Chapter XII. The Girl of Glen West
 

When Glen Weston reached the top of the hill that afternoon of her encounter with the grizzly, she reined in Midnight and swung him sharply around. She was confident that she could not be seen from the valley below, as a large projecting rock hid her from view. She was in no hurry to leave the place, and several times she was tempted to dismount, peer around the rock to see if her rescuer were still at the bottom of the trail. She refrained from doing so, however, lest he might see her, and thus be induced to follow her.

Glen was not a girl to be easily affected, but she had to acknowledge to herself that the gallant stranger interested her in an unusual manner. He was not like the men she was in the habit of meeting. He was different and so courteous. And he was good looking, too, she mused. He had also been at the Front! That appealed to her, and aroused her curiosity. What had he done over there? she wondered. Had he performed special deeds of daring, and carried off any medals?

For some time she remained there facing the west. The sun was riding over the distant mountain peaks, and the whole landscape was bathed in resplendent glory. Midnight was standing close to the rocky ledge, with ears pointed forward and his large eyes turned to the left. His body was still quivering, and every nerve was keenly alert. Occasionally his right fore-hoof struck the rock, indicating his impatience to be away. The slightest sound startled him, for he could not easily forget his encounter with the bear.

"Steady, laddie," Glen soothed, when he became more restless than usual. "I know you are anxious to be off, but I like this place. I wonder where we would be now but for that wonderful shot. Most likely we would be lying down there in the ravine instead of the grizzly."

For about fifteen minutes longer she remained in this position, silently looking out toward the great mountains beyond. Had Reynolds but seen her then, how the artist soul within him would have rejoiced. With a remarkable grace and ease she sat there, as one well accustomed to the saddle. Her left hand held the reins, and her right the riding-whip. Her soft felt hat, caught up at one side, partly shaded her face. A deep flush mantled her cheeks, due not to the reflection of the sun alone, but to buoyant health, and the excitement through which she had just passed.

Almost wistfully she at length wheeled her horse and headed him away from the summit. Midnight needed no urging, and the light of satisfaction gleamed in his eyes as he sped swiftly and nimbly along the narrow trail. No guiding hand directed him, and the reins lay loose upon his glossy neck, for his mistress' mind was elsewhere. At times he was compelled to slow down to a walk where the rocks were thick, or the trail steep and dangerous. But whenever possible, such as on the wild meadows, he laid back his ears and sped like the wind. This always aroused Glen and brought her back to earth. She enjoyed such races, and when they were over, she would pat Midnight on the neck and utter affectionate words of praise. Horse and rider understood each other, which feeling had been developed through years of companionship on many a hard trail.

For over an hour they thus moved steadily onward, and at length there loomed before them the high frowning ridge of the Golden Crest. At first it seemed to form an impassable barrier to their advance. But as they continued, an opening suddenly appeared, flanked on either side by huge projecting rocks. It was Nature's great doorway in one of the mighty partitions of the house not made with hands. Through this Midnight speedily loped and ere long swept out upon a wild meadow which extended to the left farther than the eye could see, and over a mile in width. Horses were feeding here, and at once Midnight lifted up his voice in a friendly neigh of salutation, which was immediately answered by several horses in the distance. In fact, he was on the point of slowing down and swerving from the trail, but a light flick of the whip reminded him that his mistress had other business on hand which had to be attended to first, so again throwing back his ears, he dashed onward.

The wild meadow crossed, they reached a wooded region where the trail ascended and wound up a steep hill. Midnight took this with a bound, and in a few minutes he was at the top, panting heavily from his vigorous exercise. Here Glen reined him in, and sat silently looking straight before her. And truly it was a magnificent scene which was thus so suddenly presented to her view. Below stretched a dense forest, lying sombre beneath the shades of evening. Away in the distance rose the mighty mountains, sentinel-like and austere, while between, flashing like a jewel in its dark stern setting, was a large body of water. Not a ripple ruffled its surface, and nothing could Glen discern there, although her eyes scanned it most intently.

A word to Midnight, and down the incline they moved, and in a short time emerged from the forest, when a large open clearing burst into view. To a stranger the sight would have been startling, for a short distance away was a neat village, close to the water's edge. But to Glen it was not at all out of the ordinary. She had been accustomed to it from childhood, and to her it was home.

The village consisted of well built log houses, at the doors of which children were playing, and dogs lying around. The former smiled as the girl rode by. She did not stop as was her wont, to talk to them, but at once made her way to a building larger than the others. This was a store, in front of which a number of Indians were gathered.

As Glen rode up and stopped, a tall, powerfully built native came forth and laid his hand upon the horse's bridle. It was the same Indian Reynolds had seen that night at the dance in Whitehorse. He was evidently accustomed to waiting upon Glen, and needed no instructions. But on this occasion the girl did not dismount. She merely leaned over and whispered a few words to her attendant, who simply nodded, and let his hand drop from the bridle. Then as Glen continued on her way, he walked by her side through the street, up along the water-front.

In a few minutes they passed from the village and entered a grove of trees which extended down to the shore of the lake. In the midst of this was a clearing, and situated here was a log building of generous proportions, well made, and altogether different from the rest in the settlement. It was a two-story building, facing the water, with large windows, and a spacious verandah sweeping around the front and both sides. Wherever it was possible, paint had been liberally applied, and the white on the sashes, the green on the corner-boards, and the red on the roof gave it a striking appearance. It might well have been the home of some millionaire, who had thus sought seclusion in the wilderness, adding to his domicile a few touches of the world of civilization.

The grounds were well kept, showing that much attention had been bestowed upon them. Flowers bloomed in profusion, and off to the left a vegetable garden showed what the north could produce. A gravelly walk led to the water, and here at a small wharf floated a motor-boat, graceful in appearance, and capable of carrying passengers and freight. Several Indian men were standing on the wharf, while others, including women and children, were paddling in canoes but a short distance away. It was a scene of peace and seclusion, a regular fairy-land nestling there in the wilds. Even the storms of winter could not affect the place, for besides the sheltering trees which surrounded it on all sides, the frowning ridge of the Golden Crest formed a mighty barrier to the rear.

But Glen noticed none of these things, for something else occupied her mind this evening. She had remained silent since leaving the store, but now that the house was in sight, she halted Midnight at the edge of the woods and looked at her Indian companion.

"Is daddy home yet?" she asked, speaking in the rhythmical native language with which she was so familiar.

"Not home," was the brief reply.

"He said that he might come to-day, didn't he?"

The Indian, merely nodded.

"He has been gone for nearly a week now," Glen continued, "and I wonder what can be keeping him. Do you think he will come to-night?"

"Sconda doesn't know. Big white chief alone knows."

Glen laughed and stroked Midnight's neck with an impatient hand.

"I guess you are right, Sconda. Daddy alone knows what he is going to do, for he never tells me, at any rate. But as he is not here I must take matters into my own hands. You know Deep Gulch beyond the Golden Crest?" and she motioned to the left.

Again the Indian nodded.

"Well, then, there is a dead bear in the Gulch, Sconda, and I want you to take men and bring it in, see?"

A new light now shone in the native's eyes, and he looked enquiringly into the girl's face.

"Bear?" he asked. "In Deep Gulch?"

"Yes, and a grizzly at that; a monster. Oh, it was terrible!" and Glen shivered as the recollection of the brute's fierce charge swept upon her.

"Bear dead, eh?" Sconda queried.

"Yes, dead, and lying in the ravine, half covered with earth and rocks. Go down Crooked Trail to the bottom, then up the gulch, and you will find it."

"Who shoot grizzly?" the Indian asked.

"A white man. And, oh, Sconda, you should have seen what a shot he made! It was wonderful! I am sure you never did anything like it."

"Greater than Sconda made at Saku, when he shot grizzly, and saved Injun, eh?"

"Greater? Listen, Sconda. That white man shot the grizzly from the other side of Deep Gulch. He was way up on the hill, and he hit the bear in the heart."

The Indian's eyes showed his astonishment as he studied the girl's face as if to make sure that she was telling the truth.

"It is true, Sconda. I was there and saw him do it."

"What was bear doing?"

"Coming at me for all it was worth, and Midnight was almost frantic with fright. If it hadn't been for that white man we would be down there now where that grizzly is lying."

"And you want Sconda to fetch bear to camp, eh?"

"I do. Take as many men as you need and go in the morning. Tell the women to be ready to prepare the meat. And, Sconda, I want you to look after the dressing of the skin. Get Klota to do it. Tell her it is for me, and she will understand. That is all, I guess."

Glen dismounted, and handed the reins to the Indian.

"Midnight is hungry, Sconda. Look after him yourself, and see that he gets a good bite of grass. And, Sconda," she added, as if an afterthought, "you will be sure to go with the men in the morning?"

"Ah, ah, Sconda will go."

"That's good. And I want you to do something for me. Keep a sharp watch to see if that white man comes again to Deep Gulch. You will, won't you?"

"Sconda will watch."

"But don't let him think you are watching, remember. You stay behind when the others have brought the bear home. But don't let the white man see you."

Into Sconda's eyes flashed an expression of understanding. He knew now what the girl meant. What would he not do for her? the white girl he had known since she was but a child, and whose word to him was law, not of force but of affection.

"Now, don't forget, Sconda," Glen warned. "Stay there, if necessary, until night, and watch him carefully from the top of Crooked Trail. And don't tell anybody, not even Klota. Her eyes and ears are sharp, and she might suspect something. This is the greatest secret I have ever had. You have never failed me yet, Sconda, and I know that I can trust you now."