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TheProjectGutenbergeBook,HiddenCreek,byKatharineNewlinBurt ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwithalmostno restrictionswhatsoever Youmaycopyit,giveitawayorre-useitunderthe termsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincludedwiththiseBookoronlineat www.gutenberg.net Title:HiddenCreek Author:KatharineNewlinBurt ReleaseDate:February7,2004[eBook#10978] Language:English ***STARTOFTHEPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKHIDDENCREEK*** E-textpreparedbyRickNiles,MaryMeehan,andtheProjectGutenbergOnline DistributedProofreadingTeam HIDDENCREEK BYKATHARINENEWLINBURT AUTHOROF"THEBRANDINGIRON"AND"THEREDLADY" 1920 TOMAXWELLSTRUTHERS BURTWHOBLAZEDTHETRAIL CONTENTS PARTONE:THEGOODOLDWORLD I SHEILA'SLEGACYII SYLVESTERHUDSONCOMESFORHISPICTUREIII THEFINEST CITYINTHEWORLDIV MOONSHINEV INTERCESSIONVI THEBAWLING-OUTVII DISH-WASHINGVIII ARTISTSIX ASINGEINGOFWINGSX THEBEACONLIGHTXI IN THEPUBLICEYEXII HUDSON'SQUEENXIII SYLVESTERCELEBRATESXIV THELIGHT OFDAWNXV FLAMES PARTTWO:THESTARS I THEHILLII ADVENTUREIII JOURNEY'SENDIV BEASTSV NEIGHBORNEIGHBORVI AHISTORYANDALETTERVII SANCTUARYVIII DESERTIONIX WORKANDASONGX WINTERXI THEPACKXII THEGOODOLDWORLDAGAINXIII LONELINESSXIV SHEILAANDTHESTARS HIDDENCREEK PARTONE THEGOODOLDWORLD CHAPTERI SHEILA'SLEGACY Justbeforehisdeath,MarcusArundel,artistandfatherofSheila,borewitnessto hisfaithinGodandman Hehadbeenlyingapparentlyunconscious,hisslow, difficultbreathdrawnatlongerandlongerintervals Sheilawashuddledonthe floorbesidehisbed,herhandpressinghisurgentlyinthepitifulattempt, commontohumanlove,toholdbacktheresolutesoulfromthenextstepinits adventure Thenurse,whocameinbytheday,hadleftapaperofinstructionson thetable Hereacandleburnedunderayellowshade,throwingacircleofwarm, unsteadylightontheheadofthegirl,onthetwohands,ontherumpledcoverlet, onthedyingface Thiscircleoflightseemedtocollectthesethings,tochoose them,asthoughfortheexpressionofsomemeaning Itfeltforthemasanartist feelsforhiscompositionandgavetothemasymbolicvalue Thetwohands wereinthecenteroftheglow—thelong,pale,slackone,thesmall,desperate, clingingone Theconsciousandtheunconscious,lifeanddeath,humanityand God—allthatismysteriousandtragicseemedtofindexpressionthereinthetwo hands Sotheyhadbeenforsixhours,anditwouldsoonbemorning Thelarge,bare room,however,wasstillpossessedbynight,andthecityoutsidewasatits lowestebboflife,almostsoundless Againsttheskylightthewinterstarsseemed tobepressing;theskywaslaidacrossthepanesofglasslikeapurpleclothin whichsparksburned SuddenlyandwithstrengthArundelsatup Sheilarosewithhim,drawinguphis handinherstoherheart "Keeplookingatthestars,Sheila,"hesaidwiththrillingemphasis,andwidened hiseyesatthevisiblehostofthem Thenhelookeddownather;hiseyesshone asthoughtheyhadcaughtareflectionfromthemyriadlights "Itisagoodold world,"hesaidheartilyinawarmandhumanvoice,andhesmiledhissmileof everydaygood-fellowship SheilathankedGodforhisreturn,andontheveryinstanthewasgone Hedroppedback,andtherewerenomoredifficultbreaths Sheila,alonethereinthegarretstudioabovethecity,criedtoherfatherand shookhim,till,inveryterrorofherownfrenzyinthefaceofhisstillness,she grewcalmandlaidherselfdownbesidehim,puthisdeadarmaroundher, nestledherheadagainsthisshoulder Shewasseventeenyearsold,leftaloneand pennilessintheoldworldthathehadjustpronouncedsogood Shelaythere staringatthestarstilltheyfaded,andthecold,cleareyeofdaylookeddown intotheroom CHAPTERII SYLVESTERHUDSONCOMESFORHISPICTURE Backofhissallow,lantern-jawedface,SylvesterHudsonhidsuccessfully, thoughwithoutintention,allthatwasinhimwhetherofgoodorill Certainlyhe didnotlookhishistory Hewasstoop-shouldered,pensive-eyed,withlonghands onwhichhewasalwaysturningandtwistingabigemerald Hedressedquietly, almostcorrectly,buttherewasalwayssomethingalittlewronginthecoloror patternofhistie,andhewastoofondofbrownandgreenmixtureswhichdid notbecomehissallowness Hesmiledveryrarely,andwhenhedidsmile,his longupperlipunfasteneditselfwithaneffortandshowedahorizontalwrinkle halfwaybetweenthepointedendofhisnoseandtheirregular,nickedrowofhis teeth Altogether,hewasagentle,bilious-lookingsortofman,whomighthavebeen anythingfromacountrygentlemantoamoderatelyprosperousclerk Asa matteroffact,hewastheownerofadozensmall,nottoorespectable,hotels throughtheWest,andhadanincomeofnearlyhalfamilliondollars Helivedin Millings,atowninacertainFar-WesternState,whereflourishedthemost pretentiousandrespectableofhishotels Ithadafamousbar,towhichrodethe sheep-herders,thecowboys,theranchers,thedry-farmersofthesurrounding country—yes,andsometimes,thirstiestofall,theworkmenfrommoredistant oil-fields,adangerouscrew Millingsatthattimehadnotyieldedtothe generallyincreasing"dryness"oftheWest Itwas"wet,"notwithstandingits chokingalkalidust;andthedeeppoolofitswetnesslayinHudson'sbar,The Aura Itwasnamedforawomanwhohadbecomehiswife WhenHudsoncametoNewYorkhelookeduphisEasternpatrons,anditwas oneofthesewho,knowingArundel'sneed,encouragedthehotel-keeperinhis desiretosecurea"jim-dandypicture"forthelobbyofTheAuraandtookhim forthepurposetoMarcus'sstudio Onthatmorning,hardlyafortnightbeforethe artist'sdeath,Sheilawasnotathome Marcus,inspiteofhimself,wasmanagedintoasale Itwasofanenormous canvas,coveredweaklyenoughbyathinreproductionofarangeoftheRockies andasagebrushflat Mr Hudsoninhishollowvoicepronouncedit"classy." "Say,"hesaid,"putalittlelifeintotheforegroundandthatwouldpleaseme It's whatI'mseekin' Putinanautomobilemeetin'oneoftheseold-timeprairie schooners—theoldWestsayin'howdytothenoo Thatwillticklethetrade." Mark,whowasfeelingweakandill,consentedwearily Hesketchedinthe proposedamendmentandHudsonapprovedwithoneofhiswrinkledsmiles He offeredasmallprice,atwhichArundelleaptlikeafamishedhound Whenhisvisitorshadgone,thepainterwentfeverishlytowork Thedaybefore hisdeath,Sheila,underhiswhispereddirections,putthelasttouchestothebody ofthe"auto_m_obile." "It'sghastly,"sighedthesickman,"butitwilldo—forMillings."Heturnedhis backsadlyenoughtothecanvas,whichstoodforhimlikeamonumenttofallen hope Sheilapraiseditwithafalteringvoice,buthedidnotturnnorspeak So shecarriedthehugepictureoutofhissight Thenextday,atabouteleveno'clockinthemorning,Hudsoncalled Hecame withstiff,angularmotionsofhislong,thinlegs,upthefoursteep,shabbyflights andstoppedatthetoptogethisbreath "Thepictureain'tworththeclimb,"hethought;andthen,struckbythepeculiar stillnessofthegarretfloor,hefrowned "Damnedifthefellerain'tout!"Hetook astrideforwardandknockedatArundel'sdoor Therewasnoanswer Heturned theknobandsteppedintothestudio Ascreenstoodbetweenhimandonehalfoftheroom Theotherhalfwasempty Theplacewasverycoldandstill Itwasdeplorablybareandshabbyinthe wintrymorninglight Someonehadeatenameagerbreakfastfromatrayonthe littletablenearthestove Hudson'scanvasstoodagainstthewallfacinghim,and itspresencegavehimafeelingofownership,ofarighttobethere Heputhis long,stiffhandsintohispocketsandstrolledforward Hecameroundthecorner ofthescreenandfoundhimselflookingatthedeadbodyofhishost Thenurse,thatmorning,hadcomeandgone WithSheila'shelpshehad preparedArundelforhisburial Helayinalltheformaldetachmentofdeath,his nightcourts Itwasdowntown Atastreet-cornertherewasacrowd Somebody toldme;'YoungHilliard'scarranintoamilkcart;turnedturtle He'shurt.'Well, ofcourse,Iknewit'dbeagoodstory—allthataboutHilliardandhismillions andhiscomingfromtheWesttogethisinheritance—ithadjustcomeouta coupleofmonthsbefore…." "Hismillions?"repeatedSheila Sheslippedoffthearmofherchairwithout turningherwidelookfromDickieandsatdownwithanairofdeliberate sobriety "Hisinheritance?"sherepeated "Yes,ma'am That'swhattookhimEast HehadnewsatRusty Hewroteyoua letterandsentitbyamanwhowastofetchyoutoRusty Youweretostaythere withhiswifetillHilliardwouldbecomingbackforyou But,Sheila,theman wascaughtinatrapandburiedbyablizzard Theyfoundhimonlyaboutaweek ago—withHilliard'sletterinhispocket."Dickiefumbledinhisownsteaming coat "Hereitis I'vegotit." "Don'tgiveittomeyet,"shesaid "Goon." "Well,"Dickieturnedtheshriveledandstainedpaperlightlyinrestlessfingers "ThatmorninginNewYorkIgotupclosetothecarandhadmynotebookout Hilliardwaswaitingfortheambulance Hisribsweresmashedandhisarm broken Hewasconscious Hewaslaughingandtalkingandsmokingcigarettes Iaskedhimsomequestionsandhetookanotiontoquestionme 'You'refromthe West,'hesaid;andwhenItoldhim'Millings,'hekindofgaspedandsatup That turnedhimfaint Butwhentheywerecarryinghimoff,hegota-holtofmyhand andwhispered,'Comeseemeatthehospital.'Iwaswillingenough—Iwent Andtheytookmetohim—privateroom Andanice-lookingnurse And flowers HehaslotsoffriendsinNewYork—Hilliard,youbetyou—"Itwas ironyagainandSheilastirrednervously Thatchangedhistone Hemoved abruptlyandcameandsatdownnearher,lockinghishandsandbendinghis headtostudythemintheoldway "HefoundoutwhoIwasandhetoldme aboutyou,Sheila,and,becausehewastoomuchhurttotraveloreventowrite, heaskedmetogooutandcarryamessageforhim Nothingwouldhavekeptme fromgoing,anyway,"Dickieaddedquaintly "WhenIlearnedwhathadbeen happeningandhowyouwereleftandnoletterscomingfromRustytoanswer his—well,sir,Icouldhardlysitstilltohearaboutallthat,Sheila But,anyway —"Dickiemovedhishands Theysoughtthearmsofhischairandthefingers tightened HelookedpastSheila "Hetoldmethenhowitwaswithyouandhim Thatyouwereplanningtobemarried AndIpromisedtofindyouandtellyou whathesaid." "Whatdidhesay?" Dickiespokecarefully,usinghisstrangegift Witheverywordhisfacegrewa triflewhiter,butthathadnoeffectuponhiseloquence Hepaintedavividand touchingpictureoftheshatteredandwistfulyouth Herepeatedtheshaken wordsofremorseandlove "IwanthertocomeEastandmarryme Iloveher TellherIloveher TellherIcangivehereverythingshewantsinalltheworld Tellhertocome—"AndfarmoreskillfullythaneverHilliardhimselfcould havedone,Dickiepleadedtheintoxicationofthatsuddenshowerofgold,the bewilderingchangeintheyoungwaif'slife,thenecessityhewasundertogoand seeandtouchthemiracle TherewasalongsilenceafterDickiehaddelivered himselfoftheburdenofhispromise ThefireleaptandcrackledonHilliard's forsakenhearth ItthrewshadowsandgleamsacrossDickie'sthin,exhausted faceandSheila'sinscrutablythoughtfulone Sheheldoutherhand "Givemethelettersnow,Dickie." HehandedherthebundlethathadaccumulatedinRustyandthelittlewithered onetakenfromthebodyofthetrapper Sheilatookthemandheldthemonher knee Shepressedbothherhandsagainsthereyes;then,leaningtowardthefire, shereadtheletters,beginningwiththatonethathadspentsomanymonths underthedumbsnow Berg,whohadinvestigatedDickie,leanedagainstherkneewhilesheread,his eyesfixeduponher Shereadandlaidthepilebyonthetablebehindher Shesat foralongwhile,elbowsonthearmsofherchair,fingerslacedbeneathherchin Sheseemedtobelookingatthefire,butshewaswatchingDickiethroughher eyelashes Therewasnoeaseinhisattitude Hehadhisarmsfolded,hishands grippedthedampsleevesofhiscoat Whenshespoke,hejumpedasthoughshe hadfiredagun "Itisnottrue,Dickie,thatthingswere—werethatwaybetweenCosmeandme …Wehadnotsettledtobemarried…"Shepausedandsawthatheforced himselftositquiet "Doyoureallythink,"shesaid,"thatthemanthatwrote thoseletters,lovesme?"Dickiewassilent Hewouldnotmeetherlook "Soyou promisedHilliardthatyouwouldtakemebacktomarryhim?"Therewasan edgetohervoice Dickie'sfaceburnedcruelly "No,"hesaidwithshortness "Iwasgoingtotake youtothetrainandthencomebackhere Iamgoingtotakeupthisclaimof Hilliard's—he'sthroughwithit HelikestheEast Yousee,Sheila,he'sgotthe wholeworldtoplaywith It'squitetrue."Hesaidthisgravely,insistently "He cangiveyoueverything—" "Andyou?" Dickiestaredatherwithpartedlips Heseemedafraidtobreathelesthestartle awaysomehesitanthope "I?"hewhispered "Imean—youdon'tliketheEast?—Youwillgiveupyourwork?" "Oh—"Hedroppedback Thehopehadflownandhewasabletobreatheagain, thoughbreathingseemedtohurt "Yes,ma'am I'llgiveupnewspaperreporting I don'tlikeNewYork." "But,Dickie—your—words?I'dliketoseesomethingyou'vewritten." Dickie'shandwenttoaninnerpocket "Iwantedyoutoseethis,Sheila,"Hiseyeswereloweredtohideaflamingpride "Mypoems." Sheilafeltashockofdread Dickie'spoems!Shewasafraidtoreadthem She couldnothelpbutthinkofhislifeatMillings,ofthatsordidhotellobby… Newspaperstories—yes—thatwasimaginable But—poetry?Sheilahadbeen broughtuponverse Therewashardlyabeautifullinethathadnotsungitself intothefabricofherbrain "Poems?"sherepeated,justatrifleblankly;then,seeingthehurtinhisface, aboutthesensitiveanddelicatelips,sheputoutaquick,penitenthand "Letme seethem—atonce!" Hehandedafewfoldedpaperstoher Theyweredamp Heputhisfacedownto hishandsandlookedatthefloorasthoughhecouldnotbeartowatchherface Sheilasawthathewasshaking Itmeantsomuchtohim,then—?Sheunfolded thepapersshrinkinglyandread Assheread,thebloodrushedtoherchecksfor shame Sheoughtnevertohavedoubtedhim Neverafterthefirstlookintohis face,neverafterhearinghimspeakofthe"cold,whiteflame"ofanunforgotten winternight Dickie'swords,sogreatlylovedandgropedfor,sotirelessly pursuedinthefaceofhisworld'sscornandinjury,cametohim,whentheydid come,onwings Inthefourshortpoems,therewasnotawordoutsideofhis innerexperience,andyetshefeltthatthosewordshadblownthroughhim mysteriouslyonawind—thewindthatfanssuchflame— "Oh,littlesongyousangtome Ahundred,hundreddaysago, Oh,littlesongwhosemelody Walksinmyheartandstumblesso; Icannotbearthelevelnights, Andallthedaysareover-long, Andallthehoursfromdarktodark Turntoalittlesong—" "Likethebeatofthefallingrain, Untilthereseemsnoroofatall, Andmyheartiswashedwithpain—" "Whyisawoman'sthroatabird, Whiteinthethicketoftheyears?—" Sheilasuddenlythrustbacktheleavesathim,hidherfaceandfelltocrying bitterly Dickieletfallhispoems;hehoveredoverher,utterlybewildered,utterly distressed "Sheila—h-howcouldtheypossiblyhurtyouso?Itwasyoursong—yoursong —Areyouangrywithme—?Icouldn'thelpit Itkeptsinginginme—It—it hurt." Shethrusthishandaway "Don'tbekindtome!Oh—Iamashamed!I'vetreatedyouso!And—and snubbedyou And—andcondescendedtoyou,Dickie Andshamedyou You—! Andyoucanwritesuchlines—andyouaregreat—youwillbeverygreat—a poet!Dickie,whycouldn'tIsee?Fatherwouldhaveseen Don'ttouchme, please!Ican'tbearit Oh,mydear,youmusthavebeenthroughsuchlong,long misery—thereinMillings,behindthatdesk—allstifledandcrampedandshutin AndwhenIcame,Imighthavehelpedyou Imighthaveunderstood…ButI hurtyoumore." "Pleasedon't,Sheila—itisn'ttrue Oh,—damnmypoems!" Thismadeherlaughalittle,andshegotupanddriedhereyesandsatbeforehim likeahumbledchild ItwasquiteterribleforDickie Hisfacewasdrawnwith thediscomfortofit Hemovedabouttheroom,miserableandrestless Sheilarecoveredherselfandlookedupathimwithasortofwanresolution "Andyouwillstayhereandworktheranchandwrite,Dickie?" "Yes,ma'am."Hemanagedasmile "Ifyouthinkafellowcanpushaploughand writepoetrywiththesamehand." "It'sbeendonebefore And—andyouwillsendmebacktoHilliardand—the goodoldworld?" Dickie'sartificialsmilelefthim Hestood,whiteandstiff,lookingdownather Hetriedtospeakandputhishandtohisthroat "AndImustleaveyouhere,"Sheilawentonsoftly,"withmystars?" Shegotupandwalkedovertothedoorandstood,half-turnedfromhim,her fingersplayingwiththelatch Dickiefoundpartofhisvoice "Whatdoyoumean,Sheila,aboutyourstars?" "Youtoldme,"shesaidcarefully,"thatyouwouldgoandworkandthencome back—But,Isuppose—" Thatwasasfarasshegot Dickieflunghimselfacrosstheroom Achair crashed Hehadhisarmsabouther Hewasshaking Thatpaleandtenderlight wasinhisface Thewhitenessofafullmoon,thewhitenessofadawnseemedto falloverSheila "He—hecangiveyoueverything—"Dickiesaidshakily "I'vebeenwaiting"—shesaid—"Ididn'tknowituntillately ButI'vebeen waiting,solongnow,for—for—"Sheclosedhereyesandliftedhersoftsad mouth Itwasnolongerpatient ThatnightDickieandBerglaytogetheronthehidebeforethefire,wrappedina blanket Dickiedidnotsleep Helookedthroughtheuncurtained,horizontal window,atthestars "You'vegoteverythingelse,Hilliard,"hemuttered "You'vegotthewholeworld toplaywith Afterall,itwasyourownchoice Itoldyouhowitwaswithme I promisedI'dplayfair Ididplayfair."Hesigheddeeplyandturnedwithhishead onhisarmandlookedtowardthedooroftheinnerroom "It'slikesleepingjust outsidethegateofHeaven,Berg,"hesaid "IneverthoughtI'dgetascloseas that—"HelistenedtotheroarofHiddenCreek "Itwon'tbelong,oldfellow, beforewetakeherdowntoRustyandbringherback."TearsstoodonDickie's eye-lashes "Thenwe'llwalkstraightintoHeaven."Heplayedwiththedog's roughmane "She'llkeeponlookingatthestars,"hemurmured "ButI'llkeepon lookingather—Sheila." 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