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

The Precipice by Elia Wilkinson Peattie

Part 5 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

She told him about her dinner with the Fitzgeralds and about the opera,
but she held back her discovery, so to speak, of the baby, and the
episode of Marna's wistful tears when she heard the music, and her
amazing _volte-face_ at remembering the baby's feeding-time. She would
have loved to spin out the story to him--she could have deepened the
colors just enough to make it all very telling. But she wasn't willing
to give away the reason for her changed mood. It was enough, after all,
that he was aware of it, and that when he drew her hand within his arm
he held it in a clasp that asserted his right to keep it.

They were happy to be in each other's company again. Kate had to admit
it. For the moment it seemed to both of them that it didn't matter much
where they went so long as they could go together. They rode out to
South Chicago on the ill-smelling South Deering cars, crowded with men
and women with foreign faces. One of the men trod on Kate's foot with
his hobnailed shoe and gave an inarticulate grunt by way of apology.

"He's crushed it, hasn't he?" asked Ray anxiously, seeing the tears
spring to her eyes. "What a brute!"

"Oh, it was an accident," Kate protested. "Any one might have done it."

"But anyone except that unspeakable Huniack would have done more than

"I dare say he doesn't know English," Kate insisted. "He'll probably
remember the incident longer and be sorrier about it than some who would
have been able to make graceful apologies."

"Not he," declared Ray. "Don't you think it! Bless me, Kate, why you
prefer these people to any others passes my comprehension. Can't you
leave these people to work out their own salvation--which to my notion
is the only way they ever can get it--and content yourself with your own
kind and class?"

"Not variety enough," retorted Kate, feeling her tenderness evaporate
and her tantalizing mood--her usual one when she was with Ray--come
back. "Don't I know just what you, for example, are going to think and
say about any given circumstances? Don't I know your enthusiasms and
reactions as if I'd invented 'em?"

"Well, I know yours, too, but that's because I love you, not because
you're like everybody else. I wish you were rather more like other
women, Kate. I'd have an easier time."

"If we were married," said Kate, with that cheerful directness which
showed how her sentimentality had taken flight, "you'd never give up
till you'd made me precisely like Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Smith, and Mrs.
Johnson. Men fall in love with women because they're different from
other women, and then put in the first years of their married life
trying to make them like everybody else. I've noticed, however, that
when they've finished the job, they're so bored with the result that
they go and look up another 'different' woman. Oh, I know!"

He couldn't say what he wished in reply because the car filled up just
then with a party of young people bound for a dance in Russell Square.
It always made Kate's heart glow to think of things like that--of what
the city was trying to do for its people. These young people came from
small, comfortable homes, quite capacious enough for happiness and
self-respect, but not large enough for a dance. Very well; all that was
needed was a simple request for the use of the field-house and they
could have at their disposal a fine, airy hall, well-warmed and lighted,
with an excellent floor, charming decorations, and a room where they
might prepare their refreshments. All they had to pay for was the music.
Proper chaperonage was required and the hall closed at midnight. Kate
descanted on the beauties of the system till Ray yawned.

"Think how different it is at the dance-hall where we are going," she
went on, not heeding his disinclination for the subject. "They'll keep
it up till dawn and drink between every dance. There's not a party of
the kind the whole winter through that doesn't see the steps of some
young girl set toward destruction. Oh, I can't see why it isn't stopped!
If women had the management of things, it would be, I can tell you. It
would take about one day to do it."

"That's one of the reasons why the liquor men combine to kill suffrage,"
said Ray. "They know it will be a sorry day for them when the women get
in. Positively, the women seem to think that's all there is to
politics--some moral question; and the whole truth is they'd do a lot of
damage to business with their slap-dash methods, as they'd learn to
their cost. When they found their pin-money being cut down, they'd sing
another tune, for they're the most reckless spenders in the world,
American women are."

"They're the purchasing agents for the most extravagant nation in the
world, if you like," Kate replied. "Men seem to think that shopping is a
mere feminine diversion. They forget that it's what supports their
business and supplies their homes. Not to speak of any place beyond our
own town, think of the labor involved in buying food and clothing for
the two million and a half human beings here in Chicago. It's no joke, I
assure you."

"Joke!" echoed Ray. "A good deal of the shopping I've seen at my
father's store seems to me to come under the head of vice. The look I've
seen on some of those faces! It was ravaging greed, nothing less. Why,
we had a sale the other day of cheap jewelry, salesmen's samples, and
the women swarmed and snatched and glared like savages. I declare, when
I saw them like that, so indecently eager for their trumpery ornaments,
I said to myself that you'd only to scratch the civilized woman to get
at the squaw any day."

Kate kept a leash on her tongue. She supposed it was inevitable that
they should get back to the old quarrel. Deep down in Ray, she felt, was
an unconquerable contempt for women. He made an exception of her because
he loved her; because she drew him with the mysterious sex attraction.
It was that, and not any sense of spiritual or intellectual approval of
her, which made him set her apart as worthy of admiration and of his
devoted service. If ever their lives were joined, she would be his
treasure to be kept close in his personal casket,--with the key to the
golden padlock in his pocket,--and he would all but say his prayers to
her. But all that would not keep him from openly discountenancing her
judgment before people. She could imagine him putting off a suggestion
of hers with that patient married tone which husbands assume when they
discover too much independent cerebration on the part of their wives.

"I couldn't stand that," she inwardly declared, as she let him think
that he was assisting her from the car. "If any man ever used that
patient tone to me, I'd murder him!"

She couldn't keep back her sardonic chuckle.

"What are you laughing at?" he asked irritatedly.

"At the mad world, master," she answered.

"Where is this dance-hall?" he demanded, as if he suspected her of
concealing it.

The tone was precisely the "married" one she had been imagining, and she
burst out with a laugh that made him stop and visibly wrap his dignity
about him. Nothing was more evident than that he thought her silly. But
as she paused, too, standing beneath the street-lamp, and he saw her
with her nonchalant tilt of her head,--that handsome head poised on her
strong, erect body,--her force and value were so impressed upon him that
he had to retract. But she was provoking, no getting around that.

At that moment another sound than laughter cut the air--a terrible
sound--the shriek of a tortured child. It rang out three times in quick
succession, and Kate's blood curdled.

"Oh, oh," she gasped; "she's being beaten! Come, Ray."

"Mix up in some family mess and get slugged for my pains? Not I! But
I'll call a policeman if you say."

"Oh, it might be too late! I'm a policeman, you know. Get the patrol
wagon if you like. But I can't stand that--"

Once more that agonized scream! Kate flashed from him into the mesh of
mean homes, standing three deep in each yard, flanking each other with
only a narrow passage between, and was lost to him. He couldn't see
where she had gone, but he knew that he must follow. He fell down a
short flight of steps that led from the street to the lower level of the
yard, and groped forward. He could hear people running, and when a large
woman, draping her wrapper about her, floundered out of a basement door
near him, he followed her. She seemed to know where to go. The squalid
drama with the same actors evidently had been played before.

Mid-length of the building the woman turned up some stairs and came to a
long hall which divided the front and rear stairs. At the end of it a
light was burning, and Kate's voice was ringing out like that of an
officer excoriating his delinquent troops.

"I'm glad you can't speak English," he heard her say, "for if you could
I'd say things I'd be sorry for. I'd shrivel you up, you great brute. If
you've got the devil in you, can't you take it out on some one else
beside a little child? You're her father, are you? She has no mother, I
suppose. Well, you 're under arrest, do you understand? Tell him, some
of you who can talk English. He's to sit in that chair and never move
from it till the patrol wagon comes. I shall care for the child myself,
and she'll be placed where he can't treat her like that again. Poor
little thing! Thank you, that's a good woman. Just hold her awhile and
comfort her. I can see you've children of your own."

Ray found the courage at length to peer above the heads of the others in
that miserable, crowded room. The dark faces of weary men and women,
heavy with Old-World, inherited woe, showed in the gloom. The short,
shaking man on the chair, dully contrite for his spasm of rage, was
cringing before Kate, who stood there, amazingly tall among these
low-statured beings. Never had she looked to Ray so like an eagle, so
keen, so fierce, so fit for braving either sun or tenebrous cavern. She
dominated them all; had them, who only partly understood what she said,
at her command. She had thrown back her cloak, and the star of the
Juvenile Court officer which she wore carried meaning to them. Though
perhaps it had not needed that. Ray tried to think her theatrical, to
be angry at her, but the chagrin of knowing that she had forgotten him,
and was not caring about his opinion, scourged his criticisms back. She
had lifted from the floor the stick with its leathern thong with which
the man had castigated the tender body of his motherless child. She held
it in her hand, looking at it with the angry aversion that she might
have turned upon a venomous serpent. Then slowly, with unspeakable
rebuke, she swung her gaze upon the wretch in the chair. For a moment
she silently accused him. Then he dropped his head in his hands and
sobbed. He seemed in his voiceless way to say that he, too, had been
castigated by a million invisible thongs held in dead men's hands, and
that his soul, like his child's body, was hideous with welts.

Kate turned to Ray.

"Is the patrol wagon on its way?" she inquired.

"I--I--didn't call it," he stammered.

"Please do," she said simply.

He went out of the room, silently raging, and was grateful that one of
the men followed to show him the patrol box. He waited outside for the
wagon to come, and when the officers brought out the shaking prisoner,
he saw Kate with them carrying the child in her arms.

"I must go to the station," she said to Ray, in a matter-of-fact tone
that put him far away from her. "So I'll say good-night. It wouldn't be
pleasant for you to ride in the wagon, you know. I'll be quite all
right. One of the officers will see me safe home. Anyway, I shall have
to go to the dance-hall before the evening's over."

"Kate!" he protested.

"Oh, I know," she said to him apart softly while the others concerned
themselves with assisting the blubbering Huniack into the wagon, "you
think it isn't nice of me to be going around like this, saving babies
from beatings and young girls from much worse. You think it isn't
ladylike. But it's what the coming lady is either going to do or see
done. It's a new idea, you understand, Ray. Quite different from the
squaw idea, isn't it? Good-night!"

An officer stood at the door of the wagon waiting for her. He touched
his hat and smiled at her in a comradely fashion, and she responded with
as courteous a bow as she ever had made to Ray.

The wagon drove off.

"I've been given my answer," said Ray aloud. He wondered if he were more
relieved or disappointed at the outcome. But really he could neither
feel nor think reasonably. He went home in a tumult, dismayed at his own
sufferings, and in no condition to realize that the old ideas and the
new were at death grips in his consciousness.


Karl Wander rode wearily up the hill on his black mare. Honora saw him
coming and waved to him from the window. There was no one to put up his
horse, and he drove her into the stables and fed her and spread her bed
while Honora watched what he and she had laughingly termed "the
outposts." For she believed she had need to be on guard, and she thanked
heaven that all of the approaches to the house were in the open and that
there was nothing nearer than the rather remote grove of pinon trees
which could shelter any creeping enemy.

Wander came on at last to the house, making his way deliberately and
scorning, it would seem, all chance of attack. But Honora's ears fairly
reverberated with the pistol shot which did not come; the explosion
which was now so long delayed. She ran to open the door for him and to
drag him into the friendly kitchen, where, in the absence of any
domestic help, she had spread their evening meal.

There was a look in his face which she had not seen there before--a look
of quietude, of finality.

"Well?" she asked.

He flung his hat on a settle and sat down to loosen his leggings.

"They've gone," he said, "bag and baggage."

"The miners?"

"Yes, left this afternoon--confiscated some trains and made the crews
haul them out of town. They shook their fists at the mines and the works
as if they had been the haunt of the devil. I couldn't bring myself to
skulk. I rode Nell right down to the station and sat there till the last
carload pulled out with the men and women standing together on the
platform to curse me."

"Karl! How could you? It's a marvel you weren't shot."

"Too easy a mark, I reckon."

"And Elena?"

"Lifted on board by two rival suitors. She didn't even look at me." He
drew a long breath. "I was guiltless in that, Honora. You've stood by
through everything, and you've made a cult of believing in me, and I
want you to know that, so far as Elena was concerned, you were right to
do it. I may have been a fool--but not consciously--not consciously."

"I know it. I believe you."

A silence fell between them while Honora set the hot supper on the table
and put the tea to draw.

"It's very still," he said finally. "But the stillness here is nothing
to what it is down where my village stood. I've made a frightful mess of
things, Honora."

"No," she said, "you built up; another has torn down. You must get more
workmen. There may be a year or two of depression, but you're going to
win out, Karl."

"I've fought a good many fights first and last, Honora,--fights you know
nothing about. Some of them have been with men, some with ideas, some of
the worst ones with myself. It would be a long story and a strange one
if I were to tell it all."

"I dare say it would."

"I suppose I must seem very strange to a civilized woman like you,
or--or your friend, Kate Barrington."

"You seem very like a brave man, Karl, and an interesting one."

"But I'm tired, Honora,--extraordinarily tired. I don't feel like
fighting. Quiet and rest are what I'm longing for, and I'm to begin all
over again, it appears. I've got to struggle up again almost from
the bottom."

"Come to supper, Karl. Never mind all that. We have food and we have
shelter. No doubt we shall sleep. Things like that deserve our
gratitude. Accept these blessings. There are many who lack them."

Suddenly he threw up his arms with a despairing gesture.

"Oh, it isn't myself, Honora, that I'm grieving for! It's those
hot-headed, misguided, wayward fellows of mine! They've left the homes I
tried to help them win, they've followed a self-seeking, half-mad,
wholly vicious agitator, and their lives, that I meant to have flow on
so smoothly, will be troubled and wasted. I know so well what will
happen! And then, their hate! It hangs over me like a cloud! I'm not
supposed to be sensitive. I'm looked on as a swaggering, reckless,
devil-may-care fellow with a pretty good heart and a mighty sure aim;
but I tell you, cousin, among them, they've taken the life out of me."

"It's your dark hour, Karl. You're standing the worst of it right now.
To-morrow things will look better."

"I couldn't ask a woman to come out here and stand amid this ruin with
me, Honora. You know I couldn't. The only person who would be willing to
share my present life with me would be some poor, devil-driven creature
like Elena--come to think of it, even she wouldn't! She's off and away
with a lover at each elbow!"

"Here!" said Honora imperatively. She held a plate toward him laden with
steaming food.

He arose, took it, seated himself, and tried a mouthful, but he had to
wash it down with water.

"I'm too tired," he said. "Really, Honora, you'll have to forgive me."

She got up then and lighted the lamp in his bedroom.

"Thank you," he said. "Rest is what I need. It was odd they didn't
shoot, wasn't it? I thought every moment that they would."

"You surely didn't wish that they would, Karl?"

"No." He paused for a moment at the door. "No--only everything appeared
to be so futile. My bad deeds never turned on me as my good ones have
done. It makes everything seem incoherent. What--what would a woman like
Miss Barrington make of all that--of harm coming from good?"

"I don't know," said Honora, rather sharply. "She hasn't written. I told
her all the trouble we were in,--the danger and the distress,--but she
hasn't written a word."

"Why should she?" demanded Wander. "It's none of her concern. I suppose
she thinks a fool is best left with his folly. Good-night, cousin.
You're a good woman if ever there was one. What should I have done
without you?"

Honora smiled wanly. He seemed to have forgotten that it was she who
would have fared poorly without him.

She closed up the house for the night, looking out in the bright
moonlight to see that all was quiet. For many days and nights she had
been continually on the outlook for lurking figures, but now she was
inclined to believe that she had overestimated the animosity of the
strikers. After all, try as they might, they could bring no accusations
against the man who, hurt to the soul by their misunderstanding of him,
was now laying his tired head upon his pillow.

All was very still. The moonlight touched to silver the snow upon the
mountains; the sound of the leaping river was like a distant flute; the
wind was rising with long, wavelike sounds. Honora lingered in the
doorway, looking and listening. Her heart was big with pity--pity for
that disheartened man whose buoyancy and self-love had been so deeply
wounded, pity for those wandering, angry, aimless men and women who
might have rested secure in his guardianship; pity for all the hot,
misguided hearts of men and women. Pity, too, for the man with the most
impetuous heart of them all, who wandered in some foreign land with a
woman whose beauty had been his lure and his undoing. Yes, she had been
given grace in those days, when she seemed to stand face to face with
death, to pity even David and Mary!

She walked with a slow firm step up to her room, holding her head high.
She had learned trust as well as compassion. She trusted Karl and the
issue of his sorrow. She even trusted the issue of her own sorrow,
which, a short time before, had seemed so shameful. She threw wide her
great windows, and the wind and the moonlight filled her chamber.

* * * * *

Two days later Karl Wander and Honora Fulham rode together to the
village, now dismantled and desolate.

"I remember," said Karl, "what a boyish pride I took in the little town
at first, Honora, to have built it, and had it called after me and all.
Such silly fools as men are, trying to perpetuate themselves by such
childish methods."

"Perpetuation is an instinct with us," said Honora calmly, "Immortality
is our greatest hope. I'm so thankful I have my children, Karl. They
seem to carry one's personality on, you know, no matter how different
they actually may be from one's self."

"Oh, yes," said Karl, with a short sigh, "you're right there. You've a
beautiful brace of babies, Honora. I believe I'll have to ask you to
appoint me their guardian. I must have some share in them. It will give
me a fresh reason for going on."

"Are you a trifle short of reasons for going on, Karl?" Honora asked
gently, averting her look so that she might not seem to be watching him.

"Yes, I am," he admitted frankly. "Although, now that the worst of my
chagrin is over at having failed so completely in the pet scheme of my
life, I can feel my fighting blood getting up again. I'm going to make a
success of the town of Wander yet, my cousin, and those three mines that
lie there so silently are going to hum in the old way. You'll see a
string of men pouring in and out of those gates yet, take my word for
it. But as for me, I proceed henceforth on a humbler policy."

"Humbler? Isn't it humble to be kind, Karl? That's what you were first
and last--kind. You were forever thinking of the good of your people."

"It was outrageously insolent of me to do it, my cousin. Who am I that I
should try to run another man's affairs? How should I know what is best
for him--isn't he the one to be the judge of that? patronage,
patronage, that's what they can't stand--that's what natural overmen
like myself with amiable dispositions try to impose on those we think
inferior to ourselves. We can't seem to comprehend that the way to make
them grow is to leave them alone."

"Don't be bitter, Karl."

"I'm not bitter, Honora. I'm rebuked. I'm literal. I'm instructed. I
have brought you down here to talk the situation over with me. I can get
men in plenty to advise me, but I want to know what you think about a
number of things. Moreover, I want you to tell me what you imagine Miss
Barrington would think about them."

"Why don't you write and ask her?" asked Honora. She herself was hurt at
not having heard from Kate.

"I gave her notice that I wasn't going to write any more," said Karl
sharply. "I couldn't have her counting on me when I wasn't sure that I
was a man to be counted on."

"Oh," cried Honora, enlightened. "That's the trouble, is it? But still,
I should think she'd write to me. I told her of all you and I were going
through together--" she broke off suddenly. Her words presented to her
for the first time some hint of the idea she might have conveyed to
Kate. She smiled upon her cousin beautifully, while he stared at her,
puzzled at her unexpected radiance.

"Kate loves him," she decided, looking at the man beside her with fresh
appreciation of his power. She was the more conscious of it that she saw
him now in his hour of defeat and perceived his hope and ingenuity, his
courage and determination gathering together slowly but steadily for a
fresh effort.

"Dear old Kate," she mused. "Karl rebuffed her in his misery, and I
misled her. If she hadn't cared she'd have written anyway. As it is--"

But Karl was talking.

"Now there's the matter of the company store," he was saying. "What
would Miss Barrington think about the ethical objections to that?"

Honora turned her attention to the matter in hand, and when, late that
afternoon, the two rode their jaded horses home, a new campaign had been
planned. Within a week Wander left for Denver. Honora heard nothing from
him for a fortnight. Then a wire came. He was returning to Wander with
five hundred men.

"They're hoboes--pick-ups," he told Honora that night as the
two sat together at supper. "Long-stake and short-stake
men--down-and-outs--vagrants--drunkards, God knows what. I advertised
for them. 'Previous character not called into question,' was what I
said. 'Must open up my mines. Come and work as long as you feel like
it.' I haven't promised them anything and they haven't promised me
anything, except that I give them wages for work. A few of them have
women with them, but not more than one in twenty. I don't know what kind
of a mess the town of Wander will be now, but at any rate, it's
sticking to its old programme of 'open shop.' Any one who wants to take
these fellows away from me is quite welcome to do it. No affection shall
exist between them and me. There are no obligations on either side. But
they seem a hearty, good-natured lot, and they said they liked my grit."

Something that was wild and reckless in all of the Wanders flashed in
Honora's usually quiet eyes.

"A band of brigands," she laughed. "Really, Karl, I think you'll make a
good chief for them. There's one thing certain, they'll never let you
patronize them."

"I shan't try," declared Karl. "They needn't look to me for benefits of
any sort. I want miners."

Honora chuckled pleasantly and looked at her cousin from the corner of
her eye. She had her own ideas about his ability to maintain such

He amused her a little later by telling her how he had formed a town
government and he described the men he had appointed to office.

"They take it seriously, too," he declared. "We have a ragamuffin
government and regulations that would commend themselves to the most
judicious. 'Pon my soul, Honora, though it's only play, I swear some of
these fellows begin to take on little affectations of self-respect.
We're going to have a council meeting to-morrow. You ought to
come down."

That gave Honora a cue. She was wanting something more to do than to
look after the house, now that servants had again been secured. It
occurred to her that it might be a good idea to call on the women down
at Wander. She was under no error as to their character. Broken-down
followers of weak men's fortunes,--some with the wedding ring and some
without,--they nevertheless were there, flesh and blood, and possibly
heart and soul. Not the ideal but the actual commended itself to her
these days. Kate had taught her that lesson. So, quite simply, she went
among them.

"Call on me when you want anything," she said to them. "I'm a woman who
has seen trouble, and I'd like to be of use to any of you if trouble
should come your way. Anyhow, trouble or no trouble, let us be friends."

In her simple dress, with her quiet, sad face and her deep eyes, she
convinced them of sincerity as few women could have done. They bade her
enter their doors and sit in their sloven homes amid the broken things
the Italians had left behind them.

"Why not start a furniture shop?" asked Honora. "We could find some men
here who could make plain furniture. I'll see Mr. Wander about it."

That was a simple enough plan, and she had no trouble in carrying it
out. She got the women to cooperate with her in other ways. Among them
they cleaned up the town, set out some gardens, and began spending their
men's money for necessaries.

"Do watch out," warned Karl; "you'll get to be a Lady Bountiful--"

"And you a benevolent magnate--"

"Damned if I will! Well, play with your hobo brides if you like, Honora,
but don't look for gratitude or rectitude or any beatitude."

"Not I," declared Honora. "I'm only amusing myself."

They kept insisting to each other that they had no higher intention.
They were hilarious over their failures and they persisted in taking
even their successes humorously. At first the "short-stake men" drifted
away, but presently they began to drift back again. They liked it at
Wander,--liked being mildly and tolerantly controlled by men of their
own sort,--men with some vested authority, however, and a reawakened
perception of responsibility. Wander was their town--the hoboes' own
city. It was one of the few places where something was expected of the
hobo. Well, a hobo was a man, wasn't he? The point was provable. A
number of Karl Wander's vagrants chose to prove that they were not
reprobates. Those who had been "down and out" by their own will, or lack
of it, as well as those whom misfortune had dogged, began to see in this
wild village, in the heart of these rich and terrific mountains, that
wonderful thing, "another chance."

"Would Miss Barrington approve of us now?" Karl would sometimes ask

"Why should she?" Honora would retort. "We're not in earnest. We're
only fighting bankruptcy and ennui."

"That's it," declared Karl. "By the way, I must scrape up some more
capital somewhere, Honora. I've borrowed everything I could lay my hands
on in Denver. Now I've written to some Chicago capitalists about my
affairs and they show a disposition to help me out. They'll meet in
Denver next week. Perhaps I shall bring them here. I've told them
frankly what my position was. You see, if I can swing things for six
months more, the tide will turn. Do you think my interesting rabble will
stick to me?"

"Don't count on them," said Honora. "Don't count on anybody or anything.
But if you like to take your chance, do it. It's no more of a gamble
than anything else a Colorado man is likely to invest in."

"You don't think much of us Colorado men, do you, my cousin?"

"I don't think you are quite civilized," she said. Then a twinge of
memory twisted her face. "But I don't care for civilized men. I like
glorious barbarians like you, Karl."

"Men who are shot at from behind bushes, eh? If I ever have to hide in a
cave, Honora, will you go with me?"

"Yes, and load the guns."

He flashed her a curious look; one which she could not quite interpret.
Was he thinking that he would like her to keep beside him? For a
second, with a thrill of something like fear, this occurred to her. Then
by some mysterious process she read his mind, and she read it aright. He
was really thinking how stirring a thing life would seem if he could
hear words like that from the lips of Kate Barrington.


It had been a busy day for Honora. She had been superintending the
house-cleaning and taking rather an aggressive part in it herself. She
rejoiced that her strength had come back to her, and she felt a keen
satisfaction in putting it forth in service of the man who had taken her
into community of interest with him when, as he had once put it, she was
bankrupted of all that had made her think herself rich.

Moreover, she loved the roomy, bare house, with its uncurtained windows
facing the mountains, and revealing the spectacles of the day and night.
Because of them she had learned to make the most of her sleepless hours.
The slow, majestic procession in the heavens, the hours of tumult when
the moon struggled through the troubled sky, the dawns with their swift,
wide-spreading clarity, were the finest diversions she ever had known.

She remembered how, in the old days, she and David had patronized the
unspeakably puerile musical comedies under the impression that they
"rested" them. Now, she was able to imagine nothing more fatiguing.

They had an early supper, for Karl was leaving for a day or two in
Denver and had to be driven ten miles to the station. He was unusually
silent, and Honora was well pleased that he should be so, for, though
she had kept herself so busily occupied all the day, she had not been
able to rid herself of the feeling that a storm of memories was waiting
to burst upon her. The feeling had grown as the hours of the day went
on, and she at once dreaded and longed for the solitude she should have
when Karl was gone. She was relieved to find that the little girls were
weary and quite ready for their beds. She watched Karl drive away,
standing at the door for a few moments till she heard his clear voice
calling a last good-bye as the station wagon swept around the pinon
grove; then she locked the house and went to her own room. A fire had
been laid for her, and she touched a match to the kindling, lighted her
lamp, and took up some sewing. But she found herself too weary to sew,
and, moreover, this assailant of recollection was upon her again.

She had once seen the Northern lights when the many-hued glory seemed to
be poured from vast, invisible pitchers, till it spread over the floor
of heaven and spilled earthward. Her memories had come upon her
like that.

Then she faced the fact she had been trying all day not to recognize.

It was David's birthday!

She admitted it now, and even had the courage to go back over the ways
they had celebrated the day in former years; at first she held to the
old idea that these recollections made her suffer, but presently she
perceived that it was not so. Had her help come from the hills, as Karl
had told her it would?

She sat so still that she could hear the ashes falling in the
fireplace--so still that the ticking of her watch on the dressing-table
teased her ears. She seemed to be listening for something--for something
beautiful and solemn. And by and by the thing she had been waiting
for came.

It swept into the house as if all the doors and windows had been thrown
wide to receive it. It was as invisible as the wind, as scentless as a
star, as complete as birth or death. It was peace--or forgiveness--or,
in a white way, perhaps it was love.

Suddenly she sprang to her feet.

"David!" she cried. "David! Oh, I _believe I understand!_"

She went to her desk, and, as if she were compelled, began to write.
Afterward she found she had written this:--


"It is your birthday, and I, who am so used to sending you a
present, cannot be deterred now. Oh, David, my husband, you
who fathered my children, you, who, in spite of all, belong
to me, let me tell you how I have at last come, out of the
storm of angers and torments of the past year, into a
sheltered room where you seem to sit waiting to hear me say,
'I forgive you.'

"That is my present to you--my forgiveness. Take it from me
with lifted hands as if it were a sacrament; feed on it, for
it is holy bread. Now we shall both be at peace, shall we
not? You will forgive me, too, _for all I did not do_.

"We are willful children, all of us, and night over-takes us
before we have half learned our lessons.

"Oh, David--"

She broke off suddenly. Something cold seemed to envelop her--cold as a
crevasse and black as death. She gave a strangled cry, wrenched the
collar from her throat, fighting in vain against the mounting waves that
overwhelmed her.

Long afterward, she shuddered up out of her unconsciousness. The fire
had burned itself out; the lamp was sputtering for lack of oil.
Somewhere in the distance a coyote called. She was dripping with cold
sweat, and had hardly strength to find the thing that would warm her and
to get off her clothes and creep into bed.

At first she was afraid to put out the light. It seemed as if, should
she do so, the very form and substance of Terror would come and grip
her. But after a time, slowly, wave upon wave, the sea of Peace rolled
over her--submerging her. She reached out then and extinguished the
light and let herself sink down, down, through the obliterating waters
of sleep--waters as deep, as cold, as protecting as the sea.

"Into the Eternal Arms," she breathed, not knowing why.

But when she awakened the next morning in response to the punctual gong,
she remembered that she had said that.

"Into the Eternal Arms."

She came down to breakfast with the face of one who has eaten of the
sacred bread of the spirit.

* * * * *

The next two days passed vaguely. A gray veil appeared to hang between
her and the realities, and she had the effect of merely going through
the motions of life. The children caused her no trouble. They were,
indeed, the most normal of children, and Mrs. Hays, their old-time
nurse, had reduced their days to an agreeable system. Honora derived
that peculiar delight from them which a mother may have when she is not
obliged to be the bodily servitor and constant attendant of her
children. She was able to feel the poetry of their childhood, seeing
them as she did at fortunate and picturesque moments; and though their
lives were literally braided into her own,--were the golden threads in
her otherwise dun fabric of existence,--she was thankful that she did
not have the task of caring for them. It would have been torture to have
been tied to their small needs all day and every day. She liked far
better the heavier work she did about the house, her long walks, her
rides to town, and, when Karl was away, her supervision of the ranch.
Above all, there was her work at the village. She could return from
that to the children for refreshment and for spiritual illumination. In
the purity of their eyes, in the liquid sweetness of their voices, in
their adorable grace and caprice, there was a healing force beyond her
power to compute.

During these days, however, her pleasure in them was dim, though sweet.
She had been through a mystic experience which left a profound influence
upon her, and she was too much under the spell of it even to make an
effort to shake it off. She slept lightly and woke often, to peer into
the velvet blackness of the night and to listen to the deep silence. She
was as one who stands apart, the viewer of some tremendous but
uncomprehended event.

The third day she sent the horses for Karl, and as twilight neared, he
came driving home. She heard his approach and threw open the door for
him. He saw her with a halo of light about her, curiously enlarged and
glorified, and came slowly and heavily toward her, holding out both
hands. At first she thought he was ill, but as his hands grasped hers,
she saw that he was not bringing a personal sorrow to her but a
brotherly compassion. And then she knew that something had happened to
David. She read his mind so far, almost as if it had been a printed
page, and she might have read further, perhaps, if she had waited, but
she cried out:--

"What is it? You've news of David?"

"Yes," he said. "Come in."

"You've seen the papers?" he asked when they were within the house. She
shook her head.

"I haven't sent over for the mail since you left, Karl. I seemed to like
the silence."

"There's silence enough in all patience!" he cried. "Sixteen hundred
voices have ceased."

"I don't understand."

"The Cyclops has gone down--a new ship, the largest on the sea."

"Why, that seems impossible."

"Not when there are icebergs floating off the banks and when the bergs
carry submerged knives of ice. One of them gored the ship. It
was fatal."

"How terrible!" For a second's space she had forgotten the possible
application to her. Then the knowledge came rushing back upon her.

She put her hands over her heart with the gesture of one wounded.

"David?" she gasped.

Karl nodded.

"He was on it--with Mary. They were coming back to America. He had been
given the Norden prize, as you know,--the prize you earned for him. I
think he was to take a position in some Eastern university. He and Mary
had gone to their room, the paper says, when the shock came. They ran
out together, half-dressed, and Mary asked a steward if there was
anything the matter. 'Yes, madam,' he said quietly, just like that, 'I
believe we are sinking.' You'll read all about it there in those papers.
Mary was interviewed. Well, they lowered the boats. There were enough
for about a third of the passengers. They had made every provision for
luxury, but not nearly enough for safety. The men helped the women into
the boats and sent them away. Then they sat down together, folded their
arms, and died like gentlemen, with the good musicians heartening them
with their music to the last. The captain went down with his ship, of
course. All of the officers did that. Almost all of the men did it, too.
It was very gallant in its terrible way, and David was among the most
gallant. The papers mention him particularly. He worked till the last
helping the others off, and then he sat down and waited for the end."

Honora turned on her cousin a face in which all the candles of her soul
were lit.

"Oh, Karl, how wonderful! How beautiful!"

He said nothing for amazement.

"In that half-hour," she went on, speaking with such swiftness that he
could hardly follow her, "all his thoughts streamed off across the miles
of sea and land to me! I felt the warmth of them all about me. It was
myself he was thinking of. He came back to me, his wife! I was alone,
waiting for something, I couldn't tell what. Then I remembered it was
his birthday, and that I should be sending him a gift. So I sent him my
forgiveness. I wrote a letter, but for some reason I have not sent it.
It is here, the letter!" She drew it from her bosom. "See, the date and
hour is upon it. Read it."

Karl arose and held the letter in a shaking hand. He made a

"The moments correspond," he said. "You are right; his spirit sought

"And then the--the drowning, Karl. I felt it all, but I could not
understand. I died and was dead for a long time, but I came up again, to
live. Only since then life has been very curious. I have felt like a
ghost that missed its grave. I've been walking around, pretending to
live, but really half hearing and half seeing, and waiting for you to
come back and explain."

"I have explained," said Karl with infinite gentleness. "Mary is saved.
She was taken up with others by the Urbania, and friends are caring for
her in New York. She gave a very lucid interview; a feeling one, too.
She lives, but the man she ruined went down, for her sake."

"No," said Honora, "he went down for my sake. He went down for the sake
of his ideals, and his ideals were mine. Oh, how beautiful that I have
forgiven him--and how wonderful that he knew it, and that I--" She spoke
as one to whom a great happiness had come. Then she wavered, reached out
groping hands, and fell forward in Karl's arms.

* * * * *

For days she lay in her bed. She had no desire to arise. She seemed to
dread interruption to her passionate drama of emotion, in which sorrow
and joy were combined in indeterminate parts. From her window she could
see the snow-capped peaks of the Williston range, rising with immortal
and changeful beauty into the purple heavens. As she watched them with
incurious eyes, marking them in the first light of the day, when their
iridescence made them seem as impalpable as a dream of heaven; eyeing
them in the noon-height, when their sides were the hue of ruddy granite;
watching them at sunset when they faded from swimming gold to rose, from
rose to purple, they seemed less like mountains than like those fair and
fatal bergs of the Northern Atlantic. She had read of them, though she
had not seen them. She knew how they sloughed from the inexhaustible
ice-cap of Greenland's bleak continent and marched, stately as an army,
down the mighty plain of the ocean. Fair beyond word were they, with
jeweled crevasses and mother-of-pearl changefulness, indomitable,
treacherous, menacing. Honora, closing weary eyes, still saw them
sailing, sailing, white as angels, radiant as dawn, changing, changing,
lovely and cold as death.

Mind and gaze were fixed upon their enchantment. She would not think of
certain other things--of that incredible catastrophe, that rent ship,
crashing to its doom, of that vast company tossed upon the sea, of those
cries in the dark. No, she shut her eyes and her ears to those things!
They seemed to be the servitors at the doors of madness, and she let
them crook their fingers at her in vain. Now and then, when she was not
on guard, they swarmed upon her, whispering stories of black struggle,
of heart-breaking separation of mother and child, of husband and wife.
Sometimes they told her how Mary--so luxurious, so smiling, so avid of
warmth and food and kisses--had shivered in that bleak wind, as she sat
coatless, torn from David's sheltering embrace. They had given her
elfish reminders of how soft, how pink, how perfumed was that woman's
tender flesh. Then as she looked the blue eyes glazed with agony, the
supple body grew rigid with cold, and down, down, through miles of
water, sank the man they both had loved.

No, no, it was better to watch the bergs, those glistering, fair, white
ships of death! Yes, there from the window she seemed to see them! How
the sun glorified them! Was the sun setting, then? Had there been
another day?

"To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow--"

Darkness was falling. But even in the darkness she saw the ice-ships
slipping down from that great frozen waste, along the glacial rivers,
past the bleak _lisiere_, into the bitter sea, and on down, down to meet
that other ship--that ship bearing its mighty burden of living men--and
to break it in unequal combat.

Oh, could she never sleep! Would those white ships never reach port!

Did she hear Karl say he had telegraphed for Kate Barrington? But what
did it matter? Neither Kate nor Karl, strong and kind as they were,
could stem the tide that bore those ships along the never-quiet seas.


So Kate was coming!

He had cravenly rebuffed her, and she had borne the rebuff in silence.
Yet now that he needed her, she was coming. Ah, that was what women
meant to men. They were created for the comforting of them. He always
had known it, but he had impiously doubted them--doubted Her. Because
fortune had turned from him, he had turned from Her--from Kate
Barrington. He had imagined that she wanted more than he could give;
whereas, evidently, all she ever had wanted was to be needed. He had
called. She had answered. It had been as swift as telegraphy could make
it. And now he was driving to the station to meet her.

Life, it appeared, was just as simple as that. A man, lost in the
darkness, could cry for a star to guide him, and it would come. It would
shine miraculously out of the heavens, and his path would be made plain.
It seemed absurd that the horses should be jogging along at their usual
pace over the familiar road. Why had they not grown shining wings? Why
was the old station wagon not transformed, by the mere glory of its
errand, into a crystal coach? But, no, the horses went no faster because
they were going on this world-changing errand. The resuscitated village,
with the American litter heaped on the Italian dirt, looked none the
less slovenly because She was coming into it in a few minutes. The clock
kept its round; the sun showed its usual inclination toward the west.
But notwithstanding this torpidity, She was coming, and that day stood
apart from all other days.

That it was Honora's desperate need which she was answering, in no way
lessened the value of her response to him. His need and Honora's were
indissoluble now; it was he who had called, and it was not to Honora
alone that she was coming with healing in her hands.

He saw her as she leaped from the train,--tall, alert, green-clad,--and
he ran forward, sweeping his Stetson from his head. Their hands

"You!" he said under his breath.

She laughed into his eyes.

"No, _you_!" she retorted.

He took her bags and they walked side by side, looking at each other as
if their eyes required the sight.

"How is she?" asked Kate.

"Very bad."

"What is it?"

"The doorway to madness."

"You've had a specialist?"

"Yes. He wanted to take her to a sanatorium. I begged him to wait--to
let you try. How could I let her go out from my door to be cast in with
the lost?"

"I suppose it was David's death that caused it."

"Oh, yes. What else could it be?"

"Then she loved him--to the end."

"And after it, I am sure."

He led the way to the station wagon and helped her in; then brought her
luggage on his own shoulder.

"Oh," she cried in distress. "Do you have to be your own stevedore? I
don't like to have you doing that for me."

"Out here we wait on ourselves," he replied when he had tumbled the
trunk into the wagon. He seated himself beside her as if he were doing
an accustomed thing, and she, too, felt as if she had been there beside
him many times before.

As they entered the village, he said:--

"You must note my rowdy town. Never was there such a place--such
organized success built on so much individual failure. From boss to
water-boy we were failures all; so we understood each other. We haven't
sworn brotherhood, but we're pulling together. Some of us had known no
law, and most of us had a prejudice against it, but now we're making our
own laws and we rather enjoy the process. We've made the town and the
mines our own cause, so what is the use of playing the traitor? Some of
us are short-stake men habitually and constitutionally. Very well, say
we, let us look at the facts. Since there are short-stake men in the
world, why not make allowances for them? Use their limited powers of
endurance and concentration, then let 'em off to rest up. If there are
enough short-stake men around, some one will always be working. We find
it works well."

"Have you many women in your midst?"

"At first we had very few. Just some bedraggled wives and a few less
responsible ladies with magenta feathers in their hats. At least, two of
them had, and the magenta feather came to be a badge. But they've
disappeared--the feathers, not the ladies. Honora had a hand in it. I
think she pulled off one marriage. She seemed to think there were
arguments in favor of the wedding ceremony. But, mind you, she didn't
want any of the poor women to go because they were bad. We are sinners
all here. Stay and take a chance, that's our motto. It isn't often you
can get a good woman like Honora to hang up a sign like that."

"Honora couldn't have done it once," said Kate. "But think of all she's

"Learned? Yes. And I, too. I've been learning my lessons, too,--they
were long and hard and I sulked at some of them, but I'm more
tractable new."

"I had my own hard conning," Kate said softly. "You never could have
done what I did, Mr. Wander. You couldn't have been cruel to an
old father."

"Honora has made all that clear to me," said Karl with compassion.
"When we are fighting for liberty we forget the sufferings of
the enemy."

There was a little pause. Then Karl spoke.

"But I forgot to begin at the beginning in telling you about my
made-over mining town. Yet you seemed to know about it."

"Oh, I read about it in the papers. Your experiment is famous. All of
the people I am associated with, the welfare workers and sociologists,
are immensely interested in it. That's one of the problems now--how to
use the hobo, how to get him back into an understanding of regulated

"Put him in charge," laughed Karl. "The answer's easy. Treat him like a
fellow-man. Don't annoy him by an exhibition of your useless virtues."

"I never thought of that," said Kate.

They turned their backs on the straggling town and faced the peaks.
Presently they skirted the Williston River which thundered among
boulders and raged on toward the low-lying valley. From above, the roar
of the pines came to them, reverberant and melancholy.

"What sounds! What sounds!" cried Kate.

"The mountains breathing," answered Wander.

He drove well, and he knew the road. It was a dangerous road, which,
ever ascending, skirted sharp declivities and rounded buttressed rocks.
Kate, prairie-reared, could not "escape the inevitable thrill," but she
showed, and perhaps felt, no fear. She let the matter rest with
him--this man with great shoulders and firm hands, who knew the
primitive art of "waiting on himself." Their brief speech sufficed them
for a time, and now they sat silent, well content. The old, tormenting
question as to his relations with Honora did not intrude itself. It was
swept out of sight like flotsam in the plenteous stream of
present content.

They swung upon a purple mesa, and in the distance Kate saw a light
which she felt was shining from the window of his home.

"It's just as I thought it would be," she said.

"Perhaps you are just the way it thought you would be," he replied.
"Perhaps the soul of a place waits and watches for the right person,
just as we human beings wander about searching for the right spot."

"_I'm_ suited," affirmed Kate. "I hope the mesa is."

"I know it well and I can answer for it."

The road continued to mount; they entered the pinon grove and rode in
aromatic dusk for a while, and when they emerged they were at
the doorway.

He lifted her down and held her with a gesture as if he had something to

"It's about my letter," he ventured. "You knew very well it wasn't that
I didn't want you to write. But my life was getting tangled--I wasn't
willing to involve you in any way in the debris. I couldn't be sure that
letters sent me would always reach my hands. Worst of all, I accused
myself of unworthiness. I do so still."

"I'm not one who worries much about worthiness or unworthiness," she
said. "Each of us is worthy and unworthy. But I thought--"


"I was confused. Honora said I was to congratulate you--and her. I
didn't know--"

He stared incredulously.

"You didn't know--" He broke off, too, then laughed shortly. "I wish you
had known," he added. "I would like to think that you never could

She felt herself rebuked. He opened the door for her and she stepped for
the first time across the threshold of his house.

* * * * *

Half an hour later, Wander, sitting in his study at the end of the upper
hall, saw his guest hastening toward Honora's room. She wore a plain
brown house dress and looked uniformed and ready for service. She did
not speak to him, but hastened down the corridor and let herself into
that solemn chamber where Honora Fulham lay with wide-staring eyes
gazing mountain ward. That Honora was in some cold, still, and appalling
place it took Kate but a moment to apprehend. She could hardly keep from
springing to her as if to snatch her from impending doom, but she forced
all panic from her manner.

"Kate's come," she said, leaning down and kissing those chilly lips
with a passion of pity and reassurance. "She's come to stay, sister
Honora, and to drive everything bad away from you. Give her a kiss if
you are glad."

Did she feel an answering salute? She could not be sure. She moved aside
and watched. Those fixed, vision-seeing eyes were upon the snow-capped
peaks purpling in the decline of the day.

"What is it you see, sister?" she asked. "Is there something out there
that troubles you?"

Honora lifted a tragic hand and pointed to those darkening snows.

"See how the bergs keep floating!" she whispered. "They float slowly,
but they are on their way. By and by they will meet the ship. Then
everything will be crushed or frozen. I try to make them stay still, but
they won't do it, and I'm so tired--oh, I'm so terribly tired, Kate."

Kate's heart leaped. She had, at any rate, recognized her.

"They really are still, Honora," she cried. "Truly they are. I am
looking at them, and I can see that they are still. They are not bergs
at all, but only your good mountains, and by and by all of that ice and
snow will melt and flowers will be growing there."

She pulled down the high-rolled shades at the windows with a decisive

"But I must have them up," cried Honora, beginning to sob. "I have to
keep watching them."

"It's time to have in the lamps," declared Kate; and went to the door
to ask for them.

"And tea, too, please, Mrs. Hays," she called; "quite hot."

"We've been keeping her very still," warned Wander, rejoicing in Kate's
cheerful voice, yet dreading the effect of it on his cousin.

"It's been too still where her soul has been dwelling," Kate replied in
a whisper. "Can't you see she's on those bitter seas watching for the
ice to crush David's ship? It's not yet madness, only a profound
dream--a recurring hallucination. We must break it up--oh, we must!"

She carried in the lamps when they came, placing them where their glow
would not trouble those burning eyes; and when Mrs. Hays brought the tea
and toast, whispering, "She'll take nothing," Kate lifted her friend in
her determined arms, and, having made her comfortable, placed the tray
before her.

"For old sake's sake, Honora," she said. "Come, let us play we are girls
again, back at Foster, drinking our tea!"

Mechanically, Honora lifted the cup and sipped it. When Kate broke
pieces of the toast and set them before her, she ate them.

"You are telling me nothing about the babies," Kate reproached her
finally. "Mayn't we have them in for a moment?"

"I don't think they ought to come here," said Honora faintly. "It
doesn't seem as if they ought to be brought to such a place as this."

But Kate commanded their presence, and, having softly fondled them,
dropped them on Honora's bed and let them crawl about there. They
swarmed up to their mother and hung upon her, patting her cheeks, and
investigating the use of eyelids and of ropes of hair. But when they
could not provoke her to play, they began to whimper.

"Honora," said Kate sharply, "you must laugh at them at once! They
mustn't go away without a kiss."

So Honora dragged herself from those green waters beyond the fatal
Banks, half across the continent to the little children at her side, and
held them for a moment--the two of them at once--in her embrace.

"But I'm so tired, Kate," she said wearily.

"Rest, then," said Kate. "Rest. But it wouldn't have been right to rest
without saying good-night to the kiddies, would it? A mother has to
think of that, hasn't she? They need you so dreadfully, you see."

She slipped the extra pillows from beneath the heavy head, and stood a
moment by the bedside in silence as if she would impress the fact of her
protection upon that stricken heart and brain.

"It is safe, here, Honora," she said softly. "Love and care are all
about you. No harm shall come near you. Do you believe that?"

Honora looked at her from beneath heavy lids, then slowly let her eyes
close. Kate walked to the window and waited. At first Honora's body was
convulsed with nervous spasms, but little by little they ceased. Honora
slept. Kate threw wide the windows, extinguished the light, and crept
from the room, not ill-satisfied with her first conflict with the
dread enemy.

* * * * *

Karl was waiting for her in the corridor when she came from Honora's
room, and he caught both of her hands in his.

"You're cold with horror!" he said. "What a thing that is to see!"

"But it isn't going to last," protested Kate with a quivering accent.
"We can't have it last."

"Come into the light," he urged. "Supper is waiting."

He led her down the stairs and into the simple dining-room. The table
was laid for two before a leaping blaze. There was no other light save
that of two great candles in sticks of wrought bronze. The room was bare
but beautiful--so seemly were its proportions, so fitted to its use its
quiet furnishings.

He placed her chair where she could feel the glow and see, through the
wide window, a crescent moon mounting delicately into the clear sky.
There was game and salad, custard and coffee--a charming feast. Mrs.
Hays came and went quietly serving them. Karl said little. He was
content with the essential richness of the moment. It was as if Destiny
had distilled this hour for him, giving it to him to quaff. He was
grave, but he did not resent her sorrowfulness. Sorrow, he observed,
might have as sweet a flavor as joy. It did not matter by what name the
present hour was called. It was there--he rested in it as in a state of
being which had been appointed--a goal toward which he had been

"What's to be done?" he asked.

"I've been thinking," said Kate, "that we had better move her from that
room. Is there none from which no mountains are visible? She ought not
to have the continual reminder of those icebergs."

"Why didn't I think of that?" he cried with vexation. "That shows how
stupid a man can be. Certainly we have such a room as you wish. It looks
over the barnyard. It's cheerful but noisy. You can hear the burros and
the chickens and pigs and calves and babies all day long."

"It's precisely what she needs. Her thoughts are the things to fear, and
I know of no way to break those up except by crowding others in. Is the
room pleasant--gay?"

"No--hardly clean, I should say. But we can work on it like fiends."

"Let's do it, then,--put in chintz, pictures, flowers, books, a jar of
goldfish, a cage of finches,--anything that will make her forget that
terrible white procession of bergs."

"You think it isn't too late? You think we can save her?"

"I won't admit anything else," declared Kate.

The wind began to rise. It came rushing from far heights and moaned
around the house. The silence yielded to this mournful sound, yet kept
its essential quality.

"It's a wild place," said Kate; "wilder than any place I have been in
before. But it seems secure. I find it hard to believe that you have
been in danger here."

"I am in danger now," said Karl. "Much worse danger than I was in when
the poor excited dagoes were threatening me."

"What is your danger?" asked Kate.

She was incapable of coquetry after that experience in Honora's room;
nor did the noble solitude of the place permit the thought of an
excursion into the realms of any sort of dalliance. Moreover, though
Karl's words might have led her to think of him as ready to play with a
sentimental situation, the essential loftiness of his gaze forbade her
to entertain the thought.

"I am in danger," he said gravely, "of experiencing a happiness so great
that I shall never again be satisfied with life under less perfect
conditions. Can you imagine how the fresh air seems to a man just
released from prison? Well, life has a tang like that for me now. I tell
you, I have been a discouraged man. It looked to me as if all of the
things I had been fighting for throughout my manhood were going to
ruin. I saw my theories shattered, my fortune disappearing, my
reputation, as the successful manipulator of other men's money, being
lost. I've been looked upon as a lucky man and a reliable one out here
in Colorado. They swear by you or at you out in this part of the
country, and I've been accustomed to having them count on me. I even had
some political expectations, and was justified in them, I imagine. I had
an idea I might go to the state legislature and then take a jump to
Washington. Well, it was a soap-bubble dream, of course. I lost out.
This tatterdemalion crew of mine is all there is left of my cohorts. I
suppose I'm looked on now as a wild experimenter."

"Would it seem that way to men?" asked Kate, surprised. "To take what
lies at hand and make use of it--to win with a broken sword--that
strikes me as magnificent."

She forgot to put a guard on herself for a moment and let her
admiration, her deep confidence in him, shine from her eyes. She saw him
whiten, saw a look of almost terrible happiness in his eyes, and
withdrew her gaze. She could hear him breathing deeply, but he said
nothing. There fell upon them a profound and wonderful silence which
held when they had arisen and were sitting before his hearth. They were
alone with elemental things--night, silence, wind, and fire. They had
the essentials, roof and food, clothing and companionship. Back and
forth between them flashed the mystic currents of understanding. A
happiness such as neither had known suffused them.

When they said "good-night," each made the discovery that the simple
word has occult and beautiful meanings.


At the end of a week Honora showed a decided change for the better. The
horror had gone out of her face; she ate without persuasion; she slept
briefly but often. The conclusion of a fortnight saw her still sad, but
beyond immediate danger of melancholy. She began to assume some slight
responsibility toward the children, and she loved to have them playing
about her, although she soon wearied of them.

Kate had decided not to go back to Chicago until her return from
California. She was to speak to the Federation of Women's Clubs which
met at Los Angeles, and she proposed taking Honora with her. Honora was
not averse if Kate and Karl thought it best for her. The babies were to
remain safe at home.

"I wouldn't dare experiment with babies," said Kate. "At least, not with
other people's."

"You surely wouldn't experiment with your own, ma'am!" cried the
privileged Mrs. Hays.

"Oh, I might," Kate insisted. "If I had babies of my own, I'd like them
to be hard, brown little savages--the sort you could put on donkey-back
or camel-back and take anywhere."

Mrs. Hays shook her head at the idea of camels. It hardly sounded
Christian, and certainly it in no way met her notion of the need
of infants.

"Mrs. Browning writes about taking her baby to a mountain-top not far
from the stars," Kate went on. "They rode donkey-back, I believe.
Personally, however, I should prefer the camel. For one thing, you could
get more babies on his back."

Mrs. Hays threw a glance at her mistress as if to say: "Is it proper for
a young woman to talk like this?"

The young woman in question said many things which, according to the
always discreet and sensible Mrs. Hays, were hardly to be commended.

There was, for example, the evening she had stood in the westward end of
the veranda and called:--

"Archangels! Come quick and see them!"

The summons was so stirring that they all ran,--even Honora, who was
just beginning to move about the house,--but Wander reached Kate's
side first.

"She's right, Honora," he announced. "It is archangels--a whole party of
them. Come, see!"

But it had been nothing save a sunset rather brighter than usual, with
wing-like radiations.

"Pshaw!" said Mrs. Hays confidentially to the cook.

"Shouldn't you think they'd burn up with all that flaming crimson on
them?" Kate cried. "And, oh, their golden hair! Or does that belong to
the Damosel? Probably she is leaning over the bar of heaven at
this minute."

In Mrs. Hays's estimation, the one good thing about all such talk was
that Mrs. Fulham seemed to like it. Sometimes she smiled; and she hung
upon the arm of her friend and looked at her as if wondering how one
could be so young and strong and gay. Mr. Wander, too, seemed never
tired of listening; and the way that letters trailed after this young
woman showed her that a number--quite an astonishingly large number--of
persons were pleased to whet their ideas on her. Clarinda Hays decided
that she would like to try it herself; so one morning when she sat on
the veranda watching the slumbers of the little girls in their hammocks,
and Miss Barrington sat near at hand fashioning a blouse for Honora's
journey, she ventured:--

"You're a suffragette, ain't you, Miss?"

"Why, yes," admitted Kate. "I suppose I am. I believe in suffrage for
women, at any rate."

"Well, what do you make of all them carryings-on over there in England,
ma'am? You don't approve of acid-throwing and window-breaking and
cutting men's faces with knives, do you?" She looked at Kate with an
almost poignant anxiety, her face twitching a little with her
excitement. "A decent woman couldn't put her stamp on that kind
o' thing."

"But the puzzling part of it all is, Mrs. Hays, that it appears to be
decent women who are doing it. Moreover, it's not an impulse with them
but a plan. That rather sets one thinking, doesn't it? You see, it's a
sort of revolution. Revolutions have got us almost everything we have
that is really worth while in the way of personal liberty; but I don't
suppose any of them seemed very 'decent' to the non-combatants who were
looking on. Then, too, you have to realize that women are very much
handicapped in conducting a fight."

"What have they got to fight against, I should like to know?" demanded
Mrs. Hays, dropping her sewing and grasping the arms of her chair in her

"Well," said Kate, "I fancy we American women haven't much idea of all
that the Englishwomen are called upon to resent. I do know, though, that
an English husband of whatever station thinks that he is the commander,
and that he feels at liberty to address his wife as few American
husbands would think of doing. It's quite allowed them to beat their
wives if they are so minded. I hope that not many of them are minded to
do anything of the kind, but I feel very sure that women are 'kept in
their place' over there. So, as they've been hectored themselves,
they've taken up hectoring tactics in retaliation. They demand a share
in the government and the lawmaking. They want to have a say about the
schools and the courts of justice. If men were fighting for some new
form of liberty, we should think them heroic. Why should we think women
silly for doing the same thing?"

"It won't get them anywhere," affirmed Clarinda Hays. "It won't do for
them what the old way of behaving did for them, Miss. Now, who, I
should like to know, does a young fellow, dying off in foreign parts,
turn his thoughts to in his last moments? Why, to his good mother or his
nice sweetheart! You don't suppose that men are going to turn their
dying thoughts to any such screaming, kicking harridans as them
suffragettes over there in England, do you?"

Kate heard a chuckle beyond the door--the disrespectful chuckle, as she
took it, of the master of the house. It armed her for the fray.

"I don't think the militant women are doing these things to induce men
to feel tenderly toward them, Mrs. Hays. I don't believe they care just
now whether the men feel tenderly toward them or not. Women have been
low-voiced and sweet and docile for a good many centuries, but it hasn't
gained them the right to claim their own children, or to stand up beside
men and share their higher responsibilities and privileges. I don't like
the manner of warfare, myself. While I could die at the stake if it
would do any good, I couldn't break windows and throw acid. For one
thing, it doesn't seem to me quite logical, as the damage is inflicted
on the property of persons who have nothing to do with the case. But, of
course, I can't be sure that, after the fight is won, future generations
will not honor the women who forgot their personal preferences and who
made the fight in the only way they could."

"You're such a grand talker, Miss, that it's hard running opposite to
you, but I was brought up to think that a woman ought to be as near an
angel as she could be. I never answered my husband back, no matter what
he said to me, and I moved here and there to suit him. I was always
waiting for him at home, and when he got there I stood ready to do for
him in any way I could. We was happy together, Miss, and when he was
dying he said that I had been a good wife. Them words repaid me, Miss,
as having my own way never could."

Clarinda Hays had grown fervid. There were tears in her patient eyes,
and her face was frankly broken with emotion.

Kate permitted a little silence to fall. Then she said gently:--

"I can see it is very sweet to you--that memory--very sweet and sacred.
I don't wonder you treasure it."

She let the subject lie there and arose presently and, in passing, laid
her firm brown hand on Mrs. Hays's work-worn one.

Wander was in the sitting-room and as she entered it he motioned her to
get her hat and sweater. She did so silently and accepted from him the
alpenstock he held out to her.

"Is it right to leave Honora?" he asked when they were beyond hearing.
"I had little or nothing to do down in town, and it occurred to me that
we might slip away for once and go adventuring."

"Oh, Honora's particularly well this morning. She's been reading a
little, and after she has rested she is going to try to sew. Not that
she can do much, but it means that she's taking an interest again."

"Ah, that does me good! What a nightmare it's been! We seem to have had
one nightmare after another, Honora and I."

They turned their steps up the trail that mounted westward.

"It follows this foothill for a way," said Wander, striding ahead, since
they could not walk side by side. "Then it takes that level up there and
strikes the mountain. It goes on over the pass."

"And where does it end? Why was it made?"

"I'm not quite sure where it ends. But it was made because men love to

She gave a throaty laugh, crying, "I might have known!" for answer, and
he led on, stopping to assist her when the way was broken or unusually
steep, and she, less accustomed but throbbing with the joy of
it, followed.

They reached an irregular "bench" of the mountain, and rested there on a
great boulder. Below them lay the ranch amid its little hills,
dust-of-gold in hue.

"I have dreamed countless times of trailing this path with you," he

"Then you have exhausted the best of the experience already. What equals
a dream? Doesn't it exceed all possible fact?"

"I think you know very well," he answered, "that this is more to me than
any dream."

An eagle lifted from a tree near at hand and sailed away with
confidence, the master of the air.

"I don't wonder men die trying to imitate him," breathed Kate, wrapt in
the splendor of his flight. "They are the little brothers of Icarus."

"I always hope," replied Wander, "when I hear of an aviator who has been
killed, that he has had at least one perfect flight, when he soared as
high as he wished and saw and felt all that a man in his circumstances
could. Since he has had to pay so great a price, I want him to have had
full value."

"It's a fine thing to be willing to pay the price," mused Kate. "If you
can face whatever-gods-there-be and say, 'I've had my adventure. What's
due?' you're pretty well done with fears and flurries."

"Wise one!" laughed Wander. "What do you know about paying?"

"You think I don't know!" she cried. Then she flushed and drew back.
"The last folly of the braggart is to boast of misfortune," she said.
"But, really, I have paid, if missing some precious things that might
have been mine is a payment for pride and wilfullness."

"I hope you haven't missed very much, then,--not anything that you'll be
regretting in the years to come."

"Oh, regret is never going to be a specialty of mine," declared Kate.
"To-morrow's the chance! I shall never be able to do much with
yesterday, no matter how wise I become."

"Right you are!" said Wander sharply. "The only thing is that you don't
know quite the full bearing of your remark--and I do."

She laughed sympathetically.

"Truth is truth," she said.

"Yes." He hung over the obvious aphorism boyishly. "Yes, truth is truth,
no matter who utters it."

"Thanks, kind sir."

"Oh, I was thinking of the excellent Clarinda Hays. I listened to your
conversation this morning and it seemed to me that she was giving you
about all the truth you could find bins for. I couldn't help but take it
in, it was so complacently offered. But Clarinda was getting her 'sacred
feelings' mixed up with the truth. However, I suppose there is an
essential truth about sacred feelings even when they're founded on an
error. I surmised that you were holding back vastly more than you were
saying. Now that we 're pretty well toward a mountain-top, with nobody
listening, you might tell me what you _were_ thinking."

Kate smiled slowly. She looked at the man beside her as if appraising

"I'm terribly afraid," she said at length, "that you are soul-kin to
Clarinda. You'll walk in a mist of sacred feelings, too, and truth will
play hide and seek with you all over the place."

"Nonsense!" he cried. "Why can't I hear what you have to say? You stand
on platforms and tell it to hundreds. Why should you grudge it to me?"

She swept her hand toward the landscape around them.

"It has to do with change," she said. "And with evolution. Look at this
scarred mountain-side, how confused and senseless the upheavals seem
which have given it its grandeur! Nor is it static yet. It is
continually wearing down. Erosion is diminishing it, that river is
denuding it. Eternal change is the only law."

"I understand," said Wander, his eyes glowing.

"In the world of thought it is the same."


"But I speak for women--and I am afraid that you'll not understand."

"I should like to be given a chance to try," he answered.

"Clarinda," she said, after a moment's pause, "like the larger part of
the world, is looking at a mirage. She sees these shining pictures on
the hot sand of the world and she says: 'These are the real things. I
will fix my gaze on them. What does the hot sand and the trackless waste
matter so long as I have these beautiful mirages to look at?' When you
say that mirages are insubstantial, evanishing, mere tricks of air and
eye, the Clarindas retort, 'But if you take away our mirages, where are
we to turn? What will you give us in the place of them?' She thinks, for
example, if a dying soldier calls on his mother or his sweetheart that
they must be good women. This is not the case. He calls on them because
confronts the great loneliness of death. He is quite as likely to call
on a wicked woman if she is the one whose name comes to his flickering
sense. But even supposing that one had to be sacrificial, subservient,
and to possess all the other Clarinda virtues in order to have a dying
man call on one, still, would that burst of delirious wistfulness
compensate one for years of servitude?"

She let the statement hang in the air for a moment, while Wander's color
deepened yet more. He was being wounded in the place of his dreams and
the pang was sharp.

"If some one, dying, called you 'Faithful slave,'" resumed Kate, "would
that make you proud? Would it not rather be a humiliation? Now, 'good
wife' might be synonymous with 'faithful slave.' That's what I'd have to
ascertain before I could be complimented as Clarinda was complimented by
those words. I'd have to have my own approval. No one else could comfort
me with a 'well done' unless my own conscience echoed the words. 'Good
wife,' indeed!"

"What would reconcile you to such commendations?" asked Wander with a
reproach that was almost personal.

"The possession of those privileges and mediums by which liberty is

"For example?"

"My own independent powers of thought; my own religion, politics, taste,
and direction of self-development--above all, my own money. By that I
mean money for which I did not have to ask and which never was given to
me as an indulgence. Then I should want definite work commensurate with
my powers; and the right to a voice in all matters affecting my life or
the life of my family."

"That is what you would take. But what would you give?"

"I would not 'take' these things any more than my husband would 'take'
them. Nor could he bestow them upon me, for they are mine by
inherent right."

"Could he give you nothing, then?"

"Love. Yet it may not be correct to say that he could give that. He
would not love me because he chose to do so, but because he could not
help doing so. At least, that is my idea of love. He would love me as I
was, with all my faults and follies, and I should love him the same way.
I should be as proud of his personality as I would be defensive of my
own. I should not ask him to be like me; I should only ask him to be
truly himself and to let me be truly myself. If our personalities
diverged, perhaps they would go around the circle and meet on the
other side."

"Do you think, my dear woman, that you would be able to recognize each
other after such a long journey?"

"There would be distinguishing marks," laughed Kate; "birthmarks of the
soul. But I neglected to say that it would not satisfy me merely to be
given a portion of the earnings of the family--that portion which I
would require to conduct the household and which I might claim as my
share of the result of labor. I should also wish, when there was a
surplus, to be given half of it that I might make my own experiments."

"A full partnership!"

"That's the idea, precisely: a full partnership. There is an assumption
that marriages are that now, but it is not so, as all frank persons
must concede."

"_I_ concede it, at any rate."

"Now, you must understand that we women are asking these things because
we are acquiring new ideas of duty. A duty is like a command; it must be
obeyed. It has been laid upon us to demand rights and privileges equal
to those enjoyed by men, and we wish them to be extended to us not
because we are young or beautiful or winning or chaste, but because we
are members of a common humanity with men and are entitled to the same
inheritance. We want our status established, so that when we make a
marriage alliance we can do it for love and no other reason--not for a
home, or support, or children or protection. Marriage should be a
privilege and a reward--not a necessity. It should be so that if we
spinsters want a home, we can earn one; if we desire children, we can
take to ourselves some of the motherless ones; and we should be able to
entrust society with our protection. By society I mean, of course, the
structure which civilized people have fashioned for themselves, the
portals of which are personal rights and the law."

"But what will all the lovers do? If everything is adjusted to such a
nicety, what will they be able to sacrifice for each other?"

"Lovers," smiled Kate, "will always be able to make their own paradise,
and a jewelled sacrifice will be the keystone of each window in their
house of love. But there are only a few lovers in the world compared
with those who have come down through the realm of little morning clouds
and are bearing the heat and burden of the day."

"How do you know all of these things, Wise Woman? Have you had so much

"We each have all the accumulated experience of the centuries. We don't
have to keep to the limits of our own little individual lives."

"I often have dreamed of bringing you up on this trail," said Wander
whimsically, "but never for the purpose of hearing you make your
declaration of independence."

"Why not?" demanded Kate. "In what better place could I make it?"

Beside the clamorous waterfall was a huge boulder squared almost as if
the hand of a mason had shaped it. Kate stepped on it, before Wander
could prevent her, and stood laughing back at him, the wind blowing her
garments about her and lifting strands of her loosened hair.

"I declare my freedom!" she cried with grandiose mockery. "Freedom to
think my own thoughts, preach my own creeds, do my own work, and make
the sacrifices of my own choosing. I declare that I will have no master
and no mistress, no slave and no neophyte, but that I will strive to
preserve my own personality and to help all of my brothers and sisters,
the world over, to preserve theirs. I declare that I will let no
superstition or prejudice set limits to my good will, my influence, or
my ambition!"

"You are standing on a precipice," he warned.

"It's glorious!"

"But it may be fatal."

"But I have the head for it," she retorted. "I shall not fall!"

"Others may who try to emulate you."

"That's Fear--the most subtle of foes!"

"Oh, come back," he pleaded seriously, "I can't bear to see you standing

"Very well," she said, giving him her hand with a gay gesture of
capitulation. "But didn't you say that men liked to climb? Well,
women do, too."

They were conscious of being late for dinner and they turned their faces
toward home.

"How ridiculous," remarked Wander, "that we should think ourselves
obliged to return for dinner!"

"On the contrary," said Kate, "I think it bears witness to both our
health and our sanity. I've got over being afraid that I shall be
injured by the commonplace. When I open your door and smell the roast
or the turnips or whatever food has been provided, I shall like it just
as well as if it were flowers."

Wander helped her down a jagged descent and laughed up in her face.

"What a materialist!" he cried. "And I thought you were interested only
in the ideal."

"Things aren't ideal because they have been labeled so," declared Kate.
"When people tell you they are clinging to old ideals, it's well to find
out if they aren't napping in some musty old room beneath the cobwebs.
I'm a materialist, very likely, but that's only incidental to my
realism. I like to be allowed to realize the truth about things, and you
know yourself that you men--who really are the sentimental sex--have
tried as hard as you could not to let us."

"You speak as if we had deliberately fooled you."

"You haven't fooled us any more than we have fooled ourselves." They had
reached the lower level now, and could walk side by side. "You've kept
us supplemental, and we've thought we were noble when we played the
supplemental part. But it doesn't look so to us any longer. We want to
be ourselves and to justify ourselves. There's a good deal of complaint
about women not having enough to do--about the factories and shops
taking their work away from them and leaving them idle and inexpressive.
Well, in a way, that's true, and I'm a strong advocate of new vocations,
so that women can have their own purses and all that. But I know in my
heart all this is incidental. What we really need is a definite set of
principles; if we can acquire an inner stability, we shall do very well
whether our hands are perpetually occupied or not. But just at present
we poor women are sitting in the ruins of our collapsed faiths, and we
haven't decided what sort of architecture to use in erecting the
new one."

"There doesn't seem to be much peace left in the world," mused Wander.
"Do you women think you will have peace when you get this new faith?"

"Oh, dear me," retorted Kate, "what would you have us do with peace? You
can get that in any garlanded sepulcher. Peace is like perfection, it
isn't desirable. We should perish of it. As long as there is life there
is struggle and change. But when we have our inner faith, when we can
see what the thing is for which we are to strive, then we shall cease to
be so spasmodic in our efforts. We'll not be doing such grotesque
things. We'll come into new dignity."

"What you're trying to say," said Wander, "is that it is ourselves who
are to be our best achievement. It's what we make of ourselves
that matters."

"Oh, that's it! That's it!" cried Kate, beating her gloved hands
together like a child. "You're getting it! You're getting it! It's what
we make of ourselves that matters, and we must all have the right to
find ourselves--to keep exploring till we find our highest selves. There
mustn't be such a waste of ability and power and hope as there has
been. We must all have our share in the essentials--our own relation
to reality."

"I see," he said, pausing at the door, and looking into her face as if
he would spell out her incommunicable self. "That's what you mean by
universal liberty."

"That's what I mean."

"And the man you marry must let you pick your own way, make your own
blunders, grow by your own experience."


Honora opened the door and looked at them. She was weak and she leaned
against the casing for her support, but her face was tender and calm,
and she was regnant over her own mind.

"What is the matter with you two?" she asked. "Aren't you coming in to
dinner? Haven't you any appetites?"

Kate threw her arms about her.

"Oh, Honora," she cried. "How lovely you look! Appetites? We're


Another week went by, and though it went swiftly, still at the end of
the time it seemed long, as very happy and significant times do. Honora
was still weak, but as every comfort had been provided for her journey,
it seemed more than probable that she would be benefited in the long run
by the change, however exhausting it might be temporarily.

"It's the morning of the last day," said Wander at breakfast. "Honora is
to treat herself as if she were the finest and most highly decorated
bohemian glass, and save herself up for her journey. All preparations, I
am told, are completed. Very well, then. Do you and I ride to-day, Miss

"'Here we ride,'" quoted Kate. Then she flushed, remembering the

Did Karl recognize it--or know it? She could not tell. He could, at
will, show a superb inscrutability.

Whether he knew Browning's poem or not, Kate found to her
irritation that she did. Lines she thought she had forgotten,
trooped--galloped--back into her brain. The thud of them fell like
rhythmic hoofs upon the road.

"Then we began to ride. My soul
Smoothed itself out, a long-cramped scroll
Freshening and fluttering in the wind.
Past hopes already lay behind.
What need to strive with a life awry?
Had I said that, had I done this,
So might I gain, so might I miss."

She wove her braids about her head to the measure; buckled her boots and
buttoned her habit; and then, veiled and gauntleted she went down the
stairs, still keeping time to the inaudible tune:--

"So might I gain, so might I miss."

The mare Wander held for her was one which she had ridden several times
before and with which she was already on terms of good feeling. That
subtle, quick understanding which goes from horse to rider, when all is
well in their relations, and when both are eager to face the wind,
passed now from Lady Bel to Kate. She let the creature nose her for a
moment, then accepted Wander's hand and mounted. The fine animal
quivered delicately, shook herself, pawed the dust with a motion as
graceful as any lady could have made, threw a pleasant, sociable look
over her shoulder, and at Kate's vivacious lift of the rein was off.
Wander was mounted magnificently on Nell, a mare of heavier build, a
black animal, which made a good contrast to Lady Bel's shining
roan coat.

The animals were too fresh and impatient to permit much conversation
between their riders. They were answering to the call of the road as
much as were the humans who rode them. Kate tried to think of the
scenes which were flashing by, or of the village,--Wander's "rowdy"
village, teeming with its human stories; but, after all, it was
Browning's lines which had their way with her. They trumpeted themselves
in her ear, changing a word here and there, impishly, to suit her case.

"We rode; it seemed my spirit flew,
Saw other regions, cities new,
As the world rushed by on either side.
I thought, All labor, yet no less
Bear up beneath their unsuccess.
Look at the end of work, contrast
The petty Done, the Undone vast,
This present of theirs with the hopeful past!
I hoped he would love me. Here we ride."

They were to the north of the village, heading for a canon. The road was
good, the day not too warm, and the passionate mountain springtime was
bursting into flower and leaf. Presently walls of rock began
to rise about them. They were of innumerable, indefinable rock
colors--grayish-yellows, dull olives, old rose, elusive purples, and
browns as rich as prairie soil. Coiling like a cobra, the Little
Williston raced singing through the midst of the chasm, sun-mottled and
bright as the trout that hid in its cold shallows. Was all the world
singing? Were the invisible stars of heaven rhyming with one another?
Had a lost rhythm been recaptured, and did she hear the pulsations of a
deep Earth-harmony--or was it, after all, only the insistent beat of the
poet's line?

"What if we still ride on, we two,
With life forever old, yet new,
Changed not in kind but in degree,
The instant made eternity,--
And Heaven just prove that I and he
Ride, ride together, forever ride?"

What Wander said, when he spoke, was, "Walk," and the remark was made to
his horse. Lady Bel slackened, too. They were in the midst of great
beauty--complex, almost chaotic, beauty, such as the Rocky Mountains
often display.

Wander drew his horse nearer to Kate's, and as a turning of the road
shut them in a solitary paradise where alders and willows fringed the
way with fresh-born green, he laid his hand on her saddle.

"Kate," he said, "can you make up your mind to stay here with me?"

Kate drew in her breath sharply. Then she laughed.

"Am I to understand that you are introducing or continuing a topic?" she

He laughed, too. They were as willing to play with the subject as
children are to play with flowers.

"I am continuing it," he affirmed.


"And you know it."

"Do I?"

"From the first moment that I laid eyes on you, all the time that I was
writing to Honora and really was trying to snare your interest, and
after she came here,--even when I absurdly commanded you not to write
to me,--and now, every moment since you set foot in my wild country,
what have I done but say: 'Kate, will you stay with me?'"

"And will I?" mused Kate. "What do you offer?"

She once had asked the same question of McCrea.

"A faulty man's unchanging love."

"What makes you think it will not change--especially since you are a
faulty man?"

"I think it will not change because I am so faulty that I must have

Book of the day: