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Over the Pass by Frederick Palmer

Part 2 out of 7

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unreality of a dream; and then, in physical reality, he emerged. He was
so near as she rose spasmodically that she could have laid her hand on
his shoulder. His hat under his arm, he stood smiling in the bland,
questioning interest of a spectator happening along the path, even as he
had in her first glimpse of him on the pass.

"I don't care! Go on! Go on!" she was going to say. "You have made sport
of me! You make sport of everything! Life itself is a joke to you!"

The tempest of the words was in her eyes, if it did not reach her
tongue's end. It was halted by the look of hurt surprise, of real pain,
which appeared on his face. Was it possible, after all, that he could
feel? The thought brought forth the passionate cry of her mission after
that sleepless night.

"I beg of you--I implore you--don't!"

Had anyone told her yesterday that she would have been begging any man
in melodramatic supplication for anything, she would have thought of
herself as mad. Wasn't she mad? Wasn't he mad? Yet she broke into
passionate appeal.

"It is horrible--unspeakable! I cannot bear it!"

A flood of color swept his cheeks and with it came a peculiar, feminine,
almost awkward, gentleness. His air was that of wordless humility. He
seemed more than ever an uncomprehending, sure prey for Leddy.

"Don't you realize what death is?" she asked.

The question, so earnest and searching, had the contrary effect on him.
It changed him back to his careless self. He laughed in the way of one
who deprecates another's illusion or passing fancy. This added to her
conviction that he did not realize, that he was incapable of realizing,
his position.

"Do you think I am about to die?" he asked softly.

"With Pete Leddy firing at you twenty yards away--yes! And you pose--you
pose! If you were human you would be serious!"

"Pose?" He repeated the word. It startled him, mystified him. "The
clothes I bought to please Firio, you mean?" he inquired, his face

"No, about death. It is horrible--horrible! Death for which I am

"Why, have you forgotten that we settled all that?" he asked. "It was not
you. It was the habit I had formed of whistling in the loneliness of the
desert. I am sorry, now, that I did not stick to singing, even at the
expense of a sore throat."

Now he called to Leddy, and his voice, high-pitched and powerful, seemed
to travel in the luminous air as on resilient, invisible wires.

"Leddy, wasn't it the way I whistled to you the first time we met that
made you want satisfaction? You remember"--and he broke into a whistle.
His tone was different from that to Leddy on the pass; the whistle was
different. It was shrill and mocking.

"Yes, the whistle!" yelled Leddy. "No man can whistle to me like that
and live!"

Jack laughed as if he appreciated all the possibilities of humor inherent
in the picture of the bloodthirsty Leddy, the waiting seconds and the
gallery. He turned to Mary with a gesture of his outstretched hands:

"There, you see! I brought it on myself."

"You are brutal! You are without feeling--you are ridiculous--you--" she
stormed, chokingly.

And in face of this he became reasoning, philosophical.

"Yes, I admit that it is all ridiculous, even to farce, this little
_comedie humaine_. But we must remember that beside the age of the desert
none of us last long. Ridiculous, yes; but if I will whistle, why, then,
I must play out the game I've started."

He was looking straight into her eyes, and there was that in his gaze
which came as a surprise and with something of the effect of a blade out
of a scabbard. It chilled her. It fastened her inactive to the earth with
a helplessness that was uncanny. It mixed the element of fear for him
with the element of fear of him.

"Remember I am of age--and I don't mind," he added, with the faintest
glint of satire in his reassurance.

He was walking away, with a wave of his hand to Leddy; he was going
over the precipice's edge after thanking the danger sign. He did not
hasten, nor did he loiter. The precipice resolved itself into an
incident of a journey of the same order as an ankle-deep stream
trickling across a highway.



She had done her best and she had failed. What reason was there for her
to remain? Should she endure witnessing in reality the horror which she
had pictured so vividly in imagination? A flash of fire! The fall of a
careening figure to the earth! Leddy's grin of satisfaction! The
rejoicing of his clan of spectators over the exploit, while youth which
sang airs to the beat of a pony's hoofs and knew the worship of the
Eternal Painter lay dead!

What reason to remain except to punish herself! She would go. But
something banished reason. She was held in the leash of suspense, staring
with clearness of vision in one second; staring into a mist the next;
while the coming and going of Ignacio's breaths between his teeth was the
only sound in her ears.

"Senor Don't Care of the Big Spurs will win!" he whispered.

"He will?" she repeated, like one marvelling, in the tautness of every
nerve and muscle, that she had the power of speech.

She peered into Ignacio's face. Its Indian impassivity was gone. His lips
were twitching; his eyes were burning points between half-closed lids.

"Why?" she asked. "How?"

"I know. I watch him. I have seen a mountain lion asleep in a tree. His
paw is like velvet. He smiles. There seems no fight in him. I know. There
is a devil, a big devil, in Senor Don't Care. It sleeps so much it very
terrible when it awakes. And Pete Leddy--he is all the time awake; all
the time too ready. Something in him will make his arm shake when the
moment to shoot comes and something in Senor Don't Care--his devil--will
make his arm steady."

Could Ignacio be right? Did Jack really know how to shoot? Was he
confident of the outcome? Were his smiles the mask of a conviction that
he was to kill and not to be killed? After all, had his attitude toward
her been merely acting? Had she undergone this humiliation as the fish on
the line of the mischievous play of one who had stopped over a train in
order to do murder? No! If he were capable of such guile he knew that
Leddy could shoot well and that twenty yards was a deadly range for a
good shot. He was taking a chance and the devil in him was laughing at
the chance, while it laughed at her for thinking that he was an innocent
going to slaughter in expression of a capricious sense of chivalry.

"He will win--he will win if Leddy plays fair!" Ignacio repeated.

Now she was telling herself that it was solely for the sake of her
conscience that she wanted to see Senor Don't Care survive; solely for
the sake of her conscience that she wanted to see him go aboard the train
safe. After that, she could forget ever having owed this trifler the
feeling of gratitude for a favor done. Literally, he must live in order
to be a dead and unremembered incident of her existence.

And Jack was back at his station, with the bright sunlight heightening
the colors of his play cowboy attire, his weight on the ball of his right
foot thrown well ahead of the other, his head up, but the whole effect
languid, even deferential. He seemed about to take off his hat to the
joyous sky of a fair day in May. His shadow expressed the same feeling as
his pose, that of tranquil youth with its eyes on the horizon. Leddy had
the peculiar slouch of the desperado, which is associated with the spread
of pioneering civilization by the raucous criers of red-blooded
individualism. If Jack's bearing was amateurish, then Pete's was
professional in its threatening pose; and his shadow, like himself, had
an unrelieved hardness of outline.

Both drew their guns from their holsters and lowered them till the
barrels lay even with the trousers seams. They awaited the word to fire
which Bill Lang, who stood at an angle equidistant from the two men,
was to give.

"Wait!" Jack called, in a tone which indicated that something had
recurred to him. Then a half laugh from him fell on the brilliant,
shining, hard silence with something of the sound of a pebble slipping
over glare ice.

"Leddy, it has just occurred to me that we are both foolish--honestly, we
are!" he said. "The idea when Arizona is so sparsely settled of our
starting out to depopulate it in such a premeditated manner on such a
beautiful morning, and all because I was such an inept whistler! Why, if
I had realized what a perfectly bad whistler I was I would never have
whistled again. If my whistle hurt your feelings I am sorry, and I--"

"No, you don't!" yelled Leddy. "I've waited long enough! It's
fight, you--"

"Oh, all right! You are so emphatic," Jack answered. His voice was still
pleasant, but shot with something metallic. The very shadow of him seemed
to stiffen with the stiffening of his muscles.

"Ready!" called Bill Lang.

The ruling passion that had carved six notches on his gun-handle
overwhelmed Pete Leddy. At least, let us give him the benefit of the
doubt and say that this and not calculation was responsible for his
action. Before the word for preparation was free of Lang's lips, and
without waiting for the word to fire, his revolver came up in a swift
quarter-circle. He was sure of his aim at that range with a ready draw.
Again and again he had thus hit his target in practice and six times he
had winged his man by such agile promptness.

With the flash from the muzzle all the members of the gallery rose on
hands and knees. They were as sure that there was to be a seventh notch
as of their identity. There was no question in their minds but Pete had
played a smart trick. They had known from the first that he would win.
And the proof of it was in the sudden, uncontrollable movement of the

Jack whirled half round. He was falling. But even as he fell he was still
facing his adversary. He plunged forward unsteadily and came to rest on
his left elbow. A trickle of blood showed on the chap of his left leg,
which had tightened as his knee twisted under him. Leddy's rage had been
so hot that for once his trigger finger had been too quick. He had aimed
too low. But he was sure that he had done for his man and he looked
triumphantly toward the gallery gods whose hero he was. They had now
risen to their feet. In answer to their congratulations he waved his
left hand, palm out, in salutation. His gun-hand had dropped back to his
trousers seam.

Even as it dropped, Jack's revolver had risen, his own gun-hand steadied
in the palm of his left hand, which had an elbow in the sand for a rest.
Victor and spectators, in their preoccupation with the relief and elation
of a drama finished, had their first warning of what was to come in a
voice that did not seem like the voice of the tenderfoot as they had
heard it, but of another man. And Leddy was looking at a black hole in a
rim of steel which, though twenty yards away, seemed hot against his
forehead, while he turned cold.

"Now, Pete Leddy, do not move a muscle!" Jack told him. "Pete Leddy,
you did not play my way. I still have a shot due, and I am going to
kill you!"

Jack's face seemed never to have worn a smile. It was all chin, and thin,
tightly-pressed lips, and solid, straight nose, bronze and unyielding.

"And I am going to kill you!"

This was surely the devil of Ignacio's imagery speaking in him--a cold,
passionless, gray-eyed devil. Though they had never seen him shoot,
everybody felt now that he could shoot with deadly accuracy and that
there was no play cowboy in his present mood. He had the bead of death
on Leddy and he would fire with the first flicker of resistance. His
call seemed to have sunk the feet of everyone beneath the sand to
bed-rock and riveted them there. Lang and the two seconds were as
motionless as statues.

Mary recalled Leddy's leer at her on the pass, with its intent of
something more horrible than murder. Savagery rose in her heart. It was
right that he should be killed. He deserved his fate. But no sooner was
the savagery born--born, she felt, of the very hypnosis of that carved
face--than she cast it out shudderingly in the realization that she had
wished the death of a fellow human being! She looked away from Jack; and
then it occurred to her that he must be bleeding. He was again a
companion of the trail, his strength ebbing away. Her impulse was
retarded by no fear of the gallery now. It brought her to her feet.

"But first drop your revolver!" she heard Jack call, as she ran.

She saw it fall from Leddy's trembling hand, as a dead leaf goes free of
a breeze-shaken limb. All the fight was out of him. The courage of six
notches was not the courage to accept in stoicism the penalty of foul
play. And that black rim was burning his forehead.

"Galway, you have a gun?" Jack asked.

"Yes," Galway answered, mechanically. His presence of mind, which had
been so sure in the store, was somewhat shaken. He had seen men killed,
but never in such deliberate fashion.

"Take it out'"

There was a quality in the command like frosty madness, which one
instinctively obeyed. The half-prostrate figure of the tenderfoot seemed
to dominate everything--men, earth, and air.

Mary had a glimpse of Galway drawing an automatic pistol from his pocket
when she dropped at Jack's side. She knew that Jack had not heard or seen
her approach. All his will was flowing out along a pistol's sight, even
as his blood was flowing out on the sand in a broadening circle of red.

It was well that she had come. Her fingers were splashed as she felt for
the artery, which she closed by leaning her whole weight on the thumb.

Ignacio had followed her and immediately after him came Firio, who had
been startled in his breakfast preparations by the sound of a shot and
had set out to investigate its cause. He was as changed as his master; a
twitching, fierce being, glaring at her and at the wound and then
prolongedly and watchfully at Pete Leddy.

"Can you shoot to kill?" Jack asked Galway, in a piercing summons.

"Yes," drawled Galway.

"Then up with your gun--quick! There! A bead on Ropey Smith!"

Galway had the bead before Ropey could protest.

"Give Ropey ten seconds to drop his gun or we will care for him at the
same time as Pete'" Jack concluded.

Ropey did not wait the ten seconds. He was over-prompt for the
same reasons of temperament that made Pete Leddy prefer his own
way of fighting.

"I take it that we can count on the neutrality of our spectators. They
cannot be interested in the success of either side," Jack observed, with
dry humor, but still methodically. "All they ask is a spectacle."

"Yes, you bet!" came a voice from the gallery, undisguisedly eager
to concur.

"Now, Pete and Ropey," Jack began, and broke off.

There was a poignant silence that waited on the processes of his mind.
Not only was there no sound, but to Mary there seemed no movement
anywhere in the world, except the pulse of the artery trying to drive its
flood past the barrier of her thumb. Jack kept his bead unremittingly on
Pete. It was Firio who broke the silence.

"Kill him! He is bad! He hates you!" said Firio.

"_Si, si_! If you do not kill him now, you must some time," said Ignacio.

Mary felt that even if Jack heard them he would not let their advice
influence him. On the bank before she had hastened to him a strange and
awful visitor in her heart had wished for Leddy's death. Now she wished
for him to go away unharmed. She wished it in the name of her own
responsibility for all that had happened. Yet her tongue had no urging
word to offer. She waited in a supernatural and dreadful curiosity on
Jack's decision. It was as if he were to answer one more question in
explanation of the mystery of his nature. Could he deliberately shoot
down an unarmed man? Was he that hard?

"I am thinking just how to deal with you, Pete and Ropey," Jack
proceeded. "As I understand it, you have not been very useful citizens of
Little Rivers. You can live under one condition--that you leave town and
never return armed. Half a minute to decide!"

"I'll go!" said Pete.

"I'll go!" said Ropey.

"And keep your words?"

"Yes!" they assented.

But neither moved. The fact that Jack had not yet lowered his
revolver made them cautious. They were obviously over-anxious to play
safe to the last.

"Then go!" called Jack.

Pete and Ropey slouched away, leaving behind Ropey's gun, which was
unimportant as it had only one notch, and Pete's precious companion of
many campaigns with its six notches, lying on the sand.

"And, gentlemen," Jack called to the spectators, "our little
entertainment is over now. I am afraid that you will be late for

Apparently it came as a real inspiration to all at once that they might
be, for they began to withdraw with a celerity that was amazingly
spontaneous. Their heads disappeared below the skyline and only the
actors were left. Pete and Ropey--Bill Lang following--walked away along
the bed of the _arroyo_, instead of going over the bank. Pete paused when
he was out of range. The old threat was again in his pose.

"I'm not through with you, yet!" he called.

"Why, I hope you are!" Jack answered.

He let his revolver fall with a convulsion of weakness. Mary wondered if
he were going to faint. She wondered if she herself were not going to
faint, in a giddy second, while the red spot on the sand shaped itself in
revolving grotesquery. But the consciousness that she must not lift her
weight from the artery was a centering idea to keep her faculties in some
sort of equilibrium.

He was looking around at her, she knew. Now she must see his face after
this transformation in him which had made her fears of his competency
silly imaginings; after she had linked her name with his in an
overwhelming village sensation. She was stricken by unanalyzable emotions
and by a horror of her nearness to him, her contact with his very blood,
and his power. She was conscious of a glimpse of his turning profile,
still transfixed with the cool purpose of action. Then they were gazing
full at each other, eyes into eyes, directly, questioningly. He was
smiling as he had on the pass; as he had when he stood with his arms
full of mail waiting for the signal to deposit his load. His devil had
slipped back into his inner being.

He spoke first, and in the voice that went with his vaguest mood; the
voice in which he had described his escape from the dinosaur whose scales
had become wedged in the defile at the critical moment.

"You have a strong thumb and it must be tired, as well as all
bluggy," he said, falling into a childhood symbol for taking the
whole affair in play.

Could he be the same man who had said, "I am going to kill you!" so
relentlessly? He had eased the situation with the ready gift he had for
easing situations; but, at the same time, he had made those unanalyzable
emotions more complex, though they were swept into the background for the
moment. He glanced down at his leg with comprehending surprise.

"Now, certainly, you are free of all responsibility," he added. "You kept
the strength in me to escape the fate you feared. Jim Galway will make a
tourniquet and relieve you."

The first available thing for tightening the tourniquet was the barrel
of Pete Leddy's gun and the first suggestion for material came from her.
It was the sash of her gown, which Galway knotted with his strong,
sunburned fingers.

When she could lift her numbed thumb from its task and rose to her feet
she had a feeling of relief, as if she were free of magnetic bonds and
uncanny personal proximity. The incident was closed--surely closed. She
was breathing a prayer of thanks when a remark from Galway to Jack
brought back her apprehension.

"I guess you will have to postpone catching to-day's train," he said.

Certainly, Jack must remain until his wound had healed and his strength
had returned. And where would he go? He could not camp out on the desert.
As Jasper Ewold had the most commodious bungalow it seemed natural that
any wounded stranger should be taken there. The idea chilled her as an
insupportable intrusion. Jack hesitated a moment. He was evidently
considering whether he could not still keep to his programme.

"Yes, Jim, I'm afraid I shall have to ask you for a cot for a few days,"
he said, finally.

Again he had the right thought at the right moment. Had he surmised what
was passing in her mind?

"Seeing that you've got Pete Leddy out of town, I should say that you
were fairly entitled to a whole bed," Jim drawled. "These two Indians
here can make a hustle to get some kind of a litter."

Now she could go. That was her one crying thought: She could go! And
again he came to her rescue with his smiling considerateness.

"You have missed your breakfast, I'll warrant," he said to her. "Please
don't wait. You were so brave and cool about it all, and--I--" A faint
tide of color rose to his cheeks, which had been pale from loss of blood.
For once he seemed unable to find a word.

Mary denied him any assistance in his embarrassment.

"Yes," she answered, almost bluntly. Then she added an excuse: "And you
should have a doctor at once. I will send him."

She did not look at Jack again, but hastened away. When she was over the
bank of the _arroyo_ out of sight she put her fingers to her temples in
strong pressure. That pulse made her think of another, which had been
under her thumb, and she withdrew her fingers quickly.

"It is the sun! I have no hat," she said to herself, "and I didn't
sleep well."



Dr. Patterson was still asleep when Mary rapped at his door. Having
aroused him to action by calling out that a stranger had been wounded in
the _arroyo_, she did not pause to offer any further details. With her
eyes level and dull, she walked rapidly along the main street where
nobody was yet abroad, her one thought to reach her room uninterrupted.
As she approached the house she saw her father standing on the porch, his
face beaming with the joy of a serenely-lived moment as he had his
morning look at the Eternal Painter's first display for the day. She had
crossed the bridge before he became conscious of her presence.

"Mary! You are up first! Out so early when you went to bed so late!" he
greeted her.

"I did not sleep well," she explained.

"What, Mary, you not sleep well!" All the preoccupation with the
heavens went from his eyes, which swept her from head to foot. "Mary!
Your hand is covered with blood! There is blood on your dress' What
does this mean?"

She looked down and for the first time saw dark red spots on her skirt.
The sight sent a shiver through her, which she mastered before she spoke.

"Oh, nothing--or a good deal, if you put it in another way. A real
sensation for Little Rivers!" she said.

"But you are not telling!"

"It is such a remarkable story, father, it ought not to be spoiled by
giving away its plot," she said, with assumed lightness. "I don't feel
equal to doing full justice to it until after I've had my bath. I will
tell you at breakfast. That's a reason for your waiting for me."

And she hastened past him into the house.

"Was it--was it something to do with this Wingfield?" he called excitedly
after her.

"Yes, about the fellow of the enormous spurs--Senor Don't Care, as
Ignacio calls him," she answered from the stair.

Some note underneath her nonchalance seemed to disturb, even to distress
him. He entered the house and started through the living-room on his way
to the library. But he paused as if in answer to a call from one of the
four photographs on the wall, Michael Angelo's young David, in the
supple ease of grace. The David which Michael made from an imperfect
piece of marble! The David which sculptors say is ill-proportioned! The
David into which, however, the master breathed the thing we call genius,
in the bloom of his own youth finding its power, even as David found his
against Goliath.

This David has come out of the unknown, over the hills, with the dew of
morning freshness on his brow. He is unconscious of self; of everything
except that he is unafraid. If all other aspirants have failed in downing
the old champion, why, he will try.

Now, Jasper Ewold frowned at David as if he were getting no answer to a
series of questions.

"I must make a change. You have been up a long time, David," he
thought; for he had many of these photographs which he kept in a
special store-room subject to his pleasure in hanging. "Yes, I will
have a Madonna--two Madonnas, perhaps, and a Velasquez and a Rembrandt
next time."

In the library he set to reading Professor Giuccamini; but he found
himself disagreeing with the professor.

"I want your facts which you have dug out of the archives," he said,
speaking to the book as if it were alive. "I don't want your opinions.
Confound it!" he threw Giuccamini on the table. "I'll make my own
opinions! Nothing else to do out here on the desert. Time enough to
change them as often as I want, too."

He went into the garden--the garden which, next to Mary, was the most
intimate thing in his affections. Usually, every new leaf that had burst
forth over night set itself in the gelatine of his mind like so many
letterpress changes on a printed page to a proof-reader. This time,
however, a new palm leaf, a new spray of bougainvillea blossoms, a bud
on the latest rose setting which he had from Los Angeles, said "Good
morning," without any response from him.

He paced back and forth, his hands clasped behind him, his head bowed
moodily, and his shoulders drawn together in a way that made him seem
older and more portly. With each turn he looked sharply, impatiently,
toward the door of the house.

Never had Mary so felt the charm of her room as on this morning; never
had it seemed so set apart from the world and so personal. It was the
breadth of the ell and the size of her father's library and bedroom
combined. The windows could hardly be called windows in a Northern sense,
for there was no glass. It was unnecessary to seal up the source of
light and air in a dry climate, where a blanket at night supplied all the
extra warmth one's body ever required. The blinds swung inward and the
shades softened the light and added to the privacy which the screen of
the growing young trees and creeping vines were fast supplying. Here she
could be more utterly alone than on the summit of the pass itself. She
paused in the doorway, surveying familiar objects in the enjoyed triumph
of complete seclusion.

While she waited for the water to run into the bowl, she looked fixedly
at the stains of a fluid which had been so warm in its touch. It was only
blood, she told herself. It would wash off, and she held her hands in the
water and saw the spread of the dye through the bowl in a moment of
preoccupation. Then she scrubbed as vigorously as if she were bent on
removing the skin itself. After she had held up her dripping fingers in
satisfied inspection, the spots on her gown caught her eye. For a moment
they, too, held her staring attention; then she slipped out of the gown

With this, her determined haste was at an end. She was about to enjoy the
feminine luxury of time. The combing of her hair became a delightful and
leisurely function in the silky feel of the strands in her fingers and
the refreshing pull at the roots. The flow of the bath water made the
music of pleasurable anticipation, and immersion set the very spirit of
physical life leaping and tingling in her veins. And all the while she
was thinking of how to fashion a narrative.

When she started down-stairs she was not only refreshed but remade. She
was going to breakfast at the usual hour, after the usual processes of
ushering herself from the night's rest into the day's activities. There
had been no stealthy trip out to the _arroyo_; no duel; no wound; no
Senor Don't Care. She had only a story which involved all these elements,
a most preposterous story, to tell.

"Now you shall hear all about it!" she called to her father as soon as
she saw him; "the strangest, most absurd, most amusing affair"--she piled
up the adjectives--"that has ever occurred in Little Rivers!"

She began at once, even before she poured his coffee, her voice a trifle
high-pitched with her simulation of humor. And she was exactly veracious,
avoiding details, yet missing nothing that gave the facts a pleasant
trail. She told of the meeting with Leddy on the pass and of the arrival
of the gorgeous traveller; of Jack's whistle; of Pete's challenge.

Jasper Ewold listened with stoical attentiveness. He did not laugh, even
when Jack's vagaries were mentioned.

"Why didn't you tell me last night?" was his first question.

"To be honest, I was afraid that it would worry you. I was afraid that
you would not permit me to go to the pass alone again. But you will?" She
slipped her hand across the table and laid her fingers appealingly on the
broad back of his heavily tanned hand, from which the veins rose in
bronze welts. "And he was nice about it in his ridiculous, big-spurs
fashion. He said that it was all due to the whistle."

"Go on! Go on! There must be more!" her father insisted impatiently.

She gave him the pantomime of the store, not as a bit of tragedy--she was
careful about that--but as something witnessed by an impersonal
spectator and narrator of stories.

"He walked right toward a muzzle, this Wingfield?" Jasper asked, his
brows contracting.

"Why, yes. I told you at the start it was all most preposterous,"
she answered.

"And he was not afraid of death--this Wingfield!" Jasper repeated.

He was looking away from her. The contraction of his brows had become a
scowl of mystification.

"Why do you always speak of him as 'this Wingfield,'" she demanded, "as
if the town were full of Wingfields and he was a particular one?"

He looked around quickly, his features working in a kind of confusion.
Then he smiled.

"I was thinking of the whistle," he explained. "Well, we'll call him this
Sir Chaps, this Senor Don't Care, or whatever you please. As for his
walking into the gun, there is nothing remarkable in that. You draw on a
man. You expect him to throw up his hands or reach for his gun. He does
nothing but smile right along the level of the sight into your eyes. It
was disturbing to Pete's sense of etiquette on such occasions. It threw
him off. There are similar instances in history. A soldier once put a
musket at Bonaparte's head. Some of Caesar's legionaries once pressed
their swords at his breast. Such old hands in human psychology had the
presence of mind to smile. And the history of the West is full of
examples which have not been recorded. Go on, Mary!"

"Ignacio says he has a devil in him," she added.

"That little Indian has a lot of primitive race wisdom. Probably he is
right," her father said soberly.

"It explains what followed," she proceeded.

She was emphatic about the reason for her part. She went out to the
_arroyo_ on behalf of her responsibility for a human life.

"But why did you not rouse me? Why did you go alone?" he asked.

"I didn't think--there wasn't time--I was upset and hurried."

She proceeded in a forced monotone which seemed to allow her hardly a
single full breath.

"And I am going to kill you!" she repeated, shuddering, at the close of
the narrative.

"When he said that did his face change completely? Did it seem like the
face of another man? Yes, did it seem as if there were one face that
could charm and another that could kill?" Jasper's words came slowly and
with a drawn exactness. They formed the inquiry of one who expected
corroboration of an impression.


"You felt it--you felt it very definitely, Mary?"


She was living over the moment of Jack's transformation from silk to
steel. The scene in the _arroyo_ became burning clear. Under the strain
of the suppression of her own excitement, concentrated in her purpose to
make all the realism of the duel an absurdity, she did not watch keenly
for the signs of expression by which she usually knew what was passing
in her father's mind. But she was not too preoccupied to see that he was
relieved over her assent that there was a devil in Jack Wingfield, which
struck her as a puzzle in keeping with all that morning's experience.
It added to the inward demoralization which had suddenly dammed her
power of speech.

"Ignacio saw it, too, so I was interested," Jasper added quickly,
in a more natural tone, settling back into his chair. His agitation
had passed.

So that was it. Her father's dominant, fine old egoism was rejoicing in
another proof of his excellence as a judge of character.

"Finis! The story is told!" he continued softly.

All told! And it had been a success. Mary caught her breath in a gay,
high-pitched exclamation of realization that she had not to go on with

"Our singular cavalier is safe!" she said. "My debt is paid. I need not
worry any further lest someone who did me a favor should suffer for it!"

"True! true!"

Jasper's outburst of laughter when he had paused in turning down the wick
of the lamp the previous evening had been as a forced blast from the
brasses. Anyone with strong lungs may laugh majestically; but it takes
depth of feeling and years rich with experience to express the
gratification that now possessed him. He stretched his hands across the
table to her and the laugh that came then came as a cataract of

"Exactly, Mary! The duel provided the way to pay a debt," he said. "Why,
it is you who have done our Big Spurs a favor! He has a wound to show to
his friends in the East! I am proud that you could take it all so coolly
and reasonably."

She improved her opportunity while he held her hands.

"I will go armed next time, and I do know how to shoot, so you won't
worry"--she put it that way, rather than openly ask his consent--"if I
ride out to the pass?"

"Mary, I have every reason to believe that you know how to take care of
yourself," he answered.

And that very afternoon she rode out to Galeria, starting a little
earlier than usual, returning a little later than usual, in
jubilant mood.

"Everything is the same!" she had repeated a dozen times on the road.
"Everything is the same!" she told herself before she fell asleep;
and her sleep was long and sweet, in nature's gratitude for rest
after a storm.

The sunlight breaking through the interstices of the foliage of a poplar,
sensitive to a slight breeze, came between the lattices in trembling
patchwork on the bed, flickering over her face and losing itself in the
strands of her hair.

"Everything is the same!" she said, when her faculties were cleared of

For the second time she gave intimate, precious thanks for a simple thing
that had never occurred to her as a blessing before: for the seclusion
and silence of her room, free from all invasion except of her own
thoughts. The quicker flow of blood that came with awaking, the expanding
thrill of physical strength and buoyancy of life renewed, brought with it
the moral courage which morning often brings to flout the compromises of
the confusion of the evening's weariness. The inspiriting, cool air of
night electrified by the sun cleared her vision. She saw all the pictures
on the slate of yesterday and their message plainly, as something that
could not be erased by any Buddhistic ritual of reiterated phrase.

"No, everything is not the same, not even the ride--not yet!" she
admitted. "But time will make it so--time and a sense of humor, which I
hope I have."



Jack lounged in an armchair in the Galway sitting-room with his bandaged
leg bolstered on a stool after Dr. Patterson had fished a bit of lead
out of the wound. Tribute overflowed from the table to the chairs and
from the chairs to the floor; pineapples, their knobby jackets all
yellow from ripening in the field, with the full succulency of root-fed
and sun-drawn flavor; monstrous navel oranges, leaden with the weight of
juice, richer than cloth of gold and velvet soft; and every fruit of the
fertile soil and benignant climate; and jellies, pies, and custards. But
these were only the edibles. There were flowers in equal abundance. They
banked the windows.

"It's Jasper Ewold's idea to bring gifts when you call," explained Jim
Galway. "Jasper is always sowing ideas and lots of them have sprung up
and flourished."

Jack had not been in Little Rivers twenty-four hours, and he had played a
part in its criminal annals and become subject to all the embarrassment
of favors of a royal bride or a prima donna who is about to sail. In a
bower, amazed, he was meeting the world of Little Rivers and its wife.
Men of all ages; men with foreign accent; men born and bred as farmers;
men to whom the effect of indoor occupation clung; men still weak, but
with red corpuscles singing a song of returning health in their
arteries--strapping, vigorous men, all with hands hardened by manual
labor and in their eyes the far distances of the desert, in contrast to
the sparkle of oasis intimacy.

Women with the accent of college classrooms; women who made plural nouns
the running mates of singular verbs; women who were novices in
housework; women drilled in drudgery from childhood--all expanding, all
dwelling in a democracy that had begun its life afresh in a new land,
and all with the wonder of gardens where there had been only sagebrush
in their beings.

There was something at odds with Jack's experience of desert towns in the
picture of a bronzed rancher, his arms loaded with roses, saying, in
boyish diffidence:

"Mister, you fit him fair and you sure fixed him good. Just a few
roses--they're so thick over to our place that they're getting a pest.
Thought mebbe they'd be nice for you to look at while you was tied up to
a chair nursing Pete's soovenir!"

One visitor whose bulk filled the doorway, the expansion of his smile
spreading over a bounteous rotundity of cheek, impressed himself as a
personality who had the distinction in avoirdupois that Jim Galway had in
leanness. In his hand he had five or six peonies as large as saucers.

"Every complete community has a fat man, seh!" he announced, with a
certain ample bashfulness in keeping with his general amplitude and a
musical Southern accent.

"If it wants to feel perfectly comfortable it has!" said Jack, by way
of welcome.

"Well, I'm the fat man of Little Rivers, name being Bob Worther!"
said he, grinning as he came across the room with an amazingly quick,
easy step.

"No rivals?" inquired Jack.

"No, seh! I staked out the first claim and I've an eye out for any
new-comers over the two hundred mark. I warn them off! Jasper Ewold is up
to two hundred, but he doesn't count. Why, you ought to have seen me,
seh, before I came to this valley!"

"A living skeleton?"

"No, seh! Back in Alabama I had reached a point where I broke so many
chairs and was getting so nervous from sudden falls in the midst of
conversation, when I made a lively gesture that I didn't dare sit down
away from home except at church, where they had pews. I weighed three
hundred and fifty!"

"And now?"

"I acknowledge two hundred and forty, including my legs, which are very
powerful, having worked off that extra hundred. I've got the boss job
for making a fat man spider-waisted--inspector of ditches and dams. Any
other man would have to use a horse, but I hoof it, and that's economy
all around. And being big I grow big things. Violets wouldn't be much
more in my line than drawnwork. I've got this whole town beat on
peonies and pumpkins. Being as it's a fat man's pleasure to cheer
people up, I dropped in to bring you a few peonies and to say that,
considering the few well-selected words you spoke to Pete Leddy on this
town's behalf, I'm prepared to vote for you for anything from coroner
to president, seh!"

Later, after Bob had gone, a small girl brought a spray of gladiolus,
their slender stems down to her toe-tips and the opening blossoms half
hiding her face. Jack insisted on having them laid across his knee She
was not a fairy out of a play, as he knew by her conversation.

"Mister, did you yell when you was hit?" she asked.

Jack considered thoughtfully. It would not do to be vagarious under such
a shrewd examination; he must be exact.

"No, I don't think I did. I was too busy."

"I'll bet you wanted to, if you hadn't been so busy. Did it hurt much?"

"Not so very much."

"Maybe that was why you didn't yell. Mother says that all you can see is
a little black spot--except you can't see it for the bandages. Is that
the way yours is?"

"I believe so. In fact, I'll tell you a secret: That's the fashion
in wounds."

"Mother will be glad to know she's right. She sets a lot by her opinion,
does mother. Say, do you like plums?"

Jack already had a peck of plums, but another peck would not add much to
the redundancy as far as he was concerned.

"I'll bring you some. We've got the biggest plums in Little Rivers--oh,
so big! Bigger'n Mr. Ewold's! I'll bring some right away." She paused,
however, in the doorway. "Don't you tell anybody I said they were
bigger'n Mr. Ewold's," she went on. "It might hurt his feelings. He's
what they call the o-rig-i-nal set-tler, and we always agree that he
grows the biggest of everything, because--why, because he's got such a
big laugh and such a big smile. Mother says sour-faced people oughtn't to
have a face any bigger'n a crab apple; but Mr. Ewold's face couldn't be
too big if it was as big as all outdoors! Good-by. I reckon you won't be
s'prised to hear that I'm the dreadful talker of our family."

"Wait!" Jack called. "You haven't told me your name."

"Belvedere Smith. Father says it ain't a name for living things. But
mother is dreadfully set in her ideas of names, and she doesn't like it
because people call me Belvy; but they just naturally will."

"Belvedere, did you ever hear of the three little blue mice"--Jack was
leaning toward her with an air of fascinating mystery--"that thought they
could hide in the white clover from the white cat that had two black
stripes on her back?"

There was a pellmell dash across the room and her face, with wide-open
eyes dancing in curiosity, was pressed close to his:

"Why did the cat have two black stripes? Why? why?"

"Just what I was going to tell," said the pacifier of desperadoes.

"They were off on a tremendous adventure, with anthills for mountains
and clover-stems for the tree-trunks of forests in the path. Tragedy
seemed due for the mice, when a bee dropped off a thistle blossom for a
remarkable reason--none other than that a hummingbird cuffed him in the
ear with his wing--and the bee, looking for revenge with his stinger on
the first vulnerable spot, stung the cat right in the Achilles tendon of
his paw, just as that paw was about to descend with murderous purpose.
The cat ran away crying, with both black stripes ridges of fur sticking
up straight, while the rest of the fur lay nice and smooth; and the
mice giggled so that their ears nearly wiggled off their heads. So all
ended happily."

"He does beat all!" thought Mrs. Galway, who had overheard part of the
nonsense from the doorway. "Wouldn't it make Pete Leddy mad if he could
hear the man who took his gun away getting off fairy stuff like that!"

Mrs. Galway had brought in a cake of her own baking. She was
slightly jealous of the neighbors' pastry as entering into her own
particular field of excellence. Jack saw that the supply of cake in
the Galway pantry must be as limitless as the pigments on the
Eternal Painter's palette.

"The doctor said that I was to have a light diet," he expostulated; "and
I am stuffed to the brim."

"I'll make you some floating island," said Mrs. Galway, refusing to
strike her colors.

"That isn't filling and passes the time," Jack admitted.

"Jim says if you had to Fletcherize on floating island you would starve
to death and your teeth would get so used to missing a step on the stairs
that they would never be able to deal with real victuals at all."

"Mrs. Galway," Jack observed sagely, dropping his head on the back of the
chair, "I see that it has occurred to you and Jim that it is an excellent
world and full of excellent nonsense. I am ready to eat both fluffy isles
and the yellow sea in which they float. I am ready to keep on getting
hungry with my efforts, even though you make it continents and oceans!"

From his window he had a view, over the dark, polished green of Jim's
orange trees, of the range, brown and gray and bare, holding steady
shadows of its own and host to the shadows of journeying clouds, with the
pass set in the centre as a cleft in a forbidding barrier. In the yard
Wrath of God, Jag Ear, and P.D. were tethered. Deep content illumined the
faces of P.D. and Jag Ear; but Wrath of God was as sorrowful as ever. A
cheerful Wrath of God would have excited fears for his health.

"Yet, maybe he is enjoying his rest more than the others," Jack told
Firio, who kept appearing at the window on some excuse or other. "Perhaps
he takes his happiness internally. Perhaps the external signs are only
the last stand of a lugubriousness driven out by overwhelming forces of
internal joy."

"_Si, si_!" said Firio.

"Firio, you are eminently a conversationalist," said Jack. "You agree
with any foolishness as if it were a new theory of ethics. You are an
ideal companion. I never have to listen to you in order that I may in
turn have my say."

"_Si_," said Firio. He leaned on the windowsill, his black eyes shining
with ingenuous and flattering appeal: "I will broil you a quail on a
spit," he whispered. "It's better than stove cooking."

"Don't talk of that!" Jack exclaimed, almost sharply. The suggestion
brought a swift change to sadness over his face and drew a veil of
vagueness over his eyes. "No, Firio, and I'll tell you why: the odor of a
quail broiled on a spit belongs at the end of a day's journey, when you
camp in sight of no habitation. You should sit on a dusty blanket-roll;
you should eat by the light of the embers or a guttering candle. No,
Firio, we'll wait till some other day. And it's not exactly courtesy to
our hostess to bring in provender from the outside."

The trail had apparently taught Firio all the moods of his master. He
knew when it was unwise to persist.

"_Si_!" he whispered, and withdrew.

Jack looked at Galeria and then back quickly, as if resisting its call.
He smiled half wryly and readjusted his position in the chair. Over the
hedge he could see the heads and shoulders of passers-by. Jim Galway had
come into the room, when Jasper Ewold's broad back and great head hove
in sight with something of the steady majesty of progress of a
full-rigged ship.

"The Doge!" Jack exclaimed, brightening.

Jim was taken unawares. Was it the name of a new kind of semi-tropical
fruit not yet introduced into Arizona?

"Not the Doge of Venice--hardly, when Mr. Ewold's love runs to Florence!
The Doge of Little Rivers!"

"Why, the Doge--of course!" Jim was "on" now and grinning. "I didn't
think of my history at first. That's a good one for Jasper Ewold!"

"O Doge of Little Rivers, I expected you in a gondola of state!" said
Jack, with a playfully grandiloquent gesture, as Jasper's abundance
filled the doorway. "But it is all the more compliment to me that you
should walk."

"Doge, eh?" Jasper tasted the word. "Pooh!" he said. "Persiflage!
persiflage! I saw at once yesterday that you had a weakness for it."

"And Miss Ewold? How is she?" Jack asked. Remembering the promise
that Mary had exacted from him, he took care not to refer to her part
in the duel.

His question fell aptly for what Jasper had to say. Being a man used to
keeping the gate ever open to the full flood of spontaneity, he became
stilted in the repetition of anything he had thought out and rehearsed.
He was overcheerful, without the mellowness of tone which gave his cheer
its charm on the previous evening.

"She's not a bit the worse. Why, she went for a ride out to the pass this
afternoon as usual! I've had the whole story, from the pass till the
minute that Jim put the tourniquet on your leg. She recognizes the great
kindness you did her."

"Not a kindness--an inevitable interruption by any passer-by,"
Jack put in.

"Naturally she felt that it was a kindness, a service, and when she knew
you were in danger she acted promptly for herself, with a desert girl's
self-reliance. When it was all over she saw the whole thing in its proper
perspective, as an unpleasant, preposterous piece of barbarism which had
turned out fortunately."

"Oh, I am glad of that!" Jack exclaimed, in relief that spoke rejoicing
in every fibre. "I had worried. I had feared lest I had insisted too much
on going on. But I had to. And I know that it was a scene that only men
ought to witness--so horrible I feared it might leave a disagreeable

"Ah, Mary has courage and humor. She sees the ridiculous. She laughs at
it all, now!"

"Laughs?" asked Jack. "Yes, it was laughable;" and he broke into
laughter, in which Jasper joined thunderously.

Jasper kept on laughing after Jack stopped, and in genuine relief to find
that the affair was to be as uninfluencing a chapter in the easy
traveller's life as in Mary's.

"Our regret is that we may have delayed you, sir," Jasper proceeded. "You
may have had to postpone an important engagement. I understand that you
had planned to take the train this morning."

"When one has been in the desert for a long time," Jack answered, "a few
days more or less hardly matter in the time of his departure. In a week
Dr. Patterson says that I may go. Meanwhile, I shall have the pleasure
of getting acquainted with Little Rivers, which, otherwise, I should
have missed."

"I am glad!" Jasper Ewold exclaimed with dramatic quickness. "Glad that
your wound is so slight--glad that you need not be shut up long when you
are due elsewhere."

What books should he bring to the invalid to while away the time? "The
Three Musketeers" or "Cyrano"? Jack seemed to know his "Cyrano" so well
that a copy could be only a prompt. He settled deeper in his chair and,
more to the sky than to Jasper Ewold, repeated Cyrano's address to his
cadets, set to a tune of his own. His body might be in the chair, with a
bandaged leg, but clearly his mind was away on the trail.

"Yes, let me see," he said, coming back to earth. "I should like the
'Road to Rome,' something of Charles Lamb, Aldrich's 'Story of a Bad
Boy,' Heine---but no! What am I saying? Bring me any solid book on
economics. I ought to be reading economics. Economics and Charles Lamb,
that will do. Do you think they could travel together?"

"All printed things can, if you choose. I'll include Lamb."

"And any Daudet lying loose," Jack added.

"And Omar?"

"I carry Omar in my head, thank you, O Doge!"

"Sir Chaps of the enormous spurs, you have a broad taste for one who
rides over the pass of Galeria after five years in Arizona," said the
Doge as he rose. He was covertly surveying that soft, winning, dreamy
profile which had turned so hard when the devil that was within came to
the surface.

"I was fed on books and galleries in my boyhood," Jack said; but
with a reticence that indicated that this was all he cared to tell
about his past.



Every resident except the cronies of Pete Leddy considered it a duty,
once a day at least, to look over the Galway hedge and ask how Senor
Don't Care was doing. That is, everyone with a single exception, which
was Mary. Jack had never seen her even pass the house. It was as if his
very existence had dropped out of her ken. The town remarked the anomaly.

"You have not been in lately," Mrs. Galway reminded her.

"My flowers have required a lot of attention; also, I have been riding
out to the pass a good deal," she answered, and changed the subject to
geraniums, for the very good reason that she had just been weeding her
geranium bed.

Mrs. Galway looked at her strangely and Mary caught the glance. She
guessed what Mrs. Galway was thinking: that she had been a little
inconsiderate of a man who had been wounded in her service.

"Probably it is time I bore tribute, too," she said to herself.

That afternoon she took down a glass of jelly from the pantry shelves and
set forth in the line of duty, frowning and rehearsing a presentation
speech as she went. With every step toward the Galway cottage she was
increasingly confused and exasperated with herself for even thinking of a
speech. As she drew near she heard a treble chorus of "ohs!" and "ahs!"
and saw Jack on the porch surrounded by children.

"It's dinosaur foolishness again!" she thought, pungently.

He was in the full fettle of nonsense, his head a little to one side and
lowered, while he looked through his eyebrows at his hearers, measuring
the effect of his words. She thought of that face when he called to
Leddy, "I am going to kill you!" and felt the pulse of inquiry beat over
all that lay in this man's repertory between the two moods.

"Then, counting each one in his big, deep, bass voice, like this," he was
saying, "that funny little dwarf kept dropping oranges out of the tree on
the big giant, who could not wiggle and was squeaking in protest in his
little, old woman's voice. Every orange hit him right on the bridge of
his nose, and he was saying: 'You know I never could bear yellow! It
fusses me so.'"

"He doesn't need any jelly! I am going on!" Mary thought.

Then Jack saw a slim, pliant form hastening by and a brown profile under
hair bare of a hat, with eyes straight ahead. Mary might have been a unit
of marching infantry. The story stopped abruptly.

"Yes--and--and--go on!" cried the children.

Jack held up his hand for silence.

"How do you do?" he called, and she caught in his tone and in her first
glimpse of his face a certain mischievousness, as if he, who missed no
points for idle enjoyment of any situation, had a satisfaction in taking
her by surprise with his greeting. This put her on her mettle with the
quickness of a summons to fence. She was as nonchalant as he.

"And you are doing well, I learn," she answered.

"Oh, come in and hear it, Miss Ewold! It's the best one yet!" cried
Belvedere Smith. "And--and--"

"And--and--" began the chorus.

Mary went to the hedge. She dropped the glass of jelly on the thick
carpet of the privet.

"I have just brought my gift. I'll leave it here. Belvy will bring it
when the story is over. I am glad you are recovering so rapidly."

"And--and--" insisted the chorus.

"You oughtn't to miss this story. It's a regular Jim dandy!"
Belvedere shouted.

"Yes, won't you come in?" Jack begged in serious urgency. "I pride
myself that it is almost intellectual toward the close."

"I have no doubt," she said, looking fairly at him from under her hand,
which she held up to shade her face, so he saw only the snap of her eyes
in the shadow. "But I am in a hurry."

And he was looking at a shoulder and a quarter profile as she
turned away.

"Did you make the jelly yourself?" he called.

"Yes, I am not afraid of the truth--I did!" she answered with a backward
glance and not stopping.

"Oh, bully!" he exclaimed with great enthusiasm, in which she detected a
strain of what she classified as impudence.

"But all the time the giant was fumbling in his pocket for his green
handkerchief. You know the dwarf did not like green. It fussed him just
as much as yellow fussed the giant. But it was a narrow pocket, so narrow
that he could only get his big thumb in, and very deep. So, you see--"
and she heard the tale proceeding as she walked on to the end of the
street, where she turned around and came back across the desert and
through the garden.

On the way she found it amusing to consider Jack judicially as a human
exhibit, stripped of all the chimera of romance with which Little Rivers
had clothed his personality. If he had not happened to meet her on the
pass, the townspeople would have regarded this stranger as an invasion of
real life by a character out of a comic opera. She viewed the specimen
under a magnifying glass in all angles, turning it around as if it were a
bronze or an ivory statuette.

1. In his favor: Firstly, children were fond of him; but his extravagance
of phrase and love of applause accounted for that. Secondly, Firio was
devoted to him. Such worshipful attachment on the part of a native Indian
to any Saxon was remarkable. Yet this was explained by his love of color,
his foible for the picturesque, his vagabond irresponsibility, and,
mostly, by his latent savagery--which she would hardly have been willing
to apply to Ignacio's worshipful attachment to herself.

2. Against him: Everything of any importance, except in the eyes of
children and savages; everything in logic. He would not stand analysis at
all. He was without definite character. He was posing, affected, pleased
with himself, superficial, and theatrical, and interested in people only
so long as they amused him or gratified his personal vanity.

"I had the best of the argument in leaving the jelly on the hedge, and
that is the last I shall hear of it," she concluded.

Not so. Mrs. Galway came that evening, a bearer of messages.

"He says it is the most wonderful jelly that ever was," said Mrs. Galway.
"He ate half the glass for dinner and is saving the rest for
breakfast--I'm using his own words and you know what a killing way he has
of putting things--saving it for breakfast so that he will have something
to live through the night for and in the morning the joy of it will not
be all a memory. He wants to know if you have any more of the same kind."

"Yes, a dozen glasses," Mary returned. "Tell him we are glad of the
opportunity of finishing last year's stock, and I send it provided he
eats half a glass with every meal."

"I don't know what his answer will be to that," said Mrs. Galway,
contracting her brow studiously at Mary. "But he would have one quick. He
always has. He's so poetic and all that, we're planning to go to the
station to see him off and pelt him with flowers; and Dr. Patterson is
going to fashion a white cat out of white carnations, with deep red ones
for the black stripes, for the children to present."

"Hurrah!" exclaimed Mary blithely, and went for the jelly.

She was spared further bulletins on the state of health of the wounded
until her father returned from his daily call the next morning. She was
in the living-room and she knew by his step on the porch, vigorous yet
light, that he was uplifted by good news or by the anticipation of the
exploitation of some new idea--a pleasure second only to that of the
idea's birth. Such was his elation that he broke one of his own rules by
tossing some of the books loaned to Jack onto the broad top of the table
of the living-room, which was sacred to the isolation of the ivory

"He has named the date!" shouted the Doge. "He goes by to-morrow's train!
It will be a gala affair, almost an historical moment in the early
history of this community. I am to make a speech presenting him with the
freedom of the whole world. Between us we have hit on a proper modern
symbol of the gift. He slips me his Pullman ticket and I formally offer
it to him as the key to the hospitality of the seven seas, the two
hemispheres, and the teeming cities that lie beyond the range. It will be
great fun, with plenty of persiflage. And, Mary, they suggest that you
write some verses--ridiculous verses, in keeping with the whole
nonsensical business."

"You mean that I am to stand on the platform and read poetry dedicated to
him?" she demanded.

"Poetry, Mary? You grow ambitious. Not poetry--foolish doggerel. Or
someone will read it for you."

He had not failed to watch the play of her expression. She had received
all his nonsense, announced in his best style of simulated forensic
grandeur, with a certain unchanging serenity which was unamused: which
was, indeed, barely interested.

"And someone else shall write it, for I don't think of any verses,"
she said, with a slight shrug of the shoulder. "Besides, I shall not
be there."

"Not be there! People will remark your absence!"

"Will they?" she asked, thoughtfully, as if that had not occurred to her.
"No, they will be too occupied with the persiflage. I am going to ride
out to the pass in the morning very early--before daybreak."

"But"--he was positively frolicsome as he caught her hands and waved
them back and forth, while he rocked his shoulders--"when you are
stubborn, Mary, have your way. I will make your excuses. And I to work
now. It is the hour of the hoe," as he called all hours except those of
darkness and the hot midday.

For Jasper Ewold was no idler in the affairs of his ranch or of the town.
Few city men were so busy. His everlasting talk was incidental, like the
babbling of a brook which, however, keeps steadily flowing on; and the
stored scholarship of his mind was supplemented by long evenings with no
other relaxation but reading. Now as he went down the path he broke into
song; and when the Doge sang it was something awful, excusable only by
the sheer happiness that brought on the attack.

Mary had important sewing, which this morning she chose to do in her room
rather than in her favorite spot in the garden. She closed the shutters
on the sunny side and sat down by the window nearest the garden,
peculiarly sensible of the soft light and cool spaciousness of an inner
world. The occasional buzz of a bee, the flutter of the leaves of the
poplar, might have been the voice of the outer world in Southern Spain or
Southern Italy, or anywhere else where the air is balmy.

And to-morrow! Out to Galeria in the fervor of a pilgrim to some shrine,
with the easy movement of her pony and the rigid lines of the pass
gradually drawing nearer and the sky ever distant! She would be mistress
of her thoughts in all the silent glamour of morning on the desert. She
would hear the train stop at the station, its heavy effort as it pulled
out, and watch it winding over the flashing steel threads in a clamor of
stridency and harshness, which grew fainter and fainter. And she would
smile as it disappeared around a bend in the range. She would smile at
him, at the incident, just as carelessly as he had smiled when he told of
the dinosaur.



The sun became benign in its afternoon slant. Little Rivers was beginning
to move after its siesta, with the stretching of muscles that would grow
more vigorous as evening approached and freshened life came into the air
with the sprinkle of sunset brilliance.

To Jack the hour palpably brought a reminder of the misery of the moment
when a thing long postponed must at last be performed. The softness of
speculative fancy faded from his face. His lips tightened in a way that
seemed to bring his chin into prominence in mastery of his being. As he
called Firio, his voice unusually high-pitched, he did not look out at
P.D. and Wrath of God and Jag Ear.

Firio came with the eagerness of one who is restless for action. He
leaned on the windowsill, his elbows spread, his chin cupped in his
hands, his Indian blankness of countenance enlivened by the glow of his
eyes, as jewels enliven dull brown velvet.

"Firio, I have something to tell you."


There was a laboring of Jack's throat muscles, and then he forced out the
truth in a few words.

"Firio," he said, "this is my trail end. I am going back to New York

"_Si_!" answered Firio, without a tremor of emotion; but his eyes glowed
confidently, fixedly, into Jack's.

"There will be money for you, and--"

"_Si_!" said Firio mechanically, as if repeating the lines of a lesson.

Was this Indian boy prepared for the news? Or did he not care? Was he
simply clay that served without feeling? The thought made Jack wince. He
paused, and the dark eyes, as in a spell, kept staring into his.

"And you get P.D. and Wrath of God and Jag Ear and, yes, the big spurs
and the chaps, too, to keep to remember me by."

Firio did not answer.

"You are not pleased? You--"

"_Si_! I will keep them for you. You will want them; you will come back
to all this;" and suddenly Firio was galvanized into the life of a single
gesture. He swept his arm toward the sky, indicating infinite distance.

"No, I shall never come back! I can't!" Jack said; and his face had set
hard, as if it were a wall about to be driven at a wall. "I must go and I
must stay."

"_Si_!" said Firio, resuming his impassiveness, and slipped around the
corner of the house.

"He does care!" Jack cried with a smile, which, however, was not the
smile of gardens, of running brooks, and of song. "I am glad--glad!"

He picked up his crutches and went out to the three steeds of
trail memory:

"And _you_ care--_you_ care!" he repeated to them.

He drew a lugubrious grimace in mockery at Wrath of God. He tickled the
sliver of the donkey's ear, whereat Jag Ear wiggled the sliver in
blissful unconsciousness that he had lost any of the ornamental equipment
of his tribe.

"You are like most of us; we don't see our deformities, Jag Ear," Jack
told him. "And if others were also blind to them, why, we should all be

His arm slipped around P.D.'s neck and he ran a finger up and down P.D.'s
nose with a tickling caress.

"You old plodder!" he said. "You know a lot. It's good to have the love
of any living thing that has been near me as long as you have."

This preposterous being was preposterously sentimental over a pair of
ponies and an earless donkey. When Mrs. Galway, who had watched him from
the window, came out on the porch she saw that he was on his way through
the gate in the hedge to the street.

"Look here! Did the doctor say you might?" she called.

"No, my leg says it!" Jack answered, gaily. "Just a little walk!
Back soon."

It was his first enterprise in locomotion outside the limits of Jim
Galway's yard since he had been wounded. He turned blissful traveller
again. Having come to know the faces of the citizens, now he was to look
into the faces of their habitations. The broad main street, with its rows
of trees, narrowed with perspective until it became a gray spot of desert
sand. Under the trees leisurely flowed those arteries of ranch and
garden-life, the irrigation ditches. Continuity of line in the
hedge-fences was evidently a municipal requirement; but over the hedges
individualism expressed itself freely, yet with a harmony which had been
set by public fashion.

The houses were of cement in simple design. They had no architectural
message except that of a background for ornamentation by the genius of
the soil's productivity. They waited on vines to cover their sides and
trees to cast shade across their doorways. One need not remain long to
know the old families in this community, where the criterion of local
aristocracy was the size of your plums or the number of crops of alfalfa
you could grow in a year.

Already Jack felt at home. It was as if he were friends with a whole
world, lacking the social distinctions which only begin when someone
acquires sufficient worldly possessions to give exclusive, formal
dinners. He knew every passer-by well enough to address him or her by the
Christian name. Women called to him from porches with a dozen invitations
to visit gardens.

"Just a saunter, just a try-out before I take the train. Not going far,"
he always answered; yet there was something in his bearing that suggested
a definite mission.

"We hate to lose you!" called Mrs. Smith.

"I hate to be lost!" Jack called back; "but that is just my
natural luck."

"I suppose you've got your work cut out for you back East, same's
everybody else, somewhere or other, 'less they're millionaires, who all
stay in the city and try to run from microbes in their automobiles."

"Yes, I have work--lots of it," said Jack, ruefully. He shifted his
weight on the crutches, paused and looked at the sky. The Eternal Painter
was dipping his brush lightly and sweeping soft, silvery films, as a kind
of glorified finger-exercise, over an intangible blue.

"Why care? Why care?" His Majesty was asking. "Why not leave all the
problems of earthly existence to your lungs? Why not lie back and look on
at things and breathe my air? That is enough to keep your whole being in
tune with the Infinite."

It was his afternoon mood. At sunset he would have another. Then he would
be crying out against the folly of wasting one precious moment in the
eons, because that moment could never return to be lived over.

Jack kept on until he recognized the cement bridge where he had stopped
when he came from the post-office with Mary. Left bare of its
surroundings, the first habitation in Little Rivers, with the ell which
had been added later, would have appeared a barracks. But Jasper Ewold
had the oldest trees and the most luxuriant hedge and vines as the reward
of his pioneerdom.

When Jack crossed the bridge and stood in the opening of the hedge there
was no one on the porch in the inviting shade of the prodigal
bougainvillea vines. So he hitched his way up the steps. Feeling that it
was a formal occasion, he searched for the door-bell. There was none. He
rapped on the casing and waited, while he looked at the cool, quiet
interior, with the portrait of David facing him from the wall.

"David, you seem to be the only one at home," he remarked, for there had
been no answer to his raps; "and you are too busy getting a bead on
Goliath to answer the immaterial questions of a wayfarer."

Accepting the freedom of the Little Rivers custom on such occasions, he
followed the path to the rear. His head knocked off the dead petals of a
rambler rose blossom, scattering them at his feet. Rounding the corner of
the house, he saw the arbor where he had dined the night of his arrival,
and beyond this an old-fashioned flower garden separated by a path from
a garden of roses. There was a sound of activity from the kitchen behind
a trellis screen, but he did not call out for guidance. He would trust to
finding his own way.

When he came to the broad path, its stretch lay under a crochet-work of
shadows from the ragged leaves of two rows of palms which ran to the edge
of an orange grove, and the centre of this path was in a straight line
with the bottom of the V of Galeria.

Jasper Ewold had laid out his little domain according to a set plan
before the water was first let go in laughing triumph over the parched
earth, and this plan, as one might see on every hand, was expressive of
the training of older civilizations in landscape gardening, which ages of
men striving for harmonious forms of beauty in green and growing things
had tested, and which the Doge, in all his unconventionalism of
personality, was as little inclined to amend as he was to amend the
classic authors. An avenue of palms is the epic of the desert; a
bougainvillea vine its sonnet.

Between the palms to the right and left Jack had glimpses of a vegetable
garden; of rows of berry bushes; of a grove of young fig-trees; of rows
of the sword-bundles of pineapple tops. Everything except the
old-fashioned flower-bed, with its border of mignonette, and the generous
beds of roses and other flowers of the bountiful sisterhood of petals of
artificial cultivation, spoke of utility which must make the ground pay
as well as please.

Jack took each step as if he were apprehensive of disturbing the quiet
Midway of the avenue of palms ran a cross avenue, and at the
meeting-point was a circle, which evidently waited till the oranges and
the olives should pay for a statue and surrounding benches. Over the
breadth of the cross avenue lay the glossy canopy of the outstretched
branches of umbrella-trees. A table of roughly planed boards painted
green and green rattan chairs were in keeping with the restful effect,
while the world without was aglare with light.

Here Mary had brought her sewing for the afternoon. She was working so
intently that she had not heard his approach. He had paused just as his
line of vision came flush with the trunks of the umbrella-trees. For the
first time he saw his companion in adventure in repose, her head bent,
leaving clear the line of her neck from the roots of her hair to the
collar, and the soft light bringing out the delicate brown of her skin.

There seemed no movement anywhere in the world at the moment, except the
flash of her needle in and out.



And she had not seen him! He was touched with a sense of guilt for
having looked so long; for not having at once called to her; and rather
than give her the shock of calling now, he moved toward her, the scuff
of his limp, pendent foot attracting her attention. Her start at the
sound was followed, when she saw him, with amazement and a flush and a
movement as if she would rise. But she controlled the movement, if not
the flush, and fell back into her chair, picking up her sewing, which
had dropped on the table.

It was like him, she might well think, to come unexpectedly, without
invitation or announcement. She was alert, ready to take the offensive as
the best means of defence, and wishing, in devout futility, that he had
stayed away. He was smiling happily at everything in cosmos and at her as
a part of it.

"Good afternoon!"

"Good afternoon!"

"That last lot of jelly was better than the first," he said softly.

"Was it? You must favor vintage jelly!"

"I came to call--my p.p.c. call--and to see your garden," he added.

"Is there any particular feature that interests you?" she asked. "The
date-trees? The aviary? The nursery?"

"No," he answered, "not just yet. It is very cool here under the
umbrella-trees, isn't it? I have walked all the way from the Galways and
I'll rest a while, if I may."

He was no longer the play cavalier in overornamented _chaparejos_ and
cart-wheel spurs, but a lame fellow in overalls, who was hitching toward
her on crutches, his cowpuncher hat held by the brim and flopping with
every step. But he wore the silk shirt and the string tie, and somehow he
made even the overalls seem "dressy."

"Pray sit down," she said politely.

Standing his crutches against the table, he accepted the invitation. She
resumed her sewing, eyes on the needle, lips pressed into a straight line
and head bending low. He might have been a stranger on a bench in a
public park for all the attention she was paying to him. She realized
that she was rude and took satisfaction in it as the only way of
expressing her determination not to reopen a closed incident.

"It's wonderful--wonderful!" he observed, in a voice of contemplative

"What is?" she asked.

"Why, how fast you sew!"

"Yes?" she said, as automatically as she stitched. "Your wound is quite
all right? No danger of infection?"

"I don't blame you!" he burst out. His tone had turned sad and urgent.

She looked up quickly, with the flare of a frown. His remark had brought
her out of her pose and she became vivid and real.

"Blame me!" she demanded, sharply, as one who flies to arms.

But she met a new phase--neither banter, nor fancy, nor unvarying
coolness in the face of fire. He was all contrition and apology. Must she
be the audience to some fresh exhibition of his versatility?

"I do not blame you for feeling the way that you do," he said.

"How do you know how I feel?" she asked; and as far as he could see into
her eyes there was nothing but the flash of sword-points.

"I don't. I only know how I think you feel--how you might well feel," he
answered delicately. "After Pete let his gun drop in the store I should
not have named terms for an encounter. I should have turned to the law
for protection for the few hours that I had to remain in town."

"But to you that would have been avoiding battle!" she exclaimed.

"Which may take courage," he rejoined. "What I did was selfish. It was
bravado, with no thought of your position."

"It is late to worry about that now. What does it matter? I did not want
anyone killed on my account, and no one was," she insisted. "Besides, you
should not be blue," this with a ripple of satire; "it is not quite all
bravado to face Pete Leddy's gun at twenty yards."

"And it is not courage. Courage is a force of will driving you into
danger for some high purpose. I want you to realize that I am not such a
barbarian that I do not know that I could have kept you out of it all if
I had had proper self-control. Though probably, on the impulse, I would
do the fool thing over again! Yes, that's the worst of it!"

"There is a devil in him!" Ignacio's words were sounding in her ears. To
how many men had he said, "I am going to kill you?" What other quarrels
had he known in his wanderings from Colorado to Chihuahua?

"If you really want my opinion, I am glad, so far as I am concerned, that
you did fight," she said lightly. "Aren't you a hero? Isn't the town free
of Leddy? And you take the train in the morning!"


The monosyllable was drawn out rather faintly. For the first time since
they had met on the pass she felt she was mistress of the situation.
This time she had not to plead with him in fear for his life. She could
regard him without any sense of obligation, this invader of her garden
retreat who had to put in one more afternoon in a dull desert town
before he was away to that outside world which she might know only
through books and memory.

She rose exultantly, disregarding any formality that she would owe to the
average guest; for an average guest he was not. Her attitude meant that
she was having the last word; that she was showing her mettle.

He did not rise. He was staring into the sunlight, as if it were darkness
alive with flitting spectres which baffled identification.

"Yes, back--back to armies of Leddys!" he said slowly.

But this she saw as still another pose. It did not make her pause in
gathering up her sewing. She was convinced that there was nothing more
for her to say, except to give their parting an appearance of ease and

"Is it work you mean? You are not used to that, I take it?" she inquired
a little sarcastically.

"Yes, call it work," he answered, looking away from the spectres and
back to her.

"And you have never done any work!" she added.

"Not much," he admitted, with his old, airy carelessness. He was smiling
at the spectres now, as he had at the dinosaur.

"As there is nothing particular about the garden that I can show you--"
she was moving away.

"No, I will be walking back to the house," he said after she had taken a
few steps. "Will you wait on my slow pace?"

He reached for his crutches, lifted himself to his feet and swung to
her side. She who wished that the interview were over saw that it must
be prolonged. Then suddenly she realized the weakness as well as the
brusqueness of her attitude. She had been about to fly from him as
from something that she feared. It was not necessary. It was foolish,
even cowardly.

"I thought perhaps you preferred to be alone, you seemed so abstracted,"
she said, lamely; and then, as they came out into the sunlight in the
circle, she began talking of the garden as she would to any visitor; of
its beginnings, its growth, and its future, when her father's plans
should have been fulfilled.

"And in all these years you have never been back East?" he asked.

"No. We are always planning a trip, but the money which we save for it
goes into more plantings."

They had been moving slowly toward the house, but now he stopped and his
glance swept the sky and rested on Galeria.

"It is the best valley of all! I knew it as soon as I saw it from the
pass!" and the rapture of the scene was sounding in every syllable like
chimes out of the distance. She knew that he was far away from the
garden, and delaying, still delaying. If she spoke she felt that he would
not hear what she said. If she went on it seemed certain that she would
leave him standing there like a statue.

"And there is more land here to make gardens like this?" he asked
slowly, absorbed.

"Yes, with water and labor and time."

Though his face was in the full light of the sun, it seemed at times in
shadow; then it glowed, as if between two passions. For an instant it was
grim, the chin coming forward, the brows contracting; then it was
transformed with something that was as a complete surrender to the
transport of irresistible temptation. He looked down at her quickly and
she saw him in the mood of story-telling to the children, suffused with
the radiance of a decision.

"I prefer the Leddys of Little Rivers to the Leddys of New York," he
said. "I am not going to-morrow! I am going to have land and a home under
the aegis of the Eternal Painter and in sight of Galeria, and worship at
the shrine of fecund peace. Will you and the Doge help me?" he asked with
an enthusiasm that was infectious. "May I go to his school of
agriculture, horticulture, and floriculture?"

Dumfounded, she bent her head and stared at the ground to hide her

"You want citizens, industrious young citizens, don't you?" he persisted.

"Yes, yes!" she said hastily and confusedly.

"Do you know a good piece of land?" he continued.

"Yes, several parcels," she answered, recovering her poise and smiling
in mockery.

"Come on!" he cried.

He was taking long, jumping steps on his crutches as they went up the

"You will take me to look at the land, won't you, please--now? I want to
get acquainted with my future estate. I mean to beat the Smiths at plums,
Jim Galway at alfalfa, even rival Bob Worther at pumpkins and peonies.
And you will help me lay out the flower garden, won't you? You see, I
shall have to call in the experts in every line to start with, before I
begin to improve on them and make them all jealous. I may find a kind of
plum that will grow on alfalfa stalks," he hazarded. "What a
horticultural sensation!"

"And a spineless cactus called the Leddy!"

His eyes were laughing into hers and hers irresistibly laughed back. She
guessed that he was only joking. He had acted so well in the latest role
that she had actually believed in his sincerity for a moment. He meant to
take the train, of course, but his resourceful capriciousness had
supplied him with a less awkward exit from the garden than she had
provided. He would yet have the last word if she did not watch out--a
last mischievous word at her expense.

"First, you will have to plow the ground, in the broiling hot sun," she
said tauntingly, when they had passed around to the porch. She was
starting into the house with nervous, precipitate triumph. The last word
was hers, after all.

"But you are going to show me the land now!"

His tone was so serious and so hurt that she paused.

"And"--with the seriousness electrified by a glance that sought for
mutual understanding--"and we are to forget about that duel and the whole
hero-desperado business. I am a prospective settler who just arrived this
afternoon. I came direct to headquarters to inquire about property. The
Doge not being at home, won't you show me around?"

Again he had said the right thing at the right time, with a delightful
impersonality precluding sentiment.

"I couldn't be unaccommodating," she admitted. "It is against all Little
Rivers ethics."

"I feel like a butterfly about to come out of his miserable chrysalis!
Haven't you a walking-stick? I am going to shed the crutches!"

She became femininely solicitous at once.

"Are you sure you ought? Did the doctor say you might? Is the
wound healed?"

"There isn't any wound!" he answered. "That is one of the things which we
are to forget."

She brought a stick and he laid the crutches on the porch.

He favored the lame leg, yet he kept up a clipping pace, talking the
while as fast as the Doge himself as they passed through one of the side
streets out onto the cactus-spotted, baking, cracked levels.

"This is it!" she said finally. "This is all that father and I had to
begin with."

"Enough!" he answered, and held out his hands, palms open. "With
callouses I will win luxuriance!"

She showed him the irrigation ditch from which he should draw his water;
she told him of the first steps; She painted all the difficulties in the
darkest colors, without once lessening the glow of his optimism. He was
so overwhelmingly, boyishly happy that she had to be happy with him in
making believe that he was about to be a real rancher. But he should not
have the sport all on his side. He must not think that she accepted this
latest departure of his imagination incarnated by his Thespian gift in
anything but his own spirit.

"You plowing! You spraying trees for the scale! You digging up weeds! You
stacking alfalfa! You settling down in one place as a unit of co-ordinate
industry! You earning bread by the sweat of your brow! You with
callouses!" Thus she laughed at him.

Very seriously he held out his hands and ran a finger around a palm and
across the finger-joints:

"That is where I shall get them," he said. "But not on the thumb. I
believe you get them on the thumb only by playing golf."

He asked about carpenters and laborers; he chose the site for his house;
he plotted the walks and orchards. She could not refuse her advice. Who
can about the planning of new houses and gardens? He had everything
quite settled except the land grant from the Doge when they started
back; while the sun, with the swift passage of time in such fascinating
diversion, had swung low in its ellipse. When they reached the main
street the Doge was on the porch passing his opinion on the Eternal
Painter's evening work.

"Some very remarkable purples to-night, I admit, Your Majesty, without
any intention of giving you too good an opinion of yourself; but
otherwise, you are not up to your mark. There must have been a downpour
in the rainy world on the other side of the Sierras that moistened your
pigments. Next thing we know you will be turning water-colorist!" he was
saying, when he heard Jack's voice.

"Here's a new settler!" Jack called. "I am going to stay in Little Rivers
and win all the prizes."

"You are joking!" gasped the Doge.

"Not joking," said Jack. "I want to close the bargain to-night."

"You bring color and adventure--yes! I did not expect the honor--the
town will be delighted! I am overwhelmed! Will you plow with Pete
Leddy's gun drawn by Wrath of God, sir, and harrow with your spurs drawn
by Jag Ear? Shall you make a specialty of olives? Do you dare to aspire
as high as dates?"

The Doge's speech had begun incoherently, but steadied into rallying
humor at the close.

"I haven't seen the date-tree yet," said Jack. "Not until I have can I
judge whether or not I shall dare to rival the lord of the manor in his
own specialty. And there are business details which I must settle with
you, O Doge of this city of slender canals!"

"O youth, will you tarry with peace between wars?" answered the Doge, in
quick response to the spirit of nonsense as a basis for their new
relations. "Come, and I will show you our noblest product of peace, the
Date-Tree Wonderful!" he said, leading the way to the garden, while Mary
hurried rather precipitately into the house.

Jasper Ewold was at his best, a glowing husbandman, when he pointed aloft
to the clusters of fruit pendent from the crotches of the stiff
branches, enclosed in cloth bags to keep them free of insects.

"Do you see strange lettering on the cloth?" he asked.

"Yes, it looks like Arabic."

"So it is! Among other futile diversions in a past incarnation I studied
Arabic a little, and I still have my lexicon. Perhaps my construction
might not please the grammarians of classic Bagdad, but the sentiment is
there safe enough in the language of the mother romance world of the
date: 'All hail, first-born of our Western desert fecundity!' It is
calling out to the pass and the range from the wastes where the
sagebrush has had its own way since the great stir that there was in the
world at genesis."

"With the unlimited authority I have in bestowing titles," said Jack, "I
have a mind to make you an Emir. But it's a pity that you haven't a camel
squatting under your date-tree and placidly chewing his cud."

"A tempting thought!" declared the Doge unctuously.

"Bob Worther could ride him on the tours of inspection. I think the
jounce would be almost as good a flesh-reducer as pedestrianism."

"There you go! You would have the camel wearing bells, with reins of red
leather and a purple saddle-cloth hung with spangles, and Bob--our
excellent Bob--in a turban! Persiflage, sir! A very demoralization of
the faculties with cataracts of verbiage, sir!" declared the Doge as he
started back to the house. "Little Rivers is a practical town," he
proceeded seriously. "We indulge in nonsense only after sunset and when a
stranger appears riding a horse with a profane name. Yes, a practical
town; and I am surprised at your disloyalty to your own burro by
mentioning camels."

"It rests with you, I believe, to let me have the land and also the
water," said Jack.

"We grow businesslike!" returned the Doge with a change of manner.

"Very!" declared Jack.

"The requirement is that you become a member of the water users'
association and pay your quota of taxes per acre foot; and the price you
pay for your land also goes to the association. But I decide on the
eligibility of the applicant."

They were in front of the house by this time, and again the Doge gave
Jack that sharp, quick, knowing glance of scrutiny through his heavy,
tufted eyebrows, before he proceeded:

"The concession for the use of the river for irrigation is mine,
administered by the water users' association as if it were theirs, under
the condition that no one who has not my approval can have membership.
That is, it is practically mine, owing to my arrangement with old Mr.
Lefferts, who lives upstream. He is an eccentric, a hermit. He came here
many years ago to get as far away from civilization as he could, I judge.
That gives him an underlying right. Originally he had two partners, squaw
men. Both are dead. He had made no improvements beyond drawing enough
water for a garden and for his horse and cow. When I came to make a
bargain with him he named an annual sum which should keep him for the
rest of his life; and thus he waived his rights. First, Jim Galway, then
other settlers drifted in. I formed the water users' association. All
taxes and sums for the sale of land go into keeping the dam and ditches
in condition."

"You take nothing for yourself!"

"A great deal. The working out of an idea--an idea in moulding a little
community in my old age in a fashion that pleases me; while my own
property, of course, increases in value. At my death the rights go to the
community. But no Utopia; Sir Chaps! Just hard-working, cheerful men and
women in a safe refuge!"

"And I am young!" exclaimed Jack, with a hopeful smile. "I have good
health. I mean to work. I try to be cheerful. Am I eligible?"

"Sir Chaps, you--you have done us a great favor. Everybody likes you. Sir
Chaps"--the Doge hesitated for an instant, with a baffling, unspoken
inquiry in his eyes--"Sir Chaps, I like your companionship and your
mastery of persiflage. Jim Galway, who is secretary of the association,
will look after details of the permit and Bob Worther will turn the water
on your land, and the whole town will assist you with advice! Luck, Sir
Chaps, in your new vocation!"

That evening, while the Doge took down the David and set a fragment from
the frieze of the Parthenon in its place, Little Rivers talked of the
delightful news that it was not to lose its strange story-teller and
duelist. Little Rivers was puzzled. Not once had Jack intimated a thought
of staying. By his own account, so far as he had given any, his wound had
merely delayed his departure to New York, where he had pressing business.
He had his reservation on the Pullman made for the morning express; he
had paid a farewell call at the Ewolds, and apparently then had changed
his mind and his career. These were the only clues to work on, except the
one suggested by Mrs. Galway, who was the wise woman of the community,
while Mrs. Smith was the propagandist.

"I guess he likes the way Mary Ewold snubs him!" said Mrs. Galway.

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