Part 4 out of 5
"It is easy enough," retorted Martha. "There is that native girl
that Molly picked up the day we landed here to help her in the
kitchen. She must belong in this neighborhood somewhere. I'll bet
she can tell us something. What is her name?"
"Judy,--Judy Taylor. Great idea! Good! Send her out here, Jim,"
responded the others.
When the deformed mountain girl appeared before them, she looked
from face to face with such a frightened and excited expression on
her sallow, old-young features, and such a wild light in her black
beady eyes, that they regarded her with silent interest.
Judy spoke first, and her shrill monotone emphasized her excited
state of mind: "That there nigger said as how Missus Kent was a-
wantin' ter see me. Be ary one of youuns sure 'nough Missus Kent?"
The group drew apart a little, and every face was turned from Judy
to the woman sitting on the top step of the veranda with her back
against the post.
Judy went slowly toward the woman, her beady eyes fixed and staring
as though at some ghostly vision. The woman rose to her feet as
Judy paused before her.
"Be you-all Brian Kent's woman?" demanded Judy.
The excited exclamation from the company and the manner of the
woman suddenly aroused the mountain girl to a realization of what
she had done in speaking Brian Kent's name. With an expression of
frightened dismay, she turned to escape; but the group of intensely
interested spectators drew closer. Every one waited for Martha to
"Yes," she said, slowly, watching the mountain girl; "I am Mrs.
Brian Kent. Do you know my husband?"
Judy's black beady eyes shifted slyly from one face to another, and
her twisted body moved uneasily.
"No, ma'm; I ain't a-sayin' I knows him exactly. I done heard tell
'bout him nigh 'bout a year ago, when there was some men from the
city come through here a-huntin' him. Everybody 'lows as how he
was drowned at Elbow Rock."
"The body was never found, though," murmured one of the men in the
"Who lives in that little log house over there, Judy?" Harry Green
asked suddenly, pointing.
"There? Oh, that there's Auntie Sue's place. I 'lowed everybody
knowed that," returned the girl.
"Who is Auntie Sue?" came the next question.
One of the women answered, before Judy could speak: "Auntie Sue
is that old-maid school-teacher they told us about. Don't you
"Is Auntie Sue at home now, girl?" asked Mrs. Kent.
Judy's gaze was fixed on the ground as she replied: "I don't know,
ma'm. I ain't got no truck with anybody on yon side the river."
"Is there any one living with Auntie Sue?" asked some one; and in
the same breath from another came the question, "Who is Mr. Burns?"
Judy jerked her twisted shoulders and threw up her head with an
impatient defiance, as she returned shrilly: "I'm a-tellin' youuns
I don't know nothin' 'bout nobody. Hit ain't no sort er use for
youuns ter pester me. I don't know nothin' 'bout hit, an' I
wouldn't tell youuns nothin' if I did."
And with this, the mountain girl escaped into the house.
While her friends on the veranda were looking at each other in
questioning silence, Mrs. Kent, without a word, turned and walked
away into the woods.
As she disappeared among the trees, one of the men said, in a low
tone: "You better go after her, Harry. She is on, all right, that
it's Brian Kent. She never did believe that story about his death,
you know. There is no knowing what she'll do when she gets to
thinking it all over."
"It is a darned shame," exclaimed one of the women, "to have our
party spoiled like this!"
"Spoiled nothing," answered another. "Martha is too good a sport
to spoil anything. Go on, Harry. Cheer her up. Bring her back
here. We'll all help get her good and drunk to-night, and she'll
be all right."
There was a laugh at this, and some one said: "A little something
wouldn't hurt any of us just now, I'm thinking. Here, Jim!"
Harry Green found Mrs. Kent sitting on the riverbank some distance
above the boat landing.
She looked up at the sound of his approach, but did not speak.
Dropping down beside her, the man said: "I'm damned sorry about
this, Martha. I never dreamed I was starting anything, or I would
have kept my mouth shut."
"It is Brian, all right, Harry," she answered, slowly. "It is
funny, but he has been on my mind all day. I never dreamed that it
was this part of the country where he was supposed to have been
drowned, or I wouldn't have come here."
"Well, what does it matter, anyway?" returned the man. "I don't
see that it can make any difference. We don't need to go down
there where he is, and it is damned certain that they won't call on
Looking out over the river, the woman spoke as if thinking aloud:
"This is just the sort of place he would love, Harry--the river and
hills and woods. He never cared for the city--always wanted to get
away into the country somewhere. Tell me, what is she really like?
Does she look like--like--well,--like any of our crowd?"
One by one, the man picked a number of pebbles from among the dead
leaves and the short grass within reach of his hand, as he
answered: "Oh, I was just kidding when I raved about her to the
bunch." One by one, he flipped the bits of stone into the water.
"She really doesn't amount to much. Honestly, I hardly noticed
The woman continued speaking as though thinking her thoughts aloud:
"Brian was a good man, Harry. That bank affair was really my
fault. He never would have done such a thing if I hadn't devilled
him all the time for more money, and made such a fuss about his
wasting so much time in his everlasting writing. I'd hate to have
him caught and sent to the 'pen' now."
"You're a good sport, Martha," he returned heartily. "I know just
how you feel about it. And I can promise you that there is not one
of our crowd that will ever whisper a thing. They are not that
kind, and you know how they all like you. Come, dear. Don't
bother your head about it any more. I don't like to see you like
this. Let us go up to the house, and show them how game you are,--
He put his arm about her, but the woman gently pushed him away.
"Don't do that, now, Harry. Let me think."
"That is just what you must not do," he retorted, with a laugh.
"Thinking can't help matters. Come, let us go get a drink. That
is what you need."
She looked at him some time before she answered; then, with a quick
movement, she sprang to her feet:
"All right! You're on!" she cried, with a reckless laugh. "But
you'll go some if you keep up with me to-night."
And so, that evening, while Brian Kent and Betty Jo from the porch
of the little log house by the river watched the twinkling lights
of the clubhouse windows, the party with mad merriment tried to
help a woman to forget.
But save for the unnatural brightness of her eyes and the
heightened color in her face, drink seemed to have little effect on
Martha Kent that night. When at a late hour the other members of
the wild company, in various flushed and dishevelled stages of
intoxication, finally retired to their rooms, Martha, in her
apartment, seated herself at the window to look away over the calm
waters of The Bend to a single light that showed against the dark
mountainside. The woman did not know that the light she saw was in
Brian Kent's room.
Long after Betty Jo had said good-night, Brian walked the floor in
uneasy wakefulness. The meeting with the man Green and his too-
evident thoughts as to the relations of the man and woman who were
living together in the log house by the river filled Brian with
alarm; while the very presence of the man from the city awoke old
apprehensions that in his months of undisturbed quiet in Auntie
Sue's backwoods home had almost ceased to be. Through Auntie Sue's
teaching and influence; his work on his book; the growing
companionship of Betty Jo and their love, Brian had almost ceased
to think of that absconding bank clerk who had so recklessly
launched himself on a voyage to the unknown in the darkness of that
dreadful night. But, now, it all came back to him with menacing
The man, Green, would talk to his companions of his visit to the
log house that afternoon. He would tell what he had discovered.
Curiosity would lead others of the clubhouse party to call. Some
one might remember the story of the bank clerk, who was supposed to
have lost his life in that neighborhood, but whose body was never
found. There might even be one in the party who knew the former
clerk. Through them the story would go back to the outside world.
There would be investigations by those whose business it was never
to forget a criminal who had escaped the law.
Brian felt his Re-Creation to be fully established; but what if his
identity should be discovered before the restitution he would make
should be also accomplished? And always, as he paced to and fro in
his little room in the log house, there was, like a deep undercurrent
in the flow of his troubled thought, his love for Betty Jo.
It is little wonder that, to Brian Kent, that night, the voices of
the river were filled with fearful doubt and sullen, dreadful
And what of the woman who watched the tiny spot of light that
marked the window of the room where the re-created Brian Kent kept
his lonely vigil? Did she, too, hear the voices of the river? Did
she feel the presence of that stream which poured its dark flood so
mysteriously through the night between herself and the man yonder?
Away back, somewhere in the past, the currents of their lives in
the onward flow of the river had drawn together. For a period of
time, their life-currents had mingled, and, with the stream, had
swept onward as one. Other influences--swirls and eddies and
counter-currents of other lives--had touched and intermingled until
the current that was the man and the current that was the woman had
drawn apart. For months, they had not touched; and, now, they were
drawing nearer to each other again. Would they touch? Would they
again mingle and become one? What was this mysterious, unseen,
unknown, but always-felt, power of the river that sets the ways of
its countless currents as it sweeps ever onward in its unceasing
The door of her room opened. Harry Green entered as one assured of
a welcome. The woman at the window turned her head, but did not
move. Going to her, the man, with an endearing word, offered a
caress; but she put him aside. "Please, Harry,--please let me be
"Why, Martha, dear! What is wrong?" he protested, again attempting
to draw her to him.
Resisting more vigorously, she answered: "Everything is wrong!
You are wrong! I am wrong! All life is wrong! Can't you
understand? Please leave me."
The man drew back, and spoke roughly in a tone of disgust: "Hell!
I believe you love that bank clerk as much as you ever did!"
"Well, and suppose that were true, Harry?" she answered, wearily.
"Suppose it were true,--that I did still love my husband? Could
that make any difference now? Can anything ever make any
difference now? You will tire of me before long, just as you have
grown tired of the others who were before me. Don't you suppose I
know? You and our friends have taught me many things, Harry. I
know, now, that Brian's dreams were right. That his dreams could
never be realized, does not make them foolish nor wrong. His
dreams that seemed so foolish--such impossible ideals--were more
real, after all, than this life that we think so real. WE are the
dreamers,--we and our kind,--and our awakening is as sure to come
as that river out there is sure of reaching the sea."
The man laughed harshly: "You are quite poetical, to-night. I
believe I like you better, though, when you talk sense."
"I am sorry, Harry," she returned. "Please don't be cross with me!
Go now,--please go!"
And something forced the man to silence. Slowly, he left the room.
The woman locked the door. Returning to the window, she fell on
her knees, and stretched her hands imploringly toward the tiny spot
of light that still shone against the dark shadow of the mountain-
Between the mighty walls of tree-clad hills that lifted their
solemn crests into the midnight sky, the dark river poured the
sombre strength of its innumerable currents,--terrible in its awful
power; dreadful, in its mysterious and unseen forces; irresistible
in its ceaseless, onward rush to the sea of its final and infinite
And here and there on the restless, ever-moving surface of the
shadowy, never-ending flood twinkled the reflection of a star.
AT THE EMPIRE CONSOLIDATED SAVINGS BANK.
The President of the Empire Consolidated Savings Bank looked up
from the papers on his desk as his secretary entered from the
adjoining room and stood before him.
The secretary smiled as he spoke: "Mr. Ward, there is an old lady
out here who insists that you will see her. The boys passed her on
to me, because,--well, she is not the kind of woman that can be
refused. She has no card, but her name is Wakefield. She--"
The dignified President of the Empire Consolidated Savings Bank
electrified his secretary by springing from his chair like a
schoolboy from his seat at the tap of the teacher's dismissing
bell. "Auntie Sue! I should say she couldn't be refused! Where
is she?" And before the secretary could collect his startled
thoughts to answer, Homer T. Ward was out of the room.
When the smiling secretary, the stenographers, and other attending
employees had witnessed a meeting between their dignified chief and
the lovely old lady, which strengthened their conviction that the
great financier was genuinely human, President Ward and Auntie Sue
disappeared into the private office.
"George," said Mr. Ward, as he closed the door of that sacred inner
sanctuary of the Empire Consolidated Savings Bank, "remember I am
not in to any one;--from the Secretary of the Treasury to the
Sheriff, I am not in."
"I understand, sir," returned the still smiling George. And from
that moment until Homer T. Ward should open the door, nothing short
of a regiment could have interrupted the interview between Auntie
Sue and her old pupil.
Placing the dear old lady tenderly in a deep, leather-upholstered
chair, Mr. Ward stood before her as though trying to convince
himself that she was real; while his teacher of those long-ago,
boyhood days gazed smilingly up at him.
"What in the name of all that is unexpected are you doing here,
Auntie Sue?" he demanded; "and why is not Betty Jo with you? Isn't
the girl ever coming home? There is nothing the matter with her,
is there? Of course not, or you would have wired me."
It was not at all like the bank president to ask so many questions
all at once.
Auntie Sue looked around the private office curiously, then
smilingly back to the face of the financier.
"Do you know, Homer," she said with her chuckling little laugh,
"I--I--am almost afraid of you in here. Everything is so grand and
rich-looking; and there were so many men out there who tried to
tell me you would not see me. I--I am glad I didn't know it would
be like this, or I fear I never could have found the courage to
Homer T. Ward laughed, and then--rather full-waisted as he was--
went down on one knee at the arm of her chair so as to bring his
face level with her eyes.
"Look at me, Auntie Sue," he said; "look straight through me, just
as you used to do years and years ago, and tell me what you see."
And the dear old lady, with one thin soft hand on his heavy
shoulder, answered, as she looked: "Why, I see a rather naughty
boy, whom I ought to spank for throwing spitballs at the old
schoolroom ceiling," she retorted. "And I am not a bit afraid to
do it either. So sit right over there, sir, and listen to me."
They laughed together then; and if Auntie Sue wiped her eyes as the
schoolboy obediently took his seat in the big chair at the banker's
desk, Homer T. Ward's eyes were not without a suspicious moisture.
"Tell me about Betty Jo first," the man insisted. "You know,
Auntie Sue, the girl grows dearer to me every year."
"Betty Jo is that kind of a girl, Homer," Auntie Sue answered.
"I suppose it is because she is all I have to love," he said, "but,
you know, ever since Sister Grace died and left the fatherless
little kid to me, it seems like all my plans have centered around
her; and now that she has finished her school; has travelled
abroad, and gone through with that business-college course, I am
beginning to feel like we should sort of settle down together. I
am glad for her to be with you this summer, though, for the
finishing touches; and when she comes home to stay, you are coming
Auntie Sue shook her head, smiling: "Now, Homer, you know that is
settled: I will never leave my little log house by the river until
I have watched the last sunset. You know, my dear boy, that I
would be miserable in the city."
It was an old point often argued by them, and the man dismissed it,
now, with a brief: "We'll see about that when the time comes.
But, why didn't you bring Betty Jo with you?"
"Because," Auntie Sue answered, "I came away hurriedly, on a very
important trip, for only a day, and it is necessary for her to stay
and keep house while I am gone. The child must learn to cook,
Homer, even if she is to inherit all your money."
"I know," answered the banker;--"the same as you make me work when
I visit you. But your coming to me sounds rather serious, Auntie
Sue. What is your trouble?"
The dear old lady laughed, nervously; for, to tell the truth, she
did not quite know how she was going to manage to present Brian
Kent's case to Homer T. Ward without presenting more than she was
at this time ready to reveal.
"Why, you see, Homer," she began, "it is not really my trouble as
much as it is yours, and it is not yours as much as it is--"
"Betty Jo's?" he asked quickly, when she hesitated.
"No! no!" she cried. "The child doesn't even know why I am here.
Just try to forget her for a few minutes, Homer."
"All right," he said; "but you had me worried for a minute."
Auntie Sue might have answered that she was somewhat worried
herself; but, instead, she plunged with desperate courage: "I came
to see you about Brian Kent, Homer."
It is not enough to say that the President of the Empire Consolidated
Savings Bank was astonished. "Brian Kent?" he said at last. "Why,
Auntie Sue, I wrote you nearly a year ago that Brian Kent was dead."
"Yes, I know; but he was not--that is, he is not. But the Brian
Kent your detectives were hunting was--I mean--is."
Homer T. Ward looked at his old teacher as though he feared she had
suddenly lost her mind.
"It is like this, Homer," Auntie Sue explained: "A few days after
your detective, Mr. Ross, called on me, this stranger appeared in
the neighborhood. No one dreamed that he was Brian Kent, because,
you see, he was not a bit like the description."
"Full beard, I suppose?" commented the banker, grimly.
"Yes: and every other way," continued Auntie Sue. "And he has been
working so hard all winter; and everybody in the country respects
and loves him so; and he is one of the best and truest men I ever
knew; and he is planning and working to pay back every cent he
took; and I cannot--I will not--let you send him to prison now."
The lovely old eyes were fixed on the banker's face with sweet
Homer T. Ward was puzzled. Strange human problems are often
presented to men in his position; but, certainly, this was the
strangest;--his old teacher pleading for his absconding clerk who
was supposed to be dead.
At last he said, with gentle kindness: "But, why did you come to
tell me about him, Auntie Sue? He is safe enough if no one knows
who he is."
"That is it!" she cried. "Some one found out about him, and is
coming here to tell you, for the reward."
The banker whistled softly. "And you--you--grabbed a train, and
beat 'em to it!" he exclaimed. "Well, if that doesn't--"
Auntie Sue clasped her thin hands to her breast, and her sweet
voice trembled with anxious fear: "You won't send that poor boy to
prison, now, will you, Homer? It--it--would kill me if such a
terrible thing were to happen now. Won't you let him go free, so
that he can do his work,--won't you, Homer? I--I--" The strain of
her anxiety was almost too much for the dear old gentlewoman's
physical strength, and as her voice failed, the tears streamed down
the soft cheeks unheeded.
In an instant the bank president was again on his knees beside her
"Don't, Auntie Sue: don't, dear! Why, you know I would do anything
in the world you asked, even if I wanted to send the fellow up; but
I don't. I wouldn't touch him for the world. It is a thousand
times better to let him go if he is proving himself an honest man.
Please, dear, don't feel so. Why, I will be glad to let him off.
I'll help him, Auntie Sue. I--I--am as glad as you are that we
didn't get him. Please don't feel so about it. There, there,--it
is all right, now."
So he comforted and reassured her until she was able to smile
through her tears. "I knew I could depend on you, Homer."
A few minutes later, she said: "And what about that man who is
coming to claim the reward, Homer?"
"Never you mind him!" cried the banker; "I'll fix that. But, tell
me, Auntie Sue, where is young Kent now?"
"He is working in the neighborhood," she returned.
He looked at her shrewdly. "You have seen a lot of him, have you?"
"I have seen him occasionally," she answered. Homer T. Ward nodded
his head, as if well pleased with himself. "You don't need to tell
me any more. I understand, now, exactly. It is very clear what
has reformed Brian Kent; you have been up to your old tricks. It
is a wonder you haven't taken him into your house to live with
you,--to save him from associating with bad people."
He laughed, and when Auntie Sue only smiled, as though humoring him
in his little joke, he added: "By the way, has Betty Jo seen this
latest patient of yours? What does she think of his chances for
"Yes," Auntie Sue returned, calmly; "Betty Jo has seen him. But,
really, Homer, I have never asked her what she thought of him."
"Do you know, Auntie Sue," said the banker, reflectively, "I never
did believe that Brian Kent was a criminal at heart."
"I know he is not," she returned stoutly. "But, tell me, Homer,
how did it ever happen?"
"Well, you see," he answered, "young Kent had a wife who couldn't
somehow seem to fit into his life. Ross never went into the
details with me, fully, because that, of course, had no real
bearing on the fact that he stole the money from the bank. But it
seems that the youngster was rather ambitious,--studied a lot
outside of business hours and that sort of thing. I know he made
his own way through business college before he came to us. The
wife didn't receive the attention she thought she should have, I
suppose. Perhaps she was right at that. Anyway, she wanted a good
time;--wanted him to take her out more, instead of spending his
spare time digging away at his books. And so it went the usual
way,--she found other company. Rather a gay set, I fancy; at least
it led to her needing more money than he was earning, and so he
helped out his salary, thinking to pay it back before he was
caught, I suppose. Then the crash came,--some other man, you
know,--and Brian skipped, which, of course, put us next to his
stealing. I don't know what has become of the woman. The last
Ross knew of her she was living in St. Louis, and running with a
pretty wild bunch,--glad to get rid of Brian, I expect. She
couldn't have really cared so very much for him.
"Do you know, Auntie Sue, I have seen so many cases like this one.
I have been glad, many times, that I never married. And then,
again, sometimes, I have seen homes that have made me sorry I never
took the chance. I am glad you saved the boy, Auntie Sue: I am
"You have made me very happy, Homer," Auntie Sue returned. "But
are you sure you can fix it about that reward? The man who is
coming to claim it will make trouble, won't he, if he is not paid,
"Yes, I expect he would," returned the president, thoughtfully.
"And my directors might have something to say. And there are the
Burns people and the Bankers' Association and all. Hum-m-m!"
Homer T. Ward considered the matter a few moments, then he laughed.
"I'll tell you what we will do, Auntie Sue; we will let Brian Kent
pay the reward himself. That would be fair, wouldn't it?"
Auntie Sue was sure that Brian would agree that it was a fair
enough arrangement; but she did not see how it was to be managed.
Then her old pupil explained that he would pay the reward-money to
the man who was coming to claim it, and thus satisfy him, and that
the bank would hold the amount as a part of the debt which Brian
was expected to pay.
Auntie Sue never knew that President Ward himself paid to the bank
the full amount of the money stolen by Brian Kent in addition to
the reward-money which he personally paid to Jap Taylor, in order
to quiet him, and thus saved Brian from the publicity that surely
would have followed any other course.
It should also be said here that Judy's father never again appeared
in the Ozarks; at least, not in the Elbow Rock neighborhood. It
might be that Jap Taylor was shrewd enough to know that his
reputation would not permit him to show any considerable sum of
money, where he was known, without starting an investigation; and
for men of his type investigations are never to be desired.
Or it is not unlikely that the combination of money and the city
proved the undoing of the moonshiner, and that he came to his
legitimate and logical end among the dives and haunts of his kind,
to which he would surely gravitate.
IN THE ELBOW ROCK RAPIDS.
The day following that night of Brian Kent's uneasy wakefulness was
a hard day for the man and the woman in the little log house by the
For Brian, the morning dawned with a sense of impending disaster.
He left his room while the sky was still gray behind the eastern
mountains, and the mist that veiled the brightness of the hills
seemed to hide in its ghostly depths legions of shadowy spirits
that from his past had assembled to haunt him. The sombre aisles
and caverns of the dimly lighted forest were peopled with shadowy
memories of that life which he had hoped would never again for him
awake. And the river swept through its gray world to the crashing
turmoil at Elbow Rock like a thing doomed to seek forever in its
own irresistible might the destruction of its ever-living self.
As one moving in a world of dreams, he went about his morning's
work. "Old Prince" whinnied his usual greeting, but received no
answer. "Bess" met him at the barnyard gate, but he did not speak.
The sun leaped above the mountain-tops, and the world was filled
with the beauty of its golden glory. From tree and bush and
swaying weed, from forest and pasture, and garden and willow-
fringed river-bank, the birds voiced their happy greetings to the
new day. But the man neither saw nor heard.
When he went to the house with his full milk-pail, and Betty Jo met
him at the kitchen-door with her cheery "Good-morning!" he tried
resolutely to free himself from the mood which possessed him, but
only partially succeeded. Several times, as the two faced each
other across the breakfast table, Brian saw the gray eyes filled
with questioning anxiety, as though Betty Jo, also, felt the
presence of some forbidding spectre at the meal.
After several vain attempts to find something they could talk
about, Betty Jo boldly acknowledged the situation by saying: "What
in the world is the matter with us, this morning, Mr. Burns? I am
possessed with the feeling that there is some one or something
behind me. I want to look over my shoulder every minute."
At her words, Brian involuntarily turned his head for a quick
"There!" cried Betty Jo, with a nervous laugh, not at all like her
normal, well-poised self. "You feel it, too!"
Brian forced a laugh in return: "It is the weather, I guess." He
tried to speak with casual ease. "The atmosphere is full of
electricity this morning. We'll have a thunder-storm before night,
"And was it the electricity in the air that kept you tramping up
and down your room last night until almost morning?" she demanded
abruptly, with her characteristic opposition to any evasion of the
question at issue.
Brian retorted with a smile: "And how do you know that I tramped
up and down my room last night?"
The color in Betty Jo's cheeks deepened as she answered, "I did not
sleep very well either."
"But, I surely did not make noise enough for you to hear in your
room?" persisted Brian.
The color deepened still more in Betty Jo's checks, as she answered
honestly: "I was not in my room when I heard you." She paused,
and when he only looked at her expectantly, but did not speak,
continued, in a hesitating manner quite unlike her matter-of-fact
self: "When I could not sleep, and felt so as though there were
somebody or something in the house that had no business here, I
became afraid, and opened my door so I would not feel so much
alone; and then I saw the light under the door of your room, and,--"
she hesitated, but finished with a little air of defiance,--"and
I went and listened outside your door to see if you were up."
"Yes?" said Brian Kent, gently.
"And when I heard you walking up and down, I wanted to call to you;
but I thought I better not. It made me feel better, though, just
to know that you were there; and so, pretty soon, I went back to my
"And then?" said Brian.
"And then," confessed Betty Jo, "whatever it was that was keeping
me awake came back, and went on keeping me awake until I was simply
forced to go to you for help again."
Poor Betty Jo! She knew very well that she ought not to be saying
those things to the man who, while he listened, could not hide the
love that shone in his eyes.
And Brian Kent, as he thought of this woman, whom he loved with all
the strength of his best self, creeping to the door of his room for
comfort in the lonely night, scarcely dared trust himself to speak.
At last, when their silence was becoming unbearable, he said,
gently: "You poor child! Why didn't you call to me?"
And Betty Jo, hearing in his voice that which told her how near he
was to the surrender that would bring disaster to them both, was
aroused to the defense. The gray eyes never wavered as she
answered, bravely: "I was afraid of that, too."
And so Betty Jo confessed her love that answered so to his need;
but, in her very confession, saved their love from themselves. If
she had lowered her eyes--
Brian Kent, in reverent acknowledgment, bowed his head before her.
Then, rising, he walked to the window, where he stood for some time
looking out, but seeing nothing.
"It was that horrid man coming yesterday that has so upset us,"
said Betty Jo, at last. "We were getting on so beautifully, too.
I wish he had gone somewhere else for his vegetables and eggs and
Brian was able to smile at this as he turned to face her again, and
they both knew that,--for that time, at least,--the danger-point
was safely past.
"I wish so, too," he agreed; "but never mind; Auntie Sue will be
home in a day or two, and then everything will be all right again."
But when he had taken his hat and was starting out for the day's
work, Betty Jo asked, "What are you doing to-day?"
"I was going to work on the fence around the clearing," he answered.
"I--I--wish you could find something to do nearer the house," came
the slow answer. "Couldn't you work in the garden, perhaps?"
"I should say I could!" he returned heartily.
All that forenoon, as Betty Jo went about her household duties she
felt the presence of the thing that filled her so with fear and
dread. With vigorous determination she scolded herself for being
so foolish, and argued with herself that it was all a nervous fancy
born of her restless night. But, the next moment, she would start
with a sudden fear and turn quickly as if to face some one whose
presence she felt behind her. And Brian, too, as he worked in the
garden, caught himself often in the act of pausing to look about
with nervous apprehension.
During the noonday meal they made a determined effort to laugh at
themselves, and by the time dinner was over had almost succeeded.
But when Brian, as he pushed back his chair, said, jestingly,
"Well, am I to work in the garden again this afternoon?" Betty Jo
answered, emphatically, "Indeed you are! I will not stay another
minute in this house alone. Goodness knows what I will do to-
There was no jest in the man's voice as he answered: "I'll tell
you what you will do to-night,--you will go to bed and you will go
to sleep. You will leave the door to your room wide-open, and I
shall lie right there on that couch, so near that a whisper from
you will reach me. We will have no more of this midnight prowling,
I promise you. If any ghost dares appear, we--"
The reassuring words died on Brian Kent's lips. His eyes, looking
over Betty Jo's shoulders, were fixed and staring, and the look on
his face sent a chill of horror to the girl's heart. She dared not
move nor look around as he sat like a man turned to stone.
A woman's laugh broke the dead silence.
With a scream, Betty Jo sprung to her feet and whirled about.
As one in a trance, Brian Kent arose and stood beside her.
The woman, who stood in the open doorway, laughed again.
Martha Kent's heavy drinking the night before, when her clubhouse
friends in a wild debauch had tried to help her to forget, was the
climax of many months of like excesses. The mood in which she had
sent the man Green from her room was the last despairing flicker of
her better instincts. Moved by her memories of better things,--of
a better love and dreams and ideals,--she had spent a little hour
or two in sentimental regret for that which she had so recklessly
cast aside. And then, because there was within her no foundation
of abiding principle for her sentiment, she had again put on the
character which had so separated her from the life of the man to
whom she was married, indeed, but with whom she was never one.
With the burning consciousness of what she might have been and of
what she was ever tormenting her, she sank, as the hours passed,
deeper and deeper into the quicksands of physical indulgence until,
in her mad determination to destroy utterly her ability to feel
remorse, she lost all mental control of herself, and responded to
every insane whim of her drink-disordered brain.
As she stood there, now, in the doorway of that little log house by
the river,--face to face with the man and the woman who, though
they were united in their love, were yet separated by the very fact
of her existence,--she was, in all her hideous, but pitiful,
repulsiveness, the legitimate creation of those life-forces which
she so fitly personified.
Betty Jo instinctively drew closer to Brian's side.
"Hello, Brian, dear!" said the woman, with a drunken leer. "Thought
I'd call to see you in your charming love-nest that Harry Green
raved so about. Can't you introduce me to your little sweetheart?"
"No?" she continued, and laughed again. Then coming an unsteady
step toward them, she added, thickly: "Very well, Brian, old
sport; you won't introduce me,--I'll have to introduce myself."
She grinned with malicious triumph at Betty Jo: "Don't be
frightened, my dear. It's all right. I'm nobody of importance,--
just his wife,--that's all,--just his wife."
Betty Jo, with a little cry, turned to the man who stood as if
stricken dumb with horror. "Brian?" she said. "Oh, Brian?"
It was the first time she had ever addressed him by his given name,
and Brian Kent, as he looked, saw in those gray eyes no hint of
doubt or censure, but only the truest love and sympathy. Betty Jo
had not failed in the moment of her supreme testing.
"It's true, all right, isn't it, Brian?" said Martha Kent. "I'm
his wife fast enough, my dear. But you don't need to worry,--you
two. I'm a good sport,--I am. I've had my fun. No kick coming
from me. Just called to pay my respects,--that's all. So-long,
Brian, old sport! Good-bye, my dear!"
With an uncertain wave of her hand, she staggered through the
doorway and passed from their sight.
In the little log house by the river the two who had kept the
fineness of their love stood face to face.
For Betty Jo, the barrier which Brian Kent had maintained between
them to protect her from his love was no longer a thing unknown.
But the revelation, coming as it did, had brought no shadow of
distrust or doubt of the man to whom she had so fully entrusted
herself. It had, indeed, only strengthened her faith in him and
deepened her love.
For one glorious triumphal moment the very soul of the man exulted
in the truth which Betty Jo made known to him. Then he turned
slowly away, for he dared not trust himself to look at her a moment
With bowed head he paced up and down the room. He went to the
table which held Auntie Sue's sewing-basket, and fingered the
trifles there. Then, slowly, he passed through the open door to
the porch, where Betty Jo, through the window, near which she
stood, saw him look away over the river and the mountains.
Suddenly, she saw him start, and stare intently at some nearer
object that had caught his attention. As Betty Jo watched, he
moved to the edge of the porch, and, stooping, grasped the railing
with his hands;--his head and shoulders were thrust forward; his
lips were parted; his whole attitude was that of the most intense
and excited interest. Then, straightening up, he threw back his
head, and laughed aloud. But his laughter alarmed the girl, who
ran to the door, crying, "What is it, Brian?"
"Look!" he shouted, madly, and pointed toward the river. "Look,
Martha Kent, alone in one of the clubhouse boats, was rowing with
drunken clumsiness toward the head of the Elbow Rock rapids.
The woman's friends had missed her, and, guessing, from some remark
she had made, where she had gone, had sent four men of the party
after her; for they realized that she was in no condition to be
alone in a boat on the river, particularly on that part of the
stream near Auntie Sue's place. After leaving Brian and Betty Jo,
she had gone back to her boat in the eddy at the foot of the
garden, and was pulling out into the stream when she saw her
friends approaching. With a drunken laugh, she waved her hand, and
began rowing from them directly toward the swift water. The men
shouted for her to stop, and pulled with all their strength. But
the woman, taking their calls as a challenge, rowed the harder,
while every awkward pull of the oars carried her nearer the deadly
grip of the current.
Betty Jo, as she reached Brian's side, and saw what was happening
on the river, grasped the man's arm appealingly, with a cry:
"Brian! Brian! She is going into the rapids! She will be carried
down to Elbow Rock!"
But Brian Kent, for the moment, was beside himself. All that he
had suffered,--all that the woman out there on the river had cost
him in anguish of soul,--all that she had taken from him of
happiness,--came before him with blinding vividness; and now,--
now,--in her drunkenness, she was making her own way to her own
"Of course she is!" he shouted, in answer to Betty Jo. "Her
friends yonder are driving her to it! Could anything be more
As though grasped by powerful unseen hands beneath the surface, the
boat shot forward. The woman, feeling the sudden pull of the
current, stopped rowing, and looked about as if wondering what had
happened. Her friends, not daring to follow closer to the dangerous
water, were pulling madly for the landing at the foot of the garden.
The boat in the middle of the river moved faster.
"Look, Betty Jo, look!" shouted the man on the porch, madly. "It's
got her now--the river has got her--look!"
With a scream of fear, the woman in the boat dropped her oars, and
grasped the gunwale of the little craft.
Brian Kent laughed.
Betty Jo shrank back from him, her eyes, big with horror, fixed
upon his face. Then, with a quick movement, she sprang toward him
again, and, catching his arm, shook him with all her strength and
struck him again and again with her fist.
"Brian! Brian!" she cried. "You are insane!"
The man looked down at her for an instant with an expression of
bewildered astonishment on his face, as one awakened from a dream.
He raised his hand and drew it across his forehead and eyes.
The boat with the helpless woman was already past the front of the
Betty Jo cried again as if calling the man she loved from a
distance: "Brian! Brian!"
With a sudden movement, the man jerked away from her. The next
instant, he had leaped over the railing of the porch to the ground
below and was running with all his might toward the river, at an
angle which would put him opposite or a little below the boat when
he reached the bank.
With a sob, Betty Jo followed as fast as she could.
As Brian Kent raced toward the river's edge, the powerful current
drew the boat with the woman into the first rough water of the
rapids, and, as the skiff was shaken and tossed by the force that
was sweeping it with ever-increasing speed toward the wild turmoil
at Elbow Rock, the woman screamed again and again for help.
The warring forces of the stream whirled the little craft about,
and she saw the man who was nearing the bank. She rose to her feet
in the rocking boat, and stretched out her arms,--calling his name,
"Brian! Brian! Brian!" Then the impact of the boat against a
larger wave of the rapids brought her to her knees, and she clung
to the thwarts with piteous cries.
Betty Jo and the clubhouse men, who had overtaken her, saw Brian as
he reached the river opposite the boat. For a little way he raced
the tumbling waters until he had gained a short distance ahead of
the skiff; then they saw him, without an instant's pause, leap from
the high bank far out into the boiling stream.
Running along the bank, the helpless watchers saw the man fighting
his way toward the boat. One moment, he disappeared from sight,
dragged beneath the surface by the powerful currents with which he
wrestled. The next instant, the boiling waters would toss him high
on the crest of a rolling wave, only to drag him down again a
second later. But, always, he drew nearer and nearer the object of
his struggle, while the rapids swept both the helpless woman and
the tossing boat and the swimming man onward toward the towering
cliff, and the thunder-roar of the mad waters below grew louder and
The splendid strength of arms and shoulders which Brian Kent had
acquired by his months of work with his ax on the timbered
mountain-side sustained him now in his need. With tremendous
energy, he breasted the might of the furious river. To the
watchers it seemed at times that it was beyond the power of human
muscles to endure the terrific strain. Then he gained the boat,
and they saw him striving with desperate energy to drag it toward
the opposite shore and so into the currents that would carry it
past the menacing point of the cliff and perhaps to the safety of
the quiet water below.
All that human strength could do in that terrible situation, Brian
Kent did. But the task was beyond the power of mortal man.
For an instant the breathless watchers on the bank thought there
was a chance; but the waters with mad fury dragged their victims
back, and, with terrific power, hurled them forward toward the
It was quickly over.
In that wild turmoil of the boiling, leaping, seething, lashing,
hammering waves, the boat, with the woman who crouched on her knees
on the bottom, and the man who clung to the side of the craft,
appeared for a second lifted high in the air. The next instant,
the crash of breaking wood sounded above the thundering roaring of
the waters. The man and the woman disappeared. The wreck of the
boat was flung again and again against the cliff, until, battered
and broken, it was swept away around the point.
Against the dark wall of rock Brian Kent's head and shoulders
appeared for an instant, and they saw that he held the woman in his
arms. The furious waters closed over them. For the fraction of a
second, the man's hand and arm appeared again above the surface,
and was gone.
Betty Jo sank to the ground with a low cry of anguish, and hid her
Another moment, and she was aroused by a loud shout from one of the
men who had caught a glimpse of the river's victims farther out at
the point of the rocky cliff.
Springing to her feet, Betty Jo started madly up the trail that
leads over the bluff. The men followed.
Immediately below Elbow Rock there is a deep hole formed by the
waters that pour around the point of the cliff, and below this hole
a wide gravelly bar pushing out from the Elbow Rock side of the
stream forces the main volume of the river to the opposite bank.
In the shallow water against the upper side of the bar they found
With the last flicker of his consciousness, Brian Kent had felt his
feet touch the bottom where the water shoals against the bar, and,
with his last remaining strength, had dragged himself and the body
of the woman into the shallows.
Betty Jo was no hysterical weakling to spend the priceless seconds
of such a time in senseless ravings. The first-aid training which
she had received at school gave her the necessary knowledge which
her native strength of character and practical common sense enabled
her to apply. Under her direction, the men from the clubhouse
worked as they probably never had worked before in all their
But the man and the woman whose life-currents had touched and
mingled,--drawn apart to flow apparently far from each other, but
drawn together again to once more touch, and, as one, to endure the
testing of the rapids,--the man and the woman had not brought to
the terrible ordeal the same strength.
One was drawn into the Elbow Rock rapids by the careless indifference
and the reckless spirit that was born of the life she had chosen; by
her immediate associates and environment; and by the circumstances
that were, at the last analysis, of her own making.
The other braved the same dangers, strong in the splendid spirit
that had set him against such terrible odds to attempt the woman's
rescue. From his work on the timbered mountain-side, from his life
in the clean atmosphere of the hills, and from the spiritual and
mental companionship of that little log house by the river, he had
brought to his testing the splendid strength which enabled him to
Somewhere in that terrible conflict with the wild waters at Elbow
Rock, while the man whose life she had so nearly ruined by her
wantonness was fighting to save her, the soul of Martha Kent went
from the bruised and battered body which Brian drew at last from
the vicious grasp of the currents.
But the man lived.
In the early evening twilight of the day following the tragedy at
Elbow Rock, Betty Jo was sitting on the porch, to rest for a few
minutes in the fresh air, after long hours of watching beside
A neighbor woman had come to help, but Betty Jo would not leave the
side of the man she loved as he fought his way slowly out of the
dark shadow of the death that had so nearly conquered him. Nor,
indeed, would Brian let her go, for even in those moments when he
appeared most unconscious of the life about him, he seemed to feel
her presence. All through the long, long hours of that anxious
night and day she had watched and waited the final issue;--feeling
the dark messenger very close at times, but gaining hope as the
hours passed and her lover won his way nearer and nearer to the
light;--courageous always;--giving him the best of her strength, so
far as it was possible to give him anything;--making him feel the
steady, enduring fullness of her love.
At last, they felt that the victory was won. The doctor, satisfied
that the crisis was safely past, went his way to visit other
patients. By evening, Brian was resting so easily that the girl
had stolen away for a few minutes, leaving the neighbor to call her
if he should waken.
Betty Jo had been on the porch but a short time when a step sounded
on the gravel walk that led from the porch steps around the corner
of the house. A moment more, and Judy appeared.
The mountain girl stopped when she saw Betty Jo, and the latter
went to the top of the steps.
"Good-evening, Judy!" said Betty Jo, quietly. "Won't you come in?"
Slowly, with her black beady eyes fixed on Betty Jo's face, Judy
went up the steps.
As the mountain girl reached the level of the porch-floor, Betty Jo
drew a little back toward the door.
Judy stopped instantly, and stood still. Then, in a low tone, she
said: "You-all ain't got no call ter be afeared, Miss Betty Jo.
You hain't never goin' ter have no call ter be scared of me again,
"I am so glad for you to say that, Judy," returned Betty Jo,
smiling. "I don't want to be afraid of you, and I am not really;
"Ain't you-all plumb a-hatin' me for what I done?" asked Judy,
"No, no; Judy, dear, I don't hate you at all, and you must know
that Auntie Sue loves you."
"Yes," Judy nodded her head, thoughtfully. "Auntie Sue just
naturally loves everybody. Hit wouldn't be no more'n nature,
though, for you-all ter hate me. I sure have been poison-mean."
"But that is all past now, Judy," said Betty Jo, heartily. "Come
and sit down?" She started toward the chairs.
But the mountain girl did not move, except to shake her head in
refusal of the hospitable invitation.
"I ain't a-goin' ter put my foot inside this house, nor set with
you-all, nor nothin' 'til I've said what I done come ter say."
Betty Jo turned back to her again: "What is it, Judy?"
"Auntie Sue done told me not ter let you-all er Mr. Burns see me
'til she come back. But I can't help hit, an' if I don't talk
'bout that none, I reckon she ain't a-goin' ter mind so much. You-
all don't know that I seed Auntie Sue that night 'fore she went
away, an' that hit was me took her ter the station with 'Old
Prince,' an' brung him back, did you?"
"No," said Betty Jo, "I did not know; and if Auntie Sue told you
not to tell us about it, I would rather you did not, Judy."
"I ain't aimin' ter," Judy returned; "but Auntie Sue don't know
nothin' 'bout what's happened since she went away, an' hit's that
what's a-makin' me come ter you-all."
Betty Jo, seeing that the poor girl was laboring under some intense
emotional stress, said, gently: "What is it that you wish to tell
me, Judy? I am sure Auntie Sue will not mind, if you feel so about
The mountain girl's eyes filled and the tears streamed down her
sallow cheeks, while her twisted shoulders shook with the grief she
could not suppress, as she faltered: "My God-A'mighty! Miss Betty
Jo, I--I--didn't aim ter do hit! I sure didn't! 'Fore God, I'd er
let 'em kill me first, if I'd only had time ter think. But hit--
hit--was me what told that there woman how Mr. Burns was Brian
Kent. Hit's--hit's--me what's ter blame for gittin' her killed in
the river an' him so nigh drowned. O God! O God! If he'll only
"An' I ain't a-feelin' toward you-all like I did, Miss Betty Jo. I
can't no more. I done left them clubhouse folks, after I knowed
what has happened, an' all day I been hangin' 'round here in the
bresh. An' Lucy Warden she done told me, this afternoon, 'bout how
you-all was takin' care of Mr. Burns, an' how you just naturally
wouldn't let him die. An'--an'--I kin see, now, what hit is that
makes Auntie Sue and him an' you-all so different from that there
clubhouse gang an' pap an' me. An' I ain't a-wantin' ter be like I
been, no more, ever. I'd a heap rather jump inter the river an'
drown myself. 'Fore God, I would! An' I want ter come back an'
help you-all take care of him; an' live with Auntie Sue; an'--an'--
be a little might like youuns, if I kin. Will you let me, Miss
Betty Jo? Will you? I most know Auntie Sue would, if she was
Before the mountain girl had finished speaking, Betty Jo's arm was
around the poor twisted shoulders, and Betty Jo's eyes were
answering Judy's pleading.
And so, when Auntie Sue came home, it was Judy who met her at the
station, with "Old Prince" and the buggy; and as they drove down
the winding road to the little log house by the river, the mountain
girl told the old gentlewoman all that had happened in her absence.
Brian Kent recovered quickly from the effects of his experience in
the Elbow Rock rapids, and was soon able again to take up his work
on the little farm. Every day he labored in the garden, or in the
clearing, or at some task which did not rightly fall to those who
rented the major part of Auntie Sue's tillable acreage.
Auntie Sue had told him about her visit to the President of the
Empire Consolidated Savings Bank, and of the arrangement made by
the banker--as she understood it--for Brian's protection. But
while the dear old lady explained that Homer T. Ward was one of her
pupils, she did not reveal the relation between Brian's former
chief and Betty Jo. Neither Auntie Sue nor Betty Jo, for several
very good reasons, was ready for Brian to know the whole truth
about his stenographer. It was quite enough, they reasoned, for
him to love his stenographer, and for his stenographer to love him,
without raising any more obstacles in the pathway of their
As the busy weeks passed, several letters came from the publishers
of Brian's book,--letters which made the three in the little log
house by the river very happy. Already, in the first reception of
this new writer's work, those who had undertaken to present it to
the public saw many promises of the fulfillment of their prophecies
as to its success. When the third letter came, a statement of the
sales to date was enclosed, and, that afternoon, Betty Jo went to
Brian where he was at work in the clearing.
When they were comfortably, not to say cozily, seated on a log in
the shade at the edge of the forest, she announced that she had
come for a very serious talk.
"Yes?" he returned; but he really looked altogether too happy to be
"Yes," she continued, "I have. As your accredited business agent
and--" she favored him with a Betty Jo smile--"shall I say
"Why not managing owner?" he retorted.
"I am glad you confirm my promotion so readily," she returned, with
a charming touch of color in her cheeks, "because that, you see,
helps me to present what I have to say for the good of the firm."
"I am listening, Betty Jo."
"Very well; tell me, first, Brian, just exactly how much do you owe
that bank, reward-money and all, and Auntie Sue, interest and
Brian went to his coat, which lay on a near-by stump, and returned
with a small pocket account-book.
"I have it all here," he said, as he seated himself close beside
her again. And, opening the book, he showed her how he had kept a
careful record of the various sums he had taken from the bank, with
"Oh, Brian, Brian!" she said with a little cry of delight, "I am so
glad,--so glad you have this! It is exactly what I want for my
wedding present. It was so thoughtful of you to fix it for me."
Thus by a characteristic, Betty Jo turn she made the little book of
painful memories a book of joyous promise.
When they again returned to the consideration of business matters,
Brian gave her the figures which answered her questions as to his
Again Betty Jo exclaimed with delight: "Brian, do you see? Take
your pencil and figure quick your royalties on the number of books
sold as given in the publishers' statement."
Brian laughed. "I have figured it."
"And your book has already earned more than enough to pay
everything," said Betty Jo. "Isn't that simply grand, Brian?"
"It is pretty 'grand,' all right," he agreed. "The only trouble
is, I must wait so long before the money is due me from the
"That is exactly what I came to talk about," she returned quickly.
"I tried to have it different when I made the arrangements with
them, but the terms of payment in the contract are the very best I
could get; and so I have planned a little plan whereby you--that
is, we--won't need to wait for your freedom until the date of
settlement with the publishers."
"You have a plan which will do that?" Brian questioned, doubtfully.
She nodded vigorously, with another Betty Jo smile. "This is the
plan, and you are not to interrupt until I have finished
everything: I happen to have some money of my very, very own,
which is doing nothing but earning interest--"
At the look on Brian's face, she stopped suddenly; but, when he
started to speak, she put her hand quickly over his mouth, saying:
"You were not to say a single word until I have finished. Play
fair, Brian, dear; please!"
When he signified that he would not speak, she continued in her
most matter-of-fact and businesslike tone: "There is every reason
in the world, Brian, why you should pay off your debt to the bank
and to Auntie Sue at the earliest possible moment. You can think
of several reasons yourself. There is me, for instance.
"Very well. You have the money to your credit with the publishers;
but you can't use it yet. I have money that you can just as well
use. You will make an assignment of your royalties to me, all in
proper form, to cover the amount you need. You will pay me the
same interest my money is now earning where it is.
"I will arrange for the money to be sent to you in the form of a
cashier's cheque, payable to the banker, Homer T. Ward, so the name
Brian Kent does not appear before we are ready, you see. You will
make believe to Auntie Sue that the money is from the publishers.
You will send the cheque to Mr. Bank President personally, with a
statement of your indebtedness to him properly itemized, interest
figured on everything. You will instruct him to open an account
for you with the balance. And then--then, Brian, you will give
dear Auntie Sue a cheque for what you owe her, with interest of
course. And we will all be so happy! And--and--don't you think I
am a very good managing owner? You do, don't you?"
When he hesitated, she added: "And the final and biggest reason of
all is, that I want you to do as I have planned more than I ever
wanted anything in the world, except you, and I want this so
because I want you. You can't really refuse, now, can you?"
How, indeed, could he refuse?
So they worked it out together as Betty Jo had planned; and when
the time came for the last and best part of the plan, and Brian
confessed to Auntie Sue how he had robbed her, and had known for so
long that she was aware of his crime against her, and finished his
confession by giving her the cheque, it is safe to say that there
was nowhere in all the world more happiness than in the little log
house by the river.
"God-A'mighty sure helped me to do one good turn, anyway, when I
jumped inter the river after that there book when Mr. Burns done
throw'd hit away," commented the delighted Judy.
And while they laughed together, Betty Jo hugged the deformed
mountain girl, and answered: "God Almighty was sure good to us all
that day, Judy, dear!"
It was only a day later when Auntie Sue received a letter from
Homer T. Ward which sent the dear old lady in great excitement to
Betty Jo. The banker was coming for his long-deferred vacation to
the log house by the river.
There was in his letter a kindly word for his former clerk, Brian
Kent, should Auntie Sue chance to see him; much love for his old
teacher and for the dearest girl in the world, his Betty Jo.
But that part of Homer T. Ward's letter which most excited Auntie
Sue and caused Betty Jo to laugh until she cried was this:
The great financier, who, even in his busy life of large
responsibilities, found time for some good reading, had discovered
a great book, by a new and heretofore unknown writer. The book was
great because every page of it, Homer T. Ward declared, reminded
him of Auntie Sue. If the writer had known her for years, he could
not have drawn a truer picture of her character, nor presented her
philosophy of life more clearly. It was a remarkable piece of
work. It was most emphatically the sort of writing that the world
needed. This new author was a genius of the rarest and best sort.
Mr. Ward predicted boldly that this new star in the literary
firmament was destined to rank among those of the first magnitude.
Already, among the banker's closest book friends, the new book was
being discussed, and praised. He would bring a copy for Auntie Sue
and Betty Jo to read. It was not only the book of the year;--it
was, in Homer T. Ward's opinion, one of the really big books of the
"Well," commented Betty Jo, when they had read and reread that part
of the letter, "dear old Uncle Homer may be a very conservative
banker, but he certainly is more than liberal when he touches on
the question of this new author. Won't we have fun, Auntie Sue!
Oh, won't we!"
Then they planned the whole thing, and proceeded to carry out their
Brian was told only that Mr. Ward was coming to visit Auntie Sue,
and that he must be busy somewhere away from the house when the
banker arrived, and not come until he was sent for, because Auntie
Sue must make a full confession to her old pupil of the part she
had played in the Re-Creation of Brian Kent before Homer T. Ward
should meet his former clerk.
Brian, never dreaming that there were other confessions to be made,
smilingly agreed to do exactly as he was told.
When the momentous day arrived, Betty Jo met her uncle in
Thompsonville, and all the way home she talked so continuously of
her school, and asked so many questions about his conduct and life
and their many Chicago friends, that the helpless bank president
had no chance whatever of asking her a single embarrassing
question. But, when dinner was over (Brian had taken his lunch
with him to the clearing), Homer T. Ward wanted to know things.
"Was Brian Kent still working in the neighborhood?"
Auntie Sue informed him that Brian was still working in the
"Betty Jo had seen the bank clerk?" Betty Jo's uncle supposed.
"What did she think of the fellow?"
Betty Jo thought Brian Kent was a rather nice fellow.
"And how had Betty Jo been amusing herself while her old uncle was
slaving in the city?"
Betty Jo had been doing a number of things: Helping Auntie Sue
with her housework; learning to cook; keeping up her stenographic
"Reading?" That reminded him, and forthwith Mr. Ward went to his
room, and returned with the book.
And then those two blessed women listened and admired while he
introduced them to the new genius, and read certain favorite
passages from the great book, and grew enthusiastic on the new
author, saying all that he had written in his letter and many
things more, until Betty Jo could restrain herself no longer, but
ran to him, and took the book from his hands, and, with her arms
around his neck, told him that he was the dearest uncle in the
world, because she was going to marry the man who wrote the book he
There were long explanations after that: How the book so highly
valued by Banker Ward had actually been written in that very log
house by the river; how Auntie Sue had sent for Betty Jo to assist
the author with her typewriting; how the author, not knowing who
Betty Jo was, had fallen in love with his stenographer, and,
finally, how Betty Jo's author-lover was even then waiting to meet
her guardian, still not knowing that her guardian was the banker
Homer T. Ward.
"You see, uncle, dear," explained Betty Jo, "Auntie Sue and I were
obliged to conspire this little conspiracy against my man, because,
you know, authors are funny folk, and you never can tell exactly
what they are going to do. After giving your heart to a genius as
wonderful as you yourself know this one to be, it would be terrible
to have him refuse you just because you were the only living
relative of a rich old banker;--it would, wouldn't it, uncle,
And, really, Homer T. Ward could find reason in Betty Jo's
argument, which ended with that fatal trick question.
Taking his agreement for granted, Betty Jo continued: "And, you
see, Auntie Sue and I were simply forced to conspire a little
against you, uncle, dear, because you know perfectly well that,
much as I needed the advantage of associating with such an author-
man in the actual writing of his book, you would never, never have
permitted me to fall in love with him before you had discovered for
yourself what a great man he really is, and I simply had to fall in
love with him because God made me to take care of a genius of some
sort. And if you don't believe that, you can ask Judy. Judy has
found out a lot about God lately.
"You won't think I am talking nonsense, or am belittling the
occasion will you, uncle, dear?" she added anxiously. "I am not,--
truly, I am not,--I am very serious. But I can't help being a
little excited, can I? Because it is terrible to love a banker-
uncle, as I love you, and at the same time to love a genius-man, as
I love my man, and--and--not know what you two dearest men in the
world are going to do to each other."
And, at this, the girl's arms were about his neck again, and the
girl's head went down on his shoulder; and he felt her cheek hot
with blushes against his and a very suspicious drop of moisture
slipped down inside his collar.
When he had held Betty Jo very close for a while, and had whispered
comforting things in her ear, and had smiled over her shoulder at
his old teacher, the banker sent the girl to find her lover while
he should have a serious talk with Auntie Sue.
The long shadows of the late afternoon were on the mountain-side
when Brian Kent and Betty Jo came down the hill to the little log
house by the river.
The girl had said to him simply, "You are to come, now, Brian;--
Auntie Sue and Mr. Ward sent me to tell you."
She was very serious, and as they walked together clung closely to
his arm. And the man, too, seeming to feel the uselessness of
words for such an occasion, was silent. When he helped her over
the rail-fence at the lower edge of the clearing, he held her in
his arms for a little; then they went on.
They saw the beautiful, tree-clad hills lying softly outlined in
the shadows like folds of green and timeworn velvet, extending
ridge on ridge into the blue. They saw the river, their river,
making its gleaming way with many a curve and bend to the mighty
sea, that was hidden somewhere far beyond the distant sky-line of
their vision; and between them and the river, at the foot of the
hill, they saw the little log house with Auntie Sue and Homer T.
Ward waiting in the doorway.
When the banker saw the man at Betty Jo's side, his mind was far
from the clerk whom he had known more than a year before in the
city. His thoughts were on the author, the scholar, the genius,
whose book had so compelled his respect and admiration. This tall
fellow, with the athletic shoulders and deeply tanned face, who was
dressed in the rude garb of the backwoodsman, with his coat over
his arm, his ax on his shoulder, and his dinner-pail in his hand,--
who was he? And why was Betty Jo so familiar with this stranger,--
Betty Jo, who was usually so reserved, with her air of competent
self-possession? Homer T. Ward turned to look inquiringly at
His old teacher smiled back at him without speaking.
Then, Betty Jo and Brian Kent were standing before him.
"Here he is, Uncle Homer," said the girl.
Brian, hearing her speak those two revealing words, and seeing her
go to the bank president, who put his arm around her with the
loving intimacy of a father, stood speechless with amazement,
looking from Homer T. Ward and Betty Jo to Auntie Sue and back to
the banker and the girl.
Mr. Ward, still not remembering the bank clerk in this re-created
Brian Kent, was holding out his hand with a genial smile.
As the bewildered Brian mechanically took the hand so cordially
extended, the older man said: "It is an honor, sir, to meet a man
who can do the work you have done in writing that book. It is
impossible to estimate the value of such a service as you have
rendered the race. You have a rare and wonderful gift, Mr. Burns,
and I predict for you a life of remarkable usefulness."
Brian, still confused, but realizing that Mr. Ward had not
recognized him, looked appealingly at Betty Jo and then to Auntie
Auntie Sue spoke: "Mr. Ward is the uncle and guardian of Betty Jo,
"'Brian'!" ejaculated the banker.
Auntie Sue continued: "Homer, dear, Betty Jo has presented HER
author, Mr. Burns;--permit me to introduce MY Brian Kent!"
And Judy remarked that evening, when, after supper, they were all
on the porch watching the sunset: "Hit sure is dad burned funny
how all tangled an' snarled up everythin' kin git 'fore a body kin
think most, an', then, if a body'll just keep a-goin' right along,
all ter onct hit's all straightened out as purty as anythin'."
They laughed happily at the mountain girl's words, and the dear old
teacher's sweet voice answered: "Yes, Judy; it is all just like
the river, don't you see?"
"Meanin' as how the water gits all tangled an' mixed up when hit's
a-boilin' an' a-roarin' like mad down there at Elbow Rock, an' then
all ter onct gits all smooth an' calm like again," returned Judy.
"Meaning just that, Judy," returned Auntie Sue. "No matter how
tangled and confused life seems to be, it will all come straight at
the last, if, like the river, we only keep going on."
And when the dreamy Indian-summer days were come and the blue haze
of autumn lay softly over the brown and gold of the beautiful Ozark
hills, the mountain folk of the Elbow Rock neighborhood gathered
one day at the little log house by the river.
It was a simple ceremony that made the man and the woman, who were
so dear to Auntie Sue, husband and wife. But the backwoods
minister was not wanting in dignity, though his dress was rude and
his words plain; and the service lacked nothing of beauty and
meaning, though the guests were but humble mountaineers; for love
was there, and sincerity, and strength, and rugged kindliness.
And when the simple wedding feast was over, they all went down to
the river-bank, at the lower corner of the garden, where, at the
eddy landing, a staunch John-boat waited, equipped and ready.
When the last good-byes were spoken, and Brian and Betty Jo put out
from the little harbor into the stream, Auntie Sue, with Judy and
Homer T. Ward, went back to the porch of the little log house,
there to watch the beginning of the voyage.
With Brian at the oars, the boat crossed the stream to the safer
waters close to the other shore, and then, with Betty Jo waving her
handkerchief, and the neighbor men and boys running shouting along
the bank, swept down the river, past the roaring turmoil of the
Elbow Rock rapids into the quiet reaches below, and away on its
winding course between the tree-clad hills.
"I am so glad," said Auntie Sue, her dear old face glowing with
love, and her sweet voice tremulous with feeling, "I am so glad
they chose the river for their wedding journey."
Note.--This biographical sketch of Harold Bell Wright will give the
reader a knowledge and understanding of the life-work, aims and
purposes of the author as expressed through his books. It is
reprinted on these pages in response to popular demand.--The
HAROLD BELL WRIGHT
By ELSBERY W. REYNOLDS
The biography of a man is of importance and interest to other men
just to the degree that his life and work touches and influences
the life of his time and the lives of individuals.
Only in a feeble way, at best, can the life story of any man be
told on the printed page. The story is better as it is written on
the hearts of men and women and the man himself does the writing.
He lives longest who lives best. He who carves deepest against
corroding time is he who touches with surest hand the greatest
number of human hearts.
He may or may not be a prodigy of physical strength. He may or may
not be a tower of mental energy. But so long as this old world
stands the man with an overpowering desire for all that is best for
the race to be in the race, whose life is in tune with the divine
and with the good that is within us all, whether he be orator,
writer, artist or artisan, is a giant among men.
That which we read makes a deeper and more lasting impression on our
lives than that which we see or hear. An author with millions of
readers must be a great central power of thought and influence, at
least, in his own day and generation. We can understand the truth
of this through a study of the aims and life purposes of Harold Bell
Wright as expressed through his books and the circumstances under
which they were written. The wonderful popularity of this author is
well estimated by the millions of copies of his books that have been
sold. This is also the greatest testimonial that can be given to
the merit of his work. The great heart of the reading public is an
unprejudiced critic. "Is not the greatest voice the one to which
the greatest number of hearts listen with pleasure?"
When a man has attained to great eminence under adverse circumstances
we sometimes wonder to what heights he might have climbed under
conditions more favorable. Who can tell? It is just as easy to say
what the young man of twenty will be when a matured man of forty.
The boy of poverty makes a man of power while the boy nursed in the
lap of luxury makes a man of uneventful life, and, again, a life
started with a handicap remains so through its possible three score
years and ten and the life begun with advantages multiplies its
talents ten and a hundred fold.
So, after all, is not the heart of man the real man and is it not
the guiding star of his ambition, his will, his determination, his
Harold Bell Wright, the second of four sons, was born May 4, 1872,
in Rome, Oneida County, New York. From an earlier biographer we
quote the following:
"Some essential facts must be dug from out the past where they lie
embedded in the detrital chronicles of the race. Say, then, that
away back in 1640 a ship load of Anglo-Saxon freedom landed in New
England. After a brief period some of the more venturesome spirits
emigrated to the far west and settled amid the undulations of the
Mohawk valley in central New York. Protestant France also sent
westward some Gallic chivalry hungering for freedom. The fringe of
this garment of civilization spread out and reached also into the
same valley. English determination and Huguenot aspiration touched
elbows in the war for political and religious freedom, and touched
hearts and hands in the struggle for economic freedom. Their
generations were a genuine aristocracy. Mutual struggles after
mutual aims cemented casual acquaintance into enduring friendship.
William Wright met, loved and married Alma T. Watson. To them four
sons were born. A carpenter contractor, a man who builds,
contrives and constructs, is joined to a woman into whose soul of
wholesome refinement come images of dainty beauty, where they glow
and grow radiant. With lavish unrestraint the life of this French
woman pours itself into her sons. The third child died in infancy.
The eldest survived his mother by some thirteen years. The
youngest is a constructive mechanical engineer. The second son is
Harold Bell Wright.
"During ten years this mother and this son live in rare intimacy.
The boy's first enduring impression of this life is the vision of
the mother bending affectionately over him while criticising the
water color sketch his unpracticed fingers had just made. Crude
blendings and faulty lines were pointed out, then touched into
harmony and more accurate perspective by her quick skill. Together
their eyes watched shades dance on sunny slopes, cloud shadows race
among the hills or lie lazily in the valley below.
"Exuberant Nature and ebullient boy loved each other from the
first. Alone, enravished, he often wandered far in sheer joy of
living. He brings, one day, from his rambles a bunch of
immortelles which mother graciously receives. Twenty years later
the boy, man-grown, bows reverently over a box of withered flowers--
the same bouquet the mother took that day and laid away as a
precious memento of his boyish love. Such was the first decade.
"A ten-year-old boy, motherless, steals from harsh labor and yet
harsher surroundings, runs to the home of sacred memories, clambers
to the attic, and spends the night in anguished solitude. This was
his first Gethsemane. For ten years buffeted and beaten, battling
with adversity, sometimes losing but never lost, snatching learning
here and there, hating sham, loving passionately, misunderstood,
misapprehended, too stubbornly proud to ask apologies or make
useless explanations, fighting poverty in the depths of privation,
wrestling existence from toil he loathed, befriending many and also
befriended much, but always face to face with the grim tragedy
which has held part of the stage since Eden.
"Such was the second decade. The first was spent on hill sides
where shadows only made the light more buoyant as they fled away.
The second was passed in the valley where the shadow hung lazily
till the cloud grew very black and drenched the soil.
"Lured to college, he undertook to acquire academic culture. As is
well known, college life with its professorial anecdotes and jokes,
its student pranks and grind, is routine drudgery and cob-webbery
prose. Bookish professors and conventional students rarely have
just such an animate problem of French artistry and Bohemian
experience to solve. They did nobly, to be sure, but here was a
mind which threw over them all the glamour of romance."
Mr. Wright entered the Preparatory Department of Hiram College at
the age of twenty, having previously accepted the faith and
identified himself with the Christian Church in the little quarry
town of Grafton, Ohio. He continued active in the different
departments of work in his church all during his school years with
the ultimate result of his entering the ministry.
Having no financial means, while in school he made his way by doing
odd jobs about town, house painting and decorating, sketching, etc.
After two years of school life, while laboring to gain funds in
order that he might continue his schooling, he contracted from
overwork and out-door exposure a severe case of pneumonia that left
his eyesight badly impaired and his constitution in such condition
that, to the present day, he has never fully recovered.
Air castles were tumbled and hopes blasted when his physician
advised him that it would be fatal to re-enter school for, at
least, another year. Whereupon, seeking health and a means of
existence, starting from a point on the Mahoning river, he canoed
with sketch and note book, but alone, down stream a distance of
more than five hundred miles. From this point, by train, he
embarked for the Ozark mountains in southwest Missouri. Here, for
some months, while gradually regaining his strength, he secured
employment at farm work, sketching and painting at intervals.
Once more, he found himself on bed-rock, taking his last cent to
pay express charges back to Ohio on some finished pictures, but,
this time, fortune smiled promptly with a good check by return
It was while in the Ozarks that Harold Bell Wright preached his
first sermon. Being a regular attendant at the services, held in
the little mountain log school house, he was asked to talk to the
people, one Sunday, when the regular preacher had failed to appear.
From this Sunday morning talk, that could hardly be called a
sermon, and others that followed, he came to feel that he could do
more good in the ministry than he could in any other field of
labor, and soon thereafter accepted a regular pastorate at Pierce
City, Missouri, at a yearly salary of four hundred dollars. True
to a resolve, that his work should be that through which he could
help the most people, he had now chosen the ministry. A further
resolve that he would give up this ministry, chosen with such
earnest conviction, should another field of labor offer more
extensive measures for reaching mankind, took him, in later years,
into the field of literature. He left the ministry with many
regrets but with the same earnest conviction with which he had
earlier chosen it.
Following the publication of "The Shepherd of the Hills" his
publishers assured him that he could secure greater results from
his pen rather than his pulpit and prevailed upon him to henceforth
make literature his life work. This was in every way consistent
with his teaching that every man's ministry is that work through
which he can accomplish the greatest good.
In the battle of life there is always the higher ground that the
many covet but few attain. In reaching this height Mr. Wright has
given to a multitude, his time, strength and substance, that they,
too, might further advance. He is companionable, loving and loyal
to his friends. He hates sham and hypocrisy and any attempt to
glorify one's self by means other than the fruits of one's own
This boy, who, from the death of his mother, was driven into a hand
to hand struggle with life for a bare existence, was necessarily
forced into contact with much that was vicious and corrupt. But he
in no way became a part of it. That same inherent love for mental
cleanliness and spiritual truths that has so distinguished the
works of the man kept the boy unstained in his unfortunate
Mr. Wright resigned his charge at Pierce City for the larger work
at Pittsburg, Kansas. In the second year of his pastorate--1899--
he married Frances E. Long in Buffalo, New York. This union of
love had its beginning back in the school days at Hiram. Unto them
have been born three sons, Gilbert Munger, 1901, Paul Williams,
1902, and Norman Hall, 1910.
In Pittsburg, Mr. Wright received enthusiastic support from his
church people. Finances were soon in a satisfactory condition, and
church attendance reached the capacity of the building, but still
the young pastor was not satisfied. Pittsburg was a mining town, a
young men's town. A little city with saloons and brothels doing
business on every hand. His soul was on fire for his church to do
a larger work and, with the hope of arousing his people, he
conceived the idea of writing "That Printer of Udell's," planning
to read the story, by installments, on special evenings of
successive weeks, to his congregation.
Pittsburg was made the principal scene and the church of the story
was the kind of church he wanted his Pittsburg charge to be. The
teachings set forth, through the preacher of the story, in the
latter half of the book, are the identical things the author was
preaching. The first chapters of the story are very largely
colored by Mr. Wright's early life, but they are by no means
"That Printer of Udell's" was written without thought or intention
of offering it for publication. During the author's ministry he
made some of the warmest and most abiding friendships of his life,
and it was through certain of these friends that he was persuaded
from reading the story, as intended, but to offer it for
publication, giving it, thus, a wider usefulness.
Having a leave of absence of several weeks from his church during
the winter of 1901-2 he accepted an invitation from the pastor of a
Chicago church to hold a special meeting, and it was during this
meeting that the author and his publisher met for the first time.
Mr. Wright delivered a sermon entitled "Sculptors of Life" that was
so impressive that I sought him out with entreaties to repeat his
sermon as a lecture to a certain company of young people.
The acquaintance thus begun very quickly became one of friendship,
without any knowledge or thought that it would in time lead to a
co-operative life work, and when the author later offered his book
for publication it was without request or thought of financial
remuneration. Mr. Wright, however, was given a contract paying him
the highest royalty that was being paid for any author's first
"That Printer of Udell's" was written almost entirely in the late
hours of the night and the very early hours of the morning. Great
demands were being made on the author's time in the way of requests
for officiating and speaking at public and civic functions in
addition to the now heavy requirements of his church. His
aggressive activities, backed by his splendid spirit, fearlessness
and courage in combating the evils of his little city made for him
a host of admirers, alike, among his enemies and friends. When he
left to accept a pastorate in Kansas City, Missouri, his resignation
was not accepted.
After one year in Kansas City he found that he was not physically
able to carry out the great city work as he had dreamed it and
planned it, on a scale that would satisfy his longings for service,
and it made him seriously consider whether there was not some other
way that would more equally measure with his strength. He went
again to the Ozarks, this time for rest and meditation, and while
there began writing "The Shepherd of the Hills." This Story has a
peculiar significance for the author. He feels toward it as he can
not feel for any of his other books. "The Shepherd of the Hills"
was written as a test. The strength of the message he was able to
put into the story and the response it should find in the hearts
of men and women was to decide for him his ministry henceforth,
whether he would teach the precepts of the Man of Galilee by voice
or pen. It was a testing time that bore fruit not only in this
simple, sweet story, that to quote an eminent divine, "is one of
the greatest sermons of our day," but resulted as well in the
splendid volumes that have followed.
"The Shepherd of the Hills" was finished during the year of his
pastorate at Lebanon, Missouri, and but for the sympathy,
encouragement and helpful understanding of his church officers and
membership, it is doubtful if the story could ever have been
completed. When Mr. Wright delivered the manuscript to his
publishers the first of the year, 1907, for publication the next
fall, he had accepted the pastorate of the Christian Church in
Redlands, California, hoping this land of sunshine would give him a
larger measure of health.
Some months later, resigning his Redlands pastorate, he went to the
Imperial Valley and there, the following year, wrote "The Calling
of Dan Matthews." The church and its problems were weighing on the
author and affecting his life no less than when he was in the
ministry and it was only natural that he should give to the world
"a picture that is true to the four corners of the earth." Every
incident in the story has its counterpart in real life and, with
but few exceptions, came under the author's personal observation.
He did not get the real pleasure out of writing "The Calling of Dan
Matthews" that he did the story which preceded it. But he could
not, try as he would, escape it.
The publication of "The Calling of Dan Matthews" in the fall of
1909 was just two years after the publication of "The Shepherd of
"The Winning of Barbara Worth" required more time and effort in the
collecting of material than any book the author had written, but
probably gave him, at least, as much pleasure. He is very careful
with regard to descriptive detail, and even while writing "The
Calling of Dan Matthews" he was making a study of the desert and
this great reclamation project. Before sending his manuscript for
publication he had it checked over by the best engineers on the
Pacific coast for inaccuracies in any of his descriptions that
involved engineering or reclamation problems.
"The Winning of Barbara Worth" bears the distinction, without
doubt, of being the only book ever published that called its
publisher and illustrator from a distance of two and three thousand
miles, into the heart of a great desert, for a consultation with
its author. This story of the Imperial Valley and its reclamation
was written in the same study as was "The Calling of Dan Matthews."
A study of rude construction, about eighteen by thirty-five feet,
with thatched roof and outside covering of native arrow-weed and
built entirely by the author himself.
When Mr. Wright finished "The Winning of Barbara Worth"--so named
in honor of Ruth Barbara Reynolds--he was a sick man. He often
worked the night through, overtaxing his nerve and strength. For
several months he virtually dwelt within the four walls of his
study and for a time it was feared he would not live to finish the
book. He wrote the last chapters while confined to his bed, after
which he was taken by easy stages, through the kindness of friends,
to that part of Northern Arizona that is so delightful to all
lovers of the out-of-doors. In this bracing mile-high atmosphere
he soon grew well and strong, almost to ruggedness, and on the day
his book was published he was riding in a wild-horse chase over a
country wild and rough where the writer of this sketch would only
care to go, carefully picking his way, on foot. So it was weeks
after publication before the author saw the first bound copy of his
book. During these summer and fall months, while regaining his
strength, he was busy with sketch and note book collecting
material, for this part of Arizona is the scene of his novel "When
a Man's a Man."
"Their Yesterdays" was written in Tucson, Arizona, and was
published in the fall of 1912, just one year after the publication
of "The Winning of Barbara Worth." In order to write this story,
with the least possible strain on his nerves and vitality, Mr.
Wright secluded himself in a little cottage purchased especially
for this work. His material was collected from the observations of
his thoughtful years and his intimate knowledge of human hearts.
This book is, perhaps, more representative of the real Harold Bell
Wright than anything he has done. It is the true presentation of
his views on life, love and religion. I once asked Mr. Wright, in
behalf of the faculty, to deliver an address to a graduating class
of some twenty-odd young men of the Morgan Park Academy (Chicago).
He was very busy and I suggested that without special effort he
make the commonplace remarks that one so often hears on like
occasions. For the first time that I remember he somewhat
impatiently resented a suggestion from me, saying "These young men
are on the threshold of life and the very best that is within me is
due to them. I can give to them only such a message as I would,
were I to stand before judgment on the morrow." It was with just
this spirit that the author wrote "Their Yesterdays."
Following "Their Yesterdays" the next book in order of publication
was "The Eyes of the World," published in the fall of 1914. It was
written in the same arrow-weed study on Tecolote Rancho in the
Imperial Valley where he wrote "The Calling of Dan Matthews" and
"The Winning of Barbara Worth." Being fully in sympathy with the
author's purpose in writing this story, the campaign of advertising
was of such educational character and so eventful in many ways,
that it will long be remembered by authors, publishers and reading
public, and, we trust, make for cleaner books and pictures.
As it was in the writing of "The Calling of Dan Matthews" so it was
in the writing of "The Eyes of the World," the sense of duty stood
highest. The modern trend in books and music and art and drama had
so incensed the author that "The Eyes of the World" was the result
of his all impelling desire for cleaner living and thinking. As is
true of all writers, there are sometimes those who fail to catch
the message in Mr. Wright's books. He is occasionally misunderstood,
and that was especially true with "The Eyes of the World." To the
great majority of people, clean living and thinking, the message was
not to be misinterpreted and to them the book is blessed. To that
small minority it was convicting and, from a few such, it brought
forth condemnation which, in a fellow author here and there, was
pronounced and emphasized by envy and jealousy. To critics of this
class Mr. Wright makes no reply and is not in the least disturbed.
"The Uncrowned King," a small volume--an allegory--published in
1910, to me, is one of the most delightful of Mr. Wright's books.
Possibly, it has an added charm because of certain peculiar
conditions. It was written in Redlands, California, during the
winter of 1909-10, although the notion for the little volume
occurred to the author while living in Kansas City. It was one of
those times when the longing and will to do a work greater than the
physical would permit seemed almost overpowering when, unconsciously
coming to his aid, a young woman talking to a company of Christian
Endeavorers chanced to remark, "After all, the real kings of earth
are seldom crowned." All through the evening service thoughts that
this inspired kept running through the author's mind and late that
same night he wrote the outline which was only completed some years
later and given to his publishers to enrich the world.
His first four novels in order of publication have been dramatized
and enjoyed by thousands from before the footlights and it has been
a delight to renew acquaintances with old friends in this way. It
remained for "The Eyes of the World" to be the first of his books
to be presented in a feature production of motion pictures.
The likes and dislikes of Harold Bell Wright are quite pronounced.
He is unpretending, cares not for the lime-light and avoids
interviews for the public press. Loud, boisterous conversation is
but little less offensive to him than vulgarity in speech or
action. His friends are strong, clean-minded men who are doing
things in the world and are as necessary to his being as the air to
his existence, and his generosity to them is no less marked than
his caring and providing for his family, which is almost a passion.
He is extremely fond of most forms of out-door life. The desert
with its vast expanse, fierce solitude and varied colors is no less
attractive to him than the peaceful quiet of wooded dells, the
beauty of flowering meadows or the rugged mountains with their
roaring trout streams that furnish him hours of sport with rod and
line. He enjoys hunting, horse-back riding or long tramps afoot.
But when there is work to be done it is the one thing that bulks