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[ALL Riohtb Hssmvsd.] ILove…


[ALL Riohtb Hssmvsd.] Love in a Snowstorm my JOHN BARNETT. A luge was tearing through the enow track that zigzagged steeply down a Swiss hillside. The track ran between gaunt, bare pino trunks, and above a golden sun was shining from a sky of deep, wonderful blue, such a sky as only Switzerland can offer in winter time A man and a girl were seated upon the luge, and the pace and the track and all the giowing world is general eeemed entirely 6ati«-factory at the moment. She was a pretty girl, a quite unusually pretty girl. This wa-s th. opinion not only of the young1 man who sat behind her. His opinion was absurdly prejudiced and not to bo 1 rusted, but anvoue with eyes must have Admitted it. She was dark and slim, and her dejicate face was full of the joy of life. That, at the moment, was not to be won- dered at. It is good to be alive upon a flying hlg-e in the mountain sunshine upon a Swiss winter's day. The young man behind her was not pretty. But his face was thin and whole- some, with a eertain suggestion of keen strength. He also was enjoying life as it is too seldom enjoyed in this rather grey tvoHd. He wanted nothing better that the I gods CO;ild offer than to be upon that luge 'h hind that particular girl with his hands placed lightly upon her slim waist. Perhaps he was thinking too much about his luck uid the goodness of the world: perhaps his »[>etillations concerning liis', chances in the future interfered with the- attention which he certainly should have given to hi* tr- ;11. Perha p6 that is whv things—compli- cated and violent tliizigs-iiil)pened at a cer- Jain zigzag of the track. Anyway, they did happen. Ife tried to take the bend too sharply. The luge skidded and side-slipped. There c-nne a laughing gasp from the girl, and a -lightly regrettable exclamation from the young man. And then—the luge flung it.-e'f from the track amid a whirl of snow, and nan and girl and luge were down among h e pine trunk*! Neither of them was hurt. •u>d even the luge was uninjured. The khdly gods of sport contrive, as a rule, that all shall be well with those who luge, even a sl)ill of a break-neck and compli- es ted appearance. Beity Cat or sprang to her feet in a moment. laughing gaily. With ier gloved hand s she brushed the snow from ■'cr garments. Her knitted coat was of light blue, with a cape that covered her dark hair. Beneath that cape her face looked 'ut upon the world of men in a piquant, m-'schievous, tantalising fashion. Some how s he always looked daintily undisherelltd. even after a headlong fall -amid locse snow. Ifer feet, sensibly yet pleasingly shod, were —w«re just the right size •Tim Travers was a shade slower in rising. But then he had landed head downwards in a rlflep heap of snow. Even when he had -■'■rambled to his feet it took him some little while to olear the blinding snow from his eve-i. And when that was accomplished, well—the first thing he saw was Betty's '•nvghing face in the sunshine. And that H'd it! He had not meant to speak yet. He had firmly intended to wait awhile. He was sure that the time was not yet ripe for .e ch. But Bettv Cator's mischievous face "lHIN that pale blue hood might have "T'n f()olish. impulsive words from a scourge-scarred mediaeval hermit! Mr. Travere spoke hoarsely, thanks partly 'o natural emotion and partly to a certain amount of loose snow in his mouth. "Betty—I say, Bettv-will you, can you, could you-marry me?" Betty I-atlglied. Izhe YcA* IA Mat Jielp. it..Tim Travels was coated with snow from head to foot. There was yet snow upon his face. Somehow his appearance contrasted comically with the impassioned fervour of his word, Miss Cator was scarcely to be blamed fcr laughing. Besides, her eyes were kind enough. "Oh, really, Mr. Travers-it seems such a funny place-" "I know," the young man answered eagerly. "But you are looking such a darling! If you could only see yourself you'd understand that I couldn't help -pin king. And anyway, it's not a bad place, is itr" Betty Cator gravely surveyed the blue sky. the ring of silent mountains, the snow- draped firs, and the gold of the sunshine flung down like royal largesse amid the lanes of tall, grim pine trunks. "No, the place is perfect," she admitted. "But—we were having such fun. I don't think I want "Lord knows I don't wish to spoil the fun Jim Travers said quickly. "Let's f-irget what I've said, Betty, for a time. Let's go on having fun." Betty held out a slim hand. lcyc,4, let's do that," she said gravely. .Tim Travers retained her hand just for a moment. "That's a bargain, then," he said. "You're to forget what I said, if you want to. Betty, but—I shan't forget. And you might- tell me one thing. You do like iii-e- a little?" "Quito a lot," Miss Cator answered frankly. "And now pick up the, luge and let's hJTve another run." The gravity of the situation seemed to have been evitded with some success, but. of course, such a bargain could not hold good indefinitely. Where a man and a girl are >o:ll'{'n('d, matters can never stand still. Vnd even more is this tlir case when two men and a girl are involved. There was another man in the hotel very vitallv iuter- st-d in the dainty whims and moods of B ttv Cator. And for that light-hearted, slightly iire- sponsible young lady it was to prove quite hi eventful day. After dejeuner she repaired to the skating ■ink in fulfilment of a promise. Frank Milton had exacted that promise from her overnight. Your discernment will have already guessed that he was that second ■nan, whose existence has been indicated. He had sat out a dance with Miss Cator upon the previous evening. "No, I really haven't another davee to "vo" she liid slzite(.l iii answer to an H'-oeaJ. Mr. Milton made a certain unscrupulous "Oh. no, T couldn't do that," B ttv an-wored ^|forally. "I never throw people over. will you -kate with me to-morrow morning?" Mr. Milton begged. Bettv puckered her brows and seemed t > yfo n entally through a portentous list of eng ige.i;ent<. "T'm so sorry, but I'm luging with Mr. Travers to-morrow morning," she said. Mr. Milton scowled aNiost melodra•'<•- Tlv. There is no doubt that love does V • for a. suggestion of melodrama in s i;ie natures. Fra"k Milton was- blc-sed. • f«r V-lter feature,- than Jim Travers. He really was good-looking. Ill-natured people had been heaid to suggest that Mr. Milton w:"? not unaware of th; fact. f*Wcll, what about the afternoon?" he -aid. "Please—please strain a point and s kat" with me than. Mi-s Cator!" Agajji Miss Cator rcfl :-t.-d, She was quite '•u'lian. like mo<t people. Power was rather I)ttd i x-. was power. f ening her favours. "T ha'd quite made up my mind t-o write !< t'evs to-morrow after- noon," alii* said r.-trr, tfnlly. "I really ought to, you know. It v, ill mean blood feuds with countless p op^ if T don't." M-r. Milton set his lip> and bit back quite a powerful word. "I'd—I'd most awfully grateful if you'd chance the blood feuds he said with I a kind of exasperated humility that appealed to Betty's wicked nature. She ku-'w well that this good-looking young man wa> not giY611 to muuibty- "Well," she promised generously, "I will chance them I'm not more than two weeks behind with my correspondence. I wi. owe letters to relatives, and they would have a grievance anyhow, wouldn't they "1 expect so," Mr. Milton agreed; "most relat on.s have. It's what they exist fc r. Thanks awfully. Miss Cator. We shall n:e;*t after dejeuner, then." And they did duly meet. The rink was pleasantly deM-rted. Mr. Milton adjusted Miss Catol" skates with skill but no U11- necessary sjjeed. Why should one hasten over a pleasing His own skates caused no delay. And then, well, for one of them at least began a perfect hour or <0. The ice was in glorious condition. Frank MiMon was well aware that skating was hi- strong ,L;t Bettv skated quite well, but not too well. She could yield to his skill the admiration that is plea^aftt to any male heart under such circumstances. And it must be ad- mitted that the conditions were ideal. mooth ice. bright ^uusliine, and-a soli- tude of two! What could a man ask more of the churlish god,. It was when the shadows were lengthen- ing. when the sun was dipping towards the mountains and a chill was creeping into the sparkling air, that the inevitable hap- pened. Bettv's skate encountered a eracK in the ice. She was almost down. With a cavalier less adroit she must have fallen. As it waa. they ('ame safely to a halt. "'I'll a nl- V011. Mr. Milton," Miss Cator said demurely, disengagiug her-hands "from his. The pressure to which her hands had been subjected during her recovery had U'en quite natural, but it seemed likely to continue. "I nearly disgraced myself then by- having us both down." Mr. Milton's breath was coming rather quickly. He was "lore in earnest than he had ever been be. ore in all his not unevent- ful career. "Oh, we were never near falling," he said. "Miss Cator—Betty—we skate jolly well together; don't you think that we might- make a per ma men t arrangement < f Ii It was certainly a regrettably hackneyed form of proposal. Mr. Milton, even at the moment, was aware of that. But a man is seldom original at such an hour, even when, as in Mr. Milton's case, he is not without experience. "Oh, but we couidnT. skate together O h. Miss Cater aaswere d always Miss Cator answered. "You know what I mean," he answered. "I love vou. Will you marry me. Bettyr" Miss Cator 'anced away towards the mountains. She was looking- exquisitely pretty. Her cheeks were faintly flushed and her eyes were sparklirtg. "I don't know what to S;1.v." she mur- mured. "Can't you say yes?" he suggested. Betty chose siiy4i??enl,? to ..ffct annoyance. "1 think you're spoiling everything!" she cried. "Oh. why couldn t you leave things as they were? I don't think I want to marry anyone!" I'm ready to wait," he said. Betty laughed adorably. "You must do as you please," she said. "I wash my hands of it all But if you like to go on being good friends "I do like that," he answered. "But I shall hope for more, you know——" "I can't help what you do, can I?" Betty flashed. ".I've said that I wash my hands of all responsibility——. But, if we're to be friends let's go in to tea. I'm simply starving:" And they walked in together. The sun was setting, and the snow mountains were stained with red and blue and exquisite piiil- and fp-nder oree-n. They looked for aj 1 the world like giant opals. Betty pointed out their glories to the rather silent young man at her side. By the way, it is not pre- tended for a moment that Miss Cator's behaviour upon that eventful day was blameless in the least. Any sober judge of conduct must have blamed her severely. But in this harsh world even dainty- people like Betty Cator must suffer punish- ment for their errors of conduct. Things began to happen upon that very evening. Many and various games were played ?n the great drawing-room of the hotel after dinner. It was within a few days of Christmas, and there were children among the visitor.and. on paper, those games were played for their benefit. It was a cosmopolitan crowd in that hotel but the English, to the general surprise, were prov- ing themselves at least the equal of all in frivolity. It was the blind man's buff which made Betty begin to feel uncomforta ble. The attentions of both Mr. Milton and Mr. Travers were most marked and even ridicu- lous throughout the game. When Betty herself was blindfolded, a charming, grop- ing figure feeling her way with outstretched, slender hands, both those absurd young men simply threw themslves in her way in order to be caught. Thev actually collided heavily with each oth^r m the process. A no when either of them was blinded it was just the same. Neither even pretended to play the game fairlv. Each could see undeir the handkerchief, and each devoted all his energy to catching Betty. In the other games much the same thing happened. The behaviour of Messrs. Milton and Travers was quite culpable. Each of them had lost his. head completely; each of them was consumed with fierce jealousy. Betty was beginning to understand the dis- comforts and perils of playing with fire. For three days this sort of thing went on. If Betty's aunt. Lady Conrthope, had not been partially blind and a bridge maniac to boot, she must have interfered. As it was, Betty, although, like a true woman, snatching some enjoyment from these follies, was rendered quite cross and unhappy. She hated to be made even in the least ridiculous. She was not sure that she did not quite dislike both of those absurd young men. Anyhow, she could not be certain which of them, if either, she really cared for. Such problems are unreasonably try- ing to a young lady expectant only of laughter from life. In the end, upon the fourth morning, Betty took quite a des- perntestep.,Sheroseatseven o'clock She felt a desire for solitude. She would go for a long, lonely walk to try to make up her mind. The hotel was perched some three thousand feet up the mountain side. Above it soared up the peak for another five thousand feet. Betty made up her mind to climb that mountain, somehow or other. People said that it was a fairly simple climb, if you started early enough to avoid the avalanches. When she got to the top, if she ever got to the top, she would perhaps, be able to think things out with clearness, there in the clean sunshine, somewhere near the sky, quite away from all the chattering world. It was a fine idea. And she carried it out, up to a point, with a fine strength of purpose. She partook of rolls and coffee, at the hands of a sleepy waiter, and then, warmly wrapped up and alpenstock in hand, she left the hotel and began her climb. It was observed by their mildly amused and long-suffering friends that both Jim Travers and Frank Milton were searching the dining-room with their eyes as they breakfasted, and that both seemed disap- pointed at what tlwy did not see. After- wards ?oth these absurd young men con- tinued the search in a vague, self-conscious fashion. Needless to say, they did'not ad- dress ('ah other upon the subject. Between the two there existed a kind of armed neu- trality. But the fashion in which they glanced at each other provided harmle-ss amusement for 'heir friends. Neither at this time possessed a sense of humour. Of the two, the intelligence of Mr. Milton was the sharper. It was he who conceived the brilliant idea of questioning the waiters. From one of them he learned of Betty's por- tentously early breakfast and departure. Having heard that. Mr. Milton conceived another idea. He borrowed the hotel teles- cope and repaired to the terrace. From there he raked the surrounding mountain slopes. Naturally, Jim Travers was not uncon- scious of his rival's movements. Out of the corner of a jealous eye he watched him with that telescope. He also saw him, saunter with marked laziness back to the hotel and replace the telescope. Two minutes later, Mr. Travers, still jealously watching, saw his rival slip unostentatiously from the hotel and head up the mountain side with speed and purpo.. Mr. Travers was not an exceptionally brilliant young man. but upon this occasion he did not fail to put two and two together. Probably love and jealousy had quickened his wits. Anyhow, he in his turn took out the telescope. He saw nothing at first save snowy slo]>es and snow-buried chalets and snow j draped firs. But then he turned the t( 1. scope upwards and slowly swept the higher slopes of the. mountain above the hotel. And as he did so. suddenly he gave a little gasp. A figure, made tiny by distance, was within the circle of the glass. He would have recognised that figure among a thPli- and others. Or. at .my rate, he believed that he could have done so. and it would .It he have doiio vi. Ind it wc)llll him.- "It's Betty!" he niultered. "Where's she going, the darling? To the top of the mountain, of course! I've heard her speak of trying to get there. By gad. and that chap Milton has seen her. of course, and he's gone ul to steal a march on iiie Mr. Travel's wasted no more time in thought. He dropped the telescope eallous.lv 11 pon the terrace and made at a trot for tilp mountain track If you had asked him his purpose he would probably have said, "Oh, 1 want to save Miss Cator annoy- unco. She has gone out to he alone, and she won 't want to be bored by a tete-a-tete with that chap Milton That is what he would have said, and possibly what he believed. We all believe some strange things in our time. In actual fact it was a race between those two foolish young men to the mountain top and—Betty Cator Frank Milton, glancing back, had seen his rival start in pursuit, and had understood. If either could out- distance the other—oh, surely there in the ultor loneliness Betty might—-might at last be gracious to the winner of the race It was a worthy and exacting course for that odd race. The rough track zig-zagged for a while up the mountain side. Then it ceased abruptly, »nd it was necessary to plough through a broad, dark belt of pines. From where they ended it was bare virgin snow and rocks right to the mountain top. Frank Milton had not secured much of a start, and Jim Travers had the better of him in physical condition. He was fresh from a strenuous campaign of Rugby foot- ball, and it served lnm well. He gained steadily upon hi. riyal, who was addicted to trie Jess exacting pastime ot goit. Ili the dark shadows of the pine wood Jim Travers drew abreast. The going was cruelly rough, and both were perspiring freely. The snow was deep and heavy, even under the trees, and the knotted pine. rnnts were traps to catch the feet. The heated rivals glared at each other, and strove to assume an air of jaunty unconsciousness. "Hallo!" Mr. Milton observed. "Where are you off to?" "I thought I would climb the mountain," Jim Travers answered airily. "Felt that I wanted some exercise, don't you know!" "'Ah! Mr. Milton said piegnantly. "You seem in a deuce of a bitrry "I always walk quickly," Jim Travers re- turned. "But dont' let me hurry you." "Ton .shan't'' Frank Milton said with forced geniality. "I want a little exercise, too. And the pair buckled down to the race neck and neck. The gloves were off by now. It was a plain race between the two, and a rare test of pluck and grit. There were barely twenty yards between them when they left the belt of pines but only jealousy and sheer desperation had kept Frank Milton upon his rival's heels. His want of condition was telling, and he was much distressed. He had no attention to spare for the change in the sky that was revealed as they left the trees behind. But Jim Travers noted the change at once and with some concern. The sun had veiled his face, and it was as though a,grey gossamer curtain had blotted out the blue. ''My word! I believe it's going to snow hard Jim Travers reflected. "Well, all the more reason for going on He gritted his teeth at the thought of Betty Cator lost upon the mountain in a snowstorm, and redoubled his efforts. Steadily he drew ahead of his pluckilv labouring opponent. When the first heavy flakes of snow came down he was some five hundred yards in front of Frank Milton, and three minutes later they had lost all sight of each other mere were no nait-measures about that snowstorm. The light was blotted out as though by cotton wool. Frank Milton, pant- ing with fatigue, realised swiftly that he was losing all sense of direction. He shouted ta Jim Travels but received no answer. He was no coward in the ordinary way, but these conditions were novel and rather cowing. In a little while something like panic came to him. It was horrible to think of Betty lost in this storm, b-nt-I)iit he could do nothing to help her. He could scarcely.see ten yirds before him. Almost against his will" he found himself walking down the slope. Chance brought him to the belt of pines without mishap. He was able now to get his bearings. Beneath the wood it would be fairly easy to find the track leading to the hotel. And he told himself that his most sen- sible course would be to return for help. In that way surely he would serve Betty best. It would be madness to plough vaguely on in search of her through this blinding snow, and yet—and yet he was conscious of some slight shame. There followed a short battle, in which Mr. Mil- ton's logic and common sense were vic- torious. Somewhat exhausted, he reached the hotel an hour later with his Storv of Betty's plight. But Jim Travers had shown less logic ;¡ :1<1 common sense. It never even occurred to him that h« would serve Betty best bv turning* tail. As for his chance of finding her-in this smothering, blinding storm. well, that was probably slight enough but it would be better, far better, never to get back to safety than to return alone. He war. not in the least sure of his direction by now; he might be heading straight for a crevasse for aught he knew: but he climbed steadily upwards with downbent head, his progress horriby impeded by the loose, heavy snow. He never knew for how long he had been doggedly struggling on. It seemed in his blind helplessness like many endless hcjurs. At intervals he shouted with all his strength. Betty must surely have started downwards long ago, and she might hear him. He felt like a man blindfolded and hobbled. He was thinking of Betty all the time, and the thought was like a spur to his failing strength. Surely he. would find her. Surely ail would be well. And then at )a-t ne heard a faint cry 1 she was crouching in the lee of a rod;, very exhausted, very frightened, almost si.- sit. H<, had broken into a tumlii li. eager run at the sound of her voice, for- ■;c-t ii.g all his weariness. And so he cane upon her where she crouched, and ici, that it was the greatest, mo.ment of hi- hfe a, fie saw tier eyes light up in her while f;ve at sight of him. H.)t\ Mlr)??ered ?o her feet with out- F.tretched hands, and be caught them and hi l-iem. "?.'t is you she gasped. "I'd almost ?iv?n up hope. But I waa thinking—wonder iB? if tou might come to look for me." ?tit 7ra vers, although a pillar of snow of ciiow from head to foot, felt a warm glow run through his veins. He was glad that he was there, gladder than he had ever been in all his life. "Of course I came," he said quietly. "But now we have got to get home again.* H Oh, shall we ever get home again?" Betty asked hopelessly. "I'm so cold—eo cold and tired. And she began to cry a little. Mr. Travers repressed his inclination. This was no moment for soft woids and deeds. "We must keep moving. he said firmly. "It won't do to keep still. Lean on me and come along down hill. Y'oti've got to be plucky-—dear." If BettT noticed the tern; of endearment she found no repi'oof for merely obeyed him like an automaton, o n^ing to h;m as they to struggle slowly flown- ward. Jim .Miiy w.-nder with a dull fear how it would cit(i an 1 what be ought t.o do. Betty was almost -done up. His own itreiigth was failing. The snow aeemed thicker than ever. And then and then he saw something which thrilled him with wild kope. "What's that over there?" he gasped. "It looksit look s like the roof of a hut." And it was a hut. a heaven-sent, lonely, empty hut. He half-cat riel Bettv toward^ it. The door presented no difficulties. Within it was a pile of dry wood, Vd Jim Travers carried matches. Ten minutes later he was chafing Betty's hands before a blazing fire. Her eyes were closed, and s he seemfd to have collapsed. But already she seemed warmer, and there* was a little colour in her cheeks. Mr. Travers, examining her face with Anxious eves, yielded quite sud- denly to temptation The to ltd; of his iips proved quite start- lingly efficacious. Betty opened her eye at once. The tinge of colour in he? "heeks had deepened. Mr. Traver-. vei v rjghtly, felt overwhelmed with shame. He had taken a gross advantage of his position. "1—I apologise!" lie stammered. Betty did not seem to heed him. "We're safe now. aren't we?" she a>ked. "They are sure to come to look for 1,5. Tell me how yon came to find me." "Milton and I saw you through the tele- sco|>e. Jim Travers explained. We-we raced up the mountain uul 1 got ahead. Betty smiled—rather wonderfully. hope Mr. Atihoii i" sa fe," she said. up tO til(I top of the mountain, and—and I am glad that it was you-—who found me." Sometimes there are no rules about the passage of time. It seemed to Mr. Travers like five glorious minutes hut it was a good hour later when he opeiud the door of the hut and looked ■ut. "Hurrah, li I il(-. -q Be t ty k? cried. "Hd. ?y fad. the snow has stopped :md thr- ?"? y sh;u:g!" .topped awl !);e ,11\1