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Title: The Wizard's Daughter and Other Stories
Author: Graham, Margaret Collier, 1850-1910
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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[Illustration: Book Cover]



  THE WIZARD'S DAUGHTER AND OTHER STORIES

  Margaret Collier Graham



By Margaret Collier Graham


THE WIZARD'S DAUGHTER AND OTHER STORIES. 12mo, $1.25

STORIES OF THE FOOT-HILLS. 16mo, $1.25


HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & COMPANY
BOSTON AND NEW YORK



  The Wizard's Daughter
  And Other Stories

  By

  Margaret Collier Graham


  BOSTON AND NEW YORK
  HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
  The Riverside Press, Cambridge
  1905


  COPYRIGHT 1905
  BY MARGARET COLLIER GRAHAM
  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

  _Published September 1905_



CONTENTS


                                PAGE

  The Wizard's Daughter            1

  Marg'et Ann                     67

  At the Foot of the Trail       133

  Lib                            169

  For Value Received             181

  The Face of the Poor           205



The Wizard's Daughter


There had been a norther during the day, and at sunset the valley, seen
from Dysart's cabin on the mesa, was a soft blur of golden haze. The
wind had hurled the yellow leaves from the vineyard, exposing the
gnarled deformity of the vines, and the trailing branches of the
pepper-trees had swept their fallen berries into coral reefs on the
southerly side.

A young man with a delicate, discontented face sat on the porch of the
Dysart claim cabin, looking out over the valley. A last gust of lukewarm
air strewed the floor with scythe-shaped eucalyptus-leaves, and Mrs.
Dysart came out with her broom to sweep them away.

She was a large woman, with a crease at her waist that buried her
apron-strings, and the little piazza creaked ominously as she walked
about. The invalid got up with a man's instinctive distrust of a broom,
and began to move away.

"Don't disturb yourself, Mr. Palmerston," she said, waving him back into
his chair with one hand, and speaking in a large, level voice, as if she
were quelling a mob,--"don't disturb yourself; I won't raise any dust.
Does the north wind choke you up much?"

"Oh, no," answered the young fellow, carelessly; "it was a rather more
rapid change of air than I bargained for, but I guess it's over now."

"Sick folks generally think the north wind makes them nervous. Some of
them say it's the electricity; but I think it's because most of 'em's
men-folks, and being away from their families, they naturally blame
things on the weather."

Mrs. Dysart turned her ample back toward her hearer, and swept a
leaf-laden cobweb from the corner of the window.

The young man's face relaxed.

"I don't think it made me nervous," he said. "But then, I'm not very
ill. I'm out here for my mother's health. She threatened to go into a
decline if I didn't come."

"Well, you've got a consumptive build," said Mrs. Dysart, striking her
broom on the edge of the porch, "and you're light-complected; that's
likely to mean scrofula. You'd ought to be careful. California's a good
deal of a hospital, but it don't do to depend too much on the climate.
It ain't right; it's got to be blessed to your use."

Palmerston smiled, and leaned his head against the redwood wall of the
cabin. Mrs. Dysart creaked virtuously to and fro behind her broom.

"Isn't that Mr. Dysart's team?" asked the young man, presently, looking
down the valley.

His companion walked to the edge of the porch and pushed back her
sunbonnet to look.

"Yes," she announced, "that's Jawn; he's early."

She piled her cushiony hands on the end of the broom-handle, and stood
still, gazing absently at the approaching team.

"I hope your mother's a Christian woman," she resumed, with a sort of
corpulent severity.

The young man's face clouded, and then cleared again whimsically.

"I really never inquired," he said lightly; "but I am inclined to think
she is. She is certainly not a pagan."

"You spoke as if she was a good deal wrapped up in you," continued his
hostess, addressing herself unctuously to the landscape. "I was thinkin'
she'd need something to sustain her if you was to be taken away. There's
nothing but religion that can prepare us for whatever comes. I wonder
who that Jawn's a-bringin' now," she broke off suddenly, holding one of
her fat hands above her eyes and leaning forward with a start. "He does
pick up the queerest lot. I just held my breath the other day when I saw
him fetchin' you. I'd been wantin' a boarder all summer, and kind of
lookin' for one, but I wasn't no more ready for you than if you'd been
measles. It does seem sometimes as if men-folks take a satisfaction in
seein' how they can put a woman to."

Mrs. Dysart wabbled heavily indoors, where she creaked about
unresignedly, putting things to rights. Palmerston closed his eyes and
struggled with a smile that kept breaking into a noiseless laugh. He had
a fair, high-bred face, and his smile emphasized its boyishness.

When the wagon rattled into the acacias west of the vineyard, he got up
and sauntered toward the barn. John Dysart saw him coming, and took two
or three steps toward him with his hand at the side of his mouth.

"He's deaf," he whispered with a violent facial enunciation which must
have assailed the stranger's remaining senses like a yell. "I think
you'll like him; he's a wonderful talker."

The newcomer was a large, seedy-looking man, with the resigned,
unexpectant manner of the deaf. Dysart went around the wagon, and the
visitor put up his trumpet.

"Professor Brownell," John called into it. "I want to make you
acquainted with Mr. Palmerston. Mr. Palmerston is a young man from the
East, a student at Cambridge--no, Oxford"--

"Ann Arbor," interrupted the young man, eagerly.

Dysart ignored the interruption. "He's out here for his health."

The stranger nodded toward the young man approvingly, and dropped the
trumpet as if he had heard enough.

"How do you do, Mr. Palmerston?" he said, reaching down to clasp the
young fellow's slim white hand. "I'm glad to meet a scholar in these
wilds."

Palmerston blushed a helpless pink, and murmured politely. The stranger
dismounted from the wagon with the awkwardness of age and avoirdupois.
John Dysart stood just behind his guest, describing him as if he were a
panorama:--

"I never saw his beat. He talks just like a book. He's filled me
chuck-full of science on the way up. He knows all about the inside of
the earth from the top crust to China. Ask him something about his
machine, and get him started."

Palmerston glanced inquiringly toward the trumpet. The stranger raised
it to his ear and leaned graciously toward him.

"Mr. Dysart is mistaken," called Palmerston, in the high, lifeless voice
with which we all strive to reconcile the deaf to their affliction; "I
am a Western man, from Ann Arbor."

"Better still, better still," interrupted the newcomer, grasping his
hand again; "you'll be broader, more progressive--'the heir of all the
ages,' and so forth. I was denied such privileges in my youth. But
nature is an open book, 'sermons in stones.'" He turned toward the wagon
and took out a small leather valise, handling it with evident care.

Dysart winked at the young man, and pointed toward the satchel.

"Jawn," called Mrs. Dysart seethingly, from the kitchen door, "what's
the trouble?"

John's facial contortions stopped abruptly, as if the mainspring had
snapped. He took off his hat and scratched his head gingerly with the
tip of his little finger. He had a round, bald head, with a fringe of
smooth, red-brown hair below the baldness that made it look like a
filbert.

"I'm coming, Emeline," he called, glancing hurriedly from the two men to
the vicinity of his wife's voice, as if anxious to bisect himself
mentally and leave his hospitality with his guest.

"I'll look after Professor Brownell," said Palmerston; "he can step into
my tent and brush up."

Dysart's countenance cleared.

"Good," he said eagerly, starting on a quick run toward the kitchen
door. When he was half-way there he turned and put up his hand again.
"Draw him out!" he called in a stentorian whisper. "You'd ought to hear
him talk; it's great. Get him started about his machine."

Palmerston smiled at the unnecessary admonition. The stranger had been
talking all the time in a placid, brook-like manner while he felt under
the wagon-seat for a second and much smaller traveling-bag. The young
man possessed himself of this after having been refused the first by a
gentle motion of the owner's hand. The visitor accepted his signal of
invitation, and followed him toward the tent.

"Our universities and colleges are useful in their way; they no doubt
teach many things that are valuable: but they are not practical; they
all fail in the application of knowledge to useful ends. I am not an
educated man myself, but I have known many who are, and they are all
alike--shallow, superficial, visionary. They need to put away their
books and sit down among the everlasting hills and think. You have done
well to come out here, young man. This is good; you will grow."

He stopped at the door of the tent and took off his rusty hat. The
breeze blew his long linen duster about his legs.

"Have you looked much into electrical phenomena?" he asked, putting up
his trumpet.

Palmerston moved a step back, and said: "No; not at all." Then he raised
his hand to possess himself of the ear-piece, and colored as he
remembered that it was not a telephone. His companion seemed equally
oblivious of his confusion and of his reply.

"I have made some discoveries," he went on; "I shall be pleased to talk
them over with you. They will revolutionize this country." He waved his
hand toward the mesa. "Every foot of this land will sometime blossom as
the rose; greasewood and sage-brush will give place to the orange and
the vine. Water is king in California, and there are rivers of water
locked in these mountains. We must find it; yes, yes, my young friend,
we must find it, and we _can_ find it. I have solved that. The solution
is here." He stooped and patted his satchel affectionately. "This little
instrument is California's best friend. There is a future for all these
valleys, wilder than our wildest dreams."

Palmerston nodded with a guilty feeling of having approved statements of
which he intended merely to acknowledge the receipt, and motioned his
guest into the white twilight of the tent.

"Make yourself comfortable, professor," he called. "I want to find
Dysart and get my mail."

As he neared the kitchen door Mrs. Dysart's voice came to him enveloped
in the sizzle of frying meat.

"Well, I don't know, Jawn; he mayn't be just the old-fashioned
water-witch, but it ain't right; it's tamperin' with the secrets of the
Most High, that's what I think."

"Well, now, Emeline, you hadn't ought to be hasty. He don't lay claim to
anything more'n natural; he says it's all based on scientific
principles. He says he can tell me just where to tunnel--Now, here's
Mr. Palmerston; he's educated. I'm going to rely on him."

"Well, I'm goin' to rely on my heavenly Fawther," said Mrs. Dysart
solemnly, from the quaking pantry.

Palmerston stood in the doorway, smiling. John jumped up and clapped his
hand vigorously on his breast pockets.

"Well, now, there! I left your mail in the wagon in my other coat," he
said, hooking his arm through the young man's and drawing him toward
the barn. "Did you get him turned on?" he asked eagerly, when they were
out of his wife's hearing. "How does he strike you, anyway? Doesn't he
talk like a book? He wants me to help him find a claim--show him the
corners, you know. He's got a daughter down at Los Angeles; she'll come
up and keep house for him. He says he'll locate water on shares if I'll
help him find a claim and do the tunneling. Emeline she's afraid I'll
get left, but I think she'll come round. Isn't it a caution the way he
talks science?"

Palmerston acknowledged that it was.

"The chances are that he is a fraud, Dysart," he said kindly; "most of
those people are. I'd be very cautious about committing myself."

"Oh, I'm cautious," protested John; "that's one of my peculiarities.
Emeline thinks because I look into things I'm not to be trusted. She's
so quick herself she can't understand anybody that's slow and careful.
Here's your letters--quite a batch of 'em. Would you mind our putting up
a cot in your tent for the professor?"

"Not at all," said the young fellow good-naturedly. "It's excellent
discipline to have a deaf man about; you realize how little you have to
say that's worth saying."

"That's a fact, that's a fact," said Dysart, rather too cheerfully
acquiescent. "A man that can talk like that makes you ashamed to open
your head."

Palmerston fell asleep that night to the placid monotone of the
newcomer's voice, and awoke at daybreak to hear the same conversational
flow just outside the tent. Perhaps it was Dysart's explosive
"Good-morning, professor!" which seemed to have missed the trumpet and
hurled itself against the canvas wall of the tent close to the sleeper's
ear, that awoke him. He sat up in bed and tried to shake off the
conviction that his guest had been talking all night. Dysart's greeting
made no break in the cheerful optimism that filtered through the canvas.

"Last night I was an old man and dreamed dreams; this morning I am a
young man and see visions. I see this thirsty plain fed by
irrigating-ditches and covered with bearing orchards. I am impatient to
be off on our tramp. This is an ideal spot. With five acres of
orange-trees here, producing a thousand dollars per acre, one might give
his entire time to scientific investigation."

"He'd want to look after the gophers some," yelled Dysart.

"I am astonished that this country is so little appreciated," continued
Brownell, blindly unheeding. "It is no doubt due to the reckless
statements of enthusiasts. It is a wonderful country--wonderful,
wonderful, wonderful!"

There was a diminuendo in the repeated adjective that told Palmerston
the speaker was moving toward the house; and it was from that direction
that he heard Mrs. Dysart, a little later, assuring her visitor, in a
high, depressed voice, that she hadn't found the country yet that would
support anybody without elbow-grease, and she didn't expect to till it
was Gawd's will to take her to her heavenly home.

John Dysart and his visitor returned from their trip in the mountains,
that evening, tired, dusty, and exultant. The professor's linen duster
had acquired several of those triangular rents which have the merit of
being beyond masculine repair, and may therefore be conscientiously
endured. He sat on the camp-chair at Palmerston's tent door, his
finger-tips together and his head thrown back in an ecstasy of content.

"This is certainly the promised land," he said gravely, "a land flowing
with milk and honey. Nature has done her share lavishly: soil, climate,
scenery--everything but water; yes, and water, too, waiting for the
brain, the hand of man, the magic touch of science--the one thing left
to be conquered to give the sense of mastery, of possession. This
country is ours by right of conquest." He waved his hands majestically
toward the valley. "In three months we shall have a stream flowing from
these mountains that will transform every foot of ground before you.
These people seem worthy, though somewhat narrow. It will be a pleasure
to share prosperity with them as freely as they share their poverty with
me."

Palmerston glanced conversationally toward the trumpet, and his
companion raised it to his ear.

"Dysart is a poor man," shouted Palmerston, "but he is the best fellow
in the world. I should hate to see him risk anything on an uncertainty."

Brownell had been nodding his head backward and forward with dreamy
emphasis; he now shook it horizontally, closing his eyes. "There is no
uncertainty," he said, lowering his trumpet; "that is the advantage of
science: you can count upon it with absolute certainty. I am glad the
man is poor--very glad; it heightens the pleasure of helping him."

The young man turned away a trifle impatiently.

"A reservoir will entail some expense," the professor rambled on; "but
the money will come. 'To him that hath shall be given.'"

Palmerston's face completed the quotation, but the speaker went on
without opening his eyes: "When the water is once flowing out of the
tunnel, capital will flow into it."

"A good deal of capital will flow into the tunnel before any water flows
out of it," growled Palmerston, taking advantage of his companion's
physical defect to relieve his mind.

Later in the evening Dysart drew the young man into the family
conference, relying upon the sympathy of sex in the effort to allay his
wife's misgivings.

"The tunnel won't cost over two dollars a foot, with what I can do
myself," maintained the little man, "and the professor says we'll strike
water that'll drown us out before we've gone a hundred feet. Emeline
here she's afraid of it because it sounds like a meracle, but I tell her
it's pure science. It isn't any more wonderful than a needle traveling
toward a magnet: the machine tells where the water is, and how far off
it is, something like a compass--I don't understand it, but I can see
that it ain't any more meraculous than a telegraph. It's science."

"Oh, yes, I know," mourned Mrs. Dysart, who overflowed a small
rocking-chair on the piazza; "there's folks that think the creation of
the world in six days is nothin' but science, but they're not people for
Christians to be goin' pardners with. If Gawd has put a hundred feet of
dirt on top of that water, I tell Jawn he had his reasons, and I can't
think it's right for anybody whose treasure ought to be laid up in
heaven to go pryin' into the bowels of the earth huntin' for things that
our heavenly Fawther's hid."

"But there's gold, Emeline."

"Oh, yes; I know there's gold, and I know 'the love of money is the root
of all evil.' I don't say that the Lord don't reign over the inside of
the earth, but I do say that people that get their minds fixed on things
that's underground are liable to forget the things that are above."

"Well, now, I'm sure they hadn't ought," protested Dysart. "I'm sure
'the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof,' Emeline."

Mrs. Dysart sank slowly back in her chair at this unexpected thrust from
her own weapon, and then rallied with a long, corpulent sigh.

"Well, I don't know. You recollect that old man was up here last winter,
hammerin' around among the rocks as if the earth was a big nut that he
was tryin' to crack? I talked with him long enough to find out what he
was; he was an _atheist_."

Mrs. Dysart leaned forward and whispered the last word in an awe-struck
tone, with her fat eyes fixed reproachfully upon her husband.

"Oh, I guess not, Emeline," pleaded John.

Mrs. Dysart shut her lips and her eyes very tight, and nodded slowly and
affirmatively. "Yes, he was. He set right in that identical spot where
Mr. Palmerston is a-settin', and talked about the seven theological
periods of creation, and the fables of Jonah and the whale and Noah's
ark, till I was all of a tremble. Mebbe that's science, Jawn, but _I_
call it blasphemin'."

Dysart rested his elbows on his knees and looked over the edge of the
porch as if he were gazing into the bottomless pit.

"Oh, come, now, Mrs. Dysart," Palmerston broke in cheerfully; "I'm not
at all afraid of Mr. Dysart losing his faith, but I'm very much afraid
of his losing his money. I wish he had as good a grip on his purse as he
has on his religion."

Mrs. Dysart glanced at the young man with a look of relief to find him
agreeing with her in spite of his irreverent commingling of the temporal
and the spiritual.

"Well, I'm sure we've lost enough already, when it comes to that," she
continued, folding her hands resignedly in her convex lap. "There was
that artesian well down at San Pasqual"--

"Well, now, Emeline," her husband broke in eagerly, "that well would
have been all right if the tools hadn't stuck. I think yet we'd have got
water if we'd gone on."

"We'd 'a' got water if it had 'a' been our heavenly Fawther's will,"
announced Mrs. Dysart, with solemnity, rising slowly from her chair,
which gave a little squeak of relief. "I've got to set the sponge," she
went on in the same tone, as if it were some sacred religious rite. "I
wish you'd talk it over with Mr. Palmerston, Jawn, and tell him the
offer you've had from this perfessor--I'm sure I don't know what he's
perfessor of. He ain't a perfessor of religion--I know that."

She sent her last arrow over her wide shoulder as she passed the two men
and creaked into the house. Her husband looked after her gravely.

"Now that's the way with Emeline," he said; "she's all faith, and then,
again, she has no faith. Now, I'm just the other way." He rubbed his
bald head in a vain attempt to formulate the obverse of his wife's
character. "Well, anyway," he resumed, accepting his failure cheerfully,
"the professor he wants to find a claim, as I was telling you, but he
wants one that's handy to the place he's selected for the tunnel. Of
course he won't say just where that is till we get the papers made out,
but he gave me a kind of a general idea of it, and the land around
there's all mine. He'd have to go 'way over east to find a government
section that hasn't been filed on, and of course there'd be a big
expense for pipe; so he offers to locate the tunnel for half the water
if we get ten inches or over, and I'm to make the tunnel, and deed him
twenty acres of land."

"Suppose you get less than ten inches--what then?"

"Then it's all to be mine; but I'm to deed him the land all the same."

"How many inches of water have you from your spring now?"

"About ten, as near as I can guess."

"Well, suppose he locates the tunnel so it will drain your spring; are
you to have the expense of the work and the privilege of giving him half
the water and twenty acres of land--is that it?"

John rubbed the back of his neck and reflected.

"The professor laughs at the idea of ten inches of water. He says we'll
get at least a hundred, maybe more. You see, if we were to get that
much, I'd have a lot of water to sell to the settlers below. It 'u'd be
a big thing."

"So it would; but there's a big 'if' in there, Dysart. Do you know
anything about this man's record?"

"I asked about him down in Los Angeles. Some folks believe in him, and
some don't. They say he struck a big stream for them over at San Luis. I
don't go much on what people say, anyway; I size a man up, and depend on
that. I like the way the professor talks. I don't understand all of it,
but he seems to have things pretty pat. Don't you think he has?"

"Yes; he has things pat enough. Most swindlers have. It's their
business. Not that I think him a deliberate swindler, Dysart. Possibly
he believes in himself. But I hope you'll be cautious."

"Oh, I'm cautious," asserted John. "I'd be a good deal richer man to-day
if I hadn't been so cautious. I've spent a lot of time and money looking
into things. I'll get there, if caution'll do it. Now, Emeline she's
impulsive; she has to be held back; she never examines into anything:
but I'm just the other way."

In spite of Palmerston's warning and Mrs. Dysart's fears, temporal and
spiritual, negotiations between Dysart and Brownell made rapid progress.
The newcomer's tent was pitched upon the twenty acres selected, and
gleamed white against the mountain-side, suggesting to Palmerston's idle
vision a sail becalmed upon a sage-green sea. "Dysart's ship, which will
probably never come in," he said to himself, looking at it with visible
indignation, one morning, as he sat at his tent door in that state of
fuming indolence which the male American calls taking a rest.

"Practically there is little difference between a knave and a fool," he
fretted; "it's the difference between the gun that is loaded and the one
that is not: in the long run the unloaded gun does the more mischief. A
self-absorbed fool is a knave. After all, dishonesty is only abnormal
selfishness; it's a question of degree. Hello, Dysart!" he said aloud,
as his host appeared around the tent. "How goes it?"

"Slow," said John emphatically, "slow. I'm feeling my way like a cat,
and the professor he's just about as cautious as I am. We're a good
team. He's been over the cañon six times, and every time that machine of
his'n gives him a new idea. He's getting it down to a fine point. He
wanted to go up again to-day, but I guess he can't."

"What's up?" inquired Palmerston indifferently.

"Well, his daughter wrote him she was coming this afternoon, and
somebody'll have to meet her down at Malaga when the train comes in.
I've just been oiling up the top-buggy, and I thought maybe if you"--

"Why, certainly," interrupted Palmerston, responding amiably to the
suggestion of John's manner; "if you think the young lady will not
object, I shall be delighted. What time is the train due?"

"Now, that's just what I told Emeline," said John triumphantly. "He'd
liever go than not, says I; if he wouldn't then young folks has changed
since I can remember. The train gets there about two o'clock. If you jog
along kind of comfortable you'll be home before supper. If the girl's as
smart as her father, you'll have a real nice visit."

Mrs. Dysart viewed the matter with a pessimism which was scarcely to be
distinguished from conventionality.

"I think it's a kind of an imposition, Mr. Palmerston," she said, as her
boarder was about to start, "sendin' you away down there for a total
stranger. It's a good thing you're not bashful. Some young men would be
terribly put out. I'm sure Jawn would 'a' been at your age. But my
father wouldn't have sent a strange young man after one of his
daughters--he knowed us too well. My, oh! just to think of it! I'd have
fell all in a heap."

Palmerston ventured a hope that the young lady would not be completely
unnerved.

"Oh, I'm not frettin' about _her_," said his hostess. "I don't doubt
she can take care of _her_self. If she's like some of her folks, she'll
talk you blind."

Palmerston drove away to hide the smile that teased the corners of his
mouth.

"The good woman has the instincts of a chaperon, without the
traditions," he reflected, letting his smile break into a laugh. "Her
sympathy is with the weaker sex when it comes to a personal encounter.
We may need her services yet, who knows?"

Malaga was a flag-station, and the shed which was supposed to shelter
its occasional passengers from the heat of summer and the rain of winter
was flooded with afternoon sunshine. Palmerston drove into the square
shadow of the shed roof, and set his feet comfortably upon the dashboard
while he waited. He was not aware of any very lively curiosity
concerning the young woman for whom he was waiting. That he had formed
some nebulous hypothesis of vulgarity was evidenced by his whimsical
hope that her prevailing atmosphere would not be musk; aggressive
perfumery of some sort seemed inevitable. He found himself wondering
what trait in her father had led him to this deduction, and drifted idly
about in the haze of heredity until the whistle of the locomotive warned
him to withdraw his feet from their elevation and betake himself to the
platform. Half a minute later the engine panted onward and the young man
found himself, with uplifted hat, confronting a slender figure clad very
much as he was, save for the skirt that fell in straight, dark folds to
the ground.

"Miss Brownell?" inquired Palmerston smiling.

The young woman looked at him with evident surprise.

"Where is my father?" she asked abruptly.

"He was unable to come. He regretted it very much. I was so fortunate as
to take his place. Allow me"--He stooped toward her satchel.

"Unable to come--is he ill?" pursued the girl, without moving.

"Oh, no," explained Palmerston hastily; "he is quite well. It was
something else--some matter of business."

"Business!" repeated the young woman, with ineffable scorn.

She turned and walked rapidly toward the buggy. Palmerston followed with
her satchel. She gave him a preoccupied "Thank you" as he assisted her
to a seat and shielded her dress with the shabby robe.

"Do you know anything about this business of my father's?" she asked as
they drove away.

"Very little; it is between him and Mr. Dysart, with whom I am boarding.
Mr. Dysart has mentioned it to me." The young man spoke with evident
reluctance. His companion turned her clear, untrammeled gaze upon him.

"You needn't be afraid to say what you think. Of course it is all
nonsense," she said bitterly.

Palmerston colored under her intent gaze, and smiled faintly.

"I have said what I think to Mr. Dysart. Don't you really mean that I
need not be afraid to say what _you_ think?"

She was still looking at him, or rather at the place where he was. She
turned a little more when he spoke, and regarded him as if he had
suddenly materialized.

"I think it is all nonsense," she said gravely, as if she were answering
a question. Then she turned away again and knitted her brows. Palmerston
glanced covertly now and then at her profile, unwillingly aware of its
beauty. She was handsome, strikingly, distinguishedly handsome, he said
to himself; but there was something lacking. It must be femininity,
since he felt the lack and was masculine. He smiled to think how much
alike they must appear--he and this very gentlemanly young woman beside
him. He thought of her soft felt hat and the cut of her dark-blue coat,
and there arose in him a rigidly subdued impulse to offer her a cigar,
to ask her if she had a daily paper about her, to--She turned upon him
suddenly, her eyes full of tears.

"I am crying!" she exclaimed angrily. "How unspeakably silly!"

Palmerston's heart stopped with that nameless terror which the actual
man always experiences when confronted by this phase of the ideal woman.
He had been so serene, so comfortable, under the unexpected that there
flashed into his mind a vague sense of injury that she should surprise
him in this way with the expected. It was inconsiderate, inexcusable;
then, with an inconsistency worthy of a better sex, he groped after an
excuse for the inexcusable.

"You are very nervous--your journey has tired you--you are not strong,"
he pleaded.

"I am _not_ nervous," insisted the young woman indignantly. "I have no
nerves--I detest them. And I am quite as strong as you are." The young
fellow winced. "It is not that. It is only because I cannot have my own
way. I cannot make people do as I wish." She spoke with a heat that
seemed to dry her tears.

Palmerston sank back and let the case go by default. "If you like that
view of it better"--

"I like the truth," the girl broke in vehemently. "I am so tired of
talk! Why must we always cover up the facts with a lot of platitudes?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Palmerston lightly. "I suppose there ought to
be a skeleton of truth under all we say, but one doesn't need to rattle
his bones to prove that he has them."

The girl laughed. Palmerston caught a glimpse of something reassuring in
her laugh.

"It might not be cheerful," she admitted, "but it would be honest, and
we might learn to like it. Besides, the truth is not always
disagreeable."

"Wouldn't the monotony of candor appall us?" urged Palmerston. "Isn't it
possible that our deceptions are all the individuality we have?"

"Heaven forbid!" said his companion curtly.

They drove on without speaking. The young man was obstinately averse to
breaking the silence, which, nevertheless, annoyed him. He had a theory
that feminine chatter was disagreeable. Just why he should feel
aggrieved that this particular young woman did not talk to him he could
not say. No doubt he would have resented with high disdain the
suggestion that his vanity had been covertly feeding for years upon the
anxiety of young women to make talk for his diversion.

"Do you think my father has closed his agreement with this man of whom
you were speaking--this Mr. Dysart?" asked Miss Brownell, returning to
the subject as if they had never left it.

"I am very certain he has not; at least, he had not this morning,"
rejoined Palmerston.

"I wish it might be prevented," she said earnestly, with a note of
appeal.

"I have talked with Dysart, but my arguments fail to impress him;
perhaps you may be more successful."

Palmerston was aware of responding to her tone rather than to her
words. The girl shook her head.

"I can do nothing. People who have only common sense are at a terrible
disadvantage when it comes to argument. I know it is all nonsense; but a
great many people seem to prefer nonsense. I believe my father would die
if he were reduced to bare facts."

"There is something in that," laughed Palmerston. "A theory makes a very
comfortable mental garment, if it is roomy enough."

The young woman turned and glanced at him curiously, as if she could not
divine what he was laughing at.

"They are like children--such people. My father is like a child. He does
not live in the world; he cannot defend himself."

Palmerston's skepticism rushed into his face. The girl looked at him,
and the color mounted to her forehead.

"You do not believe in him!" she broke out. "It cannot be--you cannot
think--you do not know him!"

"I know very little of your father's theories, Miss Brownell,"
protested Palmerston. "You cannot blame me if I question them; you seem
to question them yourself."

"His theories--I loathe them!" She spoke with angry emphasis. "It is not
that; it is himself. I cannot bear to think that you--that any one"--

"Pardon me," interrupted Palmerston; "we were speaking of his theories.
I have no desire to discuss your father."

He knew his tone was resentful. He found himself wondering whether it
was an excess of egotism or of humility that made her ignore his
personality.

"Why should we not discuss him?" she asked, turning her straightforward
eyes upon him.

"Because"--Palmerston broke into an impatient laugh--"because we are not
disembodied spirits; at least, I am not."

The girl gave him a look of puzzled incomprehension, and turned back to
her own thoughts. That they were troubled thoughts her face gave
abundant evidence. Palmerston waited curiously eager for some
manifestation of social grace, some comment on the scenery which should
lead by the winding path of young-ladyism to the Mecca of her personal
tastes and preferences; should unveil that sacred estimate of herself
which she so gladly shared with others, but which others too often
failed to share with her.

"I wish you would tell me all you know about it," she said presently,
"this proposition my father has made. He writes me very indefinitely,
and sometimes it is hard for me to learn, even when I am with him, just
what he is doing. He forgets that he has not told me."

The young man hesitated, weighing the difficulties that would beset him
if he should attempt to explain his hesitation, seeing also the more
tangible difficulties of evasion if she should turn her clear eyes upon
him. It would be better for Dysart if she knew, he said to himself. They
had made no secret of the transaction, and sooner or later she must hear
of it from others, if not from her father. He yielded to the infection
of her candor, and told her what she asked. She listened with knitted
brows and an introspective glance.

"Mr. Dysart might lose his work," she commented tentatively.

Palmerston was silent.

The girl turned abruptly. "Could he lose anything else?" The color swept
across her face, and her voice had a half-pathetic menace in it.

"Every business arrangement is uncertain, contains a possibility of
loss."

Palmerston was defiantly aware that he had not answered her question. He
emphasized his defiance by jerking the reins.

"Don't!" said the girl reproachfully. "I think his mouth is tender."

"You like horses?" inquired the young man, with a sensation of relief.

She shook her head. "No; I think not. I never notice them except when
they seem uncomfortable."

"But if you didn't like them you wouldn't care."

"Oh, yes, I should. I don't like to see anything uncomfortable."

Palmerston laughed. "You have made me very uncomfortable, and you do not
seem to mind. I must conclude that you have not noticed it, and that
conclusion hurts my vanity."

The young woman did not turn her head.

"I try to be candid," she said, "and I am always being misunderstood. I
think I must be very stupid."

Her companion began to breathe more freely. She was going to talk of
herself, after all. He was perfectly at home when it came to that.

"Not at all," he said graciously; "you only make the rest of us appear
stupid. We are at a disadvantage when we get what we do not expect, and
none of us expect candor."

"But if we tell the truth ourselves, I don't see why we shouldn't expect
it from others."

"Oh, yes, if we ourselves tell the truth."

"I think you have been telling me the truth," she said, turning her
steadfast eyes upon him.

"Thank you," said Palmerston lightly. "I hope my evident desire for
approval doesn't suggest a sense of novelty in my position."

Miss Brownell smiled indulgently, and then knitted her brows. "I am glad
you have told me," she said; "I may not be able to help it, but it is
better for me to know."

They were nearing the Dysart house, and Palmerston remembered that he
had no definite instruction concerning the newcomer's destination.

"I think I will take her directly to her father's tent," he reflected,
"and let Mrs. Dysart plan her own attack upon the social situation."

When he had done this and returned to his boarding-place, there was a
warmth in the greeting of his worthy hostess which suggested a sense of
his recent escape from personal danger.

"I'm real glad to see you safe home, Mr. Palmerston," she said amply. "I
don't wonder you look fagged; the ride through the dust was hard enough
without having all sorts of other things to hatchel you. I do hope you
won't have that same kind of a phthisicky ketch in your breath that you
had the other night after you overdone. I think it was mostly
nervousness, and, dear knows, you've had enough to make you nervous
to-day. I told Jawn after you was gone that I'd hate to be answerable
for the consequences."

Two days later John Dysart came into Palmerston's tent, and drew a
camp-stool close to the young man's side.

"I'm in a kind of a fix," he said, seating himself and fastening his
eyes on the floor with an air of profound self-commiseration. "You see,
this girl of Brownell's she came up where I was mending the flume
yesterday, and we got right well acquainted. She seems friendly. She
took off her coat and laid it on a boulder, and we set down there in our
shirt-sleeves and had quite a talk. I think she means all right, but
she's visionary. I can't understand it, living with a practical man like
the professor. But you can't always tell. Now, there's Emeline. Emeline
means well, but she lets her prejudices run away with her judgment. I
guess women generally do. But, someway, this girl rather surprised me.
When I first saw her I thought she looked kind of reasonable; maybe it
was her cravat--I don't know."

John shook his head in a baffled way. He had taken off his hat, and the
handkerchief which he had spread over his bald crown to protect it from
the flies drooped pathetically about his honest face.

"What did Miss Brownell say?" asked Palmerston, flushing a little.

John looked at him absently from under his highly colored awning. "The
girl? Oh, she don't understand. She wanted me to be careful. I told her
I'd been careful all my life, and I wasn't likely to rush into anything
now. She thinks her father's 'most too sanguine about the water, but she
doesn't understand the machine--I could see that. She said she was
afraid I'd lose something, and she wants me to back out right now. I'm
sure I don't know what to do. I want to treat everybody right."

"Including yourself, I hope," suggested Palmerston.

"Yes, of course. I don't feel quite able to give up all my prospects
just for a notion; and yet I want to do the square thing by Emeline.
It's queer about women--especially Emeline. I've often thought if there
was only men it would be easier to make up your mind; but still, I
suppose we'd oughtn't to feel that way. They don't mean any harm."

John drew the protecting drapery from his head, and lashed his bald
crown with it softly, as if in punishment for his seeming disloyalty.

"You could withdraw from the contract now without any great loss to Mr.
Brownell," suggested Palmerston.

John looked at him blankly. "Why, of course he wouldn't lose anything;
I'd be the loser. But I haven't any notion of doing that. I'm only
wondering whether I ought to tell Emeline about the girl. You see,
Emeline's kind of impulsive, and she's took a dead set against the girl
because, you see, she thinks,"--John leaned forward confidentially and
shut one eye, as if he were squinting along his recital to see that it
was in line with the facts,--"you see, she thinks--well, I don't know as
I'd ought to take it on myself to say just what Emeline thinks, but I
think she thinks--well, I don't know as I'd ought to say what I think
she thinks, either; but you'd understand if you'd been married."

"Oh, I can understand," asserted the young man. "Mrs. Dysart's position
is very natural. But I think you should tell her what Miss Brownell
advises. There is no other woman near, and it will prove very
uncomfortable for the young lady if your wife remains unfriendly toward
her. You certainly don't want to be unjust, Dysart."

John shook his head dolorously over this extension of his moral
obligations.

"No," he declared valiantly; "I want to be square with everybody; but I
don't want to prejudice Emeline against the professor, and I'm afraid
this would. You see, Emeline's this way--well, I don't know as I'd
ought to say just how Emeline is, but you know she's an _awful good
woman_!"

John leaned forward and gave the last three words a slow funereal
emphasis which threatened his companion's gravity.

"Oh, I know," Palmerston broke out quickly; "Mrs. Dysart's a good woman,
and she's a very smart woman, too; she has good ideas."

"Yes, yes; Emeline's smart," John made haste to acquiesce; "she's smart
as far as she knows, but when she don't quite understand, then she's
prejudiced. I guess women are generally prejudiced about machinery; they
can't be expected to see into it: but still, if you think I'd ought to
tell her what this Brownell girl says, why, I'm a-going to do it."

John got up with the air of a man harassed but determined, and went out
of the tent.

The next afternoon Mrs. Dysart put on her beaded dolman and her best
bonnet and panted through the tar-weed to call upon her new neighbor.
Palmerston watched the good woman's departure, and awaited her return,
taunting himself remorselessly meanwhile for the curiosity which
prompted him to place a decoy-chair near his tent door, and exulting
shamefacedly at the success of his ruse when she sank into it with the
interrogative glance with which fat people always commit themselves to
furniture.

"Well, I've been to see her, and I must say, for a girl that's never
found grace, she's about the straightforwardest person I ever came
across. I know I was prejudiced." Mrs. Dysart took off her bonnet, a
sacred edifice constructed of cotton velvet, frowzy feathers, and red
glass currants, and gazed at it penitentially. "That father of hers is
enough to prejudice a saint. But the girl ain't to blame. I think she
must have had a prayin' mother, though she says she doesn't remember
anything about her exceptin' her clothes, which does sound worldly."

Mrs. Dysart straightened out the varnished muslin leaves of her
horticultural headgear, and held the structure at arm's length with a
sigh of gratified sense and troubled spirit.

"I invited her to come to the mothers' meetin' down at Mrs. Stearns's
in the wash with me next Thursday afternoon, and I'm goin' to have her
over to dinner some day when the old perfessor's off on a tramp. I try
to have Christian grace, but I can't quite go him, though I would like
to see the girl brought into the fold."

Palmerston remembered the steadfast eyes of the wanderer, and wondered
how they had met all this. His companion replaced the bonnet on her
head, where it lurched a little, by reason of insufficient skewering, as
she got up.

"Then you were pleased with Miss Brownell?" the young man broke out,
rather senselessly, he knew--aware, all at once, of a desire to hear
more.

Mrs. Dysart did not sit down.

"Yes," she said judicially; "for a girl without any bringin' up, and
with no religious inflooences, and no mother and no father to speak of,
I think she's full as good as some that's had more chances. I've got to
go and start a fire now," she went on, with an air of willingness but
inability to continue the subject. "There's Jawn comin' after the
milk-pail; I do wish he could be brought to listen to reason."

Palmerston watched the good woman as she labored down the path, her
dusty skirts drawn close about her substantial ankles, and the beaded
dolman glittering unfeelingly in the sun.

"I hope she has a sense of humor," he said to himself. Then he got up
hastily, went into the tent, and brought out a letter, which he read
carefully from the beginning to the signature scribbled in the upper
corner of the first page--"Your own Bess." After that he sat quite
still, letting his glance play with the mists of the valley, until Mrs.
Dysart rang the supper-bell.

"If she has a sense of humor, how much she must enjoy her!" he said to
himself, with the confusion of pronouns we all allow ourselves and view
with such scorn in others.

       *       *       *       *       *

When a man first awakes to the fact that he is thinking of the wrong
woman, it is always with a comfortable sense of certainty that he can
change his attitude of mind by a slight effort of the will. If he does
not make the effort, it is only because he is long past the necessity of
demonstrating himself to himself, and not from any fickleness of fancy
on his own part. It was in this comfortable state of certainty that
Sidney Palmerston betook himself, a few days later, to the Brownell
tent, armed with a photograph which might have been marked "Exhibit A"
in the case which he was trying with himself before his own conscience.
If there was in his determination to place himself right with Miss
Brownell any trace of solicitude for the young woman, to the credit of
his modesty be it said, he had not formulated it. Perhaps there was. A
belief in the general overripeness of feminine affection, and a discreet
avoidance of shaking the tree upon which it grows, have in some way
become a part of masculine morals, and Sidney Palmerston was still young
enough to take himself seriously.

Miss Brownell had moved a table outside the tent, and was bending over a
map fastened to it by thumb-tacks.

"I am trying to find out what my father is doing," she said, looking
straight into Palmerston's eyes without a word of greeting. "I suppose
you know they are about to begin work on the tunnel."

The young man was beginning to be a trifle tired of the tunnel. "Dysart
mentioned it yesterday," he said. "May I sit down, Miss Brownell?"

She gave a little start, and went into the tent for another chair. When
she reappeared, Palmerston met her at the tent door and took the
camp-chair from her hand.

"I want to sit here," he said willfully, turning his back toward the
table. "I don't want to talk about the tunnel; I want to turn the
conversation upon agreeable things--myself, for instance."

She frowned upon him smilingly, and put her hand to her cheek with a
puzzled gesture.

"Have I talked too much about the tunnel?" she asked. "I thought
something might be done to stop it."

Palmerston shook his head. "You have done everything in your power.
Dysart has been fairly warned. Besides, who knows?" he added rather
flippantly. "They may strike a hundred inches of water, as your father
predicts."

"I have not been objecting merely to rid myself of responsibility; I
have never felt any. I only wanted--I hoped"--She stopped, aware of the
unresponsive chill that always came at mention of her father. "I _know_
he is honest."

"Of course," protested Palmerston, with artificial warmth; "and, really,
I think the place for the work is well selected. I am not much of an
engineer, but I went up the other day and looked about, and there are
certainly indications of water. I"--he stopped suddenly, aware of his
mistake.

The girl had not noticed it. "I wish I could make people over," she
said, curling her fingers about her thumb, and striking the arm of her
chair with the soft side of the resultant fist, after the manner of
women.

Her companion laughed.

"Not every person, I hope; not this one, at least." He drew the
photograph from his breast pocket and held it toward her. She took it
from him, and looked at it absently an instant.

"What a pretty girl!" she said, handing it back to him. "Your sister?"

The young man flushed. "No; my fiancée."

She held out her hand and took the card again, looking at it with fresh
eyes.

"A _very_ pretty girl," she said. "What is her name?"

"Elizabeth Arnold."

"Where does she live?"

Palmerston mentioned a village in Michigan. His companion gave another
glance at the picture, and laid it upon the arm of the chair. The young
man rescued it from her indifference with a little irritable jerk. She
was gazing unconsciously toward the horizon.

"Don't you intend to congratulate me?" he inquired with a nettled laugh.

She turned quickly, flushing to her forehead. "Pardon me. I said she was
very pretty--I thought young men found that quite sufficient. I have
never heard them talk much of girls in any other way. But perhaps I
should have told you: I care very little about photographs, especially
of women. They never look like them. They always make me think of paper
dolls."

She halted between her sentences with an ungirlish embarrassment which
Palmerston was beginning to find dangerously attractive.

"But the women themselves--you find them interesting?"

"Oh, yes; some of them. Mrs. Dysart, for instance. As soon as she
learned I had no mother, she invited me to a mothers' meeting. I thought
that very interesting."

"Very sensible, too. They are mostly childless mothers, and a sprinkling
of motherless children will add zest to the assemblage."

They both laughed, and the young man's laugh ended in a cough. The girl
glanced uneasily toward the bank of fog that was sweeping across the
valley.

"Mr. Palmerston," she said, "the fog is driving in very fast, and it is
growing quite damp and chilly. I think you ought to go home. Wait a
minute," she added, hurrying into the tent and returning with a soft
gray shawl. "I am afraid you will be cold; let me put this about your
shoulders."

She threw it around him and pinned it under his chin, standing in front
of him with her forehead on a level with his lips.

"Now hurry!"

A man does not submit to the humiliation of having a shawl pinned about
his shoulders without questioning his own sanity, and some consciousness
of this fact forced itself upon Palmerston as he made his way along the
narrow path through the greasewood. He had removed the obnoxious
drapery, of course, and was vindicating his masculinity by becoming very
cold and damp in the clammy folds of the fog which had overtaken him;
but the shawl hung upon his arm and reminded him of many things--not
altogether unpleasant things, he would have been obliged to confess if
he had not been busy assuring himself that he had no confession to
make. He had done his duty, he said to himself; but there was something
else which he did not dare to say even to himself--something which made
him dissatisfied with his duty now that it was done. Of course he did
not expect her to care about his engagement, but she should have been
sympathetic; well-bred women were always sympathetic, he argued,
arriving at his conclusion by an unanswerable transposition of
adjectives. He turned his light coat collar up about his throat, and the
shawl on his arm brushed his cheek warmly. No man is altogether
colorblind to the danger-signals of his own nature. Did he really want
her to care, after all? he asked himself angrily. He might have spared
himself the trouble of telling her. She was absorbed in herself, or,
what was the same, in that unsavory fraud whom she called father. The
young man unfastened the flap of his tent nervously, and took himself in
out of the drenching mist, which seemed in some way to have got into his
brain. He was angry with himself for his interest in these people, as
he styled them in his lofty self-abasement. They were ungrateful,
unworthy. His eye fell upon two letters propped up on his table in a
manner so conspicuous as to suggest a knowledge of his preoccupation--as
if some one were calling him out of his reverie in an offensively loud
voice. He turned the address downward, and busied himself in putting to
rights the articles which John had piled up to attract his tardy notice.
He would read his letters, of course, but not in his present mood: that
would be a species of sacrilege, he patronizingly informed his restive
conscience.

And he did read them later, after he had carefully folded the gray shawl
and placed it out of his range of vision--half a score of closely
written pages filled with gentle girlish analysis of the writer's love
and its unique manifestations, and ending with a tepid interest in the
"queer people" among whom her lover's lot was cast. "It is very hard, my
dear," she wrote, "to think of you in that lonely place, cut off from
everybody and everything interesting; but we must bear it bravely,
since it is to make you strong and well."

Palmerston held the letter in his hand, and looked steadily through the
tent window across the sea of fog that had settled over the valley.

"After all, she is not selfish," he reflected; "she has nothing to gain
by saving Dysart, except"--he smiled grimly--"her rascally father's good
name."

       *       *       *       *       *

The rains were late, but they came at last, blowing in soft and warm
from the southeast, washing the dust from the patient orange-trees and
the draggled bananas, and luring countless green things out of the brown
mould of the mesa into the winter sun. Birds fledged in the golden
drought of summer went mad over the miracles of rain and grass, and
riotously announced their discovery of a new heaven and a new earth to
their elders. The leafless poinsettia flaunted its scarlet diadem at
Palmerston's tent door, a monarch robbed of all but his crown, and the
acacias west of the Dysart dooryard burst into sunlit yellow in a
night.

The rains had not been sufficient to stop work on the tunnel, and John
watched its progress with the feverish eagerness of an inexperienced
gambler. Now that it was fairly under way, Brownell seemed to lose
interest in the result, and wandered, satchel in hand, over the
mountain-side, leaving fragments of his linen duster on the thorny
chaparral, and devising new schemes for the enrichment of the valley, to
which his daughter listened at night in skeptical silence. Now and then
his voice fell from some overhanging crag in a torrent of religious
rapture, penetrating the cabin walls and trying Mrs. Dysart's pious soul
beyond endurance.

"Now listen to that, Emeline!" said John, exultantly, during one of
these vocal inundations. "He's a-singin' the doxology. Now _I_ believe
he's a Christian."

Mrs. Dysart averted her face with a sigh of long-suffering patience.

"Singin' is the easiest part of the Christian religion, Jawn. As for
that,"--she jerked her head toward the source of vocal supply,--"it's
soundin' brass; that's what I'd say if I was settin' in judgment, which
I thank our heavenly Fawther I'm not."

"Well, there goes Mr. Palmerston and the girl, anyway," said John, with
eager irrelevance; "they seem to be gettin' pretty thick."

Mrs. Dysart moved toward the open window with piously restrained
curiosity.

"I'm sorry for that girl," she said; "she's got one man more'n she can
manage now, without tacklin' another."

"Oh, well, now, Emeline, young folks, will be young folks, you know."
There was in John's voice something dangerously near satisfaction with
this well-known peculiarity of youth.

"Yes; and they'll be old folks, too, which most of 'em seems to forget,"
returned Mrs. Dysart, sending a pessimistic glance after the retreating
couple.

Mrs. Dysart was right. Sidney Palmerston and his companion were not
thinking of old age that winter day. The mesa stretched a mass of purple
lupine at their feet. There was the odor of spring, the warmth of
summer, the languor of autumn, in the air. As they neared the cañon the
path grew narrow, and the girl walked ahead, turning now and then, and
blocking the way, in the earnestness of her speech. They had long since
ceased to talk of the tunnel; Sidney had ceased even to think of it. For
weeks he had hardly dared to think at all. There had been at first the
keen sense of disappointment in himself which comes to every confident
soul as it learns the limitations of its own will; then the
determination, so easy to youth's foreshortening view, to keep the
letter of his promise and bury the spirit out of his own sight and the
sight of the world forever; then the self-pity and the pleading with
fate for a little happiness as an advance deposit on the promise of
lifelong self-sacrifice; then the perfumed days when thought was lulled
and duty became a memory and a hope. Strangely enough, it was always
duty, this unholy thing which he meant to do--this payment of a debt in
base metal, when the pure gold of love had been promised. But ethics
counted for little to-day as he followed a figure clad in blue serge
down the path that led from the edge of the cañon to the bed of the
stream. Budding willows made a green mist in the depths below them, and
the sweet, tarry odors of the upland blew across the tops of the
sycamores in the cañon and mingled with the smell of damp leaf-mould and
the freshness of growing things.

The girl paused and peered down into the cañon inquiringly.

"Do you think of leaping?" asked Palmerston.

She smiled seriously, still looking down. "No; I was wondering if the
rainfall had been as light in the mountains as it has been in the
valley, and how the water-supply will hold out through the summer if we
have no more."

Palmerston laughed. "Do you always think of practical things?" he asked.

She turned and confronted him with a half-defiant, half-whimsical smile.

"I do not think much about what I think," she said; "I am too busy
thinking."

As she spoke she took a step backward and tripped upon some obstacle in
the path.

Palmerston sprang forward and caught her upraised arm with both hands.

"I--I--love you!" he said eagerly, tightening his grasp, and then
loosening it, and falling back with the startled air of one who hears a
voice when he thinks himself alone.

The young woman let her arm fall at her side, and stood still an
instant, looking at him with untranslatable eyes.

"You love me?" she repeated with slow questioning. "How can you?"

Palmerston smiled rather miserably. "Far more easily than I can explain
why I have told you," he answered.

"If it is true, why should you not tell me?" she asked, still looking at
him steadily.

Evasion seemed a drapery of lies before her gaze. Palmerston spoke the
naked truth:

"Because I cannot ask you to love me in return--because I have promised
to marry another woman, and I must keep my promise."

He made the last avowal with the bitter triumph of one who chooses death
where he might easily have chosen dishonor.

His listener turned away a little, and looked through the green haze of
the cañon at the snow of San Antonio.

"You say that you love me, and yet you intend to marry this other girl,
who loves you, and live a lie?" she asked without looking at him.

"My God! but you make it hard!" groaned Palmerston.

She faced about haughtily.

"I make it hard!" she exclaimed. "I have been afraid of you--not for
myself, but for--for others, about something in which one might be
mistaken. And you come to me and tell me this! You would cheat a woman
out of her life, a girl who loves you--who promised to marry you because
you told her you loved her; who no doubt learned to love you because of
your love for her. And this is what men call honor! Do you know what I
intend to do? I intend to write to this girl and tell her what you have
told me. Then she may marry you if she wishes. But she shall know. You
shall not feed her on husks all her life, if I can help it. And because
I intend to do this, even if--even if I loved you, I could never see you
again!"

Palmerston knew that he stood aside to let her pass and walk rapidly out
of the cañon.

The call of insects and the twitter of linnets seemed to deepen into a
roar. A faint "halloo" came from far up the mountain-side, and in the
distance men's voices rang across the cañon.

A workman came running down the path, almost stumbling over Palmerston
in his haste.

"Where's the old man--where's Dysart?" he panted, wiping his forehead
with his sleeve. "We've struck a flow that's washing us into the middle
of next week. The old professor made a blamed good guess this time,
sure."



Marg'et Ann


It was sacrament Sabbath in the little Seceder congregation at Blue
Mound. Vehicles denoting various degrees of prosperity were beginning to
arrive before the white meeting-house that stood in a patch of
dog-fennel by the roadside.

The elders were gathered in a solemn, bareheaded group on the shady side
of the building, arranging matters of deep spiritual portent connected
with the serving of the tables. The women entered the church as they
arrived, carrying or leading their fat, sunburned, awe-stricken
children, and sat in subdued and reverent silence in the unpainted pews.
There was a smell of pine and peppermint and last week's gingerbread in
the room, and a faint rustle of bonnet strings and silk mantillas as
each newcomer moved down the aisle; but there was no turning of heads or
vain, indecorous curiosity concerning arrivals on the part of those
already in the pews.

Outside, the younger men moved about slowly in their creased black
clothes, or stood in groups talking covertly of the corn planting which
had begun; there was an evident desire to compensate by lowered voices
and lack of animated speech for the manifest irreverence of the topic.

Marg'et Ann and her mother came in the farm wagon, that the assisting
minister, the Rev. Samuel McClanahan, who was to preach the "action
sermon," might ride in the buggy with the pastor. There were four wooden
chairs in the box of the wagon, and the floor was strewn with
sweet-scented timothy and clover. Mrs. Morrison and Miss Nancy
McClanahan, who had come with her brother from Cedar Township to
communion, sat in two of the chairs, and Marg'et Ann and her younger
sister occupied the others. One of the boys sat on the high spring seat
with his brother Laban, who drove the team, and the other children were
distributed on the hay between their elders.

Marg'et Ann wore her mother's changeable silk made over and a cottage
bonnet with pink silk strings and skirt and a white ruche with a wreath
of pink flowers in the face trimming. Her brown hair was combed over her
ears like a sheet of burnished bronze and held out by puff combs, and
she had a wide embroidered collar, shaped like a halo, fastened by a
cairngorm in a square setting of gold.

Miss Nancy McClanahan and her mother talked in a subdued way of the Fast
Day services, and of the death of Squire Davidson, who lived the other
side of the creek, and the probable result of Esther Jane Skinner's
trouble with her chest. There was a tacit avoidance of all subjects
pertaining to the flesh except its ailments, but there was no long-faced
hypocrisy in the tones or manner of the two women. Marg'et Ann listened
to them and watched the receding perspective of the corn rows in the
brown fields. She had her token tied securely in the corner of her
handkerchief, and every time she felt it she thought regretfully of
Lloyd Archer. She had hoped he would make a confession of faith this
communion, but he had not come before the session at all. She knew he
had doubts concerning close communion, and she had heard him say that
certain complications of predestination and free will did not appear
reasonable to him. Marg'et Ann thought it very daring of him to exact
reasonableness of those in spiritual high places. She would as soon have
thought of criticising the Creator for making the sky blue instead of
green as for any of His immutable decrees as set forth in the Confession
of Faith. It did not prevent her liking Lloyd Archer that her father and
several of the elders whom he had ventured to engage in religious
discussion pronounced him a dangerous young man, but it made it
impossible for her to marry him. So she had been quite anxious that he
should see his way clear to join the church.

They had talked about it during intermission last Sabbath; but Marg'et
Ann, having arrived at her own position by a process of complete
self-abnegation, found it hard to know how to proceed with this stalwart
sinner who insisted upon understanding things. It is true he spoke
humbly enough of himself, as one who had not her light, but Marg'et Ann
was quite aware that she did not believe the Catechism because she
understood it. She had no doubt it could be understood, and she thought
regretfully that Lloyd Archer would be just the man to understand it if
he would study it in the right spirit. Just what the right spirit was
she could not perhaps have formulated, except that it was the spirit
that led to belief in the Catechism. She had hoped that he would come to
a knowledge of the truth through the ministrations of the Rev. Samuel
McClanahan, who was said to be very powerful in argument; but he had
found fault with Mr. McClanahan's logic on Fast Day in a way that was
quite disheartening, and he evidently did not intend to come forward
this communion at all. Her father had spoken several times in a very
hopeless manner of Lloyd's continued resistance of the Holy Spirit, and
Marg'et Ann thought with a shiver of Squire Atwater, who was an
infidel, and was supposed by some to have committed the unpardonable
sin. She remembered once when she and one of the younger boys had gone
into his meadow for wild strawberries he had come out and talked to them
in a jovial way, and when they were leaving, had patted her little
brother's head, and told him, with a great, corpulent laugh, to "ask his
father how the devil could be chained to the bottomless pit." She did
not believe Lloyd could become like that, but still it was dangerous to
resist the Spirit.

Miss Nancy McClanahan had a bit of mint between the leaves of her
psalm-book, and she smelled it now and then in a niggardly way, as if
the senses should be but moderately indulged on the Sabbath. She had on
black netted mitts which left the enlarged knuckles of her hands
exposed, and there was a little band of Guinea gold on one of her
fingers, with two almost obliterated hearts in loving juxtaposition.
Marg'et Ann knew that she had been a hardworking mother to the Rev.
Samuel's family ever since the death of his wife, and she wondered
vaguely how it would seem to take care of Laban's children in case
Lloyd should fail to make his peace with God.

When they drove to the door of the meeting-house, Archibald Skinner came
down the walk to help them dismount. Mrs. Morrison shook hands with him
kindly and asked after his sister's cough, and whether his Grandfather
Elliott was still having trouble with his varicose veins. She handed the
children to him one by one, and he lifted them to the ground with an
easy swing, replacing their hats above their tubular curls after the
descent, and grinning good-naturedly into their round, awe-filled,
freckled countenances.

Miss Nancy got out of the wagon backwards, making a maidenly effort to
keep the connection between the hem of her black silk skirt and the top
of her calf-skin shoes inviolate, and brushing the dust of the wagon
wheel from her dress carefully after her safe arrival in the dog-fennel.
Marg'et Ann ignored the chair which had been placed beside the wagon for
the convenience of her elders, and sprang from the wheel, placing her
hands lightly in those of the young man, who deposited her safely beside
her mother and turned toward her sister Rebecca with a blush that
extended to the unfreckled spaces of his hairy, outstretched hands, and
explained his lively interest in the disembarkation of the family.

Laban drove the team around the corner to a convenient hitching-place,
and the women and children went up the walk to the church door. Mrs.
Morrison stopped a moment on the step to remove the hats of the younger
boys, whose awe of the sanctuary seemed to have deprived them of
volition, and they all proceeded down the aisle to the minister's pew.

The pastor and the Rev. Samuel McClanahan were already in the pulpit,
their presence there being indicated by two tufts of hair, one black and
the other sandy, which arose above the high reading-desk; and the elders
having filed into the room and distributed themselves in the ends of the
various well-filled pews, the young men and boys followed their example,
the latter taking a sudden start at the door and projecting themselves
into their places with a concentration of purpose that seemed almost
apoplectic in its results.

There was a deep, premonitory stillness, broken only by the precentor,
who covertly struck his tuning-fork on the round of his chair, and held
it to his ear with a faint, accordant hum; then the minister arose and
spread his hands in solemn invocation above the little flock.

"Let us pray."

Every one in the house arose. Even old Mrs. Groesbeck, who had sciatica,
allowed her husband and her son Ebenezer to assist her to her feet, and
the children who were too small to see over the backs of the pews
slipped from their seats and stood in downcast stillness within the high
board inclosures.

After the prayer, Mr. Morrison read the psalm. It was Rouse's version:--

  "I joy'd when to the house of God,
  Go up, they said to me.
  Jerusalem, within thy gates
  Our feet shall standing be.

  Jerus'lem as a city is
  Compactly built together.
  Unto that place the tribes go up,
  The tribes of God go thither."

The minister read it all and "lined out" the first couplet. Then the
precentor, a tall, thin man, whose thinness was enveloped but not
alleviated by an alpaca coat, struck his tuning-fork more openly and
launched into the highly rarefied atmosphere of "China," being quite
alone in his vocal flight until the congregation joined him in the more
accessible regions of the second line.

Marg'et Ann shared her psalm-book with Laban, who sat beside her. He had
hurt his thumb shelling seed corn, and his mother had made him a clean
thumb-stall for Sabbath. It was with this shrouded member that he held
the edge of the psalm-book awkwardly. Laban's voice was in that
uncertain stage in which its vagaries astonished no one so much as its
owner, but he joined in the singing. "Let all the people praise Thee"
was a command not to be lightly set aside for worldly considerations of
harmony and fitness, and so Laban sang, his callow and ill-adjusted
soul divided between fears that the people would hear him and that the
Lord would not.

Marg'et Ann listened for Lloyd Archer's deep bass voice in the Amen
corner.

She wished his feet _were_ standing within the gates of Jerusalem, as he
so resonantly announced that they would be. But whatever irreverence
there might be in poor Laban refusing to sing what he did not dream of
doubting, there was no impiety to these devout souls in Lloyd Archer's
joining with them in the vocal proclamation of things concerning which
he had very serious doubts.

Not that Jerusalem, either new or old, was one of these things; the
young man himself was not conscious of any heresy there; he believed in
Jerusalem, in the church militant upon earth and triumphant in heaven,
and in many deeper and more devious theological doctrines as well.
Indeed, his heterodoxy was of so mild a type that, viewed by the
incandescent light of to-day, which is not half a century later, it
shines with the clear blue radiance of flawless Calvinism.

If the tedious "lining out," traditionally sacred, was quite
unreasonable and superfluous, commemorating nothing but the days of
hunted Covenanters and few psalm-books and fewer still who were able to
read them, perhaps the remembrance of these things was as conducive to
thankfulness of heart as David's recital of the travails and triumphs of
ancient Israel. Certain it is that profound gratitude to God and
devotion to duty characterized the lives of most of these men and women
who sang the praises of their Maker in this halting and unmusical
fashion.

Marg'et Ann sang in a high and somewhat nasal treble, compassing the
extra feet of Mr. Rouse's doubtful version with skill, and gliding
nimbly over the gaps in prosody by the aid of his dextrously elongated
syllables.

Some of the older men seemed to dwell upon these peculiarities of
versification as being distinctively ecclesiastical and therefore
spiritually edifying, and brought up the musical rear of such couplets
with long-drawn and profoundly impressive "shy-un's" and "i-tee's;" but
these irregularities found little favor in the eyes of the younger
people, who had attended singing-school and learned to read buckwheat
notes under the direction of Jonathan Loomis, the precentor.

Marg'et Ann listened to the Rev. Mr. McClanahan's elaborately divided
discourse, wondering what piece of the logical puzzle Lloyd would
declare to be missing; and she glanced rather wistfully once or twice
toward the Amen corner where the young man sat, with his head thrown
back and his eager eyes fixed upon the minister's face.

When the intermission came, she ate her sweet cake and her triangle of
dried apple pie with the others, and then walked toward the graveyard
behind the church. She knew that Lloyd would follow her, and she prayed
for grace to speak a word in season.

The young man stalked through the tall grass that choked the path of the
little inclosure until he overtook her under a blossoming crab-apple
tree.

He had been "going with" Marg'et Ann more than a year, and there was
generally supposed to be an understanding between them.

She turned when he came up, and put out her hand without embarrassment,
but she blushed as pink as the crab-apple bloom in his grasp.

They talked a little of commonplace things, and Marg'et Ann looked down
and swallowed once or twice before she said gravely,--

"I hoped you'd come forward this sacrament, Lloyd."

The young man's brow clouded.

"I've told you I can't join the church without telling a lie, Marg'et
Ann. You wouldn't want me to tell a lie," he said, flushing hotly.

She shook her head, looking down, and twisting her handkerchief into a
ball in her hands.

"I know you have doubts about some things; but I thought they might be
removed by prayer. Have you prayed earnestly to have them removed?" She
looked up at him anxiously.

"I've asked to be made to see things right," he replied, choking a
little over this unveiling of his holy of holies; "but I don't seem to
be able to see some things as you do."

She pondered an instant, looking absently at the headstone of
"Hephzibah," who was the later of Robert McCoy's two beloved wives, then
she said, with an effort, for these staid descendants of Scottish
ancestry were not given to glib talking of sacred things:

"I suppose doubts are sent to try our faith; but we have the promise
that they will be removed if we ask in the right spirit. Are you sure
you have asked in the right spirit, Lloyd?"

"I have prayed for light, but I haven't asked to have my doubts removed,
Marg'et Ann; I don't know that I want to believe what doesn't appear
reasonable to me."

The girl lifted a troubled, tremulous face to his.

"That isn't the right spirit, Lloyd,--you know it isn't. How can God
remove your doubts if you don't want him to?"

The young man reached up and broke off a twig of the round, pink
crab-apple buds and rolled the stem between his work-hardened hands.

"I've asked for light," he repeated, "and if when it comes I see things
different, I'll say so; but I can't want to believe what I don't
believe, and I can't pray for what I don't want."

The triangle of Marg'et Ann's brow between her burnished satin puffs of
hair took on two upright, troubled lines. She unfolded her handkerchief
nervously, and her token fell with a ringing sound against tired
Hephzibah's gravestone and rolled down above her patiently folded hands.

Lloyd stooped and searched for it in the grass. When he found it he gave
it to her silently, and their hands met. Poor Marg'et Ann! No hunted
Covenanter amid Scottish heather was more a martyr to his faith than
this rose-cheeked girl amid Iowa cornfields. She took the bit of
flattened lead and pressed it between her burning palms.

"I hope you won't get hardened in unbelief, Lloyd," she said soberly.

The congregation was drifting toward the church again, and the young
people turned. Lloyd touched the iridescent silk of her wide sleeve.

"You ain't a-going to let this make any difference between you and me,
are you, Marg'et Ann?" he pleaded.

"I don't know," wavered the girl. "I hope you'll be brought to a sense
of your true condition, Lloyd." She hesitated, smoothing the sheen of
her skirt. "It would be an awful cross to father and mother."

The young man fell behind her in the narrow path, and they walked to the
church door in unhappy silence.

Inside, the elders had accomplished the spreading of the tables with
slow-moving, awkward reverence. The spotless drapery swayed a little in
the afternoon breeze, and there was a faint fruity smell of communion
wine in the room.

The two ministers and some of the older communicants sat with bowed
heads, in deep spiritual isolation.

The solemn stillness of self-examination pervaded the room, and Marg'et
Ann went to her seat with a vague stirring of resentment in her heart
toward the Rev. Samuel McClanahan, who, with all his learning, could not
convince this one lost sheep of the error of his theological way. She
put aside such thoughts, however, before the serving of the tables, and
walked humbly down the aisle behind her mother, singing the one hundred
and sixteenth psalm to the quaint rising and falling cadences of
"Dundee."

Once, while the visiting pastor addressed the communicants, she thought
how it would simplify matters if Lloyd were sitting opposite her, and
then caught her breath as the minister adjured each one to examine
himself, lest eating and drinking unworthily he should eat and drink
damnation to himself.

It was almost sunset when the service ended, and as the Morrisons drove
into the lane the smell of jimson-weed was heavy on the evening air, and
they could hear the clank of the cow bells in the distance.

Marg'et Ann went to her room to lay aside her best dress and get ready
for the milking, and Mrs. Morrison and Rebecca made haste to see about
supper.

Miss Nancy McClanahan walked about the garden in her much made-over
black silk, and compared the progress of Mrs. Morrison's touch-me-nots
and four-o'clocks with her own, nipping herself a sprig of tansy from
the patch under the Bowerly apple-tree.

She shared Marg'et Ann's room that night, and after she had taken off
her lace headdress and put a frilled nightcap over her lonesome little
knot of gray hair and said her prayers, she composed herself on her
pillow with a patient sigh, and lay watching Marg'et Ann crowd her
burnished braids into her close-fitting cap without speaking; but after
the light was out, and her companion had lain down beside her, the old
maid placed her knotted hand on the girl's more shapely one, and said:--

"There's worse things than living single, Marg'et Ann, and then again I
suppose there's better. Of course every girl has her chances, and the
people we make sacrifices for don't always seem quite as grateful as we
calculated they'd be. I'm not repinin', but I sometimes think if I had
my life to live over again I'd do different."

Marg'et Ann pressed the knotted fingers, that felt like a handful of
hickory nuts, and touched the little circle with its two worn-out
hearts, but she said nothing.

She had heard that the Rev. Samuel McClanahan was going to marry the
youngest Groesbeck girl, now that his children were "getting well up out
of the way," and she knew that her mother had been telling Miss Nancy
something about her own love affair with Lloyd Archer.

Whatever Mrs. Morrison may have confided to Miss Nancy McClanahan
concerning Marg'et Ann and her lover must have been entirely
suppositional and therefore liable to error; for the confidence between
parent and child did not extend into the mysteries of love and marriage,
nor would the older woman have dreamed of intruding upon the sacred
precinct of her daughter's feelings toward a young man. She had remarked
once or twice to her husband that she was afraid sometimes that there
was something between Lloyd Archer and Marg'et Ann; but whether this
something was a barrier or a bond she left the worthy minister to
divine.

That he had decided upon the latter was evidenced, perhaps, by his reply
that he hoped not, and his fear, which he had expressed before, that
Lloyd was getting more and more settled in habits of unbelief; and Mrs.
Morrison took occasion to remark the next day in her daughter's hearing
that she would hate to have a child of hers marry an unbeliever.

Marg'et Ann did not, however, need any of these helps to an
understanding of her parents' position. She knew too well the danger
that was supposed to threaten him who indulged in vain and unprofitable
questionings, and she had too often heard the vanity of human reason
proclaimed to feel any pride in the readiness with which Lloyd had
answered Squire Wilson in the argument they had on foreordination at
Hiram Graham's infare. Indeed, she had felt it a personal rebuke when
her father had said on the way home that he hoped no child of his would
ever set up his feeble intellect against the eternal purposes of God, as
Lloyd Archer was doing. Marg'et Ann knew perfectly well that if she
married Lloyd in his present unregenerate state she would, in the
estimation of her father and mother, be endangering the safety of her
own soul, which, though presumably of the elect, could never be
conclusively so proved until the gates of Paradise should close behind
it.

She pondered on these things, and talked of them sometimes with Lloyd,
rather unsatisfactorily, it is true; for that rising theologian bristled
with questions which threw her troubled soul into a tumult of fear and
uncertainty.

It was this latter feeling, perhaps, which distressed her most in her
calmer moments; for it was gradually forcing itself upon poor Marg'et
Ann that she must either snatch her lover as a brand from the burning or
be herself drawn into the flames.

She had taken the summer school down on Cedar Creek, and Lloyd used to
ride down for her on Friday evenings when the creek was high.

Rebecca and Archie Skinner were to be married in the fall, and her
mother, who had been ailing a little all summer, would need her at home
when Rebecca was gone. Still, this would not have stood in the way of
her marriage had everything else been satisfactory; and Lloyd suspected
as much when she urged it as a reason for delay.

"If anybody has to stay at home on your mother's account, why not let
Archie Skinner and Becky put off their wedding a while? They're younger,
and they haven't been going together near as long as we have," said
Lloyd, in answer to her excuses.

They were riding home on horseback one Friday night, and Lloyd had just
told her that Martin Prather was going back to Ohio to take care of the
old folks, and would rent his farm very reasonably.

Marg'et Ann had on a slat sunbonnet which made her profile about as
attractive as an "elbow" of stovepipe, but it had the advantage of
hiding the concern that Lloyd's questioning brought into her face. It
could not, however, keep it out of her voice.

"I don't know, Lloyd," she began hesitatingly; then she turned toward
him suddenly, and let him see all the pain and trouble and regret that
her friendly headgear had been sheltering. "Oh, I _do_ wish you could
come to see things different!" she broke out tremulously.

The young man was quiet for an instant, and then said huskily, "I just
thought you had something like that in your mind, Marg'et Ann. If you've
concluded to wait till I join the church we might as well give it up. I
don't believe in close communion, and I can't see any harm in occasional
hearing, and I haven't heard any minister yet that can reconcile free
will and election; the more I think about it the less I believe; I think
there is about as much hope of your changing as there is of me. I don't
see what all this fuss is about, anyway. Arch Skinner isn't a church
member!"

It was hard for Marg'et Ann to say why Archie Skinner's case was
considered more hopeful than Lloyd's. She knew perfectly well, and so
did her lover, for that matter, but it was not easy to formulate.

"Ain't you afraid you'll get to believing less and less if you go on
arguing, Lloyd?" she asked, ignoring Archie Skinner altogether.

"I don't know," said Lloyd somewhat sullenly.

They were riding up the lane in the scant shadow of the white locust
trees. The corn was in tassel now, and rustled softly in the fields on
either side. There was no other sound for a while. Then Marg'et Ann
spoke.

"I'll see what father thinks"--

"No, you won't, Marg'et Ann," broke in Lloyd obstinately. "I think a
good deal of your father, but I don't want to marry him; and I don't ask
you to promise to marry the fellow I ought to be, or that you think I
ought to be; I've asked you to marry _me_. I don't care what you believe
and I don't care what your father thinks; I want to know what _you_
think."

Poor Lloyd made all this energetic avowal without the encouragement of a
blush or a smile, or the discouragement of a frown or a tear. All this
that a lover watches for anxiously was hidden by a wall of slats and
green-checked gingham.

She turned her tubular head covering toward him presently, however,
showing him all the troubled pink prettiness it held, and said very
genuinely through her tears,--

"Oh, Lloyd, you know well enough what I think!"

They had reached the gate, and it was a very much mollified face which
the young man raised to hers as he helped her to dismount.

"Your father and mother wouldn't stand in the way of our getting
married, would they?" he asked, as she stood beside him.

"Oh, no, they wouldn't stand in the way," faltered poor Marg'et Ann.

How could she explain to this muscular fellow, whose pale-faced mother
had no creed but what Lloyd thought or wanted or liked, that it was
their unspoken grief that made it hard for her? How shall any woman
explain her family ties to any man?

Marg'et Ann did not need to consult her father. He looked up from his
writing when she entered the door.

"Was that Lloyd Archer, Marg'et Ann?" he asked kindly.

"Yes, sir."

"I'd a little rather you wouldn't go with him. He seems to be falling
into a state of mind that is likely to end in infidelity. It troubles
your mother and me a good deal."

Marg'et Ann went into the bedroom to take off her riding skirt, and she
did not come out until she was sure no one could see that she had been
crying.

Mrs. Morrison continued to complain all through the fall; at least so
her neighbors said, although the good woman had never been known to
murmur; and Marg'et Ann said nothing whatever about her engagement to
Lloyd Archer.

Late in October Archie Skinner and Rebecca were married and moved to the
Martin Prather farm, and Lloyd, restless and chafing under all this
silence and delay, had no longer anything to suggest when Marg'et Ann
urged her mother's failing health as a reason for postponing their
marriage.

Before the crab-apples bloomed again Mrs. Morrison's life went out as
quietly as it had been lived. There was a short, sharp illness at the
last, and in one of the pauses of the pain the sick woman lay watching
her daughter, who was alone with her.

"I'm real glad there was nothing between you and Lloyd Archer, Marg'et
Ann," she said feebly; "that would have troubled me a good deal. You'll
have your father and the children to look after. Nancy Helen will be
coming up pretty soon, and be some help; she grows fast. You'll have to
manage along as best you can."

The girl's sorely troubled heart failed her. Her eyes burned and her
throat ached with the effort of self-control. She buried her face in the
patchwork quilt beside her mother's hand. The woman stroked her hair
tenderly.

"Don't cry, Marg'et Ann," she said, "don't cry. You'll get on. It's the
Lord's will."

The evening after the funeral Lloyd Archer came over, and Marg'et Ann
walked up the lane with him. She was glad to get away from the Sabbath
hush of the house, which the neighbors had made so pathetically
neat,--taking up the dead woman's task where she had left it, and doing
everything with scrupulous care, as if they feared some vision of
neglected duty might disturb her rest.

The frost was out of the ground and the spring plowing had begun. There
was a smell of fresh earth from the furrows, and a red-bud tree in the
thicket was faintly pink.

Lloyd was silent and troubled, and Marg'et Ann could not trust her
voice. They walked on without speaking, and the dusk was deepening
before they turned to go back. Marg'et Ann had thrown a little homespun
shawl over her head, for there was a memory of frost in the air, but it
had fallen back and Lloyd could see her profile with its new lines of
grief in the dim light.

"It don't seem right, Marg'et Ann," he began in a voice strained almost
to coldness by intensity of feeling.

"But it _is_ right,--we know that, Lloyd," interrupted the girl; then
she turned and threw both arms about his neck and buried her face on his
shoulder. "Oh, Lloyd, I can't bear it--I can't bear it alone--you must
help me to be--to be--reconciled!"

The young man laid his cheek upon her soft hair. There was nothing but
hot, unspoken rebellion in his heart. They stood still an instant, and
then Marg'et Ann raised her head and drew the little shawl up and caught
it under her quivering chin.

"We must go in," she said staidly, choking back her sobs.

Lloyd laid his hands on her shoulders and drew her toward him again.

"Is there no help, Marg'et Ann?" he said piteously, looking into her
tear-stained face. In his heart he knew there was none. He had gone over
the ground a thousand times since he had seen her standing beside her
mother's open grave with the group of frightened children clinging to
her.

  "God is our refuge and our strength,
    In straits a present aid;
  Therefore, although the earth remove
    We will not be afraid,"

repeated the girl, her sweet voice breaking into a whispered sob at the
end. They walked to the step and stood there for a moment in silence.

The minister opened the door.

"Is that you, Marg'et Ann," he asked. "I think we'd better have worship
now; the children are getting sleepy."

       *       *       *       *       *

Almost a year before patient, tireless Esther Morrison's eternal holiday
had come, a man, walking leisurely along an empty mill-race, had picked
up a few shining yellow particles, holding in his hand for an instant
the destiny of half the world. Every restless soul that could break its
moorings was swept westward on the wave of excitement that followed.
Blue Mound felt the magnetism of those bits of yellow metal along with
the rest of the world, and wild stories were told at singing-school and
in harvest fields of the fortunes that awaited those who crossed the
plains.

Lloyd Archer, eager, restless, and discontented, caught the fever among
the first. Marg'et Ann listened to his plans, heartsore and helpless.
She had ceased to advise him. There was a tacit acknowledgment on her
part that she had forfeited her right to influence his life in any way.
As for him, unconsciously jealous of the devotion to duty that made her
precious to him and unable to solve the problem himself, he yet felt
injured that she could not be true to him and to his ideal of her as
well. If she had left the plain path and gone with him into the byways,
his heart would have remained forever with the woman he had loved, and
not with the woman who had so loved him; and yet he sometimes urged her
to do this thing, so strange a riddle is the "way of a man with a maid."

Lloyd had indulged a hope which he could not mention to any one, least
of all to Marg'et Ann, that the minister would marry again in due
season. But nothing pointed to a fulfillment of this wish. The good man
seemed far more interested in the abolition of slavery in the South than
in the release of his daughter from bondage to her own flesh and blood,
Lloyd said to himself, with the bitterness of youth. Indeed, the
household had moved on with so little change in the comfort of its
worthy head that a knowledge of Lloyd's wishes would have been quite as
startling to the object of them as the young man's reasons for their
indulgence.

The gold fever had seemed to the minister a moral disorder, calling for
spiritual remedies, which he had not failed to administer in such
quantity and of such strength as corresponded with the religious
therapeutics of the day.

Marg'et Ann hinted of this when her lover came to her with his plans.

She was making soap, and although they stood on the windward side of the
kettle, her eyes were red from the smoke of the hickory logs.

"Do you think it is just right, Lloyd?" she asked, stirring the unsavory
concoction slowly with a wooden paddle. "Isn't it just a greed for
gold, like gambling?"

Lloyd put both elbows on the top of the ash hopper and looked at her
laughingly. He had on a straw hat lined with green calico, and his
trousers were of blue jeans, held up by "galluses" of the same; but he
was a handsome fellow, with sound white teeth and thick curling locks.

"I don't know as a greed for gold is any worse than a greed for corn,"
he said, trying to curb his voice into seriousness.

"But corn is useful--it is food--and, besides, you work for it." Marg'et
Ann pushed her sunbonnet back and looked at him anxiously.

"Well, I've planted a good deal more corn than I expect to eat this
year, and I was calculating to sell some of it for gold,--you wouldn't
think that was wrong, would you, Marg'et Ann?"

"No, of course not; but some one will eat it,--it's useful," maintained
the girl earnestly.

"I haven't found anything more useful than money yet," persisted the
young man good-naturedly; "but if I come home from California with two
or three bags full of gold, I'll buy up a township and raise corn by the
wholesale,--that'll make it all right, won't it?"

Marg'et Ann laughed in spite of herself.

"You're such a case, Lloyd," she said, not without a note of admiration
in her reproof.

When it came to the parting there was little said. Marg'et Ann hushed
her lover's assurances with her own, given amid blinding tears.

"I'll be just the same, Lloyd, no matter what happens, but I can't let
you make any promises; it wouldn't be right. I can't expect you to wait
for me. You must do whatever seems right to you; but there won't be any
harm in my loving you,--at least as long as you don't care for anybody
else."

The young man said what a young man usually says when he is looking into
trustful brown eyes, filled with tears he has caused and cannot prevent,
and at the moment, in the sharp pain of parting, the words of one were
not more or less sincere than those of the other.

       *       *       *       *       *

The years that followed moved slowly, weighted as they were with hard
work and monotony for Marg'et Ann, and by the time the voice of the corn
had changed three times from the soft whispering of spring to the hoarse
rustling of autumn, she felt herself old and tired.

There had been letters and messages and rumors, more or less reliable,
repeated at huskings and quiltings, to keep her informed of the fortunes
of those who had crossed the plains, but her own letters from Lloyd had
been few and unsatisfactory. She could not complain of this strict
compliance with her wishes, but she had not counted upon the absence of
her lover's mother, who had gone to Ohio shortly after his departure and
decided to remain there with a married daughter. There was no one left
in the neighborhood who could expect to hear directly from Lloyd, and
the reports that came from other members of the party he had joined
told little that poor Marg'et Ann wished to know, beyond the fact that
he was well and had suffered the varying fortunes of other gold-hunters.

There were moments of bitterness in which she tried to picture to
herself what her life might have been if she had braved her parents'
disapproval and married Lloyd before her mother's death; but there was
never a moment bitter enough to tempt her into any neglect of present
duty. The milking, the butter-making, the washing, the spinning, all the
relentless hard work of the women of her day, went on systematically
from the beginning of the year to its end, and the younger children came
to accept her patient ministrations as unquestioningly as they had
accepted their mother's.

She wondered sometimes at her own anxiety to know that Lloyd was true to
her, reproaching herself meanwhile with puritanic severity for such
unholy selfishness; but she discussed the various plaids for the
children's flannel dresses with Mrs. Skinner, who did the weaving, and
cut and sewed and dyed the rags for a new best room carpet with the same
conscientious regard for art in the distribution of the stripes which
was displayed by all the women of her acquaintance; indeed, there was no
one among them all whose taste in striping a carpet, or in "piecing and
laying out a quilt," was more sought after than Marg'et Ann's.

"She always was the old-fashionedest little thing," said grandmother
Elliott, who had been a member of Mr. Morrison's congregation back in
Ohio. "I never did see her beat." The good old lady's remark, which was
considered highly commendatory, and had nothing whatever to do with the
frivolities of changing custom, was made at a quilting at Squire
Wilson's, from which Marg'et Ann chanced to be absent.

"It's a pity she don't seem to get married," said Mrs. Barnes, who was
marking circles in the white patches of the quilt by means of an
inverted teacup of flowing blue; "she's the kind of a girl _I'd_ 'a'
thought young men would 'a' took up with."

"Marg'et Ann never was much for the boys," said grandmother Elliott,
disposed to defend her favorite, "and dear knows she has her hands full;
it's quite a chore to look after all them children."

The women maintained a charitable silence. The ethics of their day did
not recognize any womanly duty inconsistent with matrimony. "A
disappointment" was considered the only dignified reason for remaining
single. Grandmother Elliott felt the weakness of her position.

"I'm sure I don't see how her father would get on," she protested
feebly; "he ain't much of a hand to manage."

"If Marg'et Ann was to marry, her father would have to stir round and
get himself a wife," said Mrs. Barnes, with cheerful lack of sentiment,
confident that her audience was with her.

"I've always had a notion Marg'et Ann thought a good deal more of Lloyd
Archer than she let on,--at least more than her folks knew anything
about," asserted Mrs. Skinner, stretching her plump arm under the quilt
and feeling about carefully. "I shouldn't wonder if she'd had quite a
disappointment."

"I would have hated to see her marry Lloyd Archer," protested
grandmother Elliott; "she's a sight too good for him; he's always had
queer notions."

"Well, I should 'a' thought myself she could 'a' done better," admitted
Mrs. Barnes, "but somehow she hasn't. I tell 'Lisha it's more of a
disgrace to the young man than it is to her."

Evidently this discussion of poor Marg'et Ann's dismal outlook
matrimonially was not without precedent.

One person was totally oblivious to the facts and all surmises
concerning them. Theoretically, no doubt, the good minister esteemed it
a reproach that any woman should remain unmarried; but there are
theories which refinement finds it easy to separate from daily life, and
no thought of Marg'et Ann's future intruded upon her father's deep and
daily increasing distress over the wrongs of human slavery. Marg'et Ann
was conscious sometimes of a change in him; he went often and
restlessly to see Squire Kirkendall, who kept an underground railroad
station, and not infrequently a runaway negro was harbored at the
Morrisons'. Strange to say, these frightened and stealthy visitors,
dirty and repulsive though they were, excited no fear in the minds of
the children, to whom the slave had become almost an object of
reverence.

Marg'et Ann read her first novel that year,--a story called "Uncle Tom's
Cabin," which appeared in the "National Era,"--read it and wept over it,
adding all the intensity of her antislavery training to the enjoyment of
a hitherto forbidden pleasure. She did not fail to note her father's
eagerness for the arrival of the paper; and recalled the fact that he
had once objected to her reading "Pilgrim's Progress" on the Sabbath.

"It's useful, perhaps," he had said, "useful in its way and in its
place, but it is fiction nevertheless."

There were many vexing questions of church discipline that winter, and
the Rev. Samuel McClanahan rode over from Cedar Township often and held
long theological discussions with her father in the privacy of the best
room. Once Squire Wilson came with him, and as the two visitors left the
house Marg'et Ann heard the Rev. Samuel urging upon the elder the
necessity of "holding up Brother Morrison's hands."

It was generally known among the congregation that Abner Kirkendall had
been before the session for attending the Methodist Church and singing
an uninspired hymn in the public worship of God, and it was whispered
that the minister was not properly impressed with the heinousness of
Abner's sin. Then, too, Jonathan Loomis, the precentor, who had at first
insisted upon lining out two lines of the psalm instead of one, and had
carried his point, now pushed his dangerous liberality to the extreme of
not lining out at all. The first time he was guilty of this startling
innovation, "Rushin' through the sawm," as Uncle John Turnbull
afterwards said, "without deegnity, as if it were a mere human
cawmposeetion," two or three of the older members arose and left the
church; and the presbytery was shaken to its foundations of Scotch
granite when Mr. Morrison humbly acknowledged that he had not noticed
the precentor's bold sally until Brother Turnbull's departure attracted
his attention.

It is true that the minister had preached most acceptably that day from
the ninth and twelfth verses of the thirty-fifth chapter of Job: "By
reason of the multitude of oppressions they make the oppressed to cry:
they cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty.... There they cry, but
none giveth answer, because of the pride of evil men." And it is
possible that the zeal for freedom that burned in his soul was rather
gratified than otherwise by Jonathan's bold singing of the prophetic
psalm:--

  "He out of darkness did them bring
    And from Death's shade them take,
  Those bands wherewith they had been bound
    Asunder quite he brake.

  "O that men to the Lord would give
    Praise for His goodness then,
  And for His works of wonder done
    Unto the sons of men."

But such absorbing enthusiasm, even in a good cause, argued a doctrinal
laxity which could not pass unnoticed.

"A deegnifyin' of the creature above the Creator, the sign above the
thing seegnified," Uncle Johnnie Turnbull urged upon the session,
smarting from the deep theological wound he had suffered at Jonathan's
hands.

A perceptible chill crept into the ecclesiastical atmosphere which
Marg'et Ann felt without thoroughly comprehending.

Nancy Helen was sixteen now, and Marg'et Ann had taught the summer
school at Yankee Neck, riding home every evening to superintend the
younger sister's housekeeping.

Laban had emerged from the period of unshaven awkwardness, and was going
to see Emeline Barnes with ominous regularity.

There was nothing in the affairs of the household to trouble Marg'et Ann
but her father's ever increasing restlessness and preoccupation. She
wondered if it would have been different if her mother had lived. There
was no great intimacy between the father and daughter, but the girl
knew that the wrongs of the black man had risen like a dense cloud
between her father and what had once been his highest duty and pleasure.

She was not, therefore, greatly surprised when he said to her one day,
more humbly than he was wont to speak to his children:--

"I think I must try to do something for those poor people, child; it may
not be much, but it will be something. The harvest truly is great, but
the laborers are few."

"What will you do, father?"

Marg'et Ann asked the question hesitatingly, dreading the reply. The
minister looked at her with anxious eagerness. He was glad of the humble
acquiescence that obliged him to put his half-formed resolution into
words.

"If the presbytery will release me from my charge here, I may go South
for a while. Nancy Helen is quite a girl now, and with Laban and your
teaching you could get on. They are bruised for our iniquities, Marg'et
Ann,--they are our iniquities, indirectly, child."

He got up and walked across the rag-carpeted floor. Marg'et Ann sat
still in her mother's chair, looking down at the stripes of the
carpet,--dark blue and red and "hit or miss;" her mother had made them
so patiently; it seemed as if patience were always under foot for
heroism to tread upon. She fought with the ache in her throat a little.
The stripes on the floor were beginning to blur when she spoke.

"Isn't it dangerous to go down there, father, for people like us,--for
Abolitionists, I mean; I have heard that it was."

"Dangerous!" The preacher's face lighted with the faint, prophetic joy
of martyrdom; poor Marg'et Ann had touched the wrong chord. "It cannot
be worse for me than it is for them,--I must go," he broke out
impatiently; "do not say anything against it, child!"

And so Marg'et Ann said nothing.

Really there was not much time for words. There were many stitches to be
taken in the threadbare wardrobe, concerning which her father was as
ignorant and indifferent as a child, before she packed it all in the
old carpet sack and nerved herself to see him start.

He went away willingly, almost cheerfully. Just at the last, when he
came to bid the younger children good-by, the father seemed for an
instant to rise above the reformer. No doubt their childish unconcern
moved him.

"We must think of the families that have been rudely torn apart. Surely
it ought to sustain us,--it ought to sustain us," he said to Laban as
they drove away.

Two days later they carried him home, crippled for life by the
overturning of the stage near Cedar Creek.

He made no complaint of the drunken driver whose carelessness had caused
the accident and frustrated his plans; but once, when his eldest
daughter was alone with him, he looked into her face and said, absently,
rather than to her,--

"Patience, patience; I doubt not the Lord's hand is in it."

And Marg'et Ann felt that his purpose was not quenched.

In the spring Lloyd Archer came home. Marg'et Ann had heard of his
coming, and tried to think of him with all the intervening years of care
and trial added; but when she saw him walking up the path between the
flowering almonds and snowball bushes, all the intervening years faded
away, and left only the past that he had shared, and the present.

She met him there at her father's bedside and shook hands with him and
said, "How do you do, Lloyd? Have you kept your health?" as quietly as
she would have greeted any neighbor. After he had spoken to her father
and the children she sat before him with her knitting, a very gentle,
self-contained Desdemona, and listened while he told the minister
stories of California, mentioning the trees and fruits of the Bible with
a freedom and familiarity that savored just enough of heresy to make him
seem entirely unchanged.

When Nancy Helen came into the room he glanced from her to Marg'et Ann;
the two sisters had the same tints in hair and cheek, but the straight,
placid lines of the elder broke into waves and dimples in the younger.
Nancy Helen shook hands in a limp, half-grown way, blushingly conscious
that her sleeves were rolled up, and that her elders were maturely
indifferent to her sufferings; and Lloyd jokingly refused to tell her
his name, insisting that she had kissed him good-by and promised to be
his little sweetheart when he came back.

Marg'et Ann was knitting a great blue and white sock for Laban, and
after she had turned the mammoth heel she smoothed it out on her lap,
painstakingly, conscious all the time of a tumultuous, unreasonable joy
in Lloyd's presence, in the sound of his voice, in his glance, which
assured her so unmistakably that she had a right to rejoice in his
coming.

She did not see her lover alone for several days. When she did, he
caught her hands and said, "Well, Marg'et Ann?" taking up the unsettled
question of their lives where they had left it. And Marg'et Ann stood
still, with her hands in his, looking down at the snow of the fallen
locust-bloom at her feet, and said,--

"When father is well enough to begin preaching again, then I
think--perhaps--Lloyd"--

But Lloyd did not wait to hear what she thought, nor trouble himself
greatly about the "perhaps."

       *       *       *       *       *

The minister's injuries were slow to mend. They were all coming to
understand that his lameness would be permanent, and there was on the
part of the older children a tense, pained curiosity concerning their
father's feeling on the subject, which no word of his had thus far
served to relieve. There was a grave shyness among them concerning their
deepest feelings, which was, perhaps, a sense of the inadequacy of
expression rather than the austerity it seemed. Marg'et Ann would have
liked to show her sympathy for her father, and no doubt it would have
lightened the burdens of both; but any betrayal of filial tenderness
beyond the dutiful care she gave him would have startled the minister,
and embarrassed them both. Life was a serious thing to them only by
reason of its relation to eternity; a constant underrating of this world
had made them doubtful of its dignity. Marg'et Ann felt it rather
light-minded that she should have a lump in her throat whenever she
thought of her father on crutches for the rest of his life. She wondered
how Laban felt about it, but it was not likely that she would ever know.
Laban had made the crutches himself, a rude, temporary pair at first,
but he was at work on others now that were more carefully made and more
durable; and she knew from this and the remarks of her father when he
tried them that they both understood. It was not worth while to talk
about it of course, and yet the household had a dull ache in it that a
little talking might have relieved.

Marg'et Ann had begged Lloyd not to speak to her father until the latter
was "up and about." It seemed to her unkind to talk of leaving him when
he was helpless, and Lloyd was very patient now, and very tractable,
working busily to get the old place in readiness for his bride.

Mr. Morrison sat at his table, reading, or writing hurriedly, or gazing
absently out into the June sunshine. He was sitting thus one afternoon,
tapping the arms of his chair nervously with his thin fingers, when
Marg'et Ann brought her work and sat in her mother's chair near him. It
was not very dainty work, winding a mass of dyed carpet rags into a
huge, madder-colored ball, but there were delicate points in its
execution which a restless civilization has hurried into oblivion along
with the other lost arts, and Marg'et Ann surveyed her ball critically
now and then, to be sure that it was not developing any slovenly
one-sidedness under her deft hands. The minister's crutches leaned
against the arm of his painted wooden chair with an air of mute but
patient helpfulness. Marg'et Ann had cushioned them with patchwork, but
he had walked about so much that she already noted the worn places
beginning to show under the arms of his faded dressing-gown. He leaned
forward a little and glanced toward her, his hand on them now, and she
put down her work and went to his side. He raised himself by the arms of
his chair, sighing, and took the crutches from her patient hand.

"I am not of much account, child,--not of much account," he said
wearily.

Marg'et Ann colored with pain. She felt as a branch might feel when the
trunk of the tree snaps.

"I'm sure you're getting on very well, father; the doctor says you'll be
able to begin preaching again by fall."

The minister made his way slowly across the room and stood a moment in
the open door; then he retraced his halting steps with their thumping
wooden accompaniment and seated himself slowly and painfully again. One
of the crutches slid along the arm of the chair and fell to the floor.
Marg'et Ann went to pick it up. His head was still bowed and his face
had not relaxed from the pain of moving. Standing a moment at his side
and looking down at him, she noticed how thin and gray his hair had
become. She turned away her face, looking out of the window and
battling with the cruelty of it all. The minister felt the tenderness of
her silent presence there, and glanced up.

"I shall not preach any more, Marg'et Ann, at least not here, not in
this way. If I might do something for those down-trodden people,--but
that is perhaps not best. The Lord knows. But I shall leave the ministry
for a time,--until I see my way more clearly."

His daughter crossed the room, stooping to straighten the braided rug at
his feet as she went, and took up her work again. Certainly the crimson
ball was a trifle one-sided, or was it the unevenness of her tear-filled
vision? She unwound it a little to remedy the defect as her father went
on.

"Things do not present themselves to my mind as they once did. I have
not decided just what course to pursue, but it would certainly not be
honorable for me to occupy the pulpit in my present frame of mind.
You've been a very faithful daughter, Marg'et Ann," he broke off, "a
good daughter."

He turned and looked at her sitting there winding the great ball with
her trembling fingers; her failure to speak did not suggest any coldness
to either of them; response would have startled him.

"I have thought much about it," he went on. "I have had time to think
under this affliction. Nancy Helen is old enough to be trusted now, and
when Laban marries he will perhaps be willing to rent the land. No doubt
you could get both the summer and winter schools in the district; that
would be a great help. The congregation has not been able to pay much,
but it would be a loss"--

He faltered for the first time; there was a shame in mentioning money in
connection with his office.

"I have suffered a good deal of distress of mind, child, but doubtless
it is salutary--it is salutary."

He reached for his crutches again restlessly, and then drew back,
remembering the pain of rising.

Marg'et Ann had finished the ball of carpet rags and laid it carefully
in the box with the others. She had taken great pains with the
coloring, thinking of the best room in her new home, and Lloyd had a
man's liking for red.

And now the old question had come back; it was older than she knew.
Doubtless it was right that men should always have opinions and
aspirations and principles, and women only ties and duties and
heartaches. It seemed cruel, though, just now. She choked back the
throbbing pain in her throat that threatened to make itself seen and
heard.

"Of course I must do right, Marg'et Ann."

Her father's voice seemed almost pleading.

Of course he must do right. Marg'et Ann had not dreamed of anything
else. Only it was a little hard just now.

She glanced at him, leaning forward in his chair with the crutches
beside him. He looked feeble about the temples, and his patched
dressing-gown hung loose in wrinkles. She crossed the room and stood
beside him. Of course she would stay with him. She did not ask herself
why. She did not reason that it was because motherhood underlies
wifehood and makes it sweet and sufficing; makes every good woman a
mother to every dependent creature, be it strong or weak. I doubt if she
reasoned at all. She only said,--

"Of course you will do right, father, and I will see about the school; I
think I can get it. You must not worry; we shall get on very well."

Out in the June sunshine Lloyd was coming up the walk with Nancy Helen.
She had been gathering wild strawberries in the meadow across the lane,
and they had met at the gate. Her sunbonnet was pushed back from her
crinkly hair, and her cheeks were stained redder than her finger-tips by
Lloyd's teasing.

Marg'et Ann looked at them and sighed.

       *       *       *       *       *

After her brother's return from presbytery Miss Nancy McClanahan
borrowed her sister-in-law's horse and rode over to visit the Morrisons.
It was not often that Miss Nancy made a trip of this kind alone, and
Marg'et Ann ran down the walk to meet her, rolling down her sleeves and
smoothing her hair.

Miss Nancy took the girl's soft cheeks in her hands and drew them into
the shadow of her cavernous sunbonnet for a withered kiss.

"I want to see your father, Margie," she whispered, and the gentle
constraint of spiritual things came into Marg'et Ann's voice as she
answered,--

"He's in the best room alone; I moved him in there this morning to be
out of the sweeping. You can go right in."

She lingered a little, hoping her old friend's concern of soul might not
have obscured her interest in the salt-rising bread, which had been
behaving untowardly of late; but Miss Nancy turned her steps in the
direction of the best room, and Marg'et Ann opened the door for her,
saying,--

"It's Miss McClanahan, father."

The minister looked up, wrinkling his forehead in the effort to
disentangle himself from his thoughts. The old maid crossed the room
toward him with her quick, hitching step.

"Don't try to get up, Joseph," she said, as he laid his hand on his
crutches; "I'll find myself a chair."

She sat down before him, crossing her hands in her lap. The little worn
band of gold was not on her finger, but there was a smooth white mark
where it had been.

"Samuel got home from presbytery yesterday; he told me what was before
them. I thought I'd like to have a little talk with you."

Her voice trembled as she stopped. A faint color showed itself through
the silvery stubble on the minister's cheeks; he patted the arms of his
chair nervously.

"I'm hardly prepared to discuss my opinions. They are vague, very vague,
at best. I should be sorry to unsettle the faith"--

"I don't care at all about your opinions," Miss Nancy interrupted,
pushing his words away with both hands; "I only wanted to speak to you
about Marg'et Ann."

"Marg'et Ann!" The minister's relief breathed itself out in gentle
surprise.

"Yes, Marg'et Ann. I think it's time somebody was thinking of her,
Joseph." Miss Nancy leaned forward, her face the color of a withered
rose. "She's doing over again what I did. Perhaps it was best for you. I
believe it was, and I don't want you to say a word,--you mustn't,--but I
can speak, and I'm not going to let Marg'et Ann live my life if I can
help it."

"I don't understand you, Nancy."

The minister laid his hands on his crutches and refused to be motioned
back into his chair. He stood before her, looking down anxiously into
her thin, eager face.

"I know you don't. Esther never understood, either. You didn't know that
Marg'et Ann gave up Lloyd Archer because he had doubts, but I knew it. I
wanted to speak then, but I couldn't--to her--Esther,--and now you don't
know that she's going to give him up again because you have doubts,
Joseph. That's the way with women. They have no principles, only to do
the hardest thing. But I know what it means to work and worry and pinch
and have nothing in the end, not even troubles of your own,--they would
be some comfort. And I'm going to save Marg'et Ann from it. I'm going
to come here and take her place. I've got a little something of my own,
you know; I always meant it for her."

She stopped, looking at him expectantly. The minister turned away,
rubbing his hands up and down his polished crutches. There was a soft,
troubled light in his eyes.

"Why, Nancy!"

His companion got up and moved a step backward. Her cheeks flushed a
pale, faded red.

"Oh, no," she said, with a quick, impatient movement of her head, "not
that, Joseph; that died years ago,--you are the same to me as other men,
excepting that you are Marg'et Ann's father. It's for _her_. It's the
only way I can live my life over again, by letting her live hers. I
don't know that it will be any better; but she will know, she will have
a certainty in place of a doubt. I don't know that my life would have
been any better; I know yours would not, and anyway it's all over now. I
know I can get on with the children, and I don't think people will
talk. I hope you're not going to object, Joseph. We've always been very
good friends."

He shook his head slowly.

"I don't see how I can, Nancy. It's very good of you. Perhaps," he
added, looking at her with a wistful desire for contradiction,--"perhaps
I've been a little selfish about Marg'et Ann."

"I don't think you meant to be, Joseph," said the old maid soothingly;
"when anybody's so good as Marg'et Ann, she doesn't call for much grace
in the people about her. I think it's a duty we owe to other people to
have some faults."

Outside the door Marg'et Ann still lingered, with her anxiety about the
bread on her lips and the shadow of much serving in her soft eyes. Miss
Nancy stopped and drew her favorite into the shelter of her gaunt arms.

"I'm coming over next week to help you get ready for the wedding,
Margie," she said, "and I'm going to stay when you're gone and look
after things. They don't need me at Samuel's now, and I'll be more
comfortable here. I've got enough to pay a little for my board the rest
of my life, and I don't mean to work very hard, but I can show Nancy
Helen and keep the run of things. There, don't cry. We'll go and look at
the sponge now. I guess you'd better ride over to Yankee Neck this
afternoon, and tell them you don't want the winter school--There,
there!"



At the Foot of the Trail


I

The slope in front of old Mosey's cabin was a mass of purple lupine.
Behind the house the wild oats were dotted with brodiæa, waving on long,
glistening stems. The California lilac was in bloom on the trail, and
its clumps of pale blossoms were like breaks in the chaparral, showing
the blue sky beyond.

In the corral between the house and the mountain-side stood a dozen or
more burros, wearing that air of patient resignation common to very good
women and very obstinate beasts. Old Mosey himself was pottering about
the corral, feeding his stock. He stooped now and then with the
unwillingness of years, and erected himself by slow, rheumatic stages.
The donkeys crowded about the fence as he approached with a forkful of
alfalfa hay, and he pushed them about with the flat of the prongs,
calling them by queer, inappropriate names.

A young man in blue overalls came around the corner of the house,
swinging a newly trimmed manzanita stick.

"Hello, Mosey!" he called. "Here I am again, as hungry as a coyote.
What's the lay-out? Cottontail on toast and patty de foy grass?"

The old man grinned, showing his worn, yellow teeth.

"I'll be there in a minute," he said. "Just set down on the step."

The young fellow came toward the corral.

"I've got a job on the trail," he said. "I'm going down-town for my
traps. Who named 'em for you?" he questioned, as the old man swore
softly at the Democratic candidate for President.

"Oh, the women, mostly. They take a lot of interest in 'em when they
start out; they're afraid I ain't good to them. They don't say so much
about it when they get back."

"They're too tired, I suppose."

"Yes, I s'pose so."

"You let out five this morning, didn't you? I met them on my way down.
The girl in bloomers seemed to be scared; she gave a little screech
every few minutes. The others didn't appear to mind."

"Oh, she wasn't afraid. Women don't make a noise when they're scared;
it's only when they want to scare somebody else."

The young fellow leaned against the fence and laughed, with a final
whoop. A gray donkey investigated his hip pocket, and he reached back
and prodded the intruder with his stick.

"You seem to be up on the woman question, Mosey. It's queer you ain't
married."

The old man was lifting a boulder to hold down a broken bale of hay, and
made no reply. His visitor started toward the cabin. The old man
adjusted another boulder and trotted after his guest, brushing the hay
from his flannel shirt. A column of blue-white smoke arose from the
rusty stovepipe in the cabin roof, and the smell of overdone coffee
drifted out upon the spiced air.

"I was just about settin' down," said the host, placing another plate
and cup and saucer on the blackened redwood table. "I'll fry you some
more bacon and eggs."

The visitor watched him as he hurried about with the short, uncertain
steps of hospitable old age.

"By gum, Mosey, I'd marry a grass-widow with a second-hand family before
I'd do my own cooking."

The young fellow gave a self-conscious laugh that made the old man
glance at him from under his weather-beaten straw hat.

"Your mind seems to run on marryin'," he said; "guess you're hungry. Set
up and have some breakfast."

The visitor drew up a wooden chair, and the old man poured two cups of
black coffee from the smoke-begrimed coffee-pot and returned it to the
stove. Then he took off his hat and seated himself opposite his guest.
The latter stirred three heaping teaspoonfuls of sugar into his cup,
muddied the resulting syrup with condensed milk, and drank it with the
relish of abnormal health.

"I tell you what, Mosey," he said, reaching for a slice of bacon and
dripping the grease across the table, "there ain't any flies on the
women when it comes to housekeeping. Now, a woman would turn on the
soapsuds and float you clean out of this house; then she'd mop up, and
put scalloped noospapers on all the shelves, and little white aprons on
the windows, and pillow-shams on your bunk, and she'd work a doily for
you to lay your six-shooter on, with 'God bless our home' in the corner
of it; and she'd make you so comfortable you wouldn't know what to do
with yourself."

"I'm comfortable enough by myself," said the old man uneasily. "When you
work for yourself, you know who's boss."

"Naw, you don't, Mosey, not by a long shot; you don't know whether
you're boss or the cookin'. I tried bachin' once"--the speaker made a
grimace of reminiscent disgust; "the taste hasn't gone out of my mouth
yet. You're a pretty fair cook, Mosey, but you'd ought to see my girl's
biscuits; she makes 'em so light she has to put a napkin over 'em to
keep 'em from floating around like feathers. Fact!" He reached over and
speared a slice of bread with his fork. "If I keep this job on the
trail, maybe you'll have a chance to sample them biscuits. I'm goin' to
send East for that girl."

"Where you goin' to live?"

"Well, I didn't know but we could rent this ranch and board you, Mosey.
Seems to me you ought to retire. It ain't human to live this way. If you
was to die here all by yourself, you'd regret it. Well, I must toddle."

The visitor stood a moment on the step, sweeping the valley with his
fresh young glance; then he set his hat on the back of his head and went
whistling down the road, waving his stick at old Mosey as he disappeared
among the sycamores in the wash. The old man gathered the dishes into a
rusty pan, and scalded them with boiling water from the kettle.

"I believe I'll do it," he said, as he fished the hot saucers out by
their edges and turned them down on the table; "it can't do no harm to
write to her, no way."


II

Mrs. Moxom put on her slat sunbonnet, took a tin pan from the pantry
shelf, and hurried across the kitchen toward the door. Her
daughter-in-law looked up from the corner where she was kneading bread.
She was a short, plump woman, and all of her convexities seemed
emphasized by flour. She put up the back of her hand to adjust a
loosened lock of hair, and added another high light to her forehead.

"Where you going, mother?" she called anxiously.

The old woman did not turn her head.

"Oh, just out to see how the lettuce is coming on. I had a notion I'd
like some for dinner, wilted with ham gravy."

"Can't one of the children get it?"

There was no response. Mrs. Weaver turned back to her bread.

"Your grandmother seems kind of fidgety this morning," she fretted to
her eldest daughter, who was decorating the cupboard shelves with tissue
paper of an enervating magenta hue, and indulging at intervals in vocal
reminiscences of a ship that never returned.

"Oh, well, mother," said that young person comfortably, "let her alone.
I think we all tag her too much. I hate to be tagged myself."

"Well, I'm sure I don't want to tag her, Ethel; I just don't want her to
overdo."

Mrs. Weaver spoke in a tone of mingled injury and self-justification.

"Oh, well, mother, she isn't likely to put her shoulder out of joint
pulling a few heads of lettuce."

The girl broke out again into cheerful interrogations concerning the
disaster at sea:--

  "Did she never_r_ re_tur_ren?
  No, she never_r_ re_tur_rened."

Mrs. Weaver gave a little sigh, as if she feared her daughter's words
might prove prophetic, and buried her plump fists in the puffy dough.

Old Mrs. Moxom turned when she reached the garden gate and glanced back
at the house. Then she clasped the pan to her breast and skurried along
the fence toward the orchard. Once under the trees, she did not look
behind her, but went rapidly toward the field where she knew her son was
plowing. The reflection of the sun on the tin pan made him look up, and
when he saw her he stopped his team. She came across the soft brown
furrows to his side.

"I'd have come to the fence when I saw you, if I hadn't had the colt,"
he said kindly. "What's wanted?"

The old woman's face twitched. She pushed her sunbonnet back with one
trembling hand.

"Jason," she said, with a little jerk in her voice, "your paw's alive."

The man arranged the lines carefully along the colt's back; then he took
off his hat and wiped the top of his head on his sleeve, looking away
from his mother with heavy, dull embarrassment.

"I expect you'd 'most forgot all about him," pursued the old woman, with
a vague reproach in her tone.

"I hadn't much to forget," answered the man, resentment rising in his
voice. "He hasn't troubled himself about me."

"Well, he didn't know anything about you, Jason, he went away so soon
after we was married. It's a dreadful position to be placed in. It 'u'd
be awfully embarrassing to--to the Moxom girls."

The man gave her a quick, curious glance. He had never heard her speak
of his half-sisters in that way before.

"They're so kind of high-toned," she went on, "just as like as not
they'd blame me. I'm sure I don't know what to do."

Jason kicked the soft earth with his sunburnt boot.

"Where is he?" he asked sullenly.

"In Californay."

"How'd you hear?"

"I got a letter. He wrote to Burtonville and directed it to Mrs.
Angeline Weaver, and the postmaster give it to some of your uncle
Samuel's folks, and they put it in another envelope and backed it to me
here. I thought at first I wouldn't say anything about it, but it
seemed as if I'd ought to tell you; it doesn't hurt you any, but it's
awful hard on the--the Moxom girls."

The man shifted his weight, and kicked awhile with his other foot.

"Well, I'd just give him the go-by," he announced resolutely. "You're a
decent man's widow, and that's enough. He's never"--

"Oh, I ain't saying anything against your step-paw, Jason," the old
woman broke in anxiously. "He was an awful good man. It seems queer to
think it was the way it was. Dear me, it's all so kind of confusing!"

The poor woman looked down with much the same embarrassment over her
matrimonial redundance that a man might feel when suddenly confronted by
twins.

"I'm sure I don't see how I could help thinking he was dead," she went
on after a little silence, "when he wrote he was going off on that trip
and might never come back, and the man that was with him wrote that they
got lost from each other, and water was so scarce and all that. And
then, you know, I didn't get married again till you was 'most ten years
old, Jason. I'm sure I don't know what to do. I don't want to mortify
anybody, but I'd like to know just what's my dooty."

"Well, I can tell you easy enough." The man's voice was getting beyond
control, but he drew it in with a quick, angry breath. "Just drop the
whole thing. If he's got on for forty years, mother, I guess he can
manage for the rest of the time."

"But it ain't so easy managin' when you begin to get old, Jason. I know
how that is."

Her son jerked the lines impatiently, and the colt gave a nervous start.

"I suppose you know this farm really came to you from your paw, don't
you, Jason?" she asked humbly.

"Don't know as I did," answered the man, without enthusiasm.

"Well, you see, after we was married, your grandfather Weaver offered
your paw this quarter-section if he'd stay here in Ioway; but he had his
heart set on going to Californay, and didn't want it; so after it
turned out the way it did, and you was born, your grandfather gave me
this farm, and I done very well with it. That's the reason your step-paw
insisted on you having it when we was dividing things up before he
died."

"Seems to me father worked pretty hard on this place himself."

The man said the word "father" half defiantly.

"Mr. Moxom? Oh, yes, he was a first-rate manager, and the kindest man
that ever drew breath. I remember when your sister Angie was born--oh,
dear me!"--the old woman felt her voice giving way, and stopped an
instant,--"it seems so kind of strange. Well, I guess we'd better just
drop it, Jason. I must go back to the house. Emma didn't like my coming
for lettuce. She'll think I've planted some, and am waitin' for it to
come up."

She gave her son a quivering smile as she turned away. He stood still
and watched her until she had crossed the plowed ground. It seemed to
him she walked more feebly than when she came out.

"That's awful queer," he said, shaking his head, "calling her own
daughters 'the Moxom girls.'"


III

Ethel Weaver had been to Ashland for the mail, and was driving home in
the summer dusk. A dash of rain had fallen while she was in the village,
and the air was full of the odor of moist earth and the sweetness of
growing corn. The colt she was driving held his head high, glancing from
side to side with youthful eagerness for a sensation, and shying at
nothing now and then in sheer excess of emotion over the demand of his
monotonous life.

The girl held a letter in her lap, turning the pages with one
unincumbered hand, and lifting her flushed face with a contemptuous "Oh,
Barney, you goose!" as the colt drew himself into attitudes of quivering
fright, which dissolved suddenly at the sound of her voice and the
knowledge that another young creature viewed his coquettish terrors with
the disrespect born of comprehension. As they turned into the lane west
of the house, Ethel folded her letter and thrust it hastily into her
pocket, and the colt darted through the open gate and drew up at the
side door with a transparent assumption of serious purpose suggested by
the proximity of oats.

"Ed!" called the girl, "the next time you hitch up Barney for me, I wish
you'd put a kicking-strap on him. I had a picnic with him coming down
the hill by Arbuckle's."

Ed maintained the gruff silence of the half-grown rural male as he
climbed into the buggy beside his sister and cramped the wheel for her
to dismount.

"They haven't any quart jars over at the store, mother," said Ethel,
entering the house and walking across to the mirror to remove her hat.
"They're expecting some every day. Well, I do look like the Witch of
Endor!" she exclaimed, twisting her loosened rope of hair and skewering
it in place with a white celluloid pin. "That colt acted as if he was
possessed."

"Oh, I'm sorry about the jars," said Mrs. Weaver regretfully. "I wanted
to finish putting up the curr'n's to-morrow."

"Did you get any mail?" quavered grandmother Moxom.

"I got a letter from Rob."

There was a little hush in the room. The girl stood still before the
mirror, with a sense of support in the dim reflection of her own face.

"Is he well?" ventured the old woman feebly, glancing toward her
daughter-in-law.

"Yes, he's well; he's got steady work on some road up the mountain. He
writes as if people keep going up, but he never tells what they go up
for. He said something about a lot of burros, and at first I thought he
was in a furniture store, but I found out he meant mules. An old man
keeps them, and hires them out to people. Rob calls him 'old Mosey.'
They're keeping bach together. Rob tried to make biscuits, and he says
they tasted like castor oil."

As her granddaughter talked, Mrs. Moxom seemed to shrink deeper and
deeper into the patchwork cushion of her chair.

"Rob wants me to come out there and be married," pursued the girl,
bending nearer to the mirror and returning her own gaze with sympathy.

"Why, Ethel!" Mrs. Weaver's voice was full of astonished disapproval. "I
should think you'd be ashamed to say such a thing."

"I didn't say it; Rob said it," returned the girl, making a little
grimace at herself in the glass.

"Well, I have my opinion of a young man that will say such a thing to a
girl. If a girl's worth having, she's worth coming after."

Mrs. Weaver made this latter announcement with an air of triumph in its
triteness. Her daughter gave a little sniff of contempt.

"Well, if a fellow's worth having, isn't he worth going to?" she asked
with would-be flippancy.

"Why, Ethel Imogen Weaver!" Mrs. Weaver repeated her daughter's name
slowly, as if she hoped its length might arouse in the owner some sense
of her worth. "I never did hear the like."

The girl left the mirror, and seated herself in a chair in front of her
mother.

"It'll cost Rob a hundred dollars to come here and go back to
California, and a hundred dollars goes a long way toward fixing up.
Besides, he'll lose his job. I'd just as soon go out there as have him
come here. If people don't like it they--they needn't."

The girl's fresh young voice began to thicken, and she glanced about in
restless search of diversion from impending tears.

"Well, girls do act awful strange these days."

Mrs. Weaver took warning from her daughter's tone and divided her
disapproval by multiplying its denominator.

"Yes, they do. They act sometimes as if they had a little sense,"
retorted Ethel huskily.

"Well, I don't know as I call it sense to pick up and run after a man,
even if you're engaged to him; do you, mother?"

Old Mrs. Moxom started nervously at her daughter-in-law's appeal.

"Well, it does seem a long way to go on--on an uncertainty, Ethel," she
faltered.

The girl turned a flushed, indignant face upon her grandmother.

"Well, I hope you don't mean to call Rob an uncertainty?" she demanded
angrily.

"Oh, no; I don't mean that," pleaded the old woman. "I haven't got
anything agen' Rob. I don't suppose he's any more uncertain than--than
the rest of them. I"--

"Why, grandmother Moxom," interrupted the girl, "how you talk! I'm sure
father isn't an uncertainty, and there wasn't anything uncertain about
grandfather Moxom. To tell the honest truth, I think they're just about
as certain as we are."

The old woman got up and began to move the chairs about with purposeless
industry.

"It's awful hard to know what to do sometimes," she said, indulging in a
generality that might be mollifying, but was scarcely glittering.

"Well, it isn't hard for me to know _this_ time," said Mrs. Weaver, her
features drawn into a look of pudgy determination. "No girl of mine
shall ever go traipsing off to California alone on any such wild-goose
chase."

Ethel got up and moved toward the stairway, her tawny head thrown back,
and an eloquent accentuation of heel in her tread.

"I just believe old folks like for young folks to be foolish and
wasteful," she said over her shoulder, "so they can have something to
nag them about. I'm sure I"--She slammed the door upon her voice, which
seemed to be carried upward in a little whirlwind of indignation.

Mrs. Weaver glanced at her mother-in-law for sympathy, but the old woman
refused to meet her gaze.

"I'm just real mad at Rob Kendall for suggesting such a thing and
getting Ethel all worked up," clucked the younger woman anxiously.

Mrs. Moxom came back to her chair as aimlessly as she had left it.

"Men-folks are kind of helpless when it comes to planning," she said
apologetically. "To think of them poor things trying to keep house--and
the biscuits being soggy! It does kind of work on her feelings, Emma."

Mrs. Weaver gave her mother-in-law a glance of rotund severity.

"I don't mind their getting married," she said, "but I want it done
decent. I don't intend to pack my daughter off to any man as if she
wasn't worth coming after, biscuits or no biscuits!"

She lifted her chin and looked at her companion over the barricade of
conventionality that lay between them with the air of one whose position
is unassailable. The old woman sighed with much the same air, but with
none of her daughter-in-law's satisfaction in it.

"I'm sure I don't know," she said drearily; "sometimes it ain't easy to
know your dooty at a glance."

Mrs. Weaver made no response, but her expression was not favorable to
such lax uncertainty.

"The way mother Moxom talked," she said to her husband that night,
"you'd have thought she sided with Ethel."

Jason Weaver was far too much of a man to hazard an opinion on the
proprieties in the face of his wife's disapproval, so he grunted an
amiable acquiescence in that spirit of justifiable hypocrisy known among
his kind as "humoring the women-folks." Privately he was disposed to
exult in his daughter's spirit and good sense, and so long as these
admirable qualities did not take her away from him, and paternal pride
and affection were both gratified, he saw no reason to complain. This
satisfaction, however, did not prevent his "stirring her up" now and
then, as he said, that he might sun himself in the glow of her youthful
temper and chuckle inwardly over her smartness.

"Well, Dot, how's Rob?" he asked jovially one evening at supper about a
month later. "Does he still think he's worth running after?"

"I don't know whether he thinks so or not, but I know he is," asserted
the young woman, tilting her chin and looking away from her father with
a cool filial contempt for his pleasantries bred by familiarity. "He's
well enough, but the old man that lives with him had a fall and broke
his leg, and Rob has to take care of him."

Old Mrs. Moxom laid down her knife and fork, and dropped her hands in
her lap hopelessly.

"Well, now, what made him go and do that?" she asked, with a fretful
quaver in her voice, as if this were the last straw.

"I don't know, grandmother," answered Ethel cheerfully. "As soon as he's
well enough to be moved, they're going to take him to the county
hospital. I guess that's the poorhouse. But Rob says he's so old they're
afraid the bone won't knit; he suffers like everything. Poor old man,
I'm awful sorry for him. Rob has to do all the cooking."

The old woman pushed back her chair and brushed the crumbs from her
apron.

"I guess I'll go upstairs and lay down awhile, Emma. I been kind of
light-headed all afternoon. I guess I set too long over them carpet
rags."

She got up and crossed the room hurriedly. Her son looked after her with
anxious eyes. Presently they heard her toiling up the stairs with the
slow, inelastic tread of infancy and old age.

"I don't know what's come over your mother, Jason," said his wife. "She
hasn't been herself all summer. Sometimes I think I'd ought to write to
the girls."

"Oh, I guess she'll be all right," said Jason, with masculine
hopefulness. "Dot, you'd better go up by and by and see if grandmother
wants anything."

Safe in her own room, Mrs. Moxom sank into a chair with a long breath of
relief and dismay.

"The poorhouse!" she gasped. "That seems about as mortifying as to own
up to your girls that you wasn't never rightly married to their father."

She got up and wandered across the room to the bureau. "I expect he's
changed a good deal," she murmured. She took a daguerreotype from the
upper drawer, and gazed at it curiously. "Yes, I expect he's changed
quite a good deal," she repeated, with a sigh.


IV

"Why, mother Moxom!"

Mrs. Weaver sank into her sewing-chair in an attitude of pulpy despair.

"Well, I don't see but what it's the best thing for me to do," asserted
the old woman. "The cold weather'll be coming on soon, and I always have
more or less rheumatism, and they say Californay's good for rheumatism.
Besides, I think I need to stir round a little; I've stayed right here
'most too close; and as long as Ethel has her heart set on going, I
don't see but what it's the best plan. If I go along with her, I can
make sure that everything's all right. If you and Jason say she can't
go, why, then, I don't see but what I'll just have to start off and make
the trip alone."

"Why, mother Moxom, I just don't know what to say!"

Mrs. Weaver's tone conveyed a deep-seated sense of injury that she
should thus be deprived of speech for such insufficient cause.

"'Tisn't such a very hard trip," pursued the old woman doggedly. "They
say you get on one of them through trains and take your provision and
your knitting, and just live along the road. It isn't as if you had to
change cars at every junction, and get so turned round you don't know
which way your head's set on your shoulders."

Mrs. Weaver's expression began to dissolve into reluctant interest in
these details.

"Well, of course, if you think it'll help your rheumatism, and you've
got your mind made up to go, _some_body'll have to go with you. Have you
asked Jason?"

"No, I haven't." Mrs. Moxom's voice took on an edge. "I can't see just
why I've got to ask people; sometimes I think I'm about old enough to do
as I please."

"Why, of course, mother," soothed the daughter-in-law. "Would you go and
see the girls before you'd start?"

"No, I don't believe I would," answered the old woman, her voice
relaxing under this acquiescence. "They'd only make a fuss. They've
both got good homes and good men, and they're married to them right and
lawful, and there's nothing to worry about. Besides, I'd just get
interested in the children, and that'd make it harder. I've done the
best I knew how by the girls, and I don't know as they've got any reason
to complain"--

"Why, no, mother," interrupted the daughter-in-law, with rising
feathers, "I never heard anybody say but what you'd done well by all
your children. I only thought they'd want to see you. I think they'd
come over if they knew it--well, of course, Angie couldn't, having a
young baby so, but Laura she'd come in a minute."

"Well, I don't believe I want to see them," persisted Mrs. Moxom. "It'll
only make it harder. I guess you needn't let them know I'm goin'. Ethel
and I'll start as soon as she can get ready. Seems like Rob's having a
pretty hard time. He couldn't come after Ethel now if he wanted to. It
wouldn't be right for him to leave that--that--old gentleman."

"Well, I wouldn't want the girls to have any hard feelings towards me."

"The Moxom girls ain't a-going to have any hard feelings towards _you_,
Emma," asserted the old woman, with emphasis.

"She has the queerest way of talking about your sisters, Jason," Mrs.
Weaver confided to her husband later. "It makes me think, sometimes,
she's failing pretty fast."


V

As the road to the foot of the trail grew steeper, Rob Kendall found an
increasing difficulty in guiding his team with one hand. His bride drew
herself from his encircling arm reluctantly.

"You'd better look after the horses," she said, with a vivid blush.
"What'll grandmother think of us?"

The young fellow removed the offending arm and reached back to pat the
old lady's knee.

"I ain't afraid of grandmother," he said joyously. "Grandmother's a
brick. If she stays out here long, she'll soon be the youngest woman on
the mesa. I shouldn't wonder if she'd pick up some nice old gentleman
herself--how's that, grandmother?" He bent down and kissed his wife's
ear. "Catch me going back on grandmothers after this!"

"You haven't changed a bit, Rob," said Ethel fondly; "has he,
grandmother?" She turned her radiant smile upon the withered face behind
her.

The old woman did not answer. The newly wedded couple resumed their
rapturous contemplation of each other.

"How's that funny old man, Rob?" asked Ethel, smoothing out her dimples.

"Old Mosey? He's pretty rocky. I'm afraid he won't pull through." Rob
strove to adjust his voice to the subject. "I'd 'a' got a house down in
town, but I didn't like to leave him. We'll have to go pretty soon,
though. I'm afraid you'll be lonesome up here."

The old woman on the back seat leaned forward a little. The young couple
smiled exultantly into each other's eyes, with superb scorn of the
world.

"Lonesome!" sneered the girl.

Her husband drew her close to him with an ecstatic hug.

"Yes, lonesome," he laughed, his voice smothered in her bright hair.

The old woman settled back in her seat. The team made their way slowly
through the sandy wash between the boulders. When they emerged from the
sycamores, Rob pointed toward the cabin. "That's the place!" he said
triumphantly.

The sunset was sifting through the live-oaks upon the shake roof. Two
tents gleamed white beside it, frescoed with the shadow of moving
leaves. Ethel lifted her head from her husband's shoulder, and looked at
her home with the faith in her eyes that has kept the world young.

"I've put up some tents for us," said the young fellow gleefully; "but
you mustn't go in till I get the team put away. I won't have you
laughing at my housekeeping behind my back. Old Mosey's asleep in the
shanty; the doctor gives him something to keep him easy. You can go in
there and sit down, grandmother; you won't disturb him."

He helped them out of the wagon, lingering a little with his wife in his
arms. The old woman left them and went into the house. She crossed the
floor hesitatingly, and bent over the feeble old face on the pillow.

"It's just as I expected; he's changed a good deal," she said to
herself.

The old man opened his eyes.

"I was sayin' you'd changed a good deal, Moses," she repeated aloud.

There was no intelligence in his gaze.

"For that matter, I expect I've changed a good deal myself," she went
on. "I heard you'd had a fall, and I thought I'd better come out. You
was always kind of hard to take care of when you was sick. I remember
that time you hurt your foot on the scythe, just after we was married;
you wouldn't let anybody come near you but me"--

"Why, it's Angeline!" said the old man dreamily, with a vacant smile.

"Yes, it's me."

He closed his eyes and drifted away again. The old wife sat still on the
edge of the bed. Outside she could hear the sigh of the oaks and the
trill of young voices. Two or three tears fell over the wrinkled face,
written close with the past, like a yellow page from an old diary. She
wiped them away, and looked about the room with its meagre belongings,
which Rob had scoured into expectant neatness.

"He doesn't seem to have done very well," she thought; "but how could
he, all by himself?" She got up and walked to the door, and looked out
at the strange landscape with its masses of purple mountains.

"I've got to do one of two things," she said to herself. "I've just got
to own up the whole thing, and let the girls be mortified, or else I've
got to keep still and marry him over again, and pass for an old fool the
rest of my life. I don't believe I can do it. They've got more time to
live down disgrace than I have. I believe I'll just come out and tell
everything. Ethel!" she called. "Come here, you and Rob; I've got
something to tell you."

The young couple stood with locked arms, looking out over the valley. At
the sound of her voice they clasped each other close in an embrace of
passionate protest against the intrusion of this other soul. Then they
turned toward the sunset, and went slowly and reluctantly into the
house.



Lib


A young woman sat on the veranda of a small redwood cabin, putting her
baby to sleep. The infant displayed that aggressive wide-awakeness which
seems to characterize babies on the verge of somnolence. Now and then it
plunged its dimpled fists into the young mother's bare white breast,
stiffened its tiny form rebelliously, raised its head, and sent gleams
of defiance from beneath its drooping eyelids.

It was late in March, and the ground about the cabin was yellow with
low-growing compositæ. The air was honey-sweet and dripping with
bird-song. Inside the house a woman and a girl were talking.

"Oh, he's not worrying," said the latter. "What's he got to worry about?
He lets us do all that. Lib's got the baby and we've got to bear all the
disgrace. I"--

"Myrtie," called a clear voice from the veranda, "shut up! You may say
what you please about me, and you may say what you please about him, but
nobody's going to call this baby a disgrace."

She caught the child up and kissed the back of its neck with passionate
vehemence. The baby struggled in her embrace and gave a little cry of
outraged dignity.

Indoors the girl looked at her mother and bit her lip in astonished
dismay.

"I didn't know she could hear," she whispered.

A tall young woman came up the walk, trailing her tawdry ruffles over
the fragrant alfileria.

"Is Miss Sunderland"--She colored a dull pink and glanced at the baby.

"I'm Lib Sunderland. Won't you come in?" said Lib.

The newcomer sank down on the upper step and leaned against the post of
the veranda.

"No. I don't want to see any one but you. I guess we can talk here."

The baby sat up at the sound of the stranger's voice and stared at her
with round, blinking eyes. She drew off her cotton gloves and whipped
her knee with them in awkward embarrassment. She had small, regular
features of the kind that remain the same from childhood to old age, and
her liver-colored hair rolled in a billow almost to her eyes.

"Maybe you'll think it strange for me to come," she began, "but I didn't
know what else to do. I'm Ruby Adair."

She waited a little, but her statement awoke no response in Lib's
noncommittal face.

"I don't know whether you know what they're saying over at the store or
not," the visitor went on haltingly.

"No," said Lib, with dry indifference; "there ain't any men in our
family to do the loafin' and gossipin' for us."

"Since you moved over here from Bunch Grass Valley, they're saying that
Thad Farnham is the--is--you know he was in the tile works over there a
year or more ago."

"Yes, I know." Lib's voice was like the crackling of dead leaves under
foot.

"I think it's pretty hard," continued Miss Adair, gathering courage, and
glancing from under the surf of her hair at her listener's impassive
face; "him and me's engaged!"

Lib's eyes narrowed, and the velvety down on her lip showed black
against the whiteness around her mouth.

"What does _he_ say?" she asked.

"What can he say?" Thad's fiancée broke out nervously, "except that it
ain't so. But that doesn't shut people's mouths. Nobody can do that but
you. I think"--she raised her chin virtuously and twisted her gloves
tight in her trembling hands--"that you ought to come out plain and tell
who the man is--I mean the--you know what I mean!"

"Yes," said Lib dully, "I know what you mean."

There was a little silence, broken only by the mad twitter of nesting
linnets in the passion-vine overhead.

"Of course," resumed the stranger, "I wouldn't want you to think but
what I'm sorry for you. You've been treated awful mean by somebody."

A surprised look grew in the eyes Lib fixed upon her visitor. The baby
stirred in its sleep, and she bent down and rubbed her cheek against its
hair.

"You needn't waste any time being sorry for me," she said.

"It's too bad," continued Miss Adair, intent upon her own exalted
charity, "but that doesn't make it right for you to get other folks into
trouble. You'd ought to remember that."

"If you think he's all right, why don't you go ahead and marry him?"
asked Lib.

"My folks would make such a fuss, and besides I don't know as it would
be just right for me to act like I didn't care, after all that's been
said--and me a church-member!"

Miss Ruby bent her head a little forward, as if under the weight of her
moral obligations.

"Has he joined the church?" inquired Lib in a curious voice.

"He's been going to the union meetings regular with me, and he's stood
up twice for prayers, but I dunno 's they'd take him into the church with
all these stories going about. You'd ought to think of that, too--you
may be standing in the way of saving his soul."

"If his soul was lost, it would be awful hard to find," said Lib
quietly.

Her listener's weak mouth slackened. "Wh-at?" she asked, with a little
stuttering gasp.

"Oh, I dunno. Some things _are_ hard to find when they're lost, you
know."

"And you'll speak up and tell the truth?" The visitor arose, gathering
her flounces about her with one hand.

"If I speak up, I'll tell the truth, you can bet on that," said Lib.

Miss Adair waited an instant, as if for some assurance which Lib did not
vouchsafe. Then she writhed down the walk in her twisted drapery and
disappeared.

Thad Farnham and his father had been cutting down a eucalyptus-tree. The
two men looked small and mean clambering over the felled giant, as if
belonging to some species of destructive insect. The tree in its fall
had bruised the wild growth, and the air was full of oily medicinal
odors. Long strips of curled cinnamon-colored bark strewed the ground.
The father and son confronted each other across the pallid trunk. The
older man's face was leathery-red with anger.

"The story's got around that the kid's yours, anyway," he announced. "I
don't care who started it, but if it's true, you'll make a bee-line for
the widow's and marry the girl. D'you hear?"

Thad dropped his eyes sullenly and made a feint of examining the
crosscut saw.

"I don't go much on family," continued old Farnham, "and I never 'lowed
you'd set anything on fire excepting maybe yourself, but I'm not raising
sneaks and liars, and what little I've got hain't been scraped together
to fatten that kind of stock!"

"Who said I lied?"

"Nobody. But I'm going to take you over to face that girl and see what
she says. If you don't foller peaceable, I'll coax you along with a
hatful of cartridges. I hear you've been whining around the revival
meetings. I never suspected you till I heard that!"

"I don't see why you suspect a feller for lookin' after the salvation"--

"Oh, damn your salvation!" broke in the old man.

"Well, I dunno"--

"Well, I _do_!" roared the father; "I know you can't make an angel
without a man to start with, and I'll do what I can to furnish the man,
seein' I'm responsible for you bein' born in the shape of one, and the
preachers may put in the wing and the tail feathers if they can! Now
start that saw!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Old Farnham and his son sat in the small front room of the widow
Sunderland's cabin. The old man's jaw was set, and he grasped his knees
with his big hairy hands as if to steady himself.

Neither of the men arose when Lib came into the room with the baby. The
old man's eyes followed her as she seated herself without so much as a
glance at his companion.

"My name's Farnham," he began hoarsely. "This is my son Thad. You've met
him, maybe?" He stopped and cleared his throat.

Lib did not turn her head.

"Yes, I've met him," she said quietly.

The old man's face turned the color of dull terra-cotta.

"They say he took advantage of you. I don't know. I wasn't much as a
young feller, but I wasn't a scrub, and I don't savvy scrubs. I fetched
him over here to-day to ask you if it's true, and to say to you if it
is, he'll marry you or there'll be trouble. That don't square it, but
it's the best I can do."

There was a tense stillness in the little room. The baby gave a squeal
of delight and kicked a small red stocking from its dimpled foot. The
old man picked it up and laid it on Lib's lap. She looked straight into
his face for a while before she spoke.

"I guess you're a good man, Mr. Farnham," she said slowly. "I wouldn't
mind being your daughter-in-law, if you had a son that took after you. I
think the baby would like you very well for a grandpap, too. The older
he grows, the more particular I'm getting about his relations. I didn't
think much about anything before he came, but I've done a lot of
thinkin' since. I guess that's generally the way with girls."

She turned toward Thad, and her voice cut the air like a lash.

"Suppose you _was_ the father of this baby, and had to be drug here by
the scruff of the neck to own it, wouldn't you think I'd done the poor
little thing harm enough just by--by _that_, without tackin' you onto
him for the rest of his life? No, sir!" She stood up and took a step
backward. "You go and tell everybody--tell Ruby Adair, that I say this
child hasn't any father; he never had any, but he's got a _mother_, and
a mother that thinks too much of him to disgrace him by marrying a
coward, which is more than she'll be able to say for _her_ children if
she ever has any! Now go!"



For Value Received


A soft yellow haze lay over the San Jacinto plain, deepening into
purple, where the mountains lifted themselves against the horizon. Nancy
Watson stood in her cabin door, and held her bony, moistened finger out
into the tepid air.

"I believe there's a little breath of wind from the southeast, Robert,"
she said, with a desperate hopefulness; "but the air doesn't feel
rainy."

"Oh, I guess the rains'll come along all right; they gener'lly do." The
man's voice was husky and weak. "Anyway, the barley'll hold its own
quite a while yet."

"Oh, yes; quite a long while," acquiesced his wife, with an eager,
artificial stress on the adjective. "I don't care much if the harvest
isn't earlier'n usual; I want you to pick up your strength."

She turned into the room, a strained smile twitching her
weather-stained face. She was glad Robert's bed was in the farthest
corner away from the window. The barley-field that stretched about the
little redwood cabin was a pale yellowish green, deeper in the
depressions, and fading almost into brown on the hillocks. There had
been heavy showers late in October, and the early sown grain had
sprouted. It was past the middle of November now, and the sky was of
that serene, cloudless Californian blue which is like a perpetual
smiling denial of any possibility of rain.

"Is the barley turning yellow any?" queried the sick man feebly.

Nancy hesitated.

"Oh, not to speak of," she faltered, swallowing hard.

Her husband was used to that gulping sob in her voice when she stood in
the door. There was a little grave on the edge of the barley-field. He
had put a bit of woven-wire fence about it to keep out the rabbits, and
Nancy had planted some geraniums inside the small inclosure. There were
some of the fiery blossoms in an old oyster can at the head of the
little mound, lifting their brilliant smile toward the unfeeling blue of
the sky.

"There's pretty certain to be late rains, anyway," the man went on
hoarsely. "Leech would let us have more seed if it wasn't for the
mortgage." His voice broke into a strained whisper on the last word.

Nancy crossed the room, and laid her knotted hand on his forehead.

"You hain't got any fever to-day," she said irrelevantly.

"Oh, no; I'm gettin' on fine; I'll be up in a day or two. The
mortgage'll be due next month, Nancy," he went on, looking down at his
thin gray hands on the worn coverlet; "I calc'lated they'd hold off till
harvest, if the crop was comin' on all right." He glanced up at her
anxiously.

The woman's careworn face worked in a cruel convulsive effort at
self-control.

"It ain't right, Robert!" she broke out fiercely. "You've paid more'n
the place is worth now; if they take it for what's back, it ain't
right!"

Her husband looked at her with pleading in his sunken eyes. He felt
himself too weak for principles, hardly strong enough to cope with
facts.

"But they ain't to blame," he urged; "they lent me the money to pay
Thomson. It was straight cash; I guess it's all right."

"There's wrong somewhere," persisted the woman, hurling her abstract
justice recklessly in the face of the evidence. "If the place is worth
more, you've made it so workin' when you wasn't able. If they take it
now, I'll feel like burnin' down the house and choppin' out every tree
you've planted!"

The man turned wearily on his pillow. His wife could see the gaunt lines
of his unshaven neck. She put her hand to her aching throat and looked
at him helplessly; then she turned and went back to the door. The barley
_was_ turning yellow. She looked toward the little grave on the edge of
the field. More than the place was worth, she had said. What was it
worth? Suppose they should take it. She drew her high shoulders forward
and shivered in the warm air. The anger in her hard-featured face
wrought itself into fixed lines. She recrossed the room, and sat down on
the edge of the bed.

"How much is the mortgage, Robert?" she asked calmly. The sick man gave
a sighing breath of relief, and drew a worn account-book from under his
pillow.

"It'll be $287.65, interest an' all, when it's due," he said, consulting
his cramped figures. Each knew the amount perfectly well, but the feint
of asking and telling eased them both.

"I'm going down to San Diego to see them about it," said Nancy; "I can't
explain things in writing. There's the money for the children's shoes;
if the rains hold off, they can go barefoot till Christmas. Mother can
keep Lizzie out of school, and I guess Bobbie and Frank can 'tend to
things outside."

A four-year-old boy came around the house wailing out a grief that
seemed to abate suddenly at sight of his mother. Nancy picked him up and
held him in her lap while she took a splinter from the tip of his little
grimy outstretched finger; then she hugged him almost fiercely, and set
him on the doorstep.

"What's the matter with gramma's baby?" called an anxious voice from the
kitchen.

"Oh, nothing, mother; he got a sliver in his finger; I just took it
out."

"He's father's little soldier," said Robert huskily; "he ain't a-goin'
to cry about a little thing like that."

The little soldier sat on the doorstep, striving to get his sobs under
military discipline and contemplating his tiny finger ruefully.

An old woman came through the room with a white cloth in her hand.

"Gramma'll tie it up for him," she said soothingly, sitting down on the
step, and tearing off a bandage wide enough for a broken limb.

The patient heaved a deep sigh of content as the unwieldiness of the
wounded member increased, and held his fat little fingers wide apart to
accommodate the superfluity of rag.

"There, now," said the old woman, rubbing his soft little gingham back
fondly; "gramma'll go and show him the turkeys."

The two disappeared around the corner of the house, and the man and
woman came drearily back to their conference.

"If you go, Nancy," said Robert, essaying a wan smile, "I hope you'll be
careful what you say to 'em; you must remember they don't _think_
they're to blame."

"I won't promise anything at all," asserted Nancy, hitching her angular
shoulders; "more'n likely, I'll tell 'em just what I think. I ain't
afraid of hurtin' their feelin's, for they hain't got any. I think
money's a good deal like your skin; it keeps you from feelin' things
that make you smart dreadfully when you get it knocked off."

Robert smiled feebly, and rubbed his moist, yielding hand across his
wife's misshapen knuckles.

"Well, then, you hadn't ought to be hard on 'em, Nancy; it's no more'n
natural to want to save your skin," he said, closing his eyes wearily.

"Robert Watson?"

The teller of the Merchants' and Fruitgrowers' Bank looked through the
bars of his gilded cage, and repeated the name reflectively. He did not
notice the eager look of the woman who confronted him, but he did wonder
a little that she had failed to brush the thick dust of travel from the
shoulders of her rusty cape.

The teller was a slender, immaculate young man, whose hair arose in an
alert brush from his forehead, which was high and seemed to have been
polished by the same process that had given such a faultless and
aggressive gloss to his linen. He turned on his spry little heel and
stepped to the back of the inclosure, where he took a handful of long,
narrow papers from a leather case, and ran over them hastily. Nancy did
not think it possible that he could be reading them; the setting in his
ring made a little streak of light as his fingers flew. She watched him
with tense earnestness; it seemed to her that the beating of her heart
shook the polished counter she leaned against. She hid her
cotton-gloved hands under her cape for fear he would see how they
trembled.

The teller returned the papers to their case, and consulted a stout,
short-visaged man, whose lips and brows drew themselves together in an
effort of recollection.

The two men stood near enough to hear Nancy's voice. She pressed her
weather-beaten face close to the gilded bars.

"I am Mrs. Watson. I came down to see you about it; my husband's been
poorly and couldn't come. We'd like to get a little more time; we've had
bad luck with the barley so far, but we think we can make it another
season."

The men gave her a bland, impersonal attention.

"Yes?" inquired the teller, with tentative sympathy, running his pencil
through his upright hair, and tapping his forefinger with it nervously.
"I believe that's one of Bartlett's personal matters," he said in an
undertone.

The older man nodded, slowly at first, and then with increasing
affirmation.

"You're right," he said, untying the knot in his face, and turning away.

The teller came back to his place.

"Mr. Bartlett, the cashier, has charge of that matter, Mrs. Watson. He
has not been down for two or three days: one of his children is very
sick. I'll make a note of it, however, and draw his attention to it when
he comes in." He wrote a few lines hurriedly on a bit of paper, and
impaled it on an already overcrowded spindle.

"Can you tell me where he lives?" asked Nancy.

The young man hesitated.

"I don't believe I would go to the house; they say it's something
contagious"--

"I'm not afraid," interrupted Nancy grimly.

The teller wrote an address, and slipped it toward her with a nimble
motion, keeping his hand outstretched for the next comer, and smiling at
him over Nancy's dusty shoulder.

The woman turned away, suddenly aware that she had been blocking the
wheels of commerce, and made her way through the knot of men that had
gathered behind her. Outside she could feel the sea in the air, and at
the end of the street she caught a glimpse of a level blue plain with no
purple mountains on its horizon.

Someway, the mortgage had grown smaller; no one seemed to care about it
but herself. She had felt vaguely that they would be expecting her and
have themselves steeled against her request. On the way from the station
she had thought that people were looking at her curiously as the woman
from "up toward Pinacate" who was about to lose her home on a mortgage.
She had even felt that some of them knew of the little wire-fenced grave
on the edge of the barley-field.

She showed the card to a boy at the corner, who pointed out the street
and told her to watch for the number over the door.

"It isn't very far; 'bout four blocks up on the right-hand side. Yuh kin
take the street car fer a nickel, er yuh kin walk fi' cents cheaper," he
volunteered, whereupon an older boy kicked him affectionately, and
advised him in a nauseated tone to "come off."

Nancy walked along the smooth cement pavement, looking anxiously at the
houses behind their sentinel palms. The vagaries of Western architecture
conveyed no impression but that of splendor to her uncritical eye. The
house whose number corresponded to the one on her card was less
pretentious than some of the others, but the difference was lost upon
her in the general sense of grandeur.

She went up the steps and rang the bell, with the same stifling clutch
on her throat that she had felt in the bank. There was a little pause,
and then the door opened, and Nancy saw a fragile, girl-like woman with
a tear-stained face standing before her.

"Does Mr. Bartlett live here?" faltered the visitor, her chin trembling.

The young creature leaned forward like a flower wilting on its stem, and
buried her face on Nancy's dusty shoulder.

"Oh, I'm so glad to see you," she sobbed; "I thought no one ever
_would_ come. I didn't know before that people were so afraid of scarlet
fever. They have taken my baby away for fear he would take it. Do you
know anything about it? Please come right in where she is, and tell me
what you think."

Nancy had put her gaunt arm around the girl's waist, and was patting her
quivering shoulder with one cotton-gloved hand. Two red spots had come
on her high cheek-bones, and her lips were working. She let herself be
led across the hall into an adjoining room, where a yellow-haired child
lay restless and fever stricken. A young man with a haggard face came
forward and greeted her eagerly. "Now, Flora," he said, smoothing his
wife's disordered hair, "you don't need to worry any more; we shall get
on now. I'm sure she's a little better to-day; don't you think so?" He
appealed to Nancy, wistfully.

"Yes; I think she is," said Nancy stoutly, moving her head in awkward
defiance of her own words.

"There, Flora, that's just what the doctor said," pleaded the husband.

The young wife clung to the older woman desperately.

"Oh, do you think so?" she faltered. "You know, I never _could_ stand
it. She's all--well, of course, there's the baby--but--oh--you see--you
know--I never could bear it!" She broke down again, sobbing, with her
arms about Nancy's neck.

"Yes, you can bear it," said Nancy. "You can bear it if you have to, but
you ain't a-goin' to have to--she's a-goin' to get well. An' you've got
your man--you ought to recollect that"--she stifled a sob--"he seems
well an' hearty."

The young wife raised her head and looked at her husband with tearful
scorn. He met her gaze meekly, with that ready self-effacement which
husbands seem to feel in the presence of maternity.

"Have you two poor things been here all alone?" asked Nancy.

"Yes," sobbed the girl-wife, this time on her husband's shoulder;
"everybody was afraid,--we couldn't get any one,--and I don't know
anything. You're the first woman I've seen since--oh, it's been _so_
long!"

"Well, you're all nervous and worn out and half starved," announced
Nancy, untying her bonnet-strings. "I've had sickness, but I've never
been this bad off. Now, you just take care of the little girl, and I'll
take care of you."

It was a caretaking like the sudden stilling of the tempest that came to
the little household. The father and mother would not have said that the
rest and order that pervaded the house, and finally crept into the room
where the sick child lay, came from a homely woman with an ill-fitting
dress and hard, knotted hands. To them she seemed the impersonation of
beauty and peace on earth.

That night Nancy wrote to her husband. The letter was not very explicit,
but limited expression seems to have its compensations. There are
comparatively few misunderstandings among the animals that do not write
at all. To Robert the letter seemed entirely satisfactory. This is what
she wrote:--

     I have not had much time to see about the Morgage. One of their
     children is very sick and I will have to stay a few days. If the
     cough medisine gives out tell mother the directions is up by the
     Clock. I hope you are able to set up. Write and tell me how the
     Barley holds on. Tell the children to be good. Your loving wife,

         NANCY WATSON.


"Nancy was always a great hand around where there's sickness," Robert
commented to his mother-in-law. "I hope she won't hurry home if she's
needed."

He wrote her to that effect the next day, very proud of his ability to
sit up, and urging her not to shorten her stay on his account. "Ime
beter and the Barly is holding its own," he said, and Nancy found it
ample.

"This Mrs. Watson you have is a treasure," said the doctor to young
Bartlett; "where did you find her?"

"Find her? I thought you sent her," answered Bartlett, in a daze.

"No; I couldn't find any one; I was at my wits' end."

The two men stared at each other blankly.

"Well, it doesn't matter where she came from," said the doctor, "so she
stays. She's a whole relief corps and benevolent society in one."

Young Bartlett spoke to Nancy about it the first time they were alone.

"Who sent you to us, Mrs. Watson?" he asked.

Nancy turned and looked out of the window.

"Nobody sent me--I just came."

Then she faced about.

"I don't want to deceive nobody. I come down from Pinacate to see you
about some--some business. They told me at the bank that you was up at
the house, so I come up. When I found how it was, I thought I'd better
stay--that's all."

"From Pinacate--about some business?" queried the puzzled listener.

"Yes; I didn't mean to say anything to you; I don't want to bother you
about it when you're in trouble an' all wore out. I told them down at
the bank; they'll tell you when you go down." And with this the young
man was obliged to be content.

It was nearly two weeks before the child was out of danger. Then Nancy
said she must go home. The young mother kissed her tenderly when they
parted.

"I'm so sorry you can't stay and see the baby," she said, with sweet
young selfishness; "they're going to bring him home very soon now. He's
_so_ cute! Archie dear, go to the door with Mrs. Watson, and
remember"--She raised her eyebrows significantly, and waited to see that
her husband understood before she turned away.

The young man followed Nancy to the hall.

"How much do I owe"--He stopped, with a queer choking sensation in his
throat.

Nancy's face flushed.

"I always want to be neighborly when there's sickness," she said; "'most
anybody does. I hope you'll get on all right now. Good-by."

She held out her work-hardened hand, and the young man caught it in his
warm, prosperous grasp. They looked into each other's eyes an instant,
not the mortgagor and the mortgagee, but the woman and the man.

"Good-by, Mrs. Watson. I can never"--The words died huskily in his
throat.

"Papa," called a weak, fretful little voice.

Nancy hitched her old cape about her high shoulders.

"Good-by," she repeated, and turned away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Robert leaned across the kitchen table, and held a legal document near
the lamp.

"It's marked 'Satisfaction of mortgage' on the outside," he said in a
puzzled voice; "and it must be our mortgage, for it tells all about it
inside; but it says"--he unfolded the paper, and read from it in his
slow, husky whisper,--"'The debt--secured thereby--having been fully
paid--satisfied--and discharged.' I don't see what it means."

Nancy rested her elbows on the table, and looked across at him
anxiously.

"It must be a mistake, Robert. I never said anything to them except that
we'd like to have more time."

He went over the paper again carefully.

"It reads very plain," he said. Then he fixed his sunken eyes on her
thoughtfully. "Do you suppose, Nancy, it could be on account of what you
done?"

"Me!" The woman stared at him in astonishment.

Suddenly Robert turned his eyes toward the ceiling, with a new light in
his thin face.

"Listen!" he exclaimed breathlessly, "it's raining!"

There was a swift patter of heralding drops, and then a steady,
rhythmical drumming on the shake roof. The man smiled, with that
ineffable delight in the music which no one really knows but the tiller
of the soil.

Nancy opened the kitchen door and looked out into the night.

"Yes," she said, keeping something out of her voice; "the wind's strong
from the southeast, and it's raining steady."

Nancy Watson always felt a little lonesome when it rained. She had never
mentioned it, but she could not help wishing there was a shelter over
the little grave on the edge of the barley-field.



The Face of the Poor


Mr. Anthony attached a memorandum to the letter he was reading, and put
his hand on the bell.

"Confound them!" he said under his breath, "what do they think I'm made
of!"

A negro opened the door, and came into the room with exaggerated
decorum.

"Rufus, take this to Mr. Whitwell, and tell him to get the answer off at
once. Is any one waiting?"

"Yes, suh, several. One man's been there some time. Says his name's
Busson, suh."

"Send him in."

The man gave his head a tilt forward which seemed to close his eyes,
turned pivotally about, and walked out of the room in his most luxurious
manner. Rufus never imitated his employer, but he often regretted that
his employer did not imitate him.

Mr. Anthony's face resumed its look of prosperous annoyance. The door
opened, and a small, roughly dressed man came toward the desk.

"Well, here I am at last," he said in a tone of gentle apology; "I
suppose you think it's about time."

The annoyance faded out of Mr. Anthony's face, and left it blank. The
visitor put out a work-callous hand.

"I guess you don't remember me; my name's Burson. I was up once before,
but you were busy. I hope you're well; you look hearty."

Mr. Anthony shook the proffered hand, and then shrank back, with the
distrust of geniality which is one of the cruel hardships of wealth.

"I am well, thank you. What can I do for you, Mr. Burson?"

The little man sat down and wiped the back of his neck with his
handkerchief. He was bearded almost to the eyes, and his bushy brows
stood out in a thatch. As he bent his gaze upon Mr. Anthony it was like
some gentle creature peering out of a brushy covert.

"I guess the question's what I can do for you, Mr. Anthony," he said,
smiling wistfully on the millionaire; "I hain't done much this far,
sure."

"Well?" Mr. Anthony's voice was dryly interrogative.

"When Edmonson told me he'd sold the mortgage to you, I thought certain
I'd be able to keep up the interest, but I haven't made out to do even
that; you've been kept out of your money a long time, and to tell the
truth I don't see much chance for you to get it. I thought I'd come in
and talk with you about it, and see what we could agree on."

Mr. Anthony leaned back rather wearily.

"I might foreclose," he said.

The visitor looked troubled. "Yes, you could foreclose, but that
wouldn't fix it up. To tell the truth, Mr. Anthony, I don't feel right
about it. I haven't kep' up the place as I'd ought; it's been running
down for more'n a year. I don't believe it's worth the mortgage to-day."

Some of the weariness disappeared from Mr. Anthony's face. He laid his
arms on the desk and leaned forward.

"You don't think it's worth the mortgage?" he asked.

"Not the mortgage and interest. You see there's over three hundred
dollars interest due. I don't believe you could get more'n a thousand
dollars cash for the place."

"There would be a deficiency judgment, then," said the millionaire.

"Well, that's what I wanted to ask you about. I supposed the law was
arranged some way so you'd get your money. It's no more'n right. But it
seems a kind of a pity for you and me to go to law. There ain't nothing
between us. I had the money, and you the same as loaned it to me. It was
money you'd saved up again old age, and you'd ought to have it. If I'd
worked the place and kep' it up right, it would be worth more, though of
course property's gone down a good deal. But mother and the girls got
kind of discouraged and wanted me to go to peddlin' fruit, and of course
you can't do more'n one thing at a time, and do it justice. Now if you
had the place, I expect you could afford to keep it up, and I wouldn't
wonder if you could sell it; but you'd have to put some ready money into
it first, I'm afraid."

Mr. Anthony pushed a pencil up and down between his thumb and
forefinger, and watched the process with an inscrutable face. His
visitor went on:--

"I was thinking if we could agree on a price, I might deed it to you and
give you a note for the balance of what I owe you. I'm getting on kind
of slow, but I don't believe but what I could pay the note after a
while."

Mr. Anthony kept his eyes on his lead pencil with a strange, whimsical
smile.

"Edmonson owed me two thousand dollars," he said, "the mortgage really
cost me that; at least it was all I got on the debt."

The visitor made a regretful sound with his tongue against the roof of
his mouth.

"You don't say so! Well, that is too bad."

The thatch above the speaker's eyes stood out straight as he reflected.

"You're worse off than I thought," he went on slowly, "but it don't
quite seem as if I ought to be held responsible for that. I had the
thousand dollars, and used it, and I'd ought to pay it; but the
other--it was a kind of a trade you made--I can't see--you don't
think"--

Mr. Anthony broke into his hesitation with a short laugh.

"No, I don't think you're responsible for my blunders," he said soberly.
"You say property has gone down a good deal," he went on, fixing his
shrewd eyes on his listener. "A good many other things have gone down.
If my money will buy more than it would when it was loaned, some people
would say I shouldn't have so much of it. Perhaps I'm not entitled to
more than the place will bring. What do you think about that?" There was
a quizzical note in the rich man's voice.

Burson wiped the back of his neck with his handkerchief, dropped it into
his hat, and shook the hat slowly and reflectively, keeping time with
his head.

"If you'd kep' your money by you, allowin' that you loaned it to
me,--because you the same as did,--if you'd kep' it by you or put it in
the bank and let it lay idle, you'd 'a' had it. It wouldn't 'a' gone
down any. You hadn't ought to lose anything, that I can see,--except of
course for your mistake about Edmonson. That kind of hurts me about
Edmonson. I wouldn't 'a' thought it of him. He always seemed a clever
sort of fellow."

"Oh, Edmonson's all right," said Mr. Anthony; "he went into some things
too heavily, and broke up. I guess he'll make it yet."

Burson looked relieved. "Then he'll straighten this up with you, after
all," he said.

Mr. Anthony whistled noiselessly. "Well, hardly. He considers it
straightened."

Burson turned his old hat slowly around between his knees.

"He's a fair-spoken man, Edmonson; I kind of think he'll square it up,
after all," he said hopefully. "Anyway, it doesn't become me to throw
stones till I've paid my own debts."

The hair that covered the speaker's mouth twitched a little in its
effort to smile. He glanced at his companion expectantly.

"Could you come out and take a look at the place?" he asked.

Mr. Anthony slid down in his chair, and clasped his hands across his
portliness.

"I believe I'll take your valuation, Burson," he answered slowly; "if I
find there's nothing against the property but my mortgage, and you'll
give me a deed and your note for the interest, or, say, two hundred and
fifty dollars, we'll call it square. It will take a few days to look the
matter up, a week, perhaps. Suppose you come in at the end of the week.
Your wife will sign the deed?" he added interrogatively.

Burson had leaned forward to get up. At the question he raised his eyes
with the look that Mr. Anthony remembered to have seen years ago in
small creatures he had driven into corners.

"Mother didn't have to sign the mortgage," he said, halting a little
before each word, "the lawyer said it wasn't necessary. I don't know if
she'll"--

Mr. Anthony broke into his embarrassment. "Let me see." He put his hand
on the bell.

"Ask Mr. Evert to send me the mortgage from Burson to Edmonson, assigned
to me," he said when Rufus appeared.

The negro walked out of the room as if he were carrying the message on
his head.

"Mother doesn't always see things just as I do," said Burson; "she was
willing to sign the mortgage, though," he added, "only she didn't need
to; she wanted me to get the money of Edmonson."

He put his hand into his pocket, and a light of discovery came into his
face.

"Have a peach," he said convivially, laying an enormous Late Crawford on
the corner of the desk. Mr. Anthony gave an uncomprehending glance at
the gift. "Hain't you got a knife?" asked Burson, straightening himself
and drawing a bone-handled implement from his pocket; "I keep the big
blade for fruit," he said kindly, as he laid it on the desk.

Mr. Anthony inspected the proffered refreshment with a queer, uncertain
smile; then he took the peach from the desk, drew the wastebasket
between his knees, opened the big blade of the knife, and began to
remove the red velvet skin. The juice ran down his wrists and threatened
his immaculate cuffs. He fished a spotless handkerchief from his pocket
with his pencil and mopped up the encroaching rivulets. His companion
smiled upon him with amiable relish as the dripping sections
disappeared.

"I errigated 'em more than usual this year, and it makes 'em kind of
sloppy to eat," he apologized; "it doesn't help the flavor any, but most
people buy for size. When you're out peddling and haven't time to
cultivate, it's easy to turn on the water. It's about as bad as a
milkman putting water in the milk, and I always feel mean about it. I
tell mother errigating's a lazy man's way of farming, but she says water
costs so much here she doesn't think it's cheating to sell it for
peach-juice."

Rufus came into the room, and bore down upon the pair with deferential
disdain. Mr. Anthony gave his fingers a parting wipe, and took the
papers from the envelope.

"It's all right, Burson," he said after a little, "you needn't mind
about your wife's signature. I'll risk it. Come back in about a week,
say Thursday, Thursday at ten, if that suits you. I'll have my attorney
look into it."

Burson got up and started out. Then he turned and stood still an
instant.

"Of course, I mean to tell mother about the deed," he said; "I wouldn't
want you to think"--

"Oh, certainly, certainly," acquiesced Mr. Anthony with an almost
violent waiving of domestic confidence. "Good-afternoon, Mr. Burson." He
whirled his revolving chair toward the desk with a distinct air of
dismissal, and picked up the package of papers.

After the door closed he sat still for some time, looking thoughtfully
at the mortgage; then he made a memorandum in ink, with his signature in
full, and attached it to the document. Rufus opened the door.

"Mr. Darnell and two other gentlemen, suh."

The millionaire set his jaws. "Show them in, Rufus. Damn it," he said
softly,--"damn it, why can't they be honest!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Do you mean to tell me, Erastus Burson, that you deeded him this place,
and gave him your note for two hundred and fifty dollars you didn't owe
him?"

"Why, no, mother; didn't I explain to you there'd be a deficiency
judgment?"

"Well, I should say there was. But if anybody's lackin' judgment I'd say
it was you, not him. The idea! Why he's as rich as cream, and you're as
poor"--

"Well, his being rich and me being poor hasn't got anything to do with
it, mother; we're just two men trying to be fair with each other, don't
you see? You and the girls wouldn't want me to be close-fisted and
overreachin', even if I am poor. I think we fixed it up just as near
right as a wrong thing can be fixed. Of course I don't like to feel the
way I do about Edmonson, but Mr. Anthony don't seem to lay up anything
again him, and he's the one that has the right to. Edmonson treated him
worse than anybody ever treated me. I don't know just how I'd feel
toward a man if he'd treated me the way Edmonson treated Mr. Anthony."

Mrs. Burson laid the overalls she was mending across her knee in a
suggestive attitude.

"I don't call it close-fisted or overreachin' to keep a roof over your
family's head," she argued; "if the place isn't ours, I suppose we'll
have to leave it."

"No; Mr. Anthony wants us to stay here, and take care of the place for
the rent. I feel as if I'd ought to keep it up better, but if I'm to
peddle fruit and try to pay off the note, I'll have to hustle. I want to
do the square thing by him. He's certainly treated me white."

Mrs. Burson fitted a patch on the seat of the overalls, and flattened it
down with rather unnecessarily vigorous slaps of her large hand.

"I wouldn't lose any sleep over Mr. Anthony; I guess he's able to take
care of himself," she said, closing her lips suddenly as if to prevent
the escape of less amicable sentiments.

"Well, he doesn't seem to be," urged her husband, "the way Edmonson's
overreached him. My! but I'd hate to be in that fellow's shoes: doin'
dirt to a man that a way!"

Mrs. Burson sighed audibly, and gave her husband a hopelessly
uncomprehending look. "You do beat all, Erastus," she said wearily.
"Here's your overalls. I guess you can be trusted with 'em. They're too
much patched to give to Mr. Anthony."

Burson returned her look of uncomprehension. Fortunately the marital fog
through which two pairs of eyes so often view each other is more likely
to dull the outline of faults than of virtues. Mrs. Burson watched her
husband not unfondly as he straddled into his overalls and left the
room.

"A man doesn't have to be very sharp to get the better of Erastus," she
said to herself, "but he has to be awful low down; and I s'pose there's
plenty that is."

The winter came smilingly on, tantalizing the farmer with sunny
indifference concerning drouth, and when he was quite despondent sending
great purple clouds from the southeast to wash away his fears. By
Christmas the early oranges were yellowing. There had been no frost, and
Burson's old spring-wagon and unshapely but well-fed sorrel team made
their daily round of the valley, and now and then he dropped into Mr.
Anthony's office to make small payments on his note. Pitifully small
they seemed to the mortgagee, who appeared nevertheless always glad to
receive them, and gave orders to Rufus, much to that dignitary's
disgust, that the fruit-vender should always be admitted. The handful of
coin which he so cheerfully piled on the corner of the rich man's desk
always remained there until his departure, when Mr. Anthony took an
envelope from the safe, swept the payment into it without counting, and
returned it to its compartment, making no indorsement on the note.

"I'd feel better satisfied if you'd drive out some time and take a look
at things," said Burson to his creditor during one of these visits;
"you'd ought to get out of the office now and then for your health."

"Maybe I will, Burson," replied the capitalist. "You're not away from
home all the time?"

"Oh, no, but I s'pose Sunday's your day off; it's mine. Mother and the
girls generally go to church, but I don't. I tell 'm I'll watch, and
they can pray. I can't very well go," he added, making haste to
counteract the possible shock from his irreverence; "there ain't but one
seat in the fruit-wagon, and when the women folks get their togs on,
three's about all that can ride. Come out any Sunday, and stay for
dinner. We mostly have chicken."

The following Sunday Mr. Anthony drew up his daintily-stepping chestnut
at the fruit-peddler's gate. Before he had descended from his shining
road-wagon, his host ran down the walk, pulling on his shabby coat.

"Well, now, this is something like!" he exclaimed. "Got a
hitching-strap? Just wait till I open the gate; I believe I'd better
take your horse inside. There's a post by the kitchen door. My, ain't he
a beauty!"

Burson led the roadster through the gate, and Mr. Anthony walked by his
side. When the horse was tied, the two men went about the place, and
Erastus showed his guest the poultry and fruit trees, commenting on the
merits of Plymouth Rocks and White Leghorns as layers, and displaying
modest pride in the condition of the orchard.

"I've kep' it up better this year. The rains come along more favorable
and the weeds didn't get ahead of me the way they did last winter. Look
out, there!" he cried, as Mr. Anthony laid his hand on the head of a
Jersey calf that backed awkwardly from under his grasp. "Don't let her
get a hold of your coat-tail; she chawed mine to a frazzle the other
day; the girls pet her so much she has no manners."

When the tour of the little farm was finished the two men came back to
the veranda, and Erastus drew a rocking-chair from the front room for
his guest. It was hung with patchwork cushions of "crazy" design, but
Mr. Anthony leaned his tired head against them in the sanest content.

"Now you just sit still a minute," Erastus said, "and I'm a-going to
bring you something you hain't tasted for a long time."

He darted into the house, and returned with a pitcher and two glasses.

"Sweet cider!" he announced, with a triumphant smile. "I had a lot of
apples in the fall, not big enough to peddle,--you know our apples ain't
anything to brag of,--and I just rigged up a kind of hand-press in the
back yard, and now and then I press out a pitcher of cider for Sunday. I
never let it get the least bit hard; not that I don't like a little tang
to it myself, but mother belongs to the W.C.T.U., and it'd worry her."

He darted into the house again, and emerged with a plate of brown
twisted cakes.

"Mother usually makes cookies on Saturday, but I can't find anything but
these doughnuts. Maybe they won't go bad with the cider."

He poured his guest a glass, and Mr. Anthony drank it, holding a
doughnut in one hand, and partaking of it with evident relish.

"It's good, Burson," he said. "May I have another glass and another
doughnut?"

His host's countenance fairly shone with delighted hospitality as he
replenished the empty glass. There were crumbs on the floor when the
visitor left, and flies buzzed about the empty plate and pitcher as Mrs.
Burson and her daughters came up the steps.

"Mr. Anthony's been here," said Erastus cheerfully; "I'm awful sorry you
missed him. We had some cider and doughnuts."

The three women stopped suddenly, and stared at the speaker.

"Why, Paw Burson!" ejaculated the elder daughter, "did you give Mr.
Anthony doughnuts and cider out here on this porch?"

"Why, yes, Millie," apologized the father; "I looked for cookies, but I
couldn't find any. He said he liked doughnuts, and he did seem to relish
'em; he eat several."

"That awful rich man! Why, Paw Burson!"

The young woman gave an awe-stricken glance about her, as if expecting
to discover some lingering traces of wealth.

"Doughnuts!" she repeated helplessly.

"Why, Millie," faltered the father, mildly aggressive, "I don't see why
being rich should take away a man's appetite; I'm sure I hope I'll never
be too rich to like doughnuts and cider."

"Didn't you give him a napkin, paw?" queried the younger girl.

"No," said the father meekly, "he had his handkerchief. I coaxed him to
stay to dinner, but he couldn't; and I asked him to drive out some day
with his wife and daughter--he hasn't but one--they lost a little girl
when she was seven"--

The man's voice quivered on the last word, and died away. Mrs. Burson
went hurriedly into the house. She reappeared at the door in a few
minutes without her bonnet.

"Erastus," she said gently, "will you split me a few sticks of kindling
before you put away the team?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Burson was fitting a salad-green bodice on her elder daughter.
That young woman's efforts to see her own spine, where her mother was
distributing pins with solemn intentness, had dyed her face a somewhat
unnatural red, but the hands that lay upon her downy arms were much
whiter than those that hovered about her back. A dining-table, bearing
the more permanent part of its outfit, was pushed into a corner of the
room, and covered with a yellow mosquito-net, and from the kitchen came
a sound of crockery accompanied by an occasional splash and a scraping
of tin. Now and then the younger girl appeared in the doorway and gazed
in a sort of worshipful ecstasy at her sister's splendor.

"Do you think you'll get it finished for the Fiesta, maw?" she asked,
between deep breaths of admiration. Mrs. Burson nodded absently,
exploring her bosom for another pin with her outspread palm.

Her husband came into the room, and seated himself on the edge of the
rep lounge. His face had a strange pallor above the mask of his beard.

"You're home early, Erastus," she said; then she looked up. "Are you
sick?" she asked with anxiety.

"Mr. Anthony is dead," Burson said huskily.

"Dead! Why, Erastus!"

Mrs. Burson held a pin suspended in the air and stared at her husband.

"Yes. He dropped dead in his chair. Or rather, he had some kind of a
stroke, and never came to. It happened more than a week ago. I went in
to-day, and Rufus told me."

Mrs. Burson returned the pin to her bosom, and motioned her daughter
toward the bedroom door.

"Go and take it off, Millie," she said soberly. She was shamefacedly
conscious of something different from the grief that stirred her
husband, something more sordid and personal.

"It hurt me all over," Burson went on, "the way some of them talked in
town. They looked queer at me when I said what I did about him. I don't
understand it."

"I guess there's a good many things you don't understand, Erastus,"
ventured the wife quietly.

A carriage stopped at the gate, and a young woman alighted from it, and
came up the walk. Erastus saw her first, and met her in the open
doorway. She looked at him with eager intentness.

"Is this Mr. Burson?" she asked gently. "I am Mr. Anthony's daughter."

Mrs. Burson got up, holding the scraps of green silk in her apron, and
offered the visitor a seat. Erastus held out his hand, and tried to
speak. The two faced each other in tearful silence.

"I wanted to bring you this myself," the girl faltered,
"because--because of what is written on the outside." She held a package
of papers toward him. "I have heard him speak of you, I think. Any
friend of my father must be a good man. We want to thank you, my mother
and I"--

"To thank me?" Erastus questioned, "to thank me! You certainly don't
know"--

"I know you were my father's friend," the girl interrupted; "I don't
care about the rest. Possibly I couldn't understand it. I know very
little about business, but I knew my father."

She got up, holding her head high in grief-stricken pride, and gave her
hand to her host and hostess.

The younger Burson girl emerged from the kitchen, a dish-towel and a
half-wiped plate clasped to her breast, and watched the visitor as she
went down the path.

"Her silk waist doesn't begin to touch Millie's for style," she said
pensively, "and her skirt doesn't even drag; but there's something about
her."

"Yes," acquiesced Mrs. Burson, "there is something about her."

Erastus sat on the edge of the old rep lounge, looking absently at the
papers.

"In the event of my death, to be delivered to my friend Erastus Burson,"
was written on the package.

His wife came and stood over him.

"I don't know just what it means, mother," he said, "there's a deed, and
my note marked 'Paid,' and a lot of two-bit and four-bit pieces. I'll
have to get somebody to explain it."

He sat quite still until the woman laid her large hand on his bowed
head. Then he looked up, with moist, winking eyes.

"I don't feel right about it, mother," he said. "I wish now I'd 'a'
dropped in oftener, and been more sociable. It's a strange thing to say,
but I think sometimes he was lonesome; and I'm sure I don't know why,
for a kinder, genialer man I never met."





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translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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