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Title: A Daughter of the Middle Border
Author: Garland, Hamlin, 1860-1940
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Note

This book in this edition won the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for Literature
in the "Biography or Autobiography" category. As such, every attempt
has been made to reproduce it exactly as it was printed and as it
won the award. In particular, inconsistent hyphenation of compound
words is pervasive in this text and has been retained. Unconventional
punctuation--for example using a comma to splice two sentences--has
also been retained exactly as printed.

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A DAUGHTER OF THE MIDDLE BORDER

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By
HAMLIN GARLAND

A SON OF THE MIDDLE BORDER
A DAUGHTER OF THE MIDDLE BORDER
ULYSSES S. GRANT, HIS LIFE AND CHARACTER

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[Illustration: Isabel McClintock Garland, A Daughter of the Middle
Border.]

[Illustration: Zulime Taft: "The New Daughter."]

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A DAUGHTER OF THE MIDDLE BORDER

BY
HAMLIN GARLAND
Member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters

New York
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
1921

All rights reserved

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PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Copyright, 1921,
By HAMLIN GARLAND.

Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1921.

Press of
J. J. Little & Ives Company
New York, U. S. A.

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To my wife Zulime Taft, who for more than twenty years has shared
my toil and borne with my shortcomings, I dedicate this story of a
household on the vanishing Middle Border, with an ever-deepening
sense of her fortitude and serenity.

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Acknowledgments are made to Florence Huber Schott, Edward Foley and
Arthur Dudley for the use of the photographs which illustrate this
volume.

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FOREWORD


I

_To My New Readers_


In the summer of 1893, after nine years of hard but happy literary life
in Boston and New York, I decided to surrender my residence in the East
and reëstablish my home in the West, a decision which seemed to be--as
it was--a most important event in my career.

This change of headquarters was due not to a diminishing love for New
England, but to a deepening desire to be near my aging parents, whom I
had persuaded, after much argument, to join in the purchase of a family
homestead, in West Salem, Wisconsin, the little village from which we
had all adventured some thirty years before.

My father, a typical pioneer, who had grown gray in opening new farms,
one after another on the wind-swept prairies of Iowa and Dakota, was not
entirely content with my plan but my mother, enfeebled by the hardships
of a farmer's life, and grateful for my care, was glad of the
arrangement I had brought about. In truth, she realized that her days of
pioneering were over and the thought of ending her days among her
friends and relatives was a comfort to her. That I had rescued her from
a premature grave on the barren Dakota plain was certain, and the hope
of being able to provide for her comfort was the strongest element in my
plan.

After ten years of separation we were agreed upon a project which would
enable us as a family to spend our summers together; for my brother,
Franklin, an actor in New York City, had promised to take his vacation
in the home which we had purchased.

As this homestead (which was only eight hours by rail from Chicago) is
to be one of the chief characters in this story, I shall begin by
describing it minutely. It was not the building in which my life
began--I should like to say it was, but it was not. My birthplace was a
cabin--part logs and part lumber--on the opposite side of the town.
Originally a squatter's cabin, it was now empty and forlorn, a dreary
monument of the pioneer days, which I did not take the trouble to enter.
The house which I had selected for the final Garland homestead, was
entirely without any direct associations with my family. It was only an
old frame cottage, such as a rural carpenter might build when left to
his own devices, rude, angular, ugly of line and drab in coloring, but
it stood in the midst of a four-acre field, just on the edge of the
farmland. Sheltered by noble elms and stately maples, its windows
fronted on a low range of wooded hills, whose skyline (deeply woven into
my childish memories) had for me the charm of things remembered, and for
my mother a placid beauty which (after her long stay on the treeless
levels of Dakota) was almost miraculous in effect. Entirely without
architectural dignity, our new home was spacious and suggested the
comfort of the region round about.

My father, a man of sixty-five, though still actively concerned with a
wide wheat farm in South Dakota, had agreed to aid me in maintaining
this common dwelling place in Wisconsin provided he could return to
Dakota during seeding and again at harvest. He was an eagle-eyed,
tireless man of sixty-five years of age, New England by origin, tall,
alert, quick-spoken and resolute, the kind of natural pioneer who
prides himself on never taking the back trail. In truth he had yielded
most reluctantly to my plan, influenced almost wholly by the failing
health of my mother, to whom the work of a farm household had become an
intolerable burden. As I had gained possession of the premises early in
November we were able to eat our Thanksgiving Dinner in our new home,
happy in the companionship of old friends and neighbors. My mother and
my Aunt Susan were entirely content. The Garlands seemed anchored at
last.


II

To the Readers of "A Son of the Middle Border"


In taking up and carrying forward the theme of "A Son of the Middle
Border" I am fully aware of my task's increasing difficulties, realizing
that I must count on the clear understanding and continuing good will of
my readers.

First of all, you must grant that the glamor of childhood, the glories
of the Civil War, the period of prairie conquest which were the chief
claims to interest in the first volume of my chronicle can not be
restated in these pages. The action of this book moves forward into the
light of manhood, into the region of middle age. Furthermore, its theme
is more personal. Its scenes are less epic. It is a study of individuals
and their relationships rather than of settlements and migrations. In
short, "A Daughter of the Middle Border" is the complement of "A Son of
the Middle Border," a continuation, not a repetition, in which I attempt
to answer the many questions which readers of the first volume have
persistently put to me.

"Did your mother get her new daughter?" "How long did she live to enjoy
the peace of her Homestead?" "What became of David and Burton?" "Did
your father live to see his grandchildren?" These and many other
queries, literary as well as personal, are--I trust--satisfactorily
answered in this book. Like the sequel to a novel, it attempts to
account for its leading characters and to satisfy the persistent
interest which my correspondents have so cordially expressed.

It remains to say that the tale is as true as my memory will permit--it
is constructed only by leaving things out. If it reads, as some say,
like fiction, that result is due not to invention but to the actual
lives of the characters involved. Finally this closes my story of the
Garlands and McClintocks and the part they took in a marvelous era in
American settlement.

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                            CONTENTS


                             BOOK I

CHAPTER                                                    PAGE

I. MY FIRST WINTER IN CHICAGO                                 1

II. I RETURN TO THE SADDLE                                   13

III. IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GENERAL GRANT                       24

IV. RED MEN AND BUFFALO                                      38

V. THE TELEGRAPH TRAIL                                       53

VI. THE RETURN OF THE ARTIST                                 70

VII. LONDON AND EVENING DRESS                                86

VIII. THE CHOICE OF THE NEW DAUGHTER                         97

IX. A JUDICIAL WEDDING                                      122

X. THE NEW DAUGHTER AND THANKSGIVING                        140

XI. MY FATHER'S INHERITANCE                                 153

XII. WE TOUR THE OKLAHOMA PRAIRIE                           171

XIII. STANDING ROCK AND LAKE MCDONALD                       184

XIV. THE EMPTY ROOM                                         204


                            BOOK II

XV. A SUMMER IN THE HIGH COUNTRY                            219

XVI. THE WHITE HOUSE MUSICAL                                237

XVII. SIGNS OF CHANGE                                       247

XVIII. THE OLD PIONEER TAKES THE BACK TRAIL                 262

XIX. NEW LIFE IN THE OLD HOUSE                              271

XX. MARY ISABEL'S CHIMNEY                                   289

XXI. THE FAIRY WORLD OF CHILDHOOD                           307

XXII. THE OLD SOLDIER GAINS A GRANDDAUGHTER                 326

XXIII. "CAVANAGH" AND THE "WINDS OF DESTINY"                341

XXIV. THE OLD HOMESTEAD SUFFERS DISASTER                    355

XXV. DARKNESS JUST BEFORE THE DAWN                          369

XXVI.  SPRAY OF WILD ROSES                                  381

XXVII. A SOLDIER OF THE UNION MUSTERED OUT                  389

AFTERWORD                                                   400

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ILLUSTRATIONS

Isabel Clintock Garland, A Daughter of the Middle Border
                                                   Frontispiece

Zulime Taft: The New Daughter                      Frontispiece

                                                    FACING PAGE

Miss Zulime Taft, acting as volunteer housekeeper
for the colony                                              104

At last the time came when I was permitted to take my
wife--lovely as a Madonna--out into the sunshine            287

The old soldier loved to take the children on his knees
and bask in the light of the fire                           304

Entirely subject to my daughter, who regarded me as a
wonderful giant, I paid tribute to her in song
and story                                                   322

That night as my daughters "dressed up" as princesses,
danced in the light of our restored hearth, I forgot
all the disheartenment which the burning of the
house had brought upon me                                   368

The art career which Zulime Taft abandoned after our
marriage, is now being taken up by her daughter
Constance                                                   400

To Mary Isabel who as a girl of eighteen still loves
to impersonate the majesty of princesses                    402

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A DAUGHTER OF THE MIDDLE BORDER

BOOK I

CHAPTER ONE

My First Winter in Chicago


"Well, Mother," I said as I took my seat at the breakfast table the
second day after our Thanksgiving dinner, "I must return to Chicago. I
have some lectures to deliver and besides I must get back to my
writing."

She made no objection to my announcement but her eyes lost something of
their happy light. "When will you come again?" she asked after a pause.

"Almost any minute," I replied assuringly. "You must remember that I'm
only a few hours away now. I can visit you often. I shall certainly come
up for Christmas. If you need me at any time send me word in the
afternoon and I'll be with you at breakfast."

That night at six o'clock I was in my city home, a lodging quite as
humble in character as my fortunes.

In a large chamber on the north side of a house on Elm Street and only
three doors from Lake Michigan, I had assembled my meager library and a
few pitiful mementoes of my life in Boston. My desk stood near a narrow
side window and as I mused I could look out upon the shoreless expanse
of blue-green water fading mistily into the north-east sky, and, at
night, when the wind was in the East the crushing thunder of the
breakers along the concrete wall formed a noble accompaniment to my
writing, filling me with vaguely ambitious literary plans. Exalted by
the sound of this mighty orchestra I felt entirely content with the
present and serenely confident of the future.

"This is where I belong," I said. "Here in the great Midland metropolis
with this room for my pivot, I shall continue my study of the plains and
the mountains."

I had burned no bridges between me and the Island of Manhattan, however!
Realizing all too well that I must still look to the East for most of my
income, I carefully retained my connections with _Harper's_, the
_Century_ and other periodicals. Chicago, rich and powerful as it had
become, could not establish--or had not established--a paying magazine,
and its publishing firms were mostly experimental and not very
successful; although the Columbian Exposition which was just closing,
had left upon the city's clubs and societies (and especially on its
young men) an esthetic stimulation which bade fair to carry on to other
and more enduring enterprises.

Nevertheless in the belief that it was to become the second great
literary center of America I was resolved to throw myself into the task
of hurrying it forward on the road to new and more resplendent
achievement.

My first formal introduction to the literary and artistic circle in
which I was destined to work and war for many years, took place through
the medium of an address on _Impressionism in Art_ which I delivered in
the library of Franklin Head, a banker whose home had become one of the
best-known intellectual meeting places on the North Side. This lecture,
considered very radical at the time, was the direct outcome of several
years of study and battle in Boston in support of the open-air school of
painting, a school which was astonishing the West with its defiant play
of reds and yellows, and the flame of its purple shadows. As a
missionary in the interest of the New Art, I rejoiced in this
opportunity to advance its inspiring heresies.

While uttering my shocking doctrines (entrenched behind a broad,
book-laden desk), my eyes were attracted to the face of a slender
black-bearded young man whose shining eyes and occasional smiling nod
indicated a joyous agreement with the main points of my harangue. I had
never seen him before, but I at once recognized in him a fellow
conspirator against "The Old Hat" forces of conservatism in painting.

At the close of my lecture he drew near and putting out his hand, said,
"My name is Taft--Lorado Taft. I am a sculptor, but now and again I talk
on painting. Impressionism is all very new here in the West, but like
yourself I am an advocate of it, I am doing my best to popularize a
knowledge of it, and I hope you will call upon me at my studio some
afternoon--any afternoon and discuss these isms with me."

Young Lorado Taft interested me, and I instantly accepted his invitation
to call, and in this way (notwithstanding a wide difference in training
and temperament), a friendship was established which has never been
strained even in the fiercest of our esthetic controversies. Many others
of the men and women I met that night became my co-workers in the
building of the "greater Chicago," which was even then coming into
being--the menace of the hyphenate American had no place in our
thoughts.

In less than a month I fell into a routine as regular, as peaceful, as
that in which I had moved in Boston. Each morning in my quiet sunny room
I wrote, with complete absorption, from seven o'clock until noon,
confidently composing poems, stories, essays, and dramas. I worked like
a painter with several themes in hand passing from one to the other as I
felt inclined. After luncheon I walked down town seeking exercise and
recreation. It soon became my habit to spend an hour or two in Taft's
studio (I fear to his serious detriment), and in this way I soon came to
know most of the "Bunnies" of "the Rabbit-Warren" as Henry B. Fuller
characterized this studio building--and it well deserved the name! Art
was young and timid in Cook County.

Among the women of this group Bessie Potter, who did lovely statuettes
of girls and children, was a notable figure. Edward Kemeys, Oliver
Dennett Grover, Charles Francis Browne, and Hermon MacNeill, all young
artists of high endowment, and marked personal charm became my valued
associates and friends. We were all equally poor and equally confident
of the future. Our doubts were few and transitory as cloud shadows, our
hopes had the wings of eagles.

As Chicago possessed few clubs of any kind and had no common place of
meeting for those who cultivated the fine arts, Taft's studio became,
naturally, our center of esthetic exchange. Painting and sculpture were
not greatly encouraged anywhere in the West, but Lorado and his brave
colleagues, hardy frontiersmen of art, laughed in the face of all
discouragement.

A group of us often lunched in what Taft called "the Beanery"--a noisy,
sloppy little restaurant on Van Buren Street, where our lofty
discussions of Grecian sculpture were punctuated by the crash of
waiter-proof crockery, or smothered with the howl of slid chairs.
However, no one greatly minded these barbarities. They were all a part
of the game. If any of us felt particularly flush we dined, at sixty
cents each, in the basement of a big department store a few doors
further west; and when now and then some good "lay brother" like
Melville Stone, or Franklin Head, invited us to a "royal gorge" at
Kinsley's or to a princely luncheon in the tower room of the Union
League, we went like minstrels to the baron's ball. None of us possessed
evening suits and some of us went so far as to denounce swallowtail
coats as "undemocratic." I was one of these.

This "artistic gang" also contained several writers who kept a little
apart from the journalistic circle of which Eugene Field and Opie Read
were the leaders, and though I passed freely from one of these groups to
the other I acknowledged myself more at ease with Henry Fuller and Taft
and Browne, and a little later I united with them in organizing a
society to fill our need of a common meeting place. This association we
called _The Little Room_, a name suggested by Madelaine Yale Wynne's
story of an intermittently vanishing chamber in an old New England
homestead.

For a year or two we met in Bessie Potter's studio, and on the theory
that our club, visible and hospitable on Friday afternoon, was
non-existent during all the other days of the week, we called it "the
Little Room." Later still we shifted to Ralph Clarkson's studio in the
Fine Arts Building--where it still flourishes.

The fact is, I was a poor club man. I did not smoke, and never used rum
except as a hair tonic--and beer and tobacco were rather distasteful to
me. I do not boast of this singularity, I merely state it. No doubt I
was considered a dull and profitless companion even in "the Little
Room," but in most of my sobrieties Taft and Browne upheld me, though
they both possessed the redeeming virtue of being amusing, which I, most
certainly, never achieved.

Taft was especially witty in his sly, sidewise comment, and often when
several of us were in hot debate, his sententious or humorous retorts
cut or stung in defence of some esthetic principle much more effectively
than most of my harangues. Sculpture, with him, was a religious faith,
and he defended it manfully and practiced it with skill and an industry
which was astounding.

Though a noble figure and universally admired, he had, like myself, two
very serious defects, he was addicted to frock coats and the habit of
lecturing! Although he did not go so far as to wear a plaid Windsor tie
with his "Prince Albert" coat (as I have been accused of doing), he
displayed something of the professor's zeal in his platform addresses. I
would demur against the plaid Windsor tie indictment if I dared to do
so, but a certain snapshot portrait taken by a South-side photographer
of that day (and still extant) forces me to painful confession--I had
such a tie, and I wore it with a frock coat. My social status is thus
clearly defined.

Taft's studio, which was on the top floor of the Athenæum Building on
Van Buren Street, had a section which he called "the morgue," for the
reason that it was littered with plaster duplicates of busts, arms, and
hands. This room, fitted up with shelf-like bunks, was filled nearly
every night with penniless young sculptors who camped in primitive
simplicity amid the grewsome discarded portraits of Cook County's most
illustrious citizens. Several of these roomers have since become artists
of wide renown, and I refrain from disclosing their names. No doubt they
will smile as they recall those nights amid their landlord's cast-off
handiwork.

Taft was an "easy mark" in those times, a shining hope to all the
indigent models, discouraged painters and other esthetic derelicts of
the Columbian Exposition. No artist suppliant ever knocked at his door
without getting a dollar, and some of them got twenty. For several years
Clarkson and I had him on our minds because of this gentle and yielding
disposition until at last we discovered that in one way or another, in
spite of a reckless prodigality, he prospered. The bread which he
cheerfully cast upon these unknown waters, almost always returned
(sometimes from another direction) in loaves at least as large as
biscuits. His fame steadily increased with his charity. I did not
understand the principle of his manner of life then, and I do not now.
By all the laws of my experience he should at this moment be in the
poorhouse, but he isn't--he is rich and honored and loved.

In sculpture he was, at this time a conservative, a worshiper of the
Greek, and it would seem that I became his counter-irritant, for my
demand for "A native art" kept him wholesomely stirred up. One by one as
the years passed he yielded esthetic positions which at first he most
stoutly held. He conceded that the Modern could not be entirely
expressed by the Ancient, that America might sometime grow to the
dignity of having an art of its own, and that in sculpture (as in
painting and architecture) new problems might arise. Even in his own
work (although he professed but one ideal, the Athenian) he came at last
to include the plastic value of the red man, and to find in the
expression of the Sioux or Omaha a certain sorrowful dignity which fell
parallel with his own grave temperament, for, despite his smiling face,
his best work remained somber, almost tragic in spirit.

Henry B. Fuller, who in _The Chevalier of Pensieri-Vani_ had shown
himself to be the finest literary craftsman in the West, became (a
little later) a leader in our group and a keen delight to us all. He was
at this time a small, brown-bearded man of thirty-five, whose quick
humor, keen insight and unfailing interest in all things literary made
him a caustic corrective of the bombast to which our local reviewers
were sadly liable. Although a merciless critic of Chicago, he was a
native of the city, and his comment on its life had to be confronted
with such equanimity as our self-elected social hierarchy could assume.

Elusive if not austere with strangers, Henry's laugh (a musical "ha ha")
was often heard among his friends. His face could be impassive not to
say repellent when approached by those in whom he took no interest, and
there were large numbers of his fellow citizens for whom the author of
_Pensieri-Vani_ had only contempt. Strange to say, he became my most
intimate friend and confidant--antithetic pair!

Eugene Field, his direct opposite, and the most distinguished member of
"the journalistic gang," took very little interest in the doings of "the
Bunnies" and few of them knew him, but I often visited him in his home
on the North Side, and greatly enjoyed his solemn-faced humor. He was a
singular character, as improvident as Lorado but in a far different way.

I recall meeting him one day on the street wearing, as usual, a long,
gray plaid ulster with enormous pockets at the sides. Confronting me
with coldly solemn visage, he thrust his right hand into his pocket and
lifted a heavy brass candlestick to the light. "Look," he said. I
looked. Dropping this he dipped his left hand into the opposite pocket
and displayed another similar piece, then with a faint smile lifting the
corners of his wide, thin-lipped mouth, he gravely boomed, "Brother
Garland--you see before you--a man--who lately--had ten dollars."

Thereupon he went his way, leaving me to wonder whether his wife would
be equally amused with his latest purchase.

His library was filled with all kinds of curious objects--worthless junk
they seemed to me--clocks, snuffers, butterflies, and the like but he
also possessed many autographed books and photographs whose value I
granted. His cottage which was not large, swarmed with growing boys and
noisy dogs; and Mrs. Field, a sweet and patient soul, seemed sadly out
of key with her husband's habit of buying collections of rare moths,
door-knockers, and candle molds with money which should have gone to buy
chairs and carpets or trousers for the boys.

Eugene was one of the first "Colyumists" in the country, and to fill his
"Sharps and Flats" levied pitilessly upon his friends. From time to time
we all figured as subjects for his humorous paragraphs; but each new
victim understood and smiled. For example, in his column I read one
morning these words: "La Crosse, a small city in Wisconsin, famous for
the fact that all its trains back into town, and as the home of Hamlin
Garland."

He was one of the most popular of Western writers, and his home of a
Sunday was usually crowded with visitors, many of whom were actors. I
recall meeting Francis Wilson there--also E. S. Willard and Bram
Stoker--but I do not remember to have seen Fuller there, although,
later, Roswell, Eugene's brother, became Fuller's intimate friend.

George Ade, a thin, pale, bright-eyed young Hoosier, was a frequent
visitor at Field's. George had just begun to make a place for himself as
the author of a column in the _News_ called "Stories of the Street and
of the Town"; and John T. McCutcheon, another Hoosier of the same lean
type was his illustrator. I believed in them both and took a kind of
elder brother interest in their work.

In the companionship of men like Field and Browne and Taft, I was happy.
My writing went well, and if I regretted Boston, I had the pleasant
sense of being so near West Salem that I could go to bed in a train at
ten at night, and breakfast with my mother in the morning, and just to
prove that this was true I ran up to the Homestead at Christmas time and
delivered my presents in person--keenly enjoying the smile of delight
with which my mother received them.

West Salem was like a scene on the stage that day--a setting for a rural
mid-winter drama. The men in their gayly-colored Mackinac jackets, the
sleighbells jingling pleasantly along the lanes, the cottage roofs laden
with snow, and the sidewalks, walled with drifts, were almost arctic in
their suggestion, and yet, my parents in the shelter of the friendly
hills, were at peace. The cold was not being driven against them by the
wind of the plain, and a plentiful supply of food and fuel made their
fireside comfortable and secure.

During this vacation I seized the opportunity to go a little farther and
spend a few days in the Pineries which I had never seen. Out of this
experience I gained some beautiful pictures of the snowy forest, and a
suggestion for a story or two. A few days later, on a commission from
_McClure's_, I was in Pittsburg writing an article on "Homestead and Its
Perilous Trades," and the clouds of smoke, the flaming chimneys, the
clang of steel, the roar of blast-furnaces and the thunder of monstrous
steel rollers made Wisconsin lumber camps idyllic. The serene white
peace of West Salem set Pittsburg apart as a sulphurous hell and my
description of it became a passionate indictment of an industrial system
which could so work and so house its men. The grimy hovels in which the
toilers lived made my own homestead a poem. More than ever convinced
that our social order was unjust and impermanent, I sent in my "story,"
in some doubt about its being accepted. It was printed with
illustrations by Orson Lowell and was widely quoted at the time.

Soon after this I made a trip to Memphis, thus gaining my first
impression of the South. Like most northern visitors, I was immediately
and intensely absorbed in the negroes. Their singing entranced me, and
my hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Judah, hired a trio of black minstrels to come in
and perform for me. Their songs so moved me, and I became so interested
in one old negro's curious chants that I fairly wore them out with
demands for their most characteristic spirituals. Some of the hymns were
of such sacred character that one of the men would not sing them. "I
ain't got no right to sing dem songs," he said.

In Atlanta I met Joel Chandler Harris, who had done so much to portray
the negro's inner kindliness, as well as his singularly poetic outlook.
Harris was one of the editors of the _Atlanta Constitution_, and there I
found him in a bare, prosaic office, a short, shy, red-haired man whom I
liked at once. Two nights later I was dining with James A. Herne and
William Dean Howells in New York City, and the day following I read some
of my verses for the Nineteenth Century Club. At the end of March I was
again at my desk in Chicago.

These sudden changes of scene, these dramatic meetings, so typical of my
life for many years, took away all sense of drudgery, all routine
weariness. Seldom remaining in any one place long enough to become bored
I had little chance to bore others. Literary clubs welcomed my readings
and lectures; and, being vigorous and of good digestion, I accepted
travel as a diversion as well as a business. As a student of American
life, I was resolved to know every phase of it.

Among my pleasant jobs I recall the putting into shape of a "Real
Conversation" with James Whitcomb Riley, the material for which had been
gained in a visit to Greenfield, Riley's native town, during August of
the previous year.

My first meeting with Riley had been in Boston at a time when I was a
penniless student and he the shining, highly-paid lecturer; and I still
suffered a feeling of wonder that a poet--any poet--could demand such
pay. I did not resent it--I only marveled at it--for in our conversation
he had made his philosophy plain.

"Tell of the things just like they was, they don't need no excuse," one
of his characters said. "Don't tech 'em up as the poets does till
they're all too fine fer use," and in his talk with me Riley quaintly
added, "Nature is good enough for God, it's good enough for me."

In this article which I wrote for _McClure's_, I made comment on the
essential mystery of the poet's art, a conjury which is able to
transmute a perfectly commonplace landscape into something fine and
mellow and sweet; for the region in which Riley spent his youth, and
from which he derived most of his later material, was to me a depressing
land, a country without a hill, a river or a lake; a commonplace
country, flat, unkempt and without a line of beauty, and yet from these
rude fields and simple gardens the singer had drawn the sweetest honey
of song, song with a tang in it, like the odor of ripe buckwheat and the
taste of frost-bit persimmons. It reinforced my resolution that the
mid-land was about to blossom into art.

In travel and in work such as this and in pleasant intercourse with the
painters, sculptors, and writers of Chicago my first winter in the
desolate, drab, and tumultuous city passed swiftly and on the whole
profitably, I no longer looked backward to Boston, but as the first warm
spring-winds began to blow, my thoughts turned towards my newly-acquired
homestead and the old mother who was awaiting me there.

Eager to start certain improvements which should tend to make the house
more nearly the kind of dwelling place I had promised myself it should
become, hungry for the soil, rejoicing in the thought of once more
planting and building, I took the train for the North with all my summer
ward-robe and most of my manuscripts, with no intention of reëntering
the city till October at the earliest.



CHAPTER TWO

I Return to the Saddle


To pass from the crowds, the smoke and the iron clangor of Chicago into
the clear April air of West Salem was a celestial change for me. For
many years the clock of my seasons had been stilled. The coming of the
birds, the budding of the leaves, the serial blossoming of spring had
not touched me, and as I walked up the street that exquisite morning, a
reminiscent ecstasy filled my heart. The laughter of the robins, the
shrill ki-ki-ki of the golden-wing woodpeckers, and the wistful whistle
of the lark, brought back my youth, my happiest youth, and when my
mother met me at the door it seemed that all my cares and all my years
of city life had fallen from me.

"Well, here I am!" I called, "ready for the spring's work."

With a silent laugh, as preface, she replied, "You'll get a-plenty. Your
father is all packed, impatient to leave for Ordway."

The old soldier, who came in from the barn a few moments later,
confirmed this. "I'm no truck farmer," he explained with humorous
contempt. "I turn this onion patch over to you. It's no place for me. In
two days I'll be broad-casting wheat on a thousand-acre farm. That's my
size"--a fact which I admitted.

As we sat at breakfast he went on to say that he found Wisconsin
woefully unprogressive. "These fellows back here are all stuck in the
mud. They've got to wake up to the reform movements. I'll be glad to
get back to Dakota where people are alive."

With the spirit of the seed-sower swelling within him he took the noon
train, handing over to me the management of the Homestead.

An hour later mother and I went out to inspect the garden and to plan
the seeding. The pie-plant leaves were unfolding and slender asparagus
spears were pointing from the mold. The smell of burning leaves brought
back to us both, with magic power, memories of the other springs and
other plantings on the plain. It was glorious, it was medicinal!

"This is the life!" I exultantly proclaimed. "Work is just what I need.
I shall set to it at once. Aren't you glad you are here in this lovely
valley and not out on the bleak Dakota plain?"

Mother's face sobered. "Yes, I like it here--it seems more like home
than any other place--and yet I miss the prairie and my Ordway friends."

As I went about the village I came to a partial understanding of her
feeling. The small dark shops, the uneven sidewalks, the rickety wooden
awnings were closely in character with the easy-going citizens who moved
leisurely and contentedly about their small affairs. It came to me (with
a sense of amusement) that these coatless shopkeepers who dealt out
sugar and kerosene while wearing their derby hats on the backs of their
heads, were not only my neighbors, but members of the Board of
Education. Though still primitive to my city eyes, they no longer
appeared remote. Something in their names and voices touched me nearly.
They were American. Their militant social democracy was at once comical
and corrective.

O, the peace, the sweetness of those days! To be awakened by the valiant
challenge of early-rising roosters; to hear the chuckle of dawn-light
worm-hunting robins brought a return of boy-hood's exultation. Not only
did my muscles harden to the spade and the hoe, my soul rejoiced in a
new and delightful sense of establishment. I had returned to
citizenship. I was a proprietor. The clock of the seasons had resumed
its beat.

Hiring a gardener, I bought a hand-book on Horticulture and announced my
intent to make those four fat acres feed my little flock. I was now a
land enthusiast. My feet laid hold upon the earth. I almost took root!

With what secret satisfaction I planned to widen the front porch and
build a two-story bay-window on the north end of the sitting room--an
enterprise of such audacity that I kept it strictly to myself! It meant
the extravagant outlay of nearly two hundred dollars--but above and
beyond that, it involved cutting a hole in the wall and cluttering up
the yard; therefore I thought it best to keep my plot hidden from my
mother till mid-summer gave more leisure to us all.

My notebook of that spring is crowded with descriptions, almost lyrical,
of the glory of sunsets and the beauty of bird-song and budding
trees--even the loud-voiced, cheerful democracy of the village was
grateful to me.

"Yesterday I was deep in the tumult of Chicago," runs the entry,
"to-day, I am hoeing in my sun-lit garden, hearing the mourning-dove coo
and the cat-birds cry. Last night as the sun went down the hill-tops to
the west became vividly purple with a subtle illusive deep-crimson glow
beneath, while the sky above their tops, a saffron dome rose almost to
the zenith. These mystical things are here joined: The trill of
black-birds near at hand, the cackle of barn-yard fowls, the sound of
hammers, a plowman talking to his team, the pungent smoke of burning
leaves, the cool, sweet, spring wind and the glowing down-pouring
sunshine--all marvelous and satisfying to me and mine. _This is home!_"

On the twelfth of April, however, a most dramatic reversal to winter
took place. "The day remained beautifully springlike till about two
o'clock when a gray haze came rushing downward from the north-west. Big
black clouds developed with portentous rapidity. Thunder arose, and an
icy wind, furious and swift as a tornado roared among the trees. The
rain, chilled almost into hail, drummed on the shingles. The birds fell
silent, the hens scurried to shelter. In ten minutes the cutting blast
died out. A dead calm succeeded. Then out burst the sun, flooding the
land with laughter! The black-birds resumed their piping, the fowls
ventured forth, and the whole valley again lay beaming and blossoming
under a perfect sky."

The following night I was in the city watching a noble performance of
"Tristan and Isolde!"

I took enormous satisfaction in the fact that I could plant peas in my
garden till noon and hear a concert in Chicago on the same day. The
arrangement seemed ideal.

On May 9th I was again at home, "the first whippoorwill sang
to-night--trees are in full leaf," I note.

In a big square room in the eastern end of the house, I set up a
handmade walnut desk which I had found in LaCrosse, and on this I began
to write in the inspiration of morning sun-shine and bird-song. For four
hours I bent above my pen, and each afternoon I sturdily flourished
spade and hoe, while mother hobbled about with cane in hand to see that
I did it right. "You need watching," she laughingly said.

With a cook and a housemaid, a man to work the garden, and a horse to
plow out my corn and potatoes, I began to wear the composed dignity of
an earl. I pruned trees, shifted flower beds and established berry
patches with the large-handed authority of a southern planter. It was
comical, it was delightful!

To eat home-cooked meals after years of dreadful restaurants gave me
especial satisfaction, but alas! there was a flaw in my lute. We had to
eat in our living room; and when I said "Mother, one of these days I'm
going to move the kitchen to the south and build a real sure-enough
dining room in between," she turned upon me with startled gaze.

"You'd better think a long time about that," she warningly replied.
"We're perfectly comfortable the way we are."

"Comfortable? Yes, but we must begin to think of being luxurious.
There's nothing too good for you, mother."

Early in July my brother Franklin joined me in the garden work, and then
my mother's cup of contentment fairly overflowed its brim. So far as we
knew she had no care, no regret. Day by day she sat in an easy chair
under the trees, watching us as we played ball on the lawn, or cut weeds
in the garden; and each time we looked at her, we both acknowledged a
profound sense of satisfaction, of relief. Never again would she burn in
the suns of the arid plains, or cower before the winds of a desolate
winter. She was secure. "You need never work again," I assured her. "You
can get up when you please and go to bed when you please. Your only job
is to sit in the shade and boss the rest of us," and to this she
answered only with a silent, characteristic chuckle of delight.

"The Junior," as I called my brother, enjoyed the homestead quite as
much as I. Together we painted the porch, picked berries, hoed potatoes,
and trimmed trees. Everything we did, everything we saw, recovered for
us some part of our distant boyhood. The noble lines of the hills to the
west, the weeds of the road-side, the dusty weather-beaten,
covered-bridges, the workmen in the fields, the voices of our neighbors,
the gossip of the village--all these sights and sounds awakened
deep-laid, associated tender memories. The cadence of every song, the
quality of every resounding jest made us at home, once and for all. Our
twenty-five-year stay on the level lands of Iowa and Dakota seemed only
an unsuccessful family exploration--our life in the city merely a
business, winter adventure.

To visit among the farmers--to help at haying or harvesting, brought
back minute touches of the olden, wondrous prairie world. We went
swimming in the river just as we used to do when lads, rejoicing in the
caress of the wind, the sting of the cool water, and on such expeditions
we often thought of Burton and others of our play-mates faraway, and of
Uncle David, in his California exile. "I wish he, too, could enjoy this
sweet and tranquil world," I said, and in this desire my brother joined.

We wore the rudest and simplest clothing, and hoed (when we hoed) with
furious strokes; but as the sun grew hot we usually fled to the shade of
the great maples which filled the back yard, and there, at ease,
recounted the fierce toil of the Iowa harvest fields, recalling the
names of the men who shared it with us,--and so, while all around us
green things valorously expanded, and ripening apples turned to scarlet
and gold in their coverts of green, we burrowed deep in the soil like
the badger which is the symbol of our native state.

After so many years of bleak and treeless farm-lands, it seemed that our
mother could not get enough of the luxuriant foliage, the bloom and the
odorous sweetness of this lovely valley. Hour by hour, day by day, she
sat on the porch, or out under the trees, watching the cloud shadows
slide across the hills, hearing the whistle of the orioles and the love
songs of the cat-bird, happy in the realization that both her sons
were, at last, within the sound of her voice. She had but one
unsatisfied desire (a desire which she shyly reiterated), and that was
her longing for a daughter, but neither Frank nor I, at the moment, had
any well-defined hope of being able to fulfill that demand.

My life had not been one to bring about intimate relationships with
women. I had been too poor and too busy in Boston to form any
connections other than just good friendships, and even now, my means
would not permit a definite thought of marriage. "Where can I keep a
wife? My two little rooms in Chicago are all the urban home I can
afford, and to bring a daughter of the city to live in West Salem would
be dangerous." Nevertheless, I promised mother that on my return to
Chicago, I would look around and see what I could find.

For three months--that is to say during May, June and July, I remained
concerned with potato bugs, currant worms, purslane and other important
garden concerns, but in August I started on a tour which had
far-reaching effects.

Though still at work upon _Rose of Dutcher's Coolly_, I was beginning to
meditate on themes connected with Colorado, and as the heat of July
intensified in the low country, I fell to dreaming of the swift mountain
streams whose bright waters I had seen in a previous trip, and so
despite all my protestations, I found myself in Colorado Springs one
August day, a guest of Louis Ehrich, a New Yorker and fellow reformer,
in exile for his health. It was at his table that I met Professor
Fernow, chief of the National Bureau of Forestry, who was in the west on
a tour of the Federal Forests, and full of enthusiasm for his science.

His talk interested me enormously. I forecast, dimly, something of the
elemental change which scientific control was about to bring into the
mountain west, and when (sensing my genuine interest) he said "Why not
accompany me on my round?" I accepted instantly, and my good friends,
the Ehrichs out-fitted me for the enterprise.

We left next day for Glenwood Springs, at which point Fernow hired
horses and a guide who knew the streams and camps of the White River
Plateau, and early on the second morning we set out on a trail which, in
a literary sense, carried me a long way and into a new world. From the
plain I ascended to the peaks. From the barbed-wire lanes of Iowa and
Kansas I entered the thread-like paths of the cliffs, and (most
important of all) I returned to the saddle. I became once more the
horseman in a region of horsemen.

For the first time in nearly twenty years I swung to the saddle, and by
that act recovered a power and a joy which only verse could express. I
found myself among men of such endurance and hardihood that I was
ashamed to complain of my aching bones and overstrained muscles--men to
whom dark nights, precipitous trails, noxious insects, mud and storms
were all "a part of the game."

In those few days I absorbed the essential outlines of a new world. My
note-book of the time is proof of it--and "The Prairie in the Sky,"
which was the title of the article I wrote for _Harper's Weekly_, is
further evidence of it. How beautiful it all was! As I look back upon it
I see green parks lit with larkspur and painter's brush. I taste the
marvelous freshness of the air. The ptarmigan scuttles away among the
rocks, the marmot whistles, the conies utter their slender wistful
cries.

That trail led me back to the hunter's cabin, to the miner's shack on
whose rough-hewn walls the fire-light flickered in a kind of silent
music. It set me once again in the atmosphere of daring and filled me
with the spirit of pioneer adventure.

In a physical sense I ended my exploration ten days later, but in
imagination I continued to ride "The High Country." I had entered a
fresh scene--discovered a new enthusiasm.

By this I do not mean to imply that I at once set about the composition
of a Wild West novel, but for those who may be interested in the
literary side of this chronicle, I will admit that this splendid trip
into high Colorado, marks the beginning of my career as a fictionist of
the Mountain West.

Thereafter neither the coulee country nor the prairie served exclusively
as material for my books. From the plains, which were becoming each year
more crowded, more prosaic, I fled in imagination as in fact to the
looming silver-and-purple summits of the Continental Divide, while in my
mind an ambition to embody, as no one at that time had done, the spirit
and the purpose of the Rocky Mountain trailer was vaguely forming in my
mind. To my home in Wisconsin I carried back a fragment of rock, whose
gray mass, beautifully touched with gold and amber and orange-colored
lichens formed a part of the narrow causeway which divides the White
River from the Bear. It was a talisman of the land whose rushing waters,
majestic forests and exquisite Alpine meadows I desired to hold in
memory, and with this stone on my desk I wrote. It aided me in recalling
the scenes and the characters I had so keenly admired.

       *       *       *       *       *

In calling upon Lorado one afternoon soon after my return to Chicago I
was surprised and a little disconcerted to find two strange young ladies
making themselves very much at home in his studio. In greeting me he
remarked in a mood of sly mischief, "You will not approve of these
girls--they are on their way to Paris to study sculpture, but I want
you to know them. They are Janet Scudder and my sister Zulime."

Up to this time, notwithstanding our growing friendship, I was not aware
that he had a sister, but I greeted Miss Taft with something like
fraternal interest. She was a handsome rather pale girl with fine,
serious gray-blue eyes, and a composed and graceful manner. Her profile
was particularly good and as she was not greatly interested in looking
at me I had an excellent chance to study her.

Lorado explained "My sister has been in Kansas visiting mother and
father and is now on her way to New York to take a steamer for
France.... She intends to remain abroad for two years," he added.

Knowing that I was at that moment in the midst of writing a series of
essays on _The National Spirit in American Art_, he expected this to
draw my fire--and it did. "Why go abroad," I demanded bluntly. "Why not
stay right here and study modeling with your brother? Paris is no place
for an American artist."

With an amused glance at her friend, Miss Scudder, Miss Taft replied in
a tone of tolerant contempt for my ignorance, "One doesn't get very far
in art without Paris."

Somewhat nettled by her calm inflection and her supercilious glance I
hotly retorted, "Nonsense! You can acquire all the technic you require,
right here in Chicago. If you are in earnest, and are really in search
of instruction you can certainly get it in Boston or New York. Stay in
your own country whatever you do. This sending students at their most
impressionable age to the Old World to absorb Old World conventions and
prejudices is all wrong. It makes of them something which is neither
American nor European. Suppose France did that? No nation has an art
worth speaking of unless it has a national spirit."

Of course this is only a brief report of my harangue which might just
as well have remained unspoken, so far as Miss Taft was concerned, and
when her brother came to her aid I retired worsted. The two pilgrims
went their way leaving me to hammer Lorado at my leisure.

I wish I could truthfully say that this brief meeting with Zulime Taft
filled me with a deep desire to see her again but I cannot do so. On the
contrary, my recollection is that I considered her a coldly-haughty
young person running away from her native land, not to study art but to
have a pleasant time in Paris--while she (no doubt) regarded me as a
rude, forth-putting anarch--which I was. At this point our acquaintance
and our controversy rested.

As the months and years passed I heard of her only through some
incidental remark of her brother. Having no slightest premonition of the
part she was to play in my after life, I made no inquiries concerning
her. She, however, followed me--as I afterward learned, by means of my
essays and stories in the magazines but remained quite uninterested (so
far as I know) in the personality of their author.



CHAPTER THREE

In the Footsteps of General Grant


Among the new esthetic and literary enterprises which the Exposition had
brought to Chicago was the high-spirited publishing firm of Stone and
Kimball, which started out valiantly in the spring of '94. The head of
the house, a youth just out of Harvard, was Herbert Stone, son of my
friend Melville Stone, manager of the Associated Press. Kimball was
Herbert's classmate.

Almost before he had opened his office, Herbert came to me to get a
manuscript. "Eugene Field has given us one," he urged, "and we want one
from you. We are starting a real publishing house in Chicago and we need
your support."

There was no resisting such an appeal. Having cast in my lot with
Chicago, it was inevitable that I should ally myself with its newest
literary enterprise, a business which expressed something of my faith in
the west. Not only did I turn over to Stone the rights to _Main Traveled
Roads_, together with a volume of verse--I promised him a book of
essays--and a novel.

These aspiring young collegians were joined in '95 by another Harvard
man, a tall, dark, smooth-faced youth named Harrison Rhodes, and when,
of an afternoon these three missionaries of culture each in a long frock
coat, tightly buttoned, with cane, gloves and shining silk hats, paced
side by side down the Lake Shore Drive they had the effect of an
esthetic invasion, but their crowning audacity was a printed circular
which announced that tea would be served in their office in the Caxton
Building on Saturday afternoons! Finally as if to convince the city of
their utter madness, this intrepid trio adventured the founding of a
literary magazine to be called _The Chap Book!_ Culture on the Middle
Border had at last begun to hum!

Despite the smiles of elderly scoffers, the larger number of my esthetic
associates felt deeply grateful to these devoted literary pioneers,
whose taste, enterprise and humor were all sorely needed "in our midst."
If not precisely cosmopolitan they were at least in touch with London.

Early in '94 they brought out a lovely edition of _Main Traveled Roads_
and a new book called _Prairie Songs_. Neither of these volumes
sold--the firm had no special facilities for selling books, but their
print and binding delighted me, and in the autumn of the same year I
gladly let them publish a collection of essays called _Crumbling Idols_,
a small screed which aroused an astonishing tumult of comment, mostly
antagonistic. Walter Page, editor of the _Forum_, in which one of the
key-note chapters appeared, told me that over a thousand editorials were
written upon my main thesis.

In truth the attention which this iconoclastic declaration of faith
received at the hands of critics was out of all proportion to its size.
Its explosive power was amazing. As I read it over now, with the clamor
of "Cubism," "Imagism" and "Futurism" in my ears, it seems a harmless
and on the whole rather reasonable plea for National Spirit and the
freedom of youth, but in those days all of my books had mysterious power
for arousing opposition, and most reviews of my work were so savage that
I made a point of not reading them for the reason that they either
embittered me, or were so lacking in discrimination as to have no value.
In spite of all appearances to the contrary, I hated contention,
therefore I left consideration of these assaults entirely to my
publishers. (I learned afterwards that Miss Taft was greatly interested
in _Crumbling Idols_. Perhaps she assumed that I was writing at her.)

Meanwhile in _Rose of Dutcher's Coolly_, the manuscript of which I had
carried about with me on many of my lecturing trips, I was attempting to
embody something of Chicago life, a task which I found rather difficult.
After nine years of life in Boston, the city by the lake seemed
depressingly drab and bleak, and my only hope lay in representing it not
as I saw it, but as it appeared to my Wisconsin heroine who came to it
from Madison and who perceived in it the mystery and the beauty which I
had lost. To Rose, fresh from the farm, it was a great capital, and the
lake a majestic sea. As in _A Spoil of Office_, I had tried to maintain
the point of view of a countryman, so now I attempted to embody in _Rose
of Dutcher's Coolly_, a picture of Chicago as an ambitious young girl
from the Wisconsin farm would see it.

In my story Rose Dutcher made her way from Bluff Siding to the State
University, and from Madison to a fellowship in the artistic and
literary Chicago, of which I was a part. Her progress was intended to be
typical. I said, "I will depict the life of a girl who has ambitious
desires, and works toward her goal as blindly and as determinedly as a
boy." It was a new thesis so far as Western girls were concerned, and I
worked long and carefully on the problem, carrying the manuscript back
and forth with me for two years.

As spring came on, I again put "Rose" in my trunk and hastened back to
West Salem in order to build the two-story bay-window which I had
minutely planned, which was, indeed, almost as important as my
story and much more exciting. To begin the foundation of that
extension was like setting in motion the siege of a city! It was
extravagant--reckless--nevertheless assisted by a neighbor who was
clever at any kind of building, I set to work in boyish, illogical
enthusiasm.

Mother watched us tear out and rebuild with uneasy glance but when the
windows were in and a new carpet with an entire "parlor suite" to match,
arrived from the city, her alarm became vocal. "You mustn't spend your
money for things like these. We can't afford such luxuries."

"Don't you worry about my money," I replied, "There's more where I found
this. There's nothing too good for you, mother."

How sweet and sane and peaceful and afar off those blessed days seem to
me as I muse over this page. At the village shops sirloin steak was ten
cents a pound, chickens fifty cents a pair and as for eggs--I couldn't
give ours away, at least in the early summer,--and all about us were
gardens laden with fruit and vegetables, more than we could eat or sell
or feed to the pigs. Wars were all in the past and life a simple matter
of working out one's own individual problems. Never again shall I feel
that confidence in the future, that joy in the present. I had no
doubts--none that I can recall.

My brother came again in June and joyfully aided me in my esthetic
pioneering. We amazed the town by seeding down a potato patch and laying
out a tennis court thereon, the first play-ground of its kind in
Hamilton township, and often as we played of an afternoon, farmers on
their way to market with loads of grain or hogs, paused to watch our
game and make audible comment on our folly. We also bought a lawn-mower,
the second in the town, and shaved our front yard. We took down the old
picket fence in front of the house and we planted trees and flowers,
until at last some of the elderly folk disgustedly exclaimed, "What
won't them Garland boys do next!"

Without doubt we "started something" in the sleepy village. Others
following our example went so far as to take down their own fences and
to buy lawn-mowers. That we were planning waterworks and a bath-room
remained a secret--this was too revolutionary to be spoken of for the
present. We were forced to make progress slowly.

_Rose of Dutcher's Coolly_, published during this year, was attacked
quite as savagely as _Main Traveled Roads_ had been, and this criticism
saddened and depressed me. With a foolish notion that the Middle West
should take a moderate degree of pride in me, I resented this
condemnation. "Am I not making in my small way the same sort of
historical record of the west that Whittier and Holmes secured for New
England?" I asked my friends. "Am I not worthy of an occasional friendly
word, a message of encouragement?"

Of course I should have risen superior to these local misjudgments, and
in fact I did keep to my work although only a faint voice here and there
was raised in my defence. Even after _Rose_ had been introduced to
London by William Stead, and Henry James and Israel Zangwill and James
Barrie had all written in praise of her, the editors of the western
papers still maintained a consistently militant attitude. Perhaps I
should have taken comfort from the fact that they considered me worth
assaulting, but that kind of comfort is rather bleak at its best,
especially when the sales of your book are so small as to be
confirmatory of the critic.

Without doubt this persistent antagonism, this almost universal
depreciation of my stories of the plains had something to do with
intensifying the joy with which I returned to the mountain world and
its heroic types, at any rate I spent July and August of that year in
Colorado and New Mexico, making many observations, which turned out to
have incalculable value to me in later days. From a roundup in the
Current Creek country I sauntered down through Salida, Ouray, Telluride,
Durango and the Ute Reservation, a circuit which filled my mind with
noble suggestions for stories and poems, a tour which profoundly
influenced my life as well as my writing.

The little morocco-covered notebook in which I set down some of my
impressions is before me as I write. It still vibrates with the ecstasy
of that enthusiasm. Sentences like these are frequent. "From the dry hot
plains, across the blazing purple of the mesa's edge, I look away to
where the white clouds soar in majesty above the serrate crest of
Uncomphagre. Oh, the splendor and mystery of those cloud-hid regions!...
A coyote, brown and dry and hot as any tuft of desert grass drifts
by.... Into the coolness and sweetness and cloud-glory of this marvelous
land.... Gorgeous shadows are in motion on White House Peak.... Along
the trail as though walking a taut wire, a caravan of burros streams,
driven by a wide-hatted graceful horseman.... Twelve thousand feet! I am
brother to the eagles now! The matchless streams, the vivid
orange-colored meadows. The deep surf-like roar of the firs, the wailing
sigh of the wind in the grass--a passionate longing wind." Such are my
jottings.

In these pages I can now detect the beginnings of a dozen of my stories,
a score of my poems. No other of my trips was ever so inspirational.

Not content with the wonders of Colorado I drifted down to Santa Fé and
Isleta, with Charles Francis Browne and Hermon MacNeill, and got finally
to Holbrook, where we outfitted and rode away across the desert, bound
for the Snake Dance at Walpi. It would seem that we had decided to
share all there was of romance in the South West. They were as insatiate
as I.

For a week we lived on the mesa at Walpi in the house of Heli. Aided by
Dr. Fewkes of Washington, we saw most of the phases of the snake
ceremonies. The doctor and his own men were camped at the foot of the
mesa, making a special study of the Hopi and their history. Remote,
incredibly remote it all seemed even at that time, and some of that
charm I put into an account of it which _Harper's_ published--one of the
earliest popular accounts of the Snake Dance.

One night as I was standing on the edge of the cliff looking out over
the sand to the west, I saw a train of pack horses moving toward Walpi
like a jointed, canvas-colored worm. It was the outfit of another party
of "tourists" coming to the dance, and half an hour later a tall, lean,
brown and smiling man of middle life rode up the eastern trail at the
head of his train.

Greeting me pleasantly he asked, "Has the ceremony begun?"

"The snakes are in process of being gathered," I replied, "but you are
in time for the most interesting part of the festival."

In response to a question he explained, "I've been studying the
Cliff-Dwellings of the Mesa Verde. My name is Pruden. I am from New
York."

It was evident that "The Doctor" (as his guides called him) was not only
a man of wide experience on the trail, but a scientist as well, and I
found him most congenial.

We spent the evening together, and together we witnessed the mysterious
snake dance which the natives of Walpi give every other year--a ceremony
so incredibly primitive that it carried me back into the stone age, and
three days later (leaving Browne and MacNeill to paint and sculpture the
Hopi) we went to Zuni and Acoma and at last to the Grand Cañon of the
Colorado, a trip which laid upon my mind a thousand glorious impressions
of the desert and its life. It was so beautiful, so marvelous that sand
and flies and hunger and thirst were forgotten.

Aside from its esthetic delight, this summer turned out to be the most
profitable season of my whole career. It marks a complete 'bout face in
my march. Coming just after _Rose of Dutcher's Coolly_, it dates the
close of my prairie tales and the beginning of a long series of mountain
stories. Cripple Creek and the Current Creek country suggested _The
Eagle's Heart_, _Witches' Gold_, _Money Magic_, and a dozen shorter
romances. In truth every page of my work thereafter was colored by the
experiences of this glorious savage splendid summer.

The reasons are easy to define. All my emotional relationships with the
"High Country" were pleasant, my sense of responsibility was less keen,
hence the notes of resentment, of opposition to unjust social conditions
which had made my other books an offense to my readers were almost
entirely absent in my studies of the mountaineers. My pity was less
challenged in their case. Lonely as their lives were, it was not a
sordid loneliness. The cattle rancher was at least not a drudge.
Careless, slovenly and wasteful as I knew him to be, he was not mean. He
had something of the Centaur in his bearing. Marvelous horsemanship
dignified his lean figure and lent a notable grace to his gestures. His
speech was picturesque and his observations covered a wide area.
Self-reliant, fearless, instant of action in emergency, his character
appealed to me with ever-increasing power.

I will not say that I consciously and deliberately cut myself off from
my prairie material, the desertion came about naturally. Swiftly,
inevitably, the unplowed valleys, the waterless foothills and the high
peaks, inspired me, filled me with desire to embody them in some form of
prose, of verse.

Laden with a myriad impressions of Indians, mountaineers and miners, I
returned to my home as a bee to its hive, and there, during October, in
my quiet chamber worked fast and fervently to transform my rough notes
into fiction. Making no attempt to depict the West as some one else had
seen it, or might thereafter see it, I wrote of it precisely as it
appeared to me, verifying every experience, for, although I had not
lingered long in any one place--a few weeks at most--I had observed
closely and my impressions were clearly and deeply graved.

In fear of losing that freshness of delight, that emotion which gave me
inspiration, I had made copious notes while in the field and although I
seldom referred to them after I reached my desk, the very act of putting
them down had helped to organize and fix them in my mind.

All of September and October was spent at the Homestead. Each morning I
worked at my writing, and in the afternoon I drove my mother about the
country or wrought some improvement to the place.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the midst of these new literary enthusiasms I received a message
which had a most disturbing effect on my plans. It was a letter from Sam
McClure whose new little magazine was beginning to show astonishing
vitality. "I want you to write for me a life of Ulysses Grant. I want it
to follow Ida Tarbell's _Lincoln_ which is now nearing an end. Come to
New York and talk it over."

This request arrested me in my fictional progress. I was tempted to
accept this commission, not merely because of the editor's generous
terms of payment but for the deeper reason that _Grant_ was a word of
epic significance in my mind. From the time when I was three years of
age, this great name had rung in my ears like the sound of a mellow
bell. I knew I could write Grant's story--but--I hesitated.

"It is a mighty theme," I replied, "and yet I am not sure that I ought
to give so much of my time at this, the most creative period of my life.
It may change the whole current of my imagination."

My father, whose attitude toward the great Commander held much of
hero-worship and who had influenced my childish thinking, influenced me
now, but aside from his instruction I had come to consider Grant's
career more marvelous than that of any other American both by reason of
its wide arc of experience and its violent dramatic contrasts. It lent
itself to epic treatment. With a feeling that if I could put this deeply
significant and distinctively American story into a readable volume, I
should be adding something to American literature as well as to my own
life, I consented. Dropping my fictional plans for the time I became the
historian.

In order to make the biography a study from first-hand material I
planned a series of inspirational trips which filled in a large part of
'96. Beginning at Georgetown, Ohio, where I found several of Grant's
boyhood playmates, I visited Ripley, where he went to school, and then
at the Academy at West Point I spent several days examining the records.
In addition, I went to each of the barracks at which young Grant had
been stationed. Sacketts Harbor, Detroit and St. Louis yielded their
traditions. A month in Mexico enabled me to trace out on foot not only
the battle grounds of Monterey, but that of Vera Cruz, Puebla and Molina
del Rey. No spot on which Grant had lived long enough to leave a
definite impression was neglected. In this work I had the support of
William Dean Howells who insisted on my doing the book bravely.

In pursuit of material concerning Grant's later life I interviewed
scores of his old neighbors in Springfield and Galena, and in pursuit of
his classmates, men like Buckner and Longstreet and Wright and Franklin,
I took long journeys. In short I spared no pains to give my material a
first-hand quality, and in doing this I traveled nearly thirty thousand
miles, making many interesting acquaintances, in more than half the
states of the Union.

During all these activities, however, the old Wisconsin farmhouse
remained my pivot. In my intervals of rest I returned to my study and
made notes of the vividly contrasting scenes through which I had passed.
Orizaba and Jalapa, Perote with its snowy mountains rising above hot,
cactus-covered plains, and Mexico City became almost dream-like by
contrast with the placid beauty of Neshonoc. Some of my experiences,
like "the Passion Play at Coyocan," for example, took on a medieval
quality, so incredibly remote was its scene,--and yet, despite all this
travel, notwithstanding my study of cities and soldiers and battle maps,
I could not forget to lay out my garden. I kept my mother supplied with
all the necessaries and a few of the luxuries of life.

In my note book of that time I find these lines: "I have a feeling of
swift change in art and literature here in America. This latest trip to
New York has shocked and saddened me. To watch the struggle, to feel the
bitterness and intolerance of the various groups--to find one clique of
artists set against another, to know that most of those who come here
will fail and die--is appalling. The City is filled with strugglers,
students of art, ambitious poets, journalists, novelists, writers of all
kinds--I meet them at the clubs--some of them will be the large figures
of 1900, most of them will have fallen under the wheel--This bitter war
of Realists and Romanticists will be the jest of those who come after
us, and they in their turn will be full of battle ardor with other cries
and other banners. How is it possible to make much account of the cries
and banners of to-day when I know they will be forgotten of all but the
students of literary history?"

My contract with _McClure's_ called for an advance of fifty dollars a
week (more money than I had ever hoped to earn) and with this in
prospect I purchased a new set of dinner china and a piano, which filled
my mother's heart with delight. As I thought of her living long weeks in
the old homestead with only my invalid aunt for company my conscience
troubled me, and as it was necessary for me to go to Washington to
complete my history, I attempted to mitigate her loneliness by buying a
talking machine, through which I was able send her messages and songs.
She considered these wax cylinders a poor substitute for my actual
voice, but she got some entertainment from them by setting the machine
going for the amazement of her callers.

November saw me settled in Washington, hard at work on my history, but
all the time my mind was working, almost unconsciously, on my new
fictional problems, "After all, I am a novelist," I wrote to Fuller, and
I found time even in the midst of my historical study to compose an
occasional short story of Colorado or Mexico.

Magazine editors were entirely hospitable to me now, for my tales of the
Indian and the miner had created a friendlier spirit among their
readers. My later themes were, happily, quite outside the controversial
belt. Concerned less with the hopeless drudgery, and more with the epic
side of western life, I found myself almost popular. My critics, once
off their guard, were able to praise, cautiously it is true, but to
praise. Some of them assured me with paternal gravity that I might, by
following their suggestions become a happy and moderately successful
writer, and this prosperity, you may be sure, was reflected to some
degree in the dining room of the old Homestead.

My father, though glad of the shelter of the Wisconsin hills in winter,
was too vigorous,--far too vigorous--to be confined to the limits of a
four-acre garden patch, and when I urged him to join me in buying one of
the fine level farms in our valley he agreed, but added "I must sell my
Dakota land first."

With this I was forced to be content. Though sixty years old he still
steered the six-horse header in harvest time, tireless and unsubdued.
Times were improving slowly, very slowly in Dakota but opportunities for
selling his land were still remote. He was not willing to make the
necessary sacrifices. "I will not give it away," he grimly declared.

My return to the Homestead during the winter holidays brought many
unforgettable experiences. Memories of those winter mornings come back
to me--sunrises with steel-blue shadows lying along the drifts, whilst
every weed, every shrub, feathered with frost, is lit with subtlest fire
and the hills rise out of the mist, domes of brilliant-blue and burning
silver. Splashes of red-gold fill all the fields, and small birds,
flying amid the rimy foliage, shake sparkles of fire from their careless
wings.

It was the antithesis of Indian summer, and yet it had something of the
same dream-like quality. Its beauty was more poignant. The rounded tops
of the red-oaks seemed to float in the sparkling air in which millions
of sun-lit frost flakes glittered. All forms and lines were softened by
this falling veil, and the world so adorned, so transfigured, filled
the heart with a keen regret, a sense of pity that such a world should
pass.

At such times I was glad of my new home, and my mother found in me only
the confident and hopeful son. My doubts of the future, my
discouragements of the present I carefully concealed.



CHAPTER FOUR

Red Men and Buffalo


Although my _Ulysses Grant, His Life and Character_ absorbed most of my
time and the larger part of my energy during two years, I continued to
dream (in my hours of leisure), of the "High Country" whose splendors of
cloud and peak, combined with the broad-cast doings of the cattleman and
miner, had aroused my enthusiasm. The heroic types, both white and red,
which the trail has fashioned to its needs continued to allure me, and
when in June, '97, my brother, on his vacation, met me again at West
Salem, I outlined a tour which should begin with a study of the Sioux at
Standing Rock and end with Seattle and the Pacific Ocean. "I must know
the North-west," I said to him.

In order to report properly to any army post, I had in my pocket a
letter from General Miles which commended me to all agents and officers,
and with this as passport I was in the middle of getting my equipment in
order when Ernest Thompson Seton and his wife surprised me by dropping
off the train one morning late in the month. They too, were on their way
to the Rockies, and in radiant holiday humor.

My first meeting with Seton had been in New York at a luncheon given for
James Barrie only a few months before, but we had formed one of those
instantaneous friendships which spring from the possession of many
identical interests. His skill as an illustrator and his knowledge of
wild animals had gained my admiration but I now learned that he knew
certain phases of the West better than I, for though of English birth he
had lived in Manitoba for several years. We were of the same age also,
and this was another bond of sympathy.

He asked me to accompany him on his tour of the Yellowstone but as I had
already arranged for a study of the Sioux, and as his own plans were
equally definite, we reluctantly gave up all idea of camping together,
but agreed to meet in New York City in October to compare notes.

The following week, on the first day of July, my brother and I were in
Bismark, North Dakota, on our way to the Standing Rock Reservation to
witness the "White Men's Big Sunday," as the red people were accustomed
to call the Fourth of July.

It chanced to be a cool, sweet, jocund morning, and as we drove away, in
an open buggy, over the treeless prairie swells toward the agency some
sixty miles to the south, I experienced a sense of elation, a joy of
life, a thrill of expectancy, which promised well for fiction. I knew
the signs.

There was little settlement of any kind for twenty miles, but after we
crossed the Cannonball River we entered upon the unviolated, primeval
sod of the red hunter. Conical lodges were grouped along the streams.
Horsemen with floating feathers and beaded buck-skin shirts over-took us
riding like scouts, and when on the second morning we topped the final
hill and saw the agency out-spread below us on the river bank, with
hundreds of canvas tepees set in a wide circle behind it, our
satisfaction was complete. Thousands of Sioux, men, women, and children
could be seen moving about the teepees, while platoons of mounted
warriors swept like scouting war parties across the plain. I
congratulated myself on having reached this famous agency while yet its
festival held something tribal and primitive.

After reporting to the Commander at Fort Yates, and calling upon the
Agent in his office, we took lodgings at a little half-breed boarding
house near the store, and ate our dinner at a table where full-bloods,
half-bloods and squaw men were the other guests.

Every waking hour thereafter we spent in observation of the people. With
an interpreter to aid me I conversed with the head men and inquired into
their history. The sign-talkers, sitting in the shade of a lodge or
wagon-top, depicting with silent grace the stirring tales of their
youth, were absorbingly interesting. I spent hours watching the play of
their expressive hands.

The nonchalant cow-boys riding about the camp, the somber squaw-men
(attended by their blanketed wives and groups of wistful half-breed
children), and the ragged old medicine men all in their several ways
made up a marvelous scene, rich with survivals of pioneer life.

The Gall and the Sitting Bull were both dead, but Rain-in-the-Face (made
famous by Longfellow) was alive, very much alive, though a cripple. We
met him several times riding at ease (his crutch tied to his saddle), a
genial, handsome, dark-complexioned man of middle age, with whom it was
hard to associate the acts of ferocity with which he was charged.

My letter of introduction from General Miles not only made me welcome at
the Fort, it authorized me to examine the early records of the Agency,
and these I carefully read in search of material concerning the Sitting
Bull.

In those dingy, brief, bald lines of record, I discovered official
evidence of this chief's supremacy long before the Custer battle. As
early as 1870 he was set down as one of the "irreconcilables," and in
1874 the Sioux most dreaded by the whites was "Sitting Bull's Band." To
Sitting Bull all couriers were sent, and the brief official accounts of
their meetings with him were highly dramatic and sometimes humorous.

He was a red man, and proud of it. He believed in remaining as he was
created. "The great spirit made me red, and red I am satisfied to
remain," he declared. "All my people ask is to be let alone, to hunt the
buffalo, and to live the life of our fathers"--and in this he had the
sympathy of many white men even of his day.

(In the final count this chieftain, for the reason that he kept the red
man's point of view, will outlive the opportunists who truckled to the
white man's power. He will stand as a typical Sioux.)

Our days at the Agency passed so swiftly, so pleasantly that we would
have lingered on indefinitely had not the report of an "outbreak" among
the northern Cheyennes aroused a more intense interest. In the hope of
seeing something of this uprising I insisted on hurriedly returning to
Bismark, where we took the earliest possible train for Custer City,
Montana.

At that strange little cow-town my brother hired a man to drive us to
Fort Custer, some forty or fifty miles to the south, a ride which
carried us deep into a wild and beautiful land, a country almost
untouched of man, and when, toward sun-set, we came in sight of the high
bluff which stands at the confluence of the Big Horn and the Little Big
Horn rivers, the fort, the ferry, the stream were a picture by Catlin or
a glorious illustration in a romance of the Border. It was easy to
imagine ourselves back in the stirring days of Sitting Bull and Roman
Nose.

The commander of the Garrison, Colonel Anderson, a fine soldierly
figure, welcomed us courteously and turned us over to Lieutenant Aherne,
a hospitable young Irishman who invited us to spend the night in his
quarters. It happened most opportunely that he was serving as Inspector
of the meat issue at the Crow Agency, and on the following day we
accompanied him on his detail, a deeply instructive experience, for, at
night we attended a ceremonial social dance given by the Crows in honor
of Chief Two Moon, a visiting Cheyenne.

Two Moon, a handsome broad-shouldered man of fifty, met us at the door
of the Dance Lodge, welcomed us with courtly grace, and gave us seats
beside him on the honor side of the circle. It appeared that he was
master of ceremonies, and under his direction the dancing proceeded with
such dramatic grace and skill that we needed very little help to
understand its action.

In groups of eight, in perfect order, the young men rose from their
seats, advanced to the center of the circle, and there reënacted by
means of signs, attitudes and groupings, various notable personal or
tribal achievements of the past. With stealthy, silent stride this one
delineated the exploit of some ancestral chief, who had darted forth
alone on a solitary scouting expedition. Others depicted the enemy,
representing his detection and his capture. A third band arose, and
trailing the hero spy, swiftly, silently, discovered the captors,
attacked and defeated them and with triumphant shouts released the
captive and brought him to camp--all in perfect unison with the singers
at the drum whose varying rhythm set the pace for each especial episode,
almost as precisely as a Chinese orchestra augments or diminishes the
action on the stage.

To me this was a thrilling glimpse into prehistoric America, for these
young men, stripped of their tainted white-man rags, were wholly
admirable, painted lithe-limbed warriors, rejoicing once again in the
light of their ancestral moons. On every face was a look like that of a
captive leopard, dreaming of far-seen, familiar sands. The present was
forgot, the past was momentarily restored. At midnight we went away but
the strangely-moving beat of that barbaric drum was still throbbing in
my ears as I fell asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

Early the following morning, eager to reach the scene of the Cheyenne
outbreak we hired saddle horses and rode away directly across the Custer
battle field on our way toward Lame Deer, where we were told the troops
were still in camp to protect the agency.

What a ride that was! Our trail led us beyond the plow and the wagon
wheel, far into the midst of hills where herds of cattle were feeding as
the bison had fed for countless ages. Every valley had its story, for
here the last battles of the Cheyennes had taken place. I had overtaken
the passing world of the red nomad.

We stopped that night at a ranch about half way across the range, and in
its cabin I listened while the cattlemen expressed their hatred of the
Cheyenne. The violence of their antagonism, their shameless greed for
the red man's land revealed to me once and for all the fomenting spirit
of each of the Indian Wars which had accompanied the exterminating,
century-long march of our invading race. In a single sentence these men
expressed the ruthless creed of the land-seeker. "We intend to wipe
these red sons-of-dogs from the face of the earth." Here was displayed
shamelessly the seamy side of western settlement.

At about ten o'clock next morning we topped the scantily-timbered ridge
which walls in the Lame Deer Agency, and looked down upon the tents of
the troops. A company of cavalry drilling on the open field to the north
gave evidence of active service, and as I studied the mingled huts and
tepees of the village, I realized that I had arrived in time to witness
some part of the latest staging of the red man's final stand.

Reporting at once to the agent, Major George Stouch, I found him to be a
veteran officer of the regular army "On Special Duty," a middle-aged,
pleasant-faced man of unassuming dignity whose crooked wrist (caused by
a bullet in the Civil War) gave him a touch of awkwardness; but his eyes
were keen, and his voice clear and decisive.

"The plans of the cattlemen have been momentarily checked," he said,
"but they are still bitter, and a single pistol-shot may bring renewed
trouble. The Cheyennes, as you know, are warriors."

He introduced me to Captain Cooper, in command of the troopers, and to
Captain Reed, Commander of the Infantry, who invited us to join his
mess, an invitation which we gladly accepted.

Cooper was a soldier of wide experience, a veteran of the Civil War, and
an Indian fighter of distinction. But his Lieutenant, a handsome young
West Pointer named Livermore, interested me still more keenly, for he
was a student of the sign language and had been at one time in command
of an experimental troop of red "rookies." Like Major Stouch he was a
broad-minded friend of all primitive peoples, and his experiences and
stories were of the greatest value to me.

With the aid of Major Stouch I won the confidence of White Bull, Two
Moon, Porcupine, American Horse and other of the principal Cheyennes,
and one of the Agency policemen, a fine fellow called Wolf Voice, became
my interpreter. Though half-Cheyenne and half-Assiniboin, he spoke
English well, and manifested a marked sense of humor. He had served one
summer as guide to Frederick Remington, and had some capital stories
concerning him. "Remington fat man--too heavy on pony. Him 'fraid
Injuns sure catch him," he said with a chuckle. "Him all-time carry
box--take pictures. Him no warrior."

For two weeks I absorbed "material" at every pore, careless of other
duties, thinking only of this world, avid for the truth, yet selecting
my facts as every artist must, until, at last, measurably content I
announced my intention to return to the railway. "We have tickets to
Seattle," I said to Stouch, "and we must make use of them."

"I'm sorry to have you go," he replied, "but if you must go I'll send
Wolf Voice with you as far as Custer."

We had no real need of a guide but I was glad to have Wolf Voice riding
with me, for I had grown to like him and welcomed any opportunity for
conversing with him. He was one of the few full-bloods who could speak
English well enough to enjoy a joke.

As we were passing his little cabin, just at the edge of the Agency, he
said, "Wait, I get you somesing."

In a few moments he returned, carrying a long eagle feather in his hand.
This he handed to me, saying, "My little boy--him dead. Him carry in
dance dis fedder. You my friend. You take him."

Major Stouch had told me of this boy, a handsome little fellow of only
five years of age, who used to join most soberly and cunningly with the
men in their ceremonial dances; and so when Wolf Voice said, "I give you
dis fedder--you my friend. You Indian's friend," I was deeply moved.

"Wolf Voice, I shall keep this as a sign, a sign that we are friends."

He pointed toward a woman crouching over a fire in the corral, "You see
him--my wife? Him cry--all time cry since him son die. Him no sleep in
house. Sleep all time in tepee. Me no sleep in house. Spirit come, cry,
_woo-oo-oo_ in chimney. My boy spirit come,--cry--me 'fraid! My heart
very sore."

The bronze face of the big man was quivering with emotion as he spoke,
and not knowing what to say to comfort him I pretended to haste. "Let us
go. You can tell me about it while we ride."

As we set forth he recovered his smile, for he was naturally of a
cheerful disposition, and in our long, leisurely journey I obtained many
curious glimpses into his psychology--the psychology of the red man. He
led us to certain shrines or "medicine" rocks and his remarks concerning
the offerings of cartridges, calico, tobacco and food which we found
deposited beside a twisted piece of lava on the side of a low hill were
most revealing.

"Wolf Voice, do you believe the dead come back to get these presents," I
asked.

"No," he soberly replied. "Spirit no eat tobacco, spirit eat spirit of
tobacco."

His reply was essentially Oriental in its philosophy. It was the
_essence_ of the offering, the _invisible_ part which was taken by the
invisible dead.

Many other of his remarks were almost equally revelatory. "White soldier
heap fool," he said. "Stand up in rows to be shot at. Injun fight
running--in bush--behind trees."

We stopped again at The Half-Way Ranch, and the manner in which the
cattlemen treated Wolf Voice angered me. He was much more admirable than
they, and yet they would not allow him to sleep in the house.

He rode all the way back to Fort Custer with us and when we parted I
said, "Wolf Voice, I hope we meet again," and I meant it. His spirit is
in all that I have since written of the red men. He, Two Moon, American
Horse, and Porcupine were of incalculable value to me in composing _The
Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_, which was based upon this little war.

From Billings we went almost directly to the Flat Head Reservation. We
had heard that a herd of buffalo was to be seen in its native pastures
just west of Flat Head Lake and as I put more value on seeing that herd
than upon any other "sight" in the state of Montana, we made it our next
objective.

Outfitting at Jocko we rode across the divide to the St. Ignacio
Mission. Less wild than the Cheyenne reservation the Flat Head country
was much more beautiful, and we were entirely happy in our camp beside
the rushing stream which came down from the Jocko Lakes.

"Yes, there is such a herd," the trader said. "It is owned by Michel
Pablo and consists of about two hundred, old and young. They can be
reached by riding straight north for some twenty miles and then turning
to the west. You will have to hunt them, however; they are not in a
corral. They are feeding just as they used to do. They come and go as
they happen to feel the need of food or water."

With these stimulating directions we set forth one morning to "hunt a
herd of buffalo," excited as a couple of boys, eager as hunters yet with
only the desire to see the wild kine.

After we left the road and turned westward our way led athwart low hills
and snake-like ravines and along deep-worn cattle paths leading to water
holes. All was magnificently primeval. No mark of plow or spade, no
planted stake or post assailed our eyes. We were deep in the land of the
bison at last.

Finally, as we topped a long, low swell, my brother shouted, "Buffalo!"
and looking where he pointed, I detected through the heated haze of the
midday plain, certain vague, unfamiliar forms which hinted at the
prehistoric past. They were not cows or horses, that was evident. Here
and there purple-black bodies loomed, while close beside them other
smaller objects gave off a singular and striking contrast. There was no
mistaking the character of these animals. They were bison.

To ride down upon them thus, in the silence and heat of that uninhabited
valley, was to realize in every detail, a phase of the old-time life of
the plains. We moved in silence. The grass-hoppers springing with
clapping buzz before our horses' feet gave out the only sound. No other
living thing uttered voice. Nothing moved save our ponies and those
distant monstrous kine whose presence filled us with the same emotion
which had burned in the hearts of our pioneer ancestors.

As we drew nearer, clouds of dust arose like lazy smoke from smoldering
fires, curtains which concealed some mighty bull tossing the powdery
earth with giant hoof. The cows seeing our approach, began to shift and
change. The bulls did not hurry, on the contrary, they fell to the rear
and grimly halted our advance. Towers of alkali dust, hot and white,
lingering smoke-like in the air shielded us like a screen, and
so--slowly riding--we drew near enough to perceive the calves and hear
the mutter of the cows as they reënacted for us the life of the vanished
millions of their kind.

Here lay a calf beside its dam. Yonder a solitary ancient and shaggy
bull stood apart, sullen and brooding. Nearer a colossal chieftain,
glossy, black, and weighing two thousand pounds moved from group to
group, restless and combative, wrinkling his ridiculously small nose,
and uttering a deep, menacing, muttering roar. His rivals, though they
slunk away, gave utterance to similar sinister snarls, as if voicing
bitter resentment. They did not bellow, they _growled_, low down in
their cavernous throats, like angry lions. Nothing that I had ever heard
or read of buffaloes had given me the quality of this majestic clamor.

Occasionally one of them, tortured by flies, dropped to earth, and
rolled and tore the sod, till a dome of dust arose and hid him. Out of
this gray curtain he suddenly reappeared, dark and savage, like a dun
rock emerging from mist. One furious giant, moving with curling upraised
tail, challenged to universal combat, whilst all his rivals gave way,
reluctant, resentful, yet afraid. The rumps of some of the veterans were
as bare of hair as the loins of lions, but their enormous shoulders
bulked into deformity by reason of a dense mane. They moved like
elephants--clumsy, enormous, distorted, yet with astonishing celerity.

It was worth a long journey to stand thus and watch that small band of
bison, representatives of a race whose myriads once covered all America,
for though less than two hundred in number, they were feeding and
warring precisely as their ancestors had fed and warred for a million
years. Small wonder that the red men believe the white invader must have
used some evil medicine, some magic power in sweeping these majestic
creatures from the earth. Once they covered the hills like a robe of
brown, now only a few small bands are left to perpetuate the habits and
the customs of the past.

As we watched, they fed, fought, rose up and lay down in calm disdain of
our presence. It was as if, unobserved, and yet close beside them, we
were studying the denizens of a small corner of aboriginal America,
America in pre-Columbian times. Reluctantly, slowly we turned and rode
away, back to our tent, back to the railway and the present day.

       *       *       *       *       *

On our return to Missoula we found the town aflame with a report that a
steamer had just landed at Seattle, bringing from Alaska nearly three
million dollars in gold-dust, and that the miners who owned the treasure
had said, "We dug it from the valley of the Yukon, at a point called
the Klondike. A thousand miles from anywhere. The Yukon is four
thousand miles long, and flows north, so that the lower half freezes
solid early in the fall, and to cross overland from Skagway--the way we
came out--means weeks of travel. It is the greatest gold camp in the
world but no one can go in now. Everybody must wait till next June."

It was well that this warning was plainly uttered, for the adventurous
spirits of Montana instantly took fire. Nothing else was talked of by
the men on the street and in the trains. Even my brother said, "I wish I
could go."

"But you can't," I argued. "It is time you started for New York. Herne
will drop you if you don't turn up for rehearsal in September."

Reluctantly agreeing to this, he turned his face toward the East whilst
I kept on toward Seattle, to visit my classmate Burton Babcock, who was
living in a village on Puget Sound.

The coast towns were humming with mining news and mining plans. The word
"Klondike" blazed out on banners, on shop windows and on brick walls.
Alert and thrifty merchants at once began to advertise Klondike shoes,
Klondike coats, Klondike camp goods. Hundreds of Klondike exploring
companies were being organized. In imagination each shop-keeper saw the
gold seekers of the world in line of march, their faces set toward
Seattle and the Sound. Every sign indicated a boom.

This swift leaping to grasp an opportunity was characteristically
American, and I would have gladly taken part in the play, but alas! my
Grant history was still unfinished, and I had already overstayed my
vacation limit. I should have returned at once, but my friend Babcock
was expecting me to visit him, and this I did.

Anacortes (once a port of vast pretentions), was, at this time, a
boom-town in decay, and Burton whom I had not seen for ten years,
seemed equally forlorn. After trying his hand at several professions, he
had finally drifted to this place, and was living alone in a rude cabin,
camping like a woodsman. Being without special training in any trade, he
had fallen into competition with the lowest kind of unskilled labor.

Like my Uncle David, another unsuccessful explorer, he had grown old
before his time, and for a few minutes I could detect in him nothing of
the lithe youth I had known at school on the Iowa prairie twenty years
before. Shaggy of beard, wrinkled and bent he seemed already an old man.

By severest toil in the mills and in the forest he had become the owner
of two small houses on a ragged street--these and a timber claim on the
Skagit River formed his entire fortune.

Though careless of dress and hard of hand, his speech remained that of
the thinker, and much of his reading was still along high, philosophical
lines. He had been a singular youth, and he had developed into a still
more singular man. With an instinctive love of the forest, he had become
a daring and experienced mountaineer. As he described to me his solitary
trips over the high Cascades I was reminded of John Muir, for he, too,
often spent weeks in the high peaks above his claim with only such
outfit as he could carry on his back.

"What do you do it for?" I asked. "Are you gold-hunting?"

With a soft chuckle he answered, "Oh, no; I do it just for the fun of
it. I love to move around up there, alone, above timber line. It's
beautiful up there."

Naturally, I recalled the scenes of our boyhood. I spoke of the Burr Oak
Lyceums, of our life at the Osage Seminary, and of the boys and girls we
had loved, but he was not disposed, at the moment, to dwell on them or
on the past. His heart (I soon discovered) was aflame with desire to
join the rush of gold-seekers. "I wish you would grubstake me," he
timidly suggested. "I'd like to try my hand at digging gold in the
Klondike."

"It's too late in the season," I replied. "Wait till spring. Wait till I
finish my history of Grant and I'll go in with you."

With this arrangement (which on my part was more than half a jest) I
left him and started homeward by way of Lake MacDonald, the Blackfoot
Reservation and Fort Benton, my mind teeming with subjects for poems,
short stories and novels. My vacation was over. Aspiring vaguely to
qualify as the fictionist of this region, I was eager to be at work.
Here was my next and larger field. As my neighbors in Iowa and Dakota
were moving on into these more splendid spaces, so now I resolved to
follow them and be their chronicler.

This trip completed my conversion. I resolved to preempt a place in the
history of the great Northwest which was at once a wilderness and a
cosmopolis, for in it I found men and women from many lands, drawn to
the mountains in search of health, or recreation, or gold. I perceived
that almost any character I could imagine could be verified in this
amazing mixture. I began to sketch novels which would have been false in
Wisconsin or Iowa. With a sense of elation, of freedom, I decided to
swing out into the wider air of Colorado and Montana.



CHAPTER FIVE

The Telegraph Trail


The writing of the last half of my Grant biography demanded a careful
study of war records, therefore in the autumn of '97 I took lodgings in
Washington, and settled to the task of reading my way through the
intricacies of the Grant Administrations. Until this work was completed
I could not make another trip to the Northwest.

The new Congressional Library now became my grandiose work-shop. All
through the winter from nine till twelve in the morning and from two
till six in the afternoon, I sat at a big table in a special room,
turning the pages of musty books and yellowed newspapers, or dictating
to a stenographer the story of the Reconstruction Period as it unfolded
under my eyes. I was for the time entirely the historian, with little
time to dream of the fictive material with which my memory was filled.

I find this significant note in my diary. "My Grant life is now so
nearly complete that I feel free to begin a work which I have long
meditated. I began to dictate, to-day, the story of my life as boy and
man in the West. In view of my approaching perilous trip into the North
I want to leave a fairly accurate chronicle of what I saw and what I did
on the Middle Border. The truth is, with all my trailing about in the
Rocky Mountains I have never been in a satisfying wilderness. It is
impossible, even in Wyoming, to get fifty miles from settlement. I long
to undertake a journey which demands hardihood, and so, after careful
investigation, I have decided to go into the Yukon Valley by pack train
over the British Columbian Mountains, a route which offers a fine and
characteristic New World adventure."

To prepare myself for this expedition I ran up to Ottawa in February to
study maps and to talk with Canadian officials concerning the various
trails which were being surveyed and blazed. "No one knows much about
that country," said Dawson with a smile.

I returned to Washington quite determined on going to Teslin Lake over a
path which followed an abandoned telegraph survey from Quesnelle on the
Fraser River to the Stickeen, a distance estimated at about eight
hundred miles, and I quote these lines as indicating my mind at the
time:

    The way is long and cold and lone--
      But I go!
    It leads where pines forever moan
      Their weight of snow--
      But I go!
    There are voices in the wind which call
    There are shapes which beckon to the plain
    I must journey where the peaks are tall,
    And lonely herons clamor in the rain.

One of my most valued friends in Washington at this time was young
Theodore Roosevelt, who had resigned his position as Police Commissioner
in New York City to become Assistant Secretary of the Navy. His life on
a Dakota ranch had not only filled him with a love for western trails
and sympathy with western men, but had created in him a special interest
in western writers. No doubt it was this regard for the historians of
the West which led him to invite me to his house; for during the winter
I occasionally lunched or dined with him. He also gave me the run of his
office, and there I sometimes saw him in action, steering the department
toward efficiency.

Though nominally Assistant Secretary he was in fact the Head of the
Navy, boldly pushing plans to increase its fighting power. This I know,
for one day as I sat in his office I heard him giving orders for gun
practice and discussing the higher armament of certain ships. I remember
his words as he showed me a sheet on which was indicated the relative
strength of the world's navies. "We must raise all our guns to a higher
power," he said with characteristic emphasis.

John Hay, Senator Lodge, Major Powell and Edward Eggleston were among my
most distinguished hosts during this winter and I have many pleasant
memories of these highly distinctive personalities. Major Powell
appealed to me with especial power by reason of his heroic past. He had
been an engineer under Grant at Vicksburg and was very helpful to me in
stating the methods of the siege, but his experiences after the war were
still more romantic. Though a small man and with but one arm, he had
nevertheless led a fleet of canoes through the Grand Cañon of the
Colorado--the first successful attempt at navigating that savage and
sullen river, and his laconic account of it enormously impressed me. He
was, at this time, the well-known head of the Ethnological Bureau, and I
frequently saw him at the Cosmos Club, grouped with Langley, Merriam,
Howard and other of my scientific friends. He was a somber, silent, and
rather unkempt figure, with the look of a dreaming lion on his face. It
was hard to relate him with the man who had conquered the Grand Cañon of
the Colorado.

His direct antithesis was Edward Eggleston, whose residence was a small
brick house just back of the Congressional Library. Eggleston, humorous,
ready of speech, was usually surrounded by an attentive circle of
delighted listeners and I often drew near to share his monologue. He was
a handsome man, tall and shapely with abundant gray hair and a full
beard, and was especially learned in American early history. "Edward
loves to monologue," his friends smilingly said as if in criticism, but
to me his talk was always interesting.

We became friends on the basis of a common love for the Western prairie,
which he, as a "circuit rider" in Minnesota had minutely explored. I
told him, gladly and in some detail, of my first reading of _The Hoosier
School-master_, and in return for my interest he wrote a full page of
explanation on the fly leaf of a copy which I still own and value
highly, for I regard him now, as I did then, as one of the brave
pioneers of distinctive Middle Border fiction.

Roosevelt considered me something of a Populist, (as I was), and I well
remember a dinner in Senator Lodge's house where he and Henry Adams
heckled me for an hour or more in order to obtain a statement of what I
thought "ailed" Kansas, Nebraska and Dakota. They all held the notion
that I understood these farmer folk well enough to reflect their secret
antagonisms, which I certainly did. I recall getting pretty hot in my
plea, but Roosevelt seemed rather proud of me as I warmly defended my
former neighbor. "The man on the rented farm who is raising corn at
fifteen cents per bushel to pay interest on a mortgage is apt to be
bitter," I argued.

However, this evening was an exception. Generally we talked of the West,
of cattle ranching, of trailing and of the splendid types of pioneers
who were about to vanish from the earth. One night as we sat at dinner
in his house, he suddenly leaned back in his chair and said with a smile
"I can't tell you how I enjoy having a man at my table who knows the
difference between a _parfleche_ and an _aparejo_."

Although I loved the trail I had given up shooting. I no longer carried
a gun even in the hills--although, I will admit, I permitted my
companions to do so. Roosevelt differed from me in this. He loved "the
song of the bullet." "It gives point and significance to the trail," he
explained.

I recall quoting to him one of his own vividly beautiful descriptions of
dawn among the hills, a story which led up to the stalking and the death
of a noble elk. "It was fine, all fine and true and poetic," I declared,
"but I should have listened with gratitude to the voice of the elk and
watched him go his appointed way in peace."

"I understand your position perfectly," he replied, "but it is
illogical. You must remember every wild animal dies a violent death. Elk
and deer and pheasants are periodically destroyed by snows and storms of
sleet--and what about the butcher killing lambs and chickens for your
table? I notice you accept my roast duck."

He was greatly interested in my proposed trip into the Yukon. "By
George, I wish I could go with you," he said, and I had no doubt of his
sincerity. Then his tone changed. "We are in for trouble with Spain and
I must be on the job."

To this I replied, "If I really knew that war was coming, I'd give up my
trip, but I can't believe the Spaniards intend to fight, and this is my
last and best chance to see the Northwest."

In my notebook I find this entry: "Jan., 1898. Dined again last night
with Theodore Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a man who is
likely to be much in the public eye during his life. A man of great
energy, of noble impulses, and of undoubted ability."

I do not put this forward as evidence of singular perception on my part,
for I imagine thousands were saying precisely the same thing. I merely
include it to prove that I was not entirely lacking in penetration.

Henry B. Fuller, who came along one day in January, proved a joy and
comfort to me. His attitude toward Washington amused me. Assuming the
air of a Cook tourist, he methodically, and meticulously explored the
city, bringing to me each night a detailed report of what he had seen.
His concise, humorous and self-derisive comment was literature of a
most delightful quality, and I repeatedly urged him to write of the
capital as he talked of it to me, but he professed to have lost his
desire to write, and though I did not believe this, I hated to hear him
say it, for I valued his satiric humor and his wide knowledge of life.

He was amazed when I told him of my plan to start, in April, for the
Yukon, and in answer to his question I said, "I need an expedition of
heroic sort to complete my education, and to wash the library dust out
of my brain."

In response to a cordial note, I called upon John Hay one morning. He
received me in a little room off the main hall of his house, whose
spaciousness made him seem diminutive. He struck me as a dapper man,
noticeably, but not offensively, self-satisfied. His fine black beard
was streaked with white, but his complexion was youthfully clear. Though
undersized he was compact and sturdy, and his voice was crisp, musical,
and decisive.

We talked of Grant, of whom he had many pleasing personal recollections,
and when a little later we went for a walk, he grew curiously wistful
and spoke of his youth in the West and of the simple life of his early
days in Washington with tenderness. It appeared that wealth and honor
had not made him happy. Doubtless this was only a mood, for in parting
he reassumed his smiling official pose.

A few days later as I entered my Hotel I confronted the tall figure and
somber, introspective face of General Longstreet whom I had visited a
year before at his home in Gainesville, Georgia. We conversed a few
moments, then shook hands and parted, but as he passed into the street I
followed him. From the door-step I watched him slowly making his
cautious way through throngs of lesser men (who gave no special heed to
him), and as I thought of the days when his dread name was second only
to Lee's in the fear and admiration of the North, I marveled at the
change in twenty years. Now he was a deaf, hesitant old man, sorrowful
of aspect, poor, dim-eyed, neglected, and alone.

"Swift are the changes of life, and especially of American life," I made
note. "Most people think of Longstreet as a dead man, yet there he
walks, the gray ghost of the Confederacy, silent, alone."

As spring came on and the end of my history of Grant drew near, my
longing for the open air, the forest and the trail, made proof-reading a
punishment. My eyes (weary of newspaper files and manuscripts) filled
with mountain pictures. Visioning my plunge into the wilderness with
keenest longing, I collected a kit of cooking utensils, a sleeping bag
and some pack saddles (which my friend, A. A. Anderson, had invented),
together with all information concerning British Columbia and the proper
time for hitting The Long Trail.

In showing my maps to Howells in New York, I casually remarked, "I shall
go in _here_, and come out _there_--over a thousand miles of Trail," and
as he looked at me in wonder, I had a sudden realization of what that
remark meant. A vision of myself, a minute, almost indistinguishable
insect--creeping hardily through an illimitable forest filled my
imagination, and a momentary awe fell upon me.

"How easy it would be to break a leg, or go down with my horse in an icy
river!" I thought. Nevertheless, I proceeded with my explanations, gayly
assuring Howells that it was only a magnificent outing, quoting to him
from certain circulars, passages of tempting descriptions in which
"splendid savannahs" and "herds of deer and caribou" were used with fine
effect.

In my secret heart I hoped to recapture some part of that Spirit of the
Sunset which my father had found and loved in Central Minnesota in
Fifty-eight. Deeper still, I had a hope of reënacting, in helpful
degree, the epic days of Forty-nine, when men found their painful way
up the Platte Cañon, and over the Continental Divide to Oregon. "It is
my last chance to do a bit of real mountaineering, of going to school to
the valiant wilderness," I said, "and I can not afford to miss the
opportunity of winning a master's degree in hardihood."

That I suffered occasional moments of depression and doubt, the pages of
my diary bear witness. At a time when my stories were listed in half the
leading magazines, I gravely set down the facts of my situation. "In far
away Dakota my father is living alone on a bleak farm, cooking his own
food and caring for a dozen head of horses, while my mother, with
failing eyes and shortening steps, waits for him and for me in West
Salem with only an invalid sister-in-law to keep her company. In a very
real sense they are all depending upon me for help and guidance. I am
now the head of the house, and yet--here I sit planning a dangerous
adventure into Alaska at a time when I should be at home."

My throat ached with pity whenever I received a letter from my mother,
for she never failed to express a growing longing for her sons, neither
of whom could be with her. To do our chosen work a residence in the city
was necessary, and so it came about that all my victories, all my small
successes were shadowed by my mother's failing health and loneliness.

       *       *       *       *       *

It remains to say that during all this time I had heard very little of
Miss Zulime Taft. No letters had passed between us, but I now learned
through her brother that she was planning to come home during the
summer, a fact which should have given me a thrill, but as more than
four years had passed since our meeting in Chicago, I merely wondered
whether her stay in Paris had greatly changed her character for the
better. "She will probably be more French than American when she
returns," I said to Lorado, when he spoke of her.

"Her letters do not sound that way," he answered. "She seems eager to
return, and says that she intends to work with me here in Chicago."

Early in March, I notified Babcock to meet me at Ashcroft in British
Columbia on April 15th. "We'll outfit there, and go in by way of
Quesnelle," I added, and with a mind filled with visions of splendid
streams, grassy valleys and glorious camps among eagle-haunted peaks, I
finished the final pages of my proof and started West, boyishly eager to
set forth upon the mighty circuit of my projected exploration.

"This is the end of my historical writing," I notified McClure. "I'm
going back to my fiction of the Middle Border."

On a radiant April morning I reached the homestead finding mother fairly
well, but greatly disturbed over my plan. "I don't like to have you go
exploring," she said. "It's dangerous. Why do you do it?"

Her voice, the look of her face, took away the spirit of my adventure. I
felt like giving it up, but with all arrangements definitely made I
could do nothing but go on. The weather was clear and warm, with an
odorous south wind drawing forth the leaves, and as I fell to work,
raking up the yard, the smell of unfolding blooms, the call of exultant
"high-holders" and the chirp of cheerful robins brought back with a
rush, all the sweet, associated memories of other springs and other
gardens, making my gold-seeking expedition seem not only chimerical, but
traitorous to my duties.

The hens were singing their cheerful, changeless song below the stable
wall; calves were bawling from the neighboring farm-yards and on the
mellow soil the shining, broadcast seeders were clattering to their
work, while over the greening hills a faint mist wavered, delicate as a
bride's veil. Was it not a kind of madness to exchange the security, the
peace, the comfort of this homestead, for the hardships of a trail whose
circuit could not be less than ten thousand miles, a journey which
offered possible injury and certain deprivation?

The thought which gave me most uneasiness was not my danger but the
knowledge that in leaving my mother to silently brood over the perils
which she naturally exaggerated, I was recreant to my pledge. Expression
was always elliptical with her; and I shall never know how keenly she
suffered during those days of preparation. Instead of acquiring a new
daughter, she seemed on the point of losing a son.

She grudged every moment of the hours which I spent in my study. There
was so little for her to do! She kept her chair during her waking hours
either on the porch overlooking the garden or in the kitchen supervising
the women at their work. Every slightest event was pitifully important
in her life. The passing of the railway trains, the milking of the cow,
the watering of the horses, the gathering of the eggs--these were
important events in her diary. My incessant journeyings, my distant
destinations lay far beyond her utmost imagining. To her my comings and
goings were as mysterious, as incalculable as the orbits of the moon,
and I think she must have sometimes questioned whether Hamlin Garland,
the historian, could possibly be the son for whom she had once knit
mittens and repaired kites.

If I had not been under contract, if I had not gone so far in
preparation and announcement that to quit would have been disgraceful, I
would have given up my trip on her account. "I am ashamed to turn back.
I must go on," I said. "I won't be gone long. I'll come out by way of
the Stickeen."

When the time came to say good-bye, she broke down utterly and I went
away with a painful constriction in my own throat, a lump which lasted
for hours. Not till on the second day as I saw droves of Canadian
antelope racing with the train, whilst flights of geese overhead gave
certain sign of the wilderness, did I regain my desire to explore the
valleys of the North. That lonely old woman on the porch of the
Homestead was never absent from my mind.

Promptly on the afternoon of my arrival at Ashcroft on the Canadian
Pacific Railway, Burton Babcock, wearing a sombrero and a suit of
corduroy, dropped from the eastbound train, a duffel bag in his right
hand, and a newly-invented camp-stove in the other. "Well, here I am,"
he said, with his characteristic chuckle.

Ready for the road, and with no regrets, no hesitancies, no fears, he
set to work getting our outfit together leaving me to gather what
information I could concerning the route which we had elected to
traverse.

It was hard for me to realize that this bent, bearded, grizzled
mountaineer was Burt Babcock, the slim companion of my Dry Run Prairie
boyhood--it was only in peculiar ways of laughter, and in a certain
familiar pucker of wrinkles about his eyes, that I traced the connecting
link. I must assume that he found in me something quite as
alien--perhaps more so, for my life in Boston and New York had given to
me habits of speech and of thought which obscured, no doubt, most of my
youthful characteristics.

As I talked with some of the more thoughtful and conscientious citizens
of the town, I found them taking a very serious view of the trip we were
about to undertake. "It is a mighty long, hard road," they said, "and a
lot of men are going to find it a test of endurance. Nobody knows
anything about the trail after you leave Quesnelle. You want to go with
a good outfit, prepared for two months of hardship."

In view of this warning I was especially slow about buying ponies. "I
want the best and gentlest beasts obtainable," I said to Burton. "I am
especially desirous of a trustworthy riding horse."

That evening, as I was standing on the hotel porch, my attention was
attracted to a man mounted on a spirited gray horse, riding up the
street toward the hotel. There was something so noble in the proud arch
of this horse's neck, something so powerful in the fling of his hooves
that I exclaimed to the landlord, "_There_ is the kind of saddle-horse I
am looking for! I wonder if by any chance he is for sale?"

The landlord smiled. "He is. I sent word to the owner and he has come on
purpose to see you. You can have the animal if you want him bad enough."

The rider drew rein and the landlord introduced me as the man who was in
need of a mount. Each moment my desire to own the horse deepened, but I
was afraid to show even approval. "How much do you want for him?" I
asked indifferently.

"Well, stranger, I must have fifty dollars for this horse. There is a
strain of Arabian in him, and he is a trained cow-pony besides."

Fifty dollars for an animal like that! It was like giving him away. I
was at once suspicious. "There must be some trick about him. He is
locoed or something," I remarked to my partner.

We could find nothing wrong, however, and at last I passed over a fifty
dollar bill and led the horse away.

Each moment increased my joy and pride in that dapple-gray gelding.
Undoubtedly there was Arabian blood in his veins. He had a thoroughbred
look. He listened to every word I spoke to him. He followed me as
cheerfully and as readily as a dog. He let me feel his ears (which a
locoed horse will not do) and at a touch of my hand made room for me in
his stall. In all ways he seemed exactly the horse I had been looking
for, and I began to think of my long ride over the mountains with
confidence.

To put the final touch to my security, the owner as he was leaving the
hotel said to me, with a note of sadness in his voice, "I hate to see
that horse take the long trail. Treat him well, partner."

Three days later, mounted on my stately gray "Ladrone," I led my little
pack-train out of Ashcroft, bound for Teslin Lake, some twelve hundred
miles to the Northwest. It was a lovely spring afternoon, and as I rode
I made some rhymes to express my feeling of exultation.

    I mount and mount toward the sky,
    The eagle's heart is mine.
    I ride to put the clouds below
    Where silver lakelets shine.
    The roaring streams wax white with snow,
    The granite peaks draw near,
    The blue sky widens, violets grow,
    The air is frosty clear.
    And so from cliff to cliff I rise,
    The eagle's heart is mine;
    Above me, ever-broadening skies--
    Below, the river's shine.

The next day as we were going down a steep slope, one of the pack horses
bolted and ran round Ladrone entangling me in the lead rope. When I came
to myself I was under my horse, saddle and all, and Ladrone was looking
down at me in wonder. The tremendous strain on the rope had pulled me
saddle and all under his belly, and had he been the ordinary cayuse he
would have kicked me to shreds. To my astonishment and deep gratitude he
remained perfectly quiet while I scrambled out from under his feet and
put the saddle in place.

My partner, white with excitement, drew near. "I thought you were a
goner," he said, huskily. "That horse of yours is a wonder."

As I thought of the look in that gray pony's brown eyes whilst I lay,
helpless beneath him, my heart warmed with gratitude and affection. "Old
boy," I said, as I patted his neck, "I will never leave _you_ to starve
and freeze in the far north. If you carry me through to Telegraph Creek,
I will see that you are comfortable for the remaining years of your
life."

I mention this incident for the reason that it had far-reaching
consequences--as the reader will discover.

In _The Trail of the Goldseekers_, I have told in detail my story of our
expedition. Suffice it to say, at this point, that we were seventy-nine
days in the wilderness, that we were eaten by flies and mosquitoes, that
we traveled in the rain, camped in the rain, packed our saddles in the
rain. We toiled through marshes, slopped across miles of tundra, swam
our horses through roaring glacial streams and dug them out of
bog-holes. For more than two hundred miles we walked in order to lighten
the loads of our weakened animals, and when we reached Glenora we were
both past-masters of the art of camping through a wilderness. No one
could tell us anything about packing, bushing in a slough or managing a
pack-train. We were master-trailers!

Burton, though a year or two older than I, proved an invincible
explorer, tireless, uncomplaining and imperturbable. In all our harsh
experiences, throughout all our eighty days of struggle with mud, rocks,
insects, rain, hunger and cold, he never for one moment lost his
courage. Kind to our beasts, defiant of the weather, undismayed by any
hardship, he kept the trail. He never once lifted his voice in anger.
His endurance of my moods was heroic.

Assuming more than half of the physical labor he loyally said, "You are
the boss, the historian of this expedition. You are the proprietor. I am
only the hired-man."

Such service could not be bought. It sprang from a friendship which had
begun twenty-eight years before, an attachment deep as our lives which
could not be broken.

On the seventy-ninth day, ragged, swarthy, bearded like Forty-niners,
with only a handful of flour and a lump of bacon left in our kit we came
down to the Third Fork of the Stickeen River, without a flake of gold to
show for our "panning" the sands along our way. My diaries state that
for more than thirty days of this journey it rained, and as I look back
upon our three weeks in the Skeena valley I shiver with a kind of
retrospective terror. At one time it looked as though we must leave all
our horses in that gloomy forest. Ladrone lost the proud arch of his
neck and the light lift of his small feet. He could no longer carry me
up the steeps and his ribs showed pitifully.

At Glenora, in beautiful sunny weather, we camped for two weeks in
blissful leisure while our horses recovered their strength and courage.
We were all hungry for the sun. For hours we lay on the grass soaking
our hides full of light and heat, discussing gravely but at our ease,
the situation.

Our plan had been to pack through to Teslin Lake, build a raft there and
float down the Hotalinqua into the Yukon and so on to Dawson City, but
at Glenora I found a letter from my mother waiting for me, a pitiful
plea for me to "hurry back," and as we were belated a month or more, and
as winter comes early in those latitudes, I decided to turn over the
entire outfit to Babcock and start homeward by way of Fort Wrangell.

"I can't afford to spend the winter on the Yukon," I said to Burton. "My
mother is not well and is asking for me. I will keep Ladrone--I am going
to take him home with me--but the remainder of the outfit is yours. If
you decide to go on to Teslin--which I advise against--you will need a
thousand pounds of food and this I will purchase for you.--It is hard
to quit the trail. I feel as if running a pack-train were the main
business of my life and that I am deserting my job in going out, but
that is what I must do."

The last Hudson Bay trading steamer was due at about this time and I
decided to take passage to Fort Wrangell with Ladrone, who was almost as
fat and handsome as ever. Two weeks of delicious grass had done wonders
for him. I knew that every horse driven through to Teslin Lake would be
turned out to freeze and starve at the end of the trail, and I could not
think of abandoning my brave pony to such a fate. He had borne me over
mud, rocks and streams. He had starved and shivered for me, and now he
was to travel with me back to a more amiable climate at least. "I could
never look my readers in the face if I left him up here," I explained to
my partners who knew that I intended to make a book of my experiences.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a sad moment for my partner as for me when I led my horse down to
the steamer. Ladrone seemed to realize that he was leaving his comrades
of the trail for he called to them anxiously, again and again. He had
led them for the last time. When the cry "HYak KILpy" came next day he
would not be there!

Having seen him safely stowed below deck I returned to the trail for a
final word with Burton.

There he stood, on the dock, brown with camp-fire smoke, worn and
weather beaten, his tireless hands folded behind his back, a remote,
dreaming, melancholy look in his fearless eyes. His limp sombrero rested
grotesquely awry upon his shaggy head, his trousers bulged awkwardly at
the knees--but he was a warrior! Thin and worn and lame he was about to
set forth single-handedly on a journey whose circuit would carry him far
within the Arctic Circle.

The boat began to move. "Good luck, Old Man," I called.

"Good Luck!" he huskily responded. "My love to the folks."

I never saw him again.

I went to Wrangell, and while camped there waiting for a boat to take me
back to the States I heard of a "strike" at Atlin, somewhere back of
Skaguay. I decided to join this rush, and so, leaving my horse to
pasture in the lush grass of the hill-side, I took steamer for the
north. Again I outfitted, this time at Skaguay. I crossed the famous
White Pass. I reached Atlin City. I took a claim.

A month later I returned to Wrangell, picked up Ladrone, shipped with
him to Seattle and so ceased to be a goldseeker.

In Seattle my wonder and affection for Ladrone increased. He had never
seen a big town before, or heard a street car, or met a switching
engine, and yet he followed me through the city like a trustworthy dog,
his nose pressed against my shoulder as if he knew I would protect him.
At the door of the freight car which I had chartered, he hesitated, but
only for an instant. At the word of command he walked the narrow plank
into the dark interior and there I left him with food and water, billed
for St. Paul where I expected to meet him and transfer him to a car for
West Salem. It all seemed very foolish to some people and my only
explanation was suggested by a brake-man who said, "He's a runnin'
horse, ain't he?"

"Yes, he's valuable. Take good care of him. He is Arabian."



CHAPTER SIX

The Return of the Artist


After an absence of five months I returned to La Crosse just in time to
eat Old Settlers Dinner with my mother at the County Fair, quite as I
used to do in the "early days" of Iowa. It was the customary annual
round-up of the pioneers, a time of haunting, sweetly-sad recollections,
and all the speeches were filled with allusions to the days when deer on
the hills and grouse in the meadows gave zest to life upon the farms.

How peaceful, how secure, how abundant my native valley appeared to me,
after those gloomy toilsome months in the cold, green forests of British
Columbia--and how incredible my story must have seemed to my mother as I
told her of my journey eastward by boat and train, bringing my saddle
horse across four thousand miles of wood and wave, in order that he
might spend his final years with me in the oat-filled, sheltered valley
of Neshonoc. "His courage and faithfulness made it impossible for me to
leave him up there," I explained.

He had arrived on the train which preceded me, and was still in the car.
At the urgent request of my Uncle Frank I unloaded him, saddled him, and
rode him down to the fair-ground, wearing my travel-scarred sombrero, my
faded trailer's suit and my leggings, a mild exhibition of vanity which
I trust the reader will overlook, for in doing this I not only gave keen
joy to my relatives, but furnished another "Feature" to the show.

My friend, Samuel McKee, the Presbyterian minister in the village, being
from Kentucky, came nearer to understanding the value of my horse than
any other spectator. "I don't wonder you brought him back," he said,
after careful study. "He is a beauty. There's a strain of Arabian in
him."

My mother's joy over my safe return was quite as wordless as her sorrow
at our parting (in April) had been. To have me close beside her, to lay
her hand upon my arm, filled her with inexpressible content. She could
not imagine the hundredth part of the hardships I had endured, and I
made no special effort to enlighten her--I merely said, "You needn't
worry, mother, one such experience is enough. I shall never leave you
for so many months again," and I meant it.

With a shy smile and a hesitant voice, she reverted to a subject which
was of increasing interest to her. "What about my new daughter? When am
I to see her? I hope now you'll begin to think of a wife. First thing
you know you'll be too old."

My reply was vaguely jocular. "Be patient a little while longer. I shall
seriously set to work and see what I can find for you by way of a
daughter-in-law."

"Choose a nice one," she persisted. "One that will like the old
house--and me. Don't get one who will be too stylish to live here with
us."

In this enterprise I was not as confident as I appeared, for the problem
was not simple. "The girl who can consent to be my wife must needs have
a generous heart and a broad mind, to understand (and share) the humble
conditions of my life, and to tolerate the simple, old-fashioned notions
of my people. It will not be easy," I acknowledged. "I can not afford to
make a mistake--one that will bring grief and not happiness to the
homestead and its mistress."

However, I decided to let that worry stand over. "Sufficient unto the
day is the evil thereof," was a saying which my father often
repeated--and yet I was nearing the dead line! I was thirty-eight.

That first night of my return to the valley was of such rich and tender
beauty that all the suffering, the hardships of my exploration were
forgotten. The moon was at its full, and while the crickets and the
katydids sang in unison, the hills dreamed in the misty distance like
vast, peaceful, patient, crouching animals. The wheat and corn burdened
the warm wind with messages of safely-garnered harvests, and my mind,
reacting to the serenity, the peace, the opulence of it all, was at
rest. The dark swamps of the Bulkley, the poisonous plants of the
Skeena, the endless ice-cold marshes of the high country, the stinging
insects of the tundra, and the hurtling clouds of the White Pass, all
seemed events of another and more austere planet.

On the day following the fair, just as I was stripping my coat and
rolling my sleeves to help my father fence in a pasture for Ladrone, a
neighbor came along bringing a package from the post office. It was a
book, a copy of my _Life of Grant_, the first I had seen; and, as I
opened it I laughed, for I bore little resemblance to a cloistered
historian at the moment. My face was the color of a worn saddle; my
fingers resembled hooks of bronze, and my feet carried huge, hob-nail
shoes. "What would Dr. Brander Matthews, Colonel Church and Howells, who
had warmly commended the book, think of me at this moment?" I asked
myself.

Father was interested, of course, but he was not one to permit a
literary interest to interfere with a very important job. "Bring that
spade," commanded he, and putting my history on top of a post, I set to
work, digging another hole, rejoicing in my strength, for at that time I
weighed one hundred and eighty pounds, all bone and muscle. So much the
trail had done for me.

I had broadened my palms to the cinch and the axe--I had laid my breast
to the rain.

Nothing physical appalled me, and no labor really wearied me.

Oh, the wealth of that day's sunlight, the opulence of those nearby
fields--the beauty of those warmly-misted hills! In the evening, as I
mounted Ladrone and rode him down the lane, I had no desire to share
Burton's perilous journey down the Hotalinqua.

As my mother's excitement over my return passed away, her condition was
disturbing to me. She was walking less and less and I began at once to
consider a course of treatment which might help her. At my aunt's
suggestion I wrote to a physician in Madison whose sanitarium she had
found helpful, and as my brother chanced to be playing in Milwaukee, I
induced mother to go with me to visit him. She consented quite readily
for she was eager to see him in a real theater and a real play.

We took lodging in one of the leading hotels, which seemed very splendid
to her and that night she saw Franklin on the stage as one of "the three
Dromios" in a farce called "Incog," a piece which made her laugh till
she was almost breathless.

Next day we took her shopping. That is to say she went along with us a
helpless victim, while we purchased for her a hat and cloak, at an
expense which seemed to her almost criminal. They were in truth very
plain garments, and comparatively inexpensive, but her tender heart
overflowed with pride of her sons and a guilty joy in their
extravagance. Many times afterward I experienced, as I do at this
moment, a sharp pang of regret that I did not insist on a better cloak,
a more beautiful hat. I only hope she understood!

In this way, or some other way, I bribed her to go with me to Madison,
to the Sanitarium. "You must not run home," I said to her. "Make a fair
trial of the Institution."

To this she uttered no reply and as she did not appear homesick or
depressed, I prepared to leave, with a feeling that she was in good
hands, and that her health would be greatly benefited by the regimen. "I
must go to the city and look up that new daughter," I said to her in
excuse for deserting her, and this made her entirely willing to let me
go.

Chicago brilliantly illuminated, was filled with the spirit of the Peace
Jubilee, as I entered it. State Street, grandly impressive under the
sweep of a raw east wind, was gay with banners and sparkling with
looping thousands of electric lights, but I hurried at once to my study
on Elm Street. In half an hour I was deep in my correspondence. The
Telegraph Trail was a million miles away, New York and its publishers
claimed my full attention once again.

       *       *       *       *       *

At two o'clock next day I entered Taft's studio, where I received many
cordial congratulations on my return. "I can't understand why you went,"
Lorado said, and when, at the close of the afternoon, Browne, his
brother-in-law, invited me to dinner, saying, "You'll find Miss Zulime
Taft there," I accepted. Although in some doubt about Miss Taft's desire
to meet me, I was curious to know what four years of Paris had done for
her.

Browne explained that she was going to take up some sort of work in
Chicago. "She's had enough of the Old World for the present."

As he let us into the hall of his West Side apartment, I caught a
momentary glimpse of a young woman seated in the living room, busily
sewing. She rose calmly, though a little surprised at our invasion, and
with her rising, spools of thread and bits of cloth fell away from her
with comic effect, although her expression remained loftily serene.

"Hello, sister Zuhl," called Browne. "Here is an old-time friend of
yours."

As she greeted me with entire self-possession I hardly recognized her
relationship to the pale, self-possessed art-student, with whom I had
held unprofitable argument some four years before. She was much more
mature and in better health than when I last saw her. She carried
herself with dignity, and her gown, graceful of line and rich in color,
fitted her beautifully.

With no allusion to our former differences she was kind enough to say
that she had been a delighted reader of my stories in the magazines, and
that she approved of America. "I've come back to stay," she said, and we
all applauded her statement.

As the evening deepened I perceived that her long stay in England and in
France had done a great deal for Zulime Taft. She was not only well
informed in art matters, she conversed easily and tactfully, and her
accent was refined without being affected. As we settled into our seats
around the dinner table, I was glad to find her opposite me.

She had met many interesting and distinguished people, both in London
and on the Continent, and she brought to our little circle that night
the latest word in French art. Indeed, her comment was so entertaining,
and so valuable, that I was quite converted to her brother's judgment
concerning her term of exile: "Whether you go on with your sculpture or
not," he said, "those four years of Europe have done more for you than a
college course."

She represented everything antithetic to the trail and the farm. She
knew little of New England and nothing of the Mountain West. In many
ways she was entirely alien to my life and yet--or rather because of
that--she interested me. Filled with theories concerning
art--enthusiasms with which the "American Colony" in Paris was aflame,
she stated them clearly, forcibly and with humor. Her temper in argument
was admirable and no man had occasion to talk down at her--as Browne,
who was a good deal of a conservative, openly acknowledged.

She was all for "technique," it appeared. "What America needs more than
subject is skill, knowledge of how to paint," she declared. "Anything
can be made beautiful by the artist's brush."

At the close of a most delightful evening Fuller and I took our
departure together, and we were hardly out of the door before he began
to express open, almost unrestrained admiration of Zulime Taft. "She's a
very remarkable girl," he said. "She will prove a most valuable addition
to our circle."

"Yes," I admitted with judicial poise, "she is very intelligent."

"Intelligent!" he indignantly retorted. "She's a beauty. She's a prize.
Go in and win."

Although I did not decide at that moment to go in and win, I was
profoundly affected by his words. Without knowing anything more about
her than these two meetings gave me, I took it for granted--quite
without warrant, that Fuller had learned from Lorado that she was not
committed to any one. It was fatuous in me but on this assumption I
acted.

By reference to letters and other records I find that I dined at the
Browne's on the slightest provocation. I suspect I did so without any
invitation at all, for while Miss Taft did not betray keen interest in
me she did not precisely discourage me. I sought her company as often as
possible without calling especial attention to my action, and as she
gave no hint of being friendlier with any other man, I went cheerily,
blindly along.

One afternoon as I was taking tea at one of the great houses of the Lake
Shore Drive, she came into the room with the easy grace of one
habituated to meeting people of wealth and distinction. Neither arrogant
nor humble, her self-respecting composure fairly sealed her conquest so
far as I was concerned.

The group of artists surrounding Taft had formed an informal Saturday
night club, which met in a "Camp Supper," and in these jolly, intimate
evenings Miss Taft and her sister, Mrs. Browne, were guiding spirits.
Being included in this group I acknowledged these parties to be the most
delightful events of my life in Chicago. They appeared a bit of Bohemia,
"transmogrified" to suit our conditions, and they made the city seem
less like a drab expanse of desolate materialism.

Sometimes a great geologist would help to make the coffee, while an
architect carved the turkey; and sometimes banker Hutchinson was
permitted to aid in distributing plates and spoons, but always Zulime
Taft was one of the hostesses, and no one added more to the distinction
and the charm of the company. She was never out of character, never at a
loss in an effort to entertain her guests, and yet she did this so
effectively that her absence was instantly felt--I, at least, always
resented the action of those wealthy guests who occasionally hurried
away with her to the Thomas Concert at eight-fifteen. My mood was all
the more bitter for the reason that I could not afford to take her there
myself. To ask her to sit in the gallery was disgraceful, and seats in
the balcony were not only expensive, but almost impossible to get. They
were all sold, in advance, for the season. For all these reasons I
frequently watched her departure with a sense of defeat.

Israel Zangwill, who came to town at about this time to lecture, was
brought to one of our suppers and proved to be of the true artist
spirit. During his stay in the city Taft made a quick sketch of him,
catching most admirably the characteristics of his homely face! He was a
quaint yet powerful personality, witty and wise, and genial, and made
friends wherever he went.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding many pleasant meetings with Miss
Taft--perhaps because of them--I had my moments of gloomy introspection
wherein I cast up accounts in order to determine what I had gained by
my six months' vacation in the wilderness. First of all I had become a
master trailer--so much was assured, but this acquirement did not
promise to be of any practical benefit to me except possibly in the way
of a lecture tour. Broadening my hand to the cinch and the axe did not
make me any more attractive as a suitor and certainly did not add
anything to my capital.

My outing had cost me twice what I had calculated upon, and, thus far, I
had only syndicated a few letters and a handful of poems. The book which
I had in mind to write was still a mass of notes. My horse, whose
transportation and tariff had cost me a thousand dollars, was of little
use to me, although I hoped to get back a part of his cost by means of a
story. My lecture on "The Joys of the Trail" promised to be moderately
successful, and yet with all these things conjoined I did not see myself
earning enough to warrant me in asking Zulime Taft or any woman to be
the daughter which my mother was so eagerly awaiting.

It was a time of halting, of transition for me. For six years--even
while writing my story of Ulysses Grant I had been absorbing the
mountain west in the growing desire to put it into fiction, and now with
a burden of Klondike material to be disposed of, I was subconsciously at
work upon a story of the plains and the Rocky Mountain foothills. In
short, as a cattleman would say, I was "milling" in the midst of a wide
landscape.

I should have gone on to New York at once, but with the alluring
associations of Taft's studio, I lingered on through November and
December, excusing myself by saying that I could work out my problem
better in my own room on Elm Street than in a hotel in New York, and as
a matter of fact I did succeed in writing several chapters of the
Colorado novel which I called _The Eagle's Heart_.

At last, late in December, I bundled my manuscripts together and set
out for the East. Perhaps this decision was hastened by some editorial
suggestion--at any rate I arrived, for I find in my diary the record of
a luncheon with Brander Matthews who said he liked my Grant book,--a
verdict which heartened me wonderfully. I believed it to be a good book
then, as I do now, but it was not selling as well as we had confidently
expected it to do and my publishers had lost interest in it.

The reason for the failure of this book was simple. The war with Spain
had thrust between the readers of my generation and the Civil War, new
commanders, new slogans and new heroes. To this later younger public
"General Grant" meant _Frederick_ Grant, and all hats were off to Dewey,
Wood and Roosevelt. "You are precisely two years late with your story of
the Great Commander," I was told, and this I was free to acknowledge.

There is an old proverb which had several times exactly described my
situation and which described it then. "It is always darkest just before
dawn," proved to be true of this particular period of discouragement,
for one day while at The Players, Brett, the head of Macmillans, came up
to me and said, "Why don't you let me take over your _Main Traveled
Roads_, _Prairie Folks_, and _Rose of Dutcher's Coolly_? I will do this
provided you will write two new books for me, one to be called _Boy Life
on the Prairie_ and the other a Klondike book based on your experiences
in the North."

This offer cleared my sky. It not only gave direction to my pen--it
roused my hopes of having a home of my own, for Brett's offer involved
the advance of several thousand dollars in royalty. I began to think of
marriage in a more definite way. My case was not so hopeless after all.
Perhaps Zulime Taft----

Taking a room on Twenty-fifth street I set to work with eager intensity
to get these five books in shape for the Macmillan press, and in two
weeks I had carefully revised _Rose_ and was hard at work on the record
of my story of the Northwest which I called _The Trail of the Gold
Seekers_. I was done with "milling." I was headed straight for a home.

In calling upon Howells soon after my arrival I referred to our last
meeting wherein I had lightly remarked (putting my finger on the map),
"I shall go in here at Quesnelle and come out there, on the Stickeen,"
and said, "I am now able to report. I did it. In spite of all the
chances for failure I carried out my program."

He asked about the dangers I had undergone, and I replied by saying, "A
trailer meets his dangers and difficulties one by one. In the mass they
are appalling but singly they are surmountable. We took each mile as it
came."

"What do you intend to do with your experiences?" he asked.

"I don't know, but I _think_ they will take the form of a chronicle, a
kind of diary, wherein each chapter will be called a camp. Camp One,
Camp Two, and the like."

"That sounds original and promising," he said, and with his
encouragement I set to work.

Israel Zangwill was often in the city and we met frequently during
January and February. I recall taking him to see Howells whom he greatly
admired but had never met. They made a singularly interesting contrast
of East and West. Howells was serious, almost sad for some reason,
unassuming, self-unconscious and yet masterly in every word. Zangwill on
the contrary overflowed with humor, emitting a shower of epigrams
concerning America and the things he liked and disliked, and soon had
Howells smiling with pleased interest.

As we were leaving the house Zangwill remarked in a musing tone, "What
fine humility, or rather modesty. I can't imagine any other man of
Howells' eminence taking that tone."

Kipling had just returned to America, and I went at once to call upon
him. I had not seen him since the dinner which he gave to Riley and me
in the early Nineties, and I was in doubt as to his attitude toward the
States. I found him in a very happy mood, surrounded by callers. In the
years of his absence the American public had learned to place a very
high value on his work and thousands of his readers were eager to do him
honor.

"They come in a perfect stream," he said, and there was a note of
surprise as well as of pleasure in his voice.

He inquired of Riley and Howells and other of our mutual friends, making
it plain that he held us all in his affections. I mention his youth, his
happiness, his joy with special emphasis for he was stricken with
pneumonia a few days later and came so near death that only the most
skillful nursing was able to bring him back to health. For two nights
his life was despaired of, and when he recovered consciousness it was
only to learn that one of his children had died while he himself was at
lowest ebb. It was a most tragic reversal of fortune but it had this
compensation, it called forth such a flood of sympathy on the part of
his public that the daily press carried hourly bulletins of his
conditions. It was as if a great ruler were in danger.

On Saturday the eleventh of February, I attended a meeting (the first
meeting) of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Charles Dudley
Warner presided, but Howells was the chief figure. Owen Wister, Robert
Underwood Johnson, Augustus Thomas and Bronson Howard took an active
part. Warner appointed Thomas and me as a committee to outline a
Constitution and By-laws, and I set down in my diary this comment, "Only
a few men were out and these few were chilled by a cold room but
nevertheless, this meeting is likely to have far-reaching
consequences."

In these months of my stay in New York I had a very busy and profitable
time with Howells, Burroughs, Stedman, Matthews, Herne and their like as
neighbors but after all, my home was in the West, and many times each
day my mind went back to my mother waiting in the snow-covered little
village thirteen hundred miles away. As I had established her in
Wisconsin to be near me, it seemed a little like desertion to be
spending the winter in the East.

My thoughts often returned to the friendly circle in Taft's studio, and
late in February I was keenly interested in a letter from Lorado in
which he informed me that Wallace Heckman, Attorney for The Art
Institute, had offered to give the land to found a summer colony of
artists and literary folk on the East bank of Rock River about one
hundred miles west of Chicago. "You are to be one of the trustees,"
Lorado wrote, "and as soon as you get back, Mr. Heckman wants to take us
all out to look at the site for the proposed camp."

My return to Chicago on the first day of March landed me in the midst of
a bleak period of raw winds, filthy slush and all-pervading grime--but
with hopes which my new contract with Macmillans had inspired I defied
the weather. I rejoined Lorado's circle at once in the expectation of
meeting his sister, and in this I was not disappointed.

Lorado referred at once to Heckman's offer to deed to our group a tract
of land. "He wants you to be one of the trustees and has invited us all
to go out at once and inspect the site."

Upon learning that Miss Taft was to be one of the members of the colony
I accepted the trusteeship very readily. With three thousand dollars
advance royalty in sight, I began to imagine myself establishing a
little home somewhere in or near Chicago, and the idea of an
inexpensive summer camp such as my artist friends had in mind, appealed
to me strongly.

Alas for my secret hopes!--Whether on this tour of inspection or a few
days later I cannot now be sure, but certainly close upon this date
Lorado (moved by some confiding remark concerning my interest in his
sister Zulime) explained to me with an air of embarrassment that I must
not travel any farther in that direction. "Sister Zuhl came back from
Paris not to paint or model but to be married. She is definitely
committed to another man." He finally, bluntly said.

This was a bitter defeat. Although one takes such blows better at
thirty-nine than at nineteen, one doesn't lightly say "Oh, well--such is
life!" I was in truth disheartened. All my domestic plans fell with a
crash. My interest in the colony cooled. The camp suppers lost their
charm.

It is only fair to me to say that Miss Taft had never indicated in any
way that she was mortgaged to another, and no one--so far as I could
see, was more in her favor than I, hence I was not entirely to blame in
the case. My inferences were logical. So far as her words and actions
were concerned I was justified in my hope that she might consent.

However, regarding Lorado's warning as final I turned to another and
wholly different investment of the cash with which my new contract had
embarrassed me. I decided to go to England.

For several years my friends in London had been suggesting that I visit
them and I had a longing to do so. I wanted to see Barrie, Shaw, Hardy,
Besant, and other of my kindly correspondents and this seemed my best
time to make the journey.

_Rose of Dutcher's Coolly_ had won for me many English friends. Henry
James had reviewed it, Barrie had written to me in praise of it and
Stead had republished it in a cheap edition which had gained a wide
circle of readers. "In going abroad now I shall be going among friends,"
I said to Fuller who was my confidant, as usual.

Henry James in a long and intimate letter had said, "It is high time for
you to visit England. I shall take great pleasure in having you for a
week-end here at Old Rye"--and a re-reading of this letter tipped the
scale. I took the train for Wisconsin to see my mother and prepare her
for my immediate trip to London.

Dear soul! She was doubly deeply disappointed, for I not only failed to
bring assurance of a new daughter, I came with an avowal of desertion in
my mouth. Pathetically counting on my spending the summer with her, she
must now be told that I was about to sail for the Old World!

It was not a happy home-coming. I acknowledged myself to be a base,
unfilial, selfish wretch, "and yet--if I am ever to see London now is my
time. Each year my mother will be older, feebler. The sooner I make the
crossing the safer for us all. Furthermore I am no longer young--and
just now with Barrie, Shaw, Zangwill, Doyle and Henry James, England
will be hospitable to me. The London Macmillans are to bring out my
books and so----"

Mother consented at last, tearfully, begging me not to stay long and to
write often, to which I replied, "You may count on me in July. I shall
only be gone three months--four at the outside. I shall send Frank to
stay with you--and I shall write every day."

Just before coming to West Salem (with a feeling of guilt in my heart) I
had purchased a mechanical piano in the hope that it would cheer her
lonely hours, and as this instrument had arrived I unboxed it and set it
up in the music room, eager to please the old folks to whom it was an
amazing contrivance.

It was on Sunday and Uncle Will came in together with several of the
neighbors, and while I manipulated the stops and worked the pedals, they
all sat in silence, marveling at the cunning of the mechanism rather
than enjoying "The Ride of the Valkyries." However as I played some
simpler things, a song of MacDowells, a study by Grieg, my Uncle's head
bowed, and on his face came that somber brooding look which recalled to
me the moods of David, his younger brother, whose violin had meant so
much to me when as a boy, I lay before the fire and listened with sweet
Celtic melancholy to the wailing of its strings.

Something in these northern melodies sank deep into my mother's
inherited memories, also, and her eyes were wide and still with inward
vision, but my Aunt Susan said, "That's a fine invention, but I'd rather
hear you sing," and in this judgment Maria concurred. "It's grand," she
admitted, "but 'tain't like the human voice."

In the end I put the machine back in the corner and sang for them, some
of the familiar songs. The instrument was surprising and new and
wonderful but it did not touch the hearts of my auditors like "Minnie
Minturn" and "The Palace of the King."

On the day following I set the date of my departure and at the end of my
announcement mother sat in silence, her face clouded with pain, her eyes
looking away into space. She had nothing to say in opposition, not a
word--she only said, "If you're going I guess the quicker you start the
better."



CHAPTER SEVEN

London and Evening Dress


Confession must now be made on a personal matter of capital importance.
Up to my thirty-ninth year I had never worn a swallow-tail evening coat,
and the question of conforming to a growing sartorial custom was
becoming, each day, of more acute concern to my friends as well as to
myself.

My first realization of the differences which the lack of evening dress
can make in a man's career, came upon me clearly during the social stir
of the Columbian Exposition, for throughout my ten years' stay in Boston
I had accepted (with serene unconsciousness of the incongruity of my
action) the paradoxical theory that a "Prince Albert frock coat" was the
proper holiday or ceremonial garment of an American democrat. The
claw-hammer suit was to me, as to my fellow artist, "the livery of
privilege" worn only by monopolistic brigands and the poor parasites who
fawned upon and served them, whereas the double-breasted black coat,
royal, as its name denoted, was associated in my mind with judges,
professors, senators and doctors of divinity.

It was, moreover, a dignified and logical garment. It clothed with equal
charity a man's stomach and his stern. Generous of its skirts, which
went far to conceal wrinkled trousers, it could be worn with a light tie
at a formal dinner or with a dark tie at a studio tea, and was equally
appropriate at a funeral or a wedding. For all these several reasons it
remained the uniform of professional men throughout the Middle Border.
From my earliest childhood it had been my ideal of manly elegance. Even
in New York I had kept pretty close to the social level where it was
still accepted.

The World's Fair in '93, however, had not only brought to Chicago many
of the discriminating social customs of the East, but also many
distinguished guests from the old world to whom dress was a formal,
almost sacred routine. To meet these noble aliens, we, the artists and
writers of the city, were occasionally invited; and the question "Shall
we conform" became ever more pressing in its demand for final
settlement. One by one my fellows had deserted from the ranks and were
reported as rubbing shoulders with plutocrats in their great
dining-rooms or escorting ladies into gilded reception parlors, wearing
garments which had no relationship to learning, or art, or law, as I had
been taught to believe. Lorado Taft, Oliver Dennett Grover, and even
Henry Fuller had gone over to the shining majority, leaving me almost
alone in stubborn support of the cylindrical coat.

To surrender was made very difficult for me by Eugene Field, who had
publicly celebrated me as "the sturdy opponent of the swallow-tail
suit," and yet he himself,--though still outwardly faithful--had been
heard to say, "I may be forced to wear the damned thing _yet_."

In all this I felt the wind of social change. That I stood at the
parting of the ways was plain to me. To continue on my present line of
march would be to have as exemplars Walt Whitman, Joaquin Miller, John
Burroughs and other illustrious non-conformists to whom long beards,
easy collars, and short coats were natural and becoming. To take the
other road was to follow Lowell and Stedman and Howells. To shorten my
beard--or remove it altogether,--to wear a standing collar, and attached
cuffs--to abandon my western wide-rimmed hat--these and many other
"reforms" were involved in my decision. Do you wonder that I hesitated?

That I was being left out of many delightful dinners and receptions had
been painfully evident to me for several years, but the consideration
which had most weight with me, at this time, was expressed by one of my
friends who bluntly declared that all the desirable young women of my
acquaintance not only adored men in evening dress but ridiculed those of
us who went about at all hours of the day and night in "solemn, shiny,
black frocks." I perceived that unless I paid a little more attention to
tailors and barbers and haberdashers my chances for bringing a new
daughter to my mother were dishearteningly remote. Secretly alarmed and
meditating a shameful surrender, I was held in check by the thought of
the highly involved system of buttons, ties, gloves, hats, and shoes
with which I would be called upon to wrestle.

Zangwill, to whom I confided my perplexity, bluntly advised me to
conform. "In truth," said he, "the steel pen suit is the most democratic
of garments. It renders the poor author indistinguishable from the
millionaire."

As usual I referred the problem to Howells. After explaining that I had
in mind a plan to visit England I said, "Every one but John Burroughs
says I must get into the swallow-tail coat; and I will confess that even
here in New York I am often embarrassed by finding myself the only man
in a frock suit at a dinner."

Howells smiled and with delightful humor and that precision of phrase
which made him my joy and my despair, answered, "My dear fellow, why
don't you make your proposed visit to England, buy your evening suit
there and on your return to Chicago plead the inexorability of English
social usages?"

He had pointed the way out. "By George, I'll do just that," I declared,
vastly elated.

In this account of my hesitations I am _still_ the historian. In stating
my case I am stating the perplexities of thousands of my fellow
citizens of the Middle Border. It has its humorous phases--this reversal
of social habit in me, but it also has wide significance. My surrender
was coincident with similar changes of thought in millions of other
young men throughout the West. It was but another indication that the
customs of the Border were fading to a memory, and that Western society,
which had long been dominated by the stately figures of the minister and
the judge, was on its way to adopt the manners and customs of the
openly-derided but secretly admired "four hundred."

Having decided on my sailing date I asked Howells for a few letters of
introduction to English authors.

He surprised me by saying, "I have very few acquaintances in England but
I will do what I can for you."

At the moment of embarkation I disappointed myself by remaining quite
calm. Even when the great ship began to heave and snort and slide away
from the wharf I experienced no thrill--it was not till an hour or two
later, as I stood on the forward deck, watching the sun go down over the
tumbling spread of water, which had something of the majesty I had known
in the prairies, that I became exalted. The vast expanse seemed
strangely like an appalling desert and lifting my eyes to the cloudy
horizon line I could almost imagine myself back on the rocks of Walpi
overlooking the Navajo reservation.

In a letter to my mother I gave the story of my trip. "Feeling a bit
queer along about nine o'clock I went to my state room.--When I came on
deck the next time, my eyes rested upon the green hills of Ireland!--I
am certain the ship's restaurant realized the highest possible profit in
my case for I remember but two meals, one as we were leaving Sandy Hook,
the other as we signaled Queenstown. It may be that I imbibed a bowl of
soup in the interim,--I certainly swallowed a great many doses of
several kinds of medicine. The ship's doctor declared me to be the
worst sailor he had even known in all his thirty years' experience,--so
much of distinction I may definitely claim."

In the dark hours of that interminable week, I went over my trail into
the Skeena Valley during the previous May, with retrospective delight.
In contrast to these endless days of lonely misery in my ship bed those
weeks of rain and mud and mosquitoes became a joyous outing. So far from
giving any thought to problems of dress or social intercourse I was only
interested in reaching land--any land.

"In two minutes after I landed at Liverpool I was perfectly well," I
wrote to my mother. "The touch of solid earth under my feet instantly
restored my sanity. My desire to live returned. In an hour I was aboard
one of the quaint little coaches of the Midland Express and on my way to
London.

"Lush meadows, flecked with fat red cattle feeding beside slow streams;
broad lawns rising to wooded hills, on which many-towered gray buildings
rose; sudden thick-walled towns; factories, winding streams, noble
trees, and finally a yellow mist and London!

"I am at a small inn, near the Terminal Hotel. I ate my dinner last
night surrounded by English people. With brain still pulsing with the
motion of the sea, I went to my bed, rejoicing to feel around me the
solid stone walls of this small but ancient hotel."

After a long walk in search of my publishers I was repaid by finding
several letters awaiting me, and among them was one from Zangwill, who
wrote, "Come at once to my house. I have a message for you."

His address was almost as quaint in my ear as that of Sir Walter Besant,
which was Frognals End--or something like it, but I found it at last on
the way to 'Ampstead 'Eath. The house was a modest one but his study was
made cheery by a real fire of "coals," and many books.

He greeted me heartily and said, "I have an invitation for you to the
Authors' Society Dinner which comes next week. It will be what you would
call 'a big round-up' and you can't afford to miss it. You must go at
once and order that evening suit."

The idea of the dinner allured me but I shuffled, "Can't I go as I am?"

"Certainly not. It is a full-dress affair."

I argued, "But George Bernard Shaw is reported to be without the dress
suit."

"Yes," admitted Zangwill, "Shaw goes everywhere in tweeds, but then he
is Shaw, and can afford to do as he pleases. You will not see him at
this dinner. He seldom goes to such functions."

With a shudder I plunged. "I'll do it! If I must surrender, let it be on
a grand occasion like this. I am in your hands."

Zangwill was highly amused. "We will go at once. That suit must be ready
for the dinner which comes on Thursday. There's not a moment to spare.
The cow-boy must be tamed."

My hesitation may seem comical to my reader as it did to Zangwill, but I
really stood in deep dread of the change. The thought of bulging shirt
fronts, standing collars, varnished shoes and white ties appalled me.
With especial hatred and timidity I approached the cylindrical hat,
which was so wide a departure from my sombrero.--Nevertheless decision
had been taken out of my hands! With wry face I followed my guide.

In most unholy glee Zangwill stood looking on whilst I was being
measured. "This is the beginning of your moral debacle," said he. "What
will they say of you in Wisconsin, when they hear of your appearance at
an English dinner wearing 'the livery of the oppressor'?"

I made no reply to these questions, but I felt like the traitor he
reported me to be.

However, being in so far I decided to go clean through. I bought a white
tie, some high collars, two pairs of gloves and a folding opera hat. I
could not bring myself to the point of wearing a high hat in the day
time (that was almost too much of a change from my broad brim), although
my Prince Albert Frock, which I wore morning, noon, and night, was in
conformity with English custom. Even the clerks were so attired.

Meanwhile, Zangwill's study was the only warm place in London--so far as
I knew. His glowing fire of hard coal was a powerful lure, and I was
often there, reacting to the warmth of his rug like a chilled insect. On
his hearth I thawed into something like good humor, and with his
knowledge of American steam heat he was fitted to understand my vocal
delight.

From my Strand hotel I set out each morning, riding about the city on
the tops of buses and in this way soon got "the lay of the land." I was
able to find Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the Houses of
Parliament, and a few other landmarks of this character. I spent a week
or more, roaming about the old city, searching out, as most Americans
do, the literary, the historic. I wanted to see the Tower, "The Cheshire
Cheese," and the Law Courts of the Temple. The modern London, which was
almost as ugly as Chicago, did not interest me at all.

Between "try-ons" of the new suit I began to meet the men I was most
interested in. I lunched with James Barrie and called upon Bret Harte,
Sir Walter Besant and Thomas Hardy. Bernard Shaw wrote asking me to
Hindhead for a week-end, and Conan Doyle invited me to see a cricket
match with him--but all these events were subordinate to the authors'
dinner and the accursed suit in which I was about to lose my identity.
"My shirt will 'buckle,' my shoes will hurt my feet, my tie will slip up
over my collar--I shall take cold in my chest----" (As a hardened
diner-out I look back with wonder and a certain incredulity on that
uneasy week.)

These were a few of the fears I entertained, but on the fateful
night--an hour before the time to start out, I assumed the whole
"outfit" and viewed myself as best I could in my half-length mirror and
was gratified to note that I resembled almost any other brown-bearded
man of forty. I couldn't see my feet and legs in the glass, but my
patent leather shoes were illustrious. I began to think I might pull
through without accident.

Zangwill with a mischievous grin on his face, met me at the door of the
hotel at seven, and conducted me to the reception hall which was already
filled with a throng of most distinguished guests running from Sir
Walter Besant, the president of the Authors' Society, to Lord Rosebery,
who was to be one of the speakers. Zangwill, who seemed to be known of
everybody, kept me in hand, introducing me to many of the writers, and
kind Sir Walter said, "As an American over-seas member your seat is at
the speakers' table"--an honor which I accepted with a swift realization
that it was made possible by the new coat and vest I presented to the
world.

Zangwill parted with me, smilingly. "I am but one of lower orders," said
he, "but I shall have an eye to you during dinner."

My left-hand neighbor at the table was a short, gray, gloomy individual
whose name I failed to catch, but the man on my right was Henry Norman,
of the _London Chronicle_, and after we had established friendly
relations I leaned to him and whispered, "Who is the self-absorbed,
gloomy chieftain on my left?"

"That," said he, "is Henry M. Stanley."

"What!" I exclaimed, "not Henry M. Stanley of Africa?"

"Yes, Stanley of Uganda."

It seemed a pity to sit in silence beside this great explorer, who had
been one of my boyish heroes, and I decided to break the ice of his
reserve in some way. Turning to him suddenly I asked, "Sir Henry, how do
you pronounce the name of that poisonous African fly--is it Teetsie or
Tettsie?"

He brightened up at once. I was not so great a bore as he feared. After
he had given me a great deal of information about this fly, and the
sleeping sickness, I asked him what he thought of the future of the
continent, to which he responded with growing geniality. We were off!

After a proper interval I volunteered some valuable data concerning the
mosquitoes and flies I had encountered on my recent trip into the
wilderness of British Columbia. He became interested in me. "Oh! You've
been to the Klondike!"

This quite broke down his wall. Thereafter he listened respectfully to
all that I could tell him of the black flies, the huge caribou flies,
the orange-colored flies, and the mosquitoes who worked in two shifts
(the little gray ones in hot sunlight, the big black ones at night), and
by the time the speaking began we were on the friendliest terms. "What a
bore these orators are!" I said, and in this judgment he instantly
agreed.

Sitting there in the faces of hundreds of English authors, I achieved a
peaceful satisfaction with my outfit. A sense of being entirely
inconspicuous, a realization that I was committed to convention,
produced in me an air of perfect ease. By conforming I had become as
much a part of the scene as Sir Walter or the waiter who shifted my
plates and filled my glass. "Zangwill is right," I said, "the clawhammer
coat is in truth the most democratic of garments."

It pleased me also to dwell upon the fact that the moment of my
capitulation had been made glorious by a meeting with Stanley and Hardy
and Barrie, and that the dinner which marked this most important change
in lifelong habits of dress was appropriately notable. That several
hundred of the best known men and women of England had witnessed my
fall softened the shock, and when--on the way out--Zangwill nudged my
elbow and said, "Cow-boy, you wore 'em to the manner born," I smiled in
lofty disregard of future comment. I faced Chicago and New York with
serene and confident composure.

Although I carried this suit with me to Bernard Shaw's (on a week-end
visit), I was not called upon to wear it, for he met me in snuff-colored
knickerbockers and did not change to any other suit during my stay.
Sunday dinner at Conan Doyle's was a midday meal, and Barrie and Hardy
and other of my literary friends I met at teas or luncheons. I took my
newly-acquired uniform to Paris but as my meetings with my French
friends were either teas or lunches, it so happened that--eager as I was
to display it I did not put this suit on till after I reached home. My
first appearance in it was in the nature of a masquerade, my second was
by way of a joke to please my mother.

Knowing that she had never seen a man in evening dress I arrayed myself,
one night, as if for a banquet, and suddenly descended upon her with
intent to surprise and amuse her. I surprised her but I did not make her
laugh in the way I had expected. On the contrary she surveyed me with a
look of pride and then quietly remarked, "I like you in it. I wouldn't
mind if you dressed that way every day."

This finished my opposition to the swallow-tail coat. If my mother, the
daughter of a pioneer, a woman of the farm, accepted it as something
appropriate to her son, its ultimate acceptance by all America was
inevitable. Thereafter I lay in wait for an opportunity to display
myself in all my London finery.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two months later as I was mounting the central staircase of the Chicago
Art Institute, on my way to the Annual Reception, I met two of my fellow
republicans in Prince Albert Frock suits. At sight of me they started
with surprise--surprise and sorrow--exclaiming, "Look at Hamlin
Garland!" Assuming an expression of patrician ease, I replied, "Oh, yes,
I have conformed. In London one _must_ conform, you know.--The English
are quite inexorable in all matters of dress, you understand."

Howells, when I saw him next, smilingly listened to my tale and heartily
approved of my action, but Burroughs regarded it as a weak surrender. "A
silk hat and steel-pen coat on a Whitman Democrat," he said, "seems like
a make-believe," which, in a sense, it was.



CHAPTER EIGHT

The Choice of the New Daughter


Although my mother met me each morning with a happy smile, she walked
with slower movement, and in studying her closely, after three months'
absence, I perceived unwelcome change. She was not as alert mentally or
physically as when I went away. A mysterious veil had fallen between her
wistful spirit and the outer world. Her vision was dimmer and her spirit
at times withdrawn, remote. She laughed in response to my jesting, but
there was an absent-minded sweetness in her smile, a tremulous quality
in her voice which disturbed me.

Her joy in my return, so accusing in its tenderness, led me to declare
that I would never again leave her, not even for a month. "You may count
on me hereafter," I said to her. "I'm going to quit traveling and settle
down near you."

"I hope you mean it this time," she replied soberly, and her words stung
for I recalled the many times I had disappointed her.

With a mass of work and correspondence waiting my hand I went from my
breakfast to my study. My forenoons thereafter were spent at my desk,
but with the understanding that if she got lonesome, mother was
privileged to interrupt, and it often happened that along about eleven I
would hear a softly-opened stair-door and then a call,--a timid call as
if she feared to disturb me--"Haven't you done enough? Can't you come
now?" There was no resisting this appeal. Dropping my pen, I went below
and gave the rest of my day to her.

We possessed an ancient low-hung "Surrey," a vehicle admirably fitted
for an invalid, and in this conveyance with a stout mare as motive power
we often drove away into the country of a pleasant afternoon, sometimes
into Gill's Coulee, sometimes to Onalaska.

On these excursions my mother rode in silence, busied with the past.
Each hill, each stream had its tender association. Once as we were
crossing the Kinney Hill she said, "We used to pick plums along that
creek." Or again as we were driving toward Mindora, she said, "When
McEldowney built that house we thought it a palace."

She loved to visit her brother William's farm, and to ride past the old
McClintock house in which my father had courted her. Her expression at
such times was sweetly sorrowful. The past appeared so happy, so secure,
her present so precarious, so full of pain. She sensed the mystery, the
tragedy of human life, but was unable to express her conceptions,--and I
was of no value as a comforter. I could only jest with a bitter sense of
helplessness.

On other days, when she was not well enough to drive, I pushed her about
the village in a wheeled chair, which I had bought at the World's Fair.
In this way she was able to make return calls upon such of her neighbors
as were adjacent to side-walks. She was always in my thought,--only when
Franklin took her in charge was it possible for me to concentrate on the
story which I had begun before going abroad, and in which I hoped to
embody some of the experiences of my trip. _Boy Life on the Prairie_ was
also still incomplete, and occasionally I put aside _The Hustler_, as I
called my fiction, in order to recover and record some farm custom, some
pioneer incident which my mother or my brother brought to my mind as we
talked of early days in Iowa.

The story (which Gilder afterward called _Her Mountain Lover_) galloped
along quite in the spirit of humorous extravaganza with which it had
been conceived, and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it for the reason that in
it I was able to relive some of the noblest moments of my explorations
of Colorado's peaks and streams. It was an expression of my indebtedness
to the High Country.

I made the mistake, however, of not using the actual names of
localities. Just why I shuffled the names of trails and towns and
valleys so recklessly, I cannot now explain, for there was abundant
literary precedent for their proper and exact use. Perhaps I resented
the prosaic sound of "Sneffles" and "Montrose Junction." Anyhow,
whatever my motive, I covered my tracks so well that it was impossible
even for a resident to follow me. In _The Eagle's Heart_ I was equally
elusive, but as only part of that book referred to the High Country the
lack of definite nomenclature did not greatly matter.

Personally I like _Her Mountain Lover_, which is still in print, and for
the benefit of the possible reader of it, I will explain that the "Wagon
Wheel Gap" of the story is Ouray, and that the Grizzly Bear Trail leads
off the stage road to Red Mountain.

Our red raspberries were just coming into fruit, and a few strawberries
remained on the vines, therefore it happened that during the season we
had a short-cake with cream and sugar almost every night for
supper,--and such short-cakes!--piping hot, buttered, smothered in
berries. I fear they were not very healthful either for my mother or for
her sons, but as short-cakes were an immemorial delicacy in our home I
could not bring myself to forbid them.

Mother insisted on them all the more firmly when I told her that the
English knew nothing of short-cake or our kind of pies, and then, more
to amuse her than for any other reason, I told of a visit to my English
publisher and of my bragging about her short-cake so shamelessly that
he had finally declared: "I am coming to Chicago next year, and I shall
journey all the way to West Salem just to test your mother's
short-cake."

This made her chuckle. "Let him come," she said confidently. "We'll feed
him on it."

Notwithstanding her reaction to my jesting, my anxiety concerning her
deepened. The long periods of silence into which she fell alarmed me,
and at times, as she sat alone, I detected on her face an expression of
pain which was like that of one in despair. When I questioned her, she
could not define the cause of her distress, but I feared it came from
some weakening of her heart.

She was failing,--that was all too evident to me--failing faster than
her years warranted, and then (just as I was becoming a little
reassured) she came to me one morning, with both her hands outstretched,
as if feeling her way, her face white, her eyes wide and deep and dark
with terror. "I can't see! I can't see!" she wailed.

With a sense of impending tragedy I took her in my arms and led her to a
chair. "Don't worry, mother!" was all I could say. "It will pass soon.
Keep perfectly quiet."

Under the influence of my words she gradually lost her fear, and by the
time the doctor arrived she was quite calm and could see--a
little--though in a strange way.

In answer to his question she replied with a pitiful little smile, "Yes,
I can see you, but only in pieces. I can only see a part of your
face,--the rest of you is all black."

This reply seemed to relieve the doctor's mind. His face lighted up. "I
understand! Don't worry a mite. You will be all right in a few minutes.
It is only a temporary nerve disturbance."

This proved to be true, and as her lips resumed their placid sweetness
my courage came back. In a few hours she was able to see quite clearly,
or at least as clearly as was normal to her age. Nevertheless I accepted
this attack as a distinct and sinister warning. It not only emphasized
her dependence upon me, it made me very definitely aware of what would
happen to our household if she were to become a helpless invalid. Her
need of a larger bed-chamber, with a connecting bathroom was imperative.

"I know you will both suffer from the noise and confusion of the
building," I said to my aunt, "but I am going to enlarge mother's room
and put in water and plumbing. If she should be sick in that small
bedroom it would be horrible."

Up to this time our homestead had remained simply a roomy farmhouse on
the edge of a village. I now decided that it should have the
conveniences of a suburban cottage, and to this end I made plans for a
new dining-room, a new porch, and a bath-room.

Mother was appalled at the audacity of my designs. She wanted the larger
chamber, of course, but my scheme for putting in running water appealed
to her as something almost criminally extravagant. She was troubled,
too, by the thought of the noise, the dirt, the change which were
necessary accompaniments of the plan.

I did my best to reassure her. "It won't take long, mother, and as for
the expense, you just let _me_ walk the floor."

She said no more, realizing, no doubt, that I could not be turned aside
from my purpose.

There were no bathrooms in West Salem in 1899--the plumber was still the
tinner, and when the news of my ambitious designs got abroad it created
almost as much comment as my brother's tennis court had roused some five
years earlier. As a force making toward things high-fi-lutin, if not
actually un-American, I was again discussed. Some said, "I can't
understand how Hamlin makes all his money." Others remarked, "Easy come,
easy go!" Something unaccountable lay in the scheme of my life. It was
illogical, if not actually illegal.

"How can he go skittering about all over the world in this way?" asked
William McEldowney, and Sam McKinley said to my mother, "I swear, I
don't see how you and Dick ever raised such a boy. He's a
'sport,'--that's what he is, a freak." To all of which mother answered
only with a silent laugh.

The carpenters came, together with a crew of stonemasons, and the old
kitchen began to move southward, giving place for the foundations of the
new dining-room. By the end of the week, the lawn was littered with
material and tools, and the frame-work was enclosed.

My mother, in her anxiety to justify the enormous outlay said, "Well,
anyhow, these improvements are not entirely for me, they will make the
house all the nicer for my New Daughter when she comes."

"That's true," I answered, "I hadn't thought of that."

"It's _time_ you thought of it. You're almost forty years old," she
replied with humorous emphasis, then she added, "I begin to think I
never _will_ see your wife."

"Just you wait," I jestingly replied. "The case is not so hopeless as
you think--I have just received a letter which gives me a 'prospect.'"

I said this merely to divert her, but she seized upon my remark with
alarming seriousness. "Read me the letter. Where does she live?--Tell me
all about her."

Being in so far I thought it could do no harm to go a little farther. I
described (still in bantering mood) my first meeting with Zulime Taft
more than five years before. I pictured her as she looked to me then,
and as she afterward appeared when I met her a second time in the home
of her sister in Chicago. "I admit that I was greatly impressed by her,"
I went on, "but just when I had begun to hope for a better
understanding, her brother Lorado chilled me with the information that
she was about to be claimed by another man. To be honest about it,
mother, I am not sure that she is interested in me even now; although
one of her friends has just written me to say that Lorado was mistaken,
and that Zulime is not engaged to any one. I am going down to visit some
friends at the camp to test the truth of this; but don't say a word
about it, for my information may be wrong."

My warning went for nothing! My confession was too exciting to be kept a
secret, and soon several of mother's most intimate friends had heard of
my expedition, and in their minds, as in hers, my early marriage was
assured. Did not the proof of it lie in the fact that I was pushing my
building with desperate haste? Was this not done in order to make room
for my bride?--No other reason was sufficient to account for the
astounding improvements which I had planned, and which were going
forward with magical rapidity.

Of course no one could convince my mother that her son's "attractions"
might not prove sufficiently strong to make his "prospect" a
possibility, for to her I was not only a distinguished author, but a
"Good provider," something which outweighed literary attainment in a
home like ours.

She could not or would not speak of the girl as "Miss Taft," but
insisted upon calling her "Zuleema," and her mind was filled with plans
for making her at home.

Privately I was more concerned than I cared to show, and I would be
giving a false impression if I made light of my feeling at this time. I
spoke to mother jestingly in order to prevent her from building her
hopes on an unstable foundation.

In the midst of my busiest day I received a letter from my good friends,
Wallace and Tillie Heckman, and though I was but a clumsy farmer in all
affairs of the heart, I perceived enough of hidden meaning in their
invitation to visit Eagle's Nest, to give me pause even in the welter
of my plumbing. I replied at once accepting their hospitality, and on
Saturday took the train for Oregon to stay over Sunday at least.

Squire Heckman was good enough to meet me at the train, and as he drove
me up the hill to "Ganymede," which was his summer home, he said, "You
will breakfast with us, and as it is our custom to dine at the Camp on
Sunday we will take you with us and introduce you to the campers,
although most of them are known to you."

Mrs. Heckman, who was cordial in her welcome, informed me at breakfast
that Miss Taft was the volunteer stewardess of the Camp. "She is
expecting us to bring you to dinner to-day."

"As one of the Trustees of the Foundation, a tour of inspection is a
duty," I replied.

There was a faint smile on Mrs. Heckman's demure lips, but Wallace,
astute lawyer that he was, presented the bland face of a poker player.
Without a direct word being spoken I was made to understand that Miss
Taft was not indifferent to my coming, and when at half-past eleven we
started for Eagle's Nest I had a sense of committing myself to a
perilous campaign.

A walk of half a mile through a thick grove of oaks brought us out upon
a lovely, grassy knoll, which rose two hundred feet or more above the
Rock River, and from which a pleasing view of the valley opened to the
north as well as to the south. The camp consisted of a small kitchen
cabin, a dining tent, a group of cabins, and one or two rude studios to
which the joyous off-hand manners of the Fine Arts Building had been
transferred. It was in fact a sylvan settlement of city dwellers--a
colony of artists, writers and teachers out for a summer vacation.

[Illustration: Miss Zulime Taft, acting as volunteer housekeeper for the
colony, had charge of the long rude table under the tent-fly to which
the campers assembled with the appetites of harvest hands and the gayety
of uncalculating youth.]

In holiday mood Browne, Taft, and Clarkson greeted me warmly, upbraiding
me, however, for having so long neglected my official duties as trustee.
"We need your counsel."

Mrs. Heckman, laconic, quizzical, walked about "the reservation" with
me, and in her smiling eyes I detected a kind of gentle amusement with
her unconventional neighbors. She said nothing then (or at any time)
which could be interpreted as criticism, but a merry little quirk in the
corner of her lip instructed me.

Miss Taft was not visible. "As house-keeper she is busy with
preparations for dinner," Mrs. Heckman explained, and so I concealed my
disappointment as best I could.

At last at one o'clock, Lorado, as Chief of the tribe, gave the signal
for the feast by striking a huge iron bar with a hammer, a sound which
brought the campers from every direction, clamoring for food, and when
all were seated at the dining table beneath a strip of canvas, some one
asked, "Where's Zuhl?"

Browne answered with blunt humor, "Primping! She's gone to smooth her
ruffled plumage."

A cry arose, "Here she comes!" and Spencer Fiske the classical scholar
of the camp with fervent admiration exclaimed "By Jove--a veritable
Diana!"

Browne started the Toreador's song, and all began to beat upon the
tables with their spoons in rhythmical clamor. Turning my head I
perceived the handsome figure of a girl moving with calm and stately
dignity across the little lawn toward the table. She was bareheaded, and
wore a short-sleeved, collarless gown of summer design, but she carried
herself with a leisurely and careless grace which made evident the fact
that she was accustomed to these moments of uproar. As she neared the
tent, however, I detected a faint flicker of amusement in the lines
about her mouth.

This entrance so dramatic and so lovely was precisely the kind of
picture to produce on my mind a deeply influencing impression. I thought
her at the moment one of the most gracious and admirable women of my
world, a union of European culture and the homely grace of the prairie.

She greeted me with a pleasant word, and took a seat opposite, making no
reply to the jocular comment of her boarders. It was evident that she
was not only accustomed to demonstrations of this sort, but considered
them a necessary part of her stewardship, an office which was entirely
without salary--and scantily repaid in honor.

No complaints about the scarcity of butter, or questions concerning the
proportions of milk in the cream jug, had power to draw her into
defensive explanation. At last her tormentors unable to stampede her by
noise, or plague her by petitions, subsided into silence or turned to
other matters, and we all settled down to an abundant and very jolly
dinner.

It was because the camp loved Zulime Taft that they could carry on in
this way. It was all studio _blague_, and she knew it and offered no
defense of her economies.

Most of the artists and writers in the camp were already known to me.
They were all of small income, some of them were almost as poor as I,
and welcomed a method by which they were able to spend a summer
comfortably and inexpensively. A common kitchen, and an old white horse
and wagon also owned collectively, made it possible to offer board at
four dollars per week!

The Heckman home, which the campers called "the Castle," or "The Manor
House," a long, two-story building of stone which stood on the southern
end of the Bluff, overlooked what had once been Black Hawk's Happy
Hunting Ground. It was not in any sense a château, but it pleased
Wallace Heckman's artist-tenants to call it so, and by contrast with
their cook-house it did, indeed, possess something like grandeur.
Furthermore "the Lord of the Manor" added to the majesty of his position
by owning and driving a coach (this was before the day of the
automobile), and at times those of his tenants most highly in favor,
were invited to a seat on this stately vehicle.

"Lady" Heckman possessed a piano, another evidence of wealth, and the
pleasantest part of my recollections of this particular visit concerns
the evenings I spent with her in singing "Belle Mahone" and "Lily Dale,"
while Lorado and his sisters sat in the corner and listened--at least I
infer that they listened--now that I grow more clear in my mind I recall
that Tillie Heckman did not sing, she only played for me; and my
conviction is that I sang very well. I may be mistaken in this for (at
times) I detected Wallace Heckman addressing a jocose remark to Miss
Taft when he should have been giving his undivided attention to my song.

Miss Taft was accused of having a keen relish for the fare at Castle
Heckman, and in this relish I shared so frankly that when Tillie invited
me to stay on indefinitely, and Wallace suggested that I might make the
little pavilion on the lawn serve as my study, I yielded. "Work on the
homestead must wait," I wrote to my mother. "Important business here
demands my attention."

Zulime Taft appeared pleased when I announced my acceptance of the
Heckman hospitality, and Wallace immediately offered me the use of his
saddle horses and his carriage, and when he said, "Miss Taft loves to
ride," I was convinced not only of his friendly interest but of his
hearty coöperation. Furthermore as Mrs. Heckman often kept Miss Taft for
supper, I had the pleasant task of walking back to camp with her.

In some way (I never understood precisely how) the campers, one and all,
obtained the notion that I was significantly interested in Miss Taft;
but, as I was proceeding with extraordinary caution, wearing the bland
expression of a Cheyenne chieftain, I could not imagine any one
discovering in my action anything more than a frank liking, a natural
friendship between the sister of my artist comrade and myself.

It is true I could not entirely conceal the fact that I preferred her
company to that of any other of the girls, but there was nothing
remarkable in that--nevertheless, the whole camp, as I learned afterward
(long afterward), was not only aware of my intentions but, behind my
back, almost under my nose, was betting on my chances. Wagers were being
offered and taken, day by day, as to whether I would win or lose!

Fortunately, nothing of this disgraceful business reached me. I was
serenely unconscious of it all.

Demure as Tillie Heckman looked, slyly humorous as she occasionally
showed herself to be, she was a woman of understanding, and from her I
derived distinct encouragement. She not only indicated her sympathy; she
conveyed to me her belief that I had a fair chance to win. I am not
sure, but I think it was from her that I received the final statement
that Miss Taft was entirely free. However, this did not clear me from
other alarms, for on Friday night the train brought Henry Fuller and
several young men visitors who were all quite willing to walk and talk
with Miss Taft. It was only during the midweek that I, as the only
unmarried man in camp, felt entirely secure.

Henry Fuller stayed on after the others went back to the city, and I
would have been deeply disturbed by Zulime's keen interest in him, had I
not been fully informed of their relationship, which was entirely that
of intellectual camaraderie. Fuller was not merely a resolved bachelor;
he was joyously and openly opposed to any form of domesticity. He loved
his freedom beyond all else. The Stewardess knew this and revelled in
his wit, sharing my delight in his bitter ironies. His verbal
inhumanities gave her joy, because she didn't believe in them. They were
all "literature" to her.

The weather was glorious September, and as my writing was going forward,
my companionship ideal, and my mother's letters most cheerful, I
abandoned myself, as I had not done in twenty years, to a complete
enjoyment of life. Golden days! Halcyon days! Far and sweet and serene
they seem as I look back upon them from the present--days to review with
wistful regret that I did not more fully employ them in the way of
youth, for alas! my mornings were spent in writing when they should have
been given to walking with my sweetheart; yet even as I worked I had a
sense of her nearness, and the knowledge that the shimmering summer
landscape was waiting for me just outside my door, comforted me.
However, I was not wholly neglectful of my opportunities. My afternoons
were given over to walking or riding with her, and our evenings were
spent in long and quiet excursions on the river or sitting with the
artists in the light of a bonfire on the edge of the bluff, talking and
singing.

The more I knew of Miss Taft the more her versatility amazed me. She
could paint, she could model, she could cook and she could sew. As
Stewardess, she took charge of the marketing, and when the kitchen fell
into a flutter, her masterly taste and skill brought order--and a
delicious dinner--out of chaos. It remains to say that, in addition to
all these, her intellectual activities, she held her own in the fierce
discussions (concerning Art) which broke out at the table or raged like
whirlwinds on the moonlit bluff--discussions which centered around such
questions as these: "Can a blue shadow painting ever be restful?" "Is
Local Color essential to fiction?" I particularly admired the Stewardess
in these moments of controversy, for she never lost her temper or her
point of view.

Incredibly sweet and peaceful that week appears as I view it across the
gulf which the World War has thrust between that year and this.

We had no fear of hunger in those days, no dread of social unrest, no
expectation of any sudden change. All wars were over--in our opinion.
The world was at last definitely at peace, and we in America, like the
world in general, had nothing to do but to go on getting richer and
happier, so happy that we could be just. We were all young--not one of
us had gray hair. Life, for each of us as for the Nation, moved
futureward on tranquil, shining course, as a river slips southward to
the sea, confident, effortless, and serene. Heavenly skies, how happy we
were!

That I was aware in some degree of the idyllic, evanescent charm of
those days is made certain in a note which I find in my diary, the
record of a walk in the woods with Zulime. Her delight in the tender
loveliness of leaf and vine, in the dapple of sunlight on the path, I
fully shared. Another page tells of a horseback excursion which we made
across the river. She rode well, very well, indeed, and her elation, her
joy in the motion of the horse, as well as her keen delight in the
landscape, added to my own pleasure. We stayed to supper at the
Heckmans' that night, and walked back to the camp at nine, loitering
through the most magical light of the Harvest Moon.

As she manifested a delightful interest in what I was writing, I fell
into the habit of reading to her some pages out of my new manuscript, in
order that I might have the value of her comment on it. Of course I
expected comment to be favorable, and it was. That this was an unfair
advantage to take of a nice girl, I was aware, even then, but as she
seemed willing to listen I was in a mood to be encouraged by her smiles
and her words of praise.

My growing confidence led to an enlargement of my plans concerning the
homestead. "You are right," I wrote to my mother. "A new daughter will
make other improvements in the house absolutely necessary. Not merely a
new dining-room, but an extra story must be added to the wing--" And in
the glow of this design I reluctantly cut short my visit and returned to
West Salem, to apprise the carpenters of the radical changes in my
design.

Jestingly, and more by way of reconciling my mother to the renewed noise
and confusion of the building, I described the walks and rides I had
taken with Zulime, warning her at the same time not to enlarge upon
these facts. "Miss Taft's interest may be only friendliness," I added.

My words had precisely an opposite effect: thereafter she spoke of my
hopes as if they were certainties, and insisted on knowing all about
"Zuleema," as she persisted in calling Miss Taft.

"Now, Mother," I again protested, "you must not talk that way to _any_
of your callers, for if you do you'll get me into a most embarrassing
situation. You'll make it very hard for me to explain in case of
failure."

"You mustn't fail," she responded wistfully. "I can't afford to wait
much longer."

It was incredible to her that any sane girl would reject such an
alliance, but I was very far from her proud confidence.

In this doubt of success, I was entirely honest. I had never presumed on
any manly charm, I made no claim to beauty--on the contrary, I had
always been keenly aware of my rude frame and clumsy hands. I realized
also my lack of nice courtesy and genial humor. Power I had (and relied
upon), but of the lover's grace--nothing. That I was a bear was quite as
evident to me as to my friends. "If I win this girl it must be on some
other score than that of beauty," I admitted.

In the midst of the bustle and cheer of this week another swift and
sinister cloud descended upon me. One evening, as mother and I were
sitting together, she fell into a terrifying death-like trance from
which I could not rouse her, a condition which alarmed me so deeply that
I telegraphed to my father in Dakota and to my brother in Chicago,
telling them to come at once. It seemed to me that the final moment of
our parting was at hand.

All through that night, one of the longest I had ever known (a time of
agony and remorse as well as of fear), I blamed myself for bringing on
the wild disorder of the building. "If I had not gone away, if I had not
enlarged my plan, the house would now be in order," was the thought
which tortured me.

The sufferer's speech had failed, and her pitiful attempts to make her
wishes known wrung my heart with helpless pity. Her eyes, wide, dark and
beautiful, pleaded with me for help, and yet I could only kneel by her
side and press her hand and repeat the doctor's words of comfort. "It
will pass away, mother, just as your other attacks have done. I am sure
of it. Don't try to talk. Don't worry."

As the night deepened, dark and sultry, distant flashes of silent
lightning added to the lurid character of my midnight vigil. It seemed
that all my plans and all my hopes had gone awry. Helpless, longing for
light, I wore out the lagging hours beside my mother's bed, with very
little change in her condition to relieve the strain of my anxiety.
"Will she ever speak again? Have I heard her voice for the last time?"
These questions came again and again to my mind.

Dawn crept into the room at last, and Franklin came on the early train.
With his coming, mother regained some part of her lost courage. She grew
rapidly stronger before night came again, and was able to falter a few
words in greeting and to ask for father.

During the following day she steadily improved, and in the afternoon was
able to sit up in her bed. One of the first of her interests was a
desire to show my brother a new bonnet which I had recently purchased
for her in the city, and at her request I put it into her hands.

Her love and gratitude moved us both to tears. Her action had the
intolerable pathos of a child's weakness united with a kind of delirium.
To watch her feeble hands exhibiting a head-dress which I feared she
would never again wear--displaying it with a pitiful smile of pride and
joy--was almost more than I could bear. Her face shone with happiness as
she strove to tell my brother of the building I was doing to make her
more comfortable. "Zuleema is coming," she said. "My new daughter--is
coming."

When Franklin and I were alone for a moment, I said: "She must not die.
_I won't let her die._ She must live a little longer to enjoy the new
rooms I am building for her."

It would appear that the intensity of my desire, the power of my resolve
to bring her back to life, strengthened her, wrought upon her with
inexplicable magic, for by the time my father arrived she was able to
speak and to sit once more in her wheeled chair. She even joked with me
about "Zuleema."

"You'd better hurry," she said, and then the shadow came back upon me
with bitter chill. How insecure her hold on life had become!

Haste on the building was now imperative--so much, at least, I could
control. With one crew of carpenters, another of painters, and a third
of tinners, all working at the same time, I rushed the construction
forward. At times my action presented itself to me as a race against
death, or at least with death's messenger. What I feared, most of all,
was a sudden decline to helpless invalidism on my mother's part, a
condition in which a trained nurse would be absolutely necessary. To get
the rooms in order while yet our invalid was able to move about the
house, was now my all-absorbing interest.

With no time to dream of love, with no thought of writing, I toiled
like a slave, wet with perspiration, dusty and unkempt. With my shirt
open at the throat and my sleeves rolled to the elbow, I passed from one
phase of the job to another, lending a hand here and a shoulder there.
In order that I might hasten the tearing down and clearing away, I
plunged into the hardest and dirtiest tasks, but at night, after the men
were gone, dark moods of deep depression came over me, moments in which
the essential futility of my powers overwhelmed me with something like
despair.

"What right have you to ask that bright and happy girl--any girl--to
share the uncertainties, the parsimony, the ineludible struggle of your
disappointing life?" I demanded of myself, and to this there was but one
answer: "I have no right. I have only a need."

Nevertheless, I wrote her each day a short account of my doings, and her
friendly replies were a source of encouragement, of comfort. She did not
know (I was careful to conceal them) the torturing anxieties through
which I was passing, and her pages were, for the most part, a pleasant
reflection of the uneventful, care-free routine of the camp. In spite of
her caution she conveyed to me, beneath her elliptical phrases, the fact
that she missed me and that my return would not be displeasing to her.
"When shall we see you?" she asked.

In one of her letters she mentioned--casually--that on Monday she was
going to Chicago with her sister, but would return to the camp at the
end of the week.

Something in this letter led me to a sudden change of plan. As mother
was now quite comfortable again I said to her, "Zuleema has gone to
Chicago to do some shopping. I think I'll run down and meet her and ask
her to help me select the curtains and wall-paper for your new room.
What do you say to that?"

"Go along!" she said instantly, "but I expect you to bring her home with
you."

"Oh, I can't do that," I protested. "I haven't any right to do
that--yet!"

The mere idea of involving the girl in my household problem seemed
exciting enough, and on my way down to the city I became a bit less
confident. I decided to approach the matter of my shopping
diplomatically. She might be alarmed at my precipitancy.

She was not alarmed--on the contrary her pleased surprise and her keen
interest in my mother's new chamber gave me confidence. "I want you to
help me buy the furnishings for the new rooms," I said almost at once.

"I shall be glad to help," she replied in the most natural way.

Evidently, _she_ saw nothing especially significant in my request, but
to me it was a subtle stratagem. To have her take part in my
bargain-hunting was almost as exciting as though we were furnishing OUR
home, but I dared not assume that she was thinking along these dangerous
lines. That she was genuinely interested in my household problems was
evident, but I was not justified in asking anything further. She was
distinctly closer to me that day, more tenderly intimate than she had
ever been before, and her womanly understanding of my task--the deep
sympathy she expressed when I told her of my mother's recent
illness--all combined to give me comfort--and hope!

A few days later we rode back to Eagle's Nest Camp together, and all
through those three hours on the train a silent, subconscious, wordless
adjustment went on between us. That she was secretly debating the
question of accepting me was certain, and there was nothing in her
manner to dishearten me; on the contrary, she seemed to enjoy playing
round the perilous suggestion.

We dined at "the Castle" as usual, and late that night, as we walked
slowly over to the camp through the odorous woods, hearing the
whippoorwill's cry and the owlets hoot from their dark coverts, I was
made aware that my day's work had drawn her closer into my life. I had
made her aware of my need.

The day which followed our return to camp was my thirty-ninth birthday,
and I celebrated it by taking a long walk and talk with her. She took
some sewing with her, and as we rested under a great oak tree, we spoke
of many intimate, personal things, always with the weight of our
unsolved problem on our mind.

At last, in approaching my plea for help, I stated the worst of my case.
"I am poor and shall always remain poor," I said. "My talent is small
and my work has only a very limited appeal. I see no great improvement
in my fortunes. I have done an enormous amount of work this year (I've
written three volumes), but all of them conjoined will not bring in as
much cash as a good stone-mason can earn. But that isn't the worst of
it! The hopeless part of it is--I _like_ my job. I wouldn't change to a
more profitable one if I could. I have only one other way of earning
money, and that is by physical labor. If the worst comes to the worst, I
can farm or do carpenter work."

Her reply to all this was not entirely disheartening. "To make money is
not the most important thing in the world," she said, and then told me
of her own childhood in Illinois, of the rigid economies which had
always been necessary in the Taft home. "My father's salary as a
professor of geology was small, and with six people to feed and clothe,
and four children to be educated, my poor little mother had a very busy
and anxious time of it. I know by personal experience what it is to lack
money for food and clothes. The length of my stay in Paris was dependent
on rigid daily economy. I hadn't an extra franc to spare."

This confession of her own lifelong poverty should have turned me aside
from my fell purpose, but it did not--it merely encouraged me to go on.
In place of saying, "My dear girl, as compensation for all those years
of care and humiliating poverty you deserve a spacious home, with
servants and a carriage. Realizing that I can offer you only continued
poverty and added anxiety, I here and now relinquish my design. I
withdraw in favor of a better and richer man"--instead of uttering these
noble words, what did I do? I did the exact opposite! I proceeded to
press my selfish, remorseless, unwarranted demand!

It is customary for elderly men to refer either flippantly or with
gentle humor to their days of courtship, forgetting (or ignoring) the
tremulous eagerness, the grave questioning and the tender solemnity of
purpose with which they weighed the joys and responsibilities of married
life. It is easy to be cynical or evasive or unduly sentimental in
writing of our youthful love affairs, when the frosts of sixty years
have whitened our heads, after years of toil and care have dimmed our
eyes and thinned our blood, but I shall permit neither of these unworthy
moods to color my report of this day's emotion. I shall not deny the
alternating moments of hope and doubt, of bitterness and content, which
made that afternoon both sweet and sad.

The thing I was about to do was tragically destructive--I knew that. To
put out a hand, to arrest this happy and tranquil girl, saying, "Come,
be my wife. Come, suffer with me, starve with me," was a deed whose
consequences scared me while they allured me. I felt the essential
injustice of such a marriage, and I foresaw some of its accompanying
perplexities, but I did not turn aside as I should have done. With no
dependable source of income, with an invalid mother to care for, I asked
this artist, so urban, so native to the studio, so closely knit to her
joyous companions in the city, to go with me into exile, into a country
town, to be the housekeeper of a commonplace cottage filled with aged
people! "It is monstrous selfishness; it is wrong," I said, "but I want
you."

My philosophy, even at that time, was essentially individualistic. I
believed in the largest opportunity to every human soul. Equal rights
_meant_ Equal rights in my creed. I had no intention of asking Zulime
Taft to sink her individuality in mine. I wanted her to remain herself.
Marriage, as I contemplated it, was to be not a condition where the
woman was a subordinate but an equal partner, and yet how unequal the
sacrifice! "I ask you to join your future with mine. It's a frightful
risk, but I am selfish enough to wish it."

Under no illusion about my own character, I admitted that there is no
special charm in a just man. To have a sense of honor is fine, but to
have a joyous and lovely disposition makes a man a great deal easier to
live with. I was perfectly well aware that as a husband I would prove
neither lovely nor joyous. My temper was not habitually cheerful. Like
most writers, I was self-absorbed, filled with a sense of the importance
of my literary designs. To be "just" was easy, but to be charming and
considerate--these were the points on which I was sure to fail, and I
knew it. Did that deter me? Not at all! Bitterly unwilling to surrender
Zulime to the richer and kindlier man who was, undoubtedly, waiting at
that moment to receive her and cherish her, I pleaded with her to share
my poverty and my hope of future fame.

Shaken by my appeal, she asked for time in which to consider this
problem. "I ought to talk with Lorado," she said.

The mere fact that she could not decide against me at the moment gave me
confidence. "Very well," I said. "Mother wants me--I shall go home for
a week. Let me know when I can come again. I hope it will not be more
than a week."

In this arrangement we rested, and as we walked back to camp I cared
nothing for the sly words or glances of our fellow artists. I believed I
had won my case.

My mother's demand for my presence did not arise--I soon learned--from
any return of her malady, but from a desire for news of my courtship.
"Where's my new daughter? Why didn't you bring her?" she demanded.

"She couldn't come this time. The question is still unsettled."

"Go right back and settle it," she urged. "Go quick, before some one
else gets her. Write to her. Tell her to come right up. Send her a
telegram. Seems as though I can't wait another week."

Her urgency made me laugh, even while I perceived the pathos of it. "I
can't bring her to you, mother, till she is willing to come as a
bride--but she's thinking about it, and I am going back next week to get
my answer. Be patient a little while longer. I promise you the whole
question will be settled soon, and I _hope_ it will be settled our way.
Zulime seems to like me."

Dear old mother! Her stammering, tremulous utterance made me smile and
it made me weep. She was growing old prematurely, and the need of haste
was urgent. "If I can possibly persuade her to come," I added very
gravely, "I'll fetch her home to eat Thanksgiving dinner with you."

My tone, rather than my words, silenced her, and gave her a measure of
content, although she was childishly impatient of even a day's delay.

All that week I alternately hoped and doubted, assembling all the items
on the credit side of my ledger, and at last a letter came in which
Zulime indicated that she wished to see me. "I am still undecided," she
said, "but you may come." I left at once for the camp, feeling that her
confession of indecision was in my favor.

Lorado was not markedly favorable to me as a brother-in-law. He liked me
and respected me as a friend, but as a suitor for the hand of his
sister--well, that was another and far more serious matter.

The camp "Equipage" met me at the station, and I consented to ride in it
as far as the Heckman gate, hoping that Zulime would be there to welcome
me. In this I was not disappointed, and something in her face and the
firm clasp of her hand reassured me.

For nearly a week, in the midst of the most glorious October landscape,
surrounded by the scarlet and gold and crimson branches of the maples
and the deep-reds and bronze-greens of the oaks, she and I walked and
rode and boated in almost constant companionship. Idyllic days! Days of
a quality I had lost all hope of ever again reliving. Days of quiet
happiness and almost perfect content, for on an afternoon of dreamlike
beauty, in a glade radiant with hazy golden sunshine and odorous with
the ripening leaves, she spoke the all-important words which joined her
future life with mine.

We were seated at the moment on our favorite bank, under a tall oak
tree, gorgeous as a sunset cloud, and as silent. I had been reading to
her, and she was busy with some delicate embroidery. The crickets were
chirping sleepily in the grass at our feet, and the jays calling harshly
seemed warning us of the passing of summer and the coming on of frost.

"Let the wedding day be soon," I pleaded as we rose to return to camp.
"I am nearing the dead-line. I am almost forty years old--I can't afford
to wait. I want you to come to me now--at once. The old folks are
waiting for you. They want you for Thanksgiving Day. Your presence
would make them happier than any other good fortune in this world."

She understood my way of putting the argument. She knew that I was
veiling my own eagerness under my mother's need, and after a little
reflection she said, "I am going out to my father's home in Kansas. You
may come for me there on the twenty-third of November. That is--if you
still want me at that time."

The end of the camp season was at hand; everybody was packing up, and so
my girl and I turned with deep regret from the golden halls of our
sylvan meeting-place. "This is my Indian summer," I said to her, "and
that you may never have cause to regret the decision which this day has
brought to you, is my earnest hope."

More than twenty years have gone over our heads, and as I write these
lines our silver wedding is not far off. Our lives have not been all
sunshine, but Zulime has met all storms with a brave sweetness, which I
cannot overpraise. If she has regrets, she does not permit me to know
them. My poverty--which persists--has not embittered her or caused her,
so far as I know, a single mood of self-commiseration.



CHAPTER NINE

A Judicial Wedding


On reaching my Elm Street home the next day, I was surprised and deeply
gratified to find on my desk a letter from William Dean Howells, in
which he said: "I am at the Palmer House. I hope you will come to see me
soon, for I start for Kansas on a lecture trip in a few days."

Although I had long been urging that he should come to Chicago, he had
steadfastly declined to accept a lecture engagement west of Ohio, and I
could not quite understand what had led him so far afield as Kansas. I
hastened to call upon him, and, at the first appropriate pause in the
conversation, I spoke to him of my engagement. "Miss Taft loves your
books and would keenly appreciate the honor of meeting you."

With instant perception of my wish to have him know my future wife, he
replied, "My dear fellow, I am eager to meet _her_. Perhaps my gray
hairs will excuse your bringing her to call upon me."

"At your convenience," I replied eagerly. "I want you to know her. She
is very much worth while."

"I am sure of that," he smilingly retorted.

He was billed to speak that night, and as he was leaving for Rock Island
the following day he arranged that I should bring Zulime to the hotel
just before he started for his lecture.

After telling her of his wish to see her, I explained the significance
of it. "You must understand that Mr. Howells is a kind of literary
father confessor to me. He is a man of most delicate courtesy. Once you
have seen him, once you have looked into his face, you will love him."

She was as ready as I was to take her, and promptly on the minute we
sent up our names and took seats in the Ladies' Parlor. It had been
years since I had entered the Palmer House, and as we waited we compared
memories of its old-time splendor. "My father still regards it as the
grandest hotel in the West, and it is probable that Mr. Howells knew of
no other. So far as I know he has never been in Chicago before, unless
possibly for a few days during the World's Fair."

Zulime was much excited at the thought of meeting the great novelist,
but when he came, she took his hand with graceful composure, expressing
just the right mingling of reserve and pleasure. I was proud of her, and
the fact that Howells instantly and plainly approved of her, added to my
satisfaction.

"I congratulate you both," he said as we were leaving. "You see," he
added, addressing himself to Zulime, "your husband-elect is one of my
boys. I am particularly concerned with his good fortune. I like his
bringing you to see me, and I hope we shall see you both in New York."

In a literary sense this was my paternal blessing, for "Mr. Howells" had
been a kind of spiritual progenitor and guide ever since my first
meeting with him in '87. His wisdom, his humor, his exquisite art, had
been of incalculable assistance to me, as they had been to Clemens,
Burroughs, and many others of my fellow-craftsmen, and his commendation
of me to my intended wife almost convinced me, for the moment, of my
worthiness. How delightful he was! How delicate--how understanding! We
both went away, rich in the honor of his approval of our prospective
union.

Rich in his friendship, I was but poorly furnished in other respects. I
recall with shame the shopping tour which I made along State Street,
searching for an engagement ring, a gauge which Zulime, knowing my
poverty, stoutly insisted that she did not need--a statement which I was
simple enough to believe until her sister enlightened me. "That's only
Zuhl's way. Of course she wants a ring--every girl does. Don't fail to
get her one--a nice one!"

I found one at last that Zulime thought I could afford. It was a small
gold band with five opals, surrounded by several very minute diamonds,
all of which could be had for the sum of thirty-eight dollars. As I
bought this ring Zulime's girlish delight in it touched as well as
instructed me. Each time she held her finger up for me to see (she had a
beautiful hand) I regretted that I had not purchased a better ring. Why
did I take a ring at thirty-eight dollars! Why not fifty dollars? But
what could be expected of a man who never before had spent so much as
one dollar on a piece of jewelry, a man whose chief way of earning money
was to save it? Whenever I look at that poor little jewel now I
experience a curious mingling of shame and regret. I had so little money
at that time, and the future was so uncertain!

Zulime was living with her sister, and there I spent most of my evenings
and some of my afternoons during the following week, scarcely able to
realize my change of fortune except when alone with her, discussing our
future. She agreed at last to a date for the wedding which would enable
us to spend Thanksgiving at West Salem, and then for some reason, not
clear to me now, I suddenly took the train for Gallup, New Mexico, with
the Navajo Indian Agency for final destination.

Just why I should have chosen to visit Ganado at this precise time is
inexplicable, but there is no mystery in my leaving Chicago. My future
sister-in-law bluntly informed me that my absence from the city would
greatly facilitate the necessary dressmaking. Although an obtuse person
in some ways, I know when I am bumped. Three days after Fuller's
luncheon to Howells, I reached the town of Gallup, which is the point of
departure for the Navajo Agency, some twenty-five or thirty miles north
of the Santa Fé railway.

For nearly ten years I had been going to the Rocky Mountains at least
once during the summer season, and it is probable that I felt the need
of something to offset the impressions of my tour in England and
France--to lose touch with my material even for twelve months was to be
cheated--then, too, I hoped in this way to shorten the weeks of waiting.
Anyhow, here I was in Gallup, a drab little town which would have been a
horror to my bride-elect.

One of the reasons for my being in New Mexico I am sure about. With the
prospect of having some sort of an apartment in the city and a cabin at
the camp, I was in the market for Navajo rugs, and silver, and Hopi
pottery. It was in pursuit of these (and of literary material) that I
mounted the stage the next morning and set off up the sun-lit valley to
the north.

In leaving Gallup behind, my spirits rose. I wished that Zulime might
have shared this strange landscape with me. On the right a distant,
dimly-blue wall of mountains ran, while to the west rolled high,
treeless hills, against which an occasional native hut showed like a
wolf's den, half-hid among dwarf piñon trees and surrounded by naked
children and savage dogs.

At intervals we came upon solitary shepherds tending their piebald
flocks, as David and Abner guarded their father's sheep in Judea. That
these patient shepherds, watching their lean herds, these Deborahs
weaving their bright blankets beneath gnarled branches of sparse cedar
trees, should be living less than forty-eight hours from Chicago, was
incredible, and yet here they were! Their life and landscape, though of
a texture with that of Arabia, were as real as Illinois, and every mile
carried me deeper into the silence and serenity of their tribal home.

Brown boys, belted with silver and wearing shirts of gay calico, met us,
riding their wiry little ponies with easy grace. Children, naked, shy as
foxes, arrested their play beside dry clumps of sage-brush and stared in
solemn row, whilst their wrinkled, leathery grand-sires hobbled out,
cupping their thin brown hands in prayer for tobacco.

There was something Oriental, fictive in it all, and when at the end of
the day I found myself a guest in a pleasant cottage at the Agency, I
was fully awake to the contrasts of my "material." My ears, as well as
my eyes, were open to the drama of this land whose prehistoric customs
were about to pass. For the moment I was inclined to rest there and
study my surroundings, but as the real objective of my journey was
Ganado, about thirty miles to the west of the Fort, I decided to go on.

Ganado was the home of a famous Indian trader named Hubbell, whose store
was known to me as a center of Navajo life. Toward this point I set
forth a few days later, attended by a young Navajo whose _hogan_ was in
that direction, and who had promised to put me on my trail.

He was a fine, athletic youth of pleasant countenance, mounted upon a
spotted pony and wearing a shirt of purple calico. With a belt of silver
disks around his waist and a fillet of green cloth binding his glossy
black hair, he was distinctly and delightfully colorful.

Our way rose at once to the level of a majestic plateau, sparsely set
with pines and cedars, a barren land from which the grass and shrubs had
long since been cropped by swarms of sheep and goats. Nevertheless, it
was lovely to the eye, and as we rode forward we came upon a party of
Navajo girls gathering piñon nuts, laughing and singing in happy
abandon, untroubled by the white man's world. They greeted my guide with
jests, but became very grave as he pointed out a fresh bear-track in the
dust of the trail.

"Heap bears," he said to me. "Injun no kill bears. Bears big medicine,"
and as we rode away he laughed back at the panic-stricken girls, who
were hurriedly collecting their nuts in order to flee the spot.

At last my guide halted. "I go here," he signed with graceful hand. "You
keep trail; bimeby you come deep valley--stream. On left white man's
house. You stop there." All of which was as plain as if in spoken words.

As I rode on alone, the peace, the poetry, the suggestive charm of that
silent, lonely, radiant land took hold upon me with compelling power.
Here in the midst of busy, commonplace America it lay, a section of the
Polished Stone Age, retaining the most distinctive customs, songs and
dances of the past. Here was a people going about its immemorial
pursuits, undisturbed by the railway and the telephone. Its shepherds,
like the Hittites, who wandered down from the hills upon the city of
Babylon two thousand years before the Christian Era, were patriarchal
and pastoral. They asked but a tent, a piece of goat's flesh, and a cool
spring.

Late in the afternoon (I loitered luxuriously) I came to the summit of a
long ridge which overlooked a broad, curving valley, at the far-away
western rim of which a slender line of water gleamed. How beautiful it
all was, but how empty! No furrow, no hut, no hint of human habitation
appeared, a land which must ever be lonely, for it is without rains, and
barren of streams for irrigation.

An hour later I rode up to the door of a long, low, mud-walled building,
and was met by the trader, a bush-bearded, middle-aged man with piercing
gray eyes and sturdy, upright figure. This was Lorenzo Hubbell, one of
the best-known citizens of New Mexico, living here alone, a day's ride
from a white settler.

Though hairy and spectacled he was a comparatively young man, but his
mixed blood had already given him a singular power over his dark-skinned
neighbors of the territory.

His wife and children were spending the summer in Albuquerque, and in
the intimacy of our long days together I spoke of my approaching
marriage. "I want to buy some native blankets and some Navajo silver for
our new home."

His interest was quick. "Let me send your wife a wedding present. How
would she like some Hopi jars?"

The off-hand way in which he used the words, "your wife," startled
me--reminded me that in less than two weeks I was due at Professor
Taft's home to claim my bride. I accepted his offer of the vases and
began to collect silver and turquoise ornaments, in order that I might
carry back to Zulime some part of the poetry of this land and its
people.

"The more I think about it," I wrote to her, "the more I want you to
share my knowledge of 'the High Country.' Why not put our wedding a week
earlier and let me take you into the mountains? If you will advance the
date to the eighteenth of November, we can have an eight-day trip in
Colorado and still reach mother and the Homestead in time for
Thanksgiving. I want to show you my best beloved valleys and peaks."

Though addressing the letter to her Chicago home, I knew that she was
about to leave for Kansas; therefore I added a postscript: "I am
planning to meet you in your father's house about the eighteenth of the
month, and I hope you will approve my scheme."

In the glow of my plan for a splendid Colorado wedding journey, I lost
interest in Ganado and its Indians. Making arrangements for the shipment
of my treasures, I saddled my horse one morning, waved Hubbell a joyous
farewell, and started back toward the Agency in the hope of finding
there a letter from my girl.

In this I was not disappointed. She wrote: "I shall leave for Kansas on
the Burlington, Sunday night. You can write me at Hanover." It was plain
she had not received my latest word.

I began to figure. "If I leave here to-morrow forenoon, and catch the
express at Gallup to-morrow night, I can make the close connection at
Topeka, and arrive in St. Joseph just half an hour before Zulime's train
comes in on Monday morning. I shall surprise her--and delight myself--by
having breakfast with her!"

However, I could not get away till morning, and with an evening to wear
away I accepted the Agent's invitation to witness a native dance which
had been announced to him by one of the young Navajo policemen. I had
never seen a Navajo dance, and gladly accepted the opportunity to do so.

It was a clear, crisp November evening as we started out, the clerk, his
sister, one of the teachers and myself riding in a two-seated open
wagon, drawn by a pair of spirited horses. The native village was some
ten miles to the north, and all the way up hill, so that before we came
in sight of it darkness had fallen, and in the light of a bonfire the
dancers were assembling.

Of the village, if there was a village, I could see little, but a tall
old man (the town crier) was chanting an invitation or command of some
sort, and dark forms were moving to and fro among the shadows of the
piñon trees. How remote it all was from the white man's world, how
self-sufficing and peaceful--how idyllic!

The master of ceremonies met us and gave us seats, and for three hours
we sat in the glow of the fire, watching the youthful, tireless dancers
circle and leap in monotonous yet graceful evolutions. Here was love and
courtship, and jealousy and faithful friendship, just as among the white
dancers of Neshonoc. Roguish black eyes gleamed in the light of the
fire, small feet beat the earth in joyous rhythm, and the calm faces of
the old men lent dignity and a kind of religious significance to the
scene. They were dreaming of the past, when no white man had entered
their world.

The young people were almost equally indifferent to us, and as the night
deepened we who were white merged more and more indistinguishably with
the crowd of dusky onlookers. It was easy to imagine ourselves back in
the sixteenth century, looking upon this scene from the wondering
viewpoint of the Spanish explorers. Whence came these people, these
dances, these ceremonials?

At last the time came for us to set forth upon our long ride back to the
Agency, and so, silently, we rose and slipped away into the darkness,
leaving the dancers to end their immemorial festival without the aliens'
presence. They had no need of us, no care for us. At a little distance I
turned and looked back. The songs, interrupted by shrill, wolfish
howlings and owl-like hootings, rang through the night with singular
savage charm, a chant out of the past, a chorus which was carrying
forward into an individualistic white man's world the voices of the
indeterminate tribal past.

The sky was moonless, the air frosty, and after we had entered the
narrow cañon, which was several miles long and very steep, the clerk,
who was not very skilled with horses, turned the reins over to me, and
for an hour or more I drove with one foot on the brake, trusting mainly
to the horses to find their way. It was bitter cold in the cañon, and my
cramped right leg became lame--so lame that I could hardly get out of
the wagon after we reached the Agency. Excruciating pain developed in
the sciatic nerve, and though I passed a sleepless night I was
determined to leave next morning. "I shall go if I have to be carried to
my horse," I said grimly to the clerk, who begged me to stay in bed.

Fortunately, the trader was going to the railway and kindly offered to
take me with him; and so, laden with Navajo silver (bracelets, buckles
and rings), I started out, so lame that I dragged one leg with a groan,
hoping that with the warmth of the sun my pain would pass away.

Reaching Gallup at noon, I spent the afternoon sitting in the sun,
waiting for the train. At six o'clock it came, and soon I was washed and
shaved and eating dinner on the dining-car of the Continental Limited.

All that night and all the next day and far into the second night I
rode, my fear of missing connection at Topeka uniting with my rheumatism
to make the hours seem of interminable length. It seemed at times a
long, long "shot"--but I made it! I reached the station at Topeka just
in time to catch the connecting train, and I was on the platform at St.
Joseph at sun-rise a full half-hour before the Burlington coaches from
Chicago were due.

As I walked up and down, I smiled with anticipation of the surprise I
had in store. "If she keeps her schedule I shall see her step from the
Pullman car without the slightest suspicion that I am within six hundred
miles of her," I thought, doing my best to walk the kink out of my leg,
which was still painful. "She is coming! My wife is coming!" I repeated,
incredulous of the fact.

At eight o'clock the engine came nosing in, and while watching the line
of passengers descend, I lost hope. It was too much to expect!

She was there! I saw her as she stepped down from the rear Pullman, and
just as she was about to take her valise from the porter, I touched her
on the shoulder and said, "I'll take charge of that."

She started and turned with a look of alarm, a look which changed to
amazement, to delight. "Oh!" she gasped. "Where did _you_ come from?"

"From the Navajo reservation," I replied calmly.

"But how did you _get here_?"

"By train, like yourself."

"But when--how long ago?"

"About thirty minutes," I laughed. "I'm a wizard at making close
connections." Then, seeing that she must know all about it at once, I
added, "Come into the station restaurant, and while we are eating
breakfast I will tell you where I have been and what brought me back so
soon."

While waiting for our coffee I took from my valise a bracelet of silver,
a broad band shaped and ornamented by some Navajo silversmith. "Hold out
your arm," I commanded. She obeyed, and I clasped the barbaric gyve
about her wrist. "That is a sign of your slavery," I said gravely.

Smilingly, meditatively, she fingered it, realizing dimly the grim truth
which ran beneath my jesting. She was about to take on a relationship
which must inevitably bring work and worry as well as joy.

(That silver band has never left her wrist for a moment. For twenty-two
years she has worn it, keeping it bright with service for me, for her
children and for her friends. There is something symbolic in the fact
that it has never lost its clear luster and that it has never tarnished
the arm it adorns.)

Her joy in this present, her astonishment at my unexpected appearance
on the railway platform, amused and delighted me. I could scarcely
convince her that at six o'clock on Saturday night I was in a New Mexico
town, waiting for the eastern express. It was all a piece of miraculous
adventure on my part, but her evident pleasure in its successful working
out made me rich--and very humble. "What did you do it for?" she asked;
then, with a look of dismay, she added, "What am I going to do with you
in Hanover?"

"I think I can find something to do," I answered, and entered upon a
detailed statement of my plan. "I want you to see the mountains. We'll
set our wedding day for the eighteenth--that will give us a week in
Colorado, and enable us to eat Thanksgiving dinner with the old folks at
the homestead. You say you have never seen a real mountain--well, here's
your chance! Say the word, and I'll take you into the heart of the San
Juan Range. I'll show you the splendors of Ouray and the Uncompagre."

Holding the floor, in order that she might not have a chance to protest,
I spread an alluring panorama of peaks and valleys before her eyes, with
an eloquence which I intended should overcome every objection. That she
was giving way to my appeal was evident. Her negatives, when they came,
were rather feeble. "I can't do it. It would be lovely, but--oh, it is
impossible!"

"It is done--it is arranged!" I replied. "I have already sent for the
railway tickets. They will be at your home to-morrow night. All is
settled. We are to be married on the eighteenth, and----"

"But our cards are all in Chicago and printed for the twenty-third!"

"What of that? Get some more--or, better still, forget 'em! We don't
need cards."

"But--my sewing?"

"Never mind your sewing. Would you let a gown come between you and a
chance to see the Needle Peak? I am determined that you shall see Ouray,
Red Mountain, and the San Juan Divide."

At last she said, "I'll think about it."

She was obliged to think about it. All the forenoon, as the train ambled
over the plain toward the village in which Professor Taft had
established his bank, I kept it in her mind. "It may be a long time
before we have another chance to visit Colorado. It will be glorious
winter up there. Think of Marshall Pass, think of Uncompagre, think of
the Toltec Gorge!" My enthusiasm mounted. "Ouray will be like a town in
the Andes. We must plan to stay there at least two days."

She fell into silence, a dazed yet smiling silence, but when at last I
said, "Every hour in the low country is a loss--let's be married
to-morrow," she shook her head. I had gone too far.

She confessed that a stay in Hanover was in the nature of a punishment.
"I never liked it here, and neither did my little mother," she said, and
then she described her mother's life in Hanover. "I was called home to
nurse her in the last days of her illness," she explained. "Poor little
mamma! She came out here unwillingly in the first place, and I always
resented her living so far away from the city. After her death I seldom
came here. Father does not care. He is so absorbed in his business and
in his books that it doesn't matter where he lives."

Professor Taft and his son, Florizel, were both at the train to meet
Zulime, and both were properly amazed when I appeared. As a totally
unexpected guest I was a calamity--but they greeted me cordially. What
Zulime said in explanation of my presence I do not know, but the family
accepted me as an inevitable complication.

My lameness, which dated from that ride down the Navajo cañon,
persisted, which was another worriment; for Zulime was too busy with
sewing-women to give much time to me and walking was very painful, hence
I spent most of my day down at the bank, talking with my prospective
father-in-law, who interested me much more than the sordid little
village and its empty landscape. He was a sturdy, slow-moving man with
long, gray beard, a powerful and strongly individual thinker, almost as
alien to his surroundings as a Hindoo Yoghi would have been. With the
bland air of a kindly teacher he met his customers in the outer office
and genially discoursed to them of whatever happened to be in his own
mind--what they were thinking about was of small account to him.

As a deeply-studied philosopher of the old-fashioned sort, his words,
even when addressed to a German farmer, were deliberately chosen, and
his sentences stately, sonorous and precise. Regarding me as a man of
books, he permitted himself to roam widely over the fields of medieval
history, and to wander amid the gardens of ancient faiths and dimly
remembered thrones.

Although enormously learned, his knowledge was expressed in terms of the
past. His quotations, I soon discovered, were almost entirely confined
to books whose covers were of a faded brown. His scientists, his
historians were all of the Victorian age or antecedent thereto. Breasted
and Ferrero did not concern him. His biologists were of the time of
Darwin, his poets of an age still earlier, and yet, in spite of his
musty citations, he was a master mind. He knew what he knew (he guessed
at nothing), and, sitting there in that bare little bank, I listened in
silence what time he marched from Zoroaster down to Charlemagne, and
from Rome to Paris. He quoted from Buckle and Bacon and Macaulay till I
marveled at the contrast between his great shaggy head and its
commonplace surroundings, for in the midst of a discussion of the bleak
problems of Agnosticism, or while considering Gibbon's contribution to
the world's stock of historical knowledge, certain weather-worn Bavarian
farmers came and went, studying us with half-stupid, half-suspicious
glances, having no more kinship with Don Carlos Taft than so many
Comanches.

It is probable that the lonely old scholar rejoiced in me as a
comprehending, or at least a sympathetic, listener, for he talked on and
on, a steady, slow-moving stream. I was content to listen. That I
allowed him to think of me as a fellow-student, I confess, but in my
failure to undeceive him I was only adding to the comfort which he took
in my company. It would have been a cruelty to have confessed my
ignorance. It was after all only a negative deception, one which did
neither of us any harm.

Furthermore, I was aware that he was in a sense "trying me out." He not
only wanted to measure my understanding--he was especially eager to know
what my "religion" was. He dreaded to find me a sectarian, and when he
discovered that I, too, was a student of Darwin and a disciple of
Herbert Spencer, he frankly expressed his pleasure. He rejoiced, also,
in the fact that I was earning my own living, and to him I seemed to be
in possession of a noble income. With all his love of scholarship he
remained the thrifty son of New England.

Here again I fear I permitted him to assume too much, but when one's
prospective father-in-law is asking how one expects to support a wife,
one is tempted to give a slightly more favorable report than the
conditions will warrant. I explained my contract with Macmillans, and
named the prices I obtained for my stories, and with these he was
properly impressed. It was absurd yet gratifying to have a son-in-law
who could sell "lies" for hard cash, and his respect for me increased.

As we walked homeward that night, I expressed my wish to have the
marriage a judicial ceremony. "I make no objection to having the service
read by a clergyman," I explained, "but I prefer to employ the highest
legal authority in the county--a judge, if possible. However, I will
leave it all to Zulime. As an individualist I consider her a full and
equal partner in all phases of this enterprise. I do not expect her to
even promise to obey me, but I hope she will always find my requests
reasonable--if she does not, she has the right to ignore them. Her
signature shall be as good as mine at the bank."

This statement startled the banker, for he held rather old-fashioned
ideas concerning women and money; but Zulime was his favorite child, and
he hastened to assure me that she would not waste my substance. "I think
we can induce the district judge to come over and perform the ceremony,"
he concluded.

If my notion to employ a judge of the district shocked my bride, she
artfully deceived me, for she cheerfully consented, and a day or two
later, with her brother Florizel for a guide, I drove over to the county
town and laid my request before Judge Sturgis of the District Court.

The judge knew Don Carlos and (as a reader of the magazines) had some
knowledge of me; therefore he at once declared his willingness to
assist. "It will be an honor," he added heartily; "I'll adjourn court if
necessary. You may depend on me."

He also agreed to meet our wishes as to the character of the ceremony.
"I'll make it as short as you like," he said. "I'll reduce it to its
lowest legal terms," and with this understanding I procured my license
and returned to Hanover.

In spite of all these practical details the whole adventure seemed
curiously unreal, as though it concerned some other individual, some
character in one of my novels. It was a play in which I acted as manager
rather than as leading man. There was nothing in all this preparation
which remotely suggested any of the weddings in which I had been
concerned as witness, and I suspect that Zulime was almost equally
unconvinced of its reality. Poor girl! It was all as far from the
wedding of her girlish dreams as her bridegroom fell short of the
silver-clad knight of romance, but I promised her that she would find
something grandiose and colorful in our wedding journey. "Our wedding
will be prosaic, but wait until you see the sunset light on the
Crestones! Our week in the High Country shall be a poem."

This was a characteristic attitude with me. I was always saying, "Wait!
These flowers _are_ lovely, but those just ahead of us are more
beautiful still." Zulime's attitude, as I soon discovered, was precisely
opposite: "Let us make the most of the flowers at our hand," was her
motto.

The Taft home had something of the same unesthetic quality which marked
Neshonoc. It was simple, comfortable, and entirely New England.
Throughout the stern vicissitudes of his life on the Middle Border, Don
Carlos Taft had carried the memories and the accents of his New
Hampshire town. His beginnings had been as laboriously difficult as
those of my father. In many ways they were alike; that is to say, they
were both Yankee in training and tradition.

At last the epoch-marking day came marching across the eastern plain.
The inevitable bustle began with the dawn. I packed my trunk and
dispatched it to the station in confident expectation of our
mid-afternoon departure, and Zulime did the same, although it must have
seemed more illusory to her than to me. The Judge arrived precisely at
noon, and at half-past twelve the family solemnly gathered in the
living-room, and there, in plain traveling garb, Zulime Taft stood up
with me, while the Judge gravely initiated her into a perilous
partnership, a coalition in which she took the heaviest chances of
sorrow and regret.

The Judge was as good as his word. He made the ceremony a short but very
serious interchange of intentions, and at last, in sonorous and solemn
tones, pronounced us man and wife.

Altogether, it did not take five minutes, and then, at twelve-forty,
while the man of law was writing out the certificate, the "breakfast"
was announced and we all sat down to what was really a dinner, a meal to
which the Judge did full justice, for he had been up since early
morning, and had ridden twelve or fifteen miles.

If the old professor retained any anxieties concerning his daughter's
future, he masked them with a smile and discoursed genially of the
campaigns of Cyrus--or some such matter. At the close of the meal, the
Judge, comfortable and friendly, rose to go. With him, he said, it had
not only been a duty but a pleasure, and as he had given to our brief
wedding just the right touch of dignity, we were grateful to him. It was
the kind of service which cannot be obtained by any fee.

At four o'clock we took a dusty, hesitating local train for the small
town in Nebraska where we expected to catch the express for Colorado
Springs. In such drab and unromantic fashion did Zulime Taft and Hamlin
Garland begin their long journey together. "But wait!" I repeated. "Wait
till you see the Royal Gorge and Shavano!"



CHAPTER TEN

The New Daughter and Thanksgiving


At about half-past seven of a clear November morning I called my bride
to the car window and presented to her, with the air of a resident
proprietor, a first view of Pike's Peak, a vast silver dome rising
grandly above the Rampart Range. "Well, there it is," I remarked. "What
do you think of it?"

Her cry of surprise and her words of delight were both entirely genuine.
"Oh, how beautiful!" she exclaimed, as soon as she recovered breath.

It _was_ beautiful. Snow covered, flaming like burnished marble, the
range, with high summits sharply set against the cloudless sky, upreared
in austere majesty, each bleak crag gilded with the first rays of the
morning sun. Above the warm, brown plain the giants towered remotely
alien like ancient kings on purple thrones, and the contrast of their
gleaming drifts of snow, with the dry, grassy foothills through which we
were winding our way, was like that of deep winter set opposite to early
September. However, I would not permit Zulime to exhaust her vocabulary
of admiration. "Keep some of your adjectives till we reach Ouray," I
said with significant gravity.

Before the train came to a stop at the platform of Colorado Springs, I
caught sight of the red, good-humored face of Gustave, coachman for
Louis Ehrich, one of my Colorado friends. Gustave was standing beside
the road wagon in which I had so often ridden, and when he saw me
alight he motioned to me. "You are to come with me," he explained as I
approached. "I have orders to bring you at once to the house--breakfast
is waiting for you."

I had written to the Ehrichs, saying that my wife would be with me in
the Springs for a few days, and that I wanted them to meet her--but I
did not expect to be met or to receive an invitation to breakfast.

Zulime hesitated till I assured her that the Ehrichs were old friends
and not the kind of people who say one thing and mean another. "They
will never permit us to go to the hotel--I know them." With that she
consented, and fifteen minutes later Louis and Henriette met us at their
threshold and took Zulime to their hearts, as though they had known her
for years.

The house stood on the bank of a stream, and, from the windows of the
room they gave us, the Lord of the Range loomed in distant majesty
directly above the Garden of the Gods, and our first day of married life
was filled with splendor. Each hour of that day had for us its own
magical color, its own drama of flying cloud and resisting rock. From
the commonplace Kansas village we had been transported as if by an
enchanted carpet to a land of beauty and romance, of changeful charm, a
region of which I was even then beginning to write with joyous
inspiration. That my bride and I would forever recall this day and this
house with gratitude and delight I was even then aware.

"This compensates for the humble scene of our wedding, doesn't it?" I
demanded.

"It is more than I dreamed of having," she replied.

In truth no blood relations could have been more sympathetic, more
generous, more considerate than the Ehrichs. They rejoiced in us.
Skilled and happy hosts, they did their utmost to make our honeymoon an
unforgettable experience. Each hour of our stay was arranged with
kindness. We drove, we ate, we listened to music, with a grateful wonder
at our good fortune.

They would have kept us indefinitely had I not carefully explained my
plan to show my bride the Crestones and Marshall Pass. "We must make the
Big Circle and get back to Wisconsin in time for Thanksgiving," I said
to Louis, who, as a loyal Colorado man, immediately granted the force of
this excuse. He understood also the pathos of the old mother in West
Salem, watching, waiting, longing to see her new daughter. "You are
right," he said. "To fail of that dinner would be cruel."

That night we took the Narrow Gauge train, bound for Marshall Pass and
the splendors of the Continental Divide.

At daylight the next morning we were looping our way up the breast of
Mount Shavano, leaving behind us in splendid changing vista the College
Range, from whose lofty summits long streamers of snow wavered like
prodigious silver banners. Unearthly, radiant as the walls of the sun,
lonely and cold they stood. For three hours we moved amid colossal
drifts and silent forests, and then, toward midday, our train plunged
into the snow-sheds of the high divide. When we emerged we were sliding
swiftly down into a sun-warmed valley sloping to the west, where hills
as lovely as jewels alternated with smooth opalescent mesas over which
white clouds gleamed. The whole wide basin glowed with August colors,
and yet from Montrose Junction, where we lunched, the rugged slopes of
Uncompagre, hooded with snow and dark with storms, were plainly visible,
so violently dramatic was the land.

"From here we proceed directly toward those peaks," I explained to
Zulime, who was in awe of the land I was exhibiting.

As we approached the gateway to Ouray, the great white flakes began to
fall athwart the pines, and when we entered the prodigious amphitheater
in which the town is built, we found ourselves again in mid-winter,
surrounded by icy cliffs and rimy firs. Dazzling drifts covered the
rocks and almost buried the cottages from whose small windows, lights
twinkled like gleaming eyes of strange and roguish animals. Every detail
was as harmonious as an ideally conceived Christmas card. It was the
antithesis of Kansas.

Upon entering our room at the hotel, I exultantly drew Zulime's
attention to the fact that the sky-line of the mountains to the South
cut across the upper row of our window panes. "You are in the heart of
the Rockies now," I declared as if somehow that fact exalted me in her
regard.

When we stepped into the street next morning, the snow had ceased to
fall, but the sky was magnificently, grandly savage. Great clouds in
career across the valley momentarily caught and dung to the crags, but
let fall no frost, and as the sun rose laggardly above the dazzlingly
white wall, the snow-laden pines on the lower slopes appeared delicate
as lace with distance. At intervals enormous masses of vapor, gray-white
but richly shot with lavender, slid suddenly in, filling the
amphitheater till all its walls were hid, then quite as suddenly shifted
and streamed away. From time to time vistas opened toward the west,
wondrous aisles of blinding splendor, highways leading downward to the
glowing, half-hid, irridescent plain. In all my experience of the
mountains I had never seen anything more gorgeous, more stupendous--what
it must have meant to my bride, who had never seen a hill, I can only
faintly divine.

At two o'clock, the sky having cleared, I hired a team and sleigh, and
we drove up the high-climbing mining trail which leads toward Telluride,
a drive which in itself was worth a thousand-mile journey, an experience
to be remembered all our lives. Such majesty of silent, sunny cliffs!
Such exquisite tones, such balance of lights and shadows, such tracery
of snow-laden boughs! It was impossible for my lowland bride to conceive
of any mountain scene more gorgeous, more sumptuous, more imperial.

For two hours we climbed, and then, at a point close to timber-line, I
reluctantly halted. "We must turn here," I said regretfully. "It will be
dark by the time we reach the hotel."

Slowly we rode back down the valley, entranced, almost oppressed, by the
incommunicable splendor of forested hills and sunset sky. It was with a
sense of actual relief that we reëntered our apartment. Our eyes ached
with the effort to seize and retain the radiance without, and our minds,
gorged with magnificence, were grateful for the subdued light, the ugly
furniture, the dingy walls of our commonplace little hotel.

To some of my readers, no doubt, this wedding trip will seem a lunatic,
extravagant fantasy on my part; but Zulime declared herself grateful to
me for having insisted upon it, and for three days we walked and drove
by daylight or by moonlight amid these grandiose scenes, absorbing with
eager senses the sounds, sights and colors which we might never again
enjoy, returning now and then to a discussion of our future.

"We'll go East after our visit to the old folks," I declared. "This is
only the first half of our wedding journey; the other part shall include
Washington, Boston, and New York."

Zulime looked somewhat incredulous (she didn't know me yet), but her
eyes glowed with pleasure at the thought of the capital, of which she
knew nothing, and of New York, which she knew only as a seaport. "I
thought you were poor," she said.

"So I am," I replied, "but I intend to educate you in American
geography."

The railway enters the Ouray amphitheater from the west and stops--for
the very good reason that it can go no farther!--but from the railway
station a stage road climbs the precipitous eastern wall and leads on to
Red Mountain, as through an Alpine pass. Over this divide I now planned
to drive to Silverton, and thence to Durango by way of Las Animas Cañon.
Zulime, with an unquestioning faith in me--a faith which I now think of
with wonder--agreed to this crazy plan. Her ignorance of the cold, the
danger involved, made her girlishly eager to set forth. She was like a
child in her reliance on my sagacity and skill.

We left Ouray, at eight of a bitter morning, in a rude sleigh with only
a couple of cotton quilts to defend us from the cold, and when, after a
long climb up a wall of stupendous cliffs with roaring streams shouting
from their icy beds upon our right, we entered an aisle of frosty pines
edging an enormous ledge, where frozen rills hung in motionless
cascades, Zulime, enraptured by the radiant avenues which opened out at
every turn of our icy upward trail, became blind to all danger. The
flaming, golden light flinging violet shadows, vivid as stains of ink
along the crusted slopes, dazzled her, caused her to forget the icy wind
or, at any rate, to patiently endure it.

At Red Mountain, a mournful, half-buried, deserted mining town, we left
our sleigh and stumbled into the dingy little railway station, so
chilled, so cramped, that we could scarcely walk, and yet we did not
regret our ride. However, we were glad of the warmth of the dirty little
coach into which we climbed a few minutes later. It seemed delightfully
safe to Zulime, and I was careful not to let her know that from this
town the train descended of its own weight all the way to Silverton!

Fortunately, nothing happened, and at Silverton we changed to a real
train, with a real engine, and as we dropped into Las Animas Cañon we
left December behind. At six o'clock we emerged from the cañon at
Durango into genial September--or so it seemed after our day of
midwinter in the heights. Next day we returned to Colorado Springs.

Our stay in the mountains was at an end, but the memory of those
burnished domes, those dark-hued forests, and the sound of those foaming
streams, remain with us to this day.--All the way down the long slope to
the Mississippi River, we reverted to this "circuit," recalling its most
impressive moments, its noblest vistas. It had been for my bride a
procession of wonders, a colossal pageant--to me it was a double
satisfaction because of her delight. With a feeling that I had in some
degree atoned for my parsimony in the matter of an engagement ring and
for the drab prose of our marriage ceremony, I brought the first half of
our wedding journey to a close in Chicago.

I now looked forward to the meeting between my mother and her new
daughter. This was, after all, the important part of my venture. Would
my humble home content my artist bride?

In preparation I began to sing small. "Don't expect too much of the
Garland Homestead," I repeated. "It is only an angular, slate-colored
farm-house without a particle of charm outside or in. It is very far
from being the home I should like you to be mistress of, and my people
you must bear in mind, are pioneers, survivals of the Border. They are
remote from all things urban."

To this the New Daughter responded loyally, "I am sure I shall like your
home and I _know_ I shall love your mother."

As women of her race have done from the most immemorial times, she had
left her own tribe and was about to enter the camp of her captor, but
she pretended to happiness, resolute to make the best of whatever came.

Our friends in Chicago smiled when I told them where we had been. Lorado
said, "A Honeymoon in the heart of the Rockies is just like you"--but I
cared nothing for his gibes so long as Zulime was content, and I had but
to over-hear her account of her trip to be reassured. To her it had been
a noble exploration into a marvelous country.

This was the day before Thanksgiving, and with a knowledge that the old
folks were counting the hours which intervened, I wrested Zulime from
her friends, and hurried her to the train. "Dear old mother! I know just
how she is waiting and watching for you. We must not fail her."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was just daylight as we stepped down from the Pullman at West Salem,
but father was there! Seated in our "canopy-top surrey" and holding
restless ramping Black Dolly to her place, he was too busy to glance at
us, but I could tell, by the set of his head, that he was emotionally
intense.

"There's your new father," I said, pointing him out to Zulime, "and that
is your family coach."

Father couldn't even shake hands, for Dolly was still pawing and
plunging but he smiled as we approached and called out in reference to
Dolly, "She'll quiet down in a minute."

While the train was pulling out I explained to Zulime that Dolly's fury
was all assumed, "She'll soon be stolid as a stump."

It wasn't in the least the tender meeting I had expected to enjoy, but
when at last my father was able to reach his hand down to Zulime, he
said, "I'm glad to meet you, my daughter," and the tenderness in his
vibrant voice touched me. "We were afraid you weren't coming," he added,
and a little later I saw him wipe the tears from his eyes. The fact that
he used a bandanna for this purpose, did not destroy the moving quality
of his emotion.

The village looked woefully drab and desolate under that misty November
sky. The elm trees, stripped of every leaf, the gardens weedy, ragged
and forlorn, together with the ugly little houses suggested the sordid
reality of the life to which I had brought my bride. It was all a far
cry from the towering cliffs and colorful cañons of Colorado.

The Homestead shared in the general ugliness of that rain-swept dawn.
Its maples were gaunt skeletons, its garden a sodden field over which
the chickens were wandering in sad and aimless fashion. To my city-bred
wife this home-coming must have been a cruel shock, but it was the best
I could do, and whatever the girl felt, she concealed with a smile,
resolute to make the best of me and mine.

Mother was waiting for us on the porch, tremulous with excitement, too
eager to remain in doors, and as I took her in my arms, and kissed her,
I said, "Mother, I've brought your new daughter."

For just a moment she hesitated (the grace and dignity of the tall girl
awed her, confused her), then Zulime went to her, and the two women, so
diverse, yet so dear to me, met in an embrace of mutual love and
confidence.

Isabel Garland entered into possession of the daughter she had so long
hoped for, and Zulime Taft became a member of the household of which
Richard Garland was the head.

Breakfast was waiting for us, a noble meal, a sumptuous wedding
breakfast, for mother and her two helpers (daughters of a neighboring
farmer), had been up since five o'clock and while it was a good deal
like a farmer's Sunday dinner, Zulime thanked the girls when father
presented them to her, but was a bit startled when one of them took her
seat at the table with us. She was not accustomed to this democratic
custom of the village.

My aunt, Susan Bailey, a gentle, frail little body also joined our
circle, adding one more pair of eyes to those whose scrutiny must have
been somewhat trying to the bride. To meet these blunt, forthright folk
at such a table without betraying amusement or surprise, required tact,
but the New Daughter succeeded in winning them all, even Mary, the cook,
who was decidedly difficult.

Almost immediately after taking his seat my father began: "Well now,
daughter, you are the captain. Right here I abdicate. Anything you want
done shall be done. What you say about things in the kitchen shall be
law. I will furnish the raw materials--you and the girls must do the
rest. We like to be bossed, don't we, Belle?" He ended addressing
mother.

In her concise, simple fashion, she replied: "Yes, the house is yours. I
turn it all over to you."

It was evident that all this had been discussed many times for they
seemed in haste to get its statement off their minds, and I could not
check them or turn them aside.

Zulime made light of it. "I'd rather not _be_ captain," she laughingly
protested. "I'd rather be passenger for a while."

Father was firm. "No, we need a commanding officer, and you must take
charge. Now I've got a turkey out there--and cranberries--" He was off!
He told just what he had laid in for the dinner, and ended by saying,
"If there's anything I've forgot, you just let me know, and I'll go
right up town and get it."

As he talked, the tones of his resonant voice, the motions of his hands,
the poise of his head, brought back to me a boyish feeling of
subordination. I laughed, but I submitted to his domination, entirely
willing that he should play the part of the commander for the last time.
It was amusing, but it had its pathetic side for my mother's silence was
significant of her weakness. She said nothing--not a word, but with
Zulime sitting beside her, she was content, so happy she could not find
words in which to express her satisfaction. Her waiting was at an end!

My father made a handsome picture. His abundant white hair, his shapely
beard, and his keen profile pleased me. Though a little stooped, he was
still alert and graceful, and his voice rang like a trumpet as he
entered upon an account of his pioneer experiences.

"I've always lived on the Border," he explained, "and I don't know much
about the ways of city folks, so you must excuse me when I do the wrong
thing. My will is the best in the world, and I'll do anything I can to
please you."

That breakfast was the exact opposite of a "Continental Breakfast."
Steak, doughnuts, buckwheat cakes, cookies, apple sauce made me groan
but Zulime smiled. She understood the care which had gone into its
making.

When at last she and I were alone in my study I began, "Well, how do you
like West Salem and the Garlands?"

"Your mother is a dear!" she replied, and her voice was convincing--"and
I like your father. He's very good looking. And the breakfast was--well
it was like one of your stories--Do you _always_ have steak and
doughnuts for breakfast?"

"No," I replied, "not always, but breakfast is a real meal with us."

The sky darkened and a sleety rain set in during the forenoon, but
mother did not mind the gloom outside, for within she had her daughter.
Upon our return to the sitting room, she led Zulime out into the kitchen
to take account of all that was going on for dinner, and while the
maids, with excited faces stood about waiting for orders from their new
boss, Zulime laughingly protested that she had no wish to interfere. "Go
on in your own way," she said.

To me, on her return to the sitting room, she exclaimed: "You should see
the food in preparation out there! Enough to feed all the Eagle's Nest
campers.--How many are coming to dinner?"

"No one but the McClintocks--and only a few of them," I soberly
replied. "Uncle William and Aunt Maria, Frank and Lorette--and Deborah,
all old people now. I don't know of any one else." In fact, we had less
than this number, for Maria was not well enough to come out in the rain.

Our circle was small, but the spirit of Thanksgiving was over it, and
when I saw my stately city wife sitting among my rough-hewn relations,
listening to the quaint stories of Uncle Frank, or laughing at the
humorous sallies of Aunt Lorette, I wondered what they thought of her.
She made a lovely picture, and all--even caustic Deborah--capitulated to
her kindliness and charm. If she had failed of complete comprehension
and sympathy I could not have blamed her, but to have her perfectly at
home among these men and women of the vanishing Border displayed her in
a new and noble guise.

If anything was lacking--any least quality of adaptation, it was
supplied when, that evening, my uncles and my father discovered that
Zulime could not only read music, but that she could play all the old
songs which they loved to have me sing. This accomplishment completed
their conquest, for under her deft hands the piano revived the wistful
melodies of _Minnie Minturn_, _Maggie_, and _Nellie Wildwood_, and when
my mother's voice, sweet as ever, but weak and hesitant, joined with
mine in singing for our guests, I was both glad and sad, glad of my
young wife, sad with a realization of my mother's weakness and age.

She did not reproach me for not bringing the daughter sooner. She had
but one regret. "I wish Frank was here," she said, her thought going out
to her other son.

How far away, how remote, how tender that evening seems to me after more
than twenty years work and travel! To Zulime it unrolled like a scene
from one of my novels, to me it was the closing, fading picture of an
era, the end of an epoch, the passing of a race, for the Garlands and
McClintocks, warriors of the western conquest, representatives of a
heroic generation were even then basking in the light of a dying
camp-fire, recounting the deeds of brave days gone.

When we were again alone in my study, Zulime said, "I'm going to enjoy
it here. I like your people, and I hope they liked me."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in this humble fashion that I brought to my mother the new
daughter for whom she had longed, and it was in this homely way that the
Garlands and McClintocks received my wife. Amid surroundings which were
without grace of art or touch of poetry, the informal and very plain
ceremony took place, but the words were sincere, and the forms and
features of the speakers deeply significant of the past. No matter what
my mother's storms and sorrows had been, she was now at peace. With a
smiling face she confronted the future.



CHAPTER ELEVEN

My Father's Inheritance


At half-past six on the morning following our arrival at the Homestead,
my father opened the stairway door and shouted, just as he had been wont
to do in the days when I was a boy on the farm--"Hamlin! Time to get
up!" and with a wry grin I called to Zulime and explained, "In our
family, breakfast is a full and regular meal at which every member of
the household is expected promptly at seven."

It was not yet fully dawn and the thought of rising in a cold room at
that time of night was appalling to a city woman, but with heroic
resolution Zulime dressed, and followed me down the narrow stairway to
the lamp-lit dining-room, where a steaming throng of dishes, containing
oatmeal, potatoes, flap-jacks and sausage (supplemented by cookies,
doughnuts and two kinds of jam), invited us to start the day with
indigestion.

The dim yellow light of the kerosene lamp, the familiar smell of the
buckwheat cakes and my father's clarion voice brought back to me very
vividly and with a curious pang of mingled pleasure and regret, the
corn-husking days when I habitually ate by candlelight in order to reach
the field by daybreak. I recalled to my father's memory one
sadly-remembered Thanksgiving Day when he forced us all to husk corn
from dawn to sunset in order that we might finish the harvest before the
snowstorm covered the fallen stalks. "But mother's turkey dinner saved
the day," I remarked to Zulime. "Nothing can ever taste so good as that
meal. As we came into the house, cold, famished and weary, the smell of
the kitchen was celestial."

My mother smiled but father explained in justification, "I could feel a
storm in the air and I knew that we had just time to reach the last row
if we all worked, and worked hard. As a matter of fact we were all done
at four o'clock."

"O, we worked!" I interpolated. "Frank and I had no vote in those days."

During the week which followed most of my relatives, and a good many of
the neighbors, called on us, and as a result Zulime spent several highly
educational afternoons listening to the candid comments of elderly
widows and sharp-eyed old maids. Furthermore, being possessed of a most
excellent digestion, she was able to accept the daily invitations to
supper, at which rich cakes and home-made jams abounded. She was also
called upon to examine "hand-made paintings in oil," which she did with
tender care. No one could have detected in her smile anything less than
kindly interest in the quaint interior decorations of the homes. Her
comment to me was a different matter.

That she was an object of commiseration on the part of the women I soon
learned, for Mrs. Dunlap was overheard to say, "She's altogether too
good for him" (meaning me), and Mrs. McIlvane, with the candor of a
life-long friendship, replied, "That's what I told Belle."

Uncle William, notwithstanding a liking for me, remarked with feeling,
"She's a wonder! I don't see how you got her."

To which I replied, "Neither do I."

In setting down these derogatory comments I do not wish to imply that I
was positively detested but that I was not a beloved county institution
was soon evident to my wife. Delegations of school children did not call
upon me, and very few of my fellow citizens pointed out my house to
travelers--at that time. In truth little of New England's regard for
authorship existed in the valley and my head possessed no literary
aureole. The fact that I could--and did--send away bundles of manuscript
and get in return perfectly good checks for them, was a miracle of
doubtful virtue to my relatives as well as to my neighbors. My money
came as if by magic, unasked and unwarranted, like the gold of sunset.
"I don't see how you do it," my Uncle Frank said to me one day, and his
tone implied that he considered my authorship a questionable kind of
legerdemain, as if I were, somehow, getting money under false pretenses.

Rightly or wrongly, I had never pretended to a keen concern in the
"social doings" of my village. Coming to the valley out of regard for my
father and mother and not from personal choice, the only folk who
engaged my attention were the men and women of the elder generation,
rugged pioneer folk who brought down to me something of the humor, the
poetry, and the stark heroism of the Border in the days when the Civil
War was a looming cloud, and the "Pineries" a limitless wilderness on
the north. Men like Sam McKinley, William Fletcher, and Wilbur Dudley
retained my friendship and my respect, but the affairs of the younger
generation did not greatly concern me. In short, I considered the
relationship between them and myself fortuitous.

Absorbed in my writing I was seldom in the mood during my visits to
entertain curious neighbors, in fact I had met few people outside my
relatives. All this was very ungracious, no doubt, but such had been my
attitude for seven years. I came there to work and I worked.

Even now, in the midst of my honeymoon, I wrote busily. Each morning
immediately after breakfast I returned to my study, where the manuscript
of a novel (_Her Mountain Lover_) was slowly growing into final shape,
but in the afternoons Zulime and I occasionally went sleighing with
Dolly and the cutter, or we worked about the house.

It was a peaceful time, with only one thought to stir the pool of my
content. I began to realize that the longer we stayed, the harder it
would be for my mother to let us go. She could hardly permit her New
Daughter to leave the room. She wanted her to sit beside her or to be in
the range of her vision all day long. So far from resenting her loss of
household authority she welcomed it, luxuriating in the freedom from
care which the young wife brought.

This growing reliance upon Zulime made me uneasy. "I cannot, even for
mother's sake, ask my city-bred wife to spend the winter in this small
snow-buried hamlet," I wrote to my brother, "and, besides, I have
planned a wedding trip to Washington and New York."

In announcing to my mother the date of our departure, I said, "We won't
be gone long. We'll be back early in the spring."

"See that you do," she replied, but her eyes were deep and dark with
instant sadness. She had hoped with childish trust that we would stay
all winter with her.

It was beautiful in Neshonoc at this time. Deep, dazzling snows
blanketed the hills, and covered the fields, and frequently at sunset or
later, after the old people were asleep, Zulime and I went for a swift
walk far out into the silent country, rejoicing in the crisp clear air,
and in the sparkle of moonbeams on the crusted drifts. At such times the
satin sheen of sled-tracks in the road, the squeal of dry flakes under
my heel (united with the sound of distant sleigh bells) brought back to
me sadly-sweet memories of boyish games, spelling school, and the voices
of girls whose laughter had long since died away into silence.

The blurred outlines of the hills, the barking of sentinel dogs at
farm-yard gates, and the light from snow-laden cottage windows filled
my heart with a dull illogical ache, an emotion which was at once a
pleasure and a pain.

    O, witchery of the winter night,
    (With broad moon shouldering to the west),
    Before my feet the rustling deeps
    Of untracked snows, in shimmering heaps,
    Lie cold and desolate and white.
    I hear glad girlish voices ring
    Clear as some softly-stricken string--
    (The moon is sailing toward the west),
    The sleigh-bells clash in homeward flight,
    With frost each horse's breast is white--
    (The moon is falling toward the west)--
      "Good night, Lettie!"
      "Good night, Ben!"
    (The moon is sinking at the west)--
    "Good night, my sweetheart,"--Once again
    The parting kiss, while comrades wait
    Impatient at the roadside gate,
    And the red moon sinks _beyond_ the west!

Such moments as these were meeting places of the old and the new, the
boy and the man. The wistful, haunting dreams of the past, contended
with the warm and glowing fulfillment of the present. For the past a
song, for the present the woman at my side!

Whether Zulime had similar memories of her girlhood or not I do not
know. She was not given to emotional expression, but she several times
declared herself entirely content with our orderly easeful life and
professed herself willing to remain in the homestead until spring. "I
like it here," she repeated, but I was certain that she liked the city
and her own kind, better, and that a longer stay would prove a
deprivation and a danger. After all, she was an alien in the Valley,--a
gracious and kindly alien, but an alien nevertheless. Her natural
habitat was among the studios of Chicago or New York, and my sense of
justice would not permit me to take advantage of her loyalty and her
womanly self-sacrifice.

"Pack your trunk," I said to her one December day, with an air of high
authority. "We are going East in continuation of our wedding trip."

Two days after making this decision we were in Washington, at a grand
hotel, surrounded by suave waiters who had abundant leisure to serve us,
for the reason that Congress was not in session, and the city was empty
of its lobbyists and its law-makers.

The weather was like October and for several days we walked about the
streets without thinking of outside wraps. We went at once to the
Capitol from whose beautiful terraces we could look across the city,
back and upward along our trail, above the snows of Illinois soaring on
and up into the far cañons of the San Juan Divide, retracing in memory
the first half of our wedding journey with a sense of satisfaction, a
joy which now took on double value by reason of its contrast to the
marble terrace on which we stood. From the luxury of our city
surroundings the flaming splendors of the Needle Range appeared almost
mystical.

We ate our Christmas dinner in royal isolation, attended by negroes
whose dusky countenances shone with holiday desire to make us happy.
With no visitors and no duties we gave ourselves to the business of
seeing the Capitol and enjoying the gorgeous sunlight. Zulime, who
looked at everything in the spirit of a youthful tourist, was enchanted
and I played guide with such enthusiasm as a man of forty could bring to
bear. It was a new and pleasant schooling for me, a time which I look
back upon with wistful satisfaction, after more than twenty years.

Philadelphia, our next stop, had an especial significance to me
(something quite apart from its historical significance). Outwardly
professing a keen interest in the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and
other objects which enthralled my young wife, I was secretly planning to
offer Lorimer of _The Post_, the serial rights of my novel _The Eagle's
Heart_, and I had an engagement to talk with Edward Bok about a
novelette.

Bok, a friend of several years' standing, received us most cordially,
and Mrs. Bok, who came in next day to meet us, not only instantly and
heartily approved of my wife, but quite openly said so, a fact which
added another quality to the triumphal character of our progress. I was
certain that all of my other Eastern friends would find her admirable.

We reached New York on New Year's Eve, and the streets were roaring with
the customary riot of youth, but in our rooms at the Westminster we were
as remote from the tumult as if we had been at the bottom of a Colorado
mine. We would have heard nothing of the horns and hootings of the
throngs had not Zulime expressed a wish to go forth and mix with them.
With a feeling of disgust of the hoodlums who filled Broadway, I took
her as far north as Forty-second Street, but she soon tired of the rude
men and their senseless clamor, and gladly returned to our hotel willing
to forget it all.

In my diary I find these words, "I am beginning the New Year with two
thousand dollars in the bank, and a pending sale which will bring in as
much more. I feel pretty confident of a living during the year 1900."

Evidently the disposal of my serial to Lorimer, the results of my deal
with Brett, and the growing interest of other publishers in my work had
engendered a confidence in the future which I had never before
attained--and yet I must admit that most of my prosperity was expected
rather than secured, a promise, rather than a fulfillment, and the fact
that I permitted Zulime to settle upon a three-room suite in an obscure
Hotel on Fifteenth Street, is proof of my secret doubts. Eighteen
dollars per week seemed a good deal of money to pay for an apartment.

As I think back to this transaction I am bitten by a kind of remorseful
shame. It was such a shabby little lodging for my artist bride, and yet,
at the moment, it seemed all that we could safely afford, and she
cheerfully made the best of it. Never by word or sign did she hint that
its tiny hall and its dingy and unfashionable furnishings were unworthy
of us both, on the contrary she went ahead with shining face.

One extravagance I did commit, one that I linger upon with
satisfaction--I forced her to choose a handsome coat instead of a plain
one. It was a long graceful garment of a rich brown color, an
"Individual model" the saleslady called it. It was very becoming to my
wife--at any rate I found it so--but the price was sixty-five
dollars--"marked down from eighty-five" the saleslady said. Neither of
us had ever worn a coat costing more than twenty-five dollars and to pay
almost three times as much even for a beautiful "creation" like this was
out of the question--and my considerate young wife decided against it
with a sigh.

I was in reckless mood. "We will take it," I said to the saleswoman.

"Oh no! We can't afford it!" protested Zulime in high agitation. "It is
impossible!" She looked scared and weak.

"You may do up the old coat," I went on in exalted tone. "My wife will
wear the new one."

In a tremor of girlish joy and gratitude Zulime walked out upon the
street wearing the new garment, and the expression of her face filled me
with desire to go on amazing her. She had owned so few pretty things in
her life that I took a keen pleasure in scaring her with sudden
presents. I bought a crescent-shaped brooch set with small diamonds
which cost one hundred dollars--Oh, I was coming on!

[She is wearing these jewels yet and she says she loves them--but as I
think back to that brown cloak I am not so sure that her approval was
without misgiving. It may be that she secretly hated that coat for it
was an unusual color, and while its lines were graceful in my eyes it
may have been "all out of style."--What became of it, finally, I am
unable to say. No matter, it expressed for me a noble sentiment and it
shall have a place on this page with the Oriental brooch and the
amethyst necklace.]

Humble as our quarters were we rejoiced in distinguished visitors.
William Dean Howells called upon us almost immediately and so did
Richard Watson Gilder, Edmund Clarence Stedman, John Burroughs, and many
other of my valued, old-time friends. Furthermore, with a courage at
which I now marvel at, Zulime announced that we would be "at home" every
afternoon, and thereafter our tiny sitting-room was often crowded with
her friends--for she had begun to find out many of her artist
acquaintances. In fact, we were forever discovering people she had known
in Paris. It seemed to me that she had met the entire American Colony
during her four years in France.

My social and domestic interests quite cut me off from my club, and we
joked about this. "I am now one of the newly-weds," I admitted, "and my
absence from the club is expected. Members invariably desert the club
during the first year or two of their married life, but they all come
back!--Sooner or later, they drop in for lunch or while wifey is away,
and at last are indistinguishable from the bachelors."

Mrs. James A. Herne, who had meant so much to me in my Boston days, was
one of our very first callers, and no one among all my friends
established herself more quickly in my wife's regard. Katharine's
flame-like enthusiasm, her never-failing Irish humor, and her quick
intelligence, made her a joyous inspiration, and whilst she and Zulime
compared experiences like a couple of college girls, I sat and smiled
with a kind of proprietary pride in both of them.

Fortunately my wife approved of my associates. "You have a delightful
circle," she said one night as we were on our way home from a dinner
with a group of distinguished literary folk.

Her remark comforted me. Having no money with which to hire cabs or
purchase opera tickets, I could at least share with her the good
friendships I had won, confidently, believing that she would gain
approval,--which she did. Not all of my associates were as poor as I
(some of them, indeed, lived in houses of their own), but they were
mostly concerned with the arts in some form, and with such people Zulime
was entirely at ease.

With a lecture to deliver in Boston I asked her to go with me. "I cannot
forego the pleasure of showing you about 'the Hub,'" I urged. "I want
Hurd and other of my faithful friends of former days to know you. We'll
take rooms at the Parker House which used to fill me with silent awe. I
want to play the part, for a day or two, of the successful author."

As she had never seen Boston, she joyfully consented, and the most
important parts of my grandiose design were carried out. We took rooms
at the hotel in which I first met Riley, and from there we sent out
cards to several of my acquaintances. Hurd, who was still Literary
Editor of the _Transcript_, came at once to call, and so did Flower of
the _Arena_, but for the most part Zulime and I did the calling for she
was eager to see the homes and the studios of my artist friends.

By great good fortune, James A. Herne was playing "Sag Harbor" at one of
the theaters, and as I had told Zulime a great deal about "Shore Acres"
and other of Herne's plays, I hastened to secure seats for a
performance. Herne was growing old, and in failing health but he showed
no decline of power that night. His walk, his voice, his gestures
filled me with poignant memories of our first meeting in Ashmont, and
our many platform experiences, while the quaint Long Island play brought
back to me recollections of his summer home on Peconic Bay. How much he
had meant to me in those days of Ibsen drama and Anti-poverty
propaganda!

To go about Boston with my young wife was like reliving one by one my
student days. Many of my haunts were unchanged, and friends like Dr.
Cross and Dr. Tompkins, with whom I had lived so long in Jamaica Plain,
were only a little grayer, a little thinner. They looked at me with
wondering eyes. To them I was an amazing success. Flower, still as
boyish in face and figure as when I left the city in '92, professed to
have predicted my expanding circle of readers, and I permitted him to
imagine it wider than it was.

Some of my former neighbors had grown in grace, others had stagnated or
receded, a fact which saddened me a little. A few had been caught in a
swirl of backwater, and seemed to be going round and round without
making the slightest advance. Their talk was all of small things, or the
unimportant events of the past.

Alas! Boston no longer inspired me. It seemed small and alien and
Cambridge surprised me by revealing itself as a sprawling and rather
drab assemblage of wooden dwellings, shops and factories. Even the
University campus was less admirable, architecturally, than I had
supposed it to be, and the residences of its famous professors were
hardly the stately homes of luxury I had remembered them. Upon looking
up the house on Berkley Street in which Howells had lived while editing
_The Atlantic Monthly_, I found it smaller and less beautiful than my
own house in Wisconsin. Dr. Holmes' mansion on "the water side of Beacon
Street" and the palaces of Copley Square left me calm, their glamor had
utterly vanished with my youth (I fear Lee's Hotel in Auburndale would
have been reduced in grandeur), and when we took the train for New
York, I confessed to a feeling of sadness, of definite loss.

Naturally, inevitably the Boston of my early twenties had vanished. My
youthful worship of the city, my faith in the literary supremacy of New
England had died out. Manifestly increasing in power as a commercial
center, roaring with new interests, new powers, new people, the Hub had
lost its scholastic distinction, its historic charm. Each year would see
it more easily negligible in American art. It hurt me to acknowledge
this, it was like losing a noble ancestor, but there was no escape from
the conclusion.

"Little that is new is coming out of Boston," I sadly remarked to
Zulime. "Her illustrious poets of the Civil War period are not being
replaced by others of National appeal. Her writers, her artists, like
those of Chicago, Cleveland, and San Francisco, are coming to New York.
New England is being drained of talent in order that Manhattan shall be
supreme."

While we were away on this trip my friends Grace and Ernest
Thompson-Seton had sent out cards for a party "in honor of Mr. and Mrs.
Hamlin Garland," but when, a few nights later, a throng of writers,
artists and musicians filled the Seton studio, I was confirmed in a
growing suspicion that I was only the lesser half of a fortunate
combination. A long list of invitations to dinner or to luncheon
testified to the fact that while they tolerated me, they liked my wife,
and in this judgment I concurred.

One day while calling on a charming friend and fellow-fictionist, Juliet
Wilbur Tompkins, we met for the first time Frank Norris, another
California novelist, who captivated us both, not merely because of his
handsome face and figure, but by reason of his keen and joyous spirit.

He had been employed for some time in the office of Doubleday and Page,
and though I had often passed him at his desk, I had never before
spoken with him. We struck up an immediate friendship and thereafter
often dined together. He told me of his plan to embody modern California
in a series of novels, and at my request read some of his manuscript to
me.

Zulime, although she greatly admired Norris, still maintained that
Edward MacDowell was the handsomest man of her circle, and in this I
supported her, for he was then in the noble prime of his glorious
manhood, gay of spirit, swift of wit and delightfully humorous of
speech. As a dinner companion he was unexcelled and my wife quite lost
her heart to him. Between Frank Norris and Edward MacDowell I appeared
but a rusty-coat. I sang small. Fortunately for me they were both not
only loyal friends but devoted husbands.

I remembered saying to Zulime as we came away: "America need not despair
of her art so long as she has two such personalities as Edward MacDowell
and Frank Norris."

Edwin Booth's daughter, Mrs. Grossman, who was living at this time in a
handsome apartment on Eighteenth Street, was one of those who liked my
wife, and an invitation to take tea with her produced in me a singular
and sudden reversal to boyish timidity, for to me she had almost the
quality of royalty. I thought of her as she had looked to me, fifteen
years before, when on the occasion of Edwin Booth's last performance of
_Macbeth_ in Boston, she sat in the stage-box with her handsome young
husband, and applauded her illustrious father.

"An enormous audience was present," I explained to Zulime, "and most of
us were deeply interested in the radiant figure of that happy girl. To
me she was a princess, and I observed that as the curtain rose after
each act and the great tragedian came forth to bow, his eyes sought his
daughter's glowing face. Each time the curtain fell his final glance was
upon her. Her small hands seemed the only ones whose sound had value in
his ears."

How remote, how royal, how unattainable she had appeared to me that
night! Now here she was a kindly, charming hostess, the mother of a
family who regarded me as "a distinguished author." To make that radiant
girl in the stage box and my lovely hostess coalesce was difficult, but
as I studied her profile and noted the line of her expressive lips I was
able to relate her to the princely player whose genius I had worshiped
from the gallery.

It will be evident to the reader that life in New York pleased me better
than life in West Salem or even in Chicago, and I would gladly have
stayed on till spring, but Zulime decided to go back to Chicago, and
this we did about the first of February.

The last of the many notable entertainments in which my wife shared was
an open meeting of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (which I
had helped to found), where she met many of the leading writers and
artists of the city. Howells, who presided over the program, was
especially fine, restrained, tactful yet quietly authoritative, and when
I told him that our wedding journey was nearly over he expressed a
regret which was highly flattering to us both. At one o'clock on the day
following this historic meeting we entered a car headed for the west,
acknowledging with a sigh, yet with a comfortable sense of having
accomplished our purpose, that it would be profitable to go into
retirement and ruminate for a month or two. The glories of New York had
been almost too exciting for Zulime, "I am ready to go home," she said.

Home! There was my problem. The only city residence I possessed was my
bachelor apartment on Elm Street, and at the moment I had no intention
of asking my wife to share its narrow space except as a temporary
lodging, and to take her back into that snow-covered little Wisconsin
village, back to a shabby farm house filled with ailing elderly folk
would amount to crime. From the high splendor of our stay in New York we
now fell to earth with a thump. My duties as a son, my cares as the head
of a household returned upon me, and my essential homelessness took away
all that assurance of literary success which my Eastern friends had
helped me attain. Of the elation in which I had moved while in New York
I retained but a shred. Once more the hard-working fictionist and the
responsible head of a family, I began to worry about the future. My
honeymoon was over.

The basic realities of my poverty again cropped out in a letter from my
mother who wrote that my aunt was very ill and that she needed me. To
Zulime I said, "You stay here with your sister and your friends while I
go up to the Homestead and see what I can do for our old people."

This she refused to do. "No," she loyally said, "I am going with you,"
and although I knew that she was choosing a dreary alternative I was too
weak, too selfishly weak, to prevent her self-sacrifice. We left that
night at the usual hour and arrived in time to eat another farmer's
breakfast with father and mother next morning. Aunt Susan was unable to
meet us.

Her sweet spirit was about to leave its frail body, that was evident to
me as I looked down at her, but she knew me and whispered, "I'm glad to
have you at home." She showed no fear of death, in fact she appeared
unconscious of her grave condition. She was a beautiful character and to
see her lying there beneath her old-fashioned quilt, so small and
helpless, so patient, lonely and sad, made speech difficult for me. She
had meant much in my life. The serene dignity with which she and her
mother had carried the best New England traditions into the rough front
rank of the Border, was still written in the lines of her face. I had
never seen her angry or bitter, and I had never heard her utter an
unkind word.

Zulime took charge of the work about the house with a cheerfulness which
amazed me. My mother with pathetic confidence leaned upon her daughter's
strong young shoulders and the music of my stern old father's voice as
he said, "Well, daughter, I'm glad you're here," was a revelation to me.
He already loved her as if she were his very own, and she responded to
his affection in a way which put me still more deeply in her debt. It
would have been disheartening, but not at all surprising, had she found
the village and my home intolerable, but she did not--she appeared
content, sustained we will say, by her sense of duty.

Her situation was difficult. Imprisoned in the snowy silences of the
little valley, dependent on her neighbors for entertainment, and
confronted with the care of two invalids and a fretful husband, she was
put to a rigid test.

Beside our base-burning stove she sat night after night playing cinch or
dominoes to amuse my father, while creaking footsteps went by on the
frosty board-walks and in a distant room my aunt lay waiting for the
soft step of the Grim Intruder. It must have seemed a gray outlook for
my bride but she never by word or look displayed uneasiness.

Without putting our conviction into words, we all realized that my
aunt's departure was but a matter of a few days. "There is nothing to
do," the doctor said. "She will go like a person falling asleep. All you
can do is wait--" And so the days passed.

We went to bed each night at ten and quite as regularly rose at
half-past six. Dinner came exactly at noon, supper precisely at six.
Although my upstairs study was a kind of retreat, we spent less time in
it than we had planned to do, for mother was so appealingly wistful to
have us near her that neither of us had the heart to deny her. She could
not endure to have us both absent. Careful not to interrupt my writing,
she considered Zulime's case in different light. "You can read, or sew
or knit down here just as well as up there," she said. "It is a comfort
for me just to have you sit where I can look at you."

She loved to hear me read aloud, and this I often did in the evening
while she sat beside Zulime and watched her fingers fly about her
sewing. These were blissful hours for her, and in these after years I
take a measure of comfort in remembering the part I had in making them
possible.

Slowly but steadily Susan Garland's vital forces died out, and at last
there came a morning when her breath faltered on her lips. She had gone
away, as she had lived, with quiet dignity. Notwithstanding her almost
constant suffering she had always been a calmly cheerful soul and her
passing, while it left us serious did not sadden us. Her life came to
its end without struggle and her face was peaceful.

She was the last of my father's immediate family, and to him was
transmitted in due course of law, the estate with which her husband had
left her, a dower, which though small had enabled her to live
independently of her relatives and in simple comfort. It was a matter of
but a few thousand dollars, but its possession now made the most
fundamental change in my father's way of life. The effect of this
certain income upon his character was almost magical. He took on a sense
of security, a feeling of independence, a freedom from worry such as he
had been trying for over sixty years, without success, to attain.

_It released him from the tyranny of the skies._ All his life he had
been menaced by the "weather." Clouds, snows, winds, had been his
unrelenting antagonists. Hardly an hour of his past had been free from a
fear of disaster. The glare of the sun, the direction of the wind, the
assembling of clouds at sunset,--all the minute signs of change, of
storm, of destruction had been his incessant minute study. For over
fifty years he had been enslaved to the seasons. His sister's blessing
liberated him. He agonized no more about the fall of frost, the slash of
hail, the threat of tempest. Neither chinch bugs nor drought nor army
worms could break his rest. He slept in comfort and rose in confidence.
He retained a general interest in crops, of course, but he no longer ate
his bread in fear, and just in proportion as he realized his release
from these corroding, long-endured cares, did he take on mellowness and
humor. He became another man altogether. He ceased to worry and hurry.
His tone, his manner became those of a citizen of substance, of genial
leisure. He began to speak of travel!

Definitely abandoning all intention of farming, he put his Dakota land
on sale and bought several small cottages in West Salem. As a landlord
in a modest way, he rejoiced in the fact that his income was almost
entirely free from the results of harvest. It irked him (when he thought
of it) to admit that all his pioneering had been a failure, that all his
early rising, and his ceaseless labor had availed so little, but the
respect in which he was now held as householder, and as President of the
village, compensated him in such degree that he was able to ignore his
ill success as a wheat raiser.

"This legacy proves once again the magic of money," I remarked to
Zulime. "Father can now grow old with dignity and confidence. His living
is assured."

It remains to say that this inheritance also lifted indirectly a part of
my own burden. It took from me something of the financial responsibility
concerning the household whose upkeep I had shared for ten years or
more. Mother was still my care, but not in the same sense as before, for
my father with vast pride volunteered to pay all the household expenses.
He even insisted upon paying for an extra maid and gardener. Now that he
no longer needed the cash returns from the garden, he began to express a
pleasure in it. He was content with making it an esthetic or at most a
household enterprise.



CHAPTER TWELVE

We Tour the Oklahoma Prairie


One of the disadvantages of being a fictionist lies in the fact that the
history of one's imaginary people halts just in proportion as one's mind
is burdened with the sorrowful realities of one's own life. A troubled
bank clerk can (I believe) cast up a column of figures, an actor can
declaim while his heart is breaking, but a novelist can't--or at any
rate I can't--write stories while some friend or relative is in pain and
calling for relief. Composition is dependent in my case upon a
delicately adjusted mood, and a very small pebble is sufficient to turn
the currents of my mind into a dry channel.

My aunt's death was a sad shock to my mother and until she regained
something of her cheerful temper, I was unable to take up and continue
the action of my novel. I kept up the habit of going to my study, but
for a week or more I could not write anything but letters.

By the tenth of March we were all longing with deepest hunger for the
coming of spring. According to the old almanac's saying we had a right
to expect on the twenty-first a relenting of the rigors of the north,
but it did not come. "March the twenty-first is spring and little birds
begin to sing" was not true of the Valley this year. For two weeks
longer, the icy winds continued to sweep with Arctic severity across the
crests of the hills, and clouds of snow almost daily sifted down through
the bare branches of the elms. At times the landscape, mockingly
beautiful, was white and bleak as January. Drafts filled the lanes and
sleigh-bells jingled mockingly.

At last came grateful change. The wind shifted to the South. At mid-day
the eaves began to drip, and the hens, lifting their voices in jocund
song, scratched and burrowed, careening in the dusty earth which
appeared on the sunward side of the barn. Green grass enlivened the
banks of the garden, and on the southern slopes of the hills warmly
colored patches appeared, and then came bird-song and budding
branches!--so dramatic are the changes in our northern country.

No sooner was spring really at hand than Zulime and I, eager to share in
the art life which was so congenial to us both, returned to my former
lodging in Chicago; and a little later we went so far as to give a
party--our first party since our marriage. Fuller, who came early and
stayed late, appeared especially amused at our make-shifts. "This isn't
Chicago," he exclaimed as he looked around our rooms. "This is a lodging
in London!"

It was at this party that I heard the first word of the criticism under
which I had expected to suffer. One of our guests, an old and privileged
friend, remarked with a sigh, "Well, now that Zuhl has married a writer,
I suppose her own artistic career is at an end."

"Not at all!" I retorted, somewhat nettled. "I am an individualist in
this as in other things. I do not believe in the subordination of a wife
to her husband. Zulime has all the rights I claim for myself--no more,
no less. If she fails to go on with her painting or sculpture the fault
will not be mine. Our partnership is an equal one."

I meant this. Although dimly aware that mutual concessions must be made,
it was my fixed intention to allow my wife the fullest freedom of
action. Proud of her skill as an artist, I went so far as to insist on
her going back into her brother's studio to resume her modeling. "You
are not my house-keeper--you are a member of a firm. I prefer to have
you an artist."

Smiling, evasive, she replied, "I haven't at the present moment the
slightest 'call' to be an artist. Perhaps I shall--after a while; but at
present I'd rather keep house."

"But consider _me_!" I insisted. "Here am I, a public advocate of the
rights of women, already denounced as your 'tyrant husband,' 'a selfish
egotistic brute!'--I'll be accused--I am already accused--of cutting
short your career as a sculptor. Consider the injustice you are doing
_me_!"

She refused to take my protest or her friends' comment seriously; and so
we drifted along in pleasant round of parties till the suns of May,
brooding over the land lured us back to the Homestead, in which Zulime
could house-keep all day long if she wished to do so, and she did!

Full of plans for refurnishing and redecorating, she was busy as a
bumble-bee. As the mistress of a big garden and a real kitchen she
invited all her Chicago friends to come and share her good fortune. She
was filled with the spirit of ownership and exulted over the four-acre
patch as if it were a noble estate in Surrey.

It chanced that Lorado on his way to St. Paul was able to stop off, and
Zulime not only cooked a special dinner for him, but proudly showed him
all about the garden, talking gaily of the number of jars of berries and
glasses of jelly she was planning to put up.

"Well, Zuhl," he said resignedly, "I suppose it's all for the best, but
I don't quite see the connection between your years of training in
sculpture and the business of canning fruit."

It was a perfect spring day, and the Homestead was at its best. The
entire demesne was without a weed, and the blooming berry patches, the
sprouting asparagus beds and the budding grape vines all come in for the
eminent sculptor's enforced inspection, until at last with a yawn of
unconcealed boredom he turned away. "You _seem_ to _like_ your slavery,"
he remarked to Zulime, a note of comical accusation in his voice.

On the station platform when about to say good-bye to me, he became
quite serious. "This marriage appears to be working out," he admitted,
musingly. "I confess I was a little in doubt about it at first, but Zuhl
seems to be satisfied with her choice and so--well, I've decided to let
matters drift. Whether she ever comes back to sculpture or not is
unimportant, so long as she is happy."

Knowing that Zulime had always been his intellectual comrade, and
realizing how deeply he felt the separation which her growing interest
in my affairs had brought about, I gave him my hand in silent renewal of
a friendship into which something new and deeply significant had come.
"I hope she will never regret it," was all I could say.

Zulime was not deceived as to my income. My property, up to this time,
consisted of a small, a very small library, a dozen Navajo rugs, several
paintings, a share in four acres of land and my book rights (which were
of negligible value so far as furnishing a living was concerned), and my
wife perceived very clearly that our margin above necessity was narrow,
but this did not disturb her faith in the future, or if it did, she gave
no sign of it--her face was nearly always smiling. Nevertheless I had no
intention of keeping her in West Salem all summer. I could not afford to
wear out her interest in it.

One day, shortly after Lorado's visit, I received a letter from Major
Stouch, the Indian Agent with whom I had campaigned at Lamedeer in '97.
He wrote: "I have just been detailed to take charge of the Cheyenne
Agency at Darlington, Oklahoma. Mrs. Stouch and I are about to start on
a survey of my new reservation and I should like to have you and your
wife come down and accompany us on our circuit. We shall hold a number
of councils with the Indians, and there will be dances and pow-wows. It
will all be material for your pen."

This invitation appealed to me with especial force for I had long
desired to study the Southern Cheyennes, and a tour with Stouch promised
a rich harvest of fictional themes, for me. Furthermore it offered a
most romantic experience for Zulime--just the kind of enlightenment I
had promised her.

With no time to lose, we packed our trunks and took train for Kansas
City enroute for Indian Territory, the scene of many of the most
exciting romances of my youth, the stronghold of bank robbers, and the
hiding place of military renegades.

On our way to Oklahoma, we visited Professor Taft in Hanover and I find
this note recorded: "All day the wind blew, the persistent, mournful
crying wind of the plain. The saddest, the most appealing sound in my
world. It came with a familiar soft rush, a crowding presence, uttering
a sighing roar--a vague sound out of which voices of lonely children and
forgotten women broke. To the solitary farmer's wife such a wind brings
tears or madness. I am tense with desire to escape. This bare little
town on the ridge is appalling to me. Think of living here with the
litany of this wind forever in one's ears."

By contrast West Salem, with its green, embracing hills, seemed a
garden, a place of sweet content, a summer resort, and yet in this
Kansas town Zulime had spent part of her girlhood. In this sun-smit
cottage she had left her mother to find a place in the outside world
just as I had left my mother in Dakota. From this town she had gone
almost directly to Paris! It would be difficult to imagine a more
amazing translation--and yet, now that she was back in the midst of it,
she gave no sign of the disheartenment she must have felt. She met all
her old friends and neighbors with unaffected interest and gayety.

Twenty-four hours later we were in the midst of a wide, sunny prairie,
across which, in white-topped prairie schooners, settlers were moving
just as they had passed our door in Iowa thirty years before. Plowmen
were breaking the sod as my father had done in '71, and their women
washing and cooking in the open air, offered familiar phases of the
immemorial American drama,--only the stations on the railway broke the
spell of the past with a modern word.

Swarms of bearded, slouchy, broad-hatted men filled the train and
crowded the platforms of the villages. Cow-boys, Indians in white men's
clothing, negroes (black and brown), and tall, blonde Tennessee
mountaineers made up this amazing population--a population in which
libraries were of small value, a tobacco-chewing, ceaselessly spitting
unkempt horde, whose stage of culture was almost precisely that which
Dickens and other travelers from the old world had found in the Central
West in the forties.

How these scenes affected my young wife I will not undertake to say; but
I remember that she kept pretty close to my elbow whenever we mingled
with the crowd, and the deeper we got into this raw world the more
uneasy she became. "Where shall we spend the night?" she asked.

Had I been alone I would not have worried about a hotel, but with a
young wife who knew nothing of roughing it, I became worried. To the
conductor I put an anxious question, "Is there a decent hotel in Reno?"

His answer was a bit contemptuous, "Sure," he exclaimed. "What do you
think you're doing--exploring?"

This was precisely what I feared we _were_ doing. I said no more about
it, although I hadn't much confidence in his notions of a first class
hotel. There was nothing for it but to rest upon his assurance and go
hopefully forward to the end of the line.

It must have been about ten of a dark warm night as we came to a final
halt beside a low station marked "Reno," and at the suggestion of the
brakeman I called for "the Palace Hotel Bus," although none of the
waiting carriages or drivers seemed even remotely related to a palace.
My wife, filled with a high sense of our adventure, took her seat in
the muddy and smelly carriage, with touching trust in me.

The Palace Hotel, with its doorway brightly lighted with electricity,
proved a pleasant surprise. It looked clean and bright and new, and the
proprietor, a cheerful and self-respecting citizen, was equally
reassuring. We went to our rooms with restored confidence in Oklahoma.

The next morning, before we had finished our breakfast, a messenger from
the Agency came in to say that a carryall was at the door, and soon we
were on our way toward the Fort.

The roads were muddy, but the plain was vividly, brilliantly green, and
the sky radiantly blue. The wind, filled with delicious spring odors,
came out of the west; larks were whistling and wild ducks were in
flight. To my wife it was as strange as it was beautiful. It was the
prairie at its best--like the Jim River in 1881.

Fort Reno (a cluster of frame barracks), occupied a low hill which
overlooked the valley of the Canadian, on whose green meadows piebald
cattle were scattered like bits of topaz. Flowers starred the southern
slopes, and beside the stream near the willows (in which mocking birds
were singing), stood clusters of the conical tents of the Cheyennes,
lodges of canvas made in the ancient form. Our way led to the Agency
through one of these villages, and as we passed we saw women at their
work, and children in their play, all happy and quite indifferent to the
white man and his comment.

The Stouchs met us at the door of the big frame cottage which was the
agent's house, and while Mrs. Stouch took charge of Zulime the Major led
me at once to his office, in order that I might lose no time in getting
acquainted with his wards. In ten minutes I found myself deep in another
world, a world of captive, aboriginal warriors, sorrowfully concerned
with the problem of "walking the white man's trail."

All that day and each day thereafter, files of white-topped wagons
forded the river, keeping their westward march quite in the traditional
American fashion, to disappear like weary beetles over the long, low
ridge past the fort which stood like a guidon to the promised land. Here
were all the elements of Western settlement, the Indians, the soldiers,
the glorious sweeping wind and the flowering sod, and in addition to all
these the resolute white men seeking their fortunes beneath the sunset
sky, just as of old, remorselessly carrying their women and children
into hardship and solitude. Without effort I was able to imagine myself
back in the day of Sam Houston and Satanka.

Our trip around the reservation with the Agent began a few days later
with an exultant drive across the prairie to the South Fork of the
Canadian River. It was glorious summer here. Mocking birds were singing
in each swale, and exquisite flowers starred the sod beneath our wheels.
Through a land untouched by the white man's plow, we rode on a trail
which carried me back to my childhood, to the Iowa Prairie over which I
had ridden with my parents thirty years before. This land, this sky,
this mournful, sighing wind laid hold of something very sweet, almost
sacred in my brain. By great good fortune I had succeeded in overtaking
the vanishing prairie.

The arrival of the Agent at each sub-agency was the signal for an
assembly of all the red men round-about and Zulime had the pleasure of
seeing several old fashioned Councils carried on quite in the
traditional fashion, the chiefs in full native costume, their head
dresses presenting suggestions of the war-like past. The attitudes of
the men in the circle were at all times serious and dignified, and the
gestures of the orators instinct with natural grace.

One of the Cheyenne camps in which we lingered was especially charming.
Set amid the nodding flowers and waving grasses of a small meadow in the
elbow of a river, its lodges were filled with happy children, and under
sun-shades constructed of green branches, chattering women were at work.
Paths led from tent to tent, and in the deep shade of ancient walnut
trees, on the banks of the stream, old men were smoking in reminiscent
dream of other days.

As night fell and sunset clouds flamed overhead, primroses yearned
upward from the sward, and the teepees, lighted from within, glowed like
jewels, pearl-white cones with hearts of flame. Shouts of boys, laughter
of girls, and the murmur of mothers' voices suggested the care-free life
of the Algonquin in days before the invading conqueror enforced new
conditions and created new desires.

       *       *       *       *       *

For two weeks we drove amid scenes like these, scenes which were of
inspirational value to me and of constant delight to Zulime. My notebook
filled itself with hints for poems and outlines for stories. In all my
tales of the Cheyennes, I kept in mind Major Powell's significant
remark, "The scalp dance no more represents the red man's daily life
than the bayonet-charge represents the white man's civilization." Having
no patience with the writers who regarded the Indian as a wild beast, I
based my interpretation on the experiences of men like Stouch and Seger
who, by twenty years' experience, had proved the red man's fine
qualities. As leading actors in the great tragedy of Western settlement
I resolved to present the Ogallallah and the Ute as I saw them.

At one of these informal councils between the Agent and some of the
Cheyenne headmen, I caught a phrase which gave me the title of a story
and at the same time pointed the moral of a volume of short stories.
White Shield, one of John Seger's friends, in telling of his
experiences, sadly remarked, "I find it hard to make a home among the
white men."

Instantly my mind grasped the reverse side of the problem. I took for
the title of my story these words: _White Eagle, the Red Pioneer_, and
presented the point of view of a nomad who turns his back on the
wilderness which he loves, and sets himself the task of leading his band
in settlement among the plowmen. In a collection of tales, some of which
have not been published even in magazines, I have grouped studies of red
individuals with intent to show that a village of Cheyennes has many
kinds of people just like any other village. "Hippy, the Dare Devil,"
"White Weasel, the Dandy," "Rising Wolf, the Ghost Dancer," are some of
the titles in this volume. Whether it will get itself printed in my
lifetime or not is a problem, for publishers are loath to issue a book
of short stories, any kind of short stories. "Stories about Indians are
no longer in demand," they say. Nevertheless, some day I hope these
stories may get into print as a volume complementary to _Main Traveled
Roads_, and _They of the High Trails_.

Among the most unforgettable of all our Oklahoma experiences was a
dinner which we had with the Jesuit Missionary priest at "Chickashay" on
the last day of our stay. It had been raining in torrents for several
hours, and as the Mission was four miles out I would have despaired of
getting there at all had it not been for the Agency Clerk who was a man
of resource and used to Oklahoma "showers." Commandeering for us the
Agency "hack," a kind of canvas-covered delivery wagon, he succeeded in
reaching the priest's house without shipwreck, although the road was a
river.

The priest, a short, jolly Alsatian, met us with shining face quite
unlike any other missionary I had ever seen. He was at once a delight
and an astonishment to Zulime. His laugh was a bugle note and his
hospitality a glow of good will. The dinner was abundant and well
served, the wine excellent, and our host's talk of absorbing interest.

We were waited upon by a Sister of severe mien, who, between courses,
stood against the wall with folded arms eyeing us with disapproving
countenance. It was plain that she was serving under compulsion, but
Father Ambrose paying no attention to her frowns, urged us to take a
second helping, telling us meanwhile of his first exploration of
Oklahoma, a story which filled us with laughter at his "greenness."
Chuckling with delight of the fool he was, he could not conceal the
heroic part he had played, for the hardships in those days were very
real to a young man just out of a monastery. "I was so green the cows
would have eaten me," he said.

The whole incident was like a chapter in a story of some other land than
ours. The Sisters, the little brown children, the book-walled sitting
room, the sturdy little priest recounting his struggles with a strange
people and a strange climate,--all these presented a charming picture of
the noble side of missionary life. Nothing broke the charm of that
dinner except an occasional peal of thunder which made us wonder whether
we would be able to navigate the hack back to the hotel or not.

What a waste the plain presented as we started on our return at ten
o'clock! The lightning, almost incessant, showed from time to time what
appeared to be a vast lake, shorelessly extending on every side of us, a
shallow sea through which the horses slopped, waded and all but swam
while Carroll, the Clerk, as pilot, did his best to reassure my wife. "I
know the high spots," he said, whereat I fervently (though secretly)
replied, "I hope you do," and when we swung to anchor in front of our
little hotel, I shook his hand in congratulations over his skill--and
good luck!

On our return to Chicago I found Lorado in his studio, modeling a more
or less conventional female form, and my resentment took words. "If you
will come with me, down among the Cheyennes, I will show you men who can
be nude without being naked. In White Eagle's camp you can study
warriors who have the dignity of Roman Senators and the grace of
Athenian athletes."

To illustrate one of my points, I caught up a piece of gray canvas and
showed him how the chiefs of various tribes managed their blankets.
Something in these motions or in the long gray lines of the robe which I
used fired his imagination. For the first time in our acquaintanceship,
I succeeded in interesting him in the Indian. He was especially excited
by the gesture of covering the mouth to express awe, and a few days
later he showed me several small figures which he had sketched,
suggestions which afterwards became the splendid monuments of Silmee and
Blackhawk. He never lost the effect of the noble gestures which I had
reproduced for him. The nude red man was a hackneyed subject, but Brown
Bear with his robe, afforded precisely the stimulus of which he stood in
need.

This trip to Indian Territory turned out to be a very important event in
my life. First of all it enabled me to complete the writing of _The
Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_, and started me on a long series of
short stories depicting the life of the red man. It gave me an enormous
amount of valuable material and confirmed me in my conviction that the
Indian needed an interpreter, but beyond all these literary gains, I
went back to Wisconsin filled with a fierce desire to own some of that
beautiful prairie over which we had ridden.

This revived hunger for land generated in me a plan for establishing a
wide ranch down there, an estate to which we could retire in February
and March. "We can meet the spring half-way," I explained to my father.
"I want a place where I can keep saddle horses and cattle. You must go
with me and see it sometime. It is as lovely as Mitchell County was in
1870."

To this end I wrote to my brother in Mexico. "Leave the rubber business
and come to Oklahoma. I am going to buy a ranch there and need you as
superintendent."



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Standing Rock and Lake McDonald


It was full summer when we got back to Wisconsin, and The Old Homestead
was at its best. The garden was red with ripening fruit, the trees thick
with shining leaves, and the thrushes and catbirds were singing in quiet
joy. In the fields the growing corn was showing its ordered spears, and
the wheat was beginning to wave in the gentle wind. No land could be
more hospitable, more abounding or more peaceful than our valley.

With her New Daughter again beside her life seemed very complete and
satisfying to my mother, and I was quite at ease until one night, as she
and I were sitting alone in the dusk, she confided to me, for the first
time, her conviction that she had but a short time to live. Her tone, as
well as her words, shocked me, for she had not hitherto been subject to
dark moods. She gave no reason for her belief, but that she was
suffering from some serious inner malady was evident,--I feared it might
concern the action of her heart--and I was greatly disturbed by it.

Of course I made light of her premonition, but thereafter I watched her
with minute care, and called on the doctor at the slightest sign of
change. We sang to her, we read to her, and Zulime spent long hours
reading to her or sitting beside her. She was entirely happy except
when, at intervals, her mysterious malady,--something she could not
describe,--filled her eyes with terror.

She loved to sit in the kitchen and watch her new daughter presiding
over its activities, and submitted, with pathetic pride, to any change
which Zulime proposed. "I am perfectly contented," she said to me,
"except----"

"Except what, mother?"

"The grandchild. I want to see my grandchild."

One of our regular excursions for several years had been a drive
(usually on Sunday) over the ridge to Lewis Valley, where Frank
McClintock still lived. Among my earliest memories is a terror of this
road, for it led up a long, wooded hill, which seemed to me, as a child,
a dangerous mountain pass. Many, many times since then I had made the
climb, sometimes in the spring, sometimes in midsummer, but now my plans
included my wife. Mother was eager to go. "I can stand the ride if you
will drive and be careful going down hill," she said to me--and so,
although I was a little in doubt about the effect upon her heart, I
hired a team, and early of a clear June morning we started for Mindoro.

It was like riding back into the hopeful, happy past, for both the old
people. Father was full of wistful reminiscences of "the early days,"
but mother, who sat beside Zulime, made no comment, although her face
shone with inward joy of the scene, the talk--until we came to the steep
descent which scared her. Clinging to her seat with pitiful intensity
she saw nothing but dangerous abysses until we reached the level road on
the opposite side of the ridge.

It was glorious June, and in this I now rejoice, for it proved to be the
last time that we made the crossing of the long hill together. I was
glad to have her visit her brother's home once more. Change was coming
to him as well as to her. His prodigious muscles and his boyish gayety
were fading away together. Though still delightfully jolly and
hospitable, his temper was distinctly less buoyant. He still played the
fiddle; but like his brother, David, he found less and less joy in it,
for his stiffened fingers refused to do his bidding. The strings which
once sang clear and sweet, failed of their proper pitch, and these
discords irritated and saddened him.

Aunt Lorette, his handsome, rosy-cheeked wife, was beginning to complain
smilingly, of being lame and "no account," but she provided a beautiful
chicken dinner, gayly "visiting" while she did it, with mother sitting
by to watch her at the job as she had done so many times before.

Lorette, like all the rest of us, felt under the necessity of putting
her best foot forward in order that "Zuleema" should not be disappointed
in any way, and to Zulime she was like a character in a novel; indeed,
they all tried to live up to her notion of them. For her, father told
his best stories of bears and Indians, for her, Uncle Frank fiddled his
liveliest tunes, and for her Aunt Lorette recounted some of the comedies
which the valley had from time to time developed, and which (as she
explained) "had gone into one of Hamlin's books. Of course he fixed 'em
up a little," she added, "you couldn't expect him to be satisfied with a
yarn just as I told it, but all the same he got the idea of at least two
of his stories from me."

Valiant Aunt Lorette! Her face was always sunny, no matter how deep the
shadow in her heart; and her capacity for work was prodigious. She was
an almost perfect example of the happy, hard-working farmer's wife, for
her superb physical endowment and her serene temperament had survived
the strain of thirty years of unremitting toil. Her life had been, thus
far, a cheerful pilgrimage. She did not mind the loneliness of the
valley. The high hill which lay between her door and the village could
not wall her spirit in. She rejoiced in the stream of pure water which
flowed from the hillside spring to the tank at her kitchen door, and she
took pride in the chickens and cows and pigs which provided her table
with abundant food.

"Oh, yes, I like to go to town--once in a while," she replied, in answer
to Zulime's question. "But I'd hate to live there. I don't see how
people get along on a tucked up fifty-foot lot where they have to buy
every blessed thing they eat."

How good that dinner was! Hot biscuit, chicken, shortcake, coffee and
the most delicious butter and cream. At the moment it did seem a most
satisfactory way to live. We forgot that the dishes had to be washed
three times each day, and that the mud and rain and wind and snow often
shut the homestead in for weeks at a stretch. Seeing the valley at its
loveliest, under the glamor of a summer afternoon, we found it perfect.

After dinner we men-folks (leaving the women, in the "good old way," to
clear away the dinner dishes) went out on the grass under the trees, and
as I talked of my mountaineering Uncle Frank said, with a wistful note
in his voice, "I've always wanted to go out into that country with you.
Chasing a deer through a Wisconsin swamp don't satisfy me--I'd like to
get into the grizzly bear country--but now I'm too old."

Thereupon father stated his desires. "There are just two trips I want to
make--I'd like to go by a steamboat from Duluth to Detroit, and I want
to see Yellowstone Park."

"Well, why don't you do it?" demanded my Uncle. "You can afford it now."

Father's face became thoughtful. "I believe I will. Lottridge and Shane
are planning that boat trip. I could go with them."

"Sail ahead," said I, "and if you get back in time I'll take you through
Yellowstone Park. Zulime and I are going to Montana in July."

Neither of them had the slightest desire to see London or Paris or Rome,
but they both longed for a fuller knowledge of the West. They were
still pioneers, still explorers over whose imagination the trackless
waste exercised a deathless dominion. To my uncle I said, "If I could
afford it, I would take you with me on one of my trailing expeditions
and show you some real wilderness."

"I wish you would," he answered quickly. "I'd tend horses, cook, or
anything else in order to go along."

Of course this wistful longing was only a mood on his part, for he was
naturally of a cheerful disposition, but music and the wilderness always
stirred him to his deeps. Ten minutes later he was joking with Zulime,
giving a fine exhibition of the contented husbandman.

As the time came to leave, my mother glanced about her with an emotion
which she brokenly expressed when she said, "I don't suppose I shall
ever get over here again. You must come and see me, after this."

"Oh, you'll be comin' over oftener than ever, now that you've got a
daughter to lean on," retorted Lorette with easy grace.

On our way home, at the crest of the hill, I drew rein in order that we
might all look away over the familiar valley, stretching mistily toward
the sun, and I, too, had the feeling--which I was careful not to express
even by a look or tone--that mother and I would never again ride this
road or look out upon this lovely scene together, and something in her
eyes and the melancholy sweetness of her lips told me that she was
bidding the landscape a long farewell.

We rode the remaining portion of our way in somber mood, although we all
agreed that it was a colorful finish of a perfect day--a day to be
recalled in after years with a tender heart-ache.

[It is all changed now. Aunt Lorette has gone to her reward. Uncle
Frank, old and lonely, is living on the village side of the ridge and
strangers are in the old house!]

That night, Zulime and I talked over the agreement I had made with
father, and we planned a way to carry it out. Almost as excited about
the Yellowstone as he, she was quite ready to camp through as I
suggested. "We will hire a team at Livingston, and with our own outfit,
will be independent of stages and hotels--but first I must show you some
Indians. We will visit Standing Rock and see the Sioux in their 'Big
Sunday.' Father can meet us at Bismark after we come out."

With the confidence of a child she accepted my arrangement and on the
first day of July we were in the stage ambling across the hot, dry
prairie which lay between Bismark and Fort Yates. Empty, arid and
illimitable the rolling treeless landscape oppressed us both, and yet
there was a stern majesty in its sweep, and the racing purple shadows of
the dazzling clouds lent it color and movement. To me it was all
familiar, but when, after an all-day ride, we came down into the valley
of the Muddy Missouri, the sheen of its oily red current was quite as
grateful to me as to my weary wife.

Our only means of reaching the Agency was a small rowboat which seemed a
frail ferry even to me. How it appeared to Zulime, I dared not ask--but
she unhesitatingly stepped in and took her seat beside me. I think she
accepted it as a part of the strange and hardy world in which her
husband was at home.

We were both silent on that crossing, for our slender craft struggled
anxiously with the boiling, silent, turbid current, and when we landed,
the tense look on Zulime's face gave place to a smile.--Half an hour
later we were sitting at supper in a fly-specked boarding house,
surrounded by squaw-men and half-breed Sioux, who were enjoying the
luxury of a white man's table as a part of their Fourth of July
celebration. My artist wife was being educated swiftly!

The tribe was again encamped in a wide circle just west of the Fort,
precisely as when my brother and I had visited it three years before,
while the store and the Agency swarmed with native men and women, many
in mixed costume of cloth and skin. Zulime's artistic joy in them filled
me with complacent satisfaction. I had the air of a showman rejoicing in
his exhibition hall. With keen interest we watched the young warriors as
they came whirling in on their swift ponies, each in his gayest
garments, the tail of his horse decorated with rosettes and ribbons.
Possessing the swiftness and the grace of Centaurs, coming and going
like sudden whirlwinds, they were superb embodiments of a race which was
passing. Some of the older men remembered me, and greeted me as one
friendly to their cause--but for the most part the younger folk eyed us
with indifference.

That night a singular and savage change in the weather took place. The
wind shifted to the southeast and took on the heat of a furnace. By ten
o'clock next morning dirt was blowing in clouds and to walk the street
was an ordeal. All day Zulime remained in her room virtually a prisoner.
Night fell with the blast still roaring, and the dust rising from the
river banks like smoke, presented a strange and sinister picture of
wrath. It was as though the water, itself, had taken fire from the
lightning which plunged in branching streams across the sky. Thunder
muttered incessantly all through that singular and solemn night, a night
which somehow foreshadowed the doom which was about to overtake the
Sioux.

The following day, however, was clear and cool, and we spent most of it
in walking about the camp, visiting the teepees of which there were
several hundreds set in a huge ellipse, all furnished in primitive
fashion--some of them very neatly. Over four thousand Sioux were said to
be in this circle, and their coming and going, their camp fires and
feasting groups composed a scene well worth the long journey we had
endured. Strange as this life seemed to my wife it was quite familiar to
me. To me these people were not savages, they were folks--and in their
festivity I perceived something of the spirit of a county fair in
Wisconsin.

Our guide about the camp, the half-breed son of a St. Louis trader, was
a big, fine-featured, intelligent man of about my own age, whose
pleasant lips, and deep brown eyes attracted me. He knew everybody, both
white and red, and as soon as he understood my wish to write fairly of
his people, he gave himself unreservedly to our service. Taking us from
lodge to lodge, he introduced us to the men whose characters were of the
most value in my study and told them of my wish to report them with
sympathy and truth.

One of the games that day was a rough, outdoor drama, in which mimic war
parties sallied forth, scouts were captured and captives rescued in
stirring pantomime.

As I stood watching the play I observed that one man (no longer young)
was serving as "the enemy," alternately captured or slain. His role was
not only arduous--it was dangerous--dangerous and thankless, and as I
saw him cheerfully volunteering to be "killed" I handed Primeau a dollar
and said: "Give this to that old fellow, and tell him he should have
many dollars for his hard, rough work."

Primeau gave him the coin, but before he had time to know who gave it,
he was called back into the field.

At the Agency store I met a French-Canadian named Carignan who was a
most valuable witness, for he had been among the red men for many years,
first as a school teacher and later as trader. From him I secured much
intimate history of the Sioux. He had known the Sitting Bull well, and
gave me a very kindly account of him. "I taught the school in Rock Creek
near the Sitting Bull's camp, and he was often at my table," he
explained. "I saw no harm in him. I liked him and respected him. He was
an Indian but he was a thinker."

Vaguely holding in my brain a tale in which the Sitting Bull should be
protagonist, I talked with many who had known him, and a few days later
I accepted Primeau's invitation to visit the valley in which the chief
had lived, and which was the scene of the Ghost Dance, and the place of
the chief's death.

I suggested to Zulime that she would be more comfortable at the Agency
but she replied, "I'd rather go with you. I don't like being left here
alone."

"You'll find the ride tiresome and the lodging rough, I fear."

"I don't care," she retorted firmly, "I'm going with you."

Primeau was a very intelligent man and a good talker, and as we rode
along he gave us in detail the history of the rise of the Ghost Dance,
so far as the Sioux were concerned. "There was nothing war-like about
it," he insisted. "It was a religious appeal. It was a prayer to the
Great Spirit to take pity on the red man and bring back the world of the
buffalo. They carried no weapons, in fact they carried nothing which the
white man had brought to them. They even took the metal fringes off
their shirts. They believed that if they gave up all signs of the whites
the Great Spirit would turn his face upon them again."

"Did Sitting Bull take part in this?" I asked.

"He encouraged the meeting at his camp and gave his cattle to feed the
people, but he was never able to dream like the rest. He never really
believed in it. He wanted to but he couldn't. He was too deep a thinker.
He often talked with me about it."

At a point about twenty miles from The Fort, Primeau left us to visit a
ranchman with whom he had some business and left us to drive on with a
guide to his cattle-ranch where we were to stay all night.

The ranch house turned out to be a rude low shack, and here Zulime had
her first touch of genuine cowboy life. The foreman had not been
expecting ladies for supper and the food he had prepared was of the
usual camp sort. He explained that he and his men had finished their
meal, and then, leading the way to the kitchen, showed us the food and
said heartily, "Help yourself."

On the back of the stove was a pot half filled with a mixture of boiled
rice and prunes. In the oven was some soggy bread, and on the hearth
some cold bacon. A can half filled with pale brown coffee added the
finishing touch to a layout perfectly familiar to me. I thanked the cook
and proceeded to dish out some of the rice whose grayish color aroused
Zulime's distrust. She refused to even taste it. "It looks as if it were
filled with dirt--or ashes."

"That's its natural complexion," I explained. "This is the unpolished
kind of rice. It is much more nutritious than the other kind."

She could not eat any of the bread, and when she tried the coffee she
was utterly discouraged. Nevertheless her kindliness of heart led her to
conceal her disgust. She emptied her rice into the stove and threw her
cup of coffee from the window in order that the cook might think that
she had eaten her share of the supper.

The foreman who came in a few minutes later to see that we were getting
fed politely inquired, "Is there anything else I can get you, miss?"

She really needed something to eat and yet she was puzzled to know what
to ask for. At last, in the belief that she was asking for the simplest
possible thing, she smiled sweetly and said, "I should like a glass of
milk."

The foreman permitted no expression of surprise or displeasure to cross
his face, he merely turned to a tall young man in the doorway and
quietly remarked, "Mell, the lady would like some milk."

A glint of amusement was in the eyes of Mell, but he made no reply, just
quietly "sifted out," and a few moments later, while the foreman was in
the midst of a story, a most appalling tumult broke upon our ears.
Calves bawled, bulls bellowed, galloping hooves thundered, men shouted
and laughed--in a most amazing uproar.

Rushing to the door in search of the cause of this clamor, I found it to
be related to my wife's innocent request.

Tied near the cabin was a leaping, blatting, badly frightened calf while
inside the corral, a cow evidently its dam, was charging up and down the
fence, her eyes literally blazing with fury, pursued by Mell on a swift
pony, a rope swinging in his hand. On the top rails of the enclosure a
row of delighted loafers laughed and cheered and shouted good advice to
the roper.

"What is he doing?" asked my amazed wife, as Mell brought the cow to
earth in a cloud of dust.

"Milking the cow," replied the boss with calmly hospitable inflection.
"If you'll be patient jest a few minutes----"

The insane animal, strong as a lioness, in some way freed herself from
the rope and charged her enemy--Mell's pony fled. "O, don't let him hurt
her," pleaded Zulime. "I don't want any milk. I didn't know you had to
do that."

"It's the only way to milk a range cow," I explained.

"Don't worry, Miss," the foreman added reassuringly. "It's all in the
day's work for Mell."

Again the cow went to earth and Zulime, horrified at the sight, begged
them to restore the calf to its dam. At last this was done, and a
grateful peace settled over the scene.

The cowboys were highly delighted and I was amused, but Zulime was too
shocked to see any humor in Mell's defeat. "Do they really milk their
cows in that way?" she asked me.

"Yes, when they milk them at all," I replied, inwardly filled with
laughter. "As a matter of fact they get all their cream out of cans.
Milking that cow was a new departure for Mell, I think he was a little
disappointed at not being allowed to go through with it."

"I'm glad he didn't. I'll never mention milk again--in this country."

We slept in the bed of our wagon-box that night while the crew rode away
to fight a prairie fire. We heard them come quietly in toward dawn, and
when we awoke and looked out of our cover we saw them lying all about us
on the ground each rolled up in his tarpaulin like a boulder. Altogether
it was a stirring glimpse of ranch life for my city-bred wife.

Primeau's home ranch and store which we reached about eleven the next
forenoon was an almost equally sorry place for a delicate woman, a sad
spot in which to spend even a single night. Flies swarmed in the kitchen
like bees, and the air of our bedroom was hot and stagnant, and
mosquitoes made sleep impossible. Zulime became ill, and I bitterly
regretted my action in bringing her into this God forsaken land. "We
shall return at once to the fort," I promised her.

It was an iron soil. The valley was a furnace, the sky a brazen shield.
No green thing was in sight, and the curling leaves of the dying corn
brought back to me those desolate days in Dakota when my mother tried so
hard to maintain a garden. Deeply pitying the captive red hunters, who
were expected to become farmers under these desolate conditions, I was
able to understand how they had turned to the Great Spirit in a last
despairing plea for pity and relief. "Think of this place in winter," I
said to Zulime.

One of the men whom Primeau especially wished me to meet was Slohan, the
annalist of his tribe, one of the "Silent Eaters," a kind of bodyguard
to Sitting Bull. "He lives only a few miles up the valley," Primeau
explained, and so to find him we set off in a light wagon next morning
drawn by a couple of fleet ponies.

As we rode, Primeau told me more of "The Silent Eaters." "They were a
small band of young warriors organized for defense and council, and were
closely associated with Sitting Bull all his life. Slohan, the man we
are to see to-day, is one of those who stood nearest the chief. No man
living knows more about him. He can tell you just what you want to
know."

An hour later as we were riding along close to the bank of the creek,
Primeau stopped his team. "There he is now!" he exclaimed.

Looking where he pointed I discovered on a mound above the stream an old
man sitting motionless as a statue, with bowed head, and lax hands.
There was something strange, almost tragic in his attitude, and this
impression deepened as we approached him.

He was wrinkled with age and clad in ragged white man's clothing, but
his profile was fine, fine as that of a Roman Senator, and the lines of
his face were infinitely sad. In one fallen hand lay a coiled rope.

He did not look up as we drew near, did not appear to hear Primeau's
respectful greeting. Dejected, motionless, he endured the hot sunshine
like an Oriental Yoghi or a man deadened by some narcotic drug.

Gently, almost timidly, Primeau addressed him. "Slohan, this white man
has come a long way to see you. He wishes to talk with you about the
Sitting Bull and of the days of the buffalo."

At last the old man turned and lifted his bloodshot eyes and uttered in
a husky whisper, a few words which changed Primeau's whole expression.
He drew back. "Come away!" he said to me.

While we were walking toward our team he explained. "Slohan is mourning
the death of his little grandson. Long time he has been there wailing.
His voice is gone. He can cry no more. His heart is empty. He will not
talk with us."

What a revelation of the soul of a red warrior! Hopeless, tragic,
inconsolable, he was the type of all paternity throughout the world.

Primeau went on, "I told him of you and I think his mind is turned to
other things. I asked him to come to see you this afternoon. Perhaps he
will. Perhaps I have lifted his mind from his sorrow."

All the way down the valley I pondered on the picture that grandsire had
made there in the midst of that desolate valley.

Primeau told me of his grandson. "He was a handsome little fellow. I
can't blame the old man for weeping over his loss."

Slohan was a redoubtable warrior. He had been the leader of Sitting
Bull's bodyguard, he was accounted a savage, and yet for forty-eight
hours he had been sitting ceaselessly mourning for a child, crying till
his voice was only a husky whisper. Nothing that I had ever seen typed
the bitterness of barbaric grief more powerfully than this bent and
voiceless old man.

       *       *       *       *       *

Late in the afternoon the mourner came in view, riding on a pony,
without a saddle, his face still very sad, but not entirely despairing.
His mind, in working backward to the splendid world of the past, the
world in which his chief had played such heroic and stirring parts, his
heart had been comforted--or at any rate lightened.

Although clothed in the customary rags of the mourner, his hair was
neatly brushed and braided, and he met my wife with gentle grace. There
was something tragic in his dim glance, something admirable in his low
words of greeting.

We gave him food and drink, and then while we all sat on the earth in
the scant shade thrown by Primeau's building, he began to talk, slowly,
hesitantly of the part his chief had taken in the wars against the white
man. He had the dignity and the eloquence of a fine New England judge. A
notable sweetness and a lofty poetry were blended in his expression; and
as he used the sign language in emphasizing his words (gestures finely
expressive and nobly rhythmical) he became, to my perception, the native
bard reciting the story of his clan. I was able to follow the broad
lines of his discourse and when at the close of the afternoon he rose to
go, I said to him, "I shall tell of the Sitting Bull as you have
spoken," and we parted in the glow of mutual esteem.

Zulime was feeling much better, and the air being cooler, I asked
permission to stay another day, in order that I might meet Looking Stag,
another of the warriors who had known the Sitting Bull.

Looking Stag's home was a few miles down the valley, and we found him in
his commodious lodge, entertaining a couple of headmen from Cheyenne
River. He was seated on a low bed opposite the door, and his guests were
placed on either hand of him. He glanced up at us, spoke a curt word to
Primeau and went on with his story. His cold greeting, and the evident
preoccupation of his manner made me feel like an intruder, which I was,
and this feeling was deepened when I perceived that my guide was
distinctly ill at ease. After all, he was only a half-breed trader,
while these men were red chieftains.

The Looking Stag was not contemptuous of me--he was merely indifferent.
Busied with honored guests he regarded the coming of a strange white man
to his lodge as something of a nuisance. He went on cutting tobacco, and
afterward ground it between his palms whilst his visitors talked on
quite oblivious to me.

Our host looked familiar, but as he was painted and wore a bonnet of
eagle feathers I could not remember where I had seen him.

At last, in a pause of the talk, Primeau said something to him which
caused him to break into a smile and thrust his open hand toward me.
"How! How! my friend," he called heartily.

Then I recognized him. He was the man who had so unweariedly taken the
part of "The Enemy" in the games at Standing Rock. Primeau had told him
that I was the man who had given him the money, and he now accepted me
as a friend.

He then told his visitors the story of my gift and message. They also
laughed and shook hands with me. Thereafter we were all on terms of high
respect and mutual confidence. I put my questions freely and they
replied with an air of candor.

As they approached the Custer fight, however, they paused, pondered,
checked up one another's statements, and at last produced what I
believed to be the truth regarding the share in that battle--and the
truth is incredible. They recreated the whole scene for me as Two Moons
had done. They corroborated all that I had obtained from the northern
Cheyennes.

I forgot the plow and the reaper while sitting there in conference with
those men for they were thinkers as well as warriors. Within the walls
of that lodge they were not despised outcasts, they were leaders,
councillors, men of weight. They had reëntered a world which caused
their faces to shine just as my father's face shone when he told of
Grant at Vicksburg or recounted the days of his youth on The Old
Wisconse. For a little while I inhabited their world, and when I left
them I carried with me a deepened sense of their essential manliness.

Alas! Zulime was less enthusiastic. The flies, the heat, the dust, the
bad food--so commonplace to me--were horrifying to her, and so for her
sake I cut short my historical studies and hurried her back to the Fort,
back to the wholesome fare of the officers' mess. With no consuming
literary interest to sustain her she found even the Agency a weariness;
and as the date for meeting my father was near, we took the stage back
to Bismark, she with a sense of relief, I with a feeling of regret that
I had not been able to push my investigations deeper. There was a big
theme here, but I had small faith in my ability to handle it. It
required an epic poet, rather than a realistic novelist.

Father, excited as a boy, came along on the train which reached Bismark
the morning following our arrival and we at once took him into the
Pullman car and forced him to share some of the comforts of travel. We
ate breakfast in the dining car at what seemed to him a wildly
extravagant price but I insisted on his being a guest. "Just sit here
and look out of the window and think of the Erie Canal Boats in which
you came west, or remember your ox-team in fifty-eight."

"All right," he said with a quizzical smile. "If you can stand the
expense, I can." A little later he said, "What a change my life has
witnessed. I helped to grade the first railway in the State of Maine,
and now here I am whirling along through 'the Great American Desert'
eating a steak and drinking my coffee in a flying hotel. I wish your
mother could be here with us."

This was the only shadow at our feast and we put it aside, taking
comfort in the thought that she was happy in a tree-embowered home,
surrounded by the abundance of a prolific garden. "Her days of travel
are over," I said, and turned to the task of making my father's outing a
shining success.

For ten days we camped with him in Yellowstone Park, moving from place
to place, in our own wagon and tent, and when we came out and he
started on his homeward way, he expressed complete satisfaction. "It has
been up to the bills," he conceded, and I could see that he was eager to
get back to Johnson's drug store, where he could discuss with Stevens
and McEldowney the action of geysers and the habits of grizzly bears, on
terms of equal information.

If he was satisfied, I was not. Insisting on showing Zulime the Cascade
Range and the Pacific Ocean, I kept on to the West. Together we viewed
Tacoma and Seattle, and from the boat on Puget Sound discovered the
Olympic Mountains springing superbly from the sea. For us Rainier
disclosed his dome above the clouds, and Lake McDonald offered its most
gorgeous sunset.

One of the points which I had found of most interest in '97 was the
Blackfoot Agency, and as we sat in our tent on the Northern shore of
Lake McDonald I gained Zulime's consent to go in there for a few days.
"The train lands us there late at night," I said, "and there is no hotel
at the station or the Agency, but we can set up our tent in a few
moments and be comfortable till morning."

To this she agreed--or perhaps I should say to this she submitted, and
at eleven o'clock the following night we found ourselves unloaded on the
platform of a lonely little station on the plain. It was a starlit
night, fortunately, and dragging our tent and bedding out on the crisp,
dry sod, we set to work. In ten minutes we had a house and bed in which
we slept comfortably till a freight train thundered by along about dawn.
Truly my artist wife was being schooled in the tactics of the trail!

At the Agency we hired a wagon and drove to the St. Mary's Lake. With a
Piegan (old Four Horns) for a guide we camped on the lower Lake, and
Zulime caught two enormous pike. At Upper St. Mary's, we set our tent
just below the dike. A "Chalet" on this spot now welcomes the tourist,
but in those days St. Mary's was a lone, and stormful mountain water
with not even a forest ranger's cabin to offer shelter. We lived in our
own tent and cooked our own food--a glorious experience to me, but to
Zulime (as I learned afterward) the trip was not an unmixed delight.

We visited several other Indian reservations on our way home, and all
along the way my mind was busy with the splendid literary problems here
suggested. Deep down in my brain a plan was forming to picture these
conditions. "First I must put together a volume of short stories to be
called _The Red Pioneer_; then I shall complete a prose poem of the
Sitting Bull to be called _The Silent Eaters_, and third, and most
important of all, I must do a novel of reservation life, with an army
officer as the agent."

In these volumes I planned to put the results of all my studies of the
Northwest during my many explorations of the wild. In this way I would
be doing my part in delineating the swiftly changing conditions of the
red man and the mountaineer.

Everywhere I went I studied soldiers, agents, missionaries, traders and
squaw-men with insatiable interest. My mind was like a sponge, absorbing
not facts, but impressions, pictures which were necessary to make my
stories seem like the truth. While in camp and on the train, I took
notes busily and actually formulated several tales while riding my horse
along the trail.

Perfectly happy in this work, I believed my wife to be equally content,
for she bravely declared that to tumble off a pullman in the middle of a
moonless night, and help me set up a tent on the prairie grass was fun.
She pretended to _enjoy_ cooking our food at a smoking camp fire in a
drizzle of rain; but I now know that she was longing for the comforts,
the conveniences, the repose of West Salem.

"Oh, but it is good to be home," she said as we reached the old house,
and I too was ready for its freedom from care and its opportunity for
work, happy in the belief that I had bestowed on my wife some part of
the store of heroic and splendid experiences, which made up so large a
section of my own life, experiences which were to serve as the basis for
all my future work.

The flame of my ambition burned brightly at the close of these weeks of
inspirational exploration. "With nothing to distract or weaken me I
ought now, at least to justify the faith which Howells and other of my
literary friends and advisers had been kind enough to declare." Seizing
my pen with new resolution I bent to the task of putting into fiction
certain phases of the great Northwest which (up to this year) had not
been successfully portrayed.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

The Empty Room


My father was a loyal G. A. R. man. To him, naturally, the literature,
the ceremonies and the comradeship of the Grand Army of the Republic
were of heroic significance for, notwithstanding all other events of his
stirring life, his two years as a soldier remained his most moving, most
poetic experience. On all special occasions he wore the regulation blue
coat with the bronze button of the Legion in its lapel, and faithfully
attended all the local meetings of his "Post," but he had not been able
to take part in the National Conventions for the double reason that they
were always too far away from his Dakota home and invariably came at the
time when his presence was most needed on the farm. With a feeling of
mingled envy and sadness he had seen his comrades, year after year,
jubilantly set out for Washington or Boston or San Francisco whilst he
remained at work.

Now the case was different. He had the money, he had the leisure and the
Grand Review was about to take place in Chicago. "Hamlin," said he, on
the morning after my return from Montana, "I want you to go with me to
the G. A. R. meeting in Chicago."

Although I did not say so, I was sadly averse to making this trip.
Aching to write, impatient to get my new conceptions down on paper, I
could hardly restrain an expression of reluctance, but I did, for the
old soldier, more afraid of towns than of mountains, needed me in the
city.

"All right, father," I said, and put my notes away.

He made a handsome figure in his new suit, and his broad-rimmed hat with
its gold cord. He was as excited as a boy when we set out for the
station and commented with a tone of satisfaction on the number of his
comrades to be seen on the train. He was not in need of me during this
part of his excursion for he hailed every old soldier as "Comrade" and
made a dozen new friendships before we reached Madison. No one resented
his fraternal interest. Occasionally he brought one of his acquaintances
over to my seat, explaining with perfectly obvious pride that I had
written a history of General Grant and that I lived in Chicago. "I'm
taking him along to be my scout," he declared, at the close of each
introduction.

At my lodgings on Elm Street he made himself so beloved that I feared
for his digestion. The landlady and the cook were determined that he
should eat hot biscuit and jam and pie in addition to roast chicken and
gravy, and I was obliged to insist on his going to bed early in order to
be up and in good condition for the parade next day.

"I've no desire to march in the ranks," he said. "I'm perfectly content
to sit on the fence and see the columns pass."

"You needn't sit on the fence," I replied. "I've got two of the best
seats in the Grand Stand. You can rest there in comfort all through the
parade."

He didn't know how much I paid for our chairs, but a knowledge that he
was in the seats of the extravagant pleased him while it troubled him.
He was never quite at ease while enjoying luxury. It didn't seem
natural, someway, for him to be wholly comfortable.

We were in our places hours before the start (he was like a boy on
Circus Day--afraid of missing something), but that he was enjoying in
high degree his comfortable outlook, made me almost equally content.

At last with blare of bugle and throb of drum, that grand and melancholy
procession of time-scarred veterans came to view, and their tattered
flags and faded guidons brought quick tears to my father's eyes. Few of
them stepped out with a swing, many of them limped pitifully--all were
white-haired--an army on its downward slope, marching toward its final,
silent bivouac.

None of them were gay and yet each took a poignant pleasure in sharing
the rhythm of the column, and my father voiced this emotion when he
murmured, "I ought to be down there with my company."

To touch elbows just once more, to be a part of the file would have been
at once profoundly sad and sadly sweet, and he wiped the tears from his
cheeks in a silence which was more expressive than any words could have
been.

To me each passing phalanx was composed of piteous old men--to my sire
they were fragments of a colossal dream--an epic of song and steel. "In
ten years he and they will all be at rest in 'fame's eternal camping
ground,'" I thought with a benumbing realization of the swift,
inexorable rush of time--a tragedy which no fluttering of bright flags,
no flare of brave bugles could lighten or conceal. It was not an army in
review, it was an epoch passing to its grave.

       *       *       *       *       *

After the parade was over, as we were going home in the car, tired,
silent and sad, I perceived my father as others saw him, a white-haired
veteran whose days of marching, of exploration were over. His powerful
figure, so resilient and so brave was stooping to its end. His restless
feet were weary.

However, this was only a mood with him. A night's sleep brought back his
courage, and his energy to a most amazing degree, and I was again called
upon to show him the "sights" of the city--that is to say, we once more
viewed the Stock Yards, the Masonic Temple and Lincoln Park. He also
asked me to go with him for a sail across the Lake, but at this point I
rebelled. "I am willing to climb tall buildings or visit the Zoo, but I
draw the line at a trip to Muskegon."

With guilty conscience I watched him start off for the dock alone, but
this sentiment on my part was wasted. A score of "comrades" on the boat
more than made up for my absence, and at sunset he returned beaming,
triumphant, perfectly satisfied with his day's sail. "Now, I'm ready to
go home," he announced.

After putting him on the train next day I opened my desk in my quiet
room on Elm Street, with a feeling of being half-in and half-out of the
state of matrimony. In some ways I liked being alone. A greater power of
concentration resulted. With no disturbing household influences, no
distracting interests, I wrote all the morning, but at night, when my
work was done, my mind went out toward my young wife. To have her moving
about the room would have been pleasant. To walk with her to the studio
would have been a joy. As a novelist, I bitterly resented all the minute
domestic worries, but as a human being I rejoiced in my new
relationship. "Can I combine the two activities? Will being a husband
and a householder cramp and defeat me as a novelist?"

These questions every writer who is ambitious to excel, must answer for
himself. So far as I was concerned, the decision had been made. Having
elected myself into the ranks of those who were carrying forward the
immemorial traditions of the race, there was no turning back for me. I
ended the week by going out to Eagle's Nest Camp, where Zulime met me to
renew the delight of our days of courtship.

Even here, I did not neglect my task. Wallace Heckman gave me a desk in
the attic and there each morning I hammered away, eager to get my
material "roughed out" while it was hot in my memory. I often wrote
four thousand words between breakfast and luncheon. One story took shape
as a brief prose epic of the Sioux, a special pleading from the
standpoint of a young educated red man, to whom Sitting Bull was a kind
of Themistocles. Though based on accurate information, I intended it to
be not so much a history as an interpretation. It interested me at the
time and so--I wasted a week!

Life at camp was very pleasant, but as my brother wrote me that he must
return to New York I felt it my duty to go home and see that my mother
"attended" the County Fair, which was a most important event to her.
"Mother's life retains so few interests," I explained to Zulime, "that
to miss the Fair would be to her a great deprivation. You can stay here
but I must go home and take her down to the old settlers' picnic in
Floral Hall."

Zulime understood. Loyally cutting short her pleasant companionship with
her fellow artists she returned with me to West Salem a few days before
the fair opened.

Fuller, who timed his visit to be with us during the exhibition,
professed a keen interest in every department of it. His attitude was
comically that of a serious-minded European tourist. He not only
purchased a catalogue, he treated it precisely as if it were the
hand-book of the Autumn Salon in Paris. Carrying it in his hand, he
spent busy hours minutely studying "Spatter Work," and carefully
inspecting decorated bedspreads. He tasted the prize bread, sampled the
honey, and twirled the contesting apples. Nothing escaped his notice. He
was as alert, and (apparently) as vitally concerned as any of the
"judges," but I, knowing his highly-critical mind, could only smile at
his reports.

He was a constant joy, not only to Zulime and to me, but to our friends,
the Eastons. One day as we were digging potatoes he gave me a lecture on
my duty as a Wisconsin novelist. "You should do for this country what
Thomas Hardy has done for Wessex," he said. "You have made a good start
in _Main Traveled Roads_, and _Rose of Dutcher's Coolly_, but you should
do more with it. It is a noble background."

"Why not do something with it yourself?" I retorted.

"You are almost as much a part of Wisconsin as I am. I've done my part
and moved on. My keenest interests now are in the Mountain West--a
larger field. There's no use saying 'Make more of this material!' I can
only do what I feel. Just now I am full of Montana. Why don't you
celebrate Eagle's Nest? If you weren't so myopic you'd perceive in that
little artist colony something quite as literary as the life which
Hawthorne lived at Brook Farm."

"I'm no Hawthorne," he replied. "I'm not even Margaret Fuller. I don't
want to write about Camp--in fact I don't want to write about anything.
I'd rather drive nails or superintend a tinner."

In this way our discussion usually ended--with each of us going his own
gait. In this instance his way led back to Chicago. "I must return to my
plumbing," he protested. "I've got some renters who are complaining of
their furnaces," and that was the end of his visit. We knew better than
to argue for delay. He was as inflexible as New England granite.

His going left a gap. We both liked to have him about. Never in the way,
never interfering with my work, he was always a stimulant. His judgment
(second only to Howells' in my estimation) kept me to my highest level.
He was the only man with whom I could discuss all my perplexities and be
enlightened.

As October came on my mother's condition called for increasing care. She
could not walk across the road and her outings were all taken in a
wheeled chair, which I pushed about the village each afternoon. She was
very happy when we were at home, but as she could neither sew nor read
she was piteously dependent upon the members of her household for
diversion. Life's walls were narrowing for her, that was sorrowfully
evident to me; and yet I did not--I would not consider the possibility
of her early passing. I thought of her as living on for many years
longer. It was her growing inability to employ her time which troubled
me and I gave the most of my afternoons to her amusement.

As my father wrote from Dakota early in October setting November 1st as
the date for his return, I began to plan another trip to New York,
feeling that it was better to go in the early autumn than to wait till
winter. "Winters are very hard on old folks in our valley," I remarked
to Zulime. To mother I said, "Our absence will not be long. We'll be
back in time for Thanksgiving," I assured her.

She dreaded our going. Clinging to us both as though she feared we might
never return she pleadingly said, "Wait till your father comes," and her
distress of mind caused me to put off our departure until father could
arrive.

These moods of depression, these periods of suffering which she could
not explain, were usually transitory, and this one soon passed. In a day
or two she was free from pain, and quite cheerful. "You may go," she
said at last, but warningly added, "Don't stay away too long!"

In spite of her smiling face, I kissed her good-by with a sense of
uneasiness, almost of guilt. "It seems a selfish act to leave her at
this time," I confessed to Zulime, "and yet if we are to get away at
all, it is safer to go now."

In order to save time for our eastern trip, we went through Chicago
almost without stopping, and upon reaching New York, took the same suite
of rooms on Fifteenth Street in which we had lived the previous year. In
an hour we were settled.

My brother, who was playing an engagement in the city, came at once to
inquire about the old folks and I gave a good report. "Mother has her
ups and downs," I explained, "but she is very comfortable in her new
rooms. Of course she misses her sons and her new daughter--I am not
sure, but she misses the new daughter more than she misses you and me,
but we shall soon return to her."

_The Eagle's Heart_, which had been running with favor as a serial, was
just being published in book form, and we were in high hopes of it.

At the same time the Century Company was preparing to issue _Her
Mountain Lover_, which had already been printed in the magazine.
Altogether my presence in New York seemed opportune, if not actually
necessary, a fact which I made much of in writing to the old folks in
the West.

Gilder, who met me on the street soon after our arrival in New York,
spoke to me in praise of _Her Mountain Lover_. "I predict a great
success for it. It has beauty----" here he smiled. "I am always
preaching 'beauty' to you, but you need it! You should remember that the
writing which is beautiful is the writing which lasts."

He was looking thin and bent and gray, and I experienced a keen pang of
fear. "Gilder is growing old," I thought, and this feeling of change was
deepened a few days later by the death of Charles Dudley Warner.

"The older literary men, the Writers who have been my guides and my
exemplars, are dropping away! I am no longer 'a young and promising
novelist.' It is time I delivered my message--if I have any," I reminded
myself, with a realization that I was now in the mid-ranks, pushed on by
younger and more vigorous authors. Frank Norris and Stewart Edward White
were crowding close upon my lagging heels. With this in my thought I got
out my manuscript and set to work.

I would have been entirely happy in the midst of many delightful
meetings with my fellow craftsmen had it not been for a growing sense
of anxiety concerning my mother's condition. Father's brief notes were
not reassuring. "Your mother needs you," he said, in effect, and I began
to plan our return. "We have a few engagements," I wrote, "but you may
expect us for our usual Thanksgiving Dinner."

I will not say that I had a definite premonition of trouble, I was just
uneasy. I felt inclined to drop all our social engagements and start for
home but I did not carry out the impulse.

On Sunday, the twenty-fifth of November, after a delightful dinner with
Augustus Thomas in his home at New Rochelle, Zulime and I returned to
our apartment in happiest humor, to be met by a telegram which went to
my heart like the thrust of a bayonet. It was from my father. "_Your
mother is very low. Come at once._"

For a few moments I remained standing, like a man stunned by a savage
blow. Then I awoke to the need of haste in getting away to the West. It
was five o'clock in the afternoon, and the last train which would enable
us to connect with the Milwaukee train from Chicago to West Salem, left
at half-past six. "We must make that train," I said to Zulime with a
desperate realization of the need of haste.

The rush of packing, the excitement of getting to the station kept me
from the sinking of spirit, the agony of self-accusation which set in
the moment we were safely in the sleeping car, and speeding on our
homeward way. "If only we can reach her before it is too late," was my
prayer. "I shall never forgive myself for leaving her. I knew she was
not well," I confessed to Zulime, whose serene optimism comforted me, or
at least dulled the edge of my self-reproach. Again I telegraphed that
we were coming, giving the name and number of our train, hoping to have
an encouraging reply from father or the doctor during the evening, but
none came.

The long agonizing hours wore on. A hundred times I accused myself, "I
should not have left her."

At all points where I attacked myself, my wife defended me, excused me,
and yet I could not clear myself--could not rest. In imagination I
pictured that dear, sweet face turned toward the door, and heard that
faint voice asking for me.

It is true I had done many considerate things for her, but I had not
done enough. Money I had given her, and a home, but I had not given her
as much of my time, my service, as I might have done,--as I should have
done. My going away to the city at the very moment when my presence was
most necessary seemed base desertion. While she had been suffering,
longing and lonely, I had been feasting. All my honors, all my writing,
seemed at this moment too slight, too trivial to counter-balance my
mother's need, my mother's love.

Midnight came without a message, and I went to bed, slightly comforted,
hoping that a turn for the better had taken place. I slept fitfully,
waking again and again to the bleak possibilities of the day. A
persistent vision of a gray-haired mother watching and waiting for her
sons filled my brain. That she was also longing for Zulime I knew, for
she loved her, and thought of her as a daughter.

In this agony of remorse and fear I wore out the night, and as no word
came in the morning, I ate my breakfast in half-recovered tranquillity.

"It must be that she is better," Zulime said, but at nine o'clock a
telegram from the doctor destroyed all hope. "Your mother is
unconscious. Do not hope to find her alive," was his desolating message.

Every devoted son who reads this line will shiver as I shivered. That
warning came like a wind from the dark spaces of a bleak, uncharted
deep. It changed my world. For twenty years my mother had been my chief
care. My daily thought ran to her. Only when deeply absorbed in my work
had she been absent from my conscious mind. For her I had planned, for
her I had saved, for her I had built, and now----!

That day was the longest, bitterest, I had ever known, for the reason
that, mixed with my grief, my sense of remorse, was a feeling of utter
helplessness. In desperate desire for haste I could only lumpishly wait.
Another day of agony, another interminable night of pain must pass
before I could reach the shadowed Homestead. Nothing could shorten the
interval. Then, too, I realized that she whom I would comfort had
already gone beyond my aid, beyond any comfort I could send.

Over and over I repeated, "If only we had started a few days sooner!"
The truth is I had failed of a son's duty just when that duty was most
needed, and this conviction brought an almost intolerable ache into my
throat. Nothing that Zulime could do or say removed that pain. I could
not eat, and I could not rest.

We reached Chicago in time to catch the night train at ten o'clock, and
in almost utter mental exhaustion I fell asleep about midnight, and
slept till nearly daylight.

       *       *       *       *       *

Father met us at the train, as he had so often done before, but this
time there was something in the pinched gray look of his face, something
in the filmed light of his eagle eyes which denoted, movingly, the
tragic experiences through which he had just passed. Before he spoke I
knew that mother had passed beyond my reach.

As he gripped my hand I perceived that he was smitten but unbowed. He
was taking his orders like a soldier, without complaint or
question.--Only when Zulime kissed him did he give way.

As we entered the gate I perceived with a pang of dread the wheeled
chair, standing empty on the porch, pathetic witness of the one who had
no further need of it. Within doors, the house showed the disorder, the
desolate confusion, the terror which death had brought. The furniture
was disarranged--the floor muddy, and in the midst of the chill little
parlor rested a sinister, flower-strewn box. In this was all that
remained of Isabel McClintock, my mother.

For a few minutes I stood looking about me, a scalding blur in my eyes,
a choking in my throat. The south room, _her_ room, was empty,
intolerably, accusingly empty. The gentle, gray-haired figure was no
longer in its place before the window. The smiling lips which had so
often touched my cheek on my return were cold. The sweet, hesitant voice
was forever silent.

Her dear face I did not see. I refused to look upon her in her coffin. I
wanted to remember her as she appeared when I said good-by to her that
bright October evening, her white hair gleaming in the light of the
lamp, while soft curves about her lips suggested a beautiful serenity.
How patient and loving she had been! Even though she feared that she
might never see us again she had sent us away in cheerful
self-sacrifice.

Father was composed but tense. He went about his duties with solemn
resignation, and, an hour or two later, he said to me, "You and I must
go down and select a burial lot, a place for your mother and me."

It was a desolate November morning, raw and gloomy, but the gray sky and
the patient, bare-limbed elms were curiously medicinal to my sore heart.
In some strange way they comforted me. Snow was in the air and father
mechanically weather-wise, said, without thinking of the bitter irony of
his words--"Regular Thanksgiving weather."

Thanksgiving weather! Yes, but what Thanksgiving could there be for him
or for me, now?

       *       *       *       *       *

The day of the funeral was still more savagely cold and bleak, and I
resented its pitiless gloom. The wind which blew over the open grave of
my dead mother was sinister as hate, and the snow which fell,
intolerably stern. I turned away. I could not see that box lowered into
the merciless soil. My mother's spirit was not there--I knew that--and
yet I could not bear to think of those tender lips, those loving hands
going into the dark. It was a harsh bed for one so gentle and so dear.

Back to the Homestead we drove--back to an empty shell. The place in
which Isabel Garland's wish had been law for so many years was now
desolate and drear, and return would have been impossible for me had it
not been for the presence of my wife, whose serene soul was my comfort
and my stay. "You have done all that a son could do," she insisted, and
it was a comfort to have her say this even though I knew that it was not
true, her faith in me and her youth and beauty partly redeemed me from
the awful emptiness of that home. Without her (and all that she
represented) my father and I would have been victims of a black despair.

I had never possessed a definite belief in immortality and yet, as we
gathered about our table that night, I could not rid myself of a feeling
that my mother was in her room, and that she might at any moment cough,
or stir, or call to me. Realizing with appalling force that so far as my
philosophy went our separation was eternal, I nevertheless hoped that
her spirit was with us at that moment, I did not know it--I desired it.
In the sense which would have made belief a solace and relief, I was
agnostic.

"How strange it all seems!" my father exclaimed, and on his face lay
such lines of dismay as I had never seen written there before. "It seems
as though I ought to go and wheel her in to dinner."

I marvel now, as I marveled then, at the buoyant helpfulness, the brave
patience of my wife in the presence of her stricken and bewildered
household. She sorrowed but she kept her calm judgment, and set about
restoring the interrupted routine of our lives. Putting away all signs
of the gray intruder whose hands had scattered the ashes of ruin across
our floor, she called on me to aid in uniting our broken circle. Under
her influence I soon regained a certain composure. With a realization
that it was not fair that she should bear all the burden of the family
reorganization, I turned from death and faced the future with her. On
her depended the continuation of our family. She was its hope and its
saving grace.



BOOK II

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

A Summer in the High Country


My first morning in the old Homestead without my mother was so poignant
with its sense of loss, so rich with memories both sweet and sorrowful,
that I shut myself in my study and began a little tribute to her, a
sketch which I called _The Wife of a Pioneer_. Into this I poured the
love I had felt but failed to express as fully as I should have done
while she was alive. To make this her memorial was my definite purpose.

As I went on I found myself deep in her life on the farm in Iowa, and
the cheerful heroism of her daily treadmill came back to me with such
appeal that I could scarcely see the words in which I was recording her
history. Visioning the long years of her drudgery, I recalled her early
rising, and suffered with her the never-ending round of dish-washing,
churning, sewing, and cooking, realizing more fully than ever before
that in all of this slavery she was but one of a million martyrs. All
our neighbors' wives walked the same round. On such as they rests the
heavier part of the home and city building in the West. The wives of the
farm are the unnamed, unrewarded heroines of the border.

For nearly a week I lingered upon this writing, and having completed it
I was moved to print it, in order that it might remind some other son of
his duty to his ageing parents sitting in the light of their lonely
hearth, and in doing this I again vaguely forecast the composition of an
autobiographic manuscript--one which should embody minutely and simply
the homely daily toil of my father's family, although I could not, at
the moment, define the precise form into which the story would fall.

The completion of the memorial to my mother eased my heart of its bitter
self-accusation, and a little later I returned to my accustomed routine,
realizing that in my wife now lay my present incentive and my future
support. She became the center of my world. In her rested my hope of
happiness. My mother was a memory.

To remain longer in the old home was painful, for to me everything
suggested the one for whom it had been established. The piano I had
bought for her, the chair in which she had loved to sit, her spectacles
on the stand--all these mute witnesses of her absence benumbed me as I
walked about her room. Only in my work-shop was I able to find even
momentary relief from my sense of irreparable and eternal loss.

Father, as though bewildered by the sudden change in his life, turned to
Zulime with a pathetic weakness which she met with a daughter's tender
patience and a woman's intuitive understanding. He talked to her of his
first meeting with "Belle" and his tone was that of a lover, one who had
loved long and deeply, and this I believe was true. In spite of
unavoidable occasional moments of friction, he and Isabel McClintock had
lived in harmony. They had been spiritually married, and now, in looking
back over the long road he and she had traveled together, he recalled
only its pleasant places. His memories were all of the sunlit meadows
and starry nights along the way. Prairie pinks and wild roses hid the
thorns and the thistles of the wayside.

His joy in the songs she had sung came back, intensified now by tender
association with her face and voice. The knowledge that she who had
voiced them so often, could voice them no more, gave to some of the
words an almost overpowering pathos, and when he asked me to sing them,
I could not immediately comply. To him they brought grateful tears and a
consoling sadness, to me they came with tragic significance.

    "But that mother she is gone
    Calm she sleeps beneath the stone"

was not a song but a reality.

More and more he dwelt upon the time when she was young, and as the
weeks went by his sorrow took on a wistful, vague longing for the past.
Through the gate of memory he reëntered the world of his youth and
walked once more with William and David and Luke. The mists which filled
his eyes had nothing hot or withering in their touch--they comforted
him. Whether he hoped to meet his love in some other world or not I do
not know--but I think he did.

In the midst of these deep emotional personal experiences, I began to
write (almost as if in self-defense), a novel which I called _The Gray
Horse Troop_, a story which had been slowly forming in my mind ever
since my visit to Lame Deer in 1897. This was my first actual start upon
its composition and I was soon in full drive again, and just in
proportion as I took on these fictional troubles did my own lose their
power. To Zulime, with a feeling of confidence in myself, I now said,
"You need not remain here any longer. Go down to Chicago and wait for
me. I'll come as soon as father feels like letting me go. I am all right
now. I am at work."

She smiled but replied with firm decision, "I shall stay right here
until you can go with me. Father needs me more than he needs you."

This was true. She would have been deserting two men instead of one--and
so she stayed while I worked away at my story, finding comfort in the
realization of her presence.

At last my father said, "You mustn't stay here on my account; I can take
care of myself."

Here spoke the stark spirit of the man. Accustomed to provide for
himself in camp and on the trail, he saw no reason why he should not
contrive to live here in the sheltered village, surrounded by his
friends; but Zulime insisted upon his retaining our housekeeper, and to
this he consented, although he argued against it. "I've been keeping
house alone for six years out there in Dakota; I guess I can do as well
here."

"All right, father," I said, "we'll go, but if you need me let me know."

A return to the city did not interrupt my writing. My new novel now had
entire possession of me. So far as my mornings were concerned I was
forgetful of everything else--and yet, often, as I put aside my work for
the day, I caught myself saying, "_Now I must write to mother_,"--and a
painful clutch came into my throat as I realized, once again, that I no
longer had a mother waiting for a letter. For twenty years no matter
where I had been or what I had been doing I had written to her an almost
daily message and now she was no longer in my reach!--Was she near me on
some other plane?

The good friendship of the Eagles' Nest Campers was of the highest value
to me at this time. Without them Chicago would have been a desert. Henry
Fuller's gay spirit, Lorado's swift wit and the good fraternal
companionship of Charles Francis Browne were of daily comfort; but
above all others I depended upon my wife whose serenely optimistic
spirit carried me over many a deep slough of despond. How I leaned upon
her! Her patience with me was angelic.

A writer, like an artist, is apt to be a selfish brute, tending to
ignore everything which does not make for the progress of his beloved
manuscript. He resents every interruption every hindering distraction,
as a hellish contrivance, maliciously designed to worry or obstruct
him--At least I am that way. That I was a burden, an intolerable burden
to my wife, at times--many times--I must admit--but she understood and
was charitable. She defended me as best she could from interruption and
smoothed my daily course with deft hand. Slowly my novel began to take
shape and as I drew farther away from the remorseful days which made my
work seem selfish and vain, I recovered an illogical cheerfulness.

We saw very few Chicago people and in contrast with our previous
"season" in New York our daily walk was uneventful, almost rural, in its
quiet round. Christmas came to us without special meaning but 1900 went
out with _The Eagle's Heart_ on the market, and _Her Mountain Lover_
going to press. Aside from my sense of bereavement, and a certain
anxiety concerning my lonely old father, I was at peace and Zulime
seemed happy and confident.

There was no escaping my filial responsibility, however, for in the
midst of this serene season, a sudden call for help came from West
Salem. "Your father is ill and needs you," wrote the doctor and I went
at once to his aid.

It was a cheerless home-coming,--one that I could hardly endure the
thought of, and yet I was glad that I had not followed my first impulse
to delay it, for as I entered the door of the desolate lonely house I
found the old soldier stretched out on a couch, piteously depressed in
mind and flushed with fever. I had not arrived a minute too soon.

What a change had come over the Homestead! It was but a shell, a mansion
from which the spirit for whom it had been built was fled. Its empty,
dusty rooms, so cold and silent and dead--were dreadful to me, but I did
my best to fill them with cheer for my father's sake.

As the day wore on I said to him, "It seems like Sunday to me. I have a
feeling that mother and Zulime are away at church and that they may, at
any moment, come in together."

"I wish Zuleema would come," my father said, and as if in answer to his
wish, she surprised us by a telegram. "I am coming home," she wired,
"meet me at the station to-morrow morning," and this message made my
father so happy that it troubled me, for it revealed to me how deeply he
had missed her, and made plain to me also how difficult it would be for
me to take her away from him thereafter.

Her coming put such life in the house that I decided to invite a number
of my father's friends and neighbors to spend the evening with us, and
the thought of this party quite restored him to his natural optimism.
His confidence in his new daughter's ability had become fixed. He
accepted her judgments almost instantly. He bragged of her skill as a
cook, as an artist and as a musician, quite shamelessly; but as this
only amused her I saw no reason for interfering--I even permitted him to
boast of my singing. He believed me to be one of the most remarkable
ballad singers in the world, and to hear me sing "The Ninety and Nine"
with all the dramatic modulations of a professional evangelist afforded
him the highest satisfaction.

At his urging we made elaborate preparations for feeding our guests, and
Zulime arranged a definite program of entertainment. When conversation
slackened I was to sing while she played my accompaniment, and to fill
out the program I volunteered to read one of my short stories.

The outcome of the evening was amusingly destructive of all our kindly
plans. Before the women had fairly removed their wraps, Lottridge drew a
box of dominoes from his pocket, saying, "I didn't know but you'd be a
little short on 'bones,'" and Shane called out, "Well, now, Richard,
what about tables?" In five minutes they were all--every mother's son
and daughter of them--bent above a row of dominoes!

No entertainment on the part of host or hostess was necessary till the
time came to serve supper. All our literary and musical preparations
went for naught!--At ten o'clock they rose as one man, thanked us for a
pleasant evening and went home!

Zulime laughed merrily over the wreck of our self-sacrificing program
when we were alone. "Well, we'll know exactly what to do next time. All
we need to do is to furnish dominoes and tables, our guests will do the
rest."

My young wife's presence in the Homestead almost redeemed it from its
gloom, and yet I was not content. The complications in the situation
defied adjustment. My father needed us, but the city was essential to
me. As a writer, I should have been remorselessly selfish. I should have
taken my wife back to Chicago at once, but my New England conscience
would not let me forget how lonely that old man would be in this empty
house, silent, yet filled with voices of the moaning, swaying branches
of its bleak midwinter elms.

My problem was, in fact, only another characteristic cruel phase of
American family history. In a new land like ours, the rising generation
finds itself, necessarily, almost cruelly, negligent of its progenitors.
Youth moves on, away and up from the farm and the village. Age remains
below and behind. The tragedy of this situation lies in the fact that
there is no happy solution of the problem. Youth can not be shackled,
age can not be transplanted.

In my case, I foresaw that the situation would inevitably become more
and more difficult year by year. My father could not live in any city,
and for me to give up my life in Chicago and New York in order to
establish a permanent home in West Salem, involved a sacrifice which I
was not willing to make,--either on my own account or Zulime's. I had no
right to demand such devotion from her. Like thousands of other men of
my age I was snared in circumstances--forced to do that which appeared
unfilial and neglectful.

In the midst of these perplexities I was confronted by a new and
surprising problem--I had money to invest! For the serial use of _The
Eagle's Heart_ and _Her Mountain Lover_ I had received thirty-five
hundred dollars, and as each of these books had also brought in an
additional five hundred dollars advance royalty, I was for the moment
embarrassed with cash.

In this extremity I turned, naturally, toward Oklahoma. I recalled the
beautiful prairies I had crossed on my way to the Washitay. "Another
visit to Darlington will not only furnish new material for my book of
Indian stories, but enable me to survey and purchase a half-section of
land," I explained to my father. "Like Henry George we both understand
the value of unearned increment."

In this plan he agreed and two days after making this decision I was at
Colony, Oklahoma, where I spent nearly the entire month of May, and when
I returned I was the owner of three hundred and twenty acres of land.

My return to the Homestead found Zulime deep in the rush of the berry
season. As mistress of a garden her interest in its produce was almost
comical. She thought less of art, she neither modeled nor painted. She
cared less and less for the Camp at Eagle's Nest, exulting more and more
in the spacious rooms of her home, and in the abundance of her soil. Her
love of the Homestead delighted me, but I was a little disappointed by
the coolness with which she received my gift of a deed to a quarter
section of Oklahoma land. She smiled and handed it back to me as if it
were a make-believe deed.

It chanced that July came in unusually dry and hot, and in the midst of
a dreadful week, she fell ill, so ill that she was confined to her bed
for nearly three weeks, and as I watched beside her during those
cloudless days and sultry nights, my mind turned with keenest longing
toward the snow-lined crests of the Colorado mountains, and especially
to the glorious forests of the White River Plateau. The roar of snowy
Uncompagre, the rush of the deep-flowing Gunnison, and the serrate line
of The Needle Peaks, called us both, and when at last, she was strong
enough to travel, we packed our trunks and fled the low country,
hurrying in almost desperate desire to reach the high, cool valleys of
Colorado.

O, that torturing journey! As we neared Omaha the thermometer rose to
105 in the Pullman car, and remained there nearly all day. For twelve
hours we steamed, sitting rigidly erect in our chairs, dreading to move,
sweltering in silence, waiting with passionate intensity for the cool
wind which we knew was certain to meet us somewhere on our upward
course.

The sun went down in murky flame and the very shadows were hot, but deep
in the night I was roused by a delicious puff of mountain air, and
calling to Zulime, suffering in her berth, I said, "Worry no longer
about the heat. From this hour on, every moment will be joy. You can
forget the weather in Colorado."

What exquisite relief came with that change of air! What sweetness of
promise! What buoyancy of expectation!--We went to sleep with the wind
blowing in upon us, and when we woke the mountains were in sight.

At the station in the Springs, our good friend Louis Ehrich again met
us, and in half an hour we stood in the same room which we had occupied
on our wedding trip, a room whose windows faced directly upon the
Rampart range, already deep purple with the shadow of the clouds. By
contrast with our torrid railway car this was Paradise itself--so clean,
so cool, so sweet, so tonic was the air, and when at noon a storm hid
the peaks, and lightning crashed above the foot hills, the arid burning
plain over which we came was forgotten--or remembered only to make our
enjoyment of the mountain air more complete.

The splendor of that mighty wall, the kiss of that wind, the memory of
that majestic peak looming amid the stars, comes back to me as I write,
filling me with an almost intolerable longing to recover the magic of
that summer, a summer which has receded with the speed of an eagle.

Each day we breakfasted and lunched and dined on a vine-clad porch in
full view of the mountains. Each afternoon we drove or rode horseback or
loitered on the lawn. Never in all my life had I come so near to
flawless content, and Zulime, equally joyous, swiftly returned to
perfect health. Her restoration was magical.

Louis Ehrich, one of the gentlest men I have ever known, rejoiced in our
presence. He lived but to fill our days with pleasure. He and I had been
friends for ten years, and his family now took my wife into favor--I was
about to say into equal favor, but that would not be true. They very
properly put her above me in the scale of their affection, and to this
subordination I submitted without complaint, or even question.

It chanced that on the second day of our stay the Ehrichs were due at a
garden party in "Glen Eyrie," General Palmer's palatial home in the foot
hills, and kindly obtained permission to bring us with them. That drive
across the mesa was like a journey into some far country--passage to a
land which was neither America nor England, neither East nor West. To
reach the Castle we entered a gate at the mouth of a narrow, wooded
cañon and drove for nearly a mile toward the west through a most
beautiful garden in which all the native shrubs and wild flowers had
been assembled and planted with exquisite art.

People were streaming in over the mountain roads, some on horseback,
some on bicycles, some in glittering, gayly-painted wagons, and when we
reached the lawn before the great stone mansion, we found a very curious
and interesting throng of guests, and in the midst of them, the General,
tall, soldierly, clothed in immaculate linen and wearing a broad white
western hat, was receiving his friends, assisted by his three pretty
young daughters.

The house was a veritable chateau--the garden a wonderland of Colorado
plants and flowers, skilfully disposed among the native ledges and
scattered along the bases of the cliffs whose rugged sides enclosed the
mansion grounds. The towers (of gray stone) were English, but the plants
and blooms were native to the Rampart foot hills. In a very real fashion
"Glen Eyrie" bodied forth the singular and powerful character of its
owner, who was at once an English squire, a Pennsylvania civil war
veteran, and a western railway engineer.

Food and drink and ices of various kinds were being served under the
trees with lavish hospitality, and groups of young people were wandering
about the spacious grounds--grounds so beautiful by reason of nature's
adjustment, as well as by way of the landscape gardener's art, that
they made the senses ache with a knowledge of their exquisite
impermanency. It was a kind of poem expressed in green and gold and
scarlet.

Zulime greatly interested the Palmer girls, and the General, who
remembered me pleasantly, was most amiable to us both. "You must come
again," he said, and to me he added, "You must come over some day and
ride my trails with me."

As I mingled with that throng of joyous folk, I lost myself. I became an
actor in a prodigious and picturesque American social comedy. For stage
we had the lawn, banks of flowers, and the massive towers of the castle.
For background rose the rugged hills!--Nothing could have been farther
from our home in Neshonoc. Glowing with esthetic delight in the remote
and singular beauty of the place, Zulime took an artist's keen interest
in alien loveliness. It threw our life into commonplace drab. And yet it
was factitious. It had the transient quality of a dream in which we were
but masqueraders.

Two days later, at the invitation of General Palmer, we joined his party
in a trip over the short-line railway to Cripple Creek, traveling in his
private car, and the luxury of this novel experience made my wife's eyes
shine with girlish delight.--I professed alarm, "I don't know where all
this glory is going to land us," I warned, "after this Aladdin's-lamp
luxury and leisure, how can I get you back into washing dishes and
canning fruit in West Salem?"

She laughed at this, as she did at most of my fears. Serene acceptance
of what came was her dominant characteristic. Her faith in the future
was so perfect that she was willing to make the fullest use of the
present.

The day was gloriously clear, with great white clouds piled high above
the peaks, and as the train crept steadily upward, feeling its way
across the mountain's shoulder, we were able to look back and down and
far out upon the plain which was a shoreless sea of liquid opal. At ten
thousand feet the foot hills (flat as a rug) were so rich in color, so
alluring in their spread that we could scarcely believe them to be
composed of rocks and earth.

After a day of sight-seeing we returned, at sunset, to the Springs, with
all of the pomp of railway magnates _en tour_, and as we were about to
part at the railway station, the General in curt, off-hand way, asked,
"Why not join my camping party at Sierra Blanca? We're going down there
for a week or two, and I shall be very glad to have you with us. Come,
and stay as long as you can. We shall probably move on to Wagon Wheel
Gap later. Wagon Wheel ought to interest you."

He said this with a quizzical smile, for he had been reading my novel of
Colorado, and recognized in my scene the splendors of the San Juan
country. "Your friend Ehrich is coming," he added, "and I expect
Sterling Morton for a day or two. Why not all come down together?"

"Would you like me to bring my bed and tent?" I asked.

"As you please, although I have plenty of room in my own outfit."

       *       *       *       *       *

It happened that Colorado Springs was holding a Quarto-Centenary, a kind
of Carnival and Wild-West Pageant, to which Vice-President Roosevelt was
coming as the chief guest of honor, and as soon as he arrived I called
upon him at his hotel. Almost at once he asked, "Where is your wife? I
want to see her. Is she here?"

"Yes, she is staying with some friends," I replied.

"I am very glad to know it. I shall call upon her tomorrow afternoon as
soon as my duties at the carnival are ended."

The thought of having the Vice-President of the United States go out of
his way to make a call upon my wife gave me a great deal of pleasure for
I realized how much it would mean to Zulime, but I replied, "We shall be
very glad to call upon _you_."

"No," he replied in his decisive fashion--"I shall call to-morrow at
four o'clock--if that is convenient to you. Meanwhile I want you and Mr.
Ehrich to breakfast with me here, at the hotel. I shall have some
hunters and rough riders at my table whom you will be interested to
meet."

Of course I accepted this invitation instantly, and hurried home to tell
my wife that "royalty" was about to call upon her.

The Vice-President's breakfast party turned out to be a very curious
collection of mutually repellent, but highly-developed individualities.
There was John Goff, well known as guide and hunter in western Colorado,
and Marshall Davidson, a rough-rider from New Mexico, Lieutenant
Llewellyn of the Rough Riders, Sterling Morton (former Secretary of
Agriculture), a big impassive Nebraska pioneer; Louis Ehrich (humanist
and art lover), and myself--I cannot say that I in any way reduced the
high average of singularity, but I was at least in the picture--Morton
and Ehrich were not; they remained curious rather than sympathetic
listeners. While no longer a hunter I was a trailer and was able to
understand and keenly enjoy the spirit of these hardy men of the open.

True to his word, Roosevelt called at the Ehrich's that afternoon, and
no one could have been more charming, more neighborly than he. He told
of our first meeting, smilingly called me "a Henry George crank," and
referred to other differences which existed between us. "Differences
which do not in the least interfere with our friendship," he assured
Zulime. "Your husband, for example, doesn't believe in hunting, and has
always stood out against my shooting," here he became quite
serious--"However, I've given up shooting deer and elk. I kill only
'varmints' now."

After half an hour of lively conversation, he rose to go and as I went
with him to the gate, where his carriage was waiting, he said with
earnest emphasis, "I congratulate you most heartily, my dear fellow.
Your wife is fine! fine!"

As Morton and Ehrich had accepted General Palmer's invitation to camp
with him, we all took train for Fort Garland, a mysterious little town
in Southern Colorado, near which the General was encamped. This
expedition particularly pleased me for it carried me into the shadow of
Sierra Blanca, one of the noblest of Colorado's peaks, and also into the
edge of the Mexican settlement. It all seemed very remote and splendid
to me that day.

We were met at the station by one of the General's retainers and ten
minutes later found ourselves in a mountain wagon and on our way toward
Old Baldy, the mountain which stands just north of Sierra Blanca, which
forms the majestic southern bastion of the Crestones.

Mexican huts lined the way, and dark-skinned farmers working in the
fields and about the corrals, gave evidence of the fact that this "land
grant" had been, at one time, a part of Old Mexico.

"It contains nearly seven hundred thousand acres," Ehrich explained,
"and is the property of General Palmer."

This statement aroused a sense of wonder in my mind. "Think of being
proprietor of one-half of Sierra Blanca?" I said to Morton. "Has any
individual a right to such a privilege?"

In a lovely grove on the bank of a rushing glorious stream, we found the
Lord of this Demesne and his three daughters encamped, attended by a
platoon of cooks, valets, maids, and hostlers. A "camp" which highly
amused Sterling Morton, although he had moments of resenting its
luxury. "Now this is the kind of 'roughing it' I believe in," he
declared with a smile. "It is suited to elderly old parties like Ehrich
and myself, but you, Garland, a youngster, a trailer--should have no
part in it. It's too corrupting."

Our luncheon, which contained five courses, came on with the plenitude
and precision of a meal at Glen Eyrie. The rusticity of the function was
altogether confined to the benches on which we sat and the tables from
which we ate--the butlering was for the most part urban.

"Why didn't Mrs. Garland come?" asked the General.

"She had an engagement or two that prevented her."

"Oh! She must come down," commanded the General. "Telegraph her at once
and ask her when she can get away. I'll send my car for her."

This he did. The private Pullman, with a maid and a steward in charge,
went back that night and on the second morning Zulime came down the line
in lonely state.

I met her at the station, and for ten days we lived the most idyllic,
yet luxurious life beside that singing stream. We rode the trails, we
fished, we gathered wild flowers. Sometimes of an afternoon we visited
the ranches or mining towns round about, feasting at night on turtle
soup, and steak and mushrooms, drinking champagne out of tin cups with
reckless disregard of camp traditions, utterly without care or
responsibility--in truth we were all under military discipline!

The General was a soldier even in his recreations. Each day's program
was laid out in "orders" issued in due form by the head of the
expedition--and these arrangements held! No one thought of changing
them. Our duty was to obey--and enjoy.

Never before in all my life had anything like this freedom from
responsibility, from expense, come to me. So carefree, so beautiful was
our life, that I woke each morning with a start of surprise to find its
magic a reality. It was like the hospitality of oriental kings in the
fairy stories of my childhood.

For four weeks we lived this incredible life of mingled luxury and
mountaineering, attended by troops of servants and squadrons of horses,
threading the high forests, exploring deep mines, crossing Alpine
passes, and feasting on the borders of icy lakes--always with the
faithful "Nomad," the General's private Pullman car, waiting in the
offing ready in case of accident--and then, at last, after riding
through Slumgullion Gulch back to Wagon Wheel, Zulime and I took leave
of these good friends and started toward Arizona. I had not yet
displayed to her the Grand Cañon of the Colorado!

Five years before, on a stage drawn by four wild-eyed bronchos I had
ridden from Flagstaff to Hance's Cabin in the glorious, exultant
old-time fashion, but now a train ran from Williams to the edge of the
abyss, and while I mourned over the prosaic change, I think Zulime
welcomed it, and when we had set up our little tent on a point of the
rim which commanded a view (toward the Southwest) of miles and miles of
purple pagodas, violet towers and golden peaks we were content. Nothing
could change the illimitable majesty of this view.

Day by day we watched the colorful play of sun-light and shadow along
those mighty walls, and one night we camped in the deeps, a dramatic
experience, for a mountain lion yowling from the cliffs gave voice to
the savage grandeur of the scene. Then at last, surfeited with splendor,
weary with magnificence, we turned our faces homeward. With only a stop
at Laguna to watch the Indian Corn Dance, we slid down to Kansas City
and at last to West Salem and home.

What a vacation it had been! Pike's Peak, Cripple Creek, Glen Eyrie, our
camp beside the singing stream at Baldy, Sierra Blanca, Wagon Wheel Gap,
Creede, Red Mountain, Lake City, Slumgullion, Tennessee Pass, noble
dinners on the car, trail-side lunches of goose-liver and sandwiches and
jam, iced watermelon and champagne in hot camps on the mesas--all these
scenes and experiences came back accompanied by memories of the good
talk, the cosmopolitan humor, of the Palmers and their guests.

From this royal ease, this incessant shift of scene and personality, we
returned to our shabby old homestead brooding patiently beneath its
maples, reflecting upon the glittering panorama which our magic lamp and
flying carpet had wrought so potently to display. As I had started out
to educate my wife in Western Life, it must be admitted that this summer
had been singularly successful in bringing to her a knowledge of the
splendors of Colorado and a perception of the varied character of its
population.--Best of all she returned in perfect health and happy as a
girl.

"This being married to a poor novelist isn't so bad after all," I
remarked with an air of self-congratulation. "True, our rewards come
without reason, but they sometimes rhyme with joy and pride."

Strange to say, I got nothing out of this summer, in a literary way,
except the story which I called _The Steadfast Widow Delaney_, a
conception which came to me on my solitary ascent of Sierra Blanca. All
the beauty and drama, all the humor and contrast of the trip with the
Palmers, had no direct fictional value to me. It is hard to explain why,
but so it was. I did not so much as write a poem based on that gorgeous
experience.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

The White House Musicale


The Homestead on the day of our return, was not only a violent contrast
to the castle in Glen Eyrie, but its eaves were dripping with water and
its rooms damp and musty. It was sodden with loneliness. Father was in
Dakota and mother was away never to return, and the situation would have
been quite disheartening to me had it not been for Zulime who did not
share my melancholy, or if she did she concealed it under that smiling
stoicism which she derived from her deeply philosophic father. She
pretended to be glad of the peace of our plain reality.

Life with her was not lacking in variety. From the splendors of Colorado
and the luxury of private cars and palatial chambers, she now dropped,
with a suddenness which should have been disconcerting, to the level of
scouring pots and cooking her own meals. It was several days before we
succeeded in finding a cook. "This is what it means to be the wife of an
unpopular novelist," I said to her.

"I'm not complaining. It's fun," she replied.

The house was soon in order and when my brother arrived later in the
week, she greeted him with the composure of a leisured hostess. In such
wise she met every demand upon her.

It was Franklin's first night at home since mother went away, and I
labored to cheer him with the fiction that she was "on a visit" to some
of her old friends and would soon return.

The Junior as I called him, was in a serious mood for another reason.
After more than twelve years of life as an actor, he had decided to quit
the stage, something the player is traditionally supposed to be
incapable of doing, and he had come to me for aid and encouragement. "I
have a good opportunity to go into the management of a rubber
plantation," he explained, "and I'd like to have you buy out my share in
the Homestead in order to give me a little money to work on."

To this I agreed, although I had grave doubts of the rubber business. To
have him give up the stage I considered a gain, for while he was a
capable player of middle-aged character parts, I saw no lasting success
ahead of him--on the contrary I imagined him getting into a more and
more precarious condition. Nothing is more hopeless than an elderly
actor out of a job and subject to the curt dismissals of contemptuous
managers. Frank had always been gayly unconcerned about the future and
he was not greatly troubled now; he was merely desirous of a fixed home
and a place to vote. With the promise of my cash for his share of the
Homestead, and my support in his Mexican venture, he cheered up markedly
and went away almost as carefree as a boy.

In the quiet of the days which followed I worked each morning, sometimes
on _The Steadfast Widow Delaney_, and sometimes on a revision of the
novel which I had variously and from time to time called _On Special
Duty_, and _The Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_. Having been accepted
by Lorimer, this story was about to be printed under this latter title
as a serial in the _Post_.

Each afternoon I saddled my Klondike horse who was in need of exercise,
and galloped about over the hills for an hour or two. We were familiar
figures by this time, and the farmers when they saw me leaping a pasture
fence or climbing a hill, would smile (I assume that they smiled), and
say, there goes that literary cuss, or words to that general effect. I
took a boyish delight in showing that Ladrone would walk a log or leap a
ditch at the mere touch of my heel.

Occasionally I went to LaCrosse with Zulime to visit our good friends
the Eastons, and it was on one of these visits that I had my first long
ride in an automobile. Incredible as it may seem now, there were very
few motor cars in the county in 1901, and Easton's machine would excite
laughter to-day. It was dumpy of form and noisy and uncertain of temper,
but it made the trip to Winona and _almost_ home again. It broke down
helplessly in the last mile, a treachery which caused its owner the
deepest chagrin, although it gave me the final touch for a humorous
story of our outing, a sketch which I sold to _Harper's Weekly_. The
editor had a fine illustration made for it, one which gave further force
to my description of the terrific speed with which we whirled through
the landscape. As I recall it we rose to nearly seventeen miles an hour!

As _The Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_, actually began to appear in
_The Post_, I became sharply concerned with the question of preparing it
for book publication. I decided to go to New York and look the ground
over very carefully before making selection of another publisher.

My life in the Homestead was comfortable, almost too comfortable. It
lacked stimulus. Riding my horse, gathering hickory nuts, and playing
tennis or "rummy," were all very well in their way, but they left me
dissatisfied, and after the cold winds began to blow and my afternoons
were confined to the house, I stagnated. Like Prudden, Grinnell and
other of my trailer friends, I was disposed to pitch my winter camp
somewhere on Manhattan Island. The Rocky Mountains for four months in
summer and the rest of the year in New York City appeared an ideal
division of my life for a western novelist.

I had some reason to think this arrangement was also satisfactory to my
wife. To her the Wilderness was a strange and wonderful place in which
to try her powers of endurance, but the trail had none of the charms of
association which it possessed for me. She was quite ready to accompany
me to the city although she professed to be content with Neshonoc. She
was entirely urban whereas I was an absurd mixture of pioneer and
trailer, fictionist and farmer.

We left West Salem in late October and in less than three days were
settled in the little hotel in Fifteenth Street where we had lived
during two previous winters. My confidence in my new novel was not
sufficient to warrant me in paying more than twenty dollars per week for
our little apartment, and as for Zulime--she professed to wonder how I
dared to pay as much as seventeen.

One by one and two by two our faithful friends called, Burroughs,
Gilder, Howells, Marion and Edward MacDowell, the Pages, Juliet
Tompkins--no one appeared to think ill of us because we returned to our
shabby little suite. We dined at Katherine Herne's, finding James A.,
"away," and with Frank Norris and his wife who were (like ourselves),
just beginning to feel a little more secure of a living, while from
Seton and Bacheller who were passing from glory to glory, we had kindly
invitations to visit their new houses, for both of them were building,
Bacheller at Sound Beach and Seton at Coscob.

Seton admitted to me that he had already acquired five times the amount
he had once named as the summit of his hopes, and Bacheller awed me by
the quiet ease of his way of life. In the opulent presence of these men,
I sang a very meek and slender song. I hated to admit my poverty, but
what was the use of making any concealment?

It remains to say that neither Bacheller nor Seton expressed in the
slightest degree the sense of superiority which their larger royalties
might have warranted. I am quite sure they never went so far as to feel
sorry for me although they very naturally rejoiced in their own
triumphant progress. In some ways I envied them, but I begrudged them
nothing.

It chanced that the Setons were far enough along with their building to
announce a House Warming, and on New Year's Day, Zulime and I were
fortunate enough to be included in the list of their guests. On the
Saturday train we found Lloyd Osbourne, Richard Le Gallienne and several
others whom we knew and on arrival at the new house on its rocky ledge
above the lake, we found that the party also included Mary Fanton, Carl
Lumholz, Emery Pottle and Gertrude Lynch.

Seton and I spent part of the afternoon fixing up a teepee which we
constructed out of an old Sibley tent, while the other guests skated on
the pond. What a dinner we enjoyed that night! What youthful spirits we
brought to it! Afterward we sang and danced--we all danced, even Zulime
danced for the first time in her life--so she said.

No one had gray hair, no one doubted the future, no one acknowledged
impending cloud. We toasted the longevity of "Wyndygoul" and the
continued success of its builder. We pledged eternal allegiance to our
hostess, and so without a care of the future, watched the New Year dawn.

At two in the morning when I crept away to my bed, the tom-tom and the
piano were both sounding out with almost undiminished vigor. It was a
night to remember and I do remember it with the pleasure an old man has
in the days of his early manhood--not so very early either for I was on
the hither side of forty!

Upon our return to the city I found a letter from Bok with a check for
eight hundred dollars in it. This was in response to a note of mine
respecting an offer of seven hundred and fifty. "Better make it eight
hundred," I wrote, and so, in my triumph, I led Zulime to Vantine's and
there purchased for her a carved gold ring set with three rose diamonds,
the handsomest present I had ever dared to buy for her. "This is to make
amends for the measly little engagement ring you were forced to accept,"
I remarked by way of explanation.

She protested at my reckless waste of money (as she had done with regard
to the brown cloak), but to no avail, and thereafter if she occasionally
brought the conversation round to Oriental jewelry, I am sure she is not
to be blamed. She is still wearing that ring, though she no longer finds
the same girlish pleasure in displaying it.

The actual making of my serial into book form began soon after New
Years, for I find records of my contract with Harper and Bros., and the
arrival of bundles of proof. By the end of February the book was
substantially made and ready for distribution, and a handsome book it
was--to me. Whatever it had started out to be, it had ended as a
fictional study of the red man in his attempt to walk the white man's
road, and as a concept of his tragic outlook I still think it worth
while.

The three men in control of the reorganized firm of Harper and Bros.,
George Harvey, Frederick Duneka and Frank Leigh, all professed a firm
belief in _The Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_, and promised me such a
boost as I had never had. This promise they set about to fulfill.

As the day of publication came on they took generous squares of space in
the daily papers, and whole pages in the magazines. They astonished and
somewhat daunted me by putting an almost life-size portrait on the bill
boards of all the elevated roads, and then to the consternation of my
wife, _The Weekly_ published a full page reproduction of her photograph,
a portrait which they had obtained from me to use, as I supposed, in the
ordinary way in the literary column of the Sunday papers. I had no idea
of its being a full page illustration. I was troubled and uneasy about
this for a day or two, but realizing that the firm was doing its best to
make my book known to the public, I could not with justice complain. In
truth the use of the portrait seemed not to make any difference one way
or the other. It certainly did Zulime no harm.

At my request the firm made up a very handsome special copy of the novel
which I sent to President Roosevelt, with a word of explanation
concerning the purpose which underlaid the writing of the tale.

Early in March the book appeared with everything in its favor. True
there was opportunity for controversy in its delineation of aggressive
cattlemen, but those who had so bitterly criticized my pictures of the
prairie life in _Main Traveled Roads_, were off their guard with respect
of the mountains. My reviewers quite generally accepted the novel as a
truthful presentation of life on an Indian reservation in the nineties.
Furthermore my sympathetic interpretation of the Army's attitude toward
the red men caused the story to be quite generally commended by the
officers. This surprised and delighted me, but I was especially
gratified by Roosevelt's hearty praise of it. "It is your best work so
far," he wrote me, "and I am in full sympathy with your position."

Requests for stories, interviews, articles and biographical notes,
flowed in upon me. It really looked like a late second arrival of Hamlin
Garland. Not since the excitement of putting _Main Traveled Roads_ on
the market had I been so hopeful and in the midst of my other honors
came a note from the President, inviting me to visit him, and with it a
card to a musicale at the White House.

Life in the East as the reader can see, was very alluring to Zulime as
well as to me, and though as April came on, we both felt the call of the
West, I am not sure whether we would have wrought our courage to the
point of deserting our little apartment on Fifteenth Street, had it not
been for the President's invitation, which was in effect a command, an
honor as well as a pleasure, which we did not think of disregarding.

As I had not voted the Republican ticket and had no political standing
with the Administration, this invitation was personal. It came from
Roosevelt as a friend and fellow-trailer--a fact which enhanced its
value to me. We began at once to plan our return to Chicago in such wise
that it would include a week in Washington, which we had not visited
since our wedding journey.

It must have been about this time that the Annual Meeting of the
Institute took place. I recall Howells presiding with timidity and very
evident embarrassment when it came to the duty of putting certain
resolutions to vote. He seemed sad and old that night--indeed as I
looked around the table, I was startled to find how many of the men I
had considered "among the younger writers" were gray and haggard. Mabie,
Page, Hopkinson Smith, Gilder and Stedman--all were older than I had
remembered them. Edward MacDowell, who was sitting beside me, remarked
upon the change, and I replied, "Yes, you and I are young only by
contrast. To Frank Norris and Stewart White, we are already veterans."

[That was twenty years ago, and I am three score years and more, and
most of those who dined with me that night are in their graves, only
Page, of all the group, is left. Another generation altogether is on the
stage whilst I and Stewart White are grouped together as "older men." I
am seeing literary history made whether I am credited with making any of
it, myself, or not. At times I have an appalling sense of the onward
sweep of the years. Are they carrying us to higher grounds in fiction
and in other arts, or are they descending to lower levels of motive and
workmanship?]

       *       *       *       *       *

It was glorious spring when we reached Washington, and in the glow of my
momentary sense of triumph we went to one of the best hotels and enjoyed
for the moment the sense of being successful and luxurious folk.

In calling on the President the following day I was a little taken aback
by his frankness in speaking of my changing point of view. "You have
pictured the reverse side of the pioneer," he said with a gleam of
mischief in his eyes. "In your study of the Indian's case you have
discovered the fact that the borderer is often the aggressor and
sometimes the thief." He repeated his praise of the book and then said,
"I shall make use of your knowledge of the conditions on the Western
reservations. You and George Bird Grinnell know what is going on out
there and I intend to use you both--unofficially."

To this I agreed, and when he gave me a card to the Secretary of the
Interior and told me to take up with the Commissioner certain reforms
which I had suggested, I put the card in my pocket and set about the
task. It was only a small card, a visiting card, and when, in my
ignorance of official life, I walked in on the Secretary with that tiny
slip of pasteboard in my hand, I had no idea of its explosive power. The
Secretary who was lounging at his desk like a tired and discouraged old
man, did not think me important enough to warrant a rise out of his
chair, until he read the card which I handed to him. After that I owned
the office! That card made me the personal representative of the
President--for the moment.

On the following day Roosevelt allowed me to sit in at some of the
meetings in the Executive Chamber, and it was at one of these that I met
for the first time the most engaging Chief of the Forestry Bureau,
Gifford Pinchot. At night Zulime and I dined with William Dudley Foulke
and at nine o'clock we went to the White House Musicale.

That musicale at the White House is one of the starry nights in Zulime's
life, as well as in my own, for not only did we meet the President and
Mrs. Roosevelt and many of the best known figures in American art,
letters, politics, and statesmanship, we also heard Paderewski play as
we had never heard him play before.

We were seated close to the piano and when that potent, shock-haired
Pole spread his great hands above the keys I fancied something of the
tiger in the lithe grace of his body, and in his face a singular and
sultry solemnity was expressed. Inspired no doubt by the realization
that he was playing before a mighty ruler--a ruler by the divine right
of brain power,--he played with magnetic intensity. Something
mysterious, something grandly moving went out from his fingers. No other
living musician could, at that moment have equaled him.

For a few hours Zulime and I enjoyed the white light which beat upon two
of the great personalities of that day--one the world's greatest piano
player, the other the most powerful and the most popular man in all
America--and when we retired to the obscurity of our hotel we were
silent with satisfaction. For the moment it seemed that fortune was
about to empty her golden horn at my feet. I was happily married, my
latest book was a hit, and I had the friendship and the favor of the
President.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Signs of Change


As a matter of record, and for the benefit of young readers who may be
contemplating authorship, I here set down the fact that notwithstanding
my increasing royalties, my gross income for 1901 was precisely $3,100.
Out of this we saved five hundred dollars. Neither my wife nor I had any
great hopes of the future. Neither of us felt justified in any unusual
expenditures, and as for speculation--nothing could induce me to buy a
share of stock--or even a bond (gilt-edged or otherwise), for I owned a
prejudice, my father's prejudice, against all forms of intangible
wealth. Evidences of wealth did not appeal to me. I wanted the real
thing, I wanted the earth. Nothing but land gave me the needed sense of
security.

In my most exalted moments I began to dream of using my income from _The
Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_ in the purchase of more Oklahoma land.
In imagination I saw myself in a wide-rimmed hat and white linen suit
sitting at ease on the porch of a broad-roofed house (built in the
Mexican style with a patio) looking out over my thousand acres--I had
decided to have just a thousand acres, it made such a mouth-filling
announcement to one's friends.

I did not go so far as to think of a life without labor (I expected to
work in the North till February, then rest and ride horse-back for three
months in the South), but I did hope to relieve Zulime of some of her
drudgery. Now that I think back to it, I am not at all sure that my wife
rejoiced over my plan to go to Weatherford to purchase another farm. It
is probable that I overcame her objections by telling her that I wanted
more material for my book of Indian tales; anyhow I left her in Chicago
almost as soon as we arrived there, and went again to Darlington and
Colony to see Major Stouch and John Seger, and to make certain
observations for President Roosevelt.

Seger, unskilled as he was with the pen, could talk with humor and
pictorial quality, and some of his stories had so stimulated my
imagination that I was eager to have more time with him among his wards.
Without precisely following his narratives I had found myself able to
reproduce the spirit of them in my own diction. His ability as a
sign-talker was of especial service to me for, as he signed to his
visitors, he muttered aloud, for my benefit, what he was expressing in
gesture, and also what the red man signed in reply. In this way I got at
the psychology of the Cheyenne to a degree which I could not possibly
compass through an interpreter.

While looking for farms during the day, I drew from Seger night by
night, the amazing story of his career among the Southern Cheyennes. It
was a rough and disjointed narrative, but it was stirring and valuable
as authentic record of the Southwest. "The Red Pioneer," "Lone Wolf's
Old Guard," and many more of my tales of red people were secured on this
trip. Several dealing with the Blackfeet and Northern Cheyennes, like
"the Faith of His Fathers" and "White Weasel" I gained from Stouch. None
of them are true in the sense of being precisely the way they were told,
for I took very few notes. They are rather free transcripts of the
incidents which chanced to follow my liking--but they reflect the spirit
of the original narratives and are bound together by one underlying
motive which is to show the Indian as a human being, a neighbor. "We
have had plenty of the 'wily redskin' kind of thing," I said to Stouch.
"I am going to tell of the red man as you and Seger have known him, as a
man of the polished stone age trying to adapt himself to steam and
electricity."

It happened that plenteous rains had made Oklahoma very green and
beautiful, and as I galloped about over the wide swells of the Caddo
country, I was disposed to buy all the land that joined me. Imagining
myself the lord of a thousand acres, I achieved a profound joy of
living. It was good to glow in the sunlight, to face the sweet southern
wind, and to feel once more beneath my knees the swelling muscles of a
powerful horse. In a very vivid sense I relived the days when, as a lad
of twelve, I rode with Burton and my sister Harriet along the prairie
swells of the Cedar Valley some thirty years before. "Washitay," at such
moments was not only the land of the past but the hope of the future.

My red neighbors interested me. The whole problem of their future was
being worked out almost within sight of my door. Here the men of the
Polished Stone Age and the men of gasoline engines and electrical
telephones met and mingled in a daily adjustment which offered material
of surpassing value to the novelist who could use it. Humor and pathos,
tragic bitterness and religious exaltation were all within reach of my
hand.

The spring nights which came to me there at Colony were of a quality
quite new to me. The breeze, amiable and moist, was Southern, and the
moonlight falling from the sky like a silent, all-enveloping cataract of
silver, lay along the ground so mystically real that I could feel it
with my hand. The air was at once tropic and Western, and this subtle
blending of the North and the South, the strange and the familiar,
appealed to me with such power that I wrote Zulime a statement of my
belief that in becoming a part-owner in this land, I had assured for us
both a happy and prosperous future. "I shall come here every spring," I
declared, and in the glow of this enthusiasm, I purchased another farm
of two hundred and forty acres and arranged with Seger for its
management.

Alas, for my piece of mind! On my way homeward, at Reno, I encountered a
simoon of most appalling power. An equatorial wind which pressed against
the car and screamed at the window--a hot, unending pitiless blast
withering the grain and tearing the heart out of young gardens--a storm
which brought back to me the dreadful blizzard of dust which swept over
our Iowa farm in the spring of '72. There was something grand as well as
sorrowful in this unexpected display of desert ferocity.

My dream of a thousand-acre ranch shriveled with the plants. The prairie
abandoning its youthful, buoyant air, took on a sinister and savage
grandeur. To escape from the ashes of these ruined fields was now a
passionate desire. The value of my land in Washitay fell almost to the
vanishing point. Illinois became a green and pleasant pasture toward
which I drove with gratitude and relief.

[I insert a line to say that this was only a mood. I went on with my
purchase of lands till I had my thousand acres, but these acres were in
scattered plots and the house with the patio and the porch was never
built.]

At the Agency just before I left for the North I had hired some Cheyenne
women to make for me a large council teepee which I had in mind to set
up as my dwelling at Eagle's Nest Camp, where Zulime and I had agreed to
spend the summer. Boyishly eager to reproduce as well as I could a
Cheyenne house, I assembled all my blankets, parfleches, willow beds and
other furnishings and raised my lodge on poles on the edge of the wood
just inside the Camp's entrance.

It made a singularly appropriate addition to the reservation, to my
thinking, at least, and I took inordinate pride in its ownership. Trim
and white and graceful it stood against the forest wall, its crossed
poles sprangling from its top with poetic suggestion of aboriginal life,
and when, with elaborate ceremony, I laid the fuel for its first fire,
calling upon our patron, Wallace Heckman, to touch a match to the
tinder, I experienced a sense of satisfaction.

To my artist friends it was a "picturesque accessory"--to me it was a
talisman of things passing. The smoke of the hickory faggots filling
that conical roof-tree brought back to me a cloud of memories of the
prairies of the Sioux, the lakes of the Chippewa, and the hills of the
Cheyenne. Thin as were its walls, they shut out (for me) the commonplace
present, helping me to reconstruct the world of Blackhawk and the
Sitting Bull, and when I walked past it, especially at night, my mind
took joy in its form, and a pleasant stir within my blood made manifest
of its power.

Browne acknowledged its charm and painted a moonlight sketch of it, and
Seton, who came by one day, helped me dedicate its firehole. In the
light of its embers, he and I renewed our youth while smoking the
beautiful Pipe of Meditation, which a young Cheyenne chief had given me
in token of his friendship.

It happened that I was scheduled to give a series of lectures at the
University of Chicago on _The Outdoor Literature of America_, and with a
delightful feeling of propriety in the fact I set to work to write these
addresses in my canvas lodge, surrounded by all its primitive
furnishings. It made an admirable study, but at night as I lay on my
willow couch, I found the moonlight so intense and the converging lines
of the lodge poles so suggestive of other folk and other times that
slumber was fitful. The wistful ghosts of Blackhawk and his kind seemed
all about me. Not till the moon set or the shadows of the forest
covered me, was I able to compose myself to sleep.

For several weeks I wrote at ease upon my theme and then, into the
carefree atmosphere of my Lodge of Dreams came the melancholy news that
William McClintock, my giant uncle, had been stricken by the same
mysterious malady which had broken my mother's heart, and that he was
lying motionless on his bed in the narrow space of his chamber. The
"stroke" (so my aunt wrote) had come upon him (as upon my mother)
without the slightest warning, and with no discoverable cause.

On my return to the Homestead I went at once to see him. He was sitting
in my mother's wheeled chair, quite helpless, yet cheerful and confident
of ultimate recovery. He had always been a man of dignity, and
singularly abstemious of habit, and these qualities were strongly
accentuated by his sudden helplessness. He was very gentle, very
patient, and the sight of him lying there made speaking very difficult
for me.

When the doctor would permit, he loved to lie in his chair on the porch
of his little cottage where he could look out upon the hills, his eyes
reflecting his beloved landscape like those of a dreaming cage-weary
lion. Inarticulate, like my mother, he was nevertheless the poet, and
never failed to respond--at least with a meaning glance--to any
imaginative word in my discourse.

How much he had meant to me in all the days of my boyhood! As the master
of the threshing machine forty years agone, he had filled my childish
heart with worship. As the swift-footed deer trailer, the patient
bee-hunter, the silent lover of the forest, he had held my regard and
though he had never quite risen to the high place which my Uncle David
occupied in my boyhood's worship, he had always been to me a picturesque
and kindly figure. Year by year I had watched his giant form stoop, and
his black beard wax thin and white, and now, here he sat almost at the
end of his trail, unable to move, yet expressing a kind of elemental
bravery, a philosophic patience which moved me as no words of
lamentation could have done.

Strange malady! He who had never met his match in stark strength could
not now by the exercise of all his will, lift that limp arm from his
side and as I sat beside him I recalled my last sad meeting with Major
Powell, the man who first guided a canoe through the Grand Cañon of the
Colorado, and in my mind arose a conception of what these two men, each
in his kind represented in the story of American pioneering. One the
far-famed explorer, the other the unknown rifleman behind the plow. With
William McClintock--with my father, with Major Powell, a whole world, a
splendid and heroic world was passing never to return, and when I took
my uncle's hand in parting I was almost certain that I should never see
him again.

    Once he was king of forest men.
    To him a snow-capped mountain range
    Was but a line, a place of mark,
    A view-point on the trail. Then
    He had no dread of dark,
    No fear of change.
    Now an uprolled rug upon the floor
    Appalls his feet. His withered arm
    Shakes at the menace of a door,
    And every wind-waft does him harm.

    God! 'Tis a piteous thing to see
    This ranger of the hills confined
    To the small compass of his room
    Like a chained eagle on a tree,
    Lax-winged and gray and blind.
    Only in dreams he sees the bloom
    On far hills where the red deer run.
    Only in memory guides the light canoe
    Or stalks the bear with dog and polished gun.

    In him behold the story of the West,
    The chronicle of rifleman behind the plow,
    Typing the life of those who knew
    No barrier but the sunset in their quest.
    On his bent head and grizzled hair
    Is set the crown of those who shew
    New cunning to the wolf, new courage to the bear.

Another evidence of melancholy change came to me in the failing powers
of Ladrone, my mountain horse, who had come through the winter very
badly. I found him standing in the pasture, weak and inactive, taking no
interest in the rich grasses under his feet. In the belief that exercise
would do him good, I saddled him and started to ride about the square,
but soon drew rein. He had not the strength to carry me!

Sadly dismounting I led him back to the stable. It was evident that he
would never again career with me across the hills. Bowed and dejected he
resumed his place in the paddock. Standing thus, with hanging head, he
appeared to be dreaming of the days when as a part of the round-up, in
the far Northwest, he had carried his master over the range and through
the herd with joyous zeal. Each time I looked at him I felt a twinge of
pain.

Everything I could do for him was done, every remedial measure was
tried, but he grew steadily worse, and at last, I called a neighbor to
my aid and said, "Oliver, my horse is very sick. I fear his days are
numbered. Study him, do what you can for him, and if you find he cannot
be cured, put him away. Don't tell me when it is done or how it is
done--I don't want to know. You understand?"

He understood, and one morning, a few days later, as I looked in the
pasture for the gray pony, he was nowhere to be seen. In the dust of the
driveway, I detected the marks of his small feet. The toes of his shoes
pointed toward the gate, and there were no returning foot-prints. He had
gone away on the long trail which leads to the River of Darkness and The
Wide Lands Beyond It.

His bridle and saddle were hanging in the barn (they are still there),
silent memorials of the explorations in which he and I had played a
resolute part.

Something grips me by the throat as I remember his eyes,

    "Brown, clear and calm, with color down deep,
    Where his brave, proud soul seemed to lie."

I recall the first days we spent together, beautiful days in the Frazer
Valley, when jubilant cranes bugled from the skies, and humming birds
moved in myriads along the river's banks--memories of those desperate
days in the Skeena forests, amid dank and poisonous plants--of marches
on the tundra along the high Stickeen Divide--all these come back. I see
him crowding close to my fire, thin and weak.

I relive once more that bitter night on the wharf in Glenora when
(chilled by the cold wind), he first began to cough. I am thinking of
his journey on the boat with me to Wrangell; of the day when I left him
there (the only horse on the coast); of my return; of our long trip to
Seattle; of his trust in me as he faced the strange monsters of the
city; of his long dark ride to St. Paul; of the joyous day when I opened
his prison door and finding him safe and well, rode him forth to the
admiration of my uncles at the county fair. A vast section of my life
faded with the passing of that small gray horse. "Lost my Ladrone, gone
the wild living. I dream, but my dreaming is vain."

My sense of uneasiness was deepened by another warning, a third sign of
decay. One morning my father while apparently in his usual health,
suddenly grew dizzy and fell and as I bent above him he gazed up at me
with an expression which I had never before seen in his face, a humble,
helpless, appealing look. It seemed that he was going as William had
gone.

Happily I was mistaken. His indomitable soul reasserted itself. He
refused to surrender. He rallied. "I'm all right," he said at last, a
grim line coming back into his mouth. "It's passing off. I can move,"
and lifting his arm he opened and shut his hand in proof of it. "I'm
better than a dozen dead men yet."

He was distinctly stronger next day, and when, looking from my window I
saw him going about his work in the garden, bareheaded as was his habit,
resolute and unsubdued, I was reassured, but never again did he move
with the same vigor as before. For the first time he acknowledged his
age.

During all these melancholy experiences so significant of the dying
border, I had the comfort of my undaunted wife whose happy spirit
refused to be clouded by what she recognized as merely the natural decay
of the preceding generation. Her mind was set on the future, our future.
She refused to yield her youthful right to happiness, and under the
influence of her serene philosophy I went back to my writing, or at
least to the serious consideration of another mountain theme, which was
taking shape in my brain.

With a mere love-story I had never been content. For me a sociological
background was necessary in order to make fiction worth while, and I was
minded to base my next novel on a study of the "war" which had just
taken place, at Cripple Creek, between the Free Miner, the Union Miner
and the Operator or Capitalist.

The suggestion for this theme had come to me during a call on some
friends in New York City, where I had been amused and somewhat
embarrassed, by the ecstatic and outspoken admiration of a boy of
fourteen, who was (as his mother put it) "quite crazy over miners,
Indians and cowboys. His dream is to go West and illustrate your books,"
she had said to me.

This lad's enthusiasm for the West and his ambition to be an illustrator
of western stories had started me on a tale in which a fine but rather
spoiled New York girl was to be carried to Colorado by the enthusiasm of
her youthful brother, and there plunged (against her will) into the
warfare of mountaineers and miners, a turbulence which her beloved
brother would insist on sharing. Such a girl might conceivably find
herself in the storm center of a contest such as that which had taken
place on Bull Hill in the late nineties.

I called this study _Hesper, or the Cowboy Patrol_ for the reason that
in "the Cripple Creek War," cattlemen had acted as outposts for the
union miners, and in this fact I perceived something picturesque and new
and telling, something which would give me just the imaginative impulse
I required.

Some of my friendly critics were still occasionally writing to me to
ask, "Why don't you give us more _Main Traveled Roads_ stories," and it
was not easy to make plain to them that I had moved away from that mood,
and that my life and farm life had both greatly altered in thirty years.
To repeat the tone of that book would have been false not only to my
art, but to the country as well.

Furthermore, I had done that work. I had put together in _Main Traveled
Roads_ and its companion volumes a group of thirty short stories
(written between 1887 and 1891), in which I had expressed all I had to
say on that especial phase of western life. To attempt to recover the
spirit of my youth would not only have been a failure but a bore--even
to those who were urging me to the task. It was my business to keep
moving--to accompany my characters as they migrated into the happier,
more hopeful West. Like them I was "Campin' through, podner, just a
campin' through."

As in _The Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_, I had dealt with the
three-cornered fight of the cattlemen, the Indian, and the soldier, so
now, in 1902, I returned to the mountain West, to picture another
conflict, equally stirring and possessing a still finer setting and
back-ground. In _Hesper_ I was concerned with a war, in which most of
the action had taken place among the clouds, on the hilltops nearly two
miles above sea-level. There was something grandly pictorial in this
drama; but, after writing a few chapters of it, I felt the need of
revisiting the scene.

Zulime again accompanied me and as our train slid down the familiar road
leading to Colorado Springs and we could see the lightning flashing
among the high summits on which I had laid the scenes of my story,
Zulime glowed with joy and I took on a renewed sense of power. For an
hour I felt equal to my task, to be historian of the free miner seemed
to me a worthy office.

The Ehrichs were again our hosts and they (as well as Russell Wray, the
Editor of the _Gazette_) took the keenest interest in my design. From
Wray and his friends I began at once to derive an understanding of the
part which "Little London" (as the miners called the Springs) had taken
in the war. I relied on a visit to Bull Hill and Victor to furnish the
Sky-town or "Red-neck" point of view.

Wray was especially valuable to me, for he had taken part in the famous
expedition of the "Yaller Legs" and his experiences as a reporter and
his sense of humor had enabled him to report both sides of the
controversy. He had many friends in the camp, to whom he gave me
letters.

The character which interested me most, in all the warring factions, was
the free miner, the prospector, the man of the trail. Him I clearly
understood. He had been companion in most of my trips into the wild. He
was blood brother to my father, and cousin to my heroic uncles. He
represented the finest phases of pioneering. "Matt Kelley," "Rob
Raymond" and "Jack Munroe," I knew and loved, and their presence in this
labor war redeemed it from the sordid, uninspired struggle which such
contests usually turn out to be. In my design these three characters
filled heroic place.

Zulime (with no literary problems to distract her) had another easeful,
idyllic summer. The Ehrichs, the Wrays and the Palmers welcomed her as
an old friend, and in their companionship she rode and camped and dined
in easeful leisure, but I was on the move. I visited a ranch on the
plains of Eastern Colorado, joined a round-up in the Sierra Blanca
country, explored the gambling-houses and mines of Cripple Creek and
Victor, and spent two weeks reëxploring the White River Plateau, this
time with Walter Wykoff, of Princeton. For a week or two, Wykoff, Miss
Ehrich and Zulime and I camped high on the shoulder of Pike's Peak. Vast
and splendid scenes of storm and sun were printed on my mind, and, while
the actual writing of my novel halted, I felt certain that I was doing
just the right thing. I felt sure of finishing it in the proper spirit
of enthusiasm.

The trip not only enabled me to finish _Hesper_--it suggested several of
the stories which went into _They of the High Trails_ and gave me the
plan of _The Forester's Daughter_. I returned to West Salem, brown as an
Indian and bursting with energy, and for several weeks toiled with
desperate haste to put my impressions, imaginings in form.

Each morning of those peaceful days I took to mother's room, on the
sunward side of the old Homestead, and there wrought into final shape
the materials I had gathered. I had only to shut my eyes to see again
the clouds circling the walls of Shavano. In imagination I rode once
more with Matt Kelley up Bull Hill, or, sitting opposite the chief of
the Miners' Union, reënjoyed his graphic account of the coming of the
Federal troops. The bawling roar of the round-up on the meadow came back
to fill my eyes with pictures of the Sierra Blanca foothills. In truth I
had no need of notes. I was embarrassed with material. I threw my
note-books into a drawer and forgot them.

Letters from my publishers informed me that _The Captain of the Gray
Horse Troop_ was marching on, but that they hoped I was at work on
something to follow it. To this I replied:

"Yes, I am in the midst of a story which I hope will be as good as _The
Captain_, but don't hurry me!"

Whilst I, busied with my fiction, kept to my study, Zulime was
ecstatically rearranging furniture. During our absence in Colorado,
father had moved to another house, relinquishing all claim on the
Homestead, and for the first time in our lives my wife and I were
authentic householders in full possession of every room. We had a
door-bell, and our clock was our own. Our meal-times conformed to our
will, and not to another's. We went to bed when we pleased, and rose
when we got ready.

Zulime's joy of ownership was almost comical. Leading me from room to
room she repeated, "This is _our_ house. Don't you like our house? Isn't
it fun to have it all to ourselves?"

Her rapture instructed me. I perceived that the old Homestead had not
yet served its purpose. So far as my father was concerned it was a story
told, a drama almost ended, but as the undivided home of my young wife
it developed new meaning. Another soul was coming into being; another
tenant was about to take its place beneath our roof. Small feet would
soon be dancing through those silent rooms, careless of the men and
women whose gray heads and gaunt limbs had been carried out over their
thresholds to a final resting-place beneath the sod.

A new interest, a new phase of life, was coming to Zulime, and to me.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

The Old Pioneer Takes the Back Trail


In the midst of this period of hard work on _Hesper_, news of the death
of Frank Norris came to me. Frank Norris the most valiant, the happiest,
the handsomest of all my fellow craftsmen. Nothing more shocking, more
insensate than the destruction of this glorious young fictionist had
come to my literary circle, for he was aglow with a husband's happiness,
gay with the pride of paternity, and in the full spring-tide of his
powers. His going left us all poorer and took from American literature
one of its strongest young writers.

The papers at once wired me for tributes, and these I gave, gladly, and
later when one of the magazines paid me for an article, I used the money
in the purchase of a tall clock to serve as a memorial. This time-piece
stands in the hall of my city home and every time I pass it I am
reminded of the fine free spirit of Frank Norris. In my small corner of
the world he remains a vital memory.

All through October I wrote on my novel, but as the dark days of autumn
came on, I began as usual to dwell upon my interests in the city and not
even Zulime's companionship could keep me from a feeling of
restlessness. I longed for literary comradeship. Theoretically my native
village was an ideal place in which to write, actually it sapped me and
after a few weeks depressed me. With no literary "atmosphere," damnable
word, I looked away to New York for stimulus. I did not go so far as one
of my friends who declined to have anything to do with his relatives
simply because he did not like them, but I clearly recognized that my
friends in the city meant more to me than any of my Wisconsin neighbors
and it became more and more evident that to make and keep an arbitrary
residence in a region which did not in itself stimulate or satisfy me,
was a mistake. There was nothing to do in West Salem but write.

Above all other considerations, however, I had a feeling, perhaps it was
a mistaken one,--that my powers grew in proportion as I went Eastward.
In West Salem I was merely an amateur gardener, living a life which
approached the vegetable,--so far as external action went. In Chicago I
was a perversity, a man of mis-directed energy. In New York I was, at
least respected as a writer.

In short New York allured me as London allures the writers of England,
and as Paris attracts the artists of Europe. It was my literary capital.
Theoretically I belonged to Wisconsin, as Hardy belonged to Wessex or
Barrie to Scotland, actually my happiest home was adjacent to Madison
Square. Only as I neared the publishing centers did I feel the slightest
confidence in the future. This increased sense of importance may have
been based upon an illusion but it was a very real emotion nevertheless.

Why should I not feel this? From my village home, from digging potatoes
and doing carpenter work, I went (almost directly) to a luncheon at the
White House, and the following night I attended a dinner given to Mark
Twain on his sixty-seventh birthday with William Dean Howells, Thomas B.
Reed, Wayne McVeagh, Brander Matthews, H. H. Rogers, George Harvey,
Pierpont Morgan, Hamilton Wright Mabie and a dozen others who were
leaders in their chosen work, as my table mates. Perhaps I was not
deserving of these honors--I'm not urging that point--I am merely
stating the facts which made my home in West Salem seem remote and
lonely to me. Acknowledging myself a weak mortal I could not entirely
forego the honors which the East seemed willing to bestow, and as father
was in good health with a household of his own, I felt free to spend the
entire winter in New York. For the first time in many years, I felt
relieved of anxiety for those left behind.

New York was in the worst of its subway upheaval when we landed there,
but having secured a small furnished apartment in a new but obscure
hotel on Forty-seventh street, Zulime and I settled down for the winter.
Our tiny three-room suite (a lovely nest for a woman) was not in the
least like a home for an old trailer and corn-husker like myself. Its
gas log and gimcrack mantel, its "Mission" furniture and its "new art"
rugs were all of hopeless artificiality, but our sitting-room (on the
quiet side of the building) received the sun, and there on the lid of a
small desk I took up and carried forward the story of _Hesper_ which my
publishers had asked me to prepare for the spring trade.

Before we had time to unpack, a note came from President Roosevelt
asking me to return to Washington to confer on a phase of the Indian
service with which I was familiar, and I went at once--glad to be of any
service--especially an unofficial service.

It was always a pleasure as well as an honor to meet Roosevelt. He was
our first literary president. His esthetic interests were not only keen,
but discriminating. He knew what each of us had published, and valued
each of us for the particular contributions we were making to American
literature. Each of us gave him something--in my case it was a knowledge
of the West. Notwithstanding the multiple duties of his office, he put
aside a part of each day for reading and when he read, he concentrated
upon his page with such intensity that he remembered all that was
important in the writing.

He knew the masters in the other arts also. If he had a problem in
architecture or medaling or painting to decide, he went to Mead or St.
Gaudens, or Blashfield. Under his administration the White House had
resumed its fine colonial character. At his direction Mead and McKim had
restored it to the noble simplicity of Madison's time. They had cleared
out the business offices and removed the absurd mixture of political
machinery and household furniture which had accumulated under the rule
of his predecessors, most of whom (coming from small inland towns) knew
nothing of any art but government, and in some cases not too much of
that. On this particular visit I recall the fact that repairs were going
on, for the President invited me to take luncheon with his family, and
we ate in a small room on the front of the house for the reason that the
dining-room was in process of being restored and the howl of the floor
polisher was resounding through the hall.

It may interest the reader to know that while my wife and I occasionally
lunched or dined with "the choice ones of the earth," we prudently
practiced "light housekeeping" between our splendid feasts. Like a
brown-bearded Santa Claus I often ran the gauntlet of the elevator boy
with pockets bulging bottles of milk, hunks of cheese, hot muffins, and
pats of butter, and frequently, when the weather was bad, or when some
one had neglected to invite us out, we supped in our room.

Once when I entered laden in this fashion I was sharply taken aback by
the presence of several belated callers, very grand ladies, and only the
most skilful manoeuvering enabled me to slide into the closet and out
of my overcoat without betraying my cargo. My predicament highly amused
Zulime, while at the same time she inwardly trembled for fear of a
smash. I mention this incident in order to reveal the reverse side of
our splendid social progress. We were in no danger of becoming "spoiled"
with feasting, so long as we kept to our Latin Quarter methods of
lunching.

We had many notable dinners that winter, but our long anticipated visit
to Mark Twain's house in Riverdale stands out above them all. We reached
the house about seven o'clock, by way of an ancient hack which met us at
the depot and carried us up the hill, into the yard of an old-fashioned
mansion sheltered by great trees.

Mark came running lightly down the broad stairs to meet us in the hall,
seemingly in excellent health, although his spirits were not at all as
boyish as his step. "I'm glad to see you," he said cordially, "but
you'll find the house a hospital. The girls have both been miserable and
Mrs. Clemens, I'm sorry to say, is still too ill to see you. I bring her
greetings to you and her apology."

Thereupon he related with invincible humor and vivid phraseology, the
elaborate scheme of deception to which they had been forced during
Jean's illness. Mrs. Clemens was very weak, so low that the slightest
excitement--so the doctor warned us--might prove fatal; hence we were
obliged to pretend that Jean was well but busy doing this or doing that,
in order that her mother might not suspect the truth of the situation.

"I was protected by the doctor's orders, which forbade me from spending
more than two minutes in Mrs. Clemens' room, but Clara, who was allowed
to nurse her mother, was forced to enter upon a season of unveracity
which taxed her imagination to the uttermost. She had to pretend that
Jean was away on a visit, or that she was in town shopping or away at a
dinner. Together we invented all kinds of social engagements for her and
that involved the description of new gowns and a list of the guests of
each entertainment. Oh, it was dreadful. Fortunately Clara had a good
reputation with her mother, and was able to carry conviction, whereas I
had a very hard time. I kept getting into shoal water."

He was very funny--I can only report the substance of his tale--and yet
there was a tone in his voice which enabled me to understand the tragic
situation. Mrs. Clemens' illness was hopeless.

All through the dinner he talked on in the same enthralling fashion,
picturesque, humorous, tragic. He dealt with June bugs, alcohol,
Christian Science, the Philippine outrage and a dozen other apparently
unrelated subjects. He imitated a horse-fly. He swore. He quoted poetry.
We laughed till our sides ached--and yet, all the while, beneath it all,
he had in mind (as we had in mind)--that sweetly-patient invalid waiting
upstairs for his good-night caress.

As a bitter agnostic as well as a tender humorist Mark Twain loomed
larger in my horizon after that night. The warmly human side of him was
revealed to me as never before, and thereafter I knew him and I felt
that he knew me. That remote glance from beneath those shaggy eyebrows
no longer deceived me. He was a tender and loyal husband. Later when I
came to read the marvelous story of his life as related by Albert
Bigelow Paine, I found a part of my intuitions recorded as facts. He was
an elemental western American--with many of the faults and all of the
excellencies of the border.

Meanwhile I was at work. In my diary of this date I find these words,
"This is living! The sunlight floods our tiny sitting-room whose windows
look out on a blue-and-white mountainous 'scape of city roofs. We have
dined and the steam is singing in our gilded radiator. The noise and
bustle of the city is far away.--I foresee that I shall be able to do a
great deal of work on my novel."

In that last sentence I was reckoning without the effect of my wife's
popularity. Invitations to luncheons, dinners, and theater parties began
to pile up, and I could not ask Zulime to deny herself these pleasures,
although I tried to keep my forenoons sacred to my pen. I returned to
the manuscript of _Hesper_ and succeeded in writing at least a thousand
words each day; on fortunate mornings I was able to turn off a full
chapter.

It was a gay and satisfying season. We met all our old friends and made
many new ones, finding ourselves more and more at home in the city. We
rode to grand receptions in the street cars--as usual--and while we ate
our luncheons at inexpensive cafés, we often dined with our more
prosperous fellow-craftsmen. In spite of many interruptions I managed to
complete my novel. By the first of March _Hesper_ was ready for the
printer and I turned it over to Duneka.

On Zulime's birthday as I was putting the last chapter in final shape, I
received a letter from father which said, "I am coming East. Meet me in
Washington on the 21st." To this request there was but one answer: "I'll
be there."

It was the first time that the old pioneer had taken "the back trail"
since leaving Boston, nearly fifty years before, and I rejoiced in his
decision. The thought of leading him into the halls of Congress and
pointing out for him the orators whose doings had been so long his chief
concern, was pleasureable to me. From my earliest childhood I had heard
him comment on the weekly record of Congressional debates. He loved
oratory. He was a hero-worshiper. With him the Capitol meant Lincoln and
Grant and Blaine and Sherman. It was not a city, it was a shrine.

When he stepped from the train in Washington the following week, I was
there to meet him, and for several days I led him from splendor to
splendor. With me he saw Mount Vernon, the White House, Congress, the
library, and his patriotism intensified as the glories of his country's
capital unrolled before his eyes. He said little, only looked, and when
he had harvested as much of Washington as he could carry I took him to
Philadelphia, in order that he might breathe the air of Continental Hall
and gaze upon its sacred Liberty Bell. His patriotism had few
reservations. All these relics were of high solemnity to him.

At last as a climax we approached New York, whose glittering bays,
innumerable ships and monstrous buildings awed him and saddened him. It
was a picture at once incredible and familiar, resembling illustrations
he had seen in the magazines, only mightier more magnificent than he had
imagined any of it to be. It overwhelmed him, wearied him, disheartened
him, and so it came about that the quiet dinners he took with me at my
club were his most enduring pleasures, for there he rested, there he saw
me at home. He acquired an understanding of my endurance of the vast and
terrible town.

Up to this time the story of my doings in the East had been to him like
those of characters in highly-colored romance. He had believed me (in a
sense) when, in West Salem, I had spoken of meetings with Roosevelt and
Howells and other famous men, and yet, till now, he had never been able
to realize the fact that I _belonged_ in New York, and that men of large
affairs were actually my friends. He comprehended now (in some degree)
my good fortune, and it gratified him while it daunted him. He
understood why I could not live in West Salem.

If he was proud to acknowledge me as a son, I, on my part, was proud to
acknowledge him as my father, for as he sat with me in the dining-room
of the club or walked about the Library to examine the relics and
portraits of Booth (for whom he had a passionate admiration) he was
altogether admirable.

At the end of our third day, I suggested Boston. To this he replied,
"No, I've had enough," and there was a tired droop in his voice. "I'm
ready to go home. I'm all tired out with 'seeing things,' and besides
it's time to be getting back to my garden."

To urge him to remain longer would have been a mistake. Boston would
have disturbed and bewildered him. Not only would he have failed to
find the city of his youth, he would have been saddened by the changes.
His loss of power to remember troubled me. He retained but few of his
impressions of Washington, and with sorrow I acknowledged that it no
longer mattered whether he saw Boston or not. He had waited too long for
his great excursion. He was old and timid and longing for rest.

As he went to his train (surfeited with strange glories, crowds and
exhibitions) he repeated that his dinners with me at the club remained
his keenest pleasures. In tasting a few of my comforts he understood why
I loved the great city. He saw me also in an established position, and
this he considered a gain. His faith in my future was now complete.

       *       *       *       *       *

For years he had talked of this expedition, planned for it, calculated
upon its expense, and now it was accomplished. He went back to his
garden with a sense of pride, of satisfaction which he would share with
his cronies as they met in Johnson's Drug Store or Anderson's Meat
Market. What he said of me I do not know, but I fear he reported me as
living in unimaginable luxury and consorting on terms of equality with
the great ones of New York.



CHAPTER NINETEEN

New Life in the Old House


Meanwhile, Chicago rushing toward its two million mark, had not, alas!
lived up to its literary promise of '94. In music, in painting, in
sculpture and architecture it was no longer negligible, but each year
its authors appeared more and more like a group of esthetic pioneers
heroically maintaining themselves in the midst of an increasing tumult
of material upbuilding.

One by one its hopeful young publishing houses had failed, and one by
one its aspiring periodicals had withered in the keen wind of Eastern
competition. _The Dial_ alone held on, pathetically solitary, one might
almost say alien and solitary.

Against all this misfortune even my besotted optimism could not prevail.
My pioneering spirit, subdued by years of penury and rough usage,
yielded more and more to the honor and the intellectual companionship
which the East offered. To Fuller I privately remarked: "As soon as I
can afford it I intend to establish a home in New York."

"I'd go further," he replied. "I would live in Italy if I could."

It was a very significant fact that Chicago contained in 1903 but a
handful of writers, while St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit and
Kansas City had fewer yet. "What is the reason for this literary
sterility?" I asked of my companions. "Why should not these powerful
cities produce authors? Boston, when she had less than three hundred
thousands citizens had Lowell, Longfellow, Emerson and Holmes."

The answer was (and still is), "Because there are few supporters of
workers in the fine arts. Western men do not think in terms of art.
There are no literary periodicals in these cities to invite (and pay
for) the work of the author and the illustrator, and there is moreover a
tendency on the part of our builders to give the eastern sculptor,
painter or architect the jobs which might be done by local men. Until
Chicago has at least one magazine founded like a university, and
publishing houses like Scribners and Macmillans our authors and artists
must go to New York." Of course none of these answers succeeded in
clearing up the mystery, but they were helpful.

Some of the writers in the Little Room were outspokenly envious of my
ability to spend half my winters in the East, but Lorado Taft stoutly
declared that the West inspired him, satisfied him. "Chicago suits me,"
he asserted, "and besides I can't afford to run away from my job. You
should be the last man to admit defeat, _you_ who have been preaching
local color and local patriotism all your days."

In truth Taft was one of the few who could afford to remain in Chicago
for its public supported him handsomely, but those of us who wrote had
no organizations to help sustain our self-esteem. Nevertheless I
permitted him to imagine my pessimism to be only a mood which, in some
degree it was, for I had many noble friends in the city who invited me
to dinner even if they did not read my books.

The claims of Chicago upon me had been strengthened by the presence of
Professor Taft who had given up his home in Kansas and was now settled
not far from his son and near the University. He had brought all his
books and other treasures with intent to spend the remaining years of
his life in the neighborhood of his illustrious son and his two
daughters, a fact which I could not overlook in any plans for changing
my own residence.

Don Carlos Taft was a singular and powerful figure, as I have already
indicated, a stoic, of Oriental serenity, one who could smile in the
midst of excruciating pain. With his eyes against a blank wall he was
able to endlessly amuse himself by calling up the deep-laid concepts of
his earlier years of study. Though affected with some obscure spinal
disorder which made every movement a punishment, he concealed his
suffering, no matter how intense it might be, and always answered,
"Fine, fine!" when any of us asked "How are you to-day?"

He lived in Woodlawn as he had lived in Kansas, like a man in a diving
bell. His capacious brain filled with "knowledges" of the days when
Gladstone was king and Darwin an outlaw, had little room for the
scientific theories of Bergson and his like. He remained the
old-fashioned New England theologian converted to militant agnosticism.

Although at this time over seventy years of age his mind was notably
clear, orderly and active, and his talk (usually a carefully constructed
monologue) was stately, formal and precise. He used no slang, and
retained scarcely a word of his boyhood's vernacular. The only emotional
expression he permitted himself was a chuckle of glee over an
intellectual misstatement or a historical bungle. Novels, theaters,
music possessed no interest for him.

He had read, I believe, one or two of my books but never alluded to
them, although he manifested a growing respect for my ability to earn
money, and especially delighted in my faculty for living within my
means. He watched the slow growth of my income with approving eyes. To
him as to my father, earning money was a struggle, saving it a virtue,
and wasting it a crime.

In almost every other characteristic he was my father's direct
antithesis--my father, whose faith approximated that of a Sioux warrior.
"I take things as they come," was one of his sayings. He was not
concerned with the theories of Evolution, the Pragmatic Philosophy or
any other formal system of learning or ethics. With him the present was
filled with duties, the remote past or the distant future was of
indifferent concern. To deal justly and to leave the world a little
better than he found it, was his creed.

The one point of contact between these widely divergent pioneers was
their love of Zulime, for my father was almost as fond of her as Don
Carlos himself, and distinctly more expressive of his love--for Father
Taft held affection to be something not quite decorous when openly
declared. He never offered a caress or spoke an affectionate word so far
as I know.

There was something pathetic in his situation in these days. Full of
learning and eager to share it with youth he could find no one willing
to listen to him--not even his children. In the midst of a vast city he
was sadly solitary. None of his children appeared interested in his
allusions to Hammurabi or Charlemagne, on the contrary, monologues of
any kind were taboo in the artistic circles where Lorado reigned. We was
too busy, we were all too busy with our small plans and daily struggles,
to take any interest in Locke or Gibbon or Hume, therefore the ageing
philosopher sat forlornly among his faded, musty books, dreaming his
days away on some abstruse ethical problem, or carving with his patient
knife some quaintly ornate piece of furniture, while my own father (at
the opposite pole of life) weeded his garden, read the daily paper or
played cinch with the men at the village drugstore.

Nevertheless, with full knowledge of these fundamental divergencies in
the lives of our sires, I urged Zulime to invite Professor Taft to spend
a few weeks in West Salem. "He and father will disagree, but the one is
a philosopher accustomed to pioneer types and the other a man of reason
and I am willing to risk their coming together if you are."

Don Carlos seemed pleased by this invitation and promised to come "one
of these days."

Our return to Wisconsin in April was a return to winter. On looking from
our car windows at dawn, we found the ground white with snow, and flakes
of frost driving through the budding branches of the trees. Every bird
was mute, as if with horror and the tender amber-and-green leaves of the
maples shone through the rime with a singular and pathetic beauty.

Happily this was only a cold wave. Toward noon the sun came out, the icy
cover sank into the earth and the robins began to sing again as if to
reassure themselves as well as us.

We came back to the Homestead now with a full sense of our
proprietorship. It was entirely ours and it was waiting for us. Father
was at the gate, it is true, but he was there this time merely as
care-taker, as supervisor of the garden--our garden.

His greeting of Zulime had a deeper note of tenderness than he had ever
used hitherto, for he was aware of our hope, and shared our joyous
expectancy. "I'm glad you've come," he said simply. "I hate to see the
house standing here cold and empty. It don't seem natural or right."

His first act was to lead us out to the garden where orderly beds of
springing vegetables testified to his care. "I didn't do anything about
the flowers," he confessed rather shamefacedly. "I'm no good at that
kind of work."

As the days went by I discovered that father's heart clung to the old
place. He loved to spend his days upon it. He was comfortable in his own
little cottage, but it seemed too small and too "slick" for him. He
liked our trees and lawn and barn, and I was glad to have him continue
his supervision of them. They gave him something to think about,
something to do. The curse of the "tired farmers" of the village was
their enforced idleness. There was almost nothing for them to exercise
upon.

He spent most of each day tinkering around the barn, overseeing the
garden or resting on the back porch where mother used to sit and look
out on the valley. On Sunday he came in to supper, and afterward called
for "The Sweet Story of Old" and "The Palace of the King." He listened
in silence, a blur in his dreaming eyes, for the past returned on the
wings of these songs.

Nobly considerate in his attitude toward Zulime he seemed to understand,
perfectly, her almost childish joy in the possession of a nest of her
own. He never came to a meal without invitation, though he was seldom
without the invitation, for Zulime was fond of him and had only one
point of contention with him: "I wish you wouldn't wear your working
clothes about the street," she said--and artfully added, "You are so
handsome when you are in your Sunday suit, I wish you would wear it all
the time."

He smiled with pleasure, but replied: "I'd look fine hoeing potatoes in
my Sunday suit, wouldn't I!" Nevertheless he was mindful of her request
and always came to dinner in, at worst, his second best.

Each day the gardens about us took on charm. The plum and cherry trees
flung out banners of bloom and later the apple trees flowered in
pink-and-white radiance. Wonder-working sap seemed to spout into the air
through every minute branch. Showers of rain alternated with vivid
sunshine, and through the air, heavy with perfume, the mourning dove
sang with sad insistence as if to remind us of the impermanency of May's
ineffable loveliness. Butterflies suddenly appeared in the grass, and
the bees toiled like harvesters, so eager, so busy that they tumbled
over one another in their haste. Nature was at her sweetest and
loveliest, and in the midst of it walked my young wife, in quiet
anticipation of motherhood.

Commonplace to others our rude homestead grew in beauty and significance
to us. Day by day we sat on our front porch, and watched the clouds of
blossoms thicken. If we walked in our garden we felt the creative loam
throbbing beneath our feet. Each bird seemed as proud of the place as
we. Each insect was in a transport of activity.

Into the radiant white of the cherry blossoms, impetuous green shoots
(new generations) appeared as if in feverish haste, unwilling to await
the passing of the flowers. The hills to the south were soaring bubbles
of exquisite green vapor dashed with amber and pink and red. Each
morning the shade of the maple trees deepened, and on the lawn the
dandelions opened, sowing with pieces of gold the velvet of the sward.
The songs of the robin, the catbird and the thrush became more
confident, more prolix until, at last, the drab and angular little
village was transfigured into celestial beauty by the heavenly light and
melody of completed spring.

In a certain sense here was the wealth I had been struggling to secure.
Here were--seemingly--all the elements of man's content, a broad roof, a
generous garden, spreading trees, blossoming shrubs, a familiar horizon
line, a lovely wife--and the promise of a child!

Truly, I should have been happy, and in my sour, big-fisted way I was
happy. I tried, honestly, to grasp and hold the ecstasy which these days
offered. I who had lived for twelve years on railway trains, in camp, on
horse-back or in wretched little city hotels, was now a portly
householder, a pampered husband and a prospective parent. And yet--such
is my perverse temperament--I could not overlook the fact that this
tranquil village like thousands of others scattered over the West, was
but a half-way house, a pleasant hospital into which many of the
crippled, worn-out and white-haired farmers and their wives had come to
rest for a little while on their way to the grave.

As I walked the shaded street, perceiving these veterans of the hoe and
plow, digging feebly in the earth of their small gardens, or sitting
a-dream on the narrow porches of their tiny cottages my joy was
embittered. Age, age was everywhere. Here in the midst of the flowering
trees the men of the Middle Border were withering into dust.

In the city one does not come into anything like this close relationship
with a dying generation. The tragedy is obscured. Here Zulime and I,
young and strong, were living in the midst of an almost universal
senility and decay. There was no escape from these grim facts.

Looked at from a distance there was comfort in the thought of these
pioneers, released from the grind of their farm routine, dozing at ease
beneath the maple trees, but closely studied they became sorrowful. I
knew too much about them. Several of them had been my father's
companions in those glorious days in fifty-five. Yonder white-haired
invalid, sitting in the sun silently watching his bees, had been a
famous pilot on the river, and that bushy-haired giant, halting by on a
stick, was the wreck of a mighty hunter. The wives of these men equally
worn, equally rheumatic and even more querulous, had been the rosy,
laughing, dancing companions of Isabel McClintock in the days when
Richard Garland came a-courting. All, all were camping in lonely
cottages while their sons and daughters, in distant cities or far-off
mountain valleys, adventuring in their turn, were taking up the
discipline and the duties of a new border, a new world.

As a novelist I could not fail to observe these melancholy features of a
life which on its surface seemed idyllic. In New York, in Chicago I was
concerned mainly with happy, busy people of my own age or younger,--here
I was brought into close contact daily--almost hourly--with the passing
of my father's generation and, also, I was made aware of the coming in
of an alien, uninspiring race. The farms of the Dudleys, the McKinleys,
the Coburns were being taken by the Smeckpeffers, the Heffelfingers, and
the Bergmans! Already the pages of the village newspaper were peppered
with such names, and a powerful Congregation was building a German
church on the site of the old-time Methodist meeting house of my
boyhood. My strain was dying out--a new and to my mind less admirable
America was coming on.

As June deepened my father (who realized something of the changes going
on) proposed a trip to the town in Iowa near which we had lived for
twelve years, and to this I consented, feeling that this visit could not
safely be postponed another year.

He had never been back to our prairie farm in Mitchell County since
leaving it, over twenty years before, and now (with money and leisure)
he was eager to go, and as my old Seminary associates had asked me to
speak at their Commencement, we rode away one lovely June day up along
the Mississippi to Winona, thence by way of a winding coulee, to the
level lands, and so across to Mitchell County, our old home. The
railroad, which was new to us, ran across Dry Run prairie within half a
mile of our school-house, but so flat and monotonous did the whole
country now appear, we could not distinguish any familiar landmarks. The
"hills" along the creek were barely noticeable from the car, and all the
farm-steads were hidden by groves of trees. We passed our former home
without recognizing it!

Osage, we soon discovered, was almost as much of an asylum for the aged
as West Salem. It, too, was filled with worn-out farmers, men with whom
my father had subdued the sod in the early days. Osmond Button, William
Frazer, Oliver Cole, David Babcock were all living "in town" on narrow
village lots, "taking it easy" as they called it, but they were by no
means as contented as they seemed to the casual onlooker. Freed from the
hard daily demands of the farm, many of them acknowledged a sense of
uselessness, a fear of decay.

As fast as they learned of our presence, scores of loyal friends swarmed
about us expressing a sincere regard for my father, and a kind of
wondering respect for me. Some of them clung to my father's hand as
though in hope of recovering through him some gleam of the beauty, some
part of the magic of the brave days gone--days when the land was new and
they were young. "You must come home with me," each man insisted, "the
women folks all want to see you."

Twenty years had wrought great changes in the men as well as in the
county, and my father was bewildered and saddened by the tale. One by
one he called the names of those who had been his one-time friends and
neighbors. Some were dead, others had moved away--only one or two
remained where he had left them, and it was in the hope of seeing these
men and at the same time to visit the farm and school-house on Dry Run,
and the church at Burr Oak, that I hired a carriage and drove my father
out along the well-remembered lane to the north and east--I say
"well-remembered" although the growth of the trees and the presence of
new buildings made its appeal mixed and unsatisfactory to us both.

We found our house almost hid in the trees which we had planted on the
bare prairie thirty years before. As we stood in the yard I spoke of the
silver wedding which took place there. The yard was attractive but the
house (infested by the family of a poor renter) was repulsive. The
upstairs chamber in which I had slept for so many years presented a
filthy clutter of chicken feathers, cast-off furniture and musty
clothing. Our stay was short.

Strangers were in all of the other houses along the way--we found but
two of our former neighbors at home, and the farther we drove the more
melancholy we both became.

One of the places which I wished especially to revisit was the
school-house at Burr Oak, the room which had been our social center in
the early eighties. In it we had listened to church service in summer,
and there in winter our Grange Suppers and Friday Lyceums had been held.
It was there, too, that I had worshiped at the shrine of Hattie's
girlish beauty, when as a shock-haired lad I forgot, for a day, the
loneliness of my prairie home.

Alas! the tall oaks which in those days had given dignity and charm to
the yard had all been cut down, and the building, once glorified by the
waving shadows of the leaves, now stood bare as a bone beside the road.
An alien lived where Betty once reigned, and the white cottage from
which Agnes was wont to issue in her exquisite Sunday frock, was
untenanted and falling into decay.

How lovely those girls had seemed to me as I watched them approach,
walking so daintily the path beside the fence! What rich, alluring color
flamed in Bettie's cheek, what fire flashed in Aggie's dark and roguish
eyes!

To a stranger, Burr Oak--my Burr Oak--even in Seventy-two was only a
pleasant meeting place of prairie lanes on the margin of a forest, but
to me it had been a temple of magic. I had but to shut my eyes to
desolating changes, turning my vision inward, in order to see myself (a
stocky awkward boy in a Sunday suit with a torturing collar) standing on
the porch waiting to see those white-clad maidens pass into the
vestibule.

Too shy in those days to meet their eyes, too worshipful to ever hope
for word or smile, I remained their silent adorer. Here and now I set
down the tribute which I could not then express:

    O maids to whom I never spoke, to whom
    My dreaming ran in lonely field,
    Because of you I saw the bloom
    Of Maytime more abundantly revealed.
    From you each bud new magic caught.
    When you were near, my skies
    Were brighter, for your beauty brought
    A poet's rapture to my eyes.

    Men tell me you are bent and gray,
    And worn with toil and pain;
    And so I pray the Wheel of Chance
    May never set us face to face again.
    Better that I should think of you
    As you then were, strong and sweet,
    Walking your joyous sunlit way
    Between the wheat and roses of the lane--
    _Pass on, O weary women of today--_
    _Remain forever 'mid the roses and the wheat,_
    _O girls with laughing lips and dancing feet!_

That ride and the people I met closed a gate for me. I accomplished a
painful relinquishment. That noon-day sun divided my past from my
present as with the stroke of a flaming sword. Up to this moment I had
retained, in formless fashion, a belief that I could some time and
somehow reach out and regain, at least in part, the substance of the
life I had once lived here in this scene. Now I confessed that not only
was my youth gone but that the friends and the place of my youth had
vanished. My heart, wrung with a measureless regret filled my throat
with pain, and as I looked in my father's face I perceived that he, too,
was feeling the force of Time's inexorable decree.

We started homeward in silence, speaking only now and then when some
object made itself recognizable to us.

"I shall never ride this lane again," I said as we were nearing the
town. "It has been a sad experience. The world of my boyhood--the world
we both knew--is utterly gone. It exists only in your memory and mine. I
want to get away--back to Zulime and the present."

"I'm ready to go," replied my father. "I thought I'd enjoy visiting the
old place and seeing old neighbors, but I haven't. It's all too
melancholy. I'm ready to go back to the LaCrosse Valley and stay there
what little time I've got left to me."

That night, at the Seminary, I met the Alumni and spoke to them on some
subject connected with the early history of the school, and in doing so
I obtained once again a perception of the barrier which had risen
between my classmates and myself. They were not only serious, they were
piteously solemn. No one laughed, no one took a light and airy view of
life. Once or twice I tried to jest or ventured a humorous remark, but
these attempts to lighten the gloom were met with chilling silence. No
one whispered or smiled or turned aside. It was like a prayer meeting in
the face of famine.

Part of this was due no doubt to their habit of listening to sermons,
but some of it arose I am sure from a feeling of poignant regret similar
to that which burdened my own heart. As usual in such reunions the
absent ones were named and the faces of the dead recalled. In all our
songs the rustling of withered leaves could be heard. All felt the
pitiless march of time and I respected them for their perception of
life's essential enigma.

After the "Services" were finished, several of the women came up to me
and introduced themselves. One handsome gray-haired woman said: "I am
Rosa Clinton," and it shocked me to be unable to find in her the girl I
once knew. Another matron whom I recognized at once, retained something
inescapably girlish in both face and voice. It hurt me to detect in her
withered lips the quaint twist which had once been so charming to
me--but then she undoubtedly discovered in me equally distressing
reminders of decay.

Not all my philosophy could prevent me from falling into profound
melancholy. I went back to my hotel thinking of these men and women as
they were when, as a youth of twenty, I trod with them the worn plank
walks beneath the magical murmuring maple trees. The bitter facts of
their lives gave rise to question. What was it all about? What was the
value of their efforts or my own? Has the life of man any more
significance than that of an insect?

Just before leaving for the train next day we called on Osmond Button,
who clung to my father with piteous intensity. "Stay another day," he
pleaded, but father would not listen to any postponement.

This old neighbor went to the train with us, knowing full well that he
and my father would never meet again.

Thus it happened--curiously, yet most naturally--that the last man we
saw as we left Osage was our first neighbor on Dry Run prairie in the
autumn of Seventy-one.

From this melancholy review of the bent forms of ancient friends and
neighbors, dreaming of the past, I returned to my wife, who was
concerned entirely with the future. What had she to do with elderly
folk? Life to her was sweet and promiseful. Intently toiling over the
adornment of tiny caps, socks and gowns, joyful as a girl of seven
making dresses for a doll, she insisted on displaying to me all of that
lilliputian wardrobe. A dozen times each day she called on me to admire
this or that garment, and I was greatly relieved to find that the
growing wonder of the experience through which she was about to pass,
prevented her from giving way to fear of it. Over me, at times, an icy
shadow fell. Suppose--suppose----!

One night she dreamed that a babe had come to us, and that the nurse
had carelessly allowed it to chill and die, but I had no such disturbing
premonitions. Contrary to the statements of sentimental novelists and
poets I almost never dreamed of my wife. I more often dreamed of Howells
or Roosevelt or some of my editorial friends, indeed I often had highly
technical literary dreams wherein I prepared manuscripts for the press
or composed speeches or poems, and sometimes my mother or Jessie came
back to me--but Zulime had never up to this time entered my sleep.

One afternoon during this period of waiting and just after I had
finished the writing of _Hesper_ we joined our good friends the Eastons
on an excursion up the Mississippi on their house-boat, a glorious
outing which I mention because it was the farthest removed from my
boyhood life on Dry Run prairie whose scenes had just been vividly
brought to mind.

Here was the flawless poetry of recreation, the perfection of travel. To
sit in a reclining chair on the screened-in forward deck of a beautiful
boat, what time it was being propelled by some invisible silent
machinery, up a shining river, reflecting wooded bluffs, was like taking
flight on the magic carpet of my boyhood's story book. The purple
head-lands projecting majestically into the still flood took on once
more the poetry and the mystery of the prehistoric. One by one those
royal pyramids ordered and adorned themselves for our inspection while
the narrow valleys opening their gates, displayed all their tranquil
pastoral charm.

Our meals, delicately cooked and perfectly served, appeared as if by
conjury, on a table in the dining-room amidships, and as we ate we
watched the glory deepen on the clouds, while the waters, soundless as
oil, rolled past our open doors. It was all a passage to the Land of the
Lotos to me. How had I, whose youth had been so full of penury and toil,
earned a share in such leisure, such luxury? Was it right for me to
give myself up to the enjoyment of it? For Zulime's sake I rejoiced in
it, knowing that her days were long with waiting and suspense.

Without knowing much of the bitter anguish of the ordeal, I held
maternity to be (as the great poets had taught me to hold it) a noble
heroism. "If mankind is worth continuing on this earth," I had written,
"then the mother is entitled to the highest honor, the tenderest care.
Science should do its best to lessen her pain, to make her birth-bed
honorable."

In spite of my wife's brave smile I sensed in her a subconscious dread
of what was coming, and this anxiety I shared so fully that I ceased to
write and gave all my time to her. Together we walked the garden or
drove about the country in the low-hung, easy-riding old surrey, tracing
the wooded ways we loved the best, or climbing to where a wide view of
the valley offered. I understood her laughing stoicism much better now,
and it no longer deceived me. She made light of her own fears in order
that I might not worry. The fact that she was past her first youth was
my torment, for I had read that the danger increased with every year
beyond twenty-five and the thought that we might never ride these lanes
again came into my mind and would not be exorcised. At such moments as I
could snatch I worked on a series of lectures which I was scheduled to
deliver at the University of Chicago--lectures on Edwin Booth which
brought back my Boston days.

At last the dreaded day came!--I shall not dwell upon the long hours of
the mother's pain, or on the sleepless anxiety of my household, for I
have no desire to relive them. I would rather make statement of my
relief and gratitude when after many, many hours of suffering, Edward
Evans of LaCrosse, a scientific, deft and powerful surgeon, came to the
mother's rescue. He was a master--the man who knew!

[Illustration: At last the time came when I was permitted to take my
wife--lovely as a Madonna--out into the sunshine, and, as she sat
holding Mary Isabel in her arms, she gathered to herself an ecstasy
of relief, a joy of life which atoned, in part, for the inescapable
sufferings of maternity.]

He saved both mother and child, and when the nurse laid in my arms a
little babe, who looked up at me with grave, accusing blue eyes,--the
eyes of her mother,--I wondered whether society had a right to put any
woman to this cruel test--whether the race was worth maintaining at such
a price.

Our loyal friend, Mary Easton (mother of five children), who was present
to help us through our stern trial, assured me that maternity had its
joys as well as its agonies, and after she had peered into the face of
my small daughter she remarked to me with a delightful note of
admiration, "Why, she is already a _person_!"

So indeed she was. Her head, large and shapely and her eyes wide, dark
and curiously reflective, were like her mother's. True, she hadn't much
nose, but her hair was abundant and her fingers exquisite. She lay in my
big paws with what seemed to me to be tranquil confidence, and though
her legs were comically rudimentary, her glance manifested an
unassailable dignity. My father insisted she resembled her grandmother.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last came the blessed day when the nurse permitted me to wheel the
convalescent out upon the porch. The morning was lovely, with just a
hint of autumn in its coolness, and to Zulime it was heavenly sweet, for
it seemed that she had emerged from a long dark night of agony and
doubt.

As she sat with the babe in her lap looking over the familiar hills, she
was more beautiful than she had ever been before. She was a being
glorified.

Later in the day, as the sun was going down in a welter of gold and
crimson, she came out again and in its splendor I chose to read the
promise of a noble future for Mary Isabel. It gave me joy to know that
she had taken up her life beneath the same roof and almost in the same
room in which Isabel Garland had laid her burden down.

Yes, the Homestead had a new claimant. In the midst of my father's
decaying world a new and vigorous life had miraculously appeared.
Beneath the moldering leaves of the leaning oaks a tender yet tenacious
shoot was springing from the soil.



CHAPTER TWENTY

Mary Isabel's Chimney


No one who reads the lives of writers attentively can fail of perceiving
the periods of depression--almost of despair--into which we are all
liable to fall--days when nothing that we have done seems worth
while--moods of groping indecision during which we groan and most
unworthily complain. I am no exception. For several months after the
publication of _Hesper_ I experienced a despairing emptiness, a sense of
unworthiness, a feeling of weakness which I am certain made me a burden
to my long-suffering wife.

"What shall I do now?" I asked myself.

From my standpoint as a novelist of The Great Northwest, there remained
another subject of study, the red man--The Sioux and the Algonquin
loomed large in the prairie landscape. They were, in fact, quite as
significant in the history of the border as the pioneer himself, for
they were his antagonists. Not content with using the Indian as an actor
in stories like _The Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_, I had done
something more direct and worthy through a manuscript which I called
_The Silent Eaters_, a story in which I tried to put the Sitting Bull's
case as one of his partisans might have depicted it. I had failed for
lack of detailed knowledge, and the manuscript lay in my desk untouched.

It was in this period of doubt and disheartenment that I turned to my
little daughter with gratitude and a deep sense of the mystery of her
coming. The never-ending surprise of her presence filled me with
delight. Like billions of other Daddies I forgot my worries as I looked
into her tranquil eyes. To protect and educate her seemed at the moment
my chiefest care.

During the mother's period of convalescence I acted--in my hours of
leisure--as nurse-maid quite indifferent to the smiles of spectators,
who made question of my method. I became an expert in holding the babe
so that her spine should not be over-taxed, and I think she liked to
feel the grip of my big fingers. That she appreciated the lullabies I
sang to her I am certain, for even my Aunt Deborah was forced to admit
that my control of my daughter's slumber period was remarkably
efficient.

The coming of this child changed the universe for me. She brought into
my life a new element, a new consideration. The insoluble mystery of
sex, the heroism of maternity, the measureless wrongs of womankind and
the selfish cruelty of man rose into my thinking with such power that I
began to write of them, although they had held but academic interest
hitherto. With that tiny woman in my arms I looked into the faces of my
fellow men with a sudden realization that the world as it stands to-day
is essentially a male world--a world in which the female is but a
subservient partner. "It is changing, but it will still be a man's world
when you are grown," I said to Mary Isabel.

My devotion, my slavery to this ten-pound daughter greatly amused my
friends and neighbors. To see "the grim Klondiker," in meek attendance
on a midget sovereign was highly diverting--so I was told by Mary
Easton, and I rather think she was right. However, I was undisturbed so
long as Mary Isabel did not complain.

She was happy with me. She rode unnumbered joyous miles upon my left
elbow and cantered away into dreamland by way of the ancient walnut
rocker in which her grandmother had been wont to sit and dream. Deep in
her baby brain-cells I planted vague memories of "Down the River," "Over
the Hills in Legions," and "Nellie Wildwood," for I sang to her almost
every evening of her infant life.

    "Rock-a-bye, baby, thy cradle is green.
    Papa's a nobleman--mother's a queen,"

was one of her most admired lullabys. It was a marvelous time for
me--the happiest I had known since boyhood. Not even my days of
courtship have greater charm to me now.

The old soldier was almost as completely subordinated as I. Several
times each day he came into the house to say, "Well, how is my
granddaughter getting on?" and upon seeing her, invariably remarked,
"She's the very image of Belle,"--and indeed she did resemble my mother.
He expressed the wish which was alive in my own heart, when he said, "If
only Belle could have lived to see her granddaughter."

My new daughter was all important, but the new book could not be
neglected. _Hesper_ was scheduled for publication in October and copy
must go to the printer in August, therefore I was forced to leave my
wife and babe and go East to attend to the proof-reading and other
matters incidental to the birth of another novel. Some lectures in
Chicago and Chautauqua took up nearly two weeks of my time and when I
arrived in New York, huge bundles of galley-proof were awaiting me.

My publishers were confident that the new book would equal _The Captain
of the Gray Horse Troop_ in popularity, but I was less sanguine. For
several weeks I toiled on this job, and at last on the eleventh of
September, a day of sweltering heat, I got away on the evening train for
the West. In spite of my poverty and notwithstanding the tender age of
my daughter, I had decided to fetch my family to New York.

On November tenth, we found ourselves settled in a small apartment
overlooking Morningside Park, which seemed a very desirable playground
for Mary Isabel.

Relying on my books (which were selling with gratifying persistency) we
permitted ourselves a seven-room apartment with a full-sized kitchen and
a maid--whom we had brought on from West Salem. We even went so far as
to give dinner parties to such of our friends as could be trusted to
overlook our lack of plate, and to remain kindly unobservant of the fact
that Dora, the baby's nurse, doubled as waitress after cooking the
steak.

In this unassuming fashion we fed the Hernes, the Severances, and other
of our most valued friends who devoured the puddings which Zulime
"tossed up," with a gusto highly flattering to her skill, while the
sight of me as baby-tender proved singularly amusing--to some of our
guests. It will be seen that we were not cutting entirely loose from the
principles of economy in which we had been so carefully schooled--our
hospitalities had very distinct (enforced) limits.

Our wedding anniversary came while we were getting settled and my
present to Zulime that year was a set of silver which I had purchased
with the check for an article called "A Pioneer Wife"--the paper which I
had written as a memorial to my mother. In explanation of the fact that
all these silver pieces bore the initials I. G., I said, "You are to
think of them as a gift from my mother. Imagine that I gave them to her
long ago, and that they now come to you, from her, as heirlooms. Let us
call them 'The family silver' and hand them down to Mary Isabel in her
turn."

Zulime, who always rose to a sentiment of this kind, gratefully accepted
this vicarious inheritance and thereafter I was pleased to observe that
whenever Mary Isabel wished to break a plate she invariably reached for
one of her grandmother's solid silver spoons--they were so much more
effective than the plated ones!

Christmas came to us this year with new and tender significance, for
"Santy Claus" (who found us at home in New York, rejoicing in our first
baby) brought to us our first tree, and the conjunction of these happy
events produced in my wife almost perfect happiness. Furthermore, Mary
Isabel achieved her first laugh. I am sure of this fact, for I put it
down in my notebook, with these words, "She has a lovely smile and a
chuckle like her grandmother's. She robs us of solitude, and system, and
order, but our world would now be desolate without her." Only when I
thought of what her grandfather was missing did I have a sense of
regret.

At our feast our daughter sat in the high chair which Katherine Herne
had given her, and looked upon the tiny, decorated tree with eyes of
rapture, deep, dark-blue eyes in which a seraphic light shone. Her life
was beginning far, very far, from the bleak prairie lands in which her
Daddy's winter holidays had been spent, and while the silver spoon in
her mouth was not of my giving, the one with which she bruised her
chair-arm, was veritably one of my rewards.

In order to continue my practice as an Author, I managed to sandwich the
writing of an occasional article between spells of minding the baby--and
working on club committees. I recall going to Princeton to tell Henry
Van Dyke's Club about "The Joys of the Trail," and it pleased me to be
introduced as a "Representative of the West." West Point received me in
this capacity, and I also read at one of Lounsbury's "Smokers" at Yale,
but I was kept from any undue self-congratulation by recognition of the
fact that my income was still considerably below the standard of a
railway engineer--as perhaps it should be. My "arriving" was always in
an accommodation train fifty minutes late.

Evidence of my literary success, if you look at it that way, may have
lain in an invitation to dine at Andrew Carnegie's, but a suspicion that
I was being patronized made me hesitate. It was only after I learned
that Burroughs and Gilder were going that I decided to accept, although
I could not see why the ironmaster should include me in his list. I had
never met him and was not eager for his recognition.

The guests (nearly all known to me) were most distinguished and it was
pleasant to meet with them, even in this palace. We marched into the
dining-room keeping step to the music of a bagpipe. The speaking which
followed the dinner was admirable. Hamilton Wright Mabie and John Finley
were especially adroit and graceful, and Carnegie, who had been
furnished with elaborate notes by his secretary, introduced his speakers
with tact and humor, although it was evident that in some cases he would
have been helpless without his literary furnishing--to which in my case
he referred with especial care.

He was an amazement to me. I could not imagine him in the rôle of "Iron
King," on the contrary he appeared more like a genial Scotch
school-master, one genuinely interested in learning. Had it not been for
his air of labored appreciation, and the glamour of his enormous wealth,
the dinner would have been wholly enjoyable.

One charming human touch saved the situation. The tablecloth (a
magnificent piece of linen) was worked here and there with silken
reproductions of the signatures of former distinguished guests. "Mrs.
Carnegie," our host explained, "works these signatures into the cloth
with her own hands." Each of us was given a soft pencil and requested to
add his name.

It happened that Gilder, Seton, Burroughs and myself went away together,
and the doorman showed a mild surprise in the fact that no carriage
awaited us. Gilder with comic intonation said, "Some of you fellows
ought to have saved this situation by ordering a cab."

"As the only man with a stovepipe hat the job was yours," I retorted.

This struck the rest of the party as funny. In truth, each of us except
Gilder wore some sort of soft hat, and all together we formed a sinister
group. "I don't care what _Andrew_ thinks of us," Gilder explained, "but
I hate to have his butler get such a low conception of American
authorship." On this point we all agreed--and took the Madison Avenue
street car.

Meanwhile, I was secretly dreaming of getting rich myself.

Every American, with a dollar to spare, at some time in his life takes a
shot at a gold mine. It comes early in some lives and late in others,
but it comes! In my case it came after the publication of _Hesper_ just
as I was verging on forty-five, and was the result of my brother's
connections in Mexico. Impatient of getting money by growing trees he
had resigned his position on a rubber farm and was digging gold in
Northern Mexico.

Our mine, situated about twenty miles from Camacho, was at the usual
critical stage where more capital is needed, therefore in April I
persuaded Irving Bacheller and Archer Brown to go down with me and take
a look at the property. Of course I had a lump of ore to show them--and
it was beautiful!

I recall that when this sample came to me by express, I had my first and
only conviction that my financial worries were over. Even Zulime was
impressed with my brother's smelter reports which gave the proportion of
gold to the ton, precisely set down in bold black figures. All we had to
do was to ship a sufficient number of car lots for the year and our
income would rival that of Carnegie's.

We decided to break up our little home, and while I went to Mexico,
Zulime planned to visit Chicago and await my return. I was loth to
dismantle our apartment, and when at the station I said good-by to my
little daughter and her mother, I was almost persuaded that nothing was
worth the pain of parting from that small shining face and those
seeking, clinging hands. She had grown deep into my heart during those
winter months.

I felt very poor and lonely as I went to my bed at the club that first
night after our separation, and when next day Bacheller invited me out
to his new home at Sound Beach, I gratefully accepted, although I was in
the middle of getting a new book through the press--a job which my
publishers had urged upon me against my better judgment. I felt that I
was being hurried.

Bacheller, highly prosperous, was living at this time in a handsome
waterside bungalow, with a big sitting-room in which a generous fire
glowed. It happened that he was entertaining General Henderson of Iowa,
and when in some way it developed that we were all famous singers, a
spirited contest arose as to which of us could beat the others.
Henderson sang Scotch lyrics very well, and Bacheller was full of tunes
from his North Country, whilst I--well if I didn't keep my whiffletree
off the wheel, it was not for lack of effort. I sang "Maggie" and "Lily
Dale" and "Rosalie the Prairie Flower," all of which made a powerful
impression on Henderson; but it was not till I sang "The Rolling Stone,"
that I fully countered. Irving asked me to repeat this song, but I
refused. "You might catch the tune," I explained.

The general's face shone with pleasure but a wistful cadence was in his
voice. "Your tunes carry me back to my boyhood," he said, "I heard my
mother sing some of them."

He was near the end of his life, although none of us realized it that
night, and we all went our ways in the glow of a tender friendship--a
friendship deepened by this reminiscent song. Three days later Bacheller
and I were entering Mexico on our way to my mine.

Although Bacheller declined to go into partnership with me we had a
gorgeous trip, and that was the main object so far as the other fellows
were concerned, and as I wrote an article on the caverns of Cacawamilpa
which paid my expenses I was content.

In returning to the North by way of El Paso and the Rock Island road, I
encountered a sandstorm, whose ferocity dimmed the memory of the one in
which my father's wheat was uprooted. It was frightful. From this I
passed almost at once to the bloom, the green serenity, and the
abundance of my native valley. It was a kind of paradise by contrast to
the South-west and to take my little daughter to my bosom, to look into
her eyes, to feel her little palms patting my cheeks, was a pleasure
such as I had never expected to own. Every father who reads this line
will understand me when I declare that she had "developed wonderfully"
in the month of my absence. To me every change in my first born was
thrilling--and a little sad--for the fairy of to-day was continually
displacing the fairy of yesterday.

Believing that this had ended my travels for the summer, I began to work
on a novel which should depict the life of a girl, condemned against her
will to be a spiritualistic medium,--forced by her parents to serve as a
"connecting wire between the world of matter and the world of spirit."

This theme, which lay outside my plan to depict the West, had long
demanded to be written, and I now set about it with vigor. As a matter
of fact, I knew a great deal about mediums, for at one time I had been a
member of the Council of the American Psychical Society, and as a
special committee on slate writing and other psychical phenomena had
conducted many experiments. I had in my mind (and in my notebooks) a
mass of material which formed the background of my story, _The Tyranny
of the Dark_. It made a creditable serial and a fairly successful book,
but it will probably not count as largely in my record as "Martha's
Fireplace," a short story which I wrote at about the same time. I do not
regret having done this novel, because at the moment it seemed very much
worth while, but I was fully aware, even then, that it had a much
narrower appeal than either _Hesper_ or _The Captain of the Gray Horse
Troop_.

In the midst of my work on this book our good friends, Mary and Fred
Easton, invited us to go with them, in their houseboat, on a trip to the
World's Fair in St. Louis. Mrs. Easton offered to take Mary Isabel and
her nurse into her own lovely home during our absence, and as Zulime
needed the outing we joined the party.

It was a beautiful experience, a kind of dream journey, luxurious,
effortless, silent and suggestive,--suggestive of the great river as it
was in the time of Dubuque. Sometimes for an hour or more we lost sight
of the railway, and the primitive loneliness of the stream awed and
humbled us.

For ten days we sailed in such luxury as I had never known before; and
when we reached home again it was the splendor of the stream and not the
marvels of the Fair which had permanently enriched me. I have forgotten
almost every feature of the exhibition, but the sunset light falling
athwart the valleys and lighting the sand-bars into burning gold fills
my memory to this day.

Here I must make another confession. Up to this time our big living-room
had no fireplace. I had thrown out bay-windows, tacked on porches, and
constructed bathrooms; but the most vital of all the requisites of a
homestead was still lacking. We had no hearth and no outside chimney.

A fireplace was one of the possessions which I really envied my friends.
I had never said, "I wish I had Bacheller's house," but I longed to
duplicate his fireplace.

Like most of my generation in the West I had been raised beside a stove,
with only one early memory of a fireplace, that in my Uncle David's
home, in the glow of which, nearly forty years before, I had lain one
Thanksgiving night to hear him play the violin--a memory of sweetest
quality to me even now. Zulime's childhood had been almost equally bare.
She had hung her Christmas stockings before a radiator, as I had strung
mine on the wall, behind the kitchen stove. Now suddenly with a small
daughter to think of, we both began to long for a fireplace with a
desire which led at last toward action--on my part, Zulime was hesitant.

"As our stay in the Old Homestead comes always during the summer, it
seems a wilful extravagance to put our hard-earned dollars into an
improvement which a renter would consider a nuisance," she argued.

"Nevertheless I'm going to build a fireplace," I replied.

"You mustn't think of it," she protested.

"Consider what a comfort it would be on a rainy day in June," I
rejoined. "Think what it would do for the baby on dark mornings."

This had its effect, but even then she would not agree to have it built.

Another deterrent lay in the inexperience of our carpenters and masons,
not one of whom had even built a chimney. Everybody had fireplaces in
pioneer days, in the days of the Kentucky rifle, the broad-axe and the
tallow-dip; but as the era of frame houses came on, the arches had been
walled up, and iron stoves of varying ugliness had taken their places.
In all the country-side (outside of LaCrosse) there was not a
hearthstone of the old-fashioned kind, and though some of the workmen
remembered them, not one of them could tell how they were constructed,
and the idea of an outside chimney was comically absurd.

All these forces working against me had, thus far, prevented me from
experimenting, and perhaps even now the towering base-burner would have
remained our family shrine had not Mary Isabel put in a wordless plea.
Less than four hundred days old, she was, nevertheless wise in
fireplaces. She had begun to burble in the light of the Severances'
hearth in Minnesota, and her eyes had reflected the flame and shadow of
a noble open fire in Katharine Herne's homestead on Peconic Bay. Her
cheeks had reddened like apples in the glory of that hickory flame, and
when she came to our small apartment in New York City she had seemed
surprised and sadly disappointed by the gas pipes and asbestos mat,
which made up a hollow show under a gimcrack mantel. Now here, in her
own home, was she to remain without the witchery of crackling flame?

As the cold winds of September began to blow my resolution was taken.
"That fireplace must be built. My daughter shall not be cheated of
beamed ceilings and the glory of the blazing log."

Zulime, in alarm, again cried out as mother used to do: "Consider the
expense!"

"Hang the expense! Consider the comfort, the beauty of the embers. Think
of Mary Isabel with her eyes reflecting their light. Imagine the old
soldier sitting on the hearth holding his granddaughter----"

She smiled in timorous surrender. "I can see you are bound to do it,"
she said, "but where can it be built?"

Alas! there was only one available space, a narrow wall between the two
west windows. "We'll cut the windows down, or move them," I said, with
calm resolution.

"I hate a _little_ fireplace," protested Zulime.

"It can't be huge," I admitted, "but it can be real. It can be as _deep_
as we want it."

Having decided upon the enterprise I hurried forth to engage the hands
to do the work. I could not endure a day's delay.

The first carpenter with whom I spoke knew nothing about such things.
The next one had helped to put in one small "hard-coal, wall pocket,"
and the third man had seen fireplaces in Norway, but remembered little
about their construction. After studying Zulime's sketch of what we
wanted, he gloomily remarked, "I don't believe I can make that thing
_gee_."

Zulime was disheartened by all this, but Mary Isabel climbed to my knee
as if to say, "Boppa, where is my fireplace?"

My courage returned. "It shall be built if I have to import a mason from
Chicago," I declared, and returned to the campaign.

"Can't you build a thing like this?" I asked a plasterer, showing him a
magazine picture of a fireplace.

He studied it with care, turning it from side to side. "A rough pile o'
brick like that?"

"Just like that."

"Common red brick?"

"Yes, just the kind you use for outside walls."

"If you'll get a carpenter to lay it out maybe I can do it," he
answered, but would fix no date for beginning the work.

Three days later when I met him on the street he looked a little
shame-faced. "I hoped you'd forgot about that fireplace," he said. "I
don't know about that job. I don't just see my way to it. However, if
you'll stand by and take all the responsibility, I'll try it."

"When can you come?"

"To-morrow," he said.

"I'll expect you."

I hastened home. I climbed to the top of the old chimney, hammer in
hand, and began the work of demolition.

The whole household became involved in the campaign. While the gardener
and my father chipped the mortar from the bricks which I threw down,
Zulime drew another plan for the arch and the hearth, and Mary Isabel
sat on the lawn, and shouted at her busy father, high in the sky.

A most distressing clutter developed. The carpenters attacked the house
like savage animals, chipping and chiseling till they opened a huge gap
from window to window, filling the room with mortar, dust and flies.
Zulime was especially appalled by the flies.

"I didn't know you had to slash into the house like that," she said.
"It's like murder."

Our neighbors hitherto vastly entertained by our urban eccentricities
expressed an intense interest in our plan for an open fire. "Do you
expect it to heat the house?" asked Mrs. Dutcher, and Aunt Maria said:
"An open fire is nice to look at, but expensive to keep going."

Sam McKinley heartily applauded. "I'm glad to hear you're going back to
the old-fashioned fireplace. They were good things to sit by. I'd like
one myself, but I never'd get my wife to consent. She says they are too
much trouble to keep in order."

At last the mason came, and together he and I laid out the ground plan
of the structure. By means of bricks disposed on the lawn I indicated
the size of the box, and then, while the carpenter crawled out through
the crevasse in the side of the house, we laid a deep foundation of
stone. We had just brought the base to the level of the sill when--the
annual County Fair broke out!

All work ceased. The workmen went to the ball game and to the cattle
show and to the races, leaving our living-room open to the elements, and
our lawn desolate with plaster.

For three days we suffered this mutilation. At last the master mason
returned, but without his tender. "No matter," I said to him. "I can mix
mortar and sand," and I did. I also carried brick, splashing myself
with lime and skinning my hands,--but the chimney grew!

Painfully, with some doubt and hesitancy, but with assuring skill, Otto
laid the actual firebox, and when the dark-red, delightfully rude piers
of the arch began to rise from the floor within the room, the entire
family gathered to admire the structure and to cheer the workmen on
their way.

The little inequalities which came into the brickwork delighted us.
These "accidentals" as the painters say were quite as we wished them to
be. Privately, our bricklayer considered us--"Crazy." The idea of
putting common rough brick on the _inside_ of a house!

The library floor was splotched with mortar, the dining-room was cold
and buzzing with impertinent flies, but what of that--the tower of brick
was climbing.

The mason called insatiably for more brick, more mortar, and the chimney
(the only outside chimney in Hamilton township) rose grandly, alarmingly
above the roof--whilst I gained a reputation for princely expenditure
which it will take me a long time to live down.

Suddenly discovering that we had no fire-clay for the lining of the
firebox, I ordered it by express (another ruinous extravagance), and the
work went on. It was almost done when a cold rain began, driving the
workmen indoors.

Zulime fairly ached with eagerness to have an end of the mess, and the
mason catching the spirit of our unrest worked on in the rain. One by
one the bricks slipped into place.

"Oh, how beautiful the fire would be on a day like this!" exclaimed
Zulime. "Do you think it will ever be finished? I can't believe it. It's
all a dream. It won't draw--or something. It's too good to be true."

"It will be done to-night--and it will draw," I stoutly replied.

At noon, the inside being done, Otto went outside to complete the top,
toiling heroically in the drizzle.

At last, for the fourth time we cleaned the room of all but a few chips
of the sill, which I intended to use for our first blaze. Then, at my
command, Zulime took one end of the thick, rough mantel and together we
swung it into place above the arch. Our fireplace was complete!
Breathlessly we waited the signal to apply the match.

At five o'clock the mason from the chimney top cheerily called, "_Let
'er go!_"

Striking a match I handed it to Zulime. She touched it to the shavings.
Our chimney took life. It drew! It roared!!

Pulling the curtains close, to shut out the waning daylight, we drew our
chairs about our hearth whereon the golden firelight was playing. We
forgot our troubles, and Mary Isabel pointing her pink, inch-long
forefinger at it, laughed with glee. Never again would she sit above a
black hole in the floor to warm her toes.

Out of the corners of the room the mystic ancestral shadows leapt, to
play for her sake upon the walls. "She will now acquire the poet's fund
of sweet subconscious memories," I declared. "The color of all New
England home-life is in that fire. Centuries of history are involved in
its flickering shadows. We have put ourselves in touch with our
Anglo-Saxon ancestors at last."

"It already looks as ancient as the house," Zulime remarked, and so
indeed it did, for its rude inner walls had blackened almost instantly,
and its rough, broad, brick hearth fitted harmoniously into the brown
floor. The thick plank mantle (stained a smoky-green) seemed already
clouded with age. Its expression was perfect--to us, and when father
"happened in" and drawing his armchair forward took Mary Isabel in his
arms, the firelight playing over his gray hair and on the chubby cheeks
of the child, he made a picture immemorial in its suggestion, typifying
all the hearths and all the grandsires and fair-skinned babes of New
England history.

[Illustration: The old soldier and pioneer loved to take the children
on his knees and bask in the light of the fire. At such times he made
a picture which typed forth to me all the chimney corners and all the
Anglo-Saxon grandsires for a thousand years. In him I saw the past.
In them I forecast the future. In him an era was dying, in them Life
renewed her swiftly passing web.]

The grim old house had a soul. It was now in the fullest sense a hearth
and a home. Oh, Mother and David, were you with us at that moment? Did
you look upon us from the dusky corners, adding your faint voices to the
chorus of our songs? I hope so. I try to believe so.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night when Mary Isabel was asleep and I sat alone beside the
hearth, another and widely different magic came from those embers. Their
tongues of flame, subtly interfused with smoke, called back to memory
the many camp-fires I had builded beside the streams, beneath the pines
of the mountain west.

Each of my tenting places drew near. At one moment, far in the Skeena
Valley, I sat watching the brave fire beat back the darkness and the
rain--hearing a glacial river roaring from the night. At another I was
encamped in the shelter of a mighty cliff, listening in awe while along
its lofty shelves the lions prowled and in the cedars, amid the ruins of
prehistoric cities, the wind chanted a solemn rune filled with the
voices of those whose bones had long since been mingled with the dust.

    Oh, the good days on the trail!
    I cannot lose you--I will not!
    Here in the amber of my song
    I hold you.
    Here where neither time nor change
    Can do you wrong.
    I sweep you together,
    The harvest of a continent. The gold
    Of a thousand days of quest.
    So, when I am old,
    Like a chained eagle I can sit
    And dream and dream
    Of splendid spaces,
    The gleam of rivers,
    And the smell of prairie flowers.
    So, when I have quite forgot
    The heritage of books, I still shall know
    The splendor of the mountains, and the glow
    Of sunset on the vanished plain.



CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

The Fairy World of Childhood


One night just before leaving for the city, I invited a few of my
father's old cronies to come in and criticize my new chimney. They all
came,--Lottridge, Stevens, Shane, Johnson, McKinley, all the men who
meant the most to my sire, and as they took seats about the glowing
hearth, the most matter-of-fact of them warmed to its poetic
associations, and the sternest of them softened in face and tone beneath
its magic light.

Each began by saying, "An open fire is nice to sit by, but not much good
as a means of heating the house," and having made this concession to the
practical, they each and all passed to minute and loving descriptions of
just the kind of fireplaces their people used to have back in
Connecticut or Maine or Vermont. Stevens described the ancestral oven,
Lottridge told of the family hob and crane, and throughout all this talk
a note of wistful tenderness ran. They were stirred to their depths and
yet concealed it. Not one had the courage to build such a chimney but
every man of them covertly longed for it, dimly perceiving its value as
an altar of memory, unconsciously acknowledging its poignant youthful
associations. The beauty of vanished faces, the forms of the buried past
drew near, and in the golden light of reminiscent dream, each grizzled
head took on a softer, nobler outline. The prosaic was forgot. The
poetry of their lives was restored.

Father was at his best, hospitable, reminiscent, jocund. His pride in
me was expressed in his faith in my ability to keep this fire going.

"Hamlin don't mind a little expense like this chimney," he said. "He put
it in just to amuse the baby,--so he says and I believe him. He can
afford it--so I'm not saying a word, in fact I like an open fire so well
I'm thinking of putting one into my own house."

To this several replied by saying, "We'd have a riot in our house if we
put in such an extravagance." Others declared, "It's all a question of
dirt. Our wives would never stand the ashes."

We had provided apples and nuts, doughnuts, cider and other
characteristic refreshments of the older day, but alas! most of our
guests no longer took coffee at night, and only one or two had teeth for
popcorn or stomach for doughnuts. As a feast our evening was a failure.

"I used to eat anything at any time," Lottridge explained, "probably
that is the reason why I can't do it now. In those days we didn't know
anything about 'calories' or 'balanced rations.' We et what was set
before us and darn glad to get it."

Shane with quiet humor recalled the days when buckwheat cakes and
sausages swimming in pork fat and covered with maple syrup, formed his
notion of a good breakfast. "Just one such meal would finish me now," he
added with a rueful smile.

These were the men who had been the tireless reapers, the skilled
wood-choppers, the husky threshers of the olden time, and as they
talked, each of them reverting to significant events in those heroic
days, I sobered with a sense of irreparable loss. Pathos and humor
mingled in their talk of those far days!

Shane said, "Remember the time I 'bushed' you over in Dunlap's meadow?"
To this my father scornfully replied, "You bushed me! I can see you,
now, sitting there under that oak tree mopping your red face. I had you
'petered' before ten o'clock."

It all came back as they talked,--that buoyant world of the reaper and
the binder, when harvesting was a kind of Homeric game in which, with
rake and scythe, these lusty young sons of the East contended for
supremacy in the field. "None of us had an extra dollar," explained
Stevens, "but each of us had what was better, good health and a faith in
the future. Not one of us had any intention of growing old."

"Old! There _weren't_ any old people in those days," asserted Lottridge.

Along about the middle of the evening they all turned in on a game of
"Rummy," finding in cards a welcome relief from the unexpressed torment
of the contrast between their decrepit, hopeless present and the
glowing, glorious past.

My departure on a lecture trip at ten o'clock disturbed their game only
for a moment, and as I rode away I contrasted the noble sanity and the
high courage of those white-haired veterans of the Border, with the
attitude of certain types of city men I knew. Facing death at something
less than arm's length, my father and his fellows nevertheless remained
wholesomely interested in life. None of them were pious, some of them
were not even religious, but they all had a sturdy faith in the
essential justice of the universe. They were still playing the game as
best they knew.

Like Eugene Ware they could say--

    "Standing by life's river, deep and broad,
    I take my chances, ignorant but unawed."

As I sat among my fellow members at the Club, three days later, I again
recalled my father and his group. Here, too, I was in the Zone of Age.
A. M. Palmer, a feeble and melancholy old man, came in and wandered
about with none to do him reverence, and St. Gaudens, who was in the
city for medical treatment, shared his dry toast and his cereal coffee
with me of a morning. George Warner, who kept a cheerful countenance,
admitted that he did so by effort. "I don't like the thought of leaving
this good old earth," he confessed one afternoon. "It gives me a pang
every time I consider it." None of these men faced death with finer
courage than my sire.

As I had a good deal of free time in the afternoon, and as I also had a
room at the Club, I saw much of St. Gaudens. We really became
acquainted. One morning as we met at breakfast he replied to my question
with a groan and a mild cuss word: "Worse, thank you! I've just been to
Washington, and on the train last night I ate ice-cream for dinner. I
knew I'd regret it, but ice-cream is my weakness." He was at once
humorous and savage for, as he explained, "the doctor will not let me
work and there is nothing for me to do but sit around the Club library
and read or write letters."

He wrote almost as many letters as I did, and so we often faced each
other across a desk in the writing room. Sometimes he spoke of President
Roosevelt who was employing him on the new designs for our coins,
sometimes he alluded to the work awaiting him in his studio. Oh! how
homesick we both were! Perhaps he felt the near approach of the hour
when his cunning hand must drop its tool. I know the thought came to me,
creating a tenderer feeling toward him. I saw him in a sorrowful light.
He drew nearer to me, seeming more like a friend and neighbor.

I have said that I had a good deal of time on my hands, and so it seemed
to me then and yet during this trip I visited many of my friends,
prepared _The Tyranny of the Dark_ for serial publication, attended a
dinner to Henry James, was one of the Guests of Honor at the Camp Fire
Club and acted as teller (with Hopkinson Smith) in the election which
founded the American Academy of Arts and Letters--a fairly full program
as I look back upon it, but I had a great many hours to spend in writing
to Zulime and in dreaming about Mary Isabel. In spite of all my noble
companions, my dinners, speeches and honors I was longing for my little
daughter and her fireplace, and at last I put aside all invitations and
took the westward trail, counting the hours which intervened between my
laggard coach and home.

At times I realized the danger which lay in building so much of my
content on the life of one small creature, but for the most part I
rejoiced in the fact that she was in my world, even though I had a
growing sense of its illusory and generally unsatisfactory character. I
found comfort in the knowledge that billions of other men had preceded
me and billions more would follow me, and that the only real things in
my world were the human relationships. To make my wife and child happy,
to leave the world a little better than I found it, these formed my
creed.

It was cold, crisp, clear winter when I returned to West Salem and the
village again suggested a Christmas card illustration as I walked up the
street. The snow cried out under my shoe soles with shrill familiar
squeal, carrying me back to the radiant mornings in Iowa when I trod the
boardwalks of Osage on my way to the Seminary Chapel, my books under my
arm and the courage of youth in my heart. Now a wife and daughter
awaited me.

A fire was crackling in the new chimney, and in the light of it, at her
mother's feet, sat Mary Isabel. In a moment New York and Chicago were
remote, almost mythic places. With my child in my arms, listening to
Zulime's gossip of the town wherein the simple old-fashioned joys of
life still persisted with wholesome effect, I asked myself, "Why
struggle? Why travel, when your wife, your babe, and your hearthstone
are here?"

    "Once I threatened the world with fire,
    And thrust my fist in the face of wrong,
    Making my heart a sounding lyre--
    Accusing the rulers of earth in song.
    Now, counting the world of creeds well lost
    And recking the greatest book no prize--
    Withdrawn from the press and free from the cost
    Of fame and war--in my baby's eyes--
    In the touch of her tiny, slender palm,
    I find the ease of a warrior's calm."

Calm! Did I say calm? It was the calm of abject slavery. At command of
that minute despot I began to toil frenziedly. At her word I read over
and over, and over once again, the Rhymes of _Mother Goose_ and the
Tales of _Peter Wabbitt_. The _Tin Tan Book_ was her litany, and _Red
Riding Hood_ her sweet terror. Her interest in books was insatiate. She
loved all verses, all melodies, even those whose words were wholly
beyond her understanding, and her rapt eyes, deep and dark, as my
mother's had been, gave me such happiness that to write of it fills me
with a pang of regret--for that baby is now a woman.

It will not avail my reader to say, "You were but re-enacting the
experiences of innumerable other daddies," for this was _my_ child,
these were _my_ home and _my_ fire. Without a shred of shame I rejoiced
in my subjection then, as I long to recover its contentment now. Life
for me was fulfilled. I was doing that which nature and the world
required.

Here enters an incongruous fact,--something which I must record with the
particularity it deserves. My wife who was accounted a genius, was in
truth amazingly "clever" with brush and pencil. Not only had she spent
five years in Paris, she had enjoyed several other years of study with
her sculptor brother. She could model, she could paint and she could
draw,--but--to whom did Mary Isabel turn when she wanted a picture? To
her artist mother? Not at all! To me,--to her corn-husker daddy--of
course. I was her artist as well as her reader.

To her my hand was a wonder-worker. She was always pleased with what I
did. Hour after hour I drew (in amazing outlines) dogs and cows and pigs
(pictographs as primitive as those which line the walls of cave
dwellings in Arizona) on which she gazed in ecstasy, silent till she
suddenly discovered that this effigy meant a cow, then she cried out,
"tee dee moomo!" with a joy which afforded me more satisfaction than any
acceptance of a story on the part of an editor had ever conveyed. Each
scrawl was to her a fresh revelation of the omniscience, the magic of
her father--therefore I drew and drew while her recreant mother sat on
the other side of the fire and watched us, a wicked smile of
amusement--and relief--on her lips.

My daughter was preternaturally interested in magazines,--that is to say
she was (at a very early age) vitally concerned with the advertising
columns, and forced me to spend a great deal of time turning the pages
while she discovered and admired the images of shoes, chairs, tables and
babies,--especially babies. It rejoiced her to discover in a book the
portrait of a desk which was actually standing in the room, and in
matching the fact with the artistic reproduction of the fact, she was,
no doubt, laying the foundation of an esthetic appreciation of the
universe, but I suffered. Only when she was hungry or sleepy did she
permit me, her art instructor, to take a vacation.

In the peaceful intervals when she was in her bed, her mother and I
discussed the question, "Where shall we make our winter home?"

My plan to take another apartment in New York seemed of a reckless
extravagance to Zulime, who argued for Chicago, and in the end we
compromised--on Chicago--where her father and brother and sister lived.
November found us settled in a furnished apartment on Jackson Park
Avenue, and our Christmas tree was set up there instead of in the
Homestead, which was the natural place for it.

Another phase of being Daddy now set in. To me, as a father, the City by
the Lake assumed a new and terrifying aspect. Its dirt, its chill winds,
its smoke appeared a pitiless league of forces assaulting the tender
form of my daughter. My interest in civic reforms augmented. The
problems of street cleaning and sanitary milk delivery approached me
from an entirely different angle. My sense of social justice was
quickened.

In other ways I admitted a change. Something had gone out of my world,
or rather something unexpected had come into it. I was no longer
whole-hearted in my enjoyment of my Club. My study hours were no longer
sacred. My cherub daughter allured. Sometimes as I was dozing in my
sleeping car, I heard her chirping voice, "Bappa, come here. I need
you." The memory of her small soft body, her trusting eyes, the arch of
her brows, made me impatient of my lecture tours. She was my incentive,
my chief reason for living and working, and from each of my predatory
sorties, I returned to her with a thankfulness which was almost
maudlin--in Fuller's eyes. To have her joyous face lifted to mine, to
hear her clear voice repeating my mother's songs, restored my faith in
the logic of human life. True she interrupted my work and divided my
interest, but she also defended me from bitterness and kept me from a
darkening outlook on the future. My right to have her could be
questioned but my care of her, now that I had her, was a joyous task.

It would not be quite honest in me if I did not admit that this
intensity of interest in my daughter took away something from my
attitude as a husband, just as Zulime's mother love affected her
relationship to me. A new law was at work in both our cases, and I do
not question its necessity or its direction. Three is a larger number
than two, and if the third number brings something unforeseen into the
problem it must be accepted. Mary Isabel strengthened the bond between
Zulime and myself, but it altered its character. Whatever it lost in one
way it gained in another.

Dear little daughter, how she possessed me! Each day she presented some
new trait, some new accomplishment. She had begun to understand that
Daddy was a writer and that he must not be disturbed during the morning,
but in spite of her best resolutions she often tip-toed to my door to
inquire brightly, "Poppie, can I come in? Don't you want me?" Of course
I wanted her, and so frequently my work gave place to a romp with her.
In the afternoons I often took her for a walk or to coast on her new
sled rejoicing in the picture she made in her red cloak and hood.

In her presence my somber conceptions of life were forgotten. Joyous and
vital, knowing nothing of my worries, she comforted me. She was no
longer the "baby" she was "Wenona," my first born, and in spirit we were
comrades. More and more she absorbed my thought. "Poppie, I love you
better than anything," she often said, and the music of her voice misted
my eyes and put a lump into my throat.

When summer came and we went back to the Homestead, I taught her to
drive Old Smoker, Uncle William's horse. Under my direction she studied
the birds and animals. In city and country alike we came together at
nightfall, to read or sing or "play circus." I sang to her all the songs
my mother had taught me, I danced with her as she grew older, with
Zulime playing the tunes for us, "Money Musk" and "The Campbells are
Coming." As we walked the streets the trusting cling of her tiny fingers
was inexpressibly sweet.

"Poppie, I'm so happy!" she often said to me after she was three, and
the ecstasy which showed in her big blue eyes scared me with its
intensity for I knew all too well that it could not last. This was her
magical time. She was enraptured of the wind and sky and the grass.
Every fact in nature was a revelation to her.

"Why, Poppie? What does it? What was that noise?" The dandelions, the
dead bird, a snake--these were miracles to her--as they once were to me.
She believed in fairies with devotional fervor and I did nothing to
shake her faith, on the contrary I would gladly have shared her credence
if I could.

Once as we were entering a deep, dark wood, she cautioned me to walk
very softly and to speak in a whisper in order that we might catch the
Forest Folk at play, and as we trod a specially beautiful forest aisle
she cried out, "I _saw_ one, Poppie! Didn't you see that little shining
thing?"

I could only say, "Yes, it _must_ have been a fairy." I would not
destroy her illusion.

She inhabited a world of ineffable beauty, a universe in which minute
exquisite winged creatures flashed like flakes of fire, through dusky
places. She heard their small faint voices in the whisper of the leaves,
and every broad toadstool was to her a resting place for weary elfin
messengers hurrying on some mission for their queen. Her own imaginings,
like her favorite books, were all of magic wands, golden garments and
crystal palaces. Sceptered kings, and jeweled princesses trailing robes
of satin were the chief actors in her dreams.

I am aware that many educators consider such reading foolish and
harmful, but I care nothing for wire-drawn pedagogic theories. That I
did nothing to mar the mystical beauty of the world in which my daughter
then dwelt, is my present satisfaction, and I shamelessly acknowledge
that I experienced keen pangs of regret as her tender illusions, one
after another faded into the chill white light of later day. Without
actually deceiving her, I permitted her to believe that I too, heard the
wondrous voices of Titania and her elves in convention behind the rose
bush, or the whispers of gnomes hiding among the cornrows.

Good republican that I was, I listened without reproof to her adoring
fealty to Kings and Queens. Her love of Knights and tournaments was
openly fostered at my hand. "If she should die out of this, her glorious
imaginary world, she shall die happy," was my thought, "and if she lives
to look back upon it with a woman's eyes, she shall remember it as a
shining world in which her Daddy was a rough but kindly councillor, a
mortal of whom no fairy need have fear."

The circus was my daughter's royal tournament, an assemblage of all the
kings and queens, knights and fairies of her story books. She hated the
clowns but the parade of the warriors and their sovereign exalted her.
The helmeted spearmen, the lithe charioteers, the hooded drivers sitting
astride the heads of vast elephants were characters of the Arabian
Nights, passing veritably before her eyes. The winged dancers of the
spectacle came straight from the castle of Queen Mab, the pale acrobats
were brothers to Hector and Achilles.

As she watched them pass she gripped my hand as if to keep touch with
reality, her little heart swollen with almost intolerable delight. "It
makes me shiver," she whispered, and I understood.

As the last horseman of the procession was passing, she asked
faintly--"Will it come again, Poppie?"

"Yes, it will come once more," I replied, recalling my own sense of loss
when the Grand Entry was over.

As the queen, haughty of glance, superb in her robe of silver once more
neared us, indolently swaying to the movement of the elephant, who bore
his housings of purple and gold with stately solemnity, my daughter's
tiny body quivered with ecstasy and her beautiful eyes dilated with an
intensity of admiration, of worship which made me sad as well as happy,
and then just as the resplendent princess was passing for the last time,
Mary Isabel rose in her place and waving a kiss to her liege lady cried
out in tones of poignant love and despair, "Good-by, dear Queen!" and I,
holding her tender palpitant figure in my arms, heard in that slender
silver-sweet cry the lament of childhood, childhood whose dreams were
passing never to return.

       *       *       *       *       *

Chicago did not offer much by way of magnificence but Mary Isabel made
the most of what we took her to see. The gold room of the hotel was a
part of her imaginary kingdom, conceivably the home of royalty. Standing
timidly at the door, she surveyed the golden chairs, the gorgeous
ceiling and the deep-toned pictures with a gaze which absorbed every
detail. At last she whispered, "Is this the Queen's room?"

"Yes," I replied. "If the Queen should come to Chicago she would live
here," and I comforted myself by saying, "You shall have your hour of
wonder and romance, even at the expense of a prevarication."

With a sigh she turned away, or rather permitted me to lead her away.
"I'm glad I saw it," she said. "Will the Queen ever come to Chicago
again?"

"Yes, next spring she will come again," I answered, thus feeding her
illusion without a moment's hesitation or a particle of remorse.

Her love of royal robes, gold chariots and Queens' houses did not
prevent her from listening with deep delight while I read _Jock
Johnstone, the Tinkler Lad_, or sang _O'er the Hills In Legions, Boys_.
She loved most of the songs I was accustomed to sing but certain of the
lines vaguely distressed her. She could not endure the pathos of Nellie
Gray.

    "Oh, my poor Nellie Gray
    They have taken you away
    And I'll never see my darling any more"

put her into deepest anguish.

"_Why_ did they take her away?" she sobbed. "Didn't they _ever_ see her
any more?"

Only after I explained that they met "down the river" and were very
happy ever afterward, would she permit me to finish the ballad. She was
similarly troubled by the words,

    "I can hear the children calling
    I can see their sad tears falling."

"_Why_ are the children calling?" she demanded.

She had a curious horror of anything abnormal. Once I took her to see
"Alice in Wonderland" thinking that this would be an enchanting
experience for her. Not only was it intolerably repellent to her, it was
terrifying, and when the bodies of the characters suddenly lengthened,
she sought refuge under the seat. All deformities, grotesqueries were to
her horrible, appalling. She refused to look at the actors and at last I
took her away.

One afternoon as we were in the garden together she called to me.
"Poppie, see the dead birdie!"

On looking I saw a little dead song sparrow. "It's been here all the
night and all the day, Poppie. It fell out of the tree when Eddie
shooted it. Put it up in the tree again, Poppie."

She seemed to think that if it were put back into its home it would go
on living and singing. I don't know why this should have moved me as it
did, but it blurred my eyes for a moment. My little daughter was face to
face with the great mystery.

O those magical days! Knowing all too well that they could not last and
that to lose any part of them was to be forever cheated, I gave my time
to her. Over and over again as I met her deep serene glance, I asked (as
other parents have done), "Whence came you? From what dusky night rose
your starry eyes? Out of what unillumined void flowered your fairy face?
Can it be, as some have said, that you are only an automaton, a physical
reaction?"

She was the future, my father the past. Birth and death, equally
inexplicable, were expressed to me in these two beings, so vital to me,
so dependent upon me, and beside me, suffering, joying with me, walked
the mother with unfaltering steps.

I was in the midst of a novel at this time, another story of Colorado,
which I called _Money Magic_, and without doubt all this distraction and
travel weakened it, although Howells spoke well of it. "It is one of
your best books," he said, when we next met.

[Mary Isabel reads the book at intervals and places it next to _Hesper_
and _The Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_.]

Marriage, paternity, householding, during these years unquestionably put
the brakes on my work as a writer, but I had no desire to return to
bachelorhood. Undoubtedly I had lost something, but I had gained more.
As a human being I was enriched beyond my deserving by a wife and a
child.

Perhaps I would have gone farther and mounted higher as a selfish
solitary bachelor, but that did not trouble me then, and does not now.
Concerned with the problem of providing a comfortable winter home for my
family, and happy in maintaining the old house in West Salem as a
monument to the memory of my mother, I wrote, committed carpentry and
lectured.

My frequent absences from home soon made a deep impression on my
daughter's mind, and whenever she was naughty I had but to say, "If you
do that again Papa will go away to New York," and she would instantly
say, "I'm doodie now papa, I'm doodie----" and yet my mention of going
to New York could not have been altogether a punishment for I always
brought to her some toy or book. Nothing afforded me keener joy than the
moment when I showed her the presents I had brought.

The fact that she loved to have her heavy-handed old Daddy near her, was
a kind of miracle, a concession for which I could not be too grateful.

"You shall have a happy childhood," I vowed, "no matter what comes
later, you shall remember these days with unalloyed delight. They shall
be your heaven, your fairyland."

Each month I set down in my diary some new phrase, some development,
some significant event in her life, and when she found this out she
loved to have me read what she had said, "When I was a little baby." She
listened gravely, contrasting her ignorance at two with her wisdom at
five. "Was I cute, Daddy? Did you like me then?" she would ask.

She early learned the meaning of Decoration Day, which she called "Flag
Day," and took pride in the fact that her grand-sire was a soldier. Each
year she called for her flag and asked to be taken to the cemetery to
see the decorations and to hear the bugles blow above the graves, and I
always complied; although to me, each year, a more poignant pathos
quavered in the wailing cadence of "Lights out," and the passing of the
veterans, thinning so rapidly--was like the march of men toward their
open graves.

Happily my daughter did not realize any part of this tragic concept. For
her it was natural that a soldier should be old and bent. Waving her
little flag and shouting with silver-sweet voice she saluted with vague
admiration those who were about to die--an age about to die--and in her
eyes flamed the spirit of her grand-sire, the love of country which
will carry the Republic through every storm no matter from which quarter
the wind may spring.

So far as I could, I taught her to take up the traditions which were
about to slip from the hands of Richard Garland and his sons, "She shall
be our representative, the custodian of our faith."

For four years she remained our only child, and yet I can not say that
she was either spoiled or exacting, on the contrary she was a constant,
joyous pupil and a lovely appealing teacher. Through her I rediscovered
the wonder of the sunrise and the stars. In the study of her face the
lost beauty of the rainbow returned to me, in her presence I felt once
more the mystic charm of dusk. I reaccepted the universe, putting aside
the measureless horror of its recorded wars. I grew strangely selfish.
My interests narrowed to my own country, my own home, to my fireside.
Counting upon the world well lost, I built upon my daughter's love.

That my wife was equally happy in her parentage was obvious for at times
she treated Mary Isabel as if she were a doll, spending many hours of
many days designing dainty gowns and hoods for her delight. She could
hardly be separated from the child, even for a night and it was in her
battles with croup and other nocturnal enemies that her maternal love
was tested to the full. I do not assume to know what she felt as a wife,
but of her devotion as a mother I am able to write with certainty. On
her fell the burden of those hours of sickness in the city, and when the
time came for us to go back to the birds and trees of our beloved valley
she rejoiced as openly as her daughter. "Now we shall be free of colds
and fever," she said.

[Illustration: Entirely subject to my daughter, who regarded me as a
wonder-working giant, I paid tribute to her in song, in story, and in
frankincense and myrrh. Led by her trusting little hand I re-
discovered the haunts of fairies and explored once more the land
beneath the rainbow.]

For the most part this was true. For several summers our daughter lived
and throve at her birthplace, free of pain and in idyllic security--and
then suddenly, one September day, like the chill shadow from an Autumn
stormcloud, misfortune fell upon us. Our daughter became sick, how sick
I did not realize until on the eighth day as I took her in my arms I
discovered in her a horrifying weakness. Her little body, thinned with
fever, hung so laxly, so lightly on my knee that my blood chilled with
sudden terror.

With a conviction that I dared not even admit to myself, I put her back
into her mother's keeping and hurried to the telephone. In ten minutes I
had called to her aid the best medical men of the region. Especially did
I appeal to Doctor Evans, who had helped to bring her into the world.
"You must come," I said to him. "It is life or death."

He came, swiftly, but in a few moments after his arrival he gravely
announced the dreadful truth. "Your child is in the last stages of
diphtheria. I will do what I can for her but she should have had the
antitoxin five days ago."

For forty-eight hours our baby's life was despaired of, yet fought for
by a heroic nurse who refused to leave her for a single hour.

Oh, the suspense, the agony of those days and nights, when her mother
and I, helpless to serve, were shut away from her, not even permitted to
look at her. We could do nothing--nothing but wait through the
interminable hours, tortured by the thought that she might be calling
for us. During one entire dreadful night we writhed under one doctor's
sentence, "The child can not live," and in these hours I discovered that
it is the sweetest love that casts the blackest shadow. My joy in my
daughter was an agony of fear and remorse--why had I not acted sooner?

As I imagined my world without that radiant face, that bird-like voice,
I fell into black despair. My only hope was in the nurse, who refused to
give her up. I could not talk or write or think of any other thing. The
child's sufferings filled my mind with an intolerable ache of
apprehension. I had possessed her only a few years and yet she was
already woven into the innermost fibers of my heart.

That night, which I dare not dwell upon, put my youth definitely behind
me. When the blessed word came that she would live, and I was permitted
to look upon her small wasted face, I was a care-worn middle-aged
man--willing to give up any part of my life to win that tiny sufferer
back to health and happiness.

Pitiful little Mary Isabel, pale wraith of my sturdy comrade! When she
lifted her beseeching eyes to me and faintly, fleetingly smiled--unable
to even whisper my name, I, forbidden to speak, could only touch her
cheek with my lips and leave her alone with her devoted nurse--for, so
weak was she that a breath might have blown her away, back into the
endless shadow and silence of the grave.

At that moment I asked myself, "What right have men and women to bring
exquisite souls like this into a world of disease and death? Why
maintain the race? What purpose is subserved by keeping the endless
chain of human misery lengthening on?"

In times like these I was weaker than my wife. I grant her marvelous
fortitude, sustained by something which I did not possess and could not
acquire. She met every crisis. I leaned upon her serenity, her courage,
her faith in the future which was in no sense a religious creed. It was
only a womanly inheritance, something which came down the long line of
her maternal Anglo-Saxon ancestors.

At last the day came when the nurse permitted me to take my daughter
again in my arms and carry her out to the easy chair before the fire.
The moment was perfect. The veil of snow falling without, the leaping
firelight on the hearth, and the presence of my wife and father, united
to fill me with happiness. I became the fond optimist again--the world
was not so black--our year was worthy of Thanksgiving after all.

Nevertheless I was aware that a bitter ineradicable dusk had gathered in
the corners and crannies of the old house. Something depressing,
repellent, was in the air. My sense of joy, my feeling of comfort in its
seclusion were gone.

"Never again will this be a restful home for you or for me," I declared
to my daughter. "Its shadow is now an enemy, its isolation a menace." To
my wife I said, "Let us go back to the city where the highest type of
medical science is at the end of the telephone wire."

She consented, and taking the child in my arms, I left the village with
no intention of ever returning to it. The fire on my family altar seemed
dead, never again to be rekindled.



CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

The Old Soldier Gains a New Granddaughter


For nearly two years I did not even see the Homestead. My aversion to it
remained almost a hatred. The memory of those desolate weeks of
quarantine when my little daughter suffered all the agonies of death,
still lingered over its walls, a poisonous shadow which time alone could
remove. "I shall never live in it again," I repeated to my friends, and
when some one wanted to rent it for the summer I consented--with a
twinge of pain I must confess, for to open it to strangers even for a
few weeks seemed an act of disloyalty to the memory of my mother.

Meanwhile I remained a moderately happy and very busy citizen of
Chicago. Not content with esthetic conditions and in the belief that my
home for years to come must be somewhere in the city's confines, I had
resolved to establish a Club which should be (like the Players in New
York) a meeting place for artists and writers, a rallying point for
Midland Arts. Feeling very keenly the lack of such a rendezvous I said
to Lorado, "I believe the time has come when a successful literary and
artistic club can be established and maintained."

The more I pondered on the situation, the greater the discrepancy
between the Chicago of my day and the Boston of my father's day became.
"Why was it that the Boston of 1860, a city of three hundred thousand
people, should have been so productive of great writers, while this
vast inland metropolis of over two million of people remains almost
negligible in the world of Art and Letters?"

Fuller, who refused, characteristically, to endorse my plan, was openly
discouraging. To him the town was a pestilential slough in which he, at
any rate, was inextricably mired, and though he was not quite so
definite with me, he said to others, "Garland's idea is sure to fail."

Clarkson, Browne and Taft, however, heartily joined my committee, and
the "Cliff Dwellers," a union of workers in the fine arts, resulted. As
president of the organization, I set to work on plans for housing the
club, and for months I was absorbed in this work.

On the eighteenth of June, 1908, in the midst of my work on the club
affairs, another daughter was born to us, a vigorous and shapely babe,
with delicate limbs, gray eyes, and a lively disposition, and while my
wife, who came through this ordeal much better than before, was debating
a choice of names for her, Mary Isabel gravely announced that she had
decided to call her sister "Marjorie Christmas," for the reason, as she
explained, that these were the nicest names she knew. Trusting first
born!--she did not realize the difference which this new-found playmate
was about to make in her life, and her joy in being permitted to hold
the tiny stranger in her arms was pathetic.

My own attitude toward "Marjorie Christmas" was not indifferent but I
did not receive her with the same intensity of interest with which I had
welcomed my first child. Her place was not waiting for her as was the
case of Mary Isabel. She was a lovely infant and perhaps I would have
taken her to my arms with keen paternal pride had it not been for the
realization that in doing so I was neglecting her sister whose
comradeship with me had been so close (so full of exquisite moments)
that it could not be transferred to another daughter, no matter how
alluring. A second child is--a second child.

To further complicate our problem, Constance (as we finally called her),
passed under the care of a nursemaid, and for two years I had very
little to do with her. I seldom sang this child to sleep as I had done
countless times with Mary Isabel. She did not ride on the crook of my
elbow, or climb on my back, or look at picture books with me, until she
was nearly three years old. We regained her, but we could not regain the
hours of companionship we had sacrificed. This experience enables me to
understand the unhappiness which comes to so many homes, in which the
children are only boarders, foundlings in the care of nurses and
governesses. My poverty, my small dwelling have given me the most
precious memories of my daughters in their childish innocence.

[Connie, who is now as tall as her mother and signs her drawings
"Constance Hamlin Garland" is looking over my shoulder at this moment
with a sly smile. It has long been known to her that she was, for
several years, very much "in the discard" but she does not hold it
against me. She knows that it would be hard for me to make a choice
between my two jewels to-day--I allude to them as mine because I am
writing this book. My wife has a different angle of vision concerning
them.]

My father came down from West Salem to see this second granddaughter,
and on the whole, approved of her, although his tenderest interest, like
mine, remained with Mary Isabel, who was now old enough to walk and talk
with him. To watch her trotting along the street with that white-haired
warrior, her small hand linked with his, was to gain a deeply moving
sense of the continuity of life. How slender the link between the
generations appears in such a case!

Nothing, not even the birth of a new grandchild, could divert my father
from his accustomed round of city sight-seeing. As in other times, so
now he again demanded to be shown the Stockyards, the Wheat Pit, the
Masonic Temple and Lincoln Park. I groaned but I consented.

It happened that Ira Morris, one of the owners of the Stockyards, was an
acquaintance, and the courtesy and attentions which were shown us gave
the old farmer immense satisfaction--and when he found that Frank Logan,
of "Logan & Bryan," (a Commission firm to which he had been wont to send
his wheat) was also my friend, he began to find in my Chicago life
certain compensating particulars, especially as in his presence I
assumed a prosperity I did not possess.

On paper I sounded fairly well. I was one of the vice-presidents of the
National Institute of Arts and Letters. I had a "Town house" as well as
a "country place," and under cover of the fact that very few of my
friends had ever inspected both properties, I was able in some degree to
camouflage my situation. In the city I alluded casually to "my Wisconsin
Homestead," and when in West Salem I referred with quiet affluence to
"my residence in Woodlawn." Explaining that it was a three story house I
passed lightly over the fact that it was only eighteen feet wide!
Similarly, in speaking of "our country home" I did not explain to all my
friends that it was merely an ugly old farmhouse on the edge of a
commonplace village. I stated the truth in each case but not the whole
truth.

If my city friend, Charles Hutchinson, imagined me spending my summers
in a noble mansion on the bank of a shining river it was not my duty to
shock him by declaring that there was no water in sight and that my
garden was only a truck patch. On the other hand, if my neighbors in
West Salem thought of me as living in a handsome brick mansion in
Chicago, and writing my stories in a spacious study walled with books, I
was not obliged to undeceive them.

Fuller, alas! knew all the facts in both cases, and so did Ernest
Seton, who had visited us in the country as well as in our city home.
Fuller not only knew the ins and outs of my houses; he was also aware
that my royalties were dwindling and that my wife was forced to get
along with one servant and that we used the street cars habitually.

Being president of the Cliff Dwellers was an honor, but the distinction
carried with it something of the responsibility of a hotel-keeper as
well as the duties of a lecture agent, for one of our methods in
building up attendance at the Club, was to announce special luncheons in
honor of distinguished visitors from abroad, and the task of arranging
these meetings fell usually to me. In truth, the activities of the club
took a large part of my time and carried a serious distraction from my
work, but I welcomed the diversion, and was more content in my Chicago
residence than I had been for several years.

Whenever I spoke to Zulime of my failure as a money-getter she loyally
declared herself rich in what I had given her, although she still rode
to grand dinners in the elevated trains, carrying her slippers in a bag.
It was her patient industry, her cheerful acceptance of endless
household drudgery which kept me clear of self-conceit. I began to
suspect that I would never be able to furnish her with a better home
than that which we already owned, and this suspicion sometimes robbed me
of rest.

This may seem to some of my readers an unworthy admission on the part of
a man of letters but it is a perfectly natural and in a sense, logical
result of my close associations with several of the most successful
writers and artists of my day. It was inevitable that while contrasting
my home with theirs, I should occasionally fall into moods of
self-disparagement, almost of despair.

To see my wife (whom everybody admired) wearing thread-bare cloaks and
home-made gowns, to watch her making the best of our crowded little
dining-room with its pitiful furniture and its sparse silver, were
constant humiliations, an accusation which embittered me especially as I
saw no prospect of ever providing anything more worthy of her care.

For a woman of taste, wearing made-over gowns is a very real hardship,
but Zulime bore her deprivations with heroic cheerfulness, taking a
never-failing delight in our narrow home. She made our table a notable
meeting place, for, if we had few dollars we owned many friends who
found their way to us, and often from our commonplace little portal we
plodded away in the rain or snow to dine in the stately palaces of the
rich,--kings of commerce and finance.

Apparently we were everywhere welcome, and that this was due almost
entirely to the winning personality of my wife, I freely acknowledge.
That she had scores of devoted admirers was only too evident, for the
telephone bell rang almost continuously of a morning. Always ready to
give her time, her skill and her abounding sympathy to those who made
piteous demands upon her, she permitted these incessant telephone
interruptions, although I charged her with being foolishly prodigal in
this regard. If she felt resentful of the narrow walls in which I had
confined her, she did not complain.

Whatever my wife's state of mind may have been these were restless years
for me. As an officer of several organizations and as lecturer, I was
traveling much of the time, mostly on the trail between New York City
and Chicago. Even when at home I had only three morning hours for
writing--but that was not the worst of it. My convictions concerning my
literary mission were in process of disintegration.

My children, my manifold duties as theatrical up-lifter and club
promoter, together with a swift letting down of my mental and physical
powers, caused me to question the value of all my writing. I went so
far as to say, "As a writer I have failed. Perhaps I can be of service
as a citizen," with my Oklahoma farms bringing in a small annual income,
the scrape of my pen became a weariness.

That I was passing from robust manhood to middle age was also evident to
me and I didn't like that. I resented deepening wrinkles, whitening
hairs and the sense of weariness which came over me at the end of my
morning's work. My power of concentration was lessening. Noises
irritated me and little things distracted me. I could no longer bend to
my desk for five hours in complete absorption. How my wife endured me
during those years I can not explain. The chirp of my babies' voices,
the ring of the telephone, the rattle of the garbage cart, the whistle
of the postman--each annoyance chopped into my composition, and as my
afternoons and evenings had no value in a literary way, I was often
completely defeated for the day. Altogether and inevitably my work as a
fictionist sank into an unimportant place. I was on the down-grade, that
was evident. Writing was a tiresome habit. I was in a rut and longing to
get out--to be forced out.

The annual dinner of the Institute of Arts and Letters that year was not
cheering. With the loss of four members, Stedman, Aldrich, MacDowell and
St. Gaudens, I realized as never before the swift changes at work in
American letters. It was my duty and my privilege to speak that night in
memory of MacDowell who had so often been my seat-mate, and as I looked
around that small circle of familiar faces, a scene of loss, a
perception of decay came over me like a keen wind from out a desolate
landscape. On every head the snows had thickened, on every face a shadow
rested. All--all were hastening to be history.

       *       *       *       *       *

From that circle of my elders in the East, I returned to my children in
the West with a sense of returning to the future. The radiant joy of
Mary Isabel's face as I displayed her presents, a ring and a story book,
restored me to something like a normal faith in the world. "Wead to me,
wead to me!" was now her insistent plea, and putting aside all other
concerns I turned the pages of her new book, realizing that to her the
universe was still a great and never-ending fairy tale, and her Daddy a
wonder-working magician, an amiable ogre. Her eager voice, her raptured
attention enabled me to recover, for a moment, a wholesome faith and joy
in my world--a world which was growing gray and wan and cold with
terrifying swiftness.

"Your childhood shall be as happy as my powers will permit," I vowed
once again as I looked into her uplifted face. "You shall have only
pleasant memories of me," and in this spirit I gave her the best of
myself. I taught her to read, I told her stories which linked her mind
with that of her pioneer grandmother, filling her brain with traditions
of the middle border. Dear little daughter, her daddy was veritably a
nobleman, her mother a queen--in those days!

My wife says that for ten years I was always either on the point of
going somewhere, or just returning, and as I turn the pages of my
diaries, I find this to be true, but also I find frequent mention of
meetings with John Burroughs, Bacheller, Gilder, Alexander, Madame
Modjeska, William Vaughn Moody and many others of my friends
distinguished in the arts.

All my publishing interests and most of my literary friends were in New
York (my support came from there), hence my frequent coming and going.
Whether this constant change, these sudden and violent contrasts in my
way of life strengthened my fictional faculty or weakened it, I can not
say, but I do know that as the head of a family I found concentrated
effort increasingly difficult and at times very nearly impossible.
Constance was ailing for a year, and was a source of care, of pain to
me, as to her mother. At times, many times, her sufferings filled me
with a passionate pity, a sense of rage, of helplessness. Indeed both
children were subject to throat and lung disorders, especially when in
the city.

Oh, those cruel coughing spells, those nights of burning fever, those
alarming hours of stupor or of terrifying delirium! "Can science find no
check upon these recurrent forms of disease?" I demanded of our doctor.
"Must humanity forever suffer the agonies of diphtheria and pneumonia?
If so why bring children into the world?"

We always knew when these disorders had set in, we knew all the signs
but no medicine availed to stop their progress. Each attack ran its
course in spite of nurse and drug whilst I raged helplessly and Zulime
grew hollow-eyed with anxious midnight vigil. Death was a never-absent
hovering shadow when those bitter winter winds were blowing, and
realizing this I came to hate the great desolate city in which we lived,
and to long with the most passionate ardor for the coming of April's
sun.

One of the first signs of spring (so far as Mary Isabel was concerned)
was the opening of the "White City," a pleasure park near us, and the
second event quite as conclusive and much more exciting was the coming
of the circus. These were the red letter days in her vernal calendar,
and were inescapable outings, for her memory was tenacious. Each May she
demanded to be taken to the "Fite City" and later "the Kings and Queens"
and "the fairies" of the circus claimed her worship. Together we saw
these glorious sights, which filled her little soul with rapture.

For two years my estrangement from the old Homestead was complete, but
when one April day I found myself passing it on my way to St. Paul, I
was constrained to stop off just to see how my father and the garden
were coming on.

This was late April, and the day warm, windless and musical with sounds
of spring. The maples and the elms had adorned themselves with most
bewitching greens, the dandelions beckoned from sunny banks, and through
the radiant mist, the nesting birds were calling. In a flood, all the
ancient witchery of the valley, all of the Homestead's loveliest
associations came back to soften my mood, to regain my love. Wrought
upon by the ever-returning youth of the world--a world to which my
daughters were akin, I relented, "We will come back. Cruel as some of
its memories are, this is home, I belong here, and so does Mary Isabel."

The sunlight streaming into my mother's chamber lay like a fairy carpet
on the floor, waiting for the dancing feet of her grandchildren. Her
spirit filled the room, calling to me, consoling me, convincing me.

All day I worked at trimming vines, and planting flowers while the
robins chuckled from the lawn, and the maples expanded overhead. How
spacious and wide and safe the yard appeared, a natural playground for
the use of children.

And so it came about that on June seventeenth, just before Constance's
second birthday, Mary Isabel and I took the night train for West Salem,
leaving Zulime and the nurse to follow next morning. Greatly excited at
the prospect of going to sleep on the cars my daughter went to her bed.
"I kick for joy," she said, her eyes shining with elfin delight.

She loved the "little house" as she called her berth, and for an hour
she lay peering out at the moon. "It follows us!" she cried out in
pleased surprise.

"Yes, it is a kindly moon. It will keep right along overhead all the way
to West Salem. But you must go to sleep now. I shall call you early in
the morning to meet Grandfather."

She was a reasonable soul, entirely confident of my care, and so,
putting her head on my arm, she went away to dreamland. At such times
my literary ambitions and failures were of no account. [To wish myself
back there with that tiny form beside me is folly--but I do--I do!]

In the cool lusciousness of the June morning we met Grandpa, and as we
entered the gate of the Homestead (which Mary Isabel only dimly
remembered), I said, "This is your home, daughter, you belong here."

"Can I pick the flowers? Can I walk on the grass?" she asked quickly.

"Yes, pick all you want. You can _roll_ on the grass if you wish."

Too excited to eat any breakfast, she ran from posy bed to posy bed, and
from tree to tree, indefatigable as a bee or humming-bird. At five in
the afternoon Zulime and Constance came.

In the weeks which followed I renewed my childhood. To Mary Isabel as to
me at her age, the cornfield was a vast mysterious forest, and the
rainbow an overpowering miracle.

"Don't they have rainbows in the city?" she asked one evening as we were
watching a glorious arch fade out of the sky above the hills.

"Not such big beautiful double ones," I replied. "They haven't room for
them in the city."

She took the same delight in the flame and flare of the Fourth of July
which I once owned. She loved to walk in the fields. Snakes, bugs, worms
and spiders enthralled her. Each hour brought its vivid message, its
wonder and its delight, and when now and again she was allowed to
explore the garden with me at night, the murk and the stars, and the
stealthily moving winds in the corn, scared, awed her. At such moments
the universe was a delicious mystery. Keeping close hold upon my hand
she whispered with excitement, "What was that, Poppie? What was that
noise? Was it a gnome?"

For her I built a "House" high in the big maple, and there she often
climbed, spending many happy hours singing to her dollies or conning
over her picture books. Her face shone down upon me radiant with life's
ecstasy. Baby Constance was to her a toy, a doll, I was her companion,
her playmate. The garden seemed fashioned for her uses, and whenever I
saw her among the flowers or sitting on the lawn, I forgot my writing,
realizing that these were golden days for me as well as for her,--days
that would pass like waves of light across the wheat.

Together with Zulime I received the house back into my affection. Once
more I thought of it as something permanent, a sure refuge in time of
trouble. It gave us both a comforting sense of security to know that we
could, at need, come back to it and live in comfort. With no hope of
attaining a larger income, saving money was earning money for us both.
In this spirit I put in another bathroom, and enlarged the
dining-room--doing much of the work with my own hands.

Nothing could be more idyllic than our daily routine that summer. Our
diversions, dependent on a love of odorous fields, colorful hills and
fruitful vines, were of arcadian content. Our wealth expressed in nuts
and apples and berries was ample. With Mary Isabel I assumed that wild
grapes were enormously important articles of food. "Without them we
might grow hungry this winter," I warned her. In this spirit we
harvested, intent as chipmunks.

After the nurse left us the two children slept together on an upstairs
screened-in porch, and every night, just before they went to sleep, it
was my habit to visit them. Lying down between them with a small head on
each arm, I told them stories or answered the questions which were
suggested by the trees and the sky. "What are stars? What makes the moon
spotted? What does iron come from? How do people make wall paper?" and
many others equally elemental. It was a tender hour for me and a
delicious one for them.

Gradually as they grew older, they fell into the habit of saying, "Now
tell us about when you were a little boy," and so I was led to freshen
up on _A Son of the Middle Border_, which I had begun to rewrite. They
could never get enough of these reminiscences and when, at nine o'clock,
I said, "Daughties, you must go to sleep," they pleaded for "Just one
more," and from this interest I derived a foolish hope that the book, if
it should ever get published, would be successful.

It was sweet to hear those soft voices demanding an explanation of the
universe whose wonders they were rediscovering in their turn. Every
changing season, every expanding leaf was magical to them. A bat
skittering about the chimney, the rustle of a breeze in the maples, were
of sinister significance requiring explanation, and when at last I went
away and they began to softly sing their wistful little evening prayer,
one which Mary Isabel had composed, life seemed worthwhile even to me. I
forgot the irrevocable past and confronted old age with composure.

Meanwhile my father's mind was becoming more and more reminiscent. His
stories once so vivid and so full of detail had narrowed down to a few
familiar phrases. "Just then Sherman and his staff came riding along,"
or "When I was camped on the upper waters of the Wisconsin." His memory
was failing and so was his sense of hearing. He seldom quoted from a
book, but he still cited Blaine's speeches or referred to Lincoln's
anecdotes, and certain of Grant's phrases were often on his lips. In all
his interests he remained objective, concerned with the world of action
not with the library, and while he made no effort to talk down to Mary
Isabel, he contrived to win her adoration, perhaps because she detected
in his voice his adoring love for her. In the mist of his glance was
the tender worship of youth on the part of age.

Always of a Sunday we sang for him and sometimes Uncle Frank, the last
of the McClintocks, gray haired and lean and bent, came in with his
fiddle and played while the children danced in the light of our fire, so
lithe, so happy, so fairy-like in their loveliness that he and Lorette
sat in silence, a silence which was at once tender and tragic. There was
something alien as well as marvelous in the dramatic movements of those
small forms.

Witnessing such scenes, moved by something elemental in their decay, I
continued to brood over the manuscript which was to be a kind of
autobiography, the blended story of the vicissitudes of the Garlands and
the McClintocks. At times I worked upon it to the exclusion of all else,
and when I read a part of the tale to Mary Isabel and found that she
understood it and liked it, I was heartened.

Consider this! I now had a daughter to whom I could read my manuscript!
Where did that personality come from? Was her soul merely the automatic
reaction of a material organism against a material environment? Was her
spirit dependent on the life of its little body or could it live on
independent of the flesh? Acknowledging the benumbing, hopeless mystery
of it all, I continued to live for my children, finding in them my
comfort and my justification.

I have never known anything more perfect than some of those mid-August
days when on some woodland slope, we gathered the luscious musky fruit
of wild blackberry vines and at our camp fire broiled our steak and made
our coffee for our evening, open-air meal.

There were no flies, no mosquitoes, no snakes, and the hillsides were
abloom with luscious shining berries, berries so ripe they fell into our
hands with the slightest touch, and so tender that they melted in our
mouths. The wind filled with the odor of yellowing corn, and the smell
of nuts and leaves, carried our songs to the mist-filled valley below
us, and the children playing on the smooth sward found our world a
paradise.

As the cool dusk began to cover the farms below us, we sang "Juanita"
and "Kentucky Home" and told our last stories while the children lay at
our feet, silent with rapture as I used to be, in similar circumstances,
forty years before.

And then when the fire had died down and sleepy babies were ready to
turn their faces bedward, we drove slowly down the winding lane to the
dust-covered bridge, past the small cemetery where mother was sleeping,
back to where the broad-roofed old house was waiting for us like some
huge, faithful creature yearning to receive us once again beneath its
wings. It was commonplace to our neighbors and without special
significance to the world, but to my children it was noble and beautiful
and poetic--it was home.



CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

"Cavanagh" and the "Winds of Destiny"


No doubt the reader has come to the conclusion, at this point, that my
habits as an author were not in the least like those of Burroughs or
Howells. There has never been anything cloistered about my life, on the
contrary my study has always been a point of departure rather than a
cell of meditation. From Elm Street, from the Homestead, I frequently
darted away to the plains or the Rocky Mountains, keenly aware of the
fact that the miner and cattleman, the trapper and the trailer were
being pushed into ever remoter valleys by the men of the hoe and the
spade, and that the customs and habits which the mountaineer had
established were about to pass, precisely as the blossoming prairies had
long since been broken and fenced and made commonplace by the plow.

That the destruction of the eagle and the mountain lion marked another
stage of that remorseless march which is called civilization I fully
recognized and--in a certain sense--approved, although the raising of
billions of hens and pigs admittedly useful, was not to me an inspiring
employment of human energy. The long-horn white-faced steer was more
picturesque than a "Mooly" cow.

Doubtless a dairyman is a more valuable citizen in the long run than a
prospector or miner, but he does not so easily appeal to the
imagination. To wade irrigating ditches, hoe in hand, is not
incompatible with the noblest manhood, but it is none the less true that
men riding the trail or exploring ledges of quartz are more alluring
characters to the novelist--at least that was the way I felt in 1909
when I began to shape another book concerning the great drama which was
going on in the forests of the High Country.

For more than fifteen years, while trailing among the mountains of
Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, I had seen the Forest Service, under
Gifford Pinchot's leadership, gradually getting into effect. I had seen
the silver miner disappear and the army of forest rangers grow from a
handful of hardy cowboys and "lonesome men" into a disciplined force of
over two thousand young foresters who represented in some degree the
science and the patriotism of their chief.

As in _Hesper_ and _The Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_ I had attempted
to depict certain types of the red men, miners and ranchers. I now began
to study the mountain vedettes from the point of view of the Forest
Ranger, a federal officer who represented our newly acquired ideals of
Conservation, and whose duty it was to act as custodian of the National
Forests. I decided to write a novel which should, in some degree,
delineate the heroic side of this warden's solitary life as I had seen
it and shared it in a half-dozen forests in Colorado, Wyoming and
Montana.

In this writing I put myself at the opposite pole from the scenes of
_The Shadow World_, a study of psychic phenomena with which I had been
deeply involved for a year or more. From dark cabinets in murky seance
chambers, from contact with morbid, death-fearing, light-avoiding
residents of crowded apartments, I now found myself riding once again
ten thousand feet above sea level with men who "took chances" almost
every hour of their lives--not from any reckless defiance of death but
merely by way of duty, men who lived alone and rode alone, men in whose
ears the mountain streams as they fell from the white silences of the
snows, uttered songs of exultation. In the presence of these hardy
trailers the doings of darkened seance rooms seemed morbid, if not
actually insane.

The stark heroism of these forest guards, their loyalty to a far-off
chieftain (whom they knew only by name) appealed to me with increasing
power. Their problem became my problem. More than this they kindled my
admiration, for many of them possessed the cowboy's masterful skill with
bronchos, his deft handling of rope and gun and the grace which had
made him the most admired figure in our literature,--but in addition to
all this, they had something finer, something which the cowboy often
lacked. At their best they manifested the loyalty of soldiers. Heedful
of the Federal Government, they strove to dispense justice over the
lands which had been allotted to their care, and their flags--the Stars
and Stripes--as I came upon them fluttering from the peaks of their
cabins were to me the guidons of a new and valiant skirmish line. They
were of the Border in a new and noble sense. In short the Federal Ranger
was a hero made to my hand.

Not all the soldiers in the service were of this large mold, I admit,
but many of those I had met did possess precisely the qualities I have
outlined. Ready, cheerful, undaunted in the face of danger, some of them
had the capacity for lonely action which rendered them as admirable in
their way as any of the long line of frontiersmen who had made the
winning of the West an epic of singular hardihood. To fight cold and
snow and loneliness during long months, with no one looking on, calls
for stern resolution. Such work is directly antithetic to that of the
city fireman who goes to his duties with a crowd looking on. The ranger
has only his own conscience as spectator. For many weeks he does not
even see his supervisor.

To the writing of _Cavanagh_ I came, therefore, in the spirit of one who
had discovered not only a new hero but the reverse side of the
squatter's shield. Just as in my studies for _The Captain of the Gray
Horse Troop_, I had come upon the seamy side of the cattleman's
activity, so now I perceived that many of the men who had settled on the
national forests were merely adventurers trying to get something for
nothing. To filch Uncle Sam's gold, to pasture on his grass, to dig his
coal and seize his water-power--these were the real designs of the
claim-holders, while the ranger was in effect a federal policeman, the
guardian of a domain whose wealth was the heritage of us all. He was the
prophet of a new order, the evangel of a new faith.

The actual composition of _Cavanagh_ began as I was riding the glorious
trails around Cloud Peak in the Big Horn Mountains of northern Wyoming
in the summer of 1908, one of the most beautiful of all my outings, for
while the Big Horns are low and tame compared to the Wind River Range,
yet the play of their lights and shadows, their clouds, and their mist
was as romantic as anything I had ever encountered.

I recall riding alone down the eastern slope one afternoon, while
prodigious rivers of cloud--white as wool and soundless as
light--descended the cañon on my right and spread above the foothills,
forming a level sea out of which the high dark peaks rose like rocky
islands. This flood came so swiftly, flowed so marvelously and enveloped
my world so silently that the granite ledges appeared to melt beneath my
horse's feet.

At times the vapor closed densely round me, shutting out even the rocks
of the trail and as I cautiously descended, I almost bumped astonished
steers whose heads burst from the mist as if through a covered hoop. The
high granite crags on the opposite side of the ravine took on the shapes
of ruined castles seated on sloping shores by foaming seas, their smooth
lawns reaching to the foam.

At one point, as I came out upon a ledge which overlooked the valley, I
perceived my horse's shadow floating on the phantom ocean far below me,
a dark equestrian statue encircled with a triple-ringed halo of fire. In
all my mountain experiences I had never seen anything so marvelous.

At another time while riding up the trail, I perceived above my head a
far-stretching roof of seamless cloud. As I rose, coming closer and
closer to it, it seemed a ceiling just above my reach, then my head
merged in it. A kind of dry mist surrounded me--and for ten or fifteen
minutes I mounted through this luminous, strangely shrouding, all
pervasive, mountain cloud. My horse, feeling his way with cautious care,
steadily mounted and soon we burst out into the clear sunlight above.
While still the mist curled about my horse's hoofs, I looked across a
shoreless ocean with only Cloud Peak and its granite crags looming above
its surface.

I describe these two spectacular effects out of many others merely to
suggest the splendors which inspired me, and which, as I imagined,
enriched the daily walk of the forest guard. "To get into my story some
part of this glory, my hero must be something of a nature lover--as many
rangers are," I argued, and this was true. Before a man will consent to
ride the lonely road which leads to his cabin high in the forest, he
must not only have a heart which thrills to the wonder of the lonely
places, he must be self-sufficing and fearless. I rode with several such
men and out of my experiences with them I composed the character of
_Ross Cavanagh_.

The actual writing of this novel was begun on my forty-ninth birthday at
my desk in the old Homestead, and I started off with enthusiasm
notwithstanding the fact that Fuller, who was visiting me at the time,
expressed only a tepid interest in my "theme." "Why concern yourself
with forestry?" he asked. "No one wants to read about the ranger and
his problems. Grapple with Chicago--or New York. That's the only way to
do a 'best seller.'"

Henry always amused me but never so much as when tolerating rural joys.
He was the exact opposite of my _Cavanagh_. Everything pastoral wearied
him or irritated him. The "yelping" of the robins, the "drone" of the
katydids, the "eternal twitter" of the sparrows infuriated him. The
"accursed roosters" unseasonably wakened him in the morning, the "silly
cackle" of the chickens prevented him from writing. Flowers bored him
and the weather was always too cold or too hot, too damp or too dusty.
Butterflies filled him with pessimistic forebodings of generations of
cabbage worms. Moths suggested ruined coat collars--only at night,
before our fire, with nature safely and firmly shut out, did he regain
his customary and charming humor.

He belonged to the brick pavement, the electric-car line. He did not
mind being awakened by the "twitter" of a milk cart. The "yelp" of the
ice man, the snort of a six o'clock switch engine and the "cackle" of a
laundry wagon formed for him a pleasant morning symphony. The clatter of
an elevated train was with him the normal accompaniment of dawn, but the
poetry of the pastoral--well, it didn't exist, that's all--except in
"maudlin verses of lying sentimentalists." "I'm like George Ade's clerk:
I never enjoy my vacation till I get back to the city."

To all such diatribes Zulime and I gave delighted ear. We rejoiced in
his comment, for we did not believe a word of it, it was all a part of
Henry's delightful perversity.

For six consecutive weeks I bent to the work of writing my novel
undisturbed. A peaceful season which I shall long remember, for almost
every afternoon, when the weather permitted, we joined the Dudleys and
McKees and drove to some lovely spot on the river bank or sought out
some half-hidden spring at the far end of a coulee and there, while the
children picked nuts or apples and the women read magazines or stitched,
George Dudley and I lighted our fire and broiled our steak. Nothing
could be simpler, homelier, more wholesome, than this life, and I was
able to do nearly half my story before a return to Chicago became
necessary.

Practically all of the spring months of 1910 were given to revising and
proof-reading _Cavanagh, Forest Ranger_, which had genuinely interested
me and which should have been as important in my scheme of delineating
the West as _The Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_, but it wasn't. It was
too controversial, and besides I did not give it time enough. I should
have taken another year to it--but I didn't. I permitted myself to be
hurried by Duneka, who was (like most publishers) enslaved to a program.
By April it was off my hands.

After the last page of this proof was returned to the printer a sense of
weakness, of age, a feeling altogether new to me, led me to say to
Fuller, "I shall never do another book. I have finished what I started
out to do, I have pictured certain broad phases of the West as I know
it, and I'm done. I am out of commission."

Fuller, who had been of this mood for several years, was not content to
have me assume a despairing attitude. "You're just tired, that's all,"
he insisted. "You'll come to a new theme soon."

       *       *       *       *       *

Movement is swift on the Border. Nothing endures for more than a
generation. No family really takes root. Every man is on his way. Cities
come and builders go. Unfinished edifices are left behind in order that
something new and grander may be started. Some other field is better
than the one we are reaping. I do not condemn this, I believe in it. It
is America's genius. We are all experimenters, pioneers, progressives.

For years I had in mind to write a book to be called _The Winds of
Destiny_, in which I should take up one by one the differing careers of
my classmates and friends who had found our little prairie town too
narrow and too poor to afford them fullest action. I never got to it,
but from time to time I found some new material for it--material which,
alas! I can not now find imagination enough to vitalize.

For example: One morning during a stay in New York, I found among my
letters a note from an almost forgotten school-fellow, inviting me to
dine with himself and wife at the Ritzdorf. The name on this note-head
developed on the negative plate of my memory, the picture of two
shock-headed, slender-legged schoolboys pacing solemnly, regularly,
morning after morning, into the campus of the Seminary in Osage, Iowa.
Their arms were always laden with books, their big brows bulging with
thought. Invariably marching side by side like a faithful team of
horses, turning aside neither to fight nor to play, they provoked
laughter.

They were the sons of a farmer (a man of small means, who lived a mile
or two from the village), and although they were familiar figures in the
school they could hardly be said to be a part of it. Their poverty,
their homespun trousers which were usually too short and too tight, and
their poverty together with a natural shyness, kept them out of school
affairs, although they were always at the top of their classes. To me
they were worthy--though a bit grotesque.

My letter of invitation was from the younger of these boys, and having
accepted his invitation, I was a bit in doubt as to what I should wear,
for he had written, "with Mrs. Roberts and myself," and something in the
tone of the letter had decided me to play safe. I put on evening dress,
and it was well I did, for Ben met me in irreproachable dinner coat and
presented his wife, a handsome and beautifully gowned woman, quite in
the manner of a city-bred host. No one looking at us as we sat at our
flower-decked table would have imagined that he or I had ever been
plow-boys of the Middle Border.

As the dinner went on I lost all my conviction that the preternaturally
solemn, heavy-footed lad of 1880 was in any way connected with this rich
middle-aged inventor, but then he was probably having the same
difficulty relating me with the beardless senior of 1881.

On the surface our dinner was a pleasant and rather conventional
meeting, and yet the more it is dwelt upon the more significant it
becomes. Starting from almost the same point, with somewhat similar
handicaps, we two had "arrived," though at widely separated goals. Each
of our courses was characteristically American, and each was in
demonstration--for the millionth time--of the magic power of the open
lands.

In the free air of the Middle Border, this man's genius for inventing
had full power of expansion, and in result he was in possession of a
fortune, whilst I, in my literary way, had won what my kindest critics
called success--by another kind of service. My position though less
secure and far less remunerative, was none the less honorable--that I
shall insist on saying even though I must admit that in the eyes of my
Seminary classmates the inventor made the handsomer showing. As the
owner of a patent bringing in many thousands of dollars per year in
royalty he had certain very definite claims to respect which I lacked.
My home in contrast with his would have seemed very humble. Measured by
material things, his imagination had proved enormously more potent than
mine.

This meeting not only led me to re-value my own achievement, it brought
up to me with peculiar pathos the career of another classmate, my
comrade Burton Babcock, whom I (in 1898) had left standing on the bank
of the Stickeen River in Alaska. He, too, was characteristically
American. He had carried out his plan. After leading his pack train
across the divide to the upper waters of the Yukon, he had built a raft
and floated down the Hotalinqua. He had been frozen in, and had spent
the winter in a windowless hut in the deep snow of an arctic
landscape--and when, after incredible hardships, he had reached the
Klondike, he had found himself almost as far from a gold claim as ever.
All the mines were monopolized.

For the next four years he had alternately worked for wages and
prospected for himself. One year he had "mushed" in the Copper River
Country and later in the Tanana. In these explorations he went alone,
and once he sledged far within the Arctic circle with only two dogs to
keep him company. He became one of the most daring and persistent
prospectors and yet he had always been just a little too late. He had
never shared in any of the big strikes.

At last, after five years of this disheartening life, he had succeeded
in breaking away from the fatal lure of the North. Returning to
Anacortes on Puget Sound, he had taken up the threads of his life at the
point where he had dropped them, to meet me, at Ashcroft, in '98, and on
my little daughter's wrist was a bracelet, a string of nuggets, which
represented all that he had been able to win from the desolate North.

He left his youth in Alaska. He was an old and broken man when he landed
in Seattle, a silent, gray and introspective philosopher. Seeking out
the cabin he had built on the Skagit River, he resumed his residence
there, solitary and somber. In winter he cooked for a nearby lumber
camp, in summer he served as watchman for an electric power company,
patient, faithful, brooding over his books, austere, taciturn, mystical.

He read much on occult subjects, and corresponded ceaselessly with a
certain school of esoteric philosophy, reaching at last a lofty
serenity which approached content. He wrote me that the men of the
lumber camp spoke of him as a "queer old cuss," but that disturbed him
not at all. To me, however, he uttered his mind freely, and as I
followed him thus, in imagination, remembering him as he once was, my
graceful companion on the bright Iowa prairie, my sense of something
futile in his whole life was deepened into pain.

His letters contained no complaint. He dwelt mainly upon his trips into
the forest (occasional vacations from repulsive labor), but I was able
to infer from a word here and there, his detestation of the coarse jests
and senseless arguments of his "Siwash" companions. His philosophy
prevented repining; but he could not entirely conceal his moods of
loneliness, of defeat.

My heart ached as I thought of him, wearing his life away in the
solitude of the forest, or in waiting on a crowd of unthinking lumber
jacks, but I could do little to aid him. I had sent him books and loaned
him money whenever he would accept it (which was seldom), and I had
offered each year to bring him back to the Middle West and put him on a
farm; but to all these suggestions he continued to repeat, "I can't
bring myself to it. I can't return, a defeated explorer."

Like my uncle David, he preferred to walk the path he had chosen, no
matter to what depth it might descend.

Not long after this meeting with Ben and while I was still absorbed in
youthful memories, dreaming of my prairie comrades, a letter came to me
from Blanche Babcock, telling me that her brother Burton, my boyhood
chum, my companion on The Long Trail to the Yukon, had crossed the Wide
Dark River, and with this news, a sense of heavy loss darkened my day.
It was as if a part, and no small part, of my life had slipped away from
me, irrecoverably, into a soundless abyss.

For more than forty years this singular soul had been a subject of my
care (at times he had been closer to me than my own brother), and now he
had vanished from the tangible realities of his mountain home into the
unmapped region whose blind trails we had so often manfully discussed.

By all the laws which his family recognized, his life was a failure. To
Ben Roberts he was a derelict--and yet to me a kind of elemental dignity
lay in the attitude he had maintained when surrounded by coarse and
ignorant workmen. He remained unmoved, uncontaminated. His mind
inhabited a calm inner region beyond the reach of any coarse word or
mocking phrase. Growing ever more mystical as he grew older he had gone
his lonely way bent and gray and silent, a student of the forest and the
stream. So far as I know he never uttered a bitter or despairing word,
and when the final great boundary river confronted him he entered it
with the same courage with which he ferried the Yukon or crossed the ice
fields of Iskoot.

It happened that on the day this news came to me one of my Chicago
friends sent their beautiful motor car to fetch Zulime and me to the
opera, and as the children saw us in our evening dress, they cried out,
"Oh papa, mama is a queen and you look like a king!" Thus it happened
that I rode away in a luxury which I had not earned at the very moment
when my faithful trail-mate, after toiling all his life, was passing to
his grave wifeless, childless and unknown.

"I wish I could have shared just a little of my good fortune with him,"
I said to Zulime, who really was as stately as a queen. But the best of
all my possessions I would not, could not, share with any one--I mean
the adoration of my little daughters to whom I possessed the majesty of
an emperor.

    "Here his trail ends. Here by the landing I wait the
      same oar--the slow, silent one.
    We each go alone--no man with another,
    Each into the gloom of the swift, black flood.
    Burt, it is hard, but here we must sever.
    The gray boatman waits, and you--you go first.
    All is dark over there where the dim boat is rocking,
    But that is no matter--no trailer need fear,
    For clearly we're told, the powers which lead us,
    Will govern the game till the end of the day.
    Good-by!--Here the trail ends!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Christmas came this year with special significance. Two pairs of eager
eyes now peered at all bundles which came into the house. The faith and
love and eager hope of my daughters made amends for the world's lack of
interest in my writings. They and their mother were my wealth, their
love compensated me for the slender dribble of my royalties.

"Our Christmas shall be as happy as that of any millionaire," was the
thought which actuated me in the purchase and decoration of our tree.
Wealth was highly desirable, but absurd as it may seem I had no desire
to change places with any merchant or banker. The foolish notion that
something historical in my work made it worth while, supported me in my
toil. It was a hazy kind of comfort, I will concede, but I wrapped
myself in it, and stole away out into the street to buy and sneak a
Christmas tree up the back stairs. It was a noble tree, warranted to
reach the ceiling of our library.

Father came down from Wisconsin and Franklin came up from Oklahoma to
help me decorate it, and when, on Christmas morning, they both rose with
me, and went down to light the candles, they were almost as gleeful as
I. Mary Isabel was awake and piping from the top of the stairs, "Is it
time, papa? Can we come now, papa?" and at last when the tower of glory
was alight I called back, "Yes, now you may all come."

Slowly she descended step by step, clinging to her mother, who was
carrying Constance. Very slowly the procession approached, for the
little voluptuary in front was loath as well as eager--avid to enjoy yet
hesitating to devour. Suddenly she saw, and into her face flamed an
expression of wonder, of awe, of adoration, a look such as a cherub
angel might wear while confronting The Great White Throne, a kind of
rapture, humble yet exultant.

Silently she crept toward the center of the room, turning her eyes from
this and to that unearthly splendor, yet always bringing them back to
rest upon the faces of the dollies, sitting so still and so radiant
beneath the glittering boughs. At last with a little gasping cry of joy
she seized the largest and most splendid of these wondrous beings and
clasped it to her breast, while Constance sat silent with her awe.

Their Christmas was complete. Another shining mark had been set in the
upward slope of their happy march! Nothing, not even Death himself, can
rob me of that precious memory.



CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

The Old Homestead Suffers Disaster


The summer of 1912, so stormy in a political sense was singularly serene
and happy for us. The old house had been received back into favor. It
was beloved by us all but especially was it dear to my children. To Mary
Isabel it possessed a value which it could not have to any of us, for it
was her birth-place and she knew every stick and stone of it. To her it
had all the glamor of a childhood home in summer time.

On Sunday, October 6, we began to plan our return to the city, and as we
sat about our fire that night the big room never looked so warm, so
homelike, so permanent. The deep fireplace was ablaze with light, and
the walls packed with books and hung with pictures spoke of a realized
ideal. On the tall settee (which I had built myself), lay a
richly-colored balletta Navajo blanket, one that I had bought of a
Flathead Indian in St. Ignatius. Others from Zuni and Ganado covered the
floor. Over the piano "Apple Blossom Time," a wedding present from John
Ennecking glowed like a jewel in the light of the quaint electric
candles which had been set in the sockets of hammered brass sconces. In
short, the place had the mellow charm of a completed home, and I said to
Zulime "There isn't much more to do to it. It is rude and queer, a
mixture of Paris, Boston, and the Wild West; but it belongs to us." It
was in truth a union of what we both represented, including our
poverty, for it was all cheap and humble.

My father, white-haired, eighty-two years of age was living with us
again, basking in the light of our fire and smiling at his
grandchildren, who with lithe limbs and sweet young voices were singing
and circling before him. I was glad to have him back in mother's room,
and to him and to those who were to be his care-takers for the winter I
gravely repeated, "I want everything kept just as it is. I want to feel
that we can come back to it at any time and find every object in place,
including the fire."

To which father replied, "I don't want to change it. It suits me."

The children, darting out of the music-room (which was the
"dressing-room" of their stage), swung their Japanese lanterns, enacting
once again their pretty little play, and then our guests rose two by two
and went away. Zulime led the march to bed, the lights were turned out
and the clear, crisp, odorous October night closed over our scene.

As I was about to leave the low-ceiled library, I took another look at
it saying to myself, "It seems absurd to abandon this roomy, human
habitation for a cramped little dwelling on a city lot." But with a
sense of what the city offered by way of compensation, I climbed the
old-fashioned, crooked, narrow stairway to my bed in the chamber over
the music-room, content to say good-by for the winter....

It was dusky dawn when I awoke, with a sense of alarm, unable to tell
what had awakened me. For several seconds I lay in confusion and vague
suspense. Then a cry, a strange cry--a woman's scream--arose, followed
by a rush of feet. Other cries, and the shrieks of children succeeded
close, one upon the other.

My first thought was, "Constance has fallen." I sprang from my bed and
was standing in the middle of the room when I heard Zulime cross the
floor beneath me, and a moment later she called up the stairway,
"Hamlin, _Fan has set the house on fire_!"

My heart was gripped as if by an icy hand for I knew how inflammable the
whole building was, and without stopping to put on coat or slippers, I
ran swiftly down the stairs. As I entered the sitting-room so silent, so
peaceful, so undisturbed, it seemed that my alarm was only a part of a
dream till the sobbing of my daughters and my wife's voice at the
telephone calling for help, convinced me of the frightful reality. I
heard, too, the ominous crackling of flames in the kitchen.

Pushing open the swinging door I confronted a wall of smoke. One-half of
the floor was already consumed, and along the linoleum a sharply-defined
line of fire told that it rose from burning oil--and yet I could not
quite believe it, even then. It was like a scene in a motion picture
play.

My first thought was to check, to hold back the flames, till help came.
The garden hose was lying out under a tree (I had put it there the day
before) and with desperate haste I hurried to attach it to the water
pipes. I saw father in the yard, but he uttered no word. We were each
thinking the same thought--"_The old homestead is doomed. Our life here
is ended._"

The hose was heavy and sanely perverse, and it seemed an age before I
had the water turned on. Catching up the nozzle I approached the kitchen
door. The thin stream had no effect, and the heat was so intense I could
not face it. Throwing down the hose I reëntered the house.

The children, hysterical with fright, were just leaving by the east door
and Zulime was upstairs. Opening the front door I stepped out upon the
porch to call for help. The beauty of the morning, its stillness, its
serenity, its odorous opulence, struck upon my senses with a kind of
ironic benignancy, as if to say, "Why agonize over so small a thing?"

I shouted "Fire!" and my voice went ringing far up the street. I cried
out again, a third time, a fourth, but no one answered, no one appeared,
and behind me the crackling roar of the flames increased. In despair I
turned back into the sitting-room.

It had been arranged between Zulime and myself that in case of fire
(once the children were safe), she was to secure the silverware and her
jewelry whilst I flew to collect my manuscripts.

With this thought in my mind, and believing that I had but a few minutes
in which to work, I ran up the stairs to my study and began gathering
such of my manuscripts as had no duplicates. As I thought of the
hundreds of letters from my literary friends, of the many family
records, of the innumerable notes, pictures, keepsakes, souvenirs and
mementoes which had been assembling there for a quarter of a century, I
became confused, indecisive. It was so hard to choose. At last I caught
up a sheaf of unpublished stories which filled one drawer, and beating
off the screen of the north window threw the manuscripts out upon the
grass.

A neighbor's wife, quick to understand the meaning of my anxiety about
these sheets, ran to her home across the way and bringing a valise,
began to stuff them into it. Having cleared my desk of its most valuable
papers I hurried to my dressing-room to secure shoes and trousers; but
by this time the hall was full of the most nauseating smoke. The fire
having swept entirely through the library, was burning the front porch.
My escape by way of the stairway was cut off. Blinded and gasping I gave
up the search for clothes and turned back into my study.

I was not in the least scared; on the contrary, I was filled with a
kind of fatalistic rage. In imagination I saw the old house, with all
that it meant to me, in ruins. I saw the great elms and maples scorched,
dead, the tall black locust burned to a ship's mast. As I peered from
the window, a neighbor called earnestly, "You'd better get off there;
the whole house is going."

From the window I could see the villagers rapidly assembling, and not
knowing how far advanced the flames might be I yielded to the advice of
my friend, and swinging myself from the window dropped to the ground.

My next care was for the children. I could hear them crying frantically
for "papa!" and I hurried to where they stood cowering in the door of
the barn. "O, papa, put it out. I don't want it to burn. _Put it out!_"
moaned Mary Isabel with passionate intensity.

Her faith in her father had an infinite pathos at the moment. She loved
the house. It was a part of her very brain and blood. To have it burn
was a kind of outrage. Little Connie, five years old, with chattering
teeth, joined her pleading cry, "_Can't_ you put it out, papa?" she
asked piteously.

"No," I answered sadly. "Papa can not put it out. Nobody can. You must
say good-by to our dear old home."

Wrapping a quilt about her I started across the road toward my
neighbor's porch. The yard was full of my fellow-citizens, and young men
were heroically dragging out smoking furniture from the lower floor,
while over in the Sander's yard piles of books, bedding and furniture
were accumulating. It was all curiously familiar and typical.

In the full belief that the homestead would soon be a heap of charcoal,
we took the children back into our friend's dining-room. "Pull down the
curtain," entreated Zulime, "we don't want to see the old place go."

Helpless for lack of street clothing, with my children on my knees, I
sat in silence, noting the flickering glare of the light on the walls,
and hearing the shouts of the firemen and the sound of their axes.

Huldah, our neighbor's daughter, entered. "They're checking it!" she
exclaimed. "It is under control."

This seemed incredible, but it was confirmed by George Dudley, who came
in bringing my shoes and a suit of my clothing.

When at last I was fully clothed and could go out into the street I was
amazed to find a part of the house standing. Most of the east wing
seemed quite untouched, except of smoke and water. The west wing and
front porch were in black disarray, but the roof held its place and the
trees seemed scarcely scorched. A few firemen, among them the village
plumber, the young banker, and a dentist, were on guard, watchfully
intent that the flames should not break out again. The sun was rising
gloriously over the hills. The fire, my fire, was over.

No doubt this event appeared most trivial to the travelers in a passing
train. From the car windows it was only a column of smoke in the edge of
a small village. Our disaster offered, indeed, only a mild sensation to
the occupants of an early automobile party, but to my father, to Zulime
and to the children, it was a desolate and appalling ruin. They had
grown to love this old house foolishly, illogically, for it was neither
beautiful nor historic, nor spacious. It was only a commonplace frame
cottage, inwrought with memories and associations, but it was home--all
we had.

The yard was piled with furniture, half-burned, soaked and malodorous,
but none of my manuscripts were in sight. I had expected to find them
scattered like feathers across the garden or trampled into the muddy
sward. In reply to my question my friend Dudley replied, "They're all
safe. I had the boys carry them down in blankets. You'll find them in
the barn."

As I moved about silently, studying the ruins, the kindliest of my
neighbors said, "You'll have to entirely rebuild." And to this a
carpenter, a skilled and honest workman, agreed. "The cheapest thing to
do is to tear it all down and start from the foundation."

Slowly, minutely, I studied the ruin. Surely here was gruesome change!
Black, ill-smelling, smoking debris lay where our pretty dining-room had
been. The library with all my best books (many of them autographed) was
equally desolate, heaped with steaming, charred masses of tables,
chairs, rugs and fallen plaster. I thought of it as it had been the
night before, with the soft lights of the candles falling upon my
children dancing with swinging lanterns. I recalled Ennecking's radiant
spring painting, and Steele's "Bloom of the Grape," which glowed above
the mantle, and my heart almost failed me--"Is this the end of my life
in Wisconsin?"

For twenty years this little village had been the place of my family
altar, not because it was remarkable in any way, but because since 1850
it had been the habitat of my mother's people and because it was filled
with my father's pioneer friends. "Is it worth while to rebuild?" I
asked myself. For the time I lost direction. I had no plan.

The sight of my white-haired father wandering about the yard, dazed,
bewildered, his eyes filled with a look of despair at last decided me.
Realizing that this was his true home; that no other roof could have the
same appeal, and he could not be transplanted, I resolved to cover his
head; to make it possible for him to live out his few remaining years
under this roof with his granddaughters. "For his sake and the
children's sake," I announced to Zulime, "I shall begin at once to clear
away and restore. Before the winter comes you shall all be back in the
old House. Perhaps we can eat our Thanksgiving dinner in the restored
dining-room."

Whether she fully shared my desire to rebuild or whether she believed in
my ability to carry out my plan so quickly I can not say. In such
matters she was not decisive--she rested on my stubborn will.

The day came on--glorious, odorous, golden--but we saw little of its
beauty. Engaged in digging the family silver out of the embers, and
collecting my scattered books and papers I had no time to look at the
sky. Occasionally, as I looked up from my work I saw my little daughters
playing with childish intentness among the fallen leaves in my
neighbor's yard, and in mistaken confidence I remarked what a blessing
it is that childhood can so easily forget disaster.

I did not realize then, nor till many months after, how profound the
shock had been to them. For years after the event they started at every
unusual sound and woke at night screaming of fire.

All that day and all the days of the week which followed they played
with the same singular insect-like absorption and at last I began to get
some notion of their horror. They refused to enter the yard. "I don't
want to see it," Mary Isabel wailed. Then she asked, "Will it ever be
home for us again?"

"Yes," I answered with final determination. "I'll put it back just as it
was before the fire came. It shall be nicer than ever when I am done."

Before night I had engaged a crew of men to clear away. Thereafter I
lived like a man in a tunnel. I saw almost nothing of the opulent,
golden sunshine, nothing of the exquisite foliage, nothing of the far
hills, purple with Indian summer haze. Busily sorting my burned books
or spreading out my treasured rugs, I toiled as long as light lasted.
There were a few pleasant surprises. From one charred frame the face of
Frank Norris, miraculously fresh and handsome and smiling, looked out
through smoked and broken glass. In one corner of the sideboard
(decorated by Thompson-Seton), a part of the silver bearing my mother's
initials lay quite unharmed, though all of the pieces on the top were
melted into a flat mass of bullion. Autographed books from Howells,
Riley, Gilbert Parker, Conan Doyle, Arnold Bennett, fell to pieces in my
hand, or showed so deep a stain of smoke as to make their rebinding
impossible. My best Navajo rug, a fine example of the ancient weaving,
was a frail cinder on the back of the charred settee, and a Hopi
ceremonial dress which hung upon the wall was a blackened shred.

All these things had small money value, and to many men, would have
represented no interest whatsoever, but to me they were precious. They
were a part of my life. To burn them was to char a section of my brain.
Pitiful possessions! Worthless rags! And yet they were the best I could
show after thirty years of labor with the pen!

My father's condition troubled me most. To have him rendered homeless at
eighty-two with winter coming on seemed to me an intolerable cruelty,
and so with a driving haste I set to work with my own hands to clear
away and restore. Wielding the wrecking bar and the spade each day, I
toiled like a hired man--even after the carpenters were gone at night I
scraped paint and shoveled rubbish.

Let no one pity me! A curious pleasure came with all this, for it seemed
to advance the reconstruction with double swiftness.

At the end of the week I sent my wife and the children back to their
city home, and thereafter I had but one interest, one diversion--to plan
and execute my rebuilding. To close the walls, to make the rooms secure
against wind and rain was imperative.

The insurance inspector came pleasantly to the rescue, and with a small
balance in the bank I hired roofers, plumbers, carpenters, masons, till
the street resounded with their clamor. In a week I had the rooms
cleared, the doors and windows closed, and my father living in one
corner of the house, whilst I camped down in my study. Water-soaked,
ill-smelling, but inhabitable, the old house again possessed a light and
a hearth.

"The children and their grandsire shall eat Thanksgiving dinner in the
rebuilt dining-room," was my secret sentimental resolution. "To do that
will turn a wail into a song--a disaster into a poem."

All very foolish, you say. No doubt, but it interested me and I was of
an age when very few things interested me vitally. With clothing black
as soot, with hands brown with stain and skinned and swollen and
feverish, I kept to my job without regard to Sundays or the ordinary
hours of labor. I was not seeking sympathy,--I was renewing my youth. I
was both artist and workman. My muscles hardened, my palms broadened, my
appetite became prodigious. I lost all fear of indigestion and ate
anything which my friend Dudley was good enough to provide. I even drank
coffee at every opportunity, and went so far as to eat doughnuts and
pancakes at breakfast! To be deliciously hungry as of old was
heartening.

The weather continued merciful. Each day the sun rose red and genial,
and at noon the warm haze of Indian summer trailed along the
hills--though I had little time in which to enjoy it. Each sunset marked
a new stanza in my poem, a completed phrase, a recovered figure. "Our
small affairs have shut out the light of the sun," I said to father,
"the political situation has lost all interest for me."

Bare, clean and sweet, the library and music-room at last were ready for
furniture. All these must be replaced. A hurried trip to the city, three
days of determined shopping with Zulime, and a stream of new goods
(necessary to refurnish), began to set toward the threshold. The draymen
plied busily between the station and the gate.

By November first my father and I were camping in the library and
cooking our own food in the dining-room. We rose each day before dawn
and ate our bacon and coffee while yet the stars twinkled in the west,
and both of us were reminded of the frosty mornings on our Iowa farm,
when we used to eat by candle-light in order to husk corn by starlight.
My hands felt as they used to feel when, worn by the rasping husks, they
burned with fever. Heavy as hams, they refused to hold a pen, and my
mind refused to compose even letters--but the pen was not needed. "My
poem is composed of wood and steel," I remarked to Dudley.

At last the yard was cleared of its charred rubbish, the porch restored
to its old foundation, and the new metal roof, broad-spreading and
hospitable, gleamed like snow in dusk and dawn, and from the uncurtained
windows our relighted lamps called to the world that the Garland
household was about to reassemble and the author permitted himself to
straighten up. Changing to my city garments I took the train for
Chicago, promising to bring the children with me when our Thanksgiving
turkey was fatted for the fire.

My daughters listened eagerly to my tale of the new house, but expressed
a fear of sleeping in it. This fear I determined to expel.

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving I rejoined my workmen, finding the
house in a worse state of disarray than when I had last seen it. The
floors were littered with dust and shavings, and in the dining-room my
father, deeply discouraged, was gloomily cooking his breakfast on an
oil stove set in the middle of the floor. "It'll take another month to
finish the job," he said.

"Oh, no it won't," I replied. "It won't take a week."

Fortunately the stain on the floor was dry and with the aid of two good
men I finished the woodwork and beat the rugs. In a couple of days the
lower house was livable.

On Wednesday at five o'clock I went to the train, leaving the electric
lights all ablaze and the fire snapping in the chimney. It looked
amazingly comfortable, restored, settled, and I was confident the
children would respond to its cheer.

"Is it all made new?" they asked wistfully.

"Wait and see!" I confidently replied.

The night was cold and dark but as they neared the old house its windows
winked a cheery welcome. "Why, it looks just as it used to!" exclaimed
Mary Isabel.

"There are lights in our room!" exclaimed Constance.

"Run ahead, and knock," I urged.

She hung back. "I'm afraid," she said.

"So am I," echoed Connie.

The new metal roof gleaming like frost interested them as they entered
the gate.

"Why, the porch is all here!" shouted Constance.

"But the screens are off," commented Mary Isabel.

"Knock!" I commanded.

Reaching up to the shining old brass knocker she banged it sharply.

The house awoke! White-haired old father came to the door and, first of
all, the children sprang to his arms.

Then as they looked around they shouted with joy. "Why, it's just as it
was--only nicer," was their verdict.

While Zulime looked keenly and smilingly around, Connie ran from settee
to bookcase. "Everything is here--our books, the fireplace."

"Isn't it wonderful!" Mary Isabel exclaimed.

After greeting father Zulime surveyed the result of my six weeks' toil
with critical but approving eyes. "I like it. It's much better than I
expected. It _is_ wonderful. But we must have new curtains for the
windows," she added, with the housewife's attention to details.

The children danced through the brilliantly lighted rooms, but declined
to go into the dining-room or to open the door to the kitchen which they
remembered only as a mass of black embers and steaming ashes. I did not
urge them to do so. On the contrary, I gathered them round me on the
restored hearth and talked of the Thanksgiving dinner of the morrow.

As the hour for bedtime came Connie's eyes grew big and dark, and every
small unusual sound startled her. Daddy's presence at last reassured
them both and they went to sleep and, with only one or two restless
intervals, slumbered till daylight.

Two of our neighbors--two capable women, came in next morning to help,
and in a few hours the windows were curtained, the linen laid out and
the turkey in the oven. Under Zulime's hands the rooms bloomed into
homeliness. The kitchen things fell into orderly array. Pictures took
their places on the walls, little knick-knacks which had been brought
from the city were set on the mantels and bookcases, and when our guests
arrived they each and all exclaimed, "No one would ever know you'd _had_
a fire!"

At one o'clock the cooks, the children and Zulime all agreed that the
fowl was ready for the carver and so we all assembled in the new and
larger dining-room. No formal Thanksgiving was spoken, but vaguely
forming in my mind was a poem which should express our joy and
gratitude. My brother's seat was empty and so were those of other loved
ones, but we did not dwell upon these sad things. I was living, working
and planning now for the vivid souls of my daughters whose glowing
cheeks and laughing eyes repaid me for all my toil. For them I had
rebuilt this house--for them and their grandsire--whose trail was almost
at its end. How happy he was in their presence! They, too, were happy
because they were young, the sun was shining and their home was
magically restored.

The happiest time of all was at night, when the evening shadows closed
round the friendly walls, and the trees sighed in the chill wind--for
beside the fire we gathered, the Garlands and McClintocks, in the good
old fashion, while our neighbors came in to congratulate and rejoice.
All the black terror of the dismantled house, all the toil and worry of
the months which lay between, were forgotten as the children, without a
care, sang and danced in the light of our new and broadened hearth.

[Illustration: That night as my daughters, "dressed up" as princesses,
danced like fairies in the light of our restored and broadened hearth, I
forgot all the toil, all the disheartenment which the burning of the
house had brought upon me. To them the re-built homestead was only
another evidence of their Daddy's magic power. His lamp was not less
potent than Aladdin's.]



CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

Darkness Just Before the Dawn


In going back over the records of the years 1912 and 1913, I can see
that my life was lacking in "drive." It is true I wrote two fairly
successful novels which were well spoken of by my reviewers and in
addition I continued to conduct the Cliff Dwellers' Club and to act as
one of the Vice Presidents of the National Institute of Arts and
Letters, but I was very far from a feeling of satisfaction with my
position. My life seemed dwindling into futility. I was in physical pain
much of the time and tortured by a fear of the future.

Naturally and inevitably the burden of my increasing discontent, worse
health, fell with sad reiteration upon my wife, who was not only called
upon to endure poverty, but to bear with a sick and disheartened
husband. The bravery of her smile served to increase my sense of
unworthiness. Her very sweetness, her cheerful acceptance of
never-ending household drudgery, was an accusation.

She no longer touched brush or clay, although I strongly urged her to
sketch or model the children. She had no time, even if she had retained
the will, to continue her work as an artist. With a faculty for
entertaining handsomely and largely, with hosts of friends who would
have clustered about her with loyal admiration, she remained the
mistress of a narrow home and one more or less incompetent housemaid.
All these considerations added to my sense of weakness and made the
particular manuscript upon which I was spending most of my time, a piece
of selfish folly.

For ten years I had been working, from time to time, on an
autobiographical manuscript which I had called by various names, but
which had finally solidified into _A Son of the Middle Border_. Even in
my days of deepest discouragement I turned most of my energy to its
revision. In the belief that it was my final story and with small hope
of its finding favor in any form, I toiled away, year after year,
finding in the aroused memories of my youthful world a respite from the
dull grind of my present.

My duties as head of the Cliff Dwellers and as Secretary of The Theater
Society tended to keep me in Chicago. My lecture engagements became
fewer and I dropped out or Eastern Club life, retaining only long
distance connection with the world of Arts and Letters. In losing touch
with my fellows something vital had gone out of me.

In spite of all my former protestations, the city began to take on the
color of Henry Fuller's pessimism. My youthful faith in Chicago's future
as a great literary center had faded into middle-aged doubt. One by one
its writers were slipping away to Manhattan. The Midland seemed farther
away from publishers than ever, "The current is all against us,"
declared Fuller.

As a man of fifty-two I found myself more and more discordant with my
surroundings. With sadness I conceded that not in my time would any
marked change for the better take place. "Such as Chicago now is, so it
will remain during my life," I admitted to Fuller.

"Yes, if it doesn't get worse," was his sad reply.

I would have put my Woodlawn house on sale in 1912 had it not been for
my father's instant protest. "Don't take Zulime and the children so far
away," he pleaded. "If you move to New York I shall never see any of you
again. Stay where you are. Wait till I am 'mustered out'--it won't be
long now."

There was no resisting this appeal. With a profound sense of what Zulime
and the children meant to him, I gave up all thought of going East and
settled back into my groove. "We will remain where we are so long as
father lives," I declared to my friends.

My wife, who had perceived with alarm my growing discontent with
Chicago, was greatly relieved by this decision. To her the thought of
migration even to the North Side was disturbing, for it would break her
close connection with the circle whose center was in her brother's
studio. I am not seeking to excuse my recreancy to The Middle West; I am
merely stating it as a phase of literary history, for my case is
undoubtedly typical of many other writers who turned their faces
eastward.

The plain truth is I had reached an age where I no longer cared to
pioneer even in a literary sense. Desirous of the acceptances proper to
a writer with gray hair and a string of creditable books, I wished to go
where honor waited. I craved a place as a man of letters. That my powers
were deteriorating in the well-worn rut of my life in Woodlawn I knew
too well, and my need of contact with my fellow craftsmen in the East
sharpened. The support and inspiration which come naturally to authors
in contact with their kind were being denied me. Age was bringing me no
"harvest home." In short, at the very time when I should have been most
honored, most recompensed, in my work, I found myself living meanly in a
mean street and going about like a man of mean concerns, having little
influence on my art or among my fellows.

That Chicago was still on the border in a literary sense was sharply
emphasized when the National Institute of Arts and Letters decided
(after much debate), to hold its Annual Meeting for 1913 in the midland
metropolis. "It is a long way out to Chicago," its Secretary wrote,
"and I don't know how many members we can assemble, but I think we shall
be able to bring twenty-five at least. You have been appointed chairman
of the Committee of Arrangements, with full powers to go ahead."

The honor and responsibility of this appointment spurred me to action. I
decided to accept and make the meeting a literary milestone in western
history. My first thought was to make the Cliff Dwellers' Club the host
of the occasion, but on further consideration, I reckoned that the
City's welcome would have greater weight if all its literary and
artistic forces could be in some way combined. To bring this about I
directed letters to the heads of seventeen clubs and educational
organizations, asking them to meet with me and form a joint Reception
Committee.

This they did, and in a most harmonious session elected Hobart
Chatfield-Taylor chairman. To this Committee I then said, "If we are to
have any considerable number of our distinguished eastern authors and
artists at this dinner we must make it very easy for them to travel. We
should have a special train for them or at least special sleeping cars
so that they can come as if in a moving club."

In this plan I had instant support. The sturdy group of men who had been
so ready to aid me in building up the Cliff Dwellers (men like
Hutchinson, Logan, Glessner, Ryerson, Aldis, and Heckmen), all took
vital interest in the arrangements for the reception and dinner. The
necessary funds were immediately subscribed, and my report to the
Institute Council created a fine feeling of enthusiasm in the ranks of
both organizations. The success of the meeting was assured. Some of the
oldest members wrote, "It is a long way out there but we are coming."

The press of the city responded generously and some of its editors
perceived and stated the historical significance of this pilgrimage of
poets, artists, and historians to "the sparsely settled Border of
Esthetic Culture." A trainload of men who painted, sculptured and
composed, men who were entirely concerned with the critical or esthetic
side of life, an academy of arts and letters rolling westward, was a new
and wondrous phase of national exploration. The invasion was also
capable of comic interpretation and a few graceless wags did allude to
it as "a missionary expedition to Darkest Illinois."

To Fuller, to Chatfield-Taylor and to me, this joke was not altogether
pleasant. We knew all too well the feeling of some of the writers who
were coming. Several of them were seeing "the West" for the first time
in their lives, others had not been in Chicago since the World's Fair in
'93. All were conscious of the effort involved in reaching the arid and
unknown frontier.

The entire Middle West had only ten resident members of the Institute
although a large proportion of its membership was drawn from the
Southern and Central Western States, "All trails lead to New York and
there are no returning footsteps," commented Fuller. "Once a writer or
painter or illustrator pulls his stakes and sets out for Manhattan,
Chicago sees him no more."

All this was disheartening to those of us who, twenty years before, had
visioned Chicago as a shining center of American art, but we went
forward with our preparations, hoping that a fairly representative
delegation could be induced to come.

Some thirty-five arrived safely, and the Dinner of Welcome in Sculpture
Hall not only set a milestone in the progress of the city, but was in
itself a beautiful and distinctive event.

The whole panorama of western settlement and its city building unrolled
before me, as Charles L. Hutchinson, President of the Art Institute,
rose in his place, and in the name of the most aspiring of Chicago's men
and women, welcomed the members of the American Academy and the National
Institute as representatives of American Art and American Literature.
Once again and for the moment our city became a capital in something
like the character of Boston a generation before. This conception was
illusory, of course, but we permitted ourselves the illusion and
accepted the praise which our visitors showered upon us with a belief
that we had gained, at last, a recognized place in the Nation's esthetic
history.

During the weeks of preparation for this event I had been happy and
content, but a few days later, after the clubs had fallen back to their
normal humdrum level I acknowledged with a sense of hopeless weariness
that our huge city had a long way to go before it could equal the small
Boston of Emerson, Lowell, Holmes, and Howells. My desire to rejoin my
fellows in New York was intensified. "As there is only one London for
England so there is only one New York for America."

All through the autumn of 1913 I ground away at my story of the Middle
Border, conscious of the fact that--in a commercial sense--I was wasting
my time, for several of my editorial friends had assured me of that
fact--but each morning as I climbed to my study I forgot my drab
surroundings. Closing the door of the bitter present and turning my back
on the stormy future I relived my audacious youth and dreamed of the
brave days of old.

Thanksgiving Day in West Salem was misty, dark and still, but the
children--bless their shining faces--regarded it as just the right kind
of weather for our festival. They were up early and running of errands
for their mother who was chief cook. Our only guests were three lonely
old women, and it gave me a pang of pity for the children who were
forced thus to tolerate a group of gray-heads to whom life was a
closing, mournful dirge. Happily, my daughters had the flame of
invincible youth in their blood and danced and sang as if the world were
new and wholly beautiful, which it was, to them.

Dear little daughters! They didn't know that Daddy was worried about his
future and theirs, and no sooner were we back in our Chicago home than
they began to look away toward Christmas. "Poppie!"--Mary Isabel would
repeat--"only three weeks till--you know what! Remember!"

I remembered. Once again their stockings were stuffed to the hem, and
their tree, a marvel of light, touched the ceiling with its pliant tip
on which sparkled a golden star. To them I was still a wonder-worker.
For a week I put aside my dark musings and rejoiced with them in their
fairy world.

Now it chanced that the University Club of Pittsburg had booked me for a
lecture early in January and in taking account of this, I planned to
invade Manhattan once again, in a desperate attempt to dispose of my
rewritten _Son of the Middle Border_, and to offer, also, one or two
short stories which I had lately put into clean copy. Humbly, sadly,
unwillingly I left my home that cold, bleak, dirty day, staggering under
the weight of my valises, for I was not in good health and my mood was
irresolute.

Change was in my world and change of an ominous kind was in my brain.
Subjects which once interested me had lost their savor, and several
tales in which I had put my best effort had failed to meet my own
approval and had been thrown aside. No mechanic, no clerk, would have
envied me as I boarded a filthy street car on my way to the Englewood
station. That I had reached a fork in my trail was all too evident. The
things for which I had labored all my days were as ashes in my hand. I
walked with a stoop and the bag containing my manuscript dragged at my
shoulder like a fifty-pound weight as I painfully climbed the steps
leading to the waiting-room of the grimy, noisy, train station. I was a
million miles from being a "distinguished man of letters" at that
moment, and with a sense of my poverty and declining health, took a seat
in the crowded day coach and rode all day in gloomy silence. At noon I
dined on a sandwich. Dollars looked as large as dinner plates that day.
"Your only way to earn money is to save it," I accused myself.

At the University Club in Pittsburg I recovered slightly. The lecture
having been announced to take place in the dining-room could not be
staged till nine o'clock--a fact which worried me for I had arranged to
take the night train for the East--and this alarm, this fear of losing
my train led me to begin by address while my audience was assembling,
and my hurried utterance led to weariness on the part of my hearers. My
performance was a failure, and to complete my disheartenment I reached
the station about five minutes after the last eastern train had pulled
out.

Dismayed by this mishap, I took a seat in a corner and darkly ruminated.
"What shall I do now? Shall I go back to Chicago? Or shall I go on?"

Decision was in reality taken out of my hands by the baggageman who said
in response to inquiry, "I put your trunk on the 8:40 train. It is well
on its way to New York."

Accepting this as a mandate to go on, I returned to my room in the
University Club and went to bed, but not to sleep. For hours I tossed
and turned in self-questioning, self-accusing fury.

"What a fool you have been to waste years of labor on a book which
nobody wants and which has put you--temporarily at least--out of conceit
with fiction. Why go on? Why spend more time and money on a vain attempt
to dispose of this manuscript?"

Falling asleep at last, I regained a part of my courage, and at
breakfast a faint glow of hope crept into my thinking. At nine o'clock I
took the day train and in silence rode for nearly twelve hours,
retracing the thirty years which lay between my first view of Manhattan
and this my hundredth reëntrance. With no thrill of excitement I crossed
the ferry and having registered at a small hotel on Thirty-fourth
Street, went to bed at nine o'clock completely worn out with my journey.

A long night's sleep and a pot of delicious coffee for breakfast put so
much sunshine into my world that I set out for Franklin Square with a
gambler's countenance, resolute to conceal my dismay from my friends and
especially from my publisher. There was something in the very air of
Broadway which generated confidence.

Harpers' editors were genial, respectful, but by no means enthusiastic
concerning my autobiographic manuscript, although I assured Duneka that
I had vastly improved it since he had read it a year before.

"That may be," he granted, "but it is not fiction and nothing serializes
but fiction. We'll be glad to schedule it as a book, but I don't see any
place for it in our magazine." And then--more to get rid of me than for
any other reason, he added, "You might see _Collier's_. Mark Sullivan is
the editor up there now; it might be that he could use something of
yours."

Duneka's indifference even more than his shunting my precious manuscript
into the street brought back my cloud of doubt, for it indicated a loss
of faith in me. To him I was a squeezed lemon. Nevertheless I took his
hint. Sullivan, I knew and liked, and while I had small hope of
interesting him in _The Middle Border_, I did think he might buy one or
two of my short stories.

The _Collier's_ plant humming with speed, prosperous and commercial, was
not reassuring to me, but I kept on through the maze until I reached
Sullivan's handsome room, where I was given an easy chair and told to
wait, "the editor will see you in a few minutes."

Alert, kindly, cordial, Mark greeted me and taking a seat, fixed his
keen blue, kindly eyes upon me. "I'm glad to see you," he said, and I
believed he meant it. He went on, "This is the psychological moment for
us both. I am looking for American material and I want something of
yours. What have you to show me?"

Thus encouraged I told him of _A Son of the Middle Border_.

He was interested. "Where is the manuscript? Is it complete?"

"It is. I have it with me at the hotel."

"Send it down to me," he said quickly, "I'll read it and give you a
verdict at once."

In an illogical glow of hope I hastened to fetch the manuscript, and in
less than two hours it was in his hands.

I speak of my hope as "illogical" for if the literary monthly of my own
publishers could not find a place for it, how could I reasonably expect
a hustling, bustling popular weekly like _Collier's_ to use it?

Nevertheless something in Sullivan's voice and manner restored my
confidence, and when I called on the editor of the _Century_ I was able
to assume the tone of successful authorship. The closer I got to my
market the more assured I became. I counted for something in New York.
My thirty years of effort were remembered in my favor.

On Tuesday Sullivan, who had been called to the West, wired me from
Chicago that _A Son of the Middle Border_ would make an admirable serial
and that his assistants would take the matter up with me. "I predict a
great success for it."

That night I sent a message to my wife in which I exultantly said,
"Rejoice! I've sold _The Middle Border_ to _Collier's Weekly_. Our
troubles are over for a year at least."

Two days later _Collier's_ took a short story at four hundred dollars
and the _Century_ gave me three hundred for an article on James A.
Herne, and when I boarded the train for Chicago the following week I was
not only four thousand dollars better off than when I came--I had
regained my faith in the future. My task was clearly outlined. For the
seventh time I set to work revising _A Son of the Middle Border_,
preparing it for serial publication.

       *       *       *       *       *

My father, who knew that I had been writing upon this story for years,
stared at me in silent amazement when I told him of its sale. That the
editor of a great periodical should be interested in a record of the
migrations and failures of the McClintocks and Garlands was incredible.
Nevertheless he was eager to see it in print--and when in March the
first installment appeared, he read it with absorbed attention and mixed
emotions. "Aren't you a little hard on me?" he asked with a light in his
eyes which was half-humorous, half-resentful.

"I don't think so, Father," I replied. "You must admit you were a stern
disciplinarian in those days."

"Well maybe I was--but I didn't realize it."

My first understanding of the depths this serial sounded came to me in
the letters which were written to the editor by those who could not find
words in which to express their longing for the bright world gone--the
world when they were young and glad. "You have written my life," each
one said--and by this they meant that the facts of my family history,
and my own emotional experiences were so nearly theirs that my lines
awoke an almost intolerable regret in their hearts--an ache which is in
my own heart to-day--the world-old hunger of the gray-haired man
dwelling upon the hope and illusions of youth.

These responses which indicated a wider and more lasting effect than I
had hoped to produce, led me to plan for the publication of the book
close on the heels of the concluding installment of the serial but in
this I was disappointed. The Mexican war suddenly thrust new and
tremendously exciting news articles into the magazine, separating and
delaying the printing of my story. Had it not been for the loyalty of
Mark Sullivan it would have been completely side-tracked, but he would
not have it so; on the contrary he began to talk with me about printing
six more installments, and this necessarily put off the question of
finding a publisher for the book.

Nevertheless I returned to my desk in the expectation that the Mexican
excitement was only a flurry and that the magazine would be able to
complete the publication of the manuscript within the year. My harvest
was not destroyed; it was only delayed.



CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

A Spray of Wild Roses


Although for several years my wife and children had spent four months of
each year in West Salem, and notwithstanding the fact that my father was
free to come down to visit us at any time, I suffered a feeling of
uneasiness (almost of guilt), whenever I thought of him camping alone
for the larger part of the year in that big, silent house. His love for
the children and for Zulime made every day of his lonely life a reproach
to me, and yet there seemed no way in which I could justly grant him
more of our time. The welfare of my wife and the education of the
children must be considered.

He was nearing his eighty-fourth birthday, and a realization that every
week in which he did not see his granddaughters was an irreparable loss,
gave me uneasiness. It was a comfort to think of him sitting in an easy
chair in the blaze of a fireplace which he loved and found a solace and
yet he was a lonely old man--that could not be denied. He made no
complaint in his short infrequent letters although as spring came on he
once or twice asked, "Why don't you come up? The best place for the
children is on the lawn under the maples."

In one note to me he said, "My old legs are giving out. I don't enjoy
walking any more. I don't stand the work of the garden as well as I did
last year. You'd better come up and help me put in the seed."

This confession produced in me a keen pang. He who had marched so
tirelessly under the lead of Grant and Thomas; he who had fearlessly
cruised the pine forests of Wisconsin, and joyously explored the
prairies of Iowa and Minnesota, was now uncertain of his footing.
Alarmed more than I cared to confess, I hurried up to help him, and to
tell him of the success of _The Middle Border_, which was in truth as
much his story as mine.

The air was thick with bird songs as I walked up the street, for it was
late April, and I came upon him at work in the garden, bareheaded as
usual, his white hair gleaming in the sunlight like a silver crown.

Outwardly serene, without a trace of bitterness in his voice, he spoke
of his growing weakness. "Oh, the old machine is wearing out, that's
all." Aware of his decline he accepted it as something in the natural
course of human life and was content.

Several of his comrades had dropped away during the winter and he was
aware that all of his generation were nearing their end. "There's only
one more migration left for us," he said composedly, yet with a note of
regret. Not on the strength of any particular religious creed but by
reason of a manly faith in the universe he faced death. He was a kind of
primitive warrior, who, having lived honorably, was prepared to meet
what was to come. "I've no complaint to make," he said, "I've had a long
life and on the whole a happy life. I'm ready for the bugle."

This was the faith of a pathfinder, a philosophy born of the open
spaces, courage generated by the sun and the wind. "I find it hard to
keep warm on dark days," he explained. "I guess my old heart is getting
tired," and as he spoke I thought of the strain which that brave heart
had undergone in its eighty years of action, on the battlefield, along
the river, in the logging camps, and throughout all the stern,
unceasing years of labor on the farm. His tireless energy and his
indomitable spirit came back, filling my mind with pictures of his swift
and graceful use of axe and scythe, and when I spoke of the early days,
he found it difficult to reply--they were so beautiful in retrospect.

The next day was Sunday, and Sunday afternoon was for him a period of
musing, an hour of dream, and as night began to fall he turned to me and
with familiar accent called out, "Come, Hamlin, sing some of the songs
your mother used to love," and I complied, although I could play but a
crude accompaniment to my voice. First of all I sang "Rise and Shine"
and "The Sweet Story of Old" in acknowledgment of the Sabbath, then
passed to "The Old Musician and His Harp," ending with "When You and I
Were Young, Maggie," in which I discerned a darker significance--a
deeper pathos than ever before. It had now a personal, poignant
application.

Tears misted his eyes as I uttered the line, "But now we are aged and
gray, Maggie, the trials of life are nearly done," and at the close he
was silent with emotion. He, too, was aged and gray, his trials of life
nearly done, and the one who had been his solace and his stay had passed
beyond recall.

To me, came the insistent thought, "Soon he must go to join Mother in
the little plot under the pines beyond Neshonoc." In spite of my
philosophy, I imagined their reunion somehow, somewhere.

Tender and sweet were the scenes which the words of my songs
evoked--pictures which had nothing to do with the music except by
association, forms and faces of far-off days, of Dry Run Prairie and its
neighbors, and of the still farther and dimmer and more magical
experiences of Green's Coulee, before the call to war.

I sang the song my uncle Bailey loved. A song which took him back to his
boyhood's home in Maine.

    "The river's running just the same,
    The willows on its side
    Are larger than they were, dear Tom,
    The stream appears less wide,
    And stooping down to take a drink,
    Dear Heart, I started so,
    To see how sadly I was changed
    Since forty years ago!"

His songs, his friends, his thoughts were all of the past except when
they dwelt on his grandchildren--and they, after six months' absence,
were shadowy, fairy-like forms in his memory. He found it difficult to
recall them precisely. He longed for them but his longing was for
something vaguely bright and cheerful and tender. David and William and
Susan and Belle were much more vividly real to him than Constance or
Mary Isabel.

       *       *       *       *       *

On Monday morning he was up early. "Now let's get to work," he said. "I
can't hoe as I used to do, and the weeds are getting the start of me."
To him the garden was a battlefield, a contest with purslane and he
hated to be worsted.

"Don't worry about the garden," I said. "It is not very important. What
does it matter if the 'pussley' does cover the ground?"

He would not have this. "It matters a good deal," he replied with hot
resentment, "and it won't happen so long as I can stand up and shove a
hoe."

To relieve his anxiety and to be sure that he did not overwork, I hired
Uncle Frank McClintock to come down for two or three days a week to help
kill the weeds. "The crop is not important to me," I said to him
privately, "but it _is_ important that you should keep a close watch on
Father while I am away. He is getting feeble and forgetful. See him
every day, and wire me if he is in need of anything. I must go back to
the city for a few weeks. If you need me send word and I'll come at
once."

He understood, and I went away feeling more at ease. I relied on Uncle
Frank's interest in him.

Now, it chanced that just before the date of our return to the
Homestead, Lily Morris, wife of the newly-appointed ambassador to
Sweden, invited my wife and children to accompany her on a trip to the
Big Horn Mountains and we were all torn between opposing duties and
desires.

Eager to see "Papa's Mountains," yet loath to lose anything of dear old
West Salem, Mary Isabel was pathetically perplexed. Connie was all for
West Salem but Zulime who knew the charm of the West decided to go, and
again I visited Father to tell him the news and to explain that we would
all be with him in August. The fear of disappointing him was the only
cloud on the happy prospect.

With a feeling of guilt I met him with the news of our change of plan,
softening the blow as best I could. He bore it composedly, though sadly,
while I explained that I could not possibly have shown the children the
mountains of my own accord. "I have some lectures in Colorado," I
explained, "but I shall not be gone long."

"I had counted on seeing Zulime and the children next week," was all he
said.

Just before my return to the city, he sent for a team, and together we
drove down to the little Neshonoc burying ground. "I want to inspect
your mother's grave," he explained.

On the way, as we were passing a clump of wild roses, he asked me to
stop and cut some of them. "Your mother was fond of wild roses," he
said, "I'd like to put a handful on her grave."

The penetrating odor of those exquisite blooms brought to my mind vistas
of the glorious sunlit, odorous prairies of Iowa, and to gather and put
into his hand a spray of them, was like taking part in a poem--a
poignant threnody of age, for he received them in silence, and held them
with tender care, his mind far away in the past.

Silently we entered the gate of the burial ground, and slowly approached
the mound under which my mother's body rested, and as I studied the thin
form and bending head of my intrepid sire, I realized that he was in
very truth treading the edge of his own grave. My eyes grew dim with
tears and my throat ached with a sense of impending loss, and a pity for
him which I could conceal only by looking away at the hills.

Nevertheless, he was calmer than I. "Here is where I want to lie," he
said quietly and stooping, softly spread his sprays of roses above the
mound. "She loved all the prairie flowers," he said, "but she specially
liked wild roses. I always used to bring them to her from the fields. We
had oceans of them in Dakota in those days."

It was a commonplace little burial ground with a few trees and here and
there a bed of lilies or phlox, yet it had charm. It was a sunny and
friendly place, a silent acre whose name and history went back to the
beginning of the first white settlement in the valley. On its monuments
were chiseled the familiar names of pioneers, and it was characteristic
of the time and deeply characteristic of the McClintocks, to be told, by
my father, that in some way the exact location of my grandmother's grave
had been lost and that no stone marked the spot where my grandfather was
buried.

We wandered around among the graves for half an hour while Father spoke
of the men and women whose names were on the low and leaning stones.
"They were American," he said. "These German neighbors of ours are all
right in their way, but it isn't our way. They are good citizens as far
as they know how to be, but they don't think in our words. Soon there
won't be any of the old families left. My world is just about gone, and
so I don't mind going myself, only I want to go quick. I don't want to
be bedridden for months as Vance McKinley was. If I could have my wish,
I'd go out like a candle in a puff of wind,--and I believe that's the
way I shall go."

It was a radiant June afternoon and as we drove back along the familiar
lane toward the hills softened by the mist, we looked away over a valley
throbbing with life and rich with the shining abundance of growing
grain--a rich and peaceful and lovely valley to me--but how much more it
all meant to my father! Every hill had its memories, every turn in the
road opened a vista into the past. The mill, the covered bridge, the
lonely pine by the river's bank,--all, all spoke to him of those he had
loved and lost.

With guilty reluctance I confessed that the return of the children had
again been postponed. "Mrs. Morris cannot tell just when she will
return--I fear not before the first of September. It is a wonderful
opportunity for the children to see the mountains. I could not afford to
take them on such a trip--much as I should like to do so--and there is
no telling when such another opportunity will offer. Mary Isabel is just
at the right age to remember all she sees and a summer in the mountains
will mean much to her in after life. Even Constance will be profoundly
changed by it. Zulime is sorry to disappoint you but she feels that it
would be wrong to refuse such an opportunity."

He made no complaint, offered no further opposition, he only said gently
and sadly, "Don't let them stay away too long. I want them here part of
the summer. I miss them terribly--and you must remember my time on earth
is nearly ended."

"We shall all be here in August," I assured him, "and I may return late
in July."

This was the twelfth of June and as I left the house for the train the
picture of that lonely, white-haired man, sitting at the window, took
away all the anticipation of pleasure with which our expedition had
filled my mind. I was minded to decline the wondrous opportunity and
send the children to the old Homestead and their grandsire.



CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

A Soldier of the Union Mustered Out


On my return to Chicago, I made good report of Father's condition and
said nothing of his forebodings, for I wanted Zulime to start on her
vacation in entire freedom from care. Had it not been for my lecture
engagements I might not have gone with them, but as certain dates were
fixed, I bought tickets for myself on the same train which Mrs. Morris
had taken, and announced my intention to travel with the party at least
as far as Sheridan. "I want to watch the children's faces and hear their
words of delight when they see the mountains," I explained to Mrs.
Morris. "My lectures at the Colorado Normal School do not begin till the
second week in July--so that I can be with you part of the time."

My decision gave the final touch to the children's happiness. They liked
their shaggy father--I don't know why, but they did--and during the days
of preparation their voices were filled with bird-like music. They were
palpitant with joy.

On the day appointed the Morris automobile called for us and took us to
the train, and when the children found that they were to travel in a
private pullman and that the stateroom was to be their own little house
they were transported with pride. Thereafter they knew nothing of heat
or dust or weariness. Their meals came regularly, and they went to bed
in their berths with warbles of satisfaction.

The plains of the second day's travel absorbed them. The prairie dogs,
the herds of cattle, the cactus blooms all came in for joyous
recognition. They had read about them: now here they were in actuality.
"Are those the mountains?" asked Mary Isabel as we came in sight of the
buttes of Eastern Wyoming. "No, only hills," I replied.

Then, at last, came the Big Horns deep blue and lined with snow. Mary
Isabel's eyes expanded with awe. "Oh, they are so much finer than I
expected them to be," she said, and from that moment, she gave them her
adoration. They were papa's mountains and hence not to be feared. "Are
we really going up there?" she asked. "Yes," I replied pointing out
Cloud Peak, "we shall go up almost directly toward that highest mountain
of all."

At a camp just above Big Horn City we spent a month of just the sort of
riding, trailing and camping which I was eager to have my children know,
and in a few days under my instruction, they both learned to sit a horse
in fearless confidence. Mary Isabel, who was eleven, accompanied me on a
ride to Cloud Peak Lake, a matter of twenty miles over a rough trail,
and came into camp almost unwearied. She was a chip of the old block in
this regard, and as I listened to her cheery voice and looked down into
her shining face I was a picture of shameless parental pride. For
several weeks I was able to remain with them and then at last set forth
for Colorado on my lecture tour.

Meanwhile, unsuspected by Americans, colossal armies were secretly
mobilizing in Europe, and on August first, whilst we were on our way
home, the sound of cannon proclaimed to the world the end of one era and
the beginning of another. Germany announced to the rulers of the Eastern
Hemisphere that she intended to dominate not merely the land but the
seas, and in my quiet hotel in a Colorado college town this proclamation
found amazed readers. I, for one, could not believe it--even after my
return to Chicago in August, while the papers were shouting "War! War!"
I remained unconvinced. Germany's program seemed monstrous, impossible.

The children and their mother arrived two days later and to Zulime I
said "Father is patiently waiting for us and in the present state of
things West Salem seems a haven, of rest. We must go to him at once."
She was willing and on August six, two days after England declared war,
the old soldier met us, looking thin and white but so happy in our
coming that his health seemed miraculously restored.

With joyous outcry the children sprang to his embrace and Zulime kissed
him with such sincerity of regard that he gave her a convulsive hug.
"Oh, but I'm glad to see you!" he exclaimed while tears of joy glistened
on his cheeks.

"Well, Father, what do you think about the European situation?" I asked.

"I don't know what to think," he gravely answered. "It starts in like a
big war, the biggest the world has ever seen. If you can believe what
the papers say, the Germans have decided to eat up France."

Although physically weaker, he was mentally alert and read his _Tribune_
with a kind of religious zeal. The vastness of the German armies, the
enormous weight and power of their cannons, and especially the
tremendous problem of their commissariat staggered his imagination. "I
don't see how they are going to maintain all those troops," he repeated.
"How can they shelter and clothe and feed three million men?"

To him, one of Sherman's soldiers, who had lived for days on parched
corn stolen from the feedboxes of the mules, the description of wheeled
ovens, and hot soup wagons appeared mere fiction. Although appalled by
the rush of the Prussian line, he was confident that the Allies would
check the invasion. Sharply resenting the half-veiled pro-Germanism of
some of his neighbors, he declared hotly: "They claim to be loyal to
America, but they are hoping the Kaiser will win. I will not trade with
such men."

How far away it all seemed on those lovely nights when with my daughters
beside me I lay on their broad bed out on the upper porch and heard the
crickets sleepily chirping and the wind playing with the leaves in the
maples. To Connie's sensitive ears the rustle suggested stealthy feet
and passing wings--but to me came visions of endless rivers of helmeted
soldiers flowing steadily remorselessly through Belgium, and Mary Isabel
said, "Papa, don't you think of going to war. I won't let you."

"They wouldn't take me anyway," I replied, "I'm too old. You needn't
worry."

I could not conceal from myself the fact that my father's work was
almost done. That he was failing was sorrowfully evident. He weeded the
garden no more. Content to sit in a chair on the back porch or to lie in
a hammock under the maples, he spent long hours with me or with Zulime,
recalling the battles of the Civil War, or relating incidents of the
early history of the valley.

He still went to his club each night after supper, but the walk was
getting to be more and more of a task, and he rejoiced when we found
time to organize a game of cinch at home. This we very often did, and
sometimes, even in the middle of the afternoon I called him in to play
with me; for with a great deal of time on his hands he was restless. "I
can't read all the time," he said, "and most of the fellows are busy
during the middle of the day."

Each morning regular as the clock he went to the post-office to get his
paper, and at lunch he was ready to discuss the news of the battles
which had taken place. After his meal he went for a little work in the
garden, for his hatred of weeds was bitter. He could not endure to have
them overrun his crops. They were his Huns, his menacing invaders.

In this fashion he approached his eighty-fourth birthday. His manner was
tranquil, but I knew that he was a little troubled by some outstanding
notes which he had signed in order to purchase a house for my brother in
Oklahoma, and to cure this I bought up these papers, canceled them and
put them under his breakfast plate. "I want him to start his
eighty-fifth year absolutely clear of debt," I said to Zulime.

He was much affected by the discovery of these papers. It pleased him to
think that I had the money to spare. It was another evidence of my
prosperity.

Nearly half of _A Son of the Middle Border_ had now been printed and
while he had read it he was shy about discussing it. Something almost
sacred colored the pictures which my story called up. Its songs and
sayings vibrated deep, searching the foundation chords of his life. They
told of a bright world vanished, a landscape so beautiful that it hurt
to have some parts of it revealed to aliens--and yet he was glad of it
and talked of it to his comrades.

Zulime made a birthday cake for him and the children decorated it, and
when Mary Isabel brought it in with all its candles lighted, and we
lifted our triumphant song, he was overwhelmed with happiness and pride.

"I never had a birthday cake or a birthday celebration before in all my
life," he said, and we hardly knew whether to laugh or to cry at that
confession.

We ended the day by singing for him--that was the best of it all; for
both the children could now join with me in voicing the tunes which he
loved. They knew his enthusiasms and were already faithful heirs of his
traditions. Singers of the future, they loved to hear him recount the
past.

All through the month of September as we walked our peaceful way in
Wisconsin the Germans were pounding at the gates of Paris. It comforts
me at this moment to recall how peaceful my father was. He heard of the
war only as of a far-off storm. He had us all, all but Franklin, and
there was no bitterness in his voice as he spoke of his increasing
uselessness. "I'm only a passenger now," he said. "I've finished my
work."

As the Interstate Fair came on, he quietly engaged a neighbor to take us
all down to La Crosse in an automobile. "This is my treat," he said, and
knowing how much it meant to him I gladly accepted. With a fine sense of
being up-to-date he reverted to the early days as we went whirling down
the turnpike, and told tales of hauling hay and grain over these long
hills. He pointed out the trail and spoke of its mud and sand. "It took
us six hours then. Now, see, it's just like a city street."

He was greatly pleased to find an aëroplane flying above the grounds as
we drew near. "They say the Germans are making use of these machines for
scouting--and they are building others to fight with. I can't understand
how they make a ton of iron fly."

Once inside the gates we let him play the host. He bought candy for the
children, paid for our dinners at the restaurant and took us to the
side-shows. It wearied him, however, and about three o'clock he said
"Let's go home by way of Onalaska. I want to visit the cemetery and see
if Father's lot is properly cared for." It seemed a rather melancholy
finish to our day, but I agreed and as we were crossing the sandy
stretch of road over which I limped as a child, I remarked "How short
the distance seems." He smiled like a conqueror, "This is next thing to
flying," he said.

This lonely little burial ground, hardly more impressive than the one at
Neshonoc, contained the graves of all the Garlands who had lived in that
region. "There is a place here for me," he said, "but I want you to put
me in Neshonoc beside your mother."

On the way home he recovered his cheerfulness with an almost boyish
resiliency. The flight of the car up the long hill which used to be such
a terror to his sweating team, gave a satisfaction which broke out in
speech. "It beats all how a motor can spin right along up a grade like
this--and the flies can't sting it either," he added in remembering the
tortured cattle of the past. When I told him of an invitation to attend
a "Home Coming of Iowa Authors" which I was considering, he expressed
his pleasure and urged me to accept. Des Moines was a real city to him.
It possessed the glamour of a capital and to have me claimed by the
State of Iowa pleased him more than any recognition in New York.

The following day he watched while the carpenter and I worked at putting
my study into shape. Ever since the fire two years before its ceiling
had needed repair, and even now I was but half-hearted in its
restoration. As I looked around the square, bare, ugly room and thought
of the spacious libraries of Longfellow, Lowell and Holmes, I realized
my almost hopeless situation. I was only a literary camper after all. My
life was not here--it couldn't be here so far from all that makes a
writer's life worth while. "Soon for the sake of the children I must
take them from this pleasant rut," I said to Zulime. "It is true an
author can make himself felt from any place, but why do it at a
disadvantage? If it were not for Father, I would establish our winter
home in New York, which has the effect of increasing my power as well as
my happiness."

On the twentieth of October Father called me to his room. "I'm getting
near the end of my trail," he said, "and I want to talk to you about my
will. I want you two boys to share equally in all I've got and I'd like
to have you keep this property just as it is, then you'll be safe,
you'll always have a home. I'm ready to go--any time, only I don't like
to leave the children--" His voice failed him for a moment, then he
added, "I know I can't last long."

Though refusing to take a serious view of his premonition I realized
that his hold on life was loosening and I answered, "Your wishes shall
be carried out."

He did not feel like going up to the club that night, and so we played
cards with him. Wilson Irvine, a landscape painter, who was visiting us
chose Constance as a partner against Mary Isabel and her grandsire. Luck
was all in Constance's favor, she and Irvine won, much to the veteran's
chagrin. "You little witch," he said, "what do you mean by beating your
granddad?" He was very proud of her skill, for she was only six years
old.

To end the evening to his liking, we all united in singing some old war
songs and he went away to his bed in better spirits than he had shown
for a week or more.

He was at the breakfast table with me next morning, but seemed not quite
awake. He replied when I spoke to him, but not alertly, not as he
should, and a few minutes later rose with effort. This disturbed me a
little, but a few minutes later he left the house as if to do some work
at the barn, and I went to my writing with a feeling that he was quite
all right.

It was a glorious October morning and from my desk as I looked into the
yard I could see him standing in the gate, waiting for the man and team.
He appeared perfectly well and exhibited his customary impatience with
dilatory workmen. He was standing alertly erect with the sunshine
falling over him and the poise of his head expressed his characteristic
energy. He made a handsome figure. My eyes fell again to my manuscript
and I was deep in my imaginary world when I heard the voice of my uncle
Frank calling to me up the stairs:

"Hamlin! Come quick. Something has happened. Come, quick, quick!"

There was a note in his voice which sent a chill through my blood, and
my first glance into his eyes told me that he had looked upon the
elemental. "Your father is lying out on the floor of the barn. I'm
afraid he's gone!"

He was right. There on the rough planking of the carriage way lay the
old pioneer, motionless, just as he had fallen not five minutes before.
The hat upon his head and his right hand in his pocket told that he had
fallen while standing in the door waiting for the drayman. His eyes were
closed as if in sleep, and no sign of injury could be seen.

Kneeling by his side I laid my hand on his breast. It was still! His
heart invincible through so many years had ceased to beat. His breath
was gone and his empty left hand, gracefully lax, lay at his side. The
veteran pioneer had passed to that farther West from whose vague
savannahs no adventurer has ever returned.

"He must have died on his feet," said my uncle gravely, tenderly.

"Yes, he went the way he wished to go," I replied with a painful stress
in my throat.

Together we took him up and bore him to the house, and placed him on the
couch whereon he had been wont to rest during the day.

I moved like a man in a dream. It was all incredible, benumbing.
Tenderly I disposed his head on its pillow and drew his hands across
his breast. "Here is the end of a good man," I said. "Another soldier of
the Union mustered out."

His hands, strong, yet singularly refined, appealed to me with poignant
suggestion. What stern tasks they had accomplished. What brave deeds
they had dared. In spite of the hazards of battle, notwithstanding the
perils of the forests, the raft, the river, after all the hardships of
the farm, they remained unscarred and shapely. The evidence of good
blood was in their slender whiteness. Honorable, skilful, indefatigable
hands,--now forever at rest.

My uncle slipped away to notify the coroner, leaving me there, alone,
with the still and silent form, which had been a dominant figure in my
world. For more than half a century those gray eyes and stern lips had
influenced my daily life. In spite of my growing authority, in spite of
his age he had been a force to reckon with up to the very moment of his
death. He was not a person to be ignored. All his mistakes, his
weaknesses, faded from my mind, I remembered only his heroic side. His
dignity, his manly grace were never more apparent than now as he lay
quietly, as though taking his midday rest.

A breath of pathos rose from the open book upon his table. His hat, his
shoes, his gloves all spoke of his unconquerable energy. I thought of
the many impatient words I had spoken to him, and they would have filled
me with a wave of remorse had I not known that our last day together had
been one of perfect understanding. His final night with us had been
entirely happy, and he had gone away as he had wished to go, in the
manner of a warrior killed in action. His unbending soul had kept his
body upright to the end.

All that day I went about the house with my children like one whose
world had suddenly begun to crumble. The head of my house was gone.
Over and over again I stole softly into his room unable to think of him
as utterly cold and still.

For seventy years he had faced the open lands. Starting from the hills
of Maine when a lad, he had kept moving, each time farther west, farther
from his native valley. His life, measured by the inventions he had
witnessed, the progress he had shared, covered an enormous span.

"He died like a soldier," I said to the awed children, "and he shall
have the funeral of a soldier. We will not mourn, and we will not
whisper or walk tip-toe in the presence of his body."

In this spirit we called his friends together. In place of flowers we
covered his coffin with the folds of a flag, and when his few remaining
comrades came to take a last look at him, my wife and I greeted them
cordially in ordinary voice as if they had come to spend an evening with
him and with us.

My final look at him in the casket filled my mind with love and
admiration. His snowy hair and beard, his fair skin and shapely
features, as well as a certain firm sweetness in the line of his lips
raised him to a grave dignity which made me proud of him. Representing
an era in American settlement as he did I rejoiced that nothing but the
noblest lines of his epic career were written on his face.

This is my consolation. His last days were spent in calm content with
his granddaughters to delight and comfort him. In their young lives his
spirit is going forward. They remember and love him as the serene,
white-haired veteran of many battles who taught them to revere the
banner he so passionately adored.

[Illustration: The art career which Zulime Taft abandoned (against my
wish) after our marriage, is now being taken up by her daughter
Constance who, at fourteen, signs herself C. Hamlin Garland, Artist.]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

AFTERWORD

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: To Mary Isabel, who, as a girl of eighteen, still loves
to impersonate the majesty of princesses, I entrust the future literary
history of Neshonoc.]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Afterword

At this point I make an end of this chronicle, the story of two families
whose wanderings and vicissitudes (as I conceive them) are typical of
thousands of other families who took part in the upbuilding of the
Middle Western States during that period which lies between the close of
the Civil War and the Great War of Nineteen Fourteen. With the ending of
the two principal life-lines which bind these pages together my book
naturally closes.

In these two volumes over which I have brooded for more than ten years,
I have shadowed forth, imperfectly, yet with high intent, the
experiences of Isabel McClintock and Richard Garland, and the lives of
other settlers closely connected with them. For a full understanding of
the drama--for it is a drama, a colossal and colorful drama--I must
depend upon the memory or the imagination of my readers. No writer can
record it all or even suggest the major part of it. At the end of four
years of writing I go to press with reluctance, but realizing that my
public, like myself, is growing gray, I have consented to publish my
manuscript with its many imperfections and omissions.

My Neshonoc is gone. The community which seemed so stable to me thirty
years ago, has vanished like a wisp of sunrise fog. The McClintocks, the
Dudleys, the Baileys, pioneers of my father's generation, have entered
upon their final migration to another darkly mysterious frontier. My
sunset World--all of it--is in process of change, of disintegration, of
dissolution. My beloved trails are grass-grown. I have put away my
saddle and my tent-cloth, realizing that at sixty-one my explorations
of the wilderness are at an end. Like a captive wolf I walk a narrow
round in a city square.

With my father's death I ceased to regard the La Crosse Valley even as
my summer home. I decided to make my permanent residence in the East,
and my wife and daughters whose affections were so deeply inwound with
the Midland, loyally consented to follow, although it was a sad
surrender for them. As my mother, Isabel McClintock, had given up her
home and friends in the Valley to follow Richard Garland into the new
lands of the West, so now Zulime Taft, A Daughter of the Middle Border,
surrendered all she had gained in Illinois and Wisconsin to follow me
into the crowded and dangerous East. It was a tearing wrench, but she
did it. She sold our house in Woodlawn, packed up our belongings and
joined me in a small apartment seven stories above the pavement in the
heart of Manhattan.

The children came East with a high sense of adventure, with no
realization that they were leaving their childhood's home never to
return to it. They still talk of going back to West Salem, and they have
named our summer cabin in the Catskills "Neshonoc" in memory of the
little pioneer village whose graveyard holds all that is material of
their paternal grandparents. The colors of the old Homestead are growing
dim, and yet they will not permit me to deed it to others. We still own
it and shall continue to do so. It has too many memories both sweet and
sacred,--it seems that by clinging to its material forms we may still
retain its soul.

We think of it often, and when around our rude fireplace in Camp
Neshonoc in a room almost as rough as a frontier cabin, we sit and sing
the songs which are at once a tribute to our forebears and a bond of
union with the past, the shadows of the heroic past emerge. David and
Luke, Richard and Walter, and with them Susan and Lorette--all--all the
ones I loved and honored----.

My daughters are true granddaughters of the Middle Border. Constance at
fourteen, Mary Isabel at eighteen, are carrying forward, each in her
distinctive way, the traditions of the Border, with the sturdy spirit of
their forebears in the West. To them I am about to entrust the work
which I have only partially completed.

Too young at first to understand the reasons for my decision, they are
now in agreement with me that we can never again live in the Homestead.
They love every tree, every shrub on the old place. The towering elms,
the crow's nest in the maples, the wall of growing woodbine, the gaunt,
wide-spreading butternut branches,--all these are very dear to them, for
they are involved with their earliest memories, touched with the glamour
which the imagination of youth flings over the humblest scenes of human
life. To them the Fern Road, The Bubbling Spring, and the Apple Tree
Glen, scenes of many camping places, are all a part of childhood's fairy
kingdom. The thought of never again walking beneath those familiar trees
or sitting in those familiar rooms, is painful to them, and yet I am
certain that their Neshonoc, like my own, is a realm remembered, a
region to which they can return only on the wings of memory or of dream.

Happily the allurement of art, the stimulus of ambition and the promise
of love and honor already partly compensate them for their losses. Their
faces are set to the future. On them I rest my hopes. By means of them
and their like, Life weaves her endless web.





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