The Wild Olive
By the author of The Inner Shrine
Illustrated by Lucius Hitchcock
New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers
Published by Arrangement with Harper & Brothers
Copyright, 1910, by Harper & Brothers All Rights Reserved
Published May, 1910 Printed in the United States of America
Finding himself in the level wood-road, whose open aisle drew a long, straight streak across the sky, still luminous with the late-lingering Adirondack twilight, the tall young fugitive, hatless, coatless, and barefooted, paused a minute for reflection. As he paused, he listened; but all distinctiveness of sound was lost in the play of the wind, up hill and down dale, through chasm and over crag, in those uncounted leagues of forest. It was only a summer wind, soft and from the south; but its murmur had the sweep of the eternal breath, while, when it waxed in power, it rose like the swell of some great cosmic organ. Through the pines and in the underbrush it whispered and crackled and crashed, with a variety of effect strangely bewildering to the young man's city-nurtured senses. There were minutes when he felt that not only the four country constables whom he had escaped were about to burst upon him, but that weird armies of gnomes were ready to trample him down.
Out of the confusion of wood-noises, in which his unpractised ear could distinguish nothing, he waited for a repetition of the shots which a few hours ago had been the protest of his guards; but, none coming, he sped on again. He weighed the danger of running in the open against the opportunities for speed, and decided in favor of the latter. Hitherto, in accordance with a woodcraft invented to meet the emergency, and entirely his own, he had avoided anything in the nature of a road or a pathway, in order to take advantage of the tracklessness which formed his obvious protection; but now he judged the moment come for putting actual space between his pursuers and himself. How near, or how far behind him, they might be he could not guess. If he had covered ground, they would have covered it too, since they were men born to the mountains, while he had been bred in towns. His hope lay in the possibility that in this wilderness he might be lost to their ken, as a mote is lost in the air—though he built something on the chance that, in sympathy with the feeling in his favor pervading the simpler population of the region, they had given negative connivance to his escape. These thoughts, far from stimulating a false confidence, urged him to greater speed.
And yet, even as he fled, he had a consciousness of abandoning something—perhaps of deserting something—which brought a strain of regret into this minute of desperate excitement. Without having had time to count the cost or reckon the result, he felt he was giving up the fight. He, or his counsel for him, had contested the ground with all the resourceful ingenuity known to the American legal practitioner. He was told that, in spite of the seeming finality of what had happened that morning, there were still loopholes through which the defence might be carried on. In the space of a few hours Fate had offered him the choice between two courses, neither of them fertile in promises of success. The one was long and tedious, with a possibility of ultimate justification; the other short and speedy, with the accepted imputation of guilt. He had chosen the latter—instinctively and on the spur of the moment; and while he might have repeated at leisure the decision he had made in haste, he knew even now that he was leaving the ways and means of proving his innocence behind him. The perception came, not as the result of a process of thought, but as a regretful, scarcely detected sensation.
He had dashed at first into the broken country, hilly rather than mountainous, which from the shores of Lake Champlain gradually gathers strength, as it rolls inland, to toss up the crests of the Adirondacks. Here, burying himself in the woods, he skirted the unkempt farms, whose cottage lights, just beginning to burn, served him as signals to keep farther off. When forced to cross one of the sterile fields, he crawled low, blotting himself out among the bowlders. At times a patch of tall, tasselled Indian corn, interlaced with wandering pumpkin vines, gave him cover, till he regained the shelter of the vast Appalachian mother-forest which, after climbing Cumberlands, Alleghanies, Catskills, and Adirondacks, here clambers down, in long reaches of ash and maple, juniper and pine, toward the lowlands of the north.
As far as he had yet been able to formulate a plan of flight, it was to seek his safety among the hills. The necessity of the instant was driving him toward the open country and the lake, but he hoped to double soon upon his tracks, finding his way back to the lumber camps, whose friendly spiriting from bunk-house to bunk-house would baffle pursuit. Once he had gained even a few hours' security, he would be able to some extent to pick and choose his way.
He steered himself by the peak of Graytop, black against the last coral-tinted glow of the sunset, as a sailor steers by a star. There was further assurance that he was not losing himself or wandering in a circle, when from some chance outlook he ventured to glance backward and saw the pinnacle of Windy Mountain or the dome of the Pilot straight behind him. There lay the natural retreats of the lynx, the bear, and the outlaw like himself; and, as he fled farther from them, it was with the same frenzied instinct to return that the driven stag must feel toward the bed of fern from which he has been roused. But, for the minute, there was one imperative necessity—to go on—to go on anywhere, anyhow, so long as it took him far enough from the spot where masked men had loosed the handcuffs from his wrists and stray shots had come ringing after him. In his path there were lakelets, which he swam, and streams, which he forded. Over the low hills he scrambled through an undergrowth so dense that even the snake or the squirrel might have avoided it, to find some easier way. Now and then, as he dragged himself up the more barren ascents, the loose soil gave way beneath his steps in miniature avalanches of stone and sand, over which he crept, clinging to tufts of grass or lightly rooted saplings, to rise at last with hands scratched and feet bleeding. Then, on again!—frantically, as the hare runs and as the crow flies, without swerving—on, with the sole aim of gaining time and covering distance!
He was not a native of the mountains. Though in the two years spent among them he had come to acknowledge their charm, it was only as a man learns to love an alien mistress, whose alternating moods of savagery and softness hold him with a spell of which he is half afraid. More than any one suspected or he could have explained, his reckless life had been the rebellion of his man-trained, urban instinct against the domination of this supreme earth-force, to which he was of no more value than a falling leaf or a dissolving cloud. Even now, as he flung himself on the forest's protection, it was not with the solace of the son returning to the mother; it was rather as a man might take refuge from a lion in a mammoth cavern, where the darkness only conceals dangers.
After the struggle with crude nature the smooth, grass-carpeted wagon-track brought him more than a physical sense of comfort. It not only made his flight swift and easy, but it had been marked out by man, for man's purposes and to meet man's need. It was the result of a human intelligence; it led to a human goal. It was possible that it might lead even him into touch with human sympathies With the thought, he became conscious all at once that he was famished and fatigued. Up to the present he had been as little aware of a body as a spirit on its way between two worlds. It had ached and sweated and bled; but he had not noticed it. The electric fluid could not have seemed more tireless or iron more insensate. But now, when the hardship was somewhat relaxed, he was forced back on the perception that he was faint and hungry His speed slackened; his shoulders sagged; the long second wind, which had lasted so well, began to shorten. For the first time it occurred to him to wonder how long his strength would hold out.
It was then that he noticed a deflection of the wood-road toward the north, and down over the brow of the plateau on which for a mile or two its evenness had been sustained. It was a new sign that it was tending toward some habitation. Half an hour ago he would have taken this to mean that he must dash into the forest again; but half an hour ago he had not been hungry. He did not say to himself that he would venture to any man's door and ask for bread. So far as he knew, he would never venture to any man's door again; nevertheless, he kept on, down-hill, and down-hill nearer and nearer the lake, and farther and farther from the mountain and the lairs of safety.
Suddenly, at a turning, when he was not expecting it, the wood-road emerged into a rough clearing. Once more he stopped to reflect and take his bearings. It had grown so dark that there was little danger in doing so; though, as he peered into the gloom, his nerves were still taut with the expectation of shot or capture from behind. Straining his eyes, he made out a few acres that had been cleared for their timber, after which Nature had been allowed to take her own way again, in unruly growths of saplings, tangles of wild vines, and clumps of magenta fireweed.
Without quite knowing why he did so, he crept down the slope, feeling his way among the stumps, and stooping low, lest his white shirt, wet and clinging limply to his body, might betray him to some keen-eyed marksman. Presently one of the old root-hedges, common to the countryside, barred his path—a queer, twisted line of long, gray tentacles that had once sucked sustenance from the soil, but now reached up idly into a barren element, where the wild grape was covering their grotesque nakedness with masses of kindly beauty. Below him he saw lights shining clearly like the planets, or faintly like the mere star-dust of the sky, while between the two degrees of brightness he knew there must lie the bosom of the lake. He had come to the little fringe of towns that clings to the borders of Champlain, here with the Adirondacks behind him, and there with the mountains of Vermont, but keeping close to the great, safe waterway, as though distrusting the ruggedness of both.
It was a moment at which to renew his alarm in this proximity to human dwellings. Like the tiger that has ventured beyond the edge of the jungle, he must slink back at the sight of fire. He turned himself slowly, looking up the heights from which he had come down, as they rolled behind him, mysterious and hostile, in the growing darkness. Even the sky, from which it seemed impossible for the daylight ever to depart, now had an angry red glare in it.
He took a step or two toward the forest, and paused again, still staring upward. Where was he going? Where could he go? The question presented itself with an odd pertinence that drew his set, beardless lips into a kind of smile. When he had first made his rush outward the one thing that seemed to him essential was to be free; but now he was forced to ask himself: For what purpose? Of what use was it to be as free as wind if he was to be as homeless? It was not merely that he was homeless for the moment; that was nothing; the overwhelming reflection was that he, Norrie Ford, could never have a home at all—that there was scarcely a spot within the borders of civilized mankind where the law would not hunt him out.
This view of his situation was so apparent and yet so new that it held him stock-still, gazing into space. He was free—but free only to crawl back into the jungle and lie down in it, like a wild beast.
"But I'm not a wild beast," he protested, inwardly. "I'm a man—with human rights. By God, I'll never let them go!"
He wheeled round again, toward the lower lands and the lake. The lights glowed more brightly as the darkness deepened, each lamp shining from some little nest, where men and women were busied with the small tasks and interests that made life. This was liberty! This was what he had a claim upon! All his instincts were civilized, domestic. He would not go back to the forest, to herd with wild nature, when he had a right to lie down among his kind. He had slept in the open hundreds of times; but it had been from choice. There had been pleasure then, in waking to the smell of balsam and opening his eyes upon the stars. But to do the same thing from compulsion, because men had closed up their ranks and ejected him from their midst, was an outrage he would not accept. In the darkness his head went up, while his eyes burned with a fire more intense than that of any of the mild beacons from the towns below, as he strode back to the old root-hedge and leaped it.
He felt the imprudence, not to say the uselessness, of the movement, as he made it; and yet he kept on, finding himself in a field in which cows and horses were startled from their munching by his footstep. It was another degree nearer to the organized life in which he was entitled to a place. Shielded by a shrubbery of sleeping goldenrod, he stole down the slope, making his way to the lane along which the beasts went out to pasture and came home. Following the trail, he passed a meadow, a potato-field, and a patch of Indian corn, till the scent of flowers told him he was coming on a garden. A minute later, low, velvety domes of clipped yew rose in the foreground, and he knew himself to be in touch with the civilization that clung, like a hardy vine, to the coves and promontories of the lake, while its tendrils withered as soon as they were flung up toward the mountains. Only a few steps more, and, between the yews, he saw the light streaming from the open doors and windows of a house.
It was such a house as, during the two years he had spent up in the high timber-lands, he had caught sight of only on the rare occasions when he came within the precincts of a town—a house whose outward aspect, even at night, suggested something of taste, means, and social position for its occupants. Slipping nearer still, he saw curtains fluttering in the breeze of the August evening, and Virginia creeper dropping in heavily massed garlands from the roof of a columned veranda. A French window was open to the floor, and within, he could see vaguely, people were seated.
The scene was simple enough, but to the fugitive it had a kind of sacredness. It was like a glimpse into the heaven he has lost caught by a fallen angel. For the moment he forgot his hunger and weakness, in this feast for the heart and eyes. It was with something of the pleasure of recognizing long-absent faces that he traced the line of a sofa against the wall, and stated to himself that there was a row of prints hanging above it. There had been no such details as these to note in his cell, nor yet in the courtroom which for months had constituted his only change of outlook Insensibly to himself, he crept nearer, drawn by the sheer spell of gazing.
Finding a gate leading into the garden, he opened it softly, leaving it so, in order to secure his retreat. From the shelter of one of the rounded yew-trees he could make his observations more at ease. He perceived now that the house stood on a terrace, and turned the garden front, its more secluded aspect, in his direction. The high hedges, common in these lakeside villages, screened it from the road; while the open French window threw a shaft of brightness down the yew-tree walk, casting the rest of the garden into gloom.
To Norrie Ford, peeping furtively from behind one of the domes of clipped foliage, there was exasperation in the fact that his new position gave him no glimpse of the people in the room. His hunger to see them became for the minute more insistent than that for food. They represented that human society from which he had waked one morning to find himself cut off, as a rock is cut off by seismic convulsion from the mainland of which it has formed a part. It was in a sort of effort to span the gulf separating him from his own past that he peered now into this room, whose inmates were only passing the hours between the evening meal and bedtime. That people could sit tranquilly reading books or playing games filled him with a kind of wonder.
When he considered it safe he slipped along to what he hoped would prove a better point of view, but, finding it no more advantageous, he darted to still another. The light lured him as it might lure an insect of the night, till presently he stood on the very steps of the terrace. He knew the danger of his situation, but he could not bring himself to turn and steal away till he had fixed the picture of that cheerful interior firmly on his memory. The risk was great, but the glimpse of life was worth it.
With powers of observation quickened by his plight, he noted that the home was just such a one as that from which he had sprung—one where old engravings hung on the walls, while books filled the shelves, and papers and periodicals strewed the tables. The furnishings spoke of comfort and a modest dignity. Obliquely in his line of vision he could see two children, seated at a table and poring over a picture-book The boy, a manly urchin, might have been fourteen, the girl a year or two younger. Her curls fell over the hand and arm supporting her cheek, so that Ford could only guess at the blue eyes concealed behind them. Now and then the boy turned a page before she was ready, whereupon followed pretty cries of protestation. It was perhaps this mimic quarrel that called forth a remark from some one sitting within the shadow.
"Evie dear, it's time to go to bed. Billy, I don't believe they let you stay up as late as this at home."
"Oh yes, they do," came Billy's answer, given with sturdy assurance. "I often stay up till nine."
"Well, it's half past now; so you'd both better come and say good-night."
With one foot resting on the turf and the other raised to the first step of the terrace, as he stood with folded arms, Ford watched the little scene, in which the children closed their book, pushed back their chairs, and crossed the room to say good-night to the two who were seated in the shadow. The boy came first, with hands thrust into his trousers pockets in a kind of grave nonchalance. The little girl fluttered along behind, but broke her journey across the room by stepping into the opening of the long window and looking out into the night. Ford stood breathless and motionless, expecting her to see him and cry out. But she turned away and danced again into the shadow, after which he saw her no more. The silence that fell within the room told him that the elders were left alone.
Stealthily, like a thief, Ford crept up the steps and over the turf of the terrace. The rising of the wind at that minute drowned all sound of his movements, so that he was tempted right on to the veranda, where a coarse matting deadened his tread. He dared not hold himself upright on this dangerous ground, but, crouching low, he was blotted from sight, while he himself could see what passed within. He would only, he said, look once more into kindly human faces and steal away as he came.
He could perceive now that the lady who had spoken was an invalid reclining in a long chair, lightly covered with a rug. A fragile, dainty little creature, her laces, trinkets, and rings revealed her as one clinging to the elegancies of another phase of life, though Fate had sent her to live, and perhaps to die, here on the edge of the wilderness. He made the same observation with regard to the man who sat with his back to the window. He was in informal evening dress—a circumstance that, in this land of more or less primitive simplicity, spoke of a sense of exile. He was slight and middle-aged, and though his face was hidden, Ford received the impression of having seen him already, but from another point of view. His habit of using a magnifying-glass as, with some difficulty, he read a newspaper in the light of a green-shaded lamp, seemed to Ford especially familiar, though more pressing thoughts kept him from trying to remember where and when he had seen some one do the same thing within the recent past.
As he crouched by the window watching them, it came into his mind that they were just the sort of people of whom he had least need to be afraid. The sordid tragedy up in the mountains had probably interested them little, and in any case they could not as yet have heard of his escape. If he broke in on them and demanded food, they would give it to him as to some common desperado, and be glad to let him go. If there was any one to inspire terror, it was he, with his height, and youth, and wildness of aspect. He was thinking out the most natural method of playing some small comedy of violence, when suddenly the man threw down the paper with a sigh. On the instant the lady spoke, as though she had been awaiting her cue.
"I don't see why you should feel so about it," she said, making an effort to control a cough. "You must have foreseen something of this sort when you took up the law."
The answer reached Ford's ears only as a murmur, but he guessed its import from the response.
"True," she returned, when he had spoken, "to foresee possibilities is one thing, and to meet them is another; but the anticipation does something to nerve one for the necessity when it comes."
Again there was a murmur in which Ford could distinguish nothing, but again her reply told him what it meant.
"The right and the wrong, as I understand it," she went on, "is something with which you have nothing to do. Your part is to administer the law, not to judge of how it works."
Once more Ford was unable to catch what was said in reply, but once more the lady's speech enlightened him.
"That's the worst of it? Possibly; but it's also the best of it; for since it relieves you of responsibility it's foolish for you to feel remorse."
What was the motive of these remarks? Ford found himself possessed of a strange curiosity to know. He pressed as closely as he dared to the open door, but for the moment nothing more was said. In the silence that followed he began again to wonder how he could best make his demand for food, when a sound from behind startled him. It was the sound which, among all others, caused him the wildest alarm—that of a human footstep. His next movement came from the same blind impulse that sends a hunted fox to take refuge in a church—eager only for the instant's safety. He had sprung to his feet, cleared the threshold, and leaped into the room, before the reflection came to him that, if he was caught, he must at least be caught game. Wheeling round toward the window-door through which he had entered, he stood defiantly, awaiting his pursuers, and heedless of the astonished eyes fixed upon him. It was not till some seconds had gone by, and he realized that he was not followed, that he glanced about the room. When he did so it was to ignore the woman, in order to concentrate all his gaze on the little, iron-gray man who, still seated, stared at him, with lips parted. In his own turn, Norrie Ford was dumb and wide-eyed in amazement It was a long minute before either spoke.
The monosyllable came simultaneously from each. The little woman got to her feet in alarm. There was inquiry as well as terror in her face—inquiry to which her husband felt prompted to respond.
"This is the man," he said, in a voice of forced calmness, "whom—whom—we've been talking about."
"Not the man—you—?"
"Yes," he nodded, "the man I—I—sentenced to death—this morning."
Mrs. Wayne went to the door, but on Ford's assurance that her child had nothing to fear from him, she paused with her hand on the knob to look in curiosity at this wild young man, whose doom lent him a kind of fascination. Again, for a minute, all three were silent in the excess of their surprise. Wayne himself sat rigid, gazing up at the new-comer with strained eyes blurred with partial blindness. Though slightly built and delicate, he was not physically timid; and as the seconds went by he was able to form an idea as to what had happened. He himself, in view of the tumultuous sympathy displayed by hunters and lumber-jacks with the man who passed for their boon companion, had advised Ford's removal from the pretty toy prison of the county-town to the stronger one at Plattsville. It was clear that the prisoner had been helped to escape, either before the change had been effected or while it was taking place. There was nothing surprising in that; the astonishing thing was that the fugitive should have found his way to this house above all others. Mrs. Wayne seemed to think so too, for it was she who spoke first, in a tone which she tried to make peremptory, in spite of its tremor of fear.
"What did you come here for?"
Ford looked at her for the first time—in a blankness not without a dull element of pleasure. It was at least two or three years since he had seen anything so dainty—not, in fact, since his own mother died. At all times his mind worked slowly, so that he found nothing to reply till she repeated her question with a show of increased severity.
"I came here for protection," he said then.
His hesitation and bewildered air imparted assurance to his still astonished hosts.
"Isn't it an odd place in which to look for that?" Wayne asked, in an excitement, he strove to subdue.
The question was the stimulus Ford needed in order to get his wits into play.
"No," he replied, slowly; "I've a right to protection from the man who sentenced me to death for a crime of which he knows me innocent."
Wayne concealed a start by smoothing the newspaper over his crossed knees, but he was unable to keep a shade of thickness out of his voice as he answered:
"You had a fair trial. You were found guilty. You have had the benefit of all the resources allowed by the law. You have no right to say I know you to be innocent."
Wholly spent, Ford dropped into a chair from which one of the children had risen. With his arm hanging limply over the back he sat staring haggardly at the judge, as though finding nothing to say.
"I have a right to read any man's mind," he muttered, after a long pause, "when it's as transparent as yours. No one had any doubt as to your convictions—after your charge."
"That has nothing to do with it. If I charged in your favor, it was because I wanted you to have the benefit of every possible plea. When those pleas were found insufficient by a jury of your peers—"
Ford emitted a sound that might have been a laugh, had there been mirth in it.
"A jury of my peers! A lot of thick-headed country tradesmen, prejudiced against me from the start because I'd sometimes kicked up a row in their town! They weren't my peers any more than they were yours!"
"The law assumes all men to be equal—"
"Just as it assumes all men to be intelligent—only they're not. The law is a very fine theory. The chief thing to be, said against it is that five times out of ten it leaves human nature out of account. I'm condemned to death, not because I killed a man, but because you lawyers won't admit that your theory doesn't work."
He began to speak more easily, with the energy born of his desperate situation and his sense of wrong. He sat up straighter; the air of dejection with which he had sunk to the chair slipped from him; his gray eyes, of the kind called "honest," shot out glances of protest. The elder man found himself once more struggling against the wave of sympathy which at times in the court-room had been almost too strong for him. He was forced to intrench himself mentally within the system he served before bracing himself to reply.
"I can't keep you from having your opinion—"
"Nor can I save you from having yours. Look at me, judge!" He was bolt upright now, throwing his arms wide with a gesture in which there was more appeal than indignation "Look at me! I'm a strong, healthy-bodied, healthy-minded fellow of twenty-four; but I'm drenched to the skin, I'm half naked, I'm nearly dead with hunger, I'm an outlaw for life—and you're responsible for it all."
It was Wayne's turn for protest, and though he winced, he spoke sharply.
"I had my duty to perform—"
"Good God, man, don't sit there and call that thing your duty! You're something more than a wheel in a machine. You were a human being before you were a judge. With your convictions you should have come down from the bench and washed your hands of the whole affair. The very action would have given me a chance—"
"You mustn't speak like that to my husband," Mrs. Wayne broke in, indignantly, from the doorway. "If you only knew what he has suffered on your account—"
"Is it anything like what I've suffered on his?"
"I dare say it's worse. He has scarcely slept or eaten since he knew he would have to pass that dreadful sen—"
"Come! come!" Wayne exclaimed, in the impatient tone of a man who puts an end to a useless discussion. "We can't spend time on this subject any longer. I'm not on my defence—"
"You are on your defence," Ford declared, instantly. "Even your wife puts you there. We're not in a courtroom as we were this morning. Circumstantial evidence means nothing to us in this isolated house, where you're no longer the judge, as I'm no longer the prisoner. We're just two naked human beings, stripped of everything but their inborn rights—and I claim mine."
"Well—what are they?"
"They're simple enough. I claim the right to have something to eat, and to go my way without being molested—or betrayed. You'll admit I'm not asking much."
"You may have the food," Mrs. Wayne said, in a tone not without compassion. "I'll go and get it."
For a minute or two there was no sound but that of her cough, as she sped down a passage. Before speaking, Wayne passed his hand across his brow as though in an effort to clear his mental vision.
"No; you don't seem to be asking much. But, as a matter of fact, you're demanding my pledge to my country. I undertook to administer its laws—"
Ford sprang up.
"You've done it," he cried, "and I'm the result! You've administered the law right up to its hilt, and your duty as a judge is performed. Surely you're free now to think of yourself as a man and to treat me as one."
"I might do that, and still think you a man dangerous to leave at large."
"But do you?"
"That's my affair. Whatever your opinion of the courts that have judged your case, I must accept their verdict."
"In your official capacity—yes; but not here, as host to the poor dog who comes under your roof for shelter. My rights are sacred. Even the wild Arab—"
He paused abruptly. Over Wayne's shoulder, through the window still open to the terrace, he saw a figure cross the darkness. Could his pursuers be waiting outside for their chance to spring on him? A perceptible fraction of a second went by before he told himself he must have been mistaken.
"Even the wild Arab would think them so," he concluded, his glance shifting rapidly between the judge and the window open behind him.
"But I'm not a wild Arab," Wayne replied. "My first duty is toward my country and its organized society."
"I don't think so. Your first duty is toward the man you know you've sentenced wrongly. Fate has shown you an unusual mercy in giving you a chance to help him."
"I can be sorry for the sentence and yet feel that I could not have acted otherwise."
"Then what are you going to do now?"
"What would you expect me to do but hand you back to justice?"
There was a suggestion of physical disdain in the tone of the laconic question, as well as in the look he fixed on the neat, middle-aged man doing his best to be cool and collected Wayne glanced over his shoulder toward the telephone on the wall. Norrie Ford understood and spoke quickly:
"Yes; you could ring up the police at Greenport, but I could strangle you before you crossed the floor."
"So you could; but would you? If you did, should you be any better off? Should you be as well off as you are now? As it is, there is a possibility of a miscarriage of justice, of which one day you may get the benefit. There would be no such possibility then. You would be tracked down within forty-eight hours."
"Oh, you needn't argue; I've no intention—" Once more he paused. The same shadow had flitted across the dark space outside, this time with a distinct flutter of a white dress. He could only think it was some one getting help together; and while he went on to finish his sentence in words, all his subconscious faculties were at work, seeking an escape from the trap in which he was taken.
"I've no intention of doing violence unless I'm driven to it—"
"But if you are driven to it—?"
"I've a right to defend myself. Organized society, as you call it, has put me where it has no further claim upon me. I must fight against it single-handed—and I'll do it. I shall spare neither man nor woman—nor woman"—he raised his voice so as to be heard outside—"who stands in my way."
He threw back his head and looked defiantly out into the night. As if in response to this challenge a tall, white figure suddenly emerged from the darkness and stood plainly before him.
It was a girl, whose movements were curiously quick and silent, as she beckoned to him, over the head of the judge, who sat with his back toward her.
"Then all the more reason why society should protect itself against you," Wayne began again; but Ford was no longer listening. His attention was wholly fixed on the girl, who continued to beckon noiselessly, fluttering for an instant close to the threshold of the room, then withdrawing suddenly to the very edge of the terrace, waving a white scarf in token that he should follow her. She had repeated her action again and again, beckoning with renewed insistence, before he understood and made up his mind.
"I don't say that I refuse to help you," Wayne was saying. "My sympathy with you is very sincere. If I can get your sentence commuted—In fact, a reprieve is almost certain—"
With a dash as lithe and sudden as that which had brought him in, Ford was out on the terrace, following the white dress and the waving scarf which were already disappearing down the yew-tree walk. The girl's flight over grass and gravel was like nothing so much as that of a bird skimming through the air. Ford's own steps crunched loudly on the stillness of the night, so that if any one lay in ambush he knew he could not escape. He was prepared to hear shots come ringing from any quarter, but he ran on with the indifference of a soldier grown used to battle, intent on keeping up with the shadow fleeing before him.
He followed her through the garden gate he himself had left open, and down the lane leading to the pasture. At the point where he had entered it from the right, she turned to the left, keeping away from the mountains and parallel with the lake. There was no moon, but the night was clear; and no sound but that of the shrill, sustained chorus of insect life.
Beyond the pasture the lane became nothing but a path, zigzagging up a hillside between patches of Indian corn. The girl sped over it so lightly that Ford would have found it hard to keep her in sight if from time to time she had not paused and waited. When he came near enough to see the outlines of her form she flew on again, less like a living woman than a mountain wraith.
From the top of the hill he could see the dull gleam of the lake with its girdle of lamp-lit towns. Here the woodland began again; not the main body of the forest, but one of its long arms, thrust down over hill and valley, twisting its way in among villages and farm lands. That which had been a path now become a trail, along which the girl flitted with the ease of habit and familiarity.
In the concentration of his effort to keep the moving white spot in view Ford lost count of time. Similarly he had little notion of the distance they were covering. He guessed that they had been ten or fifteen minutes on the way, and that they might have gone a mile, when, after waiting for him to come almost near enough to speak to her, she began moving in a direction at an acute angle to that by which they had come. At the same time he perceived that they were on the side of a low wooded mountain and that they were beating their way round it.
All at once they emerged on a tiny clearing—a grassy ledge on the slope. Through the starlight he could see the hillside break away steeply into a vaporous gorge, while above him the mountain raised a black dome amid the serried points of the sky-line. The dryad-like creature beckoned him forward with her scarf, until suddenly she stopped with the decisive pause of one who has reached her goal. Coming up with her, he saw her unlock the door of a small cabin, which had hitherto not detached itself from the surrounding darkness.
"Go in," she whispered. "Don't strike a light. There are biscuits somewhere, in a box. Grope for them. There's a couch in a corner."
Without allowing him to speak, she forced him gently over the threshold and closed the door upon him. Standing inside in the darkness, he heard the grating of her key in the lock, and the rustle of her skirts as she sped away.
From the heavy sleep of fatigue Ford woke with the twittering of birds that announces the dawn. His first thought before opening his eyes, that he was still in his cell, was dispelled by the silky touch of the Sorrento rugs on which he lay. He fingered them again and again in a kind of wonder, while his still half-slumbering senses struggled for the memory of what had happened, and the realization of where he was. When at last he was able to reconstruct the events of the preceding night, he raised himself on his elbow and peered about him in the dim morning twilight.
The object he discerned most readily was an easel, giving him the secret of his refuge. On the wooden walls of the cabin, which was fairly spacious, water-color sketches were pinned at intervals, while on the mantelpiece above a bricked fireplace one or two stood framed. Over the mantelpiece a pair of snow-shoes were crossed as decorations, between which hung a view of the city of Quebec. On a lay-figure in a corner was thrown carelessly the sort of blanket coat worn by Canadians during winter sports. Paints and palettes were arranged on a table by the wall, and on a desk in the middle of the room were writing materials and books. More books stood in a small suspended bookcase. Beside a comfortable reading-chair one or two magazines lay on the floor. His gaze travelled last to the large apron, or pinafore, on a peg fastened in a door immediately beside his couch. The door suggested an inner room, and he got up promptly to explore it. It proved to be cramped and dark, lighted only from the larger apartment, which in its turn had but the one high north window of the ordinary studio. The small room was little more than a shed or "lean-to", serving the purposes of kitchen and storeroom combined. The arrangements of the whole cabin showed that some one had built it with a view to passing in seclusion a few days at a time without forsaking the simpler amenities of civilized life; and it was clear that that "some one" was a woman. What interested Ford chiefly for the moment was the discovery of a sealed glass jar of water, from which he was able to slake his twenty hours' thirst.
Returning to the room in which he had slept, he drew back the green silk curtain covering the north light in order to take his bearings. As he had guessed on the previous night, the slope on which the cabin was perched broke steeply down into a wooded gorge, beyond which the lower hills rolled in decreasing magnitude to the shore of Champlain, visible from this point of view in glimpses, less as an inland sea than like a chain of lakelets. Sunrise over Vermont flooded the waters with tints of rose and saffron, but made of the Green Mountains a long, gigantic mass of purple-black twisting its jagged outline toward the north into the Hog's Back and the Camel's Hump with a kind of monstrous grace. To the east, in New York, the Adirondacks, with the sunlight full upon them, shot up jade-colored peaks into the electric blue—the scarred pyramid of Graytop standing forth dark, detached, and alone, like a battered veteran sentinel.
In an access of conscious hatred of this vast panoramic beauty which had become the background of his tragedy, Ford pulled the curtain into place again and turned once more to the interior of the room. It began to seem more strange to him the more it grew familiar. Why was he here? How long was he to stay? How was he to get away again? Had this girl caught him like a rat in a trap, or did she mean well by him? If, as he supposed, she was Wayne's daughter, she would probably not be slow in carrying out her father's plan of handing him back to justice—and yet his mind refused to connect the wraith of the night before with either police work or betrayal. Her appearance had been so dim and fleeting that he could have fancied her the dryad of a dream, had it not been for his surroundings.
He began to examine them once more, inspecting the water-colors on the wall one by one, in search of some clew to her personality. The first sketch was of a nun in a convent garden—the background vaguely French, and yet with a difference. The next was of a trapper, or voyageur, pushing a canoe into the waters of a wild northern lake. The next was a group of wigwams with squaws and children in the foreground. Then came more nuns; then more voyageurs with their canoes; then more Indians and wigwams It occurred to Ford that the nuns might have been painted from life, the voyageurs and Indians from imagination He turned to the two framed drawings on the chimney-piece Both represented winter scenes. In the one a sturdy voyageur was conveying his wife and small personal belongings across the frozen snow on a sled drawn by a team of dogs. In the other a woman, apparently the same woman as in the preceding sketch, had fallen in the midst of a blinding storm, while a tall man of European aspect—decidedly not the voyageur—was standing beside her with a baby in his arms. These were clearly fancy pictures, and, so it seemed to Ford, the work of one who was trying to recapture some almost forgotten memory. In any case he was too deeply engrossed by his own situation to dwell on them further.
He wheeled round again toward the centre of the room, impatiently casting about him for something to eat. The tin box, from which he had devoured all the biscuits, lay empty on the floor, but he picked it up and ate hungrily the few crumbs sticking in its corners. He ransacked the small dark room in the hope of finding more, but vainly. As far as he could see, the cabin had never been used for the purpose it was meant to serve, nor ever occupied for more than a few hours at a time. It had probably been built in a caprice that had passed with its completion. He guessed something from the fact that there was no visible attempt to sketch the scene before the door, though the site had evidently been chosen for its beauty.
He had nothing by which to measure time, but he knew that precious hours which he might have utilized for escape were passing. He began to chafe at the delay. With the impulse of youth to be active, he longed to be out, where he could at least use his feet. His clothes had dried upon him; in spite of his hunger he was refreshed by his night's sleep; he was convinced that, once in the open, he could elude capture. He pulled back the curtain again in order to reconnoitre. It was well to be as familiar as possible with the immediate lay of the land, so as to avail himself of any advantages it might offer.
The colors of sunrise had disappeared, and he judged that it must be seven or eight o'clock. Between the rifts of the lower hills the lake was flashing silver, while where Vermont had been nothing but a mass of shadow, blue-green mountains were emerging in a triple row, from which the last veils of vapor were being dragged up into the firmament On the left, the Adirondacks were receding into translucent dimness, in a lilac haze of heat.
With an effort to get back the woodcraft suddenly inspired by his first dash for freedom, he ran his eye over the landscape, noting the points with which he was familiar. To the west, in a niche between Graytop and the double peak of Windy Mountain, he could place the county-town; to the north, beyond the pretty headlands and the shining coves, the prison of Plattsville was waiting to receive him. Farther to the north was Canada; and to the south the great waterway led toward the populous mazes of New York.
With an impatience bordering on nervousness he realized that these general facts did not help him. He must avoid the prison and the county-town, of course; while both New York and Canada offered him ultimate chances. But his most pressing dangers lurked in the immediate foreground; and there he could see nothing but an unsuggestive slope of ash and pine. The rapidity of instinct by which last night he had known exactly what to do gave place this morning to his slower and more characteristic mental processes.
He was still gazing outward in perplexity, when, through the trees beyond the grassy ledge, he caught the flicker of something white. He pressed closer to the pane for a better view, and a few seconds later a girl, whom he recognized as the nymph of last night, came out of the forest, followed by a fawn-colored collie. She walked smoothly and swiftly, carrying a large basket with her right hand, while with her left she motioned him away from the window. He stepped back, leaping to the door as she unlocked it, in order to relieve her of her burden.
"You mustn't do that," she said, speaking quickly. "You mustn't look out of the window or come to the door. There are a hundred men beating the mountain to find you."
She closed the door and locked it on the inside. While Ford lifted her basket to the desk in the centre of the room she drew the green curtain hastily, covering the window. Her movements were so rapid that he could catch no glimpse of her face, though he had time to note again the curious silence that marked her acts. The dog emitted a low growl.
"You must go in here," she said, decisively, throwing open the door of the inner room. "You mustn't speak or look out unless I tell you. I'll bring you your breakfast presently. Lie down, Micmac."
The gesture by which she forced him across the threshold was compelling rather than commanding. Before he realized that he had obeyed her, he was standing alone in the darkness, with the sound of a low voice of liquid quality echoing in his ears. Of her face he had got only the hint of dark eyes flashing with an eager, non-Caucasian brightness—eyes that drew their fire from a source alien to that of any Aryan race.
But he brushed that impression away as foolish. Her words had the unmistakable note of cultivation, while a glance at her person showed her to be a lady. He could see, too, that her dress, though simple, was according to the standard of means and fashion. She was no Pocahontas; and yet the thought of Pocahontas came to him. Certainly there was in her tones, as well as in her movements, something akin to this vast aboriginal nature around him, out of which she seemed to spring as the human element in its beauty.
He was still thinking of this when the door opened and she came in again, carrying a plate piled high with cold meat and bread-and-butter.
"I'm sorry it's only this," she smiled, as she placed it before him; "but I had to take what I could get—and what wouldn't be missed. I'll try to do better in future."
He noted the matter-of-fact tone in which she uttered the concluding words, as though they were to have plenty of time together; but for the moment he was too fiercely hungry to speak. For a few seconds she stood off, watching him eat, after which she withdrew, with the light swiftness that characterized all her motions.
He had nearly finished his meal when she returned again.
"I've brought you these," she said, not without a touch of shyness, against which she struggled by making her tone as commonplace as possible. "I shall bring you more things by degrees."
On a chair beside that on which he was sitting she laid a pair of slippers, a pair of socks, a shirt, a collar, and a tie.
He jumped up hastily, less in surprise than in confusion.
"I can't take anything of Judge Wayne's—" he began to stammer; but she interrupted him.
"I understand your feelings about that," she said, simply. "They're not Judge Wayne's; they were my father's. I have plenty more."
In his relief at finding she was not Wayne's daughter he spoke awkwardly.
"Your father? Is he—dead?"
"Yes; he's dead. You needn't be afraid to take the things. He would have liked to help a man—in your position."
"In my position? Then you know—who I am?"
"Yes; you're Norrie Ford. I saw that as soon as I chanced on the terrace last night."
"And you're not afraid of me?"
"I am—a little," she admitted; "but that doesn't matter."
"You needn't be—" he began to explain, but she checked him again.
"We mustn't talk now. I must shut the door and leave you in the dark all day. Men will be passing by, and they mustn't hear you. I shall be painting in the studio, so that they won't suspect anything, if you keep still."
Allowing him no opportunity to speak again, she closed the door, leaving him once more in darkness. Sitting in the constraint she imposed upon him, he could hear her moving in the outer room, where, owing to the lightness of the wooden partition, it was not difficult to guess what she was doing at any given moment. He knew when she opened the outer door and moved the easel toward the entrance. He knew when she took down the apron from its peg and pinned it on. He knew when she drew up a chair and pretended to set to work. In the hour or two of silence that ensued he was sure that, whatever she might be doing with her brush, she was keeping eye and ear alert in his defence.
Who was she? What interest had she in his fate? What power had raised her up to help him? Even yet he had scarcely seen her face; but he had received an impression of intelligence. He was sure she was no more than a girl—certainly not twenty—and yet she acted with the decision of maturity. At the same time there was about her that suggestion of a wild origin—that something not wholly tamed to the dictates of civilized life—which persisted in his imagination, even if he could not verify it in fact.
Twice in the course of the morning he heard voices. Men spoke to her through the open doorway, and she replied. Once he distinguished her words.
"Oh no," she called out to some one at a distance. "I'm not afraid. He won't do me any harm. I've got Micmac with me. I often stay here all day, but I shall go home early. Thanks," she added, in response to some further hint. "I'd rather not have any one here. I never can paint unless I'm quite alone."
Her tone was light, and Ford fancied that as she spoke she smiled at the passers-by who had thought it right to warn her against himself; but when, a few minutes later, she pushed open the door softly, the gravity that seemed more natural to her had returned.
"Several parties of men have gone by," she whispered. "They have no suspicion. They won't have, if you keep still. They think you have slipped away from here, and have gone back toward the lumber camps. This is your lunch," she continued, hastily, placing more food before him. "It will have to be your dinner, too. It will be safer for me not to come into this room again to-day. You must not go out into the studio till you're sure it's dark. No noise. No light. I've put an extra rug on the couch in case you're chilly in the night."
She spoke breathlessly, in whispers, and, having finished, slipped away.
"You're awfully good," he whispered back. "Won't you tell me your name?"
"Hush!" she warned him, as she closed the door.
He stood still in the darkness, leaving his food untasted, listening to the soft rustle of her movements beyond the wall. Except that he heard no more voices, the afternoon passed like the morning. At the end of what seemed to him interminable hours he knew by acute attention that she hung her apron on its peg, put on her hat, and took up her basket, while Micmac rose and shook himself. Presently she closed the door of the cabin and locked it on the outside. He fancied he could almost hear her step as she sped over the grass and into the forest. Only then did the tension of his nerves relax, as, dropping to his chair in the darkness, he began to eat.
The two or three days that followed were much like the first. Each morning she came early, bringing him food, and such articles of clothing as she thought he could wear. By degrees she provided him with a complete change of raiment, and though the fit was tolerable, they laughed together at the transformation produced in him. It was the first time he had seen her smile, and even in the obscurity of the inner room where she still kept him secluded he noted the vividness with which her habitually grave features lighted up. Micmac, too, became friendly, inferring with the instinct of his race that Ford was an object to be guarded.
"No one would know you now," the girl declared, surveying him with satisfaction.
"Were these things all your father's?" he asked, with a new attempt to penetrate the mystery of her personality.
"Yes," she returned, absently, continuing her inspection of him. "They were sent to me, and I kept them. I never knew why I did; but I suppose it was—for this."
"He must have been a tall man?" Ford hazarded, again.
"Yes, he must have been," she returned, unwarily. Then, feeling that the admission required some explanation, she added, with a touch of embarrassment, "I never saw him—not that I can remember."
"Then he died a long time ago?"
Her reply came reluctantly, after some delay:
"Not so very long—about four years ago now."
"And yet you hadn't seen him since you were a child?"
"There were reasons. We mustn't talk. Some one may pass and hear us."
He could see that her hurry in finishing the small tasks she had come in to perform for him arose not so much from precaution as from a desire to escape from this particular subject.
"I suppose you could tell me his name?" he persisted.
Her hands moved deftly, producing order among the things he had left in confusion, but she remained silent. It was a silence in which he recognized an element of protest though he ignored it.
"You could tell me his name?" he asked, again.
"His name," she said, at last, "wouldn't convey anything to you. It wouldn't do you any good to know it."
"It would gratify my curiosity. I should think you might do as much as that for me."
"I'm doing a great deal for you as it is. I don't think you should ask for more."
Her tone was one of reproach rather than of annoyance, and he was left with a sense of having committed an indiscretion. The consciousness brought with it the perception that in a measure he was growing used to his position. He was beginning to take it for granted that this girl should come and minister to his wants. She herself did it so simply, so much as a matter of course, that the circumstance lost much of its strangeness. Now and then he could detect some confusion in her manner as she served him, but he could see too that she surmounted it, in view of the fact that for him the situation was one of life and death. She was clearly not indifferent to elementary social usages; she only saw that the case was one in which they did not obtain. In his long, unoccupied hours of darkness it distracted his thoughts from his own peril to speculate about her; and when she appeared his questions were the more blunt because of the small opportunity she allowed for asking them.
"Won't they miss you at home?" he inquired, on the next occasion when she entered his cell.
She paused with a look of surprise.
"At home? Where do you mean?"
"Why—where you live; where your mother lives."
"My mother died a few months after I was born."
"Oh! But even so, you live somewhere, don't you?"
"I do; but they don't miss me there, if that's what you want to know."
"I was only afraid," he said, apologetically, "that you were giving me too much of your time."
"I've nothing else to do with it. I shall be only too glad if I can help you to escape."
"Why? Why should you care about me?"
"I don't," she said, simply; "at least, I don't know that I do."
"Oh, then you're helping me just—on general principles?"
"Well," he smiled, "mayn't I ask why, again?"
"Because I don't like the law."
"You mean that you don't like the law as a whole?—or—or this law in particular?"
"I don't like any law. I don't like anything about it. But," she added, resorting to her usual method of escape, "we mustn't talk any more now. Some men passed here this morning, and they may be coming back. They've given up looking for you; they are convinced you're up in the lumber camps, but all the same we must be careful still."
He had no further speech with her that day, and the next she remained at the cabin little more than an hour.
"It's just as well for me not to excite curiosity," she explained to him before leaving; "and you needn't be uneasy now. They've stopped the hunt altogether. They say there's not a spot within a radius of ten miles of Greenport that they haven't searched. It would never occur to any one that you could be here. Every one knows me; and so the thought that I could be helping you would be the last in their minds."
"And have you no remorse at betraying their confidence?"
She shook her head. "Most of them," she declared, "are very well pleased to think you've got away; and even if they weren't I should never feel remorse for helping any one to evade the law."
"You seem to have a great objection to the law."
"Well, haven't you?"
"Yes; but in my case it's comprehensible."
"So it is in mine—if you only knew."
"Perhaps," he said, looking at her steadily, "this is as good a time as any to assure you that the law has done me wrong."
He waited for her to say something; but as she stroked Micmac's head in silence, he continued.
"I never committed the crime of which they found me guilty."
He waited again for some intimation of her confidence.
"Their string of circumstantial evidence was plausible enough, I admit. The only weak point about it was that it wasn't true."
Even through the obscurity of his refuge he could feel the suspension of expression in her bearing, and could imagine it bringing a kind of eclipse over her eyes.
"He was very cruel to you—your uncle?—wasn't he?" she asked, at last.
"He was very cantankerous; but that wouldn't be a reason for shooting him in his sleep—whatever I may have said when in a rage."
"I should think it might be."
He started. If it were not for the necessity of making no noise he would have laughed.
"Are you so bloodthirsty—?" he began.
"Oh no, I'm not; but I should think it is what a man would do. My father wouldn't have submitted to it. I know he killed one man; and he may have killed two or three."
Ford whistled under his breath.
"So that," he said, after a pause, "your objection to the law is—hereditary."
"My objection to the law is because it is unjust. The world is full of injustice," she added, indignantly, "and the laws men live by create it."
"And your aim is to defeat them?"
"I can't talk any more now," she said, reverting to an explanatory tone of voice. "I must go. I've arranged everything for you for the day. If you are very quiet you can sit in the studio and read; but you mustn't look out at the window, or even draw back the curtain. If you hear a step outside, you must creep in here and shut the door. And you needn't be impatient; because I'm going to spend the day working out a plan for your escape."
But when she appeared next morning she declined to give details of the plan she had in mind. She preferred to work it out alone, she said, and give him the outlines only when she had settled them. It chanced to be a day of drenching summer rain, and Ford, with a renewed effort to get some clew to her identity, expressed his surprise that she should have been allowed to venture out.
"Oh, no one worries about what I do," she said, indifferently "I go about as I choose."
"So much the better for me," he laughed. "That's how you came to be wandering on old Wayne's terrace, just in the nick of time. What stumps me is the promptness with which you thought of stowing me away."
"It wasn't promptness, exactly. As a matter of fact, I had worked the whole thing out beforehand."
His eyebrows went up incredulously. "For me?"
"No, not for you; for anybody. Ever since my guardian allowed me to build the studio—last year—I've imagined how easy it would be for some—some hunted person to stay hidden here, almost indefinitely. I've tried to fancy it, when I've had nothing better to do."
"You don't seem to have had anything better to do very often," he observed, glancing about the cabin.
"If you mean that I haven't painted much, that's quite true. I thought I couldn't do without a studio—till I got one. But when I've come here, I'm afraid it's generally been to—to indulge in day-dreams."
"Day-dreams of helping prisoners to escape. It wouldn't be every girl's fancy, but it's not for me to complain of that."
"My father would have wanted me to do it," she declared, as if in self-justification. "A woman once helped him to get out of prison."
"Good for her! Who was she?"
Having asked the question lightly, in a boyish impulse to talk, he was surprised to see her show signs of embarrassment.
"She was my mother," she said, after an interval in which she seemed to be making up her mind to give the information.
In the manifest difficulty she had in speaking, Ford sprang to her aid.
"That's like the old story of Gilbert A Becket—Thomas A Becket's father, you know."
The historical reference was received in silence, as she bent over the small task she had in hand.
"He married the woman who helped him out of prison," Ford went on, for her enlightenment.
She raised her head and faced him.
"It wasn't like the story of Gilbert A Becket," she said, quietly.
It took some seconds of Ford's slow thinking to puzzle out the meaning of this. Even then he might have pondered in vain had it not been for the flush that gradually over-spread her features, and brought what he called the wild glint into her eyes. When he understood, he reddened in his own turn, making matters worse.
"I beg your pardon," he stammered. "I never thought—"
"You needn't beg my pardon," she interrupted, speaking with a catch in her breath. "I wanted you to know.... You've asked me so many questions that it seemed as if I was ashamed of my father and mother when I didn't answer.... I'm not ashamed of them.... I'd rather you knew.... Every one does—who knows me."
Half unconsciously he glanced up at the framed sketches on the chimney-piece. Her eyes followed him, and she spoke instantly:
"You're quite right. I meant that—for them."
They were standing in the studio, into which she had allowed him to come from the stifling darkness of the inner room, on the ground that the rain protected them against intrusion from outside. During their conversation she had been placing the easel and arranging the work which formed her pretext for being there, while Micmac, stretched on the floor, with his head between his paws, kept a half-sleepy eye on both of them.
"Your father was a Canadian, then?" he ventured to ask, as she seated herself with a palette in her hand.
"He was a Virginian. My mother was the wife of a French-Canadian voyageur. I believe she had a strain of Indian blood. The voyageurs and their families generally have."
Having recovered her self-possession, she made her statements in the matter-of-fact tone she used to hide embarrassment flicking a little color into the sketch before her as she spoke. Ford seated himself at a distance, gazing at her with a kind of fascination. Here, then, was the clew to that something untamed which persisted through all the effects of training and education, as a wild flavor will last in a carefully cultivated fruit. His curiosity about her was so intense that, notwithstanding the difficulty with which she stated her facts, it overcame his prompting to spare her.
"And yet," he said, after a long pause, in which he seemed to be assimilating the information she had given him—"and yet I don't see how that explains you."
"I suppose it doesn't—not any more than your situation explains you."
"My situation explains me perfectly, because I'm the victim of a wrong."
"Well, so am I—in another way. I'm made to suffer because I'm the daughter of my parents."
"That's a rotten shame," he exclaimed, in boyish sympathy "It isn't your fault."
"Of course it isn't," she smiled, wistfully. "And yet I'd rather suffer with the parents I have than be happy with any others."
"I suppose that's natural," he admitted, doubtfully.
"I wish I knew more about them," she went on, continuing to give light touches to the work before her, and now and then leaning back to get the effect. "I never understood why my father was in prison in Canada."
"Perhaps it was when he killed the man," Ford suggested.
"No; that was in Virginia—at least, the first one. His people didn't like it. That was the reason for his leaving home. He hated a settled life; and so he wandered away into the northwest of Canada. It was in the days when they first began to build the railways there—when there were almost no people except the trappers and the voyageurs. I was born on the very shores of Hudson Bay."
"But you didn't stay there?"
"No. I was only a very little child—not old enough to remember—when my father sent me down to Quebec, to the Ursuline nuns. He never saw me again. I lived with them till four years ago. I'm eighteen now."
"Why didn't he send you to his people? Hadn't he sisters?—or anything like that."
"He tried to, but they wouldn't have anything to do with me."
It was clearly a relief to her to talk about herself. He guessed that she rarely had an opportunity of opening her heart to any one. Not till this morning had he seen her in the full light of day; and, though but an immature judge, he fancied her features had settled themselves into lines of reserve and pride from which in happier circumstances they might have been free. Her way of twisting her dark hair—which waved over the brows from a central parting—into the simplest kind of knot gave her an air of sedateness beyond her years. But what he noticed in her particularly was her eyes—not so much because they were wild, dark eyes, with the peculiar fleeing expression of startled forest things, as because of the pleading, apologetic look that comes into the eyes of forest things when they stand at bay. It was when—for seconds only—the pupils shone with a jet-like blaze that he caught what he called the non-Aryan effect; but that glow died out quickly, leaving something of the fugitive appeal which Hawthorne saw in the eyes of Beatrice Cenci.
"He offered his sisters a great deal of money," she sighed, "but they wouldn't take me."
"Oh? So he had money?"
"He was one of the first Americans to make money in the Canadian northwest; but that was after my mother died. She died in the snow, on a journey—like that sketch above the fireplace. I've been told that it changed my father's life. He had been what they call wild before that—but he wasn't so any more. He grew very hard-working and serious. He was one of the pioneers of that country—one of the very first to see its possibilities. That was how he made his money; and when he died he left it to me. I believe it's a good deal."
"Didn't you hate being in the convent?" he asked, suddenly "I should."
"N-no; not exactly. I wasn't unhappy. The Sisters were kind to me. Some of them spoiled me. It wasn't until after my father died, and I began to realize—who I was, that I grew restless. I felt I should never be happy until I was among people of my own kind."
"And how did you get there?"
She smiled faintly to herself before answering.
"I never did. There are no people of my kind."
Embarrassed by the stress she seemed inclined to lay on this circumstance, he grasped at the first thought that might divert her from it.
"So you live with a guardian! How do you like that?"
"I should like it well enough if he did—that is, if his wife did. You see," she tried to explain, "she's very sweet and gentle, and all that, but she's devoted to the proprieties of life, and I seem to represent to her—its improprieties. I know it's a trial to her to keep me, and so, in a way, it's a trial to me to stay."
"Why do you stay, then?"
"For one reason, because I can't help myself. I have to do what the law tells me."
"I see. The law again!"
"Yes; the law again. But I've other reasons besides that."
"Well, I'm very fond of their little girl, for one thing. She's the greatest darling in the world, and the only creature, except my dog, that loves me."
"What's her name?"
The question drove her to painting with closer attention to her work. Ford followed something of the progress of her thought by watching the just perceptible contraction of her brows into a little frown, and the setting of her lips into a curve of determination. They were handsome lips, mobile and sensitive—lips that might easily have been disdainful had not the inner spirit softened them with a tremor—or it might have been a light—of gentleness.
"It isn't worth while to tell you that," she said, after long reflection. "It will be safer for you in the end not to know any of our names at all."
"Still—if I escape—I should like to know them."
"If you escape, you may be able to find out."
"Oh, well," he said, with assumed indifference, "since you don't want to tell me—"
Going on with her painting, she allowed the subject to drop; but to him the opportunity for conversation was too rare a thing to neglect. Not only was his youthful impulse toward social self-expression normally strong, but his pleasure in talking to a lady—a girl—was undeniable. Sometimes in his moments of solitary meditation he said to himself that she was "not his type of girl"; but the fact that he had been deprived of feminine society for nearly three years made him ready to fall in love with any one. If he did not precisely fall in love with this girl, it was only because the situation precluded sentiment; and yet it was pleasant to sit and watch her paint, and even torment her with his questions.
"So the little girl is one reason for your staying here. What's another?"
She betrayed her own taste for social communion by the readiness with which she answered him—
"I don't know that I ought to tell you that; and yet I might as well. It's just this: they're not very well off—so I can help. Naturally I like that."
"You can help by footing the bills. That's all very fine if you enjoy it, but everybody wouldn't."
"They would if they were in my position," she insisted. "When you can help in any way it gives you a sense of being of use to some one. I'd rather that people needed me, even if they didn't want me, than that they shouldn't need me at all."
"They need your money," he declared, with a young man's outspokenness. "That's what."
"But that's something, isn't it? When you've no place in the world you're glad enough to get one, even if you have to buy it. My guardian and his wife mayn't care much to have me, but it's some satisfaction to know that they'd get along much worse if I weren't here."
"So should I," he laughed. "What I'm to do when I'm turned adrift without you, Heaven only knows. It's curious—the effect imprisonment has on you. It takes away your self-reliance. It gives you a helpless feeling, like a baby. You want to be free—and yet you're almost afraid of the open air."
He was so much at home with her now that, sitting carelessly astride of his chair, with his arms folded on the back, he felt a fraternal element in their mutual relation. She bent more closely over her work, and spoke without looking up.
"Oh, you'll get along all right. You're that sort."
"That's easy to say."
"You may find it easy to do." Her next words, uttered while she continued to flick color into her sketch, caused him to jump with astonishment. "I'd go to the Argentine."
"Why not say the moon?"
"For one reason, because the moon is inaccessible."
"So is the Argentine—for me."
"Oh no, it isn't. Other people have reached it."
"Yes: but they weren't in my fix."
"Some of them were probably in worse."
There was a pause, during which she seemed absorbed in her work, while Ford sat meditatively whistling under his breath.
"What put the Argentine into your head?" he asked, at last.
"Because I happen to know a good deal about it. Everybody says it's the country of new opportunities. I know people who've lived there. The little girl I was speaking of just now—whom I'm so fond of—was born there. Her father is dead since then, and her mother is married again."
He continued to meditate, emitting the same tuneless, abstracted sound, just above his breath.
"I know the name of an American firm out there," she went on. "It's Stephens and Jarrott. It's a very good firm to work for. I've often heard that. And Mr. Jarrott has helped ever so many—stranded people."
"I should be just his sort, then."
His laugh, as he sprang to his feet, seemed to dismiss an impossible subject; and yet as he lay on his couch that evening in the lampless darkness the name of Stephens and Jarrott obtruded itself into his visions of this girl, who stood between him and peril because she "disliked the law," He wondered how far it was dislike, and how far jealous pain. In her eagerness to buy the domestic place she had not inherited she reminded him of something he had read—or heard—of the wild olive being grafted into the olive of the orchard. Well, that would come in the natural course of events. Some fine fellow, worthy to be her mate, would see to it. He was not without a pleasant belief that in happier circumstances he himself might have had the qualifications for the task. He wondered again what her name was. He ran through the catalogue of the names he himself would have chosen for a heroine—Gladys, Ethel, Mildred Millicent!—none of them seemed to suit her. He tried again. Margaret, Beatrice, Lucy, Joan! Joan possibly—or he said to himself, in the last inconsequential thoughts as he fell asleep, it might be—the Wild Olive.
As the days passed, one much like another, and the retreat seemed more and more secure, it was natural that Ford's thoughts should dwell less on his own danger and more on the girl who filled his immediate horizon. The care with which she foresaw his wants, the ingenuity with which she met them, the dignity and simplicity with which she carried herself through incidents that to a less delicate tact must have been difficult, would have excited his admiration in any case, even if the namelessness which helped to make her an impersonal element in the episode had not stirred his imagination. He was obliged to remind himself often that she was "not his type of girl," in order to confine his heart within the limits which the situation imposed.
It worried him, therefore, it even hurt him, that in spite of all the openings he had given her, she had never offered him a sign of her belief in his innocence. For this reason he took the first occasion when she was seated at her easel, with the dog lying at her feet, to lay his case before her.
He told her of his overindulged boyhood, as the only child of a wealthy New York merchant. He outlined his profitless years at the university, where a too free use of money had hindered work. He narrated the disasters that had left him at the age of two-and-twenty to begin life for himself—his father's bankruptcy, followed by the death of both his parents within the year. He had been eager to start in at the foot of the ladder and work his way upward, when the proposal was made which proved fatal.
Old Chris Ford, his great-uncle, known throughout the Adirondack region as "the lumber king," had offered to take him, train him to the lumber business, and make him his heir. An eccentric, childless widower, commonly believed to have broken his wife's heart by sheer bitterness of tongue, old Chris Ford was hated, feared, and flattered by the relatives and time-servers who hoped ultimately to profit by his favor. Norrie Ford neither flattered nor feared his powerful kinsman, but he hated him with the best. His own instincts were city born and bred. He was conscious, too, of that aptitude with which the typical New-Yorker is supposed to come into being—the capacity to make money. He would have preferred to make it on his own ground and in his own way; and had it not been for the counsels of those who wished him well, he would have replied to his great-uncle's offer with a courteous "No." Wiser heads than his pointed out the folly of such a course as that; and so, reluctantly, he entered on his apprenticeship.
In the two years that followed he could not see what purpose he served other than that of a mark for the old man's poisoned wit. He was taught nothing, and paid nothing, and given nothing to do. He slept under his great-uncle's roof and ate at his table, but the sharp tongue made the bed hard to lie on and the bread difficult to swallow down. Idleness reawakened the propensity to vicious habits which he thought he had outlived, while the rough society of the lumber camps, in which he sought to relieve the tedium of time, extended him the welcome which Falstaff and his comrades gave Prince Hal.
The revolt of his self-respect was on the eve of bringing this phase of his existence to an end when the low farce turned into tragedy. Old Chris Ford was found dead in his bed—shot in his sleep. On the premises there had been but three persons, one of whom must have committed the crime—Norrie Ford, and Jacob and Amalia Gramm. Jacob and Amalia Gramm had been the old man's servants for thirty years. Their faithfulness put them beyond suspicion. The possibility of their guilt, having been considered, was dismissed with few formalities. The conviction of Norrie Ford became easy after that—the more respectable people of the neighborhood being agreed that from the evidence presented no other deduction could be drawn. The very fact that the old man, by his provocation of the lad, so thoroughly deserved his fate made the manner in which he met with it the clearer. Even Norrie Ford's friends, the hunters and the lumbermen, admitted as much as that, though they were determined that he should never suffer for so meritorious an act as long as they could give him a fighting chance for freedom.
The girl listened to Ford's narrative with some degree of interest, though it contained nothing new to her. She could not have lived at Greenport during the period of his trial without being familiar with it all. But when he came to explanations in his own defence she followed listlessly. Though she leaned back in her chair, and courteously stopped painting, while he talked so earnestly, the light in her eyes faded to a lustreless gleam, like that of the black pearl. His perception that her thoughts were wandering gave him a queer sensation of speaking into a medium in which his voice could not carry, cutting short his arguments, and bringing him to his conclusion more hurriedly than he had intended.
"I wanted you to know I didn't do it," he finished, in a tone which begged for some expression of her belief, "because you've done so much to help me."
"Oh, but I should have helped you just the same, whether you had done it or not."
"But I suppose it makes some difference to you," he cried, impatiently, "to know that I didn't."
"I suppose it would," she admitted, slowly, "if I thought much about it."
"Well, won't you think?" he pleaded—-"just to oblige me."
"Perhaps I will, when you're gone; but at present I have to give my mind to getting you away. It was to talk about that that I came this morning."
Had she wanted to slip out of giving an opinion on the subject of his guilt, she could not have found a better exit. The means of his ultimate escape engrossed him even more than the theme of his innocence. When she spoke again all his faculties were concentrated into one keen point of attention.
"I think the time has come for you to—go."
If her voice trembled on the last word, he did not notice it. The pose of his body, the lines of his face, the glint of his gray eyes, were alive with interrogation.
"Go?" he asked, just audibly. "When?"
"I'll tell you that then."
"Why can't you tell me now?"
"I could if I was sure you wouldn't raise objections, but I know you will."
"Then there are objections to be raised?"
"There are objections to everything. There's no plan of escape that won't expose you to a good many risks. I'd rather you didn't see them in advance."
"But isn't it well to be prepared beforehand?"
"You'll have plenty of time for preparation—after you've started. If that seems mysterious to you now, you'll know what I mean by it when I come to-morrow. I shall be here in the afternoon at six."
With this information Ford was obliged to be content, spending a sleepless night and an impatient day, waiting for the time appointed.
She came punctually. For the first time she was not followed by her dog. The only change in her appearance he could see was a short skirt of rough material instead of her usual linen or muslin.
"Are we going through the woods?" he asked.
"Not far. I shall take you by the trail that led to this spot before I built the cabin and made the path." As she spoke she surveyed him. "You'll do," she smiled at last. "In those flannels, and with your beard, no one would know you for the Norrie Ford of three weeks ago."
It was easy for him to ascribe the glow in her eyes and the quiver in her voice to the excitement of the moment; for he could see that she had the spirit of adventure. Perhaps it was to conceal some embarrassment under his regard that she spoke again, hurriedly.
"We've no time to lose. You needn't take anything from here. We'd better start."
He followed her over the threshold, and as she turned to lock the cabin he had time to throw a glance of farewell over the familiar hills, now transmuted into a haze of amethyst under the westering sun. A second later he heard her quick "Come on!" as she struck into the barely perceptible path that led upward, around the shoulder of the mountain.
It was a stiff bit of climbing, but she sped along with the dryad-like ease she had displayed on the night when she led him to the cabin. Beneath the primeval growth of ash and pine there was an underbrush so dense that no one but a creature gifted with the inherited instinct of the woods could have found the invisible, sinuous line alone possible to the feet. But it was there, and she traced it—never pausing never speaking, and only looking back from time to time to assure herself that he was in sight, until they reached the top of the dome-shaped hill.
They came out suddenly on a rocky terrace, beneath which, a mile below, Champlain was spread out in great part of its length, from the dim bluff of Crown Point to the far-away, cloud-like mountains of Canada.
"You can sit down a minute here," she said, as he came up.
They found seats among the low scattered bowlders, but neither spoke. It was a moment at which to understand the jewelled imagery of the Seer of the Apocalypse. Jasper, jacinth, chalcedony, emerald, chrysoprasus, were suggested by the still bosom of the lake, towered round by light-reflecting mountains. The triple tier of the Vermont shore was bottle-green at its base, indigo in the middle height, while its summit was a pale undulation of evanescent blue against the jade and topaz of the twilight.
"The steamer Empress of Erin," the girl said, with what seemed like abruptness, "will sail from Montreal on the twenty-eighth, and from Quebec on the twenty-ninth. From Rimouski, at the mouth of the river St. Lawrence, she will sail on the thirtieth, to touch nowhere else till she reaches Ireland. You will take her at Rimouski."
There was a silence, during which he tried to absorb this startling information.
"And from here to Rimouski?" he asked, at last.
"From here to Rimouski," she replied, with a gesture toward the lake, "your way is there."
There was another silence, while his eyes travelled the long, rainbow-colored lake, up to the faint line of mountains where it faded into a mist of bluish-green and gold.
"I see the way," he said then, "but I don't see the means of taking it."
"You'll find that in good time. In the mean while you'd better take this." From her jacket she drew a paper, which she passed to him. "That's your ticket. You'll see," she laughed, apologetically, "that I've taken for you what they call a suite, and I've done it for this reason. They're keeping a lookout for you on every tramp ship from New York, on every cattle-ship from Boston, and on every grain-ship from Montreal; but they're not looking for you in the most expensive cabins of the most expensive liners. They know you've no money; and if you get out of the country at all, they expect it will be as a stoker or a stow-away They'll never think you're driving in cabs and staying at the best hotels."
"But I shan't be," he said, simply.
"Oh yes, you will. You'll need money, of course; and I've brought it. You'll need a good deal; so I've brought plenty."
She drew out a pocketbook and held it toward him. He looked at it, reddening, but made no attempt to take it.
"I can't—I can't—go as far as that," he stammered, hoarsely.
"You mean," she returned, quickly, "that you hesitate to take money from a woman. I thought you might. But it isn't from a woman; it's from a man. It's from my father. He would have liked to do it. He would have wanted me to do it. They keep putting it in the bank for me—just to spend—but I never need it. What can I do with money in a place like Greenport? Here, take it," she urged, thrusting it into his hands. "You know very well it isn't a matter of choice, but of life or death."
With her own fingers she clasped his upon it, drawing back and coloring at her boldness. For the first time in their weeks of intercourse she saw in him a touch of emotion The phlegmatism by which he had hitherto concealed his inward suffering seemed suddenly to desert him. He looked at her with lips quivering, while his eyes filled. His weakness only nerved her to be stronger, sending her for refuge back into the commonplace.
"They'll expect you at Rimouski, because your luggage will already have gone on board at Montreal. Yes," she continued, in reply to his astonishment, "I've forwarded all the trunks and boxes that came to me from my father. I told my guardian I was sending them to be stored—and I am, for you'll store them for me in London when you've done with them. Here are the keys."
He made no attempt to refuse them, and she hurried on.
"I sent the trunks for two reasons; first, because there might be things in them you could use till you get something better; and then I wanted to prevent suspicion arising from your sailing without luggage. Every little thing of that sort counts. The trunks have 'H.S.' painted in white letters on them; so that you'll have no difficulty in knowing them at sight. I've put a name with the same initials on the ticket. You'd better use it till you feel it safe to take your own again."
"What name?" he asked, with eager curiosity, beginning to take the ticket out of its envelope.
"Never mind now," she said, quickly. "It's just a name—any name. You can look at it afterward. We'd better go on."
She made as though she would move, but he detained her.
"Wait a minute. So your name begins with S!"
"Like a good many others," she smiled.
"Then tell me what it is. Don't let me go away without knowing it. You can't think what it means to me."
"I should think you'd see what it means to me."
"I don't. What harm can it do you?"
"If you don't see, I'm afraid I can't explain. To be nameless is—- how shall I say it?—a sort of protection to me. In helping you, and taking care of you, I've done what almost any really nice girl would have shrunk from. There are plenty of people who would say is was wrong. And in a way—a way I could never make you understand, unless you understand already—it's a relief to me that you don't know who I am. And even that isn't everything."
"When this little episode is over"—her voice trembled, and it was not without some blinking of the eyes that she was able to begin again—"when this little episode is over, it will be better for us both—for you as well as for me—to know as little about it as possible. The danger isn't past by any means; but it's a kind of danger in which ignorance can be made to look a good deal like innocence. I shan't know anything about you after you've gone, and you know nothing whatever about me."
"That's what I complain of. Suppose I pull the thing off, and make a success of myself somewhere else, how should I communicate with you again?"
"Why should you communicate with me at all?"
"To pay you back your money, for one thing—"
"Oh, that doesn't matter."
"Perhaps it doesn't from your point of view; but it does from mine. But it wouldn't be my only reason in any case."
Something in his voice and in his eyes warned her to rise and interrupt him.
"I'm afraid we haven't time to talk about it now," she said, hurriedly. "We really must be going on."
"I'm not going to talk about it now," he declared, rising in his turn. "I said it would be a reason for my wanting to communicate with you again. I shall want to tell you something then; though perhaps by that time you won't want to hear it."
"Hadn't we better wait and see?"
"That's what I shall have to do; but how can I come back to you at all if I don't know who you are?"
"I shall have to leave that to your ingenuity," she laughed, with an attempt to treat the matter lightly. "In the mean time we must hurry on. It's absolutely necessary that you should set out by sunset."
She glided into the invisible trail running down the lakeside slope of the mountain, so that he was obliged to follow her. As they had climbed up, so they descended—the girl steadily and silently in advance. The region was dotted with farms; but she kept to the shelter of the woodland, and before he expected it they found themselves at the water's edge. A canoe drawn up in a cove gave him the first clear hint of her intentions.
It was a pretty little cove, enclosed by two tiny headlands, forming a miniature landlocked bay, hidden from view of the lake beyond. Trees leaned over it and into it, while the canoe rested on a yard-long beach of sand.
"I see," he remarked, after she had allowed him to take his own observations. "You want me to go over to Burlington and catch a train to Montreal."
She shook her head, smiling, as he thought, rather tremulously.
"I'm afraid I've planned a much longer journey for you. Come and see the preparations I've made." They stepped to the side of the canoe, so as to look down into it. "That," she pursued, pointing to a small suit-case forward of the middle thwart, "will enable you to look like an ordinary traveller after you've landed. And that," she added, indicating a package in the stern, "contains nothing more nor less than sandwiches. Those are bottles of mineral water. The small objects are a corkscrew, a glass, a railway timetable a cheap compass, and a cheaper watch. In addition you'll find a map of the lake, which you can consult tomorrow morning, after you've paddled all night through the part with which you're most familiar."
"Where am I going?" he asked, huskily, avoiding her eyes. The nonchalance of her tone had not deceived him, and he thought it well not to let their glances meet.
"You'll keep to the middle of the lake and go on steadily. You'll have all Champlain to yourself to-night, and in daylight there's no reason why you shouldn't pass for an ordinary sportsman. All the same, you had better rest by day, and go on again in the evening. You'll find lots of little secluded coves where you can pull up the canoe and be quite undisturbed. I'd do that, if I were you."
He nodded to show that he understood her.
"When you look at the map," she went on, "you'll find that I've traced a route for you, after you get above Plattsville. You'll see that it will take you past the little French-Canadian village of Deux Etoiles. You can't mistake it, because there's a lighthouse, with a revolving light, on a rock, just off the shore. You'll be in Canada then. You'd better time yourself to go by about nightfall."
He nodded his agreement with her again, and she continued.
"About a mile above the lighthouse, and close in by the eastern shore, just where the lake becomes very narrow, there are two little islands lying close together. You'll take them as a landmark, because immediately opposite them, on the mainland, there's a stretch of forest running for a good many miles. There you can land finally. You must drag the canoe right up into the wood, and hide it as well as you can. It's my own canoe, so that it can lie there till it drops to pieces. Is all that quite clear to you?"
Once more he nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Again the sight of his emotion braced her to make her tone more matter-of-fact than ever.
"Now, then," she went on, "if you consult the map you'll see that an old wood-road runs through the forest, and comes out at the station of Saint Jean du Clou Noir. There you can get a train to Quebec.... The road begins nearly opposite the two little islands I spoke of.... I don't think you'll have any difficulty in finding it.... It's about seven miles to the station.... You could walk that easily enough through the night.... I've marked a very good train on the time-table—a train that stops at Saint Jean du Clou Noir at seven thirty-five ..."
A choking sensation warned her to stop, but she retained the power to smile. The sun had set, and the slow northern night was beginning to close in. Across the lake the mountains of Vermont were receding into deep purple uniformity, while over the crimson of the west a veil of filmy black was falling, as though dropped in mid-flight by the angel of the dark. Here and there through the dead-turquoise green of the sky one could detect the pale glimmer of a star.
"You must go now," she whispered. He began to move the canoe into the water.
"I haven't thanked you," he began, unsteadily, holding the canoe by the bow, "because you wouldn't let me. As a matter of fact, I don't know how to do it—adequately. But if I live at all, my life will belong to you. That's all I can say. My life will be a thing for you to dispose of. If you ever have need of it—"
"I shan't have," she said, hastily, "but I'll remember what you say."
"Thanks; that's all I ask. For the present I can only hope for the chance of making my promise good."
She said nothing in reply, and after a minute's silence he entered the canoe. She steadied it herself to allow him to step in. It was not till he had done so and had knelt down with the paddle in his hand that, moved by a sudden impulse she leaned to him and kissed him. Then, releasing the light craft, she allowed it to glide out like a swan on the tiny bay. In three strokes of the paddle it had passed between the low, enclosing headlands and was out of sight. When she summoned up strength to creep to an eminence commanding the lake, it was already little more than a speck, moving rapidly northward, over the opal-tinted waters.
On finding himself alone, and relatively free, Ford's first sensation was one of insecurity. Having lived for more than a year under orders and observation, he had lost for the moment some of his natural confidence in his own initiative. Though he struck resolutely up the lake he was aware of an inner bewilderment, bordering on physical discomfort, at being his own master. For the first half-hour he paddled mechanically, his consciousness benumbed by the overwhelming strangeness. As far as he was able to formulate his thought at all he felt himself to be in process of a new birth, into a new phase of existence. In the darkening of the sky above him and of the lake around there came upon him something of the mental obscurity that might mark the passage of a transmigrating soul. After the subdued excitement of the past weeks, and especially of the past hour, the very regularity of his movements now lulled him into a passivity only quickened by vague fears. The noiseless leaping forward of the canoe beneath him heightened his sense of breaking with the past and hastening onward into another life. In that life he would be a new creature, free to be a law unto himself.
A new creature! A law unto himself! The ideas were subconscious, and yet he found the words framing themselves on his lips. He repeated them mentally with some satisfaction as a cluster of lights on his left told him he was passing Greenport. Other lights, on a hill, above the town and away from it, were probably those of Judge Wayne's villa. He looked at them curiously, with an odd sense of detachment, of remoteness, as from things belonging to a time with which he had nothing more to do. That was over and done with.