Chapter XXVI. Through the Storm
 

Next morning Reynolds started with Sconda for Big Draw. As he mounted his horse in front of the cabin, Glen stood nearby, and he thought that he had never seen her look so pretty. If any man had ever been tempted to express all that was in his mind he had been the previous evening as they stood by the shore of the lake. He believed that Glen loved him, and he up-braided himself for not speaking and telling her of the deep feeling of his heart. But he would return, and then he would not let such another opportunity pass.

Glen stroked the horse's proudly-arching neck as he champed impatiently at his bit.

"Take care of your master, Pedro," she ordered, "and bring him safely back to Glen West."

"Then you wish me to return, eh?" Reynolds queried.

"Why shouldn't you?" and the girl blushed. "You have to arrange about that gold, you know."

"So I have. I am glad you reminded me." They both laughed, and Reynolds looked longingly into Glen's eyes. "You must promise, though, that the Indians will not drive me beyond the pass, and that your father will not subject me to the Ordeal."

"I think I can answer for them," was the low reply. "You are one of us now, and that makes a great difference. But here comes daddy; he will scold me for delaying you."

"I wish I did not have to go," Reynolds declared. "I would much rather go with you to Glen West. But I shall hurry back."

"And be careful of yourself at Big Draw," the girl warned. "Curly is there, and he hasn't any love for you."

"Oh, I guess I shall be able to match that villain, so do not worry. Good-by; I must be off, for Sconda is getting impatient."

Reynolds rode rapidly down the trail, turning once to wave his hand to Glen, who was watching him before the cabin door. He was very happy, for he believed that he had won the heart of the purest, sweetest, and most beautiful girl in the whole world. He sang snatches of songs as he rode along, and at times laughed aloud in boyish glee, much to Sconda's astonishment. Life was bright and rosy to him on this fine summer morning, and the future looked most promising. He could hardly believe that he was the same person who had entered the country but a few weeks before, and who had travelled over that same trail with Frontier Samson. He was hoping to find the old prospector at Big Draw; who would be anxious to hear of his adventures.

About an hour later Glen bade her father good-by. She was all ready to start for home.

"Don't stay here long, daddy," she pleaded. "Come as soon as you can, for I shall be lonely without you."

"And will you really miss me?" Weston asked.

"Certainly I shall miss you. Life is not worth living when you are not at home."

"Not even when Reynolds is present?"

Glen blushed furiously, and her father smiled, a sad smile, which Glen was quick to notice. Throwing her arms impulsively about his neck, she kissed his bronzed cheek.

"I love you dearly, daddy," she murmured. "But because I love him does not lessen my love for you."

"I know it, dear, I know it," and Weston's voice was husky as he held his daughter close. "I am glad to know that you are happy, and I have every reason to believe that Reynolds is worthy of your love. Your confidence means very much to me. But, there, now, you had better be off. Natsu will look well after you. I was forced to send Sconda with Reynolds, as Natsu is not to be trusted at Big Draw. There are some unscrupulous fellows at the mining camp who might fill him with bad whiskey, and when he is half drunk he is liable to talk too much."

Glen enjoyed the ride over the long crooked trail, and her spirits, which had been somewhat depressed at the parting from her father and Reynolds, revived. There was nothing which thrilled and stimulated her so much as riding on Midnight through the great wilderness. Her lithe, supple body swayed in a rhythmical motion as the horse sped on his way. Riding was one of the few attractions which made the northland tolerable, and she wondered what she would do outside to replace it.

"I shall take you with me, old boy," she confided, as she affectionately patted Midnight's neck. "It would not do to leave you behind. My, what a great time we shall have upon the level roads!"

Then she fell to thinking about the joy of visiting different lands, and seeing strange sights. But she always associated her travels with Reynolds. She pictured him by her side as they went from place to place, eager and delighted at everything they beheld. It was certainly a pleasant dreamland in which she was living on this beautiful morning. Not a shadow dimmed her vision. All was rosy and fair, and like another speeding on his way to Big Draw, she was surrounded by the halo of romance.

It was supper time when Glen at length reached home, where she at once handed Midnight over to Natsu, and entered the house. Nannie was greatly surprised to see her back so soon, accompanied only by the Indian. But a little later, as they sat down to supper, Glen related the tale of experiences in the hills, omitting only her adventure with Curly.

"And just think, Nannie!" she enthusiastically exclaimed in conclusion, "daddy is seriously thinking about leaving the north and going outside. Isn't it great?"

"Is he, indeed?" and the elderly woman looked her surprise.

"Oh, yes. When I spoke to him about it he said that he wished to think it over, and might let me know in a few days. Oh, I hope that he will decide to go, don't you?"

Nannie made no reply for a few minutes, but went on with her supper.

"And what will become of me?" she at length asked.

"Why, you must go with us, of course. You will not mind going, will you?"

"Not now," was the quiet reply. "I have been quite happy here because I had you to think about and love. But you will be leaving soon, I feel sure, and how could I endure this place without you? You have little idea how much I missed you when you were away at school."

"Why do you think I shall be leaving soon?" Glen asked.

"I am not altogether blind, dear," and Nannie smiled. "You know the story of the Sleeping Beauty. Only the man who was bold enough could win her, and when he did venture into the enchanted place, a marvellous change ensued. So it has happened here."

"But I am not a sleeping beauty, Nannie," and Glen blushed, for she well understood the meaning of her companion's words.

"A very active beauty, I should say," and the woman looked with admiration upon the fair face before her. "But the principle is the same. The Prince has come, he has won your heart, and a great change has been wrought in this place, which has affected even your father. Now, isn't that true?"

Glen rose suddenly to her feet, and threw her arms lovingly about Nannie's neck. There were tears in her eyes, but they were tears of joy.

"You dear, dear old Nannie!" she cried. "How in the world did you learn the secret of my heart?"

"How could I help it?" was the laughing reply. "Your face alone would have betrayed the secret, even if I had not guessed it. And the Prince really loves you, Glen. But, there, I suppose he has told you all this."

"Indeed he has not. He never said a word to me," was the emphatic denial. "I don't believe he ever thought of doing so."

Nannie merely smiled at the girl's charming candour and unaffected simplicity. It pleased her to know that Glen was not ashamed of her love, and it was good to watch her bubbling over with the happiness of her new-found joy.

Glen spent much of the next morning upon the water in her canoe. She visited the places where she and Reynolds had gone that first day they had been together. She lived over again that happy time, marred only by the shot from the Golden Crest. She had almost forgotten it now, and her former anxiety had nearly vanished. She had a slight feeling of fear as to what Curly might attempt to do to Reynolds at Big Draw, but when she thought of her lover's strength she smiled confidently to herself.

About the middle of the afternoon she decided to go down to see Klota. Telling Nannie that she would not be long, she donned her hat, and had just stepped out upon the verandah when she saw Sconda riding furiously toward the house. His horse was white with foam and panting heavily. For an instant Glen's heart almost stopped beating, as she was certain that the Indian bore some bad news. He had gone with Reynolds, and what would bring him back so soon and in such a manner unless something was seriously wrong? All this flashed through her mind as she hurried down the steps just as Sconda drew rein in front of the house.

"What is the matter, Sconda?" she demanded. "Tell me, quick."

"White stranger in trouble," was the brief reply.

"Where?" Glen asked, while her face turned pale.

"At white man's camp. Curly catch him. Curly make big trouble."

"Are you sure? Did Mr. Reynolds send you here for help?"

"White stranger did not send Sconda. Titsla tell Sconda at foot of Crooked Trail."

"Oh, I see," Glen mused. "Titsla was at Big Draw with meat for the miners, and he found out that Curly was planning to harm Mr. Reynolds, eh?"

"Ah, ah, Titsla come quick. Titsla tell Sconda."

"And you rode fast to tell me?"

"Sconda come like the wind. Look," and he motioned to his weary horse.

Glen was thoroughly aroused now. She was no longer the happy, free-from-care girl who had emerged from the house a few minutes before, but a woman stirred to a high pitch of anger, the same as when she faced Curly in front of the cabin by the lake. Her father's spirit possessed her now, and when Glen Weston's eyes flashed as they did when she was aware of her lover's danger, those best acquainted with her knew that she was capable of almost any deed of heroism. Of a gentle, loving disposition, and true as steel to those who were true to her, there was hidden within her something of the primitive life of the wild, which, when stirred resembled the rushing tempests of her familiar mountains.

Turning to Sconda she gave a few terse orders, and when the Indian had received them, he wheeled his horse and headed him for the village. Glen at once hurried back into the house, went to her own room, and in a short time reappeared, clad in her riding-suit. She met Nannie at the foot of the stairs, and briefly explained the object of her mission.

"But surely you are not going to Big Draw!" the woman exclaimed in dismay. "What will your father say?"

"Yes, I am going," was the decided reply. "What would daddy say if I shirked my duty?"

"But you are not going alone!"

"No. I have given Sconda orders to get twenty of the best men in the village to accompany me. We shall go by way of Crooked Trail, and should reach Big Draw by night. God grant we may be in time!"

"But it isn't safe, Glen," Nannie urged. "I can trust you with the Indians, all right, but suppose something should happen to you down there?"

"Don't you worry, dear," the girl soothed, as she gave the woman a parting kiss. "I am quite capable of taking care of myself."

"But where will you sleep to-night, or get anything to eat?" The question showed Nannie's thoughtful, motherly concern.

"Oh, I haven't thought about such things. Anyway, I do not care whether I eat or sleep. Most likely the Indians will take some food with them, and they will share with me. There, now, I must be off. So, good-by, Nannie, dear, and do not worry about me."

"You must take your riding-cloak, though," Nannie insisted. "It may be cold to-night, and should it rain you will feel the good of it. There, that's better," she added, as she placed the garment over the girl's shoulders. "I am afraid that your father will blame me for letting you go."

Glen smiled at the woman's fears as she again kissed her, and picking up her riding-gloves, she hurried out of the house and down to the village. Here she found the twenty men awaiting her arrival, and Sconda holding Midnight. She smiled as she saw them, and her heart warmed as never before to these faithful natives. They were proud, too, of their young mistress, and were ready and willing to follow her anywhere, and to obey her slightest wish. They were anxious, as well, for a tilt with the miners at Big Draw, for whom they had no great love.

In a few minutes Glen, mounted upon Midnight, was leading her little band out of Glen West on their ride over Crooked Trail. The entire population of the place was on hand to watch their departure, for word had speedily spread about the trouble at Big Draw. Men, women and children were clustered about the store, who gazed with the keenest interest as the column of relief pulled out of the village. Glen's eyes kindled with pride and animation as she turned and waved them a cheery good-by. Then she touched Midnight lightly with her whip, at which the noble animal leaped forward, up the trail, through the woods, across the wild meadow, and into the pass. The Indians found it difficult to keep pace with their young mistress, for Midnight was the fleetest horse that ever trod a northern trail.

As they advanced, however, it was necessary to travel slower, for the way was steep and rough, and it was only with considerable care that the horses could pick their steps. Glen became impatient at this delay, for the sun was swinging low beyond the far-off mountain peaks, and she realised that if night overtook them in the hills it would greatly retard their progress, and perhaps make them too late in reaching Big Draw.

As they were moving slowly down Crooked Trail, the sky suddenly became overcast, and then black. Great, threatening clouds were massed together far up in the hills, and the wind began to draw down the ravine. It steadily increased in strength, and in a short time a gale was upon them. Then followed the rain, which struck them just as they reached the valley. It was one of those sudden mountain storms, the dread of the most hardened trails-man, and the utter consternation of the chechahco. Fortunately the wind was in the backs of the travellers, and the trail was smoother now. Never for a moment did Glen hesitate, and Midnight responded splendidly to the occasion, inspiring with courage the horses following. The roar of the wind was terrific, and the trees bowed like reeds beneath its onslaught. Never had Glen experienced such a storm on the trail, and most thankful was she for the riding-cloak which Nannie had placed upon her shoulders. Her hat had been torn from her head, and her hair was tossed in the wildest confusion about her face and half blinded her. It was certainly a strange and weird sight as that slight girl led her determined band down that valley right through the heart of the storm.

It was difficult now to see far ahead, and Glen had to trust entirely to Midnight. Not once did the faithful animal stumble or exhibit the least sign of hesitation. He seemed to realise that much was at stake, and that everything depended upon his efforts. With ears pointed straight forward, and with head lowered, as if to guard his steps, he surged onward, every nerve keenly alert, and his entire body quivering with excitement.

For about an hour the storm beat upon them in all its fury, and notwithstanding the riding-cloak, Glen became thoroughly soaked. But she never once thought of herself, for her mind was ever upon Reynolds. Would they be in time to help him? she asked herself over and over again. She wondered what was the nature of the plot Curly had concocted, and whether all the miners were involved. Any danger to herself never once entered her mind, for she was so sure of the loyalty of her dusky followers. To reach the man she loved was the one great object which upheld her as she rode through that howling tempest.

At length they came to a place where the draw swerved sharply to the left. Here the trail left the valley and circled up a small hill behind the mining camp. The storm, following the draw as if it were a funnel, rushed roaring on its way, while the riders gaining the higher ground were somewhat beyond its reach, and, turning, saw it sweeping below like a torrent in full spate.

With a great sigh of relief, Glen paused for a moment on the summit, viewed the magnificent sight, and waited for her followers as they struggled, one by one, from the grasp of the mighty monster of the mountains. Then she spoke to Midnight and moved onward.

It was quite dark now, and the opposite slope which they soon began to descend was wrapped in the shadows of the hills. But Sconda knew every step of the way, and for the first time since leaving Glen West he took the lead and guided the band. Not a word was spoken as they defiled down that steep, narrow trail, and to anyone watching, they would have appeared like spectres coming from the unseen world.

Glen was nerved now to the highest pitch of excitement, for she felt that the critical moment, whatever it might be, was not far off. Anxiously and eagerly she peered forward, and just as they had almost reached the foot of the trail, a bright light suddenly pierced the darkness. Instantly every rider drew rein, and the horses stopped almost as one. All eyes were fixed, upon a blazing fire ahead, around which they could see a number of men moving. Then Glen gave a slight cry of dismay, touched Midnight sharply with her whip, and bounded forward, straight for that burning pile.