Part 7 out of 12
clear in his mind. The Railroad had raised the freight on hops
from two cents to five.
All his calculations as to a profit on his little investment he
had based on a freight rate of two cents a pound. He was under
contract to deliver his crop. He could not draw back. The new
rate ate up every cent of his gains. He stood there ruined.
"Why, what do you mean?" he burst out. "You promised me a rate
of two cents and I went ahead with my business with that
understanding. What do you mean?"
S. Behrman and the clerk watched him from the other side of the
"The rate is five cents," declared the clerk doggedly.
"Well, that ruins me," shouted Dyke. "Do you understand? I
won't make fifty cents. MAKE! Why, I will OWE,--I'll be--be--
That ruins me, do you understand?"
The other, raised a shoulder.
"We don't force you to ship. You can do as you like. The rate
is five cents."
"Well--but--damn you, I'm under contract to deliver. What am I
going to do? Why, you told me--you promised me a two-cent rate."
"I don't remember it," said the clerk. "I don't know anything
about that. But I know this; I know that hops have gone up. I
know the German crop was a failure and that the crop in New York
wasn't worth the hauling. Hops have gone up to nearly a dollar.
You don't suppose we don't know that, do you, Mr. Dyke?"
"What's the price of hops got to do with you?"
"It's got THIS to do with us," returned the other with a sudden
aggressiveness, "that the freight rate has gone up to meet the
price. We're not doing business for our health. My orders are
to raise your rate to five cents, and I think you are getting off
Dyke stared in blank astonishment. For the moment, the audacity
of the affair was what most appealed to him. He forgot its
"Good Lord," he murmured, "good Lord! What will you people do
next? Look here. What's your basis of applying freight rates,
anyhow?" he suddenly vociferated with furious sarcasm. "What's
your rule? What are you guided by?"
But at the words, S. Behrman, who had kept silent during the heat
of the discussion, leaned abruptly forward. For the only time in
his knowledge, Dyke saw his face inflamed with anger and with the
enmity and contempt of all this farming element with whom he was
"Yes, what's your rule? What's your basis?" demanded Dyke,
turning swiftly to him.
S. Behrman emphasised each word of his reply with a tap of one
forefinger on the counter before him:
The ex-engineer stepped back a pace, his fingers on the ledge of
the counter, to steady himself. He felt himself grow pale, his
heart became a mere leaden weight in his chest, inert, refusing
In a second the whole affair, in all its bearings, went speeding
before the eye of his imagination like the rapid unrolling of a
panorama. Every cent of his earnings was sunk in this hop
business of his. More than that, he had borrowed money to carry
it on, certain of success--borrowed of S. Behrman, offering his
crop and his little home as security. Once he failed to meet his
obligations, S. Behrman would foreclose. Not only would the
Railroad devour every morsel of his profits, but also it would
take from him his home; at a blow he would be left penniless and
without a home. What would then become of his mother--and what
would become of the little tad? She, whom he had been planning
to educate like a veritable lady. For all that year he had
talked of his ambition for his little daughter to every one he
met. All Bonneville knew of it. What a mark for gibes he had
made of himself. The workingman turned farmer! What a target
for jeers--he who had fancied he could elude the Railroad! He
remembered he had once said the great Trust had overlooked his
little enterprise, disdaining to plunder such small fry. He
should have known better than that. How had he ever imagined the
Road would permit him to make any money?
Anger was not in him yet; no rousing of the blind, white-hot
wrath that leaps to the attack with prehensile fingers, moved
him. The blow merely crushed, staggered, confused.
He stepped aside to give place to a coatless man in a pink shirt,
who entered, carrying in his hands an automatic door-closing
"Where does this go?" inquired the man.
Dyke sat down for a moment on a seat that had been removed from a
worn-out railway car to do duty in Ruggles's office. On the back
of a yellow envelope he made some vague figures with a stump of
blue pencil, multiplying, subtracting, perplexing himself with
S. Behrman, the clerk, and the man with the door-closing
apparatus involved themselves in a long argument, gazing intently
at the top panel of the door. The man who had come to fix the
apparatus was unwilling to guarantee it, unless a sign was put on
the outside of the door, warning incomers that the door was self-
closing. This sign would cost fifteen cents extra.
"But you didn't say anything about this when the thing was
ordered," declared S. Behrman. "No, I won't pay it, my friend.
It's an overcharge."
"You needn't think," observed the clerk, "that just because you
are dealing with the Railroad you are going to work us."
Genslinger came in, accompanied by Delaney. S. Behrman and the
clerk, abruptly dismissing the man with the door-closing machine,
put themselves behind the counter and engaged in conversation
with these two. Genslinger introduced Delaney. The buster had a
string of horses he was shipping southward. No doubt he had come
to make arrangements with the Railroad in the matter of stock
cars. The conference of the four men was amicable in the
Dyke, studying the figures on the back of the envelope, came
forward again. Absorbed only in his own distress, he ignored the
editor and the cow-puncher.
"Say," he hazarded, "how about this? I make out----
"We've told you what our rates are, Mr. Dyke," exclaimed the
clerk angrily. "That's all the arrangement we will make. Take
it or leave it." He turned again to Genslinger, giving the ex-
engineer his back.
Dyke moved away and stood for a moment in the centre of the room,
staring at the figures on the envelope.
"I don't see," he muttered, "just what I'm going to do. No, I
don't see what I'm going to do at all."
Ruggles came in, bringing with him two other men in whom Dyke
recognised dummy buyers of the Los Muertos and Osterman ranchos.
They brushed by him, jostling his elbow, and as he went out of
the door he heard them exchange jovial greetings with Delaney,
Genslinger, and S. Behrman.
Dyke went down the stairs to the street and proceeded onward
aimlessly in the direction of the Yosemite House, fingering the
yellow envelope and looking vacantly at the sidewalk.
There was a stoop to his massive shoulders. His great arms
dangled loosely at his sides, the palms of his hands open.
As he went along, a certain feeling of shame touched him. Surely
his predicament must be apparent to every passer-by. No doubt,
every one recognised the unsuccessful man in the very way he
slouched along. The young girls in lawns, muslins, and garden
hats, returning from the Post Office, their hands full of
letters, must surely see in him the type of the failure, the
Then brusquely his tardy rage flamed up. By God, NO, it was not
his fault; he had made no mistake. His energy, industry, and
foresight had been sound. He had been merely the object of a
colossal trick, a sordid injustice, a victim of the insatiate
greed of the monster, caught and choked by one of those millions
of tentacles suddenly reaching up from below, from out the dark
beneath his feet, coiling around his throat, throttling him,
strangling him, sucking his blood. For a moment he thought of
the courts, but instantly laughed at the idea. What court was
immune from the power of the monster? Ah, the rage of
helplessness, the fury of impotence! No help, no hope,--ruined
in a brief instant--he a veritable giant, built of great sinews,
powerful, in the full tide of his manhood, having all his health,
all his wits. How could he now face his home? How could he tell
his mother of this catastrophe? And Sidney--the little tad; how
could he explain to her this wretchedness--how soften her
disappointment? How keep the tears from out her eyes--how keep
alive her confidence in him--her faith in his resources?
Bitter, fierce, ominous, his wrath loomed up in his heart. His
fists gripped tight together, his teeth clenched. Oh, for a
moment to have his hand upon the throat of S. Behrman, wringing
the breath from him, wrenching out the red life of him--staining
the street with the blood sucked from the veins of the People!
To the first friend that he met, Dyke told the tale of the
tragedy, and to the next, and to the next. The affair went from
mouth to mouth, spreading with electrical swiftness, overpassing
and running ahead of Dyke himself, so that by the time he reached
the lobby of the Yosemite House, he found his story awaiting him.
A group formed about him. In his immediate vicinity business for
the instant was suspended. The group swelled. One after another
of his friends added themselves to it. Magnus Derrick joined it,
and Annixter. Again and again, Dyke recounted the matter,
beginning with the time when he was discharged from the same
corporation's service for refusing to accept an unfair wage. His
voice quivered with exasperation; his heavy frame shook with
rage; his eyes were injected, bloodshot; his face flamed
vermilion, while his deep bass rumbled throughout the running
comments of his auditors like the thunderous reverberation of
From all points of view, the story was discussed by those who
listened to him, now in the heat of excitement, now calmly,
judicially. One verdict, however, prevailed. It was voiced by
Annixter: "You're stuck. You can roar till you're black in the
face, but you can't buck against the Railroad. There's nothing
to be done."
"You can shoot the ruffian, you can shoot S. Behrman," clamoured
one of the group. "Yes, sir; by the Lord, you can shoot him."
"Poor fool," commented Annixter, turning away.
Nothing to be done. No, there was nothing to be done--not one
thing. Dyke, at last alone and driving his team out of the town,
turned the business confusedly over in his mind from end to end.
Advice, suggestion, even offers of financial aid had been
showered upon him from all directions. Friends were not wanting
who heatedly presented to his consideration all manner of
ingenious plans, wonderful devices. They were worthless. The
tentacle held fast. He was stuck.
By degrees, as his wagon carried him farther out into the
country, and open empty fields, his anger lapsed, and the
numbness of bewilderment returned. He could not look one hour
ahead into the future; could formulate no plans even for the next
day. He did not know what to do. He was stuck.
With the limpness and inertia of a sack of sand, the reins
slipping loosely in his dangling fingers, his eyes fixed, staring
between the horses' heads, he allowed himself to be carried
aimlessly along. He resigned himself. What did he care? What
was the use of going on? He was stuck.
The team he was driving had once belonged to the Los Muertos
stables and unguided as the horses were, they took the county
road towards Derrick's ranch house. Dyke, all abroad, was
unaware of the fact till, drawn by the smell of water, the horses
halted by the trough in front of Caraher's saloon.
The ex-engineer dismounted, looking about him, realising where he
was. So much the worse; it did not matter. Now that he had come
so far it was as short to go home by this route as to return on
his tracks. Slowly he unchecked the horses and stood at their
heads, watching them drink.
"I don't see," he muttered, "just what I am going to do."
Caraher appeared at the door of his place, his red face, red
beard, and flaming cravat standing sharply out from the shadow of
the doorway. He called a welcome to Dyke.
Dyke looked up, nodding his head listlessly.
"Hello, Caraher," he answered.
"Well," continued the saloonkeeper, coming forward a step,
"what's the news in town?"
Dyke told him. Caraher's red face suddenly took on a darker
colour. The red glint in his eyes shot from under his eyebrows.
Furious, he vented a rolling explosion of oaths.
"And now it's your turn," he vociferated. "They ain't after only
the big wheat-growers, the rich men. By God, they'll even pick
the poor man's pocket. Oh, they'll get their bellies full some
day. It can't last forever. They'll wake up the wrong kind of
man some morning, the man that's got guts in him, that will hit
back when he's kicked and that will talk to 'em with a torch in
one hand and a stick of dynamite in the other." He raised his
clenched fists in the air. "So help me, God," he cried, "when I
think it all over I go crazy, I see red. Oh, if the people only
knew their strength. Oh, if I could wake 'em up. There's not
only Shelgrim, but there's others. All the magnates, all the
butchers, all the blood-suckers, by the thousands. Their day
will come, by God, it will."
By now, the ex-engineer and the bar-keeper had retired to the
saloon back of the grocery to talk over the details of this new
outrage. Dyke, still a little dazed, sat down by one of the
tables, preoccupied, saying but little, and Caraher as a matter
of course set the whiskey bottle at his elbow.
It happened that at this same moment, Presley, returning to Los
Muertos from Bonneville, his pockets full of mail, stopped in at
the grocery to buy some black lead for his bicycle. In the
saloon, on the other side of the narrow partition, he overheard
the conversation between Dyke and Caraher. The door was open.
He caught every word distinctly.
"Tell us all about it, Dyke," urged Caraher.
For the fiftieth time Dyke told the story. Already it had
crystallised into a certain form. He used the same phrases with
each repetition, the same sentences, the same words. In his mind
it became set. Thus he would tell it to any one who would listen
from now on, week after week, year after year, all the rest of
his life--"And I based my calculations on a two-cent rate. So
soon as they saw I was to make money they doubled the tariff--all
the traffic would bear--and I mortgaged to S. Behrman--ruined me
with a turn of the hand--stuck, cinched, and not one thing to be
As he talked, he drank glass after glass of whiskey, and the
honest rage, the open, above-board fury of his mind coagulated,
thickened, and sunk to a dull, evil hatred, a wicked, oblique
malevolence. Caraher, sure now of winning a disciple,
replenished his glass.
"Do you blame us now," he cried, "us others, the Reds? Ah, yes,
it's all very well for your middle class to preach moderation. I
could do it, too. You could do it, too, if your belly was fed,
if your property was safe, if your wife had not been murdered if
your children were not starving. Easy enough then to preach law-
abiding methods, legal redress, and all such rot. But how about
US?" he vociferated. "Ah, yes, I'm a loud-mouthed rum-seller,
ain't I? I'm a wild-eyed striker, ain't I? I'm a blood-thirsty
anarchist, ain't I? Wait till you've seen your wife brought home
to you with the face you used to kiss smashed in by a horse's
hoof--killed by the Trust, as it happened to me. Then talk about
moderation! And you, Dyke, black-listed engineer, discharged
employee, ruined agriculturist, wait till you see your little tad
and your mother turned out of doors when S. Behrman forecloses.
Wait till you see 'em getting thin and white, and till you hear
your little girl ask you why you all don't eat a little more and
that she wants her dinner and you can't give it to her. Wait
till you see--at the same time that your family is dying for lack
of bread--a hundred thousand acres of wheat--millions of bushels
of food--grabbed and gobbled by the Railroad Trust, and then talk
of moderation. That talk is just what the Trust wants to hear.
It ain't frightened of that. There's one thing only it does
listen to, one thing it is frightened of--the people with
dynamite in their hands,--six inches of plugged gaspipe. THAT
Dyke did not reply. He filled another pony of whiskey and drank
it in two gulps. His frown had lowered to a scowl, his face was
a dark red, his head had sunk, bull-like, between his massive
shoulders; without winking he gazed long and with troubled eyes
at his knotted, muscular hands, lying open on the table before
him, idle, their occupation gone.
Presley forgot his black lead. He listened to Caraher. Through
the open door he caught a glimpse of Dyke's back, broad, muscled,
bowed down, the great shoulders stooping.
The whole drama of the doubled freight rate leaped salient and
distinct in the eye of his mind. And this was but one instance,
an isolated case. Because he was near at hand he happened to see
it. How many others were there, the length and breadth of the
State? Constantly this sort of thing must occur--little
industries choked out in their very beginnings, the air full of
the death rattles of little enterprises, expiring unobserved in
far-off counties, up in canyons and arroyos of the foothills,
forgotten by every one but the monster who was daunted by the
magnitude of no business, however great, who overlooked no
opportunity of plunder, however petty, who with one tentacle
grabbed a hundred thousand acres of wheat, and with another
pilfered a pocketful of growing hops.
He went away without a word, his head bent, his hands clutched
tightly on the cork grips of the handle bars of his bicycle. His
lips were white. In his heart a blind demon of revolt raged
tumultuous, shrieking blasphemies.
At Los Muertos, Presley overtook Annixter. As he guided his
wheel up the driveway to Derrick's ranch house, he saw the master
of Quien Sabe and Harran in conversation on the steps of the
porch. Magnus stood in the doorway, talking to his wife.
Occupied with the press of business and involved in the final
conference with the League's lawyers on the eve of the latter's
departure for Washington, Annixter had missed the train that was
to take him back to Guadalajara and Quien Sabe. Accordingly, he
had accepted the Governor's invitation to return with him on his
buck-board to Los Muertos, and before leaving Bonneville had
telephoned to his ranch to have young Vacca bring the buckskin,
by way of the Lower Road, to meet him at Los Muertos. He found
her waiting there for him, but before going on, delayed a few
moments to tell Harran of Dyke's affair.
"I wonder what he will do now?" observed Harran when his first
outburst of indignation had subsided.
"Nothing," declared Annixter. "He's stuck."
"That eats up every cent of Dyke's earnings," Harran went on.
"He has been ten years saving them. Oh, I told him to make sure
of the Railroad when he first spoke to me about growing hops."
"I've just seen him," said Presley, as he joined the others. "He
was at Caraher's. I only saw his back. He was drinking at a
table and his back was towards me. But the man looked broken--
absolutely crushed. It is terrible, terrible."
"He was at Caraher's, was he?" demanded Annixter.
"I think so. Yes, I saw a bottle."
"Drinking at Caraher's," exclaimed Annixter, rancorously; "I can
see HIS finish."
There was a silence. It seemed as if nothing more was to be
said. They paused, looking thoughtfully on the ground.
In silence, grim, bitter, infinitely sad, the three men as if at
that moment actually standing in the bar-room of Caraher's
roadside saloon, contemplated the slow sinking, the inevitable
collapse and submerging of one of their companions, the wreck of
a career, the ruin of an individual; an honest man, strong,
fearless, upright, struck down by a colossal power, perverted by
an evil influence, go reeling to his ruin.
"I see his finish," repeated Annixter. "Exit Dyke, and score
another tally for S. Behrman, Shelgrim and Co."
He moved away impatiently, loosening the tie-rope with which the
buckskin was fastened. He swung himself up.
"God for us all," he declared as he rode away, "and the devil
take the hindmost. Good-bye, I'm going home. I still have one a
He galloped away along the Lower Road, in the direction of Quien
Sabe, emerging from the grove of cypress and eucalyptus about the
ranch house, and coming out upon the bare brown plain of the
wheat land, stretching away from him in apparent barrenness on
It was late in the day, already his shadow was long upon the
padded dust of the road in front of him. On ahead, a long ways
off, and a little to the north, the venerable campanile of the
Mission San Juan was glinting radiant in the last rays of the
sun, while behind him, towards the north and west, the gilded
dome of the courthouse at Bonneville stood silhouetted in
purplish black against the flaming west. Annixter spurred the
buck-skin forward. He feared he might be late to his supper. He
wondered if it would be brought to him by Hilma.
Hilma! The name struck across in his brain with a pleasant,
glowing tremour. All through that day of activity, of strenuous
business, the minute and cautious planning of the final campaign
in the great war of the League and the Trust, the idea of her and
the recollection of her had been the undercurrent of his
thoughts. At last he was alone. He could put all other things
behind him and occupy himself solely with her.
In that glory of the day's end, in that chaos of sunshine, he saw
her again. Unimaginative, crude, direct, his fancy,
nevertheless, placed her before him, steeped in sunshine,
saturated with glorious light, brilliant, radiant, alluring. He
saw the sweet simplicity of her carriage, the statuesque evenness
of the contours of her figure, the single, deep swell of her
bosom, the solid masses of her hair. He remembered the small
contradictory suggestions of feminine daintiness he had so often
remarked about her, her slim, narrow feet, the little steel
buckles of her low shoes, the knot of black ribbon she had begun
to wear of late on the back of her head, and he heard her voice,
low-pitched, velvety, a sweet, murmuring huskiness that seemed to
come more from her chest than from her throat.
The buckskin's hoofs clattered upon the gravelly flats of
Broderson's Creek underneath the Long Trestle. Annixter's mind
went back to the scene of the previous evening, when he had come
upon her at this place. He set his teeth with anger and
disappointment. Why had she not been able to understand? What
was the matter with these women, always set upon this marrying
notion? Was it not enough that he wanted her more than any other
girl he knew and that she wanted him? She had said as much. Did
she think she was going to be mistress of Quien Sabe? Ah, that
was it. She was after his property, was for marrying him because
of his money. His unconquerable suspicion of the woman, his
innate distrust of the feminine element would not be done away
with. What fathomless duplicity was hers, that she could appear
so innocent. It was almost unbelievable; in fact, was it
For the first time doubt assailed him. Suppose Hilma was indeed
all that she appeared to be. Suppose it was not with her a
question of his property, after all; it was a poor time to think
of marrying him for his property when all Quien Sabe hung in the
issue of the next few months. Suppose she had been sincere. But
he caught himself up. Was he to be fooled by a feemale girl at
this late date? He, Buck Annixter, crafty, hard-headed, a man of
affairs? Not much. Whatever transpired he would remain the
He reached Quien Sabe in this frame of mind. But at this hour,
Annixter, for all his resolutions, could no longer control his
thoughts. As he stripped the saddle from the buckskin and led
her to the watering trough by the stable corral, his heart was
beating thick at the very notion of being near Hilma again. It
was growing dark, but covertly he glanced here and there out of
the corners of his eyes to see if she was anywhere about.
Annixter--how, he could not tell--had become possessed of the
idea that Hilma would not inform her parents of what had passed
between them the previous evening under the Long Trestle. He had
no idea that matters were at an end between himself and the young
woman. He must apologise, he saw that clearly enough, must eat
crow, as he told himself. Well, he would eat crow. He was not
afraid of her any longer, now that she had made her confession to
him. He would see her as soon as possible and get this business
straightened out, and begin again from a new starting point.
What he wanted with Hilma, Annixter did not define clearly in his
mind. At one time he had known perfectly well what he wanted.
Now, the goal of his desires had become vague. He could not say
exactly what it was. He preferred that things should go forward
without much idea of consequences; if consequences came, they
would do so naturally enough, and of themselves; all that he
positively knew was that Hilma occupied his thoughts morning,
noon, and night; that he was happy when he was with her, and
miserable when away from her.
The Chinese cook served his supper in silence. Annixter ate and
drank and lighted a cigar, and after his meal sat on the porch of
his house, smoking and enjoying the twilight. The evening was
beautiful, warm, the sky one powder of stars. From the direction
of the stables he heard one of the Portuguese hands picking a
But he wanted to see Hilma. The idea of going to bed without at
least a glimpse of her became distasteful to him. Annixter got
up and descending from the porch began to walk aimlessly about
between the ranch buildings, with eye and ear alert. Possibly he
might meet her somewheres.
The Trees' little house, toward which inevitably Annixter
directed his steps, was dark. Had they all gone to bed so soon?
He made a wide circuit about it, listening, but heard no sound.
The door of the dairy-house stood ajar. He pushed it open, and
stepped into the odorous darkness of its interior. The pans and
deep cans of polished metal glowed faintly from the corners and
from the walls. The smell of new cheese was pungent in his
nostrils. Everything was quiet. There was nobody there. He
went out again, closing the door, and stood for a moment in the
space between the dairy-house and the new barn, uncertain as to
what he should do next.
As he waited there, his foreman came out of the men's bunk house,
on the other side of the kitchens, and crossed over toward the
barn. "Hello, Billy," muttered Annixter as he passed.
"Oh, good evening, Mr. Annixter," said the other, pausing in
front of him. "I didn't know you were back. By the way," he
added, speaking as though the matter was already known to
Annixter, "I see old man Tree and his family have left us. Are
they going to be gone long? Have they left for good?"
"What's that?" Annixter exclaimed. "When did they go? Did all
of them go, all three?"
"Why, I thought you knew. Sure, they all left on the afternoon
train for San Francisco. Cleared out in a hurry--took all their
trunks. Yes, all three went--the young lady, too. They gave me
notice early this morning. They ain't ought to have done that.
I don't know who I'm to get to run the dairy on such short
notice. Do you know any one, Mr. Annixter?"
"Well, why in hell did you let them go?" vociferated Annixter.
"Why didn't you keep them here till I got back? Why didn't you
find out if they were going for good? I can't be everywhere.
What do I feed you for if it ain't to look after things I can't
He turned on his heel and strode away straight before him, not
caring where he was going. He tramped out from the group of
ranch buildings; holding on over the open reach of his ranch, his
teeth set, his heels digging furiously into the ground. The
minutes passed. He walked on swiftly, muttering to himself from
time to time.
"Gone, by the Lord. Gone, by the Lord. By the Lord Harry, she's
As yet his head was empty of all thought. He could not steady
his wits to consider this new turn of affairs. He did not even
"Gone, by the Lord," he exclaimed. "By the Lord, she's cleared
He found the irrigating ditch, and the beaten path made by the
ditch tenders that bordered it, and followed it some five
minutes; then struck off at right angles over the rugged surface
of the ranch land, to where a great white stone jutted from the
ground. There he sat down, and leaning forward, rested his
elbows on his knees, and looked out vaguely into the night, his
thoughts swiftly readjusting themselves.
He was alone. The silence of the night, the infinite repose of
the flat, bare earth--two immensities--widened around and above
him like illimitable seas. A grey half-light, mysterious, grave,
flooded downward from the stars.
Annixter was in torment. Now, there could be no longer any
doubt--now it was Hilma or nothing. Once out of his reach, once
lost to him, and the recollection of her assailed him with
unconquerable vehemence. Much as she had occupied his mind, he
had never realised till now how vast had been the place she had
filled in his life. He had told her as much, but even then he
did not believe it.
Suddenly, a bitter rage against himself overwhelmed him as he
thought of the hurt he had given her the previous evening. He
should have managed differently. How, he did not know, but the
sense of the outrage he had put upon her abruptly recoiled
against him with cruel force. Now, he was sorry for it,
infinitely sorry, passionately sorry. He had hurt her. He had
brought the tears to her eyes. He had so flagrantly insulted her
that she could no longer bear to breathe the same air with him.
She had told her parents all. She had left Quien Sabe--had left
him for good, at the very moment when he believed he had won her.
Brute, beast that he was, he had driven her away.
An hour went by; then two, then four, then six. Annixter still
sat in his place, groping and battling in a confusion of spirit,
the like of which he had never felt before. He did not know what
was the matter with him. He could not find his way out of the
dark and out of the turmoil that wheeled around him. He had had
no experience with women. There was no precedent to guide him.
How was he to get out of this? What was the clew that would set
everything straight again?
That he would give Hilma up, never once entered his head. Have
her he would. She had given herself to him. Everything should
have been easy after that, and instead, here he was alone in the
night, wrestling with himself, in deeper trouble than ever, and
Hilma farther than ever away from him.
It was true, he might have Hilma, even now, if he was willing to
marry her. But marriage, to his mind, had been always a vague,
most remote possibility, almost as vague and as remote as his
death,--a thing that happened to some men, but that would surely
never occur to him, or, if it did, it would be after long years
had passed, when he was older, more settled, more mature--an
event that belonged to the period of his middle life, distant as
He had never faced the question of his marriage. He had kept it
at an immense distance from him. It had never been a part of his
order of things. He was not a marrying man.
But Hilma was an ever-present reality, as near to him as his
right hand. Marriage was a formless, far distant abstraction.
Hilma a tangible, imminent fact. Before he could think of the
two as one; before he could consider the idea of marriage, side
by side with the idea of Hilma, measureless distances had to be
traversed, things as disassociated in his mind as fire and water,
had to be fused together; and between the two he was torn as if
upon a rack.
Slowly, by imperceptible degrees, the imagination, unused,
unwilling machine, began to work. The brain's activity lapsed
proportionately. He began to think less, and feel more. In that
rugged composition, confused, dark, harsh, a furrow had been
driven deep, a little seed planted, a little seed at first weak,
forgotten, lost in the lower dark places of his character.
But as the intellect moved slower, its functions growing numb,
the idea of self dwindled. Annixter no longer considered
himself; no longer considered the notion of marriage from the
point of view of his own comfort, his own wishes, his own
advantage. He realised that in his newfound desire to make her
happy, he was sincere. There was something in that idea, after
all. To make some one happy--how about that now? It was worth
Far away, low down in the east, a dim belt, a grey light began to
whiten over the horizon. The tower of the Mission stood black
against it. The dawn was coming. The baffling obscurity of the
night was passing. Hidden things were coming into view.
Annixter, his eyes half-closed, his chin upon his fist, allowed
his imagination full play. How would it be if he should take
Hilma into his life, this beautiful young girl, pure as he now
knew her to be; innocent, noble with the inborn nobility of
dawning womanhood? An overwhelming sense of his own unworthiness
suddenly bore down upon him with crushing force, as he thought of
this. He had gone about the whole affair wrongly. He had been
mistaken from the very first. She was infinitely above him. He
did not want--he should not desire to be the master. It was she,
his servant, poor, simple, lowly even, who should condescend to
Abruptly there was presented to his mind's eye a picture of the
years to come, if he now should follow his best, his highest, his
most unselfish impulse. He saw Hilma, his own, for better or for
worse, for richer or for poorer, all barriers down between them,
he giving himself to her as freely, as nobly, as she had given
herself to him. By a supreme effort, not of the will, but of the
emotion, he fought his way across that vast gulf that for a time
had gaped between Hilma and the idea of his marriage. Instantly,
like the swift blending of beautiful colours, like the harmony of
beautiful chords of music, the two ideas melted into one, and in
that moment into his harsh, unlovely world a new idea was born.
Annixter stood suddenly upright, a mighty tenderness, a
gentleness of spirit, such as he had never conceived of, in his
heart strained, swelled, and in a moment seemed to burst. Out of
the dark furrows of his soul, up from the deep rugged recesses of
his being, something rose, expanding. He opened his arms wide.
An immense happiness overpowered him. Actual tears came to his
eyes. Without knowing why, he was not ashamed of it. This poor,
crude fellow, harsh, hard, narrow, with his unlovely nature, his
fierce truculency, his selfishness, his obstinacy, abruptly knew
that all the sweetness of life, all the great vivifying eternal
force of humanity had burst into life within him.
The little seed, long since planted, gathering strength quietly,
had at last germinated.
Then as the realisation of this hardened into certainty, in the
growing light of the new day that had just dawned for him,
Annixter uttered a cry. Now at length, he knew the meaning of it
"Why--I--I, I LOVE her," he cried. Never until then had it
occurred to him. Never until then, in all his thoughts of Hilma,
had that great word passed his lips.
It was a Memnonian cry, the greeting of the hard, harsh image of
man, rough-hewn, flinty, granitic, uttering a note of joy,
acclaiming the new risen sun.
By now it was almost day. The east glowed opalescent. All about
him Annixter saw the land inundated with light. But there was a
change. Overnight something had occurred. In his perturbation
the change seemed to him, at first, elusive, almost fanciful,
unreal. But now as the light spread, he looked again at the
gigantic scroll of ranch lands unrolled before him from edge to
edge of the horizon. The change was not fanciful. The change
was real. The earth was no longer bare. The land was no longer
barren,--no longer empty, no longer dull brown. All at once
Annixter shouted aloud.
There it was, the Wheat, the Wheat! The little seed long
planted, germinating in the deep, dark furrows of the soil,
straining, swelling, suddenly in one night had burst upward to
the light. The wheat had come up. It was there before him,
around him, everywhere, illimitable, immeasurable. The winter
brownness of the ground was overlaid with a little shimmer of
green. The promise of the sowing was being fulfilled. The
earth, the loyal mother, who never failed, who never
disappointed, was keeping her faith again. Once more the
strength of nations was renewed. Once more the force of the
world was revivified. Once more the Titan, benignant, calm,
stirred and woke, and the morning abruptly blazed into glory upon
the spectacle of a man whose heart leaped exuberant with the love
of a woman, and an exulting earth gleaming transcendent with the
radiant magnificence of an inviolable pledge.
Presley's room in the ranch house of Los Muertos was in the
second story of the building. It was a corner room; one of its
windows facing the south, the other the east. Its appointments
were of the simplest. In one angle was the small white painted
iron bed, covered with a white counterpane. The walls were hung
with a white paper figured with knots of pale green leaves, very
gay and bright. There was a straw matting on the floor. White
muslin half-curtains hung in the windows, upon the sills of which
certain plants bearing pink waxen flowers of which Presley did
not know the name, grew in oblong green boxes. The walls were
unadorned, save by two pictures, one a reproduction of the
"Reading from Homer," the other a charcoal drawing of the Mission
of San Juan de Guadalajara, which Presley had made himself. By
the east window stood the plainest of deal tables, innocent of
any cloth or covering, such as might have been used in a kitchen.
It was Presley's work table, and was invariably littered with
papers, half-finished manuscripts, drafts of poems, notebooks,
pens, half-smoked cigarettes, and the like. Near at hand, upon a
shelf, were his books. There were but two chairs in the room--
the straight backed wooden chair, that stood in front of the
table, angular, upright, and in which it was impossible to take
one's ease, and the long comfortable wicker steamer chair,
stretching its length in front of the south window. Presley was
immensely fond of this room. It amused and interested him to
maintain its air of rigorous simplicity and freshness. He
abhorred cluttered bric-a-brac and meaningless objets d'art.
Once in so often he submitted his room to a vigorous inspection;
setting it to rights, removing everything but the essentials, the
few ornaments which, in a way, were part of his life.
His writing had by this time undergone a complete change. The
notes for his great Song of the West, the epic poem he once had
hoped to write he had flung aside, together with all the abortive
attempts at its beginning. Also he had torn up a great quantity
of "fugitive" verses, preserving only a certain half-finished
poem, that he called "The Toilers." This poem was a comment upon
the social fabric, and had been inspired by the sight of a
painting he had seen in Cedarquist's art gallery. He had written
all but the last verse.
On the day that he had overheard the conversation between Dyke
and Caraher, in the latter's saloon, which had acquainted him
with the monstrous injustice of the increased tariff, Presley had
returned to Los Muertos, white and trembling, roused to a pitch
of exaltation, the like of which he had never known in all his
life. His wrath was little short of even Caraher's. He too "saw
red"; a mighty spirit of revolt heaved tumultuous within him. It
did not seem possible that this outrage could go on much longer.
The oppression was incredible; the plain story of it set down in
truthful statement of fact would not be believed by the outside
He went up to his little room and paced the floor with clenched
fists and burning face, till at last, the repression of his
contending thoughts all but suffocated him, and he flung himself
before his table and began to write. For a time, his pen seemed
to travel of itself; words came to him without searching, shaping
themselves into phrases,--the phrases building themselves up to
great, forcible sentences, full of eloquence, of fire, of
passion. As his prose grew more exalted, it passed easily into
the domain of poetry. Soon the cadence of his paragraphs settled
to an ordered beat and rhythm, and in the end Presley had thrust
aside his journal and was once more writing verse.
He picked up his incomplete poem of "The Toilers," read it
hastily a couple of times to catch its swing, then the Idea of
the last verse--the Idea for which he so long had sought in vain--
abruptly springing to his brain, wrote it off without so much as
replenishing his pen with ink. He added still another verse,
bringing the poem to a definite close, resuming its entire
conception, and ending with a single majestic thought, simple,
noble, dignified, absolutely convincing.
Presley laid down his pen and leaned back in his chair, with the
certainty that for one moment he had touched untrod heights. His
hands were cold, his head on fire, his heart leaping tumultuous
in his breast.
Now at last, he had achieved. He saw why he had never grasped
the inspiration for his vast, vague, IMPERSONAL Song of the West.
At the time when he sought for it, his convictions had not been
aroused; he had not then cared for the People. His sympathies
had not been touched. Small wonder that he had missed it. Now
he was of the People; he had been stirred to his lowest depths.
His earnestness was almost a frenzy. He BELIEVED, and so to him
all things were possible at once .
Then the artist in him reasserted itself. He became more
interested in his poem, as such, than in the cause that had
inspired it. He went over it again, retouching it carefully,
changing a word here and there, and improving its rhythm. For
the moment, he forgot the People, forgot his rage, his agitation
of the previous hour, he remembered only that he had written a
Then doubt intruded. After all, was it so great? Did not its
sublimity overpass a little the bounds of the ridiculous? Had he
seen true? Had he failed again? He re-read the poem carefully;
and it seemed all at once to lose force.
By now, Presley could not tell whether what he had written was
true poetry or doggerel. He distrusted profoundly his own
judgment. He must have the opinion of some one else, some one
competent to judge. He could not wait; to-morrow would not do.
He must know to a certainty before he could rest that night.
He made a careful copy of what he had written, and putting on his
hat and laced boots, went down stairs and out upon the lawn,
crossing over to the stables. He found Phelps there, washing
down the buckboard.
"Do you know where Vanamee is to-day?" he asked the latter.
Phelps put his chin in the air.
"Ask me something easy," he responded. "He might be at
Guadalajara, or he might be up at Osterman's, or he might be a
hundred miles away from either place. I know where he ought to
be, Mr. Presley, but that ain't saying where the crazy gesabe is.
He OUGHT to be range-riding over east of Four, at the head waters
of Mission Creek."
"I'll try for him there, at all events," answered Presley. "If
you see Harran when he comes in, tell him I may not be back in
time for supper."
Presley found the pony in the corral, cinched the saddle upon
him, and went off over the Lower Road, going eastward at a brisk
At Hooven's he called a "How do you do" to Minna, whom he saw
lying in a slat hammock under the mammoth live oak, her foot in
bandages; and then galloped on over the bridge across the
irrigating ditch, wondering vaguely what would become of such a
pretty girl as Minna, and if in the end she would marry the
Portuguese foreman in charge of the ditching-gang. He told
himself that he hoped she would, and that speedily. There was no
lack of comment as to Minna Hooven about the ranches. Certainly
she was a good girl, but she was seen at all hours here and there
about Bonneville and Guadalajara, skylarking with the Portuguese
farm hands of Quien Sabe and Los Muertos. She was very pretty;
the men made fools of themselves over her. Presley hoped they
would not end by making a fool of her.
Just beyond the irrigating ditch, Presley left the Lower Road,
and following a trail that branched off southeasterly from this
point, held on across the Fourth Division of the ranch, keeping
the Mission Creek on his left. A few miles farther on, he went
through a gate in a barbed wire fence, and at once engaged
himself in a system of little arroyos and low rolling hills, that
steadily lifted and increased in size as he proceeded. This
higher ground was the advance guard of the Sierra foothills, and
served as the stock range for Los Muertos. The hills were huge
rolling hummocks of bare ground, covered only by wild oats. At
long intervals, were isolated live oaks. In the canyons and
arroyos, the chaparral and manzanita grew in dark olive-green
thickets. The ground was honey-combed with gopher-holes, and the
gophers themselves were everywhere. Occasionally a jack rabbit
bounded across the open, from one growth of chaparral to another,
taking long leaps, his ears erect. High overhead, a hawk or two
swung at anchor, and once, with a startling rush of wings, a
covey of quail flushed from the brush at the side of the trail.
On the hillsides, in thinly scattered groups were the cattle,
grazing deliberately, working slowly toward the water-holes for
their evening drink, the horses keeping to themselves, the colts
nuzzling at their mothers' bellies, whisking their tails,
stamping their unshod feet. But once in a remoter field,
solitary, magnificent, enormous, the short hair curling tight
upon his forehead, his small red eyes twinkling, his vast neck
heavy with muscles, Presley came upon the monarch, the king, the
great Durham bull, maintaining his lonely state, unapproachable,
Presley found the one-time shepherd by a water-hole, in a far
distant corner of the range. He had made his simple camp for the
night. His blue-grey army blanket lay spread under a live oak,
his horse grazed near at hand. He himself sat on his heels
before a little fire of dead manzanita roots, cooking his coffee
and bacon. Never had Presley conceived so keen an impression of
loneliness as his crouching figure presented. The bald, bare
landscape widened about him to infinity. Vanamee was a spot in
it all, a tiny dot, a single atom of human organisation, floating
endlessly on the ocean of an illimitable nature.
The two friends ate together, and Vanamee, having snared a brace
of quails, dressed and then roasted them on a sharpened stick.
After eating, they drank great refreshing draughts from the
water-hole. Then, at length, Presley having lit his cigarette,
and Vanamee his pipe, the former said:
"Vanamee, I have been writing again."
Vanamee turned his lean ascetic face toward him, his black eyes
"I know," he said, "your journal."
"No, this is a poem. You remember, I told you about it once.
'The Toilers,' I called it."
"Oh, verse! Well, I am glad you have gone back to it. It is
your natural vehicle."
"You remember the poem?" asked Presley. "It was unfinished."
"Yes, I remember it. There was better promise in it than
anything you ever wrote. Now, I suppose, you have finished it."
Without reply, Presley brought it from out the breast pocket of
his shooting coat. The moment seemed propitious. The stillness
of the vast, bare hills was profound. The sun was setting in a
cloudless brazier of red light; a golden dust pervaded all the
landscape. Presley read his poem aloud. When he had finished,
his friend looked at him.
"What have you been doing lately?" he demanded. Presley,
wondering, told of his various comings and goings.
"I don't mean that," returned the other. "Something has happened
to you, something has aroused you. I am right, am I not? Yes,
I thought so. In this poem of yours, you have not been trying to
make a sounding piece of literature. You wrote it under
tremendous stress. Its very imperfections show that. It is
better than a mere rhyme. It is an Utterance--a Message. It is
Truth. You have come back to the primal heart of things, and you
have seen clearly. Yes, it is a great poem."
"Thank you," exclaimed Presley fervidly. "I had begun to
"Now," observed Vanamee, "I presume you will rush it into print.
To have formulated a great thought, simply to have accomplished,
is not enough."
"I think I am sincere," objected Presley. "If it is good it will
do good to others. You said yourself it was a Message. If it
has any value, I do not think it would be right to keep it back
from even a very small and most indifferent public."
"Don't publish it in the magazines at all events," Vanamee
answered. "Your inspiration has come FROM the People. Then let
it go straight TO the People--not the literary readers of the
monthly periodicals, the rich, who would only be indirectly
interested. If you must publish it, let it be in the daily
press. Don't interrupt. I know what you will say. It will be
that the daily press is common, is vulgar, is undignified; and I
tell you that such a poem as this of yours, called as it is, 'The
Toilers,' must be read BY the Toilers. It MUST BE common; it
must be vulgarised. You must not stand upon your dignity with
the People, if you are to reach them."
"That is true, I suppose," Presley admitted, "but I can't get rid
of the idea that it would be throwing my poem away. The great
magazine gives me such--a--background; gives me such weight."
"Gives YOU such weight, gives you such background. Is it
YOURSELF you think of? You helper of the helpless. Is that your
sincerity? You must sink yourself; must forget yourself and your
own desire of fame, of admitted success. It is your POEM, your
MESSAGE, that must prevail,--not YOU, who wrote it. You preach a
doctrine of abnegation, of self-obliteration, and you sign your
name to your words as high on the tablets as you can reach, so
that all the world may see, not the poem, but the poet. Presley,
there are many like you. The social reformer writes a book on
the iniquity of the possession of land, and out of the proceeds,
buys a corner lot. The economist who laments the hardships of
the poor, allows himself to grow rich upon the sale of his book."
But Presley would hear no further.
"No," he cried, "I know I am sincere, and to prove it to you, I
will publish my poem, as you say, in the daily press, and I will
accept no money for it."
They talked on for about an hour, while the evening wore away.
Presley very soon noticed that Vanamee was again preoccupied.
More than ever of late, his silence, his brooding had increased.
By and by he rose abruptly, turning his head to the north, in the
direction of the Mission church of San Juan.
"I think," he said to Presley, "that I must be going."
"Going? Where to at this time of night?"
"Off there." Vanamee made an uncertain gesture toward the north.
"Good-bye," and without another word he disappeared in the grey
of the twilight. Presley was left alone wondering. He found his
horse, and, tightening the girths, mounted and rode home under
the sheen of the stars, thoughtful, his head bowed. Before he
went to bed that night he sent "The Toilers" to the Sunday Editor
of a daily newspaper in San Francisco.
Upon leaving Presley, Vanamee, his thumbs hooked into his empty
cartridge belt, strode swiftly down from the hills of the Los
Muertos stock-range and on through the silent town of
Guadalajara. His lean, swarthy face, with its hollow cheeks,
fine, black, pointed beard, and sad eyes, was set to the
northward. As was his custom, he was bareheaded, and the
rapidity of his stride made a breeze in his long, black hair. He
knew where he was going. He knew what he must live through that
Again, the deathless grief that never slept leaped out of the
shadows, and fastened upon his shoulders. It was scourging him
back to that scene of a vanished happiness, a dead romance, a
perished idyl,--the Mission garden in the shade of the venerable
But, besides this, other influences tugged at his heart. There
was a mystery in the garden. In that spot the night was not
always empty, the darkness not always silent. Something far off
stirred and listened to his cry, at times drawing nearer to him.
At first this presence had been a matter for terror; but of late,
as he felt it gradually drawing nearer, the terror had at long
intervals given place to a feeling of an almost ineffable
sweetness. But distrusting his own senses, unwilling to submit
himself to such torturing, uncertain happiness, averse to the
terrible confusion of spirit that followed upon a night spent in
the garden, Vanamee had tried to keep away from the place.
However, when the sorrow of his life reassailed him, and the
thoughts and recollections of Angele brought the ache into his
heart, and the tears to his eyes, the temptation to return to the
garden invariably gripped him close. There were times when he
could not resist. Of themselves, his footsteps turned in that
direction. It was almost as if he himself had been called.
Guadalajara was silent, dark. Not even in Solotari's was there a
light. The town was asleep. Only the inevitable guitar hummed
from an unseen 'dobe. Vanamee pushed on. The smell of the
fields and open country, and a distant scent of flowers that he
knew well, came to his nostrils, as he emerged from the town by
way of the road that led on towards the Mission through Quien
Sabe. On either side of him lay the brown earth, silently
nurturing the implanted seed. Two days before it had rained
copiously, and the soil, still moist, disengaged a pungent aroma
Vanamee, following the road, passed through the collection of
buildings of Annixter's home ranch. Everything slept. At
intervals, the aer-motor on the artesian well creaked audibly, as
it turned in a languid breeze from the northeast. A cat, hunting
field-mice, crept from the shadow of the gigantic barn and paused
uncertainly in the open, the tip of her tail twitching. From
within the barn itself came the sound of the friction of a heavy
body and a stir of hoofs, as one of the dozing cows lay down with
a long breath.
Vanamee left the ranch house behind him and proceeded on his way.
Beyond him, to the right of the road, he could make out the
higher ground in the Mission enclosure, and the watching tower of
the Mission itself. The minutes passed. He went steadily
forward. Then abruptly he paused, his head in the air, eye and
ear alert. To that strange sixth sense of his, responsive as the
leaves of the sensitive plant, had suddenly come the impression
of a human being near at hand. He had neither seen nor heard,
but for all that he stopped an instant in his tracks; then, the
sensation confirmed, went on again with slow steps, advancing
At last, his swiftly roving eyes lighted upon an object, just
darker than the grey-brown of the night-ridden land. It was at
some distance from the roadside. Vanamee approached it
cautiously, leaving the road, treading carefully upon the moist
clods of earth underfoot. Twenty paces distant, he halted.
Annixter was there, seated upon a round, white rock, his back
towards him. He was leaning forward, his elbows on his knees,
his chin in his hands. He did not move. Silent, motionless, he
gazed out upon the flat, sombre land.
It was the night wherein the master of Quien Sabe wrought out his
salvation, struggling with Self from dusk to dawn. At the moment
when Vanamee came upon him, the turmoil within him had only
begun. The heart of the man had not yet wakened. The night was
young, the dawn far distant, and all around him the fields of
upturned clods lay bare and brown, empty of all life, unbroken by
a single green shoot.
For a moment, the life-circles of these two men, of so widely
differing characters, touched each other, there in the silence of
the night under the stars. Then silently Vanamee withdrew, going
on his way, wondering at the trouble that, like himself, drove
this hardheaded man of affairs, untroubled by dreams, out into
the night to brood over an empty land.
Then speedily he forgot all else. The material world drew off
from him. Reality dwindled to a point and vanished like the
vanishing of a star at moonrise. Earthly things dissolved and
disappeared, as a strange, unnamed essence flowed in upon him. A
new atmosphere for him pervaded his surroundings. He entered the
world of the Vision, of the Legend, of the Miracle, where all
things were possible. He stood at the gate of the Mission
Above him rose the ancient tower of the Mission church. Through
the arches at its summit, where swung the Spanish queen's bells,
he saw the slow-burning stars. The silent bats, with flickering
wings, threw their dancing shadows on the pallid surface of the
Not the faintest chirring of a cricket broke the silence. The
bees were asleep. In the grasses, in the trees, deep in the
calix of punka flower and magnolia bloom, the gnats, the
caterpillars, the beetles, all the microscopic, multitudinous
life of the daytime drowsed and dozed. Not even the minute
scuffling of a lizard over the warm, worn pavement of the
colonnade disturbed the infinite repose, the profound stillness.
Only within the garden, the intermittent trickling of the
fountain made itself heard, flowing steadily, marking off the
lapse of seconds, the progress of hours, the cycle of years, the
inevitable march of centuries.
At one time, the doorway before which Vanamee now stood had been
hermetically closed. But he, himself, had long since changed
that. He stood before it for a moment, steeping himself in the
mystery and romance of the place, then raising he latch, pushed
open the gate, entered, and closed it softly behind him. He was
in the cloister garden.
The stars were out, strewn thick and close in the deep blue of
the sky, the milky way glowing like a silver veil. Ursa Major
wheeled gigantic in the north. The great nebula in Orion was a
whorl of shimmering star dust. Venus flamed a lambent disk of
pale saffron, low over the horizon. From edge to edge of the
world marched the constellations, like the progress of emperors,
and from the innumerable glory of their courses a mysterious
sheen of diaphanous light disengaged itself, expanding over all
the earth, serene, infinite, majestic.
The little garden revealed itself but dimly beneath the brooding
light, only half emerging from the shadow. The polished surfaces
of the leaves of the pear trees winked faintly back the reflected
light as the trees just stirred in the uncertain breeze. A
blurred shield of silver marked the ripples of the fountain.
Under the flood of dull blue lustre, the gravelled walks lay
vague amid the grasses, like webs of white satin on the bed of a
lake. Against the eastern wall the headstones of the graves, an
indistinct procession of grey cowls ranged themselves.
Vanamee crossed the garden, pausing to kiss the turf upon
Angele's grave. Then he approached the line of pear trees, and
laid himself down in their shadow, his chin propped upon his
hands, his eyes wandering over the expanse of the little valley
that stretched away from the foot of the hill upon which the
Mission was built.
Once again he summoned the Vision. Once again he conjured up the
Illusion. Once again, tortured with doubt, racked with a
deathless grief, he craved an Answer of the night. Once again,
mystic that he was, he sent his mind out from him across the
enchanted sea of the Supernatural. Hope, of what he did not
know, roused up within him. Surely, on such a night as this, the
hallucination must define itself. Surely, the Manifestation must
His eyes closed, his will girding itself to a supreme effort, his
senses exalted to a state of pleasing numbness, he called upon
Angele to come to him, his voiceless cry penetrating far out into
that sea of faint, ephemeral light that floated tideless over the
little valley beneath him. Then motionless, prone upon the
ground, he waited.
Months had passed since that first night when, at length, an
Answer had come to Vanamee. At first, startled out of all
composure, troubled and stirred to his lowest depths, because of
the very thing for which he sought, he resolved never again to
put his strange powers to the test. But for all that, he had
come a second night to the garden, and a third, and a fourth. At
last, his visits were habitual. Night after night he was there,
surrendering himself to the influences of the place, gradually
convinced that something did actually answer when he called. His
faith increased as the winter grew into spring. As the spring
advanced and the nights became shorter, it crystallised into
certainty. Would he have her again, his love, long dead? Would
she come to him once more out of the grave, out of the night? He
could not tell; he could only hope. All that he knew was that
his cry found an answer, that his outstretched hands, groping in
the darkness, met the touch of other fingers. Patiently he
waited. The nights became warmer as the spring drew on. The
stars shone clearer. The nights seemed brighter. For nearly a
month after the occasion of his first answer nothing new
occurred. Some nights it failed him entirely; upon others it was
Then, at last, the most subtle, the barest of perceptible changes
began. His groping mind far-off there, wandering like a lost
bird over the valley, touched upon some thing again. touched and
held it and this time drew it a single step closer to him. His
heart beating, the blood surging in his temples, he watched with
the eyes of his imagination, this gradual approach. What was
coming to him? Who was coming to him? Shrouded in the obscurity
of the night, whose was the face now turned towards his? Whose
the footsteps that with such infinite slowness drew nearer to
where he waited? He did not dare to say.
His mind went back many years to that time before the tragedy of
Angele's death, before the mystery of the Other. He waited then
as he waited now. But then he had not waited in vain. Then, as
now, he had seemed to feel her approach, seemed to feel her
drawing nearer and nearer to their rendezvous. Now, what would
happen? He did not know. He waited. He waited, hoping all
things. He waited, believing all things. He waited, enduring
all things. He trusted in the Vision.
Meanwhile, as spring advanced, the flowers in the Seed ranch
began to come to life. Over the five hundred acres whereon the
flowers were planted, the widening growth of vines and bushes
spread like the waves of a green sea. Then, timidly, colours of
the faintest tints began to appear. Under the moonlight, Vanamee
saw them expanding, delicate pink, faint blue, tenderest
variations of lavender and yellow, white shimmering with
reflections of gold, all subdued and pallid in the moonlight.
By degrees, the night became impregnated with the perfume of the
flowers. Illusive at first, evanescent as filaments of gossamer;
then as the buds opened, emphasising itself, breathing deeper,
stronger. An exquisite mingling of many odours passed
continually over the Mission, from the garden of the Seed ranch,
meeting and blending with the aroma of its magnolia buds and
As the colours of the flowers of the Seed ranch deepened, and as
their odours penetrated deeper and more distinctly, as the
starlight of each succeeding night grew brighter and the air
became warmer, the illusion defined itself. By imperceptible
degrees, as Vanamee waited under the shadows of the pear trees,
the Answer grew nearer and nearer. He saw nothing but the
distant glimmer of the flowers. He heard nothing but the drip of
the fountain. Nothing moved about him but the invisible, slow-
passing breaths of perfume; yet he felt the approach of the
It came first to about the middle of the Seed ranch itself, some
half a mile away, where the violets grew; shrinking, timid
flowers, hiding close to the ground. Then it passed forward
beyond the violets, and drew nearer and stood amid the
mignonette, hardier blooms that dared look heavenward from out
the leaves. A few nights later it left the mignonette behind,
and advanced into the beds of white iris that pushed more boldly
forth from the earth, their waxen petals claiming the attention.
It advanced then a long step into the proud, challenging beauty
of the carnations and roses; and at last, after many nights,
Vanamee felt that it paused, as if trembling at its hardihood,
full in the superb glory of the royal lilies themselves, that
grew on the extreme border of the Seed ranch nearest to him.
After this, there was a certain long wait. Then, upon a dark
midnight, it advanced again. Vanamee could scarcely repress a
cry. Now, the illusion emerged from the flowers. It stood, not
distant, but unseen, almost at the base of the hill upon whose
crest he waited, in a depression of the ground where the shadows
lay thickest. It was nearly within earshot.
The nights passed. The spring grew warmer. In the daytime
intermittent rains freshened all the earth. The flowers of the
Seed ranch grew rapidly. Bud after bud burst forth, while those
already opened expanded to full maturity. The colour of the Seed
One night, after hours of waiting, Vanamee felt upon his cheek
the touch of a prolonged puff of warm wind, breathing across the
little valley from out the east. It reached the Mission garden
and stirred the branches of the pear trees. It seemed veritably
to be compounded of the very essence of the flowers. Never had
the aroma been so sweet, so pervasive. It passed and faded,
leaving in its wake an absolute silence. Then, at length, the
silence of the night, that silence to which Vanamee had so long
appealed, was broken by a tiny sound. Alert, half-risen from the
ground, he listened; for now, at length, he heard something. The
sound repeated itself. It came from near at hand, from the thick
shadow at the foot of the hill. What it was, he could not tell,
but it did not belong to a single one of the infinite similar
noises of the place with which he was so familiar. It was
neither the rustle of a leaf, the snap of a parted twig, the
drone of an insect, the dropping of a magnolia blossom. It was a
vibration merely, faint, elusive, impossible of definition; a
minute notch in the fine, keen edge of stillness.
Again the nights passed. The summer stars became brighter. The
warmth increased. The flowers of the Seed ranch grew still more.
The five hundred acres of the ranch were carpeted with them.
At length, upon a certain midnight, a new light began to spread
in the sky. The thin scimitar of the moon rose, veiled and dim
behind the earth-mists. The light increased. Distant objects,
until now hidden, came into view, and as the radiance brightened,
Vanamee, looking down upon the little valley, saw a spectacle of
incomparable beauty. All the buds of the Seed ranch had opened.
The faint tints of the flowers had deepened, had asserted
themselves. They challenged the eye. Pink became a royal red.
Blue rose into purple. Yellow flamed into orange. Orange glowed
golden and brilliant. The earth disappeared under great bands
and fields of resplendent colour. Then, at length, the moon
abruptly soared zenithward from out the veiling mist, passing
from one filmy haze to another. For a moment there was a gleam
of a golden light, and Vanamee, his eyes searching the shade at
the foot of the hill, felt his heart suddenly leap, and then hang
poised, refusing to beat. In that instant of passing light,
something had caught his eye. Something that moved, down there,
half in and half out of the shadow, at the hill's foot. It had
come and gone in an instant. The haze once more screened the
moonlight. The shade again engulfed the vision. What was it he
had seen? He did not know. So brief had been that movement, the
drowsy brain had not been quick enough to interpret the cipher
message of the eye. Now it was gone. But something had been
there. He had seen it. Was it the lifting of a strand of hair,
the wave of a white hand, the flutter of a garment's edge? He
could not tell, but it did not belong to any of those sights
which he had seen so often in that place. It was neither the
glancing of a moth's wing, the nodding of a wind-touched blossom,
nor the noiseless flitting of a bat. It was a gleam merely,
faint, elusive, impossible of definition, an intangible
agitation, in the vast, dim blur of the darkness.
And that was all. Until now no single real thing had occurred,
nothing that Vanamee could reduce to terms of actuality, nothing
he could put into words. The manifestation, when not
recognisable to that strange sixth sense of his, appealed only to
the most refined, the most delicate perception of eye and ear.
It was all ephemeral, filmy, dreamy, the mystic forming of the
Vision--the invisible developing a concrete nucleus, the
starlight coagulating, the radiance of the flowers thickening to
something actual; perfume, the most delicious fragrance, becoming
a tangible presence.
But into that garden the serpent intruded. Though cradled in the
slow rhythm of the dream, lulled by this beauty of a summer's
night, heavy with the scent of flowers, the silence broken only
by a rippling fountain, the darkness illuminated by a world of
radiant blossoms, Vanamee could not forget the tragedy of the
Other; that terror of many years ago,--that prowler of the night,
that strange, fearful figure with the unseen face, swooping in
there from out the darkness, gone in an instant, yet leaving
behind the trail and trace of death and of pollution.
Never had Vanamee seen this more clearly than when leaving
Presley on the stock range of Los Muertos, he had come across to
the Mission garden by way of the Quien Sabe ranch.
It was the same night in which Annixter out-watched the stars,
coming, at last, to himself.
As the hours passed, the two men, far apart, ignoring each other,
waited for the Manifestation,--Annixter on the ranch, Vanamee in
Prone upon his face, under the pear trees, his forehead buried in
the hollow of his arm, Vanamee lay motionless. For the last
time, raising his head, he sent his voiceless cry out into the
night across the multi-coloured levels of the little valley,
calling upon the miracle, summoning the darkness to give Angele
back to him, resigning himself to the hallucination. He bowed
his head upon his arm again and waited. The minutes passed. The
fountain dripped steadily. Over the hills a haze of saffron
light foretold the rising of the full moon. Nothing stirred.
The silence was profound.
Then, abruptly, Vanamee's right hand shut tight upon his wrist.
There--there it was. It began again, his invocation was
answered. Far off there, the ripple formed again upon the still,
black pool of the night. No sound, no sight; vibration merely,
appreciable by some sublimated faculty of the mind as yet
unnamed. Rigid, his nerves taut, motionless, prone on the
ground, he waited.
It advanced with infinite slowness. Now it passed through the
beds of violets, now through the mignonette. A moment later, and
he knew it stood among the white iris. Then it left those
behind. It was in the splendour of the red roses and carnations.
It passed like a moving star into the superb abundance, the
imperial opulence of the royal lilies. It was advancing slowly,
but there was no pause. He held his breath, not daring to raise
his head. It passed beyond the limits of the Seed ranch, and
entered the shade at the foot of the hill below him. Would it
come farther than this? Here it had always stopped hitherto,
stopped for a moment, and then, in spite of his efforts, had
slipped from his grasp and faded back into the night. But now he
wondered if he had been willing to put forth his utmost strength,
after all. Had there not always been an element of dread in the
thought of beholding the mystery face to face? Had he not even
allowed the Vision to dissolve, the Answer to recede into the
obscurity whence it came?
But never a night had been so beautiful as this. It was the full
period of the spring. The air was a veritable caress. The
infinite repose of the little garden, sleeping under the night,
was delicious beyond expression. It was a tiny corner of the
world, shut off, discreet, distilling romance, a garden of
dreams, of enchantments.
Below, in the little valley, the resplendent colourations of the
million flowers, roses, lilies, hyacinths, carnations, violets,
glowed like incandescence in the golden light of the rising moon.
The air was thick with the perfume, heavy with it, clogged with
it. The sweetness filled the very mouth. The throat choked with
it. Overhead wheeled the illimitable procession of the
constellations. Underfoot, the earth was asleep. The very
flowers were dreaming. A cathedral hush overlay all the land,
and a sense of benediction brooded low,--a divine kindliness
manifesting itself in beauty, in peace, in absolute repose.
It was a time for visions. It was the hour when dreams come
true, and lying deep in the grasses beneath the pear trees,
Vanamee, dizzied with mysticism, reaching up and out toward the
supernatural, felt, as it were, his mind begin to rise upward
from out his body. He passed into a state of being the like of
which he had not known before. He felt that his imagination was
reshaping itself, preparing to receive an impression never
experienced until now. His body felt light to him, then it
dwindled, vanished. He saw with new eyes, heard with new ears,
felt with a new heart.
"Come to me," he murmured.
Then slowly he felt the advance of the Vision. It was
approaching. Every instant it drew gradually nearer. At last,
he was to see. It had left the shadow at the base of the hill;
it was on the hill itself. Slowly, steadily, it ascended the
slope; just below him there, he heard a faint stirring. The
grasses rustled under the touch of a foot. The leaves of the
bushes murmured, as a hand brushed against them; a slender twig
creaked. The sounds of approach were more distinct. They came
nearer. They reached the top of the hill. They were within
Vanamee, trembling, kept his head buried in his arm. The sounds,
at length, paused definitely. The Vision could come no nearer.
He raised his head and looked.
The moon had risen. Its great shield of gold stood over the
eastern horizon. Within six feet of Vanamee, clear and distinct,
against the disk of the moon, stood the figure of a young girl.
She was dressed in a gown of scarlet silk, with flowing sleeves,
such as Japanese wear, embroidered with flowers and figures of
birds worked in gold threads. On either side of her face, making
three-cornered her round, white forehead, hung the soft masses of
her hair of gold. Her hands hung limply at her sides. But from
between her parted lips--lips of almost an Egyptian fulness--her
breath came slow and regular, and her eyes, heavy lidded,
slanting upwards toward the temples, perplexing, oriental, were
closed. She was asleep.
From out this life of flowers, this world of colour, this
atmosphere oppressive with perfume, this darkness clogged and
cloyed, and thickened with sweet odours, she came to him. She
came to him from out of the flowers, the smell of the roses in
her hair of gold, the aroma and the imperial red of the
carnations in her lips, the whiteness of the lilies, the perfume
of the lilies, and the lilies' slender, balancing grace in her
neck. Her hands disengaged the scent of the heliotrope. The
folds of her scarlet gown gave off the enervating smell of
poppies. Her feet were redolent of hyacinth. She stood before
him, a Vision realised--a dream come true. She emerged from out
the invisible. He beheld her, a figure of gold and pale
vermilion, redolent of perfume, poised motionless in the faint
saffron sheen of the new-risen moon. She, a creation of sleep,
was herself asleep. She, a dream, was herself dreaming.
Called forth from out the darkness, from the grip of the earth,
the embrace of the grave, from out the memory of corruption, she
rose into light and life, divinely pure. Across that white
forehead was no smudge, no trace of an earthly pollution--no mark
of a terrestrial dishonour. He saw in her the same beauty of
untainted innocence he had known in his youth. Years had made no
difference with her. She was still young. It was the old purity
that returned, the deathless beauty, the ever-renascent life, the
eternal consecrated and immortal youth. For a few seconds, she
stood there before him, and he, upon the ground at her feet,
looked up at her, spellbound. Then, slowly she withdrew. Still
asleep, her eyelids closed, she turned from him, descending the
slope. She was gone.
Vanamee started up, coming, as it were, to himself, looking
wildly about him. Sarria was there.
"I saw her," said the priest. "It was Angele, the little girl,
your Angele's daughter. She is like her mother."
But Vanamee scarcely heard. He walked as if in a trance, pushing
by Sarria, going forth from the garden. Angele or Angele's
daughter, it was all one with him. It was She. Death was
overcome. The grave vanquished. Life, ever-renewed, alone
existed. Time was naught; change was naught; all things were
immortal but evil; all things eternal but grief.
Suddenly, the dawn came; the east burned roseate toward the
zenith. Vanamee walked on, he knew not where. The dawn grew
brighter. At length, he paused upon the crest of a hill
overlooking the ranchos, and cast his eye below him to the
southward. Then, suddenly flinging up his arms, he uttered a
There it was. The Wheat! The Wheat! In the night it had come
up. It was there, everywhere, from margin to margin of the
horizon. The earth, long empty, teemed with green life. Once
more the pendulum of the seasons swung in its mighty arc, from
death back to life. Life out of death, eternity rising from out
dissolution. There was the lesson. Angele was not the symbol,
but the PROOF of immortality. The seed dying, rotting and
corrupting in the earth; rising again in life unconquerable, and
in immaculate purity,--Angele dying as she gave birth to her
little daughter, life springing from her death,--the pure,
unconquerable, coming forth from the defiled. Why had he not had
the knowledge of God? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not
quickened except it die. So the seed had died. So died Angele.
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. The wheat called forth from out the darkness, from out
the grip of the earth, of the grave, from out corruption, rose
triumphant into light and life. So Angele, so life, so also the
resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption. It is
raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonour. It is raised
in glory. It is sown in weakness. It is raised in power. Death
was swallowed up in Victory.
The sun rose. The night was over. The glory of the terrestrial
was one, and the glory of the celestial was another. Then, as
the glory of sun banished the lesser glory of moon and stars,
Vanamee, from his mountain top, beholding the eternal green life
of the growing Wheat, bursting its bonds, and in his heart
exulting in his triumph over the grave, flung out his arms with a
"Oh, Death, where is thy sting? Oh, Grave, where is thy
Presley's Socialistic poem, "The Toilers," had an enormous
success. The editor of the Sunday supplement of the San
Francisco paper to which it was sent, printed it in Gothic type,
with a scare-head title so decorative as to be almost illegible,
and furthermore caused the poem to be illustrated by one of the
paper's staff artists in a most impressive fashion. The whole
affair occupied an entire page. Thus advertised, the poem
attracted attention. It was promptly copied in New York, Boston,
and Chicago papers. It was discussed, attacked, defended,
eulogised, ridiculed. It was praised with the most fulsome
adulation; assailed with the most violent condemnation.
Editorials were written upon it. Special articles, in literary
pamphlets, dissected its rhetoric and prosody. The phrases were
quoted,--were used as texts for revolutionary sermons,
reactionary speeches. It was parodied; it was distorted so as to
read as an advertisement for patented cereals and infants' foods.
Finally, the editor of an enterprising monthly magazine reprinted
the poem, supplementing it by a photograph and biography of
Presley was stunned, bewildered. He began to wonder at himself.
Was he actually the "greatest American poet since Bryant"? He
had had no thought of fame while composing "The Toilers." He had
only been moved to his heart's foundations,--thoroughly in
earnest, seeing clearly,--and had addressed himself to the poem's
composition in a happy moment when words came easily to him, and
the elaboration of fine sentences was not difficult. Was it thus
fame was achieved? For a while he was tempted to cross the
continent and go to New York and there come unto his own,
enjoying the triumph that awaited him. But soon he denied
himself this cheap reward. Now he was too much in earnest. He
wanted to help his People, the community in which he lived--the
little world of the San Joaquin, at grapples with the Railroad.
The struggle had found its poet. He told himself that his place
was here. Only the words of the manager of a lecture bureau
troubled him for a moment. To range the entire nation, telling
all his countrymen of the drama that was working itself out on
this fringe of the continent, this ignored and distant Pacific
Coast, rousing their interest and stirring them up to action--
appealed to him. It might do great good. To devote himself to
"the Cause," accepting no penny of remuneration; to give his life
to loosing the grip of the iron-hearted monster of steel and
steam would be beyond question heroic. Other States than
California had their grievances. All over the country the family
of cyclops was growing. He would declare himself the champion of
the People in their opposition to the Trust. He would be an
apostle, a prophet, a martyr of Freedom.
But Presley was essentially a dreamer, not a man of affairs. He
hesitated to act at this precise psychological moment, striking
while the iron was yet hot, and while he hesitated, other affairs
near at hand began to absorb his attention.
One night, about an hour after he had gone to bed, he was
awakened by the sound of voices on the porch of the ranch house,
and, descending, found Mrs. Dyke there with Sidney. The ex-
engineer's mother was talking to Magnus and Harran, and crying as
she talked. It seemed that Dyke was missing. He had gone into
town early that afternoon with the wagon and team, and was to
have been home for supper. By now it was ten o'clock and there
was no news of him. Mrs. Dyke told how she first had gone to
Quien Sabe, intending to telephone from there to Bonneville, but
Annixter was in San Francisco, and in his absence the house was
locked up, and the over-seer, who had a duplicate key, was
himself in Bonneville. She had telegraphed three times from
Guadalajara to Bonneville for news of her son, but without
result. Then, at last, tortured with anxiety, she had gone to
Hooven's, taking Sidney with her, and had prevailed upon
"Bismarck" to hitch up and drive her across Los Muertos to the
Governor's, to beg him to telephone into Bonneville, to know what
had become of Dyke.
While Harran rang up Central in town, Mrs. Dyke told Presley and
Magnus of the lamentable change in Dyke.
"They have broken my son's spirit, Mr. Derrick," she said. "If
you were only there to see. Hour after hour, he sits on the
porch with his hands lying open in his lap, looking at them
without a word. He won't look me in the face any more, and he
don't sleep. Night after night, he has walked the floor until
morning. And he will go on that way for days together, very
silent, without a word, and sitting still in his chair, and then,
all of a sudden, he will break out--oh, Mr. Derrick, it is
terrible--into an awful rage, cursing, swearing, grinding his
teeth, his hands clenched over his head, stamping so that the
house shakes, and saying that if S. Behrman don't give him back
his money, he will kill him with his two hands. But that isn't
the worst, Mr. Derrick. He goes to Mr. Caraher's saloon now, and
stays there for hours, and listens to Mr. Caraher. There is
something on my son's mind; I know there is--something that he
and Mr. Caraher have talked over together, and I can't find out
what it is. Mr. Caraher is a bad man, and my son has fallen
under his influence." The tears filled her eyes. Bravely, she
turned to hide them, turning away to take Sidney in her arms,
putting her head upon the little girl's shoulder.
"I--I haven't broken down before, Mr. Derrick," she said, "but
after we have been so happy in our little house, just us three--
and the future seemed so bright--oh, God will punish the
gentlemen who own the railroad for being so hard and cruel."
Harran came out on the porch, from the telephone, and she
interrupted herself, fixing her eyes eagerly upon him.
"I think it is all right, Mrs. Dyke," he said, reassuringly. "We
know where he is, I believe. You and the little tad stay here,
and Hooven and I will go after him."
About two hours later, Harran brought Dyke back to Los Muertos in
Hooven's wagon. He had found him at Caraher's saloon, very
There was nothing maudlin about Dyke's drunkenness. In him the
alcohol merely roused the spirit of evil, vengeful, reckless.
As the wagon passed out from under the eucalyptus trees about the
ranch house, taking Mrs. Dyke, Sidney, and the one-time engineer
back to the hop ranch, Presley leaning from his window heard the
"Caraher is right. There is only one thing they listen to, and
The following day Presley drove Magnus over to Guadalajara to
take the train for San Francisco. But after he had said good-bye
to the Governor, he was moved to go on to the hop ranch to see
the condition of affairs in that quarter. He returned to Los
Muertos overwhelmed with sadness and trembling with anger. The
hop ranch that he had last seen in the full tide of prosperity
was almost a ruin. Work had evidently been abandoned long since.
Weeds were already choking the vines. Everywhere the poles
sagged and drooped. Many had even fallen, dragging the vines
with them, spreading them over the ground in an inextricable
tangle of dead leaves, decaying tendrils, and snarled string.
The fence was broken; the unfinished storehouse, which never was
to see completion, was a lamentable spectacle of gaping doors and
windows--a melancholy skeleton. Last of all, Presley had caught
a glimpse of Dyke himself, seated in his rocking chair on the
porch, his beard and hair unkempt, motionless, looking with vague
eyes upon his hands that lay palm upwards and idle in his lap.
Magnus on his way to San Francisco was joined at Bonneville by
Osterman. Upon seating himself in front of the master of Los
Muertos in the smoking-car of the train, this latter, pushing
back his hat and smoothing his bald head, observed:
"Governor, you look all frazeled out. Anything wrong these
The other answered in the negative, but, for all that, Osterman
was right. The Governor had aged suddenly. His former erectness
was gone, the broad shoulders stooped a little, the strong lines
of his thin-lipped mouth were relaxed, and his hand, as it
clasped over the yellowed ivory knob of his cane, had an unwonted
tremulousness not hitherto noticeable. But the change in Magnus
was more than physical. At last, in the full tide of power,
President of the League, known and talked of in every county of
the State, leader in a great struggle, consulted, deferred to as
the "Prominent Man," at length attaining that position, so long
and vainly sought for, he yet found no pleasure in his triumph,
and little but bitterness in life. His success had come by
devious methods, had been reached by obscure means.
He was a briber. He could never forget that. To further his
ends, disinterested, public-spirited, even philanthropic as those
were, he had connived with knavery, he, the politician of the old
school, of such rigorous integrity, who had abandoned a "career"
rather than compromise with honesty. At this eleventh hour,
involved and entrapped in the fine-spun web of a new order of
things, bewildered by Osterman's dexterity, by his volubility and
glibness, goaded and harassed beyond the point of reason by the
aggression of the Trust he fought, he had at last failed. He had
fallen he had given a bribe. He had thought that, after all,
this would make but little difference with him. The affair was
known only to Osterman, Broderson, and Annixter; they would not
judge him, being themselves involved. He could still preserve a
bold front; could still hold his head high. As time went on the
affair would lose its point.
But this was not so. Some subtle element of his character had
forsaken him. He felt it. He knew it. Some certain stiffness
that had given him all his rigidity, that had lent force to his
authority, weight to his dominance, temper to his fine,
inflexible hardness, was diminishing day by day. In the
decisions which he, as President of the League, was called upon
to make so often, he now hesitated. He could no longer be
arrogant, masterful, acting upon his own judgment, independent of
opinion. He began to consult his lieutenants, asking their
advice, distrusting his own opinions. He made mistakes,
blunders, and when those were brought to his notice, took refuge
in bluster. He knew it to be bluster--knew that sooner or later
his subordinates would recognise it as such. How long could he
maintain his position? So only he could keep his grip upon the
lever of control till the battle was over, all would be well. If
not, he would fall, and, once fallen, he knew that now, briber
that he was, he would never rise again.
He was on his way at this moment to the city to consult with
Lyman as to a certain issue of the contest between the Railroad
and the ranchers, which, of late, had been brought to his notice.
When appeal had been taken to the Supreme Court by the League's
Executive Committee, certain test cases had been chosen, which
should represent all the lands in question. Neither Magnus nor
Annixter had so appealed, believing, of course, that their cases
were covered by the test cases on trial at Washington. Magnus
had here blundered again, and the League's agents in San
Francisco had written to warn him that the Railroad might be able
to take advantage of a technicality, and by pretending that
neither Quien Sabe nor Los Muertos were included in the appeal,
attempt to put its dummy buyers in possession of the two ranches
before the Supreme Court handed down its decision. The ninety
days allowed for taking this appeal were nearly at an end and
after then the Railroad could act. Osterman and Magnus at once
decided to go up to the city, there joining Annixter (who had
been absent from Quien Sabe for the last ten days), and talk the
matter over with Lyman. Lyman, because of his position as
Commissioner, might be cognisant of the Railroad's plans, and, at
the same time, could give sound legal advice as to what was to be
done should the new rumour prove true.
"Say," remarked Osterman, as the train pulled out of the
Bonneville station, and the two men settled themselves for the
long journey, "say Governor, what's all up with Buck Annixter
these days? He's got a bean about something, sure."
"I had not noticed," answered Magnus. "Mr. Annixter has been
away some time lately. I cannot imagine what should keep him so
long in San Francisco."
"That's it," said Osterman, winking. "Have three guesses. Guess
right and you get a cigar. I guess g-i-r-l spells Hilma Tree.
And a little while ago she quit Quien Sabe and hiked out to
'Frisco. So did Buck. Do I draw the cigar? It's up to you."
"I have noticed her," observed Magnus. "A fine figure of a
woman. She would make some man a good wife."
"Hoh! Wife! Buck Annixter marry! Not much. He's gone a-
girling at last, old Buck! It's as funny as twins. Have to josh
him about it when I see him, sure."
But when Osterman and Magnus at last fell in with Annixter in the
vestibule of the Lick House, on Montgomery Street, nothing could
be got out of him. He was in an execrable humour. When Magnus
had broached the subject of business, he had declared that all
business could go to pot, and when Osterman, his tongue in his
cheek, had permitted himself a most distant allusion to a feemale
girl, Annixter had cursed him for a "busy-face" so vociferously
and tersely, that even Osterman was cowed.
"Well," insinuated Osterman, "what are you dallying 'round
'Frisco so much for?"
"Cat fur, to make kitten-breeches," retorted Annixter with
Two weeks before this time, Annixter had come up to the city and
had gone at once to a certain hotel on Bush Street, behind the
First National Bank, that he knew was kept by a family connection
of the Trees. In his conjecture that Hilma and her parents would
stop here, he was right. Their names were on the register.
Ignoring custom, Annixter marched straight up to their rooms, and
before he was well aware of it, was "eating crow" before old man
Hilma and her mother were out at the time. Later on, Mrs. Tree
returned alone, leaving Hilma to spend the day with one of her
cousins who lived far out on Stanyan Street in a little house
facing the park.
Between Annixter and Hilma's parents, a reconciliation had been
effected, Annixter convincing them both of his sincerity in
wishing to make Hilma his wife. Hilma, however, refused to see
him. As soon as she knew he had followed her to San Francisco
she had been unwilling to return to the hotel and had arranged
with her cousin to spend an indefinite time at her house.
She was wretchedly unhappy during all this time; would not set
foot out of doors, and cried herself to sleep night after night.
She detested the city. Already she was miserably homesick for
the ranch. She remembered the days she had spent in the little
dairy-house, happy in her work, making butter and cheese;
skimming the great pans of milk, scouring the copper vessels and
vats, plunging her arms, elbow deep, into the white curds; coming
and going in that atmosphere of freshness, cleanliness, and
sunlight, gay, singing, supremely happy just because the sun
shone. She remembered her long walks toward the Mission late in
the afternoons, her excursions for cresses underneath the Long
Trestle, the crowing of the cocks, the distant whistle of the
passing trains, the faint sounding of the Angelus. She recalled
with infinite longing the solitary expanse of the ranches, the
level reaches between the horizons, full of light and silence;
the heat at noon, the cloudless iridescence of the sunrise and
sunset. She had been so happy in that life! Now, all those days
were passed. This crude, raw city, with its crowding houses all
of wood and tin, its blotting fogs, its uproarious trade winds,
disturbed and saddened her. There was no outlook for the future.
At length, one day, about a week after Annixter's arrival in the
city, she was prevailed upon to go for a walk in the park. She
went alone, putting on for the first time the little hat of black
straw with its puff of white silk her mother had bought for her,
a pink shirtwaist, her belt of imitation alligator skin, her new
skirt of brown cloth, and her low shoes, set off with their
little steel buckles.
She found a tiny summer house, built in Japanese fashion, around
a diminutive pond, and sat there for a while, her hands folded in
her lap, amused with watching the goldfish, wishing--she knew not
Without any warning, Annixter sat down beside her. She was too
frightened to move. She looked at him with wide eyes that began
to fill with tears.
"Oh," she said, at last, "oh--I didn't know."
"Well," exclaimed Annixter, "here you are at last. I've been
watching that blamed house till I was afraid the policeman would
move me on. By the Lord," he suddenly cried, "you're pale. You--
you, Hilma, do you feel well?"
"Yes--I am well," she faltered.
"No, you're not," he declared. "I know better. You are coming
back to Quien Sabe with me. This place don't agree with you.
Hilma, what's all the matter? Why haven't you let me see you all
this time? Do you know--how things are with me? Your mother
told you, didn't she? Do you know how sorry I am? Do you know
that I see now that I made the mistake of my life there, that
time, under the Long Trestle? I found it out the night after you
went away. I sat all night on a stone out on the ranch somewhere
and I don't know exactly what happened, but I've been a different
man since then. I see things all different now. Why, I've only
begun to live since then. I know what love means now, and
instead of being ashamed of it, I'm proud of it. If I never was
to see you again I would be glad I'd lived through that night,
just the same. I just woke up that night. I'd been absolutely
and completely selfish up to the moment I realised I really loved
you, and now, whether you'll let me marry you or not, I mean to
live--I don't know, in a different way. I've GOT to live
different. I--well--oh, I can't make you understand, but just
loving you has changed my life all around. It's made it easier
to do the straight, clean thing. I want to do it, it's fun doing
it. Remember, once I said I was proud of being a hard man, a
driver, of being glad that people hated me and were afraid of me?
Well, since I've loved you I'm ashamed of it all. I don't want
to be hard any more, and nobody is going to hate me if I can help
it. I'm happy and I want other people so. I love you," he
suddenly exclaimed; "I love you, and if you will forgive me, and
if you will come down to such a beast as I am, I want to be to
you the best a man can be to a woman, Hilma. Do you understand,
little girl? I want to be your husband."
Hilma looked at the goldfishes through her tears.
"Have you got anything to say to me, Hilma?" he asked, after a
"I don't know what you want me to say," she murmured.
"Yes, you do," he insisted. "I've followed you 'way up here to
hear it. I've waited around in these beastly, draughty picnic
grounds for over a week to hear it. You know what I want to
"Well--I forgive you," she hazarded.
"That will do for a starter," he answered. "But that's not IT."
"Then, I don't know what."
"Shall I say it for you?"
She hesitated a long minute, then:
"You mightn't say it right," she replied.
"Trust me for that. Shall I say it for you, Hilma?"
"I don't know what you'll say."
"I'll say what you are thinking of. Shall I say it?"
There was a very long pause. A goldfish rose to the surface of
the little pond, with a sharp, rippling sound. The fog drifted
overhead. There was nobody about.
"No," said Hilma, at length. "I--I--I can say it for myself. I--"
All at once she turned to him and put her arms around his
neck. "Oh, DO you love me?" she cried. "Is it really true? Do
you mean every word of it? And you are sorry and you WILL be
good to me if I will be your wife? You will be my dear, dear
The tears sprang to Annixter's eyes. He took her in his arms and
held her there for a moment. Never in his life had he felt so
unworthy, so undeserving of this clean, pure girl who forgave him
and trusted his spoken word and believed him to be the good man
he could only wish to be. She was so far above him, so exalted,
so noble that he should have bowed his forehead to her feet, and
instead, she took him in her arms, believing him to be good, to
be her equal. He could think of no words to say. The tears