And off he was—he and his cruel but gay laugh.
There was no fire in the cave-like place; no light but the indirect moonlight which slanted through the opening. It was death or wiggle for Jed Martin—so he wiggled!
In the meantime, Burke headed for Jim White’s. He meant to play a high game there—to fling himself on White’s mercy—appeal to the liking he knew the sheriff had for him—confess his love for Nella-Rose—make his promise for future redemption and then go, scot-free, to claim the girl who had declared he might speak when once again he dared walk upright among his fellows. So Lawson planned and went bravely to the doing of it.
At Washington, Truedale telegraphed to Brace Kendall. He felt, as he drew nearer and nearer to the old haunts, like a stranger, and a blind, groping one at that. The noises of the city disturbed and confused him; the crowds irritated him. When he remembered the few weeks that lay between the present and the days when he was part and parcel of this so-called life, he experienced a sensation of having died and been compelled to return to earth to finish some business carelessly overlooked. He meant to rectify the omission as soon as possible and get back to the safety and peace of the hills. How different it all would be with settled ideas, definite work, and Nella-Rose!
While waiting for his train in the Washington station he was startled to find that, of a sudden, he was adrift between the Old and the New. If he repudiated the past, the future as sternly repudiated him. He could not reconcile his love and desire with his identity. Somehow the man he had left, when he went South, appeared now to have been waiting for him on his return, and while his plans, nicely arranged, seemed feasible the actual readjustment struck him as lurid and impossible. The fact was that his experience of life in Pine Cone made him now shrink from contact with the outside world as one of its loyal natives might have done. It could no more survive in the garish light of a city day than little Nella-Rose could have. That conclusion reached, Truedale was comforted. He could not lure his recent past to this environment, but so long as it lay safe and ready to welcome him when he should return, he could be content. So he relegated it with a resigned sigh, as he might have done the memory of a dear, absent friend, to the time when he could call it forth to some purpose.
It was well he could do this, for with the coming of Brace Kendall upon the scene all romantic sensation was excluded as though by an icy-clear, north wind. Brace was at the New York station—Brace with the armour of familiarity and unbounded friendliness. “Old Top!” he called Truedale, and shook hands with him so vigorously that the last remnant of thought that clung to the distant mountains was freed from the present.
“Well, of all the miracles! Why, Con, I bet you tip the scales at a hundred and sixty. And look at your paw! Why, it’s callous and actually horny! And the colour you’ve got! Lord, man! you’re made over.