Glen of the High North by H. A. Cody
Chapter XIII. When the Storm Burst
Glen West Lodge, the name of this fine building on the shore of that inland lake, was a comfortable and cozy abode. The rooms were not large, but their furnishings and decorations showed the artistic taste of the owner. The pictures adorning the walls had evidently been chosen with careful discrimination, most of them representing nature scenes, with a few well known paintings of the world of civilization. Each room contained a fire-place, and over the mantel of the livingroom, which opened off the hallway, was Watt's symbolical figure of "Hope." Glen had often seen her father standing before this, studying it most intently. Once he had told her its meaning. "You see that woman sitting on the top of the world," he had said. "The strings of her harp are all broken but one, and upon that she is making the best music she can. It teaches us, Glen, never to despair, but with the one string of limited power to do our best."
In one corner of this room was a piano, and the piece of modern music above the key-board showed that someone had been recently playing. A lamp of neat design hung from the wainscoted ceiling, while another with a soft shade stood upon a centre-table. The chairs in the room were comfortable, the largest being placed near the big southern window, close to which was a case well filled with books. The floor was covered with a rich carpet, of a quiet pattern, while before the fire-place was stretched a great bearskin rug. It was a room to delight the heart, especially on a night when a storm was raging over the land.
It was through this that Glen passed after entering the house. She went at once into the dining-room, adjoining, where she found the table all set for supper, and a white-haired woman standing before the side-board, arranging knives and forks in a drawer. She turned as Glen entered, and a bright smile of welcome illumined her face.
"You are late, dear," she reminded. "Supper has been ready for some time."
"I am sorry, Nannie," the girl apologized. "But I went farther to-day than I intended. There is no word from daddy, I suppose?"
"None at all, dearie. But, hurry and change your clothes, as your father may arrive at any minute. He will be angry if he knows that you have been far beyond the Golden Crest, for he has warned you to be careful. It is not safe for a girl to be riding alone since the miners have come into this region."
Glen smiled gaily at the woman's fears, and hastened away to her own room. In about a quarter of an hour she returned, but in that brief space of time a marvellous transformation had taken place. In a soft white dress, open at the throat, her beauty was enhanced ten-fold. Her luxuriant wavy hair had been hurriedly brushed back, and her cheeks bore the deep flush of health and youth. The woman at the head of the table looked at her with undisguised admiration as she passed her a piece of nicely browned fried salmon which an Indian servant girl had brought in from the kitchen.
"It is too bad that your father isn't here to see you, Glen," she remarked. "I never saw you look prettier. If we were outside, I might suspect that the color in your cheeks is not due to health and exercise alone."
"I am afraid you are flattering me, Nannie," Glen laughingly replied. "You will make me vain, if you are not careful."
"I am not in the habit of flattering without good reason, as you well know, dear. But I have been thinking lately what a great pity it is that you should be wasting your young life in a place like this."
"Losing my sweetness on the desert air; is that it, Nannie? But what about you?"
"Oh, I do not signify," and again the sad expression came into the woman's eyes. "I might as well be here as anywhere else. But with you it is different. You need companions of your own age, and a more agreeable life than this place can provide."
"I certainly do," was the emphatic assent. "I never realised it until my return from the Seminary. What is the use of all my education if I am to spend the rest of my days here, with not a girl friend, and not a----"
Glen floundered and paused, while her cheeks flushed a deep crimson.
"I understand, dear, so do not try to explain. It is only natural that you should wish to be admired. I was the same when I was your age. But you cannot expect to find admirers up here, that is, the right kind, and especially the one above all others."
Glen looked keenly into her companion's eyes, as if to divine her meaning. But she saw nothing there which might lead her to suspect that the secret of her heart was known.
"Do you think that daddy will ever consent to leave this place?" she asked. "I have not spoken to him about it, for I was quite satisfied with this life until recently."
"I have mentioned it to him," was the reply. "Ever since you were a child I have been urging him to leave the north, for your sake, if for nothing else. He always said that he expected to do so some day, but here we are the same as ever, and I see no signs of his going."
"I wonder what in the world daddy ever came here for, anyway?"
"Why, for trading purposes, of course. He has done wonderfully well, and understands the Indians better than any white man in this country. You know they will do anything for him, because he is so fair and just in all his dealings."
"Yes, I know that, Nannie. But daddy never goes outside, and he will not allow white men to come here. You know as well as I do that he turns the Indians upon every white stranger who comes across the Golden Crest or by water. Daddy never mentioned it to me, but both Sconda and Klota have told me how the miners fear this place, and think that daddy is a terrible monster. When I asked them what became of the white men who ventured here, they wouldn't tell me, but looked at each other in a queer way. There is something mysterious about it all, and it has puzzled me ever since I was able to understand anything."
"There, dearie, never mind worrying your brain about it now," her companion soothed. "You are too young to have wrinkles in your smooth skin. Play that nice piece you were singing before you left to-day. I never heard it before, and it did me so much good. The piano has been idle all winter, so it must make up for lost time now."
Glen told Nannie nothing about her experiences that afternoon. She was afraid that this woman, gifted with more than ordinary insight, might read her heart. It made her feel somewhat guilty, nevertheless, for Nannie was the only mother she had ever known, and she lay awake a long time that night thinking it all over, and wondering whether she should tell her secret to the one woman in the world in whom she should confide. She had studied herself more carefully than usual in her large mirror before retiring, and what she beheld there was far from displeasing. She knew that she was beautiful, and her heart told her that her brave rescuer had looked upon her with admiration. Should she ever see him again? she asked herself, or had he already forgotten her?
Glen awoke early the next morning, and after breakfast she went down to the store. Here she learned that Sconda and a dozen men had gone to Deep Gulch after the grizzly. Formerly, women would have done most of the heavy work, but the ruler of Glen West had changed all that. The men did not take kindly to this at first, but Jim Weston had been firm.
"If you do not like this order of things, you can go elsewhere," he told them. "Women are not going to do men's work here. You bring the game into camp, and then let your wives attend to it."
Thus the custom of the men bringing in the bear or moose became established, and no one left, for the objectors knew that they were far better off at Glen West than they had ever been in their lives, and that it was to their advantage to obey their Big White Chief, as they called Weston.
Glen waited impatiently for the men's return, and the hours dragged slowly by until their arrival about the middle of the afternoon. They had skinned the bear, and cutting up the carcass, they had strapped the pieces upon their horses. They rode gaily into camp, and most of the inhabitants of the place were gathered around the store to acclaim their arrival. All had heard of the wonderful shot across Deep Gulch, and they were naturally curious to see the monster which had dared to face the Big Chief's daughter. There was the certainty, too, of fresh meat, which added much to the interest.
Sconda, however was not with the returned men, and Glen was greatly disappointed. Her rescuer, then, had not come back to the gulch, so he evidently had no more thought for her. She had imagined that he would be anxious to obtain the grizzly's fine skin as a souvenir of his meeting with her. At first she was tempted to ride forth toward Crooked Trail and await Sconda's return, but changing her mind, she launched her light canoe, and was soon skimming out over the water of the big lake. She generally took an Indian girl, or Sconda with her. But now she wished to be alone, that she might think as she drifted or paddled.
For over an hour she remained on the water, and when she returned, Sconda was waiting for her on the shore. Her face brightened as she saw him, and she at once questioned him about her rescuer.
"Did you see him?" she asked.
"Ah, ah. Sconda see white man."
"And did he see you?"
"Oh! Did he stay long at Deep Gulch?"
A shake of the head was the native's only response.
"Did he seem surprised when he found that the grizzly was gone?" Glen asked. "Did he look up Crooked Trail as if expecting to see someone there?"
"White man act queer," the Indian explained. "He stay on big hill watching trail. He saw Sconda once."
"What did he do?"
"Nothing," and the Indian's eyes twinkled. "Sconda leave quick."
"And you didn't see him again?"
"Sconda come to Glen West. White man go to Big Draw, maybe."
Although Glen was not altogether satisfied at what Sconda told her, yet it was some comfort to know that her rescuer had returned to Deep Gulch, and stayed there for a while watching the trail as if expecting to see someone. And was that someone herself? she wondered. She had the feeling that it was, and the thought pleased her.
Glen now found the life at Glen West more irksome than ever. She missed her companions of the Seminary and the excitement of the city. She did not even have her father, for several days had now passed since his expected return. She had no idea what was keeping him, and she naturally became very anxious. Several times she discussed his delay with Nannie.
"Did you ever know daddy to stay away as long as this?" she asked one evening as they sat at supper.
"I have known him to be away much longer," was the reply. "Once he was gone for a whole month. He is prospecting for gold, you know, and goes far off at times."
"But he has never discovered anything, has he?"
"Nothing of great value as yet, although he is always expecting to do so some day. You need not worry about him, dearie, for he is well able to take care of himself, and I understand that an Indian always keeps in touch with him. He has a comfortable cabin out in the hills where he sleeps at night."
"Well, I wish to goodness he would come home," and Glen gave a deep sigh. "He might think of me, and how much I need him. If he doesn't come soon, I shall pack up and go outside again. I believe a trip to Whitehorse would do me good, for I am tired of staying here with nothing to do."
"Your father would not like it," her companion reminded. "He would be very angry if he came home and found that you had left Glen West. Why not take a spin on the lake this evening? You once were very fond of the boat."
"I suppose I might as well go," and again Glen sighed as she rose from the table and looked out of the window. "Sconda is on the wharf now, and that will save my going after him. Won't you come, too, Nannie? A spin will do you good."
"Not this evening," was the reply. "Your father may come at any minute, and it would not do for both of us to be away from the house."
Sconda's eyes brightened as Glen came down to the wharf and asked him to take her out upon the water. The Frontiersman, the name of the motor-boat, was the pride of Sconda's heart. When he had been appointed captain of the craft, his highest ambition was reached. This, together with the fact that he was the special guardian of the Big Chief's daughter, gave him a high standing in the camp. No one knew the waters of the north better than did he, and Jim Weston's mind was always easy when Glen was with him.
In a few minutes The Frontiersman was cutting through the water out into the open. Sconda was at the wheel, with Glen by his side, while Taku, an Indian with special mechanical gifts, looked after the engine.
"Which way?" Sconda at length asked, after they had run out of the sheltered creek into the main body of water.
"Up-stream," Glen replied. "Daddy came down the Tasan once on a raft, and he had a hard time getting home. He may be coming that way now, so we may be able to pick him up."
Sconda at once gave the wheel a sharp turn to the left, and the boat swinging obediently to its master's will, rushed rapidly forward. A stiff breeze was now blowing dead ahead, and this Glen thoroughly enjoyed. It suited her nature, especially this evening, and she longed for a tempest to sweep upon them. Adventure and excitement she dearly enjoyed, and she had often bewailed the fact that she was a woman and not a man.
"Women are supposed to be demure quiet creatures," she had more than once declared. "They are not supposed to run any risks, but must stay safely in the house. That may satisfy some, but it does not suit me."
Her father and Nannie had always smiled at these outbursts of impatience, thinking that as she grew older her mind would change, and she would see things in a different light. But Glen did not change, and the longing for adventure was as strong in her heart now as ever. The sweep of the wind this evening not only tossed her hair but thrilled her very being, and for the first time since her return home she felt how good it was to live in such a place.
For about half an hour they sped onward, with the wind steadily increasing.
"Big blow soon," Sconda casually remarked, as he glanced at the heavy clouds massing over the mountains. Then he gave a start, and peered keenly forward. His eyes had caught sight of something unusual.
"What's that?" he asked, pointing to the left.
Glen's eyes followed his outstretched arm, and presently she was enabled to detect a dark object upon the water.
"It's only a stick, isn't it, Sconda?"
"No; it's a raft," was the reply. "There's something on it."
"Oh; maybe it's daddy!" Glen exclaimed, now thoroughly aroused. "Make the boat go faster. He will be swamped by these waves!"
The boat, however, was running at full speed, and in short time they were able to view the object more clearly. It was certainly a raft, and the form upon it looked like a human being. Glen almost stopped breathing as they drew nearer. Could it be her father? she asked herself. Who else would be out there on the lake?
As the boat slowed down and ran close to the raft, Sconda called aloud to the figure huddled upon the logs. But there was no reply. The wind was tossing the rags which once were clothes, and the waves were speedily breaking the rude craft asunder. There was no time to lose, so in another minute Sconda had the boat close alongside, and with the aid of Taku the helpless man was lifted from his perilous position.
When Glen saw that the rescued man was not her father, she breathed more freely. But the first glimpse of his face, bearded though it was, reminded her of someone she had seen before. Then the light of recognition leaped into her eyes, and with a cry of surprise she dropped upon her knees by the side of the prostrate man as he lay upon the deck.
Almost instantly the impending storm burst with terrible fury over that inland body of water. The raft went to pieces like matchwood, and Sconda had all that he could do to manage the boat. With the assistance of Taku, the unconscious man was carried inside, and as Glen watched by his side, unable to do anything for his relief, the tempest raged without. It was one of those terrific storms which at times sweep down so suddenly from deep mountain draws, and lash the lake in wildest fury. The Frontiersman reeled and plunged as she struggled through the hurricane, and the waves dashed continuously over the deck, threatening to smash the glass in the cabin where Glen was keeping watch. That large lake, so peaceful at morn, was now a raging monster. Many an unwary voyager had been caught in such a storm, and in bygone days the natives always used their stoutest charms in their efforts to propitiate the demon of the mountains.
Sconda's hands firmly grasped the wheel, and his alert eyes studied every wave as he guided the boat on her plunging course. He realised how much was at stake, for was not his master's daughter on board, and he responsible for her safety? Could he have run straight before the gale, it would not have been so difficult. But the creek was over there to the right, hence it was necessary to run in a diagonal manner which caused the boat to ship a great deal of water. But keep this steadfast course he did, and after a desperate struggle, The Frontiersman poked her nose into the opening of the creek, and was soon gliding calmly over the smooth water within.