The Purple FlameRoy J. Snell
Produced by Stephen Hutcheson, Rod Crawford, Dave Morganand the Online Distributed Proofreading Team athttps://www.pgdp.net
_Adventure Stories for Girls_
The Purple Flame
_By_ ROY J. SNELL
The Reilly & Lee Co. Chicago
_Printed in the United States of America_
_Copyright, 1924_ by The Reilly & Lee Co. _All Rights Reserved_
CHAPTER PAGE I The Mystery of the Old Dredge 7 II Patsy From Kentucky 21 III Marian Faces a Problem 35 IV The Range Robber 46 V Planning a Perilous Journey 55 VI A Journey Well Begun 60 VII The Enchanted Mountain 65 VIII Trouble for Patsy 71 IX Patsy Solves a Problem 81 X A Startling Discovery 87 XI The Girl of the Purple Flame 95 XII Ancient Treasure 104 XIII The Long Trail 112 XIV Mysterious Music 117 XV An Old Man of the North 125 XVI The Barrier 131 XVII Age Serves Youth 139 XVIII The Trail of Blood 146 XIX Passing the Rapids 153 XX A Message From the Air 165 XXI Fading Hopes 172 XXII A Fruitless Journey 177 XXIII Planning the Long Drive 186 XXIV Camp Followers 196 XXV The Mirage 209 XXVI The Mysterious Deliverer 223 XXVII The End of the Trail 237
The Purple Flame
CHAPTER I THE MYSTERY OF THE OLD DREDGE
Marian Norton started, took one step backward, then stood staring.Startled by this sudden action, the spotted reindeer behind her lungedbackward to blunder into the brown one that followed him, and this onewas in turn thrown against a white one that followed the two. This setall three of them into such a general mix-up that it was a full minutebefore the girl could get them quieted and could again allow her eyes toseek the object of her alarm.
As she stood there her pulse quickened, her cheeks flushed and she feltan all but irresistible desire to turn and flee. Yet she held her ground.Had she seen a flash of purple flame? She had thought so. It had appearedto shoot out from the side of the dark bulk that lay just before her.
"Might have been my nerves," she told herself. "Perhaps my eyes areseeing things. T'wouldn't be strange. I came a long way to-day."
She _had_ come a long way over the Arctic tundra that day. Starting buttwo mornings before from her reindeer herd, close to a hundred miles fromNome, Alaska, she had covered fully two-thirds of that distance in twodays.
Her way had lead over low hills, across streams whose waters ran clearand cold toward the sea, down broad stretches of tundra whose soft mosseshad oozed moisture at her every step. Here a young widgeon duck, ready tobegin his southward flight--for this was the Arctic's autumn time--hadstretched his long neck to stare at her. Here a mother white fox hadyap-yaped at her, insolently and unafraid. Here she had paused to pick ahandful of pink salmon berries or to admire a particularly brilliantarray of wild flowers, which, but for her passing, might have been "Bornto blush unseen and waste their fragrance on the desert air." Yet alwayswith the three reindeers at her heels, she had pressed onward towardNome, the port and metropolis of all that vast north country.
The black bulk that loomed out of the darkness before her was a deserteddredging scow, grounded on a sand bar of the Sinrock River. At least shehad thought the scow deserted. Until now she had believed and hoped thathere she might spend the night, completing her journey on the morrow.
"But now," she breathed. "Yes! Yes! There can be no mistake. There it isagain."
Sinking wearily down upon the damp grass, she buried her face in herhands. She was so tired she could cry, yet she must "mush" on through thedark, over the soft, oozing tundra, for fifteen more weary miles. Fifteenmiles further down the river was the Sinrock Mission. Here she might hopeto find a corral for her deer, and food and rest for herself.
Marian did not cry. Born and bred in the Arctic, she was made of suchstern stuff as the Arctic wilderness and the Arctic blizzard alone canmould.
She did not mean to take chances with the occupants of the old dredge.There was something mysterious and uncanny about that purple flame whichshe now saw shoot straight out, a full two feet, to instantly disappear.She had seen nothing like it before in the Arctic. As she studied theoutlines of the dredge, she realized that the light was within it; thatit flashed across a small square window in the side of the old scow.
"No," she reasoned, "I can't afford to take chances with them. I must goon down the river. I can make Sinrock."
Speaking to her reindeer, she tugged at their lead straps. One at a timethey started forward until at last they again took up the wearyswish-swish across the tundra.
Once Marian turned to look back. Again she caught the flash of a purpleflame.
Had she known how this purple flame was to be mixed up with her owndestiny, she might have paused to look longer. As it was, she gaveherself over to wondering what sort of people would take up theirhabitation in that half tumbled-down dredge, and what their weird lightmight signify.
She had heard of the strange rites performed by those interestingchild-people, the Eskimos, in the worship of the spirits of dead animals.For one of these, the "Bladder Festival," they saved all the bladders ofpolar bears, walrus and seals which they had killed, and at last, afterfour days of ceremony, committed them again to the waters of the ocean.
"They burn wild parsnip stalks in that festival," Marian mused, "but thatpurple flame was not made by burning weeds. It was the brilliant flame ofa blue-hot furnace flaring up, or something like that. Probably wasn'tEskimo at all. Probably--well, it may be some Orientals who have stolenaway up here to worship their idols by burning strange fires."
She thought of all the foreign people who had crossed the Pacific to takeup their homes in the far north city of Nome, which was just forty milesaway.
"Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Russians, and members of nameless tribes,"she whispered to herself, as if half afraid they might hear her. "Mightbe any of these. Might--"
Suddenly she broke off her thinking and stopped short. Just before her aform loomed out of the dark. Another and yet another appeared.
For a moment she stood there rigid, scarcely breathing. Then she threwback her head and laughed.
"Reindeer," she exclaimed. "I was frightened by some reindeer. Oh, well,"she said, after a moment's reflection, "I might excuse myself for that.I'm tired out with marching over this soggy tundra. Besides, I guess thatpurple flame got on my nerves. All the same," she avowed stoutly,
"I'llsolve that mystery yet. See if I don't."
There for the time the subject was dismissed. The presence of these fewreindeer before her told of more not far away, a whole herd of them.Where there were reindeer there would be herders, and herders lived intents. Here there would be a warm, dry place to rest and sleep.
"Must be the Sinrock herd," she concluded.
In this she was right. Soon, off in the distance, she caught the yellowglow of candlelight shining through a tent wall. Fifteen minutes latershe was seated upon a rolled-up sleeping bag, chatting gayly with twoblack-eyed Eskimo girls who were keeping their brothers' tents whilethose worthies were out looking for some stray fauns.
After her three reindeers had been relieved of their packs and set freeto graze, Marian had dined on hardtack and juicy reindeer chops. Then shecrawled deep down into her soft reindeer skin sleeping bag, to snatch afew hours of rest before resuming her journey to Nome.
Before her eyelids closed in sleep her tireless brain went over theproblem before her and the purpose of her fatiguing journey. She had comeall this way to meet a relative whom she had never seen--a cousin, PatsyMartin, from Louisville, Kentucky.
"Kentucky," she whispered the word for the hundredth time. "Way downsouth. Imagine a girl who was brought up down there coming here for awinter to endure our cold, snow, and blizzards. She's probably slim,willowy, and tender as a baby; dresses in thin silks, and all that. Whydid father send her up here? Looks like it was bad enough to have fourhundred reindeer to herd, without having a sixteen year old cousin fromKen-tuck-ie to look after."
She yawned sleepily, yet her mind went on thinking of her reindeer herdand her problems. Though she had lived all but one year of her life inthe far north, she had never, until two months before, spent a singlenight in a reindeer herder's camp. But it was no longer a novelexperience.
Until recently her father had been a prosperous merchant in Nome.Financial reverses had come and he had been obliged to sell his store.The reindeer herd, which he had taken as payment for a debt, was the onlywealth he had saved from the crash. Following this, his doctor hadordered him to leave the rigorous climate of the North and to seekrenewed health in the States. Much as he regretted it, he had beenobliged to ask his daughter to give up her studies and to take charge ofthe herd until a favorable opportunity came for selling it.
"And that won't be soon, I guess," Marian sighed. "Reindeer herds are adrug on the market. Trouble is, it's too hard to dispose of the meat. Andif you can't sell reindeer meat you can't make any money. Now, added tothis, comes this cousin, Patsy Martin."
Her father had written that Patsy was given to over-study, and that Mr.Martin, her uncle, thinking that a year in the northern wilds would doher good, had asked permission to send her up to be with Marian. Marian'sfather had consented, and Patsy was due on the next boat.
"She'll be company for you," her father had written.
"I do wonder if she will?" Marian sighed again. "Oh, well, no use to be apessimist," and at that she turned over and fell asleep.
It was a surprised Marian who three days later found herself caught inthe firm embrace of her cousin, Patsy. Patsy was two years younger thanMarian. There could be no missing the fact that she was much slimmer andmore graceful, and that there was strength in her slender arms wastestified to by her warm embrace.
When at last Marian got a look at Patsy's face, she found it almost asbrown as her own. And as for freckles, there could scarcely have been agreater number on one person's face. Her mouth, too, had lines thatMarian liked. It was a firm, determined little mouth that said: "When Ihave a hill to climb I _run_ up it."
Never had Marian beheld such a wealth of color as was displayed inPatsy's winter wardrobe. Orange and red sweaters; great, broad scarfs ofmixed grays; gay tams; short plaid skirts; heavy brown corduroy knickers;these and many other garments of exquisite workmanship and design werespread out before her.
"And the fun of it all is," giggled Patsy, "we're going to play we'retwins and wear one another's clothes. You've got a spotted fawnskinparka, I know you have. I'm going to wear that, right away--thisafternoon. Going to have my picture taken in it and send it back to myschool friends."
"All right," agreed Marian. "You can have anything I own. I'm heavierthan you are, but arctic clothing doesn't fit very tight, so I guess itwill be all right."
As if to clinch the bargain, she wound an orange colored scarf about herneck and went strutting across the room.
A half hour later, while Patsy was out having her picture taken, Marianwalked slowly up and down the room. She was thinking, and her thoughtswere long, long thoughts.
"I like her," she said at last. "I'm going to like her more and more. Butit's going to be hard for her sometimes, fearfully hard. When theblizzards sweep in from the north and we're all shut in; when no onecomes and no one goes, and the nights are twenty hours long; when thedogs howl their lonesome song--it's going to be hard for her then. ButI'll do the best I can for her. Her father was right--it will do her aworld of good. It will teach her the slow and steady patience of thosewho live in the North, and that's a good thing to know."
Three weeks later the two girls, toiling wearily along after two reindeersleds, approached the black bulk of the old scow in the river, the one inwhich Marian had seen the mysterious purple flame. Again it was night.They were on their way north to the reindeer herd. Traveling over thefirst soft snow of winter, they had made twenty miles that day. For thelast hour Patsy had not uttered a single word. She had tramped doggedlyafter the sled. Only her drooping shoulders told how weary she was.Marian had hoped against hope that they would this time find the olddredge deserted.
"It would make a nice dry place to camp," she said to herself, as shebrought her reindeer to a halt and stood studying the dark bulk. Patsydropped wearily down upon a loaded sled.
Just as Marian was about to give the word to go forward, there flashedacross the square window a jet of purple flame.
"Oh!" exclaimed Marian.
"What is it?" asked Patsy.
"The purple flame!"
"The purple flame? What's that?"
"You know as much as I do; only I know it's there in that old dredge. Andsince it's there, we can't stop here for the night. We must go on."
"Oh, but--but I can't!" Patsy half sobbed. "You don't know, you can'tknow how tired I am."
"Yes, I know," said Marian softly. "I've been just that way; but we darenot stop here. The people in the old scow might have dogs and they wouldattack our reindeer. We must go on; five miles more."
"Camp beneath the stars."
"All right," said Patsy, with a burst of determination. "Let's get itover quick."
Again they moved slowly forward, but neither of them forgot the purpleflame. Three times they saw it flash across the window.
"That place must be haunted," Marian sighed as she turned to give herfull attention to the lagging reindeer.