Part 4 out of 5
health now gave no evidence of those experiences. Linder counted
himself lucky to carry only an empty sleeve.
They had fallen in with each other in France, and the friendship
planted in the foothills of the range country had grown, through
the strange prunings and graftings of war, into a tree of very
solid timber. Linder might have told you of the time his captain
found him with his arm crushed under a wrecked piece of artillery,
and Grant could have recounted a story of being dragged unconscious
out of No Man's Land, but for either to dwell upon these matters
only aroused the resentment of the other, and frequently led to
exchanges between captain and sergeant totally incompatible with
military discipline. They were content to pay tribute to each
other, but each to leave his own honors unheralded.
"First thing is a place to eat," Grant remarked, when they had been
dismissed. Words to similar effect had, indeed, been his first
remark upon every suitable opportunity for three months. An
appetite which has been four years in the making is not to be
satisfied overnight, and Grant, being better fortified financially
against the stress of a good meal, sought to be always first to
suggest it. Linder accepted the situation with the complacence of
a man who has been four years on army pay.
When they had eaten they took a walk through the old town--Grant's
old town. It looked as though he had stepped out of it yesterday;
it was hard to realize that ages lay between. There are experiences
which soak in slowly, like water into a log. The new element
surrounds the body, but it may be months before it penetrates to the
heart. Grant had some sense of that fact as he walked the old
familiar streets, apparently unchanged by all these cataclysmic
days. . . . In time he would come to understand. There was the name
plate of Barrett, Jones, Barrett, Deacon & Barrett. There had not
even been an addition to the firm. Here was the old Grant office,
now used for some administration purpose. That, at least, was a move
in the right direction.
They wandered along aimlessly while the sunset of an early summer
evening marshalled its glories overhead. On a side street children
played in the roadway; on a vacant spot a game of ball was in
progress. Women sat on their verandas and shot casual glances
after them as they passed. Handsome pleasure cars glided about;
there was a smell of new flowers in all the air.
"What do you make of it, mate?" said Grant at last.
Linder pulled slowly on his cigarette. Even his training as a
sergeant had not made him ready of speech, but when he spoke it
was, as ever, to the point.
"It's all so unnecessary," he commented at length.
"That's the way it gets me, too. So unnecessary. You see, when
you get down to fundamentals there are only two things necessary--
food and shelter. Everything else may be described as trimmings.
We've been dealing with fundamentals so long---mighty bare
fundamentals at that--that all these trimmings seem just a little
irritating, don't you think?"
"I follow you. I simply can't imagine myself worrying over a stray
"And I can't imagine myself sitting in an office and dealing with
such unessential things as stocks and bonds. . . . And I'm not
"Got any notion what you will do?" said Linder, when he had reached
the middle of another cigarette.
"Not the slightest. I don't even know whether I'm rich or broke.
I suppose if Jones and Murdoch are still alive they will be looking
after those details. Doing their best, doubtless, to embarrass me
with additional wealth. What are YOU going to do?"
"Don't know. Maybe go back and work for Transley."
The mention of Transley threw Grant's mind back into old channels.
He had almost forgotten Transley. He told himself he had quite
forgotten Zen Transley, but once he knew he lied. That was when
they potted him in No Man's Land. As he lay there, waiting . . . .
he knew he had not forgotten. And he had thought many times of
Phyllis Bruce. At first he had written to her, but she had not
answered his letters. Evidently she meant him to forget. Nor had
she come to the station to welcome him home. Perhaps she did not
know. Perhaps-- Many things can happen in four years.
Suddenly it occurred to Grant that it might be a good idea to call
on Phyllis. He would take Linder along. That would make it less
personal. He knew his man well enough to keep his own counsel, and
eventually they reached the gate of the Bruce cottage, as though by
"Let's turn in here. I used to know these people. Mother and
daughter; very fine folk."
Linder looked for an avenue of retreat, but Grant barred his way,
and together they went up the path. A strange woman, with a baby
on her arm, met them at the door. Grant inquired for Mrs. Bruce
and her daughter.
"Oh, you haven't heard?" said the woman. "I suppose you are just
back. Well, it was a sad thing, but these have been sad times. It
was when Hubert was killed I came here first. Poor dear, she took
that to heart awful, and couldn't be left alone, and Phyllis was
working in an office, so I came here part time to help out. Then
she was just beginning to brace up again when we got the word about
Grace. Grace, you know, was lost on a hospital ship. That was too
much for her."
Grant received this information with a strange catching about the
heart. There had been changes, after all.
"What became of Phyllis?" He tried to ask the question in an even
"I moved into the house after Mrs. Bruce died," the woman
continued, "as my man came back discharged about that time.
Phyllis tried to get on as a nurse, but couldn't manage it. Then
her office was moved to another part of the city and she took rooms
somewhere. At first she came to see us often, but not lately. I
suppose she's trying to forget."
"Trying to forget," Grant muttered to himself. "How much of life
is made up of trying to forget!"
Further questions brought no further information. The woman didn't
know the firm for which Phyllis worked; she thought it had to do
with munitions. Suddenly Grant found himself impelled by a
tremendous desire to locate this girl. He would set about it at
once; possibly Jones or Murdoch could give him information.
Strangely enough, he now felt that he would prefer to be rid of
Linder's company. This was a matter for himself alone. He took
Linder to an hotel, where they arranged for lodgings, and then
started on his search.
He located Murdoch without difficulty. It was now late, and the
old clerk came down the stairs with inoffensive imprecations upon
the head of his untimely caller, but his mutterings soon gave way
to a cry of delight.
"My dear boy!" he exclaimed, embracing him. "My dear boy--excuse
me, sir, I'm a blithering old man, but oh! sir--my boy, you're home
again!" There was no doubting the depth of old Murdoch's welcome.
He ran before Grant into the living-room and switched on the
lights. In a moment he was back with his arm about the young man's
shoulder; he was with difficulty restraining caresses.
"Sit you down, Mr. Grant; here--this chair--it's easier. I must
get the women up. This is no night for sleeping. Why didn't you
send us word?"
"There is a tradition that official word is sent in advance," Grant
tried to explain.
"Aye, a tradition. There's a tradition that a Scotsman is a dour
body without any sentiment. Well--I must call the women."
He hurried up the stairs and Grant settled back into his chair.
So this was the home of Murdoch, the man who really had earned a
considerable part of the Grant fortune. He had never visited
Murdoch before; he had never thought of him in a domestic sense;
Murdoch had always been to him a man of figures, of competent
office routine, of almost too respectful deference. The light over
the centre table fell subdued through a pinkish shade; the corners
of the room lay in restful shadows; the comfortable furniture
showed the marks of years. The walls suggested the need of new
paper; the well-worn carpet had been shifted more than once for
economy's sake. Grant made a hasty appraisal of these conditions;
possibly his old clerk was feeling the pinch of circumstances--
Murdoch, returning, led in his wife, a motherly woman who almost
kissed the young soldier. In the welcome of her greeting it was a
moment before Grant became aware of the presence of a fourth person
in the room.
"I am very glad to see you safely back," said Phyllis Bruce. "We
have all been thinking about you a great deal."
"Why, Miss--Phyllis! It was you I was looking for!" The frank
confession came before he had time to suppress it, and, having said
so much, it seemed better to finish the job.
"Yes, Phyllis is making her home with us now," Mrs. Murdoch
explained. "It is more convenient to her work."
Grant wondered how much of this arrangement was due to Mrs.
Murdoch's sympathy for the bereaved girl, and how much to the
addition which it made to the family income. No doubt both
considerations had contributed to it.
"I called at your old home," he continued. "I needn't say how
distressed I was to hear-- The woman could tell me nothing of you,
so I came to Murdoch, hoping--"
"Yes," she said, simply, as though there were nothing more to
explain. Grant noticed that her eyes were larger and her cheeks
paler than they had been, but the delight of her presence leapt
about him. Her hurried costume seemed to accentuate her beauty
despite of all that war had done to destroy it. There was a
silence which lengthened out. They were all groping for a footing.
Mrs. Murdoch met the situation by insisting that she would put on
the kettle, and Mr. Murdoch, in a burst of almost divine
inspiration, insisted that his wife was quite incompetent to light
the gas alone at that hour of the night. When the old folks had
shuffled into the kitchen Grant found himself standing close to
"Why didn't you answer my letters?" he demanded, plunging to the
issue with the directness of his nature.
"Because I had promised to let you forget," she replied. There was
a softness in her voice which he had not noted in those bygone
days; she seemed more resigned and yet more poised; the strange
wizardry of suffering had worked new wonders in her soul. Suddenly,
as he looked upon her, he became aware of a new quality in Phyllis
Bruce--the quality of gentleness. She had added this to her unique
self-confidence, and it had toned down the angularities of her
character. To Grant, straight from his long exile from fine womanly
domesticity, she suddenly seemed altogether captivating.
"But I didn't want to forget!" he insisted. "I wanted not to
She could not misunderstand the emphasis he placed on that last
word, but she continued as though he had not interrupted.
"I knew you would write once or twice out of courtesy. I knew you
would do that. I made up my mind that if you wrote three times,
then I would know you really wanted to remember me. . . . I did
not get any third letter."
"But how could I know that you had placed such a test--such an
arbitrary measurement--upon my friendship?"
"It wasn't necessary for you to know. If you had cared--enough--
you would have kept on writing."
He had to admit to himself that there was just enough truth in what
she said to make her logic unanswerable. His delight in her
presence now did not alter the fact that he had found it quite
possible to live for four years without her, and it was true that
upon one or two great vital moments his mind had leapt, not to
Phyllis Bruce, but to Zen Transley! He blushed at the recollection;
it was an impossible situation, but it was true!
He was framing some plausible argument about honorable men not
persisting in a correspondence when Murdoch bustled in again.
"Mother is going to set the dining-room table," he announced, "and
the coffee will be ready presently. Well, sir, you do look well in
uniform. You will be wondering how the business has gone?"
"Not half as much as I am wondering some other things," he said,
with a significance intended for the ear of Phyllis. "You see--I
was just talking it over with a pal to-day, a very good comrade
whom I used to know in the West, and who pulled me out of No Man's
Land where I would have been lying yet if he hadn't thought more of
me than he did of himself--I was talking it over with him to-day,
and we agreed that business isn't worth the effort. Fancy sitting
behind a desk, wondering about the stock market, when you've been
accustomed to leaning up against a parapet wondering where the next
shell is going to burst! If that is not from the sublime to the
ridiculous, it is at least from the vital to the inconsequential.
You can't expect men to take a jump like that."
"No, not as a jump," Murdoch agreed. "They'll have to move down
gradually. But they must remember that life depends quite as much
on wheat-fields as it does on trenches, and that all the machinery
of commerce and industry is as vital in its way as is the machinery
of war. They must remember that, or instead of being at the end of
our troubles we will find ourselves at the beginning."
"I suppose," Grant conceded, "but it all seems so unnecessary. No
doubt you have been piling up more money to be a problem to my
"Your peculiar conscience, I might almost correct, sir. Your
responsibilities do seem to insist upon increasing. Following your
instructions I put the liquid assets into Government bonds.
Interest, even on Government bonds, has a way of working while you
sleep. Then, you may remember, we were carrying a large load of
certain steel stocks. These I did not dispose of at once, with the
result that they, in themselves, have made you a comfortable
"I suppose I should thank you for your foresight, Murdoch. I was
rather hoping you would lose my money and so relieve me of an
embarrassing situation. What am I to do with it?"
"I don't know, sir, but I feel sure you will use it for some good
purpose. I was glad to get as much of it together for you as I
did, because otherwise it might have fallen to people who would
have wasted it."
"Upon my word, Murdoch, that smacks of my own philosophy. Is it
possible even you are becoming converted?"
"Come, Mr. Grant; come, everybody!" a cheerful voice called from
behind the sliding doors which shut off the dining-room. The
fragrant smell of coffee was already in the air, and as Grant took
his seat Mrs. Murdoch declared that for once she had decided to
defy all the laws of digestion.
At the table their talk dribbled out into thin channels. It was
as though there were at hand a great reservoir of thought, of
experience, of deep gropings into the very well-springs of life,
which none of them dared to tap lest it should rush out and
overwhelm them. They seemed in some strange awe of its presence,
and spoke, when they spoke at all, of trivial things. Grant proved
uncommunicative, and perhaps, in a sense, disappointing. He
preferred to forget both the glories and the horrors of war; when
he drew on his experience at all it was to relate some humorous
incident. That, it seemed, was all he cared to remember. He was
conscious of a restraint which hedged him about and hampered every
Phyllis, too, must have been conscious of that restraint, for
before they parted she said something about human minds being like
pianos, which get out of tune for lack of the master-touch. . . .
When Grant found himself in the street air again he was almost
swallowed up in the rush of things which he might have said. His
mental machinery, which seemed to have been out of mesh,--came back
into adjustment with a jerk. He suddenly discovered that he could
think; he could drive his mind from his own batteries. In
soldiering the mind is driven from the batteries of the rank higher
up. The business of discipline is to make man an automatic machine
rather than a thinking individual. It seemed to Grant that in that
moment the machine part of him gave way and the individual was
restored. In his case the change came in a moment; he had been
re-tuned; he was able to think logically in terms of civil life.
He pieced together Murdoch's conversation. "Not as a jump," Murdoch
had said, when he had argued that a man cannot emerge in a moment
from the psychology of the trenches to that of the counting-house.
Undoubtedly that would be true of the mass; they would experience
no instantaneous readjustment. . . .
There are moments when the mind, highly vitalized, reaches out into
the universe of thought and grasps ideas far beyond its conscious
intention. All great thoughts come from uncharted sources of
inspiration, and it may be that the function of the mind is not to
create thought, but only to record it. To do so it must be tuned
to the proper key of receptivity. Grant had a consciousness, as he
walked along the deserted streets toward his hotel, that he was in
that key; the quietness, the domesticity of Murdoch's home, the
loveliness of Phyllis Bruce, had, for the moment at least, shut out
a background of horror and lifted his thought into an exalted
plane. He paused at a bridge to lean against the railing and watch
the trembling reflection of city lights in the river.
"I have it!" he suddenly exclaimed to the steel railing. "I have
He paused for a moment to turn over his thought, as though to make
sure it should not escape. Then, at a pace which aroused the
wondering glance of one or two placid policemen, he hurried to the
Linder and Grant had been assigned to the same room, and the
sergeant's dreams, if he dreamt at all, were of the sweet hay
meadows of the West. Grant turned on the light and looked down
into the face of his friend. A smile, born of fields afar from
war's alarms, was playing about his lips. Even in his excitement
Grant could not help reflecting what a wonderful thing it is to
sleep in peace. Then--
"I have it!" he shouted. "Linder, I have it!"
The sergeant sat up with a start, blinking.
"I have it!" Grant repeated.
"THEM, you mean," said Linder, suddenly awake. "Why, man, what's
wrong with you? You're more excited than if we were just going
over the top."
"I've got my great idea. I know what I'm going to do with my
"Well, don't do it to-night," Linder protested. "Someone has to
settle for this dug-out in the morning."
"We're leaving for the West to-morrow, Linder, old scout. Everybody
will say we're crazy, but that's a good sign. They've said that
of every reformer since--"
But Linder was again sleeping the sleep of a man four years in
The window was grey with the light of dawn before Grant's mind had
calmed down enough for sleep. When Linder awoke him it was noon.
"You sleep well on your Big Idea," was his comment.
"No better than you did last night," retorted Grant, springing out
of bed. "Let me see . . . . yes, I still have it clearly. I'll
tell you about it sometime, if you can stay awake. When do we
"Now, or as soon as you are presentable. I've a notion to give you
three days' C.B. for appearing on parade in your pyjamas."
"Make it a cash fine, Sergeant, old dear, and pay it out of what
you owe me. Now that that is settled order up a decent meal. I'll
be shaved and dressed long before it arrives. You know this is a
first-class hotel, where prompt service would not be tolerated."
As they ate together Grant showed no disposition to discuss what
Linder called his Big Idea, nor yet to give any satisfaction in
response to his companion's somewhat pointed references as to his
doings of the night before.
"There are times, Linder," he said, "when my soul craves solitude.
You, being a sergeant, and therefore having no soul, will not be
able to understand that longing for contemplation--"
"It's all right," said Linder. "I don't want her."
"Furthermore," Grant continued, "to-night I mean to resume my
soliloquies, and your absence will be much in demand."
"The supply will be equal to the demand."
"Good! Here are some morsels of money. If you will buy our
railway tickets and settle with the chief extortionist downstairs I
will join you at the night train going west."
Linder sprang to attention, gave a salute in which mock deference
could not entirely obscure the respect beneath, and set about on
his commissions, while Grant devoted the afternoon to a session
with Murdoch and Jones, to neither of whom would he reveal his
plans further than to say he was going west "to engage in some
development work." During the afternoon it was noted that Grant's
interest centred more in a certain telephone call than in the very
gratifying financial statement which Murdoch was able to place
before him. And it was probably as a result of that telephone call
that a taxi drew up in front of Murdoch's home at exactly six-
thirty that evening and bore Miss Phyllis Bruce and an officer
wearing a captain's uniform in the direction of the best hotel in
The dining-room was sweet with the perfume of flowers, and soft
strains of music stole vagrantly about its high arching pillars,
mingling with the chatter of lovely women and of men to whom
expense was no consideration. Grant was conscious of a delicious
sense of intimacy as he helped Phyllis remove her wraps and seated
himself by her at a secluded corner table.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "I don't make compliments for exercise,
but you do look stunning to-night!"
A warmth of color lit up her cheek--he had noticed at Murdoch's how
pale she was--and her eyes laughed back at him with some of their
"I am so glad," she said. "It seems almost like old times--"
They gave their orders, and sat in silence through an overture.
Grant was delighting himself simply in her presence, and guessed
that for her part she could not retract the confession her love had
wrung from her so long ago.
"There are some things which don't change, Phyllis," he said, when
the orchestra had ceased.
She looked back at him with eyes moist and dreamy. "I know," she
There seemed no reason why Grant should not there and then have
laid himself, figuratively, at her feet. And there was not any
reason--only one. He wanted first to go west. He almost hoped
that out there some light of disillusionment would fall about him;
that some sudden experience such as he had known the night before
would readjust his personality in accordance with the inevitable. . .
"I asked you to dine with me to-night," he heard himself saying,
"for two reasons: first, for the delight of your exquisite
companionship; and second, because I want to place before you
certain business plans which, to me at least, are of the greatest
"You know the position which I have taken with regard to the
spending of money, that one should not spend on himself or his
friends anything but his own honest earnings for which he has given
honest service to society. I have seen no reason to change my
position. On the contrary the war has strengthened me in my
convictions. It has brought home to me and to the world the fact
that heroism is a flower which grows in no peculiar soil, and that
it blossoms as richly among the unwashed and the underfed as among
the children of fortune. This fact only aggravates the extremes of
wealth and poverty, and makes them seem more unjust than ever.
"For myself I have accepted this view, but our financial system is
founded upon very different ethics. I wonder if you have ever
thought of the fact that when the barons at Runnymede laid the
foundations of democratic government for the world they overlooked
the almost equally important matter of creating a democratic system
of finance. Well--let's not delve into that now. The point is
that under our present system we do acquire wealth which we do not
earn, and the only thing to be done for the time being is to treat
that wealth as a trust to be managed for the benefit of humanity.
That is what I call the new morality as applied to money, although
it is not so new either. It can be traced back at least nineteen
hundred years, and all our philanthropists, great and little, have
surely caught some glimpse of that truth, unless, perhaps, they
gave their alms that they might have honor of men. But giving
one's money away does not solve the problem; it pauperizes the
recipient and delays the evolution of new conditions in which
present injustices would be corrected. I hope you are able to
"Perfectly. It is easy for me, who have nothing to lose, to follow
your logic. You will have more trouble convincing those whose
pockets it would affect."
"I am not so sure of that. Humanity is pretty sound at heart, but
we can't abandon the boat we're on until we have another that is
proven seaworthy. However, it seems to me that I have found a
solution which I can apply in my individual case. Have you thought
what are the three greatest needs, commercially speaking, of the
"Production, I suppose, is the first."
"Yes--most particularly production of food. And the others are
corollary to it. They are instruction and opportunity. I am
thinking especially of returned men."
"Production--instruction--opportunity," she repeated. "How are you
going to bring them about?"
"That is my Big Idea, as Linder calls it, although I have not yet
confided in him what it is. Well--the world is crying for food,
and in our western provinces are millions of acres which have never
felt the plow--"
"In the East, too, for that matter."
"I know, but I naturally think of the West. I propose to form a
company and buy a large block of land, cut it up into farms, build
houses and community centres, and put returned men and their
families on these farms, under the direction of specialists in
agriculture. I shall break up the rectangular survey of the West
for something with humanizing possibilities; I mean to supplant it
with a system of survey which will permit of settlement in groups--
villages, if you like--where I shall instal all the modern
conveniences of the city, including movie shows. Our statesmen are
never done lamenting that population continues to flow from the
country to the city, but the only way to stop that flow is to make
the country the more attractive of the two."
"But your company--who are to be the shareholders?"
"That is the keystone of the Big Idea. There never before was a
company like this will be. In the first place, I shall put up all
the money myself. Then, when I have prepared a farm ready to
receive a man and his family, I will sell him shares equivalent to
the value of his farm, and give him a perpetual lease, subject to
certain restrictions. Let me illustrate. Suppose you are the
prospective shareholder. I say, Miss Bruce, I can place you on a
farm worth, with buildings and equipment, ten thousand dollars. I
do not ask any cash from you; not a cent, but I want you to
subscribe for ten thousand dollars stock in my company. That will
make you a shareholder. When the farm begins to produce you are to
have all you and your family--this is an illustration, you know--
can consume for your own use. The balance is to be sold, and one-
third of the proceeds is to be paid into the treasury of the
company and credited on your purchase of shares. When you have
paid for all your shares in this way you will have no further
payments to make, except such levy as may be made by the company
for running expenses. You, as a shareholder of the company, will
have a voice with the other shareholders in determining what that
levy shall be. You and your descendents will be allowed possession
of that farm forever, subject only to your obeying the rules of the
"But why the company? It simply amounts to buying the land on
payments to be made out of each year's crop, except that you want
me to pay for shares in the company instead of for the land
"That, as I told you, is the keystone of my Big Idea. If I sold
you the land you would be master of it; you could do as you liked
with it. You could let it lie idle; you could allow your buildings
and machinery to get out of repair; you could keep scrub stock; all
your methods of husbandry might be slovenly or antiquated; you
could even rent or sell the land to someone who might be morally or
socially undesirable in the community. On the other hand you might
be peculiarly successful, when you would proceed to buy out your
less successful neighbors, or make loans on their land, and thus
create yourself a land monopolist. But as a shareholder in the
company you will be subject to the rules laid down by the company.
If it says that houses must be painted every four years you will
paint your house every fourth year. If it rules that hayracks are
not to be left on the front lawn you will have to deposit yours
somewhere else. If it orders that crops must be rotated to preserve
the fertility of the soil you will obey those instructions. If you
do not like the regulations you can use your influence with the
board of directors to have them changed. If you fail there you can
sell your shares to someone else--provided you can find a purchaser
acceptable to the board--and get out. The Big Idea is that the
community--the company in this case--shall control the individual,
and the individual shall exert his proper measure of control over
the community. The two are interlocked and interdependent, each
exerting exactly the proper amount of power and accepting
"But have you provided against the possibility of one man or a
group of men buying up a majority of the stock and so controlling
the company? They could then freeze out the smaller owners."
"Yes," said Grant, toying with his coffee, "I have made a provision
for that which I think is rather ingenious. Don't imagine that
this all came to me in a moment. The central thought struck me
last night on my way home, and I knew then I had the embryo of the
plan, but I lay awake until daylight working out details. I am
going to allot votes on a very unique principle. It seems to me
that a man's stake in a country should be measured, not by the
amount of money he has, but by the number of mouths he has to feed.
I will adopt that rule in my company, and the voting will be
according to the number of children in the family. That should
curb the ambitious."
They laughed over this proviso, and Phyllis agreed that it was all
a very wonderful plan. "And when they have paid for all their
shares you get your money back," she commented.
"Oh, no. I don't want my money back. I didn't explain that to
you. I will advance the money on the bonds of the company, without
interest. Suppose I am able to finance a hundred farms that way,
then as the payments come in, still more farms. The thing will
spread like a ripple in a pool, until it covers the whole country.
When you turn a sum of money loose, WITH NO INTEREST CHARGE
ATTACHED TO IT, there is no limit to what it can accomplish."
"But what will you do with your bonds, eventually? They will be
perfectly secured. I don't see that you are getting rid of your
money at all, except the interest, which you are giving away."
"That, Phyllis, is where autocracy and democracy meet. All
progress is like the swinging of a pendulum, with autocracy at one
end of the arc and democracy at the other, and progress is the mean
of their opposing forces. But there are times when the most
democratic countries have to use autocratic methods, as, for
example, Great Britain and the United States in the late war. We
must learn to make autocracy the servant of democracy, not its
enemy. Well--I'm going to be the autocrat in this case. I am
going to sit behind the scenes and as long as my company functions
all right I will leave it alone, but if it shows signs of wrecking
itself I will assume the role of the benevolent despot and set it
to rights again. Oh, Phyllis, don't you see? It's not just MY
company I'm thinking about. This is an experiment, in which my
company will represent the State. If it succeeds I shall turn the
whole machinery over to the State as my contribution to the
betterment of humanity. If it fails--well, then I shall have
demonstrated that the idea is unsound. Even that is worth
"I like to think of the great inventors, experimenting with the
mysterious forces of nature. Their business is to find the natural
laws that govern material things. And I am quite sure that there
are also natural laws designed to govern man in his social and
economic relationships, and when those laws have been discovered
the impossibilities of to-day will become the common practice
of to-morrow, just as steam and electricity have made the
impossibilities of yesterday the common practice of to-day. The
first need is to find the law, and to what more worthy purpose
could a man devote himself? When I landed here yesterday--when I
walked again through these old streets--I was a being without
purpose; I was like a battery that had dried up. All these petty
affairs of life seemed so useless, so humdrum, so commonplace, I
knew I could never settle down to them again. Then last night from
some unknown source came a new idea--an inspiration--and presto!
the battery is re-charged, life again has its purposes, and I am
eager to be at work.
"I said 'some unknown source,' but it was not altogether unknown.
It had something to do with honest old Murdoch, and his good wife
pouring coffee for the midnight supper in their cozy dining-room,
and Phyllis Bruce across the table! We never know, Phyllis, how
much we owe to our friends; to that charmed circle, be it ever so
small, in which every note strikes in harmony. I know my Big Idea
is only playing on the surface; only skimming about the edges.
What the world needs is just friends."
Grant had talked himself out, but he continued to sit at the little
table, reveling in the happiness of a man who feels that he has
been called to some purpose worth while. His companion hesitated
to interrupt his thoughts; her somewhat drab business experience
made her pessimistic toward all idealism, and yet she felt that
here, surely, was a man who could carry almost any project through
to success. The unique quality in him, which distinguished him
from any other man she had ever known, was his complete
unselfishness. In all his undertakings he coveted no reward for
himself; he was seeking only the common good.
"If all men were like you there would be no problems," she
murmured, and while he could not accept the words quite at par
they rang very pleasantly in his ears.
A movement among the diners reminded him of the flight of time, and
with a glance at his watch he sprang up in surprise. "I had no
idea the evening had gone!" he exclaimed. "I have just time to see
you home and get back to catch my train."
He called a taxi and accompanied her into it. They seated
themselves together, and the fragrance of her presence was very
sweet about him. It would have been so easy to forget--all that he
had been trying to forget--in the intoxication of such environment.
Surely it was not necessary that he should go west--that he should
see HER again--in order to be sure.
"Phyllis," he breathed, "do you imagine I could undertake these
things if I cared only for myself--if it were not that I longed for
someone's approval--for someone to be proud of me? The strongest
man is weak enough for that, and the strongest man is stronger when
he knows that the woman he loves--"
He would have taken her in his arms, but she resisted, gently,
"You have made me think too much of you, Dennison," she whispered.
On the way west Grant gradually unfolded his plan to Linder, who
accepted it with his customary stoicism.
"I'm not very strong for a scheme that hasn't got any profits in
it," Linder confessed. "It doesn't sound human."
"I don't notice that you have ever figured very high in profits on
your own account," Grant retorted. "Your usefulness has been in
making them for other people. I suppose if I would let you help to
swell my bank account you would work for me for board and lodging,
but as I refuse to do that I shall have to pay you three times
Transley's rate. I don't know what he paid you, but I suspect that
for every dollar you earned for yourself you earned two for him, so
I am going to base your scale accordingly. You are to go on with
the physical work at once; buy the horses, tractors, machinery;
break up the land, fence it, build the houses and barns; in short,
you are to superintend everything that is done with muscle or its
substitute. I will bring Murdoch out shortly to take charge of the
clerical details and the general organization. As for myself,
after I have bought the land and placed the necessary funds to the
credit of the company I propose to keep out of the limelight. I
will be the heart of the undertaking; Murdoch will be the head, and
you are to be the hands, and I hope you two conspirators won't give
me palpitation. You think it a mistake to work without profits,
but Murdoch thinks it a sin. When I lay my plans before him I am
quite prepared to hear him insist upon calling in an alienist."
"It's YOUR money," Linder assented, laconically. "What are YOU
going to do?"
"I'm going to buy a half section of my own, and I'm going to start
myself on it on identically the same terms that I offer to the
shareholders in my company. I want to prove by my own experience
that it can be done, but I must keep away from the company. Human
nature is a clinging vine at best, and I don't want it clinging
about me. You will notice that my plan, unlike most communistic
or socialist ventures, relieves the individual of no atom of
responsibility. I give him the opportunity, but I put it up to him
to make good with that opportunity. I have not overlooked the fact
that a man is a man, and never can be made quite into a machine."
The two friends discussed at great length the details of the Big
Idea, and upon arrival in the West Linder lost no time in preparing
blue-prints and charts descriptive of the improvements to be made
on the land and the order in which the work was to be carried on.
Grant bought a tract suitable to his purpose, and the wheels of the
machine which was to blaze a path for the State were set in motion.
When this had been done Grant turned to the working out of his own
During the period in which these arrangements were being made it
was inevitable that Grant should have heard more or less of
Transley. He had not gone out of his way to seek information of
the contractor, but it rather had been forced upon him. Transley's
name was frequently heard in the offices of the business men with
whom he had to do; it was mentioned in local papers with the
regularity peculiar to celebrities in comparatively small centres.
Transley, it appeared, had become something of a power in the land.
Backed by old Y.D.'s capital he had carried some rather daring
ventures through to success. He had seized the panicky moments
following the outbreak of the war to buy heavily on the wheat and
cattle markets, and increases in prices due to the world's demand
for food had made him one of the wealthy men of the city. The
desire of many young farmers to enlist had also afforded an
opportunity to acquire their holdings for small considerations, and
Transley had proved his patriotism by facilitating the ambitions of
as many men in this position as came to his attention. The fact
that even before the war ended the farms which he acquired in this
way were worth several times the price he paid was only an incident
in the transactions.
But no word of Transley's domestic affairs reached Grant, who told
himself that he had ceased to be interested in them, but kept an
alert ear nevertheless. It would seem that Transley rather
eclipsed his wife in the public eye.
So Grant set about with the development of his own farm, and kept
his mind occupied with it and with his larger experiment--except
when it went flirting with thoughts of Phyllis Bruce. He was
rather proud of the figure he had used to Linder, of the head,
hands, and heart of his organization, but to himself he admitted
that that figure was incomplete. There was a soul as well, and
that soul was the girl whose inspiring presence had in some way
jerked his mind out of the stagnant backwaters in which the war had
left it. There was no doubt of that. He had written to Murdoch to
come west and undertake new work for him. He had intimated that
the change would be permanent, and that it might be well to bring
the family. . . .
He selected a farm where a ridge of foothills overlooked a broad
valley receding into the mountains. The dealer had no idea of
selling him this particular piece of land; they were bound for a
half section farther up the slope when Grant stopped on the brow of
the hill to feast his eyes on the scene that lay before him. It
burst upon him with the unexpectedness peculiar to the foothill
valleys; miles of gently undulating plain, lying apparently far
below, but in reality rising in a sharp ascent toward the snow-
capped mountains looking down silently through their gauze of blue-
purple afternoon mist. At distances which even his trained eye
would not attempt to compute lay little round lakes like silver
coins on the surface of the prairie; here and there were dark green
bluffs of spruce; to the right a ribbon of river, blue-green save
where the rapids churned it white, and along its edge a fringe of
leafy cottonwoods; at vast intervals square black plots of plowed
land like sections on a chess-board of the gods, and farm buildings
cut so clear in the mountain atmosphere that the sense of space was
lost and they seemed like child-houses just across the way.
Grant turned to his companion with an animation in his face which
almost startled the prosaic dealer in real estate.
"Wonderful! Wonderful!" he exclaimed. "We don't need to go any
farther if you can sell me this."
"Sure I can sell you this," said the dealer, looking at him
somewhat queerly. "That is, if you want it. I thought you were
looking for a wheat farm."
The man's total lack of appreciation irritated Grant unreasonably.
"Wheat makes good hog fodder," he retorted, "but sunsets keep alive
the soul. What is the price?"
Again the dealer gave him a queer sidelong look, and made as though
to argue with him, then suddenly seemed to change his purpose.
Perhaps he reflected that strange things happened to the boys
"I'll get you the price in town," he said. "You are sure it will
"Suit? No king in Christendom has his palace on a site like this.
I'd go round the world for it."
"You're the doctor," said the dealer, turning his car.
Grant completed the purchase, ordered lumber for a house and barn,
and engaged a carpenter to superintend the construction. It was
one of his whims that he would do most of the work himself.
"I guess I'm rather a man of whims," he reflected, as he stood on
the brow of the hill where the material for his buildings had been
delivered. "It was a whim which first brought me west, and a whim
which has brought me west again. I have a whim about my money, a
whim about my farm, a whim about my buildings. I do not do as
other people do, which is the unpardonable sin. To Linder I am a
jester, to Murdoch a fanatic, to our friend the real estate dealer
a fool; I even noticed my honest carpenter trying to ask me
something about shell shock! Well--they're MY whims, and I get an
immense amount of satisfaction out of them."
The days that followed were the happiest Grant had known since
childhood. The carpenter, a thin, twisted man, bowed with much
labor at the bench, and answering to the name Peter, sold his
services by the day and manifested a sympathy amounting to an
indulgence toward the whims of his employer. So long as the wages
were sure Peter cared not whether the house was finished this year
or next--or not at all. He enjoyed Grant's cooking in the
temporary work-shed they had built; he enjoyed Grant's stories of
funny incidents of the war which would crop out at unexpected
moments, and which were always good for a new pipe and a few
minutes' rest; he even essayed certain flights of his own, which
showed that Peter was a creature not entirely without humor. He
developed an appreciation of scenery; he would stand for long
intervals gazing across the valley. Grant was not deceived by
these little devices, but he never took Peter to task for his
loitering. He was prepared almost to suspend his rule that money
must not be paid except for service rendered. "If the old dodger
isn't quite paying his way now, no doubt he has more than paid it
many times in the past," he mused. "This is an occasion upon which
to temper justice with mercy."
But it was in the planning and building of the house he found his
real delight. He laid it out on very modest lines, as became the
amount of money he was prepared to spend. It was to be a single-
story bungalow, with veranda round the south and west. The living-
room ran across the south side; into its east wall he built a
capacious fireplace, with narrow slits of windows to right and
left, and in the western wall were deep French windows commanding
the magic of the view across the valley. The dining-room, too,
faced to the west, with more French windows to let in sun and soul.
The kitchen was to the east, and off the kitchen lay Grant's
bedroom, facing also to the east, as becomes a man who rises early
for his day's labors. And then facing the west, and opening off
the dining-room, was what he was pleased to call his whim-room.
The idea of the whim-room came upon him as he was working out plans
on the smooth side of a board, and thinking about things in
general, and a good deal about Phyllis Bruce, and wondering if he
should ever run across Zen Transley. It struck him all of a
sudden, as had the Big Idea that night when he was on his way home
from Murdoch's house. He worked it out surreptitiously, not
allowing even old Peter to see it until he had made it into his
plan, and then he described it just as the whim-room. But it was
to be by all means the best room in the house; special finishing
and flooring lumber were to be bought for it; the fireplace had to
be done in a peculiarly delicate tile; the French windows must be
high and wide and of the most brilliant transparency. . . .
The ring of the saw, the trill of the plane, the thwack of the
hammer, were very pleasant music in his ears. Day by day he
watched his dwelling grow with the infinite joy of creating, and
night after night he crept with Peter into the work-shed and slept
the sleep of a man tired and contented. In the long summer
evenings the sunlight hung like a champagne curtain over the
mountains even after bedtime, and Grant had to cut a hole in the
wall of the shed that he might watch the dying colors of the day
fade from crimson to purple to blue on the tassels of cloud-wraith
floating in the western sky. At times Linder and Murdoch would
visit him to report progress on the Big Idea, and the three would
sit on a bench in the half-built house, sweet with the fragrance of
new sawdust, and smoke placidly while they determined matters of
policy or administration. It had been something of a disappointment
to Grant that Murdoch had not considered Phyllis Bruce one of "the
family." He had left her, regretfully, in the East, but had made
provision that she was still to have her room in the old Murdoch
"Phyllis would have come west, and gladly, if I could have promised
her a position," Murdoch explained, "but I could not do that, as I
knew nothing of your plans, and a girl can't afford to trifle with
her job these days, Mr. Grant."
And Grant said nothing, but he thought of his whim-room, and
Grant was almost sorry when the house was finished. "There's so
much more enjoyment in doing things than in merely possessing them
after they're done," he philosophized to Linder. "I think that
must be the secret of the peculiar fascination of the West. The
East, with all its culture and conveniences and beauty, can never
win a heart which has once known the West. That is because in the
East all the obvious things are done, but in the West they are
still to do."
"You should worry," said Linder. "You still have the plowing."
"Yes, and as soon as the stable is finished I am going to buy four
horses and get to work."
"I supposed you would use a tractor."
"Not this time. I can admire a piece of machinery, but I can't
love it. I can love horses."
"You'll be housing them in the whim-room," Linder remarked dryly,
and had to jump to escape the hammer which his chief shied at him.
But the plowing was really a great experience. Grant had an eye
for horse-flesh, and the four dapple-greys which pressed their fine
shoulders into the harness of his breaking plow might have
delighted the heart of any teamster. As he sat on his steel seat
and watched the colter cut the firm sod with brittle cracking sound
as it snapped the tough roots of the wild roses, or looking back
saw the regular terraces of shiny black mould which marked his
progress, he felt that he was engaged in a rite of almost
"To take a substance straight from the hand of the Creator and be
the first in all the world to impose a human will upon it is surely
an occasion for solemnity and thanksgiving," he soliloquized. "How
can anyone be so gross as to see only materialism in such work as
this? Surely it has something of fundamental religion in it! Just
as from the soil springs all physical life, may it not be that deep
down in the soil are, some way, the roots of the spiritual? The
soil feeds the city in two ways; it fills its belly with material
food, and it is continually re-vitalizing its spirit with fresh
streams of energy which can come only from the land. Up from the
soil comes all life, all progress, all development--"
At that moment Grant's plowshare struck a submerged boulder, and he
was dumped precipitately into that element which he had been so
generously apostrophizing. The well-trained horses came to a stop
as he gathered himself up, none the worse, and regained his seat.
"That WAS a spill," he commented. "Ditched not only myself, but my
whole train of thought. Never mind; perhaps I was dangerously
close to the development of a new whim, and I am well supplied in
that particular already. Hello, whom have we here?"
The horses had come to a stop a short distance before the end of
the furrow, and Grant, glancing ahead, saw immediately in front of
them a little chap of four or five obstructing the way. He stood
astride of the furrow with widespread legs bridging the distance
from the virgin prairie to the upturned sod. He was hatless, and
curls of silky yellow hair fell about his round, bright face. His
hands were stuck obtrusively in his trouser pockets.
"Well, son, what's the news?" said Grant, when the two had measured
each other for a moment.
"I got braces," the boy replied proudly. "Don't you see?"
"Why, so you have!" Grant exclaimed. "Come around here until I see
So encouraged, the little chap came skipping around the horses, and
exhibited his braces for Grant's admiration. But he had already
become interested in another subject.
"Are these your horses?" he demanded.
"Will they bite?"
"Why, no, I don't believe they would. They have been very well
"What do you call them?"
"This one is Prince, on the left, and the others are Queen, and
King, and Knave. I call him Knave because he's always scheming,
trying to get out of his share of the work, and I make him walk on
the plowed land, too."
"That serves him right," the boy declared. "What's your name?"
"What does your mother call you?"
"Just Wilson. Sometimes daddy calls me Bill."
"What's your name?"
"Call me The Man on the Hill."
"Do you live on the hill?"
"Is that your house?"
"Did you make it?"
"No. Peter helped me."
"He is the man who helped me."
These credentials exchanged, the boy fell silent, while Grant
looked down upon him with a whimsical admixture of humor and
tenderness. Suddenly, without a word, the boy dashed as fast as
his legs could carry him to the end of the field, and plunged into
a clump of bushes. In a moment he emerged with something brown and
chubby in his arms.
"He's my teddy," he said to Grant. "He was watching in the bushes
to see if you were a nice man."
"And am I?" Grant was tempted to ask.
"Yes." There was no evasion about Wilson. He approved of his new
acquaintance, and said so.
"Let us give teddy a ride on Prince?"
Grant carefully arranged teddy on the horse's hames, and the boy
clapped his hands with delight.
"Now let us all go for a ride. You will sit on my knee, and teddy
will drive Prince."
He took the boy carefully on his knee, driving with one hand and
holding him in place with the other. The little body resting
confidently against his side was a new experience for Grant.
"We must drive carefully," he remarked. "Here and there are big
stones hidden in the grass. If we were to hit one it might dump us
The little chap chuckled. "Nothing could dump you off," he said.
Grant reflected that such implicit and unwarranted confidence
implied a great responsibility, and he drove with corresponding
care. A mishap now might nip this very delightful little bud of
They turned the end of the furrow with a fine jingle of loose
trace-chains, and Prince trotted a little on account of being on
the outer edge of the semicircle. The boy clapped his hands again
as teddy bounced up and down on the great shoulders.
"Have you a little boy?" he asked, when they were started again.
"Why, no," Grant confessed, laughing at the question.
There was no evading this childish inquisitor. He had a way of
pursuing a subject to bedrock.
"Well, you see, I've no wife."
"No--no wife. You see--"
"But I have a mother--"
"Of course, and she is your daddy's wife. You see they have to
Grant found himself getting into deep water, but the sharp little
intellect had cut a corner and was now ahead of him.
"Then I'll be your little boy," he said, and, clambering up to
Grant's shoulder pressed a kiss on his cheek. In a sudden burst of
emotion Grant brought his team to a stop and clasped the little
fellow in both his arms. For a moment everything seemed misty.
"And I have lived to be thirty-two years old and have never known
what this meant," he said to himself.
"Daddy's hardly ever home, anyway," the boy added, naively.
"Where is your home?"
"Down beside the river. We live there in summer."
And so the conversation continued and the acquaintanceship grew as
man and boy plied back and forth on their mile-long furrow. At
length it occurred to Grant that he should send Wilson home; the
boy's long absence might be occasioning some uneasiness. They
stopped at the end of the field and carefully removed teddy from
his place of prestige, but just at that moment a horsefly buzzing
about caused Prince to stamp impatiently, and the big hoof came
down on the boy's foot. Wilson sent up a cry proportionate to the
possibilities of the occasion, and Grant in alarm tore off the boot
and stocking. Fortunately the soil had been soft, and the only
damage done was a slight bruise across the upper part of the foot.
"There, there," said Grant, soothingly, caressing the injury with
his fingers. "It will be all right in a minute. Prince didn't
mean to do it, and besides, I've seen much worse than that at the
At the mention of war the boy suspended a cry half uttered.
"Were you at the war?" he demanded.
"Did you kill a German?"
"I've seen a German killed," said Grant, evading a question which
no soldier cares to discuss.
"Did you kill 'em in the tummy?" the boy persisted.
"We'll talk about that to-morrow. Now you hop up on to my
shoulders, and I'll tie the horses and then carry you home."
He followed the boy's directions until they led him to a path
running among pleasant trees down by the river. Presently he
caught a glimpse of a cottage in a little open space, its brown
shingled walls almost smothered in a riot of sweet peas.
"That's our house. Don't you like it?" said the boy, who had
already forgotten his injury.
"I think it is splendid." And Grant, taking his young charge from
his shoulder, stepped up on to the porch and knocked at the screen
In a moment it was opened by Zen Transley.
Sitting on his veranda that evening while the sun dropped low over
the mountains and the sound of horses munching contentedly came up
from the stables, Grant for the twentieth time turned over in his
mind the events of a day that was to stand out as an epochal one in
his career. The meeting with the little boy and the quick
friendship and confidence which had been formed between them; the
mishap, and the trip to the house by the river--these were logical
and easily followed. But why, of all the houses in the world,
should it have been Zen Transley's house? Why, of all the little
boys in the world, should this have been the son of his rival and
the only girl he had ever--the girl he had loved most in all his
life? Surely events are ordered to some purpose; surely everything
is not mere haphazard chance! The fatalism of the trenches forbade
any other conclusion; and if this was so, why had he been thrown
into the orbit of Zen Transley? He had not sought her; he had not
dreamt of her once in all that morning while her child was winding
innocent tendrils of affection about his heart. And yet--how the
boy had gripped him! Could it be that in some way he was a small
incarnation of the Zen of the Y.D., with all her clamorous passion
expressed now in childish love and hero-worship? Had some
intelligence above his own guided him into this environment,
deliberately inviting him to defy conventions and blaze a path of
broader freedom for himself, and for her? These were questions he
wrestled with as the shadows crept down the mountain slopes and
along the valley at his feet.
For neither Zen nor himself had connived at the situation which had
made them, of all the people in the world, near neighbors in this
silent valley. Her surprise on meeting him at the door had been as
genuine as his. When she had made sure that the boy was not
seriously hurt she had turned to him, and instinctively he had
known that there are some things which all the weight of passing
years can never crush entirely dead. He loved to rehearse her
words, her gestures, the quick play of sympathetic emotions as one
by one he reviewed them.
"You! I am surprised--I had not known--" She had become confused
in her greeting, and a color that she would have given worlds to
suppress crept slowly through her cheeks.
"I am surprised, too--and delighted," he had returned. "The little
boy came to me in the field, boasting of his braces." Then they
had both laughed, and she had asked him to come in and tell about
The living-room, as he recalled it, was marked by the simplicity
appropriate to the summer home, with just a dash of elegance in the
furnishings to suggest that simplicity was a matter of choice and
not of necessity. After soothing Wilson's sobs, which had broken
out afresh in his mother's arms, she had turned him over to a maid
and drawn a chair convenient to Grant's.
"You see, I am a farmer now," he had said, apologetically regarding
"What changes have come! But I don't understand; I thought you
were rich--very rich--and that you were promoting some kind of
settlement scheme. Frank has spoken of it."
"All of which is true. You see, I am a man of whims. I choose to
live joyously. I refuse to fit into a ready-made niche in society.
I do what other people don't do--mainly for that reason. I have
some peculiar notions--"
"I know. You told me." And it was then that their eyes had met
and they had fallen into a momentary silence.
"But why are you farming?" she had exclaimed, brightly.
"For several reasons. First, the world needs food. Food is the
greatest safeguard--I would almost say the only safeguard--against
anarchy and chaos. Then, I want to learn by experience; to prove
by my own demonstrations that my theories are workable--or that
they're not. And then, most of all, I love the prairies and the
open life. It's my whim, and I follow it."
"You are very wonderful," she had murmured. And then, with
startling directness, "Are you happy?"
"As happy as I have any right to be. Happier than I have been
She had risen and walked to the mantelpiece; then, with an apparent
change of impulse, she had turned and faced him. He had noted that
her figure was rounder than in girlhood, her complexion paler, but
the sunlight still danced in her hair, and her reckless force had
given way to a poise that suggested infinite resources of character.
"Frank has done well, too," she had said.
"So I have heard. I am told that he has done very well indeed."
"He has made money, and he is busy and excited over his pursuit of
success--what he calls success. He has given it his life. He
thinks of nothing else--"
She had stopped suddenly, as though her tongue had trapped her into
saying more than she had intended.
"What do you think of my summer home?" she had exclaimed, abruptly.
"Come out and admire the sweet peas," and with a gay little
flourish she had led him into the garden. "They tell me Western
flowers have a brilliance and a fragrance which the East, with all
its advantages, cannot duplicate. Is that true?"
"I believe it is. The East has greater profusion--more varieties--
but the individual qualities do not seem to be so well developed."
"I see you know something of Eastern flowers," she had said, and he
fancied he had caught a note of banter--or was it inquiry?--in her
voice. Then, with another abrupt change of subject, she had made
him describe his house on the hill. But he had said nothing of the
"I must go," he had exclaimed at length. "I left the horses tied
in the field."
"So you must. I shall let Wilson visit you frequently, if he is
not a trouble."
Then she had chosen a couple of blooms and pinned them on his coat,
laughingly overriding his protest that they consorted poorly with
his costume. And she had shaken hands and said good-bye in the
manner of good friends parting.
The more Grant thought of it the more was he convinced that in her
case, as in his own, the years had failed to extinguish the spark
kindled in the foothills that night so long ago. He reminded
himself continually that she was Transley's wife, and even while
granting the irrevocability of that fact he was demanding to know
why Fate had created for them both an atmosphere charged with
unspoken possibilities. He had turned her words over again and
again, reflecting upon the abrupt angles her speech had taken. In
their few minutes' conversation three times she had had to make a
sudden tack to safer subjects. What had she meant by that
reference to Eastern and Western flowers? His answer reminded him
how well he knew. And the confession about her husband, the
worshipper of success--"what he calls success"--how much tragedy
lay under those light words?
The valley was filled with shadow, and the level rays of the setting
sun fell on the young man's face and splashed the hill-tops with
gold and saffron as within his heart raged the age-old battle. . . .
But as yet he felt none of its wounds. He was conscious only of a
wholly irrational delight.
As the next forenoon passed Grant found himself glancing with
increasing frequency toward the end of the field where the little
boy might be expected to appear. But the day wore on without sign
of his young friend, and the furrows which he had turned so
joyously at nine were dragging leadenly at eleven. He had not
thought it possible that a child could so quickly have won a way to
his affections. He fell to wondering as to the cause of the boy's
absence. Had Zen, after a night's reflection, decided that it was
wiser not to allow the acquaintance to develop? Had Transley,
returning home, placed his veto upon it? Or--and his heart paused
at this prospect--had the foot been more seriously hurt than they
had supposed? Grant told himself that he must go over that night
and make inquiry. That would be the neighborly thing to do. . . .
But early that afternoon his heart was delighted by the sight of a
little figure skipping joyously over the furrows toward him. He
had his hat crumpled in one hand, and his teddy-bear in the other,
and his face was alive with excitement. He was puffing profusely
when he pulled up beside the plow, and Grant stopped the team while
he got his breath.
"My! My! What is the hurry? I see the foot is all better."
"We got a pig!" the lad gasped, when he could speak.
"Yessir! A live one, too! He's awful big. A man brought him in a
wagon. That is why I couldn't come this morning."
Grant treated himself to a humble reflection upon the wisdom of
"What are you going to do with him?"
"Eat him up, I guess. Daddy said there was enough wasted about our
house to keep a pig, so we got one. Aren't you going to take me
"Of course. But first we must put teddy in his place."
"I'm to go home at five o'clock," the boy said, when he had got
The hours slipped by all too quickly, and if the lad's presence
did not contribute to good plowing, it at least made a cheerful
plowman. It was plain that Zen had sufficient confidence in her
farmer neighbor to trust her boy in his care, and his frequent
references to his mother had an interest for Grant which he could
not have analyzed or explained. During the afternoon the merits of
the pig were sung and re-sung, and at last Wilson, after kissing
his friend on the cheek and whispering, "I like you, Uncle Man-on-
the-Hill," took his teddy-bear under his arm and plodded homeward.
The next morning he came again, but mournfully and slow. There
were tear stains on the little round cheeks.
"Why, son, what had happened?" said Grant, his abundant sympathies
"Teddy's spoiled," the child sobbed. "I set him--on the side of--
the pig pen, and he fell'd in, and the big pig et him--ate him--up.
He didn't 'zactly eat him up, either--just kind of chewed him,
"Well that certainly is too bad. But then, you're going to eat the
pig some day, so that will square it, won't it?"
"I guess it will," said the boy, brightening. "I never thought of
"But we must have a teddy for Prince. See, he is looking around,
waiting for it." Grant folded his coat into the shape of a dummy
and set it up on the hames, and all went merrily again.
That afternoon, which was Saturday, the boy came thoughtfully and
with an air of much importance. Delving into a pocket he produced
an envelope, somewhat crumpled in transit. It was addressed, "The
Man on the Hill."
Grant tore it open eagerly and read this note:
"DEAR MAN-ON-THE-HILL,--That is the name Wilson calls you, so
perhaps you will let me use it, too. Frank is to be home to-
morrow, and will you come and have dinner with us at six? My
father and mother will be here, and possibly one or two others.
You had a clash with my men-folk once, but you will find them ready
enough to make allowance for, even if they fail to understand, your
point of view. Do come.--ZEN.
"P.S.--It just occurs to me that your associates in your colonization
scheme may want to claim your time on Sunday. If any of them come
out, bring them along. Our table is an extension one, and its
capacity has never yet been exhausted."
Although Grant's decision was made at once he took some time for
reflection before writing an acceptance. He was to enter Zen's
house on her invitation, but under the auspices, so to speak, of
husband and parents. That was eminently proper. Zen was a
sensible girl. Then there was a reference to that ancient squabble
in the hay meadow. It was evidently her plan to see the hatchet
buried and friendly relations established all around. Eminently
proper and sensible.
He turned the sheet over and wrote on the back:
"DEAR ZEN,--Delighted to come. May have a couple of friends with
me, one of whom you have seen before. Prepare for an appetite long
denied the joys of home cooking.--D. G."
It was not until after the child had gone home that Grant
remembered he had addressed Transley's wife by her Christian name.
That was the way he always thought of her, and it slipped on to
paper quite naturally. Well, it couldn't be helped now.
Grant unhitched early and hurried to his house and the telephone.
In a few minutes he had Linder on the line.
"Hello, Linder? I want you to go to a store for me and buy a
The chuckle at the other end of the line irritated Grant. Linder
had a strange sense of humor.
"I mean it. A big teddy, with electric eyes, and a deep bass
growl, if they make 'em that way. The best you can get. Fetch it
out to-morrow afternoon, and come decently dressed, for once.
Bring Murdoch along if you can pry him loose."
Grant hung up the receiver. "Stupid chap, Linder, some ways," he
muttered. "Why shouldn't I buy a teddy-bear if I want to?"
Sunday afternoon saw the arrival of Linder and Murdoch, with the
largest teddy the town afforded. "What is the big idea now?"
Linder demanded, as he delivered it into Grant's hands.
"It is for a little boy I know who has been bereaved of his first
teddy by the activities of the family pig. You will renew some
pleasant acquaintanceships, Linder. You remember Transley and his
wife--Zen, of the Y.D?"
"You don't say! Thanks for that tip about dressing up. I may
explain," Linder continued, turning to Murdoch, "there was a time
when I might have been an also-ran in the race for Y.D.'s daughter,
only Transley beat me on the getaway."
"You!" Grant exclaimed, incredulously.
"You, too!" Linder returned, a great light dawning.
"Well, Mr. Grant," said Murdoch, "I brought you a good cigar,
bought at the company's expense. It comes out of the organization
fund. You must be sick of those cheap cigars."
"Since the war it is nothing but Player's," Grant returned, taking
the proffered cigar. "They tell me it has revolutionized the
tobacco business. However, this does smell a bit all right. How
goes our venture, Murdoch? Have I any prospect of being impoverished
in a worthy cause?"
"None whatever. Your foreman here is spending every dollar in a
way to make you two in spite of your daft notion--begging your
pardon, sir--about not taking profits. The subscribers are coming
along for stock, but fingering it gently, as though they can't well
believe there's no catch in it. They say it doesn't look reasonable,
and I tell them no more it is."
"And then they buy it?"
"Aye, they do. That's human nature. There's as many members
booked now as can be accommodated in the first colony. I suppose
they reason that they will be sure of their winter's housing,
"You don't seem to have much faith in human nature, Murdoch."
"Nor have I. Not in that kind of human nature which is always
wanting something for nothing."
Linder's report was more cheerful. The houses and barns were built
and were now being painted, the plowing was done, and the fences
were being run. By the use of a triangular system of survey twelve
farm homes had been centralized in one little community where a
community building would be erected which would be used as a school
in daytime, a motion-picture house at night, and a church on
Sunday. A community secretary would have his office here, and
would have charge of a select little library of fiction, poetry,
biography, and works of reference. The leading periodicals dealing
with farm problems, sociology, and economics, as well as lighter
subjects, would be on file. In connection with this building would
be an assembly-room suitable for dances, social events, and
theatricals, and equipped with a player piano and concert-size
talking machine. Arrangements were being made for a weekly
exchange of records, for a weekly musical evening by artists from
the city, for a semi-monthly vaudeville show, and for Sunday
meetings addressed by the best speakers on the more serious topics
of the time.
"What has surprised me in making these arrangements," Linder
confessed, "is the comparatively small outlay they involve. The
building will cost no more than many communities spend on school
and church which they use thirty hours a week and three hours a
week respectively. This one can be used one hundred and sixty-
eight hours a week, if needed. Lecturers on many subjects can be
had for paying their expenses; in some cases they are employed by
the Government, and will come without cost. Amateur theatrical
companies from the city will be glad to come in return for an
appreciative audience and a dance afterward, with a good fill-up on
solid farm cooking. Even some of the professionals can be had on
these terms. Of course, before long we will produce our own
"Then there is to be a plunge bath big enough to swim in, open to
men and women alternate nights, and to children every day. There
will be a pool-room, card-room, and refreshment buffet; also a
quiet little room for women's social events, and an emergency
hospital ward. I think we should hire a trained nurse who would
not be too dignified to cook and serve meals when there's no
business doing in the hospital. You know how everyone gets
hankering now and then for a meal from home,--not that it's any
better, but it's different. I suppose there are farmer's wives who
don't get a meal away from home once a year. I'm going to change
all that, if I have to turn cook myself!"
"Bully for you, Linder!" said Grant, clapping him on the shoulder.
"I believe you actually are enthusiastic for once."
"I understand my orders are to make the country give the city a run
for its money, and I'm going to do it, or break you. If all I've
mentioned won't do it I've another great scheme in storage."
"Good! What is it?"
"I am inventing a machine that will make a noise like a trolley-car
and a smell like a sewer. That will add the last touch in city
When the laugh over Linder's invention had subsided Murdoch
"The office work is becoming pretty heavy, Mr. Grant, and I'm none
too confident in the help I have. Now if I could send for Miss
"What do you think you should pay her?"
"I should say she is worth a hundred dollars a month."
"Then she must be worth two hundred. Wire her to come and start
her at that figure."
Promptly at six Linder drew his automobile up in front of the
Transley summer home with Grant and Murdoch on board. Wilson had
been watching, and rushed down upon them, but before he could
clamber up on Grant a great teddy-bear was thrust into his arms and
sent him, wild with delight, to his mother.
"Look, mother! Look what The-Man-on-the-Hill brought! See! He
has fire in his eyes!"
Transley and Y.D. met the guests at the gate. "How do, Grant?
Glad to see you, old man," said Transley, shaking his hand
cordially. "The wife has had so many good words for you I am
almost jealous. What ho, Linder! By all that's wonderful! You
old prairie dog, why did you never look me up? I was beginning to
think the Boche had got you."
Grant introduced Murdoch, and Y.D. received them as cordially as
had Transley. "Glad to see you fellows back," he exclaimed. "I
al'us said the Western men 'ud put a crimp in the Kaiser, spite o'
hell an' high water!"
"One thing the war has taught us," said Grant, modestly, "is that
men are pretty much alike, whether they come from west or east or
north or south. No race has a monopoly of heroism."
"Well, come on in," Transley beckoned, leading the way. "Dinner
will be ready sharp on time twenty minutes late. Not being a
married man, Grant, you will not understand that reckoning. You'll
have to excuse Mrs. Transley a few minutes; she's holding down the
accelerator in the kitchen. Come in; I want you to meet Squiggs."
Squiggs proved to be a round man with huge round tortoise-shell
glasses and round red face to match. He shook hands with a manner
that suggested that in doing so he was making rather a good fellow
"We must have a little lubrication, for Y.D.'s sake," said
Transley, producing a bottle and glasses. "I suppose it was the
dust on the plains that gave these old cow punchers a thirst which
never can be slaked. These be evil days for the old-timers.
"Not any, thanks."
"No? Well, there's no accounting for tastes. Squiggs?"
"I'm a lawyer," said Squiggs, "and as booze is now ultra vires I do
my best to keep it down," and Mr. Squiggs beamed genially upon his
pleasantry and the full glass in his hand.
"I take a snort when I want it and I don't care who knows it," said
Y.D. "I al'us did, and I reckon I'll keep on to the finish. It
didn't snuff me out in my youth and innocence, anyway. Just the
same, I'm admittin' it's bad medicine in onskilful hands. Here's
The glasses had just been drained when Mrs. Transley entered the
room, flushed but radiant from a strenuous half hour in the
"Well, here you are!" she exclaimed. "So glad you could come, Mr.
Grant. Why, Mr. Linder! Of all people-- This IS a pleasure. And
"Mr. Murdoch," Transley supplied.
"My chief of staff; the man who persists in keeping me rich," Grant
"I mustn't keep you waiting longer. Dinner is ready. Dad, you are
"Hanged if I will! I'm a guest here, and I stand on my rights,"
"Then you must do it, Frank."
"I suppose so," said Transley, "although all I get out of a meal
when I have to carve is splashing and profanity. You know,
Squiggs, I've figured it out that this practice of requiring the
nominal head of the house to carve has come down from the days when
there wasn't usually enough to go 'round, and the carver had to
make some fine decisions and, perhaps, maintain them by force. It
has no place under modern civilization."
"Except that someone must do it, and it's about the only household
responsibility man has not been able to evade," said Mrs. Transley.
As they entered the dining-room Zen's mother, whiter and it seemed
even more distinguished by the years, joined them, accompanied by
Mrs. Squiggs, a thin woman much concerned about social status, and
the party was complete.
Transley managed the carving more skilfully than his protest might
have suggested, and there was a lull in the conversation while the
first demands of appetite were being satisfied.
"Tell us about your settlement scheme, Mr. Grant," Mrs. Transley
urged when it seemed necessary to find a topic. "Mr. Grant has
quite a wonderful plan."
"Yes, wise us up, old man," said Transley. "I've heard something
of it, but never could see through it."
"It's all very simple," Grant explained. "I am providing the
capital to start a few families on farms. Instead of lending the
money directly to them I am financing a company in which each
farmer must subscribe for stock to the value of the land he is to
occupy. His stock he will pay for with a part of the proceeds of
each year's crop, until it is paid in full, when he becomes a paid-
up shareholder, subject to no further call except a levy which may
be made for running expenses."
"And then your advances are returned to you with interest," Squiggs
suggested. "A very creditable plan of benefaction; very creditable,
"No, that is not the idea. In the first place, I am accepting no
interest on my advances, and in the second place the money, when
repaid by the shareholders, will not be returned to me, but will be
used to establish another colony on the same basis, and so on--the
movement will be extended from group to group."
Mr. Squiggs readjusted his large round tortoise-shell glasses.
"Do I understand that you are charging no interest?"
"Not a cent."
"Then where do YOU come in?"
"I had hoped to make it clear that I am not seeking to 'come in.'
You see, the money I am doing this with is not really mine at all."
"Not yours?" cried a chorus of voices.
"No. Mr. Squiggs, you are a lawyer, and therefore a man of
perspicuity and accurate definitions. What is money?"
"You flatter me. I should say that money is a medium for the
exchange of value."
"Very well. Therefore, if a man accepts money without giving value
for it in exchange he is violating the fundamental principle
underlying the use of money. He is, in short, an economic outlaw."
"I am afraid I don't follow you."
"Let me illustrate by my own experience, and that of my family. My
father was possessed of a piece of land which at one time had
little or no value. Eventually it became of great value, not
through anything he had done, but as a result of the natural law
that births exceed deaths. Yet he, although he had done nothing to
create this value, was able, through a faulty economic system, to
pocket the proceeds. Then, as a result of the advantages which his
wealth gave him, he was able to extract from society throughout all
the remainder of his life value out of all proportion to any return
he made for it. Finally it came down to me. Holding my peculiar
belief, which my right and left bower consider sinful and silly
respectively, I found money forced upon me, regardless of the fact
that I had given absolutely no value in exchange. Now if money is
a medium for the exchange of value and I receive money without
giving value for it, it is plain that someone else must have parted
with money without receiving value in return. The thing is
"Your father couldn't take it with him."
"But why should _I_ have it? I never contributed a finger-weight
of service for it. From society the money came and to society it
"You should worry," said Transley. "Society isn't worrying over
you. Some more of the roast beef?"
"No, thank you. But to come down to date. It seems that I cannot
get away from this wealth which dogs me at every turn. Before
enlisting I had been margining certain steel stocks, purely in the
ordinary course of affairs. With the demands made by the war on
the steel industry my stocks went up in price and my good friend
Murdoch was able to report that it had made a fortune for me while
I was overseas. . . . And we call ourselves an intelligent
"And so we are," said Mr. Squiggs. "We stick to a system we know
to be sound. It has weathered all the gales of the past, and
promises to weather those of the future. I tell you, Grant,
communism won't work. You can't get away from the principle of
individual reward for individual effort."
"My dear fellow, that's exactly what I'm pleading for. I have no
patience with any claim that all men are equal, or capable of
rendering equal service to society, and I want payment to be made
according to service rendered, not according to the freaks of a
haphazard system such as I have been trying to describe."
"But how are you going to bring that golden age about?" Murdoch
"By education. The first thing is to accept the principle that
wealth cannot be accepted except in exchange for full-measure
service. You, Mrs. Transley--you teach your little boy that he
must not steal. As he grows older simply widen your definition of
theft to include receiving value without giving value in exchange.
When all the mothers begin teaching that principle the golden age
which Mr. Murdoch inquires about will be in sight."
"How would you drive it home?" said Y.D. "We have too many laws
"Let us agree on that. The acceptance of this principle will make
half the laws now cluttering our statute books unnecessary. I
merely urge that we should treat the CAUSE of our economic malady
rather than the symptoms."
"Theoretically your idea has much to commend it, but it is quite
impracticable," Mr. Squiggs announced with some finality. "It
could never be brought into effect."
"If a corporation can determine the value of the service rendered
by each of its hundred thousand employees, why cannot a nation
determine the value of the service rendered by each of its hundred
"THERE'S something for you to chew on, Squiggs," said Transley.
"You argue your case well, Grant; I believe you have our legal
light rather feazed--that's the word, isn't it, Mr. Murdoch?--for
once. I confess a good deal of sympathy with your point of view,
but I'm afraid you can't change human nature."
"I am not trying to do that. All that needs changing is the
popular idea of what is right and what is wrong. And that idea is
changing with a rapidity which is startling. Before the war the
man who made money, by almost any means, was set up on a pedestal
called Success. Moralists pointed to him as one to be emulated;
Sunday school papers printed articles to show that any boy might
follow in his footsteps and become great and respected. To-day,
for following precisely the same practices, the nation demands that
he be thrown into prison; the Press heaps contumely upon him; he
has become an object of suspicion in the popular eye. This change,
world wide and quite unforeseen, has come about in five years."
"Is that due to a new sense of right and wrong, or to just old-
fashioned envy of the rich which now feels strong enough to
threaten where it used to fawn?" Y.D.'s wife asked, and Grant was
spared a hard answer by the rancher's interruption, "Hit the
profiteer as hard as you like. He's got no friends."
"That depends upon who is the profiteer--a point which no one seems
to have settled. In the cities you may even hear prosperous
ranchers included in that class--absurd as that must seem to you,"
Grant added, with a smile to Y.D. "Require every man to give
service according to his returns and you automatically eliminate
all profiteers, large and small."
"But you will admit," said Mrs. Squiggs, "that we must have some
well-off people to foster culture and give tone to society
"I agree that the boy who is brought up in a home with a bath tub,
and all that that stands for, is likely to be a better citizen than
the boy who doesn't have that advantage. That's why I want every
home to have a bath tub."
Mrs. Squiggs subsided rather heavily. In youth her Saturday night
ablutions had been taken in the middle of the kitchen floor.
"I have a good deal of sympathy," said Transley, "with any movement
which has for its purpose the betterment of human conditions. Any
successful man of to-day will admit, if he is frank about it, that
he owes his success as much to good luck as to good judgment. If
you could find a way, Grant, to take the element of luck out of
life, perhaps you would be doing a service which would justify you
in keeping those millions which worry you so. But I can't see that
it makes any difference to the prosperity of a country who owns the
wealth in it, so long as the wealth is there and is usefully
employed. Money doesn't grow unless it works, and if it works it
serves Society just the same as muscle does. You could put all
your wealth in a strong-box and bury it under your house up there
on the hill, and it wouldn't increase a nickel in a thousand years,
but if you put it to work it makes money for you and money for
other people as well. I'm a little nervous about new-fangled
notions. It's easier to wreck the ship than to build a new one,
which may not sail any better. What the world needs to-day is the
gospel of hard work, and everybody, rich and poor, on the job for
all that's in him. That's the only way out."
"We seem to have much in common," Grant returned. "Hard work is
the only way out, and the best way to encourage hard work is to
find a system by which every man will be rewarded according to the
At this point Mrs. Transley arose, and the men moved out into the
living-room to chat on less contentious subjects. After a time the
women joined them, and Grant presently found himself absorbed in
conversation with the old rancher's wife. Zen seemed to pay but
little attention to him, and for the first time he began to realize
what consummate actresses women are. Had Transley been the most
suspicious of husbands--and in reality his domestic vision was as
guileless as that of a boy--he could have caught no glint of any
smoldering spark of the long ago. Grant found himself thinking of
this dissembling quality as one of nature's provisions designed for
the protection of women, much as the sombre plumage of the prairie
chicken protects her from the eye of the sportsman. For after all
the hunting instinct runs through all men, be the game what it may.
Before they realized how the time had flown Linder was protesting
that he must be on his way. At the gate Transley put a hand on
"I'm prepared to admit," he said, "that there's a whole lot in this
old world that needs correcting, but I'm not sure that it can be
corrected. You have a right to try out your experiments, but take
a tip and keep a comfortable cache against the day when you'll want
to settle down and take things as they are. It is true and always
has been true that a man who is worth his salt, when he wants a
thing, takes it--or goes down in the attempt. The loser may
squeal, but that seems to be the path of progress. You can't beat
"Well, we'll see," said Grant, laughing. "Sometimes two men, each
worth his salt, collide."
"As in the meadow of the South Y.D.," said Transley, with a smile.
"You remember that, Y.D.--when our friend here upset the haying
"Sure, I remember, but I'm not holdin' it agin him now. A dead
horse is a dead horse, an' I don't go sniffin' it."
"Perhaps I ought to say, though," Grant returned, "that I really do
not know how the iron pegs got into that meadow."
"And I don't know how your haystacks got afire, but I can guess.
Remember Drazk? A little locoed, an' just the crittur to pull off
a fool stunt like that. When the fire swept up the valley, instead
of down, he made his get-away and has never been seen since. I
reckon likely there was someone in Landson's gang capable o'
drivin' pegs without consultin' the boss."
The little group were standing in the shadow and Grant had no
opportunity to notice the sudden blanching of Zen's face at the
mention of Drazk.
"You're wrong about his not having been seen again, Y.D.," said
Grant. "He managed to locate me somewhere in France. That reminds
me, he had a message for you, Mrs. Transley. I'm afraid Drazk is
as irresponsible as ever, provided he hasn't passed out, which is
more than likely."
Grant shook hands cordially with Y.D. and his wife, with Squiggs
and Mrs. Squiggs, with Transley and Mrs. Transley. Any inclination
he may have felt to linger over Zen's hand was checked by her quick
withdrawal of it, and there was something in her manner quite
beyond his understanding. He could have sworn that the self-
possessed Zen Transley was actually trembling.
The next day Wilson paid his usual visit to the field where Grant
was plowing, and again was he the bearer of a message. With much
difficulty he managed to extricate the envelope from a pocket.
"Dear Mr. Grant," it read, "I am so excited over a remark you
dropped last night I must see you again as soon as possible. Can
you drop in to-night, say at eight. Yours,--ZEN."