Part 4 out of 4
opportunity to prove her gratitude?" flashed Carley, with proud uplift of
"It didn't look like gratitude to me," returned Morrison.
"Well, it was gratitude," declared Carley, ringingly. "If women of America
did throw themselves at soldiers it was not owing to the moral lapse of the
day. It was woman's instinct to save the race! Always, in every war, women
have sacrificed themselves to the future. Not vile, but noble! . . . You
insult both soldiers and women, Mr. Morrison. I wonder--did any American
girls throw themselves at you?"
Morrison turned a dead white, and his mouth twisted to a distorted checking
of speech, disagreeable to see.
"No, you were a slacker," went on Carley, with scathing scorn. "You let the
other men go fight for American girls. Do you imagine one of them will ever
marry you? . . . All your life, Mr. Morrison, you will be a marked man-
-outside the pale of friendship with real American men and the respect of
real American girls."
Morrison leaped up, almost knocking the table over, and he glared at Carley
as he gathered up his hat and cane. She turned her back upon him. From that
moment he ceased to exist for Carley. She never spoke to him again.
Next day Carley called upon her dearest friend, whom she had not seen for
"Carley dear, you don't look so very well," said Eleanor, after greetings
had been exchanged.
"Oh, what does it matter how I look?" queried Carley, impatiently.
"You were so wonderful when you got home from Arizona."
"If I was wonderful and am now commonplace you can thank your old New York
"Carley, don't you care for New York any more?" asked Eleanor.
"Oh, New York is all right, I suppose. It's I who am wrong."
"My dear, you puzzle me these days. You've changed. I'm sorry. I'm afraid
"Me? Oh, impossible! I'm in a seventh heaven," replied Carley, with a hard
little laugh. "What 're you doing this afternoon? Let's go out--riding--or
"I'm expecting the dressmaker."
"Where are you going to-night?"
"Dinner and theater. It's a party, or I'd ask you."
"What did you do yesterday and the day before, and the days before that?"
Eleanor laughed indulgently, and acquainted Carley with a record of her
social wanderings during the last few days.
"The same old things-over and over again! Eleanor don't you get sick of
it?" queried Carley.
"Oh yes, to tell the truth," returned Eleanor, thoughtfully. "But there's
nothing else to do."
"Eleanor, I'm no better than you," said Carley, with disdain. "I'm as
useless and idle. But I'm beginning to see myself--and you--and all this
rotten crowd of ours. We're no good. But you're married, Eleanor. You're
settled in life. You ought to do something. I'm single and at loose ends.
Oh, I'm in revolt! . . . Think, Eleanor, just think. Your husband works
hard to keep you in this expensive apartment. You have a car. He dresses
you in silks and satins. You wear diamonds. You eat your breakfast in bed.
You loll around in a pink dressing gown all morning. You dress for lunch or
tea. You ride or golf or worse than waste your time on some lounge lizard,
dancing till time to come home to dress for dinner. You let other men make
love to you. Oh, don't get sore. You do. . . . And so goes the round of
your life. What good on earth are you, anyhow? You're just a--a
gratification to the senses of your husband. And at that you don't see much
"Carley, how you rave!" exclaimed her friend. "What has gotten into you
lately? Why, everybody tells me you're--you're queer! The way you insulted
Morrison--how unlike you, Carley!"
"I'm glad I found the nerve to do it. What do you think, Eleanor?"
"Oh, I despise him. But you can't say the things you feel."
"You'd be bigger and truer if you did. Some day I'll break out and flay you
and your friends alive."
"But, Carley, you're my friend and you're just exactly like we are. Or you
were, quite recently."
"Of course, I'm your friend. I've always loved you, Eleanor," went on
Carley, earnestly. "I'm as deep in this--this damned stagnant muck as you,
or anyone. But I'm no longer blind. There's something terribly wrong with
us women, and it's not what Morrison hinted."
"Carley, the only thing wrong with you is that you jilted poor Glenn--and
are breaking your heart over him still."
"Don't--don't!" cried Carley, shrinking. "God knows that is true. But
there's more wrong with me than a blighted love affair."
"Yes, you mean the modern feminine unrest?"
"Eleanor, I positively hate that phrase 'modern feminine unrest!' It smacks
of ultra--ultra--Oh! I don't know what. That phrase ought to be translated
by a Western acquaintance of mine--one Haze Ruff. I'd not like to hurt your
sensitive feelings with what he'd say. But this unrest means speed-mad,
excitement-mad, fad-mad, dress-mad, or I should say undress-mad, culture--
mad, and Heaven only knows what else. The women of our set are idle,
luxurious, selfish, pleasure-craving, lazy, useless, work-and-children
shirking, absolutely no good."
"Well, if we are, who's to blame?" rejoined Eleanor, spiritedly. "Now,
Carley Burch, you listen to me. I think the twentieth-century girl in
America is the most wonderful female creation of all the ages of the
universe. I admit it. That is why we are a prey to the evils attending
greatness. Listen. Here is a crying sin--an infernal paradox. Take this
twentieth-century girl, this American girl who is the finest creation of
the ages. A young and healthy girl, the most perfect type of culture
possible to the freest and greatest city on earth-New York! She holds
absolutely an unreal, untrue position in the scheme of existence.
Surrounded by parents, relatives, friends, suitors, and instructive schools
of every kind, colleges, institutions, is she really happy, is she really
"Eleanor," interrupted Carley, earnestly, "she is not. . . . And I've been
trying to tell you why."
"My dear, let me get a word in, will you," complained Eleanor. "You don't
know it all. There are as many different points of view as there are
people. . . . Well, if this girl happened to have a new frock, and a new
beau to show it to, she'd say, 'I'm the happiest girl in the world.' But
she is nothing of the kind. Only she doesn't know that. She approaches
marriage, or, for that matter, a more matured life, having had too much,
having been too well taken care of, knowing too much. Her masculine
satellites--father, brothers, uncles, friends, lovers--all utterly spoil
her. Mind you, I mean, girls like us, of the middle class--which is to say
the largest and best class of Americans. We are spoiled. . . . This girl
marries. And life goes on smoothly, as if its aim was to exclude friction
and effort. Her husband makes it too easy for her. She is an ornament, or a
toy, to be kept in a luxurious cage. To soil her pretty hands would be
disgraceful! Even f she can't afford a maid, the modern devices of science
make the care of her four-room apartment a farce. Electric dish-washer,
clothes-washer, vacuum-cleaner, and the near-by delicatessen and the
caterer simply rob a young wife of her housewifely heritage. If she has a
baby--which happens occasionally, Carley, in spite of your assertion--it
very soon goes to the kindergarten. Then what does she find to do with
hours and hours? If she is not married, what on earth can she find to do?"
"She can work," replied Carley, bluntly.
"Oh yes, she can, but she doesn't," went on Eleanor. "You don't work. I
never did. We both hated the idea. You're calling spades spades, Carley,
but you seem to be riding a morbid, impractical thesis. Well, our young
American girl or bride goes in for being rushed or she goes in for fads,
the ultra stuff you mentioned. New York City gets all the great artists,
lecturers, and surely the great fakirs. The New York women support them.
The men laugh, but they furnish the money. They take the women to the
theaters, but they cut out the reception to a Polish princess, a lecture by
an Indian magician and mystic, or a benefit luncheon for a Home for
Friendless Cats. The truth is most of our young girls or brides have a
wonderful enthusiasm worthy of a better cause. What is to become of their
surplus energy, the bottled-lightning spirit so characteristic of modern
girls? Where is the outlet for intense feelings? What use can they make of
education or of gifts? They just can't, that's all. I'm not taking into
consideration the new-woman species, the faddist or the reformer. I mean
normal girls like you and me. Just think, Carley. A girl's every wish,
every need, is almost instantly satisfied without the slightest effort on
her part to obtain it. No struggle, let alone work! If women crave to
achieve something outside of the arts, you know, something universal and
helpful which will make men acknowledge her worth, if not the equality,
where is the opportunity?"
"Opportunities should be made," replied Carley.
"There are a million sides to this question of the modern young woman--the
fin-de-siecle girl. I'm for her!"
"How about the extreme of style in dress for this remarkably-to-be-pitied
American girl you champion so eloquently?" queried Carley, sarcastically.
"Immoral!" exclaimed Eleanor with frank disgust.
"You admit it?"
"To my shame, I do."
"Why do women wear extreme clothes? Why do you and I wear open-work silk
stockings, skirts to our knees, gowns without sleeves or bodices?"
"We're slaves to fashion," replied Eleanor, "That's the popular excuse."
"Bah!" exclaimed Carley.
Eleanor laughed in spite of being half nettled. "Are you going to stop
wearing what all the other women wear--and be looked at askance? Are you
going to be dowdy and frumpy and old-fashioned?"
"No. But I'll never wear anything again that can be called immoral. I want
to be able to say why I wear a dress. You haven't answered my question yet.
Why do you wear what you frankly admit is disgusting?"
"I don't know, Carley," replied Eleanor, helplessly. "How you harp on
things! We must dress to make other women jealous and to attract men. To be
a sensation! Perhaps the word 'immoral' is not what I mean. A woman will be
shocking in her obsession to attract, but hardly more than that, if she
"Ah! So few women realize how they actually do look. Haze Ruff could tell
"Haze Ruff. Who in the world is he or she?" asked Eleanor.
"Haze Ruff is a he, all right," replied Carley, grimly.
"Well, who is he?"
"A sheep-dipper in Arizona," answered Carley, dreamily.
"Humph! And what can Mr. Ruff tell us?"
"He told me I looked like one of the devil's angels--and that I dressed to
knock the daylights out of men."
"Well, Carley Burch, if that isn't rich!" exclaimed Eleanor, with a peal of
laughter. "I dare say you appreciate that as an original compliment."
"No. . . . I wonder what Ruff would say about jazz--I just wonder,"
"Well, I wouldn't care what he said, and I don't care what you say,"
returned Eleanor. "The preachers and reformers and bishops and rabbis make
me sick. They rave about jazz. Jazz--the discordant note of our decadence!
Jazz--the harmonious expression of our musicless, mindless, soulless
materialism!--The idiots! If they could be women for a while they would
realize the error of their ways. But they will never, never abolish jazz--
never, for it is the grandest, the most wonderful, the most absolutely
necessary thing for women in this terrible age of smotheration."
"All right, Eleanor, we understand each other, even if we do not agree,"
said Carley. "You leave the future of women to chance, to life, to
materialism, not to their own conscious efforts. I want to leave it to free
will and idealism."
"Carley, you are getting a little beyond me," declared Eleanor, dubiously.
"What are you going to do? It all comes home to each individual woman. Her
attitude toward life."
"I'll drift along with the current, Carley, and be a good sport," replied
"You don't care about the women and children of the future? You'll not deny
yourself now, and think and work, and suffer a little, in the interest of
"How you put things, Carley!" exclaimed Eleanor, wearily. "Of course I
care--when you make me think of such things. But what have I to do with the
lives of people in the years to come?"
"Everything. America for Americans! While you dawdle, the life blood is
being sucked out of our great nation. It is a man's job to fight; it is a
woman's to save. . . . I think you've made your choice, though you don't
realize it. I'm praying to God that I'll rise to mine."
Carley had a visitor one morning earlier than the usual or conventional
time for calls.
"He wouldn't give no name," said the maid. "He wears soldier clothes,
ma'am, and he's pale, and walks with a cane."
"Tell him I'll be right down," replied Carley.
Her hands trembled while she hurriedly dressed. Could this caller be Virgil
Rust? She hoped so, but she doubted.
As she entered the parlor a tall young man in worn khaki rose to meet her.
At first glance she could not name him, though she recognized the pale face
and light-blue eyes, direct and steady.
"Good morning, Miss Burch," he said. "I hope you'll excuse so early a call.
You remember me, don't you? I'm George Burton, who had the bunk next to
"Surely I remember you, Mr. Burton, and I'm glad to see you," replied
Carley, shaking hands with him. "Please sit down. Your being here must mean
you're discharged from the hospital."
"Yes, I was discharged, all right," he said.
"Which means you're well again. That is fine. I'm very glad."
"I was put out to make room for a fellow in bad shape. I'm still shaky and
weak," he replied. "But I'm glad to go. I've pulled through pretty good,
and it'll not be long until I'm strong again. It was the 'flu' that kept me
"You must be careful. May I ask where you're going and what you expect to
"Yes, that's what I came to tell you," he replied, frankly. "I want you to
help me a little. I'm from Illinois and my people aren't so badly off. But
I don't want to go back to my home town down and out, you know. Besides,
the winters are cold there. The doctor advises me to go to a little milder
climate. You see, I was gassed, and got the 'flu' afterward. But I know
I'll be all right if I'm careful. . . . Well, I've always had a leaning
toward agriculture, and I want to go to Kansas. Southern Kansas. I want to
travel around till I find a place I like, and there I'll get a job. Not too
hard a job at first--that's why I'll need a little money. I know what to do.
I want to lose myself in the wheat country and forget the--the war. I'll
not be afraid of work, presently. . . . Now, Miss Burch, you've been so
kind--I'm going to ask you to lend me a little money. I'll pay it back. I
can't promise just when. But some day. Will you?"
"Assuredly I will," she replied, heartily. "I'm happy to have the
opportunity to help you. How much will you need for immediate use? Five
"Oh no, not so much as that," he replied. "Just railroad fare home, and
then to Kansas, and to pay board while I get well, you know, and look
"We'll make it five hundred, anyway," she replied, and, rising, she went
toward the library. "Excuse me a moment." She wrote the check and,
returning, gave it to him.
"You're very good," he said, rather low.
"Not at all," replied Carley. "You have no idea how much it means to me to
be permitted to help you. Before I forget, I must ask you, can you cash
that check here in New York?"
"Not unless you identify me," he said, ruefully, "I don't know anyone I
"Well, when you leave here go at once to my bank--it's on Thirty-fourth
Street--and I'll telephone the cashier. So you'll not have any difficulty.
Will you leave New York at once?"
"I surely will. It's an awful place. Two years ago when I came here with my
company I thought it was grand. But I guess I lost something over there. .
. . I want to be where it's quiet. Where I won't see many people."
"I think I understand," returned Carley. "Then I suppose you're in a hurry
to get home? Of course you have a girl you're just dying to see?"
"No, I'm sorry to say I haven't," he replied, simply. "I was glad I didn't
have to leave a sweetheart behind, when I went to France. But it wouldn't
be so bad to have one to go back to now."
"Don't you worry!" exclaimed Carley. "You can take your choice presently.
You have the open sesame to every real American girl's heart."
"And what is that?" he asked, with a blush.
"Your service to your country," she said, gravely.
"Well," he said, with a singular bluntness, "considering I didn't get any
medals or bonuses, I'd like to draw a nice girl."
"You will," replied Carley, and made haste to change the subject. "By the
way, did you meet Glenn Kilbourne in France?"
"Not that I remember," rejoined Burton, as he got up, rising rather stiffly
by aid of his cane. "I must go, Miss Burch. Really I can't thank you
enough. And I'll never forget it."
"Will you write me how you are getting along?" asked Carley, offering her
Carley moved with him out into the hall and to the door. There was a
question she wanted to ask, but found it strangely difficult of utterance.
At the door Burton fixed a rather penetrating gaze upon her.
"You didn't ask me about Rust," he said.
"No, I--I didn't think of him--until now, in fact," Carley lied.
"Of course then you couldn't have heard about him. I was wondering."
"I have heard nothing."
"It was Rust who told me to come to you," said Burton. "We were talking one
day, and he--well, he thought you were true blue. He said he knew you'd
trust me and lend me money. I couldn't have asked you but for him."
"True blue! He believed that. I'm glad. . . . Has he spoken of me to you
since I was last at the hospital?"
"Hardly," replied Burton, with the straight, strange glance on her again.
Carley met this glance and suddenly a coldness seemed to envelop her. It
did not seem to come from within though her heart stopped beating. Burton
had not changed--the warmth, the gratitude still lingered about him. But
the light of his eyes! Carley had seen it in Glenn's, in Rust's--a strange,
questioning, far-off light, infinitely aloof and unutterably sad. Then
there came a lift of her heart that released a pang. She whispered with
dread, with a tremor, with an instinct of calamity.
The winter came, with its bleak sea winds and cold rains and blizzards of
snow. Carley did not go South. She read and brooded, and gradually avoided
all save those true friends who tolerated her.
She went to the theater a good deal, showing preference for the drama of
strife, and she did not go anywhere for amusement. Distraction and
amusement seemed to be dead issues for her. But she could become absorbed
in any argument on the good or evil of the present day. Socialism reached
into her mind, to be rejected. She had never understood it clearly, but it
seemed to her a state of mind where dissatisfied men and women wanted to
share what harder working or more gifted people possessed. There were a few
who had too much of the world's goods and many who had too little. A
readjustment of such inequality and injustice must come, but Carley did not
see the remedy in Socialism.
She devoured books on the war with a morbid curiosity and hope that she
would find some illuminating truth as to the uselessness of sacrificing
young men in the glory and prime of their lives. To her war appeared a
matter of human nature rather than politics. Hate really was an effect of
war. In her judgment future wars could be avoided only in two ways--by men
becoming honest and just or by women refusing to have children to be
sacrificed. As there seemed no indication whatever of the former, she
wondered how soon all women of all races would meet on a common height,
with the mounting spirit that consumed her own heart. Such time must come.
She granted every argument for war and flung against it one ringing
passionate truth--agony of mangled soldiers and agony of women and children.
There was no justification for offensive war. It was monstrous and hideous.
If nature and evolution proved the absolute need of strife, war, blood, and
death in the progress of animal and man toward perfection, then it would be
better to abandon this Christless code and let the race of man die out.
All through these weeks she longed for a letter from Glenn. But it did not
come. Had he finally roused to the sweetness and worth and love of the
western girl, Flo Hutter? Carley knew absolutely, through both intelligence
and intuition, that Glenn Kilbourne would never love Flo. Yet such was her
intensity and stress at times, especially in the darkness of waking hours,
that jealousy overcame her and insidiously worked its havoc. Peace and a
strange kind of joy came to her in dreams of her walks and rides and climbs
in Arizona, of the lonely canyon where it always seemed afternoon, of the
tremendous colored vastness of that Painted Desert. But she resisted these
dreams now because when she awoke from them she suffered such a yearning
that it became unbearable. Then she knew the feeling of the loneliness and
solitude of the hills. Then she knew the sweetness of the murmur of falling
water, the wind in the pines, the song of birds, the white radiance of the
stars, the break of day and its gold-flushed close. But she had not yet
divined' their meaning. It was not all love for Glenn Kilbourne. Had city
life palled upon her solely because of the absence of her lover? So Carley
plodded on, like one groping in the night, fighting shadows.
One day she received a card from an old schoolmate, a girl who had married
out of Carley's set, and had been ostracized. She was living down on Long
Island, at a little country place named Wading River. Her husband was an
electrician--something of an inventor. He worked hard. A baby boy had just
come to them. Would not Carley run down on the train to see the youngster?
That was a strong and trenchant call. Carley went. She found indeed a
country village, and on the outskirts of it a little cottage that must have
been pretty in summer, when the green was on vines and trees. Her old
schoolmate was rosy, plump, bright-eyed, and happy. She saw in Carley no
change--a fact that somehow rebounded sweetly on Carley's consciousness.
Elsie prattled of herself and her husband and how they had worked to earn
this little home, and then the baby.
When Carley saw the adorable dark-eyed, pink-toed, curly-fisted baby she
understood Elsie's happiness and reveled in it. When she felt the soft,
warm, living little body in her arms, against her breast, then she absorbed
some incalculable and mysterious strength. What were the trivial, sordid,
and selfish feelings that kept her in tumult compared to this welling
emotion? Had she the secret in her arms? Babies and Carley had never become
closely acquainted in those infrequent meetings that were usually the
result of chance. But Elsie's baby nestled to her breast and cooed to her
and clung to her finger. When at length the youngster was laid in his crib
it seemed to Carley that the fragrance and the soul of him remained with
"A real American boy!" she murmured.
"You can just bet he is," replied Elsie. "Carley, you ought to see his dad."
"I'd like to meet him," said Carley, thoughtfully. "Elsie, was he in the
"Yes. He was on one of the navy transports that took munitions to France.
Think of me, carrying this baby, with my husband on a boat full of
explosives and with German submarines roaming the ocean! Oh, it was
"But he came back, and now all's well with you," said Carley, with a smile
of earnestness. "I'm very glad, Elsie."
"Yes--but I shudder when I think of a possible war in the future. I'm going
to raise boys, and girls, too, I hope--and the thought of war is
Carley found her return train somewhat late, and she took advantage of the
delay to walk out to the wooded headlands above the Sound.
It was a raw March day, with a steely sun going down in a pale-gray sky.
Patches of snow lingered in sheltered brushy places. This bit of woodland
had a floor of soft sand that dragged at Carley's feet. There were sere and
brown leaves still fluttering on the scrub-oaks. At length Carley came out
on the edge of the bluff with the gray expanse of seat beneath her, and a
long wandering shore line, ragged with wreckage or driftwood. The surge of
water rolled in--a long, low, white, creeping line that softly roared on
the beach and dragged the pebbles gratingly back. There was neither boat
nor living creature in sight.
Carley felt the scene ease a clutching hand within her breast. Here was
loneliness and solitude vastly different from that of Oak Creek Canyon, yet
it held the same intangible power to soothe. The swish of the surf, the
moan of the wind in the evergreens, were voices that called to her. How
many more miles of lonely land than peopled cities! Then the sea-how vast!
And over that the illimitable and infinite sky, and beyond, the endless
realms of space. It helped her somehow to see and hear and feel the eternal
presence of nature. In communion with nature the significance of life might
be realized. She remembered Glenn quoting: "The world is too much with us.
. . . Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers." What were our powers?
What did God intend men to do with hands and bodies and gifts and souls?
She gazed back over the bleak land and then out across the broad sea. Only
a millionth part of the surface of the unsubmerged earth knew the populous
abodes of man. And the lonely sea, inhospitable to stable homes of men, was
thrice the area of the land. Were men intended, then, to congregate in few
places, to squabble and to bicker and breed the discontents that led to
injustice, hatred, and war? What a mystery it all was! But Nature was
neither false nor little, however cruel she might be.
Once again Carley fell under the fury of her ordeal. Wavering now,
restless and sleepless, given to violent starts and slow spells of apathy,
she was wearing to defeat.
That spring day, one year from the day she had left New York for Arizona,
she wished to spend alone. But her thoughts grew unbearable. She summed up
the endless year. Could she live another like it? Something must break
She went out. The air was warm and balmy, carrying that subtle current
which caused the mild madness of spring fever. In the Park the greening of
the grass, the opening of buds, the singing of birds, the gladness of
children, the light on the water, the warm sun--all seemed to reproach her.
Carley fled from the Park to the home of Beatrice Lovell; and there,
unhappily, she encountered those of her acquaintance with whom she had
least patience. They forced her to think too keenly of herself. They
appeared carefree while she was miserable.
Over teacups there were waging gossip and argument and criticism. When
Carley entered with Beatrice there was a sudden hush and then a murmur.
"Hello, Carley! Now say it to our faces," called out Geralda Conners, a
fair, handsome young woman of thirty, exquisitely gowned in the latest
mode, and whose brilliantly tinted complexion was not the natural one of
"Say what, Geralda?" asked Carley. "I certainly would not say anything
behind your backs that I wouldn't repeat here."
"Eleanor has been telling us how you simply burned us up."
"We did have an argument. And I'm not sure I said all I wanted to."
"Say the rest here," drawled a lazy, mellow voice. "For Heaven's sake, stir
us up. If I could get a kick out of anything I'd bless it."
"Carley, go on the stage," advised another. "You've got Elsie Ferguson tied
to the mast for looks. And lately you're surely tragic enough."
"I wish you'd go somewhere far off!" observed a third. "My husband is dippy
"Girls, do you know that you actually have not one sensible idea in your
heads?" retorted Carley.
"Sensible? I should hope not. Who wants to be sensible?"
Geralda battered her teacup on a saucer. "Listen," she called. "I wasn't
kidding Carley. I am good and sore. She goes around knocking everybody and
saying New York backs Sodom off the boards. I want her to come out with it
"I dare say I've talked too much," returned Carley. "It's been a rather
hard winter on me. Perhaps, indeed, I've tried the patience of my friends."
"See here, Carley," said Geralda, deliberately, "just because you've had
life turn to bitter ashes in your mouth you've no right to poison it for
us. We all find it pretty sweet. You're an unsatisfied woman and if you
don't marry somebody you'll end by being a reformer or fanatic."
"I'd rather end that way than rot in a shell," retorted Carley.
"I declare, you make me see red, Carley," flashed Geralda, angrily. "No
wonder Morrison roasts you to everybody. He says Glenn Kilbourne threw you
down for some Western girl. If that's true it's pretty small of you to vent
your spleen on us."
Carley felt the gathering of a mighty resistless force, But Geralda Conners
was nothing to her except the target for a thunderbolt.
"I have no spleen," she replied, with a dignity of passion. "I have only
pity. I was as blind as you. If heartbreak tore the scales from my eyes,
perhaps that is well for me. For I see something terribly wrong in myself,
in you, in all of us, in the life of today."
"You keep your pity to yourself. You need it," answered Geralda, with heat.
"There's nothing wrong with me or my friends or life in good old New York."
"Nothing wrong!" cried Carley. "Listen. Nothing wrong in you or life
today-nothing for you women to make right? You are blind as bats--as dead
to living truth as if you were buried. Nothing wrong when thousands of
crippled soldiers have no homes--no money--no friends--no work--in many
cases no food or bed? . . . Splendid young men who went away in their prime
to fight for you and came back ruined, suffering! Nothing wrong when sane
women with the vote might rid politics of partisanship, greed, crookedness?
Nothing wrong when prohibition is mocked by women--when the greatest boon
ever granted this country is derided and beaten down and cheated? Nothing
wrong when there are half a million defective children in this city?
Nothing wrong when there are not enough schools and teachers to educate our
boys and girls, when those teachers are shamefully underpaid? Nothing wrong
when the mothers of this great country let their youngsters go to the dark.
motion picture halls and night after night in thousands of towns over all
this broad land see pictures that the juvenile court and the educators and
keepers of reform schools say make burglars, crooks, and murderers of our
boys and vampires of our girls? Nothing wrong when these young adolescent
girls ape you and wear stockings rolled under their knees below their
skirts and use a lip stick and paint their faces and darken their eyes and
pluck their eyebrows and absolutely do not know what shame is? Nothing
wrong when you may find in any city women standing at street corners
distributing booklets on birth control? Nothing wrong when great magazines
print no page or picture without its sex appeal? Nothing wrong when the
automobile, so convenient for the innocent little run out of town, presents
the greatest evil that ever menaced American girls! Nothing wrong when
money is god--when luxury, pleasure, excitement, speed are the striven for?
Nothing wrong when some of your husbands spend more of their time with
other women than with you? Nothing wrong with jazz--where the lights go out
in the dance hall and the dancers. jiggle and toddle and wiggle in a
frenzy? Nothing wrong in a country where the greatest college cannot report
birth of one child to each graduate in ten years? Nothing wrong with race
suicide and the incoming horde of foreigners? . . . Nothing wrong with you
women who cannot or will not stand childbirth? Nothing wrong with most of
you, when if you did have a child, you could not nurse it? . . . Oh, my
God, there's nothing wrong with America except that she staggers under a
Titanic burden that only mothers of sons can remove! . . . You doll women,
you parasites, you toys of men, you silken-wrapped geisha girls, you
painted, idle, purring cats, you parody of the females of your species--
find brains enough if you can to see the doom hanging over you and revolt
before it is too late!"
Carley burst in upon her aunt.
"Look at me, Aunt Mary!" she cried, radiant and exultant. "I'm going back
out West to marry Glenn and live his life!"
The keen old eyes of her aunt softened and dimmed. "Dear Carley, I've known
that for a long time. You've found yourself at last."
Then Carley breathlessly babbled her hastily formed plans, every word of
which seemed to rush her onward.
"You're going to surprise Glenn again?" queried Aunt Mary.
"Oh, I must! I want to see his face when I tell him."
"Well, I hope he won't surprise you," declared the old lady. "When did you
hear from him last?"
"In January. It seems ages--but--Aunt Mary, you don't imagine Glenn--"
"I imagine nothing," interposed her aunt. "It will turn out happily and
I'll have some peace in my old age. But, Carley, what's to become of me?"
"Oh, I never thought!" replied Carley, blankly. "It will be lonely for you.
Auntie, I'll come back in the fall for a few weeks. Glenn will let me."
"Let you? Ye gods! So you've come to that? Imperious Carley Burch! . . .
Thank Heaven, you'll now be satisfied to be let do things."
"I'd--I'd crawl for him," breathed Carley.
"Well, child, as you can't be practical, I'll have to be," replied Aunt
Mary, seriously. "Fortunately for you I am a woman of quick decision.
Listen. I'll go West with you. I want to see the Grand Canyon. Then I'll go
on to California, where I have old friends I've not seen for years. When
you get your new home all fixed up I'll spend awhile with you. And if I
want to come back to New York now and then I'll go to a hotel. It is
settled. I think the change will benefit me.'
"Auntie, you make me very happy. I could ask no more," said Carley.
Swiftly as endless tasks could make them the days passed. But those on the
train dragged interminably.
Carley sent her aunt through to the Canyon while she stopped off at
Flagstaff to store innumerable trunks and bags. The first news she heard of
Glenn and the Hutters was that they had gone to the Tonto Basin to buy hogs
and would be absent at least a month. This gave birth to a new plan in
Carley's mind. She would doubly surprise Glenn. Wherefore she took council
with some Flagstaff business men and engaged them to set a force of men at
work on the Deep Lake property, making the improvements she desired, and
hauling lumber, cement, bricks, machinery, supplies--all the necessaries for
building construction. Also she instructed them to throw up a tent house
for her to live in during the work, and to engage a reliable Mexican man
with his wife for servants. When she left for the Canyon she was happier
than ever before in her life.
It was near the coming of sunset when Carley first looked down into the
Grand Canyon. She had forgotten Glenn's tribute to this place. In her
rapturous excitement of preparation and travel the Canyon had been merely a
name. But now she saw it and she was stunned.
What a stupendous chasm, gorgeous in sunset color on the heights, purpling
into mystic shadows in the depths! There was a wonderful brightness of all
the millions of red and yellow and gray surfaces still exposed to the sun.
Carley did not feel a thrill, because feeling seemed inhibited. She looked
and looked, yet was reluctant to keep on looking. She possessed no image in
mind with which to compare this grand and mystic spectacle. A
transformation of color and shade appeared to be going on swiftly, as if
gods were changing the scenes of a Titanic stage. As she gazed the dark
fringed line of the north rim turned to burnished gold, and she watched
that with fascinated eyes. It turned rose, it lost its fire, it faded to
quiet cold gray. The sun had set.
Then the wind blew cool through the pinyons on the rim. There was a sweet
tang of cedar and sage on the air and that indefinable fragrance peculiar
to the canyon country of Arizona. How it brought back to Carley remembrance
of Oak Creek! In the west, across the purple notches of the abyss, a dull
gold flare showed where the sun had gone down.
In the morning at eight o'clock there were great irregular black shadows
under the domes and peaks and escarpments. Bright Angel Canyon was all
dark, showing dimly its ragged lines. At noon there were no shadows and all
the colossal gorge lay glaring under the sun. In the evening Carley watched
the Canyon as again the sun was setting.
Deep dark-blue shadows, like purple sails of immense ships, in wonderful
contrast with the bright sunlit slopes, grew and rose toward the east, down
the canyons and up the walls that faced the west. For a long while there
was no red color, and the first indication of it was a dull bronze. Carley
looked down into the void, at the sailing birds, at the precipitous slopes,
and the dwarf spruces and the weathered old yellow cliffs. When she looked
up again the shadows out there were no longer dark. They were clear. The
slopes and depths and ribs of rock could be seen through them. Then the
tips of the highest peaks and domes turned bright red. Far to the east she
discerned a strange shadow, slowly turning purple. One instant it grew
vivid, then began to fade. Soon after that all the colors darkened and
slowly the pale gray stole over all.
At night Carley gazed over and into the black void. But for the awful sense
of depth she would not have known the Canyon to be there. A soundless
movement of wind passed under her. The chasm seemed a grave of silence. It
was as mysterious as the stars and as aloof and as inevitable. It had held
her senses of beauty and proportion in abeyance.
At another sunrise the crown of the rim, a broad belt of bare rock, turned
pale gold under its fringed dark line of pines. The tips of the peak
gleamed opal. There was no sunrise red, no fire. The light in the east was
a pale gold under a steely green-blue sky. All the abyss of the Canyon was
soft, gray, transparent, and the belt of gold broadened downward, making
shadows on the west slopes of the mesas and escarpments. Far down in the
shadows she discerned the river, yellow, turgid, palely gleaming. By
straining her ears Carley heard a low dull roar as of distant storm. She
stood fearfully at the extreme edge of a stupendous cliff, where it sheered
dark and forbidding, down and down, into what seemed red and boundless
depths of Hades. She saw gold spots of sunlight on the dark shadows,
proving that somewhere, impossible to discover, the sun was shining through
wind-worn holes in the sharp ridges. Every instant Carley grasped a
different effect. Her studied gaze absorbed an endless changing. And at
last she realized that sun and light and stars and moon and night and
shade, all working incessantly and mutably over shapes and lines and angles
and surfaces too numerous and too great for the sight of man to hold, made
an ever-changing spectacle of supreme beauty and colorful grandeur.
She talked very little while at the Canyon. It silenced her. She had come
to see it at the critical time of her life and in the right mood. The
superficialities of the world shrunk to their proper insignificance. Once
she asked her aunt: "Why did not Glenn bring me here?" As if this Canyon
proved the nature of all things!
But in the end Carley found that the rending strife of the transformation
of her attitude toward life had insensibly ceased. It had ceased during the
long watching of this cataclysm of nature, this canyon of gold-banded
black-fringed ramparts, and red-walled mountains which sloped down to be
lost in purple depths. That was final proof of the strength of nature to
soothe, to clarify, to stabilize the tried and weary and upward-gazing
soul. Stronger than the recorded deeds of saints, stronger than the
eloquence of the gifted uplifters of men, stronger than any words ever
written, was the grand, brooding, sculptured aspect of nature. And it must
have been so because thousands of years before the age of saints or
preachers--before the fret and symbol and figure were cut in stone-man must
have watched with thought--developing sight the wonders of the earth, the
monuments of time, the glooming of the dark-blue sea, the handiwork of God.
In May, Carley returned to Flagstaff to take up with earnest inspiration
the labors of homebuilding in a primitive land.
It required two trucks to transport her baggage and purchases out to Deep
Lake. The road was good for eighteen miles of the distance, until it
branched off to reach her land, and from there it was desert rock and sand.
But eventually they made it; and Carley found herself and belongings dumped
out into the windy and sunny open. The moment was singularly thrilling and
full of transport. She was free. She had shaken off the shackles. She faced
lonely, wild, barren desert that must be made habitable by the genius of
her direction and the labor of her hands. Always a thought of Glenn hovered
tenderly, dreamily in the back of her consciousness, but she welcomed the
opportunity to have a few weeks of work and activity and solitude before
taking up her life with him. She wanted to adapt herself to the
metamorphosis that had been wrought in her.
To her amazement and delight, a very considerable progress had been made
with her plans. Under a sheltered red cliff among the cedars had been
erected the tents where she expected to live until the house was completed.
These tents were large, with broad floors high off the ground, and there
were four of them. Her living tent had a porch under a wide canvas awning.
The bed was a boxlike affair, raised off the floor two feet, and it
contained a great, fragrant mass of cedar boughs upon which the blankets
were to be spread. At one end was a dresser with large mirror, and a
chiffonier. There were table and lamp, a low rocking chair, a shelf for
books, a row of hooks upon which to hang things, a washstand with its
necessary accessories, a little stove and a neat stack of cedar chips and
sticks. Navajo rugs on the floor lent brightness and comfort.
Carley heard the rustling of cedar branches over her head, and saw where
they brushed against the tent roof. It appeared warm and fragrant inside,
and protected from the wind, and a subdued white light filtered through the
canvas. Almost she felt like reproving herself for the comfort surrounding
her. For she had come West to welcome the hard knocks of primitive life.
It took less than an hour to have her trunks stored in one of the spare
tents, and to unpack clothes and necessaries for immediate use. Carley
donned the comfortable and somewhat shabby outdoor garb she had worn at Oak
Creek the year before; and it seemed to be the last thing needed to make
her fully realize the glorious truth of the present.
"I'm here," she said to her pale, yet happy face in the mirror. "The
impossible has happened. I have accepted Glenn's life. I have answered that
strange call out of the West."
She wanted to throw herself on the sunlit woolly blankets of her bed and
hug them, to think and think of the bewildering present happiness, to dream
of the future, but she could not lie or sit still, nor keep her mind from
grasping at actualities and possibilities of this place, nor her hands from
itching to do things.
It developed, presently, that she could not have idled away the time even
if she had wanted to, for the Mexican woman came for her, with smiling
gesticulation and jabber that manifestly meant dinner. Carley could not
understand many Mexican words, and herein she saw another task. This
swarthy woman and her sloe-eyed husband favorably impressed Carley.
Next to claim her was Hoyle, the superintendent. "Miss Burch," he said, "in
the early days we could run up a log cabin in a jiffy. Axes, horses, strong
arms, and a few pegs--that was all we needed. But this house you've planned
is different. It's good you've come to take the responsibility."
Carley had chosen the site for her home on top of the knoll where Glenn had
taken her to show her the magnificent view of mountains and desert. Carley
climbed it now with beating heart and mingled emotions. A thousand times
already that day, it seemed, she had turned to gaze up at the noble
white-clad peaks. They were closer now, apparently looming over her, and
she felt a great sense of peace and protection in the thought that they
would always be there. But she had not yet seen the desert that had haunted
her for a year. When she reached the summit of the knoll and gazed out
across the open space it seemed that she must stand spellbound. How green
the cedared foreground-how gray and barren the downward slope--how
wonderful the painted steppes! The vision that had lived in her memory
shrank to nothingness. The reality was immense, more than beautiful,
appalling in its isolation, beyond comprehension with its lure and strength
But the superintendent drew her attention to the business at hand.
Carley had planned an L-shaped house of one story. Some of her ideas
appeared to be impractical, and these she abandoned. The framework was up
and half a dozen carpenters were lustily at work with saw and hammer.
"We'd made better progress if this house was in an ordinary place,"
explained Hoyle. "But you see the wind blows here, so the framework had to
be made as solid and strong as possible. In fact, it's bolted to the
Both living room and sleeping room were arranged so that the Painted Desert
could be seen from one window, and on the other side the whole of the San
Francisco Mountains. Both rooms were to have open fireplaces. Carley's idea
was for service and durability. She thought of comfort in the severe
winters of that high latitude, but elegance and luxury had no more
significance in her life.
Hoyle made his suggestions as to changes and adaptations, and, receiving
her approval, he went on to show her what had been already accomplished.
Back on higher ground a reservoir of concrete was being constructed near an
ever-flowing spring of snow water from the peaks. This water was being
piped by gravity to the house, and was a matter of greatest satisfaction to
Hoyle, for he claimed that it would never freeze in winter, and would be
cold and abundant during the hottest and driest of summers. This assurance
solved the most difficult and serious problem of ranch life in the desert.
Next Hoyle led Carley down off the knoll to the wide cedar valley adjacent
to the lake. He was enthusiastic over its possibilities. Two small corrals
and a large one had been erected, the latter having a low flat barn
connected with it. Ground was already being cleared along the lake where
alfalfa and hay were to be raised. Carley saw the blue and yellow smoke
from burning brush, and the fragrant odor thrilled her. Mexicans were
chopping the cleared cedars into firewood for winter use.
The day was spent before she realized it. At sunset the carpenters and
mechanics left in two old Ford cars for town. The Mexicans had a camp in
the cedars, and the Hoyles had theirs at the spring under the knoll where
Carley had camped with Glenn and the Hutters. Carley watched the golden
rosy sunset, and as the day ended she breathed deeply as if in unutterable
relief. Supper found her with appetite she had long since lost. Twilight
brought cold wind, the staccato bark of coyotes, the flicker of camp fires
through the cedars. She tried to embrace all her sensations, but they were
so rapid and many that she failed.
The cold, clear, silent night brought back the charm of the desert. How
flaming white the stars!. The great spire-pointed peaks lifted cold
pale-gray outlines up into the deep star-studded sky. Carley walked a
little to and fro, loath to go to her tent, though tired. She wanted calm.
But instead of achieving calmness she grew more and more towards a strange
state of exultation.
Westward, only a matter of twenty or thirty miles, lay the deep rent in the
level desert--Oak Creek Canyon. If Glenn had been there this night would
have been perfect, yet almost unendurable. She was again grateful for his
absence. What a surprise she had in store for him! And she imagined his
face in its change of expression when she met him. If only he never learned
of her presence in Arizona until she made it known in person! That she most
longed for. Chances were against it, but then her luck had changed. She
looked to the eastward where a pale luminosity of afterglow shone in the
heavens. Far distant seemed the home of her childhood, the friends she had
scorned and forsaken, the city of complaining and striving millions. If
only some miracle might illumine the minds of her friends, as she felt that
hers was to be illumined here in the solitude. But she well realized that
not all problems could be solved by a call out of the West. Any open and
lonely land that might have saved Glenn Kilbourne would have sufficed for
her. It was the spirit of the thing and not the letter. It was work of any
kind and not only that of ranch life. Not only the raising of hogs!
Carley directed stumbling steps toward the light of her tent. Her eyes had
not been used to such black shadow along the ground. She had, too,
squeamish feminine fears of hydrophobia skunks, and nameless animals or
reptiles that were imagined denizens of the darkness. She gained her tent
and entered. The Mexican, Gino, as he called himself, had lighted her lamp
and fire. Carley was chilled through, and the tent felt so warm and cozy
that she could scarcely believe it. She fastened the screen door, laced the
flaps across it, except at the top, and then gave herself up to the lulling
and comforting heat.
There were plans to perfect; innumerable things to remember; a car and
accessories, horses, saddles, outfits to buy. Carley knew she should sit
down at her table and write and figure, but she could not do it then.
For a long time she sat over the little stove, toasting her knees and
hands, adding some chips now and then to the red coals. And her mind seemed
a kaleidoscope of changing visions, thoughts, feelings. At last she
undressed and blew out the lamp and went to bed.
Instantly a thick blackness seemed to enfold her and silence as of a dead
world settled down upon her. Drowsy as she was, she could not close her
eyes nor refrain from listening. Darkness and silence were tangible things.
She felt them. And they seemed suddenly potent with magic charm to still
the tumult of her, to soothe and rest, to create thoughts she had never
thought before. Rest was more than selfish indulgence. Loneliness was
necessary to gain consciousness of the soul. Already far back in the past
seemed Carley's other life.
By and by the dead stillness awoke to faint sounds not before perceptible
to her--a low, mournful sough of the wind in the cedars, then the faint
far-distant note of a coyote, sad as the night and infinitely wild.
Days passed. Carley worked in the mornings with her hands and her brains.
In the afternoons she rode and walked and climbed with a double object, to
work herself into fit physical condition and to explore every nook and
corner of her six hundred and forty acres.
Then what she had expected and deliberately induced by her efforts quickly
came to pass. Just as the year before she had suffered excruciating pain
from aching muscles, and saddle blisters, and walking blisters, and a very
rending of her bones, so now she fell victim to them again. In sunshine and
rain she faced the desert. Sunburn and sting of sleet were equally to be
endured. And that abomination, the hateful blinding sandstorm, did not
daunt her. But the weary hours of abnegation to this physical torture at
least held one consoling recompense as compared with her experience of last
year, and it was that there was no one interested to watch for her
weaknesses and failures and blunders. She could fight it out alone.
Three weeks of this self-imposed strenuous training wore by before Carley
was free enough from weariness and pain to experience other sensations. Her
general health, evidently, had not been so good as when she had first
visited Arizona. She caught cold and suffered other ills attendant upon an
abrupt change of climate and condition. But doggedly she kept at her task.
She rode when she should have been in bed; she walked when she should have
ridden; she climbed when she should have kept to level ground. And finally
by degrees so gradual as not to be noticed except in the sum of them she
began to mend.
Meanwhile the construction of her house went on with uninterrupted
rapidity. When the low, slanting, wide-eaved roof was completed Carley lost
further concern about rainstorms. Let them come. When the plumbing was all
in and Carley saw verification of Hoyle's assurance that it would mean a
gravity supply of water ample and continual, she lost her last concern as
to the practicability of the work. That, and the earning of her endurance,
seemed to bring closer a wonderful reward, still nameless and spiritual,
that had been unattainable, but now breathed to her on the fragrant desert
wind and in the brooding silence.
The time came when each afternoon's ride or climb called to Carley with
increasing delight. But the fact that she must soon reveal to Glenn her
presence and transformation did not seem to be all the cause. She could
ride without pain, walk without losing her breath, work without blistering
her hands; and in this there was compensation. The building of the house
that was to become a home, the development of water resources and land that
meant the making of a ranch--these did not altogether constitute the
anticipation of content. To be active, to accomplish things, to recall to
mind her knowledge of manual training, of domestic science, of designing
and painting, to learn to cook-these were indeed measures full of reward,
but they were not all. In her wondering, pondering meditation she arrived
at the point where she tried to assign to her love the growing fullness of
her life. This, too, splendid and all-pervading as it was, she had to
reject. Some exceedingly illusive and vital significance of life had
insidiously come to Carley.
One afternoon, with the sky full of white and black rolling clouds and a
cold wind sweeping through the cedars, she halted to rest and escape the
chilling gale for a while. In a sunny place, under the lee of a gravel
bank, she sought refuge. It was warm here because of the reflected sunlight
and the absence of wind. The sand at the bottom of the bank held a heat
that felt good to her cold hands. All about her and over her swept the keen
wind, rustling the sage, seeping the sand, swishing the cedars, but she was
out of it, protected and insulated. The sky above showed blue between the
threatening clouds. There were no birds or living creatures in sight.
Certainly the place had little of color or beauty or grace, nor could she
see beyond a few rods. Lying there, without any particular reason that she
was conscious of, she suddenly felt shot through and through with
Another day, the warmest of the spring so far, she rode a Navajo mustang
she had recently bought from a passing trader; and at the farthest end of
her section, in rough wooded and ridged ground she had not explored, she
found a canyon with red walls and pine trees and gleaming streamlet and
glades of grass and jumbles of rock. It was a miniature canyon, to be
sure, only a quarter of a mile long, and as deep as the height of a lofty
pine, and so narrow that it seemed only the width of a lane, but it had all
the features of Oak Creek Canyon, and so sufficed for the exultant joy of
possession. She explored it. The willow brakes and oak thickets harbored
rabbits and birds. She saw the white flags of deer running away down the
open. Up at the head where the canyon boxed she flushed a flock of wild
turkeys. They ran like ostriches and flew like great brown chickens. In a
cavern Carley found the den of a bear, and in another place the bleached
bones of a steer.
She lingered here in the shaded depths with a feeling as if she were indeed
lost to the world. These big brown and seamy-barked pines with their
spreading gnarled arms and webs of green needles belonged to her, as also
the tiny brook, the blue bells smiling out of the ferns, the single stalk
of mescal on a rocky ledge.
Never had sun and earth, tree and rock, seemed a part of her being until
then. She would become a sun-worshiper and a lover of the earth. That
canyon had opened there to sky and light for millions of years; and
doubtless it had harbored sheep herders, Indians, cliff dwellers,
barbarians. She was a woman with white skin and a cultivated mind, but the
affinity for them existed in her. She felt it, and that an understanding of
it would be good for body and soul.
Another day she found a little grove of jack pines growing on a flat mesa-
like bluff, the highest point on her land. The trees were small and close
together, mingling their green needles overhead and their discarded brown
ones on the ground. From here Carley could see afar to all points of the
compass--the slow green descent to the south and the climb to the
black-timbered distance; the ridged and canyoned country to the west, red
vents choked with green and rimmed with gray; to the north the grand
upflung mountain kingdom crowned with snow; and to the east the vastness of
illimitable space, the openness and wildness, the chased and beaten mosaic
of colored sands and rocks.
Again and again she visited this lookout and came to love its isolation,
its command of wondrous prospects, its power of suggestion to her thoughts.
She became a creative being, in harmony with the live things around her.
The great life-dispensing sun poured its rays down upon her, as if to ripen
her; and the earth seemed warm, motherly, immense with its all-embracing
arms. She no longer plucked the bluebells to press to her face, but leaned
to them. Every blade of gramma grass, with its shining bronze-tufted seed
head, had significance for her. The scents of the desert began to have
meaning for her. She sensed within her the working of a great leveling
process through which supreme happiness would come.
June! The rich, thick, amber light, like a transparent reflection from
some intense golden medium, seemed to float in the warm air. The sky became
an azure blue. In the still noontides, when the bees hummed drowsily and
the flies buzzed, vast creamy-white columnar clouds rolled up from the
horizon, like colossal ships with bulging sails. And summer with its rush
of growing things was at hand.
Carley rode afar, seeking in strange places the secret that eluded her.
Only a few days now until she would ride down to Oak Creek Canyon! There
was a low, singing melody of wind in the cedars. The earth became too
beautiful in her magnified sight. A great truth was dawning upon her--that
the sacrifice of what she had held as necessary to the enjoyment of life--
that the strain of conflict, the labor of hands, the forcing of weary body,
the enduring of pain, the contact with the earth--had served somehow to
rejuvenate her blood, quicken her pulse, intensify her sensorial faculties,
thrill her very soul, lead her into the realm of enchantment.
One afternoon a dull, lead-black-colored cinder knoll tempted her to
explore its bare heights. She rode up until her mustang sank to his knees
and could climb no farther. From there she essayed the ascent on foot. It
took labor. But at last she gained the summit, burning, sweating, panting.
The cinder hill was an extinct crater of a volcano. In the center of it lay
a deep bowl, wondrously symmetrical, and of a dark lusterless hue. Not a
blade of grass was there, nor a plant. Carley conceived a desire to go to
the bottom of this pit. She tried the cinders of the edge of the slope.
They had the same consistency as those of the ascent she had overcome. But
here there was a steeper incline. A tingling rush of daring seemed to drive
her over the rounded rim, and, once started down, it was as if she wore
seven-league boots. Fear left her. Only an exhilarating emotion consumed
her. If there were danger, it mattered not. She strode down with giant
steps, she plunged, she started avalanches to ride them until they stopped,
she leaped, and lastly she fell, to roll over the soft cinders to the pit.
There she lay. It seemed a comfortable resting place. The pit was scarcely
six feet across. She gazed upward and was astounded. How steep was the
rounded slope on all sides! There were no sides; it was a circle. She
looked up at a round lake of deep translucent sky. Such depth of blue, such
exquisite rare color! Carley imagined she could gaze through it to the
She closed her eyes and rested. Soon the laboring of heart and breath
calmed to normal, so that she could not hear them. Then she lay perfectly
motionless. With eyes shut she seemed still to look, and what she saw was
the sunlight through the blood and flesh of her eyelids. It was red, as
rare a hue as the blue of sky. So piercing did it grow that she had to
shade her eyes with her arm.
Again the strange, rapt glow suffused her body. Never in all her life had
she been so absolutely alone. She might as well have been in her grave. She
might have been dead to all earthy things and reveling in spirit in the
glory of the physical that had escaped her in life. And she abandoned
herself to this influence.
She loved these dry, dusty cinders; she loved the crater here hidden from
all save birds; she loved the desert, the earth-above all, the sun. She was
a product of the earth--a creation of the sun. She had been an
infinitesimal atom of inert something that had quickened to life under the
blazing magic of the sun. Soon her spirit would abandon her body and go on,
while her flesh and bone returned to dust. This frame of hers, that carried
the divine spark, belonged to the earth. She had only been ignorant,
mindless, feelingless, absorbed in the seeking of gain, blind to the truth.
She had to give. She had been created a woman; she belonged to nature; she
was nothing save a mother of the future. She had loved neither Glenn
Kilbourne nor life itself. False education, false standards, false
environment had developed her into a woman who imagined she must feed her
body on the milk and honey of indulgence.
She was abased now--woman as animal, though saved and uplifted by her power
of immortality. Transcendental was her female power to link life with the
future. The power of the plant seed, the power of the earth, the heat of
the sun, the inscrutable creation-spirit of nature, almost the divinity of
God--these were all hers because she was a woman. That was the great
secret, aloof so long. That was what had been wrong with life--the woman
blind to her meaning, her power, her mastery.
So she abandoned herself to the woman within her. She held out her arms to
the blue abyss of heaven as if to embrace the universe. She was Nature. She
kissed the dusty cinders and pressed her breast against the warm slope. Her
heart swelled to bursting with a glorious and unutterable happiness.
That afternoon as the sun was setting under a gold-white scroll of cloud
Carley got back to Deep Lake.
A familiar lounging figure crossed her sight. It approached to where she
had dismounted. Charley, the sheep herder of Oak Creek!
"Howdy!" he drawled, with his queer smile. "So it was you-all who had this
Deep Lake section?"
"Yes. And how are you, Charley?" she replied, shaking hands with him.
"Me? Aw, I'm tip-top. I'm shore glad you got this ranch. Reckon I'll hit
you for a job."
"I'd give it to you. But aren't you working for the Hutters?"
"Nope. Not any more. Me an' Stanton had a row with them."
How droll and dry he was! His lean, olive-brown face, with its guileless
clear eyes and his lanky figure in blue jeans vividly recalled Oak Creek to
"Oh, I'm sorry," returned she haltingly, somehow checked in her warm rush
of thought. "Stanton? . . . Did he quit too?"
"Yep. He sure did."
"What was the trouble?"
"Reckon because Flo made up to Kilbourne," replied Charley, with a grin.
"Ah! I--I see," murmured Carley. A blankness seemed to wave over her. It
extended to the air without, to the sense of the golden sunset. It passed.
What should she ask--what out of a thousand sudden flashing queries? "Are--
are the Hutters back?"
"Sure. Been back several days. I reckoned Hoyle told you. Mebbe he didn't
know, though. For nobody's been to town."
"How is--how are they all?" faltered Carley. There was a strange wall here
between her thought and her utterance.
"Everybody satisfied, I reckon," replied Charley.
"Flo--how is she?" burst out Carley.
"Aw, Flo's loony over her husband," drawled Charley, his clear eyes on
"Husband!" she gasped.
"Sure. Flo's gone an' went an' done what I swore on."
"Who?" whispered Carley, and the query was a terrible blade piercing her
"Now who'd you reckon on?" asked Charley, with his slow grin.
Carley's lips were mute.
"Wal, it was your old beau thet you wouldn't have," returned Charley, as he
gathered up his long frame, evidently to leave. "Kilbourne! He an' Flo came
back from the Tonto all hitched up."
Vague sense of movement, of darkness, and of cold attended Carley's
consciousness for what seemed endless time.
A fall over rocks and a severe thrust from a sharp branch brought an acute
appreciation of her position, if not of her mental state. Night had fallen.
The stars were out. She had stumbled over a low ledge. Evidently she had
wandered around, dazedly and aimlessly, until brought to her senses by
pain. But for a gleam of campfires through the cedars she would have been
lost. It did not matter. She was lost, anyhow. What was it that had
Charley, the sheep herder! Then the thunderbolt of his words burst upon
her, and she collapsed to the cold stones. She lay quivering from head to
toe. She dug her fingers into the moss and lichen. "Oh, God, to think--
after all--it happened!" she moaned. There had been a rending within her
breast, as of physical violence, from which she now suffered anguish. There
were a thousand stinging nerves. There was a mortal sickness of horror, of
insupportable heartbreaking loss. She could not endure it. She could not
live under it.
She lay there until energy supplanted shock. Then she rose to rush into the
darkest shadows of the cedars, to grope here and there, hanging her head,
wringing her hands, beating her breast. "It can't be true," she cried. "Not
after my struggle--my victory--not now!" But there had been no victory. And
now it was too late. She was betrayed, ruined, lost. That wonderful love
had wrought transformation in her--and now havoc. Once she fell against the
branches of a thick cedar that upheld her. The fragrance which had been
sweet was now bitter. Life that had been bliss was now hateful! She could
not keep still for a single moment.
Black night, cedars, brush, rocks, washes, seemed not to obstruct her. In a
frenzy she rushed on, tearing her dress, her hands, her hair. Violence of
some kind was imperative. All at once a pale gleaming open space,
shimmering under the stars, lay before her. It was water. Deep Lake! And
instantly a hideous terrible longing to destroy herself obsessed her. She
had no fear. She could have welcomed the cold, slimy depths that meant
oblivion. But could they really bring oblivion? A year ago she would have
believed so, and would no longer have endured such agony. She had changed.
A cursed strength had come to her, and it was this strength that now
augmented her torture. She flung wide her arms to the pitiless white stars
and looked up at them. "My hope, my faith, my love have failed me," she
whispered. "They have been a lie. I went through hell for them. And now
I've nothing to live for.... Oh, let me end it all!"
If she prayed to the stars for mercy, it was denied her. Passionlessly they
blazed on. But she could not kill herself. In that hour death would have
been the only relief and peace left to her. Stricken by the cruelty of her
fate, she fell back against the stones and gave up to grief. Nothing was
left but fierce pain. The youth and vitality and intensity of her then
locked arms with anguish and torment and a cheated, unsatisfied love.
Strength of mind and body involuntarily resisted the ravages of this
catastrophe. Will power seemed nothing, but the flesh of her, that medium
of exquisite sensation, so full of life, so prone to joy, refused to
surrender. The part of her that felt fought terribly for its heritage.
All night long Carley lay there. The crescent moon went down, the stars
moved on their course, the coyotes ceased to wail, the wind died away, the
lapping of the waves along the lake shore wore to gentle splash, the
whispering of the insects stopped as the cold of dawn approached. The
darkest hour fell--hour of silence, solitude, and melancholy, when the
desert lay tranced, cold, waiting, mournful without light of moon or stars
In the gray dawn Carley dragged her bruised and aching body back to her
tent, and, fastening the door, she threw off wet clothes and boots and fell
upon her bed. Slumber of exhaustion came to her.
When she awoke the tent was light and the moving shadows of cedar boughs on
the white canvas told that the sun was straight above. Carley ached as
never before. A deep pang seemed invested in every bone. Her heart felt
swollen out of proportion to its space in her breast. Her breathing came
slow and it hurt. Her blood was sluggish. Suddenly she shut her eyes. She
loathed the light of day. What was it that had happened?
Then the brutal truth flashed over her again, in aspect new, with all the
old bitterness. For an instant she experienced a suffocating sensation as
if the canvas had sagged under the burden of heavy air and was crushing her
breast and heart. Then wave after wave of emotion swept over her. The storm
winds of grief and passion were loosened again. And she writhed in her
Some one knocked on her door. The Mexican woman called anxiously. Carley
awoke to the fact that her presence was not solitary on the physical earth,
even if her soul seemed stricken to eternal loneliness. Even in the desert
there was a world to consider. Vanity that had bled to death, pride that
had been crushed, availed her not here. But something else came to her support.
The lesson of the West had been to endure, not to shirk--to face an
issue, not to hide. Carley got up, bathed, dressed, brushed and arranged
her dishevelled hair. The face she saw in the mirror excited her amaze and
pity. Then she went out in answer to the call for dinner. But she could not
eat. The ordinary functions of life appeared to be deadened..
The day happened to be Sunday, and therefore the workmen were absent.
Carley had the place to herself. How the half-completed house mocked her I
She could not bear to look at it. What use could she make of it now? Flo
Hutter had become the working comrade of Glenn Kilbourne, the mistress of
his cabin. She was his wife and she would be the mother of his children.
That thought gave birth to the darkest hour of Carley Burch's life. She
became possessed as by a thousand devils. She became merely a female robbed
of her mate. Reason was not in her, nor charity, nor justice. All that was
abnormal in human nature seemed coalesced in her, dominant, passionate,
savage, terrible. She hated with an incredible and insane ferocity. In the
seclusion of her tent, crouched on her bed, silent, locked, motionless, she
yet was the embodiment of all terrible strife and storm in nature. Her
heart was a maelstrom and would have whirled and sucked down to hell all
the beings that were men. Her soul was a bottomless gulf, filled with the
gales and the fires of jealousy, superhuman to destroy.
That fury consumed all her remaining strength, and from the relapse she
sank to sleep.
Morning brought the inevitable reaction. However long her other struggles,
this monumental and final one would be brief. She realized that, yet was
unable to understand how it could be possible, unless shock or death or
mental aberration ended the fight. An eternity of emotion lay back between
this awakening of intelligence and the hour of her fall into the clutches
of primitive passion.
That morning she faced herself in the mirror and asked, "Now--what do I owe
you?" It was not her voice that answered. It was beyond her. But it said:
"Go on! You are cut adrift. You are alone. You owe none but yourself! . . .
Go on! Not backward--not to the depths--but up--upward!"
She shuddered at such a decree. How impossible for her! All animal, all
woman, all emotion, how could she live on the cold, pure heights? Yet she
owed something intangible and inscrutable to herself. Was it the thing that
woman lacked physically, yet contained hidden in her soul? An element of
eternal spirit to rise! Because of heartbreak and ruin and irreparable loss
must she fall? Was loss of love and husband and children only a test? The
present hour would be swallowed in the sum of life's trials. She could not
go back. She would not go down. There was wrenched from her tried and sore
heart an unalterable and unquenchable decision--to make her own soul prove
the evolution of woman. Vessel of blood and flesh she might be, doomed by
nature to the reproduction of her kind, but she had in her the supreme
spirit and power to carry on the progress of the ages--the climb of woman
out of the darkness.
Carley went out to the workmen. The house should be completed and she would
live in it. Always there was the stretching and illimitable desert to look
at, and the grand heave upward of the mountains. Hoyle was full of zest for
the practical details of the building. He saw nothing of the havoc wrought
in her. Nor did the other workmen glance more than casually at her. In this
Carley lost something of a shirking fear that her loss and grief were
patent to all eyes.
That afternoon she mounted the most spirited of the mustangs she had
purchased from the Indians. To govern him and stick on him required all her
energy. And she rode him hard and far, out across the desert, across mile
after mile of cedar forest, clear to the foothills. She rested there,
absorbed in gazing desertward, and upon turning back again, she ran him
over the level stretches. Wind and branch threshed her seemingly to
ribbons. Violence seemed good for her. A fall had no fear for her now. She
reached camp at dusk, hot as fire, breathless and strengthless. But she had
earned something. Such action required constant use of muscle and mind. If
need be she could drive both to the very furthermost limit. She could ride
and ride--until the future, like the immensity of the desert there, might
swallow her. She changed her clothes and rested a while. The call to supper
found her hungry. In this fact she discovered mockery of her grief. Love
was not the food of life. Exhausted nature's need of rest and sleep was no
respecter of a woman's emotion.
Next day Carley rode northward, wildly and fearlessly, as if this conscious
activity was the initiative of an endless number of rides that were to save
her. As before the foothills called her, and she went on until she came to
a very high one.
Carley dismounted from her panting horse, answering the familiar impulse to
attain heights by her own effort.
"Am I only a weakling?" she asked herself. "Only a creature mined by the
fever of the soul! . . . Thrown from one emotion to another? Never the
same. Yearning, suffering, sacrificing, hoping, and changing--forever the
same! What is it that drives me? A great city with all its attractions has
failed to help me realize my life. So have friends failed. So has the
world. What can solitude and grandeur do? . . . All this obsession of
mine--all this strange feeling for simple elemental earthly things likewise
will fail me. Yet I am driven. They would call me a mad woman."
It took Carley a full hour of slow body-bending labor to climb to the
summit of that hill. High, steep, and rugged, it resisted ascension. But at
last she surmounted it and sat alone on the heights, with naked eyes, and
an unconscious prayer on her lips.
What was it that had happened? Could there be here a different answer from
that which always mocked her?
She had been a girl, not accountable for loss of mother, for choice of home
and education. She had belonged to a class. She had grown to womanhood in
it. She had loved, and in loving had escaped the evil of her day, if not
its taint. She had lived only for herself. Conscience had awakened--but,
alas! too late. She had overthrown the sordid, self-seeking habit of life;
she had awakened to real womanhood; she had fought the insidious spell of
modernity and she had defeated it; she had learned the thrill of taking
root in new soil, the pain and joy of labor, the bliss of solitude, the
promise of home and love and motherhood. But she had gathered all these
marvelous things to her soul too late for happiness.
"Now it is answered," she declared aloud. "That is what has happened? . . .
And all that is past. . . . Is there anything left? If so what?"
She flung her query out to the winds of the desert. But the desert seemed
too gray, too vast, too remote, too aloof, too measureless. It was not
concerned with her little life. Then she turned to the mountain kingdom.
It seemed overpoweringly near at hand. It loomed above her to pierce the
fleecy clouds. It was only a stupendous upheaval of earth-crust, grown over
at the base by leagues and leagues of pine forest, belted along the middle
by vast slanting zigzag slopes of aspen, rent and riven toward the heights
into canyon and gorge, bared above to cliffs and corners of craggy rock,
whitened at the sky-piercing peaks by snow. Its beauty and sublimity were
lost upon Carley now; she was concerned with its travail, its age, its
endurance, its strength. And she studied it with magnified sight.
What incomprehensible subterranean force had swelled those immense slopes
and lifted the huge bulk aloft to the clouds? Cataclysm of nature--the
expanding or shrinking of the earth-vast volcanic action under the surface!
Whatever it had been, it had left its expression of the travail of the
universe. This mountain mass had been hot gas when flung from the parent
sun, and now it was solid granite. What had it endured in the making? What
indeed had been its dimensions before the millions of years of its
Eruption, earthquake, avalanche, the attrition of glacier, the erosion of
water, the cracking of frost, the weathering of rain and wind and snow--
these it had eternally fought and resisted in vain, yet still it stood
magnificent, frowning, battle-scarred and undefeated. Its sky-piercing
peaks were as cries for mercy to the Infinite. This old mountain realized
its doom. It had to go, perhaps to make room for a newer and better
kingdom. But it endured because of the spirit of nature. The great notched
circular line of rock below and between the peaks, in the body of the
mountains, showed where in ages past the heart of living granite had blown
out, to let loose on all the near surrounding desert the streams of black
lava and the hills of black cinders. Despite its fringe of green it was
hoary with age. Every looming gray-faced wall, massive and sublime, seemed
a monument of its mastery over time. Every deep-cut canyon, showing the
skeleton ribs, the caverns and caves, its avalanche-carved slides, its
long, fan-shaped, spreading taluses, carried conviction to the spectator
that it was but a frail bit of rock, that its life was little and brief,
that upon it had been laid the merciless curse of nature. Change! Change
must unknit the very knots of the center of the earth. So its strength lay
in the sublimity of its defiance. It meant to endure to the last rolling
grain of sand. It was a dead mountain of rock, without spirit, yet it
taught a grand lesson to the seeing eye.
Life was only a part, perhaps an infinitely small part of nature's plan.
Death and decay were just as important to her inscrutable design. The uni-
verse had not been created for life, ease, pleasure, and happiness of a man
creature developed from lower organisms. If nature's secret was the
developing of a spirit through all time, Carley divined that she had it
within her. So the present meant little.
"I have no right to be unhappy," concluded Carley. "I had no right to Glenn
Kilbourne. I failed him. In that I failed myself. Neither life nor nature
failed me--nor love. It is no longer a mystery. Unhappiness is only a
change. Happiness itself is only change. So what does it matter? The great
thing is to see life--to understand--to feel--to work--to fight--to endure.
It is not my fault I am here. But it is my fault if I leave this strange
old earth the poorer for my failure. . . . I will no longer be little. I
will find strength. I will endure. . . . I still have eyes, ears, nose,
taste. I can feel the sun, the wind, the nip of frost. Must I slink like a
craven because I've lost the love of one man? Must I hate Flo Hutter
because she will make Glenn happy? Never! ... All of this seems better so,
because through it I am changed. I might have lived on, a selfish clod!"
Carley turned from the mountain kingdom and faced her future with the
profound and sad and far-seeing look that had come with her lesson. She
knew what to give. Sometime and somewhere there would be recompense. She
would hide her wound in the faith that time would heat it. And the ordeal
she set herself, to prove her sincerity and strength, was to ride down to
Oak Creek Canyon.
Carley did not wait many days. Strange how the old vanity held her back
until something of the havoc in her face should be gone!
One morning she set out early, riding her best horse, and she took a sheep
trail across country. The distance by road was much farther. The June
morning was cool, sparkling, fragrant. Mocking birds sang from the topmost
twig of cedars; doves cooed in the pines; sparrow hawks sailed low over the
open grassy patches. Desert primroses showed their rounded pink clusters in
sunny places, and here and there burned the carmine of Indian paint-brush.
Jack rabbits and cotton-tails bounded and scampered away through the sage.
The desert had life and color and movement this June day. And as always
there was the dry fragrance on the air.
Her mustang had been inured to long and consistent travel over the desert.
Her weight was nothing to him and he kept to the swinging lope for miles.
As she approached Oak Creek Canyon, however, she drew him to a trot, and
then a walk. Sight of the deep red-walled and green-floored canyon was a
shock to her.
The trail came out on the road that led to Ryan's sheep camp, at a point
several miles west of the cabin where Carley had encountered Haze Ruff. She
remembered the curves and stretches, and especially the steep jump-off
where the road led down off the rim into the canyon. Here she dismounted
and walked. From the foot of this descent she knew every rod of the way
would be familiar to her, and, womanlike, she wanted to turn away and fly
from them. But she kept on and mounted again at level ground.
The murmur of the creek suddenly assailed her ears--sweet, sad, memorable,
strangely powerful to hurt. Yet the sound seemed of long ago. Down here
summer had advanced. Rich thick foliage overspread the winding road of
sand. Then out of the shade she passed into the sunnier regions of isolated
pines. Along here she had raced Calico with Glenn's bay; and here she had
caught him, and there was the place she had fallen. She halted a moment
under the pine tree where Glenn had held her in his arms. Tears dimmed her
eyes. If only she had known then the truth, the reality! But regrets were
By and by a craggy red wall loomed above the trees, and its pipe-organ
conformation was familiar to Carley. She left the road and turned to go
down to the creek. Sycamores and maples and great bowlders, and mossy
ledges overhanging the water, and a huge sentinel pine marked the spot
where she and Glenn had eaten their lunch that last day. Her mustang
splashed into the clear water and halted to drink. Beyond, through the
trees, Carley saw the sunny red-earthed clearing that was Glenn's farm. She
looked, and fought herself, and bit her quivering lip until she tasted
blood. Then she rode out into the open.
The whole west side of the canyon had been cleared and cultivated and
plowed. But she gazed no farther. She did not want to see the spot where
she had given Glenn his ring and had parted from him. She rode on. If she
could pass West Fork she believed her courage would rise to the completion
of this ordeal. Places were what she feared. Places that she had loved
while blindly believing she hated! There the narrow gap of green and blue
split the looming red wall. She was looking into West Fork. Up there stood
the cabin. How fierce a pang rent her breast! She faltered at the crossing
of the branch stream, and almost surrendered. The water murmured, the
leaves rustled, the bees hummed, the birds sang--all with some sad
sweetness that seemed of the past.
Then the trail leading up West Fork was like a barrier. She saw horse
tracks in it. Next she descried boot tracks the shape of which was so
well-remembered that it shook her heart. There were fresh tracks in the
sand, pointing in the direction of the Lodge. Ah! that was where Glenn
lived now. Carley strained at her will to keep it fighting her memory. The
glory and the dream were gone!
A touch of spur urged her mustang into a gallop. The splashing ford of the
creek--the still, eddying pool beyond--the green orchards--the white lacy
waterfall--and Lolomi Lodge!
Nothing had altered. But Carley seemed returning after many years. Slowly
she dismounted--slowly she climbed the porch steps. Was there no one at
home? Yet the vacant doorway, the silence--something attested to the
knowledge of Carley's presence. Then suddenly Mrs. Hutter fluttered out
with Flo behind her.
"You dear girl--I'm so glad!" cried Mrs. Hutter, her voice trembling.
"I'm glad to see you, too," said Carley, bending to receive Mrs. Hutter's
embrace. Carley saw dim eyes--the stress of agitation, but no surprise.
"Oh, Carley!" burst out the Western girl, with voice rich and full, yet tremulous.
"Flo, I've come to wish you happiness," replied Carley, very low.
Was it the same Flo? This seemed more of a woman--strange now--white and
strained--beautiful, eager, questioning. A cry of gladness burst from her.
Carley felt herself enveloped in strong close clasp-and then a warm, quick
kiss of joy, It shocked her, yet somehow thrilled. Sure was the welcome
here. Sure was the strained situation, also, but the voice rang too glad a
note for Carley. It touched her deeply, yet she could not understand. She
had not measured the depth of Western friendship.
"Have you--seen Glenn?" queried Flo, breathlessly.
"Oh no, indeed not," replied Carley, slowly gaining composure. The nervous
agitation of these women had stilled her own. "I just rode up the trail.
Where is he?"
"He was here--a moment ago," panted Flo. "Oh, Carley, we sure are locoed.
. . . Why, we only heard an hour ago--that you were at Deep Lake. . . .
Charley rode in. He told us. . . . I thought my heart would break. Poor
Glenn! When he heard it. . . . But never mind me. Jump your horse and run
to West Fork!"
The spirit of her was like the strength of her arms as she hurried Carley
across the porch and shoved her down the steps.
"Climb on and run, Carley," cried Flo. "If you only knew how glad he'll be
that you came!"
Carley leaped into the saddle and wheeled the mustang. But she had no
answer for the girl's singular, almost wild exultance. Then like a shot the
spirited mustang was off down the lane. Carley wondered with swelling
heart. Was her coming such a wondrous surprise--so unexpected and big in
generosity--something that would make Kilbourne as glad as it had seemed to
make Flo? Carley thrilled to this assurance.
Down the lane she flew. The red walls blurred and the sweet wind whipped
her face. At the trail she swerved the mustang, but did not check his gait.
Under the great pines he sped and round the bulging wall. At the rocky
incline leading to the creek she pulled the fiery animal to a trot. How low
and clear the water! As Carley forded it fresh cool drops splashed into her
face. Again she spurred her mount and again trees and walls rushed by. Up
and down the yellow bits of trail--on over the brown mats of pine needles
--until there in the sunlight shone the little gray log cabin with a tall
form standing in the door. One instant the canyon tilted on end for Carley
and she was riding into the blue sky. Then some magic of soul sustained
her, so that she saw clearly. Reaching the cabin she reined in her mustang.
"Hello, Glenn! Look who's here!" she cried, not wholly failing of gayety.
He threw up his sombrero.
"Whoopee!" he yelled, in stentorian voice that rolled across the canyon and
bellowed in hollow echo and then clapped from wall to wall. The unexpected
Western yell, so strange from Glenn, disconcerted Carley. Had he only
answered her spirit of greeting? Had hers rung false?
But he was coming to her. She had seen the bronze of his face turn to
white. How gaunt and worn he looked. Older he appeared, with deeper lines
and whiter hair. His jaw quivered.
"Carley Burch, so it was you?" he queried, hoarsely.
"Glenn, I reckon it was," she replied. "I bought your Deep Lake ranch site.
I came back too late . . . . But it is never too late for some things. . .
. I've come to wish you and Flo all the happiness in the world--and to say
we must be friends."
The way he looked at her made her tremble. He strode up beside the mustang,
and he was so tall that his shoulder came abreast of her. He placed a big
warm hand on hers, as it rested, ungloved, on the pommel of the saddle.
"Have you seen Flo?" he asked.
"I just left her. It was funny--the way she rushed me off after you. As if
there weren't two--"
Was it Glenn's eyes or the movement of his hand that checked her utterance?
His gaze pierced her soul. His hand slid along her arm to her waist--around
it. Her heart seemed to burst.
"Kick your feet out of the stirrups," he ordered.
Instinctively she obeyed. Then with a strong pull he hauled her half out of
the saddle, pellmell into his arms. Carley had no resistance. She sank
limp, in an agony of amaze. Was this a dream? Swift and hard his lips met
hers--and again--and again. . . .
"Oh, my God!--Glenn, are--you--mad?" she whispered, almost swooning.
"Sure--I reckon I am," he replied, huskily, and pulled her all the way out
of the saddle.
Carley would have fallen but for his support. She could not think. She was
all instinct. Only the amaze--the sudden horror--drifted--faded as before
fires of her heart!
"Kiss me!" he commanded.
She would have kissed him if death were the penalty. How his face blurred
in her dimmed sight! Was that a strange smile? Then he held her back from
"Carley--you came to wish Flo and me happiness?" he asked.
"Oh, yes--yes. . . . Pity me, Glenn--let me go. I meant well. . . . I
should--never have come."
"Do you love me?" he went on, with passionate, shaking clasp.
"God help me--I do--I do! . . . And now it will kill me!"
"What did that damned fool Charley tell you?"
The strange content of his query, the trenchant force of it, brought her
upright, with sight suddenly cleared. Was this giant the tragic Glenn who
had strode to her from the cabin door?
"Charley told me--you and Flo--were married," she whispered.
"You didn't believe him!" returned Glenn.
She could no longer speak. She could only see her lover, as if
transfigured, limned dark against the looming red wall.
"That was one of Charley's queer jokes. I told you to beware of him. Flo is
married, yes--and very happy. . . . I'm unutterably happy, too--but I'm not
married. Lee Stanton was the lucky bridegroom. . . . Carley, the moment I
saw you I knew you had come back to me."