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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Valley Of Silent Men: A Story Of The Three River Country - Chapter 15
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The Valley Of Silent Men: A Story Of The Three River Country - Chapter 15 Post by :codebluenj Category :Long Stories Author :James Oliver Curwood Date :May 2012 Read :1629

Click below to download : The Valley Of Silent Men: A Story Of The Three River Country - Chapter 15 (Format : PDF)

The Valley Of Silent Men: A Story Of The Three River Country - Chapter 15

CHAPTER XV

For a space he stood where she had left him, staring at the door through which she had gone. The nearness of her in those last few seconds of her presence, the caressing touch of her hands, what he had seen in her eyes, her promise to kiss him if he did not reveal himself--these things, and the thought of the splendid courage that must be inspiring her to face Kedsty now, made him blind even to the door and the wall at which he was apparently looking. He saw only her face, as he had seen it in that last moment--her eyes, the tremble of her lips, and the fear which she had not quite hidden from him. She was afraid of Kedsty. He was sure of it. For she had not smiled; there was no flicker of humor in her eyes, when she called him Jeems, an intimate use of the names Jim and James in the far North. It was not facetiously that she had promised to kiss him. An almost tragic seriousness had possessed her. And it was that seriousness that thrilled him--that, and the amazing frankness with which she had coupled the name Jeems with the promise of her lips. Once before she had called him Jeems. But it was M'sieu Jeems then, and there had been a bit of taunting laughter in her voice. Jim or James meant nothing, but Jeems--He had heard mothers call little children that, in moments of endearment. He knew that wives and sweethearts used it in that same way. For Jim and James were not uncommon names up and down the Three Rivers, even among the half-breeds and French, and Jeems was the closer and more intimate thing bred of it.

His heart was thumping riotously as he went to the door and listened. A little while ago, when she faced him with flashing eyes, commanding him not to question her, he had felt an abyss under his feet. Now he was on a mountain. And he knew that no matter what he heard, unless it was her cry for help, he would not go down.

After a little he opened the door a mere crack so that sound might come to him. She had not forbidden that. Through the crack he could see a dim glow of light in the lower hall. But he heard no sound, and it occurred to him that old Mooie could still run swiftly, and that it might be some time before Kedsty would arrive.

As he waited, he looked about the room. His first impression was that Marette must have lived in it for a long time. It was a woman's room, without the newness of sudden and unpremeditated occupancy. He knew that formerly it had been Kedsty's room, but nothing of Kedsty remained in it now. And then, as his wondering eyes beheld the miracle, a number of things struck him with amazing significance. He no longer doubted that Marette Radisson was of the far Northland. His faith in that was absolute. If there had been a last question in his mind, it was wiped away because she called him Jeems. Yet this room seemed to give the lie to his faith. Fascinated by his discovery of things, he drew away from the door and stood over the dressing-table in front of the mirror.

Marette had not prepared the room for him, and her possessions were there. It did not strike him as sacrilege to look at them, the many intimate little things that are mysteriously used in the process of a lady's toilette. It was their number and variety that astounded him. He might have expected them in the boudoir of the Governor General's daughter at Ottawa, but not here--and much less farther north. What he saw was of exquisite material and workmanship. And then, as if attracted by a magnet, his eyes were drawn to something else. It was a row of shoes neatly and carefully arranged on the floor at one side of the dressing-table.

He stared at them, astounded. Never had he seen such an array of feminine footwear intended for the same pair of feet. And it was not Northern footwear. Every individual little beauty in that amazing row stood on a high heel! Their variety was something to which he had long been a stranger. There were buttoned boots, laced boots, brown boots, black boots, and white boots, with dangerously high and fragile looking heels; there were dainty little white kid slippers, slippers with bows, slippers with cut steel buckles, and slippers with dainty ribbon ties; there were high-heeled oxfords and high-heeled patent leather pumps! He gasped. He reached over, moved by an automatic sort of impulse, and took a satiny little pump in his hand.

The size of it gave him a decidedly pleasant mental shock, and, beginning to feel like one prying into a sleeper's secrets, he looked inside it. The size was there--number three. And it had come from Favre's in Montreal! One after another he looked inside half a dozen others. And all of them had come from Favre's in Montreal. The little shoes, more than all else that he had seen or that had happened, sent a question pounding through his brain. Who was Marette Radisson?

And that question was followed by other questions, until they tumbled over one another in his head. If she was from Montreal, why was she going north? If she belonged in the North, if she was a part of it, why was she taking all of this apparently worthless footwear with her? Why had she come to Athabasca Landing? What was she to Kedsty? Why was she hiding under his roof? Why--

He stopped himself, trying to find some one answer in all that chaos of questions. It was impossible for him to take his eyes from the shoes. A thought seized him. Ludicrously he dropped upon his knees in front of the row and with a face growing hotter each moment examined them all. But he wanted to know. And the discovery he made was that most of the footwear had been worn, some of it so slightly, however, that the impression of the foot was barely visible.

He rose to his feet and continued his inquiry. Of course she had expected him to look about. One couldn't help seeing, unless one were blind. He would have cut off a hand before opening one of the dressing-table drawers. But Marette herself had told him to hide behind the curtains if it became necessary, and it was an excusable caution for him to look behind those curtains now, to see what sort of hiding-place he had. He returned to the door first and listened. There was still no sound from below. Then he drew the curtains apart, as Marette had drawn them. Only he looked longer. He would tell her about it when she returned, if the act needed an apology.

His impression was a man's impression. What he saw was a billowing, filmy mass of soft stuff, and out of it there greeted him the faintest possible scent of lilac sachet powder. He closed the curtains with a deep breath of utter joy and of consternation. The two emotions were a jumble to him. The shoes, all that mass of soft stuff behind the curtains, were exquisitely feminine. The breath of perfume had come to him straight out of a woman's soul. There were seduction and witchery to it. He saw Marette, an enrapturing vision of loveliness, floating before his eyes in that sacred and mysterious vestment of which he had stolen a half- frightened glimpse. In white--the white, cobwebby thing of laces and embroidery that had hung straight before his eyes--in white-- with her glorious black hair, her violet eyes, her--

And then it was that the incongruity of the thing, the almost sheer impossibility of it, clashed in upon his vision. Yet his faith was not shaken. Marette Radisson was of the North. He could not disbelieve that, even in the face of these amazing things that confronted him.

Suddenly he heard a sound that was like the explosion of a gun under his feet. It was the opening and closing of the hall door-- but mostly the closing. The slam of it shook the house and rattled the glass in the windows. Kedsty had returned, and he was in a rage. Kent extinguished the light so that the room was in darkness. Then he went to the door. He could hear the quick, heavy tread of Kedsty's feet After that came the closing of a second door, followed by the rumble of Kedsty's voice. Kent was disappointed.

The Inspector of Police and Marette were in a room too far distant for him to distinguish what was said. But he knew that Kedsty had returned to barracks and had discovered what had happened there. After an interval his voice was a steady rumble. It rose higher. He heard the crash of a chair. Then the voice ceased, and after it came the tramping of Kedsty's feet. Not once did he catch the sound of Marette's voice, but he was sure that in the interval of silence she was talking. Then Kedsty's voice broke forth more furiously than before. Kent's fingers dug into the sill of the door. Each moment added to his conviction that Marette was in danger. It was not physical violence he feared. He did not believe Kedsty capable of perpetrating that upon a woman. It was fear that he would take her to barracks. The fact that Marette had told him there was a powerful reason why Kedsty would not do this failed to assure him. For she had also told him that Kedsty would kill her, if he dared. He held himself in readiness. At a cry from her, or the first move on Kedsty's part to take her from the bungalow, he would give battle in spite of Marette's warning.

He almost hoped one of these two things would happen. As he stood there, listening, waiting, the thought became almost a prayer. He had Pelly's revolver. Within twenty seconds he could have Kedsty looking down the barrel of it. The night was ideal for escape. Within half an hour they would be on the river. They could even load up with provisions from Kedsty's place. He opened the door a little more, scarcely making an effort to combat the impulse that dragged him out. Marette must be in danger, or she would not have confessed to him that she was in the house of a man who would like to see her dead. Why she was there did not interest him deeply now. It was the fact of the moment that was moving him swiftly toward action.

The door below opened again, and Kent's body grew rigid. He heard Kedsty charging through the lower hall like a mad bull. The outer door opened, slammed shut, and he was gone.

Kent drew back into the darkness of his room. It was some moments before he heard Marette coming slowly up the stairs. She seemed to be groping her way, though there was a dim illumination out there. Then she came through the door into the blackness of her room.

"Jeems," she whispered.

He went to her. Her hands reached out, and again they rested on his arms.

"You--you didn't come down the stair?"

"No."

"You--didn't hear?"

"I heard no words. Only Kedsty's voice."

It seemed to him that her voice, when she spoke again, trembled with an immeasurable relief. "You were good, Jeems. I am glad."

In that darkness he could not see. Yet something reached into him, thrilling him, quickening his pulse with a thing to which his eyes were blind. He bent down. He found her lips upturned, offering him the sweetness of the kiss which was to be his reward; and as he felt their warmth upon his own, he felt also the slightest pressure of her hands upon his arms.

"He is gone. We will light the lamp again," she said then.

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CHAPTER XVIKent stood still while Marette moved in that gloom, found matches, and lighted the lamp. He had not spoken a word after the kiss. He had not taken advantage of it. The gentle pressure of her hands had restrained him from taking her in his arms. But the kiss itself fired him with a wild and glorious thrill that was like a vibrant music to which every atom of life in his body responded. If he claimed his reward at all, he had expected her kiss to be perhaps indifferent, at least neutral. But the lips she had given him
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CHAPTER XIVThe 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
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