Infomotions, Inc.The Freebooters of the Wilderness / Laut, Agnes C. (Agnes Christina), 1871-1936



Author: Laut, Agnes C. (Agnes Christina), 1871-1936
Title: The Freebooters of the Wilderness
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): wayland; eleanor; brydges; ranger; smelter city; old frontiersman; bat; trail; matthews; bat brydges; rim rocks
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Identifier: etext18116
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Title: The Freebooters of the Wilderness


Author: Agnes C. Laut



Release Date: April 4, 2006  [eBook #18116]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE FREEBOOTERS OF THE
WILDERNESS***


E-text prepared by Al Haines



THE FREEBOOTERS OF THE WILDERNESS

by

AGNES C. LAUT

Author of
"The Conquest of the Great Northwest," "Lords of the North," etc.







New York
Moffat, Yard and Company
1913
Copyright, 1910, by
Moffat, Yard and Company
New York
Published September, 1910
Second Printing, October, 1910





CONTENTS


PART I

CHAPTER

      I  TO STRADDLE OR FIGHT
     II  AN INTERLUDE THAT CAME UNANNOUNCED
    III  THE CHALLENGE TO A LOSING FIGHT
     IV  STACKING THE CARDS
      V  THE CHOICE THAT COMES TO ALL MEN
     VI  WHEREIN ONE PLAYS AN UNCONSCIOUS PART
    VII  WHILE LAW MARKS TIME, CRIME SCORES
   VIII  A VICTIM OF LAW'S DELAY
     IX  EIGHT INTO MIGHT
      X  THE HANDY MAN GETS BUSY
     XI  SETTING OUT ON THE LONG TRAIL
    XII  THE MAJESTY OF THE LAW VEILS ITSELF
   XIII  THE MAN ON THE JOB
    XIV  ON THE GAME TRAIL
     XV  THE DESERT
    XVI  BITTER WATERS
   XVII  WHERE THE TRACKS ALL POINT ONE WAY


PART II

  XVIII  WITHOUT MALICE
    XIX  BALLOTS TOR BULLETS
     XX  A FAITH WORKABLE FOR MEN ON THE JOB
    XXI  THE HAPPY AND TRIUMPHANT HOME-COMING
   XXII  A DOWNY-LIPPED YOUTH IN GRAY FLANNELS
  XXIII  IT AIN'T THE TRUTH I'M TELLIN' YOU: IT'S
         ONLY WHAT I'VE HEERD
   XXIV  I AM UNCLE SAM
    XXV  THE QUESTION IS--WHICH UNCLE SAM?
   XXVI  THE AWAKENING
  XXVII  THE AWAKENING CONTINUED
 XXVIII  THE UNITED STATES OF THE WORLD




FOREWORD

I have been asked how much of this tale of modern freebooters is true?
In exactly which States have such episodes occurred?  Have vast herds
of sheep been run over battlements?  Have animals been bludgeoned to
death; have men been burned alive; have the criminals not only gone
unpunished but been protected by the law-makers?  Have sheriffs "hidden
under the bed" and "handy men" bluffed the press?  Have vast domains of
timber lands been stolen in blocks of thousands and hundreds of
thousands of acres through "dummy" entrymen?  Have the federal law
officers been shot to death above stolen coal mines?  Have Reclamation
Engineers, and Land Office field men, and Forest Rangers undergone such
hardships in Desert and Mountain, as portrayed here?  Have they not
only undergone the hardship, but been crucified by the Government which
they served for carrying out the laws of that Government?  In a word,
are latter day freebooters of our Western Wilderness playing the same
game in the great transmontane domain as the old-time pirates played on
the high seas?  Is this a true story of "the Man on the Job" and "the
Man on the Firing Line" and "the Man Higher Up" and the Looters?

I answer first that I am not writing of twenty years ago, or yesterday,
or the day before yesterday, but _to-day_, the Year of our Lord
1909-1910 in the most highly civilized country the world has ever
known; in a country where self-government has reached a perfection of
prosperity and power not dreamed by poet or prophet.  The menace to
self-government from such national influences at work need not be
described.  The triumph of such factors in national life means the
wresting of self-government from the people into the hands of the few,
a repetition of the struggle between the Robber Barons of the Middle
Ages and the Commoners.

It seems almost incredible that such lawlessness and outrage and
chicanery can exist in America--many of the outrages would disgrace
Russia or Turkey--yet every episode related here has ten prototypes in
Life, in Fact; not of twenty years ago, or yesterday, or the day before
yesterday, _but to-day_.  For instance, the number of sheep destroyed
is given as fifteen thousand.  The number destroyed in two counties
which I had in mind when I wrote that chapter, by actual tally of the
Stock Association for the past six years, is sixty thousand.  Last year
alone, five thousand in one State suffered every form of hideous
mutilation--backs broken, entrails torn out; fifteen hundred in an
adjoining State had their throats cut; three men were burned to death;
one herder in a still more Northern State was riddled to death with
bullets.

Or to take the case of the timber thefts, I refer to two hundred
thousand acres in California.  I might have referred to a million and a
half in Washington and Oregon.

Or referring to the mineral lands, I mention two thousand acres of
coal.  I might have told another story of fifty thousand acres, or yet
another of three hundred thousand acres of gold and silver lands.  When
I narrate the shooting of a man at the head of a coal shaft, the
stealing of Government timber by the half million dollars a year
through "the hatchet" trick, or the theft of two thousand acres by
"dummies," I am stating facts known to every Westerner out on the spot.

In which States have these episodes occurred?  Take an imaginary point
anywhere in Central Utah.  Describe a circle round that point to
include the timber and grazing sections of all the Rocky Mountain
States from Northern Arizona to Montana and Washington.  The episodes
related here could be true of any State inside that circle except (in
part) one.  Such forces are at work in all the Mountain States except
(in part) one.  That one exception is Utah.  Utah has had and is having
tribulations of her own in the working out of self-government; but, for
reasons that need not be given here, she has kept comparatively free of
recent range wars and timber steals.

This story was suggested to me by a Land Office man--one of the men on
the firing line--who has stood the brunt of the fight against the
freebooters for twenty years and wrested many a victory.  I may state
that he is _still_ in the Service and will, I hope, remain in it for
many a year; but these episodes are hinged round the Ranger, rather
than the Land Office or Reclamation men, because, though the latter are
fighting the same splendid fight, their work is of its very nature
transitory--dealing with the beginning of things; while the Ranger is
the man out on the job who remains on the firing line; unless--as my
Land Office friend suggested--unless "he gets fired."  As to the
hardships suffered by the fighters, to quote one of them, "You bet:
only more so."

Just as this volume goes to press, comes word of fires in Washington,
Oregon, Idaho and Montana, destroying dozens of villages, hundreds of
lives and millions of dollars worth of property in the National
Forests; and it is added--"the fires are incendiary."  Why this
incendiarism?  The story narrated here endeavors to answer that
question.

The international incidents thinly disguised are equally founded on
fact and will be recognized by the dear but fast dwindling fraternity
of good old-timers.  The mother of the boy still lives her steadfast
beautiful creed on the Upper Missouri; and the old frontiersman still
lives on the Saskatchewan, one of the most picturesque and heroic
figures in the West to-day.  I may say that both missionaries support
their schools as incidentally revealed here, without Government aid
through their own efforts.  Also, it was the stalwart man from
Saskatchewan who was sent searching the heirs to the estate of an
embittered Jacobite of 1745; and those heirs refused to accept either
the wealth or the position for the very reasons set forth here.
Calamity's story, too, is true--tragically true, though this is not
all, not a fraction of her life story; but her name was not Calamity.




PART I

THE MAN ON THE JOB




FREEBOOTERS OF THE WILDERNESS


CHAPTER I

TO STRADDLE OR FIGHT

"Well," she asked, "are you going to straddle or fight?"

How like a woman, how like a child, how typical of the outsider's
shallow view of any struggle!  As if all one had to do--was stand up
and fight!  Mere fighting--that was easy; but to fight to the last
ditch only to find yourself beaten!  That gave a fellow pause about
bucking the challenge of everyday life.

Wayland punched both fists in the jacket pockets of his sage-green
Service suit, and kicked a log back to the camp fire that smouldered in
front of his cabin.  If she had been his wife he would have explained
what a fool-thing it was to argue that all a man had to do was fight.
Or if she had belonged to the general class--women--he could have met
her with the condescending silence of the general class--man; but for
him, she had never belonged to any general class.

She savored of his own Eastern World, he knew that, though he had met
her in this Western Back of Beyond half way between sky and earth on
the Holy Cross Mountain.  Wayland could never quite analyze his own
feelings.  Her presence had piqued his interest from the first.  When
we can measure a character, we can forfend against surprises--discount
virtues, exaggerate faults, strike a balance to our own ego; but when
what you know is only a faint margin of what you don't know, a siren of
the unknown beckons and lures and retreats.

She had all of what he used to regard as culture in the old Eastern
life, the jargon of the colleges, the smattering of things talked
about, the tricks and turns of trained motions and emotions; but there
was a difference.  There was no pretence.  There was none of the
fire-proof self-complacency--Self-sufficiency, she had, but not
self-righteousness.  Then, most striking contra-distinction of all to
the old-land culture, there was unconsciousness of self--face to
sunlight, radiant of the joy of life, not anaemic and putrid of its own
egoism.  She didn't talk in phrases thread-bare from use.  She had all
the naked unashamed directness of the West that thinks in terms of life
and speaks without gloze.  She never side-stepped the facts of life
that she might not wish to know.  Yet her intrusion on such facts gave
the impression of the touch that heals.

The Forest Ranger had heard the Valley talk of MacDonald, the Canadian
sheep rancher, belonging to some famous fur-trade clans that had
intermarried with the Indians generations before; and Wayland used to
wonder if it could be that strain of life from the outdoors that never
pretends nor lies that had given her Eastern culture the red-blooded
directness of the West.  To be sure, such a character study was not
less interesting because he read it through eyes glossy as an Indian's,
under lashes with the curve of the Celt, with black hair that blew
changing curls to every wind.  Indian and Celt--was that it, he
wondered?--reserve and passion, self-control and yet the abandonment of
force that bursts its own barriers?

She had not wormed under the surface for some indirect answer that
would betray what he intended to do.  She had asked exactly what she
wanted to know, with a slight accent on the--you.

"Are you going to straddle or fight?"

Wayland flicked pine needles from his mountaineering boots.  He
answered his own thoughts more than her question.

"All very well to say--fight; fight for all the fellows in the Land and
Forest Service when they see a steal being sneaked and jobbed!  But
suppose you do fight, and get licked, and get yourself chucked out of
the job?  Suppose the follow who takes your place sells out to the
enemy--well, then; where are you?  Lost everything; gained nothing!"
She laid her panama sunshade on the timbered seat that spanned between
two stumps.

"Men must decide that sort of thing every day I suppose."

"You bet they must," agreed the Ranger with a burst of boyishness
through his old-man air, "and the Lord pity the chap who has wife and
kiddies in the balance--"

"Do you think women tip the scale wrong?"

"Of course not!  They'd advise right--right--right;
fight--fight--fight, just as you do; but the point is--can a fellow do
right by them if he chucks his job in a losing fight?"

The old-mannish air had returned.  She followed the Ranger's glance
over the edge of the Ridge into the Valley where the smoke-stacks of
the distant Smelter City belched inky clouds against an evening sky.

"Smelters need timber," Wayland waved his hand towards the pall of
smoke over the River.  "Smelters need coal.  These men plan to take
theirs free.  Yet the law arrests a man for stealing a scuttle of coal
or a cord of wood.  One law for the rich, another for the poor; and who
makes the law?"

They could see the Valley below encircled by the Rim-Rocks round as a
half-hoop, terra-cotta red in the sunset.  Where the river leaped down
a white fume, stood the ranch houses--the Missionary's and her Father's
on the near side, the Senator's across the stream.  Sounds of mouth
organs and concertinas and a wheezing gramaphone came from the Valley
where the Senator's cow-boys camped with drovers come up from Arizona.

"Dick," she asked, "exactly what is the Senator's brand?"

"Circle X."

"A circle with an X in it?"

The Ranger stubbornly permitted the suspicion of a smile.

"So if the cattle from Arizona have only a circle, all a new owner has
to do is put an X inside?"

"And pay for the cattle," amplified Wayland.

"Or a circle with a line, put another line across?"

"And hand over the cash," added the Ranger.

"Or a circle dot, just put an X on top of the dot?"

"And fix the sheriff," explained the irrelevant [Transcriber's note:
irreverent?] Ranger.

"And the Senator has all the appointments to the Service out here?"

"No--disappointments," corrected Wayland.

They were both watching the grotesque antics of a squirrel negotiating
the fresh tips of a young spruce.  The squirrel sat up on his hind legs
and chittered, whether at the Senator's brands or their heresy it would
be hard to tell; but they both laughed.

"Have you room on the Grazing Range for so many cattle?"

"Not without crowding--"

"You mean crowding the sheepmen, off," she said.

"What is the use of talking?" demanded Wayland petulantly.  "Neither
you nor I dare open our mouths about it!  Tell the sheriff; your ranch
houses will be burnt over your ears some night!  Everybody knows what
has happened when a sheep herder has been killed in an accident, or
hustled back to foreign parts; but speak of it--you had better have cut
your tongue out!  Fight it: you know what happened to my predecessors!
One had a sudden transfer.  Another got what is known as the
bounce--you English people would call it the sack.  The third got a job
at three times bigger salary--down in the Smelter.

"It's all very well to preach right--right--right, Eleanor; and
fight--fight--fight; and 'He who fights and runs away, _May_ live to
fight another day'; but what are you going to do about it?  I sweat
till I lay the dust thinking about it; but we never seem to get
anywhere.  When we had Wild Bills in the old days, we formed Vigilant
Committees, and went out after the law breakers with a gun; but now, we
are a law-abiding people.  We are a law-abiding age, don't you forget
that!  When you skin a skunk now days, you do it according to law,
slowly, judiciously, no matter what the skunk does to you meantime,
even tho' it get away with the chickens.  Fact is, we're so busy
straining at legal gnats just now that we're swallowing a whole
generation of camels.  We don't risk our necks any more to put things
right--not we; we get in behind the skirts of law, and yap, yap, yap,
about law like a rat terrier, when we should be bull dogs getting our
teeth in the burglar's leg.

"You know whose drovers are rustling cattle up North from Arizona?  You
know who pays the gang?  So do I!  You don't know whose cattle those
are: so don't I!  To-morrow when they are branded fresh, they'll be the
Senator's; and what are you sheep people going to do with this crowd
coming in from the outside?  The law says--equal rights to all; and you
say--fight; but who is going to see that the law is carried out, unless
the people awaken and become a Vigilant Committee for the Nation?  Tell
Sheriff Flood to go out and round up those rustlers: he'll hide under
the bed for a week, or 'allow he don't like the job.'  Senator Moyese
got him that berth.  He's going to hang on like a leech to blood.

"Now, look down this side!  Do you know a quarter section of that big
timber is worth from $10,000 to $40,000 to its owners, the people of
the United States?  Do you know you can build a cottage of six rooms
out of one tree, the very size a workman needs?  The workmen who vote
own those trees!  Do you know the Smelter Lumber Company takes all for
nothing, half a million of it a year?  Do you know that Smelter,
itself, is built on two-thousand acres of coal lands--stolen--stolen
from the Government as clearly as if the Smelter teams had hauled it
from a Government coal pit?  Do you know there isn't a man in the Land
Office who hasn't urged and urged and urged the Government to sue for
restitution of that steal, and headquarters pretend to be doubtful so
that the Statute of Limitations will intervene?"

On the inner side, the Ridge dropped to an Alpine meadow that billowed
up another slope through mossed forests to the snow line of the Holy
Cross Mountains.  What the girl saw was a sylvan world of spruce, then
the dark green pointed larches where the jubilant rivers rioted down
from the snow.  What the man saw was--a Challenge.

"See those settlers' cabins at an angle of forty-five?  Need a sheet
anchor to keep 'em from sliding down the mountain!  Fine farm land,
isn't it?  Makes good timber chutes for the land looters!  We've to
pass and approve _all_ homesteads in the National Forests.  You may not
know it; but those _are_ homesteads.  You ask Senator Moyese when he
weeps crocodile tears 'bout the poor, poor homesteader run off by the
Forest Rangers!  If the homesteader got the profits, there'd be some
excuse; but he doesn't.  He gets a hired man's wages while he sits on
the homestead; and when he perjures himself as to date of filing, he
may get a five or ten extra, while your $40,000 claim goes to Mr.
Fat-Man at a couple of hundreds from Uncle Sam's timber limits; and the
_Smelter City Herald_ thunders about the citizen's right to homestead
free land, about the Federal Government putting up a fence to keep the
settler off.  That fellow--that fellow in the first shack can't speak a
word of English.  Smelter brought a train load of 'em in here; and
they've all homesteaded the big timbers, a thousand of 'em, foreigners,
given homesteads in the name of the free American citizen.  Have you
seen anything about it in the newspaper?  Well--I guess not.  It isn't
a _news_ feature.  We're all full up about the great migration to
Canada.  We like to be given a gold brick and the glad hand.  Of
course, they'll farm that land.  One man couldn't clear that big timber
for a homestead in a hundred years.  Of course, they are not
homesteading free timber for the big Smelter.  Of course not!  They
didn't loot the redwoods of California that way--two hundred thousand
acres of 'em--seventy-five millions of a steal.  Hm!'" muttered
Wayland.  "Calls himself Moyese--Moses!  Senator Smelter!  Senator
Thief!  Senator Beef Steer--"

She laughed.  "I like your rage!  Look!  What's that mountain behind
the cabin doing?"

"Shine on pale moon, don't mind me," laughed Wayland; but suddenly he
stopped storming.

The slant sunlight struck the Holy Cross Mountain turning the snow
gullies pure gold against the luminous peak.  Just for a moment the
white cornice of snow forming the bar of the apparent cross flushed to
the Alpine glow, flushed blood-red and quivering like a cross poised in
mid-air.  An invisible hand of silence touched them both.  The sunset
became a topaz gate curtained by clouds of fire and lilac mist; while
overhead across the indigo blue of the high rare mountain zenith slowly
spread and faded a light--ashes of roses on the sun altar of the dead
day.




CHAPTER II

AN INTERLUDE THAT CAME UNANNOUNCED

Wayland stopped storming.  His cynical laugh came back an echo hard to
his own hearing.  Was It speaking the same mute language to her It had
spoken to him since first he came to the Holy Cross?  The violet
shadows of twilight slowly filled with a primrose mist, with a rapt
hush as of the day's vespers.  The great quiet of the mountain world
wrapped them round as in an invisible robe of worship.

Always, as the red flush ran the spectrum gamut of the yellows and
oranges and greens and blues and purples to the solitary star above the
opaline peak, he had wanted to wait and see--what?  He did not know.
It had always seemed, if he watched, the primrose veil would lift and
release some phantom with noiseless tread on a ripple of night wind.
In his lonely vigils he used to listen for all the little bells of the
nodding purple heather to begin ringing some sort of pixie music, or
for the flaming tongues of the painter's flower to take voice in some
chorus that would beat time to the rhythm of woodland life fluting the
age-old melodies of Pan.

You would look and look at the winged flames of light swimming and
shimmering and melting outlines in the opal clouds there, till almost
it became a sort of Mount of Transfiguration, of free uncabined
roofless night-dreams camped beneath the sheen of a million stars.

You would listen and listen to the mountain silence--rare, hushed,
silver silence--till almost you could hear; but until to-night it had
always been like the fall of the snow flake.  You could never be quite
sure you heard, though there was no mistaking a mass of several million
years of snow flakes when they thundered down in avalanche or broke a
ledge with the boom of artillery.


Now, at last--was it the end of a million years of pre-existence
waiting for this thing?  Now, at last, Wayland realized that the quiet
fellowship, the common interests, the satisfaction of her presence, the
aptitude their minds had of always rushing to meet halfway on the same
subject, had somehow massed to a something within himself that set his
blood coursing with jubilant swiftness.

He looked at the rancher's daughter.  What had happened?  She was the
same, yet not the same.  Her eyes were awaiting his.  They did not
flinch.  They were wells of light; a strange new light; depth of light.
Had the veil lifted at last?  The welter of sullen anger subsided
within him.  The wrapped mystery of the mountain twilight hushed
speech.  What folly it all was--that far off clamor of greed in the
Outer World, that wolfish war of self-interest down in the Valley, that
clack of the wordsters darkening wisdom without knowledge!  As if one
man, as if one generation of men, could stay the workings of the laws
of eternal righteousness by refusing to heed, any more than one man's
will could stop an avalanche by refusing to heed the law of the
snowflake!


Calamity, the little withered half-breed woman, slipped in and out of
the Forester's cabin tidying up bachelor confusion.  The wind suffed
through the evergreens in dream voices, pansy-soft to the touch.  The
slow-swaying evergreens rocked to a rhythm old as Eternity, Druid
priests standing guard over the sacrament of love and night.  From the
purpling Valley came the sibilant hush of the River.  Somewhere, from
the branches below the Ridge, a water thrush gurgled a last joyous note
that rippled liquid gold through the twilight.

Life might have become the tent of a night in an Eternity--a tent of
sky hung with stars; the after-glow a topaz gate ajar into some
infinite life.  Then Love and Silence and Eternity had wrapped them
round as in a robe of prayer.  He was standing above the dead
camp-fire.  She was leaning forward from the slab seat, her face
between her hands.  With a catch of breath, she withdrew her eyes from
his and watched the long shadows creep like ghosts across the Valley.

What he said aloud in the nonchalant voice of twentieth century youth
keeping hold of himself was--

"Not bad, is it?" nodding at the opal flame-winged peak.  "Pretty good
show turned on free every night?"

A meadow lark went lifting above the Ridge dropping silver arrows of
song; and a little flutter of phantom wind came rustling through the
pine needles.

"I don't suppose," she was saying--he had never heard those notes in
her voice before: they were gold, gold flute notes to melt rock-hard
self-control and touch the timbre of unknown chords within--"I don't
suppose anything ever was accomplished without somebody being willing
to fight a losing battle.  Do you?"  Wayland stretched out on the
ground at her feet.

"Eleanor, do you know, do you realize--?"

"Yes I know," she whispered.

And somehow, unpremeditated and half way, their hands met.

"Something wonderful has happened to us both to-night."

The sheen of the stars had come to her eyes.  She could not trust her
glance to meet his.  A compulsion was sweeping over her in waves,
drawing her to him--her free hand lay on his hair; her averted face
flushed to the warmth of his nearness.

"I don't suppose, Dick, that right ever did triumph till somebody was
willing to be crucified.  Men die of vices every day; women snuff out
like candles.  What's so heroic about a man more or less going down in
a good game fight--?"

He felt the tremor in her voice and her hands, in her deep breathing;
and his manhood came to rescue their balance in words that sounded
foolish enough:

"So my old mountain talks to you, too?  I'll think of that when I'm up
here in my hammock alone.  Oh, you bet, I'll think of that hard!  What
does the old mountain lady say to you, anyway?  Look--when the light's
on that long precipice, you can sometimes see a snow slide come over
the edge in a puff of spray.  They are worst at mid-day when the heat
sends 'em down; and they're bigger on the back of the mountain where
she shelves straight up and down--"

And her thought met his poise half way.

"What does the old mountain say?  Don't you know what science says--how
the snow flakes fall to the same music of law as the snow slide, and
it's the snow flake makes the snow slide that sets the mountain free,
the gentle, quiet, beautiful snow flake that sculptures the granite--"

"The gentle, quiet--beautiful thing," slowly repeated the Ranger in a
dream.  "That sounds pretty good to me."

He said no more; for he knew that the veil had lifted, and the
voiceless voices of the night were shouting riotously.  The wind came
suffing through the swaying arms of the bearded waving hemlocks--Druid
priests officiating at some age-old sacrament.  Then a night-hawk
swerved past with a hum of wings like the twang of a harp string.

"Look," she said, poking at the sod with her foot.  "All the little
clover leaves have folded their wings to sleep."


Old Calamity passed in and out of the Range cabin.  Wayland couldn't
remember how from the first they had slipped into the habit of calling
each other by Christian names.  It was the old half-breed woman, who
had first told him that the Canadian, Donald MacDonald, the rich sheep
man, had a daughter travelling in Europe.  One day when he had been
signing grazing permits in the MacDonald ranch house, he had caught a
glimpse of a piano, that had been packed up the mountains on mules,
standing in an inner sitting room; and the walls were decorated with
long-necked swan-necked Gibson girls and Watts' photogravures and
Turner color prints and naked Sorolla boys bathing in Spanish seas.
That was the beginning.  She had come in suddenly, introduced herself
and shaken hands.


And now Wayland felt a dazed wonder how in the world they two in the
course of half an hour--the first half hour they had ever been alone in
their lives--had come to deciding "straddle or fight"; but that was the
unusual thing about her.  She got under surfaces; but, until to-night
on the Holy Cross Mountain, he had been able to laugh at his own new
sensations, to laugh even at an occasional sense of his tongue turning
to dough in the roof of his mouth.

"Look, what is that behind your shoulder, Dick?"

"Oh, that," said the Forest Ranger, "that is a well known, game old
elderly spinster lady commonly called the Moon; and that other on the
branch chittering swear words is nothing in the world but a Douglas
squirrel hunting--I think he is really hunting--a flea to mix in his
spruce tips as salad."

"Do you know what he is saying?"

"Of course!  Cheer up!  Cheer up!  Chirrup!  He's our Master
Forester--caches the best seed cones for us to steal."

But when he turned back, she had freed her hands, and slipped to the
other side of the slab seat; and Wayland--inconsistent fellow--went all
abash when they had both got hold of themselves and were once more back
to life with feet on solid earth.

"And is it straddle or--fight?"

She had put on her panama sunshade and was looking straight and
steadily in his eyes.  The Ranger met the look, the eager look slowly
and deliberately giving place to determined masterdom.

"If that is a challenge, I'll take it!"  Then he added; and his face
went hot as her own: "As to the freebooters of the Western Wilderness
ripping the bowels out of public property out here, I'll accept that
challenge, too!  We'll put up a bluff of a fight, anyway!"

"I didn't mean that, Dick."  She was looking over the edge of the
Ridge.  "I couldn't give a precious gift conditionally if I wanted to,
Dick.  It would surely give itself before I could stop it.  Isn't that
always the way?  I wanted you to feel I would be with you in the fight
if I could.  They are late.  Father and the missionary, Mr. Williams,
and his boy were to have been here an hour ago.  I heard them talking
of your struggle against the big steals, and came up here before them
to wait.  They are coming to see about changing the sheep from the Holy
Cross Range to the Rim Rocks."

"I can hear 'em coming," Wayland leaned over the precipice.  "They are
coming up the switch back now.  They have a turn or two to take--we
have a few minutes yet--Eleanor, best gifts come unasked: perhaps,
also, they go unsent.  Listen, I couldn't Hope to keep the gift unless
I jumped in this fight for right; but it's a man's job!  I mustn't
desert because of the gift!  I mustn't take the prize before I finish
the job!  I want you to see that--always that I mind my p's and q's and
don't swerve from that resolution.  If I deserted and went down from
the Ridge to the Valley, from hard to easy, I wouldn't be worthy of--do
you understand what I am trying to say to you?"

"Not in the least.  You wouldn't be worthy of what?"

"Of you," said Wayland.

"Gifts?"  It was the falsetto of a boy's voice from the trail below the
Ridge.  "Who's talkin' of gifts and things?"

They heard the others ascending.  Her woman instinct caught at the
first straw to hand.  "Photogravures, Fordie, three more to-day.  They
are Watts--"

"He has to round the next turn!  Never mind!  He didn't hear,"
interjected Wayland irritably.

"All the same," she said, "I'm going to send one of those pictures up
to you for the cabin.  There is Hope sitting on top of the World, eyes
bandaged, harp strings broken--"

"Don't send that one!  Jim-jams enough of my own up here!  I want my
Hope clear-eyed even if she has to go it blind for a bit as to you--"

"Then there's Faith sheathing her sword--"

"Not putting away the Big-Stick," interrupted Wayland.

"Then you'll have to take the Happy Warrior--"

"I forget that one: I've been up here four years, you know?"

"It's the Soldier asleep on the Battle-Field--"

"You mean the picture of the girl kissing the man in his sleep--Yes,
that will do all right for me.  You can send that one--"

And the Missionary's boy came over the edge of the Ridge trail in a
hand spring.




CHAPTER III

THE CHALLENGE TO A LOSING FIGHT

"Hullo, Dick!  Who is talking of pictures and things?"  The high
falsetto announced the Missionary's boy of twelve, who promptly turned
a hand spring over the slab bench, never pausing in a running fire of
exuberant comment.  "Get on y'r bib and tucker, Dickie!  You're goin'
t' have a s'prise party--right away!  Senator Moses and Battle Brydges,
handy-andy-dandy, comin' up with Dad and MacDonald!  Oh, hullo, Miss
Eleanor, how d' y' get here ahead?  Did y' climb?  We met His Royal
High Mightiness and His Nibs goin' to the cow-camp.  Say, Miss Eleanor,
I don't care what they say, I'm goin' to take sheep all by my lonesome
this time, sure; goin' t' ride Pinto 'cause he's got a big tummy t'
keep him from sinking when he swims.  You needn't laugh, it's so!  You
ask Dad if a tum-jack don't keep a horse from sinkin'!  Say--" sticking
forward his face in a whisper--"Senator oughtn't to sink--eh?"

"You don't swim sheep unless you're a pilgrim," admonished Wayland; but
at that moment, the Senator himself came over the edge of the Ridge,
bloused and white-vested and out of breath, a bunch of mountain flowers
in one hand, his felt hat in the other; and three men bobbed up behind,
Indian file, over the crest of the trail, the Missionary, Williams,
stepping lightly, MacDonald swarthy and close-lipped, taking the climb
with the ease of a mountaineer, Bat Brydges, the Senator's newspaper
man, hat on the back of his head, coat and vest and collar in hand,
blowing with the zest of a puffing locomotive.

"Whew!"  The Senator dilated expansively and sank again.  "Here we are
at last!  You here, Miss Eleanor?  Evening--Wayland!  Night to you,
Calamity!  How is the world using you since you stopped tramping over
the hills?"  Calamity shrank back to the cabin.  "I thought this trail
hard as a climb to Paradise.  Now, I know it was," and the gentleman
wheezed a bow to Eleanor that sent his neck creasing to his flowing
collar and set his vest chortling.

"What!  No flowers--either of you?  You leave an old fellow like me to
gather flowers and quote 'What so rare as a day in June' and all that?
What's that lazy rascal of a Forest fellow doing?  I would have spouted
_yards_ of good poetry when I was his age a night like this.  Hasn't
Wayland told you the flowers are the best part of the mountains in
June?  Pshaw!  Like all the rest of them from the East--stuffed full of
college chuck--can't tell a daisy from an aster!  Takes an old stager
who never had your dude Service suits on his back to know the secrets
of these hills, Miss Eleanor.  Has he told you about the echo?  No,
I'll bet you, not; nor the gorge in behind this old Holy Cross; nor the
cave?  Pshaw!  See here,"--showing his bunch of wild flowers--"if you
want to know what a sly old sphinx Dame Nature is and how she's up to
tricks and wiles and ways, snow or shine, you get these little flower
people to whisper their secrets!  Whenever I find a new kind on the
hills, I mark the place and have roots brought down in the fall.  Now
this little mountain anemone is still blooming on upper slopes.  Little
fool of a thing thinks it's April 'stead of June, paints her cheeks,
see?--like an old girl trying to look young--"

"But she has a royal white heart," interposed Eleanor.

The Senator looked up to the face of the rancher's daughter and
laughed, a big soft noiseless laugh that shook down inside the white
vest.

"Typical of a woman, eh?  Here, take 'em!  Why am I an old bachelor?
Now, here's the wind flower; opens to touch o' the wind like woman to
love; find 'em like stars on the bleakest slopes--that's like a woman,
too, eh?  And like a woman, they wither when you pick 'em, eh?  And see
these little cheats--pale people--catch flies--know why they call 'em
that?  Stuck all over with false honey to snare the moths--stew the
poor devils to death in sweetness--eh, now, isn't that a woman for
you?"  Spreading his broad palms, the Senator shook noiselessly at his
own facetiousness.

"They keep the real honey for the royal butterflies," suggested Eleanor.

"Exactly!  What chance on earth for an old bumble bee of a drudge like
me without any wings and frills and things, all weighted down with
cares of state?"  And Moyese mopped the moisture from a good natured
red face, that looked anything but weighted down by the cares of state.
"You know, don't you," he added, "that the flies actually do prefer
white flowers; bees t' th' blue; butterflies, red; and the moths,
white?"


So this was the manner of man representing the forces challenging to
the great national fight, a lover of flowers paying tribute to all
things beautiful; good-natured, smiling, easy-going, soft-speaking; the
embodiment of vested rights done up in a white waist-coat.  Soldiers of
the firing line had fought dragons in the shape of savages and white
bandits in the early days; but this dragon had neither horns nor hoofs.
It was a courtly glossy-faced pursuer of gainful occupations according
to a limited light and very much according to a belief that freedom
meant freedom to make and take and break independent of the other
fellow's rights.  In fact, as Eleanor looked over the dragon with its
wide strong jaw and plausible eyes and big gripping hand she very much
doubted whether the conception had ever dawned on the big dome head
that the _other_ fellow had _any_ rights.  The man was not the
baby-eating monster of the muck-rakers.  Neither was he a gentleman--he
had had a narrow escape from that--the next generation of him would
probably be one.  He gave the impression of a passion for only one
thing--getting.  If people or things or laws came in the way of that
getting, so much the worse for them.

Strident laughter blew up on the wind from the cow camp of the Arizona
drovers in the Valley.

"Rough rascals," ejaculated Moyese fanning himself with his hat.  "I
wish you wouldn't wander round too much alone when these drover fellows
are here from Arizona.  Birds of passage, you know?  Sheriff can't
pursue 'em into another State!  When it's pay day, whiskey flows pretty
free--pretty free!  Wish you wouldn't wander alone too much when
they're up this way."

"Mr. Senator, I move we come to business, and leave poetry and flowers
and palaver out of it--"

The Senator turned suavely and faced the impatient sheep-rancher.

"To be sure!  Let us get down to business, MacDonald, by all means; but
before we go any farther, let me ask you a straight question!  Clearing
the field before action, Miss Eleanor!  Bat come over here and
entertain Miss Eleanor.  Miss MacDonald, this is my man
Friday--Brydges, Miss MacDonald: it's Brydges, you know, sets us all
down fools to posterity by reporting our speeches for the newspapers."

Brydges winked as he got his limp collar back to his neck.  It wasn't
his part to tell how many speeches came in reported before delivered;
how many were never delivered at all.

The Senator had stopped fanning himself.  He was caressing his shaven
chin and taking the measure of the rancher; a tall man, straight and
lithe as a whip, lean and clean-limbed and swarthy.

"MacDonald, why don't you take out your naturalization papers so you
can vote at election?  In the eyes of the law, you're still an alien."

"Alien?  What has _that_ to do with paying grazing fees for sheep on
the Forest Range?"  MacDonald's black eyes closed to a tiny slit of
shiny light.  "Mr. Senator," he said tersely, "how much do you want?"

Mr. Senator refused to be perturbed by the edge of that question.

"You ask Wayland how much the grazing fee is.  You know it's my belief
there ought to be no grazing fee.  We stockmen can take care of
ourselves without Washington worrying--"

"Yes," interrupted Williams, "you took such good care of the sheep
herders last spring, some of you put them to eternal sleep."

"We're not living in Paradise or Utopia," assented Moyese.  "We can
take care of our own.  Men who won't listen to warning must look out
for stronger arguments; and it's a great deal quicker than carrying
long-drawn legal cases up to the Supreme Court.  You sheepmen are
asking us to take care of you.  I'm asking MacDonald to vote so he can
take care of us.  Majority rules.  What I'm trying to get at is which
side you are on!  We're not taking care of neutrals and aliens--"

"Aliens."  The low tense voice bit into the word like acid.  "And I
suppose you're not taking care of pea-nut politicians either.  My
ancestors have lived in this country since 1759.  Mr. Senator, how many
generations have your people lived in this country?"

Eleanor became conscious that a question had been asked fraught with
explosion; but the Senator smiled the big soft voiceless smile down in
his waist-coat as if not one of the group knew that memories of the
ghetto had not faded from his own generation.

"We're not strong on ancestry out West," he rubbed his whiskerless
chin.  "It goes back too often to--" he looked up quietly at MacDonald,
"to bow and arrow aristocracy, scalps, in fact; but as for myself," if
a little oily, still the smile remained genial, "for myself, from what
my name means in French, I should judge we were Hugenots--what do you
call 'em?--Psalm singing lot that came over in that big boat, growing
bigger every year; boat that brought all the true blues over here;
Mayflower--that's what I'm trying to say--all our ancestors came over
in the Mayflower--"

The sheep rancher's thin lips slowly curled in a contemptuous smile.
"Then I guess my ancestors on one side of the house were chanting war
whoops to welcome you--"

Bat Brydges uttered a snort.  Eleanor puckered her brows as at news.
The Senator was fanning himself again with his hat.  Even Wayland was
smiling.  He had heard political opponents of Moyese say that dynamite
wouldn't disturb the Senator.  "Only way you could raise him was yeast
cake stamped with S: two sticks through it."

Certainly--Eleanor was thinking--there was some good in the worst of
dragons.  St. George had put his foot on one ancient beast.  Wasn't it
possible to tame this one, to tame all modern dragons, put a bit in
their mouths and harness them to good nation building?

"Girt round with mine enemies, Miss Eleanor," he laughed, "and I slay
them with the jaw bone of an ass."

The white waist-coat chortled; and she laughed.  This dragon didn't
spout flame but gentle ridicule, which was elusive as quicksilver
slipping through your fingers.

"The point is," explained the Ranger, coming forward, "the sheep have
almost grazed off up here; at least, far as we allow them to graze--"

"Besides, it's too cold for the lambs," effervesced the Missionary's
boy, bouncing out of the woods.

"Shut up, Fordie," ordered Williams, holding aloof.

"Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Williams want to transfer from this Divide to
the Mesas above the Rim Rocks," continued Wayland.

"Well, Mr. Forest Ranger, _that_ is _your_ business!  The Rim Rocks are
National Forest, tho' to save my life, I have never seen _one_ tree on
those Mesas.  What in the world they are in the National Forest for, I
don't know!  You know very well I think there oughtn't to be any
National Forests--each State look after its own job.  Have you issued
the grazing permits, Wayland?  I don't see that it's _any_ of _my_
business."

The Senator had leisurely seated himself on the slab.  Eleanor knew now
why he wielded such power in the Valley.  He was human: he was the man
in the street: something with red blood giving and taking in a game of
win and lose among men.  In a word, she had to acknowledge, the Dragon
of the Valley was decidedly likable; and behind the genial front were
the big hands that would crush; behind the plausible eyes, the craft
that would undermine what the hands could not crush.  Anaemic teachers
and preachers might as well throw paper wads at a wall as attempt to
dislodge this man with argument.  Right was an empty term to him.
Might he understood; not right.

He sat waiting for them to go on.  She remembered afterwards how he
made them play down from the first; and how, all the time that he was
watching them, plans of his own were busy as shuttles in behind the
plausible eyes.

"The point," continued Wayland, "is to get fifteen-thousand sheep up
there."

"Fifteen-thousand."  It was the number, not the getting there that
touched him.

"A deep stone gully runs between the Holy Cross and the bench of the
Rim Rocks," explained the Missionary.  "Look--behind the cabin--you can
see where the cut runs through the timber, a notch right in the saddle
of the sky line."

"How many of those fifteen-thousand are yours, Mr. Missionary?"

The Senator was gazing down in the Valley.  Just for a second, Eleanor
thought the genial look hardened and centred.

"About two-thousand, Senator!  I've just brought a thousand angoras in
to see if we can't teach weaving to the Indians.  It would mean a good
deal if we could teach them to be self-supporting--"

"It would mean the loss of a lot of possible patronage to this Valley,"
said the Senator absently.  "Are you still determined not to accept
Government aid?"

"Absolutely sir: my work is to Christianize these Indians, not just
leave them educated savages."

"Hm," from the Senator.  "What do you suppose they think we are?"

"I don't see very well how I can train them to be honest men if, out of
every dollar assigned to aid the Indian school, sixty cents goes to
Government contracts and party heelers?"

"Hm!"  Moyese was stroking his bare chin with a crookt forefinger.  "I
suppose if I were the story-book villain, I'd say 'yes, you must teach
'em to be honest'; but I don't.  Fact is, Mr. Missionary, if you go
into the ethics of things, you're stumped the first bat: who gave us
their land, in the first place?  This whole business isn't a golden
rule job: it's an iron proposition; and if I were an under-dog beaten
in the game by the law that rules all life, I'd take half a bone rather
than no meat.  I make a point of never quarreling with the conditions
that existed when I came into the world.  I accept 'em and make the
best of 'em; and I advise _you_ to do the same."

"You can't take the contracts of a bargain-counter to regulate the
things of the spirit, Mr. Senator."

"Oh, as for things of the spirit," deprecated the Senator, smiling the
big soft smile that lost itself down in his vest; and he spread his
broad palms in suave protest, "don't please quote spirit to me!  I have
all I can do managing things right here on earth.  To put it briefly,
far as this sheep business is concerned, if you can't get the sheep
across the saddle between the Holy Cross and the Rim Rocks, you want to
bring 'em along the trail through my ranch?"

"That's it," assented Wayland.  "I've issued grazing permits for the
Upper Range: and it only remains to get your permission to drive them
across the land that is not Forest Range."

The Senator crossed his legs and hung his hat on one knee.

"As I make it out, here's our situation!  I ask MacDonald here, who is
the richest sheepman west of the Mississippi, what's he willing to do
for the party.  Far as I can see without a telescope or microscope, he
doesn't raise a finger--won't even take out papers so he can vote!  I
ask Parson Williams here what he is willing to do for the party; and he
objects to his copper-gentry taking a free-for-all forty cents on the
dollar.  Then, you both come asking me to pass fifteen-thousand sheep
across my ranch to the Rim Rocks, though they ruin the pasture and
there isn't room enough for all the cattle, let alone sheep.  I hate
'em!  I'm free to say I hate 'em!  Every cattleman hates the sheep
business.  We haven't Range enough for our cattle, let alone sheep and
this fool business of fencing off free pasturage in Forest Reserves.
And your sheep herders never make settlers.  You know how it is.  We'd
run your sheep to Hades if we could!  We aren't all in the missionary
business like Williams.  We are in for what we can get; and this nation
is the biggest nation on earth because all men are free to go in for
all they can get.  The sheep destroy the Range: and I'm cattle!  You
neither of you raise a hand to help the party; and I'm a plain party
man; yes, I guess, Miss Eleanor--I'm a spoilsman, all right; and you
come asking favors of me.  It isn't reasonable; but I'll tell you what
I'll do.  I'll show you that I'm ready to meet you in a fair half-way!
MacDonald, you and Williams and the Kid, there, go along and see if
that saddle can be crossed, here to the Rim Rocks.  If it can't, you
can come down through the Valley and pass your sheep up through my
ranch.  I guess it's light enough yet for you to see.  The gully is not
five minutes away.  Bat, you go off and entertain Miss Eleanor.  I want
to talk to Wayland here."


Wayland was in no mood for straddling, for palaver, for "carrying water
on both shoulders."  He was weary to death of talk and compromise and
temporize and discretionize and all the other "izes" by which the
politicians were hedging right and wrong and somehow euchring the many
in the interests of the few and transforming democracy into plutocracy.
Besides, memory that merged to conscious realization was playing in
lambent flames through his whole being round the form of the figure
against the skyline of the Ridge.


The light of the cow-boy camp blinked through the lilac mist of the
Valley.  A veil impalpable as dreams hovered over the River.  The boom
and roll of a snow cornice falling somewhere in the Gorge behind the
Holy Cross came in dull rolling muffled thunder through the spruce
forests.  Had her eyes flashed it in that recognition of love; or had
she said it; or had the thought been born of the peace that had come?
It kept coming back and back to Wayland as the boom of falling snow
faded, _as if one man or generation of men, could stay the workings of
the laws of eternal righteousness by refusing to heed, any more than a
man could stop an avalanche by refusing to heed the law of the
snowflake_!

He heard the wordless chant that the suff of the evening wind sang;
that the storm wind of the mountains shouted in spring as from a
million trumpets; that the dream winds of the ghost mornings forerunner
of fresh life for the sons of men whispered, singing, chanting,
trumpeting the message that snowflake and avalanche told: yet beside
him on the slab seat sat a man who heard none of those voices, and knew
no law but the law of his own desire to get.

The Ranger drew a deep breath of the pervading fragrance, a tang of
resin and balsam, a barky smell of clean earth-mould and moss, an odor
as of some illusive frankincense proffered from the vesper chalices and
censer cups of the flower world.

"Great thing to be alive night like this," opened the Senator.  Then he
pulled down his waist coat and pulled up his limp spine and wheeled on
the slab seat facing the Ranger.  Very quietly, in a soft even voice he
was reasoning--

"We have been fighting each other for four years now?"

"We certainly have, Mr. Senator."

"You're a good fighter, Wayland!  I like the way you fight!  You fight
square; and you fight hard; and you never let up."

No answer from the Forest Ranger.

"I wouldn't really have enough respect for you to say what I am going
to say, if you hadn't fought exactly as you have fought--"

What Wayland was saying to himself was what Moyese would not have
understood: it was a foolish, quotation about the Greeks when they come
bearing gifts.

"But my dear fellow, we differ on fundamentals.  You are for Federal
authority.  I am for the Federal authority everlastingly minding its
own business most _severely_, and the States managing their own
business!  I am for States Rights.  The Federal Government is an
expensive luxury, Wayland.  It wastes two dollars for every dollar it
gives back to the country.  There's an army of petty grafters and party
heelers to be paid off at every turn!  All the States want is to be let
alone.

"For three years, Wayland, you have been fighting over those
two-thousand acres of coal land where the Smelter stands.  You say it
was taken illegally.  I know that; but they didn't take it!  It was
jugged through by an English promoter--"

"Just as foreign immigrants are jugging through timber steals to-day,"
thought Wayland; but he answered; "I acknowledge all that, Senator; but
when goods are stolen, the owner has the right to take them back where
found; and that land was stolen from the U. S. Reserves--ninety-million
dollars worth of it."

"I know!  I know!  But what have _you_ gained?  _That_ is what I ask!
Federal Government has blocked every move you have made to take action
for these lands, hasn't it?  Very soon, the Statute of Limitations will
block _you_ altogether."

The Senator shifted a knee.  Wayland waited.

"You have gained nothing--less than nothing: you have laid up a lot of
ill will for yourself that will block your promotion.  Been four years
here, haven't you, at seventy-five dollars a month?  I pay my cow men
more; and _they_ haven't spent five years at Yale.  Now take the timber
cases.  You hold the Smelter shouldn't take free timber from the
Forests?"

"No more than the poorest thief who steals a stick of wood from a
yard--"

"Pah!  Poor man!  Dismiss that piffle from your brain!  What does the
poor man do for the Valley?  Why does any man stay poor in this land?
Because he is no good!  We've brought in thousands of workmen.  We've
built up a city.  We have developed this State."

"All for your own profit--"

"Exactly!  What else does the poor man work for?  But I'm not going to
argue that kindergarten twaddle of the college highbrows, Wayland.  I'm
out for all I can make; so is the Smelter; so are you; but the point is
you've fought this timber thing; you have filed and filed and filed
your recommendations for suit to be instituted; so have the Land Office
men; have they done any good, Wayland?  Has your boasted Federal
Government, so superior to the State, taken any action?"

"No," answered Wayland, "somebody has monkeyed with the wheels of
justice."

"Then, why do you distress yourself?  You have played a losing game for
four years, cut your fingers on those same wheels of justice.  Quit it,
Wayland!  What good does it do?  Come over to the right side and build
up big industries, big development!  I've watched you fighting for four
years, Wayland!  You are the squarest, pluckiest fighter I've ever
known.  But you can't do a thing!  You can't get anywhere!  You're
wasting the best years of your life mouthing up here in the Mountains
at the moon; and who of all the public you are fighting for, my boy,
who of all the public gives one damn for right or wrong?  If we turn
you down, who is going to raise a finger for you?  Answer that my boy!
They are paying you poorer wages now than we pay any ignorant foreigner
down in the Smelter; that's a way the dear people have of caring for
their ownest!  Chuck it, Wayland!  Chuck it!  Waken up, man; look out
for number one; and, in the words of the illustrious Vanderbilticus,
let the public be d--ee--d!  Come down to my ranch where you'll have a
chance to carry out your fine ideas of Range and Forest!  Hell, what
are you gaining here, man?  A sort o' moral hysterics--that's all!
It's all very well for those Down Easterners, who have lots of money
and are keen on the lime light, to go spouting all over the country
about running the Government the way you'd run a Sunday School."  The
Senator had become so tense that he had raised his voice.  "Chuck those
damfool theories, Wayland!  Chuck them, I tell you!  Get down to
business, man!  What are you howling about timber for posterity for?
If you don't look alive, you'll go lean frying fat for posterity!  Oh,
rot, the thing makes me so tired I can't talk about it!  Come down to
my ranch.  I want a thorough man!  I want a man who can fight like the
devil if he has to and handle that gang in the cow camp with branding
irons!  I want 'em run out, do you hear?  They're blackguards!  I want
a man that's a man; and, for pay, you can name your own price.  I'll
want a partner as I grow older.  And don't you do any fool rash thing
that I'll have to fight and down you for!  I like _you_, Wayland--"

Then three things happened instantaneously.  Wayland glanced up.
Eleanor MacDonald was looking straight into his eyes.  And the sheep
rancher's choppy voice was saying to the Missionary, "Some men go up in
the mountains to fish for trout; but others stay right down in the
Valley and grow rich catching suckers."

"We can't cross that gully," shouted the boy.  "We, can't cross it
nohow!  We got to cross the ranch trail to go up to them Rim Rocks."

"Why, all right, Fordie," the Senator rose, kicking the folds from the
knees of his trousers, "if you boss the job, Fordie, I'll let you cross
the ranch!  You'll take a few of the herders up with you?  And you'll
not let the sheep spread over the fields?  Better do it towards evening
when it's cool for the climb!  All right, we'll call that a bargain!
Fordie's on the job to pass the sheep up the trail; and just to show
you I'm fair, here is Miss Eleanor for my witness, you can drive the
whole bunch over my ranch!  Good night, all!  Everybody coming now?
Come on!  We'll lead the way, Miss Eleanor.  It's getting dark.  I'll
pad the fall if anybody behind trips.  Good night, Wayland; think that
offer of mine over?  Not coming, Brydges?  All right, give Wayland a
piece of your mind, as a newspaper man, about this business!  Night!
Good night, Calamity!"




CHAPTER IV

STACKING THE CARDS

Bat straddled the slab and lighted his pipe.

"Old man been giving you some good advice?"

"I don't know whether you'd call it good or not.  Let's heap the logs
on, Brydges, and make the shadows dance."

Brydges did some hard thinking and let the Ranger do the heaping.

"Sort of razzle-dazzler, MacDonald's daughter; she's a winner; but you
can't get at her!  Sort of feel when she's talking to you as if her
other self was 'way down East.  Wonder what the old curmudgeon brought
her back here for?  If she'd let down her high airs a peg, she'd have
every fellow in the Valley on a string.  She could have Moyese's scalp
now if she wanted it--all that's left of it?"

"You can bunk inside!  I'll take the hammock."  Wayland emerged from
the cabin trailing a gray blanket and a lynx skin robe.  Bat continued
to emit smoke in puffs and curls and wreaths at the top of the trees.

"How many acres do you patrol, Dickie?"

"About a hundred-thousand."

"Is that all?  How many horses does the Govment allow?"

"None!  Buy our own!"

"Great Guns!  And you're loyal to that kind of Service?  It's bally
loyal I'd be!  Why, Moyese allows me the use of any bronch on his
ranch; and, when there's a quick turn to be made, it's a motor car.
Why don't you let me send you up a couple of Moyese's nags?  You could
pasture 'em here and get their use for nothing.  I could do that right
off my own responsibility.  Need be no connection with the old man."

"Bat," said the Ranger, "did you stay up here to say that to me?"

"I don't know whether I did or not; but, now that I _am_ here, I say it
anyway; and I say a whole lot more--don't be a bally fool and buck into
a buzz-saw!  Why don't you take the Senator's offer?  Holy Smoke!  What
are you gaining stuck up here in a hole of a shack that's snowed ten
feet deep all winter?  What's the use of fighting the Smelter thieves,
and the Timber thieves, and the Dummy homesteaders, and all that?  You
can't buck the combination, Dick!  It isn't only Moyese!  He's a mere
tool himself in this game.  It's the Ring you're up against, and you
can chase yourself all your life round that Ring, and never get
anywhere.  The big dubs at Washington, the politicians, they are only
spokes themselves in that wheel.  If you buck into that wheel, you get
yourself tangled into a pulp; and if any of those dubs down in
Washington thinks he won't fit into the Ring, why he'll find himself
broken and jerked out so quick he won't know what has happened till he
sees the Wheel going round again with a new spoke in his place."

"Bat, did you stay up here to say that to me?"

"No, I did not."  With a twig Bat pushed down the tobacco in his pipe.
"I stayed up here, if you want to know, because we were on our way to
the cow camp when the parson and his kid joined us.  I guess every man
has his limit.  That cow-camp gang is mine.  I want to live a little
longer; and I don't want to know things that might make it useful for
me to die.  When Moyese wants to deal with that gang, he can go it
alone."

"Brydges," said Wayland, "you have given me some frank advice.  _I'm_
going to reciprocate.  You know what is going on out here.  You know
why that Arizona gang comes up here.  You know why we can't touch
them--they are off the Range of the Forest.  You know about the stolen
coal for the Smelter Ring, thousands of acres of it; and the stolen
timber limits for the Lumber Ring, millions of acres of them.  If the
public knew, Bat, we'd win our fight.  It would be a walk over.  Every
man jack of them would lie down, and stay put.  Why don't you tell in
your paper?  Why don't you tell the truth when you send the dispatches
East?  If you did, Bat, we could clean out the gang in a month.  Why
don't you play the game a man should play?  Every newspaper man likes a
clean sporty fight; and no knifing in the back.  Why don't you put up
that fight for us, now, Brydges, and stop giving us side jabs?"

Brydges' pipe fell from his teeth.

"Wayland--what in hell--do you think--I'm working for?"


There was a big silence.

The look of masterdom came back to Wayland's face; but he paused,
looking straight ahead in space.  Perhaps he was looking for the hard
grip of the next grapple.  He had a curious trick at such times of
clinching his teeth very tight behind open lips; and the pupil of his
eye became a blank.

"You are at least sincere, Brydges," he said.  Bat gathered up his
shattered pipe.

"I'm not a past-master, _yet_," he said.  "I haven't reached the point
where I can believe my own lies; so I don't tell 'em and get caught.
I've dug down in the mortuaries of other men too often--long as a man
doesn 't believe his own lies, he's on guard and doesn't get caught.
It's when he comes ping against a buzz-saw and finds it's a fact that
he has to pay or back down or lose out.  You can't budge a fact, damn
it!  Thing always shows the same!"

Bat had found the pieces of his pipe.  Fitting the meerschaum to the
wood, he had gained confidence and was going ahead full steam.

"Saw 'Macbeth' in Smelter City Theatre last night.  'Member the place
where he says 'Thou canst not say I did it?'  Well, that's the
beginning of the end for that old boy; fooled himself that time.  If
he'd remembered that, though he didn't do it with his own hand, he did
do it all the same, he wouldn't have believed his own lie and got all
tangled up.  One of the first things Moyese told me when I went on his
paper was never to monkey with the dee-fool who wastes time justifying
himself: do it and go ahead!  Fact is, Dick, I look on a newspaper man
same as I do a lawyer: he has his price; and he finds his market for
his wares; and it's none of his business what his private convictions
are of the right or wrong.  He's paid to defend or attack like a
lawyer; and he goes ahead--"

"And doesn't pretend he's fooling the public by giving news, eh, Bat?
Brydges, if you argue that fashion, you must excuse me if I grin."

"Who's the old party talking to your road gang down by the white tent?"
asked Brydges, pointing where the Range sloped down to the Homestead
Settlement and a long canvass bunk house marked the domicile of the
road hands for the Forests.

"Oh, no, you don't get away from the argument so easily, Bat!  You make
the Senator's job and your job and public service all round a bunco
game, a bunco game with marked cards; while we Service and Land fellows
act the decent sign for a blind pig--"

"Hullo, he's coming up," interrupted Brydges.  "Seems your night for
deputations, Wayland!  Looks like a parson!  By George, I didn't know
Senator had his drag net out for parsons as dummy entrymen!  Nothing
like imparting quality!  By George, hanged if I know--he looks like a
peddler--has a pack horse--"

"Peddler o' th' Gospel, Son!  Good ee-vening to you, Gentlemen."

The newcomer sang out greeting in a high thin falsetto that belied the
ruddy youth of shaven cheeks and accorded more with his masses of white
hair.

"Is this the Ranger place perched on top o' th' warld?  Y'r workmen in
the white tent told me A'd find a short trail here-by t' th' next
Valley.  'Tis y'r Missionary Williams A'm seekin'; A thought if A'd
push on, push on, an' cat-er-corner y'r mountain here, A'd strike y'r
River by moonlight!  So A have!  So A have!  But it's Satan's own waste
o' windfall 'mong these big trees!  Such a leg-breakin' trail A have
na' beaten since A peddled Texas tickler done up in Gospel hymn books
filled wi' whiskey--"

"Well--I'll--be--hanged," slowly ejaculated Mr. Bat Brydges.  "Come
far?" he asked aloud, fumbling his brain for a clue.

The old man, emerging from the timbers, took off his hat and swabbed
the sweat from his brow.  Then he righted the saddle on his broncho.

"Eh, woman, do A scare y'?"  This to Calamity, just turning down the
Ridge trail with a dun gray blanket filled with odds and ends on her
shoulders, when the padded thud of the pack horse coming through the
heavy timber was followed by the stalwart form of the newcomer.  Face
and form were frontiersman; vesture, clerical; but Old Calamity trotted
back to the Range cabin.

"Come far, did y' ask?  More or less, more or less.  A've come farther
on unholier missions.  We'd call it a nice bit snow-shoe run in the old
days.  Two months since A left Saskatchewan!  We've taken our time,
Bessie an' me--" caressing the mare with resounding slaps.  "We're not
so young as we were, Bessie an' me, when we sarved Satan hot-foot back
an' forth these same trails till by the Grace o' God we broke halter
from Hell for holier trail--"

"Better loosen up and berth here for to-night," suggested the Ranger.
"The Ridge trail is steep going, down grade, after dark for a
stranger--"

"Stranger?"  The old man trumpeted a laugh that would have done credit
to a megaphone.  "Stranger, my kiddie boy?  A've known these Rocky
Mountain States when, if ye owned these pairts an' had a homestead in
Hell, y'd rent y'r residence here and take up quiet life the other
place!  A knew these trails before y' were born, from Mexico to
MacKenzie River, wherever men had a thirst.  A've travelled these
trails wi' cook stoves packed full o' Scotch dew, an' the Mounted
Police hangin' t' m' tail till A scuttled the Boundary.  Good days--rip
roaring days for the makin' of strong men!  We were none o' y'r cold
blooded reptile calculatin' kind!  May we fight valiant for God now as
we wrestled for the Devil then!  Oh, to be young again an' not spill
life in wassail! to give the blows for right instead of wrong!  Man,
what a view y' have here--what a view!  Minds me of the days A was
bridge building in the Rockies--"

"Then you've been in these mountains before?" asked Brydges; but the
old frontiersman refused to take the bait and rambled on in his reverie.

"What a view!  Th' vera kingdom of earth at y'r feet!  The river
wimplin'--wimplin'--wimplin' wi' a silver laugh over the stones, an'
the light violet as a Scotch lass's eye!  An' the green fields of
alfalfa--Have y' ever noticed how th' light above the alfalfa turns
purple?  An' y'r Rim Rocks roasted fire red by the heat.  'Tis the same
view A've gazed on many a time when A was young."  He drew a deep sigh
of the longing that only the passing frontiersman knows.  "'Tis like if
the Devil came tempting to-day, 't would be such a place as this!
Many's the time He came to us in them old days, lawless days!  'Tis
different to-day.  He'd not bait men savage naked now.  The kingdoms of
the earth, he'd offer--wealth an' success--wealth an' success--the
fetish o' sons o' men to-day.  'Twould not be simple cards for drink
y'd play!  Bigger stakes--bigger stakes, boys!  He'd bait men's souls
wi' bigger stakes!  If I were young I'd take his bet an' play for the
biggest stakes outside o' Hell--"

"Hey?  What is that?" queried Brydges; and he winked at Wayland.  "We'd
been talking of a bunco game when you came up."

"Y' had, had you?"  The old frontiersman measured Brydges through and
through.  "Well, judging from y'r brass an' the up-and-coming kind of
it, A'm thinking y'r stakes would be pea-nuts under little shells!
'Tis bigger stakes I'd play for if I had m' life to live over--"

"What?" asked Wayland curiously.

Mr. Bat Brydges was revising his inventory of the old "duffer."
Wayland was laughing openly.  The old man had become oblivious of both,
with a triangling of sharply intersected lines between his brows and
tense compression of the lips--

"The--fate--o'--this--land," he ripped out in hammer raps, "the fate of
this land, boys, with all time lookin' on since ever Time began!  Y're
the fiery furnace of all the world's hopes and fears, of all earth's
people, of all poets' dreams; an' God only knows what a mess o' slag
y're turning out!  Y'r muck rakers are belching y'r failures to the
four corners of earth!  Justice perverted!  Courts in fee to the
highest bidder!  More murders--murders in this fresh new clean land
than all the stew pots o' filth the old nations have brewed in a
thousand years; and murders unpunished!  Y'r Government--the great
world experiment--is it the wull o' the people, or the wull of a gilded
clique o' tricksters?"

The old man stretched out his hands above the Valley.  "What are ye
doing with y'r freedom, the freedom that the children o' light prayed
for and fought for and died for?  When there's one law for the rich and
another for the poor, when ye have to bribe y'r own self-elected rulers
to do y'r wull, where is y'r freedom different from the freedom in
France before the Revolution?  Is it not written 'my house shall be for
all nations; but ye have made it a den of thieves?'  Ye have what all
the nations of the earth have bled for, what prophets have prayed for,
and patriots died for; and all the world is looking on asking,
sneering, scoffing, saying ye pervert the Ark o' the Covenant of God,
saying lawlessness stalks under y'r banners, saying y' wrest the
judgment to the highest bidder, aye to the supreme fountain head o' y'r
courts!  The fate o' this land, boys!  Them's the stakes I'd play for,
if I had lusty blows to spare.  I'd up--I'd up--I'd strip me naked of
every back-thought and expediency and self-interest and hold-back!  I'd
hurl the lie--in the teeth--of a scoffing world--I'd show all nations
o' time that the people, the plain common good people, can keep the law
sound as the Ark o' the Covenant of God; and--and--I'd hurl y'r traitor
leaders--y'r Judas Iscariots huckstering the land's good for paltry
silver--I'd hurl y'r grafters an' y'r heelers an' y'r bosses an' y'r
strumpet justices, who sell a verdict like a harlot, I'd hurl them to
the bottom of Hell!  An' may Hell be both deep and hot--old fashioned
extra for the pack of them!"

He shook his trembling fist at the vacuous air.  "Fight--right--might!
I'd paint the words in letters o' blood till they awakened this land
like the fiery cross of old!  I'd fight--fight--fight till they had to
kill every man o' my kind before I'd down!  Before I'd see y'r law
outraged, y'r courts perverted, y'r justice bartered and hawked and
peddled from huckster to trickster, from heeler to headman, from
blackmailer to high judge--but A didna mean to break loose.  Y'r fair
scene stirred m' blood; and A'm an old man; and A love the land.  A was
born West.  A'm none of y'r immigration boomsters who goes in a Pullman
car, then tells the world all about--Now, which way to y'r Missionary
Williams?"

Bat flushed; but he did not laugh.  Oddly enough, he forgot the
feature-story.  Wayland rose and came forward and involuntarily held
out his hand.

"I wish you'd stay for the night," he said.  "A good many of us feel
the way you do; but like you, we're all up in air.  Sawing the air
doesn't saw wood.  A good many of us are in the fight right now; but,
unless we get somewhere, we're going to feel as if we were carving wind
mills.  Suppose you put up here for the night?  Besides, it's pretty
late to go down.  Trail switches sharply--"

The old frontiersman heard absently.

"An old man's broodings," he ruminated.

"I'd call 'em D. T.'s," muttered Brydges.

"Don't fear for my bones on the trail."  He came back from his reverie
as from a journey.  "A'm the old breed that doesn't break.  'Tis you
young brittle fellows all bred to pace and speed and style needs look
to y'r goin's.  Which way do A turn at the foot of the Ridge?
One--two--three--A see four lights.  Which is the Mission?"

"If you insist on leaving, Sir, there is an Indian woman here going
down to the MacDonald ranch--"

"MacDonald, did you say?"

"The next place along the River is the Mission.  Here, Calamity, show
this stranger which way to go, will you?"

But Calamity had already bolted for the Ridge trail.

"Stranger?  She doesn't look to me exactly like a stranger.  Looks
precious like one of our Saskatchewan half-breeds!  Haven't A seen you
before, my good woman?  A'm Jack Matthews, who carried the mail for the
Company at the Big House; by an' by contractor, then by the Grace o'
God missionary to the Cree!  Haven't A seen you, girl?  Was it '85 at
the Agency House when Wandering Spirit--"

"Non sabe," snapped Calamity, setting off down the trail at a run paced
to keep the reverend traveller behind till she reached the last loop.
Drawing her shawl over her face, she paused with her back to the
frontiersman.  To the left blinked the lights of the sheep ranch house
and the Mission, to the right the cow-boy camp and the dead glare of
the white buildings belonging to the Senator.

"Viola! dat vay!"  The woman deliberately pointed to the cow-boy camp;
then vanished in the darkness.

"Mighty quick wench!  A have seen you before, my sly minx, and A'll see
you some more," he said staring after the fading form.


Then he headed his mare for the cow-boy camp below the cliff.  Half a
dozen men lounged round a smudge fire.  The old man paused to sort out
the scene; the box of a gramaphone laid out for a card table, a bottle
of whiskey in the centre, two empty bottles with candles stuck in the
necks for lights, a dull smudge fire, four rough fellows sprawling on
the ground, one with corduroy velveteen trousers, an old white pack
horse nosing windward of the smoke; one figure with sheepskin chaps to
his waist, thumbs in his belt, standing erect with back to the trail;
and face in light, a shaven face with a strong jaw and oily geniality,
a corpulent form in a white vest, putting a pocket book in a breast
pocket.

The old frontiersman took hold of his mare's bridle.

"'Tis hardly what you'd look for in a Missionary outfit, Bessie."

"You'll leave for the South at once?"

The question commanded.  The old frontiersman listened.

"Hoof express, Sir," promised the sheep-skin leggings.

"And mind you I know nothing about it, Jim.  I'm not to be told.  I
take care of you without you knowing about it.  I _expect you_ to take
care of us--" the white waist coat became at once impressive and
anxious.

"That's all right, Colonel.  I understand!  We'll crowd 'em to beat
Hell; and they'll go it blind.  If it's coming dark, they'll shut their
eyes and go over blind.  I defy Sheriff Flood, himself, if he's
standing on the spot to make a case--"

"You need have no fear of Sheriff Flood _ever_ being on the spot.
He'll be busy under his bed that night; but look out for these Federal
puppy-boy Forest Ranger fellows!  Finish up off the confounded National
Range.  Finish up before they reach the National Range."

"And the Mexican herders?" asked the sheep skin chaps with a flourish
of his band above the fire that showed the flash of a diamond on the
little finger.

The white vest spread deprecating hands.

"That's your business, Jim!  Make a clean sweep of the herd; but see
that no harm comes to the boy."


The old frontiersman headed his broncho silently back on the trail.

"Night birds hatching snake eggs.  A'm really between two minds to go
back and crack their addled heads."




CHAPTER V

THE CHOICE THAT COMES TO ALL MEN

"Did you notice anything?" demanded Brydges, as the old stranger went
down the Ridge trail.  "She knows English as well as you do; and she is
a French breed.  Why did she put on to be Mexican?  What did she sneak
for?  Whole thing cussed queer.  What do you make of it?  Matthews?
Matthews?  I recall that name.  Fellow by that name wrote our paper to
know if any Canadian settlers had come here!  Say, Wayland, the old man
pricked up his ears at MacDonald's name--spoke of Rebellion Days."

"Oh, shut it off, Bat!  What in the world has a travelling half-cracked
ranting old evangelist to do with the MacDonald family?  He'll land on
the Mission for a week or two free like the rest of 'em!  He'll likely
preach Hell-fire to Indians, who'll not know a word of what he says
till Mr. Williams gives him a call to move on--"

"All the same," retorted Bat, disappearing inside the cabin.


Wayland passed a bad night, the worst he had known on the Holy Cross,
contending with what comes to all lives, and to many lives many times.

The Ranger had absorbed the average amount of Sunday school pabulum
that floats round in the mental atmosphere of all youth, that, if you
keep on doing right and doing it hard, things will turn out all right
in the end.  Well, he told himself bluntly, he _had_ been doing right
and doing it hard, just as hundreds of the Land Office field men and
Land Office attorneys had been doing right in their vain endeavour to
stop public loot;--and things had turned out all wrong.  What did his
four years' fight stand for, anyway?  Marking time, that was all.
Nothing accomplished except the wasting of four years of his own life;
and, while that may be small enough in the sum total of things, where a
thousand seeds go to waste for one that bears fruit, it is
overwhelmingly big to the individual man.  If he had been the one and
only failure of the Civil Service workers, he could have accused
himself and taken the Senator's advice to "chuck" the fool-theory of
men in public service fighting for right; but he was only one of a
multitude of men, paid public money to prevent the looting of public
property; whose work was blocked, non-suited, pigeon-holed, bluffed,
hampered, or, worst of all, carried up to investigating committees
whose sole purpose was to conceal and wear the public out with
interminable wrangles over technicalities that were irrelevant.

Better men than he had fought doggedly only to be downed.  There was
the Land Office man in Oregon dismissed for the slip of a wrong entry
in his field book because he had quite unintentionally unearthed the
frauds of a member of the land-loot ring who happened to be a
congressman.  There was the Federal attorney hounded from his home city
because he prosecuted bribe-givers and objected to being shot while on
duty in the court room.  There was that other Federal Law man, shot at
the shaft of a coal mine stolen from public lands.  There was the Army
Engineer demoted from his life work because he fought for a free harbor
for a great city and offended the railroad fighting to keep that harbor
closed.  There were the two Forest Service men dismissed for giving
facts to the public.  Then, there was the Alaska Case--Wayland laughed;
and the laugh was a little bitter.  Surely the crowning farce of all:
that had gone up easily to investigation with a blare of trumpets and a
flare of news headlines.  That was the easiest of all.

It made good politics, yet--it was so involved in technicalities, while
it offered a bit of by-play to the gallery, that there had never from
the first, even for the fraction of an instant, been the faintest hope
of anything but confusion emerging from the investigation; but it
played into the game without hurting anybody.  If they had really
wanted to investigate, why didn't they take a case in which there were
no technicalities of law, the looted red-lands of California, for
instance; or the half-million of timber openly stolen each year for a
certain smelting ring; or the two thousand acres of coal where Smelter
City itself was built; or the shooting of the Federal Law Officer down
at that other coal mine?  These cases involved no "twilight zone" of
dispute as to law, in which the "system" and the "ring" could hide.
Every Government man knew the evidence was plain and complete in these
cases: yet they were pigeon-holed, let lapse for the Statute of
Limitations to bar action.  Why?

Wayland sat down on the slab seat, and the personal reasons came
trooping against his resolutions like the scouts of an oncoming host.

To begin with, he could make more money outside the Service.  The
Government men were paid less than foreign ditch-diggers; but then,
which of the men remained in the Service for money?  He ran his mind
over half a dozen fellows in the Agricultural Department who had
increased the nation's wealth by hundreds of millions a year.  They
were working at salaries less than a Wall Street Junior clerk or office
girl.  The question of salary didn't come in as an argument.  That
could be dismissed.  But there was the bitter fact, he was
accomplishing absolutely nothing by continuing the struggle, nothing
more than a woman yoked to a Silenus hoping to reform him when he daily
grew worse under her eyes.  The Government had blocked him.  The party
had blocked him.  What was the pith of it all, anyway?  _Should those
who had the power be given the legal right to take what they cared to
seize_?  It was the same old question that had split every country up
into revolution.  And closest of all, keenest of all arguments, the new
influence that had come into his life, possessing it, obsessing it.  He
might put her out of his thoughts as a possibility.  That would not
dull the edge of his own hunger.  By staying on he barred all
possibility of ultimate happiness, perhaps her happiness: yet, if he
abandoned the fight for right, he would be unworthy of her.  Sooner or
later she would know, and, though she might remain mute, was she the
one to make semblance of what she did not feel?  If the light died from
her eye, it would die from his life.  He was not a Silenus to guzzle
hog-like over husks when the life had gone.  Besides--Wayland laughed
aloud--the idea of her nature permitting a Silenus near enough to
breathe the same atmosphere that she breathed was inconceivable.  There
was one chance--one chance only--Get the issue before the People,
squarely, fairly, openly before the People; awaken the People; mass the
law of the snow flake to the mighty rush of the avalanche; let the
People know, force the People to pronounce the verdict.  Wayland
thought of Bat inside the cabin--, and laughed bitterly.  He rose and
began pacing the edge of the Ridge.  There he was, back in the old
hopeless circle.

Her touch had wrapped him in a vision world; but across the clearness
of the vision now somehow obtruded the quiet cynicism, the genial scoff
of the Senator's arguments, leaving fierce physical unrest and confused
cross-currents of desire.  A mist seemed to blurr all life.  The
hemlocks no longer chanted riotous gladness.  There was a dirge
to-night of futility, monotonous age-old eons of useless effort, the
useless fall of the forest giant to the dry rot of slug and insect.  It
was as if Wayland's spirit stood back and listened to the conflicting
contentions of two other men, the one who wanted to breast the stream
and the one who wanted to go with the current; one full of blind,
red-blood courage, the other full of cold white-corpuscled argument;
one a zealous sportsman playing the game for the game's zest, the other
a quitter because he foresaw no gain.

Not a doubt of it; it was a doleful business, this being stuck half-way
up between heaven and earth cut off from everything but renunciation.
_Why_, was he doing it?  What was to be gained?  It would have
surprised Wayland if he had disentangled out of his own weltering
thoughts the fact that he had never weighed _gain_ as an argument
before Moyese talked.  He had never known the coward's fear of loss.
What was it they had said to him?  'Blocked at every turn,'--'Has your
boasted Federal Government taken any action?'--'This is the Service you
are loyal to,'--'Who of the public gives one damn for right or wrong?'
Had it really come to that?  Was that the seat of the trouble?  Did the
public care?  'Go lean frying fat for posterity?'  All those voices
strident, scoffing; then, part of the night's voiceless voices, that
other undertone--'Nothing accomplished without somebody fighting a
losing battle,'--'What so heroic about a fighter more or less going
down beaten?'  It was nothing heroic at all unless you happened to be
the fighter.  And what was the sense of accepting a challenge to a
losing battle?  'I want a man who can fight like the Devil.'  Well,
that was what the whole world wanted--always had needed and wanted; and
he and hundreds of other Government fellows were applicants for just
such a fighting job.  What was it that comical old sermonizing duffer
had ranted about?  Oh, yes!  If the Devil (of course, there wasn't a
Devil), if the Devil came tempting to-day 'twould be such a place as
this.'  'Etches, he would proffer as of old,' 'the biggest gamble of
all,' 'play for the biggest stake outside of Hell,' 'The Fate . . . of
the Land . . . with all Time looking on . . . since ever Time began,'
'all the World looking on . . . asking . . . keep sacred as the
Covenant of God . . .  The stakes I'd play for . . . if I were
young . . .  I'd up . . .  I'd up . . .  I'd up . . . stripped naked of
very hold-back . . .  I'd hurl the lie in the teeth of a scoffing
world.  I'd hurl y'r traitor leaders huckstering the land's good for
silver. . . .  Fight . . . right . . . might . . .  I'd paint the words
in letters of blood till they awakened the land. . . .  I'd fight . . .
fight . . . fight till they had to kill every man of my kind before I'd
down . . .'

The old man had been like the storm wind of the mountains hurling off
the dead leaves of thought.  Wayland paused in his pacing.  The opal
peak emerged from pearl gray cloud wrack; a silver cross, translucent,
unreal, luminous, a thing of dreams winged with silver light beneath a
solitary star, eternal as God.  And the night wind through the pines,
that had sounded so doleful but a moment before, became the jubilant
clicking of countless castanets, the castanets of the long pine
needles, sounding a triumphant chant to the touch of invisible hands.


Wayland stopped pacing.  He almost stopped thinking.  The
consciousness, the realizing sense of her presence, of her touch, of a
something more than her touch, of her being enveloping his in some
ethereal fire, went over the Ranger in fiercely tender flood tides;
this time, not in tumultuous confused desire, but in waves of strength,
in visions from which the mists had vanished, daring that laughed with
gladness over life.  There were no longer two Waylands in conflict,
with one sneering and looking on.  "A house divided against itself
shall fall."  There was only one, with the blood of mothers in his
veins, whelmed by a consciousness that reached back far as the
consciousness of the race.  Somehow, his simple manhood, the
inheritance in his blood of men and women, who had loved, fused the
conflict of his nature to a singleness of purpose and won peace now.

What he said was: "Come on, my friend, the enemy!  I'm right here on
the job; nailed, you bet, long as she does it!  Just to come alive is
worth being crucified."

"Hullo," bawled a towsled head through the cabin window.  "Aren't you
going to turn in?  It's exactly twelve o'clock!  Darn it all!  Don't
make a sleep-walking Lady Macbeth tragedy out of it!  Chuck the bally
thing and come on down to the Valley!  Why do you waste your life
pretending you are Providence steering the whole earth?  Chuck it,
Dickie!  If you were in town, I'd give you a cocktail!  Got anything up
here?"

Wayland went to sleep to dream one of those dreams that envelop day
with rain-bow mist.  He dreamed that the amethyst gates of the sun had
swung ajar flooding life with countless charioteers each carrying a
golden spear, and as they advanced over the clouds to earth, all the
little purple heather bells that had hung their heads during the night
to keep out the dew, all the waxy chalices of the winter-greens pale
and faint with passion, all the bells nodding to the wind, began
ringing--ringing ten thousand golden bells; and the painter's brush,
multicolored dazzling knee-deep in the Alpine meadows, flaunted
countless torches of carmine flame to welcome back the day.  Then,
suddenly, it wasn't a sound of bells at all.  It was her voice, her
voice with the golden note and the liquid break that came when he had
surprised Love in her eyes; and it wasn't the warmth of the Sun's
fan-shaped shafts at all; it was the warmth of her lips in the face of
the picture she had promised--the face above "the Warrior."  When he
awakened, a sprig of everlasting that he had stuck in the band of his
Alpine hat had blown across his face.




CHAPTER VI

WHEREIN ONE PLAYS AN UNCONSCIOUS PART

Watch a snow flake as it falls!  Gentle is too rough a word for the
motion.  It floats, a crystal cob-web shot with the glint of
sun-jewels; tangible but melting to your touch, evanescent and
translucent as light; conceived of the wind that bloweth where it
listeth and the gossamer clouds of a vague somewhere.

Waveringly, noiselessly, so noiselessly it comes that you do not catch
the rustling flutter with your ear, but with a sixth sense of motion.
And it transforms, bewitches, beautifies what it touches.  I suppose if
such an evanescent thing were told that it and it alone had been the
age-old, time-immemorial sculptor of the granite rocks; that it and it
alone--to paraphrase the words of the scientists--had rolled away the
door from the sepulchers of the eternal rocks and turned a planet into
a sensate earth pulsing with growth--I suppose if a snow flake were
told such heresy, it would die of its own amaze.

This, _apropos_ of nothing in particular, unless you happen to
understand from the catagory of your own experiences.

It was her first love-letter; and, because she did not know she was
writing a love-letter she wrote out of the fulness of an overflowing
heart.  Also the hour was the precise hour when consciousness of her
presence had gone over Wayland in flood tides of fierce tenderness.
That may have been a mere coincidence.  I set it down because such
coincidences daily touch life.

Here is the letter.


_Twelve O'clock_.

Are you a 'vision fugitive,' O Ranger Man?  Do you know that I have
seen you less than ten times and really known you less than a month?
Is it a dream?  What happened?  I did not mean to do it.  I did not
want it.  I did not ask it.  Why has it come?  You said 'best gifts
came unasked; perhaps, they also go unsent!'  This one can never go,
Dick.  I've been weaving it in and out for three whole hours, (no, not
_thinking_, I _think_ of other people,) weaving it in and out of every
strand of me.  I know now I have been waiting for it a billion years;
ages and ages ago when you and I were cave people or desert runners
like the 20,000 B. C. skeleton in the British Museum; and in the
shuffle of atoms, we got apart.  We shall never stray again; for I have
locked last night in my heart.  Yesterday I could look up at the
Mountain, and what I saw was the snow cross, cold and far away.
To-night I look up.  The Mountain is still there but not the same--what
I feel is--_you_; and you are not far away.  I am warm with happiness,
delirious when I let myself _stop_ thinking.

I have tried to sleep but cannot.  Your old Mountain has been talking
again.  I can see the Cross here from my window and the lone star above
the peak; and I know that you see too.  If I touched the telephone, I
might speak to you; but I can write more frankly than I'd ever have
courage to speak, and I must say it.  It is all tumult.  I do not
understand, but Hope is strumming her strings--I hear them every time
the wind comes down from the Ridge.  Here is the Watts' 'Happy
Warrior,' and Dick--listen--I didn't mean it as a token when I offered
to send it up.  I meant it as a rallying cry; but now that you take it
as a token, I can't say that it isn't; only I really didn't mean to
push you over the edge of things as I did.  I didn't mean to go over
the edge myself.  If I had heard Senator Moyese talk, I couldn't have
been so childish and ignorant.  It was like urging you to jump a
precipice and break your neck.  I know now what the fight means.  It
isn't just the Valley.  It's the Nation.  I hadn't any right to let my
(here a word was crossed and blotted) feeling shove you over.  Yet if
you jump yourself, I'll not pull a gossamer thread to draw back.  I
haven't any right.

You know how it has always been with me--whisked away to the convent at
Quebec when I was four, sent to that New York finishing school to get
what Father called 'world-sense knocked into my religion.'  Well, they
were knocks all right.  Then England and Switzerland and my Father's
orders to come back, and how lonely and apart he always seems.  I don't
understand.  What did Moyese mean to-night when he spoke of
'bow-and-arrow aristocracy'?  Will you believe me that is the first I
have ever heard of it?  Who is Calamity?  Will you tell me if you know?
Why are we so apart from all the people of the Valley?  What is a
'squaw man'?  When I think, I am afraid for having let you become so
interwoven.  I did not mean to.  It is wholly my fault.  The thoughts I
hardly knew myself must have been weaving up into this.  They often do.
Father and Mr. Williams leave at daybreak for the Upper Pass.  I did
not mean to write so much, but our old Mountain has come from under a
cloud.  Anyway, I had to explain, no, I mean write.  Explanations never
do explain; but here's the picture of 'The Warrior.'

"E. MacD."


Going to the French window of her bedroom, Eleanor called down to old
Calamity's room below.  To her surprise, the half-breed woman on the
instant poked her head above the balcony railing of the basement
quarters.

"Going to the Ridge to-morrow, Calamity?"

"Oui, Mademoiselle, surement," pattered Calamity softly in that Cree
patois which is neither French nor Indian.

"Then, take this up to Mr. Wayland, please!"


As she withdrew to her room, Eleanor became conscious that she could
not remember a day since she had come back to the Valley when the Cree
half-breed had not been within call or sight.  The girl suddenly
pressed both hands to her eyes.  What had Moyese meant?

Once among the pillows, she fell into the life-bathing sleep of the
great mountain ozone-world.  Was it a dream; or had Calamity come
stealing through the French window to stand at the foot of her bed?
Waking to a burst of sunlight across her face, Eleanor could not tell
in the least whether the memory of the half-breed woman standing in the
shadows were dream or reality.  The sun was coming over the Rim Rocks
in a fan-shaped shield of spear shafts; and every single shaft wafted
down thoughts that refused to lie quiet.  Shafts that have a trick of
turning your heart into a target can't be shut out by armor proof.

Daylight restored her poise.  Her first instinct was to recall the
letter; but Calamity had already set off for the Ridge.  The thought
hardly took form, but the shadow haunted her.  If It were true, he
would surely never let her work round the ranch houses of the Valley.
Breakfast passed as usual, alone in the big raftered dining room after
the ranch hands had gone, the lame German cook for the camp wagons
hobbling in and out with the dishes.  Stage had passed long since and
the mail lay at her place, where the German had spread a white square
above the oilcloth of the long bench table; but letters and papers
remained unopened.

Perhaps, after all, those midnight thoughts had been morbid as midnight
thoughts often are.  It might be that the Valley was apart from them,
not they apart from the Valley.  Who were the neighbors from whom her
father stood aside?  There was the Senator in the white house across
the River.  Well, the Senator spent the most of his time in Smelter
City forty miles away, and in Washington.  Then, there were the
Williams of the Mission House with their only boy and eighty or a
hundred Indian children; gentlefolk keeping up the amenities of refined
life, spreading the contagion of beautiful example like an irrigation
plot widening slowly over arid sage brush.  Surely her father was held
in esteem by them; and they stood for all that was best in the Valley.
Below the ranch houses came what was known as "the English Colony," a
scattering of young bachelors playing at ranching, whose rendezvous was
the pretty Swiss chalet known as "the Rookery," where a wonderful
little young-old lady with red wig and hectic flush dispensed lavish
hospitality and canned music and old port behind the eminent
respectability of a stool-pigeon in the person of a card-loving
husband.  The lady's husband called himself "colonel."  The Valley
called him one of those "no-good Englishmen"; but the Valley may have
been mistaken; for even to the ranch house had come tales of outraged
honor in the person of the "no-good husband" bursting in on games of
cards with wild charges which only the payment of big money could
suppress--suppress you understand, purely for the sake of the lady:
outraged honor could accept no atonement.  Then the lady would flit for
the winter to those beauty doctors of Paris and New York, who operate
on wrinkles and lay up muniments for fresh campaigns; and the "colonel"
would betake himself to resorts where balm is accorded wounded honour;
while loose-mouthed, simple-eyed young fellows went East for the winter
lighter as to purse, wiser as to the ways of paying for pleasure.
Altogether, it was not surprising her father kept apart from "the
English Colony," Eleanor reflected.  She passed out to the piazza
spanning all sides of the ranch house.


It was a sun-bathed, sun-kissed, sun-fused world.  The River flowed
liquid silver jubilant and singing.  The morning mists rolled up
primrose spangled with jewels, while over all lay such light as
hypnotized the senses into a sort of dazzled dream world.  Ashes of
roses!  There were no ashes here.  It was the rose, itself; a world
veiled in gold mist, wind-blown, flame-fired of joy, little cressets of
fire edging every ridge.  The sheep browsing in the Valley, the
fleece-clouds herding mid the winds of the upper peaks, you hardly knew
which shone whiter.  The burnished mountain with its silver cross and
wings of light, opal about the peaks, melting in fading lines about the
base, with the middle distances lost in gashed purple shadows, might
have been a thing of airy fancy.  So might the dark forested Ridge
where the evergreens stood sentinels among wisps of cloud.  And
everywhere, all pervasive, sifting through the shadows of silvered pine
needles and trembling poplars, permeated the cinnamon smell of the
barky forest world, resinous of balsam, spicy with the tang of life.

She could see the mountain streams where they laughed down the Ridge in
wind-tattered spray.  With the glass, too, she could see a little blue
wreath of man-made smoke curling up from the evergreens; and waves of
happiness, absurd warm glowing happiness, broke over her, the sheer
gladness of being alive.  Whatever sinister thing kept her father
apart, it was here she belonged--she knew it now--to the great spacious
life-stimulating West; to the world resinous with imprisoned sunbeams;
not to the lands of sky shut out by twenty story roofs and pea-soup
fogs and sickly anaemic views of life.  Life was good.  She drank of it
and called it good as in creation's prime.

Once she called Central up on the telephone.  Central answered that the
Ridge line had been cut.  Such duties as men's hands could not do round
ranch houses, she finished in a dream, turning with a touch the house
into a home; flowers for the middle of the big table, dishes
pitchforked down replaced in order, corner cobwebs speared with a
duster on a broom, Navajo rugs uncurled and squared, stale cooking
expelled from littered shelves, flies pursued to the last ditch, breaks
in the mosquito wire round the piazza tacked up, heaps of mended socks
and overalls sent out to the bunk house for the ranch hands, milk cans
buried--it had always been one of the absurdities she was going to
reform, that people used canned milk in a cow country; but,
unfortunately, the obstacle to that reform was that cows could not be
milked on horseback.

After mid-day meal, she ensconced herself in a steamer chair on the
piazza facing the mountain; but her book lay face downward.  It was a
book on coniferous trees.  She had thought the Valley monotonous when
she had first come back.  Now she knew it never remained the same for
two whole hours.  The dazzling white of morning had given place to the
yellow glow of afternoon.  The River that had flowed quicksilver now
swept seaward pure amber rilled with gold.  The fleece clouds herded by
wandering winds had massed to towering cumulus where the sheet
lightnings played; and the Mountain where the silver snow-cross had
glistened in the morning seemed to have changed perspective, to have
retreated and withdrawn to a weird upper world.  You no longer saw the
wind-blown cataracts.  Purpling shadows, palpable sabling mournful
ghost-forms, folded and wrapped the Ridge with here and there shafts of
slant light, yellow as bars of gold.  You could no longer hear the
rampant roar of streams disimprisoned from snow by mid-day sun.   With
the slant light came the sibilant hush, the quiet tangible.


She reclined very still in the steamer chair.  Life and love and
mystery wrapped her round, the great reverie of the race, the ecstasy
of devotees that sent to death and crusade in the Middle Ages, the
lovelight of life brooding warm and radiant.  She no longer saw the
shining pageant of sunlight on the argent fields of an infinite
universe; the sparks and spangles of light in silver cataracts; a world
veiled in gold mist, flame-fired of joy, little cressets of rose edging
every sky-line.  She was possessed, obsessed, bathed, enveloped in a
flame of new life.  If she thought at all, 'twas in the symbol of the
old Apostle, "in Him we live and move and have our being."  She
recalled that God had been defined in the consciousness of the race as
Love.  Deep draughts of new existence whelmed her.  No longer life
coursed somnolent through unconscious veins.  Life ran riotous of
gladness tingling to a living joy so poignant it became pain.  Was it
fool-joy born of swifter pulse and time-old inheritance in the flesh?
Was it the rhapsody of self-hypnotism, which ancients would have called
vision?  Of such dreams does creation spring full born and enfleshed.
Of such dreams does heroism laugh at death.  Of such dreams does life
invest the daily round with rain-bow mist, with the spectrum gamut of
all the colors that blend to the pure white light of daily life.  As a
lense splits up light, so love had brought out the hidden colors of
existence, of eternity; as she dreamed, eternity itself seemed short.

Then came the restlessness that had shaken Wayland on the Ridge the
night before, the fire that tests the vessel; and whether the life go
to pieces depend on whether the vessel be both strong and clean.  Yet
she was not afraid.  She remembered their talk the night before of the
snow flake falling to the same law as the avalanche; and was she not
also a part of the Great Law?

She knew he could not be free till six.  She must not go up to the
Ridge.  Last night, she had gone heedlessly.  She could never go so
again.  Then, she realized why the Missionary's wife had linked her
fate with Williams'--a frail bit of china putting itself to the coarse
uses of earthenware--washing, scrubbing, sandpapering three generations
of morals and bodies to make an ideal real.  It was Wayland who had
first described Mrs. Williams in that metaphor: "a piece of Bisque or
Dresden," he had said, "and what those lousy Indians need is a wooden
wash tub with lots of soft soap."  Then, she wanted to see Mrs.
Williams, to study her with this new knowledge.

A picket fence in imitation of a home in the East ran round the Mission
House.  Pitiful attempts at gardening lined the gravel entrance,
periwinkle dried up in the blazing Western sun, sickly scented
geraniums that shrivelled to the night frost, altheas that did better
but refused to bloom.  "They don't transplant East to West, any better
than they do West to East.  Better follow the Senator's advice and
domesticate our Western ones."  Then, the whimsical thought came
perhaps that was what her father had done with her.

The drone of a man's voice from the Mission Parlor surprised her; for
Mr. Williams had gone off with her father to the Upper Pass.

"Here is Miss Eleanor, herself!  We were just speaking about you,
Eleanor!  This is an old friend of your father's, Mr. Matthews from
Saskatchewan!"

A little woman in gray drew Eleanor inside the Mission Parlor, a little
woman with a white transparent skin trenched by lines of care, but
somehow, when you looked twice, they were lines of beauty chiseled by
time.  She was garbed in gray and her hair was almost white, but, from
the first time Eleanor had looked at her hands, the girl wanted to kiss
and cover them with her own--they were such beautifully kept hands but
so gnarled and misshapen with toil.  There had been only one child; but
there were eighty Indian children in the Mission School.  Had the love
dream paid toll for such toil--Eleanor had asked herself when first she
had seen the Missionary's wife.  Now she knew that, whether the love
dream paid toll or not, love would do and was doing the same thing time
without end and everywhere.

Then, she became aware of the massive form of a man topped by an
enormous head of white hair rising in links and hinges from a chair in
the corner till his figure towered above the little woman.

"So this--is Eleanor--MacDonald?  Well, well, well!"

He was shaking hands at each word.  "A knew your grandfather well.
Many's the time we have raced the dogtrains down MacKenzie River an'
the canoes down the Saskatchewan!  'Twas your grandfather set the
bagpipes skirling when Governor Simpson used to come galloping down the
Columbia in the forties with his paddlers splitting the wind, a dark
fearsome man, child, but a brave one, tho' his heart was hard as his
hand, and his hand was iron--Bras de Fer, Arm of Iron, the Indians
called him; for his left hand, he lost in a duel; and his false hand
was a true hand of iron metal that made many a lazy voyageur bite the
dust.  Bless me, but you are a MacDonald to your dainty feet--" holding
her off from him at arm's length.  "Eyes true to pedigree, and the
curly hair, and the short upper lip, the only one of all the MacDonalds
that's kept the race type.  'Tis good to see you!  A'm right glad to
see you!  A'm gladder than you know-"

Eleanor did not wait for any second thought.  "And did you know my
mother's people, too?"

The old man sat back in his corner.  "No, A cannot say A did!  A had
left the Company an' was building railway bridges in the Rockies when
your father left Canada."

She felt the hot flush mount.

"Such an absurd thing, Eleanor," Mrs. Williams was explaining.  "Mr.
Matthews came by the Holy Cross last night.  Mr. Wayland told Calamity
to show him which way to turn; and she sent him the wrong way, to the
cow-boy camp, you know!  He had to sleep out all night at our very
door.  Such a shame!  That put him so late that he missed Mr. Williams.
You know they have gone to the Upper Pass and can't possibly be back
for weeks--excuse me, some of my school people seem to want me," and
she flitted from the room.  To Eleanor, her life seemed a constant
flitting at the beck of bootless duties, nagging duties that only an
expert time keeper of Heaven could credit.

"Yes!  Sent me a mile along the road in the wrong direction--into a
nest of mid-night birds.  A nice bunch o' beauties, too, hatching some
Devil plot to ruin the poor sheepmen!  A man in a white vest was there,
who by the same token didn't belong; tho' A'm no so sure he was any
better than his company.  They didn't see _me_!  A didna' just speak to
_them_, but A heard them plain enough,--'leave for the South at once;'
and 'crowd 'em to beat Hell,' and 'send 'em over without a push' an'
'see that no harm comes to the boy'--Eh, why, what is the matter?"

Eleanor had sprung forward with white lips.

"It's Fordie!  He's taking the sheep to the Rim Rocks with the Mexican
herders.  Don't frighten his mother!  It may not be too late!  He may
not have reached the Rim--"

"Let's telephone that Ranger fellow?"


Then, it all dawned on her, the deadly, suave, incredibly malicious
pre-planned thing!

"The wires had been cut since morning," she said.




CHAPTER VII

WHILE LAW MARKS TIME, CRIME SCORES

They did not tell the boy's mother.

The German cook hitched the fastest bronchos to the yellow buckboard
with the front wheel brake; and, the old frontiersman flourishing the
reins, they had whisked off for the Ridge trail before Mrs. Williams
could return to the Mission Parlor.

"The Ranger will be able to tell whether the sheep have passed down the
Ridge," she explained.

The old man caught the light on her face as she spoke the name.  It was
like the flash in the dark that betrays a diamond, or the scintilla of
light through the leaves that tells of an Alpine lake; but he made no
comment except to the ponies.

"Go it, little ones!  Make time!  Split the wind!  Show y'r heels!
Tear the air to tatters! there!"  And he whirled the whip with the
skill of all the old Adam stirring within him, while the buckboard went
forward with a bounce.

"We can't take the wagon up yon Ridge trail--"

"No, but I can climb straight up and not mind the switch back, if
you'll wait."

He muttered some commonplace about "true Westerner;" and, springing
out, she had gone scrambling up the slope avoiding delay of the zig-zag
by climbing almost straight.

Quizzically, the old man gazed after her; the first hundred feet were
easy, a mossed slope with padded foot-hold.  Then came steep ground
slippery with pine needles; but the mountain laurel and ground juniper
gave hand grip; and she swung herself up past the third tier of the
switch back where the Ridge arose a rock face and trees with two
notches and one blaze marked the lower bounds of the National Forests.
Here he saw her run along the bridle trail marked by one notch and one
blaze: then, she was swinging over moraine slopes to the fifth bench of
the trail.  There she disappeared round a jut of rock--he remembered a
mountain spring trickled out at this place bridged by spruce poles.
Then he noticed that the cumulous clouds which had been flashing sheet
lightning all afternoon, were massing and darkening and lowering closer
over the Valley, with zig-zag jags of live fire down to the ground and
sounds more like the crack of a whip or splinter of wood than thunder.
The cliff swallows dipped almost to the grass; and the flowers were
hanging their heads in miniature umbrellas.  All the trembling poplars
and cotton-woods seemed to be furled waiting.  Then, the lower side of
the slate clouds frayed in the edge of a sweepy garment to sheets and
fringes of rain.  A little tremor ran through the leaves.  The horses
laid back their ears.

"We'll get it," said the old man tightening the reins.


She had paused for breath round the buttress of a gray crag when she
noticed the churn of yeasty blackness blotting out the Valley and felt
the hushed heat of the air.  A jack rabbit went whipping past at long
bounds.  The last rasp of a jay's scold jangled out from the trees.
Then, she heard from the hushed Valley, the low flute trill of a blue
bird's love song.  Ever afterwards, either of those bird notes, the
scurl of the jay or the golden melody of the blue warbler, brought her
joyous, terrible thoughts, too keen to the very quick of being for
either words or tears; for a horseman had turned the crag leading his
broncho.  It was the Ranger in his sage green Service suit wearing a
sprig of everlasting in his Alpine hat.

"Why, I've been trying to get you by telephone all day," he said, "but
the wires are cut--"

In the light of the sudden strength on his face, she forgot the
brooding storm, the impending horror.

"Has Fordie brought the sheep down?"

"Yes, ages ago; he passed at noon with the whole bunch, fifteen
thousand of 'em, strung along the trail from the top of the Ridge to
the bottom.  Don't you see how they skinned every branch?  That's why
the cattlemen hate 'em!  Ford will be on the Rim Mesas now.  Why;
anything wrong?"

She did not remember till afterwards how it was she had met both his
hands with her own as she repeated the old frontiersman's report.  She
knew, if time stopped and storm split the welkin, it would be all the
same.  She felt the heat hush come up from the Valley, felt the
quivering pause of the waiting air, the noiseless flutter of the
foliage, the awed quiet, then the exquisite tingling pain of her own
being,--

"Eleanor, look at me!  Look in my eyes!  Look up at me--"

She felt the rush of her being to meet and blend and fuse in the flame
of his love.  Then, she looked up.  His eyes drank hers in one poised
moment of delirious recognition, of tempestuous tenderness.  The world
swam out of ken.  All but the fluted melody of the blue bird; and she
knew they must always sound together, the trill and the rasp, the blue
bird and the jay, the true and the false, love and its counterfeit.

"We go into this fight together," he said very quietly, "And forever!"
He placed the sprig of everlasting in her hand.  "You can count me on
the firing line."

Then he had thrown the reins over his broncho's neck, headed the horse
back up the Ridge and was slithering down the steep slope giving her
hand-hold as of steel-springs.  So short was the interval, it could not
be measured in time.  Yet it had rivetted eternity.  She saw the
rolling clouds of ink writhing up the Valley turning everything to
blackness: yet she did not know it.  The little flutter of air changed
to whiplashes and puffs of wind that curled the black hair forward over
her unhatted face in a frame.  Wayland looked at her and felt his
masterdom going to those same winds; for the pace had painted her ivory
cheeks, not rose color, but the deep flame of the wild flower.  Some
day, perhaps,--no matter; he set his teeth and screwed the whipcord
muscles taut; for the moraine stones had begun to roll, and there was a
zig-zag flash of lightning that sent fire balls sizzling over the rock.
He braced her to the leap down the steep sliding moraine, and felt the
frenzy of joy from her touch.

"There!  We took the jump together!  You didn't push me over the edge
of things," he said, as their feet touched the pine needle slope.

This time, the lightning came with a ripping splintering rocking echo.

"It's like Love and Life racing in the picture," she laughed back and
they bounded into the buckboard, Wayland standing braced behind the
seat, "to stop her kiting down the hill if we break loose," he said;
she, forward with the driver, feet braced to the iron foot-rest, hands
holding the seat-guard.  Then, the brim of his felt hat flapping, the
bronchos' ears laid back, necks craned out, the old man whirling the
whip, they were off for the Rim Rocks.  The breaking storm, the
whipping winds, the wild pace, the rush of the fringed rain, seemed a
part of the furious exaltation breaking the bounds of her own
consciousness.

"Cross the ford, Sir," shouted the Ranger bending forward, "it's
shorter than the bridge;" and her hair tossed in his face as the
buckboard splashed into the River and bounced up the far side with hind
wheels swaying.

"Are y' all right, there?" called the old driver over his shoulder.

"Stay with it," yelled Wayland, "straight ahead where the road cuts the
Rim Rocks."

"We're splitting the air all right," shouted the old man.  "Ye mind y'
talked of sawing air.  Split it, man, an' y'll get somewhere."

Up a hummock, down a ravine, over a fallen log with a hurdle jump that
threatened to break the buckboard's back.

"Are ye there yet?" called the old man.

"Split the wind, Sir," shouted Wayland; and the rig went rattling up
the red earth road of the Rim Rocks not a wheel's width from the edge.

"We're leaving the storm behind; look back," she said.

Up the Valley swept the rains in a wall of whipped spray jagged by the
zig-zag streaks of lightning.

"Hold on till we turn the next switch back," warned the Ranger.  The
buckboard wheeled a point as he spoke and the bronchos floundered to a
fagged trot.  They saw it coming: the rain wall, frayed at the edge to
a fringe, the wind lashing their faces, the red rocks of the
battlements jutting through the cloud wrack spectral and ominous.  A
toothed edge of rock above, then a belt of cloud cut by the darting
wings of the countless swallows.

The trees of the Ridge across the Valley seemed to bend and snap.
There was a funnelling roar, sucking up earth and air, trees and
brushwood; whips and lashes and splintering crashes of rain and wind
and jagged light-lines; the bronchos cowering against the inner wall of
the trail.  Then the funnelling wind tore the pinnacled rock tops clear
of the billowing mist.

"There goes your hat, Sir," cried Wayland as the black felt went
sailing down the precipice.

"What's that!" demanded the old man, springing from the seat and
pointing upward with his whip.


Over the edge of the sky line, on the rimmed red battlements, jumping,
jumping, jumping; as sheep jump at shearing time from the hot center to
the cool outside, or over the backs of one another in winter cold, when
the outer line jumps to the huddled center; came the herd in a gray
woolly shapeless whirling mass!  Shouts, cries, shrill bleatings, storm
muffled bang, bang and thud of guns!  Just for an instant, emerged from
the mist on the skyline of the battlements the figure of a man in
sheep-skin chaps, a riderless white horse, shadows of other men, the
sheep in a living torrent pouring over into the nothingness of mist;
then a boy, a little boy, riding hatless, craning far forward over the
neck of his pinto pony, shouting, waving, screaming, trying to head the
sheep back from the precipice edge!

"The dastard coward, blackguard Hell-hatched hounds!" roared the old
man, shaking his impotent fist.  Then he funnelled his hands and
shouted the lad's name.

It happened in the twinkling of an eye.  The man in the
sheep-skin-chaps clubbed his rifle at the galloping pony.  The pinto
reared, flung back, pitched over the edge of the Rim Rocks.  Then the
cloud blot, earth and air sponged into the wet blur of a washed slate,
shrieking furies of peltering rain, a roar of the hurricane wind, a
blinding flash, the air torn to tatters!  The cloud burst hurled down
in sheets, the red clay road runnelling flood torrents.  Wayland had
caught her under shelter of the rock wall.  The old man hurtled to the
heads of the shivering bronchos, gripping both bridles.  A splintering
crash that rocketted from crag to crag and rumbled below their feet;
and the thing was over quick as it had come.  The funnelling whirl of
clouds eddied over the Pass behind the Holy Cross Mountain; the opal
peak radiant and dazzling above the Valley; the air a burst of yellow
sunlight quivering in the smoking rain mist; the red battlement rocks
above dripping and bare; and somewhere a song sparrow trilling to the
tinkle of the subsiding waters.  A roil of cloud rolled from below.

The sound came first, smothered and pain-piercing; then the old
frontiersman had uttered something between a curse and a groan.  She
sprang from shelter and looked over the edge.  Jumbled at the foot of
the pinnacled red rocks heaved a writhing mass, a weltering maimed
horror.  On the outer edge, arms under head, face to sky, tossed
backwards, lay the body of the boy beside the pinto pony, the neck of
the horse broken under in the fall, the child pitched beyond the mass
by the double turn of his falling horse.


For a moment none of the three uttered a word.  She was trembling so
that she could not speak.  There were tears in the old man's eyes.  To
Wayland's face had come a look.  It was like the blue flash of a pistol
shot.  The pupils of his eyes had focussed to pin points of fire.  He
moistened his lips.

"May Hell be both deep and hot!" he said.

It was the cry of the primal man beneath all the culture of the schools
that disprove Hell; the cry of human red-blooded manhood against all
the white-corpuscled sickly sentimentality that ever sacrifices
innocence on the altar of guilt.

While the Law marked time, the swift feet of crime had not paused nor
slackened pace.  While the Law argued, learnedly, disputatiously, with
the handing up and the handing down of inane decisions, Crime scored;
and Who or What tallied?  The men round the fire the night before in
the cow-camp, the men of "the bunco game" had stacked cards and played
trump; but unfortunately, they had jumbled the white-vested fighter's
orders about the boy.  The cattlemen had taken care of themselves after
a code not honored by the law of nations.


Also, they had gone into the fight together: the one who saw the right
but did not understand the fight; the one who understood the fight but
sometimes lost his vision of the right; and the one who saw in the
fight for right, not the quarrel of a Valley, or a Faction, or a Ring,
but the saving of the Nation, the repudiation of a world lie, the
welding of right and might into an eternal harmony.




CHAPTER VIII

A VICTIM OF LAW'S DELAY

For years, Eleanor could not let herself remember the details of that
night.  We like to persuade ourselves that by some miraculous chance,
some trickery of fate, good may come in a vague somehow out of evil;
contrary to the proofs from the beginning of time that good fruit never
yet grew from evil seed.  The girl was too honest for such fetish
faith.  She could not turn up the whites of her eyes in a pious
resignation that it had been the will of God evil should triumph.  So
she shut out the details of the horror from mind's memory and set her
teeth, knowing well that when lewd horrors triumph it is not because
the God of the Universe is a fool but because the powers for right have
not fought valiant as the powers for evil.

She remembered the Ranger had tossed a revolver to the old frontiersman
and Matthews had gone tearing up the slippery clay of the Mesa road
ripping out oaths of his unregenerate days that he would have "the
scoundrels' scalps if he had to tear them off with his own hands."
Somehow, Wayland had headed the draggled horses round on the narrow Rim
Rock trail.

"Go down and break the news to his mother.  I'll get the body," he had
said; and she had driven the buckboard down with her foot on the wheel
brake.  Not a soul appeared around the Senator's place as she passed
the white square of fenced buildings.  All the mosquito doors were
hooked.  Everything looked deserted; branding irons lying in disorder
round the k'raal.  The River had swollen too turbulent for fording and
she had crossed the white bridge--she remembered she had crossed at a
gallop contrary to the little notice tacked on the board railing.
Then, the horses steaming from rain had stopped in front of the Mission
gate and Mrs. Williams had come out "wondering about Fordie in the
storm."  With her back to the waiting mother, Eleanor had spent an
unconscionable time tying the ponies, trying to control her own
trembling lips and threshing round for some way to tell the untenable.
She remembered the roil of the raging waters, the floating star
blossoms on the muddy swirl, the light sifting in beaten rain dust
through the silver pine needles, the curve and dip of the joyous
swallows.  Then, she had followed the little white haired lady into the
Mission Parlor.

Almost hysterically, that saying of an old profane writer came to mind,
"God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb;" and all her inner being was
shouting in rebellion "Does He, Does He?"  Then she shut the door.  She
knew very well how she ought to have broken the news with the pious
platitudes that everything is for the best, with the whitewashed lies
that every damnable tragedy is a blessing in disguise, that every
devil-dance of fool circumstance is beneficent design, that disease is
really health in a mask and sin a joke, a misnomer, that crime is
really a trump card up Deity's sleeve to play down some wonderful trick
of good; but--was it the Indian strain in her blood back many
generations?  She could not mouthe the hollow mockery of such
sophistries in the presence of Death.


"Eleanor--what is it?  Why do your eyes look so strange?"

The little woman clasped both the girl's hands and gazed questioningly
up in her face.  At the same moment, she began to tremble.  She tried
to ask and faltered; a tremor pulsed in the upper lip.  Then the
grand-daughter of the man of the iron hand had gathered the little
white haired lady in her arms as if to ward the blow.

"The outlaws drove Fordie over the Rim Rocks with the herd," she said.

"Is he dead?  Is he dead?"

The little woman had drawn her body up its full height.

Eleanor tried to answer.  The words would not come from her lips.  She
nodded.  There again she had to shut the door of memory; for, when we
break the news, it isn't the news we break; it's the news breaks us.

After what seemed an interminable quiet, Mrs. Williams was asking
through dry tearless sobs:

"What does it all mean?  Have we not given our whole lives to God?  How
could this thing happen--to an innocent child?  There isn't any justice
or right in this whole world."

"We must _not_ be quiescent any more, Mrs. Williams.  We must fight.
We have such a habit of letting things go, and things let go--go wrong.
It isn't God's fault at all: it's us--us humans: it's our fault.  Every
one of us ought to have been ready to die to prevent crime; and we've
been letting things go.  We mustn't be quiescent any more.  We must
fight wrongs and evils.  And much more;" the girl in tears, the little
woman fevered, red-eyed, gazing with glazed look into dark spaces,
kneading her clasped hands together.  Once the door opened and the
shawled head of the old half-breed woman poked in.

"Ford?" Calamity asked.

"Go 'way, Calamity," whispered Eleanor.

She saw the little woman rise slowly.

"He is murdered," Mrs. Williams said, "he is murdered just as truly as
if Moyese had cut his throat with his own hand."  It was not for months
after, that Eleanor recalled the look on Calamity's face as the Indian
woman heard those frenzied words.  Then Mrs. Williams broke in
uncontrollable sobbing.  "Leave me!  Go out--all of you.  Leave me
alone!"

Eleanor shut the door and led the dazed Indian children from the outer
hall.  In the Library, opposite the Mission Parlor, she found old
Calamity sitting on the floor with the shawl over her head.  The
half-breed woman sat peering through the shawl as Eleanor lighted the
hanging lamp.  No Indian will mention the name of the dead.  She
fastened her eyes on Eleanor, snakily, sinister, never shifting her
glance.

"What is it, Calamity?"

"Is dat true?  Senator man he keel heem--keel leetle boy?" she asked
slowly.

Eleanor thought a moment.

"Yes, it is entirely true," she said, never heeding the import of her
words to the superstitious mind of the Indian woman.

A little hiss of breath came from the crouching form.  She rose, drew
the shawl round her head and at the door, turned.

"Dey take mine," she said, "and now dey keel heem, an' white man, he
yappy--yappy--yappy; not do--not do any t'ing!  He send for Mount'
P'lice, mabee no do anyt'ing unless Indian man . . . he keel."  The
little hiss of breath again and a cunning mad look in the eyes.

"Go 'way Calamity!  Go home to our ranch house!"

By and by, came Wayland.  She knew why he had come after dark, carrying
the slender body against his shoulder.  A white handkerchief had been
thrown over the face; and she saw that he held the arms tightly to hide
the fact that both had been broken in the fall.  The rains had matted
the curly hair and brought a strange rose glow to the cheeks.  There
again--Eleanor had to shut the doors of memory; for they had carried
him in together.  The wind was not tempered to the shorn lamb; and it
is the living, not the dead, who beat against the Portals of Death.

They kept watch together, she and Wayland, in the Library across from
the closed door of the Mission.  Parlor, black-eyed Indian urchins
peeping furtively from the head of the stairs till bells rang lights
out.  Then silence fell, stabbed by the creak of floor, the swing of
door, the click and rustle of the cotton wood leaves outside.

There was a slight patter of rain-drip from the eaves somewhere.  A
gate swung to the wind; and, from across the hall, they could hear the
driven footsteps pacing up and down the parlor.  Then, the
drip,--drip,--was broken by longer blanks, and stopped.  The cotton
wood leaves ceased to rustle and flutter.  Only the twang of the night
hawk's wing hummed through the stillness; and the distracted tread no
longer paced the Mission Parlor.  When Eleanor came back from across
the hall, she shut the Library door softly.

"She is praying," she said.

Wayland had been extemporizing a morris chair into a lounge with his
Service coat for a pillow.  He threw a navajo rug across.  Then, he
faced her.  The look of masterdom had both hardened and softened.  She
did not know that the hunger-light of her own face hardened that
hardness; and she gazed through the darkened window to hide her tears.
He stood beside her with his arms folded.  A convulsive shudder shook
her frame.  Wayland tightened his folded arms.  Sympathy is so easy.
The sense of her nearness, of her trust, of the warm living fire of her
love was pushing him not over the precipice but into the battle, out
beyond the firing line.  What did one man matter in this big fight
anyway?  They heard the sibilant hush of the River flood-tide; and the
warm June dark enveloped them as in a caress.  They could see the sheet
lightning glimmer on the bank of cumulous clouds behind the Holy Cross.
The humming night-hawk, up in the indigo of mid-heaven, uttered a
lonely, far, fading call, as of life in flight; and a rustle of wind,
faint as the brushing of moth wings, passed whispering into silence.

"You don't really think death is the end of all, do you?" she asked.

Wayland could not answer.  If she had looked, she would have seen his
face white and his eyes shining with a strange new light.  He drew back
a little in the dark of the window casement, with his hand on the sill.
It touched hers and closed over it.  Then, somewhere from the dark came
a night-sound heard only in June, the broken dream-trill of a bird in
its sleep.  When she spoke, her voice was low, keyed as the dream-voice
from the dark.

"Where did the spray of flowers you gave me come from?"

"Sprig I'd stuck in my hat band."

"Was that all?  Didn't you mean to tell me more?"

"It's a pearl everlasting blossom," answered Wayland.

She waited.  He heard the slow ticking of his own watch.

"I was dreaming of your face," he blundered out, "and when I wakened,
the thing had blown down on--the hammock."  It was a clumsy subterfuge;
and he knew that her thought meeting his half-way divined his dream.

The wind passed whispering into silence.  He felt the quiver of the
pine needles outside, trembling to the touch of wind and night.  The
sense of her nearness, of her trust, of the warm living fire of her
love swept over him unstemmed; and, when she turned and looked in his
eyes, he caught her in his arms and held her there with a fierce
tenderness, her face thrown back, the veins of her throat pulsing to
the touch of wind and night, her lips parted, her lashes hiding her
eyes.

"Tell me that you are mine," he whispered.

She did not answer for a moment.  Then she lifted her eyes.  He drank
their light as a thirsty man might drink waters of life.  Neither
spoke.  The rustling wind passed whispering.  The June dark enveloped
them in the warm caress of the night.  By the dim flare of the library
lamp he saw her lips trembling.

"Tell me," he commanded.

"Do I need to tell you?"

"Yes, yes!  I must have a seal of memory for the dark future," and his
tongue poured forth such utterances as he had not dreamed men could use
but in prayer.  "I must know from your own lips."

He felt the tremor, felt the two hands rise to frame his face, felt the
catch and take of breath, heard the broken notes of gold.

"Then, take it," she said.

He bent over her lips in an exquisite torture that could neither give
nor take enough till she struggled to free herself, when he crushed her
the closer, and kissed the closed eyes and the forehead and the hair
and the pulsing throat.  Then he opened his arms.

She sank on the morris chair and hid her face in her hands.  They
neither of them spoke nor heard very much but the pounding of their own
hearts.  Wayland gazed out in the dark at the shiny flood-tides of the
river.  She had not meant--she had meant always to be free; she had not
meant to mingle her life currents in the destiny of others.

The door opened suddenly.  It was old Calamity, red-shawled and
stooping.

"Missa Vellam say not for vait no longer, Mademoiselle!  She aw' right.
She say t'ank you now for to go home!"

Eleanor rose with a shuddering sigh

"Come then, Calamity," she said.

Wayland walked with her to the ranch house, the old half-breed woman
pattering behind.  The gray dawn-light lay on the river mistily.  At
the gate, she turned.

"Has Mr. Matthews come back yet, Calamity?"

Calamity gave a vigorous shake of her head.

"I am going up to the Rim Rocks at once to see what's become of him.
Go on in, Calamity; I want to speak to Miss MacDonald!  Forgive me," he
pleaded.  "I had no right.  I have no right to anything till I have
cleaned up this damnable hell-work.  I must not leave duty till I have
fought this thing out; and I must not drag you in; but I wanted--" he
paused; "I couldn't help it."

She trembled, but she took refuge in neither the subterfuge nor the
pretence of the Eastern woman.

"It was yours," she said.

Wayland's eyes flashed their gratitude.  "It's so God-blessed
beautiful, Eleanor; it's so wonderfully beautiful I mustn't spoil it
with my man hands!  I couldn't believe it true without the memory
you've given me; but you must keep me in line!  Now that I have that
memory in my heart I'll drink it, and hike for the firing line!  My
place isn't here; you must never let me break my resolution again."

"I never will," interrupted Eleanor.

"We've got to fight this thing to the last ditch!  If the innocent may
be done to death by our law makers; if murder can be planned and
carried out unpunished; there's an end to our democracy!  Last year it
was a little school teacher strangled down in the Desert; nobody
punished, because that would have interfered with a voting gang on
election day.  This year, it's Fordie.  _If these crimes had been
committed under a monarchy, the people would have tanned the hide of
the king into boot leather_!  Last year it was the little school
teacher.  This year it's Fordie.  Tomorrow, it may be any man, woman or
child in the Valley.  If they'd keep their crimes among their own kind,
there would be some excuse for this let-alone policy; but when freedom
to do what a man likes means freedom to push crime into your life and
mine, freedom to deprive others of freedom, it's time the Nation jumped
on somebody!  We've got to fight this damnable thing to the last ditch,
Eleanor!"

"Good luck and God speed," she said without looking up; and she turned
without once looking back, and walked up the slab steps of the rustic
entrance to the ranch house.




CHAPTER IX

RIGHT INTO MIGHT

Don't wait for Mr. Matthews and me.  We are setting out on the Long
Trail.  It is the Long Trail this Nation will have to travel before
Democracy arrives.  It is the Trail of the Man behind the Thing; and
we'll not quit till we get him.  You remember what our old visitor said
about "splitting the air to get somewhere."  We are going to quit
"sawing the air" and "split it to get somewhere."  We are going to set
out after the Man; the little codger first, as a foot print on the Long
Trail to the lair of the Man Higher Up.

You cannot stab a lot of things to life as you did last night and the
night before, and then expect them to lie quiet and be the same.  You
have sent me forth on the Long Trail, Eleanor; and I shall hunt the
better because you have stabbed me alive and will never let me go to
sleep again.  I thank you; and yet, I can't thank you, mine _Alder
Liefest_--look up and see what that means in old Saxon--Yours in Life
and Death and Always and Out Beyond.

  Dick.


I have ordered a wreath from Smelter City for Fordie.  Find it hard to
stop writing and go from you; but the darned old Mountain doesn't look
the same; it's all draped out in such "dam-phool 'appiness" that I am
glad in the shadow of Death.

  Dick. (2nd)


Don't forget every day dawn and sunset, I come to renew the Seal.  Ever
study Algebra in college?  Then look up what this means.

  Dick. (nth)


And because she had graduated from girl to woman between sunset and
daydawn of that Death Watch, she kissed the last signature, right in
the midst of the German cook's dishes, set all higgeldy-piggeldy on the
oilcloth top instead of the linen cover, owing to the distraction of
the night's tragedy.  It was his first love letter; and because it was
his first, he did not know it was a love letter.  He had written it on
the pages of a field note book.  On the reverse side, were figures of
triangulations and scaled timbers, which Eleanor fingered lovingly
because the dumb signs seemed to connect her life with his
before--before what?  Ask those who know!

The note was lying at her breakfast place when she came out from a
sleepless night, a night that seemed to pass swinging between the gates
of Life and the gates of Death, with phantoms on the trail between, of
Love so terrible its glory blinded her, of Crime so dark its shadow
obscured her faith in God.  For hours, she had lain quivering to the
consciousness of that moment when Life leaped up to meet and blend with
Life in Love.  For hours, she had lain quivering to the consciousness
of Crime stalking satyr-faced amid the shadows of Life, Greed and
Murder and Lust, hiding beneath suave words, behind conventionality,
draped in all the broad phalacteries of law, ready to leap fanged at
the throat of Innocence in a Land of Let-Alone; and she emerged from
the conflict of these two forces no longer what would be called a
Christian, no longer a Quiescent, no longer a Let Alone.  She emerged
knowing that Democracy must become a joke, and Christianity the
laughing stock of the ages, unless Right could be made over into Might.

Then, she found the Ranger's note at her late breakfast--it was a
shockingly late breakfast, it was after the noon hour--the note saying
that he had set out on the Long Trail that the Nation must travel, the
trail of the Man behind the Thing, the Man Higher Up.  It was as it had
been from the first with him, the meeting half-way of their thoughts
from different beginnings; and she kissed the signature with a gesture
that played havoc with the breakfast dishes and sent Calamity
snivelling and muttering from the kitchen.  The ignorant half-breed's
knowledge of life among the miners of the Black Hills and the shingle
men of the Bitter Boot saw-mills didn't admit explanations of love that
kissed signatures and impelled tears.


And yet while revolution convulsed two souls you could have gone from
end to end of the Valley that week or to every cabin on the Homestead
Claim of the Ridge and not heard a living soul speak one word of the
tragedy on the Rim Rocks.  Were they moral cowards?  I don't think so.
Wasn't it more of that spirit of Let Alone?  If you had mentioned the
terrible episode to a casual settler, he would have given you a blank
look and remarked "that he hadn't heard."

The story set down here, I could not myself have learned if a chance
ramble over the foot hills of the Rim Rocks had not led one day to a
solitary little grave, surrounded by a picket fence marked by the
figure of a kneeling child carved in rough sand stone.  As the guest of
the Mission School, I made the mistake of asking the mother, herself,
whose grave that was.  Women, who are neither politicians nor politic,
have a plain way of uttering harsh facts.  She did not speak about the
author of her boy's death in soft words, that little white haired
mother.  She used a term oftener heard in the purlieus of criminal
courts.  "To think," she exclaimed bitterly, "to think that Fordie,
descended from generations of Williams who have pioneered and fought
for and built up this country since ever the first Williams landed in
Boston in 1666, was done to death by this murderer, this truckster,
this political trickster, this outcast from the European gutters, this
huckster of lazaretto morals and bawd houses, who is overturning our
Nation with his oiled villainies and peddler ways!  No, we have never
taken Government aid and we never shall!  I like to know that my Indian
girls are safe."  What more she added, I do not relate; for an angered
mother has a way of uttering terrible truths.

To-day, if you visit that grave on the crest of the saddle back, you
will find it flanked by two others, a man's on one side with the figure
of a trader carved in sandstone by the Indians; on the other, old
Calamity's with a plain granite slab; though I have heard strict people
say her body ought not to have been laid there because of the vagrant
character of her early life.


Indian boys from the school had shaped the coffin and carved the figure
for the stone.  A girlish teacher read the Church Services for the
dead; and the children's voices rose a thin tremulous treble in the
funeral hymn around the grave.  Wild flowers covered the casket, pearl
everlasting and the wind flower and the white Canada violet and the
painter's brush vari-colored as a flame; and a wreath had come up from
Smelter City.

Sights and sounds that have been a setting for sorrow, haunt the mind.
After that day, Eleanor could never hear the hammer of the woodpecker,
the lone cry of circling hawk, the whistling of the solitary mountain
marmot, without hearing also the thin treble of the Indian pupils
breaking and silencing on that funeral hymn till only the mother's
voice sang clarion to the end.  She heard the low melting trill of the
blue bird and the wrangling rasp of the jay--true and counterfeit,
peace and discord--had God put right and wrong in the world for the
friction of the conflict between, to develop souls?  Had one been set
over against the other, like light and shadow, to train the spiritual
eye to know?


Then, the Indian boys began to lower the casket.  One young pall bearer
faltered and slipped his hold; it was the little white haired mother's
hand steadied the rope that lowered, and slowly lowered, out of sight
for ever.  Then one of the girl teachers dropped in a great bunch of
mountain laurel.  Eleanor succeeded in leading the mother away.

Were the amethyst portals still ajar to the infinite life; or did the
shadow of the Cross, of the time-old ever-recurring crucifixion, darken
the vista of a glad future?  The Indian children filed in through the
gate of the Mission school.  At the gate, the mother looked up the
Saddle back.  She had no time for the pampered luxury of self conscious
grief.  She had directed the making of the coffin and the carving of
the sandstone and had led the funeral hymn to the end; but now she
looked back.  Ashes of roses across the sky, creeping phantom shadows,
and in her heart, the sombre presence of the after-desolation which
neither faith nor fortitude casts out.  She would go to sleep dull with
the woe of it and dream depressed of its loneliness, to waken heavy
with the memory.  Then, by and by, would come the peace that the dead
send, which is not forgetfulness.  But now she looked back, looked back
with the wrench that was the tearing of flesh and spirit asunder.
Above the new-made grave, across those topaz sunset gates, stood the
figure of the native woman, shawl thrown from her head reaving the long
black hair; and from the hill crest came such a long low cry as might
have been a ghost echo of all the age-old world sorrows.  Eleanor felt
the quick twitch on her arm.  Without a word, without a tear, the boy's
mother had fainted.

"We ought to have looked out for that," explained one of the girl
teachers from the school.  "We ought to have left Calamity home.  She
has always done that since they took her child away."

"Had she a child?" asked Eleanor.

"Yes; and they took it away when she went insane."

Eleanor slept with the leaves of the field-book under her pillow that
night; but she slept the heavy dreamless sleep of baffled hope.




CHAPTER X

THE HANDY MAN GETS BUSY

If you think the Senator had had anything to do with the terrible
events of the Rim Rocks, you are jumping to conclusions and must surely
have failed to follow the activities of Mr. Bat Brydges the morning
after the tragedy.

The first newspaper office that the handy man visited was owned by the
Senator.  That was easy.  Bat went into the reporters' long room where
the typewriters usually clicked.  This morning they were silent.  The
men were out on their assignments.  The news editor was taking a
message over the telephone.  Bat sat down on the table and waited.  The
news editor was thin-faced and nervous and alert and immaculately
groomed.  Bat was round-faced and sleepy-eyed--tortoise-shell eyes--and
all that prevented his suit from looking positively slovenly was that
his own ample avoirdupois filled every wrinkle.

The news editor adjusted his glasses to his nose and answered, "Yes,
Yes," impatiently over the telephone.

"It's a parson," he explained with an irritable snap of his black eyes
towards Bat.

Bat smiled sleepily.  "Thinks you're hungering and thirsting for news
of his flock, does he?"

"No, blank it," snapped the news editor.

"It's another kind of flock that's worrying us this morning."

Bat's smile faded to a sly haze in his sleepy eyes.

"What has the old boy got to say?"

"How do you know he is old?" snapped the news editor.

Bat didn't volunteer on that point.

"Ask him what his name is," suggested Brydges.

"What did you say the name was?  Matthews--Matthews--is that it?  Wait,
please!"  The news-editor put his hand over the mouth piece of the
telephone.

"Know anything about him, Bat?"

"I should say I do!  Choke it off!  He's staying with Missionary
Williams at the Indian School, and you know about how much love is lost
between Williams and Moyese."

"But we can't possibly suppress this, Bat.  It will be all over the
country."

"Better see whose ox is gored," advised Brydges.

"But we've got to get this, Brydges!  The stage driver's told one of my
men, already!  Every bar-room buffer in the country side will know it
by night."

"Then you had better get it straight," advised Bat.

The news-man looked in space through eyes narrowed to an arrow.  Bat
watched sleepily.  "If we choke this old chap's account off, can you
give one to us?"

"Got it in my pocket!  I've just come in on the stage!"

"I thought you came down in a motor with the Senator?  Didn't he take
the morning limited for Washington?"

"Well, the darn thing broke down so often it was bad as the stage.
Anyway, I've got the story for you--"

"Senator O. K. it?"  The news-man hung the telephone receiver up, still
keeping his hand over the mouth piece.

"Lord, no!"  Bat slid off the table, tore the sheets from his note book
and handed the story of the Rim Rocks across to the editor.

"What do you take the Senator for?  He knows nothing about it; but it's
in his constituency, and I guess his own paper should see that the
account which goes in is straight."

The news-editor hoisted his foot to the seat of a chair and stood
racing his eyes through sheet after sheet of Brydges's copy.  Bat
lighted a cigar, put his hands in his pockets and pivoted on his heels.
There was the squeak, squeak, squeak of a child's new boots coming up
the first flight of stairs; and a squeak, squeak, squeak up the second
flight of stairs; and a little girl, not twelve years old, resplendent
in such tawdry finery as might have stepped out of an East End London
pawn shop, presented herself framed in the doorway of the reporter's
room.  She plainly belonged to the immigrant section of Smelter City.
The news-editor never took his eyes from Bat's copy.  They were eyes
made for drilling holes into the motives behind facts.  Bat emitted a
whistle that was a laugh.

"Hullo," he said.  "I knew they were coming on younger every year; but
I didn't know we had gone into the kindergarten business yet.  You
don't want a job?  Now don't tell me you want a job?"

The little person lifted a pair of very sober eyes beneath the brim of
some faded plush headgear.

"Is thus th' rha-porther's room?"

"Sure! you bet!"  Bat wheeled on both heels.  The little person looked
at him very steadily and solemnly.

"A' wannt," she said in that mongrel dialect of German-American and
Cockney-English, "A wawnt an iteem."

"Sure," says Bat, "nothing easier."

"Wull thur be eny chaarge?"

"Not for ladies," says Bat, saluting, hand to hat, and grinning more
sleepily than ever.

"Then, A wull guve it t' y': wull y' write it, sor?"

"Sure!"  Bat squared himself to one of the reporters' high desks.

"Mestriss Leez-y O'Fannigan," dictated the little publicity agent.

"Miss O'Funny Girl," with a look to his fat cheeks as of a bag blown
full of air.

"No Sor, O'Fan-ni-gan-"

"Perhaps," said Bat, "You'd like to know we're in the same boat, except
that you're seeking exactly what I'm trying to avoid, Miss O'Finnigan?"

"Wull dance t' night--" continued the little publicity seeker.

"Will she dance in her copper-toe boots?" asks Bat.

"Wull dance at the H---- i-o-f lodge meetin' at--"

"That'll do, get her out of this," ordered the news-man.  "It grows
worse every day.  Every damphool thinks the world is aching for an
interview with himself, from the mining fakirs to the Shanty Town
brats: it's seeped down to the kids.  You go home, kid, and tell your
mother to spank you special extra--"

They heard the fat little legs stumping down the stairs.  "That kid
belongs to Shanty Town.  She dances for the bar room buffers now;
she'll dance later, like you and me, Bat, for bigger bluffers.  Freedom
of the press!  Damn it, I'm sick of the bunco game, Bat--"

"Draw it easy," drawled Bat.  "If you're sick of it, it's dead easy to
get out.  I guess the kid is doing the same thing as you and me: 'Give
us this day our daily bread.'  How's the story?  Will you give it a
flare head?"

"Will there be any charge?" ironically repeated the news-man.

"Not for Moyese," smiled the handy man sleepily, "and say, if I were
you, I'd do one of two things, get rid of my conscience or get a tonic
for my nerves."

The telephone rang.  The news-man ran to the receiver and a moment
later slammed it back on the hook.

"Old frump, giving namby pamby talks on woman's influence in politics
without votes."  The news editor spat aimlessly.

Bat tapped the story of the Rim Rocks with his pencil.  "Well," he
asked.

"We'll give this flare."

The news man put heavy underscores in blue beneath the words TEN
THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD, BY THE VALLEY CATTLE ASSOCIATION FOR PROOF OF
THE PERPETRATORS OF LAST NIGHT'S VILE CRIME.

"We'll put this in red!  God!  The Senator is an artist!  I like having
to lick the hand that leashes me."

"And feeds you, eh?" added Bat.

Beneath the flare heading followed a statement of facts (more or less)
to the effect that in an altercation between the drovers of some
outside cattlemen and the herders belonging to the MacDonald ranch, the
sheep herd had been hustled--("I like your alliterations, Bat, it gives
flavor of quality," commented the news-man with a snap of his black
eyes,) too close to the edge of the Rim Rocks with the unintended and
tragical result that several hundred sheep had been shoved over the
battlements.  ("What I like specially is what you don't give,"
commented the news-man.)

There was not a word about broken backs and slashed lambs and
disemboweled ewes; nor of what had been found on the Upper Mesas.  As a
sort of addendum it was stated that a boy belonging to the Mission
school had lost his life in the melee.

"Anyway, we're in style!  Way to tell a thing now adays is to turn all
around it, and not tell anything at all.  Auto suggestion, eh, Bat?"

Bat's fat cheeks blew up in the explosion of a bursting paper bag.
"You bet it's auto all right.  If you'd heard the old man talking all
the way down on the iniquity of the thing: he kept it going harder than
the buzz wagon."

"Better inform a breathlessly eager public that he's gone to
Washington?"

"Here, I've got that, too!  He dictated that straight, 'for the express
purpose of taking up the whole question of eliminating the grazing
areas from the National Forests when it will be possible for the State
authorities to protect the live stock interests,'" Bat handed across
the second item.

"What in thunder have the National Forests to do with the Rim Rock
massacre?"  The newsman looked up through his glasses.

"And who in thunder is going to ask that?"

Bat tapped the last item sharply with his pencil.  "They'll read _that_
and they'll read the other, and I'll bet dollars to doughnuts nine men
out of ten will begin jawing and spouting and arguing that if there
were _no_ National Forests, there would be no Range Wars.  If they draw
a false impression, that's the public's look out.  If we weren't
dealing with damphools, we couldn't fool 'em."

"But it didn't happen on the National Forests."

"But it's only the tenth man who will stop to think that out.  You put
in one of those big middle page cartoons--National Forests with the
Federal sign board, KEEP OFF, the sheep being massacred inside the sign
board and the State sheriff unable to go in and stop it--"

"But you didn't say massacred!  You said they accidently went over the
edge."

"But it's only the tenth man will stop to think that.  You run the
cartoon, see?" said Bat, and, though he asked it as a question, if
sounded final.  The news-man went tearing back to the front editorial
rooms.  Bat went whistling down stairs, two steps at a bounce.  At the
half-way landing, he paused.

"Say," he yelled up, "you can use the same old cartoon; 'Keep Off the
Grass,' you know."

"Eh?--right," crossly from the front room.

"And say?"

The news-man came out and leaned over the upper railing.

"Don't forget to take that tonic for your nerves."

The news-man told Bat to go any where he pleased; but it was all in the
day's work with Mr. Bat Brydges.  He didn't go.  The handy man went
straight across to the paper in opposition.  The news-man went back to
the front room and stood thinking.  He didn't curse Bat nor emit fumes
of the sulphurous place to which he had invited Brydges.  He was
contemplating what he called his "kids"; and he was figuring the next
payment due on the Smelter City lots in which he had been speculating.
Evidently, these were the news-man's tonic; for he at once did what he
described as "bucking it" and called down the speaking tube for the
press man to put on the old cartoon.

The opposition paper required more finesse on the part of the handy
man.  Bat strolled as if it were a matter of habit into the telegraph
editor's room, where he lolled back in one of the two empty chairs.  It
was still early and the wires were silent.  Bat laid one cigar at the
editor's place and took a fresh one for himself.

"Hullo, Bat," bubbled the telegraph man, dashing from the composing
room in his shirt sleeves, "We've just been having a yell of an
argument about the elements of success."  He seated himself and whipped
out a match to light the cigar.  Bat was clicking his cigar case open
and shut.  This editor was all nerves too.  Nerves seemed to go with
the job; but these nerves were not jangled.  He leaned back in his
swing chair with one boot against the desk.  "What makes a man
successful, anyway?  It isn't ability.  Your news-man across the way
could buy our office out with brains; but gee whitaker, he's worse than
a dose of bitters!  Now take your Senator, he hasn't either the
education or the brains of lots of our cub reporters, here!"  He paused
nibbling his cigar end.  "Yet, he's successful.  We aren't, except in a
sort of doggon-hack-horse way.  You're next to the old man, Bat, what
do you say makes him successful?"

Bat clicked the cigar case shut and put it in his pocket.

"Two things: he's a specialist; he delivers the goods no other man can
deliver; and he doesn't fool any time away by bucking into a buzz saw,
fighting windmills and that sort of thing, way you fellows 'agin the
Government' do."

The telegraph man removed his cigar.

"What do you mean by 'delivers the goods no other man can deliver'?  Do
you mean the pork barrel?"

"No," said Bat, "I don't, though the pork barrel is a d--ee--d
essential part of the game.  Here's what I mean; when you came to this
Valley, there was nothing doing.  We had mines; but we hadn't a
smelter!  Well, Senator got the coking coal for a smelting site and the
big developers came in.  Other men couldn't, wouldn't or didn't dare to
do it!  He did it.  He delivered the goods and got the big fellows
interested."

"He stole 'em, those coal lands.  He jugged 'em thro' Land Office
records with false entries."  The telegraph man had lowered his voice.

"We don't call 'em stolen when it's been the making of the Valley."

"No, because the Smelter is a sacred cow mustn't be touched for the
sake of the grease."

"Then, there was nothing doing in lumber; big fellows wouldn't come in
and develop.  Well, Moyese got 'em the timber tracts for a song.  Other
men couldn't, wouldn't or didn't dare.  He delivered the goods--"

"The courage of the highwayman," commented the wire editor with a puff.

"We don't call it that when it helps the Valley," corrected the handy
man.

"No, it's another sacred bovine; mustn't be touched for fear of the
axle grease.  See?  I've got a list of 'em--public lands, through
freights, water power, smelter, lumber deals," the telegraph man opened
his table drawer and held out a scrawled list.  "If you call that
delivering the goods, I call it filling the barrel.  What's the other
factor for success?"

"Not bucking into a buzz saw.  The world is mostly made of barkers and
builders.  You fellows spend all the time barking.  Then you wonder
there's nothing to show in the way of a building."

The telegraph wires began to click and the girl operator came in with
some tissue sheets.

"Fight in Frisco--that goes," commented the telegraph editor dashing in
the "ands" and "buts" and the punctuation.  He stuck the slip on the
printer's hook.  "Wedding in Newport--"

"That goes," laughed the handy man, "There's no sacred cow about that."

The telegraph man wrote headings for the dispatches and stuck them on
the hook for the printer's boy.

"Speaking of sacred cows, it isn't exactly cows, but it's in the stock
line all right--what do you know about that business last night up on
Rim Rocks?  Stage driver has been blazing it all round town--"

"Stage driver's a liar," emphatically declared Brydges.

"Been trying to get the news for an hour; the wires are cut.  Can't get
'em by phone.  Think I'll send a man up to-night with a photographer."

"Oh, I wouldn't," drawled Bat sleepily.  "It isn't worth it.  I've just
come down.  Whole row's over.  You can't get a dub in the Valley to
open his mouth.  Same old gag we've used for the last ten years,
'heavily armed band of masked men,' 'scene like a butcher's shambles,'
and that guy of a sheriff 'scouring the hills for the miscreants.'
I'll bet he's under his bed scared blue."

"Who did it?"

"Same old gang of outside grazers, drovers who skipped the State line.
I succeeded in getting their names after a good deal of trouble."

"You did, did you?  Then give us a stick about it, will you?  Date it
special at the Rim Rocks!  Trouble is, if I do send a man up, business
office will kick at the expense account; for there's nothing in it; and
that kind of news hurts the Valley."

So Mr. Bat Brydges wrote forty lines of two paragraphs in which he
warned the public that this sort of thing had to stop; the West would
not stand for interference from outside cattlemen who were trying to
wrest the range away from local grazers.  There followed the names of
six men concerned in the Rim Rock fray.  Whose names they were, neither
Bat nor anyone else knew.  Also Mr. Sheriff Flood was not described as
"a guy" nor pictured as reposing under his bed.  He might have been a
walking arsenal of defence for the Valley.  According to Mr. Bat
Brydges, Sheriff Flood was busy on the case and had wired the
authorities of the adjoining States to be on the look out for the
guilty parties.  There followed a description of the guilty parties
photographed accurately from Mr. Bat Brydges's retina.


The third newspaper office was the least easy for the handy man's
tactics.  The editor was an independent of the fiery order.  Bat
avoided the editor and tackled a young reporter at the noon hour.

"What do you say to a spin in the 40 h. p. to-night?" he asked.

"What's on?"

The youth was reading an ink-smudged galley proof.

Bat sat down on the desk where he could read over the other's shoulder.
The proof reeked of "gore" and "shambles" and "heavily armed masked
men" and rifle shots thick as hail stones with a sheriff careening over
the Mesas at break neck speed slathered with zeal for law.

"What reforms are you jollying along now?" asked Bat.

"We'll jolly you fellows when this comes out."

"I've always said if I were his Satanic Majesty and wished to defeat
the goody-goodies, I wouldn't bother fighting 'em!  I'd take an
afternoon nap and let them buck themselves by their lies and
bickerings."

The youth ran his eye down the galley proof.

"Who filled you up with this dope?" Brydges lowered his voice to an
altogether amused and very confidential key.

"What's the matter with it?"

"Matter?  There's nothing right about it."

"Goes all the same.  Got snap!  It's good stuff."

"Stuffing, you mean," corrected the handy man.  "Say, where ever did
you get it?  Talk of stuff?  Somebody has mistaken you for a spring
chicken."

"Got it straight.  It's all right!  Fellow from the English colony--"

"English Colony?  Those Rookeries--Mother Carey's chickens.  Do you
know what that Rookery gang is?  A lot of gambling toughs, remittance
doughheads--"

"That doesn't spoil a ripping good story!  I'm going to wire a column
to Chicago."

"No, you're not," contradicted Brydges.  "That kind of thing hurts the
State more than ten thousand dollars will advertise it.  You go over
your advertising columns my boy--"

"All right!  It's up to you?"

Bat whistled and swung the galley proofs between his knees.

"Doesn't matter what you say out here.  Everybody knows your rag sheet
will contradict to-morrow what you say to-day in headings red and long
as a lead pencil.  You'll contradict in a little hidden paragraph
tucked away among the ads., and I guess we know which are the ads. out
here; but, if you want any more dope on inside stuff, don't you send
that East!  You have applied for a job on our paper twice.  If you want
one, don't you send that East!  What do they pay you, anyway?"

The youth paused to estimate; and youth's hopes are ever high.

"That's worth a hundred to me!"

"No, you don't!  They pay you six and ten and sometimes two, but it's
worth a hundred if you keep it out, nice crisp little bills, my boy.
Call for you to-night at five; but don't you play that story up."

It was then and there Bat showed himself a past master.  He sauntered
out of the office humming.

"Say, Brydges," called the youth, "what's wrong with this account,
anyway?"

"All wrong," reiterated Brydges stepping back.  "Wasn't a man lost his
life.  Wasn't a man on the Range at the time, only a kid got in the way
of a stampede!  Here, I'll give it to you straight!  I've just come
down from the Valley!  You tell what happened down in Mesa and Garfield
counties ten years ago, and up in Wyoming last spring!  Give it to the
other States.  Don't give your own State a black eye!  Come on out and
have something with me, and I'll fix you up as we feed."

So when the Independent's fiery columns came out with red scare heads
and gory recital full of reference to "something rotten in the State of
Denmark" and "damnable rascality," there was only one emasculated
innocuous column given to the local event, but seven columns were
steeped with the bloody details of sheep massacres and stock raids and
Range Wars in other states in "the good old gun-toting days."


Bat's last act that day was to send a telegram care of the East-bound
Limited to Senator Moyese.  It read, "All local papers out highly
gratulatory references your efforts to punish guilty parties."




CHAPTER XI

SETTING OUT ON THE LONG TRAIL

In the half light of mist and dawn, the Ranger ascended the Ridge trail.

Life was at flood-tide.  Thought focussed to one point of consciousness
set on fire of its own rays.  He walked as one unseeing, unhearing,
hardened to singleness of purpose, heedless of the steepness of the
climb, of his blood leaping like a mountain cataract, of his muscles
moving with the ease of piston rods; heedless of all but the warmth of
the glow enveloping his outer body from the flame burning within.

He did not follow the zig-zag Ridge trail but clambered straight up the
face of the slope, following pretty much the short cut-off they had
taken the night before.  He came to the crag where the spruce logs
spanned the tinkling water course.  There was a gossamer scarf of cloud
hanging among the mosses of the trees.  The peak came out opal fire
above belts of clouds.  The sage-green moss spanning the spruces turned
to a jewel-dropped thing in a sun-bathed rain-washed world of flawless
clouds and jubilant waters.  He drew a deep breath.  The air was tonic
of imprisoned sunlight and resinous healing.  Was each day's birth the
dawn to new being?


It was here he had met her the night before.  Waves of consciousness,
tender delirious consciousness, flooded and surprised him.  He had
asked for a seal of memory.  He knew now it would never be a memory: it
would be consciousness, ever-living, ever present; a compulsion not to
be controlled because it was not his own; and never to be quenched
because it burned within.  If he had been a weakling, the seal would
have been a seal to self; but because an elemental war for right was
winnowing the self out of him, he knew it was a seal to service.

Day-dawn marked the creation of a new world; and That had opened the
doors for him to a life that no telling could have revealed.  Would it
be the same with the Nation?  Would this struggle open the doors to a
new life; or would the powers that stood for law and right go on
marking time inside the firing line, while the powers that stood for
wrong and outrage held their course rampant, unchecked; straining the
law not to protect right but to extend wrong; perverting the courts;
stealing where they chose to steal; killing where they chose to kill;
deluging the land with anarchy by sweeping away law, just as surely as
the removal of the sluice gates would set loose flood waters?

He ascended the rest of the dripping Ridge trail in a swing that was
almost a run.

Below the Ranger cabin on the Homestead Slope stood the large oblong
canvas bunk house of the road gang employed by the Forest Service.

"Hi--fellows," shouted Wayland, shaking the tent flap.  "All hands up!"
And he ordered the foreman to send the road gang to skin and burn and
bury what lay at the foot of the battlements.  As the Rim Rocks lay a
few feet outside the bounds of the National Forests, it will be seen
that Wayland _had stopped marking time behind the law and gone out
beyond the firing line_.  If it isn't clear to you how the Ranger was
exceeding the authority of the law, then read the Senator's speeches
about "the Forest and Land Service men going outside their jurisdiction
employing Government men to do work which was not Government Service at
all."

The Ranger saddled his own broncho for himself and a horse belonging to
one of his assistants for the old frontiersman, who must be some where
on the upper Mesas.  To each saddle he fastened a Service hatchet and a
cased rifle.  Then, he caught one of the mules of the road gang for the
pack saddle.  Going inside the cabin, he furbished together such
provisions as his biscuit box shelves afforded, a sack containing half
a ham, a quarter bag of flour, one tin of canned beans, a tobacco pouch
filled with tea, another pouch with sugar on one side of the dividing
leather and salt in the other.  Then, he cinched a couple of cow-boy
slickers over the pack saddle, and, in place of the green Service coat
which he had left at the Mission, donned a leather jacket, took a last
look to see if a water-proof match case were in the inside pocket, ran
back to the cabin for a half-flask of brandy, and an extra hat, and
with the other horse and the pack mule in front, he mounted his pony
and set out for the Rim Rocks.  It will be seen this was not the
equipment of a man who intended to remain marking time.


Just for a second, he pondered which path to follow.  It would take an
hour to go down the Ridge trail, cross the Valley and ascend the
terra-cotta road of the Rim Rocks.  Couldn't he jump his horses over
the gully that cut between the Holy Cross and the Upper Mesa?  He
headed his horse into the tangle of hemlock and larch, the mule
trotting ahead snatching bites of dogwood and willow from the edge of
the dripping trail, the Ranger riding as Westerners ride, glued to the
leather, guiding by the loose neck rein instead of the bit, with a wave
of his hand to keep the little mule in line.

A turn to the left through a thicket of devil's club brought him where
the Ridge overlooked the River.  Wayland reined up sharply.  A pile of
logs scaled and marked with the U. S. stamp lay where the slightest
topple would send them over a natural chute into the River.  He had not
scaled those logs: neither had his assistants.  There was no record of
them on the books.  Of course, he had heard the chop and slash at the
settlers' cabins, but homesteaders don't farm on the edge of a vertical
precipice unless they are a lumber company; and logs tossed over that
precipice to the River were destined for only one market, Smelter City.
Then he remembered giving a permit to a Swede settler of the Homestead
Slope to take out windfall and dead tops for a little portable gasoline
engine; but the permit didn't cover this area.

"Having stopped stealing half a million from the Bitter Boot, they've
started their dummies in here."  He looked at the gashed timber-slash
as a thrifty man looks at wantonness and waste; it was a gaping wound
in the forest side, old and young trees alike hacked down, the stumps
of the big trees, not eighteen inches low as the regulations provided,
but three and four and five feet high of waste to rot and gather
fungus, the biggest of the giant spruce cut from a scaffolding nine
feet from the ground, leaving wasted lumber enough to build a house.

"This was done when I was away on my last long patrol," reflected
Wayland.  The slash of brushwood and wasted tops lay higher than his
horse's head.  "A fine fire-trap for the fall drought," thought Wayland
angrily.  "One spark in that tinder pile in a high wind; and there
would be no forests left on Holy Cross."

What did it mean, this open defiance, not of himself, (he was a mere
cog in the big wheel; so was the entire Forest Service,) this open
defiance of law; this open theft of Government property?  Connected
with the outrage of the Range War, and the Senator's advice for him to
stop suing for restitution of the two-thousand acres of coal lands, and
the handy-man's urgent arguments for him "to chuck the fight and come
down to the Valley," the Ranger knew well enough what the pile of
stolen logs stamped with a counterfeit Government hatchet meant;
stamped, of course, by some poor ignorant dummy foreigner.  The Ring
were setting their hired tools on to the fight.  And far away in the
East--yes it was the East's business to see what went on in the
West--were myriads of wage-earners forced to pay exorbitantly for coal
and wood and lumber and house rent because of this wanton waste; this
seizing fraudulently by the few of the property belonging to the many.
If they had thrown down the challenge, assuredly he was taking it up!
What would the people do about it, he wondered, when they came to know?
Would any power on earth waken the people up to do something, and stop
talking?  _A Roman ruler had fiddled while his imperial city burned.
What was the many-headed ruler of the great republic doing, while
enemies burned and cut and slashed and wasted in wantonness the
property of the public for the enrichment of the Ring_?


The Ranger touched his horse to a gallop and jumped all three animals
through the criss-cross of wind-fall and slash, coming out on the edge
of the rock chasm that cut the Upper Mesas off from the Holy Cross.
The gully crumbled on the near side and shelved on the far, twenty feet
deep and fifty wide, altogether not very jumpable, the Ranger thought.
He zig-zagged in and out among the larches along the margin of the rock
cut-way, noting "dead tops" ripe for the axe, pines where the squirrels
had cached cone seed at the root, spruce logs gone to punk with alien
seedlings coming up from the dead trunk, yellow ant-eaten wood-rot
ripped open by some bear hunting the white eggs; noting, above all, the
wonderful flame of the painter's brush, spikes with the tints of the
rainbow, like Indian arrows dipped in blood, knee-deep, multi-colored,
fiery, dyed in the very essence of sunglow, humming with bees and alive
with butterflies, lives of a summer in the aeon of ages that the snow
flakes had taken manufacturing soil out of granite, silt out of snow.

"The little snow flake gets there all right," reflected Wayland.  "It
takes time; but she carves out her little snow flake job all the same,
and the rocks go down before her!  Guess if we follow the law, we're
hitched up with the stars all right."


He reined up and caught at a pine bough.  A sight to hold the eye of
any forester held his; the enormous trunk of a fallen giant, a dozen
dwarfs growing from its punk, spanned the gully.  Wayland slid off his
horse.  The great trunk lay destitute of lesser branches to the tip on
the far side of the chasm like great characters that discard mannerisms.

The Ranger struck his Service axe into the trunk.  The bark held firm,
though he heard the ring of the dry-rot at the heart that had brought
the old giant crashing down to become food for the scrubs and pigmies
of the forest.  Wayland picked out two spindly birches.  Quick strokes
brought them down.  Walking out on the dead trunk, he threw a birch on
each side as a guard rail, affording fence, not protection, to the
wavering faith of a shy horse, "all a feeling of security to steady a
giddy head," he reflected.  He led the little pack mule; and the
bronchos followed.  A moment later, he was galloping through the
larches and low juniper that fringed the Mesas above the Rim Rock
trail, the mule huff-huffing to the fore snatching mouthfuls on the
run.  Then, with a lope, Wayland's broncho leaped out on the bare
sage-grown Mesas, the mule with ears pointed, nose high, heading
straight for the white canvas-top of a tented wagon.

For a moment, the light blinded Wayland's sight; for the sun had come
up in an orange fan; and the sky was not blue: it shone the dazzling
silver of mercury.  Against the high rarefied air came in view the
figure of a man, grotesquely exaggerated, head and shoulders first,
then body, riding a heavy horse, saddleless, hatless, coatless, white
of hair, heels pressed to his horse's flanks, bent far over the
animal's neck as Indians ride, galloping for the Rim Rock trail, or a
second jump from the battlements.

Wayland stood up in his stirrups and with hands trumpeted uttered a
yell.  The rider jerked his horse to a rear flounder, waved
frantically, then split the air--


"Glory be to the powers--but--A'm glad to see you!  A've headed them
off from the South trail.  We've got them, Wayland, the low dastard
scoundrels!  We've got them trapped like rats in a trap!  They're in
the Pass if you've a man in the Valley with spirit enough to get out
with a gun!"  He stopped for breath as the two horses floundered
together.

"We haven't," answered Wayland.

"They jumped the gully!  Man alive, y' ought t' seen them jump the
gully!  A slammed them right down into the bottom of it.  A would to
God 't had been to the bottomless pit.  The same gentry A saw that
night under your Ridge, saving his High Mightiness.  The evil fellow
wi' the sheep hide leggings, an' the one armed blackguard in the
cow-boy slicker, an' the corduroy dandy wi' the red tie, an' four more
of them same card-sharp gentry.  A rode 'long the top of y'r gully an'
poured six bullets after 'em!  Man alive!  A heard the fellow in the
yellow slicker yell bloody murder when A fired!  A'm hopin'--God
forgive me--A've nipped him in the other arm an' brought him winged t'
th' throne o' Grace!  They followed the gully bed behind y'r Mountain,
the white horse same as yon night under y'r Ridge, limpin', the one
armed man rockin' in the saddle an' spittin' out blasphemous filth for
th' others to wait.  A've kept guard all night, yellin' an' howlin'
like a vigilantee, knowin' they're not the gentry to run into the arms
of them good old-time neck-tie com'tees; an' not dreamin' A hadn't
another cartridge to my name!"  The old man swabbed the sweat from his
brow.

"A left m' coat and togs back at yon chuck wagon!"  Wayland noticed he
was riding stocking soled.

"I have an extra hat for you here."  Wayland tossed the soft felt from
the pocket of his leather coat.

"Oh, A saw 'em plain enough; same ill-lookin' six that y'r hell-kite
laws hatch on a bad frontier!  Make no mistake.  Yon white vest is at
the bottom o' this deviltry!  Who is he, Wayland?"

Wayland related the visit of a white-vest to his Ridge cabin; and they
trotted forward towards a sheep wagon.

"How did y' come up here?" asked the old frontiersman.

"Where did you get that horse?" retorted the Ranger.

"One of the chuck wagons' teams--"

"Herders all right?" asked Wayland.  He knew what the answer must be;
the same answer that had been disgracing the West these twenty years.

The old man jerked his horse to a dead stop, drew himself erect and
looked straight at the Ranger.

"Wayland, man, is this Russia--or Hell?  Is there another country in
the world calls itself civilized would allow four herder men to be
burned to death?  Does the country know what is doing?  Do you know
what happened?  Do you know that last wagon is left there only because
the rains put out the fire?  Y'll find the iron tires of the other
wagons with skeletons of men chained to the wheels.  A came up just as
they were settin' aboot firin' the second wagon.  They'd ripped all the
flour bags open and loosed the horses.  This one, A caught full pelther
down the trail."

The old man shook his head.

They trotted their horses across the Mesas in silence towards the
glaring white canvas wagon.  Broken harness, half-burned spokes, the
charred hub of a wheel, snapped whiffle-trees, the white dust of
scattered flour littered the ground.  A brown scorch of flame up the
back of the tent above the remaining wagon marked where the rains had
extinguished the fire.  A smouldering ill-smelling ash heap told the
fate of the other wagons.

"Hell-devilish work, hell-devilish work!  Th' beasts of the field
couldna' conceive such baseness, Wayland!  'Tis the work o' devils
spawned by harpies!  They say there is no devil to-day!  Hoh!"  The old
man puffed the heresy from his pursed lips.  "The beasts don't prey on
their own 'cepting the rats that starve; but, man, there's no
explanation of his self-destruction 'cepting the old fashioned one,
Wayland.  'He was possessed by a devil.'"

The Ranger had dismounted and was prodding the ash-heap with his heavy
boot sole.  Then, he gave the embers a smart flap with his whip.  The
blackened hub of a wheel went circling out.  Suddenly, Wayland turned
away his face, white and nauseated, hardened to resolution granite as
the rocks.  Eyeless sockets of a skeleton face protruded from the
ashes; and on the ground were stains which the rains had not washed
out.  It was then Wayland noticed the bloody thumb marks round the
canvas front of the wagon seat where the driver had been dragged down.

For a little time neither man spoke.  But, was it not the natural
ending of brutality unleashed of law; of crime left alone by the good?


"To mutilate thousands of sheep was damnable enough," said Wayland;
"but--this?"

The old frontiersman had picked up coat and boots flung aside the night
before.  He stood holding by his horse's mane looking down.  "And this
is a white man's land," he said.  "To this have y' prostituted freedom
bought by th' blood of saints an' martyrs?  Not in th' heat o' passion,
but for filthy gain, has a free people come to this?  _The heads o'
kings fell on the bloody block for less crime in days not so soft
spoken as these_.  Is y'r freedom, freedom to right or to wrong?  Is it
to send y'r Nation smash over the precipice?  Wayland, _is this
Democracy_?"

The Ranger did not answer for a moment.

"No," he said quietly, "it isn't Democracy any more than your Robber
Barons were Monarchy!  Don't you make that mistake; this is Anarchy,
the Anarchy of unrestrained greed!  You fought it in your plundering
Scotch Robber Barons long ago!  We have to fight it to-day in our
plundering plutocrats!"




CHAPTER XII

THE MAJESTY OF THE LAW VEILS ITSELF

"Do you mean me to believe," the old frontiersman drew himself up to
the full height of British superiority to everything outside the island
of its own circumscribed knowledge, "do you mean me to believe that if
any of these poor herders had escaped as witnesses, we'd not have been
able to send these blackguard murderers to the gallows?"

The Ranger had signalled for some of the road gang to ascend from below
the battlements to keep guard till the coroner could come.  The little
pack mule to the fore, Wayland and Matthews were picking the way slowly
down the terra cotta trail of the Rim Rocks.

"It does not make the slightest difference in the world what you or I
believe, Sir!  The facts are unless you could offer a witness money
enough to take him out the United States and to keep him for the rest
of his life, he would develop a good-forgetter, or else the same old
gag--'been blind folded,' 'didn't see,' and so on, and on, and on; you
can't blame them!  I'll bet if every one of the herders had escaped
instead of festering there in the ash heap, they'd all be legging it
out of the country far and fast as they could go."

The little mule came to a stand at a bend in the switch back; and the
old evangelist sat ruminating silently on his broncho.

"Y' have a sheriff?"

Wayland laughed.

"He's like the Indian flies; a no-see-him.  He'll ride over the hills
for weeks and if he tumbles over the top of his prisoner, he can't find
his man!"

The old Britisher looked doubtfully at Wayland, as much as to say, "I
don't believe you."

"You're no temptin' me to take the law into our own hands?"

Again Wayland laughed.

"My dear sir, you don't understand!  I don't want to drag you into this
at all!  For ten years, _the powers that stand for law in this country
have been marking time behind the firing line; while the other fellow
got away with the goods_.  They have been marking time while Crime
scored, and what you call the Devil kept tally."

The old man nodded his head approvingly.

"That's all true!"

"You ask me if I intend to break the law?  No, Sir, I do not; but _I do
intend to carry the law out beyond the firing line.  The thief strains
the law to get away with the goods; I am going to strain the law to get
them back.  The murderer strains the law to protect his damned useless
neck; I'm going to strain the law to break his neck_.  Unless," he
added, "I break my own neck doing it."

The old man had drawn down his brows.  "A don't just like the sound of
it; what's your plan?"

"To go out with a gun till I get them; the way your own Mounted Police
do up in Canada!  _I'm going to quit monkeying with technicalities in
the twilight zone . . . and go out . . . after the man_."

The old Britisher sat thinking: "Wayland, if A was managing this thing,
first thing A'd do would be blow such a blast on your local press, the
authorities would _have_ to sit up, then--A'd go after your sheriff if
A had to tackle the coward by the scruff of his scurvy neck, A'd make
him ashamed . . . _not_ . . . to act."

"All right, Sir!  Manage this thing . . . manage it just as you would
behind your hide-bound British laws!  We'll pass the Senator's ranch in
ten minutes.  You can telephone down to 'The Smelter City Herald.'
I'll get something ready to eat while you telephone.  Then, we'll go
right along to the sheriff."

They kicked their ponies lightly into a trot and came to the Senator's
k'raal before the noon hour.  Two or three of the ranch hands loitered
casually out to the road.  All were in blue over-alls and shirt sleeves
but one; and he was in knickerbockers.

"That's the foreman, ask him!"

"'Twould oblige me t' have the use of your telephone?"

The man in the knickerbockers tilted his hat at a rakish angle, stuck a
tooth-pick in the corner of his mouth, put his thumbs in his jacket arm
holes, shot Wayland a quick look of questioning, grinned at the old man
and nodded towards a white pergola standing apart from the veranda of
the ranch house.

"Find it there," he indicated, "drop a nickel--then, ring!"

"Did you see that look?" gritted the old Britisher between his teeth,
as the fellow sauntered away with elaborate indifference.

"Yes, but looks don't go with a jury."

"Neck-tie was effective with the likes of him in my day!"

For the third time, Wayland uttered the same sardonic laugh.  What was
happening to the old Britisher to change his point of view?

"I'll go on down to the River and prepare grub."

What Wayland was thinking, he did not say; but _what_ was passing in
the brain of the law-loving old Britisher that the rakish tilt of the
hat, the insolent angle of the tooth-pick, the spread of a man's thumbs
and feet--could break through hide-bound respect for law and elicit
reference to the court of the old-time neck-tie?

At the River, the Ranger loosened the saddle girths and put a small
kettle to boil above a fire of cottonwood chips and grass.  Then he
took out his note book and wrote the note to Eleanor which he gave to
one of the road gang for Calamity.  The note said: "We are setting out
on the Long Trail . . . the Long Trail this Nation will have to travel
before Democracy arrives . . . the trail of the Man behind the Thing
. . . the Man Higher Up."  How did the Ranger know what was going on up
at the telephone in the pergola, where British respect for law was at
one end of the wire and the handy man of the Valley at the other?

There was no bitterness in the quizzical smile with which he awaited
the old man's return; for as he lay back on the ground watching the
fire burn up, the letter brought again, not memory, but consciousness
of that seal to service, he wondered half vaguely could she know, could
she realize, did a woman _ever_ realize what her love meant to a man.
She could surely never have given such full draughts of life, of
wondrous new revealing consciousness, unless they were drinking
together from the same perennial, ever-new, ever-surprising
spring! . . .  He did not hear the footsteps till the old man spoke--

"A somehow--didna' seem--to get--them clear!  They answered; then--they
didna' answer!  _Smelter City Herald_--ye said?  'Twas strange--'twas
vera strange--A got an answer plain asking my name--then central said
'ring off! ring off! can't get them, wire out of order'!"

This time, Wayland did not laugh.  Had not the wires been out of order
since first he began to ring the bells of his little insignificant
place to a Nation's alarm?


They ate their bannocks--'Rocky Mountain dead shot' Westerners call the
slap-jacks--in silence.  While the old man still pondered mazed and
dumb, the Ranger dabbled the cups and plates in the River and recinched
the pack saddle, the little mule blowing out his sides and groaning to
ease the girth, the bronchos wisely eating to the process of
reharnessing.  The Britisher's reverence for law dies hard.  Wayland
saw the wrestle and kept silent.  A deep low boom rolled dully through
the earth in smothered rumblings and tremblings like distant thunder.

"What's that, Wayland?"

"Only the snow slides loosened by the noon-thaw slithering down the
Pass of Holy Cross;" and somehow, he could not but think of what she
had said . . . the law of the snow flake sculpturing the rocks.

The horses cropped audibly over the grasses--waiting.  The little mule
looked back--also waiting.  A whelming impulse, part of the spirit to
drink of her inspiration, part of the flesh to drink of her touch--came
over him to ride down to the ranch house, the MacDonald ranch house, to
see her--just once before setting out on the Long Trail.

"Well," he said; "which way, Mr. Matthews?"

The old Britisher moved thoughtfully towards his broncho.

"We'll try y'r sheriff--at least, we'll try him _first_."

And again the Ranger laughed.

"Don't laugh, man!  D' y' know what it means when men are driven
outside the line of law?"

The horses waded in midstream and reached down drinking, champing on
their bits.

"Well--what does it mean?"

He saw the blue of the mountain stream swirl and whirl and eddy over
the sun-dyed pebbles, singing the law of the far mountain snows.

"God knows," answered the old man slowly.  "It means disrupture.  We
slew our kings in olden times; but ye are a many headed king in this
land!  It means--perhaps, ye call it Anarchy to-day."


The yellow noon-day light sifted through the cottonwoods jewel-spangled
on the crystal blue River.  The Ranger always knew the character of the
mountains from the River: silty and milky-blue from glaciers; crystal
and green-blue from the snow.  And they rode away up the Valley from
the ranch houses towards the Pass, out beyond the bounds of the
National Forests with the trees marked two notches and one blaze;
gradually up the narrowing trail fringed by the shiny laurel bushes;
with the mountains closing closer and the spiced balsam odor raining on
the air a sifted gold dust of sunlight.  At intervals, came the dull
rumble of the snow slide, the far reverberation, the echo of the law of
the snow flake rolling away the stone; the smash of the great law
drama, the titans behind the mountains.


It was one of those frequent mountain formations where a Valley seems
to terminate in a blank wall.  You turn a buttress of rock, and you
find the sheer wall opening before you in a trail that climbs to a
notch on the sky line between forested flanks.  The notch of blue is a
Pass.

"Anyway, Mr. Matthews, we are splitting the air, now!  We are doing
more than sawing air."

They had put their horses to a sharp trot along the trail winding up
the River.  The water was gurgling over the polished pebbles with
little leaps and glints of fire.  Presently, the mountains had closed
behind them.  The River was tumbling with noisy rush in a succession of
cascades, and the trail wound back from the rocky bank through circular
flats or what were locally known as "bottoms."

"Sheriff live this way?" shouted Matthews; for the roar of the little
stream filled the canyon.

"Has a ranch at the foot of the Pass."

"It won't be wasting time, anyway," said the old Britisher.

Again, Wayland smiled.  If it would _not_ be wasting time; then, they
were already in pursuit of the outlaws.  What was it in the insolent
look of the Senator's ranch hand that had suddenly dashed the doughty
Briton's reverence for the instrument of the law?

A barb wire fence tacked to spindly cottonwood trees marked the line of
an irregular homestead; and the Ranger swung into a gate extemporized
from barb wire on two adjustable posts.  Behind the gate, stood a log
shack; on the windows, cheap lace curtains; behind the lace curtains, a
vague movement of peeping faces and a querulous termagant voice: "I
ain't a goin' to have you mixed up in no scrap; so there, Dan Flood!"

Wayland dismounted and knocked on the door with his riding stock.  It
opened on an anaemic sulphur face with blond hair screwed in curl
papers over a full row of gold headlights where an enterprising dentist
had engrafted as much of Klondike as possible.

"Sheriff Flood in?" the Ranger raised his hat.

"Oh, how j' do, Mr. Wayland."  All the curl papers nodded like clover
tops in the wind, while the coy brows arched, and an inviting smile
played round the simpering headlights.  "No, he ain't!  Dan ain't in!"
The curl papers nodded again and the gold teeth simpered again.

"Is he--_home_?"  The word home came out with the force of a bullet.

"No, he ain't home!  Mr. Flood ain't home!  The sheriff was called
'way!  Is there any message?"

Wayland stood back and watched the fray.  The old man gazed full at the
frowsy apparition in the doorway.  If dagger looks could have stabbed
her, the lady would have dropped dead stuck full of as many daggers as
a cushion is of pins.  The gold headlights suffered eclipse behind a
pair of tightly perked lips; and one hand darted hold of the door knob.

"Yes," he said, looking fixedly at the deep V of ash-colored skin where
the lady had turned back the neck of her pink wrapper in imitation of
gowns seen in the Sunday supplement of "The Smelter City Herald."
"There was murder done on the Rim Rocks last night!  There's festering
bodies lying on top of yon Mesas!  'Tis a job for the sheriff, not for
an outsider--"

"Yes, Sir," said the gold headlights, "I think he's gone to see about
it."

He had looked her slowly over again from the blondine hair and the
ash-colored V of unclean skin and waistless slop of slattern wrapper to
clock work stockings and high heeled slippers.

"A ha' ma doubts he's sprintin' fr' the back door this minute!  Are ye
the sheriff's--woman?" and oddly enough the lady didn't flush; but the
faintest gloss came over the saffron skin--of what?  It was the same
nonchalant, wordless insolence that had played in the eyes of the man
who had come out from the Senator's ranch.

"Yes, Sir, I'll deliver your message a' right," flickered the
headlights reassuringly.

The old man stood stolidly and scorched the lady's eyes.

"How long since y'r sheriff thing set out?  Did he break loose by the
back door?"

"There ain't no back door," snapped the headlights; and the front door
slammed in their faces.  Wayland burst in a peal of laughter.

"'Tis no laughing matter!  'Tis bad enough t' depend on that broken
reed of a dastard coward sheriff hidin' under the bed!  A've a mind to
go back an' have him oot; but that--pot ash pate--" what else the old
man called her was more truthful than elegant for an expurgated age.
They replaced the post of the barbed wire gate in its loop and mounted
their horses.

"Well, Sir?" asked Wayland.  "I don't wish to offend your British sense
of law; but which way now?"

The old man left the reins hanging on the broncho's neck.  The horses
began cropping the grass.  The Ranger was fumbling at his stirrup.

"A'm sore puzzled, Wayland!  'Tis not in the blood of a British born to
go _outside_ law.  Y'r no thinkin' that; are y', Wayland?"

"I am saying nothing!  The law protects them in their lawlessness.  It
doesn't protect us in our lawfulness.  The American citizen is the
law-maker.  There is only one thing for an American citizen to do--get
to work and enforce his laws--"

"Then--God's name, Wayland, go ahead and do it!  Take the lead!  A'll
follow!  This trail go behind the mountain?"

"Yes, it brings us round behind!  They have the start of us by three
hours; but they'll camp to-night somewhere along the Lake Behind the
Peak.  Beyond that, there are some mighty bad slides.  These rains have
loosened snows.  They'll hardly cross the slides beyond the lake but by
daylight.  If we can reach the lake to-day, we'll have a chance at 'em."

"Wayland, A'm on the last lap of _my_ trail!  It doesn't matter what
happens to me; but have you thought what might happen when we catch up
on them?  Those fellows are out to kill.  We are out to arrest.  Have
you thought what that might mean at close quarters?"

"It's close quarters I'm seeking," said Wayland, "though it's hardly
fair to drag you into the fight.  All I want is a man as a witness
who's got red blood that won't turn yellow.  This Nation has been
cowering behind the line of law, while the looters and skinners have
disarmed our very firing line.  It's time somebody risked his neck to
reverse the order--"

"Git epp," said the old man roughly to his broncho.

The little pack mule took to the trail ears back at an easy lope; and
the riders set off up the Pass at the rocking-chair trot of the
plains-horseman.  Gradually, the mountains crowded closer, in
weather-stained rock walls, with a far whish as of wind or waters
coming up from the canyon bottom; the sky overhead narrowing to a cleft
of blue with the frayed pines and hemlocks hanging from the granite
blocks, fragile as ferns against the sky.  You looked back; the rocks
had closed to a solid wall; you looked down; the river filling the
canyon with a hollow hush had dwarfed to a glistening silver thread
with the forest dwarfed banks of moss.  It was a sombre world, all the
more shadowy from that cleft of blue over head where an eagle circled
with lonely cry.

The Pass was like the passage of birth and death from life to larger
life.  On the other side of the mountain lay the sun-bathed Valley and
the Ridge with its silver cataracts and the opal peak with the
glistening snow cross.  This side, the Mountain in the Valley of the
Shadow became giant beveled masonry, tier on tier, criss-crossed and
scarred by the iced cataracts of a billion years--no sound but the
raucous scream of the lone eagle, the hollow hush of the far River, the
tinkling of the water-drip freezing as it fell.  Then, where the cleft
of blue smote the rocks with sunlight, the doors of the mountains would
open again to larger life in another Valley.

The horses were no longer trotting.  They were climbing and blowing and
pausing where the trail of the Pass took sharp turns, back and forward,
up and up, till the eagle was circling below.  Both men had dismounted
and were walking Indian file to the rear, Wayland carrying his own
cased rifle.  The trail was now running along the edge of an escarpment
no wider than a saddle, sheer drop below, sheer wall above.

"How would they come out from the gully on this trail, Wayland?  I have
been watching for the tracks.  They're not ahead of us."

"Gully ends in a blind wall above.  As I make it, they'd push their
nags up and come down on the Pass trail somewhere below the precipice
ahead.  We can take our time; I have been watching.  There are no
tracks ahead.  The trail above is worse than this.  Devil takes care of
his own; or they would have broken their necks long ago coming back and
forward.  We'll let 'em go down to the lake first.  They'll go into the
trap.  It's a lake mostly ice this time of the year.  There's an old
punt sometimes used by hunters.  It'll take them an hour to cross with
their horses.  We'll let them camp at the lake.  We could pot them
there, if we had a sheriff worth his salt."

"'Tis a great trail, Wayland!  Minds me of my days building bridges in
the Rockies!  'Tisn't just a matter o' courage to follow these
precipice trails: it's temperament!  'Tis something in the pit o' the
stomach!  A mind one of our best engineers; he could meet Chinese
navvies with their knives out: couldn't cross one of the precipices to
save his life without blinders like a horse: we had to blindfold him so
he wouldn't know till he'd crossed.  How deep do you call it here?"

"About 7,000 feet drop, I think.  This is the top of the Pass.  We go
down after we leave the precipice!  See--? the horses know it!  They
are taking their top-turn rest."


The two men glanced below.  In the shadowed depths, they could see the
River tearing down a white fume, a pantherine thing leaping--leaping--;
and the hollow roar of water filled the canyon with a quiver that was
tangible.  Far below, the eagle flew lazily, lifting and falling to the
throb of the canyon winds.  Suddenly, the air was cut by a piercing
whistle.  Both men jumped.

"It's only a marmot."  The Ranger pointed over his shoulder to the
little gray beast sitting on the face of the rock.  "Curious place,
this Pass!  There is an echo here--if it were not that we don't want to
announce ourselves, I'd let you hear it.  If you yell or sing, you can
hear the thing dancing along that opposite wall--Kind of uncanny, the
echo voice, in the mist here sometimes."

But the whistle of the marmot had also startled the horses.  The tired
pack mule gave a hobbling jump and came to a stand.  A stone no larger
than a horse-shoe kicked loose, tottered on the edge, and went bounding
over.  It struck the tier of rock below with clattering echo, displaced
another stone twice its size, then bounced--bounced--and a slither of
slaty rock the size of a house wrenched out--shot into mid-air with
crash and sharp clappering echoes--Then the Pass was filled with the
thundering roll.  They saw it sink--sink--sink and fade, while the echo
still rocketted amid the rock tops--sink--sink--sink--no larger than a
spool in the purple shadows, till with a plunge it disappeared.

"Whew, it _would_ be going if one went over."  The old man mowed the
sweat from his forehead and drew a breath.

On the instant, the hollow chasm of the canyon split to the crash of a
rifle shot that rocketted and quaked and repeated in splintering
echoes; and a bullet pinged at Wayland's feet.

"That's splitting the air for you--Wayland."

"Drop down, Sir," urged the Ranger, pulling the old frontiersman to
shelter of the upper rocks.  "They have come out above.  They have
heard that cursed stone.  That's only a chance shot to learn where we
are.  They can't come behind.  They have got to go down ahead--"

"And the fat's in the fire; for my rifle's gone with the horse,"
deplored the old man woefully; for mule and bronchos had galloped along
the trail with the clatter of a cavalcade through the canyon.  Wayland
handed the old man his own rifle and took the six shooter from his belt
beneath the leather coat.

"They won't understand this pursuit at all," explained Wayland.
"Sheriff Flood is the guarantee of safety for any criminal in the
country side.  They'll think it a citizens' posse.  Where this trail
comes down at the end of the precipice is a crag.  Will you hide behind
that, sir?  I'll go above and head them down.  I'm not asking you to
risk your life.  They'll not see you till they gallop down."

"But you are risking your own life if you go up?"

"So does the fellow who has slipped on a banana peel," said Wayland.




CHAPTER XIII

THE MAN ON THE JOB

The two men proceeded along the precipice trail of the Pass.  The
shouting river below boisterous from the full flood of noon-day thaw
began to hush.  By the shadows, the Ranger knew that the afternoon was
waning.  The echoes from the shot still rocked in sharp crepitating
knocks as of stone against stone, fainter and fading.  Then a quiver of
wind met their faces.  The chasm opened to the fore like a gate, or a
notch in the serrated ridge of the sky-line; and the precipice trail
dropped over the edge of the crag to the scooped hollow of a slope
where rock slide or avalanche had plowed a groove in the bevelled
masonry of the precipice.

"This is the place," indicated Wayland.

From the shoulder of the higher slope came a little narrow indurated
trail scarcely a hand's width, marked by the cleft foot-prints of a
mountain goat.  Where the path came down to the main trail of the Pass,
jutted a huge rock left high and dry on its slide to the bottom of the
gorge.

"Keep behind the other side of that, sir!  They can't possibly see you."

"How do you know that trail comes from the Ridge gully?  Looks to me
like a goat track."

"Because I built it!  You can see the N. F. trail sign--one notch and
one blaze on that scrub juniper.  Up on the Mesas, we were _off_ the
Forests.  Here, we are back on them.  You may not know it, sir; but
this canyon is part of the region Moyese wants withdrawn for
homesteads.  You could homestead a reservoir for Smelter City here--pay
a German or a Swede three-hundred to sit on this site--then sell for a
couple of million to the Smelter City gang.  They would get the suckers
in the East to buy the bonds to pay for it.  A fellow in the Sierras
located a hundred water power sites that way."

The old Britisher was not following the Ranger's reasoning in the least.

"Then, if we are really on the National Forests, that is your
territory, and we have the legal right to make an arrest?"

Wayland laughed outright.  If you don't see why, then you do not know
the stickling of a Briton's sense of law and a Scotchman's conscience.
Matthews took up his station behind the rock that abutted on the trail.


He saw the Ranger hasten back along the face of the precipice, stop
where the rock offered foothold and begin slowly climbing almost
vertically.  At first, it was going up the tiers of a broken stone
stair.  Then, the weathered ledge gave place to slant shale.  He saw
Wayland dig his heels for grip, grasp a sharp edge overhead, and hoist
himself to the overhanging branch of a recumbent pine; then, scramble
along the fallen trunk to a ledge barely wide enough for footing.
Along this, he cautiously worked, face in, hand over hand from rock
block to rock block, sticking fingers among the mossed crevices,
fumbling the pebbles from the slate edges, and so round out of sight
behind a flying buttress of masonry and back in view again a tier
higher.

Just once, the watcher felt a tremor for the rash climber.  Wayland's
head was on a level with the crest of another ledge, his face to the
rock, his left hand gripping a shoot of mountain laurel, his right
groping the upper rocks.  The old man saw the shrub jerk loose, moss,
roots and all--he held his breath for the coming crash--it was all
over.  Wayland's left arm flung out to ward off the spatter of small
stones; then, the right arm had clutched the spindly bole of a creeping
juniper--his body lurched out, hung, swayed, lifted; and the Ranger
disappeared among the shrubbery of the upper trail.

The old man took a deep breath.

"And this is the Man on the Job," he said.  He drew behind his shelter
and waited.  "The same breed o' men after all, in different harness."

He had not noticed before, but there, ahead, where the black chasm of
the Pass opened portals to the sunny blue of another valley, lay a
lake, the Lake Behind the Peak, spangled with light, marbled like onyx
or malachite, with the sheen of a jewel.  Almost at his feet below, the
near end of it lay.  He could have tossed a pebble into it,
seven-thousand feet below, where the white foaming river came ramping
through a great pile of moraine that dammed up this end of the Pass to
the width of a bridle trail.  The outlaws would have to cross the lake
to escape from the Pass; and almost, he thought, he saw the old punt at
the far end, which Wayland had said hunters sometimes used.

The white butterflies flitted past his hiding place out to the light of
the sun.  The eagle was soaring strong-winged, swerving and lifting and
falling in an insolence of languid power.  The silent Pass quivered to
the throb of waters.  But what was doing with the Ranger?  Not a sound
came from the upper trail but the tinkle of hidden springs down the
rocks.  He knew if he uttered a shout, the echo would take up his call.
An hour passed: two hours.  Ghost shadows came creeping into the
canyon.  The butterflies had fluttered out to the blue portal where the
rocks opened doors to the sun.  The rampant roar of the river was
quieting to the hollow hush.  The old man rose, walked along the
precipice, came back to his shelter, sat, stood up, examined the rifle,
looked ahead where the horses had wandered on, fidgeted, and bemoaned
the years that prevented pursuit up the rock face.  He knew by the
light and the hush that it must be almost five o 'clock.


And at five o'clock in the ranch house back in the Valley, Eleanor was
lying in her room with her face buried in Wayland's note, praying as
only the young pray, with the worst and the best of their nature in the
prayer; for where such love comes, all goes into the incense of the
fire that goes up from the altar--the best and the worst of the inmost
heart: an apotheosis of "give-me" and an utter abandonment of
"let-me-give."  By and by, when we grow older, we leave both the "give
me" and the "let-me-give" to God.

The old man knew it must be almost six o'clock; for the light came
aslant the gap and the chill of the upper snow crept down from the
mountain.  A pretty business this, it seemed to him: twenty miles back
of beyond; horses sent on at random ahead; a gang of murderers in
hiding above--Matthews walked boldly along the precipice trail, saw the
eagle below circling, still circling; heard a hawk skirr and scold from
a dead branch--Then, he deliberately pointed his voice to the rock wall
of the echo across the gorge and let out a yell that split the
welkin--A thousand--ten thousand--multitudinous eldritch laughing
echoes came jibbering and mumbling and giggling and shrilling back from
the rock, filling the Pass with chattering, knocking sounds that
skipped from stone to stone.

Instantly, a shot, a shout, a bang, the rocking crash of echoes--mixed
with ear-splitting, rocketting shots--a crunch of feet--the old man
dashed to the hiding of his crag.  A spurt of gravel mid showers of
dust and snorting of horses--Not on the trail at all but almost over
his back, slithered and slid and bunched horses and men, pell mell, the
white horse leading the way braced back on its haunches, the fellow in
the yellow slicker rumbling a volcano of lurid curses--The outlaws had
not followed the goat track at all but jumped sheer from the higher
slope to the Pass trail.


Shouting "Stop!--Stop!--I command you in the name of the State to
stop--!" the old man sprang to the middle of the trail flourishing the
rifle above his head.

"State be damned," yelled the fellow in the oil-skin slicker.  Never
pausing, turning only to shoot at wild random, the outlaws had
tumbled--stumbled--slid down the slatey slope for the lake.

There was the pound--pound--the huffing of saddle leather--and a horse
came spurring along the Pass trail at reckless gallop.  The old man
flung himself athwart--a rider in sheep-skin leggings, hat far back,
came round the rock at break neck pace looking over his shoulder as if
pursued--One jump--the old frontiersman had the horse's bridle!  The
shock threw the beast's hind legs clear over the edge jarring the rider
almost to the animal's neck.  Next--the old man was looking down the
barrel of the outlaw's big repeater--With a mighty swing, Matthews
clubbed his rifle on the other's wrist.  He might have scruples as to
law and conscience; but he knew how and when and where to hit, did the
Briton with the Scotch-Canadian blood.  Also he knew when to let
go--There was a flash--the rock splintering crash of echo, the
whinnying scream and leap of the horse shot by the falling
weapon--Rider and beast hurtled backwards, the man's foot caught to one
stirrup--There was the crackling of slate and shale--the gash and rasp
and wrench of loosening rock masses sliding--down--down--down and yet
down, with knocking echoes; with laughter of terrified scream from the
echo rock across the gorge--pound and plunge from ledge to ledge--the
horse's body turning twice as it struck and bounced out--a cloud of
dust--the shout, the blasphemy, the cry of rage, then the shrill scream
of death terror that echoed and echoed--The old man looked down!  There
was a pounding of the stones--a faint far rebound and the darkness
below swallowed over a fading swirl at the bottom of the canyon.  He
heard, he thought, he heard the engulfing gurgle of the waters, while
the shrill scream still jibbered and faded along the echo ledge.

"By violence ye lived--by violence ye die--over the precipice ye go as
ye sent the mangled boy to the bloody death!"

Then the Ranger was tumbling down the goat track in a slither of shale.

"Come on--that was well done, sir!  Wish we'd sent them all over to the
very bottom of Hell--!  I'd stalked that fellow apart from the others
when you signaled--come on--we'll catch the rest at the lake--there's a
fellow wounded--you must have nipped one when you shot this
morning--join me at the lake," and leaving Matthews to follow by the
foot trail, the delirious Ranger went tearing exultant down the stone
slide.  Water-muffled shots sounded from the lake.  Wayland paused in
his head-long descent.  The five outlaws were shoving the punt from the
shore with the bronchos swimming in tow.  The stolen wagon horses, lay
shot on the shore.  One of the outlaws was being supported by the
others.  It was the man in the yellow slicker.


A great wave went over Wayland of something he had never before known.
It pounded at his temples.  It set his heart going in a force pump.  It
blew his lungs out, and set the whip cord muscles itching to go--to
go--he wanted to shout with joy of power--power that pursued and caught
and crushed--and trembled with overplus of intoxicated strength--He
knew if he could lay his hand on Crime at that moment he could crush
the life out of the thing's throat; and there was a parchedness that
was not thirst, a tingling to clinch that Criminal Thing menacing the
Nation, to clinch and strangle it to a death not honored in the code of
white-corpuscled anaemic study-chair reformers.


"Well," he said, as the other came limping down to the shore, "I didn't
think there could be enough of the savage in me to enjoy a manhunt."

The old Briton looked queerly at the young fellow.

"A'm beginnin'--," he said slowly, "A'm beginnin' to understand y'r
lynch law in this country--an' the _why_."

"What do you make of it?" asked Wayland, too excited to notice the
other's abstraction.

"A'm beginnin' to understand if y' monkey with the law much longer in
this land, the whole Nation will go locoed like you, Wayland--with a
blood thirst for righteousness--a white passion for the square
deal--an' God pity--that day!"

The fugitives had reached the far shore of the lake, landed and were
riding off when a second thought seemed to bring one man back to the
water's edge.  He stooped, heaved up a rock, threw it through the
bottom of the old punt.

"You'll have to do better than that to keep me from crossing," said
Wayland.

The fellow was aiming his rifle.  Wayland and Matthews jumped behind
the big hemlocks.

"He's fulling a skin bag wi' water."

"Then, they intend to cross the Desert," inferred Wayland; "but they'll
have to go farther to slip me."

One of the riders was scanning back with a field glass.

"Looking for number six--Of all the colossal effrontery--they are
actually going to speak."

The fellow nearest shore lowered his rifle and trumpeted both hands.

"Speak louder--can't hear ye."  Matthews had gone to the edge of the
lake.  The answer came faint and muffled.

"Where's--our--pardner--?"

"Hold up y'r hands--all five," roared back Matthews.

The arms of all but the hurt man went above heads, hands facing.

"Y'll find y'r man's carcass in the bloody mess where ye sent the
sheep--! d' y'--see yon eagle?--'Tis pickin' his bones--" roared
Matthews through funnelled palms; and both jumped back to the shelter
of the hemlocks.  The outlaws drew together to confer.

"They don't believe us," said Wayland.  "They'll camp in the timber
over there for the night and wait.  All right, my friends!  You'll not
have to wait long; no longer than it takes you, sir, to find our pack
mule and the stray bronchs, while I build a raft.  We can't cross the
lower end for the moraine; and we can't cross the upper end for the
ice; and it's too cold to risk swimming."


Matthews had headed the horses and pack mule back from an open glade
and hobbled their fore feet.  Then Wayland began chopping down small
trees.  They saw the figures of the outlaws against the twilight of the
gap ride away from the far margin of the lake.  Then only did the
Ranger build a little fire behind the biggest hemlocks, an Indian's
tiny chip fire, not "the big white-man's blaze."  On this, they cooked
their supper, lake trout hauled out while they waited, and flap jacks,
with a tin plate for a frying pan.

"Anyway," said the Ranger wiping the smoke tears from his eyes, "the
smoke keeps off the mosquitoes."

"Mosquitoes, pah!  That shows y're Yale for all y'r good work this day!
A have no seen one yet."

Wayland's answer was to light his pipe.  "It's either bear's grease, or
smoke between bites," he laughed.


They had unsaddled horses and were sitting on a log watching the
animals crop through the deep grasses.

The frontiersman uttered a sigh.  "'Tis like a taste of the good old
days, the days well nigh gone for ever; the smell of the bark fire; an'
th' tang of the kinnikinick; an' the cinnamon cedars; and the air like
champagne; an' the stars prickin' the crown o' the hoary old peaks like
diamonds; an' the little waves lappin' an' lavin' an' whisperin' an'
tellin' of the woman y' luve.  An' care?  Care, man?  There wasna' a
care heavier than dandelion down.  'Twas sleep like a deep drink, an'
up an' away in the mornin', chasin' a young man's hopes to the end o'
the Trail!  A suppose th' Almighty meant t' anchor men, or He wouldna'
permit the buildin' of toons!  Once A was in New York!  A did na' see
but one patch o' sunlight twenty stories overhead!  Th' car things
screeched an' rulled an' the folks--the wimmen wi' awfu' stern wheeler
hats, an' the men--hurryin'--hurryin'!--Wayland, d' they get it?
There's only twenty-four hours in a day--they can't catch any more by
hurryin'--what are they hurryin' for?  Do they get it--what they're
hurryin' for?  Do they get anywhere?  D' they sit down joyous at night?
A heard some laugh--It was not joyous!  Do they get anything down there
in the awfu' heat?"

Wayland laughed.  "I don't know," he said.  "Care isn't light as
dandelion fluff!  I'll bet on that."

The roar of waters below the moraine softened and quieted.  There was a
chorus of little waves lipping and whispering among the reeds.  A whole
aeon of resinous sunbeams breathed their essence through the dark from
the spicy evergreens.  One need not attempt to guess of what Wayland
was thinking.  He had forgotten his companion's presence till the old
man spoke.

"A suppose, Wayland, you are only one of an army of kiddie boys on the
job out here?"

Wayland absently roused himself.

"Land Service and Reclamation men have tougher jobs and less glory.
All we have to do is sit tight and it's a pretty good place to sit
tight in--this out-door world.  Different with the other fellows!
They're hamstrung by the red tape of office, or blackguarded by some
peanut politician who is scoring an opponent!  There was Walker down at
Durango, shot examining a coal fraud.  He was a Land Office man; and
his murderers have not even been punished.  Then, there were the two
chaps, who ran the rapids before the Gunnison Tunnel could be built;
though that's been exaggerated with a lot of magazine hog-wash to make
a fellow sick!  Biggest job there was the engineer's work.  Do you know
he drove that six mile tunnel from both ends and, when the two ends
met, they were not two inches off?  Hog-wash and dish-water hacks
spread themselves in the magazines all over those chaps running the
rapids!  You've run ten times worse rapids, yourself, on Saskatchewan
and MacKenzie hundreds of times.  Yet those chaps--not one of
them--noted the wonder of a tunnel driven from both ends coming out
exactly even.  Why, the poor ignorant foreign workmen cried when they
met from both ends, got hold of one fellow's wrist through the mud wall
and pulled him through bodily, cried like kids at the victory of it!
Your town hack didn't know what it meant to be a sand hog under ground
for years and come through to daylight like that.  The ignorant
foreigner knew.  I guess a good dozen of 'em had sacrificed their lives
to the work.  They knew the quiet engineer fellow had conquered the
earth; and that fellow doesn't get the salary of a Wall Street
stenographer--a way Uncle Sam has.  They'd give such a man a title and
a fifty thousand a year pension in England or Germany.

"Then, there was Fessenden, unearthed a lot of fraud in Oregon and got
himself crucified--got the bounce; had broken his health in that sort
of thing; got fired because he proved up that some smug politicians had
caused the death of an old couple by jumping their homestead claim and
driving them to penury.  Then, there was Carrington.  He was on the
Desert Reclamation Project; took his bride in on their honeymoon;
hundreds of miles from the railroad.  She was delicate--lungs; poor
fellow thought perhaps camp life would cure her.  She died there in the
heat.  Two or three of the men gave up their jobs to help bring the
body out."  Wayland land paused, lost in thought.  "They got the body
out all right; but, the horror of it, Carrington went off his head!
Know an engineering chap tramped the Sierras for a hundred miles dogged
by a spotter from one of the railroads--but what's the use of talking
about it?  These things have to be done; and these are the men on the
job."

"The Men on the Job," slowly repeated Matthews, "the men we make earls
and premiers of in Britain; but who of your big public cares one jot?
Time you wakened up as a Nation."

"You are using almost the same words as Moyese.  He says the public
doesn't care a damn, wouldn't raise a hand to stand for the rights of
one of us, pays us less than dagoes earn.  I guess Moyese doesn't
understand our point of view, can't take in why we keep at it."

The wind came through the trees a phantom harper.  The little waves
lapped and whispered.  The pine needles clicked pixy castanets; and the
moon beams sifted through the trees a silver dust.

"Why do you?  Why do you keep on the job?" asked the old man.

"Hanged if I know," answered Wayland uncomfortably.

"A saw a man on the job to-day risk his life twice and think no more
about it than if he had been out for a walk.  If a man in England, if a
man in Germany, if a man in Italy, yes by thunder, Wayland, if a man on
the job in pagan Turkey had done what you did to-day, he'd be given a
V. C. accordin' to the Turk, and a title and a pension for life."

"I don't despair of a cross myself, when Moyese hears what happened
to-day.  It'll be a double cross with a G. B.; but, speaking of cross,
as we have to cross the lake, don't you think you'd better snatch a
little sleep?"

And so the two men, one representing the chivalry of the old West, the
other the chivalry of the new, stretched out to sleep with coats for
pillows, while the flood-waters went singing through the stones, and
the little waves came lipping and whispering, and the low boom of the
snow slides rolled through the chambered hollows of canyon and gorge.
Absurd, wasn't it, but the Ranger was not dreaming about the bevelling
trowel of the titan mountain gods?  He went to sleep dreaming of the
star visible from the other side of the Holy Cross, dreaming dreams
that men and women have dreamed since time began; of drinking,
drinking, and drinking yet again, of life and love and blessedness from
the fount of human lips; of the seal that should be the seal to
service, not to self; of the gates ajar to a new life like the notch of
sky where the rocks of the Pass opened portals to the blue valley.
Would he have dreamed less joyously if he had known that the portals of
the Pass led to the avalanche and the desert and the alkali death?  Who
shall say that love did not pay the toll?  And in him rioted the
savagery of the fighter who wanted to seize his foe by the throat.




CHAPTER XIV

ON THE GAME TRAIL

The dull boom of a snow-cornice tumbling over some high cliff on the far
side of the lake awakened the Ranger to the chill darkness of mountain
night just before dawn.  The moon had sunk behind the sky-line of the
peaks; and the little lake laving among the reeds lay inky in the shadow
of the heavy mist.

Wayland listened.  The deep breathing of the horses round the ashes of
the mosquito smudge guided him across to saddles.  He placed saddles,
pack trees and provisions on the raft.  Then, he wakened the old man and
pulled the grunting horses to their feet.  A little riffle, half wind,
half light, stirred the lake mist, revealing glare patches of snow
reflection in the water.

"Hoh! man, but y'r old peaks have a nip in the air at three in the
mornin'!"  Matthews came down to the raft chaffing his hands.  "That's a
job worthy a woodsman," he observed, holding the halter reins while the
Ranger got a couple of long poles.

A dozen saplings had been mortised to a couple of cottonwoods.

"They may take water; but they'll not sink; and they'll not tip,"
declared Wayland.

Reeds and willows had been used in place of nails.  Two or three of the
logs were spliced to grip the end cottonwoods firmly.  The two men
stepped on the raft.

"Why didn't you go round the upper end?"

"Ice," answered Wayland.

"Too deep for poling in the middle?" asked Matthews.

"That's why I'm going to creep along shore."

"It'ull keep y' in the shadows."

With a prod of his pole, Wayland shoved off, and the frontiersman
lengthened out the leading lines for the horses.  The Ranger smiled
whimsically to find the reverse side of Holy Cross peak, up-side down in
the water, and he set to figuring out what sort of triangular lines
thought-waves must follow to connect his thought of that peak etched in
the bottom of the lake with her thought on the other side of a peak up in
the sky.

"Steady, man!  Slow up!  There's a fallen tree with its rump stuck
ashore!  A' don't want to warp ye in by snaggin' round; an' that mule
brute is thinkin' o' sittin' down."

The bronchos had plunged to the cold dip with deep grunts, but the mule
braced his legs and brayed at the morning.  The frontiersman said things
between set teeth that might have been objurgations to the soul of Satan
or the race of mules.  Wayland shoved on the pole.  The mule pulled.  The
logs of the raft began to creak.  "Look out, sir, we're splitting!  Let
that doggon brute go--"

And the raft swerved out, the horses swimming, the freed mule plunging
along the wooded shore, Wayland thrusting his long pole deep, almost to
his hand-grip, to find bottom.

"There's a nasty under current from the upper river," he said.

"Let her go, there--! let her go t' th' current--tack her an' the current
wull swerve ye int' the other side!  More men lose their lives by poling
too hard than lettin' go!  Catch the current and let her go."

The old man had twisted the halter ropes under his feet.  He seized a
pole and swerved the raft to the current, pointing in to the other side.
They could hear the roar of the wild mountain stream pouring a maelstrom
down from the glare ice and snow of the upper meadows.  The next plunge
of the pole missed bottom.  There was a yielding creak of logs.  The raft
poised, and spun round.

"Let her go, man!  We'll wriggle her in below!"

"Then loose your halter ropes, they're pulling us round."

They tossed the ropes free.  Wayland waved his pole to head the bronchos
across.  They heard the mule squealing at the head of the lake.

"She can't sink--wriggle her round, Wayland!"

The raft spun twice to the under-pull, took an inch or two of water, and
swirled into the quiet shadows of the far shore.

"Minds me of that story of Napoleon!  Do you carry bridges in y'r
pockets, too, Wayland?" asked the old man, as the Ranger gave a long prod
that sent the raft grating ashore.

"What story?" asked Wayland.

"Oh, Boney came to a river too deep for swimming cavalry.  General
ordered engineer fellow to get 'em across!  Man began to draw maps.  When
he came to Napoleon with his blue print plans, he found a common soldier
fellow had pontooned 'em all across!"

"Did the big fellow get a leg up on his job; or did the soldier fellow
get the bounce for going outside regulations?"

"That is possible, too."  The old man was handing off the saddles and
camp kit.

"If you'll wait here, sir, I'll go along for the horses!  I don't know
the trails along on this side!  It's outside the N. F!"


There was no moonlight to guide him; but there was the wall of blue sky
where the mountains opened; and he followed up the lake shore with a
sense of feel more than sight for one of those little indurated game
tracks that would lead back over the stones to the trail that the outlaws
had seemed to follow.  If you think it an easy thing to walk over a pile
of moraine by the obscure light preceding dawn--try it!  The great
moraines flank the mountains in petrified billows stranded on the shores
of time from the ice ages, in stones from the size of a spool to a house.
Step on the small stones; and they roll, bringing down the whole bank in
a miniature slide under your feet!  Pick your way over the sharp edges of
the big rocks; and the glazed moisture is slippery as ice; but he, whose
foot hold fumbles, has no business in the mountain world; and the Ranger
swung from crest to crest of the pointed rocks, safely shrouded in the
lake mist, guided solely by the blank glare of sky between the mountain
walls.

He could hear the tinkle of waters down the ledges on his right; and the
little flutter of wind riffling through the Pass sucking up the mists
forewarned dawn.  He had climbed the roll of stone slowly, picking each
step, for, perhaps, two-hundred feet, when that trail sense of _feel_
made him stoop to examine the ground.  The roll of moraine he had climbed
met another stone billow; and between the two ran a groove, a little
narrow hardened tracing where the tracks of game going to and from
watering place had packed and worked in between the rolling pebbles the
ice dust of a million years.

This, then, was the trail that the outlaws must have followed away from
the lake.  He stooped to examine closer.  There were horse tracks.  Had
his own horses stumbled up from the lake along this trail?  It would lead
back to the camp fire of the night before.  Better reconnoitre while
there was still the hiding of the mist.

He looked back.  The lake was obliterated by the mist curling up; but
above he could see the black rocks of the precipice trail as if the Pass
behind had closed its doors against retreat; and was it imagination, or
did he see, an eagle soaring, strong-winged, majestically out from the
rocks in curves of insolent power?  Memory of the nauseating horror came
over him in a physical wave; and curiously enough, he kept hearing the
soft voice of the Senator's scoffing question: "Who of the public gives
one damn?"  It was easier sitting smug inside the firing line.  He knew
men in the Service who would call him a fool for going out on this
present quest; and he knew others whose jealousy would say it was all
done for self-advertising; and he knew also that he might be dismissed
for going out beyond the letter in order to fulfil the spirit of the law;
but preceding the horror of the precipice trail, was that other memory of
the dead boy lying at the foot of the Rim Rocks beside the writhing mass
of mutilated sheep.

The Ranger followed along the game trail.  Who was it had said that the
only difference between charcoal and diamond was that one was soft and
the other hard?  Was that what ailed the Nation?  Had the fine edge of
citizenship dulled?  Was the Nation losing the fine edge of distinction
between right and wrong?

Another little flutter of wind set the restless mists boiling.

"Strange it is hot so early," thought Wayland.  Fir trees stood out from
the shifting gray haze.  Among them, did he see shadows moving?  They
might be deer coming down to water.  Involuntarily, he stepped behind
some alder brush off the trail.  Another flutter of wind thinning the
turbid mist.  There was a whiff of camp smoke.  Through the mist, he
could make out figures not a hundred yards away--five horses ready for
travel, four men clumsily lifting a fellow in cow-boy slicker into his
saddle.  The man fell forward over the pummel.  The group seemed
undecided what to do.  Then, picked out--distinct--deliberate--coming
over the stones from the lake side--leisurely, lazily, careful, soft
footsteps with rests between--The Ranger would not have been surprised to
see the missing outlaw limp from the mist--Then, the head of his own
errant mule bobbed forward, and another roll of mist came up from the
lake.  Wayland caught the trailing halter, headed the amazed little
animal back down the goat track with an urgent kick and sprang after it
to a clatter of rolling stones.  When the clamor sank, he heard the pound
of hoofs as the outlaws galloped in the other direction.  Five paces
farther, he found both the bronchos nosing consolingly round the mule.
Wayland emitted a deep breath of relief.  If he had waited five minutes
longer at the raft, they would have had his horses.  It was all in the
difference between being on the wrong and the right side of five minutes.

"Y' don't need t' tell me we're goin' South an' down--We might be goin'
to the bottomless pit.  The wind's like a furnace."

"Off the Desert," explained the Ranger.

The sun had risen high above the peaks.  The mists had receded to belts
and wisps of cloud against the forests.  Waters tumbling wind-blown from
the ledges were swelling to a chorus.  Little cross bills and jays that
had come round the breakfast camp still followed the pack train.

"As this is off y'r National Forests, A suppose y' couldn't have jumped
into the bunch an' arrested every man-jack of 'em?"

"Not without being a target for five shots while they would have been
targets for only one."

"We'd have strung 'em up in the good old days, an' sent for the sheriff
to clean up the remnants."

They had left the goat track and dipped down a shaggy green hollow
between mountains that seemed to slope to lakes of pure light above a
blue open plain.

"Any citizen can arrest a law breaker whereever found.  Our badge is
supposed to increase that privilege; but the crime was committed just a
stone's throw _off_ the grazing ground in the National Forests.  We'd
have to turn our prisoners over to Sheriff Flood.  How long do you think
he'd keep 'em in custody?  They'd escape while he was having an attack of
'look-the-other-way--'"

"Your idea to run 'em aground in their own State?"

"Not necessary to go so far.  Run them across _this_ State line--then
catch them off guard in some of these canyons or arroyos.  Turn them over
to a sheriff who doesn't owe his bread and butter to Moyese.  He'll have
to hold them till Williams and MacDonald come down to testify.  By that
time, I fancy we'll hear from people who have been losing stock all the
way up from Arizona.  Moyese will be keeping mighty quiet."

"Meanwhile, Mr. White-vest, who planned all this deviltry--he goes free!
These are only the poor rowdy tools for--"

"For the Man Higher Up," finished Wayland.

"Wayland, who is this white-vested anarchist, this vested-righter who
subverts your laws?"

"His name is Legion, sir!  That's what's the matter!  These hide-bound
vested righters are only vested righters when the rights don't happen to
belong to some other man."  The Ranger related the incidents of the visit
to the Ridge.

The old man rode along in silence.

"And from what you say," finished Wayland, "he evidently didn't mean any
harm to come to the boy; but that is always the way with this cursed
system.  You're law breaking law-makers, your divine-right-king-crooks
out here--don't _plan_ crime.  They only plan to have their own way.
It's like a man breaking down a dam to get a little water.  When the
floods burst through the break, he thinks it isn't his fault."

"That's what some of our Scotch kings thought; we took their heads off
just the same."

"Well, if we can get our people wakened up, we'll take a few heads off,
too, at election time."  He touched his pony to a brisk trot across the
meadow, following the mule as it dodged in and out among the larches, up
over a saddle back and down again thwarting a long bare hollow.


Wayland saw the light come sifting in gold dust.  Somehow, the warmth of
it swept round him in a consciousness of that night on the Ridge.  It was
like the snow flakes she talked about, sculpturing the rocks, shaping
destiny.  Would the day ever come when they two could ride forth
adventuring happiness together?  The hammer of a woodpecker, the resinous
tang of the gold-dust air, the shaking of the evergreen needles like
gypsy tambourines--filled him with an absurd sense of the joy of life;
and he could never drink the joy of these things without thinking of her;
for the consciousness of her presence, of the warm glow of her love,
enveloped all now, permeated his being, a life inside his life, blended
of his own.

"A don't like the way that mule o' yours keeps lookin' ahead with both
ears, Wayland!  It's all-fired quiet here, for noon-hour when the streams
should be shouting.  There is something mighty queer and still in this
air.  Yon saucy woodpecker has quit drillin'!  Hold back a bit!  A'm
goin' ahead!  A've known these mountains longer than you have," and
curving through the brushwood, the old frontiersman came out ahead of the
pack leader.

The little mule had undoubtedly followed a kind of trail.  Though the
grasses were saddle-high, punky logs showed the fresh rip of shod horses.
Little mossy streams betrayed roiled water and stones over-turned.  Then,
the path emerged from the trees so abruptly you could have drawn a line
along the edge of the timber, out to a great hollowed slope, wind-blown,
bare of rocks, clear of trees as if levelled by a giant trowel; hushed,
preternaturally hushed, the Ranger thought as he came up abreast and
glanced to the top of the long slope where the snows glistened over the
edge of the rocks heavy and white.

"This is what we heard last night!  See, Wayland, the snow up there has
been breakin'!  It sags!  Got its fore feet forward for a race down one
of these days!"

Both men became aware of something portentous and heavy in the silence:
it was mid-day; but there was no noon-time shout of disimprisoned waters.
Not a crossbill, not a jay, neither eagle nor hawk, showed against the
azure fields of sky and snow.  A little riffle as of waiting fluttered
through the grasses and leaves.  Wayland was looking with dumb amazement
at the great field of laurel in bloom across the slope; three or four
miles of it, leaves of green wax in the sun, flowers passion pale,
motionless, waiting; what was it he missed?  The insect life; there were
neither butterflies nor bees rifling the fields of honey bloom; the
flowers, acres and acres of them, stood passion pale, motionless
waiting--waiting what?  Then, there was a singing in his ears, a weird
strange undertone to the hush of the forest behind them.  His breath came
heavy.  The old man was speaking in a muffled voice.

"See, boy, there are three men on the other side!  They are signalling."

Wayland came alive out of his strange trance.

"It isn't to us they are signalling.  Move back quick, out of sight, sir;
see! there's a man half way across, the fellow in the yellow slicker!
There's some one on foot holding him in his saddle!  What ever are they
waving so frantically for?"

Involuntarily, both men had wheeled the ponies back in the screen of
trees, when the old man cried out: "What in blazes ails your mule?"

The little animal had jumped sideways.

"Get back, quick! for God's sake, Wayland!  A know the signs from the
Canadian Rockies.  It isn't _us_ they are signalling.  It's the snow;
it's coming, Wayland!"

The words were smothered by a tremor grinding through the hollow hush.
There was a split, a splintering, a dull boom of titanic weight falling,
miles away.  They saw the puff of snow dust fly up in a toss of mist over
the face of the distant upper crags.  Then, a grinding tore the earth;
something white glistening viscous crumpled--coiled with untellable
furious speed, shaggy and formless, out from the upper peaks--coiled and
writhed out like a giant python in titanic torture.  For an instant, for
less than the fraction of an instant, it poised and coiled and looped as
a great white snake in and out among the far upper meadows: then ruptured
free with ear splitting wrench.  The air was ripped to tatters.  The
forest, the rock wall, the foundations of the universe gave way; the huge
hemlocks were tossing and bending like feathers; the upper forests
toppled and spilled like an inverted matchbox.  Then the whole world,
earth, air, rocks, forest, shot down in a blinding rush, in a viscous
torrent of titanic fury.  The surface of the mountain crumpled up and
peeled in a sliding mass.


Wayland came to himself hurled back a hundred feet knocked flat by an
invisible blow.  The old frontiersman lay clinging to a prone trunk
spitting blood and gasping for air.  The animals were scrambling to their
feet saddles twisted, bridles broken.

"'Twas the concussion of the air!  A'm not hurt, not a feather o' my head
hurt!  A've seen it before in the Rockies!  Look back," he panted.

When the Ranger turned, the clouds of dust were settling, though the
earth still rocked.  A hundred feet of snow lay across the trail in a
wall.  Huge trees had been torn from the roots, sucked in, twisted and
torted like straws.

"Look," reiterated the old frontiersman.

Against the rock trail on the other side of the snow slide, three men
stood waving frantically.  From the time the falling cornice of snow had
tossed up in a puff of smoke ten miles away to the fell stroke of the
titanic leveller of the ages--not ten seconds had passed.  It would have
been an even bet that the men on the other side had been caught in the
middle of their sentences, in the middle of their signalling.  As for the
injured man and his companion--Wayland looked down the mountain slope.
The snow slide had shot to the bottom and gone quarter way up the other
side.

"'Twill be safer now to cross to the other side!  We can go up above the
snow slide and cross by the bare rocks!"

But Wayland was unheeding.  What was it about snow flakes massing to a
momentum that bevelled the granite and rolled away the rocks for the
resurrection to a new life?  Would it be so some day with the Nation?
Would the quiet workers, the pure thinkers, the faithful citizens mass
some day to sweep away the lawlessness, the outrage, the crime, the
treachery, the trickery, the shame, the sham of self-government's
failures; to roll away the stone for the resurrection to a new Democracy?
'High brows,' 'dreamers,' 'ghost walkers,' 'barkers,' 'biters,'
'muck-rakers!'  Oh, he knew the choice names that lawless greed cast at
such as he; but a greater than he had said something about the meek and
the inheritance of the earth; and there lay the work of the snow flake
across the trail.

"I suppose," he remarked absently, "it's our duty to go down and dig
those dead duffers out."

"Nothing o' the kind.  They'll keep cold storage till the crack o' doom,
and after that 'tis an ice pack they'll need.  The snow's too clean a
grave for the likes o' them!  The Lord has hewn out a path through the
sea!  Sound the loud timbrel and on!"




CHAPTER XV

THE DESERT

Four days had passed since they stood on the edge of the snow slide and
gazed across at three outlaws on the far side under the crag waving
frantically where their belated comrades had been buried under the
avalanche.  When the outlaw drovers had turned and galloped into the
blue slashed gully of the opposite mountain, the Ranger had observed
that their only remaining pack horse was white, an old dappled white
running with a limp.

It had taken the better part of three days to cross above the wreckage
of snows and forest.  They had camped for two nights within a stone's
throw of the upper glaciers.  Wayland could see the reflection of the
stars in the ice at night, and count the layers of the century's
snow-fall that harked back, each layer a year's fall, to the eras
before Christ.

"The little snow flake has been on the job a long time," he said to the
old preacher.

Matthews didn't understand.  "Can't make out why it's so hot when we're
high up!"

"The wind is off the Desert," said Wayland.

"Mountains in a desert?"

"That's the same as asking if you ever have summer in Saskatchewan."

The frontiersman looked more puzzled than ever.


Wild longings to seize the day's joy came to the Ranger.  If the snow
flake typified law sculpturing the centuries, law was a process not of
a life time, not of a century, but aeons of centuries; and flesh,
spirit, humanity's brevity cried out for the trancing joys of the
present.  If law took billions of years to sculpture its purpose,
grinding down the transient lives in its way?--When Wayland came to
that _impasse_, he used to get off and walk.  He did not know, and it
was well he did not know, she was pacing her room two hundred miles
back on the other side of the Divide, praying that he might succeed in
one breath, that he might come back in another, and praying always that
they might both be strong.

Every mile was a mile deeper into the eternity of her love . . . he
knew that; but he also knew that the fulfilment of duty meant
renunciation.  Was it the cry of the flesh?  Wayland scoffed the
thought.  Flesh in the frontier West doesn't take the trouble to wear
fig-leaf signs.  It is blazoning, bold, unashamed, known for what it
is; but there is no confusion of values.  He who wills takes what he
wills and wears the mark.  Wayland had been long enough away from the
confused values of more civilized lands to know belladonna eyes from
starlight; and he knew what his being craved was not carrion.  It was
what harmonizes both flesh and spirit, and lifts the temporal to
eternity.  Eternity . . . he laughed again.  Eternity was too short;
and that was what renunciation meant, giving up a citadel against all
the harking cares and hells of hate in life.


Where they had picked up the fugitives' trail again on the fourth day
from the snow slide, the Ranger had taken stock of provisions.  We none
of us know just how long the Trail is to be when we set out.  Flour and
tea enough for a month's travel: of bacon and canned beans, only a
day's supply remained.

"Yes, on your life, forward, long as there's a mouthful left . . . push
on," Matthews had urged.

Wayland expostulated: "Do you know what Desert travel means?"

"No, an' care less!  If y' want to get anywhere, ye don't set out to
turn back!  Dante's inner circle was ice!  A've had that!  Now, A'll
take a nip of his outer circle and try your blue blazing Desert."

"It'll be blue all right, sir!  You'll know it when you come to it by
the shadows being blue instead of black."


And always, the trail had grown rockier, the forests more scattered,
the trees scantier and dwarfed, till the way led from clump to clump of
scrub pinon amid red buttes and sand hummocks.  And always, the valleys
widened and lifted to higher table lands, blasted and shrivelled and
tremulous of heat, till the mountains lay on the far sky-line silver
strips flecked with purple, like shores to an ocean of pure light.  And
always, it was the trail of fleeing horsemen they followed, with one
track running aside from the others picking the softest places.

"Only one pack horse and that lame," Wayland pointed to the foot
prints.  "That means they must have provisions cached some where on the
way.  If we can tire them out before they can reach their cache, we've
got 'em."


Once, where the way led between flanking foot hills, the tracks dipped
into a mountain stream and didn't come up on the other side.  "Hoh!"
commented the old man, "that's easy; you'll take the right and A'll
take the left; and where the hills lift up ahead, A'm thinking you'll
find the tracks plain."

All the same, Wayland noticed Matthews frequently moistening his
parched lips; and the lakes of light ahead lay a wavering looming veil.
A mile farther on, the ripped punk of a dead pinon betrayed the passing
of the fugitives.  When Wayland dismounted to examine the marks, he
stepped on a small cactus.  They picked up a trail that led over rocky
mesas and dipped suddenly into the deep dug-way of a dry gravel bed.
The sand walls of the dead stream afforded shelter from the sun, and
the two riders spurred their bronchos to a canter led by the pack mule.
The sand banks spread, widened, opened; and the mule stopped, both ears
pointing forward like a hunting dog.  They rode forward to find
themselves looking down on an ocean of light, shimmering orange colored
light, with the mountains trembling on the far sky line silver strips
necked by purple and opal.  The old frontiersman mowed the sweat from
his brows and gazed from under shade of his level hand.

"Sun's like a shower o' red hot arrows," he said.

The sand lay fine as sifted ashes dotted with clumps of bluish-green
sage brush and greasewood.  A bleached ox-skull focussed the light with
a glaze that stabbed vision.  The ashy earth, the dusty sage brush, the
orange sand hills, the silver strip on the far sky line flecked by the
purple and opal loomed and wavered and writhed in a white flame.

"Do you see the bluish shade to the shadows?" asked Wayland.

The old man was still shading his eyes from the white heat.  "Do A see
mountains, Wayland?"

"Certainly, you do!  Did you think the Desert flat as the sea?"

"That's just it!  If A see mountains, then A see water too!  It keeps
wavering."

"By which you may know _it isn't water_," warned Wayland.

"Wayland, A' don't believe you!"

He had dismounted as he spoke and proceeded down the yellow sands to a
pit at the foot of the rolling slope.  Wayland saw him halt, again
shade his eyes from the sun glare, and stoop.  On his knees, he looked
again and rose.  He came up the slope shaking his head.  "Y'd swear it
was water at y'r very feet till you bent down."

"Till you changed the angle of reflection . . . eh? and then the water
vanished, sir."

Both men had thrown their coats across the rear of the saddles.
Matthews now knotted a large handkerchief round his neck.  There was
not a cloud, nor the shadow of a cloud for shade.  It was a wilted,
shrivelled, heat-flayed, fire-blasted world of arid desolation;
trenched by the dry arroyos; sifted by the hot winds fine as flour;
with rings and belts and wavering layers of heat--heat from the orange
sun edged red by the Desert dust of the atmosphere--heat from the wind
off some white flamed furnace--heat from the ochre shifting sands
panting to the loom and writhe of the blue-flamed air, and over all a
veil, was it blue or lilac or lavender? tinted as of rainbow mists.
For a little while, neither spoke.  Each knew what the dusty dead
orange earth, the smoking sand hills, the sifted volcanic ash, the
burnt oil smell of shrivelled growth, meant to unprepared travellers.

"I wish, sir," said Wayland, "I wish you would turn back here and let
me go on alone; I really do!"

"What! turn tail like a whipped dog an' scuttle at first danger?  Go to
blazes, my boy!  Do you think y'r beasts will stand crossing before
sunset?"

"It's about as easy going ahead as standing still.  If we only had a
water canteen, it wouldn't be such a fool-thing to risk."

The wind flayed them with hot peppering sand.

"If we took time to go back for one now, this wind would wipe out the
tracks."

"What's yon splash o' dust goin' over the roll o' th' hill?"

Beyond the quiver of the dusky heat, they could see the drift of ash
dust eddying to the wind like dirty snow.

"I wish, sir, you would turn back here," urged Wayland; but Matthews
was not heeding.  He had gathered up the broncho's reins.

"Time to be moving," he said.  "'Tis my observation, Wayland, that the
devil gets away from the saint because, he'll always ride one faster.
Many's the time when A've been pressed in the old days, when if the man
behind had just ridden the one bit harder that he thought he couldn't,
just not sagged where he nagged, he'd ha' got me, Wayland!  When y'
pace two men, one ridin' with the devil behind him, and the other jog
trotting with a dumpy comfortable conscience, 'tis a safe bet which
will win."

There was the clitter clatter of the horses' hoofs over the lava rocks;
the padded beat of the easy plains lope as they left the lava for the
ashy silt; then no sound but the swash of saddle leather along trail
marks that cut the crusted silt like tracks in soft snow.  The wind had
been flaring a steady torrid white flame.  Now it began to come in
puffs and whirls that beat the air to dust of ashes and sent the sand
foaming in the wave lines of a yellow sea.  The mule no longer ambled
ahead with ears pointed.  He shuffled through the ash with dragging
steps; and the sage brush crackled brittle where the trail led out from
the silt across the baked earth.  The heat waves writhed and throbbed
through the atmosphere, a flame through a sieve, with a scorch of
burning from the ground and clouds of dust like smoke.

"I think I'll get off and walk," said Wayland, suiting the action to
the word.  "I hope those blackguards are counting on camping at a
spring to-night."

They plodded on for another half hour before Matthews answered.

"Do you think they did it intentionally?  A mean, do y' think they
lured us here to get rid of us?"

Wayland paused and thought.

"It's all the same whether they did or not . . . now!  What was it you
said about a man chased by the devil setting a good live pace?  They
have to find water.  They know where water is.  We don't!  Only safety
is to follow."

"Queer how y' keep imaginin' ye hear wimplin' brooks!  When A let
myself go, A keep hearin' the tinkle o' y'r rills back in the
mountains!  A keep seein' the blue false water waverin' up to my feet
an' recedin' again!  Isn't there a fellow in mythology, Wayland, died
o' thirst in water because when he reached to drink it, it kept
waverin' away?"

"That fellow had travelled in the Desert," answered Wayland.

He aimed his revolver at a green rattlesnake lying under a sage brush.
The sun glinted from the steel barrel.  The snake coiled and raised its
head.  "See," said Wayland, "the snake takes aim.  The light sort of
hypnotizes it.  The greenest tenderfoot couldn't miss it."

"How far d' y' call it across?"

"Two to four days straight: eleven to twenty if you take it diagonally.
As I make it, they are steering due West for one of the deep cut ways
to take 'em South under shade."

"Shade would taste pretty good to me, Wayland."

Wayland looked back at his companion.  What he thought, he did not say;
but he mounted at once and hastened pace.

"Once we find a spring, we'll travel at night," he said.

A condor rose from the rocks and circled away with slow lazy sweep of
wings.

"You would wonder what they could find to eat here, if it were not for
the snakes and the lizards."

"Perhaps, we'll _not_ wonder so much before we finish."

Wayland looked at the old frontiersman again.  He was riding heavily,
sagged forward, with one hand on the high pommel of the Mexican saddle.

"Talk about the heroes o' cold in the North," he said.  "'Tis easy!
Y'r cold buoys a man up!  This stews the life out before ye have a
fightin' chance!  Y' could light a match on these saddle buckles."

"I think I see sand hills ahead.  If there's any shade, we'll rest till
twilight."

The lava rocks rolled to a trough of sand; and the light lay a
shimmering lake in the alkali sink.

"Is that what y' call a false pond?"

"No, I hope you'll not see any false ponds this trip!  False pond is in
your head or your eye; and the harder you ride, the faster it runs.
Let's get out of this wind!"

Wayland noticed the horses paw restlessly and nose at the gravel when
they crossed the dry bed of a spring stream.

"Think y' could dig down to water with y'r axe, Wayland?"

The Ranger pointed to the wide cracks in the baked earth, dry as flour
dust deep as they could see.  The mule led the way at a run up the next
sand roll.

"Think he smells water, Wayland?"

Another broad mesa rolled away to the silver strip of mountain on the
sky line; but the fore ground broke into slabs and blocks of red stone.
Wayland examined the trail.  It twisted in and out among the rocks
towards more broken country.

"There may be a canyon leading South over there," he pointed.

"Y' might try for a spring beneath that big rock.  Looks green at the
bottom."

A mist as of primrose or fire tinged the lakes of quivering light lying
on the ochre-colored mesas.  The sun hung close to the silver strip of
mountain exaggerated to a huge dull blood-red shield.

"Wayland, is this desert light red or is it that A'm seein' red?"

The Ranger looked a third time at his companion.  The old man sat more
erect; but his eyes were blood shot.  A puff of wind, a lift and fall
and drift of sand, the wind met them in a peppering shower of hot shot.

"Is that a rain cloud comin' up?"

Wayland glanced back.  The heavy dust rose a red-black curtain above
the flame-crested ridges of orange sand.

"You're a churchman, sir!  You should know!  Ever read in Scripture of
the cloud by day and the pillar by night?  Ever think what that might
mean on the scorching Red Sea job when Moses led a personally conducted
tour through the desert?"

"Dust?" queried the preacher.

"By Harry," cried Wayland, "that mule _does_ smell water."

The little beast had set off for the red rock at a canter.  Wayland's
horse followed at a long gallop.  The broncho of the old clergyman with
the heavier man lurched to a tired lope.  They felt the eddies of dust
as they tore ahead, saw the rainless clouds gathering low and gray far
behind, saw the sun lurid through the whirls of red silt, saw the dust
toss up among the lava beds like snow in a blizzard, then the sand
storm broke, the dry storm of rainless clouds and choking dust flaying
the air in rainless lightning.  They gave the ponies blind rein and
shot round the sheltered side of the great red rock into one of those
hidden river beds that trench below the surface of the desert in
cutways and canyons.  It was dry.

"The shadow of a great rock in a weary land," quoted the old man
sliding from his horse exhausted.

Foot prints of men and horses punctured the moist silt of the river
bottom.  The little mule was kicking and squealing where the red rock
came through the clay bank.  Down the terra cotta ledge trickled a tiny
rill not so large as a pencil.  Wayland was chopping a deep mud hole in
the river-bottom up which slowly oozed a yellow pool.

"Don't drink that, sir," he ordered.

The old frontiersman was stooping to lave up a handful of the muddy
fluid.

"Don't drink that if you want to get out alive!  Wait, I have something
in the pack!"

He threw the cinch ropes free from the mule, pulled out the sacks of
flour and bacon and coffee.  "Here we are."  He drew out the only can
of beans and punctured the end with his knife.

"If you will satisfy your thirst with that juice, I'll catch the
trickle down the rock while we rest; but you must never drink this
alkali sink stuff."

Leaving the horses nuzzling the muddy pool, the Ranger stuck his jack
knife into a crevice of the ledge and hung the small kettle where it
would catch the drip.  Matthews was examining the tracks.

"Not more than an hour or two old, an' A'm thinking, Wayland, we've
fooled them out of water!"

"They'll keep to the shelter of the cutway long as this dust storm
lasts."

Wayland was following down the tracks.

The sun had sunk behind the silver strip of mountain reddening the heat
lakes and the Desert air.  Across the mesas, the silt dust and sand
drift still whirled in fitful gusts; but the air no longer carried the
scorch of burning oil.  The sky that had blazed all day in fiery brass
darkened and closed near to earth, a throbbing thing of the Desert
night brooding over life: a oneness of space rimmed round by the red
sky line.


"Hullo," exclaimed Wayland, pointing to the bank.  "We are not so far
behind: there is the freshly opened cache."

Where the cutway caved to a hollow lay a hole littered with empty cans
and canvas bags.

"Not much value left, eh?  Hold on, Wayland, this might be useful."
Matthews had picked up a skin water bag.  It was full of tepid water.

"They're harder pressed than I thought.  They've had water stored here.
They'll rest somewhere in the cutway to-night.  We'll likely run them
down before morning if our horses can stand it."

Back at the rock, the Ranger was cooking their supper over a fire of
withered moss and pinon chips, keeping the old man's mind off his
fevered thirst by calling attention to the tricks of Desert growth to
save water.

"You see the cactus turns its leaves into water vats with spikes to
keep intruders off; and the greasewood stops evaporation by a varnish
of gum.  I'm sun-veneered all right.  I don't sweat all my moisture
out--"

"Better varnish me, then, before ye take me out again."

Less than a pint of water had seeped into the little kettle; and this
they used for their tea, mixing the flour with the stale water from the
mud pool.  Then, they lighted pipes and lay back to rest.

Wayland had placed the kettle back under the drip of the ledge.

"A can understand Moses smitin' the rocks for a spring; and such a wind
as we had to-day blowin' the Red Sea dry," observed the old man
dreamily.

"I guess if you get any miracle down to close quarters, you'll sort it
out all right without busting common sense," returned Wayland.

He wasn't thinking of the day's hardships.

The silver strip of the far mountains had faded; first, the purple
base; then, the melting opal summit.  At last, the restless wind had
sunk.  The red rocks of the mesa darkened to spectral shapes.  The
heat, the scorch, the torrid pain of the day had calmed to the soft
velvet caress of the indigo Desert night.  Twice, the Ranger dozed off
to wake with a start, with a sense of her hand warning danger.  Always
before, the thought of her had come in an involuntary consciousness
whelmed of happiness; but to-night, was it . . . fear?

He rose and looked about.  Two of the horses lay at rest.  The mule
stood munching near.  The old frontiersman slept heavily, his face
troubled and upturned to the sky.  Wayland noticed the livid tinge of
the lips, the shadows round the eye sockets, the protuberance of veins
on the backs of the old man's hands.  The sky seemed to come down lower
as the red twilight darkened; and he could hear not a sound but the
crunch of the grazing mule and the slow drop, drop, drop of the water
seeping from the terra cotta ledge.  The stars were beginning to prick
through the indigo darkness.  In another hour, it would be bright
enough to travel by starlight; and the Ranger lay back to rest,
slipping into a dusky realm as of half consciousness and sleep; but for
the nervous ticking of his watch, and the slow drop, drop, drop; then
sleep with a dream face wavering through the dark; then the watch tick
scurrying on again; then a hand touched him!  Wayland sprang to his
feet half asleep.  He could have sworn she was, standing there; but the
form faded.  The pack mule had flounced up with a cough.  A white horse
stood between the banks of the arroyo.  There was a steel flash in the
dark, the rip of a quick shot, and the kettle bounced from the ledge
with a jangling spill.

"What's that?" yelled the old frontiersman, jumping for the horses.

Wayland was pumping his repeater into the darkness; but the clatter of
hoof beats down the dry gravel bed answered the question.

"It's the signal for us to get up," answered the Ranger.  "I don't mind
the blackguard's bad aim so much as I do the upset of that kettle.
Every drop of water is spilled."

"A'm thinkin' 'twas the kettle they aimed at, and not us, my boy!"




CHAPTER XVI

BITTER WATERS

But for all that the outlaws seemed hard pressed, they succeeded in
keeping ahead.  The velvet dark of the night in the arroyo had given
place to a sickly saffron dawn.  Where the cut-way widened and lost
itself in an alkali sink, the hoof prints of the fugitives' horses led
out again to the open country of gray torrid earth dotted by sage brush
and greasewood.  The yellow sky met the ochre panting earth in a
tremulous heat mist of wavering purple; and against that sky line, a
swirl of dust marked the receding figures of the riders.

"There they go, Wayland!  It's a case of who lasts out now!  If we can
only keep pushing them ahead, this heat wull do the rest."

The old man shaded his eyes as he gazed across the desert dawn.

"Queer way y'r mountains here keep shiftin' an' mufflin' an' meltin'
their lines!  They're here one minute about a mile away, then as you
look, they've a trick of movin' back!  That dust against the sky line
is about ten miles off as A make it in this high rare air; an' they're
goin' mighty slow!  We've played 'em out."

"Yes; but they have played us out!  Let us get off and have breakfast.
If that small wren coming out of the cactus could speak, it might tell
us where to find water."


They had camped one noon hour at a Desert pool beneath a cottonwood,
where the putrid carcass of a dead ox polluted air and water.  The
Ranger whittled the cottonwood branches for a small chip fire, and he
boiled enough water to fill the skin bag for the next day's travel; but
a high wind was blowing, restless, nagging, gusty, pelting ash dust in
their eyes, and not to lose the trail, they had pressed on through the
sweltering heat of mid-day.  Wayland's muscles had begun to feel
hardened to the dryness of knotted whip cords.  His skin had bronzed
swarthy as an Indian's.  He was beginning to rejoice in the vast
spacious relentless Desert with its fierce struggle of life against
death; the cactus, the greasewood, the brittle sage brush, all matching
themselves against the heat-death.  Was there a thing, beast or bush,
not armed with the fangs of protection and onslaught?  Wayland looked
at his leather coat.  It had been jagged to tatters by thorn and spine.
Silent, too; the struggle was silent and insidious and crafty as death.
Who could guess where the water-pools lay beneath the dry gravel beds;
or why the cactus fortified its storage of moisture in bristling spear
points; the greasewood and pinon with thorns and resin; the sage brush
with a dull gray varnish that imprisoned evaporation?  The very crust
above the earth of ash and silt conspired to hide the trail of wolf and
cougar; and wolf and cougar, wren and condor, masked in colors that hid
their presence.  Twice Wayland had almost stumbled on a wolf sitting
motionless, gray as the ash, watching the horsemen pass; pass where?
Was it down the Long Trail where the tracks all point one way?  Yet the
fierceness, the craft, the relentless cruelty of the silent struggle
matched his own mood.  He felt the stimulus of the high dry sun-fused
tireless air.  He began to understand why the Desert prophets of the
East, who camped on sand plains rimmed round and round by an unbroken
sky line, had been the first of the human race to grasp the idea of the
Oneness of God.  And was it not the Desert prophets, who had preached a
God relentless as he was merciful; and the retribution that was fire?
Well, Wayland ruminated, who should say that they were wrong?  If the
God who created the Desert, was the God of life; but there, his thought
had been broken by coming on the withered carcass beside the yellow
pool.

"They can't keep going on in this heat!  We'll run 'em down if we can
only keep going," Wayland had said; as they set out again in the
blistering wind; but to his dying day, he will never forget the
traverse of the Desert in that mid-day sun.  To his dying day he will
never see the spectrum colors of white light split by a prism, or the
spectrum colors of a child's soap bubble, without living over the
tortures of that afternoon, for the air, whipped to dust by the
hurricane wind, acted as a prism splitting the white flame of light to
lurid reds and oranges and yellows and violets.


Now, on this second morning before the stars had faded to the orange
sunrise coming up through the lavender air in a half fan, the heat had
thrown riders and horses in a sweltering sweat; and the nagging wind
had begun driving ash dust in eyes and skin like pepper on a raw sore.
Matthews' ruddy face had turned livid; his blood-shot eyes were dark
ringed.  The horses travelled with heads hung low.  Spite of the sun,
it was a cloudy sky, but whether rain clouds or dust clouds, they could
not tell.  Towards noon, they could see against the purple mountains
the red tinged clouds fraying out to a fringe that swept the sky.

"A thought it never rained in the Desert in summer, Wayland?"

"It doesn't."

"What's that ahead?"

"Rain; but if you look again, you'll see it doesn't reach the sky line!
It's sucked up and evaporated before it hits the dust. . . ."

Towards the middle of the afternoon, the horses were resting in the
shade of a reddish butte.  Both men had dismounted.  Wayland did not
notice what was happening till he glanced where the blue shadow of the
rock met the wavering glare of the sand.  The old man had stooped to
one knee and had twice laved his hand down to the wavering margin of
blue light and bluer shadows.

"Fooled you again, did it?' asked the Ranger, throwing the saddle from
his own pony, strapping the cased rifle to his shoulder and carrying
the hatchet in the crook of his elbow.

"Better let me give you a drink from the water bag; it's hot and stale;
but it will keep you from seeing water at your feet till we find
another spring."

The old man drank from the neck of the water bag and wiped his mouth
with his hand.

"Queer effect y'r heat has on a North man, Wayland!  D' y' know what
A'd be doing if A let myself?"

"Drinking those blue shadows again?"

"No, sir, A'd be babbling and babbling about the sea!  A fall asleep as
we ride; an' when A wake from a doze, 'tisn't the sea of sand, 'tis the
sea o' water that's about me!  The yellow sea o' York Fort up Hudson
Bay way where A took the boats from Saskatchewan."

Wayland helped him to mount.

"Aren't y' goin' to ride y'rself?"

"No," answered Wayland.  "I'm going to keep one horse fresh.  Best this
one to-day: then we'll change off and rest yours to-morrow.  Those
fellows can't go any faster than we do.  This heat will beat them out
if we can't.  I'll make those blackguards glad to drink horse-blood."

Then, they moved forward again, Wayland leading on foot, the little
pack mule to the rear, both horses stumbling clumsily, raising clouds
of dust; breathing hard, with heaving flanks.

That night, they halted in broken country . . . more red buttes;
hummocks of red; silt crust trenched by the crumbly cutways of spring
freshets; sand hills billowing to a brick red sky, where the sun hung a
dull blaze.  There were tracks of the fleeing drovers having paused for
a rest in the same place.  It was a pebble bottom hot and dry.  Wayland
scooped under with his Service axe and an ooze of clay water seeped
slowly up forming a brackish pool.  He had to hold the little mule back
from fighting the horses for that water.  When the animals had drunk,
he filled the water bag with the settlings.  Towards three in the
morning, the soft velvet pansy blue Desert dark broke to a sulphur
mist.  Wayland saddled horses and mule and wakened the old frontiersman.

"Eh, where's this?" He came to himself heavily.  "Wayland, is this
hell-broth of a sulphur stew doin' me?  Has y'r Desert got me, Wayland?"

"No, sir, when the Desert gets you, it gets you raving mad with fever.
Chains won't hold you!  This soggy sleep is all right.  Long as you
sleep, you'll keep your head!"

All the same, the Ranger noticed that the old man ate scarcely any
breakfast.  For those people who think that the Ranger's life consists
of an easy all day jog-trot, it would be well to set down exactly of
what that breakfast consisted.  It consisted of slap jacks made with
water sediment.  Both men were afraid to draw on the water from the
skin bag for tea.


They passed dead pools that day, places where Desert travellers had
stuck up posts to mark a spring; but where the Service axe failed to
find water below the saline crust.  Then, Wayland knew why the sulphur
dust drift moved so slowly against the horizon.  The outlaws _had not_
found water.  Horses and men were fagging.  A velveteen coat had been
thrown aside to lighten weight; from the dust markings one horse seemed
to have fallen; and the load had been lightened still more by casting
off half sacks of flour and some canvas tenting; but the tracks of the
lame horse picking the soft places along the trail showed drops of
blood.  Had it cut itself on the glassy lava rocks; or was it the hoof?
A little farther ahead, the same horse had fallen again to its knees,
rolling over headlong; and the other tracks doubled back confusedly
where the riders had come to help.

The Ranger smiled, though the yellow heat danced in blood clots before
his blistered vision.  He had had to put the old frontiersman back on
his horse three times.  The stirrup was wrong; or the saddle was
slipping; or . . . what alarmed Wayland was each time he had stopped,
the old man was stooping as if to follow the wavering outline of
invisible water.  Then, when the Ranger tried to count how many days
they had been out, he found he couldn't.  He had lost track: the days
had slipped into nights and the nights into days; and he suddenly
realized that his head pounded like a steel derrick; that the crackling
of the dry sage brush leaves snapped something strung and irritable in
his own nerves.  There was no longer a drowsy hum in his ears.  It was
a wild rushing.

Once, the horses shuffled to a dead stop.  Wayland looked up from the
dancing sand at his feet.  He rubbed his eyes and looked again.

"I keep thinking I see a white horse lagging behind that dust drift.
What puzzles me is whether they are trying to _get out_ of the Desert
or _lose_ us in it.  While we are seeing them, you can bet they are
seeing us!  There hasn't been a yard for a mile back, where the hoof
tracks weren't bloody.  They'll lose a horse if they keep on to-day:
then, they'll be without a packer; but if they are plumb up against it,
why don't they face round and fight?  They are three to our two?  They
could hide behind any of these sand rolls and pot us crossing the
sinks; but if they are not at the end of their tether, why don't they
hustle and get out of sight?  If they aren't played out, they could
outride us in half a day."

The old man was shading his eyes and gazing across the sun glare.
Wayland noticed that he was steadying himself in the saddle by the
pummel.

"Is my eye playing me tricks, Wayland; or do A see something stuck on
yon bush along the way?  First glance, it looks like the leaf of a note
book.  Keep looking, it might be a tent a couple of miles away.  That
used to happen when we were buildin' bridges in the Rockies.  Surveyors
crossing upper snows would stick up a message in neck of a ginger ale
bottle: then, when we'd come along with the line men after trampin' the
snow for hours, we'd mistake the thing for a man with a white hat till
we almost tumbled over the bottle.  Is it the Desert playin' me tricks,
Wayland; or do A see something?  Look, . . . where that bit of brush
grows against the lava rock there."

Wayland's glance ran along the trail; and for an instant, the writhing
sun glare played the same trick with his own vision.  Something a dirty
white quivered above the black lava table like the loose canvas top of
a tented wagon.  The Ranger side-stepped the trail for a different
angle of refraction.  The object blurred, then reappeared, a leaf from
a note book not thirty yards away.  Wayland went quickly forward.  He
was aware as he walked that the shrivelled earth heaved and sank so
that he had the sensation of staggering.  It was a dirty leaf from a
note book fouled by the Desert winds and lodged in the sage brush.
Then, he looked twice.  It was not lodged.  It was stuck down in the
branches secure against the wind.  The ranger pulled the thing off.
The under side showed tobacco stains.  On the upper were scrawled in
heavy pencil; _By. 20 ml du est if yu don't cath upp hit itt est flagg
midnite frate carrie yu mine sitty_.

"Railway twenty miles due East," translated Wayland.  "That is probably
true.  I think there is a branch line runs a hundred miles in to Mine
City.  If you don't catch up, hit it East, flag the midnight freight,
she'll carry you to Mine City.  Well?  What do you make of it?  Did
they leave it; or did some body else?  If it had been there long, the
wind would have torn it to tatters."

"Let me see it."  The old man turned it over in his hand.  "Evidently
left to direct the man back in the Pass; they don't believe he's dead."

The Ranger took it back and read it over.  "If they're lagging back for
the missing man, why didn't they leave a message sooner?  Trail doesn't
fork here.  Why did they leave word here?"

"There really is a railway somewhere here, Wayland?"

"There must be if one knew where to find it."

Matthews smiled.  "Then, A take it this is a gentle hint to go off and
lose ourselves trying to find it."

Wayland's eyes rested on the slow-moving dust cloud against the horizon.

"Then it is a case of who lasts out!"  He looked at his white haired
companion.  "But there's no call for you to risk _your_ life on the
last lap of the race.  It's not your job.  It means another day;
perhaps, two.  If you'd take my horse, it's fresher, and the water bag,
you could ride out to the railroad to-night.  Those fellows are not
good for many miles more unless they hit a spring.  Let me go on alone,
sir."

"Alone?" The old man's face flushed furious, livid. . . .  "Git epp!"


Up a sand bluff, heaving to the heat waves; down a slither of ash dust;
then, across the petrified black lava roll; down to a saline sink,
white and blistering to the sight; over a silt bank crumbly as flour;
and on and yet on; across the dusty sage-smelling parched plain . . .
they moved; always following the tracks; tracks confused and doubling
back as if the hind horse lagged; with blood drip and shuffling
dragging hoofs; always keeping the dust whirl of the fore horizon in
view; on and on, but speaking scarcely at all!

The Ranger again had that curious sensation of the earth slipping away
from his foot steps.  He had thrown away his leather coat early in the
morning.  Now be found himself tearing off the loose red tie round the
flannel collar of the Service suit; and he pulled himself sharply
together recognizing the fevered instinct to strip off all hampering
clothing.  It was as much a heat-death symptom as sleep forbodes frost
death.  He did not walk in a daze as the old man rode, half numbness,
half drowse.  He walked with a throb--throb--throb in his temples like
the fall of water.  He wanted to run; to strip himself as an athlete
for a race; and all the time, he kept walking as if the heaving earth
went writhing away from each step.

"Don't y' think ye better open that pack, an' get a drink for y'rself,
my boy?"

Wayland was pausing in the shadow of a sand butte, and the old man had
ridden up.

"Want it for yourself?"

"Not a drop."

"Better keep it for the horses, then; if we can keep them going to the
next spring, they'll carry us out.  Anything the matter with me that
you ask that?"

"Oh no; A thought A saw you wave y'r arms."

The Ranger looked at the elder man.  He was riding leaning forward
heavily; and the dust had trenched deep fatigue lines in the hollow
beneath his eyes and from the nostrils to the mouth.  Wayland didn't
retort that the frontiersman's speech had sounded guttural and muffled.
He was not sure it was _not_ the fault of his own ears.


They worked slowly to the crest of the sand roll, zig-zagging to break
the steepness.  An ash-colored shadow skulked along the tracks of the
outlaw trail.  The little mule gave a squealing hind kick.  The shadow
looked back: it was a coyote, scenting the tracks of the drovers' lame
horse.  It went loping over the sand a blurr of gray.

"Curious thing that, Wayland!  Notice the antics of the mule?  Always
see that in a range bred beast, centuries of ham stringing."

The Ranger did not answer.  The sand was no longer heaving in waves.
It was running, sliding like the glossy surface of the sea.  The throb
of his temples, the slide of the sand, the lakes of light, light and
crystal pools, that ran away as you came up, all brought visions of
water.  The dust cloud on the sky line dipped and disappeared behind a
ridge of rolling sand.

There was the drowsy swash of saddle leather and the padded chug of
dragging feet and the hum, the hypnotic hum, of the heat that drowsed
from delirium to sleep.


"I think," said Wayland, "this seems a pretty good jumping-off place
for a rest."

The afternoon was waning.  They were under shelter of a sand bank from
the wind and sun.

"A think, Wayland, this is nearly my jumping off place altogether."

Matthews spoke feebly.  On pretense of steadying the fagged broncho,
the Ranger helped him to dismount.  Then, Wayland unsaddled and drew
the water bag from the pack trees.  He handed it over to the old man.
Matthews pushed it aside: "Keep it for yourself to-morrow.  If y' find
no spring, y'll need the water to-morrow; but A'll take y'r flask of
brandy if y' don't mind?"

"That's a fool thing to take in the heat, sir."

"'Tis if y' intend to live, Wayland; but A'm at the end of this Trail.
A'd like a bit strength t' tell y' a thing or two before . . . as we
rest!  Don't waste any water on flap jacks."

The mule lay rolling in the sage brush.  The two horses stood with
lowered heads chacking on the bit and pawing.  Wayland saw the brandy
flush mount to the purplish pallor of the old man's face.

"Wayland, this is _my_ jumping off place!  A'm at the end of the Track.
The Trail where the tracks all point one way.  'Tis na' sensible y'r
hangin' back for me!  If y'll take the fresh horse an' go on alone,
y'll get out!  If the railroad is only thirty miles due East, y' can
make that.  We'll rest a bit here, then after sundown we'll ride on;
an' in the dark A'll drop back.  If it hurts y' t' think of it, A'll
head my horse due East for the railroad!  Y'll go on, Wayland!  Y'll
not turn back for me!"

It took the Ranger a moment to realize what the old frontiersman was
trying to say.  "I think you'd better take another drink of that
brandy," he said.  "It seems to me a fool thing to let a good man die
for the sake of catching three outlaw blackguards."

"'Tis not for the sake o' three blackguards!"  The words came out with
a rap.  "'Tis to vindicate justice, 'tis to uphold law, an' till every
good citizen is willin' to lay down his life hounding outrage to th'
very covert o' Hell, t' die protectin' law an' justice an' innocence
an' right, y'r Nation wull be ruled by paltroons an' cowards an'
white-vested blackguards!  Go; go on; go on to the end till ye fall and
rot!  If th' Devil takes to the open an' the saints take to cover,
whose goin' t' fight the battle for right?  The Armageddon o' y'r
Nation?  'Tis easy t' be a good citizen when the bands are playin' an'
the cannon roarin'.  'Tis harder in times o' peace to fight the battle
o' the lone man!  These outlaws, these blackguards, these cut throats,
they're only the tools of the Man Higher Up!  Get them, then go on for
the Man Higher Up!  Leave me, when A drop back in the dark to-night; if
A'm in my senses, A'll shout a bravo and give y' a wave!  Y'r the Man
on the Job, the Nation's job!  'Tis not by bludgeons and bayonets, 'tis
by ballots and brains y'll fight this battle out; and fight y' must or
y'r freedom will go the way o' the old world despotisms down in a
welter.  A wish y'd go to the top o' the bank and have a look ahead."


An absurd sense of power, of resolution from despair, of will to
do--suddenly swept over the Ranger.  He forgot his fatigue.  Months
afterwards, a fellow student who had become a professor in psychology
explained to him that it was a case of consciousness dipping suddenly
down to the sublimal reservoirs of unconscious strength that lie in
humanity; but then, Wayland had left two factors of explanation untold:
first, that the dying trumpet call of the old warrior missionary had
opened the doors of consciousness to that night on the Ridge of the
Holy Cross; second, that the setting sun tinging all the buttes and
hummocks and plains with rose flame somehow tinctured his being with
consciousness of her, consciousness of the life drafts he had taken
from her lips that night of the Death Watch.

He went across to the pack trees.  Picking up the cross trees and
blankets, he laid them on the ground as a pillow.

"If you will rest here, sir, I'll go above and have a look."


From the top of the sand bank, the Ranger looked down to see the old
man lying with his face to the sky, his head pillowed on the saddle
blankets, sound asleep.  He looked across the Desert.  The sun had sunk
behind the azure strip of the mountain sky line.  The billows of lava,
black and glazed, the ashy silt pink-tinged to the sun-glow, the
heaving orange sands . . . lay palpitating infinite almost with a
oneness that was of God.  Wayland was not given to prayers.  Perhaps,
like all men of action, he tried to make his life a prayer.  Somehow,
something within him prayed wordlessly now . . . not for exceptional
advantage in the game of life, not for remission of the laws of Nature,
not for miracle, but for aptitude to play the game according to rules.
His wordless prayer did not end in an "amen."  It ended in a little
hard laugh.  As though Right were such a simple business as just
personally being good! or an insurance policy against damnation and
guarantee for salvation!  What was it the old man had said?  Your right
must be made into might . . . that was the game of life: the saving of
the Nation: the good old-fashioned square deal no matter which party
cut the cards.  Right made Might, Might made Right; that was what the
Nation wanted!

Then, it came again, the touch, the consciousness, the will to power,
to do, to fight and overcome.  He rose and looked across the Desert.  A
puff of dust, a swirl and eddy of riders, resolved itself through the
terra cotta mist to the forms of three men going over the crest of the
sand roll against the red sun-wrack of the sky line; three figures far
apart, riding slowly, crawling against the face of the distant sky; one
man in advance bent over his pummel; a second rider with a pack horse
in tow pulling and dragging on the halter rope, the pack horse white
and lame, stopping at every step, the man crunched, huddling fore done,
down in his saddle; then dragging far to the rear, just cresting the
sky line as the other two disappeared, swaying from side to side, a
ragged wreck lying almost forward on his horse's neck; was he being
deserted?

Wayland uttered a jubilant low whistle and tumbled down the sand bank
to his camp kit.


The wind was at lull and the velvet air palpitating as a human pulse.
The after-glow lay on the orange sands cresting all the ridges with
cressets of flame.  Wayland was riding bare backed.

"When we sight them, I want you to drop back, sir!  The Desert's got
them.  They haven't the resistance of dead fish left.  If we cut across
this sink, as I make it, we'll save a couple of miles and almost meet
them on the other side of the next ridge."

When Wayland had wakened the old frontiersman, he had babbled
inconsequently about the sea.  Mixing brandy with the last of the
sediment water, Wayland got him into the saddle.  There were queer
splotches of blood under the skin on the backs of his hands; but when
the brandy relieved his fatigue, he stopped babbling of the sea and
spoke coherently.

"Y' mind the man, whose wife died in the Desert, Wayland?"

His horse stumbled.  The Ranger snatched at the bridle and jerked it up.

"Yes," said Wayland.

"Vera noble of the woman; 'tis all right on _her_ record, Wayland; but
what do y' think o' th' man?"

"But in this case, the man took her in to save her life."

"A wasn't thinking of _his_ case," answered the other bluntly.  "A was
thinking of _yours_."

The horse stumbled again.  This time, the Ranger kept hold of the
bridle rein.

"A didna' just mean t' tell y', Wayland; but A want y' t' know before A
drop back.  A saw it in her eyes, Wayland, yon night she went up the
Ridge trail, and oh, man, A was loth to speak: she would cheer y' on in
y'r work, A thought, perhaps--perhaps, the Lord might be playin' an ace
card an' A'd no be trumpin' my partner's tricks; but 'tisn't so;
Wayland, 'tisn't so!  This Desert hell proves me wrong.  She isna for
y', man; no man can ask a woman to come into a fight that may mean
this!  It's a man's job, Wayland; an' the man who would drag a woman
into the sufferin' of it isn't worthy of her . . . isn't the man to do
the job.  Oh yes, A know, a woman's love is ready to jump in the fire
an' all that.  Hoh!  The man's love that'll let her is poor stuff,
Wayland, base metal, kind o' love to burn all away to dross an' ashes
when the fires come!  Her's will come out pure gold thro' it all, but
man alive, Wayland, think o' her when she finds his as dross; an' if he
lets her sacrifice hers for his, 'tis dross!"

Wayland grew suddenly hot all over.  He could not bring himself to name
her, much less indulge in the cheap confessional of tawdry loose held
affection.  He had heard men discuss their love affairs: men who could
discuss them hadn't any; theirs was the sense reflex of the frog that
kicks when you tickle its nerve-end.  He rode on unspeaking.

"Y'll be tellin' y'rself 'tis too sacred to mouthe--with an old fellow
like me.  All right!  We'll say it is _too_ sacred; but that minds me
of a Cree rascal on my Reserve, an old medicine man, always talkin' of
his sacred medicine bag; well, one day when he was good an' far away,
good an' plenty drunk, A took a peep into his medicine bag; there was
nothin' inside but a little snake that hissed; an' him beatin' the big
drum!  Hoh! sacred?

"Y'll be tellin' me y'r passion vows are stronger than life or death?
Hoh!  Y'd be a poor man if love wasn't stronger than death without any
vows and big drum!  Y'll be tellin' me y've warned her not t' link her
life up wi' y'rs, to help y' resist an' all that; well, while y'r
playin' y'r high and mighty self-sacrifice, did y'r manhood melt in the
love light o' her eyes?"

Wayland jerked his horse roughly to a dead stop.  "Mr. Matthews, for
what reason are you saying all this?"

"A'll tell y' that too!  A've come for her, Wayland.  A've come to take
her back to her people.  Y' don't understand, her father is a MacDonald
of the Lovatt clan--came out with Wolfe's regiment in 1759."

"In 1759?" repeated Wayland.  "I heard her father say that very year."

"Yes, and a dark doursome race they are.  Lovatt: Fraser MacDonald was
his name; fought under Wolfe and joined the up country furhunters.
When he came back from his hunting one year, he found his wife had
eloped with an officer of the regiment; so he took to the north woods
an' married an Indian girl and his son was the man o' the iron arm, the
piper for little Sir George in the thirties, who blew the bag pipes up
Saskatchewan and over the mountains and down the Columbia and all round
them lakes where y'r Holy Cross Forest is.  They were a' dark fearsome
men in their loves and hates.  This man married late in life, he had
two sons, Angus of Prince Albert an' your Donald here.  He never saw
his father alive.  The Lovatt estates have been restored by law; but
the line is bred out, down to a little old lady whose waitin' me up at
my Mission on Saskatchewan.  She came huntin' heirs.  Angus had married
an Indian woman; he'll never go back, nor his sons.  They're livin'
under a tent to-day.  What would they do wi' a castle and liveried
servants and tenants an' things?  Donald, y'r sheep king man, married a
white girl.  Some time after '85 she left him for the part he took in
the Rebellion.  She died after the child's birth; and the father
claimed the daughter.  He's known they'd have to come for his daughter
some day, spite of his part in the Rebellion; and that was no such
shameful thing as y' might think, if y've lived long enough in the
West, t' understand!  He has educated the daughter for the place.  As A
guess, she knows nothing of it, doesn't know who her mother was, or why
her father had to leave Canada.  A guessed that much when y'r Indian
woman sent me the wrong road from the Ridge trail, that night!  She
doesn't even know who that Indian woman is."

"You came--for her?" repeated Wayland slowly.  The night on the Ridge
came back to him!  Calamity's fear when the old frontiersman arrived;
Bat's threat to expose something; Eleanor's perturbed letter; the
father's half furtive defiant existence.  He was too proud to ask more
than the other cared to tell, too loyal to pry into any part of her
life that she could not willingly share with him.  He sat gazing into
the mystic afterglow of the Desert, a flame of fire over a lake of
light.  It was as the old man had said, he had asked her to strengthen
his resolution; and he drank in the love light of her eyes as he asked.
He had vowed himself to a life apart and then his humanity, his
weakness, his need had sealed the vow of renunciation in the fires that
forged eternally their beings into one.  But this, this was the Hand
from Outside on which we never reckon and which always comes; the
Destiny Thing which Man's Will denies, wrenching the forging asunder.
Was it right for him to risk their lives farther in the Desert now; it
affected her life now; and that was exactly what his common sense had
foreseen: the fighter must fight alone.  Love might send forth; but
love must not be suffered to draw back.

"Why do you tell me all this?"

The old man moistened his lips before speaking.  "If A don't go out,
Wayland, A want y' t' see that her father's told, that she's taken
back.  When A saw the love light in her face come out like stars and
her breath break when A spoke of you as a Ranger fellow, when A saw
that, A thought, no matter what A thought.  If y' married her, d' y'
think y' could go off on the firing line; d' y' think y' would if y'
knew y'd left her in danger?  They'd strike at you through her, Wayland
. . . it would be the end of free fightin'.  A ask no promise.  'Tis
enough A've told y'.  Drive on!"


They moved slowly up the sand ridge, the Ranger a little ahead,
oblivious of the livid blue of the old man's lips and the drag on the
bridle rope till a quick jerk ripped the line from his loose hold; and
he glanced back to see the other's horse stagger, flounder up again,
waver and sink with a sucking groan.  Wayland sprang just in time to
catch the old frontiersman.  He tore the saddle from the fallen broncho
and cinched it on his own horse.  Then he lifted Matthews, protesting,
to the fresh mount, "till we reach the next rest place," he said, tying
the halter rope of the pack mule to the saddle pommel.  "Go on, I'll
come."


Wayland waited till the horse and mule passed over the crest of the
sand bank; then, he took out his revolver.  A shudder ran through the
fallen horse.  The Ranger's hand trembled.  He stroked its neck.  "Poor
devil; it's none of your affair either.  I wonder how the God of the
game will square it with the dumb brutes?"

He ran his left hand down the white face of the broncho.  It hobbled as
if to stagger up, and sank back dumb, faithful, trying to the end, one
fore knee bent to rise, the neck outstretched.  Wayland's right hand
went swiftly close between eye and ear.  He shot, in quick succession,
three times, his hand fumbling, his sight turned aside.


Neither spoke as they advanced down the other side of the sand ridge,
the Ranger steadying himself with a hand to the mule's neck.  The bank
dipped to a white alkali pit where the light lay in dead pools, gray in
the twilight, quivering with heat, layers of blue air above ashes of
death.  For the second time that day, the sand colored thing skulked
across the trail.  Wayland took hold of both bridles and led down, the
old man wakening as from a stupor.  The alkali pit lay perhaps a mile
distant, gray and fading in the red light.


"Wayland, is that water?"

"Where?  I can't see it."

"There, at the foot of the hill."

"With trees up side down?  No, sir!  It may be mirage of water miles
away, carried by the rays of this twilight; but if you can see it and
the horses can't smell it, you can bet on a false pool!"

But the little mule had jerked free with a low squeal.

"A tell you, Wayland, there is water;" and he began babbling again
inconsequently of the sea, running his words together incoherent, half
delirious.

"Go on and see, then!  I'll follow!  If there's water, look out for the
drovers."

Wayland let go his hold of the bridle.  Horse and mule shot down the
sand bank.  He saw them shoulder neck and neck along the white alkali
bottom, then break to a gallop, the old man hanging to the pommel; then
all disappeared round the end of the bank.  Wayland slithered down the
sand slope and dashed to the top of the next hill breathless.  Below
lay the glister of water, real water and no mirage, glassy, gray and
sinister.  The Ranger uttered a yell; then paused in his head-long
descent.

The pony had plunged in belly deep; the mule had lowered its head; the
old man was kneeling at the brink.  Wayland saw him lave the water up
with his hand: then throw it violently back.  All at once, the grip of
life snapped.  Matthews was lying motionless on the sand.  The horse
was chocking its head up and down; the mule was stamping angrily with
fore feet roiling the pool bottom.  It had been one of the salt sinks
that lie in the depressions of the Desert.




CHAPTER XVII

WHERE THE TRACKS ALL POINT ONE WAY

Wayland poured the last very driblets of water sediments from the skin
bag.  This, he forced past the old man's lips.  Then he drew the
unconscious form back on the saddle blankets, loosened the neck of the
shirt, laved the temples and wrists with the salt water, tore strips of
canvas from the tent square, wet that and laid it on the old man's
forehead.  He ran his hand inside the shirt and felt the heart.  It was
still beating, beating furiously, with faint flutterings, then
accessions of fresh fury.  The lips were black and swollen.  The eyes
were sunken; and the veins stood out in deadly clear purplish
reticulation with splotches of transfused blood under the shrivelled
skin of the hands.  Then, he raised the old white head from the pack
trees,--brave old warrior for right going down the Trail where the
Tracks All Point One Way--, and somehow got a mouthful of brandy past
the clinched teeth.  The breath came fast and faint like the heart
beats.  Once, the eyes opened; but they were glazed and unseeing.
Wayland laid the old head on the pillowed pack trees, fitting rest for
frontiersman of the wilderness; then he stood up to think!  A terrible
passion of tenderness, of question, of defiance to God, rushed through
his thoughts.  The animals take their tragedies dumb and uncomplaining.
Man alone has not learned the futility of shouting impotent reproaches
at a brazen sky.


The Ranger unsaddled the pony.  Then he tethered the mule and broncho
by separate ropes to the boulders.  He placed the brandy flask by the
old man's right hand.  He thought a moment.  Then he laid the loaded
rifle close to the same hand.

The eyes were still staring wide open unseeing.  The purple lips began
babbling wordless words, words of the sea, words that ran into one
another inarticulate.  Wayland stooped and took the left hand in his
own palm.  It was cold and heavy, a thing detached from life; and the
purple swollen lips were still babbling in inarticulate whispers.
Should he leave him to die there alone; or go forth to seek; seek what?

The Ranger stooped and pressed his lips to the blood-blotched back of
the faithful shrivelled old hand.  He did not shed a tear.  We weep
only when we are half hurt.


Wayland seized the Service axe and uncased his own rifle.  Then in
words that were not worshipful, not bending his knees, but standing
with his hat off, he uttered what may have been a prayer, or may have
been blasphemy.  I leave you to judge: "By God, if there is a God, why
doesn't He waken up?  If there is a God, does _He_ stand for right?  Is
there such a thing as Right; or is Right the dream of fools?  I want to
know!  If there is a God, I want God to speak out clear and plain,
right now, in plain facts, so I can understand, and not so blamed long
ago that a plain fellow can't make out what's the right thing to do."

It was one thing to pray under the rose-colored windows of a college
chapel, and another thing to pray under the yellow, brazen Desert sky.
There was only the dreadful Desert silence, with the rattle from the
laboured breathing of the unconscious man.  If there was no God, then
the fight for Right was the futility of fools: Right was only the Right
of the strong to prey upon the weak, till the weak became in turn
strong enough to prey; and that meant anarchy.  If Right was right as
two and two make four in Heaven or Hell, then _where_ was the God from
whom Right, laws of Right emanated, guiding the unwise as laws of
gravity guide the stars?

He didn't know that he had been staggering from physical weakness as he
climbed the ridge of sand.  There was the fresh horse.  _One of them_
might escape in a night by riding it to death.  Then, there was the
possibility of the railroad being within reach.  One of them might go
out to the railroad, _but not both_.  The old frontiersman had passed
the point of being able to ride; and a very few hours would probably
witness the end of his life.  He could tie the old man to the fresh
horse, but the slow pace that would be necessary would sacrifice both
their lives.  There was another possibility: the fresh man on the fresh
horse.  That way out did not enter Wayland's mind; but he did ask
himself _why_ the outlaws had not come down to the false pool.  Why had
they gone on?  They were as near the end of their tether as he was of
his.

Then he became suddenly conscious that he had eaten almost nothing for
twenty-four hours and that the quivering air darkening to night rolled
above the yellow sands in a way not caused by heat.  Was it saddle wear
or exhaustion that he stumbled as he walked?  He looked at the silver
strip of mountains above the westering sky.  A fore-shortening haze
swam into his sight.  There was the mountain flecked with silver.  Then
it had gone into a milky black and pools, pools of water, fringed by
the pines of the North, hung in the blue haze of mid-air,
fore-shortening, shifting like a blurred sieve into the silver strip of
mountain and milky blot, then back again, pools of crystal water, cool
mountain lakes, this time with the trees up side down and figures among
the trees.  He knew by the trees being up side down, though he was
dreaming of laughing as he drank and drank, that it must be a mirage!
Then he came to himself wondering how in the world he was sitting on
the sand bank.  And why hadn't he kept the tea leaves to put on his
eyes in case of heat inflammation?  Then, it tripped almost under his
feet, you understand _he_ did not trip, he had struck at it with his
Service axe--the wolf thing tracking the red stain of the outlaws'
trail along the base of the sand bank out across the ash colored silt
sands.  He watched it pausing, where the wind had eddied the dust in
serpentine lines over the tracks, sniffing the air, loping across the
break, and on out again at a run, nose down to earth: a blot against
the sky; the burned out sulphur sky above an earth of embers and ashes.
Was it a mirage; or was he going delirious; or had he fallen asleep to
dream her face framed in the blur of the purpling haze, receding from
him, drawing him with the shine of the stars in her eyes, drawing him
with the warmth of their first passion kiss on her lips?  He would rise
from his grave, and follow her from death, if she wove such spells,
whether of dreams or delirium or mirage!  The Ranger found himself
stumbling across the baked silt and lava rocks, stripped of his hat and
his boots, stripped like a marathon runner, vaguely conscious that he
ought to have kept those tea leaves for that burn in his eyes, that the
silver strip of the mountain was there just ahead; now a crystal pool
of the cool mountain lake in mid air; now her face had vanished into
the blue haze.  Suddenly, winged things flappered up with raucous
protest.  The coyote had skulked over the edge of the lava dip; not the
burnt-oil earth-scorched Desert smell, but the shrivelled putridity of
flesh smote and nauseated his senses.  The white pack horse of the
outlaw drovers lay dead across the trail at his feet, a pool of clotted
blood darkening the ashy sand.  Its throat had been cut. . . .

The Ranger drew off, rubbed his eyes and looked again.  The crumbly
silt had been trampled all round the dead horse.  So they, too, were
dying of thirst on the Desert.  Which way to follow now?  There were
the hoof prints across the open level; but forking from the main trail
was another track: that of a man dragged or dragging or crawling
forward on his hands and knees.  Had they deserted the third man; or
had the third man dropped back from them to cut his horse's throat?
The Ranger laughed aloud, a harsh cracked laugh; he knew he was
delirious.  The Lord had played an ace and he wouldn't trump His trick
by going after the trail of the man who had crawled away to die.  There
was a Deity of retribution at least, whether God or demon: he had vowed
he would make those blackguards drink horse blood!

If he hounded along the trail, perhaps he might overhaul the other two.
Then, then if he did perish in the Desert, he would not have perished
for naught!  It was then, the earth performed the acrobatic feat of
heaving up, and he fell!  This time, he knew he had fallen.  It was no
trip.  He was down and out and done for; and he knew it.  He rose to
his knees steadying himself on his Service axe.  Then, it came again,
the silver strip of mountain on the sky line with the cool lakes and
the blue haze, and her face, the face in the Watts' picture of "the
Happy Warrior," weaving the spell, receding from him, drawing him with
the love light in her eyes and the passion kiss on her lips, beckoning,
beckoning; he would rise and follow her from the dead if she beckoned
with that light in her eyes.  She was receding _not_ along the trail of
the fleeing Desert runners, but down the dragged track of the body that
had crawled to the foot of a sand bank.  Wayland never knew whether he
staggered or crept down the trail of the dragged body away from the
hoof prints of the drovers' horses across the alkali sink; but between
him and the silver strip of mountain on the far skyline, above the
yellow sand so hot to his palms, beckoned her face, the love light in
her eyes, weaving the spell.  Then the coyote had bounded into the air,
and the red-combed Desert condors, the scavengers of an outcast world,
rose from their quarry; and Wayland, fevered, delirious, laughing,
crying, kneeled over the body of a man lying on his face with his
bloody hand clutched in death grip round an upright post driven into
the alkali bottoms, a post with a drinking cup hung on the notched
crotch, the Desert sign of a water spring beneath the drifted sands.

Wayland pushed the body aside.  The man's face was red-smeared.  He was
dead.  Wayland had to unlock the clutched fingers from the post.
Somewhere, from the submerged consciousness of forgotten college lore
came memory that the water table lay ten feet deep beneath the Desert
silt.  The Ranger slid down the sand drift and was chopping, hacking,
digging, into the side of the bank, thanking God; God _was_ on the job
after all; scooping the sand drift out with his naked hand, burrowing
at the earth as the animals of the wilderness-struggle tear in maddened
thirst for the hidden life beneath the sand death.  He heard the suck
and gurgle of the water, not the joyous silver laugh of Northern
springs, but the sullen coming of water compelled; and his lips were at
the sand; drinking, drinking, drinking.  Then, he suddenly remembered
her face.  He looked up.  Gone the silver strip of shining mountain;
gone the mirage of the crystal pool; darkness, velvet pansy darkness of
the Desert night; and an earth bat winged past his face.  Even as he
drank he felt the puff and whirl of the wind rising; he laughed.  He
felt the cool water trickle and settle and pool in the sand hole.  Then
he laved his temples and wrists, and laughed softly, and called a low
long tremulous call; that foolish Saxon word he had told her to look up
in the dictionary.

The wind might blow great guns, and wipe out the fugitive trail.  He
would go no farther.  The wind would attend to the other two men.  He
had found water: he had found life.  God had played the trick; and he
had not trumped the ace; four of the six outlaws dead, and the last two
hastening to the alkali death across the Desert sands.  He drank again,
this time from the cup, sip by sip, slowly, then in deep draughts of
God-given waters.


He didn't thank God in so many words, or in testimony to pass muster at
a prayer meeting; but he paused twice on his way back to the saline
sink to say: "He's on the job.  You bet He's on the job!"  He spent the
rest of the week nursing the old frontiersman back to life.




PART II

THE MAN HIGHER UP




CHAPTER XVIII

WITHOUT MALICE

The Senator sat in his office with his hat on the back of his head and
a U. S. Geological Survey map spread out on the desk in front of him.
Bat stood sleepily at attention on the other side of the desk with his
hat in his hand.  It was a sweltering July afternoon in Smelter City,
the air athrob with the derricks and the trucks and the cranes and the
pulleys and the steam hoists and the cable car tramway run up and down
the face of Coal Hill by natural gravitation.  The light was dusky
yellow from the smelter smoke; and loafers round the transcontinental
railroad station across the street chose the shady side of the
building, where they sat swinging their legs from the platform and
aiming tobacco juice with regularity and precision in the exact centre
of the gray dusty road.

The Senator wore a pair of pince nez glasses.  He looked up over the
top of them through the yellow sun-light of the open street door.

"Declare, Brydges, the damned rascals are too lazy to brush the flies
off," he observed of the brigade of loafers across the street.

Bat threw a glance over his shoulder at the coterie of loafers, and
brought his drowsy tortoise-shell glance back to the map lying before
the Senator.

"I guess the flies won't bother 'em long as they vote right, Mr.
Senator."

Moyese was slowly turning and turning the thick stub of a crayon pencil
between his thumb and fore finger.  Bat knew that trick of
absent-minded motion always presaged senatorial sermonizing, just as
the soft laugh down in the crinkles of the white vest forewarned
danger.  ("When I see the tummy wrinkles coming, I always feel like
telling the other fellow to get the button off his fencing sword--You
bet _that_ means business," Bat often confided to the newseditor.)

"Brydges, this country is rapidly lining up two opposing sides:
fighting lines, too, by George!  Mobocracy _versus_ Plutocracy!  I'm
only a cog in the wheel, myself, a mere marker for the big counters, my
boy; but if I have to put up with the tyranny of one or t'other, I'm
damned if I don't prefer the tyranny of the rich to the tyranny of the
poor, any day!  _Why_, is any man poor in this country, Brydges?
Because he's a damned incompetent unfit swinish hog, too lazy to plant
and hoe his own row; so he gets the husks of the corn while the
competent man gets the cob--the cob with the corn on, you bet, number
one, Silver King, Hard, seventy cents a bushel!  If I have to put up
with one or t'other, I'm damned if I don't prefer the tyranny of
knowledge to the tyranny of ignorance!  One butters your bread, anyway,
and sometimes puts some jam on with the butter.  The other snivels and
whines and begs a crust from the other fellow's table, and snaps at the
hand that gives him the crust, and spends the time in self-pity that he
should spend in work!  Look at that row of free-born American citizens,
kings in disguise, Brydges!  Not a damned man of them ever did a stroke
of honest work in his life except on election day, when we line 'em up;
and damn it, aren't we right, to line 'em up?  What kind of rule are
you going to get from that kind of rulership if some one doesn't jump
in and group it and direct it; yes, by George, and _compel_ it to keep
in line and vote right, just as a general licks his recruits in shape
on pain of court martial?  Think any battle would ever be won, Brydges,
if the commanding officer hadn't the power of a despot?  He makes
mistakes.  Of course, he makes mistakes!  So do we!  But we're keeping
those damned rascals in line for the good of the country; and so, I
say, the plutocrats who are being cursed from one end of the country to
the other to-day, are playing the same part in modern life as the big
war chiefs of the Middle Ages.  They are marshalling the forces;
leading the advance; conquering the countries with commerce that the
old war chiefs used to conquer with arms; building up, constructing,
amassing, concentrating in trust and combine all the scattered
abilities of men, who would be powerless individually; and we use our
tools, that parcel of beauties out there, same as the old war chiefs
used their blackguard mercenaries!  It's cheaper for us to buy 'em than
be bossed by 'em, a darn sight cheaper, Brydges; for us to swing 'em
into a bunch and control 'em than be blackmailed by 'em, Brydges!  If
every penny grafter didn't hold up the corporation, every damned little
squirt of a county supervisor and road contractor and town councilman,
if they didn't hold the corporation up for blackmail way the highwaymen
of old used to hold up the lone traveller, if they didn't hold us up
for blackmail, Brydges, it wouldn't be necessary for us to man that
gang across the way on voting day!

"Freedom, pah!"  The Senator had stopped swirling the stub pencil.  He
reached forward to a jar of roses on his desk.  "Equality?  Pah!  Dream
of fools, Brydges!  Doesn't exist!  Never did exist!  Never can exist!
Know how we develop Silver King Corn that gives ninety bushels to the
acre instead of old thirty bushel yield?"

Bat had sat down, still sleepily watchful through the tortoise-shell
eyes, but a bit wilted in the heat.  Some of the men swinging corduroy
and blue jean legs from the station platform evidently perpetrated a
pleasantry; for there was a loud guffaw, and a shower of tobacco wads
into the middle of the road.

"Know how we get high grade corn, high grade rose like this American
Beauty: in fact, high grade anything?  Well, I'll tell you.  It's the
same process that brings out high grade men.  You go into a field of
corn.  You pick out best specimens.  You keep that for seed, special
care, special fine ground, special careful cultivation.  You let the
others go, feed 'em to the hogs, understand, Bat?  It's the same with
the roses, and the same with men; and now where's your fine theory of
all men equal?"

As Bat did not care to remind the Senator that his own career from the
ghetto up contradicted all this fine philosophy, he left the question
unanswered.

Moyese pushed the glasses up on his nose and returned to the map.

"How many homesteaders did you succeed in nabbing out of that last
train-load?"

"About a hundred, Senator!  I've got the list of 'em here . . . haven't
counted, but think it will tally up about a hundred."

"What are they, Germans?"

"No, Swedes."

Moyese laughed.  "Thrifty beggars will job round and earn double while
they're operating for us!  Got good big families, Bat?"

It was the turn of the handy man to laugh.  "I filed one fellow and
eight kids for one hundred and sixty acres each."

"You didn't contract to pay each of the little olive branches
three-hundred?"

"Lord, no!  If the dad sits tight till we prove up entry, he's to get
three-hundred!  No fear of his blabbing.  He can't speak a word of
English; and when I told the woman, through the interpreter that we pay
their fare out and each of the kids would get a five, why, she kissed
my hand and slobbered gratitude all over me."

"Wayland won't be quite so grateful for that bunch."

"Oh, I didn't file that batch in the N. F.  You bet, that's a little
too obvious!  I put 'em in the Pass, lower end of the Pass, not by a
damn sight, I didn't put 'em in the N. F.!  I thought Smelter people
wanted us to secure that Pass for a dam; and I bunched 'em all in just
above the Sheriff's place!"

"That's good!  The Sheriff proves up this year; and if you get this
bunch in behind, that corks the Pass up pretty effectually!  Where are
the bounds of the Forest there?"

Bat drew his fore-finger along the map.  "Along the red line, here:
just to the trail through the canyon."

"Good: now what about the timber claim along the Gully?  That's in the
Forests, Brydges.  I want to force a contest on that; the Swede fellow
has cut the logs under his permit; but I'd like to make that doubly
sure before we go to trial.  If we can get a double cinch on that,
we'll knock the claim of the Forestry Department to keep homesteaders
out into a cocked hat."

Bat's sleepy eyes emitted sparks and his good natured smile widened to
an open grin.

"The Swede happened to use a U. S. Forest hatchet when he cut those
logs," he said.  "I told him to be sure and stamp the butt end of each
log U. S., duly inspected," he said.

Moyese dropped the map and the pencil and his heavy hand with a thud on
the desk and laughed noiselessly down into the creases of his fat
double chin and into the wrinkling rotundity of his white vest.

"And to cinch it," continued Brydges, "as the fellow's permit didn't
cover the Gully, I got some blanket railway scrip for an Irishman,
O'Finnigan, Shanty Town, and planked it on the Gully.  You see,
Senator, by law the settlers _can_ go in on the National Forests
wherever it has been surveyed and declared agricultural land; but they
can't go in and get title till it is surveyed and passed.  But you can
plaster the railway scrip _where it is unsurveyed_.  That's the little
joker somebody tucked in when the scrip railway act was passed.  I
guess by the time they have red-taped and trapesed round and wrangled
those two tangles of title out, the logs will be safe down the River;
and I guess that will about see the finish of Wayland before the coal
cases come up--"

"That's it, Brydges."  Moyese had lowered his voice.  "What about
Wayland?  Have you found out anything?  Where the devil is he?  He
isn't on his patrol!  He hasn't been at the Ridge for three weeks.  He
hasn't been at the Ridge since I left for Washington.  If we could
prove how he's been using Government time," he paused to reflect.
"_That_ might be shortest way out!  Did you find out anything at the
MacDonald Ranch?"

Bat threw a precautionary glance over his shoulder towards the door
opening on the street.  Then he rose, walked across the office, shut
the door, came back and drawing his chair close to the desk opposite
the Senator, sat down astride with his feet tucked back one round each
hind leg.

"Yes, I did; and no again, I didn't!  It's just as it may strike you!
As a news man, I know _how_ this kind of yarn would be taken by the
public."

"Oh, come on with it, Brydges!"  Moyese had pushed back and was holding
the edge of the desk with his hands.  Mr. Bat Brydges recognized that
while the creases of good-nature crinkled at the chin, the jaws and the
hands had locked.

"Your newsman got this despatch from Mine City: you see it's pretty
vague: 'bodies of two men found forty miles from branch of P. & O.
Line, thought to be drovers overcome by heat and thirst.'  I wired for
more particulars; but the railway hands had shovelled the bodies under."

"Brydges," interrupted Moyese sharply, "I'm going to tell you
something; and you put it in your pipe and smoke it; and don't waste
time running off on false clues.  You leave that to women and
sissies--to the she-male man!  Now listen, _a man can't lose himself in
the Desert: He can't lose himself in the Wilderness_.  If he's a
damphool, he can get lost, but he can't lose himself, he can't hide in
the wilderness, not ever!  He can lose himself in a city in one week.
He could drop out of sight right here in Smelter City; but he can't go
into the wilds and not come out again and people not know it.  Somebody
sees him go in, and somebody doesn't see him come out; and there you
are!  It's the same in the wilds as at the North Pole: you can't cook
up a fake.  Man who goes into the wilds is a marked man till he comes
out.  Every man, who meets him, takes a turn round to look at him; and
he's going to keep looking till the fellow comes out.  Now, you take
this case.  Wayland had on his Service Badge.  If he had been one of
those two, the fact would have been flashed right down to Washington.
Now tell me facts, not rumors; exactly what did you find out?"

When his chief began in that dictatorial fashion, Bat let his facts go
in a running fire:

"Well, Flood saw him with his own eyes going up the Pass with that old
Canadian duffer the morning, the morning," Bat paused, manifestly
unable to specify which morning.

"Yes, the morning _after_," added the soft, even voice of Moyese.  "And
the snow slide filled the Pass up to the neck, forty-eight hours later.
Yes, I know; but Wayland was too good a mountain man to be caught by a
slide."

"I told Flood to get out and examine that slide, anyway!  He said
'twasn't any use, this hot weather would clean it up in a couple of
weeks.  He was going up the Pass when I left for the Valley yesterday."

"What did you find out at the Ridge?"

"That's where the milk is in this cocoanut," answered Bat.  "He hasn't
passed one night _at_ the Ridge since the night we were all up!  You
remember _who_ was at the Cabin, night we went up?  Well, keep that in
mind; when I went across to MacDonald's Ranch to express your regret
over this accident, found old man wasn't home.  He's expected back from
the Upper Pass by train this week: seems he has been arranging new
grazing ground for another herd up there.  You know how MacDonald house
is laid out?  Big room as you enter; then a sort of back sitting room
for," Bat smiled queerly, a smile that said nothing, yet
subterraneously conveyed out to daylight one of those under currents of
thought that flows only in the dark, "for the lady.  Well, sir, chill
blasts of North Pole were tropical zephyrs compared to what I got from
that MacDonald gurl."

"I thought her name was Miss MacDonald," suggested the Senator, softly.
He had lowered his chin and was looking over his eye glasses at Brydges.

"Hold on, Mr. Senator!  I am coming to that!  Her father has been away
a month.  I found out from Calamity and the road gang that Wayland
hasn't been at the Cabin since that night I was there; and Gee
Whittiker," Brydges laughed sleepily, the same smile that said nothing
but came up from the subterranean under current, "he _was_ a bear with
a sore head that night; spent most of the night prancing the Ridge.
Well, a fellow can't exactly stand on one leg and then on t'other all
through a call.  She didn't ask me to sit down.  Said her father was
coming home by Smelter City and you could have the pleasure of
conveying your sympathy personally: kept standing herself all the time;
kept looking from me to the door.  Well, sir, while she was looking
_through_ the door behind me, I was looking _through_ the door behind
her."  And as Bat said it, he looked away.  "Wayland's Range coat was
hanging in that inner room."

Bat smiled slowly and sleepily; then openly grinned as who should say
"now the cat _is_ out"; but when he turned to Moyese, his chief had
whirled in the swing chair and was sitting with hands clasped under his
hat, and the back of his head towards Brydges.

A glossy smile had come over Bat's face that is not good to see on man,
woman, child or beast; and it is the same kind of smile on all four,
not laughter, nor light, not definite enough to be malicious, nor
pointed enough to be self accusatory, nor direct enough to be
challenged and repudiated; a smile untellably familiar--a Satyr-faced
thought looking through a veil, somehow sinuously suggestive, saying
nothing at all, yet conveying the physical sensation of pus from an
ulcerous thing; and strangely enough, there are blow-fly natures that
prefer pus to nectar.

If Brydges had not been so absorbed in the jocularity of his own
sensations, he would have observed that his chief remained singularly
silent.

"Oh, I don't suppose he's there all this time."  Bat rushed to the
defence of the absent, (Heaven bless such defenders).  "That old
Canadian duffer, who seems to have hitched up with him on the Rim Rocks
accident, your ranch foreman saw 'em pass together at noon; tried to
telephone 'Herald,' but I choked _that_ off; that old fellow once wrote
our paper to know about Canadian settlers here.  He recognized Calamity
and talked about old North West Rebellion days.  It's my theory he's
here about something that's been hushed up!  Like dad, like daughter,"
Bat pronounced.

"It's my theory when MacDonald comes back from the Upper Pass, Wayland
and the old fellow will turn up about the same time.  Haven't been able
to learn what it is; but I'll bet dollars to doughnuts, they are all
absent on the same trail.  If we let go a broadside, they'll have to
come out with the truth to shut us off; and there is where we are going
to get him; see?  I've got another theory, too."

"What's that?" asked the Senator, without turning.

"It is, if he sees we're going to involve her, he'll quit."

Moyese didn't answer.  He rose from his chair and walked to a rear
window, where he stood looking out.  Did he credit what he had heard?
Was it a recital of facts, or a distortion of facts through a tainted
mind?  Did Brydges, himself, believe what he had tried to convey?  Or
was his job to obtain certain results at any cost: and was this part of
the cost?  Ask yourself that of the tainted news you read every day.
Ask why those who recognize the lie do not brand it as such; why those
who are uncertain do not verify before they repeat and credit; and you
will probably have some clue to the little melodrama of dishonor
enacted in the office of a legal luminary at Smelter City that
sweltering hot July day.  When you come to observe it, Bat's recital
contained nothing that might not have been posted in eminent
respectability on a church warden's door.  Like fresh fruit passed
through a mouldy cellar, the facts came from the medium of the narrator
with the unclean contagion of cellar mould.  The next narrator would
not pass on the facts.  He would pass on the cellar rot.

"If we served up those two stories together hot," emphasized Bat, "we'd
about cut the throat of any opposition to our interests in the Valley?
He'd quit!  I'll bet before he'd see her involved, he'd jump his job!"

When the Senator turned his face to the handy man, he was very sober.
He stood looking over the tops of his glasses boring into Bat's face.

"It's a pity," he said.

"Yes, it's too bad: one hates to have one's faith in human nature all
balled out this way; but you never know what kind of a fact you're
going ping up against where a woman is concerned."  Something in the
Senator's look stopped Bat mid-way.

"Brydges, I thought I told you never to meddle with the damphool who
makes excuses for what he's going to do.  Never do anything, unless you
have some end worth while in view; then, if it's worth while, do it,
damn it, and don't waste time excusing the means!  Now, I'll have
nothing to do with this; mind that, Brydges.  You do it off your own
responsibility.  If MacDonald were one of our party, I wouldn't make
use of it, if it were ten times over and over true.  You'll have to be
very careful how you use that, at all!  It's effective.  I don't deny
it's very effective; but it's a pity!  If you use that at all, you'll
have to use it so it's not libelous."

"Libelous?" burst out the handy man wakening up suddenly, scratching
his tousled head and trying to make head or tail of orders that said
'do it' and 'don't do it' in one breath.  "I can write it without a
name so every man in the State will know who it is: give it as a joke;
fetch in Calamity as the mother of the whole mess; the call of the
blood, you know; reversion to type!  They'll have to prove that the
intent was malice before they can get a judgment.  They'll have to come
out with the truth before they can prove libel.  It isn't libelous if
it's done as a joke without malice."

Moyese had flung himself down in his chair with a blow of his clenched
fist on the desk, when the opening of the office door stopped the oath
of disgust on his lips; and Eleanor MacDonald stood framed in the
yellow light shining in from the hot street.  For a moment, the
transition from sun to shade blinded her.  Then, she saw who was with
the Senator.  Brydges sprang up waiting to return her recognition.  She
made no sign.  She walked over where he was standing.  The Senator had
half risen from his desk.  Was it the spirit of the ancestral Indian in
her eyes; or of the Man with the Iron Hand?  Brydges' oily gloss went
to tallow under her look.  Moyese knew looks that drilled; and Brydges
himself could bore behind for motives; but this look was not a drill:
it was a Search Light; and the handy man--well, perhaps, it was the
heat--the handy man suddenly wilted.

"You can go, Brydges," ordered Moyese.

"All right!  See you again about that, Senator!"  Brydges grabbed up
the loose notes from the desk and bolted, banging the door behind him.

The Senator's face seemed at once to age and trench with lines.  He
motioned her to the vacated chair and remained bending forward over his
desk till she had seated herself.  Then, he sat down, suddenly
remembered his hat, and laid it off.  If she had sunk forward on the
desk weeping; if she had made a sign of appeal; he would have gone
round and caressed her and petted her and told her she must _stop_
Wayland.  His whole manhood went out to comfort her, to stand between
her and what? . . .  Was it the drive of those wheels of which he was a
cog?  But when she looked across the desk, the eyes had no appeal, the
Search Light had turned on him.

"You must excuse me if you heard what I was saying, when you came in,
Miss Eleanor; but it was a G-- doggon lie!  I had been angered: I had
been angered very much; and that's a bad thing on a hot day."  He was
slipping back to the usual suavity.




CHAPTER XIX

BALLOTS FOR BULLETS

It was Calamity, who had carried the trouble-making coat across from
the Mission Library to the MacDonald Ranch House.  Eleanor had found it
in the big living room that day after she had read the note saying he
was setting out "on the Long Trail, the trail this Nation will have to
follow before Democracy arrives; the trail of the Man behind the
Thing."  Somehow, she lost interest in her reading and her driving, and
spent the most of that first week after the funeral in the steamer
chair on the Ranch House piazza.  Were the topaz gates of the sunset
still ajar to a new infinite life; or did satyr faces haunt the shadows
of the trail, satyr faces of the Greed that had plotted the bloody
villainy of the Rim Rocks?  She had thought she knew joy before, joy
that rapt her from life in a race reverie.  Now, she knew joy, tense as
pain; and the consciousness never left her.  It was there; beside,
inside, above, all round, an enveloping atmosphere to everything she
thought and said and did.  She could not read; for while her eyes
passed _over_ the lines, that consciousness danced in flames _between_
the lines.  She tried to forget herself in her work--in the sorting of
the littered shelves, in the mending for the ranch hands absent with
her father in the Upper Pass; but It was there just the same, at her
elbow; in behind the commonplace weaving rainbow mists, a shadowy deity
of thought all pervasive as ether.  Before, she had been as one
standing in front of the up-lifted veil.  Now, she knew she had passed
in behind the veil, and could not if she would come out to the former
place.  Life symbols empty of meaning before, suddenly became
allegorical of eternity--the bridal veil, the orange wreaths, the ring
typical of the infinite, the vows of service, the angel of the drawn
sword on the back trail.  Yet she knew she had promised to keep him
resolute, standing strong to his work, unflinching because of her.

It was, perhaps, typical of those ancestral traits that fear for him
never once entered her thoughts.  His work was on the firing line; and
had she not _once_ said that a life more or less did not matter?  That
was before his life had become her life.  That is, fear for him did not
enter her waking thoughts.  It was different when she slept.  Then the
uncurbed thoughts hovered like the face in the picture of "the Sleeping
Warrior."  One night as she sat in the steamer chair, a cold wind came
down from the Pass.  The cook explained it was because of the snow
slide that had filled up the canyon.

"Calamity," she called, "bring me out something to put round my
shoulders; don't bring a shawl: I hate shawls!"

And Calamity, perfectly naturally, brought out Wayland's coat.  Eleanor
did not laugh; for she knew it was only since Calamity had stopped
roving the Black Hills that she had exchanged male attire for the
Indian woman's insignia of good conduct, a shawl.  She waited till
Calamity had pattered down to the basement.  Then, she slipped into the
coat with a queer little laugh that would have played havoc with
Wayland's resolutions, and running her hands up the long dangling
sleeve ends, lay back to a reverie that could hardly be called thought.
It was consciousness, delirious foolish consciousness, possible only to
youth; and the consciousness slipped into a drowse between sleeping and
waking.  It was--where was it?  In the shadow realms of wonderful dream
consciousness, his face, the face in "the Happy Warrior"; but not her
face: instead was the evil fellow seen that night in the storm on the
Rim Rocks clubbing his gun at Fordie's pinto pony through the mists;
only he wasn't clubbing it at Fordie; he was aiming at Wayland; and
there was the white horse.  She wakened herself with her cry.  That
happened to be the night Wayland had camped in the Desert arroyos.

One afternoon, Sheriff Flood had called to know if her father had come
back and what "he intended to do about it."  Incidentally, he mentioned
that the Forest Ranger had gone through the Pass that led to the
Desert: there had been a snow slide; but he "guessed" the Ranger was
"too cute a mountain man to be caught."  That night, she shivered as
she sat in the steamer chair; and she drew Wayland's coat around her;
but it was not to delirious thoughts.  When she fell asleep, she saw
him lying on his face in the Desert; and she called him, and called
him, and never could reach him, and awakened herself with her own
calling.  Wayland's professional friend, who was a psychologist,
explained both incidents as auto suggestion from the coat awakened by
the uneasiness of the unconscious fears; an explanation that explains
by saying x is y.

At all events, she never again used the coat; and having nothing to
conceal, didn't conceal it, which is the most damning evidence you can
offer to a tortuous mind.  She hung the coat in the apartment off the
big living room.  Then, the despatch came out about the two bodies
found in the Desert.  The same mail brought a letter from her father
asking her to meet him at Smelter City; and there at the Ranch House
gate stood Mr. Bat Brydges, handy man of the Valley, quizzing the ranch
hands, quizzing the German cook, quizzing Calamity at the very foot of
rustic slab steps that ran up from the basement.

"What is he after, Calamity?"

The half breed woman had dashed up the back stairs to Eleanor's room.

"He want t' know if Waylan--Ranga fellah--has ever stay here, dis
house--he ever go back Cabin House--tepee on hill--night dey keel
leetle boy?"

Even then, Eleanor did not realize the drift of the handy man's
activities.  She thought perhaps, he, too, might be anxious about
Wayland.

"What did you tell him, Calamity?"

"I tell heem," Calamity dropped her soft patois to a guttural, "I tell
heem, y' go Hell!"

"Ca-lam-ity?" rebuked Eleanor.

But what was it in the gentleman's jaunty air, in the smile of the
sleepy tortoise-shell eyes, in the play of a self-conscious dimple
round the fat double chin?  Eleanor had not passed from her own
apartment to the big living room before a repulsion that she could not
define swept over her in a physical shudder; and Mr. Bat Brydges'
report to the Senator of that interview had been fairly accurate.  She
did not know that she had not greeted him with the common courtesy due
a caller, that she had stood looking past him to the open door, that
she had left him standing first on one leg then on the other till Bat
had been forced to terminate the interview; and she had not the
faintest conception of what her own feeling of repulsion meant.  He had
scarcely gone before she wished she had asked him about those two
bodies found in the Desert.  As a matter of fact, she called up the
"Smelter City Independent."  The editor could give her no details.  He
asked her very particularly who was inquiring; and having nothing to
conceal, she did not conceal it.  He allayed her fears in almost the
words that the Senator had used to lay Bat's suspicions, if the bodies
had been those of Government men, the Ranger's Badge would have been
found and the news flashed all over America.

"Oh, thank you, so much!  You know the sheep lost on the Rim Rocks
belonged to our ranch; and I wouldn't like to think that he had lost
his life defending our interests."

Then something odd occurred with the telephone.  She distinctly heard
the voice at the other end telling somebody that, "Brydges was up there
now."  Then, the voice was assuring her, "They would let her know if
they heard anything more."

Eleanor rang off with a sense of relief; and yet with a sickening
feeling, of what?  It was the same feeling she had had when Brydges
came in with his jaunty air.


She was standing at the Ranch House gate waiting for the stage to
Smelter City.  Calamity had carried down the yellow suit case.  The
words came from Eleanor's lips before she thought; or she could never
have asked the question:

"Calamity, who was it took your little baby away?"

The suit case fell from the Indian woman's hand.

"D' pries'," she said, "Father Moran."

Eleanor thought a moment, racking her memory in vain for that name in
her convent life of Quebec.  She was digging her toe in the dust of the
road.

"Was that before or after you went to the Black Hills, Calamity?"

But Calamity had gone without a word; and the stage came whipping
across the bridge from the Moyese Ranch; a double-tandem stage driven
by a bronzed fellow with one arm, whose management of the reins
absorbed Eleanor so that she forgot to notice the fat form hoisting her
suit case to the roof.  Then, she was inside; and the door had swung
shut; and the fat form squeezed in next to the door; and she was lost
in her own thoughts oblivious of her close packed neighbors till the
stage stopped again with a jerk, and the sharp edge of a black
cart-wheel-hat decorated with plumes enough for an undertaker's wagon
cut a swath that threatened to slice off one of Eleanor's ears.

"I beg your pardon," said Eleanor.

"Oh, I guess tha' wuz my fault," and a mouthful of gold teeth above an
ash colored V of neck and below the most wonderful straw stack of wheat
colored hair simpered up at Eleanor from beneath the black
cart-wheel-hat; simpered and ended up in a funny little tittering
laugh.  Eleanor took a quick glance at her neighbors, all men but the
cart-wheel-hat to one side and a little young-old lady opposite with a
hectic flush, and very protuberant hard mouth and beady little brown
eyes.  Eleanor noticed the brown eyes were accompanied by red hair, and
she recognized the presiding genius of the English Colony.

"A beautiful morning for a ride down the Valley," remarked Eleanor
absently.

"What?  I beg your pardon?  Did you speak to me?"

It wasn't the words.  It was the hard tone of surprise.

"We're in luck to have such a morning to ride down," amplified Eleanor.

"Yes," said the lady with the hectic flush; and Eleanor felt the gold
teeth simpering beneath the undertaker's plumes.

What was it?  Eleanor took a second look at the two women, and
recognized both, the Sheriff's wife and the English lady.  They were
arrayed gorgeously, her neighbor across in lavender silk, her elbow
traveller in black with a profusion of cheap lace round the ash colored
V of exposed skin: Eleanor wished the woman had powdered all the way
down.  She, herself, had come garbed for the dust of stage travel, a
broad brimmed English sailor and a kakhi duster motoring coat.  Was it
because she was not garbed as the others that they rebuffed her
friendly overtures, she wondered.  At the next stop, she passed out to
go up and ride on the driver's seat, manifestly an impossible feat for
ladies in lavender and undertaker's plumes.  A fat hand reached forward
to shove the door open.  It was Bat Brydges'.  She nodded her thanks,
and the handy man bowed with a sweep of his hat naming her aloud for
the whole stage to hear.  If a look could have blasted Mr. Bat Brydges,
he would have been dissolved in gaseous matter from the expression that
passed over the face under the sailor hat.  She heard the hilarity
break bounds inside as she mounted the driver's seat; and felt very
much as you have felt when you have come out of the clatter of the
orchestra pit where you have chanced to sit next to a musk-scented
neighbor.


But she forgot the lavender grandee and the gold teeth and the
undertaker's plumes, as she sat on the upper seat with the one-armed
driver behind the double tandem grays.  The sun was coming up over the
Rim Rocks in a half fan of fire; and the light was on the Ridge; and
all the silver cataracts tossing down the sheer wall shone wind-blown
spray against the evergreens.  The Valley widened as it dropped to the
leap and fume and swirl of the foaming river; and the double tandem
grays kept step with a proud chacking up of heads and bristling of
arched necks and movement of thigh and shoulder muscles under satin
skin like shuttles.

"You must be very proud of your beautiful horses," she said to the
driver.

The driver 'lowed he was: that 'un dappled on the rump there, that 'un
was foaled, let me see? year o' the rush to the Black Hills, with a
squirt of chewing tobacco over the front wheel and a damn't, and
another squirt and more damn't's; and before Eleanor realized the
one-armed driver had asked her if she wouldn't like to learn to drive
double tandems; and she had the reins in her hands; and the double
tandem grays took the bit in their teeth to show what double tandem
grays and ample oats could do.

"How-do," called the driver with a squirt of tobacco over the front
wheel at a rancher loping across the trail.  "How-do; y' are up early,
y' son of a gun!  What d' y' know?"

"Senator's goin' t' stand again this fall," called the man.

The driver emitted another damn't in true Western style just as
innocently as an Easterner says "Oh, yes, indeed," or an Englishman
says "My word."  In fact Eleanor lost count of the damn't's.

"How ever do you manage it?" she asked shifting the reins.

"With my one arm, y' mean?"  The stage driver laughed and aimed more
chewing tobacco at that innocent front wheel; and the question drew out
such a story of heroism in spite of the damn't's and the tobacco squids
as made her proud of human clay, just as she had been ashamed of human
something or other inside the stage with the lavender silk and the gold
teeth and Bat's frozen tallow smile.

"Why, it was the year o' the Kootenay rush, ye mind?  No, ye don't
mind, ye weren't born then, were y'?  Damn't," and a punctuation in
tobacco.  "Wall, 'twas in the early days 'fore we had steam hoists an'
things."  (Another punctuation mark--a good big one.)  "We was usin' an
old hand hoist.  Guess the shaft was about hundred feet down--straight
down, an' we was gettin' in the pay streak, bringin' up barrels o' rock
showin' more color every load.  Wall, them loads was hauled up to the
dumps by a hand hoist y' onderstand, kind of winch, like y' turn a
handle in old fashioned down East wells.  Wall--" (Another punctuation
mark and another dip for ink, so to speak, from the plug in the hand of
the one-armed driver.) "boys were all down under.  Say--'twas in the
days when ol' Calamity was runnin' the hills.  Know Calamity?  She was
a wild 'un in _her_ day; an' they say MacDonald, the rich sheep man,
has kind o' sorter given her a home these late years.  Wall--I ain't
the one t' say he shouldn't.  Her morals weren't much better in them
days than the crazy patch quilts ladies used to make down East when I
was a boy; but she's settled down I hear; an' I ain't the one to say
MacDonald don't deserve credit for what he's done.  She saved many a
poor miner's life from the Indians in them ol' days, saved 'em by a
shave, carried 'em in on her shoulder to the Deadwood Hospital, or
nussed 'em well on the spot, an' all the while, she wazn't no better
than she ought t' be; wazn't there a woman in Scripture like that?
Kind o' seems to me the church folks forgets that Rahub gurl!
Wall--'twas about those days."  (More showers of damn't's and tobacco
on that front wheel.)  "Boys was all under.  Big load of rock was
comin' up.  I waz man at the hoist, man on the easy job that day.
Wall--wad y' believe it, the damn thing bruk--bruk plum whoop an'
started spinnin' round back side first with the load o' rock an' the
boys under comin' up the ladder.  I yelled for a kid we had workin'
round to get me a jack wrench, a hand spike, Hell, any ol' thing to
stop her kitin' that load o' rock down on the boys!  Kid stood gopin'
there an' sayin' 'What d'y' say?'  Say,--damn't--an' that load o' rock
goin' plumb down on the boys, heavy enough to smash 'em to pulp.  There
weren't nothin' handy near 'cept me, so I jumped this here arm that you
find missin' right into the wheel!  It stopped her all right, the load
didn't fall on the boys; and they got up all right by the ladder;
but--say, mebbe the cogs o' that damn wheel didn't do a thing to my
arm.  Say--the doctor didn't need to amputate it.  That winch did him
out o' his job."

"You mean," said Eleanor, slowing the grays to a reluctant walk down
grade, while the driver clamped the front wheel brake with his foot,
"you mean because there was no crowbar, or anything to stop the hoist
flying backwards and killing the men under the load of rock, you mean
because there was no crowbar, you jumped into the wheel, yourself?"

"Sure," said the man astonished at her question; and because Eleanor
was a true Westerner and didn't mind the tobacco squids and the
damn't's in the least (where they belonged) she gave that one-armed
driver a look that would have made any man proud: only the one-armed
driver didn't see it.

"They took up a purse an' wanted to give me a perscription--damn't, but
I told 'em t' turn it in t' the Horspital.  Any man w'd a' done same
for a yellow dog.  What d'y' want t' give a fellow a medal for not
bein' stinkin' coward?"


Eleanor laughed.  It was a happy silver laugh like the light on the
Ridge cataracts.  Somehow, the one-armed stage driver with his
unconscious heroism and equally unconscious profanity gave her a sense
of the big wholesome unconscious outdoor world, just as the lavender
silks and undertaker's plumes and tallow smile inside smothered her
with a drugged sense of heavy unwholesome musk.  The one-time miner did
not know it; but what Eleanor was saying to herself was--"So much bad
in the best of us and so much good in the worst of us."  Then she
thought of the Senator and his genial smile and his voice soft as a
woman's, and his love of flowers.  He, too, must have his vein of
heroism, if one could only find it.  She thought and thought as the
tandem grays arched their necks at the sound of the tramway bells in
the nearing city; thought and thought, vague wordless thoughts full of
hope; vague womanish thoughts that women have thought since time began
of finding that magic vein of heroism in the Man that is to transmute
slag into gold, hog into human, and greed into generosity, and lust
into love; thought and thought the gentle womanish hoping-against-hope
thoughts that women have worn out their lives thinking and enslaved
their bodies and pawned their souls.  If only one could find _that_
vein in the Senator, the battle would be won without the letting of
blood and smashing of reputations; as if peace without victory were
ever worth while since time began.

Then, the stage was rattling over the pressed brick pavement of Smelter
City; and the tandem grays were pretending to shy at the electric cars;
and the one-armed driver came near expectorating his entire internal
anatomy out of sheer joy and pride in the arched necks and the frail
driver with the black curls under the broad brimmed English sailor hat
handling the reins.  She had pulled off her heavy buckskin gloves; and
she never knew how absurdly like matches her fingers looked to the big
one-time miner beside her; nor how the exhilaration brought the tints
of the painters' flower to her cheeks and the light of the Alpine pools
to her eyes.  Every man on the street turned and looked back, while the
gold teeth inside blinked with self conscious certainty that _they_ did
it; and the lavender silks wore a peculiarly cynical smile.  Loafers
sat up and followed the stage with eager eyes far as they could see it
and said, "By Gawd--whose gurl is that?"  Oh, Mr. Bat Brydges intended
every bar room buffer and loafer in the State should know, 'whose girl'
that was before night.  Everything was fair in love and war; and Bat
considered he had run down a case of both.  According to his lights, he
had; but his lights were smutty and in need of trimming.

The stage dropped the gold teeth at a dentist's office, and the
lavender silks at a manicure's 'studio,' I believe she called it; and
Bat swung off while the coach was still moving; and Eleanor reluctantly
gave up the reins at the transcontinental station.

"Thank you so much.  I don't know when I have had as good a time," she
said, giving the stage driver the sensation of a king in disguise.

And, of course, the transcontinental was late.  When was it not late,
when you were in a hurry?

"How late?"

"Four hours, last report," the operator answered.

She sent her suit case across to the hotel, and shopped, and loitered
up and down the platform.  It was not until afterwards she remembered
one of the loafer brigade dangling legs from the station platform
looking over his shoulder with an evil smile.

"Say--d' y' see the evening paper?" he had asked.  "That's her;" and
there was a laugh that somehow sent her back inside the station feeling
vaguely uneasy.

"I think I'll telephone them up at the Ranch not to keep dinner
waiting," she said to the operator.

He was reading the paper.  He looked at her a moment before answering.
If a human face could have been expressed in a punctuation mark, that
agent's face should have been drawn in a big question mark, with the
eyes put somewhere in the hook, and the neck growing longer and longer
as he looked.

"Public telephone right across the road," he said.

In avoidance of the loafers' looks, she had walked unheeding straight
into the Senator's office.  Her first instinct was to withdraw.  Then,
she saw Brydges; and that curious sensation of repulsion obsessed her.
She literally shot the handy man in full retreat with one glance.
Then, the joy of the ride down, the heroism of the driver, came back.
Perhaps it was the jar of roses, but the thought came what if _she_
could find that vein of heroism in the Senator.  When women risk their
souls on that "if" and the souls of friends and children; is it vanity,
I wonder, or is it the will o' the wisp light that lights erring feet
to darkness?

She thought more highly of the Senator that he did not offer to shake
hands, just as most of us would think more highly of Judas Iscariot if
he had not kissed Christ.  Being a Westerner, she had the Westerner's
horror of a maverick sporting the brand of a thoroughbred.  The Senator
took off his glasses and sat tapping them above the U. S. Geological
Survey map.

"I trust," he began, "that my man expressed to you my deep regret--my
deep distress over--"

"Don't . . . please, don't," interrupted Eleanor, with a passionate
break in her voice.  "I know you are honest, Senator Moyese, honest to
what you believe is right; and I don't want you to feel that you have
to lie because I am a woman."

The Senator opened his mouth, took a breath, and shut it again.

She understood him well enough to know that if he had to toy with his
glasses for a twelve month, he would wait for her to play down first.
Yet she recognized the instinct of his manhood to rescue the confusion
of her embarrassment when he put forward his hand casually and
said--"See my roses, Miss Eleanor?  They are a new variety of American
Beauties.  See, each petal has a white veining?  Know how those roses
are produced?  Ages and ages of poor trash worthless common roses have
been sacrificed to produce this perfect type."

"That's your theory of life, isn't it?" she asked, vaguely conscious
that the dragon was disarming her anger.

"Isn't it nature's?" asked Moyese gently.  "The fit survive because
they are fit; the exceptional; the few; while the worthless go to
waste?"

Before Eleanor realized, she had lost all consciousness of self and was
pleading passionately leaning forward across the desk.

"Isn't Christ's theory better, Senator, to make all the unfit into fit?
Isn't Christ's theory the theory of science?  Science aims to make a
whole field of perfect corn; not just one perfect cob.  I know that;
for I read it in your speech at the opening of the Agricultural
College.  If we keep on sacrificing the interests of the many to the
interests of the few, aren't we working back to savagery, Senator?"

The Senator drew the finest of the roses from the jar.  "It's a matter
of taste, perhaps, Miss Eleanor; but I prefer this to a whole jarful of
scrubs."

"Then you are not working for democracy.  It's just as Mrs. Williams
says, all you foreign multimillionaires are subverting our Nation by
working for old fashioned despotism in disguise; sacrificing the many
to the few."

"Oh, does Mrs. Williams say that?" asked Moyese reflectively, pushing
back from the desk and clasping his hands round one knee.  "That may
be; republicanism doesn't necessarily mean letting the blockheads rule!
It may mean giving equal opportunity for the fit men to come to the top
and rule.  Did you come in to talk over these things with me, Miss
Eleanor?  I must make a convert of you; it would win over Wayland and
Williams and your father."

"No, I didn't.  I came in here by mistake.  The operator told me I'd
find a public telephone across the road; and I wasn't noticing where I
was going, and I came in here; but all the way down, I had been
thinking of you, Senator Moyese.  I kept thinking if you could only be
made to see the New Day that is dawning, perhaps you would meet it half
way.  I rode in the driver's seat coming down; and he told me how he
lost his arm; Senator, think of the hero in him?"

"And you thought there might be some of the hero in me, too?"  Moyese
laughed, the noiseless genial laugh creasing his chin and his white
vest.

"While you laugh, you are letting your rose wither."

He handed the rose to her.  "Yes, I know that fellow.  I was in the
Kootenay when he lost his arm, torn out all bloody right from the
shoulder socket; had to pry the cogs up to get him out.  They collected
a purse of a thousand for him; but he wouldn't take a cent: handed it
over to the hospital.  Something in that fellow bigger than self kind
of popped out and surprised himself."

She noticed him looking at the wall clock as he talked, but not being a
business woman did not know what that meant.

"There's something bigger than self with us all, Senator; and we have
to work for it."

"My dear child, do you think you need to tell an old stager that?"  He
was kicking the creases out of his trousers.  This time, she could not
mistake the signal, and felt her womanish idealism of mining for the
hidden vein of heroism both childish and cheapening.  She rose and
placed the flower back on the desk.

"There's something bigger than you or me, my dear," he went on,
"something for which every man worth his salt must work and fight, and
which a woman does not understand."

"And that is?"

"His party," said Moyese.

"But Senator, there is something bigger than party, and if a man works
against That, he'll injure his party."

"And that is?"

"His Nation," said the girl.

Moyese gave her a quick sharp look that was not unkindly.  In fact,
Eleanor could read that it was lonely, irritated, isolated.

"My dear," he said, coming round where she stood, "we differ on
fundamentals.  The whole nation to-day is divided on fundamentals.  I'm
no mealy mouth to curse plutocracy in order to please the mob.
Plutocracy fills the workman's dinner pail and keeps the mills going
and opens the mines and builds the railroads.  Mobocracy, your grubby
corn cob and trashy roses, that, what does it do?  Mouthe and mouthe
and try to pull down what is above it!  It will have to be fought out!
No?  It will not be another French Revolution!  _Our bullets are
ballots, nowadays_; and the American people get exactly the form of
Government which they want.  If they want another form, it remains with
them to fight for it.  The umpire of all is fact--Miss Eleanor; and the
facts of each side will have to be fought out; the better man will win;
be sure of that!  _The facts that are facts not fictions will win, with
ballots for bullets_.  For my part, I'll not dodge the issue; and I
hope you'll not think me any the less of the hero for that?"

He had extended his hand as he talked, and to her surprise, she found
herself taking it when with a wave of revulsion, the memory of the
Ridge and the Rim Rocks came back.

"And government is a mere game of politics?" she said.  "And politics
resolves itself into brute force; and a murder more or less doesn't
matter?  Fordie, I suppose, would be classed as one of the scrubs
sacrificed for this perfection of party?"

His hand dropped hers as if she had struck him.

"You did not know that you were overheard?  'See that no harm comes to
the boy.'  You did not mean Fordie to be murdered; but they were to
crowd the sheep over 'to beat Hell,' 'the sheep were to go it
blind'--my father's and Mr. Williams' property was to be sacrificed to
build up the fortune of the cattle barons: they too, I suppose, are
scrubs sacrificed among the many for the wealth of the one, who happens
to be yourself.  You broke the law; but because you did not order
Fordie's murder, you think the blood guiltiness from that broken law
does not rest upon you.  You say it must all be fought out.  You force
the fight--"

He raised his hand to stop her.  She remembered afterwards how ashy
white and aged his face became.  He walked to the door and opened it.
She passed out.  So that was to what her womanish mining for the vein
of the ideal heroism had led.  She had been politely shown out.  It was
as Wayland had said: there was no middle course; and it was also as the
Senator had said, it must be fought out, and the bullets were to be
ballots.

The Senator slammed his door shut and snapped the yale lock.  Then he
noticed the rose she had left, and tossed it in the spittoon.

"Thank God," he ejaculated fervently as he sank back in the swing
chair, "_Thank God women are not in politics.  There is always
something to be thankful for_."

Then, an idea seemed to strike him.  He rang the telephone with fury,
and it didn't improve his temper to hear the saucy little central
informing her elbow mate that "that ol' fellah wuz burnin' the wire up
alive."

"Is that 'The Herald'?  Brydges there?  That you, Brydges?  Listen, the
night you were up on the Ridge, have you any perfect proof that Wayland
didn't go down when you were asleep?  Eh?  You turned in at ten; and
you found him still stamping about at twelve?  Is that it?  What?  No?
Don't be a damphool, _cut that out_.  Of course, he didn't go down to
the Ranch House.  Cut that whole scandal thing out.  There's nothing in
it; but I think we can locate our missing knight errant.  Understand?
He's got to be smashed?  What?  _You had printed the scandal story
before you ever came in to me at all_?  Dictated it right in to the
typo machines?  In the 'Independent'?  Oh, well, I'm glad it didn't go
in the 'City Herald'?  But it did go in; one evening paper?"  Then the
wrath of the strong man broke bounds.  If he had been a stage villain
the curtain drop would have fallen on a red faced gentleman pounding
the desk, tearing at the telephone, hurling his chair about the office
and generally, as the saucy little central remarked, "eating the wire
up alive."


When Brydges' chief indulged in explosives that necessitated the repair
of furniture the next day, the handy man always stood strictly and
silently at attention.  He knew the meaning of the stage thunder: it
was the trick of the Indian medicine man, who fires guns to bring down
rain.  Bat knew that the fulminations were of a piece with all the
other orders to do and not to do, an effort to get results while
diverting the thunderbolt from the rain maker's head; for by one of
those strange contingencies that Shakespeare defines as an opportunity
of evil, when the handy man had gone to the 'Herald,' the news editor
chanced to be out.  Bat crossed to the 'Independent's' office.  It
lacked but half an hour of the time to lock up the press, and on
condition that the story should be "a scoop," Bat was sent out to the
composing room to dictate straight to the printer, standing over the
linotype machine.

What was "the story" that he dictated?  If you know where to look, you
can see its prototype seven times a week.  It was written jocularly;
oh, it was exceedingly funny with all sorts of veiled references to
naughtiness that couldn't be printed, pretty naughtiness, you
understand, the kind you wink at, as was to be expected from a little
beauty, a brunette, chic, etc.  (I forget how many French words Bat
tucked in: he had to look 'em up in the French-English appendix to
Webster's Dictionary as the proof came off the galley), the well known
daughter of the richest sheep rancher in the Valley.  "The story" was
headed: "Pretty Scandal in Peaceful Valley."  Bat played "the human
interest" feature for all it was worth; also the trick of suspended
interest.  It began by informing the public that a pretty scandal was
disturbing a certain Valley not a hundred miles from the Rim Rocks, the
essential details of which could not be given, would probably _never_
be printed, for obvious reasons.  Then followed a solid paragraph of
nonsense verse inserted as prose; about a Ranger-man, Ranger-man,
running away, 'Cause pa-pah, dear pa-pah comes home for to-day; But his
Lincoln green coatie the Ranger forgot; And pa-pah, dear pa-pah came
home raging hot; The Ranger-man, Ranger-man was still on the run, For
pa-pah, dear pa-pah was out with a gun, He'd heaved up his war club and
jangled his spear, And swore by my halidom what doth that coat here,
etc., etc.  Any school boy could have trolled off yards of the same
drivelling cleverness; and Eleanor's innocent telephone call was, of
course, lugged in.

There followed a garbled account of poor Calamity's errant days among
the miners of the Black Hills.  The account had no reference to her
heroism in the early mining days, when she roved in man's attire over
the hills to rescue wounded miners from the Sioux.  It set forth only
her blazoning sins; evidently on the assumption that carrion is
preferable to meat.  And then tucked ingeniously into this account was
veiled mention of a rich sheepman, too well known to need naming, who
was evidently making reparation for the errors of his youth by
according to the mother as good treatment as the daughter under the
same roof.  Not a name was mentioned except Calamity's.  I trust it is
obvious to you that it was not libelous, because it was without malice.
In fact, if you want to know the ear marks of a handy man's "story,"
look out for the smart gentlemen in veiled references without any facts
which can be transfixed by either a pin or a handspike.  When you find
the innuendo without the handhold of fact, lick your lips if you are
keen on carrion; for I promise that you have come on a morsel.

Bat did even better than the clever story dictated straight to the typo
in the composing room.  Always in the West, there flit in and out what
we Westerners used to call "floaters," gentlemen (and ladies) who come
in on a pullman car and go out on a pullman car and sometimes venture
as far away from safety as a hotel rotunda, then syndicate their
impressions of the West, in the East, and gravely correct twenty year
Westerners with twenty minute impressions.  I don't believe on the
whole, as Westerners, we like them very much; but obviously, one
doesn't kill a mosquito with a hammer.

Bat caught such a floater on the delayed transcontinental express.  He
was seeing the West through a car window.  The East will not see the
jocularity of that fact.  The West will, though it may smile with a
twist.  Bat's floater was working for a Chicago boomster, who had
issued a magazine to boom Western real estate, suburban lots seven
miles from a flat car, which was all there was of the city.  For
exactly fifteen dollars (when the floater's impressions came out, I
made exact inquiries as to what Bat had paid him; and it seemed to me
that floater sold himself very cheap) the travelling impressionist took
over Bat's story of "the Pretty Scandal in Peaceful Valley" and
rehashed it with the name MacDonald given as Macdonel, and syndicated
the scandal against the Forest Service throughout the East.


The transcontinental express had made up lost time and came roaring in
just as the stage rattled up to the platform.  MacDonald and Williams
stepped off the observation car.  Eleanor shook hands.

"You know about the sheep?" she asked.

"Yes, we have your letter," answered MacDonald.  "That's why we stayed
so long buying grazing ground in the Upper Pass."

"Here, boy."  He bought an evening paper; and helped Eleanor inside the
stage.  Then he mounted to the top with Williams.  There were only
three other occupants in the stage, the lady of the lavender silks, the
gold teeth, and a workman, sodden drunk and drowsy, in the upper
corner.  The lady of the lavender silks had a complexion that looked as
if it had been dipped in a fountain of perennial youth.  She was
leaning over the evening paper which the undertaker plumes had
evidently shown her.  The heat had not improved Eleanor's stiff linen
collar and the dust had certainly not added to the style of her kakhi
motor coat.  It was not until afterwards she remembered how both the
heads flew apart from the evening paper the moment she entered the
stage.

"Have you had a pleasant day shopping, my dear?"  It was the lavender
silk with the hard mouth actually breaking in a smile.  It was the "my
dear" that struck Eleanor's ear as odd.  The manner said plainly as
words could say "You weren't before; but you _are_ now."

"Oh, it was rather hot," answered Eleanor quietly.

"Y're on the wrong soide.  Y're in the sun.  If y'll sit over b'side
off me, my dear gurl--"

Eleanor nearly exploded.  'Girl' was the limit: 'lady' would have been
worse; 'woman' was good enough for her; but, 'gurl.'  It was the
manner, the proprietary manner, you are one of us _now_: what had
happened?  She did not answer.  She raised her eye lashes and looked
the speaker over from the undertaker's plumes and the gold teeth and
the ash colored V of skin to the clock-work stockings and high heeled
slippers.  Then, the stage was stopping violently and her father
appeared on the rear steps at the door.  She had never seen him look
so.  His eyes were blazing.  It was not until afterwards she remembered
how the lavender silks had crushed the evening paper all up and sat
upon it.

"There is a little girl up on the seat with the driver.  You'll find it
pleasanter there going up the Valley."

She remembered afterwards, while her father gave her a hand up the
front wheel, a voice inside the stage exclaimed: "Say, thought they wuz
goin' to be fireworks.  If Dan'd read that in th' paper 'bout me, he'd
a gone on awful."

"Oh, no, he's a thoroughbred all right, if it is part Indian."

Then her father and Williams had gone down inside the stage; and she
was left with the driver and a diminutive little bit of humanity, that
looked as if it had escaped from one of the rag shops of Shanty Town.
She wore a tawdry thing on her head with bright carmine ostrich plumes
that had lost their curl in the rain.  A red plush cape was round her
shoulders; and Eleanor could hardly believe her eyes--she had not seen
them since she went through the East End of London--they were copper
toed boots.

"M' name is Meestress Leezie O'Finnigan.  What's y'rs?" demanded the
little old face.

Eleanor didn't answer.  She was trying to think what had changed the
driver's friendly manner.  He had neither greeted her nor proffered the
reins.  And now, oh, philosopher of the human heart, for each of us is
a philosopher inside, answer me: why did the driver, who was a bit of a
hero, and the lavender silk, who was an adventuress, and the gold
teeth, who was a slattern, neither pure nor simple, why did each and
all eagerly believe the evil, so vague it had not been stated, written
by an unknown blackmailer, in the face of the reputation of purity
sitting beside them?

"M' father uz down inside," continued the child.  "He's sleep.  We're
goin' t' live on th' Ridge.  D' y' know what a Ridge iz?  We're goin'
t' be waal-thy--m' father says so.  He says we won't have a thing t' do
but sit toight an' whuttle un' sput, un' whuttle un' sput fur three
years, then the com'ny wull huv t' pay us what he asks.  He says they
think they'll pay him off fur three hun'red; but he says he _knows_, he
does; un' he's goin' t' hold 'em up fur half.  Unless they give him
half he'll tell--"

"What?" asked Eleanor, suddenly wakening up to the meaning of the
chatter.  "What is your father?"

"He's trunk jes' now," said the child.  Then she reached her face up to
Eleanor's confidentially.  The little teeth were very unclean and the
breath was very garlicky, indeed.  "He's goin' t' be a dummy," she
whispered with a gurgle of childish glee, "un' he says he'll easily
hold 'em up for twenty thousand without doin' a thing fur five years
but whuttle un' sput."

"A dummy?  Oh," said Eleanor.

Even the driver relaxed enough to flick the tandem grays with his whip
and permit a twisted smile to play round the tobacco wad in his cheek.


They ate their late supper in the Ranch House by lamp light, her father
scarcely uttering a word, the evening paper still sticking out of his
coat pocket.

"I know this sheep affair has been a horrible, hideous loss," she said.
"Is that what's worrying you, father?"

MacDonald shoved back from the table.

"Pah, that's nothing," he said.

He stood waiting till the German cook had removed the dishes.  Then he
drew the paper from his pocket.

"There's something here I'm sorry you'll have to know," he said.  "You
won't understand how low the meaning of most of it is; but I'm sorry
they hit you to try and hurt me."

He threw himself down in a big leather chair.  She took the paper
mechanically and sat on the arm of the chair to read.  She read slowly
and deliberately to the end.  Then she re-read both columns; and the
paper fell from her hands.  She did not know it, but the same
suppressed fury was blazing in her face as she had seen on his at the
stage door.

"So that is what was doing when I went to the Senator's office this
afternoon to plead with him that things could not go on in the old
plundering way.  That is what his man's visit meant here the other day
to express sympathy with you for the loss of the sheep?  Now I
understand what the loafers at the station meant, and the driver's
unfriendliness, and those unclean women; and to think they framed it
all out of that innocent coat.  You know, father, Mr. Wayland had
carried Fordie down from the Rim Rocks.  We carried the body in
together."

"Where is Wayland?" asked MacDonald; and she poured out the full story
of all that had happened.  I hope, gentle reader, you will please to
observe that if the father had viewed the facts of that recital through
the same tainted mind as Mr. Bat Brydges, a breach would have occurred
that neither time nor regret could have bridged.  I confess when I see
breaches occur that wrench lives and break hearts through love
harboring suspicion, I don't think the love is very much worth the
name.  You can't both have your plant grow, and keep tearing up the
roots to see if they are growing.  You can't both throw mud in a spring
and drink out of a well of love undefiled.  If love grows by what it
feeds on, so does suspicion.  He did not once look up questioningly to
her eyes.  Instead, he reached up and took hold of her hand.  For the
first time in their lives, father and daughter came together.

"But there is one thing you are mistaken about, father.  They did not
hit me, to hurt you.  They hit me, to stop Dick Wayland."

"Why, what difference can you make to Wayland?"

She hid her face on his shoulder.

"I love him," she said.


When the German cook came in with the washed dishes, father and
daughter still sat in the big arm chair; and you may depend on it, that
flunky carried out to the ranch hands, guzzling over the evening paper
in the bunk house, a proper report of a heart broken father and a
repentant daughter; for when we look out on the world, do we see the
world at all; or do we see the shadows of our own inner souls cast out
on the passing things of life?




CHAPTER XX

A FAITH WORKABLE FOR MEN ON THE JOB

"The point is," said Wayland, "though, we have driven out this nest of
beauties, we have no guarantee another nest won't take their place; and
so we're not much farther ahead than before, with the chances I'll be
called down for exceeding my duties."

"And y'll keep on bein' where y' were before till y' get the Man Higher
Up," interrupted Matthews.

They had camped among the red firs where the Desert crossed the State
Line and merged from cut rocks to broken timber.  It was seven weeks
since they had set out from the Upper Mesas of the Rim Rocks, four
weeks since they had left the saline pool.  Man and beast, fagged to
the point of utter exhaustion, retraced steps slower than fresh hunters
on an untried trail.  Also, going down, they had followed hard wherever
fugitives led.  Coming back, they struck across to the Western Desert
road, and travelled from belt to belt of the irrigation farms, with
their orange-green cottonwood groves and bluish-green alfalfa fields
and little match box houses stuck out of sight among peach orchards.
The parched-earth, burnt-oil smell gave place to the minty odor of hay
in wind rows, with the cool water tang of the big irrigation ditch
flowing liquid gold in the yellow August light.  One evening, Matthews
looked back to the looming heat waving and writhing above the orange
sands beneath a sky of lilac and topaz round a sunset flowing from a
dull red ball of fire.  Far ahead, the edges of forested mountain cut
the heat haze with opal winged light above what might have been peaks
or clouds.

"'Tis beautiful, Wayland, y'r lone Desert world; but man alive, it's
sad!  Y' call some the Painted Desert, don't ye?  'Tis like a painted
woman, Wayland, vera beautiful, vera fair to look on an' allurin', but
a' out o' perspective; an' Wayland, the painted woman is always a bit
lonely in the bottom o' her soul spite o' harsh laugh.  So is the
Desert wi' its harsh silence.  Those as like to be shrivelled up wi'
thirst, may have it!  A'm a plain man!"

Then one morning, the opal swimming above the smoke haze of the North
shone,--was it the shape of a cross?

"Wayland, man, look!"

The old frontiersman had taken off his hat.

"Man alive, open y'r throat an' let out a yell."

"I'm too busy drinking in the air," answered Wayland.

And they both laughed.  The mule and the broncho stood pointing their
ears forward.  Wayland's mare, which he had bought at one of the
irrigation farms, lifted up her neck and whinnied.  It was at that
irrigation farm operated by a retired newspaper man from Chicago--they
had got a reading of the first newspaper seen since leaving the Valley
and learned that the bodies of the two remaining fugitive outlaws had
been found by the railway navvies.  Wayland thoughtfully removed his
Forest Service medallion.  Men do not question each other over much in
the West.  They had passed on unquestioning and unquestioned, Wayland a
disguised figure in his new ready-to-wear kakhi, not a sign of the
Forest Service about them, but the green felt hat still worn by the old
preacher, and the hatchets fastened to the saddles.

"How many Holy Cross Mountains have y' in the West, Wayland?"

"Three that I know of."

"That's ours, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's ours: the old priests and explorers scattered the name round
pretty thick in the old days."

"How far do you make it?"

"About a hundred miles, perhaps more!"

"Been a pilot to the priests and explorers for centuries?"

"I guess so, sir."

"Wayland, may it be so t' th' Nation, now!  Y've got a wilderness an' a
Red Sea an' a Dead Sea an' a devilish dirty lot o' travellin' to do on
th' way t' y'r promised land; an' A'm thinkin', man, y've wasted a lot
o' time on the trail worshippin' th' calf; an' God knows who is y'r
Moses."


They camped that night among the evergreens with red fir branches for
beds, the first beds they had known for seven weeks, with the needled
end pointing in and the branch end out, "unless y' want t' sleep on
stumps," the old preacher had admonished the bed maker.  And during the
night, the wind sprang up shaking all the pixie tambourines in the
pines and the hemlocks, and setting the poplars and cottonwoods
clapping their hands.  A spurt of moisture hit the old man's face.

"Man alive, but is that rain?" he asked.  Wayland laughed.  "Only a
drop from a broken pine needle; but rain would taste good, wouldn't it?"

"D' y' smell it?  Smell hard!  It's like cloves."

Wayland laughed.  He had had all these sensations of coming back from
South to North before.

The next night, they camped beside a chorus of waterfalls, joyous,
gurgling, laughing silver water, not the sullen silent blood red
streams of the Desert that flow without a sound but the plunk of the
soft bank corroding and falling in.  They could not talk.  They lay in
quiet, listening to the tinkle and trill and treble of the silver flow
over the stones; to the little waves lipping and lisping and lapping
through the grasses; and when the moon came up, every rill showed a
silver light.  Wayland was thinking,--need I tell what he was thinking?
Was he thinking at all; or was he drinking, drinking, drinking life
from a fountain of memory immanent as present consciousness?  He tossed
restlessly.  He sat up with his face in his hands.  When he turned, the
old man had risen and was stripping.

"A'm goin' t' find a pool an' go in, Wayland.  Dry farmin' may be good
for crops; but this dry bath business o' y'r Desert,--'tis not for a
North man.  Better come along!  If A can find it to my neck, y'll need
a cant hook to get me out 'fore daylight!"


They had come back from their plunge and were spreading the slickers
above the fir branches for bed, when Matthews began to talk in a low
dreamy voice, more as a man thinking out loud than one uttering a
confessional.  It was the first word of religion the Ranger had heard
him utter.  Wayland had really come to wonder when the old preacher
prayed.  When he came to know him better, he realized that a good man
may pray standing on his feet, or striding to duty, readily as on prone
knees.

"'Tis like the water o' life, Wayland!  Men laugh at that phrase
to-day!  Oh, A know vera well, we've no time for an old or a new
dispensation nowdays.  We're too busy wi' the golden calf, an' the
painted woman, an' th' market place, an' th' den o' thieves; an' when
th' vision faileth, the people perish!  'Ye shall have a just balance
an' a just ephah'; 'an' take away y'r offerings an' y'r burnt offerings
an y'r gifts, saith the Lord of Hosts.'  Ram _that_ down the throat of
y'r church-buildin' thieves, an' y'r bribe-givin' pirates, who steal a
billion out o' th' Nation's pocket, then take out an insurance policy
against a Hell, they're no so sure doesn't exist, by givin' back a
million t' th' people they've plundered!  Tell me y'r old
dispensation's past?  A could preach a sermon from th' oldest book in
the Bible w'ud burn up Fifth Avenue an' have y'r churches sendin' in a
call for the p'lice t' cart me away t' a lunatic asylum!  Ah, yes, A
know they'll tell y' A'm not learned an' don't know Hebrew!  No; but A
know th' language o' th' man on the street; an A know life; an' A know
God; an' A know how to putt righteousness in the end o' my doubled
fist; which is what th' world is wantin'.  Y'r learned men, what are
they do in' for th' man on the street?  'Darkening counsel without
knowledge,' while the people go gropin' in the dark for light.

"Y' wonder how a man, who was a whiskey smuggler an' a gambler an' a
contractor, who could skin the Devil, comes to be a preacher, Wayland;
a missionary t' th' Cree?"

"Yes, I have wondered, sometimes," confessed Wayland.  "I could not
just reconcile you with the poverty-stricken, down-in-the-mouth--"

"Don't say 'poverty-stricken', Wayland!  A'm . . . rich.  A've _never_
known want!  God has taken care of me since A put it squarely up to
Him!  A've my wife!  A've my children!  A've my ranch; an' my ranch
pays for the school!  A've never known want!  Why, man, thirty dollars
a year is more than A need for m' clothes!  A'm rich!  What wud A be
doin' goin' among a lot o' kiddie boys t' study Hebrew when A know the
language o' the man on the street; an' A know God?  'Twas the bishop's
idea t' have me come t' College at forty years o' age an' potter t'
A-B-C an' white collar an' clerics buttoned up the back an' a' the
rest."  The old frontiersman laughed.  "Poh!  What for wud A waste m'
years doin' that?  A'd wasted forty servin' the Devil.  A'd no more
years t' waste.  A must be up, up, up an' doin', Wayland, the way y'r
up an' doin', for the Nation.  A'd earned m' livin' when A served th'
Devil!  A would earn m' livin' when A served God; an' as A spoke th'
Cree, A tackled them first; an' now we're buildin' our hospital.

"How did it happen, y' ask?"  The old frontiersman sat down on a log.
"God knows!  A don't!  A can no more tell y', Wayland, what happened t'
me, than y' cud tell a man what comin' off th' Desert an' bathin' in a
cool mountain stream was like; no more than y' cud tell what happened
t' y', when y' first looked in her eyes an' read, love!  God, man, it
_was_ love!  That's what happened t' me!  A all of a sudden got t' see
what life meant when ye bathed in love.  God looked into m' eyes,
Wayland, that was it!  An' all th' dirt o' me shrivelled up an' th' mud
in m' manhood, way yours did when y' looked in her eyes!  A needed
washin', Wayland, that was it, an' then A saw Him on the Cross as y'
see _that_--yon Cross there in the sky.  'Sense o' sin!'  Man alive,
A'd never heard them words till that night."

"What night?" asked Wayland, quietly.

"Oh, 'twas a hot night, Wayland, my boy; an' hot for more reasons than
one.  Th' tin horns an' the plugs an' the toots had come up t' our
construction camp, an' of a Monday mornin' after Sunday's spree, y' cud
count fifty dead navvies, Chinks an' Japs an' dagoes, washed down th'
river after gamblers' fights an' chucked up in the sands o' Kickin'
Horse!  Well, a lot o' big fellows o' th' railway company had come
thro' that day on the first train.  There was Strathcona, who was plain
Donald Smith in them days, an' Van Horn, who was manager, an' Ross, who
was contractor!  A'd been workin' m' crews on the high span bridge,
there,--y' don't know,--well no matter, 'tis the highest in the Rockies
an' dangerous from a curve!  A didn't want that train load o' directors
to risk crossin': wasn't safe!  M' crew hadn't one main girder placed;
but Ross was a headstrong dour man; an' Smith--Smith wud a' sent a
train thro' Hell in them days to prove that railway could be built.
Full lickety smash their train came onto that bridge o' mine off the
sharp curve: the dagoes went yellow as cheese wi' fear, th' Chinks
chattered in their jaws, an' the Japs: well the Japs hung on to the
girder an' the cranes.  A saw th' bridge heave an' swerve, an' th'
girder went smashin' to th' bottom o' yon creek bed so far below y'
could scarcely see the water; Ross was ridin' wi' th' engineer.  Ross
kept his head, ordered them to throw throttle open.  All that saved
that train load o' directors was th' train got across before th' weight
smashed thro'; way a quick skater can cross thin ice.  Man alive, but A
was mad, riskin' m' crew o' two hundred workmen for a train load o'
rash directors!  Th' train stopped!  A dashed up!  Ross opened out, his
throttle was full open: so was mine; an' th' steam an' smoke escapin'
from yon big mogul,--well, Wayland, them was my unregenerate days!  A
may as well confess, Wayland, A gave him back all he'd given with
sulphur thrown in extra; till Donald Smith poked his head out o' th'
private car callin', 'Go on, Ross!  Go on, what are you delayin' for?'
Well, then, three of us contractors and th' company doctor was summoned
to th' coast next week.  We were all so mad at the fool rashness, we
had our resignations in our pockets.  They had our pay checks ready;
but when they saw all four of us had our resignations written, well,
everybody took a cool breath; an' A think mebbee th' wise little man o'
that private car sent across something to help us wash away bitter
memories!  Anyway, 'twas a hot night, Wayland!  Y' couldn't drink one
of the four under th' table; an' we had cashed our checks at the pay
car!  A was playin' wi' th' doctor for partner!  Mebbee, it was that
little night cap from the private car, mebbee, well, in an hour or two,
three month's wages for four men was in the middle o' that table; an'
mebbee th' loafers in that saloon didn't sit up!  Mebbee, somebody from
that private car didn't saunter in t' look us four fools over!  Wayland
man, we won it all, th' doctor an' me!  Th' other two wanted to play on
their watches, they wud a' pawned th' clothes off their backs; but we
wouldn't let them!  We gave 'em back enough to grub stake 'em back to
their job!  Then some one says, th' vera words: A can hear them yet,
'Let's go across an' hear those damned evangelists: there's a white
faced whiskers, an' a little clean shaved jumpin' jack skippin' all
over the backs o' the church seats pretendin' he's Henry Ward Beecher
an' sayin' in a fog horn voice, 'I like that.'  Let's go an' raise Hell.

"Wayland, man, we went across!  'Twas all true, there was the white
faced fat man; an' there was the little clean chopped chap jumpin' all
over the backs o' th' seats; an' there was a lot o' snivellin' Saints
in Israel, women that cry an' sissie men that get converted an'
converted at every meetin'!  Man, Wayland, A'd like to dump th' job lot
o' such folks out in a cesspool!  They do religion more harm than the
Devil!  They're about as like what fightin' Christians ought to be as a
spit wad's like a bullet!  Well, we went in with a whoop; but God
wasn't out for the sissies that night, Wayland: he was out with a gun
for red blood men!  He got us, Wayland!  That's all!  'Twasn't the poor
puny preachers, perhaps 'twas th' music: th' fat one cud sing, but when
we came out the doctor was cryin'; poor fellow he killed himself in D.
T.'s later; an' A was all plugged up wi' cold in m' head blowin' m'
nose!  'Boys,' says I, 'here's where I get off.  Here's y'r money back.
A've put up a pretty good fight for the Devil so far an' A've earned m'
way!  Now, A'm goin' t' fight for God an' earn m' way!'  They didn't
want to take the money back.  They didn't believe it.  A finished my
job on the railroad, then A slummed it in th' cities, this was when the
bishop tried to turn me school boy at forty, an' to dig in y'r
graveyard o' theology; that was before m' brother was bishop and why, A
hiked for Indians, Wayland!  A know the Cree tongue, an' A know the
need o' decency in th' tepees, an' A know the trick o' puttin'
Christianity into th' end o' m' fist on white blackguards!  An' that's
all."

"Is that all?" repeated Wayland; and he gave the old frontiersman the
same kind of a look, Matthews had given him that day going up the face
of the Pass precipice.

"Yes, that's all there was to it; an' A could no more tell y' what
happened, Wayland, than y' could tell a man what happened when y'
jumped in that pool an' got washed clean!  Better try it, Wayland!"

They sat late listening to the gurgle and trill and tinkle of the water
slipping over the stones.  Neither man said anything more, nor mouthed,
nor kneeled, nor amened, nor did save as men among men do and say: but
somehow Wayland had never felt so sure of the God, who was Love and
whose Love washed men clean, being, as he told himself, 'on the job.'
It may not have been religion; and it may not have been theology; but I
think it was the workable conviction that many a fighting man
incorporates into his life.  Perhaps, it was what Christians call
Belief, only we have so slimed that good word over with hypocrisy that
it's hard for fighting working men among men, women among women, people
on the job, to mine down to the exact business sense of those old
religious terms.  'Slimed with hypocrisy?'  Yes, good friends, 'slimed
with hypocrisy.'  Have you not known men and women, legions of them,
who shouted their fire-proof Belief, Belief, Belief, their
fire-insurance Belief that was to roof them from rain of fire and act
as an umbrella against the results of their own misdeeds; who
underscored their Bibles, and prayed long and loud, and proclaimed
themselves right, when every day, every act of every day, every
leastermost act of very hour, shouted blasphemous denial of what so
ever is lovely and pure and unselfish and Christlike; whose influence
damned and injured and blighted every life it touched?  You must not
blame business men and women for wanting a workable faith, a faith that
will deliver the goods on the job.




CHAPTER XXI

THE HAPPY AND TRIUMPHANT HOME-COMING

They were up before sunrise following along a rock trail against the
face of a mountain through the morning mists, when they turned a sharp
crag and came suddenly on one of those flower slopes bevelled out of
the forests by snow or ice.  The slant sunlight met their faces, and
the mists were lifting in a curtain, with a riffle of wind that ran
through the grasses like the ripple of waves to the touch of unseen
feet.  The slope lay literally a field of gold, spikes and umbels of
gold--the gold of yellow midsummer light dyed in the asters and
sunflowers and great flowered gaillardias and golden rod, with an odor
of dried grasses or mint or cloves.

"By George," cried Wayland, "you'd not believe it!  Only seven weeks;
look!"

Matthews looked but apparently did not see.

"Don't you see?  It's the place where the snow slide slumped down!"

"But where in the name o' conscience is all yon snow; and where's th'
bodies, Wayland?"

"Washed down to the bottom of the Lake Behind the Peak by this time; or
you may find a great rock pile at the foot of the slope."

"A'm thinkin' they'll lie quiet till the crack o' doom, Wayland; but,
but do y' no' see a tent back in yon larches across th' slide, man,
where the thing knocked us both sprawlin'?"

"By George, yes, I do!  Wonder if they're homesteading this next?  It's
off the N. F."

They put their ponies to an easy lope across the slope and came on a
tepee tent with the flap laced tight and no sign of life, but a horse
lazily floundering up beside a large fallen log, an empty whiskey
bottle on the log, and a man's boot leg protruding from beneath the
tent skirt.

"A'm wonderin' if there's a leg in that boot, Wayland."

"It's the sheriff's horse," said Wayland.

"It is, is it?  And this is off y'r Forest Range; an' y'r not
responsible for what A may be tempted to do?"

The old frontiersman literally avalanched off his broncho and made a
dash at the tent flap, frapping it loudly with the flat of his hand.

"Here you--anybody inside?"

No response came from the owner of the leg.

"Here you, waken up."  Matthews caught hold of the leg and pulled and
pulled.  There was a splutter of snorts, and, 'what in Hell's,' and the
fat girth of an apple-shaped body ripped the tent pegging free and came
out under the tepee skirt followed by another leg, and two oozy hands
flabbily clawing at the grass roots to stop the unusual exit.  One hand
held a flat flask and the air became flavored with the second-hand
fumes of a whiskey cask.  The sheriff rolled over after the manner of
apple-shaped bodies and sat up on the end of his spine rubbing his
eyes.  Then, he recollected the dignity of his office and got groggily
to his feet, steadying himself by clutches at the tent flap.  Then, he
emitted a hiccough.  "'Scuse m'," he said thickly.  "I'm not well, thas
ish not really well!  Will one of y' pleash gimme a drink o' water?  I
been chasin' those damn-cow-boy-outlawsh seven weeks sclean 'cross
Shate Sline, I'm dead beat out.  Thas you, ain't it Wayland?  Kindsh o'
you both come after me!  Saw y' pash tha' day y' called t' door!  Wife
tol' me to hide--not risk m' life, women 're all thas way; skeary;
skeary.  Well, I bin out ever shince y' pashed!  I nearly got 'em, too!
I caught 'em right in here day after shnow slide had 'em cornered!
Gosh, bullets was pretty thick fur about half-an-hour; bu' I cud'nt
chross Shtate Line."  Something in the old frontiersman's widening eyes
and glowering brows stopped the flow of valor; and Sheriff Flood
dragged his exhausted virtue across to the log with some difficulty as
to knees and elbows, got himself turned round and seated.

"Y' been out huntin' them seven weeks?"

"Yes, seven weeks!"  His articulation had cleared a little.  "Please
gimme m' gun, Wayland!"

"Y' saw them?  Y're sure y' saw them?"

"Saw them?"  Sheriff Flood laughed in a thin little squeaking laugh.
"Gosh A'mighty, I--I fought--them single handed for a whole half day; I
think I got one!  Least ways, there's a powerful smell som'pin dead
comin' up below the Pass Trail.  It's too steep to go down to see.  I
wish I knew."

"Ye wish ye knew?  Ye do--do you?  'Tis a wish bone instead of a back
bone the likes of you have; and it was too steep to see?"  Matthews
megaphoned a laugh that echoed loud and long and scornful from the
rocks.  "I saw a man who was no sheriff climb both up an' down that
place too steep for the likes o' you to see; and he climbed to do more
than see!  'Twas half an hour y' fought them th' first version?  Now
'tis raised to half a day.  A'm thinkin' y' be applyin' to th' pension
bureau for a hero's triflin' remembrance!  Hoh!  An' y' saw us pass did
y'?  An' y'r frowsy dyed-haired slattern wife told us y' were away?
An' 't will be a week y' fought 'em when y' tell it again; an' y' been
huntin' them seven weeks lyin' sodden drunk in y'r tent wi' a whiskey
keg from th' cellar o' y'r white-vested friend?  Hoh?"

He caught the flabby body by the collar, spinning the dignity of the
law round face down prone upon the log.  "A'll not take my fist t' y'
as A wud t' a Man!  Ye dastard, drunken, poltroon, coward, whiskey
sodden lout an' scum o' filth, an'," each word was emphasized by the
thud of the empty whiskey bottle wielded as a flail.

"Look out, sir," warned Wayland, rolling from his horse in laughter,
"you'll hurt something, with that bottle."

"Hurt something?  N' danger on this wad of fat an' laziness an' lies."
(Thud . . . thump . . . and a double tattoo.)  He threw the instrument
of castigation aside and spinning the hulk of flesh and sprawling legs
erect, began applying the sole of his boot.  "A'll no take m' fist t'
y' as A wud t' a Man!  A'll treat y' as A wud a dirty broth of a brat
of a boy with the flat o' my hand an' sole leather; y' scum, y' runt,
y' hoggish swinish whiskey soak o' bacon an' fat!  'Tis th' likes o'
you are the curse o' this country, y' horse-thief sheriff, y'
bribe-takin' blackguard guardian o' justice an' right! y' coward not
doin' th' crime y' self, but shieldin' them that do."

The sheriff had uttered a splutter of filthy expletives at the first
blow, then a yell; now he was bellowing aloud, chattering with terror,
screaming to be, "let go, let go!  I never done you no harm.  I'll have
y'r life for this."

"Y' will, will y'?  Did y' ask for a drink?  Wayland, wait for m' here!"

The Ranger saw the white-haired frontiersman seize one sprawling leg
and the shirt front of the struggling limp thing in his hands.  He
heard him plunging down through the tangle of windfall and brush.
There was a bellowing howl and a splash; and Wayland being altogether
human flesh and blood doubled up on the ground with laughter.

"That'll cool him," remarked Matthews coming back very red of face and
sober, "an' it's not deep enough to drown."

He tore open the tent flap and rolled out a small keg.  There was a
sound of dregs still rinsing round inside.  They could hear the bellows
from the brook.  The majesty of the law had evidently crawled out on
the far side.

"He's the kind o' brave man will slap children, an' call a boy a calf,
an' bully timid women, an' knock down little Chinks and dagoes!  Oh, A
know his kind o' thunder-barrel bravery, that makes the more noise the
emptier and bigger it is--they're thick as louse ticks under the slimy
side of a dirty board in this world, Wayland; an' they're thick in the
girth an' thicker in the skull."  Matthews had taken one of the Forest
axes from the saddle.  He left the whiskey keg in kindling wood.

"He's camped dead beat on the State line, all right, Wayland," said the
irate old frontiersman as they mounted their ponies.  "He'll have at
least some scars to prove his story, but A'm no thinkin' he'll boast
round showin' them marks o' glory!  'Tis some satisfaction for my
thirst back in the Desert."

"I thought it was about here, on our way out, that a law-loving Briton,
I know, gave me a sermon about exceeding law, taking the law in our own
hands?"

"Hoh!" said the old man.


And the Sheriff's tent was not the only one seen on the way back to the
Ridge.  Where the Pass widened to the Valley above the Sheriff's
homestead, they came on a huge miner's tent boarded half way up as for
winter residence, with eight tow-headed half-clad urchins thumb in
mouth staring out from the open mosquito wire door.  There was a smell
of onions and frying pork.

"What! a homestead, here, Wayland?  D' y'r homesteaders farm on th'
perpendicular, or the level; an' what will they grow on these rocks?"

The Ranger had reined in his pony and was running his glance up the
precipice face for the posts marking the bounds.

"What do they grow?  Water-power, I guess!  I'm looking for the lines.
The fellow has his posts in for a wire fence; he couldn't get a hundred
and sixty acres on the level; and the posts run up the face, by George
he's blanketed a cool square mile, mostly on the up and down."

"Your territory, Wayland?"

The Ranger had turned looking back up the Pass.

"The trail marks the lower bounds of the N. F., but this fellow's line
runs clear up above the trail.  If you bunch this fellow's claim with
the Sheriff's, they've got forty miles of the Pass corked up: no way to
bring the timber above down but by the River; and they've got the
River; and if possession is nine points in the law, they've got our
Forest road besides.  We'll have to give that fellow warning and if he
doesn't move, break his fence down."

"Gutt dae."  A big burly Swede came forward from the miner's tent.

"Are you one of the new settlers?" asked Wayland.

"Yaw!  A gott pig--varm!  Tra--vor--years mak' pig money liffin' y'ere!
Mae voman, Ae send her vork citie; Ae build mae house y're!"

"All these children yours?"

"Yaw!"  The man smiled bigly, incredulous that any one could doubt.

"Have you filed for a homestead for each of them?"

"Yaw!"  The man smiled more pleased than ever, indicating the numerous
olive branches by a wave of his hand.  "Gott gutt pig varm!  Pat, Pat
Prydges . . . he sae he pay mae voman, one-huntred; mae, two huntred;
mae chil'en . . ." he smiled again, bigly and blandly, "mabbee, five,
ten.  Yaw--?"

"One hundred and sixty acres each: twelve hundred acres for the kids,
not one of age, a quarter section to the man!"  Then turning back from
Matthews to the foreign settler.

"You've got a thundering big farm?"

"Yaw!  Ae mak' a pig yob of itt!"

"By George, I should think you do make a big job of it!  This is the
way those two-thousand acres of coal lands were swiped!  Are you the
fellow I gave a permit to cut timber up on the Ridge?  What did you
change your homestead for?"

The Swede stood smiling showing all his white teeth and wrinkling his
nose and absorbing the meaning of the Ranger's questions into his skull.

"Pat did utt," he said.

"Who?  Oh, Bat!" He looked at Matthews.  "Do you mind riding back over
the Pass trail; so we can go to the Ridge by the Gully, the way the
outlaws escaped?  I want to see where this fellow's upper lines run."


They rode back in silence almost all the way, coming up to the top
shoulder of the precipice where the outlaws had come tumbling down on
Matthews' hiding place a few weeks before.  Wayland followed the lines
of the newly planted posts, where the wire had not yet been strung.

"There is not the slightest doubt," he burst out, "this has been done
to force a test case!  Well, they'll get it."

"Wayland, is there no way of letting the public know what is going on?
A bet the people of this State don't know!"

"It's against the rule to give out information any more," answered
Wayland.

"Man alive--is this Russia?  Y' mind me of Indians in the conjurors'
tent: they tie the medicine man hand and foot and throw him into a
tent; and he's t' make the tent shake.  Only the devil-Indians can do
it.  They tie y' hand an' foot, then they expect y' to serve the
Nation."

"No," corrected Wayland, "they tie us hand and foot to keep us _from_
serving the Nation."


And the Swede's tent was not the only one they saw, as the reader well
knows.  Coming along the Gully on the Ridge crest, Wayland looked for
the pile of illegally-taken saw logs.  They were gone.  There was
nothing left but a timber skid, and the dry slash and a pile of saw
dust emitting the odor of imprisoned fragrance in the afternoon heat;
but a few yards back from the pile of saw dust stood a tepee tent with
the flap hooked up; and in the opening, a wide-eyed diminutive child
with a very old face and a very small frame, that looked for all the
world to Wayland like a clothes rack in a pawn shop covered with
colored rags.

"Waz ye wantin' me faather?"

As the reader is aware this little person never lacked speech.

"H's away!  H's gone t' th' citie for th' throuble that's comin' on
about th' mine, y' onderstand?  He's wan o' th' men t' be on hand if
there's throuble."

"Are you one of the new settlers'?"

"Yes, sor!  M' name's Meestress Leezie O'Finnigan!  We're come upp t'
live three years, mebba four, m' faather says we may fool 'em on less
than five; an' we're goin' to be wal-thy, an' we won't hev' a thing t'
do but sit toight an' whuttle an' sput an'," it was the same story, she
had told Eleanor.

"What trouble in the mines?" asked Wayland.

"In the coal mines, sor!  There's a gen'leman come from Waashington,
an' soon as the Ranger's been found, there's been goin's on, sor, bad
goin's ons, soon as th' Ranger's back, their expectin' throuble; un' m'
faather's gone down for to be there, he saz."


"Well?" said Wayland, as they rode on towards the Cabin.

"They've been busy, Wayland!  They've been busy, man!  You're in the
thick of it!  More power t' y'r elbow!  We've got the first licks in on
th' sheriff's carcass."

"And six dead men to the good," added Wayland dryly, "only I guess they
don't go into the reports, they are missing!"

As they approached the Cabin, a young man in gray flannels and sailor
hat sat up in the hammock, looked twice at Wayland, got up and came
forward.

"Are you Wayland?" he asked, with a contemptuous glance at the Ranger's
disguised suit.

"That's my name."

The young fellow handed him a letter stamped from the head department
at Washington.  It stated that the bearer was a Federal attorney sent
out to investigate the Smelter City Coal Claims and any other matters
bearing on the contests of the Holy Cross.  The letter was
couched--Wayland thought--with peculiar frigidity, as though he and not
the coal claimants were the guilty party to an undecided contest.  Then
he glanced back at the bearer: an incredibly young and inexperienced
youth--not more than twenty-two or three, barely out of a law school.

"Glad to see you, sir," said Wayland, "Been waiting long?"

The young fellow gave him a side wise look.

"About a week."

"I'm sorry to have delayed you; but one of the most important cases we
have ever had called me away.  I had intended to go down to Washington
and explain the whole situation."

The young man smiled very faintly, and was it, contemptuously?  "A good
deal needs explaining," he remarked.

"I hope you made yourself at home in the Cabin?"

"On the contrary, I'm with Moyese!  I have arranged to have the coal
cases examined this week.  The claimants declare the coal is not worth
a farthing, and this case is seriously disturbing the title to the land
where the Smelter stands."

"You're a geologist, of course?" asked Wayland innocently.

"No, I'm from the law department.  We considered this more a case of
legality of title than coal values.  The Company has kindly consented
to let us examine the mine this week."

"Kindly consented?  By George, I like that condescending kindness from
pirates and thieves!"

"But there are two sides to this question, Mr. Ranger: what good does
coal do locked up in the earth?  The country wants coal developed."

"Exactly," answered Wayland, "and not stolen and locked up in a great
trust and rings that jack the prices sky-high!  The law was passed to
keep these pirates from stealing coal with dummies, to let the
individual who hadn't money to hire dummies go in and develop.  If
you'll walk along the Ridge here, you'll see another of the contested
cases.  The forests are open to homesteading wherever the land is
agricultural; but you can hardly call land agricultural that's a sheer
drop of 1,000 feet, though the big trees growing on it would each build
a house of six rooms.  If you'll walk along, you'll see where the
'dummy' business has begun the same game as in the Bitter Boot."

The young bureaucrat turned short on his heel and strolled down the
Ridge Trail, with an air that only a bureaucrat, a very young
bureaucrat, and a very cheap one could possibly wear.

"Well, A 'm--A 'm d--danged."

Wayland burst out laughing.

"Do you suppose that little kindergarten ass thought he had come and
caught me off duty?"

The old man stood dumfounded.  It was such a happy and triumphant
home-coming for a Man on the Job, who had risked his life for seven
successive weeks solely in the cause of Right.  Matthews slammed his
hat on the ground, and stamped upon it, and clenched his teeth to keep
in the words that seemed to want to hiss out.


"Man alive.  A'd like t' spank him!"

Wayland laughed.

"I guess he's staying with our white-vested friend," he said, as he
pulled the saddles off the animals and gave them a slap heading down to
the drinking trough; but when he turned, Calamity stood in the door of
the Cabin holding out a letter.  He forgot to greet her; for the
handwriting was Eleanor's.  He tore the envelope open devouring the
words in his eagerness; then his face clouded.

"What in thunder does it all mean?  Listen.


'Dear Dick: I don't know when you will come home, but as soon as you
do, you will learn of something abominable that has been published.
I'm going to send Calamity up with this every day so she will be sure
to catch you first thing.'  ("It's dated three weeks ago," interjected
Wayland.)  'They have struck at you through me.  Don't mind, Dick.
They did it to make you stop.  You will not stop, will you?  It didn't
hurt me.'  (Oh, brave beautiful liar!  Does the Angel Gabriel take note
of such lies by women; and which side of the account does he put them
on?)  'Father says a fact is a hard nut to crack.  You're not to take
any notice of this attack on me.  You're not to flinch from the fight
for my sake or deflect a hair's breadth on my account.  You know what
you said.  Things have gone so far that crime is invading decent lives.
Well, it has invaded yours and mine; and you're not to slack one jot.
Dick, I command it.  I command it in the name of that seal I gave you.'

'E. MacD.'"


"What in thunder does it all mean?" reiterated Wayland.

"What seal is that she speaks of?  A'm thinkin' if you'll read that
pile of mail in there on the table, you'll find out."

"Any ansher?" asked Calamity softly, by which, you may guess, dear
reader, that an Indian woman has a heart under her ribs as well as you.

"Wait," said Wayland.

He tore a sheet from his field book.  This is what he wrote:


I shall obey you implicitly, my Alder Liefest.  I don't know what it is
yet; but I'll not let it make any difference in the fight no matter
what it is.  I have thought of that seal every day and night since I
left you, and all day and all night; and I couldn't have pulled through
this trip if I hadn't had that well of memory to drink from.  You saved
my life, tho' you don't know it.  Matthews will tell you: and you saved
his too.

Dick. (nth.)

P. S. There's a funny little kid up here, been left by her father in
one of the settlers' tents.  She's the most pitiable little object I
ever saw.  I think her father is a drunken tough from Shanty Town.  She
oughtn't to be left up here alone near such a baby-eater as I am.  I
wish you'd come up and see about her.  If you don't come alone, get
Mrs. Williams, or my friend, Matthews.


Calamity went on down the Ridge and Wayland plunged at his mail.  On
the very top of the pile lay a newspaper in a folder marked with red
"Important."  Before the pole cat begins operations, he chooses his
target.  For myself, I think discretion is better than valor in such a
case, and you would do well to retreat and let the little genus
Mephitis Mephitica infect the air for his own benefit; but Wayland did
not know what was coming and tore the paper open and read.  Then he
flung it from him and stood looking with blazing eyes at the thing on
the floor.

"Read it," he said.

The old frontiersman got his glasses laboriously out of the case and
began to read.  The sun was behind the Holy Cross, and he stood in the
door to get the light on the paper.  When he had finished and looked
round, he saw Wayland sitting crunched forward with his face in his
hands.

"Wayland, man," he slapped him twice on the shoulder, "look up, look up
at that picture on the wall above y'r bed."

Wayland took his hands from his eyes.  The Alpine glow struck through
the doorway against the picture on the wall, the picture she had had
Calamity bring down surreptitiously and had sent back framed, the
picture of the face above the Warrior.

"Man alive, why w'd y' care for the devil's dirt and skunk stench and
snake venom, when y' have, when y' have That?  She's a--a trump!  She's
a thoroughbred!  Man, y'd know she had th' blood o' Scottish kings and
queens in her veins.  Y'll no go down to-night, Wayland, when y'r all
undone!  'Twould hurt her.  A intended tellin' her to-night why A came;
but A'll not now!  A'll not now!  She must not run from this scandal.
She must face it down before she goes, but A'll go an' see her father
an' come back an' tell y'.  Cheer up man!  'Tis part o'the fight."

And for the only time in the struggle, Wayland let go; or rather--his
manhood got from under leash.  You can be stoical all right when _you_
get the blow.  It's another thing to be stoical when the blow hits what
you love.  When the curtain-drop fell on Moyese, it fell on a man
pounding the desk, kicking furniture, eating up the telephone, turning
the air blue.  It fell on the Ranger sitting crunched in his chair
gazing through misty eyes at a picture painted by an artist, who was an
idealist.  Was he down and out?  Was Right the sport of fools?




CHAPTER XXII

A DOWNY-LIPPED YOUTH IN GRAY FLANNELS

I suppose it was owing to the fact that she was woman and he was man
that she spent that first night of the home-coming in dumb hurt wonder
that he had not come immediately to her; and that he passed the night
in restless fevered fury, knowing well that you cannot both control
fire and fan it, fuse metals molten and expect them not to forge, keep
a resolution and break it.  She had listened eagerly to the old
frontiersman's account of the adventures on the trail, up the Pass
precipice, crossing the snow slide and in the desert, where the Ranger
had refused to save his own life by abandoning his companion; and the
narrative lost nothing in Matthews' recital with his Scottish-Canadian
R's rolling out sonorous and strong, where he was moved to admiration
or anger.  The sheep rancher sat silent through the stirring story with
only an occasional glint of fire from his black eyes gazing aimlessly
at the floor.

"'Cast your bread upon the waters and after many days it shall return
to you again.'  'Minds me of what A saw you do for this woman you call
Calamity, in our old Rebellion Days."

Eleanor was sitting on the arm of her father's leather chair.  The
sheepman glanced up warningly, but Matthews was going ahead full steam.

"We're both older than we were in those days, MacDonald, older an'
wiser, an' for m'self, A should add, a good bit steadier!  You, y' were
always a sober-faced secret lad, MacDonald; an' till yon day in front
o' th' Agency house, A don't think, A hardly think, we men knew what a
devil was in y'!  A can see y' yet as y' kicked th' gun out o' yon
blackguard's hand an' let him take the load o' buckshot square between
th' shoulders!  'Twas a handsome thing o' you to take th' poor buddy in
an' give her a shelter!  How does she come to call herself Calamity?"

MacDonald's foot came down on the floor with a clamp, and he rose.
"She didn't.  'Twas the miners in the Black Hills.  She used to bring
in so many hard-luck chaps, shot up by the Sioux, bring 'em in on her
shoulders from the hills to the camp, that the boys got to calling her
Calamity.  She had lost her good looks, and--" MacDonald shot a glance
of warning in the direction of his daughter--"and the same old story, I
guess; she was off the market!  One of my trips to the mining camps up
state, I found her in a mess of rags picking crusts out of the garbage
barrels along a back lane!  I brought her back with me.  Gave her a
week's soak in the bath house--" he paused as if reflecting, "and that
it seems was foundation enough for the hog-wash that appeared in one of
the papers here.  Suppose we take a walk as we discuss old days; they
were pretty wild days for discussion before a girl, who didn't know her
dad before she was born."

And Eleanor went out on the Ranch House piazza off her room, while the
two frontiersmen strolled down the river.  How different her outlook on
life was from two months before when reference to Calamity had called
up mingled fury and horror.  Now that she understood, anything in this
Western Country might be possible, and understandable, and explainable.
She had his hurried pencil note where she could feel it, under her
locket; only the locket was outside above; and the fly leaf of that
field book was inside next.  "Dick (nth)," he had signed himself; and
he had not come down.  She could see the dark shadowy Ridge from her
piazza chair, and hear the subdued laughter and lipping of the waters,
and he was there--not a half hour's walk away--and he had not come.
There was a full moon.  She could see its silver sheen on the River, on
the tremulous poplar leaves, sifting through the pine needles and in
opal wings round the far luminous cross of snow on the mountain.  The
night hawks and the swallows dipped and darted and cut the air with
humming wings; and once the wire gate squeaked to some one entering.
Eleanor sprang up with her heart beating so that she could not speak;
but it was only a white hatted youth in light gray flannels asking
Calamity at the basement door "when MacDonald would be back."  Did
Eleanor imagine it; or did the citified young person in the gray
flannels with the red necktie look up towards her hesitatingly, with
the suggestion of an ingratiating smile in the pale blue eyes, a
suggestion which she could not define but which somehow infuriated her?
Poor pale anaemic youth!  He was not used to having his waiting smiles
met by the blaze of red fury that flashed to her eyes.

"Calamity, if that person wants anything, tell him to go out to the
bunkhouse and see the foreman."

Then, she sank back in her chair both glad and sorry in one breath that
Wayland had not been there.  She shut her eyes to drink again of the
memories that had sustained her all these weeks; and felt the lift and
fall of the note his hand had written, pulsing to the rhythm of her
breathing; but the memories failed her.  Memories were for absence; and
he was here; and he had _not_ come.  If only he would come now, how she
would greet him, holding him unflinchingly to his resolution, of
course, and of course; but as a kind of second thought in the back of
her head, the under motive beneath all the clamor of light upper notes,
she knew to the inmost core of her being that she was wishing he would
come now because her father was out and she was alone and could greet
him as flesh and spirit, heart and mind, cried out to greet him; to
touch him; to spend themselves upon him in a fierce proud abandon of
love and gladness; to give and take, and give and take again, till,
till--what?  Was this the way to keep him standing strong to his
resolutions?

And shall we blame her?  Does the beautiful thing we call life spring
from postulates and rules and mathematics; or from the spirit's altar
fires?  And I confess I never see the thing we call vice but I wonder
did it not spring from the burning of the refuse heap, which poor
humans have mistaken for altar fires?

She heard her father come in late, slamming the mosquito door behind
him, and pass across the dark living room to his own chamber without
saying good night.  Once, she thought she saw a white sailor hat
through the cottonwood hovering along the road.  Then, as she looked,
the white sailor seemed accompanied by a panama; and she crept into her
room with fevered hands and heavy heart, snacking the mosquito door
behind her.  There was the companion bang of a door being hooked below,
old Calamity keeping watch as usual and only turning in, when she heard
Eleanor going to bed.  Eleanor waited till all was quiet.  Then, she
drew the burlap portiere across the mosquito door, and lighted her
candle, and began writing,--writing what?  Was it some dildo of
oriental song she had read in Europe; was it the burden of some Indian
chant stirring vaguely in her unconscious blood; or was it but the
simple love cry of primitive Woman, of that woman who wandered round
about the streets of Jerusalem calling her lover?  "My flesh cries out
to touch you, my beloved," she wrote; "my hands are hungry to touch
you, and my spirit is hungrier than my hands.  When you were absent, I
drank of memories; but now, you are back, the shadow waters have gone;
I must have the living.  If I could see you but once, I know this wild
longing would lie down and be quiet."  She stopped writing.  Would it?
Would it lie down and be quiet with just a look?  A look would be a
deep drink of living waters, she knew that; but would it, would it lie
down and be quiet?  She didn't intend ever to stop loving him.  As long
as she loved him, and stayed where love could grow by what it fed on,
would it lie quiet?  Was this keeping him strong to his resolution?

She tore the paper to tiny atoms and burned the scraps bit by bit on
her metal paper knife above the candle.  Then, she blew out the candle
and drew his soiled field-book leaf from her breast.  She fell asleep
with her head on her arm, and her lips pressed to that fool-thing he
had signed at the bottom of his note, "Dick (the nth)," whatever that
meant.

There was no mistaking it next morning at breakfast.  She felt strung
and upset; and her father looked at her strangely; and Matthews was so
keen on covering the general embarrassment that he aimed too far in the
other direction, rattling off such a fusilade of Western stories that
they sounded hollow.  She forgot her own confusion studying the two
men.  How stooped her father looked!  He looked, what was it?  Like a
man who has waited a long time for something to come, and when it has
come, found himself too sad to seize it.  His eyes looked as if he had
not slept; and Eleanor now observed that the frontiersman's sun-burned
nose had a suspicious shine at the end.  If she had not been undone
from her own bad night, she would have helped their efforts to cover
embarrassment; but now a horrible thought came; a thought born of the
low innuendo in the scandal story; and the thought finished her.  She
felt her self-control going and rose and fled round the end of the
table to her room.  The old frontiersman stopped mid-way in his story
of the brats of Blackfoot boys stealing every stitch of his clothing
one day he was bathing in Lower Saskatchewan.  Her father jumped to his
feet and threw out one arm to stop her.  That finished Eleanor.  He had
never done such a thing before.  The only time he had ever shown
affection was that night when she had read the scandal in the paper and
he had reached up his hand and taken hers.  Now, he held her in his
arms, bowed, broken, unspeaking.  The tears came in a rain.  She did
not hide her face after the manner of tenderly nurtured shrinking
women.  She faced him with wide open lashes and brimming eyes and
burning defiance.

"Father, you don't doubt me, too, do you?"

"Doubt you?  My God no, child!  It's only I never knew how much I loved
you till I realized I might have to part with you."

How strange and non-understanding and non-understandable these men
creatures were!  Eleanor looked at him; and looked at him.  Then she
threw her arms round his neck and kissed the dark sad silent face with
a frightened tender fervor; and do not laugh, dear reader; for it is
only on the stage that the graceful altogether elegant curtain-drop
comes; but the old frontiersman had somehow got himself outside the
screen door, and immediately on that kiss came through the mosquito
wire such a thunder clap of pulpit artillery as is the peculiar
prerogative of some large gentlemen when they blow their nose.
MacDonald and Eleanor both burst out laughing; and Eleanor noticed it
was a large red cotton one, two for ten they sold in Smelter City.


And all the while, Wayland sat crunched in the chair of the Cabin,
gazing and gazing at the face in the picture above "the Happy Warrior,"
till the light faded from the Holy Cross and the moon beams struck
aslant the timbered floor, and Calamity's shadow stood in the doorway
with a basket on her arm.

"Meesis Villiam send up y' supper," she said.

Wayland ate mechanically.  He did not know that he was bursting out
with angry words all through the meal.

"To think, they'd stoop, they'd dare to splash their filth and hog-wash
on her skirts, to hurt me?  Well, they've got me, Calamity?  They've
got me, old girl!  But they've got me in a way they don't expect!  You
Indians knew the courts were a fraud and lie.  They'd have cleared this
kind of blackguardism up with a knife.  Well--so will I; but it will be
another kind of knife.  You can't out-Herod a skunk; but you can bury
it, Calamity, eh, old girl?  We'll bury 'em so deep next election,
they'll never see daylight: then we'll pile this pack of exposure on
'em so high they'll never get up again.  We're out for scalps,
Calamity!  No more fighting in the open, eh?  We'll spring it on 'em
the way you Indians put a knife in a man's back."

"Iss it Moy-eese, heem keel little boy?" asked Calamity softly.

Something in the soft hiss of the words made the Ranger turn.  There
was a mad look in the glint of the black eyes, and the hands were
kneading nervously in and out of the palms.

"Yes, damn him, it is Moyese, who is at the bottom of all this
deviltry; but don't you worry, Calamity!  We're going to get his scalp!"

He paced the Ridge half the night planning his campaign.  He would go
first thing in the morning and get that child's story of the mine and
the "dummy" entryman.  Then, he would get that Swede's affidavit before
the thick-tow-head realized what he was after.  Then, he would get a
trained geologist for the examination of the mine, not that flannelled
kindergartner, stuck full of bureaucratic self importance as he was of
ignorance.  Then, he would surprise them by doing absolutely nothing
till election time, then "plunk" it all on them through the opposition
paper, and stand back, and take his dismissal!  Oh, his midnight
thoughts raced, as yours and mine have raced, when we have been struck
by sorrow, or blackmail, or motiveless malice!  He could not make sure
of it; but once as he paced near the Ridge trail he thought he
saw . . . was it a form in flannels accompanied by a figure resembling
Bat's sauntering slowly down to the Valley?

When Wayland dwelt a moment on what such a conjunction of observers
might mean, his thoughts jumped.  Could Brydges have done it?  Back in
the Cabin, the face in the picture seemed sentient and shining in the
gloom.  It was an absurd notion, of course; for the picture was a
shadowy thing in dark sepia; and there was no light but the silver
reflection of the moon from the Holy Cross.  The Holy Cross,--what was
it she had said?  Nothing worth while ever won without someone being
crucified?  How absurdly small, how remotely contemptibly impossible,
the scandal thing seemed anyway, as though a skunk could obstruct the
avalanche of the massed snow flakes by sending up his malodorous stench
across the path of the Law!  And he loved her and he had her love, and
he had known the highest blessedness of life, and nothing could take
the consciousness of it from him!  Wayland went to sleep dreaming
fool-things about the face in the picture.  Of course, you never
dreamed them, sleeping or waking.  At break of day, he picked a sprig
of mountain flower, and did certain things to that framed picture, and
rode away to his day's work.


"Let's go up and see that little runt of an Irish lassie," Matthews had
suggested in the afternoon; and they were leisurely climbing the Ridge
Trail, the old frontiersman yarning and yarning of the dear good old
days; Eleanor thinking her own thoughts.  They met a downy-lipped youth
in gray flannels and Mr. Bat Brydges wearing a panama hat and an
"Oh-I-know-it-all" air.  Both dabbed at their hats to the old man; but
Matthews saw them not till they had passed when he stopped and turned
with a look over his shoulder and a grunt.  Eleanor had not learned yet
what had happened to the Sheriff; but somehow the old frontiersman's
look gave her a satisfaction.  Where a crag jutted out from the face of
the Ridge and some spruce saplings spanned a spring trickling down from
the rocks, Matthews stopped.  This was the place!  Old rascal!  How did
he know?  Has age ever been young?  Eleanor did not know that he was
looking at her, did not know that her face was wrapped in mystery and
light.  Suddenly he placed both hands on her shoulder.

"Eleanor, y'r a magnificent woman!  Y' don't mind me callin' y' a
woman?"

It was his highest compliment.

"Y're braver than my wife; an' she's the bravest o' them a'!  D' y'
know that my wife came half way round the world t' marry me an' go
penniless to th' Indian Reserve?  D' y' know when she found the Indians
sick, d' y' know she went East an' took a full four years' medical
course t' be able to attend them?  D' y' know she goes all over the
Reserve day an' night an' for three hundred miles among th' settlers to
attend th' sick?  But duty with us is easy.  We're rich.  Duty brought
us together!  Duty's goin' t' push y' apart; an' y're not complainin'."

Eleanor could not answer.  What was there to say?  They went on up the
Ridge Trail, Matthews still talking to let her think her own thoughts.
There was the story of the last great buffalo hunt at Battleford; of
his first buffalo hunt when he had broken away from the other hunters
in his early boyhood days and the buffalo bull had got him down in a
crack of the earth under its feet.  And there was the story of his
first Synod Meeting, "when A came all wild an' woolley out o' the West!
My five brithers were there; they were a' preachers!  One is the
bishop!  Oh, A guess they were on needles an' pins for fear o' what A'd
do!  A'd been in the West so long, A didn't know enough not to go
shirtsleeves down the streets o' Montreal!  Well, been a hot day!
'Twas an evenin' meetin'!  All the missionaries to th' Indians were
givin' experiences.  One got up an' he wanted th' _dear sisters_ to
raise a little money to build a fence; a fence, y' understand?  An'
another got up an' wanted th' _dear sisters_ t' have a sewin' bee,
gossip buzz, A call 'em, to raise a little money for the Lord t' build
a school.  Losh!  A stood it long as A could!  Then A jumped up!  'Twas
a hot night, an' A'd ripped off m' coat!  A'm no sure my collar hadn't
slumped t' a jelly, too!  Says I, 'If y'r reverences will excuse a
plain Western man speakin' plain Western speech, A want t' say A don't
like t' hear strong well able-bodied men whinin' an' beggin' th' _dear
sisters_ t' help them.'  Says I, 'If th' brothers will just peel off
their coats an' build their own fences, they'll find the Lord 'ull help
them without any whinin' an' beggin'!  Peel off y' coats, an' y'r dude
duds,' says I, 'an' go t' work, an' don't insult God Almighty an'
disgust the women folk wi' that milk-sop bottle-baby rubber-ring talk.'"

"What did the meeting say?" asked Eleanor, surprised out of herself.

"Oh, A dunno that they said much at all!  They kind o' stomped, tho'."




CHAPTER XXIII

IT AIN'T THE TRUTH I'M TELLIN' YOU: IT'S ONLY WHAT I'VE HEERD

They were opposite the Cabin.  Now, by all the tricks of stage-craft
and story-craft, the Ranger should have been standing posed in the
doorway; but he wasn't.  So different is fact from fiction--so much
harder, always; so brutally inconsiderate of our desires; so much more
surprisingly beautiful than we can desire.  The door stood open and
empty.

"Wait!  A want to leave a note," said Matthews.

"May I look in and see what bachelor confusion is like?" asked Eleanor.

She wanted to see if he had noticed the framed picture.  Noticed--bless
you?  The thing hung skugee on its nail; and there was a sprig of
mountain everlasting stuck in the wire; and Eleanor would really have
liked to see whether the glass above that picture were blurred.  She
leaned over the couch examining it while Matthews wrote a note; and she
went hurriedly out of the door hot of face and happy.

The old man's note read: _We're going along to the Ridge to see that
little Irish runt.  If you chance back, will you happen along to see
the old man.  I'll keep her till six._

"It ain't the truth I'm tellin' y': it's ownly what I've heerd."

Meestress Lizzie O'Finnigan stood in the opening of the tent flap, a
lonely little face, a lonely little figure in her tawdry rags, a lonely
little soul in the great lone Forest, like a little mite lost in the
big universe, Eleanor thought.  She was telling them about the
"Throuble expected at th' moine; an' faather bein' on hand t' take a
fist; an' th' gen'leman from Waashin'ton waitin' for the Ranger man t'
come back; an' th' goin's on raported in the paphers.  Ah, h' waz a
baad man, wuz the Ranger, faather said."

"Do _you_ read the paper, little one?" broke in Matthews.

"_Nut_ the print, sor, but I do th' pitchers; an' th' murthers; an'
thim's all pitchered out plain so I can read!  Faather sez he wun't
have his independence proposed upon; if th' don't give him twinty
thousan' fur settin' toight here, he'll peach; but about th' mine, th'
Ranger man iz expected t' make throuble, an' faather iz all powerful
quick with his fist, sor, 'specially when he's in drink; an' he's t' be
on hand.  It ain't th' truth I'm tellin' y', sor; it's ownly what I've
heerd."

"And if you sit tight here for five years, you are going to be
wealthy?" asked Eleanor, taking her by the hand and leading her out to
the woods.

The unwonted act almost startled the little face.  She looked up at
Eleanor questioningly.  "Y's, mam, waal-thy," she said.  "Faather sez
when we're waal-thy, he'll be a gen'leman an' Oil be a loidy."

"All you need, to be a lady, or a gentleman is, to be wealthy?  Is that
it?" asked the old frontiersman laughing.

"Yes, sor," said the child solemnly, "Faather wull shure be a
gen'leman."

"Do you like living here?" asked Eleanor.

"No, mam, I don't think much of it!  In Smelter City, there wuz
curcuses; an' elephants on _all_ the bills of fare; an' loidies dancin'
on th'r heads!  Faather sez if I keep on dancin' as foine as I do now,
mebbie I'll be able t' dance on m' head; but I wouldn't like to dance
without any skeerts, wud y'?"

"No, A wouldn't," answered the preacher quickly; and Eleanor laughed.

It was all so ludicrously pathetic.  They asked her if she would not
like to come down with them to the Indian School; and she looked
wistfully and did not answer.  Oh, God of Little Children, where are
You?  Are the Lambs outside the fold not Yours also?

When they pointed out the creatures of the woods to her, they found she
did not know a squirrel from a chipmunk; and she pronounced the merry
chattering "odjus."  When a cat bird came tittering on his tail,
squeaking out every imaginary note of gladness and the frontiersman
explained that this fellow sang only _after_ his family had been raised
whereas the other birds sang _before_, she said he "wazn't as
interestin' as th' elephants on the bill o' fare."

"Let's see!  There's three trails here about!"  Matthews was cogitating
with his gaze on Eleanor.  "There's the one across to the Upper Mesas;
an' there's one back behind over th' shoulder of the Holy Cross down to
the Lake Behind the Peak; an' there ought to be one between, runnin' up
to the snows!  Think y'r good for climbin' over this windfall while A
carry this little puss on m' shoulder?  Steer for the snow ahead!
Don't mind my laggin' back!  Go on ahead an' wait for us!  A'm goin' t'
see if A can't mine down to some gold beneath th' slime o' th' slums!
It's not in the course o' nature that any child should be blind t' this
world, Miss Eleanor, if A can open th' doors for her!  Go ahead; an' if
y' find a good sittin' down place, just rest quiet an' wait for us an'
don't worry if we're long comin'!  If A can't make her love God's big
play ground, A'm no preacher!"

Eleanor laughed.  Her last mining down to veins of gold had not been a
particular success.  She looked back at the two; the massive thewed
frontiersman with the shock of white hair and ruddy cheeks and almost
boyish eyes; the little tawdry bundle of rags on his shoulder, with the
black hollow eyes full of nameless fear and nameless knowledge, and the
little old hard mouth with a dreadful tense sadness about the droop.
She heard the big genial voice with the roll of Scotch-Canadian
drawling out its r's, and the child's thin "Yes, Sor, m' Faather;" then
the child burst into a joyous laugh.  Eleanor wondered what he could
have said to elicit that laugh.  When she glanced back, the old
frontiersman had Lizzie standing on his outstretched hand holding to a
branch overhead peering in a deserted hawk's nest.  Even as Eleanor
looked, the little future acrobat went scrabbling up into the tree with
another joyous laugh.


Then, with that spirit of the child, which possesses us all when we
give ourselves to the genii of the woods, Eleanor was following the
long lanes of light between the giant spruces--the long lanes of light
that lead on and on and on, ahead of you; out over the edge of the
world into the realms of dreams and holiday and joy, where there is no
Greed, and there is no Lust, and there is no nagging Care, and there is
no Motiveless Malice spoiling things.  She looked up.  The gray green
moss hung festooned from branch to branch; and the light sifted down a
tempered rain of gold; and all the shiny evergreens shook gypsy
castanets of joy to the riffling wind.  She listened.  The voices
behind had faded away; and the air was vibrant of voiceless voices, of
pixy tambourines beating the silence.  There was a hush, the sibilant
hush of waters rushing down from the far snows of the Holy Cross; and a
flutter--the flutter of all the little leaves clapping their hands; and
a big voiceless voice of solemn undertone--the diapason of the pines
harping the age-old melodies to the touch of the wind's invisible
hands, melodies of the soul of the sea in the heart of the tree, of
strength and power and eternity.  As she listened, she could fancy some
vast oratorio voicing the themes of humanity and the universe and God.

Then all the little people of the woods came peeping through the
greenery surveying her, weighing her, examining her, testing her spirit
of good or ill.  A little squirrel went scampering up one huge tree
trunk and down another, just a pace ahead, scouting for the other
pixies of the woods, till with a scurr-r-r and chitter--chipper--ee, he
whisked back in his tracks.  "She's all right, people," he said.  Then
a whisky jack flitted from branch to branch of the under brush--always
just a step ahead, not saying as much as was his custom, but peeking a
deal with head cocked from side to side.  "No," said Eleanor, "I have
no camp crumbs: you go back."  The little red crested cross bill
twittered in front of her from spray to spray of the purple fire weed
and fern fronds; then, concluded that she was only a part of this out
door world, anyway, and went back about his business on the trail
behind.  Two or three times, there was a vague rustle in the leaves
that she couldn't localize--water ouzel in moss covert, or hawk babies
in hiding, or--or what?  She couldn't descry.  Then, suddenly, with a
hiss--ss and swear plain as a bird could swear, a little male grouse
came sprinting down the trail to stop her, ruff up, tail spread to a
fan, wings down, screaming at her in bad words "to stop! to stop! or
he'd pick her eyes out!"  Eleanor naturally stopped.  There was a
rustle and a flump; and a mother grouse whirred up with her brood--a
dozen of them Eleanor counted, was it a second family? babies just in
feather, clumsy and heavy of wing; and the little man ducked to hiding
among the dead leaves.  Eleanor peered everywhere.  There was not the
glint of an eye to betray hiding.  She laughed and looked back for
Matthews and his little pupil.  A turn of the lane shut off all view;
and again, she had that curious sensation of a vague movement back
among the evergreens.  She glanced forward.  The light was shut off by
a huge pile of windfall giant tree on tree, moss grown, with cypress
and alder shoots from the great, broad dead trunks, a pile the height
of a house.  Passage round the ends of the up-rooted trunks led back
through the brushwood.  Eleanor stepped to the lowest trunk and began
climbing over the pile by ascending first one trunk, then back up
another.  Almost on the top, she paused.  It was that same vague
rustling movement, too noiseless to be a noise, too evanescent for a
sound.  She parted the screen of shrubbery growing from the prone
trunks and peered forward.

The same lanes of gold-sifted light leading over the edge of the world
through the aisled evergreens, but at the end a glint as of emerald,
the sheen of water with the metal glister of green enamel, water
marbled like onyx or malachite, with the reflection of a snow cross and
dun gray shadows--shadows of deer standing motionless at the opening of
the aisled trees--come out from the forest at sundown to their drinking
place.  Lane of light?  It had been a lane of delight; and that was
what all life might be but for the Satyr shadows lurking along the
trail.  There were two or three little fawns, just turning from ash
coat to ochre gray, nuzzling and wasting the water; and one of the year
old deer had turned its head and was sniffing the air looking back, a
poetry of motionless motion, all senses poised.  Eleanor held her
breath.  If only the other two would come: yet she had put back her
hand to warn them if they should come; and stood so, looking and
listening.  She remembered afterwards by the nodding of the blue bells
she had known that the wind was away from the deer to her.  There was a
quick step on the lowest log.  She stretched back her hand to signal
quiet.  The quick noiseless step came up the logs like a stair--winged
feet.  She turned to see what effect this fairy scene would have on the
little denizen of the slums.

It wasn't the frontiersman at all.  It was the Ranger; and she had let
the screen of branches spring back with a snap; and the deer had leaped
in mid-air, vanishing phantoms; and her hands had met his half way; and
his eyes were shining with a light that blinded her presence of mind.
Then, he had drawn her to himself; and afterwards, when she had tried
to live it over again, she realized that she had lost count.

Shall we let the curtain drop, dear reader?  For you must remember you
are looking upon two sensible young people, who have resolved to keep
each other strong to their resolutions.  He had planned exactly how he
would conduct himself when this meeting came; guarded, very guarded, so
guarded she must know he was keeping a grip for both.  And she had
known exactly what she would do when he came: she would be frank,
perfectly frank and open; for had they not both taken the resolution?
And when she came to herself, it was as that night at the Death
Watch--her face thrown back and he was kissing the pulsing veins of her
throat, saying in a voice between a breath and a whisper--"When one has
ached in the Desert for seven weeks, one is pretty thirsty."

"Let me go, dear!  This wild happiness is a kind of madness."

"Give me all you have for me in but one more!"  He bent over her face;
when he released her, she was faint.

He offered her hand-hold down over the tree trunks to the lake; and
when their feet touched solid earth again, took a grip of the situation
to relieve her embarrassment and began talking furiously of the Desert
ride and the dream face that had twice saved his life.  Eleanor stopped
stock still.

"Why, _that_ was my dream," she explained; and their hands met half way
and before she had finished telling, it had happened all over again.


They were standing on the margin of the lake.  The sun was behind the
peak, and the wine glow lay on the snow cross, and the topaz gate was
ajar again to the new infinite life, and I think they were both a
little bit afraid.  An old world poet has said something about fools
rushing in where angels fear to tread.  The mountaineer expresses the
same thought in his own more picturesque and I think more poetic
vernacular, certainly it is a vernacular _next_ to life rather than
books.  It is an axiom that "only the most blatant tenderfoot, the most
tumble-footed greenhorn, will monkey on the edge of a precipice."

The marbled water shadows deepened to fire in the Alpine after glow;
and the little waves of the lake came lipping and lisping and laving at
their feet.

"There is no use trying to tell about it or talk it out," burst out
Wayland.

"Don't," said Eleanor.  "Mr. Matthews told us much last night: and I'll
dig the rest out of him the next time I see him."

"I'm not talking of the Desert.  I'm talking of you.  It's so
God-blessed beautiful, Eleanor!  I used to think and think in the
Desert what this would be like; and it's so much more beautiful than
one could hope or guess.  Don't you think there must be something in
God and Heaven and all that?  Love is so much more beautiful than a
fellow could possibly think?"

"Don't you think they'll be wondering about us?" asked Eleanor.

"Pooh, no!  Matthews told me to come on here and find you!  He's just
back there a little way."

"Did he plan this?"

"Course!  How do you suppose I knew where to find you?  You see now why
I must not see you, if we are to keep our resolutions?"

"Yes, I see!  Let us go back."

It was on the lake side of the logs that Wayland paused.

"I don't _think_ they could see through those logs?" he said.

Eleanor burst into a peal of laughter and ascended the fallen trunks as
if they had been stairs.

They came on the other two sitting squat in the middle of the trail;
and if the windfall had been opaque, one of the two wore an expression
on his face as if he had guessed.  He was tossing a handful of little
pebbles up from his palm and catching them on the backs of his knuckles.

"We didn't make much o' the woods an' birds," he remarked with a
twisted smile, "but man alive, we can play jacks!"

Don't smile, self superior reader!  It takes some little time to
manufacture a snow slide out of snow flakes; and it may be the law that
it also takes some little time to manufacture a soul out of slime.

Passing the Cabin, they again encountered a downy-lipped youth in gray
flannels accompanied by a fat gentleman with tortoise-shell eyes and a
tallow smile; but the jaunty dimples of the fat man, the supercilious
lift of the gray flannel's eyebrow--froze mid-way at sight of Meestress
Leezie O'Finnigan, who bowed to Bat with the gravity of a mother
superior.

"It ain't the truth I'm tellin' y'": Lizzie was loquaciously going over
the story for the twentieth time, "It ain't the truth I'm tellin' y',
y' onderstand; it's ownly what I've heerd."

The Ranger dropped out of the group at the Cabin.

Bat stood bellicosely scowling at the three figures receding down the
Ridge Trail.

"What in Hell is that old parson doing with that Shanty Town kid?  He'd
better keep his oar out of this."

"It's a free country," said Wayland dryly.  "Can I do anything for you?"

"We came up to notify you that the mine will be examined to-morrow,"
announced the downy lips.




CHAPTER XXIV

I AM UNCLE SAM

"So they would examine the mine to-morrow?  So they had sprung the
examination of the coal veins before he could obtain a Government
Geologist, and the coal would be pronounced worthless, as the coal
involved in the Alaska cases was pronounced worthless by another
kindergartner when that contest was impending.  Then, they would argue
and consider and send up briefs and send down decisions on the value of
the coal till the statutory time had expired and the law of limitations
would bar suit for restitution.  Meanwhile, Smelter City Coking Company
were using half-a-million tons a year, and sending away as much again;
but on the word of an ignorant bureaucratic cub, the coal was to be
worthless and the brazen steal of public property to be sanctioned by
law.  How much mineral land had been stolen in the very same way in the
last ten years, first homesteaded by 'the dummy' foreigner, then for
five, ten, one-hundred, two-hundred at most three-hundred dollars a
quarter section on false affidavit as to entry, length of residence,
age of homesteader, turned over to the Ring, whose sworn valuation of
the coal ran from $20,000 to $40,000 an acre?"  Personally, Wayland,
as he thought it over, knew of fifty-thousand acres of coal so
stolen in Colorado and as much again in Wyoming; not to mention
three-hundred-thousand acres of gold and silver lands looted in the
South-West.

_And the looters were the party shouting at the top of their voices
about "vested rights" and "attacks on property" and "demagoguery
producing national hysteria."  Where was the respect due "the vested
rights" belonging to Uncle Sam?  What about the piracy and plunder of
the property belonging to Uncle Sam?  Why was it valor to throw a
burglar looting your house out by the neck, and "hysteria" to go after
a burglar looting Uncle Sam?_

Wayland had once asked Bat Brydges these questions.  Bat had looked
pained at the Ranger's obtuseness.

"Wayland," he had exclaimed, "who is Uncle Sam?  I am Uncle Sam!  You
are Uncle Sam!  We are all Uncle Sam!  That's the beauty of democracy!
This property you are howling about is yours and mine; and when we go
in and develop it, we are only taking what is our own."

"What about the fellow who isn't in on a share?"

"Share?  Quit talking Socialism," Bat had commanded with a grand
gesture, leaving Wayland wondering _who_ were the real Socialists in
the Nation.

It came to him as he watched the panama hat and the white sailor going
down the Ridge Trail that you can't argufy national problems; nor
compromise on them; nor enter on any treaty of peace but the peace that
is a victory.  Brydges was Uncle Sam; and he thought one way.  The
Ranger was Uncle Sam; and he thought another way.  One was fighting for
the vested rights of the few.  The other was fighting for the vested
rights of the many.  It would have to be fought out, the fight would
have to come; and this coal case, like the Range War, was one of the
preliminary skirmishes to the Great National Contest.  Would the
people, who were paying fifty cents, a dollar, a dollar-and-a-half
extra for every ton of coal bought, because the coal areas were being
brought under the domination of one Ring, understand and waken up and
rally to the fight?  Or was it as Moyese had declared with the most
open and genial cynicism that "the public did not give one damn"?


The Ranger crossed over to the telephone and called up the MacDonald
Ranch.

"That you, Mr. MacDonald?  Matthews back yet?  Oh, gone across to the
Mission School?  No, nothing wrong: better not pay any attention to the
little Irish kid's babble of trouble at the mine!  They'd hardly dare
that!  Yes, I know they did on the Rim Rocks; but that was daring only
you and Williams: this would be daring the great Government of the
greatest Nation in the world!  Oh, that doesn't bother me!  The point
is--they haven't given me time to get a Government expert up here; and
this fellow is evidently a toady for Moyese.  I want an extra witness
on the quality of that coal: want a witness to prove it's being used
and shipped and sold.  Oh, no, not both of you, one will do, either you
or Matthews!  All right; will you go down by the early stage?  Better
not go down with me!  I'm going to set out now; ride down the Forest
Service trail, camp in the woods and expect to reach Smelter City about
ten in the morning.  If you leave by the six o'clock morning stage,
that will be plenty of time.  All right, either one of you!  Much
obliged!  Good-by!"


An hour from the time Eleanor had left him, the Ranger was on his
horse.  He did not go down the Ridge Trail.  He followed the National
Forest Trail along the edge of the Ridge away from the Holy Cross Peak,
down the forested back of a long foot-hill sloping and flanking the
Valley almost to Smelter City.  Locally, the sloping hill was known as
"a hog's back"; and it was where the hog's back poked its nose into the
Valley far below, that the tangle had occurred between the Forest
Service and the Smelter Ring.  Mining was permitted in the National
Forests, of course; but the mining areas must be obtained according to
law, and paid for, and operated individually, not homesteaded by the
"dummies," then turned into a consolidated ring of coal owners.  What
made this violation of law more flagrant than usual was the fact that
these homesteaded coal lands lay at an angle of almost ninety degrees
in a sheer wall; and it was an impossibility for any homesteader ever
to have put in residence on them.  Homestead entry, term of residence,
proof and title, all exhibited fraud on the face of the records; and
there wasn't a man in the Government Service who did not know that.
What unseen hand had juggled entries, title and proof through?  The
homesteaders had sold out long ago for a song, some for as little as
ten dollars a hundred and sixty acres.  The Ring had possession; and as
every man in the Land Service knew, the Government had pigeon-holed all
recommendations for legal action to compel restitution.  Would the
wheels of justice rest inert?  Would the presiding deity of justice be
so blind, if some poor man, a poor man, who was also Uncle Sam, stole a
ton of coal from the Ring operating these mines?  Why was it possible
to steal ninety-million dollars' worth of coal from the people, and not
permissible for one of the people to steal one ton of coal from the
Ring?  These were the questions Wayland asked himself as he rode down
the hog's back for Smelter City.


The trail down the hog's back sloped gradually and cut fifteen miles
off the distance to Smelter City by the Valley Road.  It was "the show"
trail of all the National Forests.  When supervisors came to inspect,
or visitors from the East who wanted to give accounts of having roughed
it without losing an hour of sleep or carrying any scars of stump beds,
or when Congressional committees came from Washington for a champagne
junket to report on all they hadn't seen--Wayland always conducted them
down the hog's back trail that ran along the backbone of the Holy Cross
lower slope.  He had built the trail, himself; much of it, with his own
hands; cut in the side of the forest mould and rock with an outer log
as guard rail; wide enough for two horses abreast and zig-zagging
enough to break the descent into a gradual drop and afford new vistas
at each turn, of the Valley below, of the Mesas above the Rim Rocks
across, and of the River looping and sweeping down to Smelter City.

He used to dream, as he rode down the bridle path, of the day coming
when all the vast domain of National Forests would be like that trail;
not a stick of underbrush or slash as big as your finger; not a stump
above eighteen inches high; all the scaled logs piled neat as card
board boxes; open park below the resinous cinnamon-smelling lodge-pole
line and englemann spruce, hardly a branch lower on the trees than the
height of a man; and such a rain of tempered light from the clicking
pine needles and whorled spruces as might have come through the rose
window of a cathedral.  A "show" picture of a properly conducted
National Forest has gone through all the magazines and newspapers--It
represents the piles of cordwood clean as piles of pencils, the trees
standing park-like with vistas and glades and opens beneath the tall
pinery.  Wayland knew in his own heart that his Forest was better than
that "show" picture.  No pictures could tell of the pine seedlings
stolen from a squirrel _cache_ scattered on the snows; the delicate
young pinery coming up among a protecting nursery of birch and poplar
and cottonwood.  No picture could show "the dead tops" cut out; the
"cheesy" rotten heartwood burning on an altar of sacrifice to the deity
of the forest; the markings on "the dead tops" and ripe trees and trees
with broken top "leaders" for the lumberman to come and harvest.  No
picture could give the jolly song of the cross-cut saw, the musical
ripping of the oiled blade through the huge logs, the odor of the
imprisoned sunbeams and flowers from the rain of the yellow saw-dust.
No picture could possibly tell you the life story of yon big tree, the
warrior of the woods who had beaten down all competitors and enemies
and wore his purple cones like the tasseled honor badges of a soldier,
with pendulous moving, plumy arms: yet to the eye of the Forester, the
life history was there, in the fluted grooved columnar bark, in the
knot scars where branches had been discarded to send the main trunk
towering above its fellows for light and air, in the wood rings, where
a branch had broken and fallen away in the struggle.  Why, this noble
fellow had been a straggling sapling a thousand years before the birth
of Christ!  Before Darius led his conquering hosts from realm to realm,
or ever Caesar knew life, or Christopher Columbus framed mast and spar
to discover America, this sun-crowned monarch had over-topped his
fellows, and met the challenge of the blasts of heaven, and drunk of
the wines of the dews of an immortal youth, and dieted on the ambrosial
ether of gods, and sent his seedling offspring sailing ten thousand
airy seas with the wind for master pilot and never a craft but the
gypsy parachute of a seed with wings shaken out from the cones purpling
to the autumn heat!

Air ships?  Had the modern world gone mad over air ships?  This fellow
had been sending out whole navies of air ships for thousands of years;
seeding the mighty mountains; fighting all rivals; travelling on the
wings of the wind, and if consumed by fire, then, like the phoenix
springing to new life from the ashes, sending forth fresh armadas from
the pendant purplish cinnamon-scented cones split open by the heat and
so releasing fresh winged seeds!

Wayland used to dream, as he rode down the hog's back trail, of the day
coming when all the National Forests would be a great park, the
people's playground, yielding bigger annual harvest in ripe lumber than
the wheat fields or the corn; yielding income for the State and health
for the Nation.  Germany did it.  Why couldn't America?  Why not,
indeed; except that she had not exterminated her pirates of the public
weal, her freebooters of the wilderness, her slippery fingered
pick-pockets, who shouted "_I am Uncle Sam_," while they picked Uncle
Sam's pockets?

Riding down the hog's back, you first left the larches and the junipers
below the snow line, the junipers beginning to show their berries, the
larches yellowing and shedding their golden shower to the approach of
autumn.  Then, a turn of the trail; and you were among the hemlocks,
funereal and sombre in the distance, wonderfully lightened when you
were below them by the sage-green moss and the pale silver blue lining
on the under side of the leaves.  Another turn or two, there came the
feathery sugar pine and the Douglas spruce--the monarchs of the
North-Western Forests--plume decked warriors carrying a glint of spears
with the scars of a thousand years and a thousand victories in the
wrinkled bark, with cones like tassels, and whorls like banners.  You
could count these whorls, or the scars of the whorls; and you had their
years; and the bluish green shade was restful as the repose of age.
The smell of them, it was like incense; incense to the deity of the
woods; and when the wind blew, every old evergreen harped the age-old
melodies of Pan.  And, oh, yes, there were warriors scarred from the
fight, fellows with corky arms and mottled streaks where the lightning
had struck and splintered.  Only the cheesy-hearted, the warriors with
maggots and grubs manufacturing punk out of heart-wood, for all the
world like humans infected by evil thoughts, only the hollow hearted
came down to earth with a crash in the fray.

Another turn, you were among the lodge-pole pines and englemann
spruce--pure park, Wayland always thought, the delight of a Forester's
heart; warm human open park places where you kept looking for deer
though you knew there weren't any.  In riding down the backbone of the
Ridge, Wayland always planned to camp under the lodge pole pines; it
was so cool, so rain-proof and sun-proof, with an almost certainty of a
mountain stream somewhere near, and if you had eyes to see, a game
trail down to the stream.  To-night, he went on down to the _Brule_, a
cross section of the mountain swept by fire years before the Forest
Service had taken hold in the days when millmen had been permitted to
take out windfall and burn free, and all a millman had to do to become
a millionaire in free lumber was set the incendiary fire going to
create windfall.  In his own district, Wayland knew two men who had
become rich in that way; but of course, _that_ was long ago.  The
Forest men had cleared out the windfall and burn; and now, the deity of
the woods, Nature, was at work!  By the moonlight, the Ranger could see
the pale chalky peach-bloom boles of the ghost birches, and the satiny
poplars and cottonwoods, turning gold to the approaching autumn but
going down gay, twinkling, laughing fellows to the year's death,
actually clapping their hands, shaking with glee, sending leaves down
in a rain of gold, which, it is to be hoped, the pixies picked up, the
pixies sailing the air in feather parachutes of flower and cone seed!
Wayland could see these airy ships between him and the silver
moonlight, dropping seeds--seeds--seeds; seeds of fire flower and
golden rod and hoary evergreen; shooting them out in tiny catapults;
sending them up in dandelion fluff and sky rockets; catching and
skimming the wind in airy canoes; tilting the winged sails to a whiff
and sailing, sailing, dropping the seeds of life for a thousand years!
And beneath the birches with the hundred eyes looking out from the
chalky faced bark, and the poplars laughing and shaking with glee, and
the cottonwoods showering down a rain of gold in their death; stood the
little pines seeded by the wind, nursed by the shade of the quick
growing trees.  Who would be living and loving and fighting and hating
and winning and losing when these little fellows rose to toss and
flaunt their victory in the face of the sky?  Was that the meaning of
life after all, the strength and thew, the valor and might of the fight
up?  Then, it was not such a bad way with the Nation.  The Nation would
be the better for this fight.  Certain, it was, the better side would
win.  Would it be the few like the sugar pine towering over its
fellows; or the many like the lodge pole pine and englemann spruce
standing in serried ranks of equal valor and power?

And if you think he could take that ride without wishing to the "nth"
degree that she could be with him to share the joy, then, I assure you,
you don't know to what music those gay, twinkling, trembling gold
leaves above the _Brule_ were beating time all night to the whisper of
the wind and rustle of the pixy parachutes sailing mid-air.




CHAPTER XXV

THE QUESTION IS--WHICH UNCLE SAM?

Before, it had been a race-reverie; a waiting, puzzled and uncertain
for the ways of life.  Now, it was the joy of life, the fulfilment for
which life had been created and waited expectant; and whether the ways
were any plainer in the new light, there was no room for wonder in the
fulness of joy.  Eleanor was glad the little bundle of tawdry loquacity
toddling between them kept up a constant stream of idle boastings on
the road to the Mission House, about being "waal-thy" and "Faather
shure bein' a gen'leman when they were waal-thy" and "herself as foine
as eny loidy in th' land," and more and more of the same, all the way
down the Ridge Trail; which was not so fatuous as it sounded, when it
voiced the convictions of a great many more people than the little
unwashed garlicky Shanty Town dancer.  Eleanor wondered if the same
arguments applied to the culture of horses and pigs and potatoes--size
instead of sort, fulness of stomach not quality of head, area of
possession not area of service.

The garrulous babble continued to the very doors of the Mission School,
and through the formalities of an absurdly formal introduction to Mrs.
Williams, and during the suppertime meal with the little Indian
children in the big dining room.  Eleanor noticed how Lizzie's lips
pursed with contempt at the other children and the little stomach poked
out with arrogance and fulness as the boasting waxed.

"That kind is the most hopeless of all," remarked Mrs. Williams in a
low voice, amused at the amazement on the faces of the Indian children.

Yet Eleanor was glad.  The babble gave her opportunity for withdrawal
in her own thoughts; and when she came back to the Ranch House with
Matthews, leaving Lizzie still boasting at the School, she hardly
noticed that her father stopped the frontiersman on the threshold, but
she passed out to the steamer chair on her own piazza.  What was _It_?
Eleanor could not have answered if she had tried.  She only knew that
she had drunk of the fulness of living, and that time could not rob her
of that consciousness.  It was there, forever with her, breathing in
every breath, pulsing in the rhythm of her blood, "Closer than hands or
feet," as the Pantheistic poet has sung, immanent, enveloping,
possessory, obsessory, warm, living, a flooding realization of life,
giving tone to every touch of existence, like the strings of the violin
to the bow of the skilled musician.  She wanted to sing; the long, low,
jubilant chant of womanhood which no poet has yet sung.  By the joy of
it, she knew what the sorrow of it must be.  By the purity, she
realized what the poisoning of the fountain springs of life could mean.
By the triumph, she realized what the defeat, the debasement could be.
She thought of love as a fountain spring, a spring into which you could
not both cast defilement and drink of waters undefiled; as an altar
flame fed with incense lighting the darkness; and one could no more
offend love with impurity, than cast the dung heap on the altar flame
and not expect blastment.  She wanted to clap her hands as the gay,
twinkling cottonwoods were clapping theirs to the sunset; to dance and
beat gypsy tambourines as the pines were throbbing and harping and
clicking to the age-old melodies of Pan.  She wanted--what was it?  Had
the Israelitish women of old timed their joy to the rhythm of the
dance; or was it a later strain, the strain from the tribal woman of
the plains who heard a voice in the music of the laughing leaves, and
the throb of the river, and the shout of the sun-glinted cataract, and
the little lispings and whisperings of the waves among the reeds?  The
stars came pricking out.  Each hung a tiny censer flame to the altar of
night and holiness and mystery.  She knew she could never again see the
stars come pricking through the purple dusk without feeling the stab of
joy that had wakened death to life when recognition had struck fire in
consciousness.  She knew, then, there was no eternity long enough for
the joy of _It_, nor heaven high enough for the reach of _It_, nor hell
deep enough for the wrong of _It_.


There was a click of the mosquito wire door opening out on her piazza.
It was her father.

"Matthews and I are going to take the fast team and the light buckboard
and drive down to Smelter City to-night.  Will you be all right,
Eleanor?"

"I?  Oh, of course!  Nothing wrong is there, Father?"

"Nothing, whatever!"  She remembered afterwards the shine and look of
lonely longing in the black eyes.  "We have to be in Smelter City,
tomorrow; think it best to drive down in the cool of evening!  Day
stage is a tiresome drive.  You'll be all right, Eleanor?"

If she could only have known, how she would have spent herself in his
arms; but it is, perhaps, a part of the irony of life that the best
service is silent; that the loudest service, like the big drum, is the
emptiest; only we never know the quality of that big drum till a
specially hard knock tests it.  She remembered afterwards how he half
hesitated.  He was not a demonstrative man, nor a handling one; only a
dumb doer of things next, regardless of consequences; and we don't
realize what that means till we are too old to pay tribute and they to
whom tribute is due have passed our reach.

"I, oh, of course I'll be all right!  Would you like a lunch or
something?"

"No, never mind!  Keep Calamity by you!  Go to bed early, have a good
sleep!  'Night," he said.  The mosquito door clicked and he had gone.
A moment later, the yellow buck board had rattled down the River road,
and her father did what he had never done before, he turned and lightly
waved his hat.

If Eleanor could have known it, he was saying at that moment:

"Matthews, you can fight the world, the flesh, and the devil; but you
can't fight against the stars."

The old frontiersman didn't answer for a little.  When he spoke, it was
very soberly:

"No, when it's that, you'll work for the stars spite o' y'rself!  Why,
A contrived the meetin' myself this vera afternoon; wha' d' y' think o'
that for an old fool?  A'll be goin' back empty handed, an' all m' own
doin'!"

"And I'll have built plans for twenty years on,--on the sands," and
MacDonald flicked the bronchos up with his whip.

There was a long silence but for the crunch of the wheels through the
road dust.

"MacDonald," said Matthews abruptly, "A'm goin' t' see this thing
thro'.  A don't mean y'r daughter's love; th' angels o' Heaven have
that in _their_ own charge!  A'm referrin' t' this mine thing!  There's
evil brewin'!  A'm goin' t' see this thing thro'; an' A make no doubt
y'r goin' to do th' same!  A'm no wantin' t' pry into y'r affairs,
MacDonald; but--is y'r will made an' secure?"

The sheep rancher flicked his whip at the bronchos and took firmer hold
of the reins.

"Copper rivetted," he said.


We call _It_ clairvoyance; and we call _It_ intuition; and we call _It_
instinct; and we might as well call it x, y, z for all these terms
mean.  We do not know what they mean.  Neither do we know what _It_ is.
We hear _It_ and obey _It_; and _It_ brings blessedness.  In the din of
life's insistent noise, we sometimes do not hear _It_.  That is, we do
not hear _It_ until afterwards when the curse has come.  Then, we
remember that we did hear _It_, though we did not heed it.

It was so with Eleanor after her father passed from the Ranch House
that night.  Afterwards, she knew that she had noticed the wistful look
on his face; but the memory of it did not come to the surface of
thought till she heard the click of Calamity's door in the basement and
recollected his words; "Keep Calamity by you."  Also, at that very
moment, a great gray racing motor car swerved out across the white
bridge from the Senator's ranch buildings and went spinning down the
Valley road, the twin lanterns before and behind cutting the dark in
the double sword of a great search light that etched the sheathed pine
needles and twinkling cottonwoods in black against a background of
gold.  Eleanor was perfectly certain she saw the same two hats in the
back seat that had met Wayland at the Cabin that afternoon.

"Calamity," she called down over the piazza railing.

The native woman came up the piazza stairs on a pattering run.

"Why has everybody gone down to Smelter City to-night?  Is anything
wrong?"

The Cree woman's shawl had fallen back from her head.  She stood
kneading her fingers in and out of her palms.  There was a strange wild
look in the dark eyes and her breathing labored.  "It ees Moyese," said
Calamity slowly.  "He 'xamin d' mine t'-morrow."

"Why, Calamity, that is perfect nonsense!  Moyese won't examine the
mine, at all!  This young fellow from Washington is the one to examine
the mine?"

Calamity continued to knit her fingers in and out.  "All 'same," she
said, "Messieu Waylan', he telephone Messieu MacDonal' come 'mine help
him t'-morrow!"

"Telephone my father?  Why, how could he?  I have been right here,
Calamity?"

"You go see Missy Villam, leetle gurl," explained Calamity.  "Messieu
Waylan' he ride down hog back trail woods all night, 'lone!  He ring
ting--ling--says he go 'samin mine."

Then, the child's babble, the looks of the two at the Cabin, her
father's wistful face, the quick departure of Matthews and himself,
followed almost immediately by Moyese's motor, confirmed Calamity's
incoherent account.  Eleanor ran out to the telephone in the living
room, and rang for the Ranger's Cabin.  There was no answer on the
local circuit, and Central at Smelter City could only say "They don't
answer!  Try local!"

Yet why should she feel such alarm?  Had he not gone down to the
Desert, and come back, and she had not known fear?  Was the fear for
her father?  Was it her father's wistful look?  What could she do?
Would he wish her to do anything?  This, too, was on the Firing Line,
but reason how she would, she could not subdue her fears, nor keep the
tremor from her hands as she ran back to the bed room dimly lighted by
the candle above the desk at the head of the bed.

"Calamity, you don't think there is any danger to Father?"

Then Calamity did the strangest thing that ever Eleanor had seen her
do.  She had thrown off the shawl.  She had drawn herself up on
moccasined tip-toes, and seemed suddenly to have thrown off age and
abuse and disgrace and rags and sin, with her eyes fixed stonily on the
far spaces of her wrecked youth, the lids wide open, the whites
glistening, a mad look in the dilated pupils shining like fire; and her
fingers were knitting in and out of her palms.

"M' man," she whispered, "dey keel heem, dey hang heem!  M' babee, dey
take it away, d' pries' he sing--sing an' wave candle an' bury it in
snow.  Leetle Ford, d' keel heem!  D' punish Indian man, d' hang heem,
m' man!  Moyese, he keel leetle Ford: he go free, not'ng hurt heem!"
She burst out laughing, low voiced cunning laughter.  "I go see," she
said.  "I ride down hog's back t' d' mine!  I go see!  Messieu
MacDonal'--He help me!  I help heem!  I go see," and before Eleanor had
grasped the import of the words, the woman had darted out into the
dark; and a moment later, Eleanor heard the basement door clang.  There
was the pound-pound of a horse being pulled hither and thither, leaping
to a wild gallop, then the figure of Calamity bare-headed, riding
bareback and astride, cut the moonlight; and the ring of hoof beats
echoed back from the rocks of some one going furious, heedless up the
face of the Ridge towards the hog's back trail.

Eleanor called up the Mission School telephone: Mr. Williams had heard
nothing; he didn't believe there was any cause for alarm; the child was
patently and plainly an astounding little liar!  About Calamity?  Oh,
yes, Eleanor was not to be alarmed!  She had gone off in those mad fits
ever since her baby died up on Saskatchewan.  It had been very
distressing; was in winter time, and she wouldn't release the dead
child from her arms; they had to take it from her by force; she always
came back after a week or two of wandering!  Would Eleanor like some
one to come over and stay in the Ranch House?  And Eleanor being a true
descendant of the Man with the Iron Hand flaunted personal fear; and
went back to a sleepless but not unhappy night in her room.  Why did
the news that Calamity's child had died bring such a sense of relief?


How simply does life deck out her tragedies!  There is no prelude of
low-toned plaintive orchestral music tuned to expectancy.  There is no
thunder barrel; or if there is a thunder barrel, you may know that the
tragedy is theatrical and hollow in proportion to the size of its
emptiness.  And there is no graceful curtain-drop between it and real
life, permitting you to rise from your place and go home happy.

MacDonald was stepping into the bucket to descend the last shaft of the
mine when something on the edge of the _Brule_ arrested his glance; in
fact, two things: one was Calamity coming out from the trail of the
hog's back through the young cottonwoods and poplars, riding bareback
and looking very mad, indeed; the other, was O'Finnigan from Shanty
Town on foot, staggering and mad as whiskey could make him, coming up
the narrow rock trail from Smelter City.

"Go on," said MacDonald curtly to the others.  "I'll keep the notes
safe up here, and give Sheriff Flood a hand at the hoist!"

All had gone well, exceedingly well, in the examination of the mine.
It had begun sharp at twelve o'clock when the day shift came out with
their dinner pails.  It will be remembered the Ridge sloped down to a
burnt area, known as the _Brule_, overgrown with young poplars and
birches and yet younger pines.  The _Brule_ slanted down to a roll of
rock and shingle and gravel above the City known as Coal Hill.  It was
on the face of this hill that the mines lay.  You could see the black
veins coming out on the face of the cliff; and into the cliff
penetrated two parallel tunnels.  Up and down from these tunnels
rattled the trucks on serial tramways to and from the Smelter, weaving
in and out of the tunnel mouths like shuttles, run by gravitation
pressure.  If the mines were worthless, or worth only the five, ten,
and three-hundred dollars that the Ring had paid the "dummy"
homesteaders for each quarter section, these shifts of a hundred men at
a time, and trucks and tramways would have offered a puzzle to any one
but the downy-lipped youth, who had come to examine them.

When Wayland arrived at the mine with Matthews and MacDonald, he found
the federal investigator on hand with Mr. Bat Brydges, who was out for
news features, and the news editor of the "Smelter City Herald," who
somehow gave the Ranger a look mingled of smothered anger and
friendliness.  If Mr. Bat Brydges felt any embarrassment, he did not
show it.  Indeed, the handy man would have felt proud of the very
things of which he had accused the Ranger; and it is to be doubted if
the door of decent shame remained open; if, indeed, the harboring of
thoughts like the flocking of the carrion bird to putridity does not
pre-suppose a kind of inner death.  And as the party were donning blue
overalls to descend into the mine, who should come on the scene but Mr.
Sheriff Flood, "to see that ev'thing waz al' right," he explained,
exhibiting a protuberant rotundity due reverse of the compass that had
been most prominent when Wayland last saw him; and if the doughty
defender of the law felt any embarrassment, like the handy man, he did
not show it.  Indeed, this mighty man of valor could truthfully be
described as fat of brain, fat of chops, fat of neck, and fattest of
all in the rotundity of this strutting stomach.  In fact, he seemed
proud of that hummocky part of his anatomy and swung it round at you
and rested his hands clasped across it as he talked.

"Jis' thought I'd happen along!  Wife didn't want me to: women are all
skeery that way; but I jis' thought I'd happen along an' nut let her
know!"

"All sorts o' things might chance in a mine, mightn't they?" cut in
Matthews with a twinkle of his eye more merry than good natured.

The Sheriff smiled a sickly smile and ''lowed they could'; and
everybody walked into the lowest tunnel leaving the fire guard lanterns
outside; for this tunnel was lighted by electricity.  As they all
walked in, the Sheriff was to the rear.

"Here, you, Mr. Sheriff," Matthews blurted out, going to the rear of
the procession, "seems to me my place is kind o' back o' behind o' you."

The Sheriff smiled a sickly smile and ''lowed it waz.'

Wayland took the record of the mine's output per day.  (It averaged a
net return of forty per cent. dividend on a capitalization of ninety
million.)  Then, he took the record of what the Smelter could consume
per day.  The difference must be used for shipment or storage.  Wayland
did the counting and measuring.  MacDonald jotted down the notes.  The
downy-lipped youth proceeded along the tunnel with an air of supreme
contempt.  It was as they were about to enter the second tunnel that
his superiority expressed itself.  Matthews afterwards said it was
because the black water drip or coal sweat was seeping through the
overalls.

"I don't see what we're delaying to take all these specific
measurements for anyway," he said.

"Don't you?" asked Wayland.  "Then I'll tell you!  I have the affidavit
of the most of the 'dummies' that the homestead entries were
fraudulent!  You could see that if you knew that men can't farm at an
angle of ninety!  In case that fails, I want proof that this coal is so
valuable it is being shipped out.  I want exact proofs of the exact
profits being made on the fraudulently acquired mines."

"What's your idea?  Shut 'em up from development for ever?" asked
Brydges belligerently.

"Brydges," said Wayland, "when you find you can't throw your pursuer
off the trail by the skunk's peculiar trick of defence, I'd advise you
to try kicking sand in the public's eyes and drawing a rotten herring
across the trail!  This time, I think you'll find, the public won't go
off the trail after the rotten herring.  They'll keep on after the
thief."

It was at that stage, Bat fell back abreast of the Sheriff, and
Matthews behind heard one of the two say, "Damn him, then, let him go
on and examine his bellyfull!  It's his funeral; not ours!"

Wayland not only examined the second tunnel above the first, but he
insisted on descending a shaft that had been sunk almost vertically
from the crest of Coal Hill to get a measurement of the veins, for
stoping, or cross cutting, or drifting or some such technical work, I
forget what; but the vertical shaft afforded estimates of the depth of
the veins.  Because it was not a regular avenue of work but only of
examination, it had not been equipped with steam hoist and electric
light, but was furnished only with such old fashioned hand winch as the
stage driver had described to Eleanor.  A huge bucket depended by cable
from the hand hoist.  It was as they were all lighting lanterns and
stepping in, that MacDonald took a look at the hoist and noticed that
the Sheriff was to give a hand at the winch.

"Not coming Brydges?" asked Matthews, who was already in the bucket.

"Oh, I guess I'm a pretty heavy man to go in that."

"Then, A guess you're afraid of what's goin' t' happen!  We're not
goin' down, without you, m' boy."

Bat winked at the Sheriff and clambered in.  It was then something on
the edge of the _Brule_ arrested MacDonald's glance; Calamity coming
through the cottonwoods mad and dishevelled, O'Finnigan reeling up from
the Smelter City trail mad with whiskey, waving a bottle and
shouting--"What's th' use o' anything?  Nothing!  I'm Uncle Sam!
Hoorah!"

"Go on," ordered MacDonald curtly.  "I'll keep the notes safe up here,
in my pocket, Wayland!  I'll stay and give Sheriff Flood a hand at the
hoist!"

The Sheriff looked for directions to Brydges.

"Let her go," ordered Brydges with a glance back over his shoulder
towards the trail from Smelter City; and the winch creaked and groaned;
and the bucket fell with a bump; then a steady drop to the first vein.
When Matthews looked up, the slant of the shaft had cut off the sky.
Brydges didn't bother clambering out of the bucket.  He was silent and
kept hold of the dependent cable.  Suddenly, there was a rumble as of
the hoist flying backward, then the whip lash of a taut rope snapping,
and the cable whirled down in a coil round Brydges' head.

"Gee whiz!  This is a pretty mess!  The cable's broke; and we can't get
up!"

"What's that?" called Mathews.  Wayland and the others were examining
the black wall of the shaft.

Matthews flashed his hand lantern in Brydges' face.  It was ashen
doughy, with sagged lips.  "Wayland, have y' on y'r mountaineerin'
boots, the boots pegged wi' handspikes?" cried the old frontiersman.
"The cable's broken; and A like t' see y' shin for th' top soon as
possible!"

Something in the voice must have caught the ear of the news editor; for
he turned back and flooded his lantern, first on Matthews' face, then
on Brydges'.

"You'll climb easier if you pull off y'r overalls and fasten y'r
lantern in y'r hat, Wayland," he said in the same cutting voice he used
in the hurry and rush of the composing room.

If Mr. Bat Brydges had been after a feature story, he had it then and
there; the tenebrous thick coal darkness; the drip-drip-drip of the
water-soak through the rock walls; Matthews' eyes blazing like coals of
fire in the dark, his lantern shining full on Brydges; the news editor
hatchet-faced, white of skin, with pistol point eyes, his lantern full
on Brydges; the downy-lipped youth white, terrified, chattering of
jaws, unable to speak a word, clutching to the edge of the bucket to
hide his trembling, his hat had fallen off, his lantern had fallen out
of his hand, and a great blob of black coal drip trickled from his
yellow hair down his cheek in front of his ear; and the handy man still
standing in the barrel, his face chalky and soggy like dough, with a
show of bluff, but unable to look a man in the face, gazing at his feet
in the bottom of the barrel:

"Gawd, Wayland!  Don't risk it!  Don't climb!  Wait a little!  They'll
wind her up and drop another rope down to us and--"


The Ranger had begun climbing.  They could see the shine of the lantern
in his hat against the black moist rock wall; up and up, slow, sure and
light of foot, swinging from side to side for hand grip; hands first
finding foot hold; then a leg up; and another foot hold.

"Look out fellows," he warned once.  "I might knock some of these small
rocks loose!"

Then, the light of the lantern disappeared at a bend in the shaft.

"It's a darned dangerous thing to do," pronounced the handy man thickly.

Not one of the men answered a word, and the silence grew impressive by
what it didn't say.


Once Wayland had turned the bend of the shaft, the rest of the way up
was easy.  Daylight was above, and the climb was a gradual slant over
uneven ridged rock; and with the grip of the pegs in his mountaineering
boots, he ascended almost at a run on all fours.

"Hullo up-there," he called, "what's wrong?"

There was no answer.  He ascended the rest of the way winged and came
out hoisting himself from his elbows to his knees with a deep breath of
pure air above the surface.  At first, daylight blinded him.  He threw
the lantern from his hat and blinked the darkness out of his eyes.

"It's all right fellows," he roared down the shaft, funnelling his
hands.


Then he looked.

Sheriff Flood was not to be seen.  Neither was MacDonald.  There seemed
to be no one.  The day shift were going back in the tunnels below.  The
windlass handle hung prone as a disused well.  It had not flown back
broken.  The cable had been cut.  Then, he heard a groan.  It was
Calamity lying on her face at the foot of the windlass, weeping and
reaving her hair.  Stretched on the grass a few paces back from the
windlass with two bloody bullet holes full in the soft of the temple,
lay MacDonald, the sheep rancher, beyond recall.

Wayland stooped and felt for the heart.

It was motionless.  The body was chilling and stiffening.  He looked
back at the face.  There was almost a smile on the lips; and one hand
hung as if fallen from the windlass handle.  A suspicion flashed
through Wayland's mind.  He could hardly give it credence.  It was
preposterous, unbelievable, like a page from the lawlessness of the
frontier a hundred years ago!  Yet hadn't this thing happened in
California, and happened in Alaska?  They would never dare to murder a
man conducting an investigation ordered by the great Government of the
greatest Nation on earth!  Yet had they not tried to assassinate
representatives of the great Federal Government down in San Francisco,
and shot to death in Colorado a federal officer sent straight from
Washington?  And these murders had not been committed by the rabble, by
the demagogues, by the anarchists.  They had been pre-planned and
carried out by the vested-righter, in defiance of law, in defiance of
the strongest Government on earth and up to the present, in defiance of
retribution.

Wayland tore open the coat and felt for the notes.  They were gone.  He
looked at Calamity.  A darker suspicion came.  Then, he caught the Cree
woman by the shoulder and threw her to her feet.

"Calamity who did this?"

"Th' trunk man, O'Finnigan!  Flood, he lead heem up; an' t' trunk man
shoot, shoot quick close--lak dat," she said snapping her fingers round
behind Wayland's ear against the soft of his temple.

Wayland's suspicions became a certainty.

"They will blame you," he said, "do you understand me?  They will prove
_you did_ it; and hang you!  Ride for your life!  Ride for Canada; and
hide!"

Was he thinking of Calamity or Eleanor?  But where was Flood; and where
was the drunken man?

He fastened a stone to the end of the cut cable, and with a shout began
dropping it down and down from the windlass.




CHAPTER XXVI

THE AWAKENING

By all the tricks of stage-craft and book-craft, of the copybook
headlines and platitudinous lies which we have had rammed down our
throats since childhood, virtue should have triumphed in the person of
the Ranger, because he fought regardless of consequences for right.
MacDonald, the sheep rancher, who went out of his way to enforce the
fair deal and the square deal, when he could very much more easily have
remained safely at home, a fire-insurance, bread-and-butter,
safety-guarantee Christian of the quiescent kind, MacDonald by all the
tricks of the-be-good-and-you-will-prosper doctrines, ought not to have
been shot down as he stood guard at the head of the mine shaft.

A very great many years ago, a very great Man, in fact, the very
greatest moral teacher the world has ever known, declared that the
milk-and-water, neither-hot-nor-cold, quiescent, safety-guarantee type
of Christianity was a thing to be spewed out of the mouth; but that was
a very great many years ago.  Time has softened the edge of that
passion for right.  Perhaps, He didn't mean it!  Perhaps, we have
permitted sentimentality to sand-paper down the fighting edge of
militant righteousness that goes out beyond the Safety Line!  To be
sure, bread-and-butter goodness is an easier matter than risking hot
shot beyond the Safety Line; and perhaps, a sentimental Deity may be
persuaded to allow us a little jam on our bread and butter if we sit
tight on the safe side with a fire-insurance policy in the shape of a
creed!  Personally, I wonder when we all take to joining the sit-tight,
safety-guarantee brigade, who is to stand on the outside guard?  Or is
there any modern Fighting Line?  Or does the Fighting Line belong to
the old Shibboleth legends of Canaanite and Jebusite and Perizzite and
God knows what other "ite"?  I hear these ancient gentry preached about
and the heroes who smote them hip and thigh extolled.  Personally, I am
a great deal more interested in the modern tussle for a promised land
than in those old time frays for a fertile patch in a sterile
wilderness; and I see the same call for the hero's fighting edge; and I
like the MacDonalds, who jump out from behind the Safety Line to fight
for right, though it bring but the bloody bullet holes in the soft of
the temple; and I like the Waylands, who take up the game trail to run
down crime though it bring the sword of dismissal dangling over their
own heads; and I like best of all the Matthews, who throw aside their
"skin-dicate contracts" to take up the game of playing as joyfully for
right as they have for wrong, "rich" (I wish you could have heard the
full way in which he said that word) "rich" on "thirty dollars a year
for clothes," spending self without stint, joyfully, unknowing of
self-pity, for the making of right into might, for the making of a
patch of human weeds into a garden of goodness.  Only, I would put on
record the fact that each man's reward was not the hero's crown of
laurel leaves, but the crown that their great prototype wore upon the
Cross.


Eleanor could not understand why she had been formally notified to
attend the coroner's inquest till the drift of the questions began to
indicate that this investigation like many another was not an
investigation to _find out_ but an investigation to _hush up_, not a
following of the clues of evidence but a deliberate attempt to throw
pursuit off on false clues.  In fact, there were many things about that
inquest which Eleanor could not fathom.  Why, for instance was the
local district attorney not present?  Why had the Smelter Coking
Company a special pleader present?  Why was the great Federal
Government not represented by an attorney of equal ability, instead of
this downy-lipped silent and incredibly ignorant youth?  Why was the
first session of the inquest adjourned till the burial of her father?
Why did the sheriff act as a mentor at the ear of the chief coroner?
Why did the justice of the peace acting as coroner listen to all
suggestions from the Smelter Company's attorney and the Sheriff, and
reject all suggestions from her father's friends?  Why was the
stenographer instructed to erase some evidence and preserve other?
What was the ground of discrimination?  If you doubt whether these
things are ever done, dear reader; then, peruse with close scrutiny the
first criminal trial that comes under your notice; and see if you think
that the term of the Old Dispensation 'wresting the judgment' has
become obsolete?  You don't suppose those long-whiskered old patriarchs
openly took the bribe in hand and right before the claimants, tucked
the loose shekels into the wide phalacteries of holy skirts--do you?


Yet, there were certain features of that inquest which awakened strange
hope in her breast.  It was held in the county court room; and the
crowd gathering to listen and hear somehow gave her a different
impression from the unwashed rabble that usually infests public courts
to feast on the carrion of criminal proceedings.  Men predominated, of
course; but they were decent men, men of standing, not idlers and
blacklegs.  As she passed up the aisle with Matthews and Mrs. Williams
to the front row of chairs where the news editor and Wayland and
Brydges and the youth from Washington were already seated, she heard a
man's voice say, "They've gone too far this time, by Jingo!  It will
take more than wind-jamming to win next fall's elections with this
against them."

"You bet there's an awakening," returned another voice.
"The-dyed-in-the-woollies don't realize yet; but they will waken up
after election day!"

The news editor had only finished giving evidence; on the whole
immaterial testimony; for suspicions do not pass with juries and
coroners.

"How was it you attended the examination of this mine?" was the last
question asked him.

Considering the Smelter City lots, for which the news editor had yet to
pay and the "kiddies" which he had to support, it would have been an
easy matter for him 'to slink' that question.  "A newspaper man's
pursuit of a good story" would have been answer enough to satisfy any
coroner; but the news editor did not give that answer.  He took off his
glasses and polished the lenses with his handkerchief.  Then, he put
them back on his nose and looked straight at the gentleman presiding.

"May I answer that question in my own way, taking plenty of time?" he
asked.  "I take it this inquest is being held to get at the real truth."

The coroner said, "Go ahead!"

The attorney for the Smelter City Coking Company sat up and whispered
something to Brydges.  The handy man turned lazily round.  "Yes," he
said, "one of our staff."

The news editor cleared his throat, and a little sharp intersection of
lines bridged above his nose.

"For some little time, it has been known in the Valley that a quiet
contest has been going on."

The attorney for the Smelter City Coking Company jumped to his feet.

"The witness should keep to a strict recital of fact, not rumors," he
interjected; and the downy-lipped representative of the Federal
Government said nothing about the privileges of a witness, or the
impropriety of a special pleader opening his mouth at an inquest.

"Confine yourself to facts," ordered the coroner heavily.

Wayland and Eleanor suddenly leaned forward.  The news editor rubbed
his glasses and resumed in a low clear tense voice.  How many of the
listeners had the faintest idea of what the recital cost him?

"I take it the object of this inquest is to ascertain facts.  If I am
to relate facts, I must repeat that for some little time it has been
known in the Valley that a quiet contest has been going on between the
people and certain interests which I do not need to name.  It was well
known in our office that the miners on Coal Hill had openly boasted no
Washington man was going to get away with any facts about mining
operations.  O'Finnigan of Shanty Town had boasted he had been brought
down from the Ridge for 'a surprise party' as he called it.  For some
little time, as news editor I had been dissatisfied with the reports of
this whole struggle: they struck me as exceedingly biased and
untruthful; in fact what the reporters call 'doped news'; 'news doped
by outsiders for special reasons of their own.'"

Bat's boot came down with a clump on the floor.  The attorney was up
again, glaring at the coroner.  The news editor cleared his throat.

"So I determined to go and see this thing for myself--"

"With the result," roared the attorney, "that you saw every facility
afforded for the most thorough examination of the mine."

There was a shuffling of feet among the men at the back of the room.
More men seemed to be crowding in.

"That," said the news editor aloud, sitting back beside Wayland, "That
effectually cooks my dough!  See that you fellows do as well!"

Eleanor was next questioned, most considerately and courteously.  Twice
she was interrupted.  The first time was when she repeated that her
father had said he expected no trouble whatsoever.

"I would call your attention to the fact, Mr. Coroner, that the
deceased gentleman assured his daughter he expected no trouble
whatsoever," called out the attorney.

The Sheriff leaned over and whispered to the coroner.

"Did the half-breed woman known as Calamity leave the Ranch House the
night before the examination of the mine?" asked the coroner.

It was when Eleanor was describing the mad look of Calamity that the
attorney again interrupted:

"Mr. Coroner, out of respect to the memory of the deceased gentleman
and to the member of his family present, I ask that the stenographer
strike out the record of the insane woman's babblings!  The fact is
established on the word of Miss MacDonald that the Indian woman set out
with the express intention of seeking her employer.  What she intended
to do when she found him, we cannot know; for the woman was plainly
insane and her word is worthless."

Bat wore a tallow smile.  The attorney's expression became inscrutable.
Sheriff Flood's face shone as a new moon.  The other faces were a
puzzled blank.

"You want to check that," whispered the news editor to Wayland.
Matthews was being questioned.

"Before A proceed t' answer y'r verra civil inquiries, Mr. Coroner, A
wud ask the privilege o' puttin' three questions!"

"Go ahead, Sir!"

"Why is the man O'Finnigan not here?"

"Still drunk," answered the Sheriff.

"Then, if A commit a crime, if A cut y'r throat, Mr. Coroner, all A
have t' do t' avoid awkward questions, is t' fill up?  Verra well!  Why
is the woman Calamity, herself, not here?"

"Can't be found," called Wayland.

"So that if A'm accused of a crime A know no more about than th' babe
unborn, all A've t' do t' rivet that crime on myself for life is not to
be found?  Verra well--"

"Sir," interrupted the coroner.

"A wud ask why is that little Irish lassie not here?"

Mrs. Williams explained that Lizzie, having exhausted the Indian
children with her boastings in two days, had lost interest in life and
run back to the slums.

"A always did say if y' took a pig out o' a pen an' putt it in a
parlor, 'twould feel lonesome for its hogwash," exclaimed the old
frontiersman running a puzzled hand through his mop of white hair.
Matthews also was twice interrupted in his testimony.  He was
explaining that he anticipated trouble about the mine from what had
already happened on the Rim Rocks when Wayland trod forcibly and
sharply on his foot; and all reference to the pursuit across the Desert
was omitted.  The coroner, it seemed, did not want any details about
the Rim Rocks.  The second interruption came when he began to quote
Mistress Lizzie O'Finnigan's words those afternoons on the Ridge.  The
attorney sprang up:

"As the child is an incorrigible liar and her father an incorrigible
drunkard, Mr. Coroner, I think it only fair to the Company that their
aspersions and reference to us be stricken off the records;" and the
coroner instructed the stenographer to erase all reference to Lizzie's
babbling.

The old frontiersman sat back with a dazed feeling that while he had
expressed anticipation of trouble at the mine, he had failed to give
proof or reason for that anticipation.

Brydges' evidence was innocuous to the very end.  The Sheriff had
whispered something to the coroner.

"Is there any reason why anyone in the Valley might harbor a grudge
against the sheep rancher?" asked the coroner.

Brydges hesitated as one who could say much if he would.  "Yes, there
is," he answered lowering his eyes and flushing dully.

It was the attorney again who was on his feet.

"Mr. Coroner, the dead cannot defend themselves.  Out of respect to the
deceased gentleman and the member of his family present, I think that
line of enquiry ought not to be recorded or pursued."

"The second time they have said that; what do they mean?" Eleanor asked
Mrs. Williams in a whisper.

Matthews was hanging on to his chair to hold himself down and the news
editor had leaned across Eleanor to speak to Wayland: "Good God,
Wayland!  Don't you see the drift?  Can't you head that off?"

"Leave 't' me," muttered the old frontiersman gripping his chair.

"But you have given your evidence: Wayland is our only chance left.
Don't you see how they'll clinch it?"

"Hold y'r head shut," ordered Matthews.

Wayland was giving his evidence, as little as he could possibly give,
it seemed to Eleanor, from the time he had telephoned down to her
father to come and take corroborative proof of the value of the coal
mines.

"You did not anticipate any trouble about the examination?"

"None whatever," answered Wayland.  He had described the examination of
the two tunnels and the preparation to go down the shaft when the
Sheriff again whispered to the coroner.

"When MacDonald seemed to change his mind about going down the shaft,
was there anyone visible except the Sheriff?"

"Not that I saw," answered Wayland; and he went on to describe the
cutting of the cable and the climb up the side of the shaft.

Eleanor became suddenly conscious that tense stillness reigned in the
county court room.  Some man standing behind the back benches shuffled
his feet and cleared his throat with an offensive "hem."  The roomful
of people looked back angrily.  The attorney had pencilled a line on a
scrap of paper and shoved it across in front of the coroner.  Through
the open windows, Eleanor could see that a great concourse of people
was gathering outside.

"When you found the body, was anyone else present at the top of the
shaft?"

For the fraction of a second, Eleanor wondered if they meant to cast
suspicion on the Ranger.

"Yes," answered Wayland, "the woman, Calamity was lying on the ground
sobbing to break her heart.  No one else was visible."

"You say the wound was such that it could not possibly have been
self-inflicted?"

"You determined that for yourselves, when you examined the body,"
answered Wayland.

"Was the woman's position such that she might have shot him?"

"The shot was in the right temple, close; close enough to scorch the
face!  You have the record of that!  The woman was kneeling on the
ground a little to the left facing him."

"Did she carry a weapon?"

"She did not."

"How do you know she had not one concealed?"

"Because I caught her by the shoulders and lifted her up and shook her
and said, 'Calamity, who did this?'"

"What did she answer?"

The attorney was on his feet with a bang of his fist on the table that
shut off the answer:

"Mr. Coroner, this evidence has proceeded far enough to show that the
death of the deceased gentleman had absolutely no connection whatever
with the official examination of the mines.  The dead cannot defend
themselves.  Out of respect to the deceased and the member of his
family--"

"That," interrupted Matthews, breaking from his chair, "is the third
time th' insinuation has been thrown out that MacDonald had things in
his life that wud na bear tellin'!  A know his life: A know all his
life: ask me!"

But the attorney and the coroner were in an endless wrangle as to law,
that was Hebrew to the listeners, and gave the roomful of spectators
ample time to imbibe the false impression that was meant to be
conveyed, and to pass it to the prurient crowd outside.  After a half
hour of reading from authorities to prove that the answer was
inadmissible as evidence, and another half hour rattling off counter
authorities at such a rate the listeners could not possibly judge for
themselves, the coroner reserved decision as to whether that answer
could be admitted as evidence or not, coming as it did from a person
plainly of unsound mind.

"What next happened?"

"I tied a stone to the cut end of the cable and unrolled the rope on
the hoist and gave it a hard enough pitch to send the stone past the
bend in the shaft."

"And when you turned to work the hoist and bring up the others?"

"And when I turned to work the hoist, the Indian woman was nowhere to
be seen.  The chances are she knew the guilty parties would try to
throw the blame--"

"Mr. Coroner," shouted the attorney, "there can be no chances recorded
as evidence where the reputation of a gentleman, who cannot defend
himself, is concerned."

"Good God," said the news editor under his breath.

"Humph!  A'll put a crimp in that!  The Sheriff man is to give evidence
yet!  Eleanor, y' better not wait!  A'm goin' t' do some plain speakin'
t' y' father's honor, but 'tis not talk for a woman's ears!  Y've heard
y'r father defamed."

"Then, I'll wait and hear him cleared," she whispered to Mrs. Williams.
"Will you stay?"


The Sheriff had gone round in front of the table, not too near it for
obvious reasons; for the time of his revenge had come and his rotundity
protruded full blown and swelling.  He told how MacDonald had refused
to go down the shaft.

"Do you know any reason for that sudden change of mind?"

"I don't know whether it's the reason or not; but somethin' happened
jes' as he had his leg up to climb in, _might a' made_ him change his
mind!  Th' squaw come ridin' all bareheaded, an' mad as a hornet out o'
th' cottonwoods wavin' her hands roarin' crazy!  Minit he seen her, he
quit goin' down: said he'd give me a hand at the hoist!  I seen what
made him change his mind al' right!  She waz ravin' mad, come rampin'
out, then, she seen me, an' kin' o' hiked back ahint the cottonwood;
but I seen her plain!  Jes as we commenced unwindin' her--"

"You mean the hoist?"

"Yes, jes' as we began lettin' her down, I sees O'Finnigan come up from
Smelter City trail roarin' drunk, ugly drunk, yellin' 'Hell: he waz
Uncle Sam,' an' all that."

"If y'll not admit the child's story of her father, why d' y' admit
this man's story of him?" demanded Matthews; but the coroner ignored
the interruption and the doughty defender of the law continued.

"I put up with his drunken yellin' till I felt the bucket bump the
first level.  Then I sez, 'Now, my gen'leman, hand over that bottle o'
tipperary, an' scat out o' this!'  There it is," the Sheriff laid a
black square whiskey bottle on the desk.  "He began jawin' an' cuttin'
up gineral.  T' make a long story short, I took him by the scruff o'
th' neck and helped him down Smelter City trail an'-an'-an' I jugged
him: that's all; an' there he is yet!  When I came back up, this had
happened."

"When you arrested O'Finnigan for drunkenness, where was the woman,
Calamity?"

"Hidin' back among th' cottonwoods!  She'd slid off her horse!  Jes' as
I turned down the trail, I looked back!  She waz comin' peepin' out
from tree t' tree!"

"How was MacDonald standing?"

"He waz standin' with his back t' her, with his hand hangin' kind o'
loose from th' hoist waitin' for 'em t' ring th' bell t' let her down
t' next level!"

There was a long silence.  Eleanor had turned very white.  The eyes of
the news editor emitted sparks.

"I expected that," commented Wayland.

"Y' d', did y'?" rumbled Matthews.  "Then A 'll wager y 'll nut be
expectin' what A 'll spring!"

The room suddenly filled with a rustling and whispering.  Men were
demonstrating exactly how it had happened.  The handy man's tallow
smile melted on his face; and the tortoise shell eyes looked sidewise
at Wayland.  The look wasn't malicious; and it wasn't triumphant.  It
was the look of a gambler saying, "Come on my four-flusher, beat that!
Show down!"  The rabble outside deployed off the pavement across the
street back a whole block.  Eleanor could hear the hum through the open
window.

The attorney was leaning across the table conferring with the coroner.

The coroner rapped the table and cried for "order."

The room suddenly silenced.

"Gentlemen, as this evidence will have to be handed in to the district
attorney for what action he deems best, I wish to ask one more
question.  Mr. Sheriff, you know this Valley and the people in it well?"

"I do, known it for twenty years."

"Do you know of any reason why this woman Calamity would have shot or
wished to shoot, her employer, MacDonald?"

The Sheriff changed a quid of tobacco from one cheek to the other.

Eleanor leaned forward looking straight in his eyes.  Bat was eyeing
Eleanor quizzically.  (Had he constructed the evidence so skilfully
that he had come to believe it himself?)  Matthews was almost tearing
the arms out of the chair where he sat.

"Well," said Sheriff Flood clasping his hands in rest across his portly
person.  "I guess squaw is same as any other woman in _one_ respect.  I
guess she had same reason for shootin' MacDonal' as any other woman in
her place would o' had," and he looked up well pleased with himself at
the roomful.  For a moment, there was deadly heavy silence; then the
hum of the crowd on the steps pouring the word out to those in the
street.

"Ye lyin' scut[1]!  Ye filthy cess pool o' dirt an' falsehood!"

The old frontiersman had sprung from his place and smashed his chair in
twenty atoms on the table between the sheriff and the coroner.

"Y'll not offend the deceased gentleman's memory?  Y'll not offend his
daughter here?  An' the dead can't defend themselves?  An' y're all s'
verra delicate y're lettin' a stinkin' slanderous unclean unspoken
damnable hell-spawned lie go forth unchallenged t' blacken a dead man's
memory?  Oh, A know y'r kind well!  A've heard harlots lisp an' whisp'
an' half tell and damn by a lie o' th' eye!  Y' are insinuatin' this
woman Calamity shot her master to avenge dishonor in her early life?
'Tis a lie!  'Tis a most damnable black an' filthy lie!  She wud a'
died for MacDonald ten thousand times over if she could, because he had
long ago, before ever he came here, avenged _her_ dishonor."

The coroner had sprung back from the table.  The mighty man of valor,
who defended law, had precipitately put the space of overturned benches
between himself and the irate old frontiersman.  Matthews suddenly
swung to face the spectators.

"Men," he cried, "foul murder has been done; and this slander is t'
fasten guilt on a poor innocent outcast woman, t' send her a scapegoat
int' th' wilderness bearin' th' sins o' those higher up that A do na'
name; of y'r Man Higher Up, who is the curse o' this land!  'Twas in my
boyhood days on Saskatchewan!  This woman, that y' have seen wander the
Black Hills sinnin' unashamed, was but a fair slip o' an Indian girl,
then, pure as y'r own girls in school!  She married a little Indian
boy, Wandering Spirit o' the Crees at Frog Lake!  The Indian Officer at
Frog Lake was a Sioux half-breed--he took her forcibly from Wandering
Spirit t' th' Agency House!  'Twas y'r sheep rancher, MacDonald, who
was fur trader then, went forcibly to th' Agency House, thrashed the
Agent, and brought her back to the Indian, Wandering Spirit!  A was
passin' West by dog train to the Mountains when A stopped at the Agency
House!  MacDonald had gone North.  Little Wandering Spirit comes and
asks me t' interpret something he has to say t' th' Master--meanin'
that danged unclean Sioux beast.  Says I, 'Wandering Spirit has
something not pleasant t' say t' you: Y' better get another
interpreter.'  The officer says, 'Spit it out!  Y' can't phase me.'
Boys, A spit it out.  A gave it to him plain!  The boy Indian stood in
the door o' th' Agency House holdin' a loaded dog-train whip hidden
behind his back.  He was na' but half as big as the brute behind the
Government desk!  He says, 'Tell the Master he must leave my wife
alone!  If ever he comes near m' tepee again, A do to him like that,'
rolling a dead leaf t' powder 'tween his hands.  The officer lets out a
roar o' filthy oaths!  I hear the little Indian give a scream like a
hurt wild cat.  'He calls me a dog--a son of a dog,' he screams; an'
boys, with one leap he was over that counter with his dog whip; an'
what A did t' y'r Sheriff last week in the Pass is nothing to what that
bit of an Indian boy did t' yon bullying Agent!  He thrashed him, an'
he thrashed him, an' he chased him bellowin' round the Agency House
till the blackguard's pants were ribbons an' the blood stripes reached
down an' soaked his socks.  Boys, A went on to th' Mountains!  When A
came back next year an' when MacDonald came back from MacKenzie River,
we found that Agent had had Little Wandering Spirit arrested by the
Mounted Police for assault an' battery, an' sentenced to a year in th'
penitentiary!  'Twas too late to undo the wrong!  Th' girl, th' woman
y' know as Calamity, had gone insane from abuse!  A helped to pry her
dead child from her arms!  A helped the priest t' bury it in the snow!
Next year, was the Rebellion!  Y'r sheepman an' his wife, Miss Eleanor
here was na' born then, had come down from the North.  The Indians
loved him.  They'd never touch _him_; but when the Rebellion broke out,
'twas Wandering Spirit went dancing mad for revenge from one end o' the
Reserve t' th' other!  When the massacre came, the officer had tripped
the little Indian fellow to his face an' was pointin' the old muzzle
loader at the back o' his head to blow out his brains, when along comes
the MacDonald man an' kicks the gun from the bully's hand!  Little
Wandering Spirit up an' he pours that muzzle loader into the officer's
face; an' he borrows another gun an' empties that in his face; and he
snatches a knife; an' what he left o' that brute y' could bury in a
coffin th' length o' y'r hand!  'Twas th' Indian's way o' vengeance;
but blame fell on MacDonald; an' when Wandering Spirit was hanged for
the murder, MacDonald fled from Canada; for his sympathies were with
the Indians, as every right feelin' man's were;[2] for back a
generation, there was Indian blood on the mother's side; but the Act o'
Amnesty has been passed this many a year; an' A'd come to take him back
to a fortune waitin' him in Scotland, to an inheritance when this
happened.

"Y' know how he found her again, eatin' garbage in the Black Hills
where the miners had cast her off; how he gave her an asylum an' a
home; an' this is the man y'r fulthy sheriff poltroon coward says she'd
shoot!  Men, men o' th' Nation, murder has been done here: coward
assassin murder on an innocent man!  The notes on the mine have been
robbed from his pocket.  Who planned this murder?  Who shot MacDonald
by mistake?  Who planned th' Rim Rocks outrage?  Is it to this y' have
let y'r Democracy come?  Is this y'r self government workin' worse
outrage than the despotism o' Russia?  We'd have hanged our kings in
Scotland for less sin!  France would a' tanned her rulers' hide into
moccasins for less!  What are y' goin' to do about it."  His shout rang
and rang through the court.  "Will ye make of self-government a farce,
a screamin' shame, a shriekin' laughter in th' ears o' th' world?"

There were cries of "Sit down!  Sit down!  Shut up!  Go on!  Who is the
old tow-head?"  Then some one cried out "Moyese."  Half the spectators
cheered.  Half hissed.  Then a voice yelled "Wayland!  Wayland!" and
Eleanor felt the leap to her blood; for the crowd outside took up the
cry "Wayland, Wayland?  What's the matter with Wayland?"

The Sheriff and Coroner were on the table shouting for "order--order"
when some wag heaved under and upset table, sheriff, coroner and all.

The last Eleanor saw before the news editor and Wayland pushed Mrs.
Williams and herself through a door behind the coroner's seat to a
taxicab that whirled them off to the hotel, was a wild sprawling of the
Sheriff coming down in mid-air.  Bat Brydges and the downy-lipped
youth, chalky white as a dead birch tree, were letting themselves
hastily out through a back window.  Matthews was being carried down the
aisle on the shoulders of a howling rabble of men and boys.  His head
was bare; his coat was almost torn from his shoulders.  His face was
passionate with jubilant laughter.  "Yell, boys!  Yell for Wayland," he
was urging.  Could Eleanor have known what happened at the door, her
heart would have beat still faster.  The old frontiersman brought her
word two hours later when he joined them at the hotel.

"They hauled me out to th' steps o' th' court house," he said, "an' A
says 'Yell boys!  Yell, Yell like Hell for Wayland!'  An' they set me
down on th' steps an' began yellin' 'Speech!  Speech!'  A held up m'
two hands like this.  'Men,' says I, 'y' ask for a word!  Well, A'll
give it t' you.  A'll give it t' y' from the door o' y'r own sacred
court o' justice, which y' have seen profaned this day by injustice,
an' a lie, an' a bribe into th' bedlam o' a mob!  Y' ask for a word.  A
will give it y', _Men o' the United States o' the World_; Men o'
Liberty; Men o' Strength; the world has its eye on ye!  What will y'
do?  M' word is this t' all time: M' word is th' simple word o' the old
prophets that ye conned by heart at y'r mother's knee: Y' ha' seen the
author o' crime an' outrage an' murder tryin' to wrest the judgment, t'
pervert the court, to slander the dead, t' send into th' wilderness a
poor innocent scapegoat o' sin, to defile the vera presence o' death.
An' ye ha' seen a young man single-handed fightin' for right, to save
y'r land from the looters, an' y'r forests from the timber thieves, an'
y'r mines from the coal pirates!  Y' ha' seen evil an' good an' the
fruits o' them!  _Choose ye this day which ye will serve_!'  Man alive,
Wayland, ye should a' heard them!  They yelled like Hell for y'!  They
yelled till they split the welkin!  They yelled, Wayland, till A
couldna' keep th' tears from m' eyes; an' then, man alive, they yelled
more than ever!  Whiles we were yellin' and riproarin' outside, y'r
brave Sheriff man, he gets the door shut an' locked, an' the windows
down, an' the shades all drawn; an' they brings in a verdict o' 'come
to his death by the hands o' parties unknown.'  Oh, A'll warrant 'twill
be 'by the hands o' parties unknown.'  They'll never more try t' fasten
that crime on poor old Calamity; tho' she's no so old when y' come t'
think o' it, except in her bein' sore sinned against."

"I wonder if they'll try to come down on you for the disorder," asked
Wayland.

The old frontiersman chuckled.  "A wish t' God they would," he said.
"What A'm wonderin' is what y' fat Bat fellow's doin'?"

"Oh, I can tell you that," answered the news editor.  "Bat is singing
small!  I'll bet you a five there won't be a line nor the fraction of a
line of all this in the local papers; nor as much as a blank space
about it in any other paper.  My God, if I could only lay my hand on a
moneyed man who would back a paper thro' a fight like this and tell the
counting rooms to go to the Devil!  I know a score of editors would
jump for the job and work their heads off!  You needn't think we are
specially keen for eating dog on this kind of a job!  'Tisn't the men
inside the office bedevil us: 'tis y'r outside interest--"

Eleanor gave him a quick queer look.  She was learning to think fast
and decide quickly.  But the news editor was quite right.  Not a word
of the disgraceful attempt to pervert justice appeared in either the
local or any other paper.  MacDonald's death was briefly recorded as
accidental and the coroner's verdict given in a four line paragraph.
Do not ask me the _why_ of this, dear reader; or I shall ask you the
why of a hundred other equally mysterious silences.  Don't forget, as
Wayland has already informed you, there are other countries besides
Russia where everything is not given out to the press.  And do not
curse the press!  It is not the fault of the press in Russia.  Is it
here?


[1] I can find no authority for the old frontiersman's use of the word
but in a certain Elizabethan dramatist; and as he uses the word "scut"
for the bobtail of a fleeing rabbit or sheep, perhaps the meanings of
the word as used are identical.--_Author_.

[2] It need scarcely be explained these are the old frontiersman's
sentiments, not the writer's; but on investigation I found his
statement of facts as to what transformed little Wandering Spirit into
a blood-thirsty monster was absolutely true.  This, of course, did not
justify the Rebellion, but helps to explain it, to explain why a
worthless scamp like Riel could rouse the peaceful natives to blood
thirst and rapine.--_Author_.




CHAPTER XXVII

THE AWAKENING CONTINUED

It was all over, the inquest, the coroner's finding, the reading of the
will, the revelation of the real errand on which the old frontiersman
had come from Saskatchewan.  The parting of the ways had come to her,
as it comes to us all.  The death of her father had shut the door on
opportunity in the Valley; and the little old lady, waiting for
Matthews up in Prince Albert, Canada, to take her back to the
inheritance of her father's family in Scotland, opened elsewhere
another door of opportunity.  As one door had swung shut, another had
swung open.  Were we creatures of circumstances, as the fatalists
declared; or could we master and bend circumstances to human will?  Was
her feeling of rebellion but the kicking of ructious heels against the
closed door of fate?  Would time teach the futility of barking one's
shins in such fashion?  Eleanor sat in the parlor of the suite of rooms
reserved by the Williams and herself.  The Williams and Matthews had
gone out for the evening to some women's club meeting on missions.
Eleanor's nerves were too tension-strung for people to-night.  They had
read her father's will that afternoon.  The quiet man doing the duty
next and making no professions had left her secure against want; and
after the lawyer who read the will had gone, the Williams went out, and
Matthews had drawn his chair near to hers and told her the same story
of her father's people that he had told Wayland in the Desert.

"They were a' dark fearsome men," he had said, telling her of the first
Fraser-MacDonald who fought with Wolfe at Quebec, and the Man of the
Iron Hand.  "They were a' dark fearsome men; but of stainless honor,
child!  Not a man of them left a bar sinister on th' scutcheon!  Even
the man who married th' squaw, had a priest tie th' knot so that
children would come stainless t' life; but they were dark fearsome men,
undyin' in their hates an' unhappy in their loves.  Y'r own mother's
people turned against y'r father for th' part he took in th' Rebellion."

"Don't you think," asked Eleanor, "it's time one of the race broke the
spell of unhappy love?"

"Aye, child!  'Tis why A'd take y' back t' th' little old lady waitin'
in Prince Albert, an' put y' in y'r own place in th' halls o' Scotland?
D' y' know there's been none o' y'r race direct t' occupy th' manor
since th' first Frazer fled from th' Jacobite Rebellion to French
Canada?  'Twas part o' his stubborn spirit that he fought for the
Nation that had cast him out."

"Oh, I'm not interested in the Jacobites and Wolfe and things of the
past," interrupted Eleanor.  "I want to live my life full in the
present."

"Aye; an' 'tis because y're a Fraser-MacDonald of the Lovatt clan that
ye want t' live a full present!  If you were an upstart new-rich, my
dear, y'd be sellin' y'r soul t' th' Devil an' y'r body t' some leprous
kite with ulcerous weddin' kisses for the privilege o' claimin' this
inheritance that's yours!  There's a male decendant o' some collateral
line on th' place adjoinin' yours.  Man alive, he's had th' pick o'
every pork packer's an' brewer's daughter; but he's waitin' th' little
lady who's his aunt t' come back from Prince Albert--"

He knew the minute he had spoken that he had struck a false note.
Eleanor jumped from her chair.

"Oh, bother the little lady at Prince Albert.  Leave me, please!  I
want to think--"

He withdrew as far as the door.  "Would y' like me to see y'r lawyer
man 'bout puttin' th' ranch lands o' th' Upper Pass on th' market, an'
settlin' up th' estate?"

"No," answered Eleanor.  "I'm not going to sell any of my father's
estate."

And when Matthews withdrew to join the Williams at the missionary
meeting, she burst into tears.

She went across to the window wondering about Wayland.  She had not
seen him since early morning, before breakfast, when he called at the
sitting room door to arrange their return up the Valley next day.  The
Williams and Matthews would go up in the buckboard.  Would she ride
back up the hog's back trail with him?  He would hire horses and riding
togs now if she would say?  Yes, he knew it would be steep up grade;
but then, they could go it slow; he laughed as he said that.  You see
the hog's back trail was fifteen miles shorter than the Valley road and
they could afford to go it slow; in fact, _very slow_.

"Come on in," urged Eleanor, throwing open the parlor door.  "The
Williams are not up, yet!"

"That's why I came!  No, I'll not come in: not much!  I'm keeping
resolutions!"

She had not understood the wistfulness beneath his forced gayety until
Matthews told her all that afternoon.

"It will be our last ride: you'll come, won't you?" asked Wayland.

She had promised.  Then, she had spent a most miserable morning.  Why
was it to be the _last_ ride?  She had not cared to go out.  Though the
papers had suppressed all details of the cowardly assassination, the
glare of publicity had been focussed too keenly on her for comfort by
that explosion of the old frontiersman in the court room.  She had
remained in all morning watching the motley crowds of a frontier town
surge past the hotel windows down the dusty hot main street, with its
medley of fine brick blocks, and poor shacks, and saloons, and false
fronts--little unpainted restaurants and cigar stands and gambling
places of one-story, with a false timber wall running up a couple of
stories.

"United States of the World," the old frontiersman had called this
country.  Surely that was the true name of the wonderful new country
that had defied all traditions and mingled in her making the races from
every corner of the world!  An immigrant train had come in.  Eleanor
lifted the parlor window, and looked, and listened.  Jap and Chinese
and Hindoo--strikingly tall fellows with turbaned head gear; negro and
West Indians and Malay; German and Russian and Poles and Assyrians.  In
half an hour, she did not hear one word of pure English, or what could
be called American.  Oh, it was good to be alive in this wonderful new
world under these wonderful new conditions working out the age-old
problem of right and wrong that had defied solution since time began!
She did not mind the crudity.  And if I am to be frank, she did not
mind the rudity.  It was not a boiled shirt-front, kid-glove world.  In
fact, at that moment she saw her hero stage driver shooting out tobacco
squids at the innocent granolithic, which showed no target because so
many other contributors had preceded the stage driver.  In fact, it was
not a world for a lady with a train, though Eleanor saw some trollopy
immigrant "ladies" emerging from a big tent on a back lot decked with
tawdry lace and sporting trains in inverse proportions to the
sufficiency of their "h's."  Nor was it a perfumed world.  She could
smell the reek of the whiskey saloons all down the street--eleven of
them, there were in a succession of twelve buildings; and the twelfth
building, if Eleanor had known it, was a gambling joint of the Chinese
variety that had iron shutters and iron doors and signs up for
"Gentlemen Only." Let us hope, dear reader, that "gentlemen only"
entered behind the dark of those iron doors!  She could not help
wondering had the old day passed forever in the West.  Was a new day
not dawning?  What was to become of all these incoming people?  Could
the cattle barons and the sheep kings and the land rings fence them off
the vast, broad, idle acres forever?

Yet this was the world where her father had come penniless, a refugee
from miscarried justice, and had won out.  It was the world where he
had been shot down by some miserable, criminal assassin, who, it was
more than likely, had mistaken him for Wayland.  It was Wayland's
world, a world in the making.  Well had Matthews designated it--The
United States of the World!  More Jews than in Palestine; more Germans
than in Berlin; more Italians than in Rome; more Russians than in St.
Petersburg; more Canadians than in any four Canadian cities combined;
more descendants of the British than in the British Isles--the United
States of the World in the Making!  Was it any wonder crime was
rampant; and Democracy rocked to the shock of collision and
miscalculation and inexperience; and Righteousness became a tacking to
progress, not a straight line, like the zig-zag of the ship making
headway all the time, but tacking back and forward to wind and current?
It was good to be alive and take part in the making of the United
States of the World!

She had had breakfast and luncheon in her apartments.  At mid-day, she
saw Wayland coming along the thronged main street.  At every step, some
man stopped him to shake hands; and groups turned and gazed after him
as he passed, and spat their approval or disapproval with great
emphasis at the mottled pavement.  Below the window, a big Swede
grabbed his two shoulders with the grip of a steam crane.

"Say, you Vaylan', huh?" he asked.  "Say, you a' right!  You ever need
yob, Vaylan', you 'ply our union!  Huh?" and he laughed, and went on;
and the tears welled to Eleanor's eyes.

Then came the lawyer to read the will; and after the lawyer's
departure, Matthews had told her how she concerned his errand down from
the North; and when the door closed on Matthews, she burst into tears.

She saw the street lights come twinkling out, and she did not turn on
the light of the sitting room chandelier.  Did he love her at all; or
if he did, did he know what this waiting all day meant to a woman?
Then, it came to her in a flash, his wistful look in the morning behind
the forced gayety, his reference to the last ride, to keeping
resolutions.  Was that resolution for the sake of his work at all; or
for her?  Of course, Matthews had told him in the Desert; and with the
thought, the weight that had oppressed her rolled from her heart.  She
jumped from her chair and uttered a low cry of happy laughter.

"Oh, I'll soon make short work of that resolution," she vowed.

Alas and alas!  Samson straining his manhood for strength to shore up a
resolution, and here was a sharpening of scissors to shear him well!

There was a knock on the door.  She thought it the waiter coming up
with a late dinner and had called "come in," when the door opened, and
in the glare of light from the hall way stood the news editor,
embarrassed and hesitating.

"Please come in."  She pressed the electric button, shook hands with
him and shut the door.  His air was at once apologetic and glad, but
all the bitterness and anger seemed to have gone.  He stood holding his
soft felt hat in his hand and looking through his glasses, very
steadily and kindly, Eleanor thought.

"Won't you sit down?"

"We newspaper chaps should pretty nearly apologize for coming into your
presence, Miss MacDonald," he began.  "I've wanted to tell you how we
fellows all regret that.  I hope you know that kind of thing doesn't
come from inside the office.  It comes from influences outside."

He had seated himself shading his eyes from the light with his hand, an
old trick of his compositor days, and still looked at her in the same
friendly way.

"Ever hear of the Down-East daily that black-guarded one of our
greatest presidents the very day he died?  I've often wondered if the
public realized when that item appeared that not an editor on the staff
knew it was coming out, that when two of the editors read it, they
cried and went to pieces right there and then before their men for very
shame!  Item had been sent straight to the composing room just before
the forms were locked up, by man who owned the paper.  President had
refused him some public concession.  Such things sometimes happen to
lesser folks than presidents."

"Were you so kind as to come here to say all this to me?" asked Eleanor.

"No, Miss MacDonald, I wasn't!"  He blushed furiously, like a boy
caught in the act culpable.  "Fact is, I'm keen to see Wayland, been
such a crush of men round him all day, haven't been able to get in a
word with him."

It was her turn to blush furiously.

"I didn't want him to go off up the Valley before I could get hold of
him.  I wanted to have a shake with him.  We're in the same boat now,
Miss MacDonald."

"I don't the very least bit in the world understand what you are
saying."

The news editor laughed and laid his hat on the onyx centre table
beneath the electric lights.

"Why, we're both fired," he said.

"Fired?" repeated Eleanor.

This time he laughed aloud: "I don't mean fired out of a gun," he
explained.  "We're fired out of our job.  I knew after the inquest, I'd
get the sack," he went on, making light of it, "but the wire didn't
come till this morning."

There were a lot of things the news editor didn't tell Eleanor just
here; and I beg of you, dear reader, to remember these things when you
execrate the press; for they happen every day to plain fellows, some of
them profane fellows, who make no professions and blow no trumpet.
When the news editor walked out of the office that morning, he owned,
besides the Smelter City lots, which were mortgaged to the hilt, and
six "kiddies," who had to be fed, precisely the five dollar bill in his
pocket, the clothes on his back and the duster coat that he carried out
on his arm.  It was a mere detail, of course; but it was one of the
details he didn't tell Eleanor.  When he had gone home and told his
wife, she had asked, "For Heaven's sake, Joe, what ever will we do, run
a fruit stand; or peddle milk?"  Joe had answered the distracted
question with a lighter hearted laugh than she had heard for many a
day.  Then he had gone off to catch Wayland.

But Eleanor did not know all this.  Her quick wit grasped one salient
fact.  You think, perhaps, it was that Wayland had been dismissed?  It
wasn't.

"You mean that you have lost your position because of the evidence you
gave for us?"

Then the news editor did what he always told his underlings not to do
and to do--"Never lie; but if you have to, lie like a gentleman."

"Not at all, Miss MacDonald!  I got fired because I told the truth!  If
I had given evidence that was simply in your favor, I'd deserve to be
fired; but it was only a matter of somebody letting in a little honest
daylight.  I told Wayland at the time that I'd cooked my dough!  Funny
enough, the wire that came firing me this morning was immediately
followed by a wire from Washington announcing that he has been
dismissed for taking three weeks' absence without leave.  We got it in
the neck together, Miss MacDonald, and I thought maybe Wayland would be
game enough to have a--a--a shake with me over it."

"Yes, a shake," smiled Eleanor.  "I'd like to mix it for you!"

The news editor suddenly lost all shyness, burst out laughing, leaned
forward and shook hands.

"Don't know whether you know it or not," he went on, "but about a month
ago one of those d--I beg your pardon, Miss MacDonald, Down-East
scribblerettes, that come out to see the West from a Pullman car window
and put things right, passed through here.  Somebody got him and filled
him up pretty full with a lot of lies about Wayland--"

"You mean Brydges gave him the facts?" asked Eleanor.

"Well, maybe, Brydges may have had him out in the forty horse power
car!  He sent a lot of awful rot East!  That wasn't the worst of it.
You'd think the Eastern fellows would know the difference between a
maverick and a long-horn!  He's been going round to the Eastern editors
giving them doped stuff, lies dated out here written right down in New
York!  They've been hammering the Forest Service for the last month!
I'll bet that dough-head never put a foot in National Forests once
while he was West: rot about running off settlers, and shutting down
mines, and hampering lumbering operations, and low down personal stuff!
Anyway, between lies and dope, they've got Wayland!  He's fired!  I've
been trying to get hold of him all day.  Your old man's phrase, 'United
States of the World,' kind of caught on with the crowd: they've kind of
wakened up!  Funny thing, the way that happens to a crowd!  Your
professional wind-jammer can orate till he busts his head, he never
knows it has happened till the crowd has got away from him!  Been a
crush of men round Wayland all day, by G--, I beg your pardon--but if
he isn't drowned, 'twon't be their fault!  They are talking of putting
him up as a candidate."

"As a what?" exclaimed Eleanor.

"Run for Congress," explained the news man.

She had gone quickly forward to the window, righting a shade to hide
the flood of joy that surged up to her face.

"Excuse me--Mr.----?  But I don't know your name?"

"My name?  Oh, my name is--Legion," said the news editor dryly.

"Well, what was it you said the other day," she had mustered courage to
turn and face him again, "what was it you said the other day about a
moneyed man backing an independent paper through this fight?  Don't you
remember, after the inquest, Mr. Legion?"

He uttered a shout of laughter, and she understood and laughed too.

"Oh, the independent paper is floundering on the edge of failure.
They'll have to swing in line with the side that pays them best at
election time.  One could buy up their debts now for a few thousand
dollars, perhaps not twenty thousand.  Another fifty or so would swing
her off on an independent tack.  There's been a great awakening.  The
people have their ears down to the ground for the coming change, Miss
MacDonald; and the politicians don't know it!  If we could swing her
off well, she'd be a paying concern in a year; then the politicians
could be d--I beg your pardon, the special interests could go to the
Devil!  That's what I wanted to talk about to Wayland.  He's the
winning horse!  We haven't either of us got anything left to lose but
some frayed convictions, and by God," (this time, he did not notice he
had said it), "we'd invest 'em in an independent for all we're worth!
I'm hot; and I've an idea Wayland isn't just at milk and water
temperature; and the public isn't; and we'd have them!  We'd force the
other crowd to yell at the top of their voices for reform inside of six
months.  There's a lot about that Rim Rocks affair even the owners of
the sheep don't know; but why in the Devil am I telling all this to a
woman?"

She had drawn her chair up to the table where he sat.

"Because, I suppose, the woman wants to know.  In case, you don't see
Wayland, do you mind giving me the exact figures about that independent
paper?  We are all to go home together to-morrow.  Let us put the
figures down.  I can tell him the rest when the others are not about;
and do you know, I think I have heard him speak of some one who might
back this kind of scheme?"

Oh, crafty woman!  Do you think the kindly eyes behind those strongly
focussed glasses did not bore in behind your guarded words?  Just once
did she interrupt his quick run of explanations.

"Is your idea to run an altogether _staid_ journal, or a yellow one?"
she asked.

He was plainly taken aback.  He laid down his pencil.

"If you were a man, I could explain that easier!"

"Because, I'm done with the kind of goodness that's pickled and put
away in a self-sealer where it won't spoil like old-fashioned jam for
company," she said.

The news editor's eyes opened very wide, indeed!  She had said "_I'm
done_" quite as unconsciously as he had let slip words inadmissable in
polite converse.

"It isn't piety done up in homoeopathic pills the world wants," she
went on.

"No, it's punch," he broke in; "and what's the use of dickering with a
little two-for-a-cent high-brow, superior, exclusive, self-righteous
rag of a daily that will reach only a handful of sissy people?
Democracy is here; and it's here for keeps, the rule of the many good
or bad; and it's as your old parson said in the court room, it's _going
to be the United States of the World_.  What's the use of issuing a rag
sheet that will preach to a little parlorful of sissies and high-brows?
You've got to get the crowd, and to educate 'em up to self-government,
to pelt 'em to a pulp with facts!  You've got to get 'em if you take
them by the scruff of the neck, Miss MacDonald!  While the churches and
the teachers and the preachers sit back self-superior and
self-sufficient, Miss MacDonald, where's the crowd?  They're out in the
street!  You've got to get 'em!  You've got to get the facts before
'em!  People curse the yellow journals!  All right!  But they reach an
audience of a million a day; every one of them; and your self-superior
journals don't touch ten-thousand!  Miss MacDonald, which is having the
telling influence, for good or evil?  Which is getting the crowd?  Oh,
I know they publish pictures of pugilists' big toes and base ball
pitchers' thumbs the size of a half page; but if I could ram a moral
truth or a hard fact down the fool-public's throat on the very next
page by advertising it with a pugilist's big toe, I'd do it--you bet!
I'd take a leaf out of the Devil's note book and go him one better!
You ask whether I'd publish a yellow journal?  Miss MacDonald, if I
could get the facts of exactly what is going on in this country before
the public, I wouldn't publish 'em yellow!  I'd publish truth bloody
red!"


When the Williams and Matthews came in from the missionary meeting,
Eleanor was standing under the centre light leaning against the table
with her back to the door.

"Feeling better, dear?" asked Mrs. Williams.

"So much better that I'm going to bed to sleep every minute for the
first night for a week."

"Surely," cried Williams clapping his hands.  "A MacDonald never had
nerves."

Matthews was trying to read her face as she shook hands saying
good-night.

"No," she answered his look, shaking her head, "I must decide for
myself, Mr. Matthews."

The three stood talking in the room she had left.

"Do you think we ought to have told her?" asked Mrs. Williams
solicitously.

"No!  Leave Wayland t' tell her himself t'morrow!  A make no doubt that
buckboard won't hold five people!  Is it six o'clock we set out?  A'm
longin' for m' own wee uns!"

"One thing," declared Williams, throwing himself on a chair, "if
Wayland runs, I'm going to stump it for him!  We've got to get busy,
Matthews!  The old order changeth!  We've got to keep up with the
procession!"

If you had not known her utter conservatism as to all things pertaining
to women, you could not appreciate the response of the missionary's
wife.  (She was an ultra-anti-suffragette.)

"I am sure, my dear," she cried, "I know a couple of hundred people on
our summer circuit in the Upper Pass that I could make vote right."




CHAPTER XXVIII

THE UNITED STATES OF THE WORLD

"Wayland, for a man who's had his head cut off, you look uncommon
joyous, tho' you're a bit white about the chops."

"Had a shave," answered Wayland dryly.

The yellow buckboard was rattling over the pressed brick pavement of
Smelter City towards the suburbs.  Williams was in the front seat with
Matthews, who was driving.  Eleanor and Mrs. Williams were in the
second seat, with Wayland standing behind as he had stood that night
going up to the Rim Rocks.  Behind trotted two range ponies with empty
saddles.

"I thought, perhaps, you'd prefer driving out beyond the suburbs," he
had explained.  "There's a good trail up to the hog's back opposite the
_Brule_."

They watched her leap down from the buckboard and mount the saddle, a
little awkward at first whether to put the right knee fore or aft, from
her Eastern training to a side saddle; and side saddles in the range
country are rare as low neck gowns and tuxedo coats; but once she had
caught the far stirrup, riding was riding.  She had the pace, and the
two figures loped off up the burn for the hill known as the _Brule_,
Wayland turning and waving his hat.

"Now the Lord have mercy on your soul, Williams.  This ride will settle
it; an' A'm not darin' t' hope which way it goes!  A 'm not keen to go
back empty-handed with yon little old lady payin' m' expenses heavy an'
generous; but yet--but yet--"

"Yet what?" asked Mrs. Williams, leaning forward between the two men.

"Th' great joy comes only once; an' when it cam' t' me, A put a
handspike thro' it, an' kept it."


He had come to her that morning with a look on his face that she had
not dreamed a human face could wear.  She wondered if all men crucified
for right won such joy.  And he did not tread earth.  He trod air.
Eleanor could not trust her eyes to meet his.  She felt their light
burning to the centre of her soul.  What was it?  Was it renunciation?
The thought turned her faint.  Her determination to break his
resolution seemed the cheap obtrusion of egotism on the great mission
of a devoted life.  Then, going up the hog's back trail along the rim
of the Ridge, they were facing the Holy Cross Mountain.  The glint of
the morning sun on the far snows shone like diamonds, a tiared jeweled
thing poised in mid-heaven like a crown held by invisible hands; the
base of the lower mountain outlines melting and losing edge in the
purple shadows; the crown only, shining diademed, winged with opal
light.

"Look Dick," she said pointing with her riding crop, "do you remember
the night on the Ridge?  Do you remember about the snow flakes massing
to the avalanche?  It has--hasn't it?  The Nation has wakened up."

Wayland looked ahead.  He couldn't answer.  'Remember the night on the
Ridge?'  He had a lump in his throat and an ache at his heart from
never letting himself remember it.  By that strange perversity, which
we all know in ourselves, he couldn't talk.  The hundred and one things
he had wanted to ask, died on his lips in a dumbness of gladness.  Of
course, you, dear reader, on the return of a husband or wife
(prospective or present), on the sudden appearance of friend or kith
have never been similarly affected.  You didn't forget the questions
you had meant to ask till thousands of miles again separated you.

It was good to leave the Valley road and go into seclusion and shelter
on the Forest trail; for a hurricane September wind was blowing, the
kind of Western wind that the Eastern woman with a big hat thinks is
possessed by ten thousand devils; the kind of wind that the Eastern
office man with sensitive eyes curses with tears that are not grief;
the kind of wind that makes the Westerner put screw nails in _his_ hat
and look out for the fire guard round wheat, stock and timber.

Such a different home-going he had planned from this visitation of dumb
devils that obsessed them both!  He used to dream at night in the
Desert of the day, perhaps, coming when they should set out together
adventuring a life joy in the Forests; _his_ Forests; when he would
show her the golden cottonwoods and the pale birches nursing the
pineries to strong maturity; and the fire blisters on the firs; and the
sugar blisters on the sugar pines; and the rain of green-gray tempered
light from the under side of the funereal hemlocks; and the park like
glades of the wonderfully straight and serried soldier ranks of the
engleman spruce and the lodge-pole pines; and the larches yellow as
gold dust to the touch of the alchemist autumn.  He wanted to bring out
his violin some day with her and see if they could catch the exact tone
and pitch of the pines, when they began harping those age-old melodies
of Pan: they were harping them to-day in the high wind; he was sure it
was the same as the bass undertone of a big orchestra.  Had she ever
noticed the way the seeds came fluffing out of the cinnamon cones and
the asters and the golden rod and the fire flower in September, for all
the world like fairies sailing pixie parachutes?  People said that
autumn was sad, it presaged death!  Did it?  A Forester did not see it
so; he saw the triumphal procession of the years lighted to its
consummation by the flaming torches of ten thousand golden twinkling
gay, recklessly gay flowers and trees--the cottonwood and the poplar
and the larch, the cone flower and the golden rod and the aster!  But
to-day, he could not say a word.  They were no longer _his_ Forests.
He had been cast out from his life work--the continuity of a National
Life Work broken--because he had dared to interfere with the petty
plans of peanut politicians and public plunderers.

"It is level here!  Let us gallop out of this bare burn to the shelter
of the evergreens," she said.  "I don't mind wind, but I'd just as soon
get under cover where it couldn't lash us so."

And the horses came chugging and breathing hard up on the sheltered
trail below the evergreens.  She reined her horse to the slowest of
walks.

"Did you see the news editor before you left town?" she asked.

"Yes, he came over to my hotel last night about twelve o'clock.  He had
the biggest fool-scheme you ever heard of my running for Congress and
buying a paper to boost out the Ring and all that!  Thunder, I don't
want to run!  I've no ax to grind!  I prefer to stay a free lance in
the fighting ranks!"

"And do you think the fellows, who want to run and have an ax to grind,
do best for the Nation?" asked Eleanor.  "Why wouldn't you run if the
people demanded it?"

"There is the plain brutal fact that it takes money," explained
Wayland.  "I haven't the ambition; and I have less money.  I haven't
more than will set me up on some little one-horse irrigation farm.  Oh,
I know some fool had been filling him up about my having rich friends
East, who would put up money for this campaign and finance a new kind
of newspaper for the Valley!  I'd like to knock the fool's head off who
told him that!  It's all a lie!  Of course, I knew lots of moneyed
chaps at Yale; but thunderation, I'd have to want public office a good
deal harder than I do to go round cap in hand!  Why, Eleanor, a fellow
who would do that wouldn't be worth shucks to represent the people."

"Did you tell him that?" asked Eleanor.

"Yes and more!  I told him he was clean plumb fool-crazy!  Why,
Eleanor, when that fellow was fired out of his job yesterday morning,
he hadn't ten dollars ahead in the world!  I'm not a bank, myself; but
then I haven't a wife and kiddies.  Do you know, Eleanor, that fellow
had more pluck than I would have had under the same circumstances?  I
couldn't let the results of this kind of a fight come down on a woman."

"What did he say when you told him he was crazy?"

"Oh, went locoed clean out of his head, kicked my hat off the bed post,
took out a fiver, said, 'Wayland, that's my last!  I'll bet it a
hundred odd you do the very thing I'm outlining tonight.'"

"It was a safe bet," said Eleanor.  "He had come to see me before he
went to you!  I was the person, who told him you had a friend, who
would put up the money.  I didn't tell him who the friend was; for it
happens to be myself.  No: you needn't blow up, Dick; or drop dead of
apoplexy!  He didn't come to tell me, or ask a woman's money!  He had
come hunting you; and I pumped it out of him.  He's a brick not to
mention my name to you.  I like that in a man; and I am going to do it,
Dick; and you needn't blow up with rage!  You can swear if it would
relieve pressure; but I am going to do it!  I am going to do it at
once!  Don't you see what a cowardly foolish thing it would be of you
to give up and slink into a hole just because you're defeated?  It's
just what you said would happen that night on the Ridge.  Don't you
remember, you said it was bound to be a losing fight; and I said it
didn't matter a bit if a man were crucified long as the cause won out?
Well, you sent me the note saying you had set out on the Trail and
would never quit till you got the Man Higher Up.  How are you going to
get the Man Higher Up if you don't go right after him in the House and
the Senate?  They've crucified you; and it's going to be the making of
you.  Men don't destroy an opponent unless they fear him!  If he's a
fool, they give him rope enough to hang himself; but if they fear him,
they slander him and blacken him and misrepresent him and try to
destroy him!  Well, they've done all that to you and tried to destroy
you; and instead of destroying you, they've only made the people call
on you for a leader!  Don't you see what a cowardly thing it would be
to slink away now because you are defeated?  Why, that's the very time
a man can't afford to quit, and still call himself a man.  No, don't
try to stop me!  I lay awake all last night thinking it out!  They'll
not have a chance to call you a woman-made man!  I'll place a certain
amount with my lawyer for Mr. Williams.  You know my father always
helped the Mission School more or less; and a woman is supposed to be
soft on Missions.  Mr. Williams will loan it to the news editor.  Only,
I may as well tell you, Dick, you are not going to be allowed to stop
now!  You wrote me that a person couldn't stab certain things to life
and then expect them to lie quiet as if nothing had happened.  That
cuts both ways.  Men are pretty good egotists; but I wonder if you ever
thought what that means with me, with the people you have prodded up to
resent the Ring in the Valley here.  Do you know Dick, if you would
quit now, I'd despise myself for ever having loved you."

Wayland could not answer.  His eyes had filled.  He rode with his hand
on the pommel of the saddle.  Her words had fallen like whiplashes.  It
was true.  You could not cut out and disconnect with life.  He had
dreamed of this last ride as a sort of mid-heaven ecstasy; and behold,
instead of love's dream, the lifting kick to a limp spine.  If only
one's friends would oftener give us that lifting kick instead of the
softening sympathy!  If only they would brace our back bone instead of
our wish bone!

Then, she turned to him with a sudden tenderness: "What a beast I am to
speak so to you when you've just had the blow of public dismissal on
top of five years' continuous grilling," and he saw that the flame in
her cheeks, in her eyes, was not anger but a gust of passionate love.

"I can't thank you Eleanor," he said.  "This is beyond thanks."

"And your old editor man was so funny about it," she went on.  "You
know Dick, I think he had really come round to the hotel to have a
consolation drink with you; and he almost let it out; but just at the
last moment he changed the word and said he'd come 'to shake' with you
on being dismissed together."

"When do you leave?" asked Wayland dully.

"I don't leave!  I haven't the slightest intention of ever leaving this
Valley!  Why, Dick, would you have me exchange this splendid big free
new life where men and women do things, for a parish existence--working
slippers for a curate and talking dress, Dick--dress like the Colonel's
wife, and chronicling what Shakespeare calls 'small beer'?  I don't
intend ever to leave the Valley!  Tennyson sung of 'the federation of
the world,' Dick!  You and I are seeing it in the making!  Think of the
fun of my staying and seeing it and having a finger in the making, just
a little quiet finger that nobody knows about but you and me!  United
States of the World, Dick; and you are going after the Man Higher Up
just as you went after those blackguards into the Desert."  She laughed
joyously, joyous as a child, swinging out her arms to the sweep of the
roaring Forest wind.  "Don't look shocked.  I'll not stay on alone at
the Ranch House for the Rookery to talk about!  I'll insist on the
foreman marrying an aged house keeper for me; or I'll move over to the
Mission School; or--Oh, I'll plan out something; but I am not going to
leave the West."

Wayland suddenly wheeled his horse across her way and faced her.  "So
you've been trouncing the hide off my back for an hour or more to make
me believe all this doesn't mean renunciation?  They splashed their
filthy hogwash on your skirts to foil me; and _that_ was nothing!  The
fight was to go on just the same.  I was not to stop because of any
injury that came to you.  Then, they assassinated your father; and you
know as well as I do he was shot down by that drunken Shanty Town sot
in mistake for me; but the fight is to go on just the same.  _That_,
too, is nothing if the cause be won.  Now, you take a slice of your
fortune and slam it into the cause, backing me; and you renounce
everything that gives meaning to life for a woman, pretending that
renunciation is a privilege--"

"It is," interrupted Eleanor, "if it weaves the thing worth while into
the warp and woof of your life so it can never be anything but a part
of you!  Turn your broncho round here and ride along side of me.  Look
at our Mountain ahead!  It isn't a Cross: it's a Crown!  Do you think
I'm going to push a crown away from myself for the sake of having a lot
of flunkeys in a land I don't know bending themselves in their middle
at me all my life?"  She laughed joyously, flinging her arms wide to
the drive and toss of the rolling wind tunneling up the trail on their
backs.  She had pulled off her hat and the wind tossed forward her hair
in a frame of curls round an enamel miniature that always haunted
Wayland.  "I love it," she said, "the harder it blows, the harder I
want to ride!  You remember that night coming down the Ridge in the
storm?  It was like Love and Life!  And smell the air, Dick!  It has
all the sunbeams of the summer imprisoned, done up in balsam fir and
balm of gilead and spices!  Exchange _this_ life in the open, here, in
the very thick of things doing, for that ancient tapestry plush
upholstery blue-book existence?"

"I can't ask you, Eleanor!  I haven't a thing on earth to offer but a
broken reputation and a lot of plans in the ditch!  I ought never to
have let you know I loved you!  I ought never to have let you care for
me!  You know what you think and you know what I think of a man who
lets a woman give all.  He isn't worthy of her.  You know you have
never been out of my thoughts day or night since I met you, dear!  I
couldn't have come through that Desert thing alive without you; and
I'll hold you in my heart every day of my life till I die."  He had
taken off his hat and kicked the stirrups free and was riding with
loose rein.

When a man tells a woman that he is down and out financially and dare
not ask her to marry him, do you think there is an end of it, dear
reader?  Do you think a Silenus would hesitate and stickle and scruple
over a point of honor; though some of us have seen Silenus blunder into
a paradise which he promptly transformed into a sty?  And do you think
the descendant of the Man of the Iron Hand thought anything less of her
lover for refusing to accept renunciation as his right?  If Wayland
could have trusted himself to look at her, he would have seen that she
was riding with a whimsical smile.  They came to a bend in the upward
climbing trail that overlooked the Valley and faced the opal shining
peak.

"There goes the buckboard," remarked Wayland.

"Dick," she said, "I'll write my lawyer about placing the loan in the
bank at once.  You need not lose any time."

"But, I can't take that, Eleanor!  I haven't any security on earth to
offer you."

"Oh, yes you have!  I've thought all that out, too.  You have the very
best security I ever want."

"What?" asked Wayland incredulously.  "Do you mean you trust to my
honesty?  Good intentions aren't usually a banking proposition--"

"You will do as security," she said.

Was it the old mountain talking again; or was it the break in her
voice?  Their eyes met.  He had slipped from his horse.

"Don't," she cried averting her eyes with a tremor in her voice.  "I
couldn't bear This to be of Self!  If I were a man, you'd shake hands
with me and call it a bargain.  Look Dick!  We're in the light of the
Cross!  Shake hands with me!  Is it a bargain?"

His hands closed over both of hers.  There were tears in his eyes.  He
did not break out with any of the wild terms that had clamored and
clamored for utterance these weeks past.  He did not say any of the
things that men and women say at such times in books and plays.  They
paused so, she on horseback, he standing at her side, on the crest of
the Ridge gazing down on the Valley in the light of the Cross.

"So my old Mountain is talking to you, too?" she said.  "Do you
remember, Dick?"

"It's so God-blessed beautiful, Eleanor," he answered.  "I can't thank
you!  If I lived a thousand years, I couldn't live out my thanks.  I
could only put up a bluff of trying."

"Dick the nth," she laughed whimsically, "Dick the nth for the United
States of the World."

Suddenly he looked up at her.  The lashes did not veil quick enough.
He caught the veil wide open.  He had thought he knew before.  Now, he
knew that he had but touched the outer margin of her love, of the
wealth of her nature, of the reach and grasp of her spirit.  She felt
the grip of the strong hands closed over hers.

"Mine alder-liefest," he whispered in the old clean unused phrase.

"Is it a bargain?"

"Bargain?" repeated Wayland.

Then, they both laughed.  She had him at such an obvious disadvantage.
I do not intend to tell how far the afternoon shadows had stretched out
when Eleanor exclaimed with a jump; "Dick: the buckboard is out of
sight."  I do not think either of them as lovers of horses ever offered
adequate reason for having ridden their bronchos such a hard pace up
grade the last ten miles that the ponies came down the Ridge to the
Valley road a lather of sweat.

"You are sure," he had asked as they came out of the evergreens, "that
you'll never regret?"

"Mr. Matthews intended to leave to-morrow, Dick.  Do you think you
could persuade him to stay over a day?"


It was Mrs. Williams who sensed something unusual as the ponies came
down one of the by-paths from the Ridge.

"My dear, look at their faces!  I do believe it has!"  Then to Eleanor,
"Will you come in the rig?  Are you tired?"

"I think I shall," said Eleanor.

"You've ridden y'r nags uncommon hard, Wayland," observed Matthews.

Eleanor had ascended to the back seat.  Wayland had tied the bridle
rein of her horse to the rear and was riding abreast of the front seat.

"I wish you could make it convenient to put off your departure for a
day or two," began Wayland, very red.

"Eh?  What's that?" cried Matthews; and when he looked to the back seat
Eleanor and the little gray haired lady in plain back mourning bonnet
were going on as fool-women will, and Williams was risking a fall out
leaning over the seat shaking hands with Wayland.  Somebody was
flourishing a red cotton handkerchief; two for ten cents, they sell
them in Smelter City.  It was Williams who put a check to what Eleanor
called a 'loadful of idiots.'  "The wind is blowing towards the snow,"
he said; "but I don't like that column of smoke rising from the
Homestead slope in this high gale.  That Irish sot went home roaring
drunk by the stage yesterday.  What will you bet the fire didn't start
in the timber slash?"

Wayland gave only one look.  "It isn't my job any more," he said, "but
I can't stand seeing _that_."

He was off at a gallop.  They saw the sparks strike from the stones as
he turned up the Ridge Trail.


A week had passed.  The fire had been put out with little damage except
from O'Finnigan's timber slash to the lake beneath the upper snows.  A
new Ranger was in charge.  As for O'Finnigan, like Calamity, he had
dropped as completely from the Valley's knowledge as if the earth had
swallowed him.  The Valley, in fact, had given small thought to the mad
squaw or the drunken Irishman.  The Valley had had other things to talk
about.  There was the coming fall campaign, and Wayland's name as
reform candidate, and Wayland's quiet marriage to the daughter of the
dead sheep king.  Eleanor and Wayland had gone round through the Pass
to the Lake Behind the Peak, where he had dreamed what form of
triangulation thoughts must take from the star in the water to the star
on the other side of the Holy Cross; where the little waves lipped and
lisped and laved the reeds; where they two could drink and drink unseen
of the joy of the waters of life before the opening of the political
battle.

"Make him tell y' of all that happened in th' Pass when A was with
him," Matthews had called as they rode away up the narrowing trail to
the jubilant shouting of the canyon waters, the little mule leading the
pack ponies.

Mrs. Williams stood on the upper piazza of the Mission School waving
and waving.  The cottonwoods were raining down showers of gold; and the
pines were clicking their gypsy tambourines; and the golden torches of
countless yellow autumn flowers lighted the triumphal procession of the
year to its consummation.  Against the opal crown of the Holy Cross
Mountain, the yellowed larches tossed flaming torches to the very sky.

"They seem to be riding away to a world of dreams," said the little
lady in black.


Mr. Bat Brydges and Senator Moyese walked slowly and reflectively past
the Range Cabin towards the charred burn and timber slash of
O'Finnigan's abandoned homestead.

"It's that damned rant the old fellow let off in the court room," said
Brydges.

"Rant doesn't win elections, Brydges!  It has to be fought out!  Sooner
we accept the challenge and put 'em to bed for good, the better!  Money
talks, Brydges!"

"But that's just it, Senator!  Money _does_ talk; and some body's money
has talked when the Independent sold out to Joe!"

"Fool and his money soon parted, Brydges!  Only, in this case, I've a
suspicion it's a _Her_!  Never fear a known enemy, Brydges!  It's the
unknown factors you want to look out for!  F'r instance, there is this
sot of a drunken Shanty Town Irishman?  What's become of him?  Did he
burn himself, when he set fire to the slash?"

They had paused opposite that fallen giant which bridged the Gully
where Wayland had laid the saplings to cross to the Rim Rocks.

"That's a fine one; the fire didn't bring that one down!  Been cheesy
heart wood!  Wonder who placed the saplings for a bridge?  Think I'll
cross and go down to the ranch by the Rim Rocks, Brydges!"

"Then, excuse me, Mr. Senator!  I go back _this_ way!  Napoleon had
aversion to mice!  I've an aversion to wire walking."

He saw Moyese, hands in pockets, stroll along the great log bridging
the Gully.  Mid-way, he paused as if in contempt of Brydges' timidity.
"Bark gives a little," he said, pressing his whole weight up and down
flexibly.

"I wish you wouldn't do that, Senator," called Brydges.  "Trunk looks
to me as if the fire had run through the punk!"

Even as he spoke, he saw it happen, Calamity glide on the far end of
the log, utter a maniacal laugh, throw her shawl to the winds and bound
forward.

"Go back, you she-devil!  Look out, Senator!  That log won't stand the
weight of two--"

There was the flash of a knife in her hand.  Moyese had jumped from the
stabbing onslaught--when he lost his balance: the tree crunched, bent,
doubled like a jack knife, and plunged in a swirl of smoke and dust to
the bottom of the Gully.  It had been burnt through to the green mossed
outer bark.  When Brydges looked fearfully over the bank, the Indian
woman had crushed below the log; and Moyese lay very still, his face to
the sky, his left hand in his pocket, his right hand thrown out as if
to ward a blow, gashed and bloody, whether from rock or knife cut, one
could not tell.

I do not intend to repeat the "Smelter City Herald's" flare head
announcement of "the deplorable and tragical accident that cut short
one of the most promising political careers in the United States."
"Senator Moyese had long been accustomed to search the mountains in
autumn for seeds and roots of specimen flowers for his herbarium, of
which he had made a hobby.  That reckless disregard of danger for which
he was famous, etc., etc."  You'll find the salient features of it all
in "Who's Who."  Pad that out with Mr. Bat Brydges' imagination and
devotion; and you will have an idea of the sorrow that convulsed the
"Smelter City Herald."

The opposition paper opined "He would hardly have retained the
confidence of the Valley had he lived;" and the "Independent"--our old
friend, the news editor--paid him the straight out from the shoulder
compliment, "that he had died as he had lived, an uncompromising game
fighter to the end."

What became of Mr. Bat Brydges?  Bless you, my friend, do you need to
ask?  He is shouting for Reform as loudly as his kind always shout when
the tide turns.  What became of the scandal story?  What becomes of any
scandal story?  What becomes of the skunk's contribution to the gayety
of nations?--Buried in the memory of decent folks, long ago and
forgotten: in the memory of indecent folk, still hauled forth and
repeated and fondled under the tongue.



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