the aperture he
had made, getting the bough under one armpit. "Now, step to that jagged
little spur; it's solid. The right one, too; there's room." She gained the
upper ledge and waited, hugging the wall pluckily while he worked out on
the rim of the basin and, stretching full length, with the stem of the
tree under his waist, reached his arms down to her. "You will have to
spring a little," he directed, "and grip my shoulders hard. Now, come!"
At last she was safe beside him. In another moment he was up and helped
her to her feet. They stood looking towards the mountain top. The dun
cloud stalking now with trailing skirts in the direction of the
snow-peaks, hurled back a parting threat. "It was the pine tree," she
exclaimed. "It was struck. And, see! It has carried down most of that
chimney. Our staircase is completely wrecked."
Tisdale was silent. Her glance came back to him. A sudden emotion stirred
her face. Then all the conservatism dropped from her like a discarded
cloak, and he felt her intrepid spirit respond to his own. Now she
understood that moment in the basin; she knew it had been supreme; she was
great enough to see there was nothing to forgive. "You were right," she
said, and her voice broke in those steadying pauses that carried more
expression than any words. "Fate was with us again. But I owe--my life--to
"Sometime," he answered slowly, smiling a little, "not now, not here, I am
going to hold you to the debt. And when I do, you are going to pay me--in
The beautiful color, that was like the pink of coral, flamed and went in
her face. "We must hurry back to the team," she said and turned to finish
the descent to the bench. "Horses are always so nervous in an electrical
storm." Then suddenly, as Tisdale pushed by to help her in a difficult
place, she stopped. "How strange!" she exclaimed. "That terrible curtain
has lifted from the desert. It threatened a deluge any minute, and now it
is moving off without a drop of rain."
"That's so," he replied. "A cross current of wind has turned it up the
Columbia. But the rain is there; it is streaming along those Chelan
summits in a downpour."
"And look!" she cried, after a moment. "A double rainbow! See how it spans
the Wenatchee! It's a promise." And the turquoise lights shone once more
in her eyes. "Here in this desert, at last, I may come to my 'pot of
"You mean," responded Tisdale, "now you have seen the spring, Weatherbee's
project seems possible to you. Well, I have reconsidered, too. I shall not
outbid you. That would favor Mrs. Weatherbee too much. And my interests
are going to keep me in Alaska indefinitely. I should be obliged to leave
the plans in the hands of a manager, and I had rather trust them to you."
Miss Armitage did not answer directly. She was watching the arch, painted
higher now, less brilliantly, on the lifting film. The light had gone out
of her face. All the bench was in shadow; in the valley below a twilight
indistinctness had fallen. Then suddenly once more Cerberus stood forth
like a beast of brass. She shivered.
"It isn't possible," she said. "It isn't possible. Even if I dared--for
David's sake--to assume the responsibility, I haven't the money to carry
the project through."
Tisdale stopped and swung around. They had reached the flat rock under the
sentinel pine tree. "Did you know David Weatherbee?" he asked.
She was silent. He put his hands in his pockets and stood regarding her
with his upward look from under slightly frowning brows. "So you knew
David," he went on. "In California, I presume, before he went to Alaska.
But why didn't you tell me so?"
She waited another moment. In the great stillness Hollis heard her labored
breathing. She put out her hand, steadying herself on the bole of the
pine, then: "I've wanted to tell you," she began. "I've tried to--but--it
was impossible to make you understand. I--I hadn't the courage."
Her voice fluted and broke. The last word was almost a whisper. She stood
before Tisdale with veiled eyes, breath still coming hard and quick, the
lovely color deepening and paling in her face, like a woman awaiting
judgment. And it came over him in a flash, with the strength of
conviction, that this beautiful, inscrutable girl wished him to know she
had loved Weatherbee. Incredible as it seemed, she had been set aside for
the Spanish woman. And she had learned about David's project; he himself
perhaps had told her years ago in California. And though his wife had
talked with Morganstein about platting the land into five-acre tracts to
dispose of quickly, this woman had desired to see the property with a view
to carrying out his plans. That was why she had continued the journey from
Snoqualmie Pass alone. That was why she had braved the mountain drive with
him. She had loved Weatherbee. This truth, sinking slowly, stirred his
inner consciousness and, wrenched in a rising commotion, something far
down in the depths of him lost hold. He had presumed to think, in the
infinite scheme of things, this one woman had been reserved for him. He
had dared to let her know he believed so; he had taken advantage of her
helpless situation, on an acquaintance of two days. His own color began to
burn through the tan. "You were right," he said at last, very gently, "I
never can forgive myself. I can't understand it!" he broke out then, "if
you had been his wife, David Weatherbee would have been safe with us here,
Miss Armitage started. She gave him a quick, searching glance, then sank
down upon the rock. She seemed suddenly exhausted, like a woman who,
hard-pressed in the midst of peril, finds unexpectedly a friendly
Tisdale looked off to the brazen slopes of Cerberus. It was the first time
he had censured Weatherbee for anything, and suddenly, while he brooded,
protesting over that one paramount mistake, he felt himself unaccountably
responsible. He was seized with a compelling desire to, in some way, make
it up to her. "Come," he said, "you mustn't lose heart; to-morrow, when
you are rested, it will look easier. And the question of ready money need
not trouble you. Mrs. Weatherbee has reached the point where she has got
to hedge on the future. Make her an offer of five thousand dollars in
yearly payments, say, of fifteen hundred. She'll take it. Then, if you
agree, I will arrange a loan with a Seattle bank. I should allow enough
margin to cover the first reclamation expenses. Your fillers of alfalfa
and strawberries would bring swift returns, and before your orchards came
into bearing, your vineyards would pay the purchase price on the whole
He turned to her, smiling, and surprised a despair in her face that went
to his heart.
"I thought, I hoped you meant to buy this land," she said.
"So I did, so I do, unless you decide to. And if you undertake this
project, I pledge myself to see you through." His voice caught a pleading
undernote. "It rests with you. Above every one it rests with you to even
things for Weatherbee. Isn't that clear to you? Look ahead five years; see
this vale green and shady with orchards; the trees laden with harvest;
imagine his wife standing here on this bench, surveying it all. See her
waking to the knowledge she has let a fortune slip through her hands; see
her, the purchase price spent, facing the fact that another woman built
her faith on David Weatherbee; had the courage to carry out his scheme and
found it a bonanza. That is what is going to make her punishment strike
Miss Armitage rose. She stood a moment watching his face, then, "How you
hate her!" she said.
"Hate?" Tisdale's laugh rang short and hard. "Well, I grant it; hate is
the word. I hate her so much I've known better than go where she was; I've
avoided her as an electrician avoids charged wire. Still, if I had found
myself in Weatherbee's place; if I had made his mistake and married her,
she should have felt my streak of iron. I might have stayed in Alaska as
he did, but she would have stayed too and made a home for me, helped to
fight things through." He paused and, meeting the appeal in her eyes, his
face softened. "I've distressed you again," he added. "I'm sorry; but it
isn't safe for me to speak of that woman; the thought of her starts my
temperature rising in bounds. I want you to help me forget her. Yet, down
in the depths of your heart you know you blame her."
"Yes, I blame her." Miss Armitage began to walk on towards the edge of the
bench. "I blame her, but not as you do. I know she tried to do right; she
would have gone to Alaska--if David had wished it--at the start. And she's
been courageous, too. She's smiled--laughed in the face of defeat. Her
closest friends never knew."
"You defend her. I wonder at that." Tisdale passed her and turned to offer
his help down the first abrupt pitch. "How you, who are the one to censure
her the most, can speak for her always, as you do. But there you are like
Weatherbee. It was his way to take the losing side; champion the absent."
"And there is where your resemblance stops," she answered quickly. "He
lacked your streak of iron. Of course you know about your strange likeness
to him, Mr. Tisdale. It is so very marked; almost a dual personality. It
isn't height and breadth of shoulder alone; it's in the carriage, the turn
of the head; and it creeps into your eyes sometimes; it gets into your
voice. The first time I saw you, it was startling."
Tisdale moved on, picking up the trail they had made in ascending; the
humor began to play reminiscently at the corners of his mouth. "Yes, I
know about that resemblance. When we were on the Tanana, it was 'Tisdale's
Twin' and 'Dave's Double.' A man has to take a name that fits up there,
and we seemed to grow more alike every day. But that often happens when
two friends who are accustomed to think in the same channels are brought
into continual touch, and the first year we spent in the north together we
were alone for weeks at a stretch, with no other human intercourse, not a
prospector's camp within a hundred miles. The most incompatible partners,
under those circumstances, will pick up subconsciously tricks of speech
and gesture. Still, looking back, I see it was I who changed. I had to
live up to Weatherbee; justify his faith in me."
Miss Armitage shook her head slowly. "That is hard to believe. Whoever
tried to mould you would feel through the surface that streak of iron."
They had come to another precipitous place, and Tisdale turned again to
give her the support of his hand. The position brought his face on a level
with hers, and involuntarily she stopped. "But whatever you may say, Mr.
Tisdale," she went on, and as her palm rested in his the words gathered
the weight of a pact, "whatever may--happen--I shall never forget your
greatness to-day." She sprang down beside him, and drew away her hand and
looked back to the summit they had left. "Still, tell me this," she said
with a swift breathlessness. "If it had been David Weatherbee's wife up
there with you when the thunderbolt struck, would it have made a
difference? I mean, would you have left her to escape--or not--as she
Tisdale waited a thoughtful moment. The ripple of amusement was gone; the
iron, so near the surface, cropped through. "I can't answer that," he
said. "I do not know. A man is not always able to control a first impulse,
and before that pine tree fell there wasn't time to hesitate."
At this she was silent. All her buoyancy, the charming camaraderie that
stopped just short of intimacy, had dropped from her. It was as though the
atmosphere of that pocket rose and clung to her, enveloped her like a
nimbus, as she went down. In the pent heat her face seemed cold. She had
the appearance of being older. The fine vertical line at the corner of her
mouth, which Tisdale had not noticed before, brought a tightness to his
throat when he ventured to look at her. How could Weatherbee have been so
blind? How could he have missed the finer, spiritual loveliness of this
woman? Weatherbee, who himself had been so sensitive; whose intuition was
They had reached the final step from the bench to the floor of the vale
when Hollis spoke again. "If you do decide to buy this land and open the
project, I could recommend a man who would make a trusty manager."
"Oh, you don't understand," she replied in desperation "You don't
understand. I should have to stay, to live in this terrible place for
weeks, months at a time. I couldn't endure it. That dreadful mountain
there at the gap would forever be watching me, holding me in."
Tisdale looked at her, knitting his brows, "I told you it was dangerous to
allow yourself to feel the personality of inanimate things too much."
"I know. I know. And this terrible beast"--she paused, trying to steady
her voice; her whole body trembled--"would remind me constantly of those
awful Alaska peaks--the ones that crowded--threatened him."
Tisdale's face cleared. So that was the trouble. Now he understood. "Then
it's all right"--the minor notes in his voice, vibrating softly, had the
quality of a caress--"don't worry any more. I am going to buy this land of
David's. Trust me to see the project through."
"WHOM THE GODS WOULD DESTROY"
Hope is an insistent thing. It may be strangled, lie cold and buried deep
in the heart of a man, yet suddenly, without premonition, he may feel it
rise and stretch small hands, groping towards a ray of light. So in that
reminiscent hour while the train labored up through the Cascades to the
great tunnel, Tisdale told himself this woman--the one woman for whom he
must have been waiting all these years, at whose coming old and cherished
memories had faded to shadows--was very near to loving him. Already she
knew that those mysterious forces she called Fate had impelled them out of
their separate orbits through unusual ways, to meet. Sometime--he would
not press her, he could be patient--but sometime she would surely pay him
He dwelt with new interest on his resemblance to Weatherbee, and he told
himself it was her constancy to David that had kept her safe. Then it came
over him that if Weatherbee had married her instead of the Spanish woman,
that must have been an insurmountable barrier between them to-day. As long
as they lived, she must have remained sacred on her pedestal, out of
reach. But how nobly partisan she was; how ready to cross swords for
Weatherbee's wife. That was the incredible test; her capacity for loving
The porter was turning on the lights. Tisdale moved a little and looked
across the aisle. For that one moment he was glad Weatherbee had made his
mistake. She was so incomparable, so adorable. Any other woman must have
lost attractiveness, shown at least the wear and tear of that mountain
journey, but her weariness appealed to him as her buoyancy had not. She
had taken off her hat to rest her head on the high, cushioned back of the
seat, and the drooping curves of her short upper lip, the blue shadows
under those outward curling black lashes, roused a new emotion, the
paternal, in the depths of his great heart. He wished to smooth her
ruffled hair; it was so soft, so vital; under the electric light it seemed
to flash little answering blue sparks. Then his glance fell to her relaxed
palms, open in her lap, and he felt a quick solicitude over a scratch the
barbed fence must have made on one small, determined thumb.
They had had trouble with the horses in the vale. Nip, who had broken away
during the storm, had been rounded in by the goat-woman and her returning
collie. The travelers found her trying to extricate his halter which had
caught, holding him dangerously close, in the wire fencing. It had taken
caution and long patience to free him, and more to hitch the excited team.
The delay had caused them to miss the westbound evening train; they were
forced to drive back and spend the night at Wenatchee. And the morning
Oriental Limited was crowded with delegates from some mystic order on an
annual pilgrimage. There was no room in the observation car; Tisdale was
able to secure only single seats on opposite sides of the sleeper.
The train rumbled through the great tunnel and came to a brief stop
outside the west portal. It was snowing. Some railroad laborers, repairing
the track, worked in overcoats and sweaters, hat brims drawn down, collars
turned up against the bitter wind. The porter opened the transoms, and a
piercing draught pulled through the smoky, heat-laden car. Miss Armitage
sat erect and inhaled a full breath. She looked across at Tisdale, and the
sparkles broke softly in her eyes. "It's Wellington!" she exclaimed. "In a
moment we shall be racing down to Scenic Hot Springs and on along the
Skykomish--home." Then she stopped the porter. "Bring me a telegraph
blank, please. I want to send a message from the Springs."
The limited, under way again, dropped below the cloud. Great peaks and
shoulders lifted everywhere; they began to make the loop around an
incredibly deep and fissure-like gorge. It was a wonderful feat of
railroad engineering; people on the other side of the car got to their
feet and came over to see. The girl, with the yellow blank in her hand,
drew close to Tisdale's elbow. "Oh, no," she demurred, when he rose to
offer his seat, "I only want standing room just a moment. There's going to
be a delightful view of Scenic."
The passenger beside Hollis picked up his bag. "Take my place," he said.
"I am getting off at the Springs."
Then presently, when she had moved into the vacated seat next the window,
the peaks stood apart, and far, far below the untouched forest at the
summer resort stood out darkly, with the gay eaves and gables of the hotel
etched on it like a toy Swiss chalet on a green plateau.
"Oh," she cried softly, "it never seemed as charming before; but, of
course, it is coming, as we have, straight from the hot desert. There's
the coolest, fragrant wood road down there, Mr. Tisdale, from the hotel to
Surprise Falls. It follows the stream past deep green pools and cascades
breaking among the rocks. Listen. We should hear the river now."
Tisdale smiled. There was nothing to be heard but the echo of the running
trucks and the scream of the whistle repeated from cliff and spur. They
were switchbacking down the fire-scarred front of a mountain. He bent a
little to look beyond her. It was as though they were coasting down a
tilted shelf in an oblique wall, and over the blackened skeletons of firs
he followed the course of the river out through crowding blue buttes.
Returning, his glance traced the track, cross-cutting up from the gorge.
"I know Surprise Falls," he said; "and the old Skykomish from start to
finish. There's a point below the Springs where the current boils through
great flumes of granite into a rocky basin. Long before the hotel was
thought of, I fished that pool."
"I know! I know!" she responded, glowing. "We--Miss Morganstein and her
brother and I--found it this summer. We had to work down-stream across
those fissures to reach it, but it was worth the trouble. There never was
another such pool. It was like a mighty bowl full of dissolving emeralds;
and the trout loved it. We caught twenty, and we built a fire on the rocks
and cooked them. It was delightfully cool and shady. It was one of those
golden days one never forgets; I was sorry when it was gone." She paused,
the high wave of her excitement passed. "I never could live in that
treeless country," she went on. "Water, running as God made it, plenty of
it, is a necessity to me. But please take your seat, Mr. Tisdale." She
settled back in her place and began to date her telegram. "I am just
sending the briefest message to let Mrs. Feversham know where I am."
"The porter is coming back for it now," he answered "And thank you, but I
am going in the smoking-car."
As he approached the vestibule, he caught her reflection in the mirror at
the end of the sleeper. She was looking after him, and she leaned forward
a little with parted lips, as though she had started to call him back, but
her eyes clouded in uncertainty; then suddenly, the sparkle rose. It
suffused her whole face. She had met his glance in the glass. And the
porter was waiting. She settled herself once more and devoted herself to
The lines in Tisdale's face deepened mellowly. He believed that, now they
were so near their journey's end, she wanted to be sure of an opportunity
to thank him some more. "I am coming back," he said inwardly, addressing
the woman in the mirror, "but I must have a smoke to keep my pulse
But he did not return to the sleeper, for the reason that at Scenic Hot
Springs the Seattle papers were brought aboard. The copy of the _Press_ he
bought contained the account of the accident in Snoqualmie Pass. The
illustrations were unusually clear, and Daniels' cuts were supplemented by
another labelled: "The Morganstein party leaving Vivian Court," which also
designated the group.
(Mrs. Feversham, wife of the special delegate from Alaska, in the tonneau.
Her sister, Miss Morganstein, on her right.
Mrs. Weatherbee seated in front.
Frederic Morganstein driving the car.)
And under the central picture Hollis read: "Mrs. Weatherbee (Miss
Armitage?), as she drove the machine into the embankment."
The paper rattled a little in his hands. His face flamed, then settled
gray and very still. Except that his eyes moved, flashing from the
photographs to the headlines, he might have been a man hewn of granite.
"One more reason why the Snoqualmie highway should be improved," he read.
"Narrow escape of the Morganstein party. Mrs. Weatherbee's presence of
mind." And, half-way down the page, "Mrs. Weatherbee modestly assumes an
incognito when interviewed by a representative of the _Press_."
But Tisdale did not look at the story. He crushed the newspaper into the
corner of his seat and turned his face to the window. His cigar had gone
out. He laid it mechanically on the sill. So, this was the woman who had
wrecked David Weatherbee; who had cast her spell over level-headed Foster;
and already, in the less than three days he had known her, had made a
complete idiot of him. Suppose Foster should hear about that drive through
the mountains that had cost him over seven hundred dollars; suppose Foster
should know about that episode in the basin on Weatherbee's own ground. A
great revulsion came over him.
Presently he began to take up detail after detail of that journey. Now he
saw the real impulse that had led her to board the eastbound train in
Snoqualmie Pass. She had recognized him, conjectured he was on his way to
find that tract of Weatherbee's; and she had determined to go over the
land with him, cajole him into putting the highest estimate possible on
the property. Even now, there in the sleeper, she was congratulating
herself no doubt on the success of her scheme.
At the thought of the ease with which he had allowed himself to be
ensnared, his muscles tightened. It was as though the iron in the man took
shape, shook off the veneer, encased him like a coat of mail. Hitherto, in
those remote Alaska solitudes, this would have meant the calling to
account of some transgressor in his camp. He began to sift for the prime
element in this woman's wonderful personality. It was not physical beauty
alone; neither was it that mysterious magnetism, almost electrical, yet
delicately responsive as a stringed instrument. One of these might have
kept that tremendous hold on Weatherbee near, but on Weatherbee absent
through those long, breaking years, hardly. It was something deeper;
something elusive yet insistent that had made it easier for him to brave
out his defeat alone in the Alaska wilderness than come back to face.
Clearly she was not just the handsome animal he had believed her to be.
Had she not called herself proud? Had he not seen her courage? She had a
spirit to break. A soul!
"A LITTLE STREAK OF LUCK"
It was not the first time Jimmie Daniels had entertained the Society
Editor at the Rathskeller, and that Monday, though he had invited her to
lunch with him in the Venetian room, she asked him, as was her habit, to
"order for both."
"Isn't there something special you'd like?" he asked generously;
"something you haven't had for a long time?"
"No. You are so much of an epicure--for a literary person--I know it's
sure to be something nice. Besides," and the shadow of a smile drifted
across her face, "it saves me guessing the state of your finances."
A critic would have called Geraldine Atkins too slender for her height,
and her face, notwithstanding its girlish freshness, hardly pretty. The
chin, in spite of its dimple, was too strong; the lips, scarlet as a holly
berry, lacked fullness and had a trick of closing firmly over her white
teeth. Even her gray-blue eyes, which should have been a dreamer's, had
acquired a direct intensity of expression as though they were forever
seeking the inner, real you. Still, from the rolling brim of her soft felt
hat to the hem of her brown tailor-made, that cleared the ankles of trim
brown shoes, she was undeniably chic and in the eyes of Jimmie Daniels
He was longer than usual filling out the card, and the waiter hesitated
thoughtfully when he had read it, then be glanced from the young man to
his companion with a comprehensive smile and hurried away. There was
chilled grapefruit in goblets with cracked ice, followed by bouillon,
oysters, and a delectable young duck with toast. But it was only when the
man brought a small green bottle and held it for Jimmie to approve the
label that his guest began to arch her brows.
Daniels smiled his ingenuous smile. "It's just to celebrate a little
streak of luck," he said. "And I owe it to you. If you hadn't been at
Vivian Court to write up the decorations for that bridge-luncheon and
happened to make that snap-shot of the Morganstein party, my leading lady
would have gone to the paper as Miss Armitage straight, and I guess that
would have queered me with the chief. But that headline you introduced
about Mrs. Weatherbee's incognito struck him right. 'Well, Jimmie,' he
said, 'you've saved your scalp this time.'"
The Society Editor smiled. "You were a gullible kiddie," she replied. "But
it's a mystery to me how you could have lived in Seattle three years
without knowing the prettiest woman on the boulevard by sight."
Jimmie shook his head. "I haven't the shadow of an excuse, unless it was
because another girl was running such a close second she always cut off my
"Think," said Miss Atkins quickly, disregarding the excuse, "if that name,
Miss Armitage, had been tagged to a picture that half the town would have
recognized. Mrs. Weatherbee is the most popular lady, socially, in
Seattle. When there's a reception for a new Council, she's always in the
receiving line; she pours tea at the tennis tournament, and it was she who
led the cotillion at the Charity ball. You would find her name in all the
important affairs, if you read the society column."
Daniels nodded meekly. "It was a hairbreadth escape, and I'm mighty
There was a little silence then, but after the waiter had filled the
long-stemmed glasses and hurried away, she said slowly, her gray-blue eyes
sifting Jimmie through and through: "It looks like you've been playing
cards for money, but I never should have suspected it--of you."
Daniels shook his head gravely. "No get-rich-quick games for me. My luck
doesn't come that way. But it cost me nearly two thousand dollars to find
it out. I've always meant to tell you about that, sometime. That two
thousand dollars was all my capital when I came to Seattle to take my
course in journalism. I expected it to see me through. But, well, it was
my first week at the University--fortunately I had paid the expenses of
the first semester in advance--when one night a couple of fellows I knew
brought me down to see the town. I didn't know much about a city then; I
had grown up over in the sage-brush country, and I never had heard of a
highball. To start with I had two, then I got interested in a game of
roulette, and the last I remember I was learning to play poker. But I must
have had more high-balls; the boys said afterwards they left me early in
the evening with a new acquaintance; they couldn't get me to go home. I
never knew how I got back to the dorm, and the next day, when I woke, the
stubs of my checkbook showed I had signed practically all of my two
There was a brief silence. Out in the main room the orchestra began to
play. Miss Atkins was looking at Jimmie, and her scarlet lips were closed
like a straight cord.
He drew his hand over his smooth, close-cut, dark hair and took a long
draught from his glass of ice-water. "I can't make you understand how I
felt about it," he went on, "but that two thousand was the price of my
father's ranch over near the Columbia. It stood for years of privation,
heart-breaking toil, and disappointment--the worst kind. Two seasons of
drouth we saw the whole wheat crop blister and go to ruin. I carried water
in buckets from the river up to that plateau day after day, just to keep
our home garden and a little patch of grass alive. And mother carried too
up that breaking slope in the desert sun. It was thinking of that made me--
all in. She worked the same way with the stock. Something lacking in the
soil affected the feed, and some of the calves were born without hair;
their bones were soft. It baffled my father and every man along that rim
of the desert, but not mother. She said doctors prescribed lime for
rickety human babies, and she made limewater and mixed it with the feed.
It was just the thing. She was a small woman, but plucky from start to
finish. And we, Dad and I, didn't know what it was costing her--till she
There was another silence. In the orchestra, out beyond the palms and
screens of the Venetian room, the first violin was playing the
_Humoresque_. The girl leaned forward slightly, watching Jimmie's face.
Her lips were parted, and an unexpected sympathy softened her eyes.
"She had been a school teacher back in Iowa," he resumed, "and long winter
evenings and Sundays when she could, she always had her books out. Up to
the year I was twenty, she taught me all I knew. She tried her best to
make a man of me, and I can see now how she turned my mind to journalism.
She said some day there was going to be an opening for a newspaper right
there in the Columbia desert. Where a great river received the waters of
another big stream, there was bound to be a city. She saw farther than we
did. The High Line canal was only a pipe dream then, but she believed it
would come true. When she died, we hadn't the heart to stay on with the
ranch, so Dad gave it to me, to sell for what I could get, and went back
to Iowa. He said he had promised her he would give me a chance at the
State University, and that was the best he could do. And, well, you see I
had to come to the U. of W. to stay, and I was used to work. I did all
sorts of stunts out of hours and managed to pull through the second
semester. Then I hiked over the mountains to the Wenatchee valley and
earned enough that summer vacation to tide me over the next year. I had a
friend there in the sage-brush country, a station agent named Bailey, who
had blown a thousand dollars into a tract of desert land he hadn't seen
off the map. He was the kind of fellow to call himself all kinds of a
fool, then go ahead and make that ground pay his money back. He saw a way
to bring it under irrigation and had it cleared and set to apples. But,
while he was waiting for the trees to grow, he put in fillers of alfalfa
and strawberries. He was operating for the new Milwaukee railroad then,
and hired me to harvest his crops. They paid my wages and the two Japs I
had to help, with a snug profit. And his trees were doing fine; thrifty,
every one in the twenty acres. Last year they began to bear, only a few
apples to a tree, but for flavor and size fit for Eden. This year he is
giving up his position with the Milwaukee; his orchards are going to make
him rich. And he wrote me the other day that the old ranch I threw away is
coming under the new High Line ditch. The company that bought it has
platted it into fruit tracts. Think-of that! Trees growing all over that
piece of desert. Water running to waste, where mother and I carried it in
buckets through the sand, in the sweltering heat, up that miserable
The Society Editor drew a full breath and settled back in her chair. Her
glance fell to her glass, and she laid her fingers on the thin stem.
Jimmie refreshed himself again with the ice-water. "I didn't mean to go
into the story so deep," he said, "but you are a good listener."
"It was worth listening to," she answered earnestly. "I've always wondered
about your mother; I knew she must have been nice. But you must simply
hate the sight of cards now. I am sorry I said what I did. And I don't
care how it happened, here is to that 'Little Streak of Luck.' May it lead
to the great pay-streak."
She reached her glass out for Jimmie to touch with his, then raised it to
her lips. Daniels drank and held his glass off to examine the remaining
liquor, like a connoisseur. "I play cards a little sometimes," he
confessed; "on boats and places where I have to kill time. But," and he
brightened, "it was this way about that streak of luck. I was detailed to
write up the new Yacht Club quarters at West Seattle, with illustrations
to show the finer boats at the anchorage and, while I was on the landing
making an exposure of the Morganstein yacht, a tender put off with a
message for me to come aboard. Mr. Morganstein had seen me from the deck,
where he was nursing his injured leg. He was lonesome, I suppose. There
was no one else in sight, though as I stepped over the side, I heard a
victrola playing down below. 'How are you?' he said. 'Have a seat.' Then
he scowled down the companionway and called: 'Elizabeth, stop that
infernal machine, will you?'
"The music was turned off, and pretty soon Miss Morganstein came up the
stairs. She was stunning, in a white sailor suit with red fixings, eyes
black as midnight; piles of raven hair. But as soon as he had introduced
us, and she had settled his pillows to suit him--he was lying in one of
those invalid chairs--he sent her off to mix a julep or something. Then he
said he presumed we were going to have a fine cut of the _Aquila_ in the
Sunday paper, if I was the reporter who made that exposure at the time of
the accident to his car. I told him yes, I was Daniels, representing the
_Press_, and had the good fortune to be in Snoqualmie Pass that day. 'I
was sure of it,' he said. 'Watched you over there with these binoculars.'
He put the glasses down on a table and opened a drawer and took out his
fountain-pen and checkbook. 'That write-up was so good,' he said, handing
me the blank he had filled, 'I want to make you a little present. But you
are the first _Press_ reporter I ever gave anything to, and I want this
"I thanked him, but when I looked at that check I woke up. It was for a
cool hundred dollars. I tried to make him take it back; I told him my
paper was paying me; besides, I couldn't accept all the credit; that you
had fixed up the story and put the names right, and the first cut was
yours. 'Never mind,' he said, 'I have something else for your society miss
to do. I am going to have her describe my new country place, when it's all
in shape. Takes a woman to get hold of the scenery and color schemes.'
Then he insisted I had earned the extra money. Not one man in a hundred
would have been quick enough to make that exposure, and the picture was
certainly fine of the whole group. In fact, he wanted that film of the car
swinging into the embankment. He wanted to have an enlargement made."
"I see," said Miss Atkins slowly, "I see." She paused, scooping the crest
from her pineapple ice, then added: "Now we are getting to the core."
"I told him it belonged to the paper, but I thought I would be able to get
it for him," Jimmie resumed. "And he asked me to bring it down to Pier
Number Three just before four this afternoon. The _Aquila_ was starting
for a little cruise around Bainbridge Island to his country place, and if
I wanted to work in something about her equipment and speed, I might sail
as far as the Navy Yard, where they would make a short stop. Then he
mentioned that Hollis Tisdale might be aboard, and possibly I would be
able to pick up a little information on the coal question. These
Government people were 'non-committal,' he said, but there was a snug
corner behind the awnings aft, where in any case I could work up my Yacht
"So," remarked the Society Editor slowly, "it's a double core."
ON BOARD THE AQUILA
Tisdale's rooms were very warm that afternoon. It was another of those
rare, breezeless days, an aftermath of August rather than the advent of
Indian summer, and the sun streamed in at the western windows. His injured
hand, his whole feverish body, protested against the heat. The peroxide
which he had applied to the hurt at Wenatchee had brought little relief,
and that morning the increased pain and swelling had forced him to consult
a surgeon, who had probed the wound, cut a little, bandaged it, and
announced curtly that it looked like infection.
"But I can't afford to nurse this hand"--Hollis rose from the couch where
he had thrown himself when he came in from the doctor's office--"I ought
to be using it now." He went over and drew the blinds, but the atmosphere
seemed more stifling. He needed air, plenty of it, clean and fresh in
God's out-of-doors; it was being penned in these close rooms that raised
his temperature. He pulled the shades up again and took a turn across the
floor. Then he noticed the crumpled note which, aimed left-handedly, had
missed the waste basket earlier, when he opened his mail, and he went over
and picked it up. He stood smoothing it on his desk. A perfume, spicy yet
suggestive of roses, pervaded the sheet, which was written in a round,
firm, masculine hand, under the gilt monogram, M.F. His glance ran through
"I am writing for my brother, Frederic Morganstein, who is recuperating
aboard his yacht, to ask you to join us on a little cruise around
Bainbridge Island this afternoon at four o'clock. Ever since his interests
have been identified with Alaska, he has hoped to know you personally, and
he wishes particularly to meet you now, to thank you for your services in
Snoqualmie Pass. In the general confusion after the accident I am afraid
none of us remembered to.
"We expect to touch at the Navy Yard and again at Frederic's new villa to
see how the work is coming on, but the trip should not take longer than
four hours, and we are dining informally on board.
"Do not trouble to answer. If the salt air is a strong enough lure this
warm day, you will find the _Aquila_ at Pier Three.
"Very truly yours,
"Tuesday, September seventh."
"That floating palace ought to stir up some breeze." Tisdale crumpled the
invitation again and dropped it deliberately in the waste basket. "And
to-morrow I shall be shut up on my eastbound train." He looked at his
watch; there was still half an hour to spare before the time of sailing.
"After all, why not?"
A little later, when he had hurried into white flannels as expeditiously
as possible with his disabled hand, the suggestion crept to his inner
consciousness that he might find Mrs. Weatherbee aboard the _Aquila_.
"Well, why not?" he asked himself again. "Why not?" and picked up his hat.
So he came to Pier Number Three and, looking down the gangway as he
crossed, saw her standing in the little group awaiting him on the after
deck. Morganstein spoke to him and introduced him to the ladies. He did
not avoid her look and, under his appraising eyes, he saw the color begin
to play in her face. Then her glance fell to his bandaged hand, and an
inquiry rushed to her lips. But she checked the words in time and drew
slowly aloof to a seat near the rail.
Tisdale took a place near the reclining chair of his host. When she
ventured to give him a swift side-glance, his mouth set austerely. But the
space between them became electrical. It was as though wireless messages
passed continually between them.
"Look back. See how often I tried to tell you! My courage failed. Believe
in me. I am not the monster you thought."
And always the one response: "The facts are all against you."
Duwamish Head had dropped from sight; Magnolia Bluff fell far astern, and
the _Aquila_ steamed out into the long, broad reach of Puget Sound; but
though the tide had turned, there was still no wind. The late sun touched
the glassy swells with the changing effect of a prism. The prow of the
craft shattered this mirror, and her wake stretched in a ragged and
widening crack. But under the awnings Frederic Morganstein's guests found
it delightfully cool. Only Jimmie Daniels, huddled on a stool in the
glare, outside the lowered curtain that cut him off from the breeze
created by the motion of the yacht, felt uncomfortably warm.
The representative of the _Press_ had arrived on board in time to see
Tisdale come down the pier and had discreetly availed himself of the
secluded place that the financier had previously put to his disposal. He
had heard it told at the newspaper office that Tisdale, whose golden
statements were to furnish his little scoop, Hollis Tisdale of Alaska and
the Geographical Survey, who knew more about the coal situation than any
other man, was also the most silent, baffling sphinx on record when it
came to an interview.
At the moment the _Aquila_ came into the open, the Japanese boy placed a
bowl of punch, with, pleasant clinking of ice, on the wicker table before
Mrs. Feversham, who began to serve it. Like Elizabeth's, the emblems on
her nautical white costume were embroidered in scarlet, and a red silk
handkerchief was knotted loosely on her full, boyish chest. She was not
less striking, and indeed she believed this meeting on the deck of the
yacht, where formalities were quickly abridged, would appeal to the
out-of-doors man and pave the way to a closer acquaintance in Washington.
But Tisdale's glance involuntarily moved beyond to the woman seated by the
rail. Her head was turned so that he caught the finely chiseled profile,
the outward sweep of black lashes, the adorable curve of the oval chin to
meet the throat. She too wore the conventional sailor suit, but without
color, and this effect of purity, the inscrutable delicacy of her, seemed
to set her apart from these dark, materialistic sisters as though she had
strayed like a lost vestal into the wrong atmosphere. His brows relaxed.
For a moment the censor that had come to hold dominion in his heart was
off guard. He felt the magnetism of her personality drawing him once more;
he desired to cross the deck to her, drop a word into those deep places he
had discovered, and see her emotions stir and overflow. Then suddenly the
enthusiasm, for which during that drive through the mountains he had
learned to watch, broke in her face. "Look!" she exclaimed softly. "See
Every one responded, but Tisdale started from his chair, and went over and
stood beside her. There, southward, through golden haze, with the dark and
wooded bluffs of Vashon Island flanking the deep foreground of opal sea,
the dome lifted like a phantom peak. "It doesn't seem to belong to our
world," she said, and her voice held its soft minor note, "but a vision of
some higher, better country."
She turned to give him her rare, grave look, and instantly his eyes
telegraphed appreciation. Then he remembered. The swift revulsion came
over him. He swung on his heel to go back to his chair, and the unexpected
movement brought him in conjunction with the punch tray. The boy righted
it dexterously, and she took the offered glass and settled again in her
seat. But from his place across the deck, Tisdale noticed a drop had
fallen, spreading, above the hem of her white skirt. The red stain held
his austere gaze. It became a symbol of blood; on the garment of the
vestal the defilement of sacrifice.
She was responsible for Weatherbee's death. He must not forget that. And
he saw through her. Now he saw. Had she not known at the beginning he was
an out-of-doors man? That he lived his best in the high spaces close to
Nature's heart? And so determined to win him in this way? She had meant to
win him. Even yet, she could not trust alone to his desire to see David's
project through, but threw in the charm of her own personality to swing
the balance. Oh, she understood him. At the start she had read him,
measured him, sounded him through. That supreme moment, at the crisis of
the storm, had she not lent herself to the situation, counting the price?
At this thought, the heat surged to his face. He wished in that instant to
punish her, break her, but deeper than his anger with her burned a fury
against himself. That he should have allowed her to use him, make a fool
of him. He who had blamed Weatherbee, censured Foster, for less.
Then Marcia Feversham took advantage of the silence and, at her first
statement, Jimmie Daniels sat erect; he forgot his thirst, the discomfort
of his position, and opened his notebook on his knee. "I understand your
work this season was in the Matanuska coal region, Mr. Tisdale; you must
be able to guess a little nearer than the rest of us as to the outcome of
the Naval tests. Is it the Copper River Northwestern or the Prince William
Development Company that is to have the open door?"
Tisdale's glance moved from the opal sea to the lady's face; the genial
lines crinkled faintly at the corners of his eyes. "I believe the Bering
and Matanuska coal will prove equally good for steaming purposes," he
Frederic Morganstein grasped the arms of his chair and moved a little,
risking a twinge of pain, to look squarely at Tisdale. "You mean the
Government may conserve both?" His voice was habitually thick and
deliberate, as though the words had difficulty to escape his heavy lips.
"That, sir, would lock the shackles on every resource in Alaska. Guess
you've seen how construction and development are forced to a standstill,
pending the coal decision. Guess you know our few finished miles of
railroad, built at immense expense and burdened with an outrageous tax,
are operating under imported coal. Placed an order with Japan in the
spring for three thousand tons."
"Think of it!" exclaimed Marcia. "Coal from the Orient, the lowest grade,
when we should be exporting the best. Think of the handicap, the injustice
put upon those pioneer Alaskans who fought tremendous obstacles to open
the interior; who paved the way for civilization."
Tisdale's face clouded. "I am thinking of those pioneers, madam, and I
believe the Government is going to. Present laws can be easily amended and
enforced to fit nearly every situation until better ones are framed. The
settler and prospector should have privileges, but at the same time the
Government must put some restriction on speculation and monopoly."
Behind the awning Jimmie's pencil was racing down the page, and
Morganstein dropped his head back on the pillow; a purplish flush rose in
"The trouble is," Hollis went on evenly, "each senator has been so
over-burdened with the bills of his own State that Alaska has been
side-tracked. But I know the President's interest is waking; he wants to
see the situation intelligently; in fact, he favors a Government-built
railroad from the coast to the upper Yukon. And I believe as soon as a
selection is made for naval use, some of those old disputed coal claims--
some, not all--will be allowed. Or else--Congress must pass a bill to
lease Alaska coal lands."
"Lease Alaska coal lands?" Frederic started up again so recklessly he was
forced to sink back with a groan. "Do you mean we won't be allowed to mine
any coal in Alaska, in that case, except by lease?" And he added, turning
his cheek to the pillow, "Oh, damn!"
Tisdale seemed not to have heard the question. His glance moved slowly
again over the opal sea and rested on the shining ramparts of the
Olympics, off the port bow. "Constance!" he exclaimed mellowly. "The
Brothers! Eleanor!" Then he said whimsically: "Thank God they can't set
steam-shovels to work there and level those peaks and fill the canyons. Do
you know?"--his look returned briefly and the genial lines deepened--
"those mountains were my playground when I was a boy. My last hunting
trip, the year I finished college, came to an untimely end up there in the
gorge of the Dosewallups. You see it? That shaded contour cross-cutting
the front of Constance."
Elizabeth, who had opened her workbag, looked up with sudden interest.
"Was there an accident?" she asked. "Something desperate and thrilling?"
"It seemed so to me," he said.
Then Mrs. Weatherbee rose and came over to the port rail. "I see," she
said, and shaded her eyes with her hand. "You mean where that gold mist
rises between that snow slope and the blue rim of that lower, nearer
mountain. And you had camped in that gorge"--her hand dropped; she turned
to him expectantly--"with friends, on a hunting trip?"
He paused a moment then answered slowly: "Yes, madam, with one of them.
Sandy, our old camp cook, made a third in the party."
THE STORY OF THE TENAS PAPOOSE
Tisdale paused another moment, while his far-seeing gaze sifted the
shadows of Constance, then began: "We had made camp that afternoon, at the
point where Rocky Brook tumbles over the last boulders to join the swift
current of the Dosewallups. I am something of an angler, and Sandy knew
how to treat a Dolly Varden to divide honors with a rainbow; so while the
others were pitching the tents, it fell to me to push up stream with my
rod and flies. The banks rose in sharp pitches under low boughs of fir,
hemlock, or cedar, but I managed to keep well to the bed of the stream,
working from boulder to boulder and stopping to make a cast wherever a
riffle looked promising. Finally, to avoid an unusually deep pool, I
detoured around through the trees. It was very still in there; not even
the cry of a jay or the drum of a woodpecker to break the silence, until
suddenly I heard voices. Then, in a tangle of young alder, I picked up a
trail and came soon on a group of squaws picking wild blackberries. They
made a great picture with their beautifully woven, gently flaring,
water-tight baskets, stained like pottery; their bright shawls wrapped
scarfwise around their waists out of the way; heads bound in gay
handkerchiefs. It was a long distance from any settlement, and they
stood watching me curiously while I wedged myself between twin cedars, on
over a big fallen fir, out of sight.
"A little later I found myself in a small pocket hemmed by cliffs of
nearly two hundred feet, over which the brook plunged in a fine cataract.
Above, where it cut the precipice, a hanging spur of rock took the shape
of a tiger's profile, and a depression colored by mineral deposit formed a
big red eye; midway the stream struck shelving rock, breaking into a score
of cascades that spread out fan-shape and poured into a deep, green,
stone-lined pool; stirring, splashing, rippling ceaselessly, but so limpid
I could see the trout. It was a place that held me. When at last I put
away my flies and started down the bank, I knew dinner must be waiting for
me, but I had a string of beauties to pacify Sandy. As I hurried down to
the fallen tree, I heard the squaws calling to each other at a different
point out of sight up the ridge; then I found a step in the rough bole
and, setting my hands on the top, vaulted over. The next instant I would
have given anything, the best years of my life, to undo that leap. There,
where my foot had struck, left with some filled baskets in the lee of the
log, lay a small papoose."
Tisdale's voice vibrated softly and stopped, while his glance moved from
face to face. He held the rapt attention of every one, and in the pause
the water along the keel played a minor interlude. Behind the awning a
different sound broke faintly. It was like the rustle of paper; a turned
"The baby was bound to the usual-shaped board," Hollis went on, "with a
woven pocket for the feet and a broad carrying-strap to fit the head of
the mother. I sat down and lifted the little fellow to my knees. I wore
heavy shoes, studded with nails for mountain climbing, and the mark of my
heel was stamped, cruelly, on the small brown cheek; the rim had crushed
Tisdale halted again, and in the silence Elizabeth sighed. Then, "I'll bet
you didn't waste any time in that place," exclaimed Morganstein.
"The eyes were closed," resumed Tisdale gently. "I saw the blow had taken
him in his sleep, but the wantonness, the misery of it, turned me cold.
Then, you are right, I was seized with a panic to get away. I laid the
papoose back in the place where I had found him and left my string of
fish, a poor tribute, with what money I had about me, and hurried down
into the bed of the brook.
"The squaws were several days' travel from the reservation, but I
remembered we had passed a small encampment a few miles down the river and
another near the mouth of the Dosewallups, where a couple of Indians were
fishing from canoes. I knew they would patrol the stream as soon as the
alarm was given, and my only chance was to make a wide detour, avoiding my
camp where they would first look for me, swim the river, and push through
the forest, around that steep, pyramid peak to the next canyon. You see
it?--The Duckabush cuts through there to tide water. I left no trail in
crossing the stony bed of the brook, and took advantage of a low basalt
bluff in climbing the farther bank. It was while I was working my way over
the rock into cover of the trees that the pleasant calling on the ridge
behind me changed to the first terrible cry. The mother had found her dead
"Twilight was on me when I stopped at last on the river bank to take off
my shoes. I rolled them with my coat in a snug pack, which I secured with
a length of fish-line to my shoulders before I plunged in. The current was
swift; I lost headway, and a whirlpool caught me; I was swept under, came
up grazing a ragged rock, dipped again through a riffle, and when I
finally gathered myself and won out to the opposite shore, there was my
camp in full view below me. I was winded, bruised, shivering, and while I
lay resting I watched Sandy. He stirred the fire under his kettle, put a
fresh lag on, then walked to the mouth of the brook and stood looking up
stream, wondering, no doubt, what was keeping me. Then a long cry came up
the gorge. It was lost in the rush of the rapids and rose again in a
wailing dirge. The young squaw was mourning for her papoose. It struck me
colder than the waters of the Dosewallups. Sandy turned to listen. I knew
I had only to call, show myself, and the boys would be ready to fight for
me every step of the trail down to the settlement; but there was no need
to drag them in; I hoped they would waste no time in going out, and I
found my pocket compass, set a course, and pushed into the undergrowth.
"That night journey was long-drawn torture. The moon rose, but its light
barely penetrated the fir boughs. My coat and shoes were gone, torn from
me in the rapids, and I walked blindly into snares of broken and pronged
branches, trod tangles of blackberry, and more than once my foot was
pierced by the barbs of a devil's-club. Dawn found me stumbling into a
small clearing. I was dull with weariness, but I saw a cabin with smoke
rising from the chimney, and the possibility of a breakfast heartened me.
As I hurried to the door, it opened, and a woman with a milking pail came
out. At sight of me she stopped, her face went white, and, dropping the
bucket, she moved backward into the room. The next moment she brought a
rifle from behind the door. 'If you come one step nearer,' she cried,
Tisdale paused, and the humor broke gently in his face. "I saw she was
quite capable of it," he went on, "and I stopped. It was the first time I
had seemed formidable to a woman, and I raised my hand to my head--my hat
was gone--to smooth my ruffled hair; then my glance fell from my shirt
sleeves, soiled and in tatters, down over my torn trousers to my shoeless
feet; my socks were in rags. 'I am sorry,' I began, but she refused to
listen. 'Don't you say a word,' she warned and had the rifle to her
shoulder, looking along the sight. 'If you do, I'll shoot, and I'm a
pretty good shot.'
"'I haven't a doubt of that,' I answered, taking the word, 'and even if
you were not, you could hardly miss at that range.'
"Her color came back, and she stopped sighting to look me over. 'Now,' she
said, 'you take that road down the Duckabush, and don't you stop short of
a mile. Ain't you ashamed,' she shrilled, as I moved ignominiously into
the trail, 'going 'round scaring ladies to death?'
"But I did not go that mile. Out of sight of the cabin I found myself in
one of those old burned sections, overgrown with maple. The trees were
very big, and the gnarled, fantastic limbs and boles were wrapped in thick
bronze moss. It covered the huge, dead trunks and logs of the destroyed
timber, carpeted the earth, and out of it grew a natural fernery." He
turned his face a little, involuntarily seeking Mrs. Weatherbee. "I wish
you could have seen that place," he said. "Imagine a great billowing sea
of infinite shades of green, fronds waving everywhere, light, beautifully
stencilled elk-fern, starting with a breadth of two feet and tapering to
lengths of four or five; sword-fern shooting stiffly erect, and whole
knolls mantled in maidenhair."
"I know, I know!" she responded breathlessly. "It must have been
beautiful, but it was terrible if you were pursued. I have seen such a
place. Wherever one stepped, fronds bent or broke and made a plain trail.
But of course you kept to the beaten road."
Tisdale shook his head. "That road outside the clearing was simply a
narrow, little used path; and I was so dead tired I began to look for a
place where I might take an hour's rest. I chose a big cedar snag a few
rods from the trail, the spreading kind that is always hollow, and found
the opening screened in fern and just wide enough to let me in. Almost
instantly I was asleep and--do you know?"--the humor broke again gently--
"it was late in the afternoon when I wakened. And I was only roused then
by a light blow on my face. I started up. The thing that had struck me was
a moccasin, and its mate had dropped at my elbow. Then I saw a can of milk
with a loaf of bread placed inside my door. But there was no one in sight,
though I hurried to look, and I concluded that for some unaccountable
reason that inhospitable woman had changed her opinion of me and wanted to
make amends. I took a long draught of the milk--it was the best I ever
tasted--then picked up one of the moccasins. It was new and elaborately
beaded, the kind a woman fancies for wall decorations, and she had
probably bartered with some passing squaw for the pair. But the size
looked encouraging, and with a little ripping and cutting, I managed to
work it on. Pinned to the toe of the other, I found a note. It ran like
this: 'Two Indians are trailing you. I sent them down-stream, but they
will come back. They told me about that poor little papoose.'
"I saw she must have followed me that morning, while searching for her
cow, or perhaps to satisfy herself I had left the clearing, and so
discovered my hiding-place. The broader track of her skirts must have
covered mine through the fern."
Tisdale paused. The _Aquila_ had come under the lee of Bainbridge Island.
The Olympics were out of sight, as the yacht, heeling to the first tide
rip, began to turn into the Narrows, and the batteries of Fort Ward
commanded her bows; a beautiful wooded point broke the line of the
opposite shore. It rimmed a small cove. But Mrs. Weatherbee was not
interested; her attention remained fixed on Tisdale. Indeed he held the
eyes of every one. Then Marcia Feversham relieved the tension. "And the
Indians came back?" she asked.
"Oh, yes, that was inevitable; they had to come back to pick up my trail.
But you don't know what a different man that rest and the moccasins made
of me. In five minutes I was on the road and making my best time up the
gorge, in the opposite direction. The woman was standing in her door as I
passed the cabin; she put a warning finger to her lips and waved me on. In
a little while the ground began to fall in short pitches; sometimes it
broke in steps over granite spurs where the exposed roots of fir and
hemlock twined; then I came to a place where an immense boulder, big as a
house, moving down the mountain, had left a swath through the timber, and
I heard the thunder of the Duckabush. I turned into this cut, intending to
cross the river and work down the canyon on the farther side, and as I
went I saw the torrent storming below me, a winding sheet of spray. The
boulder had stopped on a level bluff, but two sections, splitting from it,
had dropped to the bank underneath and, tilting together in an apex,
formed a small cavern through which washed a rill. It made a considerable
pool and, dividing, poured on either side of the uprooted trunk of a fir
that bridged the stream. The log was very old; it sagged mid-channel, as
though a break had started, and snagged limbs stretched a line of
pitfalls. But a few yards below the river plunged in cataract, and above I
found sheer cliffs curving in a double horseshoe. It was impossible to
swim the racing current, and I came back to the log. By that time another
twilight was on me. The forest had been very still; I hadn't noticed a
bird all day, but while I stood weighing the chances of that crossing, I
heard the harsh call of a kingfisher or jay. It seemed to come from the
slope beyond the bluff, and instantly an answer rose faintly in the
direction of the trail. I was leaning on one of the tilted slabs, and I
wormed myself around the base, to avoid leaving an impression in the wet
sand, and dipped under the trailing bough of a cedar, through the pool,
and crawled up into the cavern. There wasn't room to stand erect, and I
waited crouching, over moccasins in water. The cedar began to sway--I had
used the upper boughs to ease myself in sliding down the slab from the
bluff--a fragment of granite dropped, then an Indian came between me and
"While he stopped to examine the sand at the edge of the pool, another
followed. He ventured a short distance out on the log and came back, while
the first set his rifle against the trunk and sank on his hands and knees
to drink. The water, roiled probably by my steps, was not to his taste,
and he rejected it with a disgusted 'Hwah!' When he rose, he stood looking
across the pool into my cavern. I held my breath, hugging the bluff behind
me like a lizard. It was so dark I doubted if even his lynx eyes could
discover me, but he lifted the gun and for an instant I believed he meant
to send a shot into the hole. Then he seemed to think better of wasting
his ammunition and led the way down-stream. They stopped on a level bank
over the cataract, and in a little while I caught the odor of smoke and
later of cooking trout. My cramped position grew intolerable, and finally
I crept out into the pool to reconnoitre. The light of their fire showed
both figures stretched on the ground. They had camped for the night.
"It was useless to try to go down-stream; before dawn Indians would patrol
the whole canyon; neither could I double back to the Dosewallups where
they had as surely left a watch; my only course was to risk the log
crossing at once, before the moon rose, and strike southward to the
Lilliwaup, where, at the mouth of the gorge, I knew the mail steamer made
infrequent stops. I began to work up between the gnarled roots to the top
of the trunk and pushed laboriously with infinite caution out over the
channel. I felt every inch of that log, but once a dead branch snapped
short in my hand, and the noise rang sharp as a pistol shot. I waited,
flattening myself to the bole, but the thunder of the river must have
drowned the sound; the Indians did not stir. So at last I came to the
danger point. Groping for the break, I found it started underneath,
reaching well around. Caused probably by some battering bulk in the spring
floods, and widening slowly ever since, it needed only a slight shock to
bring it to a finish. I grasped a stout snag and tried to swing myself
over the place, but there came a splitting report; and there was just time
to drop astride above that stub of limb, when the log parted below it, and
I was in the river. I managed to keep my hold and my head out of water,
though the current did its best to suck me under. Then I saw that while
the main portion of the tree had been swept away, the top to which I clung
remained fixed to the bank, wedged no doubt between trunks or boulders. As
I began to draw myself up out of the wash, a resinous bough thrown on the
fire warned me the Indians were roused, and I flattened again like a
chameleon on the slippery incline. They came as far as the rill and stood
looking across, then went down-stream, no doubt to see whether the trunk
had stranded on the riffles below the cataract. But they were back before
I could finish the log, and the rising moon illuminated the gorge. I was
forced to swing to the shady side of the snag. The time dragged endlessly;
a wind piping down the watercourse cut like a hundred whips through my wet
clothes; and I think in the end I only kept my hold because my fingers
were too stiff to let go. But at last the Indians stretched themselves
once more on the ground; their fire burned low, and I wormed myself up
within reach of a friendly young hemlock, grasped a bough, and gained
shelving rock. The next moment I relaxed, all but done for, on a dry bed
Tisdale paused, looking again from face to face, while the humor gleamed
in his own. "I am making a long story of it," he said modestly. "You must
"Tired!" exclaimed Elizabeth, "It's the very best story I ever heard.
Please go on."
"Of course you escaped," supplemented Marcia Feversham, "but we want to
know how. And what was your chum doing all the time? And wasn't there
Frederic Morganstein rumbled a short laugh. "Maybe you made the Lilliwaup,
but I'll bet ten to one you missed your steamer."
Tisdale's eyes rested involuntarily again on Mrs. Weatherbee. She did not
say anything, but she met the look with her direct gaze; her short upper
lip parted, and the color burned softly in her cheek. "I made the
Lilliwaup," he went on, "about two miles from the mouth, between the upper
and lower falls. The river breaks in cascades there, hundreds of them as
far as one can see, divided by tremendous boulders."
"We know the place," said Elizabeth quickly. "Our first cruise on the
_Aquila_ was to the Lilliwaup. We climbed to the upper falls and spent
hours along the cascades. Those boulders, hundreds of them, rose through
the spray, all covered with little trees and ferns. There never was
anything like it, but we called it The Fairy Isles."
Tisdale nodded. "It was near the end of that reach I found myself. The
channels gather below, you remember, and pour down a steep declivity under
a natural causeway. But the charm and grandeur were lost on me that day. I
wanted to reach the old trail from the falls on the opposite shore, and I
knew that stone bridge fell short a span, so I began to work my way from
boulder to boulder out to the main stream. It was a wide chasm to leap,
with an upward spring to a tilted table of basalt, and I overbalanced,
slipped down, and, coasting across the surface, recovered enough on the
edge to ease myself off to a nearly submerged ledge. There I stopped." He
paused an instant, and his eyes sought Marcia Feversham's; the amusement
played lightly on his flexible lips. "I had stumbled on another woman. She
was seated on a lower boulder, sketching the stone bridge. I was behind
her, but I saw a pretty hand and forearm, some nice brown hair tucked
under a big straw hat, and a trim and young figure in a well-made gown of
blue linen. Then she said pleasantly, without turning her head: 'Well,
John, what luck?'
"I drew back into a shallow niche of the rock. I had not forgotten the
first impression I made on the woman up the Duckabush and had no desire to
'scare ladies.' But my steamer was almost due, and I hoped John would come
soon. Getting no reply from him, she rose and glanced around. Then she
looked at her watch, put her hand to her mouth, and sent a long call up
the gorge. 'Joh-n. Joh-n, hello!' She had a carrying, singer's voice, but
it brought no answer, so after a moment she gathered up her things and
started towards the bank. I watched her disappear among the trees; then,
my fear of missing the steamer growing stronger than the dread of
terrifying her, I followed. The trail drops precipitously around the lower
falls, you remember, and I struck the level where the river bends at the
foot of the cataract, with considerable noise. I found myself in a sort of
open-air parlor flanked by two tents; rustic seats under a canopy of maple
boughs, hammocks, a percolator bubbling on a sheet-iron contrivance over
the camp-fire coals, and, looking at me across a table, the girl. 'I beg
your pardon,' I hurried to say. 'Don't be afraid of me.'
"'Afraid?' she repeated. 'Afraid--of you?' And the way she said it, with a
half scornful, half humorous surprise, the sight of her standing there so
self-reliant, buoyant, the type of that civilization I had tried so hard
to reach, started a reaction of my overstrained nerves. Still, I think I
might have held myself together had I not at that moment caught the voice
of that unhappy squaw. It struck a chill to my bones, and I sank down on
the nearest seat and dropped my face in my hands, completely unmanned.
"I knew she came around the table and stood looking me over, but when I
finally managed to lift my head, she had gone back to the percolator to