Berrie's Vigil

: The Forester's Daughter

The situation in which Berea now found herself would have disheartened

most women of mature age, but she remained not only composed, she was

filled with an irrational delight. The nurse that is in every woman was

aroused in her, and she looked forward with joy to a night of vigil,

confident that Wayland was not seriously injured and that he would soon

be able to ride. She had no fear of the forest or of the night. Nature

> held no menace now that her tent was set and her fire alight.

Wayland, without really knowing anything about it, suspected that he owed

his life to her intervention, and this belief deepened the feeling of

admiration which he had hitherto felt toward her. He listened to her at

work around the fire with a deepening sense of his indebtedness to her,

and when she looked in to ask if she could do anything for him, his

throat filled with an emotion which rendered his answer difficult.

As his mind cleared he became very curious to know precisely what had

taken place, but he did not feel free to ask her. "She will tell me if

she wishes me to know." That she had vanquished Belden and sent him on

his way was evident, although he had not been able to hear what she had

said to him at the last. What lay between the enemy's furious onslaught

and the aid he lent in making the camp could only be surmised. "I wonder

if she used her pistol?" Wayland asked himself. "Something like death

must have stared him in the face."

"Strange how everything seems to throw me ever deeper into her debt," he

thought, a little later. But he did not quite dare put into words the

resentment which mingled with his gratitude. He hated to be put so

constantly into the position of the one protected, defended. And yet it

was his own fault. He had put himself among people and conditions where

she was the stronger. Having ventured out of his world into hers he must

take the consequences.

That she loved him with the complete passion of her powerful and simple

nature he knew, for her voice had reached through the daze of his

semi-unconsciousness with thrilling power. The touch of her lips to his,

the close clasp of her strong arms were of ever greater convincing

quality. And yet he wished the revelation had come in some other way. His

pride was abraded. His manhood seemed somehow lessened. It was a

disconcerting reversal of the ordinary relations between hero and

heroine, and he saw no way of re-establishing the normal attitude of the


Entirely unaware of what was passing in the mind of her patient, Berrie

went about her duties with a cheerfulness which astonished the sufferer

in the tent. She seemed about to hum a song as she set the skillet on the

fire, but a moment later she called out, in a tone of irritation: "Here

comes Nash!"

"I'm glad of that," answered Wayland, although he perceived something of

her displeasure.

Nash, on his way to join the Supervisor, raised a friendly greeting as he

saw the girl, and drew rein. "I expected to meet you farther down the

hill," he said. "Tony 'phoned that you had started. Where did you leave

the Supervisor?"

"Over at the station waiting for you. Where's your outfit?"

"Camped down the trail a mile or so. I thought I'd better push through

to-night. What about Norcross? Isn't he with you?"

She hesitated an instant. "He's in the tent. He fell and struck his head

on a rock, and I had to go into camp here."

Nash was deeply concerned. "Is that so? Well, that's hard luck. Is he

badly hurt?"

"Well, he had a terrible fall. But he's easier now. I think he's


"May I look in on him?"

"I don't think you'd better take the time. It's a long, hard ride from

here to the station. It will be deep night before you can make it--"

"Don't you think the Supervisor would want me to camp here to-night and

do what I could for you? If Norcross is badly injured you will need me."

She liked Nash, and she knew he was right, and yet she was reluctant to

give up the pleasure of her lone vigil. "He's not in any danger, and

we'll be able to ride on in the morning."

Nash, thinking of her as Clifford Belden's promised wife, had no

suspicion of her feeling toward Norcross. Therefore he gently urged that

to go on was quite out of order. "I can't think of leaving you here

alone--certainly not till I see Norcross and find out how badly he is


She yielded. "I reckon you're right," she said. "I'll go see if he is


He followed her to the door of the tent, apprehending something new and

inexplicable in her attitude. In the music of her voice as she spoke to

the sick man was the love-note of the mate. "You may come in," she called

back, and Nash, stooping, entered the small tent.

"Hello, old man, what you been doing with yourself? Hitting the high


Norcross smiled feebly. "No, the hill flew up and bumped me."

"How did it all happen?"

"I don't exactly know. It all came of a sudden. I had no share in it--I

didn't go for to do it."

"Whether you did or not, you seem to have made a good job of it."

Nash examined the wounded man carefully, and his skill and strength in

handling Norcross pleased Berrie, though she was jealous of the warm

friendship which seemed to exist between the men.

She had always liked Nash, but she resented him now, especially as he

insisted on taking charge of the case; but she gave way finally, and went

back to her pots and pans with pensive countenance.

A little later, when Nash came out to make report, she was not very

gracious in her manner. "He's pretty badly hurt," he said. "There's an

ugly gash in his scalp, and the shock has produced a good deal of pain

and confusion in his head; but he's going to be all right in a day or

two. For a man seeking rest and recuperation he certainly has had a tough

run of weather."

Though a serious-minded, honorable forester, determined to keep sternly

in mind that he was in the presence of the daughter of his chief, and

that she was engaged to marry another, Nash was, after all, a man, and

the witchery of the hour, the charm of the girl's graceful figure,

asserted their power over him. His eyes grew tender, and his voice

eloquent in spite of himself. His words he could guard, but it was hard

to keep from his speech the song of the lover. The thought that he was to

camp in her company, to help her about the fire, to see her from moment

to moment, with full liberty to speak to her, to meet her glance, pleased

him. It was the most romantic and moving episode in his life, and though

of a rather dry and analytic temperament he had a sense of poesy.

The night, black, oppressive, and silent, brought a closer bond of mutual

help and understanding between them. He built a fire of dry branches

close to the tent door, and there sat, side by side with the girl, in the

glow of embers, so close to the injured youth that they could talk

together, and as he spoke freely, yet modestly, of his experiences Berrie

found him more deeply interesting than she had hitherto believed him to

be. True, he saw things less poetically than Wayland, but he was finely

observant, and a man of studious and refined habits.

She grew friendlier, and asked him about his work, and especially about

his ambitions and plans for the future. They discussed the forest and its

enemies, and he wondered at her freedom in speaking of the Mill and

saloon. He said: "Of course you know that Alec Belden is a partner in

that business, and I'm told--of course I don't know this--that Clifford

Belden is also interested."

She offered no defense of young Belden, and this unconcern puzzled him.

He had expected indignant protest, but she merely replied: "I don't care

who owns it. It should be rooted out. I hate that kind of thing. It's

just another way of robbing those poor tie-jacks."

"Clifford should get out of it. Can't you persuade him to do so?"

"I don't think I can."

"His relationship to you--"

"He is not related to me."

Her tone amazed him. "You know what I mean."

"Of course I do, but you're mistaken. We're not related that way any


This silenced him for a few moments, then he said: "I'm rather glad of

that. He isn't anything like the man you thought he was--I couldn't say

these things before--but he is as greedy as Alec, only not so open about


All this comment, which moved the forester so deeply to utter, seemed not

to interest Berea. She sat staring at the fire with the calm brow of an

Indian. Clifford Belden had passed out of her life as completely as he

had vanished out of the landscape. She felt an immense relief at being

rid of him, and resented his being brought back even as a subject of


Wayland, listening, fancied he understood her desire, and said nothing

that might arouse Nash's curiosity.

Nash, on his part, knowing that she had broken with Belden, began to

understand the tenderness, the anxious care of her face and voice, as she

bent above young Norcross. As the night deepened and the cold air stung,

he asked: "Have you plenty of blankets for a bed?"

"Oh yes," she answered, "but I don't intend to sleep."

"Oh, you must!" he declared. "Go to bed. I will keep the fire going."

At last she consented. "I will make my bed right here at the mouth of the

tent close to the fire," she said, "and you can call me if you need me."

"Why not put your bed in the tent? It's going to be cold up here."

"I am all right outside," she protested.

"Put your bed inside, Miss Berrie. We can't let conventions count above

timber-line. I shall rest better if I know you are properly sheltered."

And so it happened that for the third time she shared the same roof with

her lover; but the nurse was uppermost in her now. At eleven thousand

feet above the sea--with a cold drizzle of fine rain in the air--one does

not consider the course of gossip as carefully as in a village, and

Berrie slept unbrokenly till daylight.

Nash was the first to arise in the dusk of dawn, and Berrie, awakened by

the crackle of his fire, soon joined him. There is no sweeter sound than

the voice of the flame at such a time, in such a place. It endows the

bleak mountainside with comfort, makes the ledge a hearthstone. It holds

the promise of savory meats and fragrant liquor, and robs the frosty air

of its terrors.

Wayland, hearing their voices, called out, with feeble humor: "Will some

one please turn on the steam in my room?"

Berrie uttered a happy word. "How do you feel this morning?" she asked.

"Not precisely like a pugilist--well, yes, I believe I do--like the

fellow who got second money."

"How is the bump?" inquired Nash, thrusting his head inside the door.

"Reduced to the size of a golf-ball as near as I can judge of it. I doubt

if I can wear a hat; but I'm feeling fine. I'm going to get up."

Berrie was greatly relieved. "I'm so glad! Do you feel like riding down

the hill?"

"Sure thing! I'm hungry, and as soon as I am fed I'm ready to start."

Berrie joined the surveyor at the fire.

"If you'll round up our horses, Mr. Nash, I'll rustle breakfast and we'll

get going," she said.

Nash, enthralled, lingered while she twisted her hair into place, then

went out to bring in the ponies.

Wayland came out a little uncertainly, but looking very well. "I think I

shall discourage my friends from coming to this region for their health,"

he said, ruefully. "If I were a novelist now all this would be grist for

my mill."

Beneath his joking he was profoundly chagrined. He had hoped by this time

to be as sinewy, as alert as Nash, instead of which here he sat,

shivering over the fire like a sick girl, his head swollen, his blood

sluggish; but this discouragement only increased Berea's tenderness--a

tenderness which melted all his reserve.

"I'm not worth all your care," he said to her, with poignant glance.

The sun rose clear and warm, and the fire, the coffee, put new courage

into him as well as into the others, and while the morning was yet early

and the forest chill and damp with rain, the surveyor brought up the

horses and started packing the outfit.

In this Berrie again took part, doing her half of the work quite as

dextrously as Nash himself. Indeed, the forester was noticeably confused

and not quite up to his usual level of adroit ease.

At last both packs were on, and as they stood together for a moment, Nash

said: "This has been a great experience--one I shall remember as long as

I live."

She stirred uneasily under his frank admiration. "I'm mightily obliged to

you," she replied, as heartily as she could command.

"Don't thank me, I'm indebted to you. There is so little in my life of

such companionship as you and Norcross give me."

"You'll find it lonesome over at the station, I'm afraid," said she. "But

Moore intends to put a crew of tie-cutters in over there--that will help

some." She smiled.

"I'm not partial to the society of tie-jacks."

"If you ride hard you may find that Moore girl in camp. She was there

when we left." There was a sparkle of mischief in her glance.

"I'm not interested in the Moore girl," he retorted.

"Do you know her?"

"I've seen her at the post-office once or twice; she is not my kind."

She gave him her hand. "Well, good-by. I'm all right now that Wayland can


He held her hand an instant. "I believe I'll ride back with you as far as

the camp."

"You'd better go on. Father is waiting for you. I'll send the men along."

There was dismissal in her voice, and yet she recognized as never before

the fine qualities that were his. "Please don't say anything of this to

others, and tell my father not to worry about us. We'll pull in all


He helped Norcross mount his horse, and as he put the lead rope into

Berrie's hand, he said: with much feeling: "Good luck to you. I shall

remember this night all the rest of my life."

"I hate to be going to the rear," called Wayland, whose bare, bandaged

head made him look like a wounded young officer. "But I guess it's better

for me to lay off for a week or two and recover my tone."

And so they parted, the surveyor riding his determined way up the naked

mountainside toward the clouds, while Berrie and her ward plunged at once

into the dark and dripping forest below. "If you can stand the grief,"

she said, "we'll go clear through."

Wayland had his misgivings, but did not say so. His confidence in his

guide was complete. She would do her part, that was certain. Several

times she was forced to dismount and blaze out a new path in order to

avoid some bog; but she sternly refused his aid. "You must not get off,"

she warned; "stay where you are. I can do this work better alone."

They were again in that green, gloomy, and silent zone of the range,

where giant spruces grow, and springs, oozing from the rocks, trickle

over the trail. It was very beautiful, but menacing, by reason of its

apparently endless thickets cut by stony ridges. It was here she met the

two young men, Downing and Travis, bringing forward the surveying outfit,

but she paused only to say: "Push along steadily. You are needed on the

other side."

After leaving the men, and with a knowledge that the remaining leagues of

the trail were solitary, Norcross grew fearful. "The fall of a horse, an

accident to that brave girl, and we would be helpless," he thought. "I

wish Nash had returned with us." Once his blood chilled with horror as he

watched his guide striking out across the marge of a grassy lake. This

meadow, as he divined, was really a carpet of sod floating above a

bottomless pool of muck, for it shook beneath her horse's feet.

"Come on, it's all right," she called back, cheerily. "We'll soon pick up

the other trail."

He wondered how she knew, for to him each hill was precisely like

another, each thicket a maze.

Her caution was all for him. She tried each dangerous slough first, and

thus was able to advise him which way was safest. His head throbbed with

pain and his knees were weary, but he rode on, manifesting such cheer as

he could, resolving not to complain at any cost; but his self-respect

ebbed steadily, leaving him in bitter, silent dejection.

At last they came into open ground on a high ridge, and were gladdened by

the valley outspread below them, for it was still radiant with color,

though not as brilliant as before the rain. It had been dimmed, but not

darkened. And yet it seemed that a month had passed since their ecstatic

ride upward through the golden forest, and Wayland said as much while

they stood for a moment surveying the majestic park with its wall of

guardian peaks.

But Berrie replied: "It seems only a few hours to me."

From this point the traveling was good, and they descended rapidly,

zigzagging from side to side of a long, sweeping ridge. By noon they were

once more down amid the aspens, basking in a world of sad gold leaves and

delicious September sunshine.

At one o'clock, on the bank of a clear stream, the girl halted. "I reckon

we'd better camp awhile. You look tired, and I am hungry."

He gratefully acquiesced in this stop, for his knees were trembling with

the strain of the stirrups; but he would not permit her to ease him down

from his saddle. Turning a wan glance upon her, he bitterly asked: "Must

I always play the weakling before you? I am ashamed of myself. Ride on

and leave me to rot here in the grass. I'm not worth keeping alive."

"You must not talk like that," she gently admonished him. "You're not to


"Yes, I am. I should never have ventured into this man's country."

"I'm glad you did," she answered, as if she were comforting a child. "For

if you hadn't I should never have known you."

"That would have been no loss--to you," he bitterly responded.

She unsaddled one pack-animal and spread some blankets on the grass. "Lie

down and rest while I boil some coffee," she commanded; and he obeyed,

too tired to make pretension toward assisting.

Lying so, feeling the magic of the sun, hearing the music of the water,

and watching the girl, he regained a serener mood, and when she came back

with his food he thanked her for it with a glance before which her eyes

fell. "I don't see why you are so kind to me, I really believe you like

to do things for me." Her head drooped to hide her face, and he went on:

"Why do you care for me? Tell me!"

"I don't know," she murmured. Then she added, with a flash of bravery:

"But I do."

"What a mystery it all is! You turn from a splendid fellow like Landon to

a 'skate' like me. Landon worships you--you know that--don't you?"

"I know--he--" she ended, vaguely distressed.

"Did he ask you to marry him?"


"Why didn't you? He's just the mate for you. He's a man of high character

and education." She made no answer to this, and he went on: "Dear girl,

I'm not worth your care--truly I'm not. I resented your engagement to

Belden, for he was a brute; but Landon is different. He thinks the world

of you. He'll go high in the service. I've never done anything in the

world--I never shall. It will be better for you if I go--to-morrow."

She took his hand and pressed it to her cheek, then, putting her arm

about his neck, drew him to her bosom and kissed him passionately. "You

break my heart when you talk like that," she protested, with tears. "You

mustn't say such gloomy things--I won't let you give up. You shall come

right home with me, and I will nurse you till you are well. It was all my

fault. If we had only stayed in camp at the lake daddy would have joined

us that night, and if I had not loitered on the mountain yesterday Cliff

would not have overtaken us. It's all my fault."

"I will not have it go that way," he said. "I've brought you only care

and unhappiness thus far. I'm an alien--my ways are not your ways."

"I can change," she answered. "I hate my ways, and I like yours."

As they argued she felt no shame, and he voiced no resentment. She knew

his mood. She understood his doubt, his depression. She pleaded as a man

might have done, ready to prove her love, eager to restore his

self-respect, while he remained both bitter and sadly contemptuous.

A cow-hand riding up the trail greeted Berrie respectfully, but a cynical

smile broke out on his lips as he passed on. Another witness--another


She did not care. She had no further concern of the valley's comment. Her

life's happiness hung on the drooping eyelashes of this wounded boy, and

to win him back to cheerful acceptance of life was her only concern.

"I've never had any motives," he confessed. "I've always done what

pleased me at the moment--or because it was easier to do as others were

doing. I went to college that way. Truth is, I never had any surplus

vitality, and my father never demanded anything of me. I haven't any

motives now. A few days ago I was interested in forestry. At this time it

all seems futile. What's the use of my trying to live?"

Part of all this despairing cry arose from weariness, and part from a

luxurious desire to be comforted, for it was sweet to feel her sympathy.

He even took a morbid pleasure in the distress of her eyes and lips while

her rich voice murmured in soothing protest.

She, on her part, was frightened for him, and as she thought of the long

ride still before them she wrung her hands. "Oh, what shall I do? What

shall I do?" she moaned.

Instantly smitten into shame, into manlier mood, he said: "Don't worry

about me, please don't. I can ride. I'm feeling better. You must not

weaken. Please forgive my selfish complaints. I'm done! You'll never hear

it again. Come, let us go on. I can ride."

"If we can reach Miller's ranch--"

"I can ride to your ranch," he declared, and rose with such new-found

resolution that she stared at him in wonder.

He was able to smile. "I've had my little crying spell. I've relieved my

heart of its load. I didn't mean to agonize you. It was only a slump." He

put his hand to his head. "I must be a comical figure. Wonder what that

cowboy thought of me?"

His sudden reversal to cheer was a little alarming to her, but at length

she perceived that he had in truth mastered his depression, and bringing

up the horses she saddled them, and helped him to mount. "If you get

tired or feel worse, tell me, and we'll go into camp," she urged as they

were about to start.

"You keep going till I give the sign," he replied; and his voice was so

firm and clear that her own sunny smile came back. "I don't know what to

make of you," she said. "I reckon you must be a poet."