Part 3 out of 12
the lands will not be taken into consideration, neither will the
price be increased in consequence thereof.... Settlers are thus
insured that in addition to being accorded the first privilege of
purchase, at the graded price, they will also be protected in
their improvements.' And here," he commented, "in Section IX. it
reads, 'The lands are not uniform in price, but are offered at
various figures from $2.50 upward per acre. Usually land covered
with tall timber is held at $5.00 per acre, and that with pine at
$10.00. Most is for sale at $2.50 and $5.00."
"When you come to read that carefully," hazarded old Broderson,
"it--it's not so VERY REASSURING. 'MOST is for sale at two-fifty
an acre,' it says. That don't mean 'ALL,' that only means SOME.
I wish now that I had secured a more iron-clad agreement from the
P. and S. W. when I took up its sections on my ranch, and--and
Genslinger is in a position to know the intentions of the
railroad. At least, he--he--he is in TOUCH with them. All
newspaper men are. Those, I mean, who are subsidised by the
General Office. But, perhaps, Genslinger isn't subsidised, I
don't know. I--I am not sure. Maybe--perhaps"
"Oh, you don't know and you do know, and maybe and perhaps, and
you're not so sure," vociferated Annixter. "How about ignoring
the value of our improvements? Nothing hazy about THAT
statement, I guess. It says in so many words that any
improvements we make will not be considered when the land is
appraised and that's the same thing, isn't it? The unimproved
land is worth two-fifty an acre; only timber land is worth more
and there's none too much timber about here."
"Well, one thing at a time," said Harran. "The thing for us now
is to get into this primary election and the convention and see
if we can push our men for Railroad Commissioners."
"Right," declared Annixter. He rose, stretching his arms above
his head. "I've about talked all the wind out of me," he said.
"Think I'll be moving along. It's pretty near midnight."
But when Magnus's guests turned their attention to the matter of
returning to their different ranches, they abruptly realised that
the downpour had doubled and trebled in its volume since earlier
in the evening. The fields and roads were veritable seas of
viscid mud, the night absolutely black-dark; assuredly not a
night in which to venture out. Magnus insisted that the three
ranchers should put up at Los Muertos. Osterman accepted at
once, Annixter, after an interminable discussion, allowed himself
to be persuaded, in the end accepting as though granting a
favour. Broderson protested that his wife, who was not well,
would expect him to return that night and would, no doubt, fret
if he did not appear. Furthermore, he lived close by, at the
junction of the County and Lower Road. He put a sack over his
head and shoulders, persistently declining Magnus's offered
umbrella and rubber coat, and hurried away, remarking that he had
no foreman on his ranch and had to be up and about at five the
next morning to put his men to work.
"Fool!" muttered Annixter when the old man had gone. "Imagine
farming a ranch the size of his without a foreman."
Harran showed Osterman and Annixter where they were to sleep, in
adjoining rooms. Magnus soon afterward retired.
Osterman found an excuse for going to bed, but Annixter and
Harran remained in the latter's room, in a haze of blue tobacco
smoke, talking, talking. But at length, at the end of all
argument, Annixter got up, remarking:
"Well, I'm going to turn in. It's nearly two o'clock."
He went to his room, closing the door, and Harran, opening his
window to clear out the tobacco smoke, looked out for a moment
across the country toward the south.
The darkness was profound, impenetrable; the rain fell with an
uninterrupted roar. Near at hand one could hear the sound of
dripping eaves and foliage and the eager, sucking sound of the
drinking earth, and abruptly while Harran stood looking out, one
hand upon the upraised sash, a great puff of the outside air
invaded the room, odourous with the reek of the soaking earth,
redolent with fertility, pungent, heavy, tepid. He closed the
window again and sat for a few moments on the edge of the bed,
one shoe in his hand, thoughtful and absorbed, wondering if his
father would involve himself in this new scheme, wondering if,
after all, he wanted him to.
But suddenly he was aware of a commotion, issuing from the
direction of Annixter's room, and the voice of Annixter himself
upraised in expostulation and exasperation. The door of the room
to which Annixter had been assigned opened with a violent wrench
and an angry voice exclaimed to anybody who would listen:
"Oh, yes, funny, isn't it? In a way, it's funny, and then,
again, in a way it isn't."
The door banged to so that all the windows of the house rattled
in their frames.
Harran hurried out into the dining-room and there met Presley and
his father, who had been aroused as well by Annixter's clamour.
Osterman was there, too, his bald head gleaming like a bulb of
ivory in the light of the lamp that Magnus carried.
"What's all up?" demanded Osterman. "Whatever in the world is
the matter with Buck?"
Confused and terrible sounds came from behind the door of
Annixter's room. A prolonged monologue of grievance, broken by
explosions of wrath and the vague noise of some one in a furious
hurry. All at once and before Harran had a chance to knock on
the door, Annixter flung it open. His face was blazing with
anger, his outthrust lip more prominent than ever, his wiry,
yellow hair in disarray, the tuft on the crown sticking straight
into the air like the upraised hackles of an angry hound.
Evidently he had been dressing himself with the most headlong
rapidity; he had not yet put on his coat and vest, but carried
them over his arm, while with his disengaged hand he kept
hitching his suspenders over his shoulders with a persistent and
hypnotic gesture. Without a moment's pause he gave vent to his
indignation in a torrent of words.
"Ah, yes, in my bed, sloop, aha! I know the man who put it
there," he went on, glaring at Osterman, "and that man is a PIP.
Sloop! Slimy, disgusting stuff; you heard me say I didn't like
it when the Chink passed it to me at dinner--and just for that
reason you put it in my bed, and I stick my feet into it when I
turn in. Funny, isn't it? Oh, yes, too funny for any use. I'd
laugh a little louder if I was you."
"Well, Buck," protested Harran, as he noticed the hat in
Annixter's hand, "you're not going home just for----"
Annixter turned on him with a shout.
"I'll get plumb out of here," he trumpeted. "I won't stay here
He swung into his waistcoat and coat, scrabbling at the buttons
in the violence of his emotions. "And I don't know but what it
will make me sick again to go out in a night like this. NO, I
won't stay. Some things are funny, and then, again, there are
some things that are not. Ah, yes, sloop! Well, that's all
right. I can be funny, too, when you come to that. You don't
get a cent of money out of me. You can do your dirty bribery in
your own dirty way. I won't come into this scheme at all. I
wash my hands of the whole business. It's rotten and it's wild-
eyed; it's dirt from start to finish; and you'll all land in
State's prison. You can count me out."
"But, Buck, look here, you crazy fool," cried Harran, "I don't
know who put that stuff in your bed, but I'm not going; to let
you go back to Quien Sabe in a rain like this."
"I know who put it in," clamoured the other, shaking his fists,
"and don't call me Buck and I'll do as I please. I WILL go back
home. I'll get plumb out of here. Sorry I came. Sorry I ever
lent myself to such a disgusting, dishonest, dirty bribery game
as this all to-night. I won't put a dime into it, no, not a
He stormed to the door leading out upon the porch, deaf to all
reason. Harran and Presley followed him, trying to dissuade him
from going home at that time of night and in such a storm, but
Annixter was not to be placated. He stamped across to the barn
where his horse and buggy had been stabled, splashing through the
puddles under foot, going out of his way to drench himself,
refusing even to allow Presley and Harran to help him harness the
"What's the use of making a fool of yourself, Annixter?"
remonstrated Presley, as Annixter backed the horse from the
stall. "You act just like a ten-year-old boy. If Osterman wants
to play the goat, why should you help him out?"
"He's a PIP," vociferated Annixter. "You don't understand,
Presley. It runs in my family to hate anything sticky. It's--
it's--it's heredity. How would you like to get into bed at two
in the morning and jam your feet down into a slimy mess like
that? Oh, no. It's not so funny then. And you mark my words,
Mr. Harran Derrick," he continued, as he climbed into the buggy,
shaking the whip toward Harran, "this business we talked over to-
night--I'm OUT of it. It's yellow. It's too CURSED dishonest."
He cut the horse across the back with the whip and drove out into
the pelting rain. In a few seconds the sound of his buggy wheels
was lost in the muffled roar of the downpour.
Harran and Presley closed the barn and returned to the house,
sheltering themselves under a tarpaulin carriage cover. Once
inside, Harran went to remonstrate with Osterman, who was still
up. Magnus had again retired. The house had fallen quiet again.
As Presley crossed the dining-room on the way to his own
apartment in the second story of the house, he paused for a
moment, looking about him. In the dull light of the lowered
lamps, the redwood panelling of the room showed a dark crimson as
though stained with blood. On the massive slab of the dining
table the half-emptied glasses and bottles stood about in the
confusion in which they had been left, reflecting themselves deep
into the polished wood; the glass doors of the case of stuffed
birds was a subdued shimmer; the many-coloured Navajo blanket
over the couch seemed a mere patch of brown.
Around the table the chairs in which the men had sat throughout
the evening still ranged themselves in a semi-circle, vaguely
suggestive of the conference of the past few hours, with all its
possibilities of good and evil, its significance of a future big
with portent. The room was still. Only on the cushions of the
chair that Annixter had occupied, the cat, Princess Nathalie, at
last comfortably settled in her accustomed place, dozed
complacently, her paws tucked under her breast, filling the
deserted room with the subdued murmur of her contented purr.
On the Quien Sabe ranch, in one of its western divisions, near
the line fence that divided it from the Osterman holding, Vanamee
was harnessing the horses to the plough to which he had been
assigned two days before, a stable-boy from the division barn
Promptly discharged from the employ of the sheep-raisers after
the lamentable accident near the Long Trestle, Vanamee had
presented himself to Harran, asking for employment. The season
was beginning; on all the ranches work was being resumed. The
rain had put the ground into admirable condition for ploughing,
and Annixter, Broderson, and Osterman all had their gangs at
work. Thus, Vanamee was vastly surprised to find Los Muertos
idle, the horses still in the barns, the men gathering in the
shade of the bunk-house and eating-house, smoking, dozing, or
going aimlessly about, their arms dangling. The ploughs for
which Magnus and Harran were waiting in a fury of impatience had
not yet arrived, and since the management of Los Muertos had
counted upon having these in hand long before this time, no
provision had been made for keeping the old stock in repair; many
of these old ploughs were useless, broken, and out of order; some
had been sold. It could not be said definitely when the new
ploughs would arrive. Harran had decided to wait one week
longer, and then, in case of their non-appearance, to buy a
consignment of the old style of plough from the dealers in
Bonneville. He could afford to lose the money better than he
could afford to lose the season.
Failing of work on Los Muertos, Vanamee had gone to Quien Sabe.
Annixter, whom he had spoken to first, had sent him across the
ranch to one of his division superintendents, and this latter,
after assuring himself of Vanamee's familiarity with horses and
his previous experience--even though somewhat remote--on Los
Muertos, had taken him on as a driver of one of the gang ploughs,
then at work on his division.
The evening before, when the foreman had blown his whistle at six
o'clock, the long line of ploughs had halted upon the instant,
and the drivers, unharnessing their teams, had taken them back to
the division barns--leaving the ploughs as they were in the
furrows. But an hour after daylight the next morning the work
was resumed. After breakfast, Vanamee, riding one horse and
leading the others, had returned to the line of ploughs together
with the other drivers. Now he was busy harnessing the team. At
the division blacksmith shop--temporarily put up--he had been
obliged to wait while one of his lead horses was shod, and he had
thus been delayed quite five minutes. Nearly all the other teams
were harnessed, the drivers on their seats, waiting for the
"All ready here?" inquired the foreman, driving up to Vanamee's
team in his buggy.
"All ready, sir," answered Vanamee, buckling the last strap.
He climbed to his seat, shaking out the reins, and turning about,
looked back along the line, then all around him at the landscape
inundated with the brilliant glow of the early morning.
The day was fine. Since the first rain of the season, there had
been no other. Now the sky was without a cloud, pale blue,
delicate, luminous, scintillating with morning. The great brown
earth turned a huge flank to it, exhaling the moisture of the
early dew. The atmosphere, washed clean of dust and mist, was
translucent as crystal. Far off to the east, the hills on the
other side of Broderson Creek stood out against the pallid
saffron of the horizon as flat and as sharply outlined as if
pasted on the sky. The campanile of the ancient Mission of San
Juan seemed as fine as frost work. All about between the
horizons, the carpet of the land unrolled itself to infinity.
But now it was no longer parched with heat, cracked and warped by
a merciless sun, powdered with dust. The rain had done its work;
not a clod that was not swollen with fertility, not a fissure
that did not exhale the sense of fecundity. One could not take a
dozen steps upon the ranches without the brusque sensation that
underfoot the land was alive; roused at last from its sleep,
palpitating with the desire of reproduction. Deep down there in
the recesses of the soil, the great heart throbbed once more,
thrilling with passion, vibrating with desire, offering itself to
the caress of the plough, insistent, eager, imperious. Dimly one
felt the deep-seated trouble of the earth, the uneasy agitation
of its members, the hidden tumult of its womb, demanding to be
made fruitful, to reproduce, to disengage the eternal renascent
germ of Life that stirred and struggled in its loins.
The ploughs, thirty-five in number, each drawn by its team of
ten, stretched in an interminable line, nearly a quarter of a
mile in length, behind and ahead of Vanamee. They were arranged,
as it were, en echelon, not in file--not one directly behind the
other, but each succeeding plough its own width farther in the
field than the one in front of it. Each of these ploughs held
five shears, so that when the entire company was in motion, one
hundred and seventy-five furrows were made at the same instant.
At a distance, the ploughs resembled a great column of field
artillery. Each driver was in his place, his glance alternating
between his horses and the foreman nearest at hand. Other
foremen, in their buggies or buckboards, were at intervals along
the line, like battery lieutenants. Annixter himself, on
horseback, in boots and campaign hat, a cigar in his teeth,
overlooked the scene.
The division superintendent, on the opposite side of the line,
galloped past to a position at the head. For a long moment there
was a silence. A sense of preparedness ran from end to end of
the column. All things were ready, each man in his place. The
day's work was about to begin.
Suddenly, from a distance at the head of the line came the shrill
trilling of a whistle. At once the foreman nearest Vanamee
repeated it, at the same time turning down the line, and waving
one arm. The signal was repeated, whistle answering whistle,
till the sounds lost themselves in the distance. At once the
line of ploughs lost its immobility, moving forward, getting
slowly under way, the horses straining in the traces. A
prolonged movement rippled from team to team, disengaging in its
passage a multitude of sounds---the click of buckles, the creak
of straining leather, the subdued clash of machinery, the
cracking of whips, the deep breathing of nearly four hundred
horses, the abrupt commands and cries of the drivers, and, last
of all, the prolonged, soothing murmur of the thick brown earth
turning steadily from the multitude of advancing shears.
The ploughing thus commenced, continued. The sun rose higher.
Steadily the hundred iron hands kneaded and furrowed and stroked
the brown, humid earth, the hundred iron teeth bit deep into the
Titan's flesh. Perched on his seat, the moist living reins
slipping and tugging in his hands, Vanamee, in the midst of this
steady confusion of constantly varying sensation, sight
interrupted by sound, sound mingling with sight, on this swaying,
vibrating seat, quivering with the prolonged thrill of the earth,
lapsed to a sort of pleasing numbness, in a sense, hypnotised by
the weaving maze of things in which he found himself involved.
To keep his team at an even, regular gait, maintaining the
precise interval, to run his furrows as closely as possible to
those already made by the plough in front--this for the moment
was the entire sum of his duties. But while one part of his
brain, alert and watchful, took cognisance of these matters, all
the greater part was lulled and stupefied with the long monotony
of the affair.
The ploughing, now in full swing, enveloped him in a vague, slow-
moving whirl of things. Underneath him was the jarring, jolting,
trembling machine; not a clod was turned, not an obstacle
encountered, that he did not receive the swift impression of it
through all his body, the very friction of the damp soil, sliding
incessantly from the shiny surface of the shears, seemed to
reproduce itself in his finger-tips and along the back of his
head. He heard the horse-hoofs by the myriads crushing down
easily, deeply, into the loam, the prolonged clinking of trace-
chains, the working of the smooth brown flanks in the harness,
the clatter of wooden hames, the champing of bits, the click of
iron shoes against pebbles, the brittle stubble of the surface
ground crackling and snapping as the furrows turned, the
sonorous, steady breaths wrenched from the deep, labouring
chests, strap-bound, shining with sweat, and all along the line
the voices of the men talking to the horses. Everywhere there
were visions of glossy brown backs, straining, heaving, swollen
with muscle; harness streaked with specks of froth, broad, cup-
shaped hoofs, heavy with brown loam, men's faces red with tan,
blue overalls spotted with axle-grease; muscled hands, the
knuckles whitened in their grip on the reins, and through it all
the ammoniacal smell of the horses, the bitter reek of
perspiration of beasts and men, the aroma of warm leather, the
scent of dead stubble--and stronger and more penetrating than
everything else, the heavy, enervating odour of the upturned,
At intervals, from the tops of one of the rare, low swells of the
land, Vanamee overlooked a wider horizon. On the other divisions
of Quien Sabe the same work was in progress. Occasionally he
could see another column of ploughs in the adjoining division--
sometimes so close at hand that the subdued murmur of its
movements reached his ear; sometimes so distant that it resolved
itself into a long, brown streak upon the grey of the ground.
Farther off to the west on the Osterman ranch other columns came
and went, and, once, from the crest of the highest swell on his
division, Vanamee caught a distant glimpse of the Broderson
ranch. There, too, moving specks indicated that the ploughing
was under way. And farther away still, far off there beyond the
fine line of the horizons, over the curve of the globe, the
shoulder of the earth, he knew were other ranches, and beyond
these others, and beyond these still others, the immensities
multiplying to infinity.
Everywhere throughout the great San Joaquin, unseen and unheard,
a thousand ploughs up-stirred the land, tens of thousands of
shears clutched deep into the warm, moist soil.
It was the long stroking caress, vigorous, male, powerful, for
which the Earth seemed panting. The heroic embrace of a
multitude of iron hands, gripping deep into the brown, warm flesh
of the land that quivered responsive and passionate under this
rude advance, so robust as to be almost an assault, so violent as
to be veritably brutal. There, under the sun and under the
speckless sheen of the sky, the wooing of the Titan began, the
vast primal passion, the two world-forces, the elemental Male and
Female, locked in a colossal embrace, at grapples in the throes
of an infinite desire, at once terrible and divine, knowing no
law, untamed, savage, natural, sublime.
From time to time the gang in which Vanamee worked halted on the
signal from foreman or overseer. The horses came to a
standstill, the vague clamour of the work lapsed away. Then the
minutes passed. The whole work hung suspended. All up and down
the line one demanded what had happened. The division
superintendent galloped past, perplexed and anxious. For the
moment, one of the ploughs was out of order, a bolt had slipped,
a lever refused to work, or a machine had become immobilised in
heavy ground, or a horse had lamed himself. Once, even, toward
noon, an entire plough was taken out of the line, so out of gear
that a messenger had to be sent to the division forge to summon
Annixter had disappeared. He had ridden farther on to the other
divisions of his ranch, to watch the work in progress there. At
twelve o'clock, according to his orders, all the division
superintendents put themselves in communication with him by means
of the telephone wires that connected each of the division
houses, reporting the condition of the work, the number of acres
covered, the prospects of each plough traversing its daily
average of twenty miles.
At half-past twelve, Vanamee and the rest of the drivers ate
their lunch in the field, the tin buckets having been distributed
to them that morning after breakfast. But in the evening, the
routine of the previous day was repeated, and Vanamee,
unharnessing his team, riding one horse and leading the others,
returned to the division barns and bunk-house.
It was between six and seven o'clock. The half hundred men of
the gang threw themselves upon the supper the Chinese cooks had
set out in the shed of the eating-house, long as a bowling alley,
unpainted, crude, the seats benches, the table covered with oil
cloth. Overhead a half-dozen kerosene lamps flared and smoked.
The table was taken as if by assault; the clatter of iron knives
upon the tin plates was as the reverberation of hail upon a metal
roof. The ploughmen rinsed their throats with great draughts of
wine, and, their elbows wide, their foreheads flushed, resumed
the attack upon the beef and bread, eating as though they would
never have enough. All up and down the long table, where the
kerosene lamps reflected themselves deep in the oil-cloth cover,
one heard the incessant sounds of mastication, and saw the
uninterrupted movement of great jaws. At every moment one or
another of the men demanded a fresh portion of beef, another pint
of wine, another half-loaf of bread. For upwards of an hour the
gang ate. It was no longer a supper. It was a veritable
barbecue, a crude and primitive feasting, barbaric, homeric.
But in all this scene Vanamee saw nothing repulsive. Presley
would have abhorred it--this feeding of the People, this gorging
of the human animal, eager for its meat. Vanamee, simple,
uncomplicated, living so close to nature and the rudimentary
life, understood its significance. He knew very well that within
a short half-hour after this meal the men would throw themselves
down in their bunks to sleep without moving, inert and stupefied
with fatigue, till the morning. Work, food, and sleep, all life
reduced to its bare essentials, uncomplex, honest, healthy. They
were strong, these men, with the strength of the soil they
worked, in touch with the essential things, back again to the
starting point of civilisation, coarse, vital, real, and sane.
For a brief moment immediately after the meal, pipes were lit,
and the air grew thick with fragrant tobacco smoke. On a corner
of the dining-room table, a game of poker was begun. One of the
drivers, a Swede, produced an accordion; a group on the steps of
the bunk-house listened, with alternate gravity and shouts of
laughter, to the acknowledged story-teller of the gang. But soon
the men began to turn in, stretching themselves at full length on
the horse blankets in the racklike bunks. The sounds of heavy
breathing increased steadily, lights were put out, and before the
afterglow had faded from the sky, the gang was asleep.
Vanamee, however, remained awake. The night was fine, warm; the
sky silver-grey with starlight. By and by there would be a moon.
In the first watch after the twilight, a faint puff of breeze
came up out of the south. From all around, the heavy penetrating
smell of the new-turned earth exhaled steadily into the darkness.
After a while, when the moon came up, he could see the vast brown
breast of the earth turn toward it. Far off, distant objects
came into view: The giant oak tree at Hooven's ranch house near
the irrigating ditch on Los Muertos, the skeleton-like tower of
the windmill on Annixter's Home ranch, the clump of willows along
Broderson Creek close to the Long Trestle, and, last of all, the
venerable tower of the Mission of San Juan on the high ground
beyond the creek.
Thitherward, like homing pigeons, Vanamee's thoughts turned
irresistibly. Near to that tower, just beyond, in the little
hollow, hidden now from his sight, was the Seed ranch where
Angele Varian had lived. Straining his eyes, peering across the
intervening levels, Vanamee fancied he could almost see the line
of venerable pear trees in whose shadow she had been accustomed
to wait for him. On many such a night as this he had crossed the
ranches to find her there. His mind went back to that wonderful
time of his life sixteen years before this, when Angele was
alive, when they two were involved in the sweet intricacies of a
love so fine, so pure, so marvellous that it seemed to them a
miracle, a manifestation, a thing veritably divine, put into the
life of them and the hearts of them by God Himself. To that they
had been born. For this love's sake they had come into the
world, and the mingling of their lives was to be the Perfect
Life, the intended, ordained union of the soul of man with the
soul of woman, indissoluble, harmonious as music, beautiful
beyond all thought, a foretaste of Heaven, a hostage of
No, he, Vanamee, could never, never forget, never was the edge of
his grief to lose its sharpness, never would the lapse of time
blunt the tooth of his pain. Once more, as he sat there, looking
off across the ranches, his eyes fixed on the ancient campanile
of the Mission church, the anguish that would not die leaped at
his throat, tearing at his heart, shaking him and rending him
with a violence as fierce and as profound as if it all had been
but yesterday. The ache returned to his heart a physical keen
pain; his hands gripped tight together, twisting, interlocked,
his eyes filled with tears, his whole body shaken and riven from
head to heel.
He had lost her. God had not meant it, after all. The whole
matter had been a mistake. That vast, wonderful love that had
come upon them had been only the flimsiest mockery. Abruptly
Vanamee rose. He knew the night that was before him. At
intervals throughout the course of his prolonged wanderings, in
the desert, on the mesa, deep in the canon, lost and forgotten on
the flanks of unnamed mountains, alone under the stars and under
the moon's white eye, these hours came to him, his grief
recoiling upon him like the recoil of a vast and terrible engine.
Then he must fight out the night, wrestling with his sorrow,
praying sometimes, incoherent, hardly conscious, asking "Why" of
the night and of the stars.
Such another night had come to him now. Until dawn he knew he
must struggle with his grief, torn with memories, his imagination
assaulted with visions of a vanished happiness. If this paroxysm
of sorrow was to assail him again that night, there was but one
place for him to be. He would go to the Mission--he would see
Father Sarria; he would pass the night in the deep shadow of the
aged pear trees in the Mission garden.
He struck out across Quien Sabe, his face, the face of an
ascetic, lean, brown, infinitely sad, set toward the Mission
church. In about an hour he reached and crossed the road that
led northward from Guadalajara toward the Seed ranch, and, a
little farther on, forded Broderson Creek where it ran through
one corner of the Mission land. He climbed the hill and halted,
out of breath from his brisk wall, at the end of the colonnade of
the Mission itself.
Until this moment Vanamee had not trusted himself to see the
Mission at night. On the occasion of his first daytime visit
with Presley, he had hurried away even before the twilight had
set in, not daring for the moment to face the crowding phantoms
that in his imagination filled the Mission garden after dark. In
the daylight, the place had seemed strange to him. None of his
associations with the old building and its surroundings were
those of sunlight and brightness. Whenever, during his long
sojourns in the wilderness of the Southwest, he had called up the
picture in the eye of his mind, it had always appeared to him in
the dim mystery of moonless nights, the venerable pear trees
black with shadow, the fountain a thing to be heard rather than
But as yet he had not entered the garden. That lay on the other
side of the Mission. Vanamee passed down the colonnade, with its
uneven pavement of worn red bricks, to the last door by the
belfry tower, and rang the little bell by pulling the leather
thong that hung from a hole in the door above the knob.
But the maid-servant, who, after a long interval opened the door,
blinking and confused at being roused from her sleep, told
Vanamee that Sarria was not in his room. Vanamee, however, was
known to her as the priest's protege and great friend, and she
allowed him to enter, telling him that, no doubt, he would find
Sarria in the church itself. The servant led the way down the
cool adobe passage to a larger room that occupied the entire
width of the bottom of the belfry tower, and whence a flight of
aged steps led upward into the dark. At the foot of the stairs
was a door opening into the church. The servant admitted
Vanamee, closing the door behind her.
The interior of the Mission, a great oblong of white-washed adobe
with a flat ceiling, was lighted dimly by the sanctuary lamp that
hung from three long chains just over the chancel rail at the far
end of the church, and by two or three cheap kerosene lamps in
brackets of imitation bronze. All around the walls was the
inevitable series of pictures representing the Stations of the
Cross. They were of a hideous crudity of design and composition,
yet were wrought out with an innocent, unquestioning sincerity
that was not without its charm. Each picture framed alike in
gilt, bore its suitable inscription in staring black letters.
"Simon, The Cyrenean, Helps Jesus to Carry His Cross." "Saint
Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus." "Jesus Falls for the Fourth
Time," and so on. Half-way up the length of the church the pews
began, coffin-like boxes of blackened oak, shining from years of
friction, each with its door; while over them, and built out from
the wall, was the pulpit, with its tarnished gilt sounding-board
above it, like the raised cover of a great hat-box. Between the
pews, in the aisle, the violent vermilion of a strip of ingrain
carpet assaulted the eye. Farther on were the steps to the
altar, the chancel rail of worm-riddled oak, the high altar, with
its napery from the bargain counters of a San Francisco store,
the massive silver candlesticks, each as much as one man could
lift, the gift of a dead Spanish queen, and, last, the pictures
of the chancel, the Virgin in a glory, a Christ in agony on the
cross, and St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Mission,
the San Juan Bautista, of the early days, a gaunt grey figure, in
skins, two fingers upraised in the gesture of benediction.
The air of the place was cool and damp, and heavy with the flat,
sweet scent of stale incense smoke. It was of a vault-like
stillness, and the closing of the door behind Vanamee reechoed
from corner to corner with a prolonged reverberation of thunder.
However, Father Sarria was not in the church. Vanamee took a
couple of turns the length of the aisle, looking about into the
chapels on either side of the chancel. But the building was
deserted. The priest had been there recently, nevertheless, for
the altar furniture was in disarray, as though he had been
rearranging it but a moment before. On both sides of the church
and half-way up their length, the walls were pierced by low
archways, in which were massive wooden doors, clamped with iron
bolts. One of these doors, on the pulpit side of the church,
stood ajar, and stepping to it and pushing it wide open, Vanamee
looked diagonally across a little patch of vegetables--beets,
radishes, and lettuce--to the rear of the building that had once
contained the cloisters, and through an open window saw Father
Sarria diligently polishing the silver crucifix that usually
stood on the high altar. Vanamee did not call to the priest.
Putting a finger to either temple, he fixed his eyes steadily
upon him for a moment as he moved about at his work. In a few
seconds he closed his eyes, but only part way. The pupils
contracted; his forehead lowered to an expression of poignant
intensity. Soon afterward he saw the priest pause abruptly in
the act of drawing the cover over the crucifix, looking about him
from side to side. He turned again to his work, and again came
to a stop, perplexed, curious. With uncertain steps, and
evidently wondering why he did so, he came to the door of the
room and opened it, looking out into the night. Vanamee, hidden
in the deep shadow of the archway, did not move, but his eyes
closed, and the intense expression deepened on his face. The
priest hesitated, moved forward a step, turned back, paused
again, then came straight across the garden patch, brusquely
colliding with Vanamee, still motionless in the recess of the
Sarria gave a great start, catching his breath.
"Oh--oh, it's you. Was it you I heard calling? No, I could not
have heard--I remember now. What a strange power! I am not sure
that it is right to do this thing, Vanamee. I--I HAD to come. I
do not know why. It is a great force--a power--I don't like it.
Vanamee, sometimes it frightens me."
Vanamee put his chin in the air.
"If I had wanted to, sir, I could have made you come to me from
back there in the Quien Sabe ranch."
The priest shook his head.
"It troubles me," he said, "to think that my own will can count
for so little. Just now I could not resist. If a deep river had
been between us, I must have crossed it. Suppose I had been
"It would have been all the easier," answered Vanamee. "I
understand as little of these things as you. But I think if you
had been asleep, your power of resistance would have been so much
the more weakened."
"Perhaps I should not have waked. Perhaps I should have come to
you in my sleep."
Sarria crossed himself. "It is occult," he hazarded. "No; I do
not like it. Dear fellow," he put his hand on Vanamee's
shoulder, "don't--call me that way again; promise. See," he held
out his hand, "I am all of a tremble. There, we won't speak of
it further. Wait for me a moment. I have only to put the cross
in its place, and a fresh altar cloth, and then I am done. To-
morrow is the feast of The Holy Cross, and I am preparing against
it. The night is fine. We will smoke a cigar in the cloister
A few moments later the two passed out of the door on the other
side of the church, opposite the pulpit, Sarria adjusting a silk
skull cap on his tonsured head. He wore his cassock now, and was
far more the churchman in appearance than when Vanamee and
Presley had seen him on a former occasion.
They were now in the cloister garden. The place was charming.
Everywhere grew clumps of palms and magnolia trees. A grapevine,
over a century old, occupied a trellis in one angle of the walls
which surrounded the garden on two sides. Along the third side
was the church itself, while the fourth was open, the wall having
crumbled away, its site marked only by a line of eight great pear
trees, older even than the grapevine, gnarled, twisted, bearing
no fruit. Directly opposite the pear trees, in the south wall of
the garden, was a round, arched portal, whose gate giving upon
the esplanade in front of the Mission was always closed. Small
gravelled walks, well kept, bordered with mignonette, twisted
about among the flower beds, and underneath the magnolia trees.
In the centre was a little fountain in a stone basin green with
moss, while just beyond, between the fountain and the pear trees,
stood what was left of a sun dial, the bronze gnomon, green with
the beatings of the weather, the figures on the half-circle of
the dial worn away, illegible.
But on the other side of the fountain, and directly opposite the
door of the Mission, ranged against the wall, were nine graves--
three with headstones, the rest with slabs. Two of Sarria's
predecessors were buried here; three of the graves were those of
Mission Indians. One was thought to contain a former alcalde of
Guadalajara; two more held the bodies of De La Cuesta and his
young wife (taking with her to the grave the illusion of her
husband's love), and the last one, the ninth, at the end of the
line, nearest the pear trees, was marked by a little headstone,
the smallest of any, on which, together with the proper dates--
only sixteen years apart--was cut the name "Angele Varian."
But the quiet, the repose, the isolation of the little cloister
garden was infinitely delicious. It was a tiny corner of the
great valley that stretched in all directions around it--shut
off, discreet, romantic, a garden of dreams, of enchantments, of
illusions. Outside there, far off, the great grim world went
clashing through its grooves, but in here never an echo of the
grinding of its wheels entered to jar upon the subdued modulation
of the fountain's uninterrupted murmur.
Sarria and Vanamee found their way to a stone bench against the
side wall of the Mission, near the door from which they had just
issued, and sat down, Sarria lighting a cigar, Vanamee rolling
and smoking cigarettes in Mexican fashion.
All about them widened the vast calm night. All the stars were
out. The moon was coming up. There was no wind, no sound. The
insistent flowing of the fountain seemed only as the symbol of
the passing of time, a thing that was understood rather than
heard, inevitable, prolonged. At long intervals, a faint breeze,
hardly more than a breath, found its way into the garden over the
enclosing walls, and passed overhead, spreading everywhere the
delicious, mingled perfume of magnolia blossoms, of mignonette,
of moss, of grass, and all the calm green life silently teeming
within the enclosure of the walls.
From where he sat, Vanamee, turning his head, could look out
underneath the pear trees to the north. Close at hand, a little
valley lay between the high ground on which the Mission was
built, and the line of low hills just beyond Broderson Creek on
the Quien Sabe. In here was the Seed ranch, which Angele's
people had cultivated, a unique and beautiful stretch of five
hundred acres, planted thick with roses, violets, lilies, tulips,
iris, carnations, tube-roses, poppies, heliotrope--all manner and
description of flowers, five hundred acres of them, solid, thick,
exuberant; blooming and fading, and leaving their seed or slips
to be marketed broadcast all over the United States. This had
been the vocation of Angele's parents--raising flowers for their
seeds. All over the country the Seed ranch was known. Now it
was arid, almost dry, but when in full flower, toward the middle
of summer, the sight of these half-thousand acres royal with
colour--vermilion, azure, flaming yellow--was a marvel. When an
east wind blew, men on the streets of Bonneville, nearly twelve
miles away, could catch the scent of this valley of flowers, this
chaos of perfume.
And into this life of flowers, this world of colour, this
atmosphere oppressive and clogged and cloyed and thickened with
sweet odour, Angele had been born. There she had lived her
sixteen years. There she had died. It was not surprising that
Vanamee, with his intense, delicate sensitiveness to beauty, his
almost abnormal capacity for great happiness, had been drawn to
her, had loved her so deeply.
She came to him from out of the flowers, the smell of the roses
in her hair of gold, that hung in two straight plaits on either
side of her face; the reflection of the violets in the profound
dark blue of her eyes, perplexing, heavy-lidded, almond-shaped,
oriental; the aroma and the imperial red of the carnations in her
lips, with their almost Egyptian fulness; the whiteness of the
lilies, the perfume of the lilies, and the lilies' slender
balancing grace in her neck. Her hands disengaged the odour of
the heliotropes. The folds of her dress gave off the enervating
scent of poppies. Her feet were redolent of hyacinths.
For a long time after sitting down upon the bench, neither the
priest nor Vanamee spoke. But after a while Sarria took his
cigar from his lips, saying:
"How still it is! This is a beautiful old garden, peaceful, very
quiet. Some day I shall be buried here. I like to remember
that; and you, too, Vanamee."
"Yes, you, too. Where else? No, it is better here, yonder, by
the side of the little girl."
"I am not able to look forward yet, sir. The things that are to
be are somehow nothing to me at all. For me they amount to
"They amount to everything, my boy."
"Yes, to one part of me, but not to the part of me that belonged
to Angele--the best part. Oh, you don't know," he exclaimed with
a sudden movement, "no one can understand. What is it to me when
you tell me that sometime after I shall die too, somewhere, in a
vague place you call Heaven, I shall see her again? Do you think
that the idea of that ever made any one's sorrow easier to bear?
Ever took the edge from any one's grief?"
"But you believe that----"
"Oh, believe, believe!" echoed the other. "What do I believe?
I don't know. I believe, or I don't believe. I can remember
what she WAS, but I cannot hope what she will be. Hope, after
all, is only memory seen reversed. When I try to see her in
another life--whatever you call it--in Heaven--beyond the grave--
this vague place of yours; when I try to see her there, she comes
to my imagination only as what she was, material, earthly, as I
loved her. Imperfect, you say; but that is as I saw her, and as
I saw her, I loved her; and as she WAS, material, earthly,
imperfect, she loved me. It's that, that I want," he exclaimed.
"I don't want her changed. I don't want her spiritualised,
exalted, glorified, celestial. I want HER. I think it is only
this feeling that has kept me from killing myself. I would
rather be unhappy in the memory of what she actually was, than be
happy in the realisation of her transformed, changed, made
celestial. I am only human. Her soul! That was beautiful, no
doubt. But, again, it was something very vague, intangible,
hardly more than a phrase. But the touch of her hand was real,
the sound of her voice was real, the clasp of her arms about my
neck was real. Oh," he cried, shaken with a sudden wrench of
passion, "give those back to me. Tell your God to give those
back to me--the sound of her voice, the touch of her hand, the
clasp of her dear arms, REAL, REAL, and then you may talk to me
Sarria shook his head. "But when you meet her again," he
observed, "in Heaven, you, too, will be changed. You will see
her spiritualised, with spiritual eyes. As she is now, she does
not appeal to you. I understand that. It is because, as you
say, you are only human, while she is divine. But when you come
to be like her, as she is now, you will know her as she really
is, not as she seemed to be, because her voice was sweet, because
her hair was pretty, because her hand was warm in yours.
Vanamee, your talk is that of a foolish child. You are like one
of the Corinthians to whom Paul wrote. Do you remember? Listen
now. I can recall the words, and such words, beautiful and
terrible at the same time, such a majesty. They march like
soldiers with trumpets. 'But some man will say'--as you have
said just now--'How are the dead raised up? And with what body
do they come? Thou fool! That which thou sowest is not
quickened except it die, and that which thou sowest, thou sowest
not that body that shall be, but bare grain. It may chance of
wheat, or of some other grain. But God giveth it a body as it
hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.... It is sown a
natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.' It is because you
are a natural body that you cannot understand her, nor wish for
her as a spiritual body, but when you are both spiritual, then
you shall know each other as you are--know as you never knew
before. Your grain of wheat is your symbol of immortality. You
bury it in the earth. It dies, and rises again a thousand times
more beautiful. Vanamee, your dear girl was only a grain of
humanity that we have buried here, and the end is not yet. But
all this is so old, so old. The world learned it a thousand
years ago, and yet each man that has ever stood by the open grave
of any one he loved must learn it all over again from the
Vanamee was silent for a moment, looking off with unseeing eyes
between the trunks of the pear trees, over the little valley.
"That may all be as you say," he answered after a while. "I have
not learned it yet, in any case. Now, I only know that I love
her--oh, as if it all were yesterday--and that I am suffering,
He leaned forward, his head supported on his clenched fists, the
infinite sadness of his face deepening like a shadow, the tears
brimming in his deep-set eyes. A question that he must ask,
which involved the thing that was scarcely to be thought of,
occurred to him at this moment. After hesitating for a long
moment, he said:
"I have been away a long time, and I have had no news of this
place since I left. Is there anything to tell, Father? Has any
discovery been made, any suspicion developed, as to--the Other?"
The priest shook his head.
"Not a word, not a whisper. It is a mystery. It always will
Vanamee clasped his head between his clenched fists, rocking
himself to and fro.
"Oh, the terror of it," he murmured. "The horror of it. And
she--think of it, Sarria, only sixteen, a little girl; so
innocent, that she never knew what wrong meant, pure as a little
child is pure, who believed that all things were good; mature
only in her love. And to be struck down like that, while your
God looked down from Heaven and would not take her part." All at
once he seemed to lose control of himself. One of those furies
of impotent grief and wrath that assailed him from time to time,
blind, insensate, incoherent, suddenly took possession of him. A
torrent of words issued from his lips, and he flung out an arm,
the fist clenched, in a fierce, quick gesture, partly of despair,
partly of defiance, partly of supplication.
"No, your God would not take her part. Where was God's mercy in
that? Where was Heaven's protection in that? Where was the
loving kindness you preach about? Why did God give her life if
it was to be stamped out? Why did God give her the power of love
if it was to come to nothing? Sarria, listen to me. Why did God
make her so divinely pure if He permitted that abomination? Ha!"
he exclaimed bitterly, "your God! Why, an Apache buck would have
been more merciful. Your God! There is no God. There is only
the Devil. The Heaven you pray to is only a joke, a wretched
trick, a delusion. It is only Hell that is real."
Sarria caught him by the arm.
"You are a fool and a child," he exclaimed, "and it is blasphemy
that you are saying. I forbid it. You understand? I forbid
Vanamee turned on him with a sudden cry.
"Then, tell your God to give her back to me!"
Sarria started away from him, his eyes widening in astonishment,
surprised out of all composure by the other's outburst.
Vanamee's swarthy face was pale, the sunken cheeks and deep-set
eyes were marked with great black shadows. The priest no longer
recognised him. The face, that face of the ascetic, lean, framed
in its long black hair and pointed beard, was quivering with the
excitement of hallucination. It was the face of the inspired
shepherds of the Hebraic legends, living close to nature, the
younger prophets of Israel, dwellers in the wilderness, solitary,
imaginative, believing in the Vision, having strange delusions,
gifted with strange powers. In a brief second of thought, Sarria
understood. Out into the wilderness, the vast arid desert of the
Southwest, Vanamee had carried his grief. For days, for weeks,
months even, he had been alone, a solitary speck lost in the
immensity of the horizons; continually he was brooding, haunted
with his sorrow, thinking, thinking, often hard put to it for
food. The body was ill-nourished, and the mind, concentrated
forever upon one subject, had recoiled upon itself, had preyed
upon the naturally nervous temperament, till the imagination had
become exalted, morbidly active, diseased, beset with
hallucinations, forever in search of the manifestation, of the
miracle. It was small wonder that, bringing a fancy so distorted
back to the scene of a vanished happiness, Vanamee should be
racked with the most violent illusions, beset in the throes of a
"Tell your God to give her back to me," he repeated with fierce
It was the pitch of mysticism, the imagination harassed and
goaded beyond the normal round, suddenly flipping from the
circumference, spinning off at a tangent, out into the void,
where all things seemed possible, hurtling through the dark
there, groping for the supernatural, clamouring for the miracle.
And it was also the human, natural protest against the
inevitable, the irrevocable; the spasm of revolt under the sting
of death, the rebellion of the soul at the victory of the grave.
"He can give her back to me if He only will," Vanamee cried.
"Sarria, you must help me. I tell you--I warn you, sir, I can't
last much longer under it. My head is all wrong with it--I've no
more hold on my mind. Something must happen or I shall lose my
senses. I am breaking down under it all, my body and my mind
alike. Bring her to me; make God show her to me. If all tales
are true, it would not be the first time. If I cannot have her,
at least let me see her as she was, real, earthly, not her
spirit, her ghost. I want her real self, undefiled again. If
this is dementia, then let me be demented. But help me, you and
your God; create the delusion, do the miracle."
"Stop!" cried the priest again, shaking him roughly by the
shoulder. "Stop. Be yourself. This is dementia; but I shall
NOT let you be demented. Think of what you are saying. Bring
her back to you! Is that the way of God? I thought you were a
man; this is the talk of a weak-minded girl."
Vanamee stirred abruptly in his place, drawing a long breath and
looking about him vaguely, as if he came to himself.
"You are right," he muttered. "I hardly know what I am saying at
times. But there are moments when my whole mind and soul seem to
rise up in rebellion against what has happened; when it seems to
me that I am stronger than death, and that if I only knew how to
use the strength of my will, concentrate my power of thought--
volition--that I could--I don't know--not call her back--but--
"A diseased and distorted mind is capable of hallucinations, if
that is what you mean," observed Sarria.
"Perhaps that is what I mean. Perhaps I want only the delusion,
Sarria did not reply, and there was a long silence. In the damp
south corners of the walls a frog began to croak at exact
intervals. The little fountain rippled monotonously, and a
magnolia flower dropped from one of the trees, falling straight
as a plummet through the motionless air, and settling upon the
gravelled walk with a faint rustling sound. Otherwise the
stillness was profound.
A little later, the priest's cigar, long since out, slipped from
his fingers to the ground. He began to nod gently. Vanamee
touched his arm.
The other started, rubbing his eyes.
"Upon my word, I believe I was."
"Better go to bed, sir. I am not tired. I think I shall sit out
here a little longer."
"Well, perhaps I would be better off in bed. YOUR bed is always
ready for you here whenever you want to use it."
"No--I shall go back to Quien Sabe--later. Good-night, sir."
"Good-night, my boy."
Vanamee was left alone. For a long time he sat motionless in his
place, his elbows on his knees, his chin propped in his hands.
The minutes passed--then the hours. The moon climbed steadily
higher among the stars. Vanamee rolled and smoked cigarette
after cigarette, the blue haze of smoke hanging motionless above
his head, or drifting in slowly weaving filaments across the open
spaces of the garden.
But the influence of the old enclosure, this corner of romance
and mystery, this isolated garden of dreams, savouring of the
past, with its legends, its graves, its crumbling sun dial, its
fountain with its rime of moss, was not to be resisted. Now that
the priest had left him, the same exaltation of spirit that had
seized upon Vanamee earlier in the evening, by degrees grew big
again in his mind and imagination. His sorrow assaulted him like
the flagellations of a fine whiplash, and his love for Angele
rose again in his heart, it seemed to him never so deep, so
tender, so infinitely strong. No doubt, it was his familiarity
with the Mission garden, his clear-cut remembrance of it, as it
was in the days when he had met Angele there, tallying now so
exactly with the reality there under his eyes, that brought her
to his imagination so vividly. As yet he dared not trust himself
near her grave, but, for the moment, he rose and, his hands
clasped behind him, walked slowly from point to point amid the
tiny gravelled walks, recalling the incidents of eighteen years
ago. On the bench he had quitted he and Angele had often sat.
Here by the crumbling sun dial, he recalled the night when he had
kissed her for the first time. Here, again, by the rim of the
fountain, with its fringe of green, she once had paused, and,
baring her arm to the shoulder, had thrust it deep into the
water, and then withdrawing it, had given it to him to kiss, all
wet and cool; and here, at last, under the shadow of the pear
trees they had sat, evening after evening, looking off over the
little valley below them, watching the night build itself, dome-
like, from horizon to zenith.
Brusquely Vanamee turned away from the prospect. The Seed ranch
was dark at this time of the year, and flowerless. Far off
toward its centre, he had caught a brief glimpse of the house
where Angele had lived, and a faint light burning in its window.
But he turned from it sharply. The deep-seated travail of his
grief abruptly reached the paroxysm. With long strides he
crossed the garden and reentered the Mission church itself,
plunging into the coolness of its atmosphere as into a bath.
What he searched for he did not know, or, rather, did not define.
He knew only that he was suffering, that a longing for Angele,
for some object around which his great love could enfold itself,
was tearing at his heart with iron teeth. He was ready to be
deluded; craved the hallucination; begged pitifully for the
illusion; anything rather than the empty, tenantless night, the
voiceless silence, the vast loneliness of the overspanning arc of
Before the chancel rail of the altar, under the sanctuary lamp,
Vanamee sank upon his knees, his arms folded upon the rail, his
head bowed down upon them. He prayed, with what words he could
not say for what he did not understand--for help, merely, for
relief, for an Answer to his cry.
It was upon that, at length, that his disordered mind
concentrated itself, an Answer--he demanded, he implored an
Answer. Not a vague visitation of Grace, not a formless sense of
Peace; but an Answer, something real, even if the reality were
fancied, a voice out of the night, responding to his, a hand in
the dark clasping his groping fingers, a breath, human, warm,
fragrant, familiar, like a soft, sweet caress on his shrunken
cheeks. Alone there in the dim half-light of the decaying
Mission, with its crumbling plaster, its naive crudity of
ornament and picture, he wrestled fiercely with his desires--
words, fragments of sentences, inarticulate, incoherent, wrenched
from his tight-shut teeth.
But the Answer was not in the church. Above him, over the high
altar, the Virgin in a glory, with downcast eyes and folded
hands, grew vague and indistinct in the shadow, the colours
fading, tarnished by centuries of incense smoke. The Christ in
agony on the Cross was but a lamentable vision of tormented
anatomy, grey flesh, spotted with crimson. The St. John, the San
Juan Bautista, patron saint of the Mission, the gaunt figure in
skins, two fingers upraised in the gesture of benediction, gazed
stolidly out into the half-gloom under the ceiling, ignoring the
human distress that beat itself in vain against the altar rail
below, and Angele remained as before--only a memory, far distant,
Vanamee rose, turning his back upon the altar with a vague
gesture of despair. He crossed the church, and issuing from the
low-arched door opposite the pulpit, once more stepped out into
the garden. Here, at least, was reality. The warm, still air
descended upon him like a cloak, grateful, comforting, dispelling
the chill that lurked in the damp mould of plaster and crumbling
But now he found his way across the garden on the other side of
the fountain, where, ranged against the eastern wall, were nine
graves. Here Angele was buried, in the smallest grave of them
all, marked by the little headstone, with its two dates, only
sixteen years apart. To this spot, at last, he had returned,
after the years spent in the desert, the wilderness--after all
the wanderings of the Long Trail. Here, if ever, he must have a
sense of her nearness. Close at hand, a short four feet under
that mound of grass, was the form he had so often held in the
embrace of his arms; the face, the very face he had kissed, that
face with the hair of gold making three-cornered the round white
forehead, the violet-blue eyes, heavy-lidded, with their strange
oriental slant upward toward the temples; the sweet full lips,
almost Egyptian in their fulness--all that strange, perplexing,
wonderful beauty, so troublous, so enchanting, so out of all
He bent down, dropping upon one knee, a hand upon the headstone,
and read again the inscription. Then instinctively his hand left
the stone and rested upon the low mound of turf, touching it with
the softness of a caress; and then, before he was aware of it, he
was stretched at full length upon the earth, beside the grave,
his arms about the low mound, his lips pressed against the grass
with which it was covered. The pent-up grief of nearly twenty
years rose again within his heart, and overflowed, irresistible,
violent, passionate. There was no one to see, no one to hear.
Vanamee had no thought of restraint. He no longer wrestled with
his pain--strove against it. There was even a sense of relief in
permitting himself to be overcome. But the reaction from this
outburst was equally violent. His revolt against the inevitable,
his protest against the grave, shook him from head to foot,
goaded him beyond all bounds of reason, hounded him on and into
the domain of hysteria, dementia. Vanamee was no longer master
of himself--no longer knew what he was doing.
At first, he had been content with merely a wild, unreasoned cry
to Heaven that Angele should be restored to him, but the vast
egotism that seems to run through all forms of disordered
intelligence gave his fancy another turn. He forgot God. He no
longer reckoned with Heaven. He arrogated their powers to
himself--struggled to be, of his own unaided might, stronger than
death, more powerful than the grave. He had demanded of Sarria
that God should restore Angele to him, but now he appealed
directly to Angele herself. As he lay there, his arms clasped
about her grave, she seemed so near to him that he fancied she
MUST hear. And suddenly, at this moment, his recollection of his
strange compelling power--the same power by which he had called
Presley to him half-way across the Quien Sabe ranch, the same
power which had brought Sarria to his side that very evening--
recurred to him. Concentrating his mind upon the one object with
which it had so long been filled, Vanamee, his eyes closed, his
face buried in his arms, exclaimed:
"Come to me--Angele--don't you hear? Come to me."
But the Answer was not in the Grave. Below him the voiceless
Earth lay silent, moveless, withholding the secret, jealous of
that which it held so close in its grip, refusing to give up that
which had been confided to its keeping, untouched by the human
anguish that above there, on its surface, clutched with
despairing hands at a grave long made. The Earth that only that
morning had been so eager, so responsive to the lightest summons,
so vibrant with Life, now at night, holding death within its
embrace, guarding inviolate the secret of the Grave, was deaf to
all entreaty, refused the Answer, and Angele remained as before,
only a memory, far distant, intangible, lost.
Vanamee lifted his head, looking about him with unseeing eyes,
trembling with the exertion of his vain effort. But he could not
as yet allow himself to despair. Never before had that curious
power of attraction failed him. He felt himself to be so strong
in this respect that he was persuaded if he exerted himself to
the limit of his capacity, something--he could not say what--must
come of it. If it was only a self-delusion, an hallucination, he
told himself that he would be content.
Almost of its own accord, his distorted mind concentrated itself
again, every thought, all the power of his will riveting
themselves upon Angele. As if she were alive, he summoned her to
him. His eyes, fixed upon the name cut into the headstone,
contracted, the pupils growing small, his fists shut tight, his
nerves braced rigid.
For a few seconds he stood thus, breathless, expectant, awaiting
the manifestation, the Miracle. Then, without knowing why,
hardly conscious of what was transpiring, he found that his
glance was leaving the headstone, was turning from the grave.
Not only this, but his whole body was following the direction of
his eyes. Before he knew it, he was standing with his back to
Angele's grave, was facing the north, facing the line of pear
trees and the little valley where the Seed ranch lay. At first,
he thought this was because he had allowed his will to weaken,
the concentrated power of his mind to grow slack. And once more
turning toward the grave, he banded all his thoughts together in
a consummate effort, his teeth grinding together, his hands
pressed to his forehead. He forced himself to the notion that
Angele was alive, and to this creature of his imagination he
"Angele!" he cried in a low voice; "Angele, I am calling you--do
you hear? Come to me--come to me now, now."
Instead of the Answer he demanded, that inexplicable counter-
influence cut across the current of his thought. Strive as he
would against it, he must veer to the north, toward the pear
trees. Obeying it, he turned, and, still wondering, took a step
in that direction, then another and another. The next moment he
came abruptly to himself, in the black shadow of the pear trees
themselves, and, opening his eyes, found himself looking off over
the Seed ranch, toward the little house in the centre where
Angele had once lived.
Perplexed, he returned to the grave, once more calling upon the
resources of his will, and abruptly, so soon as these reached a
certain point, the same cross-current set in. He could no longer
keep his eyes upon the headstone, could no longer think of the
grave and what it held. He must face the north; he must be drawn
toward the pear trees, and there left standing in their shadow,
looking out aimlessly over the Seed ranch, wondering, bewildered.
Farther than this the influence never drew him, but up to this
point--the line of pear trees--it was not to be resisted.
For a time the peculiarity of the affair was of more interest to
Vanamee than even his own distress of spirit, and once or twice
he repeated the attempt, almost experimentally, and invariably
with the same result: so soon as he seemed to hold Angele in the
grip of his mind, he was moved to turn about toward the north,
and hurry toward the pear trees on the crest of the hill that
over-looked the little valley.
But Vanamee's unhappiness was too keen this night for him to
dwell long upon the vagaries of his mind. Submitting at length,
and abandoning the grave, he flung himself down in the black
shade of the pear trees, his chin in his hands, and resigned
himself finally and definitely to the inrush of recollection and
the exquisite grief of an infinite regret.
To his fancy, she came to him again. He put himself back many
years. He remembered the warm nights of July and August,
profoundly still, the sky encrusted with stars, the little
Mission garden exhaling the mingled perfumes that all through the
scorching day had been distilled under the steady blaze of a
summer's sun. He saw himself as another person, arriving at
this, their rendezvous. All day long she had been in his mind.
All day long he had looked forward to this quiet hour that
belonged to her. It was dark. He could see nothing, but, by and
by, he heard a step, a gentle rustle of the grass on the slope of
the hill pressed under an advancing foot. Then he saw the faint
gleam of pallid gold of her hair, a barely visible glow in the
starlight, and heard the murmur of her breath in the lapse of the
over-passing breeze. And then, in the midst of the gentle
perfumes of the garden, the perfumes of the magnolia flowers, of
the mignonette borders, of the crumbling walls, there expanded a
new odour, or the faint mingling of many odours, the smell of the
roses that lingered in her hair, of the lilies that exhaled from
her neck, of the heliotrope that disengaged itself from her hands
and arms, and of the hyacinths with which her little feet were
redolent, And then, suddenly, it was herself--her eyes, heavy-
lidded, violet blue, full of the love of him; her sweet full lips
speaking his name; her hands clasping his hands, his shoulders,
his neck--her whole dear body giving itself into his embrace; her
lips against his; her hands holding his head, drawing his face
down to hers.
Vanamee, as he remembered all this, flung out an arm with a cry
of pain, his eyes searching the gloom, all his mind in strenuous
mutiny against the triumph of Death. His glance shot swiftly out
across the night, unconsciously following the direction from
which Angele used to come to him.
"Come to me now," he exclaimed under his breath, tense and rigid
with the vast futile effort of his will. "Come to me now, now.
Don't you hear me, Angele? You must, you must come."
Suddenly Vanamee returned to himself with the abruptness of a
blow. His eyes opened. He half raised himself from the ground.
Swiftly his scattered wits readjusted themselves. Never more
sane, never more himself, he rose to his feet and stood looking
off into the night across the Seed ranch.
"What was it?" he murmured, bewildered.
He looked around him from side to side, as if to get in touch
with reality once more. He looked at his hands, at the rough
bark of the pear tree next which he stood, at the streaked and
rain-eroded walls of the Mission and garden. The exaltation of
his mind calmed itself; the unnatural strain under which he
laboured slackened. He became thoroughly master of himself
again, matter-of-fact, practical, keen.
But just so sure as his hands were his own, just so sure as the
bark of the pear tree was rough, the mouldering adobe of the
Mission walls damp--just so sure had Something occurred. It was
vague, intangible, appealing only to some strange, nameless sixth
sense, but none the less perceptible. His mind, his imagination,
sent out from him across the night, across the little valley
below him, speeding hither and thither through the dark, lost,
confused, had suddenly paused, hovering, had found Something. It
had not returned to him empty-handed. It had come back, but now
there was a change--mysterious, illusive. There were no words
for this that had transpired. But for the moment, one thing only
was certain. The night was no longer voiceless, the dark was no
longer empty. Far off there, beyond the reach of vision,
unlocalised, strange, a ripple had formed on the still black pool
of the night, had formed, flashed one instant to the stars, then
swiftly faded again. The night shut down once more. There was
no sound--nothing stirred.
For the moment, Vanamee stood transfixed, struck rigid in his
place, stupefied, his eyes staring, breathless with utter
amazement. Then, step by step, he shrank back into the deeper
shadow, treading with the infinite precaution of a prowling
leopard. A qualm of something very much like fear seized upon
him. But immediately on the heels of this first impression came
the doubt of his own senses. Whatever had happened had been so
ephemeral, so faint, so intangible, that now he wondered if he
had not deceived himself, after all. But the reaction followed.
Surely, there had been Something. And from that moment began for
him the most poignant uncertainty of mind. Gradually he drew
back into the garden, holding his breath, listening to every
faintest sound, walking upon tiptoe. He reached the fountain,
and wetting his hands, passed them across his forehead and eyes.
Once more he stood listening. The silence was profound.
Troubled, disturbed, Vanamee went away, passing out of the
garden, descending the hill. He forded Broderson Creek where it
intersected the road to Guadalajara, and went on across Quien
Sabe, walking slowly, his head bent down, his hands clasped
behind his back, thoughtful, perplexed.
At seven o'clock, in the bedroom of his ranch house, in the
white-painted iron bedstead with its blue-grey army blankets and
red counterpane, Annixter was still asleep, his face red, his
mouth open, his stiff yellow hair in wild disorder. On the
wooden chair at the bed-head, stood the kerosene lamp, by the
light of which he had been reading the previous evening. Beside
it was a paper bag of dried prunes, and the limp volume of
"Copperfield," the place marked by a slip of paper torn from the
edge of the bag.
Annixter slept soundly, making great work of the business, unable
to take even his rest gracefully. His eyes were shut so tight
that the skin at their angles was drawn into puckers. Under his
pillow, his two hands were doubled up into fists. At intervals,
he gritted his teeth ferociously, while, from time to time, the
abrupt sound of his snoring dominated the brisk ticking of the
alarm clock that hung from the brass knob of the bed-post, within
six inches of his ear.
But immediately after seven, this clock sprung its alarm with the
abruptness of an explosion, and within the second, Annixter had
hurled the bed-clothes from him and flung himself up to a sitting
posture on the edge of the bed, panting and gasping, blinking at
the light, rubbing his head, dazed and bewildered, stupefied at
the hideous suddenness with which he had been wrenched from his
His first act was to take down the alarm clock and stifle its
prolonged whirring under the pillows and blankets. But when this
had been done, he continued to sit stupidly on the edge of the
bed, curling his toes away from the cold of the floor; his half-
shut eyes, heavy with sleep, fixed and vacant, closing and
opening by turns. For upwards of three minutes he alternately
dozed and woke, his head and the whole upper half of his body
sagging abruptly sideways from moment to moment. But at length,
coming more to himself, he straightened up, ran his fingers
through his hair, and with a prodigious yawn, murmured vaguely:
"Oh, Lord! Oh-h, LORD!"
He stretched three or four times, twisting about in his place,
curling and uncurling his toes, muttering from time to time
between two yawns:
"Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord!"
He stared about the room, collecting his thoughts, readjusting
himself for the day's work.
The room was barren, the walls of tongue-and-groove sheathing--
alternate brown and yellow boards--like the walls of a stable,
were adorned with two or three unframed lithographs, the
Christmas "souvenirs" of weekly periodicals, fastened with great
wire nails; a bunch of herbs or flowers, lamentably withered and
grey with dust, was affixed to the mirror over the black walnut
washstand by the window, and a yellowed photograph of Annixter's
combined harvester--himself and his men in a group before it--
hung close at hand. On the floor, at the bedside and before the
bureau, were two oval rag-carpet rugs. In the corners of the
room were muddy boots, a McClellan saddle, a surveyor's transit,
an empty coal-hod and a box of iron bolts and nuts. On the wall
over the bed, in a gilt frame, was Annixter's college diploma,
while on the bureau, amid a litter of hair-brushes, dirty
collars, driving gloves, cigars and the like, stood a broken
machine for loading shells.
It was essentially a man's room, rugged, uncouth, virile, full of
the odours of tobacco, of leather, of rusty iron; the bare floor
hollowed by the grind of hob-nailed boots, the walls marred by
the friction of heavy things of metal. Strangely enough,
Annixter's clothes were disposed of on the single chair with the
precision of an old maid. Thus he had placed them the night
before; the boots set carefully side by side, the trousers, with
the overalls still upon them, neatly folded upon the seat of the
chair, the coat hanging from its back.
The Quien Sabe ranch house was a six-room affair, all on one
floor. By no excess of charity could it have been called a home.
Annixter was a wealthy man; he could have furnished his dwelling
with quite as much elegance as that of Magnus Derrick. As it
was, however, he considered his house merely as a place to eat,
to sleep, to change his clothes in; as a shelter from the rain,
an office where business was transacted--nothing more.
When he was sufficiently awake, Annixter thrust his feet into a
pair of wicker slippers, and shuffled across the office adjoining
his bedroom, to the bathroom just beyond, and stood under the icy
shower a few minutes, his teeth chattering, fulminating oaths at
the coldness of the water. Still shivering, he hurried into his
clothes, and, having pushed the button of the electric bell to
announce that he was ready for breakfast, immediately plunged
into the business of the day. While he was thus occupied, the
butcher's cart from Bonneville drove into the yard with the day's
supply of meat. This cart also brought the Bonneville paper and
the mail of the previous night. In the bundle of correspondence
that the butcher handed to Annixter that morning, was a telegram
from Osterman, at that time on his second trip to Los Angeles.
"Flotation of company in this district assured. Have secured
services of desirable party. Am now in position to sell you your
share stock, as per original plan."
Annixter grunted as he tore the despatch into strips.
"Well," he muttered, "that part is settled, then."
He made a little pile of the torn strips on the top of the
unlighted stove, and burned them carefully, scowling down into
the flicker of fire, thoughtful and preoccupied.
He knew very well what Osterman referred to by "Flotation of
company," and also who was the "desirable party" he spoke of.
Under protest, as he was particular to declare, and after
interminable argument, Annixter had allowed himself to be
reconciled with Osterman, and to be persuaded to reenter the
proposed political "deal." A committee had been formed to
finance the affair--Osterman, old Broderson, Annixter himself,
and, with reservations, hardly more than a looker-on, Harran
Derrick. Of this committee, Osterman was considered chairman.
Magnus Derrick had formally and definitely refused his adherence
to the scheme. He was trying to steer a middle course. His
position was difficult, anomalous. If freight rates were cut
through the efforts of the members of the committee, he could not
very well avoid taking advantage of the new schedule. He would
be the gainer, though sharing neither the risk nor the expense.
But, meanwhile, the days were passing; the primary elections were
drawing nearer. The committee could not afford to wait, and by
way of a beginning, Osterman had gone to Los Angeles, fortified
by a large sum of money--a purse to which Annixter, Broderson and
himself had contributed. He had put himself in touch with
Disbrow, the political man of the Denver, Pueblo and Mojave road,
and had had two interviews with him. The telegram that Annixter
received that morning was to say that Disbrow had been bought
over, and would adopt Parrell as the D., P. and M. candidate for
Railroad Commissioner from the third district.
One of the cooks brought up Annixter's breakfast that morning,
and he went through it hastily, reading his mail at the same time
and glancing over the pages of the "Mercury," Genslinger's paper.
The "Mercury," Annixter was persuaded, received a subsidy from
the Pacific and Southwestern Railroad, and was hardly better than
the mouthpiece by which Shelgrim and the General Office spoke to
ranchers about Bonneville.
An editorial in that morning's issue said:
"It would not be surprising to the well-informed, if the long-
deferred re-grade of the value of the railroad sections included
in the Los Muertos, Quien Sabe, Osterman and Broderson properties
was made before the first of the year. Naturally, the tenants of
these lands feel an interest in the price which the railroad will
put upon its holdings, and it is rumoured they expect the land
will be offered to them for two dollars and fifty cents per acre.
It needs no seventh daughter of a seventh daughter to foresee
that these gentlemen will be disappointed."
"Rot!" vociferated Annixter to himself as he finished. He rolled
the paper into a wad and hurled it from him.
"Rot! rot! What does Genslinger know about it? I stand on my
agreement with the P. and S. W.--from two fifty to five dollars
an acre--there it is in black and white. The road IS obligated.
And my improvements! I made the land valuable by improving it,
irrigating it, draining it, and cultivating it. Talk to ME. I
The most abiding impression that Genslinger's editorial made upon
him was, that possibly the "Mercury" was not subsidised by the
corporation after all. If it was; Genslinger would not have been
led into making his mistake as to the value of the land. He
would have known that the railroad was under contract to sell at
two dollars and a half an acre, and not only this, but that when
the land was put upon the market, it was to be offered to the
present holders first of all. Annixter called to mind the
explicit terms of the agreement between himself and the railroad,
and dismissed the matter from his mind. He lit a cigar, put on
his hat and went out.
The morning was fine, the air nimble, brisk. On the summit of
the skeleton-like tower of the artesian well, the windmill was
turning steadily in a breeze from the southwest. The water in
the irrigating ditch was well up. There was no cloud in the sky.
Far off to the east and west, the bulwarks of the valley, the
Coast Range and the foothills of the Sierras stood out, pale
amethyst against the delicate pink and white sheen of the
horizon. The sunlight was a veritable flood, crystal, limpid,
sparkling, setting a feeling of gayety in the air, stirring up an
effervescence in the blood, a tumult of exuberance in the veins.
But on his way to the barns, Annixter was obliged to pass by the
open door of the dairy-house. Hilma Tree was inside, singing at
her work; her voice of a velvety huskiness, more of the chest
than of the throat, mingling with the liquid dashing of the milk
in the vats and churns, and the clear, sonorous clinking of the
cans and pans. Annixter turned into the dairy-house, pausing on
the threshold, looking about him. Hilma stood bathed from head
to foot in the torrent of sunlight that poured in upon her from
the three wide-open windows. She was charming, delicious,
radiant of youth, of health, of well-being. Into her eyes, wide
open, brown, rimmed with their fine, thin line of intense black
lashes, the sun set a diamond flash; the same golden light glowed
all around her thick, moist hair, lambent, beautiful, a sheen of
almost metallic lustre, and reflected itself upon her wet lips,
moving with the words of her singing. The whiteness of her skin
under the caress of this hale, vigorous morning light was
dazzling, pure, of a fineness beyond words. Beneath the sweet
modulation of her chin, the reflected light from the burnished
copper vessel she was carrying set a vibration of pale gold.
Overlaying the flush of rose in her cheeks, seen only when she
stood against the sunlight, was a faint sheen of down, a lustrous
floss, delicate as the pollen of a flower, or the impalpable
powder of a moth's wing. She was moving to and fro about her
work, alert, joyous, robust; and from all the fine, full
amplitude of her figure, from her thick white neck, sloping
downward to her shoulders, from the deep, feminine swell of her
breast, the vigorous maturity of her hips, there was disengaged a
vibrant note of gayety, of exuberant animal life, sane, honest,
strong. She wore a skirt of plain blue calico and a shirtwaist
of pink linen, clean, trim; while her sleeves turned back to her
shoulders, showed her large, white arms, wet with milk, redolent
and fragrant with milk, glowing and resplendent in the early
On the threshold, Annixter took off his hat.
"Good morning, Miss Hilma."
Hilma, who had set down the copper can on top of the vat, turned
"Oh, GOOD morning, sir;" and, unconsciously, she made a little
gesture of salutation with her hand, raising it part way toward
her head, as a man would have done.
"Well," began Annixter vaguely, "how are you getting along down
"Oh, very fine. To-day, there is not so much to do. We drew the
whey hours ago, and now we are just done putting the curd to
press. I have been cleaning. See my pans. Wouldn't they do for
mirrors, sir? And the copper things. I have scrubbed and
scrubbed. Oh, you can look into the tiniest corners, everywhere,
you won't find so much as the littlest speck of dirt or grease.
I love CLEAN things, and this room is my own particular place.
Here I can do just as I please, and that is, to keep the cement
floor, and the vats, and the churns and the separators, and
especially the cans and coppers, clean; clean, and to see that
the milk is pure, oh, so that a little baby could drink it; and
to have the air always sweet, and the sun--oh, lots and lots of
sun, morning, noon and afternoon, so that everything shines. You
know, I never see the sun set that it don't make me a little sad;
yes, always, just a little. Isn't it funny? I should want it to
be day all the time. And when the day is gloomy and dark, I am
just as sad as if a very good friend of mine had left me. Would
you believe it? Just until within a few years, when I was a big
girl, sixteen and over, mamma had to sit by my bed every night
before I could go to sleep. I was afraid in the dark. Sometimes
I am now. Just imagine, and now I am nineteen--a young lady."
"You were, hey?" observed Annixter, for the sake of saying
something. "Afraid in the dark? What of--ghosts?"
"N-no; I don't know what. I wanted the light, I wanted----" She
drew a deep breath, turning towards the window and spreading her
pink finger-tips to the light. "Oh, the SUN. I love the sun.
See, put your hand there--here on the top of the vat--like that.
Isn't it warm? Isn't it fine? And don't you love to see it
coming in like that through the windows, floods of it; and all
the little dust in it shining? Where there is lots of sunlight,
I think the people must be very good. It's only wicked people
that love the dark. And the wicked things are always done and
planned in the dark, I think. Perhaps, too, that's why I hate
things that are mysterious--things that I can't see, that happen
in the dark." She wrinkled her nose with a little expression of
aversion. "I hate a mystery. Maybe that's why I am afraid in
the dark--or was. I shouldn't like to think that anything could
happen around me that I couldn't see or understand or explain."
She ran on from subject to subject, positively garrulous, talking
in her low-pitched voice of velvety huskiness for the mere
enjoyment of putting her ideas into speech, innocently assuming
that they were quite as interesting to others as to herself. She
was yet a great child, ignoring the fact that she had ever grown
up, taking a child's interest in her immediate surroundings,
direct, straightforward, plain. While speaking, she continued
about her work, rinsing out the cans with a mixture of hot water
and soda, scouring them bright, and piling them in the sunlight
on top of the vat.
Obliquely, and from between his narrowed lids, Annixter
scrutinised her from time to time, more and more won over by her
adorable freshness, her clean, fine youth. The clumsiness that
he usually experienced in the presence of women was wearing off.
Hilma Tree's direct simplicity put him at his ease. He began to
wonder if he dared to kiss Hilma, and if he did dare, how she
would take it. A spark of suspicion flickered up in his mind.
Did not her manner imply, vaguely, an invitation? One never
could tell with feemales. That was why she was talking so much,
no doubt, holding him there, affording the opportunity. Aha!
She had best look out, or he would take her at her word.
"Oh, I had forgotten," suddenly exclaimed Hilma, "the very thing
I wanted to show you--the new press. You remember I asked for
one last month? This is it. See, this is how it works. Here is
where the curds go; look. And this cover is screwed down like
this, and then you work the lever this way." She grasped the
lever in both hands, throwing her weight upon it, her smooth,
bare arm swelling round and firm with the effort, one slim foot,
in its low shoe set off with the bright, steel buckle, braced
against the wall.
"My, but that takes strength," she panted, looking up at him and
smiling. "But isn't it a fine press? Just what we needed."
"And," Annixter cleared his throat, "and where do you keep the
cheeses and the butter?" He thought it very likely that these
were in the cellar of the dairy.
"In the cellar," answered Hilma. "Down here, see?" She raised
the flap of the cellar door at the end of the room. "Would you
like to see? Come down; I'll show you."
She went before him down into the cool obscurity underneath,
redolent of new cheese and fresh butter. Annixter followed, a
certain excitement beginning to gain upon him. He was almost
sure now that Hilma wanted him to kiss her. At all events, one
could but try. But, as yet, he was not absolutely sure. Suppose
he had been mistaken in her; suppose she should consider herself
insulted and freeze him with an icy stare. Annixter winced at
the very thought of it. Better let the whole business go, and
get to work. He was wasting half the morning. Yet, if she DID
want to give him the opportunity of kissing her, and he failed to
take advantage of it, what a ninny she would think him; she would
despise him for being afraid. He afraid! He, Annixter, afraid
of a fool, feemale girl. Why, he owed it to himself as a man to
go as far as he could. He told himself that that goat Osterman
would have kissed Hilma Tree weeks ago. To test his state of
mind, he imagined himself as having decided to kiss her, after
all, and at once was surprised to experience a poignant qualm of
excitement, his heart beating heavily, his breath coming short.
At the same time, his courage remained with him. He was not
afraid to try. He felt a greater respect for himself because of
this. His self-assurance hardened within him, and as Hilma
turned to him, asking him to taste a cut from one of the ripe
cheeses, he suddenly stepped close to her, throwing an arm about
her shoulders, advancing his head.
But at the last second, he bungled, hesitated; Hilma shrank from
him, supple as a young reed; Annixter clutched harshly at her
arm, and trod his full weight upon one of her slender feet, his
cheek and chin barely touching the delicate pink lobe of one of
her ears, his lips brushing merely a fold of her shirt waist
between neck and shoulder. The thing was a failure, and at once
he realised that nothing had been further from Hilma's mind than
the idea of his kissing her.
She started back from him abruptly, her hands nervously clasped
against her breast, drawing in her breath sharply and holding it
with a little, tremulous catch of the throat that sent a
quivering vibration the length of her smooth, white neck. Her
eyes opened wide with a childlike look, more of astonishment than
anger. She was surprised, out of all measure, discountenanced,
taken all aback, and when she found her breath, gave voice to a
great "Oh" of dismay and distress.
For an instant, Annixter stood awkwardly in his place,
ridiculous, clumsy, murmuring over and over again:
"Well--well--that's all right--who's going to hurt you? You
needn't be afraid--who's going to hurt you--that's all right."
Then, suddenly, with a quick, indefinite gesture of one arm, he
"Good-bye, I--I'm sorry."
He turned away, striding up the stairs, crossing the dairy-room,
and regained the open air, raging and furious. He turned toward
the barns, clapping his hat upon his head, muttering the while
under his breath:
"Oh, you goat! You beastly fool PIP. Good LORD, what an ass
you've made of yourself now!"
Suddenly he resolved to put Hilma Tree out of his thoughts. The
matter was interfering with his work. This kind of thing was
sure not earning any money. He shook himself as though freeing
his shoulders of an irksome burden, and turned his entire
attention to the work nearest at hand.
The prolonged rattle of the shinglers' hammers upon the roof of
the big barn attracted him, and, crossing over between the ranch
house and the artesian well, he stood for some time absorbed in
the contemplation of the vast building, amused and interested
with the confusion of sounds--the clatter of hammers, the
cadenced scrape of saws, and the rhythmic shuffle of planes--that
issued from the gang of carpenters who were at that moment
putting the finishing touches upon the roof and rows of stalls.
A boy and two men were busy hanging the great sliding door at the
south end, while the painters--come down from Bonneville early
that morning--were engaged in adjusting the spray and force
engine, by means of which Annixter had insisted upon painting the
vast surfaces of the barn, condemning the use of brushes and pots
for such work as old-fashioned and out-of-date.
He called to one of the foremen, to ask when the barn would be
entirely finished, and was told that at the end of the week the
hay and stock could be installed.
"And a precious long time you've been at it, too," Annixter
"Well, you know the rain----"
"Oh, rot the rain! I work in the rain. You and your unions make
"But, Mr. Annixter, we couldn't have begun painting in the rain.
The job would have been spoiled."
"Hoh, yes, spoiled. That's all very well. Maybe it would, and
then, again, maybe it wouldn't."
But when the foreman had left him, Annixter could not forbear a
growl of satisfaction. It could not be denied that the barn was
superb, monumental even. Almost any one of the other barns in
the county could be swung, bird-cage fashion, inside of it, with
room to spare. In every sense, the barn was precisely what
Annixter had hoped of it. In his pleasure over the success of
his idea, even Hilma for the moment was forgotten.
"And, now," murmured Annixter, "I'll give that dance in it. I'll
make 'em sit up."
It occurred to him that he had better set about sending out the
invitations for the affair. He was puzzled to decide just how
the thing should be managed, and resolved that it might be as
well to consult Magnus and Mrs. Derrick.
"I want to talk of this telegram of the goat's with Magnus,
anyhow," he said to himself reflectively, "and there's things I
got to do in Bonneville before the first of the month."
He turned about on his heel with a last look at the barn, and set
off toward the stable. He had decided to have his horse saddled
and ride over to Bonneville by way of Los Muertos. He would make
a day of it, would see Magnus, Harran, old Broderson and some of
the business men of Bonneville.
A few moments later, he rode out of the barn and the stable-yard,
a fresh cigar between his teeth, his hat slanted over his face
against the rays of the sun, as yet low in the east. He crossed
the irrigating ditch and gained the trail--the short cut over
into Los Muertos, by way of Hooven's. It led south and west into
the low ground overgrown by grey-green willows by Broderson
Creek, at this time of the rainy season a stream of considerable
volume, farther on dipping sharply to pass underneath the Long
Trestle of the railroad. On the other side of the right of way,
Annixter was obliged to open the gate in Derrick's line fence.
He managed this without dismounting, swearing at the horse the
while, and spurring him continually. But once inside the gate he
cantered forward briskly.
This part of Los Muertos was Hooven's holding, some five hundred
acres enclosed between the irrigating ditch and Broderson Creek,
and half the way across, Annixter came up with Hooven himself,
busily at work replacing a broken washer in his seeder. Upon one
of the horses hitched to the machine, her hands gripped tightly
upon the harness of the collar, Hilda, his little daughter, with
her small, hob-nailed boots and boy's canvas overalls, sat,
exalted and petrified with ecstasy and excitement, her eyes wide
opened, her hair in a tangle.
"Hello, Bismarck," said Annixter, drawing up beside him. "What
are YOU doing here? I thought the Governor was going to manage
without his tenants this year."
"Ach, Meest'r Ennixter," cried the other, straightening up.
"Ach, dat's you, eh? Ach, you bedt he doand menege mitout me.
Me, I gotta stay. I talk der straighd talk mit der Governor. I
fix 'em. Ach, you bedt. Sieben yahr I hef bei der rench ge-
stopped; yais, sir. Efery oder sohn-of-a-guhn bei der plaice ged
der sach bud me. Eh? Wat you tink von dose ting?"
"I think that's a crazy-looking monkey-wrench you've got there,"
observed Annixter, glancing at the instrument in Hooven's hand.
"Ach, dot wrainch," returned Hooven. "Soh! Wail, I tell you
dose ting now whair I got 'em. Say, you see dot wrainch. Dat's
not Emericen wrainch at alle. I got 'em at Gravelotte der day we
licked der stuffun oudt der Frainch, ach, you bedt. Me, I pelong
to der Wurtemberg redgimend, dot dey use to suppord der batterie
von der Brince von Hohenlohe. Alle der day we lay down bei der
stomach in der feildt behindt der batterie, und der schells von
der Frainch cennon hef eggsblode--ach, donnerwetter!--I tink
efery schell eggsblode bei der beckside my neck. Und dat go on
der whole day, noddun else, noddun aber der Frainch schell, b-r-
r, b-r-r b-r-r, b-r-AM, und der smoag, und unzer batterie, dat go
off slow, steady, yoost like der glock, eins, zwei, boom! eins,
zwei, boom! yoost like der glock, ofer und ofer again, alle der
day. Den vhen der night come dey say we hev der great victorie
made. I doand know. Vhat do I see von der bettle? Noddun. Den
we gedt oop und maerch und maerch alle night, und in der morgen
we hear dose cennon egain, hell oaf der way, far-off, I doand
know vhair. Budt, nef'r mindt. Bretty qnick, ach, Gott--" his
face flamed scarlet, "Ach, du lieber Gott! Bretty zoon, dere
wass der Kaiser, glose bei, und Fritz, Unzer Fritz. Bei Gott,
den I go grazy, und yell, ach, you bedt, der whole redgimend:
'Hoch der Kaiser! Hoch der Vaterland!' Und der dears come to der
eyes, I doand know because vhy, und der mens gry und shaike der
hend, und der whole redgimend maerch off like dat, fairy broudt,
bei Gott, der head oop high, und sing 'Die Wacht am Rhein.' Dot
"And the monkey-wrench?"
"Ach, I pick 'um oop vhen der batterie go. Der cennoniers hef
forgedt und leaf 'um. I carry 'um in der sack. I tink I use 'um
vhen I gedt home in der business. I was maker von vagons in
Carlsruhe, und I nef'r gedt home again. Vhen der war hef godt
over, I go beck to Ulm und gedt marriet, und den I gedt demn sick
von der armie. Vhen I gedt der release, I clair oudt, you bedt.
I come to Emerica. First, New Yor-ruk; den Milwaukee; den
Sbringfieldt-Illinoy; den Galifornie, und heir I stay."
"And the Fatherland? Ever want to go back?"
"Wail, I tell you dose ting, Meest'r Ennixter. Alle-ways, I tink
a lot oaf Shairmany, und der Kaiser, und nef'r I forgedt
Gravelotte. Budt, say, I tell you dose ting. Vhair der wife is,
und der kinder--der leedle girl Hilda--DERE IS DER VATERLAND.
Eh? Emerica, dat's my gountry now, und dere," he pointed behind
him to the house under the mammoth oak tree on the Lower Road,
"dat's my home. Dat's goot enough Vaterland for me."
Annixter gathered up the reins, about to go on.
"So you like America, do you, Bismarck?" he said. "Who do you
"Emerica? I doand know," returned the other, insistently.
"Dat's my home yonder. Dat's my Vaterland. Alle von we
Shairmens yoost like dot. Shairmany, dot's hell oaf some fine
plaice, sure. Budt der Vaterland iss vhair der home und der wife
und kinder iss. Eh? Yes? Voad? Ach, no. Me, I nef'r voad.
I doand bodder der haid mit dose ting. I maig der wheat grow,
und ged der braid fur der wife und Hilda, dot's all. Dot's me;
"Good-bye," commented Annixter, moving off.
Hooven, the washer replaced, turned to his work again, starting
up the horses. The seeder advanced, whirring.
"Ach, Hilda, leedle girl," he cried, "hold tight bei der shdrap
on. Hey MULE! Hoop! Gedt oop, you."
Annixter cantered on. In a few moments, he had crossed Broderson
Creek and had entered upon the Home ranch of Los Muertos. Ahead
of him, but so far off that the greater portion of its bulk was
below the horizon, he could see the Derricks' home, a roof or two
between the dull green of cypress and eucalyptus. Nothing else
was in sight. The brown earth, smooth, unbroken, was as a
limitless, mud-coloured ocean. The silence was profound.
Then, at length, Annixter's searching eye made out a blur on the
horizon to the northward; the blur concentrated itself to a
speck; the speck grew by steady degrees to a spot, slowly moving,
a note of dull colour, barely darker than the land, but an inky
black silhouette as it topped a low rise of ground and stood for
a moment outlined against the pale blue of the sky. Annixter
turned his horse from the road and rode across the ranch land to
meet this new object of interest. As the spot grew larger, it
resolved itself into constituents, a collection of units; its
shape grew irregular, fragmentary. A disintegrated, nebulous
confusion advanced toward Annixter, preceded, as he discovered on
nearer approach, by a medley of faint sounds. Now it was no
longer a spot, but a column, a column that moved, accompanied by
spots. As Annixter lessened the distance, these spots resolved
themselves into buggies or men on horseback that kept pace with
the advancing column. There were horses in the column itself.
At first glance, it appeared as if there were nothing else, a
riderless squadron tramping steadily over the upturned plough
land of the ranch. But it drew nearer. The horses were in
lines, six abreast, harnessed to machines. The noise increased,
defined itself. There was a shout or two; occasionally a horse
blew through his nostrils with a prolonged, vibrating snort. The
click and clink of metal work was incessant, the machines
throwing off a continual rattle of wheels and cogs and clashing
springs. The column approached nearer; was close at hand. The
noises mingled to a subdued uproar, a bewildering confusion; the
impact of innumerable hoofs was a veritable rumble. Machine
after machine appeared; and Annixter, drawing to one side,
remained for nearly ten minutes watching and interested, while,
like an array of chariots--clattering, jostling, creaking,
clashing, an interminable procession, machine succeeding machine,
six-horse team succeeding six-horse team--bustling, hurried--
Magnus Derrick's thirty-three grain drills, each with its eight
hoes, went clamouring past, like an advance of military, seeding
the ten thousand acres of the great ranch; fecundating the living
soil; implanting deep in the dark womb of the Earth the germ of
life, the sustenance of a whole world, the food of an entire
When the drills had passed, Annixter turned and rode back to the
Lower Road, over the land now thick with seed. He did not wonder
that the seeding on Los Muertos seemed to be hastily conducted.
Magnus and Harran Derrick had not yet been able to make up the
time lost at the beginning of the season, when they had waited so
long for the ploughs to arrive. They had been behindhand all the
time. On Annixter's ranch, the land had not only been harrowed,
as well as seeded, but in some cases, cross-harrowed as well.
The labour of putting in the vast crop was over. Now there was
nothing to do but wait, while the seed silently germinated;
nothing to do but watch for the wheat to come up.
When Annixter reached the ranch house of Los Muertos, under the
shade of the cypress and eucalyptus trees, he found Mrs. Derrick
on the porch, seated in a long wicker chair. She had been
washing her hair, and the light brown locks that yet retained so
much of their brightness, were carefully spread in the sun over