The next day there lay ahead of him a low and broken range, the first of the deeper mountains. He climbed this steadily, and at noon had reached the crest. And he knew that at last he was looking down into the Valley of Silent Men. It was not a wide valley, like the other. On the far side of it, three or four miles away, rose the huge mountain whose face was looking down upon the green meadows at its foot. Southward Kent could see for a long distance, and in the vivid sunlight he saw the shimmer of creeks and little lakes, and the rich glow of thick patches of cedar and spruce and balsam, scattered like great rugs of velvety luster amid the flowering green of the valley. Northward, three or four miles away the range which he had climbed made a sharp twist to the east, and that part of the valley—following the swing of the range—was lost to him. He turned in this direction after he had rested. It was four o’clock when he came to the elbow in the valley, and could look down into the hidden part of it.
What he saw at first was a giant cup hollowed out of the surrounding mountains, a cup two miles from brim to brim, the end of the valley itself. It took him a few moments to focus his vision so that it would pick up the smaller and more intimate things half a mile under him, and yet, before he had done this, a sound came up to him that set aquiver every nerve in his body. It was the far-down, hollow-sounding barking of a dog.
The warm, golden haze that precedes sunset in the mountains, was gathering between him and the valley, but through this he made out after a time evidences of human habitation almost straight under him. There was a small lake out of which ran a shimmering creek, and close to this lake, yet equally near to the base of the mountain on which he was standing, were a number of buildings and a stockade which looked like a toy. He could see no animals, no movement of any kind.
Without seeking for a downward trail he began to descend. Again he did not question himself. An overwhelming certainty possessed him. Of all places in the world this must be the Valley of Silent Men.
And below him, flooded and half-hidden in the illusive sun-mist, was Marette’s old home. It seemed to him now that it belonged to him, that he was a part of it, that in going to it he was achieving his last great resting place, his final refuge, his own home. And the thought became strangely a part of him that a welcome must be waiting for him there. He hurried until his breath came pantingly between his lips and he was forced to rest. And at last he found himself where his progress was made a foot at a time, and again and again he was forced to climb back and detour around treacherous slides and precipitous breaks which left sheer falls at his feet. The mist thickened in the valley. The sun sank behind the western peaks, and swiftly after that the gloom of twilight deepened. It was seven o’clock when he came to the edge of the plain, at least a mile below the elbow which shut out the cup in the valley. He was exhausted. His hands were bruised and bleeding. Darkness shut him in when he went on.