The Girl at Bullet Lake - H.A. Cody - ebook
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For the main character, his daily work became a real torment. That he told his doctor. He had to drag himself to the office every morning, and always left him tired at the end of the day. He had never experienced anything like it before. His old friend Dr. Bradbury, in whom he was sure, would give him something to build him, and in a short time he would be as good as ever. But this order to leave the forest was something that he did not expect.....

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Liczba stron: 398

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER I

Ordered Away

“You must get away at once. You need a rest.”

“Is it as bad as that, doctor?”

“It is. I shall give you a tonic to brace you up. But the best remedy is fresh air, in the woods, or somewhere else.”

As Doctor Bradbury turned to his desk, Robert Rutledge sat staring straight before him. He did not feel sick, only played out, worn and fagged. He had lost his appetite. He had little or no ambition, and his work was becoming a burden. He had to drag himself to the office every morning, and always left it at the end of the day weary in mind and body. He had never experienced anything like it before, as his health had been of the best. His old friend Doctor Bradbury, in whom he had much confidence, would give him something to build him up, and in a short time he would be as well as ever. But this order to get away to the woods was something he had not expected. It seemed too simple. Perhaps the doctor did not understand him. He was not sick, just a little run down, and his nerves somewhat unsteady. A tonic would make him all right again. It was sheer nonsense about fresh air and the woods.

Presently his eyes rested upon some bottles neatly arranged along a shelf in an adjoining room. What did they contain? he wondered. Different kinds of medicine, no doubt. The doctor must know the use of each. He also noticed several surgical instruments. And those strange things which looked like tanks. What were they for? The doctor must know a lot about them. Clever fellow. What a vast amount of knowledge he must have stored away in his head. And did he know a great deal about the human body? Most likely.

“Take this three times a day, before meals.” The doctor had risen from his desk and was standing before him. “Stay away for two months, at least, and then report to me when you come back.”

“But where am I to go, doctor?”

“To the woods, the fresh fields, or anywhere else, so long as you live out of doors all day.”

“Do you know any good place?”

“I do. Bullet Lake will suit you fine. And there is a snug house on the shore, known as ‘Bullet House’. It is not a very poetical name, I admit, but that will make no difference. Si Acres will charge you something, but it will be more than worth it. There is excellent fishing there, too.”

“Where is this wonderful paradise, doctor?”

“It’s not far away, only a few miles back from the river at Glengrow. You surely must know the place.”

“I know Glengrow, for my sister lives there. But I never heard her mention Bullet Lake.”

“That’s not surprising. Women, as a rule, do not take much interest in the woods and fishing. But go there. Old Acres is a queer fellow, and it will be worth something to see him. He’s a wealthy old miser who would sell his soul for a dollar. He’s a cranky cuss, too, and his neighbors are greatly afraid of him.”

Robert Rutledge smiled.

“So you wish me to become the tenant of such a man? What rest shall I have with that man prowling around?”

“Oh, he’ll not trouble you, providing you pay in advance. Money will keep him quiet.”

“But the name of the place has an ominous sound, doctor. Bullet Lake and Bullet House! Why are they called that?”

“I do not know for sure. There is a story about a shooting racket there many years ago, so I guess the name must have come from that. I am not interested in such things. But you are, so you may find something of value.”

“So you give me permission to carry on my writing, doctor?”

“Yes, in moderation. You have been doing double work here, so that is why I want you to get away. You grind in the office all day, and write at night. That’s caused the trouble. No man can stand such a strain for any length of time. But, there, I must attend to my other patients. Do as I say, and good luck. If you are not a new man when you come back, I will not charge you a cent for my services.”

Robert Rutledge walked slowly away from the office in deep thought. He knew that the doctor was right, so decided to follow his advice. The idea of living in a little house in the woods by the side of a beautiful lake was alluring. In his mind he pictured the scene, the birds, and the shimmering water. Perhaps there was a verandah to the house. If so, how pleasant it would be to lie in a hammock, read, write, and dream to his heart’s content. There would be nothing to disturb him, no dull office grind, and no clamor of the busy insistent world. He would attend to a few matters of importance and then get away as soon as possible. In fact, he felt better already, and hungry. He suddenly remembered that he had eaten nothing since morning, and now it was almost two hours past noon. The White Lily Cafe was near, a familiar resort of his. It would be quiet there at this time of the day, and there he could think over his plans for the future.

Reaching the cafe, he sat down at a small table near a window overlooking a large square, beautiful now with flowers. He had often sat here watching the people strolling to and fro or sitting upon the benches along the walks. Now, however, his mind was upon other things, and he did not even glance out of the window. All he could see was a little house nestling by the side of a woodland lake. And Nell and the children would be only a few miles away, so he could visit them whenever he became too lonely. And they might come to see him. How pleasant it would be to watch John and Betty playing among the trees and along the shore. He would make little boats for them, and ramble with them and Nell through the woods.

So lost did he become in this bright fancy-scene that he hardly noticed when the waitress arrived with the frugal order he had given her. A new vision had come to his mind. It was another Nell, and other children he saw. They were only a dream wife and dream children, but the thought of them quickened his heart and brought a slight tinge to his overpale face.

Presently he became aware of someone sitting in front of him, just three tables away. Had she been there when he came in? he wondered. Why had he not noticed her before? Forgotten was the woodland cabin and the little lake as he watched her. Her left arm rested upon the table, and her slender, well-shaped fingers pressed lightly her cheek as she gazed dreamily out of the window on her right. Swiftly and with admiring eyes he noted her strong beautiful face, the graceful poise of her head crowned with a wealth of jet-black hair, and the quiet neatness of her dress. Involuntarily he gave a sigh of relief. In outward appearance she measured up to his ideal standard of perfect womanhood. That she was not more than nineteen or twenty years of age he felt certain. He longed to see her full face, but she did not look once in his direction until the waitress arrived to serve her. She then lowered her hand and looked straight at him for one fleeting second. If she knew that he had been observing her she showed no sign as she began eating. Robert knew that it was rude and ungentlemanly to stare at her. But he could not help it, so fascinated was he by her charming beauty. Every movement she made was full of grace and dignity. Who was she, anyway? Was she engaged? He looked at her hands, but saw no ring. Her fingers were devoid of any adornment save that which had been bestowed upon her by nature in her happiest mood. She was free! The thought brought a glad throb to his heart. He must learn something about her, her name, and where she lived. But how? He could not very well follow her. Perhaps the waitress might be able to tell him.

He was aroused by the sound of voices on his right. Two women had come in, and were seated at a table a short distance away. Their presence and their words irritated him. They were like discordant notes in a beautiful symphony. He recognized them at once. One was Mrs. Sylvester Casham, wife of a local promoter, a man well-known for his connection with a number of shady business transactions. He had made considerable money, and his wife was very prominent in the leading social set of Pretensia. She rode high on her husband’s money, and professed a great interest in art and literature, although she knew little about either, and could not speak a dozen words of the English language correctly. She was exceedingly plain, haughty and overbearing to those she considered her inferiors. She talked much about her illustrious ancestors, although it was an open secret that the only noted member of her family had been her grandfather, who had ruined many people when he cleared out of the country, taking with him money that had been entrusted to him for investment. But that was years ago, in another city, so Mrs. Casham was unaware that the affair was known in Pretensia.

Mrs. Augustus Rockbridge was a different type of a woman. She was of commanding appearance, and agreeable to those who did her bidding. She was strong-minded and could not tolerate any inferior position. She had to be the leader in any club to which she belonged, as well as the social circle of the city. Her husband was editor and chief owner of the Daily Echo, the one newspaper in Pretensia. It was well known that he was ruled by his wife, and many even suggested that she wrote some of the editorials and directed the policy of the paper. She was kind and condescending to her friends, but merciless to her enemies, as a number had learned to their bitter cost. Mrs. Sylvester Casham was her bosom friend, for in her she found a woman she could dominate and bend easily to her imperious will.

It was quite easy for Robert Rutledge to hear nearly every word these two women uttered. They did not lower their voices, and paid no heed to those around them. He knew that something out of the ordinary was disturbing Mrs. Rockbridge, and he was not long in finding out. It was the question of the new rector for St. Alban’s, of which church she was a prominent member. Robert was well aware what a burning issue it was to the entire congregation. The rectors of St. Alban’s in the past had all been men of marked ability, fluent speakers, and of high social standing. This standard had to be maintained, so a thorough search had been made far and wide for a suitable man. A number of men had come and preached their best sermons, but the one who had made the most favorable impression was a young man from a country parish, the Reverend Andrew Nairn. By his noble appearance, his well-trained voice, and excellent sermons he had won the hearts of all except Mrs. Rockbridge. The reason for her dislike was quite apparent. She had a nephew in the ministry, so she desired that he should be chosen. His chance had been good until the appearance of Mr. Nairn. Mrs. Rockbridge at once realised that her hope of having her nephew chosen was doomed. This was hard for her to endure, as it was her great ambition to see a member of her family rector of such an important church as St. Alban’s.

“I cannot understand all this excitement over Mr. Nairn,” she indignantly declared. “To my mind his sermons were quite ordinary, and his voice was not at all pleasant.”

“I agree with you,” Mrs. Casham replied. “Your nephew is a far better speaker, and a true gentleman, besides. We know nothing about Mr. Nairn. His parents may be very commonplace, lacking in culture, and uncouth in speech and manner. Suppose such people should visit their son if he became our rector, how could we call upon them? We should be greatly embarrassed and mortified.”

“But Mr. Nairn is almost like the Angel Gabriel to the people of St. Alban’s, remember. They were so much impressed with him that I am afraid they will not change their opinion.”

“But what about his wife, my dear? We know nothing about her. And we should know a great deal before Mr. Nairn becomes our rector.”

“Has this Angel Gabriel a wife?” This was a new idea to Mrs. Rockbridge, and she seized upon it greedily.

“I believe he has. But she may be of little account, and what a calamity that would be to our church.”

“It would be terrible, my dear. We must certainly find out something about her. If we are to have an Angel Gabriel as rector, we want his wife to be an angel, too.”

“But how can we find out? Who knows anything about her here?”

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