A Mystery Is Unravelled
From: The Barrier
Lieutenant Burrell was considerably taken aback when, a quarter of
an hour after the young lover's ecstatic return to his quarters,
Gale knocked at his door, for the trader's visit, coupled with the
late hour and his sombre countenance, forecast new complications.
"He's here to object, but it won't go," thought the Lieutenant, as
he made his visitor welcome.
It was the trader's first glimpse of the officer's quarters, and he
cast a roving eye over the room, as if measuring the owner's
character by his surroundings.
"I've got to have a long talk with you, Burrell," he began, with an
effort. "It's liable to take me an hour or two."
"Then take this chair and be comfortable."
Meade swung his big reading-chair out beneath the hanging-lamp, and,
going to the sideboard, brought back a bottle, some glasses, and a
pouch of tobacco. Noting the old man's sigh of fatigue as he sat
himself down heavily, he remarked, sympathetically:
"Mr. Gale, you've made a long trip to-day, and you must be tired. If
this talk is to be as lengthy as you say, why not have a drink with
me now, and postpone it until to-morrow?"
"I've been tired for eighteen years," the other replied; "to-
night I hope to get rested." He lapsed into silence, watching his
host pour out two glasses of liquor, fill his pipe, and then stretch
himself out contentedly, his feet resting on another chair--a
picture of youthful strength, vitality, and determination. Beneath
the Lieutenant's flannel shirt the long, slim muscles showed free
and full, and the firm set of jaw and lip denoted a mind at rest and
confident of itself. Gale found himself for a moment jealously
regarding the youth and his enviable state of contentment and
"Well, let's get at it," the younger man finally said.
"I suppose you'll want to interrupt and question me a heap, but I'll
ask you to let me tell this story the way it comes to me, till I get
it out, then we can go back and take up the queer stuff. It runs
back eighteen or twenty years, and, being as it's part of a hidden
life, it isn't easy to tell. You'll be the first one to hear it, and
I reckon you're enough like other men to disbelieve--you're not old
enough, and you haven't knocked around enough to learn that nothing
is impossible, that nothing is strange enough to be unreasonable.
Likewise, you'll want to know what, all this has to do with you and
Necia--yes, she told me about you and her, and that's why I'm here."
He paused. "You really think you love her, do you?"
Burrell removed his pipe and gazed at its coal impersonally.
"I love her so well, Mr. Gale, that nothing you can say will affect
me. I--I hesitated at first about asking her to be my wife, because-
-you'll appreciate the unusual--well, her unusual history. You see,
I come from a country where mixed blood is about the only thing that
can't be lived down or overlooked, and I've been raised with notions
of family honor and pride of race and birth, and so forth, that
might seem preposterous and absurd to you. But a heap of conceits
like that have been bred into me from generations back; they run in
the blood of every old family in my country, and so, I'm ashamed to
say, I hesitated and tried to reason myself into giving her up, but
I've had my eyes opened, and I see how little those things amount
to, after all. I'm going to marry Necia, Mr. Gale. I'd like to do it
the day after to-morrow, Sunday, but she isn't of age yet, and if
you object, we'll have to wait until November, when she turns
eighteen. We'd both like your consent, of course; I'd be sorry to
marry her without it; but if you refuse, we'll be forced to
displease you." He looked up and met the father's gaze steadily.
"Now, I'll be glad to listen as long as you care to talk, but I
don't think it will do any good."
The other man's lips framed a faint smile.
"We'll see. I wish to God I'd had your decision when I was your age,
this story would be different, and easier to tell." He waited a
moment, then settled to his self-appointed task. "I was mining at
the time up in the Mother Lode country of California, which was the
frontier then, pretty much as this is now, only we had better things
to eat. I came from the East, or my people did, but I was ranch-
raised, and loved the hills and woods and places where you don't
talk much, so I went to prospecting because it took me out where the
sun was bright and I could see the wild things at play. I was one of
the first men into a camp named Chandon--helped to build it, in
fact, and got hold of some ground that looked real good. It was hard
mining, however, and, being poor, I was still gripping my drill and
hammer after the town had grown up.
"A woman came out from the East--Vermont, it was--and school-
teaching was her line of business, only she hadn't been raised to
it, and this was her first clatter at the game; but things had broke
bad for her people, and ended in her pulling stakes and coming West
all alone. Her folks died and left her up against it, I gathered
from what little she told me--sort of an old story, I guess, and
usual too, only for her. She was plumb unusual."
He seemed to ponder this a moment, and then resumed:
"It don't make any difference to you how I first saw her, and how I
began to forget that anything else in the world was worth having but
her. I'd lived in the woods all my life, as I said, and knew more
about birds and bugs and bees than I did about women; I hadn't been
broke proper, and didn't know how to act with them; but I laid out
to get this girl, and I did fairly well. There's something wild in
every woman that needs to be tamed, and it isn't like the wildness
that runs in wood critters; you can win that over by gentleness, but
you have to take it away from a woman. Every live thing that
couldn't talk was my friend; but I made the mistake of courting my
own kind the same way, not knowing that when two of any species mate
the male must rule. I was too gentle. Even so, I reckon I'd have won
out only for another man. Dan Bennett was his name--the kind that
dumb animals hate, and--well, that takes his measure. His range
adjoined mine, and, though I'd never seen him, I heard stories now
and then--the sort of tales you can't tell to a good woman; so it
worried me when I heard of his attentions to this girl. Still, I
thought she'd surely find him out and recognize the kind of fellow
he was; but, Lord! a woman, can't tell a man from a dog, and there
wasn't any one to warn her. There were plenty of women who knew him,
but they were the ones who flew by night, while she lived in the
sunshine; and women of that kind don't make complaint, anyhow.
"This Bennett came from the town below, where he ran a saloon and a
brace game or two; but being as he rode into our camp and out again
in the night, and as I didn't drink nor listen to the music of the
little rolling ball, why, we never met, even after he began coming
to Chandon. Understand, I wasn't too good for those amusements; I
just didn't happen to hanker after them, for I was living with the
image of the little school-ma'am in my mind, and that destroyed what
bad habits I'd formed.
"It was along in the early spring that she began to see I had
notions about her, but my damned backwardness wouldn't let me speak,
and, in addition, I was getting closer to ore every shot at the
mine, and was holding off until I could lay both myself and my
goldmine at her feet, and ask her to take the two of us, so if one
didn't pan out the other might. But it seemed like I'd never get
into pay. The closer I got the harder I worked, and, of course, the
less I saw of her, likewise the oftener Bennett came. I reckon no
man ever worked like I did--two shifts a day, eighteen hours, with
six to sleep. The skin came off of my hands, and I staggered when I
came out into the daylight, for the rock was hard, and I had no
money to hire a helper; but I was young and strong, and the hope of
her was like drink and food and sleep to me. At last I struck it,
and still I waited awhile longer till I could be sure. Then I went
down to my little shack and put on my other clothes. I remember I'd
gone so thin that they hung loose, and my palms were so raw I had
hard work handling the buttons, and got my shirt all bloody, for I'd
been in the drift forty hours, without sleep and breathing powder
smoke, till my knees buckled and wobbled under me. To this day the
smell of stale powder smoke makes a woman of me; but that morning I
sang, for I was going for my bride, and the world was brighter than
it has ever been for eighteen years. The little school-house was
closed, at which I remembered that the term was over. I'd been
living underground for weeks and lost track of the days, so that I
had to count them up on my fingers. It took me a long time, for I
was pretty tired in my head; but when I'd figured it out I went on
to where she was boarding.
"The woman of the place came to the door, a Scotch-woman. She had a
mole on her chin, I remember, a brownish-black mole with three hairs
in it. She wore an apron, too, that was kind of checkered, and three
buttons were open at the neck of her dress. I recall a lot more of
little things about her, though the rest of what happened is rather
"I asked for Merridy, and she told me she'd gone away--gone with
Bennett, the night before, while I was coughing blood from the
powder smoke; that they were married in the front room, and that the
bride looked beautiful. She had cried a bit on leaving Chandon, and-
-and--that was about all. I counted the buttons on the Scotchwoman's
waist eight or ten times, and by-and-by she asked if I was sick. But
I wasn't. She was a kind-hearted woman, and I'd been to her house a
good deal, so she asked me to come in and rest. I wasn't tired, so I
went away, and climbed back up to the little shack and the mine that
I hated now."
The trader paused, and, reaching for the bottle, poured himself out
a glass of brandy, which he spilled into his throat raw, then
"I turned into a kind of hermit after that, and I wasn't good to
associate with. Men got so they shunned me, and I knew they told
strange stories, because I heard them whisper when I went to the
stores for grub once a month. I changed all over, till even my
squirrels and partridges and other friends quit me; once in awhile I
got out a ton or two of rock and sold it, but I never worked the
mine or opened it up--I couldn't bear to go inside the drift. I
tried it time and again, but the smell of its darkness drove me out;
every foot of its ragged walls had left its mark on me, and my heart
was torn and gouged and shivered worse than its seams and ledges. I
could have sold it, but there was no place for me to go, and what
did I want with money? I was shy of the world, like a crippled child
that dreads the daylight, and I shrank from going out where people
might see my scars; so I stayed there by myself nursing the hurt
that never got any better. You see, I'd been raised among the hills
and rocks, and I was like them in a way; I couldn't grow and alter
and heal up.
"From time to time I heard of her, but the news, instead of
gladdening me, as it would have gladdened some men, wrung out what
bits of suffering were left in me, and I fairly ached for her.
Nobody comes to see clearer than a woman deceived, so it didn't take
her long to find out the kind of man Bennett was. He wasn't like her
at all, and the reason he had courted her so hotly was just that he
had had everything that rightly belongs to a man like him, and had
sickened of it, so he wanted her because she was clean and pure and
different; and realizing that he couldn't get her any other way, he
had married her. But she was a treasure no bad man could appreciate,
and so he tired quickly, even before the little one came.
"When I heard that she had borne him a daughter I wrote her a
letter, which took me a month to compose, and which I tore up. One
day a story came to me that made me saddle my horse to ride down and
kill him--and, mind you, I was a man who made pets of little wild,
trusting things. But I knew she would surely send for me when her
pain became too great, so I uncinched my gear and hung it up, and
waited and waited and waited. Three long, endless years I waited,
almost within sound of her voice, without a word from her, without a
glimpse of her, and every hour of that time went by as slowly as if
I had held my breath. Then she called to me, and I went.
"I tell you, I was thankful that day for the fortune that had made
me take good care of my horse, for I rode like Death on a wind-
storm. It grew moonlight as I raced down the valley, and the foam
from the animal's muzzle lodged on my clothes, and made me laugh and
swear that the morning sun would show Dan Bennett's blood in its
place. I rode through the streets of Mesa, where they lived, and
past the lights of his big saloon, where I heard the sound of
devil's revelry and a shrill-voiced woman singing--a woman the like
of which he had tried to make my Merridy. I never skulked or sneaked
in those days, and no man. ever made me take back roads, so I came
up to his house from the front and tied my horse to his gate-post.
She heard me on the steps and opened the door.
"'You sent for me,' said I. 'Where is he?' But he had gone away to a
neighboring camp, and wouldn't be back until morning, at which I
felt the way a thief must feel, for I'd hoped to meet him in his own
house, and I wasn't the kind to go calling when the husband was out.
I couldn't think very clearly, however, because of the change in
her. She was so thin and worn and sad, sadder than any woman I'd
ever seen, and she wasn't the girl I'd known three years before. I
guess I'd changed a heap myself; anyhow, that was the first thing
she spoke about, and the tears came into her eyes as she breathed:
"'Poor boy! poor boy! You took it very hard, didn't you?'"
"'You sent for me,' said I. 'Which road did he take?'"
"'There's nothing you can do to him,' she answered back. 'I sent for
you to make sure that you still love me."
"'Did you ever doubt it?' said I, at which she began to cry, sobbing
like a woman who has worn out all emotion.
"'Can you feel the same after what I've made you suffer?' she said,
and I reckon she must have read the answer in my eyes; for I never
was much good at talking, and the sight of her, so changed, had
taken the speech out of me, leaving nothing but aches and pains and
ashes in its place. When she saw what she wished to know, she told
me the story, the whole miserable story, that I'd heard enough of to
suspect. Why she'd married the other man she couldn't explain
herself, except that it was a woman's whim--I had stayed away and he
had come the oftener--part pique and part the man's dare-devil
fascination, I reckon; but a month had shown her how she really
stood, and had shown him, too. Likewise, she saw the sort of man he
was and the kind of life he lived. At last he got rough and cruel to
her, trying every way to break her spirit; and even the baby didn't
stop him--it made him worse, if anything--till he swore he'd make
them both the kind he was, for her goodness seemed to rile and goad
him; and, having lived with the kind of woman you have to beat, he
tried it on her. Then she knew her fight was hopeless, and she sent
"'He's a fiend,' she told me. 'I've stood all I can. He'll make a
bad woman of me as sure as he will of the little one, if I stay on
here, so I have decided to go and take her with me.'"
"'Where?' said I."
"'Wherever you say,' she answered; and yet I did not understand, not
till I saw the look in her eyes. Then, as it dawned on me, she broke
down, for it was a terrible thing for a good woman to offer."
'"It's all for the little girl!' she cried. 'More than her life
depends upon it. We must get her away from him.'"
"She saw it was her only course, and went where her heart was
The Lieutenant met the look of appeal in the trader's eyes, and
nodded to imply his complete understanding and approval.
"We love some women for their goodness, others we love for their
frailness, but there never was one who combined the two like her,
and, now that I knew she loved me, I began to believe again there
was a God somewhere. I'd never seen the youngster, so she led me in
where it was sleeping, and I remember my boots made such a devil of
a thumping on the floor that she laid her slim white finger on her
lips and smiled at me. All the fingers in the world began to choke
at my throat, and all the blood in me commenced to pound at my
heart, when I looked on that little sleeping kiddie. The tears began
to roll out of my eyes, and, because they had been dry for four
years, they scalded like melted metal. That was the only time I ever
wept--the sight of her baby did it.
"'I love her already,' I whispered, 'and I'll spend my life making
her happy and making a lady of her,' which clinched what wavering
doubt the mother had, and she began to plan quickly, the fear coming
on her of a sudden that our scheme might fail. I was for riding away
with both of them that night, back through the streets of Mesa and
up into the hills, where I'd have held them single-handed against
man or God or devil, but she wouldn't hear of it.
"'We must go away,' she said, 'a long way from here, where the world
won't find us and the little one can grow to womanhood without
knowing. She must never learn who her father was or what her mother
did. We will start all over, you and I and the baby, and forget. Do
you love me well enough to do it?'
"I uttered a cry and took her in my arms, the arms that had ached
for her all those years. Then I kissed her for the first time."
The old man tried to light his pipe, which had gone out, but his
fingers shook so that he dropped the match; whereupon, without
speaking, Burrell struck another and held it for him. The trader
drew a noisy puff or two in silence and shot his host a grateful
"Her plan was for me to take the youngster away that night, and for
her to join us later, because pursuit was certain, and three could
be traced where one might disappear; she would follow when the
opportunity offered. I saw that he had instilled a terror into her,
and that she feared him like death; but, as I thought it over, her
scheme seemed feasible, so I agreed. I was to ride west that hour
with the sleeping babe, and conceal myself at a place we selected,
while she would say that the little one had wandered away and been
lost in the canon, or anything else to throw Bennett off. After a
time she would join us. Well--the little girl never waked when I
took her in my arms, nor when the mother broke down again and talked
to me like a crazy woman. Her collapse showed the terrible strain
she had been living under, and the ragged edge where her reason
stood. She had been brave enough to plan coolly till the hour for
giving up her baby, but when that came she was seized with a
thousand dreads, and made me swear by my love for her, which was and
is the holiest thing in all my life, that if anything happened I
would live for the other Merridy. I begged her again to come with
me, but her fears held her back. She vowed, however, that Bennett
should never touch her again, and I made her swear by her love for
the babe that she would die before he ever laid hands on her. It
woke a savage joy in me to think I had bested him, after all.
"I never thought of what I was giving up, of the clean name I was
soiling, of the mine back there that meant a fortune anytime I cared
to take it, for things like that don't count when a man's blood is
hot, so I rode away in the yellow moonlight with a sleeping baby on
my breast, where no child or woman had ever lain except for that
minute before I left. She stood out from beneath the porch shadow
and smiled her good-bye--the last I ever saw of her....
"I travelled hard that night and swapped horses at daylight; then,
leaving the wild country behind, I came into a region I didn't know,
and found a Mexican woman who tended the child for me, for I was
close by the place where Merridy was to come. Every night I went
into the village in hopes that some word had arrived, and I waited
patiently for a week. Then I got the blow. I heard it from the
loafers around the little post-office first, but it dazed me so I
wouldn't believe it till I borrowed the paper and read the whole
story, with the type dancing and leaping before me. It took some
hours for it to seep in, even after that, and for years I recalled
every word of the damned lie as if it had been branded on me with
hot irons. They called it a shocking crime, the most brutal murder
California had ever known, and in the head-lines was my name in
letters that struck me between the eyes like a hammer. Mrs. Dan
Bennett had been foully murdered by me, in a fit of sudden jealousy,
and I had disappeared with the baby! The husband had returned
unexpectedly to find her dying, so he said, but too far gone to call
for help, and with barely sufficient strength to tell him who did it
and how! Then the paper went on with the tale of my courting her,
and her turning me down for Bennett. It told how I had gone off
alone up into the hills, turning into a bear that nobody, man or
child, could approach. It said I had brooded there all this time
till the mania got uppermost, and so came down to wreak my
vengeance. They never even did me the credit of calling me crazy; I
was a fiend incarnate, a beast without soul, and a lot of things
like that; and, remember, I had never harmed a living thing in all
my life. However, that wasn't what hurt. What turned me into a dull,
dead, suffering thing was the knowledge that she was gone. For hours
I couldn't get beyond that fact. Then came the realization that
Bennett had done it, for I reasoned that he had dragged a hint of
the truth from her by very force of the fear he held her in--and
slain her. God!--the awful rage that came over me! But there was
nothing to do; I had sworn to guard the little one, so I couldn't
take vengeance on him. I couldn't go back and prove my innocence,
for that would give the child to him. What a night I spent! The next
day I saw I had been indicted by the grand jury and was a wanted
man. From a distance I watched myself become an outlaw; watched the
county put a price upon my head, which Bennett doubled; watched
public opinion rise to such a heat that posses began to scour the
mountains. What I noted in particular was a statement in the paper
that 'The sorrowing husband takes his bereavement with the quiet
courage which marks a brave man'! That roused me more than the
knowledge that he had made me a wolf and set my friends on my track,
which I hadn't covered very well, having ridden boldly. It happened
that the Mexican woman couldn't read and talked little; still, I
knew they'd find me soon--it couldn't be otherwise--so I made
another run for it, swearing an oath, however, before I left that
I'd come back and have that gambler's heart.
"It was lucky I went, for they uncovered my sign the next day, and
the country where I'd hidden blazed like a field of dry grass. They
were close on my heels, and they closed in from every quarter, but,
pshaw! I knew the woods like an Indian, and the wild things were my
friends again, which would have made it play if I'd been alone, but
a girl child of three was harder to manage. So I cowered and skulked
day after day like a thief or the murderer they thought me, working
always farther into the hidden places, travelling by night with the
little one asleep on my bosom, by day playing with her in some leafy
glen, with my pursuers so close behind that for weeks I never slept;
and my love for the child increased daily till it became almost an
"She was the only woman thing I had ever possessed, and it seemed
like my love for the mother came back and settled on her. And she
loved me, too, and trusted me. Every little smile, every clasp of
her tiny, dimpled fingers showed it, and tied her to me with another
knot till the fear of losing her became greater than I could bear,
till it kept the chill of death in my bones and filled my veins with
glacier water. I became an animal, a cowardly, quailing coyote, all
through the love of a child.
"We had close squeezes many times, but I finally won, in spite of
the fact that they tracked us clear to the edge of the desert, for I
had hit for the state line, knowing that Nevada was a wilderness,
and feeling that I'd surely lose them there. And I did. But in doing
it I nearly lost Merridy. You see, the constant travel and hardship
was too much for a prattling baby, and she fell sick from the heat
and the dust and the thirst. I'd been going and going till I was a
riding skeleton, till my arms were crooked and dead from holding
her, but this new thing frightened me like those men and dogs had
never done. Here was a thing I couldn't hide from nor outride, so I
doubled back and came boldly into the watered country again,
expecting they would take me, of course, for a runaway man with a
babe in his arms isn't hard to identify, but I didn't care. I was
bound for the nearest ranch or mining-camp where a woman could be
found; but, as luck would have it, I went through without trying. I
had gone farther from men and things, however, than I thought, and
this return pursuit was a million times worse than the other, for I
couldn't go fast enough to shake Death, who ran with his hand on my
cantle or rode on my horse's rump. It was then I found Alluna. She
was with a hunting-party of Pah-Utes, who knew nothing of me nor of
the white man's affairs, and cared less; and when I saw the little
squaw I rode my horse up beside her, laid the sick child in her
arms, then tumbled out of the saddle. They had a harder job to pull
me through than they did to save Merridy, for I'd given the baby all
the water and hadn't slept or rested for many years, so it seemed.
"The little one was playing around several days before I got back my
reason. Meanwhile the party had moved North, taking us with them,
and, as it happened, just missing a posse who were returning from
"When I was able to get about I told Alluna that I must be going,
but as I told her I watched her face, and saw the sign I wanted--the
white girl had clutched at her like she had at me, and she couldn't
give her up, so I made a dicker with her old man. It took all the
money I had to buy that squaw, but I knew the kiddie must have a
woman's care; and the three of us started out soon after, alone, and
broke, and aimless--and we've been going ever since.
"That's the heart of the story, Lieutenant, and that's how I started
to drift. Since then we three have never rested. I left them once in
Idaho and went back to Mesa, riding all the way, mostly by night,
but Bennett was gone. He'd run down mighty fast after Merridy died,
so I heard, growing sullen and uglier day by day--and I reckon I was
the only one who knew why--till he had a killing in his place. It
was unprovoked, and instead of stopping to face it out the yellow in
him rose to the surface and he left before sunup, as I had left,
making a clean getaway, too, for there was no such hullabaloo raised
about killing a man as there was about--the other. So my trip was
all for nothing.
"I was used to disappointment by now, so I took it quiet and went
back to Alluna and the little one, knowing that some day we two men
would meet. You see, I figured that God had framed a cold hand for
me, but He would surely give me a pair before the game closed. Of
course, never having seen Bennett, I was handicapped, and, added to
that, he changed his name, so the search was mighty slow and blind,
but I knew the day would come. And it would have come only for--
"There isn't much more to tell. I did what most men would have done,
I reckon, because I was just average in every way. I took Alluna,
and together we drifted North, along the frontier, until we landed
here. Every year the little girl got more beautiful and more like
her mother, and every year we two loved her more. We changed her
name, of course, for I've always had the dread of the law back of
me, and then the other two kiddies came along; but we were living
pretty easy, the woman contented and me waiting for Bennett, till
you stepped in and Necia fell in love. That's another thing I never
counted on. It seems like I've always overlooked the plainest kind
of facts. I've held off telling you the last few weeks, hoping you
two wouldn't make it necessary, for I reckon I'm sort of a coward;
but she informed me to-night that she couldn't marry you, being what
she thinks she is, and knowing the blood she has in her I knew she
wouldn't. I figured it wouldn't be right to either of you to let you
go it blind, and so I came in to tell you this whole thing and to
give myself up."
Gale stopped, then poured himself another drink.
"To give yourself up?" echoed Burrell, vaguely. "How do you mean?"
He had sat like one in a trance during the long recital, only his
"I'm under indictment for murder," said the trader. "I have been for
fifteen years, and there's no chance in the world for me to prove my
"Have you told Necia?" the young man inquired.
"No, you'll have to do that--I never could--she might--disbelieve.
What's more, you mustn't tell her yet. Wait till I give the word. It
won't be long, perhaps a day. I want to go free a little while yet,
for I've got some work to do."
Burrell rose to his feet and stamped the cramps from his muscles. He
was deeply agitated, and his mind was groping darkly for light to
lay hold of this new thing that confronted him.
"Why, yes, yes--of course--don't come until you're ready," he
muttered, mechanically, as if unaware of the meaning of his words.
"To be sure, I'm a policeman, am I not? I had forgotten I was a
jailer, and--and all that." He said it sneeringly, and with a
measure of contempt for his office; then he turned suddenly to the
trader, and his voice was rich and deep-pitched with feeling.
"John Gale," he said, "you're the bravest man I ever knew, and the
best." He choked a bit. "You sacrificed all that life meant when
this girl was a baby, and now when she has come into womanhood you
give up your blood for her. By God! You are a man! I want your
In spite of himself he could not restrain the moisture that dimmed
his eyes as he gripped the toil-worn palm of this great, gray hulk
of a man, so aged and bent beneath the burden of his life-long,
fadeless love, who, in turn, was powerfully affected by the young
man's impulsive outburst of feeling and his unexpected words of
praise. The old man looked up a trifle shyly.
"Then you don't doubt no part of it?"
"Somehow, I always figured nobody would believe me if ever I told
the whole thing."
The soldier gazed unseeingly into the flame of his lamp, and said:
"I wonder if my love for the daughter is as great and as holy as
your love for the mother. I wonder if I could give what you have
given, if I had nothing but a memory to live with me." Then he
inquired, irrelevantly; "But what about Bennett, Mr. Gale? You say
you never found him?"
The trader answered, after a moment's hesitation, "He's still at
large." At which his companion exclaimed, "I'd love to meet him in
Gale seemed seized with a desire to speak, but, even while he
hesitated, out of the silent night there came the sound of quick
footsteps approaching briskly, as if the owner were in haste and
knew whither he was bound. Up the steps they came lightly; then the
room and the whole silence round about rang and echoed with a
peremptory signal. Evidently this man rapped on the board door to
awaken and alarm, for instead of his knuckles he used some hard and
heavy thing like a gun-butt.
"Lieutenant Burrell! Lieutenant Burrell!" a gruff voice cried.
"Who's there?" called the young man.
"Let me in! Quick! I've got work for you to do! Open up, I say! This
is Ben Stark!"
Next: And A Knot Tightened
Previous: Stark Takes A Hand In The Game