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The Lonesome Man
by [?]

–the murderer still seeks forgetfulness in
the solitude, building his cabin in the shadow
of great peaks.

The road that leads to the historic north shoulder of Solidor is lonely now. The stages that once crawled painfully upward through its flowery meadows are playhouses for the children of Silver Plume, and the brakes that once howled so resoundingly on the downward way are rusting to ashes in the weeds that spring from the soil of the Silverado Queen’s unused corral. The railway, half a hundred miles to the north, has left the famous pass to solitude and to grass.

Once a week, or possibly oftener, a cattleman or prospector rides across, or a little band of tourists plod up or down,–thinking they are penetrating to the heart of the Rockies,–but for the most part the trail is passing swiftly to the unremembered twilight of the tragic past. There are, it is true, one or two stamp-mills above Pemberton, but they draw their supplies from the valley to the west and not from the plain’s cities, and the upper camps have long since been deserted by the restless seeker of sudden gold.

It is a desolate, unshaded country, made so by the reckless hand of the tenderfoot prospector, who, in the days of the silver rush, cut and burned the timber sinfully, and the great peaks are meticulated with the rotting boles of noble pines and spotted with the decaying stumps of the firs which once made the whole land as beautiful as a park. Here and there, however, a segment of this splendid ancient forest remains to give some hint of what the ranges were before the destroying horde of silver-seekers struck and scarred it.

Along this trail and above the last vestige of its standing trees a man could be seen, walking eastward and upward, one bright afternoon in August, a couple of years ago. He moved slowly, for he was heavily built and obviously not much used to climbing, for he paused often to breathe. The air at that altitude is thin and, to the one not accustomed to it, most unsatisfying. In the intervals of his pauses the traveler’s eyes swept the heights and explored each canyon wall as if in search of a resting-place. Around him the conies cried and small birds skimmed from ledge to ledge, but his dark face did not lighten with joy of the beauty which shone over his head nor to that which flamed under his feet. It was plain that he was too preoccupied with some inner problem, too intent on his quest, to give eye or ear to the significance of bird or flower.

Huge Solidor, bare and bleak, rose grandly to the north, propping the high-piled shining clouds, and the somber, dust-covered fields of snow showed to what far height his proud summit soared above his fellows. Little streams of icy water trickled through close-knit, velvety sward whereon small flowers, white and gold and lilac, showed like fairy footprints. Down from the pass a chill wind, delicious and invigorating, rushed as palpably as if it were a liquid wave. In all this upper region no shelter offered to the tired man.

A few minutes later, as he rounded the sloping green bastion which flanks the peak to the south, the man’s keen eyes lighted upon a small cabin which squatted almost unnoticeably against a gray ledge some five hundred feet higher than the rock whereon he stood. The door of this hut was open and the figure of a man, dwarfed by distance, could be detected intently watching the pedestrian on the trail. Unlike most cabin-dwellers, he made no sign of greeting, uttered no shout of cheer; on the contrary, as the stranger approached he disappeared within his den like a marmot.