Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Over the Pass by Frederick Palmer

Part 7 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"No matter!" cried Prather harshly. "I am prepared for you!" He looked
toward the water-hole significantly. "And the concession is mine! The dam
will be mine!"

"The dam could be built and all the valley might bloom without so much
power passing into the hands of one man," said Jack.

P.D. scenting the pasturage and feeling the pangs of thirst was starting
forward at a smarter pace; but Jack held him back to the snail's crawl of
Prather's pony.

"Who would do it? Jasper Ewold? Jim Galway?" Prather demanded. "What
these men need is a leader. They don't realize what I am doing for them.
Do they think I want to put in ten years out here for nothing? For every
dollar that they make for me they are going to make one for themselves.
That's the rule of prosperity. I am not robbing them. I am taking only my
fair share in return for creative business genius. The fellows in Little
Rivers who sulk and don't get on will have only themselves to thank."

"But they lose their independence," Jack was arguing quietly, as if he
would thrash out the subject. "There are other things than money in
this world."

"There's nothing much money won't do!" said Prather.

"It will not give one self-respect or courage or moral fibre; it will not
bring the gift of poetry, music, or painting; or turn a lie into truth;
or bring back virtue to a woman who has been defiled; or make the courage
to face death calmly."

"It will do all I want!" Prather answered. "Father not having been true
to his agreement by keeping you in New York, why should I keep his
secret? He breaks faith; I break faith. It seems to me as if there were
no escaping the penalty of my birth. I no sooner arrive than I find the
whole town knows of your return; and not only that, but a wire comes from
father saying that we had better not meet until he comes."

"Until he comes! Yes, go on!"

"Well, as you say, you are here to save Little Rivers and that meant an
interview with me, and--well," again the palms in their crisp movement,
"before I started out I told Pete Leddy that if you came after me I
should look to him for protection, and it seems he is on time."

"Yes," said Jack, without looking at Prather. All the while he had kept
watch on the water-hole, and he received Prather's announcement stoically
as a confirmation of his suspicions.

"So, if you will take my advice, brother, the best thing for you to do is
to ride back before we reach the water-hole, unless you prefer Leddy's
company. This time he will fight you in his way."

"My horse is tired and there is neither water nor feed for him except
there." Jack stated this quietly and stubbornly, as he nodded toward the
cotton-woods. Then he looked around to Prather. Suddenly Prather found
himself looking at a face that seemed to have only the form of that face
by the side of which he had been riding. It was as if another man had
taken Jack's place in the saddle. The ancestor was rising in Jack.
Prather saw an electric spark in Jack's eyes, the spark of the high
voltage that made his muscles weave and a flutter come in his cheeks.
"No, I am not going back until I have recovered the rights that you have
taken from Little Rivers!" he said.

Prather in sudden confusion realized that he had let his feelings go too
soon. They were not yet at the water-hole, and he was within easy reach
of that hand working on the reins in a way that promised an outburst.

"You think of physical violence against me--your own flesh and blood!" he
said defensively.

He saw Jack shudder in reaction and knew that he was safe for the moment.
When Jack looked away at the water-hole Prather's fingers slipped to his
own six-shooter and rested there, twitching nervously; and in the rear
Firio was watching both him and Nogales shrewdly.

From any outward sign now, Jack might have been starting on another
journey with quiet eagerness; a journey that might end at a precipice a
few yards ahead or at the other side of the world. Of this alone you
could be sure from the resoluteness of his features, that he was going
straight on; while Firio, in the telepathy of desert companionship,
understood that he was missing no developing detail within the narrow
range of vision in front of P.D.'s nose. Trusting all to Jack, Firio was
on wires, ready for a spring in any direction.

They were coming to the edge of a depression of an old watercourse that
wound around past the cotton-woods to the ridge itself and included the
basin where Leddy and his followers had tethered their horses. But this
part of it was dry sand. The standing figures around the water-hole had
sunk down. Jack could see them as lumps in a row. A blade of flame from
the setting sun fell on them, revealing the glint of rifle barrels.

"Firio! Quick--down! P.D., down!" Jack called, dismounting with a leap;
and as though in answer to his warning came the singing of bullets about
their ears.

P.D. had been trained to sink on all fours at a word and he and Jack
together dropped into the cover of the _arroyo_, below the desert line.
When he looked around Firio was at his side, still holding the reins of
Wrath of God. But Wrath of God's sturdy, plodding nature had little
facility in learning tricks. A tiny stream of blood was flowing down his
forehead and he lay still. At last, all in loyal service, he had reached
the horizon. His bony, homely, good old face seemed singularly peaceful,
as if satisfied with the reward at his journey's end. Jag Ear was
standing beside P.D. and Prather's burro next to him, both unharmed.
Nogales's horse had also been killed, but its rider was safe. Prather was
crawling down the side of the _arroyo_ on his belly, digging his hands
into the dirt, his face white and contorted and his eyes shifting back
and forth in ghastly incomprehension. His horse followed him and sank
down in final surrender to exhaustion.

By common impulse, Jack and Firio seized the rifles from Jag Ear's pack,
while Nogales, a spectator, squatted beside Prather.

"What--what does it mean?" Prather gasped, spasmodically. "I--I--was it
Leddy that fired on us?"

"Yes," said Jack over his shoulder, as he and Firio started up the bank
of the _arroyo_ facing the water-hole. "No doubt of it."

"It was you they wanted--not me--not me! I--I--"

"I don't know. At all events, I do not mean they shall rush us!" Jack
answered, as he and Firio hugged the slope with their rifles resting on
top and only their heads showing above it.

"No! It couldn't be that they recognized me. They will let me by! They
expect me!"

"Yes, you belong on their side!" Jack called back.

"I will send out a flag of truce!" said Prather, brightening with
the thought. "You, Nogales, take my handkerchief and go and explain
to Leddy!"

Nogales seemed agreeable to the suggestion. Indeed, he was very
expeditious in starting. While Jack never took his eye off the sight of
his barrel, Nogales walked across the gleaming interval between the two
parties waving Prather's handkerchief. Leddy rose on his knee watchfully,
rifle in hand, while he spoke with Nogales. Then Nogales started back
with his head thrown up jubilantly, but stopped when he was within
calling distance and sang out, truculently:

"Leddy get you both! He get everything!"

He turned on his heel and soon was another lump around the water-hole.

"That makes nine, Firio!" said Jack.

He smiled in relief to be rid of Nogales; smiled in happy confidence, as
if he were truly the ancestor's child.

"_Si_!" answered Firio, as if he had just as soon there were a regiment
against them. He was happy beyond words. He patted his rifle barrel; he
spread out his big red bandanna beside his elbow and on it nicely
arranged a couple of extra charges of cartridges.

Prather remained flat on the bottom of the _arroyo_, overwhelmed. It was
some time before he could speak.

"I--I don't understand! It isn't possible!" he said finally.

"Everything is possible with Leddy. It seems that there can be peace
between him and me in this valley in only one way," Jack answered.

"But me! I suppose he found out that I--" Prather stopped without
finishing the sentence. "What am I to do?" he asked Jack in livid appeal.

"Why, it is three against nine, if you choose!" Jack answered. "You have
a rifle, and it is for your life."

"My life!" Prather gasped, another wave of fear submerging him.

"Yes. We have no horses with which to make our escape and we should be
winged as soon as we exposed ourselves. Leddy means that we shall die of
thirst, or die fighting."

Through all this dialogue Jack had been speaking to the head that lay
between his eye and a target. As Prather reached up a trembling hand to
take his rifle from the back of his burro one of the lumps around the
water-hole rose, possibly to change position. When it became the
silhouette of a kneeling man, Jack fired and the figure plunged forward
like an automaton that had had its back broken.

"Eight!" whispered Firio.

"Duck!" Jack told him; for a response instantly came in a volley that
kicked up the dust around their heads.

But Jack's rifle lay in limp hands.

"Eight!" he repeated, dazedly. "And I shot to kill--to kill!"

His face blanched with horror at the thing that he had done. It seemed as
if the strength had been struck out of him. He appeared ready to let
destiny overtake him rather than fire again. Then as in a flash, the
ancestor in him reappeared and in his features was written that very
process of fate which Dr. Bennington had said was in him. Again his hand
was firm on the barrel and his eye riveted on the sight, as he drew
himself up until he lay even with the bank of the _arroyo_.

The volley from the cotton-woods had swept over Prather's head at the
instant that he had taken hold of his rifle. It dropped from his grasp.
He burrowed in the sand under the pressure of that near and sinister rush
of singing breaths.

"I can't! I can't!" he said helplessly.

He was leaden flesh, without the power to move. At his words Jack glanced
back to see a dropped jaw and glassy, staring eyes.

"You are suffering!" exclaimed Jack. "Are you hit?"

"No!" Prather managed to say, and reached out for his rifle in clumsy
desperation, as if he were feeling for it in the dark.

"Take your time!" said Jack encouragingly, as one would to a victim of
stage fright. "There isn't any danger for the moment, while advantage of
position is with us--the sun over our shoulders and in their faces."

The lumps around the water-hole grew smaller. Evidently, as a result of
the lesson, they were creeping backward on their stomachs to a less
exposed position. Two had quite disappeared, or else the brilliant play
of light had melted them into the golden carpet of reflected sunshine on
which they rested. Directly, Jack saw two figures creeping over the rim
of the pasturage basin.

"So, that's it!" he said to Firio.

Firio nodded his understanding of Leddy's plan to take them in flank
under cover of the _arroyo_.

"We shall have to respond in kind!" said Jack.

He left his hat where his head had been and began crawling along the side
of the _arroyo_, but paused to call to Prather, who, now that no bullets
were flying, was trying the mechanism of his rifle with a somewhat
steadier hand:

"Prather, if you could manage to get up there beside Firio and join him
in pouring out a magazine full at the right moment, it would help! If
not, put your hat up there beside mine. You can do that without exposing

Jack's tone was that of one who urges a tired man to take a few more
steps, or an invalid without any appetite to try another sup of broth. It
had no hint of irony.

"No matter," said Firio. "Leddy know he can't fight. Leddy know there is
only two of us!" His tone was without satire, but its sting was sharper
than satire; that of an Indian shrug over a negligible quantity. It
started Prather on all fours laboriously toward him.

"I am going to the turn in the _arroyo_ that commands the next turn,"
Jack explained. "When I whistle you empty your magazines. Keep your heads
down and fire fast, no matter if not accurately, so as to disturb their
aim at me!"

"_Si_!" said Firio. "I know!" No one could deny that he was having a very
good time making war in the company of Senor Jack. "Yes, Mister Prather,"
he added, when, after toiling painfully on his belly for the few feet he
had to go, Prather lay with his stark face near Firio's; a face strangely
like that of John Wingfield, Sr. when he saw Jasper Ewold from the
drawing-room doorway. "For your life, Mister Prather! _Si_! Up a little
more! Chin high as mine, so! Eye on sight, so!"

Prather obeyed in an abyssmal sort of shame which, for the time being,
conquered his fear, though not his palsy; for his rifle barrel trembled
on its rest.

Meanwhile, Jack had crept to the bend in the _arroyo_. He was listening.
It would not do to show his head as a warning of his presence. Faintly he
heard men moving in the sand, moving slowly and cautiously. At the moment
he chose as the right one, with rifle cocked and finger on trigger, he
gave his signal. Then he sprang to the top of the bank, fully exposed to
the marksmen at the water-hole. For no half measure would do. He must
have a full view of the bottom of the next bend. There he saw two
crawling figures. He fired twice and dropped down with three or four
stinging whispers in his ears and a second volley overhead as he was
under cover. Again he sprang up over the bank in the temptation to see
the result of his aim. One of the would-be flankers lay prostrate and
still, face downward. The other was disappearing beyond the second bend.

"Seven, now!" he thought miserably, in comprehension of the whole
business as ridicule in human savagery. "They won't trouble us again
immediately. They will wait on darkness and thirst," he concluded; and
called, as he turned back, to Firio: "It worked like a charm, O son of
the sun! They could not fire at all straight with your bullets flying
about their heads, disturbing their--" His speech ended at sight of
Prather, half rolling, half tumbling down the slope, his hands over his
face, while he uttered a prolonged moan.

"Bullet hit a rock under sand!" said Firio, as Jack hastened to assist
Prather, who had come to a halt at the very bottom of the _arroyo_ and
lay gasping on his side. Jack took hold of Prather's wrists to draw his
hands away from the wound.

"My God! Out here, like a rat in a trap!" Prather groaned. "When I have
all life before me! In sight of millions and power--a rat in a trap out
on this damnable desert, as if I were of no more account than a rancher!"

"Let me see!" said Jack; for Prather was holding his hands tight against
his face, as if he feared that all the blood in his body would pour out
if he removed them. "Let me see! Maybe it is not so bad!"

Prather let his hands drop and the right one which was over the cheek
with the mole was splashed red between the fingers. On the cheek was a
raw spot, from which ran a slight trickle. The mole had gone. A splinter
of rock, or perhaps a bullet, with its jacket split, ricocheting
sidewise, had torn it clean from the flesh.

"Not at all dangerous!" said Jack.

"No?" exclaimed Prather, in utter relief.

"It will heal in a fortnight!"

A small medicine case was among the regular supplies that were always
packed on that omnibus of a burro, Jag Ear. While Jack was bandaging the
wound, Firio, who kept watch, had no news to report.

"Nothing matters! They will get us, anyway!" Prather moaned. The shock of
being hit had quite finished any pretence at concealing his mortal fear
of the outcome.

"Oh, I wouldn't say that! We already have them down to seven!" said Jack
encouragingly, as he made a pillow of a blanket and bade Prather rest
his head on it.

But he knew well that they were a seven who had learned wisdom from the
fate of their comrades. From Nogales, Leddy must have heard of the loss
of two horses. At best, but one of the beleaguered three had any means of
escape. Leddy could well afford to curb his impatience as he camped
comfortably by the water-hole, while his own horses grazed.

The sun was still above the western ridge in the effulgence of its adieu
for the day. Jack was on his knee, with the broad, level glare full on
him, looking at Prather, who was in the shadow; and his reflections were
mixed with that pity which one feels toward another who is lame or blind
or suffers for the want of any sense or faculty that is born to the
average human being. For a man of true courage rarely sees a coward as
anything but a man ailing; he is grateful for nature's kindness to
himself. And the spark of John Wingfield, Knight, skipping generations
before it settled on a descendant, had not chosen John Prather for its
favor. The ancestor was all Jack's.

Prather, in his agony of mind, had moments of wondering envy as he
watched Jack's changing expression. He could see that Jack, in entire
detachment from his problem of fighting Leddy, was thinking soberly in
the silence of the desert, unconscious in his absorption of the presence
of any other human being. Suddenly his eyes opened wide in the
luminousness of a happy discovery; his lips turned a smile of supreme
satisfaction, and his face seemed to be giving back the light of the sun.

"It's all right!" he said. "Yes, everything is going to be all right!"

"How?" asked Prather wistfully, feeling the infection of the confident
ring of Jack's tone.

"There is one horse left," said Jack. "He is in better condition than
Leddy imagines. When darkness comes you can get away with him and by
morning he will have brought you to water at Las Cascadas, halfway on the
range trail. Then you will be quite safe."

"Yes! Yes!" Prather half rose, his breath coming fast, his eyes ravenous.

"And in return you will give Little Rivers back its water rights! Is that
a bargain?" Jack asked.

"Give up my concession and all it means to me! Give it up absolutely--its
millions!" objected Prather, in an uncontrollable impulse of greed.

"King Richard III, you remember," Jack declared, with a trace of his old
humor breaking out over the new aspect of the situation, "said he would
give his kingdom for a horse. He could not get the horse and he lost both
his kingdom and his life. If he had been able to make the trade he might
have saved his life and perhaps--who knows?--have won another kingdom."

"I will save my life!" Prather concluded; but under his breath he added
bitterly: "And you get both the store and Little Rivers!" in the
prehensile instinct which gains one thing only to covet another.

"You have the papers for the concession with you?" Jack asked.


"Yes!" interposed Jack firmly.

"Yes!" Prather admitted.

"And you have pencil and paper to make some sort of transfer that will be
the first legal step in undoing what you have done?"


While Prather was occupied with this, Jack found pencil and paper on his
own account and by the light of the sun's last rays and in the happiness
of one who has brought a story to a good end, he wrote to his father:

"John Prather will tell you how he and I met out on the desert before you
came and of the long talk we had.

"You wanted a son who would go on building on the great foundation you
had laid. You have one. He said that you wanted to give him the store.
The reason why you might not give it to him no longer exists. The mole is
gone. Of course there will be a scar where the mole was. I, too, shall
have to carry a scar. But the means is in your power to go far toward
erasing his, for his mother, Mrs. Prather, is still living.

"So everything is clear. Everything is coming out right. John Prather and
I change places, as nature intended that we should. You need have no
apprehensions on my account. Though I had not a cent in the world I could
make my living out here--a very sweet thought, this, to me, with its
promise of something real and practical and worth while, at which I can
make good. I know that you are going to keep the bargain that Prather and
I have made; and think of me as over the pass and very happy as I write
this, in the confidence that at last all accounts have been balanced and
we can both turn to a fresh page in the ledger. JACK."

When Jack, after he had received the transfer, gave the letter to Prather
to read, Prather was transfixed with incredulity.

"You mean this?" he gasped blankly, as his surprise became articulate.

"Yes. You have quite the better of King Richard--you gain both the
kingdom and the horse."

"The store, yes, the store--mine! Mine--the store!" said Prather, in a
slow, passionate monotone, his fingers trembling with the very triumph of
possession as he thrust the letter into his pocket. "The store, yes, the
store!" he repeated, amazement mixed with exultation. "But--" his keen,
practical mind was recovering its balance; he was on guard again. Between
him and the realization of his inheritance lay the shadow of the fear of
the miles in the night. "But--there is no trick?" he hazarded in


Jack spoke in such a way that it removed the last doubt for Prather, who
kneaded his palms together in a kind of frenzy, oblivious of all except
the moneyed prospect of the kingdom craved that had become a kingdom won.

"How long before I start?" he asked.

"As soon as the first darkness settles and before the moon rises."

"I shall need some food," Prather went on ingratiatingly. "And they say
wounds bring on fever. Have you any water to drink on the way?"

"We will fix you up the best we can. I will divide what water remains
between you and P.D. He shall have his share now and you can drink
yours later."

The sun had set. The afterglow was fading, and in a few minutes, when the
light was quite out of the heavens, Jack announced that it was time for
Prather to start.

"How shall I know the direction?" Prather asked.

"Trust P.D. He will find it," said Jack. He held the stirrup for Prather
to mount with the relief of freeing himself at last from the clinging
touch of the phantoms. "You are perfectly safe. In two days you will be
mounting the steps of a Pullman on your way to New York."

"And you? What--what are you going to do?" Prather inquired hectically,
with a momentary qualm of shame.

"Why, if Firio and I are to have water to make coffee for breakfast we
must take the water-hole!" Jack answered, as if this were a thing of
minor importance beside seeing Prather safely on his way. "Be sure not to
overwater P.D. after the night's ride, and don't overdo him on the final
stretch, and turn him over to Galway when you arrive. Home, P.D.! Home!"
he concluded, striking that good soldier with the flat of his hand on the
buttocks. And P.D. trotted away into the night.

Jack listened to the hoof-beats on the soft earth dying away and then
crept up beside Firio on the bank and gazed into the black wall in the
direction of the cotton-woods. A slight glow in the basin, which must be
Leddy's camp-fire, was the only sign of life in the neighborhood. The
silence was profound. He had not spoken a word to Firio. With one
problem forever solved, he was absorbed in another.

"Leddy drinks, eats, waits!" whispered Firio. "If we try to go they
hunt us down!"

"Yes," said Jack.

"And we not go, eh? We stay? We fight?"

"For water, Firio, yes! Two against seven!"

"_Si_!" Firio had no illusions about the situation. "_Si_!" he repeated

"And, Firio--" Jack's hand slipped with a quick, gripping caress onto
Firio's shoulder. An inspiration had come to the mind of action, just as
a line comes to a poet in a flash; as one must have come to the ancestor
many times after he had gone into a tight place trusting to his wits and
his blade to bring him out. "And, Firio, we are going to change our base,
as the army men say--and change it before the moon rises. Jag Ear, we
shall have to leave you behind," he added, when they had dropped back to
the burro's side. "Just make yourself comfortable. Leddy surely wouldn't
think of killing so valuable a member of the non-combatant class. We will
come for you, by and by. It will be all right!"

He gave the sliver of ear an affectionate corkscrew twist before he and
Firio, taking all their ammunition, crawled along the bottom of the
_arroyo_ and up the ridge where they settled down comfortably behind a
ledge commanding the water-hole at easy range.

"It's lucky we learned to shoot in the moonlight!" Jack whispered.

"_Si"!_ Firio answered, in perfect understanding.



For over a week a private car had stood on a siding at Little Rivers.
Every morning a porter polished the brasswork of the platform in heraldry
of the luxury within. Occasionally a young man with a plaster over a
wound on his cheek would walk up and down the road-bed on the far side of
the car. Indeed, he had worn a path there. He never went into town, and
any glances that he may have cast in that direction spoke his desire to
be forever free of its sight. Not a train passed that he did not wish
himself aboard and away. But as heir-apparent he had no thought of
endangering his new kingdom by going before his father went. He meant to
keep very close to the throne. He had become clingingly, determinedly
filial. At times the gleam of the brasswork would exercise the same
hypnosis over his senses as the scintillation of the jewelry counters of
the store, and he would rub his hands crisply together.

John Wingfield, Sr. spent little time in the car. Morning and afternoon
and evening he would go over to Dr. Patterson's with the question: "How
is he?" which all Little Rivers was asking. The rules of longevity were
in oblivion and the routine channels of a mind, so used to teeming
detail, had become abysses as dark and void as the canyons of the range.

On the day of his arrival in Little Rivers he found a town peopled
mostly by women and children. All of the men who could bear arms and get
a horse had departed, and with them Mary. Thereby hangs a story all to
the honor of little Ignacio. After Jack had ridden away with his
insistent refusal of assistance, apprehension among the group that
watched him disappear in the gathering darkness was allayed by reports of
men who had been at the store, where they found the Leddyites hanging
about as usual. True, no one had seen either Pete or Ropey Smith, but
Lang said that they were upstairs playing poker, a favorite relaxation
from the strain of their intellectual life.

But Ignacio learned from another Indian in Lang's service that Pete and
seven of his best shots had started for Agua Fria about the same time as
Jack, while the rest of the gang that had been left behind were making it
their business to cover the leader's absence. Distrusting Ignacio, they
locked him in a closet off the bar. In the early hours of the morning he
succeeded in escaping with his news, which he carried first to Mary. She
was not asleep when he rapped at her door. It had been a night of
wakefulness for her, recalling the night after her meeting with Jack on
the pass before the duel in the _arroyo_.

"I for Senor Don't Care, now! I for every devil in him! And they go to
kill him!" was the incoherent way in which he began his announcement.

In an hour the alarm had travelled from house to house. While the gang
slept at Lang's or in their tents, a solemn cavalcade set forth quietly
into the night, with rifles slung over their shoulders or lying across
the pommels of their saddles, bound to rescue Jack Wingfield. They had
protested against Mary's going with all the old, familiar arguments that
occur to the male at thought of a woman in physical danger.

"It is the least that any of us can do," she declared.

"But of what service will you be?" Dr. Patterson asked.

"No one can say yet," she replied. "And no one shall stop me!" She was
driven by the same impulse that had sent her across the _arroyo_ in face
of the ruffians on the bank to Jack's side after he was wounded. "My pony
can keep up with the best of yours," she added.

Leddy had eight hours' start on a two-days' journey. It was not in
horse-flesh to gain much on his fast and hardened ponies. There was
little chance that Jack could hold out against such odds as he must face,
even if he had escaped an ambush. So they rode in desperation and in
silence, each too certain of what was in the minds of the others to make
pretence of a hope that was not in the heart.

Their only stop for rest was at Las Cascadas in the hot hours of midday.
Darkness had fallen when they overtook a solitary horseman coming from
Agua Fria. John Prather drew rein well to one side of the trail. He had
a moment, as they approached, in which to think out his explanation of
his position.

"It's Prather, and riding P.D.!" Galway announced.

"Where is Jack Wingfield?" came the merciless question as in one
voice from all.

"You are his friends! You have come to rescue him!" Prather cried.

He seemed overcome by his relief. At all events, the wildness of his
exclamation in face of the force barring the trail was without

"There is time? There is hope?"

"Yes! yes!" gasped Prather, as the men began to surround him.

"Why are you here? Why on his horse?"

"Leddy turned on me, too! I was fighting at Wingfield's side! We got two
of them before dark! Then I was wounded and couldn't see to shoot. And I
came for help. And you will be in time! He's in a good position!"

"I think you are lying!" said Galway.

"He couldn't help it!" said Bob Worther.

"How--how would I have his horse if he weren't willing?" protested
Prather, frantically.

"By stealing it, in keeping with your character!"

"Yes! On general principles we ought to--"

"I have a piece of rope!" called a voice from the rear.

"There isn't any tree. But we can drop him over the wall of a chasm!"

Spectral figures with set faces appallingly grim in the thin moonlight
pressed close to Prather.

"My God! No!" he pleaded, throatily. "We fought together, I tell you! We
drew lots to see which one should take the risk of riding through danger
to save the other!"

"Lying again!"

"Here's the rope! All we've got to do is to slip a noose over his head!"

"It's a clean piece of rope, isn't it?" said the Doge, in his mellow
voice. "I don't think it's worth while soiling a clean piece of
rope. Come! Taking his life is no way to save Jack's. Come, we are
losing time!"

"Right, Doge!" said the man with the rope. "But it is some satisfaction
to give him a scare."

"And take care of P.D.!" called another.

"Yes, if you founder Jack's pony you'll hear from us a-plenty!"

This was their adieu to John Prather, who was left to pursue his way in
safety to his kingdom, while they rode on, following a hard path at the
base of the range. Those with the best horses took the lead, while the
heavier men, including the Doge, whose weight was telling on their
mounts, fell to the rear. Mary was at the head, between Dr. Patterson and
Jim Galway.

The stars flickered out; the moon grew pale, and for a while the horsemen
rode into a wall of blackness, conscious of progress only by the sound of
hoof-beats which they were relentlessly urging forward. Then dawn flashed
up over the chaos of rocks, pursuing night with the sweep of its
broadening, translucent wings across the valley to the other range. The
tops of the cotton-woods rose out of the sparkling sea, floating free of
any visible support of trunks, and the rescuers saw that they were near
the end of their journey.

There was a faint sound of a shot; then of another shot and another.
After that, the radiant, baffling silence of daybreak on uninhabited
wastes, when the very active glory of the spreading, intensifying light
ought, one feels, to bring paeans of orchestral splendor. It set
desperation in the hearts of the riders, which was communicated to weary
ponies driven to a last effort of speed. And still no more shots. The
silence spoke the end of some tragedy with the first streaks from the
rising sun clearing a target to a waiting marksman's eye.

Around the cotton-woods was no sign of human movement; nothing but
inanimate, dark spots which developed into prostrate human forms, in
pantomimic expression of the story of that night's work done in the
moonlight and finished with the first flush of morning. Two of the
outstretched figures were lying head to head a few yards apart on either
side of the water-hole. The one on the side toward the ridge was
recognized as Jack, still as death. Another a short distance behind him,
at the sound of hoof-beats looked up with face blanched despite its dark
skin, the parched lips stretched over the teeth; but in Firio's eyes
there was still fire, as he whispered, "All right!" before he sank back
unconscious. A wound in his shoulder had been bandaged, but the wrist of
his gun hand lay beside a fresh red spot on the earth.

Jack had a bullet hole in the upper left arm plugged with a bit of
cotton; and a deep furrow across the temple, which was bleeding. His
rigid fingers were still gripping his six-shooter. He lay partly on his
side, facing Leddy, who had rolled over on his back dead.

Mary and Dr. Patterson dropped from their horses simultaneously. The
doctor pressed his hand over Jack's heart, to find it still beating.

"Jack!" they whispered. "Jack!" they called aloud.

He roused slightly, lifting his weary eyelids and gazing at them as if
they were uncertain shadows who wanted some kind of an explanation from
him which he had not the strength to give.

"We must drink--blaze away, Leddy," he murmured. "I'm coming down after
the stars go out--close--close as you like--we must drink!"

"No vital hit!" said the doctor; while Mary bringing water assisted him
to bathe the wounds before he dressed them. "No, not from a bullet!" he
added, after the dressing was finished and he had one hand on Jack's hot
brow and the other on his pulse.

Then he attended to Firio, who was talking incoherently:

"Take water-hole--boil coffee in the morning--quail for dinner, Senor
Jack--_si, si_!"

When they had moved Jack and Firio into the shadow of the cotton-woods
and forced water down their throats, Firio revived enough to recognize
those around him and to cry out an inquiry about Jack; but Jack himself
continued in a stupor, apparently unconscious of his surroundings and
scarcely alive except for breathing. Yet, when litters of blankets and
rifles tied together had been fashioned and attached to the pack-saddles
of tandem burros, as he was lifted into place for the return he seemed to
understand that he was starting on a journey; for he said, disjointedly:

"Don't forget Wrath of God--and Jag Ear is thirsty--and bury Wrath of God
fittingly--give him an epitaph! He was gloomy, but it was a good gloom, a
kind of kingly gloom, and he liked the prospect when at last he stuck his
head through the blue blanket of the horizon."

Those of the party who remained behind for the last duty to the dead
counted its most solemn moment, perhaps, the one that gave Wrath of God
the honorable due of a soldier who had fallen face to the enemy. Bob
Worther wrote the epitaph with a pencil on a bit of wood: "Here lies the
gloomiest pony that ever was. The gloomier he was the better he went and
the better Jack Wingfield liked him;" which was Bob's way of interpreting
Jack's instructions.

Then Worther and his detail rode as fast as they might to overtake the
slow-marching group in trail of the litters with the question that all
Little Rivers had been asking ever since, "How is he?" A ghastly,
painfully tedious journey this homeward one, made mostly in the night,
with the men going thirsty in the final stretches in order that wet
bandages might be kept on Jack's feverish head; while Dr. Patterson was
frequently thrusting his little thermometer between Jack's hot,
cracking lips.

"If he were free of this jouncing! It is a terrible strain on him, but
the only thing is to go on!" the doctor kept repeating.

But when Jack lay white and still in his bedroom and Firio was rapidly
convalescing, the fever refused to abate. It seemed bound to burn out the
life that remained after the hemorrhage from his wounds had ceased. Men
found it hard to work in the fields while they waited on the crisis. John
Wingfield, Sr. sat for hours under Dr. Patterson's umbrella-tree in
moody absorption. He talked to all who would talk to him. Always he was
asking about the duel in the _arroyo_ which was fought in Jack's way. He
could not hear enough of it; and later he almost attached himself to the
one eye-witness of the final duel, which had been fought in Leddy's way.

When Firio was well enough to walk out he was to be found in a long
chair on Jack's porch, ever raising a warning finger for silence to
anyone who approached and looking out across the yard to Jag Ear, who was
winning back the fat he had lost in a constitutional crisis, and P.D.,
who, after bearing himself first and last in a manner characteristic of a
pony who was P.D. but never Q., seemed already none the worse for the
hardships he had endured. The master of twenty millions would sit on the
steps, while Firio occupied the chair and regarded him much as if he were
a blank wall. But at times Firio would humor the persistent inquirer with
a few abbreviated sentences. It was out of such fragments as this that
John Wingfield, Sr. had to piece the story of the fight for the

"Senor Jack and Mister Prather, they no look alike," said Firio one day,
evidently bound to make an end of the father's company. "Anybody say
that got bad eyes. Mister Prather"--and Firio smiled peculiarly--"I call
him the mole! He burrow in the sand, so! His hand tremble, so! He act
like a man believe himself the only god in the world when he in no
danger, but when he get in danger he act like he afraid he got to meet
some other god!"

"But Jack? Now, after Prather had gone?" persisted the father greedily.

"We glad the mole go. It sort of hurt inside to think a man like him. He
make you wonder what for he born."

John Wingfield, Sr. half rose in a sudden movement, as if he were about
to go, but remained in response to another emotion that was stronger than
the impulse.

"And Jack? He kept his head! He figured out his chances coolly! Now,
that trick he played by going up on the ridge under cover of darkness?"

"No trick!" said Firio resentfully, in instinctive defence. "That the
place to fight! Senor Jack he see it."

"And all through the night you kept firing?"

"_Si,_ after moon very bright and over our shoulders in their faces!
_Si_, at the little lumps that lie so still. When they move quick like
they stung, we know we hit!"

"Ah, that was it! You hit! You hit! And the other fellows couldn't. You
had the light with you--everything! Jack had seen to that! He used his
head! He--he was strong, strong!"

Quite unconsciously, John Wingfield, Sr. rubbed his palms together.

"When you pleased you always rub your hands same as Mister Prather,"
observed Firio.

"Oh! Do I? I--" John Wingfield, Sr. clasped his fingers together
tightly. "Yes, and the finish of the fight--how was that?"

"Sometimes, when there no firing, Senor Jack and Leddy call out to each
other. Leddy he swear hard, like he fight. Senor Jack he sing back his
answers cheerful, like he fight. Toward morning we both wounded and
only Leddy and one other man alive on his side. When a cloud slip over
the moon and the big darkness before morning come, we creep down from
the ridge and with first light we bang-bang quick--and I no remember
any more."

"Forced the fighting--forced it right at the end!" cried John Wingfield,
Sr. in the flush of a great pride.

"The aggressive, that is it--that is the way to win, always!"

"But Senor Jack no fight just to win!" said Firio. "He no want to fight.
In the big darkness, before we crawl down to the water-hole, he call out
to Leddy to make quits. He almost beg Leddy. But Leddy, he say: 'I never
quit and I get you!' 'Sorry,' says Senor Jack, with the devil out again,
'sorry--and we'll see!' No, Senor Jack no like to fight till you make him
fight and the devil is out. He fight for water; he fight for peace. He no
want just to win and kill, but--but--" bringing his story to an end,
Firio looked hard at the father, his velvety eyes shot with a
comprehending gleam as he shrugged his shoulders--"but you no understand,
you and the mole!"

John Wingfield, Sr. shifted his gaze hurriedly from the little Indian.
His face went ashen and it was working convulsively as he assisted
himself to rise by gripping the veranda post.

"Why do you think that?" he asked.

"I know!" said Firio.

His lips closed firmly. That was all he had to say. John Wingfield, Sr.
turned away with the unsteady step of a man who is afraid of slipping or
stumbling, though the path was hard and even.

Out in the street he met the cold nods of the people of a town where his
son had a dominion founded on something that was lacking in his own. And
one of those who nodded to him ever so politely was a new citizen, who
had once been a unit of his own city within a city.

Peter Mortimer had arrived in Little Rivers only two days after his late
employer. Peter had been like some old tree that everybody thinks has
seen its last winter. But now he waited only on the good word from the
sick-room for the sap of renewed youth to rise in his veins and his
shriveled branches to break into leaf at the call of spring.

And the good word did come thrilling through the community. The physical
crisis had passed. The fever was burning itself out. But a mental crisis
developed, and with it a new cause for apprehension. Even after Jack's
temperature was normal and he should have been well on the road to
convalescence, there was a veil over his eyes which would not allow him
to recognize anybody. When he spoke it was in delirium, living over some
incident of the past or of sheer imagination.

Now he was the ancestor, fitting out his ship:

"No, you can't come! A man who is a malingerer on the London docks would
be a malingerer on the Spanish Main. I don't want bullies and boasters.
Let them stay at home to pick quarrels in the alleys and cheer the Lord
Mayor's procession!"

Now his frigate was under full sail, sighting the enemy:

"Suppose they have two guns to our one! That makes it about even! We'll
get the windward side, as we have before! Who cares about their guns once
we start to board!"

Another time he was on the trail:

"I'll grow so strong, so strong that he can never call me a weakling
again! He will be proud of me. That is my only way to make good."

Then he was apprenticed to the millions:

"All this detail makes me feel as if my brains were a tangled spool of
thread. But I will master it--I will!"

Again, he was happily telling stories to the children; or tragically
pleading with Leddy that there had been slaughter enough around the
water-hole; or serenely planning the future which he foresaw for himself
when the phantoms were laid:

"I may not know how to run the store, but I do seem to fit in here. We
can find the capital! We will build the dam ourselves!"

His body grew stronger, with little appreciable change otherwise. For an
instant he would seem to know the person who was speaking to him; then he
was away on the winds of delirium.

"His mind is too strong for him not to come out of this all right. It is
only a question of time, isn't it?" insisted the father.

"There was a far greater capacity in him for suffering in that hellish
fight than there was in Pete Leddy," said Dr. Patterson. "He had
sensitiveness to impressions which was born in him, at the same time that
a will of steel was born in him--the sensitiveness of the mother,
perhaps, and the will of the ancestor. His life hung by a thread when we
found him and his nerves had been twisted and tortured by the ordeal of
that night. And that isn't all. There was more than fighting. Something
that preceded the fight was even harder on him. I knew from his look when
he set out for Agua Fria that he was under a terrible strain; a strain
worse than that of a few hours' battle--the kind that had been weighing
day after day on the will that grimly sustained its weight. And that
wound in the head was very close, very, and it came at the moment when
he collapsed in reaction after that last telling shot. Something snapped
then. There was a fracture of the kind that only nature can set. Will he
come out of this delirium, you ask? I don't know. Much depends upon
whether that strain is over for good or if it is still pressing on his
mind. When he rises from his bed he may be himself or he may ride away
madly into the face of the sun. I don't know. Nobody on earth can know."

"Yes, yes!" said John Wingfield, Sr. slowly.

In Jack's wildest moments it was Mary's voice that had the most telling
effect. However low she spoke he seemed always to recognize the tone and
would greet it with a smile and frequently break into verses and scraps
of remembered conversations of his boyhood exile in villa gardens. One
morning, when she and Dr. Patterson had entered the room together, Jack
called out miserably:

"Just killing, killing, killing! What will Mary say to me, now?"

He raised his hands, fingers spread, and stared at them with a ghastly
look. She sprang to the bedside and seized them fast in hers, and bending
very close to him, as if she would impart conviction with every quivering
particle of her being, she said:

"She thinks you splendid! She is glad, glad! It is just what she wanted
you to do. She wished every bullet that you fired luck--luck for your
sake, to speed it straight to the mark!"

He seemed to understand what she was saying, as one understands that
shade is cool after the broiling torment of the sun.

"Luck will always come at your command, Mary!" he whispered, repeating
his last words when he left the Ewold garden to go to the wars.

"And she wants you to rest--just rest--and not worry!"

This had the effect of a soothing draught. Smilingly he fell back on the
pillow and slept.

"You put some spirit into that!" said the doctor, after he and Mary had
tiptoed out of the room; "a little of the spirit in keeping with a
dark-eyed girl who lives in the land of the Eternal Painter."

"All I had!" answered Mary, with simple earnestness.

At noon Jack was still sleeping. He slept on through the last hours
of the day.

"The first long stretch he has had," ran the bulletin, from tongue to
tongue, "and real sleep, too--the kind that counts!"

In the late afternoon, when the coolness and the shadows of evening were
creeping in at the doors and windows, the doctor, Peter Mortimer, the
father, and Firio were on the veranda, while Mrs. Galway was on watch by
the bedside.

"He's waking!" she came out to whisper.

The doctor hastened past her into the sick-room. As he entered, Jack
looked up with a bright, puzzled light in his eyes.

"Just what does this mean?" he asked. "Just how does it happen that I am
here? I thought that I--"

"We brought you in some days ago," the doctor explained. "And since you
took the water-hole your mind has been enjoying a little vacation, while
we moved your body about as we pleased."

"I took the water-hole, then! And Firio? Firio? He--"

"He is just waiting outside to congratulate you on the re-establishment
of the old cordial relations between mind and body," the doctor returned;
and slipped out to call Firio and to announce: "He is right as rain,
right as rain!" news that Mrs. Galway set forth immediately to herald
through the community.

As for Firio, he strode into Jack's presence with the air of conqueror,
sage, and prophet in one.

"Is it really you, Firio? Come here, so that I can feel of you and make
sure, you son of the sun!"

Jack put out his thin, white hand to Firio, and the velvet of Firio's
eyes was very soft, indeed.

"Did you know when they brought you in?" Jack asked.

"When burro stumble I feel ouch and see desert and then I drift away
up to sky again," answered Firio. "All right now, eh? Pretty soon
you so strong I have to broil five--six--seven quail a day and still
you hungry!"

The doctor who had been looking on from the doorway felt a vigorous touch
on the arm and turned to hear John Wingfield, Sr. asking him to make
way. With a grimace approaching a scowl he drew back free of Jack's sight
and held up his hand in protest. "You had better not excite him!" he

"But I am his father!" said John Wingfield, Sr. with something of his
old, masterful manner in a moment of irritation, as he pushed by the
doctor. He paused rather abruptly when his eyes met Jack's. A faint
flush, appearing in Jack's cheeks, only emphasized his wanness and the
whiteness of his neck and chin and forehead.

"Well, Jack, right as rain, they say! I knew you would come out all
right! It was in the blood that--" and the rest of John Wingfield, Sr.'s
speech fell away into inarticulateness.

It was a weak, emaciated son, this son whom he saw in contrast to the one
who had entered his office unannounced one morning; and yet the father
now felt that same indefinable radiation of calm strength closing his
throat that he had felt then. Jack was looking steadily in his father's
direction, but through him as through a thin shadow and into the
distance. He smiled, but very faintly and very meaningly.

"Father, you will keep the bargain I have made," he said, as if this were
a thing admitting of no dispute. "It is fair to the other one, isn't it?
Yes, we have found the truth at last, haven't we? And the truth makes it
all clear for him and for you and for me."

"You mean--it is all over--you stay out here for good--you--" said John
Wingfield, Sr. gropingly.

Then another figure appeared in the doorway and Jack's eyes returned from
the distances to rest on it fondly. In response to an impulse that he
could not control, Peter Mortimer was peering timidly into the sick-room.

"Why, Peter!" exclaimed Jack, happily. "Come farther in, so I can see
more of you than the tip of your nose."

After a glance of inquiry at the doctor, which received an affirmative
nod, Peter ventured another step.

"So it's salads and roses, is it, Peter?" Jack continued. "Well, I think
you may telegraph any time, now, that the others can come as soon as they
are ready and their places are filled."

Thus John Wingfield, Sr. had his answer; thus the processes of fate that
Dr. Bennington had said were in the younger man had worked out their end.
Under the spur of a sudden, powerful resolution, the father withdrew. In
the living-room he met Jasper Ewold. The two men paused, facing each
other. They were alone with the frank, daring features from Velasquez's
brush and with the "I give! I give!" of the Sargent, both reflecting the
afterglow of sunset; while the features of the living--John Wingfield,
Sr.'s, in stony anger, and Jasper Ewold's, serene in philosophy--told
their story without the touch of a painter's genius.

"You have stolen my son, Jasper Ewold!" declared John Wingfield, Sr.
with the bitterness of one whose personal edict excluded defeat from his
lexicon, only to find it writ broad across the page. "I suppose you think
you have won, damn you, Jasper Ewold!"

The Doge flushed. He seemed on the point of an outburst. Then he
looked significantly from the portrait of the ancestor to the portrait
of the mother.

"He was never yours to lose!" was the answer, without passion.

John Wingfield, Sr. recoiled, avoiding a glance at the walls where the
pictures hung. The Doge stepped to one side to leave the way clear. John
Wingfield, Sr. went out unsteadily, with head bowed. But he had not gone
far before his head went up with a jerk and he struck fist into palm
decisively. Rigidly, ignoring everyone he passed and looking straight
ahead, he walked rapidly toward the station, as if every step meant
welcome freedom, from the earth that it touched.

His private car was attached to the evening express, and while it started
homeward with the king and the determinedly filial heir-apparent to the
citadel of the push-buttons, through all the gardens of Little Rivers ran
the joyous news that Jack was "right as rain." It was a thing to start a
continual exchange of visits and to keep the lights burning in the houses
unusually late.

But all was dark and silent out at Bill Lang's store. After their return
from Agua Fria, the rescuing party, Jim Galway leading, had attended to
another matter. The remnants of Pete Leddy's gang, far from offering any
resistance, explained that they had business elsewhere which admitted of
no delay. There was peace in the valley of Little Rivers. Its phantoms
had been laid at the same time as Jack's.



"Persiflage! Persiflage!" cried the Doge.

He and Jack were in the full tilt of controversy, Jack pressing an
advantage as they came around the corner of the Ewold house. It was like
the old times and better than the old times. For now there was
understanding where then there had been mystery. The stream of their
comradeship ran smoothly in an open country, with no unsounded depths.

"But I notice that you always say persiflage just as I am getting the
better of the argument!" Jack whipped back.

"Has it taken you all this time to find that out? For what purpose is
the word in the English vocabulary? But I'll take the other side, which
is the easy one, next time, and then we'll see! Boom! boom!" The Doge
pursed out his lips in mock terrorization of his opponent. "You are
pretty near yourself again, young sir," he added, as he paused at the
opening in the hedge.

"Yes, strength has been fairly flooding back the last two or three days.
I can feel it travelling in my veins and making the tissues expand. It is
glorious to be alive, O Doge!"

"Now, do you want me to take the other side on that question so you can
have another unearned victory? I refuse to humor the invalid any longer
and I agree. The proposition that it is glorious to live on such an
afternoon as this is carried unanimously. But I will never agree that you
can grow dates the equal of mine."

"Not until my first crop is ripe; then there will be no dispute!"

"That is real persiflage!" the Doge called after Jack.

Jack had made his first visit to the Doge's garden since he had left it
to meet Prather and Leddy rather brief when he found that Mary was not at
home. She had ridden out to the pass. Her trips to the pass had been so
frequent of late that he had seen little of her during his convalescence.
Yet he had eaten her jelly exclusively. He had eaten it with his bread,
his porridge, his dessert, and with the quail that Firio had broiled. He
had even intimated his willingness to mix it with his soup. She advised
him to stir it into his coffee, instead.

When he was seated in the long chair on the porch and she called to ask
how he was, they had kept to the domain of nonsense, with never a
reference to sombre memories; but she was a little constrained, a little
shy, and he never gave her cause to raise the barrier, even if she had
been of the mind in face of a possible recurrence of former provocations
while he was weak and easily tired. It was enough for him to hear her
talk; enough to look out restfully toward the gray masses of the range;
enough to know that the desert had brought him oblivion to the past;
enough to see his future as clear as the V of Galeria against the sky,
sharing the life of the same community with her.

And what else? He was almost in fear of the very question that was never
out of his mind. She might wish him luck in the wars, but he knew her too
well to have any illusions that this meant the giving of the great thing
she had to give, unless in the full spontaneity of spirit. This
afternoon, with the flood of returning strength, the question suddenly
became commanding in a fresh-born suspense.

As he walked back to the house he met Belvy Smith and some of the
children. Of course they asked for a story, and he continued one about a
battered knight and his Heart's Desire, which he had begun some days

"He wasn't a particularly handsome knight or particularly good--inclined
to mischief, I think, when he forgot himself--but he was mightily in
earnest. He didn't know how to take no. Say 'No!' to him and push him off
the mountain top and there he was, starting for the peak again! And he
was not so foolish as he might seem. When he reached the top he was happy
just to get a smile from his Heart's Desire before he was tossed back
again. His fingers were worn clear down to the first joint and his feet
off up to the knees, so he could not hold on to the seams of canyons as
well as before. He would have been a ridiculous spectacle if he weren't
so pitiful. And that wasn't the worst of it. He was pretty well shot to
pieces by the brigands whom he had met on his travels. With every ascent
there was less of him to climb, you see. In fact, he was being worn down
so fast that pretty soon there wouldn't be much left of him except his
wishbone. That was indestructible. He would always wish. And after the
hardest climb of all, here he is very near the top again, and--"


"I'll have to finish this story later," said Jack, sending the youngsters
on their way, while he went his own to call to Firio, as he entered the
yard: "Son of the sun, I feel so strong that I am going for a ride!"

"You wear the big spurs and the grand chaps?" Firio asked.

Jack hesitated thoughtfully.

"No, just plain togs," he answered. "I think we will hang up that
circus costume as a souvenir. We are past that stage of our career. My
devil is dead."

It was Firio's turn to be thoughtful.

"_Si_! We had enough fight! We get old and sober! _Si_, I know! We settle
down. I am going to begin to shave!" he concluded, stroking the black
down on his boyish lip.

With the town behind him and the sinking sun over his shoulder, the
battered knight rode toward the foothills and on up the winding path,
oblivious of the Eternal Painter's magic and conscious only that every
step brought him nearer his Heart's Desire. Here was the rock where she
was seated when he had first seen her. What ages had passed since then!
And there, around the escarpment, he saw her pony on the shelf! Dropping
P.D.'s reins, he hurried on impetuously. With the final turn he found
Mary seated on the rock where she had been the day that he had come to
say farewell before he went to battle with the millions. Now as then, she
was gazing far out over that sea of singing, quivering light, and the
crunch of his footsteps awakened her from her revery.

But how differently she looked around! Her breaths were coming in a happy
storm, her face crimsoning, her nostrils playing in trembling dilation.
In her eyes he saw open gates and a long vista of a fair highway in a
glorious land; and the splendor of her was something near and yielding.
He sank down beside her. Her hands stole into his; her head dropped on
his shoulder; and he felt a warm and palpitating union with the very
breath of her life.

"What do I see!" cried the Eternal Painter. "Two human beings who have
climbed up as near heaven as they could and seem as happy as if they had
reached it!"

"We have reached it!" Jack called back. "And we like it, you
hoary-bearded, Olympian impersonality!"

Thus they watched the sun go down, gilding the foliage of their
Little Rivers, seeing their future in the fulness and richness of the
life of their choice, which should spread the oasis the length of
that valley, and knowing that any excursions to the world over the
pass would only sink their roots deeper in the soil of the valley
that had given them life.

"Jack, oh, Jack! How I did fight against the thing that was born in me
that morning in the _arroyo_! I was in fear of it and of myself. In fear
of it I ran from you that day you climbed down to the pine. But I
shan't run again--not so far but that I can be sure you can catch me.
Jack, oh, Jack! And this is the hand that saved you from Leddy--the
right hand! I think I shall always like it better than the left hand!
And, Jack, there is a little touch of gray on the temples"--Mary was
running her fingers very, very gently over the wound--"which I like. But
we shall be so happy that it will be centuries before the rest of your
hair is gray! Jack, oh, Jack!"

Book of the day: