29. There Is But One Thing To Do
A night of stars, seen through swaying tree-tops whose leaves crisping to their
fall, murmured gently of vanished hopes and approaching death.
Below, a long, low building with a lighted window here and there, surrounded by
a heavy growth of trees which are but the earnest of the illimitable stretch of the
Adirondack woods which painted darkness on the encircling horizon.
In the air, one other sound beside the restless murmur I have mentioned,--the
lap, lap of the lake whose waters bathed the bank which supported this building.
Such the scene without.
Within, Reuther seated in the glow of a hospitable fire of great logs, talking
earnestly to Mr. Black. As they were placed, he could see her much better than
she could see him, his back being to the blaze and she, in its direct glare.
He could, therefore, study her features, without offence, and this he did, steadily
and with deep interest, all the while she was talking. He was looking for signs of
physical weakness or fatigue; but he found none. The pallor of her features was
a natural pallor, and in their expression, new forces were becoming apparent,
which give him encouragement, rather than anxiety, for the adventure whose
most trying events lay still before them.
Crouching low on the hearth could be seen the diminutive figure of Miss Weeks.
She had no time to waste even in a solitude as remote as this, and was
crocheting busily by the firelight. Her earnestness gave character to her features
which sometimes lacked significance. Reuther loved to glance at her from time to
time, as she continued her conversation with Mr. Black.
This is what she was saying:
"I cannot point to any one man of the many who have been about us ever since
we started north. But that we have been watched and our route followed, I feel
quite convinced. So does Miss Weeks. But, as you saw, no one besides
ourselves left the cars at this station, and I am beginning to hope that we shall
remain unmolested till we can take the trip to Tempest Lodge. How far is it, Mr.
"Twenty-five miles and over a very rough mountain road. Did I not confidently
expect to find Oliver there, I should not let you undertake this ride. But the
inquiries I have just made lead me to hope for the best results. I was told that
yesterday a young man bound for Tempest Lodge, stopped to buy a large basket
of supplies at the village below us. I could not learn his name and I saw no one
who could describe him; but the fact that any one not born in these parts should
choose to isolate himself so late in the year as this, in a place considered
inaccessible after the snow flies, has roused much comment."
"That looks as if--as if--"
"As if it were Oliver. So it does; and if you feel that you can ride so far, I will see
that horses are saddled for us at an early hour to-morrow morning."