“Pleased to meet you, marm.” Morrison raised his hat and stretched out a coarse red hand. Alice extended three fingers of her own despite her repulsion. There was really no other way out of it. “And here’s the little gal, I ’spose,” continued the proprietor. Margaret laughed as she shook hands. “Won’t ye stop and take something, friend?” he asked Blakeman. Blakeman raised his eyebrows in protest.
“Mon Dieu!” whispered Annette.
“Relations of yourn, Mrs. Thayor?” asked Morrison, noticing Annette’s embarrassment.
Alice straightened. “My maid!” she said stiffly.
“Wall, I’m sorry none of ye ain’t dry,” said Morrison.
“No, thank you,” replied Thayor; “we must be getting up to camp.”
Again the bays fell into a brisk trot.
Alice was furious.
“Who is that dreadful person, Sam?” she asked.
“You must not mind him, Alice. He meant well enough,” explained her husband. “Morrison’s rough, I’ll grant you, but he’s a good fellow at heart.”
“It was only his way,” added Holcomb. “He didn’t mean to be impolite, Mrs. Thayor.”
“Of course he didn’t, mother,” added Margaret with a glance at Holcomb.
The bays turned suddenly to the left into the new road. Alice emitted a sigh of relief. There was a sense of luxury—of exclusiveness—in passing over its smooth surface. Morrison and his common hotel, with its blear-eyed windows, were now well out of sight. Presently the camp lay ahead of them—an orderly settlement of trim buildings. Margaret was too excited to do more than gaze ahead of her with eager interest.
“Here we are!” exclaimed Thayor. “There, Alice, you can thank Mr. Holcomb for all you see; I really had nothing to do with it.”
His wife did not reply. Only Margaret’s eyes met his own—a pair of brown eyes that seemed to be half sunshine and half tears.
As they drew up to the wide veranda of the camp, the trapper and the Clown came slowly across the compound to meet them; at the heels of the trapper stalked the old dog, watching the new arrivals with a certain dignified interest.
There was nothing strange in the fact that when Alice Thayor saw Big Shanty Camp she made no comment. It was a bitter disappointment to Thayor, yet he knew in his heart that he could not have expected her to do otherwise. Having reached her exile she had been careful to conceal any outward expression of her approval or dislike. Had the camp at that moment been filled with a jolly house-party, including Dr. Sperry, she could have been content to romp in a fashionable way within it for a week—even a fortnight. It was the thought that it was her home—a home which she had tried to evade and had been brought to bodily in the end—that rankled in her heart. She retired early, but could not sleep. She lay in bed for an hour or more, turning over in her mind the situation. The realization of her defeat stirred within her the old dominant spirit. She realized that her imprisonment had begun. After half an hour more of restless thinking she crept out of bed, tucked her feet into a pair of slippers, drew a silk wrapper about her and crossed to the open window. Leaning with her elbows upon its sill she stood for a long time gazing out over the wilderness.