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Title: A Voice in the Wilderness
Author: Hill, Grace Livingston, 1865-1947
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Voice in the Wilderness" ***

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A VOICE in the WILDERNESS

A NOVEL
BY
GRACE LIVINGSTON HILL

AUTHOR OF
MARCIA SCHUYLER, ETC.

GROSSET & DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS--NEW YORK

Published by Arrangement with Harper and Brothers

Made in the United States of America

------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Voice in the Wilderness

Copyright, 1916, by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America
Published September, 1916

------------------------------------------------------------------------



A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS

CHAPTER I


With a lurch the train came to a dead stop and Margaret Earle, hastily
gathering up her belongings, hurried down the aisle and got out into the
night.

It occurred to her, as she swung her heavy suit-case down the rather
long step to the ground, and then carefully swung herself after it, that
it was strange that neither conductor, brakeman, nor porter had come to
help her off the train, when all three had taken the trouble to tell her
that hers was the next station; but she could hear voices up ahead.
Perhaps something was the matter with the engine that detained them and
they had forgotten her for the moment.

The ground was rough where she stood, and there seemed no sign of a
platform. Did they not have platforms in this wild Western land, or was
the train so long that her car had stopped before reaching it?

She strained her eyes into the darkness, and tried to make out things
from the two or three specks of light that danced about like fireflies
in the distance. She could dimly see moving figures away up near the
engine, and each one evidently carried a lantern. The train was
tremendously long. A sudden feeling of isolation took possession of her.
Perhaps she ought not to have got out until some one came to help her.
Perhaps the train had not pulled into the station yet and she ought to
get back on it and wait. Yet if the train started before she found the
conductor she might be carried on somewhere and be justly blame her for
a fool.

There did not seem to be any building on that side of the track. It was
probably on the other, but she was standing too near the cars to see
over. She tried to move back to look, but the ground sloped and she
slipped and fell in the cinders, bruising her knee and cutting her
wrist.

In sudden panic she arose. She would get back into the train, no matter
what the consequences. They had no right to put her out here, away off
from the station, at night, in a strange country. If the train started
before she could find the conductor she would tell him that he must back
it up again and let her off. He certainly could not expect her to get
out like this.

She lifted the heavy suit-case up the high step that was even farther
from the ground than it had been when she came down, because her fall
had loosened some of the earth and caused it to slide away from the
track. Then, reaching to the rail of the step, she tried to pull herself
up, but as she did so the engine gave a long snort and the whole train,
as if it were in league against her, lurched forward crazily, shaking
off her hold. She slipped to her knees again, the suit-case, toppled
from the lower step, descending upon her, and together they slid and
rolled down the short bank, while the train, like an irresponsible nurse
who had slapped her charge and left it to its fate, ran giddily off into
the night.

The horror of being deserted helped the girl to rise in spite of bruises
and shock. She lifted imploring hands to the unresponsive cars as they
hurried by her--one, two, three, with bright windows, each showing a
passenger, comfortable and safe inside, unconscious of her need.

A moment of useless screaming, running, trying to attract some one's
attention, a sickening sense of terror and failure, and the last car
slatted itself past with a mocking clatter, as if it enjoyed her
discomfort.

Margaret stood dazed, reaching out helpless hands, then dropped them at
her sides and gazed after the fast-retreating train, the light on its
last car swinging tauntingly, blinking now and then with a leer in its
eye, rapidly vanishing from her sight into the depth of the night.

She gasped and looked about her for the station that but a short moment
before had been so real to her mind; and, lo! on this side and on that
there was none!

The night was wide like a great floor shut in by a low, vast dome of
curving blue set with the largest, most wonderful stars she had ever
seen. Heavy shadows of purple-green, smoke-like, hovered over earth
darker and more intense than the unfathomable blue of the night sky. It
seemed like the secret nesting-place of mysteries wherein no human foot
might dare intrude. It was incredible that such could be but common
sage-brush, sand, and greasewood wrapped about with the beauty of the
lonely night.

No building broke the inky outlines of the plain, nor friendly light
streamed out to cheer her heart. Not even a tree was in sight, except on
the far horizon, where a heavy line of deeper darkness might mean a
forest. Nothing, absolutely nothing, in the blue, deep, starry dome
above and the bluer darkness of the earth below save one sharp shaft
ahead like a black mast throwing out a dark arm across the track.

As soon as she sighted it she picked up her baggage and made her painful
way toward it, for her knees and wrist were bruised and her baggage was
heavy.

A soft drip, drip greeted her as she drew nearer; something plashing
down among the cinders by the track. Then she saw the tall column with
its arm outstretched, and looming darker among the sage-brush the
outlines of a water-tank. It was so she recognized the engine's
drinking-tank, and knew that she had mistaken a pause to water the
engine for a regular stop at a station.

Her soul sank within her as she came up to the dripping water and laid
her hand upon the dark upright, as if in some way it could help her. She
dropped her baggage and stood, trembling, gazing around upon the
beautiful, lonely scene in horror; and then, like a mirage against the
distance, there melted on her frightened eyes a vision of her father
and mother sitting around the library lamp at home, as they sat every
evening. They were probably reading and talking at this very minute, and
trying not to miss her on this her first venture away from the home into
the great world to teach. What would they say if they could see their
beloved daughter, whom they had sheltered all these years and let go
forth so reluctantly now, in all her confidence of youth, bound by
almost absurd promises to be careful and not run any risks.

Yet here she was, standing alone beside a water-tank in the midst of an
Arizona plain, no knowing how many miles from anywhere, at somewhere
between nine and ten o'clock at night! It seemed incredible that it had
really happened! Perhaps she was dreaming! A few moments before in the
bright car, surrounded by drowsy fellow-travelers, almost at her
journey's end, as she supposed; and now, having merely done as she
thought right, she was stranded here!

She rubbed her eyes and looked again up the track, half expecting to see
the train come back for her. Surely, surely the conductor, or the porter
who had been so kind, would discover that she was gone, and do something
about it. They couldn't leave her here alone on the prairie! It would be
too dreadful!

That vision of her father and mother off against the purple-green
distance, how it shook her! The lamp looked bright and cheerful, and she
could see her father's head with its heavy white hair. He turned to look
at her mother to tell her of something he read in the paper. They were
sitting there, feeling contented and almost happy about her, and she,
their little girl--all her dignity as school-teacher dropped from her
like a garment now--she was standing in this empty space alone, with
only an engine's water-tank to keep her from dying, and only the barren,
desolate track to connect her with the world of men and women. She
dropped her head upon her breast and the tears came, sobbing, choking,
raining down. Then off in the distance she heard a low, rising howl of
some snarling, angry beast, and she lifted her head and stood in
trembling terror, clinging to the tank.

That sound was coyotes or wolves howling. She had read about them, but
had not expected to experience them in such a situation. How confidently
had she accepted the position which offered her the opening she had
sought for the splendid career that she hoped was to follow! How
fearless had she been! Coyotes, nor Indians, nor wild cowboy
students--nothing had daunted her courage. Besides, she told her mother
it was very different going to a town from what it would be if she were
a missionary going to the wilds. It was an important school she was to
teach, where her Latin and German and mathematical achievements had won
her the place above several other applicants, and where her well-known
tact was expected to work wonders. But what were Latin and German and
mathematics now? Could they show her how to climb a water-tank? Would
tact avail with a hungry wolf?

The howl in the distance seemed to come nearer. She cast frightened eyes
to the unresponsive water-tank looming high and dark above her. She
must get up there somehow. It was not safe to stand here a minute.
Besides, from that height she might be able to see farther, and perhaps
there would be a light somewhere and she might cry for help.

Investigation showed a set of rude spikes by which the trainmen were
wont to climb up, and Margaret prepared to ascend them. She set her
suit-case dubiously down at the foot. Would it be safe to leave it
there? She had read how coyotes carried off a hatchet from a
camping-party, just to get the leather thong which was bound about the
handle. She could not afford to lose her things. Yet how could she climb
and carry that heavy burden with her? A sudden thought came.

Her simple traveling-gown was finished with a silken girdle, soft and
long, wound twice about her waist and falling in tasseled ends. Swiftly
she untied it and knotted one end firmly to the handle of her suit-case,
tying the other end securely to her wrist. Then slowly, cautiously, with
many a look upward, she began to climb.

It seemed miles, though in reality it was but a short distance. The
howling beasts in the distance sounded nearer now and continually,
making her heart beat wildly. She was stiff and bruised from her falls,
and weak with fright. The spikes were far apart, and each step of
progress was painful and difficult. It was good at last to rise high
enough to see over the water-tank and feel a certain confidence in her
defense.

But she had risen already beyond the short length of her silken tether,
and the suit-case was dragging painfully on her arm. She was obliged to
steady herself where she stood and pull it up before she could go on.
Then she managed to get it swung up to the top of the tank in a
comparatively safe place. One more long spike step and she was beside
it.

The tank was partly roofed over, so that she had room enough to sit on
the edge without danger of falling in and drowning. For a few minutes
she could only sit still and be thankful and try to get her breath back
again after the climb; but presently the beauty of the night began to
cast its spell over her. That wonderful blue of the sky! It hadn't ever
before impressed her that skies were blue at night. She would have said
they were black or gray. As a matter of fact, she didn't remember to
have ever seen so much sky at once before, nor to have noticed skies in
general until now.

This sky was so deeply, wonderfully blue, the stars so real, alive and
sparkling, that all other stars she had ever seen paled before them into
mere imitations. The spot looked like one of Taylor's pictures of the
Holy Land. She half expected to see a shepherd with his crook and sheep
approaching her out of the dim shadows, or a turbaned, white-robed David
with his lifted hands of prayer standing off among the depths of purple
darkness. It would not have been out of keeping if a walled city with
housetops should be hidden behind the clumps of sage-brush farther on.
'Twas such a night and such a scene as this, perhaps, when the wise men
started to follow the star!

But one cannot sit on the edge of a water-tank in the desert night
alone and muse long on art and history. It was cold up there, and the
howling seemed nearer than before. There was no sign of a light or a
house anywhere, and not even a freight-train sent its welcome clatter
down the track. All was still and wide and lonely, save that terrifying
sound of the beasts; such stillness as she had not ever thought could
be--a fearful silence as a setting for the awful voices of the wilds.

The bruises and scratches she had acquired set up a fine stinging, and
the cold seemed to sweep down and take possession of her on her high,
narrow seat. She was growing stiff and cramped, yet dared not move much.
Would there be no train, nor any help? Would she have to sit there all
night? It looked so very near to the ground now. Could wild beasts
climb, she wondered?

Then in the interval of silence that came between the calling of those
wild creatures there stole a sound. She could not tell at first what it
was. A slow, regular, plodding sound, and quite far away. She looked to
find it, and thought she saw a shape move out of the sage-brush on the
other side of the track, but she could not be sure. It might be but a
figment of her brain, a foolish fancy from looking so long at the
huddled bushes on the dark plain. Yet something prompted her to cry out,
and when she heard her own voice she cried again and louder, wondering
why she had not cried before.

"Help! Help!" she called; and again: "Help! Help!"

The dark shape paused and turned toward her. She was sure now. What if
it were a beast instead of a human! Terrible fear took possession of
her; then, to her infinite relief, a nasal voice sounded out:

"Who's thar?"

But when she opened her lips to answer, nothing but a sob would come to
them for a minute, and then she could only cry, pitifully:

"Help! Help!"

"Whar be you?" twanged the voice; and now she could see a horse and
rider like a shadow moving toward her down the track.



CHAPTER II


The horse came to a standstill a little way from the track, and his
rider let forth a stream of strange profanity. The girl shuddered and
began to think a wild beast might be preferable to some men. However,
these remarks seemed to be a mere formality. He paused and addressed
her:

"Heow'd yeh git up thar? D'j'yeh drap er climb?"

He was a little, wiry man with a bristly, protruding chin. She could see
that, even in the starlight. There was something about the point of that
stubby chin that she shrank from inexpressibly. He was not a pleasant
man to look upon, and even his voice was unprepossessing. She began to
think that even the night with its loneliness and unknown perils was
preferable to this man's company.

"I got off the train by mistake, thinking it was my station, and before
I discovered it the train had gone and left me," Margaret explained,
with dignity.

"Yeh didn't 'xpect it t' sit reound on th' plain while you was
gallivantin' up water-tanks, did yeh?"

Cold horror froze Margaret's veins. She was dumb for a second. "I am on
my way to Ashland station. Can you tell me how far it is from here and
how I can get there?" Her tone was like icicles.

"It's a little matter o' twenty miles, more 'r less," said the man
protruding his offensive chin. "The walkin's good. I don't know no other
way from this p'int at this time o' night. Yeh might set still till th'
mornin' freight goes by an' drap atop o' one of the kyars."

"Sir!" said Margaret, remembering her dignity as a teacher.

The man wheeled his horse clear around and looked up at her impudently.
She could smell bad whisky on his breath.

"Say, you must be some young highbrow, ain't yeh? Is thet all yeh want
o' me? 'Cause ef 'tis I got t' git on t' camp. It's a good five mile
yet, an' I 'ain't hed no grub sence noon."

The tears suddenly rushed to the girl's eyes as the horror of being
alone in the night again took possession of her. This dreadful man
frightened her, but the thought of the loneliness filled her with
dismay.

"Oh!" she cried, forgetting her insulted dignity, "you're not going to
leave me up here alone, are you? Isn't there some place near here where
I could stay overnight?"

"Thur ain't no palace hotel round these diggin's, ef that's what you
mean," the man leered at her. "You c'n come along t' camp 'ith me ef you
ain't too stuck up."

"To camp!" faltered Margaret in dismay, wondering what her mother would
say. "Are there any ladies there?"

A loud guffaw greeted her question. "Wal, my woman's thar, sech es she
is; but she ain't no highflier like you. We mostly don't hev ladies to
camp, But I got t' git on. Ef you want to go too, you better light down
pretty speedy, fer I can't wait."

In fear and trembling Margaret descended her rude ladder step by step,
primitive man seated calmly on his horse, making no attempt whatever to
assist her.

"This ain't no baggage-car," he grumbled, as he saw the suit-case in her
hand. "Well, h'ist yerself up thar; I reckon we c'n pull through
somehow. Gimme the luggage."

Margaret stood appalled beside the bony horse and his uncouth rider. Did
he actually expect her to ride with him? "Couldn't I walk?" she
faltered, hoping he would offer to do so.

"'T's up t' you," the man replied, indifferently. "Try 't an' see!"

He spoke to the horse, and it started forward eagerly, while the girl in
horror struggled on behind. Over rough, uneven ground, between
greasewood, sage-brush, and cactus, back into the trail. The man,
oblivious of her presence, rode contentedly on, a silent shadow on a
dark horse wending a silent way between the purple-green clumps of other
shadows, until, bewildered, the girl almost lost sight of them. Her
breath came short, her ankle turned, and she fell with both hands in a
stinging bed of cactus. She cried out then and begged him to stop.

"L'arned yer lesson, hev yeh, sweety?" he jeered at her, foolishly.
"Well, get in yer box, then."

He let her struggle up to a seat behind himself with very little
assistance, but when she was seated and started on her way she began to
wish she had stayed behind and taken any perils of the way rather than
trust herself in proximity to this creature.

From time to time he took a bottle from his pocket and swallowed a
portion of its contents, becoming fluent in his language as they
proceeded on their way. Margaret remained silent, growing more and more
frightened every time the bottle came out. At last he offered it to her.
She declined it with cold politeness, which seemed to irritate the
little man, for he turned suddenly fierce.

"Oh, yer too fine to take a drap fer good comp'ny, are yeh? Wal, I'll
show yeh a thing er two, my pretty lady. You'll give me a kiss with yer
two cherry lips before we go another step. D'yeh hear, my sweetie?" And
he turned with a silly leer to enforce his command; but with a cry of
horror Margaret slid to the ground and ran back down the trail as hard
as she could go, till she stumbled and fell in the shelter of a great
sage-bush, and lay sobbing on the sand.

The man turned bleared eyes toward her and watched until she
disappeared. Then sticking his chin out wickedly, he slung her suit-case
after her and called:

"All right, my pretty lady; go yer own gait an' l'arn yer own lesson."
He started on again, singing a drunken song.

Under the blue, starry dome alone sat Margaret again, this time with no
friendly water-tank for her defense, and took counsel with herself. The
howling coyotes seemed to be silenced for the time; at least they had
become a minor quantity in her equation of troubles. She felt now that
man was her greatest menace, and to get away safely from him back to
that friendly water-tank and the dear old railroad track she would have
pledged her next year's salary. She stole softly to the place where she
had heard the suit-case fall, and, picking it up, started on the weary
road back to the tank. Could she ever find the way? The trail seemed so
intangible a thing, her sense of direction so confused. Yet there was
nothing else to do. She shuddered whenever she thought of the man who
had been her companion on horseback.

When the man reached camp he set his horse loose and stumbled into the
door of the log bunk-house, calling loudly for something to eat.

The men were sitting around the room on the rough benches and bunks,
smoking their pipes or stolidly staring into the dying fire. Two smoky
kerosene-lanterns that hung from spikes driven high in the logs cast a
weird light over the company, eight men in all, rough and hardened with
exposure to stormy life and weather. They were men with unkempt beards
and uncombed hair, their coarse cotton shirts open at the neck, their
brawny arms bare above the elbow, with crimes and sorrows and hard
living written large across their faces.

There was one, a boy in looks, with smooth face and white skin healthily
flushed in places like a baby's. His face, too, was hard and set in
sternness like a mask, as if life had used him badly; but behind it was
a fineness of feature and spirit that could not be utterly hidden. They
called him the Kid, and thought it was his youth that made him different
from them all, for he was only twenty-four, and not one of the rest was
under forty. They were doing their best to help him get over that innate
fineness that was his natural inheritance, but although he stopped at
nothing, and played his part always with the ease of one old in the ways
of the world, yet he kept a quiet reserve about him, a kind of charm
beyond which they had not been able to go.

He was playing cards with three others at the table when the man came
in, and did not look up at the entrance.

The woman, white and hopeless, appeared at the door of the shed-room
when the man came, and obediently set about getting his supper; but her
lifeless face never changed expression.

"Brung a gal 'long of me part way," boasted the man, as he flung himself
into a seat by the table. "Thought you fellers might like t' see 'er,
but she got too high an' mighty fer me, wouldn't take a pull at th'
bottle 'ith me, 'n' shrieked like a catamount when I kissed 'er. Found
'er hangin' on th' water-tank. Got off 't th' wrong place. One o' yer
highbrows out o' th' parlor car! Good lesson fer 'er!"

The Boy looked up from his cards sternly, his keen eyes boring through
the man. "Where is she now?" he asked, quietly; and all the men in the
room looked up uneasily. There was that tone and accent again that made
the Boy alien from them. What was it?

The man felt it and snarled his answer angrily. "Dropped 'er on th'
trail, an' threw her fine-lady b'longin's after 'er. 'Ain't got no use
fer thet kind. Wonder what they was created fer? Ain't no good to
nobody, not even 'emselves." And he laughed a harsh cackle that was not
pleasant to hear.

The Boy threw down his cards and went out, shutting the door. In a few
minutes the men heard two horses pass the end of the bunk-house toward
the trail, but no one looked up nor spoke. You could not have told by
the flicker of an eyelash that they knew where the Boy had gone.

She was sitting in the deep shadow of a sage-bush that lay on the edge
of the trail like a great blot, her suit-case beside her, her breath
coming short with exertion and excitement, when she heard a cheery
whistle in the distance. Just an old love-song dating back some years
and discarded now as hackneyed even by the street pianos at home; but
oh, how good it sounded!

    From the desert I come to thee!

The ground was cold, and struck a chill through her garments as she sat
there alone in the night. On came the clear, musical whistle, and she
peered out of the shadow with eager eyes and frightened heart. Dared she
risk it again? Should she call, or should she hold her breath and keep
still, hoping he would pass her by unnoticed? Before she could decide
two horses stopped almost in front of her and a rider swung himself
down. He stood before her as if it were day and he could see her quite
plainly.

"You needn't be afraid," he explained, calmly. "I thought I had better
look you up after the old man got home and gave his report. He was
pretty well tanked up and not exactly a fit escort for ladies. What's
the trouble?"

Like an angel of deliverance he looked to her as he stood in the
starlight, outlined in silhouette against the wide, wonderful sky: broad
shoulders, well-set head, close-cropped curls, handsome contour even in
the darkness. There was about him an air of quiet strength which gave
her confidence.

"Oh, thank you!" she gasped, with a quick little relieved sob in her
voice. "I am so glad you have come. I was--just a little--frightened, I
think." She attempted to rise, but her foot caught in her skirt and she
sank wearily back to the sand again.

The Boy stooped over and lifted her to her feet. "You certainly are some
plucky girl!" he commented, looking down at her slender height as she
stood beside him. "A 'little frightened,' were you? Well, I should say
you had a right to be."

"Well, not exactly frightened, you know," said Margaret, taking a deep
breath and trying to steady her voice. "I think perhaps I was more
mortified than frightened, to think I made such a blunder as to get off
the train before I reached my station. You see, I'd made up my mind not
to be frightened, but when I heard that awful howl of some beast--And
then that terrible man!" She shuddered and put her hands suddenly over
her eyes as if to shut out all memory of it.

"More than one kind of beasts!" commented the Boy, briefly. "Well, you
needn't worry about him; he's having his supper and he'll be sound
asleep by the time we get back."

"Oh, have we got to go where he is?" gasped Margaret. "Isn't there some
other place? Is Ashland very far away? That is where I am going."

"No other place where you could go to-night. Ashland's a good
twenty-five miles from here. But you'll be all right. Mom Wallis 'll
look out for you. She isn't much of a looker, but she has a kind heart.
She pulled me through once when I was just about flickering out. Come
on. You'll be pretty tired. We better be getting back. Mom Wallis 'll
make you comfortable, and then you can get off good and early in the
morning."

Without an apology, and as if it were the common courtesy of the desert,
he stooped and lifted her easily to the saddle of the second horse,
placed the bridle in her hands, then swung the suit-case up on his own
horse and sprang into the saddle.



CHAPTER III


He turned the horses about and took charge of her just as if he were
accustomed to managing stray ladies in the wilderness every day of his
life and understood the situation perfectly; and Margaret settled
wearily into her saddle and looked about her with content.

Suddenly, again, the wide wonder of the night possessed her.
Involuntarily she breathed a soft little exclamation of awe and delight.
Her companion turned to her questioningly:

"Does it always seem so big here--so--limitless?" she asked in
explanation. "It is so far to everywhere it takes one's breath away, and
yet the stars hang close, like a protection. It gives one the feeling of
being alone in the great universe with God. Does it always seem so out
here?"

He looked at her curiously, her pure profile turned up to the wide dome
of luminous blue above. His voice was strangely low and wondering as he
answered, after a moment's silence:

"No, it is not always so," he said. "I have seen it when it was more
like being alone in the great universe with the devil."

There was a tremendous earnestness in his tone that the girl felt meant
more than was on the surface. She turned to look at the fine young face
beside her. In the starlight she could not make out the bitter hardness
of lines that were beginning to be carved about his sensitive mouth. But
there was so much sadness in his voice that her heart went out to him in
pity.

"Oh," she said, gently, "it would be awful that way. Yes, I can
understand. I felt so, a little, while that terrible man was with me."
And she shuddered again at the remembrance.

Again he gave her that curious look. "There are worse things than Pop
Wallis out here," he said, gravely. "But I'll grant you there's some
class to the skies. It's a case of 'Where every prospect pleases and
only man is vile.'" And with the words his tone grew almost flippant. It
hurt her sensitive nature, and without knowing it she half drew away a
little farther from him and murmured, sadly:

"Oh!" as if he had classed himself with the "man" he had been
describing. Instantly he felt her withdrawal and grew grave again, as if
he would atone.

"Wait till you see this sky at the dawn," he said. "It will burn red
fire off there in the east like a hearth in a palace, and all this dome
will glow like a great pink jewel set in gold. If you want a classy sky,
there you have it! Nothing like it in the East!"

There was a strange mingling of culture and roughness in his speech. The
girl could not make him out; yet there had been a palpitating
earnestness in his description that showed he had felt the dawn in his
very soul.

"You are--a--poet, perhaps?" she asked, half shyly. "Or an artist?" she
hazarded.

He laughed roughly and seemed embarrassed. "No, I'm just a--bum! A sort
of roughneck out of a job."

She was silent, watching him against the starlight, a kind of
embarrassment upon her after his last remark. "You--have been here
long?" she asked, at last.

"Three years." He said it almost curtly and turned his head away, as if
there were something in his face he would hide.

She knew there was something unhappy in his life. Unconsciously her tone
took on a sympathetic sound. "And do you get homesick and want to go
back, ever?" she asked.

His tone was fairly savage now. "No!"

The silence which followed became almost oppressive before the Boy
finally turned and in his kindly tone began to question her about the
happenings which had stranded her in the desert alone at night.

So she came to tell him briefly and frankly about herself, as he
questioned--how she came to be in Arizona all alone.

"My father is a minister in a small town in New York State. When I
finished college I had to do something, and I had an offer of this
Ashland school through a friend of ours who had a brother out here.
Father and mother would rather have kept me nearer home, of course, but
everybody says the best opportunities are in the West, and this was a
good opening, so they finally consented. They would send post-haste for
me to come back if they knew what a mess I have made of things right at
the start--getting out of the train in the desert."

"But you're not discouraged?" said her companion, half wonderingly.
"Some nerve you have with you. I guess you'll manage to hit it off in
Ashland. It's the limit as far as discipline is concerned, I understand,
but I guess you'll put one over on them. I'll bank on you after
to-night, sure thing!"

She turned a laughing face toward him. "Thank you!" she said. "But I
don't see how you know all that. I'm sure I didn't do anything
particularly nervy. There wasn't anything else to do but what I did, if
I'd tried."

"Most girls would have fainted and screamed, and fainted again when they
were rescued," stated the Boy, out of a vast experience.

"I never fainted in my life," said Margaret Earle, with disdain. "I
don't think I should care to faint out in the vast universe like this.
It would be rather inopportune, I should think."

Then, because she suddenly realized that she was growing very chummy
with this stranger in the dark, she asked the first question that came
into her head.

"What was your college?"

That he had not been to college never entered her head. There was
something in his speech and manner that made it a foregone conclusion.

It was as if she had struck him forcibly in his face, so sudden and
sharp a silence ensued for a second. Then he answered, gruffly, "Yale,"
and plunged into an elaborate account of Arizona in its early ages,
including a detailed description of the cliff-dwellers and their homes,
which were still to be seen high in the rocks of the cañons not many
miles to the west of where they were riding.

Margaret was keen to hear it all, and asked many questions, declaring
her intention of visiting those cliff-caves at her earliest opportunity.
It was so wonderful to her to be actually out here where were all sorts
of queer things about which she had read and wondered. It did not occur
to her, until the next day, to realize that her companion had of
intention led her off the topic of himself and kept her from asking any
more personal questions.

He told her of the petrified forest just over some low hills off to the
left; acres and acres of agatized chips and trunks of great trees all
turned to eternal stone, called by the Indians "Yeitso's bones," after
the great giant of that name whom an ancient Indian hero killed. He
described the coloring of the brilliant days in Arizona, where you stand
on the edge of some flat-topped mesa and look off through the clear air
to mountains that seem quite near by, but are in reality more than two
hundred miles away. He pictured the strange colors and lights of the
place; ledges of rock, yellow, white and green, drab and maroon, and
tumbled piles of red boulders, shadowy buttes in the distance, serrated
cliffs against the horizon, not blue, but rosy pink in the heated haze
of the air, and perhaps a great, lonely eagle poised above the silent,
brilliant waste.

He told it not in book language, with turn of phrase and smoothly
flowing sentences, but in simple, frank words, as a boy might describe a
picture to one he knew would appreciate it--for her sake, and not
because he loved to put it into words; but in a new, stumbling way
letting out the beauty that had somehow crept into his heart in spite of
all the rough attempts to keep all gentle things out of his nature.

The girl, as she listened, marveled more and more what manner of youth
this might be who had come to her out of the desert night.

She forgot her weariness as she listened, in the thrill of wonder over
the new mysterious country to which she had come. She forgot that she
was riding through the great darkness with an utter stranger, to a place
she knew not, and to experiences most dubious. Her fears had fled and
she was actually enjoying herself, and responding to the wonderful story
of the place with soft-murmured exclamations of delight and wonder.

From time to time in the distance there sounded forth those awful
blood-curdling howls of wild beasts that she had heard when she sat
alone by the water-tank, and each time she heard a shudder passed
through her and instinctively she swerved a trifle toward her companion,
then straightened up again and tried to seem not to notice. The Boy saw
and watched her brave attempts at self-control with deep appreciation.
But suddenly, as they rode and talked, a dark form appeared across their
way a little ahead, lithe and stealthy and furry, and two awful eyes
like green lamps glared for an instant, then disappeared silently among
the mesquite bushes.

She did not cry out nor start. Her very veins seemed frozen with horror,
and she could not have spoken if she tried. It was all over in a second
and the creature gone, so that she almost doubted her senses and
wondered if she had seen aright. Then one hand went swiftly to her
throat and she shrank toward her companion.

"There is nothing to fear," he said, reassuringly, and laid a strong
hand comfortingly across the neck of her horse. "The pussy-cat was as
unwilling for our company as we for hers. Besides, look here!"--and he
raised his hand and shot into the air. "She'll not come near us now."

"I am not afraid!" said the girl, bravely. "At least, I don't think I
am--very! But it's all so new and unexpected, you know. Do people around
here always shoot in that--well--unpremeditated fashion?"

They laughed together.

"Excuse me," he said. "I didn't realize the shot might startle you even
more than the wildcat. It seems I'm not fit to have charge of a lady. I
told you I was a roughneck."

"You're taking care of me beautifully," said Margaret Earle, loyally,
"and I'm glad to get used to shots if that's the thing to be expected
often."

Just then they came to the top of the low, rolling hill, and ahead in
the darkness there gleamed a tiny, wizened light set in a blotch of
blackness. Under the great white stars it burned a sickly red and seemed
out of harmony with the night.

"There we are!" said the Boy, pointing toward it. "That's the
bunk-house. You needn't be afraid. Pop Wallis 'll be snoring by this
time, and we'll come away before he's about in the morning. He always
sleeps late after he's been off on a bout. He's been gone three days,
selling some cattle, and he'll have a pretty good top on."

The girl caught her breath, gave one wistful look up at the wide, starry
sky, a furtive glance at the strong face of her protector, and
submitted to being lifted down to the ground.

Before her loomed the bunk-house, small and mean, built of logs, with
only one window in which the flicker of the lanterns menaced, with
unknown trials and possible perils for her to meet.



CHAPTER IV


When Margaret Earle dawned upon that bunk-room the men sat up with one
accord, ran their rough, red hands through their rough, tousled hair,
smoothed their beards, took down their feet from the benches where they
were resting. That was as far as their etiquette led them. Most of them
continued to smoke their pipes, and all of them stared at her
unreservedly. Such a sight of exquisite feminine beauty had not come to
their eyes in many a long day. Even in the dim light of the smoky
lanterns, and with the dust and weariness of travel upon her, Margaret
Earle was a beautiful girl.

"That's what's the matter, father," said her mother, when the subject of
Margaret's going West to teach had first been mentioned. "She's too
beautiful. Far too beautiful to go among savages! If she were homely and
old, now, she might be safe. That would be a different matter."

Yet Margaret had prevailed, and was here in the wild country. Now,
standing on the threshold of the log cabin, she read, in the unveiled
admiration that startled from the eyes of the men, the meaning of her
mother's fears.

Yet withal it was a kindly admiration not unmixed with awe. For there
was about her beauty a touch of the spiritual which set her above the
common run of women, making men feel her purity and sweetness, and
inclining their hearts to worship rather than be bold.

The Boy had been right. Pop Wallis was asleep and out of the way. From a
little shed room at one end his snoring marked time in the silence that
the advent of the girl made in the place.

In the doorway of the kitchen offset Mom Wallis stood with her
passionless face--a face from which all emotions had long ago been
burned by cruel fires--and looked at the girl, whose expression was
vivid with her opening life all haloed in a rosy glow.

A kind of wistful contortion passed over Mom Wallis's hopeless
countenance, as if she saw before her in all its possibility of
perfection the life that she herself had lost. Perhaps it was no longer
possible for her features to show tenderness, but a glow of something
like it burned in her eyes, though she only turned away with the same
old apathetic air, and without a word went about preparing a meal for
the stranger.

Margaret looked wildly, fearfully, around the rough assemblage when she
first entered the long, low room, but instantly the boy introduced her
as "the new teacher for the Ridge School beyond the Junction," and these
were Long Bill, Big Jim, the Fiddling Boss, Jasper Kemp, Fade-away
Forbes, Stocky, Croaker, and Fudge. An inspiration fell upon the
frightened girl, and she acknowledged the introduction by a radiant
smile, followed by the offering of her small gloved hand. Each man in
dumb bewilderment instantly became her slave, and accepted the offered
hand with more or less pleasure and embarrassment. The girl proved her
right to be called tactful, and, seeing her advantage, followed it up
quickly by a few bright words. These men were of an utterly different
type from any she had ever met before, but they had in their eyes a kind
of homage which Pop Wallis had not shown and they were not repulsive to
her. Besides, the Boy was in the background, and her nerve had returned.
The Boy knew how a lady should be treated. She was quite ready to "play
up" to his lead.

It was the Boy who brought the only chair the bunk-house afforded, a
rude, home-made affair, and helped her off with her coat and hat in his
easy, friendly way, as if he had known her all his life; while the men,
to whom such gallant ways were foreign, sat awkwardly by and watched in
wonder and amaze.

Most of all they were astonished at "the Kid," that he could fall so
naturally into intimate talk with this delicate, beautiful woman. She
was another of his kind, a creature not made in the same mold as theirs.
They saw it now, and watched the fairy play with almost childish
interest. Just to hear her call him "Mr. Gardley"!--Lance Gardley, that
was what he had told them was his name the day he came among them. They
had not heard it since. The Kid! Mr. Gardley!

There it was, the difference between them! They looked at the girl half
jealously, yet proudly at the Boy. He was theirs--yes, in a way he was
theirs--had they not found him in the wilderness, sick and nigh to
death, and nursed him back to life again? He was theirs; but he knew
how to drop into her world, too, and not be ashamed. They were glad that
he could, even while it struck them with a pang that some day he would
go back to the world to which he belonged--and where they could never be
at home.

It was a marvel to watch her eat the coarse corn-bread and pork that Mom
Wallis brought her. It might have been a banquet, the pleasant way she
seemed to look at it. Just like a bird she tasted it daintily, and
smiled, showing her white teeth. There was nothing of the idea of
greediness that each man knew he himself felt after a fast. It was all
beautiful, the way she handled the two-tined fork and the old steel
knife. They watched and dropped their eyes abashed as at a lovely
sacrament. They had not felt before that eating could be an art. They
did not know what art meant.

Such strange talk, too! But the Kid seemed to understand. About the
sky--their old, common sky, with stars that they saw every night--making
such a fuss about that, with words like "wide," "infinite," "azure," and
"gems." Each man went furtively out that night before he slept and took
a new look at the sky to see if he could understand.

The Boy was planning so the night would be but brief. He knew the girl
was afraid. He kept the talk going enthusiastically, drawing in one or
two of the men now and again. Long Bill forgot himself and laughed out a
hoarse guffaw, then stopped as if he had been choked. Stocky, red in the
face, told a funny story when commanded by the Boy, and then dissolved
in mortification over his blunders. The Fiddling Boss obediently got
down his fiddle from the smoky corner beside the fireplace and played a
weird old tune or two, and then they sang. First the men, with hoarse,
quavering approach and final roar of wild sweetness; then Margaret and
the Boy in duet, and finally Margaret alone, with a few bashful chords
on the fiddle, feeling their way as accompaniment.

Mom Wallis had long ago stopped her work and was sitting huddled in the
doorway on a nail-keg with weary, folded hands and a strange wistfulness
on her apathetic face. A fine silence had settled over the group as the
girl, recognizing her power, and the pleasure she was giving, sang on.
Now and then the Boy, when he knew the song, would join in with his rich
tenor.

It was a strange night, and when she finally lay down to rest on a hard
cot with a questionable-looking blanket for covering and Mom Wallis as
her room-mate, Margaret Earle could not help wondering what her mother
and father would think now if they could see her. Would they not,
perhaps, almost prefer the water-tank and the lonely desert for her to
her present surroundings?

Nevertheless, she slept soundly after her terrible excitement, and woke
with a start of wonder in the early morning, to hear the men outside
splashing water and humming or whistling bits of the tunes she had sung
to them the night before.

Mom Wallis was standing over her, looking down with a hunger in her eyes
at the bright waves of Margaret's hair and the soft, sleep-flushed
cheeks.

"You got dretful purty hair," said Mom Wallis, wistfully.

Margaret looked up and smiled in acknowledgment of the compliment.

"You wouldn't b'lieve it, but I was young an' purty oncet. Beats all how
much it counts to be young--an' purty! But land! It don't last long.
Make the most of it while you got it."

Browning's immortal words came to Margaret's lips--

    Grow old along with me,
    The best is yet to be,
    The last of life for which the first was made--

but she checked them just in time and could only smile mutely. How could
she speak such thoughts amid these intolerable surroundings? Then with
sudden impulse she reached up to the astonished woman and, drawing her
down, kissed her sallow cheek.

"Oh!" said Mom Wallis, starting back and laying her bony hands upon the
place where she had been kissed, as if it hurt her, while a dull red
stole up from her neck over her cheeks and high forehead to the roots of
her hay-colored hair. All at once she turned her back upon her visitor
and the tears of the years streamed down her impassive face.

"Don't mind me," she choked, after a minute. "I liked it real good, only
it kind of give me a turn." Then, after a second: "It's time t' eat. You
c'n wash outside after the men is done."

That, thought Margaret, had been the scheme of this woman's whole
life--"After the men is done!"

So, after all, the night was passed in safety, and a wonderful dawning
had come. The blue of the morning, so different from the blue of the
night sky, was, nevertheless, just as unfathomable; the air seemed
filled with straying star-beams, so sparkling was the clearness of the
light.

But now a mountain rose in the distance with heliotrope-and-purple
bounds to stand across the vision and dispel the illusion of the night
that the sky came down to the earth all around like a close-fitting
dome. There were mountains on all sides, and a slender, dark line of
mesquite set off the more delicate colorings of the plain.

Into the morning they rode, Margaret and the Boy, before Pop Wallis was
yet awake, while all the other men stood round and watched, eager,
jealous for the handshake and the parting smile. They told her they
hoped she would come again and sing for them, and each one had an
awkward word of parting. Whatever Margaret Earle might do with her
school, she had won seven loyal friends in the camp, and she rode away
amid their admiring glances, which lingered, too, on the broad shoulders
and wide sombrero of her escort riding by her side.

"Wal, that's the end o' him, I 'spose," drawled Long Bill, with a deep
sigh, as the riders passed into the valley out of their sight.

"H'm!" said Jasper Kemp, hungrily. "I reck'n _he_ thinks it's jes' th'
beginnin'!"

"Maybe so! Maybe so!" said Big Jim, dreamily.

The morning was full of wonder for the girl who had come straight from
an Eastern city. The view from the top of the mesa, or the cool, dim
entrance of a cañon where great ferns fringed and feathered its walls,
and strange caves hollowed out in the rocks far above, made real the
stories she had read of the cave-dwellers. It was a new world.

The Boy was charming. She could not have picked out among her city
acquaintances a man who would have done the honors of the desert more
delightfully than he. She had thought him handsome in the starlight and
in the lantern-light the night before, but now that the morning shone
upon him she could not keep from looking at him. His fresh color, which
no wind and weather could quite subdue, his gray-blue eyes with that
mixture of thoughtfulness and reverence and daring, his crisp, brown
curls glinting with gold in the sunlight--all made him good to look
upon. There was something about the firm set of his lips and chin that
made her feel a hidden strength about him.

When they camped a little while for lunch he showed the thoughtfulness
and care for her comfort that many an older man might not have had. Even
his talk was a mixture of boyishness and experience and he seemed to
know her thoughts before she had them fully spoken.

"I do not understand it," she said, looking him frankly in the eyes at
last. "How ever in the world did one like _you_ get landed among all
those dreadful men! Of course, in their way, some of them are not so
bad; but they are not like you, not in the least, and never could be."

They were riding out upon the plain now in the full afternoon light, and
a short time would bring them to her destination.

A sad, set look came quickly into the Boy's eyes and his face grew
almost hard.

"It's an old story. I suppose you've heard it before," he said, and his
voice tried to take on a careless note, but failed. "I didn't make good
back there"--he waved his hand sharply toward the East--"so I came out
here to begin again. But I guess I haven't made good here, either--not
in the way I meant when I came."

"You can't, you know," said Margaret. "Not here."

"Why?" He looked at her earnestly, as if he felt the answer might help
him.

"Because you have to go back where you didn't make good and pick up the
lost opportunities. You can't really make good till you do that _right
where you left off_."

"But suppose it's too late?"

"It's never too late if we're in earnest and not too proud."

There was a long silence then, while the Boy looked thoughtfully off at
the mountains, and when he spoke again it was to call attention to the
beauty of a silver cloud that floated lazily on the horizon. But
Margaret Earle had seen the look in his gray eyes and was not deceived.

A few minutes later they crossed another mesa and descended to the
enterprising little town where the girl was to begin her winter's work.
The very houses and streets seemed to rise briskly and hasten to meet
them those last few minutes of their ride.

Now that the experience was almost over, the girl realized that she had
enjoyed it intensely, and that she dreaded inexpressibly that she must
bid good-by to this friend of a few hours and face an unknown world. It
had been a wonderful day, and now it was almost done. The two looked at
each other and realized that their meeting had been an epoch in their
lives that neither would soon forget--that neither wanted to forget.



CHAPTER V


Slower the horses walked, and slower. The voices of the Boy and girl
were low when they spoke about the common things by the wayside. Once
their eyes met, and they smiled with something both sad and glad in
them.

Margaret was watching the young man by her side and wondering at
herself. He was different from any man whose life had come near to hers
before. He was wild and worldly, she could see that, and unrestrained by
many of the things that were vital principles with her, and yet she felt
strangely drawn to him and wonderfully at home in his company. She could
not understand herself nor him. It was as if his real soul had looked
out of his eyes and spoken, untrammeled by the circumstances of birth or
breeding or habit, and she knew him for a kindred spirit. And yet he was
far from being one in whom she would have expected even to find a
friend. Where was her confidence of yesterday? Why was it that she
dreaded to have this strong young protector leave her to meet alone a
world of strangers, whom yesterday at this time she would have gladly
welcomed?

Now, when his face grew thoughtful and sad, she saw the hard, bitter
lines that were beginning to be graven about his lips, and her heart
ached over what he had said about not making good. She wondered if there
was anything else she could say to help him, but no words came to her,
and the sad, set look about his lips warned her that perhaps she had
said enough. He was not one who needed a long dissertation to bring a
thought home to his consciousness.

Gravely they rode to the station to see about Margaret's trunks and make
inquiries for the school and the house where she had arranged to board.
Then Margaret sent a telegram to her mother to say that she had arrived
safely, and so, when all was done and there was no longer an excuse for
lingering, the Boy realized that he must leave her.

They stood alone for just a moment while the voluble landlady went to
attend to something that was boiling over on the stove. It was an ugly
little parlor that was to be her reception-room for the next year at
least, with red-and-green ingrain carpet of ancient pattern, hideous
chromos on the walls, and frantically common furniture setting up in its
shining varnish to be pretentious; but the girl had not seen it yet. She
was filled with a great homesickness that had not possessed her even
when she said good-by to her dear ones at home. She suddenly realized
that the people with whom she was to be thrown were of another world
from hers, and this one friend whom she had found in the desert was
leaving her.

She tried to shake hands formally and tell him how grateful she was to
him for rescuing her from the perils of the night, but somehow words
seemed so inadequate, and tears kept crowding their way into her throat
and eyes. Absurd it was, and he a stranger twenty hours before, and a
man of other ways than hers, besides. Yet he was her friend and rescuer.

She spoke her thanks as well as she could, and then looked up, a swift,
timid glance, and found his eyes upon her earnestly and troubled.

"Don't thank me," he said, huskily. "I guess it was the best thing I
ever did, finding you. I sha'n't forget, even if you never let me see
you again--and--I hope you will." His eyes searched hers wistfully.

"Of course," she said. "Why not?"

"I thank you," he said in quaint, courtly fashion, bending low over her
hand. "I shall try to be worthy of the honor."

And so saying, he left her and, mounting his horse, rode away into the
lengthening shadows of the afternoon.

She stood in the forlorn little room staring out of the window after her
late companion, a sense of utter desolation upon her. For the moment all
her brave hopes of the future had fled, and if she could have slipped
unobserved out of the front door, down to the station, and boarded some
waiting express to her home, she would gladly have done it then and
there.

Try as she would to summon her former reasons for coming to this wild,
she could not think of one of them, and her eyes were very near to
tears.

But Margaret Earle was not given to tears, and as she felt them smart
beneath her lids she turned in a panic to prevent them. She could not
afford to cry now. Mrs. Tanner would be returning, and she must not find
the "new schoolma'am" weeping.

With a glance she swept the meager, pretentious room, and then,
suddenly, became aware of other presences. In the doorway stood a man
and a dog, both regarding her intently with open surprise, not unmixed
with open appraisement and a marked degree of admiration.

The man was of medium height, slight, with a putty complexion; cold,
pale-blue eyes; pale, straw-colored hair, and a look of self-indulgence
around his rather weak mouth. He was dressed in a city business suit of
the latest cut, however, and looked as much out of place in that crude
little house as did Margaret Earle herself in her simple gown of
dark-blue crêpe and her undeniable air of style and good taste.

His eyes, as they regarded her, had in them a smile that the girl
instinctively resented. Was it a shade too possessive and complacently
sure for a stranger?

The dog, a large collie, had great, liquid, brown eyes, menacing or
loyal, as circumstances dictated, and regarded her with an air of brief
indecision. She felt she was being weighed in the balance by both pairs
of eyes. Of the two the girl preferred the dog.

Perhaps the dog understood, for he came a pace nearer and waved his
plumy tail tentatively. For the dog she felt a glow of friendliness at
once, but for the man she suddenly, and most unreasonably, of course,
conceived one of her violent and unexpected dislikes.

Into this tableau bustled Mrs. Tanner. "Well, now, I didn't go to leave
you by your lonesome all this time," she apologized, wiping her hands on
her apron, "but them beans boiled clean over, and I hed to put 'em in a
bigger kettle. You see, I put in more beans 'count o' you bein' here,
an' I ain't uset to calca'latin' on two extry." She looked happily from
the man to the girl and back again.

"Mr. West, I 'spose, o' course, you interjuced yerself? Bein' a
preacher, you don't hev to stan' on ceremony like the rest of mankind.
You 'ain't? Well, let me hev the pleasure of interjucin' our new
school-teacher, Miss Margaret Earle. I 'spect you two 'll be awful
chummy right at the start, both bein' from the East that way, an' both
hevin' ben to college."

Margaret Earle acknowledged the bow with a cool little inclination of
her head. She wondered why she didn't hate the garrulous woman who
rattled on in this happy, take-it-for-granted way; but there was
something so innocently pleased in her manner that she couldn't help
putting all her wrath on the smiling man who came forward instantly with
a low bow and a voice of fulsome flattery.

"Indeed, Miss Earle, I assure you I am happily surprised. I am sure Mrs.
Tanner's prophecy will come true and we shall be the best of friends.
When they told me the new teacher was to board here I really hesitated.
I have seen something of these Western teachers in my time, and scarcely
thought I should find you congenial; but I can see at a glance that you
are the exception to the rule."

He presented a soft, unmanly white hand, and there was nothing to do but
take it or seem rude to her hostess; but her manner was like icicles,
and she was thankful she had not yet removed her gloves.

If the reverend gentleman thought he was to enjoy a lingering hand-clasp
he was mistaken, for the gloved finger-tips merely touched his hand and
were withdrawn, and the girl turned to her hostess with a smile of
finality as if he were dismissed. He did not seem disposed to take the
hint and withdraw, however, until on a sudden the great dog came and
stood between them with open-mouthed welcome and joyous greeting in the
plumy, wagging tail. He pushed close to her and looked up into her face
insistently, his hanging pink tongue and wide, smiling countenance
proclaiming that he was satisfied with his investigation.

Margaret looked down at him, and then stooped and put her arms about his
neck. Something in his kindly dog expression made her feel suddenly as
if she had a real friend.

It seemed the man, however, did not like the situation. He kicked
gingerly at the dog's hind legs, and said in a harsh voice:

"Get out of the way, sir. You're annoying the lady. Get out, I say!"

The dog, however, uttered a low growl and merely showed the whites of
his menacing eyes at the man, turning his body slightly so that he stood
across the lady's way protectingly, as if to keep the man from her.

Margaret smiled at the dog and laid her hand on his head, as if to
signify her acceptance of the friendship he had offered her, and he
waved his plume once more and attended her from the room, neither of
them giving further attention to the man.

"Confound that dog!" said Rev. Frederick West, in a most unpreacher-like
tone, as he walked to the window and looked out. Then to himself he
mused: "A pretty girl. A _very pretty_ girl. I really think it'll be
worth my while to stay a month at least."

Up in her room the "very pretty girl" was unpacking her suit-case and
struggling with the tears. Not since she was a wee little girl and went
to school all alone for the first time had she felt so very forlorn, and
it was the little bare bedroom that had done it. At least that had been
the final straw that had made too great the burden of keeping down those
threatening tears.

It was only a bare, plain room with unfinished walls, rough woodwork, a
cheap wooden bed, a bureau with a warped looking-glass, and on the floor
was a braided rug of rags. A little wooden rocker, another small,
straight wooden chair, a hanging wall-pocket decorated with purple
roses, a hanging bookshelf composed of three thin boards strung together
with maroon picture cord, a violently colored picture-card of "Moses in
the Bulrushes" framed in straws and red worsted, and bright-blue paper
shades at the windows. That was the room!

How different from her room at home, simply and sweetly finished anew
for her home-coming from college! It rose before her homesick vision
now. Soft gray walls, rose-colored ceiling, blended by a wreath of
exquisite wild roses, whose pattern was repeated in the border of the
simple curtains and chair cushions, white-enamel furniture, pretty brass
bed soft as down in its luxurious mattress, spotless and inviting
always. She glanced at the humpy bed with its fringed gray spread and
lumpy-looking pillows in dismay. She had not thought of little
discomforts like that, yet how they loomed upon her weary vision now!

The tiny wooden stand with its thick, white crockery seemed ill
substitute for the dainty white bath-room at home. She had known she
would not have her home luxuries, of course, but she had not realized
until set down amid these barren surroundings what a difference they
would make.

Going to the window and looking out, she saw for the first tune the one
luxury the little room possessed--a view! And such a view! Wide and
wonderful and far it stretched, in colors unmatched by painter's brush,
a purple mountain topped by rosy clouds in the distance. For the second
time in Arizona her soul was lifted suddenly out of itself and its
dismay by a vision of the things that God has made and the largeness of
it all.



CHAPTER VI


For some time she stood and gazed, marveling at the beauty and recalling
some of the things her companion of the afternoon had said about his
impressions of the place; then suddenly there loomed a dark speck in the
near foreground of her meditation, and, looking down annoyed, she
discovered the minister like a gnat between the eye and a grand
spectacle, his face turned admiringly up to her window, his hand lifted
in familiar greeting.

Vexed at his familiarity, she turned quickly and jerked down the shade;
then throwing herself on the bed, she had a good cry. Her nerves were
terribly wrought up. Things seemed twisted in her mind, and she felt
that she had reached the limit of her endurance. Here was she, Margaret
Earle, newly elected teacher to the Ashland Ridge School, lying on her
bed in tears, when she ought to be getting settled and planning her new
life; when the situation demanded her best attention she was wrought up
over a foolish little personal dislike. Why did she have to dislike a
minister, anyway, and then take to a wild young fellow whose life thus
far had been anything but satisfactory even to himself? Was it her
perverse nature that caused her to remember the look in the eyes of the
Boy who had rescued her from a night in the wilderness, and to feel
there was far more manliness in his face than in the face of the man
whose profession surely would lead one to suppose he was more worthy of
her respect and interest? Well, she was tired. Perhaps things would
assume their normal relation to one another in the morning. And so,
after a few minutes, she bathed her face in the little, heavy,
iron-stone wash-bowl, combed her hair, and freshened the collar and
ruffles in her sleeves preparatory to going down for the evening meal.
Then, with a swift thought, she searched through her suit-case for every
available article wherewith to brighten that forlorn room.

The dainty dressing-case of Dresden silk with rosy ribbons that her girl
friends at home had given as a parting gift covered a generous portion
of the pine bureau, and when she had spread it out and bestowed its
silver-mounted brushes, combs, hand-glass, and pretty sachet, things
seemed to brighten up a bit. She hung up a cobweb of a lace boudoir cap
with its rose-colored ribbons over the bleary mirror, threw her kimono
of flowered challis over the back of the rocker, arranged her soap and
toothbrush, her own wash-rag and a towel brought from home on the
wash-stand, and somehow felt better and more as if she belonged. Last
she ranged her precious photographs of father and mother and the dear
vine-covered church and manse across in front of the mirror. When her
trunks came there would be other things, and she could bear it, perhaps,
when she had this room buried deep in the home belongings. But this
would have to do for to-night, for the trunk might not come till
morning, and, anyhow, she was too weary to unpack.

She ventured one more look out of her window, peering carefully at first
to make sure her fellow-boarder was not still standing down below on the
grass. A pang of compunction shot through her conscience. What would her
dear father think of her feeling this way toward a minister, and before
she knew the first thing about him, too? It was dreadful! She must shake
it off. Of course he was a good man or he wouldn't be in the ministry,
and she had doubtless mistaken mere friendliness for forwardness. She
would forget it and try to go down and behave to him the way her father
would want her to behave toward a fellow-minister.

Cautiously she raised the shade again and looked out. The mountain was
bathed in a wonderful ruby light fading into amethyst, and all the path
between was many-colored like a pavement of jewels set in filigree.
While she looked the picture changed, glowed, softened, and changed
again, making her think of the chapter about the Holy City in
Revelation.

She started at last when some one knocked hesitatingly on the door, for
the wonderful sunset light had made her forget for the moment where she
was, and it seemed a desecration to have mere mortals step in and
announce supper, although the odor of pork and cabbage had been
proclaiming it dumbly for some time.

She went to the door, and, opening it, found a dark figure standing in
the hall. For a minute she half feared it was the minister, until a
shy, reluctant backwardness in the whole stocky figure and the stirring
of a large furry creature just behind him made her sure it was not.

"Ma says you're to come to supper," said a gruff, untamed voice; and
Margaret perceived that the person in the gathering gloom of the hall
was a boy.

"Oh!" said Margaret, with relief in her voice. "Thank you for coming to
tell me. I meant to come down and not give that trouble, but I got to
looking at the wonderful sunset. Have you been watching it?" She pointed
across the room to the window. "Look! Isn't that a great color there on
the tip of the mountain? I never saw anything like that at home. I
suppose you're used to it, though."

The boy came a step nearer the door and looked blankly, half
wonderingly, across at the window, as if he expected to see some
phenomenon. "Oh! _That!_" he exclaimed, carelessly. "Sure! We have them
all the time."

"But that wonderful silver light pouring down just in that one tiny
spot!" exclaimed Margaret. "It makes the mountain seem alive and
smiling!"

The boy turned and looked at her curiously. "Gee!" said he, "I c'n show
you plenty like that!" But he turned and looked at it a long, lingering
minute again.

"But we mustn't keep your mother waiting," said Margaret, remembering
and turning reluctantly toward the door. "Is this your dog? Isn't he a
beauty? He made me feel really as if he were glad to see me." She
stooped and laid her hand on the dog's head and smiled brightly up at
his master.

The boy's face lit with a smile, and he turned a keen, appreciative look
at the new teacher, for the first time genuinely interested in her.
"Cap's a good old scout," he admitted.

"So his name is Cap. Is that short for anything?"

"Cap'n."

"Captain. What a good name for him. He looks as if he were a captain,
and he waves that tail grandly, almost as if it might be a badge of
office. But who are you? You haven't told me your name yet. Are you Mrs.
Tanner's son?"

The boy nodded. "I'm just Bud Tanner."

"Then you are one of my pupils, aren't you? We must shake hands on
that." She put out her hand, but she was forced to go out after Bud's
reluctant red fist, take it by force in a strange grasp, and do all the
shaking; for Bud had never had that experience before in his life, and
he emerged from it with a very red face and a feeling as if his right
arm had been somehow lifted out of the same class with the rest of his
body. It was rather awful, too, that it happened just in the open
dining-room door, and that "preacher-boarder" watched the whole
performance. Bud put on an extra-deep frown and shuffled away from the
teacher, making a great show of putting Cap out of the dining-room,
though he always sat behind his master's chair at meals, much to the
discomfiture of the male boarder, who was slightly in awe of his
dogship, not having been admitted into friendship as the lady had been.

Mr. West stood back of his chair, awaiting the arrival of the new
boarder, an expectant smile on his face, and rubbing his hands together
with much the same effect as a wolf licking his lips in anticipation of
a victim. In spite of her resolves to like the man, Margaret was again
struck with aversion as she saw him standing there, and was intensely
relieved when she found that the seat assigned to her was on the
opposite side of the table from him, and beside Bud. West, however, did
not seem to be pleased with the arrangement, and, stepping around the
table, said to his landlady:

"Did you mean me to sit over here?" and he placed a possessive hand on
the back of the chair that was meant for Bud.

"No, Mister West, you jest set where you ben settin'," responded Mrs.
Tanner. She had thought the matter all out and decided that the minister
could converse with the teacher to the better advantage of the whole
table if he sat across from her. Mrs. Tanner was a born match-maker.
This she felt was an opportunity not to be despised, even if it sometime
robbed the Ridge School of a desirable teacher.

But West did not immediately return to his place at the other side of
the table. To Margaret's extreme annoyance he drew her chair and waited
for her to sit down. The situation, however, was somewhat relieved of
its intimacy by a sudden interference from Cap, who darted away from his
frowning master and stepped up authoritatively to the minister's side
with a low growl, as if to say:

"Hands off that chair! That doesn't belong to you!"

West suddenly released his hold on the chair without waiting to shove
it up to the table, and precipitately retired to his own place. "That
dog's a nuisance!" he said, testily, and was answered with a glare from
Bud's dark eyes.

Bud came to his seat with his eyes still set savagely on the minister,
and Cap settled down protectingly behind Margaret's chair.

Mrs. Tanner bustled in with the coffee-pot, and Mr. Tanner came last,
having just finished his rather elaborate hair-comb at the kitchen glass
with the kitchen comb, in full view of the assembled multitude. He was a
little, thin, wiry, weather-beaten man, with skin like leather and
sparse hair. Some of his teeth were missing, leaving deep hollows in his
cheeks, and his kindly protruding chin was covered with scraggy gray
whiskers, which stuck out ahead of him like a cow-catcher. He was in his
shirt-sleeves and collarless, but looked neat and clean, and he greeted
the new guest heartily before he sat down, and nodded to the minister:

"Naow, Brother West, I reckon we're ready fer your part o' the
performance. You'll please to say grace."

Mr. West bowed his sleek, yellow head and muttered a formal blessing
with an offhand manner, as if it were a mere ceremony. Bud stared
contemptuously at him the while, and Cap uttered a low rumble as of a
distant growl. Margaret felt a sudden desire to laugh, and tried to
control herself, wondering what her father would feel about it all.

The genial clatter of knives and forks broke the stiffness after the
blessing. Mrs. Tanner bustled back and forth from the stove to the
table, talking clamorously the while. Mr. Tanner joined in with his
flat, nasal twang, responding, and the minister, with an air of utter
contempt for them both, endeavored to set up a separate and altogether
private conversation with Margaret across the narrow table; but Margaret
innocently had begun a conversation with Bud about the school, and had
to be addressed by name each time before Mr. West could get her
attention. Bud, with a boy's keenness, noticed her aversion, and put
aside his own backwardness, entering into the contest with remarkably
voluble replies. The minister, if he would be in the talk at all, was
forced to join in with theirs, and found himself worsted and
contradicted by the boy at every turn.

Strange to say, however, this state of things only served to make the
man more eager to talk with the lady. She was not anxious for his
attention. Ah! She was coy, and the acquaintance was to have the zest of
being no lightly won friendship. All the better. He watched her as she
talked, noted every charm of lash and lid and curving lip; stared so
continually that she finally gave up looking his way at all, even when
she was obliged to answer his questions.

Thus, at last, the first meal in the new home was concluded, and
Margaret, pleading excessive weariness, went to her room. She felt as if
she could not endure another half-hour of contact with her present world
until she had had some rest. If the world had been just Bud and the dog
she could have stayed below stairs and found out a little more about the
new life; but with that oily-mouthed minister continually butting in
her soul was in a tumult.

When she had prepared for rest she put out her light and drew up the
shade. There before her spread the wide wonder of the heavens again,
with the soft purple of the mountain under stars; and she was carried
back to the experience of the night before with a vivid memory of her
companion. Why, just _why_ couldn't she be as interested in the minister
down there as in the wild young man? Well, she was too tired to-night to
analyze it all, and she knelt beside her window in the starlight to
pray. As she prayed her thoughts were on Lance Gardley once more, and
she felt her heart go out in longing for him, that he might find a way
to "make good," whatever his trouble had been.

As she rose to retire she heard a step below, and, looking down, saw the
minister stalking back and forth in the yard, his hands clasped behind,
his head thrown back raptly. He could not see her in her dark room, but
she pulled the shade down softly and fled to her hard little bed. Was
that man going to obsess her vision everywhere, and must she try to like
him just because he was a minister?

So at last she fell asleep.



CHAPTER VII


The next day was filled with unpacking and with writing letters home. By
dint of being very busy Margaret managed to forget the minister, who
seemed to obtrude himself at every possible turn of the day, and would
have monopolized her if she had given him half a chance.

The trunks, two delightful steamer ones, and a big packing-box with her
books, arrived the next morning and caused great excitement in the
household. Not since they moved into the new house had they seen so many
things arrive. Bud helped carry them up-stairs, while Cap ran wildly
back and forth, giving sharp barks, and the minister stood by the front
door and gave ineffectual and unpractical advice to the man who had
brought them. Margaret heard the man and Bud exchanging their opinion of
West in low growls in the hall as they entered her door, and she
couldn't help feeling that she agreed with them, though she might not
have expressed her opinion in the same terms.

The minister tapped at her door a little later and offered his services
in opening her box and unstrapping her trunks; but she told him Bud had
already performed that service for her, and thanked him with a finality
that forbade him to linger. She half hoped he heard the vicious little
click with which she locked the door after him, and then wondered if she
were wicked to feel that way. But all such compunctions were presently
forgotten in the work of making over her room.

The trunks, after they were unpacked and repacked with the things she
would not need at once, were disposed in front of the two windows with
which the ugly little room was blessed. She covered them with two Bagdad
rugs, relics of her college days, and piled several college pillows from
the packing-box on each, which made the room instantly assume a homelike
air. Then out of the box came other things. Framed pictures of home
scenes, college friends and places, pennants, and flags from football,
baseball, and basket-ball games she had attended; photographs; a few
prints of rare paintings simply framed; a roll of rose-bordered white
scrim like her curtains at home, wherewith she transformed the
blue-shaded windows and the stiff little wooden rocker, and even made a
valance and bed-cover over pink cambric for her bed. The bureau and
wash-stand were given pink and white covers, and the ugly walls
literally disappeared beneath pictures, pennants, banners, and symbols.

When Bud came up to call her to dinner she flung the door open, and he
paused in wide-eyed amazement over the transformation. His eyes kindled
at a pair of golf-sticks, a hockey-stick, a tennis-racket, and a big
basket-ball in the corner; and his whole look of surprise was so
ridiculous that she had to laugh. He looked as if a miracle had been
performed on the room, and actually stepped back into the hall to get
his breath and be sure he was still in his father's house.

"I want you to come in and see all my pictures and get acquainted with
my friends when you have time," she said. "I wonder if you could make
some more shelves for my books and help me unpack and set them up?"

"Sure!" gasped Bud, heartily, albeit with awe. She hadn't asked the
minister; she had asked _him_--_Bud!_ Just a boy! He looked around the
room with anticipation. What wonder and delight he would have looking at
all those things!

Then Cap stepped into the middle of the room as if he belonged, mouth
open, tongue lolling, smiling and panting a hearty approval, as he
looked about at the strangeness for all the world as a human being might
have done. It was plain he was pleased with the change.

There was a proprietary air about Bud during dinner that was pleasant to
Margaret and most annoying to West. It was plain that West looked on the
boy as an upstart whom Miss Earle was using for the present to block his
approach, and he was growing most impatient over the delay. He suggested
that perhaps she would like his escort to see something of her
surroundings that afternoon; but she smilingly told him that she would
be very busy all the afternoon getting settled, and when he offered
again to help her she cast a dazzling smile on Bud and said she didn't
think she would need any more help, that Bud was going to do a few
things for her, and that was all that was necessary.

Bud straightened up and became two inches taller. He passed the bread,
suggested two pieces of pie, and filled her glass of water as if she
were his partner. Mr. Tanner beamed to see his son in high favor, but
Mrs. Tanner looked a little troubled for the minister. She thought
things weren't just progressing as fast as they ought to between him and
the teacher.

Bud, with Margaret's instructions, managed to make a very creditable
bookcase out of the packing-box sawed in half, the pieces set side by
side. She covered them deftly with green burlap left over from college
days, like her other supplies, and then the two arranged the books. Bud
was delighted over the prospect of reading some of the books, for they
were not all school-books, by any means, and she had brought plenty of
them to keep her from being lonesome on days when she longed to fly back
to her home.

At last the work was done, and they stood back to survey it. The books
filled up every speck of space and overflowed to the three little
hanging shelves over them; but they were all squeezed in at last except
a pile of school-books that were saved out to take to the school-house.
Margaret set a tiny vase on the top of one part of the packing-case and
a small brass bowl on the top of the other, and Bud, after a knowing
glance, scurried away for a few minutes and brought back a handful of
gorgeous cactus blossoms to give the final touch.

"Gee!" he said, admiringly, looking around the room. "Gee! You wouldn't
know it fer the same place!"

That evening after supper Margaret sat down to write a long letter home.
She had written a brief letter, of course, the night before, but had
been too weary to go into detail. The letter read:

     DEAR MOTHER AND FATHER,--I'm unpacked and settled at last in my
     room, and now I can't stand it another minute till I talk to you.

     Last night, of course, I was pretty homesick, things all looked so
     strange and new and different. I had known they would, but then I
     didn't realize at all how different they would be. But I'm not
     getting homesick already; don't think it. I'm not a bit sorry I
     came, or at least I sha'n't be when I get started in school. One of
     the scholars is Mrs. Tanner's son, and I like him. He's crude, of
     course, but he has a brain, and he's been helping me this
     afternoon. We made a bookcase for my books, and it looks fine. I
     wish you could see it. I covered it with the green burlap, and the
     books look real happy in smiling rows over on the other side of the
     room. Bud Tanner got me some wonderful cactus blossoms for my brass
     bowl. I wish I could send you some. They are gorgeous!

     But you will want me to tell about my arrival. Well, to begin with,
     I was late getting here [Margaret had decided to leave out the
     incident of the desert altogether, for she knew by experience that
     her mother would suffer terrors all during her absence if she once
     heard of that wild adventure], which accounts for the lateness of
     the telegram I sent you. I hope its delay didn't make you worry
     any.

     A very nice young man named Mr. Gardley piloted me to Mrs. Tanner's
     house and looked after my trunks for me. He is from the East. It
     was fortunate for me that he happened along, for he was most kind
     and gentlemanly and helpful. Tell Jane not to worry lest I'll fall
     in love with him; he doesn't live here. He belongs to a ranch or
     camp or something twenty-five miles away. She was so afraid I'd
     fall in love with an Arizona man and not come back home.

     Mrs. Tanner is very kind and motherly according to her lights. She
     has given me the best room in the house, and she talks a blue
     streak. She has thin, brown hair turning gray, and she wears it in
     a funny little knob on the tip-top of her round head to correspond
     with the funny little tuft of hair on her husband's protruding
     chin. Her head is set on her neck like a clothes-pin, only she is
     squattier than a clothes-pin. She always wears her sleeves rolled
     up (at least so far she has) and she always bustles around noisily
     and apologizes for everything in the jolliest sort of way. I would
     like her, I guess, if it wasn't for the other boarder; but she has
     quite made up her mind that I shall like him, and I don't, of
     course, so she is a bit disappointed in me so far.

     Mr. Tanner is very kind and funny, and looks something like a
     jack-knife with the blades half-open. He never disagrees with Mrs.
     Tanner, and I really believe he's in love with her yet, though they
     must have been married a good while. He calls her "Ma," and seems
     restless unless she's in the room. When she goes out to the kitchen
     to get some more soup or hash or bring in the pie, he shouts
     remarks at her all the time she's gone, and she answers, utterly
     regardless of the conversation the rest of the family are carrying
     on. It's like a phonograph wound up for the day.

     Bud Tanner is about fourteen, and I like him. He's well developed,
     strong, and almost handsome; at least he would be if he were fixed
     up a little. He has fine, dark eyes and a great shock of dark hair.
     He and I are friends already. And so is the dog. The dog is a
     peach! Excuse me, mother, but I just must use a little of the dear
     old college slang somewhere, and your letters are the only
     safety-valve, for I'm a schoolmarm now and must talk "good and
     proper" all the time, you know.

     The dog's name is Captain, and he looks the part. He has
     constituted himself my bodyguard, and it's going to be very nice
     having him. He's perfectly devoted already. He's a great, big,
     fluffy fellow with keen, intelligent eyes, sensitive ears, and a
     tail like a spreading plume. You'd love him, I know. He has a smile
     like the morning sunshine.

     And now I come to the only other member of the family, the boarder,
     and I hesitate to approach the topic, because I have taken one of
     my violent and naughty dislikes to him, and--awful thought--mother!
     father! _he's a minister!_ Yes, he's a _Presbyterian minister_! I
     know it will make you feel dreadfully, and I thought some of not
     telling you, but my conscience hurt me so I had to. I just can't
     _bear_ him, so there! Of course, I may get over it, but I don't see
     how ever, for I can't think of anything that's more like him than
     _soft soap_! Oh yes, there is one other word. Grandmother used to
     use it about men she hadn't any use for, and that was "squash."
     Mother, I can't help it, but he does seem something like a squash.
     One of that crook-necked, yellow kind with warts all over it, and a
     great, big, splurgy vine behind it to account for its being there
     at all. Insipid and thready when it's cooked, you know, and has to
     have a lot of salt and pepper and butter to make it go down at all.
     Now I've told you the worst, and I'll try to describe him and see
     what you think I'd better do about it. Oh, he isn't the regular
     minister here, or missionary--I guess they call him. He's located
     quite a distance off, and only comes once a month to preach here,
     and, anyhow, _he's_ gone East now to take his wife to a hospital
     for an operation, and won't be back for a couple of months,
     perhaps, and this man isn't even taking his place. He's just here
     for his health or for fun or something, I guess. He says he had a
     large suburban church near New York, and had a nervous breakdown;
     but I've been wondering if he didn't make a mistake, and it wasn't
     the church had the nervous breakdown instead. He isn't very big nor
     very little; he's just insignificant. His hair is like wet straw,
     and his eyes like a fish's. His hand feels like a dead toad when
     you have to shake hands, which I'm thankful doesn't have to be done
     but once. He looks at you with a flat, sickening grin. He has an
     acquired double chin, acquired to make him look pompous, and he
     dresses stylishly and speaks of the inhabitants of this country
     with contempt. He wants to be very affable, and offers to take me
     to all sorts of places, but so far I've avoided him. I can't think
     how they ever came to let him be a minister--I really can't! And
     yet, I suppose it's all my horrid old prejudice, and father will be
     grieved and you will think I am perverse. But, really, I'm sure
     he's not one bit like father was when he was young. I never saw a
     minister like him. Perhaps I'll get over it. I do sometimes, you
     know, so don't begin to worry yet. I'll try real hard. I suppose
     he'll preach Sunday, and then, perhaps, his sermon will be grand
     and I'll forget how soft-soapy he looks and think only of his great
     thoughts.

     But I know it will be a sort of comfort to you to know that there
     is a Presbyterian minister in the house with me, and I'll really
     try to like him if I can.

     There's nothing to complain of in the board. It isn't luxurious, of
     course, but I didn't expect that. Everything is very plain, but
     Mrs. Tanner manages to make it taste good. She makes fine
     corn-bread, almost as good as yours--not quite.

     My room is all lovely, now that I have covered its bareness with my
     own things, but it has one great thing that can't compare with
     anything at home, and that is its view. It is wonderful! I wish I
     could make you see it. There is a mountain at the end of it that
     has as many different garments as a queen. To-night, when sunset
     came, it grew filmy as if a gauze of many colors had dropped upon
     it and melted into it, and glowed and melted until it turned to
     slate blue under the wide, starred blue of the wonderful night sky,
     and all the dark about was velvet. Last night my mountain was all
     pink and silver, and I have seen it purple and rose. But you can't
     think the wideness of the sky, and I couldn't paint it for you with
     words. You must see it to understand. A great, wide, dark sapphire
     floor just simply ravished with stars like big jewels!

     But I must stop and go to bed, for I find the air of this country
     makes me very sleepy, and my wicked little kerosene-lamp is
     smoking. I guess you would better send me my student-lamp, after
     all, for I'm surely going to need it.

     Now I must turn out the light and say good night to my mountain,
     and then I will go to sleep thinking of you. Don't worry about the
     minister. I'm very polite to him, but I shall never--_no,
     never_--fall in love with _him_--tell Jane.

                                                Your loving little girl,
                                                     MARGARET.



CHAPTER VIII


Margaret had arranged with Bud to take her to the school-house the next
morning, and he had promised to have a horse hitched up and ready at ten
o'clock, as it seemed the school was a magnificent distance from her
boarding-place. In fact, everything seemed to be located with a view to
being as far from everywhere else as possible. Even the town was
scattering and widespread and sparse.

When she came down to breakfast she was disappointed to find that Bud
was not there, and she was obliged to suffer a breakfast tête-à-tête
with West. By dint, however, of asking him questions instead of allowing
him to take the initiative, she hurried through her breakfast quite
successfully, acquiring a superficial knowledge of her fellow-boarder
quite distant and satisfactory. She knew where he spent his college days
and at what theological seminary he had prepared for the ministry. He
had served three years in a prosperous church of a fat little suburb of
New York, and was taking a winter off from his severe, strenuous
pastoral labors to recuperate his strength, get a new stock of sermons
ready, and possibly to write a book of some of his experiences. He
flattened his weak, pink chin learnedly as he said this, and tried to
look at her impressively. He said that he should probably take a large
city church as his next pastorate when his health was fully recuperated.
He had come out to study the West and enjoy its freedom, as he
understood it was a good place to rest and do as you please unhampered
by what people thought. He wanted to get as far away from churches and
things clerical as possible. He felt it was due himself and his work
that he should. He spoke of the people he had met in Arizona as a kind
of tamed savages, and Mrs. Tanner, sitting behind her coffee-pot for a
moment between bustles, heard his comments meekly and looked at him with
awe. What a great man he must be, and how fortunate for the new teacher
that he should be there when she came!

Margaret drew a breath of relief as she hurried away from the
breakfast-table to her room. She was really anticipating the ride to the
school with Bud. She liked boys, and Bud had taken her fancy. But when
she came down-stairs with her hat and sweater on she found West standing
out in front, holding the horse.

"Bud had to go in another direction, Miss Earle," he said, touching his
hat gracefully, "and he has delegated to me the pleasant task of driving
you to the school."

Dismay filled Margaret's soul, and rage with young Bud. He had deserted
her and left her in the hands of the enemy! And she had thought he
understood! Well, there was nothing for it but to go with this man, much
as she disliked it. Her father's daughter could not be rude to a
minister.

She climbed into the buckboard quickly to get the ceremony over, for her
escort was inclined to be too officious about helping her in, and
somehow she couldn't bear to have him touch her. Why was it that she
felt so about him? Of course he must be a good man.

West made a serious mistake at the very outset of that ride. He took it
for granted that all girls like flattery, and he proceeded to try it on
Margaret. But Margaret did not enjoy being told how delighted he was to
find that instead of the loud, bold "old maid" he had expected, she had
turned out to be "so beautiful and young and altogether congenial"; and,
coolly ignoring his compliments, she began a fire of questions again.

She asked about the country, because that was the most obvious topic of
conversation. What plants were those that grew by the wayside? She found
he knew greasewood from sage-brush, and that was about all. To some of
her questions he hazarded answers that were absurd in the light of the
explanations given her by Gardley two days before. However, she
reflected that he had been in the country but a short time, and that he
was by nature a man not interested in such topics. She tried religious
matters, thinking that here at least they must have common interests.
She asked him what he thought of Christianity in the West as compared
with the East. Did he find these Western people more alive and awake to
the things of the Kingdom?

West gave a startled look at the clear profile of the young woman beside
him, thought he perceived that she was testing him on his clerical side,
flattened his chin in his most learned, self-conscious manner, cleared
his throat, and put on wisdom.

"Well, now, Miss Earle," he began, condescendingly, "I really don't know
that I have thought much about the matter. Ah--you know I have been
resting absolutely, and I really haven't had opportunity to study the
situation out here in detail; but, on the whole, I should say that
everything was decidedly primitive; yes--ah--I might say--ah--well,
crude. Yes, _crude_ in the extreme! Why, take it in this mission
district. The missionary who is in charge seems to be teaching the most
absurd of the old dogmas such as our forefathers used to teach. I
haven't met him, of course. He is in the East with his wife for a time.
I am told she had to go under some kind of an operation. I have never
met him, and really don't care to do so; but to judge from all I hear,
he is a most unfit man for a position of the kind. For example, he is
teaching such exploded doctrines as the old view of the atonement, the
infallibility of the Scriptures, the deity of Christ, belief in
miracles, and the like. Of course, in one sense it really matters very
little what the poor Indians believe, or what such people as the Tanners
are taught. They have but little mind, and would scarcely know the
difference; but you can readily see that with such a primitive,
unenlightened man at the head of religious affairs, there could scarcely
be much broadening and real religious growth. Ignorance, of course,
holds sway out here. I fancy you will find that to be the case soon
enough. What in the world ever led you to come to a field like this to
labor? Surely there must have been many more congenial places open to
such as you." He leaned forward and cast a sentimental glance at her,
his eyes looking more "fishy" than ever.

"I came out here because I wanted to get acquainted with this great
country, and because I thought there was an opportunity to do good,"
said Margaret, coldly. She did not care to discuss her own affairs with
this man. "But, Mr. West, I don't know that I altogether understand you.
Didn't you tell me that you were a Presbyterian minister?"

"I certainly did," he answered, complacently, as though he were honoring
the whole great body of Presbyterians by making the statement.

"Well, then, what in the world did you mean? All Presbyterians, of
course, believe in the infallibility of the Scriptures and the deity of
Jesus--and the atonement!"

"Not necessarily," answered the young man, loftily. "You will find, my
dear young lady, that there is a wide, growing feeling in our church in
favor of a broader view. The younger men, and the great student body of
our church, have thrown to the winds all their former beliefs and are
ready to accept new light with open minds. The findings of science have
opened up a vast store of knowledge, and all thinking men must
acknowledge that the old dogmas are rapidly vanishing away. Your father
doubtless still holds to the old faith, perhaps, and we must be lenient
with the older men who have done the best they could with the light they
had; but all younger, broad-minded men are coming to the new way of
looking at things. We have had enough of the days of preaching hell-fire
and damnation. We need a religion of love to man, and good works. You
should read some of the books that have been written on this subject if
you care to understand. I really think it would be worth your while. You
look to me like a young woman with a mind. I have a few of the latest
with me. I shall be glad to read and discuss them with you if you are
interested."

"Thank you, Mr. West," said Margaret, coolly, though her eyes burned
with battle. "I think I have probably read most of those books and
discussed them with my father. He may be old, but he is not without
'light,' as you call it, and he always believed in knowing all that the
other side was saying. He brought me up to look into these things for
myself. And, anyhow, I should not care to read and discuss any of these
subjects with a man who denies the deity of my Saviour and does not
believe in the infallibility of the Bible. It seems to me you have
nothing left--"

"Ah! Well--now--my dear young lady--you mustn't misjudge me! I should be
sorry indeed to shake your faith, for an innocent faith is, of course, a
most beautiful thing, even though it may be unfounded."

"Indeed, Mr. West, that would not be possible. You could not shake my
faith in my Christ, because _I know Him_. If I had not ever felt His
presence, nor been guided by His leading, such words might possibly
trouble me, but having seen 'Him that is invisible,' _I know_."
Margaret's voice was steady and gentle. It was impossible for even that
man not to be impressed by her words.

"Well, let us not quarrel about it," he said, indulgently, as to a
little child. "I'm sure you have a very charming way of stating it, and
I'm not sure that it is not a relief to find a woman of the
old-fashioned type now and then. It really is man's place to look into
these deeper questions, anyway. It is woman's sphere to live and love
and make a happy home--"

His voice took on a sentimental purr, and Margaret was fairly boiling
with rage at him; but she would not let her temper give way, especially
when she was talking on the sacred theme of the Christ. She felt as if
she must scream or jump out over the wheel and run away from this
obnoxious man, but she knew she would do neither. She knew she would sit
calmly through the expedition and somehow control that conversation.
There was one relief, anyway. Her father would no longer expect respect
and honor and liking toward a minister who denied the very life and
foundation of his faith.

"It can't be possible that the school-house is so far from the town,"
she said, suddenly looking around at the widening desert in front of
them. "Haven't you made some mistake?"

"Why, I thought we should have the pleasure of a little drive first,"
said West, with a cunning smile. "I was sure you would enjoy seeing the
country before you get down to work, and I was not averse myself to a
drive in such delightful company."

"I would like to go back to the school-house at once, please," said
Margaret, decidedly, and there was that in her voice that caused the man
to turn the horse around and head it toward the village.

"Why, yes, of course, if you prefer to see the school-house first, we
can go back and look it over, and then, perhaps, you will like to ride a
little farther," he said. "We have plenty of time. In fact, Mrs. Tanner
told me she would not expect us home to dinner, and she put a very
promising-looking basket of lunch under the seat for us in case we got
hungry before we came back."

"Thank you," said Margaret, quite freezingly now. "I really do not care
to drive this morning. I would like to see the school-house, and then I
must return to the house at once. I have a great many things to do this
morning."

Her manner at last penetrated even the thick skin of the self-centered
man, and he realized that he had gone a step too far in his attentions.
He set himself to undo the mischief, hoping perhaps to melt her yet to
take the all-day drive with him. But she sat silent during the return to
the village, answering his volubility only by yes or no when absolutely
necessary. She let him babble away about college life and tell incidents
of his late pastorate, at some of which he laughed immoderately; but he
could not even bring a smile to her dignified lips.

He hoped she would change her mind when they got to the school building,
and he even stooped to praise it in a kind of contemptuous way as they
drew up in front of the large adobe building.

"I suppose you will want to go through the building," he said, affably,
producing the key from his pocket and putting on a pleasant anticipatory
smile, but Margaret shook her head. She simply would not go into the
building with that man.

"It is not necessary," she said again, coldly. "I think I will go home
now, please." And he was forced to turn the horse toward the Tanner
house, crestfallen, and wonder why this beautiful girl was so extremely
hard to win. He flattered himself that he had always been able to
interest any girl he chose. It was really quite a bewildering type. But
he would win her yet.

He set her down silently at the Tanner door and drove off, lunch-basket
and all, into the wilderness, vexed that she was so stubbornly
unfriendly, and pondering how he might break down the dignity wherewith
she had surrounded herself. There would be a way and he would find it.
There was a stubbornness about that weak chin of his, when one observed
it, and an ugliness in his pale-blue eye; or perhaps you would call it a
hardness.



CHAPTER IX


She watched him furtively from her bedroom window, whither she had fled
from Mrs. Tanner's exclamations. He wore his stylish derby tilted down
over his left eye and slightly to one side in a most unministerial
manner, showing too much of his straw-colored back hair, which rose in a
cowlick at the point of contact with the hat, and he looked a small,
mean creature as he drove off into the vast beauty of the plain.
Margaret, in her indignation, could not help comparing him with the
young man who had ridden away from the house two days before.

And he to set up to be a minister of Christ's gospel and talk like that
about the Bible and Christ! Oh, what was the church of Christ coming to,
to have ministers like that? How ever did he get into the ministry,
anyway? Of course, she knew there were young men with honest doubts who
sometimes slid through nowadays, but a mean little silly man like that?
How ever did he get in? What a lot of ridiculous things he had said! He
was one of those described in the Bible who "darken counsel with words."
He was not worth noticing. And yet, what a lot of harm he could do in an
unlearned community. Just see how Mrs. Tanner hung upon his words, as
though they were law and gospel! How _could_ she?

Margaret found herself trembling yet over the words he had spoken about
Christ, the atonement, and the faith. They meant so much to her and to
her mother and father. They were not mere empty words of tradition that
she believed because she had been taught. She had lived her faith and
proved it; and she could not help feeling it like a personal insult to
have him speak so of her Saviour. She turned away and took her Bible to
try and get a bit of calmness.

She fluttered the leaves for something--she could not just tell
what--and her eye caught some of the verses that her father had marked
for her before she left home for college, in the days when he was
troubled for her going forth into the world of unbelief.

     As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in
     him: Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as
     ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware
     lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after
     the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not
     after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead
     bodily....

How the verses crowded upon one another, standing out clearly from the
pages as she turned them, marked with her father's own hand in clear ink
underlinings. It almost seemed as if God had looked ahead to these times
and set these words down just for the encouragement of his troubled
servants who couldn't understand why faith was growing dim. God knew
about it, had known it would be, all this doubt, and had put words here
just for troubled hearts to be comforted thereby.

     For I know whom I have believed [How her heart echoed to that
     statement!], and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I
     have committed unto him against that day.

And on a little further:

     Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal,
     The Lord knoweth them that are his.

There was a triumphant look to the words as she read them.

Then over in Ephesians her eye caught a verse that just seemed to fit
that poor blind minister:

     Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of
     God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness
     of their heart.

And yet he was set to guide the feet of the blind into the way of life!
And he had looked on her as one of the ignorant. Poor fellow! He
couldn't know the Christ who was her Saviour or he never would have
spoken in that way about Him. What could such a man preach? What was
there left to preach, but empty words, when one rejected all these
doctrines? Would she have to listen to a man like that Sunday after
Sunday? Did the scholars in her school, and their parents, and the young
man out at the camp, and his rough, simple-hearted companions have to
listen to preaching from that man, when they listened to any? Her heart
grew sick within her, and she knelt beside her bed for a strengthening
word with the Christ who since her little childhood had been a very
real presence in her life.

When she arose from her knees she heard the kitchen door slam
down-stairs and the voice of Bud calling his mother. She went to her
door and opened it, listening a moment, and then called the boy.

There was a dead silence for an instant after her voice was heard, and
then Bud appeared at the foot of the stairs, very frowning as to brow,
and very surly as to tone:

"What d'ye want?"

It was plain that Bud was "sore."

"Bud,"--Margaret's voice was sweet and a bit cool as she leaned over the
railing and surveyed the boy; she hadn't yet got over her compulsory
ride with that minister--"I wanted to ask you, please, next time you
can't keep an appointment with me don't ask anybody else to take your
place. I prefer to pick out my own companions. It was all right, of
course, if you had to go somewhere else, but I could easily have gone
alone or waited until another time. I'd rather not have you ask Mr. West
to go anywhere with me again."

Bud's face was a study. It cleared suddenly and his jaw dropped in
surprise; his eyes fairly danced with dawning comprehension and
pleasure, and then his brow drew down ominously.

"I never ast him," he declared, vehemently. "He told me you wanted him
to go, and fer me to get out of the way 'cause you didn't want to hurt
my feelings. Didn't you say nothing to him about it at all this
morning?"

"No, indeed!" said Margaret, with flashing eyes.

"Well, I just thought he was that kind of a guy. I told ma he was lying,
but she said I didn't understand young ladies, and, of course, you
didn't want me when there was a man, and especially a preacher, round.
Some preacher he is! This 's the second time I've caught him lying. I
think he's the limit. I just wish you'd see our missionary. If he was
here he'd beat the dust out o' that poor stew. _He's_ some man, he is.
He's a regular white man, _our missionary_! Just you wait till _he_ gets
back."

Margaret drew a breath of relief. Then the missionary was a real man,
after all. Oh, for his return!

"Well, I'm certainly very glad it wasn't your fault, Bud. I didn't feel
very happy to be turned off that way," said the teacher, smiling down
upon the rough head of the boy.

"You bet it wasn't my fault!" said the boy, vigorously. "I was sore's a
pup at you, after you'd made a date and all, to do like that; but I
thought if you wanted to go with that guy it was up to you."

"Well, I didn't and I don't. You'll please understand hereafter that I'd
always rather have your company than his. How about going down to the
school-house some time to-day? Have you time?"

"Didn't you go yet?" The boy's face looked as if he had received a
kingdom, and his voice had a ring of triumph.

"We drove down there, but I didn't care to go in without you, so we came
back."

"Wanta go now?" The boy's face fairly shone.

"I'd love to. I'll be ready in three minutes. Could we carry some books
down?"

"Sure! Oh--gee! That guy's got the buckboard. We'll have to walk.
Doggone him!"

"I shall enjoy a walk. I want to find out just how far it is, for I
shall have to walk every day, you know."

"No, you won't, neither, 'nless you wanta. I c'n always hitch up."

"That'll be very nice sometimes, but I'm afraid I'd get spoiled if you
babied me all the time that way. I'll be right down."

They went out together into the sunshine and wideness of the morning,
and it seemed a new day had been created since she got back from her
ride with the minister. She looked at the sturdy, honest-eyed boy beside
her, and was glad to have him for a companion.

Just in front of the school-house Margaret paused. "Oh, I forgot! The
key! Mr. West has the key in his pocket! We can't get in, can we?"

"Aw, we don't need a key," said her escort. "Just you wait!" And he
whisked around to the back of the building, and in about three minutes
his shock head appeared at the window. He threw the sash open and
dropped out a wooden box. "There!" he said, triumphantly, "you c'n climb
up on that, cantcha? Here, I'll holdya steady. Take holta my hand."

And so it was through the front window that the new teacher of the Ridge
School first appeared on her future scene of action and surveyed her
little kingdom.

Bud threw open the shutters, letting the view of the plains and the
sunshine into the big, dusty room, and showed her the new blackboard
with great pride.

"There's a whole box o' chalk up on the desk, too; 'ain't never been
opened yet. Dad said that was your property. Want I should open it?"

"Why, yes, you might, and then we'll try the blackboard, won't we?"

Bud went to work gravely opening the chalk-box as if it were a small
treasure-chest, and finally produced a long, smooth stick of chalk and
handed it to her with shining eyes.

"You try it first, Bud," said the teacher, seeing his eagerness; and the
boy went forward awesomely, as if it were a sacred precinct and he
unworthy to intrude.

Shyly, awkwardly, with infinite painstaking, he wrote in a cramped hand,
"William Budlong Tanner," and then, growing bolder, "Ashland, Arizona,"
with a big flourish underneath.

"Some class!" he said, standing back and regarding his handiwork with
pride. "Say, I like the sound the chalk makes on it, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," said Margaret, heartily, "so smooth and business-like,
isn't it? You'll enjoy doing examples in algebra on it, won't you?"

"Good night! Algebra! Me? No chance. I can't never get through the
arithmetic. The last teacher said if he'd come back twenty years from
now he'd still find me working compound interest."

"Well, we'll prove to that man that he wasn't much of a judge of boys,"
said Margaret, with a tilt of her chin and a glint of her teacher-mettle
showing in her eyes. "If you're not in algebra before two months are
over I'll miss my guess. We'll get at it right away and show him."

Bud watched her, charmed. He was beginning to believe that almost
anything she tried would come true.

"Now, Bud, suppose we get to work. I'd like to get acquainted with my
class a little before Monday. Isn't it Monday school opens? I thought
so. Well, suppose you give me the names of the scholars and I'll write
them down, and that will help me to remember them. Where will you begin?
Here, suppose you sit down in the front seat and tell me who sits there
and a little bit about him, and I'll write the name down; and then you
move to the next seat and tell me about the next one, and so on. Will
you?"

"Sure!" said Bud, entering into the new game. "But it ain't a 'he' sits
there. It's Susie Johnson. She's Bill Johnson's smallest girl. She has
to sit front 'cause she giggles so much. She has yellow curls and she
ducks her head down and snickers right out this way when anything funny
happens in school." And Bud proceeded to duck and wriggle in perfect
imitation of the small Susie.

Margaret saw the boy's power of imitation was remarkable, and laughed
heartily at his burlesque. Then she turned and wrote "Susie Johnson" on
the board in beautiful script.

Bud watched with admiration, saying softly under his breath; "Gee!
that's great, that blackboard, ain't it?"

Amelia Schwartz came next. She was long and lank, with the buttons off
the back of her dress, and hands and feet too large for her garments.
Margaret could not help but see her in the clever pantomime the boy
carried on. Next was Rosa Rogers, daughter of a wealthy cattleman, the
pink-cheeked, blue-eyed beauty of the school, with all the boys at her
feet and a perfect knowledge of her power over them. Bud didn't, of
course, state it that way, but Margaret gathered as much from his
simpering smile and the coy way he looked out of the corner of his eyes
as he described her.

Down the long list of scholars he went, row after row, and when he came
to the seats where the boys sat his tone changed. She could tell by the
shading of his voice which boys were the ones to look out for.

Jed Brower, it appeared, was a name to conjure with. He could ride any
horse that ever stood on four legs, he could outshoot most of the boys
in the neighborhood, and he never allowed any teacher to tell him what
to do. He was Texas Brower's only boy, and always had his own way. His
father was on the school board. Jed Brower was held in awe, even while
his methods were despised, by some of the younger boys. He was big and
powerful, and nobody dared fool with him. Bud did not exactly warn
Margaret that she must keep on the right side of Jed Brower, but he
conveyed that impression without words. Margaret understood. She knew
also that Tad Brooks, Larry Parker, Jim Long, and Dake Foster were
merely henchmen of the worthy Jed, and not negligible quantities when
taken by themselves. But over the name of Timothy Forbes--"Delicate
Forbes," Bud explained was his nickname--the boy lingered with that
loving inflection of admiration that a younger boy will sometimes have
for a husky, courageous older lad. The second time Bud spoke of him he
called him "Forbeszy," and Margaret perceived that here was Bud's model
of manhood. Delicate Forbes could outshoot and outride even Jed Brower
when he chose, and his courage with cattle was that of a man. Moreover,
he was good to the younger boys and wasn't above pitching baseball with
them when he had nothing better afoot. It became evident from the
general description that Delicate Forbes was not called so from any lack
of inches to his stature. He had a record of having licked every man
teacher in the school, and beaten by guile every woman teacher they had
had in six years. Bud was loyal to his admiration, yet it could be
plainly seen that he felt Margaret's greatest hindrance in the school
would be Delicate Forbes.

Margaret mentally underlined the names in her memory that belonged to
the back seats in the first and second rows of desks, and went home
praying that she might have wisdom and patience to deal with Jed Brower
and Timothy Forbes, and through them to manage the rest of her school.

She surprised Bud at the dinner-table by handing him a neat diagram of
the school-room desks with the correct names of all but three or four of
the scholars written on them. Such a feat of memory raised her several
notches in his estimation.

"Say, that's going some! Guess you won't forget nothing, no matter how
much they try to make you."



CHAPTER X


The minister did not appear until late in the evening, after Margaret
had gone to her room, for which she was sincerely thankful. She could
hear his voice, fretful and complaining, as he called loudly for Bud to
take the horse. It appeared he had lost his way and wandered many miles
out of the trail. He blamed the country for having no better trails, and
the horse for not being able to find his way better. Mr. Tanner had gone
to bed, but Mrs. Tanner bustled about and tried to comfort him.

"Now that's too bad! Dearie me! Bud oughta hev gone with you, so he
ought. Bud! _Oh_, Bud, you 'ain't gonta sleep yet, hev you? Wake up and
come down and take this horse to the barn."

But Bud declined to descend. He shouted some sleepy directions from his
loft where he slept, and said the minister could look after his own
horse, he "wasn'ta gonta!" There was "plentya corn in the bin."

The minister grumbled his way to the barn, highly incensed at Bud, and
disturbed the calm of the evening view of Margaret's mountain by his
complaints when he returned. He wasn't accustomed to handling horses,
and he thought Bud might have stayed up and attended to it himself. Bud
chuckled in his loft and stole down the back kitchen roof while the
minister ate his late supper. Bud would never leave the old horse to
that amateur's tender mercies, but he didn't intend to make it easy for
the amateur. Margaret, from her window-seat watching the night in the
darkness, saw Bud slip off the kitchen roof and run to the barn, and she
smiled to herself. She liked that boy. He was going to be a good
comrade.

The Sabbath morning dawned brilliantly, and to the homesick girl there
suddenly came a sense of desolation on waking. A strange land was this,
without church-bells or sense of Sabbath fitness. The mountain, it is
true, greeted her with a holy light of gladness, but mountains are not
dependent upon humankind for being in the spirit on the Lord's day. They
are "continually praising Him." Margaret wondered how she was to get
through this day, this dreary first Sabbath away from her home and her
Sabbath-school class, and her dear old church with father preaching. She
had been away, of course, a great many times before, but never to a
churchless community. It was beginning to dawn upon her that that was
what Ashland was--a churchless community. As she recalled the walk to
the school and the ride through the village she had seen nothing that
looked like a church, and all the talk had been of the missionary. They
must have services of some sort, of course, and probably that flabby,
fish-eyed man, her fellow-boarder, was to preach; but her heart turned
sick at thought of listening to a man who had confessed to the
unbeliefs that he had. Of course, he would likely know enough to keep
such doubts to himself; but he had told her, and nothing he could say
now would help or uplift her in the least.

She drew a deep sigh and looked at her watch. It was late. At home the
early Sabbath-school bells would be ringing, and little girls in white,
with bunches of late fall flowers for their teachers, and holding hands
with their little brothers, would be hurrying down the street. Father
was in his study, going over his morning sermon, and mother putting her
little pearl pin in her collar, getting ready to go to her Bible class.
Margaret decided it was time to get up and stop thinking of it all.

She put on a little white dress that she wore to church at home and
hurried down to discover what the family plans were for the day, but
found, to her dismay, that the atmosphere below-stairs was just like
that of other days. Mr. Tanner sat tilted back in a dining-room chair,
reading the weekly paper, Mrs. Tanner was bustling in with hot
corn-bread, Bud was on the front-door steps teasing the dog, and the
minister came in with an air of weariness upon him, as if he quite
intended taking it out on his companions that he had experienced a
trying time on Saturday. He did not look in the least like a man who
expected to preach in a few minutes. He declined to eat his egg because
it was cooked too hard, and poor Mrs. Tanner had to try it twice before
she succeeded in producing a soft-boiled egg to suit him. Only the
radiant outline of the great mountain, which Margaret could see over the
minister's head, looked peaceful and Sabbath-like.

"What time do you have service?" Margaret asked, as she rose from the
table.

"Service?" It was Mr. Tanner who echoed her question as if he did not
quite know what she meant.

Mrs. Tanner raised her eyes from her belated breakfast with a worried
look, like a hen stretching her neck about to see what she ought to do
next for the comfort of the chickens under her care. It was apparent
that she had no comprehension of what the question meant. It was the
minister who answered, condescendingly:

"Um! Ah! There is no church edifice here, you know, Miss Earle. The
mission station is located some miles distant."

"I know," said Margaret, "but they surely have some religious service?"

"I really don't know," said the minister, loftily, as if it were
something wholly beneath his notice.

"Then you are not going to preach this morning?" In spite of herself
there was relief in her tone.

"Most certainly not," he replied, stiffly. "I came out here to rest, and
I selected this place largely because it was so far from a church. I
wanted to be where I should not be annoyed by requests to preach. Of
course, ministers from the East would be a curiosity in these Western
towns, and I should really get no rest at all if I had gone where my
services would have been in constant demand. When I came out here I was
in much the condition of our friend the minister of whom you have
doubtless heard. He was starting on his vacation, and he said to a
brother minister, with a smile of joy and relief, 'No preaching, no
praying, no reading of the Bible for six whole weeks!'"

"Indeed!" said Margaret, freezingly. "No, I am not familiar with
ministers of that sort." She turned with dismissal in her manner and
appealed to Mrs. Tanner. "Then you really have no Sabbath service of any
sort whatever in town?" There was something almost tragic in her face.
She stood aghast at the prospect before her.

Mrs. Tanner's neck stretched up a little longer, and her lips dropped
apart in her attempt to understand the situation. One would scarcely
have been surprised to hear her say, "Cut-cut-cut-ca-daw-cut?" so
fluttered did she seem.

Then up spoke Bud. "We gotta Sunday-school, ma!" There was pride of
possession in Bud's tone, and a kind of triumph over the minister,
albeit Bud had adjured Sunday-school since his early infancy. He was
ready now, however, to be offered on the altar of Sunday-school, even,
if that would please the new teacher--and spite the minister. "I'll take
you ef you wanta go." He looked defiantly at the minister as he said it.

But at last Mrs. Tanner seemed to grasp what was the matter.
"Why!--why!--why! You mean preaching service!" she clucked out. "Why,
yes, Mr. West, wouldn't that be fine? You could preach for us. We could
have it posted up at the saloon and the crossings, and out a ways on
both trails, and you'd have quite a crowd. They'd come from over to the
camp, and up the cañon way, and roundabouts. They'd do you credit, they
surely would, Mr. West. And you could have the school-house for a
meeting-house. Pa, there, is one of the school board. There wouldn't be
a bit of trouble--"

"Um! Ah! Mrs. Tanner, I assure you it's quite out of the question. I
told you I was here for absolute rest. I couldn't think of preaching.
Besides, it's against my principles to preach without remuneration. It's
a wrong idea. The workman is worthy of his hire, you know, Mrs. Tanner,
the Good Book says." Mr. West's tone took on a self-righteous
inflection.

"Oh! Ef that's all, that 'u'd be all right!" she said, with relief. "You
could take up a collection. The boys would be real generous. They always
are when any show comes along. They'd appreciate it, you know, and I'd
like fer Miss Earle here to hear you preach. It 'u'd be a real treat to
her, her being a preacher's daughter and all." She turned to Margaret
for support, but that young woman was talking to Bud. She had promptly
closed with his offer to take her to Sunday-school, and now she hurried
away to get ready, leaving Mrs. Tanner to make her clerical arrangements
without aid.

The minister, meantime, looked after her doubtfully. Perhaps, after all,
it would have been a good move to have preached. He might have impressed
that difficult young woman better that way than any other, seeing she
posed as being so interested in religious matters. He turned to Mrs.
Tanner and began to ask questions about the feasibility of a church
service. The word "collection" sounded good to him. He was not averse to
replenishing his somewhat depleted treasury if it could be done so
easily as that.

Meantime Margaret, up in her room, was wondering again how such a man as
Mr. West ever got into the Christian ministry.

West was still endeavoring to impress the Tanners with the importance of
his late charge in the East as Margaret came down-stairs. His pompous
tones, raised to favor the deafness that he took for granted in Mr.
Tanner, easily reached her ears.

"I couldn't, of course, think of doing it every Sunday, you understand.
It wouldn't be fair to myself nor my work which I have just left; but,
of course, if there were sufficient inducement I might consent to preach
some Sunday before I leave."

Mrs. Tanner's little satisfied cluck was quite audible as the girl
closed the front door and went out to the waiting Bud.

The Sunday-school was a desolate affair, presided over by an elderly and
very illiterate man, who nursed his elbows and rubbed his chin
meditatively between the slow questions which he read out of the
lesson-leaf. The woman who usually taught the children was called away
to nurse a sick neighbor, and the children were huddled together in a
restless group. The singing was poor, and the whole of the exercises
dreary, including the prayer. The few women present sat and stared in a
kind of awe at the visitor, half belligerently, as if she were an
intruder. Bud lingered outside the door and finally disappeared
altogether, reappearing when the last hymn was sung. Altogether the new
teacher felt exceedingly homesick as she wended her way back to the
Tanners' beside Bud.

"What do you do with yourself on Sunday afternoons, Bud?" she asked, as
soon as they were out of hearing of the rest of the group.

The boy turned wondering eyes toward her. "Do?" he repeated, puzzled.
"Why, we pass the time away, like 'most any day. There ain't much
difference."

A great desolation possessed her. No church! Worse than no minister! No
Sabbath! What kind of a land was this to which she had come?

The boy beside her smelled of tobacco smoke. He had been off somewhere
smoking while she was in the dreary little Sunday-school. She looked at
his careless boy-face furtively as they walked along. He smoked, of
course, like most boys of his age, probably, and he did a lot of other
things he ought not to do. He had no interest in God or righteousness,
and he did not take it for granted that the Sabbath was different from
any other day. A sudden heart-sinking came upon her. What was the use of
trying to do anything for such as he? Why not give it up now and go back
where there was more promising material to work upon and where she would
be welcome indeed? Of course, she had known things would be
discouraging, but somehow it had seemed different from a distance. It
all looked utterly hopeless now, and herself crazy to have thought she
could do any good in a place like this.

And yet the place needed somebody! That pitiful little Sunday-school!
How forlorn it all was! She was almost sorry she had gone. It gave her
an unhappy feeling for the morrow, which was to be her first day of
school.

Then, all suddenly, just as they were nearing the Tanner house, there
came one riding down the street with all the glory of the radiant
morning in his face, and a light in his eyes at seeing her that lifted
away her desolation, for here at last was a friend!

She wondered at herself. An unknown stranger, and a self-confessed
failure so far in his young life, and yet he seemed so good a sight to
her amid these uncongenial surroundings!



CHAPTER XI


This stranger of royal bearing, riding a rough Western pony as if it
were decked with golden trappings, with his bright hair gleaming like
Roman gold in the sun, and his blue-gray eyes looking into hers with the
gladness of his youth; this one who had come to her out of the
night-shadows of the wilderness and led her into safety! Yes, she was
glad to see him.

He dismounted and greeted her, his wide hat in his hand, his eyes upon
her face, and Bud stepped back, watching them in pleased surprise. This
was the man who had shot all the lights out the night of the big riot in
the saloon. He had also risked his life in a number of foolish ways at
recent festal carouses. Bud would not have been a boy had he not admired
the young man beyond measure; and his boy worship of the teacher yielded
her to a fitting rival. He stepped behind and walked beside the pony,
who was following his master meekly, as though he, too, were under the
young man's charm.

"Oh, and this is my friend, William Tanner," spoke Margaret, turning
toward the boy loyally, (Whatever good angel made her call him William?
Bud's soul swelled with new dignity as he blushed and acknowledged the
introduction by a grin.)

"Glad to know you, Will," said the new-comer, extending his hand in a
hearty shake that warmed the boy's heart in a trice. "I'm glad Miss
Earle has so good a protector. You'll have to look out for her. She's
pretty plucky and is apt to stray around the wilderness by herself. It
isn't safe, you know, boy, for such as her. Look after her, will you?"

"Right I will," said Bud, accepting the commission as if it were
Heaven-sent, and thereafter walked behind the two with his head in the
clouds. He felt that he understood this great hero of the plains and was
one with him at heart. There could be no higher honor than to be the
servitor of this man's lady. Bud did not stop to question how the new
teacher became acquainted with the young rider of the plains. It was
enough that both were young and handsome and seemed to belong together.
He felt they were fitting friends.

The little procession walked down the road slowly, glad to prolong the
way. The young man had brought her handkerchief, a filmy trifle of an
excuse that she had dropped behind her chair at the bunk-house, where it
had lain unnoticed till she was gone. He produced it from his inner
pocket, as though it had been too precious to carry anywhere but over
his heart, yet there was in his manner nothing presuming, not a hint of
any intimacy other than their chance acquaintance of the wilderness
would warrant. He did not look at her with any such look as West had
given every time he spoke to her. She felt no desire to resent his
glance when it rested upon her almost worshipfully, for there was
respect and utmost humility in his look.

The men had sent gifts: some arrow-heads and a curiously fashioned
vessel from the cañon of the cave-dwellers; some chips from the
petrified forest; a fern with wonderful fronds, root and all; and a
sheaf of strange, beautiful blossoms carefully wrapped in wet paper, and
all fastened to the saddle.

Margaret's face kindled with interest as he showed them to her one by
one, and told her the history of each and a little message from the man
who had sent it. Mom Wallis, too, had baked a queer little cake and sent
it. The young man's face was tender as he spoke of it. The girl saw that
he knew what her coming had meant to Mom Wallis. Her memory went quickly
back to those few words the morning she had wakened in the bunk-house
and found the withered old woman watching her with tears in her eyes.
Poor Mom Wallis, with her pretty girlhood all behind her and such a
blank, dull future ahead! Poor, tired, ill-used, worn-out Mom Wallis!
Margaret's heart went out to her.

"They want to know," said the young man, half hesitatingly, "if some
time, when you get settled and have time, you would come to them again
and sing? I tried to make them understand, of course, that you would be
busy, your time taken with other friends and your work, and you would
not want to come; but they wanted me to tell you they never enjoyed
anything so much in years as your singing. Why, I heard Long Jim singing
'Old Folks at Home' this morning when he was saddling his horse. And
it's made a difference. The men sort of want to straighten up the
bunk-room. Jasper made a new chair yesterday. He said it would do when
you came again." Gardley laughed diffidently, as if he knew their hopes
were all in vain.

But Margaret looked up with sympathy in her face, "I'll come! Of course
I'll come some time," she said, eagerly. "I'll come as soon as I can
arrange it. You tell them we'll have more than one concert yet."

The young man's face lit up with a quick appreciation, and the flash of
his eyes as he looked at her would have told any onlooker that he felt
here was a girl in a thousand, a girl with an angel spirit, if ever such
a one walked the earth.

Now it happened that Rev. Frederick West was walking impatiently up and
down in front of the Tanner residence, looking down the road about that
time. He had spent the morning in looking over the small bundle of "show
sermons" he had brought with him in case of emergency, and had about
decided to accede to Mrs. Tanner's request and preach in Ashland before
he left. This decision had put him in so self-satisfied a mood that he
was eager to announce it before his fellow-boarder. Moreover, he was
hungry, and he could not understand why that impudent boy and that
coquettish young woman should remain away at Sunday-school such an
interminable time.

Mrs. Tanner was frying chicken. He could smell it every time he took a
turn toward the house. It really was ridiculous that they should keep
dinner waiting this way. He took one more turn and began to think over
the sermon he had decided to preach. He was just recalling a
particularly eloquent passage when he happened to look down the road
once more, and there they were, almost upon him! But Bud was no longer
walking with the maiden. She had acquired a new escort, a man of broad
shoulders and fine height. Where had he seen that fellow before? He
watched them as they came up, his small, pale eyes narrowing under their
yellow lashes with a glint of slyness, like some mean little animal that
meant to take advantage of its prey. It was wonderful how many different
things that man could look like for a person as insignificant as he
really was!

Well, he saw the look between the man and maiden; the look of sympathy
and admiration and a fine kind of trust that is not founded on mere
outward show, but has found some hidden fineness of the soul. Not that
the reverend gentleman understood that, however. He had no fineness of
soul himself. His mind had been too thoroughly taken up with himself all
his life for him to have cultivated any.

Simultaneous with the look came his recognition of the man or, at least,
of where he had last seen him, and his little soul rejoiced at the
advantage he instantly recognized.

He drew himself up importantly, flattened his chin upward until his
lower lip protruded in a pink roll across his mouth, drew down his
yellow brows in a frown of displeasure, and came forward mentor-like to
meet the little party as it neared the house. He had the air of coming
to investigate and possibly oust the stranger, and he looked at him
keenly, critically, offensively, as if he had the right to protect the
lady. They might have been a pair of naughty children come back from a
forbidden frolic, from the way he surveyed them. But the beauty of it
was that neither of them saw him, being occupied with each other, until
they were fairly upon him. Then, there he stood offensively, as if he
were a great power to be reckoned with.

"Well, well, well, Miss Margaret, you have got home at last!" he said,
pompously and condescendingly, and then he looked into the eyes of her
companion as if demanding an explanation of _his_ presence there.

Margaret drew herself up haughtily. His use of her Christian name in
that familiar tone annoyed her exceedingly. Her eyes flashed
indignantly, but the whole of it was lost unless Bud saw it, for Gardley
had faced his would-be adversary with a keen, surprised scrutiny, and
was looking him over coolly. There was that in the young man's eye that
made the eye of Frederick West quail before him. It was only an instant
the two stood challenging each other, but in that short time each knew
and marked the other for an enemy. Only a brief instant and then Gardley
turned to Margaret, and before she had time to think what to say, he
asked:

"Is this man a friend of yours, Miss _Earle_?" with marked emphasis on
the last word.

"No," said Margaret, coolly, "not a friend--a boarder in the house."
Then most formally, "Mr. West, my _friend_ Mr. Gardley."

If the minister had not been possessed of the skin of a rhinoceros he
would have understood himself to be dismissed at that; but he was not a
man accustomed to accepting dismissal, as his recent church in New York
State might have testified. He stood his ground, his chin flatter than
ever, his little eyes mere slits of condemnation. He did not acknowledge
the introduction by so much as the inclination of his head. His hands
were clasped behind his back, and his whole attitude was one of
righteous belligerence.

Gardley gazed steadily at him for a moment, a look of mingled contempt
and amusement gradually growing upon his face. Then he turned away as if
the man were too small to notice.

"You will come in and take dinner with me?" asked Margaret, eagerly. "I
want to send a small package to Mrs. Wallis if you will be so good as to
take it with you."

"I'm sorry I can't stay to dinner, but I have an errand in another
direction and at some distance. I am returning this way, however, and,
if I may, will call and get the package toward evening."

Margaret's eyes spoke her welcome, and with a few formal words the young
man sprang on his horse, said, "So long, Will!" to Bud, and, ignoring
the minister, rode away.

They watched him for an instant, for, indeed, he was a goodly sight upon
a horse, riding as if he and the horse were utterly one in spirit; then
Margaret turned quickly to go into the house.

"Um! Ah! Miss Margaret!" began the minister, with a commandatory gesture
for her to stop.

Margaret was the picture of haughtiness as she turned and said, "Miss
_Earle_, if you please!"

"Um! Ah! Why, certainly, Miss--ah--_Earle_, if you wish it. Will you
kindly remain here for a moment? I wish to speak with you. Bud, you may
go on."

"I'll go when I like, and it's none of your business!" muttered Bud,
ominously, under his breath. He looked at Margaret to see if she wished
him to go. He had an idea that this might be one of the times when he
was to look after her.

She smiled at him understandingly. "William may remain, Mr. West," she
said, sweetly. "Anything you have to say to me can surely be said in his
presence," and she laid her hand lightly on Bud's sleeve.

Bud looked down at the hand proudly and grew inches taller enjoying the
minister's frown.

"Um! Ah!" said West, unabashed. "Well, I merely wished to warn you
concerning the character of that person who has just left us. He is
really not a proper companion for you. Indeed, I may say he is quite the
contrary, and that to my personal knowledge--"

"He's as good as you are and better!" growled Bud, ominously.

"Be quiet, boy! I wasn't speaking to you!" said West, as if he were
addressing a slave. "If I hear another word from your lips I shall
report it to your father!"

"Go 's far 's you like and see how much I care!" taunted Bud, but was
stopped by Margaret's gentle pressure on his arm.

"Mr. West, I thought I made you understand that Mr. Gardley is my
friend."

"Um! Ah! Miss Earle, then all I have to say is that you have formed a
most unwise friendship, and should let it proceed no further. Why, my
dear young lady, if you knew all there is to know about him you would
not think of speaking to that young man."

"Indeed! Mr. West, I suppose that might be true of a good many people,
might it not, _if we knew all there is to know about them_? Nobody but
God could very well get along with some of us."

"But, my dear young lady, you don't understand. This young person is
nothing but a common ruffian, a gambler, in fact, and an habitué at the
saloons. I have seen him myself sitting in a saloon at a very late hour
playing with a vile, dirty pack of cards, and in the company of a lot of
low-down creatures--"

"May I ask how you came to be in a saloon at that hour, Mr. West?" There
was a gleam of mischief in the girl's eyes, and her mouth looked as if
she were going to laugh, but she controlled it.

The minister turned very red indeed. "Well, I--ah--I had been called
from my bed by shouts and the report of a pistol. There was a fight
going on in the room adjoining the bar, and I didn't know but my
assistance might be needed!" (At this juncture Bud uttered a sort of
snort and, placing his hands over his heart, ducked down as if a sudden
pain had seized him.) "But imagine my pain and astonishment when I was
informed that the drunken brawl I was witnessing was but a nightly and
common occurrence. I may say I remained for a few minutes, partly out of
curiosity, as I wished to see all kinds of life in this new world for
the sake of a book I am thinking of writing. I therefore took careful
note of the persons present, and was thus able to identify the person
who has just ridden away as one of the chief factors in that evening's
entertainment. He was, in fact, the man who, when he had pocketed all
the money on the gaming-table, arose and, taking out his pistol, shot
out the lights in the room, a most dangerous and irregular proceeding--"

"Yes, and you came within an ace of being shot, pa says. The Kid's a
dead shot, he is, and you were right in the way. Served you right for
going where you had no business!"

"I did not remain longer in that place, as you may imagine," went on West,
ignoring Bud, "for I found it was no place for a--for--a--ah--minister
of the gospel; but I remained long enough to hear from the lips of this
person with whom you have just been walking some of the most terrible
language my ears have ever been permitted to--ah--witness!"

But Margaret had heard all that she intended to listen to on that
subject. With decided tone she interrupted the voluble speaker, who was
evidently enjoying his own eloquence.

"Mr. West, I think you have said all that it is necessary to say. There
are still some things about Mr. Gardley that you evidently do not know,
but I think you are in a fair way to learn them if you stay in this part
of the country long. William, isn't that your mother calling us to
dinner? Let us go in; I'm hungry."

Bud followed her up the walk with a triumphant wink at the discomfited
minister, and they disappeared into the house; but when Margaret went
up to her room and took off her hat in front of the little warped
looking-glass there were angry tears in her eyes. She never felt more
like crying in her life. Chagrin and anger and disappointment were all
struggling in her soul, yet she must not cry, for dinner would be ready
and she must go down. Never should that mean little meddling man see
that his words had pierced her soul.

For, angry as she was at the minister, much as she loathed his petty,
jealous nature and saw through his tale-bearing, something yet told her
that his picture of young Gardley's wildness was probably true, and her
soul sank within her at the thought. It was just what had come in
shadowy, instinctive fear to her heart when he had hinted at his being a
"roughneck," yet to have it put baldly into words by an enemy hurt her
deeply, and she looked at herself in the glass half frightened.
"Margaret Earle, have you come out to the wilderness to lose your heart
to the first handsome sower of wild oats that you meet?" her true eyes
asked her face in the glass, and Margaret Earle's heart turned sad at
the question and shrank back. Then she dropped upon her knees beside her
gay little rocking-chair and buried her face in its flowered cushions
and cried to her Father in heaven:

"Oh, my Father, let me not be weak, but with all my heart I cry to Thee
to save this young, strong, courageous life and not let it be a failure.
Help him to find Thee and serve Thee, and if his life has been all
wrong--and I suppose it has--oh, make it right for Jesus' sake! If there
is anything that I can do to help, show me how, and don't let me make
mistakes. Oh, Jesus, Thy power is great. Let this young man feel it and
yield himself to it."

She remained silently praying for a moment more, putting her whole soul
into the prayer and knowing that she had been called thus to pray for
him until her prayer was answered.

She came down to dinner a few minutes later with a calm, serene face, on
which was no hint of her recent emotion, and she managed to keep the
table conversation wholly in her own hands, telling Mr. Tanner about her
home town and her father and mother. When the meal was finished the
minister had no excuse to think that the new teacher was careless about
her friends and associates, and he was well informed about the high
principles of her family.

But West had retired into a sulky mood and uttered not a word except to
ask for more chicken and coffee and a second helping of pie. It was,
perhaps, during that dinner that he decided it would be best for him to
preach in Ashland on the following Sunday. The young lady could be
properly impressed with his dignity in no other way.



CHAPTER XII


When Lance Gardley came back to the Tanners' the sun was preparing the
glory of its evening setting, and the mountain was robed in all its
rosiest veils.

Margaret was waiting for him, with the dog Captain beside her, wandering
back and forth in the unfenced dooryard and watching her mountain. It
was a relief to her to find that the minister occupied a room on the
first floor in a kind of ell on the opposite side of the house from her
own room and her mountain. He had not been visible that afternoon, and
with Captain by her side and Bud on the front-door step reading _The Sky
Pilot_ she felt comparatively safe. She had read to Bud for an hour and
a half, and he was thoroughly interested in the story; but she was sure
he would keep the minister away at all costs. As for Captain, he and the
minister were sworn enemies by this time. He growled every time West
came near or spoke to her.

She made a picture standing with her hand on Captain's shaggy, noble
head, the lace of her sleeve falling back from the white arm, her other
hand raised to shade her face as she looked away to the glorified
mountain, a slim, white figure looking wistfully off at the sunset. The
young man took off his hat and rode his horse more softly, as if in the
presence of the holy.

The dog lifted one ear, and a tremor passed through his frame as the
rider drew near; otherwise he did not stir from his position; but it was
enough. The girl turned, on the alert at once, and met him with a smile,
and the young man looked at her as if an angel had deigned to smile upon
him. There was a humility in his fine face that sat well with the
courage written there, and smoothed away all hardness for the time, so
that the girl, looking at him in the light of the revelations of the
morning, could hardly believe it had been true, yet an inner fineness of
perception taught her that it was.

The young man dismounted and left his horse standing quietly by the
roadside. He would not stay, he said, yet lingered by her side, talking
for a few minutes, watching the sunset and pointing out its changes.

She gave him the little package for Mom Wallis. There was a simple lace
collar in a little white box, and a tiny leather-bound book done in
russet suède with gold lettering.

"Tell her to wear the collar and think of me whenever she dresses up."

"I'm afraid that'll never be, then," said the young man, with a pitying
smile. "Mom Wallis never dresses up."

"Tell her I said she must dress up evenings for supper, and I'll make
her another one to change with that and bring it when I come."

He smiled upon her again, that wondering, almost worshipful smile, as if
he wondered if she were real, after all, so different did she seem from
his idea of girls.

"And the little book," she went on, apologetically; "I suppose it was
foolish to send it, but something she said made me think of some of the
lines in the poem. I've marked them for her. She reads, doesn't she?"

"A little, I think. I see her now and then read the papers that Pop
brings home with him. I don't fancy her literary range is very wide,
however."

"Of course, I suppose it is ridiculous! And maybe she'll not understand
any of it; but tell her I sent her a message. She must see if she can
find it in the poem. Perhaps you can explain it to her. It's Browning's
'Rabbi Ben Ezra.' You know it, don't you?"

"I'm afraid not. I was intent on other things about the time when I was
supposed to be giving my attention to Browning, or I wouldn't be what I
am to-day, I suppose. But I'll do my best with what wits I have. What's
it about? Couldn't you give me a pointer or two?"

"It's the one beginning:

    "Grow old along with me!
    The best is yet to be,
    The last of life, for which the first was made:
    Our times are in His hand
    Who saith, 'A whole I planned,
    Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor
    be afraid!'"

He looked down at her still with that wondering smile. "Grow old along
with you!" he said, gravely, and then sighed. "You don't look as if you
ever would grow old."

"That's it," she said, eagerly. "That's the whole idea. We don't ever
grow old and get done with it all, we just go on to bigger things, wiser
and better and more beautiful, till we come to understand and be a part
of the whole great plan of God!"

He did not attempt an answer, nor did he smile now, but just looked at
her with that deeply quizzical, grave look as if his soul were turning
over the matter seriously. She held her peace and waited, unable to find
the right word to speak. Then he turned and looked off, an infinite
regret growing in his face.

"That makes living a different thing from the way most people take it,"
he said, at last, and his tone showed that he was considering it deeply.

"Does it?" she said, softly, and looked with him toward the sunset,
still half seeing his quiet profile against the light. At last it came
to her that she must speak. Half fearfully she began: "I've been
thinking about what you said on the ride. You said you didn't make good.
I--wish you would. I--I'm sure you could--"

She looked up wistfully and saw the gentleness come into his face as if
the fountain of his soul, long sealed, had broken up, and as if he saw a
possibility before him for the first time through the words she had
spoken.

At last he turned to her with that wondering smile again. "Why should
you care?" he asked. The words would have sounded harsh if his tone had
not been so gentle.

Margaret hesitated for an answer. "I don't know how to tell it," she
said, slowly. "There's another verse, a few lines more in that poem,
perhaps you know them?--

    'All I never could be, All, men ignored in me,
    This I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.'

I want it because--well, perhaps because I feel you are worth all that
to God. I would like to see you be that."

He looked down at her again, and was still so long that she felt she had
failed miserably.

"I hope you will excuse my speaking," she added. "I--It seems there are
so many grand possibilities in life, and for you--I couldn't bear to
have you say you hadn't made good, as if it were all over."

"I'm glad you spoke," he said, quickly. "I guess perhaps I have been all
kinds of a fool. You have made me feel how many kinds I have been."

"Oh no!" she protested.

"You don't know what I have been," he said, sadly, and then with sudden
conviction, as if he read her thoughts: "You _do_ know! That prig of a
parson has told you! Well, it's just as well you should know. It's
right!"

A wave of misery passed over his face and erased all its brightness and
hope. Even the gentleness was gone. He looked haggard and drawn with
hopelessness all in a moment.

"Do you think it would matter to me--_anything_ that man would say?" she
protested, all her woman's heart going out in pity.

"But it was true, all he said, probably, and more--"

"It doesn't matter," she said, eagerly. "The other is true, too. Just as
the poem says, 'All that man ignores in you, just that you are worth to
God!' And you _can_ be what He meant you to be. I have been praying all
the afternoon that He would help you to be."

"Have you?" he said, and his eyes lit up again as if the altar-fires of
hope were burning once more. "Have you? I thank you."

"You came to me when I was lost in the wilderness," she said, shyly. "I
wanted to help _you_ back--if--I might."

"You will help--you have!" he said, earnestly. "And I was far enough off
the trail, too, but if there's any way to get back I'll get there." He
grasped her hand and held it for a second. "Keep up that praying," he
said. "I'll see what can be done."

Margaret looked up. "Oh, I'm so glad, so glad!"

He looked reverently into her eyes, all the manhood in him stirred to
higher, better things. Then, suddenly, as they stood together, a sound
smote their ears as from another world.

"Um! Ah!--"

The minister stood within the doorway, barred by Bud in scowling
defiance, and guarded by Cap, who gave an answering growl.

Gardley and Margaret looked at each other and smiled, then turned and
walked slowly down to where the pony stood. They did not wish to talk
here in that alien presence. Indeed, it seemed that more words were not
needed--they would be a desecration.

So he rode away into the sunset once more with just another look and a
hand-clasp, and she turned, strangely happy at heart, to go back to her
dull surroundings and her uncongenial company.

"Come, William, let's have a praise service," she said, brightly,
pausing at the doorway, but ignoring the scowling minister.

"A praise service! What's a praise service?" asked the wondering Bud,
shoving over to let her sit down beside him.

She sat with her back to West, and Cap came and lay at her feet with the
white of one eye on the minister and a growl ready to gleam between his
teeth any minute. There was just no way for the minister to get out
unless he jumped over them or went out the back door; but the people in
the doorway had the advantage of not having to look at him, and he
couldn't very well dominate the conversation standing so behind them.

"Why, a praise service is a service of song and gladness, of course. You
sing, don't you? Of course. Well, what shall we sing? Do you know this?"
And she broke softly into song:

    "When peace like a river attendeth my way;
    When sorrows like sea-billows roll;
    Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul."

Bud did not know the song, but he did not intend to be balked with the
minister standing right behind him, ready, no doubt, to jump in and take
the precedence; so he growled away at a note in the bass, turning it
over and over and trying to make it fit, like a dog gnawing at a bare
bone; but he managed to keep time and make it sound a little like
singing.

The dusk was falling fast as they finished the last verse, Margaret
singing the words clear and distinct, Bud growling unintelligibly and
snatching at words he had never heard before. Once more Margaret sang:

    "Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
    The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide!
    When other refuge fails and comforts flee,
    Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!"

Out on the lonely trail wending his way toward the purple mountain--the
silent way to the bunk-house at the camp--in that clear air where sound
travels a long distance the traveler heard the song, and something
thrilled his soul. A chord that never had been touched in him before was
vibrating, and its echoes would be heard through all his life.

On and on sang Margaret, just because she could not bear to stop and
hear the commonplace talk which would be about her. Song after song
thrilled through the night's wideness. The stars came out in thick
clusters. Father Tanner had long ago dropped his weekly paper and tilted
his chair back against the wall, with his eyes half closed to listen,
and his wife had settled down comfortably on the carpet sofa, with her
hands nicely folded in her lap, as if she were at church. The minister,
after silently surveying the situation for a song or two, attempted to
join his voice to the chorus. He had a voice like a cross-cut saw, but
he didn't do much harm in the background that way, though Cap did growl
now and then, as if it put his nerves on edge. And by and by Mr. Tanner
quavered in with a note or two.

Finally Margaret sang:

    "Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear,
    It is not night if Thou art near,
    Oh, may no earth-born cloud arise
    To hide Thee from Thy servant's eyes."

During this hymn the minister had slipped out the back door and gone
around to the front of the house. He could not stand being in the
background any longer; but as the last note died away Margaret arose
and, bidding Bud good night, slipped up to her room.

There, presently, beside her darkened window, with her face toward the
mountain, she knelt to pray for the wanderer who was trying to find his
way out of the wilderness.



CHAPTER XIII


Monday morning found Margaret at the school-house nerved for her new
task.

One by one the scholars trooped in, shyly or half defiantly, hung their
hats on the hooks, put their dinner-pails on the shelf, looked furtively
at her, and sank into their accustomed seats; that is, the seats they
had occupied during the last term of school. The big boys remained
outside until Bud, acting under instructions from Margaret--after she
had been carefully taught the ways of the school by Bud himself--rang
the big bell. Even then they entered reluctantly and as if it were a
great condescension that they came at all, Jed and "Delicate" coming in
last, with scarcely a casual glance toward the teacher's desk, as if she
were a mere fraction in the scheme of the school. She did not need to be
told which was Timothy and which was Jed. Bud's description had been
perfect. Her heart, by the way, instantly went out to Timothy. Jed was
another proposition. He had thick, overhanging eyebrows, and a mouth
that loved to make trouble and laugh over it. He was going to be hard to
conquer. She wasn't sure the conquering would be interesting, either.

Margaret stood by the desk, watching them all with a pleasant smile. She
did not frown at the unnecessary shuffling of feet nor the loud remarks
of the boys as they settled into their seats. She just stood and watched
them interestedly, as though her time had not yet come.

Jed and Timothy were carrying on a rumbling conversation. Even after
they took their seats they kept it up. It was no part of their plan to
let the teacher suppose they saw her or minded her in the least. They
were the dominating influences in that school, and they wanted her to
know it, right at the start; then a lot of trouble would be saved. If
they didn't like her and couldn't manage her they didn't intend she
should stay, and she might as well understand that at once.

Margaret understood it fully. Yet she stood quietly and watched them
with a look of deep interest on her face and a light almost of mischief
in her eyes, while Bud grew redder and redder over the way his two idols
were treating the new teacher. One by one the school became aware of the
twinkle in the teacher's eyes, and grew silent to watch, and one by one
they began to smile over the coming scene when Jed and Timothy should
discover it, and, worst of all, find out that it was actually directed
against them. They would expect severity, or fear, or a desire to
placate; but a twinkle--it was more than the school could decide what
would happen under such circumstances. No one in that room would ever
dare to laugh at either of those two boys. But the teacher was almost
laughing now, and the twinkle had taken the rest of the room into the
secret, while she waited amusedly until the two should finish the
conversation.

The room grew suddenly deathly still, except for the whispered growls of
Jed and Timothy, and still the silence deepened, until the two young
giants themselves perceived that it was time to look up and take account
of stock.

The perspiration by this time was rolling down the back of Bud's neck.
He was about the only one in the room who was not on a broad grin, and
he was wretched. What a fearful mistake the new teacher was making right
at the start! She was antagonizing the two boys who held the whole
school in their hands. There was no telling what they wouldn't do to her
now. And he would have to stand up for her. Yes, no matter what they
did, he would stand up for her! Even though he lost his best friends, he
must be loyal to her; but the strain was terrible! He did not dare to
look at them, but fastened his eyes upon Margaret, as if keeping them
glued there was his only hope. Then suddenly he saw her face break into
one of the sweetest, merriest smiles he ever witnessed, with not one
single hint of reproach or offended dignity in it, just a smile of
comradeship, understanding, and pleasure in the meeting; and it was
directed to the two seats where Jed and Timothy sat.

With wonder he turned toward the two big boys, and saw, to his
amazement, an answering smile upon their faces; reluctant, 'tis true,
half sheepish at first, but a smile with lifted eyebrows of astonishment
and real enjoyment of the joke.

A little ripple of approval went round in half-breathed syllables, but
Margaret gave no time for any restlessness to start. She spoke at once,
in her pleasantest partnership tone, such as she had used to Bud when
she asked him to help her build her bookcase. So she spoke now to that
school, and each one felt she was speaking just to him especially, and
felt a leaping response in his soul. Here, at least, was something new
and interesting, a new kind of teacher. They kept silence to listen.

"Oh, I'm not going to make a speech now," she said, and her voice
sounded glad to them all. "I'll wait till we know one another before I
do that. I just want to say how do you do to you, and tell you how glad
I am to be here. I hope we shall like one another immensely and have a
great many good times together. But we've got to get acquainted first,
of course, and perhaps we'd better give most of the time to that to-day.
First, suppose we sing something. What shall it be? What do you sing?"

Little Susan Johnson, by virtue of having seen the teacher at
Sunday-school, made bold to raise her hand and suggest, "Thar-thpangle
Banner, pleath!" And so they tried it; but when Margaret found that only
a few seemed to know the words, she said, "Wait!" Lifting her arm with a
pretty, imperative gesture, and taking a piece of chalk from the box on
her desk, she went to the new blackboard that stretched its shining
black length around the room.

The school was breathlessly watching the graceful movement of the
beautiful hand and arm over the smooth surface, leaving behind it the
clear, perfect script. Such wonderful writing they had never seen; such
perfect, easy curves and twirls. Every eye in the room was fastened on
her, every breath was held as they watched and spelled out the words one
by one. "Gee!" said Bud, softly, under his breath, nor knew that he had
spoken, but no one else moved.

"Now," she said, "let us sing," and when they started off again
Margaret's strong, clear soprano leading, every voice in the room
growled out the words and tried to get in step with the tune.

They had gone thus through two verses when Jed seemed to think it was
about time to start something. Things were going altogether too smoothly
for an untried teacher, if she _was_ handsome and unabashed. If they
went on like this the scholars would lose all respect for him. So, being
quite able to sing a clear tenor, he nevertheless puckered his lips
impertinently, drew his brows in an ominous frown, and began to whistle
a somewhat erratic accompaniment to the song. He watched the teacher
closely, expecting to see the color flame in her cheeks, the anger flash
in her eyes; he had tried this trick on other teachers and it always
worked. He gave the wink to Timothy, and he too left off his glorious
bass and began to whistle.

But instead of the anger and annoyance they expected, Margaret turned
appreciative eyes toward the two back seats, nodding her head a trifle
and smiling with her eyes as she sang; and when the verse was done she
held up her hand for silence and said:

"Why, boys, that's beautiful! Let's try that verse once more, and you
two whistle the accompaniment a little stronger in the chorus; or how
would it do if you just came in on the chorus? I believe that would be
more effective. Let's try the first verse that way; you boys sing during
the verse and then whistle the chorus just as you did now. We really
need your voices in the verse part, they are so strong and splendid.
Let's try it now." And she started off again, the two big astonished
fellows meekly doing as they were told, and really the effect was
beautiful. What was their surprise when the whole song was finished to
have her say, "Now everybody whistle the chorus softly," and then pucker
up her own soft lips to join in. That completely finished the whistling
stunt. Jed realized that it would never work again, not while she was
here, for she had turned the joke into beauty and made them all enjoy
it. It hadn't annoyed her in the least.

Somehow by that time they were all ready for anything she had to
suggest, and they watched again breathlessly as she wrote another song
on the blackboard, taking the other side of the room for it, and this
time a hymn--"I Need Thee Every Hour."

When they began to sing it, however, Margaret found the tune went
slowly, uncertainly.

"Oh, how we need a piano!" she exclaimed. "I wonder if we can't get up
an entertainment and raise money to buy one. How many will help?"

Every hand in the place went up, Jed's and Timothy's last and only a
little way, but she noted with triumph that they went up.

"All right; we'll do it! Now let's sing that verse correctly." And she
began to sing again, while they all joined anxiously in, really trying
to do their best.

The instant the last verse died away, Margaret's voice took their
attention.

"Two years ago in Boston two young men, who belonged to a little group
of Christian workers who were going around from place to place holding
meetings, sat talking together in their room in the hotel one evening."

There was instant quiet, a kind of a breathless quiet. This was not like
the beginning of any lesson any other teacher had ever given them. Every
eye was fixed on her.

"They had been talking over the work of the day, and finally one of them
suggested that they choose a Bible verse for the whole year--"

There was a movement of impatience from one back seat, as if Jed had
scented an incipient sermon, but the teacher's voice went steadily on:

"They talked it over, and at last they settled on II Timothy ii:15. They
made up their minds to use it on every possible occasion. It was time to
go to bed, so the man whose room adjoined got up and, instead of saying
good night, he said, 'Well, II Timothy ii:15,' and went to his room.
Pretty soon, when he put out his light, he knocked on the wall and
shouted 'II Timothy ii:15,' and the other man responded, heartily, 'All
right, II Timothy ii:15.' The next morning when they wrote their letters
each of them wrote 'II Timothy ii:15' on the lower left-hand corner of
the envelope, and sent out a great handful of letters to all parts of
the world. Those letters passed through the Boston post-office, and some
of the clerks who sorted them saw that queer legend written down in the
lower left-hand corner of the envelope, and they wondered at it, and one
or two wrote it down, to look it up afterward. The letters reached
other cities and were put into the hands of mail-carriers to distribute,
and they saw the queer little sentence, 'II Timothy ii:15,' and they
wondered, and some of them looked it up."

By this time the entire attention of the school was upon the story, for
they perceived that it was a story.

"The men left Boston and went across the ocean to hold meetings in other
cities, and one day at a little railway station in Europe a group of
people were gathered, waiting for a train, and those two men were among
them. Pretty soon the train came, and one of the men got on the back end
of the last car, while the other stayed on the platform, and as the
train moved off the man on the last car took off his hat and said, in a
good, loud, clear tone, 'Well, take care of yourself, II Timothy ii:15,'
and the other one smiled and waved his hat and answered, 'Yes, II
Timothy ii:15.' The man on the train, which was moving fast now, shouted
back, 'II Timothy ii:15,' and the man on the platform responded still
louder, waving his hat, 'II Timothy ii:15,' and back and forth the queer
sentence was flung until the train was too far away for them to hear
each other's voices. In the mean time all the people on the platform had
been standing there listening and wondering what in the world such a
strange salutation could mean. Some of them recognized what it was, but
many did not know, and yet the sentence was said over so many times that
they could not help remembering it; and some went away to recall it and
ask their friends what it meant. A young man from America was on that
platform and heard it, and he knew it stood for a passage in the Bible,
and his curiosity was so great that he went back to his boarding-house
and hunted up the Bible his mother had packed in his trunk when he came
away from home, and he hunted through the Bible until he found the
place, 'II Timothy ii:15,' and read it; and it made him think about his
life and decide that he wasn't doing as he ought to do. I can't tell you
all the story about that queer Bible verse, how it went here and there
and what a great work it did in people's hearts; but one day those
Christian workers went to Australia to hold some meetings, and one
night, when the great auditorium was crowded, a man who was leading the
meeting got up and told the story of this verse, how it had been chosen,
and how it had gone over the world in strange ways, even told about the
morning at the little railway station when the two men said good-by.
Just as he got to that place in his story a man in the audience stood up
and said: 'Brother, just let me say a word, please. I never knew
anything about all this before, but I was at that railway station, and I
heard those two men shout that strange good-by, and I went home and read
that verse, and it's made a great difference in my life.'

"There was a great deal more to the story, how some Chicago policemen
got to be good men through reading that verse, and how the story of the
Australia meetings was printed in an Australian paper and sent to a lady
in America who sent it to a friend in England to read about the
meetings. And this friend in England had a son in the army in India, to
whom she was sending a package, and she wrapped it around something in
that package, and the young man read all about it, and it helped to
change his life. Well, I thought of that story this morning when I was
trying to decide what to read for our opening chapter, and it occurred
to me that perhaps you would be interested to take that verse for our
school verse this term, and so if you would like it I will put it on the
blackboard. Would you like it, I wonder?"

She paused wistfully, as if she expected an answer, and there was a low,
almost inaudible growl of assent; a keen listener might almost have said
it had an impatient quality in it, as if they were in a hurry to find
out what the verse was that had made such a stir in the world.

"Very well," said Margaret, turning to the board; "then I'll put it
where we all can see it, and while I write it will you please say over
where it is, so that you will remember it and hunt it up for yourselves
in your Bibles at home?"

There was a sort of snicker at that, for there were probably not half a
dozen Bibles, if there were so many, represented in that school; but
they took her hint as she wrote, and chanted, "II Timothy ii:15, II
Timothy ii:15," and then spelled out after her rapid crayon, "Study to
show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be
ashamed."

They read it together at her bidding, with a wondering, half-serious
look in their faces, and then she said, "Now, shall we pray?"

The former teacher had not opened her school with prayer. It had never
been even suggested in that school. It might have been a dangerous
experiment if Margaret had attempted it sooner in her program. As it
was, there was a shuffling of feet in the back seats at her first word;
but the room, grew quiet again, perhaps out of curiosity to hear a
woman's voice in prayer:

"Our Heavenly Father, we want to ask Thee to bless us in our work
together, and to help us to be such workmen that we shall not need to be
ashamed to show our work to Thee at the close of the day. For Christ's
sake we ask it. Amen."

They did not have time to resent that prayer before she had them
interested in something else. In fact, she had planned her whole first
day out so that there should not be a minute for misbehavior. She had
argued that if she could just get time to become acquainted with them
she might prevent a lot of trouble before it ever started. Her first
business was to win her scholars. After that she could teach them easily
if they were once willing to learn.

She had a set of mental arithmetic problems ready which she propounded
to them next, some of them difficult and some easy enough for the
youngest child who could think, and she timed their answers and wrote on
the board the names of those who raised their hands first and had the
correct answers. The questions were put in a fascinating way, many of
them having curious little catches in them for the scholars who were not
on the alert, and Timothy presently discovered this and set himself to
get every one, coming off victorious at the end. Even Jed roused
himself and was interested, and some of the girls quite distinguished
themselves.

When a half-hour of this was over she put the word "TRANSFIGURATION" on
the blackboard, and set them to playing a regular game out of it. If
some of the school-board had come in just then they might have lifted up
hands of horror at the idea of the new teacher setting the whole school
to playing a game. But they certainly would have been delightfully
surprised to see a quiet and orderly room with bent heads and knit
brows, all intent upon papers and pencils. Never before in the annals of
that school had the first day held a full period of quiet or
orderliness. It was expected to be a day of battle; a day of trying out
the soul of the teacher and proving whether he or she were worthy to
cope with the active minds and bodies of the young bullies of Ashland.
But the expected battle had been forgotten. Every mind was busy with the
matter in hand.

Margaret had given them three minutes to write as many words as they
could think of, of three letters or more, beginning with T, and using
only the letters in the word she had put on the board. When time was
called there was a breathless rush to write a last word, and then each
scholar had to tell how many words he had, and each was called upon to
read his list. Some had only two or three, some had ten or eleven. They
were allowed to mark their words, counting one for each person present
who did not have that word and doubling if it were two syllables, and so
on. Excitement ran high when it was discovered that some had actually
made a count of thirty or forty, and when they started writing words
beginning with R every head was bent intently from the minute time was
started.

Never had three minutes seemed so short to those unused brains, and Jed
yelled out: "Aw, gee! I only got three!" when time was called next.

It was recess-time when they finally finished every letter in that word,
and, adding all up, found that Timothy had won the game. Was that
school? Why, a barbecue couldn't be named beside it for fun! They rushed
out to the school-yard with a shout, and the boys played leap-frog
loudly for the first few minutes. Margaret, leaning her tired head in
her hands, elbows on the window-seat, closing her eyes and gathering
strength for the after-recess session, heard one boy say: "Wal, how d'ye
like 'er?" And the answer came: "Gee! I didn't think she'd be that kind
of a guy! I thought she'd be some stiff old Ike! Ain't she a peach,
though?" She lifted up her head and laughed triumphantly to herself, her
eyes alight, herself now strengthened for the fray. She wasn't wholly
failing, then?

After recess there was a spelling-match, choosing sides, of course,
"Because this is only the first day, and we must get acquainted before
we can do real work, you know," she explained.

The spelling-match proved an exciting affair also, with new features
that Ashland had never seen before. Here the girls began to shine into
prominence, but there were very few good spellers, and they were
presently reduced to two girls--Rosa Rogers, the beauty of the school,
and Amanda Bounds, a stolid, homely girl with deep eyes and a broad
brow.

"I'm going to give this as a prize to the one who stands up the
longest," said Margaret, with sudden inspiration as she saw the boys in
their seats getting restless; and she unpinned a tiny blue-silk bow that
fastened her white collar.

The girls all said "Oh-h-h!" and immediately every one in the room
straightened up. The next few minutes those two girls spelled for dear
life, each with her eye fixed upon the tiny blue bow in the teacher's
white hands. To own that bow, that wonderful, strange bow of the
heavenly blue, with the graceful twist to the tie! What delight! The
girl who won that would be the admired of all the school. Even the boys
sat up and took notice, each secretly thinking that Rosa, the beauty,
would get it, of course.

But she didn't; she slipped up on the word "receive," after all, putting
the i before the e; and her stolid companion, catching her breath
awesomely, slowly spelled it right and received the blue prize, pinned
gracefully at the throat of her old brown gingham by the teacher's own
soft, white fingers, while the school looked on admiringly and the blood
rolled hotly up the back of her neck and spread over her face and
forehead. Rosa, the beauty, went crestfallen to her seat.

It was at noon, while they ate their lunch, that Margaret tried to get
acquainted with the girls, calling most of them by name, to their great
surprise, and hinting of delightful possibilities in the winter's work.
Then she slipped out among the boys and watched their sports, laughing
and applauding when some one made a particularly fine play, as if she
thoroughly understood and appreciated.

She managed to stand near Jed and Timothy just before Bud rang the bell.
"I've heard you are great sportsmen," she said to them, confidingly.
"And I've been wondering if you'll teach me some things I want to learn?
I want to know how to ride and shoot. Do you suppose I could learn?"

"Sure!" they chorused, eagerly, their embarrassment forgotten. "Sure,
you could learn fine! Sure, _we'll learn_ you!"

And then the bell rang and they all went in.

The afternoon was a rather informal arrangement of classes and schedule
for the next day, Margaret giving out slips of paper with questions for
each to answer, that she might find out just where to place them; and
while they wrote she went from one to another, getting acquainted,
advising, and suggesting about what they wanted to study. It was all so
new and wonderful to them! They had not been used to caring what they
were to study. Now it almost seemed interesting.

But when the day was done, the school-house locked, and Bud and Margaret
started for home, she realized that she was weary. Yet it was a
weariness of success and not of failure, and she felt happy in looking
forward to the morrow.



CHAPTER XIV


The minister had decided to preach in Ashland, and on the following
Sabbath. It became apparent that if he wished to have any notice at all
from the haughty new teacher he must do something at once to establish
his superiority in her eyes. He had carefully gone over his store of
sermons that he always carried with him, and decided to preach on "The
Dynamics of Altruism."

Notices had been posted up in saloons and stores and post-office. He had
made them himself after completely tabooing Mr. Tanner's kindly and
blundering attempt, and they gave full information concerning "the Rev.
Frederick West, Ph.D., of the vicinity of New York City, who had kindly
consented to preach in the school-house on 'The Dynamics of Altruism.'"

Several of these elaborately printed announcements had been posted up on
big trees along the trails, and in other conspicuous places, and there
was no doubt but that the coming Sabbath services were more talked of
than anything else in that neighborhood for miles around, except the new
teacher and her extraordinary way of making all the scholars fall in
love with her. It is quite possible that the Reverend Frederick might
not have been so flattered at the size of his audience when the day
came if he could have known how many of them came principally because
they thought it would be a good opportunity to see the new teacher.

However, the announcements were read, and the preacher became an object
of deep interest to the community when he went abroad. Under this
attention he swelled, grew pleased, bland, and condescending, wearing an
oily smile and bowing most conceitedly whenever anybody noticed him. He
even began to drop his severity and silence at the table, toward the end
of the week, and expanded into dignified conversation, mainly addressed
to Mr. Tanner about the political situation in the State of Arizona. He
was trying to impress the teacher with the fact that he looked upon her
as a most insignificant mortal who had forfeited her right to his smiles
by her headstrong and unseemly conduct when he had warned her about
"that young ruffian."

Out on the trail Long Bill and Jasper Kemp paused before a tree that
bore the Reverend Frederick's church notice, and read in silence while
the wide wonder of the desert spread about them.

"What d'ye make out o' them cuss words, Jap?" asked Long Bill, at
length. "D'ye figger the parson's goin' to preach on swearin' ur
gunpowder?"

"Blowed ef I know," answered Jasper, eying the sign ungraciously; "but
by the looks of him he can't say much to suit me on neither one. He
resembles a yaller cactus bloom out in a rain-storm as to head, an' his
smile is like some of them prickles on the plant. He can't be no
'sky-pilot' to me, not just yet."

"You don't allow he b'longs in any way to _her_?" asked Long Bill,
anxiously, after they had been on their way for a half-hour.

"B'long to _her_? Meanin' the schoolmarm?"

"Yes; he ain't sweet on her nor nothin'?"

"Wal, I guess not," said Jasper, contentedly. "She's got eyes sharp's a
needle. You don't size her up so small she's goin' to take to a sickly
parson with yaller hair an' sleek ways when she's seen the Kid, do you?"

"Wal, no, it don't seem noways reasonable, but you never can tell. Women
gets notions."

"She ain't that kind! You mark my words, _she ain't that kind_. I'd lay
she'd punch the breeze like a coyote ef he'd make up to her. Just you
wait till you see him. He's the most no-'count, measleyest little thing
that ever called himself a man. My word! I'd like to see him try to ride
that colt o' mine. I really would. It would be some sight for sore eyes,
it sure would."

"Mebbe he's got a intellec'," suggested Long Bill, after another mile.
"That goes a long ways with women-folks with a education."

"No chance!" said Jasper, confidently. "'Ain't got room fer one under
his yaller thatch. You wait till you set your lamps on him once before
you go to gettin' excited. Why, he ain't one-two-three with our
missionary! Gosh! I wish _he'd_ come back an' see to such goin's-on--I
certainly do."

"Was you figgerin' to go to that gatherin' Sunday?"

"I sure was," said Jasper. "I want to see the show, an', besides, we
might be needed ef things got too high-soundin'. It ain't good to have a
creature at large that thinks he knows all there is to know. I heard
him talk down to the post-office the day after that little party we had
when the Kid shot out the lights to save Bunchy from killin' Crapster,
an' it's my opinion he needs a good spankin'; but I'm agoin' to give him
a fair show. I ain't much on religion myself, but I do like to see a
square deal, especially in a parson. I've sized it up he needs a
lesson."

"I'm with ye, Jap," said Long Bill, and the two rode on their way in
silence.

Margaret was so busy and so happy with her school all the week that she
quite forgot her annoyance at the minister. She really saw very little
of him, for he was always late to breakfast, and she took hers early.
She went to her room immediately after supper, and he had little
opportunity for pursuing her acquaintance. Perhaps he judged that it
would be wise to let her alone until after he had made his grand
impression on Sunday, and let her "make up" to him.

It was not until Sunday morning that she suddenly recalled that he was
to preach that day. She had indeed seen the notices, for a very large
and elaborate one was posted in front of the school-house, and some
anonymous artist had produced a fine caricature of the preacher in red
clay underneath his name. Margaret had been obliged to remain after
school Friday and remove as much of this portrait as she was able, not
having been willing to make it a matter of discipline to discover the
artist. In fact, it was so true to the model that the young teacher felt
a growing sympathy for the one who had perpetrated it.

Margaret started to the school-house early Sunday morning, attended by
the faithful Bud. Not that he had any more intention of going to
Sunday-school than he had the week before, but it was pleasant to be the
chosen escort of so popular a teacher. Even Jed and Timothy had walked
home with her twice during the week. He did not intend to lose his place
as nearest to her. There was only one to whom he would surrender that,
and he was too far away to claim it often.

Margaret had promised to help in the Sunday-school that morning, for the
woman who taught the little ones was still away with her sick neighbor,
and on the way she persuaded Bud to help her.

"You'll be secretary for me, won't you, William?" she asked, brightly.
"I'm going to take the left-front corner of the room for the children,
and seat them on the recitation-benches, and that will leave all the
back part of the room for the older people. Then I can use the
blackboard and not disturb the rest."

"Secretary?" asked the astonished Bud. He was, so to speak, growing
accustomed to surprises. "Secretary" did not sound like being "a nice
little Sunday-school boy."

"Why, yes! take up the collection, and see who is absent, and so on. I
don't know all the names, perhaps, and, anyhow, I don't like to do that
when I have to teach!"

Artful Margaret! She had no mind to leave Bud floating around outside
the school-house, and though she had ostensibly prepared her lesson and
her blackboard illustration for the little children, she had hidden in
it a truth for Bud--poor, neglected, devoted Bud!

The inefficient old man who taught the older people that day gathered
his forces together and, seated with his back to the platform, his
spectacles extended upon his long nose, he proceeded with the questions
on the lesson-leaf, as usual, being more than ordinarily unfamiliar with
them; but before he was half through he perceived by the long pauses
between the questions and answers that he did not have the attention of
his class. He turned slowly around to see what they were all looking at,
and became so engaged in listening to the lesson the new teacher was
drawing on the blackboard that he completely forgot to go on, until Bud,
very important in his new position, rang the tiny desk-bell for the
close of school, and Margaret, looking up, saw in dismay that she had
been teaching the whole school.

While they were singing a closing hymn the room began to fill up, and
presently came the minister, walking importantly beside Mr. Tanner, his
chin flattened upward as usual, but bent in till it made a double roll
over his collar, his eyes rolling importantly, showing much of their
whites, his sermon, in an elaborate leather cover, carried conspicuously
under his arm, and the severest of clerical coats and collars setting
out his insignificant face.

Walking behind him in single file, measured step, just so far apart,
came the eight men from the bunk-house--Long Bill, Big Jim, Fiddling
Boss, Jasper Kemp, Fade-away Forbes, Stocky, Croaker, and Fudge; and
behind them, looking like a scared rabbit, Mom Wallis scuttled into the
back seat and sank out of sight. The eight men, however, ranged
themselves across the front of the room on the recitation-bench,
directly in front of the platform, removing a few small children for
that purpose.

They had been lined up in a scowling row along the path as the minister
entered, looking at them askance under his aristocratic yellow eyebrows,
and as he neared the door the last man followed in his wake, then the
next, and so on.

Margaret, in her seat half-way back at the side of the school-house near
a window, saw through the trees a wide sombrero over a pair of broad
shoulders; but, though she kept close watch, she did not see her friend
of the wilderness enter the school-house. If he had really come to
meeting, he was staying outside.

The minister was rather nonplussed at first that there were no
hymn-books. It almost seemed that he did not know how to go on with
divine service without hymn-books, but at last he compromised on the
long-meter Doxology, pronounced with deliberate unction. Then, looking
about for a possible pipe-organ and choir, he finally started it
himself; but it is doubtful whether any one would have recognized the
tune enough to help it on if Margaret had not for very shame's sake
taken it up and carried it along, and so they came to the prayer and
Bible-reading.

These were performed with a formal, perfunctory style calculated to
impress the audience with the importance of the preacher rather than the
words he was speaking. The audience was very quiet, having the air of
reserving judgment for the sermon.

Margaret could not just remember afterward how it was she missed the
text. She had turned her eyes away from the minister, because it somehow
made her feel homesick to compare him with her dear, dignified father.
Her mind had wandered, perhaps, to the sombrero she had glimpsed
outside, and she was wondering how its owner was coming on with his
resolves, and just what change they would mean in his life, anyway. Then
suddenly she awoke to the fact that the sermon had begun.



CHAPTER XV


"Considered in the world of physics," began the lordly tones of the
Reverend Frederick, "dynamics is that branch of mechanics that treats of
the effects of forces in producing motion, and of the laws of motion
thus produced; sometimes called kinetics, opposed to statics. It is the
science that treats of the laws of force, whether producing equilibrium
or motion; in this sense including both statics and kinetics. It is also
applied to the forces producing or governing activity or movement of any
kind; also the methods of such activity."

The big words rolled out magnificently over the awed gathering, and the
minister flattened his chin and rolled his eyes up at the people in his
most impressive way.

Margaret's gaze hastily sought the row of rough men on the front seat,
sitting with folded arms in an attitude of attention, each man with a
pair of intelligent eyes under his shaggy brows regarding the preacher
as they might have regarded an animal in a zoo. Did they understand what
had been said? It was impossible to tell from their serious faces.

"Philanthropy has been called the dynamics of Christianity; that is to
say, it is Christianity in action," went on the preacher. "It is my
purpose this morning to speak upon the dynamics of altruism. Now
altruism is the theory that inculcates benevolence to others in
subordination to self-interest; interested benevolence as opposed to
disinterested; also, the practice of this theory."

He lifted his eyes to the audience once more and nodded his head
slightly, as if to emphasize the deep truth he had just given them, and
the battery of keen eyes before him never flinched from his face. They
were searching him through and through. Margaret wondered if he had no
sense of the ridiculous, that he could, to such an audience, pour forth
such a string of technical definitions. They sounded strangely like
dictionary language. She wondered if anybody present besides herself
knew what the man meant or got any inkling of what his subject was.
Surely he would drop to simpler language, now that he had laid out his
plan.

It never occurred to her that the man was trying to impress _her_ with
his wonderful fluency of language and his marvelous store of wisdom. On
and on he went in much the same trend he had begun, with now and then a
flowery sentence or whole paragraph of meaningless eloquence about the
"brotherhood of man"--with a roll to the r's in brotherhood.

Fifteen minutes of this profitless oratory those men of the wilderness
endured, stolidly and with fixed attention; then, suddenly, a sentence
of unusual simplicity struck them and an almost visible thrill went down
the front seat.

"For years the church has preached a dead faith, without works, my
friends, and the time has come to stop preaching faith! I repeat
it--fellow-men. I repeat it. The time has come _to stop preaching
faith_ and begin to do good works!" He thumped the desk vehemently. "Men
don't need a superstitious belief in a Saviour to save them from their
sins; they need to go to work and save themselves! As if a man dying two
thousand years ago on a cross could do any good to you and me to-day!"

It was then that the thrill passed down that front line, and Long Bill,
sitting at their head, leaned slightly forward and looked full and
frowning into the face of Jasper Kemp; and the latter, frowning back,
solemnly winked one eye. Margaret sat where she could see the whole
thing.

Immediately, still with studied gravity, Long Bill cleared his throat
impressively, arose, and, giving the minister a full look in the eye, of
the nature almost of a challenge, he turned and walked slowly, noisily
down the aisle and out the front door.

The minister was visibly annoyed, and for the moment a trifle flustered;
but, concluding his remarks had been too deep for the rough creature, he
gathered up the thread of his argument and proceeded:

"We need to get to work at our duty toward our fellow-men. We need to
down trusts and give the laboring-man a chance. We need to stop
insisting that men shall believe in the inspiration of the entire Bible
and get to work at something practical!"

The impressive pause after this sentence was interrupted by a sharp,
rasping sound of Big Jim clearing his throat and shuffling to his feet.
He, too, looked the minister full in the face with a searching gaze,
shook his head sadly, and walked leisurely down the aisle and out of
the door. The minister paused again and frowned. This was becoming
annoying.

Margaret sat in startled wonder. Could it be possible that these rough
men were objecting to the sermon from a theological point of view, or
was it just a happening that they had gone out at such pointed moments.
She sat back after a minute, telling herself that of course the men must
just have been weary of the long sentences, which no doubt they could
not understand. She began to hope that Gardley was not within hearing.
It was not probable that many others understood enough to get harm from
the sermon, but her soul boiled with indignation that a man could go
forth and call himself a minister of an evangelical church and yet talk
such terrible heresy.

Big Jim's steps died slowly away on the clay path outside, and the
preacher resumed his discourse.

"We have preached long enough of hell and torment. It is time for a
gospel of love to our brothers. Hell is a superstition of the Dark Ages.
_There is no hell!_"

Fiddling Boss turned sharply toward Jasper Kemp, as if waiting for a
signal, and Jasper gave a slight, almost imperceptible nod. Whereupon
Fiddling Boss cleared his throat loudly and arose, faced the minister,
and marched down the aisle, while Jasper Kemp remained quietly seated as
if nothing had happened, a vacancy each side of him.

By this time the color began to rise in the minister's cheeks. He looked
at the retreating back of Fiddling Boss, and then suspiciously down at
the row of men, but every one of them sat with folded arms and eyes
intent upon the sermon, as if their comrades had not left them. The
minister thought he must have been mistaken and took up the broken
thread once more, or tried to, but he had hopelessly lost the place in
his manuscript, and the only clue that offered was a quotation of a poem
about the devil; to be sure, the connection was somewhat abrupt, but he
clutched it with his eye gratefully and began reading it dramatically:

    "'Men don't believe in the devil now
    As their fathers used to do--'"

But he had got no further when a whole clearing-house of throats
sounded, and Fade-away Forbes stumbled to his feet frantically, bolting
down the aisle as if he had been sent for. He had not quite reached the
door when Stocky clumped after him, followed at intervals by Croaker and
Fudge, and each just as the minister had begun:

"Um! Ah! To resume--"

And now only Jasper Kemp remained of the front-seaters, his fine gray
eyes boring through and through the minister as he floundered through
the remaining portion of his manuscript up to the point where it began,
"And finally--" which opened with another poem:

    "'I need no Christ to die for me.'"

The sturdy, gray-haired Scotchman suddenly lowered his folded arms,
slapping a hand resoundingly on each knee, bent his shoulders the better
to pull himself to his feet, pressing his weight on his hands till his
elbows were akimbo, uttered a deep sigh and a, "Yes--well--_ah_!"

With that he got to his feet and dragged them slowly out of the
school-house.

By this time the minister was ready to burst with indignation. Never
before in all the bombastic days of his egotism had he been so grossly
insulted, and by such rude creatures! And yet there was really nothing
that could be said or done. These men appeared to be simple creatures
who had wandered in idly, perhaps for a few moments' amusement, and,
finding the discourse above their caliber, had innocently wandered out
again. That was the way it had been made to appear. But his plans had
been cruelly upset by such actions, and he was mortified in the extreme.
His face was purple with his emotions, and he struggled and spluttered
for a way out of his trying dilemma. At last he spoke, and his voice was
absurdly dignified:

"Is there--ah--any other--ah--auditor--ah--who is desirous of
withdrawing before the close of service? If so he may do so now,
or--ah--" He paused for a suitable ending, and familiar words rushed to
his lips without consciousness for the moment of their meaning--"or
forever after hold their peace--ah!"

There was a deathly silence in the school-house. No one offered to go
out, and Margaret suddenly turned her head and looked out of the window.
Her emotions were almost beyond her control.

Thus the closing eloquence proceeded to its finish, and at last the
service was over. Margaret looked about for Mom Wallis, but she had
disappeared. She signed to Bud, and together they hastened out; but a
quiet Sabbath peace reigned about the door of the school-house, and not
a man from the camp was in sight; no, nor even the horses upon which
they had come.

And yet, when the minister had finished shaking hands with the
worshipful women and a few men and children, and came with Mr. Tanner to
the door of the school-house, those eight men stood in a solemn row,
four on each side of the walk, each holding his chin in his right hand,
his right elbow in his left hand, and all eyes on Jasper Kemp, who kept
his eyes thoughtfully up in the sky.

"H'w aire yeh, Tanner? Pleasant 'casion. Mind steppin' on a bit? We men
wanta have a word with the parson."

Mr. Tanner stepped on hurriedly, and the minister was left standing
nonplussed and alone in the doorway of the school-house.



CHAPTER XVI


"Um! Ah!" began the minister, trying to summon his best clerical manner
to meet--what? He did not know. It was best to assume they were a
penitent band of inquirers for the truth. But the memory of their recent
exodus from the service was rather too clearly in his mind for his
pleasantest expression to be uppermost toward these rough creatures.
Insolent fellows! He ought to give them a good lesson in behavior!

"Um! Ah!" he began again, but found to his surprise that his remarks
thus far had had no effect whatever on the eight stolid countenances
before him. In fact, they seemed to have grown grim and menacing even in
their quiet attitude, and their eyes were fulfilling the promise of the
look they had given him when they left the service.

"What does all this mean, anyway?" he burst forth, suddenly.

"Calm yourself, elder! Calm yourself," spoke up Long Bill. "There ain't
any occasion to get excited."

"I'm not an elder; I'm a minister of the gospel," exploded West, in his
most pompous tones. "I should like to know who you are and what all this
means?"

"Yes, parson, we understand who you are. We understand quite well, an'
we're agoin' to tell you who we are. We're a band of al-tru-ists! That's
what we are. We're _altruists_!" It was Jasper Kemp of the keen eyes and
sturdy countenance who spoke. "And we've come here in brotherly love to
exercise a little of that dynamic force of altruism you was talkin'
about. We just thought we'd begin on you so's you could see that we got
some works to go 'long with our faith."

"What do you mean, sir?" said West, looking from one grim countenance to
another. "I--I don't quite understand." The minister was beginning to be
frightened, he couldn't exactly tell why. He wished he had kept Brother
Tanner with him. It was the first time he had ever thought of Mr. Tanner
as "brother."

"We mean just this, parson; you been talkin' a lot of lies in there
about there bein' no Saviour an' no hell, ner no devil, an' while we
ain't much credit to God ourselves, bein' just common men, we know all
that stuff you said ain't true about the Bible an' the devil bein'
superstitions, an' we thought we better exercise a little of that there
altruism you was talkin' about an' teach you better. You see, it's real
brotherly kindness, parson. An' now we're goin' to give you a sample of
that dynamics you spoke about. Are you ready, boys?"

"All ready," they cried as one man.

There seemed to be no concerted motion, nor was there warning. Swifter
than the weaver's shuttle, sudden as the lightning's flash, the minister
was caught from where he stood pompously in that doorway, hat in hand,
all grandly as he was attired, and hurled from man to man. Across the
walk and back; across and back; across and back; until it seemed to him
it was a thousand miles all in a minute of time. He had no opportunity
to prepare for the onslaught. He jammed his high silk hat, wherewith he
had thought to overawe the community, upon his sleek head, and grasped
his precious sermon-case to his breast; the sermon, as it well deserved,
was flung to the four winds of heaven and fortunately was no more--that
is, existing as a whole. The time came when each of those eight men
recovered and retained a portion of that learned oration, and Mom
Wallis, not quite understanding, pinned up and used as a sort of shrine
the portion about doubting the devil; but as a sermon the parts were
never assembled on this earth, nor could be, for some of it was ground
to powder under eight pairs of ponderous heels. But the minister at that
trying moment was too much otherwise engaged to notice that the child of
his brain lay scattered on the ground.

Seven times he made the round up and down, up and down that merciless
group, tossed like a thistle-down from man to man. And at last, when his
breath was gone, when the world had grown black before him, and he felt
smaller and more inadequate than he had ever felt in his whole conceited
life before, he found himself bound, helplessly bound, and cast
ignominiously into a wagon. And it was a strange thing that, though
seemingly but five short minutes before the place had been swarming with
worshipful admirers thanking him for his sermon, now there did not seem
to be a creature within hearing, for he called and cried aloud and
roared with his raucous voice until it would seem that all the
surrounding States might have heard that cry from Arizona, yet none came
to his relief.

They carried him away somewhere, he did not know where; it was a lonely
spot and near a water-hole. When he protested and loudly blamed them,
threatening all the law in the land upon them, they regarded him as one
might a naughty child who needed chastisement, leniently and with
sorrow, but also with determination.

They took him down by the water's side and stood him up among them. He
began to tremble with fear as he looked from one to another, for he was
not a man of courage, and he had heard strange tales of this wild, free
land, where every man was a law unto himself. Were they going to drown
him then and there? Then up spoke Jasper Kemp:

"Mr. Parson," he said, and his voice was kind but firm; one might almost
say there was a hint of humor in it, and there surely was a twinkle in
his eye; but the sternness of his lips belied it, and the minister was
in no state to appreciate humor--"Mr. Parson, we've brought you here to
do you good, an' you oughtn't to complain. This is altruism, an' we're
but actin' out what you been preachin'. You're our brother an' we're
tryin' to do you good; an' now we're about to show you what a dynamic
force we are. You see, Mr. Parson, I was brought up by a good Scotch
grandmother, an' I know a lie when I hear it, an' when I hear a man
preach error I know it's time to set him straight; so now we're agoin'
to set you straight. I don't know where you come from, nor who brang you
up, nor what church set you afloat, but I know enough by all my
grandmother taught me--even if I hadn't been a-listenin' off and on for
two years back to Mr. Brownleigh, our missionary--to know you're a
dangerous man to have at large. I'd as soon have a mad dog let loose.
Why, what you preach ain't the gospel, an' it ain't the truth, and the
time has come for you to know it, an' own it and recant. Recant! That's
what they call it. That's what we're here to see 't you do, or we'll
know the reason why. That's the _dynamics_ of it. See?"

The minister saw. He saw the deep, muddy water-hole. He saw nothing
more.

"Folks are all too ready to believe them there things you was gettin'
off without havin' 'em _preached_ to justify 'em in their evil ways. We
gotta think of those poor ignorant brothers of ours that might listen to
you. See? That's the _altruism_ of it!"

"What do you want me to do?" The wretched man's tone was not merely
humble--it was abject. His grand Prince Albert coat was torn in three
places; one tail hung down dejectedly over his hip; one sleeve was
ripped half-way out. His collar was unbuttoned and the ends rode up
hilariously over his cheeks. His necktie was gone. His sleek hair stuck
out in damp wisps about his frightened eyes, and his hat had been "stove
in" and jammed down as far as it would go until his ample ears stuck out
like sails at half-mast. His feet were imbedded in the heavy mud on the
margin of the water-hole, and his fine silk socks, which had showed at
one time above the erstwhile neat tyings, were torn and covered with
mud.

"Well, in the first place," said Jasper Kemp, with a slow wink around at
the company, "that little matter about hell needs adjustin'. Hell ain't
no superstition. I ain't dictatin' what kind of a hell there is; you can
make it fire or water or anything else you like, but _there is a hell_,
an' _you believe in it_. D'ye understand? We'd just like to have you
make that statement publicly right here an' now."

"But how can I say what I don't believe?" whined West, almost ready to
cry. He had come proudly through a trial by Presbytery on these very
same points, and had posed as being a man who had the courage of his
convictions. He could not thus easily surrender his pride of original
thought and broad-mindedness. He had received congratulations from a
number of noble martyrs who had left their chosen church for just such
reasons, congratulating him on his brave stand. It had been the first
notice from big men he had ever been able to attract to himself, and it
had gone to his head like wine. Give that up for a few miserable
cowboys! It might get into the papers and go back East. He must think of
his reputation.

"That's just where the dynamics of the thing comes in, brother," said
Jasper Kemp, patronizingly. "We're here to _make_ you believe in a hell.
We're the force that will bring you back into the right way of thinkin'
again. Are you ready, boys?"

The quiet utterance brought goose-flesh up to West's very ears, and his
eyes bulged with horror.

"Oh, that isn't necessary! I believe--yes, I believe in hell!" he
shouted, as they seized him.

But it was too late. The Rev. Frederick West was plunged into the
water-hole, from whose sheep-muddied waters he came up spluttering,
"Yes, I believe in _hell_!" and for the first time in his life, perhaps,
he really did believe in it, and thought that he was in it.

The men were standing knee-deep in the water and holding their captive
lightly by his arms and legs, their eyes upon their leader, waiting now.

Jasper Kemp stood in the water, also, looking down benevolently upon his
victim, his chin in his hand, his elbow in his other hand, an attitude
which carried a feeling of hopelessness to the frightened minister.

"An' now there's that little matter of the devil," said Jasper Kemp,
reflectively. "We'll just fix that up next while we're near his place of
residence. You believe in the devil, Mr. Parson, from now on? If you'd
ever tried resistin' him I figger you'd have b'lieved in him long ago.
But _you believe in him_ from _now on_, an' you _don't preach against
him any more_! We're not goin' to have our Arizona men gettin' off their
guard an' thinkin' their enemy is dead. There _is_ a devil, parson, and
you believe in him! Duck him, boys!"

Down went the minister into the water again, and came up spluttering,
"Yes, I--I--I--believe--in-the--devil." Even in this strait he was loath
to surrender his pet theme--no devil.

"Very well, so far as it goes," said Jasper Kemp, thoughtfully. "But
now, boys, we're comin' to the most important of all, and you better
put him under about three times, for there mustn't be no mistake about
this matter. You believe in the Bible, parson--_the whole Bible_?"

"Yes!" gasped West, as he went down the first time and got a mouthful of
the bitter water, "I believe--" The voice was fairly anguished. Down he
went again. Another mouthful of water. "_I believe in the whole Bible!_"
he screamed, and went down the third time. His voice was growing weaker,
but he came up and reiterated it without request, and was lifted out
upon the mud for a brief respite. The men of the bunk-house were
succeeding better than the Presbytery back in the East had been able to
do. The conceit was no longer visible in the face of the Reverend
Frederick. His teeth were chattering, and he was beginning to see one
really needed to believe in something when one came as near to his end
as this.

"There's just one more thing to reckon with," said Jasper Kemp,
thoughtfully. "That line of talk you was handin' out about a man dyin'
on a cross two thousand years ago bein' nothin' to you. You said you
_an' me_, but you can speak for _yourself_. We may not be much to look
at, but we ain't goin' to stand for no such slander as that. Our
missionary preaches all about that Man on the Cross, an' if you don't
need Him before you get through this little campaign of life I'll miss
my guess. Mebbe we haven't been all we might have been, but we ain't
agoin' to let you ner no one else go back on that there Cross!"

Jasper Kemp's tone was tender and solemn. As the minister lay panting
upon his back in the mud he was forced to acknowledge that at only two
other times in his life had a tone of voice so arrested his attention
and filled him with awe; once when as a boy he had been caught copying
off another's paper at examination-time, and he had been sent to the
principal's office; and again on the occasion of his mother's funeral,
as he sat in the dim church a few years ago and listened to the old
minister. For a moment now he was impressed with the wonder of the
Cross, and it suddenly seemed as if he were being arraigned before the
eyes of Him with Whom we all have to do. A kind of shame stole into his
pale, flabby face, all the smugness and complacence gone, and he a poor
wretch in the hands of his accusers. Jasper Kemp, standing over him on
the bank, looking down grimly upon him, seemed like the emissary of God
sent to condemn him, and his little, self-centered soul quailed within
him.

"Along near the end of that discourse of yours you mentioned that sin
was only misplaced energy. Well, if that's so there's a heap of your
energy gone astray this mornin', an' the time has come for you to pay
up. Speak up now an' say what you believe or whether you want another
duckin'--an' it'll be seven times this time!"

The man on the ground shut his eyes and gasped. The silence was very
solemn. There seemed no hint of the ridiculous in the situation. It was
serious business now to all those men. Their eyes were on their leader.

"Do you solemnly declare before God--I s'pose you still believe in a
God, as you didn't say nothin' to the contrary--that from now on you'll
stand for that there Cross and for Him that hung on it?"

The minister opened his eyes and looked up into the wide brightness of
the sky, as if he half expected to see horses and chariots of fire
standing about to do battle with him then and there, and his voice was
awed and frightened as he said:

"I do!"

There was silence, and the men stood with half-bowed heads, as if some
solemn service were being performed that they did not quite understand,
but in which they fully sympathized. Then Jasper Kemp said, softly:

"Amen!" And after a pause: "I ain't any sort of a Christian myself, but
I just can't stand it to see a parson floatin' round that don't even
know the name of the firm he's workin' for. Now, parson, there's just
one more requirement, an' then you can go home."

The minister opened his eyes and looked around with a frightened appeal,
but no one moved, and Jasper Kemp went on:

"You say you had a church in New York. What was the name and address
of your workin'-boss up there?"

"What do you mean? I hadn't any boss."

"Why, him that hired you an' paid you. The chief elder or whatever you
called him."

"Oh!" The minister's tone expressed lack of interest in the subject, but
he answered, languidly, "Ezekiel Newbold, Hazelton."

"Very good. Now, parson, you'll just kindly write two copies of a letter
to Mr. Ezekiel Newbold statin' what you've just said to us concernin'
your change of faith, sign your name, address one to Mr. Newbold, an'
give the duplicate to me. We just want this little matter put on record
so you can't change your mind any in future. Do you get my idea?"

"Yes," said the minister, dispiritedly.

"Will you do it?"

"Yes," apathetically.

"Well, now I got a piece of advice for you. It would be just as well for
your health for you to leave Arizona about as quick as you can find it
convenient to pack, but you won't be allowed to leave this town, day or
night, cars or afoot, until them there letters are all O.K. Do you get
me?"

"Yes," pathetically.

"I might add, by way of explainin', that if you had come to Arizona an'
minded your own business you wouldn't have been interfered with. You
mighta preached whatever bosh you darned pleased so far as we was
concerned, only you wouldn't have had no sorta audience after the first
try of that stuff you give to-day. But when you come to Arizona an' put
your fingers in other folks' pie, when you tried to 'squeal' on the
young gentleman who was keen enough to shoot out the lights to save a
man's life, why, we 'ain't no further use for you. In the first place,
you was all wrong. You thought the Kid shot out the lights to steal the
gamin'-money; but he didn't. He put it all in the hands of the sheriff
some hours before your 'private information' reached him through the
mail. You thought you were awful sharp, you little sneak! But I wasn't
the only man present who saw you put your foot out an' cover a gold
piece that rolled on the floor just when the fight began. You thought
nobody was a-lookin', but you'll favor us, please, with that identical
gold piece along with the letter before you leave. Well, boys, that'll
be about all, then. Untie him!"

In silence and with a kind of contemptuous pity in their faces the
strong men stooped and unbound him; then, without another word, they
left him, tramping solemnly away single file to their horses, standing
at a little distance.

Jasper Kemp lingered for a moment, looking down at the wretched man.
"Would you care to have us carry you back to the house?" he asked,
reflectively.

"No!" said the minister, bitterly. "No!" And without another word Jasper
Kemp left him.

Into the mesquite-bushes crept the minister, his glory all departed, and
hid his misery from the light, groaning in bitterness of spirit. He who
had made the hearts of a score of old ministers to sorrow for Zion, who
had split in two a pleasantly united congregation, disrupted a session,
and brought about a scandalous trial in Presbytery was at last
conquered. The Rev. Frederick West had recanted!



CHAPTER XVII


When Margaret left the school-house with Bud she had walked but a few
steps when she remembered Mom Wallis and turned back to search for her;
but nowhere could she find a trace of her, and the front of the
school-house was as empty of any people from the camp as if they had not
been there that morning. The curtain had not yet risen for the scene of
the undoing of West.

"I suppose she must have gone home with them," said the girl, wistfully.
"I'm sorry not to have spoken with her. She was good to me."

"You mean Mom Wallis?" said the boy. "No, she ain't gone home. She's
hiking 'long to our house to see you. The Kid went along of her. See,
there--down by those cottonwood-trees? That's them."

Margaret turned with eagerness and hurried along with Bud now. She knew
who it was they called the Kid in that tone of voice. It was the way the
men had spoken of and to him, a mingling of respect and gentling that
showed how much beloved he was. Her cheeks wore a heightened color, and
her heart gave a pleasant flutter of interest.

They walked rapidly and caught up with their guests before they had
reached the Tanner house, and Margaret had the pleasure of seeing Mom
Wallis's face flush with shy delight when she caught her softly round
the waist, stealing quietly up behind, and greeted her with a kiss.
There had not been many kisses for Mom Wallis in the later years, and
the two that were to Margaret Earle's account seemed very sweet to her.
Mom Wallis's eyes shone as if she had been a young girl as she turned
with a smothered "Oh!" She was a woman not given to expressing herself;
indeed, it might be said that the last twenty years of her life had been
mainly of self-repression. She gave that one little gasp of recognition
and pleasure, and then she relapsed into embarrassed silence beside the
two young people who found pleasure in their own greetings. Bud,
boy-like, was after a cottontail, along with Cap, who had appeared from
no one knew where and was attending the party joyously.

Mom Wallis, in her big, rough shoes, on the heels of which her scant
brown calico gown was lifted as she walked, trudged shyly along between
the two young people, as carefully watched and helped over the humps and
bumps of the way as if she had been a princess. Margaret noticed with a
happy approval how Gardley's hand was ready under the old woman's elbow
to assist her as politely as he might have done for her own mother had
she been walking by his side.

Presently Bud and Cap returned, and Bud, with observant eye, soon timed
his step to Margaret's on her other side and touched her elbow lightly
to help her over the next rut. This was his second lesson in manners
from Gardley. He had his first the Sunday before, watching the two
while he and Cap walked behind. Bud was learning. He had keen eyes and
an alert brain. Margaret smiled understandingly at him, and his face
grew deep red with pleasure.

"He was bringin' me to see where you was livin'," explained Mom Wallis,
suddenly, nodding toward Gardley as if he had been a king. "We wasn't
hopin' to see you, except mebbe just as you come by goin' in."

"Oh, then I'm so glad I caught up with you in time. I wouldn't have
missed you for anything. I went back to look for you. Now you're coming
in to dinner with me, both of you," declared Margaret, joyfully.
"William, your mother will have enough dinner for us all, won't she?"

"Sure!" said Bud, with that assurance born of his life acquaintance with
his mother, who had never failed him in a trying situation so far as
things to eat were concerned.

Margaret looked happily from one of her invited guests to the other, and
Gardley forgot to answer for himself in watching the brightness of her
face, and wondering why it was so different from the faces of all other
girls he knew anywhere.

But Mom Wallis was overwhelmed. A wave of red rolled dully up from her
withered neck in its gala collar over her leathery face to the roots of
her thin, gray hair.

"Me! Stay to dinner! Oh, I couldn't do that nohow! Not in these here
clo'es. 'Course I got that pretty collar you give me, but I couldn't
never go out to dinner in this old dress an' these shoes. I know what
folks ought to look like an' I ain't goin' to shame you."

"Shame me? Nonsense! Your dress is all right, and who is going to see
your shoes? Besides, I've just set my heart on it. I want to take you up
to my room and show you the pictures of my father and mother and home
and the church where I was christened, and everything."

Mom Wallis looked at her with wistful eyes, but still shook her head.
"Oh, I'd like to mighty well. It's good of you to ast me. But I
couldn't. I just couldn't. 'Sides, I gotta go home an' git the men's
grub ready."

"Oh, can't she stay this time, Mr. Gardley?" appealed Margaret. "The men
won't mind for once, will they?"

Gardley looked into her true eyes and saw she really meant the
invitation. He turned to the withered old woman by his side. "Mom, we're
going to stay," he declared, joyously. "She wants us, and we have to do
whatever she says. The men will rub along. They all know how to cook.
Mom, _we're going to stay_."

"That's beautiful!" declared Margaret. "It's so nice to have some
company of my own." Then her face suddenly sobered. "Mr. Wallis won't
mind, will he?" And she looked with troubled eyes from one of her guests
to the other. She did not want to prepare trouble for poor Mom Wallis
when she went back.

Mom Wallis turned startled eyes toward her. There was contempt in her
face and outraged womanhood. "Pop's gone off," she said, significantly.
"He went yist'day. But he 'ain't got no call t' mind. I ben waitin' on
Pop nigh on to twenty year, an' I guess I'm goin' to a dinner-party, now
't I'm invited. Pop 'd better _not_ mind, I guess!"

And Margaret suddenly saw how much, how very much, her invitation had
been to the starved old soul. Margaret took her guests into the stiff
little parlor and slipped out to interview her landlady. She found Mrs.
Tanner, as she had expected, a large-minded woman who was quite pleased
to have more guests to sit down to her generous dinner, particularly as
her delightful boarder had hinted of ample recompense in the way of
board money; and she fluttered about, sending Tanner after another jar
of pickles, some more apple-butter, and added another pie to the menu.

Well pleased, Margaret left Mrs. Tanner and slipped back to her guests.
She found Gardley making arrangements with Bud to run back to the church
and tell the men to leave the buckboard for them, as they would not be
home for dinner. While this was going on she took Mom Wallis up to her
room to remove her bonnet and smooth her hair.

It is doubtful whether Mom Wallis ever did see such a room in her life;
for when Margaret swung open the door the poor little woman stopped
short on the threshold, abashed, and caught her breath, looking around
with wondering eyes and putting out a trembling hand to steady herself
against the door-frame. She wasn't quite sure whether things in that
room were real, or whether she might not by chance have caught a glimpse
into heaven, so beautiful did it seem to her. It was not till her eyes,
in the roving, suddenly rested on the great mountain framed in the open
window that she felt anchored and sure that this was a tangible place.
Then she ventured to step her heavy shoe inside the door. Even then she
drew her ugly calico back apologetically, as if it were a desecration to
the lovely room.

But Margaret seized her and drew her into the room, placing her gently
in the rose-ruffled rocking-chair as if it were a throne and she a
queen, and the poor little woman sat entranced, with tears springing to
her eyes and trickling down her cheeks.

Perhaps it was an impossibility for Margaret to conceive what the vision
of that room meant to Mom Wallis. The realization of all the dreams of a
starved soul concentrated into a small space; the actual, tangible proof
that there might be a heaven some day--who knew?--since beauties and
comforts like these could be real in Arizona.

Margaret brought the pictures of her father and mother, of her dear home
and the dear old church. She took her about the room and showed her the
various pictures and reminders of her college days, and when she saw
that the poor creature was overwhelmed and speechless she turned her
about and showed her the great mountain again, like an anchorage for her
soul.

Mom Wallis looked at everything speechlessly, gasping as her attention
was turned from one object to another, as if she were unable to rise
beyond her excitement; but when she saw the mountain again her tongue
was loosed, and she turned and looked back at the girl wonderingly.

"Now, ain't it strange! Even that old mounting looks diffrunt--it do
look diffrunt from a room like this. Why, it looks like it got its hair
combed an' its best collar on!" And Mom Wallis looked down with pride
and patted the simple net ruffle about her withered throat. "Why, it
looks like a picter painted an' hung up on this yere wall, that's what
that mounting looks like! It kinda ain't no mounting any more; it's jest
a picter in your room!"

Margaret smiled. "It is a picture, isn't it? Just look at that silver
light over the purple place. Isn't it wonderful? I like to think it's
mine--my mountain. And yet the beautiful thing about it is that it's
just as much yours, too. It will make a picture of itself framed in your
bunk-house window if you let it. Try it. You just need to let it."

Mom Wallis looked at her wonderingly. "Do you mean," she said, studying
the girl's lovely face, "that ef I should wash them there bunk-house
winders, an' string up some posy caliker, an' stuff a chair, an' have a
pin-cushion, I could make that there mounting come in an' set fer me
like a picter the way it does here fer you?"

"Yes, that's what I mean," said Margaret, softly, marveling how the
uncouth woman had caught the thought. "That's exactly what I mean. God's
gifts will be as much to us as we will let them, always. Try it and
see."

Mom Wallis stood for some minutes looking out reflectively at the
mountain. "Wal, mebbe I'll try it!" she said, and turned back to survey
the room again.

And now the mirror caught her eye, and she saw herself, a strange self
in a soft white collar, and went up to get a nearer view, laying a
toil-worn finger on the lace and looking half embarrassed at sight of
her own face.

"It's a real purty collar," she said, softly, with a choke in her voice.
"It's too purty fer me. I told him so, but he said as how you wanted I
should dress up every night fer supper in it. It's 'most as strange as
havin' a mounting come an' live with you, to wear a collar like
that--me!"

Margaret's eyes were suddenly bright with tears. Who would have
suspected Mom Wallis of having poetry in her nature? Then, as if her
thoughts anticipated the question in Margaret's mind, Mom Wallis went
on:

"He brang me your little book," she said. "I ain't goin' to say thank
yeh, it ain't a big-'nuf word. An' he read me the poetry words it says.
I got it wropped in a hankercher on the top o' the beam over my bed. I'm
goin' to have it buried with me when I die. Oh, I _read_ it. I couldn't
make much out of it, but I read the words thorough. An' then _he_ read
'em--the Kid did. He reads just beautiful. He's got education, he has.
He read it, and he talked a lot about it. Was this what you mean? Was it
that we ain't really growin' old at all, we're jest goin' on, _gettin_'
there, if we go right? Did you mean you think Him as planned it all
wanted some old woman right thar in the bunk-house, an' it's _me_? Did
you mean there was agoin' to be a chanct fer me to be young an'
beautiful somewheres in creation yit, 'fore I git through?"

The old woman had turned around from looking into the mirror and was
facing her hostess. Her eyes were very bright; her cheeks had taken on
an excited flush, and her knotted hands were clutching the bureau. She
looked into Margaret's eyes earnestly, as though her very life depended
upon the answer; and Margaret, with a great leap of her heart, smiled
and answered:

"Yes, Mrs. Wallis, yes, that is just what I meant. Listen, these are
God's own words about it: 'For I reckon that the sufferings of this
present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be
revealed in us.'"

A kind of glory shone in the withered old face now. "Did you say them
was God's words?" she asked in an awed voice.

"Yes," said Margaret; "they are in the Bible."

"But you couldn't be sure it meant _me_?" she asked, eagerly. "They
wouldn't go to put _me_ in the Bible, o' course."

"Oh yes, you could be quite sure, Mrs. Wallis," said Margaret, gently.
"Because if God was making you and had a plan for you, as the poem says,
He would be sure to put down something in His book about it, don't you
think? He would want you to know."

"It does sound reasonable-like now, don't it?" said the woman,
wistfully. "Say them glory words again, won't you?"

Margaret repeated the text slowly and distinctly.

"Glory!" repeated Mom Wallis, wonderingly. "Glory! Me!" and turned
incredulously toward the glass. She looked a long tune wistfully at
herself, as if she could not believe it, and pulled reproachfully at
the tight hair drawn away from her weather-beaten face. "I useta have
purty hair onct," she said, sadly.

"Why, you have pretty hair now!" said Margaret, eagerly. "It just wants
a chance to show its beauty, Here, let me fix it for dinner, will you?"

She whisked the bewildered old woman into a chair and began unwinding
the hard, tight knot of hair at the back of her head and shaking it out.
The hair was thin and gray now, but it showed signs of having been fine
and thick once.

"It's easy to keep your hair looking pretty," said the girl, as she
worked. "I'm going to give you a little box of my nice sweet-smelling
soap-powder that I use to shampoo my hair. You take it home and wash
your hair with it every two or three weeks and you'll see it will make a
difference in a little while. You just haven't taken time to take care
of it, that's all. Do you mind if I wave the front here a little? I'd
like to fix your hair the way my mother wears hers."

Now nothing could have been further apart than this little
weather-beaten old woman and Margaret's gentle, dove-like mother, with
her abundant soft gray hair, her cameo features, and her pretty, gray
dresses; but Margaret had a vision of what glory might bring to Mom
Wallis, and she wanted to help it along. She believed that heavenly
glory can be hastened a good deal on earth if one only tries, and so she
set to work. Glancing out the window, she saw with relief that Gardley
was talking interestedly with Mr. Tanner and seemed entirely content
with their absence.

Mom Wallis hadn't any idea what "waving" her hair meant, but she readily
consented to anything this wonderful girl proposed, and she sat
entranced, looking at her mountain and thrilling with every touch of
Margaret's satin fingers against her leathery old temples. And so,
Sunday though it was, Margaret lighted her little alcohol-lamp and
heated a tiny curling-iron which she kept for emergencies. In a few
minutes' time Mom Wallis's astonished old gray locks lay soft and fluffy
about her face, and pinned in a smooth coil behind, instead of the tight
knot, making the most wonderful difference in the world in her old,
tired face.

"Now look!" said Margaret, and turned her about to the mirror. "If
there's anything at all you don't like about it I can change it, you
know. You don't have to wear it so if you don't like it."

The old woman looked, and then looked back at Margaret with frightened
eyes, and back to the vision in the mirror again.

"My soul!" she exclaimed in an awed voice. "My soul! It's come a'ready!
Glory! I didn't think I could look like that! I wonder what Pop 'd say!
My land! Would you mind ef I kep' it on a while an' wore it back to camp
this way? Pop might uv come home an' I'd like to see ef he'd take notice
to it. I used to be purty onct, but I never expected no sech thing like
this again on earth. Glory! Glory! Mebbe I _could_ get some glory,
_too_."

"'The glory that shall be revealed' is a great deal more wonderful than
this," said Margaret, gently. "This was here all the time, only you
didn't let it come out. Wear it home that way, of course, and wear it
so all the time. It's very little trouble, and you'll find your family
will like it. Men always like to see a woman looking her best, even when
she's working. It helps to make them good. Before you go home I'll show
you how to fix it. It's quite simple. Come, now, shall we go
down-stairs? We don't want to leave Mr. Gardley alone too long, and,
besides, I smell the dinner. I think they'll be waiting for us pretty
soon. I'm going to take a few of these pictures down to show Mr.
Gardley."

She hastily gathered a few photographs together and led the bewildered
little woman down-stairs again, and out in the yard, where Gardley was
walking up and down now, looking off at the mountain. It came to
Margaret, suddenly, that the minister would be returning to the house
soon, and she wished he wouldn't come. He would be a false note in the
pleasant harmony of the little company. He would be disagreeable to
manage, and perhaps hurt poor Mom Wallis's feelings. Perhaps he had
already come. She looked furtively around as she came out the door, but
no minister was in sight, and then she forgot him utterly in the look of
bewildered astonishment with which Gardley was regarding Mom Wallis.

He had stopped short in his walk across the little yard, and was staring
at Mom Wallis, recognition gradually growing in his gaze. When he was
fully convinced he turned his eyes to Margaret, as if to ask: "How did
you do it? Wonderful woman!" and a look of deep reverence for her came
over his face.

Then suddenly he noticed the shy embarrassment on the old woman's face,
and swiftly came toward her, his hands outstretched, and, taking her
bony hands in his, bowed low over them as a courtier might do.

"Mom Wallis, you are beautiful. Did you know it?" he said, gently, and
led her to a little stumpy rocking-chair with a gay red-and-blue rag
cushion that Mrs. Tanner always kept sitting by the front door in
pleasant weather. Then he stood off and surveyed her, while the red
stole into her cheeks becomingly. "What has Miss Earle been doing to
glorify you?" he asked, again looking at her earnestly.

The old woman looked at him in awed silence. There was that word
again--glory! He had said the girl had glorified her. There was then
some glory in her, and it had been brought out by so simple a thing as
the arrangement of her hair. It frightened her, and tears came and stood
in her tired old eyes.

It was well for Mom Wallis's equilibrium that Mr. Tanner came out just
then with the paper he had gone after, for the stolidity of her lifetime
was about breaking up. But, as he turned, Gardley gave her one of the
rarest smiles of sympathy and understanding that a young man can give to
an old woman; and Margaret, watching, loved him for it. It seemed to her
one of the most beautiful things a young man had ever done.

They had discussed the article in the paper thoroughly, and had looked
at the photographs that Margaret had brought down; and Mrs. Tanner had
come to the door numberless times, looking out in a troubled way down
the road, only to trot back again, look in the oven, peep in the kettle,
sigh, and trot out to the door again. At last she came and stood, arms
akimbo, and looked down the road once more.

"Pa, I don't just see how I can keep the dinner waitin' a minute longer,
The potatoes 'll be sp'iled. I don't see what's keepin' that
preacher-man. He musta been invited out, though I don't see why he
didn't send me word."

"That's it, likely, Ma," said Tanner. He was growing hungry. "I saw Mis'
Bacon talkin' to him. She's likely invited him there. She's always
tryin' to get ahead o' you, Ma, you know, 'cause you got the prize fer
your marble cake."

Mrs. Tanner blushed and looked down apologetically at her guests. "Well,
then, ef you'll just come in and set down, I'll dish up. My land! Ain't
that Bud comin' down the road, Pa? He's likely sent word by Bud. I'll
hurry in an' dish up."

Bud slid into his seat hurriedly after a brief ablution in the kitchen,
and his mother questioned him sharply.

"Bud, wher you be'n? Did the minister get invited out?"

The boy grinned and slowly winked one eye at Gardley. "Yes, he's invited
out, all right," he said, meaningly. "You don't need to wait fer him. He
won't be home fer some time, I don't reckon."

Gardley looked keenly, steadily, at the boy's dancing eyes, and resolved
to have a fuller understanding later, and his own eyes met the boy's in
a gleam of mischief and sympathy.

It was the first time in twenty years that Mom Wallis had eaten anything
which she had not prepared herself, and now, with fried chicken and
company preserves before her, she could scarcely swallow a mouthful. To
be seated beside Gardley and waited on like a queen! To be smiled at by
the beautiful young girl across the table, and deferred to by Mr. and
Mrs. Tanner as "Mrs. Wallis," and asked to have more pickles and another
helping of jelly, and did she take cream and sugar in her coffee! It was
too much, and Mom Wallis was struggling with the tears. Even Bud's
round, blue eyes regarded her with approval and interest. She couldn't
help thinking, if her own baby boy had lived, would he ever have been
like Bud? And once she smiled at him, and Bud smiled back, a real
boy-like, frank, hearty grin. It was all like taking dinner in the
Kingdom of Heaven to Mom Wallis, and getting glory aforetime.

It was a wonderful afternoon, and seemed to go on swift wings. Gardley
went back to the school-house, where the horses had been left, and Bud
went with him to give further particulars about that wink at the
dinner-table. Mom Wallis went up to the rose-garlanded room and learned
how to wash her hair, and received a roll of flowered scrim wherewith to
make curtains for the bunk-house. Margaret had originally intended it
for the school-house windows in case it proved necessary to make that
place habitable, but the school-room could wait.

And there in the rose-room, with the new curtains in her trembling
hands, and the great old mountain in full view, Mom Wallis knelt beside
the little gay rocking-chair, while Margaret knelt beside her and prayed
that the Heavenly Father would show Mom Wallis how to let the glory be
revealed in her now on the earth.

Then Mom Wallis wiped the furtive tears away with her calico sleeve,
tied on her funny old bonnet, and rode away with her handsome young
escort into the silence of the desert, with the glory beginning to be
revealed already in her countenance.

Quite late that evening the minister returned.

He came in slowly and wearily, as if every step were a pain to him, and
he avoided the light. His coat was torn and his garments were
mud-covered. He murmured of a "slight accident" to Mrs. Tanner, who met
him solicitously in a flowered dressing-gown with a candle in her hand.
He accepted greedily the half a pie, with cheese and cold chicken and
other articles, she proffered on a plate at his door, and in the reply
to her query as to where he had been for dinner, and if he had a
pleasant time, he said:

"Very pleasant, indeed, thank you! The name? Um--ah--I disremember! I
really didn't ask--That is--"

The minister did not get up to breakfast, In fact, he remained in bed
for several days, professing to be suffering with an attack of
rheumatism. He was solicitously watched over and fed by the anxious Mrs.
Tanner, who was much disconcerted at the state of affairs, and couldn't
understand why she could not get the school-teacher more interested in
the invalid.

On the fourth day, however, the Reverend Frederick crept forth, white
and shaken, with his sleek hair elaborately combed to cover a long
scratch on his forehead, and announced his intention of departing from
the State of Arizona that evening.

He crept forth cautiously to the station as the shades of evening drew
on, but found Long Bill awaiting him, and Jasper Kemp not far away. He
had the two letters ready in his pocket, with the gold piece, though he
had entertained hopes of escaping without forfeiting them, but he was
obliged to wait patiently until Jasper Kemp had read both letters
through twice, with the train in momentary danger of departing without
him, before he was finally allowed to get on board. Jasper Kemp's
parting word to him was:

"Watch your steps spry, parson. I'm agoin' to see that you're shadowed
wherever you go. You needn't think you can get shy on the Bible again.
It won't pay."

There was menace in the dry remark, and the Reverend Frederick's
professional egotism withered before it. He bowed his head, climbed on
board the train, and vanished from the scene of his recent discomfiture.
But the bitterest thing about it all was that he had gone without
capturing the heart or even the attention of that haughty little
school-teacher. "And she was such a pretty girl," he said, regretfully,
to himself. "Such a _very_ pretty girl!" He sighed deeply to himself as
he watched Arizona speed by the window. "Still," he reflected,
comfortably, after a moment, "there are always plenty more! What was
that remarkably witty saying I heard just before I left home? 'Never run
after a street-car or a woman. There'll be another one along in a
minute.' Um--ah--yes--very true--there'll be another one along in a
minute."



CHAPTER XVIII


School had settled down to real work by the opening of the new week.
Margaret knew her scholars and had gained a personal hold on most of
them already. There was enough novelty in her teaching to keep the
entire school in a pleasant state of excitement and wonder as to what
she would do next, and the word had gone out through all the country
round about that the new teacher had taken the school by storm. It was
not infrequent for men to turn out of their way on the trail to get a
glimpse of the school as they were passing, just to make sure the
reports were true. Rumor stated that the teacher was exceedingly pretty;
that she would take no nonsense, not even from the big boys; that she
never threatened nor punished, but that every one of the boys was her
devoted slave. There had been no uprising, and it almost seemed as if
that popular excitement was to be omitted this season, and school was to
sail along in an orderly and proper manner. In fact, the entire school
as well as the surrounding population were eagerly talking about the new
piano, which seemed really to be a coming fact. Not that there had been
anything done toward it yet, but the teacher had promised that just as
soon as every one was really studying hard and doing his best, she was
going to begin to get them ready for an entertainment to raise money for
that piano. They couldn't begin until everybody was in good working
order, because they didn't want to take the interest away from the real
business of school; but it was going to be a Shakespeare play, whatever
that was, and therefore of grave import. Some people talked learnedly
about Shakespeare and hinted of poetry; but the main part of the
community spoke the name joyously and familiarly and without awe, as if
it were milk and honey in their mouths. Why should they reverence
Shakespeare more than any one else?

Margaret had grown used to seeing a head appear suddenly at one of the
school-room windows and look long and frowningly first at her, then at
the school, and then back to her again, as if it were a nine days'
wonder. Whoever the visitor was, he would stand quietly, watching the
process of the hour as if he were at a play, and Margaret would turn and
smile pleasantly, then go right on with her work. The visitor would
generally take off a wide hat and wave it cordially, smile back a
curious, softened smile, and by and by he would mount his horse and pass
on reflectively down the trail, wishing he could be a boy and go back
again to school--such a school!

Oh, it was not all smooth, the way that Margaret walked. There were
hitches, and unpleasant days when nothing went right, and when some of
the girls got silly and rebellious, and the boys followed in their lead.
She had her trials like any teacher, skilful as she was, and not the
least of them became Rosa Rogers, the petted beauty, who presently
manifested a childish jealousy of her in her influence over the boys.
Noting this, Margaret went out of her way to win Rosa, but found it a
difficult matter.

Rosa was proud, selfish, and unprincipled. She never forgave any one who
frustrated her plans. She resented being made to study like the rest.
She had always compelled the teacher to let her do as she pleased and
still give her a good report. This she found she could not do with
Margaret, and for the first time in her career she was compelled to work
or fall behind. It presently became not a question of how the new
teacher was to manage the big boys and the bad boys of the Ashland Ridge
School, but how she was to prevent Rosa Rogers and a few girls who
followed her from upsetting all her plans. The trouble was, Rosa was
pretty and knew her power over the boys. If she chose she could put them
all in a state of insubordination, and this she chose very often during
those first few weeks.

But there was one visitor who did not confine himself to looking in at
the window.

One morning a fine black horse came galloping up to the school-house at
recess-time, and a well-set-up young man in wide sombrero and jaunty
leather trappings sprang off and came into the building. His shining
spurs caught the sunlight and flashed as he moved. He walked with the
air of one who regards himself of far more importance than all who may
be watching him. The boys in the yard stopped their ball-game, and the
girls huddled close in whispering groups and drew near to the door. He
was a young man from a ranch near the fort some thirty miles away, and
he had brought an invitation for the new school-teacher to come over to
dinner on Friday evening and stay until the following Monday morning.
The invitation was from his sister, the wife of a wealthy cattleman
whose home and hospitality were noted for miles around. She had heard of
the coming of the beautiful young teacher, and wanted to attach her to
her social circle.

The young man was deference itself to Margaret, openly admiring her as
he talked, and said the most gracious things to her; and then, while she
was answering the note, he smiled over at Rosa Rogers, who had slipped
into her seat and was studiously preparing her algebra with the book
upside down.

Margaret, looking up, caught Rosa's smiling glance and the tail end of a
look from the young man's eyes, and felt a passing wonder whether he had
ever met the girl before. Something in the boldness of his look made her
feel that he had not. Yet he was all smiles and deference to herself,
and his open admiration and pleasure that she was to come to help
brighten this lonely country, and that she was going to accept the
invitation, was really pleasant to the girl, for it was desolate being
tied down to only the Tanner household and the school, and she welcomed
any bit of social life.

The young man had light hair, combed very smooth, and light-blue eyes.
They were bolder and handsomer than the minister's, but the girl had a
feeling that they were the very same cold color. She wondered at her
comparison, for she liked the handsome young man, and in spite of
herself was a little flattered at the nice things he had said to her.
Nevertheless, when she remembered him afterward it was always with that
uncomfortable feeling that if he hadn't been so handsome and polished in
his appearance he would have seemed just a little bit like that
minister, and she couldn't for the life of her tell why.

After he was gone she looked back at Rosa, and there was a narrowing of
the girl's eyes and a frown of hate on her brows. Margaret turned with a
sigh back to her school problem--what to do with Rosa Rogers?

But Rosa did not stay in the school-house. She slipped out and walked
arm in arm with Amanda Bounds down the road.

Margaret went to the door and watched. Presently she saw the rider wheel
and come galloping back to the door. He had forgotten to tell her that
an escort would be sent to bring her as early on Friday afternoon as she
would be ready to leave the school, and he intimated that he hoped he
might be detailed for that pleasant duty.

Margaret looked into his face and warmed to his pleasant smile. How
could she have thought him like West? He touched his hat and rode away,
and a moment later she saw him draw rein beside Rosa and Amanda, and
presently dismount.

Bud rang the bell just then, and Margaret went back to her desk with a
lingering look at the three figures in the distance. It was full half an
hour before Rosa came in, with Amanda looking scared behind her; and
troubled Margaret watched the sly look in the girl's eyes and wondered
what she ought to do about it. As Rosa was passing out of the door after
school she called her to the desk.

"You were late in coming in after recess, Rosa," said Margaret, gently.
"Have you any excuse?"

"I was talking to a friend," said Rosa, with a toss of her head which
said, as plainly as words could have done, "I don't intend to give an
excuse."

"Were you talking to the gentleman who was here?"

"Well, if I was, what is that to you, Miss Earle?" said Rosa, haughtily.
"Did you think you could have all the men and boys to yourself?"

"Rosa," said Margaret, trying to speak calmly, but her voice trembling
with suppressed indignation, "don't talk that way to me. Child, did you
ever meet Mr. Forsythe before?"

"I'm not a child, and it's none of your business!" flouted Rosa,
angrily, and she twitched away and flung herself out of the
school-house.

Margaret, trembling from the disagreeable encounter, stood at the window
and watched the girl going down the road, and felt for the moment that
she would rather give up her school and go back home than face the
situation. She knew in her heart that this girl, once an enemy, would be
a bitter one, and this her last move had been a most unfortunate one,
coming out, as it did, with Rosa in the lead. She could, of course,
complain to Rosa's family, or to the school-board, but such was not the
policy she had chosen. She wanted to be able to settle her own
difficulties. It seemed strange that she could not reach this one
girl--who was in a way the key to the situation. Perhaps the play would
be able to help her. She spent a long time that evening going over the
different plays in her library, and finally, with a look of apology
toward a little photographed head of Shakespeare, she decided on
"Midsummer-Night's Dream." What if it was away above the heads of them
all, wouldn't a few get something from it? And wasn't it better to take
a great thing and try to make her scholars and a few of the community
understand it, rather than to take a silly little play that would not
amount to anything in the end? Of course, they couldn't do it well; that
went without saying. Of course it would be away beyond them all, but at
least it would be a study of something great for her pupils, and she
could meantime teach them a little about Shakespeare and perhaps help
some of them to learn to love his plays and study them.

The play she had selected was one in which she herself had acted the
part of Puck, and she knew it by heart. She felt reasonably sure that
she could help some of the more adaptable scholars to interpret their
parts, and, at least, it would be good for them just as a study in
literature. As for the audience, they would not be critics. Perhaps they
would not even be able to comprehend the meaning of the play, but they
would come and they would listen, and the experiment was one worth
trying.

Carefully she went over the parts, trying to find the one which she
thought would best fit Rosa Rogers, and please her as well, because it
gave her opportunity to display her beauty and charm. She really was a
pretty girl, and would do well. Margaret wondered whether she were
altogether right in attempting to win the girl through her vanity, and
yet what other weak place was there in which to storm the silly little
citadel of her soul?

And so the work of assigning parts and learning them began that very
week, though no one was allowed a part until his work for the day had
all been handed in.

At noon Margaret made one more attempt with Rosa Rogers. She drew her to
a seat beside her and put aside as much as possible her own remembrance
of the girl's disagreeable actions and impudent words.

"Rosa," she said, and her voice was very gentle, "I want to have a
little talk with you. You seem to feel that you and I are enemies, and I
don't want you to have that attitude. I hoped we'd be the best of
friends. You see, there isn't any other way for us to work well
together. And I want to explain why I spoke to you as I did yesterday.
It was not, as you hinted, that I want to keep all my acquaintances to
myself. I have no desire to do that. It was because I feel responsible
for the girls and boys in my care, and I was troubled lest perhaps you
had been foolish--"

Margaret paused. She could see by the bright hardness of the girl's eyes
that she was accomplishing nothing. Rosa evidently did not believe her.

"Well, Rosa," she said, suddenly, putting an impulsive, kindly hand on
the girl's arm, "suppose we forget it this time, put it all away, and be
friends. Let's learn to understand each other if we can, but in the
mean time I want to talk to you about the play."

And then, indeed, Rosa's hard manner broke, and she looked up with
interest, albeit there was some suspicion in the glance. She wanted to
be in that play with all her heart; she wanted the very showiest part in
it, too; and she meant to have it, although she had a strong suspicion
that the teacher would want to keep that part for herself, whatever it
was.

But Margaret had been wise. She had decided to take time and explain the
play to her, and then let her choose her own part. She wisely judged
that Rosa would do better in the part in which her interest centered,
and perhaps the choice would help her to understand her pupil better.

And so for an hour she patiently stayed after school and went over the
play, explaining it carefully, and it seemed at one time as though Rosa
was about to choose to be Puck, because with quick perception she caught
the importance of that character; but when she learned that the costume
must be a quiet hood and skirt of green and brown she scorned it, and
chose, at last, to be Titania, queen of the fairies. So, with a sigh of
relief, and a keen insight into the shallow nature, Margaret began to
teach the girl some of the fairy steps, and found her quick and eager to
learn. In the first lesson Rosa forgot for a little while her animosity
and became almost as one of the other pupils. The play was going to
prove a great means of bringing them all together.

Before Friday afternoon came the parts had all been assigned and the
plans for the entertainment were well under way.

Jed and Timothy had been as good as their word about giving the teacher
riding-lessons, each vying with the other to bring a horse and make her
ride at noon hour, and she had already had several good lessons and a
long ride or two in company with both her teachers.

The thirty-mile ride for Friday, then, was not such an undertaking as it
might otherwise have been, and Margaret looked forward to it with
eagerness.



CHAPTER XIX


The little party of escort arrived before school was closed on Friday
afternoon, and came down to the school-house in full force to take her
away with them. The young man Forsythe, with his sister, the hostess
herself, and a young army officer from the fort, comprised the party.
Margaret dismissed school ten minutes early and went back with them to
the Tanners' to make a hurried change in her dress and pick up her
suit-case, which was already packed. As they rode away from the
school-house Margaret looked back and saw Rosa Rogers posing in one of
her sprite dances in the school-yard, saw her kiss her hand laughingly
toward their party, and saw the flutter of a handkerchief in young
Forsythe's hand. It was all very general and elusive, a passing bit of
fun, but it left an uncomfortable impression on the teacher's mind. She
looked keenly at the young man as he rode up smiling beside her, and
once more experienced that strange, sudden change of feeling about him.

She took opportunity during that long ride to find out if the young man
had known Rosa Rogers before; but he frankly told her that he had just
come West to visit his sister, was bored to death because he didn't know
a soul in the whole State, and until he had seen her had not laid eyes
on one whom he cared to know. Yet while she could not help enjoying the
gay badinage, she carried a sense of uneasiness whenever she thought of
the young girl Rosa in her pretty fairy pose, with her fluttering pink
fingers and her saucy, smiling eyes. There was something untrustworthy,
too, in the handsome face of the man beside her.

There was just one shadow over this bit of a holiday. Margaret had a
little feeling that possibly some one from the camp might come down on
Saturday or Sunday, and she would miss him. Yet nothing had been said
about it, and she had no way of sending word that she would be away. She
had meant to send Mom Wallis a letter by the next messenger that came
that way. It was all written and lying on her bureau, but no one had
been down all the week. She was, therefore, greatly pleased when an
approaching rider in the distance proved to be Gardley, and with a
joyful little greeting she drew rein and hailed him, giving him a
message for Mom Wallis.

Only Gardley's eyes told what this meeting was to him. His demeanor was
grave and dignified. He acknowledged the introductions to the rest of
the party gracefully, touched his hat with the ease of one to the manner
born, and rode away, flashing her one gleam of a smile that told her he
was glad of the meeting; but throughout the brief interview there had
been an air of question and hostility between the two men, Forsythe and
Gardley. Forsythe surveyed Gardley rudely, almost insolently, as if his
position beside the lady gave him rights beyond the other, and he
resented the coming of the stranger. Gardley's gaze was cold, too, as he
met the look, and his eyes searched Forsythe's face keenly, as though
they would find out what manner of man was riding with his friend.

When he was gone Margaret had the feeling that he was somehow
disappointed, and once she turned in the saddle and looked wistfully
after him; but he was riding furiously into the distance, sitting his
horse as straight as an arrow and already far away upon the desert.

"Your friend is a reckless rider," said Forsythe, with a sneer in his
voice that Margaret did not like, as they watched the speck in the
distance clear a steep descent from the mesa at a bound and disappear
from sight in the mesquite beyond.

"Isn't he fine-looking? Where did you find him, Miss Earle?" asked Mrs.
Temple, eagerly. "I wish I'd asked him to join us. He left so suddenly I
didn't realize he was going."

Margaret felt a wondering and pleasant sense of possession and pride in
Gardley as she watched, but she quietly explained that the young
stranger was from the East, and that he was engaged in some kind of
cattle business at a distance from Ashland. Her manner was reserved, and
the matter dropped. She naturally felt a reluctance to tell how her
acquaintance with Gardley began. It seemed something between themselves.
She could fancy the gushing Mrs. Temple saying, "How romantic!" She was
that kind of a woman. It was evident that she was romantically inclined
herself, for she used her fine eyes with effect on the young officer who
rode with her, and Margaret found herself wondering what kind of a
husband she had and what her mother would think of a woman like this.

There was no denying that the luxury of the ranch was a happy relief
from the simplicity of life at the Tanners'. Iced drinks and cushions
and easy-chairs, feasting and music and laughter! There were books, too,
and magazines, and all the little things that go to make up a cultured
life; and yet they were not people of Margaret's world, and when
Saturday evening was over she sat alone in the room they had given her
and, facing herself in the glass, confessed to herself that she looked
back with more pleasure to the Sabbath spent with Mom Wallis than she
could look forward to a Sabbath here. The morning proved her forebodings
well founded.

Breakfast was a late, informal affair, filled with hilarious gaiety.
There was no mention of any church service, and Margaret found it was
quite too late to suggest such a thing when breakfast was over, even if
she had been sure there was any service.

After breakfast was over there were various forms of amusement proposed
for her pleasure, and she really felt very much embarrassed for a few
moments to know how to avoid what to her was pure Sabbath-breaking. Yet
she did not wish to be rude to these people who were really trying to be
kind to her. She managed at last to get them interested in music, and,
grouping them around the piano after a few preliminary performances by
herself at their earnest solicitation, coaxed them into singing hymns.

After all, they really seemed to enjoy it, though they had to get along
with one hymn-book for the whole company; but Margaret knew how to make
hymn-singing interesting, and her exquisite voice was never more at its
best than when she led off with "My Jesus, as Thou Wilt," or "Jesus,
Saviour, Pilot Me."

"You would be the delight of Mr. Brownleigh's heart," said the hostess,
gushingly, at last, after Margaret had finished singing "Abide With Me"
with wonderful feeling.

"And who is Mr. Brownleigh?" asked Margaret. "Why should I delight his
heart?"

"Why, he is our missionary--that is, the missionary for this region--and
you would delight his heart because you are so religious and sing so
well," said the superficial little woman. "Mr. Brownleigh is really a
very cultured man. Of course, he's narrow. All clergymen are narrow,
don't you think? They have to be to a certain extent. He's really
_quite_ narrow. Why, he believes in the Bible _literally_, the whale and
Jonah, and the Flood, and making bread out of stones, and all that sort
of thing, you know. Imagine it! But he does. He's sincere! Perfectly
sincere. I suppose he has to be. It's his business. But sometimes one
feels it a pity that he can't relax a little, just among us here, you
know. We'd never tell. Why, he won't even play a little game of poker!
And he doesn't smoke! _Imagine_ it--_not even when he's by himself_, and
_no one would know_! Isn't that odd? But he can preach. He's really very
interesting; only a little too Utopian in his ideas. He thinks everybody
ought to be good, you know, and all that sort of thing. He really
thinks it's possible, and he lives that way himself. He really does. But
he is a wonderful person; only I feel sorry for his wife sometimes.
She's quite a cultured person. Has been wealthy, you know. She was a New
York society girl. Just imagine it; out in these wilds taking gruel to
the dirty little Indians! How she ever came to do it! Of course she
adores him, but I can't really believe she is happy. No woman could be
quite blind enough to give up everything in the world for one man, no
matter how good he was. Do you think she could? It wasn't as if she
didn't have plenty of other chances. She gave them all up to come out
and marry him. She's a pretty good sport, too; she never lets you know
she isn't perfectly happy."

"She _is_ happy; mother, she's happier than _anybody_ I ever saw,"
declared the fourteen-year-old daughter of the house, who was home from
boarding-school for a brief visit during an epidemic of measles in the
school.

"Oh yes, she manages to make people think she's happy," said her mother,
indulgently; "but you can't make me believe she's satisfied to give up
her house on Fifth Avenue and live in a two-roomed log cabin in the
desert, with no society."

"Mother, you don't know! Why, _any_ woman would be satisfied if her
husband adored her the way Mr. Brownleigh does her."

"Well, Ada, you're a romantic girl, and Mr. Brownleigh is a handsome
man. You've got a few things to learn yet. Mark my words, I don't
believe you'll see Mrs. Brownleigh coming back next month with her
husband. This operation was all well enough to talk about, but I'll not
be surprised to hear that he has come back alone or else that he has
accepted a call to some big city church. And he's equal to the city
church, too; that's the wonder of it. He comes of a fine family himself,
I've heard. Oh, people can't keep up the pose of saints forever, even
though they do adore each other. But Mr. Brownleigh _certainly is_ a
good man!"

The vapid little woman sat looking reflectively out of the window for a
whole minute after this deliverance. Yes, certainly Mr. Brownleigh was a
good man. He was the one man of culture, education, refinement, who had
come her way in many a year who had patiently and persistently and
gloriously refused her advances at a mild flirtation, and refused to
understand them, yet remained her friend and reverenced hero. He was a
good man, and she knew it, for she was a very pretty woman and
understood her art well.

Before the day was over Margaret had reason to feel that a Sabbath in
Arizona was a very hard thing to find. The singing could not last all
day, and her friends seemed to find more amusements on Sunday that did
not come into Margaret's code of Sabbath-keeping than one knew how to
say no to. Neither could they understand her feeling, and she found it
hard not to be rude in gently declining one plan after another.

She drew the children into a wide, cozy corner after dinner and began a
Bible story in the guise of a fairy-tale, while the hostess slipped away
to take a nap. However, several other guests lingered about, and Mr.
Temple strayed in. They sat with newspapers before their faces and got
into the story, too, seeming to be deeply interested, so that, after
all, Margaret did not have an unprofitable Sabbath.

But altogether, though she had a gay and somewhat frivolous time, a good
deal of admiration and many invitations to return as often as possible,
Margaret was not sorry when she said good night to know that she was to
return in the early morning to her work.

Mr. Temple himself was going part way with them, accompanied by his
niece, Forsythe, and the young officer who came over with them. Margaret
rode beside Mr. Temple until his way parted from theirs, and had a
delightful talk about Arizona. He was a kindly old fellow who adored his
frivolous little wife and let her go her own gait, seeming not to mind
how much she flirted.

The morning was pink and silver, gold and azure, a wonderful specimen of
an Arizona sunrise for Margaret's benefit, and a glorious beginning for
her day's work in spite of the extremely early hour. The company was gay
and blithe, and the Eastern girl felt as if she were passing through a
wonderful experience.

They loitered a little on the way to show Margaret the wonders of a
fern-plumed cañon, and it was almost school-time when they came up the
street, so that Margaret rode straight to the school-house instead of
stopping at Tanners'. On the way to the school they passed a group of
girls, of whom Rosa Rogers was the center. A certain something in Rosa's
narrowed eyelids as she said good morning caused Margaret to look back
uneasily, and she distinctly saw the girl give a signal to young
Forsythe, who, for answer, only tipped his hat and gave her a peculiar
smile.

In a moment more they had said good-by, and Margaret was left at the
school-house door with a cluster of eager children about her, and
several shy boys in the background, ready to welcome her back as if she
had been gone a month.

In the flutter of opening school Margaret failed to notice that Rosa
Rogers did not appear. It was not until the roll was called that she
noticed her absence, and she looked uneasily toward the door many times
during the morning, but Rosa did not come until after recess, when she
stole smilingly in, as if it were quite the thing to come to school
late. When questioned about her tardiness she said she had torn her
dress and had to go home and change it. Margaret knew by the look in her
eyes that the girl was not telling the truth, but what was she to do? It
troubled her all the morning and went with her to a sleepless pillow
that night. She was beginning to see that life as a school-teacher in
the far West was not all she had imagined it to be. Her father had been
right. There would likely be more thorns than roses on her way.



CHAPTER XX


The first time Lance Gardley met Rosa Rogers riding with Archie
Forsythe he thought little of it. He knew the girl by sight, because he
knew her father in a business way. That she was very young and one of
Margaret's pupils was all he knew about her. For the young man he had
conceived a strong dislike, but as there was no reason whatever for it
he put it out of his mind as quickly as possible.

The second time he met them it was toward evening and they were so
wholly absorbed in each other's society that they did not see him until
he was close upon them. Forsythe looked up with a frown and a quick hand
to his hip, where gleamed a weapon.

He scarcely returned the slight salute given by Gardley, and the two
young people touched up their horses and were soon out of sight in the
mesquite. But something in the frightened look of the girl's eyes caused
Gardley to turn and look after the two.

Where could they be going at that hour of the evening? It was not a
trail usually chosen for rides. It was lonely and unfrequented, and led
out of the way of travelers. Gardley himself had been a far errand for
Jasper Kemp, and had taken this short trail back because it cut off
several miles and he was weary. Also, he was anxious to stop in Ashland
and leave Mom Wallis's request that Margaret would spend the next
Sabbath at the camp and see the new curtains. He was thinking what he
should say to her when he saw her in a little while now, and this
interruption to his thoughts was unwelcome. Nevertheless, he could not
get away from that frightened look in the girl's eyes. Where could they
have been going? That fellow was a new-comer in the region; perhaps he
had lost his way. Perhaps he did not know that the road he was taking
the girl led into a region of outlaws, and that the only habitation
along the way was a cabin belonging to an old woman of weird reputation,
where wild orgies were sometimes celebrated, and where men went who
loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Twice Gardley turned in his saddle and scanned the desert. The sky was
darkening, and one or two pale stars were impatiently shadowing forth
their presence. And now he could see the two riders again. They had come
up out of the mesquite to the top of the mesa, and were outlined against
the sky sharply. They were still on the trail to old Ouida's cabin!

With a quick jerk Gardley reined in his horse and wheeled about,
watching the riders for a moment; and then, setting spurs to his beast,
he was off down the trail after them on one of his wild, reckless rides.
Down through the mesquite he plunged, through the darkening grove, out,
and up to the top of the mesa. He had lost sight of his quarry for the
time, but now he could see them again riding more slowly in the valley
below, their horses close together, and even as he watched the sky took
on its wide night look and the stars blazed forth.

Suddenly Gardley turned sharply from the trail and made a detour through
a grove of trees, riding with reckless speed, his head down to escape
low branches; and in a minute or two he came with unerring instinct back
to the trail some distance ahead of Forsythe and Rosa. Then he wheeled
his horse and stopped stock-still, awaiting their coming.

By this time the great full moon was risen and, strangely enough, was at
Gardley's back, making a silhouette of man and horse as the two riders
came on toward him.

They rode out from the cover of the grove, and there he was across their
path. Rosa gave a scream, drawing nearer her companion, and her horse
swerved and reared; but Gardley's black stood like an image carved in
ebony against the silver of the moon, and Gardley's quiet voice was in
strong contrast to the quick, unguarded exclamation of Forsythe, as he
sharply drew rein and put his hand hastily to his hip for his weapon.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Forsythe"--Gardley had an excellent memory for
names--"but I thought you might not be aware, being a new-comer in these
parts, that the trail you are taking leads to a place where ladies do
not like to go."

"Really! You don't say so!" answered the young man, insolently. "It is
very kind of you, I'm sure, but you might have saved yourself the
trouble. I know perfectly where I am going, and so does the lady, and
we choose to go this way. Move out of the way, please. You are detaining
us."

But Gardley did not move out of the way. "I am sure the lady does not
know where she is going," he said, firmly. "I am sure that she does not
know that it is a place of bad reputation, even in this unconventional
land. At least, if she knows, I am sure that _her father_ does not know,
and I am well acquainted with her father."

"Get out of the way, sir," said Forsythe, hotly. "It certainly is none
of your business, anyway, whoever knows what. Get out of the way or I
shall shoot. This lady and I intend to ride where we please."

"Then I shall have to say you _cannot_," said Gardley; and his voice
still had that calm that made his opponent think him easy to conquer.

"Just how do you propose to stop us?" sneered Forsythe, pulling out his
pistol.

"This way," said Gardley, lifting a tiny silver whistle to his lips and
sending forth a peculiar, shrilling blast. "And this way," went on
Gardley, calmly lifting both hands and showing a weapon in each,
wherewith he covered the two.

Rosa screamed and covered her face with her hands, cowering in her
saddle.

Forsythe lifted his weapon, but looked around nervously. "Dead men tell
no tales," he said, angrily.

"It depends upon the man," said Gardley, meaningly, "especially if he
were found on this road. I fancy a few tales could be told if you
happened to be the man. Turn your horses around at once and take this
lady back to her home. My men are not far off, and if you do not wish
the whole story to be known among your friends and hers you would better
make haste."

Forsythe dropped his weapon and obeyed. He decidedly did not wish his
escapade to be known among his friends. There were financial reasons why
he did not care to have it come to the ears of his brother-in-law just
now.

Silently in the moonlight the little procession took its way down the
trail, the girl and the man side by side, their captor close behind, and
when the girl summoned courage to glance fearsomely behind her she saw
three more men riding like three grim shadows yet behind. They had
fallen into the trail so quietly that she had not heard them when they
came. They were Jasper Kemp, Long Bill, and Big Jim. They had been out
for other purposes, but without question followed the call of the
signal.

It was a long ride back to Rogers's ranch, and Forsythe glanced
nervously behind now and then. It seemed to him that the company was
growing larger all the time. He half expected to see a regiment each
time he turned. He tried hurrying his horse, but when he did so the
followers were just as close without any seeming effort. He tried to
laugh it all off.

Once he turned and tried to placate Gardley with a few shakily jovial
words:

"Look here, old fellow, aren't you the man I met on the trail the day
Miss Earle went over to the fort? I guess you've made a mistake in your
calculations. I was merely out on a pleasure ride with Miss Rogers. We
weren't going anywhere in particular, you know. Miss Rogers chose this
way, and I wanted to please her. No man likes to have his pleasure
interfered with, you know. I guess you didn't recognize me?"

"I recognized you," said Gardley. "It would be well for you to be
careful where you ride with ladies, especially at night. The matter,
however, is one that you would better settle with Mr. Rogers. My duty
will be done when I have put it into his hands."

"Now, my good fellow," said Forsythe, patronizingly, "you surely don't
intend to make a great fuss about this and go telling tales to Mr.
Rogers about a trifling matter--"

"I intend to do my duty, Mr. Forsythe," said Gardley; and Forsythe
noticed that the young man still held his weapons. "I was set this night
to guard Mr. Rogers's property. That I did not expect his daughter would
be a part of the evening's guarding has nothing to do with the matter. I
shall certainly put the matter into Mr. Rogers's hands."

Rosa began to cry softly.

"Well, if you want to be a fool, of course," laughed Forsythe,
disagreeably; "but you will soon see Mr. Rogers will accept my
explanation."

"That is for Mr. Rogers to decide," answered Gardley, and said no more.

The reflections of Forsythe during the rest of that silent ride were not
pleasant, and Rosa's intermittent crying did not tend to make him more
comfortable.

The silent procession at last turned in at the great ranch gate and rode
up to the house. Just as they stopped and the door of the house swung
open, letting out a flood of light, Rosa leaned toward Gardley and
whispered:

"Please, Mr. Gardley, don't tell papa. I'll do _anything_ in the world
for you if you won't tell papa."

He looked at the pretty, pitiful child in the moonlight. "I'm sorry,
Miss Rosa," he said, firmly. "But you don't understand. I must do my
duty."

"Then I shall hate you!" she hissed. "Do you hear? I shall _hate_ you
forever, and you don't know what that means. It means I'll take my
_revenge_ on you and on _everybody you like_."

He looked at her half pityingly as he swung off his horse and went up
the steps to meet Mr. Rogers, who had come out and was standing on the
top step of the ranch-house in the square of light that flickered from a
great fire on the hearth of the wide fireplace. He was looking from one
to another of the silent group, and as his eyes rested on his daughter
he said, sternly:

"Why, Rosa, what does this mean? You told me you were going to bed with
a headache!"

Gardley drew his employer aside and told what had happened in a few
low-toned sentences; and then stepped down and back into the shadow, his
horse by his side, the three men from the camp grouped behind him. He
had the delicacy to withdraw after his duty was done.

Mr. Rogers, his face stern with sudden anger and alarm, stepped down and
stood beside his daughter. "Rosa, you may get down and go into the house
to your own room. I will talk with you later," he said. And then to the
young man, "You, sir, will step into my office. I wish to have a plain
talk with you."

A half-hour later Forsythe came out of the Rogers house and mounted his
horse, while Mr. Rogers stood silently and watched him.

"I will bid you good evening, sir," he said, formally, as the young man
mounted his horse and silently rode away. His back had a defiant look in
the moonlight as he passed the group of men in the shadow; but they did
not turn to watch him.

"That will be all to-night, Gardley, and I thank you very much," called
the clear voice of Mr. Rogers from his front steps.

The four men mounted their horses silently and rode down a little
distance behind the young man, who wondered in his heart just how much
or how little Gardley had told Rosa's father.

The interview to which young Forsythe had just been subjected had been
chastening in character, of a kind to baffle curiosity concerning the
father's knowledge of details, and to discourage any further romantic
rides with Miss Rosa. It had been left in abeyance whether or not the
Temples should be made acquainted with the episode, dependent upon the
future conduct of both young people. It had not been satisfactory from
Forsythe's point of view; that is, he had not been so easily able to
disabuse the father's mind of suspicion, nor to establish his own
guileless character as he had hoped; and some of the remarks Rogers made
led Forsythe to think that the father understood just how unpleasant it
might become for him if his brother-in-law found out about the
escapade.

This is why Archie Forsythe feared Lance Gardley, although there was
nothing in the least triumphant about the set of that young man's
shoulders as he rode away in the moonlight on the trail toward Ashland.
And this is how it came about that Rosa Rogers hated Lance Gardley,
handsome and daring though he was; and because of him hated her teacher,
Margaret Earle.

An hour later Lance Gardley stood in the little dim Tanner parlor,
talking to Margaret.

"You look tired," said the girl, compassionately, as she saw the haggard
shadows on the young face, showing in spite of the light of pleasure in
his eyes. "You look _very_ tired. What in the world have you been
doing?"

"I went out to catch cattle-thieves," he said, with a sigh, "but I found
there were other kinds of thieves abroad. It's all in the day's work.
I'm not tired now." And he smiled at her with beautiful reverence.

Margaret, as she watched him, could not help thinking that the lines in
his face had softened and strengthened since she had first seen him, and
her eyes let him know that she was glad he had come.

"And so you will really come to us, and it isn't going to be asking too
much?" he said, wistfully. "You can't think what it's going to be to the
men--to _us_! And Mom Wallis is so excited she can hardly get her work
done. If you had said no I would be almost afraid to go back." He
laughed, but she could see there was deep earnestness under his tone.

"Indeed I will come," said Margaret. "I'm just looking forward to it.
I'm going to bring Mom Wallis a new bonnet like one I made for mother;
and I'm going to teach her how to make corn gems and steamed apple
dumplings. I'm bringing some songs and some music for the violin; and
I've got something for you to help me do, too, if you will?"

He smiled tenderly down on her. What a wonderful girl she was, to be
willing to come out to the old shack among a lot of rough men and one
uncultured old woman and make them happy, when she was fit for the
finest in the land!

"You're _wonderful_!" he said, taking her hand with a quick pressure for
good-by. "You make every one want to do his best."

He hurried out to his horse and rode away in the moonlight. Margaret
went up to her "mountain window" and watched him far out on the trail,
her heart swelling with an unnamed gladness over his last words.

"Oh, God, keep him, and help him to make good!" she prayed.



CHAPTER XXI


The visit to the camp was a time to be remembered long by all the
inhabitants of the bunk-house, and even by Margaret herself. Margaret
wondered Friday evening, as she sat up late, working away braiding a
lovely gray bonnet out of folds of malines, and fashioning it into form
for Mom Wallis, why she was looking forward to the visit with so much
more real pleasure than she had done to the one the week before at the
Temples'. And so subtle is the heart of a maid that she never fathomed
the real reason.

The Temples', of course, was interesting and delightful as being
something utterly new in her experience. It was comparatively luxurious,
and there were pleasant, cultured people there, more from her own social
class in life. But it was going to be such fun to surprise Mom Wallis
with that bonnet and see her old face light up when she saw herself in
the little folding three-leaved mirror she was taking along with her and
meant to leave for Mom Wallis's log boudoir. She was quite excited over
selecting some little thing for each one of the men--books, pictures, a
piece of music, a bright cushion, and a pile of picture magazines. It
made a big bundle when she had them together, and she was dubious if she
ought to try to carry them all; but Bud, whom she consulted on the
subject, said, loftily, it "wasn't a flea-bite for the Kid; he could
carry anything on a horse."

Bud was just a little jealous to have his beloved teacher away from home
so much, and rejoiced greatly when Gardley, Friday afternoon, suggested
that he come along, too. He made quick time to his home, and secured a
hasty permission and wardrobe, appearing like a footman on his father's
old horse when they were half a mile down the trail.

Mom Wallis was out at the door to greet her guest when she arrived, for
Margaret had chosen to make her visit last from Friday afternoon after
school, until Monday morning. It was the generosity of her nature that
she gave to her utmost when she gave.

The one fear she had entertained about coming had been set at rest on
the way when Gardley told her that Pop Wallis was off on one of his long
trips, selling cattle, and would probably not return for a week.
Margaret, much as she trusted Gardley and the men, could not help
dreading to meet Pop Wallis again.

There was a new trimness about the old bunk-house. The clearing had been
cleaned up and made neat, the grass cut, some vines set out and trained
up limply about the door, and the windows shone with Mom Wallis's
washing.

Mom Wallis herself was wearing her best white apron, stiff with starch,
her lace collar, and her hair in her best imitation of the way Margaret
had fixed it, although it must be confessed she hadn't quite caught the
knack of arrangement yet. But the one great difference Margaret noticed
in the old woman was the illuminating smile on her face. Mom Wallis had
learned how to let the glory gleam through all the hard sordidness of
her life, and make earth brighter for those about her.

The curtains certainly made a great difference in the looks of the
bunk-house, together with a few other changes. The men had made some
chairs--three of them, one out of a barrel; and together they had
upholstered them roughly. The cots around the walls were blazing with
their red blankets folded smoothly and neatly over them, and on the
floor in front of the hearth, which had been scrubbed, Gardley had
spread a Navajo blanket he had bought of an Indian.

The fireplace was piled with logs ready for the lighting at night, and
from somewhere a lamp had been rigged up and polished till it shone in
the setting sun that slanted long rays in at the shining windows.

The men were washed and combed, and had been huddled at the back of the
bunk-house for an hour, watching the road, and now they came forward
awkwardly to greet their guest, their horny hands scrubbed to an
unbelievable whiteness. They did not say much, but they looked their
pleasure, and Margaret greeted every one as if he were an old friend,
the charming part about it all to the men being that she remembered
every one's name and used it.

Bud hovered in the background and watched with starry eyes. Bud was
having the time of his life. He preferred the teacher's visiting the
camp rather than the fort. The "Howdy, sonny!" which he had received
from the men, and the "Make yourself at home, Bill" from Gardley, had
given him great joy; and the whole thing seemed somehow to link him to
the teacher in a most distinguishing manner.

Supper was ready almost immediately, and Mom Wallis had done her best to
make it appetizing. There was a lamb stew with potatoes, and fresh corn
bread with coffee. The men ate with relish, and watched their guest of
honor as if she had been an angel come down to abide with them for a
season. There was a tablecloth on the old table, too--a _white_
tablecloth. It looked remarkably like an old sheet, to be sure, with a
seam through the middle where it had been worn and turned and sewed
together; but it was a tablecloth now, and a marvel to the men. And the
wonder about Margaret was that she could eat at such a table and make it
seem as though that tablecloth were the finest damask, and the two-tined
forks the heaviest of silver.

After the supper was cleared away and the lamp lighted, the gifts were
brought out. A book of Scotch poetry for Jasper Kemp, bound in tartan
covers of the Campbell clan; a small illustrated pamphlet of Niagara
Falls for Big Jim, because he had said he wanted to see the place and
never could manage it; a little pictured folder of Washington City for
Big Jim; a book of old ballad music for Fiddling Boss; a book of jokes
for Fade-away Forbes; a framed picture of a beautiful shepherd dog for
Stocky; a big, red, ruffled denim pillow for Croaker, because when she
was there before he was always complaining about the seats being hard;
a great blazing crimson pennant bearing the name HARVARD in big letters
for Fudge, because she had remembered he was from Boston; and for Mom
Wallis a framed text beautifully painted in water-colors, done in rustic
letters twined with stray forget-me-nots, the words, "Come unto Me, all
ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Margaret
had made that during the week and framed it in a simple raffia braid of
brown and green.

It was marvelous how these men liked their presents; and while they were
examining them and laughing about them and putting their pictures and
Mom Wallis's text on the walls, and the pillow on a bunk, and the
pennant over the fireplace, Margaret shyly held out a tiny box to
Gardley.

"I thought perhaps you would let me give you this," she said. "It isn't
much; it isn't even new, and it has some marks in it; but I thought it
might help with your new undertaking."

Gardley took it with a lighting of his face and opened the box. In it
was a little, soft, leather-bound Testament, showing the marks of usage,
yet not worn. It was a tiny thing, very thin, easily fitting in a
vest-pocket, and not a burden to carry. He took the little book in his
hand, removed the silken rubber band that bound it, and turned the
leaves reverently in his fingers, noting that there were pencil-marks
here and there. His face was all emotion as he looked up at the giver.

"I thank you," he said, in a low tone, glancing about to see that no one
was noticing them. "I shall prize it greatly. It surely will help. I
will read it every day. Was that what you wanted? And I will carry it
with me always."

His voice was very earnest, and he looked at her as though she had given
him a fortune. With another glance about at the preoccupied room--even
Bud was busy studying Jasper Kemp's oldest gun--he snapped the band on
the book again and put it carefully in his inner breast-pocket. The book
would henceforth travel next his heart and be his guide. She thought he
meant her to understand that, as he put out his hand unobtrusively and
pressed her fingers gently with a quick, low "Thank you!"

Then Mom Wallis's bonnet was brought out and tied on her, and the poor
old woman blushed like a girl when she stood with meek hands folded at
her waist and looked primly about on the family for their approval at
Margaret's request. But that was nothing to the way she stared when
Margaret got out the threefold mirror and showed her herself in the new
headgear. She trotted away at last, the wonderful bonnet in one hand,
the box in the other, a look of awe on her face, and Margaret heard her
murmur as she put it away: "Glory! _Me!_ Glory!"

Then Margaret had to read one or two of the poems for Jasper Kemp, while
they all sat and listened to her Scotch and marveled at her. A woman
like that condescending to come to visit them!

She gave a lesson in note-reading to the Fiddling Boss, pointing one by
one with her white fingers to the notes until he was able to creep along
and pick out "Suwanee River" and "Old Folks at Home" to the intense
delight of the audience.

Margaret never knew just how it was that she came to be telling the men
a story, one she had read not long before in a magazine, a story with a
thrilling national interest and a keen personal touch that searched the
hearts of men; but they listened as they had never listened to anything
in their lives before.

And then there was singing, more singing, until it bade fair to be
morning before they slept, and the little teacher was weary indeed when
she lay down on the cot in Mom Wallis's room, after having knelt beside
the old woman and prayed.

The next day there was a wonderful ride with Gardley and Bud to the
cañon of the cave-dwellers, and a coming home to the apple dumplings she
had taught Mom Wallis to make before she went away. All day Gardley and
she, with Bud for delighted audience, had talked over the play she was
getting up at the school, Gardley suggesting about costumes and tree
boughs for scenery, and promising to help in any way she wanted. Then
after supper there were jokes and songs around the big fire, and some
popcorn one of the men had gone a long ride that day to get. They called
for another story, too, and it was forthcoming.

It was Sunday morning after breakfast, however, that Margaret suddenly
wondered how she was going to make the day helpful and different from
the other days.

She stood for a moment looking out of the clear little window
thoughtfully, with just the shadow of a sigh on her lips, and as she
turned back to the room she met Gardley's questioning glance.

"Are you homesick?" he asked, with a sorry smile. "This must all be
very different from what you are accustomed to."

"Oh no, it isn't that." She smiled, brightly. "I'm not a baby for home,
but I do get a bit homesick about church-time. Sunday is such a strange
day to me without a service."

"Why not have one, then?" he suggested, eagerly. "We can sing and--you
could--do the rest!"

Her eyes lighted at the suggestion, and she cast a quick glance at the
men. Would they stand for that sort of thing?

Gardley followed her glance and caught her meaning. "Let them answer for
themselves," he said quickly in a low tone, and then, raising his voice:
"Speak up, men. Do you want to have church? Miss Earle here is homesick
for a service, and I suggest that we have one, and she conduct it."

"Sure!" said Jasper Kemp, his face lighting. "I'll miss my guess if she
can't do better than the parson we had last Sunday. Get into your seats,
boys; we're goin' to church."

Margaret's face was a study of embarrassment and delight as she saw the
alacrity with which the men moved to get ready for "church." Her quick
brain turned over the possibility of what she could read or say to help
this strange congregation thus suddenly thrust upon her.

It was a testimony to her upbringing by a father whose great business of
life was to preach the gospel that she never thought once of hesitating
or declining the opportunity, but welcomed it as an opportunity, and
only deprecated her unreadiness for the work.

The men stirred about, donned their coats, furtively brushing their
hair, and Long Bill insisted that Mom Wallis put on her new bonnet;
which she obligingly did, and sat down carefully in the barrel-chair,
her hands neatly crossed in her lap, supremely happy. It really was
wonderful what a difference that bonnet made in Mom Wallis.

Gardley arranged a comfortable seat for Margaret at the table and put in
front of her one of the hymn-books she had brought. Then, after she was
seated, he took the chair beside her and brought out the little
Testament from his breast-pocket, gravely laying it on the hymn-book.

Margaret met his eyes with a look of quick appreciation. It was
wonderful the way these two were growing to understand each other. It
gave the girl a thrill of wonder and delight to have him do this simple
little thing for her, and the smile that passed between them was
beautiful to see. Long Bill turned away his head and looked out of the
window with an improvised sneeze to excuse the sudden mist that came
into his eyes.

Margaret chose "My Faith looks up to Thee" for the first hymn, because
Fiddling Boss could play it, and while he was tuning up his fiddle she
hastily wrote out two more copies of the words. And so the queer service
started with a quaver of the old fiddle and the clear, sweet voices of
Margaret and Gardley leading off, while the men growled on their way
behind, and Mom Wallis, in her new gray bonnet, with her hair all
fluffed softly gray under it, sat with eyes shining like a girl's.

So absorbed in the song were they all that they failed to hear the sound
of a horse coming into the clearing. But just as the last words of the
final verse died away the door of the bunk-house swung open, and there
in the doorway stood Pop Wallis!

The men sprang to their feet with one accord, ominous frowns on their
brows, and poor old Mom Wallis sat petrified where she was, the smile of
relaxation frozen on her face, a look of fear growing in her tired old
eyes.

Now Pop Wallis, through an unusual combination of circumstances, had
been for some hours without liquor and was comparatively sober. He stood
for a moment staring amazedly at the group around his fireside. Perhaps
because he had been so long without his usual stimulant his mind was
weakened and things appeared as a strange vision to him. At any rate, he
stood and stared, and as he looked from one to another of the men, at
the beautiful stranger, and across to the strangely unfamiliar face of
his wife in her new bonnet, his eyes took on a frightened look. He
slowly took his hand from the door-frame and passed it over his eyes,
then looked again, from one to another, and back to his glorified wife.

Margaret had half risen at her end of the table, and Gardley stood
beside her as if to reassure her; but Pop Wallis was not looking at any
of them any more. His eyes were on his wife. He passed his hand once
more over his eyes and took one step gropingly into the room, a hand
reached out in front of him, as if he were not sure but he might run
into something on the way, the other hand on his forehead, a dazed look
in his face.

"Why, Mom--that ain't really--_you_, now, _is_ it?" he said, in a
gentle, insinuating voice like one long unaccustomed making a hasty
prayer.

The tone made a swift change in the old woman. She gripped her bony
hands tight and a look of beatific joy came into her wrinkled face.

"Yes, it's really _me_, Pop!" she said, with a kind of triumphant ring
to her voice.

"But--but--you're right _here_, ain't you? You ain't _dead_,
an'--an'--gone to--gl-oo-ry, be you? You're right _here_?"

"Yes, I'm right _here_, Pop. I ain't dead! Pop--glory's _come to me_!"

"Glory?" repeated the man, dazedly. "Glory?" And he gazed around the
room and took in the new curtains, the pictures on the wall, the
cushions and chairs, and the bright, shining windows. "You don't mean
it's _heav'n_, do you, Mom? 'Cause I better go back--_I_ don't belong in
heav'n. Why, Mom, it can't be glory, 'cause it's the same old
bunk-house outside, anyhow."

"Yes, it's the same old bunk-house, and it ain't heaven, but it's
_goin_' to be. The glory's come all right. You sit down, Pop; we're
goin' to have church, and this is my new bonnet. _She_ brang it. This is
the new school-teacher, Miss Earle, and she's goin' to have church. She
done it _all_! You sit down and listen."

Pop Wallis took a few hesitating steps into the room and dropped into
the nearest chair. He looked at Margaret as if she might be an angel
holding open the portal to a kingdom in the sky. He looked and wondered
and admired, and then he looked back to his glorified old wife again in
wonder.

Jasper Kemp shut the door, and the company dropped back into their
places. Margaret, because of her deep embarrassment, and a kind of
inward trembling that had taken possession of her, announced another
hymn.

It was a solemn little service, quite unique, with a brief, simple
prayer and an expository reading of the story of the blind man from the
sixth chapter of John. The men sat attentively, their eyes upon her face
as she read; but Pop Wallis sat staring at his wife, an awed light upon
his scared old face, the wickedness and cunning all faded out, and only
fear and wonder written there.

In the early dawning of the pink-and-silver morning Margaret went back
to her work, Gardley riding by her side, and Bud riding at a discreet
distance behind, now and then going off at a tangent after a stray
cottontail. It was wonderful what good sense Bud seemed to have on
occasion.

The horse that Margaret rode, a sturdy little Western pony, with nerve
and grit and a gentle common sense for humans, was to remain with her in
Ashland, a gift from the men of the bunk-house. During the week that
followed Archie Forsythe came riding over with a beautiful shining
saddle-horse for her use during her stay in the West; but when he went
riding back to the ranch the shining saddle-horse was still in his
train, riderless, for Margaret told him that she already had a horse of
her own. Neither had Margaret accepted the invitation to the Temples'
for the next week-end. She had other plans for the Sabbath, and that
week there appeared on all the trees and posts about the town, and on
the trails, a little notice of a Bible class and vesper-service to be
held in the school-house on the following Sabbath afternoon; and so
Margaret, true daughter of her minister-father, took up her mission in
Ashland for the Sabbaths that were to follow; for the school-board had
agreed with alacrity to such use of the school-house.



CHAPTER XXII


Now when it became noised abroad that the new teacher wanted above all
things to purchase a piano, and that to that end she was getting up a
wonderful Shakespeare play in which the scholars were to act upon a
stage set with tree boughs after the manner of some new kind of players,
the whole community round about began to be excited.

Mrs. Tanner talked much about it. Was not Bud to be a prominent
character? Mr. Tanner talked about it everywhere he went. The mothers
and fathers and sisters talked about it, and the work of preparing the
play went on.

Margaret had discovered that one of the men at the bunk-house played a
flute, and she was working hard to teach him and Fiddling Boss and
Croaker to play a portion of the elfin dance to accompany the players.
The work of making costumes and training the actors became more and more
strenuous, and in this Gardley proved a fine assistant. He undertook to
train some of the older boys for their parts, and did it so well that he
was presently in the forefront of the battle of preparation and working
almost as hard as Margaret herself.

The beauty of the whole thing was that every boy in the school adored
him, even Jed and Timothy, and life took on a different aspect to them
in company with this high-born college-bred, Eastern young man who yet
could ride and shoot with the daringest among the Westerners.

Far and wide went forth the fame of the play that was to be. The news of
it reached to the fort and the ranches, and brought offers of assistance
and costumes and orders for tickets. Margaret purchased a small
duplicator and set her school to printing tickets and selling them, and
before the play was half ready to be acted tickets enough were sold for
two performances, and people were planning to come from fifty miles
around. The young teacher began to quake at the thought of her big
audience and her poor little amateur players; and yet for children they
were doing wonderfully well, and were growing quite Shakespearian in
their manner of conversation.

"What say you, sweet Amanda?" would be a form of frequent address to
that stolid maiden Amanda Bounds; and Jed, instead of shouting for
"Delicate" at recess, as in former times, would say, "My good Timothy, I
swear to thee by Cupid's strongest bow; by his best arrow with the
golden head"--until all the school-yard rang with classic phrases; and
the whole country round was being addressed in phrases of another
century by the younger members of their households.

Then Rosa Rogers's father one day stopped at the Tanners' and left a
contribution with the teacher of fifty dollars toward the new piano; and
after that it was rumored that the teacher said the piano could be sent
for in time to be used at the play. Then other contributions of smaller
amounts came in, and before the date of the play had been set there was
money enough to make a first payment on the piano. That day the English
exercise for the whole school was to compose the letter to the Eastern
piano firm where the piano was to be purchased, ordering it to be sent
on at once. Weeks before this Margaret had sent for a number of piano
catalogues beautifully illustrated, showing by cuts how the whole
instruments were made, with full illustrations of the factories where
they were manufactured, and she had discussed the selection with the
scholars, showing them what points were to be considered in selecting a
good piano. At last the order was sent out, the actual selection itself
to be made by a musical friend of Margaret's in New York, and the school
waited in anxious suspense to hear that it had started on its way.

The piano arrived at last, three weeks before the time set for the play,
which was coming on finely now and seemed to the eager scholars quite
ready for public performance. Not so to Margaret and Gardley, as daily
they pruned, trained, and patiently went over and over again each part,
drawing all the while nearer to the ideal they had set. It could not be
done perfectly, of course, and when they had done all they could there
would yet be many crudities; but Margaret's hope was to bring out the
meaning of the play and give both audience and performers the true idea
of what Shakespeare meant when he wrote it.

The arrival of the piano was naturally a great event in the school. For
three days in succession the entire school marched in procession down to
the incoming Eastern train to see if their expected treasure had
arrived, and when at last it was lifted from the freight-car and set
upon the station platform the school stood awe-struck and silent, with
half-bowed heads and bated breath, as though at the arrival of some
great and honorable guest.

They attended it on the roadside as it was carted by the biggest wagon
in town to the school-house door; they stood in silent rows while the
great box was peeled off and the instrument taken out and carried into
the school-room; then they filed in soulfully and took their accustomed
seats without being told, touching shyly the shining case as they
passed. By common consent they waited to hear its voice for the first
time. Margaret took the little key from the envelope tied to the frame,
unlocked the cover, and, sitting down, began to play. The rough men who
had brought it stood in awesome adoration around the platform; the
silence that spread over that room would have done honor to Paderewski
or Josef Hoffman.

Margaret played and played, and they could not hear enough. They would
have stayed all night listening, perhaps, so wonderful was it to them.
And then the teacher called each one and let him or her touch a few
chords, just to say they had played on it. After which she locked the
instrument and sent them all home. That was the only afternoon during
that term that the play was forgotten for a while.

After the arrival of the piano the play went forward with great
strides, for now Margaret accompanied some of the parts with the music,
and the flute and violin were also practised in their elfin dance with
much better effect. It was about this time that Archie Forsythe
discovered the rehearsals and offered his assistance, and, although it
was declined, he frequently managed to ride over about rehearsal time,
finding ways to make himself useful in spite of Margaret's polite
refusals. Margaret always felt annoyed when he came, because Rosa Rogers
instantly became another creature on his arrival, and because Gardley
simply froze into a polite statue, never speaking except when spoken to.
As for Forsythe, his attitude toward Gardley was that of a contemptuous
master toward a slave, and yet he took care to cover it always with a
form of courtesy, so that Margaret could say or do nothing to show her
displeasure, except to be grave and dignified. At such times Rosa
Rogers's eyes would be upon her with a gleam of hatred, and the teacher
felt that the scholar was taking advantage of the situation. Altogether
it was a trying time for Margaret when Forsythe came to the
school-house. Also, he discovered to them that he played the violin, and
offered to assist in the orchestral parts. Margaret really could think
of no reason to decline this offer, but she was sadly upset by the whole
thing. His manner to her was too pronounced, and she felt continually
uncomfortable under it, what with Rosa Rogers's jealous eyes upon her
and Gardley's eyes turned haughtily away.

She planned a number of special rehearsals in the evenings, when it was
difficult for Forsythe to get there, and managed in this way to avoid
his presence; but the whole matter became a source of much vexation, and
Margaret even shed a few tears wearily into her pillow one night when
things had gone particularly hard and Forsythe had hurt the feelings of
Fiddling Boss with his insolent directions about playing. She could not
say or do anything much in the matter, because the Temples had been very
kind in helping to get the piano, and Mr. Temple seemed to think he was
doing the greatest possible kindness to her in letting Forsythe off duty
so much to help with the play. The matter became more and more of a
distress to Margaret, and the Sabbath was the only day of real delight.

The first Sunday after the arrival of the piano was a great day.
Everybody in the neighborhood turned out to the Sunday-afternoon class
and vesper service, which had been growing more and more in popularity,
until now the school-room was crowded. Every man from the bunk-house
came regularly, often including Pop Wallis, who had not yet recovered
fully from the effect of his wife's new bonnet and fluffy arrangement of
hair, but treated her like a lady visitor and deferred to her absolutely
when he was at home. He wasn't quite sure even yet but he had strayed by
mistake into the outermost courts of heaven and ought to get shooed out.
He always looked at the rose-wreathed curtains with a mingling of pride
and awe.

Margaret had put several hymns on the blackboard in clear, bold
printing, and the singing that day was wonderful. Not the least part of
the service was her own playing over of the hymns before the singing
began, which was listened to with reverence as if it had been the music
of an angel playing on a heavenly harp.

Gardley always came to the Sunday services, and helped her with the
singing, and often they two sang duets together.

The service was not always of set form. Usually Margaret taught a short
Bible lesson, beginning with the general outline of the Bible, its
books, their form, substance, authors, etc.--all very brief and
exceedingly simple, putting a wide space of music between this and the
vesper service, into which she wove songs, bits of poems, passages from
the Bible, and often a story which she told dramatically, illustrating
the scripture read.

But the very Sunday before the play, just the time Margaret had looked
forward to as being her rest from all the perplexities of the week, a
company from the fort, including the Temples, arrived at the
school-house right in the midst of the Bible lesson.

The ladies were daintily dressed, and settled their frills and ribbons
amusedly as they watched the embarrassed young teacher trying to forget
that there was company present. They were in a distinct sense "company,"
for they had the air, as they entered, of having come to look on and be
amused, not to partake in the worship with the rest.

Margaret found herself trembling inwardly as she saw the supercilious
smile on the lips of Mrs. Temple and the amused stares of the other
ladies of the party. They did not take any notice of the other people
present any more than if they had been so many puppets set up to show
off the teacher; their air of superiority was offensive. Not until Rosa
Rogers entered with her father, a little later, did they condescend to
bow in recognition, and then with that pretty little atmosphere as if
they would say, "Oh, you've come, too, to be amused."

Gardley was sitting up in front, listening to her talk, and she thought
he had not noticed the strangers. Suddenly it came to her to try to keep
her nerve and let him see that they were nothing to her; and with a
strong effort and a swift prayer for help she called for a hymn. She sat
coolly down at the piano, touching the keys with a tender chord or two
and beginning to sing almost at once. She had sent home for some old
hymn-books from the Christian Endeavor Society in her father's church,
so the congregation were supplied with the notes and words now, and
everybody took part eagerly, even the people from the fort
condescendingly joining in.

But Gardley was too much alive to every expression on that vivid face of
Margaret's to miss knowing that she was annoyed and upset. He did not
need to turn and look back to immediately discover the cause. He was a
young person of keen intuition. It suddenly gave him great satisfaction
to see that look of consternation on Margaret's face. It settled for him
a question he had been in great and anxious doubt about, and his soul
was lifted up with peace within him. When, presently, according to
arrangement, he rose to sing a duet with Margaret, no one could have
possibly told by so much as the lifting of an eyelash that he knew there
was an enemy of his in the back of the room. He sang, as did Margaret,
to the immediate audience in front of him, those admiring children and
adoring men in the forefront who felt the school-house had become for
them the gate of heaven for the time being; and he sang with marvelous
feeling and sympathy, letting out his voice at its best.

"Really," said Mrs. Temple, in a loud whisper to the wife of one of the
officers, "that young man has a fine voice, and he isn't bad-looking,
either. I think he'd be worth cultivating. We must have him up and try
him out."

But when she repeated this remark in another stage whisper to Forsythe
he frowned haughtily.

The one glimpse Margaret caught of Forsythe during that afternoon's
service was when he was smiling meaningly at Rosa Rogers; and she had to
resolutely put the memory of their look from her mind or the story which
she was about to tell would have fled.

It was the hunger in Jasper Kemp's eyes that finally anchored Margaret's
thoughts and helped her to forget the company at the back of the room.
She told her story, and she told it wonderfully and with power,
interpreting it now and then for the row of men who sat in the center of
the room drinking in her every word; and when the simple service was
concluded with another song, in which Gardley's voice rang forth with
peculiar tenderness and strength, the men filed forth silently,
solemnly, with bowed heads and thoughtful eyes. But the company from the
fort flowed up around Margaret like flood-tide let loose and gushed upon
her.

"Oh, my dear!" said Mrs. Temple. "How beautifully you do it! And such
attention as they give you! No wonder you are willing to forego all
other amusements to stay here and preach! But it was perfectly sweet the
way you made them listen and the way you told that story. I don't see
how you do it. I'd be scared to death!"

They babbled about her awhile, much to her annoyance, for there were
several people to whom she had wanted to speak, who drew away and
disappeared when the new-comers took possession of her. At last,
however, they mounted and rode away, to her great relief. Forsythe, it
is true, tried to make her go home with them; tried to escort her to the
Tanners'; tried to remain in the school-house with her awhile when she
told him she had something to do there; but she would not let him, and
he rode away half sulky at the last, a look of injured pride upon his
face.

Margaret went to the door finally, and looked down the road. He was
gone, and she was alone. A shade of sadness came over her face. She was
sorry that Gardley had not waited. She had wanted to tell him how much
she liked his singing, what a pleasure it was to sing with him, and how
glad she was that he came up to her need so well with the strangers
there and helped to make it easy. But Gardley had melted away as soon as
the service was over, and had probably gone home with the rest of the
men. It was disappointing, for she had come to consider their little
time together on Sunday as a very pleasant hour, this few minutes after
the service when they would talk about real living and the vital things
of existence. But he was gone!

She turned, and there he was, quite near the door, coming toward her.
Her face lighted up with a joy that was unmistakable, and his own smile
in answer was a revelation of his deeper self.

"Oh, I'm so glad you are not gone!" she said, eagerly. "I wanted to tell
you--" And then she stopped, and the color flooded her face rosily, for
she saw in his eyes how glad he was and forgot to finish her sentence.

He came up gravely, after all, and, standing just a minute so beside the
door, took both her hands in both his. It was only for a second that he
stood so, looking down into her eyes. I doubt if either of them knew
till afterward that they had been holding hands. It seemed the right and
natural thing to do, and meant so much to each of them. Both were glad
beyond their own understanding over that moment and its tenderness.

It was all very decorous, and over in a second, but it meant much to
remember afterward, that look and hand-clasp.

"I wanted to tell you," he said, tenderly, "how much that story did for
me. It was wonderful, and it helped me to decide something I have been
perplexed over--"

"Oh, I am glad!" she said, half breathlessly.

So, talking in low, broken sentences, they went back to the piano and
tried over several songs for the next Sunday, lingering together, just
happy to be there with each other, and not half knowing the significance
of it all. As the purple lights on the school-room wall grew long and
rose-edged, they walked slowly to the Tanner house and said good night.

There was a beauty about the young man as he stood for a moment looking
down upon the girl in parting, the kind of beauty there is in any
strong, wild thing made tame and tender for a great love by a great
uplift. Gardley had that look of self-surrender, and power made
subservient to right, that crowns a man with strength and more than
physical beauty. In his fine face there glowed high purpose, and deep
devotion to the one who had taught it to him. Margaret, looking up at
him, felt her heart go out with that great love, half maiden, half
divine, that comes to some favored women even here on earth, and she
watched him down the road toward the mountain in the evening light and
marveled how her trust had grown since first she met him; marveled and
reflected that she had not told her mother and father much about him
yet. It was growing time to do so; yes--_it was growing time_! Her
cheeks grew pink in the darkness and she turned and fled to her room.

That was the last time she saw him before the play.



CHAPTER XXIII


The play was set for Tuesday. Monday afternoon and evening were to be
the final rehearsals, but Gardley did not come to them. Fiddling Boss
came late and said the men had been off all day and had not yet
returned. He himself found it hard to come at all. They had important
work on. But there was no word from Gardley.

Margaret was disappointed. She couldn't get away from it. Of course they
could go on with the rehearsal without him. He had done his work well,
and there was no real reason why he had to be there. He knew every part
by heart, and could take any boy's place if any one failed in any way.
There was nothing further really for him to do until the performance, as
far as that was concerned, except be there and encourage her. But she
missed him, and an uneasiness grew in her mind. She had so looked
forward to seeing him, and now to have no word! He might at least have
sent her a note when he found he could not come.

Still she knew this was unreasonable. His work, whatever it was--he had
never explained it very thoroughly to her, perhaps because she had never
asked--must, of course, have kept him. She must excuse him without
question and go on with the business of the hour.

Her hands were full enough, for Forsythe came presently and was more
trying than usual. She had to be very decided and put her foot down
about one or two things, or some of her actors would have gone home in
the sulks, and Fiddling Boss, whose part in the program meant much to
him, would have given it up entirely.

She hurried everything through as soon as possible, knowing she was
weary, and longing to get to her room and rest. Gardley would come and
explain to-morrow, likely in the morning on his way somewhere.

But the morning came and no word. Afternoon came and he had not sent a
sign yet. Some of the little things that he had promised to do about the
setting of the stage would have to remain undone, for it was too late
now to do it herself, and there was no one else to call upon.

Into the midst of her perplexity and anxiety came the news that Jed on
his way home had been thrown from his horse, which was a young and
vicious one, and had broken his leg. Jed was to act the part of Nick
Bottom that evening, and he did it well! Now what in the world was she
to do? If only Gardley would come!

Just at this moment Forsythe arrived.

"Oh, it is you, Mr. Forsythe!" And her tone showed plainly her
disappointment. "Haven't you seen Mr. Gardley to-day? I don't know what
I shall do without him."

"I certainly have seen Gardley," said Forsythe, a spice of
vindictiveness and satisfaction in his tone. "I saw him not two hours
ago, drunk as a fish, out at a place called Old Ouida's Cabin, as I was
passing. He's in for a regular spree. You'll not see him for several
days, I fancy. He's utterly helpless for the present, and out of the
question. What is there I can do for you? Present your request. It's
yours--to the half of my kingdom."

Margaret's heart grew cold as ice and then like fire. Her blood seemed
to stop utterly and then to go pounding through her veins in leaps and
torrents. Her eyes grew dark, and things swam before her. She reached
out to a desk and caught at it for support, and her white face looked at
him a moment as if she had not heard. But when in a second she spoke,
she said, quite steadily:

"I thank you, Mr. Forsythe; there is nothing just at present--or, yes,
there is, if you wouldn't mind helping Timothy put up those curtains.
Now, I think I'll go home and rest a few minutes; I am very tired."

It wasn't exactly the job Forsythe coveted, to stay in the school-house
and fuss over those curtains; but she made him do it, then disappeared,
and he didn't like the memory of her white face. He hadn't thought she
would take it that way. He had expected to have her exclaim with horror
and disgust. He watched her out of the door, and then turned impatiently
to the waiting Timothy.

Margaret went outside the school-house to call Bud, who had been sent to
gather sage-brush for filling in the background, but Bud was already out
of sight far on the trail toward the camp on Forsythe's horse, riding
for dear life. Bud had come near to the school-house door with his
armful of sage-brush just in time to hear Forsythe's flippant speech
about Gardley and see Margaret's white face. Bud had gone for help!

But Margaret did not go home to rest. She did not even get half-way
home. When she had gone a very short distance outside the school-house
she saw some one coming toward her, and in her distress of mind she
could not tell who it was. Her eyes were blinded with tears, her breath
was constricted, and it seemed to her that a demon unseen was gripping
her heart. She had not yet taken her bearings to know what she thought.
She had only just come dazed from the shock of Forsythe's words, and had
not the power to think. Over and over to herself, as she walked along,
she kept repeating the words: "I _do not_ believe it! It is _not_ true!"
but her inner consciousness had not had time to analyze her soul and be
sure that she believed the words wherewith she was comforting herself.

So now, when she saw some one coming, she felt the necessity of bringing
her telltale face to order and getting ready to answer whoever she was
to meet. As she drew nearer she became suddenly aware that it was Rosa
Rogers coming with her arms full of bundles and more piled up in front
of her on her pony. Margaret knew at once that Rosa must have seen
Forsythe go by her house, and had returned promptly to the school-house
on some pretext or other. It would not do to let her go there alone with
the young man; she must go back and stay with them. She could not be
sure that if she sent Rosa home with orders to rest she would be obeyed.
Doubtless the girl would take another way around and return to the
school again. There was nothing for it but to go back and stay as long
as Rosa did.

Margaret stooped and, hastily plucking a great armful of sage-brush,
turned around and retraced her steps, her heart like lead, her feet
suddenly grown heavy. How could she go back and hear them laugh and
chatter, answer their many silly, unnecessary questions, and stand it
all? How could she, with that great weight at her heart?

She went back with a wonderful self-control. Forsythe's face lighted,
and his reluctant hand grew suddenly eager as he worked. Rosa came
presently, and others, and the laughing chatter went on quite as
Margaret had known it would. And she--so great is the power of human
will under pressure--went calmly about and directed here and there;
planned and executed; put little, dainty, wholly unnecessary touches to
the stage; and never let any one know that her heart was being crushed
with the weight of a great, awful fear, and yet steadily upborne by the
rising of a great, deep trust. As she worked and smiled and ordered, she
was praying: "Oh, God, don't let it be true! Keep him! Save him! Bring
him! Make him true! I _know_ he is true! Oh, God, bring him safely
_soon_!"

Meantime there was nothing she could do. She could not send Forsythe
after him. She could not speak of the matter to one of those present,
and Bud--where was Bud? It was the first time since she came to Arizona
that Bud had failed her. She might not leave the school-house, with
Forsythe and Rosa there, to go and find him, and she might not do
anything else. There was nothing to do but work on feverishly and pray
as she had never prayed before.

By and by one of the smaller boys came, and she sent him back to the
Tanners' to find Bud, but he returned with the message that Bud had not
been home since morning; and so the last hours before the evening, that
would otherwise have been so brief for all there was to be done, dragged
their weary length away and Margaret worked on.

She did not even go back for supper at the last, but sent one of the
girls to her room for a few things she needed, and declined even the
nice little chicken sandwich that thoughtful Mrs. Tanner sent back along
with the things. And then, at last, the audience began to gather.

By this time her anxiety was so great for Gardley that all thought of
how she was to supply the place of the absent Jed had gone from her
mind, which was in a whirl. Gardley! Gardley! If only Gardley would
come! That was her one thought. What should she do if he didn't come at
all? How should she explain things to herself afterward? What if it had
been true? What if he were the kind of man Forsythe had suggested? How
terrible life would look to her! But it was not true. No, it was not
true! She trusted him! With her soul she trusted him! He would come back
some time and he would explain all. She could not remember his last look
at her on Sunday and not trust him. He was true! He would come!

Somehow she managed to get through the terrible interval, to slip into
the dressing-room and make herself sweet and comely in the little white
gown she had sent for, with its delicate blue ribbons and soft lace
ruffles. Somehow she managed the expected smiles as one and another of
the audience came around to the platform to speak to her. There were
dark hollows under her eyes, and her mouth was drawn and weary, but they
laid that to the excitement. Two bright-red spots glowed on her cheeks;
but she smiled and talked with her usual gaiety. People looked at her
and said how beautiful she was, and how bright and untiring; and how
wonderful it was that Ashland School had drawn such a prize of a
teacher. The seats filled, the noise and the clatter went on. Still no
sign of Gardley or any one from the camp, and still Bud had not
returned! What could it mean?

But the minutes were rushing rapidly now. It was more than time to
begin. The girls were in a flutter in one cloak-room at the right of the
stage, asking more questions in a minute than one could answer in an
hour; the boys in the other cloak-room wanted all sorts of help; and
three or four of the actors were attacked with stage-fright as they
peered through a hole in the curtain and saw some friend or relative
arrive and sit down in the audience. It was all a mad whirl of seemingly
useless noise and excitement, and she could not, no, she _could not_, go
on and do the necessary things to start that awful play. Why, oh, _why_
had she ever been left to think of getting up a play?

Forsythe, up behind the piano, whispered to her that it was time to
begin. The house was full. There was not room for another soul. Margaret
explained that Fiddling Boss had not yet arrived, and caught a glimpse
of the cunning designs of Forsythe in the shifty turning away of his
eyes as he answered that they could not wait all night for him; that if
he wanted to get into it he ought to have come early. But even as she
turned away she saw the little, bobbing, eager faces of Pop and Mom
Wallis away back by the door, and the grim, towering figure of the Boss,
his fiddle held high, making his way to the front amid the crowd.

She sat down and touched the keys, her eyes watching eagerly for a
chance to speak to the Boss and see if he knew anything of Gardley; but
Forsythe was close beside her all the time, and there was no
opportunity. She struck the opening chords of the overture they were to
attempt to play, and somehow got through it. Of course, the audience was
not a critical one, and there were few real judges of music present; but
it may be that the truly wonderful effect she produced upon the
listeners was due to the fact that she was playing a prayer with her
heart as her fingers touched the keys, and that instead of a preliminary
to a fairy revel the music told the story of a great soul struggle, and
reached hearts as it tinkled and rolled and swelled on to the end. It
may be, too, that Fiddling Boss was more in sympathy that night with his
accompanist than was the other violinist, and that was why his old
fiddle brought forth such weird and tender tones.

Almost to the end, with her heart sobbing its trouble to the keys,
Margaret looked up sadly, and there, straight before her through a hole
in the curtain made by some rash youth to glimpse the audience, or
perhaps even put there by the owner of the nose itself, she saw the
little, freckled, turned-up member belonging to Bud's face. A second
more and a big, bright eye appeared and solemnly winked at her twice, as
if to say, "Don't you worry; it's all right!"

She almost started from the stool, but kept her head enough to finish
the chords, and as they died away she heard a hoarse whisper in Bud's
familiar voice:

"Whoop her up, Miss Earle. We're all ready. Raise the curtain there, you
guy. Let her rip. Everything's O. K."

With a leap of light into her eyes Margaret turned the leaves of the
music and went on playing as she should have done if nothing had been
the matter. Bud was there, anyway, and that somehow cheered her heart.
Perhaps Gardley had come or Bud had heard of him--and yet, Bud didn't
know he had been missing, for Bud had been away himself.

Nevertheless, she summoned courage to go on playing. Nick Bottom wasn't
in this first scene, anyway, and this would have to be gone through with
somehow. By this time she was in a state of daze that only thought from
moment to moment. The end of the evening seemed now to her as far off as
the end of a hale old age seems at the beginning of a lifetime. Somehow
she must walk through it; but she could only see a step at a time.

Once she turned half sideways to the audience and gave a hurried glance
about, catching sight of Fudge's round, near-sighted face, and that gave
her encouragement. Perhaps the others were somewhere present. If only
she could get a chance to whisper to some one from the camp and ask
when they had seen Gardley last! But there was no chance, of course!

The curtain was rapidly raised and the opening scene of the play began,
the actors going through their parts with marvelous ease and dexterity,
and the audience silent and charmed, watching those strangers in queer
costumes that were their own children, marching around there at their
ease and talking weird language that was not used in any class of
society they had ever come across on sea or land before.

But Margaret, watching her music as best she could, and playing
mechanically rather than with her mind, could not tell if they were
doing well or ill, so loudly did her heart pound out her fears--so
stoutly did her heart proclaim her trust.

And thus, without a flaw or mistake in the execution of the work she had
struggled so hard to teach them, the first scene of the first act drew
to its close, and Margaret struck the final chords of the music and felt
that in another minute she must reel and fall from that piano-stool. And
yet she sat and watched the curtain fall with a face as controlled as if
nothing at all were the matter.

A second later she suddenly knew that to sit in that place calmly
another second was a physical impossibility. She must get somewhere to
the air at once or her senses would desert her.

With a movement so quick that no one could have anticipated it, she
slipped from her piano-stool, under the curtain to the stage, and was
gone before the rest of the orchestra had noticed her intention.



CHAPTER XXIV


Since the day that he had given Margaret his promise to make good,
Gardley had been regularly employed by Mr. Rogers, looking after
important matters of his ranch. Before that he had lived a free and easy
life, working a little now and then when it seemed desirable to him,
having no set interest in life, and only endeavoring from day to day to
put as far as possible from his mind the life he had left behind him.
Now, however, all things became different. He brought to his service the
keen mind and ready ability that had made him easily a winner at any
game, a brave rider, and a never-failing shot. Within a few days Rogers
saw what material was in him, and as the weeks went by grew to depend
more and more upon his advice in matters.

There had been much trouble with cattle thieves, and so far no method of
stopping the loss or catching the thieves had been successful. Rogers
finally put the matter into Gardley's hands to carry out his own ideas,
with the men of the camp at his command to help him, the camp itself
being only a part of Rogers's outlying possessions, one of several such
centers from which he worked his growing interests.

Gardley had formulated a scheme by which he hoped eventually to get
hold of the thieves and put a stop to the trouble, and he was pretty
sure he was on the right track; but his plan required slow and cautious
work, that the enemy might not suspect and take to cover. He had for
several weeks suspected that the thieves made their headquarters in the
region of Old Ouida's Cabin, and made their raids from that direction.
It was for this reason that of late the woods and trails in the vicinity
of Ouida's had been secretly patrolled day and night, and every
passer-by taken note of, until Gardley knew just who were the
frequenters of that way and mostly what was their business. This work
was done alternately by the men of the Wallis camp and two other camps,
Gardley being the head of all and carrying all responsibility; and not
the least of that young man's offenses in the eyes of Rosa Rogers was
that he was so constantly at her father's house and yet never lifted an
eye in admiration of her pretty face. She longed to humiliate him, and
through him to humiliate Margaret, who presumed to interfere with her
flirtations, for it was a bitter thing to Rosa that Forsythe had no eyes
for her when Margaret was about.

When the party from the fort rode homeward that Sunday after the service
at the school-house, Forsythe lingered behind to talk to Margaret, and
then rode around by the Rogers place, where Rosa and he had long ago
established a trysting-place.

Rosa was watching for his passing, and he stopped a half-hour or so to
talk to her. During this time she casually disclosed to Forsythe some of
the plans she had overheard Gardley laying before her father. Rosa had
very little idea of the importance of Gardley's work to her father, or
perhaps she would not have so readily prattled of his affairs. Her main
idea was to pay back Gardley for his part in her humiliation with
Forsythe. She suggested that it would be a great thing if Gardley could
be prevented from being at the play Tuesday evening, and told what she
had overheard him saying to her father merely to show Forsythe how easy
it would be to have Gardley detained on Tuesday. Forsythe questioned
Rosa keenly. Did she know whom they suspected? Did she know what they
were planning to do to catch them, and when?

Rosa innocently enough disclosed all she knew, little thinking how
dishonorable to her father it was, and perhaps caring as little, for
Rosa had ever been a spoiled child, accustomed to subordinating
everything within reach to her own uses. As for Forsythe, he was nothing
loath to get rid of Gardley, and he saw more possibilities in Rosa's
suggestion than she had seen herself. When at last he bade Rosa good
night and rode unobtrusively back to the trail he was already
formulating a plan.

It was, therefore, quite in keeping with his wishes that he should meet
a dark-browed rider a few miles farther up the trail whose identity he
had happened to learn a few days before.

Now Forsythe would, perhaps, not have dared to enter into any compact
against Gardley with men of such ill-repute had it been a matter of
money and bribery, but, armed as he was with information valuable to the
criminals, he could so word his suggestion about Gardley's detention as
to make the hunted men think it to their advantage to catch Gardley
some time the next day when he passed their way and imprison him for a
while. This would appear to be but a friendly bit of advice from a
disinterested party deserving a good turn some time in the future and
not get Forsythe into any trouble. As such it was received by the
wretch, who clutched at the information with ill-concealed delight and
rode away into the twilight like a serpent threading his secret, gliding
way among the darkest places, scarcely rippling the air, so stealthily
did he pass.

As for Forsythe, he rode blithely to the Temple ranch, with no thought
of the forces he had set going, his life as yet one round of trying to
please himself at others' expense, if need be, but please himself,
_anyway_, with whatever amusement the hour afforded.

At home in the East, where his early life had been spent, a splendid
girl awaited his dilatory letters and set herself patiently to endure
the months of separation until he should have attained a home and a
living and be ready for her to come to him.

In the South, where he had idled six months before he went West, another
lovely girl cherished mementoes of his tarrying and wrote him loving
letters in reply to his occasional erratic epistles.

Out on the Californian shore a girl with whom he had traveled West in
her uncle's luxurious private car, with a gay party of friends and
relatives, cherished fond hopes of a visit he had promised to make her
during the winter.

Innumerable maidens of this world, wise in the wisdom that crushes
hearts, remembered him with a sigh now and then, but held no illusions
concerning his kind.

Pretty little Rosa Rogers cried her eyes out every time he cast a
languishing look at her teacher, and several of the ladies of the fort
sighed that the glance of his eye and the gentle pressure of his hand
could only be a passing joy. But the gay Lothario passed on his way as
yet without a scratch on the hard enamel of his heart, till one wondered
if it were a heart, indeed, or perhaps only a metal imitation. But girls
like Margaret Earle, though they sometimes were attracted by him,
invariably distrusted him. He was like a beautiful spotted snake that
was often caught menacing something precious, but you could put him down
anywhere after punishment or imprisonment and he would slide on his same
slippery way and still be a spotted, deadly snake.

When Gardley left the camp that Monday morning following the walk home
with Margaret from the Sabbath service, he fully intended to be back at
the school-house Monday by the time the afternoon rehearsal began. His
plans were so laid that he thought relays from other camps were to guard
the suspected ground for the next three days and he could be free. It
had been a part of the information that Forsythe had given the stranger
that Gardley would likely pass a certain lonely crossing of the trail at
about three o'clock that afternoon, and, had that arrangement been
carried out, the men who lay in wait for him would doubtless have been
pleased to have their plans mature so easily; but they would not have
been pleased long, for Gardley's men were so near at hand at that time,
watching that very spot with eyes and ears and long-distance glasses,
that their chief would soon have been rescued and the captors be
themselves the captured.

But the men from the farther camp, called "Lone Fox" men, did not arrive
on time, perhaps through some misunderstanding, and Gardley and Kemp and
their men had to do double time. At last, later in the afternoon,
Gardley volunteered to go to Lone Fox and bring back the men.

As he rode his thoughts were of Margaret, and he was seeing again the
look of gladness in her eyes when she found he had not gone yesterday;
feeling again the thrill of her hands in his, the trust of her smile! It
was incredible, wonderful, that God had sent a veritable angel into the
wilderness to bring him to himself; and now he was wondering, could it
be that there was really hope that he could ever make good enough to
dare to ask her to marry him. The sky and the air were rare, but his
thoughts were rarer still, and his soul was lifted up with joy. He was
earning good wages now. In two more weeks he would have enough to pay
back the paltry sum for the lack of which he had fled from his old home
and come to the wilderness. He would go back, of course, and straighten
out the old score. Then what? Should he stay in the East and go back to
the old business wherewith he had hoped to make his name honored and
gain wealth, or should he return to this wild, free land again and start
anew?

His mother was dead. Perhaps if she had lived and cared he would have
made good in the first place. His sisters were both married to wealthy
men and not deeply interested in him. He had disappointed and mortified
them; their lives were filled with social duties; they had never missed
him. His father had been dead many years. As for his uncle, his mother's
brother, whose heir he was to have been before he got himself into
disgrace, he decided not to go near him. He would stay as long as he
must to undo the wrong he had done. He would call on his sisters and
then come back; come back and let Margaret decide what she wanted him to
do--that is, if she would consent to link her life with one who had been
once a failure. Margaret! How wonderful she was! If Margaret said he
ought to go back and be a lawyer, he would go--yes, even if he had to
enter his uncle's office as an underling to do it. His soul loathed the
idea, but he would do it for Margaret, if she thought it best. And so he
mused as he rode!

When the Lone Fox camp was reached and the men sent out on their belated
task, Gardley decided not to go with them back to meet Kemp and the
other men, but sent word to Kemp that he had gone the short cut to
Ashland, hoping to get to a part of the evening rehearsal yet.

Now that short cut led him to the lonely crossing of the trail much
sooner than Kemp and the others could reach it from the rendezvous; and
there in cramped positions, and with much unnecessary cursing and
impatience, four strong masked men had been concealed for four long
hours.

Through the stillness of the twilight rode Gardley, thinking of
Margaret, and for once utterly off his guard. His long day's work was
done, and though he had not been able to get back when he planned, he
was free now, free until the day after to-morrow. He would go at once to
her and see if there was anything she wanted him to do.

Then, as if to help along his enemies, he began to hum a song, his
clear, high voice reaching keenly to the ears of the men in ambush:

    "'Oh, the time is long, mavourneen,
    Till I come again, O mavourneen--'"

"And the toime 'll be longer thun iver, oim thinkin', ma purty little
voorneen!" said an unmistakable voice of Erin through the gathering
dusk.

Gardley's horse stopped and Gardley's hand went to his revolver, while
his other hand lifted the silver whistle to his lips; but four guns
bristled at him in the twilight, the whistle was knocked from his lips
before his breath had even reached it, some one caught his arms from
behind, and his own weapon was wrenched from his hand as it went off.
The cry which he at once sent forth was stifled in its first whisper in
a great muffling garment flung over his head and drawn tightly about his
neck. He was in a fair way to strangle, and his vigorous efforts at
escape were useless in the hands of so many. He might have been plunged
at once into a great abyss of limitless, soundless depths, so futile did
any resistance seem. And so, as it was useless to struggle, he lay like
one dead and put all his powers into listening. But neither could he
hear much, muffled as he was, and bound hand and foot now, with a gag in
his mouth and little care taken whether he could even breathe.

They were leading him off the trail and up over rough ground; so much he
knew, for the horse stumbled and jolted and strained to carry him. To
keep his whirling senses alive and alert he tried to think where they
might be leading him; but the darkness and the suffocation dulled his
powers. He wondered idly if his men would miss him and come back when
they got home to search for him, and then remembered with a pang that
they would think him safely in Ashland, helping Margaret. They would not
be alarmed if he did not return that night, for they would suppose he
had stopped at Rogers's on the way and perhaps stayed all night, as he
had done once or twice before. _Margaret!_ When should he see Margaret
now? What would she think?

And then he swooned away.

When he came somewhat to himself he was in a close, stifling room where
candle-light from a distance threw weird shadows over the adobe walls.
The witch-like voices of a woman and a girl in harsh, cackling laughter,
half suppressed, were not far away, and some one, whose face was
covered, was holding a glass to his lips. The smell was sickening, and
he remembered that he hated the thought of liquor. It did not fit with
those who companied with Margaret. He had never cared for it, and had
resolved never to taste it again. But whether he chose or not, the
liquor was poured down his throat. Huge hands held him and forced it,
and he was still bound and too weak to resist, even if he had realized
the necessity.

The liquid burned its way down his throat and seethed into his brain,
and a great darkness, mingled with men's wrangling voices and much
cursing, swirled about him like some furious torrent of angry waters
that finally submerged his consciousness. Then came deeper darkness and
a blank relief from pain.

Hours passed. He heard sounds sometimes, and dreamed dreams which he
could not tell from reality. He saw his friends with terror written on
their faces, while he lay apathetically and could not stir. He saw tears
on Margaret's face; and once he was sure he heard Forsythe's voice in
contempt: "Well, he seems to be well occupied for the present! No danger
of his waking up for a while!" and then the voices all grew dim and far
away again, and only an old crone and the harsh girl's whisper over him;
and then Margaret's tears--tears that fell on his heart from far above,
and seemed to melt out all his early sins and flood him with their
horror. Tears and the consciousness that he ought to be doing something
for Margaret now and could not. Tears--and more darkness!



CHAPTER XXV


When Margaret arrived behind the curtain she was aware of many cries and
questions hurled at her like an avalanche, but, ignoring them all, she
sprang past the noisy, excited group of young people, darted through the
dressing-room to the right and out into the night and coolness. Her head
was swimming, and things went black before her eyes. She felt that her
breath was going, going, and she must get to the air.

But when she passed the hot wave of the school-room, and the sharp air
of the night struck her face, consciousness seemed to turn and come back
into her again; for there over her head was the wideness of the vast,
starry Arizona night, and there, before her, in Nick Bottom's somber
costume, eating one of the chicken sandwiches that Mrs. Tanner had sent
down to her, stood Gardley! He was pale and shaken from his recent
experience; but he was undaunted, and when he saw Margaret coming toward
him through the doorway with her soul in her eyes and her spirit all
aflame with joy and relief, he came to meet her under the stars, and,
forgetting everything else, just folded her gently in his arms!

It was a most astonishing thing to do, of course, right there outside
the dressing-room door, with the curtain just about to rise on the scene
and Gardley's wig was not on yet. He had not even asked nor obtained
permission. But the soul sometimes grows impatient waiting for the lips
to speak, and Margaret felt her trust had been justified and her heart
had found its home. Right there behind the school-house, out in the
great wide night, while the crowded, clamoring audience waited for them,
and the young actors grew frantic, they plighted their troth, his lips
upon hers, and with not a word spoken.

Voices from the dressing-room roused them. "Come in quick, Mr. Gardley;
it's time for the curtain to rise, and everybody is ready. Where on
earth has Miss Earle vanished? Miss Earle! Oh, Miss Earle!"

There was a rush to the dressing-room to find the missing ones; but Bud,
as ever, present where was the most need, stood with his back to the
outside world in the door of the dressing-room and called loudly:

"They're comin', all right. Go on! Get to your places. Miss Earle says
to get to your places."

The two in the darkness groped for each other's hands as they stood
suddenly apart, and with one quick pressure and a glance hurried in.
There was not any need for words. They understood, these two, and
trusted.

With her cheeks glowing now, and her eyes like two stars, Margaret fled
across the stage and took her place at the piano again, just as the
curtain began to be drawn; and Forsythe, who had been slightly uneasy at
the look on her face as she left them, wondered now and leaned forward
to tell her how well she was looking.

He kept his honeyed phrase to himself, however, for she was not heeding
him. Her eyes were on the rising curtain, and Forsythe suddenly
remembered that this was the scene in which Jed was to have
appeared--and Jed had a broken leg! What had Margaret done about it? It
was scarcely a part that could be left out. Why hadn't he thought of it
sooner and offered to take it? He could have bluffed it out somehow--he
had heard it so much--made up words where he couldn't remember them all,
and it would have been a splendid opportunity to do some real
love-making with Rosa. Why hadn't he thought of it? Why hadn't Rosa?
Perhaps she hadn't heard about Jed soon enough to suggest it.

The curtain was fully open now, and Bud's voice as Peter Quince, a
trifle high and cracked with excitement, broke the stillness, while the
awed audience gazed upon this new, strange world presented to them.

"Is all our company here?" lilted out Bud, excitedly, and Nick Bottom
replied with Gardley's voice:

"You were best to call them generally, man by man, according to the
scrip."

Forsythe turned deadly white. Jasper Kemp, whose keen eye was upon him,
saw it through the tan, saw his lips go pale and purple points of fear
start in his eyes, as he looked and looked again, and could not believe
his senses.

Furtively he darted a glance around, like one about to steal away; then,
seeing Jasper Kemp's eyes upon him, settled back with a strained look
upon his face. Once he stole a look at Margaret and caught her face all
transfigured with great joy; looked again and felt rebuked somehow by
the pureness of her maiden joy and trust.

Not once had she turned her eyes to his. He was forgotten, and somehow
he knew the look he would get if she should see him. It would be
contempt and scorn that would burn his very soul. It is only a maid now
and then to whom it is given thus to pierce and bruise the soul of a man
who plays with love and trust and womanhood for selfishness. Such a
woman never knows her power. She punishes all unconscious to herself. It
was so that Margaret Earle, without being herself aware, and by her very
indifference and contempt, showed the little soul of this puppet man to
himself.

He stole away at last when he thought no one was looking, and reached
the back of the school-house at the open door of the girls'
dressing-room, where he knew Titania would be posing in between the
acts. He beckoned her to his side and began to question her in quick,
eager, almost angry tones, as if the failure of their plans were her
fault. Had her father been at home all day? Had anything happened--any
one been there? Did Gardley come? Had there been any report from the
men? Had that short, thick-set Scotchman with the ugly grin been there?
She must remember that she was the one to suggest the scheme in the
first place, and it was her business to keep a watch. There was no
telling now what might happen. He turned, and there stood Jasper Kemp
close to his elbow, his short stature drawn to its full, his thick-set
shoulders squaring themselves, his ugly grin standing out in bold
relief, menacingly, in the night.

The young man let forth some words not in a gentleman's code, and turned
to leave the frightened girl, who by this time was almost crying; but
Jasper Kemp kept pace with Forsythe as he walked.

"Was you addressing me?" he asked, politely; "because I could tell you a
few things a sight more appropriate for you than what you just handed to
me."

Forsythe hurried around to the front of the school-house, making no
reply.

"Nice, pleasant evening to be _free_," went on Jasper Kemp, looking up
at the stars. "Rather onpleasant for some folks that have to be shut up
in jail."

Forsythe wheeled upon him. "What do you mean?" he demanded, angrily,
albeit he was white with fear.

"Oh, nothing much," drawled Jasper, affably. "I was just thinking how
much pleasanter it was to be a free man than shut up in prison on a
night like this. It's so much healthier, you know."

Forsythe looked at him a moment, a kind of panic of intelligence growing
in his face; then he turned and went toward the back of the
school-house, where he had left his horse some hours before.

"Where are you going?" demanded Jasper. "It's 'most time you went back
to your fiddling, ain't it?"

But Forsythe answered him not a word. He was mounting his horse
hurriedly--his horse, which, all unknown to him, had been many miles
since he last rode him.

"You think you have to go, then?" said Jasper, deprecatingly. "Well,
now, that's a pity, seeing you was fiddling so nice an' all. Shall I
tell them you've gone for your health?"

Thus recalled, Forsythe stared at his tormentor wildly for a second.
"Tell her--tell her"--he muttered, hoarsely--"tell her I've been taken
suddenly ill." And he was off on a wild gallop toward the fort.

"I'll tell her you've gone for your health!" called Jasper Kemp, with
his hands to his mouth like a megaphone. "I reckon he won't return again
very soon, either," he chuckled. "This country's better off without such
pests as him an' that measley parson." Then, turning, he beheld Titania,
the queen of the fairies, white and frightened, staring wildly into the
starry darkness after the departed rider. "Poor little fool!" he
muttered under his breath as he looked at the girl and turned away.
"Poor, pretty little fool!" Suddenly he stepped up to her side and
touched her white-clad shoulder gently. "Don't you go for to care,
lassie," he said in a tender tone. "He ain't worth a tear from your
pretty eye. He ain't fit to wipe your feet on--your pretty wee feet!"

But Rosa turned angrily and stamped her foot.

"Go away! You bad old man!" she shrieked. "Go away! I shall tell my
father!" And she flouted herself into the school-house.

Jasper stood looking ruefully after her, shaking his head. "The little
de'il!" he said aloud; "the poor, pretty little de'il. She'll get her
dues aplenty afore she's done." And Jasper went back to the play.

Meantime, inside the school-house, the play went gloriously on to the
finish, and Gardley as Nick Bottom took the house by storm. Poor absent
Jed's father, sent by the sufferer to report it all, stood at the back
of the house while tears of pride and disappointment rolled down his
cheeks--pride that Jed had been so well represented, disappointment that
it couldn't have been his son up there play-acting like that.

The hour was late when the play was over, and Margaret stood at last in
front of the stage to receive the congratulations of the entire
countryside, while the young actors posed and laughed and chattered
excitedly, then went away by two and threes, their tired, happy voices
sounding back along the road. The people from the fort had been the
first to surge around Margaret with their eager congratulations and
gushing sentiments: "So sweet, my dear! So perfectly wonderful! You
really have got some dandy actors!" And, "Why don't you try something
lighter--something simpler, don't you know. Something really popular
that these poor people could understand and appreciate? A little farce!
I could help you pick one out!"

And all the while they gushed Jasper Kemp and his men, grim and
forbidding, stood like a cordon drawn about her to protect her, with
Gardley in the center, just behind her, as though he had a right there
and meant to stay; till at last the fort people hurried away and the
school-house grew suddenly empty with just those two and the eight men
behind; and by the door Bud, talking to Pop and Mom Wallis in the
buckboard outside.

Amid this admiring bodyguard at last Gardley took Margaret home.
Perhaps she wondered a little that they all went along, but she laid it
to their pride in the play and their desire to talk it over.

They had sent Mom and Pop Wallis home horseback, after all, and put
Margaret and Gardley in the buckboard, Margaret never dreaming that it
was because Gardley was not fit to walk. Indeed, he did not realize
himself why they all stuck so closely to him. He had lived through so
much since Jasper and his men had burst into his prison and freed him,
bringing him in hot haste to the school-house, with Bud wildly riding
ahead. But it was enough for him to sit beside Margaret in the sweet
night and remember how she had come out to him under the stars. Her hand
lay beside him on the seat, and without intending it his own brushed it.
Then he laid his gently, reverently, down upon hers with a quiet
pressure, and her smaller fingers thrilled and nestled in his grasp.

In the shadow of a big tree beside the house he bade her good-by, the
men busying themselves with turning about the buckboard noisily, and Bud
discreetly taking himself to the back door to get one of the men a drink
of water.

"You have been suffering in some way," said Margaret, with sudden
intuition, as she looked up into Gardley's face. "You have been in
peril, somehow--"

"A little," he answered, lightly. "I'll tell you about it to-morrow. I
mustn't keep the men waiting now. I shall have a great deal to tell you
to-morrow--if you will let me. Good night, _Margaret_!" Their hands
lingered in a clasp, and then he rode away with his bodyguard.

But Margaret did not have to wait until the morrow to hear the story,
for Bud was just fairly bursting.

Mrs. Tanner had prepared a nice little supper--more cold chicken, pie,
doughnuts, coffee, some of her famous marble cake, and preserves--and
she insisted on Margaret's coming into the dining-room and eating it,
though the girl would much rather have gone with her happy heart up to
her own room by herself.

Bud did not wait on ceremony. He began at once when Margaret was seated,
even before his mother could get her properly waited on.

"Well, we had _some ride_, we sure did! The Kid's a great old scout."

Margaret perceived that this was a leader. "Why, that's so, what became
of you, William? I hunted everywhere for you. Things were pretty
strenuous there for a while, and I needed you dreadfully."

"Well, I know," Bud apologized. "I'd oughta let you know before I went,
but there wasn't time. You see, I had to pinch that guy's horse to go,
and I knew it was just a chance if we could get back, anyway; but I had
to take it. You see, if I could 'a' gone right to the cabin it would
have been a dead cinch, but I had to ride to camp for the men, and then,
taking the short trail across, it was some ride to Ouida's Cabin!"

Mrs. Tanner stepped aghast as she was cutting a piece of dried-apple pie
for Margaret. "Now, Buddie--mother's boy--you don't mean to tell me
_you_ went to _Ouida's Cabin_? Why, sonnie, that's an _awful place_!
Don't you know your pa told you he'd whip you if you ever went on that
trail?"

"I should worry, Ma! I _had_ to go. They had Mr. Gardley tied up there,
and we had to go and get him rescued."

"_You_ had to go, Buddie--now what could _you_ do in that awful place?"
Mrs. Tanner was almost reduced to tears. She saw her offspring at the
edge of perdition at once.

But Bud ignored his mother and went on with his tale. "You jest oughta
seen Jap Kemp's face when I told him what that guy said to you! Some
face, b'lieve me! He saw right through the whole thing, too. I could see
that! He ner the men hadn't had a bite o' supper yet; they'd just got
back from somewheres. They thought the Kid was over here all day helping
you. He said yesterday when he left 'em here's where he's
a-comin'"--Bud's mouth was so full he could hardly articulate--"an' when
I told 'em, he jest blew his little whistle--like what they all
carry--three times, and those men every one jest stopped right where
they was, whatever they was doin'. Long Bill had the comb in the air
gettin' ready to comb his hair, an' he left it there and come away, and
Big Jim never stopped to wipe his face on the roller-towel, he just let
the wind dry it; and they all hustled on their horses fast as ever they
could and beat it after Jap Kemp. Jap, he rode alongside o' me and asked
me questions. He made me tell all what the guy from the fort said over
again, three or four times, and then he ast what time he got to the
school-house, and whether the Kid had been there at all yest'iday ur
t'day; and a lot of other questions, and then he rode alongside each man
and told him in just a few words where we was goin' and what the guy
from the fort had said. Gee! but you'd oughta heard what the men said
when he told 'em! Gee! but they was some mad! Bimeby we came to the
woods round the cabin, and Jap Kemp made me stick alongside Long Bill,
and he sent the men off in different directions all in a _big_ circle,
and waited till each man was in his place, and then we all rode hard as we
could and came softly up round that cabin just as the sun was goin' down.
Gee! but you'd oughta seen the scairt look on them women's faces; there
was two of 'em--an old un an' a skinny-looking long-drink-o'-pump-water.
I guess she was a girl. I don't know. Her eyes looked real old. There
was only three men in the cabin; the rest was off somewheres. They
wasn't looking for anybody to come that time o' day, I guess. One of the
men was sick on a bunk in the corner. He had his head tied up, and his
arm, like he'd been shot, and the other two men came jumping up to the
door with their guns, but when they saw how many men _we_ had they
looked awful scairt. _We_ all had _our_ guns out, too!--Jap Kemp gave me
one to carry--" Bud tried not to swagger as he told this, but it was
almost too much for him. "Two of our men held the horses, and all the
rest of us got down and went into the cabin. Jap Kemp, sounded his
whistle and all our men done the same just as they went in the
door--some kind of signals they have for the Lone Fox Camp! The two men
in the doorway aimed straight at Jap Kemp and fired, but Jap was onto
'em and jumped one side and our men fired, too, and we soon had 'em tied
up and went in--that is, Jap and me and Long Bill went in, the rest
stayed by the door--and it wasn't long 'fore their other men came riding
back hot haste; they'd heard the shots, you know--and some more of _our_
men--why, most twenty or thirty there was, I guess, altogether; some
from Lone Fox Camp that was watching off in the woods came and when we
got outside again there they all were, like a big army. Most of the men
belonging to the cabin was tied and harmless by that time, for our men
took 'em one at a time as they came riding in. Two of 'em got away, but
Jap Kemp said they couldn't go far without being caught, 'cause there
was a watch out for 'em--they'd been stealing cattle long back something
terrible. Well, so Jap Kemp and Long Bill and I went into the cabin
after the two men that shot was tied with ropes we'd brung along, and
handcuffs, and we went hunting for the Kid. At first we couldn't find
him at all. Gee! It was something fierce! And the old woman kep'
a-crying and saying we'd kill her sick son, and she didn't know nothing
about the man we was hunting for. But pretty soon I spied the Kid's foot
stickin' out from under the cot where the sick man was, and when I told
Jap Kemp that sick man pulled out a gun he had under the blanket and
aimed it right at me!"

"Oh, mother's little Buddie!" whimpered Mrs. Tanner, with her apron to
her eyes.

"_Aw, Ma_, cut it out! _he_ didn't _hurt_ me! The gun just went off
crooked, and grazed Jap Kemp's hand a little, not much. Jap knocked it
out of the sick man's hand just as he was pullin' the trigger. Say, Ma,
ain't you got any more of those cucumber pickles? It makes a man mighty
hungry to do all that riding and shooting. Well, it certainly was
something fierce--Say, Miss Earle, you take that last piece o' pie. Oh,
g'wan! _Take_ it! _You_ worked hard. No, I don't want it, really! Well,
if you won't take it _anyway_, I might eat it just to save it. Got any
more coffee, Ma?"

But Margaret was not eating. Her face was pale and her eyes were starry
with unshed tears, and she waited in patient but breathless suspense for
the vagaries of the story to work out to the finish.

"Yes, it certainly was something fierce, that cabin," went on the
narrator. "Why, Ma, it looked as if it had never been swept under that
cot when we hauled the Kid out. He was tied all up in knots, and great
heavy ropes wound tight from his shoulders down to his ankles. Why, they
were bound so tight they made great heavy welts in his wrists and
shoulders and round his ankles when we took 'em off; and they had a
great big rag stuffed into his mouth so he couldn't yell. Gee! It was
something fierce! He was 'most dippy, too; but Jap Kemp brought him
round pretty quick and got him outside in the air. That was the worst
place I ever was in myself. You couldn't breathe, and the dirt was
something fierce. It was like a pigpen. I sure was glad to get outdoors
again. And then--well, the Kid came around all right and they got him on
a horse and gave him something out of a bottle Jap Kemp had, and pretty
soon he could ride again. Why, you'd oughta seen his nerve. He just sat
up there as straight, his lips all white yet and his eyes looked some
queer; but he straightened up and he looked those rascals right in the
eye, and told 'em a few things, and he gave orders to the other men from
Lone Fox Camp what to do with 'em; and he had the two women
disarmed--they had guns, too--and carried away, and the cabin nailed up,
and a notice put on the door, and every one of those men were
handcuffed--the sick one and all--and he told 'em to bring a wagon and
put the sick one's cot in and take 'em over to Ashland to the jail, and
he sent word to Mr. Rogers. Then we rode home and got to the
school-house just when you was playing the last chords of the ov'rtcher.
Gee! It was some fierce ride and some _close shave_! The Kid he hadn't
had a thing to eat since Monday noon, and he was some hungry! I found a
sandwich on the window of the dressing-room, and he ate it while he got
togged up--'course I told him 'bout Jed soon's we left the cabin, and
Jap Kemp said he'd oughta go right home to camp after all he had been
through; but he wouldn't; he said he was goin' to _act_. So 'course he
had his way! But, gee! You could see it wasn't any cinch game for him!
He 'most fell over every time after the curtain fell. You see, they gave
him some kind of drugged whisky up there at the cabin that made his head
feel queer. Say, he thinks that guy from the fort came in and looked at
him once while he was asleep. He says it was only a dream, but I bet he
did. Say, Ma, ain't you gonta give me another doughnut?"

In the quiet of her chamber at last, Margaret knelt before her window
toward the purple, shadowy mountain under the starry dome, and gave
thanks for the deliverance of Gardley; while Bud, in his comfortable
loft, lay down to his well-earned rest and dreamed of pirates and angels
and a hero who looked like the Kid.



CHAPTER XXVI


The Sunday before Lance Gardley started East on his journey of
reparation two strangers slipped quietly into the back of the
school-house during the singing of the first hymn and sat down in the
shadow by the door.

Margaret was playing the piano when they came in, and did not see them,
and when she turned back to her Scripture lesson she had time for but
the briefest of glances. She supposed they must be some visitors from
the fort, as they were speaking to the captain's wife----who came over
occasionally to the Sunday service, perhaps because it afforded an
opportunity for a ride with one of the young officers. These occasional
visitors who came for amusement and curiosity had ceased to trouble
Margaret. Her real work was with the men and women and children who
loved the services for their own sake, and she tried as much as possible
to forget outsiders. So, that day everything went on just as usual,
Margaret putting her heart into the prayer, the simple, storylike
reading of the Scripture, and the other story-sermon which followed it.
Gardley sang unusually well at the close, a wonderful bit from an
oratorio that he and Margaret had been practising.

But when toward the close of the little vesper service Margaret gave
opportunity, as she often did, for others to take part in sentence
prayers, one of the strangers from the back of the room stood up and
began to pray. And such a prayer! Heaven seemed to bend low, and earth
to kneel and beseech as the stranger-man, with a face like an archangel,
and a body of an athlete clothed in a brown-flannel shirt and khakis,
besought the Lord of heaven for a blessing on this gathering and on the
leader of this little company who had so wonderfully led them to see the
Christ and their need of salvation through the lesson of the day. And it
did not need Bud's low-breathed whisper, "The missionary!" to tell
Margaret who he was. His face told her. His prayer thrilled her, and his
strong, young, true voice made her sure that here was a man of God in
truth.

When the prayer was over and Margaret stood once more shyly facing her
audience, she could scarcely keep the tremble out of her voice:

"Oh," said she, casting aside ceremony, "if I had known the missionary
was here I should not have dared to try and lead this meeting to-day.
Won't you please come up here and talk to us for a little while now, Mr.
Brownleigh?"

At once he came forward eagerly, as if each opportunity were a pleasure.
"Why, surely, I want to speak a word to you, just to say how glad I am
to see you all, and to experience what a wonderful teacher you have
found since I went away; but I wouldn't have missed this meeting to-day
for all the sermons I ever wrote or preached. You don't need any more
sermon than the remarkable story you've just been listening to, and I've
only one word to add; and that is, that I've found since I went away
that Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, is just the same Jesus
to me to-day that He was the last time I spoke to you. He is just as
ready to forgive your sin, to comfort you in sorrow, to help you in
temptation, to raise your body in the resurrection, and to take you home
to a mansion in His Father's house as He was the day He hung upon the
cross to save your soul from death. I've found I can rest just as
securely upon the Bible as the word of God as when I first tested its
promises. Heaven and earth may pass away, but His word shall _never_
pass away."

"_Go to it!_" said Jasper Kemp under his breath in the tone some men say
"Amen!" and his brows were drawn as if he were watching a battle.
Margaret couldn't help wondering if he were thinking of the Rev.
Frederick West just then.

When the service was over the missionary brought his wife forward to
Margaret, and they loved each other at once. Just another sweet girl
like Margaret. She was lovely, with a delicacy of feature that betokened
the high-born and high-bred, but dressed in a dainty khaki riding
costume, if that uncompromising fabric could ever be called dainty.
Margaret, remembering it afterward, wondered what it had been that gave
it that unique individuality, and decided it was perhaps a combination
of cut and finish and little dainty accessories. A bit of creamy lace at
the throat of the rolling collar, a touch of golden-brown velvet in a
golden clasp, the flash of a wonderful jewel on her finger, the modeling
of the small, brown cap with its two eagle quills--all set the little
woman apart and made her fit to enter any well-dressed company of riders
in some great city park or fashionable drive. Yet here in the wilderness
she was not overdressed.

The eight men from the camp stood in solemn row, waiting to be
recognized, and behind them, abashed and grinning with embarrassment,
stood Pop and Mom Wallis, Mom with her new gray bonnet glorifying her
old face till the missionary's wife had to look twice to be sure who she
was.

"And now, surely, Hazel, we must have these dear people come over and
help us with the singing sometimes. Can't we try something right now?"
said the missionary, looking first at his wife and then at Margaret and
Gardley. "This man is a new-comer since I went away, but I'm mighty sure
he is the right kind, and I'm glad to welcome him--or perhaps I would
better ask if he will welcome me?" And with his rare smile the
missionary put out his hand to Gardley, who took it with an eager grasp.
The two men stood looking at each other for a moment, as rare men,
rarely met, sometimes do even on a sinful earth; and after that clasp
and that look they turned away, brothers for life.

That was a most interesting song rehearsal that followed. It would be
rare to find four voices like those even in a cultivated musical center,
and they blended as if they had been made for one another. The men from
the bunk-house and a lot of other people silently dropped again into
their seats to listen as the four sang on. The missionary took the bass,
and his wife the alto, and the four made music worth listening to. The
rare and lovely thing about it was that they sang to souls, not alone
for ears, and so their music, classical though it was and of the highest
order, appealed keenly to the hearts of these rough men, and made them
feel that heaven had opened for them, as once before for untaught
shepherds, and let down a ladder of angelic voices.

"I shall feel better about leaving you out here while I am gone, since
they have come," said Gardley that night when he was bidding Margaret
good night. "I couldn't bear to think there were none of your own kind
about you. The others are devoted and would do for you with their lives
if need be, as far as they know; but I like you to have _real
friends_--real _Christian_ friends. This man is what I call a Christian.
I'm not sure but he is the first minister that I have ever come close to
who has impressed me as believing what he preaches, and living it. I
suppose there are others. I haven't known many. That man West that was
here when you came was a mistake!"

"He didn't even preach much," smiled Margaret, "so how could he live it?
This man is real. And there are others. Oh, I have known a lot of them
that are living lives of sacrifice and loving service and are yet just
as strong and happy and delightful as if they were millionaires. But
they are the men who have not thrown away their Bibles and their Christ.
They believe every promise in God's word, and rest on them day by day,
testing them and proving them over and over. I wish you knew my father!"

"I am going to," said Gardley, proudly. "_I_ am going to him just as
soon as I have finished my business and straightened out my affairs;
and I am going to tell him _everything_--with your permission,
Margaret!"

"Oh, how beautiful!" cried Margaret, with happy tears in her eyes. "To
think you are going to see father and mother. I have wanted them to know
the real you. I couldn't half _tell_ you, the real you, in a letter!"

"Perhaps they won't look on me with your sweet blindness, dear," he
said, smiling tenderly down on her. "Perhaps they will see only my dark,
past life--for I mean to tell your father everything. I'm not going to
have any skeletons in the closet to cause pain hereafter. Perhaps your
father and mother will not feel like giving their daughter to me after
they know. Remember, I realize just what a rare prize she is."

"No, father is not like that, Lance," said Margaret, with her rare smile
lighting up her happy eyes. "Father and mother will understand."

"But if they should not?" There was the shadow of sadness in Gardley's
eyes as he asked the question.

"I belong to you, dear, anyway," she said, with sweet surrender. "I
trust you though the whole world were against you!"

For answer Gardley took her in his arms, a look of awe upon his face,
and, stooping, laid his lips upon hers in tender reverence.

"Margaret--you wonderful Margaret!" he said. "God has blessed me more
than other men in sending you to me! With His help I will be worthy of
you!"

Three days more and Margaret was alone with her school work, her two
missionary friends thirty miles away, her eager watching for the mail
to come, her faithful attendant Bud, and for comfort the purple mountain
with its changing glory in the distance.

A few days before Gardley left for the East he had been offered a
position by Rogers as general manager of his estate at a fine salary,
and after consultation with Margaret he decided to accept it, but the
question of their marriage they had left by common consent unsettled
until Gardley should return and be able to offer his future wife a
record made as fair and clean as human effort could make it after human
mistakes had unmade it. As Margaret worked and waited, wrote her
charming letters to father and mother and lover, and thought her happy
thoughts with only the mountain for confidant, she did not plan for the
future except in a dim and dreamy way. She would make those plans with
Gardley when he returned. Probably they must wait some time before they
could be married. Gardley would have to earn some money, and she must
earn, too. She must keep the Ashland School for another year. It had
been rather understood, when she came out, that if at all possible she
would remain two years at least. It was hard to think of not going home
for the summer vacation; but the trip cost a great deal and was not to
be thought of. There was already a plan suggested to have a summer
session of the school, and if that went through, of course she must stay
right in Ashland. It was hard to think of not seeing her father and
mother for another long year, but perhaps Gardley would be returning
before the summer was over, and then it would not be so hard. However,
she tried to put these thoughts out of her mind and do her work happily.
It was incredible that Arizona should have become suddenly so blank and
uninteresting since the departure of a man whom she had not known a few
short months before.

Margaret had long since written to her father and mother about Gardley's
first finding her in the desert. The thing had become history and was
not likely to alarm them. She had been in Arizona long enough to be
acquainted with things, and they would not be always thinking of her as
sitting on stray water-tanks in the desert; so she told them about it,
for she wanted them to know Gardley as he had been to her. The letters
that had traveled back and forth between New York and Arizona had been
full of Gardley; and still Margaret had not told her parents how it was
between them. Gardley had asked that he might do that. Yet it had been a
blind father and mother who had not long ago read between the lines of
those letters and understood. Margaret fancied she detected a certain
sense of relief in her mother's letters after she knew that Gardley had
gone East. Were they worrying about him, she wondered, or was it just
the natural dread of a mother to lose her child?

So Margaret settled down to school routine, and more and more made a
confidant of Bud concerning little matters of the school. If it had not
been for Bud at that time Margaret would have been lonely indeed.

Two or three times since Gardley left, the Brownleighs had ridden over
to Sunday service, and once had stopped for a few minutes during the
week on their way to visit some distant need. These occasions were a
delight to Margaret, for Hazel Brownleigh was a kindred spirit. She was
looking forward with pleasure to the visit she was to make them at the
mission station as soon as school closed. She had been there once with
Gardley before he left, but the ride was too long to go often, and the
only escort available was Bud. Besides, she could not get away from
school and the Sunday service at present; but it was pleasant to have
something to look forward to.

Meantime the spring Commencement was coming on and Margaret had her
hands full. She had undertaken to inaugurate a real Commencement with
class day and as much form and ceremony as she could introduce in order
to create a good school spirit; but such things are not done with the
turn of a hand, and the young teacher sadly missed Gardley in all these
preparations.

At this time Rosa Rogers was Margaret's particular thorn in the flesh.

Since the night that Forsythe had quit the play and ridden forth into
the darkness Rosa had regarded her teacher with baleful eyes. Gardley,
too, she hated, and was only waiting with smoldering wrath until her
wild, ungoverned soul could take its revenge. She felt that but for
those two Forsythe would still have been with her.

Margaret, realizing the passionate, untaught nature of the motherless
girl and her great need of a friend to guide her, made attempt after
attempt to reach and befriend her; but every attempt was met with
repulse and the sharp word of scorn. Rosa had been too long the petted
darling of a father who was utterly blind to her faults to be other than
spoiled. Her own way was the one thing that ruled her. By her will she
had ruled every nurse and servant about the place, and wheedled her
father into letting her do anything the whim prompted. Twice her father,
through the advice of friends, had tried the experiment of sending her
away to school, once to an Eastern finishing school, and once to a
convent on the Pacific coast, only to have her return shortly by request
of the school, more wilful than when she had gone away. And now she
ruled supreme in her father's home, disliked by most of the servants
save those whom she chose to favor because they could be made to serve
her purposes. Her father, engrossed in his business and away much of the
time, was bound up in her and saw few of her faults. It is true that
when a fault of hers did come to his notice, however, he dealt with it
most severely, and grieved over it in secret, for the girl was much like
the mother whose loss had emptied the world of its joy for him. But Rosa
knew well how to manage her father and wheedle him, and also how to hide
her own doings from his knowledge.

Rosa's eyes, dimples, pink cheeks, and coquettish little mouth were not
idle in these days. She knew how to have every pupil at her feet and
ready to obey her slightest wish. She wielded her power to its fullest
extent as the summer drew near, and day after day saw a slow torture for
Margaret. Some days the menacing air of insurrection fairly bristled in
the room, and Margaret could not understand how some of her most devoted
followers seemed to be in the forefront of battle, until one day she
looked up quickly and caught the lynx-eyed glance of Rosa as she turned
from smiling at the boys in the back seat. Then she understood. Rosa had
cast her spell upon the boys, and they were acting under it and not of
their own clear judgment. It was the world-old battle of sex, of woman
against woman for the winning of the man to do her will. Margaret, using
all the charm of her lovely personality to uphold standards of right,
truth, purity, high living, and earnest thinking; Rosa striving with her
impish beauty to lure them into _any_ mischief so it foiled the other's
purposes. And one day Margaret faced the girl alone, looking steadily
into her eyes with sad, searching gaze, and almost a yearning to try to
lead the pretty child to finer things.

"Rosa, why do you always act as if I were your enemy?" she said, sadly.

"Because you are!" said Rosa, with a toss of her independent head.

"Indeed I'm not, dear child," she said, putting out her hand to lay it
on the girl's shoulder kindly. "I want to be your friend."

"I'm not a child!" snapped Rosa, jerking her shoulder angrily away; "and
you can _never_ be my friend, because I _hate_ you!"

"Rosa, look here!" said Margaret, following the girl toward the door,
the color rising in her cheeks and a desire growing in her heart to
conquer this poor, passionate creature and win her for better things.
"Rosa, I cannot have you say such things. Tell me why you hate me? What
have I done that you should feel that way? I'm sure if we should talk it
over we might come to some better understanding."

Rosa stood defiant in the doorway. "We could never come to any better
understanding, Miss Earle," she declared in a cold, hard tone, "because
I understand you now and I hate you. You tried your best to get my
friend away from me, but you couldn't do it; and you would like to keep
me from having any boy friends at all, but you can't do that, either.
You think you are very popular, but you'll find out I always do what I
like, and you needn't try to stop me. I don't have to come to school
unless I choose, and as long as I don't break your rules you have no
complaint coming; but you needn't think you can pull the wool over my
eyes the way you do the others by pretending to be friends. I won't be
friends! I hate you!" And Rosa turned grandly and marched out of the
school-house.

Margaret stood gazing sadly after her and wondering if her failure here
were her fault--if there was anything else she ought to have done--if
she had let her personal dislike of the girl influence her conduct. She
sat for some time at her desk, her chin in her hands, her eyes fixed on
vacancy with a hopeless, discouraged expression in them, before she
became aware of another presence in the room. Looking around quickly,
she saw that Bud was sitting motionless at his desk, his forehead
wrinkled in a fierce frown, his jaw set belligerently, and a look of
such, unutterable pity and devotion in his eyes that her heart warmed to
him at once and a smile of comradeship broke over her face.

"Oh, William! Were you here? Did you hear all that? What do you suppose
is the matter? Where have I failed?"

"You 'ain't failed anywhere! You should worry 'bout her! She's a nut! If
she was a boy I'd punch her head for her! But seeing she's only a girl,
_you should worry_! She always was the limit!"

Bud's tone was forcible. He was the only one of all the boys who never
yielded to Rosa's charms, but sat in glowering silence when she
exercised her powers on the school and created pandemonium for the
teacher. Bud's attitude was comforting. It had a touch of manliness and
gentleness about it quite unwonted for him. It suggested beautiful
possibilities for the future of his character, and Margaret smiled
tenderly.

"Thank you, dear boy!" she said, gently. "You certainly are a comfort.
If every one was as splendid as you are we should have a model school.
But I do wish I could help Rosa. I can't see why she should hate me so!
I must have made some big mistake with her in the first place to
antagonize her."

"Naw!" said Bud, roughly. "No chance! She's just a _nut_, that's all.
She's got a case on that Forsythe guy, the worst kind, and she's afraid
somebody 'll get him away from her, the poor stew, as if anybody would
get a case on a tough guy like that! Gee! You should worry! Come on,
let's take a ride over t' camp!"

With a sigh and a smile Margaret accepted Bud's consolations and went on
her way, trying to find some manner of showing Rosa what a real friend
she was willing to be. But Rosa continued obdurate and hateful,
regarding her teacher with haughty indifference except when she was
called upon to recite, which she did sometimes with scornful
condescension, sometimes with pert perfection, and sometimes with saucy
humor which convulsed the whole room. Margaret's patience was almost
ceasing to be a virtue, and she meditated often whether she ought not to
request that the girl be withdrawn from the school. Yet she reflected
that it was a very short time now until Commencement, and that Rosa had
not openly defied any rules. It was merely a personal antagonism. Then,
too, if Rosa were taken from the school there was really no other good
influence in the girl's life at present. Day by day Margaret prayed
about the matter and hoped that something would develop to make plain
her way.

After much thought in the matter she decided to go on with her plans,
letting Rosa have her place in the Commencement program and her part in
the class-day doings as if nothing were the matter. Certainly there was
nothing laid down in the rules of a public school that proscribed a
scholar who did not love her teacher. Why should the fact that one had
incurred the hate of a pupil unfit that pupil for her place in her class
so long as she did her duties? And Rosa did hers promptly and deftly,
with a certain piquant originality that Margaret could not help but
admire.

Sometimes, as the teacher cast a furtive look at the pretty girl working
away at her desk, she wondered what was going on behind the lovely mask.
But the look in Rosa's eyes, when she raised them, was both deep and
sly.

Rosa's hatred was indeed deep rooted. Whatever heart she had not
frivoled away in wilfulness had been caught and won by Forsythe, the
first grown man who had ever dared to make real love to her. Her
jealousy of Margaret was the most intense thing that had ever come into
her life. To think of him looking at Margaret, talking to Margaret,
smiling at Margaret, walking or riding with Margaret, was enough to send
her writhing upon her bed in the darkness of a wakeful night. She would
clench her pretty hands until the nails dug into the flesh and brought
the blood. She would bite the pillow or the blankets with an almost
fiendish clenching of her teeth upon them and mutter, as she did so: "I
hate her! I _hate_ her! I could _kill_ her!"

The day her first letter came from Forsythe, Rosa held her head high and
went about the school as if she were a princess royal and Margaret were
the dust under her feet. Triumph sat upon her like a crown and looked
forth regally from her eyes. She laid her hand upon her heart and felt
the crackle of his letter inside her blouse. She dreamed with her eyes
upon the distant mountain and thought of the tender names he had called
her: "Little wild Rose of his heart," "No rose in all the world until
you came," and a lot of other meaningful sentences. A real love-letter
all her own! No sharing him with any hateful teachers! He had implied in
her letter that she was the only one of all the people in that region
to whom he cared to write. He had said he was coming back some day to
get her. Her young, wild heart throbbed exultantly, and her eyes looked
forth their triumph malignantly. When he did come she would take care
that he stayed close by her. No conceited teacher from the East should
lure him from her side. She would prepare her guiles and smile her
sweetest. She would wear fine garments from abroad, and show him she
could far outshine that quiet, common Miss Earle, with all her airs. Yet
to this end she studied hard. It was no part of her plan to be left
behind at graduating-time. She would please her father by taking a
prominent part in things and outdoing all the others. Then he would give
her what she liked--jewels and silk dresses, and all the things a girl
should have who had won a lover like hers.

The last busy days before Commencement were especially trying for
Margaret. It seemed as if the children were possessed with the very
spirit of mischief, and she could not help but see that it was Rosa who,
sitting demurely in her desk, was the center of it all. Only Bud's
steady, frowning countenance of all that rollicking, roistering crowd
kept loyalty with the really beloved teacher. For, indeed, they loved
her, every one but Rosa, and would have stood by her to a man and girl
when it really came to the pinch, but in a matter like a little bit of
fun in these last few days of school, and when challenged to it by the
school beauty who did not usually condescend to any but a few of the
older boys, where was the harm? They were so flattered by Rosa's smiles
that they failed to see Margaret's worn, weary wistfulness.

Bud, coming into the school-house late one afternoon in search of her
after the other scholars had gone, found Margaret with her head down
upon the desk and her shoulders shaken with soundless sobs. He stood for
a second silent in the doorway, gazing helplessly at her grief, then
with the delicacy of one boy for another he slipped back outside the
door and stood in the shadow, grinding his teeth.

"Gee!" he said, under his breath. "Oh, gee! I'd like to punch her fool
head. I don't care if she is a girl! She needs it. Gee! if she was a boy
wouldn't I settle her, the little darned mean sneak!"

His remarks, it is needless to say, did not have reference to his
beloved teacher.

It was in the atmosphere everywhere that something was bound to happen
if this strain kept up. Margaret knew it and felt utterly inadequate to
meet it. Rosa knew it and was awaiting her opportunity. Bud knew it and
could only stand and watch where the blow was to strike first and be
ready to ward it off. In these days he wished fervently for Gardley's
return. He did not know just what Gardley could do about "that little
fool," as he called Rosa, but it would be a relief to be able to tell
some one all about it. If he only dared leave he would go over and tell
Jasper Kemp about it, just to share his burden with somebody. But as it
was he must stick to the job for the present and bear his great
responsibility, and so the days hastened by to the last Sunday before
Commencement, which was to be on Monday.



CHAPTER XXVII


Margaret had spent Saturday in rehearsals, so that there had been no
rest for her. Sunday morning she slept late, and awoke from a troubled
dream, unrested. She almost meditated whether she would not ask some one
to read a sermon at the afternoon service and let her go on sleeping.
Then a memory of the lonely old woman at the camp, and the men, who came
so regularly to the service, roused her to effort once more, and she
arose and tried to prepare a little something for them.

She came into the school-house at the hour, looking fagged, with dark
circles under her eyes; and the loving eyes of Mom Wallis already in her
front seat watched her keenly.

"It's time for _him_ to come back," she said, in her heart. "She's
gettin' peeked! I wisht he'd come!"

Margaret had hoped that Rosa would not come. The girl was not always
there, but of late she had been quite regular, coming in late with her
father just a little after the story had begun, and attracting attention
by her smiles and bows and giggling whispers, which sometimes were so
audible as to create quite a diversion from the speaker.

But Rosa came in early to-day and took a seat directly in front of
Margaret, in about the middle of the house, fixing her eyes on her
teacher with a kind of settled intention that made Margaret shrink as if
from a danger she was not able to meet. There was something bright and
hard and daring in Rosa's eyes as she stared unwinkingly, as if she had
come to search out a weak spot for her evil purposes, and Margaret was
so tired she wanted to lay her head down on her desk and cry. She drew
some comfort from the reflection that if she should do so childish a
thing she would be at once surrounded by a strong battalion of friends
from the camp, who would shield her with their lives if necessary.

It was silly, of course, and she must control this choking in her
throat, only how was she ever going to talk, with Rosa looking at her
that way? It was like a nightmare pursuing her. She turned to the piano
and kept them all singing for a while, so that she might pray in her
heart and grow calm; and when, after her brief, earnest prayer, she
lifted her eyes to the audience, she saw with intense relief that the
Brownleighs were in the audience.

She started a hymn that they all knew, and when they were well in the
midst of the first verse she slipped from the piano-stool and walked
swiftly down the aisle to Brownleigh's side.

"Would you please talk to them a little while?" she pleaded, wistfully.
"I am so tired I feel as if I just couldn't, to-day."

Instantly Brownleigh followed her back to the desk and took her place,
pulling out his little, worn Bible and opening it with familiar fingers
to a beloved passage:

     "'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will
     give you rest.'"

The words fell on Margaret's tired heart like balm, and she rested her
head back against the wall and closed her eyes to listen. Sitting so
away from Rosa's stare, she could forget for a while the absurd burdens
that had got on her nerves, and could rest down hard upon her Saviour.
Every word that the man of God spoke seemed meant just for her, and
brought strength, courage, and new trust to her heart. She forgot the
little crowd of other listeners and took the message to herself,
drinking it in eagerly as one who has been a long time ministering
accepts a much-needed ministry. When she moved to the piano again for
the closing hymn she felt new strength within her to bear the trials of
the week that were before her. She turned, smiling and brave, to speak
to those who always crowded around to shake hands and have a word before
leaving.

Hazel, putting a loving arm around her as soon as she could get up to
the front, began to speak soothingly: "You poor, tired child!" she said;
"you are almost worn to a frazzle. You need a big change, and I'm going
to plan it for you just as soon as I possibly can. How would you like to
go with us on our trip among the Indians? Wouldn't it be great? It'll be
several days, depending on how far we go, but John wants to visit the
Hopi reservation, if possible, and it'll be so interesting. They are a
most strange people. We'll have a delightful trip, sleeping out under
the stars, you know. Don't you just love it? I do. I wouldn't miss it
for the world. I can't be sure, for a few days yet, when we can go, for
John has to make a journey in the other direction first, and he isn't
sure when he can return; but it might be this week. How soon can you
come to us? How I wish we could take you right home with us to-night.
You need to get away and rest. But your Commencement is to-morrow, isn't
it? I'm so sorry we can't be here, but this other matter is important,
and John has to go early in the morning. Some one very sick who wants to
see him before he dies--an old Indian who didn't know a thing about
Jesus till John found him one day. I suppose you haven't anybody who
could bring you over to us after your work is done here to-morrow night
or Tuesday, have you? Well, we'll see if we can't find some one to send
for you soon. There's an old Indian who often comes this way, but he's
away buying cattle. Maybe John can think of a way we could send for you
early in the week. Then you would be ready to go with us on the trip.
You would like to go, wouldn't you?"

"Oh, so much!" said Margaret, with a sigh of wistfulness. "I can't think
of anything pleasanter!"

Margaret turned suddenly, and there, just behind her, almost touching
her, stood Rosa, that strange, baleful gleam in her eyes like a serpent
who was biding her time, drawing nearer and nearer, knowing she had her
victim where she could not move before she struck.

It was a strange fancy, of course, and one that was caused by sick
nerves, but Margaret drew back and almost cried out, as if for some one
to protect her. Then her strong common sense came to the rescue and she
rallied and smiled at Rosa a faint little sorry smile. It was hard to
smile at the bright, baleful face with the menace in the eyes.

Hazel was watching her. "You poor child! You're quite worn out! I'm
afraid you're going to be sick."

"Oh no," said Margaret, trying to speak cheerfully; "things have just
got on my nerves, that's all. It's been a particularly trying time. I
shall be all right when to-morrow night is over."

"Well, we're going to send for you very soon, so be ready!" and Hazel
followed her husband, waving her hand in gay parting.

Rosa was still standing just behind her when Margaret turned back to her
desk, and the younger girl gave her one last dagger look, a glitter in
her eyes so sinister and vindictive that Margaret felt a shudder run
through her whole body, and was glad that just then Rosa's father called
to her that they must be starting home. Only one more day now of Rosa,
and she would be done with her, perhaps forever. The girl was through
the school course and was graduating. It was not likely she would return
another year. Her opportunity was over to help her. She had failed. Why,
she couldn't tell, but she had strangely failed, and all she asked now
was not to have to endure the hard, cold, young presence any longer.

"Sick nerves, Margaret!" she said to herself. "Go home and go to bed.
You'll be all right to-morrow!" And she locked the school-house door and
walked quietly home with the faithful Bud.

The past month had been a trying time also for Rosa. Young, wild, and
motherless, passionate, wilful and impetuous, she was finding life
tremendously exciting just now. With no one to restrain her or warn her
she was playing with forces that she did not understand.

She had subjugated easily all the boys in school, keeping them exactly
where she wanted them for her purpose, and using methods that would have
done credit to a woman of the world. But by far the greatest force in
her life was her infatuation for Forsythe.

The letters had traveled back and forth many times between them since
Forsythe wrote that first love-letter. He found a whimsical pleasure in
her deep devotion and naïve readiness to follow as far as he cared to
lead her. He realized that, young as she was, she was no innocent, which
made the acquaintance all the more interesting. He, meantime, idled away
a few months on the Pacific coast, making mild love to a rich California
girl and considering whether or not he was ready yet to settle down.

In the mean time his correspondence with Rosa took on such a nature that
his volatile, impulsive nature was stirred with a desire to see her
again. It was not often that once out of sight he looked back to a
victim, but Rosa had shown a daring and a spirit in her letters that
sent a challenge to his sated senses. Moreover, the California heiress
was going on a journey; besides, an old enemy of his who knew altogether
too much of his past had appeared on the scene; and as Gardley had been
removed from the Ashland vicinity for a time, Forsythe felt it might be
safe to venture back again. There was always that pretty, spirited
little teacher if Rosa failed to charm. But why should Rosa not charm?
And why should he not yield? Rosa's father was a good sort and had all
kinds of property. Rosa was her father's only heir. On the whole,
Forsythe decided that the best move he could make next would be to
return to Arizona. If things turned out well he might even think of
marrying Rosa.

This was somewhat the train of thought that led Forsythe at last to
write to Rosa that he was coming, throwing Rosa into a panic of joy and
alarm. For Rosa's father had been most explicit about her ever going out
with Forsythe again. It had been the most relentless command he had ever
laid upon her, spoken in a tone she hardly ever disobeyed. Moreover,
Rosa was fearfully jealous of Margaret. If Forsythe should come and
begin to hang around the teacher Rosa felt she would go wild, or do
something terrible, perhaps even kill somebody. She shut her sharp
little white teeth fiercely down into her red under lip and vowed with
flashing eyes that he should never see Margaret again if power of hers
could prevent it.

The letter from Forsythe had reached her on Saturday evening, and she
had come to the Sunday service with the distinct idea of trying to plan
how she might get rid of Margaret. It would be hard enough to evade her
father's vigilance if he once found out the young man had returned; but
to have him begin to go and see Margaret again was a thing she could not
and would not stand.

The idea obsessed her to the exclusion of all others, and made her watch
her teacher as if by her very concentration of thought upon her some way
out of the difficulty might be evolved; as if Margaret herself might
give forth a hint of weakness somewhere that would show her how to plan.

To that intent she had come close in the group with the others around
the teacher at the close of meeting, and, so standing, had overheard all
that the Brownleighs had said. The lightning flash of triumph that she
cast at Margaret as she left the school-house was her own signal that
she had found a way at last. Her opportunity had come, and just in time.
Forsythe was to arrive in Arizona some time on Tuesday, and wanted Rosa
to meet him at one of their old trysting-places, out some distance from
her father's house. He knew that school would just be over, for she had
written him about Commencement, and so he understood that she would be
free. But he did not know that the place he had selected to meet her was
on one of Margaret's favorite trails where she and Bud often rode in the
late afternoons, and that above all things Rosa wished to avoid any
danger of meeting her teacher; for she not only feared that Forsythe's
attention would be drawn away from her, but also that Margaret might
feel it her duty to report to her father about her clandestine meeting.

Rosa's heart beat high as she rode demurely home with her father,
answering his pleasantries with smiles and dimples and a coaxing word,
just as he loved to have her. But she was not thinking of her father,
though she kept well her mask of interest in what he had to say. She was
trying to plan how she might use what she had heard to get rid of
Margaret Earle. If only Mrs. Brownleigh would do as she had hinted and
send some one Tuesday morning to escort Miss Earle over to her home, all
would be clear sailing for Rosa; but she dared not trust to such a
possibility. There were not many escorts coming their way from Ganado,
and Rosa happened to know that the old Indian who frequently escorted
parties was off in another direction. She could not rest on any such
hope. When she reached home she went at once to her room and sat beside
her window, gazing off at the purple mountains in deep thought. Then she
lighted a candle and went in search of a certain little Testament, long
since neglected and covered with dust. She found it at last on the top
of a pile of books in a dark closet, and dragged it forth, eagerly
turning the pages. Yes, there it was, and in it a small envelope
directed to "Miss Rosa Rogers" in a fine angular handwriting. The letter
was from the missionary's wife to the little girl who had recited her
texts so beautifully as to earn the Testament.

Rosa carried it to her desk, secured a good light, and sat down to read
it over carefully.

No thought of her innocent childish exultation over that letter came to
her now. She was intent on one thing--the handwriting. Could she seize
the secret of it and reproduce it? She had before often done so with
great success. She could imitate Miss Earle's writing so perfectly that
she often took an impish pleasure in changing words in the questions on
the blackboard and making them read absurdly for the benefit of the
school. It was such good sport to see the amazement on Margaret's face
when her attention would be called to it by a hilarious class, and to
watch her troubled brow when she read what she supposed she had written.

When Rosa was but a little child she used to boast that she could write
her father's name in perfect imitation of his signature; and often
signed some trifling receipt for him just for amusement. A dangerous
gift in the hands of a conscienceless girl! Yet this was the first time
that Rosa had really planned to use her art in any serious way. Perhaps
it never occurred to her that she was doing wrong. At present her heart
was too full of hate and fear and jealous love to care for right or
wrong or anything else. It is doubtful if she would have hesitated a
second even if the thing she was planning had suddenly appeared to her
in the light of a great crime. She seemed sometimes almost like a
creature without moral sense, so swayed was she by her own desires and
feelings. She was blind now to everything but her great desire to get
Margaret out of the way and have Forsythe to herself.

Long after her father and the servants were asleep Rosa's light burned
while she bent over her desk, writing. Page after page she covered with
careful copies of Mrs. Brownleigh's letter written to herself almost
three years before. Finally she wrote out the alphabet, bit by bit as
she picked it from the words, learning just how each letter was
habitually formed, the small letters and the capitals, with the
peculiarities of connection and ending. At last, when she lay down to
rest, she felt herself capable of writing a pretty fair letter in Mrs.
Brownleigh's handwriting. The next thing was to make her plan and
compose her letter. She lay staring into the darkness and trying to
think just what she could do.

In the first place, she settled it that Margaret must be gotten to Walpi
at least. It would not do to send her to Ganado, where the mission
station was, for that was a comparatively short journey, and she could
easily go in a day. When the fraud was discovered, as of course it would
be when Mrs. Brownleigh heard of it, Margaret would perhaps return to
find out who had done it. No, she must be sent all the way to Walpi if
possible. That would take at least two nights and the most of two days
to get there. Forsythe had said his stay was to be short. By the time
Margaret got back from Walpi Forsythe would be gone.

But how manage to get her to Walpi without her suspicions being aroused?
She might word the note so that Margaret would be told to come half-way,
expecting to meet the missionaries, say at Keams. There was a trail
straight up from Ashland to Keams, cutting off quite a distance and
leaving Ganado off at the right. Keams was nearly forty miles west of
Ganado. That would do nicely. Then if she could manage to have another
note left at Keams, saying they could not wait and had gone on, Margaret
would suspect nothing and go all the way to Walpi. That would be fine
and would give the school-teacher an interesting experience which
wouldn't hurt her in the least. Rosa thought it might be rather
interesting than otherwise. She had no compunctions whatever about how
Margaret might feel when she arrived in that strange Indian town and
found no friends awaiting her. Her only worry was where she was to find
a suitable escort, for she felt assured that Margaret would not start
out alone with one man servant on an expedition that would keep her out
overnight. And where in all that region could she find a woman whom she
could trust to send on the errand? It almost looked as though the thing
were an impossibility. She lay tossing and puzzling over it till gray
dawn stole into the room. She mentally reviewed every servant on the
place on whom she could rely to do her bidding and keep her secret, but
there was some reason why each one would not do. She scanned the
country, even considering old Ouida, who had been living in a shack over
beyond the fort ever since her cabin had been raided; but old Ouida was
too notorious. Mrs. Tanner would keep Margaret from going with her, even
if Margaret herself did not know the old woman's reputation. Rosa
considered if there were any way of wheedling Mom Wallis into the
affair, and gave that up, remembering the suspicious little twinkling
eyes of Jasper Kemp. At last she fell asleep, with her plan still
unformed but her determination to carry it through just as strong as
ever. If worst came to worst she would send the half-breed cook from the
ranch kitchen and put something in the note about his expecting to meet
his sister an hour's ride out on the trail. The half-breed would do
anything in the world for money, and Rosa had no trouble in getting all
she wanted of that commodity. But the half-breed was an evil-looking
fellow, and she feared lest Margaret would not like to go with him.
However, he should be a last resort. She would not be balked in her
purpose.



CHAPTER XXVIII


Rosa awoke very early, for her sleep had been light and troubled. She
dressed hastily and sat down to compose a note which could be altered
slightly in case she found some one better than the half-breed; but
before she was half through the phrasing she heard a slight disturbance
below her window and a muttering in guttural tones from a strange voice.
Glancing hastily out, she saw some Indians below, talking with one of
the men, who was shaking his head and motioning to them that they must
go on, that this was no place for them to stop. The Indian motioned to
his squaw, sitting on a dilapidated little moth-eaten burro with a small
papoose in her arms and looking both dirty and miserable. He muttered as
though he were pleading for something.

We believe that God's angels follow the feet of little children and
needy ones to protect them; does the devil also send his angels to lead
unwary ones astray, and to protect the plan's of the erring ones? If so
then he must have sent these Indians that morning to further Rosa's
plans, and instantly she recognized her opportunity. She leaned out of
her window and spoke in a clear, reproving voice:

"James, what does he want? Breakfast? You know father wouldn't want any
hungry person to be turned away. Let them sit down on the bench there
and tell Dorset I said to give them a good hot breakfast, and get some
milk for the baby. Be quick about it, too!"

James started and frowned at the clear, commanding voice. The squaw
turned grateful animal eyes up to the little beauty in the window,
muttering some inarticulate thanks, while the stolid Indian's eyes
glittered hopefully, though the muscles of his mask-like countenance
changed not an atom.

Rosa smiled radiantly and ran down to see that her orders were obeyed.
She tried to talk a little with the squaw, but found she understood very
little English. The Indian spoke better and gave her their brief story.
They were on their way to the Navajo reservation to the far north. They
had been unfortunate enough to lose their last scanty provisions by
prowling coyotes during the night, and were in need of food. Rosa gave
them a place to sit down and a plentiful breakfast, and ordered that a
small store of provisions should be prepared for their journey after
they had rested. Then she hurried up to her room to finish her letter.
She had her plan well fixed now. These strangers should be her willing
messengers. Now and then, as she wrote she lifted her head and gazed out
of the window, where she could see the squaw busy with her little one,
and her eyes fairly glittered with satisfaction. Nothing could have been
better planned than this.

She wrote her note carefully:

     DEAR MARGARET [she had heard Hazel call Margaret by her first name,
     and rightly judged that their new friendship was already strong
     enough to justify this intimacy],--I have found just the
     opportunity I wanted for you to come to us. These Indians are
     thoroughly trustworthy and are coming in just the direction to
     bring you to a point where we will meet you. We have decided to go
     on to Walpi at once, and will probably meet you near Keams, or a
     little farther on. The Indian knows the way, and you need not be
     afraid. I trust him perfectly. Start at once, please, so that you
     will meet us in time. John has to go on as fast as possible. I know
     you will enjoy the trip, and am so glad you are coming.

                                                 Lovingly,
                                             HAZEL RADCLIFFE BROWNLEIGH.

Rosa read it over, comparing it carefully with the little yellow note
from her Testament, and decided that it was a very good imitation. She
could almost hear Mrs. Brownleigh saying what she had written. Rosa
really was quite clever. She had done it well.

She hastily sealed and addressed her letter, and then hurried down to
talk with the Indians again.

The place she had ordered for them to rest was at some distance from the
kitchen door, a sort of outshed for the shelter of certain implements
used about the ranch. A long bench ran in front of it, and a big tree
made a goodly shade. The Indians had found their temporary camp quite
inviting.

Rosa made a detour of the shed, satisfied herself that no one was within
hearing, and then sat down on the bench, ostensibly playing with the
papoose, dangling a red ball on a ribbon before his dazzled, bead-like
eyes and bringing forth a gurgle of delight from the dusky little mummy.
While she played she talked idly with the Indians. Had they money enough
for their journey? Would they like to earn some? Would they act as
guide to a lady who wanted to go to Walpi? At least she wanted to go as
far as Keams, where she might meet friends, missionaries, who were going
on with her to Walpi to visit the Indians. If they didn't meet her she
wanted to be guided all the way to Walpi? Would they undertake it? It
would pay them well. They would get money enough for their journey and
have some left when they got to the reservation. And Rosa displayed two
gold pieces temptingly in her small palms.

The Indian uttered a guttural sort of gasp at sight of so much money,
and sat upright. He gasped again, indicating by a solemn nod that he was
agreeable to the task before him, and the girl went gaily on with her
instructions:

"You will have to take some things along to make the lady comfortable. I
will see that those are got ready. Then you can have the things for your
own when you leave the lady at Walpi. You will have to take a letter to
the lady and tell her you are going this afternoon, and she must be
ready to start at once or she will not meet the missionary. Tell her you
can only wait until three o'clock to start. You will find the lady at
the school-house at noon. You must not come till noon--" Rosa pointed to
the sun and then straight overhead. The Indian watched her keenly and
nodded.

"You must ask for Miss Earle and give her this letter. She is the
school-teacher."

The Indian grunted and looked at the white missive in Rosa's hand,
noting once more the gleam of the gold pieces.

"You must wait till the teacher goes to her boarding-house and packs her
things and eats her dinner. If anybody asks where you came from you must
say the missionary's wife from Ganado sent you. Don't tell anybody
anything else. Do you understand? More money if you don't say anything?"
Rosa clinked the gold pieces softly.

The strange, sphinx-like gaze of the Indian narrowed comprehensively. He
understood. His native cunning was being bought for this girl's own
purposes. He looked greedily at the money. Rosa had put her hand in her
pocket and brought out yet another gold piece.

"See! I give you this one now"--she laid one gold piece in the Indian's
hand--"and these two I put in an envelope and pack with some provisions
and blankets on another horse. I will leave the horse tied to a tree up
where the big trail crosses this big trail out that way. You know?"

Rosa pointed in the direction she meant, and the Indian looked and
grunted, his eyes returning to the two gold pieces in her hand. It was a
great deal of money for the little lady to give. Was she trying to cheat
him? He looked down at the gold he already held. It was good money. He
was sure of that. He looked at her keenly.

"I shall be watching and I shall know whether you have the lady or not,"
went on the girl, sharply. "If you do not bring the lady with you there
will be no money and no provisions waiting for you. But if you bring the
lady you can untie the horse and take him with you. You will need the
horse to carry the things. When you get to Walpi you can set him free.
He is branded and he will likely come back. We shall find him. See, I
will put the gold pieces in this tin can."

She picked up a sardine-tin that lay at her feet, slipped the gold
pieces in an envelope from her pocket, stuffed it in the tin, bent down
the cover, and held it up.

"This can will be packed on the top of the other provisions, and you can
open it and take the money out when you untie the horse. Then hurry on
as fast as you can and get as far along the trail as possible to-night
before you camp. Do you understand?"

The Indian nodded once more, and Rosa felt that she had a confederate
worthy of her need.

She stayed a few minutes more, going carefully over her directions,
telling the Indian to be sure his squaw was kind to the lady, and that
on no account he should let the lady get uneasy or have cause to
complain of her treatment, or trouble would surely come to him. At last
she felt sure she had made him understand, and she hurried away to slip
into her pretty white dress and rose-colored ribbons and ride to school.
Before she left her room she glanced out of the window at the Indians,
and saw them sitting motionless, like a group of bronze. Once the Indian
stirred and, putting his hand in his bosom, drew forth the white letter
she had given him, gazed at it a moment, and hid it in his breast again.
She nodded her satisfaction as she turned from the window. The next
thing was to get to school and play her own part in the Commencement
exercises.

The morning was bright, and the school-house was already filled to
overflowing when Rosa arrived. Her coming, as always, made a little stir
among admiring groups, for even those who feared her admired her from
afar. She fluttered into the school-house and up the aisle with the air
of a princess who knew she had been waited for and was condescending to
come at all.

Rosa was in everything--the drills, the march, the choruses, and the
crowning oration. She went through it all with the perfection of a
bright mind and an adaptable nature. One would never have dreamed, to
look at her pretty dimpling face and her sparkling eyes, what diabolical
things were moving in her mind, nor how those eyes, lynx-soft with
lurking sweetness and treachery, were watching all the time furtively
for the appearance of the old Indian.

At last she saw him, standing in a group just outside the window near
the platform, his tall form and stern countenance marking him among the
crowd of familiar faces. She was receiving her diploma from the hand of
Margaret when she caught his eye, and her hand trembled just a quiver as
she took the dainty roll tied with blue and white ribbons. That he
recognized her she was sure; that he knew she did not wish him to make
known his connection with her she felt equally convinced he understood.
His eye had that comprehending look of withdrawal. She did not look up
directly at him again. Her eyes were daintily downward. Nevertheless,
she missed not a turn of his head, not a glance from that stern eye, and
she knew the moment when he stood at the front door of the school-house
with the letter in his hand, stolid and indifferent, yet a great force
to be reckoned with.

Some one looked at the letter, pointed to Margaret, called her, and she
came. Rosa was not far away all the time, talking with Jed; her eyes
downcast, her cheeks dimpling, missing nothing that could be heard or
seen.

Margaret read the letter. Rosa watched her, knew every curve of every
letter and syllable as she read, held her breath, and watched Margaret's
expression. Did she suspect? No. A look of intense relief and pleasure
had come into her eyes. She was glad to have found a way to go. She
turned to Mrs. Tanner.

"What do you think of this, Mrs. Tanner? I'm to go with Mrs. Brownleigh
on a trip to Walpi. Isn't that delicious? I'm to start at once. Do you
suppose I could have a bite to eat? I won't need much. I'm too tired to
eat and too anxious to be off. If you give me a cup of tea and a
sandwich I'll be all right. I've got things about ready to go, for Mrs.
Brownleigh told me she would send some one for me."

"H'm!" said Mrs. Tanner, disapprovingly. "Who you goin' with? Just
_him_? I don't much like _his_ looks!"

She spoke in a low tone so the Indian would not hear, and it was almost
in Rosa's very ear, who stood just behind. Rosa's heart stopped a beat
and she frowned at the toe of her slipper. Was this common little Tanner
woman going to be the one to balk her plans?

Margaret raised her head now for her first good look at the Indian, and
it must be admitted a chill came into her heart. Then, as if he
comprehended what was at stake, the Indian turned slightly and pointed
down the path toward the road. By common consent the few who were
standing about the door stepped back and made a vista for Margaret to
see the squaw sitting statue-like on her scraggy little pony, gazing off
at the mountain in the distance, as if she were sitting for her picture,
her solemn little papoose strapped to her back.

Margaret's troubled eyes cleared. The family aspect made things all
right again. "You see, he has his wife and child," she said. "It's all
right. Mrs. Brownleigh says she trusts him perfectly, and I'm to meet
them on the way. Read the letter."

She thrust the letter into Mrs. Tanner's hand, and Rosa trembled for her
scheme once more. Surely, surely Mrs. Tanner would not be able to detect
the forgery!

"H'm! Well, I s'pose it's all right if she says so, but I'm sure I don't
relish them pesky Injuns, and I don't think that squaw wife of his looks
any great shakes, either. They look to me like they needed a good scrub
with Bristol brick. But then, if you're set on going, you'll go,
'course. I jest wish Bud hadn't 'a' gone home with that Jasper Kemp. He
might 'a' gone along, an' then you'd 'a' had somebody to speak English
to."

"Yes, it would have been nice to have William along," said Margaret;
"but I think I'll be all right. Mrs. Brownleigh wouldn't send anybody
that wasn't nice."

"H'm! I dun'no'! She's an awful crank. She just loves them Injuns, they
say. But I, fer one, draw the line at holdin' 'em in my lap. I don't
b'lieve in mixin' folks up that way. Preach to 'em if you like, but let
'em keep their distance, I say."

Margaret laughed and went off to pick up her things. Rosa stood smiling
and talking to Jed until she saw Margaret and Mrs. Tanner go off
together, the Indians riding slowly along behind.

Rosa waited until the Indians had turned off the road down toward the
Tanners', and then she mounted her own pony and rode swiftly home.

She rushed up to her room and took off her fine apparel, arraying
herself quickly in a plain little gown, and went down to prepare the
provisions. There was none too much time, and she must work rapidly. It
was well for her plans that she was all-powerful with the servants and
could send them about at will to get them out of her way. She invented a
duty for each now that would take them for a few minutes well out of
sight and sound; then she hurried together the provisions in a basket,
making two trips to get them to the shelter where she had told the
Indian he would find the horse tied. She had to make a third trip to
bring the blankets and a few other things she knew would be
indispensable, but the whole outfit was really but carelessly gotten
together, and it was just by chance that some things got in at all.

It was not difficult to find the old cayuse she intended using for a
pack-horse. He was browsing around in the corral, and she soon had a
halter over his head, for she had been quite used to horses from her
babyhood.

She packed the canned things, tinned meats, vegetables, and fruit into a
couple of large sacks, adding some fodder for the horses, a box of
matches, some corn bread, of which there was always plenty on hand in
the house, some salt pork, and a few tin dishes. These she slung pack
fashion over the old horse, fastened the sardine-tin containing the gold
pieces where it would be easily found, tied the horse to a tree, and
retired behind a shelter of sage-brush to watch.

It was not long before the little caravan came, the Indians riding ahead
single file, like two graven images, moving not a muscle of their faces,
and Margaret a little way behind on her own pony, her face as happy and
relieved as if she were a child let out from a hard task to play.

The Indian stopped beside the horse, a glitter of satisfaction in his
eyes as he saw that the little lady had fulfilled her part of the
bargain. He indicated to the squaw and the lady that they might move on
down the trail, and he would catch up with them; and then dismounted,
pouncing warily upon the sardine-tin at once. He looked furtively about,
then took out the money and tested it with his teeth to make sure it was
genuine.

He grunted his further satisfaction, looked over the pack-horse, made
more secure the fastenings of the load, and, taking the halter, mounted
and rode stolidly away toward the north.

Rosa waited in her covert until they were far out of sight, then made
her way hurriedly back to the house and climbed to a window where she
could watch the trail for several miles. There, with a field-glass, she
kept watch until the procession had filed across the plains, down into a
valley, up over a hill, and dropped to a farther valley out of sight.
She looked at the sun and drew a breath of satisfaction. She had done it
at last! She had got Margaret away before Forsythe came! There was no
likelihood that the fraud would be discovered until her rival was far
enough away to be safe. A kind of reaction came upon Rosa's overwrought
nerves. She laughed out harshly, and her voice had a cruel ring to it.
Then she threw herself upon the bed and burst into a passionate fit of
weeping, and so, by and by, fell asleep. She dreamed that Margaret had
returned like a shining, fiery angel, a two-edged sword in her hand and
all the Wallis camp at her heels, with vengeance in their wake. That
hateful little boy, Bud Tanner, danced around and made faces at her,
while Forsythe had forgotten her to gaze at Margaret's face.



CHAPTER XXIX


To Margaret the day was very fair, and the omens all auspicious. She
carried with her close to her heart two precious letters received that
morning and scarcely glanced at as yet, one from Gardley and one from
her mother. She had had only time to open them and be sure that all was
well with her dear ones, and had left the rest to read on the way.

She was dressed in the khaki riding-habit she always wore when she went
on horseback; and in the bag strapped on behind she carried a couple of
fresh white blouses, a thin, white dress, a little soft dark silk gown
that folded away almost into a cobweb, and a few other necessities. She
had also slipped in a new book her mother had sent her, into which she
had had as yet no time to look, and her chessmen and board, besides
writing materials. She prided herself on having got so many necessaries
into so small a compass. She would need the extra clothing if she stayed
at Ganado with the missionaries for a week on her return from the trip,
and the book and chessmen would amuse them all by the way. She had heard
Brownleigh say he loved to play chess.

Margaret rode on the familiar trail, and for the first hour just let
herself be glad that school was over and she could rest and have no
responsibility. The sun shimmered down brilliantly on the white, hot
sand and gray-green of the greasewood and sage-brush. Tall spikes of
cactus like lonely spires shot up now and again to vary the scene. It
was all familiar ground to Margaret around here, for she had taken many
rides with Gardley and Bud, and for the first part of the way every turn
and bit of view was fraught with pleasant memories that brought a smile
to her eyes as she recalled some quotation of Gardley's or some prank of
Bud's. Here was where they first sighted the little cottontail the day
she took her initial ride on her own pony. Off there was the mountain
where they saw the sun drawing silver water above a frowning storm.
Yonder was the group of cedars where they had stopped to eat their lunch
once, and this water-hole they were approaching was the one where
Gardley had given her a drink from his hat.

She was almost glad that Bud was not along, for she was too tired to
talk and liked to be alone with her thoughts for this few minutes. Poor
Bud! He would be disappointed when he got back to find her gone, but
then he had expected she was going in a few days, anyway, and she had
promised to take long rides with him when she returned. She had left a
little note for him, asking him to read a certain book in her bookcase
while she was gone, and be ready to discuss it with her when she got
back, and Bud would be fascinated with it, she knew. Bud had been dear
and faithful, and she would miss him, but just for this little while
she was glad to have the great out-of-doors to herself.

She was practically alone. The two sphinx-like figures riding ahead of
her made no sign, but stolidly rode on hour after hour, nor turned their
heads even to see if she were coming. She knew that Indians were this
way; still, as the time went by she began to feel an uneasy sense of
being alone in the universe with a couple of bronze statues. Even the
papoose had erased itself in sleep, and when it awoke partook so fully
of its racial peculiarities as to hold its little peace and make no
fuss. Margaret began to feel the baby was hardly human, more like a
little brown doll set up in a missionary meeting to teach white children
what a papoose was like.

By and by she got out her letters and read them over carefully, dreaming
and smiling over them, and getting precious bits by heart. Gardley
hinted that he might be able very soon to visit her parents, as it
looked as though he might have to make a trip on business in their
direction before he could go further with what he was doing in his old
home. He gave no hint of soon returning to the West. He said he was
awaiting the return of one man who might soon be coming from abroad.
Margaret sighed and wondered how many weary months it would be before
she would see him. Perhaps, after all, she ought to have gone home and
stayed them out with her mother and father. If the school-board could be
made to see that it would be better to have no summer session, perhaps
she would even yet go when she returned from the Brownleighs'. She would
see. She would decide nothing until she was rested.

Suddenly she felt herself overwhelmingly weary, and wished that the
Indians would stop and rest for a while; but when she stirred up her
sleepy pony and spurred ahead to broach the matter to her guide he shook
his solemn head and pointed to the sun:

"No get Keams good time. No meet Aneshodi."

"Aneshodi," she knew, was the Indians' name for the missionary, and she
smiled her acquiescence. Of course they must meet the Brownleighs and
not detain them. What was it Hazel had said about having to hurry? She
searched her pocket for the letter, and then remembered she had left it
with Mrs. Tanner. What a pity she had not brought it! Perhaps there was
some caution or advice in it that she had not taken note of. But then
the Indian likely knew all about it, and she could trust to him. She
glanced at his stolid face and wished she could make him smile. She cast
a sunny smile at him and said something pleasant about the beautiful
day, but he only looked her through as if she were not there, and after
one or two more attempts she fell back and tried to talk to the squaw;
but the squaw only looked stolid, too, and shook her head. She did not
seem friendly. Margaret drew back into her old position and feasted her
eyes upon the distant hills.

The road was growing unfamiliar now. They were crossing rough ridges
with cliffs of red sandstone, and every step of the way was interesting.
Yet Margaret felt more and more how much she wanted to lie down and
sleep, and when at last in the dusk the Indians halted not far from a
little pool of rainwater and indicated that here they would camp for
the night, Margaret was too weary to question the decision. It had not
occurred to her that she would be on the way overnight before she met
her friends. Her knowledge of the way, and of distances, was but vague.
It is doubtful if she would have ventured had she known that she must
pass the night thus in the company of two strange savage creatures. Yet,
now that she was here and it was inevitable, she would not shrink, but
make the best of it. She tried to be friendly once more, and offered to
look out for the baby while the squaw gathered wood and made a fire. The
Indian was off looking after the horses, evidently expecting his wife to
do all the work.

Margaret watched a few minutes, while pretending to play with the baby,
who was both sleepy and hungry, yet held his emotions as stolidly as if
he were a grown person. Then she decided to take a hand in the supper.
She was hungry and could not bear that those dusky, dirty hands should
set forth her food, so she went to work cheerfully, giving directions as
if the Indian woman understood her, though she very soon discovered that
all her talk was as mere babbling to the other, and she might as well
hold her peace. The woman set a kettle of water over the fire, and
Margaret forestalled her next movement by cutting some pork and putting
it to cook in a little skillet she found among the provisions. The woman
watched her solemnly, not seeming to care; and so, silently, each went
about her own preparations.

The supper was a silent affair, and when it was over the squaw handed
Margaret a blanket. Suddenly she understood that this, and this alone,
was to be her bed for the night. The earth was there for a mattress,
and the sage-brush lent a partial shelter, the canopy of stars was
overhead.

A kind of panic took possession of her. She stared at the squaw and
found herself longing to cry out for help. It seemed as if she could not
bear this awful silence of the mortals who were her only company. Yet
her common sense came to her aid, and she realized that there was
nothing for it but to make the best of things. So she took the blanket
and, spreading it out, sat down upon it and wrapped it about her
shoulders and feet. She would not lie down until she saw what the rest
did. Somehow she shrank from asking the bronze man how to fold a blanket
for a bed on the ground. She tried to remember what Gardley had told her
about folding the blanket bed so as best to keep out snakes and ants.
She shuddered at the thought of snakes. Would she dare call for help
from those stolid companions of hers if a snake should attempt to molest
her in the night? And would she ever dare to go to sleep?

She remembered her first night in Arizona out among the stars, alone on
the water-tank, and her first frenzy of loneliness. Was this as bad? No,
for these Indians were trustworthy and well known by her dear friends.
It might be unpleasant, but this, too, would pass and the morrow would
soon be here.

The dusk dropped down and the stars loomed out. All the world grew
wonderful, like a blue jeweled dome of a palace with the lights turned
low. The fire burned brightly as the man threw sticks upon it, and the
two Indians moved stealthily about in the darkness, passing silhouetted
before the fire this way and that, and then at last lying down wrapped
in their blankets to sleep.

It was very quiet about her. The air was so still she could hear the
hobbled horses munching away in the distance, and moving now and then
with the halting gait a hobble gives a horse. Off in the farther
distance the blood-curdling howl of the coyotes rose, but Margaret was
used to them, and knew they would not come near a fire.

She was growing very weary, and at last wrapped her blanket closer and
lay down, her head pillowed on one corner of it. Committing herself to
her Heavenly Father, and breathing a prayer for father, mother, and
lover, she fell asleep.

It was still almost dark when she awoke. For a moment she thought it was
still night and the sunset was not gone yet, the clouds were so rosy
tinted.

The squaw was standing by her, touching her shoulder roughly and
grunting something. She perceived, as she rubbed her eyes and tried to
summon back her senses, that she was expected to get up and eat
breakfast. There was a smell of pork and coffee in the air, and there
was scorched corn bread beside the fire on a pan.

Margaret got up quickly and ran down to the water-hole to get some
water, dashing it in her face and over her arms and hands, the squaw
meanwhile standing at a little distance, watching her curiously, as if
she thought this some kind of an oblation paid to the white woman's god
before she ate. Margaret pulled the hair-pins out of her hair, letting
it down and combing it with one of her side combs; twisted it up again
in its soft, fluffy waves; straightened her collar, set on her hat, and
was ready for the day. The squaw looked at her with both awe and
contempt for a moment, then turned and stalked back to her papoose and
began preparing it for the journey.

Margaret made a hurried meal and was scarcely done before she found her
guides were waiting like two pillars of the desert, but watching keenly,
impatiently, her every mouthful, and anxious to be off.

The sky was still pink-tinted with the semblance of a sunset, and
Margaret felt, as she mounted her pony and followed her companions, as
if the day was all turned upside down. She almost wondered whether she
hadn't slept through a whole twenty-four hours, and it were not, after
all, evening again, till by and by the sun rose clear and the wonder of
the cloud-tinting melted into day.

The road lay through sage-brush and old barren cedar-trees, with rabbits
darting now and then between the rocks. Suddenly from the top of a
little hill they came out to a spot where they could see far over the
desert. Forty miles away three square, flat hills, or mesas, looked like
a gigantic train of cars, and the clear air gave everything a strange
vastness. Farther on beyond the mesas dimly dawned the Black Mountains.
One could even see the shadowed head of "Round Rock," almost a hundred
miles away. Before them and around was a great plain of sage-brush, and
here and there was a small bush that the Indians call "the weed that was
not scared." Margaret had learned all these things during her winter in
Arizona, and keenly enjoyed the vast, splendid view spread before her.

They passed several little mud-plastered hogans that Margaret knew for
Indian dwellings. A fine band of ponies off in the distance made an
interesting spot on the landscape, and twice they passed bands of sheep.
She had a feeling of great isolation from everything she had ever known,
and seemed going farther and farther from life and all she loved. Once
she ventured to ask the Indian what time he expected to meet her
friends, the missionaries, but he only shook his head and murmured
something unintelligible about "Keams" and pointed to the sun. She
dropped behind again, vaguely uneasy, she could not tell why. There
seemed something so altogether sly and wary and unfriendly in the faces
of the two that she almost wished she had not come. Yet the way was
beautiful enough and nothing very unpleasant was happening to her. Once
she dropped the envelope of her mother's letter and was about to
dismount and recover it. Then some strange impulse made her leave it on
the sand of the desert. What if they should be lost and that paper
should guide them back? The notion stayed by her, and once in a while
she dropped other bits of paper by the way.

About noon the trail dropped off into a cañon, with high, yellow-rock
walls on either side, and stifling heat, so that she felt as if she
could scarcely stand it. She was glad when they emerged once more and
climbed to higher ground. The noon camp was a hasty affair, for the
Indian seemed in a hurry. He scanned the horizon far and wide and
seemed searching keenly for some one or something. Once they met a
lonely Indian, and he held a muttered conversation with him, pointing
off ahead and gesticulating angrily. But the words were unintelligible
to Margaret. Her feeling of uneasiness was growing, and yet she could
not for the life of her tell why, and laid it down to her tired nerves.
She was beginning to think she had been very foolish to start on such a
long trip before she had had a chance to get rested from her last days
of school. She longed to lie down under a tree and sleep for days.

Toward night they sighted a great blue mesa about fifty miles south, and
at sunset they could just see the San Francisco peaks more than a
hundred and twenty-five miles away. Margaret, as she stopped her horse
and gazed, felt a choking in her heart and throat and a great desire to
cry. The glory and awe of the mountains, mingled with her own weariness
and nervous fear, were almost too much for her. She was glad to get down
and eat a little supper and go to sleep again. As she fell asleep she
comforted herself with repeating over a few precious words from her
Bible:

     "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him and
     delivereth them. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is
     stayed on Thee because he trusteth in Thee. I will both lay me down
     in peace and sleep, for Thou Lord only makest me to dwell in
     safety...."

The voice of the coyotes, now far, now near, boomed out on the night;
great stars shot dartling pathways across the heavens; the fire snapped
and crackled, died down and flickered feebly; but Margaret slept, tired
out, and dreamed the angels kept close vigil around her lowly couch.

She did not know what time the stars disappeared and the rain began to
fall. She was too tired to notice the drops that fell upon her face. Too
tired to hear the coyotes coming nearer, nearer, yet in the morning
there lay one dead, stretched not thirty feet from where she lay. The
Indian had shot him through the heart.

Somehow things looked very dismal that morning, in spite of the
brightness of the sun after the rain. She was stiff and sore with lying
in the dampness. Her hair was wet, her blanket was wet, and she woke
without feeling rested. Almost the trip seemed more than she could bear.
If she could have wished herself back that morning and have stayed at
Tanners' all summer she certainly would have done it rather than to be
where and how she was.

The Indians seemed excited--the man grim and forbidding, the woman
appealing, frightened, anxious. They were near to Keams Cañon.
"Aneshodi" would be somewhere about. The Indian hoped to be rid of his
burden then and travel on his interrupted journey. He was growing
impatient. He felt he had earned his money.

But when they tried to go down Keam's Cañon they found the road all
washed away by flood, and must needs go a long way around. This made the
Indian surly. His countenance was more forbidding than ever. Margaret,
as she watched him with sinking heart, altered her ideas of the Indian
as a whole to suit the situation. She had always felt pity for the poor
Indian, whose land had been seized and whose kindred had been
slaughtered. But this Indian was not an object of pity. He was the most
disagreeable, cruel-looking Indian Margaret had ever laid eyes on. She
had felt it innately the first time she saw him, but now, as the
situation began to bring him out, she knew that she was dreadfully
afraid of him. She had a feeling that he might scalp her if he got tired
of her. She began to alter her opinion of Hazel Brownleigh's judgment as
regarded Indians. She did not feel that she would ever send this Indian
to any one for a guide and say he was perfectly trustworthy. He hadn't
done anything very dreadful yet, but she felt he was going to.

He had a number of angry confabs with his wife that morning. At least,
he did the confabbing and the squaw protested. Margaret gathered after a
while that it was something about herself. The furtive, frightened
glances that the squaw cast in her direction sometimes, when the man was
not looking, made her think so. She tried to say it was all imagination,
and that her nerves were getting the upper hand of her, but in spite of
her she shuddered sometimes, just as she had done when Rosa looked at
her. She decided that she must be going to have a fit of sickness, and
that just as soon as she got in the neighborhood of Mrs. Tanner's again
she would pack her trunk and go home to her mother. If she was going to
be sick she wanted her mother.

About noon things came to a climax. They halted on the top of the mesa,
and the Indians had another altercation, which ended in the man
descending the trail a fearfully steep way, down four hundred feet to
the trading-post in the cañon. Margaret looked down and gasped and
thanked a kind Providence that had not made it necessary for her to make
that descent; but the squaw stood at the top with her baby and looked
down in silent sorrow--agony perhaps would be a better name. Her face
was terrible to look upon.

Margaret could not understand it, and she went to the woman and put her
hand out sympathetically, asking, gently: "What is the matter, you poor
little thing? Oh, what is it?"

Perhaps the woman understood the tenderness in the tone, for she
suddenly turned and rested her forehead against Margaret's shoulder,
giving one great, gasping sob, then lifted her dry, miserable eyes to
the girl's face as if to thank her for her kindness.

Margaret's heart was touched. She threw her arms around the poor woman
and drew her, papoose and all, comfortingly toward her, patting her
shoulder and saying gentle, soothing words as she would to a little
child. And by and by the woman lifted her head again, the tears coursing
down her face, and tried to explain, muttering her queer gutturals and
making eloquent gestures until Margaret felt she understood. She
gathered that the man had gone down to the trading-post to find the
"Aneshodi," and that the squaw feared that he would somehow procure
firewater either from the trader or from some Indian he might meet, and
would come back angrier than he had gone, and without his money.

If Margaret also suspected that the Indian had desired to get rid of her
by leaving her at that desolate little trading-station down in the cañon
until such time as her friends should call for her, she resolutely put
the thought out of her mind and set herself to cheer the poor Indian
woman.

She took a bright, soft, rosy silk tie from her own neck and knotted it
about the astonished woman's dusky throat, and then she put a silver
dollar in her hand, and was thrilled with wonder to see what a change
came over the poor, dark face. It reminded her of Mom Wallis when she
got on her new bonnet, and once again she felt the thrill of knowing the
whole world kin.

The squaw cheered up after a little, got sticks and made a fire, and
together they had quite a pleasant meal. Margaret exerted herself to
make the poor woman laugh, and finally succeeded by dangling a
bright-red knight from her chessmen in front of the delighted baby's
eyes till he gurgled out a real baby crow of joy.

It was the middle of the afternoon before the Indian returned, sitting
crazily his struggling beast as he climbed the trail once more.
Margaret, watching, caught her breath and prayed. Was this the
trustworthy man, this drunken, reeling creature, clubbing his horse and
pouring forth a torrent of indistinguishable gutturals? It was evident
that his wife's worst fears were verified. He had found the firewater.

The frightened squaw set to work putting things together as fast as she
could. She well knew what to expect, and when the man reached the top of
the mesa he found his party packed and mounted, waiting fearsomely to
take the trail.

Silently, timorously, they rode behind him, west across the great wide
plain.

In the distance gradually there appeared dim mesas like great fingers
stretching out against the sky; miles away they seemed, and nothing
intervening but a stretch of varying color where sage-brush melted into
sand, and sage-brush and greasewood grew again, with tall cactus
startling here and there like bayonets at rest but bristling with
menace.

The Indian had grown silent and sullen. His eyes were like deep fires of
burning volcanoes. One shrank from looking at them. His massive, cruel
profile stood out like bronze against the evening sky. It was growing
night again, and still they had not come to anywhere or anything, and
still her friends seemed just as far away.

Since they had left the top of Keams Cañon Margaret had been sure all
was not right. Aside from the fact that the guide was drunk at present,
she was convinced that there had been something wrong with him all
along. He did not act like the Indians around Ashland. He did not act
like a trusted guide that her friends would send for her. She wished
once more that she had kept Hazel Brownleigh's letter. She wondered how
her friends would find her if they came after her. It was then she began
in earnest to systematically plan to leave a trail behind her all the
rest of the way. If she had only done it thoroughly when she first began
to be uneasy. But now she was so far away, so many miles from anywhere!
Oh, if she had not come at all!

And first she dropped her handkerchief, because she happened to have it
in her hand--a dainty thing with lace on the edge and her name written
in tiny script by her mother's careful hand on the narrow hem. And then
after a little, as soon as she could scrawl it without being noticed,
she wrote a note which she twisted around the neck of a red chessman,
and left behind her. After that scraps of paper, as she could reach them
out of the bag tied on behind her saddle; then a stocking, a bedroom
slipper, more chessmen, and so, when they halted at dusk and prepared to
strike camp, she had quite a good little trail blazed behind her over
that wide, empty plain. She shuddered as she looked into the gathering
darkness ahead, where those long, dark lines of mesas looked like
barriers in the way. Then, suddenly, the Indian pointed ahead to the
first mesa and uttered one word--"Walpi!" So that was the Indian village
to which she was bound? What was before her on the morrow? After eating
a pretense of supper she lay down. The Indian had more firewater with
him. He drank, he uttered cruel gutturals at his squaw, and even kicked
the feet of the sleeping papoose as he passed by till it awoke and cried
sharply, which made him more angry, so he struck the squaw.

It seemed hours before all was quiet. Margaret's nerves were strained to
such a pitch she scarcely dared to breathe, but at last, when the fire
had almost died down, the man lay quiet, and she could relax and close
her eyes.

Not to sleep. She must not go to sleep. The fire was almost gone and the
coyotes would be around. She must wake and watch!

That was the last thought she remembered--that and a prayer that the
angels would keep watch once again.

When she awoke it was broad daylight and far into the morning, for the
sun was high overhead and the mesas in the distance were clear and
distinct against the sky.

She sat up and looked about her, bewildered, not knowing at first where
she was. It was so still and wide and lonely.

She turned to find the Indians, but there was no trace of them anywhere.
The fire lay smoldering in its place, a thin trickle of smoke curling
away from a dying stick, but that was all. A tin cup half full of coffee
was beside the stick, and a piece of blackened corn bread. She turned
frightened eyes to east, to west, to north, to south, but there was no
one in sight, and out over the distant mesa there poised a great eagle
alone in the vast sky keeping watch over the brilliant, silent waste.



CHAPTER XXX


When Margaret was a very little girl her father and mother had left her
alone for an hour with a stranger while they went out to make a call in
a strange city through which they were passing on a summer trip. The
stranger was kind, and gave to the child a large green box of bits of
old black lace and purple ribbons to play with, but she turned
sorrowfully from the somber array of finery, which was the only thing in
the way of a plaything the woman had at hand, and stood looking drearily
out of the window on the strange, new town, a feeling of utter
loneliness upon her. Her little heart was almost choked with the
awfulness of the thought that she was a human atom drifted apart from
every other atom she had ever known, that she had a personality and a
responsibility of her own, and that she must face this thought of
herself and her aloneness for evermore. It was the child's first
realization that she was a separate being apart from her father and
mother, and she was almost consumed with the terror of it.

As she rose now from her bed on the ground and looked out across that
vast waste, in which the only other living creature was that sinister,
watching eagle, the same feeling returned to her and made her tremble
like the little child who had turned from her box of ancient finery to
realize her own little self and its terrible aloneness.

For an instant even her realization of God, which had from early
childhood been present with her, seemed to have departed. She could not
grasp anything save the vast empty silence that loomed about her so
awfully. She was alone, and about as far from anywhere or anything as
she could possibly be in the State of Arizona. Would she ever get back
to human habitations? Would her friends ever be able to find her?

Then her heart flew back to its habitual refuge, and she spoke aloud and
said, "God is here!" and the thought seemed to comfort her. She looked
about once more on the bright waste, and now it did not seem so dreary.

"God is here!" she repeated, and tried to realize that this was a part
of His habitation. She could not be lost where God was. He knew the way
out. She had only to trust. So she dropped upon her knees in the sand
and prayed for trust and courage.

When she rose again she walked steadily to a height a little above the
camp-fire, and, shading her eyes, looked carefully in every direction.
No, there was not a sign of her recent companions. They must have stolen
away in the night quite soon after she fell asleep, and have gone fast
and far, so that they were now beyond the reach of her eyes, and not
anywhere was there sign of living thing, save that eagle still sweeping
in great curves and poising again above the distant mesa.

Where was her horse? Had the Indians taken that, too? She searched the
valley, but saw no horse at first. With sinking heart she went back to
where her things were and sat down by the dying fire to think, putting a
few loose twigs and sticks together to keep the embers bright while she
could. She reflected that she had no matches, and this was probably the
last fire she would have until somebody came to her rescue or she got
somewhere by herself. What was she to do? Stay right where she was or
start out on foot? And should she go backward or forward? Surely, surely
the Brownleighs would miss her pretty soon and send out a search-party
for her. How could it be that they trusted an Indian who had done such a
cruel thing as to leave a woman unprotected in the desert? And yet,
perhaps, they did not know his temptation to drink. Perhaps they had
thought he could not get any firewater. Perhaps he would return when he
came to himself and realized what he had done.

And now she noticed what she had not seen at first--a small bottle of
water on a stone beside the blackened bread. Realizing that she was very
hungry and that this was the only food at hand, she sat down beside the
fire to eat the dry bread and drink the miserable coffee. She must have
strength to do whatever was before her. She tried not to think how her
mother would feel if she never came back, how anxious they would be as
they waited day by day for her letters that did not come. She reflected
with a sinking heart that she had, just before leaving, written a hasty
note to her mother telling her not to expect anything for several days,
perhaps even as much as two weeks, as she was going out of civilization
for a little while. How had she unwittingly sealed her fate by that! For
now not even by way of her alarmed home could help come to her.

She put the last bit of hard corn bread in her pocket for a further time
of need, and began to look about her again. Then she spied with delight
a moving object far below her in the valley, and decided it was a horse,
perhaps her own. He was a mile away, at least, but he was there, and she
cried out with sudden joy and relief.

She went over to her blanket and bags, which had been beside her during
the night, and stood a moment trying to think what to do. Should she
carry the things to the horse or risk leaving them here while she went
after the horse and brought him to the things? No, that would not be
safe. Some one might come along and take them, or she might not be able
to find her way back again in this strange, wild waste. Besides, she
might not get the horse, after all, and would lose everything. She must
carry her things to the horse. She stooped to gather them up, and
something bright beside her bag attracted her. It was the sun shining on
the silver dollar she had given to the Indian woman. A sudden rush of
tears came to her eyes. The poor creature had tried to make all the
reparation she could for thus hastily leaving the white woman in the
desert. She had given back the money--all she had that was valuable!
Beside the dollar rippled a little chain of beads curiously wrought, an
inanimate appeal for forgiveness and a grateful return for the kindness
shown her. Margaret smiled as she stooped again to pick up her things.
There had been a heart, after all, behind that stolid countenance, and
some sense of righteousness and justice. Margaret decided that Indians
were not all treacherous. Poor woman! What a life was hers--to follow
her grim lord whither he would lead, even as her white sister must
sometimes, sorrowing, rebelling, crying out, but following! She wondered
if into the heart of this dark sister there ever crept any of the
rebellion which led some of her white sisters to cry aloud for "rights"
and "emancipation."

But it was all a passing thought to be remembered and turned over at a
more propitious time. Margaret's whole thoughts now were bent on her
present predicament.

The packing was short work. She stuffed everything into the two bags
that were usually hung across the horse, and settled them carefully
across her shoulders. Then she rolled the blanket, took it in her arms,
and started. It was a heavy burden to carry, but she could not make up
her mind to part with any of her things until she had at least made an
effort to save them. If she should be left alone in the desert for the
night the blanket was indispensable, and her clothes would at least do
to drop as a trail by which her friends might find her. She must carry
them as far as possible. So she started.

It was already high day, and the sun was intolerably hot. Her heavy
burden was not only cumbersome, but very warm, and she felt her strength
going from her as she went; but her nerve was up and her courage was
strong. Moreover, she prayed as she walked, and she felt now the
presence of her Guide and was not afraid. As she walked she faced a
number of possibilities in the immediate future which were startling,
and to say the least, undesirable. There were wild animals in this land,
not so much in the daylight, but what of the night? She had heard that a
woman was always safe in that wild Western land; but what of the
prowling Indians? What of a possible exception to the Western rule of
chivalry toward a decent woman? One small piece of corn bread and less
than a pint of water were small provision on which to withstand a siege.
How far was it to anywhere?

It was then she remembered for the first time that one word--"Walpi!"
uttered by the Indian as he came to a halt the night before and pointed
far to the mesa--"Walpi." She lifted her eyes now and scanned the dark
mesa. It loomed like a great battlement of rock against the sky. Could
it be possible there were people dwelling there? She had heard, of
course, about the curious Hopi villages, each village a gigantic house
of many rooms, called pueblos, built upon the lofty crags, sometimes
five or six hundred feet above the desert.

Could it be that that great castle-looking outline against the sky
before her, standing out on the end of the mesa like a promontory above
the sea, was Walpi? And if it was, how was she to get up there? The rock
rose sheer and steep from the desert floor. The narrow neck of land
behind it looked like a slender thread. Her heart sank at thought of
trying to storm and enter, single-handed, such an impregnable fortress.
And yet, if her friends were there, perhaps they would see her when she
drew near and come to show her the way. Strange that they should have
gone on and left her with those treacherous Indians! Strange that they
should have trusted them so, in the first place! Her own instincts had
been against trusting the man from the beginning. It must be confessed
that during her reflections at this point her opinion of the wisdom and
judgment of the Brownleighs was lowered several notches. Then she began
to berate herself for having so easily been satisfied about her escort.
She should have read the letter more carefully. She should have asked
the Indians more questions. She should, perhaps, have asked Jasper
Kemp's advice, or got him to talk to the Indian. She wished with all her
heart for Bud, now. If Bud were along he would be saying some comical
boy-thing, and be finding a way out of the difficulty. Dear, faithful
Bud!

The sun rose higher and the morning grew hotter. As she descended to the
valley her burdens grew intolerable, and several times she almost cast
them aside. Once she lost sight of her pony among the sage-brush, and it
was two hours before she came to him and was able to capture him and
strap on her burdens. She was almost too exhausted to climb into the
saddle when all was ready; but she managed to mount at last and started
out toward the rugged crag ahead of her.

The pony had a long, hot climb out of the valley to a hill where she
could see very far again, but still that vast emptiness reigned. Even
the eagle had disappeared, and she fancied he must be resting like a
great emblem of freedom on one of the points of the castle-like
battlement against the sky. It seemed as if the end of the world had
come, and she was the only one left in the universe, forgotten, riding
on her weary horse across an endless desert in search of a home she
would never see again.

Below the hill there stretched a wide, white strip of sand, perhaps two
miles in extent, but shimmering in the sun and seeming to recede ahead
of her as she advanced. Beyond was soft greenness--something
growing--not near enough to be discerned as cornfields. The girl drooped
her tired head upon her horse's mane and wept, her courage going from
her with her tears. In all that wide universe there seemed no way to go,
and she was so very tired, hungry, hot, and discouraged! There was
always that bit of bread in her pocket and that muddy-looking, warm
water for a last resort; but she must save them as long as possible, for
there was no telling how long it would be before she had more.

There was no trail now to follow. She had started from the spot where
she had found the horse, and her inexperienced eyes could not have
searched out a trail if she had tried. She was going toward that distant
castle on the crag as to a goal, but when she reached it, if she ever
did, would she find anything there but crags and lonesomeness and the
eagle?

Drying her tears at last, she started the horse on down the hill, and
perhaps her tears blinded her, or because she was dizzy with hunger and
the long stretch of anxiety and fatigue she was not looking closely.
There was a steep place, a sharp falling away of the ground unexpectedly
as they emerged from a thicket of sage-brush, and the horse plunged
several feet down, striking sharply on some loose rocks, and slipping to
his knees; snorting, scrambling, making brave effort, but slipping, half
rolling, at last he was brought down with his frightened rider, and lay
upon his side with her foot under him and a sensation like a red-hot
knife running through her ankle.

Margaret caught her breath in quick gasps as they fell, lifting a prayer
in her heart for help. Then came the crash and the sharp pain, and with
a quick conviction that all was over she dropped back unconscious on the
sand, a blessed oblivion of darkness rushing over her.

When she came to herself once more the hot sun was pouring down upon her
unprotected face, and she was conscious of intense pain and suffering in
every part of her body. She opened her eyes wildly and looked around.
There was sage-brush up above, waving over the crag down which they had
fallen, its gray-greenness shimmering hotly in the sun; the sky was
mercilessly blue without a cloud. The great beast, heavy and quivering,
lay solidly against her, half pinning her to earth, and the helplessness
of her position was like an awful nightmare from which she felt she
might waken if she could only cry out. But when at last she raised her
voice its empty echo frightened her, and there, above her, with
wide-spread wings, circling for an instant, then poised in motionless
survey of her, with cruel eyes upon her, loomed that eagle--so large, so
fearful, so suggestive in its curious stare, the monarch of the desert
come to see who had invaded his precincts and fallen into one of his
snares.

With sudden frenzy burning in her veins Margaret struggled and tried to
get free, but she could only move the slightest bit each time, and every
motion was an agony to the hurt ankle.

It seemed hours before she writhed herself free from that great,
motionless horse, whose labored breath only showed that he was still
alive. Something terrible must have happened to the horse or he would
have tried to rise, for she had coaxed, patted, cajoled, tried in every
way to rouse him. When at last she crawled free from the hot, horrible
body and crept with pained progress around in front of him, she saw that
both his forelegs lay limp and helpless. He must have broken them in
falling. Poor fellow! He, too, was suffering and she had nothing to give
him! There was nothing she could do for him!

Then she thought of the bottle of water, but, searching for it, found
that her good intention of dividing it with him was useless, for the
bottle was broken and the water already soaked into the sand. Only a
damp spot on the saddle-bag showed where it had departed.

Then indeed did Margaret sink down in the sand in despair and begin to
pray as she had never prayed before.



CHAPTER XXXI


The morning after Margaret's departure Rosa awoke with no feelings of
self-reproach, but rather a great exultation at the way in which she had
been able to get rid of her rival.

She lay for a few minutes thinking of Forsythe, and trying to decide
what she would wear when she went forth to meet him, for she wanted to
charm him as she had never charmed any one before.

She spent some time arraying herself in different costumes, but at last
decided on her Commencement gown of fine white organdie,
hand-embroidered and frilled with filmy lace, the product of a famous
house of gowns in the Eastern city where she had attended school for a
while and acquired expensive tastes.

Daintily slippered, beribboned with coral-silk girdle, and with a rose
from the vine over her window in her hair, she sallied forth at last to
the trysting-place.

Forsythe was a whole hour late, as became a languid gentleman who had
traveled the day before and idled at his sister's house over a late
breakfast until nearly noon. Already his fluttering fancy was apathetic
about Rosa, and he wondered, as he rode along, what had become of the
interesting young teacher who had charmed him for more than a passing
moment. Would he dare to call upon her, now that Gardley was out of the
way? Was she still in Ashland or had she gone home for vacation? He must
ask Rosa about her.

Then he came in sight of Rosa sitting picturesquely in the shade of an
old cedar, reading poetry, a little lady in the wilderness, and he
forgot everything else in his delight over the change in her. For Rosa
had changed. There was no mistake about it. She had bloomed out into
maturity in those few short months of his absence. Her soft figure had
rounded and developed, her bewitching curls were put up on her head,
with only a stray tendril here and there to emphasize a dainty ear or
call attention to a smooth, round neck; and when she raised her lovely
head and lifted limpid eyes to his there was about her a demureness, a
coolness and charm that he had fancied only ladies of the city could
attain. Oh, Rosa knew her charms, and had practised many a day before
her mirror till she had appraised the value of every curving eyelash,
every hidden dimple, every cupid's curve of lip. Rosa had watched well
and learned from all with whom she had come in contact. No woman's guile
was left untried by her.

And Rosa was very sweet and charming. She knew just when to lift up
innocent eyes of wonder; when to not understand suggestions; when to
exclaim softly with delight or shrink with shyness that nevertheless did
not repulse.

Forsythe studied her with wonder and delight. No maiden of the city had
ever charmed him more, and withal she seemed so innocent and young, so
altogether pliable in his hands. His pulses beat high, his heart was
inflamed, and passion came and sat within his handsome eyes.

It was easy to persuade her, after her first seemingly shy reserve was
overcome, and before an hour was passed she had promised to go away with
him. He had very little money, but what of that? When he spoke of that
feature Rosa declared she could easily get some. Her father gave her
free access to his safe, and kept her plentifully supplied for the
household use. It was nothing to her--a passing incident. What should it
matter whose money took them on their way?

When she went demurely back to the ranch a little before sunset she
thought she was very happy, poor little silly sinner! She met her father
with her most alluring but most furtive smile. She was charming at
supper, and blushed as her mother used to do when he praised her new
gown and told her how well she looked in it. But she professed to be
weary yet from the last days of school--to have a headache--and so she
went early to her room and asked that the servants keep the house quiet
in the morning, that she might sleep late and get really rested. Her
father kissed her tenderly and thought what a dear child she was and
what a comfort to his ripening years; and the house settled down into
quiet.

Rosa packed a bag with some of her most elaborate garments, arrayed
herself in a charming little outfit of silk for the journey, dropped her
baggage out of the window; and when the moon rose and the household were
quietly sleeping she paid a visit to her father's safe, and then stole
forth, taking her shadowy way to the trail by a winding route known well
to herself and secure from the watch of vigilant servants who were ever
on the lookout for cattle thieves.

Thus she left her father's house and went forth to put her trust in a
man whose promises were as ropes of sand and whose fancy was like a wave
of the sea, tossed to and fro by every breath that blew. Long ere the
sun rose the next morning the guarded, beloved child was as far from her
safe home and her father's sheltering love as if alone she had started
for the mouth of the bottomless pit. Two days later, while Margaret lay
unconscious beneath the sage-brush, with a hovering eagle for watch,
Rosa in the streets of a great city suddenly realized that she was more
alone in the universe than ever she could have been in a wide desert,
and her plight was far worse than the girl's with whose fate she had so
lightly played.

Quite early on the morning after Rosa left, while the household was
still keeping quiet for the supposed sleeper, Gardley rode into the
inclosure about the house and asked for Rogers.

Gardley had been traveling night and day to get back. Matters had
suddenly arranged themselves so that he could finish up his business at
his old home and go on to see Margaret's father and mother, and he had
made his visit there and hurried back to Arizona, hoping to reach
Ashland in time for Commencement. A delay on account of a washout on the
road had brought him back two days late for Commencement. He had ridden
to camp from a junction forty miles away to get there the sooner, and
this morning had ridden straight to the Tanners' to surprise Margaret.
It was, therefore, a deep disappointment to find her gone and only Mrs.
Tanner's voluble explanations for comfort. Mrs. Tanner exhausted her
vocabulary in trying to describe the "Injuns," her own feeling of
protest against them, and Mrs. Brownleigh's foolishness in making so
much of them; and then she bustled in to the old pine desk in the
dining-room and produced the letter that had started Margaret off as
soon as commencement was over.

Gardley took the letter eagerly, as though it were something to connect
him with Margaret, and read it through carefully to make sure just how
matters stood. He had looked troubled when Mrs. Tanner told how tired
Margaret was, and how worried she seemed about her school and glad to
get away from it all; and he agreed that the trip was probably a good
thing.

"I wish Bud could have gone along, though," he said, thoughtfully, as he
turned away from the door. "I don't like her to go with just Indians,
though I suppose it is all right. You say he had his wife and child
along? Of course Mrs. Brownleigh wouldn't send anybody that wasn't
perfectly all right. Well, I suppose the trip will be a rest for her.
I'm sorry I didn't get home a few days sooner. I might have looked out
for her myself."

He rode away from the Tanners', promising to return later with a gift he
had brought for Bud that he wanted to present himself, and Mrs. Tanner
bustled back to her work again.

"Well, I'm glad he's got home, anyway," she remarked, aloud, to herself
as she hung her dish-cloth tidily over the upturned dish-pan and took up
her broom. "I 'ain't felt noways easy 'bout her sence she left, though I
do suppose there ain't any sense to it. But I'm _glad he's back_!"

Meantime Gardley was riding toward Rogers's ranch, meditating whether he
should venture to follow the expedition and enjoy at least the return
trip with Margaret, or whether he ought to remain patiently until she
came back and go to work at once. There was nothing really important
demanding his attention immediately, for Rogers had arranged to keep the
present overseer of affairs until he was ready to undertake the work. He
was on his way now to report on a small business matter which he had
been attending to in New York for Rogers. When that was over he would be
free to do as he pleased for a few days more if he liked, and the
temptation was great to go at once to Margaret.

As he stood waiting beside his horse in front of the house while the
servant went to call Rogers, he looked about with delight on the beauty
of the day. How glad he was to be back in Arizona again! Was it the
charm of the place or because Margaret was there, he wondered, that he
felt so happy? By all means he must follow her. Why should he not?

He looked at the clambering rose-vine that covered one end of the house,
and noticed how it crept close to the window casement and caressed the
white curtain as it blew. Margaret must have such a vine at her window
in the house he would build for her. It might be but a modest house that
he could give her now, but it should have a rose-vine just like that;
and he would train it round her window where she could smell the
fragrance from it every morning when she awoke, and where it would
breathe upon her as she slept.

Margaret! How impatient he was to see her again! To look upon her dear
face and know that she was his! That her father and mother had been
satisfied about him and sent their blessing, and he might tell her so.
It was wonderful! His heart thrilled with the thought of it. Of course
he would go to her at once. He would start as soon as Rogers was through
with him. He would go to Ganado. No, Keams. Which was it? He drew the
letter out of his pocket and read it again, then replaced it.

The fluttering curtain up at the window blew out and in, and when it
blew out again it brought with it a flurry of papers like white leaves.
The curtain had knocked over a paper-weight or vase or something that
held them and set the papers free. The breeze caught them and flung them
about erratically, tossing one almost at his feet. He stooped to pick it
up, thinking it might be of value to some one, and caught the name
"Margaret" and "Dear Margaret" written several times on the sheet, with
"Walpi, Walpi, Walpi," filling the lower half of the page, as if some
one had been practising it.

And because these two words were just now keenly in his mind he reached
for the second paper just a foot or two away and found more sentences
and words. A third paper contained an exact reproduction of the letter
which Mrs. Tanner had given him purporting to come from Mrs. Brownleigh
to Margaret. What could it possibly mean?

In great astonishment he pulled out the other letter and compared them.
They were almost identical save for a word here and there crossed out
and rewritten. He stood looking mutely at the papers and then up at the
window, as though an explanation might somehow be wafted down to him,
not knowing what to think, his mind filled with vague alarm.

Just at that moment the servant appeared.

"Mr. Rogers says would you mind coming down to the corral. Miss Rosa has
a headache, and we're keeping the house still for her to sleep. That's
her window up there--" And he indicated the rose-bowered window with the
fluttering curtain.

Dazed and half suspicious of something, Gardley folded the two letters
together and crushed them into his pocket, wondering what he ought to do
about it. The thought of it troubled him so that he only half gave
attention to the business in hand; but he gave his report and handed
over certain documents. He was thinking that perhaps he ought to see
Miss Rosa and find out what she knew of Margaret's going and ask how she
came in possession of this other letter.

"Now," said Rogers, as the matter was concluded, "I owe you some money.
If you'll just step up to the house with me I'll give it to you. I'd
like to settle matters up at once."

"Oh, let it go till I come again," said Gardley, impatient to be off. He
wanted to get by himself and think out a solution of the two letters. He
was more than uneasy about Margaret without being able to give any
suitable explanation of why he should be. His main desire now was to
ride to Ganado and find out if the missionaries had left home, which way
they had gone, and whether they had met Margaret as planned.

"No, step right up to the house with me," insisted Rogers. "It won't
take long, and I have the money in my safe."

Gardley saw that the quickest way was to please Rogers, and he did not
wish to arouse any questions, because he supposed, of course, his alarm
was mere foolishness. So they went together into Rogers's private
office, where his desk and safe were the principal furniture, and where
no servants ventured to come without orders.

Rogers shoved a chair for Gardley and went over to his safe, turning the
little nickel knob this way and that with the skill of one long
accustomed, and in a moment the thick door swung open and Rogers drew
out a japanned cash-box and unlocked it. But when he threw the cover
back he uttered an exclamation of angry surprise. The box was empty!



CHAPTER XXXII


Mr. Rogers strode to the door, forgetful of his sleeping daughter
overhead, and thundered out his call for James. The servant appeared at
once, but he knew nothing about the safe, and had not been in the office
that morning. Other servants were summoned and put through a rigid
examination. Then Rogers turned to the woman who had answered the door
for Gardley and sent her up to call Rosa.

But the woman returned presently with word that Miss Rosa was not in her
room, and there was no sign that her bed had been slept in during the
night. The woman's face was sullen. She did not like Rosa, but was
afraid of her. This to her was only another of Miss Rosa's pranks, and
very likely her doting father would manage to blame the servants with
the affair.

Mr. Rogers's face grew stern. His eyes flashed angrily as he turned and
strode up the stairs to his daughter's room, but when he came down again
he was holding a note in his trembling hand and his face was ashen
white.

"Read that, Gardley," he said, thrusting the note into Gardley's hands
and motioning at the same time for the servants to go away.

Gardley took the note, yet even as he read he noticed that the paper
was the same as those he carried in his pocket. There was a peculiar
watermark that made it noticeable.

The note was a flippant little affair from Rosa, telling her father she
had gone away to be married and that she would let him know where she
was as soon as they were located. She added that he had forced her to
this step by being so severe with her and not allowing her lover to come
to see her. If he had been reasonable she would have stayed at home and
let him give her a grand wedding; but as it was she had only this way of
seeking her happiness. She added that she knew he would forgive her, and
she hoped he would come to see that her way had been best, and Forsythe
was all that he could desire as a son-in-law.

Gardley uttered an exclamation of dismay as he read, and, looking up,
found the miserable eyes of the stricken father upon him. For the moment
his own alarm concerning Margaret and his perplexity about the letters
was forgotten in the grief of the man who had been his friend.

"When did she go?" asked Gardley, quickly looking up.

"She took supper with me and then went to her room, complaining of a
headache," said the father, his voice showing his utter hopelessness.
"She may have gone early in the evening, perhaps, for we all turned in
about nine o'clock to keep the house quiet on her account."

"Have you any idea which way they went, east or west?" Gardley was the
keen adviser in a crisis now, his every sense on the alert.

The old man shook his head. "It is too late now," he said, still in that
colorless voice. "They will have reached the railroad somewhere. They
will have been married by this time. See, it is after ten o'clock!"

"Yes, if he marries her," said Gardley, fiercely. He had no faith in
Forsythe.

"You think--you don't think he would _dare_!" The old man straightened
up and fairly blazed in his righteous wrath.

"I think he would dare anything if he thought he would not be caught. He
is a coward, of course."

"What can we do?"

"Telegraph to detectives at all points where they would be likely to
arrive and have them shadowed. Come, we will ride to the station at
once; but, first, could I go up in her room and look around? There might
be some clue."

"Certainly," said Rogers, pointing hopelessly up the stairs; "the first
door to the left. But you'll find nothing. I looked everywhere. She
wouldn't have left a clue. While you're up there I'll interview the
servants. Then we'll go."

As he went up-stairs Gardley was wondering whether he ought to tell
Rogers of the circumstance of the two letters. What possible connection
could there be between Margaret Earle's trip to Walpi with the
Brownleighs and Rosa Rogers's elopement? When you come to think of it,
what possible explanation was there for a copy of Mrs. Brownleigh's
letter to blow out of Rosa Rogers's bedroom window? How could it have
got there?

Rosa's room was in beautiful order, the roses nodding in at the window,
the curtain blowing back and forth in the breeze and rippling open the
leaves of a tiny Testament lying on her desk, as if it had been recently
read. There was nothing to show that the owner of the room had taken a
hasty flight. On the desk lay several sheets of note-paper with the
peculiar watermark. These caught his attention, and he took them up and
compared them with the papers in his pocket. It was a strange thing that
that letter which had sent Margaret off into the wilderness with an
unknown Indian should be written on the same kind of paper as this; and
yet, perhaps, it was not so strange, after all. It probably was the only
note-paper to be had in that region, and must all have been purchased at
the same place.

The rippling leaves of the Testament fluttered open at the fly-leaf and
revealed Rosa's name and a date with Mrs. Brownleigh's name written
below, and Gardley took it up, startled again to find Hazel Brownleigh
mixed up with the Rogers. He had not known that they had anything to do
with each other. And yet, of course, they would, being the missionaries
of the region.

The almost empty waste-basket next caught his eye, and here again were
several sheets of paper written over with words and phrases, words which
at once he recognized as part of the letter Mrs. Tanner had given him.
He emptied the waste-basket out on the desk, thinking perhaps there
might be something there that would give a clue to where the elopers had
gone; but there was not much else in it except a little yellowed note
with the signature "Hazel Brownleigh" at the bottom. He glanced through
the brief note, gathered its purport, and then spread it out
deliberately on the desk and compared the writing with the others, a
wild fear clutching at his heart. Yet he could not in any way explain
why he was so uneasy. What possible reason could Rosa Rogers have for
forging a letter to Margaret from Hazel Brownleigh?

Suddenly Rogers stood behind him looking over his shoulder. "What is it,
Gardley? What have you found? Any clue?"

"No clue," said Gardley, uneasily, "but something strange I cannot
understand. I don't suppose it can possibly have anything to do with
your daughter, and yet it seems almost uncanny. This morning I stopped
at the Tanners' to let Miss Earle know I had returned, and was told she
had gone yesterday with a couple of Indians as guide to meet the
Brownleighs at Keams or somewhere near there, and take a trip with them
to Walpi to see the Hopi Indians. Mrs. Tanner gave me this letter from
Mrs. Brownleigh, which Miss Earle had left behind. But when I reached
here and was waiting for you some papers blew out of your daughter's
window. When I picked them up I was startled to find that one of them
was an exact copy of the letter I had in my pocket. See! Here they are!
I don't suppose there is anything to it, but in spite of me I am a
trifle uneasy about Miss Earle. I just can't understand how that copy of
the letter came to be here."

Rogers was leaning over, looking at the papers. "What's this?" he asked,
picking up the note that came with the Testament. He read each paper
carefully, took in the little Testament with its fluttering fly-leaf
and inscription, studied the pages of words and alphabet, then suddenly
turned away and groaned, hiding his face in his hands.

"What is it?" asked Gardley, awed with the awful sorrow in the strong
man's attitude.

"My poor baby!" groaned the father. "My poor little baby girl! I've
always been afraid of that fatal gift of hers. Gardley, she could copy
any handwriting in the world perfectly. She could write my name so it
could not be told from my own signature. She's evidently written that
letter. Why, I don't know, unless she wanted to get Miss Earle out of
the way so it would be easier for her to carry out her plans."

"It can't be!" said Gardley, shaking his head. "I can't see what her
object would be. Besides, where would she find the Indians? Mrs. Tanner
saw the Indians. They came to the school after her with the letter, and
waited for her. Mrs. Tanner saw them ride off together."

"There were a couple of strange Indians here yesterday, begging
something to eat," said Rogers, settling down on a chair and resting his
head against the desk as if he had suddenly lost the strength to stand.

"This won't do!" said Gardley. "We've got to get down to the
telegraph-office, you and I. Now try to brace up. Are the horses ready?
Then we'll go right away."

"You better question the servants about those Indians first," said
Rogers; and Gardley, as he hurried down the stairs, heard groan after
groan from Rosa's room, where her father lingered in agony.

Gardley got all the information he could about the Indians, and then the
two men started away on a gallop to the station. As they passed the
Tanner house Gardley drew rein to call to Bud, who hurried out joyfully
to greet his friend, his face lighting with pleasure.

"Bill, get on your horse in double-quick time and beat it out to camp
for me, will you?" said Gardley, as he reached down and gripped Bud's
rough young paw. "Tell Jasper Kemp to come back with you and meet me at
the station as quick as he can. Tell him to have the men where he can
signal them. We may have to hustle out on a long hunt; and, Bill, keep
your head steady and get back yourself right away. Perhaps I'll want you
to help me. I'm a little anxious about Miss Earle, but you needn't tell
anybody that but old Jasper. Tell him to hurry for all he's worth."

Bud, with his eyes large with loyalty and trouble, nodded
understandingly, returned the grip of the young man's hand with a clumsy
squeeze, and sprang away to get his horse and do Gardley's bidding.
Gardley knew he would ride as for his life, now that he knew Margaret's
safety was at stake.

Then Gardley rode on to the station and was indefatigable for two hours
hunting out addresses, writing telegrams, and calling up long-distance
telephones.

When all had been done that was possible Rogers turned a haggard face to
the young man. "I've been thinking, Gardley, that rash little girl of
mine may have got Miss Earle into some kind of a dangerous position.
You ought to look after her. What can we do?"

"I'm going to, sir," said Gardley, "just as soon as I've done everything
I can for you. I've already sent for Jasper Kemp, and we'll make a plan
between us and find out if Miss Earle is all right. Can you spare Jasper
or will you need him?"

"By all means! Take all the men you need. I sha'n't rest easy till I
know Miss Earle is safe."

He sank down on a truck that stood on the station platform, his
shoulders slumping, his whole attitude as of one who was fatally
stricken. It came over Gardley how suddenly old he looked, and haggard
and gray! What a thing for the selfish child to have done to her father!
Poor, silly child, whose fate with Forsythe would in all probability be
anything but enviable!

But there was no time for sorrowful reflections. Jasper Kemp, stern,
alert, anxious, came riding furiously down the street, Bud keeping even
pace with him.



CHAPTER XXXIII


While Gardley briefly told his tale to Jasper Kemp, and the Scotchman
was hastily scanning the papers with his keen, bright eyes, Bud stood
frowning and listening intently.

"Gee!" he burst forth. "That girl's a mess! 'Course she did it! You
oughta seen what all she didn't do the last six weeks of school. Miss
Mar'get got so she shivered every time that girl came near her or looked
at her. She sure had her goat! Some nights after school, when she
thought she's all alone, she just cried, she did. Why, Rosa had every
one of those guys in the back seat acting like the devil, and nobody
knew what was the matter. She wrote things on the blackboard right in
the questions, so's it looked like Miss Mar'get's writing; fierce
things, sometimes; and Miss Mar'get didn't know who did it. And she was
as jealous as a cat of Miss Mar'get. You all know what a case she had on
that guy from over by the fort; and she didn't like to have him even
look at Miss Mar'get. Well, she didn't forget how he went away that
night of the play. I caught her looking at her like she would like to
murder her. _Good night!_ Some look! The guy had a case on Miss Mar'get,
all right, too, only she was onto him and wouldn't look at him nor let
him spoon nor nothing. But Rosa saw it all, and she just hated Miss
Mar'get. Then once Miss Mar'get stopped her from going out to meet that
guy, too. Oh, she hated her, all right! And you can bet she wrote the
letter! Sure she did! She wanted to get her away when that guy came
back. He was back yesterday. I saw him over by the run on that trail
that crosses the trail to the old cabin. He didn't see me. I got my eye
on him first, and I chucked behind some sage-brush, but he was here, all
right, and he didn't mean any good. I follahed him awhile till he
stopped and fixed up a place to camp. I guess he must 'a' stayed out
last night--"

A heavy hand was suddenly laid from behind on Bud's shoulder, and Rogers
stood over him, his dark eyes on fire, his lips trembling.

"Boy, can you show me where that was?" he asked, and there was an
intensity in his voice that showed Bud that something serious was the
matter. Boylike he dropped his eyes indifferently before this great
emotion.

"Sure!"

"Best take Long Bill with you, Mr. Rogers," advised Jasper Kemp, keenly
alive to the whole situation. "I reckon we'll all have to work together.
My men ain't far off," and he lifted his whistle to his lips and blew
the signal blasts. "The Kid here 'll want to ride to Keams to see if the
lady is all safe and has met her friends. I reckon mebbe I better go
straight to Ganado and find out if them mission folks really got
started, and put 'em wise to what's been going on. They'll mebbe know
who them Injuns was. I have my suspicions they weren't any friendlies.
I didn't like that Injun the minute I set eyes on him hanging round the
school-house, but I wouldn't have stirred a step toward camp if I'd 'a'
suspected he was come fur the lady. 'Spose you take Bud and Long Bill
and go find that camping-place and see if you find any trail showing
which way they took. If you do, you fire three shots, and the men 'll be
with you. If you want the Kid, fire four shots. He can't be so fur away
by that time that he can't hear. He's got to get provisioned 'fore he
starts. Lead him out, Bud. We 'ain't got no time to lose."

Bud gave one despairing look at Gardley and turned to obey.

"That's all right, Bud," said Gardley, with an understanding glance.
"You tell Mr. Rogers all you know and show him the place, and then when
Long Bill comes you can take the cross-cut to the Long Trail and go with
me. I'll just stop at the house as I go by and tell your mother I need
you."

Bud gave one radiant, grateful look and sprang upon his horse, and
Rogers had hard work to keep up with him at first, till Bud got
interested in giving him a detailed account of Forsythe's looks and
acts.

In less than an hour the relief expedition had started. Before night had
fallen Jasper Kemp, riding hard, arrived at the mission, told his story,
procured a fresh horse, and after a couple of hours, rest started with
Brownleigh and his wife for Keams Cañon.

Gardley and Bud, riding for all they were worth, said little by the way.
Now and then the boy stole glances at the man's face, and the dead
weight of sorrow settled like lead, the heavier, upon his heart. Too
well he knew the dangers of the desert. He could almost read Gardley's
fears in the white, drawn look about his lips, the ashen circles under
his eyes, the tense, strained pose of his whole figure. Gardley's mind
was urging ahead of his steed, and his body could not relax. He was
anxious to go a little faster, yet his judgment knew it would not do,
for his horse would play out before he could get another. They ate their
corn bread in the saddle, and only turned aside from the trail once to
drink at a water-hole and fill their cans. They rode late into the
night, with only the stars and their wits to guide them. When they
stopped to rest they did not wait to make a fire, but hobbled the horses
where they might feed, and, rolling quickly in their blankets, lay down
upon the ground.

Bud, with the fatigue of healthy youth, would have slept till morning in
spite of his fears, but Gardley woke him in a couple of hours, made him
drink some water and eat a bite of food, and they went on their way
again. When morning broke they were almost to the entrance of Keams
Cañon and both looked haggard and worn. Bud seemed to have aged in the
night, and Gardley looked at him almost tenderly.

"Are you all in, kid?" he asked.

"Naw!" answered Bud, promptly, with an assumed cheerfulness. "Feeling
like a four-year-old. Get on to that sky? Guess we're going to have some
day! Pretty as a red wagon!"

Gardley smiled sadly. What would that day bring forth for the two who
went in search of her they loved? His great anxiety was to get to Keams
Cañon and inquire. They would surely know at the trading-post whether
the missionary and his party had gone that way.

The road was still almost impassable from the flood; the two dauntless
riders picked their way slowly down the trail to the post.

But the trader could tell them nothing comforting. The missionary had
not been that way in two months, and there had been no party and no lady
there that week. A single strange Indian had come down the trail above
the day before, stayed awhile, picked a quarrel with some men who were
there, and then ridden back up the steep trail again. He might have had
a party with him up on the mesa, waiting. He had said something about
his squaw. The trader admitted that he might have been drunk, but he
frowned as he spoke of him. He called him a "bad Indian." Something
unpleasant had evidently happened.

The trader gave them a good, hot dinner, of which they stood sorely in
need, and because they realized that they must keep up their strength
they took the time to eat it. Then, procuring fresh horses, they climbed
the steep trail in the direction the trader said the Indian had taken.
It was a slender clue, but it was all they had, and they must follow it.
And now the travelers were very silent, as if they felt they were
drawing near to some knowledge that would settle the question for them
one way or the other. As they reached the top at last, where they could
see out across the plain, each drew a long breath like a gasp and
looked about, half fearing what he might see.

Yes, there was the sign of a recent camp-fire, and a few tin cans and
bits of refuse, nothing more. Gardley got down and searched carefully.
Bud even crept about upon his hands and knees, but a single tiny blue
bead like a grain of sand was all that rewarded his efforts. Some Indian
had doubtless camped here. That was all the evidence. Standing thus in
hopeless uncertainty what to do next, they suddenly heard voices.
Something familiar once or twice made Gardley lift his whistle and blow
a blast. Instantly a silvery answer came ringing from the mesa a mile or
so away and woke the echoes in the cañon. Jasper Kemp and his party had
taken the longer way around instead of going down the cañon, and were
just arriving at the spot where Margaret and the squaw had waited two
days before for their drunken guide. But Jasper Kemp's whistle rang out
again, and he shot three times into the air, their signal to wait for
some important news.

Breathlessly and in silence the two waited till the coming of the rest
of the party, and cast themselves down on the ground, feeling the sudden
need of support. Now that there was a possibility of some news, they
felt hardly able to bear it, and the waiting for it was intolerable, to
such a point of anxious tension were they strained.

But when the party from Ganado came in sight their faces wore no
brightness of good news. Their greetings were quiet, sad, anxious, and
Jasper Kemp held out to Gardley an envelope. It was the one from
Margaret's mother's letter that she had dropped upon the trail.

"We found it on the way from Ganado, just as we entered Steamboat
Cañon," explained Jasper.

"And didn't you search for a trail off in any other direction?" asked
Gardley, almost sharply. "They have not been here. At least only one
Indian has been down to the trader's."

"There was no other trail. We looked," said Jasper, sadly. "There was a
camp-fire twice, and signs of a camp. We felt sure they had come this
way."

Gardley shook his head and a look of abject despair came over his face.
"There is no sign here," he said. "They must have gone some other way.
Perhaps the Indian has carried her off. Are the other men following?"

"No, Rogers sent them in the other direction after his girl. They found
the camp all right. Bud tell you? We made sure we had found our trail
and would not need them."

Gardley dropped his head and almost groaned.

Meanwhile the missionary had been riding around in radiating circles
from the dead camp-fire, searching every step of the way; and Bud,
taking his cue from him, looked off toward the mesa a minute, then
struck out in a straight line for it and rode off like mad. Suddenly
there was heard a shout loud and long, and Bud came riding back, waving
something small and white above his head.

They gathered in a little knot, waiting for the boy, not speaking; and
when he halted in their midst he fluttered down the handkerchief to
Gardley.

"It's hers, all right. Gotter name all written out on the edge!" he
declared, radiantly.

The sky grew brighter to them all now. Eagerly Gardley sprang into his
saddle, no longer weary, but alert and eager for the trail.

"You folks better go down to the trader's and get some dinner. You'll
need it! Bud and I'll go on. Mrs. Brownleigh looks all in."

"No," declared Hazel, decidedly. "We'll just snatch a bite here and
follow you at once. I couldn't enjoy a dinner till I know she is safe."
And so, though both Jasper Kemp and her husband urged her otherwise, she
would take a hasty meal by the way and hurry on.

But Bud and Gardley waited not for others. They plunged wildly ahead.

It seemed a long way to the eager hunters, from the place where Bud had
found the handkerchief to the little note twisted around the red
chessman. It was perhaps nearly a mile, and both the riders had searched
in all directions for some time before Gardley spied it. Eagerly he
seized upon the note, recognizing the little red manikin with which he
had whiled away an hour with Margaret during one of her visits at the
camp.

The note was written large and clear upon a sheet of writing-paper:

"I am Margaret Earle, school-teacher at Ashland. I am supposed to be
traveling to Walpi, by way of Keams, to meet Mr. and Mrs. Brownleigh of
Ganado. I am with an Indian, his squaw and papoose. The Indian said he
was sent to guide me, but he is drunk now and I am frightened. He has
acted strangely all the way. I do not know where I am. Please come and
help me."

Bud, sitting anxious like a statue upon his horse, read Gardley's face
as Gardley read the note. Then Gardley read it aloud to Bud, and before
the last word was fairly out of his mouth both man and boy started as if
they had heard Margaret's beloved voice calling them. It was not long
before Bud found another scrap of paper a half-mile farther on, and then
another and another, scattered at great distances along the way. The
only way they had of being sure she had dropped them was that they
seemed to be the same kind of paper as that upon which the note was
written.

How that note with its brave, frightened appeal wrung the heart of
Gardley as he thought of Margaret, unprotected, in terror and perhaps in
peril, riding on she knew not where. What trials and fears had she not
already passed through! What might she not be experiencing even now
while he searched for her?

It was perhaps two hours before he found the little white stocking
dropped where the trail divided, showing which way she had taken.
Gardley folded it reverently and put it in his pocket. An hour later Bud
pounced upon the bedroom slipper and carried it gleefully to Gardley;
and so by slow degrees, finding here and there a chessman or more paper,
they came at last to the camp where the Indians had abandoned their
trust and fled, leaving Margaret alone in the wilderness.

It was then that Gardley searched in vain for any further clue, and,
riding wide in every direction, stopped and called her name again and
again, while the sun grew lower and lower and shadows crept in
lurking-places waiting for the swift-coming night. It was then that Bud,
flying frantically from one spot to another, got down upon his knees
behind a sage-bush when Gardley was not looking and mumbled a rough,
hasty prayer for help. He felt like the old woman who, on being told
that nothing but God could save the ship, exclaimed, "And has it come to
that?" Bud had felt all his life that there was a remote time in every
life when one might need to believe in prayer. The time had come for
Bud.

       *       *       *       *       *

Margaret, on her knees in the sand of the desert praying for help,
remembered the promise, "Before they call I will answer, and while they
are yet speaking I will hear," and knew not that her deliverers were on
the way.

The sun had been hot as it beat down upon the whiteness of the sand, and
the girl had crept under a sage-bush for shelter from it. The pain in
her ankle was sickening. She had removed her shoe and bound the ankle
about with a handkerchief soaked with half of her bottle of witch-hazel,
and so, lying quiet, had fallen asleep, too exhausted with pain and
anxiety to stay awake any longer.

When she awoke again the softness of evening was hovering over
everything, and she started up and listened. Surely, surely, she had
heard a voice calling her! She sat up sharply and listened. Ah! There it
was again, a faint echo in the distance. Was it a voice, or was it only
her dreams mingling with her fancies?

Travelers in deserts, she had read, took all sorts of fancies, saw
mirages, heard sounds that were not. But she had not been out long
enough to have caught such a desert fever. Perhaps she was going to be
sick. Still that faint echo made her heart beat wildly. She dragged
herself to her knees, then to her feet, standing painfully with the
weight on her well foot.

The suffering horse turned his anguished eyes and whinnied. Her heart
ached for him, yet there was no way she could assuage his pain or put
him out of his misery. But she must make sure if she had heard a voice.
Could she possibly scale that rock down which she and her horse had
fallen? For then she might look out farther and see if there were any
one in sight.

Painfully she crawled and crept, up and up, inch by inch, until at last
she gained the little height and could look afar.

There was no living thing in sight. The air was very clear. The eagle
had found his evening rest somewhere in a quiet crag. The long corn
waved on the distant plain, and all was deathly still once more. There
was a hint of coming sunset in the sky. Her heart sank, and she was
about to give up hope entirely, when, rich and clear, there it came
again! A voice in the wilderness calling her name: "Margaret! Margaret!"

The tears rushed to her eyes and crowded in her throat. She could not
answer, she was so overwhelmed; and though she tried twice to call out,
she could make no sound. But the call kept coming again and again:
"Margaret! Margaret!" and it was Gardley's voice. Impossible! For
Gardley was far away and could not know her need. Yet it was his voice.
Had she died, or was she in delirium that she seemed to hear him calling
her name?

But the call came clearer now: "Margaret! Margaret! I am coming!" and
like a flash her mind went back to the first night in Arizona when she
heard him singing, "From the Desert I Come to Thee!"

Now she struggled to her feet again and shouted, inarticulately and
gladly through her tears. She could see him. It was Gardley. He was
riding fast toward her, and he shot three shots into the air above him
as he rode, and three shrill blasts of his whistle rang out on the still
evening air.

She tore the scarf from her neck that she had tied about it to keep the
sun from blistering her, and waved it wildly in the air now, shouting in
happy, choking sobs.

And so he came to her across the desert!

He sprang down before the horse had fairly reached her side, and,
rushing to her, took her in his arms.

"Margaret! My darling! I have found you at last!"

She swayed and would have fallen but for his arms, and then he saw her
white face and knew she must be suffering.

"You are hurt!" he cried. "Oh, what have they done to you?" And he laid
her gently down upon the sand and dropped on his knees beside her.

"Oh no," she gasped, joyously, with white lips. "I'm all right now.
Only my ankle hurts a little. We had a fall, the horse and I. Oh, go to
him at once and put him out of his pain. I'm sure his legs are broken."

For answer Gardley put the whistle to his lips and blew a blast. He
would not leave her for an instant. He was not sure yet that she was not
more hurt than she had said. He set about discovering at once, for he
had brought with him supplies for all emergencies.

It was Bud who came riding madly across the mesa in answer to the call,
reaching Gardley before any one else. Bud with his eyes shining, his
cheeks blazing with excitement, his hair wildly flying in the breeze,
his young, boyish face suddenly grown old with lines of anxiety. But you
wouldn't have known from his greeting that it was anything more than a
pleasure excursion he had been on the past two days.

"Good work, Kid! Whatcha want me t' do?"

It was Bud who arranged the camp and went back to tell the other
detachments that Margaret was found; Bud who led the pack-horse up,
unpacked the provisions, and gathered wood to start a fire. Bud was
everywhere, with a smudged face, a weary, gray look around his eyes, and
his hair sticking "seven ways for Sunday." Yet once, when his labors led
him near to where Margaret lay weak and happy on a couch of blankets, he
gave her an unwonted pat on her shoulder and said in a low tone: "Hello,
Gang! See you kept your nerve with you!" and then he gave her a grin all
across his dirty, tired face, and moved away as if he were half ashamed
of his emotion. But it was Bud again who came and talked with her to
divert her so that she wouldn't notice when they shot her horse. He
talked loudly about a coyote they shot the night before, and a
cottontail they saw at Keams, and when he saw that she understood what
the shot meant, and there were tears in her eyes, he gave her hand a
rough, bear squeeze and said, gruffly: "You should worry! He's better
off now!" And when Gardley came back he took himself thoughtfully to a
distance and busied himself opening tins of meat and soup.

In another hour the Brownleighs arrived, having heard the signals, and
they had a supper around the camp-fire, everybody so rejoiced that there
were still quivers in their voices; and when any one laughed it sounded
like the echo of a sob, so great had been the strain of their anxiety.

Gardley, sitting beside Margaret in the starlight afterward, her hand in
his, listened to the story of her journey, the strong, tender pressure
of his fingers telling her how deeply it affected him to know the peril
through which she had passed. Later, when the others were telling gay
stories about the fire, and Bud lying full length in their midst had
fallen fast asleep, these two, a little apart from the rest, were
murmuring their innermost thoughts in low tones to each other, and
rejoicing that they were together once more.



CHAPTER XXXIV


They talked it over the next morning at breakfast as they sat around the
fire. Jasper Kemp thought he ought to get right back to attend to
things. Mr. Rogers was all broken up, and might even need him to search
for Rosa if they had not found out her whereabouts yet. He and Fiddling
Boss, who had come along, would start back at once. They had had a good
night's rest and had found their dear lady. What more did they need?
Besides, there were not provisions for an indefinite stay for such a
large party, and there were none too many sources of supply in this
region.

The missionary thought that, now he was here, he ought to go on to
Walpi. It was not more than two hours' ride there, and Hazel could stay
with the camp while Margaret's ankle had a chance to rest and let the
swelling subside under treatment.

Margaret, however, rebelled. She did not wish to be an invalid, and was
very sure she could ride without injury to her ankle. She wanted to see
Walpi and the queer Hopi Indians, now she was so near. So a compromise
was agreed upon. They would all wait in camp a couple of days, and then
if Margaret felt well enough they would go on, visit the Hopis, and so
go home together.

Bud pleaded to be allowed to stay with them, and Jasper Kemp promised to
make it all right with his parents.

So for two whole, long, lovely days the little party of five camped on
the mesa and enjoyed sweet converse. It is safe to say that never in all
Bud's life will he forget or get away from the influences of that day in
such company.

Gardley and the missionary proved to be the best of physicians, and
Margaret's ankle improved hourly under their united treatment of
compresses, lotions, and rest. About noon on Saturday they broke camp,
mounted their horses, and rode away across the stretch of white sand,
through tall cornfields growing right up out of the sand, closer and
closer to the great mesa with the castle-like pueblos five hundred feet
above them on the top. It seemed to Margaret like suddenly being dropped
into Egypt or the Holy Land, or some of the Babylonian excavations, so
curious and primitive and altogether different from anything else she
had ever seen did it all appear. She listened, fascinated, while
Brownleigh told about this strange Hopi land, the strangest spot in
America. Spanish explorers found them away back years before the
Pilgrims landed, and called the country Tuscayan. They built their homes
up high for protection from their enemies. They lived on the corn,
pumpkins, peaches, and melons which they raised in the valley, planting
the seeds with their hands. It is supposed they got their seeds first
from the Spaniards years ago. They make pottery, cloth, and baskets, and
are a busy people.

There are seven villages built on three mesas in the northern desert.
One of the largest, Orabi, has a thousand inhabitants. Walpi numbers
about two hundred and thirty people, all living in this one great
building of many rooms. They are divided into brotherhoods, or
phratries, and each brotherhood has several large families. They are
ruled by a speaker chief and a war chief elected by a council of clan
elders.

Margaret learned with wonder that all the water these people used had to
be carried by the women in jars on their backs five hundred feet up the
steep trail.

Presently, as they drew nearer, a curious man with his hair "banged"
like a child's, and garments much like those usually worn by
scarecrows--a shapeless kind of shirt and trousers--appeared along the
steep and showed them the way up. Margaret and the missionary's wife
exclaimed in horror over the little children playing along the very edge
of the cliffs above as carelessly as birds in trees.

High up on the mesa at last, how strange and weird it seemed! Far below
the yellow sand of the valley; fifteen miles away a second mesa
stretching dark; to the southwest, a hundred miles distant, the dim
outlines of the San Francisco peaks. Some little children on burros
crossing the sand below looked as if they were part of a curious
moving-picture, not as if they were little living beings taking life as
seriously as other children do. The great, wide desert stretching far!
The bare, solid rocks beneath their feet! The curious houses behind
them! It all seemed unreal to Margaret, like a great picture-book
spread out for her to see. She turned from gazing and found Gardley's
eyes upon her adoringly, a tender understanding of her mood in his
glance. She thrilled with pleasure to be here with him; a soft flush
spread over her cheeks and a light came into her eyes.

They found the Indians preparing for one of their most famous
ceremonies, the snake dance, which was to take place in a few days. For
almost a week the snake priests had been busy hunting rattlesnakes,
building altars, drawing figures in the sand, and singing weird songs.
On the ninth day the snakes are washed in a pool and driven near a pile
of sand. The priests, arrayed in paint, feathers, and charms, come out
in line and, taking the live snakes in their mouths, parade up and down
the rocks, while the people crowd the roofs and terraces of the pueblos
to watch. There are helpers to whip the snakes and keep them from
biting, and catchers to see that none get away. In a little while the
priests take the snakes down on the desert and set them free, sending
them north, south, east, and west, where it is supposed they will take
the people's prayers for rain to the water serpent in the underworld,
who is in some way connected with the god of the rain-clouds.

It was a strange experience, that night in Walpi: the primitive
accommodations; the picturesque, uncivilized people; the shy glances
from dark, eager eyes. To watch two girls grinding corn between two
stones, and a little farther off their mother rolling out her dough with
an ear of corn, and cooking over an open fire, her pot slung from a
crude crane over the blaze--it was all too unreal to be true.

But the most interesting thing about it was to watch the "Aneshodi"
going about among them, his face alight with warm, human love; his
hearty laugh ringing out in a joke that the Hopis seemed to understand,
making himself one with them. It came to Margaret suddenly to remember
the pompous little figure of the Rev. Frederick West, and to fancy him
going about among these people and trying to do them good. Before she
knew what she was doing she laughed aloud at the thought. Then, of
course, she had to explain to Bud and Gardley, who looked at her
inquiringly.

"Aw! Gee! _Him?_ _He_ wasn't a minister! He was a _mistake_! Fergit him,
the poor simp!" growled Bud, sympathetically. Then his eyes softened as
he watched Brownleigh playing with three little Indian maids, having a
fine romp. "Gee! he certainly is a peach, isn't he?" he murmured, his
whole face kindling appreciatively. "Gee! I bet that kid never forgets
that!"

The Sunday was a wonderful day, when the missionary gathered the people
together and spoke to them in simple words of God--their god who made
the sky, the stars, the mountains, and the sun, whom they call by
different names, but whom He called God. He spoke of the Book of Heaven
that told about God and His great love for men, so great that He sent
His son to save them from their sin. It was not a long sermon, but a
very beautiful one; and, listening to the simple, wonderful words of
life that fell from the missionary's earnest lips and were translated by
his faithful Indian interpreter, who always went with him on his
expeditions, watching the faces of the dark, strange people as they
took in the marvelous meaning, the little company of visitors was
strangely moved. Even Bud, awed beyond his wont, said, shyly, to
Margaret:

"Gee! It's something fierce not to be born a Christian and know all
that, ain't it?"

Margaret and Gardley walked a little way down the narrow path that led
out over the neck of rock less than a rod wide that connects the great
promontory with the mesa. The sun was setting in majesty over the
desert, and the scene was one of breathless beauty. One might fancy it
might look so to stand on the hills of God and look out over creation
when all things have been made new.

They stood for a while in silence. Then Margaret looked down at the
narrow path worn more than a foot deep in the solid rock by the ten
generations of feet that had been passing over it.

"Just think," she said, "of all the feet, little and big, that have
walked here in all the years, and of all the souls that have stood and
looked out over this wonderful sight! It must be that somehow in spite
of their darkness they have reached out to the God who made this, and
have found a way to His heart. They couldn't look at this and not feel
Him, could they? It seems to me that perhaps some of those poor
creatures who have stood here and reached up blindly after the Creator
of their souls have, perhaps, been as pleasing to Him as those who have
known about Him from childhood."

Gardley was used to her talking this way. He had not been in her Sunday
meetings for nothing. He understood and sympathized, and now his hand
reached softly for hers and held it tenderly. After a moment of silence
he said:

"I surely think if God could reach and find me in the desert of my life,
He must have found them. I sometimes think I was a greater heathen than
all these, because I knew and would not see."

Margaret nestled her hand in his and looked up joyfully into his face.
"I'm so glad you know Him now!" she murmured, happily.

They stood for some time looking out over the changing scene, till the
crimson faded into rose, the silver into gray; till the stars bloomed
out one by one, and down in the valley across the desert a light
twinkled faintly here and there from the camps of the Hopi shepherds.

They started home at daybreak the next morning, the whole company of
Indians standing on the rocks to send them royally on their way,
pressing simple, homely gifts upon them and begging them to return soon
again and tell the blessed story.

A wonderful ride they had back to Ganado, where Gardley left Margaret
for a short visit, promising to return for her in a few days when she
was rested, and hastened back to Ashland to his work; for his soul was
happy now and at ease, and he felt he must get to work at once. Rogers
would need him. Poor Rogers! Had he found his daughter yet? Poor, silly
child-prodigal!

But when Gardley reached Ashland he found among his mail awaiting him a
telegram. His uncle was dead, and the fortune which he had been brought
up to believe was his, and which he had idly tossed away in a moment of
recklessness, had been restored to him by the uncle's last will, made
since Gardley's recent visit home. The fortune was his again!

Gardley sat in his office on the Rogers ranch and stared hard at the
adobe wall opposite his desk. That fortune would be great! He could do
such wonderful things for Margaret now. They could work out their dreams
together for the people they loved. He could see the shadows of those
dreams--a beautiful home for Margaret out on the trail she loved, where
wildness and beauty and the mountain she called hers were not far away;
horses in plenty and a luxurious car when they wanted to take a trip;
journeys East as often as they wished; some of the ideal appliances for
the school that Margaret loved; a church for the missionary and
convenient halls where he could speak at his outlying districts; a trip
to the city for Mom Wallis, where she might see a real picture-gallery,
her one expressed desire this side of heaven, now that she had taken to
reading Browning and had some of it explained to her. Oh, and a lot of
wonderful things! These all hung in the dream-picture before Gardley's
eyes as he sat at his desk with that bit of yellow paper in his hand.

He thought of what that money had represented to him in the past.
Reckless days and nights of folly as a boy and young man at college;
ruthless waste of time, money, youth; shriveling of soul, till Margaret
came and found and rescued him! How wonderful that he had been rescued!
That he had come to his senses at last, and was here in a man's
position, doing a man's work in the world! Now, with all that money,
there was no need for him to work and earn more. He could live idly all
his days and just have a good time--make others happy, too. But still he
would not have this exhilarating feeling that he was supplying his own
and Margaret's necessities by the labor of hand and brain. The little
telegram in his hand seemed somehow to be trying to snatch from him all
this material prosperity that was the symbol of that spiritual
regeneration which had become so dear to him.

He put his head down on his clasped hands upon the desk then and prayed.
Perhaps it was the first great prayer of his life.

"O God, let me be strong enough to stand this that has come upon me.
Help me to be a man in spite of money! Don't let me lose my manhood and
my right to work. Help me to use the money in the right way and not to
dwarf myself, nor spoil our lives with it." It was a great prayer for a
man such as Gardley had been, and the answer came swiftly in his
conviction.

He lifted up his head with purpose in his expression, and, folding the
telegram, put it safely back into his pocket. He would not tell Margaret
of it--not just yet. He would think it out--just the right way--and he
did not believe he meant to give up his position with Rogers. He had
accepted it for a year in good faith, and it was his business to fulfil
the contract. Meantime, this money would perhaps make possible his
marriage with Margaret sooner than he had hoped.

Five minutes later Rogers telephoned to the office.

"I've decided to take that shipment of cattle and try that new stock,
provided you will go out and look at them and see that everything is
all O. K. I couldn't go myself now. Don't feel like going anywhere, you
know. You wouldn't need to go for a couple of weeks. I've just had a
letter from the man, and he says he won't be ready sooner. Say, why
don't you and Miss Earle get married and make this a wedding-trip? She
could go to the Pacific coast with you. It would be a nice trip. Then I
could spare you for a month or six weeks when you got back if you wanted
to take her East for a little visit."

Why not? Gardley stumbled out his thanks and hung up the receiver, his
face full of the light of a great joy. How were the blessings pouring
down upon his head these days? Was it a sign that God was pleased with
his action in making good what he could where he had failed? And Rogers!
How kind he was! Poor Rogers, with his broken heart and his stricken
home! For Rosa had come home again a sadder, wiser child; and her father
seemed crushed with the disgrace of it all.

Gardley went to Margaret that very afternoon. He told her only that he
had had some money left him by his uncle, which would make it possible
for him to marry at once and keep her comfortably now. He was to be sent
to California on a business trip. Would she be married and go with him?

Margaret studied the telegram in wonder. She had never asked Gardley
much about his circumstances. The telegram merely stated that his
uncle's estate was left to him. To her simple mind an estate might be a
few hundred dollars, enough to furnish a plain little home; and her face
lighted with joy over it. She asked no questions, and Gardley said no
more about the money. He had forgotten that question, comparatively, in
the greater possibility of joy.

Would she be married in ten days and go with him?

Her eyes met his with an answering joy, and yet he could see that there
was a trouble hiding somewhere. He presently saw what it was without
needing to be told. Her father and mother! Of course, they would be
disappointed! They would want her to be married at home!

"But Rogers said we could go and visit them for several weeks on our
return," he said; and Margaret's face lighted up.

"Oh, that would be beautiful," she said, wistfully; "and perhaps they
won't mind so much--though I always expected father would marry me if I
was ever married; still, if we can go home so soon and for so long--and
Mr. Brownleigh would be next best, of course."

"But, of course, your father must marry you," said Gardley,
determinedly. "Perhaps we could persuade him to come, and your mother,
too."

"Oh no, they couldn't possibly," said Margaret, quickly, a shade of
sadness in her eyes. "You know it costs a lot to come out here, and
ministers are never rich."

It was then that Gardley's eyes lighted with joy. His money could take
this bugbear away, at least. However, he said nothing about the money.

"Suppose we write to your father and mother and put the matter before
them. See what they say. We'll send the letters to-night. You write
your mother and I'll write your father."

Margaret agreed and sat down at once to write her letter, while Gardley,
on the other side of the room, wrote his, scratching away contentedly
with his fountain-pen and looking furtively now and then toward the
bowed head over at the desk.

Gardley did not read his letter to Margaret. She wondered a little at
this, but did not ask, and the letters were mailed, with
special-delivery stamps on them. Gardley awaited their replies with
great impatience.

He filled in the days of waiting with business. There were letters to
write connected with his fortune, and there were arrangements to be made
for his trip. But the thing that occupied the most of his time and
thought was the purchase and refitting of a roomy old ranch-house in a
charming location, not more than three miles from Ashland, on the road
to the camp.

It had been vacant for a couple of years past, the owner having gone
abroad permanently and the place having been offered for sale. Margaret
had often admired it in her trips to and from the camp, and Gardley
thought of it at once when it became possible for him to think of
purchasing a home in the West.

There was a great stone fireplace, and the beams of the ceilings and
pillars of the porch and wide, hospitable rooms were of tree-trunks with
the bark on them. With a little work it could be made roughly but
artistically habitable. Gardley had it cleaned up, not disturbing the
tangle of vines and shrubbery that had had their way since the last
owner had left them and which had made a perfect screen from the road
for the house.

Behind this screen the men worked--most of them the men from the
bunk-house, whom Gardley took into his confidence.

The floors were carefully scrubbed under the direction of Mom Wallis,
and the windows made shining. Then the men spent a day bringing great
loads of tree-boughs and filling the place with green fragrance, until
the big living-room looked like a woodland bower. Gardley made a raid
upon some Indian friends of his and came back with several fine Navajo
rugs and blankets, which he spread about the room luxuriously on the
floor and over the rude benches which the men had constructed. They
piled the fireplace with big logs, and Gardley took over some of his own
personal possessions that he had brought back from the East with him to
give the place a livable look. Then he stood back satisfied. The place
was fit to bring his bride and her friends to. Not that it was as it
should be. That would be for Margaret to do, but it would serve as a
temporary stopping-place if there came need. If no need came, why, the
place was there, anyway, hers and his. A tender light grew in his eyes
as he looked it over in the dying light of the afternoon. Then he went
out and rode swiftly to the telegraph-office and found these two
telegrams, according to the request in his own letter to Mr. Earle.

Gardley's telegram read:

     Congratulations. Will come as you desire. We await your advice.
     Have written.--FATHER.

He saddled his horse and hurried to Margaret with hers, and together
they read:

     Dear child! So glad for you. Of course you will go. I am sending
     you some things. Don't take a thought for us. We shall look forward
     to your visit. Our love to you both.--MOTHER.

Margaret, folded in her lover's arms, cried out her sorrow and her joy,
and lifted up her face with happiness. Then Gardley, with great joy,
thought of the surprise he had in store for her and laid his face
against hers to hide the telltale smile in his eyes.

For Gardley, in his letter to his future father-in-law, had written of
his newly inherited fortune, and had not only inclosed a check for a
good sum to cover all extra expense of the journey, but had said that a
private car would be at their disposal, not only for themselves, but for
any of Margaret's friends and relatives whom they might choose to
invite. As he had written this letter he was filled with deep
thanksgiving that it was in his power to do this thing for his dear
girl-bride.

The morning after the telegrams arrived Gardley spent several hours
writing telegrams and receiving them from a big department store in the
nearest great city, and before noon a big shipment of goods was on its
way to Ashland. Beds, bureaus, wash-stands, chairs, tables, dishes,
kitchen utensils, and all kinds of bedding, even to sheets and
pillow-cases, he ordered with lavish hand. After all, he must furnish
the house himself, and let Margaret weed it out or give it away
afterward, if she did not like it. He was going to have a house party
and he must be ready. When all was done and he was just about to mount
his horse again he turned back and sent another message, ordering a
piano.

"Why, it's _great_!" he said to himself, as he rode back to his office.
"It's simply great to be able to do things just when I need them! I
never knew what fun money was before. But then I never had Margaret to
spend it for, and she's worth the whole of it at once!"

The next thing he ordered was a great easy carriage with plenty of room
to convey Mother Earle and her friends from the train to the house.

The days went by rapidly enough, and Margaret was so busy that she had
little time to wonder and worry why her mother did not write her the
long, loving, motherly good-by letter to her little girlhood that she
had expected to get. Not until three days before the wedding did it come
over her that she had had but three brief, scrappy letters from her
mother, and they not a whole page apiece. What could be the matter with
mother? She was almost on the point of panic when Gardley came and
bundled her on to her horse for a ride.

Strangely enough, he directed their way through Ashland and down to the
station, and it was just about the time of the arrival of the evening
train.

Gardley excused himself for a moment, saying something about an errand,
and went into the station. Margaret sat on her horse, watching the
oncoming train, the great connecting link between East and West, and
wondered if it would bring a letter from mother.

The train rushed to a halt, and behold some passengers were getting off
from a private car! Margaret watched them idly, thinking more about an
expected letter than about the people. Then suddenly she awoke to the
fact that Gardley was greeting them. Who could they be?

There were five of them, and one of them looked like Jane! Dear Jane!
She had forgotten to write her about this hurried wedding. How different
it all was going to be from what she and Jane had planned for each other
in their dear old school-day dreams! And that young man that Gardley was
shaking hands with now looked like Cousin Dick! She hadn't seen him for
three years, but he must look like that now; and the younger girl beside
him might be Cousin Emily! But, oh, who were the others? _Father!_ And
MOTHER!

Margaret sprang from her horse with a bound and rushed into her mother's
arms. The interested passengers craned their necks and looked their fill
with smiles of appreciation as the train took up its way again, having
dropped the private car on the side track.

Dick and Emily rode the ponies to the house, while Margaret nestled in
the back seat of the carriage between her father and mother, and Jane
got acquainted with Gardley in the front seat of the carriage. Margaret
never even noticed where they were going until the carriage turned in
and stopped before the door of the new house, and Mrs. Tanner, furtively
casting behind her the checked apron she had worn, came out to shake
hands with the company and tell them supper was all ready, before she
went back to her deserted boarding-house. Even Bud was going to stay at
the new house that night, in some cooked-up capacity or other, and all
the men from the bunk-house were hiding out among the trees to see
Margaret's father and mother and shake hands if the opportunity offered.

The wonder and delight of Margaret when she saw the house inside and
knew that it was hers, the tears she shed and smiles that grew almost
into hysterics when she saw some of the incongruous furnishings, are all
past describing. Margaret was too happy to think. She rushed from one
room to another. She hugged her mother and linked her arm in her
father's for a walk across the long piazza; she talked to Emily and Dick
and Jane; and then rushed out to find Gardley and thank him again. And
all this time she could not understand how Gardley had done it, for she
had not yet comprehended his fortune.

Gardley had asked his sisters to come to the wedding, not much expecting
they would accept, but they had telegraphed at the last minute they
would be there. They arrived an hour or so before the ceremony; gushed
over Margaret; told Gardley she was a "sweet thing"; said the house was
"dandy for a house party if one had plenty of servants, but they should
think it would be dull in winter"; gave Margaret a diamond sunburst pin,
a string of pearls, and an emerald bracelet set in diamond chips; and
departed immediately after the ceremony. They had thought they were the
chief guests, but the relief that overspread the faces of those guests
who were best beloved by both bride and groom was at once visible on
their departure. Jasper Kemp drew a long breath and declared to Long
Bill that he was glad the air was growing pure again. Then all those old
friends from the bunk-house filed in to the great tables heavily loaded
with good things, the abundant gift of the neighborhood, and sat down to
the wedding supper, heartily glad that the "city lady and her gals"--as
Mom Wallis called them in a suppressed whisper--had chosen not to stay
over a train.

The wedding had been in the school-house, embowered in foliage and all
the flowers the land afforded, decorated by the loving hands of
Margaret's pupils, old and young. She was attended by the entire school
marching double file before her, strewing flowers in her way. The
missionary's wife played the wedding-march, and the missionary assisted
the bride's father with the ceremony. Margaret's dress was a simple
white muslin, with a little real lace and embroidery handed down from
former generations, the whole called into being by Margaret's mother.
Even Gardley's sisters had said it was "perfectly dear." The whole
neighborhood was at the wedding.

And when the bountiful wedding-supper was eaten the entire company of
favored guests stood about the new piano and sang "Blest Be the Tie that
Binds"--with Margaret playing for them.

Then there was a little hurry at the last, Margaret getting into the
pretty traveling dress and hat her mother had brought, and kissing her
mother good-by--though happily not for long this time.

Mother and father and the rest of the home party were to wait until
morning, and the missionary and his wife were to stay with them that
night and see them to their car the next day.

So, waving and throwing kisses back to the others, they rode away to the
station, Bud pridefully driving the team from the front seat.

Gardley had arranged for a private apartment on the train, and nothing
could have been more luxurious in traveling than the place where he led
his bride. Bud, scuttling behind with a suit-case, looked around him
with all his eyes before he said a hurried good-by, and murmured under
his breath: "Gee! Wisht I was goin' all the way!"

Bud hustled off as the train got under way, and Margaret and Gardley
went out to the observation platform to wave a last farewell.

The few little blurring lights of Ashland died soon in the distance, and
the desert took on its vast wideness beneath a starry dome; but off in
the East a purple shadow loomed, mighty and majestic, and rising slowly
over its crest a great silver disk appeared, brightening as it came and
pouring a silver mist over the purple peak.

"My mountain!" said Margaret, softly.

And Gardley, drawing her close to him, stooped to lay his lips upon
hers.

"My darling!" he answered.

THE END





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