Chapter XXIII. At the Revolver's Point
 

Glen awoke early the next morning, tired and depressed. She had slept but little during the night, for her old fears had returned as she recalled the dream and Klota's warning. Her excitement over Reynolds' story assisted, too, in driving sleep from her eyes, and she pictured him on the field of battle, with shells dropping on every side. He was the one who stood out in clear relief above all others. To her he was the hero in every scene, and she saw all looking to him for inspiration and guidance. The glamor of love and hero-worship enwrapped her a willing victim in its enchanting embrace.

Reynolds was quick to notice the tired expression in Glen's eyes and the lack of color in her cheeks as she came forth from her room and took her place at the table.

"What's wrong, dear?" her father anxiously enquired. "Didn't you sleep well?"

"I didn't sleep at all, daddy. Perhaps it was yesterday's excitement which kept me awake."

"Then, you must not go with us to-day, Glen. You stay here, and Sconda can remain with you. That will delight the old fellow, for he has been trying to invent some excuse for not going. In fact, he doesn't want me to go, either, and suggested that we all should return at once to Glen West."

"Why, what was his reason?" and Glen looked her surprise.

"Reason! Did you ever know an Indian to have a reason for anything? He acts from instinct or superstition, and the latter is what ails Sconda now. Klota has been telling him some bosh about a presentiment she had, that something terrible is going to happen to us out here in the hills."

"And does Sconda believe it, too?" Glen asked, controlling her feelings with a great effort.

"Certainly he believes it. I laughed at him, and told him that he should have more sense than to pay any attention to such things."

"But suppose he should be right?" Glen queried. "The natives, you know, see things at times which are not revealed to us."

"They see too many things, and that's the great trouble with them," Weston replied. "If they would dream less and do more it would be far better for all concerned. I never had any faith in their fantastic presentiments, and I am too old to change my views now. But Sconda might as well stay with you to-day, for I do not wish to leave you alone, and I am not anxious to have the old rascal with me with his head filled with such nonsense."

Glen made no further reply to her father. She was well aware how useless it would be to try to reason with him, and if she told him about the dream and her fears he would laugh at her, and consider her childish and foolish.

When breakfast was over, the men began to prepare for their day's trip. This did not take them long, and soon they were all ready for their departure. They decided to leave the horses behind, as there was no trail, and their course would take them over several hills where riding would be impossible. They took only their rifles, while Natsu packed the scanty supply of food necessary for the day.

"We expect to be back by sundown," Weston informed Glen. "But should we be delayed, do not worry as we shall be all right. We may be longer than we imagine in reaching the place, and if we discover the gold, we may take leave of our senses for a time and forget everything else. But Sconda will look after you, and there is plenty of reading matter to keep you out of mischief."

As Weston stooped and kissed his daughter, he noted that she clung to him more tenderly than formerly, and that her body trembled slightly. Thinking that this was due to her lack of sleep, he did not give it any attention, but telling her to take a nap through the day, he picked up his rifle and strode off into the forest.

Reynolds was more deeply concerned about Glen's wearied look than her father, and after they had gone a short distance he spoke of it.

"She is tired, that's all," was the reply. "A good sleep will make her all right again."

"Perhaps she is worried about what Sconda said."

"She may be, but she will soon get over that. It is a great mistake to humor people in such nonsense. I have often talked to Glen, but I cannot help feeling that the native beliefs have made a considerable impression upon her mind. She has been with them so much that I suppose it is only natural."

Reynolds said no more, but all through the day Glen's tired face and anxious eyes were ever before him. How he longed to go back and stay with her. The lure of gold had now lost its fascination for him, and he could only think of the girl in the little cabin by the mirroring lake.

Glen stood at the window and watched the men as they swung on their way, until the forest hid them from view. She could see them for some distance while they followed the shore before striking across a wild meadow at the upper end of the lake. She remained there for several minutes after they had disappeared. She felt very tired, lonely and unhappy. She thought of her father's words, and they hurt her. She knew that he loved her, but for all that she was fully convinced that he did not understand her. She longed then, as she had often longed in the past, for her mother, in whom she could confide the deep, sacred emotions of her heart. Her eyes became misty, and tears stole slowly down her cheeks.

A step in the room startled her, and looking somewhat guiltily around, she saw Sconda advancing toward her. The Indian was excited more than usual, at which Glen wondered, for she had never seen him so agitated before.

"See, see!" and he pointed out of the window up toward the wild meadow.

"What is it?" Glen asked, brushing away her tears in an effort to see more clearly.

"White man! Running, all same wolf. Ugh!"

Glen looked, and saw a man speeding across the meadow right on the trail of her father and Reynolds. Instantly she grasped its meaning, and with a cry of fear she turned to the Indian.

"Is it Curly?" she gasped. "Do you think he means any harm?"

"Curly follow Big White Chief," was the reply. "Curly track white man. Bimeby Curly shoot."

"Oh! do you think so?" Glen clasped her hands before her, while her eyes grew big with apprehension. "What can we do? I know. You go after that man, and stop him. Never mind me, for I am all right. Look," and she thrust her hand into the bosom of her riding-dress and brought forth her revolver. "I can shoot and take care of myself. Go at once and save daddy and Mr. Reynolds."

Sconda needed no second bidding, for he was anxious to be away. His fears had vanished at the presence of the skulking enemy, and no matter how he might tremble at the thought of unseen ghostly foes, he was never known to flinch before the face of a living earthly being. Glen knew that he was the finest trailsman in the north, and she felt more satisfied as she watched him, rifle in hand, disappear amid the trees.

For some time she stood at the window, straining her eyes to see Sconda reappear and cross the wild meadow. But she watched in vain, for the native had taken another route, which, though rougher, was less exposed to view.

Glen was about to turn away from the window, when, happening to glance to her left, she saw someone coming from the lake toward the house. She recognized him immediately. It was Curly! At first she imagined that she must be dreaming, for was not Curly away on the trail of her father and Reynolds? What did it all mean? Sconda must have been mistaken, for there was the villain walking cautiously from the shore. Intuitively Glen placed her hand to her heart, as if to stop its wild beating, while she tried to think of some way of escape. What should she do? Where could she go? she frantically asked herself. But she must not remain there, for she was well aware of the purpose of Curly's visit. He had planned a plot with the assistance of someone as vile as himself, and had caught her in his trap. But he should not take her in the house, and she knew it would be useless to fasten the door against him. She would meet him in the open, and if it came to the worst she knew what she could do. Her hand touched her heaving bosom where the revolver was resting, and it somewhat calmed her fears, and inspired her with courage.

Swiftly crossing the room, she reached the open door and stepped outside just when Curly was but a few yards away. He stopped, surprised at the girl's unexpected appearance. He noted her agitation, and his lips parted in a grin, such as a wolf might assume when about to pounce upon an innocent lamb. It was this grin which dispelled Glen's fear and aroused in her breast an intense anger. As she looked upon the dirty and unkempt creature before her, and thought of the mean advantage he was taking of a woman, the paleness left her face and her cheeks crimsoned with indignation. Why should she become a victim to such a vile thing?

Glen was perfectly composed now, and looked Curly steadily in the eyes. She had no intention of parleying with the villain, and the sooner he realised her mettle the better it would be.

"What do you want?" she demanded. "My father is not here, if you wish to see him."

"It's you I want to see," Curly replied with a grin.

"What do you want to see me for?" Glen's words were so cold, firm and business-like that Curly was somewhat taken aback.

"Oh, I just thought I would drop around an' see ye, that's all," he prevaricated.

"Well, you might have saved yourself the trouble, for I don't want to see you."

"Ye don't, eh?" Curly snarled, for the girl's words stung him. "I don't care whether ye do or not. It's not what you want, but what I want."

"What do you mean by those words?"

"I guess ye ought to know. Didn't I tell ye at the dance that I love ye?"

"Love me!" and Glen's eyes flashed. "Do you know the meaning of the word love? I suppose you told the same to many girls you have ruined."

"I never loved anyone as I love you," the villain whined.

"I suppose I should be flattered, but I am not. I don't want what you call your love, or anything to do with you."

"D'ye mean that yer goin' to throw me over?"

"Throw you over! I don't understand you."

"Yes, throw me over fer that slick guy you're so chummy with. I suppose he's been tellin' ye what a bad man I am, an' so turned ye against me."

"What right have you to say that? You were never anything to me except just what you are, a creature capable of almost any deed of villainy. I only met you two or three times in my life, and why should you presume to think that you had won my affection?"

"Well, if ye think I'm bad to the core, I will soon show you that I am. It's no use, I see, to beat about the bush any longer. If I can't get you one way I will another, an' I'll have you ahead of that d---- guy who has won your heart. You're here alone with me, remember, an' that's all I want."

Curly had thrown aside all pretense now, and his face bore an ugly expression as he stepped quickly forward. But it was only a step or two he took, for he stopped short with a surprised jerk when he beheld the menacing point of a revolver directed straight at his head. The hand that held the weapon was firm, and the blaze in Glen's eyes was sufficient warning. This was more than he had expected, and he knew not what to do.

"Keep back," the girl ordered.

"Surely ye wouldn't shoot, Miss?" the brute whimpered.

"Take another step forward and you'll soon find out." The voice was stern and business-like.

"But I won't harm ye."

"No, indeed you won't. I'll see to that."

"I was only foolin'," the wretch lied. "I didn't mean anything."

"Well, I'm not fooling, and I mean what I say. You thought in your base heart that I would be an easy victim, didn't you? But you now know that Glen Weston has some of her father's spirit. She can shoot, too, and if you doubt it, just try any more of your nonsense."

Curly was in a trap, and when he found that this slip of a girl was more than his match he started to give vent to his rage in vile, insolent language.

"Stop that," Glen sternly ordered. "It is bad enough to have you here without having to listen to such language. Stop; I say," she again commanded, as Curly was about to continue. "Yes, I mean it, so you needn't doubt my word. And you might as well put your hands together. Hurry up; I give you two seconds. You are not to be trusted."

Slowly Curly obeyed, and stood before the girl, his hands clasped, and completely subdued. A smile of victory flitted across Glen's face, though her eyes and mouth were expressive of the deepest scorn.

"You didn't expect this, did you?" she bantered.

"Expect what?"

"To be standing so meekly before a woman. You imagined that she would be doing that to you."

"You're not a woman," Curly growled; "you're a she-devil."

"Oh, so you've changed your opinion of me," and Glen laughed. "I am very glad of that, for you won't be crazy about me any more."

"Crazy! Your face an' figure would drive any man crazy."

"Dear me, do I look as horrible as all that? It's a wonder you are not a raving lunatic."

"I will if you keep me here much longer. Let me go an' I'll never trouble you again. That slick guy can have you fer all I care. I don't want anything to do with a woman who holds ye up at the point of a gun."

"No, I am sure you don't, Curly. You prefer to prey upon women who are helpless, and who cannot lift a hand in self-defense. But I am different, as you have found out to your cost."

"Let me go, will ye?" the wretch pleaded. "I've had enough of this."

"Oh, have you, eh? Well, that's interesting. But, look here, I am not through with you yet. You came here without any invitation, though in a way I am glad that you did come, and I intend to keep you here for a while."

"H'm, ye must like my company after all," Curly sneered. "You're a queer one."

"Yes, I like your company at present better than your absence," Glen confessed. "I know just where you are, and that you can do no mischief while you are under my charge. If I should let you go now it would be an injustice to others. You must settle this affair with my father, and you know what that will mean."

"I'm not worryin' about yer dad, or anyone else," Curly replied. "He'll have all he can attend to without botherin' about me. Most likely he's in a hotter place now than ever he struck on earth."

Into Glen's eyes leaped an expression of wild fear, as the meaning of Curly's words dawned upon her.

"Ye understand?" Curly sneered. "Two can play at this game, remember, an' mebbe more'n two."

"Was that your partner who followed my father?"

"Sure. It was Dan, an' he means business."

"What business?"

"Oh, Dan'll tell ye when he comes back."

"Do you mean that he intends to shoot my father and Mr. Reynolds?"

"Mr. Reynolds!" Curly mockingly repeated. "Yes, Mr. Reynolds, too."

Glen's outstretched arm was tired, but these words renewed her strength, and her fingers clutched more firmly the butt of the revolver. Curly was fully aware that the girl was becoming wrought up to a high pitch of excitement, and he regretted that he had told her anything about Dan. What might not this girl do? he asked himself. In fact he was very near death just then, for Glen in her agitation was unconsciously pressing the trigger slightly with her forefinger. But Curly knew, and his face blanched.

"Fer God's sake, be careful what yer doin'!" he screamed. "That gun'll go off, if ye don't look out!"

"Perhaps it might be well if it did," was the reply. "I am strongly tempted to shoot you where you stand. But I guess I will wait until Sconda comes back. And then, remember, if my father and Mr. Reynolds are dead, you die, and at my hands at that. You can remain just where you are, and I shall guard you, even if I have to wait here all day."

"But I can't stand here," Curly whined. "Let me sit down."

"No, you must stay just where you are, and keep your hands clasped. I shall sit down, though," and Glen seated herself upon the doorstep.

Curly started to remonstrate, but was sternly checked.

"I do not wish to hear anything more," Glen emphatically told him. "You can keep your thoughts and your words to yourself. And do not annoy me, or I might lose control of myself and do something rash."

Seeing that the girl was thoroughly in earnest, Curly said no more, but stood there with his eyes fixed straight forward. The only time Glen spoke was whenever she detected his look wavering in the slightest degree. Then she called him sharply to attention, and warned him to be mindful of what he was doing.

Thus slowly and wearily the morning wore away. With nerves strung to the highest tension, Glen guarded her prisoner, at the same time listening anxiously for the sound of Sconda's returning footsteps.