Vane of the Timberlands
Part 2 out of 6
there, though a clatter of dishes and a clink of silver suggested that
a meal was being laid out in an adjoining room. Sitting down near the
hearth, he looked about him. The house was old; a wide stairway with a
quaintly carved balustrade of dark oak ran up one side and led to a
landing, also fronted with ponderous oak rails. The place was shadowy,
but a stream of light from a high window struck athwart one part of it
and fell upon the stairs.
Vane's eyes rested on many objects that he recognized, but as his glance
traveled to and fro it occurred to him that much of what he saw conveyed
a hint that economy was needful. Part of the rich molding of the Jacobean
mantel had fallen away, and patches of the key pattern bordering the
panels beneath it had broken off, though he decided that a clever
cabinet-maker could have repaired the damage in a day. There were one or
two choice rugs on the floor, but they were threadbare; the heavy
hangings about the inner doors were dingy and moth-eaten; and, though all
this was in harmony with the drowsy quietness and the faint smell of
decay, it had its significance.
Presently he heard footsteps, and looking up he saw a girl descending the
stairs in the fading stream of light. She was clad in trailing white,
which gleamed against the dark oak and rustled softly as it flowed about
a tall, finely outlined and finely poised figure. She had hair of dark
brown with paler lights in its curling tendrils, gathered back from a
neck that showed a faintly warmer whiteness than the snowy fabric below
it. It was her face, though, that seized Vane's attention: the level
brows; the quiet, deep brown eyes; the straight, cleanly-cut nose; and
the subtle suggestion of steadfastness and pride which they all conveyed.
He rose with a cry that had pleasure and eagerness in it.
She came down, moving lightly but with a rhythmic grace, and laid a firm,
cool hand in his.
"I'm glad to see you back, Wallace," she said. "How you have changed!"
"I'm not sure that's kind," smiled Vane. "In some ways, you haven't
changed at all; I would have known you anywhere!"
"Nine years is a long time to remember any one."
Vane had seen few women during that period; but he was not a fool, and he
recognized that this was no occasion for an attempt at gallantry. There
was nothing coquettish in Evelyn's words, nor was there any irony. She
had answered in the tranquil, matter-of-fact manner which, as he
remembered, usually characterized her.
"It's a little while since you landed, isn't it?" she added.
"A week. I had some business in London, and then I went on to look up
Lucy. She had just gone up to town--to a congress, I believe--and so
I missed her. I shall go up again to see her as soon as she answers
"It won't be necessary. She's coming here for a fortnight."
"That's very kind. Whom have I to thank for suggesting it?"
"Does it matter? It was a natural thing to ask your only sister--who is a
friend of mine. There is plenty of room, and the place is quiet."
"It didn't used to be. If I remember, your mother generally had it full
part of the year."
"Things have changed," said Evelyn quietly.
Vane was baffled by something in her manner. Evelyn had never been
effusive--that was not her way---but now, while she was cordial, she did
not seem disposed to resume their acquaintance where it had been broken
off. After all, he could hardly have expected this.
"Mabel is like you, as you used to be," he observed. "It struck me as
soon as I saw her; but when she began to talk there was a difference."
Evelyn laughed softly.
"Yes; I think you're right in both respects. Mopsy has the courage of her
convictions. She's an open rebel."
There was no bitterness in her laugh. Evelyn's manner was never
pointed; but Vane fancied that she had said a meaning thing--one that
might explain what he found puzzling in her attitude, when he held the
key to it.
"Mopsy was dubious about you before you arrived, but I'm pleased to say
she seems reassured," she laughed.
Carroll came down, and a few moments later Mrs. Chisholm appeared and
they went in to dinner in a low-ceilinged room. During the general
conversation, Mabel suddenly turned to Vane.
"I suppose you have brought your pistols with you?"
"I haven't owned one since I was sixteen," Vane laughed.
The girl looked at him with an excellent assumption of incredulity.
"Then you have never shot anybody in British Columbia!"
Carroll laughed, as if this greatly pleased him, but Vane's face was
rather grave as he answered her.
"No; I'm thankful to say that I haven't. In fact, I've never seen a shot
fired, except at a grouse or a deer."
"Then the West must be getting what the Archdeacon--he's Flora's husband,
you know--calls decadent," the girl sighed.
"She's incorrigible," Mrs. Chisholm interposed with a smile.
Carroll leaned toward Mabel confidentially.
"In case you feel very badly disappointed, I'll let you into a secret.
When we feel real, real savage, we take the ax instead."
Evelyn fancied that Vane winced at this, but Mabel looked openly
"Can either of you pick up a handkerchief going at full gallop on
horseback?" she inquired.
"I'm sorry to say that I can't; and I've never seen Wallace do so,"
Mrs. Chisholm shook her head at her daughter.
"Miss Clifford complained of your inattention to the study of English
last quarter," she reproved severely.
Mabel made no answer, though Vane thought it would have relieved her
Presently the meal came to an end, and an hour afterward, Mrs. Chisholm
rose from her seat in the lamplit drawing-room.
"We keep early hours at the Dene, but you will retire when you like," she
said. "As Tom is away, I had better tell you that you will find syphons
and whisky in the smoking-room. I have had the lamp lighted."
"Thank you," Vane replied with a smile. "I'm afraid you have taken more
trouble on our account than you need have done. Except on special
occasions, we generally confine ourselves to strong green tea."
Mabel looked at him in amazement.
"Oh!" she cried. "The West is certainly decadent! You should be here when
the otter hounds are out. Why, it was only--"
She broke off abruptly beneath her mother's withering glance.
When Vane and Carroll were left alone, they strolled out, pipe in hand,
upon the terrace. They could see the fells tower darkly against the soft
sky, and a tarn that lay in the blackness of the valley beneath them was
revealed by its pale gleam. A wonderful mingling of odors stole out of
the still summer night.
"I suppose you could put in a few weeks here?" Vane remarked.
"I could," Carroll replied. "There's an atmosphere about these old houses
that appeals to me, perhaps because we have nothing like it in Canada.
The tranquillity of age is in it--it's restful, as a change. Besides, I
think your friends mean to make things pleasant."
"I'm glad you like them."
Carroll knew that his comrade would not resent a candid expression
"I do; the girls in particular. They interest me. The younger one's of a
type that's common in our country, though it's generally given room for
free development into something useful there. Mabel's chafing at the
curb. It remains to be seen whether she'll kick, presently, and hurt
herself in doing so."
Vane remembered that Evelyn had said something to the same effect; but
he had already discovered that Carroll possessed a keen insight in
"And her sister?" he suggested.
"You won't mind my saying that I'm inclined to be sorry for her? She has
learned repression--been driven into line. That girl has character, but
it's being cramped and stunted. You live in walled-in compartments in
"Doesn't the same thing apply to New York, Montreal, or Toronto?"
"Not to the same extent. We haven't had time yet to number off all the
little subdivisions and make rules for them, nor to elaborate the
niceties of an immutable system. No doubt, we'll come to it."
He paused with a deprecatory laugh.
"Mrs. Chisholm believes in the system. She has been modeled on it--it's
got into her blood; and that's why she's at variance with her daughters.
No doubt, the thing's necessary; I'm finding no fault with it. You must
remember that we're outsiders, with a different outlook; we've lived in
the new West."
Vane strolled on along the terrace thoughtfully. He was not offended; he
understood his companion's attitude. Like other men of education and good
upbringing driven by unrest or disaster to the untrammeled life of the
bush, Carroll had gained sympathy as well as knowledge. Facing facts
candidly, he seldom indulged in decided protest against any of them. On
the other hand, Vane was on occasion liable to outbreaks of indignation.
"Well," said Vane at length, "I guess it's time to go to bed."
UPON THE HEIGHTS
Vane rose early the next morning, as he had been accustomed to do, and
taking a towel he made his way across dewy meadows and between tall
hedgerows to the tarn. Stripping where the rabbit-cropped sward met the
mossy boulders, he swam out, joyously breasting the little ripples which
splashed and sparkled beneath the breeze that had got up with the sun.
Coming back, where the water lay in shadow beneath a larchwood which as
yet had not wholly lost its vivid vernal green, he disturbed the paddling
moor-hens and put up a mallard from a clump of swaying reeds. Then he
dressed and turned homeward, glowing, beside a sluggish stream which
wound through a waste of heather where the curlew were whistling eerily.
He had no cares to trouble him, and it was delightful to feel that he had
nothing to do except to enjoy himself in what he considered the fairest
country in the world, at least in summertime.
Scrambling over a limestone wall tufted thick with parsley fern, he
noticed Mabel stooping over an object which lay among the heather where a
rough cartroad approached a wooden bridge. On joining her he saw that she
was examining a finely-built canoe with a hole in one bilge. She looked
up at him ruefully.
"It's sad, isn't it? That stupid Little did it with his clumsy cart."
"I think it could be mended," Vane replied.
"Old Beavan--he's the wheelwright--said it couldn't; and Dad said I could
hardly expect him to send the canoe back to Kingston. He bought it for me
at an exhibition."
Then a thought seemed to strike her and her eyes grew eager.
"Perhaps you had something to do with light canoes in Canada?"
"Yes; I used to pole one loaded with provisions up a river and carry the
lot round several falls. If I remember, I made eight shillings a day at
it, and I think I earned it. You're fond of paddling?"
"I love it! I used to row the fishing-punt, but it's too old to be safe;
and now that the canoe's smashed I can't go out at all."
"Well, we'll walk across and see what we can find in Beavan's shop."
He took a few measurements, making them on a stick, and they crossed the
heath to a tiny hamlet nestling in a hollow of a limestone crag. There
Vane made friends with the wheelwright, who regarded him dubiously at
first, and obtained a piece of larch board from him. The grizzled North
Countryman watched him closely as he set a plane, which is a delicate
operation, and he raised no objections when Vane made use of his
work-bench. When the board had been sawed up, Vane borrowed a few tools
and copper nails, and he and Mabel went back to the canoe. On the way she
glanced at him curiously.
"I wasn't sure old Beavan would let you have the things," she remarked.
"It isn't often he'll even lend a hammer, but he seemed to take to you; I
think it was the way you handled his plane."
"It's strange what little things win some people's good opinion,
"Oh, don't!" exclaimed Mabel. "That's the way the Archdeacon talks. I
thought you were different!"
The man acquiesced in the rebuke; and after an hour's labor at the canoe,
he scraped the red lead he had used off his hands and sat down beside the
craft. The sun was warm now, the dew was drying, and a lark sang
riotously overhead. Vane became conscious that his companion was
regarding him with what seemed to be approval.
"I really think you'll do, and we'll get on," she informed him. "If
you had been the wrong kind, you would have worried about your red
hands. Still, you could have rubbed them on the heather, instead of on
"I might have thought of that," Vane laughed. "But, you see, I've been
accustomed to wearing old clothes. Anyway, you'll be able to launch the
canoe as soon as the joint's dry."
"There's one thing I should have told you," the girl replied. "Dad would
have sent the canoe away to be mended if it hadn't been so far. He's very
good when things don't ruffle him; but he hasn't been fortunate lately.
The lead mine takes a good deal of money."
Vane admired her loyalty, and he refrained from taking advantage of her
candor, though there were one or two questions he would have liked to
ask. When he was last in England, Chisholm had been generally regarded as
a man of means, though it was rumored that he was addicted to hazardous
speculations. Mabel, without noticing his silence, went on:
"I heard Stevens--he's the gamekeeper--tell Beavan that Dad should have
been a rabbit because he's so fond of burrowing. No doubt, that meant
that he couldn't keep out of mines."
Vane made no comment; and Mabel, breaking off for a moment, looked up at
the rugged fells to the west and then around at the moors which cut
against the blue of the morning sky.
"It's all very pretty, but it shuts one in!" she cried. "You feel you
want to get out and can't! I suppose you really couldn't take me back
with you to Canada?"
"I'm afraid not. If you were about ten years older, it might be
"Oh, don't! That's the kind of thing some of Gerald's smart friends say,
and it makes one want to slap them! Besides," she added naively, glancing
down at her curtailed skirt, "I'm by no means so young as I appear to be.
The fact is, I'm not allowed to grow up yet."
The girl laughed at him.
"Oh, you've lived in the woods. If you had stayed in England, you would
"I'm afraid I've been injudicious," Vane answered with a show of
humility. "But don't you think it's getting on toward breakfast time?"
"Breakfast won't be for a good while yet. We don't get up early. Evelyn
used to, but it's different now. We used to go out on the tarn every
morning, even in the wind and rain; but I suppose that's not good for
one's complexion, though bothering about such things doesn't seem to me
to be worth while. Aunt Julia couldn't do anything for Evelyn, though she
had her in London for some time. Flora is our shining light."
"What did she do?"
"She married the Archdeacon; and he isn't so very dried up. I've seen him
smile when I talked to him."
"I'm not astonished at that, Mabel," laughed Vane.
His companion looked up at him.
"My name's not Mabel--to you. I'm Mopsy to the family, but my special
friends call me Mops. You're one of the few people one can be natural
with, and I'm getting sick--you won't be shocked--of having to be the
opposite. If you'll come along, I'll show you the setter puppies."
It was half an hour later when Vane, who had seldom had to wait so long
for breakfast, sat down with an excellent appetite. The spacious room
pleased him after the cramped quarters to which he had been accustomed.
The sunlight that streamed in sparkled on choice old silver and glowed on
freshly gathered flowers; and through the open windows mingled fragrances
flowed in from the gardens. All that his gaze rested on spoke of ease and
taste and leisure. Evelyn, sitting opposite him, looked wonderfully fresh
in her white dress; Mopsy was as amusing as she dared to be; but Vane
felt drawn back to the restless world again as he glanced at his hostess
and saw the wrinkles round her eyes and a hint of cleverly hidden strain
in her expression. He fancied that a good deal could be deduced from the
fragments of information her younger daughter had given him.
It was Mabel who suggested that they should picnic upon the summit of a
lofty hill, from which there was a striking view; and as this met with
the approval of Mrs. Chisholm, who excused herself from accompanying
them, they set out an hour later. The day was bright, with glaring
sunshine, and a moderate breeze drove up wisps of ragged cloud that
dappled the hills with flitting shadow. Towering crag and shingly scree
showed blue and purple through it and then flashed again into brilliancy,
while the long, grassy slopes gleamed with silvery gray and ocher.
On leaving the head of the valley they climbed leisurely up easy slopes,
slipping on the crisp hill grass now and then. By and by they plunged
into tangled heather on a bolder ridge, rent by black gullies, down
which at times wild torrents poured. This did not trouble either of the
men, who were used to forcing a passage over more rugged hillsides and
through leagues of matted brush, but Vane was surprised at the ease with
which Evelyn threaded her way across the heath. She wore a short skirt
and stout laced boots, and he noticed the supple grace of her movements
and the delicate color the wind had brought into her face. It struck him
that she had somehow changed since they had left the valley. She seemed
to have flung off something, and her laugh had a gay ring; but, while she
smiled and chatted with him, he was still conscious of a subtle reserve
in her manner.
Climbing still, they reached the haunts of the cloudberries and brushed
through broad patches of the snowy blossoms that open their gleaming
cups among the moss and heather. Vane gathered a handful and gave them
"You should wear these. They grow only far up on the heights."
She flashed a swift glance at him, but she smiled as she drew the fragile
stalks through her belt, and he felt that had it been permissible he
could have elaborated the idea in his mind. They are stainless flowers,
passionlessly white, that grow beyond the general reach of man, where the
air is keen and pure; and, in spite of her graciousness, there was a
coldness and a calm, which instead of repelling appealed to him strongly,
about this girl. Mabel laughed mischievously.
"If you want to give me flowers, it had better be marsh-marigolds," she
said. "They grow low down where it's slushy--but they blaze."
"Mabel," he remarked a few moments later to Vane, "is unguarded in what
she says, but she now and then shows signs of being considerably older
than her years."
They left the black peat-soil behind them, and the heather gave place to
thin and more fragile ling, beaded with its unopened buds, while fangs of
rock cropped out here and there. Then turning the flank of a steep
ascent, they reached the foot of a shingly scree, and sat down to lunch
in the warm sunshine where the wind was cut off by the peak above.
Beneath them, a great rift opened up among the rocks, and far beyond the
blue lake in the depths of it they could catch the silver gleam of the
The fishing creel in which the provisions had been carried was promptly
emptied; and when Mabel afterward took Carroll away to climb some
neighboring crags, Vane lay resting on one elbow not far from Evelyn. She
was looking down the long hollow, with the sunshine, which lighted a
golden sparkle in her brown eyes, falling upon her face.
"You didn't seem to mind the climb."
"I enjoyed it;" Evelyn declared, glancing at the cloudberry blossom in
her belt. "I really am fond of the mountains, and I have to thank you for
a day among them."
On the surface the words offered an opening for a complimentary
rejoinder; but Vane was too shrewd to seize it. He had made one venture,
and he surmised that a second one would not please her.
"They're almost at your door. One would imagine that you could indulge in
a scramble among them whenever it pleased you."
"There are a good many things that look so close and still are out of
reach," Evelyn answered with a smile that somehow troubled him. Then her
manner changed. "You are content with this?"
Vane gazed about him. Purple crags lay in shadow; glistening threads of
water fell among the rocks; and long slopes lay steeped in softest color
under the cloud-flecked summer sky.
"Content is scarcely the right word for it," he assured her, "If it
weren't so still and serene up here, I'd be riotously happy. There are
reasons for this quite apart from the scenery; for one, it's remarkably
pleasant to feel that I need do nothing but what I like during the next
"The sensation must be unusual. I wonder if, even in your case, it will
last so long?"
Vane laughed and stretched out one of his hands. It was lean and brown,
and she could see the marks of old scars on the knuckles.
"In my case," he answered, "it has come only once in a lifetime, and, if
it isn't too presumptuous, I think I've earned it." He indicated his
battered fingers. "That's the result of holding a wet and slippery drill;
and those aren't the only marks I carry about with me--though I've been
more fortunate than many fine comrades."
Evelyn noticed something that pleased her in his voice as he concluded.
"I suppose one must get hurt now and then," she responded. "After all, a
bruise that's only skin-deep doesn't trouble one long, and no doubt some
scars are honorable. It's slow corrosion that's the deadliest."
She broke off with a laugh.
"Moralizing's out of place on a day like this," she added; "and such days
are not frequent in the North. That's their greatest charm."
Vane nodded. He knew the sad gray skies of his native land, when its
lonely heights are blurred by driving snow-cloud or scourged by bitter
rain for weeks together, though now and then they tower serenely into the
blue heavens, steeped in ethereal splendor. Once more it struck him that
in their latter aspect his companion resembled them. Made finely, of warm
flesh and blood, she was yet ethereal too. There was something aloof and
intangible about her that seemed in harmony with the hills among which
she was born.
"Yes," he agreed. "On the face of it, the North is fickle; though to
those who know it that's a misleading term. To some of us it's always the
same, and its dark grimness makes one feel the radiance of its smile. For
all that, I think we're going to see a sudden change in the weather."
Long wisps of leaden cloud began to stream across the crags above,
intensifying, until it seemed unnatural, the glow of light and color
on the rest.
"I wonder if Mopsy is leading Mr. Carroll into any mischief? They have
been gone some time," said Evelyn. "She has a trick of getting herself
and other people into difficulties. I suppose he is an old friend of
yours, as you brought him over; unless, perhaps, he's acting as your
Vane's eyes twinkled.
"If he came in any particular capacity, it's as bear-leader. You see,
there are a good many things I've forgotten in the bush, and, as I left
this country young, there are no doubt some that I never learned."
"And so you make Mr. Carroll your confidential adviser. How did he gain
the necessary experience?"
"That is more than I can tell you; but I'm inclined to believe he has
been at one of the universities--Toronto, most likely. Anyhow, on the
whole he acts as a judicious restraint."
"But don't you really know anything about him?"
"Only what some years of close companionship have taught me, though I
think that's enough. For the rest, I took him on trust."
Evelyn looked surprised, and he spread out his hands in a humorous
"A good many people have had to take me in that way, and they seemed
willing to do so--the thing's not uncommon in the West. Why should I be
more particular than they were?"
Just then Mabel and Carroll appeared. The latter's garments were stained
in places, as if he had been scrambling over mossy rocks, and his pockets
bulged. Mabel's skirt was torn, while a patch of white skin showed
through her stocking.
"We've found some sun-dew and two ferns I don't know, as well as all
sorts of other things," she announced.
"That's correct," vouched Carroll dryly; "I've got them. I guess they're
going to fill up most of the creel."
Mabel superintended their transfer, and then addressed the others
"I think we ought to go up the Pike now, when we have the chance. It
isn't much of a climb from here: and we'll have rain before to-morrow.
Besides, the quickest way back to the road is across the top and down the
Evelyn agreed, and they set out, following a sheep path which skirted the
screes, until they left the bank of sharp stones behind and faced a steep
ascent. Parts of it necessitated a breathless scramble, and the sunlight
faded from the hills as they climbed, while thicker wisps of cloud drove
across the ragged summit. They reached the top at length and stopped,
bracing themselves against a rush of chilly breeze, while they looked
down upon a wilderness of leaden-colored rock. Long trails of mist were
creeping in and out among the crags, and here and there masses of it
gathered round the higher slopes.
"I think the Pike's grandest in this weather," Mabel declared. "Look
below, Mr. Carroll, and you'll see the mountain's like a starfish. It has
prongs running out from it."
Carroll did as she directed him, and noticed three diverging ridges
springing off from the shoulders of the peak. Their crests, which were
narrow, led down toward the valley, but their sides fell in rent and
fissured crags to great black hollows.
"You can get down two of them," Mabel went on. "The first is the nearest
to the road, but the third's the easiest. It takes you to the
Hause--that's the gap between it and the next big hill. You must be a
climber to try the middle one."
A few big drops began to fall, and Evelyn cut her sister's
"It strikes me that we'd better make a start at once," she said.
They set out, Mabel and Carroll leading, and drawing farther away from
the two behind. The rain began in earnest as they descended. Rock slope
and scattered stones were slippery, and Vane found it difficult to keep
his footing on some of their lichened surfaces. He was relieved, however,
to see that his companion seldom hesitated, and they made their way
downward cautiously, until near the spot where the three ridges diverged
they walked into a belt of drifting mist. The peak above them was
suddenly blotted out, and Evelyn bade Vane hail Carroll and Mabel, who
had disappeared. He sent a shout ringing through the vapor, and caught a
faint and unintelligible answer. A flock of sheep fled past and dislodged
a rush of sliding stones. Vane heard the stones rattle far down the
hillside, and when he called again a blast of chilly wind whirled his
voice away. There was a faint echo above him and then silence.
"It looks as if they were out of hearing; and the slope ahead of us seems
uncommonly steep by the way those stones went down. Do you think Mabel
has taken Carroll down the Stanghyll ridge?"
"I can't tell," answered Evelyn. "It's comforting to remember that she
knows it better than I do. I think we ought to make for the Hause;
there's only one place that's really steep. Keep up to the left a little;
the Scale Crags must be close beneath us."
They moved on circumspectly, skirting what seemed to be a pit of profound
depth in which dim vapors whirled, while the rain, growing thicker, beat
into their faces.
The weather was not the only thing that troubled Vane as he stumbled on
through the mist. Any unathletic tourist from the cities could have gone
up without much difficulty by the way they had ascended, but it was
different coming down on the opposite side of the mountain. There, their
route led across banks of sharp-pointed stones that rested lightly on the
steep slope, interspersed with outcropping rocks which were growing
dangerously slippery, and a wilderness of crags pierced by three great
radiating chasms lay beneath.
After half an hour's arduous scramble, he decided that they must be close
upon the top of the last rift, and he stood still for a minute looking
about him. The mist was now so thick that he could see scarcely thirty
yards ahead, but the way it drove past him indicated that it was blowing
up a hollow. On one hand a rampart of hillside loomed dimly out of it; in
front there was a dark patch that looked like the face of a dripping
rock; and between that and the hill a boggy stretch of grass ran back
into the vapor. Vane glanced at his companion with some concern. Her
skirt was heavy with moisture and the rain dripped from the brim of her
hat, but she smiled at him reassuringly.
"It's not the first time I've got wet," she said cheeringly; "and you're
not responsible--it's Mopsy's fault."
Vane felt relieved on one account He had imagined that a woman hated to
feel draggled and untidy, and he was willing to own that in his case
fatigue usually tended toward shortness of temper. Though the scramble
had scarcely taxed his powers, he fancied that Evelyn had already done as
much as one could expect of her.
"I must prospect about a bit. Scardale's somewhere below us; but, if I
remember, it's an awkward descent to the head of it; and I'm not sure of
the right entrance to the Hause."
"I've only once been down this way, and that was a long while ago,"
Vane left her and plodded away across the grass, sinking ankle-deep in
the spongy moss among the roots of it When he had grown scarcely
distinguishable in the haze he turned and waved his hand.
"I know where we are--almost to the head of the beck!" he called.
Evelyn joined him at the edge of a trickle of water splashing in a peaty
hollow, and they followed it down, seeing only odd strips of hillside
amid the vapor. At length the ground grew softer, and Vane, going first,
sank among the long green moss almost to his knees. It made a bubbling,
sucking sound as he drew out his feet.
"That won't do! Stand still, please! I'll try a little to the right."
He tried in one or two directions; but wherever he went he sank over his
boots. Coming back he informed his companion that they would better go
"I know there's no bog worth speaking of--the Hause is a regular
He stopped and stripped off his jacket.
"First of all, you must put this on; I'm sorry I didn't think of
Evelyn demurred, and Vane rolled up the jacket.
"You have to choose between doing what I ask and watching me pitch
it into the beck. I'm a rather determined person. It would be a
pity to throw the thing away, particularly as the rain hasn't got
through it yet."
She yielded, and he held the jacket while she put it on.
"There's another thing," he added. "I'm going to carry you for the next
hundred yards, or possibly farther."
"No," replied Evelyn firmly. "On that point, my determination is as
strong as yours."
Vane made a sign of acquiescence.
"You may have your way for a minute; I expect that will be long enough."
He was correct. Evelyn moved forward a pace or two, and then stopped with
the skirt she had gathered up brushing the quivering emerald moss, and
her boots, which were high ones, hidden in the mire. She had some
difficulty in pulling them out. Then Vane coolly picked her up.
"All you have to do is to keep still for the next few minutes," he
informed her in a most matter-of-fact voice.
Evelyn did not move, though she recognized that had he shown any sign of
self-conscious hesitation she would at once have shaken herself loose. As
it was, the fact that he appeared perfectly at ease and unaware that he
was doing anything unusual was reassuring. Then as he plodded forward she
wondered at his steadiness, for she remembered that when she had once
fallen heavily when nailing up a clematis her father, who was a vigorous
man, had found it difficult to carry her upstairs. Vane had never carried
any woman in his arms before, but he had occasionally had to pack--as it
is termed in the West--hundred-and-forty-pound flour bags over a rocky
portage, and, though the comparison did not strike him as a happy one, he
thought the girl was not quite so heavy as that. He was conscious of a
curious thrill and a certain stirring of his blood, but this, he decided,
must be sternly ignored. His task was not an easy one, and he stumbled
once or twice, but he accomplished it and set the girl down safely on
"Now," he said, "there's only the drop to the dale, but we must endeavor
to keep out of the beck."
His voice and air were unembarrassed, though he was breathless, and
Evelyn fancied that in this and the incident of the jacket he had at last
revealed the forceful, natural manners of the West. It was the first
glimpse she had had of them, and she was not displeased. The man had
merely done what was most advisable, with practical sense.
A little farther on, a shoot of falling water swept out of the mist above
and came splashing down a crag, spread out in frothing threads. It flowed
across their path, reunited in a deep gully, and then fell tumultuously
into the beck, which was now ten or twelve feet below them. They clung to
the rock as they traced it downward, stepping cautiously from ledge to
ledge and from slippery stone to stone. At times a stone plunged into the
mist beneath them, and Vane grasped the girl's arm and held out a
steadying hand, but he was never fussy nor needlessly concerned. When she
wanted help, it was offered at the right moment; but that was all. Had
she been alarmed, her companion's manner would have been more comforting
than persistent solicitude. He was, she decided, one who could be relied
upon in an emergency.
"You are sure-footed," she remarked, when they stopped a minute or two
Vane laughed as he glanced into the vapor-rilled depths beneath. They
stood on a ledge, two or three yards in width, with a tall crag behind
them and the beck, which had rapidly grown larger, leaping half seen from
rock to rock in the rift in front.
"I was born among these fells; and I have helped to pack various kinds of
mining truck over much rougher mountains."
"Have you ever gone up as steep a place as this with a load?"
"If I remember rightly, the top of the Hause drops about three hundred
feet, and we'll probably spend half an hour in reaching the valley. There
was one western divide that it took us several days to cross, dragging a
tent, camp gear and provisions in relays. Its foot was wrapped in tangled
brush that tore most of our clothes to rags, and the last pitch was two
thousand feet of rock where the snow lay waist-deep in the hollows."
"Two thousand feet! That dwarfs our little drop to the Hause. What were
you doing so far up in the ranges?"
"Looking for a copper mine."
"And you found one?"
"No; not that time. As a rule, the mineral trail leads poor men to
greater poverty, and sometimes to a grave; but once you have set your
feet on it you follow it again. The thing becomes an obsession; you feel
forced to go."
"Even if you bring nothing back?"
"One always brings back something--frost-bite, bruises, a bag of
specimens that assayers and mineral development men smile at. They're
the palpable results, but in most cases you pick up an intangible
"And that is?"
"A thing beyond definition. A germ that lies in wait in the lonely places
and breeds fantasies when it gets into your blood. Anyway, you can never
quite get rid of it."
Evelyn was interested. The man was endowed with a trick of quaint and
almost poetical imagination, which she had not suspected him of
"It conduces to unrest?" she suggested.
"Yes. One feels that there's a rich claim waiting beyond the thick timber
through which one can hardly scramble, across the icy rivers, or over the
"But you found one."
"At last I found it easily. After ranging the wildest solitudes, we
struck it in a sheltered valley near the warm west coast. Curious,
"But didn't that banish the unrest and leave you satisfied?"
The man looked at her with a flicker of grim amusement in his eyes.
"As I explained, it can't be banished. There's always a richer claim
somewhere that you haven't found. Our prospectors dream of it as the
Mother Lode, and some spend half their lives in search of it; it was
called El Dorado three hundred years ago. After all, the idea's a
deeper thing than a miner's fantasy: in one shape or another it's
inherent in optimistic human nature. Are you sure the microbe hasn't
bitten you and Mopsy?"
He was too shrewd. Turning from him, she looked down at the eddying mist.
For several years she had chafed at her surroundings and the restraints
they laid upon her, with a restless longing for something wider and
better: a freer, sunnier atmosphere where her nature could expand. At
times she fancied there was only one sun which could warm it to a perfect
growth, but that sun had not risen and scarcely seemed likely to do so.
Vane broke the silence deprecatingly.
"Now that you're rested, we'd better get on. I'm sorry I've kept
you so long."
Though caution was still necessary, the rest of the descent was easier,
and after a while they reached a winding dale. They followed it
downward, splashing through water part of the time, and at length came
into sight of a cluster of little houses standing between a river and a
big fir wood.
"It must be getting on toward evening. Mopsy and Carroll probably went
down the ridge, and as it runs out lower down the valley, they'll be
almost at home."
"It's six o'clock," replied Vane, glancing at his watch. "You can't walk
home in the rain, and it's a long while since lunch. If Adam Bell and his
wife are still at the Golden Fleece, we'll get something to eat there and
borrow you some dry clothes. I've no doubt he'll drive us back
Evelyn made no objections. She was very wet and was beginning to feel
weary, and they were some distance from home. She returned his jacket,
and a few minutes later they entered an old hostelry which, like many
others among those hills, was a farm as well as an inn. The landlady
recognized Vane with pleased surprise. When she had attended to Evelyn
she provided Vane with some of her husband's clothes. Then she lighted a
fire; and when she had laid out a meal in the guest-room, Evelyn came in,
attired in a dress of lilac print.
"It's Maggie Bell's," she explained demurely. "Her mother's things were
rather large. Adam is away at a sheep auction, and they have only the
trap he went in; but they expect him back in an hour or so."
"Then we must wait," smiled Vane. "Worse misfortunes have befallen me."
They made an excellent meal, and then Vane drew up a wicker chair to the
fire for Evelyn and sat down opposite her. The room was low and shadowy,
and partly paneled. Against one wall stood a black oak sideboard, with a
plate-rack above it, and a great chest of the same material with
ponderous hand-forged hinge-straps stood opposite it. A clock with an
engraved metal dial and a six-foot case, polished to a wonderful luster
by the hands of several generations, ticked in one corner; and here and
there the firelight flickered upon utensils of burnished copper. There
was little in the place that looked less than a century old, for there
are nooks in the North that have still escaped the ravages of the
collector. Outside, the rain dripped from the massy flagstone eaves, and
the song of the river stole in monotonous cadence into the room.
Evelyn was silent and Vane said nothing for a while. He had been in the
air all day, and though this was nothing new to him he was content to sit
lazily still and leave the opening of conversation to his companion. In
the meanwhile it was pleasant to glance toward her now and then. The
pale-tinted dress became her, and he felt that the room would have looked
less cheerful had she been away; though this by no means comprised the
whole of his sensations. After living almost entirely among men, he had
of late met three women who had impressed him in different ways, and they
had all been pleasant to look upon.
First, there was Kitty Blake, little, graceful and, in a way, alluring;
and it was she who had first roused in him a vague desire for a companion
who could be more to him than a man could be. Beyond that, pretty as she
was, she had only moved him to chivalrous pity and a wider sympathy.
Then he had met Jessy Horsfield, whom he admired. She was a clever woman
and a handsome one, but she had scarcely stirred him at all.
Last, he had met Evelyn, as well endowed with physical charm as either;
and there was no doubt that the effect she had on him was different
again. It was one that was difficult to analyze, though he lazily tried.
She appealed to him by the grace of her carriage, the poise of her head,
her delicate coloring, and the changing lights in her eyes; but behind
these points there was something stronger and deeper expressed through
them. He fancied that she possessed qualities he had not hitherto
encountered, which would become more precious when they were fully
understood. He thought of her as steadfast and wholesome in mind; one who
sought for the best; but beyond this there was an ethereal something that
could not be defined. Then a simile struck him: she was like the snow
that towered high into the empyrean in British Columbia. In this,
however, he was wrong, for there was warm human passion in the girl,
though as yet it was sleeping.
He realized suddenly that he was getting absurdly sentimental, and
instinctively he fumbled for his pipe, then stopped. Evelyn noticed this
"You needn't hesitate. The Dene is redolent of cigars, and Gerald smokes
everywhere when he is at home."
"Is he likely to turn up?" Vane asked. "It's ever so long since I've
"I'm afraid not. In fact, Gerald's rather under a cloud just now. I
may as well tell you this, because you are sure to hear of it sooner
or later. He has been extravagant and, so he assures us,
"Stocks?" suggested Vane. He was acquainted with some of the family
Evelyn hesitated a moment.
"That would more readily have been forgiven him. I believe he has
speculated on the turf as well."
Vane was surprised. He understood that Gerald Chisholm was a barrister,
and betting on the turf was not an amusement he would have associated
with that profession.
"I must run up and see him by and by," he said thoughtfully.
Evelyn felt sorry she had spoken. Gerald needed help, which his father
was not in a position to offer. Evelyn was not censorious of other
people's faults, but it was impossible to be blind to some aspects of her
brother's character, and she would have preferred that Vane should not
meet Gerald while the latter was embarrassed by financial difficulties.
She abruptly changed the subject.
"Several of the things you have told me about your life in Canada
interest me. It must have been bracing to feel that you depended upon
your own efforts and stood on your own feet, free from the hampering
customs that are common here."
"The position has its disadvantages. You have no family influence behind
you--nothing to fall back on. If you can't make good your footing, you
must go down. It's curious that just before I came over here, a lady I
met in Vancouver expressed an opinion very much like yours. She said it
must be pleasant to feel that one is, to some extent at least, master of
"Then she merely explained my meaning more clearly than I have done."
"One could have imagined that she had everything she could reasonably
wish for. If I'm not transgressing, so have you. It's strange you should
both harbor the same idea."
"I don't think it's uncommon among young women nowadays. There's a
grandeur in the thought that one's fate lies in the hands of the high
unseen Powers; but to allow one's life to be molded by the prejudices and
preconceptions of one's--neighbors is a different matter. Besides, if
unrest and human striving were sent, was it only that they should be
Vane sat silent a moment or two. He had noticed the brief pause and
fancied that she had changed one of the words that followed it. He did
not think that it was the opinions of her neighbors against which she
"It's something that I've never experienced," he replied at length. "In a
general way, I've done what I wanted."
"Which is a privilege that is denied us."
Evelyn spoke without bitterness.
"What do women who are left to their own resources do in western Canada?"
she asked presently.
"Some of them marry; I suppose that's the most natural thing," answered
Vane, with an air of reflection that amused her. "Anyway, they have
plenty of opportunities. There's a preponderating number of unattached
young men in the newly opened parts of the Dominion."
"Things are different here; or perhaps we require more than they do
across the Atlantic. What becomes of the others?"
"They are waitresses in the hotels; they learn stenography and
typewriting, and go into offices and stores."
"And earn just enough to live upon meagerly? If their wages are high,
they must pay out more. That follows, doesn't it?"
"To some extent."
"Is there nothing better open to them?"
"No; not unless they're trained for it and become specialized. That
implies peculiar abilities and a systematic education with one end in
view. You can't enter the arena to fight for the higher prizes unless
you're properly armed. The easiest way for a woman to acquire power and
influence is by a judicious marriage. No doubt, it's the same here."
"It is," laughed Evelyn. "A man is more fortunately situated."
"Probably; but if he's poor, he's rather walled in, too. He breaks
through now and then; and in the newer countries he gets an opportunity."
Vane abstractedly examined his pipe, which he had not lighted yet. It was
clear that the girl was dissatisfied with her surroundings, and had for
some reason temporarily relaxed the restraint she generally laid upon
herself; but he felt that, if she were wise, she would force herself to
be content. She was of too fine a fiber to plunge into the struggle that
many women had to wage. Though he did not doubt her courage, she had not
been trained for it. He had noticed that among men it was the cruder and
less developed organizations that proved hardiest in adverse situations;
one needed a strain of primitive vigor. There was, it seemed, only one
means of release for Evelyn, and that was a happy marriage. But a
marriage could not be happy unless the suitor should be all that she
desired; and Evelyn would be fastidious, though her family would, no
doubt, look only for wealth and station. Vane imagined that this was
where the trouble lay, and he felt a protective pity for her. He would
wait and keep his eyes open.
Presently there was a rattle of wheels outside and the landlord came in
and greeted them with rude cordiality. Shortly afterward Vane helped
Evelyn into the rig, and Bell drove them home through the rain.
Bright sunshine streamed down out of a cloudless sky one afternoon
shortly after the ascent of the Pike. Vane stood talking with his sister
upon the terrace in front of the Dene. He leaned against the low wall,
frowning, for Lucy hitherto had avoided a discussion of the subject which
occupied their attention, and now, as he would have said, he could not
make her listen to reason.
She stood in front of him, with the point of her parasol pressed firmly
into the gravel and her lips set, though in her eyes there was a smile
which suggested forbearance. Lucy was tall and spare of figure; a year
younger than her brother; and of somewhat determined and essentially
practical character. She earned her living in a northern manufacturing
town by lecturing on domestic economy, for the public authorities. Vane
understood that she also received a small stipend as secretary to some
women's organization and that she took a part in suffrage propaganda. She
had a thin, forceful face, seldom characterized by repose.
"After all," Vane broke out, "what I'm urging is a very natural thing. I
don't like to think of your being forced to work as you are doing, and
I've tried to show you that it wouldn't cost me any self-denial to make
you an allowance. There's no reason why you should be at the beck and
call of those committees any longer."
Lucy's smile grew plainer.
"I don't think that quite describes my position."
"It's possible," Vane agreed with a trace of dryness. "No doubt, you
insist that the chairman or lady president give way to you; but this
doesn't affect the question. You have to work, anyway."
"But I like it; and it keeps me in some degree of comfort."
The man turned impatiently and glanced about him. The front of the old
gray house was flooded with light, and the mossy sward below the terrace
glowed luminously green. The shadows of the hollies and cypresses were
thin and unsubstantial, but where a beech overarched the grass, Evelyn
and Mrs. Chisholm. attired in light draperies, reclined in basket chairs.
Carroll, in thin gray tweed, stood near them, talking to Mabel, and
Chisholm sat on a bench with a newspaper in his hand. He looked half
asleep, and a languorous stillness pervaded the whole scene. Beyond it,
the tarn shone dazzlingly, and in the distance ranks of rugged fells
towered, dim and faintly blue. All that the eye rested on spoke of an
"Wouldn't you like this kind of thing, as well?" Vane asked. "Of course,
I mean what it implies--the power to take life easy and get as much
enjoyment as possible out of it. It wouldn't be difficult, if you'd only
take what I'd be glad to give you." He indicated the languid figures in
the foreground. "You could, for instance, spend your time among people of
this sort. After all, it's what you were meant to do."
"Would that appeal to you?"
"Oh, I like it in the meantime," he evaded.
"Well," Lucy returned curtly, "I believe I'm more at home with the other
kind of people--those in poverty, squalor and ignorance. I've an idea
that they have a stronger claim on me; but that's not a point I can urge.
The fact is, I've chosen my career, and there are practical reasons why I
shouldn't abandon it. I had a good deal of trouble in getting a footing,
and if I fell out now, it would be harder still to take my place in the
"But you wouldn't require to do so."
"I can't be sure. I don't want to hurt you; but, after all, your success
was sudden, and one understands that it isn't wise to depend on an income
derived from mining properties."
"None of you ever did believe in me!"
"I suppose there's some truth in that. You really did give us trouble,
you know. Somehow, you were different--you wouldn't fit in; though I
believe the same thing applied to me, for that matter."
"And now you don't expect my prosperity to last?"
The girl hesitated, but she was candid by nature.
"Perhaps I'd better answer. You have it in you to work determinedly and,
when it's necessary, to do things that men with less courage would shrink
from; but I'm doubtful whether yours is the temperament that leads to
success. You haven't the huckster's instincts; you're not cold-blooded
enough; you wouldn't cajole your friends nor truckle to your enemies."
"If I adopted the latter course, it would certainly be against the
grain," Vane confessed.
"Well, I mean to go on earning my living; but you may take me up to
London for a few days, if you want to, and buy me some hats and things.
Then I don't mind your giving something to the Emancipation Society."
"I am not sure that I believe in emancipation; but you may have
Lucy glanced around toward Carroll, who was approaching them with Mabel.
"I'll give you a piece of advice," she added. "Stick to that man. He's
cooler and less headstrong than you are; he'll prove a useful friend."
"What are you two talking about?" asked Carroll. "You look animated."
"Wallace has just promised me ten guineas to assist the movement for the
emancipation of women." Lucy answered pointedly. "Our society's efforts
are sadly restricted by the lack of funds."
"Vane is now and then a little inconsequential in his generosity,"
Carroll rejoined. "I didn't know he was interested in that kind of thing;
but as I don't like to be outdone by my partner, I'll subscribe the same.
By the way, why do you people reckon these things in guineas?"
"Thanks," smiled Lucy, making an entry in a notebook in a businesslike
manner. "As you said it was a subscription, you'll hear from us next
year. In answer to your question, it's an ancient custom, and it has the
advantage that you get in the extra shillings."
They strolled along the terrace together, and as they went down the steps
to the lawn Carroll turned to her with a smile.
"Have you tackled Chisholm yet?"
"I never waste powder and shot," Lucy replied tersely. "A man of his
restricted views would sooner subscribe handsomely to a movement to
put us down."
"Are you regretting the ten guineas, Vane?" Carroll questioned
laughingly. "You don't look pleased."
"The fact is, I wanted to do something that wasn't allowed. I've met with
the same disillusionment here as I did in British Columbia."
Lucy looked up at her brother.
"Did you attempt to give somebody money there?"
"I did. It's not worth discussing; and, anyway, she wouldn't
listen to me."
They strolled on, Vane frowning, while Carroll, noticing signs of
suppressed interest in Lucy's face, smiled unobserved. Neither he nor the
others thought of Mabel, who was following them.
Some time after they joined the others, Carroll lay back in a deep chair,
with his half-closed eyes turned in Lucy's direction.
"Are you asleep, or thinking hard?" Mrs. Chisholm asked him.
"Not more than half asleep," he laughed. "I was trying to remember _A
Dream of Fair Women_. It's a suitable occupation for a drowsy summer
afternoon in a place like this, but I must confess that it was Miss Vane
who put it into my head. She reminded me of one or two of the heroines
when she was championing the cause of the suffragist."
"You mustn't imagine that Englishwomen in general sympathize with her,
or that such ideas are popular at the Dene."
Carroll smiled reassuringly.
"I shouldn't have imagined the latter for a moment. But, as I said, on an
afternoon of this kind one may be excused for indulging in romantic
fancies. Don't you see what brought those old-time heroines into my mind?
I mean the elusive resemblance to their latter-day prototype?"
Mrs. Chisholm looked puzzled.
"No," she declared. "One of them was Greek, another early English, and
the finest of all was the Hebrew maid. As they couldn't have been like
one another, how could they, collectively, have borne a resemblance to
"That's logical, on the surface. To digress, why do you most admire
Jephthah's daughter, the gentle Gileadite?"
His hostess affected surprise.
"Isn't it evident, when one remembers her patient sacrifice; her fine
sense of family honor?"
Carroll felt that this was much the kind of sentiment one could have
expected from her; and he did her the justice to believe that it was
genuine and that she was capable of living up to her convictions. His
glance rested on Vane for a moment, and the latter was startled as he
guessed Carroll's thought.
Evelyn sat near him, reclining languidly in a wicker chair. She had been
silent, and now that her face was in repose the signs of reserve and
repression were plainer than ever. There was, however, pride in it, and
Vane felt that she was endowed with a keener and finer sense of family
honor than her thin-lipped mother. Her brother's career was threatened
by the results of his own imprudence, and though her father could hardly
be compared with the Gileadite warrior, there was, Vane fancied, a
disturbing similarity between the two cases. It was unpleasant to
contemplate the possibility of this girl's being called upon to bear the
cost of her relatives' misfortunes or follies.
Carroll looked across at Lucy with a smile.
"You won't agree with Mrs. Chisholm?" he suggested.
"No," answered Lucy firmly. "Leaving out the instance in question, there
are too many people who transgress and then expect somebody else--a
woman, generally--to serve as a sacrifice."
"I don't agree, either," Mabel broke in. "I'd sooner have been Cleopatra,
or Joan of Arc--only she was burned, poor thing."
"That was only what she might have expected. An unpleasant fate
generally overtakes people who go about disturbing things," Mrs.
Chisholm said severely.
The speech was characteristic, and the others smiled. It would have
astonished them had Mrs. Chisholm sympathized with the rebel idealist
whose beckoning visions led to the clash of arms.
"Aren't you getting off the track," Vane asked Carroll. "I don't see the
drift of your previous remarks."
"Well," drawled Carroll, "there must be, I think, a certain distinctive
stamp upon those who belong to the leader type--I mean the people who are
capable of doing striking and heroic things. Apart from this, I've been
studying you English--I've been over here before--and it has struck me
that there's occasionally something imperious, or rather imperial, in
the faces of your women in the most northern counties. I can't define the
thing, but it's there--in the line of nose, in the mouth, and, I think,
most marked in the brows. It's not Saxon, nor Norse, nor Danish; I'd
sooner call it Roman."
Vane was slightly astonished. He had seen that look in Evelyn's face, and
now, for the first time, he recognized it in his sister's.
"Perhaps you have hit it," he said with a laugh. "You can reach the Wall
from here in a day's ride."
"The Roman Wall; Hadrian's Wall. I believe one authority states that they
had a garrison of one hundred thousand men to keep it."
Chisholm joined the group. He was a tall, rather florid-faced man, with a
formal manner, and was dressed immaculately in creaseless clothes.
"The point Wallace raises is interesting," he remarked. "While I don't
know how long it takes for a strain to die out, there must have been a
large civil population living near the Wall, and we know that the
characteristics of the Teutonic peoples who followed the Romans still
remain. On the other hand, some of the followers were vexillaries, from
the bounds of the Empire; Gauls, for example, or Iberians."
When, later on, the group broke up, Evelyn was left alone for a few
minutes with Mabel.
"Gerald should have been sent to Canada instead of to Oxford," the
younger girl declared. "Then he might have got as rich as Wallace Vane
and Mr. Carroll."
"What makes you think they're rich?" Evelyn asked with reproof in her
"Oh, we all knew they were rich before they came. They were giving Lucy
guineas for the suffragists an hour ago. They must have a good deal of
money to waste it like that. Besides, I think Wallace wanted her to take
some more; and he seemed quite vexed when he said he'd tried to give
money to somebody else in Canada who wouldn't have it. As he said 'she,'
it must have been a woman, but I don't think he meant to mention that. It
"You had no right to listen," Evelyn retorted severely; but the
information sank into her mind, and she afterward remembered it.
She rose when the sunshine, creeping farther across the grass, fell upon
her, and Vane carried her chair, as well as those of the others, who were
strolling back toward them, into the shadow. This she thought was typical
of the man. He seemed happiest when he was doing something. By and by a
chance remark of her mother's once more set Carroll to discoursing
"After all," he contended, "it's difficult to obey a purely arbitrary
rule of conduct. Several of the philosophers seem to have decided that
the origin of virtue is utility."
"Utility?" Chisholm queried.
"Yes; utility to one's neighbors or the community at large. For
instance, I desire an apple growing on somebody else's tree--one of the
big red apples that hang over the roadside in Ontario. Now the longing
for the fruit is natural, and innocent in itself; the trouble is that
if it were indulged in and gratified by every person who passed along
the road, the farmer would abandon the cultivation of his orchard. He
would neither plant nor prune his trees, except for the expectation of
enjoying what they yield. The offense, accordingly, concerns everybody
who enjoys apples."
Mrs. Chisholm smiled assent.
"I believe that idea is the basis of our minor social and domestic
codes. Even when they're illogical in particular cases, they're
necessary in general."
Evelyn looked across at Vane, as if to invite his opinion, and he knit
"I don't think Carroll's correct. The traditional view, which, as I
understand it, is that the sense of right is innate, ingrained in man's
nature, seems more reasonable. I'll give you two instances. There was a
man in charge of a little mine. He had had the crudest education, and no
moral training, but he was an excellent miner. Well, he was given a hint
that it was not desirable the mine should turn out much paying ore."
"But why wasn't it required to produce as much as possible?"
"I believe that somebody wanted to break down the value of the shares and
afterward quietly buy them up. Anyway, though he knew it would result in
his dismissal, the man I mentioned drove the boys his hardest. He worked
savagely, taking risks he could have avoided by spending a little more
time in precautions, in a badly timbered tunnel. He didn't reason--he was
hardly capable of it--but he got the most out of the mine."
"It was fine of him!" Evelyn exclaimed.
"The engineer of a collier figures in the next case." Vane went on. "The
engines were clumsy and badly finished, but the man spent his care and
labor on them until I think he loved them. His only trouble was that he
was sent to sea with second-rate oils and stores. After a while they grew
so bad that he could hardly use them; and he had reasons for believing
that a person who could dismiss or promote him was getting a big
commission on the goods. He was a plain, unreasoning man; but he would
not cripple his engines; and at last he condemned the stores and made the
skipper purchase supplies he could use, at double the usual prices, in a
foreign port. There could be only one result; he was driving a pump in a
mine when I last met him."
He paused, and added quietly:
"It wasn't logic, it wasn't even conventional morality, that impelled
these men. It was something that was part of them. What's more, men of
their type are more common than the cynics believe."
Carroll smiled good-humoredly; and when the party sauntered toward the
house, he walked beside Evelyn.
"There's one point that Wallace omitted to mention in connection with his
tales," he remarked. "The things he narrated are precisely those which,
on being given the opportunity, he would have pleasure in doing himself."
"Why pleasure? I could understand his doing them, but I'd expect him to
feel some reluctance."
Carroll's eyes twinkled.
"He gets indignant now and then. Virtuous people are generally content to
resist temptation, but Wallace is apt to attack the tempter. I dare say
it isn't wise, but that's the kind of man he is."
"Ah! One couldn't find fault with the type. But I wonder why you have
taken the trouble to tell me this?"
"Really, I don't know. Somehow, I have an impression that I ought to say
what I can in Wallace's favor, if only because he brought me here, and I
feel like talking when I can get a sympathetic listener."
"I shouldn't have imagined the latter was indispensable," laughed Evelyn.
"Is this visit all you owe Wallace?"
"No, indeed. In many ways, I owe him a good deal more. He has no idea of
this, but it doesn't lessen my obligation. By the way, it struck me that
in many respects Miss Vane is rather like her brother."
"Lucy is opinionative, and now and then embarrassingly candid, but she
leads a life that most of us would shrink from. It isn't necessary that
she should do so--family friends would have arranged things
differently--and the tasks she's paid for are less than half her labors.
I believe she generally gets abuse as a reward for the rest."
Then Mabel joined them and took possession of Carroll, and Evelyn
strolled on alone, thinking of what he had told her.
CHISHOLM PROVES AMENABLE
Vane spent a month at the Dene, with quiet satisfaction, and when at last
he left for London and Paris he gladly promised to come back for another
few weeks before he sailed for Canada. He stayed some time in Paris,
because Carroll insisted on it, but it was with eagerness that he went
north again late in the autumn. For one reason--and he laid some stress
upon this--he longed for the moorland air and the rugged fells, though he
admitted that Evelyn's society enhanced their charm for him.
At last, shortly before he set out on the journey, he took himself to
task and endeavored to determine precisely the nature of his feelings
toward her; but he signally failed to elucidate the point. It was clear
only that he was more contented in her presence, and that, apart from her
physical comeliness, she had a stimulating effect upon his mental
faculties. Then he wondered how she regarded him; and to this question he
could find no answer. She had treated him with a quiet friendliness, and
had to some extent taken him into her confidence. For the most part,
however, there was a reserve about her that he found more piquant than
deterrent, and he was conscious that, while willing to talk with him
freely, she was still holding him off at arm's length.
On the whole, he could not be absolutely sure that he desired to get
much nearer. Though he failed to recognize this clearly, his attitude
was largely one of respectful admiration, tinged with a vein of
compassion. Evelyn was unhappy, and out of harmony with her relatives;
and he could understand this more readily because their ideas
occasionally jarred on him.
One morning, about a fortnight after they returned to the Dene, Vane
and Carroll walked out of the hamlet where the wheelwright's shop
was. Sitting down on the wall of a bridge, Vane opened the telegram
in his hand.
"I think you have Nairn's code in your wallet," he said. "We'll decipher
Carroll laid the message on a smooth stone and set to work with a pencil.
"_Situation highly satisfactory_."
He broke off, to chuckle a comment.
"It must be, if Nairn paid for an extra word--highly's not in the code."
Then he went on with the deciphering:
"_Result of reduction exceeds anticipations. Stock thirty premium. Your
presence not immediately required_."
"That's distinctly encouraging," declared Vane. "Now that they are
getting farther in, the ore must be carrying more silver."
"It strikes me as fortunate. I ran through the bank account last night,
and there's no doubt that you have spent a good deal of money. It
confirms my opinion that you have mighty expensive friends."
Vane frowned, but Carroll continued undeterred.
"You want pulling up, after the way you have been indulging in a reckless
extravagance which, I feel compelled to point out, is new to you. The
check drawn in favor of Gerald Chisholm rather astonished me. Have you
said anything about it to his relatives?"
"Then, judging by the little I saw of him, I should consider it most
unlikely that he has made any allusion to the matter. The next check was
even more surprising--I mean the one you gave his father."
"They were both loans. Chisholm offered me security."
"Unsalable stock, or a mortgage on property that carries another charge!
Have you any idea of getting the money back?"
"What has that to do with you?"
Carroll spread out his hands.
"Only this: It strikes me that you need looking after. We can't stay here
indefinitely. Hadn't you better get back to Vancouver before your English
friends ruin you?"
"I'll go in three or four weeks; not before."
Carroll sat silent a minute or two, and then looked his companion
squarely in the face.
"Is it your intention to marry Evelyn Chisholm?"
"I don't know what has put that into your mind."
"I should be a good deal astonished if it hadn't suggested itself to her
family," Carroll retorted.
Vane looked thoughtful.
"I'm far from sure that it's an idea they would entertain with any great
favor. For one thing, I can't live here."
"Try them, and see. Show them Nairn's telegram when you mention
Vane swung himself down from the wall. During the past two weeks he had
seen a good deal of Evelyn, and his regard for her had rapidly grown
stronger. Now that news that his affairs were prospering had reached him,
he suddenly made up his mind.
"It's very possible that I may do so," he informed his comrade. "We'll
His heart beat a little more rapidly than usual as they turned back
toward the house, but he was perfectly composed when some time later he
sat down beside Chisholm, who was lounging away the morning on the lawn.
"I've been across to the village for a telegram I expected," he said,
handing Chisholm the deciphered message. "It occurred to me that you
might be interested. The news is encouraging."
Chisholm read it with inward satisfaction. When he laid it down he had
determined on the line he meant to follow.
"You're a fortunate man. There's probably no reasonable wish that you
"There are things one can't buy with money," Vane replied.
"That is very true. They're often the most valuable. On the other hand,
some of them may now and then be had for the asking. Besides, when one
has a sanguine temperament and a determination, it's difficult to believe
that anything one sets one's heart on is quite unattainable."
Vane wondered whether he had been given a hint. Chisholm's manner was
suggestive, and Carroll's remarks had had an effect on him. He sat
silent, and Chisholm continued:
"If I were in your place, I should feel that I had all that I could
desire within my reach."
Vane was becoming sure that his comrade had been right. Chisholm would
not have harped on the same idea unless he had intended to convey some
particular meaning; but the man's methods roused Vane's dislike. He could
face opposition, and he would rather have been discouraged than
"Then if I offered myself as a suitor for Evelyn, you would not think me
Chisholm was somewhat astonished at his abruptness, but he smiled
"No; I can't see why I should do so. You are in a position to maintain a
wife in comfort, and I don't think anybody could take exception to your
character." He paused a moment. "I suppose you have some idea of how
Evelyn regards you?"
"Not the faintest. That's the trouble."
"Would you like Mrs. Chisholm or myself to mention the matter?"
"No," answered Vane decidedly. "In fact, I must ask you not to do
anything of the kind. I only wished to make sure of your good will, and
now that I'm satisfied on that point, I'd rather wait and speak--when it
"I dare say that would be wisest. There is nothing to be gained by being
Vane thanked him, and waited. He fancied that the transaction--that
seemed the best name for it--was not completed yet; but he meant to
leave the matter to his companion; he would not help the man.
"There's something that had better be mentioned now, distasteful as it
is," Chisholm said at length. "I can settle nothing upon Evelyn. As you
must have guessed, my affairs are in a far from promising state. Indeed,
I'm afraid I may have to ask your indulgence when the loan falls due; and
I don't mind confessing that the prospect of Evelyn's making what I think
is a suitable marriage is a relief to me."
Vane's feelings were somewhat mixed, but contempt figured prominently
among them. He could find no fault with Chisholm's desire to safeguard
his daughter's future, but he was convinced that the man looked for more
than this. He felt that he had been favored with a delicate hint to which
his companion expected an answer. He was sorry for Evelyn, and was
ashamed of the position he was forced to take.
"Well," he replied curtly, "you need not be concerned about the loan; I'm
not likely to prove a pressing creditor. To go a little farther, I should
naturally take an interest in the welfare of my wife's relatives. I don't
think I can say anything more in the meanwhile."
When he saw Chisholm's smile, he felt that he might have spoken more
plainly without offense; but the elder man looked satisfied.
"Those are the views I expected you to hold," he declared. "I believe
that Mrs. Chisholm will share my gratification if you find Evelyn
disposed to listen to you."
Vane left him shortly afterward with a sense of shame. He felt that he
had bought the girl, and that, if she ever heard of it, she would find it
hard to forgive him for the course he had taken. When he met Carroll he
"I've had a talk with Chisholm," he said. "It has upset my temper--I feel
mean! There's no doubt that you were right."
Carroll's smile showed that he could guess what was in his
"I shouldn't worry too much about the thing. The girl probably
understands the situation. It's not altogether pleasant, but I dare say
she's more or less resigned to it. She can't help herself."
Vane gazed at him with anger.
"Does that make it any better? Is it any comfort to me?"
"Take her out of it. If she has any liking for you, she'll thank you for
Vane strode away, and nobody saw him again for an hour or two. In the
afternoon, however, at Mrs. Chisholm's suggestion, he and Carroll set out
with the girls for a hill beyond the tarn.
It was a perfect day of late autumn. A pale golden haze softened the
rugged outlines of crag and fell, which towered in purple masses against
a sky of stainless azure. Warm sunshine flooded the valley, glowing on
the gold and crimson that flecked the lower beech sprays and turning the
leaves of the brambles to points of ruby flame. Here and there white
limestone ridges flung back the light, and the tarn gleamed like molten
silver when a faint puff of wind traced a dark blue smear athwart its
surface. The winding road was thick with dust, and a deep stillness
brooded over everything.
By and by, however, a couple of whip-cracks rose from beyond a dip of the
road and were followed by a shout in a woman's voice and a sharp clatter
of iron on stone.
"Oh!" cried Mabel, when they reached the brow of the descent, "the poor
thing can't get up! What a shame to give it such a load!"
The road fell sharply between ragged hedgerows, and near the foot of the
hill a pony was struggling vainly to move a cart. The vehicle was heavily
loaded, and while the animal strained and floundered, a woman struck it
with a whip.
"Its Mrs. Hoggarth; her husband's the carrier," Mabel explained. "Come
on! We must stop her! She mustn't beat the pony like that!"
Vane strode down the hill, and when they approached the cart Mabel called
indignantly to the woman.
"Stop! You oughtn't to do that! The load's too heavy! Where's Hoggarth?"
Vane seized one rein close up to the bit and turned the pony until
the cart was across the road. When he had done so, the woman looked
around at Mabel.
"Wheel went over his foot last night. He canna get on his boot. I'm none
fond of beating pony, but bank's steep and we mun gan up. The folks mun
have their things."
Vane glanced at the pony, which stood with lowered head and heaving
flank. It was evident that the animal could do no more.
"There's only one way out of the trouble," he said. "We must pack some of
this truck to the top. What's in those bags?"
"One's oats," answered the woman. "It's four bushel. Other one's linseed
cake. Those slates for Bell's new stable are the heaviest."
Carroll came up with Evelyn just then, and Vane spoke to him.
"Come here and help me with this bag!"
They had it ready at the back of the cart in a few moments, and Evelyn,
who knew that a four-bushel bag of oats is difficult to move, was
astonished at the ease with which they handled it. Vane got the bag upon
his back and walked up the hill with it. The veins stood out on his
forehead and his face grew red, but he plodded steadily on and came back
for another load.
"I'll take an armful of the slates this time, Carroll. You can tackle
The cake was heavy, though the bag was not full, and when they returned,
Carroll was breathing hard and there were smears of blood on one of
Vane's hands. The old woman gazed at him in amazed admiration.
"Thank you, sir," she said. "There's not many men wad carry four bushel
up a bank like that."
"I'm used to it. Now I think that we can face the hill."
He seized the rein, and after a flounder or two the pony started the load
and struggled up the ascent. Leaving the woman at the top, voluble with
thanks, Vane came down and sauntered on again with Mabel.
"I made sure you would drop that bag until I saw how you got hold of it,
and then I knew you would manage," she informed him. "You see, I've
watched the men at Scarside mill. I didn't want you to drop it."
"I wonder why?" laughed Vane.
"If you do, you must be stupid. We're friends, aren't we? I like my
friends to be able to do anything that other folks can. That's partly why
I took to you."
Vane made her a ceremonious bow and they went on, chatting lightly. When
they came to a sweep of climbing moor, they changed companions, for Mabel
led Carroll off in search of plants and ferns. Farther on, Evelyn sat
down upon a heathy bank, and Vane found a place on a stone beside a
"It's pleasant here, and I like the sun," she explained. "Besides, it's
still a good way to the top, and I generally feel discontented when I get
there. There are other peaks much higher--one wants to go on."
Vane smiled in comprehension.
"Yes," he agreed. "On and always on! It's the feeling that drives the
prospector. We seem to have the same thoughts on a good many points."
Evelyn did not answer this.
"I was glad you got that cart up the hill. What made you think of it?"
"The pony was played out, though it was a plucky beast. I suppose I felt
sorry for it. I've been driven hard myself."
The girl's eyes softened. She had seen him use his strength, though it
was, she imagined, the strength of determined will and disciplined body
rather than bulk of muscle, for the man was hard and lean. The strength
also was associated with a gentleness and a sympathy with the lower
creation that appealed to her.
"How hard were you driven?" she asked.
"Sometimes, until I could scarcely crawl back to my tent or the
sleeping-shack at night. Out yonder, construction bosses and contractors'
foremen are skilled in getting the utmost value of every dollar out of a
man. I've had my hands worn to raw wounds and half my knuckles bruised
until it was almost impossible to bend them."
"Were you compelled to work like that?"
"I thought so. It seemed to be the custom of the country; one had to get
used to it."
Evelyn hesitated a moment; though she was interested.
"But was there nothing easier? Had you no money?"
"Very little, as a rule; and what I had I tried to keep. It was to give
me a start in life. It was hard to resist the temptation to use some of
it now and then, but I held out." He laughed grimly. "After all, I
suppose it was excellent discipline."
The girl made a sign of comprehending sympathy. There was a romance in
the man's career which had its effect on her, and she could recognize the
strength of will which had held him to the laborious tasks he might have
shirked while the money lasted. Then a stain on the sleeve of his jacket
caught her eye.
"You have hurt your hand!" she exclaimed.
Vane glanced down at his hand, which was reddened all over.
"It looks like it; those slates must have cut it."
"Hadn't you better wash it and tie it up? It seems a nasty cut."
He dipped his hand into the rill, and was fumbling awkwardly with his
handkerchief when she stopped him.
"That won't do! Let me fix it for you."
Rolling up her own handkerchief, she wet it and laid it on his palm,
across which a red gash ran. He had moved close to her, stooping down,
and a disturbing thrill ran through him as she held his hand. Once more,
however, he was troubled by a sense of compunction as he recalled his
interview with Chisholm.
"Thank you," he said abruptly when she finished.
There were signs of tension in his face, and she drew a little away from
him when he sat down again. For a few moments he struggled with himself.
They were alone; he had her father's consent; and he knew that what he
had done half an hour ago had appealed to her. But he felt that he could
not plead his cause just then. With her parents on his side, she was at a
disadvantage; and he shrank from the thought that she might be forced
upon him against her will. This was not what he desired; and she might
hate him for it afterward. She was very alluring, there had been signs of
an unusual gentleness in her manner, and the light touch of her cool
fingers had stirred his blood; but he wanted time to win her favor, aided
only by such gifts as he had been endowed with. It cost him a determined
effort, but he made up his mind to wait; and it was a relief to him when
the approach of Mabel and Carroll rendered any confidential conversation
out of the question.
WITH THE OTTER HOUNDS
A week or two had slipped away since Vane cut his hand. He lounged one
morning upon the terrace, chatting with Carroll. It was a heavy, black
morning; the hills were hidden by wrappings of leaden mist, and the still
air was charged with moisture.
Suddenly a long, faint howl came up the valley and was answered by
another in a deeper note. Then a confused swelling clamor broke out,
softened by the distance, and slightly resembling the sound of chiming
bells. Carroll stopped and listened.
"What in the name of wonder is that?" he asked. "The first of it reminded
me of a coyote howling, but the rest's more like the noise the timber
wolves make in the bush at night."
"You haven't made a bad shot," Vane laughed. "It's a pack of otter hounds
hot upon the scent."
The sound ceased as suddenly as it had begun; and a few moments later
Mabel came running toward the men.
"I knew the hounds met at Patten Brig, but Jim was sure they'd go
down-stream!" she cried breathlessly. "They're coming up! I think they're
at the pool below the village! Get two poles--you'll find some in the
tool-shed--and come along at once!"
She climbed into the house through a window, calling for Evelyn, and
"We have our orders. I suppose we'd better go."
"It's one of the popular sports up here," Vane replied. "You may as
well see it."
They set out a few minutes later, accompanied by Evelyn, while Mabel
hurried on in front and reproached them for their tardiness. Sometimes
they heard the hounds, sometimes a hoarse shouting that traveled far
through the still air, and then sometimes there was only the tremulous
song of running water. At length, after crossing several wet fields, they
came to a rushy meadow on the edge of the river, which spread out into a
wide pool, fringed with alders which had not yet lost their leaves and
the barer withes of osiers. There was a swift stream at the head of it,
and a long rippling shallow at the tail; and scattered along the bank and
in the water was a curiously mixed company.
A red-coated man with whip and horn stood in the tail outflow, and three
or four more with poles in their hands were spread out across the stream
behind him. These, and one or two in the head stream, appeared by their
dress to belong to the hunt; but the rest, among whom were a few women,
were attired in every-day garments and were of different walks in life:
artisans, laborers, people of leisure, and a late tourist or two.
Three or four big hounds were swimming aimlessly up and down the pool; a
dozen more trotted to and fro along the water's edge, stopping to sniff
and give tongue in an uncertain manner now and then; but there was no
sign of an otter.
Carroll looked round with a smile when his companions stopped.
"It strikes me there'll be very little work done in this neighborhood
to-day," he remarked. "I'd no idea there were so many people in the
valley with time to spare. The only thing that's missing is the beast
"An otter is an almost invisible creature," Evelyn explained. "You very
seldom see one, unless it's hard pressed by the dogs. There are a good
many in the river, but even the trout fishers, who are about at sunrise
in the hot weather and wade in the dusk, rarely come across them. Are you
going to take a share in the hunt?"
"No," replied Carroll, glancing humorously at his pole. "I don't know
why I brought this thing, unless it was because Mopsy sent me for it.
I'd rather stay and watch with you. Splashing through a river after a
little beast that I don't suppose they'd let an outsider kill doesn't
interest me. I don't see why I should want to kill it, anyway. Some of
you English people have sporting ideas I can't understand. I struck a
young man the other day--a well-educated man by the looks of him--who
was spending the afternoon happily with a ferret by a corn stack,
killing rats with a club. He seemed uncommonly pleased with himself
because he'd got four of them."
"Oh," chided Mabel, "you're as bad as the silly people who call killing
things cruel! I wouldn't have thought it of you!"
"I've seen him drop a deer with a single-shot rifle when it was going
through thick brush almost as fast as a locomotive; and I believe that he
once assisted in killing a panther in a thicket where you couldn't see
two yards ahead. The point is that he meant to eat the deer--and the
panther had been taking a rancher's hogs."
"I'm sorry I brought him," Mabel pouted. "He's not a sportsman."
"I really think there's some excuse for the more vigorous sports," Evelyn
maintained. "Of course, you can't eliminate a certain amount of cruelty;
but, admitting that, isn't it just as well that men who live in a
luxurious civilization should be willing to plod through miles of heather
after grouse, risk their limbs on horseback, or spend hours in cold
water? These are bracing things; they imply some moral discipline. It
really can't be nice to ride at a dangerous fence, or to flounder down a
rapid after an otter when you're stiff with cold. The effort to do so
must be wholesome."
"A sure thing," Carroll agreed. "The only trouble is that when you've got
your fox or otter, it isn't worth anything. A good many of the people in
the newer lands, every day, have to make something of the kind of effort
you describe. In their case, the results are wagon trails, valleys
cleared for orchards, or new branch railroads. I suppose it's a matter of
opinion, but if I'd put in a season's risky work, I'd rather have a piece
of land to grow fruit on or a share in a mineral claim--you get plenty of
excitement in prospecting for that--than a fox's tail."
He strolled along the bank with Evelyn, following the hunt up-stream.
Suddenly he looked around.
"Mopsy's gone; and I don't see Vane."
"After all, he's one of us," Evelyn laughed. "If you're born in the
North Country, it's hard to keep out of the river when you hear the
"But Mopsy's not going in!"
"I'm afraid I can't answer for her."
They took up their station behind a growth of alders, and for a while
the dogs went trotting by in twos and threes or swam about the pool,
but nothing else broke the surface of the leaden-colored water. Then
there was a cry, an outbreak of shouting, a confused baying, and half a
dozen hounds dashed past. More followed, heading up-stream along the
bank, with a tiny brown terrier panting behind them. Evelyn stretched
out her hand.
Carroll saw a small gray spot--the top of the otter's head--moving across
the slacker part of the pool, with a very slight, wedge-shaped ripple
trailing away from it. It sank the next moment; a bubble or two rose; and
then there was nothing but the smooth flow of water.
A horn called shrilly; a few whip-cracks rang out like pistol-shots; and
the dogs took the water, swimming slowly here and there. Men scrambled
along the bank. Some, entering the river, reinforced the line spread out
across the head rapid while others joined the second row wading steadily
up-stream and splashing about as they advanced with iron-tipped poles.
Nothing rewarded their efforts. The dogs suddenly turned and went
down-stream; and then everybody ran or waded toward the tail outflow. A
clamor of shouting and baying broke out; and floundering men and swimming
dogs went down the stream together in a confused mass. There was a brief
silence. The hounds came out and trotted to and fro along the bank; and
dripping men clambered after them.
Evelyn laughed as she pointed to Vane among the leading group. He looked
even wetter than the others.
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