II. Jose Vaca
III. Donovan's Hand
IV. The Silver Crucifix
V. The Tang of Life
VII. The Return of Waring
IX. High-Chin Bob
X. East and West
XI. Spring Lamb
XII. Bud Shoop and Bondsman
XIV. Bondsman's Decision
XV. John and Demijohn
XVII. Down the Wind
XVIII. A Piece of Paper
XIX. The Fight in the Open
XX. City Folks
XXI. A Slim Whip of a Girl
XXII. A Tune for Uncle Bud
XXIII. Like One Who Sleeps
XXIV. The Genial Bud
XXVI. Idle Noon
XXVIII. A Squared Account
XXIX. Bud's Conscience
XXX. In the Hills
XXXI. In the Pines
XXXIII. The Fires of Home
XXXIV. Young Life
XXXV. The High Trail
With the coming of winter the Blue Mesa reclaimed its primordial solitude.
Mount Baldy's smooth, glittering roundness topped a world that swept down
in long waves of dark blue frosted with silver; the serried minarets of
spruce and pine bulked close and sprinkled with snow. Blanketed in white,
the upland mesas lay like great, tideless lakes, silent and desolate from
green-edged shore to shore. The shadowy caverns of the timberlands, touched
here and there with a ray of sunlight, thrilled to the creeping fingers
of the cold. Tough fibers of the stiff-ranked pines parted with a crackling
groan, as though unable to
bear silently the reiterant stabbing of the frost needles. The frozen gum of the black spruce glowed like frosted topaz. The naked whips of the quaking asp were brittle traceries against the hard blue of the sky.
Below the rounded shoulders of the peaks ran an incessant whispering as thin swirls of powdered snow spun down the wind and sifted through the moving branches below.
The tawny lynx and the mist-gray mountain lion hunted along snow-banked ranger trails. The blue grouse sat stiff and close to the tree-trunk, while gray squirrels with quaintly tufted ears peered curiously at sinuous forms that nosed from side to side of the hidden trail below.
The two cabins of the Blue Mesa, hooded in white, thrust their lean stovepipes skyward through two feet of snow. The corrals were shallow fortifications, banked breast-high. The silence seemed not the silence of slumber, but that of a tense waiting, as though the whole winter world yearned for the warmth of spring.
No creak of saddle or plod of hoof broke the bleak stillness, save when some wandering Apache hunted the wild turkey or the deer, knowing that winter had locked the trails to his ancient heritage; that the white man's law of boundaries was void until the snows were thin upon the highest peaks.
Thirty miles north of this white isolation the low country glowed in a sun that made golden the far buttes and sparkled on the clay-red waters of the Little Colorado. Four thousand feet below the hills cattle drifted across the open lands.
Across the ranges, to the south, the barren sands lay shimmering in a blur of summer heat waves; the winter desert, beautiful in its golden lights and purple, changing shadows. And in that Southern desert, where the old Apache Trail melts into the made roads of ranchland and town, Bronson toiled at his writing. And Dorothy, less slender, more sprightly, growing stronger in the clean, clear air and the sun, dreamed of her "ranger man" and the blue hills of her autumn wonderland. With the warmth of summer around her, the lizards on the rocks, and the chaparral still green, she could hardly realize that the Blue Mesa could be desolate, white, and cold. As yet she had not lived long enough in the desert to love it as she loved the wooded hills, where to her each tree was a companion and each whisper of the wind a song.
She often wondered what Lorry was doing, and whether Bondsman would
come to visit her when they returned to their cabin on the mesa. She often
recalled, with a kind of happy wonderment, Bondsman's singular visit and
how he had left suddenly one morning, heedless of her coaxing. The big
Airedale had appeared in Jason the day after Bud Shoop had returned from
Criswell. That Bondsman should know, miles from the town, that his
master had returned was a mystery to her. She had read of such happenings; her father had written of them. But to know them for the very truth! That was, indeed, the magic, and her mountains were towering citadels of the true Romance.
Long before Bronson ventured to return to his mountain camp, Lorry was riding the hill trails again as spring loosened the upland snows and filled the canons and arroyos with a red turbulence of waters bearing driftwood and dead leaves. With a companion ranger he mended trail and rode along the telephone lines, searching for sagging wires; made notes of fresh down timber and the effect of the snow-fed torrents on the major trails.
Each day the air grew warmer. Tiny green shoots appeared in the rusty tangle of last season's mesa grasses. Imperceptibly the dull-hued mesas became fresh carpeted with green across which the wind bore a subtly soft fragrance of sun-warmed spruce and pine.
To Lorry the coming of the Bronsons was like the return of old friends. Although he had known them but a short summer season, isolation had brought them all close together. Their reunion was celebrated with an old-fashioned dinner of roast beef and potatoes, hot biscuit and honey, an apple pie that would have made a New England farmer dream of his ancestors, and the inevitable coffee of the high country.
And Dorothy had so much to tell him of the wonderful winter desert; the old Mexican who looked after their horses, and his wife who cooked for them. Of sunshine and sandstorms, the ruins of ancient pueblos in which they discovered fragments of pottery, arrowheads, beads, and trinkets, of the lean, bronzed cowboys of the South, of the cattle and sheep, until in her enthusiasm she forgot that Lorry had always known of these things. And Lorry, gravely attentive, listened without interrupting her until she asked why he was so silent.
"Because I'm right happy, miss, to see you lookin' so spry and pretty. I'm thinkin' Arizona has been kind of a heaven for you."
"And you?" she queried, laughing.
"Well, it wasn't the heat that would make me call it what it was up here last winter. I rode up once while you was gone. Gray Leg could just make it to the cabin. It wasn't so bad in the timber. But comin' across the mesa the cinchas sure scraped snow."
"Right here on our mesa?"
"Right here, miss. From the edge of the timber over there to this side it was four feet deep on the level."
"And now," she said, gesturing toward the wavering grasses. "But why did you risk it?"
Lorry laughed. He had not considered it a risk. "You remember that book you lent me. Well, I left it in my cabin. There was one piece that kep' botherin' me. I couldn't recollect the last part about those 'Little Fires.' I was plumb worried tryin' to remember them verses. When I got it, I sure learned that piece from the jump to the finish."
"The 'Little Fires'? I'm glad you like it. I do.
"'From East to West they're burning in tower and forge and home,
And on beyond the outlands, across the ocean foam;
On mountain crest and mesa, on land and sea and height,
The little fires along the trail that twinkle down the night.'
"And about the sheep-herder; do you remember how--
"'The Andalusian herder rolls a smoke and points the way,
As he murmurs, "Caliente," "San Clemente," "Santa Fe,"
Till the very names are music, waking memoried desires,
And we turn and foot it down the trail to find the little fires.
Adventuring! Adventuring! And, oh, the sights to see!
And little fires along the trail that wink at you and me.'"
"That's it! But I couldn't say it like that. But I know some of them little fires."
"We must make one some day. Won't it be fun!"
"It sure is when a fella ain't hustlin' to get grub. That poem sounds better after grub, at night, when the stars are shinin' and the horses grazin' and mebby the pack-horse bell jinglin' 'way off somewhere. Then one of them little fires is sure friendly."
"Have you been reading this winter?"
"Oh, some. Mostly forestry and about the war. Bud was tellin' me to read up on forestry. He's goin' to put me over west--and a bigger job this summer."
"You mean--to stay?"
"About as much as I stay anywhere."
Dorothy pouted. She had thought that the Blue Mesa and the timberlands were more beautiful than ever that spring, but to think that the neighboring cabin would be vacant all summer! No cheery whistling and no wood smoke curling from the chimney and no blithe voice talking to the ponies. No jolly Good-mornin', miss, and the day is sure startin' out proud to see you." Well, Dorothy had considered Mr. Shoop a friend. She would have a very serious talk with Mr. Shoop when she saw him.
She had read of Waring's fight in the desert and of his slow recovery, and that Waring was Lorry's father; matters that she could not speak of to Lorry, but the knowledge of them lent a kind of romance to her ranger man. At times she studied Lorry, endeavoring to find in him some trace of his father's qualities. She had not met Waring, but she imagined much from what she had heard and read. And could Lorry, who had such kind gray eyes and such a pleasant face, deliberately go out and kill men as his father had done? Why should men kill each other? The world was so beautiful, and there was so much to live for.
Although the trail across the great forest terraces below was open clear up to the Blue Mesa, the trails on the northern side of the range were still impassable. The lookout man would not occupy his lonely cabin on Mount Baldy for several weeks to come, and Lorry's work kept him within a moderate radius of the home camp.
Several times Dorothy and her father rode with Lorry, spending the day searching for new vistas while he mended trail or repaired the telephone line that ran from Mount Baldy to the main office. Frequently they would have their evening meal in Bronson's camp, after which Lorry always asked them to his cabin, where Dorothy would play for them while they smoked contentedly in front of the log fire. To Dorothy it seemed that they had always lived in a cabin on the Blue Mesa and that Lorry had always been their neighbor, whom it was a joy to tease because he never showed impatience, and whose attitude toward her was that of a brother.
And without realizing it, Lorry grew to love the sprightly, slender Dorothy with a wholesome, boyish affection. When she was well, he was happy. When she became over-tired, and was obliged to stay in her room, he was miserable, blaming himself for suggesting some expedition that had been too much for her strength, so often buoyed above its natural level by enthusiasm. At such times he would blame himself roundly. And if there seemed no cause for her depression, he warred silently with the power that stooped to harm so frail a creature. His own physical freedom knew no such check. He could not quite understand sickness, save when it came through some obvious physical injury.
Bronson was glad that there was a Lorry; both as a companion to himself and as a tower of strength to Dorothy. Her depression vanished in the young ranger's presence. It was a case of the thoroughbred endeavoring to live up to the thoroughbred standard. And Bronson considered anything thoroughbred that was true to type. Yet the writer had known men physically inconsequent who possessed a fine strain of courage, loyalty, honor. The shell might be misshapen, malformed, and yet the spirit burn high and clear. And Bronson reasoned that there was a divinity of blood, despite the patents of democracy.
Bronson found that he had to go to Jason for supplies. Dorothy asked to go with him. Bronson hesitated. It was a long ride, although Dorothy had made it upon occasion. She teased prettily. Lorry was away. She wasn't afraid to stay alone, but she would be lonesome. If she kissed him three times, one right on top of the other, would he let her come? Bronson gave in to this argument. They would ride slowly, and stay a day longer in Jason to rest.
When they arrived at Jason, Dorothy immediately went to bed. She wanted to be at her best on the following day. She was going to talk with Mr. Shoop. It was a very serious matter.
And next morning she excused herself while her father bought supplies. She called at the supervisor's office. Bud Shoop beamed. She was so alert, so vivacious, and so charming in her quick slenderness. The genial Bud placed a chair for her with grandiloquent courtesy.
"I'm going to ask a terrible favor," she began, crossing her legs and clasping her knee.
"I'm pow'ful scared," said Bud.
"I don't want favors that way. I want you to like me, and then I will tell you."
"My goodness, missy! Like you! Who said I didn't?"
"No one. But you have ordered Lorry Adams to close up his camp and go over to work right near the Apache Reservation."
"I sure did."
"Well, Mr. Shoop, I don't like Apaches."
"You got comp'ny, missy. But what's that got to do with Lorry?"
"Oh, I suppose he doesn't care. But what do you think his _mother_ would say to you if he--well, if he got _scalped_?"
A slow grin spread across Bud's broad face. Dorothy looked solemn disapproval. "I can't help it," he said as he shook all over. Two tears welled in the corner of his eyes and trickled down his cheeks. "I can't help it, missy. I ain't laughin' at you. But Lorry gettin' scalped! Why, here you been livin' up here, not five miles from the Apache line, and I ain't heard you tell of bein' scared of Injuns. And you ain't no bigger than a minute at that."
"That's just it! Suppose the Apaches did come over the line? What could we do if Lorry were gone?"
"Well, you might repo't their trespassin' to me. And I reckon your daddy might have somethin' to say to 'em. He's been around some."
"Oh, I suppose so. But there is a lot of work to do in Lorry's district, I noticed, coming down. The trails are in very bad condition."
"I know it. But he's worth more to the Service doin' bigger work. I got a young college man wished onto me that can mend trails."
"Will he live at Lorry's cabin?"
"No. He'll head in from here. I ain't givin' the use of my cabin and my piano to everybody."
Dorothy's eyes twinkled. "If Lorry were away some one might steal your piano."
"Now, see here, missy; you're joshin' your Uncle Bud. Do you know that you're tryin' to bribe a Gov'ment officer? That means a pow'ful big penalty if I was to repo't to Washington."
Dorothy wrinkled her nose. "I don't care if you do! You'd get what-for, too."
"Well, I'll tell you, missy. Let's ask Bondsman about this here hocus. Are you willin' to stand by what he says?"
"Oh, that's not fair! He's your dog."
"But he's plumb square in his jedgments, missy. Now, I'll tell you. We'll call him in and say nothin'. Then you ask him if he thinks I ought to put Lorry Adams over west or leave him to my camp this summer. Now, if Bondsman wiggles that stub tail of his, it means, 'yes.' If he don't wiggle his tail, he says, 'no,'--huh?"
"Of course he'll wiggle his tail. He always does when I talk to him."
"Then suppose I do the talkin'?"
"Oh, you can make him do just as you wish. But all right, Mr. Shoop. And you will really let Bondsman decide?"
"'Tain't accordin' to rules, but seein' it's you--"
Bud called to the big Airedale. Bondsman trotted in, nosed Dorothy's hand, and looked up at his master.
"Come 'ere!" commanded Shoop brusquely. "Stand right there! Now, quit tryin' to guess what's goin' on and listen to the boss. Accordin' to your jedgment, which is plumb solid, do I put Lorry to work over on the line this summer?"
Bondsman cocked his ears, blinked, and a slight quiver began at his shoulders, which would undoubtedly accentuate to the affirmative when it reached his tail.
"Rats!" cried Dorothy.
The Airedale grew rigid, and his spike of a tail cocked up straight and stiff.
Bud Shoop waved his hands helplessly. "I might 'a' knowed it! A lady can always get a man steppin' on his own foot when he tries to walk around a argument with her. You done bribed me and corrupted Bondsman. But I'm stayin' right by what I said."
Dorothy jumped up and took Bud's big hand in her slender ones. "You're just lovely to us!" And her brown eyes glowed softly.
Bud coughed. His shirt-collar seemed tight. He tugged at it, and coughed again.
"Missy," he said, leaning forward and patting her hand,--"missy, I would send Lorry plumb to--to--Phoenix and tell the Service to go find him, just to see them brown eyes of yours lookin' at me like that. But don't you say nothin' about this here committee meetin' to nobody. I reckon you played a trick on me for teasin' you. So you think Lorry is a right smart hombre, eh?"
"Oh," indifferently, "he's rather nice at times. He's company for father."
"Then I reckon you set a whole lot of store by your daddy. Now, I wonder if I was a young, bow-legged cow-puncher with kind of curly hair and lookin' fierce and noble, and they was a gal whose daddy was plumb lonesome for company, and I was to get notice from the boss that I was to vamose the diggin's and go to work,--now, I wonder who'd ride twenty miles of trail to talk up for me?"
"Why, I would!"
"You got everything off of me but my watch," laughed Bud. "I reckon you'll let me keep that?"
"Is it a good watch?" she asked, and her eyes sparkled with a great idea.
"Tol'able. Cost a dollar. I lost my old watch in Criswell. I reckon the city marshal got it when I wa'n't lookin'."
"Well, you may keep it--for a while yet. When are you coming up to visit us?"
"Just as soon as I can, missy. Here's your daddy. I want to talk to him a minute."
Three weeks later, when the wheels of the local stage were beginning to throw a fine dust, instead of mud, as they whirred from St. Johns to Jason, Bud Shoop received a tiny flat package addressed in an unfamiliar hand. He laid it aside until he had read the mail. Then he opened it. In a nest of cotton batting gleamed a plain gold watch. A thin watch, reflecting something aristocratic in its well-proportioned simplicity. As he examined it his genial face expressed a sort of childish wonderment. There was no card to show from where it had come. He opened the back of the case, and read a brief inscription.
"And the little lady would be sendin' this to me! And it's that slim and smooth; nothin' fancy, but a reg'lar thoroughbred, just like her."
He laid the watch carefully on his desk, and sat for a while gazing out of the window. It was the first time in his life that a woman had made him a present. Turning to replace the watch in the box, he saw something glitter in the cotton. He pulled out a layer of batting, and discovered a plain gold chain of strong, serviceable pattern.
That afternoon, as Bud came from luncheon at the hotel, a townsman accosted him in the street. During their chat the townsman commented upon the watch-chain. Bud drew the watch from his pocket and exhibited it proudly.
"Just a little present from a lady friend. And her name is inside the cover, along with mine."
"A lady friend, eh? Now, I thought it was politics mebby?"
"Nope. Strictly pussonel."
"Well, Bud, you want to watch out."
"If you're meanin' that for a joke," retorted Bud, "it's that kind of
a joke what's foundered in its front laigs and can't do nothin' but walk
around itself. I got the same almanac over to my office."
The occasional raw winds of spring softened to the warm calm of summer. The horses had shed their winter coats, and grew sleek and fat on the lush grasses of the mesa. The mesa stream cleared from a ropy red to a sparkling thread of silver banked with vivid green. If infrequent thunderstorms left a haze in the canons, it soon vanished in the light air.
Bronson found it difficult to keep Dorothy from over-exerting herself. They arose at daybreak and went to bed at dusk, save when Lorry came for an after-dinner chat or when he prevailed upon Dorothy to play for them in his cabin. On such occasions she would entertain them with old melodies played softly as they smoked and listened, the lamp unlighted and the door wide open to the stars.
One evening, when Dorothy had ceased to play for them, Lorry mentioned that he was to leave on the following day for an indefinite time. There had been some trouble about a new outfit that was grazing cattle far to the south. Shoop had already sent word to the foreman, who had ignored the message. Lorry had been deputized to see the man and have an understanding with him. The complaint had been brought to Shoop by one of the Apache police that some cowboys had been grazing stock and killing game on the Indian reservation.
Dorothy realized that Lorry might be away for some time. She would miss him. And that night she asked her father if she might not invite a girl friend up for the summer. They were established. And Dorothy was much stronger and able to attend to the housekeeping. Bronson was quite willing. He realized that he was busy most of the time, writing. He was not much of a companion except at the table. So Dorothy wrote to her friend, who was in Los Angeles and had already planned to drive East when the roads became passable.
Lorry was roping the packs next morning when Dorothy appeared in her new silver-gray corduroy riding-habit--a surprise that she had kept for an occasion. She was proud of the well-tailored coat and breeches, the snug-fitting black boots, and the small, new Stetson. Her gray silk waist was brightened by a narrow four-in-hand of rich blue, and her tiny gauntlets of soft gray buckskin were stitched with blue silk.
She looked like some slender, young exquisite who had stepped from the stage of an old play as she stood smoothing the fingers of her gloves and smiling across at Lorry. He said nothing, but stared at her. She was disappointed. She wanted him to tell her that he liked her new things, she had spent so much time and thought on them. But there he stood, the pack-rope slack in his hand, staring stupidly.
She nodded, and waved her hand.
"It's me," she called. "Good-morning!"
Lorry managed to stammer a greeting. He felt as though she were some strange person that looked like Dorothy, but like a new Dorothy of such exquisite attitude and grace and so altogether charming that he could do nothing but wonder how the transformation had come about. He had always thought her pretty. But now she was more than that. She was alluring; she was the girl he loved from the brim of her gray Stetson to the toe of her tiny boot.
"Would you catch my pony for me?"
Lorry flushed. Of course she wanted Chinook. He swung up on Gray Leg and spurred across the mesa. His heart was pounding hard. He rode with a dash and a swing as he rounded up the ponies. As he caught up her horse he happened to think of his own faded shirt and overalls. He was wearing the essentially proper clothing for his work. For the first time he realized the potency of carefully chosen attire. As he rode back with the pastured pony trailing behind him, he felt peculiarly ashamed of himself for feeling ashamed of his clothing. Silently he saddled Chinook, accepted her thanks silently, and strode to his cabin. When he reappeared he was wearing a new shirt, his blue silk bandanna, and his silver-studded chaps. He would cache those chaps at his first camp out, and get them when he returned.
Bronson came to the doorway.
Dorothy put her finger to her lips. "Lorry is stunned, I think. Do I look as spiff as all that?"
"Like a slim young cavalier; very dashing and wonderful, Peter Pan."
"Not a bit like Dorothy?"
"Well, the least bit; but more like Peter Pan."
"I was getting tired of being just Dorothy. That was all very well when I wasn't able to ride and camp and do all sorts of adventures.
"And that isn't all," she continued. "I weigh twelve pounds more than I did last summer. Mr. Shoop weighed me on the store scales. I wanted to weigh him. He made an awful pun, but he wouldn't budge."
Bronson nodded. "I wouldn't ride farther than the Big Spring, Peter. It's getting hot now."
"All right, daddy. I wish that horrid old story was finished. You never ride with me."
"You'll have some one to ride with you when Alice comes."
"Yes; but Alice is only a girl."
Bronson laughed, and she scolded him with her eyes. Just then Lorry appeared.
Bronson stooped and kissed her. "And don't ride too far," he cautioned.
Lorry drove the pack-animals toward Bronson's cabin. He dismounted to tighten the cinch on Chinook's saddle.
The little cavalcade moved out across the mesa. Dorothy rode behind the pack-animals, who knew their work too well to need a lead-rope. It was her adventure. At the Big Spring, she would graciously allow Lorry to take charge of the expedition.
Lorry, riding behind her, turned as they entered the forest, and waved farewell to Bronson.
To ride the high trails of the Arizona hills is in itself an unadulterated joy. To ride these wooded uplands, eight thousand feet above the world, with a sprightly Peter Pan clad in silver-gray corduroys and chatting happily, is an enchantment. In such companionship, when the morning sunlight dapples the dun forest carpet with pools of gold, when vista after vista unfolds beneath the high arches of the rusty-brown giants of the woodlands; when somewhere above there is the open sky and the marching sun, the twilight underworld of the green-roofed caverns is a magic land.
The ponies plodded slowly upward, to turn and plod up the next angle of the trail, without loitering and without haste. When Dorothy checked her pony to gaze at some new vista, the pack-animals rested, waiting for the word to go on again. Lorry, awakened to a new charm in Dorothy, rode in a silence that needed no interpreter.
At a bend in the trail, Dorothy reined up. "Oh, I just noticed! You are wearing your chaps this morning."
Lorry flushed, and turned to tie a saddle-string that was already quite secure.
Dorothy nodded to herself and spoke to the horses. They strained on up a steeper pitch, pausing occasionally to rest.
Lorry seemed to have regained his old manner. Her mention of the chaps had wakened him to everyday affairs. After all, she was only a girl; not yet eighteen, her father had said. "Just a kid," Lorry had thought; "but mighty pretty in those city clothes." He imagined that some women he had seen would look like heck in such a riding-coat and breeches. But Dorothy looked like a kind of stylish boy-girl, slim and yet not quite as slender as she had appeared in her ordinary clothes. Lorry could not help associating her appearance with a thoroughbred he had once seen; a dark-bay colt, satin smooth and as graceful as a flame. He had all but worshiped that horse. Even as he knew horses, through that colt he had seen perfection; his ideal of something beautiful beyond words.
From his pondering, Lorry arrived at a conclusion having nothing to do with ideals. He would buy a new suit of clothes the first time he went to Phoenix. It would be a trim suit of corduroy and a dark-green flannel shirt, like the suit and shirt worn by Lundy, the forestry expert.
At the base of a great gray shoulder of granite, the Big Spring spread in its natural rocky bowl which grew shallower toward the edges. Below the spring in the black mud softened by the overflow were the tracks of wild turkey and the occasional print of a lynx pad. The bush had been cleared from around the spring, and the ashes of an old camp-fire marked the spot where Lorry had often "bushed over-night" on his way to the cabin.
Lorry dismounted and tied the pack-horses. He explained that they were still a little too close to home to be trusted untied.
Dorothy decided that she was hungry, although they had been but two hours on the trail. Could they have a real camp-fire and make coffee?
"Yes, ma'am; right quick."
"Lorry, don't say 'yes, ma'am.' I--it's nice of you, but just say 'Dorothy.'"
Dorothy's brown eyes twinkled.
Lorry gazed at her, wondering why she smiled.
"Yes, ma'am," she said stiffly, as though to a superior whom she feared.
Lorry grinned. She was always doing something sprightly, either making him laugh or laughing at him, talking to the horses, planning some little surprise for their occasional dinners in the Bronson cabin, quoting some fragment of poetry from an outland song,--she called these songs "outlandish," and had explained her delight in teasing her father with "outlandish" adjectives; whistling in answer to the birds, and amusing herself and her "men-folks" in a thousand ways as spontaneous as they were delightful.
With an armful of firewood, Lorry returned to the spring. The ponies nodded in the heat of noon. Dorothy, spreading their modest luncheon on a bright new Navajo blanket, seemed daintier than ever against the background of the forest. They made coffee and ate the sandwiches she had prepared. After luncheon Lorry smoked, leaning back against the granite rock, his hat off, and his legs crossed in lazy content.
"If it could only be like this forever," sighed Dorothy.
Lorry promptly shook his head. "We'd get hungry after a spell."
"Men are always hungry. And you've just eaten."
"But I could listen to a poem," he said, and he winked at a tree-trunk.
"It's really too warm even to speak of 'The Little Fires,' isn't it? Oh, I know! Do you remember the camp we made?"
"Well, I ain't had time to remember this one yet--and this is the first for us."
"Lorry, you're awfully practical."
"I got to be."
"And I don't believe you know a poem when you see one."
"I reckon you're right. But I can tell one when I hear it."
"Very well, then. Shut your eyes tight and listen:--
"'Do you remember the camp we made as we nooned on the mesa floor,
Where the grass rolled down like a running sea in the wind-- and the world our own?
You laughed as you sat in the cedar shade and said 't was the ocean shore
Of an island lost in a wizardry of dreams, for ourselves alone.
"'Our ponies grazed in the idle noon, unsaddled, at ease, and
The ranges dim were a faeryland; blue hills in a haze of gray.
Hands clasped on knee, you hummed a tune, a melody light and low;
And do you remember the venture planned in jest--for your heart was gay?'"
Dorothy paused. "You may open your eyes. That's all."
"Well, it's noon," said Lorry, "and there are the ponies, and the hills are over there. Won't you say the rest of it?"
"Oh, the rest of it is about a venture planned that never came true. It couldn't, even in a poem. But I'll tell you about it some day."
"I could listen right now."
Dorothy shook her head. "I am afraid it would spoil our real adventure. But if I were a boy--wouldn't it be fun! We would ride and camp in the hills at night and find all the little fires along the trail--"
"We'd make our own," said Lorry.
"Of course, Mr. Practical Man."
"Well, I can't help bein' like I am. But sometimes I get lazy and sit and look at the hills and the canons and mesas down below, and wonder what's the good of hustlin'. But somehow I got to quit loafin' after a spell--and go right to hustlin' again. It's a sure good way to get rested up; just to sit down and forget everything but the big world rollin' down to the edge of nothin'. It makes a fella's kickin' and complainin' look kind of small and ornery."
"I never heard you complain, Lorry."
"Huh! You ain't been along with me when I been right up against it and
mebby had to sweat my way out of some darned box canon or make a ride
through some down timber at night. I've said some lovely things them times."
"Oh, I get cross. But, then, I'm a girl. Men shouldn't get cross."
"I reckon you're right. The sun's comin' through that pine there. Gettin' too hot?"
"No, I love it. But I must go. I'll just ride down to the cabin and unsaddle Chinook and say 'Hello' to father--and that's the end of our adventure."
"Won't those city folks be comin' in soon?"
"Yes. And Alice Weston is lovely. I know you'll like her."
"Alice who, did you say?"
"Weston. Alice and her mother are touring overland from Los Angeles. I know you will admire Alice."
"Mebby. If she's as pretty as you."
"Oh, fudge! You like my new suit. And Alice isn't like me at all. She is nearly as tall as you, and big and strong and really pretty. Bud Shoop told me I wasn't bigger than a minute."
"A minute is a whole lot sometimes," said Lorry.
"You're not so practical as you were, are you?"
"More. I meant that."
Dorothy rose and began to roll the Navajo blanket.
Lorry stepped up and took it from her. "Roll it long and let it hang down. Then it won't bother you gettin' on or off your horse. That's the way the Indians roll 'em."
He jerked the tie-strings tight. "Well, I reckon I'll be goin'," he said, holding out his hand.
"Good-bye, ranger man."
Her slender hand was warm in his. She looked up at him, smiling. He
had never looked at her that way before. She hoped so much that he would
nothing to spoil the happiness of their idle noon.
"Lorry, we're great friends, aren't we?"
"You bet. And I'd do most anything to make you happy."
"But you don't have to do anything to make me happy. I _am_ happy. Aren't you?"
"I aim to be. But what makes you ask?"
"Oh, you looked so solemn a minute ago. We'll be just friends always, won't we?"
"Just friends," he echoed, "always."
Her brown eyes grew big as he stooped and kissed her. She had not expected that he would do that.
Oh, I thought you liked me!" she said, clasping her hands.
Lorry bit his lips, and the hot flush died from his face.
"But I didn't know that you cared--like that! I really don't mind because you kissed me good-bye--if it was just good-bye and nothing else." And she smiled a little timidly.
"I--I reckon I was wrong," he said, "for I was tryin' not to kiss you. If you say the word, I'll ride back with you and tell your father. I ain't ashamed of it--only if you say it was wrong."
Dorothy had recovered herself. A twinkle of fun danced in her eyes. "I can't scold you now. You're going away. But when you get back--" And she shook her finger at him and tried to look very grave, which made him smile.
"Then I'll keep right on ridin' south," he said.
"But you'd get lonesome and come back to your hills. I know! And it's awfully hot in the desert."
"Would you be wantin' me to come back?"
"Of course. Father would miss you."
[Illustration: They made coffee and ate the sandwiches she had prepared]
"And that would make you unhappy--him bein' lonesome, so I reckon I'll come back."
"I shall be very busy entertaining my guests," she told him with a charming tilt of her chin. And she straightway swung to the saddle.
Lorry started the pack-horses up the hill and mounted Gray Leg. She sat watching him as he rode sideways gazing back at her.
As he turned to follow the pack-horses up the next ascent she called to him:--
"Perhaps I won't scold you when you come back."
He laughed, and flung up his arm in farewell. Dorothy reined Chinook round, and rode slowly down through the silent woodlands.
Her father came out and took her horse. She told him of their most wonderful camp at the Big Spring. Bronson smiled.
"And Lorry kissed me good-bye," she concluded. "Wasn't it silly of him?"
Bronson glanced at her quickly. "Do you really care for Lorry, Peter Pan?"
"Heaps! He's the nicest boy I ever met. Why shouldn't I?"
"There's no reason in the world why you shouldn't. But I thought you two were just friends."
"Why, that's what I said to Lorry. Don't look so mournful, daddy. You didn't think for a minute that I'd _marry_ him, did you?"
"Of course not. What would I do without you?"
The tramp Waco, drifting south through Prescott, fell in with a quartet of his kind camped along the railroad track. He stumbled down the embankment and "sat in" beside their night fire. He was hungry. He had no money, and he had tramped all that day. They were eating bread and canned peaches, and had coffee simmering in a pail. They asked no questions until he had eaten. Then the usual talk began.
The hobos cursed the country, its people, the railroad, work and the lack of it, the administration, and themselves. Waco did not agree with everything they said, but he wished to tramp with them until something better offered. So he fell in with their humor, but made the mistake of cursing the trainmen's union. A brakeman had kicked him off a freight car just outside of Prescott.
One of the hobos checked Waco sharply.
"We ain't here to listen to your cussin' any union," he said. "And seem' you're so mouthy, just show your card."
"Left it over to the White House," said Waco.
"That don't go. You got your three letters?"
"Sure! W.B.Y. Catch onto that?"
"No. And this ain't no josh."
"Why, W.B.Y. is for 'What's bitin' you?' Know the answer?"
"If you can't show your I.W.W., you can beat it," said the tramp.
"Tryin' to kid me?"
"Not so as your mother would notice. Got your card?"
Waco finally realized that they meant business. "No, I ain't got no I.W.W. card. I'm a bo, same as you fellas. What's bitin' you, anyway?"
"Let's give him the third, fellas."
Waco jumped to his feet and backed away. The leader of the group hesitated wisely, because Waco had a gun in his hand.
"So that's your game, eh? Collectin' internal revenue. Well, we're union men. You better sift along." And the leader sat down.
"I've a dam' good mind to sift you," said Waco, backing toward the embankment.
"Got to have a card to travel with a lousy bunch like you,
He climbed to the top of the embankment, and, turning, ran down the track. Things were in a fine state when a guy couldn't roll in with a bunch of willies without showing a card. Workmen often tramped the country looking for work. But hobos forming a union and calling themselves workmen! Even Waco could not digest that.
But he had learned a lesson, and the next group that he overtook treading the cinders were more genial. One of them gave him some bread and cold meat. They tramped until nightfall. That evening Waco industriously "lifted" a chicken from a convenient hencoop. The hen was old and tough and most probably a grandmother of many years' setting, but she was a welcome contribution to their evening meal. While they ate Waco asked them if they belonged to the I.W.W. They did to a man. He had lost his card. Where could he get a renewal? From headquarters, of course. But he had been given his card up in Portland; he had cooked in a lumber camp. In that case he would have to see the "boss" at Phoenix.
There were three men in the party besides Waco. One of them claimed to be a carpenter, another an ex-railroad man, and the third an iron moulder. Waco, to keep up appearances, said that he was a cook; that he had lost his job in the Northern camps on account of trouble between the independent lumbermen and the I.W.W. It happened that there had been some trouble of that kind recently, so his word was taken at its face value.
In Phoenix, he was directed to the "headquarters," a disreputable lounging-room in an abandoned store on the outskirts of the town. There were papers and magazines scattered about; socialistic journals and many newspapers printed in German, Russian, and Italian. The place smelled of stale tobacco smoke and unwashed clothing. But the organization evidently had money. No one seemed to want for food, tobacco, or whiskey.
The "boss," a sharp-featured young man, aggressive and apparently educated, asked Waco some questions which the tramp answered lamely. The boss, eager for recruits of Waco's stamp, nevertheless demurred until Waco reiterated the statement that he could cook, was a good cook and had earned good money.
"I'll give you a renewal of your card. What was the number?" queried the boss.
"Thirteen," said Waco, grinning.
"Well, we may be able to use you. We want cooks at Sterling."
"All right. Nothin' doin' here, anyway."
The boss smiled to himself. He knew that Waco had never belonged to the I.W.W., but if the impending strike at the Sterling smelter became a reality a good cook would do much to hold the I.W.W. camp together. Any tool that could be used was not overlooked by the boss. He was paid to hire men for a purpose.
In groups of from ten to thirty the scattered aggregation made its way to Sterling and mingled with the workmen after hours. A sinister restlessness grew and spread insidiously among the smelter hands. Men laid off before pay-day and were seen drunk in the streets. Others appeared at the smelter in a like condition. They seemed to have money with which to pay for drinks and cigars. The heads of the different departments of the smelter became worried. Local papers began to make mention of an impending strike when no such word had as yet come to the smelter operators. Outside papers took it up. Surmises were many and various. Few of the papers dared charge the origin of the disturbances to the I.W.W. The law had not been infringed upon, yet lawlessness was everywhere, conniving in dark corners, boasting openly on the street, setting men's brains afire with whiskey, playing upon the ignorance of the foreign element, and defying the intelligence of Americans who strove to forfend the threatened calamity.
The straight union workmen were divided in sentiment. Some of them voted to work; others voted loudly to throw in with the I.W.W., and among these were many foreigners--Swedes, Hungarians, Germans, Poles, Italians; the usual and undesirable agglomeration to be found in a smelter town.
Left to themselves, they would have continued to work. They were in reality the cheaper tools of the trouble-makers. There were fewer and keener tools to be used, and these were selected and turned against their employers by that irresistible potency, gold; gold that came from no one knew where, and came in abundance. Finally open threats of a strike were made. Circulars were distributed throughout town over-night, cleverly misstating conditions. A grain of truth was dissolved in the slaver of anarchy into a hundred lies.
Waco, installed in the main I.W.W. camp just outside the town, cooked early and late, and received a good wage for his services. More men appeared, coming casually from nowhere and taking up their abode with the disturbers.
A week before the strike began, a committee from the union met with a committee of townsmen and representatives of the smelter interests. The argument was long and inconclusive. Aside from this, a special committee of townsmen, headed by the mayor, interviewed the I.W.W. leaders.
Arriving at no definite understanding, the citizens finally threatened to deport the trouble-makers in a body. The I.W.W. members laughed at them. Socialism, in which many of the better class of workmen believed sincerely, began to take on the red tinge of anarchy. A notable advocate of arbitration, a foreman in the smelter, was found one morning beaten into unconsciousness. And no union man had done this thing, for the foreman was popular with the union, to a man. The mayor received an anonymous letter threatening his life. A similar letter was received by the chief of police. And some few politicians who had won to prominence through questionable methods were threatened with exposure if they did not side with the strikers.
Conditions became deplorable. The papers dared not print everything they knew for fear of political enmity. And they were not able to print many things transpiring in that festering underworld for lack of definite knowledge, even had they dared.
Noon of an August day the strikers walked out. Mob rule threatened Sterling. Women dared no longer send their children to school or to the grocery stores for food. They hardly dared go themselves. A striker was shot by a companion in a saloon brawl. The killing was immediately charged to a corporation detective, and our noble press made much of the incident before it found out the truth.
Shortly after this a number of citizens representing the business backbone of the town met quietly and drafted a letter to a score of citizens whom they thought might be trusted. That was Saturday evening. On Sunday night there were nearly a hundred men in town who had been reached by the citizens' committee. They elected a sub-committee of twelve, with the sheriff as chairman. Driven to desperation by intolerable conditions, they decided to administer swift and conclusive justice themselves. To send for troops would be an admission that the town of Sterling could not handle her own community.
It became whispered among the I.W.W. that "The Hundred" had organized. Leaders of the strikers laughed at these rumors, telling the men that the day of the vigilante was past.
On the following Wednesday a rabid leader of the disturbers, not a union man, but a man who had never done a day's work in his life, mounted a table on a street corner and addressed the crowd which quickly swelled to a mob. Members of "The Hundred," sprinkled thinly throughout the mob, listened until the speaker had finished. Among other things, he had made a statement about the National Government which should have turned the mob to a tribunal of prompt justice and hanged him. But many of the men were drunk, and all were inflamed with the poison of the hour. When the man on the table continued to slander the Government, and finally named a name, there was silence. A few of the better class of workmen edged out of the crowd. The scattered members of "The Hundred" stayed on to the last word.
Next morning this speaker was found dead, hanging from a bridge a little way out of town. Not a few of the strikers were startled to a sense of broad justice in his death, and yet such a hanging was an outrage to any community. One sin did not blot out another. And the loyal "Hundred" realized too late that they had put a potent weapon in the hands of their enemies.
A secret meeting was called by "The Hundred." Wires were commandeered and messages sent to several towns in the northern part of the State to men known personally by members of "The Hundred" as fearless and loyal to American institutions. Already the mob had begun rioting, but, meeting with no resistance, it contented itself with insulting those whom they knew were not sympathizers. Stores were closed, and were straightway broken into and looted. Drunkenness and street fights were so common as to evoke no comment.
Two days later a small band of cowboys rode into town. They were followed throughout the day by other riders, singly and in small groups. It became noised about the I.W.W. camp that professional gunmen were being hired by the authorities; were coming in on horseback and on the trains. That night the roadbed of the railroad was dynamited on both sides of town. "The Hundred" immediately dispatched automobiles with armed guards to meet the trains.
Later, strangers were seen in town; quiet men who carried themselves coolly, said nothing, and paid no attention to catcalls and insults. It was rumored that troops had been sent for. Meanwhile, the town seethed with anarchy and drunkenness. But, as must ever be the case, anarchy was slowly weaving a rope with which to hang itself.
Up in the second story of the court-house a broad-shouldered, heavy-jawed man sat at a flat-topped desk with a clerk beside him. The clerk wrote names in a book. In front of the clerk was a cigar-box filled with numbered brass checks. The rows of chairs from the desk to the front windows were pretty well filled with men, lean, hard-muscled men of the ranges in the majority. The room was quiet save for an occasional word from the big man at the desk. The clerk drew a check from the cigar-box. A man stepped up to the desk, gave his name, age, occupation, and address, received the numbered check, and went to his seat. The clerk drew another check.
A fat, broad-shouldered man waddled up, smiling.
"Why, hello, Bud!" said the heavy-jawed man, rising and shaking hands. "I didn't expect to see you. Wired you thinking you might send one or two men from your county."
"I got 'em with me," said Bud.
"Number thirty-seven," said the clerk.
Bud stuffed the check in his vest pocket. He would receive ten dollars a day while in the employ of "The Hundred." He would be known and addressed while on duty as number thirty-seven. "The Hundred" were not advertising the names of their supporters for future use by the I.W.W.
Bud's name and address were entered in a notebook. He waddled back to his seat.
"Cow-punch," said someone behind him.
Bud turned and grinned. "You seen my laigs," he retorted.
Lorry came forward and received his check.
"You're pretty young," said the man at the desk. Lorry flushed, but made no answer.
The giant sheepman of the high country strode up, nodded, and took his check.
"Stacey County is well represented," said the man at the desk.
When the clerk had finished entering the names, there were forty-eight numbers in his book. The man at the desk rose.
"Men," he said grimly, "you know what you are here for. If you haven't
got guns, you will be outfitted downstairs. Some folks think that this
trouble is only local. It isn't. It is national. Providence seems to have
passed the buck to us to stop it. We are here to prove that we can. Last
night our flag--our country's flag--was torn from the halyards above this
building and trampled in the dust of the street. Sit still and don't make
a noise. We're not doing business that way. If there are any married men
here, they had better take their horses and ride home. This community does
not assume responsibility for any man's life. You are volunteers. There
are four ex-Rangers among you. They will tell you what to do. But I'm going
to tell you one thing first; don't shoot high or low when you have to shoot.
Draw plumb center, and don't quit as long as you can feel to pull a trigger.
For any man that isn't outfitted
there's a rifle and fifty rounds of soft-nosed ammunition downstairs."
The heavy-shouldered man sat down and pulled the notebook toward him. The men rose and filed quietly downstairs.
As they gathered in the street and gazed up at the naked halyards, a shot dropped one of them in his tracks. An eagle-faced cowman whipped out his gun. With the report came the tinkle of breaking glass from a window diagonally opposite. Feet clattered down the stairs of the building, and a woman ran into the street, screaming and calling out that a man had been murdered.
"Reckon I got him," said the cowman. "Boys, I guess she's started."
The men ran for their horses. As they mounted and assembled, the heavy-shouldered man appeared astride a big bay horse.
"We're going to clean house," he stated. "And we start right here."
The housecleaning began at the building diagonally opposite the assembled posse. In a squalid room upstairs they found the man who had fired upon them. He was dead. Papers found upon him disclosed his identity as an I.W.W. leader. He had evidently rented the room across from the court-house that he might watch the movements of "The Hundred." A cheap, inaccurate revolver was found beside him. Possibly he had fired, thinking to momentarily disorganize the posse; that they would not know from where the shot had come until he had had time to make his escape and warn his fellows.
The posse moved from building to building. Each tenement, private rooming-house, and shack was entered and searched. Union men who chanced to be at home were warned that any man seen on the street that day was in danger of being killed. Several members of the I.W.W. were routed out in different parts of the town and taken to the jail.
Saloons were ordered to close. Saloon-keepers who argued their right to keep open were promptly arrested. An I.W.W. agitator, defying the posse, was handcuffed, loaded into a machine, and taken out of town. Groups of strikers gathered at the street corners and jeered the armed posse. One group, cornered in a side street, showed fight.
"We'll burn your dam' town!" cried a voice.
The sheriff swung from his horse and shouldered through the crowd. As he did so, a light-haired, weasel-faced youth, with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his loose mouth, backed away. The sheriff followed and pressed him against a building.
"I know you!" said the sheriff. "You never made or spent an honest dollar in this town. Boys," he continued, turning to the strikers, "are you proud of this skunk who wants to burn your town?"
A workman laughed.
"You said it!" asserted the sheriff. "When somebody tells you what he is, you laugh. Why don't you laugh at him when he's telling you of the buildings he has dynamited and how many deaths he is responsible for? Did he ever sweat alongside of any of you doing a day's work? Do you know him? Does he know anything about your work or conditions? Not a damned thing! Just think it over. And, boys, remember he is paid easy money to get you into trouble. Who pays him? Is there any decent American paying him to do that sort of thing? Stop and think about it."
The weasel-faced youth raised his arm and pointed at the sheriff. "Who pays you to shoot down women and kids?" he snarled.
"I'm taking orders from the Governor of this State."
"To hell with the Governor! And there's where he'll wake up one of these fine days."
"Because he's enforcing the law and trying to keep the flag from being insulted by whelps like you, eh?"
"We'll show you what's law! And we'll show you the right kind of a flag--"
"Boys, are you going to stand for this kind of talk?" And the sheriff's heavy face quivered with anger. "I'd admire to kill you!" he said, turning on the youth. "But that wouldn't do any good."
The agitator was taken to the jail. Later it was rumored that a machine had left the jail that night with three men in it. Two of them were armed guards. The third was a weasel-faced youth. He was never heard of again.
As the cavalcade moved on down the street, workmen gathered on street corners and in upper rooms and discussed the situation. The strike had got beyond their control. Many of them were for sending a delegation to the I.W.W. camp demanding that they disband and leave. Others were silent, and still others voted loudly to "fight to a finish."
Out beyond the edge of town lay the I.W.W. camp, a conglomeration of board shacks hastily erected, brush-covered hovels, and tents. Not counting the scattered members in town, there were at least two hundred of the malcontents loafing in camp. When the sheriff's posse appeared it was met by a deputation. But there was no parley.
"We'll give you till sundown to clear out," said the sheriff and, turning, he and his men rode back to the court-house.
That evening sentinels were posted at the street corners within hail of each other. In a vacant lot back of the court-house the horses of the posse were corralled under guard. The town was quiet. Occasionally a figure crossed the street; some shawl-hooded striker's wife or some workman heedless of the sheriff's warning.
Lorry happened to be posted on a corner of the court-house square. Across the street another sentinel paced back and forth, occasionally pausing to talk with Lorry.
This sentinel was halfway up the block when a figure appeared from the shadow between two buildings. The sentinel challenged.
"A friend," said the figure. "I was lookin' for young Adams."
"What do you want with him?"
"It's private. Know where I can find him?"
"He's across the street there. Who are you, anyway?"
"That's my business. He knows me."
"This guy wants to talk to you," called the sentinel.
Lorry stepped across the street. He stopped suddenly as he discovered the man to be Waco, the tramp.
"Is it all right?" asked the sentinel, addressing Lorry.
"I guess so. What do you want?"
"It's about Jim Waring," said Waco. "I seen you when the sheriff rode up to our camp. I seen by the papers that Jim Waring was your father. I wanted to tell you that it was High-Chin Bob what killed Pat. I was in the buckboard with Pat when he done it. The horses went crazy at the shootin' and ditched me. When I come to I was in Grant."
"Why didn't you stay and tell what you knew? Nobody would 'a' hurt you."
"I was takin' no chance of the third, and twenty years."
"What you doin' in this town?"
"Cookin' for the camp. But I can't hold that job long. My whole left side is goin' flooey. The boss give me hallelujah to-day for bein' slow. I'm sick of the job."
"Well, you ought to be. Suppose you come over to the sheriff and tell him what you know about the killin' of Pat."
"Nope; I was scared you would say that. I'm tellin' _you_ because you done me a good turn onct. I guess that lets me out."
"Not if I make you sit in."
"You can make me sit in all right. But you can't make me talk. Show me a cop and I freeze. I ain't takin' no chances."
"You're takin' bigger chances right now."
"Bigger'n you know, kid. Listen! You and Jim Waring and Pat used me white. I'm sore at that I.W.W. bunch, but I dassent make a break. They'd get me. But listen! If the boys knowed I was tellin' you this they'd cut me in two. Two trucks just came into camp from up north. Them trucks was loaded to the guards. Every man in camp's got a automatic and fifty rounds. And they was settin' up a machine gun when I slipped through and beat it, lookin' for you. You better fan it out of this while you got the chanct."
"Did they send you over to push that bluff--or are you talkin' straight?"
"S' help me! It's the bleedin' truth!"
"Well, I'm thankin' you. But get goin' afore I change my mind."
"Would you shake with a bum?" queried Waco.
"Why--all right. You're tryin' to play square, I reckon. Wait a minute! Are you willin' to put in writin' that you seen High-Chin Bob kill Pat? I got a pencil and a envelope on me. Will you put it down right here, and me to call my friend and witness your name?"
"You tryin' to pinch me?"
"That ain't my style."
"All right. I'll put it down."
And in the flickering rays of the arc light Waco scribbled on the back of the envelope and signed his name. Lorry's companion read the scrawl and handed it back to Lorry. Waco humped his shoulders and shuffled away.
"Why didn't you nail him?" queried the other.
"I don't know. Mebby because he was trustin' me."
Shortly afterward Lorry and his companion were relieved from duty. Lorry immediately reported to the sheriff, who heard him without interrupting, dismissed him, and turned to the committee, who held night session discussing the situation.
"They've called our bluff," he said, twisting his cigar round in his lips.
A ballot was taken. The vote was eleven to one for immediate action. The ballot was secret, but the member who had voted against action rose and tendered his resignation.
"It would be plain murder if we were to shoot up their camp. It would place us on their level."
Just before daybreak a guard stationed two blocks west of the court-house noticed a flare of light in the windows of a building opposite. He glanced toward the east. The dim, ruddy glow in the windows was not that of dawn. He ran to the building and tried to open the door to the stairway. As he wrenched at the door a subdued soft roar swelled and grew louder. Turning, he ran to the next corner, calling to the guard. The alarm of fire was relayed to the court-house.
Meanwhile the two cowboys ran back to the building and hammered on the door. Some one in an upstairs room screamed. Suddenly the door gave inward. A woman carrying a cheap gilt clock pushed past them and sank in a heap on the sidewalk. The guards heard some one running down the street. One of them tied a handkerchief over his face and groped his way up the narrow stairs. The hall above was thick with smoke. A door sprang open, and a man carrying a baby and dragging a woman by the hand bumped into the guard, cursed, and stumbled toward the stairway.
The cowboy ran from door to door down the long, narrow hall, calling to the inmates. In one room he found a lamp burning on a dresser and two children asleep. He dragged them from bed and carried them to the stairway. From below came the surge and snap of flames. He held his breath and descended the stairs. A crowd of half-clothed workmen had gathered. Among them he saw several of the guards.
"Who belongs to these kids?" he cried.
A woman ran up. "She's here," she said, pointing to the woman with the gilt clock, who still lay on the sidewalk. A man was trying to revive her. The cowboy noticed that the unconscious woman still gripped the gilt clock.
He called to a guard. Together they dashed up the stairs and ran from room to room. Toward the back of the building they found a woman insanely gathering together a few cheap trinkets and stuffing them into a pillow-case. She was trying to work a gilt-framed lithograph into the pillow-case when they seized her and led her toward the stairway. She fought and cursed and begged them to let her go back and get her things. A burst of flame swept up the stairway. The cowboys turned and ran back along the hall. One of them kicked a window out. The other tied a sheet under the woman's arms and together they lowered her to the ground.
Suddenly the floor midway down the hall sank softly in a fountain of flame and sparks.
"Reckon we jump," said one of the cowboys.
Lowering himself from the rear window, he dropped. His companion followed. They limped to the front of the building. A crowd massed in the street, heedless of the danger that threatened as a section of roof curled like a piece of paper, writhed, and dropped to the sidewalk.
A group of guards appeared with a hose-reel. They coupled to a hydrant. A thin stream gurgled from the hose and subsided. The sheriff ran to the steps of a building and called to the crowd.
"Your friends," he cried, "have cut the water-main. There is no water."
The mass groaned and swayed back and forth.
From up the street came a cry--the call of a range rider. A score of cowboys tried to force the crowd back from the burning building.
"Look out for the front!" cried the guards. "She's coming!"
The crowd surged back. The front of that flaming shell quivered, curved, and crashed to the street.
The sheriff called to his men. An old Texas Ranger touched his arm. "There's somethin' doin' up yonder, Cap."
"Keep the boys together," ordered the sheriff; "This fire was started to draw us out. Tell the boys to get their horses."
Dawn was breaking when the cowboys gathered in the vacant lot and mounted their horses. In the clear light they could see a mob in the distance; a mob that moved from the east toward the court-house. The sheriff dispatched a man to wire for troops, divided his force in halves, and, leading one contingent, he rode toward the oncoming mob. The other half of the posse, led by an old Ranger, swung round to a back street and halted.
The shadows of the buildings grew shorter. A cowboy on a restive pony asked what they were waiting for. Some one laughed.
The old Ranger turned in his saddle. "It's a right lovely mornin'," he remarked impersonally, tugging at his silver-gray mustache.
Suddenly the waiting riders stiffened in their saddles. A ripple of shots sounded, followed by the shrill cowboy yell. Still the old Ranger sat his horse, coolly surveying his men.
"Don't we get a look-in?" queried a cowboy.
"Poco tiempo," said the Ranger softly.
The sheriff bunched his men as he approached the invaders. Within fifty yards of their front he halted and held up his hand. Massed in a solid wall from curb to curb, the I.W.W. jeered and shouted as he tried to speak. A parley was impossible. The vagrants were most of them drunk.
The sheriff turned to the man nearest him.
"Tell the boys that we'll go through, turn, and ride back. Tell them not to fire a shot until we turn."
As he gathered his horse under him, the sheriff's arm dropped. The shrill "Yip! Yip!" of the range rose above the thunder of hoofs as twenty ponies jumped to a run. The living thunder-bolt tore through the mass. The staccato crack of guns sounded sharply above the deeper roar of the mob. The ragged pathway closed again as the riders swung round, bunched, and launched at the mass from the rear. Those who had turned to face the second charge were crowded back as the cowboys, with guns going, ate into the yelling crowd. The mob turned, and like a great, black wave swept down the street and into the court-house square.
The cowboys raced past, and reined in a block below the court-house.
As they paused to reload, a riderless horse, badly wounded, plunged among
them. A cowboy caught the horse and shot it. Another rider, gripping his shirt above his abdomen, writhed and groaned, begging piteously for some
one to kill him. Before they could get him off his horse he spurred out, and, pulling his carbine from the scabbard, charged into the mob, in the square. With the lever going like lightning, he bored into the mob, fired his last shot in the face of a man that had caught his horse's bridle, and sank to the ground. Shattered and torn he lay, a red pulp that the mob trampled into the dust.
The upper windows of the court-house filled with figures. An irregular fire drove the cowboys to the shelter of a side street. In the wide doorway of the court-house several men crouched behind a blue-steel tripod. Those still in the square crowded past and into the building. Behind the stone pillars of the entrance, guarded by a machine gun, the crazy mob cheered drunkenly and defied the guards to dislodge them.
From a building opposite came a single shot, and the group round the machine gun lifted one of their fellows and carried him back into the building. Again came the peremptory snarl of a carbine, and another figure sank in the doorway. The machine gun was dragged back. Its muzzle still commanded the square, but its operators were now shielded by an angle of the entrance.
Back on the side street, the old ex-Ranger had difficulty in restraining his men. They knew by the number of shots fired that some of their companions had gone down.
The sheriff was about to call for volunteers to capture the machine gun when a white handkerchief fluttered from an upper window of the court-house. Almost immediately a man appeared on the court-house steps, alone and indicating by his gestures that he wished to parley with the guard. The sheriff dismounted and stepped forward.
One of his men checked him. "That's a trap, John. They want to get you, special. Don't you try it."
"It's up to me," said the sheriff, and shaking off the other's hand he strode across the square.
At the foot of the steps he met the man. The guard saw them converse for a brief minute; saw the sheriff shake his fist in the other's face and turn to walk back. As he turned, a shot from an upper window dropped him in his stride.
The cowboys yelled and charged across the square. The machine gun stuttered and sprayed a fury of slugs that cut down horses and riders. A cowboy, his horse shot from under him, sprang up the steps and dragged the machine gun into the open. A rain of slugs from the upper windows struck him down. His companions carried him back to cover. The machine gun stood in the square, no longer a menace, yet no one dared approach it from either side.
When the old Ranger, who had orders to hold his men in reserve, heard that the sheriff had been shot down under a flag of truce, he shook his head.
"Three men could 'a' stopped that gun as easy as twenty, and saved more hosses. Who wants to take a little pasear after that gun?"
Several of his men volunteered.
"I only need two," he said, smiling. "I call by guess. Number twenty-six, number thirty-eight, and number three."
The last was his own number.
In the wide hallway and massed on the court-house stairs the mob was calling out to recover the gun. Beyond control of their leaders, crazed with drink and killing, they surged forward, quarreling, and shoved from behind by those above.
"We're ridin'," said the old Ranger.
With a man on each side of him he charged across the square.
Waco, peering from behind a stone column in the entrance, saw that Lorry was one of the riders. Lorry's lips were drawn tight. His face was pale, but his gun arm swung up and down with the regularity of a machine as he threw shot after shot into the black tide that welled from the court-house doorway. A man near Waco pulled an automatic and leveled it. Waco swung his arm and brained the man with an empty whiskey bottle. He threw the bottle at another of his fellows, and, stumbling down the steps, called to Lorry. The three riders paused for an instant as Waco ran forward. The riders had won almost to the gun when Waco stooped and jerked it round and poured a withering volley into the close-packed doorway.
Back in the side street the leader of the cowboys addressed his men.
"We'll leave the horses here," he said. "Tex went after that gun, and I reckon he's got it. We'll clean up afoot."
But the I.W.W. had had enough. Their leaders had told them that with the machine gun they could clean up the town, capture the court-house, and make their own terms. They had captured the court-house, but they were themselves trapped. One of their own number had planned that treachery. And they knew that those lean, bronzed men out there would shoot them down from room to room as mercilessly as they would kill coyotes.
They surrendered, shuffling out and down the slippery stone steps. Each man dropped his gun in the little pile that grew and grew until the old Ranger shook his head, pondering. That men of this kind should have access to arms and ammunition of the latest military type--and a machine gun. What was behind it all? He tried to reason it out in his old-fashioned way even as the trembling horde filed past, cordoned by grim, silent cowboys.
The vagrants were escorted out of town in a body. Fearful of the hate of the guard, of treachery among themselves and of the townsfolk in other places, they tramped across the hills, followed closely by the stern-visaged riders. Several miles north of Sterling they disbanded.
When a company of infantrymen arrived in Sterling they found several cowboys sluicing down the court-house steps with water hauled laboriously from the river.
The captain stated that he would take charge of things, and suggested that the cowboys take a rest.
"That's all right, Cap," said a puncher, pointing toward the naked flagstaff. "But we-all would admire to see the Stars and Stripes floatin' up there afore we drift."
"I'll have the flag run up," said the captain.
"That's all right, Cap. But you don't sabe the idee. These here steps got to be clean afore that flag goes up."
"And they's some good in bein' fat," said Bud Shoop as he met Lorry
next morning. "The army doc just put a plaster on my arm where one of them
automatic pills nicked me. Now, if I'd been lean like you--"
"Did you see Waco?" queried Lorry.
"Waco? What's ailin' you, son?"
"Nothin'. It was Waco went down, workin' that machine gun against his own crowd. I didn't sabe that at first."
"Him? Didn't know he was in town."
"I didn't, either, till last night. He sneaked in to tell me about the killin' of Pat. Next I seen him was when he brained a fella that was shootin' at me. Then somehow he got to the gun--and you know the rest."
"Looks like he was crazy," suggested Shoop.
"I don' know about that. I got to him before he cashed in. He pawed around like he couldn't see. I asked what I could do. He kind of braced up then. 'That you, kid?' he says. 'They didn't get you?' I told him no. 'Then I reckon we're square,' he says. I thought he was gone, but he reached out his hand. Seems he couldn't see. 'Would you mind shakin' hands with a bum?' he says. I did. And then he let go my hand. He was done."
"H'm! And him! But you can't always tell. Sometimes it takes a bullet placed just right, and sometimes religion, and sometimes a woman to make a man show what's in him. I reckon Waco done you a good turn that journey. But ain't it hard luck when a fella waits till he's got to cross over afore he shows white?"
"He must 'a' had a hunch he was goin' to get his," said Lorry. "Or he wouldn't chanced sneakin' into town last night. When do we go north?"
"To-morrow. The doc says the sheriff will pull through. He sure ought to get the benefit of the big doubt. There's a man that God A'mighty took some trouble in makin'."
"Well, I'm mighty glad it's over. I don't want any more like this. I come through all right, but this ain't fightin'; it's plumb killin' and murder."
"And both sides thinks so," said Bud. "And lemme tell you; you can read your eyes out about peace and equality and fraternity, but they's goin' to be killin' in this here world just as long as they's fools willin' to listen to other fools talk. And they's always goin' to be some fools."
"You ain't strong on socialism, eh, Bud?"
"Socialism? You mean when all men is born fools and equal? Not this
mawnin', son. I got all I can do figurin' out my own trail."
Those riders who had come from the northern part of the State to Sterling were given transportation for themselves and their horses to The Junction. From there they rode to their respective homes. Among them were Bud Shoop, the giant sheepman, and Lorry, who seemed more anxious than did Shoop to stop at Stacey on their way to the reserve.
"Your maw don't know you been to Sterling," Shoop said as they rode toward Stacey.
"But she won't care, now we're back again. She'll find out some time."
"I'm willin' to wait," said Bud. "I got you into that hocus. But I had
no more idee than a cat that we'd bump into what we did. They was a time
when a outfit like ours could 'a' kep' peace in a town by just bein' there.
Things are changin'--fast. If the Gov'ment don't do somethin' about allowin'
the scum of this country to get hold of guns and ca'tridges wholesale,
they's goin' to be a whole lot of extra book-keepin' for the recordin'
angel. I tell you what, son, allowin' that I seen enough killin' in my
time so as just seein' it don't set too hard on my chest, that mess down
to Sterling made me plumb sick to my
stummick. I'm wonderin' what would 'a' happened if Sterling hadn't made that fight and the I.W.W. had run loose. It ain't what we did. That had to be did. But it's the idee that decent folks, livin' under the American flag, has got to shoot their way back to the law, like we done."
"Mebby the law ain't right," suggested Lorry.
"Don't you get that idee, son. The law is all right. Mebby it ain't handled right sometimes."
"But what can anybody do about it?"
"Trouble is that folks who want to do the right thing ain't always got
the say. Or mebby if they have got the say they leave it to the other
"What did the folks in Arizona do long back in eighty, when the sheep disease got bad. First off they doctored up the sick sheep, tryin' to save 'em. That didn't work, so they took to killin' 'em to save the good sheep. But the disease had got into the blood of some of the good sheep. Then some of the big sheepmen got busy. Arizona made a law that no stock was to be shipped into any of her territory without bein' inspected. That helped some. But inspectors is human, and some sick sheep got by.
"Then one day a fella that had some brains got up in the State House and spoke for the shuttin' out of all stock until the disease was stomped out. You see, that disease didn't start in this here country. But who downed that fella? Why, the sheepmen themselves. It would hurt their business. And the funny part of it is them sheepmen was willin' enough to ship sick sheep anywhere they could sell 'em. But some States was wise. California, she put a inspection tax of twenty-five dollars on every carload of stock enterin' her State--or on one animal; didn't make no difference. That inspection tax had to be paid by the shipper of the stock, as I said, whether he shipped one head or a hundred. And the stock had to be inspected before loadin'."
"You mean immigrants?" queried Lorry.
"The same. The gate is open too wide. If I had the handlin' of them gates I would shut 'em for ten years and kind of let what we got settle down and get acquainted. But the man hirin' cheap labor wouldn't. He'll take anything that will work cheap, and the country pays the difference, like we done down to Sterling."
"You mean there can't be cheap labor?"
"The same. Somebody's got to pay."
"Well, Sterling paid," said Lorry, "if a man's life is worth anything."
"Yes, she paid. And the worst part of the whole business is that the men what paid didn't owe anything to the smelter or to them others. They just made a present of their lives to this here country. And the country ain't goin' to even say 'thanks.'"
"You're pretty sore about it, aren't you, Bud?"
"I be. And if you had my years you'd be likewise. But what's worryin' me right now is I'm wonderin' what your maw'll say to me when she finds out."
"You can say we been south on business."
"Yes," grunted Bud, "and I got the receipt right here on my left wing."
"Hurtin' you much?"
"Just enough to let me know I'm livin' and ain't ridin' through hell shootin' down a lot of pore, drunk fools that's tryin' to run the oven. And them kind would kick if they was ridin' in hell on a free pass and their hotel bills paid. But over there is the hills, and we can thank God A'mighty for the high trails and the open country. I ain't got the smell of that town out of my nose yet."
When they arrived at Stacey, Lorry learned that his father had recently gone to the ranch. After supper that evening, Mrs. Adams mentioned the strike. The papers printed columns of the awful details; outrages and killings beyond the thought of possibility. And Mrs. Adams spoke of the curious circumstance that the men who put down the lawlessness were unnamed; that all that could be learned of them was that there were ranchers and cowmen who were known by number alone.
"And I'm glad that you didn't go riding off down there," she said to Lorry. "The paper says men from all over the State volunteered."
"So am I," said Shoop promptly. "I was readin' about that strike when we was over to The Junction. Lorry and me been over that way on business. I seen that that young fella, number thirty-eight, was one of the men who went after that machine gun."
"How do you know that he was a young man?" queried Mrs. Adams.
"Why--er--only a young fella would act that foolish, I reckon. You say Jim is feelin' spry ag'in?"
"Oh, much better! He's lame yet. But he can ride."
"And did you see that the paper says men are volunteering to go to France? I wonder what will happen next?"
"I dunno," said Shoop gravely. "I been thinkin' about that."
"Well, I hope Lorry won't think that he has to go. Some of the boys in town are talking about it."
"It's in the air," said Shoop.
"And his father will need him now. Could you spare him, if Jim finds he can't get along alone?"
"I don't know," laughed Bud. "I reckon I need somebody to look after them campers up to my old place."
"Oh, I forgot to tell you; the folks that were here last summer stopped by on their way to Jason. Mrs. Weston and her girl. They said they were going to visit Mr. Bronson."
"H'm! Then I reckon I got to keep Lorry. Don't know what three females would do with just Bronson for comp'ny. He's a-tickin' at that writin' machine of his most all day, and sometimes nights. It must be like livin' in a cave."
"But Dorothy hasn't," said Lorry.
"That's right! My, but that little gal has built up wonderful since she's been up there! Did you see my watch?"
"Some style to that!" And Shoop displayed the new watch with pride. "And here's the name of the lady what give it to me."
Lorry's mother examined the watch, and handed it to Lorry, to whom the news of the gift was a surprise.
"But she didn't give him a watch," said Shoop, chuckling.
Up in their room that night, Lorry helped Bud out of his coat. Shoop's arm was stiff and sore.
"And your mother would think it was a mighty queer business, if she knowed this," said Bud, "or who that number thirty-eight was down there."
"You sure made a good bluff, Bud."
"Mebby. But I was scared to death. When I was talkin' about Sterling so free and easy, and your maw mighty near ketched me that time, my arm was itchin' like hell-fire, and I dassen scratch it. I never knowed a fella's conscience could get to workin' around his system like that. Now, if it was my laig, I could 'a' scratched it with my other foot under the table. Say, but you sure showed red in your face when your maw said them Weston folks was up to the camp."
"Oh, I don't know."
"Well, I do. Here, hook onto your Uncle Bud's boot. I'm set: go ahead and pull. You can't do nothin' but shake the buildin'. Say, what does Bronson call his gal 'Peter Pan' for?"
"Why, it's a kind of foreign name," flashed Lorry. "And it sounds all right when you say it right. You said it like the 'pan' was settin' a mile off."
"Well, you needn't to get mad."
Lorry's return to the mountains was somewhat of a disappointment to his expectations. Dorothy had greeted him quite casually and naturally enough, in that she knew nothing of his recent venture. He was again introduced to Mrs. Weston and her daughter. For the first time Dorothy heard of the automobile accident and Lorry's share in the subsequent proceedings. She asked Lorry why he had not told her that he knew the Westons. He had no reply save "Oh, I don't know," which rather piqued Dorothy. He was usually definite and frank.
The Westons occupied Bronson's cabin with Dorothy. Bronson pitched a tent, moved his belongings into it, and declared himself, jokingly, free from Dorothy's immediate tyranny.
Dorothy, busy in the kitchen, asked her father to invite Lorry to dinner
that evening. Through a sort of youthful perverseness not unmixed with
bucolic pride, Lorry declined the invitation. He would be busy making ready
for another trip in the hills. He had already planned his own evening meal.
He appreciated the invitation, but they could get along without him. These
excuses satisfied Bronson. Lorry's real reason for declining was that Dorothy
had not invited him in person. He knew it, and felt ashamed of himself.
What reason had he to expect her to invite him personally, except that
she had almost invariably done so heretofore? And back of this was the
subtle jealousy of caste. The Westons were "her kind of folks." He was
not really one of them.
Boyishly he fancied that he would do as a companion when there was no one else available. He was very much in love with Dorothy and did not realize it.
And Dorothy was disappointed in him. She had wanted the Westons to know what a really fine fellow he was.
Alice Weston at once recalled Lorry's attitude toward her on a former occasion when he had been tacitly invited to go with them to the Horseshoe Hills and he had stayed at the hotel. She told Dorothy that Mr. Adams was not to be taken too seriously. After all, he was nothing more than a boy, and perhaps he would feel better, having declined to risk possible embarrassment at their table.
Dorothy was inwardly furious on the instant, but she checked herself. What did Alice Weston know about Lorry? Well, Alice knew that he was a good-looking young savage who seemed quite satisfied with himself. She thought that possibly she could tame him if she cared to try. Dorothy, with feminine graciousness, dared Alice to invite Lorry to the dinner. Alice was to know nothing of his having declined an earlier invitation. Greatly to Dorothy's surprise, Alice Weston accepted the challenge.
She waited until just before the dinner hour. Lorry was mending a pack-saddle when she came to his cabin. He dropped his work and stood up.
"I have been thinking about that tramp you arrested," she began. "And I think you were right in what you did."
"Yes, ma'am," stammered Lorry.
Her manner had been especially gracious.
"And I didn't have a chance to say good-bye--that time"--and she smiled--"when you rode off waving your scarf--"
"It was a leg of lamb," corrected Lorry.
"Well, you waved it very gracefully. What big, strong arms! They don't look so big when your sleeves are down."
Lorry promptly rolled down his sleeves. He felt that he had to do something.
"And there is so much to talk about I hardly know where to begin. Oh, yes! Thank you so much for repairing our car."
"That was nothin'."
"It meant a great deal to us. Is that your horse--the one standing alone over there?"
"Yes, ma'am. That's Gray Leg."
"I remember him. I couldn't ever forget that morning--but I don't want to hinder your work. I see you are mending something."
"Just fittin' a new pad to this pack-saddle. I was figurin' to light out to-morrow."
"So soon? That's too bad. But, then, we can visit at dinner this evening. Dorothy said she expected you. I believe it is almost ready."
"I don't know, Miss Weston. It's like this--"
"And I know Mr. Bronson meant to ask you. He has been quite busy. Perhaps he forgot."
"So I am here as ambassador. Will I do?"
"Why, sure! But--"
"And mother would be so disappointed if you didn't come. So should I, especially as you are leaving to-morrow. What is it they say in Mexico, 'Adios'? I must run back."
She proffered her hand gracefully. Lorry shook hands with her. She gave his fingers a little, lingering squeeze that set his pulses racing. She was a mighty pretty girl.
"We shall expect you," she called, halfway to the cabin.
And she sure could change a fellow's mind for him without half trying. She hadn't given him a chance to refuse her invitation. She just knew that he was coming to supper. And so did he.
Alice Weston held Lorry's attention from the beginning, as she had intended.
She was gowned in some pale-green material touched here and there with
a film of lace. Lorry was fascinated by her full, rounded arms, her beautifully
strong wrists, and by the way in which she had arranged her heavy, dark
hair. In the daylight that afternoon he had noticed that her eyes were
blue. He had thought them brown. But they were the color of wood violets
untouched by the sun. While she lacked the positive outdoor coloring of
Dorothy, her complexion was radiant with youth and health. Lorry felt subdued,
disinclined to talk despite Dorothy's obvious attempts to be entertaining.
He realized that Dorothy was being exceedingly nice to him, although he
knew that she was a
little high-strung and nervous that evening.
After dinner Bronson and Lorry smoked out on the veranda. When the others came out, Bronson suggested that they have some music. Lorry promptly invited them to his cabin.
"Alice plays wonderfully," said Dorothy.
Bronson, talking with Mrs. Weston, enjoyed himself. He had been isolated so long that news from the "outside" interested him.
Lorry, gravely attentive to the playing, happened to glance up. Dorothy was gazing at him with a most peculiar expression. He flushed. He had not realized that he had been staring at Alice Weston; at her round, white throat and graceful arms. But just then she ceased playing.
"Have you any music that you would like?" she asked Lorry.
"There's some here. I don't know what it's like. Some songs and dances the boys fetched up for Bud."
"What fun!" said Alice. "And what an assortment! Shall we try this?"
And she began to play a flimsy tune printed on a flimsy sheet that doubled and slid to the keys. Lorry jumped up, spread it out, and stood holding a corner of it while she played. Close to her, he was sensible of a desire to caress her hair, to kiss her vivid lips as she glanced up at him and smiled. He had no idea then that she was deliberately enthralling him with every grace she possessed.
The fact that she rather liked him made her subtleties all the more potent. It flattered her to see the frank admiration in his gray eyes. She knew he was anything but "soft," which made the game all the more alluring. He was to leave soon--to-morrow. Meanwhile, she determined that he should remember her.
Late that evening Bronson and the others said good-night. Alice, not
Dorothy, asked Lorry when he was to leave. His "some time to-morrow"
sounded unnaturally indefinite.
He was standing in the doorway of his camp as the others entered Bronson's cabin. Alice Weston was the last to enter. For an instant she stood in the lamplight that floated through the doorway, looking back toward him. Impulsively he waved good-night. Her attitude had seemed to call for it. He saw her fingers flash to her lips. She tilted her chin and threw him a kiss.
"Dog-gone the luck!" he growled as he entered his cabin. And with the brief expletive he condemned his disloyalty to the sprightly, slender Dorothy; the Peter Pan of the Blue Mesa; the dream girl of that idle noon at the Big Spring. The other girl--well, she was just playing with him.
In view of Lorry's training and natural carefulness it was especially significant that he decided next day that he had forgotten to lay in enough supplies for his journey south. He would ride to Jason and pack in what he needed. He had a fair excuse. Bronson had recently borrowed some of his canned provisions. He was well on his way to Jason that morning before the others had arisen.
He was back at the camp shortly after nine that night. As he passed Bronson's cabin he saw a light in the window. Mrs. Weston was talking with Dorothy. Lorry had hoped to catch a glimpse of Alice Weston. He had been hoping all that day that he would see her again before he left. Perhaps she was asleep.
As he passed the corral a greeting came from the darkness:--
"Good-evening! I thought you had gone."
"I--I didn't see you," he stammered.
Alice Weston laughed softly. "Oh, I was just out here looking at the stars. It's cooler out here. Then you changed your mind about going?"
"Nope. I had to go to Jason for grub. I'm going to-morrow."
"Oh, I see! We thought you had gone."
"Got a headache?" queried Lorry.
Her voice had been so unnaturally low, almost sad.
"No. I just wanted to be alone."
Lorry fumbled in his pockets. "I got the mail," he stated.
"I'll give it to Mr. Bronson."
Lorry leaned down and gave her the packet of letters and papers.
"Good-bye. I won't see you in the mornin'"
"We'll miss you."
"Of course!" And she gave him her hand.
He drew his foot from the stirrup. "Put your foot in there," he said, still holding her hand.
"'Cause I'm goin' to ride off with you, like in books." He laughed, but his laughter was tense and unnatural.
It was dark. The stars shone faintly. The air was soft with a subtle fragrance; the fragrance of sun-warmed pine that the night had stolen from the slumbering woodlands. She slipped her foot in the wide stirrup. Half laughing, she allowed him to draw her up. She felt the hard strength of his arm, and was thrilled. She had not meant to do anything like this.
"You been playin' with me," he told her, whispering, "and I take my pay."
She turned her face away, but he found her lips and crushed her to him.
"Oh!" she whispered as he kissed her again and again.
Slowly his arm relaxed. White-faced and trembling, she slid to the ground and stood looking up at him.
"I hate you!" she said.
"No, you don't," said Lorry quite cheerfully.
And he reached out his hand as though to take her hand again.
She stood still, making no effort to avoid him. Then--"No, please!" she begged.
Lorry sat for a moment looking down at her. There had been no make-believe on her part when he held her in his arms. He knew that. And now? She had said that she hated him. Perhaps she did for having made her do that which she had never dreamed of doing. But he told himself that he could stand a whole lot of that kind of hate. And did he really care for her? Could a girl give what she had given and forget on the morrow? He would never forget.
She had told herself that he should have reason to remember her.
After he had gone she stood gazing across the starlit mesa. She heard
Lorry whistling cheerily as he unsaddled his pony. A falling star flamed
and faded across the night.
Alice Weston pleaded headache next morning. She did not get up until noon. Meanwhile Dorothy came, bringing hot coffee and toast.
"Does it really hurt?" queried Dorothy. "Or is it one of those headaches that is always going to hurt, but never does?"
Alice smiled and sipped her coffee. "Oh, it's not bad. I want to rest. Perhaps it's the altitude."
"Perhaps," said Dorothy. "I'm sorry, Alice."
They chatted awhile. Suddenly Alice thought of the letters Lorry had given her. She had carried them to her room, and had forgotten them.
"Mr. Adams left some mail with me last night. I happened to be outside when he rode past."
"Why, I thought he had gone!"
"He said he had to go to Jason for something or other. He left early this morning, I think."
Dorothy glanced at the mail. "All for daddy--except this circular. H'm! 'Intelligent clothing for Intelligent People.' Isn't that awful? How in the world do such firms get one's address when one lives 'way up here in the sky. Do you ever get advertisements like this?"
"Oh, yes; heaps of them."
"Well, your gowns are beautiful," sighed Dorothy.
"You are a darling," said Alice, caressing Dorothy's cheek.
"So are you, dear." And Dorothy kissed her. "And you coaxed Lorry to come to dinner, after all! I don't know what made him so grumpy, though. I would have been sorry if he hadn't come to dinner, even if he was grumpy."
"Do you like him?" queried Alice.
"Of course; he has been so nice to us. Don't you?"
Alice's lips trembled. Suddenly she hid her face in her hands and burst into tears.
"Why, Alice, what is the matter?"
"Nothing," she sobbed. "I'm just tired--of everything."
"It must be the altitude," said Dorothy gravely. "Father says it does make some persons nervous. Just rest, Allie, and I'll come in again."
Without telling her father anything further than that she was going for a ride, Dorothy saddled Chinook.
Dorothy was exceedingly trustful, but she was not at all stupid. She thought she understood Alice's headache. And while Dorothy did not dream that her friend cared anything for Lorry, she was not so sure that Lorry did not care for Alice. Perhaps he had said something to her. Perhaps they had become rather well acquainted in Stacey last summer.
Dorothy rode toward the Big Spring. She had no definite object in view other than to be alone. She was hurt by Lorry's incomprehensible manner of leaving. What had she done to cause him to act so strangely? And why had he refused her invitation and accepted it again through Alice? "But I'll never, never let him know that I care about that," she thought. "And when he comes back everything will be all right again."
Just before she reached the Big Spring her pony nickered. She imagined she could see a horse standing back of the trees round the spring. Some ranger returning to Jason or some cattle outfit from the south was camped at the spring. But when Chinook nickered again and the other pony answered, she knew at once that Lorry was there. Why had he stopped at the spring? He had started early enough to have made a camp farther on.
Lorry saw her coming, and busied himself adjusting one of the packs. As she rode up he turned and took off his hat. His face was flushed. His eyes did not meet hers as she greeted him.
"I didn't look for you to ride up here," he said lamely.
"And I didn't expect to find you here," she said as she dismounted. She walked straight to him. "Lorry, what is the matter? You're not like my ranger man at all! Are you in trouble?"
Her question, so frank and sincere, and the deep solicitude in her troubled eyes hurt him, and yet he was glad to feel that hot pain in his throat. He knew now that he cared for her more than for any living being; beyond all thought of passion or of selfishness. She looked and seemed like a beautiful boy, with all the frankness of true comradeship in her attitude and manner. And she was troubled because of him--and not for herself. Lorry thought of the other girl. He had taken his pay. His lips burned dry as he recalled that moment when he had held her in his arms.
Dorothy saw the dull pain in his eyes, a sort of dumb pleading for forgiveness for something he had done; she could not imagine what. He dropped to his knee, and taking her slender hand in his kissed her fingers.
"Don't be silly," she said, yet her free hand caressed his hair. "What is it, ranger man?"
"I been a regular dam' fool, Dorothy."
"But, Lorry! You know--if there is anything, anything in the world that I can do--Please, _please_ don't cry. If you were to do that I think I should die. I couldn't stand it. You make me afraid. What is it? Surely it is not--Alice?"
He crushed her fingers. Suddenly he stood up and stepped back. The sunlight shone on his bared head. He looked very boyish as he shrugged his shoulders as though to free himself from an invisible hand that oppressed and irritated him. His sense of fair play in so far as Alice Weston was concerned would not allow him to actually regret that affair. To him that had been a sort of conquest. But shame and repentance for having been disloyal to Dorothy were stamped so clearly upon his features that she understood. She knew what he was about to say, and checked him.
"Don't tell me," she said gently. "You have told me. I know Alice is attractive; she can't help that. If you care for her--"
"Care for her! She was playin' with me. When I found out that--"
Dorothy caught her breath. Her eyes grew big. She had not thought that Alice Weston--But then that did not matter now. Lorry was so abjectly sorry about something or other. He felt her hand on his sleeve. She was smiling. "You're just a great big, silly boy, ranger man. I'm really years older than you. Please don't tell me anything. I don't want to know. I just want you to be happy."
"Happy? And you say that!"
"Well, mebby I could be happy if you was to set to and walk all over me."
"Oh, but that wouldn't do any good. Tell me why you stopped here at the spring. You didn't expect to meet any one, did you?"
"I--stopped here--because we camped here that time."
"Well, Lorry, it's really foolish of you to feel so badly when there's nothing the matter. If you wanted to kiss Alice and she let you--why, that isn't wrong. A boy kissed me once when I was going to school in the East. I just boxed his ears and laughed at him. It is only when you act grumpy or feel badly that I worry about you. I just want to be your little mother then--and try to help you."
"You make me feel like I wasn't fit to ever touch your hand again," he told her.
"But you mustn't feel that way," she said cheerily. "I want you to be brave and strong and happy; just as you were that day we camped here. And you will, won't you?"
"Yes, ma'am. I'm takin' orders from you."
"But you mustn't wait for me to tell you. Just be yourself, and then I know you will never be ashamed of anything you do. I must go now. Good-bye, Lorry."
She gave her hand, and he drew her to him. But she turned her face away as he bent his head above her.
"No; not now, Lorry. I--can't. Please don't."
"I--guess you're right. I reckon you showed me just where I stand. Yes, you're plumb right about it, Dorothy. But I'm comin' back--"
"I'll wait for you," she said softly.
He turned briskly to the ponies. The pack-horses plodded up the trail as he mounted Gray Leg and rode over to her.
She reached up and patted Gray Leg's nose. "Good-bye, everybody!" she chirruped. And she kissed Gray Leg's nose.
Back in the ranges, far from the Big Spring, Lorry made his camp that night. As he hobbled the horses he talked to them affectionately after his manner when alone with them.
"And you, you old trail-hitter," he said to Gray Leg, "I reckon you
think you're some ladies' man, don't you? Well, you got a right to be proud.
Step along there, and 'tend to your grazin' and don't go to rubbin' noses
with the other horses. You're a fool if you do."
The week following Lorry's departure the Westons left for the East. As for Dorothy, she confessed to herself that she was not sorry. While Alice had been unusually nice to every one, Dorothy felt that Alice was forcing herself to appear natural and happy. Mrs. Weston knew this, and wondered what the cause could be. Mrs. Weston had found Dorothy delightful and Bronson interesting, but she had been so long in the West that its novelty had worn thin. She did not regret it when they shipped their machine from Stacey and took the Overland for New York.
A few days after they had gone, Bud Shoop rode up to the Blue Mesa. It was evident that he wanted to talk with Bronson, so Dorothy coaxed Bondsman to her favorite tree, and sat stroking his shaggy head as she read from a new book that Shoop had brought with the mail.
The genial Bud was in a fix. Perhaps Bronson, who had been a newspaper man and knew something about politics, could help him out. Bronson disclaimed any special keenness of political intelligence, but said he would be glad to do anything he could for Shoop.
"It's like this," Bud began, seating himself on the edge of the veranda; "John Torrance, who was supervisor before you came in, got me this job and put it up to me to stick. Now, I like John, and I figure John ain't scared of me. But here's where I lose the trail. A ole friend, the biggest shipper of sheep in this State, goes and gets it into his head that they's a State Senator over there drawin' down pay that ought to come to me. Recollec', I said he was a sheepman -- and I been for the longhorns all my days. And he's got the nerve to tell me that all the sheepmen in this here county are strong for me if I run for the job. If I didn't know him like I know this here right hand, I would say he was gettin' hardenin' of the brain in his ole aige. But he's a long ways from havin' his head examined yet.
"Then along comes a representative of the Cattlemen's Association and
says they want me to run for State Senator. Then along comes a committee
of hay-tossers from up around St. Johns and says, polite, that they are
waitin' my pleasure in the matter of framin' up their ticket for senatorial
candidate from this mesa country. They say that the present encumbrance
in the senatorial chair is such a dog-gone thief that he steals from hisself
just to keep in practice. I don't say so. 'Course, if I can get to a chair
that looks big and easy, without stompin' on anybody--why, I'm like to
set down. But if I can't, I figure to set
where I be.
"Now, this here war talk is gettin' folks excited. And ridin' excitement
down the trail of politics is like tryin' to ride white lightnin' bareback.
It's like to leave you so your friends can't tell what you looked like.
And somebody that ain't got brains enough to plug the hole in a watch-key
has been talkin' around that Bud Shoop is a fighter, with a record for
gettin' what he goes after. And that this same Bud Shoop is as honest as
the day is long. Now, I've seen some mighty short days when I was tradin'
hosses. And then this here stingin' lizard goes to work and digs up my
deputy number over to Sterling and
sets the papers to printin' as how it was me, with the help of a few parties whose names are of no special int'rest, settled that strike."
"So you were at Sterling?"
"Uh-uh. Between you and me, I was. And it wa'n't what you'd call a girl's school for boys, neither. But that's done. What I'm gettin' at is: If I resign here, after givin' my word to Torrance to stick, it looks like I been playin' with one hand under the table. The papers will lie like hell boostin' me, and if I don't lie like hell, boostin' myself, folks'll think I'm a liar, anyhow. Now, takin' such folks one at a time, out back of the store, mebby, where they ain't no wimmin-folks, I reckon I could make 'em think different. But I can't lick the county. I ain't no angel. I never found that tellin' the truth kep' me awake nights. And I sleep pretty good. Now, I writ to Torrance, tellin' him just how things was headed. What do you think he writ back?"
"Why, he told you to go ahead and win, didn't he?"
"Yep. And he said that it was apparent that the State needed my services more than the Service did. That's somethin' like a train with a engine on each end. You don't know which way it's headed."
"I'd take it as a sincere compliment."
"Well, I did swell up some. Then I says to myself: 'Bud, you ain't no fancy office man, and even if you are doin' good work here, you can't put it in writin' for them big bugs at Washington.' Mebby John is so dog-gone busy--like the fella with both bands full and his suspenders broke--- that he'd be glad to get behind 'most anything to get shut of me."
"I think you're mistaken. You know you can't keep a born politician out of politics."
"You're the type."
"By gravy, Bronson! I never seen you hidin' your watch when I come up to visit you before."
"See here, Shoop. Why don't you write to Torrance and ask him point-blank if he has had a hand in getting you nominated for Senator? Torrance is a big man in his line, and he probably knows what he is doing."
Shoop grinned. "You win the pot!" he exclaimed. "That's just what I been thinkin' right along. I kind of wanted somebody who wasn't interested in this deal to say it. Well, I reckon I bothered you long enough. You got your alfalfa to--I--you got your writin' to do. But they's one thing. If I get roped in and got to run, and some new supervisor comes botherin' around up here, puttin' some ranger in my camp that ain't like Lorry, all you got to do is to move over into my cabin and tell 'em to keep off the grass. That there four hundred and eighty is mine. I homesteaded it, and I got the papers. It ain't on the reserve."
"I thought it was."
"So do some yet. Nope. I'm just east of the reservation line; outside the reserve. I aimed to know what I was doin' when I homesteaded that piece of sky farm."
"And yet you took exception to my calling you a born politician."
Shoop chuckled. "Speakin' personal, I been thinkin' about that job of State Senator for quite a spell. Now, I reckon you got sense enough not to get mad when I tell you that I just been tryin' out a little speech I framed up for my constituents. Just a kind of little alfalfa-seed talk. Outside of ijuts and Mexicans, it's about what I aim to hand to the voters of this here district, puttin' it up to them that I was roped into this hocus and been settin' back on the rope right along. And that's a fact. But you got to rub some folks' noses in a fact afore they can even smell it."
"And you have the nerve to tell me that you framed up all that stuff to get my sympathy? Shoop, you are wasting time in Arizona. Go East. And forgive me for falling for your most natural appeal."
The genial Bud chuckled and wiped his eyes. "But it's true from the start to the wire."
"I must congratulate you." And, "Dorothy!" called Bronson. "Come and shake hands with our next Senator from the mesa country."
"Really?" exclaimed Dorothy. "But we will lose our supervisor. Still, I think Mr. Shoop will make a lovely Senator. You are just the right size -- and -- everything."
"I reckon you're right, missy. Half of the game is lookin' the part afore election. The other half is not sayin' too much after election. If any man gets a promise out of me afore election, it'll have to be did with a stump-puller."
"But we won't see you any more," said Dorothy. "You will be so busy and so important. Senator Shoop will speak here. And Senator Shoop will speak there. And--let me see! Oh, yes! The Senate adjourned after a stormy session in which the Senator from Mesa County, supported by an intelligent majority, passed his bill for the appropriation of twenty thousand dollars to build a road from Jason to the Blue Mesa. What fun!"
Bud polished his bald head. "Now, I reckon that ain't such a joke. We'll build a road plumb through to the old Apache Trail and ketch them tourists goin' into Phoenix."
"You see," said Dorothy, turning to her father, "I know something about politics. I read the local papers. Mr. Shoop's name is in every one of them. I read that article about the Sterling strike. I have been wondering--"
Shoop immediately called attention to Bondsman, who was gently tugging at the supervisor's pants leg.
"Now, look at that! Do you know what he's tellin' me? He's tellin' me I got a piano in that there cabin and we ain't had a duet for quite a spell. That there dog bosses me around somethin' scandalous."
Bondsman slipped from beneath Dorothy's hand as she stooped to pat him. He trotted to Shoop's cabin, and stood looking up at the door.
"Would you be playin' 'Annie Laurie' for us?" queried Shoop.
Dorothy played for them, unaccompanied by Bondsman. Shoop shook his head. Either the tune had lost its charm for the Airedale or else Dorothy's interpretation differed from Bud's own.
"Thanks, missy," said Shoop when she had finished playing. "Guess I'll be movin' along."
"Oh, no! You'll stay to-night. I'll play for you. Make him stay, father."
"I wish you would, Shoop. I'd like to talk with you about the election."
"Well, now, that's right neighborly of you folks. I was aimin' to ride
back this evening. But I reckon we'll stay. Bondsman and me ain't so
spry as we was."
After supper Dorothy played for them again, with no light except the dancing red shadows from the pine logs that flamed in the fireplace.
Shoop thanked her. "I'll be livin' in town,"--and he sighed heavily,--"where my kind of piano-playin' would bring the law on me, most-like. Now, that ole piano is hacked up some outside, but she's got all her innards yet and her heart's right. If you would be takin' it as a kind of birthday present, it's yours."
"You don't mean me?"
"I sure do."
"But I couldn't accept such a big present. And then, when we go away this winter--"
"Listen to your Uncle Bud, missy. A little lady give me a watch onct. 'T wa'n't a big watch, but it was a big thing. 'Cause why? 'Cause that little lady was the first lady to give me a present in my life. I was raised up by men-folks. My mammy she wa'n't there long after I come. Reckon that's why I never was much of a hand with wimmin-folks. I wa'n't used to 'em. And I don't care how old and ornery a man is; the first time he gets a present from a gal, it kind of hits him where he breathes. And if it don't make him feel warm inside and mighty proud of bein' who he is, why, it's because he's so dog-gone old he can't think. I ain't tellin' no secret when I say that the little lady put her name in that watch alongside of mine. And her name bein' there is what makes that present a big thing--bigger than any piano that was ever built.
"Why, just a spell ago I was settin' in my office, madder'n a cat what had tore his Sunday pants, 'cause at twelve o'clock I was goin' over to the saloon to fire that young ranger, Lusk, for gettin' drunk. I pulled out this here watch, and I says to myself: 'Bud, it was clost around twelve o'clock by a young fella's watch onct when he was filled up on liquor and rampin' round town when he ought to been to work. And it was the ole foreman's gal that begged that boy's job back for him, askin' her daddy to give him another chanct.' And the boy he come through all right. I know--for I owned the watch. And so I give Lusk another chanct."
Dorothy stepped to Shoop's chair, and, stooping quickly, kissed his cheek. Bondsman, not to be outdone, leaped jealously into Bud's lap and licked the supervisor's face. Shoop spluttered, and thrust Bondsman down.
"Things is comin' too fast!" he cried, wiping his face. "I was just
goin' to say something when that dog just up and took the words right out
of my mouth. Oh, yes! I was just wishin' I owned a piano factory."
Bud Shoop read the newspaper notice twice before he realized fully its import. The Adams House at Stacey was for sale. "Then Jim and Annie's patched it up," he soliloquized. And the genial Bud did not refer to the Adams House.
Because his master seemed pleased, Bondsman waited to hear the rest of it with head cocked sideways and tail at a stiff angle.
"That's all they is to it," said Shoop.
Bondsman lay down and yawned. He was growing old. It was only Bud's voice that could key the big Airedale up to his earlier alertness. The office was quiet. The clerk had gone out for his noon meal. The fall sunshine slanted lazily through the front-office windows. The room was warm, but there was a tang of autumn in the air. Shoop glanced at the paper again. He became absorbed in an article proposing conscription. He shook his head and muttered to himself. He turned the page, and glanced at the livestock reports, the copper market, railroad stocks, and passed on to an article having to do with local politics.
Bondsman, who constituted himself the guard of Shoop's leisure, rapped the floor with his tail. Shoop glanced over the top of his paper as light footsteps sounded in the outer office. Dorothy tapped on the lintel and stepped in. Shoop crumpled the paper and rose. Bondsman was at her side as she shook hands with the supervisor.
"My new saddle came," she said, patting Bondsman. "And father's latest book. Why don't you cheer?"
"Goodness, missy! I started cheerin' inside the minute I seen you. Now, I reckon you just had to have that new saddle."
"It's at the store. Father is over there talking politics and war with Mr. Handley."
"Then you just set down and tell your Uncle Bud the news while you're waitin'."
"But I am not waiting. I am visiting you. And I told you the news."
"And to think a new saddle could make your eyes shine like that! Ain't you 'shamed to fool your Uncle Bud?"
"I haven't--if you say you know I have."
"'Course. Most any little gal can get the best of me."
"Well, because you are so curious--Lorry is back."
"I reckoned that was it."
"He rode part-way down with us. He has gone to see his father."
"And forgot to repo't here first."
"No. He gave me the reports to give to you. Here they are. One of Mr. Waring's men, that young Mexican, rode up to the mesa last week and left word that Lorry's father wanted to see him."
"I aim to know about that," chuckled Shoop. And he smoothed out the paper and pointed to the Adams House sale notice.
"The Adams House for sale? Why--"
"Jim and Annie--that's Jim Waring and Mrs. Waring now--are goin' to run the ranch. I'm mighty glad."
"Oh, I see! And Lorry is really Laurence Waring?"
"You bet! And I reckon Lorry'll be fo'man of that ranch one of these days. Cattle is sky-high and goin' up. I don't blame him."
"He didn't say a word about that to me."
"'Course not. He's not one to say anything till he's plumb sure."
"He might have said something" asserted Dorothy.
"Didn't he?" chuckled Shoop.
Dorothy's face grew rosy. "Your master is very inquisitive," she told Bondsman.
"And your little missy is right beautiful this mawnin'," said Shoop. "Now, if I was a bow-legged young cow-puncher with curly hair, and looked fierce and noble and could make a gal's eyes shine like stars in the evenin', I reckon I wouldn't be sittin' here signin' letters."
"He isn't bow-legged!" flashed Dorothy. She was very definite about that. "And he's not a cowboy. He is a ranger."
"My goodness! I done put my foot in a gopher hole that shake. I sure am standin' on my head, waitin' for somebody to set me up straight ag'in. You ain't mad at your Uncle Bud, be you?"
Dorothy tossed her head, but her eyes twinkled, and suddenly she laughed. "You know I like you--heaps! You're just jealous."
"Reckon you said it! But I only got one ear laid back yet. Wait till I see that boy."
"Oh, pshaw! You can't help being nice to him."
"And I got comp'ny."
"But really I want to talk seriously, if you will let me. Lorry has been talking about enlisting. He didn't say that he was going to enlist, but he has been talking about it so much. Do you think he will?"
"Well, now, missy that's a right peart question. I know if I was his age I'd go. Most any fella that can read would. I been readin' the papers for two years, and b'ilin' inside. I reckon Lorry's just woke up to what's goin' on. We been kind of slow wakin' up out here. Folks livin' off in this neck of the woods gets to thinkin' that the sun rises on their east-line fence and sets on their west line. It takes somethin' strong to make 'em recollec' the sun's got a bigger job'n that. But I admire to say that when them kind of folks gets started onct they's nothin' ever built that'll stop 'em. If I get elected I aim to tell some folks over to the State House about this here war. And I'm goin' to start by talkin' about what we got to set straight right here to home first. They can feel what's goin' on to home. It ain't all print. And they got to feel what's goin' on over there afore they do anything."
"It's all too terrible to talk about," said Dorothy. "But we must do our share, if only to keep our self-respect, mustn't we?"
"You said it--providin' we got any self-respect to keep."
"But why don't our young men volunteer. They are not cowards."
"It ain't that. Suppose you ask Lorry why."
"I shouldn't want to know him if he didn't go," said Dorothy.
"Missy, I'm lovin' you for sayin' that! If all the mothers and sisters
and sweethearts was like that, they wouldn't be no conscription. But they
ain't. I'm no hand at understandin' wimmin-folks, but I know the mother
of a strappin' young fella in this town that says she would sooner see
her boy dead in her front yard than for him to go off and fight for foreigners.
She don't know what this country's got to fight for pretty quick or she
wouldn't talk like that. And she ain't the only one. Now, when wimmin talks
that way, what do you expect of men? I reckon the big trouble is that most
folks got to see somethin' to fight
afore they get goin'. Fightin' for a principle looks just like poundin' air to some folks. I don't believe in shootin' in the dark. How come, I've plugged a rattlesnake by just shootin' at the sound when he was coiled down where I couldn't see him. But this ain't no kind of talk for you to listen to, missy."
"I--you won't say that I spoke of Lorry?"
"Bless your heart, no! And he'll figure it out hisself. But don't you get disap'inted if he don't go right away. It's mighty easy to set back and say 'Go!' to the other fella; and listen to the band and cheer the flag. It makes a fella feel so durned patriotic he is like to forget he ain't doin' nothin' hisself.
"Now, missy, suppose you was a sprightin' kind of a boy 'bout nineteen or twenty, and mebby some gal thought you was good-lookin' enough to talk to after church on a Sunday; and suppose you had rustled like a little nigger when you was a kid, helpin' your ma wash dishes in a hotel and chop wood and sweep out and pack heavy valises for tourists and fill the lamps and run to the store for groceries and milk a cow every night and mornin'.
"And say you growed up without breakin' your laig and went to punchin' cattle and earnin' your own money, and then mebby you got a job in the Ranger Service, ridin' the high trails and livin' free and independent; and suppose a mighty pretty gal was to come along and kind of let you take a shine to her, and you was doin' your plumb durndest to put by a little money, aimin' to trot in double harness some day; and then suppose your daddy was to offer you a half-interest in a growin' cattle business, where you could be your own boss and put by a couple of thousand a year. And you only nineteen or twenty.
"Suppose you had been doin' all that when along comes word from 'way off somewhere that folks was killin' each other and it was up to you to stop 'em. Wouldn't you do some hard thinkin' afore you jumped into your fightin' clothes?"
"But this war means more than that."
"It sure does. But some of us ain't got the idee yet. 'Course all you got to do to some folks is to say 'Fight' and they come a-runnin'. And some of that kind make mighty good soldier boys. But the fella I'm leavin' alone is the one what cinches up slow afore he climbs into the saddle. When he goes into a fight it's like his day's work, and he don't waste no talk or elbow action when he's workin'."
"I wish I were a man!"
"Well, some of us is right glad you ain't. A good woman can do just as much for this country right now as any man. And I don't mean by dressin' up in fancy clothes and givin' dances and shellin' out mebby four per cent of the gate receipts to buy a ambulance with her name on it.
"And I don't mean by payin' ten dollars for a outfit of gold-plated knittin'-needles to make two-bit socks for the boys. What I mean is that a good woman does her best work to home; mebby just by sayin' the right word, or mebby by keepin' still or by smilin' cheerful when her heart is breakin' account of her man goin' to war.
"You can say all you like about patriotism, but patriotism ain't just marchin' off to fight for your country. It's usin' your neighbors and your country right every day in the week, includin' Sunday. Some folks think patriotism is buildin' a big bonfire once a year and lettin' her blaze up. But the real thing is keepin' your own little fire a-goin' steady, right here where you live. And it's thinkin' of that little fire to home that makes the best soldier.
"He's got a big job to do. He's goin' to get it done so he can go back to that there home and find the little fire a-burning bright. What do some of our boys do fightin' alongside of them Frenchmen and under the French flag, when they get wounded and get a furlough? Set around and wait to go back to fightin'? I reckon not. Some of 'em pack up and come four, five thousand miles just to see their folks for mebby two, three days. And when they see them little fires to home a-burnin' bright, why, they say: 'This here is what we're fighting for.' And they go back, askin' God A'mighty to keep 'em facin' straight to the front till the job is done."
Dorothy, her chin in her hand, gazed at Bud. She had never known him to be so intense, so earnest.
"Oh, I know it is so!" she cried. "But what can I do? I have only a little money in the bank, and father makes just enough to keep us comfortable. You see, we spent such lots of money for those horrid old doctors in the East, who didn't do me a bit of good."
"You been doin' your share just gettin' well and strong, which is savin' money. But seein' you asked me, you can do a whole lot if Lorry was to say anything to you about goin'. And you know how better'n I can tell you or your daddy or anybody."
"But Lorry must do as he thinks best. We--we are not engaged."
"'Course. And it ain't no time for a young fella to get engaged to a gal and tie up her feelin's and march off with her heart in his pocket. Mebby some day she's goin' to want it back ag'in, when he ain't livin' to fetch it back to her. I see, by the Eastern papers Torrance has been sendin' me, that some young fellas is marryin' just afore they go to jine the Frenchmen on the front. Now, what are some of them gals goin' to do if their boys don't come back? Or mebby come back crippled for life? Some of them gals is goin' to pay a mighty high price for just a few days of bein' married. It riles me to think of it."
"I hadn't thought of it--as you do," said Dorothy.
"Well, I hope you'll forgive your Uncle Bud for ragin' and rampin' around like this. I can't talk what's in my heart to folks around here. They're mostly narrow-gauge. I reckon I said enough. Let's go look at that new saddle."
"Isn't it strange," said Dorothy, "that I couldn't talk with father like this? He'd be nice, of course, but he would be thinking of just me."
"I reckon he would. And mebby some of Lorry."
"If Lorry should ask me about his going--"
"Just you tell him that you think one volunteer is worth four conscripts any time and any place. And if that ain't a hint to him they's somethin' wrong with his ears."
Shoop rose and plodded out after Dorothy. Bondsman trailed lazily behind. Because Shoop had not picked up his hat the big dog knew that his master's errand, whatever it was, would be brief. Yet Bondsman followed, stopping to yawn and stretch the stiffness of age from his shaggy legs. There was really no sense in trotting across the street with his master just to trot back again in a few minutes. But Bondsman's unwavering loyalty to his master's every mood and every movement had become such a matter of course that the fine example was lost in the monotony of repetition.
A dog's loyalty is so often taken for granted that it ceases to be noticeable until in an unlooked-for hazard it shines forth in some act of quick heroism or tireless faithfulness worthy of a greater tribute than has yet been written.
Bondsman was a good soldier.
Ramon was busy that afternoon transferring mattresses and blankets from the ranch-house to the new, low-roofed bunk-house that Waring had built. Ramon fitted up three beds--one for the cook, one for an old range-rider that Waring had hired when his men had left to enlist, and one for himself.
The partitions of the ranch-house had been taken down, the interior rearranged, and the large living-room furnished in a plain, comfortable way.
As Ramon worked he sang softly. He was happy. The senora was coming to live with them, and perhaps Senor Jim's son. Senor Jim had been more active of late. His lameness was not so bad as it had been. It was true the Senor Jim did not often smile, but his eyes were kindly.
Ramon worked rapidly. There was much to do in the other house. The bale of Navajo blankets was still unopened. Perhaps the Senor Jim would help to arrange them in the big room with the stone fireplace. The senora would not arrive until to-morrow, but then the home must be made ready, that she would find it beautiful. And Ramon, accustomed to the meagerly furnished adobes of old Mexico, thought that the ranch-house was beautiful indeed.
Waring ate with the men in the new bunk-house that evening. After supper he went over to the larger building and sat alone in the living-room, gazing out of the western window. His wounds ached, and in the memory of almost forgotten trails he grew young again. Again in Old Mexico, the land he loved, he saw the blue crest of the Sierras rise as in a dream, and below the ranges a tiny Mexican village of adobe huts gold in the setting sun. Between him and the village lay the outlands, ever mysterious, ever calling to him. Across the desert ran a thin trail to the village. And down the trail the light feet of Romance ran swiftly as he followed. He could even recall the positions of the different adobes; the strings of chiles dark red in the twilight; the old black-shawled senora who had spoken a guttural word of greeting as he had ridden up.
Back in Sonora men had said, "Waring has made his last ride." They had told each other that a white man was a fool to go alone into that country. Perhaps he had been a fool. But the thrill of those early days, when he rode alone and free and men sang of him from Sonora to the Sweetgrass Hills! And on that occasion he had found the fugitive he sought, yet he had ridden back to Sonora alone. He had never forgotten the face of the young Mexican woman who had pleaded with him to let her lover go. Her eyes were big and velvet black. Her mouth was the mouth of a Madonna.
Waring had told her that it was useless to plead. He remembered how her eyes had grown dull and sullen at his word. He told her that he was simply doing his duty. She had turned on him like a panther, her little knife glittering in the dusk as she drove it at his breast. The Mexican lover had jerked free and was running toward the foothills. Waring recalled his first surprise at the wiry strength of her wrist as he had twisted the knife from her. If the Mexican lover had not turned and shot at him--The black figure of the Mexican had dropped just where the road entered the foothills. The light had almost gone. The vague bulk of the Sierras wavered. Outlines vanished, leaving a sense of something gigantic, invisible, that slumbered in the night. The stars were big and softly brilliant as he had ridden north.
The old wound in his shoulder ached. The Mexican had made a good shot--for a Mexican.
Out on the Arizona mesa, against the half disk of gold, was the black silhouette of a horseman. Waring stepped to the doorway. Ramon was seated just outside the door, smoking a cigarette. The southern stars were almost visible. Each star seemed to have found its place, and yet no star could be seen.
"It is Lorry," said Ramon. "He has ridden far."
Waring smiled. Fifty miles had not been considered a big day's ride in his time. In his time! But his day was past. The goddess he had followed had left him older than his years, crippled, unable to ride more than a few hours at a time; had left him fettered to the monotony of the far mesa levels and the changeless hills. Was this his punishment, or simply a black trick of fate, that the tang of life had evaporated, leaving a stagnant pool wherein he gazed to meet the blurred reflection of a face weary with waiting for--what end?
Unused to physical inactivity, Waring had grown somber of mind these latter days. Despite the promise of more comfortable years, he had never felt more lonely. With the coming of Lorry the old order would change. Young blood, new life would have its way.
The sound of pattering hoofs grew louder. Waring heard the old familiar, "Hi! Yippy! Yip!" of the range rider. Young blood? New life? It was his own blood, his own life reincarnate in the cheery rider that swung down and grasped his hand. Nothing had changed. Life was going on as it always had.
"Hello, dad! How's the leg?"
Waring smiled in the dusk. "Pretty fair, Lorry. You didn't waste any time getting here."
"Well, not much. I rode down with Bronson and Dorothy."
"Do you call her 'Dorothy'?"
"Ever since she calls me 'Lorry.'"
"Had anything to eat?"
"Nope. I cut across. How's mother?"
"She will be here to-morrow. We have been getting things ready. Let Ramon take your horse--"
"Thanks. I'll fix him in two shakes."
And in two shakes bridle and saddle were off, and Gray Leg was rolling in the corral.
While Lorry ate, Ramon laid a fire in the big stone fireplace. Alter supper Lorry and his father sat gazing at the flames. Lorry knew why he had been sent for, but waited for his father to speak.
Presently Waring turned to him. "I sent for you because I need some one to help. And your mother wants you here. I won't urge you, but I can offer you Pat's share in the ranch. I bought his share last week. You'll have a working interest besides that. You know something about cattle. Think it over."
"That's a dandy offer," said Lorry. "I'm right obliged, dad. But there's something else. You put your proposition straight, and I'm going to put mine straight. Now, if you was in my boots, and she liked you enough, would you marry her?"
"You haven't told me who she is."
"Why--Dorothy Bronson. I thought you knew."
Waring smiled. "You're pretty young, Lorry."
"But you married young, dad."
"Yes. And I married the best woman in the world. But I can't say that I made your mother happy."
"I guess ma never cared for anybody but you," said Lorry.
"It isn't just the caring for a person, Lorry."
"Well, I thought it was. But I reckon you know. And Dorothy is the prettiest
and lovin'est kind of a girl _you_ ever seen. I was wishin'
you was acquainted."
"I should like to meet her. Are you sure she is your kind of girl, Lorry? Now, wait a minute; I know how you feel. A girl can be good-looking and mighty nice and think a lot of a man, and yet not be the right girl for him."
"But how is he goin' to find that out?"
"If he must find out--by marrying her."
"Then I aim to find out, if she is willin'. But I wanted to tell you--because you made me that offer. I was askin' your advice because you been through a lot."
"I wish I could advise you. But you're a man grown, so far as taking care of yourself is concerned. And when a man thinks of getting married he isn't looking for advice against it. Why don't you wait a year or two?"
"Well, mebbe I got to. Because--well, I didn't ask Dorothy yet. Then there's somethin' else. A lot of the fellas up in the high country have enlisted in the regulars, and some have gone over to Canada to join the Foreign Legion. Now, I don't want to be the last hombre on this mesa to go."
"There has been no call for men by the Nation."
"But it's comin', dad. Any fella can see that. I kind of hate to wait till Uncle Sam says I got to go. I don't like going that way."
"What do you think your mother will say?"
"Gosh! I know! That's why I wanted to talk to you first. If I'm goin', I want to know it so I can say to her that I _am_ goin' and not that I aim to go."
"Well, you will have to decide that."
"Well, I'm goin' to--before ma comes. Dog-gone it! You know how it is tryin' to explain things to a woman. Wimmin don't understand them kind of things."
"I don't know about that, Lorry."
Lorry nodded. "I tell you, dad--you kind of set a pace for me. And I figure I don't want folks to say: 'There goes Jim Waring's boy.' If they're goin' to say anything, I want it to be: 'There goes Lorry Waring.'"
Waring knew that kind of pride if he knew anything. He was proud of his son. And Waring's most difficult task was to keep from influencing him in any way. He wanted the boy to feel free to do as he thought best.
"You were in that fight at Sterling," said Waring, gesturing toward the south.
"But that was different," said Lorry. "Them coyotes was pluggin' at us, and we just nacherally had to let 'em have it. And besides we was workin' for the law."
"I understand there wasn't any law in Sterling About that time."
"Well, we made some," asserted Lorry.
"And that's just what this war means. It's being fought to make law."
"Then I'm for the law every time, big or little. I seen enough of that other thing."
"Think it over, Lorry. Remember, you're free to do as you want to. I have made my offer. Then there is your mother--and the girl. It looks as though you had your hands full."
"You bet! Business and war and--and Dorothy is a right big order. I'm gettin' a headache thinkin' of it!"
Waring rose. "I'm going to turn in. I have to live pretty close to the clock these days."
"See you in the mornin'," said Lorry, giving his hand. "Good-night, dad."
Black-edged against the silvery light of early dawn the rim of the world
lay dotted with far buttes and faint ranges fading into the spaces of the
north and south. The light deepened and spread to a great crimson pool,
tideless round the bases of magic citadels and mighty towers. Golden minarets
thrust their slender, fiery shafts athwart the wide pathway of the ascending
sun. The ruddy glow palpitated like a live ember naked to the wind. The
nearer buttes grew boldly beautiful. Slowly their molten outlines hardened
to rigid bronze. Like ancient castles of some forgotten land, isolated
in the vast mesa, empty of life, they seemed to await the coming of a host
that would reshape their fallen arches and their wind-worn towers to old-time
splendor, and perfect
But the marching sun knew no such sentiment. Pitilessly he pierced their enchanted walls, discovering their pretense, burning away their shadowy glory, baring them for what they were--masses of jumbled rock and splintered spires; rain-gutted wraiths of clay, volcanic rock, the tumbled malpais and the tufa of the land.
Black shadows shifted. That which had been the high-arched entrance to a mighty fortress was now a shallow hollow in a hill. Here and there on the western slope of the mounds cattle grazed in the chill morning air. Enchantments of the dawn reshaped themselves to local landmarks.
From his window Lorry could discern the distant peak of Mount Baldy glimmering above the purple sea of forest. Not far below the peak lay the viewless level of the Blue Mesa. The trail ran just below that patch of quaking asp.
The hills had never seemed so beautiful, nor had the still mesas, carpeted with the brown stubble of the close-cropped bunch-grass.
Arizona was his country--his home. And yet he had heard folk say that Arizona was a desert, But then such folk had been interested chiefly in guide-posts of the highways or the Overland dining-car menu.
And he had been offered a fair holding in this land--twenty thousand acres under fence on a long-term lease; a half-interest in the cattle and their increase. He would be his own man, with a voice in the management and sale of the stock. A year or two and he could afford to marry--if Dorothy would have him. He thought she would. And to keep in good health she must always live in the West. What better land than Arizona, on the high mesa where the air was clean and clear; where the keen August rains refreshed the sunburned grasses; where the light snows of winter fell but to vanish in the retrieving sun? If Dorothy loved this land, why should she leave it? Surely health meant more to her than the streets and homes of the East?
And Lorry had asked nothing of fortune save a chance to make good. And fortune had been more than kind to him. He realized that it was through no deliberate effort of his own that he had acquired the opportunity which offered. Why not take advantage of it? It would give him prestige with Bronson. A good living, a good home for her. Such luck didn't come to a man's door every day.
He had slept soundly that night, despite his intent to reason with himself.
It was morning, and he had made no decision--or so he thought. There was
the question of enlisting. Many of his friends had already gone. Older
men were now riding the ranges. Even the clerk in the general store at
Stacey's had volunteered. And Lorry had considered him anything but physically
competent to "make a fight." But it wasn't all in making a fight. It was
setting an example of loyalty and unselfishness to those fellows
who needed such an impulse to stir them to action. Lorry thought clearly.
And because he thought clearly and for himself, he realized that he, as
an individual soldier in the Great War, would amount to little; but he
knew that his going would affect others;
that the mere news of his having gone would react as a sort of endless chain reaching to no one knew what sequestered home.
And this, he argued, was his real value: the spirit ever more potent than the flesh. Why, he had heard men joke about this war! It was a long way from home. What difference did it make to them if those people over there were being starved, outraged, murdered? That was their own lookout. Friends of his had said that they were willing to fight to a finish if America were threatened with invasion, but that could never happen. America was the biggest and richest country in the world. She attended to her own business and asked nothing but that the other nations do likewise.
And those countries over there were attending to their own business. If our ships were blown up, it was our own fault. We had been warned. Anyway, the men who owned those ships were out to make money and willing to take a chance. It wasn't our business to mix in. We had troubles enough at home. As Lorry pondered the shallow truths a great light came to him. "Troubles enough at home," that was it! America had already been invaded, yet men slumbered in fancied security. He had been at Sterling--
Lorry could hear Ramon stirring about in the kitchen. The rhythmically muffled sound suggested the mixing of flapjacks. Lorry could smell the thin, appetizing fragrance of coffee.
With characteristic abruptness, he made his decision, but with no spoken word, no gesture, no emotion. He saw a long day's work before him. He would tackle it like a workman.
And immediately he felt buoyantly himself again. The matter was settled.
He washed vigorously. The cold water brought a ruddy glow to his face. He whistled as he strode to the kitchen. He slapped the gentle-eyed Ramon on the shoulder. Pancake batter hissed as it slopped over on the stove.
"Cheer up, amigo!" he cried! "Had a good look at the sun this mornin'?"
"No, senor. I have made the breakfast, si."
"Well, she's out there, shinin' right down on Arizona."
"The senora?" queried Ramon, puzzled.
"No; the sun. Don't a mornin' like this make you feel like jumpin' clean out of your boots and over the fence?"
"Not until I have made the flapcake, Senor Lorry."
"Well, go the limit. Guess I'll roust out dad."
Bud Shoop scowled, perspired, and swore. Bondsman, close to Shoop's chair, blinked and lay very still. His master was evidently beyond any proffer of sympathy or advice. Yet he had had no argument with any one lately. And he had eaten a good breakfast. Bondsman knew that. Whatever the trouble might be, his master had not consulted him about it. It was evidently a matter that dogs could not understand, and hence, very grave. Bondsman licked his chops nervously. He wanted to go out and lie in the sunshine, but he could not do that while his master suffered such tribulation of soul. His place was close to his master now, if ever.
Around Shoop were scattered pieces of paper; bits of letters written and torn up.
"It's a dam' sight worse resignin' than makin' out my application--and
that was bad enough," growled Shoop. "But I got to do this personal. This
here pen is like a rabbit gone loco. Now, here I set like a bag of beans,
tryin' to tell John Torrance why I'm quittin' this here job without makin'
him think I'm glad to quit--which I am, and I ain't. It's like tryin' to
split a flea's ear with a axe; it can't be did without mashin' the flea.
Now, if John was here I could tell him in three jumps. The man that invented
writin' must 'a' been tongue-tied or had sore throat some time when he
wanted to talk awful bad. My langwidge ain't
broke to pull no city rig--or no hearse. She's got to have the road and plenty room to sidestep.
"Now, how would I say it if John were here? Would I start off with 'Dear John' or 'Dear Old Friend'? I reckon not. I'd just say: 'John, I'm goin' to quit. I tried to do by you what I said I would. I got a chanct to bust into the State House, and I got a good reason for bustin' in. I been nominated for Senator, and I got to live up to the name. I'm a-goin' to run for Senator--and mebby I'll keep on when I get started, and end up somewhere in Mexico. I can't jine the reg'lars account of my physical expansibility and my aige, so I got to do my fightin' to home. I'm willin' to stick by this job if you say the word. Mebby some folks would be dissap'inted, but I can stand that if they can. What do you reckon I better do?'
"Now, that's what I'd say if John was here. Why in tarnation can't I say it on paper? Lemme see."
Bud filled a sheet with his large, outdoor script. When he had finished, he tucked the letter in an envelope hurriedly. He might reconsider his attempt if he re-read the letter.
He was carefully directing the envelope when Lorry strode in.
'"Bout time you showed up," said Shoop.
Lorry dropped his hat on the floor and pulled up a chair. He was a bit nervous. Preamble would make him more so. He spoke up quickly.
"Bud, I want to resign."
"Uh-uh. You tired of this job?"
"Nope; I like it."
"Want more pay?"
"No; I get all I'm worth."
"Ain't you feelin' well?"
"Bully! I'm going to enlist."
"Might 'a' knowed it," said Bud, leaning back and gazing at the newly addressed envelope on his desk. "Got your reports all in?"
"Well, seem' you're quittin' for the best reason I know, I'm right glad. You done your work like I expected. Your mother knows you're goin' to jine the army?"
"I told her yesterday. I've been at the ranch."
"Uh-uh. How's your dad?"
"He ain't so spry. But he is better."
"Uh-uh. That young Mexican stayin' at the ranch with him?"
"You couldn't chase Ramon away with a gun."
"Uh-uh. Well, Lorry, I just been sweatin' out a letter tellin' John Torrance that I've quit. I'm goin' to run for State Senator."
"I knew they would land you. Everybody knew it."
"So we're both leavin' the Service. And we're leavin' a mighty good job; mebby not such big pay, but a man's job, that has been the makin' of some no-account boys. For no fella can work for the Service without settin' up and ridin' straight. Now, when I was a young buster chasin' cow-tails over the country I kind of thought the Forestry Service was a joke. It ain't. It's a mighty big thing. You're leaving it with a clean record. Mebby some day you'll want to get back in it. Were you goin' on up?"
"I figured to straighten up things at the cabin."
"All right. When you come down you can get your check. Give my regards to Bronson and the little missy."
"You bet I will!"
Bud rose and proffered his hand. Lorry, rather embarrassed, shook hands and turned to go. "See you later," he said.
"I was going over to Stacey," said Shoop. "Mebby I'll be out when you get back. But your check'll be here all right. You sure look like you was walkin' on sunshine this mawnin'. Gosh, what a whoopin' fine place this here world is when you are young--and--kind of slim! Now, Bondsman and me--we was young onct. When it comes to bein' young or State Senator--you can have the politics and give me back my ridin' legs. You're ridin' the High Trail these days.
"If I could just set a hoss onct, with twenty years under my hide, and look down on this here country, and the sage a-smellin' like it used to and the sunshine a-creepin' across my back easy and warm, with a sniff of the timber comin' down the mawnin' breeze; and 'way off the cattle a-lookin' no bigger'n flies on a office map--why, I wouldn't trade that there seat in the saddle for a million in gold. But I reckon I would 'a' done it, them days. Sometimes I set back and say 'Arizona' just to myself. I'm a-lovin' that name. Accordin' to law, I'm livin' single, and if I ain't married to Arizona, she's my best gal, speakin' general. 'Course, a little lady give me a watch onct. And say, boy, if she sets a lot of store by you--why, you--why, git out of this here office afore I make a dam' fool of myself!"
And the genial Bud waved his arm, blustering and swearing heartily.
Bondsman leaped up. A ridge of hair rose along his neck. For some unknown reason his master had ordered Lorry to leave the office--and at once. But Lorry was gone, and Bud was patting the big Airedale. It was all right. Nothing was going to happen. And wasn't it about time for the stage to arrive?
Bondsman trotted to the doorway, gazed up and down the street, and came
back to Shoop. The stage had arrived, and Bondsman was telling Shoop so
by the manner in which he waited for his master to follow him into the sunlight. Bud grinned.
"You're tellin' me the stage is in--and I got a letter to send."
Bud picked up his hat. Bondsman had already preceded him to the doorway, and stood waiting. His attitude expressed the extreme patience of age, but that the matter should be attended to without unreasonable delay. Shoop sighed heavily.
"That there dog bosses me around somethin' scandalous."
Halfway across the Blue Mesa, Dorothy met her ranger man. She had been watching the trail. Lorry dismounted and walked with her to the cabin. Bronson was glad to see him. They chatted for a while. Lorry would have spoken of his father's offer--of his plans, of many things he wished Bronson to know, yet he could not speak of these things until he had talked with Dorothy. He would see Bronson again. Meanwhile--
A little later Lorry went to his cabin to take stock of the implements and make his final report. He swept the cabin, picked up the loose odds and ends, closed the battered piano gently, and sat down to think.
He had made his decision, and yet--he had seen Dorothy again; touched her hand, talked with her, and watched her brown eyes while he talked. The Great War seemed very far away. And here he was at home. This was his country. But he had set his face toward the High Trail. He could not turn back.
Dorothy stood in the doorway, her finger at her lips. Bronson was busy
writing. Lorry rose and stepped out. He stooped and lifted her to Gray
Leg. She sat sideways in the saddle as he led the pony across the mesa to the veritable rim of the world.
Far below lay the open country, veiled by the soft haze of distance. He gave her his hand, and she slipped to the ground and stood beside him. For the first time the tremendous sweep of space appalled her. She drew close to him and touched his arm.
"What is it, Lorry?"
"You said--once--that you would wait for me."
"Yes. And now you are here, I'll never be lonesome again."
"Were you lonesome?"
"A little. I had never really waited--like that--before."
He frowned and gazed into the distances. It had been easy to decide--when alone. Then he faced her, his gray eyes clear and untroubled.
"I'm going to enlist," he said simply.
She had hoped that he would. She wanted to think that of him. And yet, now that he had spoken, now that he was actually going--Her eyes grew big. She wanted to say that she was glad. Her lips trembled.
He held out his arms. She felt their warm strength round her. On the instant she thought of begging him not to go. But his eyes were shining with a high purpose, that shamed her momentary indecision. She pressed her cheek to his.
"I will wait for you," she whispered, and her face was wet with tears of happiness.
She was no longer the little mother and he her boy, for in that moment
he became to her the man strength of the race, his arms her refuge and
his eyes her courage for the coming years.