The Sealed Valley
"NEW RIVERS OF THE NORTH," "TWO ON THE
TRAIL," "JACK CHANTY," ETC.
Illustrated by W. Sherman Potts
GROSSET & DUNLAP
Copyright, 1914, by
THE FRANK A. MUNSEY COMPANY
Copyright, 1914, by
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
All rights reserved, including that of
translation into foreign languages,
including the Scandinavian
M. R. W.
II. On Board the "Tewksbury"
III. On the Little River
IV. The Day of Days
V. The Rice River
VI. Blind Man's Buff
VII. Bowl of the Mountains
VIII. In the Valley
IX. Nahnya's Story
XI. The Departure from the Valley
XII. The Object Lesson
XIV. The Journey in Again
XV. The Stanley Rapids
XVI. The Two Girls
XVII. The Granted Prayer
XVIII. The Triangle
XIX. New Actors on the Scene
XX. The Secret Escapes
XXI. The Return to the Valley
XXIII. The Last Scene
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"She turned a quick face at the sound of theirfootsteps" . . . Frontispiece (missing from source book)
THE SEALED VALLEY
One of the fairest paintings of Nature was atthat point among the mountains of theCanadian province of Cariboo where the CampbellRiver takes the Boardman to its bosom and swings southon its pilgrimage to the Pacific. Like all of Nature'smore dramatic compositions, by reason of its veryeffectiveness, it was predestined to be smudged by a town,and the collection of shacks and tents known as FortEdward was already begun. It was conceded that FortEdward was bound to be a great city when the newtranscontinental passed through. To be sure, railheadwas still beyond the mountains, a matter of two or threeyears' construction, but the noise of the town'sgreatness-to-be had been industriously drummed up byreal-estate operators outside, and many optimists hadstruggled up the three hundred miles of the Campbell Valleyfrom the existing railway to be on hand in plenty oftime.
On a day in June of the year when the "rush" began,the settlement looked sodden and raw after much rain.The two prevailing styles of dwellings were wet "A"tents with projecting, rusty stovepipes and new pineshacks of a crass yellow, having roofs of tar paper studdedwith tin-headed tacks as big as half dollars. A singletwo-story building loomed up in the middle like apacking-case among soap-boxes. This was the Fort EdwardHotel, better known as Maroney's. The other habitationsreached out on either hand in an irregular double row.
The space within the double row was going to be "themain artery of traffic" some day, but where theoptimists (and the real-estate operators) fondly foresawautomobiles and trolley cars rolling up and down, atpresent there was nothing but a parade of jaggedstumps among which muddy paths threaded theirdevious ways. Below the hotel a tiny stern-wheeler ofquaint, lubberly design lay with her nose tucked in themud of the river bank. At eleven in the morning therewere few humans in sight, because the black flies werein murderous fettle, and anyway, the principal industryof the place was—waiting for the railway.
One had only to raise one's eyes to receive a quitedifferent impression of the scene. Where man's worklooked sodden, Nature's was deliciously refreshed. Theworld wore that honest look it shows after rain beforethe sun comes out, that calm openness under the purelight that casts no shadows. The pine-clad mountainsloomed near and clean and dark. The cloud wrackpressed down close upon their heads, giving the valleythe confined and intimate look of a room. There werealready rents in the ceiling, revealing a tender blueback-cloth. The air was as sweet in the nostrils asspring water in a parched throat.
Farthest from the hotel on the Campbell River sidewas a shack more of the dimensions of a chicken housethan a residence for humans. Beside the door wasnailed a little sign obviously painted by an unprofessionalhand, reading, "Ralph Cowdray, M.D." Within,in the first of the two closets the shack comprised, satthe doctor and his friend Dan Reach, the telegraphoperator, the first with his heels cocked on the packing-casethat served him for a desk, the other with his lowerextremities supported by the window-sill. From eachascended a column of smoke. The only other furnitureof the room was a little stand of pine shelves in thecorner bearing the doctor's slender library andpharmaceutical stock, books and bottles as new as the doctor'soffice and the doctor himself.
The two men mustered forty-nine years between them,with the odd year on the telegrapher's side. The doctorwas a youth of middle height with a strong, well-knitframe, and a comely head broadest over the ears, with aluxuriant thatch of dark brown. His face was stronglymoulded, almost too heavy in its lines for his years, butoddly redeemed by a pair of dreamy brown eyes. Therewas an interesting contradiction here: nose, mouth,chin, suggested a commendable hardihood, an honestobstinacy, while the eyes seemed to see through andbeyond what they were turned on. Like all resoluteyoung men, Ralph regarded the softer side of hischaracter as a weakness and hid it close. Like other youngmen again, he paid his way through the world with thesmall change of a facetious manner, which reducesthem all to a common, comfortable level.
Ralph and Dan killed time with endless, jocularquarrelling. Their dependence on each other's societyin this dull little settlement had brought about anunusual degree of intimacy in a few weeks. In otherwords, they were almost honest with each other. Atpresent Ralph's facetious manner only half concealeda very real grievance against life.
"Romance is extinct, like the dodo," he announced.
Dan was a tall, lean young man, inclining to thesaturnine type. "That requires examination," he saidjudicially. "First, define Romance."
"Romance," said Ralph, throwing back his head andpuffing a tall column of smoke toward the ceiling—thedreaminess of his eyes had full sway at thatmoment—"Romance is every man's unrealized desire."
"You contradict yourself," said Dan with provokingexactness. "How can a thing be dead which was neverrealized?"
The question was awkward, so Ralph serenely ignoredit. "Ever since I went into long trousers I've beenlooking for it," he went on lightly. "Nothing doing!"
"Maybe that's the trouble," suggested Dan; "maybeRomance begins at home."
"Did you ever find it?" challenged Ralph.
"Never looked," returned Dan calmly.
"Oh, you've no imagination!"
Dan chuckled. "According to that, Romance is onlyimaginary, then. Got you again, Doc!"
Naturally these discussions never arrived anywhere.When one was stumped for an answer he hit out on anew line. The thing was to keep the ball in play by anydevice until the next meal created a diversion.
"I thought college would be romantic," Ralph wenton. "I had fun of course, bully fun, but just theordinary college fun. There were girls, plenty of 'em,dear little things! transparent as window-glass. Gad! aman longs to meet a woman who can fascinate him,and stir him to the bottom, and keep him guessing!"
"Well, let me see what we've got in Fort Edward," saidDan. "To begin with, there's Biddy Maroney——"
"Cut it out!" cried Ralph. "Fatal to thoughts ofRomance! After college there was the medical schooland the hospitals," he went on. "They knocked thespots out of Romance. Say, a city doctor loses faithin his fellowmen. I decided I'd hang out my shingle inthe woods, and I came up here because it was thebeyondest place I could hear of."
"Thinking you'd surely find Romance somewhereback of beyond," suggested Dan.
"Sure! The noble red man, you understand; theglittering-eyed prospector lusting for gold; the sturdypioneer hewing a home for his brood in thewilderness—and all that! Well, here I am, and what is it?—avillage of poor suckers done up brown, like myself, by thereal-estate sharks outside!"
"Striking metaphor!" murmured Dan.
"Everybody sitting on their tails expecting to be richany day by the grace of God!" Ralph went on. "AndIndians! swillers of beer-dregs! Town scavengers!Moreover, it's the healthiest place on earth, I believe.I never get a case but a scalp wound or two after a bignight at Maroney's. As for Romance, she's as faraway as ever! And I'm getting on!"
"True," said Dan, with a serious wag of the head,"you've no time to lose!"
As a matter of fact, Ralph's youthfulness was a soresubject with him, as it is with all young doctors.
He let the dig pass unnoticed. "I've almost givenup hope," he said.
There was a knock at the door.
"Here she is now," said Dan dryly.
"Come in," said Ralph indifferently.
It was a woman, but only an Indian woman dressedin a ridiculous travesty of white women's clothes.The two young men lowered their feet, and exchangeda humorous glance. After an idle look, Ralph'sregard returned to his pipe. To tell the truth, he hadfound the Indians around Fort Edward as patientsneither profitable nor grateful, and he could not beexpected to welcome a new one with any enthusiasm.Dan was the more impressed; he studied the girl with akind of wonder, and from her looked curiously at hisfriend.
"I want to see the doctor," she said, in a soft andagreeable voice.
"What can I do for you?" asked Ralph, off-hand.
She did not answer immediately, and he looked at heragain. Her eyes were bent on Dan, unmistakablyconveying a polite hint. Dan saw it and rose.
"See you at Maroney's at dinner," he said, passingout with a backward glance at his friend; teasing, alittle wondering still, and frankly envious.
"Well?" said Ralph, looking his caller over with aprofessional eye. She seemed healthy. For an Indianshe was very good-looking, but this fact reached himonly by degrees. Her clothes were deplorable: a flat redhat with a pert frill balanced crazily on her glossy hair;a curiously tortured blue satin waist; a full woollenskirt hanging on her like an ill-made bag, and cheap,new, misshapen shoes. The effect was as if some waghad draped a classic statue in a low comedy make-up.Naturally Ralph received his first impression from themake-up.
In answer to his measuring glance she said: "I notsick. I come to get you for my mot'er."
Ralph reached for his hat.
"Wait a minute," she said. "We must talk before."
"Sit down," said Ralph.
She shook her head. "I stand," she said coolly.
There was a pause while she studied him with grave,troubled eyes. "You ver' yo'ng to be a doctor," sheremarked at length.
Ralph frowned in an elderly way, and bit his lip.
"Are you a good doctor?" she