Hazard Pass had held true to its name.
There were yet nearly four miles to go before the
summit of nearly twelve thousand feet elevation could
be reached and the downward trip of fourteen miles
to the nearest settlement made. And that meant-
Houston steadied himself and sought
to figure just what it did mean. The sun was
gone now, leaving grayness and blackness behind, accentuated
by the single strip of gleaming scarlet which flashed
across the sky above the brim of Mount Taluchen, the
last vestige of daylight. The wind was growing
shriller and sharper, as though it had waited only
for the sinking of the sun to loose the ferocity which
too long had been imprisoned. Darkness came,
suddenly, seeming to sweep up from the valleys toward
the peaks, and with it more snow. Barry accepted
the inevitable. He must go on-and
that as swiftly as his crippled machine, the darkness
and the twisting, snow-laden, treacherous road would
Once more at the wheel, he snapped
on the lights and huddled low, to avail himself of
every possible bit of warmth from the clanking, discordant
engine. Slowly the journey began, the machine
laboring and thundering with its added handicap of
a broken rod and the consequent lost power of one
cylinder. Literally inch by inch it dragged itself
up the heavier grades, puffing and gasping and clanking,
the rattling rod threatening at every moment to tear
out its very vitals. The heavy smell of burnt
oil drifted back to the nostrils of Barry Houston;
but there was nothing that he could do but grip the
steering wheel a bit tighter with his numbed hands,-and
Slowly, ever so slowly, the indicator
of the speedometer measured off a mile in dragging
decimals. The engine boiled and Barry stopped,
once more to huddle against the radiator, and to avail
himself of its warmth, but not to renew the water.
No stream was near; besides, the cold blast of the
wind, shrilling through the open hood, accomplished
the purpose more easily. Again a sally and again
a stop. And Barry was thankful, as, huddled
and shivering in his light clothing, he once more
sought the radiator. Vaguely there came to him
the thought that he might spend the night somewhere
on the Pass and go on with the flush of morning.
But the thought vanished as quickly as it came; there
was no shelter, no blankets, nothing but the meager
warmth of what fire he might be able to gather, and
that would fade the minute he nodded. Already
the temperature had sunk far beneath the freezing point;
the crackling of the ice in the gulleys of the road
fairly shouted the fact as he edged back once more
from the radiator to his seat.
An hour-and three more
after that-with the consequent stops and
pauses, the slow turns, the dragging process up the
steeper inclines of the road. A last final,
clattering journey, and Barry leaped from the seat
with something akin to enthusiasm.
Through the swirling snow which sifted
past the glare of his headlights, he could discern
a sign which told him he had reached the summit, that
he now stood at the literal top of the world.
But it was a silent world, a black
world, in which the hills about him were shapeless,
dim hulks, where the wind whined, where the snow swept
against his face and drifted down the open space of
his collar; a world of coldness, of malice, of icy
venom, where everything was a threatening thing, and
never a cheering aspect except the fact that the grades
had been accomplished, and that from now on he could
progress with the knowledge that his engine at least
need labor no longer. But the dangers!
Barry knew that they had only begun. The descent
would be as steep as the climb he had just made.
The progress must be slower, if anything, and with
the compression working as a brake. But it was
at least progress, and once more he started.
The engine clanked less now, the air
seemed a bit warmer with the down grade, and Barry,
in spite of his fatigue, in spite of the disappointment
of a disabled car, felt at least the joy of having
conquered the thing which had sought to hold him back,
the happiness of having fought against obstacles,
of having beaten them, and of knowing that he now
was on the down trail. The grade lessened for
a few hundred feet, and the machine slowed.
Houston pressed on the clutch pedal, allowing the
car to coast slowly until the hill became steeper
again. Then he sought once more to shift into
gear,-and stopped short!
Those few moments of coasting had
been enough. Overheated, distended, the bearings
had cooled too suddenly about the crank shaft and frozen
there with a tightness that neither the grinding pull
of the starter nor the heavy tug of the down grade
could loosen. Once more Barry Houston felt his
heart sink in the realization of a newer, a greater
foreboding than ever. A frozen crank shaft meant
that from now on the gears would be useless.
Fourteen miles of down grade faced him. If he
were to make them, it must be done with the aid of
brakes alone. That was dangerous!
He cupped his hands and called,-in
the vain hope that the stories of Hazard Pass and
its loneliness might not be true, after all.
But the only answer was the churning of the bank-full
stream a hundred yards away, the thunder of the wind
through the pines below, and the eerie echo of his
own voice coming back to him through the snows.
Laboriously he left the machine and climbed back to
the summit, there to seek out the little tent house
he had seen far at one side and which he instinctively
knew to be the rest room and refreshment stand of the
summer season. But he found it, as he had feared
he would find it, a deserted, cold, napping thing,
without a human, without a single comfort, or the
possibility of fire or warmth through the night.
Summer, for Hazard Pass, at least, still was a full
month away. For a moment he shivered within
it, staring about its bleak interior by the aid of
a flickering match. Then he went outside again.
It was only a shell, only a hope that could not be
realized. It would be less of a hardship to
make the fight to reach the bottom of the Pass than
to attempt to spend the night in this flimsy contraption.
In travel there would be at least action, and Barry
clambered down the hill to his machine.
Again he started, the brake bands
squeaking and protesting, the machine sloughing dangerously
as now and again its sheer weight forced it forward
at dangerous speeds until lesser levels could be reached
and the hold of the brake bands accomplish their purpose
again. Down and down, the miles slipping away
with far greater speed than even Barry realized, until
He grasped desperately for the emergency
brake and gripped tight upon it, steering with one
hand. For five minutes there had come the strong
odor of burning rubber; the strain had been too great,
the foot-brake linings were gone; everything depended
upon the emergency now! And almost with the
Careening, the car seemed to leap
beneath him, a maddened, crazed thing, tired of the
hills, tired of the turmoil and strain of hours of
fighting, racing with all the speed that gravity could
thrust upon it for the bottom of the Pass. The
brakes were gone, the emergency had not even lasted
through the first hill. Barry Houston was now
a prisoner of speed,-cramped in the seat
of a runaway car, clutching tight at the wheel, leaning,
white, tense-faced, out into the snow, as he struggled
to negotiate the turns, to hold the great piece of
runaway machinery to the crusted road and check its
speed from time to time in the snowbanks.
A mile more-halted at intervals
by the very thing which an hour or so before Barry
Houston had come almost to hate, the tight-packed banks
of snow-then came a new emergency.
One chance was left, and Barry took it,-the
“burring” of the gears in lieu of a brake.
The snow was fading now, the air was warmer; a mile
or so more and he would be safe from that threat which
had driven him down from the mountain peaks,-the
possibility of death from exposure, had he, in his
light clothing, attempted to spend the night in the
open. If the burred gears could only hold the
car for a mile or so more-
But a sudden, snapping crackle ended
his hope. The gears had meshed, and meshing,
had broken. Again a wild, careening thing, with
no snow banks to break the rush, the car was speeding
down the steepest of the grades like a human thing
determined upon self-destruction.
A skidding curve, then a straightaway,
while Barry clung to the wheel with fingers that were
white with the tightness of their grip. A second
turn, while a wheel hung over the edge, a third and-
The awful, suspended agony of space.
A cry. A crash and a dull, twisting moment
of deadened Suffering. After that-blackness.
Fifty feet below the road lay a broken, crushed piece
of mechanism, its wheels still spinning, the odor
of gasoline heavy about it from the broken tank, one
light still gleaming, like a blazing eye, one light
that centered upon the huddled, crumpled figure of
a man who groaned once and strove vaguely, dizzily,
to rise, only to sink at last into unconsciousness.
Barry Houston had lost his fight.
How long he remained there, Barry
did not know. He remembered only the falling,
dizzy moment, the second or so of horrible, racking
suspense, when, breathless, unable to move, he watched
the twisting rebound of the machine from which he
had been thrown and sought to evade it as it settled,
metal crunching against metal, for the last time.
After that had come agonized hours in which he knew
neither wakefulness nor the quiet of total unconsciousness.
Vaguely, as from far away, he heard
a voice,-the sort of a voice that spelled
softness and gentleness. Something touched his
forehead and stroked it, with the caress that only
a woman’s hand can give. He moved slightly,
with the knowledge that he lay no longer upon the rocky
roughness of a mountain side, but upon the softness
of a bed. A pillow was beneath his head.
Warm blankets covered him. The hand again lingered
on his forehead and was drawn away. A moment
more and slowly, wearily, Barry Houston opened his
It was the room of a mountain cabin,
with its skiis and snowshoes; with its rough chinkings
in the interstices of the logs which formed the mainstay
of the house, with its four-paned windows, with its
uncouthness, yet with its comfort. Barry noticed
none of this. His eyes had centered upon the
form of a girl standing beside the little window,
where evidently she had gone from his bedside.
Fair-haired she was, though Barry
did not notice it. Small of build and slight,
yet vibrant with the health and vigor that is typical
of those who live in the open places. And there
was a piquant something about her too; just enough
of an upturned little nose to denote the fact that
there was spirit and independence in her being; dark
blue eyes that snapped even as darker eyes snapped,
as she stood, half turned, looking out the window,
watching with evident eagerness the approach of some
one Barry could not see. The lips carried a
half-smile of anticipation. Barry felt the instinctive
urge to call to her, to raise himself-
He winced with a sudden pain, a sharp,
yet aching throb of agony which involuntarily closed
his eyes and clenched tight his teeth until it should
pass. When he looked again, she was gone, and
the opening of a door in the next room told him where.
Almost wondering, he turned his eyes then toward
the blankets and sought to move an arm,-only
again to desist in pain. He tried the other,
and it responded. The covers were lowered, and
Barry’s eyes stared down upon a bandaged, splinted
left arm. Broken.
He grunted with surprise, then somewhat
doggedly began an inspection of the rest of his human
machine. Gingerly he wiggled one toe beneath
the blankets. It seemed to be in working order.
He tried the others, with the same result.
Then followed his legs-and the glorious
knowledge that they still were intact. His one
free hand reached for his head and felt it.
It was there, plus a few bandages, which however, from
their size, gave Barry little concern. The inventory
completed, he turned his head at the sound of a voice-hers-calling
from the doorway to some one without.
“He’s getting along fine,
Ba’tiste.” Barry liked the tone and
the enthusiastic manner of speaking. “His
fever’s gone down. I should think-”
“Ah, oui!” had
come the answer in booming bass. “And has
he, what you say, come to?”
“Not yet. But I think he ought to, soon.”
“Oui! Heem no ver’ bad.
He be all right tomorrow.”
“That’s good. It
frightened me, for him to be unconscious so long.
It’s been five or six hours now, hasn’t
“Lemme see. I fin’ heem six o’clock.
Now-eet is the noon. Six hour.”
“That’s long enough.
Besides, I think he’s sleeping now. Come
inside and see-”
“Wait, m’ enfant.
M’sieu Thayer he come in the minute. He
say he think he know heem.”
The eyes of Barry Houston suddenly
lost their curiosity. Thayer? That could
mean only one Thayer! Barry had taken particular
pains to keep from him the information that he was
anywhere except the East. For it had been Fred
Thayer who had caused Barry to travel across country
in his yellow speedster, Thayer who had formed the
reason for the displacement of that name plate at
the beginning of Hazard Pass, Thayer who-
“Know him? Is he a friend?”
“Oui. So Thayer
say. He say he think eet is the M’sieu
Houston, who own the mill.”
“Probably coming out to look over things, then?”
“Oui. Thayer, he
say the young man write heem about coming. That
is how he know when I tell heem about picking heem
up from the machine. He say he know M’sieu
Houston is coming by the automobile.”
In the other room, Barry Houston blinked
rapidly and frowned. He had written Thayer nothing
of the sort. He had- Suddenly he
stared toward the ceiling in swift-centered thought.
Some one else must have sent the information, some
one who wanted Thayer to know that Barry was on the
way, so that there would be no surprise in his coming,
some one who realized that his mission was that of
The names of two persons flashed across
his mind, one to be dismissed immediately, the other-
“I’ll fire Jenkins the
minute I get back!” came vindictively.
He choked his words. A query
had come from the next room.
“Was that heem talking?”
“No, I don’t think so.
He groans every once in a while. Wait-I’ll
The injured man closed his eyes quickly,
as he heard the girl approach the door, not to open
them until she had departed. Barry was thinking
and thinking hard. A moment later-
“How’s the patient?”
It was a new voice, one which Barry Houston remembered
from years agone, when he, a wide-eyed boy in his father’s
care, first had viewed the intricacies of a mountain
sawmill, had wandered about the bunk houses, and ridden
the great, skidding bobsleds with the lumberjacks
in the spruce forests, on a never-forgotten trip of
inspection. It was Thayer, the same Thayer that
he once had looked upon with all the enthusiasm and
pride of boyhood, but whom he now viewed with suspicion
and distrust. Thayer had brought him out here,
without realizing it. Yet Thayer had known that
he was on the way. And Thayer must be combatted-but
how? The voice went on, “Gained consciousness
“No.” The girl had answered.
“Of course, then, he hasn’t
been able to talk. Pretty sure it’s Houston,
though. Went over and took a look at the machine.
Colorado license on it, but the plates look pretty
new, and there are fresh marks on the license holders
where others have been taken off recently. Evidently
just bought a Colorado tag, figuring that he’d
be out here for some time. How’d you find
The bass voice of the man referred
to as Ba’tiste gave the answer, and Barry listened
with interest. Evidently he had struggled to
his feet at some time during the night-though
he could not remember it-and striven to
find his way down the mountain side in the darkness,
for the story of Ba’tiste told Barry that he
had found him just at dawn, a full five hundred yards
from the machine.
“I see heem move,” the
big voice was saying, “jus’ as I go to
look at my trap. Then Golemar come beside me
and raise his hair along his neck and growl-r-r-r-r-r-u-u-f-f-f-like
that. I look again-it is jus’
at the dawn. I cannot see clearly. I raise
my gun to shoot, and Golemar, he growl again.
Then I think eet strange that the bear or whatever
he is do not move. I say to Golemar, ‘We
will closer go, ne c’est pas?’
A step or two-then three-but
he do not move-then pretty soon I look
again, close. Eet is a man, I pick heem up, like
this-and I bring heem home. Ne c’est
Her name was Medaine then. Not
bad, Barry thought. It rather matched her hair
and the tilt of her nose and the tone of her laugh
as she answered:
“I would say you carried him
more like a sack of meal, Ba’tiste. I’m
glad I happened along when I did; you might have thrown
him over your shoulder!”
A booming laugh answered her and the
sound of a light scuffle, as though the man were striving
to catch the girl in his big embrace. But the
cold voice of Thayer cut in:
“And he hasn’t regained consciousness?”
“Not yet. That is, I think
he’s recovered his senses, all right, and fallen
immediately into a heavy sleep.”
“Guess I’ll go in and
stay with him until he wakes up. He’s my
boss, you know-since the old man died.
We’ve got a lot of important things to discuss.
So if you don’t mind-”
It was the girl again. “We’ll go
in with you.”
“No, thanks. I want to see him alone.”
Within the bedroom, Barry Houston
gritted his teeth. Then, with a sudden resolve,
he rested his head again on the pillow and closed his
eyes as the sound of steps approached. Closer
they came to the bed, and closer. Barry could
feel that the man was bending over him, studying him.
There came a murmur, almost whispered:
“Wonder what the damn fool came
out here about? Wonder if he’s wise?”