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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls In The Saddle - Chapter 25. Innocent
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The Outdoor Girls In The Saddle - Chapter 25. Innocent Post by :tuanor Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1983

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The Outdoor Girls In The Saddle - Chapter 25. Innocent


"That was good, Allen," said Mr. Nelson appreciatively, as the young fellow rejoined the group. "You've licked him in fine shape."

"And we want to thank you for the way you have handled things for us, Allen," added Mrs. Nelson, warmly. "We might have got into all sorts of trouble if it hadn't been for you."

The young lawyer was tremendously embarrassed by this praise, though Betty was aglow with it. It was splendid to have her family so fond of Allen.

The latter noticed her silence, and under cover of the general conversation commented upon it.

"How feels the millionairess this morning?" he asked lightly, though Betty felt that there was a deeper meaning hidden behind the words.

"I'm feeling splendid," she answered, her voice vibrating with the joy of living. "Who wouldn't be--with all this?" and she waved her hand over the bustling scene.

In spite of the excitement of all these wonderful happenings, the girls, especially Betty, had thought almost constantly of the poor musician whom his neighbors called the Hermit of Gold Run.

He never came down to help Dan Higgins and Meggy any more, probably, Grace said, scared off by the bustle and confusion of the new gold boom. Meggy had mentioned casually once or twice that she still took food to the desperate man.

"If he only doesn't give himself up to the authorities before we get news from the East!" Betty, worried, exclaimed over and over again.

Then one day, along with the other letters in the mail, there arrived an important looking document from New York addressed to Allen.

The latter was out at the gold diggings at the time, and the girls fairly lassoed him, bringing him home protesting but helpless.

"I say, what's the row?" he demanded, and for answer Mollie thrust the important missive into his hand.

"Read!" she commanded dramatically. "And tell us what lies within."

Allen tore the envelope open and read the letter hastily through while the girls crowded around him and tried to read over his shoulder.

Then he jumped to his feet and waved the paper at them excitedly.

"By Jove!" he cried, "this proves that Betty was right. The man didn't kill his brother--simply injured him. He was taken to the hospital and he recovered long since. The manager says he has been trying to locate Paul Loup for weeks. He is losing a fortune every day----"

But Betty could wait no longer. She snatched the letter from him and read it through aloud while the girls gaped at her.

"Come on," she cried, reaching for her sailor hat and pushing it down on her shapely little head. "Don't stand there like wooden Indians. We've got to take this news to Paul Loup."

Bent on their joyful mission, the girls approached the lonely little cabin in the woods swiftly. As they came near they heard again that same hauntingly sweet melody that had so moved them the first time they had heard it.

Yet now that they understood the pain that prompted the rendering of that exquisite harmony, it seemed too bitterly sad to be beautiful, and their hearts ached dully in sympathy with Paul Loup's despair.

Tears were in Betty's eyes, but there was a smile on her lips, as she pushed open the door of the little shack and stood waiting on the threshold.

The musician saw her, ended the throbbing melody with a crash of discord, and gazed at her mutely. In all his tall, gaunt body only his glowing eyes seemed really alive, but in those eyes there was a welcome that gave Betty courage.

"Look!" she cried, holding out the paper to him. "This is from your manager. Read it--and see that you are innocent."

Slowly the man laid down his violin and bow, slowly he took the paper from Betty's trembling fingers. Like a man in a daze he read it through--then read it through again.

"I did not kill him--my brother," he murmured aloud. "My brother--that I love--I did not kill him. He is alive--he is well. _Mon Dieu_, then I am free! Paul Loup--he is not a murderer--a hunted thing. He is again the artist--free--_free_----" His voice, which had been gradually rising as the truth bore in upon him, rose to a jubilant shout and he threw out his arms passionately as though to encompass them all in his newly found love of life. "The world----" he said brokenly, "the world is very beautiful!"

* * * * *

Silently the girls rode through the sunshine and shadow-filled forest, their hearts filled with a happiness so poignant it seemed almost pain.

"What a wonderful, wonderful summer!" breathed Mollie. "I don't believe we have ever had one like it, girls."

"I wish we didn't have to go home," sighed Amy. "I shall miss my beautiful Lady so," and she laid a loving hand on the little animal's arching neck.

"What about me?" wailed Grace. "I know I shall cry myself to sleep, longing for Nabob. He's one of the best chums I ever had."

But the Little Captain did not hear them. Over and over again, like an echo, her mind was repeating those words of Paul Loup: "The world is very beautiful."

"Girls," she murmured dreamily, "everybody is so happy--and I'm so happy--oh, please, don't wake me up--anybody!"

And so, at the end of a wonderful outing, with life stretching gloriously before them, we will once more sadly, reluctantly, wave farewell to the Outdoor Girls.

Laura Lee Hope's Novel: Outdoor Girls in the Saddle

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