The Man of the Forest (Chapter 5, page 1 of 14)


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Chapter 5

Here, there was no kindly brakeman to help the sisters with their luggage. Helen bade Bo take her share; thus burdened, they made an awkward and laborious shift to get off the train.

Upon the platform of the car a strong hand seized Helen's heavy bag, with which she was straining, and a loud voice called out: "Girls, we're here--sure out in the wild an' woolly West!"

The speaker was Riggs, and he had possessed himself of part of her baggage with action and speech meant more to impress the curious crowd than to be really kind. In the excitement of arriving Helen had forgotten him. The manner of sudden reminder--the insincerity of it--made her temper flash. She almost fell, encumbered as she was, in her hurry to descend the steps. She saw the tall hunter in gray step forward close to her as she reached for the bag Riggs held.

"Mr. Riggs, I'll carry my bag," she said.

"Let me lug this. You help Bo with hers," he replied, familiarly.

"But I want it," she rejoined, quietly, with sharp determination. No little force was needed to pull the bag away from Riggs.

"See here, Helen, you ain't goin' any farther with that joke, are you?" he queried, deprecatingly, and he still spoke quite loud.

"It's no joke to me," replied Helen. "I told you I didn't want your attention."

"Sure. But that was temper. I'm your friend--from your home town. An' I ain't goin' to let a quarrel keep me from lookin' after you till you're safe at your uncle's."

Helen turned her back upon him. The tall hunter had just helped Bo off the car. Then Helen looked up into a smooth bronzed face and piercing gray eyes.

"Are you Helen Rayner?" he asked.

"Yes."

"My name's Dale. I've come to meet you."

"Ah! My uncle sent you?" added Helen, in quick relief.

"No; I can't say Al sent me," began the man, "but I reckon--"

He was interrupted by Riggs, who, grasping Helen by the arm, pulled her back a step.

"Say, mister, did Auchincloss send you to meet my young friends here?" he demanded, arrogantly.

Dale's glance turned from Helen to Riggs. She could not read this quiet gray gaze, but it thrilled her.

"No. I come on my own hook," he answered.

"You'll understand, then--they're in my charge," added Riggs.

This time the steady light-gray eyes met Helen's, and if there was not a smile in them or behind them she was still further baffled.

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