The Camp On The Pass





Berea suffered a restless night, the most painful and broken she had

known in all her life. She acknowledged that Siona Moore was prettier,

and that she stood more nearly on Wayland's plane than herself; but the

realization of this fact did not bring surrender--she was not of that

temper. All her life she had been called upon to combat the elements, to

hold her own amidst rude men and inconsiderate women, and she had no

intention of yielding her place to a pert coquette, no matter what the

gossips might say. She had seen this girl many times, but had refused to

visit her house. She had held her in contempt, now she quite cordially

hated her.



"She shall not have her way with Wayland," she decided. "I know what she

wants--she wants him at her side to-morrow; but I will not have it so.

She is trying to get him away from me."



The more she dwelt on this the hotter her jealous fever burned. The floor

on which she lay was full of knots. She could not lose herself in sleep,

tired as she was. The planks no longer turned their soft spots to her

flesh, and she rolled from side to side in torment. She would have arisen

and dressed only she did not care to disturb the men. The night seemed

interminable.



Her plan of action was simple. "I shall go home the morrow and take

Wayland with me. I will not have him going with that girl--that's

settled!" The very thought of his taking Siona's hand in greeting angered

her beyond reason.



She had put Cliff Belden completely out of her mind, and this was

characteristic of her. She had no divided interests, no subtleties, no

subterfuges. Forthright, hot-blooded, frank and simple, she had centered

all her care, all her desires, on this pale youth whose appeal was at

once mystic and maternal; but her pity was changing to something deeper,

for she was convinced that he was gaining in strength, that he was in no

danger of relapse. The hard trip of the day before had seemingly done him

no permanent injury; on the contrary, a few hours' rest had almost

restored him to his normal self. "To-morrow he will be able to ride

again." And this thought reconciled her to her hard bed. She did not look

beyond the long, delicious day which they must spend in returning to the

Springs.



She fell asleep at last, and was awakened only by her father tinkering

about the stove.



She rose alertly, signing to the Supervisor not to disturb her patient.



However, Norcross also heard the rattle of the poker, opened his eyes and

regarded Berrie with sleepy smile. "Good morning, if it is morning," he

said, slowly.



She laughed back at him. "It's almost sunup."



"You don't tell me! How could I have overslept like this? Makes me think

of the Irishman who, upon being awakened to an early breakfast like this,

ate it, then said to his employer, an extra thrifty farmer, 'Two suppers

in wan night--and hurrah for bed again.'"



This amused her greatly. "It's too bad. I hope you got some sleep?"



"All there was time for." His voice changed. "I feel like a hound-pup, to

be snoring on a downy couch like this while you were roughing it on the

floor. How did I come to do it? It's shameful!"



"Don't worry about me. How are you feeling this morning?"



He stretched and yawned. "Fine! That is, I'm sore here and there, but I'm

feeling wonderfully well. Do you know, I begin to hope that I can finally

dominate the wilderness. Wouldn't it be wonderful if I got so I could

ride and walk as you do, for instance? The fact that I'm not dead this

morning is encouraging." He drew on his shoes as he talked, while she

went about her toilet, which was quite as simple as his own. She had

spent two nights in her day dress with almost no bathing facilities; but

that didn't trouble her. It was a part of the game. She washed her face

and hands in Settle's tin basin, but drew the line at his rubber comb.



There was a distinct charm in seeing her thus adapting herself to the

cabin, a charm quite as powerful as that which emanated from Siona

Moore's dainty and theatrical personality. What it was he could not

define, but the forester's daughter had something primeval about her,

something close to the soil, something which aureoles the old Saxon

words--wife and home and fireplace. Seeing her through the savory

steam of the bacon she was frying, he forgot her marvelous skill as

horsewoman and pathfinder, and thought of her only as the housewife. She

belonged here, in this cabin. She was fitted to this landscape, whereas

the other woman was alien and dissonant.



He moved his arms about and shook his legs with comical effect of trying

to see if they were still properly hinged. "It's miraculous! I'm not lame

at all. No one can accuse me of being a 'lunger' now. Last night's sleep

has made a new man of me. I've met the forest and it is mine."



She beamed upon him with happy pride. "I'm mighty glad to hear you say

that. I was terribly afraid that long, hard walk in the rain had been too

much for you. I reckon you're all right for the work now."



He recalled, as she spoke, her anguish of pity while they stood in the

darkness of the trail, and it seemed that he could go no farther, and he

said, soberly: "It must have seemed to you one while as if I were all in.

I felt that way myself. I was numb from head to heel. I couldn't have

gone another mile."



Her face clouded with retrospective pain. "You mustn't try any more such

stunts--not for a few weeks, anyway. But get ready for breakfast."



He went out into the morning exultantly, and ran down to the river to

bathe his face and hands, allured by its splendid voice. The world seemed

very bright and beautiful and health-giving once more.



As soon as she was alone with her father, Berrie said: "I'm going home

to-day, dad."



"Going home! What for?"



"I've had enough of it."



He glanced at her bed on the floor. "I can't say I blame you any. This

has been a rough trip; but we'll go up and bring down the outfit, and

then we men can sleep in the tent and let you have the bunk--you'll be

comfortable to-night."



"Oh, I don't mind sleeping on the floor," she replied; "but I want to get

back. I don't want to meet those women. Another thing, you'd better use

Mr. Norcross at the Springs instead of leaving him here with Tony."



"Why so?"



"Well, he isn't quite well enough to run the risk. It's a long way from

here to a doctor."



"He 'pears to be on deck this morning. Besides, I haven't anything in the

office to offer him."



"Then send him up to Meeker. Landon needs help, and he's a better

forester than Tony, anyway."



"How about Cliff? He may make trouble."



Her face darkened. "Cliff will reach him if he wants to--no matter where

he is. And then, too, Landon likes Mr. Norcross and will see that he is

not abused."



McFarlane ruminated over her suggestion, well knowing that she was

planning this change in order that she might have Norcross a little

nearer, a little more accessible.



"I don't know but you're right. Landon is almost as good a hustler as

Tony, and a much better forester. I thought of sending Norcross up there

at first, but he told me that Frank and his gang had it in for him. Of

course, he's only nominally in the service; but I want him to begin

right."



Berrie went further. "I want him to ride back with me to-day."



He looked at her with grave inquiry. "Do you think that a wise thing to

do? Won't that make more talk?"



"We'll start early and ride straight through."



"You'll have to go by Lost Lake, and that means a long, hard hike. Can he

stand it?"



"Oh yes. He rides well. It's the walking at a high altitude that does him

up. Furthermore, Cliff may turn up here, and I don't want another

mix-up."



McFarlane was troubled. "I ought to go back with you; but Moore is over

here to line out a cutting, and I must stay on for a couple of days.

Suppose I send Tony along?"



"No, Tony would be a nuisance and would do no good. Another day on the

trail won't add to Mrs. Belden's story. If she wants to be mean she's got

all the material for it already."



In the end she had her way. McFarlane, perceiving that she had set her

heart on this ride, and having perfect faith in her skill and judgment on

the trail, finally said: "Well, if you do so, the quicker you start the

better. With the best of luck you can't pull in before eight o'clock, and

you'll have to ride hard to do that."



"If I find we can't make it I'll pull into a ranch. But I'm sure we

can."



When Wayland came in the Supervisor inquired: "Do you feel able to ride

back over the hill to-day?"



"Entirely so. It isn't the riding that uses me up; it is the walking;

and, besides, as candidate for promotion I must obey orders--especially

orders to march."



They breakfasted hurriedly, and while McFarlane and Tony were bringing in

the horses Wayland and Berrie set the cabin to rights. Working thus side

by side, she recovered her dominion over him, and at the same time

regained her own cheerful self-confidence.



"You're a wonder!" he exclaimed, as he watched her deft adjustment of the

dishes and furniture. "You're ambidextrous."



"I have to be to hold my job," she laughingly replied. "A feller must

play all the parts when he's up here."



It was still early morning as they mounted and set off up the trail; but

Moore's camp was astir, and as McFarlane turned in--much against Berrie's

will--the lumberman and his daughter both came out to meet them. "Come in

and have some breakfast," said Siona, with cordial inclusiveness, while

her eyes met Wayland's glance with mocking glee.



"Thank you," said McFarlane, "we can't stop. I'm going to set my daughter

over the divide. She has had enough camping, and Norcross is pretty well

battered up, so I'm going to help them across. I'll be back to-night, and

we'll take our turn up the valley to-morrow. Nash will be here then."



Berrie did not mind her father's explanation; on the contrary, she took a

distinct pleasure in letting the other girl know of the long and intimate

day she was about to spend with her young lover.



Siona, too adroit to display her disappointment, expressed polite regret.

"I hope you won't get storm-bound," she said, showing her white teeth in

a meaning smile.



"If there is any sign of a storm we won't cross," declared McFarlane.

"We're going round by the lower pass, anyhow. If I'm not here by dark,

you may know I've stayed to set 'em down at the Mill."



There was charm in Siona's alert poise, and in the neatness of her camp

dress. Her dainty tent, with its stools and rugs, made the wilderness

seem but a park. She reminded Norcross of the troops of tourists of the

Tyrol, and her tent was of a kind to harmonize with the tea-houses on the

path to the summit of the Matterhorn. Then, too, something triumphantly

feminine shone in her bright eyes and glowed in her softly rounded

cheeks. Her hand was little and pointed, not fitted like Berrie's for

tightening a cinch or wielding an ax, and as he said "Good-by," he added:

"I hope I shall see you again soon," and at the moment he meant it.



"We'll return to the Springs in a few days," she replied. "Come and see

us. Our bungalow is on the other side of the river--and you, too," she

addressed Berrie; but her tone was so conventionally polite that the

ranch-girl, burning with jealous heat, made no reply.



McFarlane led the way to the lake rapidly and in silence. The splendors

of the foliage, subdued by the rains, the grandeur of the peaks, the song

of the glorious stream--all were lost on Berrie, for she now felt herself

to be nothing but a big, clumsy, coarse-handed tomboy. Her worn gloves,

her faded skirt, and her man's shoes had been made hateful to her by that

smug, graceful, play-acting tourist with the cool, keen eyes and smirking

lips. "She pretends to be a kitten; but she isn't; she's a sly grown-up

cat," she bitterly accused, but she could not deny the charm of her

personality.



Wayland was forced to acknowledge that Berrie in this dark mood was not

the delightful companion she had hitherto been. Something sweet and

confiding had gone out of their relationship, and he was too keen-witted

not to know what it was. He estimated precisely the value of the

malicious parting words of Siona Moore. "She's a natural tease, the kind

of woman who loves to torment other and less fortunate women. She cares

nothing for me, of course, it's just her way of paying off old scores. It

would seem that Berrie has not encouraged her advances in times past."



That Berrie was suffering, and that her jealousy touchingly proved the

depth of her love for him, brought no elation, only perplexity. He was

not seeking such devotion. As a companion on the trail she had been a

joy--as a jealous sweetheart she was less admirable. He realized

perfectly that this return journey was of her arrangement, not

McFarlane's, and while he was not resentful of her care, he was in doubt

of the outcome. It hurried him into a further intimacy which might prove

embarrassing.



At the camp by the lake the Supervisor became sharply commanding. "Now

let's throw these packs on lively. It will be slippery on the high trail,

and you'll just naturally have to hit leather hard and keep jouncing if

you reach the wagon-road before dark. But you'll make it."



"Make it!" said Berrie. "Of course we'll make it. Don't you worry about

that for a minute. Once I get out of the green timber the dark won't

worry me. We'll push right through."



In packing the camp stuff on the saddles, Berrie, almost as swift and

powerful as her father, acted with perfect understanding of every task,

and Wayland's admiration of her skill increased mightily.



She insisted on her father's turning back. "We don't need you," she said.

"I can find the pass."



McFarlane's faith in his daughter had been tested many times, and yet he

was a little loath to have her start off on a trail new to her. He argued

against it briefly, but she laughed at his fears. "I can go anywhere you

can," she said. "Stand clear!" With final admonition he stood clear.



"You'll have to keep off the boggy meadows," he warned; "these rains will

have softened all those muck-holes on the other side; they'll be

bottomless pits; watch out for 'em. Good-by! If you meet Nash hurry him

along. Moore is anxious to run those lines. Keep in touch with Landon,

and if anybody turns up from the district office say I'll be back on

Friday. Good luck."



"Same to you. So long."



Berea led the way, and Norcross fell in behind the pack-horses, feeling

as unimportant as a small boy at the heels of a circus parade. His girl

captain was so competent, so self-reliant, and so sure that nothing he

could say or do assisted in the slightest degree. Her leadership was a

curiously close reproduction of her father's unhurried and graceful

action. Her seat in the saddle was as easy as Landon's, and her eyes were

alert to every rock and stream in the road. She was at home here, where

the other girl would have been a bewildered child, and his words of

praise lifted the shadow from her face.



The sky was cloudy, and a delicious feeling of autumn was in the

air--autumn that might turn to winter with a passing cloud, and the

forest was dankly gloomy and grimly silent, save from the roaring stream

which ran at times foam-white with speed. The high peaks, gray and

streaked with new-fallen snow, shone grandly, bleakly through the firs.

The radiant beauty of the road from the Springs, the golden glow of four

days before was utterly gone, and yet there was exultation in this ride.

A distinct pleasure, a delight of another sort, lay in thus daring the

majesty of an unknown wind-swept pass.



Wayland called out: "The air feels like Thanksgiving morning, doesn't

it?"



"It is Thanksgiving for me, and I'm going to get a grouse for dinner,"

she replied; and in less than an hour the snap of her rifle made good her

promise.



After leaving the upper lake she turned to the right and followed the

course of a swift and splendid stream, which came churning through a

cheerless, mossy swamp of spruce-trees. Inexperienced as he was, Wayland

knew that this was not a well-marked trail; but his confidence in his

guide was too great to permit of any worry over the pass, and he amused

himself by watching the water-robins as they flitted from stone to stone

in the torrent, and in calculating just where he would drop a line for

trout if he had time to do so, and in recovered serenity enjoyed his

ride. Gradually he put aside his perplexities concerning the future,

permitting his mind to prefigure nothing but his duties with Landon at

Meeker's Mill.



He was rather glad of the decision to send him there, for it promised

absorbing sport. "I shall see how Landon and Belden work out their

problem," he said. He had no fear of Frank Meeker now. "As a forest guard

with official duties to perform I can meet that young savage on other and

more nearly equal terms," he assured himself.



The trail grew slippery and in places ran full of water. "But there's a

bottom, somewhere," Berrie confidently declared, and pushed ahead with

resolute mien. It was noon when they rose above timber and entered upon

the wide, smooth slopes of the pass. Snow filled the grass here, and the

wind, keen, cutting, unhindered, came out of the desolate west with

savage fury; but the sun occasionally shone through the clouds with vivid

splendor. "It is December now," shouted Wayland, as he put on his slicker

and cowered low to his saddle. "It will be January soon."



"We will make it Christmas dinner," she laughed, and her glowing good

humor warmed his heart. She was entirely her cheerful self again.



As they rose, the view became magnificent, wintry, sparkling. The great

clouds, drifting like ancient warships heavy with armament, sent down

chill showers of hail over the frosted gold of the grassy slopes; but

when the shadows passed the sunlight descended in silent cataracts

deliriously spring-like. The conies squeaked from the rocky ridges, and a

brace of eagles circling about a lone crag, as if exulting in their

sovereign mastery of the air, screamed in shrill ecstatic duo. The sheer

cliffs, on their shadowed sides, were violently purple. Everywhere the

landscape exhibited crashing contrasts of primary pigments which bit into

consciousness like the flare of a martial band.



The youth would have lingered in spite of the cold; but the girl kept

steadily on, knowing well that the hardest part of their journey was

still before them, and he, though longing to ride by her side, and to

enjoy the views with her, was forced to remain in the rear in order to

hurry the reluctant pack-animals forward. They had now reached a point

twelve thousand feet above the sea, and range beyond range, to the west

and south, rose into sight like stupendous waves of a purple-green sea.

To the east the park lay level as a floor and carpeted in tawny velvet.



It was nearly two o'clock when they began to drop down behind the rocky

ridges of the eastern slope, and soon, in the bottom of a warm and

sheltered hollow just at timber-line, Berrie drew her horse to a stand

and slipped from the saddle. "We'll rest here an hour," she said, "and

cook our grouse; or are you too hungry to wait?"



"I can wait," he answered, dramatically. "But it seems as if I had never

eaten."



"Well, then, we'll save the grouse till to-morrow; but I'll make some

coffee. You bring some water while I start a fire."



And so, while the tired horses cropped the russet grass, she boiled some

coffee and laid out some bread and meat, while he sat by watching her and

absorbing the beauty of the scene, the charm of the hour. "It is exactly

like a warm afternoon in April," he said, "and here are some of the

spring flowers."



"There now, sit by and eat," she said, with humor; and in perfectly

restored tranquillity they ate and drank, with no thought of critics or

of rivals. They were alone, and content to be so.



It was deliciously sweet and restful there in that sunny hollow on the

breast of the mountain. The wind swept through the worn branches of the

dwarfed spruce with immemorial wistfulness; but these young souls heard

it only as a far-off song. Side by side on the soft Alpine clover they

rested and talked, looking away at the shining peaks, and down over the

dark-green billows of fir beneath them. Half the forest was under their

eyes at the moment, and the man said: "Is it not magnificent! It makes me

proud of my country. Just think, all this glorious spread of hill and

valley is under your father's direction. I may say under your

direction, for I notice he does just about what you tell him to do."



"You've noticed that?" she laughed. "If I were a man I'd rather be

Supervisor of this forest than Congressman."



"So would I," he agreed. "Nash says you are the Supervisor. I wonder if

your father realizes how efficient you are? Does he ever sorrow over your

not being a boy?"



Her eyes shone with mirth. "Not that I can notice. He 'pears contented."



"You're a good deal like a son to him, I imagine. You can do about all

that a boy can do, anyhow--more than I could ever do. Does he realize how

much you have to do with the management of his forest? I've never seen

your like. I really believe you could carry on the work as well as

he."



She flushed with pleasure. "You seem to think I'm a district forester in

disguise."



"I have eyes, Miss Supervisor, and also ears--which leads me to ask: Why

don't you clean out that saloon gang? Landon is sure there's crooked work

going on at that mill--certainly that open bar is a disgraceful and

corrupting thing."



Her face clouded. "We've tried to cut out that saloon, but it can't be

done. You see, it's on a patented claim--the claim was bogus, of course,

and we've made complaint, but the matter is hung up, and that gives 'em a

chance to go on."



"Well, let's not talk of that. It's too delicious an hour for any

question of business. It is a moment for poetry. I wish I could write

what I feel this moment. Why don't we camp here and watch the sun go down

and the moon rise? From our lofty vantage-ground the coming of dawn would

be an epic."



"We mustn't think of that," she protested. "We must be going."



"Not yet. The hour is too perfect. It may never come again. The wind in

the pines, the sunshine, the conies crying from their rocks, the

butterflies on the clover--my heart aches with the beauty of it. It's

been a wonderful trip. Even that staggering walk in the rain had its

splendid quality. I couldn't see the poetry in it then; but I do now.

These few days have made us comrades, haven't they--comrades of the

trail? You have been very considerate of me." He took her hand. "I've

never seen such hands. They are like steel, and yet they are feminine."



She drew her hands away. "I'm ashamed of my hands--they are so big and

rough and dingy."



"They're brown, of course, and calloused--a little--but they are not big,

and they are beautifully modeled." He looked at her speculatively. "I am

wondering how you would look in conventional dress."



"Do you mean--" She hesitated. "I'd look like a gawk in one of those

low-necked outfits. I'd never dare--and those tight skirts would sure

cripple me."



"Oh no, they wouldn't. You'd have to modify your stride a little; but

you'd negotiate it. You're equal to anything."



"You're making fun of me!"



"No, I'm not. I'm in earnest. You're the kind of American girl that can

go anywhere and do anything. My sisters would mortgage their share of the

golden streets for your abounding health--and so would I."



"You are all right now," she smiled. "You don't look or talk as you

did."



"It's this sunlight." He lifted a spread hand as if to clutch and hold

something. "I feel it soaking into me like some magical oil. No more

moping and whining for me. I've proved that hardship is good for me."



"Don't crow till you're out of the woods. It's a long ride down the hill,

and going down is harder on the tenderfoot than going up."



"I'm no longer a tenderfoot. All I need is another trip like this with

you and I shall be a master trailer."



All this was very sweet to her, and though she knew they should be going,

she lingered. Childishly reckless of the sinking sun, she played with the

wild flowers at her side and listened to his voice in complete content.

He was right. The hour was too beautiful to be shortened, although she

saw no reason why others equally delightful might not come to them both.

He was more of the lover than he had ever been before, that she knew, and

in the light of his eyes all that was not girlish and charming melted

away. She forgot her heavy shoes, her rough hands and sun-tanned face,

and listened with wondering joy and pride to his words, which were of a

fineness such as she had never heard spoken--only books contained such

unusual and exquisite phrases.



A cloud passing across the sun flung down a shadow of portentous chill

and darkness. She started to her feet with startled recollection of the

place and the hour.



"We must be going--at once!" she commanded.



"Not yet," he pleaded. "It's only a cloud. The sun is coming out again. I

have perfect confidence in your woodcraft. Why not spend another night on

the trail? It may be our last trip together."



He tempted her strongly, so frank and boyish and lovable were his glances

and his words. But she was vaguely afraid of herself, and though the long

ride at the moment seemed hard and dull, the thought of her mother

waiting decided her action.



"No, no!" she responded, firmly. "We've wasted too much time already. We

must ride."



He looked up at her with challenging glance. "Suppose I refuse--suppose I

decide to stay here?"



Upon her, as he talked, a sweet hesitation fell, a dream which held more

of happiness than she had ever known. "It is a long, hard ride," she

thought, "and another night on the trail will not matter." And so the

moments passed on velvet feet, and still she lingered, reluctant to break

the spell.



Suddenly, into their idyllic drowse of content, so sweet, so youthful,

and so pure of heart, broke the sound of a horse's hurrying, clashing,

steel-shod feet, and looking up Berrie saw a mounted man coming down the

mountainside with furious, reckless haste.



"It is Cliff!" she cried out. "He's on our trail!" And into her face came

a look of alarm. Her lips paled, her eyes widened. "He's mad--he's

dangerous! Leave him to me," she added, in a low, tense voice.





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