Part 7 out of 7
the materials through a lucky sale of a number of his hair
bridles. The work he did himself, though more than once he was
forced to call in Dede to hold tight with a pipe-wrench. And in
the end, when the bath-tub and the stationary tubs were installed
and in working order, he could scarcely tear himself away from
the contemplation of what his hands had wrought. The first
evening, missing him, Dede sought and found him, lamp in hand,
staring with silent glee at the tubs. He rubbed his hand over
their smooth wooden lips and laughed aloud, and was as shamefaced
as any boy when she caught him thus secretly exulting in his own
It was this adventure in wood-working and plumbing that brought
about the building of the little workshop, where he slowly
gathered a collection of loved tools. And he, who in the old
days, out of his millions, could purchase immediately whatever he
might desire, learned the new joy of the possession that follows
upon rigid economy and desire long delayed. He waited three
months before daring the extravagance of a Yankee screw-driver,
and his glee in the marvelous little mechanism was so keen that
Dede conceived forthright a great idea. For six months she saved
her egg-money, which was hers by right of allotment, and on his
birthday presented him with a turning-lathe of wonderful
simplicity and multifarious efficiencies. And their mutual
delight in the tool, which was his, was only equalled by their
delight in Mab's first foal, which was Dede's special private
It was not until the second summer that Daylight built the huge
fireplace that outrivalled Ferguson's across the valley. For all
these things took time, and Dede and Daylight were not in a
hurry. Theirs was not the mistake of the average city-dweller
who flees in ultra-modern innocence to the soil. They did not
essay too much. Neither did they have a mortgage to clear, nor
did they desire wealth. They wanted little in the way of food,
and they had no rent to pay. So they planned unambiguously,
reserving their lives for each other and for the compensations of
country-dwelling from which the average country-dweller is
barred. From Ferguson's example, too, they profited much. Here
was a man who asked for but the plainest fare; who ministered to
his own simple needs with his own hands; who worked out as a
laborer only when he needed money to buy books and magazines; and
who saw to it that the major portion of his waking time was for
enjoyment. He loved to loaf long afternoons in the shade with
his books or to be up with the dawn and away over the hills.
On occasion he accompanied Dede and Daylight on deer hunts
through the wild canons and over the rugged steeps of Hood
Mountain, though more often Dede and Daylight were out alone.
This riding was one of their chief joys. Every wrinkle and
crease in the hills they explored, and they came to know every
secret spring and hidden dell in the whole surrounding wall of
the valley. They learned all the trails and cow-paths; but
nothing delighted them more than to essay the roughest and most
impossible rides, where they were glad to crouch and crawl along
the narrowest deer-runs, Bob and Mab struggling and forcing their
way along behind. Back from their rides they brought the seeds
and bulbs of wild flowers to plant in favoring nooks on the
ranch. Along the foot trail which led down the side of the big
canon to the intake of the water-pipe, they established their
fernery. It was not a formal affair, and the ferns were left to
themselves. Dede and Daylight merely introduced new ones from
time to time, changing them from one wild habitat to another. It
was the same with the wild lilac, which Daylight had sent to him
from Mendocino County. It became part of the wildness of the
ranch, and, after being helped for a season, was left to its own
devices. they used to gather the seeds of the California poppy
and scatter them over their own acres, so that the orange-colored
blossoms spangled the fields of mountain hay and prospered in
flaming drifts in the fence corners and along the edges of the
Dede, who had a fondness for cattails, established a fringe of
them along the meadow stream, where they were left to fight it
out with the water-cress. And when the latter was threatened
with extinction, Daylight developed one of the shaded springs
into his water-cress garden and declared war upon any invading
cattail. On her wedding day Dede had discovered a long dog-tooth
violet by the zigzag trail above the redwood spring, and here she
continued to plant more and more. The open hillside above the
tiny meadow became a colony of Mariposa lilies. This was due
mainly to her efforts, while Daylight, who rode with a
short-handled ax on his saddle-bow, cleared the little manzanita
wood on the rocky hill of all its dead and dying and overcrowded
They did not labor at these tasks. Nor were they tasks. Merely
in passing, they paused, from time to time, and lent a hand to
nature. These flowers and shrubs grew of themselves, and their
presence was no violation of the natural environment. The man
and the woman made no effort to introduce a flower or shrub that
did not of its own right belong. Nor did they protect them from
their enemies. The horses and the colts and the cows and the
calves ran at pasture among them or over them, and flower or
shrub had to take its chance. But the beasts were not noticeably
destructive, for they were few in number and the ranch was large.
On the other hand, Daylight could have taken in fully a dozen
horses to pasture, which would have earned him a dollar and a
half per head per month. But this he refused to do, because of
the devastation such close pasturing would produce.
Ferguson came over to celebrate the housewarming that followed
the achievement of the great stone fireplace. Daylight had
ridden across the valley more than once to confer with him about
the undertaking, and he was the only other present at the sacred
function of lighting the first fire. By removing a partition,
Daylight had thrown two rooms into one, and this was the big
living-room where Dede's treasures were placed--her books, and
paintings and photographs, her piano, the Crouched Venus, the
chafing-dish and all its glittering accessories. Already, in
addition to her own wild-animal skins, were those of deer and
coyote and one mountain-lion which Daylight had killed. The
tanning he had done himself, slowly and laboriously, in frontier
He handed the match to Dede, who struck it and lighted the fire.
The crisp manzanita wood crackled as the flames leaped up and
assailed the dry bark of the larger logs. Then she leaned in the
shelter of her husband's arm, and the three stood and looked in
breathless suspense. When Ferguson gave judgment, it was with
beaming face and extended hand.
"She draws! By crickey, she draws" he cried.
He shook Daylight's hand ecstatically, and Daylight shook his
with equal fervor, and, bending, kissed Dede on the lips. They
were as exultant over the success of their simple handiwork as
any great captain at astonishing victory. In Ferguson's eyes was
actually a suspicious moisture while the woman pressed even more
closely against the man whose achievement it was. He caught her
up suddenly in his arms and whirled her away to the piano, crying
out: "Come on, Dede! The Gloria! The Gloria!"
And while the flames in the fireplace that worked, the triumphant
strains of the Twelfth Mass rolled forth.
Daylight had made no assertion of total abstinence though he had
not taken a drink for months after the day he resolved to let his
business go to smash. Soon he proved himself strong enough to
dare to take a drink without taking a second. On the other hand,
with his coming to live in the country, had passed all desire and
need for drink. He felt no yearning for it, and even forgot that
it existed. Yet he refused to be afraid of it, and in town, on
occasion, when invited by the storekeeper, would reply: "All
right, son. If my taking a drink will make you happy here goes.
Whiskey for mine."
But such a drink began no desire for a second. It made no
impression. He was too profoundly strong to be affected by a
thimbleful. As he had prophesied to Dede, Burning Daylight, the
city financier, had died a quick death on the ranch, and his
younger brother, the Daylight from Alaska, had taken his place.
The threatened inundation of fat had subsided, and all his
old-time Indian leanness and of muscle had returned. So,
likewise, did the old slight hollows in his cheeks come back.
For him they indicated the pink of physical condition. He became
the acknowledged strong man of Sonoma Valley, the heaviest lifter
and hardest winded among a husky race of farmer folk. And once a
year he celebrated his birthday in the old-fashioned frontier
way, challenging all the valley to come up the hill to the ranch
and be put on its back. And a fair portion of the valley
responded, brought the women-folk and children along, and
picnicked for the day.
At first, when in need of ready cash, he had followed Ferguson's
example of working at day's labor; but he was not long in
gravitating to a form of work that was more stimulating and more
satisfying, and that allowed him even more time for Dede and the
ranch and the perpetual riding through the hills. Having been
challenged by the blacksmith, in a spirit of banter, to attempt
the breaking of a certain incorrigible colt, he succeeded so
signally as to earn quite a reputation as a horse-breaker. And
soon he was able to earn whatever money he desired at this, to
him, agreeable work.
A sugar king, whose breeding farm and training stables were at
Caliente, three miles away, sent for him in time of need, and,
before the year was out, offered him the management of the
stables. But Daylight smiled and shook his head. Furthermore,
he refused to undertake the breaking of as many animals as were
offered. "I'm sure not going to die from overwork," he assured
Dede; and he accepted such work only when he had to have money.
Later, he fenced off a small run in the pasture, where, from time
to time, he took in a limited number of incorrigibles.
"We've got the ranch and each other," he told his wife, "and I'd
sooner ride with you to Hood Mountain any day than earn forty
dollars. You can't buy sunsets, and loving wives, and cool
spring water, and such folderols, with forty dollars; and forty
million dollars can't buy back for me one day that I didn't ride
with you to Hood Mountain."
His life was eminently wholesome and natural. Early to bed, he
slept like an infant and was up with the dawn. Always with
something to do, and with a thousand little things that enticed
but did not clamor, he was himself never overdone. Nevertheless,
there were times when both he and Dede were not above confessing
tiredness at bedtime after seventy or eighty miles in the saddle.
Sometimes, when he had accumulated a little money, and when the
season favored, they would mount their horses, with saddle-bags
behind, and ride away over the wall of the valley and down into
the other valleys. When night fell, they put up at the first
convenient farm or village, and on the morrow they would ride on,
without definite plan, merely continuing to ride on, day after
day, until their money gave out and they were compelled to
return. On such trips they would be gone anywhere from a week to
ten days or two weeks, and once they managed a three weeks' trip.
They even planned ambitiously some day when they were
disgracefully prosperous, to ride all the way up to Daylight's
boyhood home in Eastern Oregon, stopping on the way at Dede's
girlhood home in Siskiyou. And all the joys of anticipation were
theirs a thousand times as they contemplated the detailed
delights of this grand adventure.
One day, stopping to mail a letter at the Glen Ellen post office,
they were hailed by the blacksmith.
"Say, Daylight," he said, "a young fellow named Slosson sends you
his regards. He came through in an auto, on the way to Santa
Rosa. He wanted to know if you didn't live hereabouts, but the
crowd with him was in a hurry. So he sent you his regards and
said to tell you he'd taken your advice and was still going on
breaking his own record."
Daylight had long since told Dede of the incident.
"Slosson?" he meditated, "Slosson? That must be the
hammer-thrower. He put my hand down twice, the young scamp."
He turned suddenly to Dede. "Say, it's only twelve miles to
Santa Rosa, and the horses are fresh."
She divined what was in his mind, of which his twinkling eyes and
sheepish, boyish grin gave sufficient advertisement, and she
smiled and nodded acquiescence.
"We'll cut across by Bennett Valley," he said. "It's nearer that
There was little difficulty, once in Santa Rosa, of finding
Slosson. He and his party had registered at the Oberlin Hotel,
and Daylight encountered the young hammer-thrower himself in the
"Look here, son," Daylight announced, as soon as he had
introduced Dede, "I've come to go you another flutter at that
hand game. Here's a likely place."
Slosson smiled and accepted. The two men faced each other, the
elbows of their right arms on the counter, the hands clasped.
Slosson's hand quickly forced backward and down.
"You're the first man that ever succeeded in doing it," he said.
"Let's try it again."
"Sure," Daylight answered. "And don't forget, son, that you're
the first man that put mine down. That's why I lit out after you
Again they clasped hands, and again Slosson's hand went down. He
was a broad-shouldered, heavy-muscled young giant, at least half
a head taller than Daylight, and he frankly expressed his chagrin
and asked for a third trial. This time he steeled himself to the
effort, and for a moment the issue was in doubt. With flushed
face and set teeth he met the other's strength till his crackling
muscles failed him. The air exploded sharply from his tensed
lungs, as he relaxed in surrender, and the hand dropped limply
"You're too many for me," he confessed. "I only hope you'll keep
out of the hammer-throwing game."
Daylight laughed and shook his head.
"We might compromise, and each stay in his own class. You stick
to hammer-throwing, and I'll go on turning down hands."
But Slosson refused to accept defeat.
"Say," he called out, as Daylight and Dede, astride their horses,
were preparing to depart. "Say--do you mind if I look you up
next year? I'd like to tackle you again."
"Sure, son. You're welcome to a flutter any time. Though I give
you fair warning that you'll have to go some. You'll have to
train up, for I'm ploughing and chopping wood and breaking colts
Now and again, on the way home, Dede could hear her big
boy-husband chuckling gleefully. As they halted their horses on
the top of the divide out of Bennett Valley, in order to watch
the sunset, he ranged alongside and slipped his arm around her
"Little woman," he said, "you're sure responsible for it all.
And I leave it to you, if all the money in creation is worth as
much as one arm like that when it's got a sweet little woman like
this to go around."
For of all his delights in the new life, Dede was his greatest.
As he explained to her more than once, he had been afraid of love
all his life only in the end to come to find it the greatest
thing in the world. Not alone were the two well mated, but in
coming to live on the ranch they had selected the best soil in
which their love would prosper. In spite of her books and music,
there was in her a wholesome simplicity and love of the open and
natural, while Daylight, in every fiber of him, was essentially
an open-air man.
Of one thing in Dede, Daylight never got over marveling about,
and that was her efficient hands--the hands that he had first
taking down flying shorthand notes and ticking away at the
typewriter; the hands that were firm to hold a magnificent brute
like Bob, that wonderfully flashed over the keys of the piano,
that were unhesitant in household tasks, and that were twin
miracles to caress and to run rippling fingers through his hair.
But Daylight was not unduly uxorious. He lived his man's life
just as she lived her woman's life. There was proper division of
labor in the work they individually performed. But the whole was
entwined and woven into a fabric of mutual interest and
consideration. He was as deeply interested in her cooking and
her music as she was in his agricultural adventures in the
vegetable garden. And he, who resolutely declined to die of
overwork, saw to it that she should likewise escape so dire a
In this connection, using his man's judgment and putting his
man's foot down, he refused to allow her to be burdened with the
entertaining of guests. For guests they had, especially in the
warm, long summers, and usually they were her friends from the
city, who were put to camp in tents which they cared for
themselves, and where, like true campers, they had also to cook
for themselves. Perhaps only in California, where everybody
knows camp life, would such a program have been possible. But
Daylight's steadfast contention was that his wife should not
become cook, waitress, and chambermaid because she did not happen
to possess a household of servants. On the other hand,
chafing-dish suppers in the big living-room for their camping
guests were a common happening, at which times Daylight allotted
them their chores and saw that they were performed. For one who
stopped only for the night it was different. Likewise it was
different with her brother, back from Germany, and again able to
sit a horse. On his vacations he became the third in the family,
and to him was given the building of the fires, the sweeping, and
the washing of the dishes.
Daylight devoted himself to the lightening of Dede's labors, and
it was her brother who incited him to utilize the splendid
water-power of the ranch that was running to waste. It required
Daylight's breaking of extra horses to pay for the materials, and
the brother devoted a three weeks' vacation to assisting, and
together they installed a Pelting wheel. Besides sawing wood and
turning his lathe and grindstone, Daylight connected the power
with the churn; but his great triumph was when he put his arm
around Dede's waist and led her out to inspect a washing-machine,
run by the Pelton wheel, which really worked and really washed
Dede and Ferguson, between them, after a patient struggle, taught
Daylight poetry, so that in the end he might have been often
seen, sitting slack in the saddle and dropping down the mountain
trails through the sun-flecked woods, chanting aloud Kipling's
"Tomlinson," or, when sharpening his ax, singing into the
whirling grindstone Henley's "Song of the Sword." Not that he
ever became consummately literary in the way his two teachers
were. Beyond "Fra Lippo Lippi" and "Caliban and Setebos," he
found nothing in Browning, while George Meredith was ever his
despair. It was of his own initiative, however, that he invested
in a violin, and practised so assiduously that in time he and
Dede beguiled many a happy hour playing together after night had
So all went well with this well-mated pair. Time never dragged.
There were always new wonderful mornings and still cool twilights
at the end of day; and ever a thousand interests claimed him, and
his interests were shared by her. More thoroughly than he knew,
had he come to a comprehension of the relativity of things. In
this new game he played he found in little things all the
intensities of gratification and desire that he had found in the
frenzied big things when he was a power and rocked half a
continent with the fury of the blows he struck. With head and
hand, at risk of life and limb, to bit and break a wild colt and
win it to the service of man, was to him no less great an
achievement. And this new table on which he played the game was
clean. Neither lying, nor cheating, nor hypocrisy was here. The
other game had made for decay and death, while this new one made
for clean strength and life. And so he was content, with Dede at
his side, to watch the procession of the days and seasons from
the farm-house perched on the canon-lip; to ride through crisp
frosty mornings or under burning summer suns; and to shelter in
the big room where blazed the logs in the fireplace he had built,
while outside the world shuddered and struggled in the
storm-clasp of a southeaster.
Once only Dede asked him if he ever regretted, and his answer was
to crush her in his arms and smother her lips with his. His
answer, a minute later, took speech.
"Little woman, even if you did cost thirty millions, you are sure
the cheapest necessity of life I ever indulged in." And then
he added, "Yes, I do have one regret, and a monstrous big one,
too. I'd sure like to have the winning of you all over again.
I'd like to go sneaking around the Piedmont hills looking for
you. I'd like to meander into those rooms of yours at Berkeley
for the first time. And there's no use talking, I'm plumb
soaking with regret that I can't put my arms around you again
that time you leaned your head on my breast and cried in the wind
But there came the day, one year, in early April, when Dede sat
in an easy chair on the porch, sewing on certain small garments,
while Daylight read aloud to her. It was in the afternoon, and a
bright sun was shining down on a world of new green. Along the
irrigation channels of the vegetable garden streams of water were
flowing, and now and again Daylight broke off from his reading to
run out and change the flow of water. Also, he was teasingly
interested in the certain small garments on which Dede worked,
while she was radiantly happy over them, though at times, when
his tender fun was too insistent, she was rosily confused or
From where they sat they could look out over the world. Like the
curve of a skirting blade, the Valley of the Moon stretched
before them, dotted with farm-houses and varied by pasture-lands,
hay-fields, and vineyards. Beyond rose the wall of the valley,
every crease and wrinkle of which Dede and Daylight knew, and at
one place, where the sun struck squarely, the white dump of the
abandoned mine burned like a jewel. In the foreground, in the
paddock by the barn, was Mab, full of pretty anxieties for the
early spring foal that staggered about her on tottery legs. The
air shimmered with heat, and altogether it was a lazy, basking
day. Quail whistled to their young from the thicketed hillside
behind the house. there was a gentle cooing of pigeons, and from
the green depths of the big canon arose the sobbing wood note of
a mourning dove. Once, there was a warning chorus from the
foraging hens and a wild rush for cover, as a hawk, high in the
blue, cast its drifting shadow along the ground.
It was this, perhaps, that aroused old hunting memories in Wolf.
At any rate, Dede and Daylight became aware of excitement in the
paddock, and saw harmlessly reenacted a grim old tragedy of the
Younger World. Curiously eager, velvet-footed and silent as a
ghost, sliding and gliding and crouching, the dog that was mere
domesticated wolf stalked the enticing bit of young life that Mab
had brought so recently into the world. And the mare, her own
ancient instincts aroused and quivering, circled ever between the
foal and this menace of the wild young days when all her ancestry
had known fear of him and his hunting brethren. Once, she
whirled and tried to kick him, but usually she strove to strike
him with her fore-hoofs, or rushed upon him with open mouth and
ears laid back in an effort to crunch his backbone between her
teeth. And the wolf-dog, with ears flattened down and crouching,
would slide silkily away, only to circle up to the foal from the
other side and give cause to the mare for new alarm. Then
Daylight, urged on by Dede's solicitude, uttered a low
threatening cry; and Wolf, drooping and sagging in all the body
of him in token of his instant return to man's allegiance, slunk
off behind the barn.
It was a few minutes later that Daylight, breaking off from his
reading to change the streams of irrigation, found that the water
had ceased flowing. He shouldered a pick and shovel, took a
hammer and a pipe-wrench from the tool-house, and returned to
Dede on the porch.
"I reckon I'll have to go down and dig the pipe out," he told
her. "It's that slide that's threatened all winter. I guess
she's come down at last."
"Don't you read ahead, now," he warned, as he passed around the
house and took the trail that led down the wall of the canon.
Halfway down the trail, he came upon the slide. It was a small
affair, only a few tons of earth and crumbling rock; but,
starting from fifty feet above, it had struck the water pipe with
force sufficient to break it at a connection. Before proceeding
to work, he glanced up the path of the slide, and he glanced with
the eye of the earth-trained miner. And he saw what made his
eyes startle and cease for the moment from questing farther.
"Hello," he communed aloud, "look who's here."
His glance moved on up the steep broken surface, and across it
from side to side. Here and there, in places, small twisted
manzanitas were rooted precariously, but in the main, save for
weeds and grass, that portion of the canon was bare. There were
signs of a surface that had shifted often as the rains poured a
flow of rich eroded soil from above over the lip of the canon.
"A true fissure vein, or I never saw one," he proclaimed softly.
And as the old hunting instincts had aroused that day in the
wolf-dog, so in him recrudesced all the old hot desire of
gold-hunting. Dropping the hammer and pipe-wrench, but retaining
pick and shovel, he climbed up the slide to where a vague line of
outputting but mostly soil-covered rock could be seen. It was
all but indiscernible, but his practised eye had sketched the
hidden formation which it signified. Here and there, along this
wall of the vein, he attacked the crumbling rock with the pick
and shoveled the encumbering soil away. Several times he
examined this rock. So soft was some of it that he could break
it in his fingers. Shifting a dozen feet higher up, he again
attacked with pick and shovel. And this time, when he rubbed the
soil from a chunk of rock and looked, he straightened up
suddenly, gasping with delight. And then, like a deer at a
drinking pool in fear of its enemies, he flung a quick glance
around to see if any eye were gazing upon him. He grinned at his
own foolishness and returned to his examination of the chunk. A
slant of sunlight fell on it, and it was all aglitter with tiny
specks of unmistakable free gold.
"From the grass roots down," he muttered in an awestricken voice,
as he swung his pick into the yielding surface.
He seemed to undergo a transformation. No quart of cocktails had
ever put such a flame in his cheeks nor such a fire in his eyes.
As he worked, he was caught up in the old passion that had ruled
most of his life. A frenzy seized him that markedly increased
from moment to moment. He worked like a madman, till he panted
from his exertions and the sweat dripped from his face to the
ground. He quested across the face of the slide to the opposite
wall of the vein and back again. And, midway, he dug down
through the red volcanic earth that had washed from the
disintegrating hill above, until he uncovered quartz, rotten
quartz, that broke and crumbled in his hands and showed to be
alive with free gold.
Sometimes he started small slides of earth that covered up his
work and compelled him to dig again. Once, he was swept fifty
feet down the canon-side; but he floundered and scrambled up
again without pausing for breath. He hit upon quartz that was so
rotten that it was almost like clay, and here the gold was richer
than ever. It was a veritable treasure chamber. For a hundred
feet up and down he traced the walls of the vein. He even
climbed over the canon-lip to look along the brow of the hill for
signs of the outcrop. But that could wait, and he hurried back
to his find.
He toiled on in the same mad haste, until exhaustion and an
intolerable ache in his back compelled him to pause. He
straightened up with even a richer piece of gold-laden quartz.
Stooping, the sweat from his forehead had fallen to the ground.
It now ran into his eyes, blinding him. He wiped it from him
with the back of his hand and returned to a scrutiny of the gold.
It would run thirty thousand to the ton, fifty thousand, anything
-he knew that. And as he gazed upon the yellow lure, and
panted for air, and wiped the sweat away, his quick vision leaped
and set to work. He saw the spur-track that must run up from the
valley and across the upland pastures, and he ran the grades and
built the bridge that would span the canon, until it was real
before his eyes. Across the canon was the place for the mill,
and there he erected it; and he erected, also, the endless chain
of buckets, suspended from a cable and operated by gravity, that
would carry the ore across the canon to the quartz-crusher.
Likewise, the whole mine grew before him and beneath him-tunnels,
shafts, and galleries, and hoisting plants. The blasts of the
miners were in his ears, and from across the canon he could hear
the roar of the stamps. The hand that held the lump of quartz
was trembling, and there was a tired, nervous palpitation
apparently in the pit of his stomach. It came to him abruptly
that what he wanted was a drink--whiskey, cocktails, anything, a
drink. And even then, with this new hot yearning for the alcohol
upon him, he heard, faint and far, drifting down the green abyss
of the canon, Dede's voice, crying:--
"Here, chick, chick, chick, chick, chick! Here, chick, chick,
He was astounded at the lapse of time. She had left her sewing
on the porch and was feeding the chickens preparatory to getting
supper. The afternoon was gone. He could not conceive that he
had been away that long.
Again came the call: "Here, chick, chick, chick, chick, chick!
Here, chick, chick, chick!"
It was the way she always called--first five, and then three. He
had long since noticed it. And from these thoughts of her arose
other thoughts that caused a great fear slowly to grow in his
face. For it seemed to him that he had almost lost her. Not
once had he thought of her in those frenzied hours, and for that
much, at least, had she truly been lost to him.
He dropped the piece of quartz, slid down the slide, and started
up the trail, running heavily. At the edge of the clearing he
eased down and almost crept to a point of vantage whence he could
peer out, himself unseen. She was feeding the chickens, tossing
to them handfuls of grain and laughing at their antics.
The sight of her seemed to relieve the panic fear into which he
had been flung, and he turned and ran back down the trail. Again
he climbed the slide, but this time he climbed higher, carrying
the pick and shovel with him. And again he toiled frenziedly,
but this time with a different purpose. He worked artfully,
loosing slide after slide of the red soil and sending it
streaming down and covering up all he had uncovered, hiding from
the light of day the treasure he had discovered. He even went
into the woods and scooped armfuls of last year's fallen leaves
which he scattered over the slide. But this he gave up as a vain
task; and he sent more slides of soil down upon the scene of his
labor, until no sign remained of the out-jutting walls of the
Next he repaired the broken pipe, gathered his tools together,
and started up the trail. He walked slowly, feeling a great
weariness, as of a man who had passed through a frightful crisis.
He put the tools away, took a great drink of the water that again
flowed through the pipes, and sat down on the bench by the open
kitchen door. Dede was inside, preparing supper, and the sound
of her footsteps gave him a vast content.
He breathed the balmy mountain air in great gulps, like a diver
fresh-risen from the sea. And, as he drank in the air, he gazed
with all his eyes at the clouds and sky and valley, as if he were
drinking in that, too, along with the air.
Dede did not know he had come back, and at times he turned his
head and stole glances in at her--at her efficient hands, at the
bronze of her brown hair that smouldered with fire when she
crossed the path of sunshine that streamed through the window, at
the promise of her figure that shot through him a pang most
strangely sweet and sweetly dear. He heard her approaching the
door, and kept his head turned resolutely toward the valley. And
next, he thrilled, as he had always thrilled, when he felt the
caressing gentleness of her fingers through his hair.
"I didn't know you were back," she said. "Was it serious?"
"Pretty bad, that slide," he answered, still gazing away and
thrilling to her touch. "More serious than I reckoned. But I've
got the plan. Do you know what I'm going to do?--I'm going to
plant eucalyptus all over it. They'll hold it. I'll plant them
thick as grass, so that even a hungry rabbit can't squeeze
between them; and when they get their roots agoing, nothing in
creation will ever move that dirt again."
"Why, is it as bad as that?"
He shook his head.
"Nothing exciting. But I'd sure like to see any blamed old slide
get the best of me, that's all. I'm going to seal that slide
down so that it'll stay there for a million years. And when the
last trump sounds, and Sonoma Mountain and all the other
mountains pass into nothingness, that old slide will be still
a-standing there, held up by the roots."
He passed his arm around her and pulled her down on his knees.
"Say, little woman, you sure miss a lot by living here on the
ranch--music, and theatres, and such things. Don't you ever have
a hankering to drop it all and go back?"
So great was his anxiety that he dared not look at her, and when
she laughed and shook her head he was aware of a great relief.
Also, he noted the undiminished youth that rang through that same
old-time boyish laugh of hers.
"Say," he said, with sudden fierceness, "don't you go fooling
around that slide until after I get the trees in and rooted.
It's mighty dangerous, and I sure can't afford to lose you now."
He drew her lips to his and kissed her hungrily and passionately.
"What a lover!" she said; and pride in him and in her own
womanhood was in her voice.
"Look at that, Dede." He removed one encircling arm and swept
it in a wide gesture over the valley and the mountains beyond.
"The Valley of the Moon--a good name, a good name. Do you know,
when I look out over it all, and think of you and of all it
means, it kind of makes me ache in the throat, and I have things
in my heart I can't find the words to say, and I have a feeling
that I can almost understand Browning and those other high-flying
poet-fellows. Look at Hood Mountain there, just where the sun's
striking. It was down in that crease that we found the spring."
"And that was the night you didn't milk the cows till ten
o'clock," she laughed. "And if you keep me here much longer,
supper won't be any earlier than it was that night."
Both arose from the bench, and Daylight caught up the milk-pail
from the nail by the door. He paused a moment longer to look out
over the valley.
"It's sure grand," he said.
"It's sure grand," she echoed, laughing joyously at him and with
him and herself and all the world, as she passed in through the door.
And Daylight, like the old man he once had met, himself went down
the hill through the fires of sunset with a milk pail on his arm.