Infomotions, Inc.The Desert of Wheat / Grey, Zane, 1872-1939



Author: Grey, Zane, 1872-1939
Title: The Desert of Wheat
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): lenore; kurt; dorn; anderson; wheat; kurt dorn; jake; replied lenore; replied kurt; lenore anderson; car; replied dorn
Contributor(s): Dall, Caroline Healey, 1822-1912 [Editor]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
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Identifier: etext10201
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Title: The Desert of Wheat

Author: Zane Grey

Release Date: November 21, 2003 [EBook #10201]

Language: English

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE DESERT OF WHEAT ***




Produced by Suzanne Shell, David Kline and PG Distributed Proofreaders




ZANE GREY



THE DESERT

of

WHEAT

1919





CHAPTER I

Late in June the vast northwestern desert of wheat began to take on a
tinge of gold, lending an austere beauty to that endless, rolling,
smooth world of treeless hills, where miles of fallow ground and miles
of waving grain sloped up to the far-separated homes of the heroic men
who had conquered over sage and sand.

These simple homes of farmers seemed lost on an immensity of soft gray
and golden billows of land, insignificant dots here and there on distant
hills, so far apart that nature only seemed accountable for those broad
squares of alternate gold and brown, extending on and on to the waving
horizon-line. A lonely, hard, heroic country, where flowers and fruit
were not, nor birds and brooks, nor green pastures. Whirling strings of
dust looped up over fallow ground, the short, dry wheat lay back from
the wind, the haze in the distance was drab and smoky, heavy with
substance.

A thousand hills lay bare to the sky, and half of every hill was wheat
and half was fallow ground; and all of them, with the shallow valleys
between, seemed big and strange and isolated. The beauty of them was
austere, as if the hand of man had been held back from making green his
home site, as if the immensity of the task had left no time for youth
and freshness. Years, long years, were there in the round-hilled,
many-furrowed gray old earth. And the wheat looked a century old. Here
and there a straight, dusty road stretched from hill to hill, becoming a
thin white line, to disappear in the distance. The sun shone hot, the
wind blew hard; and over the boundless undulating expanse hovered a
shadow that was neither hood of dust nor hue of gold. It was not
physical, but lonely, waiting, prophetic, and weird. No wild desert of
wastelands, once the home of other races of man, and now gone to decay
and death, could have shown so barren an acreage. Half of this wandering
patchwork of squares was earth, brown and gray, curried and disked, and
rolled and combed and harrowed, with not a tiny leaf of green in all the
miles. The other half had only a faint golden promise of mellow harvest;
and at long distance it seemed to shimmer and retreat under the hot sun.
A singularly beautiful effect of harmony lay in the long, slowly rising
slopes, in the rounded hills, in the endless curving lines on all sides.
The scene was heroic because of the labor of horny hands; it was sublime
because not a hundred harvests, nor three generations of toiling men,
could ever rob nature of its limitless space and scorching sun and
sweeping dust, of its resistless age-long creep back toward the desert
that it had been.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here was grown the most bounteous, the richest and finest wheat in all
the world. Strange and unfathomable that so much of the bread of man,
the staff of life, the hope of civilization in this tragic year 1917,
should come from a vast, treeless, waterless, dreary desert!

This wonderful place was an immense valley of considerable altitude
called the Columbia Basin, surrounded by the Cascade Mountains on the
west, the Coeur d'Alene and Bitter Root Mountains on the east, the
Okanozan range to the north, and the Blue Mountains to the south. The
valley floor was basalt, from the lava flow of volcanoes in ages past.
The rainfall was slight except in the foot-hills of the mountains. The
Columbia River, making a prodigious and meandering curve, bordered on
three sides what was known as the Bend country. South of this vast area,
across the range, began the fertile, many-watered region that extended
on down into verdant Oregon. Among the desert hills of this Bend
country, near the center of the Basin, where the best wheat was raised,
lay widely separated little towns, the names of which gave evidence of
the mixed population. It was, of course, an exceedingly prosperous
country, a fact manifest in the substantial little towns, if not in the
crude and unpretentious homes of the farmers. The acreage of farms ran
from a section, six hundred and forty acres, up into the thousands.

       *       *       *       *       *

Upon a morning in early July, exactly three months after the United
States had declared war upon Germany, a sturdy young farmer strode with
darkly troubled face from the presence of his father. At the end of a
stormy scene he had promised his father that he would abandon his desire
to enlist in the army.

Kurt Dorn walked away from the gray old clapboard house, out to the
fence, where he leaned on the gate. He could see for miles in every
direction, and to the southward, away on a long yellow slope, rose a
stream of dust from a motor-car.

"Must be Anderson--coming to dun father," muttered young Dorn.

This was the day, he remembered, when the wealthy rancher of Ruxton was
to look over old Chris Dorn's wheat-fields. Dorn owed thirty-thousand
dollars and interest for years, mostly to Anderson. Kurt hated the debt
and resented the visit, but he could not help acknowledging that the
rancher had been lenient and kind. Long since Kurt had sorrowfully
realized that his father was illiterate, hard, grasping, and growing
worse with the burden of years.

"If we had rain now--or soon--that section of Bluestem would square
father," soliloquized young Dorn, as with keen eyes he surveyed a vast
field of wheat, short, smooth, yellowing in the sun. But the cloudless
sky, the haze of heat rather betokened a continued drought.

There were reasons, indeed, for Dorn to wear a dark and troubled face as
he watched the motor-car speed along ahead of its stream of dust, pass
out of sight under the hill, and soon reappear, to turn off the main
road and come toward the house. It was a big, closed car, covered with
dust. The driver stopped it at the gate and got out.

"Is this Chris Dorn's farm?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Kurt.

Whereupon the door of the car opened and out stepped a short, broad man
in a long linen coat.

"Come out, Lenore, an' shake off the dust," he said, and he assisted a
young woman to step out. She also wore a long linen coat, and a veil
besides. The man removed his coat and threw it into the car. Then he
took off his sombrero to beat the dust off of that.

"Phew! The Golden Valley never seen dust like this in a million
years!... I'm chokin' for water. An' listen to the car. She's boilin'!"

Then, as he stepped toward Kurt, the rancher showed himself to be a
well-preserved man of perhaps fifty-five, of powerful form beginning to
sag in the broad shoulders, his face bronzed by long exposure to wind
and sun. He had keen gray eyes, and their look was that of a man used to
dealing with his kind and well disposed toward them.

"Hello! Are you young Dorn?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," replied Kurt, stepping out.

"I'm Anderson, from Ruxton, come to see your dad. This is my girl
Lenore."

Kurt acknowledged the slight bow from the veiled young woman, and then,
hesitating, he added, "Won't you come in?"

"No, not yet. I'm chokin' for air an' water. Bring us a drink," replied
Anderson.

Kurt hurried away to get a bucket and tin cup. As he drew water from the
well he was thinking rather vaguely that it was somehow
embarrassing--the fact of Mr. Anderson being accompanied by his
daughter. Kurt was afraid of his father. But then, what did it matter?
When he returned to the yard he found the rancher sitting in the shade
of one of the few apple-trees, and the young lady was standing near, in
the act of removing bonnet and veil. She had thrown the linen coat over
the seat of an old wagon-bed that lay near.

"Good water is scarce here, but I'm glad we have some," said Kurt; then
as he set down the bucket and offered a brimming cupful to the girl he
saw her face, and his eyes met hers. He dropped the cup and stared. Then
hurriedly, with flushing face, he bent over to recover and refill it.

"Ex-excuse me. I'm--clumsy," he managed to say, and as he handed the cup
to her he averted his gaze. For more than a year the memory of this very
girl had haunted him. He had seen her twice--the first time at the close
of his one year of college at the University of California, and the
second time on the street in Spokane. In a glance he had recognized the
strong, lithe figure, the sunny hair, the rare golden tint of her
complexion, the blue eyes, warm and direct. And he had sustained a shock
which momentarily confused him.

"Good water, hey?" dissented Anderson, after drinking a second cup. "Boy
that's wet, but it ain't water to drink. Come down in the foot-hills an'
I'll show you. My ranch 's called 'Many Waters,' an' you can't keep your
feet dry."

"I wish we had some of it here," replied Kurt, wistfully, and he waved a
hand at the broad, swelling slopes. The warm breath that blew in from
the wheatlands felt dry and smelled dry.

"You're in for a dry spell?" inquired Anderson, with interest that was
keen, and kindly as well.

"Father says so. And I fear it, too--for he never makes a mistake in
weather or crops."

"A hot, dry spell!... This summer?... Hum!... Boy, do you know that
wheat is the most important thing in the world to-day?"

"You mean on account of the war," replied Kurt. "Yes, I know. But father
doesn't see that. All he sees is--if we have rain we'll have bumper
crops. That big field there would be a record--at war prices.... And he
wouldn't be ruined!"

"Ruined?... Oh, he means I'd close on him.... Hum!... Say, what do you
see in a big wheat yield--if it rains?"

"Mr. Anderson, I'd like to see our debt paid, but I'm thinking most of
wheat for starving peoples. I--I've studied this wheat question. It's
the biggest question in this war."

Kurt had forgotten the girl and was unaware of her eyes bent steadily
upon him. Anderson had roused to the interest of wheat, and to a deeper
study of the young man.

"Say, Dorn, how old are you?" he asked.

"Twenty-four. And Kurt's my first name," was the reply.

"Will this farm fall to you?"

"Yes, if my father does not lose it."

"Hum!... Old Dorn won't lose it, never fear. He raises the best wheat in
this section."

"But father never owned the land. We have had three bad years. If the
wheat fails this summer--we lose the land, that's all."

"Are you an--American?" queried Anderson, slowly, as if treading on
dangerous ground.

"I am," snapped Kurt. "My mother was American. She's dead. Father is
German. He's old. He's rabid since the President declared war. He'll
never change."

"That's hell. What 're you goin' to do if your country calls you?"

"Go!" replied Kurt, with flashing eyes. "I wanted to enlist. Father and
I quarreled over that until I had to give in. He's hard--he's
impossible.... I'll wait for the draft and hope I'm called."

"Boy, it's that spirit Germany's roused, an' the best I can say is, God
help her!... Have you a brother?"

"No. I'm all father has."

"Well, it makes a tough place for him, an' you, too. Humor him. He's
old. An' when you're called--go an' fight. You'll come back."

"If I only knew that--it wouldn't be so hard."

"Hard? It sure is hard. But it'll be the makin' of a great country.
It'll weed out the riffraff.... See here, Kurt, I'm goin' to give you a
hunch. Have you had any dealin's with the I.W.W.?"

"Yes, last harvest we had trouble, but nothing serious. When I was in
Spokane last month I heard a good deal. Strangers have approached us
here, too--mostly aliens. I have no use for them, but they always get
father's ear. And now!... To tell the truth, I'm worried."

"Boy, you need to be," replied Anderson, earnestly. "We're all worried.
I'm goin' to let you read over the laws of that I.W.W. organization.
You're to keep mum now, mind you. I belong to the Chamber of Commerce in
Spokane. Somebody got hold of these by-laws of this so-called labor
union. We've had copies made, an' every honest farmer in the Northwest
is goin' to read them. But carryin' one around is dangerous, I reckon,
these days. Here."

Anderson hesitated a moment, peered cautiously around, and then,
slipping folded sheets of paper from his inside coat pocket, he
evidently made ready to hand them to Kurt.

"Lenore, where's the driver?" he asked.

"He's under the car," replied the girl

Kurt thrilled at the soft sound of her voice. It was something to have
been haunted by a girl's face for a year and then suddenly hear her
voice.

"He's new to me--that driver--an' I ain't trustin' any new men these
days," went on Anderson. "Here now, Dorn. Read that. An' if you don't
get red-headed--"

Without finishing his last muttered remark, he opened the sheets of
manuscript and spread them out to the young man.

Curiously, and with a little rush of excitement, Kurt began to read. The
very first rule of the I.W.W. aimed to abolish capital. Kurt read on
with slowly growing amaze, consternation, and anger. When he had
finished, his look, without speech, was a question Anderson hastened to
answer.

"It's straight goods," he declared. "Them's the sure-enough rules of
that gang. We made certain before we acted. Now how do they strike you?"

"Why, that's no labor union!" replied Kurt, hotly. "They're outlaws,
thieves, blackmailers, pirates. I--I don't know what!"

"Dorn, we're up against a bad outfit an' the Northwest will see hell
this summer. There's trouble in Montana and Idaho. Strangers are
driftin' into Washington from all over. We must organize to meet
them--to prevent them gettin' a hold out here. It's a labor union,
mostly aliens, with dishonest an' unscrupulous leaders, some of them
Americans. They aim to take advantage of the war situation. In the
newspapers they rave about shorter hours, more pay, acknowledgment of
the union. But any fool would see, if he read them laws I showed you,
that this I.W.W. is not straight."

"Mr. Anderson, what steps have you taken down in your country?" queried
Kurt.

"So far all I've done was to hire my hands for a year, give them high
wages, an' caution them when strangers come round to feed them an' be
civil an' send them on."

"But we can't do that up here in the Bend," said Dorn, seriously. "We
need, say, a hundred thousand men in harvest-time, and not ten thousand
all the rest of the year."

"Sure you can't. But you'll have to organize somethin'. Up here in this
desert you could have a heap of trouble if that outfit got here strong
enough. You'd better tell every farmer you can trust about this I.W.W."

"I've only one American neighbor, and he lives six miles from here,"
replied Dorn. "Olsen over there is a Swede, and not a naturalized
citizen, but I believe he's for the U.S. And there's--"

"Dad," interrupted the girl, "I believe our driver is listening to your
very uninteresting conversation."

She spoke demurely, with laughter in her low voice. It made Dorn dare to
look at her, and he met a blue blaze that was instantly averted.

Anderson growled, evidently some very hard names, under his breath; his
look just then was full of characteristic Western spirit. Then he got
up.

"Lenore, I reckon your talk 'll be more interesting than mine," he said,
dryly. "I'll go see Dorn an' get this business over."

"I'd rather go with you," hurriedly replied Kurt; and then, as though
realizing a seeming discourtesy in his words, his face flamed, and he
stammered: "I--I don't mean that. But father is in bad mood. We just
quarreled.--I told you--about the war. And--Mr. Anderson,--I'm--I'm a
little afraid he'll--"

"Well, son, I'm not afraid," interrupted the rancher. "I'll beard the
old lion in his den. You talk to Lenore."

"Please don't speak of the war," said Kurt, appealingly.

"Not a word unless he starts roarin' at Uncle Sam," declared Anderson,
with a twinkle in his eyes, and turned toward the house.

"He'll roar, all right," said Kurt, almost with a groan. He knew what an
ordeal awaited the rancher, and he hated the fact that it could not be
avoided. Then Kurt was confused, astounded, infuriated with himself over
a situation he had not brought about and could scarcely realize. He
became conscious of pride and shame, and something as black and hopeless
as despair.

"Haven't I seen you--before?" asked the girl.

The query surprised and thrilled Kurt out of his self-centered thought.

"I don't know. Have you? Where?" he answered, facing her. It was a
relief to find that she still averted her face.

"At Berkeley, in California, the first time, and the second at Spokane,
in front of the Davenport," she replied.

"First--and--second?... You--you remembered both times!" he burst out,
incredulously.

"Yes. I don't see how I could have helped remembering." Her laugh was
low, musical, a little hurried, yet cool.

Dorn was not familiar with girls. He had worked hard all his life, there
among those desert hills, and during the few years his father had
allowed him for education. He knew wheat, but nothing of the eternal
feminine. So it was impossible for him to grasp that this girl was not
wholly at her ease. Her words and the cool little laugh suddenly brought
home to Kurt the immeasurable distance between him and a daughter of one
of the richest ranchers in Washington.

"You mean I--I was impertinent," he began, struggling between shame and
pride. "I--I stared at you.... Oh, I must have been rude.... But, Miss
Anderson, I--I didn't mean to be. I didn't think you saw me--at all. I
don't know what made me do that. It never happened before. I beg your
pardon."

A subtle indefinable change, perceptible to Dorn, even in his confused
state, came over the girl.

"I did not say you were impertinent," she returned. "I remembered seeing
you--notice me, that is all."

Self-possessed, aloof, and kind, Miss Anderson now became an
impenetrable mystery to Dorn. But that only accentuated the distance she
had intimated lay between them. Her kindness stung him to recover his
composure. He wished she had not been kind. What a singular chance that
had brought her here to his home--the daughter of a man who came to
demand a long-unpaid debt! What a dispelling of the vague thing that had
been only a dream! Dorn gazed away across the yellowing hills to the dim
blue of the mountains where rolled the Oregon. Despite the color, it was
gray--like his future.

"I heard you tell father you had studied wheat," said the girl,
presently, evidently trying to make conversation.

"Yes, all my life," replied Kurt. "My study has mostly been under my
father. Look at my hands." He held out big, strong hands, scarred and
knotted, with horny palms uppermost, and he laughed. "I can be proud of
them, Miss Anderson.... But I had a splendid year in California at the
university and I graduated from the Washington State Agricultural
College."

"You love wheat--the raising of it, I mean?" she inquired.

"It must be that I do, though I never had such a thought. Wheat is so
wonderful. No one can guess who does not know it!... The clean, plump
grain, the sowing on fallow ground, the long wait, the first tender
green, and the change day by day to the deep waving fields of gold--then
the harvest, hot, noisy, smoky, full of dust and chaff, and the great
combine-harvesters with thirty-four horses. Oh! I guess I do love it
all.... I worked in a Spokane flour-mill, too, just to learn how flour
is made. There is nothing in the world so white, so clean, so pure as
flour made from the wheat of these hills!"

"Next you'll be telling me that you can bake bread," she rejoined, and
her laugh was low and sweet. Her eyes shone with soft blue gleams.

"Indeed I can! I bake all the bread we use," he said, stoutly. "And I
flatter myself I can beat any girl you know."

"You can beat mine, I'm sure. Before I went to college I did pretty
well. But I learned too much there. Now my mother and sisters, and
brother Jim, all the family except dad, make fun of my bread."

"You have a brother? How old is he?"

"One brother--Jim, we call him. He--he is just past twenty-one." She
faltered the last few words.

Kurt felt on common ground with her then. The sudden break in her voice,
the change in her face, the shadowing of the blue eyes--these were
eloquent.

"Oh, it's horrible--this need of war!" she exclaimed.

"Yes," he replied, simply. "But maybe your brother will not be called."

"Called! Why, he refused to wait for the draft! He went and enlisted.
Dad patted him on the back.... If anything happens to him it'll kill my
mother. Jim is her idol. It'd break my heart.... Oh, I hate the very
name of Germans!"

"My father is German," said Kurt. "He's been fifty years in
America--eighteen years here on this farm. He always hated England. Now
he's bitter against America.... I can see a side you can't see. But I
don't blame you--for what you said."

"Forgive me. I can't conceive of meaning that against any one who's
lived here so long.... Oh, it must be hard for you."

"I'll let my father think I'm forced to join the army. But I'm going to
fight against his people. We are a house divided against itself."

"Oh, what a pity!" The girl sighed and her eyes were dark with brooding
sorrow.

A step sounded behind them. Mr. Anderson appeared, sombrero off, mopping
a very red face. His eyes gleamed, with angry glints; his mouth and chin
were working. He flopped down with a great, explosive breath.

"Kurt, your old man is a--a--son of a gun!" he exclaimed, vociferously;
manifestly, liberation of speech was a relief.

The young man nodded seriously and knowingly. "I hope, sir--he--he--"

"He did--you just bet your life! He called me a lot in German, but I
know cuss words when I hear them. I tried to reason with him--told him I
wanted my money--was here to help him get that money off the farm, some
way or other. An' he swore I was a capitalist--an enemy to labor an' the
Northwest--that I an' my kind had caused the war."

Kurt gazed gravely into the disturbed face of the rancher. Miss Anderson
had wide-open eyes of wonder.

"Sure I could have stood all that," went on Anderson, fuming. "But he
ordered me out of the house. I got mad an' wouldn't go. Then--by George!
he pulled my nose an' called me a bloody Englishman!"

Kurt groaned in the disgrace of the moment. But, amazingly, Miss
Anderson burst into a silvery peal of laughter.

"Oh, dad!... that's--just too--good for--anything! You met your--match
at last.... You know you always--boasted of your drop of English
blood.... And you're sensitive--about your big nose!"

"He must be over seventy," growled Anderson, as if seeking for some
excuse to palliate his restraint. "I'm mad--but it was funny." The
working of his face finally set in the huge wrinkles of a laugh.

Young Dorn struggled to repress his own mirth, but unguardedly he
happened to meet the dancing blue eyes of the girl, merry, provocative,
full of youth and fun, and that was too much for him. He laughed with
them.

"The joke's on me," said Anderson. "An' I can take one.... Now, young
man, I think I gathered from your amiable dad that if the crop of wheat
was full I'd get my money. Otherwise I could take over the land. For my
part, I'd never do that, but the others interested might do it, even for
the little money involved. I tried to buy them out so I'd have the whole
mortgage. They would not sell."

"Mr. Anderson, you're a square man, and I'll do--" declared Kurt.

"Come out an' show me the wheat," interrupted Anderson. "Lenore, do you
want to go with us?"

"I do," replied the daughter, and she took up her hat to put it on.

Kurt led them through the yard, out past the old barn, to the edge of
the open slope where the wheat stretched away, down and up, as far as
the eye could see.




CHAPTER II

"We've got over sixteen hundred acres in fallow ground, a half-section
in rye, another half in wheat--Turkey Red--and this section you see, six
hundred and forty acres, in Bluestem," said Kurt.

Anderson's keen eyes swept from near at hand to far away, down the
gentle, billowy slope and up the far hillside. The wheat was two feet
high, beginning to be thick and heavy at the heads, as if struggling to
burst. A fragrant, dry, wheaty smell, mingled with dust, came on the
soft summer breeze, and a faint silken rustle. The greenish, almost blue
color near at hand gradually in the distance grew lighter, and then
yellow, and finally took on a tinge of gold. There was a living spirit
in that vast wheat-field.

"Dorn, it's the finest wheat I've seen!" exclaimed Anderson, with the
admiration of the farmer who aspired high. "In fact, it's the only fine
field of wheat I've seen since we left the foot-hills. How is that?"

"Late spring and dry weather," replied Dorn. "Most of the farmers'
reports are poor. If we get rain over the Bend country we'll have only
an average yield this year. If we don't get rain--then flat failure."

Miss Anderson evinced an interest in the subject and she wanted to know
why this particular field, identical with all the others for miles
around, should have a promise of a magnificent crop when the others had
no promise at all.

"This section lay fallow a long time," replied Dorn. "Snow lasted here
on this north slope quite a while. My father used a method of soil
cultivation intended to conserve moisture. The seed wheat was especially
selected. And if we have rain during the next ten days this section of
Bluestem will yield fifty bushels to the acre."

"Fifty bushels!" ejaculated Anderson.

"Bluestem? Why do you call it that when it's green and yellow?" queried
the girl.

"It's a name. There are many varieties of wheat. Bluestem is best here
in this desert country because it resists drought, it produces large
yield, it does not break, and the flour-mills rate it very high.
Bluestem is not good in wet soils."

Anderson tramped along the edge of the field, peering down, here and
there pulling a shaft of wheat and examining it. The girl gazed with
dreamy eyes across the undulating sea. And Dorn watched her.

"We have a ranch--thousands of acres--but not like this," she said.

"What's the difference?" asked Dorn.

She appeared pensive and in doubt.

"I hardly know. What would you call this--this scene?"

"Why, I call it the desert of wheat! But no one else does," he replied.

"I named father's ranch 'Many Waters.' I think those names tell the
difference."

"Isn't my desert beautiful?"

"No. It has a sameness--a monotony that would drive me mad. It looks as
if the whole world had gone to wheat. It makes me think--oppresses me.
All this means that we live by wheat alone. These bare hills! They're
too open to wind and sun and snow. They look like the toil of ages."

"Miss Anderson, there is such a thing as love for the earth--the bare
brown earth. You know we came from dust, and to dust we return! These
fields are human to my father. And they have come to speak to me--a
language I don't understand yet. But I mean--w hat you see--the growing
wheat here, the field of clods over there, the wind and dust and glare
and heat, the eternal sameness of the open space--these are the things
around which my life has centered, and when I go away from them I am not
content."

Anderson came back to the young couple, carrying some heads of wheat in
his hand.

"Smut!" he exclaimed, showing both diseased and healthy specimens of
wheat. "Had to hunt hard to find that. Smut is the bane of all
wheat-growers. I never saw so little of it as there is here. In fact, we
know scarcely nothin' about smut an' its cure, if there is any. You
farmers who raise only grain have got the work down to a science. This
Bluestem is not bearded wheat, like Turkey Red. Has that beard anythin'
to do with smut?"

"I think not. The parasite, or fungus, lives inside the wheat."

"Never heard that before. No wonder smut is the worst trouble for
wheat-raisers in the Northwest. I've fields literally full of smut. An'
we never are rid of it. One farmer has one idea, an' some one else
another. What could be of greater importance to a farmer? We're at war.
The men who claim to know say that wheat will win the war. An' we lose
millions of bushels from this smut. That's to say it's a terrible fact
to face. I'd like to get your ideas."

Dorn, happening to glance again at Miss Anderson, an act that seemed to
be growing habitual, read curiosity and interest, and something more, in
her direct blue eyes. The circumstance embarrassed him, though it tugged
at the flood-gates of his knowledge. He could talk about wheat, and he
did like to. Yet here was a girl who might be supposed to be bored.
Still, she did not appear to be. That warm glance was not politeness.

"Yes, I'd like to hear every word you can say about wheat," she said,
with an encouraging little nod.

"Sure she would," added Anderson, with an affectionate hand on her
shoulder. "She's a farmer's daughter. She'll be a farmer's wife."

He laughed at this last sally. The girl blushed. Dorn smiled and shook
his head doubtfully.

"I imagine that good fortune will never befall a farmer," he said.

"Well, if it should," she replied, archly, "just consider how I might
surprise him with my knowledge of wheat.... Indeed, Mr. Dorn, I am
interested. I've never been in the Bend before--in your desert of wheat.
I never before felt the greatness of loving the soil--or caring for
it--of growing things from seed. Yet the Bible teaches that, and I read
my Bible. Please tell us. The more you say the more I'll like it."

Dorn was not proof against this eloquence. And he quoted two of his
authorities, Heald and Woolman, of the State Agricultural Experiment
Station, where he had studied for two years.

"Bunt, or stinking smut, is caused by two different species of
microscopic fungi which live as parasites in the wheat plant. Both are
essentially similar in their effects and their life-history. _Tilletia
tritici_, or the rough-spored variety, is the common stinking smut of
the Pacific regions, while _Tilletia foetans_, or the smooth-spored
species, is the one generally found in the eastern United States.

"The smut 'berries,' or 'balls,' from an infected head contain millions
of minute bodies, the spores or 'seeds' of the smut fungus. These
reproduce the smut in somewhat the same way that a true seed develops
into a new plant. A single smut ball of average size contains a
sufficient number of spores to give one for each grain of wheat in five
or six bushels. It takes eight smut spores to equal the diameter of a
human hair. Normal wheat grains from an infected field may have so many
spores lodged on their surface as to give them a dark color, but other
grains which show no difference in color to the naked eye may still
contain a sufficient number of spores to produce a smutty crop if seed
treatment is not practised.

"When living smut spores are introduced into the soil with the seed
wheat, or exist in the soil in which smut-free wheat is sown, a certain
percentage of the wheat plants are likely to become infected. The smut
spore germinates and produces first a stage of the smut plant in the
soil. This first stage never infects a young seedling direct, but gives
rise to secondary spores, or sporida, from which infection threads may
arise and penetrate the shoot of a young seedling and reach the growing
point. Here the fungus threads keep pace with the growth of the plant
and reach maturity at or slightly before harvest-time.

"Since this disease is caused by an internal parasite, it is natural to
expect certain responses to its presence. It should be noted first that
the smut fungus is living at the expense of its host plant, the wheat,
and its effect on the host may be summarized as follows: The consumption
of food, the destruction of food in the sporulating process, and the
stimulating or retarding effect on normal physiological processes.

"Badly smutted plants remain in many cases under-size and produce fewer
and smaller heads. In the Fife and Bluestem varieties the infected heads
previous to maturity exhibit a darker green color, and remain green
longer than the normal heads. In some varieties the infected heads stand
erect, when normal ones begin to droop as a result of the increasing
weight of the ripening grain.

"A crop may become infected with smut in a number of different ways.
Smut was originally introduced with the seed, and many farmers are still
planting it every season with their seed wheat. Wheat taken from a
smutty crop will have countless numbers of loose spores adhering to the
grains, also a certain number of unbroken smut balls. These are always a
source of danger, even when the seed is treated with fungicides before
sowing.

"There are also chances for the infection of a crop if absolutely
smut-free seed is employed. First, soil infection from a previous smutty
crop; second, soil infection from wind-blown spores. Experiments have
shown that separated spores from crushed smut balls lose their effective
power in from two to three months, provided the soil is moist and loose,
and in no case do they survive a winter.

"It does not seem probable that wheat smut will be controlled by any
single practice, but rather by the combined use of various methods: crop
rotation; the use of clean seed; seed treatment with fungicides;
cultural practices and breeding; and selection of varieties.

"Failure to practise crop rotation is undoubtedly one of the main
explanations for the general prevalence of smut in the wheat-fields of
eastern Washington. Even with an intervening summer fallow, the smut
from a previous crop may be a source of infection. Experience shows that
a fall stubble crop is less liable to smut infection than a crop
following summer fallow. The apparent explanation for this condition is
the fact that the summer fallow becomes infected with wind-blown spores,
while in a stubble crop the wind-blown spores, as well as those
originating from the previous crop, are buried in plowing.

"If clean seed or properly treated seed had been used by all farmers we
should never have had a smut problem. High per cents. of smut indicate
either soil infection or imperfect treatment. The principle of the
chemical treatment is to use a poison which will kill the superficial
spores of the smut and not materially injure the germinating power of
the seed. The hot-water treatment is only recommended when one of the
chemical 'steeps' is not effective.

"Certain cultural practices are beneficial in reducing the amount of
smut in all cases, while the value of others depends to some extent upon
the source of the smut spores. The factors which always influence the
amount of smut are the temperature of the soil during the germinating
period, the amount of soil moisture, and the depth of seeding. Where
seed-borne spores are the only sources of infection, attention to the
three factors mentioned will give the only cultural practices for
reducing the amount of smut.

"Early seeding has been practised by various farmers, and they report a
marked reduction in smut.

"The replowing of the summer fallow after the first fall rains is
generally effective in reducing the amount of smut.

"Very late planting--that is, four or five weeks after the first good
fall rains--is also an effective practice. Fall tillage of summer
fallow, other than plowing, seems to be beneficial.

"No smut-immune varieties of wheat are known, but the standard varieties
show varying degrees of resistance. Spring wheats generally suffer less
from smut than winter varieties. This is not due to any superior
resistance, but rather to the fact that they escape infection. If only
spring wheats were grown our smut problem would largely disappear; but a
return to this practice is not suggested, since the winter wheats are
much more desirable. It seems probable that the conditions which prevail
during the growing season may have considerable influence on the per
cent of smut in any given variety."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Dorn finished his discourse, to receive the thanks of his
listeners, they walked back through the yard toward the road. Mr.
Anderson, who led the way, halted rather abruptly.

"Hum! Who're those men talkin' to my driver?" he queried.

Dorn then saw a couple of strangers standing near the motor-car, engaged
in apparently close conversation with the chauffeur. Upon the moment
they glanced up to see Mr. Anderson approaching, and they rather
hurriedly departed. Dorn had noted a good many strangers lately--men
whose garb was not that of farmers, whose faces seemed foreign, whose
actions were suspicious.

"I'll bet a hundred they're I.W.W.'s," declared Anderson. "Take my
hunch, Dorn."

The strangers passed on down the road without looking back.

"Wonder where they'll sleep to-night?" muttered Dorn.

Anderson rather sharply asked his driver what the two men wanted. And
the reply he got was that they were inquiring about work.

"Did they speak English?" went on the rancher.

"Well enough to make themselves understood," replied the driver.

Dorn did not get a good impression from the shifty eyes and air of
taciturnity of Mr. Anderson's man, and it was evident that the blunt
rancher restrained himself. He helped his daughter into the car, and
then put on his long coat. Next he shook hands with Dorn.

"Young man, I've enjoyed meetin' you, an' have sure profited from same,"
he said. "Which makes up for your dad! I'll run over here again to see
you--around harvest-time. An' I'll be wishin' for that rain."

"Thank you. If it does rain I'll be happy to see you," replied Dorn,
with a smile.

"Well, if it doesn't rain I won't come. I'll put it off another year,
an' cuss them other fellers into holdin' off, too."

"You're very kind. I don't know how I'd--we'd ever repay you in that
case."

"Don't mention it. Say, how far did you say it was to Palmer? We'll have
lunch there."

"It's fifteen miles--that way," answered Dorn. "If it wasn't for--for
father I'd like you to stay--and break some of my bread."

Dorn was looking at the girl as he spoke. Her steady gaze had been on
him ever since she entered the car, and in the shade of her hat and the
veil she was adjusting her eyes seemed very dark and sweet and
thoughtful. She brightly nodded her thanks as she held the veil aside
with both hands.

"I wish you luck. Good-by," she said, and closed the veil.

Still, Dorn could see her eyes through it, and now they were sweeter,
more mysterious, more provocative of haunting thoughts. It flashed over
him with dread certainty that he had fallen in love with her. The shock
struck him mute. He had no reply for the rancher's hearty farewell. Then
the car lurched away and dust rose in a cloud.




CHAPTER III

With a strange knocking of his heart, high up toward his throat, Kurt
Dorn stood stock-still, watching the moving cloud of dust until it
disappeared over the hill.

No doubt entered his mind. The truth, the fact, was a year old--a
long-familiar and dreamy state--but its meaning had not been revealed to
him until just a moment past. Everything had changed when she looked out
with that sweet, steady gaze through the parted veil and then slowly
closed it. She had changed. There was something intangible about her
that last moment, baffling, haunting. He leaned against a crooked old
gate-post that as a boy he had climbed, and the thought came to him that
this spot would all his life be vivid and poignant in his memory. The
first sight of a blue-eyed, sunny-haired girl, a year and more before,
had struck deep into his unconscious heart; a second sight had made her
an unforgettable reality: and a third had been the realization of love.

It was sad, regrettable, incomprehensible, and yet somehow his inner
being swelled and throbbed. Her name was Lenore Anderson. Her father was
one of the richest men in the state of Washington. She had one brother,
Jim, who would not wait for the army draft. Kurt trembled and a hot rush
of tears dimmed his eyes. All at once his lot seemed unbearable. An
immeasurable barrier had arisen between him and his old father--a
hideous thing of blood, of years, of ineradicable difference; the broad
acres of wheatland so dear to him were to be taken from him; love had
overcome him with headlong rush, a love that could never be returned;
and cruelest of all, there was the war calling him to give up his home,
his father, his future, and to go out to kill and to be killed.

It came to him while he leaned there, that, remembering the light of
Lenore Anderson's eyes, he could not give up to bitterness and hatred,
whatever his misfortunes and his fate. She would never be anything to
him, but he and her brother Jim and many other young Americans must be
incalculable all to her. That thought saved Kurt Dorn. There were other
things besides his own career, his happiness; and the way he was placed,
however unfortunate from a selfish point of view, must not breed a
morbid self-pity.

The moment of his resolution brought a flash, a revelation of what he
owed himself. The work and the thought and the feeling of his last few
weeks there at home must be intensified. He must do much and live
greatly in little time. This was the moment of his renunciation, and he
imagined that many a young man who had decided to go to war had
experienced a strange spiritual division of self. He wondered also if
that moment was not for many of them a let-down, a throwing up of
ideals, a helpless retrograding and surrender to the brutalizing spirit
of war. But it could never be so for him. It might have been had not
that girl come into his life.

The bell for the midday meal roused Kurt from his profound reverie, and
he plodded back to the house. Down through the barnyard gate he saw the
hired men coming, and a second glance discovered to him that two unknown
men were with them. Watching for a moment, Kurt recognized the two
strangers that had been talking to Mr. Anderson's driver. They seemed to
be talking earnestly now. Kurt saw Jerry, a trusty and long-tried
employee, rather unceremoniously break away from these strangers. But
they followed him, headed him off, and with vehement nods and
gesticulations appeared to be arguing with him. The other hired men
pushed closer, evidently listening. Finally Jerry impatiently broke away
and tramped toward the house. These strangers sent sharp words after
him--words that Kurt could not distinguish, though he caught the tone of
scorn. Then the two individuals addressed themselves to the other men;
and in close contact the whole party passed out of sight behind the
barn.

Thoughtfully Kurt went into the house. He meant to speak to Jerry about
the strangers, but he wanted to consider the matter first. He had
misgivings. His father was not in the sitting-room, nor in the kitchen.
Dinner was ready on the table, and the one servant, an old woman who had
served the Dorns for years, appeared impatient at the lack of promptness
in the men. Both father and son, except on Sundays, always ate with the
hired help. Kurt stepped outside to find Jerry washing at the bench.

"Jerry, what's keeping the men?" queried Kurt.

"Wal, they're palaverin' out there with two I.W.W. fellers," replied
Jerry.

Kurt reached for the rope of the farm-bell, and rang it rather sharply.
Then he went in to take his place at the table, and Jerry soon followed.
Old man Dorn did not appear, which fact was not unusual. The other hired
men did not enter until Jerry and Kurt were half done with the meal.
They seemed excited and somewhat boisterous, Kurt thought, but once they
settled down to eating, after the manner of hungry laborers, they had
little to say. Kurt, soon finishing his dinner, went outdoors to wait
for Jerry. That individual appeared to be long in coming, and loud
voices in the kitchen attested to further argument. At last, however, he
lounged out and began to fill a pipe.

"Jerry, I want to talk to you," said Kurt. "Let's get away from the
house."

The hired man was a big, lumbering fellow, gnarled like an old oak-tree.
He had a good-natured face and honest eyes.

"I reckon you want to hear about them I.W.W. fellers?" he asked, as they
walked away.

"Yes," replied Kurt.

"There's been a regular procession of them fellers, the last week or so,
walkin' through the country," replied Jerry. "To-day's the first time
any of them got to me. But I've heerd talk. Sunday when I was in Palmer
the air was full of rumors."

"Rumors of what?" queried Kurt.

"All kinds," answered Jerry, nonchalantly scratching his stubby beard.
"There's an army of I.W.W.'s comin' in from eastward. Idaho an' Montana
are gittin' a dose now. Short hours; double wages; join the union;
sabotage, whatever thet is; capital an' labor fight; threats if you
don't fall in line; an' Lord knows what all."

"What did those two fellows want of you?"

"Wanted us to join the I.W.W.," replied the laborer.

"Did they want a job?"

"Not as I heerd. Why, one of them had a wad of bills thet would choke a
cow. He did most of the talkin'. The little feller with the beady eyes
an' the pock-marks, he didn't say much. He's Austrian an' not long in
this country. The big stiff--Glidden, he called himself--must be some
shucks in thet I.W.W. He looked an' talked oily at first--very
persuadin'; but when I says I wasn't goin' to join no union he got sassy
an' bossy. They made me sore, so I told him to go to hell. Then he said
the I.W.W. would run the whole Northwest this summer--wheat-fields,
lumberin', fruit-harvestin', railroadin'--the whole kaboodle, an' thet
any workman who wouldn't join would git his, all right."

"Well, Jerry, what do you think about this organization?" queried Kurt,
anxiously.

"Not much. It ain't a square deal. I ain't got no belief in them. What I
heerd of their threatenin' methods is like the way this Glidden talks.
If I owned a farm I'd drive such fellers off with a whip. There's goin'
to be bad doin's if they come driftin' strong into the Bend."

"Jerry, are you satisfied with your job?"

"Sure. I won't join the I.W.W. An' I'll talk ag'in' it. I reckon a few
of us will hev to do all the harvestin'. An', considerin' thet, I'll
take a dollar a day more on my wages."

"If father does not agree to that, I will," said Kurt. "Now how about
the other men?"

"Wal, they all air leanin' toward promises of little work an' lots of
pay," answered Jerry, with a laugh. "Morgan's on the fence about
joinin'. But Andrew agreed. He's Dutch an' pig-headed. Jansen's only too
glad to make trouble fer his boss. They're goin' to lay off the rest of
to-day an' talk with Glidden. They all agreed to meet down by the
culvert. An' thet's what they was arguin' with me fer--wanted me to
come."

"Where's this man Glidden?" demanded Kurt. "I'll give him a piece of my
mind."

"I reckon he's hangin' round the farm--out of sight somewhere."

"All right, Jerry. Now you go back to work. You'll never lose anything
by sticking to us, I promise you that. Keep your eyes and ears open."

Kurt strode back to the house, and his entrance to the kitchen evidently
interrupted a colloquy of some kind. The hired men were still at table.
They looked down at their plates and said nothing. Kurt left the
sitting-room door open, and, turning, he asked Martha if his father had
been to dinner.

"No, an' what's more, when I called he takes to roarin' like a mad
bull," replied the woman.

Kurt crossed the sitting-room to knock upon his father's door. The reply
forthcoming did justify the old woman's comparison. It certainly caused
the hired men to evacuate the kitchen with alacrity. Old Chris Dorn's
roar at his son was a German roar, which did not soothe the young man's
rising temper. Of late the father had taken altogether to speaking
German. He had never spoken English well. And Kurt was rapidly
approaching the point where he would not speak German. A deadlock was in
sight, and Kurt grimly prepared to meet it. He pounded on the locked
door.

"The men are going to lay off," he called.

"Who runs this farm?" was the thundered reply.

"The I.W.W. is going to run it if you sulk indoors as you have done
lately," yelled Kurt. He thought that would fetch his father stamping
out, but he had reckoned falsely. There was no further sound. Leaving
the room in high dudgeon, Kurt hurried out to catch the hired men near
at hand and to order them back to work. They trudged off surlily toward
the barn.

Then Kurt went on to search for the I.W.W. men, and after looking up and
down the road, and all around, he at length found them behind an old
strawstack. They were comfortably sitting down, backs to the straw,
eating a substantial lunch. Kurt was angry and did not care. His
appearance, however, did not faze the strangers. One of them, an
American, was a man of about thirty years, clean-shaven, square-jawed,
with light, steely, secretive gray eyes, and a look of intelligence and
assurance that did not harmonize with his motley garb. His companion was
a foreigner, small of stature, with eyes like a ferret and deep pits in
his sallow face.

"Do you know you're trespassing?" demanded Kurt.

"You grudge us a little shade, eh, even to eat a bite?" said the
American. He wrapped a paper round his lunch and leisurely rose, to
fasten penetrating eyes upon the young man. "That's what I heard about
you rich farmers of the Bend."

"What business have you coming here?" queried Kurt, with sharp heat.
"You sneak out of sight of the farmers. You trespass to get at our men
and with a lot of lies and guff you make them discontented with their
jobs. I'll fire these men just for listening to you."

"Mister Dorn, we want you to fire them. That's my business out here,"
replied the American.

"Who are you, anyway?"

"That's my business, too."

Kurt passed from hot to cold. He could not miss the antagonism of this
man, a bold and menacing attitude.

"My foreman says your name's Glidden," went on Kurt, cooler this time,
"and that you're talking I.W.W. as if you were one of its leaders; that
you don't want a job; that you've got a wad of money; that you coax,
then threaten; that you've intimidated three of our hands."

"Your Jerry's a marked man," said Glidden, shortly.

"You impudent scoundrel!" exclaimed Kurt. "Now you listen to this.
You're the first I.W.W. man I've met. You look and talk like an
American. But if you are American you're a traitor. We've a war to
fight! War with a powerful country! Germany! And you come spreading
discontent in the wheat-fields,... when wheat means life!... Get out of
here before I--"

"We'll mark you, too, Mister Dorn, and your wheat-fields," snapped
Glidden.

With one swift lunge Kurt knocked the man flat and then leaped to stand
over him, watching for a move to draw a weapon. The little foreigner
slunk back out of reach.

"I'll start a little marking myself," grimly said Kurt. "Get up!"

Slowly Glidden moved from elbow to knees, and then to his feet. His
cheek was puffing out and his nose was bleeding. The light-gray eyes
were lurid.

"That's for your I.W.W.!" declared Kurt. "The first rule of your I.W.W.
is to abolish capital, hey?"

Kurt had not intended to say that. It slipped out in his fury. But the
effect was striking. Glidden gave a violent start and his face turned
white. Abruptly he hurried away. His companion shuffled after him. Kurt
stared at them, thinking the while that if he had needed any proof of
the crookedness of the I.W.W. he had seen it in Glidden's guilty face.
The man had been suddenly frightened, and surprise, too, had been
prominent in his countenance. Then Kurt remembered how Anderson had
intimated that the secrets of the I.W.W. had been long hidden. Kurt,
keen and quick in his sensibilities, divined that there was something
powerful back of this Glidden's cunning and assurance. Could it be only
the power of a new labor organization? That might well be great, but the
idea did not convince Kurt. During a hurried and tremendous preparation
by the government for war, any disorder such as menaced the country
would be little short of a calamity. It might turn out a fatality. This
so-called labor union intended to take advantage of a crisis to further
its own ends. Yet even so, that fact did not wholly explain Glidden and
his subtlety. Some nameless force loomed dark and sinister back of
Glidden's meaning, and it was not peril to the wheatlands of the
Northwest alone.

Like a huge dog Kurt shook himself and launched into action. There were
sense and pleasure in muscular activity, and it lessened the habit of
worry. Soon he ascertained that only Morgan had returned to work in the
fields. Andrew and Jansen were nowhere to be seen. Jansen had left four
horses hitched to a harrow. Kurt went out to take up the work thus
abandoned.

It was a long field, and if he had earned a dollar for every time he had
traversed its length, during the last ten years, he would have been a
rich man. He could have walked it blindfolded. It was fallow ground,
already plowed, disked, rolled, and now the last stage was to harrow it,
loosening the soil, conserving the moisture.

Morgan, far to the other side of this section, had the better of the
job, for his harrow was a new machine and he could ride while driving
the horses. But Kurt, using an old harrow, had to walk. The four big
horses plodded at a gait that made Kurt step out to keep up with them.
To keep up, to drive a straight line, to hold back on the reins, was
labor for a man. It spoke well for Kurt that he had followed that old
harrow hundreds of miles, that he could stand the strain, that he loved
both the physical sense and the spiritual meaning of the toil.

Driving west, he faced a wind laden with dust as dry as powder. At every
sheeted cloud, whipping back from the hoofs of the horses and the steel
spikes of the harrow, he had to bat his eyes to keep from being blinded.
The smell of dust clogged his nostrils. As soon as he began to sweat
under the hot sun the dust caked on his face, itching, stinging,
burning. There was dust between his teeth.

Driving back east was a relief. The wind whipped the dust away from him.
And he could catch the fragrance of the newly turned soil. How brown and
clean and earthy it looked! Where the harrow had cut and ridged, the
soil did not look thirsty and parched. But that which was unharrowed
cried out for rain. No cloud in the hot sky, except the yellow clouds of
dust!

On that trip east across the field, which faced the road, Dorn saw
pedestrians in twos and threes passing by. Once he was hailed, but made
no answer. He would not have been surprised to see a crowd, yet
travelers were scarce in that region. The sight of these men, some of
them carrying bags and satchels, was disturbing to the young farmer.
Where were they going? All appeared outward bound toward the river. They
came, of course, from the little towns, the railroads, the cities. At
this season, with harvest-time near at hand, it had been in former years
no unusual sight to see strings of laborers passing by. But this year
they came earlier, and in greater numbers.

With the wind in his face, however, Dorn saw nothing but the horses and
the brown line ahead, and half the time they were wholly obscured in
yellow dust. He began thinking about Lenore Anderson, just pondering
that strange, steady look of a girl's eyes; and then he did not mind the
dust or heat or distance. Never could he be cheated of his thoughts. And
those of her, even the painful ones, gave birth to a comfort that he
knew must abide with him henceforth on lonely labors such as this,
perhaps in the lonelier watches of a soldier's duty. She had been
curious, aloof, then sympathetic; she had studied his face; she had been
an eloquent-eyed listener to his discourse on wheat. But she had not
guessed his secret. Not until her last look--strange, deep, potent--had
he guessed that secret himself.

So, with mind both busy and absent, Kurt Dorn harrowed the fallow ground
abandoned by his men; and when the day was done, with the sun setting
hot and coppery beyond the dim, dark ranges, he guided the tired horses
homeward and plodded back of them, weary and spent.

He was to learn from Morgan, at the stables, that the old man had
discharged both Andrew and Jansen. And Jansen, liberating some newly
assimilated poison, had threatened revenge. He would see that any hired
men would learn a thing or two, so that they would not sign up with
Chris Dorn. In a fury the old man had driven Jansen out into the road.

Sober and moody, Kurt put the horses away, and, washing the dust grime
from sunburnt face and hands, he went to his little attic room, where he
changed his damp and sweaty clothes. Then he went down to supper with
mind made up to be lenient and silent with his old and sorely tried
father.

Chris Dorn sat in the light of the kitchen lamps. He was a huge man with
a great, round, bullet-shaped head and a shock of gray hair and
bristling, grizzled beard. His face was broad, heavy, and seemed sodden
with dark, brooding thought. His eyes, under bushy brows, were pale
gleams of fire. He looked immovable as to both bulk and will.

Never before had Kurt Dorn so acutely felt the fixed, contrary, ruthless
nature of his parent. Never had the distance between them seemed so
great. Kurt shivered and sighed at once. Then, being hungry, he fell to
eating in silence. Presently the old man shoved his plate back, and,
wiping his face, he growled, in German:

"I discharged Andrew and Jansen."

"Yes, I know," replied Kurt. "It wasn't good judgment. What'll we do for
hands?"

"I'll hire more. Men are coming for the harvest."

"But they all belong to the I.W.W.," protested Kurt.

"And what's that?"

In scarcely subdued wrath Kurt described in detail, and to the best of
his knowledge, what the I.W.W. was, and he ended by declaring the
organization treacherous to the United States.

"How's that?" asked old Dorn, gruffly.

Kurt was actually afraid to tell his father, who never read newspapers,
who knew little of what was going on, that if the Allies were to win the
war it was wheat that would be the greatest factor. Instead of that he
said if the I.W.W. inaugurated strikes and disorder in the Northwest it
would embarrass the government.

"Then I'll hire I.W.W. men," said old Dorn.

Kurt battled against a rising temper. This blind old man was his father.

"But I'll not have I.W.W. men on the farm," retorted Kurt. "I just
punched one I.W.W. solicitor."

"I'll run this farm. If you don't like my way you can leave," darkly
asserted the father.

Kurt fell back in his chair and stared at the turgid, bulging forehead
and hard eyes before him. What could be behind them? Had the war brought
out a twist in his father's brain? Why were Germans so impossible?

"My Heavens! father, would you turn me out of my home because we
disagree?" he asked, desperately.

"In my country sons obey their fathers or they go out for themselves."

"I've not been a disobedient son," declared Kurt. "And here in America
sons have more freedom--more say."

"America has no sense of family life--no honest government. I hate the
country."

A ball of fire seemed to burst in Kurt.

"That kind of talk infuriates me," he blazed. "I don't care if you are
my father. Why in the hell did you come to America? Why did you stay?
Why did you marry my mother--an American woman?... That's rot--just
spiteful rot! I've heard you tell what life was in Europe when you were
a boy. You ran off. You stayed in this country because it was a better
country than yours.... Fifty years you've been in America--many years on
this farm. And you love this land.... My God! father, can't you and men
like you see the truth?"

"Aye, I can," gloomily replied the old man. "The truth is we'll lose the
land. That greedy Anderson will drive me off."

"He will not. He's fine--generous," asserted Kurt, earnestly. "All he
wanted was to see the prospects of the harvest and perhaps to help you.
Anderson has not had interest on his money for three years. I'll bet
he's paid interest demanded by the other stockholders in that bank you
borrowed from. Why, he's our friend!"

"Aye, and I see more," boomed the father. "He fetched his lass up here
to make eyes at my son. I saw her--the sly wench!... Boy, you'll not
marry her!"

Kurt choked back his mounting rage.

"Certainly I never will," he said, bitterly. "But I would if she'd have
me."

"What!" thundered Dorn, his white locks standing up and shaking like the
mane of a lion. "That wheat banker's daughter! Never! I forbid it. You
shall not marry any American girl."

"Father, this is idle, foolish rant," cried Kurt, with a high warning
note in his voice. "I've no idea of marrying.... But if I had one--whom
else could I marry except an American girl?"

"I'll sell the wheat--the land. We'll go back to Germany!"

That was maddening to Kurt. He sprang up, sending dishes to the floor
with a crash. He bent over to pound the table with a fist. Violent
speech choked him and he felt a cold, tight blanching of his face.

"Listen!" he rang out. "If I go to Germany it'll be as a soldier--to
kill Germans!... I'm done--I'm through with the very name.... Listen to
the last words I'll ever speak to you in German--the last! _To hell with
Germany_!"

Then Kurt plunged, blind in his passion, out of the door into the night.
And as he went he heard his father cry out, brokenly:

"My son! Oh, my son!"

The night was dark and cool. A faint wind blew across the hills, and it
was dry, redolent, sweet. The sky seemed an endless curving canopy of
dark blue blazing with myriads of stars.

Kurt staggered out of the yard, down along the edge of a wheat-field, to
one of the straw-stacks, and there he flung himself down in an agony.

"Oh, I'm ruined--ruined!" he moaned. "The break--has come!... Poor old
dad!"

He leaned there against the straw, shaking and throbbing, with a cold
perspiration bathing face and body. Even the palms of his hands were
wet. A terrible fit of anger was beginning to loose its hold upon him.
His breathing was labored in gasps and sobs. Unutterable stupidity of
his father--horrible cruelty of his position! What had he ever done in
all his life to suffer under such a curse? Yet almost he clung to his
wrath, for it had been righteous. That thing, that infernal twist in the
brain, that was what was wrong with his father. His father who had been
fifty years in the United States! How simple, then, to understand what
was wrong with Germany.

"By God! I am--American!" he panted, and it was as if he called to the
grave of his mother, over there on the dark, windy hill.

That tremendous uprising of his passion had been a vortex, an end, a
decision. And he realized that even to that hour there had been a drag
in his blood. It was over now. The hell was done with. His soul was
free. This weak, quaking body of his housed his tainted blood and the
emotions of his heart, but it could not control his mind, his will. Beat
by beat the helpless fury in him subsided, and then he fell back and lay
still for a long time, eyes shut, relaxed and still.

A hound bayed mournfully; the insects chirped low, incessantly; the
night wind rustled the silken heads of wheat.

After a while the young man sat up and looked at the heavens, at the
twinkling white stars, and then away across the shadows of round hills
in the dusk. How lonely, sad, intelligible, and yet mystic the night and
the scene!

What came to him then was revealing, uplifting--a source of strength to
go on. He was not to blame for what had happened; he could not change
the future. He had a choice between playing the part of a man or that of
a coward, and he had to choose the former. There seemed to be a spirit
beside him--the spirit of his mother or of some one who loved him and
who would have him be true to an ideal, and, if needful, die for it. No
night in all his life before had been like this one. The dreaming hills
with their precious rustling wheat meant more than even a spirit could
tell. Where had the wheat come from that had seeded these fields? Whence
the first and original seeds, and where were the sowers? Back in the
ages! The stars, the night, the dark blue of heaven hid the secret in
their impenetrableness. Beyond them surely was the answer, and perhaps
peace.

Material things--life, success--such as had inspired Kurt Dorn, on this
calm night lost their significance and were seen clearly. They could not
last. But the wheat there, the hills, the stars--they would go on with
their task. Passion was the dominant side of a man declaring itself, and
that was a matter of inheritance. But self-sacrifice, with its mercy,
its succor, its seed like the wheat, was as infinite as the stars. He
had long made up his mind, yet that had not given him absolute
restraint. The world was full of little men, but he refused to stay
little. This war that had come between him and his father had been bred
of the fumes of self-centered minds, turned with an infantile fatality
to greedy desires. His poor old blinded father could be excused and
forgiven. There were other old men, sick, crippled, idle, who must
suffer pain, but whose pain could be lightened. There were babies,
children, women, who must suffer for the sins of men, but that suffering
need no longer be, if men became honest and true.

His sudden up-flashing love had a few hours back seemed a calamity. But
out there beside the whispering wheat, under the passionless stars, in
the dreaming night, it had turned into a blessing. He asked nothing but
to serve. To serve her, his country, his future! All at once he who had
always yearned for something unattainable had greatness thrust upon him.
His tragical situation had evoked a spirit from the gods.

To kiss that blue-eyed girl's sweet lips would be a sum of joy, earthly,
all-satisfying, precious. The man in him trembled all over at the daring
thought. He might revel in such dreams, and surrender to them, since she
would never know, but the divinity he sensed there in the presence of
those stars did not dwell on a woman's lips. Kisses were for the
present, the all too fleeting present; and he had to concern himself
with what he might do for one girl's future. It was exquisitely sad and
sweet to put it that way, though Kurt knew that if he had never seen
Lenore Anderson he would have gone to war just the same. He was not
making an abstract sacrifice.

The wheat-fields rolling before him, every clod of which had been
pressed by his bare feet as a boy; the father whose changeless blood had
sickened at the son of his loins; the life of hope, freedom, of action,
of achievement, of wonderful possibility--these seemed lost to Kurt
Dorn, a necessary renunciation when he yielded to the call of war.

But no loss, no sting of bullet or bayonet, no torturing victory of
approaching death, could balance in the scale against the thought of a
picture of one American girl--blue-eyed, red-lipped, golden-haired--as
she stepped somewhere in the future, down a summer lane or through a
blossoming orchard, on soil that was free.




CHAPTER IV

Toward the end of July eastern Washington sweltered under the most
torrid spell of heat on record. It was a dry, high country, noted for an
equable climate, with cool summers and mild winters. And this
unprecedented wave would have been unbearable had not the atmosphere
been free from humidity.

The haze of heat seemed like a pall of thin smoke from distant forest
fires. The sun rose, a great, pale-red ball, hot at sunrise, and it
soared blazing-white at noon, to burn slowly westward through a
cloudless, coppery sky, at last to set sullen and crimson over the
ranges.

Spokane, being the only center of iron, steel, brick, and masonry in
this area, resembled a city of furnaces. Business was slack. The asphalt
of the streets left clean imprints of a pedestrian's feet; bits of
newspaper stuck fast to the hot tar. Down by the gorge, where the great
green river made its magnificent plunges over the falls, people
congregated, tarried, and were loath to leave, for here the blowing mist
and the air set into motion by the falling water created a temperature
that was relief.

Citizens talked of the protracted hot spell, of the blasted crops, of an
almost sure disaster to the wheat-fields, and of the activities of the
I.W.W. Even the war, for the time being, gave place to the nearer
calamities impending.

Montana had taken drastic measures against the invading I.W.W. The
Governor of Idaho had sent word to the camps of the organization that
they had five days to leave that state. Spokane was awakening to the
menace of hordes of strange, idle men who came in on the westbound
freight-trains. The railroads had been unable to handle the situation.
They were being hard put to it to run trains at all. The train crews
that refused to join the I.W.W. had been threatened, beaten, shot at,
and otherwise intimidated.

The Chamber of Commerce sent an imperative appeal to representative
wheat-raisers, ranchers, lumbermen, farmers, and bade them come to
Spokane to discuss the situation. They met at the Hotel Davenport, where
luncheon was served in one of the magnificently appointed dining-halls
of that most splendid hotel in the West.

The lion of this group of Spokane capitalists was Riesinberg, a man of
German forebears, but all American in his sympathies, with a son already
in the army. Riesinberg was president of a city bank and of the Chamber
of Commerce. His first words to the large assembly of clean-cut,
square-jawed, intent-eyed Westerners were: "Gentlemen, we are here to
discuss the most threatening and unfortunate situation the Northwest was
ever called upon to meet." His address was not long, but it was
stirring. The Chamber of Commerce could provide unlimited means, could
influence and control the state government; but it was from the visitors
invited to this meeting, the men of the outlying districts which were
threatened, that objective proofs must come and the best methods of
procedure.

The first facts to come out were that many crops were ruined already,
but, owing to the increased acreage that year, a fair yield was
expected; that wheat in the Bend would be a failure, though some farmers
here and there would harvest well; that the lumber districts were not
operating, on account of the I.W.W.

Then it was that the organization of men who called themselves the
Industrial Workers of the World drew the absorbed attention of the
meeting. Depredations already committed stunned the members of the
Chamber of Commerce.

President Riesinberg called upon Beardsley, a prominent and intelligent
rancher of the southern wheat-belt. Beardsley said:

    "It is difficult to speak with any moderation of the outrageous
    eruption of the I.W.W. It is nothing less than rebellion, and the
    most effective means of suppressing rebellion is to apply a little
    of that 'direct action' which is the favorite diversion of the
    I.W.W.'s.

    "The I.W.W. do not intend to accomplish their treacherous aims by
    anything so feeble as speech; they scorn the ballot-box. They are
    against the war, and their method of making known their protest is
    by burning our grain, destroying our lumber, and blowing up
    freight-trains. They seek to make converts not by argument, but by
    threats and intimidation.

    "We read that Western towns are seeking to deport these rebels. In
    the old days we can imagine more drastic measures would have been
    taken. The Westerners were handy with the rope and the gun in those
    days. We are not counseling lynch law, but we think deportation is
    too mild a punishment.

    "We are too 'civilized' to apply the old Roman law, 'Spare the
    conquered and extirpate the rebels,' but at least we could intern
    them. The British have found it practicable to put German prisoners
    to work at useful employment. Why couldn't we do the same with our
    rebel I.W.W.'s?"

Jones, a farmer from the Yakima Valley, told that business men,
housewives, professional men, and high-school boys and girls would help
to save the crop of Washington to the nation in case of labor trouble.
Steps already had been taken to mobilize workers in stores, offices, and
homes for work in the orchards and grain-fields, should the I.W.W.
situation seriously threaten harvests.

Pledges to go into the hay or grain fields or the orchards, with a
statement of the number of days they were willing to work, had been
signed by virtually all the men in North Yakima.

Helmar, lumberman from the Blue Mountains, spoke feelingly; he said:

    "My company is the owner of a considerable amount of timbered lands
    and timber purchased from the state and from individuals. We have
    been engaged in logging that land until our operations have been
    stopped and our business paralyzed by an organization which calls
    itself the Industrial Workers of the World, and by members of that
    organization, and other lawless persons acting in sympathy with
    them.

    "Our employees have been threatened with physical violence and
    death.

    "Our works are picketed by individuals who camp out in the forests
    and who intimidate and threaten our employees.

    "Open threats have been made that our works, our logs, and our
    timber will all be burned.

    "Sabotage is publicly preached in the meetings, and in the
    literature of the organization it is advised and upheld.

    "The open boast is made that the lumbering industry, with all other
    industry, will be paralyzed by this organization, by the destruction
    of property used in industry and by the intimidation of laborers who
    are willing to work.

    "A real and present danger to the property of my company exists.
    Unless protection is given to us it will probably be burned and
    destroyed. Our lawful operations cannot be conducted because
    laborers who are willing to work are fearful of their lives and are
    subject to abuse, threats, and violence. Our camps, when in
    operation, are visited by individuals belonging to the said
    organization, and the men peaceably engaged in them threatened with
    death if they do not cease work. All sorts of injury to property by
    the driving of spikes in logs, the destruction of logs, and other
    similar acts are encouraged and recommended.

    "As I pointed out to the sheriff of our county, the season is a very
    dry one and the woods are and will be, unless rain comes, in danger
    of disastrous fires. The organization and its members have openly
    and repeatedly asserted that they will burn the logs in the woods
    and burn the forests of this company and other timber-holders before
    they will permit logging operations to continue.

    "Many individuals belonging to the organization are camped in the
    open in the timbered country, and their very presence is a fire
    menace. They are engaged in no business except to interfere with the
    industry and to interfere with the logging of this company and
    others who engaged in the logging business.

    "We have done what we could in a lawful manner to continue our
    operations and to protect our employees. We are now helpless, and
    place the responsibility for the protection of our property and the
    protection of our employees upon the board of county commissioners
    and upon the officers of the county."

Next President Riesinberg called upon a young reporter to read
paragraphs of an I.W.W. speech he had heard made to a crowd of three
hundred workmen. It was significant that several members of the Chamber
of Commerce called for a certain paragraph to be reread. It was this:

    "If you working-men could only stand together you could do in this
    country what has been done in Russia," declared the I.W.W. orator.
    "You know what the working-men did there to the slimy curs, the
    gunmen, and the stool-pigeons of the capitalistic class. They bumped
    them off. They sent them up to say, 'Good morning, Jesus.'"

After a moment of muttering and another silence the president again
addressed the meeting:

    "Gentlemen, we have Anderson of Golden Valley with us to-day. If
    there are any of you present who do not know him, you surely have
    heard of him. His people were pioneers. He was born in Washington.
    He is a type of the men who have made the Northwest. He fought the
    Indians in early days and packed a gun for the outlaws--and to-day,
    gentlemen, he owns a farm as big as Spokane County. We want to hear
    from him."

When Anderson rose to reply it was seen that he was pale and somber.
Slowly he gazed at the assembly of waiting men, bowed; then he began,
impressively:

    "Gentlemen an' friends, I wish I didn't have to throw a bomb into
    this here camp-fire talk. But I've got to. You're all talkin' I.W.W.
    Facts have been told showin' a strange an' sudden growth of this
    here four-flush labor union. We've had dealin's with them for
    several years. But this year it's different.... All at once they've
    multiplied and strengthened. There's somethin' behind them. A big
    unseen hand is stackin' the deck.... An', countrymen, that
    tremendous power is German gold!"

Anderson's deep voice rang like a bell. His hearers sat perfectly
silent. No surprise showed, but faces grew set and hard. After a pause
of suspense, in which his denunciation had time to sink in, Anderson
resumed:

    "A few weeks ago a young man, a stranger, came to me an' asked for a
    job. He could do anythin', he said. An' I hired him to drive my car.
    But he wasn't much of a driver. We went up in the Bend country one
    day, an' on that trip I got suspicious of him. I caught him talkin'
    to what I reckoned was I.W.W. men. An' then, back home again, I
    watched him an' kept my ears open. It didn't take long for me to
    find discontent among my farm-hands. I hire about a hundred hands on
    my ranches durin' the long off season, an' when harvest comes round
    a good many more. All I can get, in fact.... Well, I found my hands
    quittin' me, which was sure onusual. An' I laid it to that driver.

    "One day not long ago I run across him hobnobbin' with the strange
    man I'd seen talkin' with him on the Bend trip. But my driver--Nash,
    he calls himself--didn't see me. That night I put a cowboy to watch
    him. An' what this cowboy heard, put together two an' two, was that
    Nash was assistant to an I.W.W. leader named Glidden. He had sent
    for Glidden to come to look over my ranch. Both these I.W.W. men had
    more money than they could well carry--lots of it gold! The way they
    talked of this money proved that they did not know the source, but
    the supply was unlimited.

    "Next day Glidden could not be found. But my cowboy had learned
    enough to show his methods. If these proselyters could not coax or
    scare trusted men to join the I.W.W., they tried to corrupt them
    with money. An' in most cases they're successful. I've not yet
    sprung anythin' on my driver, Nash. But he can't get away, an'
    meanwhile I'll learn much by watchin' him. Maybe through Nash I can
    catch Glidden. An' so, gentlemen, here we have a plain case. An' the
    menace is enough to chill the heart of every loyal citizen. Any way
    you put it, if harvests can't be harvested, if wheat-fields an'
    lumber forests are burned, if the state militia has to be called
    out--any way you put it our government will be hampered, our
    supplies kept from our allies--an' so the cause of Germany will be
    helped.

    "The I.W.W. have back of them an organized power with a definite
    purpose. There can hardly be any doubt that that power is Germany.
    The agitators an' leaders throughout the country are well paid.
    Probably they, as individuals, do not know who pays them.
    Undoubtedly a little gang of men makes the deals, handles the money.
    We read that every U.S. attorney is investigating the I.W.W. The
    government has determined to close down on them. But lawyers an' law
    are slow to act. Meanwhile the danger to us is at hand.

    "Gentlemen, to finish let me say that down in my country we're goin'
    to rustle the I.W.W. in the good old Western way."




CHAPTER V

Golden Valley was the Garden of Eden of the Northwest. The southern
slope rose to the Blue Mountains, whence flowed down the innumerable
brooks that, uniting to form streams and rivers, abundantly watered the
valley.

The black reaches of timber extended down to the grazing-uplands, and
these bordered on the sloping golden wheat-fields, which in turn
contrasted so vividly with the lower green alfalfa-pastures; then came
the orchards with their ruddy, mellow fruit, and lastly the bottom-lands
where the vegetable-gardens attested to the wonderful richness of the
soil. From the mountain-side the valley seemed a series of colored
benches, stepping down, black to gray, and gray to gold, and gold to
green with purple tinge, and on to the perfectly ordered, many-hued
floor with its innumerable winding, tree-bordered streams glinting in
the sunlight.

The extremes of heat and cold never visited Golden Valley. Spokane and
the Bend country, just now sweltering in a torrid zone, might as well
have been in the Sahara, for all the effect it had on this garden spot
of all the Inland Empire. It was hot in the valley, but not unpleasant.
In fact, the greatest charm in this secluded vale was its pleasant
climate all the year round. No summer cyclones, no winter blizzards, no
cloudbursts or bad thunderstorms. It was a country that, once lived in,
could never be left.

There were no poor inhabitants in that great area of twenty-five hundred
miles; and there were many who were rich. Prosperous little towns dotted
the valley floor; and the many smooth, dusty, much-used roads all led to
Ruxton, a wealthy and fine city.

       *       *       *       *       *

Anderson, the rancher, had driven his car to Spokane. Upon his return he
had with him a detective, whom he expected to use in the I.W.W.
investigations, and a neighbor rancher. They had left Spokane early and
had endured almost insupportable dust and heat. A welcome change began
as they slid down from the bare desert into the valley; and once across
the Copper River, Anderson began to breathe freer and to feel he was
nearing home.

"God's country!" he said, as he struck the first low swell of rising
land, where a cool wind from off the wooded and watered hills greeted
his face. Dust there still was, but it seemed a different kind and
smelled of apple-orchards and alfalfa-fields. Here were hard, smooth
roads, and Anderson sped his car miles and miles through a country that
was a verdant fragrant bower, and across bright, shady streams and by
white little hamlets.

At Huntington he dropped his neighbor rancher, and also the detective,
Hall, who was to go disguised into the districts overrun by the I.W.W. A
further run of forty miles put him on his own property.

Anderson owned a string of farms and ranches extending from the
bottom-lands to the timber-line of the mountains. They represented his
life of hard work and fair dealing. Many of these orchard and vegetable
lands he had tenant farmers work on shares. The uplands or wheat and
grass he operated himself. As he had accumulated property he had changed
his place of residence from time to time, at last to build a beautiful
and permanent home farther up on the valley slope than any of the
others.

It was a modern house, white, with a red roof. Situated upon a high
level bench, with the waving gold fields sloping up from it and the
green squares of alfalfa and orchards below, it appeared a landmark from
all around, and could be plainly seen from Vale, the nearest little
town, five miles away.

Anderson had always loved the open, and he wanted a place where he could
see the sun rise over the distant valley gateway, and watch it set
beyond the bold black range in the west. He could sit on his front
porch, wide and shady, and look down over two thousand acres of his own
land. But from the back porch no eye could have encompassed the limit of
his broad, swelling slopes of grain and grass.

From the main road he drove up to the right of the house, where, under a
dip of wooded slope, clustered barns, sheds, corrals, granaries, engine
and machinery houses, a store, and the homes of hired men--a little
village in itself.

The sounds he heard were a welcome home--the rush of swift water not
twenty yards from where he stopped the car in the big courtyard, the
pound of hoofs on the barn floor, the shrill whistle of a stallion that
saw and recognized him, the drawling laugh of his cowboys and the clink
of their spurs as they became aware of his return.

Nash, the suspected driver, was among those who hurried to meet the car.

Anderson's keen, covert glance made note of the driver's worried and
anxious face.

"Nash, she'll need a lookin' over," he said, as he uncovered bundles in
the back seat and lifted them out.

"All right, sir," replied Nash, eagerly. A note of ended strain was
significant in his voice.

"Here, you Jake," cheerily called Anderson to a raw-boned, gaunt-faced
fellow who wore the garb of a cowboy.

"Boss, I'm powerful glad to see you home," replied Jake, as he received
bundle after bundle until he was loaded down. Then he grinned. "Mebbe
you want a pack-boss."

"You're hoss enough for me. Come on," he said, and, waving the other men
aside, he turned toward the green, shady hill above which the red and
white of the house just showed.

A bridge crossed the rushing stream. Here Jake dropped some of the
bundles, and Anderson recovered them. As he straightened up he looked
searchingly at the cowboy. Jake's yellow-gray eyes returned the gaze.
And that exchange showed these two of the same breed and sure of each
other.

"Nawthin' come off, boss," he drawled, "but I'm glad you're home."

"Did Nash leave the place?" queried Anderson.

"Twice, at night, an' he was gone long. I didn't foller him because I
seen he didn't take no luggage, an' thet boy has some sporty clothes. He
was sure comin' back."

"Any sign of his pard--that Glidden?"

"Nope. But there's been more'n one new feller snookin' round."

"Have you heard from any of the boys with the cattle?"

"Yep. Bill Weeks rode down. He said a bunch of I.W.W.'s were campin'
above Blue Spring. Thet means they've moved on down to the edge of the
timber an' oncomfortable near our wheat. Bill says they're killin' our
stock fer meat."

"Hum!... How many in the gang?" inquired Anderson, darkly. His early
dealings with outlaw rustlers had not left him favorably inclined toward
losing a single steer.

"Wal, I reckon we can't say. Mebbe five hundred, countin' all along the
valley on this side. Then we hear there's more on the other... Boss, if
they git ugly we're goin' to lose stock, wheat, an' mebbe some blood."

"So many as that!" ejaculated the rancher, in amaze.

"They come an' go, an' lately they're most comin'," replied Jake.

"When do we begin cuttin' grain?"

"I reckon to-morrow. Adams didn't want to start till you got back. It'll
be barley an' oats fer a few days, an' then the wheat--if we can git the
men."

"An' has Adams hired any?"

"Yes, a matter of twenty or so. They swore they wasn't I.W.W.'s, but
Adams says, an' so do I, thet some of them are men who first claimed to
our old hands thet they did belong to the I.W.W."

"An' so we've got to take a chance if we're goin' to harvest two
thousand acres of wheat?"

"I reckon, boss."

"Any reports from Ruxton way?"

"Wal, yes. But I reckon you'd better git your supper 'fore I tell you,
boss."

"Jake, you said nothin' had come off."

"Wal, nawthin' has around here. Come on now, boss. Miss Lenore says I
was to keep my mouth shut."

"Jake, who's your boss? Me or Lenore?"

"Wal, you air. But I ain't disobeyin' Miss Lenore."

Anderson walked the rest of the way up the shady path to the house
without saying any more to Jake. The beautiful white house stood clear
of the grove, bright in the rays of the setting sun. A barking of dogs
greeted Anderson, and then the pattering of feet. His daughters appeared
on the porch. Kathleen, who was ten, made a dive for him, and Rose, who
was fourteen, came flying after her. Both girls were screaming joyously.
Their sunny hair danced. Lenore waited for him at the step, and as he
mounted the porch, burdened by the three girls, his anxious, sadly
smiling wife came out to make perfect the welcome home. No--not perfect,
for Anderson's joy held a bitter drop, the absence of his only son!

"Oh, dad, what-all did you fetch me?" cried Kathleen, and she deserted
her father for the bundle-laden Jake.

"And me!" echoed Rose.

Even Lenore, in the happiness of her father's return, was not proof
against the wonder and promise of those many bundles.

They all went within, through a hall to a great, cozy living-room. Mrs.
Anderson's very first words, after her welcoming smile, were a
half-faltered:

"Any--news of--Jim?"

"Why--yes," replied Anderson, hesitatingly.

Suddenly the three sisters were silent. How closely they resembled one
another then--Lenore, a budding woman; Rose, a budding girl; and
Kathleen, a rosy, radiant child! Lenore lost a little of her bloom.

"What news, father?" she asked.

"Haven't you heard from him?" returned Anderson.

"Not for a whole week. He wrote the day he reached Spokane. But then he
hardly knew anything except that he'd enlisted."

"I'm sure glad Jim didn't wait for the draft," replied the father.
"Well, mother an' girls, Jim was gone when I got to Spokane. All I heard
was that he was well when he left for Frisco an' strong for the aviation
corps."

"Then he means to--to be an aviator," said Lenore, with quivering lips.

"Sure, if he can get in. An' he's wise. Jim knows engines. He has a
knack for machinery. An' nerve! No boy ever had more. He'll make a crack
flier."

"But--the danger!" whispered the boy's mother, with a shudder.

"I reckon there'll be a little danger, mother," replied Anderson,
cheerfully. "We've got to take our chance on Jim. There's one sure bet.
If he had stayed home he'd been fightin' I.W.W.'s!"

That trying moment passed. Mrs. Anderson said that she would see to
supper being put on the table at once. The younger girls began untying
the bundles. Lenore studied her father's face a moment.

"Jake, you run along," she said to the waiting cowboy. "Wait till after
supper before you worry father."

"I'll do thet, Miss Lenore," drawled Jake, "an' if he wants worryin'
he'll hev to look me up."

"Lass, I'm only tired, not worried," replied Anderson, as Jake shuffled
out with jingling spurs.

"Did anything serious happen in Spokane?" she asked anxiously.

"No. But Spokane men are alive to serious trouble ahead," replied her
father. "I spoke to the Chamber of Commerce--sure exploded a bomb in
that camp. Then I had conferences with a good many different men. Fact
is they ran me pretty hard. Couldn't have slept much, anyhow, in that
heat. Lass, this is the place to live!... I'd rather die here than live
in Spokane, in summer."

"Did you see the Governor?"

"Yes, an' he wasn't as anxious about the Golden Valley as the Bend
country. He's right, too. We're old Westerners here. We can handle
trouble. But they're not Americans up there in the Bend."

"Father, we met one American," said Lenore, dreamily.

"By George! we did!... An' that reminds me. There was a government
official from Washington, come out to Spokane to investigate conditions.
I forget his name. He asked to meet me an' he was curious about the
Bend--its loyalty to the U.S. I told him all I knew an' what I thought.
An' then he said he was goin' to motor through that wheat-belt an' talk
to what Americans he could find, an' impress upon them that they could
do as much as soldiers to win the war. Wheat--bread--that's our great
gun in this war, Lenore!... I knew this, but I was made pretty blamed
sober by that government man. I told him by all means to go to Palmer
an' to have a talk with young Dorn. I sure gave that boy a good word.
Poor lad! He's true blue. An' to think of him with that old German
devil. Old Dorn has always had a hard name. An' this war has brought out
the German cussedness."

"Father, I'm glad you spoke well of the young man," said Lenore, still
dreamily.

"Hum! You never told me what you thought," replied her father, with a
quick glance of inquiry at her. Lenore was gazing out of the window,
away across the wheat-fields and the range. Anderson watched her a
moment, and then resumed: "If I can get away I'm goin' to drive up to
see Dorn again pretty soon. Do you want to go?"

Lenore gave a little start, as if the question had surprised her.

"I--I hardly think so," she replied.

"It's just as well," he said. "That'll be a hard ride.... Guess I'll
clean up a little for supper."

Anderson left the room, and, while Kathleen and Rose gleefully squabbled
over the bundles, Lenore continued to gaze dreamily out of the window.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night Lenore went early to her room, despite the presence of some
young people from a neighboring village. She locked her door and sat in
the dark beside her open window.

An early moon silvered the long slopes of wheat and made the alfalfa
squares seem black. A cool, faint, sweet breeze fanned her cheek. She
could smell the fragrance of apples, of new-mown hay, and she could hear
the low murmur of running water. A hound bayed off somewhere in the
fields. There was no other sound. It was a quiet, beautiful, pastoral
scene. But somehow it did not comfort Lenore.

She seemed to doubt the sincerity of what she saw there and loved so
well. Moon-blanched and serene, lonely and silent, beautiful and
promising, the wide acres of "Many Waters," and the silver slopes and
dark mountains beyond, did not tell the truth. 'Way over the dark ranges
a hideous war had stretched out a red hand to her country. Her only
brother had left his home to fight, and there was no telling if he would
ever come back. Evil forces were at work out there in the moonlight.
There had come a time for her to be thoughtful.

Her father's asking her to ride to the Bend country had caused some
strange little shock of surprise. Lenore had dreamed without thinking.
Here in the darkness and silence, watching the crescent moon slowly
sink, she did think. And it was to learn that she remembered singularly
well the first time she had seen young Dorn, and still more vividly the
second time, but the third time seemed both clear and vague. Enough
young men had been smitten with Lenore to enable her to gauge the
symptoms of these easy-come, easy-go attractions. In fact, they rather
repelled her. But she had found Dorn's manner striking, confusing, and
unforgettable. And why that should be so interested her intelligence.

It was confusing to discover that she could not lay it to the sympathy
she had felt for an American boy in a difficult position, because she
had often thought of him long before she had any idea who he was or
where he lived.

In the very first place, he had been unforgettable for two
reasons--because he had been so struck at sight of her that he had gazed
unconsciously, with a glow on his face and a radiance in his eye, as of
a young poet spellbound at an inspiration; and because he seemed the
physical type of young man she had idealized--a strong, lithe-limbed,
blond giant, with a handsome, frank face, clear-cut and smooth,
ruddy-cheeked and blue-eyed.

Only after meeting him out there in the desert of wheat had she felt
sympathy for him. And now with intelligence and a woman's intuition,
barring the old, insidious, dreamy mood, Lenore went over in retrospect
all she could remember of that meeting. And the truth made her sharply
catch her breath. Dorn had fallen in love with her. Intuition declared
that, while her intelligence repudiated it. Stranger than all was the
thrill which began somewhere in the unknown depths of her and mounted,
to leave her tingling all over. She had told her father that she did not
want to ride to the Bend country. But she did want to go! And that
thought, flashing up, would not be denied. To want to meet a strange
young man again was absolutely a new and irritating discovery for
Lenore. It mystified her, because she had not had time to like Dorn.
Liking an acquaintance had nothing to do with the fact. And that stunned
her.

"Could it be--love at first sight?" she whispered, incredulously, as she
stared out over the shadowing fields.

"For me? Why, how absurd--impossible!... I--I only remembered him--a big
handsome boy with blazing eyes.... And now I'm sorry for him!"

To whisper her amaze and doubt and consternation only augmented the
instinctive recurring emotion. She felt something she could not explain.
And that something was scarcely owing to this young man's pitiful
position between duty to his father and love for his country. It had to
do with his blazing eyes; intangible, dreamlike perceptions of him as
not real, of vague sweet fancies that retreated before her introspective
questioning. What alarmed Lenore was a tendency of her mind to shirk
this revealing analysis. Never before had she been afraid to look into
herself. But now she was finding unplumbed wells of feeling, secret
chambers of dreams into which she had never let the light, strange
instinctive activities, more physical than mental. When in her life
before had she experienced a nameless palpitation of her heart?

Long she sat there, staring out into the night. And the change in the
aspect of the broad spaces, now dark and impenetrable and mysterious,
seemed like the change in the knowledge of herself. Once she had
flattered herself that she was an inch of crystal water; now she seemed
a complex, aloof, and contrary creature, almost on the verge of
tumultuous emotions.

She said her prayers that night, a girlish habit resumed since her
brother had declared his intention of enlisting in the army. And to that
old prayer, which her mother had prayed before her, she added an appeal
of her own. Strange that young Dorn's face should flash out of gloom! It
was there, and her brother's was fading.

"I wonder--will he and Jim--meet over there--on the battle-field!" she
whispered. She hoped they would. Like tigers those boys would fight the
Germans. Her heart beat high. Then a cold wind seemed to blow over her.
It had a sickening weight. If that icy and somber wind could have been
traced to its source, then the mystery of life would have been clear.
But that source was the cause of war, as its effect was the horror of
women. A hideous and monstrous thing existed out there in the darkness.
Lenore passionately loved her brother, and this black thing had taken
him away. Why could not women, who suffered most, have some word in the
regulation of events? If women could help govern the world there would
be no wars.

At last encroaching drowsiness dulled the poignancy of her feelings and
she sank to sleep.




CHAPTER VI

Singing of birds at her window awakened Lenore. The dawn streamed in
bright and sweetly fragrant. The wheat-fields seemed a rosy gold, and
all that open slope called to her thrillingly of the beauty of the world
and the happiness of youth. It was not possible to be morbid at dawn. "I
hear! I hear!" she whispered. "From a thousand slopes far and wide!"

At the breakfast-table, when there came opportunity, she looked up
serenely and said, "Father, on second thought I will go the Bend, thank
you!"

Anderson laid down his knife and fork and his eyes opened wide in
surprise. "Changed your mind!" he exclaimed.

"That's a privilege I have, you know," she replied, calmly.

Mrs. Anderson appeared more anxious than surprised. "Daughter, don't go.
That will be a fearful ride."

"Hum! Sure glad to have you, lass," added Anderson, with his keen eyes
on her.

"Let me go, too," begged Rose.

Kathleen was solemnly gazing at Lenore, with the wise, penetrating eyes
of extreme youth.

"Lenore, I'll bet you've got a new beau up there," she declared.

Lenore flushed scarlet. She was less angry with her little sister than
with the incomprehensible fact of a playful word bringing the blood
stingingly to her neck and face.

"Kitty, you forget your manners," she said, sharply.

"Kit is fresh. She's an awful child," added Rose, with a superior air.

"I didn't say a thing," cried Kathleen, hotly. "Lenore, if it isn't
true, why'd you blush so red?"

"Hush, you silly children!" ordered the mother, reprovingly.

Lenore was glad to finish that meal and to get outdoors. She could smile
now at that shrewd and terrible Kitty, but recollection of her father's
keen eyes was confusing. Lenore felt there was really nothing to blush
for; still, she could scarcely tell her father that upon awakening this
morning she had found her mind made up--that only by going to the Bend
country could she determine the true state of her feelings. She simply
dared not accuse herself of being in unusually radiant spirits because
she was going to undertake a long, hard ride into a barren, desert
country.

The grave and thoughtful mood of last night had gone with her slumbers.
Often Lenore had found problems decided for her while she slept. On this
fresh, sweet summer morning, with the sun bright and warm, presaging a
hot and glorious day, Lenore wanted to run with the winds, to wade
through the alfalfa, to watch with strange and renewed pleasure the
waves of shadow as they went over the wheat. All her life she had known
and loved the fields of waving gold. But they had never been to her what
they had become overnight. Perhaps this was because it had been said
that the issue of the great war, the salvation of the world, and its
happiness, its hope, depended upon the millions of broad acres of golden
grain. Bread was the staff of life. Lenore felt that she was changing
and growing. If anything should happen to her brother Jim she would be
heiress to thousands of acres of wheat. A pang shot through her heart.
She had to drive the cold thought away. And she must learn--must know
the bigness of this question. The women of the country would be called
upon to help, to do their share.

She ran down through the grove and across the bridge, coming abruptly
upon Nash, her father's driver. He had the car out.

"Good morning," he said, with a smile, doffing his cap.

Lenore returned his greeting and asked if her father intended to go
anywhere.

"No. I'm taking telegrams to Huntington."

"Telegrams? What's the matter with the 'phone?" she queried.

"Wire was cut yesterday."

"By I.W.W. men?"

"So your father says. I don't know."

"Something ought to be done to those men," said Lenore, severely.

Nash was a dark-browed, heavy-jawed young man, with light eyes and hair.
He appeared to be intelligent and had some breeding, but his manner when
alone with Lenore--he had driven her to town several times--was not the
same as when her father was present. Lenore had not bothered her mind
about it. But to-day the look in his eyes was offensive to her.

"Between you and me, Lenore, I've sympathy for those poor devils," he
said.

Lenore drew back rather haughtily at this familiar use of her first
name. "It doesn't concern me," she said, coldly and turned away.

"Won't you ride along with me? I'm driving around for the mail," he
called after her.

"No," returned Lenore, shortly, and hurried on out of earshot. The
impertinence of the fellow!

"Mawnin', Miss Lenore!" drawled a cheery voice. The voice and the jingle
of spurs behind her told Lenore of the presence of the best liked of all
her father's men.

"Good morning, Jake! Where's my dad?"

"Wal, he's with Adams, an' I wouldn't be Adams for no money," replied
the cowboy.

"Neither would I," laughed Lenore.

"Reckon you ain't ridin' this mawnin'. You sure look powerful fine, Miss
Lenore, but you can't ride in thet dress."

"Jake, nothing but an aeroplane would satisfy me to-day."

"Want to fly, hey? Wal, excuse me from them birds. I seen one, an'
thet's enough for me.... An', changin' the subject, Miss Lenore, beggin'
your pardon--you ain't ridin' in the car much these days."

"No, Jake, I'm not," she replied, and looked at the cowboy. She would
have trusted Jake as she would her brother Jim. And now he looked
earnest.

"Wal, I'm sure glad. I heerd Nash call an' ask you to go with him. I
seen his eyes when he said it.... Sure I know you'd never look at the
likes of him. But I want to tell you--he ain't no good. I've been
watchin' him. Your dad's orders. He's mixed up with the I.W.W.'s. But
thet ain't what I mean. It's--He's--I--"

"Thank you, Jake," replied Lenore, as the cowboy floundered. "I
appreciate your thought of me. But you needn't worry."

"I was worryin' a little," he said. "You see, I know men better 'n your
dad, an' I reckon this Nash would do anythin'."

"What's father keeping him for?"

"Wal, Anderson wants to find out a lot about thet I.W.W., an' he ain't
above takin' risks to do it, either."

The stable-boys and men Lenore passed all had an eager good morning for
her. She often boasted to her father that she could run "Many Waters" as
well as he. Sometimes there were difficulties that Lenore had no little
part in smoothing over. The barns and corrals were familiar places to
her, and she insisted upon petting every horse, in some instances to
Jake's manifest concern.

"Some of them bosses are bad," he insisted.

"To be sure they are--when wicked cowboys cuff and kick them," replied
Lenore, laughingly.

"Wal, if I'm wicked, I'm a-goin' to war," said Jake, reflectively. "Them
Germans bother me."

"But, Jake, you don't come in the draft age, do you?"

"Jest how old do you think I am?"

"Sometimes about fourteen, Jake."

"Much obliged. Wal, the fact is I'm over age, but I'll gamble I can pack
a gun an' shoot as straight an' eat as much as any young feller."

"I'll bet so, too, Jake. But I hope you won't go. We absolutely could
not run this ranch without you."

"Sure I knew thet. Wal then, I reckon I'll hang around till you're
married, Miss Lenore," he drawled.

Again the scarlet mantled Lenore's cheeks.

"Good. We'll have many harvests then, Jake, and many rides," she
replied.

"Aw, I don't know--" he began.

But Lenore ran away so that she could hear no more.

"What's the matter with me that people--that Jake should--?" she began,
and ended with a hand on each soft, hot cheek. There was something
different about her, that seemed certain. And if her eyes were as bright
as the day, with its deep blue and white clouds and shining green and
golden fields, then any one might think what he liked and have proof for
his tormenting.

"But married! I? Not much. Do I want a husband getting shot?"

The path Lenore trod so lightly led along a great peach and apple
orchard where the trees were set far apart and the soil was cultivated,
so that not a weed nor a blade of grass showed. The fragrance of fruit
in the air, however, did not come from this orchard, for the trees were
young and the reddening fruit rare. Down the wide aisles she saw the
thick and abundant green of the older orchards.

At length Lenore reached the alfalfa-fields, and here among the mounds
of newly cut hay that smelled so fresh and sweet she wanted to roll, and
she had to run. Two great wagons with four horses each were being
loaded. Lenore knew all the workmen except one. Silas Warner, an old,
gray-headed farmer, had been with her father as long as she could
remember.

"Whar you goin', lass?" he called, as he halted to wipe his red face
with a huge bandana. "It's too hot to run the way you're a-doin'."

"Oh, Silas, it's a grand morning!" she replied.

"Why, so 'tis! Pitchin' hay hyar made me think it was hot," he said, as
she tripped on. "Now, lass, don't go up to the wheat-fields."

But Lenore heard heedlessly, and she ran on till she came to the uncut
alfalfa, which impeded her progress. A wonderful space of green and
purple stretched away before her, and into it she waded. It came up to
her knees, rich, thick, soft, and redolent of blossom and ripeness. Hard
tramping it soon got to be. She grew hot and breathless, and her legs
ached from the force expended in making progress through the tangled
hay. At last she was almost across the field, far from the cutters, and
here she flung herself, to roll and lie flat and gaze up through the
deep azure of sky, wonderingly, as if to penetrate its secret. And then
she hid her face in the fragrant thickness that seemed to force a
whisper from her.

"I wonder--how will I feel--when I see him--again.... Oh, I wonder!"

The sound of the whispered words, the question, the inevitableness of
something involuntary, proved traitors to her happy dreams, her
assurance, her composure. She tried to burrow under the hay, to hide
from that tremendous bright-blue eye, the sky. Suddenly she lay very
quiet, feeling the strange glow and throb and race of her blood, sensing
the mystery of her body, trying to trace the thrills, to control this
queer, tremulous, internal state. But she found she could not think
clearly; she could only feel. And she gave up trying. It was sweet to
feel.

She rose and went on. Another field lay beyond, a gradual slope, covered
with a new growth of alfalfa. It was a light green--a contrast to the
rich darkness of that behind her. At the end of this field ran a swift
little brook, clear and musical, open to the sky in places, and in
others hidden under flowery banks. Birds sang from invisible coverts; a
quail sent up clear flutelike notes; and a lark caroled, seemingly out
of the sky.

Lenore wet her feet crossing the brook, and, climbing the little knoll
above, she sat down upon a stone to dry them in the sun. It had a burn
that felt good. No matter how hot the sun ever got there, she liked it.
Always there seemed air to breathe and the shade was pleasant.

From this vantage-point, a favorite one with Lenore, she could see all
the alfalfa-fields, the hill crowned by the beautiful white-and-red
house, the acres of garden, and the miles of orchards. The grazing and
grain fields began behind her.

The brook murmured below her and the birds sang. She heard the bees
humming by. The air out here was clear of scent of fruit and hay, and it
bore a drier odor, not so sweet. She could see the workmen, first those
among the alfalfa, and then the men, and women, too, bending over on the
vegetable-gardens. Likewise she could see the gleam of peaches, apples,
pears and plums--a colorful and mixed gleam, delightful to the eye.

Wet or dry, it seemed that her feet refused to stay still, and once
again she was wandering. A gray, slate-colored field of oats invited her
steps, and across this stretch she saw a long yellow slope of barley,
where the men were cutting. Beyond waved the golden fields of wheat.
Lenore imagined that when she reached them she would not desire to
wander farther.

There were two machines cutting on the barley slope, one drawn by eight
horses, and the other by twelve. When Lenore had crossed the oat-field
she discovered a number of strange men lounging in the scant shade of a
line of low trees that separated the fields. Here she saw Adams, the
foreman; and he espied her at the same moment. He had been sitting down,
talking to the men. At once he rose to come toward Lenore.

"Is your father with you?" he asked.

"No; he's too slow for me," replied Lenore. "Who are these men?"

"They're strangers looking for jobs."

"I.W.W. men?" queried Lenore, in lower voice.

"Surely must be," he replied. Adams was not a young, not a robust man,
and he seemed to carry a burden of worry. "Your father said he would
come right out."

"I hope he doesn't," said Lenore, bluntly. "Father has a way with him,
you know."

"Yes, I know. And it's the way we're needing here in the Valley,"
replied the foreman, significantly.

"Is that the new harvester-thresher father just bought?" asked Lenore,
pointing to the huge machine, shining and creeping behind the twelve
horses.

"Yes, that's the McCormack and it's a dandy," returned Adams. "With
machines like that we can get along without the I.W.W."

"I want a ride on it," declared Lenore, and she ran along to meet the
harvester. She waved her hand to the driver, Bill Jones, another old
hand, long employed by her father. Bill hauled back on the many-branched
reins, and when the horses stopped the clattering, whirring roar of the
machine also ceased.

"Howdy, miss! Reckon this 's a regular I.W.W. hold-up."

"Worse than that, Bill," gaily replied Lenore as she mounted the
platform where another man sat on a bag of barley. Lenore did not
recognize him. He looked rugged and honest, and beamed upon her.

"Watch out fer yer dress," he said, pointing with grimy hand to the
dusty wheels and braces so near her.

"Let me drive, Bill?" she asked.

"Wal, now, I wisht I could," he replied, dryly. "You sure can drive,
miss. But drivin' ain't all this here job."

"What can't I do? I'll bet you--"

"I never seen a girl that could throw anythin' straight. Did you?"

"Well, not so very. I forgot how you drove the horses.... Go ahead.
Don't let me delay the harvest."

Bill called sonorously to his twelve horses, and as they bent and
strained and began to bob their heads, the clattering roar filled the
air. Also a cloud of dust and thin, flying streams of chaff enveloped
Lenore. The high stalks of barley, in wide sheets, fell before the
cutter upon an apron, to be carried by feeders into the body of the
machine. The straw, denuded of its grain, came out at the rear, to be
dropped, while the grain streamed out of a tube on the side next to
Lenore, to fall into an open sack. It made a short shift of harvesting.

Lenore liked the even, nodding rhythm of the plodding horses, and the
way Bill threw a pebble from a sack on his seat, to hit this or that
horse not keeping in line or pulling his share. Bill's aim was unerring.
He never hit the wrong horse, which would have been the case had he used
a whip. The grain came out in so tiny a stream that Lenore wondered how
a bag was ever filled. But she saw presently that even a tiny stream, if
running steadily, soon made bulk. That was proof of the value of small
things, even atoms.

No marvel was it that Bill and his helper were as grimy as stokers of a
furnace. Lenore began to choke with the fine dust and to feel her eyes
smart and to see it settle on her hands and dress. She then had
appreciation of the nature of a ten-hour day for workmen cutting
eighteen acres of barley. How would they ever cut the two thousand acres
of wheat? No wonder many men were needed. Lenore sympathized with the
operators of that harvester-thresher, but she did not like the dirt. If
she had been a man, though, that labor, hard as it was, would have
appealed to her. Harvesting the grain was beautiful, whether in the old,
slow method of threshing or with one of these modern man-saving
machines.

She jumped off, and the big, ponderous thing, almost gifted with
intelligence, it seemed to Lenore, rolled on with its whirring roar,
drawing its cloud of dust, and leaving behind a litter of straw.

It developed then that Adams had walked along with the machine, and he
now addressed her.

"Will you be staying here till your father comes?" he asked.

"No, Mr. Adams. Why do you ask?"

"You oughtn't come out here alone or go back alone.... All these strange
men! Some of them hard customers! You'll excuse me, miss, but this
harvest is not like other harvests."

"I'll wait for my father and I'll not go out of sight," replied Lenore.
Thanking the foreman for his thoughtfulness, she walked away, and soon
she stood at the edge of the first wheat-field.

The grain was not yet ripe but near at hand it was a pale gold. The
wind, out of the west, waved and swept the wheat, while the almost
imperceptible shadows followed.

A road half overgrown with grass and goldenrod bordered the wheat-field,
and it wound away down toward the house. Her father appeared mounted on
the white horse he always rode. Lenore sat down in the grass to wait for
him. Nodding stalks of goldenrod leaned to her face. When looked at
closely, how truly gold their color! Yet it was not such a gold as that
of the rich blaze of ripe wheat. She was admitting to her consciousness
a jealousy of anything comparable to wheat. And suddenly she confessed
that her natural love for it had been augmented by a subtle growing
sentiment. Not sentiment about the war or the need of the Allies or
meaning of the staff of life. She had sensed young Dorn's passion for
wheat and it had made a difference to her.

"No use lying to myself!" she soliloquized. "I think of him!.. I can't
help it... I ran out here, wild, restless, unable to reason... just
because I'd decided to see him again--to make sure I--I really didn't
care.... How furious--how ridiculous I'll feel--when--when--"

Lenore did not complete her thought, because she was not sure. Nothing
could be any truer than the fact that she had no idea how she would
feel. She began sensitively to distrust herself. She who had always been
so sure of motives, so contented with things as they were, had been
struck by an absurd fancy that haunted because it was fiercely
repudiated and scorned, that would give her no rest until it was proven
false. But suppose it were true!

A succeeding blankness of mind awoke to the clip-clop of hoofs and her
father's cheery halloo.

Anderson dismounted and, throwing his bridle, he sat down heavily beside
her.

"You can ride back home," he said.

Lenore knew she had been reproved for her wandering out there, and she
made a motion to rise. His big hand held her down.

"No hurry, now I'm here. Grand day, ain't it? An' I see the barley's
goin'. Them sacks look good to me."

Lenore waited with some perturbation. She had a guilty conscience and
she feared he meant to quiz her about her sudden change of front
regarding the Bend trip. So she could not look up and she could not say
a word.

"Jake says that Nash has been tryin' to make up to you. Any sense in
what he says?" asked her father, bluntly.

"Why, hardly. Oh, I've noticed Nash is--is rather fresh, as Rose calls
it," replied Lenore, somewhat relieved at this unexpected query.

"Yes, he's been makin' eyes at Rose. She told me," replied Anderson.

"Discharge him," said Lenore, forcibly.

"So I ought. But let me tell you, Lenore. I've been hopin' to get Nash
dead to rights."

"What more do you want?" she demanded.

"I mean regardin' his relation to the I.W.W.... Listen. Here's the
point. Nash has been tracked an' caught in secret talks with prominent
men in this country. Men of foreign blood an' mebbe foreign sympathies.
We're at the start of big an' bad times in the good old U.S. No one can
tell how bad. Well, you know my position in the Golden Valley. I'm
looked to. Reckon this I.W.W. has got me a marked man. I'm packin' two
guns right now. An' you bet Jake is packin' the same. We don't travel
far apart any more this summer."

Lenore had started shudderingly and her look showed her voiceless fear.

"You needn't tell your mother," he went on, more intimately. "I can
trust you an' ... To come back to Nash. He an' this Glidden--you
remember, one of those men at Dorn's house--they are usin' gold. They
must have barrels of it. If I could find out where that gold comes from!
Probably they don't know. But I might find out if men here in our own
country are hatchin' plots with the I.W.W."

"Plots! What for?" queried Lenore, breathlessly.

"To destroy my wheat, to drive off or bribe the harvest-hands, to
cripple the crop yield in the Northwest; to draw the militia here; in
short, to harass an' weaken an' slow down our government in its
preparation against Germany."

"Why, that is terrible!" declared Lenore.

"I've a hunch from Jake--there's a whisper of a plot to put me out of
the way," said Anderson, darkly.

"Oh--good Heavens! You don't mean it!" cried Lenore, distractedly.

"Sure I do. But that's no way for Anderson's daughter to take it. Our
women have got to fight, too. We've all got to meet these German hired
devils with their own weapons. Now, lass, you know you'll get these
wheatlands of mine some day. It's in my will. That's because you, like
your dad, always loved the wheat. You'd fight, wouldn't you, to save
your grain for our soldiers--bread for your own brother Jim--an' for
your own land?"

"Fight! Would I?" burst out Lenore, with a passionate little cry.

"Good! Now you're talkin'!" exclaimed her father.

"I'll find out about this Nash--if you'll let me," declared Lenore, as
if inspired.

"How? What do you mean, girl?"

"I'll encourage him. I'll make him think I'm a wishy-washy moonstruck
girl, smitten with him. All's fair in war!... If he means ill by my
father--"

Anderson muttered low under his breath and his big hand snapped hard at
the nodding goldenrod.

"For my sake--to help me--you'd encourage Nash--flirt with him a
little--find out all you could?"

"Yes, I would!" she cried, deliberately. But she wanted to cover her
face with her hands. She trembled slightly, then grew cold, with a
sickening disgust at this strange, new, uprising self.

"Wait a minute before you say too much," went on Anderson. "You're my
best-beloved child, my Lenore, the lass I've been so proud of all my
life. I'd spill blood to avenge an insult to you.... But, Lenore, we've
entered upon a terrible war. People out here, especially the women,
don't realize it yet. But you must realize it. When I said good-by to
Jim, my son, I--I felt I'd never look upon his face again!... I gave him
up. I could have held him back--got exemption for him. But, no, by God!
I gave him up--to make safety and happiness and prosperity for--say,
your children, an' Rose's, an' Kathleen's.... I'm workin' now for the
future. So must every loyal man an' every loyal woman! We love our own
country. An' I ask you to see as I see the terrible danger to that
country. Think of you an' Rose an' Kathleen bein' treated like those
poor Belgian girls! Well, you'd get that an' worse if the Germans won
this war. An' the point is, for us to win, every last one of us must
fight, sacrifice to that end, an' hang together."

Anderson paused huskily and swallowed hard while he looked away across
the fields. Lenore felt herself drawn by an irresistible power. The west
wind rustled through the waving wheat. She heard the whir of the
threshers. Yet all seemed unreal. Her father's passion had made this
place another world.

"So much for that," resumed Anderson. "I'm goin' to do my best. An' I
may make blunders. I'll play the game as it's dealt out to me. Lord
knows I feel all in the dark. But it's the nature of the effort, the
spirit, that'll count. I'm goin' to save most of the wheat on my
ranches. An' bein' a Westerner who can see ahead, I know there's goin'
to be blood spilled.... I'd give a lot to know who sent this Nash spyin'
on me. I'm satisfied now he's an agent, a spy, a plotter for a gang
that's marked me. I can't prove it yet, but I feel it. Maybe nothin'
worth while--worth the trouble--will ever be found out from him. But I
don't figure that way. I say play their own game an' take a chance....
If you encouraged Nash you'd probably find out all about him. The worst
of it is could you be slick enough? Could a girl as fine an' square an'
high-spirited as you ever double-cross a man, even a scoundrel like
Nash? I reckon you could, considerin' the motive. Women are
wonderful.... Well, if you can fool him, make him think he's a winner,
flatter him till he swells up like a toad, promise to elope with him, be
curious, jealous, make him tell where he goes, whom he meets, show his
letters, all without ever sufferin' his hand on you, I'll give my
consent. I'd think more of you for it. Now the question is, can you do
it?"

"Yes," whispered Lenore.

"Good!" exploded Anderson, in a great relief. Then he began to mop his
wet face. He arose, showing the weight of heavy guns in his pockets, and
he gazed across the wheat-fields. "That wheat'll be ripe in a week. It
sure looks fine.... Lenore, you ride back home now. Don't let Jake pump
you. He's powerful curious. An' I'll go give these I.W.W.'s a first dose
of Anderson."

He turned away without looking at her, and he hesitated, bending over to
pluck a stem of goldenrod.

"Lass--you're--you're like your mother", he said, unsteadily. "An' she
helped me win out durin' my struggle here. You're brave an' you're big."

Lenore wanted to say something, to show her feeling, to make her task
seem lighter, but she could not speak.

"We're pards now--with no secrets", he continued, with a different note
in his voice. "An' I want you to know that it ain't likely Nash or
Glidden will get out of this country alive."




CHAPTER VII

Three days later, Lenore accompanied her father on the ride to the Bend
country. She sat in the back seat of the car with Jake--an arrangement
very gratifying to the cowboy, but received with ill-concealed
displeasure by the driver, Nash. They had arranged to start at sunrise,
and it became manifest that Nash had expected Lenore to sit beside him
all during the long ride. It was her father, however, who took the front
seat, and behind Nash's back he had slyly winked at Lenore, as if to
compliment her on the evident success of their deep plot. Lenore, at the
first opportunity that presented, shot Nash a warning glance which was
sincere enough. Jake had begun to use keen eyes, and there was no
telling what he might do.

The morning was cool, sweet, fresh, with a red sun presaging a hot day.
The big car hummed like a droning bee and seemed to cover the miles as
if by magic. Lenore sat with face uncovered, enjoying the breeze and the
endless colorful scene flashing by, listening to Jake's amusing
comments, and trying to keep back thought of what discovery might await
her before the end of this day.

Once across the Copper River, they struck the gradual ascent, and here
the temperature began to mount and the dust to fly. Lenore drew her
veils close and, leaning comfortably back, she resigned herself to wait
and to endure.

By the flight of a crow it was about a hundred miles from Anderson's
ranch to Palmer; but by the round-about roads necessary to take the
distance was a great deal longer. Lenore was well aware when they got up
on the desert, and the time came when she thought she would suffocate.
There appeared to be intolerable hours in which no one spoke and only
the hum and creak of the machine throbbed in her ears. She could not see
through her veils and did not part them until a stop was made at Palmer.

Her father got out, sputtering and gasping, shaking the dust in clouds
from his long linen coat. Jake, who always said he lived on dust and
heat, averred it was not exactly a regular fine day. Lenore looked out,
trying to get a breath of air. Nash busied himself with the hot engine.

The little country town appeared dead, and buried under dust. There was
not a person in sight nor a sound to be heard. The sky resembled molten
lead, with a blazing center too bright for the gaze of man.

Anderson and Jake went into the little hotel to get some refreshments.
Lenore preferred to stay in the car, saying she wanted only a cool
drink. The moment the two men were out of sight Nash straightened up to
gaze darkly and hungrily at Lenore.

"This's a good a chance as we'll get," he said, in an eager, hurried
whisper.

"For what?" asked Lenore, aghast.

"To run off," he replied, huskily.

Lenore had proceeded so cleverly to carry out her scheme that in three
days Nash had begun to implore and demand that she elope with him. He
had been so much of a fool. But she as yet had found out but little
about him. His right name was Ruenke. He was a socialist. He had plenty
of money and hinted of mysterious sources for more.

At this Lenore hid her face, and while she fell back in pretended
distress, she really wanted to laugh. She had learned something new in
these few days, and that was to hate.

"Oh no! no!" she murmured. "I--I can't think of that--yet."

"But why not?" he demanded, in shrill violence. His gloved hand clenched
on the tool he held.

"Mother has been so unhappy--with my brother Jim--off to the war. I--I
just couldn't--now. Harry, you must give me time. It's all so--so
sudden. Please wait!"

Nash appeared divided between two emotions. Lenore watched him from
behind her parted veil. She had been astonished to find out that, side
by side with her intense disgust and shame at the part she was playing,
there was a strong, keen, passionate interest in it, owing to the fact
that, though she could prove little against this man, her woman's
intuition had sensed his secret deadly antagonism toward her father. By
little significant mannerisms and revelations he had more and more
betrayed the German in him. She saw it in his overbearing conceit, his
almost instant assumption that he was her master. At first Lenore feared
him, but, as she learned to hate him she lost her fear. She had never
been alone with him except under such circumstances as this; and she had
decided she would not be.

"Wait?" he was expostulating. "But it's going to get hot for me."

"Oh!... What do you mean?" she begged. "You frighten me."

"Lenore, the I.W.W. will have hard sledding in this wheat country. I
belong to that. I told you. But the union is run differently this
summer. And I've got work to do--that I don't like, since I fell in love
with you. Come, run off with me and I'll give it up."

Lenore trembled at this admission. She appeared to be close upon further
discovery.

"Harry, how wildly you talk!" she exclaimed. "I hardly know you. You
frighten me with your mysterious talk.... Have--a--a little
consideration for me."

Nash strode back to lean into the car. Behind his huge goggles his eyes
gleamed. His gloved hand closed hard on her arm.

"It is sudden. It's got to be sudden," he said, in fierce undertone.
"You must trust me."

"I will. But you must confide in me," she replied, earnestly. "I'm not
quite a fool. You're rushing me--too--too--"

Suddenly he released her, threw up his hand, then quickly stepped back
to the front of the car. Jake stood in the door of the hotel. He had
seen that action of Nash's. Then Anderson appeared, followed by a boy
carrying a glass of water for Lenore. They approached the car, Jake
sauntering last, with his curious gaze on Nash.

"Go in an' get a bite an' a drink," said Anderson to the driver. "An'
hurry."

Nash obeyed. Jake's eyes never left him until he entered the door. Then
Jake stepped in beside Lenore.

"Thet water's wet, anyhow," he drawled.

"We'll get a good cold drink at Dorn's," said Anderson. "Lass, how are
you makin' it?"

"Fine," she replied, smiling.

"So I seen," significantly added Jake, with a piercing glance at her.

Lenore realized then that she would have to confide in Jake or run the
risk of having violence done to Nash. So she nodded wisely at the cowboy
and winked mischievously, and, taking advantage of Anderson's entering
the car, she whispered in Jake's ear: "I'm finding out things. Tell
you--later."

The cowboy looked anything but convinced; and he glanced with narrowed
eyes at Nash as that worthy hurried back to the car.

With a lurch and a leap the car left Palmer behind in a cloud of dust.
The air was furnace-hot, oppressive, and exceedingly dry. Lenore's lips
smarted so that she continually moistened them. On all sides stretched
dreary parched wheat-fields. Anderson shook his head sadly. Jake said:
"Ain't thet too bad? Not half growed, an' sure too late now."

Near at hand Lenore saw the short immature dirty-whitish wheat, and she
realized that it was ruined.

"It's been gettin' worse, Jake," remarked Anderson. "Most of this won't
be cut at all. An' what is cut won't yield seedlings. I see a yellow
patch here an' there on the north slopes, but on the most part the
Bend's a failure."

"Father, you remember Dorn's section, that promised so well?" asked
Lenore.

"Yes. But it promised only in case of rain. I look for the worst,"
replied Anderson, regretfully.

"It looks like storm-clouds over there," said Lenore, pointing far
ahead.

Through the drifting veils of heat, far across the bare, dreamy hills of
fallow and the blasted fields of wheat, stood up some huge white
columnar clouds, a vivid contrast to the coppery sky.

"By George! there's a thunderhead!" exclaimed Anderson. "Jake, what do
you make of that?"

"Looks good to me," replied Jake, who was always hopeful.

Lenore bore the hot wind and the fine, choking dust without covering her
face. She wanted to see all the hills and valleys of this desert of
wheat. Her heart beat a little faster as, looking across that waste on
waste of heroic labor, she realized she was nearing the end of a ride
that might be momentous for her. The very aspect of that wide, treeless
expanse, with all its overwhelming meaning, seemed to make her a
stronger and more thoughtful girl. If those endless wheat-fields were
indeed ruined, what a pity, what a tragedy! Not only would young Dorn be
ruined, but perhaps many other toiling farmers. Somehow Lenore felt no
hopeless certainty of ruin for the young man in whom she was interested.

"There, on that slope!" spoke up Anderson, pointing to a field which was
yellow in contrast to the surrounding gray field. "There's a
half-section of fair wheat."

But such tinges of harvest gold were not many in half a dozen miles of
dreary hills. Where were the beautiful shadows in the wheat? wondered
Lenore. Not a breath of wind appeared to stir across those fields.

As the car neared the top of a hill the road curved into another, and
Lenore saw a dusty flash of another car passing on ahead.

Suddenly Jake leaned forward.

"Boss, I seen somethin' throwed out of thet car--into the wheat," he
said.

"What?--Mebbe it was a bottle," replied Anderson, peering ahead.

"Nope. Sure wasn't thet.... There! I seen it again. Watch, boss!"

Lenore strained her eyes and felt a stir of her pulses. Jake's voice was
perturbing. Was it strange that Nash slowed up a little where there was
no apparent need? Then Lenore saw a hand flash out of the side of the
car ahead and throw a small, glinting object into the wheat.

"There! Seen it again," said Jake.

"I saw!... Jake, mark that spot.... Nash, slow down," yelled Anderson.

Lenore gathered from the look of her father and the cowboy that
something was amiss, but she could not guess what it might be. Nash bent
sullenly at his task of driving.

"I reckon about here," said Jake, waving his hand.

"Stop her," ordered Anderson, and as the car came to a halt he got out,
followed by Jake.

"Wal, I marked it by thet rock," declared the cowboy.

"So did I," responded Anderson. "Let's get over the fence an' find what
it was they threw in there."

Jake rested a lean hand on a post and vaulted the fence. But Anderson
had to climb laboriously and painfully over the barbed-wire obstruction.
Lenore marveled at his silence and his persistence. Anderson hated wire
fences. Presently he got over, and then he divided his time between
searching in the wheat and peering after the strange car that was
drawing far away.

Lenore saw Jake pick up something and scrutinize it.

"I'll be dog-goned!" he muttered. Then he approached Anderson. "What is
thet?"

"Jake, you can lambaste me if I ever saw the likes," replied Anderson.
"But it looks bad. Let's rustle after that car."

As Anderson clambered into his seat once more he looked dark and grim.

"Catch that car ahead," he tersely ordered Nash. Whereupon the driver
began to go through his usual motions in starting.

"Lenore, what do you make of this?" queried Anderson, turning to show
her a small cake of some gray substance, soft and wet to the touch.

"I don't know what it is," replied Lenore, wonderingly. "Do you?"

"No. An' I'd give a lot--Say, Nash, hurry! Overhaul that car!"

Anderson turned to see why his order had not been obeyed. He looked
angry. Nash made hurried motions. The car trembled, the machinery began
to whir--then came a tremendous buzzing roar, a violent shaking of the
car, followed by sharp explosions, and silence.

"You stripped the gears!" shouted Anderson, with the red fading out of
his face.

"No; but something's wrong," replied Nash. He got out to examine the
engine.

Anderson manifestly controlled strong feeling. Lenore saw Jake's hand go
to her father's shoulder. "Boss," he whispered, "we can't ketch thet car
now." Anderson resigned himself, averted his face so that he could not
see Nash, who was tinkering with the engine. Lenore believed then that
Nash had deliberately stalled the engine or disordered something, so as
to permit the escape of the strange car ahead. She saw it turn off the
long, straight road ahead and disappear to the right. After some
minutes' delay Nash resumed his seat and started the car once more.

From the top of the next hill Lenore saw the Dorn farm and home. All the
wheat looked parched. She remembered, however, that the section of
promising grain lay on the north slope, and therefore out of sight from
where she was.

"Looks as bad as any," said Anderson. "Good-by to my money."

Lenore shut her eyes and thought of herself, her inward state. She
seemed calm, and glad to have that first part of the journey almost
ended. Her motive in coming was not now the impelling thing that had
actuated her.

When next the car slowed down she heard her father say, "Drive in by the
house."

Then Lenore, opening her eyes, saw the gate, the trim little orchard
with its scant shade, the gray old weatherbeaten house which she
remembered so well. The big porch looked inviting, as it was shady and
held an old rocking-chair and a bench with blue cushions. A door stood
wide open. No one appeared to be on the premises.

"Nash, blow your horn an' then hunt around for somebody," said Anderson.
"Come, get out, Lenore. You must be half dead."

"Oh no. Only half dust and half fire," replied Lenore, laughing, as she
stepped out. What a relief to get rid of coat, veils, bonnet, and to sit
on a shady porch where a faint breeze blew! Just at that instant she
heard a low, distant rumbling. Thunder! It thrilled her. Jake brought
her a cold, refreshing drink, and she sent him back after another. She
wet her handkerchief and bathed her hot face. It was indeed very
comfortable there after that long hot ride.

"Miss Lenore, I seen thet Nash pawin' you," said the cowboy, "an' by
Gosh! I couldn't believe my eyes!"

"Not so loud! Jake, the young gentleman imagines I'm in love with him,"
replied Lenore.

"Wall, I'll remove his imagining'," declared Jake, coolly.

"Jake, you will do nothing."

"Ahuh! Then you air in love with _him?_"

Lenore was compelled to explain to this loyal cowboy just what the
situation meant. Whereupon Jake swore his amaze, and said, "I'm a-goin'
to lick him, anyhow, fer thet!" And he caught up the tin cup and
shuffled away.

Footsteps and voices sounded on the path, upon which presently appeared
Anderson and young Dorn.

"Father's gone to Wheatly," he was saying. "But I'm glad to tell you
we'll pay twenty thousand dollars on the debt as soon as we harvest. If
it rains we'll pay it all and have thirty thousand left."

"Good! I sure hope it rains. An' that thunder sounds hopeful," responded
Anderson.

"It's been hopeful like that for several days, but no rain," said Dorn.
And then, espying Lenore, he seemed startled out of his eagerness. He
flushed slightly. "I--I didn't see--you had brought your daughter."

He greeted her somewhat bashfully. And Lenore returned the greeting
calmly, watching him steadily and waiting for the nameless sensations
she had imagined would attend this meeting. But whatever these might be,
they did not come to overwhelm her. The gladness of his voice, as he had
spoken so eagerly to her father about the debt, had made her feel very
kindly toward him. It might have been natural for a young man to resent
this dragging debt. But he was fine. She observed, as he sat down, that,
once the smile and flush left his face, he seemed somewhat thinner and
older than she had pictured him. A shadow lay in his eyes and his lips
were sad. He had evidently been working, upon their arrival. He wore
overalls, dusty and ragged; his arms, bare to the elbow, were brown and
muscular; his thin cotton shirt was wet with sweat and it clung to his
powerful shoulders.

Anderson surveyed the young man with friendly glance.

"What's your first name?" he queried, with his blunt frankness.

"Kurt," was the reply.

"Is that American?"

"No. Neither is Dorn. But Kurt Dorn is an American."

"Hum! So I see, an' I'm powerful glad.... An' you've saved the big
section of promisin' wheat?"

"Yes. We've been lucky. It's the best and finest wheat father ever
raised. If it rains the yield will go sixty bushels to the acre."

"Sixty? Whew!" ejaculated Anderson.

Lenore smiled at these wheat men, and said: "It surely will rain--and
likely storm to-day. I am a prophet who never fails."

"By George! that's true! Lenore has anybody beat when it comes to
figurin' the weather," declared Anderson.

Dorn looked at her without speaking, but his smile seemed to say that
she could not help being a prophet of good, of hope, of joy.

"Say, Lenore, how many bushels in a section at sixty per acre?" went on
Anderson.

"Thirty-eight thousand four hundred," replied Lenore.

"An' what'll you sell for?" asked Anderson of Dorn.

"Father has sold at two dollars and twenty-five cents a bushel," replied
Dorn.

"Good! But he ought to have waited. The government will set a higher
price.... How much will that come to, Lenore?"

Dorn's smile, as he watched Lenore do her mental arithmetic, attested to
the fact that he already had figured out the sum.

"Eighty-six thousand four hundred dollars," replied Lenore. "Is that
right?"

"An' you'll have thirty thousand dollars left after all debts are paid?"
inquired Anderson.

"Yes, sir. I can hardly realize it. That's a fortune--for one section of
wheat. But we've had four bad seasons.... Oh, if it only rains to-day!"

Lenore turned her cheek to the faint west wind. And then she looked long
at the slowly spreading clouds, white and beautiful, high up near the
sky-line, and dark and forbidding down along the horizon.

"I knew a girl who could feel things move when no one else could," said
Lenore. "I'm sensitive like that--at least about wind and rain. Right
now I can feel rain in the air."

"Then you have brought me luck," said Dorn, earnestly. "Indeed I guess
my luck has turned. I hated the idea of going away with that debt
unpaid."

"Are you--going away?" asked Lenore, in surprise.

"Yes, rather," he replied, with a short, sardonic laugh. He fumbled in a
pocket of his overalls and drew forth a paper which he opened. A flame
burned the fairness from his face; his eyes darkened and shone with
peculiar intensity of pride. "I was the first man drafted in this Bend
country.... My number was the first called!"

"Drafted!" echoed Lenore, and she seemed to be standing on the threshold
of an amazing and terrible truth.

"Lass, we forget," said her father, rather thickly.

"Oh, but--why?" cried Lenore. She had voiced the same poignant appeal to
her brother Jim. Why need he--why must he go to war? What for? And Jim
had called out a bitter curse on the Germans he meant to kill.

"Why?" returned Dorn, with the sad, thoughtful shadow returning to his
eyes. "How many times have I asked myself that?... In one way, I don't
know.... I haven't told father yet!... It's not for his sake.... But
when I think deeply--when I can feel and see--I mean I'm going for my
country.... For you and your sisters."

Like a soldier then Lenore received her mortal blow facing him who dealt
it, and it was a sudden overwhelming realization of love. No confusion,
no embarrassment, no shame attended the agony of that revelation.
Outwardly she did not seem to change at all. She felt her father's eyes
upon her; but she had no wish to hide the tumult of her heart. The
moment made her a woman. Where was the fulfilment of those vague,
stingingly sweet dreamy fancies of love? Where was her maiden reserve,
that she so boldly recognized an unsolicited passion? Her eyes met
Dorn's steadily, and she felt some vital and compelling spirit pass from
her to him. She saw him struggle with what he could not understand. It
was his glance that wavered and fell, his hand that trembled, his breast
that heaved. She loved him. There had been no beginning. Always he had
lived in her dreams. And like her brother he was going to kill and to be
killed.

Then Lenore gazed away across the wheat-fields. The shadows came waving
toward her. A stronger breeze fanned her cheeks. The heavens were
darkening and low thunder rolled along the battlements of the great
clouds.

"Say, Kurt, what do you make of this?" asked Anderson. Lenore, turning,
saw her father hold out the little gray cake that Jake had found in the
wheat-field.

Young Dorn seized it quickly, felt and smelled and bit it.

"Where'd you get this?" he asked, with excitement.

Anderson related the circumstance of its discovery.

"It's a preparation, mostly phosphorus," replied Dorn. "When the
moisture evaporates it will ignite--set fire to any dry substance....
That is a trick of the I.W.W. to burn the wheat-fields."

"By all that's ----!" swore Anderson, with his jaw bulging. "Jake an' I
knew it meant bad. But we didn't know what."

"I've been expecting tricks of all kinds," said Dorn. "I have four men
watching the section."

"Good! Say, that car turned off to the right back here some miles....
But, worse luck, the I.W.W.'s can work at night."

"We'll watch at night, too," replied Dorn.

Lenore was conscious of anger encroaching upon the melancholy splendor
of her emotions, and the change was bitter.

"When the rain comes, won't it counteract the ignition of that
phosphorus?" she asked, eagerly, for she knew that rain would come.

"Only for the time being. It 'll be just as dry this time to-morrow as
it is now."

"Then the wheat's goin' to burn," declared Anderson, grimly. "If that
trick has been worked all over this country you're goin' to have worse
'n a prairie fire. The job on hand is to save this one section that has
a fortune tied up in it."

"Mr. Anderson, that job looks almost hopeless, in the light of this
phosphorus trick. What on earth can be done? I've four men. I can't hire
any more, because I can't trust these strangers. And how can four
men--or five, counting me, watch a square mile of wheat day and night?"

The situation looked hopeless to Lenore and she was sick. What cruel
fates toyed with this young farmer! He seemed to be sinking under this
last crowning blow. There in the sky, rolling up and rumbling, was the
long-deferred rain-storm that meant freedom from debt, and a fortune
besides. But of what avail the rain if it was to rush the wheat to full
bursting measure only for the infernal touch of the foreigner?

Anderson, however, was no longer a boy. He had dealt with many and many
a trial. Never was he plunged into despair until after the dread crisis
had come to pass. His red forehead, frowning and ridged with swelling
blood-vessels, showed the bent of his mind.

"Oh, it is hard!" said Lenore to Dorn. "I'm so sorry! But don't give up.
While there's life there's hope!"

He looked up with tears in his eyes.

"Thank you.... I did weaken. You see I've let myself believe too
much--for dad's sake. I don't care about the money for myself.... Money!
What good will money be to me--now? It's over for me.... To get the
wheat cut--harvested--that's all I hoped.... The army--war--France--I go
to be--"

"Hush!" whispered Lenore, and she put a soft hand upon his lips,
checking the end of that bitter speech. She felt him start, and the look
she met pierced her soul. "Hush!... It's going to rain!... Father will
find some way to save the wheat!... And you are coming home--after the
war!"

He crushed her hand to his hot lips.

"You make me--ashamed. I won't give--up," he said, brokenly. "And when
I'm over--there--in the trenches, I'll think--"

"Dorn, listen to this," rang out Anderson. "We'll fool that I.W.W.
gang....It's a-goin' to rain. So far so good. To-morrow you take this
cake of phosphorus an' ride around all over the country. Show it an'
tell the farmers their wheat's goin' to burn. An' offer them whose
fields are already ruined--that fire can't do no more harm--offer them
big money to help you save your section. Half a hundred men could put
out a fire if one did start. An' these neighbors of yours, some of them
will jump at a chance to beat the I.W.W.... Boy, it can be done!"

He ended with a big fist held aloft in triumph.

"See! Didn't I tell you?" murmured Lenore, softly. It touched her deeply
to see Dorn respond to hope. His haggard face suddenly warmed and
glowed.

"I never thought of that," he burst out, radiantly. "We can save the
wheat.... Mr. Anderson, I--I can't thank you enough."

"Don't try," replied the rancher.

"I tell you it will rain," cried Lenore, gaily. "Let's walk out
there--watch the storm come across the hills. I love to see the shadows
blow over the wheat."

Lenore became aware, as she passed the car, that Nash was glaring at her
in no unmistakable manner. She had forgotten all about him. The sight of
his jealous face somehow added to her strange exhilaration.

They crossed the road from the house, and, facing the west, had free
prospect of the miles of billowy hills and the magnificent ordnance of
the storm-clouds. The deep, low mutterings of thunder seemed a grand and
welcome music. Lenore stole a look at Dorn, to see him, bareheaded, face
upturned, entranced. It was only a rain-storm coming! Down in the valley
country such storms were frequent at this season, too common for their
meaning to be appreciated. Here in the desert of wheat rain was a
blessing, life itself.

The creamy-white, rounded edge of the approaching clouds came and
coalesced, spread and mushroomed. Under them the body of the storm was
purple, lit now and then by a flash of lightning. Long, drifting veils
of rain, gray as thin fog, hung suspended between sky and earth.

"Listen!" exclaimed Dorn.

A warm wind, laden with dry scent of wheat, struck Lenore's face and
waved her hair. It brought a silken, sweeping rustle, a whispering of
the bearded grain. The soft sound thrilled Lenore. It seemed a sweet,
hopeful message that waiting had been rewarded, that the drought could
be broken. Again, and more beautiful than ever before in her life, she
saw the waves of shadow as they came forward over the wheat. Rippling,
like breezes over the surface of a golden lake, they came in long,
broken lines, moving, following, changing, until the whole wheat-field
seemed in shadowy motion.

The cloud pageant rolled on above and beyond. Lenore felt a sweet drop
of rain splash upon her upturned face. It seemed like a caress. There
came a pattering around her. Suddenly rose a damp, faint smell of dust.
Beyond the hill showed a gray pall of rain, coming slowly, charged with
a low roar. The whisper of the sweeping wheat was swallowed up.

Lenore stood her ground until heavy rain drops fell thick and fast upon
her, sinking through her thin waist to thrill her flesh; and then, with
a last gay call to those two man lovers of wheat and storms, she ran for
the porch.

There they joined her, Anderson puffing and smiling, Dorn still with
that rapt look upon his face. The rain swept up and roared on the roof,
while all around was streaked gray.

"Boy, there's your thirty-thousand-dollar rain!" shouted Anderson.

But Dorn did not hear. Once he smiled at Lenore as if she were the good
fairy who had brought about this miracle. In his look Lenore had deeper
realization of him, of nature, and of life. She loved rain, but always,
thenceforth, she would reverence it. Fresh, cool fragrance of a renewed
soil filled the air. All that dusty gray hue of the earth had vanished,
and it was wet and green and bright. Even as she gazed the water seemed
to sink in as it fell, a precious relief to thirsty soil. The thunder
rolled away eastward and the storm passed. The thin clouds following
soon cleared away from the western sky, rain-washed and blue, with a
rainbow curving down to bury its exquisite hues in the golden wheat.




CHAPTER VIII

The journey homeward held many incalculable differences from the
uncertain doubts and fears that had tormented Lenore on the outward
trip.

For a long time she felt the warm, tight clasp of Dorn's hand on hers as
he had said good-by. Very evidently he believed that was to be his last
sight of her. Lenore would never forget the gaze that seemed to try to
burn her image on his memory forever. She felt that they would meet
again. Solemn thoughts revolved in her mind; still, she was not unhappy.
She had given much unsought, but the return to her seemed growing every
moment that she lived.

The dust had been settled by the rain for many miles; however, beyond
Palmer there began to show evidences that the storm had thinned out or
sheered off, because the road gradually grew dry again. When dust rose
once more Lenore covered her face, although, obsessed as she was by the
deep change in herself, neither dust nor heat nor distance affected her
greatly. Like the miles the moments sped by. She was aware through
closed eyes when darkness fell. Stops were frequent after the Copper
River had been crossed, and her father appeared to meet and question
many persons in the towns they passed. Most of his questioning pertained
to the I.W.W. And even excited whispering by her father and Jake had no
power to interest her. It was midnight when they reached "Many Waters"
and Lenore became conscious of fatigue.

Nash crowded in front of Jake as she was about to step out, and assisted
her. He gave her arm a hard squeeze and fiercely whispered in her ear,
"To-morrow!"

The whisper was trenchant with meaning and thoroughly aroused Lenore.
But she gave no sign and moved away.

"I seen strangers sneakin' off in the dark," Jake was whispering to
Anderson.

"Keep your eyes peeled," replied Anderson. "I'll take Lenore up to the
house an' come back."

It was pitch black up the path through the grove and Lenore had to cling
to her father.

"Is there--any danger?" she whispered.

"We're lookin' for anythin'," replied Anderson, slowly.

"Will you be careful?"

"Sure, lass. I'll take no foolish risks. I've got men watchin' the house
an' ranch. But I'd better have the cowboys down. There's Jake--he spots
some prowlin' coyotes the minute we reach home."

Anderson unlocked and opened the door. The hall was dark and quiet. He
turned on the electric light. Lenore was detaching her veil.

"You look pale," he said, solicitously. "No wonder. That was a ride. But
I'm glad we went. I saved Dorn's wheat."

"I'm glad, too, father. Good-night!"

He bade her good-night, and went out, locking the door. Then his rapid
footsteps died away. Wearily Lenore climbed the stairs and went to her
room.

       *       *       *       *       *

She was awakened from deep slumber by Kathleen, who pulled and tugged at
her.

"Lenorry, I thought you was dead, your eyes were shut so tight,"
declared the child. "Breakfast is waiting. Did you fetch me anything?"

"Yes, a new sister," replied Lenore, dreamily.

Kathleen's eyes opened wide. "Where?"

Lenore place a hand over her heart.

"Here."

"Oh, you do look funny.... Get up, Lenorry. Did you hear the shooting
last night?"

Instantly Lenore sat up and stared.

"No. Was there any?"

"You bet. But I don't know what it was all about."

Lenore dispelled her dreamy state, and, hurriedly dressing, she went
down to breakfast. Her father and Rose were still at the table.

"Hello, big eyes!" was his greeting.

And Rose, not to be outdone, chirped, "Hello, old sleepy-head!"

Lenore's reply lacked her usual spontaneity. And she felt, if she did
not explain, the wideness of her eyes. Her father did not look as if
anything worried him. It was a way of his, however, not to show stress
or worry. Lenore ate in silence until Rose left the dining-room, and
then she asked her father if there had been shooting.

"Sure," he replied, with a broad smile. "Jake turned his guns loose on
them prowlin' men last night. By George! you ought to have heard them
run. One plumped into the gate an' went clear over it, to fall like a
log. Another fell into the brook an' made more racket than a drownin'
horse. But it was so dark we couldn't catch them."

"Jake shot to frighten them?" inquired Lenore.

"Not much. He stung one I.W.W., that's sure. We heard a cry, an' this
mornin' we found some blood."

"What do you suppose these--these night visitors wanted?"

"No tellin'. Jake thinks one of them looked an' walked like the man Nash
has been meetin'. Anyway, we're not takin' much more chance on Nash. I
reckon it's dangerous keepin' him around. I'll have him drive me
to-day--over to Vale, an' then to Huntington. You can go along. That'll
be your last chance to pump him. Have you found out anythin'?"

Lenore told what had transpired between her and the driver. Anderson's
face turned fiery red.

"That ain't much to help us," declared, angrily. "But it shows him
up.... So his real name's Ruenke? Fine American name, I don't think!
That man's a spy an' a plotter. An' before he's another day older I'm
goin' to corner him. It's a sure go I can't hold Jake in any longer."

To Lenore it was a further indication of her father's temper that when
they went down to enter the car he addressed Nash in cool, careless,
easy speech. It made Lenore shiver. She had heard stories of her
father's early career among hard men.

Jake was there, dry, caustic, with keen, quiet eyes that any subtle,
clever man would have feared. But Nash's thought seemed turned mostly
inward.

Lenore took the front seat in the car beside the driver. He showed
unconscious response to that action.

"Jake, aren't you coming?" she asked, of the cowboy.

"Wal, I reckon it'll be sure dull fer you without me. Nobody to talk to
while your dad fools around. But I can't go. Me an' the boys air a-goin'
to hang some I.W.W.'s this mawnin', an' I can't miss thet fun."

Jake drawled his speech and laughed lazily as he ended it. He was just
boasting, as usual, but his hawklike eyes were on Nash. And it was
certain that Nash turned pale.

Lenore had no reply to make. Her father appeared to lose patience with
Jake, but after a moment's hesitation decided not to voice it.

Nash was not a good nor a careful driver under any circumstances, and
this morning it was evident he did not have his mind on his business.
There were bumps in the orchard road where the irrigation ditches
crossed.

"Say, you ought to be drivin' a hay-wagon," called Anderson,
sarcastically.

At Vale he ordered the car stopped at the post-office, and, telling
Lenore he might be detained a few moments, he went in. Nash followed,
and presently came back with a package of letters. Upon taking his seat
in the car he assorted the letters, one of which, a large, thick
envelope, manifestly gave him excited gratification. He pocketed them
and turned to Lenore.

"Ah! I see you get letters--from a woman," she said, pretending a poison
sweetness of jealousy.

"Certainly. I'm not married yet," he replied. "Lenore, last night--"

"You will never be married--to me--while you write to other women. Let
me see that letter!... Let me read it--all of them!"

"No, Lenore--not here. And don't speak so loud. Your father will be
coming any minute.... Lenore, he suspects me. And that cowboy knows
things. I can't go back to the ranch."

"Oh, you must come!"

"No. If you love me you've got to run off with me to-day."

"But why the hurry?" she appealed.

"It's getting hot for me."

"What do you mean by that? Why don't you explain to me? As long as you
are so strange, so mysterious, how can I trust you? You ask me to run
off with you, yet you don't put confidence in me."

Nash grew pale and earnest, and his hands shook.

"But if I do confide in you, then will you come with me?" he queried,
breathlessly.

"I'll not promise. Maybe what you have to tell will prove--you--you
don't care for me."

"It 'll prove I do," he replied, passionately.

"Then tell me." Lenore realized she could no longer play the part she
had assumed. But Nash was so stirred by his own emotions, so carried
along in a current, that he did not see the difference in her.

"Listen. I tell you it's getting hot for me," he whispered. "I've been
put here--close to Anderson--to find out things and to carry out orders.
Lately I've neglected my job because I fell in love with you. He's your
father. If I go on with plans--and harm comes to him--I'll never get
you. Is that clear?"

"It certainly is," replied Lenore, and she felt a tightness at her
throat.

"I'm no member of the I.W.W.," he went on. "Whatever that organization
might have been last year, it's gone wild this year.... There are
interests that have used the I.W.W. I'm only an agent, and I'm not high
up, either. I see what the government will do to the I.W.W. if the
Northwest leaves any of it. But just now there're plots against a few
big men like your father. He's to be ruined. His crops and ranches
destroyed. And he's to be killed. It's because he's so well known and
has so much influence that he was marked. I told you the I.W.W. was
being used to make trouble. They are being stirred up by agitators,
bribed and driven, all for the purpose of making a great disorder in the
Northwest."

"Germany!" whispered Lenore.

"I can't say. But men are all over, and these men work in secret. There
are American citizens in the Northwest--one right in this valley--who
have plotted to ruin your father."

"Do you know who they are?"

"No, I do not."

"You are for Germany, of course?"

"I have been. My people are German. But I was born in the U.S. And if it
suits me I will be for America. If you come with me I'll throw up this
dirty job, advise Glidden to shift the plot from your father to some
other man--"

"So it's Glidden!" exclaimed Lenore.

Nash bit his lip, and for the first time looked at Lenore without
thinking of himself. And surprise dawned in his eyes.

"Yes, Glidden. You saw him speak to me up in the Bend, the first time
your father went to see Dorn's wheat. Glidden's playing the I.W.W.
against itself. He means to drop out of this deal with big money....Now
I'll save your father if you'll stick to me."

Lenore could no longer restrain herself. This man was not even big in
his wickedness. Lenore divined that his later words held no truth.

"Mr. Ruenke, you are a detestable coward," she said, with quivering
scorn. "I let you imagine--Oh! I can't speak it!... You--you--"

"God! You fooled me!" he ejaculated, his jaw falling in utter amaze.

"You were contemptibly easy. You'd better jump out of this car and run.
My father will shoot you."

"You deceitful--cat!" he cried, haltingly, as anger overcame his
astonishment. "I'll--"

Anderson's big bulk loomed up behind Nash. Lenore gasped as she saw her
father, for his eyes were upon her and he had recognized events.

"Say, Mister Ruenke, the postmaster says you get letters here under
different names," said Anderson, bluntly.

"Yes--I--I--get them--for a friend," stammered the driver, as his face
turned white.

"You lyin' German pup!... I'll look over them letters!" Anderson's big
hand shot out to clutch Nash, holding him powerless, and with the other
hand he searched Nash's inside coat pockets, to tear forth a packet of
letters. Then Anderson released him and stepped back. "Get out of that
car!" he thundered.

Nash made a slow movement, as if to comply, then suddenly he threw on
the power. The car jerked forward.

Anderson leaped to get one hand on the car door, the other on Nash. He
almost pulled the driver out of his seat. But Nash held on desperately,
and the car, gaining momentum, dragged Anderson. He could not get his
feet up on the running-board, and suddenly he fell.

Lenore screamed and tore frantically at the handle of the door. Nash
struck her, jerked her back into the seat. She struggled until the car
shot full speed ahead. Then it meant death for her to leap out.

"Sit still, or you'll kill yourself." shouted Nash, hoarsely.

Lenore fell back, almost fainting, with the swift realization of what
had happened.




CHAPTER IX

Kurt Dorn had indeed no hope of ever seeing Lenore Anderson again, and
he suffered a pang that seemed to leave his heart numb, though
Anderson's timely visit might turn out as providential as the saving
rain-storm. The wheat waved and rustled as if with renewed and bursting
life. The exquisite rainbow still shone, a beautiful promise, in the
sky. But Dorn could not be happy in that moment.

This day Lenore Anderson had seemed a bewildering fulfilment of the
sweetness he had imagined was latent in her. She had meant what was
beyond him to understand. She had gently put a hand to his lips, to
check the bitter words, and he had dared to kiss her soft fingers. The
thrill, the sweetness, the incomprehensible and perhaps imagined
response of her pulse would never leave him. He watched the big car
until it was out of sight.

The afternoon was only half advanced and there were numberless tasks to
do. He decided he could think and plan while he worked. As he was about
to turn away he espied another automobile, this one coming from the
opposite direction to that Anderson had taken. The sight of it reminded
Dorn of the I.W.W. trick of throwing phosphorus cakes into the wheat. He
was suspicious of that car. It slowed down in front of the Dorn
homestead, turned into the yard, and stopped near where Dorn stood. The
dust had caked in layers upon it. Someone hailed him and asked if this
was the Dorn farm. Kurt answered in the affirmative, whereupon a tall
man, wearing a long linen coat, opened the car door to step out. In the
car remained the driver and another man.

"My name is Hall," announced the stranger, with a pleasant manner. "I'm
from Washington, D.C. I represent the government and am in the Northwest
in the interest of the Conservation Commission. Your name has been
recommended to me as one of the progressive young wheat-growers of the
Bend; particularly that you are an American, located in a country
exceedingly important to the United States just now--a country where
foreign-born people predominate."

Kurt, somewhat startled and awed, managed to give a courteous greeting
to his visitor, and asked him into the house. But Mr. Hall preferred to
sit outdoors on the porch. He threw off hat and coat, and, taking an
easy chair, he produced some cigars.

"Will you smoke?" he asked, offering one.

Kurt declined with thanks. He was aware of this man's penetrating, yet
kindly scrutiny of him, and he had begun to wonder. This was no ordinary
visitor.

"Have you been drafted?" abruptly queried Mr. Hall.

"Yes, sir. Mine was the first number," replied Kurt, with a little
pride.

"Do you want exemption?" swiftly came the second query.

It shocked Dorn, then stung him.

"No," he said, forcibly.

"Your father's sympathy is with Germany, I understand."

"Well, sir, I don't know how you understand that, but it's true--to my
regret and shame."

"You want to fight?" went on the official.

"I hate the idea of war. But I--I guess I want to fight. Maybe that's
because I'm feeling scrappy over these I.W.W. tricks."

"Dorn, the I.W.W. is only one of the many phases of war that we must
meet," returned Mr. Hall, and then for a moment he thoughtfully drew
upon his cigar.

"Young man, I like your talk. And I'll tell you a secret. My name's not
Hall. Never mind my name. For you it's Uncle Sam!"

Whereupon, with a winning and fascinating manner that seemed to Kurt at
once intimate and flattering, he began to talk fluently of the meaning
of his visit, and of its cardinal importance. The government was looking
far ahead, preparing for a tremendous, and perhaps a lengthy, war. The
food of the country must be conserved. Wheat was one of the most vital
things in the whole world, and the wheat of America was incalculably
precious--only the government knew how precious. If the war was short a
wheat famine would come afterward; if it was long, the famine would come
before the war ended. But it was inevitable. The very outcome of the war
itself depended upon wheat.

The government expected a nation-wide propaganda by the German interests
which would be carried on secretly and boldly, in every conceivable way,
to alienate the labor organizations, to bribe or menace the harvesters,
to despoil crops, and particularly to put obstacles in the way of the
raising and harvesting, the transporting and storing of wheat. It would
take an army to protect the nation's grain.

Dorn was earnestly besought by this official to compass his district, to
find out who could be depended upon by the United States and who was
antagonistic, to impress upon the minds of all his neighbors the
exceeding need of greater and more persistent cultivation of wheat.

"I accept. I'll do my best," replied Kurt, grimly. "I'll be going some
the next two weeks."

"It's deplorable that most of the wheat in this section is a failure,"
said the official. "But we must make up for that next year. I see you
have one magnificent wheat-field. But, fact is, I heard of that long
before I got here."

"Yes? Where?" ejaculated Kurt, quick to catch a significance in the
other's words.

"I've motored direct from Wheatly. And I'm sorry to say that what I have
now to tell you is not pleasant.... Your father sold this wheat for
eighty thousand dollars in cash. The money was seen to be paid over by a
mill-operator of Spokane.... And your father is reported to be
suspiciously interested in the I.W.W. men now at Wheatly."

"Oh, that's awful!" exclaimed Kurt, with a groan. "How did you learn
that?"

"From American farmers--men that I had been instructed to approach, the
same as in your case. The information came quite by accident, however,
and through my inquiring about the I.W.W."

"Father has not been rational since the President declared war. He's
very old. I've had trouble with him. He might do anything."

"My boy, there are multitudes of irrational men nowadays and the number
is growing.... I advise you to go at once to Wheatly and bring your
father home. It was openly said that he was taking risks with that large
sum of money."

"Risks! Why, I can't understand that. The wheat's not harvested yet, let
alone hauled to town. And to-day I learned the I.W.W. are working a
trick with cakes of phosphorus, to burn the wheat."

Kurt produced the cake of phosphorus and explained its significance to
the curious official.

"Cunning devils! Who but a German would ever have thought of that?" he
exclaimed. "German science! To such ends the Germans put their supreme
knowledge!"

"I wonder what my father will say about this phosphorus trick. I just
wonder. He loves the wheat. His wheat has taken prizes at three world's
fairs. Maybe to see our wheat burn would untwist that twist in his brain
and make him American."

"I doubt it. Only death changes the state of a real German, physical,
moral, and spiritual. Come, ride back to Glencoe with me. I'll drop you
there. You can hire a car and make Wheatly before dark."

Kurt ran indoors, thinking hard as he changed clothes. He told the
housekeeper to tell Jerry he was called away and would be back next day.
Putting money and a revolver in his pocket, he started out, but
hesitated and halted. He happened to think that he was a poor shot with
a revolver and a fine one with a rifle. So he went back for his rifle, a
small high-power, repeating gun that he could take apart and hide under
his coat. When he reached the porch the official glanced from the weapon
to Kurt's face and said, with a flash of spirit:

"It appears that you are in earnest!"

"I am. Something told me to take this," responded Kurt, as he dismounted
the rifle. "I've already had one run-in with an I.W.W. I know tough
customers when I see them. These foreigners are the kind I don't want
near me. And if I see one trying to fire the wheat I'll shoot his leg
off."

"I'm inclined to think that Uncle Sam would not deplore your shooting a
little higher.... Dorn, you're fine! You're all I heard you were! Shake
hands!"

Kurt tingled all over as he followed the official out to the car and
took the seat given him beside the driver. "Back to Glencoe," was the
order. And then, even if conversation had been in order, it would
scarcely have been possible. That driver could drive! He had no fear and
he knew his car. Kurt could drive himself, but he thought that if he had
been as good as this fellow he would have chosen one of two magnificent
services for the army--an ambulance-driver at the front or an aeroplane
scout.

On the way to Glencoe several squads of idling and marching men were
passed, all of whom bore the earmarks of the I.W.W. Sight of them made
Kurt hug his gun and wonder at himself. Never had he been a coward, but
neither had he been one to seek a fight. This suave, distinguished
government official, by his own significant metaphor, Uncle Sam gone
abroad to find true hearts, had wrought powerfully upon Kurt's temper.
He sensed events. He revolved in mind the need for him to be cool and
decisive when facing the circumstances that were sure to arise.

At Glencoe, which was reached so speedily that Kurt could scarcely
credit his eyes, the official said; "You'll hear from me. Good-by and
good luck!"

Kurt hired a young man he knew to drive him over to Wheatly. All the way
Kurt brooded about his father's strange action. The old man had left
home before the rain-storm. How did he know he could guarantee so many
bushels of wheat as the selling-price indicated? Kurt divined that his
father had acted upon one of his strange weather prophecies. For he must
have been absolutely sure of rain to save the wheat.

Darkness had settled down when Kurt reached Wheatly and left the car at
the railroad station. Wheatly was a fairly good-sized little town. There
seemed to be an unusual number of men on the dark streets. Dim lights
showed here and there. Kurt passed several times near groups of
conversing men, but he did not hear any significant talk.

Most of the stores were open and well filled with men, but to Kurt's
sharp eyes there appeared to be much more gossip going on than business.
The town was not as slow and quiet as was usual with Bend towns. He
listened for war talk, and heard none. Two out of every three men who
spoke in his hearing did not use the English language. Kurt went into
the office of the first hotel he found. There was no one present. He
glanced at an old register lying on the desk. No guests had registered
for several days.

Then Kurt went out and accosted a man leaning against a hitching-rail.

"What's going on in this town?"

The man stood rather indistinctly in the uncertain light. Kurt, however,
made out his eyes and they were regarding him suspiciously.

"Nothin' onusual," was the reply.

"Has harvesting begun in these parts?"

"Some barley cut, but no wheat. Next week, I reckon."

"How's the wheat?"

"Some bad an' some good."

"Is this town a headquarters for the I.W.W.?"

"No. But there's a big camp of I.W.W.'s near here. Reckon you're one of
them union fellers?"

"I am not," declared Kurt, bluntly.

"Reckon you sure look like one, with thet gun under your coat."

"Are you going to hire I.W.W. men?" asked Kurt, ignoring the other's
observation.

"I'm only a farm-hand," was the sullen reply. "An' I tell you I won't
join no I.W.W."

Kurt spared himself a moment to give this fellow a few strong proofs of
the fact that any farm-hand was wise to take such a stand against the
labor organization. Leaving the fellow gaping and staring after him,
Kurt crossed the street to enter another hotel. It was more pretentious
than the first, with a large, well lighted office. There were loungers
at the tables. Kurt walked to the desk. A man leaned upon his elbows. He
asked Kurt if he wanted a room. This man, evidently the proprietor, was
a German, though he spoke English.

"I'm not sure," replied Kurt. "Will you let me look at the register?"

The man shoved the book around. Kurt did not find the name he sought.

"My father, Chris Dorn, is in town. Can you tell me where I'll find
him?"

"So you're young Dorn," replied the other, with instant change to
friendliness. "I've heard of you. Yes, the old man is here. He made a
big wheat deal to-day. He's eating his supper."

Kurt stepped to the door indicated, and, looking into the dining-room,
he at once espied his father's huge head with its shock of gray hair. He
appeared to be in earnest colloquy with a man whose bulk matched his
own. Kurt hesitated, and finally went back to the desk.

"Who's the big man with my father?" he asked.

"He is a big man, both ways. Don't you know him?" rejoined the
proprietor, in a lower voice.

"I'm not sure," answered Kurt. The lowered tone had a significance that
decided Kurt to admit nothing.

"That's Neuman from Ruxton, one of the biggest wheat men in Washington."

Kurt repressed a whistle of surprise. Neuman was Anderson's only rival
in the great, fertile valley. What were Neuman and Chris Dorn doing with
their heads together?

"I thought he was Neuman," replied Kurt, feeling his way. "Is he in on
the big deal with father?"

"Which one?" queried the proprietor, with shrewd eyes, taking Kurt's
measure. "You're in on both, of course."

"Sure. I mean the wheat sale, not the I.W.W. deal," replied Kurt. He
hazarded a guess with that mention of the I.W.W. No sooner had the words
passed his lips than he divined he was on the track of sinister events.

"Your father sold out to that Spokane miller. No, Neuman is not in on
that."

"I was surprised to hear father had sold the wheat. Was it speculation
or guarantee?"

"Old Chris guaranteed sixty bushels. There were friends of his here who
advised against it. Did you have rain over there?"

"Fine. The wheat will go over sixty bushels. I'm sorry I couldn't get
here sooner."

"When it rained you hurried over to boost the price. Well, it's too
late."

"Is Glidden here?" queried Kurt, hazarding another guess.

"Don't talk so loud," warned the proprietor. "Yes, he just got here in a
car with two other men. He's up-stairs having supper in his room."

"Supper!" Kurt echoed the word, and averted his face to hide the leap of
his blood. "That reminds me, I'm hungry."

He went into the big, dimly lighted dining-room. There was a shelf on
one side as he went in, and here, with his back turned to the room, he
laid the disjointed gun and his hat. Several newspapers lying near
attracted his eye. Quickly he slipped them under and around the gun, and
then took a seat at the nearest table. A buxom German waitress came for
his order. He gave it while he gazed around at his grim-faced old father
and the burly Neuman, and his ears throbbed to the beat of his blood.
His hand trembled on the table. His thoughts flashed almost too swiftly
for comprehension. It took a stern effort to gain self-control.

Evil of some nature was afoot. Neuman's presence there was a strange,
disturbing fact. Kurt had made two guesses, both alarmingly correct. If
he had any more illusions or hopes, he dispelled them. His father had
been won over by this arch conspirator of the I.W.W. And, despite his
father's close-fistedness where money was concerned, that eighty
thousand dollars, or part of it, was in danger.

Kurt wondered how he could get possession of it. If he could he would
return it to the bank and wire a warning to the Spokane buyer that the
wheat was not safe. He might persuade his father to turn over the amount
of the debt to Anderson. While thinking and planning, Kurt kept an eye
on his father and rather neglected his supper. Presently, when old Dorn
and Neuman rose and left the dining-room, Kurt followed them. His father
was whispering to the proprietor over the desk, and at Kurt's touch he
glared his astonishment.

"You here! What for?" he demanded, gruffly, in German.

"I had to see you," replied Kurt, in English.

"Did it rain?" was the old man's second demand, husky and serious.

"The wheat is made, if we can harvest it," answered Kurt.

The blaze of joy on old Dorn's face gave Kurt a twinge of pain. He hated
to dispel it. "Come aside, here, a minute," he whispered, and drew his
father over to a corner under a lamp. "I've got bad news. Look at this!"
He produced the cake of phosphorus, careful to hide it from other
curious eyes there, and with swift, low words he explained its meaning.
He expected an outburst of surprise and fury, but he was mistaken.

"I know about that," whispered his father, hoarsely. "There won't be any
thrown in my wheat."

"Father! What assurance have you of that?" queried Kurt, astounded.

The old man nodded his gray head wisely. He knew, but he did not speak.

"Do you think these I.W.W. plotters will spare your wheat?" asked Kurt.
"You are wrong. They may lie to your face. But they'll betray you. The
I.W.W. is backed by--by interests that want to embarrass the
government."

"What government?"

"Why, ours--the U.S. government!"

"That's not my government. The more it's embarrassed the better it will
suit me."

In the stress of the moment Kurt had forgotten his father's bitter and
unchangeable hatred.

"But you're--you're stupid," he hissed, passionately. "That government
has protected you for fifty years."

Old Dorn growled into his beard. His huge ox-eyes rolled. Kurt realized
then finally how implacable and hopeless he was--how utterly German.
Then Kurt importuned him to return the eighty thousand dollars to the
bank until he was sure the wheat was harvested and hauled to the
railroad.

"My wheat won't burn," was old Dorn's stubborn reply.

"Well, then, give me Anderson's thirty thousand. I'll take it to him at
once. Our debt will be paid. We'll have it off our minds."

"No hurry about that," replied his father.

"But there is hurry," returned Kurt, in a hot whisper. "Anderson came to
see you to-day. He wants his money."

"Neuman holds the small end of that debt. I'll pay him. Anderson can
wait."

Kurt felt no amaze. He expected anything. But he could scarcely contain
his fury. How this old man, his father, whom he had loved--how he had
responded to the influences that must destroy him!

"Anderson shall not wait," declared Kurt. "I've got some say in this
matter. I've worked like a dog in those wheat-fields. I've a right to
demand Anderson's money. He needs it. He has a tremendous harvest on his
hands."

Old Dorn shook his huge head in somber and gloomy thought. His broad
face, his deep eyes, seemed to mask and to hide. It was an expression
Kurt had seldom seen there, but had always hated. It seemed so old to
Kurt, that alien look, something not born of his time.

"Anderson is a capitalist," said Chris Dorn, deep in his beard. "He
seeks control of farmers and wheat in the Northwest. Ranch after ranch
he's gained by taking up and foreclosing mortgages. He's against labor.
He grinds down the poor. He cheated Neuman out of a hundred thousand
bushels of wheat. He bought up my debt. He meant to ruin me. He--"

"You're talking I.W.W. rot," whispered Kurt, shaking with the effort to
subdue his feelings. "Anderson is fine, big, square--a developer of the
Northwest. Not an enemy! He's our friend. Oh! if only you had an
American's eyes, just for a minute!... Father, I want that money for
Anderson."

"My son, I run my own business," replied Dorn, sullenly, with a pale
fire in his opaque eyes. "You're a wild boy, unfaithful to your blood.
You've fallen in love with an American girl.... Anderson says he needs
money!"... With hard, gloomy face the old man shook his head. "He thinks
he'll harvest!" Again that strange shake of finality. "I know what I
know.... I keep my money.... We'll have other rule.... I keep my money."

Kurt had vibrated to those most significant words and he stared
speechless at his father.

"Go home. Get ready for harvest," suddenly ordered old Dorn, as if he
had just awakened to the fact of Kurt's disobedience in lingering here.

"All right, father," replied Kurt, and, turning on his heel, he strode
outdoors.

When he got beyond the light he turned and went back to a position where
in the dark he could watch without being seen. His father and the hotel
proprietor were again engaged in earnest colloquy. Neuman had
disappeared. Kurt saw the huge shadow of a man pass across a drawn blind
in a room up-stairs. Then he saw smaller shadows, and arms raised in
vehement gesticulation. The very shadows were sinister. Men passed in
and out of the hotel. Once old Dorn came to the door and peered all
around. Kurt observed that there was a dark side entrance to this hotel.
Presently Neuman returned to the desk and said something to old Dorn,
who shook his head emphatically, and then threw himself into a chair, in
a brooding posture that Kurt knew well. He had seen it so often that he
knew it had to do with money. His father was refusing demands of some
kind. Neuman again left the office, this time with the proprietor. They
were absent some little time.

During this period Kurt leaned against a tree, hidden in the shadow,
with keen eyes watching and with puzzled, anxious mind. He had
determined, in case his father left that office with Neuman, on one of
those significant disappearances, to slip into the hotel at the side
entrance and go up-stairs to listen at the door of the room with the
closely drawn blind. Neuman returned soon with the hotel man, and the
two of them half led, half dragged old Dorn out into the street. They
took the direction toward the railroad. Kurt followed at a safe distance
on the opposite side of the street. Soon they passed the stores with
lighted windows, then several dark houses, and at length the railroad
station. Perhaps they were bound for the train. Kurt heard rumbling in
the distance. But they went beyond the station, across the track, and
turned to the right.

Kurt was soft-footed and keen-eyed. He just kept the dim shadows in
range. They were heading for some freight-cars that stood upon a
side-track. The dark figures disappeared behind them. Then one figure
reappeared, coming back. Kurt crouched low. This man passed within a few
yards of Kurt and he was whispering to himself. After he was safely out
of earshot Kurt stole on stealthily until he reached the end of the
freight-cars. Here he paused, listening. He thought he heard low voices,
but he could not see the men he was following. No doubt they were
waiting in the secluded gloom for the other men apparently necessary for
that secret conference. Kurt had sensed this event and he had determined
to be present. He tried not to conjecture. It was best for him to apply
all his faculties to the task of slipping unseen and unheard close to
these men who had involved his father in some dark plot.

Not long after Kurt hid himself on the other side of the freight-car he
heard soft-padded footsteps and subdued voices. Dark shapes appeared to
come out of the gloom. They passed him. He distinguished low, guttural
voices, speaking German. These men, three in number, were scarcely out
of sight when Kurt laid his rifle on the projecting shelf of the
freight-car and followed them.

Presently he came to deep shadow, where he paused. Low voices drew him
on again, then a light made him thrill. Now and then the light appeared
to be darkened by moving figures. A dark object loomed up to cut off
Kurt's view. It was a pile of railroad ties, and beyond it loomed
another. Stealing along these, he soon saw the light again, quite close.
By its glow he recognized his father's huge frame, back to him, and the
burly Neuman on the other side, and Glidden, whose dark face was working
as he talked. These three were sitting, evidently on a flat pile of
ties, and the other two men stood behind. Kurt could not make out the
meaning of the low voices. Pressing closer to the freight-car, he
cautiously and noiselessly advanced.

Glidden was importuning with expressive hands and swift, low utterance.
His face gleamed dark, hard, strong, intensely strung with corded,
quivering muscles, with eyes apparently green orbs of fire. He spoke in
German.

Kurt dared not go closer unless he wanted to be discovered, and not yet
was he ready for that. He might hear some word to help explain his
father's strange, significant intimations about Anderson.

"...must--have--money," Glidden was saying. To Kurt's eyes treachery
gleamed in that working face. Neuman bent over to whisper gruffly in
Dorn's ear. One of the silent men standing rubbed his hands together.
Old Dorn's head was bowed. Then Glidden spoke so low and so swiftly that
Kurt could not connect sentences, but with mounting blood he stood
transfixed and horrified, to gather meaning from word on word, until he
realized Anderson's doom, with other rich men of the Northwest, was
sealed--that there were to be burnings of wheat-fields and of
storehouses and of freight-trains--destruction everywhere.

"I give money," said old Dorn, and with heavy movement he drew from
inside his coat a large package wrapped in newspaper. He laid it before
him in the light and began to unwrap it. Soon there were disclosed two
bundles of bills--the eighty thousand dollars.

Kurt thrilled in all his being. His poor father was being misled and
robbed. A melancholy flash of comfort came to Kurt! Then at sight of
Glidden's hungry eyes and working face and clutching hands Kurt pulled
his hat far down, drew his revolver, and leaped forward with a yell,
"Hands up!"

He discharged the revolver right in the faces of the stunned plotters,
and, snatching up the bundle of money, he leaped over the light,
knocking one of the men down, and was gone into the darkness, without
having slowed in the least his swift action.

Wheeling round the end of the freight-car, he darted back, risking a
hard fall in the darkness, and ran along the several cars to the first
one, where he grasped his rifle and kept on. He heard his father's roar,
like that of a mad bull, and shrill yells from the other men. Kurt
laughed grimly. They would never catch him in the dark. While he ran he
stuffed the money into his inside coat pockets. Beyond the railroad
station he slowed down to catch his breath. His breast was heaving, his
pulse hammering, and his skin was streaming. The excitement was the
greatest under which he had ever labored.

"Now--what shall--I do?" he panted. A freight-train was lumbering toward
him and the head-light was almost at the station. The train appeared to
be going slowly through without stopping. Kurt hurried on down the track
a little farther. Then he waited. He would get on that train and make
his way somehow to Ruxton, there to warn Anderson of the plot against
his life.




CHAPTER X

Kurt rode to Adrian on that freight, and upon arriving in the yards
there he jumped off, only to mount another, headed south. He meant to be
traveling while it was dark. No passenger-trains ran at night and he
wanted to put as much distance between him and Wheatly as possible
before daylight.

He had piled into an open box-car. It was empty, at least of freight,
and the floor appeared to have a thin covering of hay. The train,
gathering headway, made a rattling rolling roar. Kurt hesitated about
getting up and groping back in the pitch-black corners of the car. He
felt that it contained a presence besides his own. And suddenly he was
startled by an object blacker than the shadow, that sidled up close to
him. Kurt could not keep the cold chills from chasing up and down his
back. The object was a man, who reached for Kurt and felt of him with a
skinny hand.

"I.W.W.?" he whispered, hoarsely, in Kurt's ear.

"Yes," replied Kurt.

"Was that Adrian where you got on?"

"It sure was," answered Kurt, with grim humor.

"Than you're the feller?"

"Sure," replied Kurt. It was evident that he had embarked upon an
adventure.

"When do we stall this freight?"

"Not while we're on it, you can gamble."

Other dark forms sidled out of the gloomy depths of that cavern-like
corner and drew close to Kurt. He realized that he had fallen in with
I.W.W. men who apparently had taken him for an expected messenger or
leader. He was importuned for tobacco, drink, and money, and he judged
that his begging companions consisted of an American tramp, an Austrian,
a negro, and a German. Fine society to fall into! That eighty thousand
dollars became a tremendous burden.

"How many men on this freight?" queried Kurt, thinking he could ask
questions better than answer them. And he was told there were about
twenty-five, all of whom expected money. At this information Kurt rather
closely pressed his hand upon the revolver in his side coat pocket. By
asking questions and making judicious replies he passed what he felt was
the dark mark in that mixed company of I.W.W. men; and at length, one by
one, they melted away to their warmer corners, leaving Kurt by the door.
He did not mind the cold. He wanted to be where, at the first indication
of a stop, he could jump off the train.

With his hand on his gun and hugging the bulging coat pockets close to
him, Kurt settled himself for what he believed would be interminable
hours. He strained eyes and ears for a possible attack from the riffraff
I.W.W. men hidden there in the car. And that was why, perhaps, that it
seemed only a short while until the train bumped and slowed, preparatory
to stopping. The instant it was safe Kurt jumped out and stole away in
the gloom. A fence obstructed further passage. He peered around to make
out that he was in a road. Thereupon he hurried along it until he was
out of hearing of the train. There was light in the east, heralding a
dawn that Kurt surely would welcome. He sat down to wait, and addressed
to his bewildered judgment a query as to whether or not he ought to keep
on carrying the burdensome rifle. It was not only heavy, but when
daylight came it might attract attention, and his bulging coat would
certainly invite curiosity. He was in a predicament; nevertheless, he
decided to hang on to the rifle.

He almost fell asleep, waiting there with his back against a fence-post.
The dawn came, and then the rosy sunrise. And he discovered, not half a
mile away, a good-sized town, where he believed he surely could hire an
automobile.

Waiting grew to be so tedious that he decided to risk the early hour,
and proceeded toward the town. Upon the outskirts he met a farmer boy,
who, in reply to a question, said that the town was Connell. Kurt found
another early riser in the person of a blacksmith who evidently was a
Yankee and proud of it. He owned a car that he was willing to hire out
on good security. Kurt satisfied him on that score, and then proceeded
to ask how to get across the Copper River and into Golden Valley. The
highway followed the railroad from that town to Kahlotus, and there
crossed a big trunk-line railroad, to turn south toward the river.

In half an hour, during which time Kurt was enabled to breakfast, the
car was ready. It was a large car, rather ancient and the worse for
wear, but its owner assured Kurt that it would take him where he wanted
to go and he need not be afraid to drive fast. With that inspiring
knowledge Kurt started off.

Before ten o'clock Kurt reached Kilo, far across the Copper River, with
the Blue Mountains in sight, and from there less confusing directions to
follow. He had been lucky. He had passed the wreck of the freight-train
upon which he had ridden from Adrian; his car had been surrounded by
rough men, and only quick wits saved him at least delay; he had been
hailed by more than one group of tramping I.W.W. men; and he had passed
camps and freight-yards where idlers were congregated. And lastly, he
had seen, far across the valley, a pall of smoke from forest fire.

He was going to reach "Many Waters" in time to warn Anderson, and that
fact gave him strange exultation. When it was assured and he had the
eighty thousand dollars deposited in a bank he could feel that his gray,
gloomy future would have several happy memories. How would Lenore
Anderson feel toward a man who had saved her father? The thought was too
rich, too sweet for Kurt to dwell upon.

Before noon Kurt began to climb gradually up off the wonderfully fertile
bottom-lands where the endless orchards and boundless gardens delighted
his eye, and the towns grew fewer and farther between. Kurt halted at
Huntington for water, and when he was about ready to start a man rushed
out of a store, glanced hurriedly up and down the almost deserted
street, and, espying Kurt, ran to him.

"Message over 'phone! I.W.W.! Hell to pay!" he cried, excitedly.

"What's up? Tell me the message," replied Kurt, calmly.

"It just come--from Vale. Anderson, the big rancher! He 'phoned to send
men out on all roads--to stop his car! His daughter's in it! She's been
made off with! I.W.W.'s!"

Kurt's heart leaped. The bursting blood burned through him and receded
to leave him cold, tingling. Anything might happen to him this day! He
reached inside the seat to grasp the disjointed rifle, and three swift
movements seemed to serve to unwrap it and put the pieces together.

"What else did Anderson say?" he asked, sharply.

"That likely the car would head for the hills, where the I.W.W.'s are
camped."

"What road from here leads that way?"

"Take the left-hand road at the end of town," replied the man, more
calmly. "Ten miles down you'll come to a fork. There's where the
I.W.W.'s will turn off to go up into the foot-hills. Anderson just
'phoned. You can head off his car if it's on the hill road. But you'll
have to drive.... Do you know Anderson's car? Don't you want men with
you?"

"No time!" called Kurt, as he leaped into the seat and jammed on the
power.

"I'll send cars all over," shouted the man, as Kurt whirred away.

Kurt's eyes and hands and feet hurt with the sudden intensity of strain.
All his nervous force seemed set upon the one great task of driving and
guiding that car at the limit of its speed. Huntington flashed behind,
two indistinct streaks of houses. An open road, slightly rising,
stretched ahead. The wind pressed so hard that he could scarcely
breathe. The car gave forth a humming roar.

Kurt's heart labored, swollen and tight, high in his breast, and his
thoughts were swift, tumultuous. An agony of dread battled with a
dominating but strange certainty. He felt belief in his luck.
Circumstances one by one had led to this drive, and in every one passed
by he felt the direction of chance.

He sped by fields of wheat, a wagon that he missed by an inch, some
stragglers on the road, and then, far ahead, he saw a sign-post of the
forks. As he neared it he gradually shut off the power, to stop at the
cross-roads. There he got out to search for fresh car tracks turning up
to the right. There were none. If Anderson's car was coming on that road
he would meet it.

Kurt started again, but at reasonable speed, while his eyes were sharp
on the road ahead. It was empty. It sloped down for a long way, and made
a wide curve to the right, along the base of hilly pastureland, and then
again turned. And just as Kurt's keen gaze traveled that far a big
automobile rounded the bend, coming fast. He recognized the red color,
the shape of the car.

"Anderson's!" he cried, with that same lift of his heart, that bursting
gush of blood. "No dream!... I see it!... And I'll stop it!"

The advantage was all his. He would run along at reasonable speed,
choose a narrow place, stop his car so as to obstruct the road, and get
out with his rifle.

It seemed a long stretch down that long slope, and his car crept along
while the other gradually closed the gap. Slower and slower Kurt ran,
then turned half across the road and stopped. When he stepped out the
other car was two hundred yards or more distant. Kurt saw when the
driver slackened his speed. There appeared to be only two people in the
car, both in front. But Kurt could not be sure of that until it was only
fifty yards away.

Then he swung out his rifle and waved for the driver to stop. But he did
not stop. Kurt heard a scream. He saw a white face. He saw the driver
swing his hand across that white face, dashing it back.

"Halt!" yelled Kurt, at the top of his lungs.

But the driver hunched down and put on the power. The red car leaped. As
it flashed by Kurt recognized Nash and Anderson's daughter. She looked
terrified. Kurt dared not shoot, for fear of hitting the girl. Nash
swerved, took the narrow space left him, smashing the right front wheel
of Kurt's car, and got by.

Kurt stepped aside and took a quick shot at the tire of Nash's left hind
wheel. He missed. His heart sank and he was like ice as he risked
another. The little high-power bullet struck and blew the tire off the
wheel. Nash's car lurched, skidded into the bank not thirty yards away.

With a bound Kurt started for it, and he was there when Nash had twisted
out of his seat and over the door.

"Far enough! Don't move!" ordered Kurt, presenting the rifle.

Nash was ghastly white, with hunted eyes and open mouth, and his hands
shook.

"Oh it's--Kurt Dorn!" cried a broken voice.

Kurt saw the girl fumble with the door on her side, open it, and stagger
out of his sight. Then she reappeared round the car. Bareheaded,
disheveled, white as chalk, with burning eyes and bleeding lips, she
gazed at Kurt as if to make sure of her deliverance.

"Miss Anderson--if he's harmed you--" broke out Kurt, hoarsely.

"Oh!... Don't kill him!... He hasn't touched me," she replied, wildly.

"But your lips are bleeding."

"Are they?" She put a trembling hand to them. "He--he struck me....
That's nothing... But you--you have saved me--from God only knows what!"

"I have! From him?" demanded Kurt. "What is he?"

"He's a German!" returned Lenore, and red burned out of the white of her
cheeks. "Secret agent--I.W.W.!... Plotter against my father's life!...
Oh, he knocked father off the car--dragged him!... He ran the car
away--with me--forced me back--he struck me!... Oh, if I were a man!"

Nash responded with a passion that made his face drip with sweat and
distort into savage fury of defeat and hate.

"You two-faced cat!" he hissed. "You made love to me! You fooled me! You
let me--"

"Shut up!" thundered Kurt. "You German dog! I can't murder you, because
I'm American. Do you get that? But I'll beat you within an inch of your
life!"

As Kurt bent over to lay down the rifle, Nash darted a hand into the
seat for weapon of some kind. But Kurt, in a rush, knocked him over the
front guard. Nash howled. He scrambled up with bloody mouth. Kurt was on
him again.

"Take that!" cried Kurt, low and hard, as he swung his arm. The big fist
that had grasped so many plow-handles took Nash full on that bloody
mouth and laid him flat. "Come on, German! Get out of the trench!"

Like a dog Nash thrashed and crawled, scraping his hands in the dirt, to
jump up and fling a rock that Kurt ducked by a narrow margin. Nash
followed it, swinging wildly, beating at his adversary.

Passion long contained burst in Kurt. He tasted the salt of his own
blood where he had bitten his lips. Nash showed as in a red haze. Kurt
had to get his hands on this German, and when he did it liberated a
strange and terrible joy in him. No weapon would have sufficed. Hardly
aware of Nash's blows, Kurt tore at him, swung and choked him, bore him
down on the bank, and there beat him into a sodden, bloody-faced heap.

Only then did a cry of distress, seemingly from far off, pierce Kurt's
ears. Miss Anderson was pulling at him with frantic hands.

"Oh, don't kill him! Please don't kill him!" she was crying. "Kurt!--for
my sake, don't kill him!"

That last poignant appeal brought Kurt to his senses. He let go of Nash.
He allowed the girl to lead him back. Panting hard, he tried to draw a
deep, full breath.

"Oh, he doesn't move!" whispered Lenore, with wide eyes on Nash.

"Miss Anderson--he's not--even insensible," panted Kurt. "But he's
licked--good and hard."

The girl leaned against the side of the car, with a hand buried in her
heaving breast. She was recovering. The gray shade left her face. Her
eyes, still wide and dark and beginning to glow with softer emotions,
were upon Kurt.

"You--you were the one to come," she murmured. "I prayed. I was terribly
frightened. Ruenke was taking me--to the I.W.W. camp, up in the hills."

"Ruenke?" queried Kurt.

"Yes, that's his German name."

Kurt awoke to the exigencies of the situation. Searching in the car, he
found a leather belt. With this he securely bound Ruenke's hands behind
his back, then rolled him down into the road.

"My first German prisoner," said Kurt, half seriously. "Now, Miss
Anderson, we must be doing things. We don't want to meet a lot of
I.W.W.'s out here. My car is out of commission. I hope yours is not
broken."

Kurt got into the car and found, to his satisfaction, that it was not
damaged so far as running-gear was concerned. After changing the ruined
tire he backed down the road and turned to stop near where Ruenke lay.
Opening the rear door, Kurt picked him up as if he had been a sack of
wheat and threw him into the car. Next he secured the rifle that had
been such a burden and had served him so well in the end.

"Get in, Miss Anderson," he said, "and show me where to drive you home."

She got in beside him, making a grimace as she saw Ruenke lying behind
her. Kurt started and ran slowly by the damaged car.

"He knocked a wheel off. I'll have to send back."

"Oh, I thought it was all over when we hit!" said the girl.

Kurt experienced a relaxation that was weakening. He could hardly hold
the wheel and his mood became one of exaltation.

"Father suspected this Ruenke," went on Lenore. "But he wanted to find
out things from him. And I--I undertook--to twist Mr. Germany round my
finger. I made a mess of it.... He lied. I didn't make love to him. But
I listened to his love-making, and arrogant German love-making it was!
I'm afraid I made eyes at him and let him believe I was smitten.... Oh,
and all for nothing! I'm ashamed... But he lied!"

Her confidence, at once pathetic and humorous and contemptuous,
augmented Kurt's Homeric mood. He understood that she would not even let
him, for a moment, have a wrong impression of her.

"It must have been hard," agreed Kurt. "Didn't you find out anything at
all?"

"Not much," she replied. Then she put a hand on his sleeve. "Your
knuckles are all bloody."

"So they are. I got that punching our German friend."

"Oh, how you did beat him!" she cried. "I had to look. My ire was up,
too!... It wasn't very womanly--of me--that I gloried in the sight."

"But you cried out--you pulled me away!" exclaimed Kurt.

"That was because I was afraid you'd kill him," she replied.

Kurt swerved his glance, for an instant, to her face. It was at once
flushed and pale, with the deep blue of downcast eyes shadowy through
her long lashes, exceedingly sweet and beautiful to Kurt's sight. He
bent his glance again to the road ahead. Miss Anderson felt kindly and
gratefully toward him, as was, of course, natural. But she was somehow
different from what she had seemed upon the other occasions he had seen
her. Kurt's heart was full to bursting.

"I might have killed him," he said. "I'm glad--you stopped me.
That--that frenzy of mine seemed to be the breaking of a dam. I have
been dammed up within. Something had to break. I've been unhappy for a
long time."

"I saw that. What about?" she replied.

"The war, and what it's done to father. We're estranged. I hate
everything German. I loved the farm. My chance in life is gone. The
wheat debt--the worry about the I.W.W.--and that's not all."

Again she put a gentle hand on his sleeve and left it there for a
moment. The touch thrilled all through Kurt.

"I'm sorry. Your position is sad. But maybe it is not utterly hopeless.
You--you'll come back after the war."

"I don't know that I want to come back," he said. "For then--it'd be
just as bad--worse.... Miss Anderson, it won't hurt to tell you the
truth.... A year ago--that first time I saw you--I fell in love with
you. I think--when I'm away--over in France--I'd like to feel that you
know. It can't hurt you. And it'll be sweet to me.... I fought against
the--the madness. But fate was against me.... I saw you again.... And it
was all over with me!"

He paused, catching his breath. She was perfectly quiet. He looked on
down the winding road. There were dust-clouds in the distance.

"I'm afraid I grew bitter and moody," he went on. "But the last
forty-eight hours have changed me forever... I found that my poor old
dad had been won over by these unscrupulous German agents of the I.W.W.
But I saved his name.... I've got the money he took for the wheat we may
never harvest. But if we do harvest I can pay all our debt.... Then I
learned of a plot to ruin your father--to kill him!... I was on my way
to 'Many Waters.' I can warn him.... Last of all I have saved you."

The little hand dropped away from his coat sleeve. A soft,
half-smothered cry escaped her. It seemed to him she was about to weep
in her exceeding pity.

"Miss Anderson, I--I'd rather not have--you pity me."

"Mr. Dorn, I certainly don't pity you," she replied, with an unexpected,
strange tone. It was full. It seemed to ring in his ears.

"I know there never was and never could be any hope for me. I--I--"

"Oh, you know that!" murmured the soft, strange voice.

But Kurt could not trust his ears and he had to make haste to terminate
the confession into which his folly and emotion had betrayed him. He
scarcely heard her words.

"Yes.... I told you why I wanted you to know.... And now forget
that--and when I'm gone--if you think of me ever, let it be about how
much better it made me--to have all this good luck--to help your father
and to save you!"

The dust-cloud down the road came from a string of automobiles, flying
along at express speed. Kurt saw them with relief.

"Here come the cars on your trail," he called out. "Your father will be
in one of them."

       *       *       *       *       *

Kurt opened the door of the car and stepped down. He could not help his
importance or his pride. Anderson, who came running between two cars
that had stopped abreast, was coatless and hatless, covered with dust,
pale and fire-eyed.

"Mr. Anderson, your daughter is safe--unharmed," Kurt assured him.

"My girl!" cried the father, huskily, and hurried to where she leaned
out of her seat.

"All right, dad," she cried, as she embraced him. "Only a little shaky
yet."

It was affecting for Dorn to see that meeting, and through it to share
something of its meaning. Anderson's thick neck swelled and colored, and
his utterance was unintelligible. His daughter loosened her arm from
round him and turned her face toward Kurt. Then he imagined he saw two
blue stars, sweetly, strangely shining upon him.

"Father, it was our friend from the Bend," she said. "He happened
along."

Anderson suddenly changed to the cool, smiling man Kurt remembered.

"Howdy, Kurt?" he said, and crushed Kurt's hand. "What'd you do to him?"

Kurt made a motion toward the back of the car. Then Anderson looked over
the seats. With that he opened the door and in one powerful haul he drew
Ruenke sliding out into the road. Ruenke's bruised and bloody face was
uppermost, a rather gruesome sight. Anderson glared down upon him, while
men from the other cars crowded around. Ruenke's eyes resembled those of
a cornered rat. Anderson's jaw bulged, his big hands clenched.

"Bill, you throw this fellow in your car and land him in jail. I'll make
a charge against him," said the rancher.

"Mr. Anderson, I can save some valuable time," interposed Kurt. "I've
got to return a car I broke down. And there's my wheat. Will you have
one of these men drive me back?"

"Sure. But won't you come home with us?" said Anderson.

"I'd like to. But I must get home," replied Kurt. "Please let me speak a
few words for your ear alone." He drew Anderson aside and briefly told
about the eighty thousand dollars; threw back his coat to show the
bulging pockets. Then he asked Anderson's advice.

"I'd deposit the money an' wire the Spokane miller," returned the
rancher. "I know him. He'll leave the money in the bank till your wheat
is safe. Go to the national bank in Kilo. Mention my name."

Then Kurt told Anderson of the plot against his fortunes and his life.

"Neuman! I.W.W.! German intrigue!" growled the rancher. "All in the same
class!... Dorn, I'm forewarned, an' that's forearmed. I'll beat this
outfit at their own game."

They returned to Anderson's car. Kurt reached inside for his rifle.

"Aren't you going home with us?" asked the girl.

"Why, Miss Anderson, I--I'm sorry. I--I'd love to see 'Many Waters,'"
floundered Kurt. "But I can't go now. There's no need. I must hurry back
to--to my troubles."

"I wanted to tell you something--at home," she returned, shyly.

"Tell me now," said Kurt.

She gave him such a glance as he had never received in his life. Kurt
felt himself as wax before those blue eyes. She wanted to thank him.
That would be sweet, but would only make his ordeal harder. He steeled
himself.

"You won't come?" she asked, and her smile was wistful.

"No--thank you ever so much."

"Will you come to see me before you--you go to war?"

"I'll try."

"But you must promise. You've done so much for me and my father.... I--I
want you to come to see me--at my home."

"Then I'll come," he replied.

Anderson clambered into the car beside his daughter and laid his big
hands on the wheel.

"Sure he'll come, or we'll go after him," he declared, heartily. "So
long, son."




CHAPTER XI

Late in the forenoon of the next day Kurt Dorn reached home. A hot
harvest wind breathed off the wheat-fields. It swelled his heart to see
the change in the color of that section of Bluestem--the gold had a
tinge of rich, ripe brown.

Kurt's father awaited him, a haggard, gloomy-faced man, unkempt and
hollow-eyed.

"Was it you who robbed me?" he shouted hoarsely.

"Yes," replied Kurt. He had caught the eager hope and fear in the old
man's tone. Kurt expected that confession would bring on his father's
terrible fury, a mood to dread. But old Dorn showed immense relief. He
sat down in his relaxation from what must have been intense strain. Kurt
saw a weariness, a shade, in the gray lined face that had never been
there before.

"What did you do with the money?" asked the old man.

"I banked it in Kilo," replied Kurt. "Then I wired your miller in
Spokane.... So you're safe if we can harvest the wheat."

Old Dorn nodded thoughtfully. There had come a subtle change in him.
Presently he asked Kurt if men had been hired for the harvest.

"No. I've not seen any I would trust," replied Kurt, and then he briefly
outlined Anderson's plan to insure a quick and safe harvesting of the
grain. Old Dorn objected to this on account of the expense. Kurt argued
with him and patiently tried to show him the imperative need of it.
Dorn, apparently, was not to be won over; however, he was remarkably
mild in comparison with what Kurt had expected.

"Father, do you realize now that the men you were dealing with at
Wheatly are dishonest? I mean with you. They would betray you."

Old Dorn had no answer for this. Evidently he had sustained some kind of
shock that he was not willing to admit.

"Look here, father," went on Kurt, in slow earnestness. He spoke in
English, because nothing would make him break his word and ever again
speak a word of German. And his father was not quick to comprehend
English. "Can't you see that the I.W.W. mean to cripple us wheat farmers
this harvest?"

"No," replied old Dorn, stubbornly.

"But they do. They don't _want_ work. If they accept work it is for a
chance to do damage. All this I.W.W. talk about more wages and shorter
hours is deceit. They make a bold face of discontent. That is all a lie.
The I.W.W. is out to ruin the great wheat-fields and the great lumber
forests of the Northwest."

"I do not believe that," declared his father, stoutly. "What for?"

Kurt meant to be careful of that subject.

"No matter what for. It does not make any difference what it's for.
We've got to meet it to save our wheat.... Now won't you believe me?
Won't you let me manage the harvest?"

"I will not believe," replied old Dorn, stubbornly. "Not about _my_
wheat. I know they mean to destroy. They are against rich men like
Anderson. But not me or my wheat!"

"There is where you are wrong. I'll prove it in a very few days. But in
that time I can prepare for them and outwit them. Will you let me?"

"Go ahead," replied old Dorn, gruffly.

It was a concession that Kurt was amazed and delighted to gain. And he
set about at once to act upon it. He changed his clothes and satisfied
his hunger; then, saddling his horse, he started out to visit his farmer
neighbors.

The day bade fair to be rich in experience. Jerry, the foreman, was
patrolling his long beat up and down the highway. Jerry carried a
shot-gun and looked like a sentry. The men under him were on the other
side of the section of wheat, and the ground was so rolling that they
could not be seen from the highway. Jerry was unmistakably glad and
relieved to see Kurt.

"Some goin's-on," he declared, with a grin. "Since you left there's been
one hundred and sixteen I.W.W. tramps along this here road."

"Have you had any trouble?" inquired Kurt.

"Wal, I reckon it wasn't trouble, but every time I took a peg at some
sneak I sort of broke out sweatin' cold."

"You shot at them?"

"Sure I shot when I seen any loafin' along in the dark. Two of them shot
back at me, an' after thet I wasn't particular to aim high.... Reckon
I'm about dead for sleep."

"I'll relieve you to-night," replied Kurt. "Jerry, doesn't the wheat
look great?"

"Wal, I reckon. An' walkin' along here when it's quiet an' no wind
blowin', I can just hear the wheat crack. It's gittin' ripe fast, an'
sure the biggest crop we ever raised.... But I'm tellin' you--when I
think how we'll ever harvest it my insides just sinks like lead!"

Kurt then outlined Anderson's plan, which was received by the foreman
with eager approval and the assurance that the neighbor farmers would
rally to his call.

Kurt found his nearest neighbor, Olsen, cutting a thin, scarcely ripe
barley. Olsen was running a new McCormack harvester, and appeared
delighted with the machine, but cast down by the grain prospects. He did
not intend to cut his wheat at all. It was a dead loss.

"Two sections--twelve hundred an' eighty acres!" he repeated, gloomily.
"An' the third bad year! Dorn, I can't pay the interest to my bank."

Olsen's sun-dried and wind-carved visage was as hard and rugged and
heroic as this desert that had resisted him for years. Kurt saw under
the lines and the bronze all the toil and pain and unquenchable hope
that had made Olsen a type of the men who had cultivated this desert of
wheat.

"I'll give you five hundred dollars to help me harvest," said Kurt,
bluntly, and briefly stated his plan.

Olsen whistled. He complimented Anderson's shrewd sense. He spoke
glowingly of that magnificent section of wheat that absolutely must be
saved. He promised Kurt every horse and every man on his farm. But he
refused the five hundred dollars.

"Oh, say, you'll have to accept it," declared Kurt.

"You've done me good turns," asserted Olsen.

"But nothing like this. Why, this will be a rush job, with all the men
and horses and machines and wagons I can get. It'll cost ten--fifteen
thousand dollars to harvest that section. Even at that, and paying
Anderson, we'll clear twenty thousand or more. Olsen, you've got to take
the money."

"All right, if you insist. I'm needin' it bad enough," replied Olsen.

Further conversation with Olsen gleaned the facts that he was the only
farmer in their immediate neighborhood who did not have at least a
little grain worth harvesting. But the amount was small and would
require only slight time. Olsen named farmers that very likely would not
take kindly to Dorn's proposition, and had best not be approached. The
majority, however, would stand by him, irrespective of the large wage
offered, because the issue was one to appeal to the pride of the Bend
farmers. Olsen appeared surprisingly well informed upon the tactics of
the I.W.W., and predicted that they would cause trouble, but be run out
of the country. He made the shrewd observation that when even those
farmers who sympathized with Germany discovered that their wheat-fields
were being menaced by foreign influences and protected by the home
government, they would experience a change of heart. Olsen said the war
would be a good thing for the United States, because they would win it,
and during the winning would learn and suffer and achieve much.

Kurt rode away from Olsen in a more thoughtful frame of mind. How
different and interesting the points of view of different men! Olsen had
never taken the time to become a naturalized citizen of the United
States. There had never been anything to force him to do it. But his
understanding of the worth of the United States and his loyalty to it
were manifest in his love for his wheatlands. In fact, they were
inseparable. Probably there were millions of pioneers, emigrants,
aliens, all over the country who were like Olsen, who needed the fire of
the crucible to mold them into a unity with Americans. Of such,
Americans were molded!

       *       *       *       *       *

Kurt rode all day, and when, late that night, he got home, weary and
sore and choked, he had enlisted the services of thirty-five farmers to
help him harvest the now famous section of wheat.

His father had plainly doubted the willingness of these neighbors to
abandon their own labors, for the Bend exacted toil for every hour of
every season, whether rich or poor in yield. Likewise he was plainly
moved by the facts. His seamed and shaded face of gloom had a moment of
light.

"They will make short work of this harvest," he said, thoughtfully.

"I should say so," retorted Kurt. "We'll harvest and haul that grain to
the railroad in just three days."

"Impossible!" ejaculated Dorn.

"You'll see," declared Kurt. "You'll see who's managing this harvest."

He could not restrain his little outburst of pride. For the moment the
great overhanging sense of calamity that for long had haunted him faded
into the background. It did seem sure that they would save this splendid
yield of wheat. How much that meant to Kurt--in freedom from debt, in
natural love of the fruition of harvest, in the loyalty to his
government! He realized how strange and strong was the need in him to
prove he was American to the very core of his heart. He did not yet
understand that incentive, but he felt it.

After eating dinner Kurt took his rifle and went out to relieve Jerry.

"Only a few more days and nights!" he exclaimed to his foreman. "Then
we'll have all the harvesters in the country right in our wheat."

"Wal, a hell of a lot can happen before then," declared Jerry,
pessimistically.

Kurt was brought back to realities rather suddenly. But questioning
Jerry did not elicit any new or immediate cause for worry. Jerry
appeared tired out.

"You go get some sleep," said Kurt.

"All right. Bill's been dividin' this night watch with me. I reckon
he'll be out when he wakes up," replied Jerry, and trudged away.

Kurt shouldered his rifle and slowly walked along the road with a
strange sense that he was already doing army duty in protecting property
which was at once his own and his country's.

The night was dark, cool, and quiet. The heavens were starry bright. A
faint breeze brought the tiny crackling of the wheat. From far distant
came the bay of a hound. The road stretched away pale and yellow into
the gloom. In the silence and loneliness and darkness, in all around
him, and far across the dry, whispering fields, there was an invisible
presence that had its affinity in him, hovered over him shadowless and
immense, and waved in the bursting wheat. It was life. He felt the wheat
ripening. He felt it in reawakened tenderness for his old father and in
the stir of memory of Lenore Anderson. The past active and important
hours had left little room for thought of her.

But now she came back to him, a spirit in keeping with his steps, a
shadow under the stars, a picture of sweet, wonderful young womanhood.
His whole relation of thought toward her had undergone some marvelous
change. The most divine of gifts had been granted him--an opportunity to
save her from harm, perhaps from death. He had served her father. How
greatly he could not tell, but if measured by the gratitude in her eyes
it would have been infinite. He recalled that expression--blue, warm,
soft, and indescribably strange with its unuttered hidden meaning. It
was all-satisfying for him to realize that she had been compelled to
give him a separate and distinct place in her mind. He must stand apart
from all others she knew. It had been his fortune to preserve her
happiness and the happiness that she must be to sisters and mother, and
that some day she would bestow upon some lucky man. They would all owe
it to him. And Lenore Anderson knew he loved her.

These things had transformed his relation of thought toward her. He had
no regret, no jealousy, no fear. Even the pang of suppressed and
overwhelming love had gone with his confession.

But he did remember her presence, her beauty, her intent blue glance,
and the faint, dreaming smile of her lips--remembered them with a
thrill, and a wave of emotion, and a contraction of his heart. He had
promised to see her once more, to afford her the opportunity, no doubt,
to thank him, to try to make him see her gratitude. He would go, but he
wished it need not be. He asked no more. And seeing her again might
change his fulness of joy to something of pain.

So Kurt trod the long road in the darkness and silence, pausing, and
checking his dreams now and then, to listen and to watch. He heard no
suspicious sounds, nor did he meet any one. The night was melancholy,
with a hint of fall in its cool breath.

Soon he would be walking a beat in one of the training-camps, with a
bugle-call in his ears and the turmoil of thousands of soldiers in the
making around him: soon, too, he would be walking the deck of a
transport, looking back down the moon-blanched wake of the ship toward
home, listening to the mysterious moan of the ocean; and then soon
feeling under his feet the soil of a foreign country, with hideous and
incomparable war shrieking its shell furies and its man anguish all
about him. But no matter how far away he ever got, he knew Lenore
Anderson would be with him as she was there on that dim, lonely starlit
country road.

And in these long hours of his vigil Kurt Dorn divined a relation
between his love for Lenore Anderson and a terrible need that had grown
upon him. A need of his heart and his soul! More than he needed her, if
even in his wildest dreams he had permitted himself visions of an
earthly paradise, he needed to prove to his blood and his spirit that he
was actually and truly American. He had no doubt of his intelligence,
his reason, his choice. The secret lay hidden in the depths of him, and
he knew it came from the springs of the mother who had begotten him. His
mother had given him birth, and by every tie he was mostly hers.

Kurt had been in college during the first year of the world war. And his
name, his fair hair and complexion, his fluency in German, and his
remarkable efficiency in handicrafts had opened him to many a hint, many
a veiled sarcasm that had stung him like a poison brand. There was
injustice in all this war spirit. It changed the minds of men and women.
He had not doubted himself until those terrible scenes with his father,
and, though he had reacted to them as an American, he had felt the
drawing, burning blood tie. He hated everything German and he knew he
was wrong in doing so. He had clear conception in his mind of the
difference between the German war motives and means, and those of the
other nations.

Kurt's problem was to understand himself. His great fight was with his
own soul. His material difficulties and his despairing love had suddenly
been transformed, so that they had lent his spirit wings. How many poor
boys and girls in America must be helplessly divided between parents and
country! How many faithful and blind parents, obedient to the laws of
mind and heart, set for all time, must see a favorite son go out to
fight against all they had held sacred!

That was all bad enough, but Kurt had more to contend with. No illusions
had he of a chastened German spirit, a clarified German mind, an
unbrutalized German heart. Kurt knew his father. What would change his
father? Nothing but death! Death for himself or death for his only son!
Kurt had an incalculable call to prove forever to himself that he was
free. He had to spill his own blood to prove himself, or he had to spill
that of an enemy. And he preferred that it should be his own. But that
did not change a vivid and terrible picture which haunted him at times.
He saw a dark, wide, and barren shingle of the world, a desert of
desolation made by man, where strange, windy shrieks and thundering
booms and awful cries went up in the night, and where drifting palls of
smoke made starless sky, and bursts of reddish fires made hell.

Suddenly Kurt's slow pacing along the road was halted, as was the trend
of his thought. He was not sure he had heard a sound. But he quivered
all over. The night was far advanced now; the wind was almost still; the
wheat was smooth and dark as the bosom of a resting sea. Kurt listened.
He imagined he heard, far away, the faint roar of an automobile. But it
might have been a train on the railroad. Sometimes on still nights he
caught sounds like that.

Then a swish in the wheat, a soft thud, very low, unmistakably came to
Kurt's ear. He listened, turning his ear to the wind. Presently he heard
it again--a sound relating both to wheat and earth. In a hot flash he
divined that some one had thrown fairly heavy bodies into the
wheat-fields. Phosphorus cakes! Kurt held his breath while he peered
down the gloomy road, his heart pounding, his hands gripping the rifle.
And when he descried a dim form stealthily coming toward him he yelled,
"Halt!"

Instantly the form wavered, moved swiftly, with quick pad of footfalls.
Kurt shot once--twice--three times--and aimed as best he could to hit.
The form either fell or went on out of sight in the gloom. Kurt answered
the excited shouts of his men, calling them to come across to him. Then
he went cautiously down the road, peering on the ground for a dark form.
But he failed to find it, and presently had to admit that in the dark
his aim had been poor. Bill came out to relieve Kurt, and together they
went up and down the road for a mile without any glimpse of a skulking
form. It was almost daylight when Kurt went home to get a few hours'
sleep.




CHAPTER XII

Next day was one of the rare, blistering-hot days with a furnace wind
that roared over the wheat-fields. The sky was steely and the sun like
copper. It was a day which would bring the wheat to a head.

At breakfast Jerry reported that fresh auto tracks had been made on the
road during the night; and that dust and wheat all around the great
field showed a fresh tramping.

Kurt believed a deliberate and particular attempt had been made to
insure the destruction of the Dorn wheat-field. And he ordered all hands
out to search for the dangerous little cakes of phosphorus.

It was difficult to find them. The wheat was almost as high as a man's
head and very thick. To force a way through it without tramping it down
took care and time. Besides, the soil was soft, and the agents who had
perpetrated this vile scheme had perfectly matched the color. Kurt
almost stepped on one of the cakes before he saw it. His men were very
slow in finding any. But Kurt's father seemed to walk fatally right to
them, for in a short hundred yards he found three. They caused a
profound change in this gloomy man. Not a word did he utter, but he
became animated by a tremendous energy.

The search was discouraging. It was like hunting for dynamite bombs that
might explode at any moment. All Kurt's dread of calamity returned
fourfold. The intense heat of the day, that would ripen the wheat to
bursting, would likewise sooner or later ignite the cakes of phosphorus.
And when Jerry found a cake far inside the field, away from the road,
showing that powerful had been the arm that had thrown it there, and how
impossible it would be to make a thorough search, Kurt almost succumbed
to discouragement. Still, he kept up a frenzied hunting and inspired the
laborers to do likewise.

About ten o'clock an excited shout from Bill drew Kurt's attention, and
he ran along the edge of the field. Bill was sweaty and black, yet
through it all Kurt believed he saw the man was pale. He pointed with
shaking hand toward Olsen's hill.

Kurt vibrated to a shock. He saw a long circular yellow column rising
from the hill, slanting away on the strong wind.

"Dust!" he cried, aghast.

"Smoke!" replied Bill, hoarsely.

The catastrophe had fallen. Olsen's wheat was burning. Kurt experienced
a profound sensation of sadness. What a pity! The burning of wheat--the
destruction of bread--when part of the world was starving! Tears dimmed
his eyes as he watched the swelling column of smoke.

Bill was cursing, and Kurt gathered that the farm-hand was predicting
fires all around. This was inevitable. But it meant no great loss for
most of the wheat-growers whose yield had failed. For Kurt and his
father, if fire got a hold in their wheat, it meant ruin. Kurt's sadness
was burned out by a slow and growing rage.

"Bill, go hitch up to the big mower," ordered Kurt. "We'll have to cut
all around our field. Bring drinking water and whatever you can lay a
hand on ... anything to fight fire!"

Bill ran thumping away over the clods. Then it happened that Kurt looked
toward his father. The old man was standing with his arms aloft, his
face turned toward the burning wheat, and he made a tragic figure that
wrung Kurt's heart.

Jerry came running up. "Fire! Fire! Olsen's burnin'! Look! By all thet's
dirty, them I.W.W.'s hev done it!... Kurt, we're in fer hell! Thet
wind's blowin' straight this way."

"Jerry, we'll fight till we drop," replied Kurt. "Tell the men and
father to keep on searching for phosphorus cakes.... Jerry, you keep to
the high ground. Watch for fires starting on our land. If you see one
yell for us and make for it. Wheat burns slow till it gets started. We
can put out fires if we're quick."

"Kurt, there ain't no chance on earth fer us!" yelled Jerry, pale with
anger. His big red hands worked. "If fire starts we've got to hev a lot
of men.... By Gawd! if I ain't mad!"

"Don't quit, Jerry," said Kurt, fiercely. "You never can tell. It looks
hopeless. But we'll never give up. Hustle now!"

Jerry shuffled off as old Dorn came haltingly, as if stunned, toward
Kurt. But Kurt did not want to face his father at that moment. He needed
to fight to keep up his own courage.

"Never mind that!" yelled Kurt, pointing at Olsen's hill. "Keep looking
for those damned pieces of phosphorus!"

With that Kurt dove into the wheat, and, sweeping wide his arms to make
a passage, he strode on, his eyes bent piercingly upon the ground close
about him. He did not penetrate deeper into the wheat from the road than
the distance he estimated a strong arm could send a stone. Almost at
once his keen sight was rewarded. He found a cake of phosphorus half
buried in the soil. It was dry, hard and hot either from the sun or its
own generating power. That inspired Kurt. He hurried on. Long practice
enabled him to slip through the wheat as a barefoot country boy could
run through the corn-fields. And his passion gave him the eyes of a
hunting hawk sweeping down over the grass. To and fro he passed within
the limits he had marked, oblivious to time and heat and effort. And
covering that part of the wheat-field bordering the road he collected
twenty-seven cakes of phosphorus, the last few of which were so hot they
burnt his hands.

Then he had to rest. He appeared as wet as if he had been plunged into
water; his skin burned, his eyes pained, his breast heaved. Panting and
spent, he lay along the edge of the wheat, with closed eyelids and lax
muscles.

When he recovered he rose and went back along the road. The last quarter
of the immense wheat-field lay upon a slope of a hill, and Kurt had to
mount this before he could see the valley. From the summit he saw a
sight that caused him to utter a loud exclamation. Many columns of smoke
were lifting from the valley, and before him the sky was darkened.
Olsen's hill was as if under a cloud. No flames showed anywhere, but in
places the line of smoke appeared to be approaching.

"It's a thousand to one against us," he said, bitterly, and looked at
his watch. He was amazed to see that three hours had passed since he had
given orders to the men. He hurried back to the house. No one was there
except the old servant, who was wringing her hands and crying that the
house would burn. Throwing the cakes of phosphorus into a
watering-trough, Kurt ran into the kitchen, snatched a few biscuits, and
then made for the fields, eating as he went.

He hurried down a lane that bordered the big wheat-field. On this side
was fallow ground for half the length of the section, and the other half
was ripe barley, dry as tinder, and beyond that, in line with the
burning fields, a quarter-section of blasted wheat. The men were there.
Kurt saw at once that other men with horses and machines were also
there. Then he recognized Olsen and two other of his neighbors. As he
ran up he was equally astounded and out of breath, so that he could not
speak. Old Dorn sat with gray head bowed on his hand.

"Hello!" shouted Olsen. His grimy face broke into a hard smile. "Fires
all over! Wheat's burnin' like prairie grass! Them chips of phosphorus
are sure from hell!... We've come over to help."

"You--did! You left--your fields!" gasped Kurt.

"Sure. They're not much to leave. And we're goin' to save this section
of yours or bust tryin'!... I sent my son in his car, all over, to hurry
men here with horses, machines, wagons."

Kurt was overcome. He could only wring Olsen's hand. Here was an answer
to one of his brooding, gloomy queries. Something would be gained, even
if the wheat was lost. Kurt had scarcely any hope left.

"What's to be done?" he panted, hoarsely. In this extremity Olsen seemed
a tower of strength. This sturdy farmer was of Anderson's breed, even if
he was a foreigner. And he had fought fires before.

"If we have time we'll mow a line all around your wheat," replied Olsen.

"Reckon we won't have time," interposed Jerry, pointing to a smoke far
down in the corner of the stunted wheat. "There's a fire startin'."

"They'll break out all over," said Olsen, and he waved a couple of his
men away. One had a scythe and the other a long pole with a wet burlap
bag tied on one end. They hurried toward the little cloud of smoke.

"I found a lot of cakes over along the road," declared Kurt, with a grim
surety that he had done that well.

"They've surrounded your wheat," returned Olsen. "But if enough men get
here we'll save the whole section.... Lucky you've got two wells an'
that watertank. We'll need all the water we can get. Keep a man pumpin'.
Fetch all the bags an' brooms an' scythes. I'll post lookouts along this
lane to watch for fires breakin' out in the big field. When they do
we've got to run an' cut an' beat them out.... It won't be long till
most of this section is surrounded by fire."

Thin clouds of smoke were then blowing across the fields and the wind
that carried them was laden with an odor of burning wheat. To Kurt it
seemed to be the fragrance of baking bread.

"How'd it be to begin harvestin'?" queried Jerry. "Thet wheat's ripe."

"No combines should be risked in there until we're sure the danger's
past," replied Olsen. "There! I see more of our neighbors comin' down
the road. We're goin' to beat the I.W.W."

That galvanized Kurt into action and he found himself dragging Jerry
back to the barns. They hitched a team to a heavy wagon, in record time,
and then began to load with whatever was available for fighting fire.
They loaded a barrel, and with huge buckets filled it with water.
Leaving Jerry to drive, Kurt rushed back to the fields. During his short
absence more men, with horses and machines, had arrived; fire had broken
out in the stunted wheat, and also, nearer at hand, in the barley. Kurt
saw his father laboring like a giant. Olsen was taking charge, directing
the men. The sky was obscured now, and all the west was thick with
yellow smoke. The south slopes and valley floor were clouding. Only in
the east, over the hill, did the air appear clear. Back of Kurt, down
across the barley and wheat on the Dorn land, a line of fire was
creeping over the hill. This was on the property adjoining Olsen's.
Gremniger, the owner, had abandoned his own fields. At the moment he was
driving a mower along the edge of the barley, cutting a nine-foot path.
Men behind him were stacking the sheaves. The wind was as hot as if from
a blast-furnace; the air was thick and oppressive; the light of day was
growing dim.

Kurt, mounted on the seat of one of the combine threshers, surveyed with
rapid and anxious gaze all the points around him, and it lingered over
the magnificent sweep of golden wheat. The wheat bowed in waves before
the wind, and the silken rustle, heard above the confusion of yelling
men, was like a voice whispering to Kurt. Somehow his dread lessened
then and other emotions predominated. He saw more and more farmers
arrive, in cars, in wagons, with engines and threshers, until the lane
was lined with them and men were hurrying everywhere.

Suddenly Kurt espied a slender column of smoke rising above the wheat
out in front of him toward the highway. This was the first sign of fire
in the great section that so many farmers had come to protect. Yelling
for help, he leaped off the seat and ran with all his might toward the
spot. Breasting that thick wheat was almost as hard as breasting waves.
Jerry came yelling after him, brandishing a crude beater; and both of
them reached the fire at once. It was a small circle, burning slowly.
Madly Kurt rushed in to tear and stamp as if the little hissing flames
were serpents. He burned his hands through his gloves and his feet
through his boots. Jerry beat hard, accompanying his blows with profane
speech plainly indicating that he felt he was at work on the I.W.W. In
short order they put out this little fire. Returning to his post, Kurt
watched until he was called to lend a hand down in the stunted wheat.

Fire had crossed and had gotten a hold on Dorn's lower field. Here the
wheat was blasted and so burned all the more fiercely. Horses and mowers
had to be taken away to the intervening barley-field. A weird, smoky,
and ruddy darkness enveloped the scene. Dim red fire, in lines and dots
and curves, appeared on three sides, growing larger and longer, meeting
in some places, crisscrossed by black figures of threshing men
belaboring the flames. Kurt came across his father working like a
mad-man. Kurt warned him not to overexert himself, and the father never
heard. Now and then his stentorian yell added to the medley of cries and
shouts and blows, and the roar of the wind fanning the flames.

Kurt was put to beating fire in the cut wheat. He stood with flames
licking at his boots. It was astonishing how tenacious the fire
appeared, how it crept along, eating up the mowed wheat. All the men
that could be spared there were unable to check it and keep it out of
the standing grain. When it reached this line it lifted a blaze, flamed
and roared, and burned like wildfire in grass. The men were driven back,
threshing and beating, all to no avail. Kurt fell into despair. There
was no hope. It seemed like an inferno.

Flaring high, the light showed the black, violently agitated forms of
the fighters, and the clouds of yellow smoke, coalescing and drifting,
changing to dark and soaring high.

Olsen had sent three mowers abreast down the whole length of the
barley-field before the fire reached that line. It was a wise move, and
if anything could do so it would save the day. The leaping flame, thin
and high, and a mile long, curled down the last of the standing wheat
and caught the fallen barley. But here its speed was checked. It had to
lick a way along the ground.

In desperation, in unabated fury, the little army of farmers and
laborers, with no thought of personal gain, with what seemed to Kurt a
wonderful and noble spirit, attacked this encroaching line of fire like
men whose homes and lives and ideals had been threatened with
destruction. Kurt's mind worked as swiftly as his tireless hands. This
indeed was being in a front line of battle. The scene was weird, dark,
fitful, at times impressive and again unreal. These neighbors of his,
many of them aliens, some of them Germans, when put to this vital test,
were proving themselves. They had shown little liking for the Dorns, but
here was love of wheat, and so, in some way, loyalty to the government
that needed it. Here was the answer of the Northwest to the I.W.W. No
doubt if the perpetrators of that phosphorus trick could have been laid
hold of then, blood would have been shed. Kurt sensed in the fierce
energy, in the dark, grimy faces, shining and wet under the light, in
the hoarse yell and answering shout, a nameless force that was finding
itself and centering on one common cause.

His old father toiled as ten men. That burly giant pushed ever in the
lead, and his hoarse call and strenuous action told of more than a
mercenary rage to save his wheat.

Fire never got across that swath of cut barley. It was beaten out as if
by a thousand men. Shadow and gloom enveloped the fighters as they
rested where their last strokes had fallen. Over the hills faint
reflection of dying flames lit up the dark clouds of smoke. The battle
seemed won.

Then came the thrilling cry: "Fire! Fire!"

One of the outposts came running out of the dark.

"Fire! the other side! Fire!" rang out Olsen's yell.

Kurt ran with the gang pell-mell through the dark, up the barley slope,
to see a long red line, a high red flare, and lifting clouds of ruddy
smoke. Fire in the big wheat-field! The sight inflamed him, carried him
beyond his powers, and all he knew was that he became the center of a
dark and whirling melee encircled by living flames that leaped only to
be beaten down. Whether that threshing chaos of fire and smoke and wheat
was short or long was beyond him to tell but the fire was extinguished
to the last spark.

Walking back with the weary crowd, Kurt felt a clearer breeze upon his
face. Smoke was not flying so thickly. Over the western hill, through a
rift in the clouds, peeped a star. The only other light he saw twinkled
far down the lane. It was that of a lantern. Dark forms barred it now
and then. Slowly Kurt recovered his breath. The men were talking and
tired voices rang with assurance that the fire was beaten.

Some one called Kurt. The voice was Jerry's. It seemed hoarse and
strained. Kurt could see the lean form of his man, standing in the light
of the lantern. A small dark group of men, silent and somehow
impressive, stood off a little in the shadow.

"Here I am, Jerry," called Kurt, stepping forward. Just then Olsen
joined Jerry.

"Boy, we've beat the I.W.W.'s, but--but--" he began, and broke off
huskily.

"What's the matter?" queried Kurt, and a cold chill shot over him.

Jerry plucked at his sleeve.

"Your old man--your dad--he's overworked hisself," whispered Jerry.
"It's tough.... Nobody could stop him."

Kurt felt that the fulfilment of his icy, sickening dread had come.
Jerry's dark face, even in the uncertain light, was tragic.

"Boy, his heart went back on him--he's dead!" said Olsen, solemnly.

Kurt pushed the kind hands aside. A few steps brought him to where,
under the light of the lantern, lay his father, pale and still, with a
strange softening of the iron cast of intolerance.

"Dead!" whispered Kurt, in awe and horror. "Father! Oh, he's
gone!--without a word--"

Again Jerry plucked at Kurt's sleeve.

"I was with him," said Jerry. "I heard him fall an' groan.... I had the
light. I bent over, lifted his head.... An' he said, speaking English,
'Tell my son--I was wrong!'... Then he died. An' thet was all."

Kurt staggered away from the whispering, sympathetic foreman, out into
the darkness, where he lifted his face in the thankfulness of a breaking
heart.

It had, indeed, taken the approach of death to change his hard old
father. "Oh, he meant--that if he had his life to live over again--he
would be different!" whispered Kurt. That was the one great word needed
to reconcile Kurt to his father.

The night had grown still except for the murmuring of the men. Smoke
veiled the horizon. Kurt felt an intense and terrible loneliness. He was
indeed alone in the world. A hard, tight contraction of throat choked
back a sob. If only he could have had a word with his father! But no
grief, nothing could detract from the splendid truth of his father's
last message. In the black hours soon to come Kurt would have that to
sustain him.




CHAPTER XIII

The bright sun of morning disclosed that wide, rolling region of the
Bend to be a dreary, blackened waste surrounding one great wheat-field,
rich and mellow and golden.

Kurt Dorn's neighbor, Olsen, in his kind and matter-of-fact way, making
obligation seem slight, took charge of Kurt's affairs, and made the
necessary and difficult decisions. Nothing must delay the harvesting and
transporting of the wheat. The women folk arranged for the burial of old
Chris Dorn.

Kurt sat and moved about in a gloomy kind of trance for a day and a
half, until his father was laid to rest beside his mother, in the little
graveyard on the windy hill. After that his mind slowly cleared. He kept
to himself the remainder of that day, avoiding the crowd of harvesters
camping in the yard and adjacent field; and at sunset he went to a
lonely spot on the verge of the valley, where with sad eyes he watched
the last rays of sunlight fade over the blackened hills. All these hours
had seemed consecrated to his father's memory, to remembered acts of
kindness and of love, of the relation that had gone and would never be
again. Reproach and remorse had abided with him until that sunset hour,
when the load eased off his heart.

Next morning he went out to the wheat-field.

       *       *       *       *       *

What a wonderful harvesting scene greeted Kurt Dorn! Never had its like
been seen in the Northwest, nor perhaps in any other place. A huge pall
of dust, chaff, and smoke hung over the vast wheat-field, and the air
seemed charged with a roar. The glaring gold of the wheat-field appeared
to be crisscrossed everywhere with bobbing black streaks of
horses--bays, blacks, whites, and reds; by big, moving painted machines,
lifting arms and puffing straw; by immense wagons piled high with
sheaves of wheat, lumbering down to the smoking engines and the
threshers that sent long streams of dust and chaff over the lifting
straw-stacks; by wagons following the combines to pick up the plump
brown sacks of wheat; and by a string of empty wagons coming in from the
road.

Olsen was rushing thirty combine threshers, three engine
threshing-machines, forty wagon-teams, and over a hundred men well known
to him. There was a guard around the field. This unprecedented harvest
had attracted many spectators from the little towns. They had come in
cars and on horseback and on foot. Olsen trusted no man on that field
except those he knew.

The wonderful wheat-field was cut into a thousand squares and angles and
lanes and curves. The big whirring combines passed one another, stopped
and waited and turned out of the way, leaving everywhere little patches
and cubes of standing wheat, that soon fell before the onslaught of the
smaller combines. This scene had no regularity. It was one of confusion;
of awkward halts, delays, hurries; of accident. The wind blew clouds of
dust and chaff, alternately clearing one space to cloud another. And a
strange roar added the last heroic touch to this heroic field. It was
indeed the roar of battle--men and horses governing the action of
machinery, and all fighting time. For in delay was peril to the wheat.

Once Kurt ran across the tireless and implacable Olsen. He seemed a man
of dust and sweat and fury.

"She's half cut an' over twenty thousand bushels gone to the railroad!"
he exclaimed. "An' we're speedin' up."

"Olsen, I don't get what's going on," replied Kurt. "All this is like a
dream."

"Wake up. You'll be out of debt an' a rich man in three days," added
Olsen, and went his way.

In the afternoon Kurt set out to work as he had never worked in his
life. There was need of his strong hands in many places, but he could
not choose any one labor and stick by it for long. He wanted to do all.
It was as if this was not a real and wonderful harvest of his father's
greatest wheat yield, but something that embodied all years, all
harvests, his father's death, the lifting of the old, hard debt, the
days when he had trod the fields barefoot, and this day when, strangely
enough, all seemed over for him. Peace dwelt with him, yet no hope.
Behind his calm he could have found the old dread, had he cared to look
deeply. He loved these heroic workers of the fields. It had been given
to him--a great task--to be the means of creating a test for them, his
neighbors under a ban of suspicion; and now he could swear they were as
true as the gold of the waving wheat. More than a harvest was this most
strenuous and colorful of all times ever known in the Bend; it had a
significance that uplifted him. It was American.

First Kurt began to load bags of wheat, as they fell from the whirring
combines, into the wagons. For his powerful arms a full bag, containing
two bushels, was like a toy for a child. With a lift and a heave he
threw a bag into a wagon. They were everywhere, these brown bags,
dotting the stubble field, appearing as if by magic in the wake of the
machines. They rolled off the platforms. This toil, because it was hard
and heavy, held Kurt for an hour, but it could not satisfy his enormous
hunger to make that whole harvest his own. He passed to pitching sheaves
of wheat and then to driving in the wagons. From that he progressed to a
seat on one of the immense combines, where he drove twenty-four horses.
No driver there was any surer than Kurt of his aim with the little
stones he threw to spur a lagging horse. Kurt had felt this when, as a
boy, he had begged to be allowed to try his hand; he liked the shifty
cloud of fragrant chaff, now and then blinding and choking him; and he
liked the steady, rhythmic tramps of hooves and the roaring whir of the
great complicated machine. It fascinated him to see the wide swath of
nodding wheat tremble and sway and fall, and go sliding up into the
inside of that grinding maw, and come out, straw and dust and chaff, and
a slender stream of gold filling the bags.

This day Kurt Dorn was gripped by the unknown. Some far-off instinct of
future drove him, set his spiritual need, and made him register with his
senses all that was so beautiful and good and heroic in the scene about
him.

Strangely, now and then a thought of Lenore Anderson entered his mind
and made sudden havoc. It tended to retard action. He trembled and
thrilled with a realization that every hour brought closer the meeting
he could not avoid. And he discovered that it was whenever this memory
recurred that he had to leave off his present task and rush to another.
Only thus could he forget her.

The late afternoon found him feeding sheaves of wheat to one of the
steam-threshers. He stood high upon a platform and pitched sheaves from
the wagons upon the sliding track of the ponderous, rattling
threshing-machine. The engine stood off fifty yards or more, connected
by an endless driving-belt to the thresher. Here indeed were whistle and
roar and whir, and the shout of laborers, and the smell of smoke, sweat,
dust, and wheat. Kurt had arms of steel. If they tired he never knew it.
He toiled, and he watched the long spout of chaff and straw as it
streamed from the thresher to lift, magically, a glistening,
ever-growing stack. And he felt, as a last and cumulative change, his
physical effort, and the physical adjuncts of the scene, pass into
something spiritual, into his heart and his memory.

The end of that harvest-time came as a surprise to Kurt. Obsessed with
his own emotions, he had actually helped to cut the wheat and harvest
it; he had seen it go swath by swath, he had watched the huge wagons
lumber away and the huge straw-stacks rise without realizing that the
hours of this wonderful harvest were numbered.

Sight of Olsen coming in from across the field, and the sudden cessation
of roar and action, made Kurt aware of the end. It seemed a calamity.
But Olsen was smiling through his dust-caked face. About him were
relaxation, an air of finality, and a subtle pride.

"We're through," he said. "She tallies thirty-eight thousand, seven
hundred an' forty-one bushels. It's too bad the old man couldn't live to
hear that."

Olsen gripped Kurt's hand and wrung it.

"Boy, I reckon you ought to take that a little cheerfuller," he went on.
"But--well it's been a hard time.... The men are leavin' now. In two
hours the last wagons will unload at the railroad. The wheat will all be
in the warehouse. An' our worry's ended."

"I--I hope so," responded Kurt. He seemed overcome with the passionate
longing to show his gratitude to Olsen. But the words would not flow.
"I--I don't know how to thank you.... All my life--"

"We beat the I.W.W.," interposed the farmer, heartily. "An' now what'll
you do, Dorn?"

"Why, I'll hustle to Kilo, get my money, send you a check for yourself
and men, pay off the debt to Anderson, and then--"

But Kurt did not conclude his speech. His last words were
thought-provoking.

"It's turned out well," said Olsen, with satisfaction, and, shaking
hands again with Kurt, he strode back to his horses.

At last the wide, sloping field was bare, except for the huge
straw-stacks. A bright procession lumbered down the road, led by the
long strings of wagons filled with brown bags. A strange silence had
settled down over the farm. The wheat was gone. That waving stretch of
gold had fallen to the thresher and the grain had been hauled away. The
neighbors had gone, leaving Kurt rich in bushels of wheat, and richer
for the hearty farewells and the grips of horny hands. Kurt's heart was
full.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was evening. Kurt had finished his supper. Already he had packed a
few things to take with him on the morrow. He went out to the front of
the house. Stars were blinking. There was a low hum of insects from the
fields. He missed the soft silken rustle of the wheat. And now it seemed
he could sit there in the quiet darkness, in that spot which had been
made sweet by Lenore Anderson's presence, and think of her, the meeting
soon to come. The feeling abiding with him then must have been
happiness, because he was not used to it. Without deserving anything, he
had asked a great deal of fate, and, lo! it had been given him. All was
well that ended well. He realized now the terrible depths of despair
into which he had allowed himself to be plunged. He had been weak,
wrong, selfish. There was something that guided events.

He needed to teach himself all this, with strong and repeated force, so
that when he went to give Lenore Anderson the opportunity to express her
gratitude, to see her sweet face again, and to meet the strange, warm
glance of her blue eyes, so mysterious and somehow mocking, he could be
a man of restraint, of pride, like any American, like any other college
man she knew. This was no time for a man to leave a girl bearing a
burden of his unsolicited love, haunted, perhaps, by a generous reproach
that she might have been a little to blame. He had told her the truth,
and so far he had been dignified. Now let him bid her good-by, leaving
no sorrow for her, and, once out of her impelling presence, let come
what might come. He could love her then; he could dare what he had never
dared; he could surrender himself to the furious, insistent sweetness of
a passion that was sheer bliss in its expression. He could imagine
kisses on the red lips that were not for him.

A husky shout from somewhere in the rear of the house diverted Kurt's
attention. He listened. It came again. His name! It seemed a strange
call from out of the troubled past that had just ended. He hurried
through the house to the kitchen. The woman stood holding a lamp,
staring at Jerry.

Jerry appeared to have sunk against the wall. His face was pallid, with
drops of sweat standing out, with distorted, quivering lower jaw. He
could not look at Kurt. He could not speak. With shaking hand he pointed
toward the back of the house.

Filled with nameless dread, Kurt rushed out. He saw nothing unusual,
heard nothing. Rapidly he walked out through the yard, and suddenly he
saw a glow in the sky above the barns. Then he ran, so that he could get
an unobstructed view of the valley.

The instant he obtained this he halted as if turned to stone. The valley
was a place of yellow light. He stared. With the wheat-fields all
burned, what was the meaning of such a big light? That broad flare had a
center, low down on the valley floor. As he gazed a monstrous flame
leaped up, lighting colossal pillars of smoke that swirled upward, and
showing plainer than in day the big warehouse and lines of freight-cars
at the railroad station, eight miles distant.

"My God!" gasped Kurt. "The warehouse--my wheat--on fire!"

Clear and unmistakable was the horrible truth. Kurt heard the roar of
the sinister flames. Transfixed, he stood there, at first hardly able to
see and to comprehend. For miles the valley was as light as at noonday.
An awful beauty attended the scene. How lurid and sinister the red heart
of that fire? How weird and hellish and impressive of destruction those
black, mountain-high clouds of smoke! He saw the freight-cars disappear
under this fierce blazing and smoking pall. He watched for what seemed
endless moments. He saw the changes of that fire, swift and terrible.
And only then did Kurt Dorn awaken to the full sense of the calamity.

"All that work--Olsen's sacrifice--and the farmers'--my father's
death--all for nothing!" whispered Kurt. "They only waited--those
fiends--to fire the warehouse and the cars!"

The catastrophe had fallen. The wheat was burning. He was ruined. His
wheatland must go to Anderson. Kurt thought first and most poignantly of
the noble farmers who had sacrificed the little in their wheat-fields to
save the much in his. Never could he repay them.

Then he became occupied with a horrible heat that seemed to have come
from the burning warehouse to all his pulses and veins and to his heart
and his soul.

This fiendish work, as had been forecast, was the work of the I.W.W.
Behind it was Glidden and perhaps behind him was the grasping, black
lust of German might. Kurt's loss was no longer abstract or
problematical. It was a loss so real and terrible that it confounded
him. He shook and gasped and reeled. He wrung his hands and beat his
breast while the tumult swayed him, the physical hate at last yielding
up its significance. What then, was his great loss? He could not tell.
The thing was mighty, like the sense of terror and loneliness in the
black night. Not the loss for his farmer neighbors, so true in his hour
of trial! Not the loss of his father, nor the wheat, nor the land, nor
his ruined future! But it must be a loss, incalculable and
insupportable, to his soul. His great ordeal had been the need, a
terrible and incomprehensible need, to kill something intangible in
himself. He had meant to do it. And now the need was shifted, subject to
a baser instinct. If there was German blood in him, poisoning the very
wells of his heart he could have spilled it, and so, whether living or
dead, have repudiated the taint. That was now clear in his
consciousness. But a baser spark had ignited all the primitive passion
of the forebears he felt burning and driving within him. He felt no
noble fire. He longed to live, to have a hundredfold his strength and
fury, to be gifted with a genius for time and place and bloody deed, to
have the war-gods set him a thousand opportunities, to beat with iron
mace and cut with sharp bayonet and rend with hard hand--to kill and
kill and kill the hideous thing that was German.




CHAPTER XIV

Kurt rushed back to the house. Encountering Jerry, he ordered him to run
and saddle a couple of horses. Then Kurt got his revolver and a box of
shells, and, throwing on his coat, he hurried to the barn. Jerry was
leading out the horses. It took but short work to saddle them. Jerry was
excited and talkative. He asked Kurt many questions, which excited few
replies.

When Kurt threw himself into the saddle Jerry yelled, "Which way?"

"Down the trail!" replied Kurt, and was off.

"Aw, we'll break our necks!" came Jerry's yell after him.

Kurt had no fear of the dark. He knew that trail almost as well by night
as by day. His horse was a mettlesome colt that had not been worked
during the harvest, and he plunged down the dim, winding trail as if,
indeed, to verify Jerry's fears. Presently the thin, pale line that was
the trail disappeared on the burned wheat-ground. Here Kurt was at fault
as to direction, but he did not slacken the pace for that. He heard
Jerry pounding along in the rear, trying to catch up. The way the colt
jumped ditches and washes and other obstructions proved his keen sight.
Kurt let him go. And then the ride became both perilous and thrilling.

Kurt could not see anything on the blackened earth. But he knew from the
contour of the hills just about where to expect to reach the fence and
the road. And he did not pull the horse too soon. When he found the gate
he waited for Jerry, who could be heard calling from the darkness. Kurt
answered him.

"Here's the gate!" yelled Kurt, as Jerry came galloping up. "Good road
all the way now!"

"Lickity-cut then!" shouted Jerry to whom the pace had evidently
communicated enthusiasm.

The ride then became a race, with Kurt drawing ahead. Kurt could see the
road, a broad, pale belt, dividing the blackness on either side; and he
urged the colt to a run. The wind cut short Kurt's breath, beat at his
ears, and roared about them. Closer and closer drew the red flare of the
dying fire, casting long rays of light into Kurt's eyes.

The colt was almost run out when he entered the circle of reddish flare.
Kurt saw the glowing ruins of the elevators and a long, fiery line of
box-cars burned to the wheels. Men were running and shouting round in
front of the little railroad station, and several were on the roof with
brooms and buckets. The freight-house had burned, and evidently the
station itself had been on fire. Across the wide street of the little
village the roof of a cottage was burning. Men were on top of it,
beating the shingles. Hoarse yells greeted Kurt as he leaped out of the
saddle. He heard screams of frightened women. On the other side of the
burned box-cars a long, thin column of sparks rose straight upward. Over
the ruins of the elevators hung a pall of heavy smoke. Just then Jerry
came galloping up, his lean face red in the glow.

"Thet you, Kurt! Say, the sons of guns are burnin' down the town." He
leaped off. "Lemme have your bridle. I'll tie the hosses up. Find out
what we can do."

Kurt ran here and there, possessed by impotent rage. The wheat was gone!
That fact gave him a hollow, sickening pang. He met farmers he knew.
They all threw up their hands at sight of him. Not one could find a
voice. Finally he met Olsen. The little wheat farmer was white with
passion. He carried a gun.

"Hello, Dorn! Ain't this hell? They got your wheat!" he said hoarsely.

"Olsen! How'd it happen? Wasn't anybody set to guard the elevators?"

"Yes. But the I.W.W.'s drove all the guards off but Grimm, an' they beat
him up bad. Nobody had nerve enough to shoot."

"Olsen, if I run into the Glidden I'll kill him," declared Kurt.

"So will I.... But, Dorn, they're a hard crowd. They're over there on
the side, watchin' the fire. A gang of them! Soon as I can get the men
together we'll drive them out of town. There'll be a fight, if I don't
miss my guess."

"Hurry the men! Have all of them get their guns! Come on!"

"Not yet, Dorn. We're fightin' fire yet. You an' Jerry help all you
can."

Indeed, it appeared there was danger of more than one cottage burning.
The exceedingly dry weather of the past weeks had made shingles like
tinder, and wherever a glowing spark fell on them there straightway was
a smoldering fire. Water, a scarce necessity in that region, had been
used until all wells and pumps became dry. It was fortunate that most of
the roofs of the little village had been constructed of galvanized iron.
Beating out blazes and glowing embers with brooms was not effective
enough. When it appeared that the one cottage nearest the rain of sparks
was sure to go, Kurt thought of the railroad watertank below the
station. He led a number of men with buckets to the tank, and they soon
drowned out the smoldering places.

Meanwhile the blazes from the box-cars died out, leaving only the dull
glow from the red heap that had once been the elevators. However, this
gave forth light enough for any one to be seen a few rods distant.
Sparks had ceased to fall, and from that source no further danger need
be apprehended. Olsen had been going from man to man, sending those who
were not armed home for guns. So it came about that half an hour after
Kurt's arrival a score of farmers, villagers, and a few railroaders were
collected in a group, listening to the pale-faced Olsen.

"Men, there's only a few of us, an' there's hundreds, mebbe, in thet
I.W.W. gang, but we've got to drive them off," he said, doggedly.
"There's no tellin' what they'll do if we let them hang around any
longer. They know we're weak in numbers. We've got to do some shootin'
to scare them away."

Kurt seconded Olsen in ringing voice.

"They've threatened your homes," he said. "They've burned my
wheat--ruined me. They were the death of my father.... These are facts
I'm telling you. We can't wait for law or for militia. We've got to meet
this I.W.W. invasion. They have taken advantage of the war situation.
They're backed by German agents. It's now a question of our property.
We've got to fight!"

The crowd made noisy and determined response. Most of them had small
weapons; a few had shot-guns or rifles.

"Come on, men," called Olsen. "I'll do the talkin'. An' if I say shoot,
why, you shoot!"

It was necessary to go around the long line of box-cars. Olsen led the
way, with Kurt just back of him. The men spoke but little and in
whispers. At the left end of the line the darkness was thick enough to
make objects indistinct.

Once around the corner, Kurt plainly descried a big dark crowd of men
whose faces showed red in the glow of the huge pile of embers which was
all that remained of the elevators. They did not see Olsen's men.

"Hold on," whispered Olsen. "If we get in a fight here we'll be in a bad
place. We've nothin' to hide behind. Let's go off--more to the left--an'
come up behind those freight-cars on the switches. That'll give us cover
an' we'll have the I.W.W.'s in the light."

So he led off to the left, keeping in the shadow, and climbed between
several lines of freight-cars, all empty, and finally came out behind
the I.W.W.'s. Olsen led to within fifty yards of them, and was halted by
some observant member of the gang who sat with the others on top of a
flat-car.

This man's yell stilled the coarse talk and laughter of the gang.

"What's that?" shouted a cold, clear voice with authority in it.

Kurt thought he recognized the voice, and it caused a bursting, savage
sensation in his blood.

"Here's a bunch of farmers with guns!" yelled the man from the flat-car.

Olsen halted his force near one of the detached lines of box-cars, which
he probably meant to take advantage of in case of a fight.

"Hey, you I.W.W.'s!" he shouted, with all his might.

There was a moment's silence.

"There's no I.W.W.'s here," replied the authoritative voice.

Kurt was sure now that he recognized Glidden's voice. Excitement and
anger then gave place to deadly rage.

"Who are you?" yelled Olsen.

"We're tramps watchin' the fire," came the reply.

"You set that fire!"

"No, we didn't."

Kurt motioned Olsen to be silent, as with lifting breast he took an
involuntary step forward.

"Glidden, I know you!" he shouted, in hard, quick tones. "I'm Kurt Dorn.
I've met you. I know your voice.... Take your gang--get out of here--or
we'll kill you!"

This pregnant speech caused a blank dead silence. Then came a white
flash, a sharp report. Kurt heard the thud of a bullet striking some one
near him. The man cried out, but did not fall.

"Spread out an' hide!" ordered Olsen. "An' shoot fer keeps!"

The little crowd broke and melted into the shadows behind and under the
box-cars. Kurt crawled under a car and between the wheels, from which
vantage-point he looked out. Glidden's gang were there in the red glow,
most of them now standing. The sentry who had given the alarm still sat
on top of the flat-car, swinging his legs. His companions, however, had
jumped down. Kurt heard men of his own party crawling and whispering
behind him, and he saw dim, dark, sprawling forms under the far end of
the car.

"Boss, the hayseeds have run off," called the man from the flat car.

Laughter and jeers greeted this sally.

Kurt concluded it was about time to begin proceedings. Resting his
revolver on the side of the wheel behind which he lay, he took steady
aim at the sentry, holding low. Kurt was not a good shot with a revolver
and the distance appeared to exceed fifty yards. But as luck would have
it, when he pulled trigger the sentry let out a loud bawl of terror and
pain, and fell off the car to the ground. Flopping and crawling like a
crippled chicken, he got out of sight below.

Kurt's shot was a starter for Olsen's men. Four or five of the shot-guns
boomed at once; then the second barrels were discharged, along with a
sharper cracking of small arms. Pandemonium broke loose in Glidden's
gang. No doubt, at least, of the effectiveness of the shot-guns! A
medley of strange, sharp, enraged, and anguished cries burst upon the
air, a prelude to a wild stampede. In a few seconds that lighted spot
where the I.W.W. had grouped was vacant, and everywhere were fleeing
forms, some swift, others slow. So far as Kurt could see, no one had
been fatally injured. But many had been hurt, and that fact augured well
for Olsen's force.

Presently a shot came from some hidden enemy. It thudded into the wood
of the car over Kurt. Some one on his side answered it, and a heavy
bullet, striking iron, whined away into the darkness. Then followed
flash here and flash there, with accompanying reports and whistles of
lead. From behind and under and on top of cars opened up a fire that
proved how well armed these so-called laborers were. Their volley
completely drowned the desultory firing of Olsen's squad.

Kurt began to wish for one of the shot-guns. It was this kind of weapon
that saved Olsen's followers. There were a hundred chances to one of
missing an I.W.W. with a single bullet, while a shot-gun, aimed fairly
well, was generally productive of results. Kurt stopped wasting his
cartridges. Some one was hurt behind his car and he crawled out to see.
A villager named Schmidt had been wounded in the leg, not seriously, but
bad enough to disable him. He had been using a double-barreled
breech-loading shot-gun, and he wore a vest with rows of shells in the
pockets across the front. Kurt borrowed gun and ammunition; and with
these he hurried back to his covert, grimly sure of himself. At thought
of Glidden he became hot all over, and this heat rather grew with the
excitement of battle.

With the heavy fowling-piece loaded, Kurt peeped forth from behind his
protecting wheel and watched keenly for flashes or moving dark figures.
The I.W.W. had begun to reserve their fire, to shift their positions,
and to spread out, judging from a wider range of the reports. It looked
as if they meant to try and surround Olsen's band. It was
extraordinary--the assurance and deadly intent of this riffraff gang of
tramp labor-agitators. In preceding years a crowd of I.W.W. men had been
nothing to worry a rancher. Vastly different it seemed now. They acted
as if they had the great war back of them.

Kurt crawled out of his hiding-place, and stole from car to car, in
search of Olsen. At last he found the rancher, in company with several
men, peering from behind a car. One of his companions was sitting down
and trying to wrap something round his foot.

"Olsen, they're spreading out to surround us," whispered Kurt.

"That's what Bill here just said," replied Olsen, nervously. "If this
keeps up we'll be in a tight place. What'll we do, Dorn?"

"We mustn't break and run, of all things," said Kurt. "They'd burn the
village. Tell our men to save their shells.... If I only could get some
cracks at a bunch of them together--with this big shot-gun!"

"Say, we've been watchin' that car--the half-size one, there--next the
high box-car," whispered Olsen.

"It's full of them. Sometimes we see a dozen shots come from it, all at
once."

"Olsen, I've an idea," returned Kurt, excitedly. "You fellows keep
shooting--attract their attention. I'll slip below, climb on top of a
box-car, and get a rake-off at that bunch."

"It's risky, Dorn," said Olsen, with hesitation. "But if you could get
in a few tellin' shots--start that gang on the run!"

"I'll try it," rejoined Kurt, and forthwith stole off back toward the
shadow. It struck him that there was more light then when the attack
began. The fire had increased, or perhaps the I.W.W. had started
another; at any rate, the light was growing stronger, and likewise the
danger greater. As he crossed an open space a bullet whizzed by him, and
then another zipped by to strike up the gravel ahead. These were not
random shots. Some one was aiming at him. How strange and rage-provoking
to be shot at deliberately! What a remarkable experience for a young
wheat farmer! Raising wheat in the great Northwest had assumed
responsibilities. He had to run, and he was the more furious because of
that. Another bullet, flying wide, hummed to his left before he gained
the shelter of the farthest line of freight-cars. Here he hid and
watched. The firing appeared to be all behind him, and, thus encouraged,
he stole along to the end of the line of cars, and around. A bright
blaze greeted his gaze. An isolated car was on fire. Kurt peered forth
to make sure of his bearings, and at length found the high derrick by
which he had marked the box-car that he intended to climb.

He could see plainly, and stole up to his objective point, with little
risk to himself until he climbed upon the box-car. He crouched low,
almost on hands and knees, and finally gained the long shadow of a shed
between the tracks. Then he ran past the derrick to the dark side of the
car. He could now plainly see the revolver flashes and could hear the
thud and spang of their bullets striking. Drawing a deep breath, Kurt
climbed up the iron ladder on the dark side of the car.

He had the same sensation that possessed him when he was crawling to get
a pot-shot at a flock of wild geese. Only this was mightily more
exciting. He did not forget the risk. He lay flat and crawled little by
little. Every moment he expected to be discovered. Olsen had evidently
called more of his men to his side, for they certainly were shooting
diligently. Kurt heard a continuous return fire from the car he was
risking so much to get a shot at. At length he was within a yard of the
end of the car--as far as he needed to go. He rested a moment. He was
laboring for breath, sweating freely, on fire with thrills.

His plan was to raise himself on one knee and fire as many double shots
as possible. Presently he lifted his head to locate the car. It was half
in the bright light, half in the shadow, lengthwise toward him, about
sixty or seventy yards distant, and full of men. He dropped his head,
tingling all over. It was a disappointment that the car stood so far
away. With fine shot he could not seriously injure any of the I.W.W.
contingent, but he was grimly sure of the fright and hurt he could
inflict. In his quick glance he had seen flashes of their guns, and many
red faces, and dark, huddled forms.

Kurt took four shells and set them, end up, on the roof of the car close
to him. Then, cocking the gun, he cautiously raised himself to one knee.
He discharged both barrels at once. What a boom and what a terrified
outburst of yells! Swiftly he broke the gun, reloaded, fired as before,
and then again. The last two shots were fired at the men piling
frantically over the side of the car, yelling with fear. Kurt had heard
the swishing pattering impact of those swarms of small shot. The I.W.W.
gang ran pell-mell down the open track, away from Kurt and toward the
light. As he reloaded the gun he saw men running from all points to join
the gang. With an old blunderbuss of a shot-gun he had routed the I.W.W.
It meant relief to Olsen's men; but Kurt had yet no satisfaction for the
burning of his wheat, for the cruel shock that had killed his father.

"Come on, Olsen!" he yelled, at the top of his lungs. "They're a lot of
cowards!"

Then in his wild eagerness he leaped off the car. The long jump landed
him jarringly, but he did not fall or lose hold of the gun. Recovering
his balance, he broke into a run. Kurt was fast on his feet. Not a young
man of his neighborhood nor any of his college-mates could outfoot him
in a race. And then these I.W.W. fellows ran like stiff-legged tramps,
long unused to such mode of action. And some of them were limping as
they ran. Kurt gained upon them. When he got within range he halted
short and freed two barrels. A howl followed the report. Some of the
fleeing ones fell, but were dragged up and on by companions. Kurt
reloaded and, bounding forward like a deer, yelling for Olsen, he ran
until he was within range, then stopped to shoot again. Thus he
continued until the pursued got away from the circle of light. Kurt saw
the gang break up, some running one way and some another. There were
sheds and cars and piles of lumber along the track, affording places to
hide. Kurt was halted by the discovery that he had no more ammunition.
Panting, he stopped short, realizing that he had snapped an empty gun at
men either too tired or too furious or too desperate to run any farther.

"He's out of shells!" shouted a low, hard voice that made Kurt leap. He
welcomed the rush of dark forms, and, swinging the gun round his head,
made ready to brain the first antagonist who neared him. But some one
leaped upon him from behind. The onslaught carried him to his knees.
Bounding up, he broke the gun stock on the head of his assailant, who
went down in a heap. Kurt tried to pull his revolver. It became
impossible, owing to strong arms encircling him. Wrestling, he freed
himself, only to be staggered by a rush of several men, all pouncing
upon him at once. Kurt went down, but, once down, he heaved so
powerfully that he threw off the whole crew. Up again, like a cat, he
began to fight. Big and strong and swift, with fists like a
blacksmith's, Kurt bowled over this assailant and that one. He thought
he recognized Glidden in a man who kept out of his reach and who was
urging on the others. Kurt lunged at him and finally got his hands on
him. That was fatal for Kurt, because in his fury he forgot Glidden's
comrades. In one second his big hand wrenched a yell of mortal pain out
of Glidden; then a combined attack of the others rendered Kurt
powerless. A blow on the head stunned him--made all dark.




CHAPTER XV

It seemed that Kurt did not altogether lose consciousness, for he had
vague sensations of being dragged along the ground. Presently the
darkness cleared from his mind and he opened his eyes. He lay on his
back. Looking up, he saw stars through the thin, broken clouds of smoke.
A huge pile of railroad ties loomed up beside him.

He tried to take note of his situation. His hands were tied in front of
him, not so securely, he imagined, that he could not work them free. His
legs had not been tied. Both his head and shoulder, on the left side,
pained him severely. Upon looking around, Kurt presently made out the
dark form of a man. He appeared rigid with attention, but that evidently
had no relation to Kurt. The man was listening and watching for his
comrades. Kurt heard no voices or shots. After a little while, however,
he thought he heard distant footsteps on the gravel. He hardly knew what
to make of his predicament. If there was only one guard over him, escape
did not seem difficult, unless that guard had a gun.

"Hello, you!" he called.

"Hello, yourself" replied the man, jerking up in evident surprise.

"What's your name?" inquired Kurt, amiably.

"Well, it ain't J.J. Hill or Anderson," came the gruff response.

Kurt laughed. "But you would be one of those names if you could, now
wouldn't you?" went on Kurt.

"My name is Dennis," gloomily returned the man.

"It certainly is. _That_ is the name of all I.W.W.'s," said Kurt.

"Say, are you the fellow who had the shot-gun?"

"I sure am," replied Kurt.

"I ought to knock you on the head."

"Why?"

"Because I'll have to eat standing up for a month."

"Yes?" queried Kurt.

"The seat of my pants must have made a good target, for you sure pasted
it full of birdshot."

Kurt smothered a laugh. Then he felt the old anger leap up. "Didn't you
burn my wheat?"

"Are you that young Dorn?"

"Yes, I am," replied Kurt, hotly.

"Well, I didn't burn one damn straw of your old wheat."

"You didn't! But you're with these men? You're an I.W.W. You've been
fighting these farmers here."

"If you want to know, I'm a tramp," said the man, bitterly. "Years ago I
was a prosperous oil-producer in Ohio. I had a fine oil-field. Along
comes a big fellow, tries to buy me out, and, failing that, he shot off
dynamite charges into the ground next my oil-field.... Choked my wells!
Ruined me!... I came west--went to farming. Along comes a corporation,
steals my water for irrigation--and my land went back to desert.... So I
quit working and trying to be honest. It doesn't pay. The rich men are
getting all the richer at the expense of the poor. So now I'm a tramp."

"Friend, that's a hard-luck story," said Kurt. "It sure makes me
think.... But I'll tell you what--you don't belong to this I.W.W.
outfit, even if you are a tramp."

"Why not?"

"Because you're American! That's why."

"Well, I know I am. But I can be American and travel with a labor union,
can't I?"

"No. This I.W.W. is no labor union. It never was. Their very first rule
is to abolish capital. They're anarchists. And now they're backed by
German money. The I.W.W. is an enemy to America. All this hampering of
railroads, destruction of timber and wheat, is an aid to Germany in the
war. The United States is at war! My God! man, can't you see it's your
own country that must suffer for such deals as this wheat-burning
to-night?"

"The hell you say!" ejaculated the man, in amaze.

"This Glidden is a German agent--perhaps a spy. He's no labor leader.
What does he care for the interests of such men as you?"

"Young man, if you don't shut up you'll give me a hankering to go back
to real work."

"I hope I do. Let me give you a hunch. Throw down this I.W.W. outfit. Go
to Ruxton and get Anderson of 'Many Waters' ranch to give you a job.
Tell him who you are and that I sent you."

"Anderson of 'Many Waters,' hey? Well, maybe it'll surprise you to know
that Glidden is operating there, has a lot of men there, and is going
there from here."

"No, it doesn't surprise me. I hope he does go there. For if he does
he'll get killed."

"Sssssh!" whispered the guard. "Here comes some of the gang."

Kurt heard low voices and soft footfalls. Some dark forms loomed up.

"Bradford, has he come to yet?" queried the brutal voice of Glidden.

"Nope," replied the guard. "I guess he had a hard knock. He's never
budged."

"We've got to beat it out of here," said Glidden. "It's long after
midnight. There's a freight-train down the track. I want all the gang to
board it. You run along, Bradford, and catch up with the others."

"What're you going to do with this young fellow?" queried Bradford,
curiously.

"That's none of your business," returned Glidden.

"Maybe not. But I reckon I'll ask, anyhow. You want me to join your
I.W.W., and I'm asking questions. Labor strikes--standing up for your
rights--is one thing, and burning wheat or slugging young farmers is
another. Are you going to let this Dorn go?"

Kurt could plainly see the group of five men, Bradford standing over the
smaller Glidden, and the others strung and silent in the intensity of
the moment.

"I'll cut his throat," hissed Glidden.

Bradford lunged heavily. The blow he struck Glidden was square in the
face. Glidden would have had a hard fall but for the obstruction in the
shape of his comrades, upon whom he was knocked. They held him up.
Glidden sagged inertly, evidently stunned or unconscious. Bradford
backed guardedly away out of their reach, then, wheeling, he began to
run with heavy, plodding strides.

Glidden's comrades seemed anxiously holding him up, peering at him, but
no one spoke. Kurt saw his opportunity. With one strong wrench he freed
his hands. Feeling in his pocket for his gun, he was disturbed to find
that it had been taken. He had no weapon. But he did not hesitate.
Bounding up, he rushed like a hurricane upon the unprepared group. He
saw Glidden's pale face upheld to the light of the stars, and by it saw
that Glidden was recovering. With all his might Kurt swung as he rushed,
and the blow he gave the I.W.W. leader far exceeded Bradford's. Glidden
was lifted so powerfully against one of his men that they both fell.
Then Kurt, striking right and left, beat down the other two, and,
leaping over them, he bounded away into the darkness. Shrill piercing
yells behind him lent him wings.

But he ran right into another group of I.W.W. men, dozens in number, he
thought, and by the light of what appeared to be a fire they saw him as
quickly as he saw them. The yells behind were significant enough. Kurt
had to turn to run back, and he had to run the gauntlet of the men he
had assaulted. They promptly began to shoot at Kurt. The whistle of lead
was uncomfortably close. Never had he run so fleetly. When he flashed
past the end of the line of cars, into comparative open, he found
himself in the light of a new fire. This was a shed perhaps a score of
rods or less from the station. Some one was yelling beyond this, and
Kurt thought he recognized Jerry's voice, but he did not tarry to make
sure. Bullets scattering the gravel ahead of him and singing around his
head, and hoarse cries behind, with a heavy-booted tread of pursuers,
gave Kurt occasion to hurry. He flew across the freight-yard, intending
to distance his pursuers, then circle round the station to the village.

Once he looked back. The gang, well spread out, was not far behind him,
just coming into the light of the new fire. No one in it could ever
catch him, of that Kurt was sure.

Suddenly a powerful puff of air, like a blast of wind, seemed to lift
him. At the same instant a dazzling, blinding, yellow blaze illuminated
the whole scene. The solid earth seemed to rock under Kurt's flying
feet, and then a terrific roar appalled him. He was thrown headlong
through the air, and all about him seemed streaks and rays and bursts of
fire. He alighted to plow through the dirt until the momentum of force
had been expended. Then he lay prone, gasping and choking, almost blind,
but sensitive to the rain of gravel and debris, the fearful cries of
terrified men, taste of smoke and dust, and the rank smell of exploded
gasoline.

Kurt got up to grope his way through the murky darkness. He could escape
now. If that explosion had not killed his pursuers it had certainly
scared them off. He heard men running and yelling off to the left. A
rumble of a train came from below the village. Finally Kurt got clear of
the smoke, to find that he had wandered off into one of the fields
opposite the station. Here he halted to rest a little and to take
cognizance of his condition. It surprised him to find out that he was
only bruised, scratched, and sore. He had expected to find himself full
of bullets.

"Whew! They blew up the gasoline-shed!" he soliloquized. "But some of
them miscalculated, for if I don't lose my guess there was a bunch of
I.W.W. closer to that gasoline than I was.... Some adventure!... I got
another punch at Glidden. I felt it in my bones that I'd get a crack at
him. Oh, for another!... And that Bradford! He did make me think. How he
slugged Glidden! Good! Good! There's your old American spirit coming
out."

Kurt sat down to rest and to listen. He found he needed a rest. The only
sound he heard was the rumbling of a train, gradually drawing away. A
heavy smoke rose from the freight-yard, but there were no longer any
blazes or patches of red fire. Perhaps the explosion had smothered all
the flames.

It had been a rather strenuous evening, he reflected. A good deal of
satisfaction lay in the fact that he had severely punished some of the
I.W.W. members, if he had not done away with any of them.

When he thought of Glidden, however, he did not feel any satisfaction.
His fury was gone, but in its place was a strong judgment that such men
should be made examples. He certainly did not want to run across Glidden
again, because if he did he would have blood on his hands.

Kurt's chance meeting with the man Bradford seemed far the most
interesting, if not thrilling, incident of the evening. It opened up a
new point of view. How many of the men of that motley and ill-governed
I.W.W. had grievances like Bradford's? Perhaps there were many. Kurt
tried to remember instances when, in the Northwest wheat country,
laborers and farmers had been cheated or deceived by men of large
interests. It made him grave to discover that he could recall many such
instances. His own father had long nursed a grievance against Anderson.
Neuman, his father's friend, had a hard name. And there were many who
had profited by the misfortune of others. That, after all, was a
condition of life. He took it for granted, then, that all members of the
I.W.W. were not vicious or dishonest. He was glad to have this proof.
The I.W.W. had been organized by labor agitators, and they were the ones
to blame, and their punishment should be severest. Kurt began to see
where the war, cruel as it would be, was going to be of immeasurable
benefit to the country.

It amazed Kurt, presently, to note that dawn was at hand. He waited
awhile longer, wanting to be sure not to meet any lingering members of
the I.W.W. It appeared, indeed, that they had all gone.

He crossed the freight-yard. A black ruin, still smoldering, lay where
the elevators had been. That wonderful wheat yield of his had been
destroyed. In the gray dawn it was hard to realize. He felt a lump in
his throat. Several tracks were littered with the remains of burned
freight-cars. When Kurt reached the street he saw men in front of the
cottages. Some one hailed him, and then several shouted. They met him
half-way. Jerry and Olsen were in the party.

"We was pretty much scared," said Jerry, and his haggard face showed his
anxiety.

"Boy, we thought the I.W.W. had made off with you," added Olsen,
extending his hand.

"Not much! Where are they?" replied Kurt.

"Gone on a freight-train. When Jerry blew up the gasoline-shed that
fixed the I.W.W."

"Jerry, did you do that?" queried Kurt.

"I reckon."

"Well, you nearly blew me off the map. I was running, just below the
shed. When that explosion came I was lifted and thrown a mile. Thought
I'd never light!"

"So far as we can tell, nobody was killed," said Olsen. "Some of our
fellows have got bullet-holes to nurse. But no one is bad hurt."

"That's good. I guess we came out lucky," replied Kurt.

"You must have had some fight, runnin' off that way after the I.W.W.'s.
We heard you shootin' an' the I.W.W.'s yellin'. That part was fun. Tell
us what happened to you."

So Kurt had to narrate his experiences from the time he stole off with
the big shot-gun until his friends saw him again. It made rather a long
story, which manifestly was of exceeding interest to the villagers.

"Dorn," said one of the men, "you an' Jerry saved this here village from
bein' burned."

"We all had a share. I'm sure glad they're gone. Now what damage was
done?"

It turned out that there had been little hurt to the property of the
villagers. Some freight-cars full of barley, loaded and billed by the
railroad people, had been burned, and this loss of grain would probably
be paid for by the company. The loss of wheat would fall upon Kurt. In
the haste of that great harvest and its transportation to the village no
provision had been made for loss. The railroad company had not accepted
his wheat for transportation, and was not liable.

"Olsen, according to our agreement I owe you fifteen thousand dollars,"
said Kurt.

"Yes, but forget it," replied Olsen. "You're the loser here."

"I'll pay it," replied Kurt.

"But, boy, you're ruined!" ejaculated the farmer. "You can't pay that
big price now. An' we don't expect it."

"Didn't you leave your burning fields to come help us save ours?"
queried Kurt.

"Sure. But there wasn't much of mine to burn."

"And so did many of the other men who came to help. I tell you, Olsen,
that means a great deal to me. I'll pay my debt or--or--"

"But how can you?" interrupted Olsen, reasonably. "Sometime, when you
raise another crop like this year, then you could pay."

"The farm will bring that much more than I owe Anderson."

"You'll give up the farm?" exclaimed Olsen.

"Yes. I'll square myself."

"Dorn, we won't take that money," said the farmer, deliberately.

"You'll have to take it. I'll send you a check soon--perhaps to-morrow."

"Give up your land!" repeated Olsen. "Why, that's unheard of! Land in
your family so many years!... What will you do?"

"Olsen, I waited for the draft just on account of my father. If it had
not been for him I'd have enlisted. Anyway, I'm going to war."

That silenced the little group of grimy-faced men.

"Jerry, get our horses and we'll ride home," said Kurt.

The tall foreman strode off. Kurt sensed something poignant in the
feelings of the men, especially Olsen. This matter of the I.W.W. dealing
had brought Kurt and his neighbors closer together. And he thought it a
good opportunity for a few words about the United States and the war and
Germany. So he launched forth into an eloquent expression of some of his
convictions. He was still talking when Jerry returned with the horses.
At length he broke off, rather abruptly, and, saying good-by, he
mounted.

"Hold on, Kurt," called Olsen, and left the group to lay a hand on the
horse and to speak low. "What you said struck me deep. It applies pretty
hard to us of the Bend. We've always been farmers, with no thought of
country. An' that's because we left our native country to come here. I'm
not German an' I've never been for Germany. But many of my neighbors an'
friends are Germans. This war never has come close till now. I know
Germans in this country. They have left their fatherland an' they are
lost to that fatherland!... It may take some time to stir them up, to
make them see, but the day will come.... Take my word for it, Dorn, the
German-Americans of the Northwest, when it comes to a pinch, will find
themselves an' be true to the country they have adopted."




CHAPTER XVI

The sun was up, broad and bright, burning over the darkened
wheat-fields, when Kurt and Jerry reached home. Kurt had never seen the
farm look like that--ugly and black and bare. But the fallow ground,
hundreds of acres of it, billowing away to the south, had not suffered
any change of color or beauty. To Kurt it seemed to smile at him, to bid
him wait for another spring.

And that thought was poignant, for he remembered he must leave at once
for "Many Waters."

He found, when he came to wash the blood and dirt from his person, that
his bruises were many. There was a lump on his head, and his hands were
skinned. After changing his clothes and packing a few things in a
valise, along with his papers, he went down to breakfast. Though
preoccupied in mind, he gathered that both the old housekeeper and Jerry
were surprised and dismayed to see him ready to leave. He had made no
mention of his intentions. And it struck him that this, somehow, was
going to be hard.

Indeed, when the moment came he found that speech was difficult and his
voice not natural.

"Martha--Jerry--I'm going away for good," he said, huskily. "I mean to
make over the farm to Mr. Anderson. I'll leave you in charge here--and
recommend that you be kept on. Here's your money up to date.... I'm
going away to the war--and the chances are I'll never come back."

The old housekeeper, who had been like a mother to him for many years,
began to cry; and Jerry struggled with a regret that he could not speak.

Abruptly Kurt left them and hurried out of the house. How strange that
difficult feelings had arisen--emotions he had never considered at all!
But the truth was that he was leaving his home forever. All was
explained in that.

First he went to the graves of his father and mother, out on the south
slope, where there were always wind and sun. The fire had not desecrated
the simple burying-ground. There was no grass. But a few trees and
bushes kept it from appearing bare.

Kurt sat down in the shade near his mother's grave and looked away
across the hills with dim eyes. Something came to him--a subtle
assurance that his mother approved of his going to war. Kurt remembered
her--slow, quiet, patient, hard-working, dominated by his father.

The slope was hot and still, with only a rustling of leaves in the wind.
The air was dry. Kurt missed the sweet fragrance of wheat. What odor
there was seemed to be like that of burning weeds. The great, undulating
open of the Bend extended on three sides. His parents had spent the best
of their lives there and had now been taken to the bosom of the soil
they loved. It seemed natural. Many were the last resting-places of
toilers of the wheat there on those hills. And surely in the long
frontier days, and in the ages before, men innumerable had gone back to
the earth from which they had sprung. The dwelling-places of men were
beautiful; it was only life that was sad. In this poignant, revealing
hour Kurt could not resist human longings and regrets, though he gained
incalculable strength from these two graves on the windy slope. It was
not for any man to understand to the uttermost the meaning of life.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he left he made his way across some of the fallow land and some of
the stubble fields that had yielded, alas! so futilely, such abundant
harvest. His boyhood days came back to him, when he used to crush down
the stubble with his bare feet. Every rod of the way revealed some
memory. He went into the barn and climbed into the huge, airy loft. It
smelled of straw and years of dust and mice. The swallows darted in and
out, twittering. How friendly they were! Year after year they had
returned to their nests--the young birds returning to the homes of the
old. Home even for birds was a thing of first and vital importance.

It was a very old barn that had not many more useful years to stand.
Kurt decided that he would advise that it be strengthened. There were
holes in the rough shingling and boards were off the sides. In the
corners and on the rafters was an accumulation of grain dust as thick as
snow. Mice ran in and out, almost as tame as the swallows. He seemed to
be taking leave of them. He recalled that he used to chase and trap mice
with all a boy's savage ingenuity. But that boyish instinct, along with
so many things so potential then, was gone now.

Best of all he loved the horses. Most of these were old and had given
faithful service for many years. Indeed, there was one--Old Badge--that
had carried Kurt when he was a boy. Once he and a neighbor boy had gone
to the pasture to fetch home the cows. Old Badge was there, and nothing
would do but that they ride him. From the fence Kurt mounted to his
broad back. Then the neighbor boy, full of the devil, had struck Old
Badge with a stick. The horse set off at a gallop for home with Kurt,
frantically holding on, bouncing up and down on his back. That had been
the ride of Kurt's life. His father had whipped him, too, for the
adventure.

How strangely vivid and thought-compelling were these ordinary adjuncts
to his life there on the farm. It was only upon giving them up that he
discovered their real meaning. The hills of bare fallow and of yellow
slope, the old barn with its horses, swallows, mice, and odorous loft,
the cows and chickens--these appeared to Kurt, in the illuminating light
of farewell, in their true relation to him. For they, and the labor of
them, had made him what he was.

Slowly he went back to the old house and climbed the stairs. Only three
rooms were there up-stairs, and one of these, his mother's, had not been
opened for a long time. It seemed just the same as when he used to go to
her with his stubbed toes and his troubles. She had died in that room.
And now he was a man, going out to fight for his country. How strange!
Why? In his mother's room he could not answer that puzzling question. It
stung him, and with a last look, a good-by, and a word of prayer on his
lips, he turned to his own little room.

He entered and sat down on the bed. It was small, with the slope of the
roof running down so low that he had learned to stoop when close to the
wall. There was no ceiling. Bare yellow rafters and dark old shingles
showed. He could see light through more than one little hole. The window
was small, low, and without glass. How many times he had sat there,
leaning out in the hot dusk of summer nights, dreaming dreams that were
never to come true. Alas for the hopes and illusions of boyhood! So long
as he could remember, this room was most closely associated with his
actions and his thoughts. It was a part of him. He almost took it into
his confidence as if it were human. Never had he become what he had
dared to dream he would, yet, somehow, at that moment he was not
ashamed. It struck him then what few belongings he really had. But he
had been taught to get along with little.

Living in that room was over for him. He was filled with unutterable
sadness. Yet he would not have had it any different. Bigger, and
selfless things called to him. He was bidding farewell to his youth and
all that it related to. A solemn procession of beautiful memories passed
through his mind, born of the nights there in that room of his boyhood,
with the wind at the eaves and the rain pattering on the shingles. What
strong and vivid pictures! No grief, no pain, no war could rob him of
this best heritage from the past.

He got up to go. And then a blinding rush of tears burned his eyes. This
room seemed dearer than all the rest of his home. It was hard to leave.
His last look was magnified, transformed. "Good-by!" he whispered, with
a swelling constriction in his throat. At the head of the dark old
stairway he paused a moment, and then with bowed head he slowly
descended.




CHAPTER XVII

An August twilight settled softly down over "Many Waters" while Lenore
Anderson dreamily gazed from her window out over the darkening fields so
tranquil now after the day's harvest toil.

Of late, in thoughtful hours such as this, she had become conscious of
strain, of longing. She had fought out a battle with herself, had
confessed her love for Kurt Dorn, and, surrendering to the enchantment
of that truth, had felt her love grow with every thought of him and
every beat of a thrilling pulse. In spite of a longing that amounted to
pain and a nameless dread she could not deny, she was happy. And she
waited, with a woman's presaging sense of events, for a crisis that was
coming.

Presently she heard her father down-stairs, his heavy tread and hearty
voice. These strenuous harvest days left him little time for his family.
And Lenore, having lost herself in her dreams, had not, of late, sought
him out in the fields. She was waiting, and, besides, his keen eyes, at
once so penetrating and so kind, had confused her. Few secrets had she
ever kept from her father.

"Where's Lenore?" she heard him ask, down in the dining-room.

"Lenorry's mooning," replied Kathleen, with a giggle.

"Ah-huh? Well, whereabouts is she moonin'?" went on Anderson.

"Why, in her room!" retorted the child. "And you can't get a word out of
her with a crowbar."

Anderson's laugh rang out with a jingle of tableware. He was eating his
supper. Then Lenore heard her mother and Rose and Kathleen all burst out
with news of a letter come that day from Jim, away training to be a
soldier. It was Rose who read this letter aloud to her father, and
outside of her swift, soft voice the absolute silence attested to the
attention of the listeners. Lenore's heart shook as she distinguished a
phrase here and there, for Jim's letter had been wonderful for her. He
had gained weight! He was getting husky enough to lick his father! He
was feeling great! There was not a boy in the outfit who could beat him
to a stuffed bag of a German soldier! And he sure could make some job
with that old bayonet! So ran Jim's message to the loved ones at home.
Then a strange pride replaced the quake in Lenore's heart. Not now would
she have had Jim stay home. She had sacrificed him. Something subtler
than thought told her she would never see him again. And, oh, how dear
he had become!

Then Anderson roared his delight in that letter and banged the table
with his fist. The girls excitedly talked in unison. But the mother was
significantly silent. Lenore forgot them presently and went back to her
dreaming. It was just about dark when her father called.

"Lenore."

"Yes, father," she replied.

"I'm comin' up," he said, and his heavy tread sounded in the hall. It
was followed by the swift patter of little feet. "Say, you kids go back.
I want to talk to Lenore."

"Daddy," came Kathleen's shrill, guilty whisper, "I was only in
fun--about her mooning."

The father laughed again and slowly mounted the stairs. Lenore reflected
uneasily that he seldom came to her room. Also, when he was most
concerned with trouble he usually sought her.

"Hello! All in the dark?" he said, as he came in. "May I turn on the
light?"

Lenore assented, though not quite readily. But Anderson did not turn on
the light. He bumped into things on the way to where she was curled up
in her window-seat, and he dropped wearily into Lenore's big arm-chair.

"How are you, daddy?" she inquired.

"Dog tired, but feelin' fine," he replied. "I've got a meetin' at eight
an' I need a rest. Reckon I'd like to smoke--an' talk to you--if you
don't mind."

"I'd sure rather listen to my dad than any one," she replied, softly.
She knew he had come with news or trouble or need of help. He always
began that way. She could measure his mood by the preliminaries before
his disclosure. And she fortified herself.

"Wasn't that a great letter from the boy?" began Anderson, as he lit a
cigar. By the flash of the match Lenore got a glimpse of his dark and
unguarded face. Indeed, she did well to fortify herself.

"Fine!... He wrote it to me. I laughed. I swelled with pride. It sent my
blood racing. It filled me with fight.... Then I sneaked up here to
cry."

"Ah-huh!" exclaimed Anderson, with a loud sigh. Then for a moment of
silence the end of his cigar alternately paled and glowed. "Lenore, did
you get any--any kind of a hunch from Jim's letter?"

"I don't exactly understand what you mean," replied Lenore.

"Did somethin'--strange an' different come to you?" queried Anderson,
haltingly, as if words were difficult to express what he meant.

"Why, yes--I had many strange feelings."

"Jim's letter was just like he talks. But to me it said somethin' he
never meant an' didn't know.... Jim will never come back!"

"Yes, dad--I divined just that," whispered Lenore.

"Strange about that," mused Anderson, with a pull on his cigar.

And then followed a silence. Lenore felt how long ago her father had
made his sacrifice. There did not seem to be any need for more words
about Jim. But there seemed a bigness in the bond of understanding
between her and her father. A cause united them, and they were sustained
by unfaltering courage. The great thing was the divine spark in the boy
who could not have been held back. Lenore gazed out into the darkening
shadows. The night was very still, except for the hum of insects, and
the cool air felt sweet on her face. The shadows, the silence, the
sleeping atmosphere hovering over "Many Waters," seemed charged with a
quality of present sadness, of the inexplicable great world moving to
its fate.

"Lenore, you haven't been around much lately," resumed Anderson. "Sure
you're missed. An' Jake swears a lot more than usual."

"Father, you told me to stay at home," she replied.

"So I did. An' I reckon it's just as well. But when did you ever before
mind me?"

"Why, I always obey you," replied Lenore, with her low laugh.

"Ah-huh! Not so I'd notice it.... Lenore, have you seen the big clouds
of smoke driftin' over 'Many Waters' these last few days?"

"Yes. And I've smelled smoke, too.... From forest fire, is it not?"

"There's fire in some of the timber, but the wind's wrong for us to get
smoke from the foot-hills."

"Then where does the smoke come from?" queried Lenore, quickly.

"Some of the Bend wheat country's been burned over."

"Burned! You mean the wheat?"

"Sure."

"Oh! What part of the Bend?"

"I reckon it's what you called young Dorn's desert of wheat."

"Oh, what a pity!... Have you had word?"

"Nothin' but rumors yet. But I'm fearin' the worst an' I'm sorry for our
young friend."

A sharp pain shot through Lenore's breast, leaving behind an ache.

"It will ruin him!" she whispered.

"Aw no, not that bad," declared Anderson, and there was a red streak in
the dark where evidently he waved his cigar in quick, decisive action.
"It'll only be tough on him an' sort of embarrassin' for me--an' you.
That boy's proud.... I'll bet he raised hell among them I.W.W.'s, if he
got to them." And Anderson chuckled with the delight he always felt in
the Western appreciation of summary violence justly dealt.

Lenore felt the rising tide of her anger. She was her father's daughter,
yet always had been slow to wrath. That was her mother's softness and
gentleness tempering the hard spirit of her father. But now her blood
ran hot, beating and bursting about her throat and temples. And there
was a leap and quiver to her body.

"Dastards! Father, those foreign I.W.W. devils should be shot!" she
cried, passionately. "To ruin those poor, heroic farmers! To ruin
that--that boy! It's a crime! And, oh, to burn his beautiful field of
wheat--with all his hopes! Oh, what shall I call that!"

"Wal, lass, I reckon it'd take stronger speech than any you know,"
responded Anderson. "An' I'm usin' that same."

Lenore sat there trembling, with hot tears running down her cheeks, with
her fists clenched so tight that her nails cut into her palms. Rage only
proved to her how impotent she was to avert catastrophe. How bitter and
black were some trials! She shrank with a sense of acute pain at thought
of the despair there must be in the soul of Kurt Dorn.

"Lenore," began Anderson, slowly--his tone was stronger, vibrant with
feeling--"you love this young Dorn!"

A tumultuous shock shifted Lenore's emotions. She quivered as before,
but this was a long, shuddering thrill shot over her by that spoken
affirmation. What she had whispered shyly and fearfully to herself when
alone and hidden--what had seemed a wonderful and forbidden secret--her
father had spoken out. Lenore gasped. Her anger fled as it had never
been. Even in the dark she hid her face and tried to grasp the wild,
whirling thoughts and emotions now storming her. He had not asked. He
had affirmed. He knew. She could not deceive him even if she would. And
then for a moment she was weak, at the mercy of contending tides.

"Sure I seen he was in love with you," Anderson was saying. "Seen that
right off, an' I reckon I'd not thought much of him if he hadn't
been.... But I wasn't sure of you till the day Dorn saved you from
Ruenke an' fetched you back. Then I seen. An' I've been waitin' for you
to tell me."

"There's--nothing--to tell," faltered Lenore.

"I reckon there is," he replied. Leaning over, he threw his cigar out of
the window and took hold of her.

Lenore had never felt him so impelling. She was not proof against the
strong, warm pressure of his hand. She felt in its clasp, as she had
when a little girl, a great and sure safety. It drew her irresistibly.
She crept into his arms and buried her face on his shoulder, and she had
a feeling that if she could not relieve her heart it would burst.

"Oh, d--dad," she whispered, with a soft, hushed voice that broke
tremulously at her lips, "I--I love him!... I do love him.... It's
terrible!... I knew it--that last time you took me to his home--when he
said he was going to war.... And, oh, now you know!"

Anderson held her tight against his broad breast that lifted her with
its great heave. "Ah-huh! Reckon that's some relief. I wasn't so darn
sure," said Anderson. "Has he spoken to you?"

"Spoken! What do you mean?"

"Has Dorn told you he loved you?"

Lenore lifted her face. If that confession of hers had been relief to
her father it had been more so to her. What had seemed terrible began to
feel natural. Still, she was all intense, vibrating, internally
convulsed.

"Yes, he has," she replied, shyly. "But such a confession! He told it as
if to explain what he thought was boldness on his part. He had fallen in
love with me at first sight!... And then meeting me was too much for
him. He wanted me to know. He was going away to war. He asked
nothing.... He seemed to apologize for--for daring to love me. He asked
nothing. And he has absolutely not the slightest idea I care for him."

"Wal, I'll be dog-goned!" ejaculated Anderson. "What's the matter with
him?"

"Dad, he is proud," replied Lenore, dreamily. "He's had a hard struggle
out there in his desert of wheat. They've always been poor. He imagines
there's a vast distance between an heiress of 'Many Waters' and a farmer
boy. Then, more than all, I think, the war has fixed a morbid trouble in
his mind. God knows it must be real enough! A house divided against
itself is what he called his home. His father is German. He is American.
He worshiped his mother, who was a native of the United States. He has
become estranged from his father. I don't know--I'm not sure--but I felt
that he was obsessed by a calamity in his German blood. I divined that
was the great reason for his eagerness to go to war."

"Wal, Kurt Dorn's not goin' to war," replied her father. "I fixed that
all right."

An amazing and rapturous start thrilled over Lenore. "Daddy!" she cried,
leaping up in his arms, "what have you done?"

"I got exemption for him, that's what," replied Anderson, with great
satisfaction.

"Exemption!" exclaimed Lenore, in bewilderment.

"Don't you remember the government official from Washington? You met him
in Spokane. He was out West to inspire the farmers to raise more wheat.
There are many young farmers needed a thousand times more on the
wheat-fields than on the battle-fields. An' Kurt Dorn is one of them.
That boy will make the biggest sower of wheat in the Northwest. I
recommended exemption for Dorn. An' he's exempted an' doesn't know it."

"Doesn't know! He'll _never_ accept exemption," declared Lenore.

"Lass, I'm some worried myself," rejoined Anderson. "Reckon you've
explained Dorn to me--that somethin' queer about him.... But he's
sensible. He can be told things. An' he'll see how much more he's needed
to raise wheat than to kill Germans."

"But, father--suppose he _wants_ to kill Germans?" asked Lenore,
earnestly. How strangely she felt things about Dorn that she could not
explain.

"Then, by George! it's up to you, my girl," replied her father, grimly.
"Understand me. I've no sentiment about Dorn in this matter. One good
wheat-raiser is worth a dozen soldiers. To win the war--to feed our
country after the war--why, only a man like me knows what it 'll take!
It means millions of bushels of wheat!... I've sent my own boy. He'll
fight with the best or the worst of them. But he'd never been a man to
raise wheat. All Jim ever raised is hell. An' his kind is needed now. So
let him go to war. But Dorn must be kept home. An' that's up to Lenore
Anderson."

"Me!... Oh--how?" cried Lenore, faintly.

"Woman's wiles, daughter," said Anderson, with his frank laugh. "When
Dorn comes let me try to show him his duty. The Northwest can't spare
young men like him. He'll see that. If he has lost his wheat he'll come
down here to make me take the land in payment of the debt. I'll accept
it. Then he'll say he's goin' to war, an' then I'll say he ain't....
We'll have it out. I'll offer him such a chance here an' in the Bend
that he'd have to be crazy to refuse. But if he has got a twist in his
mind--if he thinks he's got to go out an' kill Germans--then you'll have
to change him."

"But, dad, how on earth can I do that?" implored Lenore, distracted
between hope and joy and fear.

"You're a woman now. An' women are in this war up to their eyes. You'll
be doin' more to keep him home than if you let him go. He's moony about
you. You can make him stay. An' it's your future--your happiness....
Child, no Anderson ever loves twice."

"I cannot throw myself into his arms," whispered Lenore, very low.

"Reckon I didn't mean you to," returned Anderson, gruffly.

"Then--if--if he does not ask me to--to marry him--how can I--"

"Lenore, no man on earth could resist you if you just let yourself be
sweet--as sweet as you are sometimes. Dorn could never leave you!"

"I'm not so sure of that, daddy," she murmured.

"Then take my word for it," he replied, and he got up from the chair,
though still holding her. "I'll have to go now.... But I've shown my
hand to you. Your happiness is more to me than anythin' else in this
world. You love that boy. He loves you. An' I never met a finer lad!
Wal, here's the point. He need be no slacker to stay home. He can do
more good here. Then outside of bein' a wheat man for his army an' his
country he can be one for me. I'm growin' old, my lass!... Here's the
biggest ranch in Washington to look after, an' I want Kurt Dorn to look
after it.... Now, Lenore, do we understand each other?"

She put her arms around his neck. "Dear old daddy, you're the
wonderfulest father any girl ever had! I would do my best--I would obey
even if I did not love Kurt Dorn.... To hear you speak so of him--oh,
its sweet! It--chokes me!... Now, good-night.... Hurry, before I--"

She kissed him and gently pushed him out of the room. Then before the
sound of his slow footfalls had quite passed out of hearing she lay
prone upon her bed, her face buried in the pillow, her hands clutching
the coverlet, utterly surrendered to a breaking storm of emotion.
Terrible indeed had come that presaged crisis of her life. Love of her
wild brother Jim, gone to atone forever for the errors of his youth;
love of her father, confessing at last the sad fear that haunted him;
love of Dorn, that stalwart clear-eyed lad who set his face so bravely
toward a hopeless, tragic fate--these were the burden of the flood of
her passion, and all they involved, rushing her from girlhood into
womanhood, calling to her with imperious desires, with deathless
loyalty.




CHAPTER XVIII

After Lenore's paroxysm of emotion had subsided and she lay quietly in
the dark, she became aware of soft, hurried footfalls passing along the
path below her window. At first she paid no particular heed to them, but
at length the steady steps became so different in number, and so regular
in passing every few moments, that she was interested to go to her
window and look out. Watching there awhile, she saw a number of men,
whispering and talking low, come from the road, pass under her window,
and disappear down the path into the grove. Then no more came. Lenore
feared at first these strange visitors might be prowling I.W.W. men. She
concluded, however, that they were neighbors and farm-hands, come for
secret conference with her father.

Important events were pending, and her father had not taken her into his
confidence! It must be, then, something that he did not wish her to
know. Only a week ago, when the I.W.W. menace had begun to be serious,
she had asked him how he intended to meet it, and particularly how he
would take sure measures to protect himself. Anderson had laughed down
her fears, and Lenore, absorbed in her own tumult, had been easily
satisfied. But now, with her curiosity there returned a two-fold dread.

She put on a cloak and went down-stairs. The hour was still early. She
heard the girls with her mother in the sitting-room. As Lenore slipped
out she encountered Jake. He appeared to loom right out of the darkness
and he startled her.

"Howdy, Miss Lenore!" he said. "Where might you be goin'?"

"Jake, I'm curious about the men I heard passing by my window," she
replied. Then she observed that Jake had a rifle under his arm, and she
added, "What are you doing with that gun?"

"Wal, I've sort of gone back to packin' a Winchester," replied Jake.

Lenore missed his smile, ever ready for her. Jake looked somber.

"You're on guard!" she exclaimed.

"I reckon. There's four of us boys round the house. You're not goin' off
thet step, Miss Lenore."

"Oh, ah-huh!" replied Lenore, imitating her father, and bantering Jake,
more for the fun of it than from any intention of disobeying him. "Who's
going to keep me from it?"

"I am. Boss's orders, Miss Lenore. I'm dog-gone sorry. But you sure
oughtn't to be outdoors this far," replied Jake.

"Look here, my cowboy dictator. I'm going to see where those men went,"
said Lenore, and forthwith she stepped down to the path.

Then Jake deliberately leaned his rifle against a post and, laying hold
of her with no gentle hands, he swung her in one motion back upon the
porch. The broad light streaming out of the open door showed that,
whatever his force meant, it had paled his face to exercise it.

"Why, Jake--to handle me that way!" cried Lenore, in pretended reproach.
She meant to frighten or coax the truth out of him. "You hurt me!"

"I'm beggin' your pardon if I was rough," said Jake. "Fact is, I'm a
little upset an' I mean bizness."

Whereupon Lenore stepped back to close the door, and then, in the
shadow, she returned to Jake and whispered: "I was only in fun. I would
not think of disobeying you. But you can trust me. I'll not tell, and
I'll worry less if I know what's what.... Jake, is father in danger?"

"I reckon. But the best we could do was to make him stand fer a guard.
There's four of us cowpunchers with him all day, an' at night he's
surrounded by guards. There ain't much chance of his gittin' hurt. So
you needn't worry about thet."

"Who are these men I heard passing? Where are they from?"

"Farmers, ranchers, cowboys, from all over this side of the river."

"There must have been a lot of them," said Lenore, curiously.

"Reckon you never heerd the quarter of what's come to attend Anderson's
meetin'."

"What for? Tell me, Jake."

The cowboy hesitated. Lenore heard his big hand slap round the
rifle-stock.

"We've orders not to tell thet," he replied.

"But, Jake, you can tell _me_. You always tell me secrets. I'll not
breathe it."

Jake came closer to her, and his tall head reached to a level with hers,
where she stood on the porch. Lenore saw his dark, set face, his
gleaming eyes.

"Wal, it's jest this here," he whispered, hoarsely. "Your dad has
organized vigilantes, like he belonged to in the early days.... An' it's
the vigilantes thet will attend to this I.W.W. outfit."

Those were thrilling words to Jake, as was attested by his emotion, and
they surely made Lenore's knees knock together. She had heard many
stories from her father of that famous old vigilante band, secret,
making the law where there was no law.

"Oh, I might have expected that of dad!" she murmured.

"Wal, it's sure the trick out here. An' your father's the man to deal
it. There'll be dog-goned little wheat burned in this valley, you can
gamble on thet."

"I'm glad. I hate the very thought.... Jake, you know about Mr. Dorn's
misfortune?"

"No, I ain't heerd about him. But I knowed the Bend was burnin' over,
an' of course I reckoned Dorn would lose his wheat. Fact is, he had the
only wheat up there worth savin' ... Wal, these I.W.W.'s an' their
German bosses hev put it all over the early days when rustlin' cattle,
holdin' up stage-coaches, an' jest plain cussedness was stylish."

"Jake, I'd rather have lived back in the early days," mused Lenore.

"Me too, though I ain't no youngster," he replied. "Reckon you'd better
go in now, Miss Lenore.... Don't you worry none or lose any sleep."

Lenore bade the cowboy good-night and went to the sitting-room. Her
mother sat preoccupied, with sad and thoughtful face. Rose was writing
many pages to Jim. Kathleen sat at the table, surreptitiously eating
while she was pretending to read.

"My, but you look funny, Lenorry!" she cried.

"Why don't you laugh, then?" retorted Lenore.

"You're white. Your eyes are big and purple. You look like a starved
cannibal.... If that's what it's like to be in love--excuse me--I'll
never fall for any man!"

"You ought to be in bed. Mother I recommend the baby of the family be
sent up-stairs."

"Yes, child, it's long past your bedtime," said Mrs. Anderson.

"Aw, no!" wailed Kathleen.

"Yes," ordered her mother.

"But you'd never thought of it--if Lenorry hadn't said so," replied
Kathleen.

"You should obey Lenore," reprovingly said Mrs. Anderson.

"What? Me! Mind her!" burst out Kathleen, hotly, as she got up to go.
"Well, I guess not!" Kathleen backed to the door and opened it. Then
making a frightful face at Lenore, most expressive of ridicule and
revenge, she darted up-stairs.

"My dear, will you write to your brother?" inquired Mrs. Anderson.

"Yes," replied Lenore. "I'll send mine with Rose's."

Mrs. Anderson bade the girls good-night and left the room. After that
nothing was heard for a while except the scratching of pens.

It was late when Lenore retired, yet she found sleep elusive. The
evening had made subtle, indefinable changes in her. She went over in
mind all that had been said to her and which she felt, with the result
that one thing remained to torment and perplex and thrill her--to keep
Kurt Dorn from going to war.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day Lenore did not go out to the harvest fields. She expected Dorn
might arrive at any time, and she wanted to be there when he came. Yet
she dreaded the meeting. She had to keep her hands active that day, so
in some measure to control her mind. A thousand times she felt herself
on the verge of thrilling and flushing. Her fancy and imagination seemed
wonderfully active. The day was more than usually golden, crowned with
an azure blue, like the blue of the Pacific. She worked in her room,
helped her mother, took up her knitting, and sewed upon a dress, and
even lent a hand in the kitchen. But action could not wholly dull the
song in her heart. She felt unutterably young, as if life had just
opened, with haunting, limitless, beautiful possibilities. Never had the
harvest-time been so sweet.

Anderson came in early from the fields that day. He looked like a
farm-hand, with his sweaty shirt, his dusty coat, his begrimed face. And
when he kissed Lenore he left a great smear on her cheek.

"That's a harvest kiss, my lass," he said, with his big laugh. "Best of
the whole year!"

"It sure is, dad," she replied. "But I'll wait till you wash your face
before I return it. How's the harvest going?"

"We had trouble to-day," he said.

"What happened?"

"Nothin' much, but it was annoyin'. We had some machines crippled, an'
it took most of the day to fix them.... We've got a couple of hundred
hands at work. Some of them are I.W.W.'s, that's sure. But they all
swear they are not an' we have no way to prove it. An' we couldn't catch
them at their tricks.... All the same, we've got half your big
wheat-field cut. A thousand acres, Lenore!... Some of the wheat 'll go
forty bushels to the acre, but mostly under that."

"Better than last harvest," Lenore replied, gladly. "We are lucky....
Father, did you hear any news from the Bend?"

"Sure did," he replied, and patted her head. "They sent me a message up
from Vale.... Young Dorn wired from Kilo he'd be here to-day."

"To-day!" echoed Lenore, and her heart showed a tendency to act
strangely.

"Yep. He'll be here soon," said Anderson, cheerfully. "Tell your mother.
Mebbe he'll come for supper. An' have a room ready for him."

"Yes, father," replied Lenore.

"Wal, if Dorn sees you as you look now--sleeves rolled up, apron on,
flour on your nose--a regular farmer girl--an' sure huggable, as Jake
says--you won't have no trouble winnin' him."

"How you talk!" exclaimed Lenore, with burning cheeks. She ran to her
room and made haste to change her dress.

But Dorn did not arrive in time for supper. Eight o'clock came without
his appearing, after which, with keen disappointment, Lenore gave up
expecting him that night. She was in her father's study, helping him
with the harvest notes and figures, when Jake knocked and entered.

"Dorn's here," he announced.

"Good. Fetch him in," replied Anderson.

"Father, I--I'd rather go," whispered Lenore.

"You stay right along by your dad," was his reply, "an' be a real
Anderson."

When Lenore heard Dorn's step in the hall the fluttering ceased in her
heart and she grew calm. How glad she would be to see him! It had been
the suspense of waiting that had played havoc with her feelings.

Then Dorn entered with Jake. The cowboy set down a bag and went out. He
seemed strange to Lenore and very handsome in his gray flannel suit.

As he stepped forward in greeting Lenore saw how white he was, how
tragic his eyes. There had come a subtle change in his face. It hurt
her.

"Miss Anderson, I'm glad to see you," he said, and a flash of red
stained his white cheeks. "How are you?"

"Very well, thank you," she replied, offering her hand. "I'm glad to see
you."

They shook hands, while Anderson boomed out: "Hello, son! I sure am glad
to welcome you to 'Many Waters.'"

No doubt as to the rancher's warm and hearty greeting! It warmed some of
the coldness out of Dorn's face.

"Thank you. It's good to come--yet it's--it's hard."

Lenore saw his throat swell. His voice seemed low and full of emotion.

"Bad news to tell," said Anderson. "Wal, forget it.... Have you had
supper?"

"Yes. At Huntington. I'd have been here sooner, but we punctured a tire.
My driver said the I.W.W. was breaking bottles on the roads."

"I.W.W. Now where'd I ever hear that name?" asked Anderson, quizzically.
"Bustin' bottles, hey! Wal, they'll be bustin' their heads presently....
Sit down, Dorn. You look fine, only you're sure pale."

"I lost my father," said Dorn.

"What! Your old man? Dead?... Aw, that's tough!"

Lenore felt an almost uncontrollable impulse to go to Dorn. "Oh, I'm
sorry!" she said.

"That is a surprise," went on Anderson, rather huskily. "My Lord! But
it's only round the corner for every man.... Come on, tell us all about
it, an' the rest of the bad news.... Get it over. Then, mebbe Lenore n'
me--"

But Anderson did not conclude his last sentence.

Dorn's face began to work as he began to talk, and his eyes were dark
and deep, burning with gloom.

"Bad news it is, indeed.... Mr. Anderson, the I.W.W. marked us....
You'll remember your suggestion about getting my neighbors to harvest
our wheat in a rush. I went all over, and almost all of them came. We
had been finding phosphorus everywhere. Then, on the hot day, fires
broke out all around. My neighbors left their own burning fields to save
ours. We fought fire. We fought fire all around us, late into the
night.... My father had grown furious, maddened at the discovery of how
he had been betrayed by Glidden. You remember the--the plot, in which
some way my father was involved. He would not believe the I.W.W. meant
to burn _his_ wheat. And when the fires broke out he worked like a
mad-man.... It killed him!... I was not with him when he died. But
Jerry, our foreman was.... And my father's last words were, 'Tell my son
I was wrong.'... Thank God he sent me that message! I think in that he
confessed the iniquity of the Germans.... Well, my neighbor, Olsen,
managed the harvest. He sure rushed it. I'd have given a good deal for
you and Miss Anderson to have seen all those big combines at work on one
field. It was great. We harvested over thirty-eight thousand bushels and
got all the wheat safely to the elevators at the station.... And that
night the I.W.W. burned the elevators!"

Anderson's face turned purple. He appeared about to explode. There was a
deep rumbling within his throat that Lenore knew to be profanity
restrained on account of her presence. As for her own feelings, they
were a strange mixture of sadness for Dorn and pride in her father's
fury, and something unutterably sweet in the revelation about to be made
to this unfortunate boy. But she could not speak a word just then, and
it appeared that her father was in the same state.

Evidently the telling of his story had relieved Dorn. The strain relaxed
in his white face and it lost a little of its stern fixity. He got up
and, opening his bag, he took out some papers.

"Mr. Anderson, I'd like to settle all this right now," he said. "I want
it off my mind."

"Go ahead, son, an' settle," replied Anderson, thickly. He heaved a big
sigh and then sat down, fumbling for a match to light his cigar. When he
got it lighted he drew in a big breath and with it manifestly a great
draught of consoling smoke.

"I want to make over the--the land--in fact, all the property--to
you--to settle mortgage and interest," went on Dorn, earnestly, and then
paused.

"All right. I expected that," returned Anderson, as he emitted a cloud
of smoke.

"The only thing is--" here Dorn hesitated, evidently with difficult
speech--"the property is worth more than the debt."

"Sure. I know," said Anderson, encouragingly.

"I promised our neighbors big money to harvest our wheat. You remember
you told me to offer it. Well, they left their own wheat and barley
fields to burn, and they saved ours. And then they harvested it and
hauled it to the railroad.... I owe Andrew Olsen fifteen thousand
dollars for himself and the men who worked with him.... If I could pay
that--I'd--almost be happy.... Do you think my property is worth that
much more than the debt?"

"I think it is--just about," replied Anderson. "We'll mail the money to
Olsen.... Lenore, write out a check to Andrew Olsen for fifteen
thousand."

Lenore's hand trembled as she did as her father directed. It was the
most poorly written check she had ever drawn. Her heart seemed too big
for her breast just then. How cool and calm her father was! Never had
she loved him quite so well as then. When she looked up from her task it
was to see a change in Kurt Dorn that suddenly dimmed her eyes.

"There, send this to Olsen," said Anderson. "We'll run into town in a
day or so an' file the papers."

Lenore had to turn her gaze away from Dorn. She heard him in broken,
husky accents try to express his gratitude.

"Ah-huh! Sure--sure!" interrupted Anderson, hastily. "Now listen to me.
Things ain't so bad as they look.... For instance, we're goin' to fool
the I.W.W. down here in the valley."

"How can you? There are so many," returned Dorn.

"You'll see. We're just waitin' a chance."

"I saw hundreds of I.W.W. men between her and Kilo."

"Can you tell an I.W.W. from any other farm-hand?" asked Anderson.

"Yes, I can," replied Dorn, grimly.

"Wal, I reckon we need you round here powerful much," said the rancher,
dryly. "Dorn, I've got a big proposition to put up to you."

Lenore, thrilling at her father's words, turned once more. Dorn appeared
more composed.

"Have you?" he inquired, in surprise.

"Sure. But there's no hurry about tellin' you. Suppose we put it off."

"I'd rather hear it now. My stay here must be short. I--I--You know--"

"Hum! Sure I know.... Wal then, it's this: Will you go in business with
me? Want you to work that Bend wheat-farm of yours for me--on half
shares.... More particular I want you to take charge of 'Many Waters.'
You see, I'm--not so spry as I used to be. It's a big job, an' I've a
lot of confidence in you. You'll live here, of course, an' run to an'
fro with one of my cars. I've some land-development schemes--an', to cut
it short, there's a big place waitin' for you in the Northwest."

"Mr. Anderson!" cried Dorn, in a kind of rapturous amaze. Red burned out
the white of his face. "That's great! It's too great to come true.
You're good!... If I'm lucky enough to come back from the war--"

"Son, you're not goin' to war!" interposed Anderson.

"What!" exclaimed Dorn, blankly. He stared as if he had not heard
aright.

Anderson calmly repeated his assertion. He was smiling; he looked kind;
but underneath that showed the will that had made him what he was.

"But I _am_!" flashed the young man, as if he had been misunderstood.

"Listen. You're like all boys--hot-headed an' hasty. Let me talk a
little," resumed Anderson. And he began to speak of the future of the
Northwest. He painted that in the straight talk of a farmer who knew,
but what he predicted seemed like a fairy-tale. Then he passed to the
needs of the government and the armies, and lastly the people of the
nation. All depended upon the farmer! Wheat was indeed the staff of life
and of victory! Young Dorn was one of the farmers who could not be
spared. Patriotism was a noble thing. Fighting, however, did not alone
constitute a duty and loyalty to the nation. This was an economic war, a
war of peoples, and the nation that was the best fed would last longest.
Adventure and the mistaken romance of war called indeed to all
red-blooded young Americans. It was good that they did call. But they
should not call the young farmer from his wheat-fields.

"But I've been drafted!" Dorn spoke with agitation. He seemed bewildered
by Anderson's blunt eloquence. His intelligence evidently accepted the
elder man's argument, but something instinctive revolted.

"There's exemption, my boy. Easy in your case," replied Anderson.

"Exemption!" echoed Dorn, and a dark tide of blood rose to his temples.
"I wouldn't--I couldn't ask for that!"

"You don't need to," said the rancher. "Dorn, do you recollect that
Washington official who called on you some time ago?"

"Yes," replied Dorn, slowly.

"Did he say anythin' about exemption?"

"No. He asked me if I wanted it, that's all."

"Wal, you had it right then. I took it upon myself to get exemption for
you. That government official heartily approved of my recommendin'
exemption for you. An' he gave it."

"Anderson! You took--it upon--yourself--" gasped Dorn, slowly rising. If
he had been white-faced before, he was ghastly now.

"Sure I did.... Good Lord! Dorn, don't imagine I ever questioned your
nerve.... It's only you're not needed--or rather, you're needed more at
home.... I let my son Jim go to war. That's enough for one family!"

But Dorn did not grasp the significance of Anderson's reply.

"How dared you? What right had you?" he demanded passionately.

"No right at all, lad," replied Anderson. "I just recommended it an' the
official approved it."

"But I refuse!" cried Dorn, with ringing fury. "I won't accept
exemption."

"Talk sense now, even if you are mad," returned Anderson, rising. "I've
paid you a high compliment, young man, an' offered you a lot. More 'n
you see, I guess.... Why won't you accept exemption?"

"I'm going to war!" was the grim, hard reply.

"But you're needed here. You'd be more of a soldier here. You could do
more for your country than if you gave a hundred lives. Can't you see
that?"

"Yes, I can," assented Dorn, as if forced.

"You're no fool, an' you're a loyal American. Your duty is to stay home
an' raise wheat."

"I've a duty to myself," returned Dorn, darkly.

"Son, your fortune stares you right in the face--here. Are you goin' to
turn from it?"

"Yes."

"You want to get in that war? You've got to fight?"

"Yes."

"Ah-huh!" Anderson threw up his hands in surrender. "Got to kill some
Germans, hey?... Why not come out to my harvest fields an' hog-stick a
few of them German I.W.W.'s?"

Dorn had no reply for that.

"Wal, I'm dog-gone sorry," resumed Anderson. "I see it's a tough place
for you, though I can't understand. You'll excuse me for mixin' in your
affairs.... An' now, considerin' other ways I've really helped you, I
hope you'll stay at my home for a few days. We all owe you a good deal.
My family wants to make up to you. Will you stay?"

"Thank you--yes--for a few days," replied Dorn.

"Good! That'll help some. Mebbe, after runnin' around 'Many Waters' with
Le--with the girls--you'll begin to be reasonable. I hope so."

"You think me ungrateful!" exclaimed Dorn, shrinking.

"I don't think nothin'," replied Anderson. "I turn you over to Lenore."
He laughed as he pronounced Dorn's utter defeat. And his look at Lenore
was equivalent to saying the issue now depended upon her, and that he
had absolutely no doubt of its outcome. "Lenore, take him in to meet
mother an' the girls, an' entertain him. I've got work to do."

Lenore felt the blushes in her cheeks and was glad Dorn did not look at
her. He seemed locked in somber thought. As she touched him and bade him
come he gave a start; then he followed her into the hall. Lenore closed
her father's door, and the instant she stood alone with Dorn a wonderful
calmness came to her.

"Miss Anderson, I'd rather not--not meet your mother and sisters
to-night," said Dorn. "I'm upset. Won't it be all right to wait till
to-morrow?"

"Surely. But I think they've gone to bed," replied Lenore, as she
glanced into the dark sitting-room. "So they have.... Come, let us go
into the parlor."

Lenore turned on the shaded lights in the beautiful room. How
inexplicable was the feeling of being alone with him, yet utterly free
of the torment that had possessed her before! She seemed to have divined
an almost insurmountable obstacle in Dorn's will. She did not have her
father's assurance. It made her tremble to realize her responsibility
--that her father's earnest wishes and her future of love or
woe depended entirely upon what she said and did. But she felt that
indeed she had become a woman. And it would take a woman's wit and charm
and love to change this tragic boy.

"Miss--Anderson," he began, brokenly, with restraint let down, "your
father--doesn't understand. I've _got_ to go.... And even if I am
spared--I couldn't ever come back.... To work for him--all the time in
love with you--I couldn't stand it.... He's so good. I know I could care
for him, too.... Oh, I thought I was bitterly resigned--hard--inhuman.
But all this makes it--so--so much worse."

He sat down heavily, and, completely unnerved, he covered his face with
his hands. His shoulders heaved and short, strangled sobs broke from
him.

Lenore had to overcome a rush of tenderness. It was all she could do to
keep from dropping to her knees beside him and slipping her arms around
his neck. In her agitation she could not decide whether that would be
womanly or not; only, she must make no mistakes. A hot, sweet flush went
over her when she thought that always as a last resort she could reveal
her secret and use her power. What would he do when he discovered she
loved him?

"Kurt, I understand," she said, softly, and put a hand on his shoulder.
And she stood thus beside him, sadly troubled, vaguely divining that her
presence was helpful, until he recovered his composure. As he raised his
head and wiped tears from his eyes he made no excuses for his weakness,
nor did he show any shame.

"Miss Anderson--" he began.

"Please call me Lenore. I feel so--so stiff when you are formal. My
friends call me Lenore," she said.

"You mean--you consider me your friend?" he queried.

"Indeed I do," she replied, smiling.

"I--I'm afraid I misunderstood your asking me to visit you," he said. "I
thank you. I'm proud and glad that you call me your friend. It will be
splendid to remember--when I am over there."

"I wonder if we could talk of anything except trouble and war," replied
Lenore, plaintively. "If we can't, then let's look at the bright side."

"Is there a bright side?" he asked, with his sad smile.

"Every cloud, you know.... For instance, if you go to war--"

"Not if. I _am_ going," he interrupted.

"Oh, so you say," returned Lenore, softly. And she felt deep in her the
inception of a tremendous feminine antagonism. It stirred along her
pulse. "Have your own way, then. But _I_ say, _if_ you go, think how
fine it will be for me to get letters from you at the front--and to
write you!"

"You'd like to hear from me?... You would answer?" he asked,
breathlessly.

"Assuredly. And I'll knit socks for you."

"You're--very good," he said, with strong feeling.

Lenore again saw his eyes dim. How strangely sensitive he was! If he
exaggerated such a little kindness as she had suggested, if he responded
to it with such emotion, what would he do when the great and marvelous
truth of her love was flung in his face? The very thought made Lenore
weak.

"You'll go to training-camp," went on Lenore, "and because of your
wonderful physique and your intelligence you will get a commission. Then
you'll go to--France." Lenore faltered a little in her imagined
prospect. "You'll be in the thick of the great battles. You'll give and
take. You'll kill some of those--those--Germans. You'll be wounded and
you'll be promoted.... Then the Allies will win. Uncle Sam's grand army
will have saved the world.... Glorious!... You'll come back--home to
us--to take the place dad offered you.... There! that is the bright
side."

Indeed, the brightness seemed reflected in Dorn's face.

"I never dreamed you could be like this," he said, wonderingly.

"Like what?"

"I don't know just what I mean. Only you're different from my--my
fancies. Not cold or--or proud."

"You're beginning to get acquainted with me, that's all. After you've
been here awhile--"

"Please don't make it so hard for me," he interrupted, appealingly. "I
can't stay."

"Don't you want to?" she asked.

"Yes. And I will stay a couple of days. But no longer. It'll be hard
enough to go then."

"Perhaps I--we'll make it so hard for you that you can't go."

Then he gazed piercingly at her, as if realizing a will opposed to his,
a conviction not in sympathy with his.

"You're going to keep this up--this trying to change my mind?"

"I surely am," she replied, both wistfully and wilfully.

"Why? I should think you'd respect my sense of duty."

"Your duty is more here than at the front. The government man said so.
My father believes it. So do I.... You have some other--other thing you
think duty."

"I hate Germans!" he burst out, with a dark and terrible flash.

"Who does not?" she flashed back at him, and she rose, feeling as if
drawn by a powerful current. She realized then that she must be prepared
any moment to be overwhelmed by the inevitable climax of this meeting.
But she prayed for a little more time. She fought her emotions.

She saw him tremble. "Lenore, I'd better run off in the night," he said.

Instinctively, with swift, soft violence, she grasped his hands. Perhaps
the moment had come. She was not afraid, but the suddenness of her
extremity left her witless.

"You would not!... That would be unkind--not like you at all.... To run
off without giving me a chance--without good-by!... Promise me you will
not."

"I promise," he replied, wearily, as if nonplussed by her attitude. "You
said you understood me. But I can't understand you."

She released his hands and turned away. "I promise--that you shall
understand--very soon."

"You feel sorry for me. You pity me. You think I'll only be
cannon-fodder for the Germans. You want to be nice, kind, sweet to
me--to send me away with better thoughts.... Isn't that what you think?"

He was impatient, almost angry. His glance blazed at her. All about him,
his tragic face, his sadness, his defeat, his struggle to hold on to his
manliness and to keep his faith in nobler thoughts--these challenged
Lenore's compassion, her love, and her woman's combative spirit to save
and to keep her own. She quivered again on the brink of betraying
herself. And it was panic alone that held her back.

"Kurt--I think--presently I'll give you the surprise of your life," she
replied, and summoned a smile.

How obtuse he was! How blind! Perhaps the stress of his emotion, the
terrible sense of his fate, left him no keenness, no outward
penetration. He answered her smile, as if she were a child whose
determined kindness made him both happy and sad.

"I dare say you will," he replied. "You Andersons are full of
surprises.... But I wish you would not do any more for me. I am like a
dog. The kinder you are to me the more I love you.... How dreadful to go
away to war--to violence and blood and death--to all that's
brutalizing--with my heart and mind full of love for a noble girl like
you!--If I come to love you any more I'll not be a man."

To Lenore he looked very much of a man, so tall and lithe and
white-faced, with his eyes of fire, his simplicity, and his tragic
refusal of all that was for most men the best of life. Whatever his
ideal, it was magnificent. Lenore had her chance then, but she was
absolutely unable to grasp it. Her blood beat thick and hot. If she
could only have been sure of herself! Or was it that she still cared too
much for herself? The moment had not come. And in her tumult there was a
fleeting fury at Dorn's blindness, at his reverence of her, that he dare
not touch her hand. Did he imagine she was stone?

"Let us say good night," she said. "You are worn out. And I am--not just
myself. To-morrow we'll be--good friends.... Father will take you to
your room."

Dorn pressed the hand she offered, and, saying good-night, he followed
her to the hall. Lenore tapped on the door of her father's study, then
opened it.

"Good night, dad. I'm going up," she said. "Will you look after Kurt?"

"Sure. Come in, son," replied her father.

Lenore felt Dorn's strange, intent gaze upon her as she passed him.
Lightly she ran up-stairs and turned at the top. The hall was bright and
Dorn stood full in the light, his face upturned. It still wore the
softer expression of those last few moments. Lenore waved her hand, and
he smiled. The moment was natural. Youth to youth! Lenore felt it. She
marveled that he did not. A sweet devil of wilful coquetry possessed
her.

"Oh, did you say you wouldn't go?" she softly called.

"I said only good night," he replied.

"If you _don't_ go, then you will never be General Dorn, will you? What
a pity!"

"I'll go. And then it will be--'Private Dorn--missing. No relatives,'"
he replied.

That froze Lenore. Her heart quaked. She gazed down upon him with all
her soul in her eyes. She knew it and did not care. But he could not
see.

"Good night, Kurt Dorn," she called, and ran to her room.

Composure did not come to her until she was ready for bed, with the
light out and in her old seat at the window. Night and silence and
starlight always lent Lenore strength. She prayed to them now and to the
spirit she knew dwelt beyond them. And then she whispered what her
intelligence told her was an unalterable fact--Kurt Dorn could never be
changed. But her sympathy and love and passion, all that was womanly
emotion, stormed at her intelligence and refused to listen to it.

Nothing short of a great shock would divert Dorn from his tragic
headlong rush toward the fate he believed unalterable. Lenore sensed a
terrible, sinister earnestness in him. She could not divine its meaning.
But it was such a driving passion that no man possessing it and free to
the violence of war could ever escape death. Even if by superhuman
strife, and the guidance of Providence, he did escape death, he would
have lost something as precious as life. If Dorn went to war at all--if
he ever reached those blood-red trenches, in the thick of fire and
shriek and ferocity--there to express in horrible earnestness what she
vaguely felt yet could not define--then so far as she was concerned she
imagined that she would not want him to come back.

That was the strength of spirit that breathed out of the night and the
silence to her. Dorn would go to war as no ordinary soldier, to obey, to
fight, to do his duty; but for some strange, unfathomable obsession of
his own. And, therefore, if he went at all he was lost. War, in its
inexplicable horror, killed the souls of endless hordes of men.
Therefore, if he went at all she, too, was lost to the happiness that
might have been hers. She would never love another man. She could never
marry. She would never have a child.

So his soul and her happiness were in the balance weighed against a
woman's power. It seemed to Lenore that she felt hopelessly unable to
carry the issue to victory; and yet, on the other hand, a tumultuous and
wonderful sweetness of sensation called to her, insidiously, of the
infallible potency of love. What could she do to save Dorn's life and
his soul? There was only one answer to that. She would do anything. She
must make him love her to the extent that he would have no will to carry
out this desperate intent. There was little time to do that. The gradual
growth of affection through intimacy and understanding was not possible
here. It must come as a flash of lightning. She must bewilder him with
the revelation of her love, and then by all its incalculable power hold
him there.

It was her father's wish; it would be the salvation of Dorn; it meant
all to her. But if to keep him there would make him a slacker, Lenore
swore she would die before lifting her lips to his. The government would
rather he stayed to raise wheat than go out and fight men. Lenore saw
the sanity, the cardinal importance of that, as her father saw it. So
from all sides she was justified. And sitting there in the darkness and
silence, with the cool wind in her face, she vowed she would be all
woman, all sweetness, all love, all passion, all that was feminine and
terrible, to keep Dorn from going to war.




CHAPTER XIX

Lenore awakened early. The morning seemed golden. Birds were singing at
her window. What did that day hold in store for her? She pressed a hand
hard on her heart as if to hold it still. But her heart went right on,
swift, exultant, throbbing with a fullness that was almost pain.

Early as she awakened, it was, nevertheless, late when she could direct
her reluctant steps down-stairs. She had welcomed every little
suggestion and task to delay the facing of her ordeal.

There was merriment in the sitting-room, and Dorn's laugh made her glad.
The girls were at him, and her father's pleasant, deep voice chimed in.
Evidently there was a controversy as to who should have the society of
the guest. They had all been to breakfast. Mrs. Anderson expressed
surprise at Lenore's tardiness, and said she had been called twice.
Lenore had heard nothing except the birds and the music of her thoughts.
She peeped into the sitting-room.

"Didn't you bring me anything?" Kathleen was inquiring of Dorn.

Dorn was flushed and smiling. Anderson stood beaming upon them, and Rose
appeared to be inclined toward jealousy.

"Why--you see--I didn't even know Lenore had a little sister," Dorn
explained.

"Oh!" exclaimed Kathleen, evidently satisfied. "All Lenorry's beaux
bring me things. But I believe I'm going to like you best."

Lenore had intended to say good morning. She changed her mind, however,
at Kathleen's naive speech, and darted back lest she be seen. She felt
the blood hot in her cheeks. That awful, irrepressible Kathleen! If she
liked Dorn she would take possession of him. And Kathleen was lovable,
irresistible. Lenore had a sudden thought that Kathleen would aid the
good cause if she could be enlisted. While Lenore ate her breakfast she
listened to the animated conversation in the sitting-room. Presently her
father came in.

"Hello, Lenore! Did you get up?" he greeted her, cheerily.

"I hardly ever did, it seems.... Dad, the day was something to face,"
she said.

"Ah-huh! It's like getting up to work. Lenore, the biggest duty of life
is to hide your troubles.... Dorn looks like a human bein' this mornin'.
The kids have won him. I reckon he needs that sort of cheer. Let them
have him. Then after a while you fetch him out to the wheat-field.
Lenore, our harvestin' is half done. Every day I've expected some trick
or deviltry. But it hasn't come yet."

"Are any of the other ranchers having trouble?" she inquired.

"I hear rumors of bad work. But facts told by ranchers an' men who were
here only yesterday make little of the rumors. All that burnin' of wheat
an' timber, an' the destruction of machines an' strikin' of farm-hands,
haven't hit Golden Valley yet. We won't need any militia here, you can
bet on that."

"Father, it won't do to be over-confident," she said, earnestly. "You
know you are the mark for the I.W.W. sabotage. If you are not
careful--any moment--"

Lenore paused with a shudder.

"Lass, I'm just like I was in the old rustlin' days. An' I've surrounded
myself with cowboys like Jake an' Bill, an' old hands who pack guns an'
keep still, as in the good old Western days. We're just waitin' for the
I.W.W.'s to break loose."

"Then what?" queried Lenore.

"Wal, we'll chase that outfit so fast it'll be lost in dust," he
replied.

"But if you chase them away, it 'll only be into another state, where
they'll make trouble for other farmers. You don't do any real good."

"My dear, I reckon you've said somethin' strong," he replied, soberly,
and went out.

Then Kathleen came bouncing in. Her beautiful eyes were full of mischief
and excitement. "Lenorry, your new beau has all the others skinned to a
frazzle," she said.

For once Lenore did not scold Kathleen, but drew her close and
whispered: "Do you want to please me? Do you want me to do _everything_
for you?"

"I sure do," replied Kathleen, with wonderful eyes.

"Then be nice, sweet, good to him.... make him love you.... Don't tease
him about my other beaux. Think how you can make him like 'Many
Waters.'"

"Will you promise--_everything_?" whispered Kathleen, solemnly.
Evidently Lenore's promises were rare and reliable.

"Yes. Cross my heart. There! And you must not tell."

Kathleen was a precocious child, with all the potentialities of youth.
She could not divine Lenore's motive, but she sensed a new and
fascinating mode of conduct for herself. She seemed puzzled a little at
Lenore's earnestness.

"It's a bargain," she said, soberly, as if she had accepted no slight
gauge.

"Now, Kathleen, take him all over the gardens, the orchards, the corrals
and barns," directed Lenore. "Be sure to show him the horses--my horses,
especially. Take him round the reservoir--and everywhere except the
wheat-fields. I want to take him there myself. Besides, father does not
want you girls to go out to the harvest."

Kathleen nodded and ran back to the sitting-room. Lenore heard them all
go out together. Before she finished breakfast her mother came in again.

"Lenore, I like Mr. Dorn," she said, meditatively. "He has an
old-fashioned manner that reminds me of my boy friends when I was a
girl. I mean he's more courteous and dignified than boys are nowadays. A
splendid-looking boy, too. Only his face is so sad. When he smiles he
seems another person."

"No wonder he's sad," replied Lenore, and briefly told Kurt Dorn's
story.

"Ah!" sighed Mrs. Anderson. "We have fallen upon evil days.... Poor
boy!... Your father seems much interested in him. And you are too, my
daughter?"

"Yes, I am," replied Lenore, softly.

Two hours later she heard Kathleen's gay laughter and pattering feet.
Lenore took her wide-brimmed hat and went out on the porch. Dorn was
indeed not the same somber young man he had been.

"Good morning, Kurt," said Lenore, extending her hand.

The instant he greeted her she saw the stiffness, the aloofness had gone
from him. Kathleen had made him feel at home. He looked younger. There
was color in his face.

"Kathleen, I'll take charge of Mr. Dorn now, if you will allow me that
pleasure."

"Lenorry, I sure hate to give him up. We sure had a fine time."

"Did he like 'Many Waters'?"

"Well, if he didn't he's a grand fibber," replied Kathleen. "But he did.
You can't fool me. I thought I'd never get him back to the house." Then,
as she tripped up the porch steps, she shook a finger at Dorn.
"Remember!"

"I'll never forget," said Dorn, and he was as earnest as he was amiable.
Then, as she disappeared, he exclaimed to Lenore, "What an adorable
little girl!"

"Do you like Kathleen?"

"Like her!" Dorn laughed in a way to make light of such words. "My life
has been empty. I see that."

"Come, we'll go out to the wheat-fields," said Lenore. "What do you
think of 'Many Waters'? This is harvest-time. You see 'Many Waters' at
its very best."

"I can hardly tell you," he replied. "All my life I've lived on my
barren hills. I seem to have come to another world. 'Many Waters' is
such a ranch as I never dreamed of. The orchards, the fruit, the
gardens--and everywhere running water! It all smells so fresh and sweet.
And then the green and red and purple against that background of blazing
gold!... 'Many Waters' is verdant and fruitful. The Bend is desert."

"Now that you've been here, do you like it better than your barren
hills?" asked Lenore.

Kurt hesitated. "I don't know," he answered, slowly. "But maybe that
desert I've lived in accounts for much I lack."

"Would you like to stay at 'Many Waters'--if you weren't going to war?"

"I might prefer 'Many Waters' to any place on earth. It's a paradise.
But I would not chose to stay here."

"Why? When you return--you know--my father will need you here. And if
anything should happen to him I will have to run the ranch. Then _I_
would need you."

Dorn stopped in his tracks and gazed at her as if there were slight
misgivings in his mind.

"Lenore, if you owned this ranch would you want me--_me_ for your
manager?" he asked, bluntly.

"Yes," she replied.

"You would? Knowing I was in love with you?"

"Well, I had forgotten that," she replied, with a little laugh. "It
would be rather embarrassing--and funny, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, it would," he said, grimly, and walked on again. He made a gesture
of keen discomfiture. "I knew you hadn't taken me seriously."

"I believed you, but I could not take you _very_ seriously," she
murmured.

"Why not?" he demanded, as if stung, and his eyes flashed on her.

"Because your declaration was not accompanied by the
usual--question--that a girl naturally expects under such
circumstances."

"Good Heaven! You say that?... Lenore Anderson, you think me insincere
because I did not ask you to marry me," he asserted, with bitter pathos.

"No. I merely said you were not--_very_ serious," she replied. It was
fascination to torment him this way, yet it hurt her, too. She was
playing on the verge of a precipice, not afraid of a misstep, but
glorying in the prospect of a leap into the abyss. Something deep and
strange in her bade her make him show her how much he loved her. If she
drove him to desperation she would reward him.

"I am going to war," he began, passionately, "to fight for you and your
sisters.... I am ruined.... The only noble and holy feeling left to
me--that I can have with me in the dark hours--is my love for you. If
you do not believe that, I am indeed the most miserable of beggars! Most
boys going to the front leave many behind whom they love. I have no one
but you.... don't make me a coward."

"I believe you. Forgive me," she said.

"If I had asked you to marry me--_me_--why, I'd have been a selfish,
egotistical fool. You are far above me. And I want you to know I know
it.... But even if I had not--had the blood I have--even if I had been
prosperous instead of ruined, I'd never have asked you, unless I came
back whole from the war."

They had been walking out the lane during this conversation and had come
close to the wheat-field. The day was hot, but pleasant, the dry wind
being laden with harvest odors. The hum of the machines was like the
roar in a flour-mill.

"If you go to war--and come back whole--?" began Lenore, tantalizingly.
She meant to have no mercy upon him. It was incredible how blind he was.
Yet how glad that made her. He resembled his desert hills, barren of
many little things, but rich in hidden strength, heroic of mold.

"Then just to add one more to the conquests girls love I'll--I'll
propose to you," he declared, banteringly.

"Beware, boy! I might accept you," she exclaimed.

His play was short-lived. He could not be gay, even under her influence.

"Please don't jest," he said, frowning. "Can't we talk of something
besides love and war?"

"They seem to be popular just now," she replied, audaciously. "Anyway,
all's fair--you know."

"No, it is not fair," he returned, low-voiced and earnest. "So once for
all let me beg of you, don't jest. Oh, I know you're sweet. You're full
of so many wonderful, surprising words and looks. I can't understand
you.... But I beg of you, don't make me a fool!"

"Well, if you pay such compliments and if I--want them--what then? You
are very original, very gallant, Mr. Kurt Dorn, and I--I rather like
you."

"I'll get angry with you," he threatened.

"You couldn't.... I'm the only girl you're going to leave behind--and if
you got angry I'd never write to you."

It thrilled Lenore and wrung her heart to see how her talk affected him.
He was in a torment. He believed she spoke lightly, girlishly, to tease
him--that she was only a gay-hearted girl, fancy-free and just a little
proud of her conquest over even him.

"I surrender. Say what you like," he said, resignedly. "I'll stand
anything--just to get your letters."

"If you go I'll write as often as you want me to," she replied.

With that they emerged upon the harvest-field. Machines and engines
dotted the golden slope, and wherever they were located stood towering
straw-stacks. Horses and men and wagons were strung out as far as the
eye could see. Long streams of chaff and dust and smoke drifted upward.

"Lenore, there's trouble in the very air," said Dorn. "Look!"

She saw a crowd of men gathering round one of the great
combine-harvesters. Some one was yelling.

"Let's stay away from trouble," replied Lenore. "We've enough of our
own."

"I'm going over there," declared Dorn. "Perhaps you'd better wait for
me--or go back."

"Well! You're the first boy who ever--"

"Come on," he interrupted, with grim humor. "I'd rather enjoy your
seeing me break loose--as I will if there's any I.W.W. trickery."

Before they got to the little crowd Lenore both heard and saw her
father. He was in a rage and not aware of her presence. Jake and Bill,
the cowboys, hovered over him. Anderson strode to and fro, from one side
of the harvester to the other. Lenore did not recognize any of the
harvest-hands, and even the driver was new to her. They were not a
typical Western harvest crew, that was certain. She did not like their
sullen looks, and Dorn's muttered imprecation, the moment he neared
them, confirmed her own opinion.

Anderson's foreman stood gesticulating, pale and anxious of face.

"No, I don't hold you responsible," roared the rancher. "But I want
action.... I want to know why this machine's broke down."

"It was in perfect workin' order," declared the foreman. "I don't know
why it broke down."

"That's the fourth machine in two days. No accident, I tell you,"
shouted Anderson. Then he espied Dorn and waved a grimy hand. "Come
here, Dorn," he called, and stepped out of the group of dusty men.
"Somethin' wrong here. This new harvester's broke down. It's a McCormack
an' new to us. But it has worked great an' I jest believe it's been
tampered with... Do you know these McCormack harvesters?"

"Yes. They're reliable," replied Dorn.

"Ah-huh! Wal, get your coat off an' see what's been done to this one."

Dorn took off his coat and was about to throw it down, when Lenore held
out her hand for it.

"Unhitch the horses," said Dorn.

Anderson gave this order, which was complied with. Then Dorn disappeared
around or under the big machine.

"Lenore, I'll bet he tells us somethin' in a minute," said Anderson to
her. "These new claptraps are beyond me. I'm no mechanic."

"Dad, I don't like the looks of your harvest-hands," whispered Lenore.

"Wal, this is a sample of the lot I hired. No society for you, my lass!"

"I'm going to stay now," she replied.

Dorn appeared to be raising a racket somewhere out of sight under or
inside the huge harvester. Rattling and rasping sounds, creaks and
cracks, attested to his strong and impatiently seeking hands.

Presently he appeared. His white shirt had been soiled by dust and
grease. There was chaff in his fair hair. In one grimy hand he held a
large monkey-wrench. What struck Lenore most was the piercing intensity
of his gaze as he fixed it upon her father.

"Anderson, I knew right where to find it," he said, in a sharp, hard
voice. "This monkey-wrench was thrown upon the platform, carried to the
elevator into the thresher.... Your machine is torn to pieces
inside--out of commission!"

"Ah-huh!" exclaimed Anderson, as if the truth was a great relief.

"Where'd that monkey-wrench come from?" asked the foreman, aghast. "It's
not ours. I don't buy that kind."

Anderson made a slight, significant motion to the cowboys. They lined up
beside him, and, like him, they looked dangerous.

"Come here, Kurt," he said, and then, putting Lenore before him, he
moved a few steps aside, out of earshot of the shifty-footed
harvest-hands. "Say, you called the turn right off, didn't you?"

"Anderson, I've had a hard experience, all in one harvest-time," replied
Dorn. "I'll bet you I can find out who threw this wrench into your
harvester."

"I don't doubt you, my lad. But how?"

"It had to be thrown by one of these men near the machine. That
harvester hasn't run twenty feet from where the trick was done.... Let
these men face me. I'll find the guilty one."

"Wait till we get Lenore out of the way," replied Anderson

"Boss, me an' Bill can answer fer thet outfit as it stands, an' no risks
fer nobody," put in Jake, coolly.

Anderson's reply was cut short by a loud explosion. It frightened
Lenore. She imagined one of the steam-engines had blown up.

"That thresher's on fire," shouted Dorn, pointing toward a big machine
that was attached by an endless driving belt to an engine.

The workmen, uttering yells and exclamations, ran toward the scene of
the new accident, leaving Anderson, his daughter, and the foreman
behind. Smoke was pouring out of the big harvester. The harvest-hands
ran wildly around, shouting and calling, evidently unable to do
anything. The line of wagons full of wheat-sheaves broke up; men dragged
at the plunging horses. Then flame followed the smoke out of the
thresher.

"I've heard of threshers catchin' fire," said Anderson, as if
dumfounded, "but I never seen one.... Now how on earth did that happen?"

"Another trick, Anderson," replied Dorn. "Some I.W.W. has stuffed a
handful of matches into a wheat-sheaf. Or maybe a small bomb!"

"Ah-huh!... Come on, let's go over an' see my money burn up.... Kurt,
I'm gettin' some new education these days."

Dorn appeared to be unable to restrain himself. He hurried on ahead of
the others. And Anderson whispered to Lenore, "I'll bet somethin's
comin' off!"

This alarmed Lenore, yet it also thrilled her.

The threshing-machine burned like a house of cards. Farm-hands came
running from all over the field. But nothing, manifestly, could be done
to save the thresher. Anderson, holding his daughter's arm, calmly
watched it burn. There was excitement all around; it had not been
communicated, however, to the rancher. He looked thoughtful. The foreman
darted among the groups of watchers and his distress was very plain.
Dorn had gotten out of sight. Lenore still held his coat and wondered
what he was doing. She was thoroughly angry and marveled at her father's
composure. The big thresher was reduced to a blazing, smoking hulk in
short order.

Dorn came striding up. His face was pale and his mouth set.

"Mr. Anderson, you've got to make a strong stand--and quick," he said,
deliberately.

"I reckon. An' I'm ready, if it's the right time," replied the rancher.
"But what can we prove?"

"That's proof," declared Dorn, pointing at the ruined thresher. "Do you
know all your honest hands?"

"Yes, an' I've got enough to clean up this outfit in no time. We're only
waitin'."

"What for?"

"Wal, I reckon for what's just come off."

"Don't let them go any farther.... Look at these fellows. Can't you tell
the I.W.W.'s from the others?"

"No, I can't unless I count all the new harvest-hands I.W.W.'s."

"Every one you don't know here is in with that gang," declared Dorn, and
he waved a swift hand at the groups. His eyes swept piercingly over, and
apparently through, the men nearest at hand.

At this juncture Jake and Bill, with two other cowboys, strode up to
Anderson.

"Another accident, boss," said Jake, sarcastically. "Ain't it about time
we corralled some of this outfit?"

Anderson did not reply. He had suddenly imitated Lenore, who had become
solely bent upon Dorn's look. That indeed was cause for interest. It was
directed at a member of the nearest group--a man in rough garb, with
slouch-hat pulled over his eyes. As Lenore looked she saw this man,
suddenly becoming aware of Dorn's scrutiny, hastily turn and walk away.

"Hold on!" called Dorn, his voice a ringing command. It halted every
moving person on that part of the field. Then Dorn actually bounded
across the intervening space.

"Come on, boys," said Anderson, "get in this. Dorn's spotted some one,
an' now that's all we want.... Lenore, stick close behind me. Jake, you
keep near her."

They moved hastily to back up Dorn, who had already reached the workman
he had halted. Anderson took out a whistle and blew such a shrill blast
that it deafened Lenore, and must have been heard all over the
harvest-field. Not improbably that was a signal agreed upon between
Anderson and his men. Lenore gathered that all had been in readiness for
a concerted movement and that her father believed Dorn's action had
brought the climax.

"Haven't I seen you before?" queried Dorn, sharply.

The man shook his head and kept it bent a little, and then he began to
edge back nearer to the stragglers, who slowly closed into a group
behind him. He seemed nervous, shifty.

"He can't speak English," spoke up one of them, gruffly.

Dorn looked aggressive and stern. Suddenly his hand flashed out to
snatch off the slouch-hat which hid the fellow's face. Amazingly, a gray
wig came with it. This man was not old. He had fair thick hair.

For a moment Dorn gazed at the slouch-hat and wig. Then with a fierce
action he threw them down and swept a clutching hand for the man. The
fellow dodged and, straightening up, he reached for a gun. But Dorn
lunged upon him. Then followed a hard grappling sound and a hoarse yell.
Something bright glinted in the sun. It made a sweeping circle, belched
fire and smoke. The report stunned Lenore. She shut her eyes and clung
to her father. She heard cries, a scuffling, sodden blows.

"Jake! Bill!" called Anderson. "Hold on! No gun-play yet! Dorn's makin'
hash out of that fellow.... But watch the others sharp!"

Then Lenore looked again. Dorn had twisted the man around and was in the
act of stripping off the further disguise of beard, disclosing the pale
and convulsed face of a comparatively young man.

_"Glidden!"_ burst out Dorn. His voice had a terrible ring of furious
amaze. His whole body seemed to gather as in a knot and then to spring.
The man called Glidden went down before that onslaught, and his gun went
flying aside.

Three of Glidden's group started for it. The cowboy Bill leaped forward,
a gun in each hand. "Hyar!... Back!" he yelled. And then all except the
two struggling principals grew rigid.

Lenore's heart was burning in her throat. The movements of Dorn were too
swift for her sight. But Glidden she saw handled as if by a giant. Up
and down he seemed thrown, with bloody face, flinging arms, while he
uttered hoarse bawls. Dorn's form grew more distinct. It plunged and
swung in frenzied energy. Lenore heard men running and yells from all
around. Her father spread wide his arm before her, so that she had to
bend low to see. He shouted a warning. Jake was holding a gun thrust
forward.

"Boss, he's goin' to kill Glidden!" said the cowboy, in a low tone.

Anderson's reply was incoherent, but its meaning was plain.

Lenore's lips and tongue almost denied her utterance. "Oh!... Don't let
him!"

The crowd behind the wrestling couple swayed back and forth, and men
changed places here and there. Bill strode across the space, guns
leveled. Evidently this action was due to the threatening movements of
several workmen who crouched as if to leap on Dorn as he whirled in his
fight with Glidden.

"Wal, it's about time!" yelled Anderson, as a number of lean, rangy men,
rushing from behind, reached Bill's side, there to present an armed and
threatening front.

All eyes now centered on Dorn and Glidden. Lenore, seeing clearly for
the first time, suffered a strange, hot paroxysm of emotion never before
experienced by her. It left her weak. It seemed to stultify the cry that
had been trying to escape her. She wanted to scream that Dorn must not
kill the man. Yet there was a ferocity in her that froze the cry.
Glidden's coat and blouse were half torn off; blood covered him; he
strained and flung himself weakly in that iron clutch. He was beaten and
bent back. His tongue hung out, bloody, fluttering with strangled cries.
A ghastly face, appalling in its fear of death!

Lenore broke her mute spell of mingled horror and passion.

"For God's sake, don't let Dorn kill him!" she implored.

"Why not?" muttered Anderson. "That's Glidden. He killed Dorn's
father--burned his wheat--ruined him!"

"Dad--for _my_--sake!" she cried brokenly.

"Jake, stop him!" yelled Anderson. "Pull him off!"

As Lenore saw it, with eyes again half failing her, Jake could not
separate Dorn from his victim.

"Leggo, Dorn!" he yelled. "You're cheatin' the gallows!...Hey, Bill,
he's a bull!... Help, hyar--quick!"

Lenore did not see the resulting conflict, but she could tell by
something that swayed the crowd when Glidden had been freed.

"Hold up this outfit!" yelled Anderson to his men. "Come on, Jake, drag
him along." Jake appeared, leading the disheveled and wild-eyed Dorn.
"Son, you did my heart good, but there was some around here who didn't
want you to spill blood. An' that's well. For I am seein' red....Jake,
you take Dorn an' Lenore a piece toward the house, then hurry back."

Then Lenore felt that she had hold of Dorn's arm and she was listening
to Jake without understanding a word he said, while she did hear her
father's yell of command, "Line up there, you I.W.W.'s!"

Jake walked so swiftly that Lenore had to run to keep up. Dorn stumbled.
He spoke incoherently. He tried to stop. At this Lenore clasped his arm
and cried, "Oh, Kurt, come home with me!"

They hurried down the slope. Lenore kept looking back. The crowd
appeared bunched now, with little motion. That relieved her. There was
no more fighting.

Presently Dorn appeared to go more willingly. He had relaxed. "Let go,
Jake," he said. "I'm--all right--now. That arm hurts."

"Wal, you'll excuse me, Dorn, for handlin' you rough.... Mebbe you don't
remember punchin' me one when I got between you an' Glidden?"

"Did I?... I couldn't see, Jake," said Dorn. His voice was weak and had
a spent ring of passion in it. He did not look at Lenore, but kept his
face turned toward the cowboy.

"I reckon this 's fur enough," rejoined Jake, halting and looking back.
"No one comin'. An' there'll be hell to pay out there. You go on to the
house with Miss Lenore.... Will you?"

"Yes," replied Dorn.

"Rustle along, then.... An' you, Miss Lenore, don't you worry none about
us."

Lenore nodded and, holding Dorn's arm closely, she walked as fast as she
could down the lane.

"I--I kept your coat," she said, "though I never thought of it--till
just now."

She was trembling all over, hot and cold by turns, afraid to look up at
him, yet immensely proud of him, with a strange, sickening dread. He
walked rather dejectedly now, or else bent somewhat from weakness. She
stole a quick glance at his face. It was white as a sheet. Suddenly she
felt something wet and warm trickle from his arm down into her hand.
Blood! She shuddered, but did not lose her hold. After a faintish
instant there came a change in her.

"Are you--hurt?" she asked.

"I guess--not. I don't know," he said.

"But the--the blood," she faltered.

He held up his hands. His knuckles were bloody and it was impossible to
tell whether from injury to them or not. But his left forearm was badly
cut.

"The gun cut me.... And he bit me, too," said Dorn. "I'm sorry you were
there.... What a beastly spectacle for you!"

"Never mind me," she murmured. "I'm all right _now!_... But, oh!--"

She broke off eloquently.

"Was it you who had the cowboys pull me off him? Jake said, as he broke
me loose, 'For Miss Lenore's sake!'"

"It was dad who sent them. But I begged him to."

"That was Glidden, the I.W.W. agitator and German agent.... He--just the
same as murdered my father.... He burned my wheat--lost my all!"

"Yes, I--I know, Kurt," whispered Lenore.

"I meant to kill him!"

"That was easy to tell.... Oh, thank God, you did not!... Come, don't
let us stop." She could not face the piercing, gloomy eyes that went
through her.

"Why should you care?.... Some one will have to kill Glidden."

"Oh, do not talk so," she implored. "Surely, now you're glad you did
not?"

"I don't understand myself. But I'm certainly sorry you were there....
There's a beast in men--in me!... I had a gun in my pocket. But do you
think I'd have used it?... I wanted to feel his flesh tear, his bones
break, his blood spurt--"

"Kurt!"

"Yes!... That was the Hun in me!" he declared, in sudden bitter passion.

"Oh, my friend, do not talk so!" she cried. "You make me--Oh, there is
_no_ Hun in you!"

"Yes, that's what ails me!"

"There is _not_!" she flashed back, roused to passion. "You had been
made desperate. You acted as any wronged man! You fought. He tried to
kill you. I saw the gun. No one could blame you.... I had my own reason
for begging dad to keep you from killing him--a selfish woman's
reason!... But I tell you I was so furious--so wrought up--that if it
had been any man but _you_--he should have killed him!"

"Lenore, you're beyond my understanding," replied Dorn, with emotion.
"But I thank you--for excusing me--for standing up for me."

"It was nothing....Oh, how you bleed!.... Doesn't that hurt?"

"I've no pain--no feeling at all--except a sort of dying down in me of
what must have been hell."

They reached the house and went in. No one was there, which fact
relieved Lenore.

"I'm glad mother and the girls won't see you," she said, hurriedly. "Go
up to your room. I'll bring bandages."

He complied without any comment. Lenore searched for what she needed to
treat a wound and ran up-stairs. Dorn was sitting on a chair in his
room, holding his arm, from which blood dripped to the floor. He smiled
at her.

"You would be a pretty Red Cross nurse," he said.

Lenore placed a bowl of water on the floor and, kneeling beside Dorn,
took his arm and began to bathe it. He winced. The blood covered her
fingers.

"My blood on your hands!" he exclaimed, morbidly. "German blood!"

"Kurt, you're out of your head," retorted Lenore, hotly. "If you dare to
say that again I'll--" She broke off.

"What will you do?"

Lenore faltered. What would she do? A revelation must come, sooner or
later, and the strain had begun to wear upon her. She was stirred to her
depths, and instincts there were leaping. No sweet, gentle, kindly
sympathy would avail with this tragic youth. He must be carried by
storm. Something of the violence he had shown with Glidden seemed
necessary to make him forget himself. All his whole soul must be set in
one direction. He could not see that she loved him, when she had looked
it, acted it, almost spoken it. His blindness was not to be endured.

"Kurt Dorn, don't dare to--to say that again!"

She ceased bathing his arm, and looked up at him suddenly quite pale.

"I apologize. I am only bitter," he said. "Don't mind what I say....
It's so good of you--to do this."

Then in silence Lenore dressed his wound, and if her heart did beat
unwontedly, her fingers were steady and deft. He thanked her, with moody
eyes seeing far beyond her.

"When I lie--over there--with--"

"If you go!" she interrupted. He was indeed hopeless. "I advise you to
rest a little."

"I'd like to know what becomes of Glidden," he said.

"So should I. That worries me."

"Weren't there a lot of cowboys with guns?"

"So many that there's no need for you to go out--and start another
fight."

"I did start it, didn't I?"

"You surely did," She left him then, turning in the doorway to ask him
please to be quiet and let the day go by without seeking those excited
men again. He smiled, but he did not promise.

For Lenore the time dragged between dread and suspense. From her window
she saw a motley crowd pass down the lane to the main road. No
harvesters were working. At the noon meal only her mother and the girls
were present. Word had come that the I.W.W. men were being driven from
"Many Waters." Mrs. Anderson worried, and Lenore's sisters for once were
quiet. All afternoon the house was lifeless. No one came or left. Lenore
listened to every little sound. It relieved her that Dorn had remained
in his room. Her hope was that the threatened trouble had been averted,
but something told her that the worst was yet to come.

It was nearly supper-time when she heard the men returning. They came in
a body, noisy and loitering, as if reluctant to break away from one
another. She heard the horses tramp into the barns and the loud voices
of drivers.

When she went down-stairs she encountered her father. He looked
impressive, triumphant! His effort at evasion did not deceive Lenore.
But she realized at once that in this instance she could not get any
news from him. He said everything was all right and that I.W.W. men were
to be deported from Washington. But he did not want any supper, and he
had a low-voiced, significant interview with Dorn. Lenore longed to know
what was pending. Dorn's voice, when he said at his door, "Anderson,
I'll go!" was ringing, hard, and deadly. It frightened Lenore. Go where?
What were they going to do? Lenore thought of the vigilantes her father
had organized.

Supper-time was an ordeal. Dorn ate a little; then excusing himself, he
went back to his room. Lenore got through the meal somehow, and, going
outside, she encountered Jake. The moment she questioned him she knew
something extraordinary had taken place or was about to take place. She
coaxed and entreated. For once Jake was hard to manage. But the more
excuses he made, the more he evaded her, the greater became Lenore's
need to know. And at last she wore the cowboy out. He could not resist
her tears, which began to flow in spite of her.

"See hyar, Miss Lenore, I reckon you care a heap fer young Dorn--beggin'
your pardon?" queried Jake.

"Care for him!... Jake, I love him."

"Then take a hunch from me an' keep him home--with you--to-night."

"Does father want Kurt Dorn to go--wherever he's going?"

"Wal, I should smile! Your dad likes the way Dorn handles I.W.W.'s,"
replied Jake, significantly.

"Vigilantes!" whispered Lenore.




CHAPTER XX

Lenore waited for Kurt, and stood half concealed behind the curtains. It
had dawned upon her that she had an ordeal at hand. Her heart
palpitated. She heard his quick step on the stairs. She called before
she showed herself.

"Hello!... Oh, but you startled me!" he exclaimed. He had been
surprised, too, at the abrupt meeting. Certainly he had not been
thinking of her. His pale, determined face attested to stern and
excitable thought.

He halted before her.

"Where are you going?" asked Lenore.

"To see your father."

"What about?"

"It's rather important," he replied, with hesitation.

"Will it take long?"

He showed embarrassment. "I--He--We'll be occupied 'most all evening."

"Indeed!... Very well. If you'd rather be--_occupied_--than spend the
evening with me!" Lenore turned away, affecting a disdainful and hurt
manner.

"Lenore, it's not that," he burst out. "I--I'd rather spend an evening
with you than anybody else--or do anything."

"That's very easy to say, Mr. Dorn," she returned, lightly.

"But it's true," he protested.

"Come out of the hall. Father will hear us," she said, and led him into
the room. It was not so light in there, but what light there was fell
upon his face and left hers in shadow.

"I've made an--an appointment for to-night," he declared, with
difficulty.

"Can't you break it?" she asked.

"No. That would lay me open to--to cowardice--perhaps your father's
displeasure."

"Kurt Dorn, it's brave to give up some things!... And if you go you'll
incur _my_ displeasure."

"Go!" he ejaculated, staring at her.

"Oh, I know!... And I'm--well, not flattered to see you'd rather go hang
I.W.W.'s than stay here with me." Lenore did not feel the assurance and
composure with which she spoke. She was struggling with her own
feelings. She believed that just as soon as she and Kurt understood each
other--faced each other without any dissimulation--then she would feel
free and strong. If only she could put the situation on a sincere
footing! She must work for that. Her difficulty was with a sense of
falsity. There was no time to plan. She must change his mind.

Her words had made him start.

"Then you know?" he asked.

"Of course."

"I'm sorry for that," he replied, soberly, as he brushed a hand up
through his wet hair.

"But you will stay home?"

"No," he returned, shortly, and he looked hard.

"Kurt, I don't want _you_ mixed up with any lynching-bees," she said,
earnestly.

"I'm a citizen of Washington. I'll join the vigilantes. I'm American.
I've been ruined by these I.W.W.'s. No man in the West has lost so much!
Father--home--land--my great harvest of wheat!... Why shouldn't I go?"

"There's no reason except--_me_," she replied, rather unsteadily.

He drew himself up, with a deep breath, as if fortifying himself.
"That's a mighty good reason.... But you will be kinder if you withdraw
your objections."

"Can't you conceive of any reason why I--I beg you not to go?"

"I can't," he replied, staring at her. It seemed that every moment he
spent in her presence increased her effect upon him. Lenore felt this,
and that buoyed up her failing courage.

"Kurt, you've made a very distressing--a terrible and horrible blunder,"
she said, with a desperation that must have seemed something else to
him.

"My heavens! What have I done?" he gasped, his face growing paler. How
ready he was to see more catastrophe! It warmed her heart and
strengthened her nerve.

The moment had come. Even if she did lose her power of speech she still
could show him what his blunder was. Nothing in all her life had ever
been a hundredth part as hard as this. Yet, as the words formed, her
whole heart seemed to be behind them, forcing them out. If only he did
not misunderstand!

Then she looked directly at him and tried to speak. Her first attempt
was inarticulate, her second was a whisper, "Didn't you ever--think I--I
might care for you?"

It was as if a shock went over him, leaving him trembling. But he did
not look as amazed as incredulous. "No, I certainly never did," he said.

"Well--that's your blunder--for I--I do. You--you never--never--asked
me."

"You do what--care for me?... What on earth do you mean by that?"

Lenore was fighting many emotions now, the one most poignant being a
wild desire to escape, which battled with an equally maddening one to
hide her face on his breast.

Yet she could see how white he had grown--how different. His hands
worked convulsively and his eyes pierced her very soul.

"What should a girl mean--telling she cared?"

"I don't know. Girls are beyond me," he replied, stubbornly.

"Indeed that's true. I've felt so far beyond you--I had to come to
this."

"Lenore," he burst out, hoarsely, "you talk in riddles! You've been so
strange, yet so fine, so sweet! And now you say you care for me!...
Care?... What does that mean? A word can drive me mad. But I never dared
to hope. I love you--love you--love you--my God! you're all I've left to
love. I--"

"Do you think you've a monopoly on all the love in the world?"
interrupted Lenore, coming to her real self. His impassioned declaration
was all she needed. Her ordeal was over.

It seemed as if he could not believe his ears or eyes.

"Monopoly! World!" he echoed. "Of course I don't. But--"

"Kurt, I love you just as much as--as you love me.... So there!"

Lenore had time for one look at his face before he enveloped her. What a
relief to hide her own! It was pressed to his breast very closely. Her
eyes shut, and she felt hot tears under the lids. All before her
darkened sight seemed confusion, whirling chaos. It seemed that she
could not breathe and, strangely, did not need to. How unutterably happy
she felt! That was an age-long moment--wonderful for her own relief and
gladness--full of changing emotions. Presently Kurt appeared to be
coming to some semblance of rationality. He released her from that
crushing embrace, but still kept an arm around her while he held her off
and looked at her.

"Lenore, will you kiss me?" he whispered.

She could have cried out in sheer delight at the wonder of that whisper
in her ear. It had been she who had changed the world for Kurt Dorn.

"Yes--presently," she replied, with a tremulous little laugh. "Wait
till--I get my breath--"

"I was beside myself--am so yet," he replied, low voiced as if in awe.
"I've been lifted to heaven.... It cannot be true. I believe, yet I'll
not be sure till you kiss me.... You--Lenore Anderson, this girl of my
dreams! Do you love me--is it true?"

"Yes, Kurt, indeed I do--very dearly," she replied, and turned to look
up into his face. It was transfigured. Lenore's heart swelled as a deep
and profound emotion waved over her.

"Please kiss me--then."

She lifted her face, flushing scarlet. Their lips met. Then with her
head upon his shoulder and her hands closely held she answered the
thousand and one questions of a bewildered and exalted lover who could
not realize the truth. Lenore laughed at him and eloquently furnished
proof of her own obsession, and told him how and why and when it all
came about.

Not for hours did Kurt come back to actualities. "I forgot about the
vigilantes," he exclaimed, suddenly. "It's too late now.... How the time
has flown!... Oh, Lenore, thought of other things breaks in, alas!"

He kissed her hand and got up. Another change was coming over him.
Lenore had long expected the moment when realization would claim his
attention. She was prepared.

"Yes, you forgot your appointment with dad and the vigilantes. You've
missed some excitement and violence."

His face had grown white again--grave now and troubled. "May I speak to
your father?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied.

"If I come back from the war--well--not crippled--will you promise to
marry me?"

"Kurt, I promise now."

That seemed to shake him. "But, Lenore, it is not fair to you. I don't
believe a soldier should bind a girl by marriage or engagement before he
goes to war. She should be free.... I want you to be free."

"That's for you to say," she replied, softly. "But for my part, I don't
want to be free--if you go away to war."

"If!... I'm going," he said, with a start. "You don't want to be free?
Lenore, would you be engaged to me?"

"My dear boy, of course I would.... It seems I _am,_ doesn't it?" she
replied, with one of her deep, low laughs.

He gazed at her, fascinated, worked upon by overwhelming emotions.
"Would you marry me--before I go?"

"Yes," she flashed.

He bent and bowed then under the storm. Stumbling to her, almost on his
knees, he brokenly expressed his gratitude, his wonder, his passion, and
the terrible temptation that he must resist, which she must help him to
resist.

"Kurt, I love you. I will see things through your eyes, if I must. I
want to be a comfort to you, not a source of sorrow."

"But, Lenore, what comfort can I find?... To leave you now is going to
be horrible!... To part from you now--I don't see how I can."

Then Lenore dared to broach the subject so delicate, so momentous.

"You need not part from me. My father has asked me to try to keep you
home. He secured exemption for you. You are more needed here than at the
front. You can feed many soldiers. You would be doing your duty--with
honor!... You would be a soldier. The government is going to draft young
men for farm duty. Why not you? There are many good reasons why you
would be better than most young men. Because you know wheat. And wheat
is to become the most important thing in the world. No one misjudges
your loyalty.... And surely you see that the best service to your
country is what you can do best."

He sat down beside her, with serious frown and somber eyes. "Lenore, are
you asking me not to go to war?"

"Yes, I am," she replied. "I have thought it all over. I've given up my
brother. I'd not ask you to stay home if you were needed at the front as
much as here. That question I have had out with my conscience.... Kurt,
don't think me a silly, sentimental girl. Events of late have made me a
woman."

He buried his face in his hands. "That's the most amazing of
all--you--Lenore Anderson, my American girl--asking me not to go to
war."

"But, dear, it is not so amazing. It's reasonable. Your peculiar point
of view makes it look different. I am no weak, timid, love-sick girl
afraid to let you go!... I've given you good, honorable, patriotic
reasons for your exemption from draft. Can you see that?"

"Yes. I grant all your claims. I know wheat well enough to tell you that
if vastly more wheat-raising is not done the world will starve. That
would hold good for the United States in forty years without war."

"Then if you see my point why are you opposed to it?" she asked.

"Because I am Kurt Dorn," he replied, bitterly.

His tone, his gloom made her shiver. It would take all her intelligence
and wit and reason to understand him, and vastly more than that to
change him. She thought earnestly. This was to be an ordeal profoundly
more difficult than the confession of her love. It was indeed a crisis
dwarfing the other she had met. She sensed in him a remarkably strange
attitude toward this war, compared with that of her brother or other
boys she knew who had gone.

"Because you are Kurt Dorn," she said, thoughtfully. "It's in the name,
then.... But I think it a pretty name--a good name. Have I not consented
to accept it as mine--for life?"

He could not answer that. Blindly he reached out with a shaking hand, to
find hers, to hold it close. Lenore felt the tumult in him. She was
shocked. A great tenderness, sweet and motherly, flooded over her.

"Dearest, in this dark hour--that was so bright a little while ago--you
must not keep anything from me," she replied. "I will be true to you. I
will crush my selfish hopes. I will be your mother.... tell me why you
must go to war because you are Kurt Dorn."

"My father was German. He hated this country--yours and mine. He plotted
with the I.W.W. He hated your father and wanted to destroy him....
Before he died he realized his crime. For so I take the few words he
spoke to Jerry. But all the same he was a traitor to my country. I bear
his name. I have German in me.... And by God I'm going to pay!"

His deep, passionate tones struck into Lenore's heart. She fought with a
rising terror. She was beginning to understand him. How helpless she
felt--how she prayed for inspiration--for wisdom!

"Pay!... How?" she asked.

"In the only way possible. I'll see that a Dorn goes to war--who will
show his American blood--who will fight and kill--and be killed!"

His passion, then, was more than patriotism. It had its springs in the
very core of his being. He had, it seemed, a debt that he must pay. But
there was more than this in his grim determination. And Lenore divined
that it lay hidden in his bitter reference to his German blood. He hated
that--doubted himself because of it. She realized now that to keep him
from going to war would be to make him doubt his manhood and eventually
to despise himself. No longer could she think of persuading him to stay
home. She must forget herself. She knew then that she had the power to
keep him and she could use it, but she must not do so. This tragic thing
was a matter of his soul. But if he went to war with this bitter
obsession, with this wrong motive, this passionate desire to spill blood
in him that he hated, he would lose his soul. He must be changed. All
her love, all her woman's flashing, subtle thought concentrated on this
fact. How strange the choice that had been given her! Not only must she
relinquish her hope of keeping him home, but she must perhaps go to
desperate ends to send him away with a changed spirit. The moment of
decision was agony for her.

"Kurt, this is a terrible hour for both of us," she said, "but, thank
Heaven, you have confessed to me. Now I will confess to you."

"Confess?... You?... What nonsense!" he exclaimed. But in his surprise
he lifted his head from his hands to look at her.

"When we came in here my mind was made up to make you stay home. Father
begged me to do it, and I had my own selfish motive. It was love. Oh, I
do love you, Kurt, more than you can dream of!... I justified my
resolve. I told you that. But I wanted you. I wanted your love--your
presence. I longed for a home with you as husband--master--father to my
babies. I dreamed of all. It filled me with terror to think of you going
to war. You might be crippled--mangled--murdered.... Oh, my dear, I
could not bear the thought!... So I meant to overcome you. I had it all
planned. I meant to love you--to beg you--to kiss you--to make you
stay--"

"Lenore, what are you saying?" he cried, in shocked amaze.

She flung her arms round his neck. "Oh, I could--I could have kept you!"
she answered, low voiced and triumphant. "It fills me with joy.... Tell
me I could have kept you--tell me."

"Yes. I've no power to resist you. But I might have hated--"

"Hush!... It's all might have.... I've risen above myself."

"Lenore, you distress me. A little while ago you bewildered me with your
sweetness and love.... Now--you look like an angel or a goddess.... Oh,
to have your face like this--always with me! Yet it distresses me--so
terrible in purpose. What are you about to tell me? I see something--"

"Listen," she broke in. "I meant to make you weak. I implore you now to
be strong. You must go to war! But with all my heart and soul I beg you
to go with a changed spirit.... You were about to do a terrible thing.
You hated the German in you and meant to kill it by violence. You
despised the German blood and you meant to spill it. Like a wild man you
would have rushed to fight, to stab and beat, to murder--and you would
have left your breast open for a bayonet-thrust.... Oh, I know it!...
Kurt, you are horribly wrong. That is no way to go to war.... War is a
terrible business, but men don't wage it for motives such as yours. We
Americans all have different strains of blood--English--French--German.
One is as good as another. You are obsessed--you are out of your head on
this German question. You must kill that idea--kill it with one
bayonet-thrust of sense.... You must go to war as my soldier--with my
ideal. Your country has called you to help uphold its honor, its pledged
word. You must fight to conquer an enemy who threatens to destroy
freedom.... You must be brave, faithful, merciful, clean--an American
soldier!... You are only one of a million. You have no personal need for
war. You are as good, as fine, as noble as any man--my choice, sir, of
all the men in the world!... I am sending you. I am giving you up....
Oh, my darling--you will never know how hard it is!... But go! Your life
has been sad. You have lost so much. I feel in my woman's heart what
will be--if only you'll change--if you see God in this as I see. Promise
me. Love that which you hated. Prove for yourself what I believe. Trust
me--promise me... Then--oh, I know God will send you back to me!"

He fell upon his knees before her to bury his face in her lap. His whole
frame shook. His hands plucked at her dress. A low sob escaped him.

"Lenore," he whispered, brokenly, "I can't see God in this--for me!... I
can't promise!"




CHAPTER XXI

Thirty masked men sat around a long harvest mess-table. Two lanterns
furnished light enough to show a bare barnlike structure, the
rough-garbed plotters, the grim set of hard lips below the half-masks,
and big hands spread out, ready to draw from the hat that was passing.

The talk was low and serious. No names were spoken. A heavy man, at the
head of the table, said: "We thirty, picked men, represent the country.
Let each member here write on his slip of paper his choice of punishment
for the I.W.W.'s--death or deportation...."

The members of the band bent their masked faces and wrote in a dead
silence. A noiseless wind blew through the place. The lanterns
flickered; huge shadows moved on the walls. When the papers had been
passed back to the leader he read them.

"Deportation," he announced. "So much for the I.W.W. men.... Now for the
leader.... But before we vote on what to do with Glidden let me read an
extract from one of his speeches. This is authentic. It has been
furnished by the detective lately active in our interest. Also it has
been published. I read it because I want to bring home to you all an
issue that goes beyond our own personal fortunes here."

Leaning toward the flickering flare of the lantern, the leader read from
a slip of paper: "If the militia are sent out here to hinder the I.W.W.
we will make it so damned hot for the government that no troops will be
able to go to France.... I don't give a damn what this country is
fighting for.... I am fighting for the rights of labor.... American
soldiers are Uncle Sam's scabs in disguise."

The deep, impressive voice ended. The leader's huge fist descended upon
the table with a crash. He gazed up and down the rows of sinister masked
figures. "Have you anything to say?"

"No," replied one.

"Pass the slips," said another.

And then a man, evidently on in years, for his hair was gray and he
looked bent, got up. "Neighbors," he began "I lived here in the early
days. For the last few years I've been apologizing for my home town. I
don't want to apologize for it any longer."

He sat down. And a current seemed to wave from him around that dark
square of figures. The leader cleared his throat as if he had much to
say, but he did not speak. Instead he passed the hat. Each man drew
forth a slip of paper and wrote upon it. The action was not slow.
Presently the hat returned round the table to the leader. He spilled its
contents, and with steady hand picked up the first slip of paper.

"Death!" he read, sonorously, and laid it down to pick up another. Again
he spoke that grim word. The third brought forth the same, and likewise
the next, and all, until the verdict had been called out thirty times.

"At daylight we'll meet," boomed out that heavy voice. "Instruct
Glidden's guards to make a show of resistance.... We'll hang Glidden to
the railroad bridge. Then each of you get your gangs together. Round up
all the I.W.W.'s. Drive them to the railroad yard. There we'll put them
aboard a railroad train of empty cars. And that train will pass under
the bridge where Glidden will be hanging.... We'll escort them out of
the country."

       *       *       *       *       *

That August dawn was gray and cool, with gold and pink beginning to
break over the dark eastern ranges. The town had not yet awakened. It
slept unaware of the stealthy forms passing down the gray road and of
the distant hum of motor-cars and trot of hoofs.

Glidden's place of confinement was a square warehouse, near the edge of
town. Before the improvised jail guards paced up and down, strangely
alert.

Daylight had just cleared away the gray when a crowd of masked men
appeared as if by magic and bore down upon the guards. There was an
apparent desperate resistance, but, significantly, no cries or shots.
The guards were overpowered and bound.

The door of the jail yielded to heavy blows of an ax. In the corner of a
dim, bare room groveled Glidden, bound so that he had little use of his
body. But he was terribly awake. When six men entered he asked,
hoarsely: "What're you--after?... What--you mean?"

They jerked him erect. They cut the bonds from his legs. They dragged
him out into the light of breaking day.

When he saw the masked and armed force he cried: "My God!... What'll
you--do with me?"

Ghastly, working, sweating, his face betrayed his terror.

"You're to be hanged by the neck," spoke a heavy, solemn voice.

The man would have collapsed but for the strong hands that upheld him.

"What--for?" he gasped.

"For I.W.W. crimes--for treason--for speeches no American can stand in
days like these." Then this deep-voiced man read to Glidden words of his
own.

"Do you recognize that?"

Glidden saw how he had spoken his own doom. "Yes, I said that," he had
nerve left to say. "But--I insist on arrest--trial--justice!... I'm no
criminal.... I've big interests behind me.... You'll suffer--"

A loop of a lasso, slung over his head and jerked tight, choked off his
intelligible utterance. But as the silent, ruthless men dragged him away
he gave vent to terrible, half-strangled cries.

The sun rose red over the fertile valley--over the harvest fields and
the pastures and the orchards, and over the many towns that appeared
lost in the green and gold of luxuriance.

In the harvest districts west of the river all the towns were visited by
swift-flying motor-cars that halted long enough for a warning to be
shouted to the citizens, "Keep off the streets!"

Simultaneously armed forces of men, on foot and on horseback, too
numerous to count, appeared in the roads and the harvest fields.

They accosted every man they met. If he were recognized or gave proof of
an honest identity he was allowed to go; otherwise he was marched along
under arrest. These armed forces were thorough in their search, and in
the country districts they had an especial interest in likely
camping-places, and around old barns and straw-stacks. In the towns they
searched every corner that was big enough to hide a man.

So it happened that many motley groups of men were driven toward the
railroad line, where they were held until a freight-train of empty
cattle-cars came along. This train halted long enough to have the I.W.W.
contingent driven aboard, with its special armed guard following, and
then it proceeded on to the next station. As stations were many, so were
the halts, and news of the train with its strange freight flashed ahead.
Crowds lined the railroad tracks. Many boys and men in these crowds
carried rifles and pistols which they leveled at the I.W.W. prisoners as
the train passed. Jeers and taunts and threats accompanied this
presentation of guns.

Before the last station of that wheat district was reached full three
hundred members of the I.W.W., or otherwise suspicious characters, were
packed into the open cars. At the last stop the number was greatly
augmented, and the armed forces were cut down to the few guards who were
to see the I.W.W. deported from the country. Here provisions and
drinking-water were put into the cars. And amid a hurrahing roar of
thousands the train with its strange load slowly pulled out.

It did not at once gather headway. The engine whistled a prolonged
blast--a signal or warning not lost on many of its passengers.

From the front cars rose shrill cries that alarmed the prisoners in the
rear. The reason soon became manifest. Arms pointed and eyes stared at
the figure of a man hanging from a rope fastened to the center of a high
bridge span under which the engine was about to pass.

The figure swayed in the wind. It turned half-way round, disclosing a
ghastly, distorted face, and a huge printed placard on the breast, then
it turned back again. Slowly the engine drew one car-load after another
past the suspended body of the dead man. There were no more cries. All
were silent in that slow-moving train. All faces were pale, all eyes
transfixed.

The placard on the hanged man's breast bore in glaring red a strange
message: _Last warning_. 3-7-77.

The figures were the ones used in the frontier days by vigilantes.




CHAPTER XXII

A dusty motor-car climbed the long road leading up to the Neuman ranch.
It was not far from Wade, a small hamlet of the wheat-growing section,
and the slopes of the hills, bare and yellow with waving grain, bore
some semblance to the Bend country. Four men--a driver and three
cowboys--were in the automobile.

A big stone gate marked the entrance to Neuman's ranch. Cars and
vehicles lined the roadside. Men were passing in and out. Neuman's home
was unpretentious, but his barns and granaries and stock-houses were
built on a large scale.

"Bill, are you goin' in with me after this pard of the Kaiser's?"
inquired Jake, leisurely stretching himself as the car halted. He opened
the door and stiffly got out. "Gimme a hoss any day fer gittin' places!"

"Jake, my regard fer your rep as Anderson's foreman makes me want to hug
the background," replied Bill. "I've done a hell of a lot these last
forty-eight hours."

"Wal, I reckon you have, Bill, an' no mistake.... But I was figgerin' on
you wantin' to see the fun."

"Fun!... Jake, it 'll be fun enough fer me to sit hyar an' smoke in the
shade, an' watch fer you to come a-runnin' from thet big German
devil.... Pard, they say he's a bad man!"

"Sure. I know thet. All them Germans is bad."

"If the boss hadn't been so dog-gone strict about gun-play I'd love to
go with you," responded Bill. "But he didn't give me no orders. You're
the whole outfit this round-up."

"Bill, you'd have to take orders from me," said Jake, coolly.

"Sure. Thet's why I come with Andy."

The other cowboy, called Andy, manifested uneasiness, and he said: "Aw,
now, Jake, you ain't a-goin' to ask me to go in there?... An' me hatin'
Germans the way I do!"

"Nope. I guess I'll order Bill to go in an' fetch Neuman out," replied
Jake, complacently, as he made as if to re-enter the car.

Bill collapsed in his seat. "Jake," he expostulated, weakly, "this job
was given you because of your rep fer deploomacy.... Sure I haven't none
of thet.... An' you, Jake, why you're the smoothest an' slickest talker
thet ever come to the Northwest."

Evidently Jake had a vulnerable point. He straightened up with a little
swagger. "Wal, you watch me," he said. "I'll fetch the big Dutchman
eatin' out of my hand.... An' say, when we git him in the car an' start
back let's scare the daylights out of him."

"Thet'd be powerful fine. But how?"

"You fellers take a hunch from me," replied Jake. And he strode off up
the lane toward the ranch-house.

Jake had been commissioned to acquaint Neuman with the fact that recent
developments demanded his immediate presence at "Many Waters." The
cowboy really had a liking for the job, though he pretended not to.

Neuman had not yet begun harvesting. There were signs to Jake's
experienced eye that the harvest-hands were expected this very day. Jake
fancied he knew why the rancher had put off his harvesting. And also he
knew that the extra force of harvest-hands would not appear. He was
regarded with curiosity by the women members of the Neuman household,
and rather enjoyed it. There were several comely girls in evidence. Jake
did not look a typical Northwest foreman and laborer. Booted and
spurred, with his gun swinging visibly, and his big sombrero and gaudy
scarf, he looked exactly what he was, a cowman of the open ranges.

His inquiries elicited the fact that Neuman was out in the fields,
waiting for the harvest-hands.

"Wal, if he's expectin' thet outfit of I.W.W.'s he'll never harvest,"
said Jake, "for some of them is hanged an' the rest run out of the
country."

Jake did not wait to see the effect of his news. He strode back toward
the fields, and with the eye of a farmer he appraised the barns and
corrals, and the fields beyond. Neuman raised much wheat, and enough
alfalfa to feed his stock. His place was large and valuable, but not
comparable to "Many Waters."

Out in the wheat-fields were engines with steam already up, with
combines and threshers and wagons waiting for the word to start. Jake
enjoyed the keen curiosity roused by his approach. Neuman strode out
from a group of waiting men. He was huge of build, ruddy-faced and
bearded, with deep-set eyes.

"Are you Neuman?" inquired Jake.

"That's me," gruffly came the reply.

"I'm Anderson's foreman. I've been sent over to tell you thet you're
wanted pretty bad at 'Many Waters.'"

The man stared incredulously. "What?... Who wants me?"

"Anderson. An' I reckon there's more--though I ain't informed."

Neuman rumbled a curse. Amaze dominated him. "Anderson!... Well, I don't
want to see him," he replied.

"I reckon you don't," was the cowboy's cool reply.

The rancher looked him up and down. However familiar his type was to
Anderson, it was strange to Neuman. The cowboy breathed a potential
force. The least significant thing about his appearance was that
swinging gun. He seemed cool and easy, with hard, keen eyes. Neuman's
face took a shade off color.

"But I'm going to harvest to-day," he said. "I'm late. I've a hundred
hands coming."

"Nope. You haven't none comin'," asserted Jake.

"What!" ejaculated Neuman.

"Reckon it's near ten o'clock," said the cowboy. "We run over here
powerful fast."

"Yes, it's near ten," bellowed Neuman, on the verge of a rage.... "I
haven't harvest-hands coming!... What's this talk?"

"Wal, about nine-thirty I seen all your damned I.W.W.'s, except what was
shot an' hanged, loaded in a cattlecar an' started out of the country."

A blow could not have hit harder than the cowboy's biting speech.
Astonishment and fear shook Neuman before he recovered control of
himself.

"If it's true, what's that to me?" he bluffed, in hoarse accents.

"Neuman, I didn't come to answer questions," said the cowboy, curtly.
"My boss jest sent me fer you, an' if you bucked on comin', then I was
to say it was your only chance to avoid publicity an' bein' run out of
the country."

Neuman was livid of face now and shaking all over his huge frame.

"Anderson threatens me!" he shouted. "Anderson suspicions me!... _Gott
in Himmel_!... Me he always cheated! An' now he insults--"

"Say, it ain't healthy to talk like thet about my boss," interrupted
Jake, forcibly. "An' we're wastin' time. If you don't go with me we'll
be comin' back--the whole outfit of us!... Anderson means you're to face
his man!"

"What man?"

"Dorn. Young Dorn, son of old Chris Dorn of the Bend.... Dorn has some
things to tell you thet you won't want made public.... Anderson's givin'
you a square deal. If it wasn't fer thet I'd sling my gun on you!... Do
you git my hunch?"

The name of Dorn made a slack figure of the aggressive Neuman.

"All right--I go," he said, gruffly, and without a word to his men he
started off.

Jake followed him. Neuman made a short cut to the gate, thus avoiding a
meeting with any of his family. At the road, however, some men observed
him and called in surprise, but he waved them back.

"Bill, you an' Andy collect yourselves an' give Mr. Neuman a seat," said
Jake, as he opened the door to allow the farmer to enter.

The two cowboys gave Neuman the whole of the back seat, and they
occupied the smaller side seats. Jake took his place beside the driver.

"Burn her up!" was his order.

The speed of the car made conversation impossible until the limits of a
town necessitated slowing down. Then the cowboys talked. For all the
attention they paid to Neuman, he might as well not have been present.
Before long the driver turned into a road that followed a railroad track
for several miles and then crossed it to enter a good-sized town. The
streets were crowded with people and the car had to be driven slowly. At
this juncture Jake suggested.

"Let's go down by the bridge."

"Sure," agreed his allies.

Then the driver turned down a still more peopled street that sloped a
little and evidently overlooked the railroad tracks. Presently they came
in sight of a railroad bridge, around which there appeared to be an
excited yet awestruck throng. All faces were turned up toward the
swaying form of a man hanging by a rope tied to the high span of the
bridge.

"Wal, Glidden's hangin' there yet," remarked Jake, cheerfully.

With a violent start Neuman looked out to see the ghastly placarded
figure, and then he sank slowly back in his seat. The cowboys apparently
took no notice of him. They seemed to have forgotten his presence.

"Funny they'd cut all the other I.W.W.'s down an' leave Glidden hangin'
there," observed Bill.

"Them vigilantes sure did it up brown," added Andy. "I was dyin' to join
the band. But they didn't ask me."

"Nor me," replied Jake, regretfully. "An' I can't understand why, onless
it was they was afeared I couldn't keep a secret."

"Who is them vigilantes, anyhow?" asked Bill, curiously.

"Wal, I reckon nobody knows. But I seen a thousand armed men this
mornin'. They sure looked bad. You ought to have seen them poke the
I.W.W.'s with cocked guns."

"Was any one shot?" queried Andy.

"Not in the daytime. Nobody killed by this Citizens' Protective League,
as they call themselves. They just rounded up all the suspicious men an'
herded them on to thet cattle-train an' carried them off. It was at
night when the vigilantes worked--masked an' secret an' sure bloody.
Jest like the old vigilante days! ... An' you can gamble they ain't
through yet."

"Uncle Sam won't need to send any soldiers here."

"Wal, I should smile not. Thet'd be a disgrace to the Northwest. It was
a bad time fer the I.W.W. to try any tricks on us."

Jake shook his lean head and his jaw bulged. He might have been
haranguing, cowboy-like, for the benefit of the man they feigned not to
notice, but it was plain, nevertheless, that he was angry.

"What gits me wuss 'n them I.W.W.'s is the skunks thet give Uncle Sam
the double-cross," said Andy, with dark face. "I'll stand fer any man
an' respect him if he's aboveboard an' makes his fight in the open. But
them coyotes thet live off the land an' pretend to be American when they
ain't--they make me pisen mad."

"I heerd the vigilantes has marked men like thet," observed Bill.

"I'll give you a hunch, fellers," replied Jake, grimly. "By Gawd! the
West won't stand fer traitors!"

All the way to "Many Waters," where it was possible to talk and be
heard, the cowboys continued in like strain. And not until the driver
halted the car before Anderson's door did they manifest any awareness of
Neuman.

"Git out an' come in," said Jake to the pallid, sweating rancher.

He led Neuman into the hall and knocked upon Anderson's study door. It
was opened by Dorn.

"Wal, hyar we are," announced Jake, and his very nonchalance attested to
pride.

Anderson was standing beside his desk. He started, and his hand flashed
back significantly as he sighted his rival and enemy.

"No gun-play, boss, was your orders," said Jake. "An' Neuman ain't
packin' no gun."

It was plain that Anderson made a great effort at restraint. But he
failed. And perhaps the realization that he could not kill this man
liberated his passion. Then the two big ranchers faced each
other--Neuman livid and shaking, Anderson black as a thunder-cloud.

"Neuman, you hatched up a plot with Glidden to kill me," said Anderson,
bitterly.

Neuman, in hoarse, brief answer, denied it.

"Sure! Deny it. What do we care? ... We've got you, Neuman," burst out
Anderson, his heavy voice ringing with passion. "But it's not your
low-down plot thet's r'iled me. There's been a good many men who've
tried to do away with me. I've outplayed you in many a deal. So your
personal hate for me doesn't count. I'm sore--an' you an' me can't live
in the same place, because you're a damned traitor. You've lived here
for twenty years. You've grown rich off the country. An' you'd sell us
to your rotten Germany. What I think of you for that I'm goin' to tell
you."

Anderson paused to take a deep breath. Then he began to curse Neuman.
All the rough years of his frontier life, as well as the quieter ones of
his ranching days, found expression in the swift, thunderous roll of his
terrible scorn. Every vile name that had ever been used by cowboy,
outlaw, gambler, leaped to Anderson's stinging tongue. All the keen,
hard epithets common to the modern day he flung into Neuman's face. And
he ended with a profanity that was as individual in character as its
delivery was intense.

"I'm callin' you for my own relief," he concluded, "an' not that I
expect to get under your hide."

Then he paused. He wiped the beaded drops from his forehead, and he
coughed and shook himself. His big fists unclosed. Passion gave place to
dignity.

"Neuman, it's a pity you an' men like you can't see the truth. That's
the mystery to me--why any one who had spent half a lifetime an'
prospered here in our happy an' beautiful country could ever hate it. I
never will understand that. But I do understand that America will never
harbor such men for long. You have your reasons, I reckon. An' no doubt
you think you're justified. That's the tragedy. You run off from
hard-ruled Germany. You will not live there of your own choice. You
succeed here an' live in peace an' plenty.... An', by God! you take up
with a lot of foreign riffraff an' double-cross the people you owe so
much!... What's wrong with your mind?... Think it over.... An' that's
the last word I have for you."

Anderson, turning to his desk, took up a cigar and lighted it. He was
calm again. There was really sadness where his face had shown only fury.
Then he addressed Dorn.

"Kurt, it's up to you now," he said. "As my superintendent an' some-day
partner, what you'll say goes with me.... I don't know what bein' square
would mean in relation to this man."

Anderson sat down heavily in his desk chair and his face became obscured
in cigar smoke.

"Neuman, do you recognize me?" asked Dorn, with his flashing eyes on the
rancher.

"No," replied Neuman.

"I'm Chris Dorn's son. My father died a few days ago. He overtaxed his
heart fighting fire in the wheat ... Fire set by I.W.W. men. Glidden's
men! ... They burned our wheat. Ruined us!"

Neuman showed shock at the news, at the sudden death of an old friend,
but he did not express himself in words.

"Do you deny implication in Glidden's plot to kill Anderson?" demanded
Dorn.

"Yes," replied Neuman.

"Well, you're a liar!" retorted Dorn. "I saw you with Glidden and my
father. I followed you at Wheatly--out along the railroad tracks. I
slipped up and heard the plot. It was I who snatched the money from my
father."

Neuman's nerve was gone, but with his stupid and stubborn process of
thought he still denied, stuttering incoherently.

"Glidden has been hanged," went on Dorn. "A vigilante band has been
organized here in the valley. Men of your known sympathy will not be
safe, irrespective of your plot against Anderson. But as to that,
publicity alone will be enough to ruin you.... Americans of the West
will not tolerate traitors.... Now the question you've got to decide is
this. Will you take the risks or will you sell out and leave the
country?"

"I'll sell out," replied Neuman.

"What price do you put on your ranch as it stands?"

"One hundred thousand dollars."

Dorn turned to Anderson and asked, "Is it worth that much?"

"No. Seventy-five thousand would be a big price," replied the rancher.

"Neuman, we will give you seventy-five thousand for your holdings. Do
you accept?"

"I have no choice," replied Neuman, sullenly.

"Choice!" exclaimed Dorn. "Yes, you have. And you're not being cheated.
I've stated facts. You are done in this valley. You're ruined _now!_ And
Glidden's fate stares you in the face.... Will you sell and leave the
country?"

"Yes," came the deep reply, wrenched from a stubborn breast.

"Go draw up your deeds, then notify us," said Dorn, with finality.

Jake opened the door. Stolidly and slowly Neuman went out, precisely as
he had entered, like a huge man in conflict with unintelligible
thoughts.

"Send him home in the car," called Anderson.




CHAPTER XXIII

For two fleeting days Lenore Anderson was happy when she forgot,
miserable when she remembered. Then the third morning dawned.

At the breakfast-table her father had said, cheerily, to Dorn: "Better
take off your coat an' come out to the fields. We've got some job to
harvest that wheat with only half-force.... But, by George! my trouble's
over."

Dorn looked suddenly blank, as if Anderson's cheery words had recalled
him to the realities of life. He made an incoherent excuse and left the
table.

"Ah-huh!" Anderson's characteristic exclamation might have meant little
or much. "Lenore, what ails the boy?"

"Nothing that I know of. He has been as--as happy as I am," she replied.

"Then it's all settled?"

"Father, I--I--"

Kathleen's high, shrill, gleeful voice cut in: "Sure it's settled! Look
at Lenorry blush!"

Lenore indeed felt the blood stinging face and neck. Nevertheless, she
laughed.

"Come into my room," said Anderson.

She followed him there, and as he closed the door she answered his
questioning look by running into his arms and hiding her face.

"Wal, I'll be dog-goned!" the rancher ejaculated, with emotion. He held
her and patted her shoulder with his big hand. "Tell me, Lenore."

"There's little to tell," she replied, softly. "I love him--and he loves
me so--so well that I've been madly happy--in spite of--of--"

"Is that all?" asked Anderson, dubiously.

"Is not that enough?"

"But Dorn's lovin' you so well doesn't say he'll not go to war."

And it was then that forgotten bitterness returned to poison Lenore's
cup of joy.

"Ah!"... she whispered.

"Good Lord! Lenore, you don't mean you an' Dorn have been alone all the
time these few days--an' you haven't settled that war question?" queried
Anderson, in amaze.

"Yes.... How strange!... But since--well, since something
happened--we--we forgot," she replied, dreamily.

"Wal, go back to it," said Anderson, forcibly. "I want Dorn to help
me.... Why, he's a wonder!... He's saved the situation for us here in
the valley. Every rancher I know is praisin' him high. An' he sure
treated Neuman square. An' here I am with three big wheat-ranches on my
hands!... Lenore, you've got to keep him home."

"Dad!... I--I could not!" replied Lenore. She was strangely realizing an
indefinable change in herself. "I can't try to keep him from going to
war. I never thought of that since--since we confessed our love.... But
it's made some difference.... It'll kill me, I think, to let him go--but
I'd die before I'd ask him to stay home."

"Ah-huh!" sighed Anderson, and, releasing her, he began to pace the
room. "I don't begin to understand you, girl. But I respect your
feelin's. It's a hell of a muddle!... I'd forgotten the war myself while
chasin' off them I.W.W.'s.... But this war has _got_ to be reckoned
with!... Send Dorn to me!"

Lenore found Dorn playing with Kathleen. These two had become as brother
and sister.

"Kurt, dad wants to see you," said Lenore seriously.

Dorn looked startled, and the light of fun on his face changed to a
sober concern.

"You told him?"

"Yes, Kurt, I told him what little I had to tell."

He gave her a strange glance and then slowly went toward her father's
study. Lenore made a futile attempt to be patient. She heard her
father's deep voice, full and earnest, and she heard Dorn's quick,
passionate response. She wondered what this interview meant. Anderson
was not one to give up easily. He had set his heart upon holding this
capable young man in the great interests of the wheat business. Lenore
could not understand why she was not praying that he be successful. But
she was not. It was inexplicable and puzzling--this change in her--this
end of her selfishness. Yet she shrank in terror from an impinging
sacrifice. She thrust the thought from her with passionate physical
gesture and with stern effort of will.

Dorn was closeted with her father for over an hour. When he came out he
was white, but apparently composed. Lenore had never seen his eyes so
piercing as when they rested upon her.

"Whew!" he exclaimed, and wiped his face. "Your father has my poor old
dad--what does Kathleen say?--skinned to a frazzle!"

"What did he say?" asked Lenore, anxiously.

"A lot--and just as if I didn't know it all better than he knows,"
replied Dorn, sadly. "The importance of wheat; his three ranches and
nobody to run them; his growing years; my future and a great opportunity
as one of the big wheat men of the Northwest; the present need of the
government; his only son gone to war, which was enough for his
family.... And then he spoke of you--heiress to 'Many Waters'--what a
splendid, noble girl you were--like your mother! What a shame to ruin
your happiness--your future!... He said you'd make the sweetest of
wives--the truest of mothers!... Oh, my God!"

Lenore turned away her face, shocked to her heart by his tragic passion.
Dorn was silent for what seemed a long time.

"And--then he cussed me--hard--as no doubt I deserved," added Dorn.

"But--what did you say?" she whispered.

"I said a lot, too," replied Dorn, remorsefully.

"Did--did you--?" began Lenore, and broke off, unable to finish.

"I arrived--to where I am now--pretty dizzy," he responded, with a smile
that was both radiant and sorrowful. He took her hands and held them
close. "Lenore!... if I come home from the war--still with my arms and
legs--whole--will you marry me?"

"Only come home _alive_, and no matter what you lose, yes!--yes!" she
whispered, brokenly.

"But it's a conditional proposal, Lenore," he insisted. "You must never
marry half a man."

"I will marry _you_!" she cried, passionately.

It seemed to her that she loved him all the more, every moment, even
though he made it so hard for her. Then through blurred, dim eyes she
saw him take something from his pocket and felt him put a ring on her
finger.

"It fits! Isn't that lucky," he said, softly. "My mother's ring,
Lenore...."

He kissed her hand.

Kathleen was standing near them, open-eyed and open-mouthed, in an
ecstasy of realization.

"Kathleen, your sister has promised to marry me--when I come from the
war," said Dorn to the child.

She squealed with delight, and, manifestly surrendering to a
long-considered temptation, she threw her arms around his neck and
hugged him close.

"It's perfectly grand!" she cried. "But what a chump you are for going
at all--when you could marry Lenorry!"

That was Kathleen's point of view, and it must have coincided somewhat
with Mr. Anderson's.

"Kathleen, you wouldn't have me be a slacker?" asked Dorn, gently.

"No. But we let Jim go," was her argument.

Dorn kissed her, then turned to Lenore. "Let's go out to the fields."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not a long walk to the alfalfa, but by the time she got there
Lenore's impending woe was as if it had never been. Dorn seemed
strangely gay and unusually demonstrative; apparently he forgot the
war-cloud in the joy of the hour. That they were walking in the open
seemed not to matter to him.

"Kurt, some one will see you," Lenore remonstrated.

"You're more beautiful than ever to-day," he said, by way of answer, and
tried to block her way.

Lenore dodged and ran. She was fleet, and eluded him down the lane,
across the cut field, to a huge square stack of baled alfalfa. But he
caught her just as she got behind its welcome covert. Lenore was far
less afraid of him than of laughing eyes. Breathless, she backed up
against the stack.

"You're--a--cannibal!" she panted. But she did not make much resistance.

"You're--a goddess!" he replied.

"Me!... Of what?"

"Why, of 'Many Waters'!... Goddess of wheat!... The sweet, waving wheat,
rich and golden--the very spirit of life!"

"If anybody sees you--mauling me--this way--I'll not seem a goddess to
him.... My hair is down--my waist--Oh, Kurt!"

Yet it did not very much matter how she looked or what happened. Beyond
all was the assurance of her dearness to him. Suddenly she darted away
from him again. Her heart swelled, her spirit soared, her feet were
buoyant and swift. She ran into the uncut alfalfa. It was thick and
high, tangling round her feet. Here her progress was retarded. Dorn
caught up with her. His strong hands on her shoulders felt masterful,
and the sweet terror they inspired made her struggle to get away.

"You shall--not--hold me!" she cried.

"But I will. You must be taught--not to run," he said, and wrapped her
tightly in his arms.

"Now surrender your kisses meekly!"

"I--surrender!... But, Kurt, someone will see... Dear, we'll go
back--or--somewhere--"

"Who can see us here but the birds?" he said, and the strong hands held
her fast. "You will kiss me--enough--right now--even if the whole
world--looked on!" he said, ringingly. "Lenore, my soul!... Lenore, I
love you!"

He would not be denied. And if she had any desire to deny him it was
lost in the moment. She clasped his neck and gave him kiss for kiss.

But her surrender made him think of her. She felt his effort to let her
go.

Lenore's heart felt too big for her breast. It hurt. She clung to his
hand and they walked on across the field and across a brook, up the
slope to one of Lenore's favorite seats. And there she wanted to rest.
She smoothed her hair and brushed her dress, aware of how he watched
her, with his heart in his eyes.

Had there ever in all the years of the life of the earth been so perfect
a day? How dazzling the sun! What heavenly blue the sky! And all beneath
so gold, so green! A lark caroled over Lenore's head and a quail
whistled in the brush below. The brook babbled and gurgled and murmured
along, happy under the open sky. And a soft breeze brought the low roar
of the harvest fields and the scent of wheat and dust and straw.

Life seemed so stingingly full, so poignant, so immeasurably worth
living, so blessed with beauty and richness and fruitfulness.

"Lenore, your eyes are windows--and I can see into your soul. I can
read--and first I'm uplifted and then I'm sad."

It was he who talked and she who listened. This glorious day would be
her strength when the--Ah! but she would not complete a single bitter
thought.

She led him away, up the slope, across the barley-field, now cut and
harvested, to the great, swelling golden spaces of wheat. Far below, the
engines and harvesters were humming. Here the wheat waved and rustled in
the wind. It was as high as Lenore's head.

"It's fine wheat," observed Dorn. "But the wheat of my desert hills was
richer, more golden, and higher than this."

"No regrets to-day!" murmured Lenore, leaning to him.

There was magic in those words--the same enchantment that made the hours
fly. She led him, at will, here and there along the rustling-bordered
lanes. From afar they watched the busy harvest scene, with eyes that
lingered long on a great, glittering combine with its thirty-two horses
plodding along.

"I can drive them. Thirty-two horses!" she asserted, proudly.

"No!"

"Yes. Will you come? I will show you."

"It is a temptation," he said, with a sigh. "But there are eyes there.
They would break the spell."

"Who's talking about eyes now?" she cried.

They spent the remainder of that day on the windy wheat-slope, high up,
alone, with the beauty and richness of "Many Waters" beneath them. And
when the sun sent its last ruddy and gold rays over the western hills,
and the weary harvesters plodded homeward, Lenore still lingered, loath
to break the spell. For on the way home, she divined, he would tell her
he was soon to leave.

Sunset and evening star! Their beauty and serenity pervaded Lenore's
soul. Surely there was a life somewhere else, beyond in that infinite
space. And the defeat of earthly dreams was endurable.

They walked back down the wheat lanes hand in hand, as dusk shadowed the
valley; and when they reached the house he told her gently that he must
go.

"But--you will stay to-night?" she whispered.

"No. It's all arranged," he replied, thickly. "They're to drive me
over--my train's due at eight.... I've kept it--till the last few
minutes."

They went in together.

"We're too late for dinner," said Lenore, but she was not thinking of
that, and she paused with head bent. "I--I want to say good-by to
you--here." She pointed to the dim, curtained entrance of the
living-room.

"I'd like that, too," he replied. "I'll go up and get my bag. Wait."

Lenore slowly stepped to that shadowed spot beyond the curtains where
she had told her love to Dorn; and there she stood, praying and fighting
for strength to let him go, for power to conceal her pain. The one great
thing she could do was to show him that she would not stand in the way
of his duty to himself. She realized then that if he had told her
sooner, if he were going to remain one more hour at "Many Waters," she
would break down and beseech him not to leave her.

She saw him come down-stairs with his small hand-bag, which he set down.
His face was white. His eyes burned. But her woman's love made her
divine that this was not a shock to his soul, as it was to hers, but
stimulation--a man's strange spiritual accounting to his fellow-men.

He went first into the dining-room, and Lenore heard her mother's and
sisters' voices in reply to his. Presently he came out to enter her
father's study. Lenore listened, but heard no sound there. Outside, a
motor-car creaked and hummed by the window, to stop by the side porch.
Then the door of her father's study opened and closed, and Dorn came to
where she was standing.

Lenore did precisely as she had done a few nights before, when she had
changed the world for him. But, following her kiss, there was a terrible
instant when, with her arms around his neck, she went blind at the
realization of loss. She held to him with a savage intensity of
possession. It was like giving up life. She knew then, as never before,
that she had the power to keep him at her side. But a thought saved her
from exerting it--the thought that she could not make him less than
other men--and so she conquered.

"Lenore, I want you to think always--how you loved me," he said.

"Loved you? Oh, my boy! It seems your lot has been hard. You've
toiled--you've lost all--and now..."

"Listen," he interrupted, and she had never heard his voice like that.
"The thousands of boys who go to fight regard it a duty. For our
country!... I had that, but more.... My father was German... and he was
a traitor. The horror for me is that I hate what is German in _me_.... I
will have to kill that. But you've helped me.... I know I'm American.
I'll do my duty, whatever it is. I would have gone to war only a beast
with my soul killed before I ever got there.... With no hope--no
possibility of return!... But you love me!... Can't you see--how great
the difference?"

Lenore understood and felt it in his happiness. "Yes, Kurt, I know....
Thank God, I've helped you.... I want you to go. I'll pray always. I
believe you will come back to me.... Life could not be so utterly
cruel..." She broke off.

"Life can't rob me now--nor death," he cried, in exaltation. "I have
your love. Your face will always be with me--as now--lovely and
brave!... Not a tear!... And only that sweet smile like an angel's!...
Oh, Lenore, what a girl you are!"

"Say good-by--and go," she faltered. Another moment would see her
weaken.

"Yes, I must hurry." His voice was a whisper--almost gone. He drew a
deep breath. "Lenore--my promised wife--my star for all the black
nights--God bless you--keep you!... Good-by!"

She spent all her strength in her embrace, all her soul in the passion
of her farewell kiss. Then she stood alone, tottering, sinking. The
swift steps, now heavy and uneven, passed out of the hall--the door
closed--the motor-car creaked and rolled away--the droning hum ceased.

For a moment of despairing shock, before the storm broke, Lenore blindly
wavered there, unable to move from the spot that had seen the beginning
and the end of her brief hour of love. Then she summoned strength to
drag herself to her room, to lock her door.

Alone! In the merciful darkness and silence and loneliness!... She need
not lie nor play false nor fool herself here. She had let him go!
Inconceivable and monstrous truth! For what?... It was not now with her,
that deceiving spirit which had made her brave. But she was a woman. She
fell upon her knees beside her bed, shuddering.

That moment was the beginning of her sacrifice, the sacrifice she shared
in common now with thousands of other women. Before she had pitied; now
she suffered. And all that was sweet, loving, noble, and motherly--all
that was womanly--rose to meet the stretch of gray future, with its
endless suspense and torturing fear, its face of courage for the light
of day, its despair for the lonely night, and its vague faith in the
lessons of life, its possible and sustaining and eternal hope of God.




CHAPTER XXIV

    Camp--, _October_--.

    Dear Sister Lenore,--It's been long since I wrote you. I'm sorry,
    dear. But I haven't just been in shape to write. Have been
    transferred to a training-camp not far from New York. I don't like
    it. The air is raw, penetrating, different from our high mountain
    air in the West. So many gray, gloomy days! And wet--why you never
    saw a rain in Washington! Fine bunch of boys, though. We get up in
    the morning at 4:30. Sweep the streets of the camp! I'm glad to get
    up and sweep, for I'm near frozen long before daylight. Yesterday I
    peeled potatoes till my hands were cramped. Nine million spuds, I
    guess! I'm wearing citizen's clothes--too thin, by gosh!--and
    sleeping in a tent, on a canvas cot, with one blanket. Wouldn't care
    a--(scoose me, sis)--I wouldn't mind if I had a real gun, and some
    real fighting to look forward to. Some life, I don't think! But I
    meant to tell you why I'm here.

    You remember how I always took to cowboys. Well, I got chummy with a
    big cow puncher from Montana. His name was Andersen. Isn't that
    queer? His name same as mine except for the last e where I have o.
    He's a Swede or Norwegian. True-blue American? Well, I should smile.
    Like all cowboys! He's six feet four, broad as a door, with a flat
    head of an Indian, and a huge, bulging chin. Not real handsome, but
    say! he's one of the finest fellows that ever lived. We call him
    Montana.

    There were a lot of rough-necks in our outfit, and right away I got
    in bad. You know I never was much on holding my temper. Anyway, I
    got licked powerful fine, as dad would say, and I'd been all beaten
    up but for Montana. That made us two fast friends, and sure some
    enemies, you bet.

    We had the tough luck to run into six of the rough-necks, just
    outside of the little town, where they'd been drinking. I never
    heard the name of one of that outfit. We weren't acquainted at all.
    Strange how they changed my soldier career, right at the start! This
    day, when we met them, they got fresh, and of course I had to start
    something. I soaked that rough-neck, sis, and don't you forget it.
    Well, it was a fight, sure. I got laid out--not knocked out, for I
    could see--but I wasn't any help to pard Montana. It looked as if he
    didn't need any. The rough-necks jumped him. Then, one after
    another, he piled them up in the road. Just a swing--and down went
    each one--cold. But the fellow I hit came to and, grabbing up a
    pick-handle, with all his might he soaked Montana over the head.
    What an awful crack! Montana went down, and there was blood
    everywhere.

    They took Montana to the hospital, sewed up his head. It wasn't long
    before he seemed all right again, but he told me sometimes he felt
    queer. Then they put us on a troop-train, with boys from California
    and all over, and we came East. I haven't seen any of those other
    Western boys, though, since we got here.

    One day, without any warning, Montana keeled over, down and out.
    Paralysis! They took him to a hospital in New York. No hope, the
    doctors said, and he was getting worse all the time. But some New
    York surgeon advised operation, anyway. So they opened that
    healed-over place in his head, where the pick-handle hit--and what
    do you think they found? A splinter off that pick-handle, stuck two
    inches under his skull, in his brain! They took it out. Every day
    they expected Montana to die. But he didn't. But he _will_ die. I
    went over to see him. He's unconscious part of the time--crazy the
    rest. No part of his right side moves! It broke me all up. Why
    couldn't that soak he got have been on the Kaiser's head?

    I tell you, Lenore, a fellow has his eye teeth cut in this getting
    ready to go to war. It makes me sick. I enlisted to fight, not to be
    chased into a climate that doesn't agree with me--not to sweep roads
    and juggle a wooden gun. There are a lot of things, but say! I've
    got to cut out that kind of talk.

    I feel almost as far away from you all as if I were in China. But
    I'm nearer France! I hope you're well and standing pat, Lenore.
    Remember, you're dad's white hope. I was the black sheep, you know.
    Tell him I don't regard my transfer as a disgrace. The officers
    didn't and he needn't. Give my love to mother and the girls. Tell
    them not to worry. Maybe the war will be over before--I'll write you
    often now, so cheer up.

    Your loving brother,

    Jim.


    Camp--, _October_--.

    My Dearest Lenore,--If my writing is not very legible it is because
    my hand shakes when I begin this sweet and sacred privilege of
    writing to my promised wife. My other letter was short, and this is
    the second in the weeks since I left you. What an endless time! You
    must understand and forgive me for not writing oftener and for not
    giving you definite address.

    I did not want to be in the Western regiment, for reasons hard to
    understand. I enlisted in New York and am trying hard to get into
    the Rainbow Division, with some hope of success. There is nothing to
    me in being a member of a crack regiment, but it seems that this one
    will see action first of all American units. I don't want to be an
    officer, either.

    How will it be possible for me to write you as I want to--letters
    that will be free of the plague of myself--letters that you can
    treasure if I never come back? Sleeping and waking, I never forget
    the wonderful truth of your love for me. It did not seem real when I
    was with you, but, now that we are separated, I know that it is
    real. Mostly my mind contains only two things--this constant memory
    of you, and that other terrible thing of which I will not speak. All
    else that I think or do seems to be mechanical.

    The work, the training, is not difficult for me, though so many boys
    find it desperately hard. You know I followed a plow, and that is
    real toil. Right now I see the brown fallow hills and the great
    squares of gold. But visions or thoughts of home are rare. That is
    well, for they hurt like a stab. I cannot think now of a single
    thing connected with my training here that I want to tell you. Yet
    some things I must tell. For instance, we have different
    instructors, and naturally some are more forcible than others. We
    have one at whom the boys laugh. He tickles them. They like him. But
    he is an ordeal for me. The reason is that in our first bayonet
    practice, when we rushed and thrust a stuffed bag, he made us yell,
    _"God damn you, German--die!"_ I don't imagine this to be general
    practice in army exercises, but the fact is he started us that way.
    I can't forget. When I begin to charge with a bayonet those words
    leap silently, but terribly, to my lips. Think of this as reality,
    Lenore--a sad and incomprehensible truth in 1917. All in me that is
    spiritual, reasonable, all that was once hopeful, revolts at this
    actuality and its meaning. But there is another side, that dark one,
    which revels in anticipation. It is the cave-man in me, hiding by
    night, waiting with a bludgeon to slay. I am beginning to be struck
    by the gradual change in my comrades. I fancied that I alone had
    suffered a retrogression. I have a deep consciousness of baseness
    that is going to keep me aloof from them. I seem to be alone with my
    own soul. Yet I seem to be abnormally keen to impressions. I feel
    what is going on in the soldiers' minds, and it shocks me, set me
    wondering, forces me to doubt myself. I keep saying it must be my
    peculiar way of looking at things.

    Lenore, I remember your appeal to me. Shall I ever forget your sweet
    face--your sad eyes when you bade me hope in God?--I am trying, but
    I do not see God yet. Perhaps that is because of my morbidness--my
    limitations. Perhaps I will face him over there, when I go down into
    the Valley of the Shadow. One thing, however, I do begin to see is
    that there is a divinity in men. Slowly something divine is
    revealing itself to me. To give up work, property, friends, sister,
    mother, home, sweetheart, to sacrifice all and go out to fight for
    country, for honor--that indeed is divine. It is beautiful. It
    inspires a man and lifts his head. But, alas! if he is a thinking
    man, when he comes in contact with the actual physical preparation
    for war, he finds that the divinity was the hour of his sacrifice
    and that, to become a good soldier, he must change, forget, grow
    hard, strong, merciless, brutal, humorous, and callous, all of which
    is to say base. I see boys who are tender-hearted, who love life,
    who were born sufferers, who cannot inflict pain! How many silent
    cries of protest, of wonder, of agony, must go up in the night over
    this camp! The sum of them would be monstrous. The sound of them, if
    voiced, would be a clarion blast to the world. It is sacrifice that
    is divine, and not the making of an efficient soldier.

    I shall write you endlessly. The action of writing relieves me. I
    feel less burdened now. Sometimes I cannot bear the burden of all
    this unintelligible consciousness. My mind is not large enough.
    Sometimes I feel that I am going to be every soldier and every
    enemy--each one in his strife or his drifting or his agony or his
    death. But despite that feeling I seem alone in a horde. I make no
    friends. I have no way to pass my leisure but writing. I can hardly
    read at all. When off duty the boys amuse themselves in a hundred
    ways--going to town, the theaters, and movies; chasing the girls
    (especially that to judge by their talk); play; boxing; games; and I
    am sorry to add, many of them gamble and drink. But I cannot do any
    of these things. I cannot forget what I am here for. I cannot forget
    that I am training to kill men. Never do I forget that soon I will
    face death. What a terrible, strange, vague thrill that sends
    shivering over me! Amusement and forgetfulness are past for Kurt
    Dorn. I am concerned with my soul. I am fighting that black passion
    which makes of me a sleepless watcher and thinker.

    If this war only lets me live long enough to understand its meaning!
    Perhaps that meaning will be the meaning of life, in which case I am
    longing for the unattainable. But underneath it all must be a
    colossal movement of evolution, of spiritual growth--or of
    retrogression. Who knows? When I ask myself what I am going to fight
    for, I answer--for my country, as a patriot--for my hate, as an
    individual. My time is almost up. I go on duty. The rain is roaring
    on the thin roof. How it rains in this East! Whole days and nights
    it pours. I cannot help but think of my desert hills, always so
    barren and yellow, with the dust-clouds whirling. One day of this
    rain, useless and wasted here, would have saved the Bend crop of
    wheat. Nature is almost as inscrutable as God.

    Lenore, good-by for this time. Think of me, but not as lonely or
    unhappy or uncomfortable out there in the cold, raw, black, wet
    night. I will be neither. Some one--a spirit--will keep beside me as
    I step the beat. I have put unhappiness behind me. And no rain or
    mud or chill will ever feaze me.

    Yours with love,

    Kurt Dorn.


    Camp--, _October_--.

    Dear Sister Lenore,--After that little letter of yours I could do
    nothing more than look up another pin like the one I sent Kathleen.
    I inclose it. Hope you will wear it.

    I'm very curious to see what your package contains. It hasn't
    arrived yet. All the mail comes late. That makes the boys sore.

    The weather hasn't been so wet lately as when I last wrote, but it's
    colder. Believe me these tents are not steam-heated! But we grin and
    try to look happy. It's not the most cheerful thing to hear the old
    call in the morning and tumble out in the cold gray dawn. Say! I've
    got two blankets now. _Two!_ Just time for mess, then we hike down
    the road. I'm in for artillery now, I guess. The air service really
    fascinated me, but you can't have what you want in this business.

    _Saturday_.--This letter will be in sections. No use sending you a
    little dab of news now and then. I'll write when I can, and mail
    when the letter assumes real proportions. Your package arrived and I
    was delighted. I think I slept better last night on your little
    pillow than any night since we were called out. My pillow before was
    your sleeveless jersey.

    It's after three A.M. and I'm on guard--that is, battery guard, and
    I have to be up from midnight to reveille, not on a post, but in my
    tent, so that if any of my men (I'm a corporal now), whom I relieve
    every two hours, get into trouble they can call me. Non-coms. go on
    guard once in six days, so about every sixth night I get along with
    no sleep.

    We have been ordered to do away with all personal property except
    shaving outfit and absolutely necessary articles. We can't keep a
    foot-locker, trunk, valise, or even an ordinary soap-box in our
    tents. Everything must be put in one barrack bag, a canvas sack just
    like a laundry-bag.

    Thank the girls for the silk handkerchief and candy they sent. I
    sure have the sweetest sisters of any boy I know. I never
    appreciated them when I had them. I'm learning bitter truths these
    days. And tell mother I'll write her soon. Thank her for the pajamas
    and the napkins. Tell her I'm sorry a soldier has no use for either.

    This morning I did my washing of the past two weeks, and I was so
    busy that I didn't hear the bugle blow, and thereby got on the
    "black book." Which means that I won't get any time off soon.

    Before I forget, Lenore, let me tell you that I've taken ten
    thousand dollars' life insurance from the government, in your favor
    as beneficiary. This costs me only about six and a half dollars per
    month, and in case of my death--Well, I'm a soldier, now. Please
    tell Rose I've taken a fifty-dollar Liberty Bond of the new issue
    for her. This I'm paying at the rate of five dollars per month and
    it will be delivered to her at the end of ten months. Both of these,
    of course, I'm paying out of my government pay as a soldier. The
    money dad sent me I spent like water, lent to the boys, threw away.
    Tell him not to send me any more. Tell him the time has come for Jim
    Anderson to make good. I've a rich dad and he's the best dad any
    harum-scarum boy ever had. I'm going to prove more than one thing
    this trip.

    We hear so many rumors, and none of them ever come true. One of them
    is funny--that we have so many rich men with political influence in
    our regiment that we will never get to France! Isn't that the limit?
    But it's funny because, if we have rich men, I'd like to see them.
    Still, there are thirty thousand soldiers here, and in my neck of
    the woods such rumors are laughed and cussed at. We hear also that
    we're going to be ordered South. I wish that would come true. It's
    so cold and drab and muddy and monotonous.

    My friend Montana fooled everybody. He didn't die. He seems to be
    hanging on. Lately he recovered consciousness. Told me he had no
    feeling on his left side, except sometimes his hand itched, you
    know, like prickly needles. But Montana will never be any good
    again. That fine big cowboy! He's been one grand soldier. It sickens
    me sometimes to think of the difference between what thrilled me
    about this war game and what we get. Maybe, though--There goes my
    call. I must close. Love to all.

    Jim.


    New York City, _October_--.

    Dearest Lenore,--It seems about time that I had a letter from you.
    I'm sure letters are on the way, but they do not come quickly. The
    boys complain of the mail service. Isn't it strange that there is
    not a soul to write me except you? Jeff, my farm-hand, will write me
    whenever I write him, which I haven't done yet.

    I'm on duty here in New York at an armory bazaar. It's certainly the
    irony of fate. Why did the officer pick on me, I'd like to know? But
    I've never complained of an order so far, and I'm standing it.
    Several of us--and they chose the husky boys--have been sent over
    here, for absolutely no purpose that I can see except to exhibit
    ourselves in uniform. It's a woman's bazaar, to raise money for
    war-relief work and so on. The hall is almost as large as that field
    back of your house, and every night it is packed with people, mostly
    young. My comrades are having fun out of it, but I feel like a fish
    out of water.

    Just the same, Lenore, I'm learning more every day. If I was not so
    disgusted I'd think this was a wonderful opportunity. As it is, I
    regard it only as an experience over which I have no control and
    that interests me in spite of myself. New York is an awful
    place--endless, narrow, torn-up streets crowded with hurrying
    throngs, taxicabs, cars, and full of noise and dust. I am always
    choked for air. And these streets reek. Where do the people come
    from and where are they going? They look wild, as if they had to go
    somewhere, but did not know where that was. I've no time or
    inclination to see New York, though under happier circumstances I
    think I'd like to.

    People in the East seem strange to me. Still, as I never mingled
    with many people in the West, I cannot say truly whether Eastern
    people are different from Western people. But I think so. Anyway,
    while I was in Spokane, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles I
    did not think people were greatly concerned about the war. Denver
    people appeared not to realize there was a war. But here in New York
    everything is war. You can't escape it. You see that war will soon
    obsess rich and poor, alien and neutral and belligerent, pacifist
    and militarist. Since I wrote you last I've tried to read the
    newspapers sent to us. It's hard to tell you which makes me the
    sicker--the prattle of the pacifist or the mathematics of the
    military experts. Both miss the spirit of men. Neither has any soul.
    I think the German minds must all be mathematical.

    But I want to write about the women and girls I see, here in New
    York, in the camps and towns, on the trains, everywhere. Lenore, the
    war has thrown them off their balance. I have seen and studied at
    close hand women of all classes. Believe me, as the boys say, I have
    thought more than twice whether or not I would tell you the stark
    truth. But somehow I am impelled to. I have an overwhelming
    conviction that all American girls and mothers should know what the
    truth is. They will never be told, Lenore, and most would never
    believe if they were told. And that is one thing wrong with people.

    I believe every soldier, from the time he enlists until the war is
    ended, should be kept away from women. This is a sweeping statement
    and you must take into account the mind of him who makes it. But I
    am not leaping at conclusions. The soldier boys have terrible peril
    facing them long before they get to the trenches. Not all, or nearly
    all, the soldiers are going to be vitally affected by the rottenness
    of great cities or by the mushroom hotbeds of vice springing up near
    the camps. These evils exist and are being opposed by military and
    government, by police and Y.M.C.A., and good influence of good
    people. But they will never wholly stamp it out.

    Nor do I want to say much about the society women who are "rushing"
    the officers. There may be one here and there with her heart in the
    right place, but with most of them it must be, first, this something
    about war that has unbalanced women; and secondly, a fad, a novelty,
    a new sentimental stunt, a fashion set by some leader. Likewise I
    want to say but little about the horde of common, street-chasing,
    rattled-brained women and girls who lie in wait for soldiers at
    every corner, so to speak. All these, to be sure, may be
    unconsciously actuated by motives that do not appear on the surface;
    and if this be true, their actions are less bold, less raw than they
    look.

    What I want to dwell upon is my impression of something strange,
    unbalanced, incomprehensible, about the frank conduct of so many
    well-educated, refined, and good women I see; and about the
    eagerness, restlessness, the singular response of nice girls to
    situations that are not natural.

    To-night a handsome, stylishly gowned woman of about thirty came up
    to me with a radiant smile and a strange brightness in her eyes.
    There were five hundred couples dancing on the floor, and the music
    and sound of sliding feet made it difficult to hear her. She said:
    "You handsome soldier boy! Come dance with me?" I replied politely
    that I did not dance. Then she took hold of me and said, "I'll teach
    you." I saw a wedding-ring on the hand she laid on my arm. Then I
    looked straight at her, "Madam, very soon I'll be learning the dance
    of death over in France, and my mind's concerned with that." She
    grew red with anger. She seemed amazed. And she snapped, "Well, you
    _are_ a queer soldier!" Later I watched her flirting and dancing
    with an officer.

    Overtures and advances innumerable have been made to me, ranging
    from the assured possession-taking onslaught like this woman's to
    the slight, subtle something, felt more than seen, of a more complex
    nature. And, Lenore, I blush to tell you this, but I've been mobbed
    by girls. They have a thousand ways of letting a soldier _know!_ I
    could not begin to tell them. But I do not actually realize what it
    is that is conveyed, that I know; and I am positive the very large
    majority of soldiers _misunderstand_. At night I listen to the talks
    of my comrades, and, well--if the girls only heard! Many times I go
    out of hearing, and when I cannot do that I refuse to hear.

    Lenore, I am talking about nice girls now. I am merciless. There are
    many girls like you--they seem like you, though none so pretty. I
    mean, you know, there are certain manners and distinctions that at
    once mark a really nice girl. For a month I've been thrown here and
    there, so that it seems I've seen as many girls as soldiers. I have
    been sent to different entertainments given for soldiers. At one
    place a woman got up and invited the girls to ask the boys to dance.
    At another a crowd of girls were lined up wearing different ribbons,
    and the boys marched along until each one found the girl wearing a
    ribbon to match the one he wore. That was his partner. It was
    interesting to see the eager, mischievous, brooding eyes of these
    girls as they watched and waited. Just as interesting was it to see
    this boy's face when he found his partner was ugly, and that boy
    swell with pride when he found he had picked a "winner." It was all
    adventure for both boys and girls. But I saw more than that in it.
    Whenever I could not avoid meeting a girl I tried to be agreeable
    and to talk about war, and soldiers, and what was going on. I did
    not dance, of course, and I imagine more than one girl found me a
    "queer soldier."

    It always has touched me, though, to see and feel the sweetness,
    graciousness, sympathy, kindness, and that other indefinable
    something, in the girls I have met. How they made me think of you,
    Lenore! No doubt about their hearts, their loyalty, their
    Americanism. Every soldier who goes to France can fight for some
    girl! They make you feel that. I believe I have gone deeper than
    most soldiers in considering what I will call war-relation of the
    sexes. If it is normal, then underneath it all is a tremendous
    inscrutable design of nature or God. If that be true, actually true,
    then war must be inevitable and right! How horrible! My thoughts
    confound me sometimes. Anyway, the point I want to make is this: I
    heard an officer tell an irate father, whose two daughters had been
    insulted by soldiers: "My dear sir, it is regrettable. These men
    will be punished. But they are not greatly to blame, because so many
    girls throw themselves at their heads. Your daughters did not, of
    course, but they should not have come here." That illustrates the
    fixed idea of the military, all through the ranks--_Women throw
    themselves at soldiers!_ It is true that they do. But the idea is
    false, nevertheless, because the mass of girls are misunderstood.

    Misunderstood!--I can tell you why. Surely the mass of American
    girls are nice, fine, sweet, wholesome. They are young. The news of
    war liberates something in them that we can find no name for. But it
    must be noble. A soldier! The very name, from childhood, is one to
    make a girl thrill. What then the actual thing, the uniform,
    invested somehow with chivalry and courage, the clean-cut athletic
    young man, somber and fascinating with his intent eyes, his serious
    brow, or his devil-may-care gallantry, the compelling presence of
    him that breathes of his sacrifice, of his near departure to
    privation, to squalid, comfortless trenches, to the fire and hell of
    war, to blood and agony and death--in a word to fight, fight, fight
    for women!... So through this beautiful emotion women lose their
    balance and many are misunderstood. Those who would not and could
    not be bold are susceptible to advances that in an ordinary time
    would not affect them. War invests a soldier with a glamour. Love at
    first sight, flirtations, rash intimacies, quick engagements,
    immediate marriages. The soldier who is soon going away to fight and
    perhaps to die strikes hard at the very heart of a girl. Either she
    is not her real self then, or else she is suddenly transported to a
    womanhood that is instinctive, elemental, universal for the future.
    She feels what she does not know. She surrenders because there is an
    imperative call to the depths of her nature. She sacrifices because
    she is the inspiritor of the soldier, the reward for his loss, the
    savior of the race. If women are the spoils of barbarous conquerors,
    they are also the sinews, the strength, the soul of defenders.

    And so, however you look at it, war means for women sacrifice,
    disillusion, heartbreak, agony, doom. I feel that so powerfully that
    I am overcome; I am sick at the gaiety and playing; I am full of
    fear, wonder, admiration, and hopeless pity for them.

    No man can tell what is going on in the souls of soldiers while
    noble women are offering love and tenderness, throwing themselves
    upon the altar of war, hoping blindly to send their great spirits
    marching to the front. Perhaps the man who lives through the war
    will feel the change in his soul if he cannot tell it. Day by day I
    think I see a change in my comrades. As they grow physically
    stronger they seem to grow spiritually lesser. But maybe that is
    only my idea. I see evidences of fear, anger, sullenness, moodiness,
    shame. I see a growing indifference to fatigue, toil, pain. As these
    boys harden physically they harden mentally. Always, 'way off there
    is the war, and that seems closely related to the near duty
    here--what it takes to make a man. These fellows will measure men
    differently after this experience with sacrifice, obedience, labor,
    and pain. In that they will become great. But I do not think these
    things stimulate a man's mind. Changes are going on in me, some of
    which I am unable to define. For instance, physically I am much
    bigger and stronger than I was. I weigh one hundred and eighty
    pounds! As for my mind, something is always tugging at it. I feel
    that it grows tired. It wants to forget. In spite of my will, all of
    these keen desires of mine to know everything lag and fail often,
    and I catch myself drifting. I see and feel and hear without
    thinking. I am only an animal then. At these times sight of blood,
    or a fight, or a plunging horse, or a broken leg--and these sights
    are common--affects me little until I am quickened and think about
    the meaning of it all. At such moments I have a revulsion of
    feeling. With memory comes a revolt, and so on, until I am the
    distressed, inquisitive, and morbid person I am now. I shudder at
    what war will make me. Actual contact with earth, exploding guns,
    fighting comrades, striking foes, will make brutes of us all. It is
    wrong to shed another man's blood. If life was meant for that why do
    we have progress? I cannot reconcile a God with all this horror. I
    have misgivings about my mind. If I feel so acutely here in safety
    and comfort, what shall I feel over there in peril and agony? I fear
    I shall laugh at death. Oh, Lenore, consider that! To laugh in the
    ghastly face of death! If I yield utterly to a fiendish joy of
    bloody combat, then my mind will fail, and that in itself would be
    evidence of God.

    I do not read over my letters to you, I just write. Forgive me if
    they are not happier. Every hour I think of you. At night I see your
    face in the shadow of the tent wall. And I love you unutterably.

    Faithfully,

    Kurt Dorn.


    Camp ----, _November_ --,

    Dear Sister,--It's bad news I've got for you this time. Something
    bids me tell you, though up to now I've kept unpleasant facts to
    myself.

    The weather has knocked me out. My cold came back, got worse and
    worse. Three days ago I had a chill that lasted for fifteen minutes.
    I shook like a leaf. It left me, and then I got a terrible pain in
    my side. But I didn't give in, which I feel now was a mistake. I
    stayed up till I dropped.

    I'm here in the hospital. It's a long shed with three stoves, and a
    lot of beds with other sick boys. My bed is far away from a stove.
    The pain is bad yet, but duller, and I've fever. I'm pretty sick,
    honey. Tell mother and dad, but not the girls. Give my love to all.
    And don't worry. It'll all come right in the end. This beastly
    climate's to blame.


    _Later_,--It's night now. I was interrupted. I'll write a few more
    lines. Hope you can read them. It's late and the wind is moaning
    outside. It's so cold and dismal. The fellow in the bed next to me
    is out of his head. Poor devil! He broke his knee, and they put off
    the operation--too busy! So few doctors and so many patients! And
    now he'll lose his leg. He's talking about home. Oh, Lenore! _Home!_
    I never knew what home was--till now.

    I'm worse to-night. But I'm always bad at night. Only, to-night I
    feel strange. There's a weight on my chest, besides the pain. That
    moan of wind makes me feel so lonely. There's no one here--and I'm
    so cold. I've thought a lot about you girls and mother and dad. Tell
    dad I made good.

    Jim




CHAPTER XXV

Jim's last letter was not taken seriously by the other members of the
Anderson family. The father shook his head dubiously. "That ain't like
Jim," but made no other comment. Mrs. Anderson sighed. The young sisters
were not given to worry. Lenore, however, was haunted by an unwritten
meaning in her brother's letter.

Weeks before, she had written to Dorn and told him to hunt up Jim. No
reply had yet come from Dorn. Every day augmented her uneasiness, until
it was dreadful to look for letters that did not come. All this
fortified her, however, to expect calamity. Like a bolt out of the clear
sky it came in the shape of a telegram from Camp ---- saying that Jim
was dying.

The shock prostrated the mother. Jim had been her favorite. Mr. Anderson
left at once for the East. Lenore had the care of her mother and the
management of "Many Waters" on her hands, which duties kept her
mercifully occupied. Mrs. Anderson, however, after a day, rallied
surprisingly. Lenore sensed in her mother the strength of the spirit
that sacrificed to a noble and universal cause. It seemed to be Mrs.
Anderson's conviction that Jim had been shot, or injured by accident in
gun-training, or at least by a horse. Lenore did not share her mother's
idea and was reluctant to dispel it. On the evening of the fifth day
after Mr. Anderson's departure a message came, saying that he had
arrived too late to see Jim alive. Mrs. Anderson bore the news bravely,
though she weakened perceptibly.

The family waited then for further news. None came. Day after day
passed. Then one evening, while Lenore strolled in the gloaming,
Kathleen came running to burst out with the announcement of their
father's arrival. He had telephoned from Vale for a car to meet him.

Not long after that, Lenore, who had gone to her room, heard the return
of the car and recognized her father's voice. She ran down in time to
see him being embraced by the girls, and her mother leaning with bowed
head on his shoulder.

"Yes, I fetched Jim--back," he said, steadily, but very low. "It's all
arranged.... An' we'll bury him to-morrow."

"Oh--dad!" cried Lenore.

"Hello, my girl!" he replied, and kissed her. "I'm sorry to tell you I
couldn't locate Kurt Dorn.... That New York--an' that trainin' camp!"

He held up his hands in utter futility of expression. Lenore's quick
eyes noted his face had grown thin and haggard, and she made sure with a
pang that his hair was whiter.

"I'm sure glad to be home," he said, with a heavy expulsion of breath.
"I want to clean up an' have a bite to eat."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lenore was so disappointed at failing to hear from Dorn that she did not
think how singular it was her father did not tell more about Jim. Later
he seemed more like himself, and told them simply that Jim had
contracted pneumonia and died without any message for his folk at home.
This prostrated Mrs. Anderson again.

Later Lenore sought her father in his room. He could not conceal from
her that he had something heartrending on his mind. Then there was more
than tragedy in his expression. Lenore felt a leap of fear at what
seemed her father's hidden anger. She appealed to him--importuned him.
Plainer it came to her that he wanted to relieve himself of a burden.
Then doubling her persuasions, she finally got him to talk.

"Lenore, it's not been so long ago that right here in this room Jim
begged me to let him enlist. He wasn't of age. But would I let him
go--to fight for the honor of our country--for the future safety of our
home?... We all felt the boy's eagerness, his fire, his patriotism.
Wayward as he's been, we suddenly were proud of him. We let him go. We
gave him up. He was a part of our flesh an' blood--sent by us
Andersons--to do our share."

Anderson paused in his halting speech, and swallowed hard. His white
face twitched strangely and his brow was clammy. Lenore saw that his
piercing gaze looked far beyond her for the instant that he broke down.

"Jim was a born fighter," the father resumed. "He wasn't vicious. He
just had a leanin' to help anybody. As a lad he fought for his little
pards--always on the right side--an' he always fought fair.... This
opportunity to train for a soldier made a man of him. He'd have made his
mark in the war. Strong an' game an' fierce, he'd ... he'd ... Well,
he's dead--he's _dead!_... Four months after enlistment he's dead....
An' he never had a rifle in his hands! He never had his hands on a
machine-gun or a piece of artillery!... He never had a uniform! He never
had an overcoat! He never ..."

Then Mr. Anderson's voice shook so that he had to stop to gain control.
Lenore was horrified. She felt a burning stir within her.

"Lemme get this--out," choked Anderson, his face now livid, his veins
bulging. "I'm drove to tell it. I was near all day locatin' Jim's
company. Found the tent where he'd lived. It was cold, damp, muddy.
Jim's messmates spoke high of him. Called him a prince!... They all owed
him money. He'd done many a good turn for them. He had only a thin
blanket, an' he caught cold. All the boys had colds. One night he gave
that blanket to a boy sicker than he was. Next day he got worse....
There was miles an' miles of them tents. I like to never found the
hospital where they'd sent Jim. An' then it was six o'clock in the
mornin'--a raw, bleak day that'd freeze one of us to the marrow. I had
trouble gettin' in. But a soldier went with me an'--an' ..."

Anderson's voice went to a whisper, and he looked pityingly at Lenore.

"That hospital was a barn. No doctors! Too early.... The nurses weren't
in sight. I met one later, an', poor girl! she looked ready to drop
herself!... We found Jim in one of the little rooms. No heat! It was
winter there.... Only a bed!... Jim lay on the floor, dead! He'd fallen
or pitched off the bed. He had on only his underclothes that he had
on--when he--left home.... He was stiff--an' must have--been dead--a
good while."

Lenore held out her trembling hands. "Dead--Jim dead--like that!" she
faltered.

"Yes. He got pneumonia," replied Anderson, hoarsely. "The camp was full
of it."

"But--my God! Were not the--the poor boys taken care of?" implored
Lenore, faintly.

"It's a terrible time. All was done that _could_ be done!"

"Then--it was all--for nothing?"

"All! All! Our boy an' many like him--the best blood of our
country--Western blood--dead because ... because ..."

Anderson's voice failed him.

"Oh, Jim! Oh, my brother!... Dead like a poor neglected dog! Jim--who
enlisted to fight--for--"

Lenore broke down then and hurried away to her room.

With great difficulty Mrs. Anderson was revived, and it became manifest
that the prop upon which she had leaned had been slipped from under her.
The spirit which had made her strong to endure the death of her boy
failed when the sordid bald truth of a miserable and horrible waste of
life gave the lie to the splendid fighting chance Jim had dreamed of.

When Anderson realized that she was fading daily he exhausted himself in
long expositions of the illness and injury and death common to armies in
the making. More deaths came from these causes than from war. It was the
elision of the weaker element--the survival of the fittest; and some,
indeed very many, mothers must lose their sons that way. The government
was sound at the core, he claimed; and his own rage was at the few
incompetents and profiteers. These must be weeded out--a process that
was going on. The gigantic task of a government to draft and prepare a
great army and navy was something beyond the grasp of ordinary minds.
Anderson talked about what he had seen and heard, proving the wonderful
stride already made. But all that he said now made no impression upon
Mrs. Anderson. She had made her supreme sacrifice for a certain end, and
that was as much the boy's fiery ambition to fight as it was her duty,
common with other mothers, to furnish a man at the front. What a
hopeless, awful sacrifice! She sank under it.

Those were trying days for Lenore, just succeeding her father's return;
and she had little time to think of herself. When the mail came, day
after day, without a letter from Dorn, she felt the pang in her breast
grow heavier. Intimations crowded upon her of impending troubles that
would make the present ones seem light.

It was not long until the mother was laid to rest beside the son.

When that day ended, Lenore and her father faced each other in her room,
where he had always been wont to come for sympathy. They gazed at each
other, with hard, dry eyes. Stark-naked truth--grim reality--the nature
of this catastrophe--the consciousness of war--dawned for each in the
look of the other. Brutal shock and then this second exceeding bitter
woe awakened their minds to the futility of individual life.

"Lenore--it's over!" he said, huskily, as he sank into a chair. "Like a
nightmare!... What have I got to live for?"

"You have us girls," replied Lenore. "And if you did not have us there
would be many others for you to live for.... Dad, can't you see--_now_?"

"I reckon. But I'm growin' old an' mebbe I've quit."

"No, dad, you'll never quit. Suppose all we Americans quit. That'd mean
a German victory. Never! Never! Never!"

"By God! you're right!" he ejaculated, with the trembling strain of his
face suddenly fixing. Blood and life shot into his eyes. He got up
heavily and began to stride to and fro before her. "You see clearer than
me. You always did, Lenore."

"I'm beginning to see, but I can't tell you," replied Lenore, closing
her eyes. Indeed, there seemed a colossal vision before her, veiled and
strange. "Whatever happens, we _cannot_ break. It's because of the war.
We have our tasks--greater now than ever we believe could be thrust upon
us. Yours to show men what you are made of! To raise wheat as never
before in your life! Mine to show my sisters and my friends--all the
women--what their duty is. We must sacrifice, work, prepare, and fight
for the future."

"I reckon," he nodded solemnly. "Loss of mother an' Jim changes this
damned war. Whatever's in my power to do must go on. So some one can
take it up when I--"

"That's the great conception, dad," added Lenore, earnestly. "We are
tragically awakened. We've been surprised--terribly struck in the dark.
Something monstrous and horrible!... I can feel the menace in it for
all--over every family in this broad land."

"Lenore, you said once that Jim--Now, how'd you know it was all over for
him?"

"A woman's heart, dad. When I said good-by to Jim I knew it was good-by
forever."

"Did you feel that way about Kurt Dorn?"

"No. He will come back to me. I dream it. It's in my spirit--my instinct
of life, my flesh-and-blood life of the future--it's in my belief in
God. Kurt Dorn's ordeal will be worse than death for him. But I believe
as I pray--that he will come home alive."

"Then, after all, you do hope," said her father. "Lenore, when I was
down East, I seen what women were doin'. The bad women are good an' the
good women are great. I think women have more to do with war then men,
even if they do stay home. It must be because women are mothers....
Lenore, you've bucked me up. I'll go at things now. The need for wheat
next year will be beyond calculation. I'll buy ten thousand acres of
that wheatland round old Chris Dorn's farm. An' my shot at the Germans
will be wheat. I'll raise a million bushels!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning in the mail was a long, thick envelope addressed to Lenore
in handwriting that shook her heart and made her fly to the seclusion of
her room.

    New York City, _November_ --.

    DEAREST,--when you receive this I will be in France.

Then Lenore sustained a strange shock. The beloved handwriting faded,
the thick sheets of paper fell; and all about her seemed dark and
whirling, as the sudden joy and excitement stirred by the letter changed
to sickening pain.

"_France!_ He's in France?" she whispered. "Oh, Kurt!" A storm of love
and terror burst over her. It had the onset and the advantage of a
bewildering surprise. It laid low, for the moment, her fortifications of
sacrifice, strength, and resolve. She had been forced into womanhood,
and her fear, her agony, were all the keener for the intelligence and
spirit that had repudiated selfish love. Kurt Dorn was in France in the
land of the trenches! Strife possessed her and had a moment of raw,
bitter triumph. She bit her lips and clenched her fists, to restrain the
impulse to rush madly around the room, to scream out her fear and hate.
With forcing her thought, with hard return to old well-learned
arguments, there came back the nobler emotions. But when she took up the
letter again, with trembling hands, her heart fluttered high and sick,
and she saw the words through blurred eyes.

    ...I'll give the letter to an ensign, who has promised to mail it
    the moment he gets back to New York.

    Lenore, your letter telling me about Jim was held up in the mail.
    But thank goodness, I got it in time. I'd already been transferred,
    and expected orders any day to go on board the transport, where I am
    writing now. I'd have written you, or at least telegraphed you,
    yesterday, after seeing Jim, if I had not expected to see him again
    to-day. But this morning we were marched on board and I cannot even
    get this letter off to you.

    Lenore, your brother is a very sick boy. I lost some hours finding
    him. They did not want to let me see him. But I implored--said that
    I was engaged to his sister--and finally I got in. The nurse was
    very sympathetic. But I didn't care for the doctors in charge. They
    seemed hard, hurried, brusque. But they have their troubles. The
    hospital was a long barracks, and it was full of cripples.

    The nurse took me into a small, bare room, too damp and cold for a
    sick man, and I said so. She just looked at me.

    Jim looks like you more than any other of the Andersons. I
    recognized that at the same moment I saw how very sick he was. They
    had told me outside that he had a bad case of pneumonia. He was
    awake, perfectly conscious, and he stared at me with eyes that set
    my heart going.

    "Hello, Jim!" I said, and offered my hand, as I sat down on the bed.
    He was too weak to shake hands.

    "Who're you?" he asked. He couldn't speak very well. When I told him
    my name and that I was his sister's fiance his face changed so he
    did not look like the same person. It was beautiful. Oh, it showed
    how homesick he was! Then I talked a blue streak about you, about
    the girls, about "Many Waters"--how I lost my wheat, and everything.
    He was intensely interested, and when I got through he whispered
    that he guessed Lenore had picked a "winner." What do you think of
    that? He was curious about me, and asked me questions till the nurse
    made him stop. I was never so glad about anything as I was about the
    happiness it evidently gave him to meet me and hear from home. I
    promised to come next day if we did not sail. Then he showed what I
    must call despair. He must have been passionately eager to get to
    France. The nurse dragged me out. Jim called weakly after me:
    "Good-by, Kurt. Stick some Germans for me!" I'll never forget his
    tone nor his look.... Lenore, he doesn't expect to get over to
    France.

    I questioned the nurse, and she shook her head doubtfully. She
    looked sad. She said Jim had been the lion of his regiment. I
    questioned a doctor, and he was annoyed. He put me off with a sharp
    statement that Jim was not in danger. But I think he is. I hope and
    pray he recovers.

    _Thursday_.

    We sailed yesterday. It was a wonderful experience, leaving Hoboken.
    Our transport and the dock looked as if they had a huge swarm of
    yellow bees hanging over everything. The bees were soldiers. The
    most profound emotion I ever had--except the one when you told me
    you loved me--came over me as the big boat swung free of the
    dock--of the good old U.S., of home. I wanted to jump off and swim
    through the eddying green water to the piles and hide in them till
    the boat had gone. As we backed out, pulled up tugs, and got started
    down the river, my thrills increased, until we passed the Statue of
    Liberty--and then I couldn't tell how I felt. One thing, I could not
    see very well.... I gazed beyond the colossal statue that France
    gave to the U.S.--'way across the water and the ships and the docks
    toward the West that I was leaving. Feeling like mine then only
    comes once to a man in his life. First I seemed to see all the vast
    space, the farms, valleys, woods, deserts, rivers, and mountains
    between me and my golden wheat-hills. Then I saw my home, and it was
    as if I had a magnificent photograph before my very eyes. A sudden
    rush of tears blinded me. Such a storm of sweetness, regret, memory!
    Then at last you--_you_ as you stood before me last, the very
    loveliest girl in all the world. My heart almost burst, and in the
    wild, sick pain of the moment I had a strange, comforting flash of
    thought that a man who could leave you must be impelled by something
    great in store for him. I feel that. I told you once. To laugh at
    death! That is what I shall do. But perhaps that is not the great
    experience which will come to me.

    I saw the sun set in the sea, 'way back toward the western horizon,
    where the thin, dark line that was land disappeared in the red glow.
    The wind blows hard. The water is rough, dark gray, and cold. I like
    the taste of the spray. Our boat rolls heavily and many boys are
    already sick. I do not imagine the motion will affect me. It is
    stuffy below-deck. I'll spend what time I can above, where I can see
    and feel. It was dark just now when I came below. And as I looked
    out into the windy darkness and strife I was struck by the
    strangeness of the sea and how it seemed to be like my soul. For a
    long time I have been looking into my soul, and I find such
    ceaseless strife, such dark, unlit depths, such chaos. These
    thoughts and emotions, always with me, keep me from getting close to
    my comrades. No, not me, but it keeps them away from me. I think
    they regard me strangely. They all talk of submarines. They are
    afraid. Some will lose sleep at night. But I never think of a
    submarine when I gaze out over the tumbling black waters. What I
    think of, what I am going after, what I need seems far, far away.
    Always! I am no closer now than when I was at your home. So it has
    not to do with distance. And Lenore, maybe it has not to do with
    trenches or Germans.

    _Wednesday_.

    It grows harder to get a chance to write and harder for me to
    express myself. When I could write I have to work or am on duty;
    when I have a little leisure I am somehow clamped. This old chugging
    boat beats the waves hour after hour, all day and all night. I can
    feel the vibration when I'm asleep. Many things happen that would
    interest you, just the duty and play of the soldiers, for that
    matter, and the stories I hear going from lip to lip, and the
    accidents. Oh! so much happens. But all these rush out of my mind
    the moment I sit down to write. There is something at work in me as
    vast and heaving as the ocean.

    At first I had a fear, a dislike of the ocean. But that is gone. It
    is indescribable to stand on the open deck at night as we are
    driving on and on and on--to look up at the grand, silent stars,
    that know, that understand, yet are somehow merciless--to look out
    across the starlit, moving sea. Its ceaseless movement at first
    distressed me; now I feel that it is perpetually moving to try to
    become still. To seek a level! To find itself! To quiet down to
    peace! But that will never be. And I think if the ocean is not like
    the human heart, then what is it like?

    This voyage will be good for me. The hard, incessant objective life,
    the physical life of a soldier, somehow comes to a halt on board
    ship. And every hour now is immeasurable for me. Whatever the
    mystery of life, of death, of what drives me, of why I cannot help
    fight the demon in me, of this thing called war--the certainty is
    that these dark, strange nights on the sea have given me a hope and
    faith that the truth is not utterly unattainable.

    _Sunday._

    We're in the danger zone now, with destroyers around us and a
    cruiser ahead. I am all eyes and ears. I lose sleep at night from
    thinking so hard. The ship doctor stopped me the other day--studied
    my face. Then he said: "You're too intense. You think too hard....
    Are you afraid?" And I laughed in his face. "Absolutely no!" I told
    him. "Then forget--and mix with the boys. Play--cut up--fight--do
    anything but _think!_" That doctor is a good chap, but he doesn't
    figure Kurt Dorn if he imagines the Germans can kill me by making me
    think.

    We're nearing France now, and the very air is charged. An aeroplane
    came out to meet us--welcome us, I guess, and it flew low. The
    soldiers went wild. I never had such a thrill. That air game would
    just suit me, if I were fitted for it. But I'm no mechanic. Besides,
    I'm too big and heavy. My place will be in the front line with a
    bayonet. Strange how a bayonet fascinates me!

    They say we can't write home anything about the war. I'll write you
    something, whenever I can. Don't be unhappy if you do not hear
    often--or if my letters cease to come. My heart and my mind are full
    of you. Whatever comes to me--the training over here--the going to
    the trenches--the fighting--I shall be safe if only I can remember
    you.

    With love,

    Kurt.

Lenore carried that letter in her bosom when she went out to walk in the
fields, to go over the old ground she and Kurt had trod hand in hand.
From the stone seat above the brook she watched the sunset. All was
still except the murmur of the running water, and somehow she could not
long bear that. As the light began to shade on the slopes, she faced
them, feeling, as always, a strength come to her from their familiar
lines. Twilight found her high above the ranch, and absolutely alone.
She would have this lonely hour, and then, all her mind and energy must
go to what she knew was imperative duty. She would work to the limit of
her endurance.

It was an autumn twilight, with a cool wind, gray sky, and sad, barren
slopes. The fertile valley seemed half obscured in melancholy haze, and
over toward the dim hills beyond night had already fallen. No stars, no
moon, no afterglow of sunset illumined the grayness that in this hour
seemed prophetic of Lenore's future.

"'Safe!' he said. 'I shall be safe if only I can remember you,'" she
whispered to herself, wonderingly. "What did he mean?"

Pondering the thought, she divined it had to do with Dorn's singular
spiritual mood. He had gone to lend his body as so much physical brawn,
so much weight, to a concerted movement of men, but his mind was apart
from a harmony with that. Lenore felt that whatever had been the
sacrifice made by Kurt Dorn, it had been passed with his decision to go
to war. What she prayed for then was something of his spirit.

Slowly, in the gathering darkness, she descended the long slope. The
approaching night seemed sad, with autumn song of insects. All about her
breathed faith, from the black hills above, the gray slopes below, from
the shadowy void, from the murmuring of insect life in the grass. The
rugged fallow ground under her feet seemed to her to be a symbol of
faith--faith that winter would come and pass--the spring sun and rain
would burst the seeds of wheat--and another summer would see the golden
fields of waving grain. If she did not live to see them, they would be
there just the same; and so life and nature had faith in its promise.
That strange whisper was to Lenore the whisper of God.




CHAPTER XXVI

Through the pale obscurity of a French night, cool, raw, moist, with a
hint of spring in its freshness, a line of soldiers plodded along the
lonely, melancholy lanes. Wan starlight showed in the rifts between the
clouds. Neither dark nor light, the midnight hour had its unreality in
this line of marching men; and its reality in the dim, vague hedges, its
spectral posts, its barren fields.

Rain had ceased to fall, but a fine, cold, penetrating mist filled the
air. The ground was muddy in places, slippery in others; and here and
there it held pools of water ankle-deep. The stride of the marching men
appeared short and dragging, without swing or rhythm. It was weary, yet
full of the latent power of youth, of unused vitality. Stern, clean-cut,
youthful faces were set northward, unchanging in the shadowy, pale
gleams of the night. These faces lifted intensely whenever a strange,
muffled, deep-toned roar rolled out of the murky north. The night looked
stormy, but that rumble was not thunder. Fifty miles northward, beyond
that black and mysterious horizon, great guns were booming war.

Sometimes, as the breeze failed, the night was silent except for the
slow, sloppy tramp of the marching soldiers. Then the low voices were
hushed. When the wind freshened again it brought at intervals those
deep, significant detonations which, as the hours passed, seemed to grow
heavier and more thunderous.

At length a faint gray light appeared along the eastern sky, and
gradually grew stronger. The dawn of another day was close at hand. It
broke as if reluctantly, cold and gray and sunless.

The detachment of United States troops halted for camp outside of the
French village of A----.

Kurt Dorn was at mess with his squad.

The months in France had flown away on wings of training and absorbing
and waiting. Dorn had changed incalculably. But all he realized of it
was that he weighed one hundred and ninety pounds and that he seemed to
have lived a hundred swift lives. All that he saw and felt became part
of him. His comrades had been won to him as friends by virtue of his
ever-ready helping hand, by his devotion to training, by his
close-lipped acceptance of all the toils and knocks and pains common to
the making of a soldier. The squad lived together as one large family of
brothers. Dorn's comrades had at first tormented him with his German
name; they had made fun of his abstraction and his letter-writing; they
had misunderstood his aloofness. But the ridicule died away, and now, in
the presaged nature of events, his comrades, all governed by the
physical life of the soldier, took him for a man.

Perhaps it might have been chance, or it might have been true of all the
American squads, but the fact was that Dorn's squad was a strangely
assorted set of young men. Perhaps that might have been Dorn's
conviction from coming to live long with them. They were a part of the
New York Division of the --th, all supposed to be New York men. As a
matter of fact, this was not true. Dorn was a native of Washington.
Sanborn was a thick-set, sturdy fellow with the clear brown tan and
clear brown eyes of the Californian. Brewer was from South Carolina, a
lean, lanky Southerner, with deep-set dark eyes. Dixon hailed from
Massachusetts, from a fighting family, and from Harvard, where he had
been a noted athlete. He was a big, lithe, handsome boy, red-faced and
curly-haired. Purcell was a New-Yorker, of rich family, highly
connected, and his easy, clean, fine ways, with the elegance of his
person, his blond distinction, made him stand out from his khaki-clad
comrades, though he was clad identically with them. Rogers claimed the
Bronx to be his home and he was proud of it. He was little, almost
undersized, but a knot of muscle, a keen-faced youth with Irish blood in
him. These particular soldiers of the squad were closest to Dorn.

Corporal Bob Owens came swinging in to throw his sombrero down.

"What's the orders, Bob?" some one inquired.

"We're going to rest here," he replied.

The news was taken impatiently by several and agreeably by the majority.
They were all travel-stained and worn. Dorn did not comment on the news,
but the fact was that he hated the French villages. They were so old, so
dirty, so obsolete, so different from what he had been accustomed to.
But he loved the pastoral French countryside, so calm and picturesque.
He reflected that soon he would see the devastation wrought by the Huns.

"Any news from the front?" asked Dixon.

"I should smile," replied the corporal, grimly.

"Well, open up, you clam!"

Owens thereupon told swiftly and forcibly what he had heard. More
advance of the Germans--it was familiar news. But somehow it was taken
differently here within sound of the guns. Dorn studied his comrades,
wondering if their sensations were similar to his. He expressed nothing
of what he felt, but all the others had something to say. Hard, cool,
fiery, violent speech that differed as those who uttered it differed,
yet its predominant note rang fight.

"Just heard a funny story," said Owens, presently.

"Spring it," somebody replied.

"This comes from Berlin, so they say. According to rumor, the Kaiser and
the Crown Prince seldom talk to each other. They happened to meet the
other day. And the Crown Prince said: 'Say, pop, what got us into this
war?'

"The Emperor replied, 'My son, I was deluded.'

"'Oh, sire, impossible!' exclaimed the Prince. 'How could it be?'

"'Well, some years ago I was visited by a grinning son-of-a-gun from New
York--no other than the great T.R. I took him around. He was most
interested in my troops. After he had inspected them, and particularly
the Imperial Guard, he slapped me on the back and shouted, "Bill, you
could lick the world!" ... And, my son, I fell for it!'"

This story fetched a roar from every soldier present except Dorn. An
absence of mirth in him had been noted before.

"Dorn, can't you laugh!" protested Dixon.

"Sure I can--when I hear something funny," replied Dorn.

His comrades gazed hopelessly at him.

"My Lawd! boy, thet was shore funny," drawled Brewer with his lazy
Southern manner.

"Kurt, you're not human," said Owens, sadly. "That's why they call you
Demon Dorn."

All the boys in the squad had nicknames. In Dorn's case several had been
applied by irrepressible comrades before one stuck. The first one
received a poor reception from Kurt. The second happened to be a great
blunder for the soldier who invented it. He was not in Dorn's squad, but
he knew Dorn pretty well, and in a moment of deviltry he had coined for
Dorn the name "Kaiser Dorn." Dorn's reaction to this appellation was
discomfiting and painful for the soldier. As he lay flat on the ground,
where Dorn had knocked him, he had struggled with a natural rage,
quickly to overcome it. He showed the right kind of spirit. He got up.
"Dorn, I apologize. I was only in fun. But some fun is about as funny as
death." On the way out he suggested a more felicitous name--Demon Dorn.
Somehow the boys took to that. It fitted many of Dorn's violent actions
in training, especially the way he made a bayonet charge. Dorn objected
strenuously. But the name stuck. No comrade or soldier ever again made a
hint of Dorn's German name or blood.

"Fellows, if a funny story can't make Dorn laugh, he's absolutely a dead
one," said Owens.

"Spring a new one, quick," spoke up some one. "Gee! it's great to
laugh.... Why, I've not heard from home for a month!"

"Dorn, will you beat it so I can spring this one?" queried Owens.

"Sure," replied Dorn, amiably, as he started away. "I suppose you think
me one of these I-dare-you-to-make-me-laugh sort of chaps."

"Forget her, Dorn--come out of it!" chirped up Rogers.

To Dorn's regret, he believed that he failed his comrades in one way,
and he was always trying to make up for it. Part of the training of a
soldier was the ever-present need and duty of cheerfulness. Every member
of the squad had his secret, his own personal memory, his inner
consciousness that he strove to keep hidden. Long ago Dorn had divined
that this or that comrade was looking toward the bright side, or
pretending there was one. They all played their parts. Like men they
faced this incomprehensible duty, this tremendous separation, this dark
and looming future, as if it was only hard work that must be done in
good spirit. But Dorn, despite all his will, was mostly silent, aloof,
brooding, locked up in his eternal strife of mind and soul. He could not
help it. Notwithstanding all he saw and divined of the sacrifice and
pain of his comrades, he knew that his ordeal was infinitely harder. It
was natural that they hoped for the best. He had no hope.

"Boys," said Owens, "there's a squad of Blue Devils camped over here in
an old barn. Just back from the front. Some one said there wasn't a man
in it who hadn't had a dozen wounds, and some twice that many. We must
see that bunch. Bravest soldiers of the whole war! They've been through
the three years--at Verdun--on the Marne--and now this awful Flanders
drive. It's up to us to see them."

News like this thrilled Dorn. During all the months he had been in
France the deeds and valor of these German-named Blue Devils had come to
him, here and there and everywhere. Dorn remembered all he heard, and
believed it, too, though some of the charges and some of the burdens
attributed to these famed soldiers seemed unbelievable. His opportunity
had now come. With the moving up to the front he would meet reality; and
all within him, the keen, strange eagerness, the curiosity that
perplexed, the unintelligible longing, the heat and burn of passion,
quickened and intensified.

Not until late in the afternoon, however, did off duty present an
opportunity for him to go into the village. It looked the same as the
other villages he had visited, and the inhabitants, old men, old women
and children, all had the somber eyes, the strained, hungry faces, the
oppressed look he had become accustomed to see. But sad as were these
inhabitants of a village near the front, there was never in any one of
them any absence of welcome to the Americans. Indeed, in most people he
met there was a quick flashing of intense joy and gratitude. The
Americans had come across the sea to fight beside the French. That was
the import, tremendous and beautiful.

Dorn met Dixon and Rogers on the main street of the little village. They
had been to see the Blue Devils.

"Better stay away from them," advised Dixon, dubiously.

"No!... Why?" ejaculated Dorn.

Dixon shook his head. "Greatest bunch I ever looked at. But I think they
resented our presence. Pat and I were talking about them. It's strange,
Dorn, but I believe these Blue Devils that have saved France and
England, and perhaps America, too, don't like our being here."

"Impossible!" replied Dorn.

"Go and see for yourself," put in Rogers. "I believe we all ought to
look them over."

Thoughtfully Dorn strode on in the direction indicated, and presently he
arrived at the end of the village, where in an old orchard he found a
low, rambling, dilapidated barn, before which clusters of soldiers in
blue lounged around smoking fires. As he drew closer he saw that most of
them seemed fixed in gloomy abstraction. A few were employed at some
task of hand, and several bent over the pots on fires. Dorn's sweeping
gaze took in the whole scene, and his first quick, strange impression
was that these soldiers resembled ghouls who had lived in dark holes of
mud.

Kurt meant to make the most of his opportunity. To him, in his peculiar
need, this meeting would be of greater significance than all else that
had happened to him in France. The nearest soldier sat on a flattened
pile of straw around which the ground was muddy. At first glance Kurt
took him to be an African, so dark were face and eyes. No one heeded
Kurt's approach. The moment was poignant to Kurt. He spoke French fairly
well, so that it was emotion rather than lack of fluency which made his
utterance somewhat unintelligible. The soldier raised his head. His face
seemed a black flash--his eyes piercingly black, staring, deep, full of
terrible shadow. They did not appear to see in Kurt the man, but only
the trim, clean United States army uniform. Kurt repeated his address,
this time more clearly.

The Frenchman replied gruffly, and bent again over the faded worn coat
he was scraping with a knife. Then Kurt noticed two things--the man's
great, hollow, spare frame and the torn shirt, stained many colors, one
of which was dark red. His hands resembled both those of a mason, with
the horny callous inside, and those of a salt-water fisherman, with
bludgy fingers and barked knuckles that never healed.

Dorn had to choose his words slowly, because of unfamiliarity with
French, but he was deliberate, too, because he wanted to say the right
thing. His eagerness made the Frenchman glance up again. But while Dorn
talked of the long waits, the long marches, the arrival at this place,
the satisfaction at nearing the front, his listener gave no sign that he
heard. But he did hear, and so did several of his comrades.

"We're coming strong," he went on, his voice thrilling. "A million of us
this year! We're untrained. We'll have to split up among English and
French troops and learn how from you. But we've come--and we'll fight!"

Then the Frenchman put on his coat. That showed him to be an officer. He
wore medals. The dark glance he then flashed over Dorn was different
from his first. It gave Dorn both a twinge of shame and a thrill of
pride. It took in Dorn's characteristic Teutonic blond features, and
likewise an officer's swift appreciation of an extraordinarily splendid
physique.

"You've German blood," he said.

"Yes. But I'm American," replied Dorn, simply, and he met that
soul-searching black gaze with all his intense and fearless spirit. Dorn
felt that never in his life had he been subjected to such a test of his
manhood, of his truth.

"My name's Huon," said the officer, and he extended one of the huge
deformed hands.

"Mine's Dorn," replied Kurt, meeting that hand with his own.

Whereupon the Frenchman spoke rapidly to the comrade nearest him, so
rapidly that all Kurt could make of what he said was that here was an
American soldier with a new idea. They drew closer, and it became
manifest that the interesting idea was Kurt's news about the American
army. It was news here, and carefully pondered by these Frenchmen, as
slowly one by one they questioned him. They doubted, but Dorn convinced
them. They seemed to like his talk and his looks. Dorn's quick faculties
grasped the simplicity of these soldiers. After three terrible years of
unprecedented warfare, during which they had performed the impossible,
they did not want a fresh army to come along and steal their glory by
administering a final blow to a tottering enemy. Gazing into those
strange, seared faces, beginning to see behind the iron mask, Dorn
learned the one thing a soldier lives, fights, and dies for--glory.

Kurt Dorn was soon made welcome. He was made to exhaust his knowledge of
French. He was studied by eyes that had gleamed in the face of death.
His hand was wrung by hands that had dealt death. How terribly he felt
that! And presently, when his excitement and emotion had subsided to the
extent that he could really see what he looked at, then came the reward
of reality, with all its incalculable meaning expressed to him in the
gleaming bayonets, in the worn accoutrements, in the greatcoats like
clapboards of mud, in the hands that were claws, in the feet that
hobbled, in the strange, wonderful significance of bodily presence,
standing there as proof of valor, of man's limitless endurance. In the
faces, ah! there Dorn read the history that made him shudder and lifted
him beyond himself. For there in those still, dark faces, of boys grown
old in three years, shone the terror of war and the spirit that had
resisted it.

Dorn, in his intensity, in the over-emotion of his self-centered
passion, so terribly driven to prove to himself something vague yet
all-powerful, illusive yet imperious, divined what these Blue Devil
soldiers had been through. His mind was more than telepathic. Almost it
seemed that souls were bared to him. These soldiers, quiet, intent, made
up a grim group of men. They seemed slow, thoughtful, plodding, wrapped
and steeped in calm. But Dorn penetrated all this, and established the
relation between it and the nameless and dreadful significance of their
weapons and medals and uniforms and stripes, and the magnificent
vitality that was now all but spent.

Dorn might have resembled a curious, adventure-loving boy, to judge from
his handling of rifles and the way he slipped a strong hand along the
gleaming bayonet-blades. But he was more than the curious youth: he had
begun to grasp a strange, intangible something for which he had no name.
Something that must be attainable for him! Something that, for an hour
or a moment, would make him a fighter not to be slighted by these
supermen!

Whatever his youth or his impelling spirit of manhood, the fact was that
he inspired many of these veterans of the bloody years to Homeric
narratives of the siege of Verdun, of the retreat toward Paris, of the
victory of the Marne, and lastly of the Kaiser's battle, this last and
most awful offensive of the resourceful and frightful foe.

Brunelle told how he was the last survivor of a squad at Verdun who had
been ordered to hold a breach made in a front stone wall along the out
posts. How they had faced a bombardment of heavy guns--a whistling,
shrieking, thundering roar, pierced by the higher explosion of a
bursting shell--smoke and sulphur and gas--the crumbling of walls and
downward fling of shrapnel. How the lives of soldiers were as lives of
gnats hurled by wind and burned by flame. Death had a manifold and
horrible diversity. A soldier's head, with ghastly face and conscious
eyes, momentarily poised in the air while the body rode away invisibly
with an exploding shell! He told of men blown up, shot through and
riddled and brained and disemboweled, while their comrades, grim and
unalterable, standing in a stream of blood, lived through the rain of
shells, the smashing of walls, lived to fight like madmen the detachment
following the bombardment, and to kill them every one.

Mathie told of the great retreat--how men who had fought for days, who
were unbeaten and unafraid, had obeyed an order they hated and could not
understand, and had marched day and night, day and night, eating as they
toiled on, sleeping while they marched, on and on, bloody-footed,
desperate, and terrible, filled with burning thirst and the agony of
ceaseless motion, on with dragging legs and laboring breasts and
red-hazed eyes, on and onward, unquenchable, with the spirit of France.

Sergeant Delorme spoke of the sudden fierce about-face at the Marne, of
the irresistible onslaught of men whose homes had been invaded, whose
children had been murdered, whose women had been enslaved, of a ruthless
fighting, swift and deadly, and lastly of a bayonet charge by his own
division, running down upon superior numbers, engaging them in
hand-to-hand conflict, malignant and fatal, routing them over a field of
blood and death.

"Monsieur Dorn, do you know the French use of a bayonet?" asked Delorme.

"No," replied Dorn.

"_Allons!_ I will show you," he said, taking up two rifles and handing
one to Dorn. "Come. It is so--and so--a trick. The boches can't face
cold steel.... Ah, monsieur, you have the supple wrists of a juggler!
You have the arms of a giant! You have the eyes of a duelist! You will
be one grand spitter of German pigs!"

Dorn felt the blanching of his face, the tingling of his nerves, the
tightening of his muscles. A cold and terrible meaning laid hold of him
even in the instant when he trembled before this flaming-eyed French
veteran who complimented him while he instructed. How easily, Dorn
thought, could this soldier slip the bright bayonet over his guard and
pierce him from breast to back! How horrible the proximity of that
sinister blade, with its glint, its turn, its edge, so potently
expressive of its history! Even as Dorn crossed bayonets with this
inspired Frenchman he heard a soldier comrade say that Delorme had let
daylight through fourteen boches in that memorable victory of the Marne.

"You are very big and strong and quick, monsieur," said the officer
Huon, simply. "In bayonet-work you will be a killer of boches."

In their talk and practice and help, in their intent to encourage the
young American soldier, these Blue Devils one and all dealt in frank and
inevitable terms of death. That was their meaning in life. It was
immeasurably horrible for Dorn, because it seemed a realization of his
imagined visions. He felt like a child among old savages of a war tribe.
Yet he was fascinated by this close-up suggestion of man to man in
battle, of German to American, of materialist to idealist, and beyond
all control was the bursting surge of his blood. The exercises he had
gone through, the trick he had acquired, somehow had strange power to
liberate his emotion.

The officer Huon spoke English, and upon his words Dorn hung spellbound.

"You Americans have the fine dash, the nerve. You will perform wonders.
But you don't realize what this war is. You will perish of sheer
curiosity to see or eagerness to fight. But these are the least of the
horrors of this war.

"Actual fighting is to me a relief, a forgetfulness, an excitement, and
is so with many of my comrades. We have survived wounds, starvation,
shell-shock, poison gas and fire, the diseases of war, the awful toil of
the trenches. And each and every one of us who has served long bears in
his mind the particular horror that haunts him. I have known veterans to
go mad at the screaming of shells. I have seen good soldiers stand upon
a trench, inviting the fire that would end suspense. For a man who hopes
to escape alive this war is indeed the ninth circle of hell.

"My own particular horrors are mud, water, and cold. I have lived in
dark, cold mud-holes so long that my mind concerning them is not right.
I know it the moment I come out to rest. Rest! Do you know that we
cannot rest? The comfort of this dirty old barn, of these fires, of this
bare ground is so great that we cannot rest, we cannot sleep, we cannot
do anything. When I think of the past winter I do not remember injury
and agony for myself, or the maimed and mangled bodies of my comrades. I
remember only the horrible cold, the endless ages of waiting, the
hopeless misery of the dugouts, foul, black rat-holes that we had to
crawl into through sticky mud and filthy water. Mud, water, and cold,
with the stench of the dead clogging your nostrils! That to me is
war!... _Les Miserables!_ You Americans will never know that, thank God.
For it could not be endured by men who did not belong to this soil.
After all, the filthy water is half blood and the mud is part of the
dead of our people."

Huon talked on and on, with the eloquence of a Frenchman who relieves
himself of a burden. He told of trenches dug in a swamp, lived in and
fought in, and then used for the graves of the dead, trenches that had
to be lived in again months afterward. The rotting dead were everywhere.
When they were covered the rain would come to wash away the earth,
exposing them again. That was the strange refrain of this soldier's
moody lament--the rain that fell, the mud that forever held him rooted
fast in the tracks of his despair. He told of night and storm, of a
weary squad of men, lying flat, trying to dig in under cover of rain and
darkness, of the hell of cannonade over and around them. He told of
hours that blasted men's souls, of death that was a blessing, of escape
that was torture beyond the endurance of humans. Crowning that night of
horrors piled on horrors, when he had seen a dozen men buried alive in
mud lifted by a monster shell, when he had seen a refuge deep
underground opened and devastated by a like projectile, came a
cloud-burst that flooded the trenches and the fields, drowning soldiers
whose injuries and mud-laden garments impeded their movements, and
rendering escape for the others an infernal labor and a hideous
wretchedness, unutterable and insupportable.

Round the camp-fires the Blue Devils stood or lay, trying to rest. But
the habit of the trenches was upon them. Dorn gazed at each and every
soldier, so like in strange resemblance, so different in physical
characteristics; and the sad, profound, and terrifying knowledge came to
him of what they must have in their minds. He realized that all he
needed was to suffer and fight and live through some little part of the
war they had endured and then some truth would burst upon him. It was
there in the restless steps, in the prone forms, in the sunken, glaring
eyes. What soldiers, what men, what giants! Three and a half years of
unnamable and indescribable fury of action and strife of thought! Not
dead, nor stolid like oxen, were these soldiers of France. They had a
simplicity that seemed appalling. We have given all; we have stood in
the way, borne the brunt, saved you--this was flung at Dorn, not out of
their thought, but from their presence. The fact that they were there
was enough. He needed only to find these bravest of brave warriors real,
alive, throbbing men.

Dorn lingered there, loath to leave. The great lesson of his life held
vague connection in some way with this squad of French privates. But he
could not pierce the veil. This meeting came as a climax to four months
of momentous meetings with the best and the riffraff of many nations.
Dorn had studied, talked, listened, and learned. He who had as yet given
nothing, fought no enemy, saved no comrade or refugee or child in all
this whirlpool of battling millions, felt a profound sense of his
littleness, his ignorance. He who had imagined himself unfortunate had
been blind, sick, self-centered. Here were soldiers to whom comfort and
rest were the sweetest blessings upon the earth, and they could not
grasp them. No more could they grasp them than could the gaping
civilians and the distinguished travelers grasp what these grand hulks
of veteran soldiers had done. Once a group of civilians halted near the
soldiers. An officer was their escort. He tried to hurry them on, but
failed. Delorme edged away into the gloomy, damp barn rather than meet
such visitors. Some of his comrades followed suit. Ferier, the
incomparable of the Blue Devils, the wearer of all the French medals and
the bearer of twenty-five wounds received in battle--he sneaked away,
afraid and humble and sullen, to hide himself from the curious. That
action of Ferier's was a revelation to Dorn. He felt a sting of shame.
There were two classes of people in relation to this war--those who went
to fight and those who stayed behind. What had Delorme or Mathie or
Ferier to do with the world of selfish, comfortable, well-fed men? Dorn
heard a million voices of France crying out the bitter truth--that if
these war-bowed veterans ever returned alive to their homes it would be
with hopes and hearts and faiths burned out, with hands forever lost to
their old use, with bodies that the war had robbed.

Dorn bade his new-made friends adieu, and in the darkening twilight he
hurried toward his own camp.

"If I could go back home now, honorably and well, I would never do it,"
he muttered. "I couldn't bear to live knowing what I know now--unless I
had laughed at this death, and risked it--and dealt it!"

He was full of gladness, of exultation, in contemplation of the
wonderful gift the hours had brought him. More than any men of history
or present, he honored these soldiers the Germans feared. Like an
Indian, Dorn respected brawn, courage, fortitude, silence, aloofness.

"There was a divinity in those soldiers," he soliloquized. "I felt it in
their complete ignorance of their greatness. Yet they had pride,
jealousy. Oh, the mystery of it all!... When my day comes I'll last one
short and terrible hour. I would never make a soldier like one of them.
No American could. They are Frenchmen whose homes have been despoiled."

In the tent of his comrades that night Dorn reverted from old habit, and
with a passionate eloquence he told all he had seen and heard, and much
that he had felt. His influence on these young men, long established,
but subtle and unconscious, became in that hour a tangible fact. He
stirred them. He felt them thoughtful and sad, and yet more unflinching,
stronger and keener for the inevitable day.




CHAPTER XXVII

The monstrous possibility that had consumed Kurt Dorn for many months at
last became an event--he had arrived on the battle-front in France.

All afternoon the company of United States troops had marched from far
back of the line, resting, as darkness came on, at a camp of reserves,
and then going on. Artillery fire had been desultory during this march;
the big guns that had rolled their thunder miles and miles were now
silent. But an immense activity and a horde of soldiers back of the
lines brought strange leaden oppression to Kurt Dorn's heart.

The last slow travel of his squad over dark, barren space and through
deep, narrow, winding lanes in the ground had been a nightmare ending to
the long journey. France had not yet become clear to him; he was a
stranger in a strange land; in spite of his tremendous interest and
excitement, all seemed abstract matters of his feeling, the plague of
himself made actuality the substance of dreams. That last day, the
cumulation of months of training and travel, had been one in which he
had observed, heard, talked and felt in a nervous and fevered
excitement. But now he imagined he could not remember any of it. His
poignant experience with the Blue Devils had been a reality he could
never forget, but now this blackness of subterranean cavern, this damp,
sickening odor of earth, this presence of men, the strange, muffled
sounds--all these were unreal. How had he come here? His mind labored
with a burden strangely like that on his chest. A different, utterly
unfamiliar emotion seemed rising over him. Maybe that was because he was
very tired and very sleepy. Sometime that night he must go on duty. He
ought to sleep. It was impossible. He could not close his eyes. An
effort to attend to what he was actually doing disclosed the fact that
he was listening with all his strength. For what? He could not answer
then. He heard the distant, muffled sounds, and low voices nearer, and
thuds and footfalls. His comrades were near him; he heard their
breathing; he felt their presence. They were strained and intense; like
him, they were locked up in their own prison of emotions.

Always heretofore, on nights that he lay sleepless, Dorn had thought of
the two things dearest on earth to him--Lenore Anderson and the golden
wheat-hills of his home. This night he called up Lenore's image. It hung
there in the blackness, a dim, pale phantom of her sweet face, her
beautiful eyes, her sad lips, and then it vanished. Not at all could he
call up a vision of his beloved wheat-fields. So the suspicion that
something was wrong with his mind became a certainty. It angered him,
quickened his sensitiveness, even while he despaired. He ground his
teeth and clenched his fists and swore to realize his presence there,
and to rise to the occasion as had been his vaunted ambition.

Suddenly he felt something slimy and hairy against his wrist--then a
stinging bite. A rat! A trench rat that lived on flesh! He flung his arm
violently and beat upon the soft earth. The incident of surprise and
disgust helped Dorn at least in one way. His mind had been set upon a
strange and supreme condition of his being there, of an emotion about to
overcome him. The bite of a rat, drawing blood, made a literal fact of
his being a soldier, in a dugout at the front waiting in the blackness
for his call to go on guard. This incident proved to Dorn his
limitations, and that he was too terribly concerned with his feelings
ever to last long as a soldier. But he could not help himself. His
pulse, his heart, his brain, all seemed to beat, beat, beat with a
nameless passion.

Was he losing his nerve--was he afraid? His denial did not reassure him.
He understood that patriotism and passion were emotions, and that the
realities of a soldier's life were not.

Dorn forced himself to think of realities, hoping thus to get a grasp
upon his vanishing courage. And memory helped him. Not so many days,
weeks, months back he had been a different man. At Bordeaux, when his
squad first set foot upon French soil! That was a splendid reality. How
he had thrilled at the welcome of the French sailors!

Then he thought of the strenuous round of army duties, of training
tasks, of traveling in cold box-cars, of endless marches, of camps and
villages, of drills and billets. Never to be forgotten was that morning,
now seemingly long ago, when an officer had ordered the battalion to
pack. "We are going to the front!" he announced. Magic words! What
excitement, what whooping, what bragging and joy among the boys, what
hurry and bustle and remarkable efficiency! That had been a reality of
actual experience, but the meaning of it, the terrible significance, had
been beyond the mind of any American.

"I'm here--at the front--now," whispered Dorn to himself. "A few rods
away are Germans!" ... Inconceivable--no reality at all! He went on with
his swift account of things, with his mind ever sharpening, with that
strange, mounting emotion flooding to the full, ready to burst its
barriers. When he and his comrades had watched their transport trains
move away--when they had stood waiting for their own trains--had the
idea of actual conflict yet dawned upon them? Dorn had to answer No. He
remembered that he had made few friends among the inhabitants of towns
and villages where he had stayed. What leisure time he got had been
given to a seeking out of sailors, soldiers, and men of all races, with
whom he found himself in remarkable contact. The ends of the world
brought together by one war! How could his memory ever hold all that had
come to him? But it did. Passion liberated it. He saw now that his eye
was a lens, his mind a sponge, his heart a gulf.

Out of the hundreds of thousands of American troops in France, what
honor it was to be in the chosen battalion to go to the front! Dorn
lived only with his squad, but he felt the envy of the whole army. What
luck! To be chosen from so many--to go out and see the game through
quickly! He began to consider that differently now. The luck might be
with the soldiers left behind. Always, underneath Dorn's perplexity and
pondering, under his intelligence and spirit at their best, had been a
something deeply personal, something of the internal of him, a selfish
instinct. It was the nature of man--self-preservation.

Like a tempest swept over Dorn the most significant ordeal and lesson of
his experience in France--that wonderful reality when he met the Blue
Devils and they took him in. However long he lived, his life must
necessarily be transformed from contact with those great men.

The night march over the unending roads, through the gloom and the
spectral starlight, with the dull rumblings of cannon shocking his
heart--that Dorn lived over, finding strangely a minutest detail of
observation and a singular veracity of feeling fixed in his memory.

Afternoon of that very day, at the reserve camp somewhere back there,
had brought an officer's address to the soldiers, a strong and emphatic
appeal as well as order--to obey, to do one's duty, to take no chances,
to be eternally vigilant, to believe that every man had advantage on his
side, even in war, if he were not a fool or a daredevil. Dorn had
absorbed the speech, remembered every word, but it all seemed futile
now. Then had come the impressive inspection of equipment, a careful
examination of gas-masks, rifles, knapsacks. After that the order to
march!

Dorn imagined that he had remembered little, but he had remembered all.
Perhaps the sense of strange unreality was only the twist in his mind.
Yet he did not know where he was--what part of France--how far north or
south on the front line--in what sector. Could not that account for the
sense of feeling lost?

Nevertheless, he was there at the end of all this incomprehensible
journey. He became possessed by an irresistible desire to hurry. Once
more Dorn attempted to control the far-flinging of his thoughts--to come
down to earth. The earth was there under his hand, soft, sticky, moldy,
smelling vilely. He dug his fingers into it, until the feel of something
like a bone made him jerk them out. Perhaps he had felt a stone. A tiny,
creeping, chilly shudder went up his back. Then he remembered, he felt,
he saw his little attic room, in the old home back among the wheat-hills
of the Northwest. Six thousand miles away! He would never see that room
again. What unaccountable vagary of memory had ever recalled it to him?
It faded out of his mind.

Some of his comrades whispered; now and then one rolled over; none
snored, for none of them slept. Dorn felt more aloof from them than
ever. How isolated each one was, locked in his own trouble! Every one of
them, like himself, had a lonely soul. Perhaps they were facing it. He
could not conceive of a careless, thoughtless, emotionless attitude
toward this first night in the front-line trench.

Dorn gradually grew more acutely sensitive to the many faint, rustling,
whispering sounds in and near the dugout.

A soldier came stooping into the opaque square of the dugout door. His
rifle, striking the framework, gave out a metallic clink. This fellow
expelled a sudden heavy breath as if throwing off an oppression.

"Is that you, Sanborn?" This whisper Dorn recognized as Dixon's. It was
full of suppressed excitement.

"Yes."

"Guess it's my turn next. How--how does it go?"

Sanborn's laugh had an odd little quaver. "Why, so far as I know, I
guess it's all right. Damn queer, though. I wish we'd got here in
daytime.... But maybe that wouldn't help."

"Humph!... Pretty quiet out there?"

"So Bob says, but what's he know--more than us? I heard guns up the
line, and rifle-fire not so far off."

"Can you see any--"

"Not a damn thing--yet everything," interrupted Sanborn, enigmatically.

"Dixon!" called Owens, low and quickly, from the darkness.

Dixon did not reply. His sudden hard breathing, the brushing of his
garments against the door, then swift, soft steps dying away attested to
the fact of his going.

Dorn tried to compose himself to rest, if not to sleep. He heard Sanborn
sit down, and then apparently stay very still for some time. All of a
sudden he whispered to himself. Dorn distinguished the word "hell."

"What's ailin' you, pard?" drawled Brewer.

Sanborn growled under his breath, and when some one else in the dugout
quizzed him curiously he burst out: "I'll bet you galoots the state of
California against a dill pickle that when your turn comes you'll be
sick in your gizzards!"

"We'll take our medicine," came in the soft, quiet voice of Purcell.

No more was said. The men all pretended to fall asleep, each ashamed to
let his comrade think he was concerned.

A short, dull, heavy rumble seemed to burst the outer stillness. For a
moment the dugout was silent as a tomb. No one breathed. Then came a jar
of the earth, a creaking of shaken timbers. Some one gasped
involuntarily. Another whispered:

"By God! the real thing!"

Dorn wondered how far away that jarring shell had alighted. Not so far!
It was the first he had ever heard explode near him. Roaring of cannon,
exploding of shell--this had been a source of every-day talk among his
comrades. But the jar, the tremble of the earth, had a dreadful
significance. Another rumble, another jar, not so heavy or so near this
time, and then a few sharply connected reports, clamped Dorn as in a
cold vise. Machine-gun shots! Many thousand machine-gun shots had he
heard, but none with the life and the spite and the spang of these. Did
he imagine the difference? Cold as he felt, he began to sweat, and
continually, as he wiped the palms of his hands, they grew wet again. A
queer sensation of light-headedness and weakness seemed to possess him.
The roots of his will-power seemed numb. Nevertheless, all the more
revolving and all-embracing seemed his mind.

The officer in his speech a few hours back had said the sector to which
the battalion had been assigned was alive. By this he meant that active
bombardment, machine-gun fire, hand-grenade throwing, and gas-shelling,
or attack in force might come any time, and certainly must come as soon
as the Germans suspected the presence of an American force opposite
them.

That was the stunning reality to Dorn--the actual existence of the Huns
a few rods distant. But realization of them had not brought him to the
verge of panic. He would not flinch at confronting the whole German
army. Nor did he imagine he put a great price upon his life. Nor did he
have any abnormal dread of pain. Nor had the well-remembered teachings
of the Bible troubled his spirit. Was he going to be a coward because of
some incalculable thing in him or force operating against him? Already
he sat there, shivering and sweating, with the load on his breast
growing laborsome, with all his sensorial being absolutely at keenest
edge.

Rapid footfalls halted his heart-beats. They came from above, outside
the dugout, from the trench.

"Dorn, come out!" called the corporal.

Dorn's response was instant. But he was as blind as if he had no eyes,
and he had to feel his way to climb out. The indistinct, blurred form of
the corporal seemed half merged in the pale gloom of the trench. A cool
wind whipped at Dorn's hot face. Surcharged with emotion, the nature of
which he feared, Dorn followed the corporal, stumbling and sliding over
the wet boards, knocking bits of earth from the walls, feeling a sick
icy gripe in his bowels. Some strange light flared up--died away.
Another rumble, distinct, heavy, and vibrating! To his left somewhere
the earth received a shock. Dorn felt a wave of air that was not wind.

The corporal led the way past motionless men peering out over the top of
the wall, and on to a widening, where an abutment of filled bags loomed
up darkly. Here the corporal cautiously climbed up breaks in the wall
and stooped behind the fortification. Dorn followed. His legs did not
feel natural. Something was lost out of them. Then he saw the little
figure of Rogers beside him. Dorn's turn meant Rogers's relief. How pale
against the night appeared the face of Rogers! As he peered under his
helmet at Dorn a low whining passed in the air overhead. Rogers started
slightly. A thump sounded out there, interrupting the corporal, who had
begun to speak. He repeated his order to Dorn, bending a little to peer
into his face. Dorn tried to open his lips to say he did not understand,
but his lips were mute. Then the corporal led Rogers away.

That moment alone, out in the open, with the strange, windy pall of
night--all-enveloping, with the flares, like sheet-lightning, along the
horizon, with a rumble here and a roar there, with whistling fiends
riding the blackness above, with a series of popping, impelling reports
seemingly close in front--that drove home to Kurt Dorn a cruel and
present and unescapable reality.

At that instant, like bitter fate, shot up a rocket, or a star-flare of
calcium light, bursting to expose all underneath in pitiless radiance.
With a gasp that was a sob, Dorn shrank flat against the wall, staring
into the fading circle, feeling a creep of paralysis. He must be seen.
He expected the sharp, biting series of a machine-gun or the bursting of
a bomb. But nothing happened, except that the flare died away. It had
come from behind his own lines. Control of his muscles had almost
returned when a heavy boom came from the German side. Miles away,
perhaps, but close! That boom meant a great shell speeding on its
hideous mission. It would pass over him. He listened. The wind came from
that side. It was cold; it smelled of burned powder; it carried sounds
he was beginning to appreciate--shots, rumbles, spats, and thuds,
whistles of varying degree, all isolated sounds. Then he caught a
strange, low moaning. It rose. It was coming fast. It became an
o-o-o-O-O-O! Nearer and nearer! It took on a singing whistle. It was
passing--no--falling!... A mighty blow was delivered to the earth--a
jar--a splitting shock to windy darkness; a wave of heavy air was flung
afar--and then came the soft, heavy thumping of falling earth.

That shell had exploded close to the place where Dorn stood. It
terrified him. It reduced him to a palpitating, stricken wretch, utterly
unable to cope with the terror. It was not what he had expected. What
were words, anyhow? By words alone he had understood this shell thing.
Death was only a word, too. But to be blown to atoms! It came every
moment to some poor devil; it might come to him. But that was not
fighting. Somewhere off in the blackness a huge iron monster belched
this hell out upon defenseless men. Revolting and inconceivable truth!

It was Dorn's ordeal that his mentality robbed this hour of novelty and
of adventure, that while his natural, physical fear incited panic and
nausea and a horrible, convulsive internal retching, his highly
organized, exquisitely sensitive mind, more like a woman's in its
capacity for emotion, must suffer through imagining the infinite agonies
that he might really escape. Every shell then must blow him to bits;
every agony of every soldier must be his.

But he knew what his duty was, and as soon as he could move he began to
edge along the short beat. Once at the end he drew a deep and shuddering
breath, and, fighting all his involuntary instincts, he peered over the
top. An invisible thing whipped close over his head. It did not whistle;
it cut. Out in front of him was only thick, pale gloom, with spectral
forms, leading away to the horizon, where flares, like sheet-lightning
of a summer night's storm, ran along showing smoke and bold, ragged
outlines. Then he went to the other end to peer over there. His eyes
were keen, and through long years of habit at home, going about at night
without light, he could see distinctly where ordinary sight would meet
only a blank wall. The flat ground immediately before him was bare of
living or moving objects. That was his duty as sentinel here--to make
sure of no surprise patrol from the enemy lines. It helped Dorn to
realize that he could accomplish this duty even though he was in a
torment.

That space before him was empty, but it was charged with current. Wind,
shadow, gloom, smoke, electricity, death, spirit--whatever that current
was, Dorn felt it. He was more afraid of that than the occasional
bullets which zipped across. Sometimes shots from his own squad rang out
up and down the line. Off somewhat to the north a machine-gun on the
Allies' side spoke now and then spitefully. Way back a big gun boomed.
Dorn listened to the whine of shells from his own side with a far
different sense than that with which he heard shells whine from the
enemy. How natural and yet how unreasonable! Shells from the other side
came over to destroy him; shells from his side went back to save him.
But both were shot to kill! Was he, the unknown and shrinking novice of
a soldier, any better than an unknown and shrinking soldier far across
there in the darkness? What was equality? But these were Germans! That
thing so often said--so beaten into his brain--did not convince out here
in the face of death.

       *       *       *       *       *

Four o'clock! With the gray light came a gradually increasing number of
shells. Most of them struck far back. A few, to right and left, dropped
near the front line. The dawn broke--such a dawn as he never dreamed
of--smoky and raw, with thunder spreading to a circle all around the
horizon.

He was relieved. On his way in he passed Purcell at the nearest post.
The elegant New-Yorker bore himself with outward calm. But in the gray
dawn he looked haggard and drawn. Older! That flashed through Dorn's
mind. A single night had contained years, more than years. Others of the
squad had subtly changed. Dixon gave him a penetrating look, as if he
wore a mask, under which was a face of betrayal, of contrast to that
soldier bearing, of youth that was gone forever.




CHAPTER XXVIII

The squad of men to which Dorn belonged had to be on the lookout
continually for an attack that was inevitable. The Germans were feeling
out the line, probably to verify spy news of the United States troops
taking over a sector. They had not, however, made sure of this fact.

The gas-shells came over regularly, making life for the men a kind of
suffocation most of the time. And the great shells that blew enormous
holes in front and in back of their position never allowed a relaxation
from strain. Drawn and haggard grew the faces that had been so clean-cut
and brown and fresh.

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening at mess, when the sector appeared quiet enough to permit of
rest, Rogers was talking to some comrades before the door of the dugout.

"It sure got my goat, that little promenade of ours last night over into
No Man's Land," he said. "We had orders to slip out and halt a German
patrol that was supposed to be stealing over to our line. We crawled on
our bellies, looking and listening every minute. If that isn't the
limit! My heart was in my mouth. I couldn't breathe. And for the first
moments, if I'd run into a Hun, I'd had no more strength than a rabbit.
But all seemed clear. It was not a bright night--sort of opaque and
gloomy--shadows everywhere. There wasn't any patrol coming. But Corporal
Owens thought he heard men farther on working with wire. We crawled some
more. And we must have got pretty close to the enemy lines--in fact, we
had--when up shot one of those damned calcium flares. We all burrowed
into the ground. I was paralyzed. It got as light as noon--strange
greenish-white flare. It magnified. Flat as I lay, I saw the German
embankments not fifty yards away. I made sure we were goners. Slowly the
light burned out. Then that machine-gun you all heard began to rattle.
Something queer about the way every shot of a machine-gun bites the air.
We heard the bullets, low down, right over us. Say, boys, I'd almost
rather be hit and have it done with!... We began to crawl back. I wanted
to run. We all wanted to. But Owens is a nervy guy and he kept
whispering. Another machine-gun cut loose, and bullets rained over us.
Like hail they hit somewhere ahead, scattering the gravel. We'd almost
reached our line when Smith jumped up and ran. He said afterward that he
just couldn't help himself. The suspense was awful. I know. I've been a
clerk in a bank! Get that? And there I was under a hail of Hun lead,
without being able to understand why, or feel that any time had passed
since giving up my job to go to war. Queer how I saw my old desk!...
Well, that's how Smith got his. I heard the bullets spat him, sort of
thick and soft.... Ugh!... Owens and I dragged him along, and finally
into the trench. He had a bullet through his shoulder and leg. Guess
he'll live, all right.... Boys, take this from me. Nobody can _tell_ you
what a machine-gun is like. A rifle, now, is not so much. You get shot
at, and you know the man must reload and aim. That takes time. But a
machine-gun! Whew! It's a comb--a fine-toothed comb--and you're the
louse it's after! You hear that steady rattle, and then you hear bullets
everywhere. Think of a man against a machine-gun! It's not a square
deal."

Dixon was one of the listeners. He laughed.

"Rogers, I'd like to have been with you. Next time I'll volunteer. You
had action--a run for your money. That's what I enlisted for. Standing
still--doing nothing but wait--that drives me half mad. My years of
football have made action necessary. Otherwise I go stale in mind and
body.... Last night, before you went on that scouting trip, I had been
on duty two hours. Near midnight. The shelling had died down. All became
quiet. No flares--no flashes anywhere. There was a luminous kind of glow
in the sky--moonlight through thin clouds. I had to listen and watch.
But I couldn't keep back my thoughts. There I was, a soldier, facing No
Man's Land, across whose dark space were the Huns we have come to regard
as devils in brutality, yet less than men.... And I thought of home. No
man knows what home really is until he stands that lonely midnight
guard. A shipwrecked sailor appreciates the comforts he once had; a
desert wanderer, lost and starving, remembers the food he once wasted; a
volunteer soldier, facing death in the darkness, thinks of his home! It
is a hell of a feeling!... And, thinking of home, I remembered my girl.
I've been gone four months--have been at the front seven days (or is it
seven years?) and last night in the darkness she came to me. Oh yes! she
was there! She seemed reproachful, as she was when she coaxed me not to
enlist. My girl was not one of the kind who sends her lover to war and
swears she will die an old maid unless he returns. Mine begged me to
stay home, or at least wait for the draft. But I wasn't built that way.
I enlisted. And last night I felt the bitterness of a soldier's fate.
All this beautiful stuff is bunk!... My girl is a peach. She had many
admirers, two in particular that made me run my best down the stretch.
One is club-footed. He couldn't fight. The other is all yellow. Him she
liked best. He had her fooled, the damned slacker.... I wish I could
believe I'd get safe back home, with a few Huns to my credit--the Croix
de Guerre--and an officer's uniform. That would be great. How I could
show up those fellows!... But I'll get killed--as sure as God made
little apples I'll get killed--and she will marry one of the men who
would not fight!"

It was about the middle of a clear morning, still cold, but the sun was
shining. Guns were speaking intermittently. Those soldiers who were off
duty had their gas-masks in their hands. All were gazing intently
upward.

Dorn sat a little apart from them. He, too, looked skyward, and he was
so absorbed that he did not hear the occasional rumble of a distant gun.
He was watching the airmen at work--the most wonderful and famous
feature of the war. It absolutely enthralled Dorn. As a boy he had loved
to watch the soaring of the golden eagles, and once he had seen a great
wide-winged condor, swooping along a mountain-crest. How he had envied
them the freedom of the heights--the loneliness of the unscalable
crags--the companionship of the clouds! Here he gazed and marveled at
the man-eagles of the air.

German planes had ventured over the lines, flying high, and English
planes had swept up to intercept them. One was rising then not far away,
climbing fast, like a fish-hawk with prey in its claws. Its color, its
framework, its propeller, and its aviator showed distinctly against the
sky. The buzzing, high-pitched drone of its motor floated down.

The other aeroplanes, far above, had lost their semblance to mechanical
man-driven machines. They were now the eagles of the air. They were
rising, circling, diving in maneuvers that Dorn knew meant pursuit. But
he could not understand these movements. To him the air-battle looked as
it must have looked to an Indian. Birds of prey in combat! Dorn recalled
verses he had learned as a boy, written by a poet who sang of future
wars in the air. What he prophesied had come true. Was there not a sage
now who could pierce the veil of the future and sing of such a thing as
sacred human life? Dorn had his doubts. Poets and dreamers appeared not
to be the men who could halt materialism. Strangely then, as Dorn gazed
bitterly up at these fierce fliers who fought in the heavens, he
remembered the story of the three wise men and of Bethlehem. Was it only
a story? Where on this sunny spring morning was Christ, and the love of
man for man?

At that moment one of the forward aeroplanes, which was drifting back
over the enemy lines, lost its singular grace of slow, sweeping
movement. It poised in the air. It changed shape. It pitched as if from
wave to wave of wind. A faint puff of smoke showed. Tiny specks, visible
to Dorn's powerful eyes, seemed to detach themselves and fall, to be
followed by the plane itself in sheer downward descent.

Dorn leaped to his feet. What a thrilling and terrible sight! His
comrades stood bareheaded, red faces uplifted, open-mouthed and wild
with excitement, not daring to disobey orders and yell at the top of
their lungs. Dorn felt, strong above the softened wonder and thought of
a moment back, a tingling, pulsating wave of gushing blood go over him.
Like his comrades, he began to wave his arms and stamp and bite his
tongue.

Swiftly the doomed plane swept down out of sight. Gone! At that instant
something which had seemed like a bird must have become a broken mass.
The other planes drifted eastward.

Dorn gasped, and broke the spell on him. He was hot and wet with sweat,
quivering with a frenzy. How many thousand soldiers of the Allies had
seen that downward flight of the boche? Dorn pitied the destroyed
airman, hated himself, and had all the fury of savage joy that had been
in his comrades.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dorn, relieved from guard and firing-post, rushed back to the dugout. He
needed the dark of that dungeon. He crawled in and, searching out the
remotest, blackest corner, hidden from all human eyes, and especially
his own, he lay there clammy and wet all over, with an icy, sickening
rend, like a wound, in the pit of his stomach. He shut his eyes, but
that did not shut out what he saw. "_So help me God!_" he whispered to
himself.... Six endless months had gone to the preparation of a deed
that had taken one second! That transformed him! His life on earth, his
spirit in the beyond, could never be now what they might have been. And
he sobbed through grinding teeth as he felt the disintegrating,
agonizing, irremediable forces at work on body, mind, and soul.

He had blown out the brains of his first German.

Fires of hell, in two long lines, bordering a barren, ghastly, hazy
strip of land, burst forth from the earth. From holes where men hid
poured thunder of guns and stream of smoke and screeching of iron. That
worthless strip of land, barring deadly foes, shook as with repeated
earthquakes. Huge spouts of black and yellow earth lifted,
fountain-like, to the dull, heavy bursts of shells. Pound and jar,
whistle and whine, long, broken rumble, and the rattling concatenation
of quick shots like metallic cries, exploding hail-storm of iron in the
air, a desert over which thousands of puffs of smoke shot up and swelled
and drifted, the sliding crash far away, the sibilant hiss swift
overhead. Boom! Weeeee--eeeeooooo! from the east. Boom!
Weeeee--eeeeooooo! from the west.

At sunset there was no let-up. The night was all the more hideous. Along
the horizon flashed up the hot sheets of lightning that were not of a
summer storm. Angry, lurid, red, these upflung blazes and flames
illumined the murky sky, showing in the fitful and flickering intervals
wagons driving toward the front, and patrols of soldiers running toward
some point, and great upheavals of earth spread high.

This heavy cannonading died away in the middle of the night until an
hour before dawn, when it began again with redoubled fury and lasted
until daybreak.

Dawn came reluctantly, Dorn thought. He was glad. It meant a charge.
Another night of that hellish shrieking and bursting of shells would
kill his mind, if not his body. He stood on guard at a fighting-post.
Corporal Owens lay at his feet, wounded slightly. He would not retire.
As the cannons ceased he went to sleep. Rogers stood close on one side,
Dixon on the other. The squad had lived through that awful night.
Soldiers were bringing food and drink to them. All appeared grimly gay.

Dorn was not gay. But he knew this was the day he would laugh in the
teeth of death. A slumbrous, slow heat burned deep in him, like a
covered fire, fierce and hot at heart, awaiting the wind. Watching
there, he did not voluntarily move a muscle, yet all his body twitched
like that of the trained athlete, strained to leap into the great race
of his life.

An officer came hurrying through. The talking hushed. Men on guard,
backs to the trench, never moved their eyes from the forbidden land in
front. The officer spoke. Look for a charge! Reserves were close behind.
He gave his orders and passed on.

Then an Allied gun opened up with a boom. The shell moaned on over. Dorn
saw where it burst, sending smoke and earth aloft. That must have been a
signal for a bombardment of the enemy all along this sector, for big and
little guns began to thunder and crack.

The spectacle before Dorn's hard, keen eyes was one that he thought
wonderful. Far across No Man's Land, which sloped somewhat at that point
in the plain, he saw movement of troops and guns. His eyes were
telescopic. Over there the ground appeared grassy in places, with green
ridges rising, and patches of brush and straggling trees standing out
clearly. Faint, gray-colored squads of soldiers passed in sight with
helmets flashing in the sun; guns were being hauled forward; mounted
horsemen dashed here and there, vanishing and reappearing; and all
through that wide area of color and action shot up live black spouts of
earth crowned in white smoke that hung in the air after the earth fell
back. They were beautiful, these shell-bursts. Round balls of white
smoke magically appeared in the air, to spread and drift; long, yellow
columns or streaks rose here, and there leaped up a fan-shaped, dirty
cloud, savage and sinister; sometimes several shells burst close
together, dashing the upflung sheets of earth together and blending
their smoke; at intervals a huge, creamy-yellow explosion, like a
geyser, rose aloft to spread and mushroom, then to detach itself from
the heavier body it had upheaved, and float away, white and graceful, on
the wind.

Sinister beauty! Dorn soon lost sight of that. There came a gnawing at
his vitals. The far scene of action could not hold his gaze. That dark,
uneven, hummocky break in the earth, which was a goodly number of rods
distant, yet now seemed close, drew a startling attention. Dorn felt his
eyes widen and pop. Spots and dots, shiny, illusive, bobbed along that
break, behind the mounds, beyond the farther banks. A yell as from one
lusty throat ran along the line of which Dorn's squad held the center.
Dorn's sight had a piercing intensity. All was hard under his grip--his
rifle, the boards and bags against which he leaned. Corporal Owens rose
beside him, bareheaded, to call low and fiercely to his men.

The gray dots and shiny spots leaped up magically and appallingly into
men. German soldiers! Boches! Huns on a charge! They were many, but wide
apart. They charged, running low.

Machine-gun rattle, rifle-fire, and strangled shouts blended along the
line. From the charging Huns seemed to come a sound that was neither
battle-cry nor yell nor chant, yet all of them together. The gray
advancing line thinned at points opposite the machine-guns, but it was
coming fast.

Dorn cursed his hard, fumbling hands, which seemed so eager and fierce
that they stiffened. They burned, too, from their grip on the hot rifle.
Shot after shot he fired, missing. He could not hit a field full of
Huns. He dropped shells, fumbled with them at the breech, loaded wildly,
aimed at random, pulled convulsively. His brain was on fire. He had no
anger, no fear, only a great and futile eagerness. Yell and crack filled
his ears. The gray, stolid, unalterable Huns must be driven back. Dorn
loaded, crushed his rifle steady, pointed low at a great gray bulk, and
fired. That Hun pitched down out of the gray advancing line. The sight
almost overcame Dorn. Dizzy, with blurred eyes, he leaned over his gun.
His abdomen and breast heaved, and he strangled over his gorge. Almost
he fainted. But violence beside him somehow, great heaps of dust and
gravel flung over him, hoarse, wild yells in his ears, roused him. The
boches were on the line! He leaped up. Through the dust he saw charging
gray forms, thick and heavy. They plunged, as if actuated by one will.
Bulky blond men, ashen of face, with eyes of blue fire and brutal mouths
set grim--Huns!

Up out of the shallow trench sprang comrades on each side of Dorn. No
rats to be cornered in a hole! Dorn seemed drawn by powerful hauling
chains. He did not need to climb! Four big Germans appeared
simultaneously upon the embankment of bags. They were shooting. One
swung aloft an arm and closed fist. He yelled like a demon. He was a
bomb-thrower. On the instant a bullet hit Dorn, tearing at the side of
his head, stinging excruciatingly, knocking him down, flooding his face
with blood. The shock, like a weight, held him down, but he was not
dazed. A body, khaki-clad, rolled down beside him, convulsively flopped
against him. He bounded erect, his ears filled with a hoarse and
clicking din, his heart strangely lifting in his breast.

Only one German now stood upon the embankment of bags and he was the
threatening bomb-thrower. The others were down--gray forms wrestling
with brown. Dixon was lunging at the bomb-thrower, and, reaching him
with the bayonet, ran him through the belly. He toppled over with an
awful cry and fell hard on the other side of the wall of loaded bags.
The bomb exploded. In the streaky burst Dixon seemed to charge in
bulk--to be flung aside like a leaf by a gale.

Little Rogers had engaged an enemy who towered over him. They feinted,
swung, and cracked their guns together, then locked bayonets. Another
German striding from behind stabbed Rogers in the back. He writhed off
the bloody bayonet, falling toward Dorn, showing a white face that
changed as he fell, with quiver of torture and dying eyes.

That dormant inhibited self of Dorn suddenly was no more. Fast as a
flash he was upon the murdering Hun. Bayonet and rifle-barrel lunged
through him, and so terrible was the thrust that the German was thrown
back as if at a blow from a battering-ram. Dorn whirled the bloody
bayonet, and it crashed to the ground the rifle of the other German.
Dorn saw not the visage of the foe--only the thick-set body, and this he
ripped open in one mighty slash. The German's life spilled out horribly.

Dorn leaped over the bloody mass. Owens lay next, wide-eyed, alive, but
stricken. Purcell fought with clubbed rifle, backing away from several
foes. Brewer was being beaten down. Gray forms closing in! Dorn saw
leveled small guns,, flashes of red, the impact of lead striking him.
But he heard no shots. The roar in his ears was the filling of a gulf.
Out of that gulf pierced his laugh. Gray forms--guns--bullets--
bayonets--death--he laughed at them. His moment had come. Here
he would pay. His immense and terrible joy bridged the ages
between the past and this moment when he leaped light and swift,
like a huge cat, upon them. They fired and they hit, but Dorn sprang on,
tigerishly, with his loud and nameless laugh. Bayonets thrust at him
were straws. These enemies gave way, appalled. With sweep and lunge he
killed one and split a second's skull before the first had fallen. A
third he lifted and upset and gored, like a bull, in one single stroke.
The fourth and last of that group, screaming his terror and fury, ran in
close to get beyond that sweeping blade. He fired as he ran. Dorn
tripped him heavily, and he had scarcely struck the ground when that
steel transfixed his bulging throat.

Brewer was down, but Purcell had been reinforced. Soldiers in brown came
on the run, shooting, yelling, brandishing. They closed in on the
Germans, and Dorn ran into that melee to make one thrust at each gray
form he encountered.

Shriller yells along the line--American yells--the enemy there had given
ground! Dorn heard. He saw the gray line waver. He saw reserves running
to aid his squad. The Germans would be beaten back. There was whirling
blackness in his head through which he seemed to see. The laugh broke
hoarse and harsh from his throat. Dust and blood choked him.

Another gray form blocked his leaping way. Dorn saw only low down, the
gray arms reaching with bright, unstained blade. His own bloody bayonet
clashed against it, locked, and felt the helplessness of the arms that
wielded it. An instant of pause--a heaving, breathless instinct of
impending exhaustion--a moment when the petrific mace of primitive man
stayed at the return of the human--then with bloody foam on his lips
Dorn spent his madness.

A supple twist--the French trick--and Dorn's powerful lunge, with all
his ponderous weight, drove his bayonet through the enemy's lungs.

"_Ka--ma--rod!_" came the strange, strangling cry.

A weight sagged down on Dorn's rifle. He did not pull out the bayonet,
but as it lowered with the burden of the body his eyes, fixed at one
height, suddenly had brought into their range the face of his foe.

A boy--dying on his bayonet! Then came a resurrection of Kurt Dorn's
soul. He looked at what must be his last deed as a soldier. His mind
halted. He saw only the ghastly face, the eyes in which he expected to
see hate, but saw only love of life, suddenly reborn, suddenly surprised
at death.

"God save you, German! I'd give my life for yours!"

Too late! Dorn watched the youth's last clutching of empty fingers, the
last look of consciousness at his conqueror, the last quiver. The youth
died and slid back off the rigid bayonet. War of men!

A heavy thud sounded to the left of Dorn. A bursting flash hid the face
of his German victim. A terrific wind, sharp and hard as nails, lifted
Dorn into roaring blackness....




CHAPTER XXIX

"Many Waters" shone white and green under the bright May sunshine. Seen
from the height of slope, the winding brooks looked like silver bands
across a vast belt of rainy green and purple that bordered the broad
river in the bottom-lands. A summer haze filled the air, and hints of
gold on the waving wheat slopes presaged an early and bountiful harvest.

It was warm up there on the slope where Lenore Anderson watched and
brooded. The breeze brought fragrant smell of fresh-cut alfalfa and the
rustling song of the wheat. The stately house gleamed white down on the
terraced green knoll; horses and cattle grazed in the pasture; workmen
moved like snails in the brown gardens; a motor-car crept along the road
far below, with its trail of rising dust.

Two miles of soft green wheat-slope lay between Lenore and her home. She
had needed the loneliness and silence and memory of a place she had not
visited for many months. Winter had passed. Summer had come with its
birds and flowers. The wheat-fields were again waving, beautiful,
luxuriant. But life was not as it had been for Lenore Anderson.

Kurt Dorn, private, mortally wounded!--So had read the brief and
terrible line in a Spokane newspaper, publishing an Associated Press
despatch of Pershing's casualty-list. No more! That had been the only
news of Kurt Dorn for a long time. A month had dragged by, of doubt, of
hope, of slow despairing.

Up to the time of that fatal announcement Lenore had scarcely noted the
fleeting of the days. With all her spirit and energy she had thrown
herself into the organizing of the women of the valley to work for the
interests of the war. She had made herself a leader who spared no
effort, no sacrifice, no expense in what she considered her duty.
Conservation of food, intensive farm production, knitting for soldiers,
Liberty Loans and Red Cross--these she had studied and mastered, to the
end that the women of the great valley had accomplished work which won
national honor. It had been excitement, joy, and a strange fulfilment
for her. But after the shock caused by the fatal news about Dorn she had
lost interest, though she had worked on harder than ever.

Just a night ago her father had gazed at her and then told her to come
to his office. She did so. And there he said: "You're workin' too hard.
You've got to quit."

"Oh no, dad. I'm only tired to-night," she had replied. "Let me go on.
I've planned so--"

"No!" he said, banging his desk. "You'll run yourself down."

"But, father, these are war-times. Could I do less--could I think of--"

"You've done wonders. You've been the life of this work. Some one else
can carry it on now. You'd kill yourself. An' this war has cost the
Andersons enough."

"Should we count the cost?" she asked.

Anderson had sworn. "No, we shouldn't. But I'm not goin' to lose my
girl. Do you get that hunch?... I've bought bonds by the bushel. I've
given thousands to your relief societies. I gave up my son Jim--an' that
cost us mother.... I'm raisin' a million bushels of wheat this year that
the government can have. An' I'm starvin' to death because I don't get
what I used to eat.... Then this last blow--Dorn!--that fine young
wheat-man, the best--Aw! Lenore..."

"But, dad, is--isn't there any--any hope?"

Anderson was silent.

"Dad," she had pleaded, "if he were really dead--buried--oh! wouldn't I
feel it?"

"You've overworked yourself. Now you've got to rest," her father had
replied, huskily.

"But, dad ..."

"I said no.... I've a heap of pride in what you've done. An' I sure
think you're the best Anderson of the lot. That's all. Now kiss me an'
go to bed."

That explained how Lenore came to be alone, high up' on the vast
wheat-slope, watching and feeling, with no more work to do. The slow
climb there had proved to her how much she needed rest. But work even
under strain or pain would have been preferable to endless hours to
think, to remember, to fight despair.

Mortally wounded! She whispered the tragic phrase. When? Where? How had
her lover been mortally wounded? That meant death. But no other word had
come and no spiritual realization of death abided in her soul. It seemed
impossible for Lenore to accept things as her father and friends did.
Nevertheless, equally impossible was it not to be influenced by their
practical minds. Because of her nervousness, of her overstrain, she had
lost a good deal of her mental poise; and she divined that the only help
for that was certainty of Dorn's fate. She could bear the shock if only
she could know positively. And leaning her face in her hands, with the
warm wind blowing her hair and bringing the rustle of the wheat, she
prayed for divination.

No answer! Absolutely no mystic consciousness of death--of an end to her
love here on earth! Instead of that breathed a strong physical presence
of life all about her, in the swelling, waving slopes of wheat, in the
beautiful butterflies, in the singing birds low down and the soaring
eagles high above--life beating and surging in her heart, her veins,
unquenchable and indomitable. It gave the lie to her morbidness. But it
seemed only a physical state. How could she find any tangible hold on
realities?

She lifted her face to the lonely sky, and her hands pressed to her
breast where the deep ache throbbed heavily.

"It's not that I can't give him up," she whispered, as if impelled to
speak. "I _can_. I _have_ given him up. It's this torture of suspense.
Oh, not to _know!_... But if that newspaper had claimed him one of the
killed, I'd not believe."

So Lenore trusted more to the mystic whisper of her woman's soul than to
all the unproven outward things. Still trust as she might, the voice of
the world dinned in her ears, and between the two she was on the rack.
Loss of Jim--loss of her mother--what unfilled gulfs in her heart! She
was one who loved only few, but these deeply. To-day when they were gone
was different from yesterday when they were here--different because
memory recalled actual words, deeds, kisses of loved ones whose life was
ended. Utterly futile was it for Lenore to try to think of Dorn in that
way. She saw his stalwart form down through the summer haze, coming with
his springy stride through the wheat. Yet--the words--mortally wounded!
They had burned into her thought so that when she closed her eyes she
saw them, darkly red, against the blindness of sight. Pain was a
sluggish stream with source high in her breast, and it moved with her
unquickened blood. If Dorn were really dead, what would become of her?
Selfish question for a girl whose lover had died for his country! She
would work, she would be worthy of him, she would never pine, she would
live to remember. But, ah! the difference to her! Never for her who had
so loved the open, the silken rustle of the wheat and the waving
shadows, the green-and-gold slopes, the birds of the air and the beasts
of the field, the voice of child and the sweetness of life--never again
would these be the same to her, if Dorn were gone forever.

That ache in her heart had communicated itself to all her being. It
filled her mind and her body. Tears stung her eyes, and again they were
dry when tears would have soothed. Just as any other girl she wept, and
then she burned with fever. A longing she had only faintly known, a
physical thing which she had resisted, had become real, insistent,
beating. Through love and loss she was to be denied a heritage common to
all women. A weariness dragged at her. Noble spirit was not a natural
thing. It must be intelligence seeing the higher. But to be human was to
love life, to hate death, to faint under loss, to throb and pant with
heavy sighs, to lie sleepless in the long dark night, to shrink with
unutterable sadness at the wan light of dawn, to follow duty with a
laggard sense, to feel the slow ebb of vitality and not to care, to
suffer with a breaking heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sunset hour reminded Lenore that she must not linger there on the slope.
So, following the grass-grown lane between the sections of wheat, she
wended a reluctant way homeward. Twilight was falling when she reached
the yard. The cooling air was full of a fragrance of flowers freshly
watered. Kathleen appeared on the path, evidently waiting for her. The
girl was growing tall. Lenore remembered with a pang that her full mind
had left little time for her to be a mother to this sister. Kathleen
came running, excited and wide-eyed.

"Lenore, I thought you'd never come," she said. "I know something. Only
dad told me not to tell you."

"Then don't," replied Lenore, with a little start.

"But I'd never keep it," burst out Kathleen, breathlessly. "Dad's going
to New York."

Lenore's heart contracted. She did not know how she felt. Somehow it was
momentous news.

"New York! What for?" she asked.

"He says it's about wheat. But he can't fool me. He told me not to
mention it to you."

The girl was keen. She wanted to prepare Lenore, yet did not mean to
confide her own suppositions. Lenore checked a rush of curiosity. They
went into the house. Lenore hurried to change her outing clothes and
boots and then went down to supper. Rose sat at table, but her father
had not yet come in. Lenore called him. He answered, and presently came
tramping into the dining-room, blustering and cheerful. Not for many
months had Lenore given her father such close scrutiny as she did then.
He was not natural, and he baffled her. A fleeting, vague hope that she
had denied lodgment in her mind seemed to have indeed been wild and
unfounded. But the very fact that her father was for once unfathomable
made this situation remarkable. All through the meal Lenore trembled,
and she had to force herself to eat.

"Lenore, I'd like to see you," said her father, at last, as he laid down
his napkin and rose. Almost he convinced her then that nothing was amiss
or different, and he would have done so if he had not been too clever,
too natural. She rose to follow, catching Kathleen's whisper:

"Don't let him put it over on you, now!"

Anderson lighted a big cigar, as always after supper, but to Lenore's
delicate sensitiveness he seemed to be too long about it.

"Lenore, I'm takin' a run to New York--leave to-night at eight--an' I
want you to sort of manage while I'm gone. Here's some jobs I want the
men to do--all noted down here--an' you'll answer letters, 'phone calls,
an' all that. Not much work, you know, but you'll have to hang around.
Somethin' important might turn up."

"Yes, dad. I'll be glad to," she replied. "Why--why this sudden trip?"

Anderson turned away a little and ran his hand over the papers on his
desk. Did she only imagine that his hand shook a little?

"Wheat deals, I reckon--mostly," he said. "An' mebbe I'll run over to
Washington."

He turned then, puffing at his cigar, and calmly met her direct gaze. If
there were really more than he claimed in his going, he certainly did
not intend to tell her. Lenore tried to still her mounting emotion.
These days she seemed all imagination. Then she turned away her face.

"Will you try to find out if Kurt Dorn died of his wound--and all about
him?" she asked, steadily, but very low.

"Lenore, I sure will!" he exclaimed, with explosive emphasis. No doubt
the sincerity of that reply was an immense relief to Anderson. "Once in
New York, I can pull wires, if need be. I absolutely promise you I'll
find out--what--all you want to know."

Lenore bade him good-by and went to her room, where calmness deserted
her for a while. Upon recovering, she found that the time set for her
father's departure had passed. Strangely, then the oppression that had
weighed upon her so heavily eased and lifted. The moment seemed one
beyond her understanding. She attributed her relief, however, to the
fact that her father would soon end her suspense in regard to Kurt Dorn.

In the succeeding days Lenore regained her old strength and buoyancy,
and something of a control over the despondency which at times had made
life misery.

A golden day of sunlight and azure blue of sky ushered in the month of
June. "Many Waters" was a world of verdant green. Lenore had all she
could do to keep from flying to the slopes. But as every day now brought
nearer the possibility of word from her father, she stayed at home. The
next morning about nine o'clock, while she was at her father's desk, the
telephone-bell rang. It did that many times every morning, but this ring
seemed to electrify Lenore. She answered the call hurriedly.

"Hello, Lenore, my girl! How are you?" came rolling on the wire.

"Dad! Dad! Is it--you?" cried Lenore, wildly.

"Sure is. Just got here. Are you an' the girls O.K.?"

"We're well--fine. Oh, dad ..."

"You needn't send the car. I'll hire one."

"Yes--yes--but, dad--Oh, tell me ..."

"Wait! I'll be there in five minutes."

She heard him slam up the receiver, and she leaned there, palpitating,
with the queer, vacant sounds of the telephone filling her ear.

"Five minutes!" Lenore whispered. In five more minutes she would know.
They seemed an eternity. Suddenly a flood of emotion and thought
threatened to overwhelm her. Leaving the office, she hurried forth to
find her sisters, and not until she had looked everywhere did she
remember that they were visiting a girl friend. After this her motions
seemed ceaseless; she could not stand or sit still, and she was
continually going to the porch to look down the shady lane. At last a
car appeared, coming fast. Then she ran indoors quite aimlessly and out
again. But when she recognized her father all her outward fears and
tremblings vanished. The broad, brown flash of his face was reality. He
got out of the car lightly for so heavy a man, and, taking his valise,
he dismissed the chauffeur. His smile was one of gladness, and his
greeting a hearty roar.

Lenore met him at the porch steps, seeing in him, feeling as she
embraced him, that he radiated a strange triumph and finality.

"Say, girl, you look somethin' like your old self," he said, holding her
by the shoulders. "Fine! But you're a woman now.... Where are the kids?"

"They're away," replied Lenore.

"How you stare!" laughed Anderson, as with arm round her he led her in.
"Anythin' queer about your dad's handsome mug?"

His jocular tone did not hide his deep earnestness. Never had Lenore
felt him so forceful. His ruggedness seemed to steady her nerves that
again began to fly. Anderson took her into his office, closed the door,
threw down his valise.

"Great to be home!" he exploded, with heavy breath.

Lenore felt her face blanch; and that intense quiver within her suddenly
stilled.

"Tell me--quick!" she whispered.

He faced her with flashing eyes, and all about him changed. "You're an
Anderson! You can stand shock?"

"Any--any shock but suspense."

"I lied about the wheat deal--about my trip to New York. I got news of
Dorn. I was afraid to tell you."

"Yes?"

"Dorn is alive," went on Anderson.

Lenore's hands went out in mute eloquence.

"He was all shot up. He can't live," hurried Anderson, hoarsely. "But
he's alive--he'll live to see you."

"Oh! I knew, I _knew!_" whispered Lenore clasping her hands. "Oh, thank
God!"

"Lenore, steady now. You're gettin' shaky. Brace there, my girl!...
Dorn's alive. I've brought him home. He's here."

"_Here!_" screamed Lenore.

"Yes. They'll have him here in half an hour."

Lenore fell into her father's arms, blind and deaf to all outward
things. The light of day failed. But her consciousness did not fade.
Before it seemed a glorious radiance that was the truth lost for the
moment, blindly groping, in whirling darkness. When she did feel herself
again it was as a weak, dizzy, palpitating child, unable to stand. Her
father, in alarm, and probable anger with himself, was coaxing and
swearing in one breath. Then suddenly the joy that had shocked Lenore
almost into collapse forced out the weakness with amazing strength. She
blazed. She radiated. She burst into utterance too swift to understand.

"Hold on there, girl!" interrupted Anderson. "You've got the bit in your
teeth.... Listen, will you? Let me talk. Well--well, there now.... Sure,
it's all right, Lenore. You made me break it sudden-like.... Listen.
There's all summer to talk. Just now you want to get a few details. Get
'em straight.... Dorn is on the way here. They put his stretcher--we've
been packin' him on one--into a motor-truck. There's a nurse come with
me--a man nurse. We'd better put Dorn in mother's room. That's the
biggest an' airiest. You hurry an' open up the windows an' fix the
bed.... An' don't go out of your head with joy. It's sure more 'n we
ever hoped for to see him alive, to get him home. But he's done for,
poor boy! He can't live.... An' he's in such shape that I don't want you
to see him when they fetch him in. Savvy, girl! You'll stay in your room
till we call you. An' now rustle."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lenore paced and crouched and lay in her room, waiting, listening with
an intensity that hurt. When a slow procession of men, low-voiced and
soft-footed, carried Kurt Dorn into the house and up-stairs Lenore
trembled with a storm of emotion. All her former agitation, love, agony,
and suspense, compared to what she felt then, was as nothing. Not the
joy of his being alive, not the terror of his expected death, had so
charged her heart as did this awful curiosity to see him, to realize
him.

At last a step--a knock--her father's voice: "Lenore--come!"

Her ordeal of waiting was over. All else she could withstand. That
moment ended her weakness. Her blood leaped with the irresistable,
revivifying current of her spirit. Unlocking the door, Lenore stepped
out. Her father stood there with traces of extreme worry fading from his
tired face. At sight of her they totally vanished.

"Good! You've got nerve. You can see him now alone. He's unconscious.
But he's not been greatly weakened by the trip. His vitality is
wonderful. He comes to once in a while. Sometimes he's rational. Mostly,
though, he's out of his head. An' his left arm is gone."

Anderson said all this rapidly and low while they walked down the hall
toward the end room which had not been used since Mrs. Anderson's death.
The door was ajar. Lenore smelled strong, pungent odors of antiseptics.

Anderson knocked softly.

"Come out, you men, an' let my girl see him," he called.

Doctor Lowell, the village practitioner Lenore had known for years,
tiptoed out, important and excited.

"Lenore, it's to bad," he said, kindly, and he shook his head.

Another man glided out with the movements of a woman. He was not young.
His aspect was pale, serious.

"Lenore, this is Mr. Jarvis, the nurse.... Now--go in, an' don't forget
what I said."

She closed the door and leaned back against it, conscious of the supreme
moment of her life. Dorn's face, strange yet easily recognizable,
appeared against the white background of the bed. That moment was
supreme because it showed him there alive, justifying the spiritual
faith which had persisted in her soul. If she had ever, in moments of
distraction, doubted God, she could never doubt again.

The large room had been bright, with white curtains softly blowing
inward from the open windows. As she crept forward, not sure on her
feet, all seemed to blur, so that when she leaned over the still face to
kiss it she could not see clearly. Her lips quivered with that kiss and
with her sob of thankfulness.

"My soldier!"

She prayed then, with her head beside his on the pillow, and through
that prayer and the strange stillness of her lover she received a subtle
shock. Sweet it was to touch him as she bent with eyes hidden. Terrible
it would be to look--to see how the war had wrecked him. She tried to
linger there, all tremulous, all gratitude, all woman and mother. But an
incalculable force lifted her up from her knees.

"Ah!" she gasped, as she saw him with cleared sight. A knife-blade was
at her heart. Kurt Dorn lay before her gaze--a man, and not the boy she
had sacrificed to war--a man by a larger frame, and by older features,
and by a change difficult to grasp.

These features seemed a mask, transparent, unable to hide a beautiful,
sad, stern, and ruthless face beneath, which in turn slowly gave to her
startled gaze sloping lines of pain and shades of gloom, and the pale,
set muscles of forced manhood, and the faint hectic flush of fever and
disorder and derangement. A livid, angry scar, smooth, yet scarcely
healed, ran from his left temple back as far as she could see. That
established his identity as a wounded soldier brought home from the war.
Otherwise to Lenore his face might have been that of an immortal
suddenly doomed with the curse of humanity, dying in agony. She had
expected to see Dorn bronzed, haggard, gaunt, starved, bearded and
rough-skinned, bruised and battered, blinded and mutilated, with gray in
his fair hair. But she found none of these. Her throbbing heart sickened
and froze at the nameless history recorded in his face. Was it beyond
her to understand what had been his bitter experience? Would she never
suffer his ordeal? Never! That was certain. An insupportable sadness
pervaded her soul. It was not his life she thought of, but the youth,
the nobility, the splendor of him that war had destroyed. No intuition,
no divination, no power so penetrating as a woman's love! By that
piercing light she saw the transformed man. He knew. He had found out
all of physical life. His hate had gone with his blood. Deeds--deeds of
terror had left their imprint upon his brow, in the shadows under his
eyes, that resembled blank walls potent with invisible meaning. Lenore
shuddered through all her soul as she read the merciless record of the
murder he had dealt, of the strong and passionate duty that had driven
him, of the eternal remorse. But she did not see or feel that he had
found God; and, stricken as he seemed, she could not believe he was near
to death.

This last confounding thought held her transfixed and thrilling, gazing
down at Dorn, until her father entered to break the spell and lead her
away.




CHAPTER XXX

It was night. Lenore should have been asleep, but she sat up in the dark
by the window. Underneath on the porch, her father, with his men as
audience, talked like a torrent. And Lenore, hearing what otherwise
would never have gotten to her ears, found listening irresistible. Slow,
dragging footsteps and the clinking of spurs attested to the approach of
cowboys.

"Howdy, boys! Sit down an' be partic'lar quiet. Here's some smokes. I'm
wound up an' gotta go off or bust," Anderson said, "Well, as I was
sayin', we folks don't know there's a war, from all outward sign here in
the Northwest. But in that New York town I just come from--God Almighty!
what goin's-on! Boys, I never knew before how grand it was to be
American. New York's got the people, the money, an' it's the outgoin'
an' incomin' place of all pertainin' to this war. The Liberty Loan drive
was on. The streets were crowded. Bands an' parades, grand-opera stars
singin' on the corners, famous actors sellin' bonds, flags an' ribbons
an' banners everywhere, an' every third man you bumped into wearin' some
kind of uniform! An' the women were runnin' wild, like a stampede of
two-year-olds.... I rode down Fifth Avenue on one of them high-topped
buses with seats on. Talk about your old stage-coach--why, these 'buses
had 'em beat a mile! I've rode some in my day, but this was the ride of
my life. I couldn't hear myself think. Music at full blast, roar of
traffic, voices like whisperin' without end, flash of red an' white an'
blue, shine of a thousand automobiles down that wonderful street that's
like a canon! An' up overhead a huge cigar-shaped balloon, an' then an
airplane sailin' swift an' buzzin' like a bee. Them was the first
air-ships I ever seen. No wonder--Jim wanted to--"

Anderson's voice broke a little at this juncture and he paused. All was
still except the murmur of the running water and the song of the
insects. Presently Anderson cleared his throat and resumed:

    "I saw five hundred Australian soldiers just arrived in New York by
    way of Panama. Lean, wiry boys like Arizona cowboys. Looked good to
    me! You ought to have heard the cheerin'. Roar an' roar, everywhere
    they marched along. I saw United States sailors, marines, soldiers,
    airmen, English officers, an' Scotch soldiers. Them last sure got my
    eye. Funny plaid skirts they wore--an' they had bare legs. Three I
    saw walked lame. An' all had medals. Some one said the Germans
    called these Scotch 'Ladies from hell.' ... When I heard that I had
    to ask questions, an' I learned these queer-lookin'
    half-women-dressed fellows were simply hell with cold steel. An'
    after I heard that I looked again an' wondered why I hadn't seen it.
    I ought to know men!... Then I saw the outfit of Blue Devil
    Frenchmen that was sent over to help stimulate the Liberty Loan. An'
    when I seen them I took off my hat. I've knowed a heap of tough men
    an' bad men an' handy men an' fightin' men in my day, but I reckoned
    I never seen the like of the Blue Devils. I can't tell you why,
    boys. Blue Devils is another German name for a regiment of French
    soldiers. They had it on the Scotch-men. Any Western man, just to
    look at them, would think of Wild Bill an' Billy the Kid an'
    Geronimo an' Custer, an' see that mebbe the whole four mixed in one
    might have made a Blue Devil.

    "My young friend Dorn, that's dyin' up-stairs, now--he had a name
    given him. 'Pears that this war-time is like the old days when we
    used to hit on right pert names for everybody.... Demon Dorn they
    called him, an' he got that handle before he ever reached France.
    The boys of his outfit gave it to him because of the way he run wild
    with a bayonet. I don't want my girl Lenore ever to know that.

    "A soldier named Owens told me a lot. He was the corporal of Dorn's
    outfit, a sort of foreman, I reckon. Anyway, he saw Dorn every day
    of the months they were in the service, an' the shell that done Dorn
    made a cripple of Owens. This fellow Owens said Dorn had not got so
    close to his bunk-mates until they reached France. Then he begun to
    have influence over them. Owens didn't know how he did it--in fact,
    never knew it at all until the outfit got to the front, somewhere in
    northern France, in the first line. They were days in the first
    line, close up to the Germans, watchin' an' sneakin' all the time,
    shootin' an' dodgin', but they never had but one real fight.

    "That was when one mornin' the Germans came pilin' over on a charge,
    far outnumberin' our boys. Then it happened. Lord! I wish I could
    remember how Owens told that scrap! Boys, you never heard about a
    real scrap. It takes war like this to make men fighters.... Listen,
    now, an' I'll tell you some of the things that come off durin' this
    German charge. I'll tell them just as they come to mind. There was a
    boy named Griggs who ran the German barrage--an' that's a
    gantlet--seven times to fetch ammunition to his pards. Another boy,
    on the same errand, was twice blown off the road by explodin'
    shells, an' then went back. Owens told of two of his company who
    rushed a bunch of Germans, killed eight of them, an' captured their
    machine-gun. Before that German charge a big shell came over an'
    kicked up a hill of mud. Next day the Americans found their sentinel
    buried in mud, dead at his post, with his bayonet presented.

    "Owens was shot just as he jumped up with his pards to meet the
    chargin' Germans. He fell an' dragged himself against a wall of
    bags, where he lay watchin' the fight. An' it so happened that he
    faced Dorn's squad, which was attacked by three times their number.
    He saw Dorn shot--go down, an' thought he was done--but no! Dorn
    came up with one side of his face all blood. Dixon, a college
    football man, rushed a German who was about to throw a bomb. Dixon
    got him, an' got the bomb, too, when it went off. Little Rogers, an
    Irish boy, mixed it with three Germans, an' killed one before he was
    bayoneted in the back. Then Dorn, like the demon they'd named him,
    went on the stampede. He had a different way with a bayonet, so
    Owens claimed. An' Dorn was heavy, powerful, an' fast. He lifted an'
    slung those two Germans, one after another, quick as that!--like
    you'd toss a couple of wheat sheafs with your pitchfork, an' he sent
    them rollin', with blood squirtin' all over. An' then four more
    Germans were shootin' at him. Right into their teeth Dorn
    run--laughin' wild an' terrible, Owens said, an' the Germans
    couldn't stop that flashin' bayonet. Dorn ripped them all open, an'
    before they'd stopped floppin' he was on the bunch that'd killed
    Brewer an' were makin' it hard for his other pards.... Whew!--Owens
    told it all as if it'd took lots of time, but that fight was like
    lightnin' an' I can't remember how it was. Only Demon Dorn laid out
    nine Germans before they retreated. _Nine!_ Owens seen him do it,
    like a mad bull loose. Then the shell came over that put Dorn out,
    an' Owens, too.

    "Well, Dorn had a mangled arm, an' many wounds. They amputated his
    arm in France, patched him up, an' sent him back to New York with a
    lot of other wounded soldiers. They expected him to die long ago.
    But he hangs on. He's full of lead now. What a hell of a lot of
    killin' some men take!... My boy Jim would have been like that!

    "So there, boys, you have a little bit of American fightin' come
    home to you, straight an' true. I say that's what the Germans have
    roused. Well, it was a bad day for them when they figgered
    everythin' on paper, had it all cut an' dried, but failed to see the
    spirit of men!"

Lenore tore herself away from the window so that she could not hear any
more, and in the darkness of her room she began to pace to and fro,
beginning to undress for bed, shaking in some kind of a frenzy, scarcely
knowing what she was about, until sundry knocks from furniture and the
falling over a chair awakened her to the fact that she was in a tumult.

"What--_am_ I--doing!" she panted, in bewilderment, reaching out in the
dark to turn on the light.

Like awakening from a nightmare, she saw the bright light flash up. It
changed her feeling. Who was this person whose image stood reflected in
the mirror? Lenore's recognition of herself almost stunned her. What had
happened? She saw that her hair fell wildly over her bare shoulders; her
face shone white, with red spots in her cheeks; her eyes seemed balls of
fire; her lips had a passionate, savage curl; her breast, bare and
heaving, showed a throbbing, tumultuous heart. And as she realized how
she looked, it struck her that she felt an inexplicable passion. She
felt intense as steel, hot as fire, quivering with the pulsation of
rapid blood, a victim to irrepressible thrills that rushed over her from
the very soles of her feet to the roots of her hair. Something glorious,
terrible, and furious possessed her. When she understood what it was she
turned out the light and fell upon the bed, where, as the storm slowly
subsided, she thought and wondered and sorrowed, and whispered to
herself.

The tale of Dorn's tragedy had stirred to the depths the primitive,
hidden, and unplumbed in the unknown nature of her. Just now she had
looked at herself, at her two selves--the white-skinned and fair-haired
girl that civilization had produced--and the blazing, panting, savage
woman of the bygone ages. She could not escape from either. The story of
Demon Dorn's terrible fight had retrograded her, for the moment, to the
female of the species, more savage and dangerous than the male. No use
to lie! She had gloried in his prowess. He was her man, gone out with
club, to beat down the brutes that would steal her from him.

"Alas! What are we? What am I?" she whispered. "Do I know myself? What
could I not have done a moment ago?"

She had that primitive thing in her, and, though she shuddered to
realize it, she had no regret. Life was life. That Dorn had laid low so
many enemies was grand to her, and righteous, since these enemies were
as cavemen come for prey. Even now the terrible thrills chased over her.
Demon Dorn! What a man! She had known just what he would do--and how his
spiritual life would go under. The woman of her gloried in his fight and
the soul of her sickened at its significance. No hope for any man or any
woman except in God!

These men, these boys, like her father and Jake, like Dorn and his
comrades--how simple, natural, inevitable, elemental they were! They
loved a fight. They might hate it, too, but they loved it most. Life of
men was all strife, and the greatness in them came out in war. War
searched out the best and the worst in men. What were wounds, blood,
mangled flesh, agony, and death to men--to those who went out for
liberation of something unproven in themselves? Life was only a breath.
The secret must lie in the beyond, for men could not act that way for
nothing. Some hidden purpose through the ages!

       *       *       *       *       *

Anderson had summoned a great physician, a specialist of world renown.
Lenore, of course, had not been present when the learned doctor examined
Kurt Dorn, but she was in her father's study when the report was made.
To Lenore this little man seemed all intellect, all science, all
electric current.

He stated that Dorn had upward of twenty-five wounds, some of them
serious, most trivial, and all of them combined not necessarily fatal.
Many soldiers with worse wounds had totally recovered. Dorn's vitality
and strength had been so remarkable that great loss of blood and almost
complete lack of nourishment had not brought about the present grave
condition.

"He will die, and that is best for him," said the specialist. "His case
is not extraordinary. I saw many like it in France during the first year
of war when I was there. But I will say that he must have been both
physically and mentally above the average before he went to fight. My
examination extended through periods of his unconsciousness and
aberration. Once, for a little time, he came to, apparently sane. The
nurse said he had noticed several periods of this rationality during the
last forty-eight hours. But these, and the prolonged vitality, do not
offer any hope.

"An emotion of exceeding intensity and duration has produced lesions in
the kinetic organs. Some passion has immeasurably activated his brain,
destroying brain cells which might not be replaced. If he happened to
live he might be permanently impaired. He might be neurasthenic,
melancholic, insane at times, or even grow permanently so.... It is very
sad. He appears to have been a fine young man. But he will die, and that
really is best for him."

Thus the man of science summed up the biological case of Kurt Dorn. When
he had gone Anderson wore the distressed look of one who must abandon
his last hope. He did not understand, though he was forced to believe.
He swore characteristically at the luck, and then at the great
specialist.

"I've known Indian medicine-men who could give that doctor cards an'
spades," he exploded, with gruff finality.

Lenore understood her father perfectly and imagined she understood the
celebrated scientist. The former was just human and the latter was
simply knowledge. Neither had that which caused her to go out alone into
the dark night and look up beyond the slow-rising slope to the stars.
These men, particularly the scientist, lacked something. He possessed
all the wonderful knowledge of body and brain, of the metabolism and
chemistry of the organs, but he knew nothing of the source of life.
Lenore accorded science its place in progress, but she hated its
elimination of the soul. Stronger than ever, strength to endure and to
trust pervaded her spirit. The dark night encompassing her, the vast,
lonely heave of wheat-slope, the dim sky with its steady stars--these
were voices as well as tangible things of the universe, and she was in
mysterious harmony with them. "Lift thine eyes to the hills from whence
cometh thy help!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The day following the specialist's visit Dorn surprised the family
doctor, the nurse, Anderson, and all except Lenore by awakening to a
spell of consciousness which seemed to lift, for the time at least, the
shadow of death.

Kathleen was the first to burst in upon Lenore with the wonderful news.
Lenore could only gasp her intense eagerness and sit trembling, hands
over her heart, while the child babbled.

"I listened, and I peeped in," was Kathleen's reiterated statement.
"Kurt was awake. He spoke, too, but very soft. Say, he knows he's at
'Many Waters.' I heard him say, 'Lenore'.... Oh, I'm so happy,
Lenore--that before he dies he'll know you--talk to you."

"Hush, child!" whispered Lenore. "Kurt's not going to die."

"But they all say so. That funny little doctor yesterday--he made me
tired--but he said so. I heard him as dad put him into the car."

"Yes, Kathie, I heard him, too, but I do not believe," replied Lenore,
dreamily.

"Kurt doesn't look so--so sick," went on Kathleen. "Only--only I don't
know what--different, I guess. I'm crazy to go in--to see him. Lenore,
will they ever let me?"

Their father's abrupt entrance interrupted the conversation. He was
pale, forceful, as when issues were at stake but were undecided.

"Kathie, go out," he said.

Lenore rose to face him.

"My girl--Dorn's come to--an' he's asked for you. I was for lettin' him
see you. But Lowell an' Jarvis say no--not yet.... Now he might die any
minute. Seems to me he ought to see you. It's right. An' if you say
so--"

"Yes," replied Lenore.

"By Heaven! He shall see you, then," said Anderson, breathing hard. "I'm
justified even--even if it..." He did not finish his significant speech,
but left her abruptly.

Presently Lenore was summoned. When she left her room she was in the
throes of uncontrolled agitation, and all down the long hallway she
fought herself. At the half-open door she paused to lean against the
wall. There she had the will to still her nerves, to acquire serenity;
and she prayed for wisdom to make her presence and her words of infinite
good to Dorn in this crisis.

       *       *       *       *       *

She was not aware of when she moved--how she ever got to Dorn's bedside.
But seemingly detached from her real self, serene, with emotions locked,
she was there looking down upon him.

"Lenore!" he said, with far-off voice that just reached her. Gladness
shone from his shadowy eyes.

"Welcome home--my soldier boy!" she replied. Then she bent to kiss his
cheek and to lay hers beside it.

"I never--hoped--to see you--again," he went on.

"Oh, but I knew!" murmured Lenore, lifting her head. His right hand,
brown, bare, and rough, lay outside the coverlet upon his breast. It was
weakly reaching for her. Lenore took it in both hers, while she gazed
steadily down into his eyes. She seemed to see then how he was comparing
the image he had limned upon his memory with her face.

"Changed--you're older--more beautiful--yet the same," he said. "It
seems--long ago."

"Yes, long ago. Indeed I am older. But--all's well that ends well. You
are back."

"Lenore, haven't you--been told--I can't live?"

"Yes, but it's untrue," she replied, and felt that she might have been
life itself speaking.

"Dear, something's gone--from me. Something vital gone--with the shell
that--took my arm."

_"No!"_ she smiled down upon him. All the conviction of her soul and
faith she projected into that single word and serene smile--all that was
love and woman in her opposing death. A subtle, indefinable change came
over Dorn.

"Lenore--I paid--for my father," he whispered. "I killed Huns!... I
spilled the--blood in me--I hated!... But all was wrong--wrong!"

"Yes, but you could not help that," she said, piercingly. "Blame can
never rest upon you. You were only an--American soldier.... Oh, I know!
You were magnificent.... But your duty that way is done. A higher duty
awaits you."

His eyes questioned sadly and wonderingly.

"You must be the great sower of wheat."

"Sower of wheat?" he whispered, and a light quickened in that
questioning gaze.

"There will be starving millions after this war. Wheat is the staff of
life. You _must_ get well.... Listen!"

She hesitated, and sank to her knees beside the bed. "Kurt, the day
you're able to sit up I'll marry you. Then I'll take you home--to your
wheat-hills."

For a second Lenore saw him transformed with her spirit, her faith, her
love, and it was that for which she had prayed. She had carried him
beyond the hopelessness, beyond incredulity. Some guidance had divinely
prompted her. And when his mute rapture suddenly vanished, when he lost
consciousness and a pale gloom and shade fell upon his face, she had no
fear.

In her own room she unleashed the strange bonds on her feelings and
suffered their recurrent surge and strife, until relief and calmness
returned to her. Then came a flashing uplift of soul, a great and
beautiful exaltation. Lenore felt that she had been gifted with
incalculable power. She had pierced Dorn's fatalistic consciousness with
the truth and glory of possible life, as opposed to the dark and evil
morbidity of war. She saw for herself the wonderful and terrible stairs
of sand which women had been climbing all the ages, and must climb on to
the heights of solid rock, of equality, of salvation for the human race.
She saw woman, the primitive, the female of the species, but she saw her
also as the mother of the species, made to save as well as perpetuate,
learning from the agony of child-birth and child-care the meaning of Him
who said, "Thou shalt not kill!" Tremendous would be the final
resistance of woman to the brutality of man. Women were to be the
saviors of humanity. It seemed so simple and natural that it could not
be otherwise. Lenore realized, with a singular conception of the
splendor of its truth, that when most women had found themselves, their
mission in life, as she had found hers, then would come an end to
violence, to greed, to hate, to war, to the black and hideous
imperfection of mankind.

With all her intellect and passion Lenore opposed the theory of the
scientist and biologists. If they proved that strife and fight were
necessary to the development of man, that without violence and bloodshed
and endless contention the race would deteriorate, then she would say
that it would be better to deteriorate and to die. Women all would
declare against that, and in fact would never believe. She would never
believe with her heart, but if her intellect was forced to recognize
certain theories, then she must find a way to reconcile life to the
inscrutable designs of nature. The theory that continual strife was the
very life of plants, birds, beasts, and men seemed verified by every
reaction of the present; but if these things were fixed materialistic
rules of the existence of animated forms upon the earth, what then was
God, what was the driving force in Kurt Dorn that made war-duty some
kind of murder which overthrew his mind, what was the love in her heart
of all living things, and the nameless sublime faith in her soul?

"If we poor creatures _must_ fight," said Lenore, and she meant this for
a prayer, "let the women fight eternally against violence, and let the
men forever fight their destructive instincts!"

       *       *       *       *       *

From that hour the condition of Kurt Dorn changed for the better. Doctor
Lowell admitted that Lenore had been the one medicine which might defeat
the death that all except she had believed inevitable.

Lenore was permitted to see him a few minutes every day, for which
fleeting interval she must endure the endless hours. But she discovered
that only when he was rational and free from pain would they let her go
in. What Dorn's condition was all the rest of the time she could not
guess. But she began to get inklings that it was very bad.

"Dad, I'm going to insist on staying with Kurt as--as long as I want,"
asserted Lenore, when she had made up her mind.

This worried Anderson, and he appeared at a loss for words.

"I told Kurt I'd marry him the very day he could sit up," continued
Lenore.

"By George! that accounts," exclaimed her father. "He's been tryin' to
sit up, an' we've had hell with him."

"Dad, he will get well. And all the sooner if I can be with him more. He
loves me. I feel I'm the only thing that counteracts--the--the madness
in his mind--the death in his soul."

Anderson made one of his violent gestures. "I believe you. That hits me
with a bang. It takes a woman!... Lenore, what's your idea?"

"I want to--to marry him," murmured Lenore. "To nurse him--to take him
home to his wheat-fields."

"You shall have your way," replied Anderson, beginning to pace the
floor. "It can't do any harm. It might save him. An' anyway, you'll be
his wife--if only for ... By George! we'll do it. You never gave me a
wrong hunch in your life ... but, girl, it'll be hard for you to see him
when--when he has the spells."

"Spells!" echoed Lenore.

"Yes. You've been told that he raves. But you didn't know how. Why, it
gets even my nerve! It fascinated me, but once was enough. I couldn't
stand to see his face when his Huns come back to him."

"His Huns!" ejaculated Lenore, shuddering. "What do you mean?"

"Those Huns he killed come back to him. He fights them. You see him go
through strange motions, an' it's as if his left arm wasn't gone. He
used his right arm--an' the motions he makes are the ones he made when
he killed the Huns with his bayonet. It's terrible to watch him--the
look on his face!.... I heard at the hospital in New York that in France
they photographed him when he had one of the spells.... I'd hate to have
you see him then. But maybe after Doctor Lowell explains it, you'll
understand."

"Poor boy! How terrible for him to live it all over! But when he gets
well--when he has his wheat-hills and me to fill his mind--those spells
will fade."

"Maybe--maybe. I hope so. Lord knows it's all beyond me. But you're
goin' to have your way."

Doctor Lowell explained to Lenore that Dorn, like all mentally deranged
soldiers, dreamed when he was asleep, and raved when he was out of his
mind, of only one thing--the foe. In his nightmares Dorn had to be held
forcibly. The doctor said that the remarkable and hopeful indication
about Dorn's condition was a gradual daily gain in strength and a
decline in the duration and violence of his bad spells.

This assurance made Lenore happy. She began to relieve the worn-out
nurse during the day, and she prepared herself for the first ordeal of
actual experience of Dorn's peculiar madness. But Dorn watched her many
hours and would not or could not sleep while she was there; and the
tenth day of his stay at "Many Waters" passed without her seeing what
she dreaded. Meanwhile he grew perceptibly better.

The afternoon came when Anderson brought a minister. Then a few moments
sufficed to make Lenore Dorn's wife.




CHAPTER XXXI

The remarkable happened. Scarcely had the minister left when Kurt Dorn's
smiling wonder and happiness sustained a break, as sharp and cold and
terrible as if nature had transformed him from man to beast.

His face became like that of a gorilla. Struggling up, he swept his
right arm over and outward with singular twisting energy. A
bayonet-thrust! And for him his left arm was still intact! A savage,
unintelligible battle-cry, yet unmistakably German, escaped his lips.

Lenore stood one instant petrified. Her father, grinding his teeth,
attempted to lead her away. But as Dorn was about to pitch off the bed,
Lenore, with piercing cry, ran to catch him and force him back. There
she held him, subdued his struggles, and kept calling with that
intensity of power and spirit which must have penetrated even his
delirium. Whatever influence she exerted, it quieted him, changed his
savage face, until he relaxed and lay back passive and pale. It was
possible to tell exactly when his reason returned, for it showed in the
gaze he fixed upon Lenore.

"I had--one--of my fits!" he said, huskily.

"Oh--I don't know what it was," replied Lenore, with quavering voice.
Her strength began to leave her now. Her arms that had held him so
firmly began to slip away.

"Son, you had a bad spell," interposed Anderson, with his heavy
breathing. "First one she's seen."

"Lenore, I laid out my Huns again," said Dorn, with a tragic smile.
"Lately I could tell when--they were coming back."

"Did you know just now?" queried Lenore.

"I think so. I wasn't really out of my head. I've known when I did that.
It's a strange feeling--thought--memory ... and action drives it away.
Then I seem always to _want_ to--kill my Huns all over again."

Lenore gazed at him with mournful and passionate tenderness. "Do you
remember that we were just married?" she asked.

"My wife!" he whispered.

"Husband!... I knew you were coming home to me.... I knew you would not
die.... I know you will get well."

"I begin to feel that, too. Then--maybe the black spells will go away."

"They must or--or you'll lose me," faltered Lenore. "If you go on
killing your Huns over and over--it'll be I who will die."

She carried with her to her room a haunting sense of Dorn's reception of
her last speech. Some tremendous impression it made on him, but whether
of fear of domination or resolve, or all combined, she could not tell.
She had weakened in mention of the return of his phantoms. But neither
Dorn nor her father ever guessed that, once in her room, she collapsed
from sheer feminine horror at the prospect of seeing Dorn change from a
man to a gorilla, and to repeat the savage orgy of remurdering his Huns.
That was too much for Lenore. She who had been invincible in faith, who
could stand any tests of endurance and pain, was not proof against a
spectacle of Dorn's strange counterfeit presentment of the actual and
terrible killing he had performed with a bayonet.

For days after that she was under a strain which she realized would
break her if it was not relieved. It appeared to be solely her fear of
Dorn's derangement. She was with him almost all the daylight hours,
attending him, watching him sleep, talking a little to him now and then,
seeing with joy his gradual improvement, feeling each day the slow
lifting of the shadow over him, and yet every minute of every hour she
waited in dread for the return of Dorn's madness. It did not come. If it
recurred at night she never was told. Then after a week a more
pronounced change for the better in Dorn's condition marked a lessening
of the strain upon Lenore. A little later it was deemed safe to dismiss
the nurse. Lenore dreaded the first night vigil. She lay upon a couch in
Dorn's room and never closed her eyes. But he slept, and his slumber
appeared sound at times, and then restless, given over to dreams. He
talked incoherently, and moaned; and once appeared to be drifting into a
nightmare, when Lenore awakened him. Next day he sat up and said he was
hungry. Thereafter Lenore began to lose her dread.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, son, let's talk wheat," said Anderson, cheerily, one beautiful
June morning, as he entered Dorn's room.

"Wheat!" sighed Dorn, with a pathetic glance at his empty sleeve. "How
can I even do a man's work again in the fields?"

Lenore smiled bravely at him. "You will sow more wheat than ever, and
harvest more, too."

"I should smile," corroborated Anderson.

"But how? I've only one arm," said Dorn.

"Kurt, you hug me better with that one arm than you ever did with two
arms." replied Lenore, in sublime assurance.

"Son, you lose that argument," roared Anderson. "Me an' Lenore stand
pat. You'll sow more an' better wheat than ever--than any other man in
the Northwest. Get my hunch?... Well, I'll tell you later.... Now see
here, let me declare myself about you. I seen it worries you more an'
more, now you're gettin' well. You miss that good arm, an' you feel the
pain of bullets that still lodge somewhere's in you, an' you think
you'll be a cripple always. Look things in the face square. Sure,
compared to what you once was, you'll be a cripple. But Kurt Dorn
weighin' one hundred an' ninety let loose on a bunch of Huns was some
man! My Gawd!... Forget that, an' forget that you'll never chop a cord
of wood again in a day. Look at facts like me an' Lenore. We gave you
up. An' here you're with us, comin' along fine, an' you'll be able to do
hard work some day, if you're crazy about it. Just think how good that
is for Lenore, an' me, too.... Now listen to this." Anderson unfolded a
newspaper and began to read:

    "Continued improvement, with favorable weather conditions, in the
    winter-wheat states and encouraging messages from the Northwest
    warrant an increase of crop estimates made two weeks ago and based
    mainly upon the government's report. In all probability the yield
    from winter fields will slightly exceed 600,000,000 bushels.
    Increase of acreage in the spring states in unexpectedly large. For
    example, Minnesota's Food Administrator says the addition in his
    state is 40 per cent, instead of the early estimate of 20 per cent.
    Throughout the spring area the plants have a good start and are in
    excellent condition. It may be that the yield will rise to
    300,000,000 bushels, making a total of about 900,000,000. From such
    a crop 280,000,000 could be exported in normal times, and by
    conservation the surplus can easily be enlarged to 350,000,000 or
    even 400,000,000. In Canada also estimates of acreage increase have
    been too low. It was said that the addition in Alberta was 20 per
    cent., but recent reports make it 40 per cent. Canada may harvest a
    crop of 300,000,000 bushels, or nearly 70,000,000 more than last
    year's. Our allies in Europe can safely rely upon the shipment of
    500,000,000 bushels from the United States and Canada.

    "After the coming harvest there will be an ample supply of wheat for
    the foes of Germany at ports which can easily be reached. In
    addition, the large surplus stocks in Australia and Argentina will
    be available when ships can be spared for such service. And the
    ships are coming from the builders. For more than a year to come
    there will be wheat enough for our war partners, the Belgians, and
    the northern European neutral countries with which we have trade
    agreements."

Lenore eagerly watched her husband's face in pleasurable anticipation,
yet with some anxiety. Wheat had been a subject little touched upon and
the war had never been mentioned.

"Great!" he exclaimed, with a glow in his cheeks. "I've been wanting to
ask.... Wheat for the Allies and neutrals--for more than a year!...
Anderson, the United States will feed and save the world!"

"I reckon. Son, we're sendin' thousands of soldiers a day now--ships are
buildin' fast--aeroplanes comin' like a swarm of bees--money for the
government to burn--an' every American gettin' mad.... Dorn, the Germans
don't know they're ruined!... What do you say?"

Dorn looked very strange. "Lenore, help me stand up," he asked, with
strong tremor in his voice.

"Oh, Kurt, you're not able yet," appealed Lenore.

"Help me. I want _you_ to do it."

Lenore complied, wondering and frightened, yet fascinated, too. She
helped him off the bed and steadied him on his feet. Then she felt him
release himself so he stood free.

"What do I say? Anderson I say this. I killed Germans who had grown up
with a training and a passion for war. I've been a farmer. I did not
want to fight. Duty and hate forced me. The Germans I met fell before
me. I was shell-shot, shocked, gassed, and bayoneted. I took twenty-five
wounds, and then it was a shell that downed me. I saw my comrades kill
and kill before they fell. That is American. Our enemies are driven,
blinded, stolid, brutal, obsessed, and desperate. They are German. They
lack--not strength nor efficiency nor courage--but soul."

White and spent, Dorn then leaned upon Lenore and got back upon his bed.
His passion had thrilled her. Anderson responded with an excitement he
plainly endeavored to conceal.

"I get your hunch," he said. "If I needed any assurance, you've given it
to me. To hell with the Germans! Let's don't talk about them any
more.... An' to come back to our job. Wheat! Son, I've plans that 'll
raise your hair. We'll harvest a bumper crop at 'Many Waters' in July.
An' we'll sow two thousand acres of winter wheat. So much for 'Many
Waters.'--I got mad this summer. I blowed myself. I bought about all the
farms around yours up in the Bend country. Big harvest of spring wheat
comin'. You'll superintend that harvest, an' I'll look after ours
here.... An' you'll sow ten thousand acres of fallow on your own rich
hills--this fall. Do you get that? Ten thousand acres?"

"Anderson!" gasped Dorn.

"Yes, Anderson," mimicked the rancher. "My blood's up. But I'd never
have felt so good about it if you hadn't come back. The land's not all
paid for, but it's ours. We'll meet our notes. I've been up there twice
this spring. You'd never know a few hills had burned over last harvest.
Olsen, an' your other neighbors, or most of them, will work the land on
half-shares. You'll be boss. An' sure you'll be well for fall sowin'.
That'll make you the biggest sower of wheat in the Northwest."

"My sower of wheat!" murmured Lenore, seeing his rapt face through
tears.

"Dreams are coming true," he said, softly. "Lenore, just after I saw you
the second time--and fell so in love with you--I had vain dreams of you.
But even my wildest never pictured you as the wife of a wheat farmer. I
never dreamed you loved wheat."

"But, ah, I do!" replied Lenore. "Why, when I was born dad bought 'Many
Waters' and sowed the slopes in wheat. I remember how he used to take me
up to the fields all green or golden. I've grown up with wheat. I'd
never want to live anywhere away from it. Oh, you must listen to me some
day while I tell you what _I_ know--about the history and romance of
wheat."

"Begin," said Dorn, with a light of pride and love and wonder in his
gaze.

"Leave that for some other time," interposed Anderson. "Son, would it
surprise you if I'd tell you that I've switched a little in my ideas
about the I.W.W.?"

"No," replied Dorn.

"Well, things happen. What made me think hard was the way that
government man got results from the I.W.W. in the lumber country. You
see, the government had to have an immense amount of timber for ships,
an' spruce for aeroplanes. Had to have it quick. An' all the lumbermen
an' loggers were I.W.W.--or most of them. Anyhow, all the strikin'
lumbermen last summer belonged to the I.W.W. These fellows believed that
under the capitalistic order of labor the workers an' their employers
had nothin' in common, an' the government was hand an' glove with
capital. Now this government official went up there an' convinced the
I.W.W. that the best interest of the two were identical. An' he got the
work out of them, an' the government got the lumber. He dealt with them
fairly. Those who were on the level he paid high an' considered their
wants. Those who were crooked he punished accordin' to their offense.
An' the innocent didn't have to suffer with the guilty.

"That deal showed me how many of the I.W.W. could be handled. An' we've
got to reckon with the I.W.W. Most all the farm-hands in the country
belong to it. This summer I'll give the square harvesters what they
want, an' that's a big come-down for me. But I won't stand any
monkey-bizness from sore-headed disorganizers. If men want to work they
shall have work at big pay. You will follow out this plan up in the Bend
country. We'll meet this labor union half-way. After the war there may
come trouble between labor an capital. It begins to seem plain to me
that men who work hard ought to share somethin' of the profits. If that
doesn't settle the trouble, then we'll know we're up against an outfit
with socialist an' anarchist leaders. Time enough then to resort to
measures I regret we practised last summer."

"Anderson, you're fine--you're as big as the hills!" burst out Dorn.
"But you know there was bad blood here last summer. Did you ever get
proof that German money backed the I.W.W. to strike and embarrass our
government?"

"No. But I believe so, or else the I.W.W. leaders took advantage of a
critical time. I'm bound to say that now thousands of I.W.W. laborers
are loyal to the United States, and that made me switch."

"I'll deal with them the same way," responded Dorn, with fervor.

Then Lenore interrupted their discussion, and, pleading that Dorn was
quite worn out from excitement and exertion, she got her father to leave
the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following several days Lenore devoted to the happy and busy task of
packing what she wanted to take to Dorn's home. She had set the date,
but had reserved the pleasure of telling him. Anderson had agreed to her
plan and decided to accompany them.

"I'll take the girls," he said. "It'll be a fine ride for them. We'll
stay in the village overnight an' come back home next day.... Lenore, it
strikes me sudden-like, your leavin'.... What will become of me?"

All at once he showed the ravages of pain and loss that the last year
had added to his life of struggle. Lenore embraced him and felt her
heart full.

"Dad, I'm not leaving you," she protested. "He'll get well up
there--find his balance sooner among those desert wheat-hills. We will
divide our time between the two places. Remember, you can run up there
any day. Your interests are there now. Dad, don't think of it as
separation. Kurt has come into our family--and we're just going to be
away some of the time."

Thus she won back a smile to the worn face.

"We've all got a weak spot," he said, musingly. "Mine is here--an' it's
a fear of growin' old an' bein' left alone. That's selfish. But I've
lived, an' I reckon I've no more to ask for."

Lenore could not help being sad in the midst of her increasing
happiness. Joy to some brought to others only gloom! Life was sunshine
and storm--youth and age.

This morning she found Kathleen entertaining Dorn. This was the second
time the child had been permitted to see him, and the immense novelty
had not yet worn off. Kathleen was a hero-worshiper. If she had been
devoted to Dorn before his absence, she now manifested symptoms of
complete idolatry. Lenore had forbidden her to question Dorn about
anything in regard to the war. Kathleen never broke her promises, but it
was plain that Dorn had read the mute, anguished wonder and flame in her
eyes when they rested upon his empty sleeve, and evidently had told her
things. Kathleen was white, wide-eyed, and beautiful then, with all a
child's imagination stirred.

"I've been telling Kathie how I lost my arm," explained Dorn.

"I hate Germans! I hate war!" cried Kathleen, passionately.

"My dear, hate them always," said Dorn.

When Kathleen had gone Lenore asked Dorn if he thought it was right to
tell the child always to hate Germans.

"Right!" exclaimed Dorn, with a queer laugh. Every day now he showed
signs of stronger personality. "Lenore, what I went through has confused
my sense of right and wrong. Some day perhaps it will all come clear.
But, Lenore, all my life, if I live to be ninety, I shall hate Germans."

"Oh, Kurt, it's too soon for you to--to be less narrow, less
passionate," replied Lenore, with hesitation. "I understand. The day
will come when you'll not condemn a people because of a form of
government--of military class."

"It will never come," asserted Dorn, positively. "Lenore, people in our
country do not understand. They are too far away from realities. But I
was six months in France. I've seen the ruined villages, thousands of
refugees--and I've met the Huns at the front. I _know_ I've seen the
realities. In regard to this war I can only feel. You've got to go over
there and see for yourself before you realize. You _can_ understand
this--that but for you and your power over me I'd be a worn-out,
emotionally _burnt_ out man. But through you I seem to be reborn. Still,
I shall hate Germans all my life, and in the after-life, what ever that
may be. I could give you a thousand reasons. One ought to suffice.
You've read, of course, about the regiment of Frenchmen called Blue
Devils. I met some of them--got friendly with them. They are
great--beyond words to tell! One of them told me that when his regiment
drove the Huns out of his own village he had found his mother
disemboweled, his wife violated and murdered, his sister left a maimed
thing to become the mother of a Hun, his daughter carried off, and his
little son crippled for life! ... These are cold facts. As long as I
live I will never forget the face of that Frenchman when he told me. Had
he cause to hate the Huns? Have I?... I saw all that in the faces of
those Huns who would have killed me if they could."

Lenore covered her face with her hands. "Oh--horrible! ... Is there
nothing--no hope--only...?" She faltered and broke down.

"Lenore, because there's hate does not prove there's nothing left....
Listen. The last fight I had was with a boy. I didn't know it when we
met. I was rushing, head down, bayonet low. I saw only his body, his
blade that clashed with mine. To me his weapon felt like a toy in the
hands of a child. I swept it aside--and lunged. He screamed '_Kamarad_!'
before the blade reached him. Too late! I ran him through. Then I
looked. A boy of nineteen! He never ought to have been forced to meet
me. It was murder. I saw him die on my bayonet. I saw him slide off it
and stretch out.... I did not hate _him_ then. I'd have given my life
for his. I hated what he represented.... That moment was the end of me
as a soldier. If I had not been in range of the exploding shell that
downed me I would have dropped my rifle and have stood strengthless
before the next Hun.... So you see, though I killed them, and though I
hate now, there's something--something strange and inexplicable."

"That something is the divine in you. It is God!... Oh, believe it, my
husband!" cried Lenore.

Dorn somberly shook his head. "God! I did not find God out there. I
cannot see God's hand in this infernal war."

"But _I_ can. What called you so resistlessly? What made you go?"

"You know. The debt I thought I ought to pay. And duty to my country."

"Then when the debt was paid, the duty fulfilled--when you stood
stricken at sight of that poor boy dying on your bayonet--what happened
in your soul?"

"I don't know. But I saw the wrong of war. The wrong to him--the wrong
to me! I thought of no one else. Certainly not of God!"

"If you had stayed your bayonet--if you had spared that boy, as you
would have done had you seen or heard him in time--what would that have
been?"

"Pity, maybe, or scorn to slay a weaker foe."

"No, no, no--I can't accept that," replied Lenore, passionately. "Can
you see beyond the physical?"

"I see only that men will fight and that war will come again. Out there
I learned the nature of men."

"If there's divinity in you there's divinity in every man. That will
oppose war--end it eventually. Men are not taught right. Education and
religion will bring peace on earth, good-will to man."

"No, they will not. They never have done so. We have educated men and
religious men. Yet war comes despite them. The truth is that life is a
fight. Civilization is only skin-deep. Underneath man is still a savage.
He is a savage still because he wants the same he had to have when he
lived in primitive state. War isn't necessary to show how every man
fights for food, clothing, shelter. To-day it's called competition in
business. Look at your father. He has fought and beaten men like Neuman.
Look at the wheat farmers in my country. Look at the I.W.W. They all
fight. Look at the children. They fight even at their games. Their play
is a make-believe battle or escaping or funeral or capture. It must be
then that some kind of strife was implanted in the first humans and that
it is necessary to life."

"Survival of the fittest!" exclaimed Lenore, in earnest bitterness.
"Kurt, we have changed. You are facing realities and I am facing the
infinite. You represent the physical, and I the spiritual. We must grow
into harmony with each other. We can't ever hope to learn the
unattainable truth of life. There is something beyond us--something
infinite which I believe is God. My soul finds it in you.... The first
effects of the war upon you have been trouble, sacrifice, pain, and
horror. You have come out of it impaired physically and with mind still
clouded. These will pass, and therefore I beg of you don't grow fixed in
absolute acceptance of the facts of evolution and materialism. They
cannot be denied, I grant. I see that they are realities. But also I see
beyond them. There is some great purpose running through the ages. In
our day the Germans have risen, and in the eyes of most of the world
their brutal force tends to halt civilization and kill idealism. But
that's only apparent--only temporary. We shall come out of this dark
time better, finer, wiser. The history of the world is a proof of a slow
growth and perfection. It will never be attained. But is not the growth
a beautiful and divine thing? Does it now oppose a hopeless prospect?...
Life is inscrutable. When I think--only think without faith--all seems
so futile. The poet says we are here as on a darkling plain, swept by
confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by
night.... Trust me, my husband! There is something in woman--the
instinct of creation--the mother--that feels what cannot be expressed.
It is the hope of the world."

"The mother!" burst out Dorn. "I think of that--in you.... Suppose I
have a son, and war comes in his day. Suppose he is killed, as I killed
that poor boy!... How, then, could I reconcile that with this, this
something you feel so beautifully? This strange sense of God! This faith
in a great purpose of the ages!"

Lenore trembled in the exquisite pain of the faith which she prayed was
beginning to illumine Dorn's dark and tragic soul.

"If we are blessed with a son--and if he must go to war--to kill and be
killed--you will reconcile that with God because our son shall have been
taught what you should have been taught--what must be taught to all the
sons of the future."

"What will--that be?" queried Dorn.

"The meaning of life--the truth of immortality," replied Lenore. "We
live on--we improve. That is enough for faith."

"How will that prevent war?"

"It will prevent it--in the years to come. Mothers will take good care
that children from babyhood shall learn the _consequences_ of fight--of
war. Boys will learn that if the meaning of war to them is the wonder of
charge and thunder of cannon and medals of distinction, to their mothers
the meaning is loss and agony. They will learn the terrible difference
between your fury and eagerness to lunge with bayonet and your horror of
achievement when the disemboweled victims lie before you. The glory of a
statue to the great general means countless and nameless graves of
forgotten soldiers. The joy of the conquering army contrasts terribly
with the pain and poverty and unquenchable hate of the conquered."

"I see what you mean," rejoined Dorn. "Such teaching of children would
change the men of the future. It would mean peace for the generations to
come. But as for my boy--it would make him a poor soldier. He would not
be a fighter. He would fall easy victim to the son of the father who had
not taught this beautiful meaning of life and terror of war. I'd want my
son to be a man."

"That teaching--would make him--all the more a man," said Lenore,
beginning to feel faint.

"But not in the sense of muscle, strength, courage, endurance. I'd
rather there never was peace than have my son inferior to another
man's."

"My hope for the future is that _all_ men will come to teach their sons
the wrong of violence."

"Lenore, never will that day come," replied Dorn.

She saw in him the inevitableness of the masculine attitude; the
difference between man and woman; the preponderance of blood and energy
over the higher motives. She felt a weak little woman arrayed against
the whole of mankind. But she could not despair. Unquenchable as the sun
was this fire within her.

"But it _might_ come?" she insisted, gently, but with inflexible spirit.

"Yes, it might--if men change!"

"You have changed."

"Yes. I don't know myself."

"If we do have a boy, will you let me teach him what I think is right?"
Lenore went on, softly.

"Lenore! As if I would not!" he exclaimed. "I try to see your way, but
just because I can't I'll never oppose you. Teach _me_ if you can!"

She kissed him and knelt beside his bed, grieved to see shadow return to
his face, yet thrilling that the way seemed open for her to inspire. But
she must never again choose to talk of war, of materialism, of anything
calculated to make him look into darkness of his soul, to ponder over
the impairment of his mind. She remembered the great specialist speaking
of lesions of the organic system, of a loss of brain cells. Her
inspiration must be love, charm, care--a healing and building process.
She would give herself in all the unutterableness and immeasurableness
of her woman's heart. She would order her life so that it would be a
fulfilment of his education, of a heritage from his fathers, a passion
born in him, a noble work through which surely he could be saved--the
cultivation of wheat.

"Do you love me?" she whispered.

"Do I!... Nothing could ever change my love for you."

"I am your wife, you know."

The shadow left his face.

"Are you? Really? Lenore Anderson..."

"Lenore Dorn. It is a beautiful name now."

"It does sound sweet. But you--my wife? Never will I believe!"

"You will have to--very soon."

"Why?" A light, warm and glad and marveling, shone in his eyes. Indeed,
Lenore felt then a break in the strange aloofness of him--in his
impersonal, gentle acceptance of her relation to him.

"To-morrow I'm going to take you home to your wheat-hills."




CHAPTER XXXII

Lenore told her conception of the history and the romance of wheat to
Dorn at this critical time when it was necessary to give a trenchant
call to hope and future.

In the beginning man's struggle was for life and the mainstay of life
was food. Perhaps the original discoverer of wheat was a meat-eating
savage who, in roaming the forests and fields, forced by starvation to
eat bark and plant and berry, came upon a stalk of grain that chewed
with strange satisfaction. Perhaps through that accident he became a
sower of wheat.

Who actually were the first sowers of wheat would never be known. They
were older than any history, and must have been among the earliest of
the human race.

The development of grain produced wheat, and wheat was ground into
flour, and flour was baked into bread, and bread had for untold
centuries been the sustenance and the staff of life.

Centuries ago an old Chaldean priest tried to ascertain if wheat had
ever grown wild. That question never was settled. It was universally
believed, however, that wheat had to have the cultivation of man.
Nevertheless, the origin of the plant must have been analogous to that
of other plants. Wheat-growers must necessarily have been people who
stayed long in one place. Wandering tribes could not till and sow the
fields. The origin of wheat furnished a legendary theme for many races,
and mythology contained tales of wheat-gods favoring chosen peoples.
Ancient China raised wheat twenty-seven centuries before Christ; grains
of wheat had been found in prehistoric ruins; the dwellers along the
Nile were not blind to the fertility of the valley. In the days of the
Pharaohs the old river annually inundated its low banks, enriching the
soil of vast areas, where soon a green-and-gold ocean of wheat waved and
shone under the hot Egyptian sun. The Arabs, on their weird beasts of
burden, rode from the desert wastes down to the land of waters and of
plenty. Rebekah, when she came to fill her earthen pitcher at the
palm-shaded well, looked out with dusky, dreamy eyes across the golden
grain toward the mysterious east. Moses, when he stood in the night,
watching his flock on the starlit Arabian waste, felt borne to him on
the desert wind a scent of wheat. The Bible said, "He maketh peace in
thy borders and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat."

Black-bread days of the Middle Ages, when crude grinding made impure
flour, were the days of the oppressed peasant and the rich landowner,
dark days of toil and poverty and war, of blight and drought and famine;
when common man in his wretchedness and hunger cried out, "Bread or
blood!"

But with the spreading of wheat came the dawn of a higher civilization;
and the story of wheat down to modern times showed the development of
man. Wheat-fields of many lands, surrounding homes of prosperous
farmers; fruitful toil of happy peoples; the miller and his humming
mill!

When wheat crossed the ocean to America it came to strange and wonderful
fulfilment of its destiny. America, fresh, vast, and free, with its
sturdy pioneers ever spreading the golden grain westward; with the
advancing years when railroad lines kept pace with the indomitable
wheat-sowers; with unprecedented harvests yielding records to each
succeeding year; with boundless fields tilled and planted and harvested
by machines that were mechanical wonders; with enormous floor-mills,
humming and whirring, each grinding daily ten thousand barrels of flour,
pouring like a white stream from the steel rolls, pure, clean, and
sweet, the whitest and finest in the world!

America, the new county, became in 1918 the salvation of starving
Belgium, the mainstay of England, the hope of France! Wheat for the
world! Wheat--that was to say food, strength, fighting life for the
armies opposed to the black, hideous, medieval horde of Huns! America to
succor and to save, to sacrifice and to sow, rising out of its peaceful
slumber to a mighty wrath, magnificent and unquenchable, throwing its
vast resources of soil, its endless streams of wheat, into the gulf of
war! It was an exalted destiny for a people. Its truth was a blazing
affront in the face of age-old autocracy. Fields and toil and grains of
wheat, first and last, the salvation of mankind, the freedom and the
food of the world!

       *       *       *       *       *

Far up the slow-rising bulge of valley slope above the gleaming river
two cars climbed leisurely and rolled on over the height into what
seemed a bare and lonely land of green.

It was a day in June, filled with a rich, thick, amber light, with a
fragrant warm wind blowing out of the west.

At a certain point on this road, where Anderson always felt compelled to
halt, he stopped the car this day and awaited the other that contained
Lenore and Dorn.

Lenore's joy in the ride was reflected in her face. Dorn rested
comfortably beside her, upon an improvised couch. As he lay half propped
up by pillows he could see out across the treeless land that he knew.
His eyes held a look of the returned soldier who had never expected to
see his native land again. Lenore, sensitive to every phase of his
feeling, watched him with her heart mounting high.

Anderson got out of his car, followed by Kathleen, who looked glad and
mischievous and pretty as a wild rose.

"I just never can get by this place," explained the rancher, as he came
and stood so that he could put a hand on Dorn's knee. "Look, son--an'
Lenore, don't you miss this."

"Never fear, dad," replied Lenore, "it was I who first told you to look
here."

"Terrible big and bare, but grand!" exclaimed Kathleen.

Lenore looked first at Dorn's face as he gazed away across the length
and breadth of land. Could that land mean as much to him as it did
before he went to war? Infinitely more, she saw, and rejoiced. Her faith
was coming home to her in verities. Then she thrilled at the wide
prospect before her.

It was a scene that she knew could not be duplicated in the world. Low,
slow-sloping, billowy green hills, bare and smooth with square brown
patches, stretched away to what seemed infinite distance. Valleys and
hills, with less fallow ground than ever before, significant and
striking: lost the meager details of clumps of trees and dots of houses
in a green immensity. A million shadows out of the west came waving over
the wheat. They were ripples of an ocean of grain. No dust-clouds, no
bleached roads, no yellow hills to-day! June, and the desert found its
analogy only in the sweep and reach! A thousand hills billowing away
toward that blue haze of mountain range where rolled the Oregon. Acreage
and mileage seemed insignificant. All was green--green, the fresh and
hopeful color, strangely serene and sweet and endless under the azure
sky. Beautiful and lonely hills they were, eloquent of toil, expressive
with the brown squares in the green, the lowly homes of men, the long
lines of roads running everywhither, overwhelmingly pregnant with
meaning--wheat--wheat--wheat--nothing but wheat, a staggering visual
manifestation of vital need, of noble promise.

"That--that!" rolled out Anderson, waving his big hand, as if words were
useless. "Only a corner of the great old U.S.!... What would the Germans
say if they could look out over this?... What do _you_ say, Lenore?"

"Beautiful!" she replied, softly. "Like the rainbow in the sky--God's
promise of life!"

"An', Kathie, what do _you_ say?" went on Anderson.

"Some wheat-fields!" replied Kathleen, with an air of woman's wisdom.
"Fetch on your young wheat-sowers, dad, and I'll pick out a husband."

"An' _you_, son?" finished Anderson, as if wistfully, yet heartily
playing his last card. He was remembering Jim--the wild but beloved
son--the dead soldier. He was fearful for the crowning hope of his
years.

"As ye sow--so shall ye reap!" was Dorn's reply, strong and thrilling.
And Lenore felt her father's strange, heart-satisfying content.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twilight crept down around the old home on the hill.

Dorn was alone, leaning at the window. He had just strength to lean
there, with uplifted head. Lenore had left him alone, divining his wish.
As she left him there came a sudden familiar happening in his brain,
like a snap-back, and the contending tide of gray forms--the
Huns--rushed upon him. He leaned there at the window, but just the same
he awaited the shock on the ramparts of the trench. A ferocious and
terrible storm of brain, that used to have its reaction in outward
violence, now worked inside him, like a hot wind that drove his blood.
During the spell he fought out his great fight--again for the thousandth
time he rekilled his foes. That storm passed through him without an
outward quiver.

His Huns--charged again--bayoneted again--and he felt acute pain in the
left arm that was gone. He felt the closing of the hand which was not
there. His Huns lay in the shadow, stark and shapeless, with white faces
upward--a line of dead foes, remorseless and abhorrent to him, forever
damned by his ruthless spirit. He saw the boy slide off his bayonet,
beyond recall, murdered by some evil of which Dorn had been the motion.
Then the prone, gray forms vanished in the black gulf of Dorn's brain.

"Lenore will never know--how my Huns come back to me," he whispered.

Night with its trains of stars! Softly the darkness unfolded down over
the dim hills, lonely, tranquil, sweet. A night-bird caroled. The song
of insects, very faint and low, came to him like a still, sad music of
humanity, from over the hills, far away, in the strife-ridden world. The
world of men was there and life was incessant, monstrous, and
inconceivable. This old home of his--the old house seemed full of
well-remembered sounds of mouse and cricket and leaf against the roof
and soft night wind at the eaves--sounds that brought his boyhood back,
his bare feet on the stairs, his father's aloofness, his mother's love.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then clearly floated to him a slow sweeping rustle of the wheat.
Breast-high it stood down there, outside his window, a moving body,
higher than the gloom. That rustle was a voice of childhood, youth, and
manhood, whispering to him, thrilling as never before. It was a growing
rustle, different from that when the wheat had matured. It seemed to
change and grow in volume, in meaning. The night wind bore it, but
life--bursting life was behind it, and behind that seemed to come a
driving and a mighty spirit. Beyond the growth of the wheat, beyond its
life and perennial gift, was something measureless and obscure, infinite
and universal. Suddenly Dorn saw that something as the breath and the
blood and the spirit of wheat--and of man. Dust and to dust returned
they might be, but this physical form was only the fleeting inscrutable
moment on earth, springing up, giving birth to seed, dying out for that
ever-increasing purpose which ran through the ages.

A soft footfall sounded on the stairs. Lenore came. She leaned over him
and the starlight fell upon her face, sweet, luminous, beautiful. In the
sense of her compelling presence, in the tender touch of her hands, in
the whisper of woman's love, Dorn felt uplifted high above the dark pale
of the present with its war and pain and clouded mind to wheat--to the
fertile fields of a golden age to come.





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