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Chapter 8 "Until the Day Break"

  • A week later Darrell was duly installed at the mining camp. Mr. Britton ha_lready left, called on private business to another part of the State. Afte_is departure, life at The Pines did not seem the same to Darrell. He sorel_issed the companionship—amounting almost to comradeship, notwithstanding th_isparity of their years—which had existed between them from their firs_eeting, and he was not sorry when the day came for him to exchange th_omfort and luxury with which the kindness of Mr. Underwood and his sister ha_urrounded him for the rough fare and plain quarters of the mining camp.
  • Mrs. Dean, when informed of Darrell's position at the camp, had mos_trenuously objected to his going, and had immediately stipulated that he wa_o return to The Pines every Saturday and remain until Monday.
  • "Of course he's coming home every Saturday, and as much oftener as he likes,"
  • her brother had interposed. "This is his home, and he understands it withou_ny words from us."
  • On the morning of his departure he realized as never before the depth of th_ffection of his host and hostess for himself, manifesting itself as it did i_ilent, unobtrusive acts of homely but heartfelt kindness. As the storing o_arrell's belongings in the wagon which was to convey him to the camp wa_bout completed, Mrs. Dean appeared, carrying a large, covered basket, wit_now-white linen visible between the gaping edges of the lids. This sh_eposited within the wagon, saying, as she turned to Darrell,—
  • "There's a few things to last you through the week, just so you don't forge_ow home cooking tastes."
  • And at the last moment there was brought from the stables at Mr. Underwood'_rders, for Darrell's use in going back and forth between The Pines and th_amp, a beautiful bay mare which had belonged to Harry Whitcomb, and which,
  • having sadly missed her young master, greeted Darrell with a low whinny,
  • muzzling his cheek and nosing his pockets for sugar with the most affectionat_amiliarity.
  • It was a cold, bleak morning. The ground had frozen after a heavy rain, an_he wagon jolted roughly over the ruts in the canyon road, making slo_rogress. The sky was overcast and straggling snowflakes wandered aimlessly u_nd down in the still air.
  • Darrell, from his seat beside the driver, turned occasionally to speak t_rix, the mare, fastened to the rear end of the wagon and daintily picking he_ay along the rough road. Sometimes he hummed a bit of half-remembered song,
  • but for the most part he was silent. While not attempting any definit_nalysis of his feelings, he was distinctly conscious of conflicting emotions.
  • He was deeply touched by the kindness of Mr. Underwood and Mrs. Dean, and fel_ sort of self-condemnation that he was not more responsive to thei_ffection. He knew that their home and hearts were alike open to him; that h_as as welcome as one of their own flesh and blood; yet he experienced a sens_f relief at having escaped from the unvarying kindliness for which, at heart,
  • he was profoundly grateful. Even late that night, in the solitude of hi_lainly furnished room, with the wind moaning outside and the snow tappin_ith muffled fingers against the window pane, he yet exulted in a sense o_reedom and happiness hitherto unknown in the brief period which held all h_ecalled of life.
  • The ensuing days and weeks passed pleasantly and swiftly for Darrell. H_uickly familiarized himself with the work which he had in charge, an_requently found leisure, when his routine work was done, for experiments an_ests of his own, as well as for outside work which came to him as his skil_ecame known in neighboring camps. His evenings were well filled, as he ha_aken up his old studies along the lines of mineralogy and metallurgy, pushin_head into new fields of research and discovery, studying by night an_xperimenting by day. Meanwhile, the rocky peaks around him seemed beckonin_im with their talismanic signs, as though silently challenging him to lear_he mighty secrets for ages hidden within their breasts, and he promise_imself that with the return of lengthening days, he would start forth, _umble learner, to sit at the feet of those great teachers of the centuries.
  • He had occasional letters from Mr. Britton, cheering, inspiring, helpful, muc_s his presence had been, and in return he wrote freely of his present wor_nd his plans for future work.
  • Sometimes, when books were closed or the plaintive tones of the violin ha_ied away in silence, he would sit for hours pondering the strange problem o_is own life; watching, listening for some sign from out the past; but neithe_ay of light nor wave of sound came to him. His physician had told him tha_ome day the past would return, and that the intervening months or years a_he case might be, would then doubtless be in turn forgotten, and as h_evolved this in his mind he formed a plan which he at once proceeded to pu_nto execution.
  • On his return one night from a special trip to Ophir he went to his room wit_ore than usual haste, and opening a package in which he seemed greatl_nterested, drew forth what appeared to be a book, about eleven by fiftee_nches in size, bound in flexible morocco and containing some five or si_undred pages. The pages were blank, however, and bound according to a_ngenious device which he had planned and given the binder, by which the_ould be removed and replaced at will, and, if necessary, extra pages could b_dded.
  • For some time he stood by the light, turning the volume over and over with a_xpression of mingled pleasure and sadness; then removing some of the pages,
  • he sat down and prepared to write. The new task to which he had set himsel_as the writing of a complete record, day by day, of this present life of his,
  • beginning with the first glimmerings of memory, faint and confused, in th_arliest days of his convalescence at The Pines. He dipped his pen, the_esitated; how should this strange volume be inscribed?
  • Only for a moment; then his pen was gliding rapidly over the spotless surface,
  • and the first page, when laid aside, bore the following inscription:
  • > "To one from the outer world, whose identity is hidden among the secrets o_he past:
  • > "With the hope that when the veil is lifted these pages may assist him i_niting into one perfect whole the strangely disjointed portions of his life,
  • they are inscribed by
  • > "John Darrell."
  • >
  • Below was the date, and then followed the words,—
  • > "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away."
  • >
  • After penning the last words he paused, repeating them, vainly trying t_ecall when or where he had heard them. They seemed to ring in his ears like _train of melody wafted from some invisible shore, and blending with the mino_ndertone he caught a note of triumph. They had come to him like a voice fro_ut the past, but ringing with joyful assurance for the future; the assuranc_hat the night, however dark, must end in a glorious dawning, in which n_aunting shadow would have an abiding-place.