The lawyer eyed her with growing admiration. He had not miscalculated her pluck.
As they were making a turn to gain the summit, they heard Mr. Sloan’s voice behind them. Drawing in their horses, they greeted him eagerly when he appeared.
“Were you right? Are we followed?”
“That’s as may be. I didn’t hear or see anything more. I waited, but nothing happened, so I came on.”
His words were surly and his looks sour; they, therefore, forebore to question him further, especially as their keenest interest lay ahead, rather than behind them. They were nearing Tempest Lodge. As it broke upon their view, perched like an eagle’s eyrie on the crest of a rising peak, they drew rein, and, after a short consultation, Mr. Sloan wended his way up alone. He was a well-known man throughout the whole region, and would be likely to gain admittance if any one could. But all wished the hour had been less early.
However, somebody was up in the picturesque place. A small trail of smoke could be seen hovering above its single chimney, and promptly upon Mr. Sloan’s approach, a rear door swung back and an old man showed himself, but with no hospitable intent. On the contrary, he motioned the intruder back, and shouting out some very decided words, resolutely banged the door shut.
Mr. Sloan turned slowly about.
“Bad luck,” he commented, upon joining his companions. “That was Deaf Dan. He’s got a warm nest here, and he’s determined to keep it. ‘No visitors wanted,’ was what he shouted, and he didn’t even hold out his hand when I offered him the letter.”
“Give me the letter,” said Reuther. “He won’t leave a lady standing out in the cold.”
Mr. Sloan handed over the judge’s message, and helped her down, and she in turn began to approach the place. As she did so, she eyed it with the curiosity of a hungry heart. It was a compact structure of closely cemented stone, built to resist gales and harbour a would-be recluse, even in an Adirondack winter. One end showed stacks of wood through its heavily glazed windows, and between the small stable and the west door there ran a covered way which insured communication, even when the snow lay high about the windows.
The place had a history which she learned later. At present all her thoughts were on its possible occupant and the very serious question of whether she would or would not gain admittance to him.
Mr. Sloan had been repulsed from the west door; she would try the east. Oliver (if Oliver it were) was probably asleep; but she would knock, and knock, and knock; and if Deaf Dan did not open, his master soon would.
But when she found herself in face of this simple barrier, her emotion was so strong that she recoiled in spite of herself, and turned her face about as if to seek strength from the magnificence of the outlook.
But though the scene was one of splendour inconceivable, she did not see it. Her visions were all inner ones. But these were not without their strengthening power, as was soon shown. For presently she turned back and was lifting her hand to the door, when it suddenly flew open and a man appeared before her.