Glen of the High North by H. A. Cody
Chapter XIX. The Turn of Events
The master of Glen West was sitting at his desk as Reynolds entered. He was smoking, and at the same time reading a newspaper in which he was deeply interested. The latter he at once laid aside, and motioned his visitor to a chair. He then picked up a box of cigars lying near.
"Do you smoke?" he asked. "If so, you will enjoy these. They are a special brand."
"Thanks," Reynolds replied, as he lifted one from the box, and proceeded at once to light it. This reception was so different from what he had expected that he hardly knew what to think. Anyway, the first move was favorable, and that was a good token.
"You left me very abruptly last night," Weston charged, looking keenly at the young man.
"I certainly did," and Reynolds smiled. "But sometimes there is a virtue in abruptness, especially----"
"Especially what?" Weston queried, as Reynolds hesitated. "Go on."
"When a situation becomes tense and awkward."
"And you think it was so last night?"
"I am sure of it."
"What is your reason?"
"My own common sense."
Weston was silent for a few seconds, and puffed steadily at his cigar. Reynolds watching him out of the corner of his eye, wondered what was passing through his mind.
"Have the Indians been telling you anything?" Weston presently asked.
"Curly, and what happened to him?"
"Nothing. Didn't I tell you so last night?"
"I know you did, but I can hardly believe it. Are you sure?"
"I am positive. They were as silent and mysterious as the Sphinx. You deserve great credit, sir, for the way you have them trained."
This seemed to relieve Weston, and he even smiled.
"I was afraid they had been telling you something, but I am thankful to know that they can be trusted. But, see here, someone must have told you. Was it Glen or Nannie?"
"Oh, no; they are not to blame."
"Well, then, how in the world did you find out?"
"And so I was right?" Reynolds asked.
Weston removed the cigar from his mouth, and looked curiously at his visitor.
"Were you not sure?" he queried.
"Not at all," and Reynolds laughed. "I was not sure last night, though I am now."
A sudden cloud overspread Weston's face, which, passed away, however, almost instantly.
"I wish I had known this sooner, young man. You would not have got off so easily, let me tell you that. I was positive that you understood everything. But tell me, what led you to suspect the truth about Curly?"
"That you had not burned him alive?"
Reynolds deliberately removed the band from his cigar, and laid it carefully in the ash-tray. He was enjoying Weston's perplexity, which he believed was a new experience for this autocrat of Glen West. What a story he would have to tell his old friend Harmon. The editor would surely forgive him for going on what he called "a wild-goose chase," instead of searching for the missing Henry Redmond. What a write-up all this would make for his paper.
"Did you hear what I said?" Weston's voice was somewhat impatient.
"I beg your pardon," Reynolds apologized. "My mind was wool-gathering. You asked what led me to suspect the truth about Curly, did you not?"
"Well, apart from yourself, and what I saw in you, there were four things which influenced my judgment. I only thought of one until I met you last night."
"And what are they?" Weston was keenly interested.
"First of all, I could not imagine that a man would burn a fellow-being alive who kept that near him," and Reynolds motioned to a book lying upon the desk.
Weston turned, and his face brightened.
"Oh, you mean the Bible. So that was one of your reasons, eh? But do you not know that the deepest-dyed villain often keeps the Bible close at hand? Such a man is generally fearful as well as superstitious, and so considers the Bible as a charm to ward off evil. It has been said, you remember, that the devil himself can quote Scripture for his own purpose. I venture to say that his satanic majesty knows the Bible better than many professing Christians. It is necessary for him to do so in order to answer the arguments it sets forth. Perhaps that is the way with me. Anyway, we shall dismiss that evidence as faulty. What next?"
"Your daughter, sir. I cannot believe that any man is a downright villain who is fortunate enough to have such a daughter."
"I see, I see," and Weston stroked his heavy moustache. "Did you not say something of a similar nature last night? But are you aware that a man may have a noble daughter, and still be a villain? Facts of history bear out what I say, unless I am greatly mistaken."
"That may have been true in some cases, sir," Reynolds replied. "However, I am not concerned about the past, but the present only. No matter what you may say to the contrary, you will not convince me. And besides, there is something else which hinges upon this reason."
"And what is that?"
"You are very fond of your daughter, are you not?"
"Certainly. She is all I have in the world, and she is dearer to me than life itself."
"Just so," and Reynolds smiled. "And for her sake, at least, you would not dare to burn any man alive."
"Wouldn't dare! Why not?"
"Simply because you would be hunted down as a murderer, and hung. Why, the Mounted Police would have had you in their clutches long before this."
"They would, eh? What do I care about law? Am I not a law unto myself?"
"In a way you are, so long as you do not commit any crime. But even though you might not care about yourself, you would not dare to do anything wrong for your daughter's sake. She means so much to you, that you would not dare to commit any desperate act for fear of disgracing her. Is not that so?"
Weston made no reply, but sat looking intently into Reynolds' face.
"There is another reason," the latter continued, "to which I feel certain you can make no objection, and it is that."
He pointed as he spoke to a framed picture hanging above the desk. It was the face of a woman of remarkable beauty, and closely resembling Glen, although somewhat older.
Weston, too, looked, and as he did so his face underwent a marvellous transformation. He tried to control himself, but in vain. Rising suddenly to his feet, he paced rapidly up and down the room. Once he stopped and fixed his eyes upon the picture. At length he turned toward his visitor.
"It is true. It is true," he declared, almost fiercely. "To your other reasons I could make some defence, but not to this. I would not dare to do anything wrong for my dear dead wife's sake. Her memory is most precious. Young man, you have hit me hard."
He paused and looked again at the picture. Then he sank down upon his chair, and buried his face in his hands.
Reynolds rose and was about to leave the room, when Weston lifted his head.
"Don't go yet," he ordered, endeavoring to control himself. "I am somewhat unnerved this morning. There is something more I wish to say to you. It is years since I have talked to anyone as I have to you. Sit down and tell me what you are going to do."
"That remains with you, sir," Reynolds replied, as he resumed his seat.
"With me! It remains with me! I do not understand."
"Am I not your prisoner, sir? It is not what I am going to do, but what you are going to do to me."
"Ah, yes, quite true," and Weston was silent for a few seconds. "But suppose you are given your freedom, what then?" he asked.
"I should go at once in search of my old friend, Frontier Samson," was the decided reply. "He must be greatly concerned about my disappearance, and no doubt he is still seeking for me out in the hills."
"And should you find him----?"
"We would at once visit the gold mine I discovered when I was lost."
"What! did you discover gold? Where?"
"On that last ridge before I reached the river," Reynolds explained. "I took shelter in a cave from a furious storm, and there found more gold than I ever expected to see in my whole life. The walls of the cave are full of it, and it seems to be of the best quality."
"Do you think you can find the place again?" Weston asked.
"I believe so," and Reynolds briefly described the situation.
"I know it! I know it!" Weston exclaimed. "It is the highest peak on that ridge between here and the Tasan. The side this way is very steep and rocky, is it not?"
"Yes, and the summit is bare. It was there I had a desperate fight with an eagle, killed it, and carried off its eggs, which saved my life. From the high point I caught the first glimpse of the river."
"And suppose you find the gold, what then?" Weston asked.
"Oh, I shall take my share of it, of course."
"And after that?"
"I am not altogether sure. But there is one thing I should do before undertaking anything else. In fact, I am almost pledged to it. Harmon will never forgive me if I don't."
"Harmon, did you say?" Weston questioned. "I once knew a man by that name."
"It is Harmon, editor and principal owner of the Vancouver Telegram and Evening News. He has been a father to me, and is greatly interested in my welfare. He has a hobby which I call 'a wild-goose scheme,' and he thinks that I am the only one who can carry it out. He is not the Harmon you knew, I suppose?"
Weston did not at once reply, but sat staring straight before him as if he saw something strange in the wall. His bronzed face had a peculiar pallid color, and his eyes expressed wonder and incredulity. He was forced to keep his hands clasped before him, so great was his emotion. Reynolds watched him curiously, but said nothing.
"And what is Harmon's hobby?" Weston at length found voice to enquire.
"Oh, a pet scheme for the finding of a man who disappeared years ago."
"And the man's name?" Weston was once more calm.
"Henry Redmond, so he told me. He was a prominent business man, but after the death of his wife he mysteriously vanished, and left no trace of his whereabouts."
"Strange, was it not?" Weston queried, as he furtively eyed the young man. "Perhaps he is dead."
"That is what I suggested to Harmon, but he would not entertain the idea at all."
"Did he give any reason for his belief that the man is alive?"
"He showed me a clipping taken from a paper years ago. These are the words which I committed to memory:
"'I go from the busy haunts of men, far from the worry and bustle of business life. I may be found, but only he who is worthy will find me, and whoever finds me, will, I trust, not lose his reward. From the loop-holes of retreat I shall watch the stress and fever of life, but shall not mingle in the fray.'"
"Was there any name signed to that?" Weston asked, when Reynolds had finished.
"I understand there was none."
"Why, then, does your friend Harmon imagine that it refers to Redmond?"
"Because it appeared immediately after the man's disappearance, and Harmon told me it was just like Redmond to do such a thing."
"It is all mere conjecture, then?"
"And upon the strength of that your friend, would have you undertake the wild-goose adventure, as you term it. What are his reasons?"
"He wishes me to find an outlet for my restless spirit; to satisfy his own curiosity; and finally, to have a series of special articles for his paper."
"What! Does Harmon want you to write a full account of your adventure, and all about the missing man should you find him?"
"It seems so, though I guess he will have to wait a long time. I must first of all find Frontier Samson, and get that gold. Then, perhaps, something else may interfere with Harmon's plans."
"Yes, yes, you must find the old prospector and get the gold," Weston agreed. "But you will need assistance. I know the region as well as any man, and I have a comfortable cabin in the hills. Allow me to go with you to direct your search."
Reynolds' eyes opened wide with amazement, and he stared at Weston as if he had not heard aright. Could it be possible that this man, the stern ruler of Glen West, and Glen's father, was really offering to assist him? Weston divined his thoughts, and smiled.
"I know you are astonished," he told him. "But, you see, I am not yet beyond the lure of gold, and should we find that mine, there might be something in it for me. We might go partners, eh?"
"That would be great," Reynolds replied with enthusiasm. "But we must not leave the old prospector out."
"Oh, no, that would never do. We shall see that he gets his share, providing we find him. I am really anxious to be off at once," and Weston rose as he spoke.
"When shall we start?" Reynolds asked.
"In a couple of days, if that will suit you. It will not take long to make the necessary arrangements for the trip, and we shall take two Indians to look after our welfare."
Weston was almost like a boy in his excitement, and Reynolds could hardly believe him to be the same man he had faced the night before.
"You may go and tell Glen about our proposed trip," Weston said. "She must be wondering what we are talking so long about."
"And will she go too?" Reynolds eagerly asked.
"Certainly. It would not do to leave her behind. She would be very angry if we did. And, besides, she must have a share in that mine. Ho, ho, there will be four of us on the ground-floor, all right, and the rest can have what we leave, providing there is any. Hurry away, now, and tell Glen to get ready. It generally takes a woman two or three days to prepare for a journey."