PART II. The Country of the Saints.
5. CHAPTER V. THE AVENGING ANGELS.
ALL night their course lay through intricate defiles and over
irregular and rock-strewn paths. More than once they lost
their way, but Hope's intimate knowledge of the mountains
enabled them to regain the track once more. When morning
broke, a scene of marvellous though savage beauty lay before
them. In every direction the great snow-capped peaks hemmed
them in, peeping over each other's shoulders to the far
horizon. So steep were the rocky banks on either side of
them, that the larch and the pine seemed to be suspended over
their heads, and to need only a gust of wind to come hurtling
down upon them. Nor was the fear entirely an illusion, for
the barren valley was thickly strewn with trees and boulders
which had fallen in a similar manner. Even as they passed, a
great rock came thundering down with a hoarse rattle which
woke the echoes in the silent gorges, and startled the weary
horses into a gallop.
As the sun rose slowly above the eastern horizon, the caps of
the great mountains lit up one after the other, like lamps at
a festival, until they were all ruddy and glowing. The
magnificent spectacle cheered the hearts of the three
fugitives and gave them fresh energy. At a wild torrent
which swept out of a ravine they called a halt and watered
their horses, while they partook of a hasty breakfast. Lucy
and her father would fain have rested longer, but Jefferson
Hope was inexorable. "They will be upon our track by this
time," he said. "Everything depends upon our speed. Once
safe in Carson we may rest for the remainder of our lives."
During the whole of that day they struggled on through the
defiles, and by evening they calculated that they were more
than thirty miles from their enemies. At night-time they
chose the base of a beetling crag, where the rocks offered
some protection from the chill wind, and there huddled
together for warmth, they enjoyed a few hours' sleep. Before
daybreak, however, they were up and on their way once more.
They had seen no signs of any pursuers, and Jefferson Hope
began to think that they were fairly out of the reach of the
terrible organization whose enmity they had incurred. He
little knew how far that iron grasp could reach, or how soon
it was to close upon them and crush them.