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James Oliver Curwood
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 227 pages of information about The Valley of Silent Men.

“You mean—­Kedsty?”

She withdrew her hands and stepped back from him, and again he saw in her eyes a flash of the fire that had come into them when she leveled her gun at the three men in the prison alcove.  “No, not Kedsty.  He would hang you, and he would kill me, if he dared.  I mean that great, big, funny-looking friend of yours, M’sieu Fingers!”

CHAPTER XIV

The manner in which Kent stared at Marette Radisson after her announcement that it was Dirty Fingers who had planned his escape must have been, he thought afterward, little less than imbecile.  He had wronged Fingers, he believed.  He had called him a coward and a backslider.  In his mind he had reviled him for helping to raise his hopes to the highest pitch, only to smash them in the end.  And all the time Dirty Fingers had been planning this!  Kent began to grin.  The thing was clear in a moment—­that is, the immediate situation was clear—­or he thought it was.  But there were questions—­one, ten, a hundred of them.  They wanted to pile over the end of his tongue, questions that had little or nothing to do with Kedsty.  He saw nothing now but Marette.

She had begun to take down her hair.  It fell about her in wet, shining masses.  Kent had never seen anything like it.  It clung to her face, her neck, her shoulders and arms, and shrouded her slender body to her hips, lovely in its confusion.  Little drops of water glistened in it like diamonds in the lamp glow, trickling down and dropping to the floor.  It was like a glowing coat of velvety sable beaten by storm.  Marette ran her arms up through it, shaking it out in clouds, and a mist of rain leaped out from it, some of it striking Kent in the face.  He forgot Fingers.  He forgot Kedsty.  His brain flamed only with the electrifying nearness of her.  It was the thought of her that had inspired the greatest hope in him.  It was his dreams of her, somewhere on the Big River, that had given him his great courage to believe in the ultimate of things.  And now time and space had taken a leap backward.  She was not four or five hundred miles north.  There was no long quest ahead of him.  She was here, within a few feet of him, tossing the wet from that glorious hair he had yearned to touch, brushing it out now, with her back toward him, in front of her mirror.

And as he sat there, uttering no word, looking at her, the demands of the immense responsibility that had fallen upon him and of the great fight that lay ahead pounded within him with naked fists.  Fingers had planned.  She had executed.  It was up to him to finish.

He saw her, not as a creature to win, but as a priceless possession.  Her fight had now become his fight.  The rain was beating against the window near him.  Out there was blackness, the river, the big world.  His blood leaped with the old fighting fire.  They were going tonight; they must be going tonight!  Why should they wait?  Why should they waste time under Kedsty’s roof when freedom lay out there for the taking?  He watched the swift movements of her hand, listened to the silken rustle of the brush as it smoothed out her long hair.  Bewilderment, reason, desire for action fought inside him.

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