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Author: Norris, Zoe Anderson
Title: The Way of the Wind
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Title: The Way of the Wind


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THE WAY OF THE WIND

by

ZOE ANDERSON NORRIS

Drawings by Oberhardt







[Illustration: ZOE ANDERSON NORRIS]




New York
Published by the Author
1911
Copyright, 1911, by
Zoe Anderson Norris
Printed in the
United States of America
Published in October, 1911.
By Zoe Anderson Norris.
Office of the East Side Magazine,
338 East 15th St., New York




PROLOGUE


And as the sturdy Pilgrim Fathers cut their perilous way through the
dense and dangerous depths of the Forest Primeval for the setting up
of their hearthstones, so the courageous pioneers of the desolate and
treeless West were forced to fight the fury of the winds.

The graves of them lie mounded here and there in the uncultivated
corners of the fields, though more often one wanders across the level
country, looking for them in the places where they should be and are
not, because of the tall and waving corn that covers the length and
breadth of the land.

And yet the dead are not without memorial. Each steady stalk is a
plumed standard of pioneer conquest, and through its palmy leaves the
chastened wind remorsefully sighs requiems, chanting, whispering,
moaning and sighing from balmy springtime on through the heat of the
long summer days, until in the frost the farmers cutting the stalks
and stacking them evenly about in the semblance of long departed
tepees, leave no dangling blades to sigh through, nor tassels to
flout.

  THE AUTHOR.




The Way of the Wind


CHAPTER I.

[Illustration]


Looking back upon it, the little Kentucky town seemed to blossom for
Celia like the rose, one broad expanse of sloping lawns bordered with
flower beds and shaded by quiet trees, elms and maples, brightly green
with young leaflets and dark with cedars and pines, as it was on the
day when she stood on the vine-covered veranda of her mother's home,
surrounded by friends come to say good-by.

Jane Whitcomb kissed her cheek as she tied the strings of her big poke
bonnet under her chin.

"I hope you will be happy out theah, Celia," she said; "but if it was
me and I had to go, I wouldn't. You couldn't get me to take such
risks. Wild horses couldn't. All them whut wants to go West to grow
up with the country can go, but the South is plenty good enough fo'
me."

"Fo' me, too," sighed Celia, homesickness full upon her with the
parting hour. "It's Seth makes me go. Accordin' to him, the West is
the futuah country. He has found a place wheah they ah goin' to build
a Magic City, he says. He's goin' to maik a fortune fo' me out theah,
he says, in the West."

"Growin' up with the country," interrupted Sarah Simpson, tying a
bouquet of flowers she had brought for Celia with a narrow ribbon of
delicate blue.

"Yes," admitted Celia, "growing up with the country."

Sarah handed her the flowers.

"It's my opinion," concluded she, "that it's the fools, beggin' youah
pahdon, whut's goin' out theah to grow up with the country, and the
wise peepul whut's stayin' at home and advisin' of 'em to go."

Celia shuddered.

"I'm ha'f afraid to go," she said. "They say the wind blows all the
time out theah. They say it nevah quits blowin'."

"'Taint laik as if you wus goin' to be alone out theah," comforted
Mansy Storm, who was busy putting away a little cake she had made
with her own hands for Celia's lunch basket. "Youah husband will be
out theah."

She closed the lid down and raised her head brightly.

"Whut diffunce does it maik?" she asked, "how ha'd the wind blows if
you've got youah husband?"

Lucy Brown flipped a speck of dust from the hem of Celia's travelling
dress.

"Yes," said she, "and such a husband!"

Celia looked wistfully out over the calm and quiet street, basking in
the sunlight, peacefully minus a ripple of breeze to break the beauty
of it, her large eyes sad.

"I'm afraid of the wind," she complained. "Sto'ms scah me."

And she reiterated:

"I'm afraid of the wind!"

Sarah suddenly ran down the walk on either side of which blossomed old
fashioned flowers, Marsh Marigolds, Johnny-Jump-Ups and Brown-Eyed
Susans. She stood at the front gate, which swung on its hinges,
leaning over it, looking down the road.

"I thoat I heahd the stage," she called back. "Yes. Suah enuf. Heah it
is, comin'."

At that Celia's mother, hurrying fearfully out the door, threw her
arms around her.

Celia fell to sobbing.

"It's so fah away," she stammered brokenly, between her sobs. "I'm
afraid ... to ... go.... It's so fah ... away!"

"Theah! theah!" comforted her mother, lifting up her face and kissing
it. "It's not so fah but you can come back again. The same road comes
that goes, deah one. Theah! Theah!"

"Miss Celia," cried a reproachful voice from the door. "Is you gwine
away, chile, widout tellin' youah black Mammy good-by?"

Celia unclasped her mother's arms, fell upon the bosom of her black
Mammy and wept anew.

"De Lawd be wid you, chile," cooed the voice of the negress, musical
with tenderness, "an' bring you back home safe an' soun' in His own
time."

The stage rolled up with clash and clatter and flap of curtain.

It stopped at the gate. There ensued the rush of departure, the
driver, after hoisting the baggage of his one passenger thereto,
looking stolidly down on the heartbreak from the height of his perch,
his long whip poised in midair.

Celia's friends swarmed about her. They kissed her. They essayed to
comfort her. They thrust upon her gifts of fruit and flowers and
dainties for her lunch.

They bore her wraps out to the cumbersome vehicle which was to convey
her to Lexington, the nearest town which at that time boasted of a
railroad. They placed her comfortably, turning again and again to give
her another kiss and to bid her good-by and God-speed.

It was as if her heartstrings wrenched asunder at the jerk of the
wheels that started the huge stage onward.

"Good-by, good-by!" she cried out, her pale face at the window.

"Good-by," they answered, and Mansy Storm, running alongside, said to
her:

"You give my love to Seth, Celia. Don't you fo'get."

Then breathlessly as the stage moved faster:

"If evah the Good Lawd made a man a mighty little lowah than the
angels," she added, "that man's Seth."

The old stage rumbled along the broad white Lexington pike, past
houses of other friends, who stood at gates to wave her farewell.

It rumbled past little front yards abloom with flowers, back of which
white cottages blinked sleepily, one eye of a shuttered window open,
one shut, past big stone gates which gave upon mansions of more
grandeur, past smaller farms, until at length it drew up at the
tollgate.

Here a girl with hair of sunshine, coming out, untied the pole and
raised it slowly.

"You goin' away, Miss Celia?" she asked in her soft Southern brogue,
tuneful as the ripple of water. "I heah sumbody say you was goin'
away."

Celia smothered a sob.

"Yes," she answered, "I am goin' away."

"It's a long, long way out theah to the West," commented the girl
wistfully as she counted out the change for the driver, "a long, long
way!"

As if the way had not seemed long enough!

Celia sobbed outright.

"Yes," she assented, "it is a long, long way!"

"I am sawy you ah goin', Miss Celia," said the girl. "Good-by. Good
luck to you!" And the stage moved on, Celia staring back at her with
wide sad eyes. The girl leaned forward, let the pole carefully down
and fastened it. As she did so a ray of sunshine made a halo of her
hair.

Celia flung herself back into the dimness of the corner and wept out
her heart. It seemed to her that, with the letting down of that pole,
she had been shut out of heaven.




CHAPTER II.

[Illustration]


In all her life Celia had not travelled further from her native town
than Lexington, which was thirty miles away. It was not necessary. She
lived in the garden spot of the world, an Eden with all things
sufficient for a simple life.

As she stood at the station, waiting for her train, an old negro
shuffled by. He hummed the refrain of "Old Kentucky Home," "Fare you
well, my lady!" It seemed meant for her. The longing was strong within
her to fly back to the old town she loved so well; but the train,
roaring in just then, intimidated her by its unaccustomed turmoil and
she allowed herself to be hauled on board by the brakeman and placed
in the car.

Passing into the open country, the speed of the train increased. The
smoke and cinders poured into the open window. Timid because of her
strange surroundings, she silently accepted the infliction, cowering
into her seat without attempting to put the window down. When a man in
the opposite seat leaned forward and pulled it down for her, she was
too abashed to thank him, but retained her crouching position and
began silently to weep.

A terrible night of travel began. It was a day car. Celia crouched
into her seat, trying to sleep, afraid of everything, of the staring
eyes of the porter, of the strange faces about her, of the jet black
of the night that gloomed portentously through the window.

Then came the dawn and with it the long gray bridge spanning the drab
and sullen Mississippi, then St. Louis, with its bustle and rush and
more and more strange faces, a sea of strange faces through which she
must pass.

After another weary day of travel through which she dozed, too tired
to think, too tired to move, at twilight she reached Kansas City, a
little town on the edge of the desert. Here, worn out mentally and
physically, she was forced to stop and rest a night and sleep in a
bed.

And the next day the wind!

A little way out from the town she could see it beginning, bending
the pliant prairie grasses to earth, flinging them fiercely upward,
crushing them flat again and pressing them there, whistling,
whistling, whistling!

The car moved fairly fast for a car of that day, but the wind moved
faster. It shook the windows with terrific force. It blew small grains
of sand under the sill to sting Celia, moaning, moaning, moaning in
its mad and unimpeded march across the country straight to the skies.

She looked out in dismay.

Back of her, on either side of her and beyond, stretched this vast
prairie country, desolate of shrub, undergrowth, or tree, a barren
waste, different from the beautiful, still, green garden spot that she
called home, a spot redolent of flowers, sweet with the odor of
new-mown grass, and pungent with whiff of pine and cedar, different as
night is from day.

Her heart sank within her as she looked.

It was late in the afternoon when she came to her station, a
collection of frame shanties dignified by that name, and Seth, tall,
tanned and radiant, clasped her in his arms, and man though he was,
shed tears of pure rapture.

His joy served to thrill her momentarily to the extent of forgetting
the wind, but with his departure for the vehicle which was to convey
her to their home, the discomfort of it returned to her.

The madness of it! The fury of it! Its fiendish joy! It tore at her
skirts. It wrapped them about her. It snatched them away again,
flapping them flaglike.

It was with difficulty that she kept her hat on her head. She held it
with both hands.

The wind seemed to make sport of her, to laugh at her. It treated her
as it would a tenderfoot. It tried to frighten her. It blew the
shutters of the shanties open and slammed them to with a noise like
guns. It shrieked maniacally as if rejoicing in her discomfort. At
times it seemed to hoot at her.

Added to this, when Seth returned for her with the vehicle, it proved
to be a common two-wheeled cart drawn by a mule, a tall, ungainly cart
of dull and faded blue.

She kept back the tears as Seth helped her in.

Then she sat silently by him throughout their jolting journey over the
prairie country into what seemed to her to be the Nowhere, listening
to the wind chant, now requiems, now dirges, listening to its shriek
and whistle, listening to it cry aloud and moan, die down to a
whisper, then rise once more and wail like a living thing in
unendurable pain.

Seth, too, by and by fell into silence, but from a different cause.
The wind failed to distress him. He had become accustomed to it in the
months spent in preparing her home. It was like an old friend that
sometimes whispered in his tired ears words of infinite sweetness. He
forgave the wanton shrieks of it because of this sweetness, the
sweetness of a capricious woman, all the more sweet because of her
capriciousness.

He was silent from pure happiness at having Celia there beside him,
going over the same road with him in the old blue cart.

From time to time he glanced at her timidly as if half afraid if he
looked too hard the wind might blow her away.

And, indeed, there did appear to be some danger; for the wind that had
loved Seth from the first was apparently jealous of Celia. It tore at
her as though to toss her to unreachable distances in the way it
ripped the tumbleweeds from their small brittle stems and tossed them
away.

Seth looked at her profile, white from the fatigue of the journey, but
beautiful as alabaster; at the blue of her eyes; at the delicate taper
of her small white hands that from her birth had done only the
daintiest of service; at the small feet that had never once walked the
rough and sordid pathway of toil.

Beautiful! Beautiful!

His eyes caressed her. Except that he must hold the reins both arms
would have encircled her. As it was, she rested in the strong and
tender half-circle of one.

All at once the wind became frantic. It blew and blew!

Finding it impossible to tear Celia from the tender circling of that
arm, it wreaked its vengeance upon the tumbleweeds, broke them
fiercely from their stems, and sent them pell-mell over the prairie
before the tall blue cart, about it, at the sides of it, a fantastic
cortege, airily tumbling, tumbling, tumbling!

Yes. The wind was jealous of Celia.

Strong as it was, it failed of accomplishing its will, which would
have been to snatch her from the cart and toss her to the horizon in
company with the tumbleweeds. It shrieked its despair, the despair of
a jealous woman balked of her vengeance, tumultuously wild.

At last at about twilight, at the time of day when the prairie skies
are mellow with tints fit for a Turner and the prairie winds sough
with the tenderness of lullabies, resting for a period, in order to
prepare for the fury of the night, they came upon the forks of the two
rivers, sparsely sheltered by a few straggling and wind-blown trees.

Seth reined in the animal, sprang down over the high wheel of the cart
and helped Celia out.

"Darling," he said, "let me welcome you home!"

"Home," she repeated. "Where is it?"

For she saw before her only a slight elevation in the earth's surface,
a mound enlarged.

Going down a few steps, Seth opened wide the door of their dugout,
looking gladly up at her, standing stilly there, a picture daintily
silhouetted by the pearl pink of the twilit sky.

"Heah!" he smiled.

Celia stared down into the darkness of it as into a grave.

"A hole in the ground," she cried.

Then, as the beflowered home she had left rose mirage-like in the
window of her memory, she sobbingly re-stammered the words:

"A ... hole ... in ... the ... ground!"




CHAPTER III.

[Illustration]


It was not yet June, but the winds blow cold on the prairie later than
June at nightfall. The moment the sun goes down, up come the chill
winds.

Sick at heart, Seth coaxed the shuddering Celia down the steps into
the cellar-like habitation dimly lighted by a single half window dug
out mansard fashion at the side.

He was silent, hurt in every fibre of his being. His manner was one of
profound apology. She was right. It was only a hole in the ground; but
he, accustomed to dugouts during the months he had spent on the
prairie preparing for the joy of her coming, had overlooked its
deficiencies and learned to think of it as home.

There were two chairs. He was glad of that. For a long time there had
been only one.

He placed her in the new one, bought in honor of her coming, seating
her deferentially as if she had been a Queen, and went hurriedly
about, building a fire of little dry twigs he had torn from shrubs
along the river that the gay crackle of them might cheer her.

As she sat looking on, she saw in this humble service not his
devotion, but his humiliation, not his great love for her which
glorified all service humble or exalted, but the fact that he had so
descended in the scale of life as to put his hand to work that she had
been used to see done only by negroes.

Her pride, her only inheritance from haughty slave-holding ancestors,
was wounded. Not all Seth's devotion, not all his labor in her behalf
could salve that wound.

As he knelt before the blazing twigs, apparently doing their best to
aid him in his effort to cheer her, something of this feeling
penetrated to his inner consciousness.

Nevertheless, he piled on twig after twig until the refreshing flames
brilliantly illumined the dugout.

From dirt floor to dirt roof they filled it with light.

The poor little twigs, eagerly flashing into flame to help him!

Better far if, wet and soggy, they had burned dimly or not at all; for
their blaze only served to exhibit every deficiency Seth should have
endeavored to hide. The thatch of the roof, the sod, the carpetless
floor, the lack of furniture, the plain wooden bedstead in the corner
with its mattress of straw, the crazy window fashioned by his own rude
carpentry, the shapeless door which was like a slap in the face with
its raw and unpainted color of new wood.

After the first wild glance about her, Celia buried her face in her
hands, resolutely shutting out the view for fear of bursting into
uncontrollable tears.

Seth, seeing this, rose from his knees slowly, lamely, as if suddenly
very tired, and went about his preparations for their evening meal.

Men with less courage than it required to perform this simple duty
have stood up to be shot at.

Knowing full well that with each act of humble servitude he sank lower
and lower in the estimation of the one living creature in whose
estimation he wished to stand high, he once more knelt on the hearth,
placed potatoes in the ashes, raked a little pile of coals together
and set the coffee pot on them.

He drew the small deal table out and put upon it two cups and saucers,
plates and forks for two. There was but one knife. That was for Celia.
A pocket knife was to serve for himself.

It had been his pleasure throughout his lonely days of waiting to
picture this first meal which Celia and he should eat together.

Never once had he dreamed that the realization could come so near
breaking a strong man's heart,--that things seemingly of small import
could stab with a thrust so knife-like.

He felt the color leave his cheek at the thought that he had failed to
provide a cloth for the table, not even a napkin. He fumbled at his
bandana, then hopelessly replaced it in his pocket. He grew cold at
the realization that every luxury to which she had been accustomed,
almost every necessity, was absent from that plain board.

He had counted on her love to overlook much.

It had overlooked nothing.

When all was in readiness he drew up a chair and begged her to be
seated.

He took the opposite chair and the meal proceeded in silence, broken
only by the wail of the wind and the crackle of the little dry twigs
that burned on the hearth.

"I am afraid of it," sighed Celia.

"Of what, sweet?" he asked, and she answered:

"I am afraid of the wind."

"There is nothing to be afraid of," he explained quickly. "It is only
the ordinary wind of the prairies. It ain't a cyclone. Cyclones nevah
come this way, neah to the forks of two rivers wheah we ah," and
waxing eloquent on this, his hobby, he began telling her of the great
and beautiful and prosperous city which was sometime to be built on
this spot; perhaps the very dugout in which they sat would form its
center. He talked enthusiastically of the tall steepled temples that
would be erected, of the schools and colleges, of the gay people
beautifully dressed who would drive about in their carriages under the
shade of tall trees that would line the avenues, of the smiling men
and women and children whose home the Magic City would be, and how he
was confident they would build it here because, in the land of
terrible winds, when people commenced to erect their metropolis, they
must put it where no deadly breath of cyclone or tornado could tear at
it or overturn it.

With that he went on to describe the destructive power of the
cyclones, telling how one in a neighboring country had licked up a
stream that lay in its course, showering the water and mud down fifty
miles away.

"But no cyclone will ever come here," he added and explained why.

Because it was the place of the forks of two rivers, the Big Arkansas
and the Little Arkansas. A cyclone will go out of its way, he told
her, rather than tackle the forks of two rivers. The Indians knew
that. They had pitched their tents here before they had been driven
into the Territory and that was what they had said. And they were very
wise about some things, those red men, though not about many.

But Celia could not help putting silent questions to herself. Why
should a cyclone that could snatch up a river and toss it to the
clouds, fight shy of the forks of two?

Looking fearfully around at the shadows, she interrupted him:

"I am afraid," she whispered. "I am afraid!"

Seth left his place at the table and took her in his arms.

"Po' little gurl," he said. "Afraid, and tiahd, too. Travelin' so fah.
Of cose, she's tiahd!"

And with loving hands, tender as a mother's, he helped her undress and
laid her on the rough bed of straw, covered with sheets of the
coarsest, wishing it might be a bed of down covered with silks,
wishing they were back in the days of enchantment that he might change
it into a couch fit for a Princess by the wave of a wand.

Then he left her a moment, and walking out under the wind-blown stars
he looked up at them reverently and said aloud:

(For in the dreary deserts of loneliness one often learns to talk
aloud very openly and confidentially to God, since people are so
scarce and far away:)

"Tempah the wind to this po' shiverin' lam, deah Fathah!"

Then with a fanatic devotion, he added:

"And build the Magic City!"




CHAPTER IV.

[Illustration]


Upon each trip to the station for provision or grain Seth met with
tail ends of cyclones, or heard of rumors of those that had just
passed through, or were in process of passing, strange enough stories
of capers cut by the fantastic winds.

He told these tales to Celia with a vein of humor meant to cheer her,
but which had an opposite effect. Love blinded, he failed to see that
the nervous laughs with which she greeted them were a sign of terror
rather than amusement.

One night, he related, after a day whose sultriness had been almost
unendurable, a girl had stood at the door to her dugout, bidding her
sweetheart good night. She opened the door, he stepped outside, and a
cyclone happening to pass that way, facetiously caught him into the
atmosphere and carried him away somewhere, she never knew where.

Strewn in the path of that cyclone were window-sashes, doors,
shingles, hair mattresses, remnants of chimneys, old iron, bones,
rags, rice, old shoes and dead bodies; but not the body of her
blue-eyed sweetheart.

For many months she grieved for him, dismally garbed in crape, which
was extremely foolish of her, some said, for all she knew he might
still be in the land of the living. Possibly the cyclone had only
dropped him into another county where, likely as not, he was by this
time making love to another girl.

But though she mourned and mourned and waited and waited for the wild
winds to bring him back, or another in his place, none came.

"They've got to tie strings to their sweethearts in this part of the
country," the old gray-haired man at the corner grocery had said, "if
they want to keep them."

Another playful cyclone had snatched up a farmer who wore red and
white striped socks. The cyclone had blown all the red out of the
socks, the story teller had said, so that when they found the farmer
flattened against a barn door as if he had been pasted there, his
socks were white as if they had never contained a suspicion of red.
They had turned white, no doubt, through fright.

Evidently knives had flown promiscuously about in another cyclone, he
said. Hogs had been cut in two and chickens carved, ready for the
table.

There were demons at work as well as knives.

A girl was engaged to be married. All her wedding finery had been
made. Dainty, it was, too; so dainty that she laid it carefully away
in a big closet in a distant wing of the house, far from the profane
stare of strange eyes. She made discreet pilgrimages to look at those
dainty things so dear to her, lingerie white and soft and fine, satin
slippers, fans, gloves and a wedding gown of dazzling snowiness.

The day was set for the wedding. Unfortunately--how could she know
that?--the same day was set for a cyclone.

The girl could almost hear the peal of the wedding bells; when along
came the tornado, rushing, roaring, shrieking like mad, and grasping
that wing of the house, that special and precious wing containing her
trousseau, bore it triumphantly off.

A silk waist was found in one county, but the skirt to match it lay in
another, many miles away. Her beplumed hat floated in a pool of
disfiguring water, her long suede gloves lay in a ditch and her white
satin wedding slippers, alas, hung by their tiny heels at the top of a
tree in a neighboring township, the only tree in the entire
surrounding county, put there, in all probability, to catch and hold
them for her.

Naturally, the wedding was postponed until new wedding finery could be
prepared, but alas! A man's will is the wind's will!

By the time the second trousseau was well on the way, the affections
of the girl's sweetheart had wafted away and wound themselves about
another girl.

Here and there the prairie farmers had planted out trees in rows and
clumps, taking tree claims from the Government for that purpose.

In many instances cyclones had bent these prospective forests double
in their extreme youth, leaving them to grow that way, leaning heavily
forward in the attitude of old men running.

Of course, there were demons. God could have nothing to do with their
devilments, Seth said. Seth had great belief in God.

One had maliciously torn up all the churches in a town by the roots,
turned them upside down and stuck their steeples in the ground as if
in mockery of religion.

"Why do you call them cyclones?" the old man at the corner grocery had
asked. "They are not cyclones. They are tornadoes."

And this old man who had once been a doctor of medicine in an Eastern
village and who was therefore learned, though he had been persuaded by
some Wise men to go West and grow up with the Fools, went on to
explain the difference.

"A cyclone," he said, "is miles and miles in width. It sweeps across
the prairie screeching and screaming, but doing not so very much
damage as it might do, just getting on the nerves of the people and
helping to drive them insane. That is all.

"Then along comes a hailstone. It drops into the southeast corner of
this cyclone and there you are! It generates a tornado and That is the
Thing that rends the Universe."

Seth had listened to these stories undismayed; for what had they to do
with his ranch and the Magic City upon which it was to be built?

A cyclone would never come to the forks of two rivers. The Indians had
said so.

Tradition had it that an old squaw whose name was Wichita had
bewitched the spot with her incantations, defying the wind to touch
the ground on which she had lived and died.

It must have been that this old squaw still occupied the spot, that
her phantom still stooped over seething kettles, or stalked abroad in
the darkness, or chanted dirges to the slap and pat of the grim war
dance of the Indians; for the winds, growing frightened, had let the
forks of the river alone.

Seth was very careful to relate this to Celia, to reiterate it to this
fearful Celia who started up so wildly out of her sleep at the
maniacal shriek of the wind. Very tenderly he whispered the
reassurance and promise of protection against every blast that blew,
thus soothing her softly back to slumber, after which he lay awake,
watching her lest she wake again and wishing he might still the
Universe while she slept.

He redoubled his care of her by night and by day, doing the work of
the dugout before he began the work of the fields, not only bending
over the tubs early in the morning for fear such bending might hurt
her, but hanging out the clothes on the line for fear the fierce and
vengeful wind might tan her beautiful complexion and tangle the fine
soft yellow of her hair.

For the same reason, he brought in the clothes after the day's labor
was over, and ironed them. He also did the simple cooking in order to
protect her beauty from blaze of log and twinkle of twig.

If he could he would have hushed the noise of the world for love of
her.

And yet, day after day, coming home from his work in the fields, he
found her at the door of their dugout, peering after the east-bound
train, trailing so far away as to seem a toy train, with a look of
longing that struck cold to his heart.

His affection counted as nothing. His care was wasted. In spite of
which he was full of apologies for her.

Other women, making these crude caves into homes for themselves and
their children, had found contentment, but they were women of a
different fibre.

He would not have her of a different and coarser fibre, this exquisite
Southern creature, charming, delicate, set like a rare exotic in the
humble window of his hut.

It was not her fault. It was his. It was his place to turn the hut
into a palace for his Queen; and so he would, when the Wise Men came
out of the East and built the Magic City.

When the Fools had made the plains a fit place for human beings to
inhabit, planting trees to draw down the reluctant rain from the
clouds, sowing seed and raising crops sometimes, to their surprise and
the amazement of those who heard of it, the Wise Men would appear and
buy the land, and the building of great cities would begin.

Already they had reared a town that dared approach in size to a city
on the edge of the desert, but what had happened?

An angry cyclone, hearing of it, had come along and snatched it into
the clouds.

Furious at sight of its spick and span newness, its yellow frame
shanties and shining shingles, it had carried it off as if it had
been a hen coop and set it down somewhere in Texas, a state that had
been longer settled and was therefore a better place for houses and
fences, and left it there.

Then the Wise Men, growing discouraged, had gone away.

But they would come again, he promised himself. They would come again.
They must. Not to pass through in long vestibule trains whose sparks
out of pure fiendishness lighted the furious prairie fires that were
so hard to put out, smothering the innocent occupants of the dugouts
in their sleep and burning their grain. Not to gaze wild-eyed through
the shining windows of these splendid cars as they passed on and on to
some more promising unwind-blown country, to build there their
beautiful cities of marble and of stone.

They would come to stay.

When?

Why, when they should find a spot unvisited by cyclones, and that spot
would be in the place of their dugout at the forks of these two
rivers, the Big Arkansas and the Little Arkansas, the little river
that had real water trickling along its shallow bed year in and year
out, and the Big river whose bed was dry as a bone all the year round
until June, when the melting snows of the Rockies sent the water down
in floods.

In fierce, uncontrollable and pitiless floods to drown the crops that
had been spared by the chinch bugs, the grasshoppers and the Hot
Winds.

All this Seth told Celia, finishing with his old rapturous picture of
the glory of the Magic City, which he called after the old witch who
had driven the winds from the forks of the rivers, Wichita.

He talked on, trying hard not to let her listless air of incredulity
freeze the marrow of his bones and the blood in his veins, or cut him
so deeply as to destroy his enrooted hope in their splendid future.

Taking her in his arms, partly to hide her cold face from his view and
partly to comfort her, he offered every possible apology for her
unbelief, wrapping her about with his love and tenderness as with a
mantle.

He thought by day of the coming of the child, and dreamed of it by
night, trusting that, whether or not she shared his belief in the
Magic City, when she held it warmly in her arms, that little baby,
his and hers, the homesick look would give place to a look of content,
and the hole in the ground would become to her a home.




CHAPTER V.

[Illustration]


Seth was toiling slowly along a furrow back of his plow, bending
sidewise with the force of the wind, not resentfully that it persisted
in making it so difficult for him to earn his bread, for resentment
was not in his nature, besides which, Seth loved the wind,--but
humming a little tune, something soft and reminiscent about his old
Kentucky home, with its chorus of "Fare you well, my lady," when a
broncho, first a mere speck on the horizon ahead of him, then larger
and larger, rushed out of the wind from across the prairie with
flashing eyes and distended nostrils, and lunged toward him.

At first he thought it was a wild broncho, untamed and riderless; but
as his eyes became accustomed to dust and sunlight, he discovered that
the saddle held a girl.

For the moment she had bent herself to the broncho's mane, which had
the effect, together with the haze produced by the wind-blown dust, of
rendering the animal apparently riderless.

Seth drew up his mule and halted.

At the same time the broncho was jerked with a sudden rein that sent
him back on his haunches, his front feet pawing the air.

His rider, apparently accustomed to this pose, clung to him with the
persistency of a fly to fly paper, righted him, swung herself from the
saddle and stood before Seth, a tall, slim girl of twelve, a girl of
complexion brown as berries, of dark eyes heavily fringed with thick
lashes and dusky hair tinged redly with sunburn. Her hair, one of her
beauties, blew about her ears in tangled curls that were unconfined by
hat or bonnet.

She smiled at him, showing rows of rice-like teeth, of an exaggerated
white in contrast with the sunburn of her face.

"Hello," she said.

"Hello," said Seth in return.

Then, in the outspoken manner of the prairie folk he asked:

"Who ah you?"

"I am Cyclona," she answered.

"Cyclona what?"

"Just Cyclona. I ain't got no other name."

Seth smiled back at her, she seemed so timidly wild, like those little
prairie dogs that stand on their haunches and bark, and yet are ever
mindful of the safety of their near-by lairs, waiting for them in case
of molestation.

"Wheah did you come frum?" he queried.

"Two or three hundred miles from here," she answered, "where we had a
claim."

"Who is we?" asked Seth.

"My father and me. He ain't my real father. He's the man what adopted
me."

Always courteous, Seth stood, hand on plough, waiting for her to state
her errand or move on.

She did neither.

"There be'n't many neighbors hereabout, be there?" she ventured
presently, toying with her broncho's mane.

"No," said Seth. "They ah mighty scarce. One about every eighteen
miles or so."

Cyclona looked straight at him out of her big dark eyes framed by
their heavy lashes.

"I am a neighbor of yourn," she said.

"I'm glad of that," responded Seth with ready Southern cordiality.
"Wheah do you live?"

Cyclona turned and pointed to the horizon.

"About ten or twelve miles away," she explained. "There!"

"Been theah long?" asked Seth.

"Come down last week," said Cyclona, adding lightly by way of
explanation, "we blew down. Father and his wife and me. Never had no
mother. A cyclone blew her away. That's why they call me Cyclona."

She drew her sleeve across her eyes.

"It's mighty lonesome in these parts," she sighed, "without no
neighbors. Neighbors was nearer where we came from."

"What made you move, then?" Seth queried.

"We didn't move," said Cyclona. "We was moved. Father likes it here,
but I get awful lonesome without no neighbors."

The plaint struck an answering chord.

"Look heah," said Seth. "You see that little dugout 'way ovah theah?
That's wheah I live. My wife's theah all by herself. She's lonesome,
too. Maybe she'd laik to have you come and visit her and keep her
company. Will you?"

Cyclona nodded a delighted assent, caught the mane of her broncho, and
swung herself into her saddle with the ease and grace of a cowboy.

Seth was suddenly engrossed with the fear that Celia, seeing the girl
come out of the Nowhere, as she had come upon him, might be frightened
into the ungraciousness of unsociability.

"Wait," he cried. "I will go with you."

So he took Cyclona's rein and led her broncho over the prairie to
Celia's door, the girl, laughing at the idea of being led, chattering
from her saddle like any magpie.

He knocked at Celia's door and soon her face, white, Southern,
aristocratic, in sharp contrast with the sunburned cheek and wild eye
of Cyclona, appeared.

He waved a rough hand toward Cyclona, sitting astride her broncho, a
child of the desert, untamed as a coyote, an animated bronze of the
untrammelled West emphasized by the highlights of sunshine glimmering
on curl and dimple, on broncho mane and hoof, and backed by the
brilliancy of sky, the far away line of the horizon and the howl of
the wind.

"Look!" he called to her exultantly, in the voice of the prairies,
necessarily elevated in defiance of the wind, "I have brought a little
girl to keep you company."




CHAPTER VI.

[Illustration]


It was in this way that Cyclona blew into their lives and came to be
something of a companion to Celia, though, realizing that the girl was
a distinct outgrowth of the country she so detested, she never came to
care for her with that affection which she had felt for her Southern
girl friends. The kindly interest which most women, settled in life,
feel for the uncertain destiny of every girl child bashfully budding
into womanhood was absent.

It is to be doubted if Celia possessed a kindly heart to begin with,
added to which there was nothing of the self-conscious bud about
Cyclona. She was ignorant of her beauty as a prairie rose. Strange as
her life had been, encompassed about by cyclones, the episode of her
moving as told by the gray-haired doctor at the corner grocery was
stranger.

"The house was little," the doctor commenced, "or it might not have
happened. There was only one room. It was built of boards and weighed
next to nothing, which may have helped to account for it.

"On that particular day the house was situated in the northern part of
the State."

He swapped legs.

"But the next day," he resumed. "Well, you can't tell exactly where
any house will be the next day in Kansas.

"It was about noon and Cyclona's foster father was out in the
cornfield, plowing. The wind, as usual, was blowing a gale. It was a
mild gale, sixty miles an hour, so Jonathan did not permit it to
interfere with his plowing. The rows were a little uneven because the
wind blew the horse sidewise and that naturally dragged the plow out
of the furrows, but as one rarely sees a straight row of corn in
Kansas, Jonathan was not worried. If he took pains to sow the corn
straight, in trim and systematic rows, like as not the wind would blow
the seed out of the ground into his neighbor's cornfield, so what was
the use?

"Like the horse and plough, Jonathan was walking crooked, bent in the
direction of the wind. He seldom walks straight or talks straight for
that matter, the wind has had such an effect on him.

"At any rate, leaving out the question of his reasoning which pursues
a devious and zigzag course, varying according to the way the wind
blows--and he is not alone in this peculiarity in Kansas, as I
say--Jonathan steadily toiled against the wind, he stopped altogether,
and taking out his lunch basket, he removed a pie and sat down on a
log to eat it, while his horse, moving a little further along, propped
himself against a cottonwood tree to keep from being entirely blown
away, and also rested."

He swapped tobacco wads from one cheek to the other and continued:

"The pie was made of custard, Jonathan said, with meringue on the top.
The meringue blew away, but Jonathan contentedly ate the custard,
thankful that the hungry wind had not taken that.

"Mrs. Jonathan had been going about all morning with a dust rag in her
hand, wiping the dust from the sills and the furniture.

"So, tired out at last, she had flung herself on the bed and was
quietly napping when the cyclone came along.

"Of course, the house and the bed she was lying on were shaken, but
Mrs. Jonathan had lived so long in Kansas she couldn't sleep unless
the wind rocked the bed.

"She slept all the sounder, therefore, lulled by its whistling and
moaning and sobbing, not waking even when Cyclona, this girl they had
adopted, opened the door and shut it suddenly with herself on the
inside, and a fortunate thing, too, that was for Cyclona, or the
cyclone might have left her behind.

"Cyclona, standing by the window, saw it all, the swiftly passing
landscape, the trees, the cows, as one would look from an observation
car on a train.

"The house was at last deposited rather roughly on terra firma and the
jar awoke Mrs. Jonathan. She sat up and rubbed her eyes open. Then she
looked about her in some alarm.

"The furniture was tumbled together in one corner all in a heap,
Jonathan says, and the pictures were topsy turvy. Pictures are never
on a level on Kansas walls on account of the winds, so Mrs. Jonathan
thought little of this, but the ceiling puzzled her. Instead of
arching in the old way, it pointed at her. It was full of shingles,
moreover, like a roof, and the point reached nearly to her head when
she sat up in the bed, staring about her.

"'What on earth is the matter?' she asked of Cyclona.

"Cyclona turned away from the window.

"'We have moved,' said she.

"Mrs. Jonathan arose then, and going to the door, opened it and found
that what Cyclona had said was true. The scenery was quite different.
It is much further south here, you know, than in the northern part of
the State. The grass was green and the trees, hardly budded at all
where she came from, here had full grown leaves.

"There was little or no debris in the path of the cyclone, nearly
everything, with the exception of the house, having been dropped
before it arrived at that point.

"A few stray cows hung from the branches of the large cottonwood
trees, Jonathan says...."

Here the Doctor was interrupted by a man who took his pipe out of his
mouth and coughed.

"But they presently dropped on all fours," he continued, "and began to
munch on the nice green grass growing all about them.

"The landscape thus losing all indications of the tornado's effect,
assumed a sylvan aspect which was tranquil in the extreme.

"Not far off stood the horse still hitched to the plough, Jonathan
said. The horse had a dazed look, but the plough seemed to be in fit
enough condition. One handle, slightly bent, had evidently struck
against something on the journey, which gave it a rakish aspect, but
that was all."

"Did the horse have its hide on?" asked the man who had coughed.

"So far's I know," the Doctor replied. "Why?"

"Because there's a story goin' the rounds," answered the cougher, "to
the effec' that a horse was blown a hundred miles in a cyclone and
when they found him he was hitched to a tree and skinned."

There was a period of thoughtful silence before the Doctor went on
with his story.

"As Mrs. Jonathan looked out the door," he said, "she saw Jonathan
walking down the road in her direction. His slice of pie, which he had
not had time to finish, was still in his hand.

"'Where are we at?' he asked her, curiously.

"'I am sure I don't know,' answered Mrs. Jonathan, beginning,
woman-like, to cry, now that the danger was over.

"Jonathan began to finish his pie, which the cyclone had interrupted.
Between mouthfuls he gave quick glances of surprise at the house.

"'What on earth!' he exclaimed, 'is the matter with the roof?'

"Mrs. Jonathan ran out to look.

"The tornado had been busy with the roof. It had blown it skyward and
then, upon second thoughts, had brought it back again and deposited it
not right side up, but upside down.

"The extreme suction caused by this sudden reversal of things had
caught every rag of clothing in the house into the atmosphere where,
adhering to the roof, they had been brought down with it, so that they
hung in festoons all around the outside, the roof, fastening onto the
walls with a tremendous jerk, securing all the different articles with
the clinch of a massive and giant clothespin.

"'It was a strange sight,' Jonathan said.

"Mrs. Jonathan's and Cyclona's skirts, stockings, shirt waists, night
dresses and handkerchiefs were strung along indiscriminately with
Jonathan's trousers, coats, waistcoats and socks. Here and there, in
between, prismatic quilts, red bordered tablecloths and fringed
napkins varied the monotony.

"'How are we ever going to get them down?' asked Mrs. Jonathan, the
floodgate of her tears loosed once more at sight of her household and
wearing apparel hung, as it were, from the housetop.

"Jonathan said his wife didn't seem to think of the kindness of the
cyclone in bringing her husband along with the house when it might so
easily have divorced them by dropping him into the house of some plump
widow. All she seemed to think of was those clothes.

"'Don't you worry,' he told her. 'We will just wait till another
cyclone comes along and turns the roof right side up again.'

"For one becomes philosophical, you know, living in Kansas. One must,
or live somewhere else....

"Jonathan looked delightedly about him.

"The green prairies sloped away to the skies; there was a clump of
cottonwood trees near by and a little creek, the same that gurgles by
Seth's claim, gurgled by his between twin rows of low green bushes.

"He admired this scenery, Jonathan did. He smiled a smile which
stretched from one ear to the other when he discovered that his
faithful and trusted horse had followed him down and was standing
conveniently near by, ready for work.

"'I like this part of the country,' he declared, 'better than the part
we came from. We'll just stake off this claim and take possession.'

"After a moment of thought, however, he added provisionally:

"'That is, until another cyclone takes a notion to move us.'"




CHAPTER VII.

[Illustration]


Across the purple prairie, the wondering stars blinking down upon him,
the wind tearing at him to know what the matter was, the tumbleweeds
tumbling at the heels of his broncho, his heart in his mouth, Seth
madly rode in the wild midnight to fetch the weazened old woman who
tended the women of the desert, rode as madly back again, leaving the
midwife to follow.

After an age, it seemed to him, she came, and the child was born.

Seth knelt and listened to the breathing of the little creature in the
rapture felt by most mothers of newborn babes and by more fathers than
is supposed.

Now and again this feeling, which more than any other goes to make us
akin to the angels, is lacking in a mother.

Seth saw with a sadness he could not uproot that Celia was one of
these. His belief, therefore, in the efficacy of the child to comfort
her went the way of other beliefs he had been forced one by one to
relinquish. When, after some weeks of tending her, the old woman was
gone, and Celia was able to be about, it was he who took charge of the
child, while she, in her weakness, gave herself up to an increased
disgust for her surroundings and an even deeper longing to go back
home.

It was in vain that he showed her the broad green of the wheat fields,
smiling in the sunlight, waving in the wind.

Some blight would come to them.

Fruitlessly he pictured to her the little house he would build for her
when the crop was sold.

She listened incredulously.

       *       *       *       *       *

And then came the grasshoppers.

For miles over the vastness of the desert they rushed in swarms,
blackening the earth, eclipsing the sun.

Having accomplished their mission of destruction, they disappeared as
quickly as they had come, leaving desolation in their wake. The
prairie farms had been reduced to wastes, no leaves, no trees, no
prairie flowers, no grasses, no weeds.

One old woman had planted a garden near her dugout, trim, neat,
flourishing, with its rows of onions, potatoes and peas in the pod.
It was utterly demolished. She covered her head with her apron and
wept old disconsolate tears at the sight of it.

Another was hanging her clothes on the line. When the grasshoppers
were gone there were no clothes and no line.

As for the beautiful wheat fields that had shone in the sun, that had
waved in the wind, they lay before Seth's tearless eyes, a blackened
ruin.

Was it against God's wish that they make their feeble effort to
cultivate the plains, those poor pioneer people, that He must send a
scourge of such horror upon them?

Or had He forsaken the people and the country, as Celia had said?

Seth walked late along the ruin of the fields, not talking aloud to
God as was his wont when troubled, silent rather as a child upon whom
some sore punishment has been inflicted for he knows not what, silent,
brooding, heartsick with wondering, and above all, afraid to go back
and face the chill of Celia's look and the scorn of her eye.

But what one must do one must do, and back he went finally, opened
the badly hung door and stood within, his back to it, with the air of
a culprit, responsible alike for the terror of the winds, the scourge
of the grasshoppers and the harshness of God.

"As a man," she said slowly, her blue eyes shining with their clear
cold look of cut steel through slits of half-shut white lids, the
words dropping distinctly, clearly, relentlessly, that he might not
forget them, that he might remember them well throughout the endless
years of desert life that were to follow, "you ah a failuah."

He hung his head.

"You ah right," he said.

For though he had not actually gone after the grasshoppers and brought
them in a deadly swarm to destroy his harvest, he had enticed her to
the plains it seemed for the purpose of witnessing the destruction.

"You ah right," he reiterated.

In the night Celia dreamed of home and the blue-grass hills and the
whip-poor-wills and the mocking birds that sang through the moonlight
from twilight till dawn.

Sobbing in her sleep, she waked to hear the demoniacal shriek of the
tireless wind and the howl of a coyote, and wept, refusing to be
comforted.

The next day she said to Seth firmly and conclusively:

"I am goin' home."




CHAPTER VIII.

[Illustration]


To do her justice, Celia would have taken the child with her; but
young as he was, Seth refused to give him up. He would buy a little
goat, he said, feed the baby on its milk and look after him.

At heart he said to himself that he would hold the child as ransom.
Surely, if love for him failed, love for the little one would draw the
mother back to the hole in the ground.

He found Cyclona and implored her to keep the child while he hitched
up the cart and drove the mother away over the same road she had come
to the station.

It was a silent drive; each occupied with individual thoughts running
in separate channels; she glad that her eyes were looking their last
on the wind-lashed prairies blackened by the scourge; he casting about
in his mind for some bait with which to entice her to return.

"You will come back to the child?" he faltered.

But she made no answer.

"If the crops succeed," he ventured, "and I build you a beautiful
house, then will you come back?"

For answer, she gave a scornful glance at the blackened plains,
flowerless, grainless, grassless.

"If the Wise Men come out of the East," it was his last plea, "and
build the Magic City, then you will come back?"

At that she laughed aloud and the wind, to spare him the sound of it,
tossed the laugh quickly out and away with the jeer of its cruel
mockery.

"The Magic City!" she repeated.

She laughed in derision of such violence that she fell to coughing.

"The Magic City!" she reiterated. "The Magic City!"




CHAPTER IX.

[Illustration]


For one mad moment, such as comes to the bravest, Seth's impulse was
to throw himself beneath the wheels of the car that was taking Celia
away from him.

In another he would have lain a crushed and shapeless mass in their
wake; but as he shut his eyes for the leap there came to him
distinctly, pitifully, wailingly, the cry of the child.

Perhaps it came to him in reality across the intervening miles of
wind-blown prairie. Perhaps the wind blew it to him. Who knows? Our
Mother Earth often sends us help in our sorest need in her own way, a
way which oftentimes partakes of mystery.

Perhaps it came only in memory.

However, it served.

He opened his eyes, and the madness had passed.

He pulled himself together dazedly, unfastened the hitch rein of the
mule, mounted awkwardly into the high and ungainly blue cart and
started off in the direction of the cry.

The wind which on the coming trip had appeared to take fiendish
delight in trying to tear Celia's garments to ribbons, now suddenly
died down, for the wind loved Seth.

It had done with Celia. She was gone. But not by one breath would it
add to the grief of Seth. On the contrary, it spent its most dulcet
music in the effort to soothe him. Tenderly as the cooing of a dove it
whispered in his ear, reminding him of the child.

He answered aloud.

"I know," he said. "I had forgotten him. The po' little mothahless
chile!"

And the wind kissed his cheek, its breath sweet as a girl's, caressing
him, urging him over the vastness of the prairie to the child.

On the road to the station, Seth's mind had been filled with Celia to
the exclusion of all else. He had not observed the devastation of the
prairie.

Unlike her, his heart held no hatred for the wayward winds. They were
of heaven. He loved them. Fierce they were at times, it was true,
claws that clutched at his heart; but at other times they were gentle
fingers running through his hair.

Their natures were opposite as the poles, his and hers.

The prairies were her detestation. He loved them.

He inherited the traits of his ancestors, the sturdy Kentucky pioneers
who had lived in log huts and felled the forests in settling the
country. Something not yet tamed within him loved the little wild
things that had their homes in the prairie grasses:

The riotous birds, the bright-colored insects, the prairie dogs in
their curious towns, sitting on their haunches at the doors of their
little dugouts, so similar to his own, and barking, then running at
whistle or crack of whip into the holes to their odd companions, the
owls and the rattlesnakes; the herds of antelope emerging from the
skyline and brought down to equally diminutive size by the infinite
distance, disappearing into the skyline mysteriously as they had come.

But now he looked out on the prairie with a sigh.

It was like a familiar face disfigured by a burn, scarred and almost
unrecognizable.

The prairie in loneliness is similar to the sea.

In one wide circle it stretches from horizon to horizon.

It stretched about him far as the eye could reach, scorched and
hideous as the ruin of his life.

He shut his eyes. He dared not look out on the ruin of his life. What
if the ghastly spectacle should turn his brain?

That had been known to happen among the prairie folk time out of
number. Many a brain stupefied by the lonely life of the dugout, the
solemn, often portentous grandeur of the great blue dome, under which
the pioneers crawled so helplessly, had been blown zigzag by the wild
buffetings of the wayward, wanton winds, punctuating the dread
loneliness so insistently, so incessantly, so diabolically by its
staccato preludes, by its innuendoes of interludes prestissimo, by its
finales frantically furious and fiendishly calculated to frighten the
soul and tear the bewildered and weakened brain from its pedestal.

The reproach of the thought held something of injustice, the wind
blew with such gentleness, kissing his cheek.

His mind ran dangerously on in the current of insanity. He endeavored
to quiet it.

The thought of his mother came to him.

Once he had heard her crying in the night, waiting for his father to
come home, not knowing where he was, wondering as women will, and
fearfully crying.

Then he heard her begin to count aloud in the dark:

"One, two. One, two, three," she had counted, to quiet her brain.

He fell mechanically to counting as she had done:

"One, two. One, two, three."

He must preserve his sanity, he said to himself, for the sake of the
child. Otherwise it would be good to lose all remembrance, to forget,
to dream, to lapse into the nothingness of the vacant eye, the
down-drooping lid and the drivel.

"One, two. One, two, three," he counted, the wind listening.

In spite of the counting, with his eyes fixed on the desolation of the
prairie, his thoughts on Celia, suddenly he felt himself seized by
gusts of violent rage. The desire to dash out his brains against the
unyielding wall of his relentless destiny tore him like the fingers of
a giant hand.

"One, two. One, two, three," he counted, and between the words came
the cry of the child.

If he could only render his mind a blank until it recovered its
equilibrium, a ray of sunshine must leak in somewhere.

It must for the sake of the child.

But how was it possible for him to go back to the ghastliness of the
dugout, the bereft house, where it was as if the most precious inmate
had suddenly died--to the place that had held Celia but would hold her
no more!

It was necessary to count very steadily here, to strangle an outcry of
despair.

"One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four, five."

He could count no further.

The wind, seeing his distress, soughed with a weird sweet sound like
aeolian harps in the effort to comfort him, but he dropped the reins
and laid his face in the hollow of his arm.

It was the attitude of a woman, grief-stricken.

He had evidently fallen into a lethargy of grief from which he must be
aroused.

So thought the wind. It blew a great blast. It whistled loudly as if
calling, calling, calling!

Was it the wind or his heart? Was it his Mother Nature, his Guardian
Angel, or God?

Again pitifully, distinctly, wailingly, came the cry of the child.

He raised his head, grasped the reins and hurried.

On he went, on and on, faster and faster, until at last he came to the
door of the tomb.

He descended into it. He took the child from the arms of Cyclona, who
sat by the fire cuddling it, and held it close to his heart.

"He has been crying," she told him, "every single minute since you
have been gone. Crying! Crying! No matter what I did, no matter how
hard I tried, I couldn't quiet him."




CHAPTER X.

[Illustration]


On the following day Cyclona sat in the low rocking chair, rocking the
baby, singing to it, crooning a lullaby, a memory of her own baby days
when some self-imposed mother, taking the place of her own, had
crooned to her.

    "Sleep, baby, sleep,
    The big stars are the sheep.
    The little stars are the lambs, I guess,
    The moon is the shepherdess,
                      Sleep,
                        Baby,
                          Sleep."

But the baby sobbed, looking in bewilderment up at the dark gypsy face
above it in search of the pale and beautiful face of his mother.

Finding it not, he hid his eyes upon her shoulder, and sobbed.

The wind sobbed with him. Outside the window it wailed in eerie
lamentation. It dashed a near-by shrub, a ragged rosetree that Seth
had planted, against the window. The twigs tapped at the pane like
human fingers.

"There, there!" soothed Cyclona, and she changed the baby's position,
so that his little body curled warmly about her and his face was
upturned to hers to coax him into the belief that she was Celia.

Once more she drifted into the lullaby, crooning it very softly in her
lilting young voice:

    "Sleep, baby, sleep.
    The big stars are the sheep,
    The little stars are the lambs, I guess,
    The moon is the shepherdess,
                      Sleep,
                        Baby,
                          Sleep."

But the wind seemed to oppose her efforts at soothing the child whose
startled eyes stared at the window against which tapped the attenuated
fingers of the twigs. The wind shrieked at him. His sobs turned into
cries.

Cyclona got up and going to the bed laid him on it, talking cooing
baby talk to him. She prepared his food. She warmed the milk and
crumbled bread into it.

Taking him up again, she fed it to him spoonful by spoonful,
awkwardly, yet in a motherly way.

Then she patted him on her shoulder, and tried to rock him to sleep,
singing, patting him on the back cooingly when the howl of the wind
startled him out of momentary slumber.

The wind appeared to be extraordinarily perverse. It was almost as if,
knowing this was Celia's child, that Celia whose hatred it had felt
from the first, it took pleasure in punctuating his attempt to sleep
with shrieks and wailings, with piercing and unearthly cries.

Once it tossed a tumbleweed at the window. The great round human-like
head looked in and the child, opening his eyes upon it, broke into
piteous moaning.

The wind laughed, snatched the tumbleweed and tossed it on.

"The wind seems to be tryin' itself," complained Cyclona, getting up
once more and walking about with the child in her arms, singing as she
walked:

    "Sleep, baby, sleep,
    The big stars are the sheep,
    The little stars are the lambs, I guess,
    The wind is the shepherdess,
                      Sleep,
                        Baby,
                          Sleep."

The wind grew furious.

With a wild yell it burst the door of the dugout open.

Cyclona put the baby back on the bed, faced the fury of the wind a
moment, then cried out to it:

"Why can't you behave?"

Then she shut the door and placed a chair against it, taking the baby
up and again walking it back and forth, up and down and back and
forth.

"It's just tryin' itself," she repeated.

Again she endeavored with the coo of the lullaby to entice the child
into forgetting the wind.

But the wind was not to be forgotten. It turned into a tornado.
Failing of its effort to tear off the roof of the dugout, it stormed
tempestuously, fretfully; it raved, it grumbled, it groaned.

It screamed aloud with a fury not to be appeased or assuaged.

Cyclona had taken her seat in the rocking chair near the hearth. She
had laid the crying child in every possible position, across her knee
face down, sitting on one of her knees, her hand to his back with
gentle pats, and over her shoulder.

All to no avail. It seemed as if the child would never quit sobbing.
The sense of her helplessness joined with pity for his distress
saddened her to tears.

She was very tired. She had had charge of the child since early
morning, when Seth, compelled to attend to his work in the fields, had
left him to her.

She bent forward and looked out the window where the long fingers of
the ragged rosebush, torn by the wind, tapped ceaselessly at the pane.

"Wind," she implored. "Stop blowing. Don't you know the little baby's
mother has gone away? Don't you know the little baby hasn't any mother
now; that she's left him and gone away?"

It seemed that the wind had not thought of it in this way. Occupied
only with Celia's departure, it had not considered the desolation it
had caused.

The long lithe fingers of the twigs ceased their tapping.

The wind sobbed fitfully a moment, little sad remorseful penitential
sobs, and died away softly across the prairie as a breath of May.

The stillness which ensued was so deep and restful that the eyes of
the child involuntarily closed. Cyclona pressed his little body close
to her, his head in the hollow of her arm. She rocked him back and
forth gently, singing:

"Sleep, baby, sleep," the words coming slowly, she was so tired.

    "The big stars are the sheep,
    The little ... stars ... are ... the lambs, I guess.
    The moon ... is ... the ... shepher ... dess,
                      Sleep,
                        Baby ...
                          Sleep ..."

Her eyes closed. She nodded, still rocking gently back and forth.

After a long time Seth pushed open the door and looked in.

He set back the chair and came tip-toeing forward.

Cyclona raised her head and looked at him dreamily.

"Hush!" she whispered. "Be very quiet ... He has gone to sleep."




CHAPTER XI.

[Illustration]


"Brumniagen" is a name given to those wares which, having no use for
them at home, England ships to other countries. The term, however, is
not applied to one leading export of this sort: the scores of younger
sons of impoverished Noblemen who are packed off to the wilds of
Australia or to the Great Desert of America, to finish sowing their
wild oats in remote places, where such agriculture is not so overdone
as it is in England.

This economic movement resulted in a neighbor for Jonathan and Seth, a
young, blue-eyed, well-built Englishman, whose name was Hugh
Walsingham.

Jonathan walked out of his topsy turvy house one day to find the claim
just north of his pre-empted by the young man who was evidently a
tenderfoot, since his fair complexion had not yet become tanned by the
ceaseless winds.

Walsingham had staked out the claim, and was busily engaged in
excavating a cave in which he purposed to dwell.

Jonathan, never busy himself, lent a helping-hand, and he and
Walsingham at once became friends.

The outdoor life of the prairie pleased Walsingham, the abundance of
game rejoiced him. An excellent shot, his dugout was soon filled with
heads of antelope, while the hide of a buffalo constituted the
covering for his floor.

Surrounded by an atmosphere of sobriety, for even at that early date
the fad of temperance had fastened itself upon Kansas, he became by
and by of necessity a hard working farmer, tilling the soil from
morning till night in the struggle to earn his salt.

There are not many women on the prairies now. Then they were even more
scarce. It was not long before his admiring eyes centered themselves
upon Cyclona. He fell to wondering why it was that she appeared to
consider her own home so excellent a place to stay away from.

Personally he would consider the topsy turvy house a good and
sufficient reason for continued absence, but according to his English
ideas a girl should love her own roof whether it was right side up or
inverted.

The thought of this brown-skinned girl of the rapt and steadfast gaze
remained with him. It was, he explained to himself, the look one finds
in the eyes of sailors accustomed to the limitless reach of the
monotonous seas; it came from the constant contemplation of desert
wastes ending only in skylines, of sunlit domes dust-besprinkled, of
night skies scattered thick with dusty stars.

His interest grew to the extent that he issued from his dugout early
of mornings in order to see her depart for her mysterious destination.

He waited at unseemly hours in the vicinity of Jonathan's curious
dwelling to behold her as she came back home.

On one of these occasions, when he was turning to go, after watching
her throw the saddle on her broncho, fasten the straps, leap into the
saddle and speed away, to be swallowed up by the distances, Jonathan
came out of the topsy turvy house and found him.

"Walk with me awhile," implored Walsingham, a sudden sense of the
loneliness of the prairie having come upon him with the vanishing of
the girl.

Jonathan, always ready to idle, filled his pipe and walked with him.

"Who is the girl?" asked Hugh.

"She is a little girl we adopted," explained Jonathan. "I don't know
who she is or where she came from. Her mother blew away in a cyclone.
That is all I know about her."

"A pretty girl," commented Hugh.

"And a mighty good girl," added Jonathan. "I don't know what we'd do
without her."

"You seem to do without her a good deal," said Hugh, relighting his
pipe which the wind had blown out. "She is away from home most of the
time."

"Cyclona's playing nurse," said Jonathan. "She's taking care of a
child whose mother has deserted him. He is a good big boy now, but
Cyclona's taken care of that child ever since he come into the world
putty near," and he recited the story of Celia's heartlessness.

"What sort of man is the father?" queried Hugh with a manner of
exaggerated indifference.

"Seth? Why, Seth's one of the finest men you ever saw. And he's
good-looking, too. Sunburnt and tall and kind of lank, but
good-lookin'. He's got some crazy notion, Seth has, of buildin' a
Magic City on his claim some time or other, but aside from that there
ain't no fault to find with Seth. He's a mighty fine man."

       *       *       *       *       *

On the plains all waited for letters. Walsingham was no exception to
the rule. Few came. He was too far away. Younger sons of impoverished
noblemen are sent to far-off places purposely to be forgotten. He
employed the intervals between such stray notes as he received in
studying Cyclona.

He wondered what his aristocratic sisters would do if they were
obliged to saddle their own ponies. He wondered what they would do if
they were obliged to wear such gowns as Cyclona wore. And yet Cyclona
was charming in those old gowns, blue and pink cotton in the summer
and a heavy blue one for winter wear.

Constantly in the open she possessed the beauty of perfect health. Her
brown cheeks glowed like old gold from the pulsing of rich blood. An
athletic poise of her shoulders and carriage of head added grace to
her beauty.

But her chief charm for the young Englishman, surfeited with the
affectation of English girls, lay in her natural simplicity.

Except for her association with Seth, whose innate culture could not
but communicate itself, Cyclona was totally untutored. She knew
nothing of coyness, caprice or mannerisms. Singleness of purpose and
unselfishness shone in her tranquil and steadfast gaze which Hugh was
fortunate enough now and then to encounter.

Walsingham found himself passing restless hours in the endeavor to
devise means by which he might turn her frank gaze upon himself. In
fancy he imaged her clothed in fitting garments, walking with that
free, beautiful, lithe and swinging gait into the splendor of his
mother's English home.




CHAPTER XII.

[Illustration]


As the boy, whom Seth called Charlie, grew older, Seth cast about in
his mind for some story to tell him which should serve to protect both
Celia and himself.

Celia was not to blame for leaving him. He had long ago come to that
conclusion. He was a failure, as she had said. Women as a rule do not
care for failures, though there are some few who do.

They love men who succeed.

In personal appearance, aside from some angularities, considerable
gauntness, and much sunburn, Seth told himself that he was not
different from other men. It was not palpable to the casual observer
that as men went he was a failure, but Seth realized the truth of
Celia's judgment.

He had failed doubly. In the effort to provide her a home, and to
imbue her with his belief in the Magic City. Since she had gone home
he had sent her next to no money. He had none to send. Perhaps that
was why she did not write. He never knew. Putting himself in her
place, he concluded she was right. A delicate little woman, far away
from a great failure of a husband who could not provide for her, ought
to let him go without letters.

And so thinking, he seldom hung about the post-office waiting for the
mail. He trained himself to expect nothing.

Yes. It had been impossible for him to send her money.

Disaster had followed disaster and he had been barely able to keep
himself and the boy alive.

He was a failure of the most deplorable sort, but the boy did not know
it. He did not even guess it. The standing monument of his failure in
life to Celia was the dugout. In the eyes of the boy it was no failure
at all. Born in it he had no idea of the luxury of a house and the
luxuries we wot not of we miss not.

He was used to lizards on the roof, to say nothing of other creeping
things within the house which are generally regarded as obnoxious,
roaches, ants, mice. He rather liked them than otherwise, regarding
them as his private possessions.

Besides, hadn't he Cyclona?

And as for the winds of which Celia complained so bitterly, he loved
them. His ears had never been out of the sound of them and they were
very gentle winds sometimes, tender and loving with their own child
born on the desert. They lulled him. They cradled him. They were sweet
as Cyclona's voice singing him to sleep.

In another State, where they failed to blow, it would in all
probability have been necessary to entice a cyclone into his
neighborhood to induce him to slumber.

Accustomed to the infinite tenderness of his father's care from the
first, the boy loved him. Seth determined that if it were possible,
this state of affairs should continue. If it were necessary to invent
a story to fit the case, he would be as other men, or even better in
the eyes of the child, until there came a time when he must learn the
truth.

Perhaps the time would never come. If he could by any manner of means
keep up the delusion until the Wise Men came out of the East and built
the Magic City, he would be a failure no longer. He would be an
instantaneous success.

Also, though he fully pardoned Celia for her desertion of himself, he
had never quite come to understand or fully forgive her desertion of
the boy, her staying away as she had done month after month, year
after year, missing all the beauty of his babyhood.

He therefore found it impossible to tell the boy that his mother had
heartlessly deserted him, as impossible as to tell him that his father
was a failure.

Yet the child, like every other, insisted upon knowing something of
his origin. To satisfy him, Seth evolved a story, adding to it from
time to time. He told it sitting in the firelight, the boy in his
arms.

It was the story of the Flying Peccary.

"Tell me how I came in the cyclone," Charlie would insist, nestling
into the comfortable curve of his arm.

"The cyclone brought you paht of the way," corrected Seth, jealous of
his theory that cyclones never touched the place of his dugout, the
forks of the two rivers, "and the flyin' peccary brought you the rest.
You've heard me tell about these little Mexican hawgs, the wildest,
woolliest, measliest little hawgs that evah breathed the breath of
life and how they ate up the cyclone?"

"Yes," nodded Charlie.

"Well, this was the first time, I reckon, that a cyclone evah met its
match, becawse a cyclone was nevah known befo' to stop at anything
until it had cleaned up the earth and just stopped then on account of
its bein' out of breath and tiahd. But it met its match that time.

"You see, Texas is full of those measly little peccaries. You can
hahdly live, they say, down theah for them. They eat up the rail
fences, the wagon beds, the bahns and the sheep and the cows. They
don't stop at women and children, I heah, if they get a good chance at
them. And grit! They've got plenty of that, I tell you, and to spah,
those little bad measly Mexican hawgs.

"Well, one day a herd of peccaries wah a gruntin' and squealin' around
the prairie, huntin' for something to eat as usual, when a cyclone
come lumberin' along.

"It come bringin' everything with it it could bring; houses, bahns,
chicken coops and a plentiful sprinklin' of human bein's, to liven up
things a little. A cyclone ain't very particular, any more than a
peccary. It snatches up anything that comes handy. Sometimes it picks
up a few knives and whacks things with them as it goes along. You know
that, don't you, Cyclona?"

Cyclona nodded. She always lingered at the fireside to hear this story
of the flying peccary which was her favorite as well as the child's.

"It brought me," she said.

The boy raised himself in Seth's arms.

"Maybe you are my sister!" he cried.

"Maybe I am," smiled Cyclona.

"At that theah Towanda cyclone," recommenced Seth, "that little Kansas
town the cyclone got mad at and made way with, theah must have been a
hundred knives or mo' flyin' around loose. They cut hogs half in two.
You would have thought a butchah had done it. And the chickens were
carved ready to be put on the table. It was wonderful the things that
cyclone did."

"And the peccaries," Charlie reminded him.

"That cyclone," began Seth all over again, "came flyin' along black as
night and thunderin' laik mad and caught up the whole herd of
peccaries.

"Those peccaries ain't even-tempahd animals.

"They've got tempahs laik greased lightnin'. It made them firin' mad
fo' a cyclone to take such liberties with them, and they got up and
slammed back at it right and left. Well, they didn't do a thing to
that cyclone. In the first place the whole herd of peccaries began to
snap and grunt laik fury till the noise of the cyclone simmahd down
into a sort of pitiful whine, laik the whine of a whipped dog. Imagine
a cyclone comin' to that! Then, they tell me, you couldn't heah
anything but the squealin' and gruntin' of those pesky little
peccaries.

"Between squeals they bit into that theah cyclone fo' all it was wuth,
takin' great chunks out of it, swallowin' lightnin' and eatin' big
mouthfuls of thundah just as if they laiked it. All the stuff the
cyclone was bringin' along with it wa'n't anything to them. They
swallowed it whole and pretty soon, you'd hahdly believe it, but theah
wa'n't anything lef' of that cyclone at all.

"They had eaten up ever' single bit of it except a tiny breeze they
had fohgotten that died away mournful laik across the prairies,
sighin' becawse it had stahted out so brash and come to such a sudden
untimely and unexpected end.

"Then, theah was the herd of peccaries about five miles from wheah
they had stahted, sittin' down, resting, a-smilin' at each othah and
congratulatin' each othah, I reckon, on the way they had knocked the
stuffin' out of that theah ole cyclone fo' good and all.

"They must have scahd the res' of the cyclones off, too, becawse with
them and the forks of the rivahs, they haven't been seen or heahd of
aroun' these pahts since."

"Exceptin' the tail end of that one that moved me," Cyclona reminded
him.

"And what about me?" questioned Charlie.

"Oh, yes. One of these heah peccaries, a good-natured peccary, too,
with a laikin' fo' little children, found you in the cyclone. You were
a pretty little baby with big blue eyes the same's you've got now. I
don't know exactly wheah the cyclone found you. Anyway, the peccary
picked you up in his mouth. When he had rested as long as he wanted to
with the other peccaries, he flew along and flew along--they had all
got to be flying peccaries, you know, on account of swallowin' so
much wind, until he came to the door of my dugout, this same dugout we
are in now, and he laid you very carefully down by the door. Then I
went out in the mawnin' and brought you in."

Charlie invariably at this point reached up his arms and put them
around Seth's neck.

It was very kind of him, he thought, to go out and bring him in. What
if the wolves had come along and eaten him! Or the little hungry
coyotes they heard barking in the nights. Ugh!

"And then the peccary flew away again?" he asked. "Didn't he?"

"Yes," answered Seth. "He flew away with the rest of the flyin'
peccaries."

"And haven't you ever seen them since?" asked Charlie, "or him?"

"Sometimes you can see them 'way up in the air," replied Seth, running
his fingers through his hair, "but they ah so fah away and little, you
can't tell them from birds."

Cyclona nodded again.

"Yes," she corroborated, "they are so far away and little you can't
tell them from birds."




CHAPTER XIII.

[Illustration]


The Post Mistress at the station tapped her thimble on the window-pane
at the chickens floundering in the flower-bed outside.

They turned, looked at her, then, rising, staggered off with a ruffled
and uppish air, due partly to their indignation and partly to the fact
that the wind blew their feathers straight up, and a trifle forward
over their heads.

"It's bad enough," she said, "to try and raise flowers in Kansas,
fighting the wind, without having to fight the chickens. It's a fight
for existence all the way round, this living in Kansas."

Her companion was a man with iron-gray hair, a professor of an Eastern
college who had come West, planted what money he had in real estate
and lost it. He, however, still retained part of the real estate.

He frequently lounged about the office for an hour or two during the
day, waiting for the mail, good enough company except that he
occasionally interfered with the reading of the postal cards.

He looked up from a New York newspaper, three days old.

"Pioneer people," he observed laconically, "must expect to fight
everything from real estate agents to buffaloes."

The Post Mistress laid down her sewing. Her official duties were not
arduous. They left her between trains ample time to attend to those of
her household, sewing and all, also to embroider upon bits of gossip
caught here and there in regard to her scattered neighbors whose
lights of nights were like so many stars dotting the horizon.

She looked out the window to where a tall lank farmer was tying a mule
to the hitching post. Over the high wheel of the old blue cart he
turned big hollow eyes her way.

"I hope he won't come before the train gets in," she sighed. "There
ain't no letter for him, I hope he won't come. Sometimes I feel like I
just can't tell him there ain't no letter for him."

"Who is it?" asked the Professor.

"Seth Lawson," she answered.

The Professor elevated his eyebrows.

"The man who owns the ground on which they are to build the Magic
City?" he asked laughingly.

"It may happen," declared the Post Mistress tartly. "Anything is
liable to happen in Kansas, the things you least expect."

"Everything in the way of cyclones, you mean," put in the Professor.

"Cyclones and everything else," affirmed the Post Mistress. "No matter
what it is, Kansas goes other States one better. She raises the
tallest corn--they have to climb stepladders to reach the ears--and
the biggest watermelons in the world."

"When she raises any at all," the Professor inserted.

"They say," began the Post Mistress, "that in the Eastern part of the
State, where they are beginning to be civilized, when a farmer plants
his watermelon seed, he hitches up his fastest team and drives into
the next county for the watermelon, it grows so fast. Even then,
unless he has a pretty fast team somebody else gets it. If you find
one on your claim, you know, it's yours."

"I've heard that story," the Professor politely reminded her.

"They do say," remembered the Post Mistress, "that the Indians tell
that yarn, that a cyclone never came to Seth's ranch. It may be a fool
notion and it may not.... Look at him," leaning forward and gazing out
the window. "See how gaunt and haggard and wistful he looks. I don't
believe he gets enough to eat. There ain't a sadder sight on these
prairies than Seth Lawson. How many months has she been away from him
now? May, June, July, August, September, November," counting on her
fingers. "Seven months and one little letter from her to say she got
home safe. A dozen from him to her. More. You could almost see the
love and sadness through the envelope. And none from her in answer.

"Look at him now. Walkin' up and down, up and down, to pass away the
time till the train comes. Waitin' for a letter. It won't come. It
never will come. And him waitin' and waitin'. He'd as well wait for
the dead to come to life or for that wife of his to leave her Kentucky
home she's so much fonder of than she is of him or the baby or
anything else in the world, to come back to him. What sort of woman
can she be anyway to leave a little nursing baby?"

"Some cats leave their kittens before their eyes are open," the
Professor said.

"But a woman isn't a cat," objected the Post Mistress. "At least she
oughtn't to be. Do you know I've always said the worst woman was too
good for the best man, but that woman has made me change my mind.
She's gone for good. She don't have to stand the wind any longer or
the sleet or the rain. She's gone for good. Then why couldn't she
write him a little letter to keep the heart warm in him. What harm
would that do her. How much time would it take?

"It don't seem so bad somehow for a woman to have the heartache. She's
used to it, mostly. Some women ain't happy unless they do have it.
Heartaches and tears make up their lives, they furnish excitement. But
a man is different. You see a man holding a baby in long clothes. It's
awkward, ain't it? Somehow it don't seem natural. If you have got any
sort of mother's heart in your bosom, you want to go and take it out
of his arms and cuddle it.

"It's the same with a man with the heartache. You want to go and take
it away from him, even if you have to keep it yourself. It don't seem
right for him to have it no more than it seems right for him to have
to take care of a child.

"That man's got both. The little baby and the heartache. But what can
you do for him? There's nothing goin' to cure him but a letter from
her, and you can't get that. If ever a man deserved a good wife it's
that man, Seth, and what did he get? A Southern woman!"

"Those Southern women make good wives," asserted the Professor, "if
you give them plenty of servants and money. None better."

"Good fair-weather wives," nodded the Post Mistress, "but look out for
storms. That's when they desert."

"It's a sweeping assertion," mused the Professor, "and not quite fair.
It is impossible to judge them all by this weak creature, Celia
Lawson. Many a woman in Kentucky braved dangers, cold, hunger and wild
animals, living in log huts as these women live in their dugouts,
before that State was settled and civilized."

"Some won't give in that it is civilized," objected the Post
Mistress, "they're so given down there to killin' people."

"The only difference," went on the Professor, "was in the animals.
They had bears. We have buffaloes. But sometimes you come across a
woman who isn't cut out for a pioneer woman, and all the training in
the world won't make her one. It's the way with Seth's wife."

"She's not only weak and incapable," vowed the Post Mistress, "but
soulless and heartless."

"How these women love each other," the Professor commented.

"'Tain't that," flared the Post Mistress. "I'm as good a friend to a
woman as another woman can be...."

"Just so," the Professor smiled.

"It's my theory," frowned the Post Mistress, "that women should stand
by women and men by men...."

"Your Theory," mused the Professor.

"And I practice it," declared the Post Mistress. "Only in this case I
can't. Nobody could. What sort of woman is she, anyway? I can't
understand her. She's rid of him and the child and the wind and the
weather. She's back there where they say it's cool in the summer-time
and warm in the winter, where the cold blasts don't blow, and the hot
winds don't blister, and still she can't take time to sit down and
write a little note to the father of her child."

She looked away from the window and Seth to the Professor, who
wondered why it was he had never before observed the beauty of her
humid eyes.

"I can't bear to see him walking up and down," she complained,
"waitin' and waitin'. It disgusts you with woman-kind."

The wind blew the shutter to with a bang. It flung it open again. Some
twigs of a tree outside tapped at the pane. A whistle sounded.

Seth turned glad eyes in the direction of the sound. The train!

There was the usual bustle. A man brought in a bag of letters, flung
it down, sped out and made a flying leap for the train, which was
beginning to move on. The Post Mistress busied herself with
distributing the mail and Seth walked back and forth, waiting.

Presently he came in at the door, stood at the grated window back of
which she sorted out the letters and then went out again.

After a time he drove slowly by the house in the high blue cart.

"Was there anything for him?" asked the Professor.

The Post Mistress looked after the cart receding into a cloud of dust
blown up by the wind and brushed her fingers across her eyes.

"There was nothing for him," she said.




CHAPTER XIV.

[Illustration]


On the winter following Celia's departure, Seth fared ill.

It was all he could do to keep warmth in the boy's body and his own,
to get food for their nourishment.

And as for homesickness!

There were nights when he looked at the silver moon, half effaced by
wind-blown clouds, and fought back the tears, thinking how that same
moon was shining down on home and her.

Nights when he fell into very pleasant dreams of that tranquil
beauteous and pleasant country where the wind did not blow. Dreams in
which he beheld flowers, not ragged wind-torn flowers of a parched and
ragged prairie, odorless, colorless flowers and tumbleweeds tossing
weirdly over dusty plains, but flowers of his youth, Four o'Clocks,
Marguerites and Daffy-Down-Dillies, nodding bloomily on either side of
an old brick walk leading from door to gate, Jasmine hanging
redolently from lattice, Virginia Creeper and Pumpkin-vine.

And oh!

A radiant dream! Celia, walking out through vine and flower in all her
fresh young beauty to meet him as in the old days, to open wide the
door and welcome him.

Then as she had done, he waked sobbing, man though he was, but he
hushed his sobs for fear of waking the child.

Homesickness!

He dared not dwell on the word lest his few ideas, scattered already
by the sough of the wind, the incessant moan and sob and wail of the
wind, might blow away altogether; lest he throw to those winds his
pride of independence, his resolute determination to make a home for
her and himself and their child in the West, and go back to her.

This, whatever dreams assailed him, he resolved not to do.

And yet there was one dream which he thrust from him fiercely, afraid
of it, turning pale at the remembrance of it. A dream of a night on
that winter when he had gone to bed hungry.

It was a strange dream and terrible.

He thought it was night, he was out on the prairie, and the wolves
were following him.

They had caught him.

Ravenously they were tearing the flesh from his body in shreds.

He waked in terror to hear the bark of a pack at his door, for in that
winter of bitter cold the wolves also suffered.

"Was that to be his fate?" he asked himself.

Was he to strive and strive, to spend his life in striving, and then
in the working out of destiny, in the survival of the fittest, of the
stronger over the weaker, of those who are able to devour over those
destined to be devoured, fall prey to the fangs of animals hungrier
than he and stronger?

There were times when he was very tired. When almost he was ready to
fold his arms, to give up the fight and say--

"So be it."

But what of the boy then?

Raising himself out of the slough of despond, he resolutely re-fed his
soul with hope.

Those Wise Men! If only they could come! If only they could be made to
see and understand that this was the place for their Magic City and
be persuaded to build it here!

Then all would be well. He would take the boy to Celia, show her how
beautiful he was beginning to be and win her back again.

Then they would all three come and live in a palace in the Magic City,
a beautiful house. Live happy ever after.




CHAPTER XV.

[Illustration]


The wind lulled the child to sleep, the wind wakened him, the wind
sang to him all day long, dashed playful raindrops in his upturned
face and whispered to him.

Perhaps it was the wind, then, that was his mother. This variable,
coquettish wind of tones so infinitely tender, of shrieks so
blusteringly loud.

He listened to it in the dawn. He listened to it in the sombre
darkness of the night. Early and late it seemed to call to him to come
out and away to his mother.

The restlessness that sometimes encompasses the soul of a boy took
possession of him. He was filled with the passion of wander-lust. The
darkened walls of the dugout restricted him, those grim, gray earth
walls that duskily, grave-like, enclosed the body of him.

He must be up and away.

He would go to the heart of the wind and find his mother.

Seth had gone to the town for feed for his cattle. Cyclona was at
home. He took advantage of their absence to start on his journey.

Outside the dugout the wind enveloped him softly, enticingly, kissing
his curls, kissing the rosy sunburn, the tender down of his cheek
which still retained the kissable outline of babyhood.

It was day when he started, broad day, bright with the light of the
red sun high in the heavens, surrounded by the brilliant hue of
cloudless skies.

The boy ran.

The wind tossed him like a plaything as it tossed the big round
tumbleweeds, making the pace for him a little beyond.

Now and again, broad day though it was, the wind blew blasts that
frightened him, dying down immediately again into piping Pan-like
whispers that lured him on and on until he became a mere speck on the
trackless prairie, blown by alternate blasts and zephyrs, hurrying,
hurrying, hurrying to the heart of the wind to find his mother.

But by and by the sun sank, dropping suddenly into the Nowhere behind
the darkling line of the mysterious horizon.

Then the twilight seeped softly over the prairie, like a drop of ink
spilt over a blotter.

A little while later and the prairie became obscurely shadowy, peopled
all at once by frightful things, familiar everyday things changed to
hideous hobgoblins by the chrism of the dark.

Grasses with long human fingers beckoned him to the Unknown, which is
always terrible, while great ever-moving tumbleweeds sprang up at him
as if from underground, like enormous heads of resurrected giants.

And the voice of the wind!

As he neared the heart of it, it, too, took on an unknown quantity
more terrible than the bugaboo of the shadows and the dark.

It howled with the howl of wolves.

The child began to be afraid. Pantingly, wildly afraid!

He stood still, looking breathlessly ahead of him to where the prairie
stretched indefinitely to the rim of the starlit dome, billowy with
long gray grasses blown into the semblance of fingers by the bellowing
blasts of the fearsome wind.

He sobbed, he was now so far from home, and the voice of the wind had
taken on a menacing note of such deep subtleness.

Which way was home? He had forgotten. The way the wind blew?

But the wind had turned to a whirlwind, blowing gales in every
direction to mislead him, now that he wanted to go home.

True, there were the stars, blinking high above the stress and turmoil
of the tireless wind, but he was too young yet to understand the way
they pointed.

As he stood irresolutely sobbing, one ache of loneliness and
homesickness and fear, he heard the call of a human voice and his
name, the voice coming to him high above the wind, with its own note
of terrorized anguish.

His father's voice!

The voice sounded nearer and nearer, calling, calling!

The child ran toward the sound of it, the loneliness of the prairie
swallowed up in a sob of gladness, and he was in Seth's arms.

As for Seth, he could only articulate one word:

"Why? Why?"

Celia had deserted him, but the Boy!

"I was looking for my mother," sobbed the child in answer, safe in the
tender hollow of his arm.

After a moment's hesitation:

"Mother will come to you some day," Seth breathed over him. "Won't
Cyclona and father do till then?"

And in the close clasp of the longing man the child felt the
unmistakable throb of paternity penetrate his heart and was
satisfied.




CHAPTER XVI.

[Illustration]


The winter had been too long and cold, or the child, however tender
Seth's care of him, had been insufficiently clothed and fed.

He lay ill, alternately shaking with chills and burning with fever.

It was March now and the winds blew with the fierceness of tornadoes.

But the laughter of Charlie's delirium outvoiced the winds.

Now he moaned with them and sighed.

Cyclona took up her abode at the dugout now, nursing him tirelessly,
while Seth walked the floor, back and forth, back and forth like some
caged and helpless animal writhing in pain; for from the first he had
read death in the face of the child.

The wind lulled and Seth knelt by his bedside, his ear against
Charlie's heart, listening for his breathing, Cyclona standing
fearfully by, her face white as the coverings.

After a long time Seth raised beseeching eyes to her in an unspoken
question:

"Does he breathe?"

As if he had heard, Charlie suddenly opened his eyes and looked
smilingly first at one and then at the other of these two who had
encompassed his short life about with such loving care.

"Listen," he whispered, "to the wind."

The wind had risen. It howled like some mad thing. It blew great
blasts, ferocious blasts and deafening.

It was as if it, too, were hurt. It was as if it, too, suffered the
agony of mortal pain in sympathy with the child.

Soon the child began to lisp and they bent their heads to listen.

"I am ... going ... out ... in ... the wind ... again," he said, "to
find ... my ... mother."

"Charlie!" cried Seth, in a voice whose anguish sounded high above the
winds. "Stay! It is we who love you, Cyclona and I. Stay with us!"

Cyclona knelt and laid her brown hand across the beautiful eyelids of
the child for a little while.

Then she took Seth's head and pillowing it upon her bosom, rocked
gently back and forth as they knelt alone on the hard cold earth of
the dugout floor.

"It doesn't matter now," she whispered to him; "he knows."




CHAPTER XVII.

[Illustration]


The days are long in the desert. Sometimes they seem to be endless.
When the wind would permit, Seth endeavored to find comfort in digging
in the soil into which we must all descend, in getting near to it, in
ploughing it, often with apparent aimlessness, never being able to
count upon the harvest, but buoying up his soul with hope of the
yield.

But there were days of wind and rain and sleet and cold stormy weather
when all animals of the desert, whether human or four-footed, were
glad to seek their holes in the ground and stay there.

These days Seth spent in building the beautiful house.

He sat before the dim half window, drawing the plan, Cyclona beside
him, watching him.

Sometimes he called her Cyclona, and then again he called her Charlie;
for what with his grief and the wail of the wind, his mind had become
momentarily dazed.

Full well Cyclona knew the story of the Magic City, having heard it
again and again, but it was only of late when Seth had given up all
hope of Celia's returning to the dugout that he commenced to plan the
beautiful house.

"When the Wise Men come out of the East," Seth told her, "and buy up
ouah land fo' the Magic City, we shall be rich. It is then that I
shall build this beautiful house, so beautiful that she must come and
live in it with us."

Cyclona leaned over the table on her elbows, looking at the plan. Her
dark eyes were sad, for she knew that by "us," Seth meant Charlie and
himself.

He ran his pencil over the plan, showing how the beautiful house was
to be built. Somewhat after the fashion of a Southern house
modernized. A Southern woman, he explained, must live in a house which
would remind her of her home and still be so beautiful that not for
one instant would she regret that home or the land of her birth which
she had left for it.

"A species of insanity it is," he muttered, "to bring such a woman to
a hole in the ground." He bit his lip and frowned, "fo' theah ah women
in whom the love of home, of country, is pa'amount. Above all human
things, above husband, above children, she loves her home. Child!
Celia has no child. Cyclona, has no one written to Celia that she has
no child?"

This wildly, his eyes insanely bright.

"It is just as well," soothed Cyclona. "It doesn't matter. She never
knew him."

It seemed to Cyclona that she could see the lonely resting place of
the child reflected in Seth's eyes, so firmly was his mind fixed upon
it.

"You ah right, Cyclona," he said by and by. "You ah right. It is just
as well. It might grieve her, altho' it is as you say, she nevah knew
him."

Cyclona traced a line of the plan of the beautiful house.

"Tell me about it," she said.

"It is her natuah," insisted Seth almost fiercely, "and we can no mo'
change ouah natuah, the instinct that is bawn in us, that is
inherited, than we can change the place of ouah birth. Can we teach
the fish to fly or the bird to swim, or the blind mole to live above
the cool sof' earth in which centuries of ancestral moles have
delighted to burrow? Then no mo' can you teach a woman in whom the
love of country is pa'amount to love anothah country. Only by the
gentlest measuahs may you wean her from it. Only by givin' her in this
strange new country something mo' beautiful than any othah thing she
has evah known. And that," he finished, "is why I am goin' to build
the beautiful house."

He fell to dreaming audibly.

"All these were of costly stones, accordin' to the measuah of hewed
stones, sawed with saws within and without," he muttered, "even from
the foundation unto the copin', and so on the outside toward the great
court."

Cyclona reaching up took down from a shelf a well-thumbed Book, which,
since books are scarce on the desert, both knew by heart, and opened
it at the Book of Kings.

"Seth," she said, presently, touching him on the shoulder, "aren't you
getting this house mixed up with the House of the Lord?"

"No," smiled Seth, "with the house that Solomon built fo' Pharaoh's
daughter whom he had taken to wife."

He went on softly:

"And the foundation was of cos'ly stones, even great stones, stones of
ten cubits, and stones of eight cubits. And above were cos'ly stone,
aftah the measuah of hewed stones, and cedars."

"Seth," said Cyclona, to whom no dream was too fanciful, "are you
goin' to build this house just like that one?"

"If I could, I would," Seth made reply, and then went on dreaming his
dream aloud. "And he made the pillahs and the two rows around about
upon the network, to covah the chapiters that were upon the top, with
pomegranates; and so did he fo' the othah chapiter. And the chapiters
that were upon the tip of the pillahs were of lily work in the porch,
fo' cubits. Lily work," he lingered over the words, smiling at their
musical poetry.

After awhile he began again to talk of the beautiful house which
should have every improvement, a marble bath....

"And it was an hand-breadth thick," interrupted Cyclona, "and the brim
thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers, of lilies;
it contained two thousand baths. If you could, would you build her a
bath like that, Seth?" she questioned.

"I would," replied Seth, "and as fo' the lights!"

"There were windows in three rows," read Cyclona, "and light was
against light in three ranks."

"Lights!" exclaimed Seth, "little electric lights tricked out with
fancy globes of rose colah matching the roses in her cheeks."

He dropped his pencil and gazed ahead of him.

"Do you know?" he asked dreamily, "how I shall match that rose color
of her cheek, not havin' her by? I shall taik the innah petal of a
rose and maik the little lights the color of that."

Cyclona arose and walked over to a bit of glass that hung on the wall.
She frowned at the reflection of her brown cheek there. A tender and
delicate rose underlay the brown, but her eyes saw no beauty in it.
She sighed as she came back and once more sat down.

"I shall have the beautiful house agleam with lights," went on Seth,
who had failed to notice the interruption. "Lights at the sight of
which Solomon would have stood aghast, that splendid ole aristocrat
whose mos' magnificent temples were dimly lit by candles.... Windows
in three rows! Windows in a dozen rows out of which her blue eyes
shall look on smooth green swahds and flowahs.

"The house shall gleam alight with windows. Theah shall be no da'k
spot in it. Windowless houses ah fo' creatuahs of a clay less fine
than hers," repeating tenderly, "of less fine clay. She is a bein'
created to bask in the sunshine. She shall bask in it. These windows
shall be thrown wide open to the sun, upstaiahs and down. Not a speck
nor spot shall mah their cleanliness, lest a ray of light escape.
Those who live in da'kness wilt within and without. She shall not live
in da'kness. Nevah again. Nevah again shall she live in a hole in the
ground."

After a time:

"Is it possible?" he mused, half to himself, half to Cyclona, "to
build a house without a cellah?"

"I don't know," said Cyclona, whose knowledge of houses was limited to
her own whose roof was still upside down, and dugouts.

"If I could build this house without a cellah," said Seth, "I would."

Cyclona again read from the Book.

"It stood upon twelve oxen," she read, "three looking toward the
north, and three looking toward the west and three looking toward the
south and three looking toward the east. Why not stand it on oxen like
that, Seth?" she questioned.

Seth laughed.

"That wasn't the house," said he. "That was the molten sea."

"Oh!" exclaimed Cyclona. "I know now. The foundation was of stone made
ready before they were brought hither, costly stones, great stones. It
must have a foundation of some sort," she argued, keeping her finger
on the place as she looked up, "or it will blow away."

"Of co'se," assented Seth, "or it will blow away. Well, if it must it
must; but we will put half-windows into that cellah so it won't be
da'k, so it won't be like this, a hole in the ground. We will light it
with electrics. But we won't talk of the cellah. That saddens me. I am
tiahd of livin' in the hole in the ground myself sometimes. We will
talk of the beautiful rooms above ground that we will build fo' her.

"Look. You entah a wide door whose threshold her little feet will
press. She will trail up this staiahway," and he let his pencil linger
lovingly over the place, "in her silks and velvets, followed by her
maids, and theah on the second landing she will find palms and the
flowahs she loves best, and her own white room with its bed of gold
covahd with lace so delicate, delicate as she is. Soft, filmy lace fit
fo' a Princess, fo' that is what she is. Theah will be bits of
spindle-legged golden furniture about in this white bed-room of hers
and pier-glasses that will maik a dozen of her, that will maik twenty
of her, we will arrange it so; for theah cannot be too many
reflections, can theah, of so gracious and lovely a Princess?"

Once more Cyclona tapped him on the shoulder.

"Seth," said she, "where is the room for the Prince?"

Seth looked up at her vacantly. It was some time before he answered.
Then his answer showed vagueness; for what with the howl of the wind
and the eternal presence in the closet of his soul of the skeleton of
despair, his mind had become a little erratic at times.

"When the Prince has proven himself worthy to be the Prince Consort of
so wonderful a Princess," he replied, "then he, too, may come and live
in the beautiful house, but not until then."

His thoughts harked back to the cellar. Staring ahead of him he saw
the slight figure of a woman silhouetted against the tender pearl of
the evening sky, eyes staring affrightedly into the darkened door of a
dugout, a fluff of yellow hair like a halo about the beautiful face.

"A cellah is a hole in the ground," he sighed. "A cellah is a hole in
the ground. Theah shall be nothing about this house I shall build fo'
the Princess in any way resemblin' a hole in the ground. Holes in the
ground are fo' wolves and prairie dogs and...."

"And us," Cyclona finished grimly, then smiled.

Seth, drawing himself up, gazed at her.

In her own wild way Cyclona had grown to be beautiful, still brown as
a Gypsy, but large of eye and red of lip. She might have passed for a
type of Creole or a study in bronze as she faced him with that little
smile of defiance on her red lips. Too beautiful she was for a
dugout, true, and yet the dusky brownish gray of the earth-colored
walls served in a way to set off her rich dark coloring.

Seth returned to the plan.

"And for us," he assented, humbly.

"We must build it of stone," he continued. "White stone. Stone never
blows away. It will be finished, too, with the finest of wood,
covahd...."

"Wait," cried Cyclona, turning over the leaves of the Book, "and he
built the walls of the house with boards of cedar, both the floor of
the house and the walls of the ceiling. And he covered them on the
inside with wood and covered the floor of the house with planks of
fir."

"Cedah," nodded Seth. "It would be well to build it of cedah. The
cedah is a Southern tree. It would remind her of home.

"We will finish it, then, with cedah and polish it so well that laik
the mirrors it will reflect her face as she walks about. Heah will be
the music room. It shall have a piano made of the same rich wood. It
will look as if it were built in the house. Theah shall be guitahs and
mandolins. She plays the guitah a little, Cyclona, the Princess. You
should see her small white hands as she fingahs the strings. I will
have a low divan of many cushions heah by the window of the music
room. She shall sit heah in her beautiful gown of silk. White silk,
fo' white becomes her best, her beauty is so dainty. She shall sit
heah in her white silk gown and play and play and sing those Southern
songs of hers that ah so full of music...."

He dropped his pencil and sat very still for a space, looking ahead of
him out of the window.

The panorama, framed by its limited sash of wilful winds playing havoc
with the clouds, became obliterated by the picture of her, sitting by
a wide and sunny window, backed by those gay pillows, thrumming with
slim white fingers on the guitar and singing.

Again Cyclona waked him from his day dream with a touch. He ran his
fingers through his hair, staring at her.

"Is that you, Charlie," he asked her.

"Not Charlie," she answered. "Cyclona."

"I beg yoah pahdon," he said. "Ve'y often now you seem to me to be
Charlie. I don't know why."

"Tell me more about the Princess," soothed Cyclona, "is she so
beautiful?"

"Beautiful," echoed Seth. "She is fit fo' any palace, she is so
beautiful. And when the Wise Men come out of the East we will build it
fo' her. It shall have gold do'knobs and jewelled ornaments and rare
birds of gay plumage to sing and keep her company, and painted
ceilings and little cupids carved in mahble, and theah shall be graven
images set on onyx pedestals and some curious Hindoo gods squatting,
and a Turkish room of red lights dimmed by little carved lanterns and
rich, rare rugs and pictuahs by great mastahs in gilded frames, and
walls lined with the books she loves best in royal bindings.... And
she shall have servants to wait upon her and do her bidding and we
will send to Paris fo' her gowns and her bonnets and her wraps. And
she shall have carriages and coachmen and footmen. A Victoria, I think
I shall odah fo' her, ve'y elegant, lined with blue to match her
eyes.... No--that would be too light. Her eyes are beautiful, Cyclona.
Don't think fo' a moment that they are not, but can you undahstan', I
wondah, how eyes can be ve'y beautiful and yet of a cold and steely
blue that sometimes freezes the blood in youah veins? A little too
light, perhaps, and that gives them the look of cleah cold cut steel.

"I shall have the linings of her Victoria light, but not quite so
light, a little dahkah and wahmah, perhaps, the footmen with a livery
to match. That goes without sayin'. And she shall have outridahs, too,
if she likes, as in the olden time back theah at home in the South. No
grand dame of the ole and splendid South she loves so well shall be so
grand as she, shall be so splendid as she when we shall have finished
the beautiful house fo' her.

"Cyclona," wildly, "how could we expect a little delicate frail
Southern woman to come and live in a hole in the ground. How could we?
Why shouldn't she hate the wind? Ah! We must still the winds! We must
still the winds! But how?"

At this Seth was wont to rise, to walk the circumscribed length of his
miserable dwelling and to worry his soul.

"How shall we still the winds?" he would moan. "How shall we still the
winds that the soun' of them shall not disturb her?"

After a long time of thinking:

"Cyclona," he concluded, "in some countries they move forests. Don't
they? Have I read that or dreamed it? If only we could move a forest
or two onto these vast prairies, that would still the winds. Tall
trees penetratin' the skies would be impassable barriers to the
terrible winds that have full sweep as it is. They would still the
winds, those forests, if we could move them!"

Cyclona's heart was full at this; for Seth was far from sane, alas!
when he talked of moving forests of trees to the barren prairies. The
idea at last struck him as preposterous.

"We will build tall trees," he continued quickly, as if to cover the
tracks of his mistakes. "We will build trees that will taik root in
the night and spring up before morning. Trees that will grow and grow
and grow. Magic trees growing so quickly in the lush black soil of the
prairie once we get them started, the soil so neah the undahground
streams by the rivahs heah, that the angels would look down in
wondahment.

"They would, to see how quickly they would grow. Such trees would
tempah the winds that blow so now because they have full sweep,
because there is nothin' to stop them. Winds, laik everything else,
are amenable to control, if you only know how to control them. These
tall trees will not only break the force of the winds, but they will
shade her beautiful face as she drives about. They will shut off the
too ardent sun that would wish to kiss her."

Now and again Cyclona grew a trifle impatient of this beautiful
creature whose character she knew, whose child she had cared for and
helped to bury, grew a trifle tired of hearing hymns sung in her
praise.

"Where is she now?" she asked listlessly, knowing full well, merely to
continue if the talk pleased him, tired as she was.

"Charlie," smiled Seth, and never once did Cyclona correct him when he
called her Charlie, reasoning that perhaps the spirit of the child was
near him, since there were those who believed that and it was
comforting. "She is laik the flowahs, that beautiful one. She knows
bettah than to bloom in this God-fo'saken country--that was what she
called it--wheah you cain't get the flowahs to bloom because of the
wind that is fo'evah blowin'. She lives now wheah the flowahs bloom
and the wind nevah blows."

Cyclona lifted her head to listen to the moan and the sough of the
wind.

"I love it," she said.

"So do I," said Seth, "though sometimes I am half afraid of it,
thinkin' it is getting into my brain, but she hated it. But nevah
mind. When we grow tall trees that will break the force of the wind
and shade her from the sun and build the beautiful house fo' her, she
will come back home and live in it with us and we shall be happy!
Happy! We shall fo'get all ouah sorrow, we shall be so happy!"

At that moment, the moment of the going down of the sun, the wind
dropped and the passing clouds let in the gleam of the sunset at the
window. It rested goldenly on Seth's face. It illumined it. It
glorified it.

Cyclona looked at him long and earnestly, at the strong, fine lines of
sadness brought beautifully out by this unexpected high-light of the
skies, accentuated Rembrandt-like, against the darkness of the
earth-colored hole in the ground.

Then she bent her sunburnt head and a tear fell on her hand
outstretched upon the table.

At sight of the tear Seth was like a man who is all at once drunk with
new wine. There is truth in the wine. There are times when it clears
the brain for the moment and reveals things as they are.

He looked at Cyclona with new eyes. It was as if he had never before
seen her. She differed from Celia as the wild rose differs from the
rose that blooms in hothouses, and yet how beautiful she was! He
realized for the first time her wonderful beauty. So olive of
complexion with the delicate tinge of rose showing through, so bronze
of hair in close-cut sun-kissed curls!

The little curls that gave her a boyish look in spite of the fact that
she had blossomed into radiant womanhood. The big brown eyes. The
curve of the neck, the little tip-tilted chin!

Seth had been hardly human if the thought of forgetting Celia and her
indifference in Cyclona's arms had not more than once presented
itself.

It presented itself now with the strength of strong winds.

Without home or kindred, without tie or connection, she was a flower
in his pathway. He had only to reach out and pluck her and wear her on
his heart. There were none to gainsay him. No mortal lived who dared
defend her or say nay.

Why waste his life, then, in dreams and fantasies, in regrets, and
hopings, when here lay a glowing, breathing, living reality?

He reached out his hand and caught hers in a firm, compelling grasp. A
splendid creature sent to comfort him. A creature blown by the winds
of heaven to his threshold. A dear defenceless thing without home or
kindred, unprotected, uncared of, weak and in need of affection, in
dire need of love.

Helpless, unshielded, unguarded ... unprotected ... unguarded ...
uncared for....

Seth frowned. The wind had wafted itself into his brain again. He was
growing dazed.

He caught his hand away from Cyclona's. He thrust his fingers through
his hair. He pressed them over his eyes.

These strange words persisted in piling themselves solidly between him
and his desire. They formed a barrier stronger than walls of brick or
mortar.

Unprotected, defenceless, unguarded, uncared for, this girl who had
rocked his child and Celia's in her arms, who had held him close to
the warmth of her young bosom. This beautiful unprotected girl who had
tenderly closed the eyes of his child!

The fragile barrier built by unseen hands was cloud-high now.

If the wraith of Cyclona had occupied the chair there by his side she
could scarcely have been further removed from his embrace.

Humbly Seth bent over the small brown hand.

Reverently he kissed away the tear.




CHAPTER XVIII.

[Illustration]


But the moons waxed and waned and the months lapsed into years and
Seth grew hopeless, more and more hopeless, so hopeless that at last
he began to lose faith in the Magic City, and to fear for the
realization of his fantastic will-o'-the-wisp of a beautiful house.

Would the Wise Men never come out of the East to buy up his land and
build that magnificent city of his dreams at the forks of the river
where the cyclones never came, so that he could build his beautiful
house for Celia? Or would they always stop just short of it?

Already that little town on the edge of the State called Kansas City
because it was in Missouri, had boomed itself into a city and, being
just outside the cyclone belt, had not been blown away. In spite of
the fact that it had been set high on a hill it had not been blown
away.

The Wise Men had built that town.

Also, there was another town they had built within the belt which
promised to thrive, a town where the people had so arranged it that
the coming of a cyclone could be telegraphed to them, where signs like
this were posted, "A cyclone due at three o'clock," and they had ample
time to shut up shop and school and prepare for it, going down into
their cyclone cellars, shutting fast the doors and staying there until
it was over.

True, a cyclone or two had grazed this town.

One had even taken off a wing. But, though a trifle disabled by each,
it had continued to thrive, showing such evident and robust signs of
life and strength that the cyclones, presently giving up in despair of
making a wreck of it, had gone on by as Seth has said they would do
once they found their master.

Then this town had been by way of premium for stanchness and courage
made the capital of this State of tornadoes and whirlwinds.

But this was as far as it went or seemed to intend to go. Further
south and west an attempt or two had been made to plant towns, but
their cellars had not been dug deep enough or their foundations had
not been sufficiently firm, or the cyclones had not yet become
reconciled to the sight of them. At any rate, the cyclones had come
along and swept them away without a word of warning, and they had not
been heard of since, neither cyclone nor town.

And so, altogether, Seth lost heart and came to the conclusion that
his Magic City, if it was ever to be built would be built after his
time and he would never have the happiness of gazing upon it. The hope
of seeing it was all that had kept him in the West. Now that he had
lost it, an uncontrollable longing came over him to go back home, to
see the wife who had deserted him, throw himself at her feet and beg
her forgiveness for his madness which had resulted in their
separation.

From dreaming dreams of the Magic City he took to dreaming dreams of
her.

It was years since he had seen her, but the absent, like the dead,
remain unchanged to us. To him she was the same as when last he saw
her.

How beautiful she had been with her great blue eyes and her hair the
color of Charlie's, tawny, like sunshine! And right, too, in her
scorn of his visions. And how foolish he had been to dream of training
the wind-blown West into a fit place for human beings to inhabit, or
for great cities to be built! It would take a stronger hand than his
to do that, he had come to believe. It would take the hand of God.

He had tried to find a tree that would grow so swiftly that the wind
could have no effect upon it. He had planted slim switches of one kind
after another and the wind had blown each to leaflessness, until now
there stood a slim row of cottonwoods that he had tried as a last
resort, but the same thing would happen to them, perhaps. He had lost
faith in trees. But he would not say yet that he had lost faith in
God.

He watched the same train trailing so far away as to seem a toy train
and longed as she had done to take it and go back home.

At last he understood the look in her eyes as she watched it and the
thoughts that enthralled her.

Sometimes when we strive for a thing and set our hearts on it, it
holds itself aloof from us. When we cease to strive, it comes.

But that is among the many strange ways of Providence which seems to
rule us blindly, but which is not so blind, perhaps, after all, as it
seems.

Another of its ways most incomprehensible is to bring us what we have
longed for a little too late sometimes.

But this is the story of Seth, and this is the way of its happening:

It was early in a mild and beautiful spring when the corn was young.
It stood shoulder high, lusty and strong and green. What with the
unwonted mildness of the weather and the absence of the usual storms
and the proneness of the clouds to deposit themselves about in gentle
showers, the crop promised fair to rival any crop that Seth had ever
raised on the Kansas prairies.

He hoed and toiled and smiled and listened to the rustling of the
corn, for he had made up his mind.

When the harvest was at an end he would sell the crop and the place
for what it would bring, and go back home. He would go back to his
wife and home!

The rustling of the corn was music in his ears. It was more. It was
like the glad hand of young Love; for with the crops so fine and the
harvest so rich, when he went back home to her, he would not go
empty-handed and unwelcome.

He was going back once more to his Kentucky home.

No hills seemed so green as those Kentucky hills and no skies so blue
as those skies that vaulted above the green, green hills of his native
land.

It had been longer than he cared to count since he had seen the blue
grass waving about in the wind there, not such wind as swept the
Kansas prairies, but gentle zephyrs almost breathless that rustled
softly and musically through the little blades of grass just as the
wind was rustling through the stalks now as he walked slowly with the
heavy stride of the clumsy farmer, hoeing the corn.

And he had not heard the whip-poor-will, nor sat under the shade of
the wide spreading oaks, nor listened to the soft Southern talk of his
and her people, not since he had come to Kansas with those other
foolish folk to brave the dangers of the strange new country in the
search of homes.

Homes!

He could point out the graves of some of them here and there about the
vastness of the level prairies, though more often he wandered across
the vast level wastes, looking for the places where they should be and
found them not, because of the buffaloes that had long ago trampled
out the shape of them, or because of the corn that had been planted in
furrows above their mounds, the serried ranks through which the wind
sang requiems, chanting, whispering, moaning and sighing in the balmy
springtime and through the heat of the long summer days until in the
chill of the autumn the farmers cut the stalks and stacked them
evenly, leaving no dangling leaves to sigh through nor tassels to
flout.

Now that he had made up his mind, the roughness of his life bore in
upon him.

He thought with Celia that it would be good to live again in a land
where people led soft, easy lives. She was not to be blamed. She was
right with that strange animal instinct which leads some women blindly
to the truth, and he had wasted the best years of his life and all of
the boy's in this terrible land of whirlwinds and coyotes and wide,
thirsty plains stretching to meet the blazing skies of noonday or the
star-gemmed dome of the purple night.

For the plains in some strange and mysterious way took vengeance upon
many of those who dared upturn with hoe and plough the fresh new
malarial soil, inserting germs of disease and death which soon
stretched them beneath.

Some lives must invariably be sacrificed to the upbuilding of any new
country, but why so many? And, sadder still, minds had been
sacrificed. The asylums, such as they were, were filled with those
whose minds in the ghastly loneliness of the desert had been torn and
turned and twisted by the incessant whirl and shirr and swish and
force of the pitiless winds.

He himself loved the wind, but there were times when he was afraid of
it, when it got in his brain and whirled and caused him to see things
in strange lights and weird, things fantastically colored,
kaleidoscopic and upside down.

When the day's work was done he sat outside the dugout talking
sometimes to himself, sometimes to Cyclona, telling of how when the
harvest was over and gathered he would go back home.

His plan must succeed, he sighed, to himself sometimes, sometimes to
Cyclona, who would sit listening, her great eyes on the limit of the
horizon, deep, dark, troubled as she brooded upon what her life would
be when he was gone; and as he talked he panted in the deep
earnestness of his insistence that the crops must succeed.

Other plans had failed, but not this. Not this! It must not!
Resolutely he put away from him all thought of failure. It must
succeed. He must go home!

He must ease this longing for the sight of Celia and her people which
had come to him of late to stay with him through seed-time and
harvest, through the early spring when the corn was young, and later
when it rose to heights unheard of, and later still through those
bitter days of grasshoppers and chinch bugs and hot winds and other
blightful things that haunt the Kansas cornfield to their ruin.

He must go home.




CHAPTER XIX.

[Illustration]


Since Seth had braved everything and dared everything, going so far
even as to hire harvest hands to help him, taking every possible
chance upon the yield of this harvest, as a gambler stakes his all
upon the last throw of the dice, fortune seemed at last to come his
way, and it promised a yield which eclipsed his wildest dreaming.

His heart grew light as he listened to the rustling of the corn and
into his tired eyes, beginning to be old, there crept so warm a glow
that the farm hands stood and stared at him as they came trooping in
hot and dusty from the fields.

They wondered what could have come over him to give to his worn and
faded face so nearly the look of youth.

"The corn is fine, John, isn't it?" he asked of a gray-haired man who
sat at one corner of the rough table, mopping his forehead with a
large bandana handkerchief, not too clean.

John put the handkerchief back into his pocket and fell upon the meal
Seth set before him.

"It's fine enough," said he, "it'll be the finest crop ever raised in
these here parts if the hot winds don't come."

After a little while he said again:

"If the hot winds don't come."

Seth set a plate of bread down by him with a crash.

"The hot winds!" he cried. "The hot winds!"

Man as he was he clasped his hands together and caught them apart,
wringing them.

"I had forgotten all about the hot winds!" he moaned. "I had forgotten
all about the hot winds!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The softness of the spring air gave place to heat, to extreme heat,
sudden and blighting. A copper sun blazed in a copper sky.

The cooling breezes under the influence of the heat changed to
scorching winds. These winds blew menacingly through the rustling
stalks of the strong green corn.

For one long day they laughed defiance, holding firmly erect their
brave heads upon which the yellow tassels were beginning to thrust
themselves aloft in silken beauty; and Seth, watching, braced himself
with the hope that they would somehow stand the ordeal, that the heat
might abate, that in some way, by the special finger of Providence,
perhaps, the threatened ruin might be warded off, that a cooling
breeze might come blowing up from the Gulf or a shower might fall and
he could still go back home.

On the second day the heat had not abated. It had rather increased.
The burning winds blew stronger. They raged with a sudden fury, died
down to a whisper, and raged again.

John, when he led the field hands in, shook his head and took his
place at the table in silence.

Seth, setting their meal before them, crept to the door and looked
out.

He turned faint and sick at heart at the sight of the fields, for the
tassels had drooped and the broad green leaves were slowly changing to
a parched and withered brown, parched and withered as his face, which
had been bared to the heat of the Kansas prairies for so many years,
parched and withered as his heart which had borne the brunt of sadness
and sorrow and separation until the climax was reached and it could
bear no more.

On the third day the hot winds grew vengeful. They swept across the
prairies with a hissing sound as of flames sizzling through the heat
of a furnace. The tassels, burnt now to a dingy brown, hung in wisps.
The leaves drooped like tired arms. They no longer sang in the wind.
They rattled, a hoarse, harsh rattle premonitory of death.

Far and near the fields lay scorched, withered, burnt to a crisp as if
by the fast and furious blast of a raging prairie fire.

There was no longer need of harvest hands.

The harvest, gathered by the hot winds, was ended. The ruin was
complete.

Their mission accomplished, the winds died down suddenly as they had
risen and passed away across the barren prairies in a sigh.

Then up came the cooling breezes from the Gulf, light, zephyry clouds
gathered, shut off the brazen sunlight and burst into a grateful
shower, which descended upon the parched and deadened fields of corn.

But Seth!

Flung on his knees by the side of the bed in the corner of the hole in
the ground, his face buried in his arms, he listened to the patter of
those raindrops on the corn.

His eyes were dry; but a spring had broken somewhere near the region
of his heart.

He owned himself defeated.

He gave up the fight.




CHAPTER XX.

[Illustration]


Cyclona had gone to Seth's dugout and found a note from him on the
table. It contained few words, but they held a world of meaning.
Simple words and few, tolling her knell of doom.

"I have gone to Celia," it read.

Cyclona crushed the paper, flung it to the floor and ran from the hole
in the ground, afraid of she knew not what, engulfed in the awful fear
which encompasses the hopeless,--the fear of herself.

She sprang to her saddle and urged her broncho on with heel and whip,
upright as an Indian in her saddle, her face set, expressionless in
its marble-like immobility.

She scarcely heeded the direction she took. She left that to her
broncho, who sped into the heat of the dusty daylight, following hard
in the footsteps of the wind.

What she wished to do was to go straight to God, to stand before Him
and ask him questions.

If within us earthworms there is the Divine Spark of the Deity, if we
are in truth His sons and daughters, she reasoned, then we have some
rights that this Deity is bound to respect.

What earthly father would knowingly permit his children to stumble
blindly along dangerous pathways into dangerous places?

What earthly father would demand that his children rush headlong into
danger unquestioningly?

What earthly father would create hearts only to crush them?

Why had He thrust human beings onto this earth against their will,
without their volition, to suffer the tortures of the damned?

Why had He created this huge joke of an animal, part body, part soul,
all nerves keen to catch at suffering, only to laugh at it?

Why had He taken the pains to fashion this Opera Bouffe of a world at
all? Why had He made of it a slate upon which to draw lines of human
beings, then wipe them aimlessly off as would any child?

For mere amusement after the manner of children?

If not, then why? Why? Why?

She could have screamed out this "Why" into the way of the wind.

She wanted to ask Him why he whirled body-clad souls out of the
Nowhere, dragged them by the hair of their heads through ways thronged
with thorns, then thrust them back again into the Nowhere, to lie
stone still in their chill damp graves, in their straight grave
clothes, awaiting His pleasure?

Why had He seen fit to fashion some all body and no soul?

Why had He made others all soul?

Why had He created the Seths to weary for love of the Celias and the
Cyclonas to eat out their hearts for love of the Seths?

Some of these questions she had been wont to put to Seth, who had
answered them as best he could in his patient way.

There was a hidden meaning in it all, he had said, meaningless as it
often seemed. Some meaning that would show itself in God's good time.

We are uncut diamonds, was one of his explanations. We had much need
of polishing before we could attain sufficient brilliancy to adorn a
crown. We must have faith and hope, he had said. Much faith and hope
and patience. And above all we must have the belief that it would all
come out in the Great White Wash of Eternity, in God's good time.

But there were those who succumbed before God's good time, who would
never know the explanation until they had passed into the Beyond,
where they would cease to care.

She rode on and on, asking herself these questions and finding no
answer in the whirl and eddy of dust blown at her by the wind, in the
limitless stretch of prairie, in the suffocating thickness of heat
which enveloped the way of the wind.

Intense heat. Sultry, parching, enervating, sure precursor, if she had
thought to remember, if she had been less engrossed in the bitterness
of her questionings, of a storm.

Soon, aroused by the intensity of this heat, which burned like the
blast from an oven, she whirled about and turned her broncho's head
the other way.

It was time, for that way lay her home and danger threatened it.

At the moment of her turning a blast blew with trumpet-like warning
into the day, blazing redly like a fire of logs quickened by panting
breaths.

A lurid light, like the light of Judgment Day or the wrath of God
spread while she looked.

It enveloped her.

It was as if she gazed upon earth and sky through a bit of bright red
stained glass.

In the southern skies, in the direction of her home, clouds piled
high, black, threatening.

Then she heard a rushing sound of wind, wailing, moaning, threshing,
roaring sullenly in the distance.

She spurred her broncho into the darkness lit by flashes of this lurid
light.

A flash of light.

Then darkness, thick as purple velvet.

Furiously she urged the animal forward into this horrible unknown
which had the look of the wrath of God come upon her for her doubting,
pressed on by an innate feeling of affection for those two who had
befriended her, hurrying to their aid, spurred by an instinctive
foreboding of impending evil in this awful roaring, whirling,
murderous sound of the wild winds gone suddenly stark mad.

As she sped on, something swept past her with a great hoarse roar,
distinguishable above the deafening roar of the wind.

It was Seth's herd, stampeding, running with the wind and bellowing
with fear.

She winged her way into the terror of the darkness.

Ready an hour before for death in any form, she now all at once found
herself panting with fear of it, gasping with a deadly fear of a
ghastly fate, of being crushed and mangled, of dying by inches beneath
some horrible weight, but this did not deter her.

Afraid to breathe a prayer to the God whom she had dared to question,
she winged her way breathlessly on and on.

Then sheets of water, as if the skies had opened and emptied
themselves,--and a vivid flash of lightning revealing the wind's wet
wings, its wild whirling fingers dripping.

Cyclona saw it coming in that flash, a fiendish thing apparently
alive, copper-colored, funnel-shaped, ghastly. She threw herself
forward on the neck of her broncho, grasping his mane. Then a blow
from a great unseen hand out of the darkness struck them both, felling
them.

During the next few minutes of inky blackness, of indescribable
terror, of flying missiles armed with death, Cyclona lay unconscious.
When she opened her eyes a calm light of the evenness of twilight had
spread over the track of the cyclone, and her head lay pillowed on
Hugh Walsingham's shoulder. Close beside her was a ragged bough and
her broncho lay dead near by. The bough was the hand that had struck
them out of the darkness, had thrown her to the sod and killed her
animal.

"I came very near," she sighed, "to standing before God."

By and by with Walsingham's help she stood.

"Where is the house?" she asked, bewildered by the barrenness of the
spot on which the topsy turvy house had stood for so many years.

"It is gone," said he.

Cyclona pressed both hands to her face and rocked back and forth,
sobbing.

God had spared her, true, but He had offered her this delicate irony
of leaving her homeless.

Hugh looked moodily out over the place of the topsy turvy house, his
own mind awhirl with the maddening force of the furious winds through
which he had passed.

"In Kansas," said he, grimly, "it is the wind that giveth and the wind
that taketh away."

Then, looking tenderly at the girl in his arms, he added softly:
"Blessed be the name of the wind!"




CHAPTER XXI.

[Illustration]


Thereafter at station after station, a tall, gaunt man may have been
seen handling baggage, running errands, caring for the cattle, doing
any sort of work, no matter how humble, that lay to his hand, making
his way slowly, wearily but steadily on toward the South.

Seth, working his way home to Celia.

He slept in baggage cars, on cattle trains. He swung to steps of
trains moved off and clung there between brief stations. He stopped
over at small towns and earned his bread at odd jobs, bread and
sufficient money sometimes to move on steadily for a day or two.

Strange weathers burned and bit him. He walked heavily in the path of
the wind overhung by pale clouds. He slept under the stars out in the
open.

It was days before he passed the plains, the place of the sleepless
winds where wan white skies bent above the grass of the hot dry
pulse, the lifeless grass that wailed into the ceaseless wind its
dirge of death and decay.

It was weeks before he reached Kansas City, the city of hills, with
lights hung high and lights hung low. Here he found a place as
brakeman and worked his way into Missouri.

Here it was as if an ocean steamer had suddenly stopped the whir of
its wheels at the approach of the pilot come out from shore to tug it
in.

The wind had stopped blowing.

The position was only temporary. Another brakeman taking his place,
Seth walked.

He was not sorry to walk in this quiet land. How tenderly green the
shrubbery was, how beautiful! Mingled with the darker green of the
cedar and pine, the brown green of the cone.

How sweet the slow green trees! Not windswept! Not torn by the wild,
wet fingers of the wind, not lashed with hot and scathing fingers gone
dry with drought, but still and peaceful.

A sleepy world of streams it was, a sleepy world of streams and sweet
green trees among whose leaflets gentle zephyrs breathed scarcely
perceptible sighs of pure contentment.

Patiently, contentedly, he walked mile after mile through this
beautiful Missouri which was so like home, among these tall, sighing
trees, under the protection of their great still umbrella-like heads,
thinking of his dream Celia, whom he was so soon to see.

The absence of the wind had left his brain clear. Since it was so
short a time until his dream was to become a reality, no longing or
heartache served to set his brain afire with the agony of despair.
Calmly he walked in the white straight rain among the tender trees,
his tired brain clear, thinking of her.

How would she receive him?

Surely, in spite of his empty-handedness, she would greet him lovingly
because of their long separation and the death of the child. Surely
she would receive him lovingly because of the endless days that had
divided them. Those days! Those days! But he refused to let his mind
dwell on the deadly length of them. It might sadden again.

In the world, he reasoned, there were those two only, Celia and
himself. Should they not cling together?

True, he would arrive empty-handed, but he could make a living for her
and himself in the old town. He was not without friends there. There
were those who had loved him in the olden time. They would give him
work. They would help him build up his lost fortunes. He would spend
his life in retrieving, in compensating to Celia for the foolish years
that he had spent dreaming dreams.

In St. Louis he remained for weeks, working about the station in the
effort to earn enough for his ride to Cincinnati. At length he
succeeded, but on an emigrant train.

He rode for a day, looking out the window at the landscape swimming by
rather than at his wild-eyed companions, crowded together like sheep.
At the end of the day he arrived at Cincinnati.

And then Seth came into--into God's country.




CHAPTER XXII.

[Illustration]


For some months after Celia's return to her native town, her friends
gathered gladly about her. A little visit! That was natural enough.
They welcomed her with open arms.

As the visit lengthened, questions ensued.

The child. What of him. Was he not very young to leave for such a
length of time? Was not that a strange mother who could thus separate
herself from a babe in arms; who could deprive him of the warmth and
comfort of her embrace?

And Seth? What of him? For Seth had many friends among them who knew
his great heart and his worth.

How was it possible for her to remain apart from her husband and child
so long?

Contented in the soft and balmy clime, in the land of her birth, she
told them of the terror of the winds, of the sunbaked prairie, of the
plague of the grasshoppers, of the hot winds that blistered, of the
scorch of the simoons, of the withering blasts of summer and the
freezing storms of winter, and thought that sufficient explanation
until she beheld herself reflected in the coldness of their glances as
in a mirror, set aloof outside their lives as a thing abnormal, as a
worthless instrument whose leading string is somehow out of tune,
which has snapped with a discordant twang.

However, this did not greatly distress her. She turned to her mother
for companionship. The mother filled what small need she had of love
until she died. She was soon followed, this mother of hers, into the
land of shadows by the loving shadow of herself, Celia's black Mammy.
Then Celia was left alone in the old house, which, for lack of funds,
was fast falling into ruin, the wrinkled shingles of the roof letting
in the rain in dismal drops to flood the cellar and the kitchen, the
grass growing desolately up between the bricks of the pavement that
led from door to gate for lack of the tread of neighborly feet.

Life, which is never the same, which is ever changing, changes by
degrees. Not all at once did Celia's soul shrivel but gradually. Now
and again in the early days following upon her return to her home, at
the cry of a child in the street, she would start to her feet, then
remember and shrug her shoulders and forget. And there were some
nights that were filled for her with the remembered moan of the
prairie winds. She heard them shriek and howl and whistle with all
their old time force and terror. She sprang wildly out of bed and ran
to the window to look out on the slumbrous quiet of the Southern
night, to clasp her hand and thank her good fortune that she looked
not out on the wide weird waste of the trackless prairie.

Gradually, too, she descended to poverty and that without complaint.

To poverty dire as that from which she had fled, except that it was
unaccompanied by the horror of simoon and blizzard, of hot winds and
cold.

For her this sufficed.

Too proud to ask for help of those who passed her by in coldness as a
soulless creature of a nature impossible to understand and therefore
to be shunned, she toiled and delved alone, a recluse and outcast in
the home of her birth. She delved in the patch of a garden for the
wherewithal to keep the poor roof over her head. She hoed and dug and
drove hard bargains with the grocers to whom she sold her meagre
products. She washed and ironed and mended and darned and cooked,
coming at length perforce to the drudgery which throughout her brief
life in the hole in the ground she had scornfully disdained.

Not once did the thought of asking help of Seth or of returning to him
present itself.

And yet there were tardy times when the memory of the winds remained
with her day in and day out, when at twilight she sat on the steps of
her vine-covered, crumbling portico and communed with herself.

When, placing herself apart, she reviewed her life and observed
herself with the critical eye of an uninterested outsider.

Invariably then she would say to herself, remembering the wail and
shriek and moan of the hideous winds:

"I would leave them again, the winds and the child and him. If it
happened a second time, and I again had the choice, I would leave
them exactly the same."

Then aloud, in apology for what had the look to her own biased eyes of
utter heartlessness:

"It was the fault of the winds," she would mutter, "it was the fault
of the winds!"




CHAPTER XXIII.

[Illustration]


Kentucky! God's country!

It was as if Seth had dropped out of a wind-blown cloud into a quiet
garden, sweetly fenced about and away from the jar and fret of the
world.

Placid, content, tranquil, standing stock-still in the delicacy of its
old-fashioned beauty, as if the world outside and beyond had never
progressed.

He wandered by old and rich plantations, carved by necessity into
smaller farms, past big white stone gates opening to wide avenues
which led up to them, looking wistfully in, still content to wander a
space before he should experience the rapture of seeing Celia's face,
loitering, the white happiness of that within his reach, half fearing
to hold out his hand for it, fearing it might vanish, escape
phantasmagorically, turn out to be a will-o'-the-wisp.

Whip-poor-wills accompanied him in his wanderings, Bob Whites,
Nightingales; and lazy ebon negroes, musical as birds, sang lilting
Southern songs on the way to the tinkle of banjo and guitar.

The negroes were not so kind as the birds. From them he suffered
humiliation.

More than once he was dubbed "Po' white!" by some haughty ebon
creature from whose mouth he was supposedly taking the bread.

But here, as in Missouri, he looked for consolation to the wet woods,
to the still, soft, straight rain, to the sighing trees that softly
soughed him welcome.

After weary days and nights, working by day on rock-pile or in field,
sleeping by night in the corner of a friendly fence of worm-eaten
rails, fanned by the delicate hair of the pale blue grasses, he came
to Burgin.

The driver of the bus that conveyed passengers to Harrodsburg looked
down upon him from the height of his perch. He was strange to Seth,
but he recognized a something of the kinship of country in his face
and manner.

"Have a lif'?" he asked.

Seth refused. It was bright daylight. He wished to steal into his old
home under the covering of the twilight, he was so footsore and
bedraggled.

"I'll walk," he smiled, "but thank you just the same."

Four miles, then, over hill, down dale, past dusty undergrowth, the
brilliant blue of the skies above him, passing negroes who looked
strangely at him out of rolling eyes, who jerked black thumbs in his
direction over shoulders, saying:

"See de po' white trash man, walkin' home!"

But there were some Bob Whites singing in the bushes over the rail
fences, singing, singing!

A bird at the side of the road rested momentarily on a long, keen
switch of a blackberry bush, the switch bent earthward, the bird flew
off and the twig bent back again.

At sight of him ground squirrels sped into the underbrush.

Somewhere on the other side of the rail fences little negroes sang.
They were too young yet to jerk their thumbs at him and say:

"Po' white!"

Now that he was so near to Celia his heart misgave him. How would she
receive him, coming home to her a tramp, a dusty, tired, footsore
tramp, wet, chilled to the bone, footsore and tired! So tired!

He forged ahead, trying hard to throw off these thoughts. It was the
scornful negroes who had engendered them.

A mile from Harrodsburg he came to the toll gate. A woman whose yellow
hair showed streaks of gray, raised the pole for him, smiling at him.

"That man had eyes like Seth Lawsons," she said to her husband, who
smoked his pipe on the porch while she raised and lowered the poles
and so supported the family.

She was the girl who had called good-by after Celia years before, when
she left for her journey to the West and the Magic City.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was twilight when Seth came to Celia's gate.

A woman sat alone on the step of the portico, looking out down the
pike.

Seth paused, his hand on the latch, seeing which the woman shook her
head negatively.

Seth raised the latch, whereupon she suddenly stood, frowning.

"I have nothing for you," she called out raspingly. "There is not a
thing in the house to eat. Go away! Go away!"

"Celia!" Seth cried out, stabbed to the heart. "I am not a beggar for
bread, but give me a crust of kindness for the love of God! I am
Seth."




CHAPTER XXIV.

[Illustration]


Seen from afar off by the loving eyes of memory, the cows' horns are
longer than they are close by.

The kitchen was old and smoky. Once on a time it had been regularly
calcimined, twice a year, or three times, but it had been many years
now since it had undergone this cleanly process.

Celia's welcome of Seth had been according to her nature, all the more
hardened now by seclusion and poverty. She heard without emotion of
the death of the child. It mattered little to her. She had never known
him. Seth, come back to her a failure, a tramp, was deserving of scant
courtesy. She meted it out to him as it seemed to her he deserved.

The miles he had travelled counted little. Since he had proven himself
too great a failure to travel as men do, it was only just that he
should work his way, sleep in fence corners, live on crusts and walk.

It was one of her theories that, given sufficient time, all men and
animals sink to their level.

Who was Seth that he should be exempt from this law?

The thought occurred to her that he had come to her as a last
recourse. That, unable to make his own living, he had come to share
hers.

That thought scarcely served to add warmth to her welcome.

Seth sat on a chair against the blackened wall in the position of the
tramp who has covered weary distances, whose every bone aches with the
extreme intensity of fatigue.

He was like a rag that had been thrown there.

As Celia had watched him get their first supper in the dugout, so he
now watched her. As she had sat bitterly disillusioned in the darkness
of the hole in the ground, so he sat within the four close walls of
the smoke-begrimed kitchen of her old Kentucky home, disillusioned
beyond compare.

In the once sunny hair there were streaks of gray, but it was not
that. There were wrinkles beneath the blue eyes that had not lost
their sternness, the cold blue of their intensity, the chill and
penetrating frost of their gaze. Somehow, too, those large and
beautiful eyes had appeared to grow smaller with the passing of the
years, not with tears, for there are tears that wash out all else but
beauty in some women's eyes, but with the barren drought of feeling
which goes to sap the very fount of loveliness.

And it was this barren drought of feeling which at last served to
disillusion him, whose existence he at last realized in this creature
who had been his cherished idol. He realized it in her apathy upon
hearing of the death of the child. He realized it in the look she
turned upon him in which he saw her stern suspicion that he had come
homeless to her in the hope of a home.

Formerly, in the days of her mother and her old black Mammy, they had
taken tea in the dining-room, which had looked out on a green sward
brightened by flowers.

Gay and cheerful teas these were, enlivened by guests.

In the absence of guests, Celia had fallen into the slack habit of
eating in the kitchen of the smoke-begrimed ceiling and the dark bare
walls. There was a small deal table against the window. It was covered
with an abbreviated cloth.

Celia walked about setting this table for Seth and herself, laying
with palpable reluctance the extra plate, cup, saucer, knife and fork.
Her movements were no longer girlish. They were heavy and slow.

When tea was ready she bade Seth draw up his chair. They then ate
their supper, Seth too tired to talk and Celia busy with the problem
of this added mouth destined to consume the contents of her scant
larder.

When supper was over Seth left her to clear the table, went out in the
dark on the front porch away from the cold steel blue of her eye and
sat down on the step.

Men seldom shed tears, or he would have found it in his heart to
weep.




CHAPTER XXV.

[Illustration]


Not many moons after the wreck wrought by the withering winds, which,
while they had not touched the place of the forks of the two rivers,
lacked little of it, the Wise Men came out of the East and found
Cyclona alone in the Kansas dugout there by the Big Arkansas and the
Little Arkansas.

"Is this the place where the Indians pitched their tents?" they asked,
"because no cyclones come here?"

"Yes," she answered.

"Then this," said they, "is where we will build our city."

"The Magic City," repeated Cyclona, without surprise.

"When we have finished it," they smiled, "it will be a Magic City."

Cyclona looked wistfully out along the weary track of the wind.

"But Seth," said she, "will never see it maybe. He has given up and
gone back home."




CHAPTER XXVI.

[Illustration]


Few there are who have not heard of the Magic City, the Windy Wonder
of the West, the Peerless Princess of the Plains, and how it sprung up
mushroom-like in a night there at the forks of the Big Arkansas and
the Little Arkansas, where the Indians had pitched their tents and
Seth had lived and hoped and despaired, and how men went wild erecting
Colleges and Palaces and Temples and Watch Factories and buying up
town lots so far from the town that if the city had been built on all
of them it would have surpassed the marvellous tales of it written in
the newspapers, reached half way to Denver and become, instead of the
Magic City of the West, the Magic City of the World.

Seth had been a dreamer of dreams, but his vision of the Magic City
was not half so marvellous as the city itself.

Fortunes were made in a day and lost before midnight.

Men came from far and near, many from the other side of the water, and
bought town lots and sold them, bought still others and built tall
houses and planted great avenues of trees, cottonwood trees, the trees
of Seth's imaginings, trees that seemed also to spring up in a night,
they grew so magically, thrusting deep roots into the moist black soil
and greedily sucking up its moisture in a very madness of growing, and
laid off parks and sent flashing electric cars out into the large
farms and dangled big soft balls of electricity in the middle of the
streets that twinkled at eventide like big pale blinking fireflies.

Those who had formerly eked out a precarious enough existence in
dugouts, now lived in palaces, had their raiment fashioned by hands
Parisian, and gave receptions on a scale of such grandeur that the
flowers offered as souvenirs thereat would have kept many a wolf from
a dugout door for years, and a few Wise Men it was said lost their
heads in the mad whirl of speculation, but as that often happens in
the building up of any great city, not necessarily in the West, it
was not so surprising as it might have been.

Indeed, the World stood still a moment, agape at the wonder of the
Magic City, and there were those who, now that Seth had passed out of
the way of the wind into a country strange to them, spoke of him
reverently as Prophet and Seer, going so far as to express regret that
while within the sound of their voices they had carelessly dubbed him
a foolish dreamer of mad, fantastic and impossible dreams, yet
comforting themselves withal with the thought that they were not alone
in denying a Prophet honor in his own country, since so wagged the
world.




CHAPTER XXVII.

[Illustration]


The Magic City, stretching itself far and near, had not failed to
include the little station.

Common walls of plank no longer enshrined the person of the Post
Mistress. She no longer looked out from the limited space of a narrow
window onto ragged flower beds in whose soft, loose earth floundered
wind-blown chickens.

She dwelt in the wide, white marble halls of a lofty new Post Office.
Bell boys, porters and stenographers surrounded her.

It was five o'clock. The Professor stood near while she sorted out
some letters and placed them in pigeon-holes. He was clad in the
latest fashion as laid down by the London Tailors who, at the first
sound of the Boom, had hastened on the wings of the wind to the Magic
City. His frock coat radiated newness, his patent leathers shone, and
a portion of the brim of a tall silk hat rested daintily between
thumb and fingers of a well-gloved hand.

As a matter of fact, since he had proved himself her friend through
thick and thin, through storms and adversity, through high winds and
blizzards, the Post Mistress had at last, after much persuasion,
awarded him the privilege of standing by her throughout the rest of
her natural existence.

A dapper youth in livery approached the window, asked for letters and
withdrew.

There was about him a certain air of elegance which yet had somehow
the subtle effect of having been reflected.

"Will Low's valet," explained the Post Mistress. "Sometimes it seems
to be a dream, all this. These men who sat around my big blazing stove
spinning cyclone yarns while they waited for the brakeman to fling in
the mailbag, sending their valets for their mail! It seems like magic,
doesn't it?"

"It does," assented the Professor.

"There's Zed Jones," continued the Post Mistress, "with his new drag,
his Queen Anne cottage built of gray stone, his Irish setters. And
Mrs. Zed sending to Paris for all her clothes, and the little Zeds
fine as fiddles with their ponies and their pony carts."

"And Hezekiah Smith," reminded the Professor.

"Who used to sleep on a pile of newspapers in his old newsstand on the
corner, driving his tandem now. And Howard Evans and Roger Cranes and
a dozen others, all poor as church mice then, and rich as cream now.
It is like fairy land. You, too," with an admiring glance at the frock
coat, "worth fifty thousand. And my bit of land bringing me a small
fortune. I think after," with another smile in his direction, "we'll
let some other lone single woman have this job who needs the money. We
won't keep the Post Office any longer."

The Professor smiled a silent assent.

"But the most wonderful thing of all," went on the Post Mistress, "is
that girl Cyclona. All of twenty-seven or eight, but she looks like a
girl. It was pretty cute of her, wasn't it, to jump Seth's claim?"

"She didn't exactly jump it," said the Professor. "She was taking care
of it after Seth went away, when her own topsy turvy house blew off
somewhere. She had no other home. I wouldn't exactly call it jumping
Seth's claim."

"Call it what you please," said the Post Mistress, "but it amounts to
the same thing. She got all the money the Wise Men paid for the claim,
and it went into the millions. Why, Seth's claim takes up the very
heart of the city. That girl's worth her weight in gold, that Cyclona,
and she deserves it, taking care of the baby first, then watching
after Seth. I believe she's in love with Seth. I believe she lives in
hopes that he'll come back again. I know. She is seen everywhere with
Hugh Walsingham, drivin' with him in her stylish little trap, a good
driver she is, too, after ridin' fiery bronchos, herdin' Seth's cattle
and livin' wild-like on the prairies. She's a splendid whip, afraid of
nothin'."

"But you can see in her big, stretchy faraway eyes that she ain't
thinkin' about Hugh Walsingham, that she's always thinkin' about Seth
and wishin' it was him a drivin' with her in that stylish little trap
of hers."

She stopped to read a postal card.

"Cyclona's a fine young woman," she resumed, "and a beautiful young
woman, if she is brown as a gypsy, but the wind has left a wheel in
her head. She has never been right since that storm that blew away the
topsy turvy house. Another shock and her mind will go entirely. I've
heard a doctor say so, a man who knows. She deserves all she's got and
a happy life with that handsome Englishman, but here she is with some
fool idea that the money, all these riches she's fallen heiress to,
that make her the belle of the Magic City, ain't hers. That they are
held in trust for Seth and Celia, that heartless Celia, who deserted
her husband and baby to go back to her home in the South.

"What right has that Celia got to any money that comes out of the West
she hated so, out of this wind-blown place she wouldn't live in? None
at all. No more right than I have. Leaving Seth out here on the plains
all by himself, grievin' for her, breakin' his heart for her, nearly
losin' his mind with grief about her.

"The money's Cyclona's. She worked for it, never thinkin' of the
reward. She took care of the child and looked after Seth. She deserves
all the good that can come to her, that girl does."

"She does," assented the Professor.

"Hugh Walsingham's in a good fix, too," continued the Post Mistress,
"sold his claim for a whole lot of money. Able now, he is, to help his
poor relations back there in England, who sent him to the plains to
get rid of him. Funny how things turn out sometimes."

"Cyclona coming out of Nowhere, and he packed off out of England, both
outcasts, both rich now and ready to live happy ever after, if Cyclona
would only get rid of this fool notion of hers that she's only holdin'
the riches in trust for Celia and Seth.

"Have you heard the news? It's this: You know Nancy Lewis, the
dish-washer in the restaurant before the Boom, the girl who happened
to save her earnings and buy a bit of land that turned into a gold
nugget? Well, a millionaire who made his money here, fell in love with
her. She accepted him, but he made a slight mistake. He failed to keep
an engagement with her one night and sent a waiter with a note. She
got huffy and went off and married the waiter.

"We can't rise all at once from our station in life, can we? Like as
not, when we get into our new house and put on style ourselves with
our drags and our dogs, I'll be sortin' out letters in my dreams and
handin' them through a dream window to the people. This girl is a born
dish-washer. She clung to her station. Her children may rise from the
position of dish-washers, if they have enough money and education, but
not she."

"Wait a minute. Here's a postcard I haven't read yet. It looks like
it's been through a cyclone. Land sakes alive! Guess who it's from!"

"Can't," said the Professor, beginning to be hungry.

The Post Mistress turned the card over and over.

"It's from Jonathan, Cyclona's father," she chuckled. "Of all the
people in the world! It is post-marked Texas."

"So that's where they blew to! It's to Cyclona, but everybody will be
dying to know what it says. Listen:

    "'Dear Cyclona:--

    "'I think you will be glad to hear that this cyclone was good
    to us, blowin' us 'way down here in Texas, where the weather
    is so fine. It saved me the trouble, too, of bothering with
    the roof. It blew it right side up and the clothes are all
    down in the room now.'"

      "'Your affectionate father,'"
                "'Jonathan.'"

    "'P.S.--I like this part of the country better than I did
    Kansas. I think we will stay here, Cyclona.'"

"Until another cyclone comes along," the Professor commented, "and
blows him into the Gulf."

"I wonder," mused the Post Mistress, "if the cyclone put the clothes
away in the presses when it took them down from the walls."




CHAPTER XXVIII.

[Illustration]


It was as the Post Mistress had said. Cyclona was the heiress of the
Magic City. As Seth had predicted, she sold his land in its heart for
more money than she knew what to do with. Cyclona was not only the
most beautiful young woman in the Magic City, but she was the most
beautifully gowned and exquisite, what with her well-filled purse with
its attendant luxuries of maids, mantua-makers and milliners. She was
new to look at, but old thoughts clung to her, old dreams, old
fancies.

Cyclona dreamed a dream one night. She thought that she was in the old
dugout at the little deal table before the dim half-window, outside
which the wind sang fitfully, blowing the tumbleweeds hither and
thither, near and far, with moans and sighs, and Seth sat by her side.
And as of old he talked to her of the beautiful house.

"All these were of costly stones, according to the measures of hewed
stones," she heard him say in the dream, "sawed with saws within and
without. Even from the foundation unto the coping, and so on the
outside toward the great court."

Cyclona sat up in her bed with a start and slept no more.

So it was the beautiful house that she was to build, of course.
Wondering how it was she had not thought before of carrying out Seth's
dearest wish without waiting to be reminded of it in a dream,
reproaching herself, condemning her selfishness, marvelling how she
could for a moment have considered this money her own which she simply
held in trust for Celia and Seth.

Thereafter, Hugh, in spite of his deep affection for her, became
occasionally somewhat exasperated with Cyclona, who all at once
developed such peculiar ideas in regard to the building of the house,
ideas gathered from an old and yellow plan resurrected from the leaves
of a well-thumbed Bible brought from the dugout.

"Cedar!" he cried, "Must we bring cedar all the way from the South?
It will cost a fortune. Why not use some other wood? There are others
as beautiful."

"We will use cedar," determined Cyclona without further explanation,
and cedar they used, carved curiously in pomegranate and lily work,
very beautiful, Hugh had to acknowledge, though the expense was more
than it should have been, no matter how much money a young woman had
to throw to the birds.

"Shall we have so many windows?" he asked as Cyclona ordered window
after window, according to the old yellow plan.

"There must be no dark spot in all this house," decided Cyclona, and
when it was finished there was not. Built of stone brought from great
distances, stone of delicate pink from Tennessee, carved, wide of
door, alight with windows, it was a marvel to those who came and stood
by, watching the building of it.

"A beautiful house," they called it. "A beautiful house!"

There was no word of Seth in regard to the beautiful house that
Cyclona failed to remember.

"This is the stairway," she heard him say, "up which Celia shall trail
in her silks and her velvets. This is the threshold her little feet
shall press, and here is the low divan before a wide and sunny window
where she shall sit and thrum on her guitar."

Cyclona fashioned the threshold of marble, she built the stairway
spacious, she had the low divan carved in cedar and placed it before a
wide and sunny window in the music room. She placed there mandolins
and guitars. She ordered a piano made of cedar for the music room. She
had antique and gorgeous pillows embroidered by deft fingers for the
low divan, then went on to the bed-room of white and gold, of which
Seth had delighted to dream. She ordered pier-glasses, so many that
Hugh began to fear indeed for her sanity. She bought spindle-legged
furniture of gold and scattered it about. She covered the gold
bedstead with lace of the rarest. She hung curtains at the sunny
window, but curtains of so lacey a web that no possible ray of light
could they exclude.

"Exquisite!" exclaimed Hugh, "but must you have gold door knobs?"

"We must," answered Cyclona; and people came in wonder to look at the
beautiful house whose gold door knobs passed into one of the many
traditions of the excess of insanity displayed by the very rich of
that marvellous boom in their expenditure of money.

Cyclona caused the cellar to be lighted, according to Seth's
directions, until there was no dark spot in it. Light gleamed
throughout, if not the light of day, the light of electrics.

"I never in my life," declared Hugh, "saw so light a cellar. It is
like a conservatory."

By the time the house was finished, it was the wonder of the Magic
City, which itself was the wonder of the West for its beautiful
houses.

Then, when carpenter, painter, wood-carver and decorator had departed,
and the house stood in the sunshine, a gem of a house, surpassing, if
possible, in beauty, the house of Seth's imaginings, he came to
Cyclona for the last time in a dream. He stood in the dimness of a
low-roofed room, looking out of a window. His face was inexpressibly
sad. He stood there stilly for a long time, looking out of the window.

Then there rushed through Cyclona's dream the heavy whirring roar of
the wind, the moan of the wind, the wail of the wind.

Cyclona started out of the dream with a cry.

What had happened? What was it? What was it?

It was as if her life had gone out all at once like the flame of a
candle. It was as if her heart-strings had snapped asunder.

What was it? What was it?

She lay back among her pillows, trembling in the dark, afraid of she
knew not what, her wide eyes agaze at the ceiling's shadows.

And then after a long while she fell asleep again and once more
dreamed.

The wind soughed through her dream again, pitifully, wailingly, as it
had often soughed outside the dugout. Presently it dropped to a
whisper and the passing gleam of clouds let in a slab of sunlight
through the window.

Was Seth in the dugout then, or in that other room?

Whichever it was, the sunlight rested goldenly on the calmness of his
face. It glorified it.

In her dream, Cyclona looked long and lovingly at the strong, fine
lines of it brought out by this unexpected high light of the skies,
accentuated Rembrandt-like against the darkness of the hole in the
ground.

Yes. It was in the hole in the ground and not that other room of the
Beautiful House.

As she looked the calm dream face of Seth turned to her with a smile
of ineffable content.

On the following day Hugh said to her:

"Now that the beautiful house is finished, be mine. Be mine!"

She shook her head and looked at him with eyes that turned the heart
of him cold. The pupils that had once been large and full and black
had shrunk to the size of pin heads.

"No," she said. "I will wait and keep the house beautiful for Seth.
Last night I saw him in a dream. He'll be coming home soon now to the
beautiful house."

She walked to the window and looked out. She sank into a chair there,
folded her hands and smiled contentedly, looking out through the
leaves of the trees down the sunlit road.

"I will wait here for Seth," she repeated. "He won't be long now.
He'll be coming home soon. I saw his face last night in a dream, and
he smiled at me."




CHAPTER XXIX.

[Illustration]


The whittlers of the little sticks sitting on dry goods boxes which
surrounded the corner grocery looked up as a wagon came lumberingly
down the Lexington Pike, rounded the corner and made its way up Main
Street to Tom Coleman's livery stable.

They watched a man get out, lift an enormous trunk and carry it into
the stable on his shoulders. They saw the man bend earthward beneath
the weight of the trunk.

"Seth Lawson," they explained to some newcomers. "He's got a place at
last. Drivin' the baggage wagon from Burgin to Harrodsburg and back
again."

Tom Grums, the grocer, puffed a few whiffs of his pipe.

"That's the man," he explained succinctly, "whut was goin' to conquer
the West. That's the man whut said he was goin' to build the Magic
City at the forks of two rivahs wheah the wind didn't blow."

By and by, when he had unhitched and fed his horse Seth came down the
street, passed the whittlers of the little sticks and went on up the
Lexington Pike to his home and Celia's.

He walked laggingly. There was something that he must tell Celia and
he was afraid. It was impossible for him to keep the place.

He was not young enough. He was not sufficiently nimble. They wanted a
younger man, they told him, to lift the trunks. He had been months
getting the place and now he had lost it. He had lost it within a
week.

He walked slowly through the hall to the kitchen where Celia stood at
the old stove, cooking their supper. He sat by the window presently,
watching her.

No. He wouldn't tell her. He could not. He hadn't the courage to face
the scorn of her eye, to face the cold steely blue of it.

He ate the supper she set silently before him slowly. It had the taste
to sawdust.

After supper he went out on the porch awhile and sat looking into the
dusk, looking over the fine soft green of the dim grass on the
opposite lawns, his mind going back to the scorched and parched
grasses of the prairie.

How quiet it was! How windless. There came to him the memory of the
wind as it soothed him that day of Celia's home coming. He had not
hated the wind. He had loved it. There came also the memory of the
wind as it soughed around the dugout on those lonely nights, when he
and Cyclona had planned the beautiful house for Celia. In a flash of
light he seemed to see Cyclona.

With this rose by his side, he had gone sighing after the roses of
memory.

He arose and began to walk up and down, up and down to the gate and
back, to the gate and back, thinking of Cyclona and the wind. A
restlessness began to possess him, a longing for the sound of the
wind, for the sound of the voice of Cyclona which had mingled from the
first, from first to last, with the sound of the wind. The windless
stillness oppressed him. He stopped at the gate and looked again
across at the quiet grass of the still, dim lawns, then he walked
back into the house, along the hall and up into the low-roofed garret,
which had been set apart for him by Celia.

He closed the door of the garret very carefully behind him. He walked
to the window and looked out. The stillness weighed upon him. If only
he could run into the wind! If only he could hear again its wail, its
sob, its grief, its moaning.

Oh, no. It was impossible to tell Celia that he no longer had work. He
had no courage to face the steel blue of her eye.

Impossible, too, to face the sarcastic whittlers of the little sticks
who sat around the corner grocery in the morning, he who was to have
conquered the West and build the Magic City. They were total strangers
to him. All his old friends in the town seemed to be dead.

He took a pistol down from the shelf and looked at it. He turned it
around and around, the dim light coming in at the window playing on
it. Since the first night of his arrival he had had it ready.

"A man who cannot earn his salt," he said softly, "encumbers the
earth."

He held the thing, playing with it. He smiled as he played with it. He
went to the window and stood for a long while, looking out, thinking
of Cyclona, thinking very lovingly of Cyclona, that beautiful girl who
had cared for him and the child. He would like to see Cyclona once
more before,--but that was impossible. In the other world, perhaps.

God was not to blame. How could He look after so many? If he put them
here with all their faculties, was it His fault if they failed?

He was very tired. His fingers rested lovingly upon the weapon that
was to send him to the other world. He was very tired. He was very
tired.

By and by he placed the weapon to his temple, taking careful aim.

In a blinding flash of light he saw Cyclona.

There was the heavy roar of the wind, the wild and woeful wind of the
prairies,--and stillness.




CHAPTER XXX.

[Illustration]


Some visitors from the East to the Magic City, whose fame was now
widespread, were driving gaily by the beautiful house, which was one
of the choice show places of the town.

Cyclona, sitting by the window, turned her wide, soft eyes their way.

"How beautiful she is," sighed one of the girls, "but how strange her
eyes are! How vacant they are! There is no expression in her eyes,"
she said and sighed again.

"She has built the house," explained the guide, "for someone she says
who ought to own it. She sits there waiting for him, taking care of
the house, keeping it beautiful for him."

"She is very gentle and mild," he added, as they passed out of sight
of the beautiful house, "and so they let her live there instead of
locking her up in an asylum with all those other pioneer prairie
people whose minds went the way of the wind."



       *       *       *       *       *



    +---------------------------------------------------------+
    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:             |
    |                                                         |
    |    Page  26: longe replaced with long                   |
    |    Page 108: mesauahs replaced with measuahs            |
    |    Page 165: Buth replaced with But                     |
    |    Page 186: has replaced with was                      |
    |                                                         |
    +---------------------------------------------------------+



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