Part 3 out of 3
"Now, Maude!" she exclaimed, with a proper maternal pride, "you mustn't
be botherin' the gentleman." She paused to receive the expected
disclaimer. It was made, albeit a little weakly. "Maude is very good
with her Book," she explained. "Miss Brown, that's the school teacher
that comes over from Hill Town summers, she says Maude reads a sight
better than lots as is two or three years older. Now how old would you
think she was, Mr. de Laney?"
Mr. de Laney tried to appraise, while the object hung her head
self-consciously and twisted her feet. He had no idea of children's
"About eleven," he guessed, with an air of wisdom.
"Jest eight an' a half!" cried the dame, folding her hands
triumphantly. She let her fond maternal gaze rest on the prodigy.
Suddenly she darted forward with extraordinary agility for one so well
endowed with flesh, and seized her offspring in relentless grasp.
"I do declare, Maude Eliza!" she exclaimed in horror-stricken tones,
"you ain't washed your ears! You come with me!"
They disappeared in a blue mist of wails.
As though this were his cue, the crafty features of Lawton appeared
cautiously in the doorway, bestowed a furtive and searching inspection
on the room, and finally winked solemnly at its only occupant. A hand
was inserted. The forefinger beckoned. Bennington arose wearily and
Lawton led the way to a little oat shed standing at some distance from
the house. Behind this he paused. From beneath his coat he drew a round
bottle and two glass tumblers.
"No joke skippin' th' ole lady," he chuckled in an undertone. He poured
out a liberal portion for himself, and passed the bottle along.
Bennington was unwilling to hurt the old fellow's feelings after he had
taken so much trouble on his account, but he was equally unwilling to
drink the whisky. So he threw it away when Lawton was not looking.
They walked leisurely toward the house, Lawton explaining various
improvements in a loud tone of voice, intended more to lull his wife's
suspicions than to edify the young man. The lady looked on them
sternly, and announced dinner. At the table Bennington found Mary
The Easterner was placed next to Mrs. Lawton. At his other hand was
Maude Eliza. Mary sat opposite. Throughout the meal she said little,
and only looked up from her plate when Bennington's attention was
called another way.
Her mere presence, however, seemed to open to the young man a different
point of view. He found Mrs. Lawton's lengthy dissertations amusing; he
considered Mr. Lawton in the light of a unique character, and Maude
Eliza, while as disagreeable as ever, came in for various excuses and
explanations on her own behalf in the young man's mind. He became more
responsive. He told a number of very good stories, at which the others
laughed. He detailed some experiences of his own at places in the world
far remote, selected, it must be confessed, with some slight reference
to their dazzling effect on the company. Without actually "showing
off," he managed to get the effect of it. The result of his efforts was
to harmonize to some extent these diverse elements. Mrs. Lawton became
more coherent, Mr. Lawton more communicative; Maude Eliza stopped
whining--occasionally and temporarily. Bennington had rarely been in
such high spirits. He was surprised himself, but then was not that day
of moment to him, and would he not have been a strange sort of
individual to have seen in the world aught but brightness?
But Mary responded not at all. Rather, as Bennington arose, she fell,
until at last she hardly even moved in her place.
"Chirk up, chirk up!" cried Mrs. Lawton gaily, for her. "I know some
one who ought to be happy, anyhow." She glanced meaningly from one to
the other and laughed heartily.
Bennington felt a momentary disgust at her tactlessness, but covered it
with some laughing sally of his own. The meal broke up in great good
humour. Mrs. Lawton and Maude Eliza remained to clear away the dishes.
Mr. Lawton remarked that he must get back to work, and shook hands in
farewell most elaborately. Bennington laughingly promised them all that
he would surely come again. Then he escaped, and followed Mary up the
hill, surmising truly enough that she had gone on toward the Rock. He
thought he caught a glimpse of her through the elders. He hastened his
footsteps. At this he stumbled slightly. From his pocket fell a letter
he had received that morning. He picked it up and looked at it idly.
It was from his mother and covered a number of closely-written pages.
As he was about to thrust it back into his pocket a single sentence
caught his eye. It read: "Sally Ogletree gave a supper last week, which
was a very pretty affair."
He stopped short on the trail, and the world seemed to go black around
him. He almost fell. Then resumed his way, but step now was hesitating
and slow, and he walked with his eyes bent thoughtfully on the ground.
The thought which caused Bennington de Lane so suddenly look grave was
suggested by the sentence in his mother's letter. For the first time he
realized that these people, up to now so amusing, were possibly
destined to come into intimate relations with himself. Old Bill Lawton
was Mary's father; while Mrs. Lawton was Mary's mother; Maude was
The next instant a great rush of love into his heart drove this feeling
from it. What matter anything, provided she loved him and he loved her?
Generous sentiment so filled him that there was room for nothing else.
He even experienced dimly in the depths of his consciousness, a faint
pale joy that in thus accepting what was disagreeable to his finer
sensibilities, he was proving more truly to his own self the
boundlessness of his love. For the moment he was exalted by this
instant revulsion against anything calculating in his passion. And
then slowly, one by one, the objections stole back, like a flock of
noisome sombre creatures put to flight by a sudden movement, but now
returning to their old nesting places. The very unassuming method of
their recurrence lent them an added influence. Almost before Bennington
knew it they had established a case, and he found himself face to face
with a very ugly problem.
Perhaps it will be a little difficult for the average and democratic
reader to realize fully the terrible proportions of this problem. We
whose lives assume little, require little of them. Intangible
objections to the desires of our hearts do not count for much against
their realization; there needs the rough attrition of reality to turn
back our calm, complacent acquisition of that which we see to be for
our best interest in the emotional world. Claims of ancestry mean
nothing. Claims of society mean not much more. Claims of wealth are
considered as evanescent among a class of men who, by their efforts and
genius, are able to render absolute wealth itself an evanescent
quality. When one of us loves, he questions the worth of the object of
his passion. That established, nothing else is of great importance.
There is a grand and noble quality in this, but it misses much. About
the other state of affairs--wherein the woman's appurtenances of all
kinds, as well as the woman herself, are significant--is a delicate and
subtle aura of the higher refinement--the long refinement of the spirit
through many generations--which, to an eye accustomed to look for
gradations of moral beauty, possesses a peach-blow iridescence of its
own. From one point of view, the old-fashioned forms of thought and
courtesy are stilted and useless. From another they retain still the
lofty dignity of _noblesse oblige_.
So we would have none set down Bennington de Laney as a prig or a snob
because he did not at once decide for his heart as against his
aristocratic instincts. Not only all his early education, but the life
lessons of many generations of ancestors had taught him to set a
fictitious value on social position. He was a de Laney on both sides.
He had never been allowed to forget it. A long line of forefathers,
proud-eyed in their gilded frames, mutely gazed their sense of the
obligations they had bequeathed to this last representative of their
race. When one belongs to a great family he can not live entirely for
himself. His disgrace or failure reflects not alone on his own
reputation, but it sullies the fair fame of men long dead and buried;
and this is a dreadful thing. For all these old Puritans and Cavaliers,
these knights and barons, these king's councillors and scholars, have
perchance lived out the long years of their lives with all good intent
and purpose and with all earnestness of execution, merely that they
might build and send down to posterity this same fair fame. It is a
bold man, or a wicked man, who will dare lightly to bring the efforts
of so many lives to naught! In the thought of these centuries of
endeavour, the sacrifice of mere personal happiness does not seem so
great an affair after all. The Family Name has taken to itself a soul.
It is a living thing. It may be worked for, it may be nourished by
affection, it may even be worshipped. Men may give their lives to it
with as great a devotion, with as exalted a sense of renunciation, and
as lofty a joy in that renunciation, as those who vow allegiance to St.
Francis or St. Dominic. The tearing of the heart from the bosom often
proves to be a mortal hurt when there is nothing to put in the gap of
its emptiness. Not so when a tradition like this may partly take its
These, and more subtle considerations, were the noblest elements of
Bennington de Laney's doubts. But perhaps they were no more potent than
some others which rushed through the breach made for them in the young
He had always lived so much at home that he had come to accept the home
point of view without question. That is to say, he never examined the
value of his parent's ideas, because it never occurred to him to doubt
them. He had no perspective.
In a way, then, he accepted as axioms the social tenets held by his
mother, or the business methods practised by his father. He believed
that elderly men should speak precisely, and in grammatical, but
colourless English. He believed also that people should, in society,
conduct themselves according to the fashion-plate pattern designed by
Mrs. de Laney. He believed these things, not because he was a fool, or
shallow, or lacking in humour, or snobbish, but because nothing had
ever happened to cause him to examine his beliefs closely, that he
might appreciate what they really were. One of these views was, that
cultured people were of a class in themselves, and could not and should
not mix with other classes. Mrs. de Laney entertained a horror of
vulgarity. So deep-rooted was this horror that a remote taint of it was
sufficient to thrust forever outside the pale of her approbation any
unfortunate who exhibited it. She preferred stupidity to common sense,
when the former was allied with good form, and the latter only with
plain kindliness. This was partly instinct and partly the result of
cultivation. She would shrink, with uncontrollable disgust, from any of
the lower classes with whom she came unavoidably in contact. A slight
breach of the conventions earned her distrust of one of her own caste.
As this personal idiosyncrasy fell in line with the de Laney pride, it
was approved by the head of the family. Under encouragement it became
almost a monomania.
Bennington pictured to himself only too vividly the effect of the
Lawtons on this lady's aristocratic prejudices. He knew, only too well,
that Bill Lawton's table manners would not be allowed even in her
kitchen. He could imagine Mrs. Lawton's fatuous conversation in the de
Laney's drawing-room, or Maude Eliza's dressed-up self-consciousness.
The experience of having the three Westerners to dinner just once
would, Bennington knew, drive his lady mother to the verge of nervous
prostration--he remembered his father's one and only experience in
bringing business connections home to lunch--; his imagination failed
to picture the effect of her having to endure them as actual members of
the family! As if this were not bad enough, his restless fancy carried
him a step farther. He perceived the agonies of shame and
mortification, real even though they were conventional, she would have
to endure in the face of society. That the de Laneys, social leaders,
rigid in respectability, should be forced to the humiliation of
acknowledging a misalliance, should be forced to the added humiliation
of confessing that this marriage was not only with a family of inferior
social standing, but with one actually unlettered and vulgar!
Bennington knew only too well the temper of his mother--and of society.
It would not be difficult to expand these doubts, to amplify these
reasons, and even to adduce others which occurred to the unhappy young
man as he climbed the hill. But enough has been said. Surely the
reader, no matter how removed in sympathy from that line of argument,
must be able now at least to sympathize, to perceive that Bennington de
Laney had some reason for thought, some excuse for the tardiness of his
steps as they carried him to a meeting with the girl he loved.
For he did love her, perhaps the more tenderly that doubts must,
perforce, arise. All these considerations affected not at all his
thought of her. But now, for the first time, Bennington de Laney was
weighing the relative claims of duty and happiness. His happiness
depended upon his love. That his duty to his race, his parents, his
caste had some reality in fact, and a very solid reality in his own
estimation, the author hopes he has shown. If not, several pages have
been written in vain.
The conflict in his mind had carried him to the Rock. Here, as he
expected, he found Mary already arrived. He ascended to the little
plateau and dropped wearily to the moss. His face had gone very white
in the last quarter of an hour.
"You see now why I asked you to come to-day," she said without
preliminary. "Now you have seen them, and there is nothing more to
"I know, I know," he replied dully. "I am trying to think it out. I
can't see it yet."
They took entirely for granted that each knew the subject of the
other's thoughts. The girl seemed much the more self-possessed of the
"We may as well understand each other," she said quietly, without
emotion. "You have told me a certain thing, and have asked me for a
certain answer. I could not give it to you before without deceiving
you. Now the answer depends on you. I have deceived you in a way," she
went on more earnestly, "but I did not mean to. I did not realize the
difference, truly I didn't, until I saw the girl on the train. Then I
knew the difference between her and me, and between her's and mine. And
when you turned away, I saw that you were her kind, and I saw, too,
that you ought to know everything there was about me. Then you spoke."
"I meant what I said, too," he interrupted. "You must believe that,
Mary, whatever comes."
"I was sorry you did," she went on, as though she had not heard him.
Then with just a touch of impatience tingeing the even calm of her
voice, "Oh, why will men insist on saying those things!" she cried.
"The way to win a girl is not thus. He should see her often, without
speaking of love, being everything to her, until at last she finds she
can not live without him."
"Have I been that to you, Mary? Has it come to that with me?" he asked
"Heaven help me, I am afraid it has!" she cried, burying her face in
A great gladness leaped up into his face, and died as the blaze of a
fire leaps up and expires.
"That makes it easier--and harder," he said. "It is bad enough as it
is. I don't know how I can make you understand, dear."
"I understand more than you think," she replied, becoming calm again,
and letting her hands fall into her lap. "I am going to speak quite
plainly. You love me, Ben--ah, don't I know it!" she cried, with a
sudden burst of passion. "I have seen it in your eyes these many days.
I have heard it in your voice. I have felt it welling out from your
great heart. It has been sweet to me--so sweet! You can not know, no
man ever could know, how that love of yours has filled my soul and my
heart until there was room for nothing else in the whole wide world!"
"You love me!" he said wonderingly.
"If I had not known that, do you think I would have endured a moment's
hesitation after you had seen the objectionable features of my life? Do
you think that if I had the slightest doubts of your love, I could now
understand _why_ you hesitate? But I do, and I honour you for it."
"You love me!" he repeated.
"Yes, yes, Ben dear, I _do_ love you. I love you as I never thought
to be permitted to love. Do you want to know what I did that second day
on the Rock--the day you first showed me what you really were? The day
you told me of your old home and the great tree? It was all so
peaceful, and tender, and comforting, so sweet and pure, that it rested
me. I felt, here is a man at last who could not misunderstand me, could
not be abrupt, and harsh, and cruel. I said to myself, 'He is not
perfect nor does he expect perfection.' I shut my eyes, and then
something choked me, and the tears came. I cried out loud, 'Oh, to be
what I was, to give again what I have not! O God, give me back my heart
as it once was, and let me love!' Yes, Ben dear, I said 'love.' And
then I was not happy any more all day. But God answered that prayer,
Ben dear, and we do love one another now, and that is why we can look
at things together, and see what is best for us both."
"You love me!" he exclaimed for the third time.
"And now, dear, we must talk plainly and calmly. You have seen what my
"I don't know, Mary, that I can make you understand at all," began
Bennington helplessly. "I can't express it even to myself. Our people
are so different. My training has been so different. All this sort of
thing means so much to us, and so little to you."
"I know exactly," she interrupted. "I have read, and I have lived East.
I can appreciate just how it is. See if I can not read your thoughts.
My family is uneducated. If it becomes your family, your own parents
will be more than grieved, and your friends will have little to do with
you. You have also duties toward your family, _as_ a family. Is that
"Yes, that _is_ it," answered he, "but there are so many things it does
not say. It seems to me it has come to be a horrible dilemma with me.
If I do what I am afraid is my duty to my family and my people, I will
be unhappy without you forever. And if I follow my heart, then it seems
to me I will wrong myself, and will be unhappy that way. It seems a
choice of just in what manner I will be miserable!" he ended with a
"And which is the most worth while?" she asked in a still voice.
"I don't know, I don't know!" he cried miserably. "I must think."
He looked out straight ahead of him for some time. "Whichever way I
decide," he said after a little, "I want you to know this, Mary: I love
you, and I always will love you, and the fact that I choose my duty, if
I do, is only that if I did not, I would not consider myself worthy
even to look at you." A silence fell on them again.
"I can not live West," said he again, as though he had been arguing
this point in his mind and had just reached the conclusion of it. "My
life is East; I never knew it until now." He hesitated. "Would
you--that is, could you--I mean, would your family have to live East
She caught his meaning and drew herself up, with a little pride in the
"Wherever I go, whatever I do, my people must be free to go or do. You
have your duty to your family. I have my duty to mine!"
He bowed his head quietly in assent. She looked at the struggle
depicted in the lines of his face with eyes in which, strangely enough,
was much pity, but no unhappiness or doubt. Could it be that she was so
sure of the result?
At last he raised his head slowly and turned to her with an air of
"Mary----" he began.
At that moment there became audible a sudden rattle of stones below the
Rock, and at the same instant a harsh voice broke in rudely upon their
THE CLAIM JUMPERS
Bennington instinctively put his finger on his lips to enjoin silence,
and peered cautiously over the edge of the dike. Perhaps he was glad
that this diversion had occurred to postpone even for a short time the
announcement of a decision it had cost him so much to make. Perhaps he
recognised the voice.
Three men were clambering a trifle laboriously over the broken rocks at
the foot of the dike, swearing a little at their unstable footing, but
all apparently much in earnest in their conversation. Even as
Bennington looked they came to a halt, and then sank down each on a
convenient rock, talking interestedly. One was Old Mizzou, one was the
man Arthur, the third was a stranger whom Bennington had never seen.
The latter had hardly the air of the country.
He was a dapper little man dressed in a dark gray bob-tailed cutaway,
and a brown derby hat, which was pushed far back on his head. His face,
however, was keen and alert and brown, all of which characteristics
indicated an active Western life at no very remote day. The words which
had so powerfully arrested Bennington de Laney's attention were
delivered by Old Mizzou to this stranger.
"Thar!" the old man had said, "ain't that Crazy Hoss Lode 'bout as
good-lookin' a lead as they make 'em?"
"So, so; so, so;" replied the man in the derby in a high voice. "Your
vein is a fissure vein all right enough, and you've got a good wide
lead. If it holds up in quality, I don't know but what you're right."
"I shows you them assays of McPherson's, don't I?" argued Mizzou, "an'
any quartz in this kentry that assays twenty-four dollars ain't no ways
This speech was so significantly in line with Bennington's surmise that
he caught his breath and drew back cautiously out of sight, but still
in such a position that he could hear plainly every word uttered by the
group below. The girl was watching him with bright, interested eyes.
"Listen carefully!" he whispered, bringing his mouth close to her ear.
"I think there's some sort of plot here."
She nodded ready comprehension, and they settled themselves to hear the
"I saw the assay," replied the stranger's voice to Mizzou's last
statement, "but who's this McPherson? How do I know the assays are all
"Why, he's that thar professer at th' School of Mines," expostulated
"Oh, yes!" cried the stranger, as though suddenly enlightened. "If
those are his assays, they're all right. Let's see them again."
There followed a rustling of papers.
"Well, I've looked over your layout," went on the stranger after a
moment, "and pretty thoroughly in the last few days. I know what you've
got here. Now what's your proposition?"
There was a pause.
"I knows you a good while, Slayton----" began Mizzou, but was
interrupted almost immediately by a third voice, that of Arthur. "The
point is this," said the latter sharply, "Davidson here is in a
position to give you possession of this group o' claims, but he ain't
in a position to appear in th' transaction. How are you goin' to
purtect him an' me so we gets something out of it?"
"Wait a minute," put in the stranger, "I want to ask a few questions
myself. These claims belong to the Holy Smoke Company now, don't they?"
"Well, that's the idea."
"Are either of you the agent of that Company?"
"Not directly, perhaps."
"Are you indirectly?"
"Seems to me you haven't got any call t' look into that, if we
guarantee t' give you good title."
"How do I know you can give me good title?"
"Ain't I tellin' you so?"
"Yes, but why should I believe you?"
"You shouldn't, unless you've got sense enough to see that we ain't
gettin' you 'way up here, an' we ain't living round these parts a
couple of years on a busted proposition."
The stranger evidently debated this.
"How would it be if you took equal shares with me on the claims, your
shares to be paid from the earnings? That would be fair all round. You
would get nothing unless the title was good. I would risk no more than
you did," he suggested.
"Isn't I tellin' yo' I don't appear a tall in this yere transaction?"
The stranger laughed a little.
"I can see through a millstone," he said. "Why don't you old
turtlebacks come out of your shells and play square? You've got some
shady game on here that you're working underhand. Spin your yarn and
I'll tell you what I think of it."
"How do I know you don't leave us out a'ter we tells you," objected
Mizzou, returning to his original idea.
"You don't!" answered the stranger impatiently, "you don't! But it
seems to me if you expect to get anything out of a shady transaction,
you've got to risk something."
"That's right," put in Arthur, "that's right! 'Nuff said! Now, Slayton,
we'll agree to git you full legal control of these yere claims if
you'll develop them at your expense, an' gin Davidson and me a third
interest between us fer our influence. That's our proposition, an' that
goes. If you don't play squar', I knows how t' make ye."
"Spin your yarn," repeated the stranger quietly. "I'll agree to give
you and Davidson a third interest, _provided_ I take hold of the thing
"An' Jack Slayton," put in Mizzou threateningly, "if you don't play us
squar', I swar I'll shoot ye like a dog!"
"Oh, stow that, Davidson," rejoined the stranger in an irritated voice;
"that rot don't do any good. I know you, and you know me. I never went
back on a game yet, and you know it."
"I does know it, Jack!" came up Davidson's voice repentantly, "but this
is a big deal, an' y' can't be too careful!"
"All right, all right," the stranger responded "Now tell us your
scheme. How can you get hold of the property?"
"By jumping the claims," replied Arthur calmly. There ensued a short
"Don't be a fool," exclaimed Slayton with contempt; "this is no hold-up
country. You can't drive a man off his property with a gun."
"I knows that. These claims can be 'jumped' quiet and legal."
"They ain't be'n a stroke of assessment work done on 'em since we came.
Th' Company's title's gone long ago. They lost their job last January.
Them claims is open to any one who cares to have 'em."
The stranger uttered a long whistle. Old Mizzou chuckled cunningly. "I
has charge of them claims from th' time they quits work on 'em 'till
now. They ain't be'n a pick raised on 'em. Anybody could a-jumped 'em
any time since las' January."
"But how about the Company?" asked Slayton. "How did you fool them?"
"Oh, I sends 'em bills fer work reg'lar enough! And I didn't throw
away th' money neither!"
"Yes, that'd be easy enough. But how about the people around here? Why
haven't they jumped the claims long ago?"
"Wall, I argues about this a-way. These yere gents sees I has charge,
an' they says to themselves, 'Ole Davidson takes care of them
assessment works all right,' an' so they never thinks it's worth while
t' see whether it is done or not."
"You trusted to their thinking you were performing your duties?"
"Well, it was a pretty big risk!"
"Ev'rything t' gain an' nothin' t' lose," quoted Old Mizzou
"How about this new man the Company has out here--de Laney? Is he in
this deal too?"
"Oh, him!" said Davidson with vast contempt. "He don' know enough t'
dodge a brick! I tells him th' assessment work is all done. He believes
it, an' never looks t' see. I gets him fooled so easy it's shore
"Hold on!" put in Slayton sharply. "I'm not so sure you aren't liable
there somewhere. Of course your failure to do the assessment work while
you were alone here was negligence, but that is all. The Company could
fire you for failing to do your duty, but they couldn't prove any fraud
against you. But when this de Laney came along it changed things."
"How is that?"
"Well, you told him the assessment work had been done, in so many
words, didn't you? The Company can prove that you were using your
official information to deceive him for the purposes of fraud. In other
words, you were an officer of the Company, and you deceived another
officer in your official capacity. I don't know but you'd be liable to
a criminal action."
"Not on your tin-type," said Old Mizzou with confidence.
"Have you looked it up?"
"I does better than that. At that point I shore becomes subtle. _I
resigns from th' Company!_ A'ter that I talks assessment work. I tells
him advice, jest as a friend. If he believes th' same, an' it ain't so,
why thet's unfort'nit, but they can't do anythin' t' me. I'm jest an
outsider. He is responsible to th' Company, an' if he wants
information, he ought to go to th' books, and not to frien's who may
"Davidson, you're a genius!" exclaimed the stranger heartily.
"I tells you I becomes subtle," acknowledged the old man with just
pride. "But now you sees it ain't delikit that my name appears in th'
case a tall. Folks is so suspicious these yere days, that if I has a
share, and Arthur yere has a share, they says p'rhaps we has this yere
scheme in view right along. But if Slayton gets them lapsed claims by
hisself, Slayton bein' a stranger, they thinks how fortinit that
Slayton is t' git onto it, and they puts pore Ole Mizzou down as
becomin' fergitful in his old age."
The stranger laughed.
"It's easy," he remarked. "We get them for nothing, and you can bet
your sweet life I'll push 'em through for all there is in it. Why,
boys, you're rich! You won't have anything more to do the rest of your
mortal days, unless you want to."
"I ain't seekin' no manual employment," observed Mizzou.
"I'm willin' to quit work," agreed Arthur.
"Well, you'll have a chance. Now we better hustle this thing through
lively. We've got to make our discoveries on the quiet so no one will
get on to us."
"It ain't goin' t' take us long t' tack up them notices, now 't we've
agreed. We kin do th' most on it this evenin'. Jest lay low, that's
"Ain't de Laney going to get onto us sasshaying off with a lot of
"If he does," remarked Old Mizzou grimly, "I knows a dark hole whar we
retires that young man for th' day! If it comes t' that, though, you
got t' tend to it, Slayton. I ain't showin' in this deal y' know."
The stranger laughed unpleasantly.
"You show me the hole and I'll take care of Mr. man," he agreed. He
laughed again. "By the way, it strikes me that fellow's going to run up
against a good deal of tribulation before he gets through."
"Wall, thet thar Comp'ny ain't goin' to raise his pay when they finds
it out," agreed Mizzou. "Thet Bishop, he gets tolerable anxious 'bout
them assessment works now, and writes frequent. I got a whole bunch of
his letters up t' camp that I keeps for th' good of his health. Ain't
no wise healthy t' worry 'bout business, you know."
"Wonder th' little idiot didn't miss his mail," growled Arthur.
"Oh, I coaxes him on with th' letters from his mammy and pappy. They's
The three men fell into a discussion of various specimens of quartz
which they took from their pockets, and, after what seemed to be an
interminable time, arose and moved slowly down the hill.
The girl looked at her companion with wide-open eyes. "Ben!" she
gasped, "what have you done?"
"Made a fool of myself," he responded curtly.
"What are you going to do about it?"
"I don't know."
He knit his brows deeply. She cast about for an expedient.
"I wish I knew more about mining!" she cried. "I know there is some way
to get legal possession of a claim by patenting it, but I don't know
how you do it."
He did not reply.
"There must be some way out of this," she went on, all alert. "They
haven't done anything yet. Why don't you go down to camp and inquire?"
"Every man would be in the hills in less than an hour. I couldn't trust
them," he replied brusquely.
"Oh, I know!" she cried with relief. "You must hunt up Jim. He knows
all about those things, and you could rely on him."
"Jim? What Jim?"
"Jim Fay. Oh, that's just it! Run, Ben; go at once; don't wait a
"I want nothing whatever to do with that man," he said deliberately.
"He has insulted me at every opportunity. He has treated me in a manner
that was even more than insulting every time we have met. If I were
dying, and he had but to turn his head toward me to save me, I would
not ask him to do so!"
"Oh, don't be foolish, Ben!" cried she, wringing her hands in despair.
"Don't let your pride stand in your way! Do you not realize the
disgrace this will be to you--to lose all these rich claims just by
carelessness? Do you realize that it means something to me, for I have
been the reason of that carelessness. I know it! Just this once, forget
all he has done to you. You can trust him. Don't be afraid of that.
Tell him that I sent you, if you don't want to trust him on your own
account----" she broke off. "Where are you going?" she asked anxiously.
"To do something," he answered, shutting his teeth together with a
"Will you see Jim?" she begged, following him to the edge of the Rock
as he swung himself down the tree.
"No!" he said, without looking back.
After he disappeared--in the direction of the Holy Smoke camp, as she
noticed--she descended rapidly to the ground and hurried, sobbing
excitedly, away toward Spanish Gulch. She was all alive with distress.
She had never realized until the moment of his failure how much she had
loved this man. Near the village she paused, bathed her eyes in the
brook, and, assuming an air of deliberation and calmness, began making
inquiries as to the whereabouts of Jim Fay.
BENNINGTON PROVES GAME
Bennington de Laney sat on the pile of rocks at the entrance to the
Holy Smoke shaft. Across his knees lay the thirty-calibre rifle. His
face was very white and set. Perhaps he was thinking of his return to
New York in disgrace, of his interview with Bishop, of his inevitable
meeting with a multitude of friends, who would read in the daily papers
the accounts of his incompetence--criminal incompetence, they would
call it. The shadows were beginning to lengthen across the slope of the
hill. Up the gulch cow bells tinkled, up the hill birds sang, and
through the little hollows twilight flowed like a vapour. The wild
roses on the hillside were blooming--late in this high altitude. The
pines were singing their endless song. But Bennington de Laney was
looking upon none of these softer beauties of the Hills. Rather he
watched intently the lower gulch with its flood-wracked, water-twisted
skeleton laid bare. Could it be that in the destruction there figured
forth he caught the symbol of his own condition? That the dreary gloom
of that ruin typified the chaos of sombre thoughts that occupied his
own remorseful mind? If so, the fancy must have absorbed him. The
moments slipped by one by one, the shadows grew longer, the bird songs
louder, and still the figure with the rifle sat motionless, his face
white and still, watching the lower gulch.
Or could it be that Bennington de Laney waited for some one, and that
therefore his gaze was so fixed? It would seem so. For when the beat of
hoofs became audible, the white face quickened into alertness, and the
motionless figure stirred somewhat.
The rider came in sight, rising and falling in a steady, unhesitating
lope. He swung rapidly to the left, and ascended the knoll. Opposite
the shaft of the Holy Smoke lode he reined in his bronco and
dismounted. The rider was Jim Fay.
Bennington de Laney did not move. He looked up at the newcomer with
dull resignation. "He takes it hard, poor fellow!" thought Fay.
"Well, what's to be done?" asked the Easterner in a strained voice. "I
suppose you know all about it, or you wouldn't be here."
"Yes, I know all about it," said Fay gently. "You mustn't take it so
hard. Perhaps we can do something. We'll be able to save one or two
claims, any way, if we're quick about it."
"I've heard something about patenting claims," went on de Laney in the
same strange, dull tones; "could that be done?"
"No. You have to do five hundred dollars' worth of work, and advertise
for sixty days. There isn't time."
"That settles it. I don't know what we can do then."
"Well, that depends. I've come to help do something. We've got to get
an everlasting hustle on us, that's all; and I'm afraid we are
beginning a little behindhand in the race. You ought to have hunted me
up at once."
"I don't see what there is to do," repeated Bennington thickly.
"Don't you? The assessment work hasn't been done--that's the idea,
isn't it?--and so the claims have reverted to the Government. They are
therefore open to location, as in the beginning, and that is just what
Davidson and that crowd are going to do to them. Well, they're just as
much open to us. We'll just _jump our own claims!_"
"What!" cried the Easterner, excited.
"Well, relocate them ourselves, if that suits you better."
Bennington's dull eyes began to light up.
"So get a move on you," went on Fay; "hustle out some paper so we can
make location notices. Under the terms of a relocation, we can use the
old stakes and 'discovery,' so all we have to do is to tack up a new
notice all round. That's the trouble. That gang's got their notices all
written, and I'm afraid they've got ahead of us. Come on!"
Bennington, who had up to this time remained seated on the pile of
stones, seemed filled with a new and great excitement. He tottered to
his feet, throwing his hands aloft.
"Thank God! Thank God!" he cried, catching his breath convulsively.
Fay turned to look at him curiously. "We aren't that much out of the
woods," he remarked; "the other gang'll get in their work, don't you
"They never will, they never will!" cried the Easterner exultantly.
"They can't. We'll locate 'em all!" The tears welled over his eyes and
ran down his cheeks.
"What do you mean?" asked Fay, beginning to fear the excitement had
unsettled his companion's wits.
"Because they're there!" cried Bennington, pointing to the mouth of the
shaft near which he had been sitting. "Davidson, Slayton,
Arthur--they're all there, and they can't get away! I didn't know what
else to do. I had to do something!"
Fay cast an understanding glance at the young man's rifle, and sprang
to the entrance of the shaft. As though in direct corroboration of his
speech, Fay could perceive, just emerging from the shadow, the sinister
figure of the man Arthur creeping cautiously up the ladder, evidently
encouraged to an attempt to escape by the sound of the conversation
above. The Westerner snatched his pistol from his holster and
presented it down the shaft.
"Kindly return!" he commanded in a soft voice. The upward motion of the
dim figure ceased, and in a moment it had faded from view in the
descent. Fay waited a moment. "In five minutes," he announced in louder
tones, "I'm going to let loose this six-shooter down that shaft. I
should advise you gentlemen to retire to the tunnel." He peered down
again intently. A sudden clatter and thud behind him startled him. He
looked around. Bennington had fallen at full length across the stones,
and his rifle, falling, had clashed against the broken ore.
Fay, with a slight shrug of contempt at such womanish weakness, ran to
his assistance. He straightened the Easterner out and placed his folded
coat under his head. "He'll come around in a minute," he muttered. He
glanced toward the gulch and then back to the shaft. "Can't leave that
lay-out," he went on. He bent over the prostrate figure and began to
loosen the band of his shirt. Something about the boy's clothing
attracted his attention, so, drawing his knife, he deftly and gently
ripped away the coat and shirt. Then he arose softly to his feet and
bared his head.
"I apologize to you," said he, addressing the recumbent form; "you are
In the fleshy part of the naked shoulder was a small round hole,
clotted and smeared with blood.
Jim Fay stooped and examined the wound closely. The bullet had entered
near the point of the shoulder, but a little below, so that it had
merely cut a secant through the curve of the muscle. If it had struck a
quarter of an inch to the left it would have gouged a furrow; a quarter
of an inch beyond that would have caused it to miss entirely. Fay saw
that the hurt itself was slight, and that the Easterner had fainted
more because of loss of blood than from the shock. This determined to
his satisfaction, he moved quickly to the mouth of the shaft. "Way
below!" he cried in a sharp voice, and discharged his revolver twice
down the opening. Then he stole noiselessly away, and ran at speed to
the kitchen of the shack, whence he immediately returned with a pail of
water and a number of towels. He set these down, and again peered down
the shaft. "Way below!" he repeated, and dropped down a sizable chunk
of ore. Apparently satisfied that the prisoners were well warned, he
gave his whole attention to his patient.
He washed the wound carefully. Then he made a compress of one of the
towels, and bound it with the other two. Looking up, he discovered
Bennington watching him intently.
"It's all right!" he assured the latter in answer to the question in
his eyes. "Nothing but a scratch. Lie still a minute till I get this
fastened, and you can sit up and watch the rat hole while I get you
In another moment or so the young man was propped up against an empty
ore "bucket," his shoulder bound, and his hand slung comfortably in a
sling from his neck.
"There you are," said Jim cheerily. "Now you take my six-shooter and
watch that aggregation till I get back. They won't come out any, but
you may as well be sure."
He handed Bennington his revolver, and moved off in the direction of
the cabin, whistling cheerfully. The young man looked after him
thoughtfully. Nothing could have been more considerate than the
Westerner's manner, nothing could have been kinder than his prompt
action--Bennington saw that his pony, now cropping the brush near at
hand, was black with sweat--nothing could have been more
straightforward than his assistance in the matter of the claims. And
yet Bennington de Laney was not satisfied. He felt he owed the sudden
change of front to a word spoken in his behalf by the girl. This was a
strange influence she possessed, thus to alter a man's attitude
entirely by the mere voicing of a wish.
The Westerner returned carrying a loose shirt and a coat, which he drew
entire over the injured shoulder, which left one sleeve empty.
"I guess that fixes you," said he with satisfaction.
"Look here," put in Bennington suddenly, "you've been mighty good to me
in all this. If you hadn't come along as you did, these fellows would
have nabbed me sooner or later, and probably I'd have lost the claims
any way. I feel I owe you a lot. But I want you to know before you go
any further that that don't square us. You've had it in for me ever
since I came out here, and you've made it mighty unpleasant for me. I
can't forget that all at once. I want to tell you plainly that,
although I am grateful enough, I know just why you have done all this.
It is because _she_ asked you to. And knowing that, I can't accept what
you do for me as from a friend, for I don't feel friendly toward you in
the least." His face flushed painfully. "I'm not trying to insult you
or be boorish," he said; "I just want you to understand how I feel
about it. And now that you know, I suppose you'd better let the matter
go, although I'm much obliged to you for fixing me up."
He glanced at his shoulder.
Fay listened to this speech quietly and with patience. "What do you
intend to do?" he asked, when the other had quite finished.
"I don't know yet. If you'll say nothing down below--and I'm sure you
will not--I'll contrive some way of keeping this procession down the
hole, and of feeding them, and then I'll relocate the claims myself."
"With one arm?"
"Yes, with one arm!" cried Bennington fiercely; "with no arms at all,
if need be!" he broke off suddenly, with the New Yorker's ingrained
instinct of repression. "I beg your pardon. I mean I'll do as well as I
can, of course."
"How about the woman--Arthur's wife? She'll give you trouble."
"She has locked herself in her cabin already. I will assist her to
continue the imprisonment."
Fay laughed outright. "And you expect, with one arm and wounded, to
feed four people, keep them in confinement, and at the same time to
relocate eighteen claims lying scattered all over the hills! Well,
you're optimistic, to say the least."
"I'll do the best I can," repeated Bennington doggedly.
"And you won't ask help of a friend ready to give it?"
"Not as a friend."
"Well," Fay chuckled, apparently not displeased, "you're an obstinate
young man, or rather a pig-headed young man, but I don't know as that
counts against you. I'll help you out, anyway--if not as a friend, then
as an enemy. You see, I have my marching orders from someone else, and
you haven't anything to do with it."
Bennington bowed coldly, but his immense relief flickered into his face
in spite of himself. "What should we do first?" he asked formally.
"Sit here and wait for the kids," responded Jim.
"Who are the kids?"
"Friends of mine--trustworthy."
Jim rearranged Bennington's coverings and lit a pipe. "Tell us about
it," said he.
"There isn't much to tell. I knew I had to do something, so I just held
them up and made them get down the shaft. I didn't know what I was
going to do next, but I was glad to have them out of the way to get
time to think."
"Who plugged you?" inquired Fay, motioning with the mouthpiece of his
pipe toward the wounded shoulder.
"That was Arthur. He had a little gun in his coat pocket and he shot
from inside the pocket. I'd made them drop all the guns they had, I
"Did you take a crack at him then?" asked Fay, interested.
"Oh, no. I just covered him and made him shell out. As a matter of fact
I don't believe any one of them knew I was hit."
Fay smoked on in silence, glancing from time to time with satisfaction
at the youth opposite. During the passage of these events the day had
not far advanced. The shadow of Harney had not yet reached out to the
edge of the hills.
"Hullo! The kids!" said Fay suddenly.
Two pedestrians emerged from the lower gulch and bent their steps
toward the camp. As they came nearer, Bennington, with a gasp of
surprise, recognised the Leslies.
The sprightly youths were dressed just alike, in knickerbockers and
Norfolk jackets of dark brown plaid, and small college caps to
match--an outfit which Bennington had always believed would attract too
vivid attention in this country. As they came nearer he saw that the
jackets were fitted with pockets of great size. In the pockets were
sketch books and bulging articles. They caught sight of the two figures
on the ore heap simultaneously.
"Behold our attentive host!" cried Jeems. "He is now in the act of
receiving us with all honour!"
Bennington's face fairly shone with pleasure at the encounter. "Hullo
fellows! Hullo there!" he cried out delightedly again and again, and
rose slowly to his feet. This disclosed the fact of his injury, and the
brothers ran forward, with real sympathy and concern expressed on their
lively countenances. There ensued a rapid fire of questions and
answers. The Leslies proved to be already familiar with the details of
the attempt to jump the claims, and understood at once Fay's brief
account of the present situation, over which they rejoiced in the
well-known Leslie fashion. They exploded in genuine admiration of
Bennington's adventure, and praised that young man enthusiastically.
Bennington could feel, even before this, that he stood on a different
footing than formerly with these self-reliant young men. They treated
him as familiarly as ever, but with a new respect. The truth is, their
astuteness in reading character, which is as essentially an attribute
of the artistic temperament in black and white as in words and phrases,
had shown them already that their old acquaintance had grown from boy
to man since last they had met. They knew this even before they learned
of its manifestation. So astounding was the change that they gave it
credit, perhaps, for being more thorough than it was. After the
situation had been made plain, Bennington reverted to the
unexpectedness of their appearance.
"But you haven't told me yet how you happen to be here," he suggested.
"I'd as soon have expected to see Ethel Henry coming up the gulch!"
"Didn't you get our letters?" cried Bert in astonishment.
"No, I haven't received any letters. Did you write?"
"Did we write! Well, I should think so! We wrote three times, telling
you we were coming and when to expect us. Jeems and I wondered why you
didn't meet us. That explains it. Seems funny you didn't get any of
"No, I don't believe it is so funny after all," responded Bennington,
who had been thinking it over. "I remember now that Davidson told the
others he had been intercepting my letters from the Company, and I
suppose he got yours too."
"That's it, of course. I'll have to interview that Davidson later.
Well, we used to train around here off and on, as I told you once, and
this year Jeems and I thought we'd do our summer sketching here, and
sort of revive old times. So we packed up and came."
"I'm mighty glad you came, anyway," replied Bennington fervently.
"So'm I. We're just in time to help foil the villain. As foilers Jeems
and I are an artistic success. We have studied foiling under the best
masters in the Bowery and Sixth Avenue theatres."
"Where's Bill?" asked Jim suddenly.
"Will be around in the morning. You're to report progress at once.
Didn't dare to come up until after the row. Dreadful anxious though.
Would have come if Jeems and I hadn't forbidden it."
Bennington wondered vaguely who Bill might be, but he was beginning to
feel a little tired from the excitement and his wound, so he said
"The next thing is grub," remarked Fay, rising and gathering his pony's
reins. "I'll mosey up to the shack and see about supper. You fellows
can sit around and talk until I get organized."
He turned to move away, leading his horse.
"Hold on a minute, Jim," called Bert. "You might lend me your bronc,
and I'll lope down and set Bill's mind easy. It won't take long."
"Good scheme!" approved Jim heartily. "That's thoughtful of you,
He dropped the reins where he stood, and the pony, with the usual
well-trained Western docility, hung his head and halted. Bert arose and
looked down the shaft.
"Supper will be served shortly, gentlemen," he observed suavely. He
turned toward the pony.
"Bert," called Bennington in a different voice, "did you say you were
going down the gulch?"
"Do you want to do something for me?"
"Why, surely. What is it?"
"Would you just as soon stop at the Lawtons' and tell Miss Lawton for
me that it's all right! You'll find the Lawton house----"
"Yes, I know where the Lawton house is," interrupted Bert, "but Miss
Lawton, you said?"
"Don't you remember, Bert," put in James, "there is a kid there--Maude,
or something of that sort?"
"No, no, not Maude," persisted Bennington, still more bashfully. "I
mean Miss Lawton, the young lady."
He felt that both the youths were looking keenly at him with dawning
wonder and delight. "Hold on, Bert," interposed James, as the other was
about to exclaim, "do you mean, Ben, the one you've been giving such a
rush for the last two months?"
"Miss Lawton and I are very good friends," replied Bennington with
dignity, wondering whence James had his information.
Bert drew in his breath sharply, and opened his mouth to speak.
"Hold on, Bert," interposed James again. "There are possibilities in
this. Don't destroy artistic development by undue haste. What did you
call the young lady, Ben?"
"Miss Lawton, of course!"
"Daughter of Bill Lawton?"
"Oh, my eye!" ejaculated James.
"And you have eyes in your head!" he cried after a moment. "You have
ears in your head! Blamed if you haven't everything in your head but
brains! She's a good one! I didn't appreciate the subtlety of that
woman before. Ben, you everlasting idiot, do you mean to tell me that
you've seen that girl every day for the last two months, and don't know
yet that she's too good to belong to Bill Lawton?"
Bert began to laugh hysterically.
"What do you mean!" cried Bennington.
"What I say. _She_ isn't Bill Lawton's daughter. Her name isn't Lawton
at all. O glory! He don't even know her name!" James in his turn went
into a fit of laughing. In uncontrollable excitement Bennington seized
him with his sound hand.
"What is it? Tell me! What is her name, then?"
"O Lord! Don't squeeze so! I'll tell you! Letup!"
James dashed the back of his hand across his eyes.
"What is her name?" repeated Bennington fiercely.
"Wilhelmina Fay. We call her Bill for short."
"And Jim Fay?"
"Is her brother."
"And the Lawtons?"
"They board there."
Across Bennington's mind flashed vaguely a suspicion that turned him
faint with mortification.
"Who is this Jim Fay?" he asked.
"He's Jim Fay--James Leicester Fay, of Boston."
"Yes, exactly. The Boston Fays."
Bert swung himself into the saddle. "Better not say anything to Bill
about the young 'un's shoulder," called after him the ever-thoughtful
Now that it was all explained, it seemed to Bennington de Laney to be
ridiculously simple. He wondered how he could have been so blind. For
the moment, however, all other emotions were swallowed up in intense
mortification over the density he had displayed, and the ridiculous
light in which he must have appeared to all the actors in the comedy.
His companion perceived this, and kindly hastened to relieve it.
"You're wondering how it all happened," said he, "but you don't want to
ask about it. I'm going to tell you the story of your life. You see,
Bert and I knew the Fays very well in Boston, and we knew also that
they were out here in the Hills. That's what tickled us so when you
said you were coming out to this very place. You know yourself, Ben,
that you were pretty green when you were in New York--you must know it,
because you have got over it so nicely since--and it struck us, after
you talked so much about the 'Wild West,' that it would be a shame if
you didn't get some of it. So we wrote Jim that you were coming, and to
see to it that you had a time."
Jim chuckled a little. "From his letters, I guess you had it. He wrote
about that horse he sprung on you, and the time they lynched you, and
all the rest of it, and we thought we had done pretty well, especially
since Jim wrote he thought you weren't half bad, and had come through
in good shape. He wrote, too, that you had run against Bill, and that
Bill was fooling you up in some way--way unspecified. He seemed to be a
little afraid that Bill was trifling with your young affections--how is
it Ben, anyway?--but he said that Bill was very haughty on the subject,
and as he'd never been able to do anything with her before, he didn't
believe he'd have much success if he should try now. I suggested that
Bill might get in a little deep herself," went on James, watching his
listener's face keenly, "but Bert seemed inclined to the opinion that
any one as experienced as Bill was perfectly able to take care of
herself anywhere. She's a mighty fine girl, Ben, old man," suddenly
concluded this startling youth, holding out his hand, "and I wish you
every success in the world in getting her!"
"Thank you, Jeems," replied Bennington simply, without attempting to
deny the state of affairs. "I'm sure I'm glad of your good wishes, but
I'm afraid I haven't any show now." He sighed deeply.
"I'll give an opinion on that after I see Bill again," observed the
"It always struck me as being queer that two of the most refined people
about here should happen to be living in the same house," commented
Bennington, only just aware that it had so struck him.
"Did it, indeed?" said Leslie drolly. "You're just bursting with
sagacity now, aren't you? And your Sherlock-Holmes intellect is
seething with conjecture. The lover's soul is far above the sordid
earthly considerations which interest us ordinary mortals, but I'll bet
a hat you are wondering how it comes that a Boston girl is out here
without any more restraint on her actions than a careless brother who
doesn't bother himself, and why she's out here at all, and a few things
like that. 'Fess up."
"Well," acknowledged Bennington a trifle reluctantly, "of course it is
a little out of the ordinary, but then it's all right, somehow, I'll
"All right! Of course it's all right! They haven't any father or
mother, you know, and they are independent of action, as you've no
doubt noticed. Bill kept house for Jim for some time--and they used to
keep a great house, I tell you," said James, smacking his lips in
recollection. "Bert and I used to visit there a good deal. That's why
they call me Jeems--to distinguish me from Jim. Then Jim got tired of
doing nothing--they possess everlasting rocks--you know their lamented
dad was a sort of amateur Croesus--and he decided to monkey with mines.
Bert and I were here one summer, so Bill and Jim just pulled up stakes
and came along too. They have been here ever since. They're both true
sports and like the life, and all that; and, besides, Jim has kept busy
monkeying with mining speculation. They're the salt of the earth, that
pair, if they _do_ worry poor old Boston to death with their ways of
doing things. That's one reason I like 'em so much. Society has fits
over their doings, but it can't get along without them."
"The Fays are a pretty good family, aren't they?" inquired Bennington.
He was irresistibly impelled to ask this question.
"Best going. Mayflower, William the Conqueror, and all that rot. You
must know of the Boston Fays."
"I do. That is, I've heard of them; but I didn't know whether they were
Jeems perceived that the topic interested the young fellow, so he
descanted at length concerning the Fays, their belongings, and their
doings. Time passed rapidly. Bennington was surprised to see Jim coming
down to them through the afterglow of sunset announcing vociferously
that the meal was at last prepared.
"I've fed the old lady," he announced, "and unlocked her. She doesn't
know what's up anyway. She just sits there like a graven image, scared
to death. She doesn't know a relocation from a telegraph pole. I told
her to get a move on her and fix us up some bunks, and I guess she's
at it now."
They consulted as to the best means of guarding the prisoners. It was
finally agreed that Leslie should stand sentinel until the others had
"I want to watch the effect of this light on the hills," he announced
positively, "and I'm not hungry, and Jim ought to cool off before
coming out into the air, and Ben's shoulder ought to be taken care of.
Get along with ye!"
Bennington accompanied Jim to the meal very cheerfully. The facts as to
the latter's persecutions remained the same, but in some way they did
not hold the same proportions as heretofore. The mere item that Jim Fay
was Mary's brother, instead of her lover, made all the difference in
the world. He chattered in a lively fashion concerning the method of
work to be adopted. Suddenly he pulled himself up short.
"I think I must beg your pardon," he said. "I heard about it all from
Jim Leslie. I have been very green, and you were quite right. If you
still want to do so, let's go into this together as friends."
"No pardon coming to me," responded Fay heartily. "I've been a little
tough on you occasionally, that I'll admit, and if I've done too much,
I'm sure I beg _your_ pardon. I saw you had the right stuff in you that
day when you stuck to the horse until you rode him, and I've always
liked you first-rate since then. And I wouldn't worry about this last
matter. You were green to the country, and were put down here without
definite instructions. You trusted Davidson, of course, and got fooled
in it; but then you just followed Bishop's lead in that. He'd been
trusting Davidson before you got here, and if he hadn't trusted him
right along, you can bet you'd have had your directions from A to Z. He
was as much to blame as you were, and you'll find that he knows it."
"I'm afraid you can't make me feel any better about that," objected
Bennington, shaking his head despondently.
"Well, you'll feel better after a time, and anyway there's no actual
At this moment Bert Leslie entered.
"Bill's tickled to death," he announced. "She says she's coming up
first thing in the morning. She wanted to come right off and cook
supper, but I wouldn't let her. She couldn't very well stay here all
night, and it's pretty late now. What you got here? Pork? Coffee?
He sat down and began to eat hungrily. Jim arose to relieve the
sentinel at the mouth of the shaft, at the same time advising de Laney
to go to bed as soon as possible.
"You're tired," he said, "and need rest. Wet that compress well with
Pond's Extract, and we'll dress it again in the morning."
In the kitchen he found the strange sombre woman sitting bolt upright
in silence, her arms folded rigidly across her flat bosom. She looked
straight in front of her, and rocked slowly to and fro on her chair.
"You mustn't worry, Mrs. Arthur," consoled Fay kindly, pausing for a
moment. "There isn't going to be any trouble. It's just a little matter
of mining law. We'll have to keep your husband locked up for a few
days, but he won't be harmed."
The woman made no reply. Fay looked at her sharply again, and passed
"Jeems," he directed that individual at the mouth of the shaft, "go get
your grub. Send the kid to bed right off, and then you and Bert come
down here and we'll fix up these prairie dogs of ours down the hole."
Jeems and his brother therefore helped the wounded hero to bed, and
left him to a much-needed slumber; after which they returned to the
spot of light in the darkness which marked the glow of Fay's pipe. That
capable individual issued directions. First of all they lowered, by
means of a light cord, food and water to their prisoners. The latter
maintained a sullen silence, and it was only by the lightening of the
burden at the end of the line that those above knew their provisions
had been appropriated. Then followed blankets. The Leslies were
strongly in favour of as uncomfortable a confinement as possible, and
so disapproved of blankets, but Fay insisted. After that the brothers
manned the windlass and let Jim down in a bowline about twenty feet,
while he detached and removed two lengths of the shaft ladder. This
left no means of ascent, as the walls of the shaft were smoothly
timbered; but, to make matters sure, they covered the mouth with inch
thick boards on which they piled large chunks of ore.
"You don't suppose they'll smother?" suggested Bert.
"Not much! There's only three of them, and often men drilling will stay
down ten or twelve hours at a time without using up the air."
"Sweet dreams, gentlemen!" called the irrepressible Jeems in farewell.
"There's one other thing," said Jim, "and then we can crawl in."
He approached the cabin in which Arthur and his wife were accustomed to
sleep, and listened until he had satisfied himself that Mrs. Arthur was
inside. Then he softly locked the door, the key of which he had
appropriated immediately after supper, and propped shut the heavy
wooden shutter of the window.
"No dramatic escapes in ours, thank you!" he muttered. He drew back and
surveyed his work with satisfaction. "Come on, boys, let's turn in.
To-morrow we slave."
THE LAND OF VISIONS
Although he had retired so early, and in so exhausted a condition,
Bennington de Laney could not sleep. He had taken a slight fever, and
the wound in his shoulder was stiff and painful. For hours on end he
lay flat on his back, staring at the dim illuminations of the windows
and listening to the faint out-of-door noises or the sharper borings of
insects in the logs of the structure. His mind was not active. He lay
in a semi-torpor, whose most vivid consciousness was that of mental
discomfort and the interminability of time.
The events of the day rose up before him, but he seemed to loathe them
merely because they had been of so active a character, and now he could
not bear to have his brain teased even with their impalpable shadow.
Strangely enough, this altitude seemed to create a certain dead
polarity between him and them. They lay sullenly outside his brain,
repelled by this dead polarity, and he looked at them languidly,
against the dim illumination of the window, with a dull joy that they
could not come near him and enter the realm of his thoughts. All this
was the fever.
In a little time these events became endowed with more palpable bodies
which moved. The square of semilucent window faded into something
indescribable, and that into something indescribable, and that into
something else, still indescribable.
They moved swiftly, and things happened. He found himself suddenly in a
long gallery, half in the dusk, half in the lamplight, pacing slowly
back and forth, waiting for something, he knew not what. To him came a
bustling motherly old woman with a maid's cap on, who said, "Sure,
Master Ben, the moon is shining, and, let me tell ye, at the end of the
hall is a balcony of iron, and Miss Mary will be glad you know that
same." And at that he seemed to himself to be hunting for a coin with
which to tip her. He discovered it turned to lead between his fingers,
whereupon the old woman laughed shrilly and disappeared, and he found
himself alone on the prairie at midnight.
His mind seemed to be filled with great thoughts which would make him
famous. Over and over again he said to himself: "The rain pours and the
people down below chuckle as they move about each under his little
umbrella of self-conceit. They look up to the mountain, saying, 'The
fool! Why looks he so high? He is lost in the mists up there, and he
might be safe and dry with us.' But the mountain has over him the arch
of the universe, and sleeps calmly in the sun of truth. Little recks he
of the clouds below, and knows not at all the little self-satisfied
fools who pity him," and he thought this was the sum of all wisdom, and
that with it would come immortality.
Then a bell began to boom, a deep-toned bell, whose tolling was
inexpressibly solemn, and poured into his heart a sadness too deep for
sorrow. As though there dwelt an enchantment in the very sound itself,
the dark prairies shifted like a scene, and in their stead he saw, in a
cold gray twilight, a high doorway built of a cold gray stone,
rough-hewed and heavy. Through its arch passed then a file of
gray-cowled monks, their faces concealed. Each carried a torch, whose
flickering, wavering light cast weird cowled figures on the gray stone,
and in their midst was borne a bier, covered with white. And as the
deep bell boomed on through all the vision, like a subtle thrilling
presence, Bennington seemed to himself to stand, finger on lip, the
eternal custodian of the Secret of it all--the secret that each of
these cowled figures was a Man--a divine soul and a body, with ears,
and eyes, and a brain; that he had thoughts, and his life that is and
is to come was of these thoughts; that there beat hearts beneath that
gray, and that their voices must not be heeded; that in the morning
these wearied eyes awaited but the eve, and that the evening brought no
hope for a new day; that these silent, awesome beings lived within the
heavy stones alone with monotony, until the bell tolled, as now, and
they were carried through the arched doorway into the night; and, above
all, that to each there were sixty minutes in the hour, and twenty-four
hours in the day, and years and years of these days. This was the
Secret, and he was its custodian. None of the others knew of it; but
its awfulness made him sad and stern. He checked the days, he numbered
the hours, he counted the minutes rigorously lest one escape. One did
escape, and he turned back to catch it, and pursued it far away from
the stone doorway and the dull twilight, and even the sound of the
bell, off into a land where there were many hills and valleys, among
which the fugitive Minute hid elusively. And he pursued the Minute,
calling upon it to come to him, and the name by which he called it was
Mary. Then he saw that the square of the window had become yellow with
the sun, and that through it he could hear plainly the voices of the
Leslies talking in high tones.
His brain was very clear, more so than usual, and he not only received
many impressions, and ordered them with ease and despatch, but his very
senses seemed more than ordinarily acute. He could distinguish even by
day, when the night stillness had withdrawn its favouring conditions,
the borings of the sawdust insects in the logs of the cabin. Only he
was very tired. His hands seemed a long distance away, as though it
would require an extraordinary effort of the will to lift them. So he
lay quiet and listened.
The conversation, of which he was the eavesdropper, was carried on by
fits and starts. First a sentence would be delivered by one of the
Leslies; then would ensue a pause as though for a reply, inaudible to
any but the interlocutors themselves; then another sentence; and so on,
like a man at a telephone. After a moment's puzzling over it,
Bennington understood that Jim Leslie was talking to one of the
prisoners down the shaft.
"You have the true sporting spirit, sir," cried the voice of Jeems. "I
honour you for it. But so philosophical a resignation, while it
inclines our souls to know more of you personally, nevertheless renders
you much less interesting in such a juncture as the present. I would
like to hear from Mr. Davidson."
"That was a performance, Mr. Davidson, which I can not entirely
commend. It is fluent, to be sure, but it lacks variety. A true artist
would have interspersed those finer shades and gradations of meaning
which go to express the numerous and clashing emotions which must
necessarily agitate your venerable bosom. You surely mean more than
_damn_. _Damn_ is expressive and forceful, because capable of being
enunciated at one explosive effort of the breath, but it is monotonous
when too freely employed. To be sure, you might with some justice reply
that you had qualified said adjective strongly--but the qualification
was trite though blasphemous. And you limited it very nicely--but the
limitation to myself is unjust, as it overlooks my brother's equitable
claims to notice."
"I _beg_ pardon! Kindly repeat!"
"Delicious! Mr. Davidson, you have redeemed yourself. Bertie, did you
hear Mr. Davidson's last remark?"
"No!" replied another voice. "Couldn't be bothered. What was it?"
"Mr. Davidson, with a polished sarcasm that amounted to genius, advised
me in his picturesque vernacular 't' set thet jaw of mine goin', and
then go away an' leave it!'"
"I beg you, Mr. Slayton, do not think of such a thing. I would not have
him repressed for anything in the world. As you value our future
acquaintanceship, do not end our interview. Thank you! I appreciate
your compliment, and in return will repeat that, though in a pretty
sharp game, you are a true sport. Our friend Arthur is strangely
silent. I have never met Mr. Arthur. I have heard that either his face
or his hat looks like a fried egg, but I forget for the moment which
was so characterized."
"Fie, fie! Mr. Arthur. Addison, in his most intoxicated moments, would
never have used such language."
And then the man in the cabin, lying on the bed, began to laugh in a
low tone. His laugh was not pleasant to hear. He was realizing how
funny things were to other people--things that had not been funny to
him at all. For the first time he caught a focus on his father, with
his pompous pride and his stilted diction; on his mother's social
creed. He cared as much for them as ever and his respect was as great,
but now he realized that outsiders could never understand them as he
did, and that always to others they must appear ridiculous. So he
laughed. And, too, he perceived that the world would see something
grimly humorous in his insistence on the girl's parentage, when all the
time, in the home to which he was to bring her, dwelt these unlovable,
snobbish old parents of his own. So he laughed. And he thought of how
he had been fooled, and played with, and duped, and cheated, and all
but disgraced by the very people on whom he had looked down from a
fancied superiority. And so he laughed. And as he laughed his hands
swelled up to the size of pillows, and he thought that he was dressed
in a loose garment spotted all over with great spots, and that he was
standing on a stage before these grave, silent hillmen. The light came
in through a golden-yellow square just behind them. In the front row
sat Mary, looking at him with wide-open, trusting eyes. And he was
revolving these hands like pillows around each other, trying to make
the sombre men and the wistful girl laugh with him, while over and
over certain words slipped in between his cachinnations, like stray
bird-notes through a rattle of drums.
"I have no fresh motley for my lady's amusement," he was saying to her,
"no new philosophies to spread out for my lady's inspection, no bright
pictures to display for my lady's pleasure, and so I, like a poor
poverty-stricken minstrel whose harp has been broken, yet dare beg at
the castle gate for a crumb of my lady's bounty." At which he would
have wept, but could only laugh louder and louder.
Then dimly he knew again he was in his own room, and he felt that
several people were moving back and forth quickly. He tried to rise,
but could not, and he knew that he was slipping back to the hall and
the solemn crowd of men. He did not want to go. He grasped convulsively
at the blanket with his sound hand, and shrieked aloud.
"I am sick! I am sick! I am sick!" he cried louder and louder.
Some one laid a cool hand on his forehead, and he lay quiet and smiled
contentedly. The room and the people became wraithlike. He saw them
still, but he saw through them to a reality of soft meadows and summer
skies, from which Mary leaned, resting her hand on his brow. Voices
spoke, but muffled, as though by many veils. They talked of various
"It's the mountain fever," he heard one say. "It's a wonder he escaped
it so long."
Then the cool hand was withdrawn from his brow, and inexorably he was
hurried back into the land of visions.
FLOWER O' THE WORLD
Bennington de Laney found himself lying comfortably in bed, listening
with closed eyes to a number of sounds. Of these there most impressed
him two. They were a certain rhythmical muffled beat, punctuated at
intervals by a slight rustling of paper; and a series of metallic
clicks, softened somewhat by distance. After a time it occurred to him
to open his eyes. At once he noticed two things more--that he had some
way acquired fresh white sheets for his bed, and that on a little table
near the foot of his bunk stood a vase of flowers. These two new
impressions satisfied him for some time. He brooded over them slowly,
for his brain was weak. Then he allowed his gaze to wander to the
window. From above its upper sash depended two long white curtains of
some lacelike material, freshly starched and with deep edges, ruffled
slightly in a pleasing fashion. They stirred slowly in the warm air
from the window. Bennington watched them lazily, breathing with
pleasure the balmy smell of pine, and listening to the sounds. The
clinking noises came through the open window. He knew now that they
meant the impact of sledge on drill. Some one was drilling somewhere.
His glance roved on, and rested without surprise on a girl in a rocking
chair swaying softly to and fro, and reading a book, the turning of
whose leaves had caused the rustling of paper which he had noticed
For a long time he lay silent and contented. Her fine brown hair had
been drawn back smoothly away from her forehead into a loose knot. She
was dressed in a simple gown of white--soft, and resting on the curves
of her slender figure as lightly as down on the surface of the warm
meadows. From beneath the full skirt peeped a little slippered foot,
which tapped the floor rhythmically as the chair rocked to and fro.
Finally she glanced up and discovered him locking at her. She arose and
came to the bedside, her finger on her lips.
"You mustn't talk," she said sweetly, a great joy in her eyes. "I'm so
glad you're better."
She left the room, and returned in a little time with a bowl of chicken
broth, which she fed him with a spoon. It tasted very good to him, and
he felt the stronger for it, but as yet his voice seemed a long
distance away. When she turned to leave the room, however, he murmured
inarticulately and attempted to stir. She came back to the bed at once.
"I'll be back in a minute," she said gently, but seeing some look of
pleading in his eyes, she put the empty bowl and spoon on the little
table and sat down on the floor near the bed. He smiled, and then,
closing his eyes, fell asleep--outside the borders of the land of
visions, and with the music of a woman's voice haunting the last
moments of his consciousness.
After the fever had once broken, his return to strength was rapid.
Although accompanied by delirium, and though running its full course of
weeks, the "mountain fever" is not as intense as typhoid. The
exhaustion of the vital forces is not as great, and recuperation is
easier. In two days Bennington was sitting up in bed, possessed of an
appetite that threatened to depopulate entirely the little log chicken
coop. He found that the tenancy of the camp had materially changed.
Mrs. Lawton and Miss Fay had moved in, bag and baggage--but without the
inquisitive Maude, Bennington was glad to observe.
Mrs. Lawton, in the presence of an emergency, turned out to be helpful
in every way. She knew all about mountain fevers for one thing, and as
the country was not yet blessed with a doctor, this was not an
unimportant item. Then, too, she was a most capable housekeeper--she
cooked, marketed, swept, dusted, and tyrannized over the mere men in a
manner to be envied even by a New England dame. Fay and the Leslies had
also taken up their quarters in the camp. Old Mizzou and the Arthurs
had gone. The old "bunk house" now accommodated a good-sized gang of
miners, who had been engaged by Fay to do the necessary assessment
work. Altogether the camp was very populous and lively.
After a little Bennington learned of everything that had happened
during the three weeks of his sickness. It all came out in a series of
charming conversations, when, in the evening twilight, they gathered in
the room where the sick man lay. Mary--as Bennington still liked to
name her--occupied the rocking chair, and the three young men
distributed themselves as best suited them. It was most homelike and
resting. Bennington had never before experienced the delight of seeing
a young girl about a house, and he enjoyed to the utmost the deft
little touches by which is imparted that airily feminine appearance to
a room; or, more subtly, the mere spirit of daintiness which breathes
always from a woman of the right sort. He felt there was added a newer
and calmer element of joy to his love.
During the first period of his illness, then, Jim Fay and the Leslie
brothers had worked energetically relocating the claims, while Mrs.
Lawton and Miss Fay had taken charge of the house. By the end of the
first day the job was finished. The question then came up as to the
disposition of the prisoners.
"We didn't want the nuisance of a prosecution," said Fay, "because that
would mean that these mossbacks could drag us off to Rapid City any
old time as witnesses, and keep us there indefinitely. Neither did we
want to let them off scot-free. They'd made us altogether too much
trouble for that! Bert here suggested a very simple way out. I went
down to Spanish Gulch and told the boys the whole story from start to
finish. Well, it isn't hard to handle a Western crowd if you go at it
right. The boys always thought you had good stuff in you since you rode
the horse and smashed Leary's face that night. It would have been easy
to have cooked up all kinds of trouble for our precious gang, but I
managed to get the boys in a frivolous mood, so they merely came up and
"I should say they did!" Bert interjected. "They dragged the crowd out
of the shaft--and they were a tough-looking proposition, I can tell
you!--and stood them up in a row. They shaved half of Davidson's head
and half his beard, on opposite sides. They left tufts of hair all over
Arthur. They made a six-pointed star on the top of Slayton's crown.
Then they put the men's clothes on wrong side before, and tied them
facing the rear on three scrubby little burros. Then the whole outfit
was started toward Deadwood. The boys took them as far as Blue Lead,
where they delivered them over to the gang there, with instructions to
pass them along. They probably got to Deadwood. I don't know what's
become of them since."
"I think it was cruel!" put in Miss Fay decidedly.
"Perhaps. But it was better than hanging them."
"What became of Mrs. Arthur?" asked the invalid.
"I shipped her to Deadwood with a little money. Poor creature! It would
be a good thing for her if her husband never did show up. She'd get
along better without him."
The claims located and the sharpers got rid of, Fay proceeded at once
to put the assessment work under way. In this, his long Western
experience, and his intimate acquaintance with the men, stood him in
such good stead that he was enabled to contract the work at a cheaper
rate than Bishop's estimate.
"I wrote to Bishop," he said, "and told him all about it. In his
answer, which I'll show you, he took all the blame to himself, just as
I anticipated he would, and he's so tickled to death over the showing
made by the assays that he's coming out here himself to see about
development. So I'm afraid you're going to lose your job."
"I'm not sorry to go home. But I'm sorry to leave the Hills." He looked
wistfully through the twilight toward Mary's slender figure, outlined
against the window. The three men caught the glance, and began at once
to talk in low tones to each other. In a moment they went out. Somehow,
on returning from the land of visions, Ben found that the world had
moved, and that one of the results of the movement was that many things
were taken for granted by the little community of four who surrounded
him. It was as though the tangle had unravelled quietly while he slept.
She leaned toward him shyly, and whispered something to his ear. He
They talked then long and comfortably in the dusk--about how the
Leslies had written the letter, how much trouble she had taken to
conceal her real identity, and all the rest.
"I sent Bill Lawton up to warn your camp the first day I met you," said
"Why, I remember!" he cried. "He was there when I got back."
And they talked on of their many experiences, in the fashion of lovers,
and how they had come to care for each other, and when.
"I made up my mind it was so foolish a joke," she confessed, "that I
determined to tell you all about it. You remember I had something to
tell you at the Pioneer's Picnic? That was it. But then you remember
the girl in the train, and how, when she looked at us, you turned
"I remember that well enough," replied Bennington. "But what has that
to do with it?"
"It was a perfectly natural thing to do, dearest. I see that plainly
enough now. But it hurt me a little that you should be ashamed of me as
a Western girl, and I made up my mind to test you."
"Why, I wasn't thinking of that at all," cried Bennington. "I was just
ashamed of my clothes. I never thought of you!"
She reached out and patted his hand. "I'm glad to hear that, Ben dear,
after all. It did hurt. And I was so foolish. I thought if you were
ashamed of me, you would never stand the thought of the Lawtons. So I
did not tell you the truth then, but resolved to test you in that way."
"Foolish little girl!" said he tenderly. "But it came out all right,
"Yes," she sighed, with a happy gesture of the hands. They fell silent.
"I want you to tell me something, dear," said Bennington after a while.
"You needn't unless you want to, but I've thought about it a great
"I will tell you, Ben, anything in the world. We ought to be frank with
each other now, don't you think so?"
"I don't know as I ought to say anything about it, after all," he
hesitated, evidently embarrassed. "But, Mary, you know you have hinted
a little at it yourself. You remember you said something once about
losing faith, and being made hard, and----"
She took both his hands in hers and drew them closely to her breast.
Although he could not see her eyes against the dusk, he knew that she
was looking at him steadily.
"Listen quietly, Ben dear, and I will tell you. Before I came out here
I thought I loved a man, and he--well, he did not treat me well. I had
trusted him and every one else implicitly until the very moment
when----I felt it very much, and I came West with Jim to get away from
the old scenes. Now I know that it was only fascination, but it was
very real then. You do not like that, Ben, do you? The memory is not
pleasant to me, and yet," she said, with a wistful little break of the
voice, "if it hadn't been for that I would not have been the woman I
am, and I could not love you, dearest, as I do. It is never in the same
way twice, but each time something better and higher is added to it.
Oh, my darling, I _do_ love you, I do love you so much, and you must be
always my generous, poetic _boy_, as you are now."
She strained his hands to her as though afraid he would slip from her
clasp. "All that is ideal so soon hardens. I can not bear to think of
Bennington leaned forward and their lips met. "We will forgive him," he
And what that remark had to do with it only our gentler readers will be
able to say.
Ah, the delicious throbbing silence after the first kiss!
"What was your decision that afternoon on the Rock, Ben? You never told
me." She asked presently, in a lighter tone, "Would you have taken me
in spite of my family?"
He laughed with faint mischief.
"Before I tell you, I want to ask _you_ something," he said in his
turn. "Supposing I had decided that, even though I loved you, I must
give you up because of my duty to my family--suppose that, I say--what
would _you_ have done? Would your love for me have been so strong that
you would have finally confessed to me the fact that the Lawtons were
not your parents? Or would you have thrown me over entirely because you
thought I did not love you enough to take you for yourself?"
She considered the matter seriously for some little time.
"Ben, I don't know," she confessed at last frankly. "I can't tell."
"No more can I, sweetheart. I hadn't decided."
She puckered her brows in the darkness with genuine distress. Women
worry more than men over past intangibilities. He smiled comfortably to
himself, for in his grasp he held, unresisting, the dearest little hand
in the world. Outside, the ever-charming, ever-mysterious night of the
Hills was stealing here and there in sighs and silences. From the
darkness came the high sweet tenor of Bert Leslie's voice in the words
of a song:
"A Sailor to the Sea, a Hunter to the Pines,
And Sea and Pines alike to joy the Rover,
The Wood-smells to the nostrils of the Lover of the Trail,
And Hearts to Hearts the whole World over!"
Through and through the words of the song, like a fine silver wire
through richer cloth of gold, twined the long-drawn, tremulous notes
of the white-throated sparrow, the nightingale of the North.
"The dear old Hills," he murmured tenderly. "We must come back to them
"I wish, I _wish_ I knew!" she cried, holding his hand tighter.
"Knew what?" he asked, surprised.
"What you'd have done, and what I'd have done!"
"Well," he replied, with a happy sigh, "I know what I'm _going_ to do,
and that's quite enough for me."