Two on the Trail. A Story of the Far Northwest - Hulbert Footner - ebook

Two on the Trail. A Story of the Far Northwest ebook

Hulbert Footner



William Hulbert Footner (1879-1944) was a Canadian writer of non-fiction and detective fiction. His first published works were travelogues of canoe trips on the Hudson River and in the Northwest Territory along the Peace River, Hay River and Fraser River. He also wrote a series of northwest adventures during the period 1911 through 1920. „Two on the Trail (A Story of the Far Northwest) is a popular book by Hulbert Footner. Old time tail of adventure. A different account in an different era that is interesting how the picture would be painted compared with accounts from today. Different time, different equipment, even different landscape.

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THE interior of Papps’s, like most Western restaurants, was divided into a double row of little cabins with a passage between, each cabin having a swing door. Garth Pevensey found the place very full; and he was ushered into a cubby-hole which already contained two diners, a man and a woman nearing the end of their meal. They appeared to be incoming settlers of the better class–a farmer and his wife from across the line. Far from resenting Garth’s intrusion, they visibly welcomed it; after all, there was something uncomfortably suggestive of a cell in those narrow cabins to which the light of day never penetrated.

Garth passed behind the farmer’s chair, and seated himself next the wall. He had no sooner ordered his luncheon than the door was again opened, and the rotund Mr. Papps, with profuse apologies, introduced a fourth to their table. The vacant place, it appeared, was the very last remaining in his establishment.

The newcomer was a girl; young, slender and decidedly pretty: such was Garth’s first impression. She came in without hesitation, and took the place opposite Garth with that serenely oblivious air so characteristic of the highly civilized young lady. Very trimly and quietly dressed, sufficiently well-bred to accept the situation as a matter of course. Thus Garth’s further impressions. “What a girl to be meeting up in this corner of the world, and how I should like to know her!” he added in his mind. The maiden’s bland aloofness was discouraging to this hope; nevertheless, his heart worked in an extra beat or two, as he considered the added relish his luncheon would have, garnished by occasional glances at such a delightful vis-à-vis. Meanwhile, he was careful to take his cue from her; his face, likewise, expressed a blank.

The farmer and his wife became very uncomfortable. Simple souls, they could not understand how a personable youth and a charming girl should sit opposite each other with such wooden faces. Their feeling was that at quarters so close extra sociability was demanded, and the utter lack of it caused them to move uneasily in their chairs, and gently perspire. They unconsciously hastened to finish, and having at length dutifully polished their plates, arose and left the cabin with audible sighs of relief.

This was a contingency Garth had not foreseen, and his heart jumped. At the same time he felt a little sorry for the girl. He wondered if she would consider it an act of delicacy if he fastened the door open with a chair. On second thoughts, he decided such a move would be open to misconstruction. Had he only known it, she was dying to laugh and, at the slightest twinkle in his eyes, would have gone off into a peal. Only Garth’s severe gravity restrained her–and that in turn made her want to laugh harder than ever. But how was Garth to learn all that? Girls, more especially girls like this, were to him insolvable mysteries–like the heavenly constellations. Of course, there are those who pretend to have discovered their orbits, and have written books on the subject; but for him, he preferred simply to wonder and to admire.

Since her arrival the objective point of his desire shifted from his plate some three feet across the table; he now gazed covertly at her with more hunger than he evinced for his food. She had a good deal the aspect of a plucky boy, he thought; a direct, level gaze; a quick, sure turn to her head; and the fresh, bright lips of a boy. But that was no more than a pleasant fancy; in reality she was woman clear through. Eve lurked in the depths of her blue eyes, for all they hung out the colours of simple honesty; and Eve winked at him out of every fold of her rich chestnut hair. She was quick and impulsive in her motions; and although she showed such a blank front to the man opposite, her lips flickered with the desire to smile; and tiny frowns came and went between the twin crescents of her brows.

As for her, she was sizing him up too, though with skilfully veiled glances. She saw a square-shouldered young man, who sat calmly eating his lunch, without betraying too much self-consciousness on the one hand, or any desire to make flirtatious advances on the other. Yet he was not stupid, either; he had eyes that saw what they were turned on, she noted. His admirable, detached attitude piqued her, though she would have been quick to resent any other. She was angry with him for forcing this repression on her; repression was not natural to this young lady. She longed to clear the air with a burst of laughter, but the thought of a quick, cool glance of surprise from the steady eyes opposite effectually checked her. As for his features, they were well enough, she thought. He had a shapely head, broadest over the ears, and thatched with thick, straight hair of the ashy-brown just the other side of blonde. His eyes were of the shade politely called gray, though yellow or green might be said with equal truth, had not those colours unpleasant associations. His nose was longish, and he had a comical trick of seeming to look down it, at which she greatly desired to laugh. His mouth was well cut, and decisively finished at the corners; and he had a chin to match. In spite of her irritation with him, she was reminded of a picture she had seen of Henry Fifth looking out from his helmet on the field of Agincourt.

As the minutes passed, and Garth maintained his calm, she became quite unreasonably wroth. Her own luncheon was now before her. By and by she wanted salt, and the only cellar stood at Garth’s elbow. Nothing could have induced her to ask for it; she merely stared fixedly. Garth, presently observing, politely offered the salt-cellar. She waited until he had put it down on the table, and removed his hand from the neighbourhood; then took it.

“Thank you,” she murmured indignantly; furious at having to say it.

Garth wondered what he had done to offend her.

At this moment there was an interruption; again the apologetic Mr. Papps with yet another guest. This was a tradesman’s comely young wife, with very ruffled plumage, and the distracted air of the unaccustomed traveller. She was carrying in her arms a shiny black valise, three assorted paper-covered bundles with the string coming off, and a hat in a paper bag; and, although it was so warm, she wore her winter’s coat, plainly because there was no other way to bring it. Her hair was flying from its moorings; her face flamed; and her hat sat at a disreputably rakish angle. As she piled up her encumbrances on the chair next to the girl, and took off her coat, she bubbled over with indistinguishable, anxious mutterings. At last she sank into the seat by Garth with something between a sigh and a moan.

“I’ve lost my husband,” she announced at large.

Her distress was so comical they could not forbear smiling.

Encouraged by this earnest of sympathy, the newcomer plunged into a breathless recital of her mischances.

“Just came in over the A. N. R.,” she panted. “By rights we should have arrived last night, but day-before-yesterday’s train had the right of way and we was held up down to Battle Run. I tell you, the rails of that line are like the waves of the sea! I was that sea-sick I thought never to eat mortal food again–but it’s coming back; my appetite I mean. He was to meet me, but I suppose he got tired after seventeen hours, small blame–and dropped off somewheres. S’pose I’ll have to make a round of the hotels till I find him. You don’t happen to know him, do you?” she asked Garth. “John Pink, the carpenter?”

“I’m a stranger in Prince George,” said he politely.

“Oh, what and all I’ve been through!” groaned Mrs. Pink, with an access of energetic distress. She shook a warning finger at the girl. “Take my advice, Miss,” she warned, “and don’t you let him out of your sight a minute, till you get him safe home!”

The girl looked hard at her plate; while for Garth, a slow, dark red crept up from his neck to the roots of his hair. Yet Mrs. Pink’s mistake was surely a natural one; there they sat lunching privately together in the secluded little cabin. Moreover, they looked like fit mates, each for the other; and their air of studied indifference was no more than the air commonly assumed by young married couples in public places–especially the lately married. Without appearing to raise her eyes, the girl in some mysterious way, was conscious of Garth’s dark flush. “Serve him right,” she thought with wicked satisfaction. “I shan’t help him out.” But Garth’s blush was for her more than for himself.

Mrs. Pink, absorbed in her own troubles, was innocently unaware of the consternation she had thrown them into. She plunged ahead; still addressing her remarks to the girl.

“Perhaps you think there’s no danger of losing yours so soon,” she went on; “and very like you’re right. But, my dear, you never can tell! Bless you, when I was on my wedding journey, he hung around continuous. I couldn’t get shet of the man for a minute, and I was fair tired out of seeing him. But that wears off–not that I mean it would with you”–turning to Garth–“but nothing different couldn’t hardly be expected in the course of nature.”

Garth considered whether he should stop Mrs. Pink’s tongue by telling the truth. But it seemed ungallant to be in such haste to deny the responsibility. He felt rather that the disclaimer should come from the girl; and she made no move; indeed, he almost fancied he saw the ghost of a smile. Under his irritation with the woman and her clumsy tongue, he was conscious of a secret glow of pleasure. There was something highly flattering in being taken for the husband of such an ultra-desirable creature. The thought of her being really one with his future, as the woman supposed, and travelling about the country with him made his heart beat fast. Slender, trim and mistress of herself, she had exactly the look of the wife he had pictured.

Mrs. Pink broke off long enough to order her luncheon, and from the extent of the order it appeared she had entirely recovered her appetite.

“The next thing I have to do after finding my man,” she resumed, with a wild pass at her hat, which lurched it as far over on the other side, “is to find a house. They tell me rents are terrible high in Prince George. Are you two going to settle here?”

Garth replied in the negative. He had decided if the girl did not choose to enlighten Mrs. Pink, he would not.

“It has a great future ahead of it,” she said solemnly. “It’s a grand place for a young couple to start life in. And elegant air for children. Mine are at my mother’s.”

Garth swallowed a gasp at this; but the girl never blinked an eye.

“But how I do run on!” exclaimed Mrs. Pink. “No doubt you’ve got a good start somewheres else.”

“Not so very,” said Garth with a smile.

The smile disarmed the young lady sitting opposite, and somehow obliged her to reconsider her opinion of him. “I believe the creature has a sense of humour,” was her thought.

“Are you Canadians?” inquired Mrs. Pink politely.

“I am from New York,” said Garth.

Mrs. Pink opened her eyes to their widest. If he had said Cochin China she could not have appeared more surprised. For New York has a magical name in the Provinces; and the more remote, the more glowing the halo evoked by the sound.

“Bless me!” she ejaculated. Then, addressing herself to the girl: “How fine the shops and the opera houses must be there!”

“I’ve not been there in some years,” she answered coolly. “I am from Ontario.”

“Well, I declare!” cried Mrs. Pink. “Quite a romance! Where did you meet?”

“Here,” said Garth readily. There was no turning back now.

“What a nice man!” now thought this perverse young lady.

“Well! Well!” exclaimed Mrs. Pink with immense interest. “Ain’t that odd now! Was it long since?”

“Not so very,” said Garth vaguely. He glanced across the table and saw that his supposed wife had finished her lunch. His heart sank heavily.

“Three months?” hazarded Mrs. Pink.

“It was about half an hour ago,” came brisk and clear from across the table.

Mrs. Pink looked up in utter amazement; her jaw dropped; and a piece of bread was arrested halfway to her mouth. The girl had risen and was drawing on her gloves.

“Good-bye, Mrs. Pink,” she said sweetly. “I hope you find your husband sooner than I find mine!”

With that she passed out; and the swing door closed behind her. All the light went with her, it seemed to Garth, and the cabin became a sordid, spotty little hole. Mrs. Pink stared at the door through which she had disappeared, in speechless bewilderment. Finally she turned to Garth.

“Wh-what did she mean?” she stammered.

“I do not know the young lady,” said Garth sadly.

“Good land, man!” screamed Mrs. Pink. “Why didn’t you say so at first?”


GARTH PEVENSEY was a reporter on the New York Leader. His choice of an occupation had been made more at the dictate of circumstances than of his free will; and in the round hole of modern journalism he was something of a square and stubborn peg. He had become a reporter because he had no taste for business; and a newspaper office is the natural refuge for clever young men with a modicum of education, and the need of providing an income. He was not considered a “star” on the force; and his city editor had been known to tear his hair at the missed opportunities in Pevensey’s copy, and hand it to one of the more glowing stylists for the injection of “ginger.” But Garth had his revenge in the result; the gingerized phrases in his quiet narrative cried aloud, like modern gingerbread work on a goodly old dwelling.

It was agreed in the office that Pevensey was too quiet ever to make a crack reporter. On a big story full of human interest he was no good. It was not that he failed to realize the possibilities of such stories; he had as sure an eye for the picturesque and affecting as Dicky Chatworth himself, the city editor’s especial favourite; but he had an unconquerable repugnance to “letting himself go.” Moreover his stuff was suspected of having a literary quality, something that is respected but not desired in a newspaper office. Howbeit, there were some things Garth could do to the entire satisfaction of the powers; he might be depended on for an effective description of any big show, when the readers’ tear-ducts were not to be laid under contribution; he had an undeniable way with him of impressing the great and the near-great; and had occasionally been surprisingly successful in extracting information from the supposedly uninterviewable.

Though his brilliancy might be discounted, Pevensey was one of the most looked-up-to, and certainly the best-liked man on the staff. He was entirely unassuming for one thing; and though he had the reputation of leading rather a saintly life himself, he was as tolerant as Jove; and the giddy youngsters who came and went on the staff of the Leader with such frequency liked to confide their escapades to him, sure of being received with an interest which might pass very well for sympathy. It was with the very young ones that he was most popular; he took on himself no irritating airs of superiority; he was a good listener; and he never flew off the handle. Such a man has the effect of a refreshing sedative on the febrile nerves of an up-to-date newspaper office.

Outside the office Garth led an uneventful life. He lived with his mother and a younger brother and sister, and ever since his knickerbocker days he had been the best head the little family could boast of. New York is full of young men like Garth who, deprived of the kind of society their parents were accustomed to, do not assimilate readily with that which is open to all; and so do without any. Young, presentable and clever, Garth had yet never had a woman for a friend. Those he met in the course of a reporter’s rounds made him over-fastidious. He had erected a sky-scraping ideal of fine breeding in women, of delicacy, reserve and finish; and his life hitherto had not afforded him a single opportunity of meeting a woman who could anywhere near measure up to it. That was his little private grievance with Fate.

Garth came of a family of sporting and military traditions, which he had inherited in full force. These, in the young bread-winner of the city, had had to be largely repressed; but he had found a certain outlet in joining a militia regiment, in which he had at length been elected an officer. He had a passion for firearms; and was the prize sharpshooter of his regiment. Wonderful tales were related of his prowess.

When the Leader was invited to send a representative on the excursion of press correspondents, which an enterprising immigration agency purposed conducting through the Canadian Northwest, Garth was chosen to go–most unexpectedly to himself, and to the higher-paid men on the staff. This trip put an entirely new colour on Garth’s existence. He had always felt a secret longing to travel, to wander under strange skies, and observe new sides of life. From the very start of the journey he found himself in a state of pleasant exhilaration which was reflected in the copy he sent back to his paper. Pevensey’s articles on the West made a distinct hit. The editors of the Leader did not tell him so; but in the very silence from New York that followed him, he knew he had found favour in their eyes; and he felt the delicious gratification of one who has been unappreciated.

When the excursion, lapped in the luxury of a private car (nothing can be too good for those who are going to publish their opinions of you), reached Prince George, the outermost point of their wide swing around the country, the good people of the town outdid themselves in entertaining the correspondents. Among the festivities, a large public reception gave the correspondents and the leading men of the country the opportunity to become acquainted. To Garth the most interesting man present was the Bishop of Miwasa. His Lordship was a retiring man in vestments a thought shabby; and the other correspondents overlooked him. But Garth had heard by accident that the Bishop’s annual tour of his diocese included a trip of fifteen hundred miles by canoe and pack-train through the wilderness; and he scented a story. The Bishop was one of those incorrigibly modest men who are the despair of interviewers; but Garth stuck to him, and got the story in the end. It was the best sent out of Prince George on that trip.

During the five days the correspondents spent there, the quiet Garth and the quiet Bishop became fast friends over innumerable pipes at the Athabasca Club. They discovered a common liking for the same brand of tobacco, which created a strong bond. Garth was entranced by the Bishop’s matter-of-fact stories of his long journeys through the wilderness during the delightful summers, and in the rigorous winters; and the upshot was, the Bishop asked him to join him in his forthcoming tour of the diocese, which was to start from Miwasa Landing on the first of August.

Garth jumped at the opportunity; and telegraphing lengthily to his paper to set forth the rich copy that was pining to be gathered in the North, prayed for permission to go. He received a brief answer, allowing him two months’ leave of absence for the journey at his own risk and expense; and promising to purchase what of his stuff might be suitable, at space rates. This was precisely what he wanted; it meant two months’ liberty. By the time he received it, the excursion had left Prince George behind; and was turned homeward. Garth dropped off at a way station and made his way back, this time without any fêtes to greet his arrival. He caught the Bishop as he was starting for the Landing; and it was arranged Garth should follow him by stage, three days later. Meantime he was to purchase an outfit.

*     *


On the evening of the day following his luncheon at Papps’s, Garth, in his room at the hotel, was packing in a characteristically masculine fashion, preparatory to his start for the North woods next day.

It would have been patent to an infant that he had something on his mind. He was not thinking of the romantic journey that lay before him; that prospect, so exhilarating the past few days, had, upon the eve of realization, lost its savour. He would actually have welcomed an excuse to postpone it for a few days–so that he might spend a little more money at Papps’s. It was a pair of flashing blue eyes–for blue eyes do flash, though they be not customarily chosen to illustrate that capacity of the human orb–which had disturbed his peace. He was very much dissatisfied with the part he had played at luncheon the day before. What he ought to have said and done was now distressingly clear to him; and he craved an opportunity to put it into practice. He had spent the whole middle part of this day at Papps’s, loitering in the entrance to make sure the blue eyes should not be swallowed in one of the cabins without his knowledge; but they had not illumined the place; nor had his cautious inquiries elicited a single clue to the identity of the possessor. He felt sure if he had three days more in Prince George he could discover her: but unfortunately the weekly stage for the North left the following morning; and the Bishop was waiting for him at the Landing; likewise the Leader back in New York was waiting for stories–and not about blue eyes. It was at this point in his circular train of reflections that he would resume packing with a gusty sigh.

He was interrupted by a knock on the door, and, upon opening it, was not a little astonished to receive a note from the hands of a boy, who signified his intention of waiting for an answer. It was contained in a thick, square envelope with a crest on the flap; and was addressed in a tall, angular, feminine hand. Garth, his mind ever running in the same course, tore it open with a crazy hope in his heart; but the first words brought him sharply back to earth.

“Will Mr. Garth Pevensey,” thus it ran, “be good enough to oblige an old lady by calling at the Bristol Hotel this evening? Mrs. Mabyn will be awaiting him in the parlour; and as it concerns a matter of supreme importance to her, she trusts he will not fail her; no matter how late the hour at which he may be able to come.”

Garth dismissed the boy with a message to the effect that he would answer the note in person. As he leisurely put his appearance in order, he thought: “Verily one’s adventures begin upon leaving home.” He was human, consequently his curiosity was pleasantly stimulated to discover what lay before him: but the little adjective in the first sentence of his appellant’s letter was fatal to the idea of any violent enthusiasm on her behalf.

The parlour of the Bristol Hotel was on the first floor above the street level. Garth paused at the door; and cast a glance about the room. It was empty except for two figures at the further end. The one he could see more plainly was an old lady sitting in an easy-chair; she was dressed in black, with a white cap and white wristbands; a spare, erect little lady. Garth judged her to be the writer of the note. The other figure, also a woman, was partly hidden in a window embrasure. She was standing by the window holding the curtain back with one hand, and looking into the street. She turned her head to speak to the old lady; whereupon Garth’s heart leapt in his bosom, the room rocked, and the chandeliers burst into song; that clear profile, that slender figure could belong to none in Prince George but Her! He was overcome with delight and amazement; he could scarcely credit his eyes. He wished in the same instant he had spent more care on his appearance, and that he had not kept them waiting so long.

The younger lady perceived him standing in the shadowy doorway, and came toward him.

“Mr. Pevensey?” she began in a voice of cool inquiry. Then she stopped aghast; and the colour flamed into her face. “You!” she exclaimed in a voice too low to reach the older woman’s ears. “Oh, I didn’t know–I never suspected it might be you!”

Garth was conscious of a complicated feeling of irritation, a kind of jealousy of himself. “Why did they send for me, if they didn’t know it was me?” was his thought.

“What must you think of me?” she said in obvious distress.

“I am in the dark,” said Garth helplessly.

She recovered her forces. “I am not in the habit of going to restaurants alone,” she said. “But the hotel here is so bad! I am afraid you must think me a frivolous person, and I am anxious you should not think so.”

“I don’t,” said Garth bluntly.

She smiled. “Very well,” she said; “then there’s no harm done.”

“Natalie!” called the old lady, with a hint of irritation.

“Come and meet Mrs. Mabyn,” she said quickly; and led the way.

“This is Mr. Pevensey, Mrs. Mabyn,” she said.

The old lady regarded Garth with a sharp scrutiny; and Garth looked with interest at her. She was a fragile, elegant, plaintive little person of the old “lady-like” régime; but for all her gentleness, Garth was somehow conscious that he faced a woman of an iron will. She had the impatient, inattentive manner of one possessed by a single idea. With the result of her examination she appeared but half satisfied; she held out a delicate, wrinkled hand, dubiously.

“How do you do?” she said. “Please sit down.”

“I am Natalie Bland,” further explained the girl, who had again retreated to the window embrasure. “Mrs. Mabyn and I are travelling together.”

“Dear Natalie is a daughter to me,” murmured Mrs. Mabyn with commendable feeling.

The two women exchanged a glance which Garth was at a loss to interpret. He was looking at Natalie and he thought he saw patience, real affection, and perhaps a little kindly amusement–but there was something beyond; something grimmer and more determined, a hint of rebellion.

“My husband, Canon Mabyn, was the rector of Christ’s Church Cathedral in Millerton, Ontario, up to the time of his death,” murmured Mrs. Mabyn in her dulcet tones, with the air of one delivering all-sufficient credentials.

Garth murmured to show that he was suitably impressed.

“You are from New York, I believe,” said Mrs. Mabyn.

Garth acknowledged the fact.

“So the newspaper said,” she remarked. “Of course, I know very few Americans, still it is possible we may have common friends. You–er–” She paused invitingly.

“Hadn’t we better explain why we asked Mr. Pevensey to call?” put in Natalie quietly.

“My dear, Mr. Pevensey was just about to tell me of his people,” Mrs. Mabyn said in tones of gentle reproof.

Garth saw what the old lady would be after. “My father, Lieutenant Raymond Pevensey, was in the Navy,” he said. “He was killed by a powder explosion on the gunboat Arkadelphia, twelve years ago.”

“Dear me, how unfortunate!” murmured Mrs. Mabyn sympathetically; but it rang chillingly, and her abstracted eyes dwelt throughout upon that relentless thought of hers, whatever it was.

“I am related distantly to the Buhannons of Richmond, and the Mainwarings of Philadelphia,” continued Garth, willing to humour her.

“There was a Mainwaring at Chelsea with my husband as a boy,” remarked Mrs. Mabyn.

“Probably my great-uncle,” he said. “In this part of the world,” he went on, “there is no one who knows me beyond mere acquaintanceship, except the Bishop of Miwasa–”

“Pray say no more, Mr. Pevensey,” interrupted Mrs. Mabyn. “The mere fact that the Bishop invited you to accompany him is, after all, sufficient.” She turned to the girl. “You may continue, dear Natalie.”

“We read in this evening’s paper,” began that young lady with a directness refreshing after Mrs. Mabyn’s circumlocutions; “that you were starting for Miwasa Landing to-morrow morning, to join the Bishop on his annual tour. We wished particularly to see you before you started; and that is why I–why Mrs. Mabyn wrote.”

“We thank you for coming so promptly,” put in Mrs. Mabyn with her gracious air.

Garth murmured truthfully that the pleasure was his. He felt himself on the breathless verge of a discovery. Intuition warned him of what was coming; but he could not believe it yet.

“Mr. Pevensey,” resumed the young lady as if with an effort; she had the humility of a proud soul who stoops to ask a favour; “we are going to make a very strange request, as from total strangers.”

Mrs. Mabyn raised an agitated hand. “Wait, wait, my dear Natalie,” she objected. “Perhaps after all, we had better go no further. I–I think we had better give the plan up,” she said in apparently the deepest distress.

The girl turned a patient shoulder, and looked into the street again, abstractedly playing with the cord of the blind.

“It is really too much to ask of you,” continued Mrs. Mabyn distressfully; “and I am so afraid for Natalie! Natalie is so very dear to me. The situation is so unusual!” she wailed.

Poor Garth was sadly perplexed and exasperated by all this. The discovery he anticipated was now apparently in retreat.

“We are glad, anyway, to have had the pleasure of making your acquaintance,” said Mrs. Mabyn with an air of finality.

Suddenly it was borne in upon Garth, partly from the girl’s patient attitude, partly from the other’s emphasis upon her distress, that it was simply, in newspaper parlance, all a bluff on the part of the older woman. Her fanatic eyes seemed to tell him that she was still bent on her object, whatever it might be. Experience had taught him that the quickest way to find out if he were right was to seem to fall in with her desire. So he promptly rose as if to leave. It worked.

Mrs. Mabyn’s eyes snapped. She did not relish being taken up so quickly. “One moment, Mr. Pevensey,” she said plaintively–and hastily. “Overlook the distraction of an old woman; I am torn two ways!”

Garth understood by this that the matter was reopened; and sat down again. There was a pause, while the old lady struggled, with the air of a martyr, to regain her composure. The girl continued to look stolidly out of the window; and Garth simply waited for what was coming.

“You may continue, Natalie,” said Mrs. Mabyn at length, faintly.

The girl resumed her explanation at the exact point where she left off. “We expected–that is, we hoped you were an older man–“ Garth looked so disappointed she immediately added: “For that would make the request seem less strange.” She hesitated.

“What is it?” asked Garth.

But she parried awhile. “What sort of a man is the Bishop?” she asked.

Garth described his modesty and his manliness.

“A very proper person to be Bishop in a wild country,” remarked Mrs. Mabyn, patronizingly.

“And his wife?” asked Natalie.

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