Glen of the High North by H. A. Cody
Chapter XV. Jim Weston
Glen's mind was greatly agitated as she made her way slowly homeward. Curly's presence was the cause of this, as she feared that her father would be so angry with the villain that it would make it hard for Reynolds. He might imagine that the two were in league with each other, as they were both from Big Draw. She despised Curly, knowing what a vile loathsome creature he was, and she had a very fair idea why he had ventured across the Golden Crest. Had he not avowed his affection for her at the dance, and had told her that he would run any risk to meet her again? How glad she had been that night when Sconda came for her, and she could free herself from her unwelcome and insistent suitor. And Curly was now a prisoner at Glen West! She shuddered as she recalled the look on his face when he saw her and Reynolds together. And his language! She could not get the terrible words out of her mind. The meaning of some she did not know, never having heard them before, but she fully realised that they must be very bad, or else Curly would not have used them in his rage. And should he now escape, there was no telling what his revengeful spirit might lead him to do, either to herself, or to him who was now beginning to mean so much to her.
Thinking thus, she reached the house, and as soon as she entered she knew that her father was at home, for the door of his private room was open. He was seated at his desk when he turned and saw her. Springing to his feet, he caught her in his arms, kissed her on both cheeks, and then holding her at the full length of his powerful arms, he looked eagerly and lovingly upon her now flushed and excited face.
"Why, you are getting better looking every day," he declared. "Just like your dear mother at her age. My, my, how the time has gone! and it seems but yesterday that I first met her. But, there, there, I must not give way to such feelings on this my first night home. Come, sit by my side and tell me all about yourself, and how things are going at Glen West."
For the first time in her young life Glen was sorry that her father had come home. She was really more than sorry, for a nameless fear possessed her heart, which restrained her usual free and happy manner. Her father's keen intuition noted this, and that her words seemed forced. Her enthusiasm over his arrival was not so hearty and natural as formerly, and he wondered why.
"What is the matter, dear?" he asked after Glen had somewhat haltingly told him about her music and certain household affairs. "You do not seem like yourself. Has anything out of the ordinary happened at Glen West since I have been away?"
"Yes, lots of things, daddy," was the reply. "One of the most important is your absence from home for such a length of time. You should be ashamed of yourself."
Weston laughed, although he felt quite sure that she was evading the real issue.
"I am sorry, dear, and I make my humble confession now. But what else of importance has been taking place?"
"I was nearly eaten up by a bear on Crooked Trail, and it was a grizzly at that."
Glen was surprised that her father did not seem more concerned, and she told him so.
"You take it very coolly, daddy. Just think, you might have come home and not found me here."
"I am very thankful that you escaped, dear, but did I not forbid your going so far alone beyond the Golden Crest? I hope your experience has taught you a lesson. How were you saved from the grizzly?"
"Oh, a hunter shot it just in the nick of time," Glen explained as indifferently as possible, although she knew that her cheeks were aflame. "And, oh, daddy, you should have seen the shot he made; it was wonderful!"
"Where was the hunter from, Glen?"
"From Big Draw mining camp, so I understand."
"Were you talking to him?"
"Yes, just for a few minutes."
"And have you seen him since?"
Glen's eyes dropped and the flush left her cheeks. Her father noted this, and he laid his right hand suddenly upon her arm.
"Speak, Glen, and tell me at once whether you have seen him since."
Something in her father's voice startled the girl, and she looked up quickly into his face.
"Tell me," he again demanded. "What is the matter? Have you seen that man lately?"
"Yes, I have."
"At Glen West? He has been here, and you have seen him? Are you sure?"
"I am certain. I was with him this afternoon in the canoe. But, daddy, what is the matter? Oh, don't get angry. I didn't do anything wrong."
Jim Weston had risen to his feet, and was looking down upon his daughter. He was a powerfully-built man, of more than ordinary height. The northern winter was in his thick hair and heavy moustache, while his steady light-blue eyes and firm, well-built chin betokened a strong will power of unyielding determination. Glen had often expressed her unbounded admiration for her father, and believed him to be the most handsome man in the world. But now he seemed like an avenging god, about to visit upon her the force of his wrath. For the first time in her life she cowered before him, and hid her face in her hands.
"And you say that your rescuer is here?" Weston at length asked. "When did he come, and where is he staying?"
"We saved him from a raft out on the lake just before that fearful storm," Glen faintly replied. "He was almost dead, and in a minute more he would have been drowned. Oh, it was terrible! He is now at Sconda's."
"Another miner's trick, I suppose, to get here," Weston growled. "It has been tried before, but with scanty success. This must be one more fool who was trying the same game."
"He is not a fool," Glen stoutly protested, lifting her eyes defiantly to her father's face. "Mr. Reynolds is a gentleman. He is different from the rest of the miners."
"What was he doing out on the lake?" her father asked.
"He got lost in the hills, and nearly died. He drifted down the Tasan River on a raft which he built. He was almost starved to death."
"And what was he doing in the hills?"
"Prospecting, so he told me. He was with Frontier Samson, and, going after a moose, lost his way."
"H'm," Weston grunted. "A trumped-up yarn, no doubt. Don't you think it looks rather suspicious?"
"It might if it were someone else. But he is different, and I believe he told me the truth."
"Well, we shall soon find out, Glen. If he begins any of his lies or fancy tales to me, he will learn his mistake. I am not going to have any young man wandering about this region, let me tell you that. It has been tried too often already, so we might as well make a special example of him in order to warn others. It's the 'Ordeal' for him, all right."
At these words Glen sprang to her feet and confronted her father. Her eyes were blazing with intense emotion, and Jim Weston stared at her in amazement. A feeling of pride welled up within him at her appearance and courage.
"You shall not lay hands on him," Glen passionately declared. "He is an innocent man, and it would be unjust to hurt him."
"Glen, Glen, what is the meaning of this?" her father demanded. "You seem to be greatly interested in this fellow. I am surprised at you."
"I am interested, daddy. Nay, I am more than interested, for I love him with my whole heart, so there. Don't you dare to touch him."
The strain of this interview was telling upon Glen. As soon as this confession had left her lips, she was wild with regret. Why had she done this? she asked herself, as she stood with big staring eyes watching her father. What would he say? What would he not do to her? Her body trembled, a weakness swept upon her, and sinking down into her chair, she buried her face in her hands and sobbed as if her heart would break.
If Jim Weston was astonished before, he was dumbfounded now at what his daughter had told him. His heart went out in a great rush of pity to his only child and he longed to take her in his arms and comfort her. But he felt that he must be firm and not give way to any feeling of emotion at a time like this. Instead, he laid his hand somewhat heavily upon her shoulder.
"Does this fellow, Reynolds, know of your love?" he asked.
"No, no; he has not the least idea of it," was the low reply.
"And he has not avowed his love to you? Are you sure?"
"I am certain. He has never given the least sign that he cares for me more than if I were an ordinary acquaintance. But he is a gentleman both in word and action."
For a few minutes Jim Weston stood lost in thought. It seemed to Glen as if he would never speak. The silence of the room was so intense that she was sure her fast-beating heart could be distinctly heard.
"I must have time to think this over, Glen," her father at length informed her. "You may go now and get ready for supper. Nannie has been kept waiting too long already."
Never before had Glen heard her father speak to her in such a cold, peremptory manner. Slowly she rose to her feet and walked across the room. Her head was aching, and she was glad to get away, anywhere in order that she might be alone, and from her father's stern, accusing eyes.
She had almost reached the door, when Sconda stood suddenly before her. She paused, while the Indian entered and walked at once toward his master.
"Well, Sconda, what is it?" the latter demanded, annoyed at the native's intrusion at this critical moment. "Anything wrong?"
Weston spoke in the Indian language, with which he was most familiar.
"Big White Chief," Sconda began, "the Golden Crest has been crossed. Another white man is here."
"I know it," was the curt reply. "He came by water this time, so I understand."
"Not by water, Big White Chief, but through the pass, over Crooked Trail."
"He did! Why, Glen, you told me he came by way of the lake. Have you been deceiving me, girl?"
"Indeed I have not," was the emphatic and somewhat angry denial. "I am surprised that you think I would deceive you, daddy. Sconda refers to someone else. It is Curly who came by the pass, and not Mr. Reynolds."
"Curly! Curly here, did you say?" Weston almost shouted the words, and so fierce did he look that the Indian retreated a step.
"Ah, ah, Curly here," Sconda replied.
"When did he come?"
"To-day. He was caught as he came through the pass. He shot, but missed."
"Where is he now?"
Weston placed his hand to his forehead in perplexity.
"This is certainly a great home-coming," he muttered. "Trouble everywhere, with white men entering the place by lake and pass. Look, Sconda, bring Curly here in one hour. See?"
The Indian merely nodded.
"And get ready for the Ordeal at once. Savvey?"
"Ah, ah, Sconda savvey," was the reply, and with that he left the house.
Glen went, too, without another word to her father, and hurried to her own room. It was a cozy place, fitted up with every comfort, and she loved it dearly. But now it seemed to her like a prison. She longed to throw herself upon the bed and give vent to her feelings in a flood of tears. But she knew that her father would be expecting her downstairs, so it was necessary to make haste.
When at last she entered the dining-room, Weston was already there, talking with Nannie. The latter noticed Glen's pale face, but made no comment. With her naturally keen intuition, she divined the cause of the trouble and discreetly said nothing.
During the meal Weston seemed like an altogether different man, and talked and laughed in the most animated manner. He told a number of his experiences in the hills, several of which were of a humorous nature. Glen tried to be interested, although she found it difficult to follow what her father was saying. He puzzled her more than ever. Why was he so stern and cruel at times, and again so bright and merry? He did not seem the least angry now at her, neither was he apparently concerned about the two prisoners at Glen West.
When supper was ended, Weston pushed back his chair and lighted a cigar.
"My, that tastes good," he commented. "It's the first I've had in a long time. Now for some music, Glen."
Music! Glen started and looked at her father, as if she had not heard aright. What did he mean? Was he going to add further torture to her racked brain by asking her to play and sing? She had hardly spoken a word during the meal, and had barely tasted her food. This Weston noted, and he well understood the reason. How much will she safely stand? he asked himself. He was about to repeat his suggestion, when Sconda arrived, and with him came Curly, guarded by two stalwart Indians. Glen breathed a sigh of relief at this timely interruption, and leaving the table, she fled at once to the seclusion of her own room.