Charles Goddard.

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stolen a girl and carried her away. The white men were thus fighting
among themselves. It was a propitious time for the coining of the new
Queen.

These three young men, about five o'clock in the afternoon, had just
started the drive of a coyote towards the level country when the quarry
doubled suddenly and turned into the hills.

With shouts and shots, the Indians pursued it, but their horses were no
match for it on the devious wooded paths, and grunting their disgust
they saw it dive into a burrow in a rocky hollow of the cliff.

They dismounted and stood about the mouth of the burrow grumbling and
"cursing their luck" in an ancient tongue. At last two of them mounted
and started to ride away, and their companion followed, slowly, leading
his horse.

A sound made him turn his head. With a cry of mingled fear and joy, of
awe and triumph, he threw himself prostrate before the mouth of the
burrow.

The other Indians dashed back. They literally fell from their horses
to the feet of the wonderful being who had risen from the heart of the
earth - the promised goddess who would lead them against the
oppressors. In the poor, disheveled person of Pauline, coming from her
prison cave, they saw their great White Queen.





CHAPTER XV

THE DEATH STONE

As the thrilled and frightened Indian lay prostrate at her feet, he
might well have believed her to be some creature from another world.

Her face was very pale and round it fell in tumultuous glory the
cascades of her golden hair. Her dress was torn to shreds by the
jagged rocks and there was blood upon the delicate hands that she held
out in pleading to the only living thing she saw-the red man.

He did not move. She stepped nearer and, stooping, gently touched his
shoulder. At the touch he trembled like a leaf, but raised his head
and looked at her with terror and awe and adoration in his eyes.

"Won't you help me? I have ben a prisoner in the cave. I must find
Mr. Haines - Haines, do you hear? Or go to Rockvale - Rockvale," she
repeated, hoping that the names at least he might understand.

He motioned questioningly toward his horse, and, at her nod, he sprang
up and brought the animal to her side. Helping her to mount, he took
the bridle and began to lead the way into the thickly wooded hills.

The journey was slow and arduous, but it was not long. Darkness had
not yet fallen when the hill trail dipped into a valley, and Pauline's
weary, hopeful eyes looked down upon a village on the plain.

The hope vanished quickly as she realized that the houses of the
village were teepees and that the people that moved among them were
braves and squaws.

An Indian boy of perhaps twelve years sprang suddenly from a thicket
beside the trail, gave one glance at her, and, with a shriek, set off
at full speed toward the teepees.

Cries sounded and resounded from the hills. Tom-toms were beating.
She became aware that the Indians were swarming about her and
acclaiming her a guest of unusual honor. They stopped her horse at the
entrance to Red Snake's teepee. The great chief stepped forth himself,
with Big Smoke, the medicine man, close behind him.

The prophet, who had foretold the coming of the Great White Queen, wore
a mien of pride and triumph, even as he bowed low before Pauline. But
of all the red folk in Shi-wah-ki village, Big Smoke was undoubtedly
the most amazed at the fulfillment of his prophecy.

The braves who were assigned to lift Pauline from her horse and bear
her into the Chief's teepee were surprised that one immortal should be
so weak as almost to fall into their arms, so weary as to be scarcely
able to walk. But Pauline, seated upon a high pile of furs within the
teepee, where the weird light of a fire fell upon her pallid features
and her flowing hair, presented a picture strange and marvelous.

They gathered around her, Red Snake and the medicine man in the center
of the adobe, the lesser chiefs behind them, and in another circle the
ranks of the braves.

Even in her utter exhaustion, the savage solemnity of the gathering
fascinated Pauline. Had she been left alone she would have fallen
asleep upon the piled furs; but this low muttering, grim-visaged
assemblage of the red men forced her to respectful attention. That
they honored her, she understood; but she saw, too, that the Indians
were all armed and some of them were painted. As Red Snake arose to
address the tribe a menacing murmur filled the teepee and the young
chiefs whetted their knives upon the ground.

Red Snake's harangue, unintelligible to Pauline, had an electrical
effect upon the Indians. Frequently as he spoke he turned toward her
and always when he did so he bent his head upon his breast and raised
his mighty arms in token of submission to a power mightier than his
own.

As he finished, Pauline arose, swaying a little from her great
weakness. She shook her head in token that she did not understand.
Her outstretched, pleading hands bewildered, but subdued the warlike
assembly.

Red Snake called a ringing summons, and from the rear circle of the
audience shuffled forward the strangest man Pauline had ever seen. His
undersized, stooping form was garbed in a miner's cast-off red shirt, a
ranchman's ex-trousers, a pair of tattered moccasins and a much-dented
derby hat, with a lone feather in the band of it. It was White Man's
Hat, a half-breed interpreter.

As he approached, cringing and bowing, Pauline noted that a
penetrating, not unkindly eye gleamed from under his bushy brow,
scrutinizing her in flashes between his obeisances. Unlike the other
Indians, he was not afraid to look the Great White Queen in the face,
as he solemnly repeated the last words of Red Snake:

"According to the prophecy, you have come from the heart of the world
to lead us against those who steal our land."

Pauline stood for a moment in complete bewilderment. Then, as the
meaning of the words, with the meaning of the strange gathering,
flashed upon her mind, she took a step forward, speaking in earnest
protest.

But she spoke only to the Chief, for the Indians had broken all
restraint and were crushing their way out of the teepee, with cries and
brandishing of weapons. They swept the little interpreter with them.
And Red Snake saw in Pauline's look and tone of appeal only the
pleading of a wronged goddess for vengeance upon her enemies. He
called the women of his household, who shyly led the Queen away.

Darkness had fallen as the women glided ahead of her to a spot outside
the main village, where a spacious teepee had been erected apart. Only
a peaceful moon and a firmament glittering with stars lighted their
path. But from the town behind came terrifying yells, the rattle of
tom-toms and occasionally a rifle shot as the braves prepared their
spirits for the test of battle. Pauline found her new home filled with
all the luxuries and sacred relics of the tribe. There were rugs
richer than those in the Chief's house; the walls were festooned with
strung beads, and on the large, low couch of bear skins lay the most
splendid of Indian raiment.

The women, with better understanding than men of the earthly needs of
immortals, made her lie down, while they bathed her aching temples and
wounded hands, replaced her torn garments with a gorgeous blanket robe
and smoothed her flying tresses into long comfortable braids. Other
women came bringing food. And there was a pipe and a pouch of agency
tobacco with which the goddess might soothe the hours before repose.

Pauline ate eagerly while the women looked oil in silent approval.
When she had finished, she arose smiling and signed to them that she
would rest. They left softly, and neither the exciting recollections
of the day's adventures nor the tumult of the braves outside could hold
her for a moment longer from the blessedness of sleep.

She slept far into the next morning. But so did the village, for the
Indians had reveled to exhaustion. It was nearly noon before she
attired herself in a fringed and beaded dress of buckskin, with
leggings and exquisite little moccasins and laughingly permitted one of
the women attendants to place a painted war feather in her hair. Thus
clad and with her wide braids falling, she sat regally to receive the
morning call of Red Snake. She was beginning to take a tremulous
pleasure in the game of being an immortal. Pauline's questing spirit
was too happy in adventure not to find a thrill in being thus
translated from hungering captive to reigning queen, from queen to
angel.

Red Snake's call was formal and politely brief. He brought with him
the amusing interpreter to inquire if the Spirit had found comfort in
the hospitality of his people, and more particularly if the war dance
of the preceding night had given her satisfaction.

Pauline replied, with gracious solemnity, that her Spirit had found
good repose and had been comforted by the pleasant music.

"And when will the White Queen lead us against our enemies - the men
of her own color, but not of her kind?" inquired the Chief with
child-like eagerness.

Pauline hesitated an instant after the interpreter repeated the
question. Then, recovering herself, she answered gravely:

"Today, Red Snake, the Queen rests from her long journey out of the
Happy Hunting Ground. Tomorrow also. Upon the next day, perhaps, she
will lead the warriors."

The little interpreter's keen eyes flashed understandingly as he left
out the word "perhaps" in repeating her answer.

Red Snake was elated. He made profound salutations, promised that the
war party would do her honor, and hastened away to announce the news.

The interpreter lingered, pretending to smooth the door rug. He looked
up suddenly and his eyes met Pauline's with an expression of friendly
interest. Instinctively she accepted the tacitly offered friendship.

"You are a white man - you speak English," she said.

"Part white - part red. You speak all white," he added
significantly.

"Of course," she whispered, stepping to his side. "I am not a Queen -
not a Spirit. I do not know why they believe I am. But I must get
away - to Rockvale, to Mr. Haines's ranch, to the white people
anywhere. You will help me?"

He looked at her pityingly now. He had believed that she was an
accomplice of the medicine man in a shrewd fraud, and he had merely
wanted to share the joke, risky as it was. To find her an accidental
and unwilling monarch struck him dumb.

"That is very hard," he said slowly. "Look!"

He parted the folds of the teepee door curtain so that she looked out
toward the village. Three women sat next the door and beyond were
groups of braves, still in their war paint, some conversing, some
stalwart and still. They seemed to be doing nothing in particular.

"Well?" questioned Pauline.

He led her across the teepee to a narrow slit in the rear curtain.
Through this she peered as she had peered through the door and saw
exactly what she had seen though the door - women crouching at their
tasks in the near foreground, an armed circle of warriors beyond.
Now she understood.

"I am a prisoner then?"

"They will guard you night and day."

"Why?"

"It was prophesied that a Great White Queen would come to lead them to
battle. You have come, as the prophet said, and you have promised to
lead them to battle. Above all, be proud, and not afraid."

The ioterpreter hesitated a moment.

"There was another White Queen whose coming was prophesied many
hundreds of years ago," he said. "She came. She led the Indians
victory over other Indians and then she vanished in the strangest way.
I would tell you of it - but I am afraid. They say her spirit is
always near. Some day you may know how she vanished."

Before she could speak again, he had glided out of the teepee.

While Pauline was away Harry had planned to accomplish mighty labors.
With masculine fatuity he let himself believe - before she went away
- that a man can get more work done with his goddess afar than when
Cupid has a desk in his office.

It did not take more than thirty-six hours to turn separation into
bereavement; not more than forty-eight to turn his "freedom for work"
into slavery to the fidgets. The office, instead of a refuge, became
a prison to him. However, he made a pretense of sticking to the grind,
and it was not until the Thursday on which his chartings showed Pauline
would arrive at Rockvale that he actually quit and went home.

He slipped into the library to be alone. It was more restful here. As
he sat in the great leather chair and unfolded a newspaper, the
portrait of Pauline smiled brightly down at him in seeming
camaraderie. At his side stood the Mummy so intimately associated with
her and his dead father's strange vision from the tomb.

Harry began to read, but he was still nervous to the point of
excitement, and his thoughts wandered from the words. He was suddenly
conscious of another presence in the room. He let the paper fall and
gazed intently at the portrait.

But a moment later, Harry Marvin sprang excitedly from the chair and
fairly leaped towards the picture. From somewhere out of the dim air
of the library a hand had reached and touched his. It had touched his
shoulder and then, with a commanding finger, had pointed upward at the
picture on the wall.

"The Mummy! It has warned again," gasped Harry. "Polly, Polly!" he
cried to the portrait, "I'm coming. Just hold on."

He strode bark to the table and pressed a bell.

"Tell Reynolds to pack me up, Bemis," he charged the astonished
butler. "Tell him it's for Montana in a rush. Have a machine ready
for me in fifteen minutes."

Even Bemis's constitutional aversion to haste was overridden. He sped
into the hall, calling to the valet, as Harry picked up a telephone.

"Hello, this is H. B. Marvin. I want our private car attached to the
Chicago flyer," he said. "No matter if it holds up the flyer, I'll
have President Grigsby's authorization in your hands in five minutes.
Thank you. Goodbye."

As he reached the door of the machine, a messenger boy turned up the
steps. Harry called to him, took the telegram and read Mrs. Haines'
message: "Pauline kidnapped; come at once."

With a muffled ejaculation, he dropped the slip of paper and sprang
into the car, which in ten minutes pulled up to the station just as the
disgruntled, but curious trainmen were coupling the luxurious Marvinia
to the eighteen-hour express.

Owen coming quietly down the steps of the Marvin house, picked up the
telegram which Harry had let fall. Reading it, he smiled, and he was
still smiling when another messenger boy followed him to the door.
Owen took the second message and the smile broadened into an ugly grin
as he read:

"Raymond Owen Fifth avenue, New York. All's well.
Hicks."

Five days after the disappearance of Pauline, the express stopped again
at Rockvale station. As Harry swung from the rear step to the dingy
platform, there were many curious eyes to observe his arrival, but the
watchers were mostly women and children. The men of Rockvale were
still out on the long hunt for Pauline.

Harry hurried first to the station telephone. Sikes had got Mrs.
Haines on the wire as soon as the smoke of the express had been sighted
ten miles away. But all she could tell Harry was that there was
nothing to tell. His lips were set in a hard line as he hung up the
receiver. He asked a few hasty questions of Sikes, hurried across to
the little hotel, paid for a room and hired a horse. Blankets and
provisions strapped behind, he was out and away up the road to the
mountains within an hour.

And while he urged his sturdy little mount to better speed on his
uncharted journey, Pauline, not twenty miles away, was preparing for
the last journey she might ever make.

The blow had fallen. Her royal place, her immortal power had
vanished.

The Indians had permitted one postponement of the day of battle. She
had said that the Spirits had spoken to her and warned against
bloodshed upon that day. It should be the second day thereafter the
Spirits had said. The Indians were disappointed, but they bowed to the
edict.

The morrow passed quietly, but on the next day - the fifth of her
royal captivity - she was summoned from her house by the assembled
chiefs in battle paint and feathers. She tried to whisper through the
doorway that the Spirits had forbidden again, but Red Snake answered:

"You are greater than all other Spirits; you will lead us today!"

"Tell them," said Pauline to the interpreter, "that the White Queen
does not lead today!"

Red Snake, his face black with anger, after haranguing the chiefs,
turned to Pauline:

"Daughter of the Earth - twice our warriors have been ready for battle
and you would not lead them. Today you must go before the Oracle and
prove your immortality. The Oracle will tell."

The warriors departed; only the little interpreter remained.

"What does it mean?" cried Pauline.

"It is the race with the Great Death Stone," he answered, and his own
voice trembled. "But," he whispered, "I will ride. I will try to find
help. Wait."

He slipped under the back of the teepee. Unseen by the excited
Indians, he made his way to the line of ponies, with lariats and rifles
swung from their saddles. He picked one and, mounting, rode slowly out
of the village, speaking here and there to the braves he met.

Pauline, left alone, fell upon her knees and prayed.

Harry met Haines and two of his posse on the road to the mountains.

They were on their way back to a general rendezvous ordered by the
Sheriff, but Harry continued on his way up the mountain.

Mile after mile the little mustang put behind him while the sun was
still high. On the slope of a hill they came to a crossroads, and
Harry, riding almost blindly, reined to the right.

The pony swerved wildly to the left.

Instinctively Harry gave the frightened horse its head.

A half mile farther on the animal stopped and sniffed the wind. At the
same instant Harry heard a feeble shout from the road. A weirdly
garbed little half breed lay on the ground holding the bridle of the
horse that had thrown him.

"Ankle gone," he explained. "Riding for help, I help was. You ride
now. White girl - they're killing her up there now."

"White girl? Where? Talk fast, man."

"Two miles over the mountain and down to the valley straight ahead.
You go to the bottom of the valley, not to the top - not where the
Indians are. Climb tree; take my rope; it's the only chance now."

Harry caught the coiled lariat from the other's saddle and rode as he
had never ridden before. All was vague in his mind, except that
Pauline was near, was in peril, and he must reach her.

How, by road and trail, he ever reached the Valley of the Death Stone
Harry never knew. Perhaps chance, perhaps some invisible courier
guided him to the lonely spot. After long, hard riding he was
attracted by the low rumble of many voices lifted in a sort of chant.
Following the voices, he came to the foot of a steep cliff side where a
long trench, partly of natural formation, partly hewn from the stone,
made a chute or runway from mountain top to valley.

At the upper end of the runway a motley band of Indians were engaged in
some weird worship. Harry started his horse up the steep in the
shelter of the woods. When he came to a spot where a huge tree limb
crossed the runway, he remembered the little half breed's words, "Climb
the tree; it is the only chance."

Almost at the same instant from the midst of the Indian group emerged
two giant braves carrying a white woman between them. They placed her
in the runway. Her golden hair, unbound, floated on the wind.

Harry choked back a cry, threw aside his rifle, caught the lariat, and,
swinging up the tree, crawled swiftly out on the overhanging limb.
Concealed by the foliage he waited.

A rifle cracked, and, for the first time, he saw that at the top of the
runway, behind Pauline, the stood a mighty boulder, almost perfectly
round, the diameter of which - about five feet - fitted the trench so
well that it could roll in it like a ball in a bowling gutter.

None even among the Indians knew how many times the Stone of Death had
rolled and been dragged back again to the top of the cliff. The stains
upon it were unnumbered. Up on its surface was written in blood the
doom of the false prophets and pretending immortals. None had ever won
in the race with the Death Stone.

The crack of the rifle was the signal for a group of red men to press
behind the stone to free it on its fearful course. It was also the
signal for Pauline to run. Her hair streamed wildly in the wind as she
sped, like a frightened deer, down the deadly path.

The rifle sounded again and the Indians heaved the stone into the
trench.

It rumbled as it came on. It gained upon the fleeing girl. They had
planned to prolong the torture by giving her a hopeless lead.

Dancing, gesticulating, shouting, the Indians watched the race. Only
one watcher was silent and motionless. Hidden by the leaves he braced
himself upon the tree limb. For the first moments after the rock was
released he had turned sick and dizzy. Now, as they came near - the
thing relentless but inanimate pursuing the thing helpless, beautiful
and most precious to him of all things in the world, not the quiver of
a muscle hindered the desperate task that he had set himself.

A moment later he was sobbing like a child as he half dragged, half
carried Pauline to his waiting horse. By the magic of luck, by the
mystery of a protecting Fate, the lariat noose had fallen about her
shoulders. To the amazed and terrified Indians up the cliff she had
soared suddenly, spirit-like, out of the trench and vanished in the
foliage of the tree, while the boulder thundered on, cheated of its
prey.

But swiftly out of the woods upon the open plain below appeared a rider
with a woman clasped before him on the saddle.

The baffled Indians scurried for their horses. They reached the
valley. They gained upon the burdened horseman and his tired horse.
They fired as they rode, the bullets spitting venomously in the dust
around Harry and Pauline.

The pony stumbled. Harry jerked it up and it struggled bravely on, but
the cries behind sounded louder.

The bullets hit nearer.

Suddenly the firing increased. There were more cries. And Harry,
reining the pony saw, galloping over the ridge to the westward, the
full posse of Hal Haines. They fired as they came. They cut between
him and the Indians. He stopped the pony and lifted Pauline to the
ground.

"My precious one, God bless you and forgive us all," sobbed Mrs. Haines
as Polly was caught in her mothering embrace. "And you - you had to
come all the way from New York to save her," she added, turning to
Harry.

"Don't say anything about it, Mrs. Haines," he said in a stage
whisper. "I came out here to rest and avoid publicity."






CHAPTER XVI

SOPHIE MCALLAN'S WEDDING

A few days after their return from Montana Pauline sat reading by the
library window. They had come late to the country this Summer and the
park of Castle Marvin had had time to leave and bloom into utter
splendor. It was like a flowery kingdom in the Land of Faery, and as
her eyes were lifted listlessly now and then from the printed page,
they roamed over the garden which lay like some vast and radiant
Oriental rug in Nature's palace hall. The distant forest was the
palace wall, tapestried in green; its dome, a sky of tender blue; its
lamp, the morning sun; its Prince, her Harry standing in the garden.

"He should always stand in the garden," thought Pauline tenderly. "The
flowers are such a splendid foil for him."

She shut her eyes in sheer satiety of beauty. Not even the shabby man
mopping his hot forehead as he came along the road, marred the
picture. She was a little surprised to see him, a moment later,
talking in an easy way with Harry but there was no false pride in her
lover - brother and all men were his friends until they proved
themselves his enemies. All except Owen.

The shabby man, holding his hat between his nervous hands, was
evidently an applicant for work. Harry pointed to the flower beds and
the rose trees with a nod of inquiry. The man assented vaguely. And
they came on up the path together, making their way towards the
servants' quarters over the garage. Harry paused at the window:

"I have hired a new gardener, who does not know his own name," he said
as they passed on.


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Online LibraryCharles GoddardThe Perils of Pauline → online text (page 12 of 18)