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A Study in Scarlet - Chapter 5 - The Avenging Angels

1. Part I. Chapter 1 - Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

2. Chapter 2 - The Science of Deduction

3. Chapter 3 - The Lauriston Garden Mystery

4. Chapter 4 - What John Rance Had to Tell

5. Chapter 5 - Our Advertisement Brings a Visitor

6. Chapter 6 - Tobias Gregson Shows What He Can Do

7. Chapter 7 - Light in the Darkness

8. Part II. Chapter 1 - On the Great Alkali Plain

9. Chapter 2 - The Flower of Utah

10. Chapter 3 - John Ferrier Talks with the Prophet

11. Chapter 4 - A Flight for Life

12. Chapter 5 - The Avenging Angels

13. Chapter 6 - A Continuation of the Reminiscences of John Watson, M.D.

14. Chapter 7 - The Conclusion

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.

About the middle of the second day of their flight their
scanty store of provisions began to run out. This gave the
hunter little uneasiness, however, for there was game to be
had among the mountains, and he had frequently before had to
depend upon his rifle for the needs of life. Choosing a
sheltered nook, he piled together a few dried branches and
made a blazing fire, at which his companions might warm
themselves, for they were now nearly five thousand feet above
the sea level, and the air was bitter and keen. Having
tethered the horses, and bade Lucy adieu, he threw his gun
over his shoulder, and set out in search of whatever chance
might throw in his way. Looking back he saw the old man and
the young girl crouching over the blazing fire, while the
three animals stood motionless in the back-ground. Then the
intervening rocks hid them from his view.

He walked for a couple of miles through one ravine after
another without success, though from the marks upon the bark
of the trees, and other indications, he judged that there
were numerous bears in the vicinity. At last, after two or
three hours' fruitless search, he was thinking of turning
back in despair, when casting his eyes upwards he saw a sight
which sent a thrill of pleasure through his heart. On the
edge of a jutting pinnacle, three or four hundred feet above
him, there stood a creature somewhat resembling a sheep in
appearance, but armed with a pair of gigantic horns.
The big-horn -- for so it is called -- was acting, probably,
as a guardian over a flock which were invisible to the hunter;
but fortunately it was heading in the opposite direction,
and had not perceived him. Lying on his face, he rested his
rifle upon a rock, and took a long and steady aim before drawing
the trigger. The animal sprang into the air, tottered for a
moment upon the edge of the precipice, and then came crashing
down into the valley beneath.

The creature was too unwieldy to lift, so the hunter
contented himself with cutting away one haunch and part of
the flank. With this trophy over his shoulder, he hastened
to retrace his steps, for the evening was already drawing in.
He had hardly started, however, before he realized the
difficulty which faced him. In his eagerness he had wandered
far past the ravines which were known to him, and it was no
easy matter to pick out the path which he had taken.
The valley in which he found himself divided and sub-divided
into many gorges, which were so like each other that it was
impossible to distinguish one from the other. He followed
one for a mile or more until he came to a mountain torrent
which he was sure that he had never seen before. Convinced
that he had taken the wrong turn, he tried another, but with
the same result. Night was coming on rapidly, and it was
almost dark before he at last found himself in a defile which
was familiar to him. Even then it was no easy matter to keep
to the right track, for the moon had not yet risen, and the
high cliffs on either side made the obscurity more profound.
Weighed down with his burden, and weary from his exertions,
he stumbled along, keeping up his heart by the reflection
that every step brought him nearer to Lucy, and that he
carried with him enough to ensure them food for the remainder
of their journey.

He had now come to the mouth of the very defile in which he
had left them. Even in the darkness he could recognize the
outline of the cliffs which bounded it. They must, he
reflected, be awaiting him anxiously, for he had been absent
nearly five hours. In the gladness of his heart he put his
hands to his mouth and made the glen re-echo to a loud halloo
as a signal that he was coming. He paused and listened for
an answer. None came save his own cry, which clattered up
the dreary silent ravines, and was borne back to his ears in
countless repetitions. Again he shouted, even louder than
before, and again no whisper came back from the friends whom
he had left such a short time ago. A vague, nameless dread
came over him, and he hurried onwards frantically, dropping
the precious food in his agitation.

When he turned the corner, he came full in sight of the spot
where the fire had been lit. There was still a glowing pile
of wood ashes there, but it had evidently not been tended
since his departure. The same dead silence still reigned all
round. With his fears all changed to convictions, he hurried
on. There was no living creature near the remains of the
fire: animals, man, maiden, all were gone. It was only too
clear that some sudden and terrible disaster had occurred
during his absence -- a disaster which had embraced them all,
and yet had left no traces behind it.

Bewildered and stunned by this blow, Jefferson Hope felt his
head spin round, and had to lean upon his rifle to save
himself from falling. He was essentially a man of action,
however, and speedily recovered from his temporary impotence.
Seizing a half-consumed piece of wood from the smouldering
fire, he blew it into a flame, and proceeded with its help to
examine the little camp. The ground was all stamped down by
the feet of horses, showing that a large party of mounted men
had overtaken the fugitives, and the direction of their
tracks proved that they had afterwards turned back to Salt
Lake City. Had they carried back both of his companions with
them? Jefferson Hope had almost persuaded himself that they
must have done so, when his eye fell upon an object which
made every nerve of his body tingle within him. A little way
on one side of the camp was a low-lying heap of reddish soil,
which had assuredly not been there before. There was no
mistaking it for anything but a newly-dug grave. As the
young hunter approached it, he perceived that a stick had
been planted on it, with a sheet of paper stuck in the cleft
fork of it. The inscription upon the paper was brief, but to
the point:

Died August 4th, 1860.

The sturdy old man, whom he had left so short a time before,
was gone, then, and this was all his epitaph. Jefferson Hope
looked wildly round to see if there was a second grave, but
there was no sign of one. Lucy had been carried back by
their terrible pursuers to fulfil her original destiny, by
becoming one of the harem of the Elder's son. As the young
fellow realized the certainty of her fate, and his own
powerlessness to prevent it, he wished that he, too, was
lying with the old farmer in his last silent resting-place.

Again, however, his active spirit shook off the lethargy
which springs from despair. If there was nothing else left
to him, he could at least devote his life to revenge.
With indomitable patience and perseverance, Jefferson Hope
possessed also a power of sustained vindictiveness, which he
may have learned from the Indians amongst whom he had lived.
As he stood by the desolate fire, he felt that the only one
thing which could assuage his grief would be thorough and
complete retribution, brought by his own hand upon his
enemies. His strong will and untiring energy should, he
determined, be devoted to that one end. With a grim, white
face, he retraced his steps to where he had dropped the food,
and having stirred up the smouldering fire, he cooked enough
to last him for a few days. This he made up into a bundle,
and, tired as he was, he set himself to walk back through the
mountains upon the track of the avenging angels.

For five days he toiled footsore and weary through the
defiles which he had already traversed on horseback.
At night he flung himself down among the rocks, and snatched a
few hours of sleep; but before daybreak he was always well on
his way. On the sixth day, he reached the Eagle Canon, from
which they had commenced their ill-fated flight. Thence he
could look down upon the home of the saints. Worn and
exhausted, he leaned upon his rifle and shook his gaunt hand
fiercely at the silent widespread city beneath him. As he
looked at it, he observed that there were flags in some of
the principal streets, and other signs of festivity. He was
still speculating as to what this might mean when he heard
the clatter of horse's hoofs, and saw a mounted man riding
towards him. As he approached, he recognized him as a Mormon
named Cowper, to whom he had rendered services at different
times. He therefore accosted him when he got up to him, with
the object of finding out what Lucy Ferrier's fate had been.

"I am Jefferson Hope," he said. "You remember me."

The Mormon looked at him with undisguised astonishment --
indeed, it was difficult to recognize in this tattered,
unkempt wanderer, with ghastly white face and fierce,
wild eyes, the spruce young hunter of former days.
Having, however, at last, satisfied himself as to his identity,
the man's surprise changed to consternation.

"You are mad to come here," he cried. "It is as much as my
own life is worth to be seen talking with you. There is a
warrant against you from the Holy Four for assisting the
Ferriers away."

"I don't fear them, or their warrant," Hope said, earnestly.
"You must know something of this matter, Cowper. I conjure
you by everything you hold dear to answer a few questions.
We have always been friends. For God's sake, don't refuse
to answer me."

"What is it?" the Mormon asked uneasily. "Be quick.
The very rocks have ears and the trees eyes."

"What has become of Lucy Ferrier?"

"She was married yesterday to young Drebber. Hold up, man,
hold up, you have no life left in you."

"Don't mind me," said Hope faintly. He was white to the very
lips, and had sunk down on the stone against which he had
been leaning. "Married, you say?"

"Married yesterday -- that's what those flags are for on the
Endowment House. There was some words between young Drebber
and young Stangerson as to which was to have her. They'd
both been in the party that followed them, and Stangerson had
shot her father, which seemed to give him the best claim; but
when they argued it out in council, Drebber's party was the
stronger, so the Prophet gave her over to him. No one won't
have her very long though, for I saw death in her face yesterday.
She is more like a ghost than a woman. Are you off, then?"

"Yes, I am off," said Jefferson Hope, who had risen from his
seat. His face might have been chiselled out of marble,
so hard and set was its expression, while its eyes glowed with
a baleful light.

"Where are you going?"

"Never mind," he answered; and, slinging his weapon over his
shoulder, strode off down the gorge and so away into the
heart of the mountains to the haunts of the wild beasts.
Amongst them all there was none so fierce and so dangerous as

The prediction of the Mormon was only too well fulfilled.
Whether it was the terrible death of her father or the
effects of the hateful marriage into which she had been
forced, poor Lucy never held up her head again, but pined
away and died within a month. Her sottish husband, who had
married her principally for the sake of John Ferrier's
property, did not affect any great grief at his bereavement;
but his other wives mourned over her, and sat up with her the
night before the burial, as is the Mormon custom. They were
grouped round the bier in the early hours of the morning,
when, to their inexpressible fear and astonishment, the door
was flung open, and a savage-looking, weather-beaten man in
tattered garments strode into the room. Without a glance or
a word to the cowering women, he walked up to the white
silent figure which had once contained the pure soul of Lucy
Ferrier. Stooping over her, he pressed his lips reverently
to her cold forehead, and then, snatching up her hand, he
took the wedding-ring from her finger. "She shall not be
buried in that," he cried with a fierce snarl, and before an
alarm could be raised sprang down the stairs and was gone.
So strange and so brief was the episode, that the watchers
might have found it hard to believe it themselves or persuade
other people of it, had it not been for the undeniable fact
that the circlet of gold which marked her as having been a
bride had disappeared.

For some months Jefferson Hope lingered among the mountains,
leading a strange wild life, and nursing in his heart the
fierce desire for vengeance which possessed him. Tales were
told in the City of the weird figure which was seen prowling
about the suburbs, and which haunted the lonely mountain
gorges. Once a bullet whistled through Stangerson's window
and flattened itself upon the wall within a foot of him. On
another occasion, as Drebber passed under a cliff a great
boulder crashed down on him, and he only escaped a terrible
death by throwing himself upon his face. The two young
Mormons were not long in discovering the reason of these
attempts upon their lives, and led repeated expeditions into
the mountains in the hope of capturing or killing their
enemy, but always without success. Then they adopted the
precaution of never going out alone or after nightfall, and
of having their houses guarded. After a time they were able
to relax these measures, for nothing was either heard or seen
of their opponent, and they hoped that time had cooled his

Far from doing so, it had, if anything, augmented it.
The hunter's mind was of a hard, unyielding nature, and the
predominant idea of revenge had taken such complete
possession of it that there was no room for any other
emotion. He was, however, above all things practical. He
soon realized that even his iron constitution could not stand
the incessant strain which he was putting upon it. Exposure
and want of wholesome food were wearing him out. If he died
like a dog among the mountains, what was to become of his
revenge then? And yet such a death was sure to overtake him
if he persisted. He felt that that was to play his enemy's
game, so he reluctantly returned to the old Nevada mines,
there to recruit his health and to amass money enough to
allow him to pursue his object without privation.

His intention had been to be absent a year at the most, but a
combination of unforeseen circumstances prevented his leaving
the mines for nearly five. At the end of that time, however,
his memory of his wrongs and his craving for revenge were
quite as keen as on that memorable night when he had stood by
John Ferrier's grave. Disguised, and under an assumed name,
he returned to Salt Lake City, careless what became of his
own life, as long as he obtained what he knew to be justice.
There he found evil tidings awaiting him. There had been a
schism among the Chosen People a few months before, some of
the younger members of the Church having rebelled against the
authority of the Elders, and the result had been the
secession of a certain number of the malcontents, who had
left Utah and become Gentiles. Among these had been Drebber
and Stangerson; and no one knew whither they had gone.
Rumour reported that Drebber had managed to convert a large
part of his property into money, and that he had departed a
wealthy man, while his companion, Stangerson, was
comparatively poor. There was no clue at all, however,
as to their whereabouts.

Many a man, however vindictive, would have abandoned all
thought of revenge in the face of such a difficulty, but
Jefferson Hope never faltered for a moment. With the small
competence he possessed, eked out by such employment as he
could pick up, he travelled from town to town through the
United States in quest of his enemies. Year passed into
year, his black hair turned grizzled, but still he wandered
on, a human bloodhound, with his mind wholly set upon the one
object upon which he had devoted his life. At last his
perseverance was rewarded. It was but a glance of a face in
a window, but that one glance told him that Cleveland in Ohio
possessed the men whom he was in pursuit of. He returned to
his miserable lodgings with his plan of vengeance all
arranged. It chanced, however, that Drebber, looking from
his window, had recognized the vagrant in the street, and had
read murder in his eyes. He hurried before a justice of the
peace, accompanied by Stangerson, who had become his private
secretary, and represented to him that they were in danger of
their lives from the jealousy and hatred of an old rival.
That evening Jefferson Hope was taken into custody, and not
being able to find sureties, was detained for some weeks.
When at last he was liberated, it was only to find that
Drebber's house was deserted, and that he and his secretary
had departed for Europe.

Again the avenger had been foiled, and again his concentrated
hatred urged him to continue the pursuit. Funds were
wanting, however, and for some time he had to return to work,
saving every dollar for his approaching journey. At last,
having collected enough to keep life in him, he departed for
Europe, and tracked his enemies from city to city, working
his way in any menial capacity, but never overtaking the
fugitives. When he reached St. Petersburg they had departed
for Paris; and when he followed them there he learned that
they had just set off for Copenhagen. At the Danish capital
he was again a few days late, for they had journeyed on to
London, where he at last succeeded in running them to earth.
As to what occurred there, we cannot do better than quote the
old hunter's own account, as duly recorded in Dr. Watson's
Journal, to which we are already under such obligations.

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