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Alton of somasco


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Title:AltonofSomasco
Author:HaroldBindloss
ReleaseDate:December5,2004[EBook#14261]
Language:English
***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKALTONOF
SOMASCO***

ProducedbyAlHaines


ALTONOFSOMASCO
ARomanceoftheGreatNorthwest
ByHAROLDBINDLOSS

Authorof

"WinstonofthePrairie,""TheDustofConflict,""TheCattleBaron'sDaughter,"
"TheYoungTraders,"etc.

WithIllustrations
ByR.MARTINEREAY

A.L.BURTCOMPANY,PUBLISHERS
NEWYORK


COPYRIGHT,1905
BYFREDERICKA.STOKESCOMPANY

ThisEditionIssuedinMarch,1906.


CONTENTS
CHAP.
ITHEFIRSTENCOUNTERIIATTOWNSHEAD'SRANCHIIIHARRYTHETEAMSTERIV
HALLAMOFTHETYEEVTHEHEIROFCARNABYVIMISSDERINGHAMMAKES
FRIENDSVIIALTONBLUNDERSVIIIHALLAM'SCONFEDERATEIXMISSDERINGHAM
FEELSSLIGHTEDXTHEUNDELIVEREDMESSAGEXICONFIDENCEMISPLACEDXIIIN
VANCOUVERXIIITHESOMASCOCONSOLIDATEDXIVTHECOMPACTXVONTHE
TRAILXVICAUSEFORANXIETYXVIIALONEXVIIIINTHEWILDERNESSXIXFOUL
PLAYXXTHENICKEDBULLETXXIOKANAGAN'SROADXXIIMISSDERINGHAM
DECIDESXXIIITHEAWAKENINGXXIVHALLAMTRIESAGAINXXVALTONISSILENT
XXVIWITHOUTCOUNTINGTHECOSTXXVIITHEFORCEOFCALUMNYXXVIIIALTON
FINDSAWAYXXIXTHEPRICEOFDELAYXXXSEAFORTH'SREINSTATEMENTXXXI
"THETHIRDTIME"XXXIIALTONHOLDSHISHANDXXXIIIMISSDERINGHAM'S
CONFESSIONXXXIVTHECONSUMMATION


ALTONOFSOMASCO
CHAPTERI
THEFIRSTENCOUNTER

Itwassnowingslowlyandpersistently,asithaddoneallday,whenHenryAlton
ofSomascoranchstoodstrugglingwithahalf-tamedCayuseponyinaBritish
Columbiansettlement.TheCayusehadlaiditsearsback,andwasdescribinga
circleroundhim,scatteringmudandsnow,whilethemanwhogrippedthebridle


inalean,brownhandwatcheditwithoutimpatience,admiringly.
"Game!"hesaid."Ilikethemthatway.Still,itisn'teverymancouldseizea
packonhim,andyou'llhavetoletupthreedollarsonthepriceyouaskedme."
NowthreedollarsisaconsiderableproportionofthevalueofanIndianpony
freshfromthenortherngrasslands,withthedevilthatlurksinmostofhisrace
stillunsubduedwithinhim,buttherancherwhoownedhimdidnotimmediately
rejecttheoffer.Possiblyhewasnotespeciallyanxioustokeepthebeast.
"Oh,yes,"saidabystander."He'sgameenough,andI'dasktheboystomy
funeralifImeanttodrivehimatnightoverthelaketrail.Afterbeingmost
kickedintowood-pulpCarterhasn'tanymoreuseforhim,andI'lllayyoua
dollar,Alton,youandyourpartnercan'tputthepackonhim."
PerhapstheCayusewastired,ordesirousofwatchingforanopportunity,forit
cametoastandstill,snorting,withitswickedeyesupontheman,wholaugheda
littleandshovedbackthebroadhatfromhisforeheadashestraightenedhimself.
Thelaughrangpleasantly,andthefainttwinkleinAlton'seyeswasinkeeping
withit.Theyweregrey,andsteadywhenthelightsankoutofthem,andtherest
ofthebronzedfacewasshrewdandquietlymasterful.Heworeadeerskinjacket
fancifullyembroidered,bluecanvasoveralls,andgumbootstotheknee,while,


thoughallofthemneededrepair,theattirewaspicturesque,andshowedits
wearer'sleansymmetry.Theman'sagewasapparentlytwenty-five,andeight
years'useoftheaxehadsetastampofspringysupplenessuponhim.Hehad
alsowrestedrathermorethanalivelihoodfromtheCanadianforestduringthem.
Allroundhimtheloghousesroseinalltheirunadorneddinginessbeneaththe
sombrepines,andthelargestofthemboreastragglinglegendannouncingthatit
wasHorton'sstoreandhotel.Amixedcompanyofbushranchers,free
prospectors,axemen,andminersloungedoutsideitinpicturesquedisarray,and
highaboveroseadimwhitelineofnever-meltingsnow.
"Well,"saidAlton,"it'stimethiscircuswasover,anyway,andifCarterwilltake
mybidI'llclinchthatdealwithyou.Havethepackandseizingshandy,
Charley."
Theranchernodded,andAltongotatightergriponthebridle.ThentheCayuse
roseuprightwithfore-hoofslifted,andtheman'sarmwasdrawnbacktostrike.
Thehoofscamedownharmlessly,butthefistgothome,andforamomentor
twotherewasaswayingandplungingofmanandbeastamidstthehurled-up
snow.ThentheCayusewasbornebackwardsuntilthevicinityofthehotel
verandahleftnoroomforkicking,andanothermanhastilyflungaroperound
thebundleshepileduponitsback.Hewasalsotolerablycapable,andinanother
minutethestrugglewasover.TheCayuse'sattitudeexpressedindignant
astonishment,whileAltonstoodupbreathless,withhisknucklesbleeding.
"I'lltroubleyouforthatdollar,andI'llkeephimnow,"hesaid.
"CanyouwaituntilIcomedownnextweek,Carter?"
"Oh,yes,"saidtherancher."Yourpromiseisgoodenoughforayearortwo."
Thespeakerwasasinewybushmanincuriouslypatchedoverallswithabronzed
andhonestface,andheturnedasidewithalittlegestureofdislike,whenaman
ofaverydifferentstamppushedbyhim.Thelatterworeablackfelthatanda
greatfur-linedcoat,whilehisfacewaspaleandfleshyandhiseyeswere
cunning.Hisappearancesuggestedprosperityandalifeofindulgenceinthe
cities,andwhenhestoppedinfrontofAltonthelatterwouldhavelostlittleby
anycomparisonbetweenthepair.Theposeofhissinewyfigureandtheclear
brownnessofhisskinspokeofarduouslabour,soundsleep,andthevigourthat
comesfromahealthfuloccupation.Thesteadydirectnessofhisgazeandquiet


immobilityofhisfacealsoconveyedanindefinitesuggestionofpowerand
endurance,andtherewasacuriousgraceinhismovementswhenheturned
courteouslytowardsthestranger.
"Yousoonfixedhim,packer,"saidthecityman.
Altonlaughed."Theboysmostlycallmerancher,"saidhe."Still,itdon'tcount
formuch,andIdosomepackingoccasionally."
"That'sallright,"saidthestrangersharply,fortherewassomethinginAlton's
answerwhichmadehiminclinedtoasserthisdignity."Everybodyseemstobea
rancherhereaway,andyoumayn'tbetooproudtoputthroughajobforme."
Altonnodded,andglancedatthespeakerquestioningly.
"No.Ifitwouldfitin,"hesaid.
"I'mHallam,"saidtheotherman."HallamandVose,oftheTyeemineralclaim.
They'vebeenfoolingthingsupyonder,bigpump'sgivenout,andI'veafew
hundredpoundsofenginefixingsbackattherailroadIwantbroughtinbytomorrow."
Altonglancedatthepack-beastswaitingunloadedoutsidethestore,andshook
hishead."I'msorryIcan'ttradewithyou,"hesaid."Yousee,I'vepromised
anothermantopackupsomestoresforhim."
Hallammadeagestureofimpatience."Thenyoucanlethimwait,"hesaid.
"Thisdealwillpayyoubetter.Youcanputyourownpriceonit."
Alton'seyelidscamedownalittle,andthestrangerseemedtofindhisglance
disconcerting."Youdon'tseemtounderstand.Ipromisedtheothermantobring
uphisthings,"hesaid.
"Well,"saidHallam,"comealongintotheshantyyonder,andhaveadrinkwith
me.Wemayfixupsomewayofgettingoverthedifficulty."
"Sorry!"saidAltonwithasuspiciousquietness."Idon'tdrinkmuch,anyway,
andthenonlywiththeboyswhoknowme."
"Hey!"saidHallam."YouaretalkinglikeacondemnedEnglishman."


"Ican'thelpthat,"saidAlton."IamaCanadian,butifyouwantanotherreason,
itwouldn'tsuitmetodrinkwithyou,anyway.Yousee,youdidn'tdothesquare
thingwithoneortwofriendsofminewhoworkedontheTyee."
Heturnedonhisheel,andHallam,whowasamanofsomeimportanceinthe
cities,gaspedwithastonishmentandindignation.
"Whatisthatfellow?"hesaid.
Themanlaughed,andansweredhiminthebushman'sslowestdrawl."Youdon't
knowmuch,oryouwouldn'task,"saidhe."He'sAltonofSomasco,butifhe
liveslongenoughhewillbeoneofthebiggestmeninthiscountry."
Hallamsaidnothing,buttherewasacuriouslookinhisfacewhichpuzzledthe
rancher.ItsuggestedthathehadheardofAlton,andsomethingmore.
MeanwhileAltonenteredthestore,wherethemanwhokeptitpointedtoalitter
ofpackagesstrewnaboutthefloorandsundrybagsuponthecounter.
"That'sTownshead'slot,andthoseareThomson'sthings,"hesaid,andturned
asidetolistentoarancherwhocameinsmiling.
AltontookupabigcottonbagmarkedTownshead,tosseditaloftandcaughtit,
andthenshookhisheaddubiously."That'srathertoolightfortenpounds.You
wanttotryheronthescalesagain,"hesaid.
Thestorekeeper,whowasalsoamagistrate,grinnedgood-humouredly."It's
goodenoughforthemoney,anyway,"saidhe."Butwhat'sthematterwiththe
Tyeedollars,Harry,thatyouwouldn'tdoHallam'spacking?"
Altonglancedathimgravely."Ithinknot,"saidhe."Putanotherpoundortwo
intoher,andI'llpayyouonyourinvoiceforthelastlotyousentme.Otherwise
I'mgoingtowhittledownthatbillconsiderably.YouseeTownsheadistooshaky
tocomedown,andhecan'tliveonnothing."
"AndtheLordknowswhenhe'llpayyou,"saidthestorekeeper."It'sagood
twelvemonthssincehesentadollartome."
Altonlaughedalittle."Icanwait,"hesaid."Fillthatbagupagain.Getholdof
thetruck,Charley."


CharlesSeaforth,whowasapparentlyyounger,andcertainlyatriflemore
fastidiousabouthisattirethanhiscomrade,shoulderedaflourbag,andtwenty
minuteslaterheandAltontrampedoutofthesettlementwiththreeloadedbeasts
splashingandflounderinginfrontofthem.Itwasalmostdarknow,thoughaline
ofsnowstillglimmeredwhiteandcoldhighupbeyondthetreesuntilthetrail
plungedintotheblacknessoftheforest.Thenthelightsofthesettlementwere
blottedoutbehindthem,thehumofvoicesceased,andtheywerealoneinthe
primevalsilenceofthebush.Thethudandsplashoftiredhoofsonlyservedto
emphasizeit,thethinjingleofsteelorcreakofpack-ropewasswallowedupand
lost,forthegreatdimforestseemedtomockatanythingmancoulddotodisturb
itspristineserenity.Ithadshroudedallthatvalley,wherenobitinggaleever
blew,fromthebeginning,majesticinitssolitarygrandeurandeternallygreen.
Pineandhemlock,balsamandcedar,hadfollowedinduesuccessionothersthat
hadgrowntothefulnessoftheirstatureonlyincenturies,andtheirhealing
essence,whichbringssoundsleeptoman'sjadedbodyandtranquillitytohis
mind,haddoubtlessrisenlikeincensewhenallwasmadeverygood.
NowAltonlovedthewilderness,partlybecausehehadbeenborninit,and
becausehehadalargeshareofthespiritofhisrace.Hehadalsoseenthecities,
andtheydidnotgreatlypleasehim,thoughhehadwatchedtheirinhabitants
curiouslyandbeentaughtagooddealaboutthembywhathereadinbooks,
whichtothewonderofhisassociateshewouldspendhardly-earneddollars
upon.Itwasmorecuriousthatheunderstoodallheread,andsometimesmore
thanthewriterapparentlydid,forAltonwasnotonlythesonofacleverman,
buthadseenNatureinherprimitivenakednessandthehumanpassionsthat
usuallyliebeneaththesurface,formanrevertsalittleandtheveneerofhis
civilizationwearsthroughinthesilentbush.
Thusheploddedoncontentedlyonhistwelve-milemarch,withthesnowand
themirebeneathitreachingnowandthentohisknee,untilhiscompanion
stoppedbesidealittlebarkshantyandlightedalantern.
"Thomson'sdumping-placealready,"hesaid,pullingaburstcottonbagoutof
thesackofsundriesupontheCayusepony'sback."Someofithasgotout,and
Jimmywasalwaysparticularabouttheweightofhissugar.Well,therestofit
mustbeinthebottomsomewhere,andifyou'llholdthesackupI'llshakeitinto
myhat."
Alton'shatwascapacious,andhehadwornitduringthetwoyearswhichhad


elapsedsincehislastvisittoVancouver,butitdidnotseemtooccurtohimthat
itwasinanywayanunusualreceptacleforsugar.Hiscompanion,however,
laughedalittleashestirredthestickymassroundwithhiswetfingers.
"Thereisnousegivinghimourtobaccoandmatchesin,"saidhe.
"HerearethelettersMrs.Neilsongavemeatthepost-office,too."
Altontooktheletters,andhisfacegrewatriflegrimundertheflickeringlightof
thelanternashethrustthemcrumpledintohispocket."FromEngland,andthey
willkeep,"hesaid."There'snobodyI'manxioustohearfrominthatcountry.
Nowwe'llgoonagain,Charley."
TheCayuse,however,objected,andtherewasastrugglebeforeAltonconvinced
itthatresistancewouldbeuseless,whilepresentlythetrailgrewsteeperandthe
roarofwatercameoutofthedarknessbeforethem.
"This,"saidAltongravely,"isagreatcountry,butit'smightyunfinishedyet,and
itkindofhurtsmetoseeallthatpowerwasted."
"Wasted?"saidSeaforth,smiling."Don'tthesalmonswiminit,andthebearand
deercomedowntodrink?"
"Oh,yes,"saidAlton."AndsometimestheSiwashwashthemselvesinittoo,but
that'snotthequestion.Thisearthwasn'tmadeforthebearanddeer,andthey've
thousandsofpoorfolkstheycan'tfindauseforbackthereintheoldcountry.
Isn'tthatso,Charley?"
Seaforth,whowasayoungEnglishmanofgoodupbringing,laughed."Ihaveno
reasonfordoubtingit,"saidhe."Inanycase,noneofmyworthyrelationshad
anyuseforme.Still,Idon'tseetheconnectionexactly."
"No?"saidAlton."Well,it'ssimple.Wehavethegoldandsilver,andthecoal
andiron,too,whileitdon'tstrikeonethattheseforestswereputherejusttolook
pretty."
"Themetalsyoualludetotakesometroubleingettingout,"said
Seaforthdryly.
Altonnodded."Ofcourse,"hesaid."That'swhatmangothisbrainsfor,andthe
onedifferencebetweenawhitemanandaSiwashisthathe'salwaysstrikingfor


somethingbetter."
Seaforthlaughed."Youaretryingtogetatsomething,asusual,"saidhe.
"Yes,"saidAltongravely."Igenerallyam.Well,Icanseewhatwedon'twantof
theseforestssailingsawnuptoChina,andthisriversprinkledwithsawmillsand
wood-pulpfactories.ThenIcanhearthebigdynamoeshumming,andthethump
oftheminestampsrunwiththecurrentthemenwhoputthemdownwillgetfor
nothing.Whatwe'rewastingroundSomascoisgoingtofeedtenthousand
peoplebyandby."
"It'sabigidea,"saidSeaforthreflectively."Still,Idon'tknowthatifitwereever
putthroughtheplacewouldlookanyprettier—andthequestionis,who'sgoing
tosetthewholethingrunning?"
"Godknows,"saidAltongravely."Butsomebodywill,andifIlivelongenough
I'llmakeashotatit.Oh,yes,it'sveryprettyasitis,butthegreatestthinginthis
worldisman,anditwasmadeasitisforhimtomaster."
"YouhavecuriousnotionsforaCanadianbushrancher,"saidSeaforth.
"Youare,however,reallyanEnglishman,aren'tyou?"
"No,"saidAltongrimly."Myfatherusedtobe,buthewastoomuchofmyway
ofthinkingandtheyfiredhimoutofthecountry.It'sathingIdon'tliketotalk
of,Charley,andjustnowI'malow-downpackerhaulinginapileoftruckI'll
nevergetpaidfor.Steady,comeup.There'snothinggoingtohurtyou,Julius
Caesar."
Thesnarlingandspittingofapanthercameoutofthedarkness,anditwasonly
bymainforceAltondraggedtheCayusepast.Thenhelaughedalittle."It'sa
pitywedidn'tbringariflealong,"hesaid."Panthersmusthavebeenmadefor
something,ortheywouldn'tbehere,butit'sabeastawhitemanhasnokindof
usefor."
Itwasanhourlater,andsnowingfast,whentheyclimbedoutofthevalleyand
flounderedovershaleandslipperyrockamidstscatteredpinestotheforkingof
thetrail.Onearmofitdippedagain,andwoundthroughadeepshelteredhollow
totheSomascoranch,theotherranstraightalongthehillsidetoTownshead's
dwelling.Thehillsidewasalsosteep,thebeastsweretired,andthetrailwas
verybad.Seaforthglancedathiscomradewhentheystoppedamoment,and


sawhimdimly,tuggingattheCayuse'sbridle,throughthesnow.
"It'salongwaytoTownshead's.Still,Ithinkwecanmakeitout,"hesaid.
Altonlaughed."Wehavegotto.There'snotgenerallytoomuchtoeatatthat
house,andthey'llwantthethings,"hesaid.
TherewasanotherstrugglewiththeCayuse,whichappearedreluctanttofacea
treacherousascentwhoseslopewassomewhatsteeperthanthepitchofan
averageroof,butoncemoreAltonconquered,andtheydraggedthebeastsup,
andthenflounderedondoggedlybesidethem,seeingnothingbutadimpineor
twothroughthesnow.Nowandthentherewasarattleandarushbeneaththem,
followedbyafaintsplash,andSeaforthshiveredalittle,knowingthatthe
shingletheydislodgedhadplungedintoalonelylakelyingfarbelow.StillAlton
saidnothing,butflounderedon,apparentlyascheerfullyasthoughhewouldbe
wellpaidfortheriskheran,untilhecrawleddownintotheslidingwhiteness,
whenahidestripburstandsomeofTownshead'spackageswerescatteredabout
thefaceofaprecipitousdeclivity.
Seaforthheldhisbreathamomentas,grippingthebridleofatremblingbeast,he
watchedhimuntilthedimmovingfiguresankintothesnow.Hecouldhearthe
washoftheunfrozenlake,andknewtherewasnofootholdontheslipperyrock
whichslopedalmostsheertoitthroughthedarknessclosebeneath.Thenavoice
cameup,"Wasn'tthereadrygoodspackageofsomekind,Charley?"
"Therewas,"shoutedSeaforth."Butcomeupwithwhatyou'vegot,andleave
it."
Afaintlaughansweredhim,andthroughthemoaningofthepineshecaughtthe
words,"Ifit'snotovertheedgehere,I'mgoingtogetthething."
Seaforthsaidnothingfurther.Heknewhiscomradetoowell,andcouldpicture
himclingingbyhandandheelashecrawledalongthebrinkofthedeclivitywith
thelakebelow,andgaspedfromreliefwhenoncemoreadimwhitenedobject
lurchedupoutofthesnow.
"Gotthemall,"saidAltoncheerfully."Thatlastonewasjustontheedge,andit
tooksomethinkingbeforeIcouldgetatit.Still,Iguesseditwassomekindof
dressstuffforthegirl,andifwelostititmightbealongwhilebeforeshegot
another."


Theyrelashedthepackagesandwentonagain,flounderingthroughsteadily
deepeningsnow,untiloncemoretheroarofwatermetthemastheydippedinto
ahollow.Itgrewlouderrapidly,andpresentlyAltonpulledtheCayuseuponthe
brinkofariver.Itcamedownfrothingoutofahazeofslidingsnow,tumbling
withahoarsegrowlaboutthegreatdimboulders,whirledandtossedinawhite
confusiondownthewildraceofarapid,andwaslostagain.Howfartheother
bankwastherewasnothingtoshow,foreventhescatteredpinesbehindthemen
werehiddennow,andSeaforthstaredatthetumultoffrothbeforehimvery
dubiously.
"She'sprettyfullto-night,"hesaid."Ithasgottobeattempted,butI'mnotquite
surehowwe'regoingthrough."
Altonlaughedalittle,andbroughthishanddownontheCayusepony'sflank.
"Well,ifyou'llcomealongbehindmeyouwillsee,"saidhe.
Seaforthwaswaist-deepnextminute,andthewaterwashorriblycold.Thenhe
waswashedagainstaboulder,andfanciedthatoneofthepack-beastskicked
himinitsfloundering.Inanycaseonekneeseemedtogrowsuddenlyuseless,
buthewasnotverysureofanythingjustthen,foraburstofsprayfilledhiseyes,
andthebottomappearedtoslipfromunderhim.Hefoundfootholdagainina
momentortwo,anddimlysawAlton'sheadandshouldersabovethebackofa
plungingbeast,whileanotherwasapparentlyswimmingsomewherebetween
them.ThentheoneSeaforthledstumbled,andtheywentawaydownstream
together,clawingforafootholdwiththeshingleslippingunderthem,untilthere
wasathudastheybroughtupagainstanotherboulder.Ashewasnotsensibleof
anyespeciallypainfulblowSeaforthdecidedthatitwastheponywhichhad
strucktherock,andhadjustcometothisdecisionwhenhisfeetwereswept
fromunderhim,and,stillclingingtothebridle,hewaspressedagainstthestone
whiletheriverfrothedandroaredabouthim.
Oncemorehefeltthatitwashorriblycold,andflungawetarmabouttherock,
butthepowerseemedtogooutofhim,andhewonderedvacantlywhetherthe
ponywouldbeabletoextricateitselfandhim.Itflounderedspasmodicallyfora
while,andthenlaystill.HowlongthiscontinuedSeaforthdidnotknow,butit
wasmorethantwelvehourssincehehadleftSomasco,andhehadploddedup
anddownsteephillsides,overrockandboulder,andthroughdeepmireand
snow,mostofthetime,whiletherearelimitstothedominationthewillofany
manmayexerciseoverhisworn-outbody.


Seaforthhadcommencedtorealize,stillwithacuriousabsenceofconcern
whichwaspossiblytheresultofcoldandfatigue,thatastheponycouldnothelp
himitmightbetoolateverysoonunlesshemadeavigorousefforttohelp
himself,whenheheardashout,andsomethingcameslowlythroughthesliding
whitenessinhisdirection.Thentherewasanothershout,andwhensomebody
draggedtheponyclearoftheboulderheheldonbythebridleandwent
flounderingwaist-deepupstream.Thewater,however,nowsankrapidly,and
soonhewasclearofittotheknee.Thentherewasaclatterofhoofsonslippery
rock,andhelurcheddrippingandgaspingintothepartialshelterofthepines.
Somebodysmotehimontheshoulder,andheheardAlton'svoice,"Getholdand
hustle.We'llfetchTownshead'sinanhourorso."


CHAPTERII
ATTOWNSHEAD'SRANCH

Itwaschillyanddampinthelog-walledliving-roomoftheTownshead
homestead,whichstoodfarupinalonelyvalleyamidstthescatteredpines.The
roomwasalsobareandsomewhatcomfortless,forthelandwastoopoorto
furnishitspossessorwithmorethannecessities,andTownsheadnotthemanto
improveitmuch.Helayinanoldleatherchairbesidethestove,aslender,greyhairedmanwiththewornlookofonewhoseburdenhadbeentooheavyforhim.
Hisfacewasthinandsomewhathaggard,hislong,slenderhandratherthatofan
artistthanabushrancher,andhisthreadbareattirewascuriouslyneat.Hewore
amongothersomewhatunusualthingsanoldredvelvetjacket,andtherewasa
littlecupofblackcoffeeandasinglecigarofexceptionalqualityonthetable
besidehim.
Townsheadwas,infact,somewhatofananachronisminacountrywhose
inhabitantsexhibitatleastatraceofprimitiveandwholesomebarbarity.One
couldhavefanciedhimathomeamongmenofleisureandcultivatedtastes,but
heseemedoutofplaceinalog-builtranchinthesnow-wrappedwilderness
sweptbythebitterwind.Perhapsherealizedit,forhisvoicewasquerulousas
hesaid,"Iwonderifyouhaveforgotten,Nellie,thatweweresittingwarmand
safeinEnglandfiveyearsagotonight."
NellieTownsheadlookedupquicklyoverhersewingfromtheothersideofthe
stove,andforamomenttherewassomethingakintopaininhereyes.Theywere
clearbrowneyes,anditwascharacteristicthattheyalmostimmediately
brightenedintoasmile,forwhilethegirl'sfaceresembledherfather'sinits
refinement,therewascourageinitinplaceofweariness.
"IamafraidIdo,thoughItrynotto,andamgenerallyable,"shesaid.
Townsheadsighed."Theyoungarefortunate,fortheycanforget,"hesaid.


"Eventhatsmallcompensationis,however,deniedtome,whilethemanIcalled
myfriendislivinginluxuryonwhatwasyoursandmine.Haditbeenanyone
butChartersImighthaveborneitbetter,butitwastheonemanIhadfaithin
whosentusoutheretopenury."
Townsheadwaswronginonerespect,foritwastheweaknessofanoversensitivetemperamentwhich,whilefriendswerereadytohelphim,haddriven
himtohidehimselfinWesternCanadawhen,astheresultofunwise
speculations,financialdisasterovertookhim.Hisdaughter,however,didnot
remindhimofthis,assomedaughterswouldhavedone,thoughsheunderstood
itwellenough,andamemoryoutofkeepingwiththepatterofthesnowand
moaningofthewindroseupbeforeherasshelookedintothetwinklingstove.
Shecouldrecallthatnightfiveyearsagoverywell,forshehadspentmostofit
amidstlightsandmusic,asfreshandbrightherselfastheflowersthatnestled
againstherfirstballdress.Itwasanightoftriumphandrevelation,inwhichshe
hadfirstfeltthefullpowerofherbeautyandhersex,andshehadreturnedwith
theglamourofitalluponhertofindherfathersittingwithhisheadinhishands
atatablelitteredwithbusinesspapers.Hisfacehadfrightenedher,andithad
neverwhollylostthelookshesawuponitthen,forTownsheadwaslackingin
fibre,andhadfoundthatafondnessforhorsesandsomeexperienceofamateur
cattle-breedingonasmallandexpensivescalewasaverypoorpreparationfor
thegrimrealityofranchinginWesternCanada.
Presentlyhisdaughterbrushedthememoriesfromher,andstood,smilingatthe
man,straightandwillowyinherfadedcottondresswithapartlyfinished
garmentinherhands,whichfrostandsunhadnotwhollyturnedroughandred.
"Yourcoffeewillbegettingcold.ShallIputitonthestove?"shesaid.
Townsheadmadealittlegrimace."Onemayaswelldescribethingscorrectly,
andthatischickory,"hesaid."Still,youmaywarmitifitpleasesyou,butI
mightpointoutthat,indifferentasitis,preservedmilkwhichhasgonemusty
doesnotimproveitsflavour."
Thegirllaughedalittle,thoughtherewassomethingmorepatheticthan
heartsomeinhermerriment."Iamafraidweshallhavenoneto-morrowunless
Mr.Seaforthgetsthrough,"shesaid."Isupposeyouhavenotafewdollarsyou
couldgiveme,father?"


"No,"saidTownshead,withsomewhatunusualdecisiveness;"Ihavenot.
Youarealwaysaskingfordollars.Whatdoyouwantthemfor?"
"Mr.Seaforthhaspackedourstoresinforalongwhile,andwehavepaidhim
nothing,"saidthegirl,whilealittlecolourcreptintoherface.
Townsheadmadeagestureofweariness."Theyoungmanseemswillingtodoit
outoffriendshipforus,andIseenoreasonwhyweshouldnotallowhim,unless
hepresumesuponthetriflingservice,"hesaid."Todohimjustice,however,he
andhiscomradehavealwaysshowncommendabletaste."
Thegirlsmiledalittle,forconsideringtheirrelativepositionsinacountrywhere
amantakeshisstationaccordingtohisusefulnesstheword"presume"appeared
incongruous."Still,Ishouldprefernottobeintheirdebt,"shesaid.
"Thenwewillfreeourselvesoftheobligationwiththenextremittance
Jacksendsin,"saidTownsheadimpatiently.
Thegirl'sfacegrewtroubled."Iamafraidthatwillnotbeforsomelittletime,"
shesaid."PoorJack.Yousurelyrememberheislyingill?"
"Itisespeciallyinconvenientjustnow,"saidTownsheadquerulously."Ithasalso
beenasorepointwithmethatasonofmineshouldhirehimselfoutasa
labourer.IamsorryIlethimgo,themoresobecausetheworkupontheranchis
gettingtoomuchforme."
NellieTownsheadsaidnothing,thoughshesighedasshepicturedtheyounglad,
whohadbeenstrickenbyrheumaticfeverasaresultoftoilingwaist-deepinicy,
water,lyinguncaredforintheminingcampamidstthesnowsofCaribou.She
didnot,however,remindherfatherthatitwasshewhohadinthemeanwhile
donemostoftheindispensableworkupontheranch,andTownsheadwouldnot
inanycasehavebelievedher,forhehadafinecapacityfordeceivinghimself.
Inplaceofitshespreadoutsomemasculinegarmentsaboutthestoveand
colouredatriflewhenherfatherglancedatherinquiringly."Thecreekmustbe
runninghighandMr.Altonandhispartnerwillbeverywet,"shesaid."Iam
warmingafewofJack'soldthingsforthem.TheycannotgobacktoSomasco
to-night,youknow."
"Iconfessthatitdidnotoccurtome,"saidTownsheadlanguidly."No,Isuppose


onecouldscarcelyexpectthemto,andweshallhavetoenduretheircompany."
Afaintsparklethathadnothingtodowithlaughtercreptintothegirl'seyes,for
thereweretimeswhenherfathertriedherpatience."Iwonderifitoccurredto
youthatweshallprobablystarveto-morrowunlessMr.Alton,whoisapparently
nottobepaidforit,makeswhatmustbeaveryarduousmarchto-night?"she
said.
"I'mafraiditdidnot,"saidTownshead,withafineunconcern."Ithinkyou
understand,mydear,thatIleavethecommissariattoyou,andyouhaveawayof
puttingthingswhichjarsupononeoccasionally."
Alittletraceofcolourcreptintothegirl'scheek,butitfadedagainasshesat
downbesidethestove.Still,nowandthensheprickedherfingerswiththe
needle,whichshehadnotdonebefore,andfinallylaiddownthefabricand
laughedsoftly."Thereis,"shesaid,"somethingdistinctlyhumorousinthewhole
position."
"You,"saidherfather,"hadalwaysasomewhatpeculiarsenseofhumour."
"Well,"saidhisdaughterwithaslightquiverofherlips,"IfeelthatImusteither
cryorlaughto-night.Doyouknowthereisscarcelyenoughforbreakfastinthe
house,andthatIamdreadfullyhungrynow?"
Townsheadglancedatherreproachfully."Eitheroneortheotherwouldbe
equallydistastefultome,"hesaid.
Thegirlsighed,andturnedawaytothrustafewsmallbilletsintothestove.She
chosethemcarefully,forthebigboxwhoseuglinessshehadhiddenbyastripof
cheapprintedcottonwasalmostempty.Thehiredman,seeingnoprospectof
receivinghiswages,haddepartedafterastormyinterview,andshortlyafterhis
sonfollowedhim.Townsheaddiscoveredthatsawingwoodwasespecially
unsuitedtohisconstitution.Thenthegirlincreasedthedraughtalittleand
endeavouredtorepressashiver.Thehousewasdampforwantofproper
packing,andthecoldwindthatcamedownfromthehighpeaksmoanedaboutit
eerily.Itwasalsoverylonely,andthegirl,whowasyoung,feltagreatlonging
forhumanfellowship.
Herfatherpresentlytookupabook,andtherewassilenceonlybrokenbythe
rattleoflooseshinglesoverheadandthesoftthudagainstthewindowsof


drivingsnow,whilethegirlsatdreamingoverhersewingofthebrighterdaysin
far-offEnglandwhichhadslippedawayfromherforever.Fiveyearswasnota
verylongtime,butduringitherEnglishfriendshadforgottenher,andonewho
hadscarcelylefthersidethatmemorablenighthad,thoughshereadofthe
doingsofhisregimentnowandthen,senthernowordortoken.Alittleflush
creptintohercheekas,rememberingcertainwordsofhis,sheglancedather
reddenedwristsandlittletoil-hardenedhands.Shewhohadbeenahigh-spirited
girlwiththeworldatherfeetthen,wasnowoneoftheobscuretoilerswhose
workwasneverdone.Still,becauseitwasonlyonrareoccasionsthatworkleft
herleisuretothinkaboutherself,ithadnotoccurredtoherthatshehadlostbut
littlebythechange.Thehandsthathadoncebeensoftandwhitewerenowfirm
andbrown,thestillnessofthegreatfirsandcedarshadgivenheracalm
tranquillityinplaceofrestlesshaste,andfrostandsuntheclear,warm-tinted
complexion,whilealookofstrengthandpatiencehadreplacedthelaughterin
herhazeleyes.
Suddenly,however,therewasatramplinginthesnowandasoundofvoices,
followedafter,anintervalbyaknockingatthedoor.Itswungopen,andtwo
whitenedobjectsloadedwithbagsandpackagesstrodeintotheroom.Theblast
thatcameinwiththemsetthelampflickering,andsentachillthroughthegirl,
butsherosewithasmilewhenrancherAltonstood,ashapelessfigure,withthe
moistureonhisbronzedface,besidethestove.
"Takethosethingsthroughintothekitchen,Charley,"hesaid."Ithinkwe'vegot
themall,MissTownshead.Ihope,sir,youarefeelingprettywell."
Townsheadmadesomeanswerwithaslightbendofhishead,butAlton
appearedatrifledubiouswhenthegirlofferedhimhospitality.
"I'mafraidthebeastsareusedup,orIwouldn'tthinkofit,"hesaid.
NellieTownshead'seyestwinkledassheglancedathim."Couldyounothave
putitinanotherway?"shesaid.
Altonlaughed,andbrushedhisfingersacrossthetopofthestove.
"Well,itdoesn'tsoundquiteright,butafterallthemeaning'sthe
greatthing,"hesaid."Thisplaceisn'twarmenoughforyou,Miss
Nellie."
Heturnedandwalkedtothewood-box,andafterglancingintoitcarefully


straightenedoutitscovering.Thenhestrodetowardsthedoor,andstoppeda
momentbeforeheopenedit."Excuse!"hesaidsimply."No,don'tyouworry;I
knowjustwherethesawandlanternare,andCharley,whocomesfromtheold
country,cantalktoyouforme."
Hewentoutinanothermoment,butthefactthathewasverywearydidnot
escapetheattentionofthegirl,whoalsonoticedtheabsenceofanyunnecessary
questionsorexplanations.Altonwas,sheknewalready,onewhodidthingsthe
betterbecausehedidthemsilently.Still,itwasSeaforthwhom,whennobody
observedher,hereyesrestedmostupon.
Itwashalfanhourbeforetheformerreturnedwithaloadofscentedfirewood
uponhisback,and,sayingnothing,filledtheboxwithit,packingeachpiece
whereitbestfitteddeliberatelybutswiftly;thenhepassedthroughtheroominto
anadjoiningone,andreturnedattiredpicturesquelyinJackTownshead's
overalls,whichweredistinctlytoosmallforhim.Bythistimesupperwasready,
andSeaforth,alsodressedinborrowedgarments,seatedatthetable,butthough
MissTownsheadhadnotlostthestampofrefinementshebroughtwithherfrom
England.andherfatherwasdignifiedandprecise,Altonshowedno
embarrassment.HealsolistenedpatientlytoTownshead'sviewsonranchingand
theminingprospectsofthatregion,thoughhewasalreadylookeduptoasa
masteroftheformerindustry,andcontrivedmeanwhilethatthegirlmadeagood
mealinsteadofattendingtohim.Whenitwasfinishedheunfoldedacarefully
wrappeduppacket,andtookanenvelopeoutofit,thoughMissTownshead
noticedthatseveralothershelaiddownwerecrumpledandwet.
"Hereisaletterforyou,"hesaid.
Heglancedatthegirlquestioninglyasshetookitup,andfingeredoneofthe
envelopesuponthetable."Excuse?"hesaid.
NellieTownsheadsmiledandnodded,andthen,knowingthatthe
communicationhandedherwasofnoimportance,watchedhimcovertlyashe
toreopenalongblueenvelope.Thereweredocumentsinsideit,andtheman's
fingersshookalittleashespreadoutoneofthem.Thenbewildered
astonishmentcreptintohiseyes,andwasreplacedbyaflashofsomethingvery
likeanger,afterwhichhisfacegrewsuddenlyimpassive,andhethrustthe
documentsalltogetherintohispocket.


"Getup,Charley,andbringthetrayalong,"hesaid.
MissTownsheadglancedathimsharply."Whatdoyouwishtodo?"shesaid.
"Washup,"saidAltonsimply."Idon'tknowhowyoufixthesethingsin
England,butthisisagoodCanadiancustom.Stiraround,Charley."
"But,"saidthegirl,"youdon'tknowwherethethingsare."
"Well,"saidAlton,smiling,"IfigureIcanfindthem."
Helaidthecupsanddishesonthetray,gaveittoSeaforth,anddisappeared
downapassagecarryingthekettle,butnotbeforeMissTownsheadhadnoticed
thatwhilehiscomrade,whohadapparentlybeenusedtothesmoothersideof
lifeinEngland,displayedsomeawkwardness,everythingthebigrancherdid
seemedappropriate,and,becauseremovingplatesisnotaman'stask,she
wonderedatit.Theycamebackpresently,andbythattimethegirl,whohad
openedsomeofthepackages,heldarolloffabricuponherknee.
"IfyoucanfindasplashanywhereI'llforfeitadollar.Charley'sgoodatmopping
up,"saidAltongravely."I'mafraidthatstuff'salittlewet,butitwastheCayuse's
fault.Hestartedinkickingandbursttherope,yousee."
"Itwouldhavebeenwetterifithadgoneintothelake,"saidSeaforth.
"Thelake?"saidthegirl.
Seaforthnodded."Yes,"hesaid."ItwasontheTyeetrailtheponycommenced
kicking."
Thegirllookedupsharply,andtherewasasubduedbrightnessinhereyes,for
shehadmorethanonceshiveredwhenleadingherhorsealongthatperiloustrail.
Altonfeltforhiscomrade'slegunderthetableandkickeditgrievously.
"Therewasn'tanytrouble,andthesnowwassoft,"saidhe."You'regoingto
makeadressofthatstuff,MissNellie?"
"Yes,"saidthegirl."Icould,however,wishthestuffwasbetter."
Altonsmiledgravely."Ofcourse!"hesaid."Still,itdon'tcountformuch.You


wouldlooklikeapictureinanything."
NellieTownsheadglancedathimsharply,andforamomenttherewasafaint
sparkleinhereyes,forshehadatraceoftemper.
"Whatevermadeyousaythat?"saidshe.
Altonlaughed."Ireallydon'tquiteknow.IjustfeltIhadto,"hesaidwitha
naivesimplicity."Iwouldn'thavedoneitifIhadthoughtitwouldvexyou."
Afterthishelistenedwhilehiscomradetalked—andSeaforthonoccasioncould
talkgracefully—untilatlasthesaid,"England'snotsoverybig,MissNellie.I
wonderifyouknowaplacecalledCarnaby."
"Yes,"saidthegirl."Ioncewenttoseeratherafineoldhallthere."
"CarnabyGrange?"saidAltonquietly.
"Yes,"saidthegirlwithatraceofcuriosity."Wespentsomelittletimeinthe
grounds.Theyliedeepinthewoods,andthereisafamousrosegarden."
"Yes,"saidAlton."Allkindsofroses.Andtheoldplace?Tellmeaboutit!"
"Isverypicturesque,"saidthegirl."Itlookedquietandgrey,andalmoststately
underitsivythatautumnday,butIcouldscarcelydescribeityou.Youhave
nothinglikeitinCanada."
"No,"saidAltongravely."IhaveseennothinglikeitinCanada.Butwasn'tthere
alake?"
Thegirlglancedathimcuriously."Therewas,"shesaid."Irememberitlay
shiningbeforeusbetweenthewoods.Itwasverybeautiful,quieterandcalmer
thanourlakesinCanada."
AslightflushcreptthroughthebronzeinAlton'sface,whichgrewatriflegrim,
andalightintohiseyes."ThereisalakeatSomascowhereyoucanseethe
whitepeakslieshining,andthebigWapiticomedowntodrink,"hesaid."There
arecedarsandredwoodsaboutitwhichexceptforafewinCalifornia,haven't
theirequalintheworld,butthere'snothingaboutthatlakeorvalleythat'squiet
orcalm.It'swildandgreatandgrand.No.They'venothingofthatkindintheold


country.ArenotAbanaandPharfarbetterthanallthewatersofIsrael?"
"Apposite!"saidTownshead."YouapparentlyreadtheScriptures?"
"Sometimes,"saidAltonsimply."Theygetholdofme.Thoseoldfellowswent
rightdowntothebedrockofhumannaturebackthereinPalestine,anditstrikes
methere'snogreatdifferenceinthatbetweennowandthen."
"When,"saidTownsheadsmiling,"IwasaKinginBabylon."
"No,"saidAltonreflectively."You'realittlelateontime.The
Christianslavedon'tquitefitin."
Townsheadglancedathimsharply,andsaidnothing,fortherancherhadonceor
twicealreadysomewhatastonishedhim.
"Well,"saidAlton,"tellme,MissNellie,werethelilieswheretheasheshung
overthelake?IwanttoknowallaboutCarnaby."
Thegirlseemedsomewhatthoughtful,andatrifleastonished,butshemadethe
bestuseofhermemory,andAltonlistenedgravely."Yes,"hesaid."Iseemto
seeit.Therosegardenonthesouthside,thebiglawn,andthelake.There'sa
littlestreamontheoppositesideofitthatcomesdownthroughthefernfromthe
bigbeechwood."
"But,"saidthegirl,"howcouldyouknowthat?"
"IthinkImusthavedreamtit,"saidAltongravely."Orperhapsmyfathertold
me.HeusedtotalkofCarnaby,andIfeelIknowitwell."
Thegirlstaredathiminherwonder."ButwhatisCarnabytoyou?"shesaid.
Altonroseup,andstoodstillamoment,somewhatgriminface."It
shouldhavebeenmyfather's,andnowwhenIdon'tknowthatIwantit,
Ithinkit'smine,"hesaid."Anyway,I'mkindoftired,andIthink
I'llturnin.Excuseme."
Hewentout,andNellieTownsheadglancedathiscomrade."Doyouknowwhat
hemeans?"shesaid.


Seaforthsmiledandshookhishead."I'veneverseenHarrytakenthatway
before,"hesaid."Still,we'llhopehe'llbebetterto-morrow.Hehasbeenthrough
agooddealto-day."
MissTownsheaddidnotappearcontented,butshechangedthetopic.
"Thenwhatdidyoumeanwhenyouspokeaboutthedresspacket?"
"I'lltellyou,"saidSeaforth,"ifyoudon'ttellHarry.Well,whenthepacket
slippeddowntotheedgeofthebigdropI'mnotsurethatthepriceoftwo
rancheswouldhaveinducedmostmentofollowit."
"ButwhydidMr.Altongo?"saidthegirl,withanexpressionwhichwasnot
quitetheonethemanhadexpectedtoseeinherface.
Seaforthsmiled."Hemayhavefanciedyouwantedit.Anyway,Harryisalittle
obstinateoccasionally,andwhenathinglooksdifficulthecan'tresistattempting
it.Inthelanguageofmyadoptedcountrythat'sthekindofmanheis.NowI
thinkIhadbettergoafterhim,becauseIfancyhewantssoothingafterthatlast
speechofhis."


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