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Into The Unknown

From: The Trail To Yesterday

After a time Sheila rose from the bunk on which she had been sitting and
stood in the center of the floor, looking down at her father. Dakota had
not moved. He stood also, watching Langford, his face pale and grim, and
he did not speak until Sheila had addressed him twice.

"What are you going to do now?" she said dully. "It is for you to say, you
know. You hold his life in your hands."

"Do?" He smiled bitterly at her. "What would you do? I have waited ten
years for this day. It must go on to the end."

"The end?"

"Yes; the end," he said gravely. "He"--Dakota pointed to the prostrate
figure--"must sign a written confession."

"And then?"

"He will return to answer for his crime."

Sheila shuddered and turned from him with bowed head.

"Oh!" she said at last; "it will be too horrible! My friends in the
East--they will----"

"Your friends," he said with some bitterness. "Could your friends say more
than my friends said when they thought that I had murdered my own father
in cold blood and then run away?"

"But I am innocent," she pleaded.

"I was innocent," he returned, with a grave smile.

"Yes, but I could not help you, you know, for I wasn't there when you were
accused. But you are here, and you can help me. Don't you see," she said,
coming close to him, "don't you see that the disgrace will not fall on
him, but on me. I will make him sign the confession," she offered, "you
can hold it over him. He will make restitution of your property. But do
not force him to go back East. Let him go somewhere--anywhere--but let him
live. For, after all, he is my father--the only one I ever knew."

"But my vengeance," he said, the bitterness of his smile softening as he
looked down at her.

"Your vengeance?" She came closer to him, looking up into his face. "Are
we to judge--to condemn? Will not the power which led us three
together--the power which you are pleased to call 'Fate'; the power that
blazed the trail which you have followed from the yesterday of your
life;--will not this power judge him--punish him? Please," she pleaded,
"please, for my sake, for--for"--her voice broke and she came forward and
placed her hands on his shoulders--"for your wife's sake."

He looked down at her for an instant, the hard lines of his face breaking
into gentle, sympathetic curves. Then his arms went around her, and she
leaned against him, her head against his shoulder, while she wept softly.

* * * * *

An hour later, standing side by side in the open doorway of the cabin,
Sheila and Dakota watched in silence while Langford, having signed a
confession dictated by Dakota, mounted his pony and rode slowly up the
river trail toward Lazette.

He slowly passed the timber clump near the cabin, and with bowed head
traveled up the long slope which led to the rise upon which, in another
time, Sheila had caught her last glimpse of the parson. It was in the
cold, bleak moment of the morning when darkness has not yet gone and the
dawn not come, and Langford looked strangely desolate out there on the
trail alone--alone with thoughts more desolate than his surroundings.

Sheila shivered and snuggled closer to Dakota. He looked down at her with
a sympathetic smile.

"It is so lonesome," she said.

"Where?" he asked.

"Out there--where he is going."

Dakota did not answer. For a long time they watched the huddled form of
the rider. They saw him approach the crest of the rise--reach it. Then
from the mountains in the eastern distance came a shaft of light, striking
the summit of the rise where the rider bestrode his pony--throwing both
into bold relief. For a moment the rider halted the pony, turned, glanced
back an instant, and was gone.

Next: The Landslide Mine

Previous: Some Memories

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