The BANSHEE BELL

A Tale of the Tête Jaune Cache

EDITH G. BAYNE October 1 1919

The BANSHEE BELL

A Tale of the Tête Jaune Cache

EDITH G. BAYNE October 1 1919

The BANSHEE BELL

A Tale of the Tête Jaune Cache

EDITH G. BAYNE

Author of “The Arch Strategist,” etc.

IT ALL seemed to happen so very simply and naturally, each little part dove-tailing with the next like the sections of a child’s puzzle, that in looking back I cannot help but conclude that the whole thing was a heaven-born scheme, a series of events that had been planned from the very beginning; and that I was but playing one of the leading parts in the drama, though scarcely of my own volition.

On that fateful Friday, then, I left Mother and Aunt Minerva quarreling about me in a perfectly well-bred manner in the motor and I hopped gaily up the steps of the day-coach and w'aved them a cheery good-bye just as the train, which we had all but missed, pulled out. Mother had prophesied a thunderstorm and a wash-out and thought the whole idea preposterous. To her a ranch was but one remove from an Indian encampment. Auntie took my part insofar as accepting the invitation went, for she and' Mother are constitutionally opposed anyway, but she thought it the height of recklessness to travel without a maid and looked distinctly shocked. Coming as she does from the effetest possible section of the East, dear Auntie has never been a mixer and the very thought of my being throwm among the hoi-polloi unattended and unprotected, jarred all her well-grounded ethics and nearly brought on one of her “spells.”

I, Lorraine Moore, aged twenty-one, high-spirited and a lover of life (but hitherto very carefully and consistently suppressed), only child of adoring parents, delicately-nurtured to the point of absurdity and utterly inexperienced in traveling alone, was off at last on my first Real Adventure. Of course I didn’t know it then but I was thrilled just the same. Possibly it was premonition! To be sure it was merely to a house-party I was bound. Natalie’s father’s ranch is only a little over three hundred miles from the city, but I’d never been up in the Pass, having only lived in the West a few years. But I’d had as much difficulty in wminging permission out of Mother—Dad, my pal, was in the East on business—as though I wished to go to Baffin’s Land. It was absurd.

I FELT almost aggressively self-reliant for possibly an hour. Then the country “got” me. I became enthralled, with a rapture that left no room for self. Beholding the grandeur about us I fairly forgot the party at times. With every mile the country grew more w'onderful. Sheer rock-walls rose on the one hand, deep gorges yawned on the other; little lakes smiled up at us between stretches of virgin forest; lacy cascades billowed down over rough rock-ledges and the roar was like surf. The hills grew into mountains and when we entered the Tete Jaune Cache, snow-capped peak upon snow-capped peak rose in endless succession on every hand and dwarfed even the dome of heaven.

The car being crowded I was sitting with a Galician family, holding the baby while its mother slept. A brisk “drummer” had breezed up to Wasyl and was trying to sell him a new kind of safety-razor, bent apparently on making this part of the world shave for democracy. I unloaded the baby on him bye-andbye and moved across the aisle to try and cheer up a wistful-eyed young girl of about my own age whom I had noticed surreptitiously weeping. She was a nice little thing, fair and with Madonna-like features, and dressed sensibly, though a trifle old-fashionedly.

“What’s the matter?” I asked after a few tentative remarks about this and that. “Are you ill?”

She shook her head but summoned a fleeting smile. “Have you come far?” I pursued.

At this she laughed, almost wildly.

“Well, if you call Nova Scotia far!” she said.

“Oh! I see. And it’s plain homesickness?”

She nodded, gulping. Bye and bye she spoke again, in a thin, listless voice.

“I came out to take one of these teacherless schools.

I wish I’d died first! I wish the train had turned a somersault into Lake Superior. I didn’t know the country was like this—so rough and wild and lonely. I'd like to die. I would so . . . Oh I know it’s grand

and magnificent and all that, but stayed I’d go mad in three days.

I was sick all across Manitoba and katchewan—I don’t know if it was sick or prairie-sick! It’s terrible, so different from home.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “I love it—not the plains but this mountainous part.

You’ll get used to it as soon as you settle down and make friends.”

CHE looked out with tear^ dimmed, unseeing eyes at the movie-like panorama of rocks and gorges and pineclothed slopes, and she shook her head.

“You’re awfully good, trying to comfort me like this, but you see I’m used to lots of company and living in a village where everybody knows everybody else and— and this loneliness terrifies me. It’s not so much the hardships, though the nice trustee who wrote me such a kind letter said I’d have to live in a shack, but it’s the lonesomeness. And I left home in such a keen spirit of adventure too!”

“But what are you going to do about it?” I put in, practically, checking a fresh outburst of tears on her part.

“I don’t know, but I can’t stay. I won’t stay,” she said stubbornly.

“You belong to the -, the leisure

class, don’t you?” she added, after a moment.

That phrase always riles me, somehow.

“What makes you say that?” I demanded resentment.

“Oh a dozen things about you.”

“I suppose you think I can’t do anything but tickle piano-keys !”

“Please don’t be angry. I only—”

“I’m not. I’m just hurt. I guess I am a parasite,” I said ruefully.

“You’re awfully pretty, I think. I’ve always loved black hair and those very deep blue eyes. And your skin is exquisite!” she said, trying to atone.

“I’m just healthy,” I broke in, deprecatingly. “And Irish !”

She began to pack up her belongings. We had passed Mount Robson some time before and were approaching the Divide. To our left the Fraser River boiled and churned and raced in its tumultuous course westward. All streams were flowing toward the Pacific now. The character of the country had grown rougher, wilder and lonelier-looking. One saw no white men at the few stops. Along the right-of-way we caught glimpses of Indian tepees through the interstices of the forest. None but moccasined feet trod these upper trails, the conductor told us.

“Is the next stop yours?” I asked the little Nova Scotian.

“Next but one. Cliff Crossing,” she sighed.

“Why that’s where I get off!” I exclaimed. “And I wish you were coming with me. I’m to visit an awfully jolly girl, Natalie Weeks of the Bar Cross Ranch. She lives about fifteen miles in and they’re such nice hospitable people—typical Westerners, you know. I hope you’ll soon meet that kind. They’ll help you to like the country.”

We exchanged names then. Hers was Margaret Smithson. For all her downheartedness there was something about her that made me envious. She made me feel like a piker, somehow. Her life stood for usefulness while mine was but a butterfly existence, benefiting no one.

YTTELL, we got off, the train scarcely stopping, it ’ " seemed to me, before it rushed away again. Miss Smithson said she was expected and that someone

would be cn hand to drive her to Blue Canyon, where her .little school was. But the only humans in sight were a squaw in a red neckerchief with a papoose strapped to her back, waiting for the train east and a Polish person in chaps who sat smoking nonchalantly in a wagon attached to a piebald and rather restive team. His English seemed limited to “Yaw,” and as 1 knew no Polish we had to get along by dint of gesturing and grimaces. Natalie had written that, if t)is trails were bad after the heavy rains they’d been having, they would send the team instead of the car, Miss Smithson, more dejected than ever, had seated he--self upon a coil of rope. She said she’d wait alone and for me to go on and not to bother about her. I wanted to stay with her until her “nice trustee” came to claim her, for I hated to leave her in her present state of mind. She looked on the verge of fainting.

I think it wasn’t until we had gotten about three or four miles on our way—the Pole and I—that I began to understand what had happened. I’d never, as I said, visited Natalie at the ranch—only at her town home—but from what I’d gathered the trail led almost due south and didn’t climb at all. The route we were taking was most circuitous. It rose and dipped and made hairpin turns and sheered away, then climbed again; and each mile was like two. It came over me finally, that I ^Ad ridden off with poor little Miss Smithson’s j«Iarn I shook the Pole by the arm in a frantic embnbai{of hget something definite out of him. I shrieked^nd I P "turn back—that I’d made a mistake. Al£ port. I He merely grinned and nodded vaguel^t with ; , , ^uring “Yaw, yaw.”

ShadVe a talk ^ tl Aunt Minerva! And the

poor ‘v® often ê"eSS ° Lft sitting on the coil of rope ! Ob. 1 W a LSC\rning ‘■'sophically—the folks from

* ’ and then ¡Ly ,aí?%„ n shortly. As for my own

«eaway. Be Harding? m ni^ht .f nec€ssa,y>the Bar Cross people hadn’t come in after all. Blue Canyon must have a few houses! And then I remembered that Miss Smithson had said it was just a scattered settlement and mostly foreigners!

If only my old-time glee in the adventurous would come to my aid now ! Why at a pinch I could act as substitute teacher! But I wasn’t exactly thrilled at such a prospect,, perhaps because I was travel-weary, chilly and almost famished. And I felt exceedingly qualmy when the intervening hills had blotted out the last rosy glow of sunset. Dusk was upon us. Faintly and from far away echoed and re-echoed a trainwhistle. I shivered. My driver was as silent as a wooden Indian. An assortment of pails, boxes and milk-cans rattled and jangled behind us. At every least pebble on the trail the wagon, none too springy, jolted my aching bones till I longed to scream out.

Several hours must have passed and we seemed to have traveled fifteen or twenty miles. In reality, as I learned later, it was only ten. I was just beginning to feel seriously disturbed about the whole absurd business and I’m afraid the tears were not far off either, when the Pole suddenly pulled up short and pointed with his whip to some spot in the upper ether.

“Blue Canyon,” he said, nodding and grinning at me.

\\TE had stopped at the base of a mighty slope, pine’ ’ clothed and rising almost sheer. On our other side the hillside dipped down to where a tiny freshet, scarcely free of its ice-bondage yet, marked a zig-zag course between huge boulders.

“Blue Canyon,” reiterated my companion two or three times, seeing I was somewhat dazed.

He seized my bag which lay at our feet.

“No can do,” he observed, apologetically, nodding up at the mountain-top again. “No can do. You gotta walk!”

I gazed upward and the immediate result was a “crick” in the neck. How did the man expect me to achieve the crest of that formidable hill? Was I to swarm up hand-over-hand?

“You gotta walk now,” repeated my jehu, patiently.

“Walk!” I cried with an hysterical laugh.

Slowly and fearfully and very stiffly, for my limbs were cramped, I descended.

I was chilly and hungry and dispirited. I was learning that early June in the mountains, especially after sunset, calls for warmer clothes than those I was wearing. I felt very small and lonely and yet, frightened—lost out here among the “everlasting hills,” and I had to admit that three years lived in the West scarcely constitutes one a bona fide Westerner. Why, I was as big a coward as Miss Smithson afted all! Would she have fainted at this stage or would sheer necessity have filled her with spunk and forced her on

and up—especially tip? And, having come thus far was I going to back down now?

Just then looking upward again what did I catch but a glimmer of light near the crest of the hill ! At first I thought it a very yellow star, a friendly star that had stepped down to hobnob with us for a space. But shortly I discovered that its form was rectangular—and whoever heard of a squai'e star! A window? And a window meant a habitation of some sort! Joy! Oh, Joy!

I pointed at this phenomenon. We had passed the last cabin about eight miles back.

“Yaw,” said my driver nodding at the light and then at me. “Yaw. You gotta walk.”

He set my bag down and backed away in unaccountable haste. I followed and paid him a dollar. The sound of his receding wagon echoed and re-echoed among the close-pressed hills about me. Then I began that climb. It was a still evening but not dark. A misty dusk filled the lower strata but above I saw a few cold stars. I puffed and panted and paused to rest and started again (changing my grip from one hand to the other) and climbed on and up so eagerly that I had no breath to spare, though I wanted to shout at whoever was up there to coma and meet me. The steep and rocky trail which my driver had indicated was fairly straight and though I stubbed my toes innumerable times I made progress and gradually arrived at the shoulder of rock beyond which the sturdy little cabin stood.

The light was an ordinary coal-oil lamp set in the window. I cheered with what breath I had left. But nobody came to the door. Here at this altitude I seemed to have entered another world, a neighborly section, for from my rock-ledge I beheld now many little twinkling points of light denoting the scattered cabins of the valley and hill dwellers. And presently, as I panted there, striving for sufficient energy for the last lap, a faint far-off roaring sound re-echoed strangely among the canyons and away off down there below me a long, glistening, golden snake cut through the velvet darkness and wound away again out of sight. After a moment came a whistle, muted by distance, and a dozen laughing echoes. The railroad couldn’t be so very far away after all! Considerably cheered by this manifestation I reached the cabin and here my town-bred instinct prompted me to rap on the door. There was no response. I knocked half-a-dozen times and could distinctly hear a slow, shuffling sound which, however, did not seem to be approaching the door. Thinking the occupant deaf I made bold to enter.

“Hello, hello,” said a voice whose owner wasn’t visible.

“Hello,” I responded weakly and, dropping my grip, I leaned against the door-jamb, peering about curiously.

“Shut the door!” squawked the voice, imperiously. I obeyed.

“Hello,” I heard again. Then: “Skin a rabbit!”

Followed a raucous, inhuman cackle which chilled my blood. Had I stumbled on a madman? Horrors! I stood, rooted to the spot, my knees quaking and my heart beating so thickly it nearly smothered me. Blindly I reached behind me for the latch of the door.

“Hell’s bells!” hissed the voice; and I thrilled in terror at the piratical laugh that ensued.

But the next instant my eyes, roaming wildly about, had discerned a cage hanging in a window recess.

“A parrot!” I cried and sank, giggling hysterically, into a chair.

Embers were glowing in the Homesteader’s joy stove. As soon as I’d come in I’d noticed the grateful warmth. I began to investigate, tentatively at first for fear the person, who had lighted the lamp and made the fire, should come suddenly in. There was an iron cot with clean bedding in one corner and a homemade bookshelf partly filled with dog-cared, miscellaneous volumes in another. A pantry made of deal boxes graced the corner by the stove and there was a wash-bench of similar origin. The windows had clean curtains and there was even a phonograph and records! I was most agreeably surprised with the atmosphere of the room and for the second time envied Miss Smithson whole-heartedly. On the walls hung fishing-rods, a small gun, a pair of snowshoes crossed and a few tasteful pictures, unframed.

A note on the rude mantel caught my eye next. It was unsealed and addressed to The Teacher. I opened it, boldly.

“You will find sufficient grubstake for a week in the pantry, and the coal-oil is in the leant». Bread is in the tin wash-bailer beh ind the table : a lantern ready to use, in beneath the bed. Keep the venison in a cool place and do not hang up outside on account of the bears. There is some wood cut for you and you will find the axe beside it. The school is just a hundred yards or so further east along the upper trail. Don’t mind the parrot. It is only her little way and she means no harm. She had an unabridged vocabulary when I got her and is a versatile bird. Her first owner, a sailor at Victoria, must have been a painstaking teacher, for she can recite passages of Scripture or snaar with equal ease and with undiminished ardor. Throw a cover over her when she becomes too loquacious.

"Am oalled away suddenly, but have lighted you a hump and left a small fire burning. If you should hear a bell ringing at any time, night or day, on no account say anything about it till I see you.

“The Retiring Schulemarm.”

TELL, 1 foraged about and within half an hour had made myself a meal of sorts. I found the wood and replenished the fire, noting that the retiring teacher had filled a pail of water from some nearby spring. It was the best drink of water I’d ever had, and I blest her for her forethought. I warmed a can of baked beans and ate bread-and-oleo with them, finishing off with some biscuits with jam between them, and then I re-read the other teacher’s note and fell to wondering about her. Some husky young woman from the country no doubt, a veritable hewer of wood and drawer of water and judging from the parrot—of spinsterish age. She had likely become fed up on the life and, good soul that she was, had tried to make my debut as pleasant as the circumstances permitted. Bears! And an axe for me to wield when the supply of wood ran out! (Had she provided me with a tub to stand in, I wondered ! ) Oh yes, and a strange bell which I must pretend I don’t hear!

Some of the children playing tricks with the school-bell, of course.

I didn't undress and go to bed.

I hadn’t courage enough. But I took off my boots and loosened my clothes and lay down.—And—the next thing I knew the glorious morning sunshine was pouring like a golden flood into the cabin and I was lying in a pool of it and the parrot was whistling for her breakfast.

This, then, was Saturday. I spent the morning unpacking my suitcase, reconnoitring and playing the phonograph. It was lonely and I wished some of the neighbors would drop in. In the afternoon I walked warily up the trail and located “my” school—a tiny building without a belfry. Still I saw no human being. The noises of the woods were full about me, chipmunks chattering, the gurgle of a mountain torrent somewhere near but invisible, a loon calling to its mate and the faint yapping of a coyote.

There was, too, an occasional dronijng, metallic sound, weird, indefinite; and this made a sort of overtone to the rest. It sounded something like a great bluebottle that has been shut in a tin pail, and it rose and fell on the brisk breeze with what became oppressive insistency. It rather got on my nerves, finally. But in the quiet of evening it stopped. I was unable to account for it. The parrot seemed uneasy too and sat hunched up on her perch, crooning and squawking plaintively.

In the night sometime it re-commenced. It must have wakened me for, though it wasn’t loud, it had an oddly penetrating quality and in this mountain-top silence it was almost uncanny in its insistency. It droned and clanked and wavered away to silence and then began once more. Now I thought it an Indian drum, then something in the Nature of a steamriveter, only that I knew the last to be impossible up here in the wilderness. It kept rousing me at intervals till nearly dawn; so at last I got up and dressed.

“Hell’s bells!” screamed Polly when I threw off her cage cover.

And I giggled. The tension was relieved. Perhaps it was the mysterious bell of the teacher’s note.

Dawn was breaking in rosy streaks over the eastern ridge. I had breakfast and tidied up the place. It was too early to look for visitors but it was Sunday, and I had dropped a fork, and optimism was born anew. Surely, oh surely, I wouldn’t have to spend another whole day alone!

As the sun rose, a dazzling ball of fire, over the highest peak of the range, I stood at my humble door, drinking in the beauty about me. A tiny path bordered by dew-drenched ferns led away to a little spring just beyond some dwarf cedars. All around the pines rose or dropped, tier on tier. Feathery wolf-willow scented the chill pure air of morning. The balsamic sweetness was like a rich wine. From the canyon rose wisps of blue mist like ephemeral smoke from altarfires. To the west one lone white star burned faintly.

I don’t suppose I’ll ever look upon a more beautiful scene. It made me jubilant and solemn by turns and a full quarter hour must have gone by while I stood entranced, and the sun’s red shafts pricked out the shimmering dew beads on the ferns.

Then—oh, unfailing augury of the fallen fork!—I caught the faint click-click of approaching hoofbeats. I was to see a human at last. Someone from the Bar Cross!

Rounding a bend in the trail, riding down upon me from the direction opposite to that of the school, came a lone horseman. As he drew nearer I saw that he held a bundle of some sort, not on the saddle-horn but in one arm. He was a young man, probably twentyfive, and he wore his rough ranchman’s attire with almost a superb grace.

Silently he pulled up his horse. As I went toward him he jerked off his hat and the morning sun glinted a moment on thick reddish-brown hair.

“Are you Miss Smithson?” he asked, directly.

“I’m taking her place. I’m Miss Moore,” I said, boldly.

“Well, it doesn’t matter. I want to ask—to ask you—do you know anything about—about—”

As he stammered thus his eyes travelled from me to the bundle he carried.

“It’s rather an unusual request,” he commenced again, and grew a trifle ruddy above his tan.

“It isn’t anything about continuation-class work is it?” I asked in some alarm. “You see I only matriculated.”

I’d been rather dreading that.

“I meant something quite different,” he said, lookingdown strangely at what he held, and smiling.

'T'HEN he leaned over the saddle and offered me the bundle. It was a tiny baby and it was wrapped only in cotton wadding and then in a man’s coat!

“Oh. isn’t he small!” I cried, taking the mite. “Isis he ill or anything?”

“On the contrary he’s one of the healthiest little

beggars I ever saw—for his age.” “Where did you—”

“He was born at midnight twenty miles up the canyon. His mother died. There was nobody else so I brought him away.”

The rider as he spoke was looking at me with a pair of intent dark eyes. It was clear he was worried about the infant.

“Do you know anything about babies?” tie asked, doubtfully.

“Not very much I’m afraid. But I’ll do what I can. Will you come inside and tell me what to do?” I spoke with more assurance than I really felt. As it seemed to be a case of ‘any port in a storm’ the rider jumped down at once and, throwing the bridle over a rampike followed me indoors.

“He’s Russian so I’m taking him down to the valley where a family I knowwill take charge of him,” said the joung man. “In the hut where he was born there weren’t even the simplest necessities. I got the call hurriedly and fortunately had a few things in my bag—yes, that sweet oil is just what I need. Any fine powder? Thanks. Draw that blind a bit for his eyes mustn’t get the full sun.”

“You seem to know just what to do,” I remarked. “Are you by any chance a doctor?”

“Oh, pardon. Doc. Rupe North at your service!” he said. “I am a chump all right. I’m rather dull in the upper storey owing to the loss of two nights’ sleep. I’ll take a fresh towel, please.”

We both worked rapidly. The baby cried lustily at intervals—a splendid omen, Doctor North said. The latter, by the way, wasn’t a bit good-looking (I dislike handsome men ! )

I caught him in a full-blown

yawn, presently.

“You’d better go home and go to bed,” I suggested, bluntly.

“A good idea.” he agreed. “Only—”

“Yes?” I prompted as he broke off, flushing.

“Well, I haven’t got any home to go to in order to pound my ear.” “No home!”

“None but a tent halfway between here, and the base of Old Baldy. You see, until the other day I occupied this snug abode. Haven’t you stumbled on some of

my things:

“You lived here? How do teacher—”

“Yea, verily. I was the schulemarm! You got my note?”

So that accounted for the shaving-mug I’d found in the pantry! And for the numerous phials and pillboxes !

\^rELL of course I thanked him for the kindly wel' * come—beginning with the lamp and ending with the newly-starched curtains—which had warmed my heart that night (was it only Friday!) but he poohpoohed my gratitude. He said he’d had to learn to turn his hand to anything. Lung trouble a year ago had brought him up here. He was cured but would remain throughout the summer to make assurance doubly sure. He was glad to have been of some help to the Blue Canyon families in their occasional sicknesses but the isolation was wearing in the extreme. There wasn’t an English-speaking soul within twenty or thirty miles.

“And that dashed bell!” he exclaimed. “It’s driven six or seven teachers away and scared off as many prospective ones. By the way, have you heard it?”

His deft hands had finished their task. We were sittting opposite each other, both of us palpably glad of company. His eyes—glowing, penetrating eyes with just a hint of melancholy in them—watched me anxiously. I felt that I was being gauged, that my courage was undergoing a sharp testing, and instinctively I braced myself.

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“I heard something,” I admitted. “You rather made a mystery of the thing and I—” “It is a mystery.” “I’m hard to convince. Why don’t you make them stop?” “Make who stop?” and he smiled. “Whoever is ringing that bell.” “Ah!” he said soberly. “If only we knew that. You evidently think as I thought—that it is someone playing tricks. When I came here I laughed at the terror that filled the breasts of these superstitious foreigners. No one would live here in this cabin. It was too close to ‘the bell.’ Teachers came and stayed a week or so and left. It was all they could do to persuade the children to attend school. At last I volunteered to live in the cabin—I’d been using a tent up till that—and also to teach until a permanent teacher could be obtained. This I've been doing since last September. Sometimes in the middle of an arithmetic lesson I’d be called to attend a sick man. It was a very strenuous but not uninteresting life. But I’ll have to admit that the bell tried my patience. Sometimes for a week on end it would be silent but suddenly it would peal forth again—no joyous wedding-bellish peal either but a monotonous dingledangle that was—well, damnable. No other word fits the case.”

I nodded understandingly.

“I’ve ridden over all these trails, “he went on, “and forded every fordable stream. I’ve penetrated into the deepest fastnesses and that will-o-the-wisp bell always fell silent just as I thought I had a hot scent. Once I’d have sworn it was right over my head! The Indians are so scared they’re cleared right out. There’s black magic in it. they think.” “What do you think?”

“Well, I’m convinced of one thing: no human hand is ringing that bell.” I must have turned a little white for he went on hurriedly: “I don’t want to alarm you but now you’re here I feel it’s only fair to acquaint you with the facts. I wanted to be the first to tell you.”

I nodded. And I thought how lucky for Margaret Smithson that she’d been sidetracked !

“Two years ago a man disappeared and he’s believed to have been murdered. That was in March and the bell rings almost continuously in that month. His body is supposed to have been thrown into some deep crevasse in these canyons, but it’s never been found. Now if, knowing all this, you want to pack up at once—”

“Someone’s got to stay and teach those kids,” I heard myself murmuring.

Oh, Miss Smithson would never stay here! And having pretended all along that I was the teacher I just had to stick it out. This was evidently the “nice trustee.”

“I’ll get a rig and drive you to the

crossing anytime you say. You— pardon me—hardly look rigorous enough for mountain life to say nothing of this nerve-wracking spook business.”

“Do you think I’m a quitter?” I demanded. “And why didn’t you label yourselves ‘haunted’ and not bring an unsuspecting girl across a continent—”

“We don’t want the kind of teacher that’s likely to get cold feet,” he broke in, quickly. “Besides, I’ve always understood that Bluenose people are hard to scare.”

“I’m not a bluenose,” I said, mournfully.

So I explained about the error I’d made at the crossing, and I told him he might as well consider Miss Smithson a total loss because she’d never stay now, that in all likelihood she’d already taken the first train east, and no one could blame her. I wasn’t at all communicative about myself. I didn’t tell him that this was my very first real adventure, or that I was practically an Easterner though losing no opportunity to refer to myself as a Westerner! I just told him what I thought he should know and no more.

“Then do you remain—or not?” he asked.

I straightened up and took a long breath. He had put the question in such a way that I felt as though I were before a stern tribunal. Old Irish folklore stories flooded my mind and my childish belief in fairies revived, all in an instant. My pulses beat madly. That danger-defying instinct which is the heritage of the Celtic races stiffened my spine. A kind of eager, terrified delight thrilled me. I’d see the spook hanged first!

“I’ll stay,” I said simply.

I read approval in the doctor's eyes. As trustee, sealing a bargin with an employee, he insisted upon shaking hands. Then I got him some breakfast and when he had eaten he took the baby and rode away again. I didn’t see him for a week.

I THINK it was the longest week of my life! I fared forth valiantly and taught the school and I cooked my meals and attended to the parrot and worried a little about what Mother would say and then resolved not to tell her for a while but to write Natalie and enlist her aid in keeping up the bluff to the home folks. After all I might not be so courageous when I’d heard the bell again. I too might turn tail and flee homeward.

Doctor North arrived early on the following Sunday with a fine string of fish he’d caught the evening before. He stayed all day and was very entertaining. Accompanied only by the phonograph we sang many old songs and I found that he had a glorious barytone. The bell rang that night and the parrot scolded and muttered. I stuffed cotton I wool in my ears and slept the sleep of the pure in heart.

On Monday Doctor North brought me the supplies that had been ordered for the teacher. He took away my letter to Natalie to post at the train and on Thursday he called again to chop some wood for me. He said people were healthy and time hung heavily. On Saturday we took a lunch and went berrying down the trail. We heard the spook beïl suddenly as we were returning by way of the cedars. Plainly the monotonous clangor came from a thick poplar bluff adjacent and not over five hundred yards away. We both stopped, and listened in a kind of fascinated awe.

“Couldn’t we go through that bluff?

I suggested, eagerly.

“If we had rubber waders. It’s surrounded by swamp.”

“Oh dear! And there isn’t an old church in there I suppose? ^ Or an Indian grave with a bell on it?”

“Nary a one! We’ve thought of all those things. I’ve beaten all through those poplars often.”

A brisk breeze was ruffling them so that an incessant shadow seemed to darken and lift again across the silverygreen mass. I watched them, puzzled, piqued, baffled quite. The same breeze ruffled my companion’s brown hair so that a tuft of it like a burnished wing fell over his brow and kept him occupied in shaking it back. He reminded me at such times of pictures of Rupert Brooke. Sometimes I caught him watching me in an odd way as though he were wondering if my courage were genuine or only assumed in order to impress him. Little did he guess how

often in my lonely shack in the dead of night—but then of course I never did pose as a heroine! Sometimes the look he gave me sent a warm thrill through all my being, it said so much more than kps ever did. I’d been made love to heaps of times but never before in this silent way.

That evening m the cool fragrance under the friendly stars he told me he’d been five weeks without coughing. And I went back to the cabin after calling out good-byes for ten minutes and (as was our habit) until the echoes confounded the leal cries—and sent an order to the city (I had my chequebook with me-) for some things. Topping the list were rubber waders.

A LETTER from Natalie at the end of another week. The little Nova Scotian was there! More, she had made a big hit with everybody and with Donald McCann in particular. Anything might happen, Natalie hinted. Don, who had been sweet on me, was hanging round, it seemed, like bad weather. Oh yes, Miss Smithson was getting enthusiastic about the West now. When the Bar Cross man had arrived at the railway he’d found her almost distracted. Would they send for me? Or was I serious about this school business.

Was I serious? Well, the chief trustee’s praise perhaps had been a big factor in making me contented. I believe I’ve actually forgotten to say that both teacher and taught seemed highly satisfied. School carried on throughout the summer up here because of the irregularity and uncertainty of the teacher’s tenure, and except for worrying about mother and her mid-Victorian prejudices, I was having a glorious time teaching those bright young towheads. They liked me, too. Going home I always had a knot of them with me as far as the dwarf cedars. Further than that they wouldn’t go on account of the banshee hell. Their elders whenever I chanced to meet them regarded me with awe and admtoation so that I began to feel almost Joan-of-Arc-ish living alone in my spook-defying eerie -—only that of course I’m not made of the heroine stuff. A good deal of it was bravado, I’m afraid. Needless to say, I never told Doctor North of the times, in the dead of night, I trembled and shook in sheer terror of that bell.

Then came our quarrel, which I may as well admit now was mostly my fault. The Doctor had tmought the mail from the Crossing—it was merely thrown off the train for the cliff crossing is just a platform and a dog-house—and my parcel had arrived. Gleefully I exhibited my rubber boots and before I’d had a a chance to ask him to come with me to investigate that poplar bluff beyond the swamp he cut in and ordered me to stay away. He said God knew I was fearless enough to attempt anything, but that alone to that bluff I must not go. No place for a delicate girl, etc. All my Irish flared up and I defied him to stop me. I declared that I hadn’t, to my knowledge, asked for his professional advice. Well, the end of the absurd thing was that we parted in a huff. And of course as soon as my wrath simmered down I had a good, ^ong, luxurious weep and felt deliciously "miserable for a whole long day—for ten of them really for it wasn’t until ten days had dragged by that we met again.

île came up to the cabin in a hot hurry and afoot one dewy evening in July and I could see he was all business. He scarcely noticed Polly even, although she called out her most cordial greeting of “Hello, old dear!” supplemented by a series of blood-curdling whistles and adjurations to “skin a rabbit.”

“Mrs. Poldinsky is very sick,” he said without preamble. “How soon can you be ready Ten minutes?”

“But I’m no nurse! And who is Mrs. Poldinsky?” I expostulated.

“She’s that deaf old woman that lives back of the poplar bluff. That dashed hell you know—can’t get a soul to pass the cedar swamp—she needs a woman’s care—inflamniatary rheumatism—getting near her heart I’m afraid—bring candles and a bag of salt to heat and a can of condensed milk, also any other little comforts you can think of.”

He panted all this out while I got into my sweater and began to gather up the articles he mentioned. •

“Oh yes, and put on those rubber boots,” he added. “Since the rain that swamp’s a regular lake.”

I can at least obey orders, I thought, and anyway it thrilled me rather to be called on like this even though I were a last resource !

''HE old woman’s shack was less than half a mile away and we walked rapidly, the doctor going ahead, for the trail was rough and narrow. Once he turned and gave me two letters he had forgotten about and which he’d brought from the crossing that morning. I crammed them into my pocket to read later. And once I so far forgot myself as to seize him by the elbow. It was when we were skirting the poplars. He stopped quickly and looked down at me, oddly, and as I didn’t speak—we had spoken less than a dozen words between us—he went on again.

“Don’t do that—please,” he said in a labored way. “It makes me—it throws#me off balance here on this narrow ledge.”

"Very well,” I said, calmly and began to hum a little tune under my breath, determined to show him I wasn’t a bit afraid of the old spook and could do without his arm or even his coat-tail, if need be.

Well, I stayed with Mrs. Poldinsky that night and all the next day which was Saturday and all Sunday up till evening, sleeping a couple of hours at a time on two chairs with my sweater for a pillow. By Sunday she was much better and two women from the valley arrived via a roundabout route to look after her. The bell had commenced ringing on Sunday in the early afternoon. Doctor North came about dark, seemed highly satisfied with his patient’s progress and asked me curtly if I were ready to start back.

We left the hut and set forth, by way of the swamp of course. There was a chill easterly wind and the moon was obscured from time to time by scudding clouds. From the poplars came the sinister dingle-dangle of the bell. The only other sound was the ' rhythmic

slush-slush of our feet as we picked our ¡ precarious way across the marshland, j Sometimes I w'ould sink almost to my ! knees and then my companion, still j aloof in manner, would be obliged to j make of himself a human lift-lock.

His silence and abstraction hurt me —had been hurting me all these long , clays. I’d tried to be friendly but he ! simply didn’t respond. We’d been such ; good pals that I felt some sort of exj planation was owing me.

“Doctor North,” I exclaimed at last. I “I’m going to talk and you can go on ! sulking if you like! I can’t stand this ghastly silence. It’s too eerie to endure another minute!”

“I haven’t any objection,” he said in a restrained voice.

“And you’re walking far too fast! j What do you think I am—a self-start1 ing, record-breaking 1920 model runabout?”

“I’m sorry,” and he slowed up at once.

“Are you so bored with my company that you’re trying to—to shorten the time?” I asked, still exasperated.

My throat felt tightish. I was going to say more but was afraid to trust my voice.

“I’m going east on the early morning train,” he stated then, and his voice too sounded queer and trembly. “I’m in a hurry and forgot that a girl can’t tramp as fast as a man.”

“Going east?” I echoed, stopping in my tracks.

“Yep.”

“For—for good?”

“For good—or bad,” he replied, stopping also and looking away to the tips of the Ragged Range.

“But you were to stay in Blue Canyon till fall!” I wmiled.

He was silent.

“And how about that claim of yours that’s turning out so well? The one over at Rabbit Foot mine. Don’t you have to stay and—and look after it?”

“Oh, that,” he said, indifferently.

WHAT had happened? For that Rabbit Foot claim had been one of his pet enthusiasms! Slowly now we plodded on and in dazed wonderment and with a heavy heart I realized that I was to be left alone—alone at Blue Canyon with the bell 1

“Here we are at the poplars,” Doctor North remarked at length. .

I’d never known his voice so listless. “It’s dark in there I suppose—even with the moon up,” I observed, shudderingly.

“It may not be. Would you care to go through?”

“With the bell ringing?”

“Best time. We run a chance of laying the ghost then. And I’ve got my pocket flashlight.”

“I’m game.” I forced myself to say, though even with1 the sense of wellbeing his company always gave me, fear, deadly fear, clutched at my timid heart.

He started on ahead to pick out the best path, his straight figure looming larger than ever through the thin mist that rose from the swamp. He knew his way like an Indian and we groped steadily along through a tangle of underbrush and of spruce and cedar, wolf-willow and poplar. The torch sent out a long cone of light ahead and saved us many a stumble over a fallen treetrunk. Bye-and-bye I sank on a boulder, exhausted. My companion considerately waited till I’d regain, ed my breath. We hadn’t heard the bell j for at least ten minutes but we both felt | we were headed in its direction—unless | indeed it were a will-o’-the-wisp after j all. It had had a sternly practical 1 sound to-night. There had never been ! anything euphonious about it at any j time but here in the grove, following it up, I’d sensed a familiar quality in that fiat ding-dong. Somewhere, sometime ¡ I’d heard a bell like it! Childhood memories poured over me, saddened me j a little too. I sighed. Doctor North | moved restlessly. I rose, tripped on a root and caught at his arm. The torch j that he held fell.

“Excuse me,” I said humbly. “I know you don’t like being seized suddenI ly but I—J nearly fell.”

“Perhaps we’d better give up the J chase. It must be late,” he broke in j hurriedly, moving away. I buttoned my sweater coat closer and as I did so my hand struck against the letters in the pocket.

“Oh, Miss Smithson’s married,’ I said, to make conversation. “The news was in one of those letters you brought the other day. To Don McCann, an old friend of mine. It was a whirlwind affair and they’ve gone to Prince Rupert and up the coast to Alaska for a honeymoon.”

“Poor little school,” said the doctor, sadly. . .

“Oh I don't know!” I said with spirit. “It’s still got me.”

He turned quickly. I could hear him breathing thickly, rapidly.

“Has it?” he cried. “Are you going to stay?”

“What will it matter to you? I returned, puzzled at his eagerness.

“Well I—I’ve been a sort of chief steward, have I not? Naturally I’m attached to the district. My stewardship has been—”

“And you’re throwing it over to—to go East and m-marry some simpering little—”

“I am not,” he said tensely as I broke off, gulping.

“Well anyway you’re going away and 1—leaving me here all alone! _Not another soul to speak to in miles and miles.”

“How about, the man who writes from the city? Won’t he be running up?”—

“What man from the city?” I demanded, wonderingly.

“The man you’re engaged to—who writes you all those letters. I know a man’s handwriting when I see it. This one’s had character—damn him! He’s a millionaire I suppose. Someone who’s a big success of some sort. I know the class that would take your eye!”

“Do you?” I asked, composedly, though in reality I was in a tumult of emotions, joy predominating. “Well, Daddy is a success though he’s not quite a millionaire.”

“What do you mean?” said he in a strained voice. “I’m not feeling in a mood for jokes—”

“Why I just mean those letters were from Dád.”

“Why—your father?”

“And he’s coming up as soon as he can to see if I’m well and happy. He’s just home from the East. I told him I was ridiculously happy up here and he’s coming to see if I really mean it.”

“And—are you ? ”

“I—I was.”

AND a tiny sob slipped out then. The doctor took a long breath—I could distinctly hear it—and then I don’t know just liow it happened but we were clinging together like two long separated orphans and I was so happy I was afraid to speak! But then that was almost impossible anyway.

“I’m not going away—now,” said the doctor and held me very close.

“I’m not either,” I whispered. “Though I believe I would have gone.” “You’re the bravest little girl in all the world!”

“No—just the happiest,” I said, softly-

And as our lips met again a third voice spoke :

Clang!

It was the bell ! Right behind us it rang forth! We turned at the startling sound and the brassy reverberation beat against the eardrums almost painfully. Doctor North stooped and retrieved his torch and he shot its strong ray into the darkness ahead.

“There it is!” we cried in unison.

Less than a yard away, caught in a crotch of a sturdy poplar and hardly four feet from the ground was a large brazen cowbell ! It was square-shaped and it hung there suspended by a bit of leather strap just as it had been wrenched from the animal’s neck when she had essayed to reach some tender morsel of herbage that had been a little too far away. The tree had grown and clutched the strap closer so that even the wild winds of March had been unable to wrest the bell loose. It was so caught that it was visible only from the side where we stood.

We had laid the banshee !