Nan of music mountain

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NanofMusicMountain ByFrankH Spearman CHARLESSCRIBNER’SSONS NEWYORK :::: 1916 PublishedApril,1916 TOMYSONEUGENELONERGANSPEARMAN CONTENTS I FRONTIERDAY II THETHIEFRIVERSTAGELINE III THESPANISHSINKS IV FIRSTBLOODATCALABASAS V ROUNDINGUPSASSOON VI HEELSFORIT VII MAINTAININGAREPUTATION VIII THEGAMBLINGROOM IX ACUPOFCOFFEE X THEGLASSBUTTON XLAFTERTHESTORM XII ONMusicMOUNTAIN XIII PARLEY XIV NANDRIFTS XV CROSSINGADEEPRIVER XVI AVENTUREINTHEDARK XVII STRATEGY XVIII HERBADPENNY XIX DANGER XX FACINGTHEMUSIC XXI ATRYOUT XXII GALEPERSISTS XXIII DESPAINWORRIES XXIV ANOMINOUSMESSAGE XXV ASURPRISINGSLIP XXVI FLIGHT XXVII ELCAPITAN XXVIII LEFEVERTOTHERESCUE XXIX PUPPETSOFFATE XXX HOPEFORLORN XXXI DESPAINRIDESALONE XXXII THETRUTH XXXIII GAMBLINGWITHDEATH XXXIV ATSLEEPYCAT NanofMusicMountain CHAPTERI FRONTIERDAY LEFEVER,iftherewasatableintheroom,couldneverbegottositonachair; andbeingrotundhesatpreferablysidewiseontheedgeofthetable Oneofhis smallfeethisfeetwereencasedintight,high-heeled,ill-fittinghorsemen’sboots usuallyrestedonthefloor,theotherswungattheendofhisstubbylegslowlyin theair Thisidiosyncrasyhiscompanion,deSpain,hadlearnedtotolerate ButLefever’ssubduedwhistle,whichseemedmeditative,alwaysirritatedde Spainmoreorless,despitehisendeavornottobeirritated Itwaslikethelow singingofatea-kettle,which,howeverunobtrusive,indicatessteamwithin In fact,JohnLefever,whowasbuiltnotunlikeakettle,andwhosehigh,shiny foreheadwastoppedbyapompadourshockofveryyellowhair,neverwhistled exceptwhentherewassomepressureonhissensibilities Thewarmsunstreamingthroughthewindowsoftheprivateofficeofthe divisionsuperintendentatSleepyCat,arailroadtownlyingalmostwithin gunshotofthegreatcontinentaldivide,wouldeasilyhaveaccountedforthe cordialperspirationthatilluminedLefever’sforehead Notthataperspirationis easilyachievedinthehighcountry;itisn’t None,indeed,butaphysicalgiant, whichLefeverwas,couldmaintainsoconstantandvisibleanervousmoisturein thefaceoftheextraordinaryatmosphericevaporationofthemountainplateaus AndtodeSpain,onthisoccasion,eventheglisteningbeadsonhiscompanion’s foreheadwereannoying,forheknewthathehimselfwasproperlyresponsible fortheirpresence DeSpain,tiltedbackinthesuperintendent’schair,satnearLefeverJeffrieshad themountaindivisionthenhiselbowsrestingonthearmsoftherevolving-chair, andwithhishandshegrippedratherdefiantlythespindlessupportingthem;his feetwerecrossedonthewalnutrimoftheshabby,cloth-toppedtable Inthisatti tudehischinlayonhissoft,opencollarandtie,hissunburntlipswereshuttight, andaboveandbetweenhisnervousbrowneyesweretwolittle,verticalfurrows ofperplexityandregret Hewaslookingatthedull-finishbarrelofanewrifle, thatlayacrossLefever’slap AtintervalsLefevertooktherifleupand,whistling softly,examinedwithcareafractureofthelever,thebrokenthumb-pieceof whichlayonthetablebetweenthetwomen FromtheMainStreetsideofthelargeroomcamethehootingandclatteringofa FrontierDaycelebration,andthesenoisesseemednottoallaythediscomfort apparentonthefacesofthetwomen “Itcertainlyiswarm,”observedLefever,aproposofnothingatall “Whydon’tyougetoutofthesun?”suggesteddeSpainshortly Lefevermadeaface “Iamtryingtokeepawayfromthatnoise.” “Hangit,John,”blurtedoutdeSpainpeevishly,“whatpossessedyoutosendfor metodotheshooting,anyway?” HiscompanionansweredgentlyLefever’spatiencewasnotedevenamong containedmen “Henry,”heremonstrated,“IsentforyoubecauseIthoughtyou couldshoot.” DeSpain’sexpressiondidnotchangeunderthereproach Hisbronzedfacewas naturallyamiable,andhismentalattitudetowardillluck,usuallyoneof indifference,wasrarelymorethanoneofperplexity Hisfeaturesweresoregular astocontributetothisundisturbedexpression,andhisfacewouldnotordinarily attractattentionbutforhisextremelybrightandaliveeyesthefrequentmarkof anout-of-doormountainlifeandespeciallyforaredbirthmark,lowonhisleft cheek,disappearingundertheturnofthejaw Itwasmerelyastrawberry,socalled,butanineradicablestamp,andperhapstoalesspreoccupiedmana misfortune HenrydeSpain,however,evenattwenty-eight,wastooabsorbedin manythingstogivethoughttothisoften,andafterknowinghim,oneforgot aboutthebirthmarkinthemanthatcarriedit Lefever’sreproachwasnaturally provocative “Ihopenow,”retorteddeSpain,butwithoutanyshowof resentment,“youunderstandIcan’t.” “No,”persistedLefevergoodnaturedly,“Ionlyrealize,Henry,thatthiswasn’t yourdayforthejob.” ThedooroftheouterofficeopenedandJeffries,thesuperintendent,walkedinto theroom;hehadjustcomefromMedicineBendinhiscar Thetwomenroseto greethim Heaskedaboutthenoiseinthestreet “Thatnoise,William,comesfromallCalabasasandallMorgan’sGap,” explainedLefever,stillfondlingtherifle “TheMorgansarecelebratingour defeat Theyputitalloverus Wewerechallengedyesterday,”hecontinuedin responsetotheabruptquestionsofJeffries “TheMorgansofferedtoshootus offhand,twohundredyards,bull’s-eyecount TheboyshereBobScottandsome ofthestage-guardsputituptome Ithoughtwecouldtrimthembyrunningina realgunman IwiredtoMedicineBendforHenry Henrycomesuplastnight withabrand-newrifle,presented,Iimagine,bytheMedicineBendBlackHand Local,No 13 Thisisthegun,”explainedLefeverfeebly,holdingforththe exhibit “Thelever,”headdedwithapatientexpletive,“broke.” “Givemethegun,John,”interposeddeSpainresignedly “I’lllayitonthetrack tonightforatraintorunover.” “Itwasatimelimit,youunderstand,William,”persistedLefever,continuingto stickpinscalmlyintodeSpain “Henrygottoshootingtoofast.” “Thatwasn’twhatbeatme,”exclaimeddeSpaincurtly Andtakingupthe offendingriflehewalkedoutoftheroom “Norwasitthemosthumiliatingfeatureofhisdefeat,”murmuredLefever,as thedoorclosedbehindhisdiscomfitedchampion “Whatdoyouthink, William?”hegrumbledon “TheMorgansraninagirltoshootagainstustrueas there’saGodinheaven TheyputupNanMorgan,oldDukeMorgan’slittle niece Andwhatdoyouthink?Sheshotthefingerscleanoffourwell-known BlackHandscout IneverbeforeinmylifesawHenrysofussed Thelittle MusicMountainskirtsimplyputitalloverhim Shehadfivebull’s-eyesto Henry’sthreewhentheleversnapped Heforfeited.” “Someshooting,”commentedJeffries,rapidlysigningletters “WeexpectedsomewhenHenryunslunghisgun,”Lefeverwentonwithout respectingJeflPries’spreoccupation “Asitis,thosefellowshavecleanedup everydollarlooseinSleepyCat,andthensome Money?Theycouldstartabank thisminute.” Soundsofrevelrycontinuedtopourinthroughthestreetwindow TheMorgans werecelebratinguncommonly “Rubbingitin,eh,John?”suggestedJeffries “Thinkofit,”gaspedLefever,“tobebeatenbyaneighteen-year-oldgirl.” “Nowthat,”declaredJeffries,wakingupasifforthefirsttimeinterested,“is exactlywhereyoumadeyourmistake,John Henryisyoungandexcitable—” “Excitable!”echoedLefever,takenaback “Yes,excitablewhenagirlisinthering—whynot?Especiallyatrim,all-alive, up-and-coming,blue-eyedhussylikethatgirlofDukeMorgan’s Shewould upsetanyyoungfellow,John.” “AgirlfromMorgan’sGap?” “Morgan’sGap,nothing!”respondedJeffriesscornfully “What’sthatgottodo withit?Doesthatchangethefireinthegirl’seye,thecurveofherneck,the slopeofhershoulder,John,orthecolorofhercheek?”Lefeveronlystared “De Spaingottothinkingaboutthegirl,”persistedJeffries,“hereyesandneckand pinkcheeksrattledhim Againstagirlyoushouldhaveputupanold,one-eyed scoutlikeyourself,orme,orBobScott “There’sanotherthingyouforget,John,”continuedJeffries,signingevenmore rapidly “Agunmanshootshisbestwhenthere’ssomebodyshootingathim otherwisehewouldn’tbeagunmanhewouldbejustanordinary,every-day marksman,withaSchuetzenvereinmedalandaroosterfeatherinhishat That’s whyyoushootwell,Johnbecauseyou’reagunman,andnotamarksman.” “Thatboycanshootallaroundme,Jeff.” “Forinstance,”continuedJeffries,tossingoffsignaturesnowwitharubber stamp,anddevelopinghisincontestabletheoryatthesametime,“ifyouhadput GaleMorganupagainstHenryat,sayfivehundredyards,andtoldthemtoshoot ateachother,insteadofagainsteachother,you’dhavegotbull’s-eyestoburn fromdeSpain AndtheCalabasascrowdwouldn’thaveyourmoney John,if youwanttowinmoney,youmuststudythepsychological.” TherewasabundanceofrailleryinLefever’sretort:“That’swhyyouarerich, Jef�?” “No,IampoorbecauseIfailedtostudyit ThatiswhyIamatSleepyCat holdingdownadivision Butnowthatyou’vebroughtHenryuphere,we’llkeep him.” “Whatdoyoumean,keephim?”demandedLefever,startinginprotest “WhatdoImean?”thunderedJeffries,whofrequentlythunderedevenwhenit didn’trainintheoffice “ImeanIneedhim Imeanthetimetoshootabearis whenyouseehim John,whatkindofafellowisdeSpain?”demandedthe superintendent,asifhehadneverheardofhim “HenrydeSpain?”askedLefever,sparringinnocentlyfortime “No,CommodoreGeorgeWashington,GeneralJackson,IsaacWattsdeSpain,” retortedJeffriespeevishly “Don’tyouknowthemanwe’retalkingabout?” “Knownhimfortenyears.” “ThenwhysayHenrydeSpain,asiftherewereadozenofhim?He’stheonly deSpainintheseparts,isn’the?Whatkindofafellowishe?” Lefeverwasready;andashesatinachairsidewiseatthetable,onearmflung acrossthegreenbaize,helookedeveryinchhisdevil-may-carepart Regarding Jeffrieskeenly,heexclaimedwithemphasis:“Why,ifyouwanthimshortand sharp,he’samanwithasofteyeandasnapturtlejaw,amanofclosesqueaks andshort-armshots,alwaysgettingintotrouble,alwaysgettingout;amanthat canwheedlemoreoutofahorsethananybodybutanIndian;coaxmoreshots outofagunthananybodyelsecanputintoitifyouwanthimflat,that’sHenry, asIsizehim.” Jeffriesresumedhismildesttone:“Tellhimtocomeinaminute,John.” DeSpainhimselfexpressedcontemptuousimpatiencewhenLefevertoldhim thesuperintendentwantedhimtogotoworkatSleepyCat Hedeclaredhehad alwayshatedthetown;andLefeverreadilyunderstoodwhyheshouldespecially detestitjustnow Everyhorseman’syellthatrangonthesunnyafternoonair throughtheopenwindowsandfromupthestreetanddowntherewerestilla goodmanywasoneofderisionatdeSpain’sgallingdefeat Whenheatlength consentedtotalkwithJeffriesaboutcomingtoSleepyCat,theinterviewwasof apositivesortontheonesideandanobstinatesortontheother DeSpainraised oneobjectionafteranothertoleavingMedicineBend,andJeffriesfinally summonedashowofimpatience “Youarelookingforpromotion,aren’tyou?”hedemandedthreateningly “Yes,butnotformotionwithoutthefprofit,”objecteddeSpain “Iwanttostick totherailroadbusiness Youwanttogetmeintothestagebusiness.” “Temporarily,yes ButI’vetoldyouwhenyoucomebacktothedivisionproper, youcomeasmyassistant,ifyoumakegoodrunningtheThiefRiverstages Thinkofthesalary.” “Ihavenoimmediateheirs.” “Thisisnotamatterforjoking,deSpain.” “Iknowthat,too Howmanymenhavebeenshotonthestagesinthelastsix months?” “Why,nowandagainthestagesareheldup,yes,”admittedJeffriesbrusquely; “thatistobeexpectedwherethespecieshipmentsarelarge TheThiefRiver minesarerottenwithgoldjustnow Butyoudon’thavetodriveastage We supplyyouwithgoodmenforthat,andgoodguardsmenwillingtotakeany kindofachanceifthepayisright Andthepayisright,andyoursasgeneral managerwillberight.” “Ihaveneverasyetgenerallymanagedanystageline,”remarkeddeSpain, pokingridiculeatthetitle,“nomatterhowmodestanoutfit.” “Youwillneverlearnyounger Thereisafascination,”declaredJeffries, ignoringthefling,andtiltinghischaireloquentlybacktogiveeaseand convictiontohiswords,“aboutrunningagoodstagelinethatnorailroad businesscanevertouch Thereis,ofcourse,nothingintheRockyMountains, forthatmatterintheUnitedStatesnothing,Iguess,intheworldthatapproaches theThiefRiverlineinitsopportunities Everywagonweown,fromthelightest totheheaviest,isbuilttoorderonourparticularspecificationsbythe Studebakerpeople.”HereJeffriespointedhisfingersharplyatdeSpainasifto convicthimofsomedereliction “You’veseenthem!Youknowwhattheyare.” DeSpain,bullied,haltinglynoddedacquiescence “Second-growthhickoryinthegears,”continuedJeffriesencouragingly,“ash tonguesandboxes“Someofthoseoldbuseslooklikeash-boxes,”interposeddeSpainirreverently rifleammunitionwithoutelicitinganyanswer Thewinddrovewitharoar againstwhichevenariflereportcouldhardlycarry,andthesnowsweptdown theSinksinamadblast Flakestornbythefuryofthegalewerestiffenedbythe bitterwindintopowderedicethatstunghorseandrider Castingawaythe uselesscarbine,andpressinghishorsetothelimitofherstrengthandendurance, theunyieldingpursuerrodeingreatcoilingcirclesintothestorm,tocutin,if possible,aheadofitsvictims,firingshotuponshotfromhisrevolver,and puttinghisearintentlyagainstthewindforthefainthopeofananswer SuddenlytheLadystumbledand,ashecruellyreinedher,slidhelplessand scramblingalongthefaceofaflatrock DeSpain,leapingfromherback, steadiedhertremblingandlookedunderfoot Themarehadstrucktherockof theupperlavabed Drawinghisrevolver,hefiredsignalshotsfromwherehe stood Itcouldnotbefar,heknew,fromthejunctionofthetwogreatdeserttrails theCalabasasroadandtheGaproad HefeltsureNancouldnothavegotmuch northofthis,forhehadriddenindesperationtogetabreastoforbeyondher,and ifsheweresouth,where,heasked,inthenameofGod,couldshebe? Heclimbedagainintothesaddlethecoldwasgrippinghislimbsand,watching therockylandmarksnarrowly,triedtocirclethedeadwasteofthehalf-buried flow Withchilled,awkwardfingershefilledtherevolveragainandrodeon, dischargingiteveryminute,andlisteninghopingagainsthopeforananswer It waswhenhehadalmostcompleted,aswellashecouldcompute,thewide circuithehadsetouton,thatafaintshotansweredhiscontinuingsignals Withthesoundofthatshotandthosethatfollowedithiscourageallcameback Buthehadyettotracethroughtheconfusionofthewindandtheblindingsnow thedirectionoftheansweringreports Hitherandthitherherode,thiswayandthat,testingoutthelocationofthe slowlyrepeatedshots,andsignallingatintervalsinreturn Slowlyanddoggedly hekepton,shooting,listening,wheeling,andadvancinguntil,asheraisedhis revolvertofireitagain,acrycloseathandcameoutofthestorm Itwasa woman’svoiceborneonthewind Ridingswiftlytotheleft,ahorse’soutline revealeditselfatmomentsinthedrivingsnowahead DeSpaincriedout,andfrombehindthefuriouscurtainheardhisname,loudly called Hepushedhisstumblinghorseon Thedimoutlineofasecondhorse,the backgroundofawagon,astorm-beatenmanallthispassedhiseyesunheeded Theywerebentonagirlishfigurerunningtowardhimasheslidstifflyfromthe saddle ThenextinstantNanwasinhisarms CHAPTERXXXII THETRUTHthedesperationofajoybornofdespairshelaidherburningcheek hystericallyagainsthischeek Sherainedkissesonhisice-crustedbrowsand snow-beateneyes Herarmsheldhimrigidly Hecouldnotmovenorspeaktill shewouldlethim Transformed,thismountaingirlwhogaveherselfsoshyly, forgoteverything Herwordscrowdedonhisears Sherepeatedhisnameinan ecstasyofwelcome,drewdownhislips,laughed,rejoiced,knewno shamefacednessandnorestraintshewasonefreedfromthestrokeofa descendingknife Amomentbeforeshehadfaceddeathalone;itwasstilldeath shefacedsherealizedthisbutitwasdeath,atleast,together,andherjoyand tearsrosefromherheartinonestream DeSpaincomfortedher,quietedher,cutawayoneofthecoatsfromhishorse, slippeditoverhershoulders,incasedherintheheavyfur,andturnedhiseyesto Duke Theoldman’sset,squarefacesurrenderednothingofimplacabilitytothe dangersconfrontinghim DeSpainlookedfornoneofthat Hehadknownthe Morganrecordtoolong,andfacedtheMorganmentoooften,tofancythey wouldflinchatthedrum-beatofdeath Thetwomen,inthedeadly,drivingsnow,eyedeachother Outoftheoldman’s deep-seteyesburnedtheresistanceofahundredstormsfacedbefore Buthewas caughtnowlikeawolfinatrap,andheknewhehadlittletohopefor,littleto fear AsdeSpainregardedhim,somethinglikepitymayhavemixedwithhis hatred Theoldoutlawwasthinlyclad Hisopenthroatwasbeatenwithsnow and,standingbesidethewagon,heheldtheteamreinsinabarehand DeSpain cuttheothercoatfromhissaddleandhelditout Dukepretendednottoseeand, whennotlongerequaltokeepingupthepretense,shookhishead “Takeit,”saiddeSpaincurtly “No.” “Takeit,Isay YouandIwillsettleouraffairswhenwegetNanoutofthis,”he insisted “DeSpain!”Duke’svoice,aswasitswont,crackedlikeapistol,“Icansayall I’vegottosaytoyourighthere.” “No.” “Yes,”criedtheoldman “Listen,Henry,”pleadedNan,seekingshelterfromthefuriousblastwithinhis arm,“justforamoment,listen!” “Notnow,Itellyou!”crieddeSpain “Hewascoming,Henry,allthewayandheissickjusttosayittoyou Lethim sayithere,now.” “Goon!”crieddeSpainroughly “Sayit.” “I’mnotafraidofyou,deSpain!”shoutedtheoldman,hisneckbaredtothe flyingice “Don’tthinkit!You’reabettermanthanIam,betterthanIeverwas —don’tthinkIdon’tknowthat ButI’mnotafraidofe’eramanIfaced,de Spain;they’lltellyouthatwhenI’mdead Allthetroublethatevercome‘tween youandmecomebyanaccident—comebeforeyouwasborn,andcomethrough DaveSassoon,andhe’shelditovermeeversinceyoucomeupintothiscountry Iwasayoungfellow Sassoonworkedformyfather Thecattleandsheepwar wason,northofMedicineBend ThePeaceRiversheepmenraidedourplace— yourfatherwaswiththem Heneverdidusnoharm,butmybrother,Bay Morgan,wasshotinthatraidbyamannameofJennings Mybrotherwas fifteenyearsold,deSpain Istartedouttogetthemanthatshothim Sassoon trailedhimtotheBarM,theolddeSpainranch,workingforyourfather.” Thewordsfellfastandinafury Theycameasiftheyhadbeenchokedbacktill theystrangled “Sassoontookmeoverthere Towardnightwegotinsightofthe ranchhouse Wesawamandownatthecorral That’sJennings,”Sassoonsays I neverlaideyesonhimbeforeIneverlaideyesonyourfatherbefore Bothofus fired Nextdayweheardyourfatherwaskilled,andJenningshadleftthe country SassoonorI,oneofus,killedyourfather,deSpain IfitwasI,Ididit neverknowingwhohewas,nevermeaningtotouchhim Iwasaftertheman thatkilledmybrother Sassoondidn’tcareadamnwhichitwas,neverdid,then nornever Buthehelditovermetomaketroublesometime‘twixtyouandme I wasayoungfellow IthoughtIwasrevengingmybrother Andifyourfather waskilledbyapatchedbullet,hisbloodisnotonme,deSpain,andneverwas Sassoonalwaysshotapatchedbullet Inevershotoneinmylife AndI’dnever toldyouthisofmyownself Nansaiditwasthewholetruthfrommetoyou,or herlife She’sasmuchmineassheisyours Inursedher Itookcareofherwhen thereweren’tnootherlivingsoultodoit Shegotmeandherselfoutintothis, thismorning I’dneverbeencaughtlikethisifI’dhadmyway Itoldherfore we’dbeenoutanhourwe’dneverseetheendofit Shesaidshe’dratherdieinit thanyou’dthinkshequityou ItoldherI’dgoonwithheranddoasshesaid that’swhywe’rehere,andthat’sthewholetruth,sohelpmeGod! “Iain’tafraidofyou,deSpain I’llgiveyouwhateveryouthink’scomingtoyou witharifleoragunanytime,anywhere—you’reabettermanthanIamorever was,Iknowthatandthatoughttosatisfyyou Or,I’llstandmytrial,ifyousay so,andtellthetruth.” Theice-ladenwind,asdeSpainstoodstill,sweptpastthelittlegroupwitha sinisterroar,insensiblealiketoitsemotionsanditsdeadlyperil Withinthe shelterofhisarmhefelttheyieldingformoftheindomitablegirlwho,bythe poweroflove,hadwrungfromtheoutlawhisreluctantstorythestoryofthe murderthathadstainedwithitsredstrandstherelationsofeachoftheirlivesto boththeothers Hefeltagainsthisheartthefainttremblingofherfrailbody So, whenaboy,hehadheldinhishandaflutteringbirdandfeltthewhirringbeatof itsfrightenedheartagainsthisstrong,cruelfingers Asuddenaversiontomorebloodshed,asickeningofvengeance,sweptover himasherheartmutelybeatformercyagainsthisheart Shehaddonemorethan anymancoulddo Nowshewaitedonhim Bothhisarmswrappedroundher In thebreathlessembracethatdrewherclosershereadheranswerfromhim She lookedupintohiseyesandwaited “There’smorethanwhat’sbetweenyouand me,Duke,facingusnow,”saiddeSpainsternly,whenheturned “We’vegotto getNanoutofthisevenifwedon’tgetoutourselves Wheredoyoufigurewe are?”hecried “Ifigurewe’retwomilesnorthofthelavabeds,deSpain,”shoutedMorgan DeSpainshookhisheadindissent “Thenwherearewe?”demandedtheolder manrudely “Ioughtnottosay,againstyou ButifI’vegottoguess,Isaytwomileseast Eitherway,wemusttryforSleepyCat Isyourteamallright?” “Teamisallright Wetoreawheelnearoffgettingoutofthelava Thewagon’s donefor.” DeSpainthrewthefurcoatathim “Putiton,”hesaid “We’lllookatthe wheel.” Theytriedtogethertowrenchitintoshape,butworkedwithoutavail Intheend theylashedit,putNanontheLady,andwalkedbehindwhiletheteampushed intothepitilesswind Morganwantedtocutthewagonawayandtaketothe horses,butdeSpainsaid,nottilltheyfoundatrailorthestageroad Somuchsnowhadfallenthatinspiteoftheblizzard,drivingwithanunrelenting fury,thedriftsweredeepening,packing,andmakingalleffortincreasingly difficult Itwaswell-nighimpossibletoheadthehorsesintothestorm,andde SpainlookedwithevermoreanxiouseyesatNan Afterhalfanhour’s superhumanstruggletoregainatrailthatshouldrestoretheirbearings,they halted,anddeSpain,ridinguptothewagon,spoketoMorgan,whowasdriving: “Howlongisthisgoingtolast?” “Alldayandallnight.”Nanleanedcloselyovertohearthecurtquestionand answer Neithermanspokeagainforamoment “We’llhavetohavehelp,”saiddeSpainafterapause “Help?”echoedMorganscornfully “Where’shelpcomingfrom?” DeSpain’sanswerwasnothurried “Oneofusmustgoafterit.”Nanlookedat himintently Dukesethishardjawagainstthehurtlingstreamoficethatshoweredonthe forlornparty “I’llgoforit,”hesnapped “No,”returneddeSpain “Betterformetogo.” “Gotogether,”saidNan DeSpainshookhishead DukeMorgan,too,saidthatonlyoneshouldgo;the othermuststay DeSpain,whilethestormrattledandshookatthetwomen,told whyheshouldgohimself “It’snotclaimingyouarenotentitledtosaywho shouldgo,Duke,”hesaidevenly “Northatourmen,anywhereyoureach, wouldn’tgiveyouthesameattentiontheywouldme Anditisn’tsayingthat you’renotthebettermanforthejobyou’vetravelledtheSinkslongerthanI have Butbetweenyouandme,Duke,it’stwenty-eightyearsagainstfifty I oughttoholdoutawhilethelonger,that’sall Let’sworkfarthertotheeast.” Quarteringagainstthemadhurricane,theydroveandrodeonuntiltheteam couldhardlybeurgedtofurthereffortagainsttheinfuriatedelementsdeSpain ridingatintervalsasfartotherightandtheleftashedaredinvainquestofa landmark Whenhehaltedbesidethewagonforthelasttimehewasamassof snowandice;horseandriderwerefrozentoeachother Hegotdowntothe groundwithavisibleeffort,andinthesingingwindtoldDukehisplanand purpose Hehadchosenontheopendesertahollowfallingsomewhatabruptlyfromthe north,andbeneathitsshoulder,whileMorganloosenedthehorses,hescooped andkickedawayamassofsnow Thewagonhadbeendrawnjustabovethe pointofrefuge,andthetwomen,withtheaidofthewind,dumpeditover sidewise,makingofthebodyawindbreakoverthehollow,asortofroof,around whichthesnow,drivenbythegale,wouldheapitselfinhardwaves Withinthis shelterthemenstowedNan Thehorsesweredrivendownbehindit,andfrom oneofthemdeSpaintookthecollar,thetugs,andthewhiffletree Hestucka hitchingstrapinhispocket,andwhileMorgansteadiedtheLady’shead,deSpain buckledthecollaronher,doubledthetugsaroundthewhiffletree,andfastened therollathersideinfrontofthesaddle Nancameoutandstoodbesidehimasheworked Whenhehadfinishedsheput herhandonhissleeve Heheldherclose,Dukelistening,totellherwhathe meanttotrytodo Eachknewitwellmightbethelastmomenttogether “One thingandanotherhavekeptusfrommarriagevows,Nan,”saiddeSpain, beckoningatlengthtoMorgantostepcloserthathemightclearlyhear “Nothing mustkeepuslonger Willyoumarryme?” Shelookedupintohiseyes “I’vepromisedyouIwould Iwillpromiseevery timeyouaskme Inevercouldhavebutoneanswertothat,Henryitmust alwaysbeyes!” “Thentakeme,Henry,”hesaidslowly,“hereandnowforyourweddedhusband Willyoudothis,Nan?” Stilllookingintohiseyes,sheansweredwithoutsurpriseorfear:“Henry,Ido takeyou.” “AndI,Henry,takeyou,Nan,hereandnowformyweddedwife,forbetterfor worse,forricherforpoorer,fromthisdayforward,untildeathusdopart.” Theysealedtheirpactwithasilentembrace DeSpainturnedtoDuke “Youare thewitnessofthismarriage,Duke Youwillsee,ifanaccidenthappens,that anything,everythingIhavesomepersonalproperty—myfather’soldranch northofMedicineBend—somelittlemoneyinbankatSleepyCat—goestomy wife,NanMorgandeSpain Willyouseetoit?” “Iwill Andifitcomestomeyou,deSpain,willseetoitthatwhatstockIhave intheGapgoestomyniece,Nan,yourwife.” Shelookedfromonetotheotherofthetwomen “AllthatIhave,”shesaidin turn,“thelandsintheGap,everywherearoundMusicMountain,gotoyoutwo equallytogether,orwhicheversurvives Andifyoubothlive,andIdonot, remembermylastmessage—burythepastinmygrave.” DukeMorgantestedthecinchesofthesaddleontheLadyoncemore,unloosed thetugsoncemorefromthehorse’sshoulder,examinedeachbuckleofthecollar andeveryinchofthetwostripsofleather,thereinforcedfasteningsonthe whiffletree,rolledallupagain,strappedit,andstoodbytheheadtilldeSpain swungupintothesaddle Hebentdownoncetowhisperalastwordofcheerto hiswifeand,withoutlookingback,headedtheLadyintothestorm CHAPTERXXXIII GAMBLINGWITHDEATH BEYONDgivinghishorseasafeheadwayfromtheshelter,deSpainmadelittle efforttoguideher HehadchosentheLady,notbecauseshewasfresher,forshe wasnot,butbecausehebelievedshepossessedofthethreehorsestheclearest instincttobringherthroughthefightforthelivesthatwereatstake Hedidnot deceivehimselfwiththeideahecoulddoanythingtohelpthebeastfindaway tosuccor;thatinstinctrestedwhollyintheLady’shead,notinhis Heonly knewthatifshecouldnotgetbacktohelp,hecouldnot Hisownpartinthe effortwasquiteoutsideanyaidtotheLadyitwasnomorethantoreachalive whateveraidshecouldfind,thathemightdirectittowhereNanandher companionwouldendureafewhourslongerthefuryofthestorm Hisownstruggleforlife,herealized,waswiththewindtheroaringwindthat hurleditsbroadsidesoffrozensnowinmonstrouswavesacrossthemaddened sky,challengingeverylivingthing Itdroveicyknivesintohisfaceandears,paralyzedinitsswiftgrasphis musclesandsinews,foughtthestoutflowofbloodthroughhisveins,and searchedhisveryhearttostillit EncouragingtheLadywithkindwords,andcaressingherinhergropingefforts assheturnedheadandtailfromtheblindingsheetsofsnowandice,deSpainlet herdrift,hopingshemightbringthemthrough,whatheconfessedinhisheartto be,thenarrowestofchances Hebentlowinhissaddleundertheunendingblasts Hebuffetedhislegsand armstofightoffthefatalcold Heslippedmorethanoncefromhisseat,and withahandonthepommeltrampedbesidethehorsetorevivehisfailing circulation;therewouldcomeatime,herealized,whenhecouldnolongerclimb upagain,buthestavedthatissueofftothelastpossiblemomentofendurance, becausetheLadymadebettertimewhenhewasonherback Whenthestruggle toremounthadbeenrepeateduntilnaturecouldnolongerbyanystaggering effortbemadetorespondtohiswill,untilhislegswerenolongerapartofhis benumbedbeinguntilbelowhishipshehadnobodyanswerabletohis commands,butonlytwoinsensiblemassesofleadthatanchoredhimtothe groundhestillforcedthefrozenfeettocarryhim,inafeeble,monstrousgait besidetheLady,whilehedraggedwithhishandsonthesaddleforherpatient aid Onebyoneeverythought,asifcongealedintheirbraincells,desertedhismind savethethoughtthathemustnotfreezetodeath Morethanoncehehadhoped theinsensatefuryoftheblizzardmightabate TheLadyhadlongsinceceasedto trytofaceitlikeastrippedvesselbeforeahurricane,shewasdriftingunderit DeSpainrealizedthathishelplesslegswouldnotcarryhimfarther Hishands, freezingtothepommel,nolongersupportedhim Theyfinallyslippedfromit andhefellprostrateinthesnowbesidehishorse Whenhewouldcryouttoher hisfrozenlipscouldmumblenowords Itwasthefightnolongerofaman againstnature,butonlyofanindomitablesoulagainstacruel,hatefuldeath He struggledtohisfeetonlytofallagainmoreheavily Hepulledhimselfupthis timebythestirrup-strap,gothishandsandarmsuptothepommel,andclungto itforafewpacesmore Buthefellatlast,andcouldnolongerrisefromthe ground Thestormsweptunceasinglyon TheLady,checkedbythelineswrappedonhisarm,stopped DeSpainlaya moment,thenbackedherupastep,pulledherheaddownbythebridle,clasped hiswoodenarmsaroundherneck,spoketoherand,liftingherhead,themare draggedhimtohisfeet Clumsilyandhelplesslyheloosenedthetugsandthe whiffletree,beathishandstogetherwithidioticeffort,hookedthemiddlepoint ofthewhiffletreeintotheelbowofhisleftarm,broughttheforearmandhandup flatagainsthisshoulder,andwiththehitchingstraplashedhisforearmandupper armtightlytogetheraroundthewhiffletree HedrewthetugsstifflyovertheLady’sback,unloosedthecinchesofthesaddle, pusheditoffthehorseand,sinkingintothesnowbehindher,struckwithhisfree armatherfeet Relievedofthesaddle,theLadyoncemorestarted,dragging slowlybehindherthroughthesnowastillbreathinghumanbeing Lessthanan hourbeforeithadbeenaman Itwashardlymorenow,astheLadyploddedon, thananinsensatelog Butnotevendeathcouldpartitagainfromthehorseto whichdeSpain,alive,hadfastenedit Thefearfulpainfromthetorturedarm,tornattimesalmostfromitssocket,the gradualsnappingofstrainingligaments,theconstantruptureofcapillariesand veinssustainedhisconsciousnessforawhile Thenthetorturingpainabated, theroughdraggingshatteredthebruisedbodyless ItwasasiftheLadyandthe stormtogetherweremakingeasierfortheslowlydyingmanhislasttrailacross thedesert Hestillstruggledtokeepalive,bysheerwill-power,flickeringsparks ofconsciousness,andtodosoconcentratedeverythoughtonNan Itwasa poignanthappinesstosummonherpicturetohisfaintingsenses;heknewhe shouldholdtolifeaslongashecouldthinkofher Love,strongerthandeath, welledinhisheart Thebittercoldandthemercilesswindwerekinderashe calledherimagefromoutofthestorm Sheseemedtospeaktolifthiminher arms Ahead,distantmountainsrose,white-peaked Thesunshone Herodewith herthroughgreenfields,andagreatpeacerestedonhiswearysenses LadyJane,pushingonandon,enlightenedbythatinstinctbeforewhichthe reasonofmanisweakandpitiful,seeing,asitwere,throughtheimpenetrable curtainofthestormwhererefugelay,herselfaslow-movingcrustoffrozen snow,draggedtoherjourney’sendtothetight-shutdoorsoftheCalabasasbarn herunconsciousburden,andstoodbeforethempatientlywaitinguntilsomeone shouldopenforher Itwasoneoftheheartbreaksofatragicdaythatnooneever knewjustwhentheLadyreachedthedoororhowlongsheandherunconscious masterwaitedinthestormforadmission AstartledexclamationfromJohn Lefever,whohadperiodicallyandanxiouslyleftthered-hotstoveintheofficeto walkmoodilytothewindow,broughtthementumblingoveroneanotherashe ranfromhiscompanionstothrowopentheouterdoorandpullthedrooping horseintothebarn ItwastheIndian,Scott,who,readingfirstofallthemeneverythinginthedread story,sprangforwardwithastifledexclamation,asthehorsedraggedinthe snow-coveredlog,whippedaknifefromhispocket,cuttheincumberedarmand whitehandfreefromthewhiffletreeand,carryingthestiffenedbodyintothe office,beganwithinsanehastetocutawaytheclothing Lefever,perceivingitwasdeSpainthusdrawntotheirfeet,shouted,whilehe torefromthebladeofScott’sknifethefrozengarments,theordersforthesnow, theheatedwater,thewarmblankets,thealcoholandbrandy,and,strippedtohis waist,chafedthemarblefeet TheIndian,betterthanastaffofdoctors,usedthe cunningofasorcerertorevivethesparkofinanimatelifenotyetextinguished bythestorm Afearfulintervalofsuspensefollowedthesilenceintowhichthe worksettled,asilencebrokenonlybythefootstepsofmenrunningtoandfrom thecouchoverwhichScott,Lefever,andMcAlpin,half-naked,workedinmad concert DeSpainopenedhiseyestowanderfromonetotheotherofthefaces Hehalf roseup,strugglinginafrenzywiththehandsthatrestrainedhim Whilehis companionspleadedtoquiethim,hefoughtthemuntil,restoredtoitsseatof reason,hismindreasserteditselfand,lyingexhausted,hetoldtheminhis exquisitetortureofwhomhehadleft,andwhatmustbedonetofindandbring themin Whilethereliefwagons,equippedwithstrainingteamsandflankedbyveteran horsemen,weredashingoutofthebarn,helapsedintounconsciousness Buthe hadbeenabletoholdScott’shandlongenoughtotellhimhemustfindNanand bringherin,ornevercomeback ItwasScottwhofoundher Intheirgropingsthroughtheblizzardthethreehad wanderednearerCalabasasthananyoneofthemdreamed Andontheopen desert,farsouthandeastoftheupperlavabeds,itwasScott’shorsethatputa footthroughthebottomoftheoverturnedwagonbox Thesuspectedmoundof snow,withtheburiedhorsesscramblingtotheirfeet,roseuprightatthecrash Dukecrouched,half-conscious,undertherudeshelter Lyingwherehehad placedher,snuglybetweenthehorses,ScottfoundNan Hespoketoherwhen sheopenedherstaringeyes,pickedherupinhisarms,calledtohiscompanions forthecoveredwagon,andbegantorestoreher,withoutamomentofdelay,to life Heevenpromisedifshewoulddrinkthehatefuldraftheputtoherlipsand lethimcutawayhershoesandleggingsandthebigcoatfrozenonher,thatin lessthananhoursheshouldseeHenrydeSpainaliveandwell CHAPTERXXXIV ATSLEEPYCAT NOTHINGinnature,noteventhestormitself,issocruelasthebeautyofthe aftercalm IntheradianceofthesunshinenextdaydeSpain,deliriousand muttering,wastakentothehospitalatSleepyCat InanadjoiningroomlayNan, moaningreproachesatthosewhoweretorturingherreluctantlybacktolife Day andnightthedoctorsworkedoverthethree Thetown,thedivision,the stagemen,andthemountain-menwatchedtheoutcomeofthestruggle Fromas farasMedicineBendrailroadsurgeonscametoaidinthefight DeSpaincostthemostacuteanxiety Thecruxofthebattle,afterthethreelives wereheldsafe,centredontheefforttosavedeSpain’sarm—theonehehad chosentolose,ifhemustloseone,whenhestrappedittothewhiffletree The daythesurgeonsagreedthatifhislifeweretobesavedthearmmustcomeoffat theshoulderagloomfellonthecommunity Inalifetimeofyearstherecancometothegreaterpartofusbutafewdays,a fewhours,sometimesnomorethanasinglemoment,toshowofwhatstuffwe arereallymade SuchacrisiscamethatdaytoNan Alreadyshehadbeen wheeledmorethanonceintodeSpain’sroom,tositwhereshecouldhelptowoo himbacktolife Thechiefsurgeon,inthemorning,toldNanofthedecision In herhospitalbedsheroseboltupright “No!”shedeclaredsolemnly “Youshan’t takehisarmoff!” Thesurgeonmetherrebelliontactfully ButhetoldNan,atlast,thatdeSpain mustloseeitherhisarmorhislife “No,”sherepeatedwithouthesitationand withoutblanching,“youshan’ttakeoffhisarm Heshan’tlosehislife.” Thebloodsurgedintohercheeks—betterbloodandredderthanthedoctorshad beenabletobringthere—suchbloodasdeSpainalonecouldcallintothem Nan,withhernurse’shelp,dressed,joineddeSpain,andtalkedlongand earnestly Thedoctors,too,laidthesituationbeforehim Whentheyaskedhim forhisdecision,henoddedtowardNan “Shewilltellyou,gentlemen,what we’lldo.” AndNandidtellthemwhatthetwowhohadmostatstakeinthedecisionwould Anymancouldhavedoneasmuchasthat ButNandidmore Shesetherself outtosavethearmandpatientboth,and,lestthedoctorsshouldchangetheir tacticsandmovetogetheronthearmsurreptitiously,Nanstayednightandday withdeSpain,untilhewasabletomakesuchactiveuseofeitherarmasto convinceherthathe,andnotthesurgeons,wouldsoonneedthemostwatching AfterwardwhenNan,insomedoubt,askedthechaplainwhethershewas marriedorsingle,heobliginglyofferedtoratifyandconfirmthedesert ceremony Thisaffairwastheoccasionforanextraordinaryround-upatSleepyCat Two long-hostileelementsthestageandrailroadmenandtheCalabasas-MorganGap contingentofmountain-men,foronceatleast,fraternized Warrantswere pigeonholed,suspicionsuspended,side-armsneglectedintheirscabbards The fightingmenofbothcamps,inthepresenceofaceremonythatuniteddeSpain andNanMorgan,couldnotbutfeelagenerouselation Eachpartyconsidered thatitwascontributingtothefestivityinthebrideandthegroomtheverybest eachcouldboast,andnofalsenotedisturbedtheharmonyofthenotableday GaleMorgan,havinggivenupthefight,hadleftthecountry SatterleeMorgan dancedtillalltheplatformsintowngaveway JohnLefeverattendedthegroom, andDukeMorgansternly,butwithoutcompunction,gavethebride FromMedicineBend,FarrellKennedybroughtanotablecompanyofdeSpain’s earlyassociatesfortheevent ItincludedWhisperingSmith,whosevisitto SleepyCatonthisoccasionwasthefirstinyears;GeorgeMcCloud,whohad comeallthewayfromOmahatojoinhisearlycomradesinarms;Wickwire, whohadlostnoneofhistaciturnbluntnessandsomanytraindespatchersthatthe serviceonthedivisionwascrippledfortheentireday Agreatcompanyofself-appointedretainersgatheredtogetherfromoverallthe country,rodebehindthegaylydecoratedbridal-coachinprocessionfromthe churchtoJeffries’shouse,wherethefeastshadbeenprepared Duringthe receptionamodestman,draggedfromanobscurecorneramongtheguests,was madetotakehisplacenextLefeveronthereceiving-line ItwasBobScott,and helookedmostuncomfortableuntilhefoundachancetoslipunobservedback tothesideoftheroomwherethedistinguishedMedicineBendcontingent, togetherwithMcAlpin,Pardaloe,Elpaso,andBullPage,slightlyunsteady,but extremelyseriousforthegraveoccasion,appearedvastlyuncomfortable together TherailroadhasnotyetbeenbuiltacrosstheSinkstoThiefRiver Butonly thosewholivedinSleepyCatinitsreallywildstagedaysareentitledtocall themselvesearlysettlers,ortotellstoriesmoreorlessauthenticaboutwhatthen happened ThegreaternumberoftheOldGuardofthatday,ascankeringpeace graduallyreasserteditselfalongtheSinks,turnedfromthestagecoachtothe railroadcoach;someofthemmayyetbemetonthetrainsinthemountain country Whereveryouhappentofindsuchaone,hewilltellyouofthedays whenSuperintendentdeSpainoftheWesternDivisionworeaguninthe mountainsandusedit,whennecessary,onhiswife’srelations Whetheritwasthissternsenseofdisciplineornotthatendearedhimtothemen, theseoldtimersare,toaman,veryloyaltotheyoungcouplewhounitedintheir marriagethetwohostilemountainelements Oneinespecial,awhite-hairedold man,describedbythefancifulasaretiredoutlaw,livingyetonNan’sranchin theGap,alwaysspendshistimeintownatthedeSpainhome,wherehetakes greatinterestinanactivelittleboy,MorgandeSpain,whowaitsforhisUncle Duke’scoming,anddigsintohispocketsforrattlescapturedalongthetrailfrom recenthugerattlesnakes Whenhisunclehappenstokillabigoneonewith twelveorthirteenringsandabuttonMorganusesittoscarehisyoungersister, Nan AndDuke,secretlyrejoicingathisbravado,butscoldingsharply,helps himadjusttheoldammunition-beltdraggedfromtheattic,andcutsfreshgashes inittomakeitfitthechildishwaist Hismotherdoesn’tliketoseehersonin warlikeequipment,ambushinglittleNaninthewayBobScottsaystheIndians usedtodo Shethreatensperiodicallytoburnthebeltupandthrowtheoldrifles outofthehouse Butwhensheseesheruncleandherhusbandwatchingtheboy andlaughingattheparadetogether,sherelents Itisonlychildren,afterall,that keeptheworldyoung ... the mountain valleymeanswaterandthisinacountrywherewaterismuchmore preciousthanlife Andsome of thebest of thislandatthefoot of Music Mountain wasthematernalinheritance of Nan Morgan... FormanyayeartheMorganshavebeenalmostoverlords of the Music Mountain country Theyown,orhavelaidclaimto,anextendedterritoryinthemountains, aSpanishgrant One of thefirst mountain MorgansmarriedaSpanishgirl,and... livedoutthisway.” “Ilivenear Music Mountain, ”returned Nan somewhatungraciously,usingher ownskillatthesametimetowalkherhorseawayfromherunwelcome companion “I’veheard of Music Mountain, ”continueddeSpain,urginghislaggingsteed
- Xem thêm -

Xem thêm: Nan of music mountain , Nan of music mountain

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