“Be careful, Hugh,” she said; “it looks so dangerous. If you find there is any possibility of falling, don’t attempt to go to the top. You are so daring, you Americans, that you do not recognize peril at all Promise me, or I shall not allow you to go on.”
He looked down into her serious upturned eyes and promised. Then he resumed the ascent, with a queer flutter of adulation in his heart.
From time to time he paused to rest. In each instance he looked below, waving his hand encouragingly to the anxious one who watched him so closely. On, over fierce crags, around grim towers, along steep walls, higher and higher he crawled. Twice he slipped and fell back several feet. When he glanced down, cold perspiration standing on his forehead, he saw her bending with averted face, her hands pressed to her eyes as if she expected his body to come crashing to her feet. With recovered energy he shouted to her, and the quick, glad glance upward was enough to make the remainder of the ascent glorious to him. At last, his hands and knees bleeding, he crawled upon the small, flat top of the mountain, five hundred feet above the breakers, three hundred feet above the woman he had left behind.
The sea wind whistled in his ears as he arose to his feet. His knees trembled and he grew momentarily dizzy as he looked out over the vast, blue plain before him. Fear seized upon him; there came a wild desire to plant his flag and hurry from the death-like summit. Sitting down, he nervously unfastened the pole and flag, looking about as he did so for a place to plant the beacon. For one moment his heart sank only to bound with joy in the next. Almost at his elbow ran a crevasse in the rock, deep and narrow. It was but an instant’s work to jam the pole into this crevasse, and the white flag was fluttering to the breeze. He was certain it would be days before the winds could whip it to shreds.
A feeling of helplessness and dismay came over him as he gave thought to the descent. In his eagerness to begin the hazardous attempt, he almost forgot the chief object of his climb to the top—the survey of the surrounding country. As far as he could see there stretched the carpet of forest land, the streak of beach and the expanse of water. In the view there was not one atom of proof that humanity existed within a radius of many miles. Growing calmer, he scanned the wonderful scene closely, intently, hoping to discover the faintest trace of aught save vegetable life, all without reward. He was about to begin the descent when a faint cry came to him from far below. Clinging to the edge of the topmost rock, he looked downward.
Lady Tennys was pointing excitedly toward the little bay on his left. A single glance in that direction filled him with amazement, then consternation. Recklessly he entered upon the descent. Obstacles that had seemed impassable as he thought of them on the summit were passed safely and hurriedly.