Part 3 out of 7
But there was one person in town who was not surprised at Jack's
decision. When Jack sang out as he entered the Galway yard on returning
from the Doge's, "We stay, Firio, we stay!" Firio said: "_Si_, Senor
Jack!" with no change of expression except a brighter gleam than usual in
his velvety eyes.
WHEN THE DESERT BLOOMS
Perhaps we may best describe this as a chapter of Incidents; or, to use a
simile, a broad, eddying bend in a river on a plateau, with cataracts and
canyons awaiting it on its route to the sea. Or, discarding the simile
and speaking in literal terms, in a search for a theme on which to hang
the incidents, we revert to Mary's raillery at the announcement of an
easy traveller that he was going to turn sober rancher.
"You plowing! You blistering your hands! You earning your bread by the
sweat of your brow!"
But there he was in blue overalls, sinking his spade deep for settings,
digging ditches and driving furrows through the virgin soil, while the
masons and carpenters built his ranch house.
"They are straight furrows, too!" Jack declared.
"Passably so!" answered Mary.
"And look at the blisters!" he continued, exhibiting his puffy palms.
"You seem to think blisters a remarkable human phenomenon, a sensational
novelty to a laboring population!"
"Now, would you advise pricking?" he asked, with deference to her
"It is so critical in your case that you ought to consult a doctor rather
than take lay advice."
"Jim Galway says that the thorough way, I mulched my soil before
putting in my first crop of alfalfa is a model for all future settlers,"
She remarked that Jim was always encouraging to new-comers, and remarked
this in a way that implied that some new-comers possibly needed hazing.
"And I am up at dawn and hard at it for six hours before midday."
"Yes, it is wonderful!" she admitted, with a mock show of being
overwhelmingly impressed. "Nobody in the world ever worked ten hours a
"I'm doing more than any man that I pay two-fifty. I do perspire, and if
you don't call that earning your bread with the sweat of your brow, why
this is an astoundingly illogical world!"
"There is a great difference between sporadic display and that continuity
which is the final proof of efficiency," she corrected him.
"Long, involved sentences often indicate the loss of an argument!"
"There isn't any argument!" said Mary with superior disinterestedness.
By common inspiration they had established a truce of nonsense. She still
called him Jack; he still called her Mary. It was the only point of tacit
admission that they had ever met before he asked her to show a
prospective settler a parcel of land.
Their new relations were as the house of cards of fellowship: cards of
glass, iridescent and brittle, mocking the idea that there could be
oblivion of the scene in Lang's store, the crack of Leddy's pistol in the
_arroyo_, or the pulse of Jack's artery under her thumb! She was sure
that he could forget these experiences, even if she could not. That was
his character, as she saw it, free of clinging roots of yesterday's
events, living some new part every day.
In the house of cards she set up a barrier, which he saw as a veil over
her eyes. Not once had he a glimpse of their depths. There was only the
surface gleam of sunbeams and sometimes of rapier-points, merry but
significant. She frequently rode out to the pass and occasionally, when
his day's work was done, he would ride to the foot of the range to meet
her, and as they came back he often sang, but never whistled. Indeed, he
had ceased to whistle altogether. Perhaps he regarded the omission as an
insurance against duels.
Aside from nonsense they had common interests in cultural and daily life,
from the Eternal Painter's brushwork to how to dress a salad. She did
extend her approval for the generous space which he was allowing for
flower-beds, and advised him in the practical construction of his
kitchen; while the Doge decorated the living-room with Delia Robbias,
which, however, never arrived at the express office. He was a neighbor
always at home in the Ewold house. The Doge revelled in their
disputations, yet never was really intimate or affectionate as he was
with Jim Galway, who knew not the Pitti, the Prado, nor the Louvre, and
could not understand the intoning of Dante in the original as Jack could,
thanks to his having been brought up in libraries and galleries.
The town, which was not supposed to ask about pasts, could not help
puzzling about his. What was the story of this teller of stories? The
secluded little community was in a poor way to find out, even if the
conscientious feeling about a custom had not been a restraint that kept
wonder free from inquiring hints. They took him for what he was in all
their personal relations; that was the delightful way of Little Rivers,
which inner curiosity might not alloy. His broader experience of that
world over the pass which stretched around the globe and back to the
other range-wall of the valley, seemed only to make him fall more easily
into the simple ways of the fellow-ranchers of the Doge's selection, who
were genuine, hall-marked people, whatever the origin from which the
individual sprang. He knew the fatigue of productive labor as something
far sweeter than the fatigue that comes from mere exercise, and the
neophyte's enthusiasm was his.
"I'm sitting at the outer edge of the circle," he told Jim Galway.
"But when my first crop is harvested I shall be on the inside--a
"You've already got one foot over the circle," said Jim.
"And with my first crop of dates I'll be in the holy of holies of
"Yes, I should say so!" Jim responded, but in a way that indicated
surprise at the thought of Jack's remaining in Little Rivers long enough
for such a consummation.
When his alfalfa covered the earth with a green carpet Jack was under a
spell of something more than the never-ending marvel of dry seeds
springing into succulent abundance without the waving of any magic wand.
"I made it out of the desert!" he cried. "It laughs in triumph at the
bare stretches around it, waiting on water!"
"That is it," said Jim; "waiting on water!"
"The promise of what might come!"
"It will come! Some day, Jack, you and I will ride up into the river
canyon and I will show you a place where you can see the blue sky between
precipitous walls two hundred feet high. The abyss is so narrow you can
throw a stone across it."
"What lies beyond?" asked Jack, his eyes lighting vividly.
"A great basin which was the bed of an ancient lake before the water wore
its way through."
"A dam between those walls--and you have another lake!"
"Yes, and the spring freshets from the northern water-shed all held in a
reservoir--none going to waste! And, Jack, as population spreads the dam
"Why, the Doge has a kingdom!"
"Yes, that's the best of it, the rights being in his hands. He shares
up with everybody and we get it when he dies. That's why we are ready
to accept the Doge's sentiments as kind of gospel. If ornamental hedges
waste water and bring bugs and are contrary to practical ranching
ideas, why--well, why not? It's our Little Rivers to enjoy as we
please. We aren't growing so fast, but we're growing in a clean,
beautiful way, as Jasper Ewold says. What if that river was owned by
one man! What if we had to pay the price he set for what takes the
place of rain, as they do in some places in California? We're going to
say who shall build that dam!"
"Think of it! Think of it!" Jack half whispered, his imagination in play.
"Plot after plot being added to this little oasis until it extends from
range to range, one sea of green! Many little towns, with Little Rivers
the mother town, spreading its ideas! Yes, think of being in at the
making of a new world, seeing visions develop into reality as, stone by
stone, an edifice rises! I--I--" Jack paused, a cloud sweeping over his
features, his eyes seeming to stare at a wall. His body alone seemed in
Little Rivers, his mind on the other side of the pass. He was in one of
those moods of abstraction that ever made his fellow-ranchers feel that
he would not be with them permanently.
Indeed, he had whole days when his smile had a sad turn; when, though he
spoke pleasantly, the inspiration of talk was not in him and when Belvy
Smith could not rouse any action in the cat with two black stripes down
its back. But many Little Riversites, including the Doge, had their sad
days, when they looked away at the pass oftener than usual, as if seeing
a life-story framed in the V. His came usually, as Mrs. Smith observed,
when he had a letter from the East. And it was then that he would pretend
to cough to Firio. These mock coughing spells were one of the few
manifestations that made the impassive Firio laugh.
"Now you know I am not well, don't you, Firio?" he would ask, waggishly,
the very thought seeming to take him out of the doldrums. "I could never
live out of this climate. Why, even now I have a cough, kuh-er!"
Firio had turned a stove cook. He accepted the humiliation in a spirit of
loyalty. But often he would go out among the sagebrush and return with a
feathery tribute, which he would broil on a spit in a fire made in the
yard. Always when Jack rode out to meet Mary at the foot of the range,
Firio would follow; and always he had his rifle. For it was part of
Jack's seeming inconsistency, emphasizing his inscrutability, that he
would never wear his revolver. It hung beside Pete's on the wall of the
living-room as a second relic. Far from being a quarrel-maker, he was
peaceful to the point of Quakerish predilection.
"Nobody ever hears anything of Leddy," said Jim; "but he will never
forget or forgive, and one day he will show up unexpectedly."
"Not armed!" said Jack.
"Do you think he will keep his word?"
"I know he will. I asked him and he said he would."
"You're very simple, Jack. But mind, he can keep his word and still use
a gun outside the town!"
"So he might!" admitted Jack, laughing in a way that indicated that the
subject was distasteful to him; for he would never talk of the duel.
Now we come to that little affair of Pedro Nogales. Pedro was a
half-breed, whose God among men was Pete Leddy no less than Jack was
Firio's and the Doge was Ignacio's. In his shanty back of Bill Lang's the
Mexicans and Indians lost their remaining wages in gambling after he had
filled them with _mescal_. It happened that Gonzalez, head man of the
laborers under Bob Worther, who had saved quite a sum, came away
penniless after taking but one drink. Every ounce of Bob's avoirdupois
was in a rage.
"It's time we cleaned out Pedro's place, seh!" he told Jack; "and you and
Jim Galway have got to help me do it!"
"I don't like to get into a row," said Jack very soberly.
"Then I'll undertake the job alone," Bob retorted. "That will be a good
deal worse, for when I get going I lose my temper and I tell you, seh,
I've got a lot to lose! And, Jack, are you going to stand by and see
robbery done by the meanest, most worthless greaser in the valley--and a
good Indian the victim?"
"Yes, Jack," said Jim, "you've got such a formidable reputation since
your set-to with Leddy that the Indians think you are a regular master of
magic. You're just the one to make Pedro come to terms."
"A formidable reputation without firing a shot!" admitted Jack
quizzically, and consented.
"You'll surely want your gun this time!" Bob warned him.
"No," said Jack.
"I have hung up my gun!" Jack said decisively. "We'll try to handle this
peacefully. Come on!"
"Well, we've got our guns, anyway!" Jim put in.
It was mid-afternoon, a slack hour for Pedro's kind of trade, and the
shanty was empty of customers when the impromptu vigilance committee
entered. Pedro himself was half dozing in the faro dealer's chair. His
small, ferret eyes flashed a spark at the visitors as he rose, but he was
"Senores! It is great honor! Be seated, senores!" he said with eloquent
The very sight of him set all the ounces in Bob quivering in an outburst:
"No chairs for us! You fork over Gonzalez's money that you tricked
out of him!"
"I take Gonzalez's money! I? Senores?"
"It's a hundred and twenty dollars that he earned honestly, and the
quicker you lay your hands on it the better for you!" Bob roared back.
Pedro was quite impassive.
"Senores, if Gonzalez need money--senores, I honest man! Senores, sit
down! We talk!" Pedro dropped back into his chair and his hand, with
cat-like quickness, shot under the faro table.
Jack had come through the door after Jim and Bob. He was standing a
little behind them, and while they had been watching Pedro's face he had
watched Pedro's movements.
"Pedro, take your hand out from under the table and without your gun!"
said Jack; and Jim Galway caught a thrill in Jack's voice that he had
heard in the _arroyo_.
Pedro looked into Senor Don't Care's eyes and saw a bead, though they
were not looking along the glint of a revolver barrel.
"_Si_, senor!" said Pedro, settling back in the chair with palms out in
intimation of his pacific intentions.
"Now, Pedro, you have Gonzalez's money, haven't you?" Jack went on, in
the reasoning fashion that he had adopted to Leddy in the store. "And
you aren't going to make yourself or Bob trouble. You are going to
give it back!"
"_Si_, senor!" said Pedro wincing.
While he was producing the money and counting it, his furtive glance kept
watch of Jack. Then, as the committee turned to go, he suddenly exclaimed
with angry surprise and disillusion:
"You got no gun!"
While Jim and Bob waited for Jack to precede them out of the door Jim had
time to note Pedro's baleful, piercing look at Jack's back.
"Just as I told you, Jack--and I reckon you saved a big row. You just
put a scare into that hellion with a word, like you had a thousand devils
in you!" said Jim.
"It's all over!" Jack answered, looking more hurt than pleased over the
congratulations. "Very fortunately over."
"But," Jim observed, tensely, "Pedro is not only Leddy's bitter
partisan and ready to do his bidding, Pedro's a bit loco, besides--the
kind that hesitates at nothing when he gets a grudge. You've got to
look out for him."
"Oh, no!" said Jack, in the full swing of a Senor Don't Care mood.
Jim and Bob began to entertain the feelings of Mary on the pass, when she
thought of Jack as walking over precipices regardless of danger signs.
After all, did he really know how to shoot? If he would not look after
himself, it was their duty to look after him. Jim suggested that the rule
which Jack had made for Leddy should have universal application. No one
whosoever should wear arms in Little Rivers without a permit. The new
ordinance had the Doge's approval; and Jim and Bob, both of whom had
permits, kept watch that it was enforced, particularly in the case of
Meanwhile, Jack kept the ten-hour-a-day law. His alfalfa was growing
with prolific rapidity, but Firio had the air of one who waits
"Never the trail again?" he asked temptingly, one day.
"Never the trail again!" Jack declared firmly.
"_Si, si, si_--the trail again!"
"You think so? Then why do you ask?"
"To make a question," answered Firio. "The big sadness will be too
strong. It will make you move--_si_!"
"The big sadness!" Jack exclaimed. He seized Firio by the shoulders and
looked narrowly at him, and Firio met the gaze with soft, puzzling lights
in his eyes. "Ho! ho! A big sadness! How do you know?" he laughed.
"I learn on the trail when I watch you look at the stars. And Senorita
Ewold, she know; but she think the big sadness a devil. She--" and he
"She--yes?" Jack asked.
"She--" Firio started again.
Jack suddenly raised his hands from Firio's shoulders in a gesture of
interruption. It was not exactly Firio's place to hazard opinions about
"Never mind!" he said, rather sharply.
But Firio proceeded fixedly to finish what he had to say.
"She has a big sadness, which makes her ride to the pass. She rides out
so she can ride back smiling."
"Firio, don't mistake your imagination for divination!" Jack warned him.
As Firio did not understand the meaning of this he said nothing. Probably
he would have said nothing even if he had understood.
"I'll show you the nature of the big sadness and that the devil is a joy
devil when we harvest our first crop of alfalfa," Jack concluded. "Then I
shall make a holiday! Then I shall be a real rancher and something is
going to happen!"
"The trail!" exclaimed Firio, and the soft light in his eyes flashed.
"_Si_! The trail and the big spurs and the revolver in the holster!"
But Firio said "_Si_"! with the supreme confidence of one who holds that
belief in fulfilment will make any wish come true.
A CHANGE OF MIND
It was Sunday afternoon; or, to date it by an epochal event, the day
after Jack's alfalfa crop had fallen before the mower. Mary was seated on
the bench under the avenue of umbrella-trees reading a thin edition of
Marcus Aurelius bound in flexible leather. Of late she had developed a
fondness for the more austere philosophers. Jack, whose mood was entirely
to the sonneteers, came softly singing down the avenue of palms and
presented himself before her in a romping spirit of interruption.
"O expert in floriculture!" he said, "the humble pupil acting as a
Committee of One has failed utterly to agree with himself as to the form
of his new flowerbed. There must be a Committee of Two. Will you come?"
"Good! I am weary of Marcus. I can't help thinking that he too far
antedates the Bordeaux mixture!" she answered, springing to her feet with
He rarely met positive enthusiasm in her and everything in him called for
it at the moment. He found it so inspiring that the problem of the bed
was settled easily by his consent to all her suggestions--a too-ready
consent, she told herself.
"After all, it is your flower garden," she reminded him.
"No, every flower garden in Little Rivers is yours!" he declared.
The way he said this made her frown. She saw him taking a step on the
other side of that barrier over which she mounted guard.
"Never make your hyperboles felonious!" she warned him. "Besides, if
you are going to be a real Little Riversite you should have opinions of
"I haven't any to-day--none except victory!" and he held out his palms,
exhibiting their yellowish plates. "Look! Even corns on the joints!"
"Yes, they look quite real," she admitted, censoriously.
"Haven't I made good? Do you remember how you stood here on the very site
of my house and lectured me? I would not work! I would not--"
"You have worked a little--a little!" she said grudgingly, and showed him
as much of the wondrous sparkle in her eyes as he could see out of the
corners between the lashes. She never allowed him to look into her eyes
if she apprehended any attempt to cross the barrier. But she could see
well enough out of the corners to know that his glances had a kind of
hungry joy and a promise of some new demonstration in his attitude toward
her. She must watch that barrier very shrewdly.
"Look at my hedge!" he went on. "It is knee-high already, and my
umbrella-trees cast enough shade for anybody, if he will wrap himself
around the trunk. But such things are ornamental. I have a more practical
appeal. Come on!"
His elation was insistent, superior to any prickling gibes of banter, as
they walked on the mealy earth between rows of young orange settings,
and the sweet odor of drying alfalfa came to their nostrils, borne by a
vagrant breeze. He swept his hand toward the field in a gesture of pride,
his shoulders thrown back in a deep breath of exultation.
"The callouses win!" And he exhibited them again.
But she refused even to glance at them this time.
"You seem to think callouses phenomenal. Most people in Little Rivers
accept them as they do the noses on their faces."
"They certainly are phenomenal on me. So is my first crop! My first crop!
I'll be up at dawn to stack it--and then I'm no longer a neophyte. I am
an initiate! I'm a real rancher! A holiday is due! I celebrate!"
He was rhapsodic and he was serious, too. She was provokingly flippant as
an antidote for Marcus Aurelius, whom she was still carrying in the
little flexible leather volume.
"How celebrate?" she inquired. "By walking through the town with a wisp
of alfalfa in one hand and exhibiting the callouses on the other? or will
you be drawn on a float by Jag Ear--a float labeled, 'The Idler Enjoying
His Own Reform?' We'll all turn out and cheer."
"Amusing, but not dignified and not to my taste. No! I shall celebrate by
a terrific spree--a ride to the pass!"
He turned his face toward the range, earnest in its transfixion and
suffused with the spirit of restlessness and the call of the mighty rock
masses, gray in their great ribs and purple in their abysses. She felt
that same call as something fluid and electric running through the air
from sky to earth, and set her lips in readiness for whatever folly he
was about to suggest.
"A ride to the pass and a view of the sunset from the very top!" he
cried. He looked down at her quickly, and all the force of the call he
had transformed into a sunny, personal appeal, which made her avert her
glance. "My day in the country--my holiday, if you will go with me! Will
you, and gaze out over that spot of green in the glare of the desert,
knowing that a little of it is mine?"
"Your orange-trees are too young. It's so far away they will hardly
show," she ventured, surveying the distance to the pass judicially.
"Why, to me a ride to the pass is not a thing to be planned a day
beforehand," she said deliberately, still studiously observing Galeria.
"It is a matter of momentary inspiration. Make it a set engagement and it
is but a plodding journey. I can best tell in the morning," she
concluded. "And, by the way, I see you haven't yet tried grafting plums
on the alfalfa stalks."
"No. I have learned better. It is not consistent. You see, you mow
alfalfa and you pick plums."
This return to drollery, in keeping with the prescribed order of their
relations, made her look up in candid amusement over the barrier which
for a moment he had been endangering.
"Honestly, Jack, you do improve," she said, with mock encouragement. "You
seem to have mastered a number of the simple truths of age-old
"But will you? Will you ride to the pass?"
He had the question launched fairly into her eyes. She could not escape
it. He saw one bright flash, whether of real anger or simply vexation at
his reversion to the theme he could not tell, and her lashes dropped;
she ran the leaf edges of the austere Marcus back and forth in her
fingers, thip-thip-thip. That was the only sound for some seconds, very
"As I've already tried to make clear to you, it's such a businesslike
thing to ride to the pass unless you have the inspiration," she remarked
thoughtfully to Marcus. "Perhaps I shall get the inspiration on the way
back to the house;" which was a signal that she was going. "And, by the
way, Jack, to return to the object of my coming, if you have ideas of
your own about flowers incorporate them; that is the way to develop your
She turned away, but he followed. He was at her side and proceeding with
her, his head bent toward her, boyishly, eagerly.
"You see, I have never been out to the pass," he remarked urgently.
"What! You--" she started in surprise and checked herself.
"Didn't I come by train?" he asked reprovingly.
"No!" she answered. Her eyes were level with the road, her voice was a
little unnatural. "No! You came over the pass, Jack."
It was the first time in the months of his citizenship of Little Rivers
that she had ever hinted anything but belief in the fiction that they had
first met when he asked her to show him a parcel of land. She seemed to
be calling a truth out of the past and grappling with it, while her lips
tightened and she drew in her chin.
"Then I did come over the pass," he agreed; and after a pause added:
"But there was no Pete Leddy."
"Yes, oh, yes--there was a Pete Leddy!"
"But he will not be there this time!"
And now his voice, in a transport that seemed to touch the cloud heights,
was neither like the voice of the easy traveller on the pass, nor the
voice of his sharp call to Leddy to disarm, nor the voice of the
storyteller. It had a new note, a note startling to her.
"We shall be on the pass without Leddy and smiling over Leddy and
thanking him for his unwitting service in making me stop in Little
Rivers," he concluded.
"Yes, he did that," she admitted stoically, as if it were some oppressive
fact for which she could offer no thanks.
"I want to see our ponies with their bridles hanging loose! I want the
great silence! I want company, with imagination speaking from the sky
and reality speaking from the patch of green out on the sea of gray!
Their steps ran rhythmically together. His look was eager in
anticipation, while she kept on running the leaves of the austere Marcus
through her fingers. Her lips were half open, as if about to speak, but
were without words; the thin, delicate nostrils trembled.
"Will you? Will you, because I kept the faith of callouses? Will you go
forth and dream for a day? We'll tell fairy stories! We'll get a pole and
prod the dinosaur through the narrow part of the pass and hear him roar
his awfullest. Will you?"
Her fingers paused in the pages as if they had found a helpful passage.
The chin tilted upward resolutely and he had a full view of her eyes,
dancing with challenging lights. She was augustly, gloriously
"Will you go in costume? Will you wear your spurs and the chaps and the
The question said that it was not a time to be serious. It sprinkled the
crest of the barrier with gleaming slivers of glass, which might give
zest to words spoken across it, but would be most sharp to the touch.
"I will wear my spurs around my wrists, if you say, tie roses in the
fringe of my chaps, bind my hat with a big red silk bandanna, and put
streamers on P.D.'s bits!"
"That is too enticing for refusal," she answered, playfully. "I
particularly want to hear the dinosaur roar."
They had come to the opening of the Ewold hedge, and they paused to
consider arrangements. There was no one in sight on the street except Jim
Galway, who was approaching at some distance.
"Shall we start in the morning and have luncheon at the foot of the
range?" suggested Jack.
She favored an early afternoon start; he argued for his point of view,
and in their preoccupation with the passage of arms they did not notice
Pedro Nogales slipping along beside the hedge with soft steps, his hand
under his jacket. A gleam out of the bosom of Pedro's jacket, a cry from
Mary, and a knife flashed upward and drove toward Jack's neck.
Jack had seemed oblivious of his surroundings, his gaze centered on Mary.
Yet he was able to duck backward so that the blade only slit open his
shirt as Pedro, with the misdirected force of his blow, lunged past its
object. Mary saw that face which had been laughing into hers, which had
been so close to hers in its persistent smile of persuasion, struck white
and rigid and a glint like that of the blade itself in the eyes. In a
breath Jack had become another being of incarnate, unthinking physical
power and swiftness. One hand seized Pedro's wrist, the other his upper
arm, and Mary heard the metallic click of the knife as it struck the
earth and the sickening sound of the bone of Pedro's forearm cracking.
She saw Pedro's eyes bursting from their sockets in pain and fear; she
saw Jack's still profile of unyielding will and the set muscles of his
neck and the knitting muscles of his forearm driving Pedro over against
the hedge, as if bent on breaking the Mexican's back in two, and she
waited in frozen apprehension to hear another bone crack, even expecting
Pedro's death cry.
"The devil is out of Senor Don't Care!" It was the voice of Ignacio, who
had come around the house in time to witness the scene.
"What fearful strength! You will kill him!" It was the voice of the Doge,
from the porch.
"Yes, please stop!" Mary pleaded.
Suddenly, at the sound of her cry, Jack released his hold. The strong
column of his neck became apparently too weak to hold the weight of his
head. Inert, he fell against the hedge for support, his hands hanging
limp at his side, while he stared dazedly into space. It seemed then that
Pedro might have picked up the knife and carried out his plan of murder
without defence by the victim.
"Yes, yes, yes!" Jack repeated.
Pedro had not moved from the hollow in the hedge which the impress of his
body had made. He was trembling, his lips had fallen away from his
teeth, and he watched Jack in stricken horror, a beaten creature waiting
on some judgment from which there was no appeal.
"We'll tell fairy stories"--Jack's soft tones of persuasion repeated
themselves in Mary's ears in contrast to the effect of what she had just
witnessed. Her hand slipped along the crest of the hedge, as if to
"I'll change my mind about going to the pass, Jack," she said.
"Yes, Mary," he answered in a faint tone.
He looked around to see her back as she turned away from him; then, with
an effort, he stepped free of the hedge.
"Come, we will go to the doctor!" he said to the Mexican.
He touched Pedro's shoulder softly and softly ran his hand down the
sleeve in which the arm hung limp. Pedro had not moved; he still leaned
against the hedge inanimate as a mannikin.
"Come! Your legs are not broken! You can walk!" said Jim Galway, who had
come up in a hurry when he saw what was happening.
"Pedro, you will learn not to play with the devil in Senor Don't Care!"
whispered Ignacio, while Mary had disappeared in the house and the Doge
Jack had stroked Pedro's head while the bone was being set. He had
arranged for Pedro's care. And now he was in his own yard with Jag Ear
and the ponies, rubbing their muzzles alternately in silent
impartiality, his head bowed reflectively as Firio came around the
corner of the house. At first he half stared at Firio, then he surveyed
the steeds of his long journeyings in questioning uncertainty, and then
looked back at Firio, smiling wanly.
"Firio," he said, "I feel that I am a pretty big coward. Firio, I am full
up--full to overflowing. My mind is stuffed with cobwebs. I--I must think
things out. I must have the solitudes."
"The trail!" prescribed Doctor Firio.
After Jack had given his ranch in charge to Galway, he rode away in
the dusk, not by the main street, but straight across the levels
toward the pass.
THE DOGE SNAPS A RUBBER BAND
Jasper Ewold was a disciple of an old-fashioned custom that has fallen
into disuse since the multiplicity of typewriters made writing for one's
own pleasure too arduous; or, if you will have another reason, since our
existence and feelings have become so complex that we can no longer
express them with the simple directness of our ancestors. He kept a
diary with what he called a perfect regularity of intermittency. A week
might pass without his writing a single word, and again he might indulge
freely for a dozen nights running. He wrote as much or as little as he
pleased. He wrote when he had something to tell and when he was in the
mood to tell it.
"It is facing yourself in your own ink," he said. "It is confessing that
you are an egoist and providing an antidote for your egoism. Firstly, you
will never be bored by your own past if you can appreciate your errors
and inconsistencies. Secondly, you will never be tempted to bore others
with your past as long as you wish to pose as a wise man."
He must have found, as you would find if you had left youth behind and
could see yourself in your own ink, that the first tracery of any
controlling factor in your life was faint and inconsequential to you at
the time, without presage of its importance until you saw other lines,
also faint and inconsequential in their beginnings, drawing in toward it
to form a powerful current.
On the evening that Jack took to the trail again, Jasper Ewold had a
number of thick notebooks out of the box in the library which he always
kept locked, and placed them on the living-room table beside his easy
chair, in which he settled himself. Mary was sewing while he pored over
his life in review as written by his own hand. Her knowledge of the
secrets of that chronicle from wandering student days to desert exile was
limited to glimpses of the close lines of fine-written pages across the
breadth of the circle of the lamp's reflection. He surrounded his diary
with a line of mystery which she never attempted to cross. On occasions
he would read to her certain portions which struck his recollection
happily; but these were invariably limited to his impressions of some
city or some work of art that he was seeing for the first time in the
geniality of the unadulterated joy of living in what she guessed was the
period of youth before she was born; and never did they throw any light
on his story except that of his views as a traveller and a personality.
But he did not break out into a single quotation to-night. It seemed as
if he were following the thread of some reference from year to year; for
he ran his fingers through the leaves of certain parts hastily and became
studiously intense at other parts as he gloomily pondered over them.
Neither she nor her father had mentioned Jack since the scene by the
hedge. This was entirely in keeping with custom. It seemed a matter of
instinct with both that they never talked to each other of him. Yet she
was conscious that he had been in her father's mind all through the
evening meal, and she was equally certain that her father realized that
he was in her mind.
It was late when the Doge finished his reading, and he finished it with
the page of the last book, where the fine handwriting stopped at the edge
of the blank white space of the future. An old desire, ever strong with
Mary, which she had never quite had the temerity to express, had become
impelling under the influence of her father's unusually long and silent
"Am I never to have a glimpse of that treasure? Am I never, never to read
your diary?" she asked.
The Doge drew his tufted eyebrows together in utter astonishment.
"What! What, Mary! Why, Mary, I might preach a lesson on the folly of
feminine curiosity. Do you think I would ask to see your diary?"
"But I don't keep one."
"Hoo-hoo-hoo!" The Doge was blowing out his lips in an ado of deprecatory
nonsense. "Don't keep one? Have you lost your memory?"
"I had it a minute ago--yes," after an instant's playful consideration,
"I am sure that I have it now."
"Then, everybody with a memory certainly keeps a diary. Would you want
me to read all the foolish things you had ever thought? Do you think I
would want to?"
"No," she answered.
"There you are, then!" declared the Doge victoriously, as he rose,
slipping a rubber band with a forbidding snap over the last book. "And
this is all stupid personal stuff--but mine own!"
There was an unconscious sigh of weariness as he took up the thumbed
leather volumes. He was haggard. "Mine own" had given him no pleasure
that evening. All the years of his life seemed to rest heavily upon him
for a silent moment. Mary feared that she had hurt him by her request.
"You have read so much you will scarcely do any writing to-night,"
"Yes, I will add a few more lines--the spirit is in me--a few more days
to the long record," he said, absently, then, after a pause, suddenly,
with a kind of suppressed force vibrating in his voice: "Well, our Sir
Chaps has gone."
"As unceremoniously as he came," she answered.
"It was terrible the way he broke Nogales's wrist!" remarked the
"Terrible!" she assented as she folded her work, her head bent.
"Gone, and doubtless for good!" he continued, still watching her sharply.
"Very likely!" she answered carelessly without looking up. "His vagarious
playtime for this section is over."
"Just it! Just it!" the Doge exclaimed happily.
"And if Leddy overtakes him now, it's his own affair!"
"Yes, yes! He and his Wrath of God and Jag Ear are away to other worlds!"
"And other Leddys!"
"No doubt! No doubt!" concluded the Doge, in high good humor, all the
vexation of his diary seemingly forgotten as he left the room.
But, as the Doge and Mary were to find, they were alone among Little
Riversites in thinking that the breaking of Pedro Nogales's wrist was
horrible. Jim Galway, who had witnessed the affair, took a radically
contrary view, which everyone else not of the Leddy partisanship readily
accepted. Despite the frequency of Jack's visits to the Ewold garden and
all the happy exchange of pleasantries with his hosts, the community
could not escape the thought of a certain latent hostility toward Jack on
the part of the Doge, the more noticeable because it was so out of
keeping with his nature.
"Doge, sometimes I think you are almost prejudiced against Jack Wingfield
because he didn't let Leddy have his way," said Jim, with an outright
frankness that was unprecedented in speaking to Jasper Ewold. "You're
such a regular old Quaker!"
"But that little Mexican panting in abject fear against the hedge!"
persisted the Doge.
"A nice, peaceful little Mexican with a knife, sneaking up to plant it in
"But Jack is so powerful! And his look! I was so near I could see it well
as he towered over Nogales!"
"Yes, no mistaking the look. I saw it in the _arroyo_. It made me think
of what the look of one of those old sea-fighters might have been like
when they lashed alongside and boarded the enemy."
"And the crack of the bone!" continued the Doge.
"Would you have a man turn cherub when he has escaped having his
jugular slashed by a margin of two or three inches? Would you have him
say, 'Please, naughty boy, give me your knife? You mustn't play with
"No! That's hyperbole!" the Doge returned with a lame attempt at a laugh.
"Mebbe it is, whatever hyperbole is," said Jim; "but if so, hyperbole is
a darned poor means of self-defence. Yes, the trouble is you are against
"Yes, I am!" said the Doge suddenly, as if inward anger had got the
better of him.
"And the rest of us are for him!" Jim declared sturdily.
"Naturally! naturally!" said the Doge, passing his hand over his brow.
"Yes, youth and color and bravery!" He shook his head moodily, as if
Jim's statement brought up some vital, unpleasant, but inevitable fact
to his mind.
"It's beyond me how anybody can help liking him!" concluded Galway
"I like him--yes, I do like him! I cannot help it!" the Doge admitted
rather grudgingly as he turned away.
"So we weren't so far apart, after all!" Galway hastened to call after
the Doge in apology for his testiness. "We like him for what he has been
to us and will always be to us. That's the only criterion of character in
Little Rivers according to your own code, isn't it, Jasper Ewold?"
"Exactly!" answered the Doge over his shoulder.
The community entered into a committee of the whole on Jack Wingfield.
With every citizen contributing a quota of personal experience, his story
was rehearsed from the day of his arrival to the day of his departure.
Argument fluctuated on the question of whether or not he would ever
return, with now the noes and now the ayes having it. On this point Jim
had the only first-hand evidence.
"He said to let things grow until he showed up or I heard from
him," said Jim.
"Not what I would call enlightening," said Bob Worther.
"That was his way of expressing it; but to do him justice, he showed what
a good rancher he was by his attention to the details that had to be
cared for," Jim added.
"He's like the spirit of the winds, I guess," put in Mrs. Galway.
"Something comes a-calling him or a-driving him, I don't know which.
Indeed, I'm not altogether certain that it isn't a case of Mary Ewold
"Yes," agreed Jim. "The fighting look went out of his face when she
spoke, and when he saw how horrified she was, why, I never saw such a
change come over a man! It was just like a piece of steel wilting."
However, the children, who had no part in the august discussions of the
committee of the whole, were certain that their story-teller would come
back. Their ideas about Jack were based on a simple, self-convincing
faith of the same order as Firio's. Lonely as they were, they were hardly
more lonely than their elders, who were supposed to have the philosophy
No Jack singing out "Hello!" on the main street! No Jack looking up from
work to ask boyishly: "Am I learning? Oh, I'll be the boss rancher yet!"
No Jack springing all sorts of conceits, not of broad humor, but the kind
that sort of set a "twinkling in your insides," as Bob Worther expressed
it! No Jack inspiring a feeling deeper than twinkles on his sad days! He
had been an improvement in town life that became indispensable once it
was absent. Little Rivers was fairly homesick for him.
"How did we ever get along without him before he came, anyway?" Bob
Then another new-comer, as distinctive from the average settler as Jack
was, diverted talk into another channel, without, however, reconciling
the people to their loss.
ANOTHER STRANGER ARRIVES
If the history of Little Rivers were to be written in chapter headings
the first would be, "Jasper Ewold Founded the Town"; the second, "Jack
Wingfield Arrived"; and the third, "John Prather Arrived."
While Jack came in chaps and spurs, bearing an argosy of fancy, Prather
came by rail, carrying a suitcase in a conventional and businesslike
fashion. Bill Deering, as the representative of a spring wagon that did
the local omnibus and express business, was on the platform of the
station when the 11:15 rolled in, and sang out, in a burst of joy, as the
stranger, a man in the early twenties, stepped off the Pullman:
"What's this, Jack? Back by train--and in store clothes? Well, of
all--" and saw his mistake when the stranger's full face was turned
"Yes, I am sometimes called Jack," said the stranger pleasantly. "Now,
where have we met before? Perhaps in Goldfield? No matter. It is time we
got acquainted. My name is Prather, and yours?"
As he surveyed the man before him, Bill was as fussed as the giant of the
fairy story had been by a display of yellow. He was uncertain whether he
was giving his own baptismal name or somebody's else.
"By Jing! No, I don't know you, but you sure are the dead spit of a
fellow I do know!" said Bill.
"Well, he has done me the favor of introducing me to you, anyway," said
Prather, who had a remarkably ingratiating smile. "I would like a place
to stop while I take a look around. Is there a hotel?"
"Rooms over the store and grub at Mrs. Smith's--none better!"
"That will do."
As they rode into town more than one passer-by called out a ringing
"Hello, Jack!" or, "Back, eh, Jack? Hurrah for you!" and then uttered an
exclamation of disillusion when Prather turned his head.
"The others see it, too," said Bill.
"They seem to. Who is this double of mine?"
"Jack Wingfield? It seems that our first names are the same, too. He
lives here, I take it."
"Yes. But he's away now."
"Well, when he comes back"--with a pause of slight irritation--"there
will be no difficulty in telling us apart."
He put his finger to a triangular patch of mole on his cheek. His
irritation passed and a sense of appreciative amusement at the
distinction took its place.
"Now, where shall I find Jasper Ewold?" he asked, as Bill drew up before
A few minutes later the Doge, busy among his orange-trees, hearing a
step, looked up with a signal of recognition which changed to blank
inquiry when the cheek with the mole was turned toward him.
"Upon my word, sir, I--I thought that you were--" he began.
"Mr. Wingfield! Yes, everybody in town seems to think so at first glance,
so I am quite used to the comparison by this time," Prather put in,
easily. "It is very interesting to meet the founder of a town, and I
have come to you to find out about conditions here."
Prather did not appear as if he had ever done manual labor. He was too
young to have turned from ill health or failure in the city to the refuge
of the land. Indeed, his quiet gray suit of good material indicated
unostentatious prosperity. Evidently he was well-bred and evidently he
was not an agent for a new style of seeding harrow or weed killer.
"You think of settling?" asked the Doge.
"Yes. From all I have heard of Little Rivers, it's a community where I
should feel at home."
"Then, sir, we will talk of it at luncheon; it is knocking-off time for
the morning. Yes, I'll talk as much as you please. Come on, Mr. Prather!"
They started along the avenue of palms, the Doge still studying the face
at his side. "Pardon me for staring at you, but the resemblance to Jack
Wingfield at first sight is most striking," he added.
"Has he travelled much in the West?" asked Prather.
"Yes, much--leading an aimless life."
"Then he must be the one that I was taken for in Salt Lake City one day.
The man who called out to me saw his mistake, just as you did, when he
saw my full face;" and again Prather made a gesture of understanding
amusement to the mole.
"When you consider what confusion there must be in the workrooms, with
the storks flapping and screeching like newsboys outside the delivery
room," mused the Doge, "and when you consider the multitudinous
population of the earth, it's surprising that the good Lord is able to
furnish such a variety of faces as he does. But they do say that every
one of us has a few doubles. In the case of famous public men they get
their pictures in the papers."
"Yes, very few of us but have been mistaken for a friend by a stranger
passing in the street!" Prather suggested.
"Only to have the stranger see his mistake at a second glance; and on
second glance you do not look very much like Jack Wingfield," the Doge
concluded. "Just a coincidence in physiognomy!"
And Prather was very frank about his past.
"I have led rather a hard life," he said. "Though I was well brought up
my father left mother and me quite penniless. I had to fend for myself at
the age of sixteen. A friend gave me an opportunity to go to Goldfield at
the outbreak of the excitement there. The rough experience of a
mining-camp was not exactly to my taste, but it meant a livelihood. My
real interest has always been in irrigation farming. I would rather grow
a good crop than mine for gold. Well, I saved a little money at
Goldfield--saved it to buy land. But land is not the only consideration.
The surroundings, the people with whom you have to live count for a great
deal when you mean to settle permanently."
"Excellent!" declared the Doge. "A good citizen in full fellowship with
your neighbors! Exactly what we want in Little Rivers."
Prather had a complexion of that velvety whiteness that never tans.
His eyes were calm, yet attractive, with a peculiar insinuating charm
when he talked that made it seem easy and natural to respond to his
wishes. In listening he had an ingratiating manner that was
flattering to the speaker.
"A practical man!" the Doge said to Mary that evening. "The kind we need
here. He and I had a grand afternoon of it together. Every one of his
questions about soils and cultivation was to the point."
"Not one argument?" she asked.
"No, Mary; no time for argument."
"You do like people to agree with you, after all!" she hazarded. For she
did not like Prather.
"Pooh! Not a matter of agreement! No persiflage! No altitudinous
conversation of the kind that grows no crops. Prather wants to learn, and
he's got good, clean ideas, with a trained and accurate mind--the best
possible combination. I hope he will stay for the very reason that he is
not the kind that takes up a plot of land for life on an impulse, which
usually results in turning on the water and getting discouraged because
nature will not do the rest. But he is very favorably impressed. He said
that after Goldfield Little Rivers was like Paradise--practical Paradise.
Good phrase, practical Paradise!"
In two or three days the new-comer knew everyone in town; but though he
addressed the men by their first names they always addressed him as "Mr.
Prather." In another respect besides his features he was like Jack: he
was much given to smiling.
"The difference between his smile and Jack's," said Mrs. Galway, who was
at one with Mary in not liking him, "is that his is sort of a drawing-in
kind of smile and Jack's sort of radiates."
The children developed no interest in him. It was evident that he could
not tell stories, except with an effort. In his goings and comings, ever
asking pleasant questions and passing compliments, he was usually
accompanied by the Doge, and his attitude toward the old man was the
admiring deference of disciple for master.
"I am sorry I don't understand that," he would say when the Doge fell
into a scholastic allusion to explain a point. "I was hard at work when
lots of my friends were in college."
"Learning may be ruination," responded the Doge, "though it wouldn't have
been in your case. It's the man that counts. See what you have made of
"Ah, yes, but I feel that I have missed something. When I am settled here
I shall be able to make up for lost time, with your help, sir."
"Every pigeonhole in my mind will be open at your call!" said the Doge,
glowing at the prospect.
The favor that Prather found in the eyes of Jasper Ewold partly accounted
for what favor he found in Little Rivers' eyes.
"Prather has certainly made a hit with the Doge!" quoth Bob Worther.
"As the Doge gets older I reckon he will like compliments better than
persiflage. But Jack could pay a compliment, too--only he never used
It was Bob, as inspector of ditches and dams, who provided a horse for
Prather to inspect the source of the water supply. In keeping with a
characteristic thoroughness, Prather wanted to go up the river into the
canyon. He made himself a very enjoyable companion on the way, drawing
out all of Bob's best stories. When they stopped in sight of the streak
of blue sky through the breach in the mighty wall that had once
imprisoned the ancient lake, he was silent for some time, while he
surveyed this grandeur of the heights with smiling contemplation, at
intervals rubbing the palms of his hands together in a manner habitual
with him when he was particularly pleased.
"I guess the same idea has struck you that strikes everybody at sight of
that, seh!" said Bob.
"Yes, a dam might be practical," Prather answered. "But it would take a
lot of capital--a lot of capital!"
On the way back they stopped before a dilapidated shanty near the
foothills. In the midst of a littered yard old man Lefferts, half dozing,
occupied a broken chair.
"Since the Doge came old man Lefferts has had to do no work at all. A
Mexican looks after him. But it hasn't made him any happier," Bob
explained as they approached.
"Howdy yourself?" growled Lefferts in answer to Bob's greeting.
"He seems to be a character!" whispered Prather to Bob, as he smiled at
the prospect. "To confess the truth, I am a little saddle sore and tired.
I didn't get much riding in Goldfield. I think I'll stop and rest and get
"You won't get much satisfaction but growls."
"That will be all the more fun for me," rejoined Prather. "But don't let
me keep you."
"No. I must be going on. I've got some things to look after before
nightfall," said Bob, while Prather, in a humor proof against any hermit
cantankerousness, rode into the yard.
When he returned after dark he said, laughingly, that he had enjoyed
himself, though the conversation was all on one side. The next morning he
decided to take up the plot of land adjoining Jack's.
"But I shall not be able to begin work for a few weeks," he said. "I must
go to Goldfield to settle up my affairs before I begin my new career."
"If Jack ever comes back I wonder what he will say to his new neighbor!"
Little Rivers wondered.
LOOKING OVER PRECIPICES
To Mary Ewold the pass was a dividing line between two appeals. The
Little Rivers side, with the green patch of oasis in the distance, had a
message of peaceful enjoyment of what fortune had provided for her. Under
its spell she saw herself content to live within garden walls forever in
the land that had given her life, grateful for the trickles of
intelligence that came by mail from the outside world.
The other side aroused a mighty restlessness. Therefore, she rarely made
that short journey which spread another panorama of space before her. But
this was one of the afternoons when she welcomed a tumult of any kind as
a relief from her depression; and she went on through the V as soon as
she reached the summit.
Seated on a flat-topped rock, oblivious of the passage of time, of the
dream cities of the Eternal Painter, she was staring far away where the
narrowing gray line between the mountain rims met the sky. She was seeing
beyond the horizon. She was seeing cities of memory and reality. A great
yearning was in her heart. All the monotonous level lap of the heights
which seemed without end was a symbol that separated her from her desire.
She imagined herself in a Pullman, flashing by farms and villages; in a
shop selecting gowns; viewing from a high window the human stream of
Fifth Avenue; taking passage on a steamer; hearing again foreign tongues
long ago familiar to her ears; sensing the rustle of great audiences
before a curtain rose; glimpsing the Mediterranean from a car window;
feeling herself a unit in the throbbing promenade of the life of many
streets while her hunger took its fill of a busy world.
"It is hard to do it all in imagination!" she said to herself. "Even
imagination needs an occasional nest-egg of reality by way of
An hour on the far side of the pass played the emotional part for her of
a storm of tears for many another woman. She rejoiced in being utterly
alone; rejoiced in the grandeur of the very wastes around her as mounting
guard over the freedom of her thoughts. There was no living speck on the
trail, which she knew lay across the expanse of parched earth to the edge
of the blue dome; there was not even a bird in the air. Undisturbed, she
might think anything, pray for anything; she might feed the flame of
revolt till the fuel of many weeks' accumulation had burned itself out
and left her calm in the wisdom and understanding that reconciled her to
her portion and freshened to return through Galeria to the quiet routine
of her daily existence.
Her mind paused in its travels from capital to capital and she was
conscious solely of the stark majesty of her surroundings. She listened.
There was no sound. The spacious stillness was soothing to her nerves; a
specific when all the Eternal Painter's art failed. She closed her eyes,
trying to realize that great silence as one would try to realize the
Infinite. Then faintly she heard a man's voice singing. It seemed at
first a trick of the imagination. But nearer and nearer it came, in the
fellowship of life joyfully invading the solitude; and with a
readjustment of her faculties to the expected event, she watched the
point where the trail dipped on a sharp turn of grade.
Above it rose a cowpuncher hat, then a silk shirt with a string tie, and
after that a sage baggage burro with clipped ears, a solemn-faced pony,
and an Indian. Jack was watching his steps in the uneven path, and not
until the full length of him had appeared and he was flush on the level
with her did he look up.
She was leaning back, her weight partly poised on the flat of her hand
on the rock, revealing the full curve of throat and the soft sweep of
the lines of her slim figure, erect, her head thrown back, her face in
shadow with the sun behind playing in her hair, in half-defiant
readiness. She saw him as the spirit of travel--its ease, mystery,
unattachedness--which had spanned the distances between her and the
horizon, in the freedom of his wandering choice. His low-pitched
exclamation of surprise was vibrant with appreciation of the picture she
made, and he stood quite still in a second's wistful silence, waiting on
her first word after the lapse of the many days since he had brought a
look of horror into her eyes.
"Hello, Jack!" she said in the old tone of comradeship. It struck a spark
electrifying him with all his old, happy manner.
He swept off his hat with a grand bow, blinking in the blaze of the sun
which turned his tan to a bronze and touched the smile, which was born as
an inspiration from her greeting, with radiance.
"Hello to you, Mary, guarding the pass to Little Rivers!" he said
exultantly. "You are just the person I wanted to see. I have been in
a hurry to tell you about a certain thing ever since it came to me
She guessed that he was about to make up a new story. He must have had
time for many inventions in the ten days of his absence. But she welcomed
any tangent of nonsense that set the right key for the coincidence of
their meeting. She had refused to ride to the pass with him and here they
were alone together on the pass. Three or four steps, so light that they
seemed to be irresistibly winning permission from her, and he had sat
down on another flat-topped rock close by. Firio and the baggage train
moved on up the trail methodically and stopped well in the background.
"You know how when you meet a person you are sometimes haunted by a
conviction that you have met him before!" he began. "How exasperated you
are not to be able to recall the time and place!"
"Had you forgotten where you met the dinosaur?" she asked. "He must have
thought you very impolite after all the trouble he had taken to make you
remember him the last time you went through the pass."
"Oh, the dinosaur and I have patched up a truce, because it seems, after
all, that I had mistaken his identity and he was a pleosaur. But"--he did
not take the pains to parry her interruption with more foolery, and
proceeded as if she had not spoken--"it has never been out of my mind
that your father gave me a glance at our first meeting which asked the
question that has kept recurring to me: Where had he and I seen each
"Well?" she said curiously, recalling her father's repeated allusions to
"this Wingfield," his strange depression after Jack had left the night
before the duel, his reticence and animadversions.
"I said nothing about it, nor did he. I wonder if it has not been a kind
of contest between us as to which should be the first to say 'Tag!'"
She smiled at this and leaned farther back, but with the curtain of her
eyelashes widening in tremulous intensity.
"I knew it would come!" he went on, with dramatic fervor. "Such things do
come unexpectedly in a flash when there is a sudden electric connection
with some dusty pigeonhole in the mind. It was in Florence that he and I
met! In Florence, on the road to Fiesole!"
"Florence! The road to Fiesole!" Mary repeated; and the names seemed to
rouse in her a rapturous recollection. She leaned forward now, her lips
apart, her eyes glowing. In place of wastes she was seeing brown roofs
and the sweep of the Tuscan Valley.
"And _we_ met--_you_ and _I_!"
"We?" Her glance came sharply back from the distances in the astonishment
of dilating pupils that drew together in inquiry as she saw that he was
"Yes. I was at the extremely mature age of six and you must have been
about a year younger. Do you remember it at all?"
"No!" She was silent, concentrated, groping. "No, no!" she repeated.
"Five is very immature compared to six!"
"Your father had a beard then, a great blond beard that excited my
emulation. When I grew up I was going to have one like it and just such
bushy eyebrows. You came up the Fiesole road at his side, holding fast
to his thumb. I was playing at our villa gate. You went up the path with
him to see my mother--I can see just how you looked holding so fast to
that thumb! After a while you came straying out alone. Now don't you
remember? Don't you? Something quite sensational happened."
"Well, I showed off what a great boy I was. I walked on the parapet of
the villa wall. I bowed to my audience aged five with the grandeur of a
tight-rope performer who has just done his best thriller as a climax to
"Yes--yes!" she breathed, with quick-running emphasis. Out of the mists
of fifteen years had come a signal. She bent nearer to him in the wonder
of a thing found in the darkness of memory, which always has the
fascination of a communication from another world. "You wanted me to come
up on the wall," she said, taking up the thread of the story. "You said
it was so easy, and you helped me up, and when I looked down at the road
I was overcome and fell down all in a heap on the parapet."
"And heavens!" he gasped, living the scene over again, "wasn't I
frightened for fear you would tumble off!"
"But I remember that you helped me down very nicely--and--and that is all
I do remember. What then?"
She had come to a blind alley and perplexity was in her face, though she
tried to put the question nonchalantly. What then? How deep ran the
current of this past association?
"Why, there wasn't much else. Your father came down the path and his big
thumb took you in tow. I did not see you again. A week later mother and I
had gone to Switzerland--we were always on the move."
The candor of his glance told her that this was all. As boy and girl they
had met under an Italian sky. As man and woman they had met under an
Now the charm of the Florence of their affections held them with a magic
touch. They were not in a savage setting, looking out over savage
distances, but on the Piazzale Michelangelo, looking out over the city of
Renaissance genius which slumbers on the refulgent bosom of its past;
they were oblivious of the Eternal Painter's canvasses and enjoying
Raphael's, Botticelli's, and Andrea del Sarto's. Possibly the Eternal
Painter, in the leniency of philosophic appreciation of their oblivion to
his art, hazarded a guess about the destiny of this pair. He could not
really have known their destiny. No, it is impossible to grant him the
power of divination; for if he had it he might not be so young of heart.
Their talk flitted here and there in exclamations, each bringing an
entail of recollection of some familiar, enjoyed thing; and when at last
it returned to their immediate surroundings the shadow of the range was
creeping out onto the plain, cut by the brilliance of the sun through the
V. Mary rose with a quick, self-accusing cry about the lateness of the
hour. To him it was a call on his resources to delay their departure.
"Do you see where that shelf breaks abruptly?" he asked. "It must be the
side of a canyon. Have you ever looked down?"
"I started to once."
"I should not like to go over the pass again without seeing if this
is really a canyon of any account. I feel myself quite an authority
"It will be dark before we reach Little Rivers!" she protested.
"Ten minutes--only a step!" and he was appealing in his boyish fashion to
have his way.
"Nonsense! Besides, I do not care for canyons."
"You still fear, then, to look down from walls? You--"
And this decided her. On another occasion she had gone to the precipice
edge and faltered. She would master her dizziness for once and all; he
should not know from her any confession of a weakness which was purely of
The point to which he had alluded was an immense overhanging slab of
granite stratum deep set in the mountain side. As they approached, a
thrill of lightness and uncertainty was setting her limbs a-quiver. Her
elbow was touching his, her will driving her feet forward desperately.
Suddenly she was gazing down, down, down, into black depths which
seemed calling irresistibly and melting her power of muscular volition,
while he with another step was on the very edge, leaning over and
smiling. She dropped back convulsively. He was all happy absorption in
the face of that abyss. How easy for him to topple over and go hurtling
into the chasm!
"Don't!" she gasped, and blindly tugged at his arm to draw him back.
As he looked around in surprise and inquiry, she withdrew her hand in a
reaction against her familiarity, yet did not lower it, holding it out
with fingers spread in expression of her horror. Serenely he regarded
her for a moment in her confusion and distress, and then, smiling, while
the still light of confidence was in his eyes, he locked his arm in hers.
Before she could protest or resist he had drawn her to his side.
"It is just as safe as looking off the roof of a porch on to a flower
garden," he said.
And why she knew not, but the fact had come as something definite and
settled: she was no longer dizzy or uncertain. Calmly, in the triumph of
mind over fear, in the glory of a new sensation of power, she looked down
into that gulf of shadows--looked down for a thousand feet, where the
narrowing, sheer walls merged into darkness.
From this pit to the blue above there was only infinite silence, with no
movement but his pulse-beat which she could feel in his wrist
distinctly. He had her fast, a pawn of one of his impulses. A shiver of
revolt ran through her. He had taken this liberty because she had shown
weakness. And she was not weak. She had come to the precipice to prove
that she was not.
"Thank you. My little tremor of horror has passed," she told him. "I can
stand without help, now."
He released his hold and she stood quite free of him, a glance flashing
her independence. Smilingly she looked down and smilingly and
triumphantly back at him.
"You need not keep your arm up in that fashion ready to assist me. It
is tiring," she said, with a touch of her old fire of banter over the
barrier. "I am all right, now. I don't know what gave me that giddy
turn--probably sitting still so long and looking out at the blaze of
He swept her with a look of admiration; and their eyes meeting, she
looked back into the abyss.
"I wish I had such courage," he said with sudden, tense earnestness;
"courage to master my revulsion against shadows."
"Perhaps it will come like an inspiration," she answered
Then both were silent until she spoke of a stunted little pine three or
four hundred feet down, in the crotch of an outcropping. Its sinking
roots had split a rock, over which the other roots sprawled in gnarly
persistence. Some passing bird had dropped the seed which had found a bed
in a pocket of dust from the erosions of time. So it had grown and set up
housekeeping in its isolation, even as the community of Little Rivers had
in a desert basin beside a water-course.
"The little pine has courage--the courage of the dwarf," she said. "It is
worth more than a whole forest of its majestic cousins in Maine. How
green it is--greener than they!"
"But they rise straight to heaven in their majesty!" he returned, to make
"Yes, out of the ease of their rich beds!"
"In a crowd and waiting for the axe!"
"And this one, in its isolation, creating something where there was
nothing! Every one of its needles is counted in its cost of birth out of
the stubborn soil! And waiting all its life down there for the reward of
a look and a word of praise!"
"But," he went on, in the delight of hearing her voice in rebuttal, "the
big pines give us the masts of ships and they build houses and furnish
the kindling for the hardwood logs of the hearth!"
"The little pine makes no pretensions. It has done more. It has given us
something without which houses are empty: It has given us a thought!"
"True!" he exclaimed soberly, yielding. And now all the lively signals of
the impulse of action played on his face. "For your glance and your word
of praise it shall pay you tribute!" he cried. "I am going down to bring
you one of its clusters of spines."
"But, Jack, it is a dangerous climb--it is late! No! no!"
"No climb at all. It is easy if I work my way around by that ledge
yonder. I see stepping-places all the way."
How like him! While she thought only of the pine, he had been thinking
how to make a descent; how to conquer some physical difficulty. Already
he had started despite her protest.
"I don't want to rob the little pine!" she called, testily.
"I'll bring a needle, then!"
"Even every needle is precious!"
"I'll bring a dead one, then!"
There was no combatting him, she knew, when he was headstrong; and when
he was particularly headstrong he would laugh in his soft way. He was
laughing now as he took off his spurs and tossed them aside.
"No climbing in these cart-wheels, and I shall have to roll up my chaps!"
She went back to the precipice edge to prove to him, to prove to herself,
that she could stand there alone, without the moral support of anyone at
her side, and found that she could. She had mastered her weakness. It was
as if a new force had been born in her. She felt its stiffening in every
fibre as she saw him pass around the ledge and start down toward the
little pine; felt it as something which could build barriers and mount
them with an invulnerable guard.
How would he get past that steep shoulder? The worst obstacle confronted
him at the very beginning of the descent. He was hugging a rock face,
feeling his way, with nothing but a few inches of a projecting seam
between him and the darkness far below. His foot slipped, his body turned
half around, and she had a second of the horror that she had felt when
waiting for the sound of Leddy's shot in Bill Lang's store. She saw his
outspread hands clutching the seam above; watched for them to let go. But
they held; the foot groped and got its footing again, and he worked his
way out on a shelf.
He was safe and she dropped on her knees weakly, still looking down at
him. It was the old story of their relations. Was this man ever to be
subjecting her to spasms of fear on his account? And there he was beaming
up at her reassuringly, while she felt the blood which had gone from her
face return in a hot flood. It brought with it anger in place of fear.
"I don't want it! I don't want it!" she cried down.
"And I want to get it for you! I want to get it for you--for you!" His
voice was a tumult of emotion in the abandon of passionate declaration.
So long had she held him back that now when the flood came it had the
power of conserved strength bursting a dam in wild havoc. "There is
nothing I would not like to do for you, Mary!" he cried. "I'd like to
pull that pine up for you, even if it bled and suffered! I'd like to go
on doing things for you forever!"
There was not even a movement of her lips in answer. It seemed to her
now that there on the precipice edge, while he held her arm in his,
the iridescent house of glass had fallen about them in a confused,
dazzling shower of wreckage. He had found an opening. He had broken
through the barrier.
Half unconscious of his progress, of the chasm itself, she waited in a
daze and came out of it to see him sweeping his hat upward from beside
the pine before he reached as far as he could among the branches and,
with what seemed to her the refinement of effrontery and disregard of her
wishes, broke off a tawny young branch. He waved it to her--this garland
of conquest won out of the jaws of danger, which he was ready to throw at
her feet from the lists.
"No, no, no!" she said, half aloud.
She saw him start back with his sure steps, his shoulders swinging with
the lithe, adaptable movement of his body; and every step was drawing him
nearer to a meeting which would be like no other between them. Soon he
would be crunching the glass of the house under that confident tread; in
the ecstasy of a new part he would be before the opening he had broken in
the barrier with the jauntiness of one who expected admission. His
pulse-beat under the touch of her fingers at the precipice edge, his
artery-beat in the _arroyo_, was hammering in her temples, hammering out
a decision which, when it came, brought her to her feet.
Now the shadows were deep; all the glory of the sunset in the Eternal
Painter's chaotic last moments of his day's work overspread the western
sky, and from the furnace in which he dipped his brush came a blade of
rich, blazing gold through the pass and lay across the trail. It
enveloped her as, half running, mindless of her footing, slipping as she
went, she hurried toward the other side of Galeria.
When Jack Wingfield came up over the ledge, a pine tassel in his hand,
his languor of other days transformed into high-strung, triumphant
intensity, the sparkle of a splendid hope in his eyes, only Firio was
there to welcome him.
"Senorita Ewold said she no could wait," Firio explained. "It was very
late, she said."
Jack stopped as if struck and his features became a lifeless mask, as
lifeless as the walls of the canyon. He looked down at the trophy of his
climb and ran his fingers over the needles slowly, again and again, in
"I understand!" he said, half to himself; and then aloud: "Firio, we will
not go into town to-night. We will camp on the other side by the river."
"_Si_! I shot enough quail this afternoon for dinner."
But Jack did not have much appetite, and after dinner he did not amuse
Firio with inventions of his fancy. He lay long awake, his head on his
clasped hands, looking at the stars.
A PUZZLED AMBASSADOR
A faint aureole of light crept up back of the pass.
"Dawn at last!" Jack breathed, in relief. "Firio! Firio! Up with you!"
"Oh-yuh!" yawned Firio. "_Si, si_!" he said, rising numbly to his feet
and rubbing his eyes with his fists, while he tried to comprehend an
astonishing reversal of custom. Usually he awakened his camp-mate; but
this morning his camp-mate had awakened him. A half shadow in the
semi-darkness, Jack was already throwing the saddle over P.D.'s back.
"We will get away at once," he said.
Firio knew that something strange had come over Senor Jack after he had
met Senorita Ewold on the pass, and now he was convinced that this thing
had been working in Senor Jack's mind all night.
"Coffee before we start?" he inquired ingratiatingly.
"Coffee at the ranch," Jack answered.
In their expeditious preparations for departure he hummed no snatches of
song as a paean of stretching muscles and the expansion of his being with
the full tide of the conscious life of day; and this, too, was contrary
Before it was fairly light they were on the road, with Jack urging P.D.
forward at a trot. The silence was soft with the shimmer of dawn; all
glistening and still the roofs and trees of Little Rivers took form. The
moist sweetness of its gardens perfumed the fresh morning air in greeting
to the easy traveller, while the makers of gardens were yet asleep.
It was the same hour that Mary had hurried forth after her wakeful night
to stop the duel in the _arroyo_. As Jack approached the Ewold home he
had a glimpse of something white, a woman's gown he thought, that
disappeared behind the vines. He concluded that Mary must have risen
early to watch the sunrise, and drew rein opposite the porch; but through
the lace-work of the vines he saw that it was empty. Yet he was positive
that he had seen her and that she must have seen him coming. She was
missing the very glorious moment which she had risen to see. A rim of
molten gold was showing in the defile and all the summits of the range
were topped with flowing fire.
"Mary!" he called.
There was no answer. Had he been mistaken? Had mental suggestion played
him a trick? Had his eyes personified a wish when they saw a figure on
"Mary!" he called again, and his voice was loud enough for her to have
heard if she were awake and near. Still there was no answer.
The pass had now become a flaming vortex which bathed him in its
far-spreading radiance. But he had lost interest in sunrises. A last
backward, hungry glance over his shoulder as he started gave him a
glimpse through the open door of the living-room, and he saw Mary leaning
against the table looking down at her hands, which were half clasped in
her lap, as if she were waiting for him to get out of the way.
Thus he understood that he had ended their comradeship when he had broken
through the barrier on the previous afternoon, and the only thing that
could bring it back was the birth of a feeling in her greater than
comradeship. His shoulders fell together, the reins loosened, while P.D.,
masterless if not riderless, proceeded homeward.
It was the greeting of Bob Worther, the inspector of ditches, who was the
only man abroad at that hour. Jack looked up with an effort to be genial
and found Bob closely studying his features in a stare.
"What's the matter, Bob?" he asked. "Has my complexion turned green over
night or my nose slipped around to my ear?"
"I was trying to make out if you do look like him!" Bob declared.
"Like whom? What the deuce is the mystery?"
"What--why, of course you're the most interested party and the only
Little Riversite that don't know about it, seh!"
After all, there was some compensation for early rising. Bob expanded
with the privilege of being the first to break the news.
"If you'd come yesterday you'd have seen him. He went by the noon train,"
he said, and proceeded with the story of Prather.
Jack had never heard of the man before and was obviously uninterested. He
did not seem to care if a dozen doubles came to town.
"Oh, yes, there's another thing concerning you," Bob continued. "I was so
interested in telling you about Prather that I near forgot it. A
swell-looking fellow--says he's a doctor and he's got New York written
all over him--came in yesterday particularly to see you."
Though it was a saying in Little Rivers that nobody ever found Jack at a
loss, he started perceptibly now. His fingers worked nervously on the
reins and he bit his lips in irritation.
"He was asking a lot of questions about you," Bob added.
By this time Jack had summoned back his smile. He did not seem to mind if
a dozen doctors came to town at the same time as a dozen doubles.
"Did you tell him that I had a cough--kuh-er?" he asked, casually.
"Why, no! I said you could thrash your weight in wildcats and he says,
'Well, he'll have to, yet!' and then shut up as if he'd overspoke
himself--and I judge that he ain't the kind that does that often. But
say, Jack," Bob demanded, in the alarm of local partisanship which
apprehends that it may unwittingly have served an outside interest, "did
you want us to dope it out that you were an invalid? We ain't been
getting you in wrong, I hope?"
"Not a bit!" answered Jack with a reassuring slap on Bob's shoulder. "Was
his name Bennington?"
"Yes, that's it."
"Well," said Jack thoughtfully and with a return of his annoyance, "he
will find me at home when he calls." And P.D. knew that the reins were
still held in listless hands as he turned down the side street toward the
Firio was feeling like an astrologer who had lost faith in his crystal
ball. An interrogation had taken the place of his confident "_Si, si_"
of desert understanding of the mind of his patron. Jack had broken camp
with the precipitancy of one who was eager to be quit of the trail and
back at the ranch; yet he gave his young trees only a passing glance
before entering the house. He had not wanted coffee on the road, yet
coffee served with the crisp odor of bacon accompanying its aroma, after
his bath and return to ranch clothes, found no appetite. He was as a man
whose mind cannot hold fast to anything that he is doing. Firio,
restless, worried, his eyes flicking covert glances, was frequently in
and out of the living-room on one excuse or another.
"What work to-day?" he asked, as he cleared away the breakfast dishes.
"What has Senor Jack planned for us to do?"
"The work to-day? The work to-day?" Jack repeated absently. "First the
mail." He nodded toward a pile on the table.
"And I shall make ready to stay a long time?" Firio insinuated softly.
"No!" Jack answered to space.
The pyramid of mail might have been a week's batch for the Doge himself.
At the bottom were a number of books and above them magazines which Jack
had subscribed for when he found that they were not on the Doge's list.
There was only one letter as a first-class postage symbol of the exile's
intimacy with the outside world, and out of this tumbled a check and a
blank receipt to be filled in. He tore off the wrappers of the magazines
as a means of some sort of physical occupation and rolled them into
balls, which he cast at the waste-basket; but neither the contents of the
magazines nor those of the newspapers seemed to interest him. His
aspect was that of one waiting in a lobby to keep an appointment.
When he heard steps on the porch he sang out cheerily, "Come in!" but,
contrary to the habit of Little Rivers hospitality, he did not hasten to
meet his caller, and any keenness of anticipation which he may have felt
was well masked.
There entered a man of middle age, with close-cropped gray beard, clad in
soft flannels, the trousers bottoms turned up in New York fashion for
negligee business suits for that spring. To the simple interior of a
western ranch house he brought the atmosphere of complex civilization as
a thing ineradicably bred into his being. It was evident, too, that he
had been used to having his arrival in any room a moment of importance
which summoned the rapt attention of everybody, whether nurses, fellow
physicians, or the members of the patient's family. But this time that
was lacking. The young man leaning against the table was not visibly
"Hello, doctor!" said Jack, as unconcernedly as he would have passed the
time of day with Jim Galway in the street.
"Hello, Jack!" said the doctor.
Jack went just half-way across the room to shake hands. Then he dropped
back to his easy position, with the table as a rest, after he had set a
chair for the visitor.
"How do you like Little Rivers?" Jack asked.
"I have been here only thirty-six hours," answered the doctor, avoiding a
direct answer. He was pulling off his silk summer gloves, making the
operation a trifle elaborate, one which seemed to require much
attention. "I came pretty near mistaking another man for you, but his
mole patch saved me. I didn't think you could have grown one out here.
Wonderfully like you! Have you met him?"
He glanced up as he asked this question, which seemed the first to occur
to him as a warming-up topic of conversation before he came to the
business in hand.
"No. I have just heard of him," Jack answered.
The doctor smiled at his gloves, which he now folded and put in his
pocket. Don't the lecturers to young medical students say, "Divert your
patient's mind to some topic other than himself as you get your first
impression"? Now Dr. Bennington drew forward in his chair, rested the
tips of the long fingers of a soft, capable hand on the edge of the
table, and looked up to Jack in professional candor, sweeping him with
the knowing eye of the modern confessor of the secrets of all manner of
mankind. With the other hand he drew a stethoscope from his side
"Well, Jack, you can guess what brought me all the way from New
York--just five minutes' work!" and he gave the symbol of examination a
flourish in emphasis.
"I don't think I have forgotten the etiquette of the patient on
such occasions," Jack returned. "It is an easy function in this
He drew his shirt up from a compact loin and lean middle, revealing the
arch of his deep chest, the flesh of which was healthy pink under neck
and face plated with Indian tan. The doctor's eyes lighted with the bliss
of a critic used to searching for flaws at sight of a masterpiece. While
he conducted the initial plottings with the rubber cup which carried
sounds to one of the most expensive senses of hearing in America, Jack
was gazing out of the window, as if his mind were far away across the
"Breathe deep!" commanded the doctor.
Jack's nostrils quivered with the indrawing of a great gust of air and
his diaphragm swelled until his ribs were like taut bowstrings.
"And you were the pasty-faced weakling that left my office five years
ago--and you, you husky giant, have brought me two thousand miles to see
if you were really convalescent!"
"I hope the trip will do you good!" said Jack, sweetly.
"But it is great news that I take back, great news!" said the doctor, as
he put the stethoscope in his pocket.
"Yes?" returned Jack, slipping his head through his shirt. "You don't
find even a speck?"
"Not a speck! No sign of the lesion! There is no reason why you should
not have gone home long ago."
"No?" Jack was fastening his string tie and doing this with something of
the urban nicety with which the doctor had folded his gloves. That tie
was one of the few inheritances from complex civilization which still had
"What have you found to do all these years?"
Jack was surprised at the question.
"I have just wandered about and read and thought," he explained.
"Without developing any sense of responsibility?" demanded the doctor in
"I have tried to be good to my horses, and of late I have taken to
ranching. There is a lot of responsibility in that and care, too. Take
the scale, for instance!"
"A confounded little ranch out in this God-forsaken place, that a Swede
immigrant might run!"
"No, the Swedes aren't particularly good at irrigation, though better
than the Dutch. You see, the Hollanders are used to having so much
Jack was leaning idly against the table again. The fashionable
practitioner, accustomed to having his words accepted at their cost price
in gold, broke in hotly:
"It is past all understanding! You, the heir to twenty millions!"
"Is it twenty now?" Jack asked softly and sadly.
"Nearer thirty, probably! And shirking your duty! Shirking and for
Jack faced around. The doctor, meeting a calm eye that was quizzically
challenging, paused abruptly, feeling that in some way he had been caught
at a professional disadvantage in his outburst of emotion.
"Don't you like Little Rivers?" asked Jack.
"I should be bored to death!" the doctor admitted, honestly.
"Well, you see this air never healed a lesion for you! You never
uttered a prayer to it for strength with every breath! And, doctor,"
Jack hesitated, while his lips were half open, showing his even teeth
slightly apart in the manner of a break in a story to the children
where he expected them to be very attentive to what was coming, "you
can take a piece of tissue and analyze it, yes, a piece of brain tissue
and find all the blood-vessels, but not what a man was thinking, can
you? Until you can take a precipitate of his thoughts--the very
thoughts he is unconscious of himself--and put them under a microscope,
why, there must be a lot of guesswork about the source of all
unconventional human actions."
Jack laughed over his invasion of psychology; and when he laughed in a
certain way the impulse to join him was strong, as Mary first found on
the pass. So the doctor laughed, partly in relief, perhaps, that this
uncertain element which he was finding in Jack had not yet proved
"That would make a capital excuse for a student flunking in
examinations!" he said.
"It might be a worthy one--not that I say it ought to pass him."
"Now, Jack," the doctor began afresh, the reassuring force of his
personality again in play.
He took a step and raised his hands as if he would put them on Jack's
shoulders. One could imagine him driving hypochondria out of many a
patient's mind by thus making his own vigorous optimism flow down from
his fingertips, while he looked into the patient's eye. But his hands
remained in the air, though Jack had been only smiling at him. This was
not the way to handle this patient, something told his trained, sensitive
instinct in time, and he let his hands fall in semblance of a gesture of
protest, gave a shrug and came directly to the point very genuinely.
"Well, Jack--your father!"
"Yes." And Jack's face was still and blank, while shadows played over
it in a war among themselves. "He did not even tell me you were
coming," he added.
"Perhaps he feared that it would give you time to develop a cough or you
would start overland to Chihuahua so I should miss you. Jack, he needs
you! All that fortune waits for you!"
"Now that I am strong, yes! He did not come out to see me even during
the first year when I had not the health to go to him, nor did he think
to come with you."
"He--he is a very busy man!" explained the doctor, in ready championship.
And yet he looked away from Jack, and when he looked back it was with an
appeal to conscience rather than to filial affection. "Is it right to
remain, however much you like this desert life? Have you any excuse?"
"Yes, an overwhelming one!" exclaimed Jack in a voice that was
high-pitched and determined, while his eyes burned and no trace of humor
remained on lips that were as firm as the outline of his chin. "Yes, one
that thrills me from head to foot with the steady ardor of the soldier
who makes a siege!"
"I--I--you are beyond me! Then you will stay? You are not coming home?"
"Yes," Jack answered, in another mood, but one equally rigid. "I am
coming at once. That was all settled last night under the stars. I have
found the courage!"
"The courage to go to twenty millions!" gasped the doctor. "But--good!
You will go! That is enough! Why shouldn't we take the same train back?"
he went on enthusiastically. "I shall be coming through here in less than
a week. You see, I am so near California that I simply had to steal a few
days with my sister, who can't come East on account of her health. I have
been so tied down to practice that I have not seen her for fifteen years.
That will give you time to arrange your affairs. How about it?"
"It would be delightful, but--" Jack was hesitating. "No, I will refuse.