Part 2 out of 5
The two men exchanged a steady glance for half a minute. Then the
new-comer gave vent to a long, low whistle.
"So that's the way of it," he said. "That's the kind of war Mr.
Landson makes. Well, we can fight back with the same weapons, but
that won't cut the hay, will it?"
By this time Y.D. and Transley, with four other teamsters, were
observed coming in. Each driver had had the same experience. An
iron stake, carefully hidden in a clump of grass, had been driven
down into the ground until it was just high enough to intercept the
cutting-bar. The fine, sharp knives were crumpled against it; in
some cases the heavy cutting-bar, in which the knives operate, was
Y.D.'s face was black with fury.
"That's the lowest, mangyest, cowardliest trick I ever had pulled
on me," he was saying. "I'm plumb equal to ridin' down to
Landson's an' drivin' one of them stakes through under his short
"But can you prove that Landson did it?" said Zen, who had an
element of caution in her when her father was concerned. She had a
vision of a fight, with Landson pleading entire ignorance of the
whole cause of offence, and her father probably summoned by the
police for unprovoked assault.
"No, I can't prove that Landson did it, an' I can't prove that the
grass my steers eat turns to hair on their backs," he retorted,
"but I reach my own conclusions. Is there any shootin' irons in
"Now, Dad, that's enough," said the girl, firmly. "There'll be no
shooting between you and Landson. If there is to be anything of
that kind I'll ride down ahead and warn him of what's coming."
"Darter," said Y.D.--it was only on momentous occasions that he
addressed her as daughter--"I brought you over here as a guest, not
as manager o' my affairs. I've taken care of those affairs for some
considerable years, an' I reckon I still have the qualifications.
If you're a-goin' to act up obstrep'rous I'll get Mr. Transley to
lend me a man to escort you home."
"At your service, Y.D.," said George Drazk, who was in the crowd
which had gathered about the rancher, his daughter, and Transley.
"That Pete-horse an' me would jus' see her over the hills a-
"I don't think it would be wise to take any extreme measures, at
least, not just yet," said Transley. "It's out of the question to
suppose that Landson has picketed the whole valley with those
stakes. It is now quite clear why we were left in peace yesterday.
He wanted us to get started, and get a few swaths cut, so that he
would know where to drive the stakes to catch us the next morning.
Some of these machines can be repaired at once, and the others
within a day or two. We will just move over a little and start on
new fields. There's pretty good moonlight these nights and we'll
leave a few men out on guard, and perhaps we can catch the enemy at
his little game. Let us get one of Landson's men with the goods on
Y.D. was somewhat pacified by this suggestion. "You're a practical
devil, Transley," he said, with considerable admiration. "Now, in
a case of this kind I jus' get plumb fightin' mad. I want to bore
somebody. I guess it's the only kind o' procedure that comes easy
to my hand. I guess you're right, but I hate to let anybody have
the laugh on me." Y.D. looked down the valley, shading his eyes
with his hand. "That son-of-a-gun has got a dozen or more stacks
down there. I don't wish nobody any hard luck, but if some
tenderfoot was to drop a cigar--"
"In that case I suppose you'd pray for a west wind, Dad," Zen
suggested, "but the winds in these valleys, even with your prayers
to direct them, are none too reliable."
"Everybody to work on fixing up these machines," Transley ordered.
"Linder, make a list of what repairs are needed and Drazk will ride
to town with it at once. Some of them may have to come out from
the city by express. Drazk can get the orders in and a team will
follow to bring out the repairs."
In a moment Transley's men were busy with wrenches and hammers,
replacing knives and appraising damages. Even in his anger Y.D.
took approving note of the promptness of Transley's decisions and
the zest with which his men carried them into effect.
"A he-man, that fellow, Zen," he confided to his daughter, "If he'd
blowed into this country thirty years ago, like I did, he'd own it
by this time plumb to the sky-line."
When the list of repairs was completed Linder handed it to Drazk.
"Beat it to town on that Pete-horse of yours, George," he said.
"Burn the grass on the road."
"I bet I'll be ten miles on the road back when I meet my shadow
goin'," said Drazk, making a spectacular leap into his saddle.
"Bye, Y.D!; bye, Zen!" he shouted while he whirled his horse's head
eastward and waved his hand to where they stood. In spite of her
annoyance at him she had to smile and return his salute.
"Mr. Drazk is irrepressible," she remarked to Transley.
"And irresponsible," the contractor returned. "I sometimes wonder
why I keep him. In fact, I don't really keep him; he just stays.
Every spring he hunts me up and fastens on. Still, I get a lot of
good service out of him. Praise 'that Pete-horse,' and George
would ride his head off for you. He has a weakness for wanting to
marry every woman he sees, but his infatuations seem harmless
"I know something of his weakness," Zen replied. "I have already
been honored with a proposal."
Transley looked in her face. It was slightly flushed, whether with
the summer sun or with her confession, but it was a wonderfully
good face to look in.
"Zen," he said, in a low voice that Y.D. and the others might not
hear, "how would you take a serious proposal, made seriously by one
who loves you, and who knows that you are, and always will be, a
queen among women?"
"If you had been a cow puncher instead of a contractor," she told
him, "I'm sure you would long ago have ended your life in some dash
over a cutbank."
Meanwhile Drazk pursued his way to town. The trail, after crossing
the ford, turned abruptly to the right from that which led across
country to the North Y.D. For a mile or more it skirted the stream
in a park-like drive through groves of spruce and cottonwood.
Sunshine and the babble of water everywhere filled the air.
Sunshine, too, filled George Drazk's heart. The importance of his
mission was pleasantly heavy upon him. He pictured the impression
he would make in town, galloping in with his horse wet over the
back, and rushing to the implement agency with all the importance of
a courier from Y.D. He would let two of the boys take Pete to the
stable, and then, seated on a mower seat in the shade, he would tell
the story. It would lose nothing in the telling. He would even add
how Zen had thrown a kiss at him in parting. Perhaps he would have
Zen kiss him on the cheek before the whole camp. He turned that
possibility over in his mind, weighing nicely the credulity of his
imaginary audience. . . . At any rate, whether he decided to put
that in the story or not, it was very pleasant to think about.
Presently the trail turned abruptly up a gully leading into the
hills. A huge cutbank, jutting into the river, barred the way in
front, and its precipitous side, a hundred feet or more in height,
kept continually crumbling and falling into the stream. These
cutbanks are a terror to inexperienced riders. The valleys are
swallowed up in the tawny sameness of the ranges; the vision
catches only the higher levels, and one may gallop to the verge of
a precipice before becoming aware of its existence. It was to this
that Zen had referred in speaking of Transley's precipitateness.
Drazk followed the gully up into the hills, letting his horse drop
back to a walk in the hard going along the dry bed of a stream
which flowed only in the spring freshets. Pete had to pick his way
over boulders and across stretches of sand and boggy patches of
black mud formed by little springs leaking out under clumps of
willows. Here and there the white ribs of a steer's skeleton
peered through the brush; once or twice an overpowering stench gave
notice of a carcass not wholly decomposed.
It was not a pleasant environment, but in an hour Drazk was out
again on the brow of the brown hills, where the sunshine flooded
about and a fresh breeze beat up against his face. After all his
winding about in the gully he was not more than a mile from the
"I reckon I could get a great view from that cutbank of what
Landson is doin'," he suddenly remarked to himself. He took off
his hat and scratched his tousled head in reflection. "Linder said
to beat it," he ruminated, "but I can't get back to-night anyway,
an' it might be worth while to do a little scoutin'. Here goes!"
He struck a smart gallop to the southward, and brought his horse
up, spectacularly, a yard from the edge of the precipice. The view
which his position commanded was superb. Up the valley lay the
white tents of Transley's outfit, almost hidden in green foliage;
the ford across the river was distinctly visible, and stretching
south from it lay, like a great curving snake, the trail which
wound across the valley and lost itself in the foothills far to the
south; across the western horizon hung the purple curtain of the
mountains, soft and vague in their noonday mists, but touched with
settings of ivory where the snow fields beat back the blazing
sunshine; far down the valley was the gleam of Landson's
whitewashed buildings, and nearer at hand the greenish-brown of the
upland meadows which his haymakers had already cleared of their
crop of prairie wool. This was now arising in enormous stacks; it
must have been three miles to where they lay, but Drazk's keen eyes
could distinguish ten completed stacks and two others in course of
building. He could even see the sweeps hauling the new hay, after
only a few hours of sun-drying, and sliding it up the inclined
platforms which dumped it into the form of stacks. The foothill
rancher makes hay by horse power, and almost without the aid of a
pitch-fork. Even as Drazk watched he saw a load skidded up; saw
its apparent momentary poise in air; saw the well-trained horses
stop and turn and start back to the meadow with their sweep. And
up the valley Transley's outfit was at a standstill.
Drazk employed his limited but expressive vocabulary. It was
against all human nature to look on such a scene unmoved. He
recalled Y.D.'s half-spoken wish about a random cigar. Then
suddenly George Drazk's mouth dropped open and his eyes rounded
with a great idea.
Of course, it was against all the rules of the range--it was outlaw
business--but what about driving iron stakes in a hay meadow?
Drazk's philosophy was that the end justifies the means. And if
the end would win the approval of Y.D.--and of Y.D.'s daughter--
then any means was justified. Had not Linder said, "Burn the grass
on the road?" Drazk knew well enough that Linder's remark was a
figure of speech, but his eccentric mind found no trouble in
converting it into literal instructions.
Drazk sniffed the air and looked at the sun. A soft breeze was
moving slowly up the valley; the sun was just past noon. There was
every reason to expect that as the lowland prairies grew hot with
the afternoon sunshine a breeze would come down out of the mountains
to occupy the area of great atmospheric expansion. Drazk knew
nothing about the theory of the thing; all that concerned him was
the fact that by mid-afternoon the wind would probably change to the
Two miles down the valley he found a gully which gave access to the
water's edge. He descended, located a ford, and crossed. There
were cattle-trails through the cottonwoods; he might have followed
them, but he feared the telltale shoe-prints. He elected the more
difficult route down the stream itself. The South Y.D. ran mostly
on a wide gravel bottom; it was possible to pick out a course which
kept Pete in water seldom higher than his knees. An hour of this,
and Drazk, peering through the trees, could see the nearest of
Landson's stacks not half a mile away. The Landson gang were
working farther down the valley, and the stack itself covered
approach from the river.
Drazk slipped from the saddle, and stole quietly into the open.
The breeze was now coming down the valley.
Transley's men had repaired such machines as they could and
returned to work. The clatter of mowing machines filled the
valley; the horses were speeded up to recover lost time. Transley
and Y.D. rode about, carefully scrutinizing the short grass for
iron stakes, and keeping a general eye on operations.
Suddenly Transley sat bolt-still on his horse. Then, in a low
"Y.D!" he said.
The rancher turned and followed the line of Transley's vision. The
nearest of Landson's stacks was ablaze, and a great pillar of smoke
was rolling skyward. Even as they watched, the base of the fire
seemed to spread; then, in a moment, tongues of flame were seen
leaping from a stack farther on.
"Looks like your prayers were answered, Y.D.," said Transley. "I
bet they haven't a plow nearer than the ranch."
Y.D. seemed fascinated by the sight. He could not take his eyes
off it. He drew a cigar from his pocket and thrust it far into his
mouth, chewing it savagely and rolling it in his lips, but,
according to the law of the hayfield, refraining from lighting it.
At first there was a gleam of vengeance in his eyes, but presently
that gave way to a sort of horror. Every honorable tradition of
the range demanded that he enlist his force against the common
"Hell, Transley!" he ejaculated, "we can't sit and look at that!
Order the men out! What have we got to fight with?"
For answer Transley swung round in his saddle and struck his palm
"Good boy, Y.D!" he said. "I did you an injustice--I mean, about
your prayers being answered. We haven't as much as a plow, either,
but we can gallop down with some barrels in a wagon and put a sack
brigade to work. I'm afraid it won't save Landson's hay, but it
will show where our hearts are."
Transley and Y.D. galloped off to round up the men, some of whom
had already noticed the fire. Transley despatched four men and two
teams to take barrels, sacks, and horse blankets to the Landson
meadows. The others he sent off at once on horseback to give what
help they could.
Zen rode up just as they left, and already her fine horse seemed to
realize the tension in the air. His keen, hard-strung muscles
quivered as she brought his gallop to a stop.
"How did it start, Dad?" she demanded.
"How do I know?" he returned, shortly. "D'ye think I fired it?"
"No, but I just asked the question that Landson will ask, so you
better have your answer handy. I'm going to gallop down to their
ranch; perhaps I can help Mrs. Landson."
"The ranch buildings are safe enough, I think," said Transley.
"The grass there is close cropped, and there is some plowing."
For a moment the three sat, watching the spread of the flames. By
this time the whole lower valley was blanketed in smoke. Clouds of
blue and mauve and creamy yellow rolled from the meadows and
stacks. The fire was whipping the light breeze of the afternoon to
a gale, and was already running wildly over the flanks of the
"Well, I'm off," said Zen. "Good-bye!"
"Be careful, Zen!" her father shouted. "Fire is fire." But
already her horse was stretching low and straight in a hard gallop
down the valley.
"I'll ride in to camp and tell Tompkins to make up a double supply
of sandwiches and coffee," said Transley. "I guess there'll be no
cooking in Landson's outfit this afternoon. After that we can both
run down and lend a hand, if that suits you."
As they rode to camp together Y.D. drew up close to the contractor.
"Transley," he said, "how do you reckon that fire started?"
"I don't know," said Transley, "any more than you do."
"I didn't ask you what you KNEW. I asked you what you reckoned."
Transley rode for some minutes in silence. Then at last he spoke:
"A man isn't supposed to reckon in things of this kind. He should
know, or keep his mouth shut. But I allow myself just one guess.
"Why Drazk?" Y.D. demanded. "He has nothin' to gain, and this
prank may put him in the cooler."
"Drazk would do anything to be spectacular," Transley explained.
"He probably will boast openly about it. You know, he's trying to
make an impression on Zen."
"Of course it's nonsense, but Drazk doesn't see it that way."
"I'd string him to the nearest cottonwood if I thought he--"
"Now don't do him an injustice, Y.D. Drazk doesn't realize that
he is no mate for Zen. He doesn't know of any reason why Zen
shouldn't look on him with favor; indeed, with pride. It's
ridiculous, I know, but Drazk is built that way."
"Then I'll change his style of architecture the first time I run
into him," said Y.D. savagely. "Zen is too young to think of such
a thing, anyway."
"She will always be too young to think of such a thing, so far as
Drazk or his type is concerned," Transley returned. "But suppose--
Y.D., to be quite frank, suppose _I_ suggested--"
"Transley, you work quick," said Y.D. "I admit I like a quick
worker. But just now we have a fire on our hands."
By this time they had reached the camp. Transley gave his
instructions in a few words, and then turned to ride down to
Landson's. They had gone only a few hundred yards when Y.D. pulled
his horse to a stop.
"Transley!" he exclaimed, and his voice was shaking. "What do you
The contractor drew up and sniffed the air. When he turned to Y.D.
his face was white.
"Smoke, Y.D!" he gasped. "The wind has changed!"
It was true. Already low clouds of smoke were drifting overhead
like a broken veil. The erratic foothill wind, which a few minutes
before had been coming down the valley, was now blowing back up
again. Even while they took in the situation they could feel the
hot breath of the distant fire borne against their faces.
"Well, it's up to us," said Transley tersely. "We'll make a fight
of it. Got any speed in that nag of yours?" Without waiting for
an answer he put spurs to his horse and set forward on a wild
gallop into the smoke.
A mile down the line he found that Linder had already gathered his
forces and laid out a plan of defence. The valley, from the South
Y.D. to the hills, was about four miles wide, and up the full
breadth of it was now coming the fire from Landson's fields. There
was no natural fighting line; Linder had not so much as a buffalo
path to work against. But he was already starting back-fires at
intervals of fifty yards, allotting three men to each fire. A
back-fire is a fire started for the purpose of stopping another.
Usually a road, or a plowed strip, or even a cattle path, is used
for a base. On the windward side of this base the back-fire is
started and allowed to eat its way back against the wind until it
meets the main fire which is rushing forward with the wind, and
chokes it out for lack of fuel. A few men, stationed along a
furrow or a trail, can keep the small back-fire from jumping it,
although they would be powerless to check the momentum of the main
This was Linder's position, except that he had no furrow to work
against. All he could do was tell off men with sacks and horse
blankets soaked in the barrels of water to hold the back-fire in
check as best they could. So far they were succeeding. As soon as
the fire had burned a few feet the forward side of it was pounded
out with wet sacks. It didn't matter about the other side. It
could be allowed to eat back as far as it liked; the farther the
"Good boy, Lin!" Transley shouted, as he drew up and surveyed
operations. "She played us a dirty trick, didn't she?"
Linder looked up, red-eyed and coughing. "We can hold it here," he
said, "but we can never cross the valley. The fire will be on us
before we have burned a mile. It will beat around our south flank
and lick up everything!"
Transley jumped from his horse. He seized Linder in his arms and
literally threw him into the saddle. "You're played, boy!" he
shouted in his foreman's ear. "Ride down to the river and get into
the water, and stay there until you know we can win!"
Then Transley threw himself into the fight. As the men said
afterwards, Linder fought like a wildcat, but Transley fought like
a den of lions. When the wagon galloped up from the river with
barrels of water Transley seized a barrel at the end and set it
bodily on the ground. He sprang into the wagon, shouting commands
to horses and men. A hundred yards they galloped along the
fighting front; then Transley sprang out and set another barrel on
the ground. In this way, instead of having the men all coming to
the wagon to wet their sacks, he distributed water along the line.
Then they turned back, picked up the empty barrels, and galloped to
the river for a fresh supply.
Soon they had the first mile secure. The backfires had all met;
the forward line of flames had all been pounded out; the rear line
had burned back until there was no danger of it jumping the burned
space. Then Transley picked up his kit and rushed it on to a new
front farther south. At intervals of a hundred yards he started
fires, holding them in check and beating out the western edge as
But his difficulties were increasing. He was farther from the
river. It took longer to get water. One of the barrels fell off
and collapsed. Some of the men were playing out. The horses were
wild with excitement and terror. The smoke was growing denser and
hotter. Men were coughing and gasping through dry, seared lips.
"You can't hold it, Transley; you can't hold it!" said one of the
Transley hit him from the shoulder. He crumpled up and collapsed.
A mile and a half had been made safe, but the smoke was
suffocatingly thick and the roar of the oncoming fire rose above
the shouts of the fighters. Up galloped the water wagon; made a
sharp lurch and turn, and a front wheel collapsed with the shock.
The wagon went down at one corner and the barrels were dumped on
The men looked at Transley. For one moment he surveyed the
"Is there a chain?" he demanded. There was.
"Hitch on to the tire of this broken wheel. Some of you men yank
the hub out of it. Others pull grass. Pull, like hell was after
They pulled. In a minute or two Transley had the rim of the wheel
flat on the ground, with a team hitched to it and a little pile of
dry grass inside. Then he set fire to the little pile of grass and
started the team slowly along the battle front. As they moved the
burning grass in the rim set fire to the grass on the prairie
underneath; the rim partly rubbed it out again as it came over, and
the men were able to keep what remained in check, but as he
lengthened his line Transley had to leave more and more men to beat
out the fire, and had fewer to pull grass. The sacks were too wet
to burn; he had to have grass to feed his moving fire-spreader.
At length he had only a teamster and himself, and his fire was
going out. Transley whipped off his shirt, rolled it into a little
heap, set fire to it, and ran along beside the rim, firing the
little moving circle of grass inside.
It was the teamster, looking back, who saw Transley fall. He had
to drop the lines to run to his assistance, and the horses,
terrified by smoke and fire and the excitement of the fight,
immediately bolted. The teamster took Transley in his arms and
half carried, half dragged him into the safe area behind the
backfires. And a few minutes later the main fire, checked on its
front, swept by on the flank and raced on up through the valley.
In riding down to the assistance of Mrs. Landson Zen found herself
suddenly caught in an eddy of smoke. She did not realize at the
moment that the wind had turned; she thought she must have ridden
into the fire area. To avoid the possibility of being cut off by
the fire, and also for better air, she turned her horse to the
river. All through the valley were billows of smoke, with here and
there a reddish-yellow glare marking the more vicious sections of
flame. Vaguely, at times, she thought she caught the shouting of
men, but all the heavens seemed full of roaring.
When Zen reached the water the smoke was hanging low on it, and she
drove her horse well in. Then she swung down the stream, believing
that by making a detour in this way she could pass the wedge of
fire that had interrupted her and get back on to the trail leading
to Landson's. She was coughing with the smoke, but rode on in the
confidence that presently it would lift.
It did. A whip of wind raised it like a strong arm throwing off a
blanket. She sat up and breathed freely. The hot sun shone
through rifts in the canopy of smoke; the blue sky looked down
serene and unmoved by this outburst of the elements. Then as Zen
brought her eyes back to the water she saw a man on horseback not
forty yards ahead. Her first thought was that it must be one of
the fire fighters, driven like herself to safety, but a second
glance revealed George Drazk. For a moment she had an impulse to
wheel and ride out, but even as she smothered that impulse a tinge
of color rose in her cheeks that she should for a moment have
entertained it. To let George Drazk think she was afraid of him
would be utmost humiliation.
She continued straight down the stream, but he had already seen her
and was headed her way. In the excitement of what he had just done
Drazk was less responsible than usual.
"Hello, Zen!" he said. "Mighty decent of you to ride down an' meet
me like this. Mighty decent, Zen!"
"I didn't ride down to meet you, Drazk, and you know it. Keep out
of the way or I'll use a whip on you!"
"Oh, how haughty! Y.D. all over! Never mind, dear, I like you all
the better for that. Who wants a tame horse? An' as for comin'
down to meet me, what's the odds, so long as we've met?"
He had turned his horse and blocked the way in front of her. When
Zen's horse came within reach Drazk caught him by the bridle.
"Will you let go?" the girl said, speaking as calmly as she could,
but in a white passion. "Will you let go of that bridle, or shall
I make you?"
He looked her full in the face. "Gad, but you're a stunner!" he
exclaimed. "I'm glad we met--here."
She brought her whip with a biting cut around the wrist that held
her bridle. Drazk winced, but did not let go.
"Jus' for that, young Y.D.," he hissed, "jus' for that we drop all
formalities, so to speak."
With a dexterous spurring he brought his horse alongside and threw
an arm about Zen before she could beat him off. She used her whip
at short range on his face, but had not arm-room in which to land a
blow. They were stirrup-deep in water, and as they struggled the
horses edged in deeper still. Finding that she could not beat
Drazk off Zen clutched her saddle and drove the spurs into her
horse. At this unaccustomed treatment he plunged wildly forward,
but Drazk's grip on her was too strong to be broken. The manoeuvre
had, however, the effect of unhorsing Drazk. He fell in the water,
but kept his grip on Zen. With his free hand he still had the
reins of his own horse, and he managed also to get hold of hers.
Although her horse was plunging and jumping, Drazk's strong grip on
his rein kept him from breaking away.
"You fight well, Zen, damn you--you fight well," he cried. "So you
might. You played with me--you made a fool of me. We'll see who's
the fool in the end." With a mighty wrench he tore her from her
saddle and she found herself struggling with him in the water.
"If I put you under for a minute I guess you'll be good," he
threatened. "I'll half drown you, Zen, if I have to."
"Go ahead," she challenged. "I'll drown myself, if I have to."
"Not just yet, Zen; not just yet. Afterwards you can do as you
In their struggles they had been getting gradually into deeper
water. At this moment they found their feet carried free, and the
horses began to swim for the shore. Drazk held to both reins with
one hand, still clutching his victim with the other. More than
once they went under water together and came up half choking.
Zen was not a good swimmer, but she would gladly have broken away
and taken chances with the current. Once on land she would be at
his mercy. She was using her head frantically, but could think of
no device to foil him. It was not her practice to carry weapons;
her whip had already gone down the stream. Presently she saw a
long leather thong floating out from the saddle of Drazk's horse.
It was no larger than a whiplash; apparently it was a spare lace
which Drazk carried, and which had worked loose in the struggle.
It was floating close to Drazk.
"Don't let me sink, George!" she cried frantically, in sudden
fright. "Save me! I won't fight any more."
"That's better," he said, drawing her up to him. "I knew you'd
come to your senses."
Her hand reached the lash. With a quick motion of the arm, such as
is given in throwing a rope, she had looped it once around his
neck. Then, pulling the lash violently, she fought herself out of
his grip. He clutched at her wildly, but could reach only some
stray locks of her brown hair which had broken loose and were
floating on the water.
She saw his eyes grow round and big and horrified; saw his mouth
open and refuse to close; heard strange little gurgles and
chokings. But she did not let go.
"When you insulted me this morning I promised to settle with you; I
did not expect to have the chance so soon."
His head had gone under water. . . . Suddenly she realized that he
was drowning. She let go of the thong, clutched her horse's tail,
and was pulled quickly ashore.
Sitting on the gravel, she tried to think. Drazk had disappeared;
his horse had landed somewhat farther down. . . . Doubtless Drazk
had drowned. Yes, that would be the explanation. Why change it?
Zen turned it over in her mind. Why make any explanations? It
would be a good thing to forget. She could not have done otherwise
under the circumstances; no jury would expect her to do otherwise.
But why trouble a jury about it?
"He got what was coming to him," she said to herself presently.
She admitted no regret. On the contrary, her inborn self-confidence,
her assurance that she could take care of herself under any
circumstances, seemed to be strengthened by the experience.
She got up, drew her hair into some kind of shape, and scrambled a
little way up the steep bank. Clouds of smoke were rolling up the
valley. She did not grasp the significance of the fact at the
first glance, but in a moment it impacted home to her. The wind
had changed! Her help now would be needed, not by Mrs. Landson,
but probably at their own camp. She sprang on her horse, re-
crossed the stream, and set out on a gallop for the camp. On the
way she had to ride through one thin line of fire, which she
accomplished successfully. Through the smoke she could dimly see
Transley's gang fighting the back-fires. She knew that was in good
hands, and hastened on to the camp. Zen had had prairie experience
enough to know that in hours like this there is almost sure to be
something or somebody, in vital need, overlooked.
She galloped into the camp and found only Tompkins there. He had
already run a little back-fire to protect the tents and the chuck-
"How goes it, Tompkins?" she cried, bursting upon him like a
courier from battle.
"All set here, Ma'am," he answered. "All set an' safe. But
they'll never hold the main fire; it'll go up the valley hell-
scootin',--beggin' your pardon, Ma'am."
"Anyone live up the valley?"
"There is. There's the Lints--squatters about six miles up--it was
from them I got the cream an' fresh eggs you was good enough to
notice, Ma'am. An' there's no men folks about; jus' Mrs. Lint an'
a young herd of little Lints; least, that's all was there las'
"I must go up," said Zen, with instant decision. "I can get there
before the fire, and as the Lints are evidently farmers there will
be some plowed land, or at least a plow with which to run a furrow
so that we can start a back-fire. Direct me."
Tompkins directed her as to the way, and, leaving a word of
explanation to be passed on to her father, she was off. A half
hour's hard riding brought her to Lint's, but she found that this
careful settler had made full provision against such a contingency
as was now come about. The farm buildings, implements, stables,
everything was surrounded, not by a fire-guard, but by a broad
plowed field. Mrs. Lint, however, was little less thankful for
Zen's interest than she would have been had their little steading
been in danger. She pressed Zen to wait and have at least a cup
of tea, and the girl, knowing that she could be of little or no
service down the valley, allowed herself to be persuaded. In this
little harbor of quiet her mind began to arrange the day's events.
The tragic happening at the river was as yet too recent to appear
real; had it not been for the touch of her wet clothing Zen could
have thought that all an unhappy dream of days ago. She reflected
that neither Tompkins nor Mrs. Lint had commented upon her
appearance. The hot sun had soon dried her outer apparel, and her
general dishevelled condition was not remarkable on such a day as
The wind had gone down as the afternoon waned, and the fire was
working up the valley leisurely when Zen set out on her return
trip. A couple of miles from the Lint homestead she met its
advance guard. It was evening now; the sun shone dull red through
the banked clouds of smoke resting against the mountains to the
west; the flames danced and flickered, advanced and receded, sprang
up and died down again, along mile after mile of front. It was a
beautiful thing to behold, and Zen drew her horse to a stop on a
hill-top to take in the grandeur of the scene. Near at hand
frolicking flames were working about the base of the hill, and far
down the valley and over the foothills the flanks of the fire
stretched like lines of impish infantry in single file.
Suddenly she heard the sound of hoofs, and a rider drew up at her
side. She supposed him one of Transley's men, but could not recall
having seen him in the camp. He sat his horse with an ease and
grace that her eye was quick to appraise; he removed his broad felt
hat before he spoke; and he did not call her "ma'am."
"Pardon me--I believe I am speaking to Y.D.'s daughter?" he asked,
and before waiting for a reply hastened to introduce himself. "My
name is Dennison Grant, foreman on the Landson ranch."
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "I thought--I thought you were one of Mr.
Transley's men." Then, with a quick sense of the barrier between
them, she added, "I hope you don't think that I--that we--had
anything to do with this?" She indicated the ruined valley with
"No more than I had to do with those coward's stakes," he answered.
"Neither of us understand just now, but can we take that much for
There was something about him that rather appealed to her. "I
think we can," she said, simply.
For a moment they watched the kaleidoscopic scene below them. "It
may help you to understand," she continued, "if I say that I was
riding down to see if I could be of some use to Mrs. Landson when
the wind changed, and I saw I would be more likely to be needed
"And it may help you to understand," he said, "if I say that as
soon as immediate danger to the Landson ranch was over I rode up to
Transley's camp. Only the cook was there, and he told me of your
having set out to help Mrs. Lint, so I followed up. Fortunately
the fire has lost its punch; it will probably go out through the
There was a short silence, in which she began to realize her
peculiar position. This man was the rival of Transley and Linder
in the business of hay-cutting in the valley. He was the foreman
of the Landson crowd--Landson, against whom her father had been
voicing something very near to murder threats not many hours ago.
Had she met him before the fire she would have spurned and despised
him, but nothing unites the factions of man like a fight against a
common elemental enemy. Besides, there was the question, How DID
the fire start? That was a question which every Landson man would
be asking. Grant had been generous about it; he had asked her to
be equally generous about the episode of the stakes. . . . And
there was something about the man that appealed to her. She had
never felt that way about Transley or Linder. She had been
interested in them; amused, perhaps; out for an adventure, perhaps;
but this man-- Nonsense! It was the environment--the romantic
setting. As for Drazk-- A quick sense of horror caught her as the
memory of his choking face protruded into her consciousness. . . .
"Well, suppose we ride home," he suggested. "By Jove! The fire
has worked around us."
It was true. The hill on which they stood was now entirely
surrounded by a ring of fire, eating slowly up the side. The
warmth of its breath already pressed against their faces; the
funnel effect created by the circle of fire was whipping up a
stronger draught. The smoke seemed to be gathering to a centre
He swung up close to her. "Will your horse face it?" he asked.
"If not, we'd better blindfold him."
"I'll try him," she said. "He was all right this afternoon, but he
was reckless then with a hard gallop."
Zen's horse trotted forward at her urging to within a dozen yards
of the circle of fire. Then he stopped, snorting and shivering.
She rode back up the hill.
"Better blindfold him," Grant advised, pulling off his leather
coat. "A sleeve of my shirt should be about right. Will you cut
"There's no time to lose," he reminded her, as he placed his knife
in her hand. "My horse will go through it all right."
So urged she deftly cut off his sleeve above the elbow and drew it
through the bridle of her horse across his eyes.
"Now keep your head down close to his neck. You'll go through all
right. Give him the spurs, and good luck!" he shouted.
She was already careering down the hillside. A few paces from the
fire the horse plunged into a badger hole and fell headlong. She
went over his head, down, with a terrific shock, almost in the very
teeth of the fire.
When Zen came to herself it was with a sense of a strange swimming
in her head. Gradually it resolved itself into a sound of water
about her head; a splashing, fighting water; two heads in the
water; two heads in the water; a lash floating in the water--
"Oh!" She was sure she felt water on her face. . . .
"Where am I?"
"You're all right--you'll be all right in a little while."
"But where am I? What has happened?" She tried to sit up. All
was dark. "Where am I?" she demanded.
"Don't be alarmed, Zen--I think your name is Zen," she heard a
man's voice saying. "You've been hurt, but you'll be all right
Then the curtain lifted. "You are Dennison Grant," she said. "I
remember you now. But what has happened? Why am I here--with
"Well, so far, you've been enjoying about three hours'
unconsciousness," he told her. "At a distance which seems about a
mile from here--although it may be less--is a little pond. I've
carried water in the sleeve of my coat--fortunately it is leather--
and poured it somewhat generously upon your brow. And at last I've
been rewarded by a conscious word."
She tried to sit up, but desisted when a sudden twitch of pain held
"Let me help you," he said, gently. "We have camped, as you may
notice, on a big, flat rock. I found it not far from the scene of
the accident, so I carried you over to it. It is drier than the
earth, and, for the forepart of the night at least, will be
warmer." With a strong arm about her shoulders he drew her into a
Her eyes were becoming accustomed to the darkness. "What's wrong
with my foot?" she demanded. "My boot's off."
"I'm afraid you turned your ankle getting free from your stirrup,"
he explained. "I had to do a little surgery. I could find nothing
broken. It will be painful, but I fear there is nothing to do but
She reached down and felt her foot. It was neatly bandaged with
cloth very much like that which she had used to blindfold Quiver.
It was easy to surmise where it came from. Evidently her protector
had stopped at nothing.
"Well, are we to stay here permanently?" she asked, presently.
"Only for the night," he told her. "If we're lucky, not that long.
Search parties will be hunting for you, and they will doubtless
ride this way. Both of our horses bolted in the fire--"
"Oh yes, the fire! Tell me what happened."
"I remember riding into the fire," she continued, "and then next
thing I was on this rock. How did it all happen?"
"Your horse fell," he explained, "just as you reached the fire, and
threw you, pretty heavily, to the ground. I was behind, so I
dismounted and dragged you through."
"Oh!" She felt her face. "But I am not even singed!" she
It was plain that he was holding something back. She turned and
laid her fingers on his arm. "Tell me how you did it," she
The darkness hid his modest confusion. "It was really nothing," he
stammered. "You see, I had a leather coat, and I just threw it
over your head--and mine--and dragged you out."
She was silent for a moment while the meaning of his words came
home to her. Then she placed her hand frankly in his.
"Thank you," she said, and even in the darkness she knew that their
eyes had met.
"You are very resourceful," she continued presently. "Must we sit
here all night?"
"I can think of no alternative," he confessed. "If we had fire-
arms we could shoot a signal, or if there were grass about we could
start a fire, although it probably would not be noticed with so
many glows on the horizon to-night." He stopped to look about.
Dull splashes of red in the sky pointed out remnants of the day's
conflagration still eating their way through the foothills. The
air was full of the pungent but not unpleasant smell of burnt
"A pretty hard night to send a signal," he said, "but they're
almost sure to ride this way."
She wondered why he did not offer to walk to the camp for help; it
could not be more than four or five miles. Suddenly she thought
"I am not afraid to stay here alone," she said, with a little
laugh. It was the first time Grant had heard her laugh, and he
thought it very musical indeed. "I've slept out many a night, and
you would be back within a couple of hours."
"I'm quite sure you're not afraid," he agreed, "but, you see, I am.
You got quite a tap on the head, and for some time before you came
to you were talking--rather foolishly. Now if I should leave you
it is not only possible, but quite probable, that you would lapse
again into unconsciousness. . . . I really think you'll have to
put up with me here."
"Oh, I wasn't thinking of that! . . . Did I--did I talk--foolishly?"
"Rather. Seemed to think you were swimming--or fighting--I
couldn't be sure which. Sometimes you seemed to be doing both."
"Oh!" With a cold chill the events of the day came back upon her.
That struggle in the water; it came to her now like a bad dream out
of the long, long past. How much had she said? How much would she
have given to know what she said? She felt herself recounting
events. . . .
Presently she pulled herself up with a start. She must not let him
think her moody.
"Well, if we MUST enjoy each other's company, we may as well do so
companionably," she said, with an effort at gaiety. "Let us talk.
Tell me about yourself."
"First things first," he parried.
"Oh, I've nothing to tell. My life has been very unromantic. A
few years at school, and the rest of it on the range. A very
every-day kind of existence."
"I think it's the 'every-day kind of existence' that IS romantic,"
he returned. "It is a great mistake to think of romance as
belonging to other times and other places. Even the most
commonplace person has experienced romance enough for a dozen
books. Quite possibly he has not recognized the romance, but it
was there. The trouble is that with our limited sense of humor,
what we think of as romance in other people's lives becomes tragedy
in our own."
How much DID he know? . . . "Yes," she said, "I suppose that is
"I know it is so," he went on. "If we could read the thoughts--
know the experiences--of those nearest to us, we would never need
to look out of our own circles for either romance or tragedy. But
it is as well that we can't. Take the experience of to-day, for
example. I admit it has not been a commonplace day, and yet it has
not been altogether extraordinary. Think of the experiences we
have been through just this day, and how, if they were presented in
fiction they would be romantic, almost unbelievable. And here we
are at the close, sitting on a rock, matter-of-fact people in a
matter-of-fact world, accepting everything as commonplace and
"Not quite that," she said daringly. "I see that you are neither
commonplace nor unexceptional." She spoke with sudden impulse out
of the depth of her sincerity. She had not met a man like this
before. In her mind she fixed him in contrast with Transley, the
self-confident and aggressive, and Linder, the shy and unassertive.
None of those adjectives seemed to fit this new acquaintance.
Nevertheless, he suffered nothing by the contrast.
"If I had been bright enough I would have said that first," he
apologized, "but I got rather carried away in one of my pet
theories about romance. Now my life, I suppose, to many people
would seem quite tame and unromantic, but to me it has been a
delightful succession of somewhat placid adventures. It began in a
very orthodox way, in a very orthodox family. My father, under the
guidance, no doubt, of whatever star governs such lucky affairs,
became possessed of a piece of land. In doing so he contributed to
society no service whatever, so far as I have been able to ascertain.
But it so fell about that society, in considerable numbers, wanted
his land to live on, so society made of my father a wealthy man, and
gave him power over many people. Could anything be more romantic
than that? Could the fairy tales of your childhood surpass it for
"My father has also become wealthy," she said, "although I never
thought of it in that way."
"Yes, but in exchange for his wealth your father has given service
to society; supplied many thousands of steers for hungry people to
eat. That's a different story, but not less romantic.
"Well, to proceed. I was brought up to fit my station in life,
whatever that means. There were just two boys of us, and I was the
elder. My father had become a broker. I believe he had become
quite a successful broker, using the word in its ordinary sense,
which denotes the making of money. You see, he already had too
much money, so it was very easy for him to make more. He wanted me
to go into the office with him, but some way I didn't fit in. I've
no doubt there was lots of romance there, too, but I was of the
wrong nature; I simply couldn't get enthusiastic over it. As we
already had more money than we could possibly spend on things that
were good for us, I failed to see the point in sitting up nights to
increase it. Being of a frank disposition I confided in my father
that I felt I was wasting my time in a broker's office. He, being
of an equally frank disposition, confided in me that he entertained
the same opinion.
"Then I delivered myself of some of my pet theories about wealth.
I told him that I didn't believe that any man had a right to money
unless he earned it in return for service given to society, and I
said that as society had to supply the money, society should
determine the amount. I confessed that I was a little hazy about
how that was to be carried out, but I insisted that the principle
was right, and, that being so, the working of it out was only a
matter of detail. I realize now that this was all fanatical heresy
to my father; I remember the pained look that came into his eyes.
I thought at the time that it was anger, but I know now that it was
grief--grief and humiliation that a son of his should entertain
such wild and unbalanced ideas.
"Well, there was more talk, and the upshot of it was that I got
out, accompanied by an assurance from my father that I would never
be burdened with any of the family ducats. Roy--my younger
brother--succeeded to the worries of wealth, and I came to the
ranges where, no doubt to the deep chagrin of my father, I have
been able to make a living, and have, incidentally, been profoundly
happy. I'll take a wager that to-day I look ten years younger than
Roy, that I can lick him with one hand, that I have more real
friends than he has, and that I'm getting more out of life than he
is. I'm a man of whims. When they beckon I follow."
Grant had been talking intensely. He paused now, feeling that his
enthusiasm had carried him into rather fuller confidences than he
"I'm sorry I bored you with that harangue," he said contritely.
"You couldn't possibly be interested in it."
"On the contrary, I am very much interested in it," she protested.
"It seems so much finer for a man to make his own way, rather than
be lifted up by someone else. I am sure you are already doing well
in the West. Some day you will go back to your father with more
money than he has."
Grant uttered an amused little laugh.
"I was afraid you would say that," he answered. "You see, you
don't understand me, either. I don't want to make money. Can you
"Don't want to make money? Why not?"
"Why should I?"
"Well, everybody does. Money is power--it is a mark of success.
It would open up a wider life for you. It would bring you into new
circles. Some day you will want to marry and settle down, and
money would enable you to meet the kind of women--"
She stopped, confused. She had plunged farther than she had
"You're all wrong," he said amusedly. It did not even occur to Zen
that he was contradicting her. She had not been accustomed to
being contradicted, but then, neither had she been accustomed to
men like Dennison Grant, nor to conversations such as had
developed. She was too interested to be annoyed.
"You're all wrong, Miss--?"
"I don't wonder that you can't fill in my name," she said. "Nobody
knows Dad except as Y.D. But I heard you call me Zen--"
"That was when you were coming out of your unconsciousness. I
apologize for the liberty taken. I thought it might recall you--"
"Well, I'm still coming out," she interrupted. "I am beginning to
feel that I have been unconscious for a very long time indeed. Let
me hear why you don't want money."
Grant was aware of a pleasant glow excited by her frank interest.
She was altogether a desirable girl.
"I have observed," he said, "that poor people worry over what they
haven't got, and rich people worry over what they have. It is my
disposition not to worry over anything. You said that money is
power. That is one of its deceits. It offers a man power, but in
reality it makes him its slave. It enchains him for life; I have
seen it in too many cases--I am not mistaken. As for opening up a
wider life, what wider life could there be than this which I--which
you and I--are living?"
She wondered why he had said "you and I." Evidently he was wondering
too, for he fell into reflection. She changed her position to ease
the dull pain in her ankle, which his talk had almost driven from
her mind. The rock had a perpendicular edge, so she let her feet
hang over, resting the injured one upon the other. He was sitting in
a similar position. The silence of the night had gathered about
them, broken occasionally by the yapping of coyotes far down the
valley. Segments of dull light fringed the horizon; the breeze was
again blowing from the west, mild and balmy. Presently one of the
segments of light grew and grew. It was as though it were rushing
up the valley. They watched it, fascinated; then burst into
laughter as the orb of the moon became recognizable. . . . There
was something very companionable about watching the moon rise, as
"The greatest wealth in the world," he said at length, as though
his thoughts had been far afield, searching, perchance, the mazy
corridors of Truth for this atom of wisdom; "the greatest wealth in
the world is to be able to do something useful. That is the only
wealth which will not be disturbed in the coming reorganization of
Zen did not reply. For the first time in her life she stood
convicted, before her own mind, of a very profound ignorance.
Dennison Grant had been drawing back the curtain of a world of the
existence of which she had never known. He had talked to her about
"the coming reorganization of society"? What did it mean? She was
at home in discussions of herds or horses; she was at home with the
duties of kitchen or reception-room; she was at home with her
father or Transley or Linder or Drazk or Tompkins the cook, but
Dennison Grant in an hour had carried her into a far country, where
she would be hopelessly lost but for his guidance. . . . Yet it
seemed a good and interesting country. She wanted to enter in--to
know it better.
"Tell me about the coming reorganization of society," she said.
"That is an all-night order," he returned. "Besides, I can't tell
you all, because I don't know all. I know only very, very little.
I see my little gleam of light and keep my eye close upon it. But
you must know that society is always in a state of reorganization.
Nothing continues as it was. Those who dismiss a problem glibly by
saying it has always been so and always will be so don't read
history and don't understand human nature."
He turned toward her as interest in his theme developed. The
moonlight was now pouring upon them; her face was beautiful and
fine as marble in its soft rays. For a moment he hesitated,
overwhelmed by a sudden realization of her attractiveness. He had
just been saying that the law of nature was the law of change, and
nature itself stood up to refute him.
He brought himself back to earth. "I was saying that everything
changes," he continued. "Look at our economic system, for
instance. Not so many centuries ago the man who got the most
wealth was the man with the biggest muscle and the toughest skin.
He wielded a stout club, and what he wanted, he took. His system
of operation was simple and direct. You have money, you have
cattle, you have a wife--I'm speaking of the times that were. I am
stronger than you. I take them. Simplicity itself!"
"But very unjust," she protested.
"Our sense of justice is due to our education," he continued. "If
we are taught to believe that a certain thing is just, we believe
it is just. I am convinced that there is no sense of justice
inherent in humanity; whatever sense we have is the result of
education, and the kind of justice we believe in is the kind of
justice to which we are educated. For example, the justice of the
plains is not the justice of the cities; the justice of the
vigilance committee is not the justice of judge and jury. Now to
get back to our subject. When Baron Battle Ax, back in the fifth
or sixth century, knocked all his rivals on the head and took their
wealth away from them, I suppose there was here and there an
advanced thinker who said the thing was unjust, but I am quite sure
the great majority of people said things had always been that way
and always would be that way. But the little minority of thinkers
gradually grew in strength. The Truth was with them. It is worthy
of notice that the advance guard of Truth always travels with
minorities. And the day came that society organized itself to say
that the man who uses physical force to take wealth from another is
an enemy of society and must not be allowed at large.
"But we have passed largely out of the era of physical force. To-
day, an engineer presses a button and releases more physical force
than could be commanded by all the armies of Rome. Brain power is
to-day the dominant power. And just as physical force was once
used to take wealth without earning it, so is brain force now used
to take wealth without earning it. And just as the masses in the
days of Battle Ax said things had always been that way and always
would be that way, just so do the masses in these days of brain
supremacy say things have always been that way and always will be
that way. But just as there was a minority with an advanced vision
of Truth in those days, so is there a minority with an advanced
vision of Truth in these days. You may be absolutely sure that,
just as society found a way to deal with muscle brigands, so also
it will find a way to deal with brain brigands. I confess I don't
see how the details are to be worked out, but there must be a plan
under which the value of the services rendered to society by every
man and every woman will be determined, and they will be rewarded
according to the services rendered."
"Is that Socialism?" she ventured.
"I don't know. I don't think so. Certainly it does not contemplate
an equal distribution of the world's wealth. Some men are a menace
to themselves and society when they have a hundred dollars. Others
can be trusted with a hundred million. All men have not been
equally gifted by nature--we know that. We can't make them equal.
But surely we can prevent the gifted ones from preying upon those
who are not gifted. That is what the coming reorganization of
society will aim to do."
"It is very interesting," she said. "And very deep. I have never
heard it discussed before. Why don't people think about these
"I don't know," he answered, "but I suppose it is because they are
too busy in the fight. When a self was dodging Battle Ax he hadn't
much time to think about evolving a Magna Charta. But most of all
I suppose it is just natural laziness. People refuse to think. It
calls for effort. Most people would find it easier to pitch a load
of hay than to think of a new thought."
The moon was now well up; the smoke clouds had been scattered by
the breeze; the sky was studded with diamonds. Zen had a feeling
of being very happy. True, a certain haunting spectre at times
would break into her consciousness, but in the companionship of
such a man as Grant she could easily beat it off. She studied the
face in the moon, and invited her soul. She was living through a
new experience--an experience she could not understand. In spite
of the discomfort of her injuries, in spite of the events of the
day, she was very, very happy. . . .
If only that horrid memory of Drazk would not keep tormenting her!
She began to have some glimpse of what remorse must mean. She did
not blame herself; she could not have done otherwise; and yet--it
was horrible to think about, and it would not stay away. She felt
a tremendous desire to tell Grant all about it. . . . She wondered
how much he knew. He must have discovered that her clothing had
She shivered slightly.
"You're cold," he said, as he placed his arm about her, and there
was something very far removed from political economy in the timbre
of his voice.
"I'm a little chilly," she admitted. "I had to swim my horse
across the river to-day--he got into a deep spot--and I got wet."
She congratulated herself that she had made a very clever
He put his coat about her shoulders and drew it tight. Then he sat
beside her in silence. There were many things he could have said,
but this seemed to be neither the time nor the place. Grant was
not Transley. He had for this girl a delicate consideration which
Transley's nature could never know. Grant was a thinker--Transley
a doer. Grant knew that the charm which enveloped him in this
girl's presence was the perfectly natural product of a set of
conditions. He was worldly-wise enough to suspect that Zen also
felt that charm. It was as natural as the bursting of a seed in
moist soil; as natural as the unfolding of a rose in warm air. . . .
Presently he felt her head rest against his shoulder. He looked
down upon her in awed delight. Her eyes had closed; her lips were
smiling faintly; her figure had relaxed. He could feel her warm
breath upon his face. He could have touched her lips with his.
Slowly the moon traced its long arc in the heavens.
Just as the first flush of dawn mellowed the East Grant heard the
pounding of horses' feet and the sound of voices borne across the
valley. They rapidly approached; he could tell by the hard
pounding of the hoofs that they were on a trail which he took to be
the one he had followed before he met Zen. It passed possibly a
hundred yards to the left. He must in some way make his presence
The girl had slept soundly, almost without stirring. Now he must
wake her. He shook her gently, and called her name; her eyes
opened; he could see them, strange and wondering, in the thin grey
light. Then, with a sudden start, she was quite awake.
"I have been sleeping!" she exclaimed, reproachfully. "You let me
"No use of two watching the moon," he returned, lightly.
"But you shouldn't have let me sleep," she reprimanded. "Besides,
you had to stay awake. You have had no sleep at all!"
There was a sympathy in her voice very pleasant to the ear. But
Grant could not continue so delightful an indulgence.
"I had to wake you," he explained. "There are several people
riding up the valley; undoubtedly a search party. I must attract
They listened, and could now hear the hoof-beats close at hand.
Grant called; not a loud shout; it seemed little more than his
speaking voice, but instantly there was silence, save for the echo
of the sound rolling down the valley. Then a voice answered, and
Grant gave a word or two of directions. In a minute or two several
horsemen loomed up through the vague light.
"Here we are," said Zen, as she distinguished her father. "Gone
lame on the off foot and held up for repairs."
Y.D. swung down from his saddle. "Are you all right, Zen?" he
cried, as he advanced with outstretched arms. There was an
eagerness and a relief in his voice which would have surprised many
who knew Y.D. only as a shrewd cattleman.
Zen accepted and returned his embrace, with a word of assurance
that she was really nothing the worse. Then she introduced her
"This is Mr. Dennison Grant, foreman of the Landson ranch, Dad."
Grant extended his hand, but Y.D. hesitated. The truce occasioned
by the fire did not by any means imply permanent peace. Far from
it, with the valley in ruins--
Y.D. was stiffening, but his daughter averted what would in another
moment have been an embarrassing situation with a quick remark.
"This is no time, even for explanations," she said, "except that
Mr. Grant saved my life last evening at the risk of his own, and
has lost a night's sleep for his pains."
"That was a man's work," said Y.D. It would not have been possible
for his lips to have framed a greater compliment. "I'm obliged to
you, Grant. You know how it is with us cattlemen; we run mostly to
horns and hoofs, but I suppose we have some heart, too, if you can
They shook hands with as much cordiality as the situation permitted,
and then Zen introduced Transley and Linder, who were in the party.
There were two or three others whom she did not know, but they all
"What happened, Zen?" said Transley, with his usual directness.
"Give us the whole story."
Then she told them what she knew, from the point where she had met
Grant on the fire-encircled hill.
"Two lucky people--two lucky people," was all Transley's comment.
Words could not have expressed the jealousy he felt. But Linder
was not too shy to place his hand with a friendly pressure upon
"Good work," he said, and with two words sealed a friendship.
Two of the unnamed members of the party volunteered their horses to
Zen and Grant, and all hands started back to camp. Y.D. talked
almost garrulously; not even himself had known how heavily the hand
of Fate had lain on him through the night.
"The haymakin' is all off, Darter," he said. "We will trek back to
the Y.D. as soon as you feel fit. The steers will have to take
chances next winter."
The girl professed her fitness to make the trip at once, and indeed
they did make it that very day. Y.D. pressed Grant to remain for
breakfast, and Tompkins, notwithstanding the demoralization of
equipment and supplies effected by the fire, again excelled
himself. After breakfast the old rancher found occasion for a word
"You know how it is, Grant," he said. "There's a couple of things
that ain't explained, an' perhaps it's as well all round not to
press for opinions. I don't know how the iron stakes got in my
meadow, an' you don't know how the fire got in yours. But I give
you Y.D.'s word--which goes at par except in a cattle trade--" and
Y.D. laughed cordially at his own limitations--"I give you my word
that I don't know any more about the fire than you do."
"And I don't know anything more about the stakes than you do,"
"Well, then, let it stand at that. But mind," he added, with
returning heat, "I'm not committin' myself to anythin' in advance.
This grass'll grow again next year, an' by heavens if I want it
I'll cut it! No son of a sheep herder can bluff Y.D!"
Grant did not reply. He had heard enough of Y.D.'s boisterous
nature to make some allowances.
"An' mind I mean it," continued Y.D., whose chagrin over being
baffled out of a thousand tons of hay overrode, temporarily at
least, his appreciation of Grant's services. "Mind, I mean it. No
monkey-doodles next season, young man."
Obviously Y.D. was becoming worked up, and it seemed to Grant that
the time had come to speak.
"There will be none," he said, quietly. "If you come over the
hills to cut the South Y.D. next summer I will personally escort
you home again."
Y.D. stood open-mouthed. It was preposterous that this young
upstart foreman on a second-rate ranch like Landson's should
deliberately defy him.
"You see, Y.D.," continued Grant, with provoking calmness, "I've
seen the papers. You've run a big bluff in this country. You've
occupied rather more territory than was coming to you. In a word,
you've been a good bit of a bully. Now--let me break it to you
gently--those good old days are over. In future you're going to
stay on your own side of the line. If you crowd over you'll be
pushed back. You have no more right to the hay in this valley than
you have to the hide on Landson's steers, and you're not going to
cut it any more, at all."
Y.D. exploded in somewhat ineffective profanity. He had a wide
vocabulary of invective, but most of it was of the stand-and-fight
variety. There is some language which is not to be used, unless
you are willing to have it out on the ground, there and then. Y.D.
had no such desire. Possibly a curious sense of honor entered into
the case. It was not fair to call a young man names, and although
there was considerable truth in Grant's remark that Y.D. was a
bully, his bullying did not take that form. Possibly, also, he
recalled at that moment the obligation under which Zen's accident
had placed him. At any rate he wound up rather lamely.
"Grant," he said, "if I want that hay next year I'll cut it, spite
o' hell an' high water."
"All right, Y.D.," said Grant, cheerfully. "We'll see. Now, if
you can spare me a horse to ride home, I'll have him sent back
Y.D. went to find Transley and arrange for a horse, and in a moment
Zen appeared from somewhere.
"You've been quarreling with Dad," she said, half reproachfully,
and yet in a tone which suggested that she could understand.
"Not exactly that," he parried. "We were just having a frank talk
with each other."
"I know something of Dad's frank talks. . . I'm sorry. . . I would
have liked to ask you to come and see me--to see us--my mother
would be glad to see you. I can hardly ask you to come if you are
going to be bad friends with Dad."
"No, I suppose not," he admitted.
"You were very good to me; very--decent," she continued.
At that moment Transley, Linder, and Y.D. appeared, with two
"Linder will ride over with you and bring back the spare beast,"
Grant shook hands, rather formally, with Y.D. and Transley, and
then with Zen. She murmured some words of thanks, and just as he
would have withdrawn his hand he felt her fingers tighten very
firmly about his. He answered the pressure, and turned quickly
Transley immediately struck camp, and Y.D. and his daughter drove
homeward, somewhat painfully, over the blackened hills.
Transley lost no time in finding other employment. It was late in
the season to look for railway contracts, and continued dry weather
had made grading, at best, a somewhat difficult business. Influx
of ready money and of those who follow it had created considerable
activity in a neighboring centre which for twenty years had been
the principal cow-town of the foothill country. In defiance of all
tradition, and, most of all, in defiance of the predictions of the
ranchers who had known it so long for a cow-town and nothing more,
the place began to grow. No one troubled to inquire exactly why it
should grow, or how. As for Transley, it was enough for him that
team labor was in demand. He took a contract, and three days after
the fire in the foothills he was excavating for business blocks
about to be built in the new metropolis.
It was no part of Transley's plan, however, to quite lose touch
with the people on the Y.D. They were, in fact, the centre about
which he had been doing some very serious thinking. His
outspokenness with Zen and her father had had in it a good deal of
bravado--the bravado of a man who could afford to lose the stake,
and smile over it. In short, he had not cared whether he offended
them or not. Transley was a very self-reliant contractor; he gave,
even to the millionaire rancher, no more homage than he demanded in
return. . . . Still, Zen was a very desirable girl. As he turned
the matter over in his mind Transley became convinced that he
wanted Zen. With Transley, to want a thing meant to get it. He
always found a way. And he was now quite sure that he wanted Zen.
He had not known that positively until the morning when he found
her in the grey light of dawn with Dennison Grant. There was a
suggestion of companionship there between the two which had cut him
to the quick. Like most ambitious men, Transley was intensely
Up to this time Transley had not thought seriously of matrimony. A
wife and children he regarded as desirable appendages for declining
years--for the quiet and shade of that evening toward which every
active man looks with such irrational confidence. But for the heat
of the day--for the climb up the hill--they would be unnecessary
encumbrances. Transley always took a practical view of these
matters. It need hardly be stated that he had never been in love;
in fact Transley would have scouted the idea of any passion which
would throw the practical to the winds. That was a thing for
weaklings, and, possibly, for women.
But his attachment for Zen was a very practical matter. Zen was
the only heir to the Y.D. wealth. She would bring to her husband
capital and credit which Transley could use to good advantage in
his business. She would also bring personality--a delightful
individuality--of which any man might be proud. She had that fine
combination of attractions which is expressed in the word charm.
She had health, constitution, beauty. She had courage and
sympathy. She had qualities of leadership. She would bring to him
not only the material means to build a house, but the spiritual
qualities which make a home. She would make him the envy of all
his acquaintances. And a jealous man loves to be envied.
So after the work on the excavations had been properly started
Transley turned over the detail to the always dependable Linder,
and, remarking that he had not had a final settlement with Y.D.,
set out for the ranch in the foothills. While spending the long
autumn day alone in the buggy he was able to turn over and develop
plans on an even more ambitious scale than had occurred to him amid
the hustle of his men and horses.
The valley was lying very warm and beautiful in yellow light, and
the setting sun was just capping the mountains with gold and
painting great splashes of copper and bronze on the few clouds
becalmed in the heavens, when Transley's tired team jogged in among
the cluster of buildings known as the Y.D. The rancher met him at
the bunk-house. He greeted Transley with a firm grip of his great
palm, and with jaws open in suggestion of a sort of carnivorous
"Come up to the house, Transley," he said, turning the horses over
to the attention of a ranch hand. "Supper is just ready, an' the
women will be glad to see you."
Zen, walking with a limp, met them at the gate. Transley's eyes
reassured him that he had not been led astray by any process of
idealization; Zen was all his mind had been picturing her. She was
worth the effort. Indeed, a strange sensation of tenderness
suffused him as he walked by her side to the door, supporting her a
little with his hand. There they were ushered in by the rancher's
wife, and Zen herself showed Transley to a cool room where were
white towels and soft water from the river and quiet and restful
furnishings. Transley congratulated himself that he could hardly
hope to be better received.
After supper he had a social drink with Y.D., and then the two sat
on the veranda and smoked and discussed business. Transley found
Y.D. more liberal in the adjustment than he had expected. He had
not yet realized to what an extent he had won the old rancher's
confidence, and Y.D. was a man who, when his confidence had been
won, never haggled over details. He was willing to compromise the
loss on the operations on the South Y.D. on a scale that was not
merely just, but generous.
This settled, Transley proceeded to interest Y.D. in the work in
which he was now engaged. He drew a picture of activities in the
little metropolis such as stirred the rancher's incredulity.
"Well, well," Y.D. would say. "Transley, I've known that little
hole for about thirty years, an' never seen it was any good excep'
to get drunk in. . . . I've seen more things there than is down in
"You wouldn't know the change that has come about in a few months,"
said Transley, with enthusiasm. "Double shifts working by electric
light, Y.D! What do you think of that? Men with rolls of money
that would choke a cow sleeping out in tents because they can't get
a roof over them. Why, man, I didn't have to hunt a job there; the
job hunted me. I could have had a dozen jobs at my own price if I
could have handled them. It's just as if prosperity was a river
which had been trickling through that town for thirty years, and
all of a sudden the dam up in the foothills gives away and down she
comes with a rush. Lots which sold a year ago for a hundred
dollars are selling now for five hundred--sometimes more. Old
ranchers living on the bald-headed a few years ago find themselves
today the owners of city property worth millions, and are dressing
uncomfortably, in keeping with their wealth, or vainly trying to
drink up the surplus. So far sense and brains has had nothing to
do with it, Y.D., absolutely nothing. It has been fool luck. But
the brains are coming in now, and the brains will get the money, in
the long run."
Transley paused and lit another cigar. Y.D. rolled his in his
"I mind some doin's in that burg," he said, as though the memory of
them was of greater importance than all that might be happening
Transley switched back to business. "We ought to be in on it,
Y.D.," he said. "Not on the fly-by-night stuff; I don't mean that.
But I could take twice the contracts if I had twice the outfit."
Y.D. brought his chair down on to all four legs and removed his
"You mean we should hit her together?" he demanded.
"It would be a great compliment to me, if you had that confidence
in me, and I'm sure it would make some good money for you."
"How'd you work it?"
"You have a bunch of horses running here on the ranch, eating their
heads off. Many of them are broke, and the others would soon tame
down with a scraper behind them. Give them to me and let me put
them to work. I'd have to have equipment, too. Your name on the
back of my note would get it, and you wouldn't actually have to put
up a dollar. Then we'd make an inventory of what you put into the
firm and what I put into it, and we'd divide the earnings in
"After payin' you a salary as manager, of course," suggested Y.D.
"That's immaterial. With a bigger outfit and more capital I can
make so much more money out of the earnings that I don't care
whether I get a salary or not. But I wouldn't figure on going on
contracting all the time for other people. We might as well have
the cream as the skimmed milk. This is the way it's done. We go
to the owner of a block of lots somewhere where there's no building
going on. He's anxious to start something, because as soon as
building starts in that district the lots will sell for two or
three times what they do now. We say to him, 'Give us every second
lot in your block and we'll put a house on it.' In this way we get
the lots for a trifle; perhaps for nothing. Then we build a lot of
houses, more or less to the same plan. We put 'em up quick and
cheap. We build 'em to sell, not to live in. Then we mortgage 'em
for the last cent we can get. Then we put the price up to twice
what the mortgage is and sell them as fast as we can build them,
getting our equity out and leaving the purchasers to settle with
the mortgage company. It's good for from thirty to forty per cent,
profit, not per annum, but per transaction."
"It sounds interesting," said Y.D., "an' I suppose I might as well
put my spare horses an' credit to work. I don't mind drivin' down
with you to-morrow an' looking her over first hand."
This was all Transley had hoped for, and the talk turned to less
material matters. After a while Zen joined them, and a little
later Y.D. left to attend to some business at the bunk-house.
"Your father and I may go into partnership, Zen," Transley said to
her, when they were alone together. He explained in a general way
the venture that was afoot.
"That will be very interesting," she agreed.
"Will you be interested?"
"Of course. I am interested in everything that Dad undertakes."
"And are you not--will you not be--just a little interested in the
things that I undertake?"
She paused a moment before replying. The dusk had settled about
them, and he could not see the contour of her face, but he knew
that she had realized the significance of his question.
"Why yes," she said at length, "I will be interested in what you
undertake. You will be Dad's partner."
Her evasion nettled him.
"Zen," he said, "why shouldn't we understand each other?"
"Don't we?" She had turned slightly toward him, and he could feel
the laughing mockery in her eyes.
"I rather think we do," he answered, "only we--at least, you--won't
"Seriously, Zen, do you imagine I came over here to-day simply to
make a deal with your father?"
"Wasn't that worth while?"
"Of course it was. But it wasn't the whole purpose--it wasn't half
the purpose. I wanted to see Y.D., it is true, but more, very much
more, I wanted to see you."
She did not answer, and he could only guess what was the trend of
her thoughts. After a silence he continued.
"You may think I am precipitate. You intimated as much to me once.
I am. I know of no reason why an honest man should go beating
about the bush. When I want something I want it, and I make a bee-
line for it. If it is a contract--if it is a business matter--I go
right after it, with all the energy that's in me. When I'm looking
for a contract I don't start by talking about the weather. Well--
this is my first experience in love, and perhaps my methods are all
wrong, but it seems to me they should apply. At any rate a girl of
your intelligence will understand."
"Applying your business principles," she interrupted, "I suppose if
you wanted a wife and there was none in sight you would advertise
He defended his position. "I don't see why not," he declared. "I
can't understand the general attitude of levity toward matrimonial
advertisements. Apparently they are too open and above-board.
Matrimony should not be committed in a round-about, indirect, hit-
or-miss manner. A young man sees a girl whom he thinks he would
like to marry. Does he go to her house and say, 'Miss So-and-So, I
think I would like to marry you. Will you allow me to call on you
so that we may get better acquainted, with that object in view?'
He does not. Such honesty would be considered almost brutal. He
calls on her and pretends he would like to take her to the theatre,
if it is in town, or for a ride, if it is in the country. She
pretends she would like to go. Both of them know what the real
purpose is, and both of them pretend they don't. They start the
farce by pretending a deceit which deceives nobody. They wait for
nature to set up an attraction which shall overrule their judgment,
rather than act by judgment first and leave it to nature to take
care of herself. How much better it would be to be perfectly
frank--to boldly announce the purpose--to come as I now come to you
and say, 'Zen, I want to marry you. My reason, my judgment, tells
me that you would be an ideal mate. I shall be proud of you, and I
will try to make you proud of me. I will gratify your desires in
every way that my means will permit. I pledge you my fidelity in
return for yours. I--I--' Zen, will you say yes? Can you believe
that there is in my simple words more sincerity than there could be
in any mad ravings about love? You are young, Zen, younger than I,
but you must have observed some things. One of them is that
marriage, founded on mutual respect, which increases with the
years, is a much safer and wiser business than marriage founded on
a passion which quickly burns itself out and leaves the victims
cold, unresponsive, with nothing in common. You may not feel that
you know me well enough for a decision. I will give you every
opportunity to know me better--I will do nothing to deceive you--I
will put on no veneer--I will let you know me as I really am. Will
you say yes?"
He had left his seat and approached her; he was leaning close over
her chair. While his words had suggested marriage on a purely
intellectual basis he did not hesitate to bring his physical
presence into the scale. He was accustomed to having his way--he
had always had it--never did he want it more than he did now. . . .
And although he had made his plea from the intellectual angle he
was sure, he was very, very sure there was more than that. This
girl; whose very presence delighted him--intoxicated him--would
have made him mad--
"Will you say yes?" he repeated, and his hands found hers and drew
her with his great strength up from her chair. She did not resist,
but when she was on her feet she avoided his embrace.
"You must not hurry me," she whispered. "I must have time to
think. I did not realize what you were saying until--"
"Say yes now," he urged. Transley was a man very hard to resist.
She felt as though she were in the grip of a powerful machine; it
was as though she were being swept along by a stream against which
her feeble strength was as nothing. Zen was as nearly frightened
as she had ever been in her vigorous young life. And yet there was
something delightful. It would have been so easy to surrender--it
was so hard to resist.
"Say yes now," he repeated, drawing her close at last and breathing
the question into her ear. "You shall have time to think--you
shall ask your own heart, and if it does not confirm your words you
will be released from your promise."
They heard the footsteps of her father approaching, and Transley
waited no longer for an answer. He turned her face to his; he
pressed his lips against hers.
Zen thought over the events of that evening until they became a
blur in her memory. Her principal recollection was that she had
been quite swept off her feet. Transley had interpreted her
submission as assent, and she had not corrected him in the vital
moment when they stood before her father that night in the deep
shadow of the veranda.
"Y.D.," Transley had said, "your consent and your blessing! Zen
and I are to be married as soon as she can be ready."
That was the moment at which she should have spoken, but she did
not. She, who had prided herself that she would make a race of it--
she, who had always been able to slip out of a predicament in the
nick of time--stood mutely by and let Transley and her father
interpret her silence as consent. She was not sure that she was
sorry; she was not sure but she would have consented anyway; but
Transley had taken the matter quite out of her hands. And yet she
could not bring herself to feel resentment toward him; that was the
strangest part of it. It seemed that she had come under his
domination; that she even had to think as he would have her think.
In the darkness she could not see her father's face, for which she
was sorry; and he could not see hers, for which she was glad.
There was a long moment of tense silence before she heard him say,
"Well, well! I had a hunch it might come to that, but I didn't
reckon you youngsters would work so fast."
"This was a stake worth working fast for," Transley was saying, as
he shook Y.D.'s hand. "I wouldn't trade places with any man
alive." And Zen was sure he meant exactly what he said.
"She's a good girl, Transley," her father commented; "a good girl,
even if a bit obstrep'rous at times. She's got spirit, Transley,
an' you'll have to handle her with sense. She's a--a thoroughbred!"
Y.D. had reached his arms toward his daughter, and at these words
he closed them about her. Zen had never known her father to be
emotional; she had known him to face matters of life and death
without the quiver of an eyelid, but as he held her there in his
arms that night she felt his big frame tremble. Suddenly she had a
powerful desire to cry. She broke from his embrace and ran
upstairs to her room.
When she came down her father and mother and Transley were sitting
about the table in the living-room; the room hung with trophies of
the chase and of competition; the room which had been the nucleus
of the Y.D. estate. There was a colored cover on the table, and
the shaded oil lamp in the centre sent a comfortable glow of light
downward and about. The mammoth shadows of the three people fell
on the log walls, darting silently from position to position with
their every movement.
Her mother arose as Zen entered the room and took her hands in a
warm, tender grip.
"You're early leaving us," she said. "I'm not saying I object. I
think Mr. Transley will make you a good husband. He is a man of
energy, like your father. He will do well. You will not know the
hardships that we knew in our early married life." Their eyes met,
and there was a moment's pause.
"You will not understand for many years what this means to me,
Zenith," her mother said, and turned quickly to her place at the
She could not remember what they had talked about after that. She
had been conscious of Transley's eyes often on her, and of a
certain spiritual exaltation within her. She could not remember
what she had said, but she knew she had talked with unusual
vivacity and charm. It was as though certain storehouses of
brilliance in her being, of which she had been unaware, had been
suddenly opened to her. It was as though she had been intoxicated
by a very subtle wine which did not deaden, but rather quickened,
all her faculties.
Afterwards, she had spent long hours among the foothills, thinking
and thinking. There were times when the flame of that strange
exaltation burned low indeed; times when it seemed almost to
expire. There were moments--hours--of misgivings. She could not
understand the strange docility which had come over her; the
unprecedented willingness to have her course shaped by another.
That strange willingness came as near to frightening Zen as
anything had ever done. She felt that she was being carried along
in a stream; that she was making no resistance; that she had no
desire to resist. She had a strange fear that some day she would
need to resist; some day she would mightily need qualities of self-
direction, and those qualities would refuse to arise at her
She did not fear Transley. She believed in him. She believed in
his ability to grapple with anything that stood in his way; to
thrust it aside, and press on. She respected the judgment of her
father and her mother, and both of them believed in Transley. He
would succeed; he would seize the opportunities this young country
afforded and rise to power and influence upon them. He would be
kind, he would be generous. He would make her proud of him. What
more could she want?
That was just it. There were dark moments when she felt that
surely there must be something more than all this. She did not
know what it was--she could not analyze her thoughts or give them
definite form--but in these dark moments she feared that she was
being tricked, that the whole thing was a sham which she would
discover when it was too late. She did not suspect her mother, or
her father, or Transley, one or all, of being parties to this
trick; she believed that they did not know it existed. She herself
did not know it existed. But the fear was there.
After a week she admitted, much against her will, that possibly
Dennison Grant had something to do with it. She had not seen him
since she had pressed his fingers and he had ridden away through
the smoke-haze of the South Y.D. She had dutifully tried to force
him from her mind. But he would not stay out of it. It was about
that fact that her misgivings seemed most to centre. When she
would be thinking of Transley, and wondering about the future,
suddenly she would discover that she was not thinking of Transley,
but of Dennison Grant. These discoveries shocked and humiliated
her. It was an impossible position. She would throw Grant
forcibly out of her mind and turn to Transley. And then, in an
unguarded moment, Transley would fade from her consciousness, and
she would know again that she was thinking of Grant.
At length she allowed herself the luxury of thinking frankly about
Dennison Grant. It WAS a luxury. It brought her a secret
happiness which she was wholly at a loss to understand, but which
was very delightful, nevertheless. She amused herself with
comparing Grant with Transley. They had two points in common:
their physical perfection and their fearless, self-confident
manner. With these exceptions they seemed to be complete
contradictions. The ambitious Transley worshipped success; the
philosophical Grant despised it. That difference in attitude
toward the world and its affairs was a ridge which separated the
whole current of their lives. It even, in a way, shut one from the
view of the other; at least it shut Grant from the view of Transley.
Transley would never understand Grant, but Grant might, and probably
did, understand Transley. That was why Grant was the greater of the
two. . . .
She reproached herself for such a thought; it was disloyal to admit
that this stranger on the Landson ranch was a greater man than her
husband-to-be. And yet honesty--or, perhaps, something deeper than
honesty--compelled her to make that admission. . . . She ran back
over the remembered incidents of the night they had spent together,
marooned like shipwrecked sailors on a rock in the foothills. His
attentiveness, his courtesy, his freedom from any conventional
restraint, his manly respect which was so much greater than
conventional restraint--all these came back to her with a poignant
tenderness. She pictured Transley in his place. Transley would
probably have proposed even before he bandaged her ankle. Grant
had not said a word of love, or even of affection. He had talked
freely of himself--at her request--but there had been nothing that
might not have been said before the world. She had been safe with
Grant. . . .
After she had thought on this theme for a while Zen would acknowledge
to herself that the situation was absurd and impossible. Grant had
given no evidence of thinking more of her than of any other girl
whom he might have met. He had been chivalrous only. She had sat up
with a start at the thought that there might be another girl. . . .
Or there might be no girl. Grant was an unusual character. . . .
At any rate, the thing for her to do was to forget about him. She
should have no place in her mind for any man but Transley. It was
true he had stampeded her, but she had accepted the situation in
which she found herself. Transley was worthy of her--she had
nothing to take back--she would go through with it.
On the principle that the way to drive an unwelcome thought out of
the mind is to think vigorously about something else, Zen occupied
herself with plans and day-dreams centering about the new home that
was to be built in town. Neither her father nor Transley had as
yet returned from the trip on which they had gone with a view to
forming a partnership, so there had been no opportunity to discuss
the plans for the future, but Zen took it for granted that Transley
would build in town. He was so enthusiastic over the possibilities
of that young and bustling centre of population that there was no
doubt he would want to throw in his lot with it. This prospect was
quite pleasing to the girl; it would leave her within easy distance
of her old home; it would introduce her to a type of society with
which she was well acquainted, and where she could do herself
justice, and it would not break up the associations of her young
life. She would still be able, now and again, to take long rides
through the tawny foothills; to mingle with her old friends;
possibly to maintain a somewhat sisterly acquaintance with Dennison
Grant. . . .
After ten days Y.D. returned--alone. He had scarcely been able to
believe the developments which he had seen. It was as though the
sleepy, lazy cow-town had become electrified. Y.D. had looked on
for three days, wondering if he were not in some kind of a dream
from which he would awaken presently among his herds in the
foothills. After three days he bought a property. Before he left
he sold it at a profit greater than the earnings of his first five
years on the ranch. It would be indeed a stubborn confidence which
could not be won by such an experience, and before leaving for the
ranch Y.D. had arranged for Transley practically an open credit
with his bankers, and had undertaken to send down all the horses
and equipment that could be spared.
Transley had planned to return to the foothills with Y.D., but at
the last moment business matters developed which required his
attention. He placed a tiny package in Y.D.'s capacious palm.