Glen of the High North by H. A. Cody
Chapter II. When the Fog-Bank Lifted
The Northern Light was lying at her wharf preparing for her long run to the far Northern Pacific, through the numerous islands studding the coastal waters of British Columbia, and the United States Territory of Alaska. All day long she had been taking on board great quantities of freight, and now on the eve of her departure passengers were arriving. The latter were mostly men, for new gold diggings had been discovered back in the hills bordering the Yukon River, and old-timers were flocking northward, anticipating another Klondyke, and all that it might mean.
Tom Reynolds stood on the wharf noting the excitement that was taking place around him. Apart from the article he would prepare for the next day's issue of The Telegram; he was more than usually interested in what he beheld. As he watched several bronzed and grizzly veterans of many a long trail and wild stampede, a desire entered into his heart to join them in their new adventure. He would thus find excitement enough to satisfy his restless nature, and perhaps at the same time share in the golden harvest.
This longing, however, was held in check by the thought of the story he had heard the evening before, and also by the hope of seeing again the face he had beheld for a few fleeting seconds at the street crossing. In fact, he had thought more of it than of the mysterious disappearance of Henry Redmond. For the greater part of the night and all the next day the girl had been in his mind. He tried to recall something more about her, the color of her hair, how she was dressed, and whether she was tall or short. But he could remember nothing except the face which alone stood out clear and distinct. Several times during the day he had been on the point of transferring his impressions to paper, but he always deferred action, preferring to muse upon the beautiful vision he had seen and to dream of meeting her again. She must still be in the city, he reasoned, and should he go away now his chance of finding her would be lost forever. That he would find her he had not the slightest doubt, for among the crowds that passed daily along the streets he would surely see her, and when he did--well, he was not certain what would happen. Anyway, he would know more about her than at present. He was standing watching an old man with a long gray beard and wavy hair falling below a broad-brimmed slouch hat. He was evidently a prospector, for he bore a good-sized pack across his right shoulder, and was dressed as if for the trail, with a pair of coarse boots upon his feet. His figure was commanding, almost patriarchal, and Reynolds watched him with much interest as he walked stately and deliberately up the gangway.
As Reynolds turned from his observation of the old man, he gave a great start, and his heart beat wildly, for there but a few feet from him was the very girl he had seen at the street crossing. She had just alighted from an hotel auto, and was pointing out her baggage to one of the cabin boys when Reynolds noticed her. He leaned eagerly forward to catch the sound of her voice, but the noise around him made this impossible. But he had a chance to feast his eyes upon her face, and to note her neat dark-brown travelling suit which fitted so perfectly her well-built erect figure. She was of medium height, and carried herself with complete assurance as one well accustomed to travel. She was apparently alone, for no one accompanied her as she presently went on board the steamer.
Reynolds was all alert now, and his old-time enthusiasm returned. She was going north, and why should not he go too? Once more thought and action became welded, and finding that it would be three-quarters of an hour before the steamer's departure, he hurried back to his boarding house, gathered together his few belongings, including his artist's outfit, thrust them into a grip, settled his board bill, and almost raced to the Telegram and Evening News building, where he found the editor who had just arrived for his nightly duties.
"I am off at once," he announced. "How will that suit you?"
"Good for you!" was the pleased reply. "Decided upon the Great Quest, eh?"
"Yes, all settled, and away in twenty minutes."
"Up north, to the edge of nowhere. How will that do?"
"Found a clue?" The editor was quite excited now.
"All the clue I need," was the evasive reply. "I shall write as soon as possible, telling of my wanderings. So, good-by; I must be away."
"Have you enough money?" The editor was on his feet now, grasping the young man's hand in a firm grip.
"Yes, all that's necessary for the present. If I need more I shall let you know."
An hour later the Northern Light was steaming steadily on her way. Reynolds had been fortunate enough to obtain an upper berth, his roommate being a young clerk destined for a branch bank in a northern mining town. Reynolds strolled about the boat hoping to catch a glimpse of her who was much in his mind, but all in vain. It rained hard most of the next day, and the outside decks were uncomfortable. It was toward evening that he saw her, walking slowly up and down the hurricane deck abaft the funnel. She was with the captain, a fine looking, middle-aged man, and they seemed to be on very friendly terms, for the girl was smiling at something her companion was saying.
Reynolds lighted a cigar and began to pace up and down on the opposite side of the deck. Others were doing the same, so no one paid any heed to his presence. A casual observer might have thought that the silent young man took no interest in anything around him. But Reynolds missed hardly a movement of the girl but a few feet away. He always kept a short distance behind and was thus able to study her closely without attracting attention. She wore a raincoat, of a soft light material, and her head was bare. The wind played with her dark-brown hair, and occasionally she lifted her hand and brushed back a wayward tress that had drifted over her forehead. At times he caught a glimpse of her face as she swung around at the end of the beat, and it was always a happy, animated face he beheld.
For about fifteen minutes this walk was continued, and Reynolds had been unable to distinguish any of the conversation between the two. But as they ended their promenade, and started to go below, they almost brushed him in passing, and he heard the captain say, "Jack will be home soon, and he will----" That was all Reynolds was able to overhear, and yet it was sufficient to cause him to stop so abruptly that he nearly collided with a man a few steps behind. Was all that talk about Jack? he asked himself, and was that why the girl seemed so happy in listening to her companion? Was Jack the captain's son, and did he have the first claim upon the girl? Perhaps he was overseas, and was expected home shortly. No doubt the girl had been visiting his people.
Such an idea had not occurred to Reynolds before, but as he thought it all over that night as he sat silent in the smoking-room, it did indeed seem most reasonable. Why should he think any more about the girl? he mused. He had been a fool for allowing his heart to run away with his head. How could he for one instant imagine that such a girl would be left until now without many admiring suitors, with one successful over all the others? And no doubt that one was Jack, whose name had fallen from the captain's lips.
Although Reynolds felt that the girl was not for him, yet he could not banish her from his mind. She had aroused him from the paralysis of indifference, for which he was most grateful. He would make a desperate effort not to be again enmeshed in such a feeling. He would throw himself ardently into the search for gold, and then turn his attention to Henry Redmond, and strive to solve the mystery surrounding the man.
After breakfast the next morning he went out on deck, and found the girl already there comfortably seated in a large steamer chair. She had evidently been reading, but the book was now lying open upon her lap, and her hands were clasped behind her head. Reynolds caught the gleam of a jewel on one of her fingers, and he wondered if it was an engagement ring she was wearing. Her eyes were looking dreamily out across the water, away to a great fog-bank hanging and drifting over the face of the deep. Reynolds, too, looked, and the sight held him spellbound. The mass of fog slowly rose and rolled across the newly-bathed sun. Then it began to dissolve, and dim forms of trees and islands made their appearance, growing more distinct moment by moment. The scene fascinated him. It was truly a fairy world upon which he was looking.
And as he looked, his eyes rested upon a dark speck just beneath the overhanging fog. For a few minutes it made no impression upon his wandering mind. But slowly he began to realize that the object was in motion, and moving toward the steamer. Then he saw something dark being waved as if to attract attention. He was all alert now, feeling sure that someone was hailing the steamer. In a few minutes she would be past, when it would be too late to be of any assistance.
Turning almost instinctively toward the pilot-house, Reynolds' eyes fell upon the captain, who was again talking to the girl. Only for an instant did he hesitate, and then walking rapidly along the deck, he reached the captain's side and touched him lightly upon the arm.
"Excuse me, sir," he began, as the officer wheeled suddenly around. "Someone seems to be signaling to you over there, just where that fog-bank is lifting," and he pointed with his finger.
The captain and the girl both turned, and their eyes scanned the watery expanse.
"Can you see anything, Glen?" the captain asked. "My eyes must be failing me."
"I do now," was the reply. "Over there to the left," and she motioned with her hand. "I see it quite plainly. It is a boat of some kind with people in it, and they are waving to us."
"So it is!" the captain exclaimed. "Who can it be? However, we shall soon find out."
He hurried away, and soon a long raucous blast ripped the air. Then the steamer swerved to the right and made for the small craft which was now plainly visible. Many of the passengers were already crowding the rail, all greatly interested in this new diversion.
Reynolds stepped back and gave his place to another. He could watch the approaching boat just as well here, and at the same time study to a better advantage the girl who was standing close to the rail. He had accomplished something, anyway, which was worth a great deal to him. He had heard her speak and learned her name. He liked "Glen," and it seemed to suit her. But Glen what? He longed to know that, too. Her voice was soft and musical. It appealed to him. Yes, everything seemed to be in harmony, he mused. Name, voice, dress, and manner, all suited the girl admirably. It was a happy combination.
From where he was standing he could watch her unobserved. He could see the side of her face nearest to him, and he noted how flushed it was with excitement. She was keenly interested in the approaching boat, and her eyes followed it most intently.
The steamer had already slowed down, and its movement now was scarcely perceptible. Reynolds looked at the small approaching craft, and to his surprise he saw that it was a large canoe, being paddled by four stalwart Indians. There were several white men on board, although he could not distinguish their faces. Who could they be, and where had they come from? he wondered. A man standing nearby asked the same question, though no one seemed to be able to give a satisfactory answer.
By this time the canoe was so near the steamer that from his position Reynolds could see nothing more owing to the men crowding the rail. He glanced toward the girl just as she turned suddenly away from the side of the steamer and walked rapidly across the deck. She seemed much agitated, and the flush had fled her face, leaving it very white. All this Reynolds briefly noted, and when she had disappeared through a door leading into the observation room, he stood wrapped in thought, wondering as to the cause of the remarkable change that had so suddenly taken place. Was there some mystery connected with her life, and had she recognized someone in the canoe she did not wish to meet? He determined to learn what he could about the picked-up men, and to keep his eyes and ears open for further developments.