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was beyond his credulity. Nevertheless the instincts of good humor and hopefulness were stronger, and he presently asked:
"How will they come?
"Up through a beautiful valley and a broad, shining river. Then they will cross a mountain until they come to another beautiful valley with steep sides, and a rushing river that runs so near us that I can almost hear it now. Don't you see it? It is just beyond the snow peak there; a green valley, with the rain falling upon it. Look! it is
She pointed directly north, toward the region of inhospitable snow.
"Could you get to it?" asked the practical Gabriel.
"I must wait here for my baby. She is coming for us. She will find me here."
It was the last time that she uttered that well-worn sentence; for it was only a little past midnight that her baby came to her came to her with a sudden light, that might have been invisible to Gabriel, but that it was reflected in her own lack-luster eyes came to this poor half-witted creature with such distinctness that she half rose, stretched out her thin yearning arms and received ita corpse!
Gabriel placed the effigy in her arms and folded them over it. Then he ran swiftly to the other hut.
For some unexplained reason he did not get further than the door. What he saw there he has never told, but when he groped his fainting way back to his own hut again, his face was white and bloodless, and his eyes wild and staring. Only one impulse remained-to fly forever from the cursed spot. He stopped only long enough to snatch up the sobbing and frightened Olly, and then, with a loud cry to God to help him-to help them-he dashed out, and was lost in the darkness.
NATURE SHOWS THEM THE WAY.
It was a spur of the long grave-like ridge that lay to the north of the cañon. Up its gaunt white flank two figures had been slowly crawling since noon, until at sunset they at last stood upon its outer verge outlined against the sky-Philip and Grace.
For all the fatigues of the journey the
want of nourishing food and the haunting shadow of the suffering she had left, the face of Grace, flushed with the dying sun, was very pretty. The boy's dress she had borrowed was ill-fitting, and made her exquisite little figure still more diminutive, but it could not entirely hide its graceful curves. Here in this rosy light the swooning fringes. of her dark eyes were no longer hidden; the perfect oval of her face, even the few freckles on her short upper lip were visible to Philip. Partly as a physical support, partly to re-assure her, he put his arm tenderly around her waist. Then he kissed her. It is possible that this last act was purely gratuitous.
Howbeit Grace first asked, with the characteristic prudence of her sex, the question she had already asked many days before that day, "Do you love me, Philip?" And Philip, with the ready frankness of our sex on such occasions, had invariably replied, "I do."
Nevertheless the young man was pre-occupied, anxious, and hungry. It was the fourth day since they had left the hut. On the second day they had found some pine cones with the nuts still intact and fresh beneath the snow, and later a squirrel's hoard. On the third day Philip had killed the proprietor and eaten him. The same evening Philip had espied a duck winging his way up the cañon. Philip, strong in the belief that some inland lake was the immediate object of its flight, had first marked its course, and then brought it down with a long shot. Then, having altered their course in accordance with its suggestion, they ate their guide next morning for breakfast.
Philip was also disappointed. The summit of the spur so laboriously attained only showed him the same endless succession of white snow billows stretching rigidly to the horizon's edge. There was no break-no glimpse of water-course nor lake. There was nothing to indicate whence the bird had come or the probable point it was endeavoring to reach. He was beginning to consider the feasibility of again changing their course, when an unlooked-for accident took that volition from his hands.
Grace had ventured out to the extreme limit of the rocky cliff, and with straining eyes was trying to peer beyond the snow fields, when the treacherous ledge on which she was standing began to give away. an instant Philip was at her side and had caught her hand, but at the same moment
a large rock of the ledge dropped from beneath her feet, and left her with no support but his grasp. The sudden shock loosened also the insecure granite on which Philip stood. Before he could gain secure foothold it also trembled, tottered, slipped, and then fell, carrying Philip and Grace with it. Luckily this immense mass of stone and ice got fairly away before them, and plowed down the steep bank of the cliff, breaking off the projecting rocks and protuberances, and cutting a clean, though almost perpendicular, path down the mountain side.
Even in falling Philip had presence of mind enough to forbear clutching at the crumbling ledge, and so precipitating the rock that might crush them. Before he lost his senses he remembered tightening his grip of Grace's arm, and drawing her face and head forward to his breast, and even in his unconsciousness it seemed that he instinctively guided her into the smooth passage or "shoot" made by the plunging rock below them; and even then he was half conscious of dashing into sudden material darkness and out again into light, and of the crashing and crackling of branches around him, and even the brushing of the stiff pine needles against his face and limbs. Then he felt himself stopped, and then, and then only, everything whirled confusedly by him, and his brain seemed to partake of the motion, and then-the relief of utter blankness and oblivion.
had broken through in his descent. Here and there along the river the same light was penetrating the interstices and openings of this strange vault that arched above this sunless stream.
He knew now whence the duck had flown! He knew now why he had not seen the water-course before! He knew now where the birds and beasts had betaken themselves-why the woods and cañons were trackless! Here was at last the open road! He staggered to his feet with a cry of delight.
"Grace, we are saved."
Grace looked at him with eyes that perhaps spoke more eloquently of joy at his recovery, than of comprehension of his delight.
"Look, Grace! this is Nature's own road-only a lane, perhaps but a clew to our way out of this wilderness. As we descend the stream it will open into a broader valley."
"I know it," she said simply.
"When I dragged you out of the way of the falling rocks and snow above, I had a glimpse of the valley you speak of. I saw it from there."
She pointed to a ledge of rock above the opening where the great stone that had fallen had lodged.
"When you dragged me, my child ?” Grace smiled faintly.
"You don't know how strong I am," she said, and then proved it by fainting dead
When he regained his senses, it was with a burning heat in his throat and the sensation of strangling. When he opened his eyes he saw Grace bending over him, pale and anxious, and chafing his hands and temples with snow. There was a spot of blood upon her round cheek.
"You are hurt, Grace!" were the first snow, empty! words that Philip gasped.
"No!-dear, brave Philip-but only so thankful and happy for your escape." Yet, at the same moment the color faded from her cheek, and even the sun-kissed line of her upper lip grew bloodless, as she leaned back against a tree.
But Philip did not see her. His eyes were rapidly taking in his strange surroundings. He was lying among the broken fragments of pine branches and the débris of the cliff above. In his ears was the sound of hurrying water, and before him, scarce a hundred feet, a rushing river! He looked up; the red glow of sunset was streaming through the broken limbs and shattered branches of the snow-thatched roof that he
Philip started to his feet and ran to her side. Then he felt for the precious flask that he had preserved so sacredly through all their hardships, but it was gone. He glanced around him; it was lying on the
For the first time in their weary pilgrimage Philip uttered a groan. At the sound Grace opened her sweet eyes. She saw her lover with the empty flask in his hand, and smiled faintly.
"I poured it all down your throat, dear," she said. "You looked so faint-I thought you were dying-forgive me!"
"But I was only stunned; and you, Grace, you-"
"Am better now," she said, as she strove to rise. But she uttered a weak little cry and fell back again.
Philip did not hear her. He was already climbing the ledge she had spoken of. When he returned his face was joyous.
"I see it, Grace; it is only a few miles
away. It is still light, and we shall camp there to-night."
"I am afraid-not-dear Philip," said Grace, doubtfully.
Why not?" asked Philip, a little impatiently.
"Because-I-think-my leg is broken!"
But she had fainted.
OUT OF THE WOODS-INTO THE SHADOW.
HAPPILY Grace was wrong. Her ankle was severely sprained, and she could not stand. Philip tore up his shirt, and, with bandages dipped in snow water, wrapped up the swollen limb. Then he knocked over a quail in the bushes and another duck, and clearing away the brush for a camping spot, built a fire, and tempted the young girl with a hot supper. The peril of starvation passed, their greatest danger was overa few days longer of enforced rest and inactivity was the worst to be feared.
py he had made her; how she had even admitted her happiness to him; he thought of her present helplessness, and how willing he was to delay the journey on her account; he dwelt even upon a certain mysterious, ill-defined but blissful future with him to which he was taking her, and yet here, at the moment of their possible deliverance, she was fretting about two dying people, who, without miraculous interference, would be dead before she could reach them. It was part of Philip's equitable self-examinationa fact of which he was very proud—that he always put himself in the position of the person with whom he differed, and imagined how he would act under the like circumstances. Perhaps it is hardly necessary to say that Philip always found that his conduct under those conditions would be totally different. In the present instance, putting himself in Grace's position, he felt that he would have abandoned all and everything for a love and future like hers. That she did not was evidence of a moral deficiency or a blood taint. Logic of this kind is easy and irrefutable. It has been known to obtain even beyond the Sierras, and with people who were not physically exhausted.
After a pause he said to Grace, in a changed voice:
For a moment he did not speak. He thought how, at the risk of his own safety, he had snatched this girl from a terrible death; he thought how he had guarded her through their perilous journey, taking all the burdens upon himself; he thought how hap
"Let us talk plainly for a few moments, Grace, and understand each other before we go forward or backward. It is five days since we left the hut; were we even certain of finding our wandering way back again, we could not reach there before another five days had elapsed; by that time all will be over. They have either been saved or are beyond the reach of help. This sounds harsh, Grace, but it is no harsher than the fact. Had we stayed, we would, without helping them, have only shared their fate. I might have been in your brother's place, you in your sister's. It is our fortune, not our fault, that we are not dying with them. It has been willed that you and I should be saved. It might have been willed that we should have perished in our attempts to succor them, and that relief which came to them would have never reached us."
Grace was no logician, and could not help thinking that if Philip had said this before, she would not have left the hut. But the masculine reader will I trust at once detect the irrelevance of the feminine suggestion, and observe that it did not refute Philip's argument.
She looked at him with a half frightened air. Perhaps it was the tears that dimmed
her eyes, but his few words seemed to have removed him to a great distance, and for the first time a strange sense of loneliness came over her. She longed to reach her yearning arms to him again, but with this feeling came a sense of shame that she had not felt before.
Philip noticed her hesitation, and half interpreted it. He let her passive head fall.
"Perhaps we had better wait until we are ourselves out of danger before we talk of helping others," he said, with something of his old bitterness. "This accident may keep us here some days, and we know not as yet where we are. Go to sleep, now," he said, more kindly, "and in the morning we will see what can be done."
Grace sobbed herself to sleep! Poor, poor Grace! She had been looking for this opportunity of speaking about herself-about their future. This was to have been the beginning of her confidence about Dr. Devarges's secret; she would have told him frankly all the Doctor had said, even his suspicions of Philip himself. And then Philip would have been sure to have told her his plans, and they would have gone back with help, and Philip would have been a hero whom Gabriel would have instantly recognized as the proper husband for Grace, and they would have all been very happy. And now they were all dead, and had died perhaps cursing her, and-Philip- Philip had not kissed her good-night, and was sitting gloomily under a tree!
The dim light of a leaden morning broke through the snow vault above their heads. It was raining heavily, the river had risen, and was still rising. It was filled with drift and branches, and snow and ice, the waste and wear of many a mile. Occasionally a large uprooted tree with a gaunt forked root like a mast sailed by. Suddenly Philip, who had been sitting with his chin upon his hands, rose with a shout. Grace looked up languidly.
He pointed to a tree that, floating by, had struck the bank where they sat, and then drifted broadside against it, where for a moment it lay motionless.
"Grace," he said, with his old spirits, "Nature has taken us in hand herself. we are to be saved, it is by her methods. She brought us here to the water's edge, and now she sends a boat to take us off again. Come."
Before Grace could reply, Philip had lifted her gayly in his arms, and deposited her
between two upright roots of the tree. Then he placed beside her his rifle and provisions, and leaping himself on the bow of this strange craft, shoved it off with a broken branch that he had found. For a moment it still clung to the bank, and then suddenly catching the impulse of the current, darted away like a living creature.
The river was very narrow and rapid where they had embarked, and for a few moments it took all of Philip's energy and undivided attention to keep the tree in the center of the current. Grace sat silent, admiring her lover, alert, forceful, and glowing with excitement. Presently Philip called to her :
"Do you see that log? We are near a settlement."
A freshly hewn log of pine was floating in the current beside them. A ray of hope shot through Grace's sad fancies; if they were so near help, might not it have already reached the sufferers? But she forbore to speak to Philip again upon that subject, and in his new occupation he seemed to have forgotten her.
It was with a little thrill of joy that at last she saw him turn, and balancing himself with his bough upon their crank craft, walk down slowly toward her. When he reached her side he sat down, and, taking her hand in his for the first time since the previous night, he said, gently:
"Grace, my child, I have something to tell you."
Grace's little heart throbbed quickly, for a moment she did not dare to lift her long lashes toward his. Without noticing her embarrassment he went on:
"In a few hours we will be no longer in the wilderness, but in the world again-in a settlement perhaps, among men and-perhaps women. Strangers certainly—not the relatives you have known, and who know you-not the people with whom we have been familiar for so many weeks and days— but people who know nothing of us, or our sufferings."
Grace looked at him, but did not speak. "You understand, Grace, that, not knowing this, they might put their own construction upon our flight. To speak plainly, my child, you are a young woman, and I am a young man. Your beauty, dear Grace, offers an explanation of our companionship that the world will accept more readily than any other, and the truth to many would seem scarcely as natural. For this reason it must not be told. I will go back alone
with relief, and leave you here in some safe hands until I return. But I leave you here not as Grace Conroy-you shall take my own name!"
A hot flush mounted to Grace's throat and cheek, and for an instant, with parted lips, she hung breathless upon his next word. He continued quietly:
"You shall be my sister-Grace Ashley." The blood fell from her cheek, her eyelids dropped, and she buried her face in her hands. Philip waited patiently for her reply. When she lifted her face again, it was quiet and calm-there was even a slight flush of proud color in her cheek as she met his gaze, and with the faintest curl of her upper lip said:
"You are right."
At the same moment there was a sudden breaking of light and warmth and sunshine over their heads; the tree swiftly swung round a sharp curve in the river, and then drifted slowly into a broad, overflowed valley, sparkling with the emerald of gently sloping hill-sides, and dazzling with the glow of the noonday sun. And beyond, from a cluster of willows scarcely a mile away, the smoke of a cabin chimney curled in the still air.
For two weeks an unclouded sun rose and set on the rigid outlines of Monument Point. For two weeks there had been no apparent change in the ghastly whiteness of the snow-flanked rocks; in the white billows that rose rank on rank beyond, in the deathlike stillness that reigned above and below. It was the first day of April; there was the mildness of early spring in the air that blew over this gaunt waste, and yet awoke no sound or motion.
And yet a nearer approach showed that a slow insidious change had been taking place. The white flanks of the mountain were more hollow; the snow had shrunk visibly away in places, leaving the gray rocks naked and protuberant; "the rigid outlines were there, but less full and rounded; the skeleton was beginning to show through the wasting flesh; there were great patches of snow that had sloughed away, leaving the gleaming granite bare below. It was the last change of the Hippocratic face that Nature turned toward the spectator. And yet this change had been noiseless-the solitude unbroken.
And then one day there suddenly drifted across the death-like valley the chime of
jingling spurs and the sound of human voices. Down the long defile a cavalcade of mounted men and pack mules made their way, plunging through drifts and clattering over rocks. The unwonted sound awoke the long slumbering echoes of the mountain, brought down small avalanches from cliff and tree, and at last brought from some cavern of the rocks to the surface of the snow, a figure so wild, haggard, disheveled and monstrous, that it was scarcely human. It crawled upon the snow, dodging behind rocks with the timidity of a frightened animal, and at last, squatting behind a tree, awaited in ambush the approach of the party.
Two men rode ahead; one grave, preoccupied and reticent. The other alert, active, and voluble. At last the reticent man spoke, but slowly, and as if recalling a memory rather than recording a present impression.
"They cannot be far away from us now. It was in some such spot that I first saw them. The place is familiar."
"Heaven send that it may be," said the other, hastily, "for to tell you the truth, I doubt if we will be able to keep the men together a day longer in this crazy quest, unless we discover something."
"It was here," continued the other, dreamily, not heeding his companion, "that I saw the figures of a man and woman. If there is not a cairn of stones somewhere about this spot, I shall believe my dream false, and confess myself an old fool."
"Well as I said before," rejoined the other, laughing, "anything-a scrap of paper, an old blanket, or a broken wagontongue will do. Columbus held his course and kept up his crew on a fragment of seaweed. But what are the men looking at? Great God! There is something moving by yonder rock!"
By one common superstitious instinct the whole party had crowded together-those who, a few moments before, had been loudest in their skepticism, held their breath with awe and trembled with excitement—as the shambling figure that had watched them enter the cañon, rose from its lair and, taking upon itself a human semblance, with uncouth gestures and a strange hoarse cry made toward them.
It was Dumphy!
The leader was first to recover himself. He advanced from the rest and met Dumphy half-way.
"Who are you?"